29 April 2007

Put Your Ghost to Rest

Kevin Devine

I hate to Oberst your bubble (lame pun, I know) but there's another tortured-soul-of-a-singer-songwriter currently upstaging Bright Eyes, at least on my iPod. His name is Kevin Devine and much like that aforementioned dude, he blends the personal and the political with ease and agility. But the weak of heart (or hearing at least) should be forewarned. Vocally, Conor sounds like a songbird in comparison. However there is something endearing about the sincerity of his impassioned squeaks and shrieks.

Also, Devine has an amazingly charming presence live, exuding a bashful gratitude of sorts toward the audience, unlike Oberst who has a reputation for condescendingly dismissing and ignoring his rabid fans in concert. The blonde Brooklynite's latest album
Put Your Ghost to Rest, released late last year on Capitol Records, fits in nicely with his previous efforts and is sure to elevate his status among the overcrowded indie-folk genre.

Kevin Devine - The Burning City Smoke.m4a
Kevin Devine - Billion Bees.m4a
Buy Put Your Ghost To Rest

Also, check out his acoustic track "You'll Only End Up Joining Them" on the Cross-Pollination Mixtape.

The question is not "Why" but "Why Not?"

Probably everyone and their cat has seen this sometime within the past three months or so, but that's all the more reason why the rest of you have no excuse for NOT seeing it:

I mean, if you are somehow skilled at playing the flute and beat-boxing (both highly valuable skills in and of themselves) and then find a way to combine them, then, naturally, you'll probably want to gravitate your performance pieces toward theme songs for 80's cop shows. Because, let's face it, the kind of person who can play the flute and beat-box at the same time has amassed enough power to do pretty much anything he wants. (Thanks to our Brighton correspondent for this.)

27 April 2007

Radiohead's deus ex machina returns

Radiohead: Airbag/How Am I Driving? EP
A decade ago, Radiohead took a revolutionary sharp left turn in the progression of rock, turning from traditional structure and guitar-driven melodies to heavily manipulated, computer-driven works of almost Baroque structure.

The 10-year anniversary of OK Computer isn't going unnoticed. Almost preemptively we have the glorious re-release of their celebrated EP: Airbag/How Am I Driving? a seven-track mini-album parallel to the LP that should have been titled "What Could Have Been." This EP, first released in 1998, was initially ignored by all but completionists, and the poor sales halted production. Of course, once it went out of print it went from being a ubiquitous item in the "R - misc." slot in used CD stores to a $70 collector's item on eBay.

Thankfully for devotees who embraced rather than turned away from the alien soundscapes, this gift reappeared and is available again in the same unadorned format as the original. While the first track is the same as its Big Sister (save for the hallmark beeps counting down the lead-in to the revolutionary "Paranoid Android") the EP follows with what are now considered to be the "classic" Radiohead sound.

"Pearly" sounds like a bridge between "Exit Music (For a Film)" and The Bends' "Just" while the instrumental "Meeting in the Aisle," maintains the air-travel theme of the era and offers a glimpse into the increasingly detached, nonhuman future-sound. "Polyethylene (Parts 1&2)" also reaches back to The Bends in sound, suggesting the EP was a late-released prequel to OK Computer, ushering in the golden era of this influential UK group.

Radiohead - Palo Alto.mp3
Buy the Airbag/How Am I Driving? EP

Patrick Wolf howls

Patrick Wolf: The Magic Position
Up-and-coming indie darling Patrick Wolf is in love. He returns to the world of music anew with his third full-length LP, rife with dreamy titles like "The Stars," "Enchanted" and "The Kiss." With one foot planted firmly in pop and the other in traditional folk, the 6'4" multi-instrumentalist has the UK alt-folk world at his fingertips.

Heralded as the new Bowie and known for his flamboyant fashion, ambiguous sexuality and shock of red hair, Wolf's broad-reaching voice and typically melancholy lyrics take a back seat to impressive layers of joyful, Rachmaninoff-inspired pop compositions as colorful as the album packaging.

Gorgeous, wistful flourishes of piano, violin and accompaniment of Marianne Faithfull in "Magpie" capture rapture and bliss, while the dancey single "Accident & Emergency" moves him in a new direction. Not to be missed is the grand opener "Overature" which bears more than a hint of resemblance to Tears for Fears' "Mad World," and the joyous concluding epic "The Stars." The album is a gloriously optimistic awakening for the 23-year-old London-bred musician.

My favorite track happens to be "Augustine," a sort-of love ballad with darkish, silver-lining undertones that puts the spotlight on his smooth, expressive voice and simple piano. It's a breath of comforting familiarity before returning to the new landscape of a computer-enhanced dawn that could only be painted from Crayola's box.

1. Overture
2. The Magic Position
3. Accident & Emergency
4. The Bluebell
5. Bluebells
6. Magpie
7. The Kiss
8. Augustine
9. Secret Garden
10. (Let's Go) Get Lost
11. Enchanted
12. The Stars
13. Finale
(14.) Bluebells (bonus track)

Patrick Wolf - Augustine.mp3
Patrick Wolf - The Stars.mp3
Buy The Magic Position

Leaked! Björk's "Volta"

Portugese blog Bolachas Grátis leaked Volta here yesterday! Exciting development include collaboration with Antony (of Antony & the Johnsons) on a few tracks. The albums drops May 7, but you can get an advanced listen now.

Hear here! Björk & Antony (rar file)

Pitchfork says other guest artists include Timbaland (just... why?) Chinese Pipa players and an all-female, 10-piece Icelandic brass section. (Anyone else holding their breath for the Sigur Rós mashups?)

Purportedly, here's the tracklist:
1. Wanderlust
2. Declare
3. Dull Flame
4. Earth Intruders
5. Energy
6. Hope
7. I See Who You Are
8. Innocence
9. My Juvenile

The first single, "Earth Intruders" featuring Timbaland, is already out. You can pre-order Volta now. Big thanks to our Portugese correspondent for this.

26 April 2007

Icky Thump!

After a cursory listen, I'm not sure how I feel about Icky Thump. The new album's title track finds the Stripes getting back to their raw, bluesy marimba-less roots. Perhaps its a grower. In the meantime, I'll just marvel at Meg's hat.

The White Stripes - Icky Thump (as played on XFM)

Icky Thump
is set for release June 19th.

25 April 2007

We would shout and swim about the coral that lies beneath the waves

I own an overwhelming number of EPs. This is because I am a student and therefore overwhelmingly poor an overwhelmingly lot of the time, and because EPs are cheap.

And of all the EPs that cluster and fight for space in my many CDs racks, my favorite may well be this one:

"All At Sea," six song EP by Australian quartet, New Rules For Boats.

With not a care for conventions or rules they take the best of happy, jangly, sophisticated pop and the best of homegrown, harmonica driven, country music and smash the to together. This contrast is mirrored by the indy pop vocals or Sean Pollard and the smoky, folky Miranda Pollard.

The result is an EP that does not rest easy in any one genre, but rather dances merrily between the two. Perfect music for a hipster dance party in a barn. Or a ho-down in a swish cafe.

They also put on a killer live show. I saw them myself at the start of the year, when they opened for Yo La Tengo. Funny story: my boyfriend and I arrived to the concert early, and we were unsure of where to queue. So we asked a pleasant looking young man in a blue shirt, who pointed us in the right direction. Pleasant young man turned out to be non other than Sean Pollard himself. So, not only do they make good music, but they also give good directions!

Not Impressed
(She keeps me interesting)


24 April 2007

40 songs that changed the world?

Rolling Stone recently released another self-celebratory anniversary issue. To commemorate their staunch place in middle age, the editors put together a weakly defended list of 40 songs "that changed the world."

To the magazine's credit, at least this humbly titled list did not include any overt self-references at the top (Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone" was chosen as "The #1 Song of All Time" by the magazine) although they are still included nonetheless. Such an exercise in pretention goes beyond simple self-praise to become so masturbatory I imagine the editors had a hard time typing up the list with so much semen on the keyboard.

There's plenty else to nitpick, however, particularly the bottom two choices. By definition, songs/albums/artists less than 10 years old are not world-changing. Regardless of how great or revolutionary they might eventually be regarded as, they currently have not been around long enough to show any strong, lasting influence. Girl-rap groups like Salt-n-Pepa or TLC were just as if not more popular in the 1990s as minimalist Detroit rock is today, but the their popularity did not sustain any lasting influence.

Audiophile already noted the lack of truly groundbreaking artists such as Woody Guthrie or "seminal moments in rap" such as N.W.A. To that I'd add the global influences of music: the popular spread of J-pop, for example, proves that cultural trends don't strictly move from west to east.

To be truly pedantic, I have problems with specific song choices by unequivocally important artists: Bowie, Hendrix, Berry, Madonna. Is it really possible--to say less of important--to define an influential moment down to one song?

So, I present two lists of my own: 5 songs that should be removed from RS's list, and 5 more (in no order) to replace them.

Take out:
#2 "I Got A Woman," Ray Charles
#8 "Dancing in the Street," Martha & The Vandellas
#19 "Ziggy Stardust," David Bowie
#39 "Baby One More Time" Britney Spears
#40 "Fell In Love With A Girl" The White Stripes

Instead include:
"This Monkey Gone to Heaven," The Pixies
"Da Funk," Daft Punk
"Cloudbusting," Kate Bush
"Die Roboter," Kraftwerk
"Hallelujah," Jeff Buckley

Other works that have a case: "Head Like a Hole," Nine Inch Nails; "Paranoid Android," Radiohead; "Losing My Religion," R.E.M.; "Kick Out the Jams," Motor City 5, "Blue in Green," Miles Davis.

What would your picks be?

23 April 2007

First Annual tMG Show "For Love And Graet Justice" [sic]

The Mountain Goats
goats meets goats

A Mountain Goat

Here is some really exciting news for all you Mountain Goat fans out there. The Mountain Goats are playing a free, outdoor show at the Farm Sanctuary in upstate New York! While the show is technically free John Darnielle is advocating a $10 donation to the farm, which is the premiere farm animal protection organization. JD is also advocating carpooling and camping, as parking and sleeping space is limited. You might also want to leave any carnivorous snacks at home too.

I never needed anybody's help in any way

When faced with an album named ‘...From My Parents Basement,’ it’s understandable if you assume you are about to hear some lo-fi, feedbacky, rough and ready garage (or basement, as it were) rock.

But the debut album from oft-times one man band Skittish is anything but. Polished (but not, you know, too polished), theatrical, melodic and gloriously eclectic, ‘...From My Parents Basement’ is an album that doesn’t demand repeat listens. It just acts like it doesn’t care if you listen again or not, because it’s not playing for you anyway, and even though you know an album like this is going to break your heart, you go back for more.

The album was sung as recorded by one Jeff Noller, all alone in, as you may have guessed, his parent’s basement. But despite this, there is none of the subdued, simple ambience that tends to cling to solo projects such as these. Indeed, there is something overwhelmingly theatrical about the album. The songs burst forth with same energy and scale as you would expect to see on a stage somewhere. I’m talking Hugh Jackman in tight pants on top of a piano belting out ‘The Boy From Oz,’ kind of energy.

And yet, in one of many paradox’s that this album revels in, the songs are also personal. They are personal in that quirky, literate way that only indy song’s recorded in basements can be. From the sweetly silly and primarily acoustic ‘Be My Dana Scully’ (“See I was thinking of going as Mulder for Halloween”), to the insane and, dare I say it, epic 'Hubris and Humility' (It’s been four whole years since I’ve seen you, I swear this is the last song I’ll write about you), there is a confessional touch to the songs that belies the big, theatre-esque nature of the their sound.

Killer stuff. Killer stuff, indeed.

Be My Dana Scully
Hubris and Humility


22 April 2007

TV on the Radio, 4/21/07 @ Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY

Here are my photos from yesterday's TV on the Radio show. Sorry about the blurriness, just pretend they're "artsy," sort of like the band.

See that? Those are wind chimes! attached to a guitar!! TVOR put on quite the rocking show. "Return to Cookie Mountain" translates wonderfully well live. "Wolf Like Me" and "Province" sounded especially invigorated, imbued with spirit and joy.

The Noisettes opened. Think the Yeah Yeah Yeahs with soul power and you wouldn't be that far off.

For the seven people out there that haven't heard this song already:

TV on the Radio - Wolf Like Me


21 April 2007

{Make a Joyful Noise HERE}

Danielson: a Family Movie (or Make a Joyful Noise Here) is a 105-minute documentary (rockumentary?) by director JL Aronson. It follows Daniel Smith and his family-band (and friend-members) through a history of their group and questions what direction the band might go in as the members age into adulthood and find their own life paths.

Here's a nice synopsis from their releasing company:

This intimate and eloquent documentary traces the unorthodox path of Daniel Smith -- eccentric musician, visual artist and devout Christian -- as he creates a musical phenomenon with siblings and friends under the name Danielson Famile, eventually struggling to realize his own identity as an artist once the family members begin their own adult lives. Along the way he mentors an unknown singer-songwriter named Sufjan Stevens, whose subsequent success stands in contrast to the music world's uneasy reception of Danielson just a few years earlier. Combining hybrid storytelling, essential live performances, animated sequences and a dollop of Danielson archives, director JL Aronson offers a provocative yet subtle look at a complex life outside the mainstream.
For you Sufjan-fans, there's some nice goodies in the film for you too: an almost uncut performance of "To Be Alone With You," an early peek at "Chicago," some behind-the-scenes peeks at the making of Seven Swans, as well as plenty of smiles and coyly self-depreciating humor. Let's not forget a Tom Eaton animated short, and this gem:

The biggest (!)-moment for me was from a fan interview. A woman said that back in the mid-90s when the band was just getting its start, Jeff Buckley had been to the shows and started telling people to check them out. That's pretty damn awesome, and a helluva recommendation.

If you've been curious about Danielson Famile, this is a great primer for all things Danielson. Recommended for checking out on Netflix. Be sure to delve into those special features--the additional footage from the European tour is a must if you've always wanted to hear Daniel Smith butcher the German language (and let's face it, who hasn't?)

Danielson Famile - Did I Step On Your Trumpet?.mp3

Recommended starter albums: Ships and Fetch the Compass Kids.
You can buy the movie here.

20 April 2007

Beach House: 4/19 @ Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY

It's always cool to see alums from your school going on to do really cool things with their lives, especially when such things involve dreamy, shoegaze pop music. Such is the case with Beach House's Victoria Legrand who went from Vassar grad to indie darling. (Their self-titled debut album was ranked the 16st best of 2006 by Pitchfork) The band played a stellar show at her aforementioned alma matter yesterday. Legrand's Nico-esque vocals, accompanied by woozy keyboard loops, organ drones and reverb-drenched guitar (played by Alex Scally) made for a lush, atmospheric experience. It was like floating through a sepia-tinged dreamscape for an hour. I was thoroughly impressed.
Following the show I had a chance to chat with Victoria. After graduating in 2003, she moved to Paris and pursued an acting career (She was a Drama major). Several years later she moved to Maryland, where she met Alex and "thanks the lucky stars everyday." Aww, thanks Victoria for giving a graduating senior some well-needed inspiration.

Beach House - Master of None

Beach House - Lovelier Girl

Buy Beach House

19 April 2007

Sufjan named one of "The 9 Biggest Wusses in Rock Today"

Image from Stereogum
from cracked.com:

This man played a show wearing butterfly wings.* Butterfly wings? Sure, being sensitive can get you chicks but this is taking it too far. What’s next? Going on stage with lanyards and making key chains for grandma? Half-hour nappy time breaks midway through sets? If anyone needs to go for a ride with Denzel Washington in Training Day mode, it’s Sufjan.
I thought this was hilarious, especially that last part. I mean, come on: Part A is that, I mean, yeah, he volunteers at nursing homes teaching knitting. He dresses up like a cheerleader and a swan. He sucked his thumb until his age was double-digit (explains the chompers). He contributes to Martha Stewart Magazine, for chrissakes!

But part B here is that it takes some serious cajones to stand up and do all that with pride and passion and so well. It's part of that whole "real men wear pink" thing, however much you buy into that. But it is a pretty tough counter-cultural message to send, especially one from heartland America where most good ol' boys are busying themselves with barb-wire calf tattoos and scratching out Angry White Boy music that never makes it out of mom's garage. The fact that Sufjan is so successful at what he does is all the more argument that he's strong enough to have risen above all that machismo BS.

Other notables in the article are Corgan and Iha of the Smashing Pumpkins ("Embarrassed that his makeup was ruined, [Corgan] would scream “I’m going to start MY OWN band and it’s going to be called Zwan and we’re going to be the best!” and run off."), Belle & Sebastian ("These guys are so wimpy they make Bert and Ernie look like M.O.P.") and Conor Oberst ("This dude really wants to be Bob Dylan, but not only would Dylan destroy him in a battle of music, he’d also kick ass physically.")

TRUE AS ALL THAT MAY BE, it takes equal parts knowledge and respect to write about someone like that, so I think this is just an immature if genuine nod from the authors, who will now go back to punching each other in the face to show affection.

*By the way those were EAGLE wings. He made the rest of his orchestra dress up as the butterflies.

Bye Bye-a Sanjaya: A Moment of Silence for the Ponyhawk

As we all know by now, America's favorite awkward/endearing, pohawk-rocking teenager, Sanjaya Malakar, is no longer America's favorite awkward/endearing, pohawk-rocking teenager. His absence from American Idol will leave a gaping hole in my heart and at the very least my Tuesday and Wednesday night TV schedule.

I suppose now is a good time as any to refute Cracked list of 2007s "100 Unsexiest Men" seeing as how Mr. Malakar is #7!). Just look at the hair!Another glaring inaccuracy is #65, The Decemberists' dashing lead singer, Colin Meloy (wow, never thought he'd have something in common with sanjaya!)

However we won't refute the #80 Ann Coulter (check out that Adam's apple)

18 April 2007

Cross-Pollination: The Mixtape Vol. 1

Oh, Public Relations press releases: the scourge/joy of the journalist. So... hard... to resist... prepackaged stories! We relent. Here's something passed on from Wes of The Undisputed Heavyweights/SitDownStandUp/Brooklyn Vegan:

April 16, 2007 (New York, NY) :: Family Records, a division of Liberated Matter, announced today the release of its second record, Cross-Pollination: The Mixtape Vol. 1, featuring free exclusive downloads from several of New York City's most exciting musicians including My Brightest Diamond, Jeffrey Lewis, Kevin Devine, The Undisputed Heavyweights, Wakey!Wakey!, and Minneapolis' Cloud Cult. The free downloads are available HERE on Monday April 16th.

Mixtape Vol. 1, was compiled to celebrate Cross-Pollination, a weekly NYC concert series that brings together some of the most incredibly, and at times, undiscovered raw talent from across the country. Giving musicians the opportunity to stretch creatively with other like-minds, the premise of Cross-Pollination is simple. Every Tuesday evening at Pianos (158 Ludlow Street, NYC) two artists are invited to play together. Both of them play a solo 40-minute set followed by a 3 song pre-rehearsed collaborative set.

Now in its third year, Cross-Pollination has brought together nearly 250 acts via 137 FREE shows. All artists included on the mixtape have played Cross-Pollination.
For more information on Cross-Pollination, the concert series, please go to http://liberatedmatter.com/crosspol.html
For more information on the Mixtape, go to http://liberatedmatter.com/mixtape.html

01. My Brightest Diamond Hi, Remember Me?*
02. Kevin Devine You'll Only End Up Joining Them (Acoustic)*
03. Wakey!Wakey! Falling Apart*
04. The Undisputed Heavyweights Roll Your Windows Down
05. The Bloodsugars Purpose Was Again*
06. Matt Singer Stacy J.*
07. Derek James Love Me, Love Me*
08. Cloud Cult Pretty Eyes
09. Casey Shea Quinzy Housing*
10. Jeffrey Lewis Tell It To Your Heart (Loud Reed Cover)*
11. The Lloyds Halfway*
12. Jay Mankind Western States (Demo)*
13. Ian Thomas SBB*
14. Dave Deporis Be Strong*

*Previously unreleased & exclusive track

Cascade High School choir performance: 4/15/07 @ The Enzian, Leavenworth, WA

This week I had the dubious honor of attending a boring work conference in a fake Bavarian village/tourist trap known as Leavenworth, Washington. On Sunday night, however, we were treated to a performance by the Cascade High School choir. What a performance! A delightful mixture of funny songs that highlighted their spirits and traditional coral arrangements boasting their superbly balanced voices. Inspiring solos and talented piano backings by the students complimented the sounds and merely touched on the talents they have. They were the highlight of the evening (dare I say, the entire conference).

Their director/advisor Anne Conrad provided some information about the group and that night's performance:

I only had 10 of the 26 kids that night. I also have 3 kids who made the All Northwest Choir (the top 400 singers in 6 states) and another 7 who were in All State Choir (the next best 250 singers in Washington state). Of that group, only 3 were at your performance. At the end of this month we will be in Ellensburg competing in the State Championships.
Wow! I can only imagine how the entire group would sound. I'd keep an eye on some of these talented youth for future performances. Kudos to these kids and their advisor for treating us to their fine talents.

17 April 2007

I want you to know....

Grizzly Bear's "Knife" was one of my favorite songs to emerge from 2006. Everything about it is perfect. The way the opening chords slowly simmer and steadily sway and burst into full-on acoustic boil -equal parts mood and melody with hazy, airy harmonies that endlessly ripple, as if a stone beens plunked into a bottomless pond.

So apparently some band I know little about called Born Ruffians has covered this gem of a song. There version is tighter, more upbeat, with about double the swagger and snarl. And also about half the length. I'm still partial to the original but decide for yourself.

Grizzly Bear - Knife

Born Ruffians - Knife (Grizzly Bear Cover)

Buy Grizzly Bear's Yellow House

Additionally, some clever lil' indie genius decided to mash-up "Knife" with freaky Swedish electronica group The Knife's "Heartbeats". Get it cause both songs/artists use the word "Knife" as their moniker! Wow, this mash-up works better than it has any right too, but man is it good!

Knife/Heartbeats Mashup (Grizzly Bear Vs. The Knife by PARRKA)

Everybody Seems To Think I'm Lazy

So yesterday the ever awesome Xtopher (you all know Xtopher, right?) sent me a link to a place where I might hear some music by a fellow named Ferraby Lionheart.

I clicked, the page loaded, and I listened.

At first his voice seems slightly better than average, but ultimately undistinguishable from so many others. But there is a moment, one lone moment, that makes the reader question his. It arrives at the end of 'Tickets for Crickets,' the first song on the ep. (That in a stroke of brilliance rivaling that of the below mentioned Suburban Kids... he entitled 'EP'). The song is almost at end when suddenly and beautifully his voice lifts and hits the perfect high note. The moment, as amazing as it is, is somewhat frustrating. It seems to prove that Ferraby's voice is capable of much greater things then what we see on the bulk of the EP.

But whatever ambition he lacks in voice, he makes up for elsewhere. The songs are satisfyingly melodic; listening to them is like eating a large and tasty meal. The lyrics are interesting, although I found that I was focusing more on the sound of the songs rather than what they were actually saying.

But, and this is the important part, the songs are all markedly different. From the piano driven, Hawksley Workman-esque 'Tickets to Crickets,' or the more rocking 'The Ballad Of Sam and Gus,' or the harmonica heavy, countryish ''A Crack In Time,' EP proves that Lionheart is not content to stick to any one genre.

Which is not to say that the EP has a mix and match kind of sound to it. There is a certain something that links all six songs, although for life of me I couldn't say what that something is.

I for one am interested to see what Ferraby might do with a full-length album. He's definitely an artist to keep a eye on. If only he wasn't so lazy with his voice.

Tickets to Crickets


16 April 2007

Wilco Toys!

Just when you thought Jeff Tweedy couldn't get more adorable, Portland-based toy company UNKL goes ahead and releases a limited edition figurine of him, as well as the rest of the Wilco boys. Set to premiere at San Diego's Comic-Con in July, now you too can reenact squabbles with the record label and stints in rehab. Like we said, adorable!

Impossible Germany (live) mp3

Pre-order Sky Blue Sky, out May 15th

15 April 2007

1, 2, 3, 4 Tell me that you love me more!

As if you needed another reason to fall in love with Feist:

Ooh, look at all the pretty colors! Let's just hope the Gap doesn't co-opt the tune any time soon.

Download - 1 2 3 4

Off Feist's upcoming album The Reminder, out May 1st. (As if you really needed another reminder to buy it).

Jeez, between Feist, The National, Wilco, Rufus, Voxtrot and a posthumous compilation of previously unreleased Elliott Smith material, May is shaping up to be quite the month, in what has been quite the year for utterly fantastic music.

Oh my God it was a million years ago

This album's been leaked here and there already, but for those who haven't gotten a glimpse at this treasure, we offer you a tease. Because, really, if you knew them well already then you'd already have it, but if you didn't, then here you have a chance at learning without an onslaught of hype, or a barrage of context-less tracks.

Slated for a May 22 release, this indie alt-rock group seems to know their audience well already. The National's borrowing of Thomas Bartlett (of Doveman)'s talents, as well as Sufjan Stevens tickling the ivories on two tracks (Racing Like a Pro and Ada), helps narrow their definitive sound under the expanded umbrella definition of indie rock. A satisfying tenor voice and confident guitar are hallmarks here, the equivalent of a big meal after subsisting on frozen appetizers for weeks.

Eat up:
01 Fake Empire
02 Mistaken for Strangers
03 Brainy
04 Squalor Victoria
05 Green Gloves
06 Slow Show
07 Apartment Story
08 Start a War
09 Guest Room
10 Racing Like a Pro
11 Ada
12 Gospel

The National - Ada.mp3

You can pre-order Boxer from Amazon.com (and save a whopping .99? Be still our beating hearts).

In other news, it's been a very Death Cab for Cutie mood around here lately. Long road trips to work conferences in tacky tourist towns can only do so much to stimulate the musical palette. 2001's Photo Album does the mood justice with the utter absurdity of L.A.'s existence.

I, much like the Bellingham-based group (and most Washingtonians for that matter) tend to question the reasons behind the existence of California in general. I suspect that, weather martyrdoms aside, we simply can't admit we respect them from a distance.

Death Cab for Cutie - Why You'd Want To Live Here.mp3

When it rains and shines, it's just a state of mind.

There is nothing quite as depressing as the first dreary, wet day of the year. There's just something about the sound of car tires splashing through puddles that makes my soul emit a small, sad, sound. And don't get me started on how morose the world looks when viewed through a rain splattered bus window.

Only one thing can salvage my mood on a day such as this. And that one thing is happy Swedish indy pop:

Apart, they are just two slightly geeky looking young men from Sweden. Together, Johan Hedberg and Peter Gunnarson are ‘Suburban Kids With Biblical Names.’ Not even taking into account the fact that their name comes from a Silver Jews song (and let’s face it, it doesn’t get much cooler than taking your band name from a Silver Jews song), these guys are pretty damn awesome.

Currently, they have two EPs and a full length album under their happy, poppy little belts. The EPs are titled #1 and #2 respectively, and in a blinding flash of originality the album goes by the name #3. At the time this went to print I’d only had the pleasure of exploring the two EPs, each for tracks long. I search ever diligently for the album though, and I shall keep you posted on that front.

#1 is definitely the lighter, more poppy pf the two EPs. #2 has a darker feel to it, almost but not quite reminiscing of The Smiths.

That's the thing about these two little EPs. One moment it’s hand claps and whistles and you think, ‘ah, ok, they’re like fellow Swedes Peter, Bjorn and John.’ At other moments you feel more inclined to place them in the twee boat with Belle and Sebastian. Give it a few minutes and They Might Be Giants comparisions start to spring to mind. But more often than they remind me of some one else, and this is what makes them so exciting, more often, they remind me of no one else I've ever heard.

The mandolin that features on #1, or the recorder, yes that’s right, the recorder, on #2, it’s things like this that set ‘Suburban Kids…’ apart from all the other happy, indy music out there.

Because delightfully quirky lyrics, crazy catchy tunes, uber sing-a-longable choruses, these things are not so hard to come by. But the recorder? That’s something special.

From #1: Trumpets and Violins.
i've seen your eyes more sad than this so fuck the shit and sign the list.
From #2: Teenage Poetry
i'm gonna stop my drinking, and move into a cabin.

Buy some Suburbian Kids With Biblical Names.

13 April 2007

"We'll Dance the Night Shift Away!" Live Review: Pony Pants and Erase Errata @ Vassar College 4/12/07

Last night I caught a show by Pony Pants and Erase Errata. While I had not heard much by either band, they put on a pretty fun show. Pony Pants played funk-laden electro punk, very danceable stuff. (although the audience of mainly insufferable hipsters just sort of disaffectedly bobbed their heads, which is probably as close to dancing that demographic will get). Erase Errata played artsy post-punk, a bit noisy and disharmonic , but fun nonetheless.

Pony Pants - Factory mp3
This track is about "dancing the night shift away" and gets cool points for referencing Boston's "More than a Feeling.

Buy - Till Death Do Us Party

Photos taken by me courtesy Amy Cheng's camera.

Born Today!

Today we celebrate the birthdays of two great artists from different genres: Nellie McKay (25) and Al Green (61).

Al Green

The Rev. Al Green's fusion of soul, gospel and R&B is a keystone of classic American rock music. Influences carried deep and wide throughout the genre and outward, inspiring the likes of David Bowie, Marvin Gaye and Lyfe Jennings. His joyous, passionate and smooth sound is beloved by followers of classic Motown and anyone else interested in what gives contemporary American R&B its sound.

1972 was a hallmark year, producing both I'm Still In Love With You and Let's Stay Together, two of his most applauded albums.

Nellie McKay
Nellie McKay's theatrical cabaret sound fuses Britpop, jazz and even rap with sharp writing and effortlessly wonderful piano in her debut album, 2004's Get Away From Me. The title, a play on Norah Jones' "Come Away With Me" even started a bit of a feud between the two. The London-born, American-bred singer-songwriter casts a snarky, dark-humored light on topics from politics to relationships and everyday occurrences. A vocal and active animal right activist, her work with PETA and the controversial ALF have labeled her a force to be reckoned with, both in and out of the recording studio.

I Wanna Get Married (m4a)

The Inappropriate Cover to End Inappropriate Covers

After reading June's hilarious last post, I couldn't help but post this.

What do you get when you cross Australian children's television sensations with a classic 70s tale of sexual deviance and drug-filled decadence? Why, the most inappropriate cover, um I'd venture to say ever recorded. Especially since they alter the lyrics to "Take a walk on the Wiggly side!" For the love of God why?

The Wiggles - Walk on the Wild Side (Lou Reed cover) mp3

Inappropriate covers!

I can't even begin to address WHY these exist in the first place, but am I glad they do!

I'd really like to know who green-lighted this project. It's a group of Belgian school girls covering the DiVinyls. The amazingly full and balanced, rich choral sound is backed here by a simple piano, giving it a very school-assembly-like feel. Was this a school project? Were the parents made aware? Who cares!
While there's a handful of other budding young covers temptingly offered up on their albums, this singularity seems exceptionally popular with their Anglo audience. (You can check out their Web site here.)

Is it wrong to like this? Oh my yes. Will you still like it? Oh, yeah!

Scala - I Touch Myself.mp3

Making the narrow leap to the moniker Dick Cheese, this lounge aficionado has quite a taste for deliciously cheesy covers of pop, rock, punk and rap hits. Deceptively corny and therefore presumably innocent, 2 Live Crew's vulgar lyrics immediately arrest you with hilarity, especially once the 50’s kitsch-sounding "chorus" rolls in. Even the horn section is, er, horny! 2005's Aperitif For Destruction album turns the camp factor up to 11.

Richard Cheese - Me So Horny.mp3

What the aforementioned is for lounge music, Max Raabe is for German big band jazz classics of the 1930's. Here he gives a nod to Salt-n-Pepa in this tinny, oddly authentic-sounding jazz piece with delivery of a spoken radio announcement. His dual-language Web site showcases an impressive discography for what one might otherwise imagine to be a limited genre. Worth checking out--there might even be something acceptable for both grandma and the kids!

Max Raabe - Let's Talk About Sex.mp3

12 April 2007

"A fire turns inside my guts and my face screws up in delight"

I'm looking out my window. The world is overcast and wet. The clouds are tightening, as if the earth is draining the sky of all it's viscous properties. On days like today, when the natural world is draining me of the desire to do nothing more than curl up in bed with cup of something warm and sweet, I listen to David Thomas Broughton.

The Complete Guide to Insufficiency
is nowhere near as self-depricating as the title suggests. Rather it is ethereal, haunting almost awe-inducing (think a vocal blend of Antony's catharsis and Devendra's intonation, yet with a distinct warble all his own) - just 5 tracks, 40 minutes, of brooding hypnotic acoustic pseudo-Walt Whitman-esque ramblings. I make the Whitman comparison thematically speaking, as the lyrics attempt to reconcile the existential with the corporeal in the most poetic of ways. The production transcends intimate – all recorded in one take in an English church -nothing dubbed or tweaked or butchered in a studio. I know it was initially released two years ago, but sometimes it takes dreary April days to remind you of such hypnotic wonder.

Ever Rotating Sky mp3

Buy The Complete Guide to Insufficiency
David Thomas Broughton on MySpace

11 April 2007

Today was a good day for mail

Sufjan Stevens' Enjoy Your Rabbit and Arcade Fire's Neon Bible

2001's Enjoy Your Rabbit was the last Sufjan album I had left to buy. I hesitated because I'd heard less-than-savory things about it. There's disharmonics, there's manipulated sounds, there's gratuitous nose for noise's sake. Not to mention the clinically sparse east-meets-west contradictions in the graphic design artwork.

But there is also a warm quality to the spoken Chinese, the electronic beats and the robotic bells. The underlying structure of many of the songs reflect later works: In "Year of the Dragon" one clearly hears synthesizer flourishes echoed in Michigan's "Tahquamenon Falls," and Sonic Youth inspired electric guitar in the title track found on several tracks on 2006's The Avalanche.

I'm a bit partial to Year of the Rooster being that it's my own zodiac animal.
Mr. Stevens himself is a Rabbit:

People born in the Year of the Rabbit are articulate, talented, and ambitious. They are virtuous, reserved, and have excellent taste. Rabbit people are admired, trusted, and are often financially lucky. They are fond of gossip but are tactful and generally kind. Rabbit people seldom lose their temper. They are clever at business and being conscientious, never back out of a contract. They would make good gamblers for they have the uncanny gift of choosing the right thing. However, they seldom gamble, as they are conservative and wise.

Pretty accurate I'd say!
Kicking off the album with a brief nod to his label Asthmatic Kitty and ending with a dreamy, floaty, ethereal vocal called "Year of Our Lord," this is a solid opus not to be lightly shelved by fans of Sufjan's later works.

Sufjan Stevens - Year of the Ox.mp3

This might be old news, but did you know that Arcade Fire is really awesome? S'true! I'd be the last to bash eclectic instrumentation in indie rock, but no amount of skepticism could have prepared me for a church organ, of all things! Neon Bible, while lacking a few of the highs 2004's Funeral provided, is far and away a more cohesive, directed work, and a more solid album throughout. "Keep the Car Running," while reminiscent of Joy Division, sets the stage nicely for upbeat if moody tracks like "Black Wave/Bad Vibrations" and "The Well and the Lighthouse."

The real punch in the face for me still is "Intervention." Rumored to be a political song about the war in Iraq, the richly orchestral piece is what I'd describe as heavy acoustic. It's got enough atmosphere to start a planet. One minute in my ears were held in rapt attention. Two minutes in my mind was blown. The time the three-minute mark rolled in, my face was so melted as to leave my corpse unidentifiable.
But don't take my word for it:

Arcade Fire - Intervention.mp3

Our Namesake

There is something palpably empowering about hearing 600 people* sing "I don't want to die alone" in unison. There is something even more empowering when John Darnielle prefaces those lyrics with a resounding "Sing it!" Behold the power of The Mountain Goats in all their live glory:

Dance Music (Live 10/01/06 @ The Bowery Ballroom, NYC)

Dance Music is found on the Sunset Tree.

*I'm one of them.


You can expect posts from June, Megan or Jess on an almost daily basis.

Let's kick this off: For you Andrew Bird Fans who missed his performance on Letterman last night, we're sure video is forthcoming on YouTube. When it appears we'll post it here.

EDIT: Good ol' YouTube. As promised, here it is!