Tuesday, December 30, 2008

digital shades vol. 1 by m83

Review by guest hipster and Plastic Snow contributor: PWC

The 80s synthesizer-driven soundtrack is an oft-visited reference point for M83’s singular sound. Anthony Gonzalez, the man behind M83, has referenced the soundtracks and films (especially those of the John Hughes variety) of that era as inspirations with a refreshing lack of ironic detachment. And M83’s recently-issued-on-CD Digital Shades Volume 1, sounds not just 80s-soundtrack-inspired, but like it actually could be an 80s soundtrack. Vangelis, Giorgio Moroder and Tangerine Dream all have done their share of soundtracks in that era, and M83 sounds here like this could very well be a collection of cues, atmospheric swells and mood pieces from some swooning, dystopian teen sci-fi odyssey.

This album is expressly ambient, and none of the characteristic assault of huge drums and massive guitar lines are present here. Instead, this is a softer, and I think more haunting, album than Before the Dawn Heals Us and Saturdays = Youth. The detuning warp and warble of these songs is reminiscent of Boards of Canada, more so than is obvious in M83’s other work. The album feels cut from the same cloth as Brian Eno’s Music for Films, and indeed, Gonzalez has repeatedly mentioned Music for Airports as one of his favorite albums, one that he carries around with him when traveling.

In all honesty, when this album initially came out (in download-only form), I was not particularly excited, as I had mostly not enjoyed the "pure" ambient pieces on M83’s albums half as much as the bombastically gorgeous towers of shoegaze his drum-driven songs offered. Actually listening to this album however, has been a delightful experience – this is a wonderfully lush ambient record, full of a tone and emotional richness too often lacking in many ambient albums. Gonzalez is being intimate, vulnerable even, in the songs here, a point driven home by the feeling of secrecy lent by the whispered vocals that are sprinkled through the album. It feels like a special album, one to go to sleep to, one to turn on as you crawl into bed after an emotionally draining day. And I think Gonzalez would be very pleased if you did just that.

mp3: "A Guitar and a Heart " by M83 (from the album Before the Dawn Heals Us)
mp3: "We Own The Sky (Maps Remix)" by M83

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

merry christmas!

If you're a regular reader, by now you've probably noticed we have a holiday/winter album for sale. If you're friends with us on Myspace, chance are you've learned that if there's one thing a geek is good at, it's flogging a dead horse.

Yeah. We've had some holiday fun. /End shameless self-promotion.

Time to unplug from the matrix, time to spend quality time with friends, family, and your own particular collection of loved ones. Personally, I intend on spending the next few days eating my weight in peppermint bark. Ohh, healthy!

Merry Christmas and/or happy holidays!

mp3: "The Child With the Star on His Head" by Sufjan Stevens
mp3: "Home For Christmas" by Half-Handed Cloud (from the Sounds Familyre label comp)
mp3: "Oh What A Christmas" by El Perro Del Mar
mp3: "Christmas Aint a Nursery Rhyme" by We Know, Plato!
mp3: "Icicles (Plastic Snow Session)" by Let's Go Sailing (from our Christmas album Plastic Snow...sorry, maybe a bit more shameless promotion.)
mp3: "Winter Wonderland" by Radiohead
mp3: "Run Away With Me" by Jens Lekman
mp3: "A Carol For The Lonely" by Sofia Talvik
mp3: "Santaland Diaries" by David Sedaris

Saturday, December 20, 2008

end of year list #1

“It was such a great year for music! And not just Swedish tunes!” I said.
My fellow Would-Be Hipsters agreed with satisfied smiles. “Indeed," they replied
“So…” I continued. “Can’t we make it a top twelve list? Sixteen? Heck, don’t you think forty-two has a nice ring to it?” My request was met with silence and stony stares.
“But it just seems wrong not to—" I desperately tried to continue.
“Tradition!” they sang loudly, throwing their already poised jazz hands skyward. “Tradition!”
“But I started the blog!” I yelped,
“Tradition!” they sang again before morphing their wild hand gestures into a surprisingly sophisticated snapping pattern.
The moral of the story? My fellow Would-Be Hipsters are a bunch of meanie heads, with surprisingly good rhythm.

ten favorite albums

10 · The Last Tycoon by Peter Morén
Not a hint of of whistling. Just amazing guitar work and straight forward (young)folk-tastic narratives delivered nasally. If you think that's a critique, you haven't known me long enough
9 · A Thousand Shark's Teeth by My Brightest Diamond
Shara Worden simply doesn't get the credit she deserves. Big voice, mysterious French-influenced orchestration - this is no sophomore slump. Beautiful in a way that has me reaching for my thesaurus (admirable, alluring, angelic, appealing, beauteous(?), bewitching...) even a casual listen creates an environment far removed from ordinary. Of course, for My Brightest Diamond, what's new?
8 · The Seldom Seen Kid by Elbow
The day after I was handed this album, Elbow won the Mercury Prize. Clearly the UK is way ahead of the learning curve. A tightly written album full of air and light, with lyrics which often border on the very, very devious, this is the soundtrack for just about any kind of dream scheme.
7 · The Symphonies: Dreams Memories & Parties by Emily Wells
Don't you love when an artist you like puts out an album you just can't get enough of? Who knew rapping and the Suzuki method made for such a happy marriage? Even after it lived in my car stereo for the better part of three months, I was ready to slap the hand of anyone who suggested changing the CD. My apologies if I left any permanent bruises.
6 · In Ghost Colours by Cut Copy
I was the only kid in my third grade class who could sing the entire Cure and Depeche Mode catalogues. I was either ridiculously advanced or a freakish outcast far before my time. Joke's on them; synth lovers are clearly getting the last laugh in 2008.
5 · The Midnight Organ Fight by Frightened Rabbit
I am in no way shape or form a badass. But if the highlight reel of my life were played over any of these movie trailer ready songs, I'm sure I'd come across as slightly cooler. Everything sounds better with an accent and dramatically swelling chorus.
4 · Saturdays=Youth by M83
The first four tracks qualify Saturdays=Youth for a place on my list. The fact that this isn't just a 80s retro-dream EP but an 80s retro-dream full-length I've listened to more than 20 times? Brilliant.
3 · Volume One by She & Him
Some may argue it's insubstantial. But who can argue with such perfectly spun cotton candy pop? Incidentally, it's also my mother's pick for album of the year. (Don't hate me because my parents are cooler than yours. -3 hipster points for mentioning the existence of parents.)
2 · Who Killed Amanda Palmer? by Amanda Palmer
I have to admit being somewhat skeptical when I first heard Amanda Palmer was putting out a non-Dresden Doll album. But in one fell swoop she's earned her stripes as a solo act. Both weirdly uneven and emotionally cohesive, Who Killed Amanda Palmer simply slays.
1 · Does You Inspire You by Chairlift
I didn't see this one coming. And judging by its absence on every other list, neither did anyone else. Yes, Does You Inspire You plays like a mix tape, but what an inspired mix tape! Even the last few tracks which veer into indie-rock abstraction ring with sentimentality that already has me salivating for their sophomore effort.

ten favorite songs

10 · "Mugiboogie" by Mugison from Mugiboogie
An old fashioned down and dirty dance hall quivering with sexual tension and the world's most whacked out bandleader. Catchy!
9 · "You Cheated Me" by Martha Wainwright from I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too
Hands down the poppiest song she's ever written. When she warns, You run your skinny little ass down the block, I never fail to chortle like a ten-year-old boy.
8 · "2 Atoms in a Molecule" by Noah and the Whale from Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down
Sometimes a single only scratches the surface of what an album has to offer. And while Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down is a "fun fun fun" album, it's really the understated opener that perfectly catches the joy and pathos of true love. If love is just a game how come it's no fun? If love is just a game how come I've never won?
7 · "I'm Good, I'm Gone" by Lykke Li from Youth Novels
I know you know this song. It's the "Young Folks" of 2008. It, quite simply, rocks. I'll totally go against what I said about Noah and the Whale...sometimes the single really is the best track on the album.
6 · "Evident Utensil" by Chairlift from Does You Inspire You
I almost put "Bruises" in this slot. A cute song yes, but nothing quite beats Caroline Polachek's wail when she asks How hard must I try for you? And to answer the question: the most evident utensil is, a pencil! The more you know...
5 · "Figured Me Out" by Jamie Lidell from Jim
The funkiest soul song of the year was made by a pasty, beat-boxing Brit based out of Berlin.
4 · "Bixby Canyon Bridge" by Death Cab For Cutie from Narrow Stairs
I'll admit that upon multiple listenings, Narrow Stairs didn't hold up enough to land on my top ten. But you've gotta admit, when it comes to opening tracks, Mr. Gibbard knows how to write 'em. (See:"Marching Bands Of Manhattan", "The New Year", "Title Track," etc....)
3 · "The Modern Leper" by Frightened Rabbit from The Midnight Organ Fight
In the trailer of my life, the romantic/action montage occurs somewhere around the two minute mark. Take note.
2 · "Ampersand" by Amanda Palmer from Who Killed Amanda Palmer?
Honesty can hurt. Sometimes music goes for the gut. "Ampersand" does both beautifully.
1 · "Kim & Jessie" by M83 from Saturdays=Youth
In five years we'll be shocked at how well this song has held up. In twenty years we'll develop time travel, go back to the eighties and awe at how relevant it sounds. In the next year we'll learn Antony Gonzales is a nostalgic song writing robot who can do no wrong.

five favorite shows

5 · Peter Morén @ the Troubador
Last day of the tour mental breakdown featuring: covers ranging from expected (Buddy Holly) to "quoi?" (Vampire Weekend, Ah Ha), stage climbing, and the dancing Coreys.
4 · Broken Social Scene @ Sunset Junction

Seventeen people on stage preforming Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old Girl. Even technical problems can't kill that kind of magic.
3 · Jens Lekman @ Henry Fonda
Rest assured any year I see Jens he's ending up in the top five shows.
2 · Radiohead @ The Hollywood Bowl
Seeing a quarter inch tall Thom York in concert is a rite of passage.
1 · Beck and Jenny Lewis @ Club Nokia

Celebrity treatment aside (it's clearly gone to my head) you can't beat getting two talented performers together on the same stage.

the five people I'd invite to a dinner party:
Admittedly, I'm terrible at throwing dinner parties. The wine is always too cheep, food too garlicky, attendees picked with little regard for how they'll function as a group. Is it any wonder I rarely have repeat guests?

1. Ira Glass
2. Eddie Izzard
3. Sarah Vowell
4. Jens Lekman
5. Amelie Poulain

my residual regrets of 2007:

For the sake of space, I'll limit this to a music regret.
Why didn't anyone tell me Bat For Lashes was far better than her single? You're all fired.

in 2009 I might:

Get it together. Stop making fun of myself and start making fun of other people. Put the final parts of my plan for world domination into effect. Take questions like this seriously when sincerely posed in social situations. Like most things, it's a crap shoot, really.

mp3: "Grounds For Divorce" by Elbow
mp3: "Symphony 6: Fair Thee Well & The Requiem Mix (live at KCRW)" by Emily Wells
mp3: "Old Old Fashioned (live at Wall)" by Frightened Rabbit
mp3: "You Figured Me Out (live on Jimmy Kimmel)" by Jamie Lidell
mp3: "Kim and Jesse (Montag mix)" by M83

Friday, December 19, 2008

amanda palmer and the builders and the butchers @ henry fonda

To be fair, I still don't know who killed Amanda Palmer. Although I do think about it -- we all do. Maybe it was the press who placed such a burden upon her head, building her up to such dizzying heights. Or the bloggers with their zealous rants about her budding genius. Perhaps Amanda had begun to fear she could never reach the success heaped upon her from the live performances or recordings of her band the Dresden Dolls. Or maybe, just maybe after creating her greatest masterpiece to date, the arresting Who Killed Amanda Palmer, it was simply her turn to go gentle into that great night. Whatever the cause of her untimely demise, the legacy and memory she left behind will last. And an enduring legacy it is. Over the years my friends and I still get together and go over the evidence: the trading cards, the wild conspiracy theories, the rumors. Always the rumors. Despite our detective work, we always reluctantly agree that only Amanda holds all the answers, that we're just as in the dark as everyone else. Mostly though, we like to talk and remember about all the good times she's given us. How it feels like just yesterday when we saw her in concert -- full of joy and life. Yes, just like yesterday. Or rather, just like Tuesday night at the Henry Fonda.

The fun thing about Amanda Palmer in concert is that despite the random bits and bobs, the show is always tied together in a cohesive, thematic package. The heavy lifting started early as Portland-based openers The Builders and Butchers took the stage, immediately jumping into their percussive-heavy songs about, what else, death and dancing. Now, don't get me wrong, their CD is a solid dose of goth-punk-blues. However, you can't bottle lightening (lest you end up as one of their future song topics no doubt). Live, there's a delicious take-no-prisoners element and more instruments than you can shake a washboard at. By the end of the blistering half hour set their need for percussion was so great, many audience members were enlisted as back up, one lucky person armed with the band's kick drum.

Needless to say the second opener, Zoe Keating, had a tough act to follow. Her performance was of special interest to me as I used to believe I was a cellist. "Used to believe," as in I practiced three hours a day, took lessons, and in seven years managed to muster up enough technical skill to play last chair in the community orchestra. Direct comparison: When Zoe plays, her face goes loose, her eyes glaze over -- she is in her happy, transcendent place.When I played, the look on my face was not unlike an pilot trying to land a 747. With one wheel. I'm 85% certain that while Zoe was building up her mesmerizing soundscapes, I was actually making said face. She could have played all night. I would have happily listened.

Of course, out of respect to the dead, Zoe gracefully relinquished the stage, allowing the "mourning" portion of the evening to began. Amanda was ceremoniously carried in by her dancers and backing band The Danger Ensemble. Zoe returned, and the group ripped into the first number and Who Killed Amanda Palmer opener "Astronaut." For a dead girl, Amanda sure can rock.

From there, it was every man for himself. Amanda alone is a fairly intense exercise in emotive music making. With a backing cellist, violinist and interpretive dance team, it becomes an all out spectacle, dancing across the spectrum from the painful, tear-inducing (yeah I cried) tribute to the victims of Columbine, to the beautifully introspective "Ampersand," to the out-and-out goofy "Coin-Operated Boy." (Would you kiss for kash?) Occasionally it was a bit too much; I almost pulled a muscle in my neck trying to figure out what the dancers were up to in the middle of the crowd during "Have to Drive," but it was never boring. Even absurdist moments like the lip-synched tributes to Rihanna and Katy Perry, which for all practical purposes should have veered into self-indulgent territory, didn't. A tribute to the strength of the musicians and Amanda's relationship with her audience. You can't call a performer self-indulgent when the people off stage are having just as much fun as those on.

Who killed Amanda Palmer? Beats me. But, thanks to memories of nights like this, her legacy is guaranteed to live on.

(photo Amanda Palmer: Beth Hommel)
(photo Builders and the Butchers: Mel Brown)
(photo Zoe Keating: Lane Hartwell)

mp3: "On The Radio (Regina Spektor cover)" by Amanda Palmer
mp3: "When It Rains" by Builders and the Butchers
mp3: "Expo (live)" by Zoe Keating

Thursday, December 18, 2008

plastic snow fire sale

Does plastic snow melt in a fire?

Anyhow, Christmas is now a week away. At the rate I'm going all presents will be delivered somewhere around...July.

In honor of the madness and joy of the holiday season, Confessions of a Would-Be Hipster is now selling our beloved album Plastic Snow for a mere nine dollars. That's right nine bucks gets you sixteen tasty holiday and winter tracks by our favorite local artists. It's our way of saying, "thanks for reading another year of our self-indulgent rants."

As always, all proceeds go to Midnight Mission.

Add to Cart
Shopping Cart by E-Junkie
Price: $10.00 $9.00 (16 high-quality DMR-free Mp3s)


1. breaking up for christmas - the breakups
2. Holiday – I Make This Sound
3. Icicles (Plastic Snow Session) – Let’s Go Sailing
4. Christmas Drill – Dreaming Ferns
5. I’ll Be Home For Christmas – Earlimart
6. Shortest Day of the Year – Letting Up Despite Great Faults
7. The Last December – The Hectors
8. This King – Great Northern
9. As The Day Breaks – Carmen Rizzo
10. Christmas, California – The Sweet Hurt
11. Winter, That’s All – Fol Chen
12. Hot Sleigh – The Monolators
13. Christmas Break – The Dandelion Council
14. Where’s My Christmas Morning – Princeton
15. What Brings You Back (Plastic Snow Session) – Pierre de Reeder
16. Silent Night – Sara Lov & Dustin O'Halloran

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

midnight mission/toys for tots @ the echoplex

I was going to write a review. A glowing review of our own party. But you'd probably figure out that I was more than a little bias. So I'm not going to.

I mean, I was going to mention that The Voyeurs might be LA's answer to Mates of States. And that Tandemoro's cover of "Heart It Races" made me smile. I was also going to throw in a positive note about Davey Ingeroll and Pierre de Reeder's cool singer songwriter spirit. I was going to make some less than veiled self-deprecating remark about how all the Would-Be Hipsters wish we were cute enough to throw on a pink dress and join the Damselles. I was going to wrap it up with a mention that Aaron Espinoza rocked the brave souls who stayed long enough to hear his "holidays in the ghetto" version of "I'll Be Home For Christmas." (Then I was going to throw in an extra comment about how it's available on our album.)

Heck, I was even going to mention that if you need music for a house party you'd be well off asking Letting Up Despite Great Faults or the Dandelion Council to spin for you.

But I'm not going to do that. You'd never believe me anyway.
The Damselles

Pierre de Reeder with Jeff Litz


Aaron Espinoza (of Earlimart)

(as always, photos courtesy of our favorite photographer: David Studarus)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

curtain speech by dm stith

Asthmatic Kitty is having a great year. Welcome Wagon, My Brightest Diamond, Grampall Jukebox, and now youthful upstart and Shara Worden protege, DM Stith. Clearly, it's good to be a chamber pop genius these days. (Insert obligatory comment about how we need Sufjan Steven's next offering now.)

At seventeen minutes and five songs, there's (admittedly) only so much that can be said, or in the name of linguistic conservation, so much that should be said about the oh-so-pretty Curtain Speech. Then again, when have we ever cared about that around here? (Linguistic conservation that is; there's always room in the heart of a would-be hipster for "oh-so-pretty.")

Yes, Curtain Speech is just an EP. Yes, it's only a forerunner to his upcoming full length. (Give me time. In addition to asking Santa for a new CD in Sufjan's States project, I might also be putting in requests for a bit of Stith.) But, popping it into your CD player has a magical effect: Stith's ridiculously varied vocals and gentle orchestration makes time stand still and responsibilities temporarily fade. Yesterday morning I listened twice before realizing that yes, that was a mere 34 minutes of my life I sat rapt, and no, I'm still not late for work. Work...what's that again?

Keep your eye out on his website. Good things are afoot.

mp3: "Just Once" by DM Stith

Monday, December 8, 2008

welcome to the welcome wagon by welcome wagon

Sincere is the new ironic. We already knew that; we're Would-Be Hipsters. We trade in sincerity (otherwise we'd take the "Would-Be" out of our name). So trust me when I say that Welcome Wagon's Welcome to the Welcome Wagon (out tomorrow) is pretty neat. Swell, actually.

Nestled neatly between label mates Half-Handed Cloud's frantic Sunday School kitch and the Flannery O'Connor spirituality of Come on Feel the Illinoise, the result is appealing mix of Sufjan, Sunday night church services, and...the Smiths? (Double checks song credits on "Half a Person". Yup.) It sounds pretty and it means something! No, really!

Of course, let's face it: gospel pop, infused with Carter/Cash musicality and White Stripes rawness and produced by sincere Bible believers is going to be a tough sell with the hipster crowd -- even with producer Sufjan Stevens' trademark banjos and oboe trills. Which is a shame, really. Artifice-free art should always have a place. These are talented musicians singing about what they believe and live. In a world where at the end of a day extolling the values of a strong street persona, even Kanye goes home to his mansion, The Welcome Wagon's sweet refusal to conform seems downright revolutionary.

mp3: "Sold! To the Nice Rich Man" by Welcome Wagon

Thursday, December 4, 2008

school of seven bells & m83 @ the henry fonda

This past Saturday night the Henry Fonda was the place to be. If you drove by, you would have seen hundreds of shivering hipsters – your brave author included – braving both an epic, round-the block line and the freezing California winter to be witness to a unique and extraordinary event. "What?" you ask. What was so terribly awesome that it would draw hipsters far from their abyssal, watery dwelling deep at the bottom of Silver Lake reservoir? A painted-on-tight jean fire-sale? Free cigarettes? The annual Pabst Blue Ribbon vegan BBQ and beer-bread cook-off? Don't be silly – that's in June. We were all waiting for something much better than all those things combined: namely, M83 on their Saturdays = Youth tour. Awesome enough, right? Nope. School of Seven Bells was opening for them!

That's right. School of Seven Bells...with M83...together. Two bands. Two sounds. One epic night of awesome. What's that? You've never heard of School of Seven Bells? Well then get thee to their Myspace, toad! Their debut album, Alpinisms, was just released at the end of October. Expect gently building synths married to subtle dance beats, kissed by what sounds like afro, dare-I-say-tribal and middle-eastern influences – all topped by the beautiful, soaring voice of lead singer Alejandra Deheza. Their tracks melt together to create some of the most enjoyable electro dream-pop sounds out there. Check them out. It's so sweet, you'll need a glass of milk to wash it down. Kind of like when I eat carrot cake...mmm...carrot cake....

Of course, let us not forget M83. Riding high on their so-awesomely named Saturdays = Youth tour, they were in full force. Weaving their electro-pop, shoe-gazey-awesome, they put on a great show. They even had these neat-o poles covered in color-changing LED's that were synced to the music – obviously of alien origin. Ooh! I know what I want for Christmas this year! What's that? Christmas? Give us music, you say? Bah! Humbug!

mp3: "Connjur" by School of Seven Bells
mp3: "A Guitar and a Heart" by M83

Monday, December 1, 2008

christmas in non-sequitur land

Normally in Would-Be Hipster land, a single track really doesn't warrant an entire review. But today...today, my friends, I am feeling the spirit of Christmas. Surely it's not the weather. Surely it's not due to the one year birthday party America seems to be throwing for the economic crisis (although, upon further reflection, it could be the $1.89/gallon gas sparking my jovial state). Surely it's not the residual traffic from the Hollywood Christmas parade street closures. All I know is, this morning, regardless of all extenuating circumstances, I woke wanting to bake cookies and do off key-renditions of "Oh Holy Night" until I'm blue in the face. But, as I'm both an abysmal cook and musician, a bag of Pepperidge Farms cookies and a mumbled Sufjan Stevens sing along had to suffice.

This is, of course, all to say that by the time I got around to checking my e-mail, my spirits were high and my resistance was low. Sofia Talvik is feeling the spirit too. Hopping on the good-music-for-a-good-cause-train, her new single "A Carol for the Lonely" is free. All she asks is that you pass along the good fortune and donate the money you would have spent to your favorite cause. Sofia suggests Sweden-based Standsmission. Naturally, I'd like to throw in a vote for Midnight Mission. Why not split the geographical difference and drop a dollar in a hat near you?

mp3: "A Carol for the Lonely" by Sofia Talvik

Varation-on-a-geographical-theme-bonus: Swedesplease has released their annual Swedish Christmas mix.