Monday, February 28, 2011

AA’s Frivolous Wants: Persol 649s

I’ve always loved these sunglasses after seeing a vintage pair that my best friend had came across on ebay a few years back, so I’m rather excited to see that Persol has reintroduced some bold colors to the 649 lineup.

Check it out.

Friday, February 25, 2011

High Highs – Flower Bloom

Swoon. Be still my heart.

The High Highs have me all aflutter with one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard in a while.

A subtle lo-fi static breathes extra life into the track, while absurdly sublime vocals harmonize. Gentle, rich, and swirling, Flowers Bloom packs an emotional punch. Like a needle in your lung, it leaves you gasping for air.

As for the folks behind this bit of musical genius, the High Highs are two Aussies named Oli Chang and Jack Milas.

The 7" will be released in April and will include "Opean Season," "Flowers Bloom", and two new songs "Ivy" and "Horses."

Head over to their bandcamp to download this goodness.
High Highs - Flowers Bloom by Aesthetes Anonymous

Thursday, February 24, 2011

AA Loves: Voluntary Butler Scheme

Check out the chevreul, a new four track EP by Voluntary Bulter Scheme
Fun and poppy, Rob Jones’ fuzzy vocals glide smoothly over light sun-drenched guitars and transport you to a time when you could strip off your clothes and bask in the warm glow of the sun (I believe they called it Summer).

From the opening beats it’s immediately obvious that the irreverent bouncing organs are all about the beaches and the fun in the sun optimism of the 60s.

Be sure to check out my personal favorite “To the Height of a Frisbee” below.

To The Height Of A Frisbee by Voluntary Butler Scheme

Stream the rest of the EP below or head to his Bandcamp to purchase it.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Skateistan: To Live and Skate Kabul

In a country plagued by decades of violence, mired in poverty, and embroiled in a protracted war, it’s nice to finally see some positive glimpses of Afhganistan for once.

The documentary, Skatistan: To Live and Skate Kabul, is a great short documentary about Kabul’s nascent skate scene that’s been developed through the efforts of Skateistan.

Breathtaking shots take you inside the capitol of the war torn country that has filled our headlines for the past decade. Shots of abject poverty, brutal violence, and exotic third world culture are juxtaposed against the relatively mundane act of skate boarding.

It’s nice to finally be able to see a window into a country where more than 1,300 American lives have been lost, while thousands more have been irreparably damaged with lost limbs, head trauma, and PTSD.

The documentary follows several members of the local Kabul skate scene as they detail their lives, why they skate, and some of the hardships they face.

In stark language young skaters share their stories.

Fazilla has a particularly gut wrenching story. She is a twelve year old child who is forced to sell gum in the streets to help her family purchase food. It’s been hard to make ends meet and she and her family often don’t have enough to eat.

She said, “At Skateistan I don’t feel that my surroundings are ruined, I feel as though I’m in a nice place.”

Or Murza, a seventeen year old kid, who says rather simply, “Life is hard in Kabul. It is solely because of the support of Skateistan that I am standing now."

No matter what you may think of the war, the future of kids like Murza and Fazilla hang in the balance and there is a very real human cost to what our actions in Afghanistan.

I first came across the skate park at my day job covering national security issues, so it’s nice to see the more human side of it beyond just the news stories.

Started by Australians Oliver Percovich and Sharna Nolan, Skateistan focuses not only on bringing skate culture to Afghanistan but empowering young girls in a highly oppressive society and educates them in a country where  schooling for girls is often banned.

In exchange for a place to skate, kids are required to attend classes.

The film is an Official Selection of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

Watch the powerful short below and learn more here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Yuck Album Review

Seeing as this is my blog and all, I figured I would also use it as an opportunity for shameless self-promotion.

DonnyBrook Writing Academy, an online publication, recently approached me to write album reviews for them, and so my first one is out today.

Hop over here to read my review of Yuck’s debut album.

Yuck is certainly no stranger to this blog, so it was pretty sweet to get my hands on their album shortly after it was released.

On a side note, as part of the rules of writing for DonnyBrook, all the writers are asked to pick pretentious pseudonyms (their words, not mine). So you can find me under Julien Rastignac, a combination of my two favorite characters from two of my favorite books. One million cool points to those of you who catch the reference.

The Kickdrums – Something’s Gotta Give

In case your life was missing some highly danceable indie electro pop, The Kickdrums are back with their groove inducing new EP, Something’s Gotta Give, which just hit stores on Monday.

With a pulsating bass lines, catchy guitar riffs, and a great chorus the title track is perfect for those who are in need of some dance.

Listen and download the hot new track below. With a free download available, what’s not to like.

Life is good today.

Monday, February 21, 2011

AA Loves: MillionYoung

MillionYoung is back and better than ever on his first full length album Replicants, which just dropped last week on Old Flame/Rix Records.

This time around Florida native Mike Diaz, got a whole band together to help round out his blissed out chill-wave sound and it certainly makes a difference.

Mellow electronic beats, lush synths, and sheer euphoric bliss mingle on gorgeous tracks that leave your mind floating. The Guardian may have put it the best when they wrote that Million Young sounds like“New Order had gone to Ibiza and never come back.”

With a bit more upbeat energy than on his previous releases, he somehow infuses glowing vitality with laid-back grooves – the juxtaposition stimulates you in all the right ways.

Chill-wave dream pop never sounded so damn good.

I’m going to be so bold as to declare this as one of my favorite new albums of the year. There I said it. So hurry up and listen to the title track “Replicants” as well as the fantastic “Calrissian” below.

Head over to the website to stream the rest of the album.

Millionyoung-Replicants by Old Flame Records

Millionyoung-Calrissian Demo by Old Flame Records

Friday, February 18, 2011

Tip of the Hat – Browns’ Customer Service

As a man who appreciates words and pithy responses, this goes in the hall of fame.

From 1974, a letter exchange between a Cleveland Brown’s season ticket holder and the Brown’s front office. The response is penned by the General Counsel James N. Bailey.

Simply amazing.

A tip of the hat to you Mr. Bailey.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Richards, Turner, and Bowie

Keith Richards, Tina Turner, and David Bowie. Great or greatest party ever?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Strokes – Under the Cover of Darkness

A snippet from the long-awaited new Strokes album has arrived.

Under Cover of Darkness, features all of the same aggressive guitars, Julian Casablancas scream, and driving energy that we know and love. The guitar lines sound as if they were lifted from a classical symphony and doused in wicked amounts of pedal effects.

A little older and a little more jaded, the energy is a bit tempered but still pure Strokes goodness.

Stream and download it below.

The new album, Angles, is set to be released March 21st on Roughtrade.

The Strokes - Under Cover of Darkness by One Thirty BPM

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Photos From Egypt

The New York Times has put together a powerful slideshow detailing the joy, the fear, and the resilience of protestors, who for 18 days rallied for democratic reforms. They bravely withstood violence, uncertainty, and overwhelming opposition to triumph.

With the recent overthrow of Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt, the fight for democracy has spread to Bahrain, Iran, and Yemen. May these protest movements be the harbinger of real democratic reforms rather than a descent into further chaos or despotism.

Enough political talk for me here, I do enough of that in my day job so I’m not going to turn this into a political forum.

Instead, just enjoy the damn pictures. There is so much raw emotion in these photographs it helps convey the historical significance of what is unfolding.

Below are a few that I thought were profoundly thought provoking. See the rest here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

AA Loves – Lonely Galaxy

Lonely Galaxy makes falling in love about as joyful as attending a funeral. Just as the name suggests, Lonely Galaxy makes beautiful lovesick music. So if you're alone today, this is probably the perfect backdrop for your misery.

Harry Granger-Howell, the broken hearted soul behind Lonely Galaxy, fills his lo-fi ballads with longing lyrics, sparse melodies, and a subtle driving New Wave beat behind them.

The sweeping organs and the meandering guitar melodies give his sound a prolific feel, while his vocals sound as if he is calling to you from a distant memory. With candid lyrics like “I wish I didn’t have to see you around. At least I have a heart” and “I want you to notice how I feel when the dawn comes,” he explores the depths of his loneliness and misery.

The drama, intrigue, and emotion make Lonely Galaxy a great melancholy interlude for the crushing depths of winter.

Listening to Lonely Galaxy calls to mind a quote from a book that I was reading recently that fairly much sums up their music – “Sometimes I get really lonely sleeping with you.”

His second EP, simply titled EP2 , was just released recently on Transparent.

Stream them both below. Enjoy.

EP2 by Lonely Galaxy

EP One by Lonely Galaxy

Friday, February 11, 2011

Robert Redford

Just a quick photo for today, but what a damn good photo.

Given how effortlessly cool he looks, it's unsurprising the photo is courtesy of A Conversation on Cool

Enjoy the weekend.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

AA Loves - Anna Calvi

It’s rare to come across vocalists that exude raw power in today’s indie-scene, which is why I was so blown away by Anna Calvi.

Her songs, lyrics, and aesthetics create a darkly sexual atmospheric vibe that both frighten and excite you.

She can whisper huskily with a quiet sensuousness or shatter glass with crystal-clear operatic power and she certainly uses her deft abilities to full effect. With grand sweeping soundscapes to match her vocal prowess, Anna Calvi is kind of sort of a lot of amazing.

This half English and half Italian songstress just dropped her self-titled debut album on January 17th on Domino records, so be sure to get your copy ASAP.

Check out “Won’t Be Leaving,” which showcases the lusty qualities of her voice to a James Bond-esque spy vibe sort of tune. The sparse drums and minimal guitar riff match her erotic whisper nicely.

To see the other side of her voice, be sure to check out “Jezebel.” It’s definitely worth the few minutes of your time.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Detective Social - Roads

For those of you who want a dose of calming reassurance, check out Detective Social.

This quartet from down under blends intricate guitar melodies, in the style of Explosions in The Sky, with quiet reassuring lyrics that urge you onwards.

The vocals coo comfortingly, but there’s a hint of melancholy to prevent it from being pure faux positive energy.While encouraging, the lyrics are not fueled by an unrelenting na├»ve optimism, but rather a willful hopefulness rooted in experience and past disappointments.

Thoughts like “So come on, let’s prove it, we’ll prove them all wrong” are tempered with doses of reality like “We’ve given too much to watch it all just go to waste.”

A bit poppy, but catchy and light hearted, Detective Social is all about rushing headlong into the world and taking risks.

Listen to “Roads” below.

Detective Social - Roads by Aesthetes Anonymous

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

AA Loves: Chapel Club

Chapel Club has come to dominate my life. Despite my best attempts, their sound has infiltrated deep within the crevices of my mind. I’m utterly powerless when their music is this good.

Distinctly English, Chapel Club harkens back to the best of Albion at its most glorious.

With a deep bass filled voice, lead singer Lewis Bowman recalls Ian Curtis of Joy Division, while hints of Echo and The Bunnymen, The Smiths, and even a bit of My Bloody Valentine can be plainly heard.

New Wave influences mingle with the shadowy atmospherics of Interpol to brilliant effect. Richly layered, their sound is dark and moody, yet somehow infused with sudden bright moments, like brilliant flashes of light in a dark abyss.

Check out their debut album “Palace,” which just came out on January 31st.

Listen to “The Shore” and “All the Eastern Girls” below.

To give fair warning, it will likely come to dominate your playlists, mind, and life.

I’ll go ahead and be so bold as to say that Chapel Club has already made my favorite new bands of 2011 list, and will likely be added to my favorite bands list period.

Chapel Club – The Shore

Chapel Club – All The Eastern Girls

Monday, February 7, 2011

New Delta Riggs – Pretty Wasting

The Delta Riggs are back with another single bathed in fury, so break out the moonshine it’s time for rough and tumble Southern Blues rock.

The vicious thumping bass line will punish your speakers and get you howling. Lead singer Elliot Hammond’s voice always gets me. Something about the dark radiant energy that comes through the speakers makes me want to make a pact with the devil at his behest.

Check out “Pretty Wasting” below.

Pretty Wasting by thedeltariggs

Friday, February 4, 2011

AA Loves: Warpaint

Admittedly, I wasn’t a huge fan of Warpaint when I first heard them a few months ago, but I found myself strangely drawn to them despite not immediately taking to their sound. There was something mysterious and alluring that kept me coming back for more.

I’m glad to say that I’ve come around completely and now fully embrace Warpaint.

Abstract, removed, and disembodied, they resemble shoegazey dream pop with a bit of something else that you can’t quite put your finger on.

Melodic guitars mix with swirling, wailing notes, while luscious female vocals harmonize - a ghostly murmur stirring from the great beyond. Like seductive sirens they call out to you, they draw you in with their enchanting psychedelic spell.

Each song has an unmistakable path that isn’t clear at first but as the song wanders on, you suddenly find yourself in a clearing of a densely wooded forest before you plunging once more into the depths of obscurity.

From their EP Exquisite Corpse, check out “Elephant,” which I just learned recently is directed by my good friend’s brother. Really quite an impressive video, and I’m not just saying that.

Also, check out the fantastic “Undertow” from their debut album “The Fool.”

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Karen Elson – Cruel Summer

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to discover Karen Elson, who is also apparently Jack White’s wife (how the hell did I miss that one).

If you’ve already heard her stuffs you are way ahead of me on this one, but for those who have been living under rock like me, check out “Cruel Summer” from her debut album The Ghost Who Walks, released in the summer of 2010 on Jack White’s Third Man Records. Inspired by the epic thunderstorms and the summer rains of Nashville, “Cruel Summer” is a dark mournful love song punctuated by the tumultuous weather.

The acoustic version below is particularly striking as her lovely voice with its lilting Southern twang is on full display, surprising considering that she was born and raised in England. Also be sure to check out the rest of the album, which is produced by Jack White and has a great dark gothic folk rock feel that sounds like a less macabre Blanche or a southern version of Dead Man’s Bones.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Art of Mike Stilkey

It’s always good to see artists repurposing what others throw out to make gorgeous art, and in this case I’m particularly happy as Mike Stilkey turns old books into some really gorgeous installation art.

Using paint, acrylic, ink, and colored pencils on old books, Stilkey turns their covers, pages, and spines into unique canvasses. His work features the same recurring figures of bearded men, the same angular raven-haired woman, drinking, smoking, and animals. But what drew me in to his work the most was that all of his figures shared similar distortions and ghoulish blue-grey hue to Picasso’s Blue Period. Needless to say, there is something quite striking about his figures in their languid melancholy.

Have a gander at some of his work below, in particular be sure to check out the photos of his 5,000 book installation at the Rice Gallery.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

AA Loves: Hey Champ

Yea yea I know. The Indie synth pop genre has become absurdly crowded with me too acts. It seems like every hipster band is just throwing together a falsetto, new wave lyrics, an electronic beat, and a guitar.

But whatever, I’d care more if it wasn’t so damn fun. So check out Hey Champ.

Self aware of their own ridiculous coolness, these indie synth rockers have come to show us all a good time. With danceable beats, catchy pop lyrics, and perfect pop riffs, Hey Champ is way too cool for school to not have you dancing.

So listen to “Cold Dust Girl,” my personal favorite, below.

Oh and don’t forget to check out the video for “Neverest.”

It’s absurd. I really can’t say much other than naked dolphin boobs. Yea, that’s right. Girls with huge dolphins for cans! Oh yea, and there’s that South African guy from District 9.