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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Mutemath -- Reset EP

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From the driving, atmospheric rock of "Control," to the future reggae rapture of "Peculiar People," to the spacey balladry of "OK," to "Reset"'s funky, instrumental re-interpretation of "Everything in its Right Place," 2004's Reset EP announces the beginnings of what's sure to be a promising career for New Orleans-based Mutemath. Then eleven years passed, and I inexplicably never bought anything Mutemath have recorded since. That's weird.

2004 Warner
1. Control 4:36
2. Peculiar People 4:35
3. OK 5:23
4. Reset 5:25
5. Plan B 4:46
6. Progress 4:45
7. Afterward 1:19

Monday, September 28, 2015

múm -- Smilewound

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What múm looked like at this point:
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Well, this is strange. 15 years into their recording career, Icelanders, múm, have traveled the solar system from independent electronic music pioneers with a little singing thrown in to this, SmilewoundSmilewound features the return of one of múm's original vocalists, Gyða Valtýsdóttir, after an 11-year absence from the band. Since Valtýsdóttir's departure, múm had been going in a folk direction, progressively shedding their electronic side for acoustic instruments. Smilewound is a complete left-turn back to electronic music, but it doesn't sound anything like their previous, ground-breaking ventures into that realm. The music here is incredibly minimalistic, giving the feeling of a late, quiet night. The change in sound doesn't quite gel with Valtýsdóttir's unique, raspy vocals, though. In addition, Valtýsdóttir's voice clashes with the singing of co-vocalist, Hildur Guðnadóttir, whose own vocals sound a bit like that of Bat for Lashes. The compositions on Smilewound are a sort of strange, bare-bones pop. The whole thing is just weird. After listening to every múm album in chronological order, Smilewound feels like the odd duck of the bunch. It almost works, and it isn't awful, it's just so, so, so strange and off-putting. The best illustration of Smilewound's core sound might come from the penultimate track, "Time to Scream and Shout." The song feels deadly serious and playful at once, like a child smiling while they burn down a school during first period. Smile, wound.
Let's hope this isn't the last we hear from these folks...Smilewound would be an odd note to end on.

2013 Morr Music
1. Toothwheels 4:47
2. Underwater Snow 4:08
3. When Girls Collide 5:00
4, Slow Down 4:48
5. Candlestick 3:31
6. One Smile 5:07
7. Eternity Is the Wait Between Breaths 4:21
8. The Colorful Stabwound 3:40
9. Sweet Impressions 3:54
10. Time to Scream and Shout 5:05
11. Whistle (featuring Kylie Minogue) 6:07

Friday, September 25, 2015

múm -- Early Birds

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I praised múm's debut album, Yesterday Was Dramatic -- Today Is OK, in the review I posted for it last week. However, Early Birds, a collection of múm's pre-debut recordings, shows the band possessed all of this bustling creativity from the get go. Early Birds, befitting an early records collection, is more a collection of musical sketches than songs, and yet each one still feels realized and lived in. Vocals are notably absent, appearing far less than even the small amount featured on Yesterday Was Dramatic..., mostly popping up only as distant samples or live, but far off in the background. These wordless compositions are comforting, yet often high-energy electronic soundscapes, full of quirky noises, warm beats and textures, blended with acoustic,Early Birds' flow and sequencing are awesome. I think for even a newcomer, there's enough invention and fun here for many engaging listens. In fact, I think these recordings even further solidify how important múm's first trio of albums are to our planet's sonic history--if the stuff they were just fooling around with before those first albums were created still sounds this fresh, even after a million kids in their bedroom have attempted to cop this sound, múm must have been something really special...and they still could be. C'mon, múm, wow me again.

2012 Morr Music
1. Bak Þitt Er Sem Rennibraut 5:44
2. Póst Póstmaður 3:17
3. Gingúrt 4:00
4. Glerbrot [Previously Lost] 3:35
5. Hvernig Á Að Særa Vini Sína [Previously Unreleased] 2:46
6. Bak Þitt Er Sem Rennibraut [Bústadavegurer Fáviti Megamix Eftir Músíkvat] 4:12
7. Insert Coin [Bjarne Riis Arcade Game Mjiks Eftir Múm] 7:23
8. Loksins Erum Við Engin (Natturuoperan Song) 3:12
9. Náttúrúbúrú 2:29
10. 0,000Orð 4:51
11. Lalalala Blái Hnötturinn 4:32
12. Múm Spilar La La La 6:41
13. Hufeland 5:58
14. Volkspark Friedrichshain [Previously Forgotten] 3:48
15. Enginn Vildi Hlusta Á Fiðlunginn, Því Strengir Hans Vóru Slitnir [Getiði Ekki Verið Góð Við Mömmu Okkar] 10:11

Thursday, September 24, 2015

múm -- Sing Along to Songs You Don't Know

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But I don't want to sing along to songs I don't know! I don't want every band that I like to turn into a damn folk band! Stop-it bands! Brett Detar, shave your beard and get back to rocking! Chris Carrabba, why are you Twin Forking it when you could be Further Seems Forevering? What is wrong with the world? Near the turn of the past decade, even Sigur Rós, múm's Icelandic neighbors, released their version of a folk album. mewithoutYou released a folk album within days of múm's Sing Along to Songs You Don't Know, and they had and have no business EVER releasing a folk album. I don't know why the late 00's infected so many bands with the evil folk bug, but it seems to be dying off a little now...maybe...please? But in 2009, former electronic-based band, múm, decided they were no longer an electronic-based band, but a folk one, and released Sing Along to Songs You Don't Know. Miraculously...
For Sing Along to Songs You Don't Know's first four tracks, the change in style works really, really well. Múm had, in all honesty, been heading in this direction since their inception, adding more acoustic instruments and more vocals with every album. Here, those elements finally overtake, with the electronics almost relegated to an afterthought, with all matter of folksy sounding instruments, horns, and a bunch of things that tinkle in their place.
Sing Along... starts with great momentum, the gentle, endearing melancholy of "If I Were a Fish" feeding into the bizarre fun of the almost title-track, "Sing Along." Sing along to songs you don't know/and you'll never know until you sing along/You are so beautiful to us/We want to lock you in our house/So beautiful! male and female vocals intone enthusiastically over a simple, fast-paced arrangement. This quickened pace feeds directly into my favorite track from this album, "Prophecies and Reversed Memories," a high-energy piece with a very fun and diverse instrumentation. Here's a cool live-version from some French park, no big deal:

"A River Don't Stop to Breathe" continues the positive momentum with a gorgeous string arrangement and a tempo that fits its title. After this song, I hesitate to say things go downhill, as there aren't any awful songs, and there are a few genuinely beautiful moments, like the hazy shadow of "The Last Shapes of Never," but nothing is as faced-paced and enjoyable as what is found on that opening third. The album just sort of peters out at the end, with some slower, less impression-making songs. So while a múm folk album is far from a disaster, and Sing Along to Songs You Don't Know actually makes for a pretty pleasant listening experience, I'd rather múm stick to what they do...know.

2009 Morr Music
1. If I Were a Fish 4:16
2. Sing Along 5:39
3. Prophecies and Reversed Memories 4:06
4. A River Don't Stop to Breathe 4:45
5. The Smell of Today Is Sweet Like Breastmilk in the Wind 4:47
6. Show Me 3:45
7. Húllabbalabbalúú 3:27
8. Blow Your Nose 4:07
9. Kay-Ray-Kú-Kú-Kó-Kex 3:57
10. The Last Shapes of Never 2:27
11. Illuminated 4:09
12. Ladies of the New Century 3:45

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

múm -- Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy

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What múm looked like at this point:
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By now, I've already written four múm reviews, and I've still four more to write. Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy is a bit of a tipping point in múm's career. Múm's first music featured unique soundscapes, utilizing mainly electronics, and featuring a small amount of acoustic instrumentation, and an even smaller amount of vocals. However, these elements moved in opposite directions with each album to the point that Go Go Smear..., album number four, features just as much, if not more acoustic instrumentation than electronics, and prominent vocals on almost every track. However, Go Go Smear... is in many ways a reset. Múm's debut evoked the sub-aural sounds of childhood, while their second ventured a little further into the lifespan and featured a bit more shadow. Their third album, respectively, is overwhelmed by darkness. It's back to the beginning with Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy, though, as the album takes things back to childhood, sounding like it could have been recorded in a joyfully deranged elementary school. With that said, múm's first album sounds nothing like Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy. This album might as well have been made by a different band.
In a way, it was: core songwriters/band-founders, Gunnar Örn Tynes and Örvar Þóreyjarson Smárason are still around, but the Valtýsdóttir twins have hit the road (one had hit the road long before). The twin sisters had blessed múm with their unique vocals and instrumental work, and in their place, Tynes and Smárason have recruited a ragtag band of musicians and singers. In addition to this change, at least one of the original male duo sings at times, a first for the band.
In all honesty, all this change is a breath of fresh air. I don't think Go Go Smear... is quite on the level as múm's first few albums, but this is a direction the band needed to take. The songs here are full of strings and trumpets and hold a reckless sort of energy--they should fall apart at the seems, but they don't. All of this is on display with the gorgeous, strikingly original opening track, "Blessed Brambles."

"Blessed Brambles" begins with a quiet hope, before breaking into the high energy of its six-minute remainder. The lyrics are absolutely insane, the first words sang:
Bless the weeds that grow on the yard
Just like rain and dust appear
Bless the dogs who talk to ferns
Let's let's kiss the boys who pee in mud

This strange prayer continues throughout the song, sang together by male and female vocals. "Blessed Brambles" concludes with a line that might as well be the album's mission statement: let your crooked hands be holy, along with a beautiful cacophony of strings, horns, and electronic bursts that sound like ice thawing in the sun of the song. Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy is a celebration of imperfect beauty.
The album contains three more songs of this high a quality, the surprisingly tender and gentle "Moon Pulls," the gorgeous, lilting "Marmalade Fires," and the sugar rush of "Behind My Eyelids."
The rest of the album isn't quite up to the level up those four standouts. A few are strange experiments that don't quite work, particularly the harsh dub of "These Eyes Are Berries," and some are filler that simply fail to register, like "I Was Her Horse." However, most of the rest of the album is quite enjoyable. "They Made Frogs Smoke 'Til They Exploded," is a bizarre, but fun collage of sound. "Schoolsong Misfortune" is a slight bit of beauty, like a crew of fourth graders found some instruments in the back of the classroom and somehow created something pleasant to the ear. "Guilty Rocks" sounds like, in my five-year old's opinion, video game music (and he means that as a compliment), while I feel like it fully espouses a European presence found more subtly throughout the album, a wintry one only fully realized in the last couple of tracks. This wintry presence is especially apparent on album-closer, "Winter (What We Never Were After All," with its chilly sequencing, ancient instrumentation, and foreboding choir--it would be right at home in a classic Tim Burton film, like Edward Scissorhands--like all the land that thawed out in the first track has frozen back over. Thus ends a strange, and strangely satisfying album. Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy isn't the best thing múm have ever recorded, but it's a key step in the band's constant evolution, a brave change of pace, and a refreshingly original piece of work.

2007 FatCat Records
1. Blessed Brambles 6:00
2. A Little Bit, Sometimes 3:50
3. They Made Frogs Smoke 'Til They Exploded 4:02
4. These Eyes Are Berries 3:00
5. Moon Pulls 2:32
6. Marmalade Fires 5:03
7. Rhubarbidoo 1:34
8. Dancing Behind My Eyelids 4:07
9. Schoolsong Misfortune 2:39
10. I Was Her Horse 2:08
11. Guilty Rocks 5:02
12. Winter (What We Never Were After All) 4:08

Monday, September 21, 2015

múm -- Dusk Log

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Múm's Dusk Log EP, released shortly after their full-length album, Summer Make Good, features four songs recorded during the Summer Make Good sessions. The first two are dreamy, snowy, optimistic fun. Summer Make Good is not snowy or optimistic, so it's quite natural that neither song made their way to that album. However, both songs are as good as almost anything Summer Make Good has to offer (and it offers quite a bit). The first, "Kostrzyn," is one of the most victorious songs múm have ever recorded, electronics and woodwinds and what sounds like an accordion making the perfect soundtrack after besting those kids down the street in a snowball fight. The second, "This Nothing Blowing In the Faraway," is a little more light and impressionistic, wordless female vocals floating in from a snowy landscape outside the window against which you're warmly napping. I picked up Dusk Log from the two-story Baton Rouge Barnes and Noble just before flying to Germany to travel with a great buddy of mine, and this made for great listening through the Bavarian February.
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Then we went North and the snow melted, and everything got all angular and Scandanavian and I bought a bunch of Kent albums, but I already went over that whole trip years ago, in relatively humorous fashion. My travelogue JPM (jokes-per minute) have gone up quite a bit since then.
This EP has two more songs, though. Track three is "Will The Summer Make Good For All Of Our Sins?," which is actually the penultimate track from Summer Make Good, a natural climax for that great, dark and dreary album, but it's kind of a drag here on this EP, after the two previous songs were so jovial.
Dusk Log ends with the sound collage, "Boots of Fog," which kind of happens, and then it's over. Overall, this isn't a great EP, but the first half is, so I'll rate it as slightly above average. Have a good rest of whatever portion of the day remains for you.

2004 FatCat Records
1. Kostrzyn 5:17
2. This Nothing Blowing In The Faraway 4:07
3. Will The Summer Make Good For All Of Our Sins? 4:06
4. Boots Of Fog 4:33

Friday, September 18, 2015

múm -- Summer Make Good

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What múm looked like at this point:
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By early 2004, I considered Iceland to be the greatest place on Earth. Björk, Sigur Rós, and múm are all from there, and Björk, Sigur Rós, and múm were (and are) three of my favorite artists. Plus, that cold rock jutting out of the North Atlantic looked like just my kind of place: cold, lonely, and independent, but with warm refuge for those who seek it. But enough about that. After having my socks blown off (is that some kind of sex reference? How do you get your socks blown off. Why is it the Chicago White Sox and not the White Socks? Why doesn't anything make sense?!) by múm's 2002 release, Finally We Are No One, I wildly anticipated their summer of 2004 release, Summer Make Good (not to be confused with Demon Hunter's album from the same summer, Summer of Darkness). Wore out from my famous nine-month migraine, the weary tones of Summer Make Good were just what the doctor (of music, who has a real PhD) ordered. To continue my probably completely off-base childhood and teenager metaphors from the two previous reviews: while múm's first album, Yesterday Was Dramatic--Today Is Okay, explored childhood jubilation, and Finally We Are No One, the more complicated joy and sadness of the teen years, Summer Make Good ventures into the darker, scarier waters of growing up. That previous sentence is mainly accurate because Summer Make Good is really dark and mentions the ocean a lot and also sounds like the ocean, so feel free to discard the rest of what I said, you who have inexplicably read this insane review past the first paragraph, which is actually still happening. Speaking of insane paragraphs, múm included this one in the liner notes (in the CD case...CD's are a plastic disc from which one can listen to music, if one has a device for CD listening.) for Summer Make Good:

Fear blew somewhere in the faraway now, this fear that had gripped my breathing when I lay in bed at night. Watching the storm window, I just could not put down my telescope anymore and kept imagining my teeth breaking. I was having violent dreams where me and the other kids would commit horrible acts and then run away in guilt. I needed to put down my telescope, so I walked down to the sea. My boots were full of fog. Lying on a rock I stuck my head in the cold water. From under the waves that kissed my shoulders, I could hear it's (sic) faint bells drifting closer. But would the summer make good for all of our sins?

See what I mean? It's (not sic because that's actually its correct usage) way darker. But wait a minute, you didn't read the previous two reviews, and you have no reference point for what I'm talking about? Well, that's your fault! Just kidding...partially. Múm's first album used electronic devices, a small smattering of organic instruments, and a little bit of singing to re-create the emotions of childhood. Their second album furthered this concept into more melancholic waters, but with a bit more singing, and always coming back to a point of emotional re-assurance. Summer Make Good decreases the amount of electronics, and uses them more to create texture than the actual song structures. Meanwhile, the album features a vast increase in the use of acoustic instruments, which include (according to the credits before the scary paragraph I quoted above): trumpet, pianette, moog (yes, I know a moog is not an acoustic instrument go away), whistles, guitar, viol, stroh violin, xylophone harp, and halldorophone among other things.
When I look at Summer Make Good's 12 tracks, I only see seven songs. The other five are more like sketches that thicken the mood and atmosphere, which combine to create the feeling of being on a scary island full of a bunch of old, abandoned buildings, one containing a TV playing "Steamboat Willie." And yet, Summer Make Good is relaxed, and strangely I imagine a place by the fire is in Iceland. Many of the critic's of 2004 complained about how the album was more atmosphere than songs, but they didn't get that Summer Make Good exists as a unique musical universe that doesn't always have to use songs to fulfill this mission. Shame on them, but not me because in 2004 I said this was the third best album released that year and also this:

There has been a lot of division about the quality of this album. I love it. Many complaints state that this album is the opposite of their last (The insanely good "Finally We Are No One", one of my favorite albums of 2002). For those who don't know, Mum is an Icelandic electronic outfit with raspy, mewly female vocals, and some real instruments and organic sounds thrown in. While their last album sounded like the dreams of a child before waking, this album is the nightmare. The best description I can give is this: Listening to this album is like waking on a misty, craggy, deserted island and discovering it is populated by ghosts, ghosts full of regret, remorse, terrifying stories. Every now and then there is even an outburst of hope and joy. The lyrics are insane ramblings and tales that suddenly center themselves, and are sometimes gasp inducing. In "The Ghosts You Draw on My Back" singer Kristin Anna Valtysdottir whispers "The wind plays flute/ On the Cellar Door/ And on my windowsill/ Plays a sad old song/ I hope tonight/ You will touch my hair/ And draw ghosts on my back." The album runs the gamut of emotions and then ends in a sad, fog-filled, abandoned wharf, full of sunken tombstones in a land devoid of hope. I admit, this album IS NOT as satisfying as Mum's previous, but it is quite good at what it achieves. I can see the validity of the complaints against it, but rarely has an artist created such a complete musical world and maintained it for fourty-five minutes. Superb.

Wow, 2004 me, your musical opinions are legit, but you need to use more run-on sentences. I still agree with that above opinion 100%. I will concur that Summer Make Good isn't quite as strong as its two predecessors, and that's probably because the final nine minutes aren't quite solid enough--I mean that metaphysically, as they are floaty minutes, and not very grounded, though I guess with the emotional journey this album takes, there isn't really any other place for it to're pretty much weightless when you're under the water, anyway. I'll spare your brain cells by only writing one more paragraph.
Múm's first two albums featured the duel vocal talents of twins Gyða Valtýsdóttir and Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir, but Gyða left before the recording of Summer Make Good. The sound of one Valtýsdóttir singing is slightly harsher than the sound of two, which fits the darker, more spare tones of Summer Make Good quite nicely, the end, goodbye.
You doubt my opinions! Behold the chill majesty!

2004 FatCat Records
1. Hú Hviss - A Ship 1:27
2. Weeping Rock, Rock 6:18
3. Nightly Cares 4:58
4. The Ghosts You Draw on My Back 4:14
5. Stir 2:41
6. Sing Me Out the Window 4:42
7. The Island of Children's Children 5:16
8. Away 1:28
9. Oh, How the Boat Drifts 5:11
10. Small Deaths Are the Saddest 1:30
11. Will the Summer Make Good for All of Our Sins? 4:02
12. Abandoned Ship Bells 5:03

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

múm -- Finally We Are No One

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What múm looked like at this point:
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When a band makes a masterpiece on their first try, there's usually no place to go but down. Take Interpol for example. Turn On the Bright Lights is arguably the best album of the 21st century. In the thirteen years since, over the course of four subsequent full-lengths, Interpol have struggled just to make a good album. Even a band like Jars of Clay, who have released a constant stream of critically heralded albums over the last decade of their 20 year career, used up most of their first decade getting comfortable in their own skin again after their landmark debut. Múm have gone through no such struggles. Perhaps because their debut ran more under the radar, or perhaps because the band was birthed in a sea of restless creativity, múm have constantly evolved and changed in sound, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. Finally We Are No One, their second full-length album is a good and logical change.
Múm's debut, Yesterday Was Dramatic -- Today Is Okay, combined electronics with a small parceling of organic instruments to create a nostalgic landscape of childhood sounds. Finally We Are No One matures that sound a bit, adding more dreamy female vocals to the mix and thicker beats, sounding wetter and earthier. Multiple songs mention water, and two have "Swimmingpool" in the title. While Yesterday Was Dramatic... contained a bit of melancholy in its third-quarter, Finally We Are No One is awash in it. It's almost like the transition to being a teenager...all of a sudden you're sad all the time. That's not to say Finally We Are No One is sad all the time, but a melancholic specter certainly hangs over the second and third tracks, as well as the sixth and seventh...or does it?
I bought this album in early 2004, during a time I was depressed about blowing a romantic opportunity with some girl that would have likely been terrible for me. Also, the girl I really liked now had a boyfriend. One night, I went bowling with a very good buddy of mine, and threw on Finally We Are No One on the drive back to his house. When "Green Grass of Tunnel" came about, I told him, "Man, this song is so sad."

"No, it's not." he said.
"What do you mean? It's so depressing!"
"No, it's not. It's actually kind of happy. It's definitely not depressing."
So maybe it's not depressing. Whatever it is, though. It's complicated...uh, like teenage emotions. I don't want to give the impression that Finally We Are No One is bi-polar or immature, though, because it is neither of those things. It's consistent and it's perfect. It's like staring out the window at a rainy landscape with your chin resting in your hand, and enjoying the experience. It's like, when something is really awesome and transcendent and all of your attempts to describe it suck.

2002 FatCat Records
1. Sleep/Swim 0:50
2. Green Grass of Tunnel 4:51
3. We Have a Map of the Piano 5:19
4. Don't Be Afraid, You Have Just Got Your Eyes Closed 5:43
5. Behind Two Hills,,,,a Swimmingpool 1:08
6. K/Half Noise 8:41
7. Now There's That Fear Again 3:56
8. Faraway Swimmingpool 2:55
9. I Can't Feel My Hand Any More, It's Alright, Sleep Still 5:40
10. Finally We Are No One 5:07
11. The Land Between Solar Systems 11:58

Monday, September 14, 2015

múm -- Yesterday Was Dramatic – Today Is OK

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"Quiet is the New Loud" has been one of the most annoying trends in recent music history. Even the most dumbed-down story-telling class teaches its pupils the importance of a build-up and climax. With the Bon Iverization of music, we get hushed verses and choruses that seem to be growing into some kind of cathartic moment, but only lead to more hushed theatrics and maybe a single cymbal crash. BOO!!! I need payoff! If you give me whispers, I would like them to lead to a shout! Or at least a belted note or something. More like Quiet is the New Suck!
Fifteen years ago, a band called múm used their debut album, Yesterday Was Dramatic – Today Is OK, to do the exact opposite of this awful trend. They took a bunch of noises that are usually quiet and humble, say the humming of a refrigerator, the quiet clacking of an old printer (the beats on this album are some of the most original ever put to tape), or the turning of gears in an old toy. Múm amplify these noises and compose them together as a calming, nostalgic cacophony. One need only look at the track titles to see what múm are aiming for. These are the subconscious sounds of childhood brought to life and given musical voice.
Fifteen years later, Yesterday Was Dramatic – Today Is OK still sounds like a revelation and makes a mockery of the "Quiet Revolution. The way the band do whatever it is they are doing to electronic devices to achieve these sounds, and blend it together with a smattering of organic instruments like guitar and horns still rings in my ears as a musical epiphany. The small sprinkle of scattered in child-like vocals only beautify the cake. I'd say that múm, at this point in their career essentially a group of ragtag teenagers, hit lightning in a bottle here, but they released plenty of great albums after this one, as well. I'll get to those in the next few days, but to close this review, I'd like to single out a standout moment from this album.
Yesterday Was Dramatic – Today Is OK is brilliantly sequenced, introducing its core sound early, then exploring that sound, creating a little melancholic tension in its second half, and then diffusing that tension in its final two tracks. However, my favorite moment comes in the one-two punch of "Asleep on a Train" and "Awake on a Train," which occupy the album's sixteen-minute mid-section. These two tracks sound exactly like their title, the hazy, steady, dream-like clack of the former giving way to the lively celebration of the the latter. The previous sentence in different words: "Asleep on a Train" and "Awake on a Train" literally sound like a child's first train ride, contrasting the impressionistic nap-imagery of the first, with the thrill of discovery as the child wakes up and explores its surroundings in the second. This is one of the most invigorating sixteen minute stretches of music I have ever heard. Do yourself a favor and check out this album. Part of this album may be about sleep, but unlike the Bon Iver Express, Yesterday Was Dramatic – Today Is know, doesn't make you fall asleep. Sorry, I started thinking about Bon Iver a little to much there.

From the liner notes múm included with Yesterday Was Dramatic -- Today Is Ok, sandwiched between "thank you's" and album credits:

Friends of the random summer usually rode bicycles and solved mysteries. Now they sat in the library with stacks of old records around them. They listened on a gramaphone. most of the records stored the sound of people speaking, some the sound of birds singing. The library was the saddest place. The friends went outside. Yesterday had been dramatic, but today was going to be ok.

2000 TMT
1. I'm 9 Today 4:42
2. Smell Memory 9:23
3. There Is a Number of Small Things 6:32
4. Random Summer 3:12
5. Asleep on a Train 7:17
6. Awake on a Train 9:23
7. The Ballad of the Broken Birdie Records 5:25
8. The Ballad of the Broken String 4:45
9. Sunday Night Just Keeps on Rolling 8:10
10. Slow Bicycle 8:47

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Morcheeba -- Charango

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When the chill groove of "Slow Down" hits, and Skye Edwards' silky smooth vocals coast out your speakers for the first time, you could shut your eyes and easily imagine you're sitting in the coolest club in the world. Next track, "Otherwise," keeps up the impossibly hip lounge thing, but this could get boring fast. A few songs later, they start parading out the guest stars to keep things interesting. Nice duet with Kurt Wagner on "What New York Couples Fight About." Bizarre, yet engaging rap-warning tale from Slick Rick on "Women Lose Weight." Overall, Charango maintains your interest and doesn't hurt your ears. From a $4.00 FYE used-bin find you only bought because the lead-singer looked lovely, that's about the most you could ask.

2002 Sire/Reprise/Warner Bros. Records
1. Slow Down 4:12
2. Otherwise 3:43
3. Aqualung 3:24
4. São Paulo 4:32
5. Charango (featuring Pace Won) 4:03
6. What New York Couples Fight About (featuring Kurt Wagner) 6:16
7. Undress Me Now 3:25
8. Way Beyond 3:34
9. Women Lose Weight (featuring Slick Rick) 4:18
10. Get Along (featuring Pace Won) 3:48
11. Public Displays of Affection 3:09
12. The Great London Traffic Warden Massacre (featuring Miriam Stockley and Michael Dove) 3:04

Monday, September 07, 2015


This October, The Nicsperiment will be solely dedicated to a particular band. I haven't made any secret that I often write these reviews months ahead of when they are published. Apparently, a few days ago, I hit the "Publish" button instead of the "Save" button on a review I was working on, to be published in October. I've since reverted that review back to a draft. If you got to read it already, congratulations (and sorry about the typos and structure issues...I hadn't proofread yet). If not, look for it in mid-October. Happy Labor Day! Hope you didn't have to labor...

Friday, September 04, 2015

Moonlit Sailor -- Colors in Stereo

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Moonlit Sailor is an instrumental rock band from Sweden. They write positive, victorious-sounding songs often featuring cleanly picked, shiny-sounding electric guitar lines and a driving rhythm section. They released a debut EP in 2008 that featured all their best qualities, and added a little bit of conflict into the middle of that recording to give it an emotional trajectory, and a fine payoff at the end. They followed that EP with a debut full-length that kept doing cool, rousing things, but left out the conflict, resulting in a pleasant album with nothing at stake. Colors in Stereo is Moonlit Sailor's second full length. While it also does not contain much conflict, and ends with a song that could have fit just as well anywhere else on the album, Colors in Stereo is a fine listening experience, and a step above their previous LP. This is because the band have trimmed all the fat from the previous album's songs, which averaged greater than a full-minute more in length than the songs you'll find on Colors in Stereo. This is also because the music sounds even more hopeful than the band's previous work, with the title track being perhaps the most optimistic music I have ever heard, instrumental, or not.

The songs also feature a little more variation, which is nice. This really is a very underrated band. Due to the sort of single-focused nature of their music (sounding positive, no conflict), it's hard to put their work as a whole in the top pantheon of instrumental rock music, but their best songs are incredible. They give you what you want immediately. If you think bands like Explosions in the Sky take too long to "get to the good part," Moonlit Sailor is for you, though I would argue that the parts that lead to "the good part," the conflicts, make those good parts cathartic and longer lasting. Still...there's something to be said for what Moonlit Sailor is capable of. There's a reason they've taken up a full week of The Nicsperiment's posts. This is admirable music.
In these dark days of madness (I don't know, maybe it's just me and everything is actually rosy), somebody's gotta remind the rest of us (or just me) that everything is going to be alright.

2011 Deep Elm
1. Kodac Moment 3:33
2. Colors in Stereo 3:39
3. May Day 5:15
4. Summer Solstice 4:49
5. Freeze Frame Vision 4:11
6. Vacant Library 4:18
7. Singularity 3:44
8. Weekday Escape 4:55
9. Clarity 3:43
10. Berwick Upon Tweed 3:59

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Moonlit Sailor -- So Close to Life

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I just applauded uplifting instrumental rock band, Moonlit Sailor, for putting just enough diversity and tension into their debut EP to make the whole thing a well-rounded and emotionally gratifying experience. So Close to Life, their first shot at a full-length (nine songs instead of seven this time, and averaging over five minutes apiece instead of four) unfortunately doesn't hold together quite as well, going for a uniformity-over-diversity approach that makes the album harder to take in one sitting. It's still positive, inspiring music, but the guitar tones, notes, keys, and textures just don't vary enough, and the album as a whole features little to no conflict. With that said, So Close to Life still features some songs that are as powerful as anything, with "Sunbeams," "The Cheers on the Parade," and "1994" standing out in particular. The album is worth listening to multiple times, but it's also better off broken up into multiple listens, a few tracks at a time, so the positivity and monochrome joy don't overwhelm.

2009 Deep Elm
1. Sunbeams 5:30
2. Hope 5:01
3. Landvetter 7:15
4. New Zealand 5:34
5. Fresh Snow 5:25
6. A Week without Sunlight 6:33
7. The Cheers on the Parade 5:01
8. 1994 4:17
9. Waiting for Nothing 6:30