31 July 2007

Elephant 6: Target-ed

As Stereogum, so astutely noted in a recent post, not one, but two songs by Elephant 6 bands have been used in commercials by Target. Normally it's a pretty cliche/fruitless endeavor to debate the merits and consequences of "selling-out" (for lack of a better term). However the convergence of Beulah AND Apples in Stereo licensing their songs for the same corporation has got me wondering which band spawned by the masterful psych-pop collective will be next. Something tells me fans of Neutral Milk Hotel shouldn't worry. I don't think the world is ready for Jeff Mangum to sell them discount designer dishware.

In case you're wondering what songs were used:
Go - Apples in Stereo (live)

Silver Lining - Beulah

pretty self-explanatory

I really don't have much to say about this, but if you're exceptional at chemisty (and hate migraines!), you might know.

Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals - The Drugs Don't Work.mp3 (live Verve cover)

29 July 2007

Aesop Rocks; John Darnielle Raps

Well, maybe he doesn't exactly rap, but still, the head Mountain Goat himself drops a verse on literate rapper Aesop Rock's upcoming album None Shall Pass out August 28th. It's really interesting to hear his yelping vocals placed over throbbing hip-hop beats, and somehow the half-spoken/sung passage makes for an unlikely collaboration that totally works. Check it out at the 3:17 mark.

Coffee - Aesop Rock (ft. John Darnielle)

In other tMG/hip-hop news (I can't believe I just started a sentence with the words "In other tMG/hip-hop news") check out this blog post on Popsheep that likens R. Kelly to JD. One of the most hilarious things I've read in ages.

26 July 2007

"It only looks like a laser gun that kills people"

If you like songs that contain a killer robot who threatens to kill the singer alongside spacey electro-pop synths, you'll adore Andrew Thompson's "We're in Business" (off the now out of print Egad!). Yes, it's ridiculous, over-the-top, slightly gimmicky, but the part where the robot coyly states "It only looks like a laser gun that kills people" gets me every single time. If you're looking for a laugh, look no further.

We're in Business - Andrew Thompson

the unrequitABLE crush

The sad truth about being married is that it does not kill your ability to have crushes on other people, particularly younger coworkers. *cough* In the spirit of not unrequited but unrequitABLE crushes (and other love events that are simply not meant to be--but you feel OK about it!), I provide the following selections to jam out to:

Biz Markie - You Say He's Just A Friend.mp3
Well, no. But there is something horrible about the feeling of meeting someone for the first time--seeing in their eyes they already like you--and then mentioning you've just gotten back from your honeymoon. Ouch. You sort of feel like a bitch, but you have no regrets. Fuck, you just got married to the man of your dreams. No apologies for that.

Handsome Boy Modeling School (feat. Cat Power) - I've Been Thinking.mp3
A discreetly sexy, slinky song, and an absolute perfect pairing of musicians here.

Touch & Go - Would You...?.mp3
The ultimate in awkward proposals. A feisty, punchy jazz tune.

Arctic Monkeys - I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor.mp3
"Stop making the eyes at me I'll stop making the eyes at you." This generation's version of loving the one you love (you know, as opposed to just the one you're with). This song was such a fantastic hit a year or so ago that if you haven't scooped it up by now, shame on you.

Reefer Madness: The Musical! - Romeo & Juliet.mp3
Speaking of Montagues and Capulates (as mentioned in the last song) and other fated loves that just not meant to be, these two chirrupy kids are just so darned happy about their doomed love!

Just in case you need a refresher course:

ROMEO: If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this;
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
'To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.

JULIET: Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.

ROMEO: Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?

JULIET: Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.

ROMEO: O! then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.

JULIET: Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake.

ROMEO: Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take.
Thus from my lips, by thine, my sin is purged.
(they kiss)

Bob Dylan - Most Likely You Go Your Way And I'll Go Mine.mp3
The best resolution one can hope for, in the most upbeat and optimistic way imaginble.

There's Nazis In The Bathroom, Just Below The Stairs

Speaking of Green Day covering songs they really have no business covering, you may have heard their take on John Lennon's "Working Class Hero." To say it makes my ears feel somewhat sad is like saying stepping on a rusty spike makes my foot fell somewhat sore. The song has been taken from the recently released "Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur." The album, which consists entirely of Lennon covers, has good intentions to be sure, and some of the tracks sound promising. The Flaming Lips' take on "(Just Like) Starting Over" being a case in point. But then we have offerings like (I shudder) Avril Lavigne covering "Imagine," like (I quake) Christina Aguilera covering "Mother," like (I gag) Aerosmith covering "Give Peace A Chance." And let's not forget the God awful Green Day cover, or the Black Eyed Peas trying their hand's at "Power to the People."

And so, I offer you here, ten Lennon covers that I actually like. That do not make me want to jam needles into my own ear drums at the mere thought of them.

Jason McNiff : Tommorrow Never Knows
An acoustic rendition of the spazzed out psychadelic Revolver closer. The lyrics are incredible, and perhaps come across more here without that amazingly crazy music to compete with.

Willy Mason : Nobody Told Me
Not hugely different to the original. More restrained perhaps. I just really like Mason's voice.

Jim Reid : And Your Bird Can Sing
Where the original was light and fun, this version is gothic and creepy and really quite sinister. "Look in my direction, I'll be 'round" takes on a different kind of meaning here.

Joseph Arthur : Look At Me
A fuller, more echoey kind of sound. It plays up the drifting, floating quality of the original. Which, actualy, is a favourite of mine, so I'm going to upload that one as well. The original.

Exit Clov : Working Class Hero
Ethereal female vocals, soft at first but that slowly build up into a huge and beautiful climax. Creepy and haunting, this is everything the Green Day version is not.

Feeder : Beautiful Boy
Makes the sweetest (and saddest, given that he recorded so close to his death) Lennon song sound like a pop billboard hit. By rights I should hate this one, but I really, really, don't. It lacks the intimacy of Lennon's original, but it has its charms.

Mark Malcahy : She Said She Said
A minimalistic take, with a delicious kind of dead pan humour suggested by the vocals.

The Painted Faces : A Day In The Life
Awesomely distorted, sounds like its drifting down to you late at night through a barely found station on the am band. Chilling stuff.

Kubb : Mother
Soft, almost hesitant. Instead of trying to emulate the throat tearing intensity of the original's ending, here it is almost a triumphant, stadium like sing a long.

Jeff Mangum and Chris Knox : Mother (live)
And here they do try and match the ending. They don't even come close to the pain and emotion Lennon achieves, but they try their gosh darn hardest, bless them.

25 July 2007


Anyone want to tell me why Green Day is covering The Simpson's Theme song???

24 July 2007


I am quite thrilled that the Bowerbirds are opening for the Mountain Goats on their upcoming Fall tour. Those unfamiliar with the North Carolina trio are missing out on the group's all too lovely harmonies, warm acoustic strumming and stark, skeletal melodies. There latest album Hymns For A Dark Horse is exactly that - natural and gothic, yet tinged with light.

Olive Hearts - Bowerbirds
(Just wait 'till the stomping musical buildup kicks in at the the 1:57 mark)

In Our Talons - Bowerbirds

23 July 2007

Happy Birthday, Rufus Wainwright!

From Wikipedia, because I would make is bio 13 pages long:
"Rufus McGarrigle Wainwright (born July 22, 1973) is a Canadian-American singer-songwriter. He is the brother of Martha Wainwright, the half brother of Lucy Wainwright Roche, and the son of Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle. Since 1998, he has recorded five albums of original music, several EPs, and numerous tracks included on compilations and film soundtracks."

Despite another's opposition, I maintain that he is the most talented person in his family, Martha's soul-haunting verses be damned! But don't take my word for it:

Oh What a World.mp3 (from Want One)
Hometown Waltz.mp3 (from Want Two)
Rebel Prince.mp3 (from Poses)
Careless Whisper (live).mp3 (with Ben Folds! And Yes'm, that's a Wham! cover)

21 July 2007

2,742 Mashups!

I've just stumbled upon a motherload of mashups at GoodBlimey.com. There are literally thousands of creative bastard-pop songs to choose from. (Click at your own expense, you'll be perusing and streaming the site for days.)

While I've only listened to a handful, I am currently enamored with a pretty brilliant hybrid of Joanna Newsom's "Bridges and Ballooons," Missy Elliott's "One Minute Man," and The Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever." All three disparate songs co-mingle in loopy, musical bliss. I can also recommend Snoop Dog and the Flaming Lips pretty funky mashup as well. Let us know which ones you like!

20 July 2007

Fitter, Happier, More Productive

Adjusting the Volume Knob on Walter III

Announcing the birth of Walter III with two fitting, computer-y songs:

Sufjan Stevens - Dear Mr. Supercomputer.mp3 (from The Avalanche)
Radiohead - Fitter Happier.mp3 (from OK Computer)

White Rabbits on Letterman

It's always interesting to see what happens when a buzz-y, blogworthy band gets exposure on a national late night television show. I seriously am being to think Letterman and Conan are the only outlets (with the exception of commercials which carry the burden of mega-sellout baggage) in which indie bands can gain acceptance, or at least a modicum of visibility into the mainstream. The latest example of this would be the White Rabbits' performance of "The Plot" on Letterman. I am totally digging their hats, along with the hardcore tambourine playing.

Additional factoid - all six bandmates supposedly live with one and another in a New York loft. How cute.

19 July 2007

VIP, Drinks on me

Transformative covers never cease to amuse me.
Leave it to this guy to bring Sexy Back in a romping Americana fashion.

Rock Plaza Central - SexyBack (Justin Timberlake cover)

18 July 2007

Art Brut Heart Harry Potter!

But honestly who doesn't? Ok, so June doesn't, but she's a freak. (I kid, I kid)
Anyways, enjoy oogling the adorableness of this photo, shot July 11 when both Daniel Radcliffe and Eddie Argos & company appeared on Conan O'Brien:

June on short haitus

Walter II, you will always be loved...

We are gathered here today to remember my beloved 12" G4 PowerBook, Walter II, which passed away two nights ago. As the collector of live cuts, cover songs, and rarities, and the production unit to four novels, he provided me with endless hours of amusement (as long as he was plugged in).
He was almost four years old.

He was much beloved by me, as I have known him longer and have spent more time with him than my actual husband. He leaves behind a 30G hard drive space that was positively overflowing with delicious music.

He is survived and, hopefully on Friday, will be replaced by Walter III, his 13" G4 MacBook successor with more than four times the hard drive space with which to fill up with fabulous new music to be shared by all.

Let's have a moment of silence, please, for my anguishing 5 days without iTunes.

16 July 2007

Old and New Blitzen Trapper

Portland's genre-defying Blitzen Trapper have been getting a lot of indie publicity lately, but it hasn't always been that way. I hate to toot my own horn, but yours truly was one of the first individuals outside the Pacific Northwest to heartily endorse the band's free-wheeling approach to alt-country-psych-pop-rock brilliance. Check out this review I wrote nearly two year before Pitchfork bestowed the band with a Best New Music honor.

Anyways I could make comparisons to bands as disparate as Wilco, Pavement, The Shins and Of Montreal but none would feel right, nor give you a complete sense of BT's sound. And while I've yet to give their latest album a proper listen, it's probably because I'm still so obsessed with their 2005 album Field Rexx. The album contains sublime freak-pop, forays into bluegrass, lo-fi shambolic psych-rock freakouts and a lot of sounds in between. To quote myself "some might say the album lacks consistency, but it never lacks focus. Every song is fully formed and played agilely. This is a band of artists at ease with their ability to traverse genre and form, and in the process they continue to remember that melody is a quintessential to making memorable music. And maybe that’s why it will always make me smile."

To illustrate my point check out these three tracks and try -just try- to remember they are all off of the same album. Quite a feat if you ask me.

Asleep For Days - Blitzen Trapper

Concrete Heaven - Blitzen Trapper

Love I Exclaim - Blitzen Trapper

And one from their latest album Wild Mountain Nation:

Wild Mountain Nation - Blitzen Trapper

It was also recently announced that the boy of Blitzen Trapper just signed to Sub Pop. It couldn't of happened to a more deserving band.

14 July 2007

Calling all Neutral Milk Hotel Fans living in Nashville

Anybody going to this tomorrow? Despite my distaste for a capella, I'm willing to make an exception for the beauty of this event. After all, the power of In the Aeroplane is something more strongly felt, than sung. Plus free pudding. Almost makes me wish I lived in Tennessee.

12 July 2007

"Do you know why you get feelings in your heart?"

I adore, adore, adore Richard Hawley. His raspy British croon, his melancholy lyrics and sumptuous arrangements all make me swoon. If you are unfamiliar with the singer, please check out his latest video for "Tonight the Streets Are Ours," quite possibly his poppiest and most optimistic song to date. Watching it was probably the happiest thng to happen to me today. Those of you fortunate enough to live in the UK can get your hands on his upcoming album Lady's Bridge August 20th. Those of us in the States will have to wait until October 2nd. You have no idea how bummed this makes me.

2005's Coles Corner was probably that year's most underated album. Brimming with sorrow and strings and solitude, it's the perfect soundtrack to the candle-lit evening for one where you hope on a whim a special someone will show up, but you know in your heart they never will. Yeah, I spent a lot of time with this gem of a record. Check out the stunning title track and a live version of "Hotel Room":

11 July 2007

Mountain Goat Covers, Part 2

Here are all those tMG covers I promised:

No Surprises - The Mountain Goats (Radiohead cover)
This one seems apt given all the attention being awarded to OK Computer's tenth anniversary.

Cut Your Hair - The Mountain Goats (Pavement cover)
Another indie anthem gets the John Darnielle treatment.

Two-Headed Boy - The Mountain Goats (Neutral Milk Hotel cover)
JD is definitely aware of the risk he's taking covering a song by a band that's saved more people than Jesus. Before he even starts to sing he states "I know there are a few of you out there living and dying with this one". Indeed, count us among them.

Reel Around the Fountain - The Mountain Goats (The Smiths cover)
The audio quality on this one's not the best, but oh I can deal with the static to hear Mr. Darnielle sing some of the most uber-romantic lyrics ever written, Fifteen minutes with you, well I wouldn't say no Neither would we.

In case you missed some of the more unconventional songs covered by tMG (including songs by such musical geniuses R. Kelly and Ace of Base), be sure to check them out here in my earlier post.

Winter in July + A Tribute to Radiohead

And how could we forget Radiohead?

This might be the one time in Thom Yorke's career where he actually sounds like he could be smiling.
Winter Wonderland - Radiohead

Oh and while we're on the subject, check out Stereogum's stupendous tribute to OK Computer, which features contributions from John Vanderslice, My Brightest Diamond, the Cold War Kids and many more.

Don't let another Hannukka go by, without bringing your mom some pie!

And let it not be said that we here at Volume Knob don't appreciate our non-Christmas celebrating readers. (Even though I'm not all too sure if Hannukkah in July is even a real thing...)

Give Your Mom Some Pie for Hannukah : The Mountain Goats

Featuring 'Hava Nagila' breakdown at the end, for added awesominity!

Christmas in July!

It's too hot! Santa, I wish for snow!

Here in the western United States, we're having a heat wave. It has been more than 80 degrees every day for more than one week now. This is probably laughable to everyone closer to the equator than the 49th parallel N, but here is it devastating!

So here are some songs to help cool off. They invoke memories of frosted windowpanes, sledding, and a time when a mug of hot cocoa actually sounded like a good idea. (Oh, and know that I am sooooo holding back on the Sufjan here. Dude, Songs for Christmas came out 8 months ago and I am *still* rocking all 42 festive tracks.)

10 July 2007

Lame Earth: rock + environmentalism = petrol + clean water

Plastic cups? A jumbo-tron? Where's the green?

I tuned into Live Earth. I saw Keith Urban and Alicia Keys' disappointing Stones cover. I threw in a DVD and watched Clueless instead. When it was over, LE was still on. I watched for about 10 more minutes, then turned it off. I'd seen all I needed to see.

Bombing for peace is like fucking for virginity, and throwing nine stadium-sized rock concerts for a greener planet is like taking a drink for sobriety. The event was so egregiously unnecessary, so inherently wasteful, that it was defeating its own purpose in the most sadly ironic way possible.

I'm sure the sets were made of recycled materials, everyone was wearing American Apparel T-shirts and hemp jeans, and buttloads of carbon offsets were purchased to fly Joss Stone to South Africa (what? they didn't?). How many resources did it take to put together the one in Antarctica?

Rock always has been--and forever should be--a celebration of excess. I don't care if your guitar is made of reclaimed bamboo; no one is going to start shooting up organic heroin. It's the very antithesis of everything that IS rock 'n' roll! (At least one thing hasn't changed between Woodstock '94 and today: don't forget to check out the merch booth.)

I mean, I get it. I get the environmental thing. I have a membership in a CSA, I drive a Prius, I compost, I don't consume commercial meat or dairy, I buy used clothes/music whenever possible. I admire that artists like Guster and Andrew Bird are making conscious efforts to "green" their tours, but it's a drop in the bucket to the kind of toll the road takes.

And, while making these small efforts is better than doing nothing at all, the amount of waste produced from such a massive event is, by nature, totally counterproductive to the message.

09 July 2007

Ever wonder what Sufjan would look like in weird cut-out animation form?

Well the awesome director Jesse Elwes have the answer for you:

Apparently these stills recently emerged as part of a video Jesse was started to direct, but alas for reasons unknown, it never came to fruition. No word on what song the video would have been for.

Check out some of Jesse's actual videos here and his awesome video for Grizzly Bear's "Central and Remote".

08 July 2007

Mountain Goat Covers, Part 1

The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle is almost as good at interpreting other people's songs, as he is at writing his own. His raw visceral voice is capable of turning most the cliche lyrics into the profound. Here are just a handful of examples of JD's transformative vocal abilities.

The Boys Are Back in Town/ Ignition - The Mountain Goats (Thin Lizzy/ R. Kelly cover)
The most brilliant thing about this medley is the entire lack of irony. The former song becomes a melancholic elegy of sorts, while the latter remains a buoyant exclamation of a the best weekend party ever. More rum and coke please.

I Will Survive - The Mountain Goats (Gloria Gaynor Cover)
Oh yes, he will! A clap-along anthem for the ages.

Mr. Inbetween - The Mountain Goats (Bing Crosby cover)
You've got to accentuate the positive
Now there's irony.

The Sign - The Mountain Goats (Ace of Base cover)
There are multiple live versions of this cover floating around internet-land, but this one is by far my favorite. The spoken word monologue not only compare the Swedish quartet to Shakespeare, but mocks hipsters as well. Simply priceless.

Check back soon for another tMG cover post including songs by Radiohead, The Smiths, Neutral Milk Hotel, Pavement and more!

06 July 2007

Music To Mope To

I hate to be such a downer but...

Let It Die - Feist
The saddest part of a broken heart isn't the ending so much as the start
The tragedy starts with the very first spark, losing your mind for the sake of your heart

Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me - The Smiths
No Hope, no harm - just another false alarm

I Wish I Was The Moon - Neko Case
Chimney falls and lovers blaze
Thought that I was young
Now I've freezing hands and bloodless veins
As numb as I've become...
I'm so lonely
I wish I was the moon tonight

Pitseleh - Elliott Smith
They say that god makes problems just to see what you can stand
Before you do as the devil pleases
And give up the thing you love
But no one deserves it

05 July 2007

Track 1 autorepeat...

Yours Truly, circa 1986. NOTE: Nothing has changed.

You ever discover a song that you just love the first time you hear it, so you immediately listen again... then again... then just put it on auto-repeat? Much to the malign of friends, family and coworkers, the following handful of songs do that to me. They tend to be beat-dominant with a catchy hook or sweet lyrics or just some fabulous harmonies.


Cut Copy - Hearts on Fire.mp3 (from the self-titled album)
Mirah - La Familia (remix).mp3 (from Joyride: Remixes)
Depeche Mode - Enjoy the Silence.mp3 (from Violator)
Peter, Bjorn & John - Young Folks.mp3 (from Writer's Block)
mc DJ - UFO.mp3

If that last one sounds familiar, it's because its a sample off the first track off Illinois. It comes from an all-Illinois remix album titled appropriately (and awesomely) enough, Illin'-Noise. The entire album is available as a free download here. Recommended if you've ever wondered what Sufjan would sound like as a squirrel.

Oh, and since I missed the 4th of July yesterday, here's Sufjan performing the national anthem at 2004's Seaport Festival:
Sufjan Stevens - The Star-Spangled Banner.mp3

04 July 2007

Happy Fourth of July courtesy Animal Collective

Animal Collective wish you a happy Fourth of July with their brand-spanking new video for "Fireworks" off the nearly unleakable upcoming album Strawberry Jam (seriously someone was almost fired for uploading two tracks off a promo copy) which is to be officially released in September via Domino. The vid features everything you love about the wacky jubilant collective. Get this -their freaky sonic explosions are complimented by actual explosions. How visually apt! Besides what's not to love about a band that contains a dude named Panda Bear?

03 July 2007

Top albums for the first half of 2007

July 2 is the midpoint of the year, so we though It'd be nice to do a little review of what we've loved so far. Let me tell you, black is THE color for albums this year. In no order:

Rufus Wainwright - Release the Stars

Patrick Wolf - The Magic Position

The National - Boxer

Wilco - Sky Blue Sky

Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha

Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?

In Jess' words: "OF FUCKING MONTREAL (best album of the year)!!!!" 'nuff said!

02 July 2007

Duck and Cover #2

Covers of songs I don't normally like, but like when covered.

What You Waiting For - Franz Ferdinand (Gwen Stefani cover)

Modern Girl - Camera Obscura (Sheena Easton cover)

Closer - Maroon 5 (Nine Inch Nail cover)
I am not the biggest NiN fan. Also I despise Maroon 5. However, this cover is brilliant for its sheer novelty!

01 July 2007

You're like a bird that will not be

Image courtesy of and featuring the awesome "ecrivais."

Sometimes you do something just for fun. You don't expect anyone is paying attention, you don't do it for anyone but yourself. But in the information age, people will pick something up and run with it--how else to explain the popularity of sites like I Can Has Cheezburger?

This is what happened to me about three months ago. I kept getting questions about "What is the deal with this 'suhf-jan' person you keep talking about?" I decided to answer as many questions as I could in one fell swoop and thus created "Sufjan Stevens 101," a blog entry in the LiveJournal Sufjan and Audiography communities which was picked up and spread about the internet. Last I checked, it'd been picked up by BoardReader, mixseek, nnseek, ljtop, RambleOn, elbo.ws, and a rabble of other places, including technorati, which I won't bother to pull up links from because I'm being a lazy pain today.

So, if for no reason but my own edification, I'm reposting it with fresh upload links for everyone. Enjoy.

So who is Sufjan Stevens? He refers to himself as a failed writer, despite the fact that he holds an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School in Greenwich Village. Given an Armenian name when born into the Subud cult (of the "Star "People") on July 1, 1975, in Detroit, Michigan, he's the second-youngest of six kids and currently a devout Episcopalian. His music is not traditionally "Christian"-sounding, though, and he gained some notoriety in 2003 when he (jokingly) announced he would produce one album a year for each of the 50 states, known as the "50 States Project."

Now 32, he lives in Brooklyn and has released seven albums under his name, and has collaborated on countless others. When he's not making music he's still writing, doing graphic design and occasionally knitting/crocheting for Martha Stewart magazine. He manages The Brooklyn branch of Wyoming-based label Asthmatic Kitty, with his stepfather, Lowell Brams (and a little help from his friends). He sucked his thumb until he was in the double digits according to several stories and pretended to be homeless for a weekend in Chicago. He might very well be batshit insane, in the best possible way. Oh, and he's a total dreamboat, too.

In his words:
"This is modern pop music. This is indie rock. Let's consider our audience. I'm not going to pretend that what I do is intelligent music for intelligent people. It doesn't really have to be. It's just entertainment. Song and dance. People want to know -- does it have a good beat, can you dance to it, does it rock?"

(from here.)

10 songs that define and span his career (thus far)

Marzuki: No One Likes a Nervous Wreck 10,000 Roses (For Me).mp3
From Marzuki

Sufjan Stevens:Marzuki::Tori Amos:Y Kant Tori Read, right? That is, this was a band he was in, in 1996 when he was just 21 or so, before he ever started doing stuff on his own. It was sort of a world-folk kind of thing, and this is the only track where he sings as well as plays instruments. It's noisy, it's awkward, it's like the baby lamb taking his first few steps.

Marzuki is named for Sufjan's brother (Marzuki Stevens), the Boston marathoner, who is in training for the 2008 Olympics. The cover art to their second album, 'No One Likes a Nervous Wreck' was a painting by Sufjan called “Vic Chestnutt eats a microchip.”

 A Sun Came! A Winner Needs a Wand.mp3
From A Sun Came!

The first release from Sufjan and his stepfather's label, Asthmatic Kitty, in 2000, while attending Hope College in Holland, Michigan. Sufjan is still clearly uncomfortable about using his own voice as an instrument.
It incorporates, in his words,
"traditional pop music, medieval instrumentation with Middle Eastern inflections, tape loops, digital samples, literary vocals, manic percussion, woodwinds, sitar, amp distortion and Arabic chants." According to Toronto's Now weekly, he "weaves together literary references, from Greek mythology to American Transcendentalism, then combines his tales with his Captain Beefheart and Sonic Youth influenced compositions."

Enjoy Your Rabbit Year of the Ox.mp3
From Enjoy Your Rabbit

Before you ever thought you could pigeonhole him so easily, here's an entire album of electronica from 2001. Yes, electronica. Computer music. Bleeps and bloops and manipulation and phat beats on this album, based on the Chinese Zodiac. This track's plodding beats mimic the heavy footsteps of a yolke of oxen turning the soil.

Sufjan sez:
"Rabbit was a real experiment for me. In terms of songwriting and electronics. I had never done anything like that before...But this was very deliberate. I was tired of folk music. I was listening to a lot of electronic music: Brian Eno, Mouse on Mars, Oval. I learned some things. Digitally generated sounds could be lively and warm. They could evoke an organic environment. I wanted to write music that had a very short history. I wanted to evoke narratives through electronic sound, without using words."

MichiganThe Upper Peninsula.mp3
From Michigan

aka "Greetings from Michigan, the Great Lakes State," The first of the so-called "50 States Project," this astoundingly lush post-rock concept album from 2003 is based on Sufjan's home state. Rich with memories, laments, hopes and failures of his past, this loving dedication shows an odd mixture of contempt and respect for a "failed" state he loves so deeply. In this song, Sufjan sings in minor keys over sparse percussion about the odd folks who choose to call themselves "Yoopers," making a rural and economically depressed area home.

Seven Swans To Be Alone With You.mp3
From Seven Swans

Garnering attention in 2004 as a deeply personal, introspective creation, this album focuses gorgeously on acoustics that shore of Sufjan and his Episcopalian dedications, family, and future. He scales down Michigan's grandeur to a minimalist palette for Seven Swans. Where the previous album was instrumentally comparable to Tortoise or Stereolab, Seven Swans is practically lo-fi, based around simply strummed acoustic guitars, banjo, organ, and hushed vocals. It's more akin to laconic Americana troubadours like Will Oldham and Iron & Wine, though no amount of sonic slimming-down can disguise Stevens's knack for crafty arrangements and accessibly quirky songs.

This was released on AK's sister label, Sounds Familyre, and was produced by Daniel Smith of Danielson Famile.

IllinoisCome On! Feel The Illinoise!: The World's Columbian Exposition/Carl Sandburg Visits Me In A Dream.mp3
From Illinois

aka "Sufjan Stevens Invites You to Come On, Feel The Illinoise!" (and other variants), this is the album that rocketed him to indie-stardom in 2005. Heralded by critics as the Best Album of the Year, the ambition, gloriously sprawling 22-track magnum opus transcended genres.

Really, there's been so much said about it that there's not much more to say, so again I'll leave it to Suf himself:
"An engrossing musical road trip, "Illinois" takes you through ghost towns, grain mills, hospital rooms, and the City of Broad Shoulders, with guest appearances by a poet, a president, a serial murderer, UFOs, Superman, the goat that cursed the Cubs, and Decatur's famous Chickenmobile. Sufjan weaves variegated musical styles (jazz, funk, pop, folk, and Rodgers and Hammerstein-like flourishes) and the textures of 25 instruments into a tapestry of persons and places famous, infamous, iconic and anonymous. Invoking the muse of poet Carl Sandburg, "Illinois" ushers in trumpets on parade, string quartets, female choruses and ambient piano scales arranged around Stevens' emerging falsetto."

The AvalancheSpringfield, Or Bobby Got A Shadfly Caught In His Hair.mp3
From The Avalanche

Released summer 2006 as a collection of outtakes to Illinois, this is a full album in it's own right, with leniency toward three additional rejected versions of the ever-popular Chicago. While most "outtake" albums are a sorry excuse of reject material appealing to completionists only, Avalanche is an onslaught of compelling, fresh, Illinois-based material cohesively and masterfully collected. Springfield, taking home the "Neil Young Soundalike" award, Is a sad story with slightly twangy strings and a slight pick-up beat. Powerfully moving, this overlooked cut eclipses many other "silly" tracks with almost painful Sonic-Youth inspired electric guitar riffing during the bridge and powerful, memorable lyrics.

Songs for ChristmasStar of Wonder.mp3 and
Did I Make You Cry on Christmas? (Well, You Deserved It!).mp3
From Songs for Christmas

From the AK site:
Sufjan & friends concocted a musical fruit cake year after year, implementing every musical instrument they could find lying around the house: banjo, oboe, Casiotone, wood flute, a buzzy guitar, hand claps, sleigh bells, Hammond organ, and some tree tinsel. Did we mention sleigh bells? It doesn’t take much to capture that Creepy Christmas Feeling, does it? Recorded, mixed and mastered at home, the EPs themselves were often assembled in the kitchen, stapled together, and sent out with stickers and stamps to loved ones across the globe, year after year, with little Christmas cards that read: “Merry Christmas. You are something special. Santa Claus loves you. And so do I.”

This collection of 5 EPs (each one recorded every year since 2001, "The Year of Epiphanies") was released just in time for it's namesake holiday, in 2006. These two tracks represent just a sliver of the variety on the collection of 42 songs.
For one, we have Star of Wonder, an amazing, epically lush and wildly histrionic song just barely encapsulating the glory and wonder of the season, with snowfall and family.
Another take on family is revealed in Did I Make You Cry?, a more traditionally rock-y song heavy with guitars and a more contemporary verse-chorus-verse trend.

Sufjan Stevens as the Majesty Snowbird

Majesty, Snowbird.mp3
Performed live at the Tower Theatre

The Epic Song to end all Epic Songs. Seriously, this is my Stairway to Heaven. Bold, sprawling, richly orchestral, mature and polished, this 10-minute classical-sounding artwork proves even though Sufjan has repeatedly said he doesn't enjoy performing live, he can bring it. Seated at his piano with a guitar slung over his shoulder, he effortlessly moves between the instruments and sings, while conducting his "butterfly brigade" orchestra behind him.

Pitchfork sez: "this latest Stevens opus takes breaths, jerks tears, and affirms lives like no other." A non-album song performed live exclusively on his most recent tour of the same name, Majesty Snowbird awes and inspires "sea after sea of melted faces."

Acoustic vs. electronic: Go f!ght w!n


Randolph J. Chabot Jr. started to make electronic music when he was 13 at his home in Sterling Heights, MI. All the music is made in Randolph's basement with the help of a lot of sampled children's toys and synthesizers. The one-man band finished his first album that year despite the ecstatic, aural trauma it caused his mother.

He studied youth development in college with the intent of becoming a social worker, dropping out to pursue music full time. He formed an electro band called Veleciraptor, which inspired the ideas for his current synthesized projects: Our Brother the Megazord and Deastro which try to blur the lines between electronic and acoustic music.

But what, exactly, does it sound like? Acoustic and electronic become not so mutually exclusive as you might believe. Infused with contemporary rock beats, creative use of sound effects and intriguingly complex melodies, this balance tips between the two types of music. Far from causing dissonance, it pulls the ear in draws parallels to ethereal electronic artists like Placebo and Ladytron, with sophistication and polish.

Our Brother the Megazord - Bug Hunt.mp3
Deastro - The Shaded Forests.mp3

He has two full lengths to be released as a 34-song double disc in July 2007: Our Brother’s “Time the Teenage Twister” and Deastro’s “The Young Planets.” He is currently working on songs for his acoustic project Jr. Jr. and the new Deastro album titled "Dark Diamond." (Impressive!)

Also check out Deastro's Myspace page here: http://www.myspace.com/deastrothetracker