In Review: Mount Eerie’s “Clear Moon”

            Phil Elverum has long been known as one of the foremost purveyors of melancholy Pacific Northwestern folk. From quiet beginnings as a bedroom artist, to his current iteration as a veteran of the genre he helped create, Elverum’s greatest strength has always been his ability to look toward the future, rarely dwelling on past successes. This attitude bleeds all over Clear Moon, the new album from Elverum’s long-standing project Mount Eerie.

            A lot can be said about Mount Eerie, but it seems to me that talking about Mount Eerie is a hell of a lot less rewarding than actually listening to them. It’s true that Elverum and Co. have managed to sustain a long and relatively successful career without ever venturing too far from their roots, but given the quality and quantity of their releases, it’s amazing that these gloomy north-westerners are still able to create music that sounds fresh and original, and that’s exactly what you get on Clear Moon.

            Listening to Clear Moon is a lot like listening to the entire Mount Eerie back catalogue at the same time. This new offering shows Elverum blending the seemingly dissimilar aspects of older Eerie albums like No Flashlight with newer, weirder albums like Wind’s Poem. This makes Clear Moon a very interesting, and often challenging, record to digest. Album opener “Through the Trees pt. 2” is classic Elverum. Musically, it sounds more or less like a Microphones song that got lost in a stack of tapes somewhere and was never released but, when Elverum sings “misunderstood and disillusioned/I go on describing this place,” we know that this is the here and now. This opening line also serves as a glimpse into the motivation behind the album. Elverum seems to question his own motivations for creating music, and once the album is over it becomes clear it’s the place that dictates the music and not vice versa. These are love songs to a region, Phil Elverum’s region.

            As the album progresses the songs become noticeably darker. “Lone Bell,” the album’s first single, trots along with atonal horns reminiscent of Iamthefunblamemonster era Menomena, and “Over Dark Water” is a folky dirge that sounds like it would be more at home on the new Occultation record. Somehow though, Elverum’s penchant for stylistic shifts works. It makes Clear Moon varied in ways that are more rewarding when taken as an album, and the whole thing feels complete by the end instead of just sounding like a collection of random songs.

            Casual fans of Mount Eerie, or those fans who only listen to Elverum’s lighter fare, might be thrown off by the oppressing atmosphere he creates on Clear Moon, but die-hards will appreciate the cumulative feel. The only real problem I have with Clear Moon is its release date. This is not an album suited for summer; it deserves a rainy day, a pack of smokes, and some fresh coffee to contextualize it, and I wonder why Elverum decided that a May 22nd release was best. Because of the nature of this album I fear fans in search of something upbeat and sunny might ignore it.

            In the end Clear Moon is another in a long line of solid Mount Eerie albums. It will break your heart and fuel your depression, but it is a monolithic work of beauty that deserves your time and attention. Wait until October and curl up with Clear Moon.

8.5 out of 10

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Those Darlins are a garage/punk/country band from Tennessee. The three core members who make up Those Darlins are Nikki, Jesse, and Kelley, and last year they released their second full-length album Screws Get Loose via Oh Wow Dang Records. The sounds on Screws Get Loose is quite a departure from the band’s self-titled debut. Where their previous recordings focused more on backwoods folk with a hint of dirty garage crunchiness, the newer material is more rooted in 50’s and 60’s style garage rock ala Shannon and The Clams and Hunx and His Punx. I’m a huge fan of the darlins early output and was a little thrown off by the drastic shift in songwriting, but after a few spins I can honestly say that I’m happy with the direction they’ve chosen. It would have been damn near impossible for Those Darlins to continue on the backwoods roads they traversed back in 2009, and the songwriting styles on Screws Get Loose allows the band a lot more room to grow. I won’t say that I love the new album to the degree I love their debut, but I see them sticking around for a lot longer (which is a really good thing).

Recommended if you like: JEFF The Brotherhood, Frankie Rose, La Sera, or Shannon and The Clams.

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Siamese Twins are a dream pop trio who play slightly gothy, slightly twee sounding post punk. In the tradition of early 4AD and current Slumberland artists like Frankie Rose and Black Tambourine, Siamese Twins’ particular brand of jangly, albeit by-the-books, indie pop is as simple as it is catchy. Vocals are traded back and forth, one of higher register and one on the lower end, to great effect. The band self released a demo cassette last year and has a 7” due on Labor of Love Records in the coming months. With summer just around the corner (or already at our doors for the Austin, TX crowd) it’s time to start spinning some poppy goodness to get your mind right, and Siamese Twins are precisely what you need.

Grab their demo here.

Recommended if you like: Frankie Rose, Seapony, La Sera, or Screaming Females.

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Matthewdavid (aka Matthew McQueen) is an LA based experimental/electronic producer who utilizes warm tones and jarring glitches to build otherworldly soundscapes. Last year Matthewdavid released is debut LP Outmind on Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder imprint, and less than a year later he’s got a new LP ready just in time for Spring. The new album, Jewelry, dropped a few weeks ago via Leaving Records and is available for free on the label’s website. WhileOutmind showed Matthewdavid’s ability to build songs layer by layer,Jewelry shows the young producer’s ability to easy off and have fun. I had a chance to catch Matthewdavid’s set at the Panache Showcase at SXSW last week and he absolutely killed it. I have a feeling I’ll be wearing this jewelry all summer.

Recommended if you like: Flying Lotus, Gold Panda, Teebs, Star Slinger, or TOKiMONSTA.

Miniature Tundras Top 5 Bands to see at SXSW 2012

As per the requests of a few readers, I am supplying you with a list of the bands that you should go out of your way to see at SXSW 2012.I know I recently posted a huge list of bands, but there were 162 on that list…even with a time machine, you would have a hell of a time seeing that many bands in the span of 5 days.

Without further ado I present to you my top 5 must-see bands of 2012 (all bands are of equal importance):

1. The Men - These three Brooklyn punks recently released a stellar new full-length (Open Your Heart)via Sacred Bones records and are definitely a band to check out if you wanna get down with some dirty-ass punk. Catch them at the Sacred Bones showcase (alongside a bunch of other great SB bands) at Elysium on Wednesday night. 

2. Shlohmo - I caught Shlohmo’s set at Beauty Bar during last years SXSW and it completely blew me away. Typically known for his unique brand of ambient infused instrumental hip hop, Shlohmo’s live set leans more toward club bangers. Easily one of the best DJs working today, Shlohmo should be on your must-see list. Catch him at The Mohawk on Tuesday night.

3. Nicolas Jaar - Experimental dance music done in the best possible way. Nicolas Jaar may not be the most raucous artists you’ll see this year, but I guarantee he will be one of the most memorable. Catch him on Thursday night at the Central Presbyterian Church.

4. Thee Oh Sees - If you’ve read this blog in the past you know I’m a huge Oh Sees fan. John Dwyer is the fucking hot shit. After releasing two full-length albums in 2011 and a 12” split with Total Control earlier this year, Thee Oh Sees definitely deserve your time and attention. They are playing a shit load of shows over the course of the week, but I think you should go see them open for The Wedding Present (you read that correctly) at the IODA day party (starts at noon) on Wednesday at Red Eyed Fly.

5. Chelsea Wolfe - I adored Chelsea Wolfe’s 2011 album Apokalypsis, and I can’t wait to see her in concert. Ms. Wolfe is a bit out there, and her live performances have given her quite the reputation as of late. Chances are you won’t see anything that compares to a Chelsea Wolfe show. Check her out at the Sacred Bones/Stereogum/Chaos in Tejas Unofficial SXSW party on Thursday night at Beerland.

Alright, that ought to do it. These are just a few of the great bands I’m looking forward to seeing this year (but they are my personal favorites). Check out the previous list I posted to see the other bands I’m stoked to see. Now go get day drunk.

Miniature Tundras bands to watch at SXSW 2012

It’s that time of year again; SXSW 2012. A time when Austin basically shuts down and everyone spends a few hard earned days off getting day-drunk and building up a massive hangover that will have them secretly puking into the garbage cans under their desks. I’ve done SXSW the last two years and my biggest problem has always been knowing exactly who’s playing. I went to the trouble of digging through the official SXSW band list, and I jotted down the names of the bands I think you need to see. This is basically just a big-ass list of bands, but you can get all the relevant showtime info over at the official SXSW page.

SXSW 2012 Bands to Watch:

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From the Mouth of the Sun is the new ambient/neo classical collaborative project from composer Aaron Martin and Dag Rosenqvist (aka Jasper TX). Last year Martin and Rosenqvist released the fruit of their labor in the form of the gorgeous and sprawling Woven Tide (available via Experimedia ). Listening to Woven Tide is a revelation when compared to the solo work of Martin and Rosenqvist. Their individual styles blend together in a way that makes one wonder why they didn’t pair up years ago. They fill the void in each others music and, together, create something that transcends their previous work while still managing to sound fresh. This is not simply a rehashing of old ideas; this is the marriage of two creative powerhouses, and the effect is strikingly beautiful and subtly haunting. Melancholy, uplifting, and perfect for gray days, From the Mouth of the Sun’s Woven Tide will take you somewhere (anywhere) else.

Recommended if you like: Willamette, Olafur Arnalds, Vikki Jackman, or Black to Comm.

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The Pearl Sisters were a Korean pop band in the 1960’s. Consisting of Bae In Soon and Bae In Sook, The Pearl Sisters played music that differed from the happy sunshine pop typically associated with that era. Instead Soon and Sook wrote songs with a beautiful and decidedly melancholy edge. The sisters also re-appropriated a number of American pop songs such as Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love” (“Dalkumhan Sarang” in Korean) and “White Christmas.” I have been spinning the few Pearl Sisters albums I’ve managed to get my hands on for the better part of a year, and each subsequent listen is as satisfying as the first. Charming and heartbreaking, this is great music that you probably need in your life.

Recommended if you like: Scott Walker, Shin Joong Hyun, or Kim Jung Mi.

More of their music here.

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Terry Malts are a garage pop band from San Francisco, CA. The band recently released their debut album Killing Time on Slumberland Records, and it basically rules. A combination of uber-fuzzy punk riffs with the pop sensibility of bands like FIDLAR (one of my current favorites) and Dum Dum Girls, Terry Malts deftly blend genres into one hulking mass of power. Killing Time is the kind of record you play during unruly house parties and long summer drives; it’s catchy enough to have you whistling along, and dirty enough to soundtrack that perfect night of alcohol fueled debauchery. Terry Malts are most definitely a band to watch this year.

Recommended if you like: FIDLAR, Mikal Cronin, Bleached, Wax Idols, or Big Troubles.

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