28 June 2010

Swinging London!

So I just got back from a whirlwind trip to London. I was technically there for educational purposes (I was taking a course on e-publishing), but between the tours of libraries, museums and other antiquities I managed to squeeze in a some time for music and music-oriented musings. Here are the highlights:

-I finally saw the Avett Brothers live. Of course it's only logical that my friends and I see a band that excels at crafting twangy Americana when travelling across the pond. This totally ruled for several reasons... A) the crowd was epically friendly and polite (a massive departure from the typical Brooklyn hipster scene I've apparently grown immune to) B) it only cost 10 pounds! (that's like 14 American dollars, a fraction of the price I'd pay to see them in the States, which is like over 30 bucks) C) in a venue a fraction of the size I'd see them here (they're scheduled to play the cavernous Radio City in October). Oh and naturally they sounded great, bounding with energy dressed to the nines in their vests and ties.

-Speaking of vests and ties, Harrods (while terribly overrated in my book) was having a 25% off sale on Etro clothing. For those of you who don't know, that's Mountain Goats' bassist Peter Peter Hughes favorite brand for tour wardrobing. And we can't really blame him despite the high price, the designs are so intricate and the fabric so sumptuous. In other words, I'll take any excuse to post this photo of his vest:

-Being able to identify Tube stops from song, i.e. Mornington Crescent and Waterloo Station. Shout out to Belle & Sebastian and the Kinks!

-Hearing Okkervil River's The Stage Names its ENTIRETY being played in an airport gift shop at Heathrow. Instead of waiting at the gate for my flight, I just loitered in the store and enjoyed hearing one of my favorite album's of 2008 being played in the most random of public spaces. I finally got up the nerve to thank the clerk behind the counter for playing it. We chatted about music for about 10 minutes and he even showed me The Hold Steady tattoo on his index finger, (basically just the words "the hold steady" in lowercase typewriter font). If you happen to find yourself in the HMV in Heathrow's terminal 4, tell the man behind the counter I say hi.

And now the only song I know that references both London AND Libraries:
Swinging London - The Magnetic Fields

11 June 2010

“It’s going to be incredible. It’s going to probably blow people’s minds."

...That's what she said.

onethirtybpm.com just released yesterday this jewel that I have been waiting to hear for months: New Sufjan Stevens album!!

While they sort of dismiss his work on Songs for Christmas and The BQE (a big mistake, because it is even more well-done and epic compared to 2005's Illinoise) it sounds extremely promising. Many of the new songs were debuted during last fall's tour around the Northeast/Great Lakes region, so it's tremendously exciting to hear how they'll sound from a studio and months of Stevens' tinkering.

Here's a bit of info fresh from that tour if you want a peek into what to expect. Plus oodles of downloads!

While some are still bitching and moaning about the sabbaticals between albums and the whole "he has 48 states to go!", know that the state album project was intended as a joke, as publicity. the new album, as yet unnamed, has no state affiliation. (Unlike Songs for Christmas, which a few people know is actually supposed to be Vermont!)

Plus, think of it this way: his three greatest, most solid albums are Seven Swans, Illinoise, and The BQE. Those three all took about two years of studio work. Instead of badgering him for more songs, know that with a long timeline we get even BETTER songs. So hold onto your hat(s), and in the meantime, check out the interview with Bryce Dessner of The National, and the video of Sufjan sneakily performing live with them on Letterman a few weeks ago.

Random songs!
Sufjan Stevens - Too Much Love.mp3 NEW!
Sufjan Stevens - Year of Our Lord.mp3
Sufjan Stevens - Majesty Snowbird.mp3 LIVE DANCEY VERSION!
Sufjan Stevens - Age of Adz.mp3 NEW!
Sufjan Stevens - Super Sexy Woman.mp3 LIVE!
Sufjan Stevens - All Delighted People.mp3 NEW!
Sufjan Stevens - Impossible Souls.mp3 NEW!
Sufjan Stevens - Toilet Paper Dolls .mp3 STORY!

10 June 2010

it r mah birfday, prezentz now plz kthx

Happy birthday to me!
Here's a gift for YOU:

Sondre Lerche - Happy Birthday Girl.mp3

09 June 2010

Why I love the Love Language (and why you should too)

The Love Language is by far and away the most underrated band on Merge Records. While well-deserved I'm kinda sick of Spoon and the Arcade Fire getting all the love (how bout their upcoming Madison Square Garden gig, eh?). Last year, I wrote at length about their debut self-titled album which is a lo-fi folk lover's paradise that vacillates wildly between upbeat, orchestral party pop and morning-after melancholia with ramshackle glee. But my love has been renewed after 1. hearing their upcoming album and 2. seeing them in the live.

First off, Stuart McLamb's croon expands tenfold on stage. Without the fuzz of the tape-recorder its given ample room to fly off the stage and into your ears. His vocal prowess lends the songs a new found emotional heft, one that leaves you swooning as a result. The arrangements are also given room to breathe so there's an extra energy to the music.

In other words this is a band who could write a textbook on how to win me over. All other bands take note: Step 1. Write pitch-perfect songs 2. Compile said songs into an album and title it LIBRARIES (I am currently getting a Masters in Library Science). 3. Make ultra cute t-shirts with purple cats on them (OMG I LOVE CATS!!).

But the BEST news of all is that you can stream their ENTIRE upcoming album, the aforementioned Libraries on Merge's website and then buy it on July 13.

Oh and while we're out it download these goodies:
Lalita - The Love Language
Heart to Tell - The Love Language

06 June 2010

What I love in 2010 (so far)

I'm still alive!

Apologies for all but leaving our belov'd blog behind while I ran away to culinary school in Montpelier, Vermont and then home to Seattle, but now that life has some pauses I intend to fully make good with the MP3s and such! So let's find a basic starting point: What're the fresh and ripe picking for ears this season?

Some might say I've taken a turn to the dark side with a newfound affinity for pop, or could it be that suddenly there's actually good pop music out there? Lady Gaga's endlessly changing looks and enviable stage productions take already awesome songs and elevate them further. From personal experience, The Fame Monster is an excellent album to cook or bake to.
Lady Gaga - So Happy I Could Die.mp3

"Broken Bells, sounds like the guy from the Shins with a DJ." Close, it's the Shins' James Mercer with Brian Burton of Danger Mouse. Local station KEXP made a good point: After listening to the album, wait 2 hours, then try to sing one of the songs. You can't, because they completely lack hooks of any kind. The Shins' least-poppy songs are still poppier than anything from BB but don't categorize them with artists like Fiery Furnaces just yet. They hold their own musically and deserve multiple listens. Here's the first track off the album:
Broken Bells - The High Road.mp3

Considering most of my preferred viewing fare is along the lines of Breaking Bad and The X-Files, Glee is a wonderfully refreshing change. The musical dramedy's impeccable attention to detail, the incredibly talented cast, and fresh writing make this show a true gem.
Glee taught me two things: 1, the influence of Bollywood supports the idea that culture doesn't (and shouldn't) move strictly from west to east, and 2, that in recession times people cut back on the serifs and flourishes of life but that singing and dancing will always be popular. Glee does it right with a healthy dose of snark. If you like cover songs as much as we do, then this is a bandwagon you should definitely get on.
Glee - Total Eclipse of the Heart.mp3 (Bonnie Tyler cover)
Glee - Poker Face.mp3 (acoustic Lady Gaga cover... aw yeah)

Now that hipsters have decided to move on from the 80's to the 90's, I'm hoping for a revival of some of my favorite artists from that decade. 20 years ago, Jeff Buckley worked on his first fledgling recordings: the Babylon Dungeon Demos and an album with Captain Beefheart guitarist Gary Lucas. Here're two songs from that time:
Jeff Buckley - All Flowers in Time Bend Towards the Sun.mp3 (Rare, high-quality studio recording with Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins)
Jeff Buckley - Unforgiven.mp3 (aka Last Goodbye, this early version is from the Babylon Dungeon Demos)

I love Stephin Merritt. It's too bad that he's a gay 40-something smoker with a tiny dog named Irving Berlin; otherwise, we'd be perfect for each other. I love his lyrics, his gravelly voice, his depressing demeanor and deadpan, dry wit. His straightforwardness in even titling songs is a nice balanced reflection opposing the previous album, Distortion, which was electronica artfully obscuring music. In Realism we have a reprieve, where Mr. Merritt steps away from the keyboard and sits down with his fellow bandmates to bring songs back to their raw element. Even the cover art is almost meta-literal about this. It's one of the best Magnetic Fields albums in some time.
The Magnetic Fields - The Dada Polka.mp3

The classic 1988 punk album Beelzebubba contains the same raw anger and youth passion as albums from a decade before, but with more toxic under-sink solutions (sniffing glue, drinking bleach, smoking banana peels) and hilariously ill-informed attempts to woo through song. Without being overly grating, this energetic album is totally awesome as a soundtrack to working or grocery shopping.
The Dead Milkmen - Born to Love Volcanoes.mp3

I was lucky enough to attend the Mountain Goats show @ Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, Oregon on May 30. It was a bit rough in production but very full of love. JD lived only blocks from the venue at one time, with mixed but intense memories that he shared with the crowd in a high-energy "hometown" show They ran through a nice selection of favorites. JD attempted a new song from the "Going to" series, "Going to Brazil," but he couldn't remember the lyrics so we only got the first line and he moved on to "Going to Bogotá."
Only about a half-dozen pictures of the show are on flickr, from one guy, and nothing you haven't seen before. Tons more are of the Sasquatch festival, which I suspect might be due (in part) to JD complaining in Portland about how there's nothing worse than one really serious guy in the front trying to hold a phone up the entire time. JD said if you're in the mental health field, you just immediately get the urge to help, like "oh you look so sad" and you need to fix them... but mostly it's annoying.
Aand if you don't already have a copy, know tMG have and listen to Hi, We're Not the Mountain Goats, with proceeds going to the purchase of a goat from Farm Sanctuary.
the Mountain Goats - Going to Bogotá.mp3

Sure, I could try to justify why I bother with this bubblegum teen-pop at all. Like cheap candy and butterflies, this 16-year old pop star provides absolutely nothing of value or substance, but is always an immensely entertaining draw nonetheless. Who says guilty pleasures should be guilty? S/He who is without New Kids on the Block or Beatles(!) fandom, cast the first comment.
Justin Bieber - Common Denominator.mp3

Yes, yes I know:

Consider this offering of Mashups an olive branch:

Life's a Bitch, Loser (Nas vs. Beck).mp3
Ghost Beasties (Ghostbusters Theme vs. Beastie Boys).mp3
Seasons Of Juice (Chambaland vs. Rent).mp3
The XX Gon' Give It To Ya (DMX vs. The XX).mp3
Tipsy In The Sun (Weezer vs. J-Kwon).mp3
Tik Tok Seattle (Ke$ha vs. Owl City).mp3
Heartbreaker Baby (Justin Bieber vs. MSTRKRFT).mp3

04 June 2010

Thought So!

Thought So craft the kind of music rarely heard from New York buzz bands. You know the kind -sparkling alt-country. The kind of music that's twangy yet still polished but not overly-produced. It's refreshingly untrendy americana much in the vain of the Avett Brothers or old school Wilco. In other words it's the kind of music we here at the Volume Knob rather enjoy. They only have one EP so far but bodes well for their musical future. Take a listen for yourself and stream the tunes at their MySpace page (hey what do you know, MySpace is still good for something!).

Oh and if you live around NY, be sure to catch them at the Mercury Lounge June 11.

Every Eventually - Thought Somp3


Here's (half) a new Of Montreal song to get kick off your weekend. Gotta love Kevin Barnes spoken word interludes.