permanent record

Permanent Record: Music Reviews | The Flaming Lips And Heady Fwends

The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends | Lovely Sorts of Death / Warner Bros | 2012   Record Store Day started out as way to raise awareness and appreciation to our local and independently owned record stores and has quickly turned into a hysteria. Part of that hysteria is always The Flaming Lips, whom always make something for the flurry of Record Store Day only releases - the sure to sell-out collectibles and completely unnecessary one-offs.

   This year, The Flaming Lips are culminating a series of collaborations they begun in 2011, when they released EPs with Neon Indian, Prefuse 73, and Lightning Bolt (check out my previous reviews of the Prefuse 73, Lightning Bolt, and Neon Indian EPs following the link). An extension of that program, The Flaming Lips And Heady Fwends includes a track of each of those EPs and ten other tracks with collaborators as far ranging as Nick Cave to Ke$ha. Heady Fwends also maintains the graphic design elements of the earlier EPs: beautiful marbled vinyl and record sleeves printed with psychedelic details of sound waves. 

   Heady Fwends is a double LP and as I excitedly opened the packaging, I realized that instead of a nice gatefold sleeve as I was anticipating, the album is merely two LP jackets cellophaned into one package. No matter, but with the exorbitant $49.99 price tag I was expecting a bit more for my money. After admiring the beautiful marbled vinyl (Disc 1 a beautiful marigold, Disc 2 a psychedelic sunburst) and decoding which side was what I laid the record on the platter and gave it a spin.Disc 2 of The Flaming Lips And Heady Fwends

   All of the songs on Heady Fwends contain an outer-space fuzz and highlight The Flaming Lips at their weirdest. Most all everyone can do is try and keep up as best as they can, lending a real surprising fun to when unexpected collaborations like opening track "2012 (You Must Be Upgraded)" with Ke$ha and Biz Markie work out so well. And it's The Flaming Lips ability to push everyone out of their comfort level that makes this record so successful. In the next track "Ashes In The Air" The Flaming Lips have Bon Iver singing the strangest lyrics to be uttered out of the Wisconsin singer-songwriter's mouth ("we thought we could outrun them/but they had robot dogs").

   Bands like Nick Cave and Lightning Bolt who are already on the weirder side of things seem to relish the chance to be so strange and bring forth some of the strongest cuts from the album. "You, Man? Human???" the Nick Cave track will make you wonder why these two artists haven't gotten together sooner - "I haven't been human for years, but you can touch me, if you can." Heady Fwends alternates between aggressive, ridiculous, slow and brooding, atmospheric, and whatever exists in the space between it all. Wayne Coyne capitalizes on what their collaborators bring to the table as musicians and then Flaming Lips the fuck out of it.

   What really makes this record a joy is the attention to detail. Apart from my previous complaint about not being packaged as a gatefold LP, everything is considered. The collars of each record has a bizarre or hilarious message scrawled into the wax and, my favorite, each side ends with a repeating sample - Ke$ha endlessly looping, "Shit" on the end of side 1 for example. Heady Fwends has a wonderful pacing and sounds incredibly cohesive for a collaboration record. If you're a The Flaming Lips fan The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends is fantastic addition to the collection, but, unless you already have a penchant for weird music, might not be worth the high price tag.

Music: jj - "Beautiful Life"

jj | "beautiful life 7" | secretly canadian & sincerely yours | 2012   You've got to love when you find great new music in your inbox. Such was the case when I got a nice little e-mail from the Sweedish label Sincerely Yours.

   Probably my favorite group from one of my favorite labels, jj is out with a new release. Continuing the obvious trend, their fourth release will be titled jj nº4 and be available for purchase as a 7" on May 8th from Sincerely Yours or, if you prefer the bigger boys, Secretly Canadian for the reasonable price of 6 €. "Beautiful Life" will be the single and it will be backed with "Burn."

   Do yourself a favor and check out the lovely sound of the artic tropics that only a band as sly and elegant as jj could make. Think of city lights twinkling down a slow moving river, licking the last bite of caviar from off a small silver spoon, and you might be close. 

   || do you know where the sunrise fits our nights? || if you do, will you tell me? ||

   || it's a beautiful night | to live our beautiful life ||

Permanent Record - Best LPs of 2011 - Flaming Lips Collaboration Series

   On the spindle for the Flaming Lips / Neon Indian 12" EP the phrase "The Flaming Lips Love You" is etched onto the vinyl. With three different collaboration EPs - with Neon Indian, Prefuse 73, and Lightning Bolt respectively - Flaming Lips have gone ahead and proved that sentiment.

   These EPs are a record collector's wet dream. All of the releases are from limited runs (although the exact numbers are unclear), pressed onto different combinations of colored wax, and are vinyl only releases - no .mp3 downloads or CDs of any kind. And while some groups delegate the weirder/experimental/unlistenable parts of their oeuvre to exist only on wax, The Flaming Lips give us a lot of top-rate material here, especially given that The Flaming Lips are no strangers to the weirder/experimental/unlistenable side of music.

   The first EP with Neon Indian is the mellowest of the affair offering great low-key songs and the wonderfully understated "Alan's Theremin." The second EP comes from their collaboration with IDM'er Prefuse 73. The two produce a wonderfully synthesized sound, a cohesiveness the belies the speed at which the EPs were made. Once again, our record spindle advises, this time promoting to: "Legalize Marijuana NOW!" An apt recommendation when giving this EP a spin. The EP takes the textured and movement oriented pieces that Guillermo Scott Herren has been constructing for his Prefuse 73 recordings and mating them with The Flaming Lips' s undisputed mastery of the stoner-jam. These two come together to make some epic tunes, most notably "Guilliermo's Bolero" which constitutes all of Side-B."Legalize Marijuana Now!" says Warner Brothers/Lovely Sorts of Death Records

   The third EP collaboration that the Lips released in 2011 was with noise-rock dignitaries Lightning Bolt. With their abrasive punk demeanor and penchant for noise, Lightning Bolt is the most sensible of The Flaming Lips' collaborators, and it shows. Tracks like "I Wanna Get High (But I Don't Want Brain Damage)" and "I'm Working At NASA On Acid" might make the most single-worthy tracks from the sets, but the strengths of these releases lie anywhere but in their single potential.

   All three EPs share the same design concept: a textless cover featuring a close-cropped detail of a song file (presumably a track off the album in question) in black-and-white. The inner sleeve is the same, except in a wild array of brightly saturated colors. Each disc is colored in a wonderful marble and the set features some of the best song names around. Including the aforementioned "I'm Working At NASA On Acid" there's also "Superman Made Me Want To Pee" (w/Prefuse 73) and "Is David Bowie Dying?" (w/Neon Indian).

   While, understandably, each EP has its own sound, the group does play well together. Many of the songs build upon the dark and brooding sound The Flaming Lips have been cultivating since 2009's Embryonic, colored with either Neon Indian's 80's sensibilities, Prefuse 73's detail, or Lightning Bolt's abrasive bravado. In all cases, these acts have embraced their experimentations and instead of trying to polish them into something sleek and perfect, have played up the aurally expressive and off-the-cuff qualities to take us on a strange journey (seemingly always to outer space with Wayne Coyne and his bunch) than just merely adding a few more tracks to the library. Where some acts seem to have a problem curating their releases, The Flaming Lips always seem to have meaning to their experimentations, something gained. Coyne has announced that 2012 will have more of these kinds of collaborations. Talk is that it could be with Nick Cave, Death Cab For Cutie, and Ke$ha. One thing's for sure, we're in for another good year from The Flaming Lips.


Permanent Record - Best LPs of 2011 - Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues

SP - 888: Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues; 2011.   Helplessness Blues begins with a song called "Montezuma" that goes: "So now I am older/ than my mother and my father/ when they had their daughter/ now what does that say about me?" Essentially, it says that Fleet Foxes are the Crosby, Stills, Nash, and, yes, sometimes Young for the current generation - whoever they are. Raising glub comparisons does nothing for the band; however, this little un-assuming band from Seattle, WA has made good on the promise of the new folk revival.

   Even down to the album artwork (a beautifully drawn piece by Toby Liebowitz and painted by Chris Alderson) this album feels like one of those classic LPs you might find in a stack of your parents old record collection. All that's missing is that moldy basement smell. Apparently, the guys wanted that Van Morrison Astral Weeks where, "there were only six hours in the universe for that album to be recorded in," or so says frontman Robin Pecknold.

   Mission accomplished boys, good work. The album ranges from serenely folkish to Gershwinian jazz, up and down, honest. And what makes this album special is its honesty. "I was raised up believing/ I was somehow unique/ like a snowflake, distinct among snowflakes/ unique in each way you'd conceive./ And now after some thinking/ I'd say I'd rather be/ a functioning cog in some great machinery/ serving something beyond me" Pecknold ponders in "Helplessness Blues" and stumbles upon a sentiment growing more common - a want to contribute to the world and community at large. These songs are epic, but not too downtrodden, just maybe bouncy enough to get people dancing in a barn.We also love it because you can see it on a shelf!

   As far as record packages go, you can't go wrong with a nice large poster and that's exactly what Helplessness Blues has for you. A nice reproduction of the drawing on the front cover (sans color) and a bunch of nice interesting thank you's on the back. Fleet Foxes label Sub Pop has been making vinyl a lot longer than you've been listening to it, and once again the quality is superb. Super flat, thick wax and everything sounds glorious. Basically, this is most things you can want from a record, which is why it's one of the best LPs of 2011.




Permanent Record - Best LPs of 2011 - Sleep ∞ Over: Forever.

HIT 012: Sleep ∞ Over: Forever; 2011.   The new year has come, and like all beginnings, there is some time spent looking back from whence we came, appreciating the change. So, for the next five days, I'll be highlighting my favorite records of 2011. And when I say records, I, of course, mean LPs. So, we'll be considering these albums by not only their music, but also the accompanying art work, design, and collectablility. We're looking for those elements that seemingly make something worth owning, that make a release special. Our first stand-out record this year was the Hippos in Tanks release of Sleep ∞ Over Forever.

   The music hums like levitation, dreamlike as tones fall in and out of sync with one another. Sleep ∞ Over opens her album to this mysterious landscape - arresting in the best way avant-garde music can be - before dropping a luscious synth track and the avant-garde tag altogether. Forever follows this path throughout. Stefanie Franciotti crafts intricately textured soundscapes, blue things blooming in a green forest, before leading us to an unsuspecting pop song. Don't be fooled, even these gems are slowed, warped from time, gossamer, photographed by a lens smeared in vaseline.

   There is something vulnerable to Ms. Franciotti's music. Dangerous, but alluring. In almost all cases, her vocals are concealed by filters or layers of sound distorted to where they sound like memories - there, but not quite. The effect leaves a haunting impression that something has been lost, never to return.

   The artwork to Forever suggests as much. The sparse dark pink cover gives no indication to performer or title, but only portrays a small bronze figurine of a vixenous victim down to her garters, bound like an animal. The cover gives us the front of the statue and the back cover displays the rear. Only the spine of the record indicates the artist and other pertinent information. The inner sleeve follows this color combination, with a black ground to dark pink text indicating track names and performers, one side of which is blank. The vinyl itself is a milky sea-foam green, a stark contrast to the black and pink of everything else. The contrast between the pink and green remind me of Van Gogh. I read somewhere that he particularly enjoyed how pink and that pale green interact, citing their proficiency of portraying human despair.

   Whether it's all the flying saucer noises or something else more sinister, Forever seems to have a sense of abduction or removal punctuated by two moments of opiated bliss: "Romantic Streams" and "Flying Saucers Are Real." These openings of sunshine are all the more captivating by their comparison to the dark world which they inhabit. Even "Stickers" seems to warble and fall apart at the end, dissipating into some harsh reality.

   Stefanie Franciotti has made anticipatory music with Sleep ∞ Over and Forever. Music is heading to a more atmospheric nature, punctuated by strong thematic tracks, and Franciotti has set an admirable example for the rest of us.  Label Hippos in Tanks have done well, releasing a record of equal weight to the music contained inside, hauntingly curious with the bound naked figurine adoring the cover. Forever is encompassing and easy to enjoy revealing quirks and caveats with headphoned listening. Definitely worth picking up and giving a spin.


Sleep ∞ Over - Forever by Hippos In Tanks