Sunday, March 23, 2008

K is for Kutiman

There are some things I just feel a little foolish saying on my radio shows - the name of the latest Spoon full-length was one, and the subject of this post is another more recent one.
Try saying 'Kutiman' out loud - doesn't it sound like the villain in a story written by a third-grader? Granted, it'd be spelled Cooty-man and he'd probably be battling Captain Underpants...
The Kutiman moniker undoubtedly comes from Ophir Kutiel's last name (though I can appreciate the notion that it's a tribute to Fela Kuti) and the singular 'man' is as important as the 'Kuti' because the fantastic self-titled full-length released recently on Groove Attack is entirely Kutiel's creation. Recorded at his home studio with a handful of guests, Kutiel came up with the album "as a reaction to a confusing return to Tel Aviv after a long trip to Jamaica, where he cut his teeth working with artists such as Damian Marley, Stephen Marley and Turbulance."
You read that quote right - Kutiel lives in that suprising hotbed of funk and electronic production: Tel Aviv. Looking at the links on the Kutiman Myspace page it would appear that Kutiel is involved in half the projects listed, including Anikuku and Funk'n'stein.
He's taken his experiences with those groups as well as his time in Jamaica and come up with a unified and unique record that blends psych guitars, funk breaks and Afro-beat horns into a glorious racket that connects with every listener I've played it for. The second track on the album, "No Reason For You" is especially winning and was released as a 7" prior to its inclusion on the full-length (it's the first track on the Myspace media player).
In addition to his musical acumen, Kutiel is also a pretty decent animator who has created videos for some of his own songs, including a hilarious one for "Chaser."

And here's Kutiman with Funk'n'stein live:

Finally, don't forget to check out the Kutiman Myspace page.

Thanks for reading, now start listening...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

J is for Japandroids

The thing I love about a good garage or noise rock EP is that it's quick and dirty. With just a handful of songs, a good band can prove they're worth watching out for while a decent band doesn't get a chance to wear out its welcome.
Vancouver duo Brian King and David Prowse - who perform under the name Japandroids (which they've taken to writing as JPNDRDS) - prove with their new EP Lullaby Death Jams what 2007's All Lies EP promised: these dudes are worth watching out for.

The songs throb with raw energy and the pair make a clamor far louder than many a larger band. Consider lead-off track "Darkness On The Edge Of Gastown" with its repeated chugging guitar line and pounding drums, which nearly passes for a chorus over the first two minutes until King starts singing the title with Prowse screaming his 'harmony' part - it's a cacaphony that would make Welsh trio McClusky proud. [As would this video of the Japandroids covering "To Hell With Good Intentions"]

The band recorded both of their EPs with Matt Skillings of Run Chico Run, and its likely that a third EP will see them returning to Victoria to record with Skillings again if my inference of comments made in this Other Press interview are correct. Here's hoping, because 1 and 2 have been barn-burners.

Lullaby Death Jams is available for $5 at Scratch, Zulu and Redcat in Vancouver, Megatunes in Calgary and Edmonton and Soundscapes in Toronto, or from the band via their Myspace page or right from them at shows.

I couldn't find an MP3 to post but there are a few of the songs from LDJ on their Myspace page.

Thanks for reading, now start listening...

Have you noticed all the "Japan" band names? Japandroids, Japanther, Japancakes... I was going to lay a claim to Japanda Bear but a Google search indicates there may be a DJ who goes under that moniker, so right here, right now, I'm laying claim to using Japanderson Cooper.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

I is also for Ida

I received this album at the end of last week and really didn't give it a listen until after the weekend. Had I taken the time to listen to Lovers Prayers, the latest release from Ida, I wouldn't have had to cheat on my alphabetical entries with Candie Payne (not that I'm regretting sharing that one, mind you).

This is the seventh full-length release in fourteen years from this New York City band, but this time round the quintet left the urban environment behind to visit Levon Helm's home studio in the Catskill Mountains. The result is a gentle, hushed album that you want to cradle in your hands like a baby chick. When Daniel Littleton sings "shut the lights out/when it's cold inside my room" on "The Weight of the Straw" you can hear the cold snap of the snare drum and picture the fog of his breath.

Perhaps the best thing about Lovers Prayers is the fact that vocals are shared by three-fifths of the group. Littleton may lead at times but on songs like "The Love Below" his contribution instead supports Elizabeth Mitchell's gorgeous voice and album highlight "Willow Tree" is a duet in the truest sense of the word (though it becomes a trio of sorts when pianist Karla Schickele joins in on harmonies). "Willow Tree"'s lyrical imagery of coaxing a lover like a bird from the trees and desire burning like tires combines the beguiling rhythms of nature with the hidden beauty of the mundane. Moments like this are recurrent on Ida's album - a fact for which I'm saying my own thankful prayers.

Ida's official website is down but you can visit:
Their Myspace page
Their label, Polyvinyl

Here's the title track, thanks to Polyvinyl.

Thanks for reading, now start listening...

Sunday, March 2, 2008

I is for I Wish I Could Have Loved You More

I'm cheating a bit on the alphabetical postings here, since the "I" stands for the album title and not the artist, but the rules were broken when I chose Clutchy Hopkins for "C," when it should have gone under "H."

Oh well, what are you gonna do?

The subject of this post isn't really new either, but while Candie Payne's fantastic album has been out since May 2007 in the UK, North America is still waiting for a domestic release. Not many people are likely to pick it up the pricy import version.

Here's hoping a domestic version gets sorted out soon because this is an incredibly catchy album - and with the success of Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse I see no reason why Candie Payne can't blow up big.
Mark Ronson, who tapped both Allen and Winehouse for Version, produced "One More Chance" off I Wish I Could Have Loved You More, and many of the other tracks mine a similar retro vibe. The title track sounds like it could have come from an early Bond flick (or Our Man Flint) with its dramatic orchestration and Payne's powerhouse delivery.

On "Why Should I Settle For You," Payne's languid (yet sultry) delivery is paired with a smoky faux-jazz backing that evokes Portishead. Like much of the pop music coming out of the UK right now the sound has one foot planted in the past while the other is attempting to find the line between 'right now' and 'just about.' Ronson's contribution on "One More Chance" evokes the spectre of Spector while adding contemporary flourishes, but he's not the only one - producer Simon Dine is responsible for much of the album and songs like "In The Morning" manage a similar feat.

Here's a link to the video for the title track,
and here's the video for the collaboration with Mark Ronson:

Finally, the entire album can be streamed off Payne's official website here.

Thanks for reading, now start listening...