Frontier Psychiatrist

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Andrew Bird_Break It Yourself_Hands of Glory_Frontier Psychiatrist

Andrew Bird

In addition to being one of the most talented pop musicians of his or any generation, Andrew Bird is a damn hard worker. As a solo artist, he has completed at least 10 releases since 2003’s Weather Systems, including instrumental albums, live compilations and EPs on top of five full-lengths. His loop-based compositions are a sight and sound to behold, and Birdman has built an impressive reputation as one of the most imaginative and original performers of the genre formerly known as indie rock. Not content to rest on his laurels, Birdman is wrapping up a most successful, prolific and affecting 2012 with his second full-length in seven months, Hands of Glory.

Billed as a companion piece to March’s superb Break It Yourself, Hands of Glory is Bird at his most reserved yet exploratory. Allowing himself the freedom of live recording and stripped down arrangements, Bird’s mastery and passion to rise to the top. From Hands of Glory’s opening track “Three White Horses”, it’s clear Bird has taken the saying “less is more” to heart. Maybe it was that tasty tomato bread we served him last summer at Celebrate Brooklyn.

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Ty Segall_2012 LPs_Twins_Slaughterhouse_Hair

Ty Segall’s 2012, from left to right: Hair, Slaughterhouse, Twins

Ty Segall knows how to save the best for last. Twins—out this week on Chicago’s Drag City Records—is the third Segall-related release of the year, and his solo follow-up to last year’s breakout Goodbye Bread. The most enigmatic and schizophrenic rocker this side of Jack White, Segall has delivered a piece that flawlessly combines his stoner heavy blues jams with his British Invasion psych-pop gems with his punk ragers. A contender for Artist of the Year, Segall takes a serious step towards stardom on Twins.

Far more concise yet diverse than his previous two records of 2012, Twins is a pop behemoth, with moments as terrifying as they are sweet. While “polished” isn’t quite the right word, the production value is purposefully raised here, adding a commanding bottom with both clean and highly distorted guitars. The result is Segall’s most accessible album to date without sacrificing any of his edge.

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Heart_Hydra Head_Facebook

As you well know, we love a great axe-man. A long running theme in our coverage this year is the rise in support for acts with huge guitar sounds. Though, in many ways, this has been a very rough year for the intelligent and progressive metal world. First, High on Fire and Sleep guitarist Matt Pike cancelled their extensive summer tour and checked into rehab following his strongest release in years. Next, the tour bus of rising southern metal lords Baroness fell 30 ft from a viaduct near Bath, England, not a month after their newest Yellow and Green hit #30 on the Billboard 200. Most recently, the Los Angeles metal institution Hydra Head Records announced they will no longer be releasing music.

Founded in 1993 in New Mexico by to-be Isis frontman, then high school student Aaron Turner, Hydra Head Records blazed a significant trail of darkness, doom, sludge and heavy across the music industry. Despite their challenging (“i.e. unmarketable” writes Turner) artists and art, Hydra Head has influenced and inspired open-minded metalheads for a generation. The demise of Hydra Head is a serious blow to the world of the heavy, and yet another sign that the industry of old can no longer survive. On the plus side, we’re left with a staggering discography of at least a decade’s worth the best metal around. The upcoming fire sale will be an exciting one to watch, as we’re sure to see some very exciting releases and rereleases.

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Lorn_Ask The Dust_Front Psych

There is a powerful, sinister quality to Ask the Dust, the newest release from Milwaukee-based electronic producer Lorn. The album has almost a transformational quality to it. I first listened to it in a Laundromat, as once innocent looking dryers morphed into cold and distant industrial machinery; a paunchy, shirtless man transforming from an eccentric curiosity into a symbol of hopelessness with whom I was suddenly unwilling to make eye contact. It was as though suddenly my laundry trip was directed by Christopher Nolan.

The foreboding nature of Ask the Dust seems to draw inspiration from a number of sources, mixing the industrial groove of Nine Inch Nails’s “Closer”, the forward-thinking hip hop of Shabazz Palaces, and the European dubstep of acts Burial. The dubstep touchstones are easiest to parse, particularly due to the album’s near-fetishization of bass and haunting, disembodied vocals. But the album grooves in a way uncharacteristic of the genre, occasionally substituting the often clicky-sounding drum machine percussion of the genre with live percussion. Lorn pays an incredible amount of attention to detail, punctuating his songs with icy synths and buzzing bass tones that have clearly been tweaked in order to set the right mood. The result is an album equal parts slinky and ominous, occasionally even challenging in its most bleak moments.

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There is a school of thought that real balls-out, face-melting, teeth-gnashing, soul-blazing rock and roll doesn’t exist anymore. Those who subscribe argue that the contemporary indiesphere or popular music in general has passed on meaty guitars, soring solos and scorched vocals, favoring syrupy synths or jangly acoustics. If you’ve spent any time on FP this year, you’d know that this isn’t the case. Rock and roll is back in a big way, whether it’s the Sonic Youth-esque squalor of The Men’s Open Your Heart, the jet-black psychedelia of Royal Bath’s Better Luck Next Life or Cloud Nothings’ Steve Albini boosted emo-punk callback Attack on Memory. Never content to let others have all the fun, contemporary psych godfather Ty Segall sounds the alarm with this year’s most punishing record yet, and perhaps his best to date: Slaughterhouse, released 6/26 on In The Red and now streaming at Spin.

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Moonrise Kingdom Poster

(Warning! This review contains spoilers. Click here for a comparative analysis of Moonrise Kingdom and Seth MacFarlane’s Ted Click here for Franklin Laviola’s 2012 New York Film Festival Preview)

Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom is a featherlight comedy about two rebellious twelve year-olds, pursuing love and adventure in the summer of 1965.

On a small island, somewhere off the coast of New England, orphan Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) flees his Khaki Scout camp in a canoe, with plenty of pilfered supplies, a BB gun, a corncob pipe, and a Davy Crockett hat.  On the other side of the island, Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward), who has a tendency to go “berserk” on her classmates and dysfunctional family, runs away from home, carrying her brother’s record player, a collection of fantasy novels, a kitten in a basket, and her special pair of binoculars.  A golden meadow awaits the couple’s rendezvous.

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Daughn-Gibson_All Hell_Review

Our collective notion of order is slowly being eroded by the postmodern era in which we live. Howard Stern is the host of a television talent show. Dumpster diving is a fad. Edamame is sold at grocery stores in portable pouches. People are becoming fragmented and contradictory, at best diversified and informed, at worst overexposed and under processed.

Consider Daughn Gibson’s All Hell (2012, White Denim) a reflection of the postmodern condition. Gibson makes folk music with flourishes that feel reminiscent of modern electronic music. As a result, classifying All Hell is difficult. Should we call it Folktronica? Post Cash-step? The best analogue I can come up with is the Beta Band, based mainly on the folk tie-in and the undeniable groove that characterizes the album’s best moments. All Hell is largely sample based, centered around repeating loops of twangy guitars and saloon-style piano lines over simple drum machine beats. Gibson’s booming baritone is the centerpiece of the record, alternately channeling Johnny Cash and Ian Curtis. He also uses his voice as his own personal backing choir, punctuating songs with manipulated, cooing vocal samples.

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Sons of Dionysus

A Transmedia Novel of Myth, Mirth, and the Magical Excess of Youth.