Ten Mile Stereo
A selection of what’s been on the headphones over the past while.
Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry
The Soft Pack ‘Strapped’ (Mexican Summer) is one of those perfect guitar pop records. The L.A based quartet make compelling indie-pop that has taken up most of my time these past Winter days. As ever, the Mexican Summer label delivers; Tamaryn and The Fresh & Onlys are some of the other recent releases and there is a certain Dub version of Peaking Lights’ ‘Lucifer’ on the way. The Soft Pack perfectly combine post-punk, indie, garage and pop but makes it all their own unique pop-rock sound. A quote that resonated strongly for the band was this, “The first rule of rock & roll is if it sounds good, it is good.” This epitomises ‘Strapped’. Listen to the infectious groove of ‘Tallboy’ with the glorious guitars, saxophone and keys. The saxophone solo on ‘Bobby Brown’ is just a killer. This album was two years in the making and you can just hear the intricate details intertwined in the layers of instrumentation. A special album with huge depth and a compelling sound. This was an album I first heard on the Plugd stereo and the same can be said for Goat ‘World Music’ (Rocket Recordings). What can I say? The most unique record of 2012. The most mysterious band on planet Earth. This album is remarkable. I first heard Albert playing the vinyl on full blast one morning and I was hooked ever since. There is a special force and dimension running deeply throughout; this feel of an age-old tradition that really is quite something to behold. Listen to the record a couple of times and ‘World Music’ becomes one beautiful spectrum of sound. Psychedelica, afro beat, african, funk, soul, disco, rock, garage, blues–it’s all there! ‘Disco Fever’ has this irresistible funk groove-as good as anything by Funkadelic. ‘Let It Bleed’ is this soulful pop tour-de-force filled with pop laden hooks. ‘Run To Your Mama’ is vintage rock ‘n’ roll. A truly incredible album from the Swedish band who will forever be surrounded by mystery and intrigue. Vessel ‘Order Of Noise’ (Tri Angle) has been my source for perfect headphone listening during the moonlight hours. It’s incredible to think this is a debut album. I think by the end of the year, Vessel will join the likes of Barcelona producer John Talabot for the best electronica album of the year. Or I guess it’s closer to house and techno but it is and it isn’t. Does that make sense? Beautiful sounds and textures seep out from the foundations of techno and deep house. Bristol-based Seb Gainsborough has made a compelling dance record that shares similarities with 2012’s ‘R.I.P’ by Actress. Mac Demarco is a singer, songwriter and producer that has created a classic in the shape of his debut album, ‘2’ (Captured Tracks). During the spring of 2012, Demarco released his debut ‘Rock And Roll Night Club’ 12″ that showcased his genius of creating heartfelt rock ‘n’ roll in the vein of Jonathan Richman. He was 21 years old then. His first full-length has since arrived with ‘2’, turning 22 in the meantime. The Montrealer’s debut record is a cohesive body of work and what immediately strikes you is the music’s organic quality and directness of the songs. ‘2’ is an album alive with the rock ‘n’ roll spirit of Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers. The lo-fi indie brilliance of Pavement can be heard throughout and Demarco’s vocals shares similarities with Stephen Malkmus. This is obviously a good thing! Demarco is a unique talent that is already delivering utterly compelling indie-pop masterworks so early into his career. Undoubtedly, a star is born. Moon Duo ‘Circles’ (Southern Transmissions) is incredible. The album’s songs consist of expansive psychedelia that takes you to the other side. No surprise there when you take the personnel of Moon Duo into account-Wooden Ships guitarist Ripley Johnson and his wife Sanae Yamada. The San Franciscan couple have delivered a stone-cold classic. Let the organs and soaring electric guitars of Moon Duo flood into your headspace.
Sea Pinks ‘Freak Waves’ (CF Records) is pristine pop music direct from Belfast. I first heard their jangle pop of ‘Lake Superior’ beautifully filling the Gulpd cafe one sunny morning. A great recommendation courtesy of Izabela. Their songs are bittersweet pop symphonies that linger in your mind long after the guitar notes fade away. Beautiful melodies grace each song. My current favourite is ‘You’re Not Happy’. For fans of Real Estate, The Go Betweens and all things real and melodic; your name is written all over this gem. Owensie ‘Citizens’ (Out On A Limb Records) is a folk pop opus. Owensie’s latest album comes between labelmates Jogging and Windings own fine releases of recent months. Owensie on guitar, vocals and synths is joined by a formidable cast of musicians who create the shimmering backdrop to Owensie’s songcraft. For fans of Elliot Smith, Belle & Sebastian, The Dodos and Jose Gonzales, you need to seek out ‘Citizens’. At Owensie’s core is the soft nylon strings of classical guitar and Owensie’s heartfelt vocals. The instrumentation of strings (viola), brass (saxophone), synths, bass and drums are intricately layered beneath Owensie’s delicate vocals. A really fine album. Sean Mac Erlaine ‘Long After The Music Is Gone’ (Ergodos) is an album I very recently discovered in Plugd. MacErlaine is a Dublin-based woodwind instrumentalist and composer. I find this album a true ambient delight. There are subtle electronics and soft tones of clarinet and saxophone across each of the twelve pieces. ‘Long After The Music Is Gone’ is steeped in originality and showcases MacErlaine at the forefront of Irish contemporary music. Nils Frahm ‘Screws’ (Erased Tapes) is one of those rare treasures. The German composer’s piano compositions are works of tender beauty encompassing a spiritual realm steeped in cinematic wonder. ‘Screws’ is Frahm’s latest release and what a beautiful work of art it is. The album was recorded whilst Frahm was recovering from a broken thumb, that resulted in four screws being inserted into the injured limb. Using nine of his fingers, Frahm wrote a short piece on his piano. Using a single, dynamic microphone close on the piano, the music was recorded. The album was given wings and soon nine pieces were written and recorded. ‘Screws’ is divine piano music. Each note of every chord transports you to another dimension of unknown pleasures. Sophie Hutchings ‘Night Sky’ (Preservation) is a masterpiece. Sophie Hutchings is a Sydney based composer and pianist. Her cinematic music belongs in the realm of modern composition, alongside neo-classical composers like Nils Frahm, Dustin O’ Halloran, Peter Broderick and Johann Johannsonn. Hutchings’ piano based compositions are personal and mysterious, all at once. It is divine instrumental music where the ethereal layers of sound shares an unspoken connection with the listener. On ‘Night Sky’, Hutchings has worked again with The Necks long-term engineer, Tim Whitten. The instrumentation of piano, harmonium, accordion, percussion, vocals, violin, cello, oboe, flute and saw creates a haven of otherworldly sound. As you listen to these pieces of music unfold, one feels an ocean of emotion pouring from the very heart of the composer. The eight instrumental pieces on ‘Night Sky’ are utterly captivating.
Goat ‘World Music’ (Rocket Recordings)
Vessel ‘Order Of Noise’ (Tri Angle)
Moon Duo ‘Circles’ (Southern Transmissions)
Sea Pinks ‘Freak Waves’ (CF Records)
Sean Mac Erlaine ‘Long After The Music Is Gone’ (Ergodos)
Sophie Hutchings ‘Night Sky’ (Preservation)