Six super sweet things from the first half of 2011
by Laura Witkowski
Telekinesis! – 12 Desperate Straight Lines (Merge)
On his second record, Michael Benjamin Lerner uses the power of pop to work through the perils of a bad breakup. It’s like the upbeat, irresistibly catchy, way less pretentious cousin to For Emma, Forever Ago. As gut wrenching as a refrains like, “I try to focus on anything else/But I keep on hearing your name” can be, Lerner doesn’t seem to be wallowing. The crunchy melodies and his adorably upbeat demeanor shine through and triumph over the heartache. If you’re hung up on a failed relationship with no end in sight, buy this record, get some perspective and get the fuck on with your life already.
Little Scream – The Golden Record (Secretly Canadian)
After feeling underwhelmed by most all the 2011 releases everybody else seemed to think were so, so amazing, this was the first record I heard this year that felt like a punch in the chest. A record’s ability to make me feel punched in the chest is a surefire sign that I like it. So achingly good. I don’t know much about her, other than that her real name is Laurel Sprengelmeyer, and that this is an awesome last name. The style and sound of her songs on The Golden Record remind me of Azure Ray and Animal Collective teaming up to play songs inspired by Cocteau Twins. ‘The Heron And The Fox’ is one of my favorite songs of the year, bar none.
Sebadoh – Bakesale Deluxe Edition (Sub Pop)
Why listen to bands that rip off the 90s when the actual 90s are so much better? I don’t care how old it makes me seem to wax nostalgic about the 90s, but for music junkies, the records that really changed your life in your formative years have a powerful, powerful hold the rest of your life. Bakesale is totally one of those records for me. So I’ve basically been dreaming of a deluxe edition reissue for years now. On Bakesale, Lou Barlow and Jason Loewenstein nail the perfect balance of vulnerability and angst without ever sounding embarrassingly juvenile. I also had the pleasure of seeing them for the first time this past March, and the songs from Bakesale still sound so awesome live.
Longboarding videos set to awesome music
Yes, this is a departure from things that are actually ‘new’ this year, but it still qualifies as one of my favorite musical discoveries. I was super into skateboarding as a youngster. Totally a Thrasher-reading, Tony Hawk-worshipping tomboy. But I had never longboarded before stumbling onto this video. But after watching it, I immediately knew I needed a longboard. There’s just something transfixing about watching these videos. The songs are such a perfect fit to the activity … I found a few other great ones and got hooked. Now I have my own longboard and I coast around the city of Detroit. And it’s awesome. If only I could figure out a way for make awesome music play each time I rode it … Then it would be perfect.
Wye Oak’s ‘Fish’ video (see featured image)
I could go on and on about how amazing the new Wye Oak record is, but a million people have done that already and with good reason. I love this band. The video for ‘Fish’ really captivated me. It’s so simple, and yet there’s really nothing simple about these beautifully intricate paper-cut shadow puppets by Baltimore artist Katherine Fahey. The visuals compliment the song so perfectly. A+.
Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu’s Twitter feed
Most bands tweet about tour dates, new videos, TV appearances, new songs etc. Sure, some show personality, but most are pretty boring. But Xiu Xiu’s Twitter feed (@XiuXiuforLife), like their music, is as fascinating as it is occasionally difficult to digest. Reading these tweets is like playing a super creepy game of “Would you rather? …” It’s a compelling string of funny, profound, absurd, shocking and uncomfortable-making snippets, one after another. For instance, here are some of my recent favorites:
if all color where drained from the world save black & white would you rather that everything was inverted gray scale or just all black?
do u know what i wouldn’t give to the have the power of 900 evil witches right now to shoot a green ball o flame over most of the usa today?
what is your favorite shape of a building: peeling off, crumbling, terrarium, reflecting the parking lot, ball shape or piled up bricks?
Every once in awhile you’ll occasionally find some tweets about band news too. Like a link to pre-order their new 7” which features the based-on-a-true-story song ‘Daphny’ about a friend who was raped in police custody after a shoplifting arrest, as well as a cover of Rihanna’s ‘Only Girl (In the World)’.