Posted by: Ryan Allen on October 15, 2008 at 10:00 am

Ten Kens, Ten Kens (Fatcat, 2008)

MP3: “Refined”

Despite how awesome it would be if the band Ten Kens was comprised of ten men named Ken, it isn’t. But these four guys from Toronto do manage to create the sound of ten guys. Like Broken Social Scene meets Shudder To Think, their debut album is sonic layer over sonic layer of dramatic, fuzzed out guitar-centered indie anthems. Formed five years ago by founding members and songwriters Dean Tzenos (guitar) and Dan Workman (vocals), Ten Kens cycled through various rhythm section folk before finding Lee Stringle (bass) and Ryan Roantree (drums). The album lends itself well to a game of “Name That Influence” (various tracks make hard nods to Slint, Sonic Youth, Shellac, Black Sabbath and assorted early 90s Sub Pop favorites) but still manages to bring enough new stuff to the table to avoid being derivative. Tracks like “The Alternate Biker” and “Worthless & Oversimplified Ideas” show Ten Kens have a knack for going from melodic jangle to full guitar onslaught and back without losing the coherency and melodic drive that propels the whole show. Echoing the underlying economic sentiment of our times, the album closes with a dark, down tempo track called, “I Really Hope You Get To Retire” in which Workman sings, “You’ll pass this on to me some say, afford to save some day.” Whether he’s cursing Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson or just stating the obvious to his many indie-predecessors, Ten Kens should sleep tight, because they’re clearly making wise investments. — Laura Witkowski

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Posted by: Johnny Loftus on July 16, 2008 at 2:00 pm

Silje Nes, Ames Room (Fat Cat, 2008)

MP3: “Drown”

Her label relates that Ames Room, the full-length debut of Bergen, Norway’s Silje Nes, was recorded at home. Really? She must have easily-roused neighbors, because from the tranquil clicks and throaty whispers of opener “Over All” to the comparatively shouty mood-pop of “Recurring Dream,” this record conducts itself with the carefulness and muffled volume of someone hiding from the authorities.

The frequent bits of negative space and numerous loops and overdubs on Ames actually help Nes’s cone of silence recording technique, as they lend at least some weight to her tiny vocal presence. But something like “Shapes, Electric” helps too, with its cracked and spluttered electronic explorations backing up the layers of Silje that form its central melody. “Magnetic Moments of Spinning Objects” is another highlight — there’s some human laughter in there, and a music box effect, and creaking doors, and maybe a dehumidifier on the fritz. It’s the kitchen sink backing up the quietest repetitive keyboard lilt on top, so if you’ve ever fallen for the gentle melodies, flighty instrumental fancy, and sense of solitude in music coming out of the Nordic countries, you better make room for Silje Nes. Don’t worry, she won’t make very much noise. — Johnny Loftus

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