31 August 2007

First, We Take Manhattan (then we take Brooklyn)

In less than 24 hours I'll be boarding a plane to go from Seattle to NY (with a short pit stop in Chicago). At which point I will meet up with Jess and we will tromp around the city for the better part of two weeks, not including a road trip up to Niagara Falls.

Chantal Kreviazuk - Leavin' on a Jet Plane (John Denver cover).mp3

I'm more than a little excited. NY in early September is simply the most lovely place in the world: The weather is perfect, the leaves are just starting to turn, and the entire city smells like waffles (well, some parts of it). Here are some songs to celebrate the greatest city in the western hemisphere:

R.E.M. - First We Take Manhattan (Leonard Cohen cover).mp3
For those of us with an aggressive, conquering streak.

The Magnetic Fields - The Luckiest Guy On The Lower East Side.mp3
Do you realize just HOW ugly you'd have to be, to be THE ugliest guy on the Lower East Side? Pretty damn ugly.

Andrew W. K. - I Love NYC.mp3
The song that says it all! If this chorus, brilliant in its simplicity, doesn't get stuck in your head, there's something wrong wih you.

Ryan Adams - New York, New York.mp3
Same title, different song than the Frank Sinatra classic (see below)

Simon & Garfunkel - The Only Living Boy In New York.mp3
For those who get a moment to steal away privately, if you can in a city of 14 million.

Jeff Buckley - Back In N.Y.C. (Phil Collins cover).mp3
Few realize this is a cover, and many hate this track on an album almost 10 years old. It's very rough, raw and even grating, but it's also pretty great.

Interpol - NYC.mp3
We need more songs that are titled simply of what they're about. Good on you, Interpol!

U2 - New York.mp3
Capturing the feeling of a sticky-hot summer like no other.

Beastie Boys - No Sleep Till Brooklyn.mp3
One of my missions is to walk the Brooklyn Bridge, which I've neve done in my previous visits. Maybe I can pop over to Willamsburg and participate in the Hipster Olympics (not that I would ever admit doing, except in an ironic way).

Frank Sinatra - New York, New York.mp3
If you can make ti there, you can make it anywhere!

The 6ths - I've Got New York.mp3
More place name-dropping than any other song about the fair city.

29 August 2007

"It's just a life story, so there's no climax"

How adorable did the boys of Okkervil River look on Conan last night? See for yourself:

28 August 2007

This is the Hardest Part

I feel like some sort of douchebag for taking so long to post this. There's really no good excuse except that I'm mere days away from a 2-week vacation in New York, and am crawling outta my skin to get there.

So pretty much my only joy in life is checking the VK mailbox and receiving a gem like Thrushes' Sun Come Undone. Think of the incredibly dense, lush and complex wall-of-sound effect one hears form local favorites Juno but with a female singer.

Not enough for ya? These folks hail from Baltimore (VK hearts anything Baltimore!) With a deceptively light and ethereal sound making use of echoes and wails. They harken back to the early days of Sonic Youth but with a smoother, more cohesive sound.

OK, I admit it: I'm just selfish. These guys were too good to share. But after embarassingly too many listens (my Last.fm account doesn't know what to think of me anymore) I realized they're too good NOT to share. It's the rock music equivalent of a bubbling Zen fountain.

Thrushes - Heartbeats.mp3
Thrushes - Into the Woods.mp3
Pick up Sun Come Undone

27 August 2007

26 August 2007

Sunday Songs

Sunday Noises - Califone
A really sparse, yet atmospheric track by the alt-county cut-and-paste masters. Off last year's stupendous Roots & Crowns

Tell Me On A Sunday - The Mountain Goats
An older, awesomely lo-fi track that articulates how and when the inevitable break-up should take place.

Everyday is Like Sunday - Morrissey
You probably know this one. An anthem for anyone that's every been counting down the days to the apocalypse. All together now - Come Armaggeddon, COME

Every Day Feels Like Sunday - Of Montreal
Of Montreal's Sunday is nothing like Morrissey's. It is *gasp* happy!

Sunday Morning - Velvet Underground
The Ultimate hangover anthem. A dreamy soundtrack to accompany that "feeling we don't want to know."

Gloomy Sunday - Bjork
Björk takes on the Billie Holiday classic.

EDIT: A bonus song from June!
Sundays - Lucinda Williams
When you just can't seem to make it through Sunday, this sparse, twangy tune will help you feel even more depressed.

25 August 2007

Camera Obscura @ South Street Seaport, NYC 8/23/07

It saddens me to think that anyone would dare break Tracyanne Campbell's heart. The Camera Obscura frontwoman is probably the most endearing thing to come out of Scotland since, um, Belle & Sebastian. Pesky comparisons aside the twee darlings put on one hell of a show (http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.giffor free no less) at New York's South Street Seaport. The band admitted to being "a wee bit overwhelmed" given the massive crowds and gorgeous scenery, but that didn't stop them from singing their hearts out. Just check out her bashful "aw shucks" smile. Heartbroken, we were not.

For even more photos check out my flickr page.

24 August 2007

Pale Young Gentlemen

Pale Young Gentlemen

You wouldn't expect this type of music out of Madison, Wisconsin. Think gypsy-folk orchestrations, not unlike Beirut, rich cabaret-esque vocals and Decemberist-level theatrics and you might come close to achieving the poppy, piano-based sound of the Pale Young Gentlemen but you'd still be a bit off. Their recently released self-titled debut is a rollicking, high energy affair. One you should definitely check out.

Fraulein - Pale Young Gentlemen

Clap Your Hands - Pale Young Gentlemen

23 August 2007

Stop Me If You've Seen This One Before

By now you've probably heard Morrissey has turned down 75 million dollars (that's 40 million pounds to all you Brits), and thus dashed all our dreams for a Smiths' reunion. Anyways the recent turn of events provides me with an excuse to post this clip from a time when the Smiths were still the Smiths. Watch as they appear on an English children's TV show and dash the dreams of elementary school youngsters everywhere, while riding, what else, a double-decker bus! Priceless.

22 August 2007

The National: lookin' good!

Passing on a quick note texted to me from Jess who saw The National live on Friday, the 17th at the free outdoor show at South Street Seaport and snapped us a quick pic from her phone. Amazing! They look just like their album cover!

"My crappy attempt at photographing The National"

"Every Friday in the summer they have a free concert. I'm seeing Camera Obscura there this week and will bring my camera," she notes, so we can look forward to more concert-photography goodness to come!

Edit: I've also been instructed to note the crazy thunderstrom half hour prior to the show. Check out BV's coverage.

21 August 2007

Guilt By Association

By now you've probably heard about the upcoming Guilt By Association compilation. The project essentially involves your favorite indie artists covering your favorite so-called "guilty pleasures." You've got Petra Haden covering Journey's karaoke classic "Don't Stop Believin'" (a cappella style mind you!), Will Oldham tries his hand at Mariah Carey, and Devendra Banhart takes on those Beatles' apeing brother's Gallagher. (Although if you ask us, there is no shame in enjoying a little old-school Oasis, and if there is, well, consider me totally guilty.)
The album hits stores September 4th. Here are some fan-crafted videos that won a contest set forth by the GbA's creators. Enjoy!

Devendra Banhart - Don't Look Back in Anger (Oasis Cover)

Petra Haden - Don't Stop Believin' (Journey cover)

Will Oldham - Can't Take That Away (Mariah Carey cover)

19 August 2007

Mix Tape III!

Another mix for your sharing pleasure; this one for a great friend celebrating a recent birthday.
22 songs / 1:18:40 total

Side "A"
4 Non Blondes - What's Up.mp3 (from Bigger, Better, Faster, More!)
To Be Sung At Maximum Volume.

Rosie Thomas & Sufjan Stevens - Say Hello.mp3 (from These Friends of Mine)
A sweet tune with two lovely voices. I love the awkward, adorable "hi" introductions at the end.

Acacia Sears - Passion Play.mp3 (from Dialtones)
Another favorite track off the album by trhe same lovley lady interviewed here a few days ago.

The Unicorns - Sea Ghost.mp3 (from Who will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?)
Every song can be improved by a 17-second sea chanty intro.

Arcade Fire - Intervention.mp3 (from Neon Bible)
I've said it before and I'll say it again: this brain-exploding tune will melt your face so as to leave your corpse unidentifiable. This is an understatement.

Neutral Milk Hotel - Two-Headed Boy.mp3 (from In The Aeroplane Over The Sea)
"Never, under any circumstances, admit you have no idea who Jeff Magnum is." --Everybody Hurts
Words to live by, there.

Weird Al - Happy Birthday.mp3 (from Weird Al)
I've managed to make a birthday mix for this person every year for four years in a row now, always including a nontraditional birthday song, and never repeating one. However, I'm beginning to run a bit low on material.

Art Brut - Good Weekend.mp3 (from Bang Bang Rock & Roll)
Jess and I once proposed to PPH that the Mountain Goats should cover this; PPH replied that he'd been already practicing the bass line that weekend (which is a wonderful, fun bassline). Cue glee.

Peter Bjorn & John - Young Folks.mp3 (from Writer's Block)
The mandatory introduction to PB&J for everyone else who missed all the great music that came out last year.

Cut/Copy - Hearts on Fire.mp3 (from Cut/Copy)
Beleve it or not, this upbeat, highly dancable tune from some folks in Australia didn't come out in 1986; it came out within the last 12 months. I know, I was shocked too!

Depeche Mode - Enjoy the Silence.mp3 (from Violator)
Perfect transition into a classic that everyone loves (but sometimes forgets how beautiful this song really is).

Side "B"
Daniel Smith & Sufjan Stevens - Worried Shoes (Daniel Johnston cover).mp3 (from I Killed The Monster)
The two friends pair up here for a richly polished cover of one of our favorite lo-fi heroes.

The National - Ada.mp3 (from Boxer)
Moar Seekrit Soof-yawn Plz! Here he tickles the ivories with panache on one of the best songs from one of the best albums this year.

Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire - 11:11.mp3 (from The Swimming Hour)
This mix contains several duets and this is yet another, with a superb balance of male-female vocals here in a rousing Americana-tinged rock song.

Patrick Wolf - Tristan.mp3 (from Wind in the Wires)
A rough, passionate, dark and undeniably sexy song.

the Mountain Goats - Cubs in Five.mp3 (from Nine Black Poppies)
John Darnielle & Peter Peter Hughes up the "oh snap!" quoitent in this wicked sharp anti-love song.

Phish - Mmm Bop (live Hanson cover).mp3 (from A Live One) (YSI)
This is actually Phish doing an impression of James Brown's cover of Mmm Bop. Must be heard to be believed.

R.E.M. - Nightswimming.mp3 (from Automatic for the People)
The epitome of an Indian summer in New York. September's coming soon (and when it does, I too shall find myself there).

Belle & Sebastian - Your Secrets.mp3 (from the Books EP)
"I just had somebody tell me I was introspective to a fault." Wait, did I write this inappropriately bouncy song?

Holcombe Waller - Anthem.mp3 (from Extravagant Gesture)
A great man hailing from Portland, Oregon. With incredible, silky soaring falsetto vocals and digestabe lyrics, this tune redefines what rock is.

Jeff Buckley - Satisfied Mind (live Johnny Cash cover).mp3
A song for a funeral. Recorded live from the WFMU broadcast October 1992.

Tenacious D - Friendship Test.mp3 (from the self-titled album)
...It never hurts to check, just in case.

All we care about is grand-folks

I'm at the grandparent's house in Florida for the next few days, working on a computer with a slow-as-woah dial-up connection, so my VK updates might be scant over the course of the week.

However, considering how much wonderful it is spending time with people whose job it is to essentially spoil you, it seems only apt to share this clip of one particularly awesome granddad. Check out Elliott Smith's grandfather Bill Berryman doting on his extremely talented grandson:

16 August 2007

It was anything but hear the voice that says that we're all basically alone...

Andrew Bird's video for "Imitosis" premiered today and it's a neat one. In addition to featuring some creepy-crawly, bedazzled creatures partaking in mitosis (or maybe just trying to escape from a petri dish?), the clip also further establishes the singer as having the most colorfully wardrobed feet in all of indie rock. As if we really needed any more proof.

Andrew Bird - "Imitosis"

Add to My Profile | More Videos

Andrew Bird - Imitosis.mp3
You must buy Armchair Apocrypha!

15 August 2007

I remember when I lost my mind

You know what's crazy?
Cat Power (alongside Liars) is opening for Interpol at Madison Square Garden?! That massive venue holds somewhere around 12,000 people. Like I said, crazy.

Hence the obligatory Gnarls Barkley cover:

Crazy - Cat Power (Gnarls Barkley cover)

Speaking of covers and Cat Power, Ms. Chan Marshall is currently working on another album where she sings songs by other people. It's due out in January and should be good stuff.

P.S. - Look how adorable she looks with Devendra Banhart in the photo above!

13 August 2007

She's sharp as a razor and soft as a prayer

Acacia Sears

Recently I was fortunate enough to get an interview with Acacia Sears, whose 2006 album Dialtones had picked up some pretty aweome press from the likes of IndieFixx and Curve Magazine. Here I chat with Cacie about inspiration, tattoos and why Death Cab for Cutie shouldn't be given the shove-off just for some well-earned publicity:

I gave Dialtones a good listen last night (OK, three) and something really struck me: the female singer-songwriter genre seems so well covered these days, yet you still manage to have such a distinctive sound. [What came to mind for me was the soul of Lucy Kapalansky singing lyrics by Brenda Kahn, channeled through Dar Williams.] How do you balance creating personal music in such a well-worn genre?

When I first learned to play guitar, I was 14 years old, and the female singer-songwriter was a pretty major commodity. There was no lack of mainstream influence from which to draw, and I latched on to the obvious ones: Sarah McLachlan, Jewel, and Lisa Loeb, primarily. I was young, and they were extremely popular and accessible. It wasn't until I heard Ani DiFranco for the first time that I realized that there was more to songwriting than catchy hooks, a pretty voice, and a marketable look. Ani DiFranco was the first female artist I heard that really made me examine the poetry I was writing, or trying to write.

Most of my songs are written in one sitting, with no later editing, and it usually takes me about 45 minutes from the time I sit down to the time it's complete. My favorite song on the album is "Tiny Me," and I remember feeling so intensely about this one person and being so unable to do anything about it that I had to write the song in order to keep myself from going mad. I couldn't do anything to stop that song from happening, mostly because I was trying so hard to stay away from the incredibly unavailable person in question.

Probably the main reason my style veers away from the more generic or mundane is because I'm drawn to artists that do the same. Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab for Cutie & The Postal Service), Ani DiFranco, and Aimee Mann, for example, all take very simple concepts and show them to you in extraordinary ways. For me, showing you something completely new and unexpected is not nearly as interesting as showing you something you've seen hundreds of times and making you see it again for the first time. That's what I try to do lyrically. Musically, I am limited by my guitar skills, and sometimes that means a song I really like poetically doesn't work out musically. If I can't make it sound like I hear it in my head, I will very often either let go of it completely or take the whole thing apart and use the words for spare parts.

Photo by S. Theune

Do you consider yourself a confirmed solo act, or do you think you might partner with other musicians someday--especially if it might bring some of those more difficult songs to life? What do you see in your musical future?

I am currently working with a full band. We got together in February of this year (2007) and have recently starting playing shows in the Baltimore, MD area. Some of the songs are largely the same, with the exception of having a fuller sound with the extra instrumentation. Some of the songs, however, have a completely different edge to them - for example, we took "Enough" up in tempo and made it a solid rock song. "Reason to Breathe" has been sped up as well, to the point that I'm now playing at the faster tempo at my solo shows as well. The band (tentatively called Acacia Sears and The Expendables) and I are hoping to release an album sometime in the next year.

What's the inspiration behind a song like "If I was Austin?" (I'm assuming you mean the city in Texas and not, say, Austin Powers.)

"If I Was Austin," "Reason to Breathe," and "Passion Play" are all about the same person. We get along famously now, but there was a time when neither of us were very mentally sound and we had a very tumultuous friendship; unfortunately, friendship wasn't what I wanted with him. Half of the album was written over the course of one very difficult year for me, and "Austin" was a huge part of that. At the very end of "Austin," I reference the Chief Joseph speech by saying "I will sing no more forever," which was my desperate attempt at closure. I broke that promise when I wrote "Passion Play" almost a year later.

What are you listening to these days?

Death Cab for Cutie never gets old to me. I know they're getting to be mainstream now, and good for them - they worked hard for a long time, and they deserve the kind of reception they've gotten over the last couple of years. Still, it's almost a little sad to see your best kept secret end up being touted by an vapid character on a popular teen drama. I also really like Sia - her album "Colour the Small One" is just beautiful. She's coming out with a new one soon, and I can't wait to see what she comes up with.

Locally, I have heros as well. Avec in Baltimore and ilyAIMY in (vaguely) Baltimore both just slay me. Avec is a serious rock band with a slightly progressive edge that makes them really different from anything you've ever heard. I met ilyAIMY at an open mic we both frequent, and they take folk and rock and Ani DiFranco's percussive guitar styles and turn it into something that makes you keep their CD playing endlessly in your car. Both bands have a female singer and a male singer, and both bands share songwriting duties. I love when bands do that; the blending of styles along with the natural differences in songwriting makes things so much more interesting and complex.

Who is your favorite overlooked artist?

I recently bought a copy of Patrick Watson's album "Close to Paradise" and I don't have enough good things to say about it. I went to 5 different record stores near me looking for it, and no one carried it, so I eventually had to buy it from iTunes. He's a burgeoning Canadian artist, and I really hope he is received well in the US; I heard the song "The Great Escape" on the Canadian XM station (XM 52, The Verge) and had to pull my car over, it hit me that hard.

Far as I know, Acacia is some sort of plant, and you recently got this tattooed large-scale on your back. Any plans for a guitar on your arm (or perhaps an old-school battleship across your chest? I hear the USS Missouri is a popular choice).

Ahhh tattoos. I love them and I hate them. I currently only have two tattoos, one being the lotus flower I got done on my lower back when I was 19 (because that's what you do!) and the full backpiece of the Acacia plant. I don't currently have anything planned, since this last one took 7 painful sittings, a couple thousand dollars, and almost a year to finish. I have thought of a couple things, though; I was thinking f-holes (like the ones you see on cellos and the like) under my collarbone, but I don't actually play cello, and I'm thinking that would be more pain than I could bear. I think tattoos on the top of the foot are incredible cool, but again, not sure I could handle it. Ultimately I will probably get something either organic or mechanical/blueprint-y if I get anything else. The movie "The Illusionist" had a blueprint of a mechanical orange tree, and that fits all my criteria, but it might be hard to pull off.

Ani DiFranco seems to be a huge influence in your music, and it really comes though in both your sound and words. What sort of music do you hope to inspire in others?

Musicians are my friends, peers, and colleagues, and I find that we all take cues and inspiration from each other. My friend Rob in ilyAIMY was sitting around one afternoon, playing the chords from one of my songs, and ended up writing a song because that's where the chords took him. I've done exactly the same thing on many occasions - all songs start some place, and often you'll find something you weren't expecting while you were looking for something else entirely.

Some people have interpreted my music as being full of "angst," whereas others have found it "honest," or "human." I hope that if I was going to inspire someone lyrically, that they'd take it in a very truthful and personal direction. Just because one person thinks of something as being angsty doesn't mean it's worth less than a happy or hopeful song. No matter the tone of the song, my aim is to convey honesty and humanity. Those are the things I find most inspiring.

Thanks, Cacie!

Acacia Sears - Tiny Me.mp3
Acacia Sears - If I Was Austin.mp3
Buy Dialtones

Jukebox the Ghost & Wakey! Wakey!

It's always refreshing to see a new band play live, especially when you have no preconceived notions about them and then end up becoming utterly enamored with their music. Such was the case this weekend when I caught a particularly initmate performance by two bands on the Family Records roster. Wakey! Wakey! and Jukebox the Ghost besides having names that sound awesome, actually sound awesome.

Hold It In - Jukebox the Ghost
This song represents everything that is perfect about piano-based power-pop. Structurally speaking, everything works: the hypnotic keyboard-based melody, the relentless rhythm, the impeccable "oohs". which kind of sound like something out of a more restrained Freddy Mercury. And to top it all off, there are hand-claps! Highly, highly recommended.
Check out their debut EP

You Could Do Better - Wakey! Wakey!
Quiet, yearning and a bit sparser then some of their songs, but I'm totally digging the sentiment right now.

12 August 2007

I now have a new-found appreciation for Mariah Carey

It was only a matter of time: Final Fantasy aka Owen Pallett aka the dude who arranges strings for the Arcade Fire and plays pretty, orchestral pop songs of his own takes on Mariah Carey and fulfills our every, oh you know.

What's so amazing about this cover is how brilliantly the melody adapts to the violin...oh and the glorious do, do, dos.

It's a sweet, sweet fantasy, baby.

Fantasy - Final Fantasy (Mariah Carey Cover)

10 August 2007

New Zealand: It's not part of Australia!

Dear Rest of the World,
Why are you keeping such amazing and hilarious things from us in the states? We share with you! Please, from now on, if you have something as brilliant and Jermaine and Bret, don't wait so long to bring them here!

For the rest of us who have been asleep a the wheel on this one, VK presents New Zealand's 4th most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo:

Flight of the Conchords - Business Time.mp3
I recommend trying to get a hold of The Distant Future EP diectly from SubPop, as they have been sold out in basically every store everywhere.

09 August 2007

I feel so broke up...

The crazy and epic Sloop John B breakdown that is the end of the last song on Okkervil River's lastest album is, without any doubt, my favourite musical moment of the year so far.

It's an amazingly good album, I recomend you all buy it.

Download John Allyn Smith Sails

Buy 'The Stage Names'

08 August 2007

Mix Tape II - Got You Covered!

This was a special-order mix for someone who requested " 1/3 covers, 1/3 oldies and 1/3 ???" Fortunately I felt able to fulfill the order. With some fab transitions and mini-themes, this is a mix to please indiefans and popskeptics alike!

22 songs / 1:16:10 total time.

Side "A"
Sufjan Stevens - Free Man In Paris (Joni Mitchell cover).mp3
Sufjan covering Joni?? How can you go wrong?! (A: You can't! Especially with this over-the top, horn-flourish-y, extended rock-out version.)

Cat Stevens - Peace Train.mp3
Continuing the Stevens love: Everybody clap along to the hippiest protest song (?) ever!

Sarah Brightman - Whiter Shade Of Pale (Procol Harum cover).mp3
If PC delivers a whiter shade of pale, then SB's version is like ultra tooth whitening: bold, polish and amazing.

Rufus Wainwright - He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother (Hollies cover).mp3

Ben Folds - R-O-C-K With Your C-O-C-K Out (In NYC) (live).mp3
Sick of playing that damn "Rock This Bitch" sing, Ben Folds makes up a new one on the spot!

Richard Cheese - Add It Up (Violent Femmes cover).mp3
Don't even suggest for one second that this punk song didn't need an slinky, ultra-lounge cover.

Tegan and Sara - Living Room.mp3
The perfect introduction to the Vancouver sisterly duo, if for some appalling reason you're not already in love with them.

Billy Preston - Will It Go Round in Circles.mp3
The perfect, punchy companion tot he previous song, this Soul Funk Brother keeps the mood UP!

My Morning Jacket - Dream a Little Dream of Me (The Mamas and the Papas cover).mp3
Ultra slow and ethereal with a lot of echo, this song epitomizes the idea of "dreamy."

Aretha Franklin - The House That Jack Built.mp3

Tenacious D - Summer of '69 (Bryan Adams cover).mp3
Jables and RageKage take it up a notch here and do this song they way it deserves to be done, in true D fashion.

Side "B"
Stevie Wonder - You are the Sunshine in My Life.mp3
One of the happiest songs of all time.

Bill Withers - Ain't No Sunshine.mp3
Continuing with our sunshine minitheme, but flipping the mood.

Pony Up! - Shut Up And Kiss Me.mp3
This fantastic ladies group from Canada opened for the Mountain Goats on their last tour andhas been covered by Ben Lee. Here they play a song that--if you have a stupid crush-- it's great for hitting them over the head with.

The Beatles - Rocky Racoon.mp3
My favorite Beatles song. Maybe. Let's say it's my favorite Beatles Story-song. Hm. Favorite Beatles Story-Song off The White Album. There we go!

Neil Young - Are You Ready For The Country?.mp3
This overlooked track from the brilliant album "Harvest."

Sufjan Stevens - Springfield, Or Bobby Got A Shadfly Caught In His Hair.mp3
I dont need to justify additional Sufjan to anyone, especially this fantastic, Neail-Young-sounding epic slide off last summer's release, "The Avalanche."

Andrew Bird - Heretics.mp3
A great cut off this year's release "Armchair Apocrypha."

Simon & Garfunkel - The Only Living Boy In New York.mp3
For someone who lives in NYC now... and knows that even in a city of 10 million, one can feel lonely.

Howie Day - Buzzing/Africa (Toto cover, live).mp3
This ultra sharp and clear live cut show Howie's M4DD G1T4R SKILLZ at their very best.

The Beach Boys - God Only Knows (Stereo Mix).mp3
This isn't a remix, just clarifying that sound will come out of BOTH speakers--truly the essence of HI-FI!

Ben Folds - Brick (a capella).mp3
Being the huge Ben Folds fan she is, I scraped around and found this awesome rarity.

And a special bonus request for someone else:
The Shins - Strange Powers (Magnetic Fields cover, live)

Barcelona Loves You!

As I'm From Barcelona took the stage at Brooklyn's Southpaw for their third and final show in the United States, I witnessed what could possibly be the cure-all for the deepest, most painful of depressions: twentysome-odd* Swedish people dressed in superhero capes and "Make Music Not Missiles" T-shirts sang and danced and nah-nah-nah-ed away the worries of a sold-out crowd of hundreds. As the confetti manically flew and the sound of kazoos and xylophones filled the air, it was impossible not to smile.

Lead Barcelonian Emanuel Lundgren even surfed into the crowd on massive yellow raft. Also the played a brand new song inspired by the Wes Anderson, Bill Murray flick "The Life Aquatic". It rocked.

If you still haven't heard the geographically-confused pop collective, take a listen:
We're From Barcelona - I'm From Barcelona

For more Barcelona photo action, including the setlist and Emanuel's awesome floral sneakers, check out my Flickr page

*I know technically there are 29 members, but a handful were unable to tour. At my best estimate, I counted about 21 or 22 people on stage total.

07 August 2007

The future is AWESOME

Oliver Future's new album, Pax Futura, comes to us via Ink Tank. While currently residing in Austin by way of L.A., they retain a fabulously consistent rock sound, absorbing the best that both music worlds have to offer.

When this album fell from the sky into my lap, I gave it the same decent chance as I do others--but I was pretty much blown away on the first listen. While most albums are merely a collection of songs, this is a tightly cohesive unit. The songs can stand on their own, but brilliant transitions and recurring thematic elements insist you listen straight through from beginning to end.

Combined with instantly arresting lyrics, unstoppable guitar riffs and rock beats (borrowing from some old-school veterans like The Clash and U2), this album is in the league of Neutral Milk Hotel's or The Unicorns' respective magnum opi.

Here's two tracks of particular catchy interest:

Oliver Future - Stranger Than Stranger.mp3
Oliver Future - The Second.mp3

Pax Futura is out now, but expect to see it mentioned again in my "Top Albums of 2007" list come December.

06 August 2007

Why Jonathon Richman circa 1976 should have dated Liz Phair circa 1995

Way back in 1976, Jonathon Richman, the head Modern Lover himself just wanted someone he could care about, someone he could understand, someone who could be his girlfriend. That's a G-I-R-L-F-R-E-N-D.

Fast forward nearly 20 years. It is then Ms. Phair* ponders in a jaded, deadpan tone "what ever happened to a boyfriend?" You know, someone who could "make love cause he's in it." All she wants are "letters and sodas," but alas she laments the death of such niceties, such "stupid, old shit" in our post-modern society.

While the decades elapsed, given the tragic nature of time we can only hope Jonathon and Liz meet someday on the astral plane. You are probably already familiar with these classics, in case you owe it to yourself to take a listen.

Girl Friend - The Modern Lovers
Someone I Care About - The Modern Lover
Fuck and Run - Liz Phair

*I'll refrain from the cliche banter on her future sell-out status, because in my opinion she's guilty of a much more serious crime: becoming boring in her old age. But let's stay in the moment here. Pretend nothing but Exile in Guyville exists.

04 August 2007

Monster Bobby + bella

I've been digging a lot of electro-pop lately, but not your average, mindless genre offerings. Let me put it this way. There is something utterly fantastic about brilliant pulsing beats juxtaposed with melancholy lyrics. It's music that makes you want to dance to forget you want to cry. Here are tracks off two upcoming albums that fit the mood too well.

I first caught Monster Bobby playing an all-too-brief acoustic set opening for his pet project: the polka-dotted, retro-pop princesses that are the Pipettes (he is their "concept engineer" and lead guitar player of their backing band the Cassettes after all). But his debut solo album Gaps (out August 7) takes a different approach, as he nixes pristine studio production for fuzzy, lo-fi, electro-acoustic bliss.
Additionally, the album features some pretty damn quirky (yet never gimmicky) psychiatric-worthy song titles including the fabulous "Let's Check Into A Hopsital Together" and "The Closest Experience To That Of Being With You Is The Experience Of Taking Drugs." I can't recommend the album highly enough.

The Closest Experience To That Of Being With You Is The Experience Of Taking Drugs - Monster Bobby
The Postcard - Monster Bobby
Let's Check Into A Hospital Together - Monster Bobby

And then there's bella. The Canadian indie-pop trio feature some superb boy-girl vocals and spacey, synth beats. At once moody and melodic, their music could soundtrack a night on the dancefloor or a weepy, evening alone in the bedroom. No One Will Know is due out September 18. In the meantime, here's a preview:

Camelot - bella
We Said Goodbye - bella

Mix tape!

There's about 23,984 birthdays happening right now, so what's better than the gift of music? Here is a mix a made for one person. (Another will follow shortly.)
21 tracks / Total time: 1:17:04 (yes, it fits onto one Audio CD!) Enjoy!

Side "A"
I'm From Barcelona - The Painter.mp3 (from Let Me Introduce My Friends)
a 29-member band from Sweden. They are so happy with their limited English!

Little Horse - Running Just Ahead Of The Devil.mp3 (from Perils And Thrills EP)
This is how Ben Folds would be if he were brothers instead of one guy, and some Spanish flair.

Cibo Matto - Birthday Cake.mp3 (from Viva! La Woman)
"Cibo Matto" meaning "strange food." Who wouldn't want a birthday cake with "extra sugar, extra salt, extra oil and MSG!"

Franz Ferdinand - Michael.mp3 (from Franz Ferdinand)
Namedropping for the person this mix is for.

Sufjan Stevens - In the Words of the Governor.mp3
You wouldn't believe this was Sufjan if I didn't tell you, but it's his newest song. Harkening back to his "Enjoy Your Rabbit" days, does the phrase "screamo" mean anything to you?

Saul Williams - Grippo.mp3 (from Saul Williams)
The last song reminds me of this one, sonically.

Patrick Wolf - The Libertine.mp3 (from Wind In The Wires)
Taking it down a notch somewhat, I love the pulsing rhythym, the unusual instrumentartion and strained strings.

Joe Jackson - Angel (Lust).mp3 (from Heaven & Hell)
"Heaven&Hell" came out nearly a decade ago and it still awes and amazes. Seven songs for seven deadly sins, each lyrically and acoustically appropriate to its topic. Here, we have a saucy Suzanne Vega on vocals catcalling men.

Lyle Lovett - Here I Am.mp3 (from Lyle Lovett and His Large Band)
I have long considered performing the spoken parts as a monologue. Perhaps at an audition. Anything. I just want to say these words in front of large groups of peole with the passion that Lyle delivers here.

Jeff Buckley - New Year's Prayer.mp3 (from Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk)
Jeff Buckley needs neither reason nor explanation, expecially for such a darkly ethereal track.

Side "B"
Bascom Lamar Lumford - I Wish I Were a Mole in the Ground.mp3 (from Ballads, Banjo Tunes and Sacred Sons of Western North Carolina)
BLL was a lawyer during the Great Depression. He wrote one fantastic album, and this is my favorite cut off it.

Daniel Johnston - Etiquette.mp3 (from Continued Story)
Daniel Johnston speaks to me. Here he offers the lowest-of-the-fi kind of song with his buddy: simple, happy and fun with some good advice on "how to make friends and influence people."

The Mountain Goats - Golden Boy.mp3 (from Ghana)
More ultra low-fi. John Darnielle must REALLY love these peanuts. I've never had them myself, but I'm obsessed with the funniness of the song, so I think today I might go out of my way to find a pan-Asian supermarket to find those golden boys from Singapore.

The Magnetic Fields - Strange Powers.mp3 (from Holiday)
This song contains such amazing imagery.

Les Sexareenos - Everybody Sexareeno!.mp3 (from Live! In The Bed)
They are putting the FUN back into RAWK. I especially love the "Hang on Sloopy" part in the middle.

The Beatles - What Goes On.mp3 (from Rubber Soul)
Some classic but not cliche Beatles, to sort to tie things together with a shred of familiarity.

Nickel Creek - Spit On A Stranger.mp3 (from This Side)
This is their cover of a Pavement song. It's much better than their cover of a Britney Spears song.

The Divine Comedy - Gin Soaked Boy.mp3 (from A Secret History)
The happiest, most positive and rhymingest song, with the BEST second-to-last-line EVAR.

The Smiths - Reel Around The Fountain.mp3 (from The Best Of The Smiths, Vol. 2)
Awwww, Morrisey attempts to be somewhat non-melancholic!

Mirah - La Familia.mp3 (from Joyride: Remixes)
A song I am obsessed with from an [Ever]Greener Grad. It's always important to distinguish, with a chorus like this, that it is a PONDERANCE ONLY and not a proposition.

Future Bible Heroes - The Lonely Robot.mp3 (from The Lonely Robot EP)
Epic story-songs always make for the best end credits.

02 August 2007

"I got me so down, I got me a headache"

Let Frank Black ease your Thursday afternoon blahs.