29 September 2009

Autumn leaves falling down

art by Jaz Harold

The sole purpose of this post is to share a seasonally appropriate song which I love. The weather locally has created a mood that fits.

This track of Fiona Apple's first album, Tidal, is a softly slinky, sexy and slow as you might remember from her then-young, but developed and sultry voice. Enjoy this one over a cup of hot tea.

Fiona Apple - Pale September.mp3

Buy Tidal.

27 September 2009

John Darnielle and I are probably the only ones who care...

Nevermind Pavement, I'm WAY more excited about this reunion. According to the BBC, after 20 years apart, Spandau Ballet are releasing a new single and touring. It's TRUE (see what I did there!).

More importantly however is the Mountain Goats' John Darnielle's take on the band. In this recording, he spends nearly 12 minute?! daring to make sense of the song "True". His absurd dissection of the lyrics, syntax and structure are any music critic's wet dream. Not to mention downright hilarious. In other words JD explains, we should both love and hate "True" because "in its total refusal to yield to even the closest reading, (it) is a masterstroke of code speak."

Spandau Ballet's "True Story" - The Mountain Goat

26 September 2009

Possibly I'm the last person on the internet to hear this....

Maybe it's just that I'm not used to Brandon Flowers singing such deep lyrics. (Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of the guy, but lyrical complexity is not his strong point, bless his pretty head). Or maybe it's just that I'm not used to such clearly Oberstian lyrics being sung by somehow who can, well, sing. I suspect the fact that it sounds so much like the original but at the same time so much like a Killers song is what throws me.

Either way, this has to be one of the most jarring covers I've ever heard. What do you guys think?

The Killers - Four Winds

and, the original for anyone who hasn't heard it (it is, for me, the highlight of Cassadaga): Bright Eyes - Four Winds

24 September 2009

Sufjan Stevens @ Castaways, Ithaca, NY 9/23/09

I am on the road, following Sufjan's current tour!

(You can se me mouthing along in the front, haha)

I make it a habit to perpetually arrive unconscionably early to shows. Usually this has me sitting outside a venue in less-than-ideal weather for several hours, but Castaways is a local watering hole as well as an intimate show space. I grabbed myself a drink and sat with a book during set-up.

By the time Cryptacize had finished their soundcheck and Sufjan was fingering the chords to "To Be Alone With You" the bar had cleared. An empty bar + soundcheck = private concert, far as I was concerned. Everyone on the tour thought I worked at the bar; everyone in the bar thought I was part of the tour. They left me alone. I sat quietly. I enjoyed it.

And last night I got to meet him (again, for the first time, as I've met him before but he did not remember, which I didn't mention)!!! I was just chillin in the bar reading when, after soundcheck, he just comes over and SITS ACROSS FROM ME AT THE TABLE. And we chatted. And I was shy. and he was shy. and it was adorable and the moral of the story is I need to bring a clean change of panties for tonight's show. (TMI?)

Today I'm carpooling to Cleveland with a girl I met online who has never seen him before. She is a lesbian "but would go straight for Sufjan, only Sufjan." Which is strangely echoed by the guy behind me in Ithaca who was "Straight, but would go gay ONLY for Sufjan."

Some highlights:

+ A full half of songs played last night were brand new.
+ One was based off an old song by the same name, "All Delighted People." and also the Simon & Garfunkle song "The Sounds of Silence."
+ The following define the new sound:
shredding electric guitar
lyrically intimate love songs (!!!!!!)
glam rock
a danceable, beat-heavy "Majesty Snowbird"
7/8 (or possibly alternating 4/4, 3/4) time signatures
definite Stereolab and Mouse on Mars influences
not too much distortion/noise, perhaps surprisingly

So, I actually got a chance to sit down with Sufjan after soundcheck. Like a bad questionnaire, "If you could ask Sufjan only one question, what would it be?", the music-critic-heroine in me jumped out with: "I think it's interesting that you're moving toward a much more electronic sound..."
"Yeah, I've been working with it for a long time though."
"Well, it just seems an odd juxtaposition that your orchestral pieces are being re-arranged in a more electronic form, while at the same time your only electronica album is being re-released [ Run Rabbit Run ] after being re-arranged by a string quartet, more 'organic' instruments, if you will, moving it in the opposite direction..."
He sat there for a moment, smiling but caught off guard until "Yeah.... Yeah! Huh! I guess I didn't even think about that!"

Booyah. The moral of the story is that it's a happy coincidence only.
No word on a confirmed album release date, title or state affiliation. Guesses?

22 September 2009

No, really you can be a frog

At about age 4, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I responded "Miss Piggy". Now that I'm grown up I'm sadly not a pig. Or a muppet. But not so in the Flaming Lips eyes. Nothing can stop them from imaging all the wild possibilities of what we can be. A frog! A bear! A helicopter! Anything is possible. Rainbows and ponies for everyone! And it's that whimsical spirit that makes me love "I Can Be a Frog" off the upcoming double-album Embryonic. Also mad props to Karen O for contributing kooky animal noises. Check out the vid: The Flaming Lips "I Can Be A Frog"

21 September 2009

Sunday Mail Bag (Monday edition): Cleemann

I was immeadiately struck by the title and cover art of this obscure little album I received in the mail the other day. An old man holding two seashells up to his ears, with an intent look upon his face, as if he was trying to hear the universe. The title simply reads 45 Minutes Mostly About Caring. After a completely shit-tastic Monday I need caring. And I'll take about 45 minutes of it. And after listening to Cleemann, I got it.

Gunnar Cleemann is basically a Danish dude you've never heard of and his voice is otherworldly. Think a blend of Antony, that guy from Sigur Ros, but with a distinct weirdness all his own. I can't quite find the adjectives for it. Musically he experiments with a combination of lush orchestrations, acoustic arrangements and tinges of electronic gauze to make one of the downright prettiest albums I've heard in a long, long time. Additionally, the eclectic sonic palette evokes emotions which the songs are actually titled after (see: "Romantic", "Ambitious" and "Righteous"). It's dreamy and layered for sure, but also approachable and most importantly emotional. In other words, it's exactly how pop music should be.

Download these two tracks:
Repairman - Cleemann
Emphatic - Cleemann

Stream more songs here
AND if you still want more Cleemann (and let's face it, you will) Buy it - on sale now via Series II Records

18 September 2009

"We're all considered horrorcore"

As readers of a (primarily) indie rock blog, we're pretty sure you're big fans of either Insane Clown Posse or Slipknot. But not both. You're either a Juggalo or a Maggot. Buuuuuut it doesn't have to be this way. These boys are here to prove it. Can't we all just get along???

16 September 2009

I've been looking for an excuse to post this photo

And now I have one because the Pavement reunion is on (though I think I'm more excited about posting this photo, than the actual reunion.)

By the way I have no idea if this is the actual Shady Lane they're singing about. It's just a street sign I saw in New Jersey a few months ago and got really friggin' excited about.

Shady Lane - Pavement
OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD It's everybody's God!

15 September 2009

Nick Cave @ Barnes & Noble, Union Sq. NYC 9/14/09

Nick Cave is sexy in a creepy-old-man way. This was confirmed when I saw him yesterday at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square. With his devastatingly hot accent (no doubt a combination of his Australian upbringing and his current residence in England) Cave discussed at length his illustrious 30+ year long career as a musician and writer and also read from his new novel The Death of Bunny Munro, a tale of a womanizing traveling salesman and his son. Unsurprisingly the place was packed. I was lucky enough to get a seat all the way in the back (and I arrived an hour early too no less). But even squinting through the throngs of people in front of me, Cave's angular features and omnious eyes were epically piercing. Check out my uber-blurry photo:

Whether in song or in story Cave's narratives often take elements of sex and spirituality and blend them in twisted and powerful ways. So when asked by the moderator if he preferred the old or new testament I wasn't all that surprised when he replied, "Old testament men are better in bed." I totally believe it. And while we're on the subject of the Bible. Cave wrote all about the Book of Mark. You can read it here.

Another fun fact: Cave said his father read him Lolita aloud to him when he was 12. Again, why does this not surprise me.

We Call Upon the Author to Explain - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

13 September 2009

Dear Kanye,

ODB did it better in 98:

That is all,

12 September 2009

From a mess to the masses!

How have I gone all summer without posting anything by Phoenix?? I must have been too busy dancing to their music that it slipped my mind to actually post it. Anyways I'm sure many of you have already heard the pop-bliss that is Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, but for those you that haven't, it's not too late to listen to the ultimate summer jams well into the your fall.

Detractors might claim that album all sounds a bit same-y. But I think that's half its beauty. It's one half-hour of peppy synths, jangly riffs and bouncy French bounciness. It has worked wonders given the dreary monsoon of a summer us New Yorkers have endured, as it's always provided a well-needed dose of electric sunshine. Here's hoping it works its magic well into the rest of the year. I have a little feeling it will.

Check out these highlights:

Lisztomania - Phoenix
1901 - Phoenix

09 September 2009

Man, I love his accent

Ever wonder what Nordic vampires listen to in their spare time, you know when they're not drinking the blood of sexy ladies? Well Alex Skarsgard, the dude that plays True Blood's almighty Eric, addresses that as he guest DJs on KCRW. His set includes a lot of classic rock and punk and even a song in Swedish.

What's most charming are his personal anecdotes accompanying each song dedication -to his mom, dad, sick friend, past lover and even the city of LA. Plus he reminisces about his punk days "drink(ing) cheap beer and bitch(ing) about the decay of our civilization". We approve!
Listen to it here.

Download one of his choices here:
The Passenger - Iggy Pop

07 September 2009

Because it's not *quite* too late**

If you're wrapping up your Labor Day weekend slow and tired, like I am, or if you're confused by the lack of new episodes of True Blood and Mad Men (Jess' note: actually there was a new ep of Mad Men on, and a damn good one at that) to ease you into your work week, head on over to woxy.com for the last several hours of the 20th annual Modern Rock 500.* Song #100 is starting right now! You can stream it right through your iTunes, even.

*This is betraying my age, but I still have to tell you: I very clearly remember staying up WAY TOO LATE on a school night to record the top 20 songs of what had to be the 2nd annual Modern Rock 500 on cassette. Then they replayed them the next evening, anyway. That tape just died earlier this year.

**If you like spoilers, or if you find the website a bit difficult to navigate, the whole list can be found here here.

05 September 2009

Thesis Soundtrack 2009

It's been all quiet on the Megan front lately, because I’ve been killing myself working on my post-grad thesis ("the effects of the shift toward digital music and the individual", just in case you were interested), which has left me zero time for blogging. Which sucks, because when I’m writing, be it creative or academic, is when I listen to music the most. It’s a cosmic joke that I have heard so many fantastic albums released this year and haven’t had the chance to share them.
I’ve taken the morning off and am writing a post summarizing some of my favourites of the year. I’ve included them in a zipped mix at the end, but if you would like me to upload any individual tracks just comment and I will!

Wild Light
Don’t be fooled by the album cover, like I was. It looks like the kinda cover you see on bland, generic alternative pop crap doesn’t it? And the album name doesn’t help. I don’t know how many times I have to be taught to stop judging things by their covers before I actually, you know, stop doing it.
This album is pretty cool. Classic indie without being boring by the numbers indie. Harmonica and harmonies and a lead singer with an interesting voice (and you know how I love my interesting voices). They definitely remind me another band, or bands, but I’m having trouble pinpointing who exactly. My brain keeps saying the Decemberists, but I really don’t think that’s it. Help me out VK listeners!

Songs included in the .rar file:

On My Mind
My Father Was A Horse

Throw Me The Statue – Creaturesque
Haven’t had a chance to listen to this album in any great depth, but ‘m digging what I’ve heard. Kinda like a less crazy and uninhibited of Montreal.

Songs included in the .rar file:
Hi-Fi Goon

Veils – Sun Gangs
Picked up this EP on Amie Street, my eMusic replacement, and I’ve been digging it. Very rich instruments and male/female vocals, which is always nice. They also like to do that think where the quite builds slowly from a soft song to a rocking out one. Also, don’t be surprised if the band friends you last.fm after you listen to them for a bit, it seems to be something they do…'
This one’s been popping up everywhere, and for good reason. The album has a The National / Editors vibe going on like crazy. That combination of slow rolling songs and deep lead vocals. Very nice.

Songs included in the .rar file:
Sit Down By The Fire

Vandaveer – Divide and Conquer
Another album I’ve been seeing get raved about all over the place. It falls into the same category as other bands I’ve recently discovered that I wouldn’t have liked even a year ago. Soft, folky (not folksy), introspective music. I suspect my mother’s death has a lot to do with my sudden willingness to sit quietly and listen to what quite music and think, but even if your mother is still alive I’m sure you can dig this album.

We’ve got the male female vocals again, and nicely arranged songs. If the last.fm bio thing is to be believed lead singer/song writer Mark Charles Heidinger has a pretty full on family history on his father’s side, which maybe doesn’t mean anything to you but I personally get something extra out of music if I know a little about the context in which musician was forged. (Lol, forged, like they’re freakin' swords or something.)

Songs included in the .rar file:
Divide and Conquer
Before the Great War

The Love Language
Ah now, this album I really love! It’s like, the songs are beautifully arranged, with horns and strings and drums and guitars and I mean they are really awesomely done. But then the band is all like, yeah we’ve put all this effort into making this perfectly crafted songs, but we’re so cool we’re going to record it on a dodgy little tape deck.

I don’t know if the songs were recorded into tape deck, but they have a similar sound the early Mountain Goats stuff, so maybe. Very lo-fi, is what I’m saying. But whereas lo-fi is normally just a guy and guitar, or a garage band, these guys really have gone for a Rufus Wainright-level of song arrangement. And I love it. The contrast between the polished songs and the lo-fi fuzziness, it works way more perfectly then it should.

Songs included in the .rar file:
Grey Court

Lord Cut Glass
Now, see, just up there I was berating myself for being wary of the Wild Lights album because of its cover, but then this here album I bought solely because of it’s awesome Napoleonic cover.
Turns out this was one instance where my cover bias paid off. This is Alun Woodward’s, of the Delgado’s, solo release and oh my, accent! Scottish, no less. The words roll into each other at the ends and you’d better believe I love it! The songs themselves are very clever and upbeat, once again I am reminded of someone but I’m not sure who. (What kind of self respecting music blogger can’t compare acts to one another? That’s like our thing!)

Songs included in the .rar file:
Look After Your Wife

Builders and the Butchers – Salvation is a Deep Dark Well
Ah, this band sounds a lot like the Hold Steady and, damn it, someone else I can’t place. I’m sorry guys, I understand if you want me to resign. Seriously though, the Hold Steady comparison is solid. The lead singer has that same preachy kind of voice as does Craig Finn. In this instance the preachyness works well because the album has a distinctly fire and brimstony kind of religious bent to it, but in a good way.

Songs included in the .rar file:
Devil Town

The Low Anthem – Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
This album works perfectly next to the Butchers and the Builders one. Its plays with the same themes and ideas (although, as the title might suggest from the other side of the argument), and has a similar sound. It softer though, more folk than rock, and boy oh boy am I in love with the lead singer’s voice. Gah. It’s not even “weird” as the vocals I love usually are, I’m confident that most people would agree that it is one nice voice.

Songs included in the .rar file:
Cage the Songbird
To Ohio

A.C. Newman – Get Guilty
New Pornographer’s front man's latest solo offering (not, sadly, a sequel to the Mountain Goats’ Get Lonely). The thing about A.C.’s solo stuff is that it sounds an awful lot like New Pornographer’s stuff, which is good if you’re a TNP fan, which I totally am. Melodic power pop up the wazoo, in other words.

Songs included in the .rar file:
There Are Maybe Ten or Twelve

(that’s the name of the song, I haven’t included 10 or 12 A.C. Newman songs…)
Well, now that was cathartic! Forgive any typos, all of my editing reserves are used up!

The .rar file! (remember, I’m more than willing to upload any individual tracks you might want)

cover song you need to hear now

It's spooky, ethereal and would probably soundtrack a haunted carousel just dandy:

Nothing Matters When We're Dancing (Magnetic Fields cover) - The Antlers

03 September 2009

Don't be sympathetic, just pass the anesthetic

Here's a video put together by Chris Ware for the spring 2009 event "This American Life -- Live!" -- in which Ira Glass hosts an actual episode of the radio program, performed onstage by some of our favorite contributors. Dan Savage, Starlee Kine, and Mike Birbiglia told stories; David Rakoff and Dave Hill conducted a ‘special investigation. Plus, additional visuals by Arthur Jones, and a very special appearance by Joss Whedon. You'll be able to hear the episode online here.

Quimby The Mouse from This American Life on Vimeo.

Oh, cute, fun, nice, you say. But... what are those dulcet strings we hear? Why, it's Andrew Bird with his 1998 song "Eugene" off the album Thrills. Enjoy!

Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire - Eugene.m4a

02 September 2009

To rip, or not to rip?

Today, hulu.com posted a documentary called "RiP! A Remix Manifesto" about the ethics of ripping tracks for the purpose of remixing and re-creating them, as well as file sharing. Being that this is a topic close to our hearts (and rapidly thinning wallets), the future of how music is copyrighted is at stake. Girl Talk's Gregg Gillis is interviewed about "challenging the thresholds of fair use." Nice.

The film's official description:

Filmmaker Brett Gaylor explores issues of copyright in the information age, mashing up the media landscape of the 20th century and shattering the wall between users and producers.

Watch here: RiP! A Remix Manifesto

Girl Talk - Bounce That.mp3

One note about the fact that this feature film is only available to be streamed, and for a limited time: Legal serendipity?

01 September 2009

Boost your health: ROCK OUT!

Good news from England: LOUD ROCK MUSIC IS GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH!!! (via the Daily Mail)

Heading off to rock festivals, or simply turning up the volume on your home amplifier might be good for your brain power. According to researchers at Manchester University, music fans are stimulating part of the inner ear known as the sacculus, which responds to the beat in music. This gives the brain pleasure and makes us feel good - during the music and afterwards.

The sacculus, which is not thought to have any hearing function in humans, appears to be sensitive only to very loud volumes, above 90 decibels.Neil Todd, an expert in the scientific study of music, explains that the sacculus seems to be part of a primitive hearing mechanism that has slowly been lost as humans have evolved. He said it has a connection to the part of the brain responsible for drives such as hunger, sex and hedonistic responses.

When these desires are satisfied, the brain is stimulated into releasing feelgood hormones that make us calm, happy and responsive. So to trigger a dose of happy hormones on a Monday morning, you should, in theory, choose Black Sabbath over chamber music.

In other news, fizzy drinks combat dementia and avoiding housework prevents allergies (no, really!). Celebrate by turning the volume knob up to 11!

Here's a tune for the occasion:
Bang Bang Rock & Roll - Art Brut