Tag Archive for 'Illinois'

AlmostAGhost’s Top Albums Of 2012: #10. Disappears – Pre Language



I don’t listen to a lot of straight-up rock bands anymore, but Disappears (who were one of my surprises in my list last year), returned just a few months later with another cool record. And while I wrote last year that their album was difficult, one that I would hardly go around recommending to people. It sounded like “garage band, but with the garage door closed,” as I wrote.

But on Pre Language, they brought Sonic Youth’s drummer into the studio for the first time (he’s since left the band), turned everything up a little louder, infused their riffs with a menacing repetition, and get a huge awesome swirly psychedelic groove going. Don’t mess with these guys.

Disappears “Hibernation Sickness”

Disappears “Replicate”

- almostaghost

AlmostAGhost’s Best Albums Of 2011 – #15. Eleanor Friedberger – Last Summer

Eleanor Friedberger - Last Summer

I won't fall apart on you tonight / But I don't know what tomorrow may bring

I am not sure what happened to Eleanor Friedberger last summer exactly, but it seems to have inspired an album full of nostalgic songs about getting lost and failed romance.

Friedberger’s considerable talent is in her observational and uniquely specific, semi-stream-of-conscious songwriting. Memories are like that though, right? You don’t just remember the car crash last year, you remember that “the ambulance was called by a guy and his friend called Guru / they were visiting from California / they saved my life.” She is not necessarily going for universal philosophical ideas (one way for a listener to connect to a song), but going in the opposite direction – zeroing in on whatever details are still there in her mind. This sort of specificity makes the songs feel more immediate, even more real. I’ve never been in a car crash, but hearing her sing of one (on “My Mistakes), I feel connected because of the detail, and sense the wonder it caused.

Similarly, “Inn Of The Seventh Ray” seems to specifically recall getting lost in Los Angeles on a date. Without explicitly bringing it up, it ends up as a look at broken promises of a broken relationship (“you promised to take me to the Inn Of The Seventh Ray / if you only knew the way”). In only writing about the trip to the restaurant, she ends writing about so much more. Again, the specifics bring you in. Friedberger even regularly drops “that’s crazy!” or “I liked that” impressions throughout her lyrics to bring them even closer to the listener. We are right there with her.

Most of the songs here do seem to be looking at a broken relationship. She remembers movies watched (The Girl Who Played With Fire in “Scenes From Bensonhurst” and Footloose in “Inn”), making necklaces from tin cans, getting lost in New York (on both “Owl’s Head Park” and “Roosevelt Island”), getting lost in Los Angeles (“Inn”), I could go on, listing all the moments. All these scenes tie all the songs together.

Musically, the songs have a calmness, especially compared to the intensity of Friedberger’s main band, Fiery Furnaces. There are less riffs, and she utilize mood over Furnaces’ experimentation. Some of the tracks perfectly embody the nostalgia, subtly dropping in some saxophone or a little harmonica or keyboards in just the right way. The music does form a string of moods through its different sections, which certainly matches the string of scenes she sings about.

In many ways, Last Summer is a loose concept album – maybe not in a specific sense, but in looking at some specific events of a time and trying to figure them out. Whether or not they really happened, or are fiction, I do not know. Friedberger does not write from within the memories, but almost always in looking back on them, trying to make sense of what happened. Is this not exactly what people do with their memories? “I thought I’d learn from my mistakes,” Friedberger sings on “My Mistakes,” “Why keep time-traveling if it doesn’t get better the second time around?”

Eleanor Friedberger “My Mistakes”

Eleanor Friedberger “One-Month Marathon”

- almostaghost

AlmostAGhost’s Best Albums Of 2011 – #17. Disappears – Guider

Disappears - Guider


I was noticing some recurring threads throughout my top-20 list, in anticipation of future reviews. One thing I liked this year seems to be energetic, one-dimensional rock bands, who perhaps have some hidden, deeper dimensions. Disappears is one of these bands.

But I should be upfront here: Guider is not a particularly popular record. A few sites I looked at had it rated pretty poor (though some do love it). And even I, with the album sitting strong at #17 on my list here, cannot imagine recommending Disappears to a whole lot of people. Whether those hidden dimensions reveal themselves probably depends a lot on each individual listener, and perhaps with a band like this, they can easily stay hidden.

First of all, the 30-minute album contains only five short songs, and a fifteen-minute one. The singer blurts or groans out near-indecipherable vocals, like they were an afterthought. The guitar tones never seem to change from song to song. Instead of solos, the guitarist just strangles chords for atmosphere. And the whole thing has a distant, muffled feel, like you’re listening to a garage band, but with the garage door closed in front of you. These are not criticisms. Guider is not as difficult as that sounds, but to show how Disappears totally deconstruct the normal rock music angles.

Further, and perhaps most of all, the relentless driving beat of every track, provided by their new drummer, Steve Shelley (from Sonic Youth) impresses me.* That high-tempo mechanical repetition, borrowed from krautrock, is one of my favorite things. I find it totally addicting! “Halo” has one of the more intense rhythm sections, and it is a good example here. No matter what kind of stuff is going on above it, that backbone is momentous.

But most of all, the album refuses to stray. Often I prefer an album that wanders and explores a bit, but Disappears stick close to their own method for the entire time. This is the right choice for a band like this; one misplaced ballad, rude synthesizer sound, or something out-of-place like that would probably ruin everything. Instead, little short bursts of songs keep showing you the template, repeating it, over and over (just like the krautrock beat, come to think of it). And so by the time Guider arrives at the 15-minute “Revisiting,” you know what to expect. Those hidden dimensions, the intense grooves and deconstructed rock and roll, have shown themselves, completely drawing me in, allowing “Revisiting” to be the perfect epic closer. And by the time “Revisiting” ends, you’re ready to go again.

*UPDATE A FEW DAYS LATER: I have since read that Shelley is not on this album, though he is in the band and will be on their upcoming 3rd album. The drumming here is still bad-ass.

Disappears “Halo”

Disappears “Guider”

Spotify playlist here!

- almostaghost

AlmostAGhost Learns About A Musical Genre: Acid House

A few months back, I made a mix of all soul music on 8tracks. It was pretty well-received, as that is a genre of music I love and know decently. But it got me thinking: I should make more one-genre mixes. But there’s so many genres I do not know anything about. So where to turn? Wikipedia, of course. I found a massive list of musical genres and picked one: right near the top, Acid House. Then I started reading, surfing, and downloading.

Acid House grew out of the club scene in Chicago, in the mid-’80s. It seems to have been fairly self-contained to the midwest (maybe Detroit a bit), and only lasted a couple of years. But then a few years later in the late-’80s, it showed up somehow in London. It became a bit more commercial there. The Acid House sound was simple: a repetitive beat with the “squelchy” sound of the Roland TB-303 synthesizer.

There’s a lot of controversy over who created the first Acid House track, as there were quite a few pioneers back then, all around the same time. I made a mix of some of my favorites by some of them below. A few famous and important tracks couldn’t be used, because they were too long for 8tracks file limits. But I think it is fairly representative of what acid house was in the ’80s. I tried to keep it pure, in later years, producers would mix in different sounds like rap or strings or whatnot. The main consistency in the songs is that squelchy synthesizer and the repetitiveness.

Here is the mix (the smiley face logo was used in the acid house scene):

- almostaghost

Btrxz’s Haiku Reviews of 2010 Or Things We Over Look (in no particular order 10/18)

Artist: Houses

Title: All Night

Label: Lefse Records

Country: US, Chicago

Genre: Dreampop, Chillwave, Downtempo

Date: 10-19-10

Houses- All Night

Pull up the bedding

Shifting towards loves dreamscape

Filled in full at home

Sun Fills

- Btrxz