Kurt Vile: “Smoke Ring For My Halo”

In the beginning of this year there were a few select albums that I found myself consistently coming back to and seemingly not growing tired of. Now that the year is growing to a close, the albums that I started the year with are still favorites. I might not be listening to them multiple times a day, or everyday for that matter, but I do tend to find myself putting the album on and it being somehow fitting at that moment. One of these albums is Kurt Vile’s new release Smoke Ring For My Halo. I have continued to return to this album throughout the year since it’s release in March. His songwriting and playing seem so effortless, while at the same time sounding so ramshackle, sloppy (in a good way), and careless, in the same vein as Dinosaur Jr.’s style. The music sounds like it was recorded by a bunch of friends hanging around, reminiscing, having a couple drinks, and jamming out on their instruments. There’s a laid back feeling that is infectious because it is pulled off so well; it immediately calms your nerves and drifts around you, fitting perfectly like your favorite hoodie.

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Prince Rama: “Trust Now”

I for one believe that it is essential to our lives that we find moments in which we are reminded of our true animalistic nature; it seems natural that different people achieve this in different ways. As I am not a hunter or an athlete, I need percussion. Drums and chants are some of the earliest forms of communication and they are able to portray emotion in a way that is more kinetic than most people could possibly imagine. I suppose for this reason, I have always been drawn to tribal motifs in pop music. As you can likely predict, the primitive/tribal movement that swept through the indie world around the mid-point of this last decade was a source of great joy for me (this same time period also held the freak folk movement, but that is an effusive description of a short-lived musical movement for another occasion). Trust Now is an album recorded by two women in a 19th century church based on a concept they reportedly devised for a live “ritual”. Appropriately, Paw-Tracks, the label established by the members of Animal Collective, has released this album into the wild. I have to say that It is a pretty darn satisfying listen.

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Ulcerate: “The Destroyers Of All”

An eerie, gradually overwhelming sense of forewarning and destruction builds before any apocalyptic scenario. Many times have I dreamt about the moments leading to annihilation and devastation without fully understanding why it was happening. Frantically running around, trying to organize my thoughts, while an overriding feeling of inevitability surged within. I never had enough time to speculate, only enough time to react. Before anything horrific could take place I would always wake up, being thankful that I didn’t have to witness any of the pain and suffering. While I am thankful, it goes without saying that witnessing something that epic, tragic, and destructive will forever be a part of human curiosity, and I would be lying if I said I had absolutely no interest in the subject. My dreams have yet to fulfill this curiosity and display to me the horrors of the end, but fortunately Ulcerate have created an album that could soundtrack it perfectly.

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Twin Sister: “In Heaven”

As time keeps passing by, I continue to grow older and it seems to me that age brings comfort (or apathy depending on how you look at it). I have spent the majority of my life up to this point voraciously consuming as much new music as I could; my lists of favorite artists on various online profiles has continually grown longer and longer and now I often feel like a parody of a music enthusiast. There is so much great music out there both in the past and in the present (and surely there will be in the future) that it is not possible to experience all of it. Incredibly, this is exactly what the internet suggests that we do. Despite all this, I have reached a point where I am reluctant to listen to new artists. I have a large collection of music which I love and adding new faces at this point feels kind of pointless. I had always heard it was hard to make new friends as an adult but I never expected this. Now don’t get me wrong, if a trusted friend recommends something, I will still check it out but these new bands admittedly are facing an uphill battle to make it into my music collection. Suffice it to say, it is this very problem which has made Folkways Magazine so challenging.

I went into this review, my first article on this site since last year, completely blind. I have never heard of the band Twin Sister. A brief internet search as well as a conversation with Evan Sherman has taught me that In Heaven is their debut LP and that one of the guys from Grizzly Bear is allegedly involved with it in some capacity (edit: it turns out that this was actually Twin Shadow and not Twin Sister). After I finally started to listen, I was surprised to hear an opening track that seems to come from the same ‘Space Lounge’ world of Stereolab. Further tracks explore disco, dream pop and other largely electronic –based genres and sub-genres; the unifying factor is the voice of lead singer Andrea Estella who seems to appear on nearly every track with the possible exception of the closer, “Eastern Green”.

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Folkways Magazine Presents: Favorite Albums 2010


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