>> Tuesday, March 30, 2010
If there’s one thing we can all agree about Sigur Rós’s devastatingly gorgeous breakthrough, Ágætis Byrjun, it’s that you have to be in the right mood for it. It’s epic and completely absorbing stuff, the sort of music not likely to grace workout, party, or car playlists. Ágætis Byrjun offers sprawling alien soundscapes that play best late at night, really, when the world has quieted down, attention is less divided, and thoughts can actually be heard.
Sigur Rós head honcho Jon-Par Birgisson’s debut solo release Go is pretty much Ágætis Byrjun’s diametric opposite. The bright, buoyant melodies mostly come fast and in a flurry throughout this light-hearted, refreshingly uplifting and cheerful release. Birgisson’s patented banshee wail is noticeably scaled back on Go; for once, his gooseflesh-triggering falsetto is not solely treated as an emotive instrument (except maybe on “Grow Till Tall”). Instead, the sprightly orchestral flourishes propel the songs forward, not allowing Jonsi enough time to get his wail on.
Case in point: the breathless opener “Go Do” where drums gallop at full speed, flutes and piccolos flitter around the peripherals, and Jonsi’s giddy delivery provides a boyish narrative of the exciting adventure. While all songs don’t burst forth with such immediate alacrity – Jonsi still inserts some low-to-mid tempo breathers – the overall feel of Go is sunny and positive.
In fact, the majority of Go is ideal for a quick music pick-me-up, running playlist, or for when cruising around...hoping the intersection lights flash nothing but welcoming green.
Choice Cuts: “Go Do”, “Around Us”, “Boy Lilikoi”
R.I.Y.D. The first half of Sigur Rós’s last album, Passion Pit, Electric President
Label: XL Recordings
Quarantine the Past
The majority of Painting Over Silence readers are likely familiar with Pavement, even if only by name, as stalwarts/progenitors of the 1990s indie rock scene. This Stockton fivesome put together five studio albums before disbanding in 1999, leaving a nearly impeccable legacy. Now reunited for some live shows, Quarantine the Past offers an engaging trip through Pavement's most engaging songs.
This 23-song collection spans all five albums, as well as a couple of EPs and one compilation track. While superfans will likely debate the sequencing and selection of tracks included on QTP – there’s not a single unreleased song included – I suspect most fans will forgive this due to the fabulous work done by both the band and Matador records on the reissues of the studio albums. They're packed full of live material, b-sides, and so forth.
My ONLY beef on QTP is the relative lack of love given to 1999's Terror Twilight, the band's gorgeous, Nigel Godrich-produced swan song. Only "Spit on a Stranger" is included, and while it's a great choice, I'd have liked to have seen "The Hexx" on here too. It's a personal favourite, but I digress.
Like their studio albums, the recording quality is somewhat all over the place, although the care taken to re-master these tracks is apparent, especially on the songs from 1994's Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain.
I've been talking around the songs themselves in part because I fear doing them great injustice. The biggies are all here as are deeper cuts "Stereo" and "Cut Your Hair", tracks that give listeners a glimpse beyond what might have been heard on college radio/MTV/The Wedge in the mid-90s.
Rather than try to sum up the sound of Pavement for the few that might not be familiar, you can preview 30-second snippets of each of the songs for yourself at Matador Records site. I'll do a better job of reporting on the reunited Pavement's live show when I go see them this summer. I promise to be direct.
Choice Cuts: “Grounded", "In the Mouth A Desert", "Gold Soundz" - take your pick, really
R.I.Y.D. The Fall, Sonic Youth, any indie rock of the past 15 years or so
With a heaping helping of guest appearances (The Fall's Mark E. Smith, Mos Def, Lou Reed, Snoop Dogg, etc.) ex-Blur frontman Damon Albarn and the rest of this "virtual band" have put together a solid collection of eclectic, electronic-driven tracks that work really well as a whole. Doubters should check out the video for "Stylo" that features a killer Bruce Willis cameo. Best effort yet.
The Besnard Lakes
The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night
Throughout The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night, the Montreal-based space-rockers skillfully combine stunning harmonies and breathtaking melodies with fuzzy, crepuscular shoegaze, in the process making an arresting record that needs, no, demands, many listens to unlock its spooky, otherworldly secrets. See them at the Albert in April.
Infinite Playlist: The Besnard Lakes - The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night