Vacilando Territory Blues
The wise men who travelled to Bethlehem trekked thousands of miles guided solely by a star; they trusted it would lead them to something magnificent. These men were wanderers or—according to J. Tillman who features their words on the cover of his latest album—“vacilando,” a Spanish word connoting travel for the sake of the journey instead of the destination. It’s a whimsical word, and a perfect description of what you will get out of Tillman’s Vacilando Territory Blues.
Although he’s the drummer for the Fleet Foxes, Tillman has somehow, on the side, secretly been mass-producing solo albums at the rate of about two a year. The latest, released in early January, carries the same folksy style as Fleet Foxes with an added soulful lament—exuding the inventiveness of Spoon mixed with the pensiveness of José Gonzales. His music has a hazy, twilight charm to it; that time of day, just before sunset, where the world is brushed with warm hues. Just so, while listening to Tillman’s lullabies, everything seems so much more striking.
At first, Tillman’s lyrics can seem somewhat pretentious in their spirituality. But as you ease into the album his abstract thoughts feel more like chicken-scratched deliberations. He has great one-liners, such as, “Because the universe makes much more sense without a purpose.” Yes, admittedly, the record is a little bit of an emotional free for all at times, but dynamism is provided with the harsher use of electric guitars in “Barter Blues,” and jazzy French horns in “Grand Imperial Blues” giving the album a necessary variety.
Fall into the album and feel the serene flow of Tillman’s wandering, vacilando ways.
A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night
Love Is All
What’s Your Rupture?
Much fuss has been made of the number of highly successful indie acts born of Canada—especially when you compare our miniature size to that of our bulky Southern neighbour. As much as we love our ever-prolific Broken Social Scenes and Leslie Feists, pound for pound, the title for best indie-nurturing nation must go to another country, one with a third of our population and where English not being the official language hasn’t hampered exportability: Sweden.
Gothenburg quintet Love is All’s second release has plenty of sophomoric exuberance while successfully scaling the slump. Despite being female-fronted, any comparison to Swedish starlets Lykke Li and Frida Hyvönen would end after the first line. Singer Josephine Oluasson’s delivery is to those two as Robyn’s “Konichiwa Bitches” is to “Show Me Love,”—but that’s not to say the band doesn’t share some influence with the local scene. On heavy-hitter “Wishing Well,” lines as ironic and weird as “I threw my money in a wishing well/but nothing got better only slightly wet” are tossed out in the way that only fellow Göteborgian, Jens Lekman could match. But Love Is All, contrary to their moniker, are not romantics. Like Lekman, on “Last Choice” Oluasson and the group’s other singer Nicholaus Sparding call out together “I’m not your kind and you’re not mine, but for tonight you’ll have to do just fine.”
Texturally, the band shares more similarities with a duo several hundred kilometres South in Denmark, The Raveonettes. Both bands are signed to New York labels, a city at the centre of the American post-punk revival where Love Is All draws much of its sound.
The only real strike against A Hundred Things is a lack of endurance. Halfway through the album, the sound gets tired and so does the listener. But the effect may be intentional. As closer “Floors” comes apart at the seams with a barrage of sloppy, interweaving horns, you can almost picture the band collapsing after the last note rings out.
We are Beautiful, We are Doomed
Arts & Crafts<
On listening to We are Beautiful, We are Doomed, you can’t help but feel a bit sorry for the members of Los Campesinos. If only half the songs on the album are based on real experiences, the Welsh seven-piece has lived more than their share of drama. Without being too overt about it, the band has built a concept album from failed relationships. But this isn’t garden-variety pining. The voice—not really one person, since vocal duties are passed around and often sung en masse—provides an often hilarious, always melodramatic perspective on relationships and life. These storylines have the kind of labyrinthian high school complexity perhaps best expressed by the line “I seduced your ex-boyfriend, to help you get over him / You found him more attractive, it helped you get over me.”
Los Campesinos has a kitchen-sink instrumental approach that calls to mind Broken Social Scene: strings blend with plenty of fuzzy guitar lines, and shouted lyrics are more often than not doubled on the glockenspiel. Their musical competence is one of the most important elements of the album, since they have a style that embraces the chaos of the vocals and subject matter. Without their innovative and competent playing, the songs could easily descend into frivolous-sounding pop-punk.
This album’s faults lie in the similarity of its songs. Sometimes, the bitter-but-funny one-liners get tired, and the album, while musically upbeat, completely lacks in the light lyrical fare that peppered Hold On Now, Youngster… The band also makes the strange choice of ending We are Beautiful, We are Doomed in Soprano’s style, cutting the final song mid-bar.
Los Campesinos clearly aren’t afraid to tamper with convention: We are Beautiful, We are Doomed was released less than a year after their previous album, and without any singles. It’s a strong collection of songs, and it’s exciting to look forward to what these young romantics will release next.
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