by Keith Canisius (2009, Quince Records)

When listening to Rumskib’s self-titled debut several years back, I was struck by the duo’s exuberance, by the sense of joy that permeated their recording. The shoegazer genre has often been called “the scene that celebrates itself”, and here were a couple of shoegazers that were truly keen on celebrating.

That same feeling permeates Waves, the second solo album from Keith Canisius (one half of Rumskib). Indeed, Waves picks up right where Rumskib’s album left off: from the very get-go, Canisius dives headfirst into an ocean of shimmering, ethereal sounds, and does so with such enthusiasm that it’s hard to resist diving in right after him.

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Sing On In Silhouettes

by Crepusculum (2009, 12rec)

Crepusculum (aka Fred Baty) released his debut, The Sky Diaries EP, back in 2006. It was a pretty enough release, blending deft and intricate acoustic guitar compositions with electronics and field recordings. If nothing else, it was evidence that Baty was someone to keep an eye on. And with Sing On In Silhouettes, Baty’s second release on 12rec and his first full-length, he has delivered in spades.

Simply put, Sing On In Silhouettes is a much more confident and mature release than The Sky Diaries EP. Not only are the songs more involved and complex, but Baty’s arrangements and songwriting display a considerable grace and organic restraint. On songs like “A Fledgling Firework” and “Early Days”, it sounds less like Baty labored over them in some studio, but rather, let the songs develop and evolve naturally—always a hallmark of a talented musician (and it’s especially impressive considering Baty’s young age).

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Wind’s Poem

by Mount Eerie (2009, P.W. Elverum & Sun)

My second son was born just two weeks ago and therefore, thoughts of mortality and life’s fleetingness ought to be the furthest thing from my mind right now. However, I’ve been wrestling my way through Mount Eerie’s Wind’s Poem—and my subsequent review of it—for the last few months, and mortality and life’s fleetingness are essentially all that this album is about. So here I go again, launching myself headlong into the void after Phil Elverum.

Elverum has always been one of those artists that has existed on my periphery, and though I’ve been somewhat familiar with and intrigued by his work, I’ve never been all that pressed or convicted to delve too deeply into his considerable discography. But perhaps it was the evocative title, or the eerie (NPI) album artwork depicting snow-covered evergreens set against a murky winter sky. Or maybe it was the news/rumor that this was Elverum’s “black metal” album (not that I’m a black metal fan, mind you, but the combination of Elverum and black metal struck me as humorous, if not intriguing).

Whatever the case, I ended up getting Wind’s Poem... and I haven’t been the same since.

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We Were Flying Kites

by Stripmall Architecture (2009, Self-Released)

I’ve been writing about music for more than a decade now, and I’ve seen a lot of artists come and go (honestly, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it turned out that 80% of the artists I’ve reviewed over the years are now defunct). But there are some artists who continually stick around, who might go unheard from for a year or two, but then always get back onto my radar for whatever reason.

Ryan and Rebecca Coseboom are two such artists. I became aware of the Cosebooms via their first project, Anymore, which I discovered via a sampler that was offered on an old 4AD e-mail list that I once subscribed to. Then came Halou, their more electronica-minded outfit, which survived and transcended such terms as “trip-hop” and “downtempo” thanks to impeccable programming, plenty of 4AD-esque atmospherics, and Rebecca’s lovely vocals.

But Halou came to an end in 2008 while the group was touring with Bob Mould and the Cosebooms subsequently began Stripmall Architecture. It was originally an outlet for more experimental music than might’ve been associated with the Halou moniker, with live shows incorporating everything from “typical” electronics and guitars to typewriters and toy organs. But with the release of We Were Flying Kites, the Cosebooms have returned a little closer to the fold, so to speak—in many ways, We Were Flying Kites picks up right where Halou left off.

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by Ashberry (2009, Wounded Wolf)

We live in a society where art, and more specifically, music has increasingly become a commodity. The Internet, music blogs, file-sharing, MySpace—these have certainly made it easier to find, exchange, and promote music like never before. But sometimes, I can’t shake the feeling that by reducing music to ones and zeroes transmitted over the ether and stored in hard drives, we’ve made music even more disposable. We download songs, throw them on our iPods, give them a spin or two, and that’s it.

But there’s nothing physical to ground the music, to attach to it some measure of permanence or to provide even a small check against our increasing rate of consumption, and so it becomes all the more inconsequential: a commodity to be traded, examined, and tossed off with just a few mouse clicks.

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