Posts by: jkhobby

Like many people, us hobbyists tend to blink and see the entire summer go by.  As it turns out we spent more of this summer listening to music instead of writing about music…. our apologies.  Now that fall has officially arrived it’s almost time to revive our music libraries with some darker, maybe even more cerebral music, but there are still a few BBQs and unseasonably warm days ahead.

What Did You Expect from The Vaccines? is a perfect bridge from summer to fall.  Post punk rock, nouveau punk, pop punk, punk pop rock or whatever else you want to call it The Vaccines are firing on all cylinders with this 12-track album which runs a tight 35 minutes and 56 seconds.  The opening track is as flawless as an under-2-minute-track can be; an upbeat intro with nonsensical lyrics – “Pretty good, Wrecking Ball (Ra Ra Ra) ra yeah you are” - that sets the tone for the ‘A’ side tracks of the album.  If You Wanna  is a more proper post-punk (rock) song with a simple guitar-backed chorus and driving drum beat that will likely have you singing along on your first listen.

As you may have expected, the album starts off fast and ends up slow.  However, unlike the traditional A Side /B Side pattern the downtempo tracks are interspersed between the sing along rock & roll songs, something like this: A, A, A-B, B, B, A, A-B, A, B, A, B, B.  Post-Breakup Sex is a funny, smart, ballad about poor decisions which manages to make you enjoy listening to someone who is basically telling you “I told you so”.

At the risk of over-selling, this album reminds us of how we felt when we listened to The Strokes’ Is This It for the first time.  The choruses are just catchy enough.  The songs are just short enough.  The lyrics are just clever enough.  The slower songs just avoid being too broody.  And while we realize this doesn’t count for anything musically, fellow music nerds may think it’s kind of cool that the albums are only 8 seconds apart in total length.

What Did You Expect from The Vaccines? is a steal at $6.99 and you can buy it here on iTunes.

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With July right around the corner we are almost ready to delve into the wonderful sunny indie pop which enhances any good Hobbyists’ beach days and BBQ parties.   However, we still need something to listen to on those quiet Sunday mornings at home, when we’re not quite sure if we want to get out of bed and face the day (or recover from last night’s post-beach party)!  Wild Beasts‘ new album Smother fits the bill perfectly.

The stunning video for Albatross caught our attention a while ago and we have had the album on steady all-song-repeat since its release in mid May.  Smother is truly an album best-appreciated in its entirety.  The beautiful, thoughtful melodies naturally flow into each other.   Light cymbal beats, Hayden’s falsetto voice and the odd synth sound effect carry us from one song to the next.  High points on this journey include a poetic homage to Ophelia in Bed of Nails and spot-on ‘loopy’ guitar hooks in Loop the Loop.  Reach a Bit Further is another stand-out track which easily matches the powerful beauty of All the King’s Men on 2009′s Mercury-nominated Two Dancers.

Burning appears to be a low point on the album, until the aptly titled End Come Too Soon comes on and you realize that the somewhat harsh use of sound effects in the 9th track sets up the albums’ close perfectly.  Listening to it almost makes us breath a sigh of relief, before we press play on the first track and start the process all over again.  After all, we’re still not quite sure if we’re ready to get up and face the day.

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In case you are feeling like jumping for joy in celebration of the Canuck’s 14th playoff win, we’ve found the perfect video for you to dance to.   Robyn’s latest video from last year’s epic album Body Talk was released a few days ago and is fully deserving of the positive hype raining down from hipsters and indie blogs everywhere.

We Hobbyists are big fans of Robyn, and this video should show any skeptics why she is great.  Other modern female pop artists often seem to require elaborate sets, hundreds of back up dancers or edgy costumes to sell their songs.  While we are also fans of those other, more popular, pop queens Robyn shows that all you need is a few lights in an empty warehouse to be positively captivating.  Enjoy.

\”Call Your Girlfriend\” video by Robyn

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While patio season is, in theory, just around the corner our Vancouver Hobbyists have been stuck with one of the coldest, rainiest Mays on record.  Upbeat “patio pop” music is not a great soundtrack for grey skies and drizzling rain so we decided to compile a few new songs more suited to staying indoors, some of which we’ve told you about already.

Why “From B to A”?  Because we’ve flipped the order of traditional record and mixtape ‘A’ and ‘B’ Sides.   Like this month’s weather, our list starts off slowly with ballads from Destroyer and Lykke Li, and a beautiful stripped down acoustic guitar melody by Kurt Vile.  Montezuma is the lyrically stunning opening track from Fleet Foxes’ new album Helpless Blues, and The Decemberists’ June Hymn makes us simultaneously look forward to this June and reflect upon past summers spent in sleepy small towns.

The list picks up speed ~halfway through (as we hope the weather will improve) with another opening track from the self-titled new Avi Buffalo album.  PJ Harvey’s The Glorious Land uses a driving beat accented with bugle calls to capture the spirit of rainy England and The Go! Team’s Rolling Blackouts seems perfectly suited for driving through a thunderstorm.  We also cannot wait for you to hear TV On The Radio’s Second Song, an excellent track from their new album Nine Kinds of Light.

Some of these selections are a little darker and not suited to true spring and summer weather.  However, the good news is that since few of these songs are natural ‘singles’ from their respective albums you stand an excellent chance of discovering their peppier cousins for yourself; if you like a track, consider purchasing the rest of the album!

  1. Suicide Demo for Kara Walker by Destroyer (Kaputt) 2011
  2. Baby’s Arms by Kurt Vile (Smoke Ring for My Halo) 2011
  3. Forget That You’re Young by The Ravonettes (Raven in the Grave) 2011
  4. Love Out of Lust by Lykke Li (Wounded Rhymes) 2011
  5. All Die Young (Demo) by Smith Westerns (Dye it Blonde) 2011
  6. Montezuma by Fleet Foxes (Helplessness Blues) 2011
  7. June Hymn by The Decemberists (The King is Dead) 2011
  8. Straight Ahead by Morcheeba (Blood Like Lemonade) 2010
  9. Truth Sets In by Avi Buffalo (Avi Buffalo) 2011
  10. The Glorious Land by PJ Harvey (Let England Shake) 2011
  11. Rolling Blackouts by The Go! Team (Rolling Blackouts) 2011
  12. Second Song by TV On The Radio (Nine Types of Light) 2011
  13. How I Know by Toro Y Moi (Underneath the Pine) 2011
  14. It Happened Today by R.E.M. (Collapse Into Now) 2011
  15. Heart in Your Heartbreak by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (Belong) 2011
  16. Human by Oh Land (Oh Land) 2011
  17. There is a Light That Never Goes Out covered by Dum Dum Girls (He Gets Me High – EP) 2011

Try this list out driving down an overcast highway on your way out of town this weekend, or in concert with raindrops hitting the roof of a cozy cabin.  As always, you can buy all or part of the playlist on iTunes by clicking here.

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We’ve been playing the new The Pains of Being Pure at Heart album Belong on repeat for weeks, so we didn’t want to let April slip by without writing about it…. but then the Canucks made it to round 2 and we got a little bit distracted!   Belong is the second full length album by TPoBPaH, a follow up to last year’s self-titled debut.

The title track, Belong, opens the album with the same full, lush layered sounds we heard in Contender which almost remind us of My Bloody ValentineHeaven’s Gonna Happen Now is by far the album’s top track; it’s so cheerfully upbeat that it makes us want to dance around in sock feet in our living room, singing along to the lyrics even though we aren’t 100% certain what they are.  We also strongly suspect that it’s the only song ever written about the future ambitions of the Justines of the world.

Heart in Your Heart Break is similarly peppy but nicely contrasts with the preceeding tracks with a few more minor chords and a brilliant slow bridge between healthy doses of the catchy yet sombre pre-bridge and outro:

“And no matter what you pray,
It’s never gonna take the pain away
And even if she’d stay you know it’s wrong.”

While the first four tracks are definitely the strongest (The Body is our fourth favourite sing along track), Belong is still worth listening to in its entirety.  Try it out as background music for an early-season BBQ.  Whether you are cooking outdoors in unseasonably warm European weather or toughing your way through the coldest spring on record in the Pacific Northwest The Pains of Being Pure at Heart will make you look forward to summer patio parties.

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We are really digging the new PoBPaH (aka Pains of Being Pure at Heart) album, and cannot wait to post our review…. a few days from now.  In the meantime here’s a video the title track of a 2-song single release you may have missed last year.   The song is Say No To Love; the video makes us want to spend the rest of the weekend running around outside, enjoying a spring breeze.

You can buy the single here on iTunes (splurge for the second track).  And Enjoy.

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After a bit of reminiscing we’re finally to delve into the new R.E.M. album.  Admittedly it’s more than a little difficult to evaluate new work by a band which had such a profound influence on our early music-listening years (we also won’t admit whether our first R.E.M. album was purchased on CD or cassette tape).  The tendency is to be either overly critical – since nothing can measure up to a middle school favourite – or too forgiving of an aging band’s shortcomings.

However, when we really stop to think about it, we rarely even listened to our favourite R.E.M. albums from start to finish.  No matter  how much you love Automatic for the People sometimes Night Swimming and Everybody Hurts are too broody.  And we bet quite a few people didn’t routinely listen past Star 69 on Monster.  A possible exception to this is Eponymous but compilation albums clearly don’t count.  So why should we expect to immediately love every track on a new R.E.M. album, or expect to always listen to that new album from start to finish?

Still, Collapse Into Now is the best new music R.E.M. has put out since the 90′s.  Michael Stipe’s voice has aged impossibly well and he’s finally putting it to good use.  The vocal melodies stand out equally well on quiet ballads like Walk It Back as they do on the more upbeat tracks like Discoverer.  He even sounds great duetting with Eddie Vedder on It Happened Today.

The much-talked-about guest singers subtly influence the album and mesh well with R.E.M.’s sound.  Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter is fun to listen to, and it was easy to picture them romping around with Peaches even before we saw the video.  Patti Smith guests on Blue which you should expect to love or hate in direct proportion to how much you like R.E.M.’s experimental tracks.  We are not big fans, but at least Blue ends with a 1’30″ outro which makes us want to replay the album all over again.  Every Day is Yours to Win is another skippable, drab, song with lyrics you might expect to hear on a Postal Service Album.  ”I cannot tell a lie.  It’s not all cherry pie.  But it’s all there waiting for you, yeah you”.

Überlin is easily Collapse’s top track. Stipe draws you into the song, literally in the first second with “Hey” and carries you via poetic lyrics to a fantastic dark-yet-upbeat chorus.  That Someone is You is a close second; at under 2 minutes it’s a catchy, tight, track with some same of the alt-country notes as R.E.M.’s best 80′s songs.  Other highlights are Discoverer for inviting us into the album almost as effectively as Drive did way back when, and the great guitar/clapping/wordless vocal bridge which dominates It Happened Today.

Collapse Into Now’s highs more than cancel out its lows.  Check it out, if only to hear what’s new from an old friend.

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The difference between graffiti and ‘street art’ can be difficult to define, and also a contentious conversation topic depending on who you’re talking to.  However, we think most people would agree that Unurth collects photographic examples of the latter.  New work from well-known street artists like Banksy, Escif and others is posted on almost a daily basis.   You can also browse extensive collections by artist, by city or by theme.

Unurth’s most recent post of work by Hyuro in Valencia caught our attention, partly because we have Spain on the brain and partly because the arborous design seems fitting for spring.  Enjoy!

Hyuro's Human Tree in Valencia

Photo via Unurth.com

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As summer approaches and our social lives pick up again background music becomes increasingly important for a variety of situations, whether at home alone or out with friends.  We freely confess that we’re the sort of people who beg/borrow/steal whichever iPod is actively playing (or in some case stealthily switch in our own) to play preferred tunes; in this column we’ll share some of those playlists.

In Time: A decent collection but what about 1983-1987?

This particular Hobbyist has been without highspeed internet access for several weeks and therefore has a collection of new albums to download and sift through.  In anticipation of listening to Collapse Into Now – which is getting surprisingly good buzz for a 200th album – playing an overview of  R.E.M.’s older songs seemed appropriate.  Even if you have a copy of In Time – The Best of R.E.M. lying around (possibly a gift from a well-meaning aunt or cousin) these songs are still worth a listen… and you won’t have to go to a whole other best of album to hear the majority of the good 80′s tracks.

This playlist is perfect for a Sunday Morning.  Have breakfast at the table with a good friend or a good book and a nice cup of coffee and take a trip through time with this chronological collection of songs by one of the all-time great bands of the 80′s and 90′s.  Their 00′s efforts are admittedly omitted due to our complete lack of expertise.

  1. Radio Free Europe (Murmur) 1983
  2. So. Central Rain (Reckoning) 1984
  3. Rockville (Reckoning) 1984
  4. Can’t Get There From Here (Fables of the Reconstruction) 1985
  5. Driver 8 (Fables of the Reconstruction) 1985
  6. The One I Love (Document) 1987
  7. It’s the End of the World as We Know It (Document) 1987
  8. Orange Crush (Green) 1988
  9. Stand (Green) 1988
  10. Near Wild Heaven (Out of Time) 1991
  11. Losing My Religion (Out of Time) 1991
  12. Drive (Automatic for the People) 1992
  13. The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite (Automatic for the People) 1992
  14. Man on the Moon (Automatic for the People) 1992
  15. What’s the Frequency Kenneth (Monster) 1994
  16. Star 69 (Monster) 1994
  17. Bang and Blame (Monster) 1994
  18. The Great Beyond [Man on the Moon (Music from the Motion Picture)] 1999

All playlists are posted on iTunes so you can easily purchase the music, which is important to us.  You can buy the entire R.E.M.-trospective playlist on iTunes by clicking here (then clicking one or two more times after that).

UPDATE: Added a new first track for an insistent friend who shall remain nameless.  Let’s call it a reevaluation of our reasons for omitting it (namely, adding the track to a future Background Sound playlist).

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It’s a bit embarrassing to admit that none of us had ever heard of Lykke Li before this Hobbyist saw her on the cover of this month’s SPIN Magazine at Hudson News in the Anchorage Airport.  SPIN saw fit to name her one of 2011′s “next big things” but this is actually her second full length album, a follow up to 2008′s Youth Novels. Youthful indeed since it was released when the Swedish-born pop artist was a mere 21 years old.

Wounded Rhymes starts off strong.  Youth Knows No Pain has a borderline 60′s/70′s feeling from the dark and groovy lyrics straight through to the Doors-esque synthesizer and assortment of drums which drive the verses in the background.  In fact, percussion is used in interesting ways throughout the album, especially in songs like I Follow Rivers.  It’s difficult to identify all of the different instruments she uses which makes us suspect some of them are either synthetic or sourced form a country we’ve never heard of.

Comparisons to other Scandinavian pop divas like Robyn or Annie are not surprising and for ballads like Unrequited Love that’s not too far off, but some curious chord combinations and low-fi recording techniques take away from Lykke’s otherwise lovely voice.  I Know Places seemed like a significant improvement… until we were bored to tears by the completely unnecessary 2 minute outro.  Silent My Song is better-executed and aptly named but still seems a bit sleepy for a closing track on an otherwise upbeat album.

[Current] favourite tracks:  Love Out of Lust for it’s beautiful chorus and hopeful lyrics; Rich Kids Blues for being exactly the right length to maximize enjoyment of the chorus; and Jerome for being just plain cool.

Overall, the ballads will probably not be to everyone’s liking but the peppy hits have definite mass appeal.  This is a solid sophomore album, and we’re already looking forward to hearing more from Lykke Li; whether that’s live or on her inevitable third album remains to be seen.

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