31 March 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today I am the highest number. No, seriously, I am. 24 is THE highest number, lookey here:

Oh and hey, a song:

Birthday - The Bird & The Bee

30 March 2009

The Mountain Goats @ The Society For Ethical Culture, NYC 3/27/09

One of the great things about seeing a band tour between albums is that you never know what you’re going to hear. It’s even greater when that band has a back catalog spanning over 600 songs recorded over the nearly two decades. Such was the case with the Mountain Goats all acoustic show at the Society for Ethical Culture.

I mean, holy moley just check out this setlist!:

1 John 4:16
Woke Up New
Song for Tura Satana
Cobscook Bay
Going to Lebanon
Un rêve plus long que la nuit (aka November Love Song)
Going to Kansas
The Last Limit of Bhakti
You or Your Memory
Going to Queens
From TG&Y
Dance Music
The Day The Aliens Came
Ontario (requested)
So Desperate
Color in Your Cheeks (requested)
Sign of the Crow 2
[new Comedians song]*
See America Right*
No Children
The Sign

*featuring John Vanderslice

Also "1 John 4:16” was played on the piano. Darnielle remarked it was the first time he played the piano in front an audience since he was 9. Other highlights included a few collaborative efforts and even a new song with opener John Vanderslice. Their musical collaboration together is being billed as The Comedians, and if this sneak peek was any indication future recordings will be awesome.

Needless to say this show especially awesome to those diehard fans hyper-familiar with John Darnielle’s prolific output (an overwhelming amount of the audience considering the line outside the venue started to form at noon), but that’s not to say those only familiar with his 4AD output weren’t satiated as well. The show was a careful balancing act of hits and obscurities, with a solo Darnielle even polling the crowd to get a feel for what we wanted to hear, which essentially was everything. Getting swept up in the fervor of requests being shouted his way, he played over a half an hour over the venue’s curfew and informed the audience he wouldn’t be able to play an encore. But we wouldn’t take no for an answer. While well after half the audience left, the remaining loyalists stomped and cheered for what seemed like an eternity (but was probably actually just a very long five minutes) until he reemerged to the stage with a rousing rendition of “The Sign”, you know that classic Ace of Base song that was all the rage in middle school. And coming from Mr. Darnielle, it sounded just as poetic as his original material, obscure or not.

The Day The Aliens Came - the Mountain Goats
November Love Song - the Mountain Goats

thanks to bill for the photos!

28 March 2009

Wow, this article actually exists

The Hipster Depression, as published in The Atlantic.

What does the economic recession mean for indie rock? The article posits the following:

Skyrocketing real estate prices had led to the rise of electroclash and the psychedelic folk revival, two fringe genres that flourished because, well, neither of them required a lot of expensive real estate. Fans could pack tiny, dingy venues on the edge of various downtowns, and the young people who sustain unpopular popular music could afford the modest cover charges and the watered-down alcoholic beverages. With his trademark wit, Svenonius’s commentary reminded us that bohemia isn’t an alternate reality that defies economic logic. Rather, it is a product of a much larger set of impersonal economic forces—gentrification, targeted advertising, the nightlife industry—and as such it is susceptible to quasi-Marxist analysis. Which leads us to the inevitable question: will the downturn spell doom for the hipster economy?...If Svenonious was right and indie rock flourished during a real estate boom, will indie rock die during a bust? I’ve spent the last several months pondering this vitally important question, and it occurs to me that we’re likely to see something subtly different.

25 March 2009

Shake, Shake, Shake

So let's rewind to the not-too-distant past. Way back one September night in 2006 I was smushed in a crowded dorm parlor that was packed way past fire hazard capacity. Hundreds of college kids gathered to see some blog-buzzed about band called Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. I too was there to check out the hype. And while disappointed with the main act's lack of stage presence, I was utterly blown away by the openers that preceded them - this little band named The Harlem Shakes.

The Shakes shook up the night with fuzzed-out pop melodies, dancey rhythms and ample energy to boot. The lead singer did this twisty dance, in which he twisted feet his in-and-out, butterfly style. The moves were as endearing as their music was infectious. Following the concert I even met up with the band at an on-campus after party. We swigged back mouthfuls of cheap wine straight from the bottle by the lake behind the psychology department building. There's not much else I remember about that night, except them telling me they went to Yale (what is up with Ivy Leagues producing such impressive indie-pop?) and one of them, I think the bassist?, shared my major (shoutout to American Cultural studies majors everywhere, woohoo). Also I regrettably didn't make out with any of them. That much I remember.

ANYWAY back to my main point - their music. I checked out their website the following morning, only to learn they had zero releases, not an album, not even an EP, just a couple of demo tracks up for download - which I greedily clicked on and thoroughly enjoyed.

Skip ahead to the present. After releasing a brief EP last year, the Harlem Shakes finally, FINALLY released a full length album this past Tuesday. Unsurprisingly Technicolor Health is awesome. Tight, tight melodies, primal rhythms and tribal beats combine with oft-kilter vocals to make one of the best indie-pop records of the year. And to my surprise one of the songs, "Sunlight" is a re-working of one of those demos, "A Night" that I downloaded so many years ago.

Compare, contrast and enjoy.
Sunlight - The Harlem Shakes
A Night - The Harlem Shakes
Strictly Game - The Harlem Shakes

24 March 2009

Do You Like Waffles?

Umm I have no idea what this is or where it's from. But I can assure you this: this song will make your breakfast infinitely better! For the record, I like waffles, pancakes and French toast! I defy you to NOT sing along.
Thanks to Caroline for the tip!

23 March 2009

The "Hazards" of Rock Operas

(As originally written by me for Crawdaddy)

The Decemberists have always been more opera than rock. Their songs have frequently featured intricate plots, with often tragic endings. The music itself is also cinematic in scope veering on the theatrical and/or orchestral. On The Hazards of Love, the opera part of the equation is indeed present, but more significantly so is the rock.

For those of you who haven’t read the press release, here’s the plot in the nutshell. A pregnant girl named Margaret journeys through the woods looking for her lover William and in the process is confronted with shape-shifting animals, a forest queen and a nefarious rake. The story is characteristically complicated and is essentially standard fare coming from a band known for crafting a discography of their own lore and mythology.

It’s easy to get caught up in the convoluted, occasionally incomprehensible details. You’re not likely to follow the story arc unless you give the album your undivided attention, as the narrative is as dense as forest the characters inhabit. So if the myriad of thesaurus-worthy lyrics isn’t the first thing you notice upon first listen, what will be? Undoubtedly, the music.

Never before have the Decemberists quite indulged in their prog-rock tendencies as they do on Hazards. While they have exercised the occasional muscular riff before, particularly on The Tain EP, past efforts merely acted as a foot in the water. Now they’ve jumped headfirst into the pool. While this shift in sound shouldn’t come as a total surprise it is still a little jarring, especially for those who prefer the music closer to the band’s folksy roots.

The near metal assault (yeah I said metal) of “The Queen’s Rebuke/ The Crossing” is unnerving at first. While “Wont Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga)" totally cops a couple of chords from Radiohead’s “Punch Up at a Wedding”, which admittedly is a pretty damn good song to mimic. However the relentlessness of such prog-folk meanderings does come off at times as self-indulgent. Sometimes its best for a band to stick to what it does best and in the Decemberists case, that’s melody – something there isn’t quite enough of over this hour-long romp in the woods.

Ironically, the best tracks are the ones that work just as well devoid of narrative context. “The Wanting Comes in Waves/ Repaid” features a swelling chorus that resounds with intense yearning. It’s a romantic sentiment that even those of us not roaming an enchanted forest in search of lost lovers can relate to. The reprise is especially gorgeous and intricately orchestral. “Annan Water” which is equally sentimental, is one of the folksier numbers, reminiscent of the band’s earlier material. Best of all is the scrappy “The Rake’s Song” which describes the rascal’s back-story as a lascivious lover and murderous father. It’s a delightfully catchy character study, something the band has long excelled at since the days of “Leslie Anne Levine”.

Among the other aspects of this album that work best: the guest vocals. Should he ever quit his day job, Colin Meloy should most certainly take on work as a casting director. My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden absolutely slays her role as forest queen. Her howling wail actually sounds better over Meloy’s heavier arrangements then on her own band’s more ethereal material. Her voice, like her royal forest domain is a force of nature to be reckoned with, which almost makes you feel a little bad for Lavender Diamond’s Becky Stark, who voices doe-eyed innocent Margaret. Stark’s girly coo is perfect for her role as well, although she can’t help but be overshadowed by her more majestic counterpart.

Overall, Hazards marks another strong entry in the Decemberists’ oeuvre. Forgiving its flaws and occasional overindulgence, the band should be applauded for it continual ambitions. It becomes remarkably clear after listening to their latest album that they undoubtedly won’t relent anytime soon.

The Rake's Song - The Decemberists

21 March 2009

Neat Neko Video

Awesome animated video for Neko Case's "People Got A Lotta Nerve. Makes me just wanna jump rope on an elephant and play pattycake on the back of an ostrich.

For my lengthy thoughts on the Neko's latest album Middle Cyclone, read my review here.

19 March 2009

The only bloggers not at SXSW

Maybe if I cloned myself like 85 times I could see 1,302 bands at SXSW. Or you know, actually go to SXSW. I swear one of these days I'll get my butt down to Austin. But until that day comes I'm quite enjoying The Morning News' succinct, yet helpful write ups of, get this 1,302 songs by SXSW artists.

Some choice excerpts:

AIDS Wolf "Tied-Up In Paper": The cats just got freaked out.
Human Highway "The Sound": Toxic bubblegum. Terrible whining. But improves.
Ra Ra Riot "Dying Is Fine": Lots of little touches and swirls.
We Were Lovers "Birds of a Feather": THE HANDCLAPS BURN THEY BURN THEY.

Read the rest here

The Sound - Human Highway

And what the hell was up with the way the tracklisting was upside down on the back of Folie À Deux? Seriously, what was that?

I worry sometimes, that as I get older my love of music will wane. For example, I think about these books I used to read; Animorphs. Oh yeah, you know the ones. With the kids who turned into animals and saved the world from slug aliens. Those books.... Man, I loved those books. Those books were my life. And then, I don't know, I just drifted away from them. I've never even read the last handful. So, if my love for those books (and seriously, I loved those books) faded, then, well.

I worry, you see. I mean, obviously I'll always enjoy music, who doesn't like music? But it's like fellow Volume Knobber Jess once said to me, this music, indie music, the kind of music you dig if you're reading this blog, it takes effort man. You don't hear Neutral Milk Hotel on the radio (at least not if you live in Generic Small Town, Middle of Nowhere, Australia like I do). You don't see 'If You're Feeling Sinister' all on display with posters and shit at the local cd shop. Its takes effort. It takes a decision not to sit back and let the tv or the radio or the god-awful I mean seriously just god-awful top 40 charts tells you what to buy. You have to read blogs and independant zines and sometimes buy a cd because the cover looks cool and the glockenspeil is listed as one of the instruments used. You have to listen to a lot, and make up your own damn mind whats good and whats not.

And I'm worry. Because lately? I haven't been doing it. The last year... God. If you told me this time last year what I was going to have to live through- Just. Seriously. Fuck that shit. And it's just become so much easier to listen to the Kinks and The Beatles even almost don't want to admit it, but, Fall Out Boy. Fucking Fall Out Boy. I'm not even kidding. I haven't heard Andrew Bird's new album, but I can sing the chorus to Fall Out Boy's latest single. I didn't even use up all my eMusic downloads last month. I haven't blogged here in how long? Did you even know there were bloggers aside from June and Jess? I've become passive in my music listening. And I won't stand for it any longer.

Because you know what? Animorphs got bad. I didn't stop loving those ridicoulus books because I got old, I stopped reading because the other dumped them on ghostwriters and they starting sucking. And I'm damn well not going to stop finding music because my life got a little difficult. This is my manifesto people. This is my intent. This is what I mean to do. I mean to stop listening to Fall Out Boy. To stop relying one safe music, on music I know I love. I will buy cds because the cover is cool and the lead singer plays a theremin. I will track down albums recomended by some guy ad some blog. I will buy the support act's ep. I will make mix tapes purely for the joy of making mix tapes.

And I'm going to go back and re-read all my old Animorphs books. Because Tobias was the hottest boy trapped in the body of a hawk around.

and because there's everything wrong with fall out boy but nothing at all wrong with the kinks and the beatles:

The Kinks - Victoria
The Beatles - Norwedgian Wood (this bird has flown)

17 March 2009

For one week only only...

You can stream this neat little film on PitchforkTV. It's a 1998 promo film for Elliott Smith. It's an awesomely lighthearted look at a singer often remembered for being anything but. Take a look:


Care of Cell 44 - Elliott Smith (Zombies cover)

15 March 2009

Les Savy Fav @ Brooklyn Masonic Temple 3/13/09

Les Savy Fav’s concert at Brooklyn’s Masonic Temple doubled as the ultimate pajama party. There were pillow fights, a spooky round of Bloody Mary and even exfoliating facials. Clad in a floral nightie, bald and bearded lead singer Tim Harrington struck just about every rock star pose within the show’s first five minutes as he leapt on to a stage overflowing with leopard printed pillows. Said pillows were quickly ripped to shreds with feathers flying into the mosh pit below, putting a decidedly punk rock spin on the slumber parties of my girlhood. Speaking of shredding, the Brooklyn art-punkers ripped through jams spanning their nearly fifteen-year long career. As the title goes, we partied like the “Year Before the Year 2000” and bassist (and French Kiss Records founder) Syd Butler even rode Tim like a horse during a rousing rendition of “The Equestrian”.

Eventually stripping off his nightgown, a lavender pantied Tim ran into the crowd like a madman, singing, shouting and dancing amongst a crowd of fanatical devotees. As a virgin to the Les Savy Fav experience I was in total awe of the spectacle. In the spirit of the greatest of punk ethos, the line between artist and audience was essentially obliterated. Even prior to coming to their performance Hairy Harrington himself meandered through the audience and greeted fans by smearing their cheeks with creamy facial masks. It was a pre-show bonding ritual unlikely to ever be replicate –in all senses a most refreshing experience. To answer their titular question “Who Rocks the Party,” Les Savy Fav most certainly did.

P.S. The guy standing next to Tim is my boyfriend. He loves shooting zombies. We tracked Tim down after the show and chatted for a bit. Tim also informed us his fake eyelashes fell off during the show, haha. For more photos click here

Hold on to Your Genre - Les Savy Fav

11 March 2009

The Flaming Lips go over the borderline

The Flaming Lips covering Madonna's "Borderline" makes me happy. First off, the original is one helluva song. Smothered in 80s pop goodness, the chorus bursts with hearts and stars and whatever else is it that lust at first sight is made of. But then the Lips come along and imbue it with their undeniable stamp of psychedelia. Spacey and percussive, it sounds like it could have been their own all along. And that's the mark of damn a good cover.

Listen and watch the video on Amazon

09 March 2009

Also note the really rad album cover, yeah?

Oh the power of leaks, how it propels earlier release dates for the few of us who actually wait patiently for new tangible music, like the rare kid on Christmas morning who doesn't sneakily find the presents in the closet weeks ahead. Well such is the case with the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs' new album, now out March 10th. But for those of us craving a sneak peak you can stream It's Blitz in its entirety on the YYYs myspace page

I must say I am really digging the new found synthy-ness of their sound. It's like a shot of adrenaline for a band who needed a little bit of reinvigorating. "Dance till you're dead," howls Karen O on "Heads Will Roll". And oh yeah, we will.

Zero - Yeah Yeah Yeahs

07 March 2009

In Memorium

Salomé Holly, November 1998

On Saturday, March 6, 1999, my best friend Salomé Holly was brutally stabbed to death by her stepfather Dayva Cross in an attack that also killed her mother and little sister. We were seniors in high school in Snoqualmie, Washington, not far from Seattle. Cross still sits on death row in Washington state. Ten years ago to the day, and the pain still burns deeply.

She was a passionate and brilliant fledgling biologist who loved amphibians, a Mormon, a beautiful clarinetist, a devoted recycler, a lover of reggae music and camping, and her beautiful French-Moroccan heritage.

Here's a mix of songs: Some are namesakes, some were her favorites, some helped me cope at the time, and some are what help me cope now.

Old 97's - Salomé.mp3
Chayanne - Salomé.mp3
Greenland - Salomé.mp3
Peter Doherty - Salomé.mp3
U2 - Salomé [Zooromancer Remix].m4a
Bob Marley - Jammin'.mp3
Stevie Wonder - I Just Called.mp3
Billy Joel - Only the Good Die Young.mp3
Tori Amos - Happy Phantom.mp3
Sarah McLachlan - Angel.m4a
Death Cab For Cutie - I Will Follow You Into The Dark.m4a
Sage Francis - Hell Of A Year.mp3
Chodoutans - My Beautiful Friend.mp3
the Mountain Goats - Song For an Old Friend (live).mp3
Elvis Costello - God Give Me Strength.mp3
Eric Clapton - Tears in Heaven.mp3
Elliott Smith - Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands.m4a
I'm From Barcelona - Ola Kala.m4a
The Beach Boys - I Just Wasn't Made For These Times.mp3
Jens Lekman - How Much You Mean To Me.mp3
Simon & Garfunkel - Old Friends/Bookends.m4a
Sarah McLachlan - I Will Remember You.m4a

Salomé Holly, 1993

06 March 2009

This compilation is love love love.

Watch out Dark Was the Night, you just got some competition for compilation of the year. Merge Records just announced the tracklist for SCORE! 20 Years of Merge Records: The Covers. And holy moley check out this wowza line-up. I'm most excited to hear Jens Lekman take on The Magnetic Fields' classic "Yeah! Oh Yeah!" Ohhh and new Okkervil River too!

01 Quasi: "Beautiful Things" (3Ds cover)
02 Les Savy Fav: "Precision Auto" (Superchunk cover)
03 The Shins: "Plenty Is Never Enough" (Tenement Halls cover)
04 St. Vincent and the National: "Sleep All Summer" (Crooked Fingers cover)
05 Broken Social Scene: "Complications" (The Clean cover)
06 Ryan Adams: "Like a Fool" (Superchunk cover)
07 Bright Eyes: "Papa Was a Rodeo" (Magnetic Fields cover)
08 Lavender Diamond: "New Ways of Living" (Destroyer cover)
09 The Apples in Stereo: "King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 3" (Neutral Milk Hotel cover)
10 Laura Cantrell: "Cowboy on the Moon" (Lambchop cover)
11 Bill Callahan: "Santa Maria" (Versus cover)
12 Barbara Manning: "Through With People" (Portastatic cover)
13 The Mountain Goats: "Drug Life" (East River Pipe cover)
14 The New Pornographers: "Don't Destroy This Night" (Rock*A*Teens cover)
15 Tracey Thorn and Jens Lekman: "Yeah! Oh, Yeah!" (Magnetic Fields cover)
16 The Hive Dwellers: "My Noise" (Superchunk cover)
17 Ted Leo & the Pharmacists: "The Numbered Head" (Robert Pollard cover)
18 Okkervil River: "All You Little Suckers" (East River Pipe cover)
19 Death Cab for Cutie: "Kicked In" (Superchunk cover)
20 Times New Viking: "Neighborhood #1" (Arcade Fire cover)

AND get this, we have a sneak peak courtesy our faves (and blog namesakes) the Mountain Goats. East River Pipe's "Drug Life" has John Darnielle playing a Casio for the first time this century and it's AWESOME. Check it out:

Drug Life - the Mountain Goats (East River Pipe cover)

04 March 2009

New Feud Alert!

Don't you just love a good indie rock beef? Well, then have I got a good one for you. Psychedelic troubadour, lead Flaming Lip and songwriter of Oklahoma's state anthem Wayne Coyne hates Arcade Fire. No--more then hates, more like viscerally loathes and passionately despises Arcade Fire. According to an interview in Rolling Stone, Coyne says:

I'm a fan of them on one level, but on another level I get really tired of their pompousness. We've played some shows with them and they really treat people like shit. Whenever I've been around them, I've found that they not only treated their crew like shit, they treated the audience like shit. They treated everybody in their vicinity like shit. I thought, "Who do they think they are?" I don't know why people put up with it. I wouldn't put up with it. I don't care if it's Arcade Fire or Brian Eno. If either of them walked into a room and treated people like shit I'd be like, "Fuck you, get outta here."
(Read the rest of the article here)

Ohhh BURN. I can't wait to see how/if Win and company respond to allegations of their pompousness.

Oh wait they (sorta) did: AF collaborator and Final Fantasy dude Owen Pallett just tweeted, "Win might not be all hugs and rainbows and kittens, but neither is he drug culture, confetti, pot paraphernalia and bullshit." Ohhh Double BURN. BUT he just removed the tweet.

This has the making of a great feud right up there with the Bloods and the Crips, the Hatfields and the McCoys, or East/West coast gangsta rap. Without the senseless violence of course. Or maybe we could replace the violence with a giant hamster ball relay race. Because Wayne would kick Win's ass.

The Flaming Lips - Fight Test.mp3
Arcade Fire - Rebellion (Lies).m4a

01 March 2009

Grizzly Bear @ BAM Opera House, 2/28/2009

Grizzly Bear + the Brooklyn Philharmonic = pure magic. The orchestra added an extra layer of symphonic grandeur to what is already a pretty grand band. But my God, the way Ed Droste's voice resounded in BAM opera house, a booming yet haunting coo that lingered in my mind well after the night was over. And that's to say nothing of the new songs, which are making me even more thrilled for Veckatimest, as if that was even possible.

Here's the best news of all, thanks to Deaf Indie Elephants: you can listen in on the magic that you missed. Although fair warning, the sound quality's does not do justice to BAM's acoustical wonder.
Download the show here.

Here's the setlist for those of you keeping score at home:
Central And Remote
Hold Still (amazing new song!!)
Two Weeks
Little Brother (Electric)
While You Wait For The Others

Deep Blue Sea
He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss)