There were so many great records this year. It truly was the year that psych-rock crossed into the mainstream. Tame Impala was loved by everyone from Apple, to seemingly every blog on the planet. The staff here was no different, with a smattering of psych on all of our lists. The purpose of lists like these is simply to serve as a tool for discovery and discussion. Amy, Sania and I all have slightly different tastes, which means you’ve got a vast landscape to observe. At the end, leave us a comment and tell us what you liked and what we missed!
In a few days, we’ll also be publishing the “Best of” lists created by some of our favorite musicians, like Father John Misty, METZ, Crocodiles and many more. Tune in, turn on, don’t burn out…
(Amy: “I don’t care who hated this album. It was upbeat, fun, and quirky in the good way. Not the Zooey Deschanel way.”)
(Editors Note: “The album isn’t available on Rdio or Spotify. Here’s the single”)
9. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And The Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Ever Do
(Amy: “Despite this obnoxious album title, it is her best in years.”)
8. Azealia Banks – Fantasea
(Amy: “Best hip-hop of the year.”)
7. Tame Impala
(Amy: “*MAJOR DISCLAIMER: I hate hate hate the first track of this album, but the rest of side A more than makes up for it, and the deeper you get, the better it gets.”)
6. Freelance Whales – Diluvia
(Amy: “A great, more mature follow-up to their first.”)
5. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
(Amy: “A stunning departure from Odd Future.”)
4. Cat Power – Sun
(Amy: “Exceeded my expectations for her “comeback” record, that’s for sure.”)
3. The Mountain Goats – Transcendental Youth
(Amy: “John Darnielle’s most personal and best vocal achievement to date.”)
Where have we been? I’ll tell you where we’ve been: in a state of boredom. Virtually nothing in 2011 has moved us in the ways that the bands we’ve brought you in the past have. We could have easily regurgitated the latest Pitchfork-darling/ high-priced PR firm offers you tickets to Lolla in exchange for… crap. Instead we stuck to our principals and decided it would be better to bring you nothing, than to bring you crap.
We spent the last month (or so) scouring the globe for the best new music that we could find. Finally, we have come to you with wonderful news. In a sea of adult-contemporary masquerading as “alternative-indie”, Ceremony swims against the tide with a sense of violence and passion that gives us hope for the future of music. With the release of their new EP, “Not Tonight, TDOA writer Krystal talked to the band about the obvious imagery and the undercurrent of genius.
TDOA: The name Ceremony immediately conjures up memories of bands like Joy Division and New Order, both of whose sounds seem to have an influence on your music. What was the reasoning for choosing this song as opposed to others?
Paul: We used to cover the song “Ceremony” in our old band Skywave. When we started this band, we had a gig but not a name and just thought of that. It wasn’t meant to stick, but we just never changed it.
TDOA: What less obvious influences might one find in Ceremony?
Paul-I love Big Star, The Crystals, Kraftwerk, Club 8, . John is a big Ministry fan, and we both love The Misfits. I don’t know what’s obvious to listeners and what isn’t, really. I can’t separate myself from it, I guess. Really, you’re even influenced by things you don’t like. Even if it makes you NOT do something, rather than makes you want to do something.
TDOA: Both of you were in the band Skywave with A Place To Bury Stranger’s Oliver Ackermann. How would you distinguish Ceremony from APTBS to a new listener?
Paul: Until recently the biggest difference was that we used drum machines and they had a live drummer, Jay Space, who’s a fantastic drummer and a really cool guy. We recently added a live drummer, Ben Wood, so I think the most obvious difference is that APTBS is still a bit more on the sonically extreme or experimental side, and we’re into making tight noise-pop songs that sometimes veer into that same sonic abyss. Honestly, I think a fan of one band would probably be a fan of the other. I’m fans of both groups.
TDOA: What can you tell us about Skywave’s music and how do you think it has influenced Ceremony?
John-It’s the same thing.
Paul- John’s basically right. I don’t think I made a conscious decision to make a different style of music or anything. But of course Oliver was a huge part of Skywave and it would have been wrong to keep the name without him.
TDOA: How have you found the transition to a two piece band? What is the songwriting and recording process like?
Paul-The main difference is that when using a drum machine, you can’t make a mistake and look at somebody and correct things, you just have to deal with it. For the most part we write our songs separately and then show them to the other. Then maybe we make some little adjustments to the structure or something. Again, now we do have a drummer, but we still write separately.
TDOA: What can one expect from a Ceremony show? You’ve been told by venues to turn the volume down. As a two piece, how do you manage to pack so much sound in?
Paul-We just try to play our songs as well as we can. To achieve that sometimes requires quite a lot of volume and noise. We play with the same kinds of amps as lots of other bands, so I don’t know how we’re “louder” than anyone else. We just like loud, effected guitar sounds. I guess a lot of venues don’t feel the same way.
TDOA: Fredericksburg, VA seems like an unlikely place for a band with your sound. How is the reception at gigs in your hometown?
Paul-Yeah, we don’t play here very often. We have fans here, but the venues here especially don’t know how to handle us. We’ve even had a bar manager
literally unplug our equipment while we’re playing and tell us to get the fuck out of his venue. That was a great night.
TDOA: Tell us more about your gigs in Japan. How did those come about?
Paul-Wow, that was a really cool experience! A guy who works for Amazon in Japan was a fan of ours and said he could book us 4 shows in Tokyo and guarantee us enough money that it would be worth it. We got him to agree to let us bring Screen Vinyl Image with us and it turned out to be really great. He was a great guy and we had a lot of fun! Venues there are great, with excellent sound systems and engineers, and it seemed like the crowds enjoyed our music.
TDOA: Ceremony’s full length album, Rocket Fire, was just released last year. Whats on the horizon for the band for the rest of this year?
Paul-We released the “Not Tonight” EP of new songs, as well the “Extended Play” EP with remixes and cover versions of our songs back in April. Now we’re working on the follow-up to “Rocket Fire”, as well as a split LP with the band Stellarium, who are from Singapore. We’re working on setting up another European tour for next spring as well. We’re always working on something, however slowly.
The wall of sound dies away, lower and lower, leaving scarred guitars rickashaying ghostly unmanned reverb in a looming fog full of static energy. You can’t stop feeling like your moving, still vibrating from the sonic explosion that felt like it ran straight through skin, bone, and sinew, so you just want to stand still for a moment, rooted to the spot in which you stand. Slowly, you can start to feel your heartbeat again as the quite returns your body back to you. Your mind continues to be lost somewhere, still wrapped up heavily in the sound, as tinnitus takes hold of your ears. Just the typical near apocalyptic aftermath of experiencing A Place to Bury Strangers live. When not being annihilated by their live shows, it’s also quite an enjoyable hobby to play their perfect melt of industrial strength feedback riddled pop, and minimalistic isolated noise as loud as possible in your headphones. Bassist Dion Lunadon sat down with Sania to answer some questions after a headline show in San Antonio.
A Place To Bury Strangers will be appearing at the Austin Psych Fest on April 29th. For more information, visit austinpsychfest.com
TDOA: How was this last tour for you guys?
DL: Which one?
TDOA: I believe you guys were in Europe?
DL: It was mainly France, It was….it had it’s ups and downs. Our van got stolen, obviously, so that was kind of hard you know? I mean, I think we still played good, and pulled through really well, but looking back on it, it put a wrench in the works.
TDOA: When the van got stolen, you guys released a remix of Holy Fuck’s ‘Red Lights’ as a download for chipping into a paypal account to help you guys out. It was really cool to see this whole community of people come together and make that happen during a tough spot for yourselves, and your crew.
DL: Yeah, and they really did, which was cool because it really helped us out a lot. I know Oliver felt kind of funny about it, about asking people for money, or asking anyone to do it, but it was a tough situation, and you know we’re grateful.
TDOA: A Place To Bury Strangers started out in the DIY scene in Brooklyn, what do you think of that whole thing? I know you’re not there a lot because you guys tour so much, but what are some of your thoughts on it?
DL: Well, I come from New Zealand, and I was kind of part of a DIY scene there as well, but it was just so much smaller, there’s not many people involved. So, for me, it’s quite amazing to see such a huge thing. You can go to 20 places in one night, and it’ll be packed with kids at all the DIY venues, whereas in New Zealand, you’d be lucky to get like 200 kids at one venue. It’s pretty cool to see something so vibrant and alive.
TDOA: I saw you singing tonight on some of the new songs, is that something that’s going to be the norm now?
DL: I don’t know, I don’t really care either way. I mean, yes, if Oli wants me to sing some stuff. I think it’s good to have two voices, so yeah, I’m good to sing.
TDOA: The sound of the band since you’ve been a part of it has evolved and changed a lot into something completely different. There used to be a very understated bass, a drone under the wall of sound coming off Oliver’s guitar that would occasionally make itself known by surfacing for a few seconds before diving back under. With you, the bass is equally as aggressive as the guitar, nothing understated about it, what do you think? Did you work that way with the bass in the other bands you’ve been involved in, or is this all new?
DL: Well, I played guitar and bass in the other bands, but I’ve always been kind of a strong personality within a band, so you know, I’m not just sort of going to fade into the background, it’s kind of not who I am. I don’t want the limelight or anything…I do my thing. I’m not the sort of person to just stand in the shadows, I can do that, or whatever, but I feel like part of this band, and I feel like adding my thing, and I suppose that’s my thing. I’m just an aggressive player.
TDOA: Yeah, it’s really great; I love it, just striking how different it is.
DL:I really like Jono’s ( APTBS’ bassist prior to Dion) playing style and what he did, but yeah, it is completely different compared to mine. It sort of bubbles under the whole thing, and it was maybe more relaxed. He had more of an even rolling drone during the whole song, like an Ocean. In this band, I treat the bass kind of like a guitar. I don’t have much bass tone. It’s not that typical bass heavy rock sound. It’s this sort of edgy, volatile kind of thing.
TDOA: Do you now play a part in the writing process?
DL: I am at the moment with the new songs, yeah. Oliver and I are writing a lot of it together, and then sometimes he writes by himself, which I try to encourage, actually. I don’t mind writing songs with him, I enjoy it, but I don’t want to change the band. Since I am a strong musical personality, I don’t want to usurp what’s already happening; I really like what he writes by himself too.
TDOA: What are listening to right now?
DL: On the van I’ve been listening to Kim Fowley, and Billy Ward and His Dominos –it was this band with Jackie Wilson in it, do you know Jackie Wilson? You know, Reet Petite (song)?
TDOA: Honestly, no….
DL: Well, Michael Jackson was a huge Jackie Wilson fan, and it’s his earlier stuff. It’s kind of really gospel-y, but really weird at the same time. What else… oh yeah, Motorhead.
TDOA: Why can’t you just say ‘I listen to A Place to Bury Strangers,’ and make this easy? That one I definitely know, great band!
DL: Well yeah, that too, I listen to the demos.
TDOA: On stage you guys are working with tons of unpredictable stuff like loops and feedback, not really the best ingredients for a set agenda. How big of a part does doing things in the moment, improvisation, play?
DL: It’s pretty important. There are parts of the set that we loosely improvise, and it’s cool. Especially in the noise genre, stuff just happens, and pops out. The basic songs are kind of similar every time, but a lot of the stuff in between is very different. It’s cool to just go with it, I like to get inside the music, just let it run through me, and see what happens.
TDOA: When you guys are writing things, are you concerned with writing it in a way that will translate well to a live setting since your live shows are so intense and kind of organically done?
DL: When we started writing the [new] record, we had an idea of what we wanted it to be, but it’s coming up being totally different. I think when writing an album, if you try to force a direction, it just sounds forced, so you’ve got of sort of let it happen. You may have some rough ideas, and try to nudge it in a direction, but at the same time you just have to let what comes out come out.
TDOA: So after being in the band for about a year now, what’s some of the weirder responses you’ve witnessed to the live shows?
DL: We played a show recently where someone had a seizure. That’s happened a few times before at our shows though, apparently. A couple times since I’ve been in the band, and maybe a few times before, and two labors as well.
TDOA: Whoa, nice. I’ve actually had a couple friends who have fainted before, nothing too serious. They think it was the strobes.
DL: Yeah, the strobes do it, and the music does too because it’s so loud that’s it’s not just aural it’s physical as well. It can be very overpowering and unsettling.
TDOA: How did you guys end up breaking your drummer? (Jay Space had an injured collarbone and shoulder from the week prior)
DL: Oliver was stacking amps as he does, and they fell on top of him. Poor guy, he’s doing well.
TDOA: In which direction do you think the new sound is headed? Exploding Head compared to the self-titled album has much more of a surfaced melody, is very high-fi, and has very strong pop elements. How will the new album compare to these two LPs?
DL: Well…it’s still coming together. I don’t know, maybe some more punk elements to it? I really like punk a lot right now. Maybe some heavier stuff as well? Slower, or dirtier maybe? I don’t think you’ll be able to pinpoint it to one thing. To me, it feels like there’s all sorts of stuff happening, but there’s one common thread somewhere that just ties it all together. So, I guess we’ll see.
TDOA: Are you guys planning on just touring yourselves to death?
DL: Probably. Sometimes, I honestly do get worried that one of us will die on the road. There have been a few unfortunate moments that have been a little bit scary, and sometimes a bit worrying.
TDOA: Well yeah, you guys just never stop. I saw you last year around this time, and you’ve literally been on the road since, and your going to continue to be, and now your jumping of amps, and throwing them too. You’re all going to break!
DL: Yeah, and they (Oliver and Jay) were on the road before that too for about two years as well.
TDOA: So, what’s the reasoning behind all this time on the road? You guys just really like touring, or are there some specific goals that are trying to be accomplished?
DL: I mean, there’s a bunch of reasons. Yeah, we like to tour. Two, we’re also still growing a fan base, and touring is a good honest way to do it, it’s great promotion. Three, we can make a living doing it. So yeah, many reasons.
TDOA: Very cool, well, thanks for the killer interview!
DL: Awesome, thank you.
Thanks to our friends at Rdio.com, we are now able to provide you with a nifty player that will allow you to listen to albums of the bands that we feature. If you subscribe to Rdio.com (who is not a sponsor, so there’s no benefit to us) you can listen to the entire album, along with the rest of the APTBS catalog. If you’re not a subscriber, you can still listen to 30 second previews of the songs. Those of you who already subscribe, can follow us here for some special playlists and content.
And now it’s time. We’ve given you the fifty bands that we thing are worth your time, whether you’re coming to Austin or not. With each entry, we’ve listed like-minded bands as a reference point, but we recommend listening to each no matter what. As always, it’s difficult to put some of these bands in a neat tidy, descriptive box. Your ears will tell you the truth.
We’ve also provided you with links to the social networks of each band, so that you can learn more. This is the final installment of our series. Now go watch some music!
While all the talk of South By Southwest has us excited (our preview begins on Friday!), those living in the Dallas area are fortunate to have an amazing festival of their own. 35 Conferette runs from March 10-13 in Denton, TX and features over 100 bands spanning a zillion genres. Frankly, not only are many bands passing through this event on their way to SXSW, but many music industry and music lovers are also stopping in Denton to check out the amazing lineup. Do yourself a favor and get a wristband!
Contest! You can enter to win a wristband by following us on Twitter and telling us why you should be a winner!
Narrowing the field down was a challenge, but here’s our list of ten bands we think deserve your attention.
Who: A Place to Bury Strangers
Similar artists: Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Gliss
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Who: Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
Similar artists: Superchunk, Girls, Wild Nothing
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