Monday, January 31, 2011

The Photography of Ray Shirao

I was browsing a Japanese bookstore the other day and randomly stumbled upon the amazing photography of Ray Shirao. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in complete awe of someone’s work. What really struck me about Shirao’s work was the oddity of his subjects. Never have I seen a photo of seemingly mundane objects appear so alien.

In Undercurrent, Shirao reveals the surprising beauty of the subterranean passages of Tokyo’s extensive sewer system. His photos are completely arresting in that they expose the dark abyss beneath our cities, an eerie man-made netherworld of caves that house the lifeblood of our daily existence, the pipes that carry our water, electricity, internet, television, and heat.

Beneath the strangeness and the surprising beauty is a lurking malice, a fear of the unknown and the unseen. Shirao plays on this unknown by using murky shadows, darkness, bewildering reflections, and odd shapes that let the viewer’s imagination run wild, as we project our own fears into the dark recesses of each frame.

In stark high contrast photos, the blaring concrete offsets the dark shadows in a stunning display of dark mysterious beauty. The photos that are particularly gorgeous are those that utilize the meager rays of light that have penetrated from the world above to illuminate the bizarre caverns. These fleeting rays cast brilliant shadows that bounce off the slimy surfaces and water to make beautiful shapes.

Be sure to check out his book Undercurrent, although it’s been pretty hard to find in online searches as it seems to be primarily in Japanese. In the meantime, be sure to head over to his website and check out his photos. But again, you will have to do some clicking around in the dark (oh badump chh!) as it’s all in Japanese as well.

To make things easier, here are a few of my favorites below.

Friday, January 28, 2011

AA Loves: Made In Japan

My greedy little ears have just been blessed by the music of Made In Japan as will yours in a few short moments.

Formed in 2006, this quartet from Australia mixes tightly interwoven guitar melodies that resemble the carefully crafted sounds of Explosions In The Sky with delightfully catchy pop lyrics. Unmuddied by distortion, their talent is brazenly on display. After only a few bars, it’s clear that each song has been carefully crafted so that every note, drum hit, and chord are exactly where they need to be.

Be sure to listen to their single “Pairs,” which is a sneak peak at their forthcoming release and a very good sign of things to come. While you’re at it, head over to Bandcamp to take a peek at their self-titled EP that was independently released in early 2009.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

AA Loves: The Delta Riggs

The Delta Riggs are dangerous, so lock up your daughters, hide your girlfriends, and get ready for some pure rock n’ roll at its best – born in fire, doused in snake oil, and raw to the touch.

With heavy blues rock soaked in gospel organs and as dedicated students of American blues like the Rolling Stones, the Delta Riggs mean serious business. They dropped their self-titled EP last May, and mid 2011 will see the release of their debut album.

Check out Fiend below, but be prepared, the opening lines will hit you hard – heavy guitar riffs driven by a punishing snare with wailing vocals will clear your sinuses.

But to get a real feel for this band’s sound, be sure to listen to their stunner Get Back. They seamlessly blend southern gospel, blues, and R&B for one of the most stunning displays of soulful rock I’ve heard in a long time. Lead singer Elliot Hammond has so much raw feeling in his voice that your entire mind becomes entranced, time literally slows down, and you are left emotionally exhausted. But not to be outdone, the organ and the backup vocalists compete for your attention with equal enthusiasm evoking the feel of a gospel church on a Sunday.

Turn up your speakers and praise the Lord, The Delta Riggs are bringing down the house today.

Fiend by thedeltariggs

Also be sure to check out their EP.

The Delta Riggs EP by thedeltariggs

Sadly, Sony is being a bully and won't let me host a stream of "Get Back," so you'll have to hop over here or here to stream it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Eddie Cochran – Twenty Flight Rock

I’ve been on a bit of a rockabilly kick lately, so I figured I’d share a quick little jam that’s had me moving my hips in manner unbefitting of an upstanding model citizen of the 1950’s.

Check out the live version of the Rockabilly classic “Twenty Flight Rock” by the great Eddie Cochran.

Then of course, there’s this cover

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde

It’s here!!! I just got my greedy little hands on Smith Westerns’ sophomore effort, Dye It Blonde.

These underage louts have really outdone themselves with this phenomenal album.

Displaying incredible growth, while still maintaining that shithead adolescent energy that made their first album so fun, Dye It Blonde is an absurdly catchy album.

They’ve kept the dreamy and girl-crazy sound of hormone mad young ‘uns, but producer Chris Coady has helped to focus that restless energy.

Thank god for the hi-fi recording equipment and the studio budget because we can know hear the artful psychedelic swirls and arcs of their guitars. This album is loaded with some dazzling guitar riffs and Cullen Omori coos gently with the sweetness of a cherub.

The album opens with a powerful trio in “Weekend,” “Still New,” and “Imagine Pt.3”

Weekend is so damn fun and has probably already made it on to your playlists as it was released several months ago as the lead single from the album.

Still New is surprising in that the lyrics are audibly more mature, as they now include lines like “I want to tell you you’re hard to resist.” On that note, I must say that the George Harrison-esque riffs on this track are hard to resist.

As for Imagine Pt. 3, it’s a fun mix of Beach Boys innocence with a bit of British psychedelic to the moving beat of a 70’s family sitcom intro theme song.

Between British Sea Power and The Smith Westerns dropping phenomenal albums in the past few weeks, we’ve gotten some amazing music in the first month of the new year. That leaves eleven whole months of unabated goodness to come. Woohoo!

Listen to a few goodies below.

Smith Westerns by The Vinyl District
End of the Night

Smith Westerns - Imagine, Pt. 3 by Vicente P

Monday, January 24, 2011

Stream British Sea Power’s New Album – Valhalla Dancehall

British Sea Power’s new album, Valhalla Dancehall, is here! These Brit indie rockers dropped their fifth album in mid January and it’s definitely worth a listen.

Taking a different approach, the band decided to eschew the studio and record the album in a more DIY fashion. They got the hell out of dodge and found an old farmhouse in a remote part of the world and lived there for eighteen months writing, recording, and above all experimenting.

Recounting their adventures in an interview, it seems like the band had quite the time forgetting to order heating oil and struggling with the cold, walking miles on end in empty forests, watching episodes of Heartbeat with a mouse, and making golf courses out of their massive overgrown lawn.

Less grand and eccentric than their previous four albums, Valhalla Dancehall is still filled with esoteric references and influences but in a more accessible package. To quote the Guardian, the album is drawn from “vintage Playboy magazines, population control, crazy golf, Dadaist artist Kurt Schwitters, hedonism, nature, and "French Hitchcock" Henri-Georges Clouzot.

With albums this good coming out so early in 2011, this year is going to be prolific for music.

Here’s just a snippet below, but be sure to head over to the Guardian to stream the rest.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tour Photos from the Shout Out Louds

I was randomly perusing the Shout Out Louds’ homepage the other day and came across some of their tour photos and must say that they have some insanely talented photographers on hand as they have made some gorgeous frames.
Candid photos of the band as they hang out are mixed with behind the scenes tour shots as well as more personal photos that speak of people simply experiencing new places and documenting their surroundings. The overall effect is that one feels as if they have seen private photos from a vacation among close friends.

Simple, candid, and gorgeous these photos are certainly worth taking a look at if you have a minute. Just hop over to their site and check out their photo section.

Below are a few of my favorites.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

AA Loves: Super Desserts

Bands like Super Desserts restore your faith in humanity. While that might seem like a bold statement, a quick listen to their music and you’ll have the same feeling. Simply put they have the sweetest, most sincere, and adorable sound possible without being overly wholesome, creepy, or precious.

Their banjo infused folk rock, 1950’s pop lyrics, and the sweetest voices you can imagine suggest a wholesomeness that doesn’t exist anymore, but somehow they manage to not do it in an overly saccharine Disney way. With lyrics about calling your mom, finding comfort in bold lies, or asking if your dad can cut hair, listening to their songs feels like you walked into a quiet coffee shop somewhere in the American heartland to hear your buddy’s band sing about your friends and family.
With whimsical song titles like “I Only Love You Because You Play Guitar,” “Give Your Mom A Call, Or The Sorcerer,” or “Gotta Lotta Sun,” these songs will be sure to put a smile on your face – and if they don’t, you’re a robot.

Listen to “I Only Love You Because You Play Guitar” below and be sure to hop over to their Bandcamp to download their latest album Twee as Folk.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

AA Loves: The Laurels

In continuing with the recent stream of killer up and coming bands from down under comes The Laurels.

This quartet from Sydney has an amazing psychedelic shoegaze dream pop sound that draws your mind into their acid fueled mind bending melodies. The influence of The Beatles and My Bloody Valentine is clear with their catchy pop lyrics, pedal effects, and distorted noise guitars. You could file them away somewhere between a radically more psychedelic Beatles or Deerhunter at their most lucid.

Check out their debut 7” Art School Girl and Wandering Star, available for free download here, and keep an eye out for the upcoming release of their first EP. I have a feeling that 2011 will have some big things in store for The Laurels.

The Laurels - Wandering Star by Aesthetes Anonymous

The Laurels - Turn On Your Mind by Aesthetes Anonymous

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Art of Pae White

“Smoke Knows” from a 2009 exhibit

I’ve always found smoke to be endlessly fascinating. Aesthetically speaking, I’m completely enamored with it, from its undulating curls that spiral upward to the bluish hue it can take on in daylight or its fleeting lifespan yet seemingly endless supply.

I suppose it’s this interest that has drawn me to the recent works of Pae White who playfully explores the ephemerality of smoke. In massive tapestries that can measure up to 40 feet, White “[uses] heavily digitally manipulated photos of crumpled aluminum foil, plumes of smoke and dynamic image collages of collected scraps of image, pattern, color, and text as their content.”

The Whitney sums up her work best: “In 2006, White began creating tapestries with photographic images of crumpled aluminum foil and plumes of smoke. Still, Untitled, one of her most recent smoke tapestries, stages what White describes as the cotton’s “dream of becoming something other than itself” by contrasting an image of something immaterial with the physicality of fabric. This vision of an ephemeral moment suspended in space—the slight and fleeting unfurling of smoke monumentalized in the heroic tradition of tapestries—transforms an everyday image into a seductive evocation of transience and longing.

Check out a few of her recent works including some from her recent exhibition Material Mutters that just wrapped up at the Power Plant on January 2nd.

Monday, January 17, 2011

AA Loves: Orange Blossom Flyover – Hearsay in Paradox Lust

If the abstract title wasn’t enough to intrigue you, the opening beats alone on Hearsay in Paradox Lust will be enough to draw you into Orange Blossom Flyover’s mysterious world.

Dreamy, lazy, and thought provokingly reminiscent, this deliciously cogent track will leave you wanting more. Mournful guitars undulate slowly over a simple beat, while ghostly vocals swirl about the ether putting you under its magical spell. Just as your heart begins to race and your head spin the reverie is cruelly interrupted by silence, leaving only a lingering memory to hang softly in the air.

Stream the entire Fast Reverse EP below, or hop over to Bandcamp to get your own copy courtesy of Orange Blossom Flyover aka Massachusetts based Ryan Scally.

Also, be sure to check out his Soundcloud as there is many a gem hidden away there.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Breton – December

Check out the genre defying track “December” by Breton. With hard beats, frostbitten synths, lush violins, and a catchy refrain with indie vocals this track is 3 minutes of bliss.

Released on last month’s Counter Balance EP, this track is certainly among their catchiest. Ghoulish aggression blends with disembodied levitation and dazzling enchantment for the perfect blend.

Listen and download “December” here, courtesy of Hemlock Records.

Breton - RDI by Hemlockrecordings

Watch the video here:

Stream the rest of Counter Balance here.

COUNTER BALANCE by bretonlabs

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Miles Kane – Come Closer

Check out the latest sneak peak at Miles Kane’s first solo album, due out on February 21st, 2011.

“Come Closer” has the same 60’s inspired sound of The Last Shadow Puppets but it maintains aggressiveness of his guitar from his Rascals days. His sound has mellowed a bit with catchy pop hooks and he really runs with the retro sound, embellishing it with doo wop back up vocalists.

It seems that this 60’s inspired rock sound that began with The Last Shadow Puppets is a continuing thread in his music. Although, he might have a bit of competition from Liam Gallagher and Oasis, I mean Beady Eye, and their whole 60’s inspired rock sound (see my previous post).

Not to be outdone, Miles Kane announced that Noel Gallagher will make a guest appearance on a track called “My Fantasy,” while Kane will play guitar on Noel Gallagher’s own solo album.

I am super amped for his forthcoming album, so far the sneak peeks we’ve gotten have been pretty encouraging. Simply see Exhibit A— Inhaler and of course, Exhibit B – the subject of today’s post the recently released video to “Come Closer” which is below.

Here’s the fantastic live studio version.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Quiet Lights – Ablaze

The name Quiet Lights more or less sums up their quiet ghostly sound. They appear like a phantom apparition late at night with their swirling ethereal guitars and dreamy vocals. Their sound lingers in the air for a moment and hangs there delicately before gently fading away.

Ablaze is the first single from their forthcoming album and is accompanied by Twice Today, the blurred B-Side.

This Brooklyn based five piece sums up their sound best, “Quiet Lights formed in Brooklyn in 2009 through a shared love of finding beauty in layered sounds. They're drawn to light and dark landscapes, glass-bottle hazes, blurry sonic envelopes, and small batch bourbon.”

Listen below, then head over to their bandcamp to download your free copy of this digital 7”. Also up for grabs is their first release a three song sampler released in March of last year.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Smith Westerns – All Die Young

Those young rapscallions, the Smith Westerns, are back with another fun single before their second album, Dye It Blonde, is officially released on January 18th.

I loved their first album, although I’ll have to admit it was a bit too lo-fi for me. That is to say, it was damn good but the audio quality made it too hard to hear a damn thing. Fortunately, they’ve gotten some better recording equipment and with the cleaned up sound you can now actually hear how fun their sound really is.

Like a dreamier and significantly more girl obsessed R-rated version of the Beach Boys, these indie rockers from Chicago capture fun in the sun while chasing skirts perfectly.

“All Die Young” is a bit more morbid and mellow than their previous single “Weekend,” but still catchy as hell. Judging from these two tracks, the Smith Westerns have really come a long way in fully developing their sound and Dye it Blonde promises to be an amazing album.

Stream their new single below, and also check out their recently released video to “Weekend.”

Smith Westerns - "All Die Young" by forcefieldpr

Smith Westerns - Weekend from Fat Possum Records on Vimeo.

Monday, January 10, 2011

James and Evander and Sports Remix Swap – Turtle Two and Mind Has Changed

It’s no secret that AA is a big fan of Sports and more recently James and Evander, so today our ears get double teamed with the music of both. To quote James and Evander “yay internets” because the wonders of the interwebs have brought us this aural orgasm.

Those kinky bastards have decided to do a bit of swinging and allowed each other to have their way with each other’s music. In a fun exchange, Sports has remixed James and Evander’s “Turtle Two,” while James and Evander were busy getting down with Sports’ “Mind Has Changed.”

Attentive to the subtleties of something not their own, they’ve brought out parts of the song and made it do things I didn’t think it was capable of, let alone willing.

On Sports’ remix of “Turtle Two,” they bring even more upbeat and inquisitive energy to the original. After a mellow start, this track builds nicely until you can’t help but get caught up in its groove.

Here James and Evander have gotten lurid and depraved with Sports’ “Mind Has Changed.” It’s dark and lusty, with a sinister undertone and just a ridiculous pleasure to listen to.

Head over to bandcamp now to get your hands on this hot little remix swap for free.

Friday, January 7, 2011

AA Loves: Yuck

"Georgia" by London’s Yuck is lo-fi ear candy at its best. Fuzzy guitars, tons of buzz, and feel good female vocals spiral wildly out of control but in a fun sexy good times way.

I’m seriously looking forward to more music from these guys this year.

Don’t forget to check out “Daughter” as well. It’s a gorgeous more introspective piece set to some mystifying analog home videos.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

AA’s Frivolous Wants: Special Edition Daft Punk Tron Headphones

In case you didn’t get everything you wanted this Christmas, here’s something to add to the list. As part of the promotion for the new Tron movie, the audio wizards over at Monster teamed up with Disney to release a set of special edition Tron headphones.

Officially dubbed the Monster Tron Legacy T1, these bad boys are loaded with features including:

  • Monster’s advanced studio driver design for ultra-precision surround-sound clarity
  • Extra-large over-ear drivers to deliver deep bass and thunderous low-end effects  
  • LED Light Drive System used for the first time in Monster headphones to recreate TRON: LEGACY animated lighting effects
  • Advanced noise isolation technology that blocks external sound so users can remain immersed in music, movies and games
  • Removable boom microphone that can be placed on either side, giving gamers a useful edge while playing and conversing hands-free with opponents
While insanely sleek and futuristic, you may have to sell a few of your Christmas gifts to afford them at their $349.95 price tag.

In case that isn’t enough, check out the Tron Legacy iPod audio dock that looks like one of those sleek glow in the dark Frisbees that they throw around in the movie. At the affordable price of only $249.95 grab one for the whole family.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Pony Pony Run Run – Hey You [Watch]

Photo Credit: Link

As I bundle up for the winter, donning two pants as we speak, in my mind I’m still in the midst of a sexy summer vacation at the beach thanks to Pony Pony Run Run’s video for Hey You.

While this came out a while ago, I figured I’d just share a bit of the summer glow that I’ve still got going courtesy of this video. It’s pretty straight forward as it follows a couple as they embark on a delicious romp through Thailand in the sun. Despite its simplicity, I can’t help but grin as I watch these two have the time of their life.

Watch it and forget that there's snow and freezing cold outside.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Welcome to the New Year

Welcome to the New Year a ring a ding ding.

I'm still getting over my hangover and cleaning out my apartment which involves unchaining the stripper from the raidator, getting rid of the all the illicit drugs sprinkled across the room, and some good ol' fashion dusting. Oh who am I kidding, I don't do any of that - I mean seriously who the hell dusts anymore.

Anyhoo, here's just a quick photo to kick off the New Year right.

I thought this was particularly fitting, as my friends and I have officially declared 2011 the Year of Bold Moves, and by definition bold moves are foolhardy, reckless, and poorly thought through choices that often end in catastrophic failure. BUT they are bold nonetheless, and what better way to exemplify the idea of bold moves than Bonnie and Clyde who made the bold move to rob a bank and then died in a hail of bullets.