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Joyful Noise + 3
I’ve recently had the opportunity to listen to a number of releases (2012, except when noted) from the Indianapolis label Joyful Noise. What follows is only a partial picture of the label’s fascinating catalog, which also notably includes a series of imaginative flexi-discs and a screen-printed wooden box set containing the first three Dinosaur Jr. albums on cassette.
I’ve padded out the list with three albums from last year that aren’t on Joyful Noise, and probably never would’ve been, not because the label isn’t worthy but because it knows what it wants.
Kishi Bashi – 151a
If the label’s name is intended as a mission statement, then Kishi Bashi is their flagship artist, making great joy without any of the contrivance of so many other young, vital, boring recent bands. Mr. K. Ishibashi is as accomplished and total a musician as Owen Pallett, his compositions as remarkable in their density of ideas, and at times he creates a similar kind of quasi-religious drama, but more typically he uses his talents in the pursuit of stereophonic ambitions as considerable as the ones held by Cornelius, et al, until the Internet came and dashed that kind of thinking.
Sleeping Bag – Sleeping Bag (2011)
“Did you walk inside Melody Freeze another time? He sang high, it was the vibe we’d come to know.” These songs barely make sense at first, but then they just won’t stop. No one’s done the detached, obtuse thing with such high feeling since Pavement, probably, obviously.
Talk Normal – Sunshine
Sort of reminds you of the first time you heard The Raincoats and The Slits (which should’ve been the first music you heard after your mother’s singing, but if not, oh well, nobody’s perfect) and realized that women have a greater command of every musical property than men do.
Marmoset – Record In Red
2008 reissue of an album originally released by Bloomington, IN sister label Secretly Canadian in 2001. Sections of the record have that peculiar non-urgency of a lot of indie rock of the it’s-all-been-done-before early 00s, but then the band will drop in something quick and insistent (“Lost Days for Ways”) or really demented (“Summertime Is Easy,” with distorted voices and the underwater feeling of Kaleidoscope’s “Flight from Ashiya”) and soon the width of their pop world rivals The Aislers Sets’ contemporary one.
Helvetia – Nothing In Rambling
Ten years later, Helvetia’s music isn’t urgent, exactly, but at least friendlier times have shaken off the delusion that nothing new is possible. Instead of being just another weird bedroom pop band, Helvetia know they can, and must, operate at the furthest limit of hazy, atonal, disorienting musical matter.
Helvetia & Doug Martsch – Sing Songs by the Amazing Thinking Fellers Union Local 282
Alas, only two songs (“Million Dollars” b/w “Socket”), otherwise that alignment of names would certainly signify a strange labor of love. Even so, this is one of those objects that doubtless has an ordinary and explicable genesis, but whose very existence seems remarkable nonetheless. Thinking Fellers, one of the least heralded of the original Matador bands, prove an excellent conduit for guys who just want to get lost inside complicated patterns of simple rhythm and melody.
Here We Go Magic – A Different Ship
Michael Azerrad’s favorite album of 2012! (Sorry, I’ve got Pazz & Jop fever.) This is another Secretly Canadian joint, but Joyful Noise has the rights to the cassette version, and that’s a good way to hear it, especially if the cover art and song titles remind you of OMD at their cassette-era peak and you really want to indulge that feeling. But don’t carry it too far, because though Here We Go Magic share some general things with that band (percussive playfulness, artistic restlessness), they share fewer particulars, nowhere less than in the vocals. Though again there’s a general comparison to be made concerning the remarkable assurance of two men’s voices, Andy McCluskey’s and Luke Temple’s.
Exlovers – Moth
I’d imagined, oh how I’d imagined, the blistering album that could’ve been formed around the two sides of Exlovers’ excellent 2011 single “Blowing Kisses” b/w “Moth-Eaten Memories.” But with the former rerecorded with softer guitars, fewer dizzying drops (a lot like what happened when Veronica Falls reduced the tempo of their brilliant b-side “Stephen” and put it on their debut album), and the latter relegated to a hidden track at the end of the album, Exlovers have allowed themselves space on Moth for something gentler, but just as captivating.
Ty Segall & White Fence – Hair
I have no idea what psychedelic means anymore, except as lazy critical shorthand for another kind of coolness that need not be questioned, sort of like the opposite of saying something sounds like Enya. To call Hair psychedelic is to say nothing at all, not about its bizarre, encyclopedic compositions, or the way each one leads, with fresh surprise, from visionary lethargy to blissful guitar freakout.
Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Psychedelic Pill
An album that dares you to listen to it more than once, because you’ll assume, understandably, that songs with so little obvious musical development across so many minutes have nothing left to reveal upon a second listen. But take the dare: You might not hear anything new, exactly, but you’ll realize the music is strong enough to justify its rejection of the logic of jazz soloing. Instead, here’s one loud idea, no variation, infinite exposure, brainwash.
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