Neu!: Neu! 2
La Düsseldorf: s/t and Viva
I've already said my share about Neu! 2—probably my favorite Neu! album, so long as you delete the four tape-speed experiments sprinkled throughout. In fact something similar can be said for all three Neu! albums; none are perfect, none the quintessential, if-you-only-get-one-make-it-this-one record. There's always one or two tracks that see Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother slipping off the experimental ledge. So I made a little customized greatest hits from all three records that feels, to me, more satisfying.
For all intents and purposes you can add the best of La Düsseldorf's output to that playlist. La Düsseldorf was Dinger's band following his split with Rother (who went on to Harmonia—a group I haven't checked out yet). I expected a more pronounced break from the Neu! sound with La Düsseldorf, but much of both La Düsseldorf and Viva follow fairly naturally. The synths are still there (along with other instruments), Dinger's "navajo beat" is still in effect, and there's still that balance of prog-ambient and, well, goofiness. La Düsseldorf's opening track, "Düsseldorf," features a single lyric, "Düsseldorf," repeated off and on for thirteen minutes. Track two, "La Düsseldorf," features the same lyric over different but similar music for five more minutes. This is a four-track album, so we're already halfway through. Each song by itself is great, but the repetition does get monotonous. So like Neu! 2, we've got Dinger once again making something that is almost terrific but is hampered, ultimately, by its nuttiness. Viva, the band's second album, fares better—due in large part to the twenty-minute masterpiece that is "Cha Cha 2000." It's easily one of the best songs Dinger has ever had a hand in.
Animal Collective: Sung Tongs
I'm coming at Animal Collective all out of order. First Campfire Songs, then Strawberry Jam, then Feels, then Merriweather Post Pavilion. Now Sung Tongs. It's kind of a strange way to go about it. On the one hand I can piece together the evolution of the band—Feels seems like an explicit bridge between Sung Tongs and Strawberry Jam, and echoes of every record lurk somewhere in Merriweather—but on the other, some of these earlier albums don't feel like the revelation that they seem to have been for the fans of AC that have been on board longer than I have. That said, my brilliant wife is way into this album. It's her favorite next to Merriweather (which I'd bet she'd declare her favorite album of the year so far); she also loves Panda Bear's Person Pitch but runs hot and cold on Strawberry Jam and Feels—both of which I like more than the Panda Bear record. Clearly there are a number of Animal Collective debates in the PGWP household. Anyway: Sung Tongs. This is a strong record. I had complaints about portions of Feels that found the band going off on these spacey, drifting indulgences. They seemed to walk the line between genius ("Banshee Beat") and wankery ("Bees" or "Daffy Duck") like a drunk taking a DUI test. Sung Tongs sees the band more fully immersed in that sound, and for the better. Perhaps by dint of being more cohesive overall—there are no rhythm section–driven rockers like Feels' "Grass" or "Turn Into Something"—Sung Tongs becomes an album you can sink into. It can drift past you, yes, but at times that seems to be the intent. I dig this record, though I need to spend a lot more time with it. It probably wasn't wise of me to pick this up so close on the heels of Merriweather, an album so utterly different but also so much more fun.
- Animal Collective: Leaf House
Wavvves doesn't really feel like a full-length album. The brief record is technically twelve tracks long, but it feels more like six or seven suites, as instrumental fragments buffer many of the more pop-oriented tracks. ("Pop-oriented" because there are melodies buried under all that distortion.) I hesitate to say they're "filler"—they're more than that, though also less than standalone works. The whole record does add up to something; there is an aesthetic at work here—a kind of raucous experimentation, unpretentious and un-self-conscious. Also, juvenile and naive. Does that mean it's good? Yeah, it's good. It's fun to listen to. I wrote about Wavves a little while back over at Do You Compute, in the context of GodheadSilo—a band who I feel is a kind of ancestor to Wavves. I don't think Wavves takes themselves (himself, I guess) very seriously, and that's okay—though it has the effect of making Wavvves good but not essential.
- Wavves: Surf Goth
Seefeel: Quique and Starethrough EP
It's funny: ten or twelve or fifteen years ago, when labels like Kranky and Warp were releasing record after record of genius space rock (the former) and heady electronica (the latter), I was lapping all of it up like Pavlov's dog. So how or why did I skip Seefeel, whose 1993 album Quique—guitar-based electronica—was like a bridge between Bowery Electric and Aphex Twin? I heard them back then, but for whatever reason I just didn't consider them seriously. Oh well: better late than never. There's no mistaking which decade Seefeel hail from, but still, Quique holds up pretty well. Their followup EP, Starethrough, I like even more. Perhaps by dint of being shorter it has the luxury of seeming more concentrated, more distilled.
Air France: No Way Down EP
On the other hand, Seefeel seems positively current compared to Air France, whose 2008 EP No Way Down sounds straight out of a Euro dance club circa 1992. It's a style of music I only liked in small doses back then and only like in small doses now. "Collapsing at Your Doorstep" is the highlight here—hence the track deservedly made the rounds of numerous mp3 blogs last year. The rest of the EP's quality depends on your tolerance level for airy, light techno. I personally liked their 2006 EP, On Trade Winds, a little more than No Way Down (the two are now available as a single disc, by the way), though "Collapsing" is probably the high point of either. Most of No Way Down is pleasant, but it drifts into background music whenever I put it on.
- Air France: Collapsing At Your Doorstep
That's it for the today. Come back tomorrow for some Bowie, Jorge Ben, and the rest of the rest.