30 June 2007

Somehow I still miss you

At this very moment, a former love of mine is marrying a former friend of mine.

the Mountain Goats - Sometimes I Still Feel the Bruise (Trembling Blue Stars cover).mp3
This is just to say "hello"
And to let you know
I think of you from time to time
I know I never really knew you
But somehow I miss you
And wish that you'd stayed in my life

Making contact gets harder
As the silence grows longer
And isn't it only me
Who'd like us to see each other?
How I would hate to be a bother
The way we left it was you'd ring

I'm under no illusion
As to what I meant to you
But you made an impression
And sometimes I still feel the bruise
Sometimes I still feel the bruise

Now and then I stumble on
What I've misplaced but never lost
An ache I first felt long ago
Though you've appeared and disappeared
Throughout these past few years
I'd be surprised if you now showed

Making contact gets harder
As the silence grows longer
And why would you think of me
When you were not the one in love?
When you were not the dreamer?
When you were just the dream

See also:
Jude - I Do.mp3
Bob Dylan - Most of the Time.mp3
the Mountain Goats - The Mess Inside.mp3
Pedro the Lion - Metal Heart (Cat Power Cover).mp3
the Mountain Goats - Cubs in Five.mp3

29 June 2007

New Okkervil River

Add Okkervil River's The Stage Names (out August 7 on Jagjaguwar) to the ever-growing list of contenders for 2007's album of the year. Chock full of rollicking melodies, impassioned lyrics and of course Will Sheff's trademark yelp, which almost, almost gives Jeff Mangum (aka Mr. Neutral Milk Hotel) a run for his money Stage Names agiley picks up where of 2005's impressive Black Sheep Boy left off. No mean feat if you ask me. It's difficult for music with such intense urgency to not sound cloying or earnest -especially within the over-crowded folk-rock genre, but ultimately it's the lack of pretense or emo-posturing that makes these guys stand out. Listen for yourself.

Okkervil River - Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe.mp3
Okkervil River - Unless It Kicks.mp3

27 June 2007

An Ode to K Recs

K Recs in Olympia, WA

Today I spent my lunch touring the innards of my favorite local label, K Recs here in Olympia, WA. Yep, that's it above--finding a home in an old Synagogue. Established by artist Calvin Johnson in 1982 (almost as old as I am!), K recs is one of the many indie labels to call the GPNW home.

I've never visited a label before, but I thought, what the hell--they're right here in town, and I love 'em. And, I can talk to someone who will know for SURE when the new Mirah album is coming out.

IT was pretty interesting to someone who's not in the biz (although, it looks tremendously similar to where Lizzie works). I saw the shelves full of stock and went downstairs to the recording studio "where the magic happens." Sadly, Calvin was out for the day. Yesterday, Karl Blau was in the house recording some material. (Shhhhh!)

Anyway, I was happy to chat up the staff and nab a vinyl copy of Mirah's Joyride:Remixes album. But why keep it all to myself? Here's some tracks from my favorite K Recs artists:

Mirah - Cold Cold Water.mp3
The Microphones - The Moan.mp3
Modest Mouse - Float On.mp3
Built to Spill - Fly Around.mp3

Be sure to also check out:
Kimya Dawson
Chicks on Speed
Little Wings
The Blow
All Girl Summer Fun Band
Old Time Relijun
Dub Narcotic Sound System
Beat Happening

EDIT: Super thanks to Ruby Re-Usable, of Olympia Dumpster Divers for the awesome photo of K Recs and her tape sculpture sitting on the steps.

"I dreamt about killing you again last night and it felt alright to me..."

So YouTube footage finally emerged from that Wilco show I was raving about. Check out the majestic "Via Chicago" in all its live glory. Just wait till the 2:08 mark, because that's when your mind will be blown:

26 June 2007

I Need A Camera To My Eyes: Wilco@ Hammerstein Ballroom, NYC 6/25/07

Last night put an end to Wilco's over two half year-long New York City-less tour schedule. "You've grown," remarked a coy Jeff Tweedy to a ridiculously impatient audience. Being there, I can assure you, it was well worth the wait. The set was seemingly endless -two straight hours of pure electrifying bliss (including not 1, but 2 encores!). "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" had the crowd bursting at the seems with delight (which is a mean feat for any ten minute long song, not to mention one about "spiders filling out tax returns.") Even the smoother, more mellow tracks off Sky Blue Sky were imbued with a newfound energy.

The funny thing is I usually have this weird, indie disdain for bands as obscenely technically proficient as Wilco. Generally such aimless guitar noodling seems self-indulgent and sounds sonically meandering and tiring. But there is something about them, their sense of melody and eventual restraint or maybe it's just Nels Cline's hotness. Hmm.

This weird macrame thing dangled on the stage during "Hate it Here" Tweedy encouraged fans to send in equally bizarre knitting projects after chastizing the youngin's in the crowd for not even knowing what Macrame was.

For more photo-y Wilco goodness check out my Flickr page.

25 June 2007

Rain, falling is the only thing you ever do.

It’s all well and good for those of us in the Northern hemisphere, where the days are growing long and lazy. But let us not forget that for many, myself included, winter has only just begun, and summer seems like little more than a nice dream we had once.

And so I’m going to share with you all an album that always makes me think of winter. Of rain slamming into the windows while you’re in by the fire. Of the sound of rain on your umbrella, that you can hear even over your ipod, as you wait for the bus. Of driving through the city at night, the wet roads splashed with the light of passing cars and the streetlamps.

Treeful of Starling : Hawksley Workman

What is it about this album that conjures perfectly the dreary winter months in my mind?

Certainly winter and rain and snow are topics of many of the albums songs. In “You Are Too Beautiful,” a snow covered New York is the setting, and “Rain” is a lament to, well, the rain. Barely a song passes without some reference to winter.

But it’s more than that. Winter, and all that comes with it, imbues every aspect of this album, not just the lyrics.

The melodies, and the unique turns, highs and lows that Workman takes with his voice conjure a delicious feeling of melancholy. A feeling that perfectly mirrors the direction my thoughts go in as I ride the train home in the rain, watching the city through water blurred windows. Maybe it’s the brief flashes of bittersweet beauty, like a brief glimpse of sun through heavy rain clouds.

The piano plinks like delicate raindrops hitting puddles, and Workman’s voice is a thermos of hot soup.

And if summer is the domain of light, happy, easy reading, than it makes sense that winter is the time for heavy, rich books. And so it makes sense that the lyrics of “Treeful” are so layered with meaning and nuance. What starts out as simple commentary in “Ran,” becomes so much more by the songs conclusion. These are songs of loss, of longing, of new, fledgling love, of love older than memory itself.

The dense, meaning filled lyrics are contrasted beautifully with the sparse musical arrangements. Even when several instruments are being utilised, a simplicity remains. The lyrics are like your warm heavy coat, and the music is the icicles that hang from the fences you walk by.

You Are Too Beautiful
But you are too beautiful to be in bed with me
Yeah, you are too beautiful to be in bed with me

If you could see the thoughts I see

If you could see my faults, baby, you'd agree

A Moth Is Not A Butterfly
But some are happy in the bluest sky
And others search in the dark of night

And sadness is a silent right

A moth is not a butterfly

Buy the album

New Jens Song!

Legend has it, in a time of great despondency Jens Lekman swore off a life of music in order to pursue other callings, most notably a career as a Bingo caller. Well, lucky for us, that phase only lasted two days and resulted in a pretty awesome song. Vaguely reminescent of the Happy Days theme song, Jens bops along to what sounds like the most awesome Friday night ever in this insanely catchy ditty.

Friday Night at the Drive-In Bingo - Jens Lekman

And while we're on the topic of Summer songs it'd be almost tragic to leave this one out:

A Sweet Summer's Night on Hammer Hill - Jens Lekman

24 June 2007

Songs for Summer: Pt. 2 - Sun Worshipper

The Sun!

They Might Be Giants - Why Does the Sun Shine (The Sun is a Mass of Incandescent Gas).mp3
A fifth-grade science report in a song! Every basic fact you wanted to know about the sun is covered in this song. Listen and Learn! Get this on Severe Tire Damage.

Violent Femmes - Blister in the Sun.mp3
For all you My So-Called Life fans, whenever I hear this song I always think of that scene where Angela wakes up one day and realizes she's over Jordan, and she dances around her bedroom to this song accordingly. From 1983's revolutionary self-titled album.

The 5th Dimension - Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In.mp3
LOL hippies.

Belle & Sebastian - Here Comes the Sun (live Beatles cover).mp3
Yes, you read that right! I know I might get rotten fruits thrown at me for saying this, but... I like it better than the original. *ducks*

Jeff Buckley - All Flowers in Time Bend Towards the Sun (live).mp3
This is NOT the previously-posted version with Elizabeth Fraiser; this version is Jeff's acoustic solo.

Katrina and the Waves - Walking on Sunshine.mp3
Sure, it's a little cheesy (I'm almost sure I've heard it used in a commercial before). But still undeniably happy and upbeat. Found on their Greatest Hits album.

The Toms - Sun.mp3
I love it when I plunder iTunes and am all "WTF... I have never heard of this band before. What is it doing on my hard drive? Ah well, it's pretty good!" Found on a compilation album called Yellow Pills: Prefill.

The Vines - Sunshinin'.mp3
Something we need around here. from 2004's Highly Evolved.

The Doors - Waiting for the Sun.mp3
Just like me... From the album by the same title.

For your 90's throwback fix:
Len - Steal My Sunshine.mp3
Smash Mouth - Walking on the Sun.mp3

And of course, since no post here is really complete without our favorite indie wunderkid...
Sufjan Stevens - A Sun Came.mp3
From his debut album by the same name. Sadly overlooked. It's a multifaceted, sprawling introduction where he's just finding his voice.

23 June 2007

Coney Island Songs!

What better way to celebrate the start of Summer (well at least for us in the Northern Hemisphere) then with a trip to Brooklyn, NY's Coney Island? That's what I did today and it was awesome, as I witnessed the 25th annual Mermaid Parade which heralds the unofficial start of the sunny season.

Andrew Bird and the Bowl of Fire also think Coney Island is awesome. Enjoy the retro-swing stylings of the Coney Island Shuffle, off 1999's Oh the Grandeur!

And while we're at it, here's M. Ward's Rollercoaster off last year's superb Post-War.

Songs for Summer: Pt. 1 - In the Summertime


Summer is the time for long, hot days, cookouts, late nights, bugs, lemonade, swimming and baseball (in the States anyway). It's also a time for laziness. Being that the first official day of summer was June 21st, I was more than a little put off with the dreary, fall-like weather we've been having around here.

I also didn't particularly feel like getting up the gumption to write up something long-winded about summer music (did I mention summer = laziness?). So how 'bout I drop you a load of Summer-infused songs, for downloading at your leisure? I think that works for everybody.

The Lovin' Spoonful - Summer in the City.mp3
A timeless song about humid New York days. From the album by the same name.

Zwan - Endless Summer.mp3
For those blissfully unaware, after Smashing Pumpkins broke up (but before Billy Corgan tried to strike out on his own, and before they got back together), He and Papa M had this really amazing if short-lived band that basically sounded like a brighter, shiner version of the 'Pumpkins, with three guitars. Three! They only put out one album, the really great Mary, Star of the Sea.

Death Cab for Cutie - Summer Skin.mp3
From 2005's amazing Plans album.

Seals and Croft - Summer Breeze.mp3
Summer breeze, makes me feel fine, blowing through the Jasmine of my mind...

Tenacious D - Summer of '69 (live Bryan Adams cover).mp3
Jables takes the initiative to change the lyrics a bit to D-ify the song, and makes it rock.

The Decemberists - Summersong.mp3
From last years' amazing album The Crane Wife.

Regina Spektor - Summer in the City.mp3
NOT a cover of the aforementioned Lovin' Spoonful song. Off last year's Begin to Hope.

Mungo Jerry - In the Summertime.mp3
Every time I hear this song I think of this stupid video I saw on American's Funniest Home Videos, like, 15 years ago where this guy "plays" this song with a bunch of wine glasses and the water spouting from his kitchen sink. It's the kind of thing that would be on YouTube if they had it back then.

Sarah Hammer - Summertime.mp3
A perfect summer song, recorded on the back porch of her house. You can feel the languishing heat and hear the crickets.

Tiffany Anders - Summer Gold.mp3
What?? You've never heard of Tiffany Anders?! Go buy Funny Cry Happy Gift right now and discover this gem for yourself.

Ataris - Boys of Summer (Don Henley cover).mp3
I have nothing to say about this.

Tomorrow: Songs from the Sun!

20 June 2007

NOregon for Sufjan!

'Oregon, With the Wind' a hoax

Speaking of Michigan alumni, In case you didn't hear on Pitchfork, Sufjan's Oregon album, "Oregon, With the Wind," is, um, not real, sorry. Personally, I'm putting my money on NEW JERSEY--it'll be a BIRD-themed album heavy on PIANO. Seriously. (You heard it here first!)

In any case, it's somewhat of a relief that I'm only the second-most-obsessed Sufjan-fan with too much online time on my hands. That's not saying I wouldn't be able to come up with such spot-on fake song titles and sonic descriptions; rather, I just don't need one more reason to remind myself what a dorky fanatic I truly am.

That being said, for absolutely no reason, here's some Sufjan rarities:

Sufjan Stevens - The First Full Moon.mp3 (from To Spirit Back the Mews)
Sufjan Stevens - Damascus.mp3 (from Seen/Unseen)
Sufjan Stevens - The Star-Spangled Banner .mp3 (live at the Seaport Festival, 2004)

Oh, and have you ever wondered what Sufjan himself might think of all this willy-nilly file-sharing of his creations? Wonder no more!

From the horse's mouth: words to live by.
"I’m aware that almost every one of my songs is available online. I don’t mind at all. I think it helps artists at my level. It’s great promotion. Music writers do no justice, with their limited vocabulary. Ad space is not affordable. The best marketing tool is word of mouth. File sharing is a great tool of communication."

--Sufjan Stevens, The Ann Arbor Paper, Issue 19.

So there you go. Feel no more shame for your ruthless plundering of the interblag's offerings in search of Sufjan goodies.

19 June 2007

Two more cover's of Grizzly Bear's "The Knife"

Continuing with my totally YouTube-ular posts:
Beirut's Zach Condon tries his hand at the awesome song.

The Carleton Singing Knights sing one of my favorite songs in one of my least favorite genres. I don't know how I should feel about this a capella rendition.

Tonight I saw their world

Great Lakes Myth Society: Compass Rose Bouquet

Our friends over at Cover Media have been bestowed with the dubious honor of filling our Post Mail Box this week. You don't know excitement until you have the new Great Lakes Myth Society album, Compass Rose Bouquet, randomly arrive in your mailbox.

Admittedly, I was skeptical when a press release trumpeted that they "were fated to become your new favorite band," (oh, I remember the days when I was the one hacking out the press releases) but actually, it's pretty catchy stuff. The self-proclaimed "Northern Rock" quartet have a tough act to follow: Their self-titled debut album, snuck out with minimal fanfare, quickly became a critic favorite. Now, all they have to do is get us on board as well.

CRB blends GLMS's established Americana sound with a more contemporary, indie-rock feel, especially prominent on tracks like "The Gales of 1838." With clean hooks and an easy listenability, few favorite tracks flow easily into your headset but won't leave your head. Aside from the upbeat, swingy twang of "Stump Speech" and "Eastern Birds," a cut like "Days of Apple Pie" will have you harkening back the the good ol' days (which you probably didn't actually live through).

Michigan's latest up-and-comers release their sophomore effort on July 10. Until then, tide yourself over with these following cuts:

Great Lakes Myth Society - Eastern Birds.mp3
Great Lakes Myth Society - Days of Apple Pie.mp3

While we missed their show at Union Hall in Brooklyn last Saturday, GLMS has a few more tour dates this summer coming up. Catch them live:
  • June 22: Ypsilanti, MI @ Elbow Room
  • June 23: Dexter, MI @ Summer Barn Concert
  • July 13: Ann Arbor, MI @ The Blind Pig
  • August 30: Ann Arbor, MI @ Michigan Union Ballroom

18 June 2007

That's How People Grow Up

Ok, so I'm still computer-less (and thus mp3-less) but I thought I'd post this awesome new Morrissey song to emerge via YouTube. Visually, there is not a whole lot to be seen, (just poorly shot concert footage) but listen, oh just listen. And swoon along as the Moz croons "I've been wasting my time trying to fall in love." Oh, what's not to love.

Also check out this billboard advertising Morrissey's June 30th concert at Madison Square Garden, on the corner of 52nd and um I want to say 7th Avenue(it might be 6th)in New York City. I couldn't resist taking a photo:

17 June 2007

Jess on haitus

Attention loyal VK readers! My laptop recently just died (don't worry, most of my mp3s have been salvaged on an external hard drive). But I just thought I'd give you guys a heads up as to explain my lack of recent posts.

I've been meaning to write about the awesome band Brakesbrakesbrakes (formerly known simply as Brakes). I promise to post a few tracks as soon as technologically possible!

14 June 2007

Lily Allen @ Roseland Ballroom, NYC 6/12/07

Don't believe everything you read. Case in point - The New York Daily News' review of Tuesday's Lily Allen concert (scroll down the page a bit). Lily was nothing but charming and endearing. Believe me, I was actually there to witness it. Her performance was NOT erratic and her start-time was not unpunctual. (Her publicist confirmed with CMJ that Lily was going on around 9:30 prior to the show).

Romping around in a poofy white prom dress and matching Chuck Taylors, she was every bit as adorable as you’d imagine, even in New York's cavernous, acoustically-awkward Roseland Ballroom. Yes, she forgot a handful of lyrics and stared at cheat-sheets which littered the stage, but she apologized profusely and won the adoring crowd over nonetheless. It's ok, Lily. We think you're alright, still.

13 June 2007


Is it really any wonder when people's eyes roll into the back of their heads during a late-night meeting, a visit with relatives past leaving time or a night wedding that's gone on just one vow too long. But when the whites of my compadres eyes didn't return back to normal I became worried. That, and the flesh nibbling. The flesh nibbling really gave something away.

It wasn't until their unifying chants did I really freak out: "This Will Be OUR Year!"(1) cried one group. "Let us amass in the park! It is time for the Zombie Jamboree!(2) Uh, I mean... BRAINS... BRAINSSSSSSSS..."

By midnight they had gathered. Everyone I knew was there: fellow alumni, my boss, even my next door neighbors, all once recently deceased. I let out a shriek(3) to which, the zombies enjoyed so much, they started repeating(4) it themselves (along with a disturbing, cheerleader-like chant in the background.)

They were everywhere! And then, suddenly as soon as they had appeared they began to vanish. They returned to their graves, to the sea(5), back to the very blogs(6) where they were first bitten and disappeared. Just another day apparently (Especially the marathon-length meetings).

1. The Zombies - This Will Be Our Year.mp3
2. Rockapella - Zombie Jamboree.mp3
3. Sufjan Stevens - They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From the Dead!! Ahhhh!.mp3
4. mc DJ - Zombies (Illin'-Noise Remix).mp3
5. Of Montreal - Hello From Inside A Shell (Zombies Enter The Harbor).mp3
6. my elves are different

Arlene's Grocery show

Despite our best technical efforts, we seem to be unable to resolve the file issues many are having with the previously posted download to Jeff Buckley's entire Arlene's Grocery Show (NYC, Feb. 9, 1997). So I present the show in a different format, broken down into individual songs. Enjoy!

  1. Intro
  2. Nightmares by the Sea
  3. Witches' Rave
  4. So Real
  5. Haven't You Heard
  6. Lover, You Should Have Come Over
  7. Morning Theft
  8. Vancouver
  9. Snail
  10. The Sky Is a Landfill
  11. Chocolate/Mojo Pin
  12. Grace
  13. Last Goodbye

Many of these songs are found on the wonderful album (Sketches For) My Sweetheart The Drunk.

12 June 2007

Game Shows Touch Our Lives

My love for Bob Barker knows no bounds. In my eyes his retirement as host of The Price is Right, the only bastion of watchable daytime TV left in these United States, is tragic. The man is an American institution unto himself. If you see a girl roaming the streets of New York dressed all in black, with tear-streaked cheeks chances are it's me -that is if I make it out of the house at all, no mean feat given my constant state of mourning.

"But this is a music blog," you say. No worries, I didn't forget. That's why it is my pleasure to present this clip in which two members of the Arcade Fire, Tim Kingsbury and Richard Reed Perry, intervene (lame pun, I know) on the greatest game show of all time. Note their "1-866-Neon-Bible" t-shirts, as they stand behind the first bidder. It's sure to cure your Antichrist Television Blues:

Additionally, here's the most depressingly gorgeous song ever to reference the Price is Right:

The Mountain Goats - Game Shows Touch Our Lives (Live @ the Bowery Ballroom, NYC 10/01/06)

Wearin' a bedsheet like a cape and a cowboy hat

This should have been put up this morning, but for obvious reasons, wasn't. I'm still working on aspirin and coffee, but I can't stomach any more eggs.

Link Fixed: Liam Lynch - Still Wasted From The Party Last Night.mp3

Get this on the hilarious album Fake Songs. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going back to bed.

10 June 2007

They say it's your Birthday!

Sigh... it seems like only 10 days ago I was making a gratuitously self-congratulatory post and here I'm at it again. But for what better reason? Today's my birthday, the single greatest and most important day of the year (Iieee! I can feel my mid-20s slipping away as I type!).

For anyone else who shares their birthday with Tara Lipinski, Leelee Sobieski, Elizabeth Hurley, Mike Doughty, Maurice Sendak, Judy Garland and Saul Bellow, here's a collection of some of my favorite friends, gathered to celebrate it with me. Grab a cupcake or something today and have a good smile as well.

Jeff Buckley - Happy Birthday.mp3
The classic song, with a bluesy riff added, sung to some audience member named "Jimmy." This is a live cut (and I'm guessing a lost outtake from the Sin-é).

The Beatles - Birthday.mp3
The old fall-back for birthday mix tapes. Honestly, can it be considered a great mix if it lacks a song from the "White Album?"

Sufjan Stevens - Happy Birthday.mp3
Familiar title, not-so-familiar tune. From his debut work A Sun Came!, this plucky piece of guitar arpeggios both celebrates a birthday and laments the situation in which it is occurring.

Weird Al Yankovic - Happy Birthday.m4a
Weird Al would like to remind us, in a slightly sillier fashion than Sylvia Plath, that every day we're a bit closer to death. Here's hoping that WWIII won't happen before the next time I get a chance to blow out candles on a cake!

Cibo Matto - Birthday Cake.mp3
The lyrics are key here, if you want the recipe for the grossest cake ever:
extra sugar, extra salt, extra oil and MSG!
it's moldy, mom, isn't it?

Personally, I'd prefer a bowl of White Pepper Ice Cream. Both tracks from 1996's Viva! La Woman.

Andrew Bird - The Happy Birthday Song.mp3
A softer, down-tempo song to close the night out on. Like a Hallelujah, don't just let it pass on through ya. From The Mysterious Production of Eggs.

and my present from Jess:
Jens Lekman - Happy Birthday Dear Friend Lisa.m4a
The Sugarcubes - Birthday.m4a
Yay, Thank you!! :D

...and finally, two songs by or about fellow birthday-mates:
Judy Garland - You Can't Have Everything.mp3
Sufjan Stevens - Saul Bellow.mp3

09 June 2007

Barcelona Cares About Britney

While the entire planet has been on collective Paris Hilton watch this week, I'm From Barcelona have opted to memorialize the world's other favorite falling pop star -Britney Spears. Everyone's favorite geographically-challenged 29 piece twee collective recently premiered their brand new ode "Britney" on their myspace page. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing lead singer Emanuel Lundgren via e-mail for CMJ (full disclosure: I'm an editorial intern there) and got the scoop on his tabloid headline fascinations.

"When the big news hit the world that Britney had shaved her head I was a bit confused," explained Lundgren, "I was confused that it was such big news. But I was even more confused that I was so interested. I think Britney looked cooler than ever with her new haircut. She should keep it, she's a punk rocker. I hope she'd be glad if she heard the song."

Barcelona have also scheduled a handful of U.S. tour dates for later this summer, marking their first ever shows in the States. "We're very happy about finally flying across the Atlantic," said Lundgren. "But yeah, it's a real nightmare to arrange the trip. We're 20 people coming over, and we're gonna have the time of our lives."

Tour Dates For I'm From Barcelona:
08/04 - Chicago, IL- Grant Park (Lollapalooza)
08/05 - Brooklyn, NY - McCarren Park Pool
08/06 - Brooklyn, NY - Southpaw

Here's hoping they run into Miss Spears during their visit!

Stream "Britney" on their MySpace Page.

08 June 2007

And I didn't know all the words, but I sure as shit did sing along.

Armed with naught but an alarmingly large belt buckle and a boombox, Matthew Ryan faces a world determined to bring him down.

Alone in his basement, Ryan pleads and screams furiously acoustic little numbers into his boombox. With a voice that brings immediately to mind a young Connor Oberst, and lyrics that echo the highly literate words of John Darnielle (of the Mountain Goats), his songs can be described as nothing if not powerful.

The intensity in Ryan's voice is almost too much for the boombox to handle, and the reverb that results, that distortion that is almost painful, truly in this lies the key to what it is exactly that makes lo-fi music so compelling.

There are no slick production here. No smoothing of rough edges, no easing of awkward moments. This is real, immediate, grab you by the hair and yank kind of music. And I love it.

'You're gonna leave me,' screams Ryan, 'Goddamnit! I'm gonna be ok.'

God help anyone who doubts him.

Download: Car Rides

Mashup Mayhem pt. 2: Internet Killed the Video Star

Just in time for your weekend, here's the second installment of our Mashup Mayhem this week. Why do Jay-Z and Missy Elliott get so much love from mashups? Is it because they're familiar, or easy? I'm trying to get a mashup of Patrick Wolf's "Overture" and Tears for Fears' "Mad World" because, c'mon, they pretty much sound identical anyway.

The Doors vs The Crystal Method
Zombies Walk!! Kanye West vs Sufjan Stevens
Real a Little While J-Lo vs U2
La Femme D'Monsieur Jones Air vs Mike Jones
Love Will Freak Us Joy Division vs Missy Elliott
Justify My Raccoon Jay-Z vs The Beatles
US Placers Jay-Z vs Thom Yorke
Somebody Rock Me The Clash/The Killers*
No One Takes Your Freedom The Beatles vs Scissor Sisters/George Michael/Aretha Franklin*
Bounce That at least a dozen artists in some sort of audial mosh pit

*Thanks to our co-conspirator Lizzie for getting these!

Here's two that sort of straddle the definition of mashup with sample or remix, but they're great nonetheless.
Under Craig Obey Tonight Craig Obey vs The Church
Ghetto Popcorn Hot Butter vs ODB/Mya
...and you all know that that "Ghetto Superstar" chorus is an old Dolly Parton cover, right??

For all your mashup-ing needs, we recommend preparing for a binge on Go Home Productions and from our comrade DJ JetPilot's blog from Christchurch, New Zealand. He does some great mashups as well, in giant 20- or 30-minute danceable blocks.

07 June 2007

The Devil and Daniel Johnston

The Devil and Daniel Johnston is a documentary I saw recently. After Jess' brief musical education, I sought out a few more tunes, then added the film to the top of my Netflix queue. Now I'm hooked on the man's songwriting genius.

Daniel Johnston is almost the quintessential crazy-genius artist. He draws, he writes music. Brilliant music. His simple, folksy tunes frequently touch on topics close to his heart: lost loves, Casper the friendly ghost, religion, friendship, Captain America and everyday life.

His promising career has been derailed dozens of times from his battle with Bipolar Disorder. Deeply religious, Daniel became obsessed with the devil and often believed those around him were evil and trying to hurt him. Through years of disastrous medications and frightening manic episodes, his unquenchable songwriting brilliance revealed his brightest dreams and darkest nightmares.

This film, gorgeously shot and directed by a former maker of commercials, combines Johnston's home movies and audio-diary tapes from the '80s and '90s with contemporary interviews with his family, friends and professional associates. The result is a painfully clear but sympathetic look at the life of a genius barely recognized in his time. I really liked and highly recommend this movie.

Daniel Johnston - Go.mp3
Daniel Johnston - Devil Town.mp3
Daniel Johnston - The Sun Shines Down On Me.mp3

And here's one of Daniel covering a classic Schoolhouse Rock! song:
Daniel Johnston - Unpack Your Adjectives.mp3
I like it better than the original!

Some might be turned off by the fact that Johnston's singing and playing skills are so mismatched with his songwriting. That is, he lends himself easily to covers. This is just a tiny sample of what's out there. The film estimates he's been covered by about 150 artists.

Sparklehorse & The Flaming Lips - Go.mp3
Bright Eyes - Devil Town.mp3
Guster - The Sun Shines Down on Me.mp3
Daniel Smith & Sufjan Stevens - Worried Shoes.mp3

Daniel put out tremendous amounts of material--dozens of albums on cassette tape alone. In addition to Fun and 1990, recommended in Jess' post, here's a few others of interest:
Continued Story/Hi, How Are You
Fear Yourself (with Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous)

Cover/Tribute albums:
Kathy McCarty: "Dead Dog's Eyeball: Songs of Daniel Johnston"
Various Artists: "I Killed the Monster: 21 Artists Performing the Songs of Daniel Johnston"
Various Artists: "Late Great Daniel Johnston: Discovered Covered"

Spinal Tap Fights Global Warming and Low Volume

I just realized there's a bit of news we may have neglected here at Volume Knob. Is everyone aware that Spinal Tap is reuniting?

Because while you should already know that our blog's title was inspired by a Mountain Goats song, Nigel Tufnel is really the patron saint of volume knobs.

Longer version of the clip here if, like me, you just can't get enough Nigel.

06 June 2007

What do you do when the music stops?

The Pipettes

Yesterday I had the polka-dotted pleasure of seeing the Pipettes perform not once, but twice in a 24-hour period. Naturally, it was a day full of dancing and hand-clapping and, of course, shape-pulling. First I caught an acoustic in-store set by Rose, Gwenno and RiotBecki at New York record shop/indie institution, Other Music. I must say "Pull Shapes" works shockingly well in a stripped-down, acoustic context. Afterwards the trio signed autographs and posed for pictures.
The Pipettes
The Pipettes

I am officially the fourth Pipette. Also, June thinks I look evil in this picture, heh, I'm too lazy too Photoshop it, but you guys should know my eyes really aren't red.
The Pipettes

Then it was over to the West Side for a concert, complete with full-fledged backing band, The Cassettes at the newly opened Highline Ballroom. It's a pretty swanky venue. The lighting is awesome and the sinks in the restrooms will blow your mind. However, they also sell some of the most over-priced drinks anywhere in Manhattan. Four dollars for a bottle of water alone. Sheesh.
The Pipettes
The Pipettes

For more even photos, check out my flickr page.
The Pipettes are currently touring North America in support of their latest single, Your Kisses Are Wasted on Me.

The Pipettes - Guess Who Ran Away With the Milkman?.mp3

Also check out this video of an acoustic performance of "Your Kisses are Wasted on Me" at New York's CMJ offices, also filmed yesterday:

Mashup Mayhem pt. 1: The Revolution Will Be Televised

There's a fine line distinguishing this new form from covers, remixes, and songs sampling other songs. There's a huge history on it on Wikipedia. But we're not here for history or lectures, we're here for pure unadulterated fun.

We girls have been sharing the best mash-ups we've collected so far, so we're breaking them into one post now and another in a few days after you've had time to recover from how awesome this first batch is.

Smells Like Missy Elliot ME vs Nirvana
99 Luft Problems Jay-Z vs Nena
The Made Over Peninsula Sufjan Stevens v Christina Aguilera
World Maps Daft Punk vs The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Boulevard of Broken Songs Green Day vs Oasis/Travis/Aerosmith
Never Feel Good Cake vs Gorillaz
Somebody Stole Your Beat Bloc Party vs The Killers

05 June 2007

This one's for June

Two important pieces of information were recently brought to my attention.

1. Miss June had a pretty rotten Monday.
2. She has also never heard any songs by Daniel Johnston.

While I myself have only heard a smattering of songs by the talented, yet mentally troubled singer-songwriter, it is imperative my fellow blogger and readers alike listen to this handful of songs.

Lousy Weekend - Daniel Johnston
Couldn't find a single friend, friend. Had my heart set on disappointment.
I swear the first five seconds of this song sound exactly like the Mountain Goat's "Dance Music". However, considering it was initially released in 1994 it's clearly not ripping off the goats. You'll be hooked from the manic jangle, self-deprecating lyrics and oh that fiddle.
Off Fun

True Love will Find You in the End - Daniel Johnston

This is a promise with a catch...

Very few singers could get away with singing the title sentiment. Daniel Johnston is one of them.
Off 1990

02 June 2007

New New Pornos!

There are few choice words one is obliged to use when describing the New Pornographers - terms like "super-group," "power-pop" and "Canadian" just to name a few. While it may be cliche to dub Carl Newman, Dan Bejar, Neko Case and company purveyors of pop music of the highest order, it certainly isn't an understatement. This August 21 they're back with their fourth full lengthChallengers. Listen to a taste of it with the awesomely titled "My Rights Versus Yours."

My Rights Versus Yours - The New Pornographers

Tracklist for Challengers

01 My Rights Versus Yours
02 All the Old Showstoppers
03 Challengers
04 Myriad Harbour
05 All the Things That Go to Make Heaven and Earth
06 Failsafe
07 Unguided
08 Entering White Cecilia
09 Go Places
10 Mutiny, I Promise You
11 Adventures in Solitude
12 The Spirit of Giving

It's not available for pre-order yet but check out their spiffy website

01 June 2007

Thought of you and Union Avenue

Widower/The Quiet Life 7-inch

It's summertime, finally... time for ginger lemonades and mint mojitos while enjoying dusk on the back porch with good friends. In such a peaceful moment, what music could you imagine listening to? How about Widower?

The deceptively named Americana group hailing from Brooklyn is a sweet slow mix of country and folk. Not so much country to leave folk fans in the dust, and not so much folk as to leave them indistinguishable form so many other acts form the Boroughs.

Widower features Heather Cowan, who's worked with Ryan Adams on various fun stuff, including the upcoming box set due this fall (check out Cardinals Radio > Shit...hits the fan). She met songwriter Kevin Large at a coffee shop, Joe, that he works at after she was recording at Electric Lady with Ryan around the corner.

Recorded using the internal mic of Heather's computer (including pedal steel, etc.), the new 7" includes members of Lewis and Clarke and The Quiet Life, and will be put out by Safety Meeting Records. They are leaving Brooklyn to be closer to said pedal steel player, Chris Zasche, who lives in Seattle, and plays with Tim Seely and The Maldives (who debuted at the Sasquatch! festival over Memorial Day weekend).

They're touring the GPNW (that's Great Pacific Northwest for the rest of you), down to L.A. this summer. They'll be playing Seattle on July 8th at the Sunset Tavern, and have a split 7" (with Quiet Life) coming out later this month.

In addition to the 7", "Lucky Bastard" will be included on a compilation put out by Kill Buffalo records from Brooklyn this fall. Give them a listen, relax and enjoy.

Widower - The Antidote.mp3
Widower - Lucky Bastard.mp3
Keep an eye on Safety Meeting Records to nab the 7" when it comes out!


If you'll allow a bit of self-indulgence here, I'm feeling frisky because it's finally June, my namesake month. The weather clears, the summer starts, my birthday is coming up soon. Here are some songs I love simply for some gratuitous June namedropping:

Bright Eyes - June on the West Coast
...on the outskirts of Olympia, where the forest and the water become one..."
It's true! I am June, and I am on the west coast, and the forests and the water here in Oly really do become one:

Get this on 1998's Letting Off the Happiness.

Pedro the Lion - June 18, 1976
I was not born on this date, but how cool would it be if I was? This is David Bazan's piece about a girl born on the date of Gerald Ford's cabinet meeting announcing the evacuation of Americans from Lebanon. So maybe it's not a party song, but it's a great tune nonetheless. Buy it on the Progress EP.

The Like - June Gloom
This was my nickname for a long time after seeing The Like live, opening for Tori Amos. The song is great but the nickname is so... depressing? Get this on Are You Thinking What I'm Thinking?

Sufjan Stevens - Jupiter Bad June
It's probably redundant to mention I creamed myself five times over the first time I heard The Soof croon out my name in a languishing, baroque-esque way. The Osso String quartet is highlighted here, with a gorgeous string arrangement carrying us out. This is a live song debuted at the MusicNow Festival in Cincinnati earlier this spring.

Polyesthereogen - June June June June
This songs was actually written for and about me! The a capella intro slows down after the first verse for some synthesized 3/4 time with lovely harmonization.

Pinetop Seven - June
What else is there to say? You can get this song on their 2005 album The Night's Bloom.