Grace Notes: James Blake, Toro Y Moi, Gamble House, Architecture in Helsinki

Grace Notes is a weekly exploration by Jason Morehead and Drew Dixon of signs of common grace in the music world.  We hope to alert you to wonderful music, some of which will be spiritual in nature but all of which will be unique and worthy of your attention.  Each week we will share a video or two highlighting music that we find particularly engaging and meaningful.

Jason:

James Blake

James Blake’s self-titled debut album has been receiving numerous accolades from all over the InterTubes — witness Pitchfork’s wildly enthusiastic review — as well as from a number of my friends. But Blake’s blend of delicate piano balladry, digitally processed vocals and incidental sounds, and dubstep rhythms, just hasn’t gelled for me. Sure it sounds fascinating at times, but for me, it’s akin to listening to a guitarist fiddle with their effects pedals: you may get some interesting sounds, but that doesn’t mean it’s a compelling listen. However, one of Blake’s latest b-sides, “What Was It You Said About Luck”, has gelled for me. Stylistically and sonically, it’s not at all different from anything I’ve heard to date from the man, but the way the layers of his processed vocals stand against the harsher electronic backdrop and echoing piano notes does tug at the heartstrings, as does the gentle synth melody that winds its through the bridge.

Toro Y Moi

There’s nothing quite so frustrating as an album that doesn’t live up to those first few tantalizing singles. Last year, that was the case with Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti and Before Today, and now it’s Toro Y Moi’s Underneath the Pine. So far, the album’s “chill-wave” atmospheres and songwriting just hasn’t done much for me. Indeed, I can’t think of any really memorable moments in the album. Except for those first two singles, “New Beat” but especially “Still Sound”. With its perfect blend of disco funk, synth bleeps and bloops, and lo-fi aesthetic, there’s no doubt that the song will make it onto my year-end mix.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lXzGJMOsOk

I am thankful for the indie music site Daytrotter for many reasons not the least of which is the Los Angeles based band Gamble House. Its interesting to me that Daytrotter’s write up wishes a similar fate on Gamble House to that which fell to Grizzly Bear (which has enjoyed tremendous critical if not commercial success) because there is a striking similarity between the two.  As a huge Grizzly Bear fan, I immediately identified with Gamble House’s distant sounding vocals, drum flourishes, and well paced yet intricate guitar work.  Gamble House’s commonalities with Grizzly Bear, however, never feel forced but rather like endearing homage to one of America’s greatest rock and roll outfits.  Simply put, Gamble house is a an excellent rock and roll band.  NYU grad and front man, Ben Becker hooked up with his bandmates in his hometown of LA to record their self-titled album which is in many ways a homecoming album.  Becker writes about simple moments in life–a day at the park, watching the tide come in with a loved one, and trips home but the care invested in these songs makes such moments memorable and worth recalling to mind.

Drew:

Given the discussion we have had this week on the site about whether or not video games are dumb, I thought this would be a good time to introduce you to Architecture in Helsinki’s tribute to the world of video games.  Paul Robertson, the lead character animator of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game (available on PSN and XBLA) worked with the band to produce this endearing and thoroughly entertaining video of their single, “Do the Whirlwind” back in 2006.  Anyway those of you who grew up playing games should find it entertaining.  Additionally the album from which this single comes, In Case We Die,  is excellent and my favorite offering from the Aussie band to date.   Unlike music I have recently been sharing with you, its quite busy but endearingly so.

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