Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gauzy and gorgeous.

It's been seven years since they last released a full-length album as a duo, but Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink are back as Azure Ray and on Drawing Down The Moon they pick up where they left off without missing a beat. While they've left Warm Records behind for a new home with Saddle Creek the melancholic beauty of Burn and Shiver has made the journey with them.

Both Taylor and Fink have been busy in the interim with their solo careers - Taylor has three solo albums to her name while Fink has been burning the candle at both ends recording solo records and playing in both O+S and Art In Manila. How the pair found the time to work as Azure Ray again is a mystery but one I'm happy to accept without question. Eric Bachmann is back as producer and the same astute touch he applied on Burn and Shiver is evident on Drawing Down The Moon.

Songs like "Larraine" and "Silver Sorrow" are dressed up with strings, ambient percussion and other embellishments but they never overwhelm nor overshadow the vocals that are Azure Ray's lifeblood. There's enough dissimilarity in Taylor and Fink's voices to make them identifiable, but they share a breathy, delicate quality that makes them perfectly suited for each other - and for the material they write. No one can sing about heartache and heartbreak like these two; Azure Ray almost make it sound like a state worth visiting.

I find it interesting that some of the tunes have a trance-like quality considering the origins of the album title.

Stereogum has the premiere of the duo's video for "Dont Leave My Mind" here. But if you just want to listen, you can download it here:

Be sure to visit Azure Ray's website and Myspace page.

Thanks for reading, now start listening...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Teens these Daze...

Kudos to the always-on-point Mike B. The man behind Planet Shhh, Better Swimmers and UMFM's Cross/Pollination is also the mastermind of the Pop! Et Cetera Festival which returns for another year, running Friday October 1st until Sunday October 10th. The line-up is pretty immense with solid local talent (including Boats, Not Animals, Vampires and Cyclist among others) and a roster of out-of-towners that run from the big (Jamie Lidell and Holy Fuck) to the up-and-coming (DVAS and Rae Spoon).

[Wow, that's a lot of hyperlinks].

Among the list of up-and-comers is Vancouver-based Teen Daze, who I was unfamiliar with until I started doing research to write up scripts for Pop! Et Cetera ads recently and took a listen to their blissful new record, Four More Years. While their Myspace page refers to the music they make as IDM / neo-soul, it's most assuredly part of the whole chillwave thing all the kids are loving these days (and even though I'm no longer a kid, I'm loving it too).

Clocking in at an all-too-brief 30 minutes, this album is like one of those designer drugs that deliver an ecstatic hit that leaves you wanting more. Opener "Shine On, You Crazy White Cap" (video below) sets the stage perfectly with a half-minute of gauzy, ethereal layers of keyboards/synths before the 4/4 drum pattern starts pushing the listener forward (seriously, listening to it for the first time that beat felt like when a friend would push with their hand in the middle of my back at a dance to force me toward the object of my affection). Just as the bliss is reaching a fever pitch, the drums drop out suddenly and the vocals float away. "Neon" proceeds at a breakneck pace and is over in two short minutes, after which it is followed by one of the most ecstatic tunes on Four More Years, "Around." If you're not dancing when this jam plays, you're hearing- or leg-impaired. It changes on a regular basis, but I think my favourite track is "Saviour" - a song that reminds me of the marriage of clinical precision and soulfulness that acts like Depeche Mode and Telefon Tel Aviv have achieved. Really, really great stuff.

If you live in Winnipeg, be sure to check out the Teen Daze performance as part of the Pop! Et Cetera festival on Wednesday October 6th at the LO Pub.

You can download a special Pop! Et Cetera mix including Teen Daze' "Our Parents" among many other choice nuggets at the festival's official site, and you can check out the video for "Shine On, You Crazy White Cap" below:

Be sure to check out the Teen Daze Myspace page and Tumblr.
And if you like what you hear, you can purchase the 12-inch here.

Thanks for reading, now start listening...