Björk’s new “Crystalline” Video + Biophilia 12″ vinyl series

A video for Björk’s new song “Crystalline” was released on Tuesday. It’s part of Biophilia, her ambitious new recording/multimedia app project for Nonesuch.

Also announced was a 12″ vinyl series featuring variations on the music from Biophilia.

File Under ? Early Summer 2011 Playlist

Thus far, 2011 has been an excellent year for releases of new music. Some formats that many folks thought to be those of yesteryear – 7” singles, 12” vinyl LPs, and even (shudder) cassettes – continue their resurgence.

Vinyl has long been touted by audiophiles; but why cassettes? Nostalgia? Perhaps. But it may also be due to an abiding interest in collecting audio artifacts, as well as a burgeoning taste for lo-fi DIY. Either way, I wish that my car was equipped with a cassette deck, as I’ve enjoyed several new ones at home. This playlist includes several of the discs (both compact and vinyl), tapes, and digital releases that have been in heavy rotation during the beginning of summer 2011. I’m listing whole releases, rather than individual cuts. Check back later in the summer for a proper mixtape.

n  Mark Templeton, Scotch Hearts (cassette SLG022)

n  Neon Marshmallow 2011 Festival Comp (Neon Marshmallow cassette)

n  Feelies, Here Before (Bar None digital)

n  Colin L. Orchestra, Infinite Ease/Good Good (Northern Spy CD)

n  V/A, Clandestine Comp. Series Vol. 1 (Northern Spy cassette)

n  Chris Dingman, Waking Dreams (Between Worlds CD)

n  Craig Taborn, Avenging Angel (ECM CD)

n  Arlene Sierra, Volume 1 (Bridge CD)

n  Matthew Shipp, The Art of the Improviser (Thirsty Ear 2xCD)

n  Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop CD)

n  Chris Thile and Daves, Sleep with One Eye Open (Nonesuch CD)

n  Radiohead, The King of Limbs (TBD vinyl LP)

n  John Adams, Son of Chamber Symphony and String Quartet (Nonesuch CD)

n  Seda Roeder, Listening to Istanbul (self-released CD)

n  Sophia Knapp, Nothing to Lose (Drag City 7” vinyl)

n  Devotchka, 100 Lovers (Anti CD)

n  Amy Briggs, Tangos for Piano (Ravello CD)

n  Chiara String Quartet and Matmos, Jefferson Friedman: Quartets (New Amsterdam CD)

n  Battles, The Gloss Drop (Warp CD)

n  Thurston Moore, Demolished Thoughts (Matador LP)

n  New England Conservatory, American Music for Percussion, Vol. 1&2 (Naxos CDs)

n  Anti-Social Music, Is the Future is Everything (Peacock CD)

n  Orchestra 2001, To the Point (Innova CD)

n  Vicky Chow, Ryan Francis Works for Piano (Tzadik CD)

n  Brian Eno, Drums between the Bells (Warp digital)

n  International Street Cannibals and others, Ballets and Solos (Composer Concordance CD)

Sophia Knapp 7″ Single (Vinyl review)

SophiA Knapp

Nothing to Lose

Drag City DC456 (7″/MP3/FLAC)

Sophia Knapp is probably best known for her work in the band Lights, a group that has recently morphed into Cliffie Swan (their debut was released a couple weeks ago on Drag City). In the midst of this transition, she recorded a single, “Nothing to Lose,” which is also recently out on Drag City. Those who think that vinyl’s audiophile reputation isn’t all that and a bag of chips need to spin this clear 7″ disc. Eugene Wasserman’s 5-string bass lines provide an earthbound anchor for Knapp’s ethereal singing, which breaks into supple harmonies during the hook. Keyboardist Jay Israelson lays down undulating, slightly bluesy, Wurlitzer licks to complete the package.

The b-side is a remix of the song by Caroline Polacheck. She employs a gentle hand here, supplying additional synth halos and tweaking the vocals here and there. But mostly, she rides the golden bass-line and entrancing singing that are already present, pointing up the single’s virtues rather than, as so many remixers sadly are wont to do, obscuring them.

Are 7″ singles still relevant in the MP3 era? If “Nothing to Lose” is the yardstick by which we consider this question, the answer is a resounding yes!


Note: We review lots of CDs and videos at File Under ?, but we’re always interested in alternative formats. So, if you are pressing a vinyl recording – be it 7″, 10″, or 12″ – for release, or if you’re putting out a cassette or a 3″ CD, please keep us in mind!

Heavenly States: Rejuvenating the EP

Heavenly States
Oui Camera Oui
Hippies are Dead

“We started thinking about the death of the record,” says Heavenly States’ singer/guitarist Ted Nesseth. “People are broke, their attention spans are waning. We have all these ideas so we thought, let’s just rock out five or six songs, give the EP a rebirth.”

This past Saturday, one could witness throngs of people on line at record sellers throughout the US, clutching piles of treasure: records. They were celebrating National Record Story Day by conspicuously consuming vinyl discs, flouting the conventions of latter day digital distribution in favor of physical artifacts. Many of these record buffs engaged in a scavenger hunt of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory proportions, going from store to store to seek out RSD special releases, many of them limited edition 7″ or 10″ EPs.

But collecting is only a part of RSD’s charm; its also about the coalescing of a community around shared love of music. Thus, customers at the shops engaged in banter about their favorite bands, assessed the quality of used vinyl by eye on the fly, and gave pointers to rookies looking to start a music collection based on quality, not hipster street cred.

As the musicians of Heavenly States point out, the EP may be an ideal format for these times, one that works against the grain of digital distro’s single track mentality, but also avoids the loquacity of overstuffed CDs of the 90s era. Instead, the audio equivalent of a novella: the EP. And despite its relative pith, Oui Camera Oui includes plenty of variety. It even shares a bit of humor at its own expense, in the shape of a comedy routine by Eugene Mirman that riffs and expounds on quotes from the bad reviews of the band’s previous work.

But the release’s primary focus is rocking out, which Heavenly States does handily; check out a download of “Model Son” below for confirmation. Here’s hoping there are more EP novellas in the offing from Heavenly States; it’s a format that suits both them and the vinyl-rapprochement of the times in which we live.
MP3: Heavenly States Model Son

Christy and Emily: “Bells” (Video)

It’s nice to know that the vinyl revival wasn’t a flash in the pan. Bands are continuing to embrace the vinyl single as a medium. In the case of Christy and Emily, their latest release, a split 7″ with Talk Normal, out this week on Klangbad, is an ideal use of 45 RPM.

The duo recently added bassist Pete Kerlin and drummer Kristin Mueller to the fold. Not only has this fleshed out their sound, but it’s also invited them to create more expansive music. Rather than surprising listeners with an entire LP of the new lineup, they’ve used the 7″ format to reintroduce their band, and experiment with a more propulsive, jam inflected type of music-making.