Right now is a great time to be a indie music journalist. Every week brings a flood of new music from great artists, only to be washed away by a fresher flood of newer releases before you can fully digest the last album you heard. Even people who make a living off of staying on top of new music can miss great albums, buried under the piles of CDs and MP3s waiting to be listened to and reviewed.
Now, I think of myself as being pretty knowledgeable about indie music and what’s getting released when. So you can imagine my shock when I heard there was a new Brian Jonestown Massacre album out, Aufheben. Released May 1, it took me till just now to find out about it (which is crazy because I’m a big BJM fan, much like most people who’ve seen Dig!).
The Brian Jonestown Massacre Aufheben (A Records)
Did YOU know Anton and the BJM had a new album out? Neither did I. But they do, and it’s their best album in years. Matt Hollywood is back together with troubled genius Anton Newcombe for a trip back to an alternate universe where The Rolling Stones became emperors of the world and the earth’s atmosphere is now comprised of 35% marijuana smoke.
The album is classic BJM. Matt Hollywood’s return to the band has brought the Massacre back to its beloved roots. Hollywood and Newcombe churn out swelling, psychadelic rock in a garage built over a native American burial ground, adjacent to a trans-dimensional portal straight into God’s seventh brain. Newcomers to the Jonestown sound will find psychedelic riffs fitting into layered, mesmerizing beats, joined by sitars, flutes and anything else Newcombe feels like throwing into the rhythmic stew. Try “Panic In Babylon,” “I Want To Hold Your Other Hand,” and “Face Down On The Moon” to start; they’re all representative of what you’ll hear on the album. “Stairway To The Best Party In The Universe” sounds like it was sent here into the future by some Vietnam-era time experiment conducted with Jim Morrison’s DNA and a clipping of Keith Richard’s hair. The album flows melodically from start to finish, ending with the overly long “Blue Order/New Monday.” It’s a track that starts out with the sound of space whales before taking you on a seven-minute odyssey. The song sounds a bit like two different songs intersecting at different angles; a pleasant jumble that ends the album in a heap of luscious confusion. This is a great overall album and worthy of eartime for BJM fans and newcomers alike.
After listening to Aufheben over and over, I got to thinking about other great albums that get lost in the shuffle, eclipsed by the hype bands and the new flavor of the week fare. Many are quick to move on to whatever’s new, that we end up missing out on great music just because they don’t catch it the week it’s released. With that in mind, here are three 2012 more releases that you may have already forgotten about or haven’t yet heard of or that haven’t yet been crammed down our throats: Deep Sea Diver’s History Speaks, Air’s Le Voyage Dans La Lune, and Lee Ranaldo’s Between The Times And The Tides.
What if I told you that one of the current members of The Shins (as well as collaborator with Beck and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) has put out an album as good or maybe even better than this year’s Port of Morrow? That band member is Jessica Dobson and that record is History Speaks.
Backed by her husband Peter Mansen on drums and John Raines on bass, Dobson has put together a catchy, well-crafted evolutionary indie sound with her new project, Deep Sea Diver.
There are so many influences on display here, it’s hard to single just a few out. Dobson has made a Frankenstein’s monster with Deep Sea Diver, taking parts that work from other indie bands and sewing them all together to create one of the year’s most solid and daring albums yet. Dobson’s voice is beautiful, haunting, and inviting. I was sold by the second track, “Weekend Wars,” which starts off with an Elliott Smith “Pictures of Me” vibe then carries you along on a wave of bliss created by Dobson’s compelling voice meshed with strong beats and spiced with the perfect amount of diverse flourishes.
If you’re wondering what record company this is being released by, there isn’t one. Dobson is putting it out herself via the glory of the internet. Perhaps it’s fitting that in 2012 one of the best albums of the year is a self-released labor of love, free from the shackles of a corporate label. Don’t be fooled by the lack of a major behind it, this album is as good (to be honest, probably better) than most of the stuff you’ll hear this year. Hell, this album is so underground, Pitchfork didn’t even review it.
If you like what you hear and want to check out Deep Sea Diver live, you’re in luck: The band is opening up for the Shins on their tour. Not sure if Dobson picks up two paychecks for playing in both bands, but if I were James Mercer, I’d pay her whatever she wants.
Air is a big-time band that just released a new album in February. Yet, few of the folks I talk to have heard it or even knew it was out. I don’t hear it on the radio, see it on playlists, or hear about it on blogs. The folks who did hear it seem to have forgotten it. Why?
Well, it’s a short album, coming in at just over 32 minutes. It’s a mostly instrumental soundtrack to a restored silent film, a little different than previous Air albums. I can understand why people may have been put off by the album and passed it up for more hyped albums. But the truth is, Le Voyage Dans La Lune is Air’s best album since Talkie Walkie.
On Le Voyage Dans La Lune, Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel return to what made Air popular in the first place: amazing moody soundscapes filled with samples ripped from the cosmos, musical structures that sweep the listener along with a playful yet organized composition. This is a quality album, one that sounds perfect in the background as you go about your day, yet holds your interest when you’re just sitting on your bed with headphones on. This is a short album that flows well together, so instead of suggesting my favorite tracks, I’d suggest starting this album from the beginning and experiencing it as Air intended. There are much worse ways to spend a free 30 minutes.
Since I’ve already done a review of this quality album, I’ll get right to the facts:
2) With Sonic Youth on what many fear is a permanent hiatus, this is the closest thing we’ll get to a new Sonic Youth record for a long time.
4) Other Sonic Youth members Steve Shelley, Jim O’Rourke and John Medski are also on this album.
5) This is the first song-based solo album Ranaldo’s ever done, in a career stretching back all the way to the late ’70s.
Isn’t that enough to get you to check out this album out again? If you’re a Sonic Youth fan and you haven’t heard Between The Times And The Tides yet, put down the new Beach House record (don’t worry, you’ll only hear it every day for the next few weeks) and put this in your ears. Even if you’re not a big Sonic Youth fan, give it a try anyway. It’s divergent enough from Sonic Youth that you may find a bunch of sounds you like.
Till next time kids, remember to look past the hype and give a great album a few listens before tossing it down to grab onto the next big thing.