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Quick Takes: Thinking Machines, Hoquiam, Errors, and Foals

I’m fighting Sonic Youth burn-out at the moment, midway through the decidedly trying SYR series. Thankfully the following 2010 releases have kept me going.

Thinking Machines' Work Tapes

Thinking MachinesWork Tapes: The follow-up to their superb 2008 album The Complete History of Urban Archaeology has a street date of June 4, but it’s already slotted itself into my eventual year-end list. Adding a second guitarist to the muscular indie rock of its predecessor, Work Tapes makes a slight trade-off of immediacy for depth, but the payoff came by the second listen. That spin came at top volume in the car, which is exactly where I’d recommend playing Work Tapes. The initial highlights are the taunt rhythms of “Pays to Know,” the emotional vocals of “Parallax,” and the ascendant melodies of the instrumental closer “Loop,” but every song on Work Tapes stands out with a monster riff, a gorgeous breakdown, or an urgent vocal hook. You’ll hear more about this one, I assure you.

From what I can gather, TMvFM will release Work Tapes, presumably through digital distribution, but I’d absolutely love a physical pressing. Perhaps taking a cue from Gordon Withers’ album and doing a Kickstarter drive for funding would make it happen, but I’d gladly drop $25 for a 2LP of Complete History and Work Tapes. Any tour dates outside of Philly would also be appreciated.

Hoquiam's Hoquiam LP

Hoquiam – Hoquiam: Fans of Damien Jurado get a double dose this year. His proper follow-up to 2008’s Caught in the Trees, Saint Bartlett, will come out on Secretly Canadian on May 25th. You can hear “Arkansas” from Secretly Canadian’s site. Presumably its overtones of ’50s and ’60s pop will extend to the rest of Saint Bartlett, giving the album an oldies vibe separate from the rock and folk of Caught in the Trees. The difference in personnel is notable, since producer Richard Swift is the only other contributing musician, leaving usual Jurado cohorts like Eric Fisher and Jenna Conrad to help out with the long-awaited Ghost Wars album from Arlie Carstens of Juno.

First, however, Jurado fans should track down Hoquiam’s self-titled LP, his collaboration with his brother Drake. Its seventeen short tracks vary nicely between up-tempo stomps, layered folk, and the hushed personal tales at which Jurado excels. It finds the perfect middle ground between spontaneity and polish. It’s entirely conceivable that Hoquiam could surpass Saint Bartlett.

There are only 500 LPs to go around, so I recommend ordering soon from St. Ives or elsewhere. Each cover is handmade, so even if there’s a repress I’d venture it’ll be less unique.

Errors' Come Down with Me

Errors – Come Down with Me: Errors’ second full-length stresses what was already their foremost strength: it’s difficult to come up with a more listenable band in my regular rotation. Come Down with Me isn’t marked by any huge departures in their usual post-electro-sound, but rather an ongoing honing of their melodic instincts and textual layers. Lead single “A Rumour in Africa” (check out the vaguely creepy video on YouTube) and “Supertribe” follow up the lighthearted jaunt of “Salut! France”; “Antipode,” “The Erskine Bridge,” and “The Black Tent” emphasize the group’s drifting atmosphere; while closer “Beards” comes close to Stereolab’s lounge territory. It’s a consistently solid album, precisely what I expect from Errors. Is that a soft sell? Sure. But Errors has never struck me as a group that would blow someone away, rather casually yet insistently insinuate themselves into your regular listening habits.

Foals – “Spanish Sahara”: Foals’ sophomore effort, Total Life Forever, is slated for May, but if its first taste is any indication, it’ll be worth the wait. “Spanish Sahara” takes a measured, patient approach to its build-up, initially avoiding any trace of the energetic dance-punk of Antidotes, but its refrain lingers. It’s a step toward Radiohead, sure, but the pay-off applies the interlocked guitars of earlier Foals to this new template.

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