Friday, September 26, 2008

The Ripple Seasonal Listening Guide - Summer into Fall - An Amazing Alliteration of Attractive Alterna-Pop

As the heat and sunshine of summer is finally gives way to cooler mornings, cloudy skies and that stiff breeze blowing in from the Pacific, we here at The Ripple thought that now would be a good time to update our smorgasbord of a seasonal listening guide. For those of you who recall, during the dog days of July we published a listening guide to those joyous, backyard Bar-B-Q slices of sunshine pop, like Dave Dill, music designed to lend a light vibe to your summer fun. Now, with the weather change, it's time to rotate the discs in your CD player and bring on a slightly more complicated, more challenging vibe to hearken the oncoming of the complexities of autumn. It's time to put away the margaritas and delve into something with slightly more substance while you're trying to remember where you stored the leaf blower. So without further ado. . .

31Knots - Worried Well

Near brilliant angular indy pop from our fine friends at Polyvinyl Records, 31Knots creates music that demands you stop buying Halloween decorations and plastic centerpiece turkeys and pay attention and listen. Kicking off with an accapella/handclap stab of alt-indy funk, the shimmering guitars of "Certificate," bubble up from underneath, launching us into a dub-esque, acute alterna-pop gem. Hints of early Gang of Four flow in the nasal vocals, stabbing guitar lines and the rolling bass fills. This is adventurous rock, colored with a broad brush stroke of post-punk, rousing and invigorating, just like the first sting of that coming autumn wind.

As varied and multicolored as the leaves you'll soon be raking, 31Knots isn't content to explore one hue, one shade of their muse. They refuse to be pigeonholed into one sound. "The Breaks," attacks with a raw energy brimming through it's near dub bass line. Even within this one song, the boys aren't content to follow one vein, shifting gears to the bombastic chorus with stuttering drum rolls and escalating vocals, before dropping the bottom end right back into their edgy version of dub. These two tracks alone should give you enough to explore as your days end earlier, but if you got that adventuresome bone in your bod, the boys are here to comply. Experimenting with tribal rhythms, jazzy undercurrents, tinkling keyboards, sheets of guitar noise and obtuse structures, each song sounds like it's own moment of inspired creation. With so much esoteric variety thrown into the mix, some songs come off better than others, but none can be condemned for lack of effort. And have no fear, if a particular song isn't starting off to your liking, stick around a bit, it's certain to change to a whole new vibe at sometime before completion. A hectic, at times near-schizophrenic listen, like the change of the seasons, and all the better because of it.

The iOs - In Sunday Songs

Not a new one, but one that might have gotten away on first release. The iOs craft delicate, jaunty alterna-pop that, at its best, makes your head bob up and down as quickly as as if your neck had just turned you into a Barry Bonds bobble-head doll. Released in 2006, In Sunday Songs features the dual vocal interplay of male and female leads, blending together over shimmering, yet muscular guitars. A perfect combination when you still want something on the lighter-side, but shaded for the upcoming winter. Just check out the album cover, it's time to get your slickers and boots out!

"Neverright," was the just missed hit from this disc, a rolling, swirling wash of organ-textured keyboards and charging guitar, rocking in a not too vicious indy way. The closest comparison I can come up with is The Mysteries of Life, with that same intensely melodic, slightly mournful vibe. Definitely an ipod keeper. And the rest of the disc follows suit, expanding from the vaguely Green Day-esque, but better, "Resident Alien," to the smoldering, retro-sixties pop of "Every Waking Moment," to the sheer magnificence of "Come True." All great to set your morning's soundtrack as you grab your scarf, wrap it around your neck and watch the breath plume from your mouth.

The Ms - Real Close Ones

Bringing on a Beatles-inspired a-la-the-garage brand of alterna-pop, The Ms blend a touch of T-Rex and a smattering of psychedelia into their third full-length record, and second for the ever reliable Polyvinyl. Adding a touch of fuzz to their retro rock, and at times ("Breakfast Score") sounding like they borrowed a page from the Kinks songbook, this is mostly energetic, down-home feeling romp through a maze of their influences and hints at their future direction.

"Big Sound," is just that, a big, swaggering opener, guitars crashing through the fuzz and the undeniable melodies. "Pigs Fly," is a delicate, introspective slice of pop heaven, T-Rex brought back to life in the new millennium, with the bands best vocal performance. "Get Your Shit Together," brings on traces of "Get Back"-era Beatles. "Impossible View," and "Bros in Arms," bring the rock back, with the second track being one of my favorites, a grooving, undulating number played over of throbbing bass line. Subtle moments of beauty like, "Trying to Keep," and "Don't Be Late," abound. Don't think we're all retro here. Touches of experimentation can be found, such as the synth tone in "Ultraviloent Men." With it's own touch of melancholy and a dusting of Americana brushed over its British Invasion roots, this is a great one to play by the fire, as the wood crackles, the sparks ascend and the hot cocoa goes down wet and warm.

Joan of Arc - Boo Human

Alternatingly haunting and mesmerizing, or raucous and dissonant, Joan of Arc is the creation of indy rock pariah Tim Kinsella, and those who've heard his prior works know what to expect with his latest offering, Boo Human; expect the unexpected. Brandishing a vocal delivery that begs you to either love it or leave it, a fine acoustic guitar and the firm tattoo of experimentation blazoned across his frontal lobe, Joan of Arc is a languishing, mesmerizing listen. "Shown and Told," highlighted by a delicate solo acoustic guitar, a fine melody and a strong Kinsella vocal performance is a stunningly beautiful track, certainly the soundtrack for wandering thoughts as you stare through the mist on your window, watching the leaves slowly change from green to yellow to red. As fragile as a whisper, floating as if gossamer, this may be one of the most chilling, gorgeous songs of the season.

"Laughter Reflected Back," kicks in with a jazz fusion feel, pushed forward by a gentle polyrhythm. "Just Pack or Unpack," drifts through moments of dissonance to bring on a groovy, finger-snapping ode to love in trouble. I have no problem with Kinsella's voice through out. Here the vocals are mostly subdued and mellow, at times intentionally reaching beyond his limits sounding like Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes. "Vine on a Wire," sets the tone for most of the album, a folksy, alterna-Americana, a vague, more languid R.E.M.-tone, dancing over delicately picked guitars and subtle washes of experimental synths and effects. Certainly, Kinsella is a serious guy, and some of the lyrics gravitate towards melodrama, but who cares? Isnt' that what autumn is all about? A time for melodrama, for reflection? Don't pass this one up. The music throughout is gorgeous, experimental without being overly challenging, melancholy without being maudlin. And besides, it takes a special talent to make a song titled, " A Tell-Tale Penis," (see video) sound this beautiful.

Buy here: Real Close Ones

Boo Human

In Sunday Songs

Worried Well

31 Knots

The M's

Joan of Arc

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