31 October 2009

BOO! A Mystery Mix!

Here's your trick-or-treat, dear readers! A fresh mix tape by Yours Truly with some surprises. The following stats will give you some hints:

22 Tracks
1:19:41 (yep, fits on 1 regular audio CD!)
shortest track: 1:31
longest track: 6:31

3 covers
1.5 spoken word tracks
1 instrumental
1 live version
1 mash-up
1 old skool rap
1 song from VK's namesake artist
1 song for all you WRIMOS starting tomorrow (good luck!!)

oldest song: 1976
newest song: October 20, 2009
60% of songs from 1980-1999

I didn't make this song with any particular type of person in mind, but let's just say that those with an appreciation for 80's new wave, punk, and hipster irony... with a Jersey upbringing... will have the most possible appreciation for this mix. Or not.

1. Dashboard Confessional - El Scorcho (Weezer cover).mp3

2. Pixies - Wave of Mutilation.mp3

3. Gerry Rafferty - Baker Street.mp3

4. The White Stripes - It's True That We Love One Another.m4a

5. Beck - Last Night I Traded My Souls Innermost For Some Pickled Fish.mp3

6. Bright Eyes - Devil Town (Daniel Johnston cover).mp3

7. Ace Of Bace - Don't Turn Around.m4a

8. Elvis Costello - Every Day I Write The Book.m4a

9. Billy Joel - Vienna.mp3

10. Tor / Sufjan Stevens - I Like The Tallest Man (feat. Grad Puba).mp3

11. the Mountain Goats - Houseguest (live cover).mp3

12. Lyle Lovett - Here I Am.mp3

13. They Might Be Giants - Don't Let's Start.mp3

14. Islands - No You Don't.m4a

15. John Vanderslice - Promising Actress.mp3

16. Holcombe Waller - Anthem (Will I Forgive Myself If I Can't Help You Anymore).mp3

17. Skee-Lo - I Wish.mp3

18. Daniel Johnston - Etiquette.mp3

19. Crash Test Dummies - Keep a Lid on Things.mp3

20. Tom Waits - Bad Liver & a Broken Heart.mp3

21. Gunnar Madsen - This Must Be The Place (Native Melody) (Talking Heads cover).mp3

22. Tenacious D - Friendship Test.mp3

30 October 2009

Happy Halloween!

thanks for the heads up, danny ...

29 October 2009

They're surprisingly easy to google

People have been telling me for a while now to listen to The xx (and by people I mean "the internet"). But I tend to do what I normally do when barraged with excessive hype - ignore it completely.

However after reading rave reviews of their CMJ shows with nary a drop of backlash, I decided to investigate. I half-heartedly streamed a bunch of tracks via the hype machine, just as background noise while reading my daily blog roll. and you know what, it slowly crept up on me. The sparse synths and breathy male and female vocals, while nothing revolutionary work in perfect gothic, dreamy harmony. It's as slinky and seductive as a little black dress and I'm finding myself wanting to wear their self-titled album quite frequently (ok so maybe that extended metaphor doesn't quite work so well).

Oh and like all buzzy little bands tend to do, they just canceled a handful of European gigs citing exhaustion. Here's hoping they rest up in time for their US trek.

Listen to a few standouts:
Islands - The xx
Crystalised - xx

27 October 2009

Drum beats used as punctuation- I am a fan

So I have this thing that I do. On Thursdays and sometimes on Tuesdays I need to hit up the University campus, which is a forty minute bus ride either way. I can't read on the bus, because it makes my eyes feel funny, and I can't write on the bus because the road to uni is a bumpy country one and my letters look like arthritic spider legs. You know what I can do on the bus? Listen to music!

Every time a new album comes out from a band that I like but not enough to be all over the release I add it to a list. Every bus trip I listen to the next album on the list. This normally highlights the weaknesses of many albums. A few good songs but a lot of filler that causes my mind to wander. They don't even feel like albums at all.

To me a good album should be like a novel. Songs should be chapters. Are some chapters in a book better then others? Of course! But would they be as good without the other chapters? Nope. That to me is the difference between good albums and amazing albums. A good album has a collection of good songs, an amazing album loses something if you don't listen to it as a whole. Think Aeroplane Over the Sea, Abbey Road, All Hail West Texas.

And, as I discovered on today's trip to uni, Sunset Rubdown's new one, 'Dragonslayer.'

I can't comment on the lyrics too deeply yet, other than to say that I like them very much, yes. It's not the content so much as it is Spencer Krug's delivery. The careful pronunciation of 'come be a wild thing,' or the passion when he bursts out with 'you're not a widow yet!' Ah yes, these are things that make my indie heart quiver.

But what struck me most was the sound of the album. It sounds like war. Medieval war. Desperate, all is lost, nothing left to loose, muddy, bloody, drag it out war. These sounds like sounds that a young soldier would sing to himself as the sun dawned over a battlefield. The drum is frantic, it skitters about like a mind that hasn't slept in a week and a half. The distortion sounds like ringing ears in the wake of canon fire. There's something almost hallucinatory about the the whole thing, but in spite of that it never wanders. This is not some jammy trip, every sound is in its rightful place.

And rising out of the cacophony are some truly awesome hooks and choruses. It's pretty impressive, to have an album that sounds so psychotic but also begs to be sung along to.

And just so you know I am aware of the irony of sharing two individual songs with you here, having just spent the past ten minutes lauding this album as a whole unit.

Paper Lace
Idiot Heart

26 October 2009

Shameless Plug Alert

Attention all New York-based Volume Knob readers. Looking for an awesome way to spend your Wednesday night? Come out to Housing Works, that wonderful bookstore that helps to prevent homelessness and AIDS for a night of stories, songs, heartache and hilarity - all a part of the Cassette From My Ex book launch party. What is CFME you ask? Well, it's this super new book featuring 60 essays from writers and artists such as Rick Moody and Rob Sheffield about mixtapes from past loves, including one by yours truly. Plus that girl from the Magnetic Fields will be there! Less excitedly so will I! Please come out and support this little blogger. The fun starts at 7 on October 28.

Cassette From My Ex Book Launch and Mixtape Variety Show
Celebrating the release of Cassette From My Ex: Stories and Soundtracks of Lost Loves, editor Jason Bitner presents along with contributors Claudia Gonson (The Magnetic Fields), Joe Levy (Maxim Magazine), and Michael Hearst (One Ring Zero). Our expert panel will shed light on the power of mixtapes and share their own tales of tapes given and received, crushes turned to heartaches. And special bonus! Illustrator Arthur Jones presents his hilarious loss-of-virginity tale as a Post-It Note Story.

It Started With a Mixx - Los Campesinos!

25 October 2009

Story of My Life: The Musical!

A meme circulating around Facebook about one's Top 25 Most Influential albums needs new life here, if you'll allow the indulgence. These're in chronological order. This might help explain my musical weirdness, or it might just confuse you:

The Early Years (1981 - 1993)

1. Tickle Tune Typhoon - Circle Around ...Kinder-pop!

2. Firesign Theatre - Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers / I Think We're All Bozos On This Bus ...This was not by choice; it was my dad's pick
Side A of "Don't Crush That Dwarf".mp3

3. The Beatles - Revolver ...Mom's pick
And Your Bird Can Sing.mp3

4. Steely Dan - A Decade of Steely Dan ...From both parents
Reelin' in the Years.mp3

5. Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream ...I have listened to this album far, far more than any other.
Geek U.S.A..mp3

The Teen Years (1993 - 1999)
6. U2 - Achtung Baby ...Can YOU pick out the (supposed) 11 oral sex references throughout the album?
Even Better Than the Real Thing.m4a

7. Alanis Morissette - Jagged Little Pill ...Quintessential angsty mid-90's femme-rock

8. Radiohead - OK Computer ...Revolution #1: Changed the way I listened to music
Let Down.mp3

9. Tori Amos - Boys for Pele ...So, so important
Father Lucifer.mp3

10. Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine
Kinda I Want To.mp3

The College/Bellingham Years (1999 - 2003)
11. Jeff Buckley - Grace ...Revolution #2, and my top "desert island" album pick
So Real.mp3

12. They Might Be Giants - Flood
Istanbul (Not Constantinople).mp3

13. The Magnetic Fields - 69 Love Songs ...I still worship Stephin Merritt as the lyrical god he is
Epitaph for My Heart.mp3

14. Velvet Goldmine OST ...Ah yes, the important Bowie/glam phase
Placebo - 20th Century Boy (T. Rex cover).mp3

15. Sleater-Kinney - Dig Me Out
Words and Guitar.mp3

The Post-College Years (2003 - 2008)
16. Sufjan Stevens - Seven Swans / Illinois ...Revolution #3. Sufjan is my hero.
To Be Alone With You.mp3

17. Elliott Smith - XO
XO (Waltz #2).mp3

18. Andrew Bird - Weather Systems
Weather Systems.mp3

19. the Mountain Goats - The Sunset Tree / Ghana ...Revolution #4 -- an epiphany! John Darnielle and Peter Hughes as friends and influences
Going To Kirby Sigston.mp3

20. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
My Body is a Cage.m4a

These Days (2008 - Present)
21. Jens Lekman -When I Said I Wanted To Be Your Dog
You Are The Light (By Which I Travel Into This And That).m4a

22. Cut/Copy - In Ghost Colours
So Haunted.m4a

23. Islands - Arm's Way ...My pick for best album of last year. Epic! Move over, NMH
J'aime Vous Voire Quitter.m4a

24. the Mountain Goats - We Shall All Be Healed ...A whole new perspective

25. Girl Talk - Feed The Animals ...Ridic catchy. I think this album'll last the years.
Set It Off.mp3

24 October 2009

Music, By Adults, For Children

As the mother of two small children, I've been exposed over the past five years to a lot of things, one of which is a whole world of music I hadn't visited since I would listen to Up with People on vinyl at a friend's house lo those many years ago. Well, the children's music industry has come a long way, baby.

I'll admit up front that I'm predisposed to like children's music to some extent, because I like making music accessible to my kids. I'm not one of those hipster parents whose kids only listen to, you know, whatever it is that they listen to, or whatever it is that they think their children should listen to, and I've made it my business to dig into what's going on in children's music nowadays, and what follows is the fruits of five years of that labor (no pun intended).

Dan Zanes is the reigning king of the children's music world, no doubt about it. You may not remember the Del Fuegos too well - I know I don't - but that was his band way back in the day. Otherwise, before Dan got started in this weird little industry of the people who like to make music for the children, the last thing I could find of his was a spooky little instrumental he contributed to the outstanding Natural Born Killers soundtrack. Since then, he's made album after album of effortlessly cool, unselfconscious, musically diverse, international, guest-star-laden kids' music, and "Walkin' the Dog" is one of my very favorites.

Dan Zanes - Walkin' the Dog.mp3

If Dan Zanes is the king of bratpop, then Justin Roberts is the jack in the deck. Based out of Chicago, Justin spins a more straight-forward brand of quirky, primarily acoustic pop, and he puts on a fantastic show, although I'm not entirely convinced he was smiling with his EYES, but that can be hard for any artist to do when facing a mob of raging toddlers. He also has a penchant for slipping in-jokes for the parents hipsters into his music - for instance, there's a nice "Melt With You" reference in the title track to "Meltdown!" - and he keeps things just off-kilter enough to be enjoyable for kids and parents alike. "Great Big Sun" is my favorite album of his by far, but "Yellow Bus" is sure to be amusing to all.

Justin Roberts - Yellow Bus.mp3

Ralph Covert of Ralph's World is probably the most vanilla on my short list of five, but that doesn't make him any less enjoyable. Okay, maybe sometimes it does. Sometimes he dives a little too far into the realm of the sticky sweet, and then I have to remind myself that it's not for me, it's for them, and THEY love it. All his earnest and disneyfied sweetness notwithstanding, I can't help but love the wordplay in "Animal Friends."

Ralph Covert - Animal Friends.m4a

After my son was born in early 2005, I stuck mostly to guy music, who knows why? but when my daughter came along in early 2007, I fell into the mood for something softer. Truth be told, she and I listened to a lot more Iron & Wine - the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack was my personal favorite for putting her to sleep - than anything else, but, in the children's music arena, that was about the time I discovered Elizabeth Mitchell. Her cover of the Velvet Underground's "What Goes On" is excellent, and it serves as an excellent introduction to her.

Elizabeth Mitchell - What Goes On.m4a

And, finally, much as I'd love to leave her off, I can't help but include the inimitable Laurie Berkner, the reigning queen of children's music. Although I can't argue with her fun sense of fashion or her wild-yet-well-tamed hair, most of the time she just doesn't do it for me, but my boys (by which I mean both my husband and my son) love her, and I know it would be a grave mistake to leave her out. And what follows may, in fact, be "The Happiest Song I Know." For what that's worth.

Laurie Berkner - The Happiest Song I Know.mp3

Time & Place: Islands' "Vapours" understood, or not

Editor's note: This was written a month go but is just being published today.

This is the first time I'm listening to this album. I have never heard any of these songs before.
It's just before 9 am on Saturday, September 26. I just woke up. I slept 16 hours after coming back from Sufjan's show in Cleveland, OH. I'm still high from it.

Consider this an experiment in the latest (or oldest) of album-reviewing technology: basically a live-blogged stream-of-consciousness thoughts of this album. Which, biases revealed, "Arm's Way" was taken out of its case the day I bought it and has resided in our car ever since. It is on our list of top-10 desert albums.

Switched On Yep, this CD is definitely on and playing. A bit of a shock to the system as gradual fade-ins seem to have been popular recently. Oh, and there's the singing. It seems to have a slightly Caribbean Beat. Chikka-Chikka-Wow!

No You Don't I can attest this first line is true. This is funky-tastic, like a disco version of a horror-carousel. But, because I'm a dork, I woudl put this on a mix right after the Mountain Goats' song "No, I Can't." Because that would be funny, right? I think I'm adopting "don't back down in your wedding gown" as a new personal mantra.

Vapours Title tack... Silly Canadians, U's are for Brits! I'm geting a sort of 70's groove on this one too. A lot simpler, though. Shiny brass with a growling sax.

Disarming the Car Bomb You know, I like this sound. It flows. That thrilling and soothing are not only not-mutually exclusive, but that they could blend. There's a lot of 80's-type feedback that's been popular lately, like they understudied with Cut/Copy for a week while Nick Diamonds was still arranging the bass parts.

Tender Torture I'm glad Islands is progressing they way they are. They ARE progressing and getting ever-more complex, as well they should, so you never feel like you're still listening to the Unicorns. But they're not by such radical leaps and bounds that each album is so different that it takes a while to "get it" and get into it. Not the case here for sure.

Shining Wait, did Radiohead's Amnesiac just come on? The lyrics are way creepy. Instead of seduction I'm getting visions of antisocial 40-something pedos with a handful of lollipops and a freshly refurbished windowless van. *shudder*

On Foreigner Oh boy, I hope this song is about Foreigner! haha, no. It has a lovely beginning though. "Don't drop the needle on the groove" is a great line. This has a vague middle-eastern kinda beat. I keep sayin' it: Woodblock is the new Cowbell. and I want More Woodblock!!

Heartbeat Despite my anticipation, It is not a cover of the Annie song. It Sure is rhythmic, though, plodding, regular, drum/beat-based. So, really, this is more like Kanye West singing distorted vocals over Sufjan Stevens' "Year of the Ox." ........nah.

The Drums Bad Boys! Bad Boys! Whatcha Gonna Do, Whatcha gonna do when Islands comes for you?! I swear, if you don't sing that to the instrumental intro, you've just lost all humor. It's kind of slow. Actually, even though we're getting into more "Amnesiac" territory by the end, it's kind of boring.

EOL Oh, ¾ time, my waltzing beau. Sweet. Simple. Nothing much to say.

Everything Is Under Control Well, this is no 11-minute, 3-movement extro, which, personally, I'm bummed about. But that can be overdone easily, and this soft, oceanic echo is a pretty sweet closing deal on Vapours. I AM IN CONTROL! Thanks, Islands!

...But you don't have to take my word for it...
Islands - No You Don't.mp3
Islands - Disarming the Car Bomb.mp3

Last line:

I heard a girl, and I liked it

These are my (musical) confessions:

5. I've never been a Michael Jackson fan, sorry. Billy Joel on the other hand...

4. The songs I know I know by heart, but I still haven't even heard all the songs from Avenue Q.

3. The first CD I ever bought was tinkly new age music... with orca calls over it.

2. I know all the words to: "Shoop" (Salt-n-Pepa); "The Humpty Dance" (Digital Underground); "White & Nerdy" (Weird Al); "American Pie" (Don McLean); Stroke 9's "Little Black Backpack;" and 90% or better of the Mountain Goats', Sufjan Stevens', Smashing Pumpkins', Sarah McLachlan's and Jeff Buckley's catalogues.

1. Despite the sadness of the past week, I spent my non-eating/crying moments with Lady Gaga's "The Fame." AND I LIKED IT. My goodness! She dedicates it in part to her grandmothers, but by song two we have lyrics about wanting to ride someone's "disco stick." Cheeky! Cheesy! And I love it!

I apologize, dear reader, with the influx of pop music influencing me. I just thought that nothing good had come out lately, so I hadn't been listening. I have missed some things! I don't want you to make the same mistake:

Lady Gaga - Paparazzi.mp3
Lady Gaga - No Way.mp3

22 October 2009

VK chats with Nana Grizol

We're counting down the days until January 12th. That's when indie-pop darlings Nana Grizol release their second album Ruth. We recently chatted with lead singer Theo Hilton to get the scoop.

Here's what we learned: Ruth isn't a person, but a concept. As Theo explains, Ruth is "defined as sympathy for the misery of others". Sonically, the band remains the eclectic pop arrangements that made so unique in the first place (think: euphonium, sousaphone and bugle) but there's also a new dynamic at play "It's moodier lot quieter and a lot louder". While the band's debut Love It! Love It was almost entirely comprised of songs Hilton wrote himself, "the writing on Ruth is very much a group effort".
Ruth cover photo taken on the Brooklyn Bridge

This newfound collective approach makes sense, as over the past two years the group has cohered in a more defined way than ever before. However, while Nana Grizol is as cohesive as it's ever been, the music scene down in the band's hometown and indie-pop Mecca Athens, GA is as open and scattered as ever. "There's this impression that that Elephant 6 is an organized thing", says Theo. "It's just great people wanting to make and share music. I really think making something is my favorite way to hang out. I think that goes on everywhere." Of course it's incredibly awesome when two of those people making and sharing music include Laura Carter and Robbie Cucchiaro the brass section of Neutral Milk Hotel!

As for the Theo's raw and freewheeling approach as a singer and songwriter: "I'm very wordy when I write songs I think playing and singing is my favorite way to release energy. The most important thing is to cut loose and go wild."

We agree!

Check 'em out on Orange Twin Records

And enjoy a sneak peak listen:
For Things That Haven't Come Yet - Nana Grizol

AND catch them on tour (a little birdie tells us albums will be for sale early at the live shows)

Upcoming Tour Dates:
10/23 - Athens, Ga. @ Go Bar w/ Emily Armond
11/4 - Chapel Hill, NC @ Night Light w/ Organos
11/5 - St. Mary's City, Md. @ St. Mary's College
11/6 - Washington, DC @ still sorting a venue
11/7 - Purchase, NY @ SUNY Purchase
11/8 - New York, NY @ Cakeshop
11/9 - Hamden, Ct. @ The Space
11/10 - Portland, Maine @ Apohadion
11/11 - Brattleboro, VT @ TBA
11/13 - Toronto, Ontario @ The Dakota
11/14 - Geneseo, NY @ Barn Show
11/15 - Pittsburgh, Pa. @ Garfield Artworks
11/17 - Chicago, Ill. @ Empty Bottle
11/18 - Madison, Wisc. @ House show
11/19 - Mineapolis, Minn. @ Medusa
12/3 - Athens, GA @ Caledonia Lounge w/ Madeline, HAM1

20 October 2009

The Decemberists/Laura Veirs & the Hall of Flames @ Hard Rock Live, Orlando, FL, 09/30/09

Night two of our eventful excursion to Orlando brought us to The Decemberists on their "A Short Fazed Hovel" tour, an anagram (oh, aren't they clever) of "The Hazards of Love", which is, of course, their long-awaited release from earlier this year.

Sadly, the venue didn't allow cameras, so I have no photographs to share with you of what was a truly phenomenal experience. On discovering exactly what I was heading in to see, i.e., a full play-through of the latest album, I have to admit I was a little disappointed. There are too many older songs that I would like to hear more, I thought, but oh, was I ever wrong.

The full theatrical performance of The Hazards of Love was massive, intense, moving. It melded everything I could want from theatre, musical theatre and a straight-up rock concert. Bringing along Becky Stark from Lavender Diamond and Shara Worden from My Brightest Diamond to voice the parts they created on the album was absolutely essential and nothing less than inspired.

Perhaps that's the way things can be now, in an era where music seems to happen so fast, where so many new albums are released every week; the internet allowing near-limitless expansion while the street stores dwindle away to nothing. Perhaps that allows the artists more time and flexibility to take a break from their day jobs and go on tour with another band entirely. Lucky for us.

Sometime during the course of the "first act," I became convinced that Colin Meloy must have sold his soul to the devil. How else, how else? How else, indeed. Act two, on the other hand, perhaps unsurprisingly, seemed to be primarily about blowing off steam. They played some fun songs ("Billy Liar", "The Chimbley Sweep", "The Sporting Life", "O Valencia!") and the banter was unstoppable.

The highlight BY FAR was when Becky and Shara returned to the stage during the encore for a scintillating cover of Heart's "Crazy On You", and then they closed it out with a lovely albeit disconsolate rendition of "Sons & Daughters". So, if there are shows left to be had, if "A Short Fazed Hovel" is coming to your town or a town near you, I highly recommend that you attend.

It would be unfair of me to fail to mention Laura Veirs & the Hall of Flames. I have to admit that I was so excited by the prospect of the upcoming--my first--Decemberists show and so off-put by what I took to be Ms. Veirs' faux-awkward-and-shy/Liz-Phair-esque demeanor that I failed completely to appreciate exactly what was going on on stage vis-a-vis the opening act.

Yet, somehow, thanks to the Resident Photographer, we managed to walk out of Hard Rock Live that night with signed copies of her 2005 release, "Year of Meteors", and the upcoming "July Flame", scheduled for release in early 2010. And, you know what, the albums have grown on me. They're pretty darn "tight," if you will, as expressed by one of the Flames. So, if you haven't already, give the girl with the pigtails and the guitar a chance, would you?

18 October 2009

Songs for Bill, pt. 2

If there's one thing I've learned most this year, or even this decade, it's the importance of family. How it can be heartbreaking to be estranged from someone, how difficult it is to reconnect, and how fortunate you can be if you've always been close.

I've been so lucky to have a second dad like Bill. He took me in when I was homeless and helped support the wedding to my husband that he ultimately couldn't even attend. Through it all, he loved and accepted me, and I couldn't have asked for a better, kinder, funnier and more loving father-in-law.

So here's a newsflash: funerals are difficult. How am I dealing(besides Klonopin)? Yep, music. Here's seven favorites friom his music collection:

Roy Orbison - Blue Bayou.mp3 from Black & White Night
I have fond memories of watching Roy Orbison Black & White Night in concert with him. Truly, a family night of music and celebration.

Willie Nelson - A Horse Called Music.mp3 from The Many Sides of Willie Nelson
When he wasn't riding his motorcycle, he was riding high on music. Classics and favorites from his era ruled then and still do today.

Josh Groban - Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring.mp3 from Josh Groban
This song, performed by the King of Kings Lutheran church choir at his funeral, made me cry buckets. The peacefulness will overcome, though.

Neil Diamond - Forever in Blue Jeans.mp3 from Greatest Hits 1966-1992
In my mind, he will be Forever in Blue Jeans.

Lobo - How Can I Tell Her About You.mp3 from Calumet
Lobo was a favorite band. He got Adam into it; he got me into it. Don't Tell Her Goodnight; just play this tune instead.

Common Thread - Peaceful Easy Feeling (Eagles cover).mp3 from Songs of the Eagles
He was a huge Eagles fan, so here's a song I hope he lives in now.

Finally, his favorite song, by a favorite band:

Enjoy, and hug your Pa today. <3

17 October 2009

Frightened Rabbit/the Twilight Sad/We Were Promised Jetpacks @ The Social, Orlando, FL, 09/29/09

It's awfully tricky to get to live shows when one lives in a veritable cultural wasteland, but we make the effort from time to time, and this was one of those times. The Resident Photographer and I trekked up to Orlando recently for a two-night stand with some of our latest favorite and enduring favorite and entirely new favorite bands. Night one was Frightened Rabbit, fronted by Scott Hutchison, pictured below:

Like many, I fell madly in love with Frightened Rabbit's sophomore album, The Midnight Organ Fight, last year (I'm pretty sure Andy Whitman at Paste Magazine can be blamed for that, click through and read #5 on his personal list of top albums of 2008), and, recognizing that this may be the peak of the band's career, especially after picking up their somewhat less than stunning initial offering Sings the Greys, I felt it was imperative to get up there and see them NOW, and boy did it pay off. The live renditions of songs that I have grown to love were filled with even more passion and fire than the studio tracks. (This should always be true, but it is not always true.)

The Social proved to be an excellent venue, with nary a bad seat in the house. Even when occupying prized real estate at the bar, I was only ten rows away from the stage. I counted.

Opening for Frightened Rabbit were label-mates the Twilight Sad. I had read some recent buzz about them, and was excited to see them, but ultimately, they were not really my bag. I remember seeing Mogwai in the late '90's and being somewhat underwhelmed - I recognize that it's not them, it's me - and the Twilight Sad certainly falls into that post-Shoegaze, Mogwai-born category.

Opening for the Twilight Sad were label-mates We Were Promised Jetpacks. I found them to be a little rough around the edges, but The Resident Photographer has not stopped playing their album since we got home.

We Were Promised Jetpacks - Keeping Warm

Apparently it was the last night of the joint tour, and you could tell that the majority of the band members were sad about it. There was a lot of love in the room, some of it from the bands' family members, and we were told several times that the boys were all heading to Islands of Adventure the next day, heck, we even saw a few of them there while waiting for the Laura Veirs/Decemberists show to begin ... but that's a subject for another post ...

ETA: evidence that i might be wrong about that flash-in-the-pan assessment

The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Toronto

Anvil: The Story of Anvil is like a living embodiment and subsequent sequel to the Mountain Goats song "The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton". The documentary which chronicles the career of the little known, yet enduring metal band Anvil, focuses on the brother-like partnership between lead singer Lipps and drummer Rob. Friends since childhood they essentially are Darnielle's Jeff and Cyrus, practicing through their teenage years dreaming of "stage lights and leer jets and fortune and fame". And they almost get there, playing prominent festivals in the 80s with the likes of Bon Jovi.

Yet unlike their famous peers they never receive a lick of recognition. Chalk it up to bad management, a pre-Metallica marketplace or just rotten luck, but whatever the case may be Anvil still crank out album after album, all while maintaining dreary day jobs in their hometown of Toronto.

The filmakers do a great job humanizing these guys by showing their ordinary daily lives, so alike to yours and mine. Watching Lipps work a menial job, schleping school lunches for a catering service or even just catching a glimpse of them sitting at the dinner table with their wives and children, you completely empathize with their desire to simply rock for a living, especially after toiling in the industry for over thirty years.

In one scene, one of the guy's sisters condescendingly remarks in the exact words of Mr. Darnielle, that the band is still "dreaming the dream". But you and I know better. NEVER punish a person for dreaming their dream and if you do, don't expect to be thanked or forgiven. Anvil learned this through rough personal experience. And we root for them, oh do we root for them, as they attempt to overcome such detractors. Jeff and Cyrus would be proud. Hail Satan!

The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton - The Mountain Goats (Live at the Bowery Ballroom, NY Oct. 1, 2007)

16 October 2009

Top 5 At The Moment: songs for Bill pt. I

Myself (and Miss Kitty), Adam, Bill, Susan

Today I fly to the Tri-Cities in eastern Washington for my father-in-law's funeral. Bill, or as I called him, "Pa," was like a second dad to me. My husband and I are greiving, and music helps. I'm listening to a mix of pop, indie and jazz:

For complete distraction/denial:
Shakira - She Wolf.m4a from the She Wolf Single
I've been inexplicably drawn to Shakira's weird, almost cheesy anthem for furries. The howling really wasn't necessary, but the beat is solid, and the video is sexy.

Beyoncé - Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It).m4a from I Am...Sasha Fierce
Admittedly, I had never heard this song before until it was on Glee a few weeks ago. Hilarious in that context, but nonetheless catchy.

For reflection:
The Follen Angels - Is That All There Is?.mp3 from Jazz Divas: The Songs of Ella, Peggy & Billie
One of the greatest jazz songs written for a woman, it humorously examines existential ennui. Catch the lyrics once and you'll sing along forever.

For sadness:
Don Henley - Everybody Knows.mp3 from Tower Of Song: The Songs Of Leonard Cohen
My father-in-law passed away yesterday. He was 62 and it was sudden and unexpected. My husband is flying home now and in a few days I'll join for the memorial service. He said that this song had been in his head since it happened, so I'm honoring it here. This is a much more interesting cover of the original Leonard Cohen song. The whole album is fantastic and is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED you buy it.
Everybody's got that sinking feeling, like their father or their dog just died.

Sarah McLachlan - Angel.m4a from Surfacing
This song has gotten me through so many deaths, played on repeat for hours. That's all I have to say about it.

15 October 2009

2 best albums of the past 2 weeks

the Mountain Goats - The Life of the World to Come
One choice should be obvious: The Life of the World to Come by the Mountain Goats. Just a warning: some of these songs are said, especially the one about his mother-in-law dying of cancer. If you have ever lost a loved one to a terminal illness, or even just to anything you will be paralyzed with sadness after just one listen, like I sobbed on the train on the way home from my daily commute. John Darnielle is right, you sure can't brace yourself.

Read my full review up here on Crawdaddy!

And listen to the aforementioned very sad song:
tMG - Matthew 25:21.mp3

The Flaming Lips - Embryonic
As for the other album, it's the Flaming Lips' Embryonic. It's a real doozy. SO MUCH NOISE. But good noise with a thrashing, alien-like energy. If you're looking for the melodicism of Yoshimi, look elsewhere.

Read my fuller thoughts on it here, again, on Crawdaddy!

And listen to a track too:
Flaming Lips - The Sparrow Looks Up At the Machine.mp3

14 October 2009

Best Elephant 6-related band you're still not listening to

"For Things That Haven't Come Yet" might just be the best Nana Grizol song yet. The preview single from the band's upcoming album Ruth has just about everything I love in a pop song. There's the everything-AND-the-kitchen-sink instrumentation. Read: baritone euphonium, clarinet, harmonica, recorder and most prominently, the blaring horns played by members of the holy grail of indie pop NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL.

Not to mention the killer opening lyrics "I saw the best minds of my generation passed out in their prime" and off course the off-kilter vocal. I mean we're a blog named after Mountain Goat lyrics, we're practically obligated to love singers who can't sing, and thus sing beautifully. The only bad news is that we have to wait until January for the new album.

In the meantime let us reminder you how ovary-weeping adorable their last album cover was:

For Things That Haven't Come Yet - Nana Grizol

12 October 2009

Warm is good

I know next to nothing about Malawi except that Madonna likes to steal children from there. But now I know one more thing: the country produced one hell of a singer in Esau Mwamwaya. Now take this gifted singer and pair him up with pair of British producers known as Radioclit and throw in a few guest spots from their hipper-than-thou friends like M.I.A. and Ezra from Vampire Weekend and you have one of the coolest sounding albums of the year by a little band modestly called The Very Best.

The Very Best's debut album "The Warm Heart of Africa" is truly a global pop gem that I really don't have the vocabulary to describe. The lush, indigenous instrumentation resounds with giddy abandon, while aspects of electronica, folk and hip-hop are seamlessly intertwined, never sounding anything less than organic and wholly original. I honestly couldn't care less that most of the songs are sung in a language spoken halfway around the world because it is just so damn happy, nearly explosive in it's enthusiasm, proving music is indeed the universal language. It's like a non-stop tropical street party breaking out of your speakers and into your room. And who doesn't like a party?

If not one of the best releases of the year, it certainly is the most forward-thinking in terms of its modern approach toward pop (no modifiers needed) music.

Oh and they get bonus points for sampling Architecture in Helsinki's "Heart It Races" and spinning it on its weird little head.

Listen for yourself:
Warm Heart of Africa - The Very Best ft. Ezra Koenig
Kamphopo - The Very Best

09 October 2009

There's an ember in the rafters and it's gonna bring this whole thing down!

I've already expressed my love of Sea Wolf on this blog, but their new album White Water, White Bloom totally exceeded all my expectations. I knew Sea Wolf as a band that made melancholy, orchestral folk music -the kind of music where the cello swells and the piano sways - the kind of music that's perfect for unseasonably cold autumn days. Now, don't get me wrong, the band still maintains that sepia-tinged aesthetic, but they've added something more to the mix.

White Water finds the band in touch with a newfound urgency. There's a stomp and a crunch and the songs pound, pound, pound (seriously, check out the percussion on "O Maria!") and are just about the grandest thing this side of the Arcade Fire. I am having a serious love affair with this album, guys. In the words of Tracy Morgan (or should I say Tracy Jordan?), I want to take this band behind the middle school and get it pregnant. So. Much. Love.

Listen UP!

Wicked Blood - Sea Wolf

O Maria! - Sea Wolf

07 October 2009

Wait, does this mean tMG ticket prices will now be 200 bucks??

In case you missed it, which we're sure none of our readers (all 12!) did, here's the Mountain Goats tearing it up on Colbert, discussing their bad ass band name (suicidal pride y'all) and doing what they do best - finding hope in life's crushing desolation.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
John Darnielle
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMichael Moore

Performance of Psalms 40:2.
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Mountain Goats - Psalms 40:2
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMichael Moore

Tune in to VK next time as we post our thoughts on the new album, The Life of the World to Come.

06 October 2009

I always find time in my day to use the royal we

Seriously, how much so we love the new Vampire Weekend song that popped up today? I was always curious to hear their new stuff, but I can't say that I was excited. It was more that I was wondering what direction they'd go in. Sophmore albums are hard at the best of times, but even more so for picthfork hype bands (see: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah).

But man, this song, I'm digging and, and now I'm crazy psyched for the new album out January 12. The song shows an evolved sound, but not so evolved that they no longer sound like Vampire Weekend. Plus, it's catchy as all hell. And effortless. I'm pretty sure a picture of Vampire Weekend needs to go into the dictionary under "effortless".

Sorry for the rambly post, but I finished the first draft of my thesis today, so my brain is a little rattled (to say the least!).

Vampire Weekend - Horchata
(if, like me, you have no idea what that is, I wiki'd it:
Horchata, or orxata, is the name for several kinds of traditional beverages made of ground almonds, sesame seeds, rice, barley or tigernuts. So there you go. Do you think tigernuts have any relation to tigermilk? Duuddee, could you just image what a Vampire Weekend / Belle & Sebastian collaberation would sound like? Madness!)

05 October 2009

Long Vermont Roads

Mmmmmm, CakeWrecks.

June, your lovely Seattle-then-Buffalo-based blogger, is moving once again; this time to Montpelier, Vermont for cooking school (Pastry arts, yo!) Here's some songs while I celebrate with cookies:

The Magnetic Fields - Long Vermont Roads.mp3

Cibo Matto - White Pepper Ice Cream.mp3

Tori Amos - Sweet Dreams.mp3

Avenue Q - I Wish I Could Go Back to College.mp3
But If I were to go back to college,
think what a loser I'd be:
I'd walk through the quad,
and think, "Oh my God,"
these KIDS are so much younger than me!

04 October 2009

NYT: now good for two kinds of recycling!

Note: before complaints arise of me maligning the Gray Lady, let me note that it is merely my own broken dreams of journalism, not the quality of the publication, that allows me to be so bitterly tongue-in-cheek about it. That being said...

On Tuesday, the New York Times ran an article in the Arts section about Daniel Johnston's art and music being transformed into a Frogger-like iPhone app. Needless to say, the time span between me hearing about this article to playing the game was less than 2 minutes.

Not only was it 99 cents well-spent, but it's a delightful and challenging romp into the artistic and musical world of Mr. Johnston. Classic characters that once dryly adorned 80's cassette tapes now leap about to his music. No more Devil Town: he is now a Big Business Monkey. I love it.

If you have an iPhone (or have a loved one who does) and like Daniel Johnston even a tiny bit, then I recommend this joyful time-passer. Daniel Johnston is himself pleased with the game even though the technophobe admitted "I don't even know what an iPhone is."

03 October 2009

Wait, this is a beer commercial??

We recently got an email from reader Caitlin with the simple subject line "A Must." We were intrigued. Enclosed was a link to this video. Forget that this is a beer commercial. Because the song is disturbingly catchy. The band has a cumbersome name "Billie the Vision & the Dancers". All we know about them is that they are Swedish. And that is all you really need to know. Because Sweden pops out pop bands like that Duggar lady pops out chidren (did you heard she's pregnant with her nineteenth?, craziness). Anyways enjoy it, we sure do. Thanks Caitlin!

02 October 2009

gettin' you all caught up on the Sufjan stuff put out in 09 so you'll stop whining about that next state album

After getting a chance to talk to Mr. Stevens and Cryptacize after the Cleveland, OH show on Sept. 24, He dropped that a new, as-yet-untitled album with a dubious lack of state affiliation will be out "next year." In case you haven't gotten it yet, here are some excellent-quality recordings from the Ithaca show the previous day, which showcases much of Stevens' new sound:
Sufjan Stevens - Too Much Love.mp3 (The jumpy 7/8 time one)
Sufjan Stevens - Majesty Snowbird.mp3 (new version)
Sufjan Stevens - Age of Adz.mp3 (Pronounced as "Odds")
Sufjan Stevens - All Delighted People.mp3 (new song borrowed heavily from old song)
Sufjan Stevens - Impossible Souls.mp3 (Sufjan's "favorite" of the new batch right now)

Did you know The BQE is out on an album now? Your choice of the CD/DVD set, or the ol' vinyl, which comes with a bonus song that has lyrics. Not convinced? Call him the Mussorgsky of the 21st Century, and the BQE is the "Pictures at an Exhibition" of our generation. Here's what you're missing:
Sufjan Stevens - Introductory Fanfare for the Hooper Heroes.mp3
Sufjan Stevens - Movement III: Linear Tableau With Intersecting Surprise.mp3
Sufjan Stevens - Movement IV: Traffic Shock.mp3

Buy The BQE.

Osso, a string quartet spun from Sufjan's hugely orchestral Winged Eagle and Butterfly Kite Brigade days, has rearranged and released Stevens' 2002 Electronica album "Enjoy Your Rabbit" as a new album titled "Run Rabbit Run." (Owning your own label can have huge perks far as what you do with your music, what is released and when. Hooray for complete artist control!)
Some of the tracks off the original recording I liked least and now favorites in Osso's version, and vice versa. Give it a try:
Osso - Year of the Dog.mp3
Osso - Year of the Dragon.mp3

Buy Run Rabbit Run.

Finally, we come to Tor, who has put together a well-done EP of Sufjan-based mashups & remixes called "Illinoize". Check it:
Tor - Dumb ATLiens Sound (f. Outkast).mp3
Tor - The Dress Makes Me Feel That Way (f. Gift of Gab).mp3
Tor - Star of Wonder / None Shall Pass (f. Aesop Rock).mp3

Download the entire Illinoize FOR FREE!

01 October 2009

He was looking for a job. And then he found a job...

Ever wonder what it would be like to work for Morrissey? Well one man found out and lived to tell about it. After being inexplicably fired after one day on the job. Apparently the vetting process to be a roadie for Moz is waaaay more thorough and exhaustive then it is for Vice President. Read about the cryptic, divalicious exploits here. Well I guess that means the positions open. If you want it, here's a hint: don't admit to buying Elton John records, even as a kid.

Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now - The Smiths

Work is a Four Letter Word - The Smiths