July didn't see a huge haul of new-to-me music, but I certainly felt more connected to what I was listening to this month than I did last month. Here's the rundown, in chronological order of their acquisition.
Loscil is an act that found its way onto my radar toward the end of last year, and I've been randomly downloading tracks from various blogs as they've come across my RSS feed. After adding a track to last month's favorite downloads mix, I decided it was time to get a full album. Based on a few different people's recommendations I went with 2002's Submers, and it hasn't disappointed.
- Loscil: Mute
Eleanor Friedberger: Last Summer
One of my favorite albums of the year so far. Aside from Low's C'mon, and some ambient records which sort of fall into a different category in my mind, I think this is the only 2011 album I've felt compelled to return to over and over again for the simple pleasure of listening to it from beginning to end. In other words, I'm able to shut off the critical part of my brain—something that is often hard for me to do, if I'm being honest. More thoughts on the record here.
- Eleanor Friedberger: Scenes from Bensonhurst
Wooden Shjips: Dos
Like Loscil, this is a group I've liked for a long time via random mp3 downloads but I've never heard a full-length all the way through. In anticipation of their new album, West, I decided it was time to delve a little deeper into their catalogue. I chose Dos somewhat at random but I'm under the impression it doesn't really matter where you start with this band. Their formula is easy to grasp: heavy, repetitive psych jams. Dos is only five songs long, though two of them pass the ten minute mark. And frankly if you ask me there ought to be a law that says no song by this group is allowed to end before the seven minute mark. The longer the band goes on, the more impressive their songs become.
- Wooden Shjips: Down by the Sea
Little Scream: The Golden Record
At the beginning of the month Dave Rawkblog put up his mix of favorite songs of the year so far, which included Little Scream's (aka Laurel Sprengelmeyer) "The Heron and the Fox" (among others, some to be featured in a mix I'll post tomorrow). This song has fazed me hard. I think I've listened to it at least once every day since downloading it. It's so simple and modest—refreshing for its lack of ornament. I'd almost forgotten that it was possible to create a song this perfect without adding layers of reverb and synths or other affectations. If anything it underlines how lacking in actual tunes so many other current bands are. That's not to say that the rest of The Golden Record lives up to that standard. For better or worse it is a more varied affair—a little atmosphere here, a rocker there, and some stripped-down beauties in between. It's a fine album with plenty of nice songs, but through no fault of its own I just can't get beyond the perfection of that one song. I wish and hope and pray that her next album can hone in on her strengths, because it feels like a breath of fresh air amid all the mostly awful trends happening in contemporary music right now. Who knew that quiet, unadorned songwriting would be a niche that needed filling? And yet it does.
- Little Scream: The Heron and the Fox