30 November 2007

Mr. Red Blues EP

Here's a holiday treat to help you kick off your weekend courtesy VK faves Donny Hue and the Colors. Their Mr. Red Blues EP features eight totally original Christmas tracks which revel in the wintery jangle of the season. Here's the title track for your listening pleasure.

Also be sure to check out the there latest full-length, the utterly spellbinding Folkmote.
Mr. Red Blue - Donny Hue and the Colors

29 November 2007

A Room at the Heartbreak Hotel

A comi-tragedy in progress:
Act 1

Girls enjoy Sufjan's music. Girl decides to get tickets and arfaire for both to see Sufjan speak at PENultimate literary event as surprise for other girl. Girls go, at great time and expense and expectations for, you know, hearing Sufjan. Less than 12 hours before event, Girl gets email:
Dear all,
Due to unforeseen circumstances, tonight’s PENultiamte Lit event with Sufjan Stevens, Rick Moody and Wesley Stace has been postponed. We feel awful about rescheduling at this late date, but a very recent turn of events has taken us by surprise.
We plan to reschedule the event, so please stay tuned for details. Each of you are guaranteed a spot and I will email you with the new date.
Please accept our deepest apologies and we hope to see you when the event happens.
My best,

Girl is in denial. girl writes email:
Hi AK folk,
I just received an e-mail that tonight's lit event at Southpaw is postponed. First, we are just concerned and hope everyone/everything is OK. Second we're not sure what to do with tickets except pass them on... My friend and I flew out here from Seattle just to see Sufjan tonight... we're more than a bit heartbroken knowing we probably can't come back when it's rescheduled. We just hope though that nothing truly awful has happened.
With that creepy Christmas feeling,
June & Meghan

Girl cries. Girl receives email:
Dears June and Meghan,
We are heartbroken for you. Please know
it is because Sufjan has contracted the flu. He must be feeling very
out of sorts because he never cancels engagements.
His assistant said, and she does not know for sure,
that it will be re-scheduled for December 17th. You
may try to be reimbursed through Ticketweb for your
tickets. We know that does nothing for your disappointment
and expenses to come to New York.
Thank you for your willingness to travel so far to see Sufjan.
I will let him know.
Diane/ Asthmatic Kitty Records

Girl is glad to know truth but realizes this does not fix situation. Girls go out with friends and have fun around NYC regardless, placing absolutely no pressure on the excitement and importance of seeing the Mountain Goats tonight. Girls promise to update with further details, and perhaps less crying. Girls keep Sufjan in their thoughts and prayers and wish him a speedy recovery

End Act 1

U2 - A Room at the Heartbreak Hotel.mp3
Sufjan Stevens - That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!.mp3

27 November 2007


I'm sitting in Orlando International airport right now. Free wireless never felt so good. Here are three apt songs about such transitory locales.

The City, The Airport - Loney Dear
Airport - Jason Collett
Airports - Morning Recordings

26 November 2007

Campaign '08!

This is what happens when you have new graphic design software, not a lot of creativity, and a lot of time on your hands. (If you can think of any other great pairings or campaign slogans, pass 'em on and I'll see what I can do with it.)

This last one is for the greatest mashup of all time:
R. Kelly/Jens Lekman mashup - If I Could Rock (It Would Feel Like This).mp3

I know, it's truly difficult to imagine that Jens himself didn't write lyrics like "the way we fuck gon' lead to childburfin'," and "girl your booty so swole, how you get dem jeans around it," but it's true! You learn something every day.

There is no way to say and there is nothing I can do.

This is surely the most adorable video of 2007...and I don't even like children, in fact I loathe them. But there is just something about Herman Dune's pink muppet-esque head covering -it's all kinds of endearing. And that's to say nothing of the song itself. "I Wish That I Could See You Soon" features trumpets as boppy and lyrics as melancholy as anything you'd hear on a Belle & Sebastian album minus any of the art-school pretension. GO!

24 November 2007

No Music Day?

Do people in Britain actually do this? Could you go an entire 24 hour period without listening to anything? According to this Salon.com article, November 21 is quickly taking on the title of No Music Day. Perhaps it could be refreshing, or just plain maddening?

22 November 2007

remember: the dump is closed today

It's Thanksgiving here in the U.S., but instead of punishing everyone with that tired Adam Sandler Thanksgiving song, I thought it'd be more apprepriate for that Alro Gutherie classic, Alice's Restaurant Massacree.

Arlo Gutherie, the son of folk legend Woody Gutherie, is also an American folk singer-songwriter who is best known for this song which, in the "short" version, clocks in past 18 minutes. Several live versions stretched past the 22-minute mark.

The song is a rambling tale --based on a true story that hapened to Arlo in 1965--told over music with occasional breaks for chorus. It tells the tale of how he and some friends needed to haul some trash to the dump, only to realize that it's closed on Thanksgiving. They decide to dump anyway, get arrested, go to court... Well, I'll let you listen to the ending yourself!

It's not just a fun story, but also a humorus talking-blues satire on the Vietnam War draft and anti-hippie prejudice. Legend has it that when Guthrie had learnt that Richard Nixon was a fan of the song, he suggested that this explained the famous 16 and a half minute gap in the Watergate tapes.

Feast yourself on sound and story:
Arlo Gutherie - Alice's Restaurant Massacree.mp3

21 November 2007

"I'm not the lady killing sort"

So I'm away for the week, visiting the grandfolks and accessing these new-fangled internets via their old-school AOL server. The connection is slooooow (with a hundred "o's"). Also their computer lacks sound?! So here I am providing you with a clip of what I would be watching (and listening to) if I wasn't in the presence of the technologically impaired.

It's Okkervil River's Will Sheff performing "A Girl in Port" solo acoustically on a beach in Italy. It looks great. I'm betting it sounds great too.

19 November 2007

Ain't too proud to beg

Here's the sitch: I bought two plane tickets from here to New York next week. My original return date was the 29th--until Jess calls me to say the Mountain Goats are doing a show at NYU that night! So I change my flight's return date to the next day so I can go to the show.

Unfortunately, I don't learn until after I do this that the show is predominantly open to NYU students, with an exceedingly limited number available to the public (and not on sale until the day of). Horrifying visions of not being able to get in abound in my nightmares.

THEREFORE, we are offering current/former NYU students (or anyone else who can get us tix) compensation for two tickets (I believe they're $8 each) AND Jess and I would each make you a unique, custom VK-mix CD!

So here is your obligatory begging, pleading, wishing, and hoping:
Muse - Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want (Smiths cover).mp3

"It's you! It's me! It's dancing!"

So last Friday I was feeling like crap. So I did what I normally do when I feel like crap -buy a random album by a band I know little about in hopes that they will lift my spirits just a tad. It turned out Los Campesinos! debut EP Sticking Fingers Into Sockets was more than up for the job. From the very first track "We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives" I knew these guys were something special.

The British seven-piece led by Gareth Campesinos! makes it ok for you to like bands with gratuitous exclamation points in their name again. Seriously, with track titles like "Don't Tell Me to Do the Math(s)" and "You! Me! Dancing!" these guys have a thing for excessive punctuation. They also have a thing for glockenspiel and uber-clever lyrics. I hate making up weird genre-hybrid terms, but for the sake of describing them I'm gonna go with the somewhat cringeworthy modifer "twee-punk". They sound something like a more frenzied Architecture in Helsinki crossed with a less-abrasive version of Art Brut, with a dash of the Unicorns thrown in for good measure.

While the entire output of their career only spans 16 minutes, it might just be the most joyous 16 minutes I've heard all year. Listen for yourself.

Don't Tell Me to Do the Math(s) - Los Campesinos!
You! Me! Dancing! - Los Campesino!

And here they are leading the International Tweexcore Underground (their words, not mine):

18 November 2007

I'm going under

As you've probably discovered by now, I am a cover song fanatic. Drastically reinterpret any song and I'm likely to swoon. Unless it's bad. Then maybe not.

It's not just the novelty of this version of "Toxic" I like. I like how its striped down and the lyrics are put in the forefront, spotlighting how just how sad, self-destructive the nature of the relationship being described really is. Whatever. It's a great song regardless.

Toxic - Stevie Ann (Britney Spears cover)

Special thanks to Cover Lay Down an amazing blog which specializes in folk covers. Check 'em out.

17 November 2007

Give Me A Home Among The Gum Trees

Jens Lekman

"I don't think it's even a rumour anymore--I have my working holiday Visa, and I've already brought a little straw hat to wear. And I'm stocking up on sunscreen. Yeah, it's not a rumour- I think it's fact by now."

This is what Jens Lekman said when asked by Drum Media if it was true he was planning on moving to Melbourne, Australia at the end of his current tour. Perth was apparently his second option, but according to Jens, West Australia is just a bit to hot for his delicate Swedish disposition. (Never thought I'd see the day when sunny Perth would loose out to dreary Melbourne on account of its weather...)

Do you think a move to the land down under will result in more tours of the land down under? This is one VK-er who is certainly hoping so!

16 November 2007

Your 33 Black Angels

Your 33 Black Angels

Sometimes a band comes out of left field, devoid of hype, but deserving of praise because they write some damn catchy, rocking songs. Think the scrappy-ness of Pavement plus the hooky-ness of the Strokes--except then Your 33 Black Angels craft a song as jangly, yet shambolic and really, really gorgeous as "Town & Country" and blow all those comparisons out of the water.

Holy crap, they are good.
Town & Country - Your 33 Black Angels.mp3
Sue - Your 33 Black Angels.mp3

Stream more on their MySpace page

Thanks to reader Bryan for the tip!

15 November 2007

Lion, have some Pride!

I'm not a big fan of pimping chains, but I'm living and working out of the Red Lion Hotel in Spokane, Washington this week for my day job (what, you thought we spend 24/7 tying to earn an income by sharing awesome music? We wish).

Usually corporate music channels are an abomination of music, with wretched mixes of "adult contemporary" rotating every two hours--or, worse, Muzak covers of the same (So THIS is where Celine Dion finds her audiences). However, this week I have been delighted with a truly diverse blend of pleasant music, including some choice oldies (The Mamas and the Papas, The Zombies), respectable country (Hank Williams), and even some indie favorites--and not just the one or two songs that crossed over to Top 40 radio.

So here's four songs I heard this week that I never thought I would hear in this sort of setting. Kudos to you, Red Lion people!

Death Cab for Cutie - Crooked Teeth.mp3
Ben Folds Five - Jackson Cannery (1990 solo demo version).mp3
Andrew Bird - Fiery Crash.mp3
Tori Amos - Winter (live).mp3

Thanks to Toothpaste for Dinner for the classic strip.

14 November 2007

And I try to be satisfied...

"Disco" and "Romance" are usually two things that make me cringe. Yet somehow when Sally Shapiro combines them, as she does on her debut album, the aptly titled Disco Romance which finally got released stateside last month, well I find myself pleasantly surprised. Geez, is there anything the Swedes can't do? Icy electronica that chills and hypnotizes the heart.

He Keeps Me Alive - Sally Shapiro

13 November 2007

Through the Wilderness

I shouldn't be this excited for a tribute album and yet I am. Through the Wilderness offers some indie-tastic takes on like every Madonna song ever (well at least all the good ones). It's set for release November 27. Check out the tracklisting:

1. “Oh Father” - Giant Drag
2. “Justify My Love” - Bat for Lashes w/ Moon and Moon
3. “Like a Prayer” - Lavender Diamond
4. “Hung Up” - the Tyde
5. “Like a Virgin” - Ariel Pink
6. “Human Nature” - VietNam
7. “Material Girl” - Mountain Party w/ Devendra Banheart
8. “Who’s That Girl” - The Bubonic Plague
9. “Holiday” - Siddhartha
10. “Borderline” - The Chapin Sisters
11. “Live to Tell” - Winter Flowers
12. “Impressive Instant” - The Pangaeans
13. “Lucky Star” - Alexandra Hope
14. “La Isla Bonita” - Jonathan Wilson
15. “Crazy for You” - Lion of Panjshir
16. “Cherish” - The Prayers
17. “Burning Up” - Women and Children
18. “Beautiful Stranger” - Golden Animals

And here's a preview mp3. Lavender Diamond frontwoman Becky Stark's voice was born for "Like a Prayer". She adds a little touch of girly naivete and it's awesome.

Like A Prayer - Lavender Diamond

A contest and a quiz

From Rolling Stone Magazine, The Almost-Impossible Rock & Roll Quiz. Seriously, they're not kidding. (My score of 30, out of 58 questions, labels me a "wiz" that should "read more liner notes"--though I'd still grovel myself for a D- in the old-fasioned school-grading system.)

Not big on trivia? ...Well, can you write a song?
Courtesy of Asthmatic Kitty:

It's Christmas time again! That means tightly bundled scarves, lively debates on the merits of real/plastic trees, a litany of Christmas television specials, and finding the perfect retro Christmas wrapping paper.

And gifts of course! Who could forget the gifts!

That's why Sufjan Stevens is busy working on a very special gift right now, for a very special person. And in the spirit of Christmas, that person will give Sufjan a similarly special gift.

Here's how it works: write an original Christmas song, record it, and email the song to us. Asthmatic Kitty will pick a winner, and that person will trade rights to their song for rights to a new Sufjan Christmas song.

Just like a gift exhange, Sufjan's new song becomes your song. You can hoard it for yourself, sell it to a major soft drink corporation, use it in your daughter's first Christmas video, or share it for free on your website. No one except Sufjan and you will hear his song, unless you decide otherwise. You get the song and all legal rights to it. We get the same rights to your song.

Contest begins November 9th, and all submissions must be in by midnight December 1st. We will contact and announce the winner on or around December 15th.

We are also placing Sufjan's 5-album Christmas set online for free until December 25th!

Go here for more details, and to listen to the full Sufjan Christmas album for free:

So there you go. You know what to do! Go do it! and remember your girlie friends at VK when you win!

12 November 2007

My favorite bands cover my other favorite band.

You've probably all seen this by now (those Radiohead webcasts spread fast!). But I shall post it regardless, because I just love, love, love how Thom Yorke nearly yodels the chorus. It is agony expressed as joy. And it is swell.

And here's the mp3:
The Headmaster's Ritual - Radiohead (The Smiths cover)

And one more very, very recent Smith cover sighting. The Arcade Fire played a rollicking rendition of "Still Ill" while touring through Manchester (where else?) just a few short weeks ago.

Still Ill - Arcade Fire (The Smiths cover)

11 November 2007

A Low-Budget Documentary of K Recs

via Jess, a little Sunday-night bubblegum for the brain...

This video is entertaining for several reasons:
1. A short spoken/sung piece on K recs (shout out to Olympia and The Evergreen State College!)
2. It's Jeffrey Lewis - most of his songs are weird, silly mostly spoken-word pieces.
3. He's performing in front of Noyes! My dorm and home for three years at Vassar. Yes, it really is that ugly (ugly and awesome and I wouldn't have wanted to live anywhere else):


10 November 2007

More Morrissey

Here a couple of "new" live Morrissey songs which are slated to be on his upcoming, as of yet untitled album due for a September 2008 release. The Moz is as self-deprecating as ever. Listen for yourself
That's How People Grow Up - Morrissey
I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris - Morrissey

08 November 2007

Grizzly Bear are your FRIEND

I am still reeling from the creeps after hearing Grizzly Bear perform their now infamous cover of The Crystals' "He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss)" last night. As good as the cover sounds on their recently released Friend EP, nothing can compare to their live version. A song that attempts to justify domestic violence enacted towards cheating lovers is creepy enough as it is. But Grizzly Bear magnify the song's creepy brilliance tenfold. The eerie intermingling of the harmonies, the prolonged yearning, the crashing psych-rock freakout of the rhythm section -they all render the original impotent.

GB's live performances really illuminate their album material. The muted melodies come alive to electrifying effect. Also Daniel Rossen wore his winter coat (with the hood up!) during the first few songs. Maybe it's just me, but it was an adorable touch, for a band that really can't be considered "adorable" in any other regard.

It's a shame they never got to perform on Conan last Tuesday, like they were scheduled to. They were supposed to play "Knife" along with members of some Brooklyn High School choir. They accompanied them during their set and supplied extra "Oh, Oh, Ohs" making the song even more lush and vibrant. It's not that I don't support the writer's guild, but the strike certainly is taking its toll on bands deserving of a little mainstream exposure. Even if, no, rather, especially if, that exposure creeps out the mainstream.

Compare and contrast "He Hit Me":
He Hit Me - Grizzly Bear (The Crystals cover)
He Hit Me - The Crystals

And one more somewhat obscure GB cover
Owner of a Lonely Heart - Grizzly Bear

06 November 2007

"Paris! Paris!"

We here at VK might be a little over-zelaous with the Jens Lekman love lately, but this cover version of Moondog's cabaret romp "Paris" is too good not to post. Philadelphia's all-male a cappella group Silver Ages lends Jens a hand as well. Snap along and enjoy.

05 November 2007

The (Obligatory) Black Kids Post

I've been hesitant to write about Black Kids because everyone and their grandmother has been writing about Black Kids. I will try to make this entry devoid of hype, hyperbole or trash-talking because the Jacksonville, Florida quintet has already had its fair share of all of the above, on the sole basis of a four-song EP no less. Instead, I will
attempt to eludicate and inform you of a band that you may or may not like, but that decision should be made based on the music and not my words.
See, here's the part where I could tell you about how only two of the members (siblings Reggie and Ali Youngblood) are actually black and how the other three-fifths of the band maybe represent ironic cultural appropriation. But see, none of that matters. Because when I hear the first downbeat of "I'm Not Gonna Teach Him" I don't want to think; I want to dance! For some, Black Kids veer a little too checkily to early 80's synth-pop. You can make all the Human League-Cure-New Order references you want. They are apt, but only partially. There are doo-wop-y harmonies and girl-group, cheerleader chants plus an occasional self-depricating lyrics (Like "It's Friday night and I ain't got NOBODY" on the awesome "Hurrican Jane").
By now you might have also read about all the technical SNAFUs that plagued their Annex performance at CMJ. Luckily, I caught them the following day at R Bar, where their show went off without a hitch. Off course, lead kid Reggie acknowledged this saying how the audience of wannabe tastemakers would all go back and "write about them in their blogs." Well, hey, he was right.

I've Underestimated My Charm (Again) - Black Kids
I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You - Black Kids
Download the entire "Wizard of Ahhs EP" (it's free!) on their MySpace page.

03 November 2007

Apology Accepted

As you've probably heard by now, The Decemberists have cancelled their "Long and Short of It Tour" due to a member's illness, rendering thousands of people's concert-going weekend plans in disarray, yours truly included. Get better, undisclosed member of The Decemberists!

Two days before this disappointing announcement Wakey! Wakey! somewhat aptly (and precognitively) released a cover version of "Apology Song" as a part of their 10-week series of free downloadable covers. It's pretty damn awesome. Maybe it will hold you over until the next Decemberists tour? In the meantime, try and catch Wakey! in a town near you.
Apology Song - Wakey! Wakey! (Decemberists Cover)
Go Your Own Way - The Decemberists & Death Cab For Cutie (Fleetwood Mac cover)

02 November 2007

01 November 2007

For those about to Write, we salute you

It's November, which for many means it's National Novel Writing Month: write 50,000 words in 30 days. I'm not just a participant, I'm a Municipal Liaison! Which means I need all the help and inspiration I can get. These three songs set the mood.
Now if only they could give me some plot points...

Belle & Sebastian - Wrapped Up in Books.mp3
The Beatles - Paperback Writer.mp3
The White Stripes - One More Cup of Coffee.mp3
Northern State - A Thousand Words.mp3 (to be played 50 times)