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Drowners | Drowners | Frenchkiss Records
Chirp Radio presents our volunteers' choices of the most overlooked albums in 2014. At the top of our list is the post-punk band Drowners self-titled debut album released January 2014. Welsh (guitar + lead vocals + model) Matt Hitt coolly tosses lyrics like "a school boy grin that only goes to show / that I could never have such control" that bounce playfully along their fast-paced sound that's charmingly reminiscent of their ancestors, The Strokes. Bandmates Jack Ridley (guitar), Joe Brodie (drums) and Erik Snyder (bass) make four for the group who released their first EP in February 2013 and started working on Drowners in May of 2013. While no song lasts more than three minutes on the album, the opening track Ways to Phrase a Rejection carries you through with all the right surges and lulls present. It may seem their elements are those we've heard before, but give a listen.
It seems worth mentioning that while Style.com contributor Peter Voelker photographed the band through their fall 2014 tour he must have picked up on their fashion as well. The Band on the Run photo essay describes them as "fashion's favorite new group." Well, what more can we expect with a model for a frontman.
Earlier this year I discovered Blinking Pigs, a song on a double A-sided 7” by Little Dragon. The drums, sculpted cleverly out of multiple delays, fill every corner of the room but that’s nothing compared to the incredible and eerie voice of Swedish-Japanese Yukimi Nagano. In a flurry of harmonics reminiscent of Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser, she captured my heart with this little love song. I wanted more.
I dug around and noticed their first self-titled album from 2007 but to my ears it lacked the inspired emotions and nuanced vocals I was after. Several months later a seductive and soulful single again with this astounding voice work finally emerged called Feather and it was clear that this electro dream pop outfit from Gothenburg, Sweden, had been working hard at perfecting a brilliant new sound.
This September, their pristine cathedral of work was revealed: the Machine Dreams album. From start to finish Nagano’s vocals pleasantly flow in, around and over the drums of Erik Bodin, bass of Källgren Wallin and a wide range of electronic sounds constructed by the long bearded Håkan Wirenstrand. The album’s mood generally compliments something like a romantic dinner or an afternoon on the couch but it ventures into dancefloor territory on the “step, slide, lightning, fire, topical times” of 808 driven My Step and in the P-Funk boogie of Runabout.
There seems to be a lot of unwritten rules in electronic music these days. One standout moment on Machine Dreams is when Wirenstrand breaks two rules: he wields a crunchy clavichord tone along with a synthesized flute in the exquisitely exotic Swimming. And it works. On this number, Little Dragon leads us through a lush, tropical paradise that I imagine to be full of elated toucans and sneaky monkeys. The album ends on Fortune, an epic tune driven by a climbing melody embellished ever so slightly by Nagano’s breath, the perfect ending.
Joyce is one of those Brazilian musicians whose work you discover and think to yourself, how did I not know about this? Not only is her back catalog from the 70’s and onward a goldmine, she even grows better with time. She’s constantly releasing fresh material like 2001’s Gafiera Moderna (you need this).
Well, the kind people at Far Out Recordings have really done it this time. They somehow dug up Joyce’s “lost” acid folk album from 1976 that was never released, dubbed Visions Of Dawn (Paris ’76 Project). Generally, when “ultra obscure” material is reissued, its accessibility corresponds with its obscurity. Not this album. It’s one of Joyce’s most precious works, start to finish, and features her best instrument: voice.
Led by the sharp lyrics and gorgeous, expressive voice and guitar of Joyce the trio is completed by the expert musicianship of her close friends Nana Vasconcelos (percussion) and Mauricio Maestro (electric bass, vocals, guitar and producer) who were both crucial in creating this masterpiece.
The album is softer than her dancefloor classics you may know of, like Samba De Gago or Aldeia De Ogum (beautifully sampled for the backing of Aloe Blacc’s Bailar). Most of the vocal treatment is sans lyric and leads each composition as another instrument. The album opens with a folkier version of her classic song Banana but all others are completely new, to my knowledge. The mood is soothing throughout and when you finally arrive at the undulating breathwork on Chegada, you start to realize that something very special happened during those sessions in Paris in 1976.
For the local Chicagoans, Joyce’s Visions of Dawn is available at Dusty Groove. And if you want to catch up on all the Joyce classics, Mr. Bongo’s The Essential Joyce: 1970 – 1996 lives up to its title.