Monday, December 22, 2008

Blurt Digizine

I’ve never had the bandwidth to check this out before (it’s 90 KBs), but Blurt does a digital magazine now that looks very much like the old Harp. It’s just that you have to print it out on your own paper.

Anyway, I have reviews of Christina Carter’s Original Darkness and Chris Brokaw’s Canaris, both very fine, in the current issue, as well as a short interview with the Wild Beasts.

Download the whole thing here:

Also, I’m not crazy about holiday music, except when it’s played on pipe organs and sung by boys whose voices haven’t changed yet, but 65 Days of Static has graced us with one called “I’m Dreaming of a White Noise Christmas.

The combination of less to say (everything’s closed down now until 2009), Christmas and travel probably means that I’ll be posting infrequently for a while…have a nice holiday everyone!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Another best-of list

Blurt (the old Harp) put out its year end list yesterday, and, I have to say, it's way more in line with my 2008 than any other aggregated list I've seen. I had some input into it...but then I had some input into the PopMatters list, which has not a single one of my top-ten picks in its top 60.

But Blurt has singled out a bunch of my favorites -- not just Alejandro, but Thalia Zedek and the Gutter Twins.

So, wow, I feel like a part of something for once, instead of a lone kook in the desert.

Here's the list.

Illustrating the “scraps” principle

This very low-key but enjoyable folk-influenced album by a member of the extended Banhart tribe came from PopMatters’ leftover list and was released on a label so small that no website exists.

And I could have been reviewing Fall Out Boy.

Viking Moses, The Parts that Showed (Epiphysis/Music Fellowship)
Viking Moses, the musical nom de plume of Brendon Massei, has been turning out limited edition vinyl and short-run CDs since 2003, but The Parts that Showed is only the second full-length. Massei is loosely associated with freak folk movement, having gotten early exposure on the Golden Apples of the Sun compilation and played bass with both Devendra Banhart and Vetiver. Here, however, he takes on not the hearts-and-unicorns fancies of new folk, but rather the more plainspoken aura of Palace Brothers and Bonnie Prince Billy. (It’s no surprise really, since he recorded chez Paul Oldham in Kentucky.) These are lonely musings on hardscrabble lives, sung in a ruminative voice and couched in subtle arrangements of guitar, drums and bowed saw. The single “Jones Boys” rumbles along on percussive strums and old-time-y brush and hit hat rhythms, a porch sing-along-chorus buoying the song into communal optimism. Yet it’s better still to turn to the slow drama of “Little Bows” with its pulsating rhythms and warble-y intensity or the slow, lovely flourishes of guitar in “Under a Soda Sky”. Massei says his dearest wish is for Dolly Parton to sing this album, which is maybe why he’s included a cover of “I Will Always Love You”. It’s a bold move, stripping this diva-friendly show-stopper down to the barest shades of longing, but it works. Dolly, who never let big production get in the way of emotional honesty, would be proud. [Amazon ]

“Jones Boys”

I’m interviewing Fennesz in 30 minutes…wish me luck.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

an interview with an unusually perceptive freelancer

no fucking clue who it is...

Try here

Dancer Vs. Politician

I'm thinking Politician by seven...what do you say?

Here's my review of this German pop-electronic confection, up yesterday in Blurt:

Dancer Vs. Politician
A City Half Lost

For dream-fuzzed ventures through warm acoustic and percolating electro territories, Berlin-born Sanni Baumgartner has enlisted almost a score of Athens, Georgia-based musicians, playing everything from electric guitar to cello to clarinet to musical saw. Yet populous though this CD is, it never feels overweighted. Baumgartner's supple, soothing voice weaves through rich string arrangements and twinkling glockenspiel, augmented, never overwhelmed.



"Mach Dich Los"

"Justin Fairborn"

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Stealing other people's ideas again

Nate Knaebel, one of the garage people at Dusted, has his list up today. What I know on this list (Dirtbombs, Cobra Verde, Jay Reatard, Pink Reason) is mostly excellent…I’m not sold on the Vivian Girls, but everything else looks pretty good. But there is also a ton of stuff that I don’t know, so I thought I’d throw a few videos up and see what you all think.

Eddy Current Suppression Ring, “Which Way to Go”
I’m pretty sure I have this on at least one computer, so you might want to rifle through Raven Sings the Blues and see if he put any mp3s up. I think he probably did.

Nodzzz, “I Can’t Wait”

The Goodnight Loving, “Drafted Into War”

And, to close things out, Prisonshake live in Columbus in September. There are bunch of videos from Prisonshake’s first incarnation, but this is the only one with current footage.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The old made new…and M83

I’ve got a couple of “best reissues” blurbs up in PopMatters’ year-end extravaganza: Roy Harper’s Stormcock at #18 and Big Dipper at #4 . (Best new records went up yesterday….I forget who won, but it wasn’t Fleet Foxes at least. They came in second.)

Also a live review of that M83/School of Seven Bells show

I went in to Turn It Up yesterday and tried to order The Bug’s London Zoo, but the guy says it’s only available as a vinyl import and very, very pricey. Sigh.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Petra Haden in her own (non) words

I have a little feature interview with Petra Haden up at Blurt today. She’s pretty cool…half of the Petra Haden and Miss Murgatroid duo I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, friend of Mike Watt, collaborator with Yuka Honda and daughter of the bass god Charlie Haden…

Here’s a bit:

In her latest, Hearts and Daggers, a collaboration with Miss Murgatroid (aka Alicia J. Rose), Petra Haden loops baroque swaths of vocal sounds around the twining drones of violin and accordion. There's melody, emotion, depth and complexity there...but almost no words.

"Anytime I write a word, I hate it," Haden admitted in a recent phone interview, adding that she has only recently, in collaboration with Yuka Hondo called If By Yes, begun to experiment with lyrics. Still, she is not using words in the conventional way, to tell a story, to get a point across. "When I say a word, it's just something that I think fits. I'm not even thinking of a theme. I'm just, the note that I'm singing, in my head, sounds like the word 'silhouette.' And that word ‘silhouette' sounds like the note."


Here she is covering the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows”

Embedding is disabled on this video of “I Can See for Miles” but you can watch it at YouTube by going here:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Fuck yeah…other people’s lists

So I’m at the tea shop charging up my laptop, and idly rifling through the WFMU blog, and I find Brian Turner’s year-end list, which includes a band named Wounded Lion, and god-damn, he’s right, it’s awesome.

Here is a video of “Pony People”

Also on his list Mayyors, awesome hard-assed punk. (There is a wholly objectionable, nasty, gory video of “White Jeep” on YouTube, with better sound quality, but I just can’t put it on my blog page.)

I’m gonna check out the rest when I have more time, maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Still no power

...and the newspaper is saying it will take a week to ten days in some spots. Hope we're not one of those spots.

Five worst things about no power:
5. No email, except at the library
4. No hot food
3. No light
2. No heat (it's going down to 5 below tonight...we do have a wood stove, fortunately)
1. No water, so you can't flush the toilet

But think of all the oil we're saving this week.

Had a shower today at the YMCA today and feel positively giddy about it.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Iced in, powered down

We had a pretty ferocious ice storm last night. All night long you could hear the trees breaking in great cracking shudders, a hail of ice and then a thud...when we got up this morning, there were branches as thick as my thigh lying less than a foot from the house. We were very lucky that nothing fell on the roof. Anyway, we are out of power for at least the next few days. The wires have huge trees leaning on them and the power crews are overwhelmed. Unfortunately, the well pump and the furnace both require a certain amount of power so that means no heat and no water, as well as no lights (and no computers). Not a very good time.

I'm at the Brattleboro public library typing this, where the lights are on and the wireless works. I haven't had a shower in a day, but otherwise, things seem pretty normal here.

Anyway, if you find yourself with a little time to kill, I would recommend heading over to Dusted for a couple of really excellent year end's -- Cole Goins, who used to be program director for WXYC in Chapel Hill and Ben Donnelly. Especially Ben's because he's got a mix up and it's pretty damned great: the bug, benga, cheap time, dirtbombs, etc. etc. Go get it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Recent purchases…Marc Ribot and Blues Control

Bill and I snuck off to Northampton last Sunday, where the local used CD store has LOTs more interesting records (or at least a bunch that I haven’t rifled through 1000 times). I ended up buying Marc Ribot and Ceramic Dog’s Party Intellectuals, an excellent, rough-edged and noisy take on Ribot’s jazz-Latin-no wave art…there’s even a Doors cover that I kind of like (“Break On Through”, god even the title makes me shudder, but the cover is pretty good). The best song, though, is called “Todo El Mundo Es Kitsch”.

Here’s Ribot and Ceramic Dog

I also picked up the ST Blues Control album, which earned grudging respect from the sales guy. (He mentioned that he’d seen them when they were still Water Spouts. We commiserated about the death of the Flywheel, where all the experimental bands used to stop by until the owner sold the building.) I’ve been playing the record in the car, and it is definitely not a car record, but I am starting to love it a little bit anyway…very distorted, mesmerizing, dirge-y stuff, with occasional bouts of extreme clarity.

Here they are playing a show in Philadelphia

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Freaky stuff from Brother JT

Anyone who wants to know exactly how out-there rootsy garage and soul can get should check out the new vinyl-only album by Brother JT, Jelly Roll Gospel, reviewed yesterday at Blurt.

Brother JT
Jelly Roll Gospel
Drag City

How many guys could credibly play Terrastock and Little Stephen's Garage? Not many besides John Terlesky, AKA Brother JT. Here, on Jelly Roll Gospel, the visionary of Allentown straddles two, often separated worlds: garage rock and psychedelia. In a kind of "stone soup" approach to music making, Brother JT loads up the pot with every kind of roots music imaginable - blues, rock, R&B, soul, and reggae - then pulses it into a strange, mild-altering brew. His band, this time bassist Art DiFuria (of the Photon Band) and drummer Jamie Knerr (from Psyclone Rangers), are right there with him, pushing the limits of 1960s-influenced rock and soul. Classic rock tropes, a woozy 1960s organ, a sweltering Jimi-esque wah-wah guitar, a triumphant Sly and the whole damned Family Stone chorus are bent into fantastic new shapes. JT's music is familiar and deeply freaky at exactly the same time.


Our brother at work:

Hey, this is kinda cool…he’s playing with Bardo Pond!

Friday, December 5, 2008

What I said about the grammys...

A couple of months ago, upon misguidedly volunteering to review some tepid crap by Los Lonely Boys, I went out on a limb to observe that "grammy-winning" or even "grammy-nominated" is often a synonym for "not very good."

On Monday, I am interviewing Adele, the 20-year-old British phenom just nominated for four Grammys.

Her album 19 is a bit top-heavy -- with strings and such draped over fragile little melodies, a slickness that it turns out you can buy at a store, if you know where to shop and have a big credit line, and, I admit, a certain amount of charm.

It's for Venus.

Here's a video of Adele on Jools Holland.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Rio En Medio, Justin Moyer in drag and some decent power pop

An unusual amount of web activity, today...something for everybody, I hope.

Rio En Medio
Manimal Vinyl

Rio En Medio's Danielle Stech-Homsy has one of pop music's most wispy and delicate voices, a thread of melody that slips into and under gossamer textures of guitar, synthetic blips and field recordings. Her first album, The Bride of Dynamite in 2007, set her ethereal template, with dreamlike lyrics wrapped in crinkled tissue layers of sound. With Frontier, she has turned a shade more electronic, a bit less faerie-magic folky, with the blurts and wheeze of synthesizer percolating under clear currents of song.



I had a couple of other reviews up this week at PopMatters. Some of you might remember Antelope, Justin Moyer’s very jittery, minimalist post-punk project, which I liked very much. He’s got another band, sort of an alter-ego really, called Edie Sedgwick. The music is not very different from Antelope, but I had some problems with the celebrity oriented lyrics…Anyway, here’s the last paragraph of the review:

“Moyer is, obviously, a provocateur, throwing musical Molotov cocktails to see people jump. He’s good at what he does, clever with the lines, cuttingly funny, and skilled at the minimalist, rhythmically compelling arrangements that frame his satire. Perhaps there is some larger agenda at work, a critique of celebrity, a use of outrageousness as a tool to get people thinking. But you can’t help but wish Moyer would focus his considerable intelligence and musical ability on something more serious. (There is one political song, “Bambi/G.W. Bush”, but it doesn’t go very deep.) I mean, really, after you’ve punctured the cult of Rob Lowe, made fun of Mary-Kate’s stick legs, and called Angelina on her self-promoting philanthropy, what’s next? The dark side of Zac Efron? The terrible absurdity of Miley Cyrus? These kinds of celebrities are caricatures already. Why waste time satirizing them?”

“Sissy Spacek”

And then there was another really pretty solid power pop record from Transit of Venus (who also have Julie Ocean and the Trolleyvox on their roster)…this one from Like a Fox. My review from today’s PopMatters:

Like A Fox, Where’s My Golden Arm (Transit of Venus)
Philly’s Transit of Venus has become sort of a hub for 1960s-loving power pop, first with the Trolleyvox, later Julie Ocean, and now Like a Fox. This latest band follows the crunchy guitars and catchy melodies trajectory of the other two, with a big dose of Beatlemania. You can hear a dash of 1990s lo-fi, even Elephant 6 fantasy in the skewed acoustic strums that open “A Feeling that Launched a Thousand Wars”, as songwriter Jay Laughlin sings through a cracked mic cable. “Happiness is so elusive”, he ventures in the brief pause before the song picks up a beat and starts to swagger. When the electric guitar comes in, it has the rich, 1970s bravadoccio of Cheap Trick or Queen. But it’s a sweet-ish sort of power pop, the kind that undercuts its sugary harmonies with minor key choruses and disturbing thoughts. “Internal/External”, the album’s best cut, comes on like a Guided by Voices fragment, all aggressive slanting guitars, but it breaks into a big trippy psych interlude with “Lucy in the Sky” overtones. “Oh yeah, it comes on like a tickle / Oh yeah, it leaves you like a cripple”, sings Laughlin, neatly summing up the seemingly ephemeral, but actually quite durable appeal of power pop bands like these. Laughlin relies on Dave Grubb, from his old band Lenola, to add the hyper-colored, harpsichord-ish keyboards that turn simple songs into 1960s baroque overtures. There are also some grand, expansive Pink Floydish moments late in the album, particularly in the closer “Just a Light Hit”. Not exactly revolutionary, but consistently solid and engaging. [Amazon ]


My year-end is supposedly running on Monday at Dusted, so that’ll be that for 2008.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Star Trek fever

The third season of Star Trek (the original 1960s version) arrived at our house about a month ago unexpected and, more to the point, unassigned. I wrote about it anyway for PopMatters, because how else could I justify watching it? The review ran yesterday...Here's a bit

Star Trek: The Original Series – Series 3 RemasteredCast: William Shatner , Leonard Nimoy, DeForrest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols
(NBC, 20 Sep 1968-3 Jun 1969) Rated: N/A
US release date: 18 November 2008 (Paramount)
UK release date: Available as import

by Jennifer Kelly

Boldly going, going, gone

Everything I know about kitsch, I learned from Star Trek .

At age 10 or 11, I’d dash home from school every day to catch the show with babysitter Jane, a high school girl from across the street. Watching Star Trek with Jane was different from watching with my brother (who thought it was cool) or my parents (who thought it was beneath contempt). Jane showed me how funny the show was – from the clunky, over-the-top writing, to the absurdly unlifelike acting, to the terrible fate waiting for any minor character who beamed planet side. Have you ever watched Kirk and Bones fall down? First graders playing cowboys and Indians do it more realistically. And the costumes! Who knew that in the 23rd century women on every planet, in every galaxy, would be wearing mini-skirts? We laughed until the milk squirted out of our noses.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Cheap Time on WFMU

I'm gonna try to tune into this live set from Cheap Time, who seem to everybody's favorite garage rock band this year...they're on Brian Turner's show this afternoon sometime between 3 and 6 (I'm hoping closer to 6, but not sure...)

You can tune into various streams via the main page, or wait a couple of days and it'll probably be available in archives.

Here's what Turner has to say about his guests.

Cheap Time
Tuesday, December 2nd, 3pm - 6pm
on Brian Turner's show
With their rough-yet-economically-streamlined three minute anthems, this Nashville trio perfectly boil down the essential elements of snotty Killed By Death primitive punk, Sparks angularity, and glam-inspired power pop hooks perfected by the likes of Milk N' Cookies and Redd Kross (in fact RK's Steve McDonald produced their debut for In the Red Records). In a sea of garage rock combos getting in line to replicate each other, Cheap Time take a somewhat deviant path and nail some great sideways references from across the board. Turn them up this afternoon on Brian's show, and see them live all over NYC from November 20-22nd.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

I really like this record, and I'm guessing that PopMatters will give it to someone else and Dusted will hate it, so the chances of my reviewing it are maybe 5%...

Anyway, I know there are some J&MC and shoegaze types out there, who would enjoy this clattery, drone-tinged kind of pop. Here's an mp3 of "Everything With You" to check out.

And a video of the same exact song

Monday, December 1, 2008

Devendra's latest

Vapor Records

If you thought Devendra Banhart already got his fun-loving, free-spirited, ambisexual side out in records like Cripple Crow and Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Megapuss, Banhart's guest-studded partnership with Priestbird's Greg Rogove, is a giggling, tickling, free-ranging orgy of musical styles, full of inside jokes and porno-aspiring imagery. This is, after all, the band that debuted in LA with Banhart in a penis skirt.


“Adam & Steve”

“Crop Circle Jerk 94”

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy day after...

Hope everyone had a nice day off yesterday. We all went for a run in the morning, then cooked, then ate, then watched about eight episodes of 30 Rock Season Two, then watched them again...not a terrible day all in all.

Nothing is happening today, of course, but I did have a short review up earlier this week.

Her Space Holiday
XOXO, Panda and the New Kid Revival
Mush Records

A sharp departure from the lush, electronically-derived sounds of Her Space Holiday's earlier work, this seventh full-length recalls the laid-back pop of Beulah. Serene in tone, arranged with tambourines, banjos, acoustic guitar, toy xylophones and found sounds (sirens, tea kettles, crotchety old voices), the disc has, nevertheless, a melancholy underbelly. "Two Tin Cans and a Length of String" may sound like a shout-along celebration, but it's about the preciousness of connection in the face of illness. ("I remember the day the spot was found/the kids moved back just to help us out/You held yourself with such dignity"). This and other songs on the album make it clear that Marc Bianchi has lost someone recently, a parent or grandparent. They are warm, wonderful songs about loving and saying goodbye.


“Sleepy Tigers”

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Jimi! and a difficult interview

Coupla cool things up this day before the Turkey. One is my piece on Electric Ladyland, for PopMatters, two-week-long celebration of 1968.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Electric Ladyland
Electric Ladyland was recorded at the very peak of Jimi Hendrix’s recording and playing powers, in a series of marathon, late-night, drug and alcohol fueled sessions, with guests including Steve Winwood, Dave Mason, Jack Casady coming in, and a steady escalation of conflict between long-time Experience bass player Noel Redding and Hendrix himself. This volatile climate of hedonism, interpersonal conflict and obsessive perfectionism—Dave Mason is said to have done 20 tracks of the acoustic guitar part on “All Along the Watchtower” before Hendrix let him go—produced one of the landmark albums in guitar rock.


"All Along the Watchtower"

The other is what I hope will be my last-ever email interview...with James Johnson of Wilderness. Awesome album...complete asshole.

It's in Copper Press, and there's a PDF file of the whole issue...very nicely put together, I might add. Here's a link.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I guess the winter slowdown is over…

There’s an ever-shorter break for music writers, starting a little after Halloween and stretching towards…well maybe now. That’s because no one but rappers, American Idol types and ex-Beatles want to release an album in December, after all the best of lists have been finalized and during the great distraction of the holidays. I’m thinking it was over yesterday when a big pile of those manila envelopes showed up again, with some interesting stuff in them, namely:

Dan Kalb, I’m Gonna Live the Life I Sing About”…founding member of the Blues Project (with Al Kooper) reinterprets blues classics like “Can’t Judge a Book By the Cover” (Willie Dixon) and “I’m in the Mood” (John Lee Hooker), also slips a few originals in. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a one-sheet with quotes from Muddy Waters (“You really got to me.”) and Bob Dylan (“Always a powerful guitarist.”) Nice.

Loney Dear Dear John …the Swedish pop songwriter is at it again with songs that are both spare and lavish, melancholy and full of joy. On a first listen, I’m thinking maybe not as good as Loney Noir, but a first listen is never very definitive with this kind of thing. He’s switched from SubPop to Polyvinyl, wonder why?

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, ST…I have been a little savage about Slumberland Records’ string of 1980s replicants (Crystal Stilts, The Lodger, cause co-MOTION) lately, but either they have worn me down or this one is better. Listened to this three times in the car yesterday, sort of a dark J&MC pop, like the Raveonettes but less polished. The best song is about a furtive hookup in the library…hah, I knew I was missing something…all those hours in the stacks wasted.

And finally..
Where's Captain Kirk? The Very Best of Spizz…unlike Slumberland, Cherry Red traffics only in genuine 1980s material, this one a band that got its big break opening for Siouxshie…of note so far, two songs about Star Trek. (I’m reviewing Season 3 of the original series for PopMatters right now, so it’s serendipitous to say the least.) I’ll be writing about this one for Dusted, so hopefully I’ll get a handle on it at some point.

One more thing, I have a short review of a very interesting electronic improvised record from Berlin up at PopMatters today. Watch me flail around in a genre that fascinates me…but which I know next to nothing about.

Klangwart, Stadtlandfluss (Staubgold)
For nearly a decade, the Berlin duo of Markus Detmer and Timo euber have been developing an improvisatory piece, built on loops and electronically generated sounds, which they perform in concert. The piece, called “Stadtlandfluss”, is never exactly the same. Its permutations of tone, concept and rhythm vary according to the venue, the audience, and countless random factors that have impact on the two principals’ creative state of mind. As a result, this album is not really the Stadtlandfluss but a Stadtlandfluss, one iteration among many.

The piece is divided into seven tracks somewhat arbitrarily. You will not
know where one ends and the other begins, unless you are listening on a player that intersperses silence between cuts. There is, however, an arc of movement, a narrative almost, in a piece that progresses from near silence (I thought my speakers were broken the first time) to euphoric cacophony, from far-off machine sounds to distant transmissions of radio voices. It starts slowly, a patchwork of long hanging tones and the zing of metallic power tools. You will not hear any overtly human element until “Radio” about 13 minutes in, and even then, the voices are obscured by static and erratic swoops of strings. And yet, though, rare, human sounds make up an essential element of the story. The piece crests in its two central cuts, “Hamanamah” and especially “Telemann”, the first a shivering adrenaline rush of electronic anticipation, the second all clangorous bells and frictive, rhythmic bowed strings. These two cuts are exciting in some primal, limbic way, particularly when they crescendo in a wordless female voice. The energy ebbs, the calm returns in “Strom” and by closing “Mein Herz, Mein Haus”, the sound has died down to a subliminal duet between a woman’s whispers and synthetic tones. It is, overall, quite a journey, one that brings you back to equilibrium, but not quite the same as before.

Klangwart at work...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Another lost folk singer...

My review of Linda Perhacs’ Parallelograms is up today at Dusted.

It’s got some typos….sorry about that.

Here’s a bit.

Linda Perhacs

Recorded in 1970, mastered badly, almost entirely unpromoted and forgotten for decades, Parallelograms was, up till recently, one of the great lost albums of the early 1970s. Its author, a dental technician by profession, was completely untrained, yet had an unusually sophisticated ear for harmonies and counterpoints. Her voice was, and remains, crystal-clear yet flexible, capable of the most otherworldly trills (“Parallelograms”) as well as earthy jazz slides (“Paper Mountain Man”). She sounds a good bit like Joni Mitchell, who was recording in the same Southern California scene at about the same time. Like Mitchell, she sings songs that flirt with folk, blues in jazz, yet unlike Mitchell she sounds fundamentally untethered to any of these conventions. Perhaps the most remarkable thing is this: Perhacs had no formal training, in writing, singing or arranging music. But there is nothing naïve about Parallelograms. It is intricate as well as hauntingly beautiful, carefully, complexly composed as well as utterly natural.



Friday, November 21, 2008

This is weird

Timothy Geithner, who looks to be the next US Secretary of the Treasury and is currently running the NY Federal Reserve, was a year ahead of me at Dartmouth...there's a chance we took Money & Banking the same term, though obviously he's making much better use of it.

So, I am definitely in the running for the title of "least successful Dartmouth grad ever"...go team!

Thursday, November 20, 2008


My friend Carson, who is the drummer for Amargosa, slipped me a copy of the reissued Rumors of the Faithful by Moviola a couple of weeks ago, and it has steadily been working its way under my fingernails and into my skin. The album came out a while ago, September 11, 2001 to be exact, ran into some timing issues and quietly dropped into the hole. But it’s wonderful, slack, easy country rockin’ bliss with a layer of fuzz on top of it. Doug Mosurock reviewed a couple of earlier Moviola records this February and found plenty of connections between latter day Columbus lo-fi (Times New Viking, Psychedelic Horseshit) and this. I’m hearing more of a Pollard-ish touch, the perfectly symmetric melodies wrapped in dirty gauze…

Weird that a band named after a video cameras should be so poorly represented on YouTube, but here’s the Myspace:

And, for a limited (7-day) period, a couple of my favorite cuts.

"Exit Pearl"

“Sam’s Curfew”


So I wrote to the PR guy at Holy Mountain to ask exactly what instruments are played on this really, quite good, trippy, mesmeric solo album from Asa Osbourne. The liner notes are, to put it kindly, terse. And this PR guy says, well, you're the writer. What does it sound like? And I said, fine, it sounds like baritone sax, is that okay with you? But really it doesn't...Here's my Dusted review, up today.

Holy Mountain

Zomes, in case you didn’t know, are structures built out of non rectangular polyhedrons – like triangles, pentagons, hexagons and so on. The best-known one is Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome, but you can build one yourself, any time. There’s a company in Colorado that sells Zomes kits for children as young as seven.

More to the point, Zomes is also a musical project from Lungfish guitarist Asa Osborne. It’s not clear, actually, what the link is between Zomes and Zomes, or whether Osbone has spent time with the color coordinated dowels and sockets of polyhedral construction. (He is a visual artist, so you can’t rule it out.) However, it seems just barely possible to make a connection. This sound is droning and fuzzy, certainly, without the hard geometrical edges that you might expect. Yet it is built out of small, irregular musical ideas, repeated kaleidoscopically and creating vast, improbable constructions of light and tone.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A question

Would you write for a web site that only assigns you records that no one else asks for?

I'm about to jump.

More acoustic guitar…can you stand it?

In the last couple of months, I have reviewed a live Robbie Basho album, gone to see Ciaran Nugent, Ben Reynolds, Jack Rose and Michael Chapman and referenced John Fahey a surely illegal number of times. But too much is, as always, not enough, so I also reviewed this solo album from Max Ochs (Phil Ochs’ cousin)…follow the jump for actual commentary on the album. I took my sweet time getting going on this one.

Max Ochs
Hooray for Another Day
Tompkins Square

Guitarist Max Ochs recorded the two tracks that bookend Vol. 1 of the Imaginational Anthem series – two versions of the composition that gave the series its name, one recorded in Och’s Takoma heyday in 1969, the other just before the album was released. Listening to them closely, it is hard to say exactly how Ochs grew or changed in the interim. Both cuts are lovely, haunting, but at the same time physically rigorous. You could hear his fingers sliding on the strings, scraping sometimes as they reached for another chord. And there was a swinging, swaggering rhythm to the whole thing, a sense that it might pick up and saunter off at any moment.

Here on Hooray for Another Day, Och’s first solo album in many years, there is yet another version of this song, and again, it is hard to draw a straight line from the old to the new. Said Ochs, when interviewed about the tune, “The Imaginational Anthem ….evolved taking many shapes like the Trickster before that recording day. And it still ain’t finished.” It was, he added, “a tribute to Fahey, a play on ‘National Anthem,’ a rhythm derived from ‘Put Another Nickel In.’ I was lovin’ the Beatles’ ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Blackbird.’”

The rest

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Electro pop and ethno-experimentation

Two reviews up today, one of the new record by electro cut-and-paster Max Tundra, the other by folk re-interpreter Savina Yannatou, whose new album Songs of An Other defines the term "unclassifiable." But it's pretty.

Yo, Max...

Max Tundra
Parallax Error Beheads You

Meticulous Ben Jacobs, listed on marquees as Max Tundra, takes his time making records. He works on just one cut at time, in album order, to carefully layer organic and inorganic sounds. He's perfectly willing to take a break once in a while. If, for instance, he needs a trumpet sound and doesn't know how to play it. He'll get it, just check back in a month or two. The result is often a long gap between Max Tundra records. This one, his third, comes six years after the UK release of Mastered by Guy at the Exchange. Jacobs has admitted in interviews that he worried about dying before finishing, and regularly told his friends where to find the finished tracks should anything happen to him.

Two more sizzling paragraphs.

Which Song

Bonus trivia: Ben Jacobs' sister is the only girl in Tunng!

Ready, Savina?

Savina Yannatou
Songs of An Other

US release date: 8 September 2008
UK release date: 25 August 2008

by Jennifer Kelly

Savina Yannatou brings together several worlds that seldom collide. In fact, if you drew a Venn diagram of where the spheres of Mediterranean folk, classical music, and free jazz improvisation intersected, you might find her all alone with the intrepid Primavera En Salonica in it. It’s a small, eclectic corner, but well worth visiting, as she and her six-person band explore the interstices of tradition and free experiment, classical capabilities, and folk simplicity.

Even more chatter about her mix of avant classical/jazz/folk music...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Synthy shoegaze and other people’s writing

So, I went to see M83 last night, a band that I have next to no knowledge about…and I’m going to be hacking through some kind of review later day. (I also didn’t know jack shit about School of Seven Bells, so it’ll be good times cobbling together track titles, but anyway…) Both bands were quite good, though and worth further exploration. School of Seven Bells is a trio, synthesizer and two guitars…twin sisters (the synth player and one of the guitarists) singing very high sweet, almost Japanese pop harmonies over turbulent waves of sound. M83 is also synth-based, pitting hard techno beats (though they have a very powerful live drummer) against shivering walls of guitar and synth (you can hear a little bit of MBV, Kraftwerk, the Cure and sometimes J&MC …weird combination but it works).

A video for M83’s “Kim & Jessie” which I am almost certain they played last night.

School of Seven Bells’ “Half Asleep”

Anyway, I’m going to tackle that, and a review of Lungfish offshoot Zomes later today, but meanwhile PopMatters is running two pieces about bands I’ve written about…a Q&A with Roy Harper and a think piece on David Eugene Edwards .

Friday, November 14, 2008

Michael Chapman and Jack Rose

I've got a live review of another acoustic guitar show, again at the Bookmill...this one much better attended. I didn't mention it in the review because it seemed a little too star-fucker-ish (and possibly intrusive), but Thurston Moore and Kim Gorden were there, as well as pretty much everyone else in a band in the Pioneer Valley. Moore sat on the floor. Kim got one of the couches.

I'm noting that this review really doesn't have a lead paragraph. Here are a couple of paragraphs about Michael Chapman:

A road-tested veteran in every sense of the word, he mentioned that he had recently celebrated 40 years of touring. He marked the occasion, he said, with a show at the very same venue he’d begun his career at, with a set that started 40 years to the minute after his debut. “Some of the same people were there,” he said, marveling. “They’d been home, though, you know.”

Born in Yorkshire in 1941, Chapman was part of the great folk revival of the 1960s and 1970s, sharing stages with Roy Harper, John Martyn, and others. He recorded four albums for Harvest Records in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Rainmaker, Fully Qualified Survivor, Window, and Wrecked Again, then moved to Deram, a Decca subsidiary, in the later half of the decade. His latest album Time Past and Time Passing, with songs from nearly every stage of his 40 year career, made up the bulk of the evening’s set list, interspersed with often very funny stories about his life so far.

You can read the rest here.

There's a song on the new album called "Silver King/Dustdevils" which is, unfortunately, not a tribute to that no wave band we all like so much...but it's pretty good anyway. Check it out. The link will work until November 21, 2008. After that, you're stuck with the Myspace.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Swedish pop from Fredrik

The first song on the record from Fredrik, called "Black Fur" is one of the best pop songs I've heard this's my review of the whole record, up today in PopMatters.

Na Na Ni
(The Kora)

US release date: 4 November 2008

UK release date: Available as import

by Jennifer Kelly

Soft pop and scratchy rhythms

You wouldn’t think it, but Fredrik’s Na Na Ni is one hell of a running record. What’s that? You say that this kind of cotton-candy pop is for daydreaming, for lazying around the house, for thinking about the one that got away? Fair enough. But Fredrik, a six-piece band out of Malmö, Sweden, has laced its tunes with insistent, prickly rhythms. The staccato scrub of guitar, the stomp of feet, the clang of bells, it all works as architecture for these gentle, wistful tunes, and it’s regular as a metronome. You could set your pace to this record and knock the miles off like clockwork, every one perfectly in time with the other.

There is, in fact, an almost mechanical precision to the way these songs are played and arranged, a hint of inorganic exactness in the repeated sounds and rhythms. The voice, soft and vulnerable, floats atop a junkyard choir of percussion, the swell and subsiding of cello, the regular pulse of progress. And so, unlike many pop bands, Fredrik allows you no time for stasis, meandering or self-pity. The songs work on a forward trajectory. They crest into gentle climaxes, reaching an effortless kind of joy, before melting back into the beat. These are songs, not for staying in bed all day, but for throwing back the curtains, having a big stretch and rushing out into the sunshine. It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it? Why mope around?


You can get a DL of "Black Fur" here

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My mother would be so proud...

...of my Eagles of Death Metal review.

Aren't you.

It's in Blurt today.

Imagine the Eagles of Death Metal in a world without sex. That's right, let's say that Heart On (heh, get it?) was beamed into a universe where people propagate by splitting off cells or are fertilized by roving bands of cyber bees. Would this slab of raging, rocking, eyebrow cocking come-on make any sense at all? Imagine parthogenetic societies trying to figure out the appeal of tight pants and jiggling rears. Picture them asking, "What exactly is he doing with his hand?" Nightmare, right? Absolutely unsustainable. Because Eagles of Death Metal breathes sexual innuendo the way that Martians breathe silica gas...or something like that.

More here

They wanna be in LA, apparently.

Year-end mix

Here are some songs from my favorite albums of this past usually, I've screwed it up, at least slightly. I forgot to put any Man Man on, and also Roy Harper, both highlights...oh well.

It's in two parts, here's the first

The second is somewhat weirder and less homogenous, if that's even possible.

Big Dipper "Faith Healer"
Alejandro Escovedo "Golden Bear"
Ian Matthews "Desert Inn"
Thalia Zedek Band "Green and Blue"
Wovenhand "Not One Stone"
Gutter Twins, "Idle Hands"
The Dirtbombs, "Leopardman at C&A"
Human Bell "Ephaphatha (Be Opened)
Mount Eerie with Julie Doiron "You Swan Go On"
Karen Dalton "Katie Cruel"
Experimental Aircraft "With a Gun"
Jay Reatard "Flourescent Grey"
Giant Sand "The Desperate Kingdom of Love"
Bon Iver "Skinny Love"
Lights "At Midnight"
Kelley Stoltz "I Nearly Lost My Mind"
Steve Wynn "Wait Until You Get To Know Me"
Calexico "El Gatillo"
Boston Spaceships "Still in Rome"

Part 2
King Khan and the Shrines "No Regrets"
The Starlite Desperation "I Lost My Bees"
Fabulous Diamonds "Untitled" (They're all untitled, this one is track 4)
Mahjonggh "Tell the Police the Truth"
The War on Drugs "Taking the Farm"
Pontiak "Dome Under the Sky"
Retribution Gospel Choir "Destroyer"
Stars Like Fleas "I Was Only Dancing"
The Accidentals "I Can Hear Your Voice"
Michael Chapman, "A Stranger's Map of Texas/The Twisted Road"

They'll be up for seven days...I might re-up the whole thing when my year-end essay runs. But first I have to write it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Nothing to say...yet

I haven't got any reviews up today, but I'm thinking after I finish a work project, I might try to put together my year-end mix. so stay tuned.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Death and pop

Miriam Makeba, the South African singer who did much to raise awareness of apartheid's evils, died last night. She went with her boots on, so to speak, having just performed a benefit concert in London for the author Robert Saviano. Nelson Mandela called her "South Africa's first lady of song." Very she is singing "Pata Pata."

Bill and I went to a memorial service over the weekend for one of the real originals here in town...a very strong, smart, difficult, generous character named Bob Jasse. He apparently voted for Obama from his death bed, the town clerk brought his ballot over. That surprised me, because he'd been driving around with a McCain sticker on his truck for years...but he soured on the man in the last campaign and felt very passionate about the need for change. He died on Wednesday. He voted for the last time on Tuesday. I'm not doing justice to him, but he was a very interesting man, truly self-made, and not just in the economic sense. You get the idea that he had exactly the kind of life he wanted, and he did it through unremitting hard work and optimism. He owned an apple orchard in town, one of the most beautiful places on earth, all sort of a second career for him after some success in business. Hundreds of people came to the memorial -- from all levels of society, farmers, congressmen, retired people, the kids who had picked his apples.

Lot of people dying lately...we just heard that another friend, a guy who used to do sound for Ken Burns named Sean Huff, died of cancer in Madrid a few weeks ago. He was a little younger than I was, ex-professional bass player and passionate about all sorts of politics and movies and sports. he'd come to dinner and always bring some sort of board game for our Sean and, here's the cool part, actually play it with him. Nice man, what a tough hand he got.

And on a more frivolous note, I have a couple of new reviews up...

I mentioned Magnificents last week, the Scottish new wavy, post-punkish band getting a belated US push...It's a good record, this Year of Explorers, though coming too late in the year to probably get much ink. Here's the review.

The Magnificents
Year of Explorers
(KFM Records)

US release date: 4 November 2008
UK release date: 17 September 2007

by Jennifer Kelly

New wave synths and post-punk urgency

The Magnificents' MySpace page helpfully suggests that if you’re too cheap to buy Year of Explorers and too law-abiding to download a torrent, you can try playing Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music in one speaker, Abba’s The Visitors in another. It’s not a bad idea, though you might also hazard a mix of Gang of Four and Human League, PiL and Flock of Seagulls… and still not get it quite right.

The Magnificents, out of Scotland, are as slyly ambitious as their name suggests, hitching glistening synths to straight up post-punk beats, room-shaking soccer chants to jaundiced bouts of pessimism. Huge fist-in-the-air choruses ride flashy, self-mocking flourishes of glam, nonsensical verses get explosive, exclamation-pointed delivery. The band has two synthesizers in play at all times, yet feels nonetheless gritty, live and unpremeditated.

the rest

streams at the myspace

And the Bears are a sort of wonderful, low-key pop band, just the thing if you're into Papercuts, the Botticellis, Donkeys...that kind of supermelodic, breezy, California music. (I am a bit weak for this stuff...I know a lot of you aren't.)

Simple Machinery

US release date: 2 September 2008
UK release date: Available as import

by Jennifer Kelly

Amazon The Bears’ second full-length opens with their best song, the swirling, swooning, indefinitely moody “Please Don’t”. The song is all cloudy harmonies and squiggly 1960s organ, paced in a vaguely chest-vibrating way by the simplest of bass lines and broken by handclaps. Melodically, its sweetness is shadowed somewhat with minor key harmonies and fading vocal flourishes. It’s a half-smile of a song, braced by sighs, about a boy who needs some space, and it could take its place alongside of recent work from the Donkeys, the Botticellis and the Papercuts as quintessential California pop. The irony: The Bears are from Cleveland. Ever hear a song about Ohio dreaming?

Let’s set geography aside, though, because songs like “Wait and See” and closer “Everything I Need” casually nail the jangly, day-dreamy, not-trying-too-hard tunefulness associated with the Golden State. Led by songwriters Charlie McArthur and Craig Ramsey, and supported by a full complement of two-guitars-bass-drums-keyboards, the Bears build dense but filmy textures of musical sound. Love and out-of-love songs predominate, embellished often with enlivening, real-life details. In “Another Tiger Romance”, a lover ponders the nesting panda doll he bought for his girl four happy years ago. In “Subtle Way”, another enamored soul thinks fondly about antiquing and eating maple candy with his beloved. And yet every happy song carries a tinge of sadness, every sad song the subtle ballast of joy. “I’m letting you go and moving on,” sing the Bears, late in the album, as keyboards chime, drums pound and an indefinable ray of sunshine seeps into their sound. Very nice.

You can hear a lot of the tracks at CD Baby .

so that's pretty much everything I have in the pipeline...have to go off and write a few more things.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Oneida again

So, I'm thinking I'd really like to go to this, but it's impossible to get a hotel in NYC around it would depend on finding a bit of floor or someone's couch at 4 in the morning.

Like to go to what? Oh, yeah, I've buried the lead again...Oneida's curating a one-day sort of festival, which they are calling OaF, short for Oneida Fest. It's on December 13, it costs $10 and here are the bands involved...(obvious highlights: Oneida, Oakley Hall, Dirty Faces, Parts & Labor, but these guys have excellent, serious taste, so I wouldn't be surprised if there were some good surprises among the earlier bands).

Main Space

9 - Brava Spectre
10:30 - Oakley Hall
11:45 - Sightings
2 - Oneida

Tap Bar

10 - Pterodactyl
11:30 - Parts and Labor
1 - Neptune

Old Office

9:30 - Cave
11 - Knyfe Hyts
12:30 - Dirty Faces

Been listening to that new Parts & Labor quite a bit, and it's pretty good, lots louder and less poppy than I thought at first.

Another year, another couple hundred records

It's my birthday today, another one, jesus.

Here's my all-year horoscope from the New York Post, which seems, I dunno, kind of noncommital and irrelevant, but at least it doesn't say you'll lose your house and get divorced and gain 50 pounds.

November 7, 2008

You won't lack for opportunities over the coming 12 months, but will you make the most of them? According to your birthday chart you are still waiting for that one really big chance to come along. But what if it never does? Work with what you've got.

So, as I sadly write off my "really big chance" (hah, I did this at 23), I do have some new music writing type stuff to point out.

First up, my review of A Darker Bloom, a collection of Blue Orchids material, including early singles, the one great album and some subsequent stuff. I would never have heard about Blue Orchids except for Michael, and am still not sure I'm really worthy of reviewing this stuff. (I got the assignment by commenting "ooh Blue Orchids" on a Cherry Red mailer forwarded to Dusted writers.) You might also want to check out the Crystal Stilts review today, by Ben Tausig, since he gets everything I've been thinking about this album out in full, easy-to-read sentences (which has eluded me). You may recall the free-for-all trying to establish exactly which early 1980s British post-punk band Crystal Stilts sounded most like...apparently, they say the Blue Orchids are the key influence.

Anyway, here's my review.

Artist: Blue Orchids
Album: A Darker Bloom – The Blue Orchids Collection
Label: Cherry Red
Review date: Nov. 7, 2008

Post-punk has been many things, but rarely beautiful. The Blue Orchids, out of Manchester, turned its thrift shop formula of damaged guitars, stuttering rhythms, badly-tuned keyboards and corrosive visions into something as rare and unlikely and delicately gorgeous as the band’s name-sake. A Darker Bloom traces the band’s development from its first abrasive singles, through its stunning only full-length The Greatest Hit and its last original line-up EP Agents of Change. There are also some songs from later iterations of the band, reformed in 1985 and 1991.


And here is a video of the band backing up Nico sometime in the early 1980s

And here they are playing "NY Gargoyles"

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Here's what I sent to Pm for top 10

Best albums

1. Alejandro Escovedo, Real Animal
2. The Dirtbombs, We Have You Surrounded
3. Woven Hand Ten Stones
4. Thalia Zedek Band, Liars and Prayers
5. The Gutter Twins, Saturnalia
6. Man Man, Rabbit Habits
7. Experimental Aircraft, Third Transmission
8. Human Bell, Human Bell
9. Mt. Eerie and Julie Doiron, Lost Wisdom
10. Jay Reatard, The Matador Singles

1. Big Dipper, Supercluster
2. Roy Harper, stormcock, Flat Baroque and Berserk,

3. Ian Matthews, If You Could See Thru My Eyes
4. The Friggs, Today Is Tomorrow's Yesterday
5. Karen Dalton, Green Rocky Road

Last night...

...went to the Matt & Kim show in Northampton, a very hyper-kinetic, excitable duo, whose drummer (kim) is adorable, with a 100 watt smile and a manic, straight-up-and-down attack...Matt was pretty cute, too, but more in the pop way...they were sort of like the Thermals but peppier and friendlier. Since Matt apparently went to Brattleboro High School not too long ago, the crowd was packed with locals, a very young audience who knew a lot of the songs and spent much of the set stage diving and stage surfing. Matt was very excited about our regime change and kept dedicating songs to Obama. Fun stuff. Here's "Yea Yeah"

And "5K" (she's a runner, in addition to everything else, apparently...if I were even the least bit gay I'd have a giant crush)

Best Fwends, also from Brooklyn, were in the middle of the bill. their music, have to say, is pretty ordinary, a mix of rap and metal and spazz punk. Still the stage show is highly, highly entertaining, with 6' tall inflatable gargoyles, a banner of hand-drawn cartoon faces and lots of theater. At the end, they punted the gargoyles out into the audience, where they bounced like giant, mildly nightmarish beach balls on top of the audience and then gradually deflated.

Here is "Skate or Live"

And some live footage

The opener was an electronics guy named Eric Hnatow, a local, who spent part of his set wearing a set of blinking christmas lights and another part inciting the audience to wave big strings of multicolored lights. His music was pretty good, too, with huge thumping beats and one slightly more meditative piece towards the end, performed with another guy, that reminded me a little bit of Ecstatic Sunshine. (though obviously no guitars) I am not finding any video, so you will just have to take my word.

Here's his MySpace, though

I'm not writing about this show for PopMatters or this is it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hah, we won!

Very excited about our new president...and also a little scared about all the things that will have to happen in order for him to be in actuality the great president that he seems to be in potential. I thought his acceptance speech was wonderful...did you see Jesse Jackson almost in tears?

I also, strangely enough, fell half asleep between Virginia and Florida and woke up feeling certain that there was a large, warm black dog sleeping right next to my leg, just like he used to. Of course, there wasn't. Paddy's been gone for going on seven months now. Still, it was very sweet feeling, one that stayed with me for the rest of the night and on into today. I miss him so much. Glad he came back to visit for whatever reason.

It seems sort of trivial to talk about music now, but trivial is what I do, so what the hell. here's a review of a new album by Hospital Ships, a band whose main songwriter leads the Minus Story and plays trumpet in Shearwater. It ran in Blurt yesterday.

Hospital Ships
Oh, Ramona

Hospital Ships takes its name from a Flaming Lips song, and its emotion-laden vocal flutter from the Wayne Coyne playbook. Yet there's an engaging home-made-ness and small scale to these tremulous songs, whose delicate melodies erupt into marching band flourishes of snare and brass. Where the Minus Story, songwriter Jordan Geiger's other project, tends to anchor dreamy bits of song in clanging guitar and drums, here the arrangements more whimsical and keyboard based, a bit of carnival organ careening through "Bitter Radio Single" and glockenspiel glinting amid "Baby for J."


"Bitter Radio Single"

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A weird one

Mark Tucker
In the Sack
(De Stilj)
US release date: 9 September 2008
UK release date: Available as import

by Jennifer Kelly

Originally self-released in 1982, In the Sack is a mad, funhouse-mirrored excursion through offbeat field recordings, improvised piano jams, twisted original pop and subtly warped standards. You might write it off as the work of a loony, namely Mark Tucker, aka T. Storm Hunter, a disaffected postal worker and self-recorder. You might, that is except for one surpassingly beautiful pop song tucked away amid nutter ramblings. The song, “Everywhere with Sally”, is included twice on this reissue. The first time, and the best, is the version that Tucker intended. It’s recorded backwards but phonetically backwards, so that you can make out the stretched and elided lyrics. Hard to convey exactly how mysteriously gorgeous the song becomes, the notes hissing and blossoming and distorting within a pristine pop melody like a lucid-dream version of the Clean’s prettiest melody. Even conventionally, played forward near the end, it’s a winner, though not so remarkable.

Elsewhere Tucker’s songs convey the difficulties of unconventional intelligence thwarted at work, at home and in love. His surreptitiously recorded “The Importance of Making Molehills of Specks” contains all you need to know about all-hands meetings at the local postal office, while his wickedly awry “Attractive” skewers the tennis-playing lookers on his delivery route. This is never a comfortable listen. In fact, even the covers — what I think of as the “easy listening” portion of the disc — are unsettling. A flowery, piano-trilling, loop-vocalled version of “When I Fall in Love”, (yes, the chestnut made popular by Doris Day) is played straight, but remains ominous, while the 1960s one-hit “Love (Can Make You Happy)” seems faithful enough until you realize that the drum line comes from a typewriter. “She-Voices” seems downright cruel, as Tucker loops and repeats recognizable voices and phrases into absurdist textures. A casual “oooh” near the end morphs from part of a sentence to a near-orgasmic utterance, bad luck for the girl who came within range of Tucker’s mic. Still, as weird and offputting as In the Sack can be, you’ve got to give credit to the man who wrote “Everywhere with Sally”. Crazy beautiful is still beautiful.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Robert Pollard's latest

PureMusic has been on hiatus for a while, and maybe will be for a while longer after this, but meanwhile, there's a new issue up , and I've got three reviews in it.

The one I like the best covers Robert Pollard's new project Boston Spaceships. I wrote it last summer about the first Boston Spaceships album Brown Submarine and Pollard being Pollard (and in my view a national treasure), there is already another one in the wings.

Here's the review.

BROWN SUBMARINE • Boston Spaceships

Robert Pollard is said to have 1000 songs registered to his name at BMI. He has released two multi-disc Suitcase box sets, named after the bulging valise in which he carries his demo recordings. People who want to trace his discography must master not just Guided by Voices and solo material, but dozens of semi-fictitious alter egos and hypothetical band names. You wonder how, in all the years and all the projects, he has managed not to write the same song twice...and, if you keep thinking about it, you also wonder whether he would realize it if he did.

Boston Spaceships is Pollard's newest project, a real life, flesh and blood band, whose members include ex-Decemberists drummer John Moen and frequent GBV collaborator Chris Slusarenko. It is quite good--and quite reminiscent of the great GBV records, Bee Thousand in particular. (See if you can listen to "You Satisfy Me" without hearing echoes of "Gold Star Robot Boy".) These are short, absurdly hooky songs, as casually ear-wormy as advertising jingles, but as surreal as Magritte's head-scarfed kiss. From the first slanting, sly guitars of "Winston's Atomic Bird" through the jangly, lo-fi "Go for the Exit," Brown Submarine is all fizzy pleasure.


"Go for the Exit"

If you back the site up to the reviews section you can read my other reviews, of Noa Babayof (an Israeli freak folkie) and Mudhoney.

Also, I'm reviewing this soon, but thought I would share this video by a Scottish band called The Magnificents. Their record, Year of Explorers, has apparently been out for a while in the UK, but I am just getting to it. It's really good.

The song is called "Ring Ring Oo Oo"

Friday, October 31, 2008

Guitar players, punks and shoegazers

Lots and lots of reviews up today, starting with a live show review of the Imaginational Anthem crew, which is up today at Popmatters.

George Stavis + Cian Nugent + Ben Reynolds
9 October 2008: Montague Bookmill — Montague, MA

by Jennifer Kelly

Acoustic guitar blues has had a bit of a revival lately, in large part due to the Imaginational Anthem series, now three albums along. The series, which was launched in 2005 by Tompkins Square Records, takes as its starting point the Takoma-style finger-picking of John Fahey and his early 1960s contemporaries, seeking out the original artists in this genre, as well as younger players who are influenced by them.

Tonight’s performance showcases three artists from the most recent Imaginational Anthem 3 CD. The two younger artists—Cian Nugent and Ben Reynolds—have made the trip from the United Kingdom. Nugent is Irish and Reynolds, though English, is now living in Glasgow. Banjoist George Stavis, the old timer on the bill, comes from the neighborhood, apparently, somewhere in Western Massachusetts, though with his best known album, Labyrinths, released by Vanguard in 1969, he has traveled temporally further than anyone.


Here's Cian playing "When the Snow Melts and Floats Downstream"

Also an album review at Dusted, covering the pop/punk/new wave band from Boston known as Pretty & Nice.

Pretty & Nice
Get Young
(Hardly Art)

A volatile mix of muscle and flirt, Pretty & Nice careens from one measure to the next, from straight-up, jagged punk riffs to swoony falsetto croons. On this, their second full-length, the band has slimmed down from a foursome to a trio, shedding whatever bottom their sound got from bassist Andy Contoise. “Piranha,” the opening track, is all trebly mayhem, with founders Jeremy Mendocino and Holden Lewis splintering post-punk guitar into shards, and spinning harpsichord keyboards into chaos. Drummer Bobby Landry holds the cut down, barely, alternating between hard-on-the-fours pounding and more delicate, syncopated commentary.


"Tora, Tora, Tora"

and a quicky review of a new EP by LA's Monsters Are Waiting, a shoegaze-y pop band in the vein of Asobi Seksu...I asked for the record because it was on Kanine, which is the label that first put out Grizzly Bear.

Monsters Are Waiting
Ones and Zeroes
US release date: 14 October 2008
UK release date: Available as import

by Jennifer Kelly

Sweet dreams are made of this

A little girl whispers in your ear and the universe explodes. That’s the subtext of about a million pop songs, maybe the very foundation of pop itself. Monsters Are Waiting, the LA-based band formed around singer Annalee Fery and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Clark, turns this concept into all-enveloping sound. Fery’s voice is delicate and childlike, full of blurry crescendos and naked sincerity, punctured with little catches of breath. She sounds like she’s murmuring right into you ear, but you can’t catch the words. That’s because the musical drama of distorted guitars, thudding bass and drums and cloudily reverbed keyboards swirls all around her, picking her tunes up and tossing them on waves of sound. This EP, following a self-titled EP and the full-length Fascination, makes its sunny case succinctly, in half an hour and just six songs, but there’s not a laggard in the bunch.

Favorites? Zoom in on the spiraling title track, its drums dry and tense but slathered over with extravagant textures of guitar and electric guitar. Fery stays cool, right in the center, cooing out dreamy layers of self-harmonized pop that will remind you a little bit of Juliana Hatfield, a little more of the Cocteau Twins. (There’s an oscillating guitar effect right at the end that’s straight off of Wings’ “Band on the Run”, but we’ll let that go as coincidence.) Later, Monsters Are Waiting tips the hat to the drone-pop atmospherics of the Stone Roses, with a moody, cool-toned cover of “I Wanna Be Adored”. These are tunes that you don’t so much listen to as dive right into, enveloped by a sound that is as warm and welcoming and fizzy with surf bubbles as a tropical ocean. You’ll float just fine on Ones and Zeroes, without a care in the world.

Here's a video of the Stone Roses Cover

And the title track, "Ones and Zeros"

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Heavy Hands...the next great psych rock band

Here’s another record from Language of Stone, the Philly-based psych-folk label run by Greg Weeks from Espers. The band is called Heavy Hands. They’re from Brooklyn and, as the name implies, they are way, way heavier than the typical LOS hippie-flower-girl-danse-macabre-with-cellos outing. Think not so much Pentangle and Fairport Convention…and lots more Doors, Sabbath, Jimi, Comets on Fire.

As far as I know, I’m not reviewing Smoke Signals anywhere, but that’s because it’s covered at Dusted already and nobody else gives a shit. It has nothing, nothing at all, to do with the quality of the record, which is excellent.

Check out the free mp3 of “Can’t See Through”

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Couple of really good ones...Woven Hand and Michael Chapman

I'm not sure if the reviews are any good, but the music is...My review of semi-legendary (and also little-known, if that makes sense) folksinger Michael Chapman runs today in Dusted. There'll be a live review of his show at the Bookmill sometime, as well. Also, the new Woven Hand, which on a first cut, fell at #3 on my best of list for 2008.

Artist: Michael Chapman
Album: Time Past Time Passing
Label: Electric Ragtime
Review date: Oct. 29, 2008

Like many of the songs on Michael Chapman’s Time Past and Time Passing, “Dewsbury Road/That Time of Night” can be divided into two pieces. The first, either a long introduction or a separate but related composition, is a delicate web of picked guitar, serene, sunny and unhurried. The second, starting at about three minutes, introduces Chapman’s voice, a dark-toned, rasp-edged instrument that immediately turns the mood darker. The song changes when he starts singing, like a country lane suddenly turning into a shadowy forest. “You know I don’t scare easy….but I do get scared,” Chapman intimates at regular intervals as the song proceeds, in the kind of voice that raises the hairs on your forearm. It is as if Chapman made Robert Johnson’s deal at the crossroads, but traded his voice, instead of his soul, to the devil.


Woven Hand
Ten Stones
(Sounds Familyre)
US release date: 9 September 2008
UK release date: 8 September 2008

by Jennifer Kelly

Fiery visions

David Eugene Edward’s Woven Hand has been on an increasingly rock trajectory lately. His Mosaic in 2006 was considerably more electrified than 2004’s Consider the Birds, built on pounding, Joy Division-esque rhythms and slashing guitars, and with only small islands of acoustic respite. Now with Ten Stones, the fifth since Edwards disbanded 16 Horsepower, the volume and intensity creeps up another notch, in some of the most viscerally powerful songs yet from the Woven Hand catalog.

This is perhaps partly due to Edwards’ partnership with Sereena Maneesh’s Emil Nikolaisen. Like Edwards, Nikolaisen has a fascination with rock rhythms and spiritual striving. He shares Edwards unusual combination of born again Christianity and love of Joy Division. He adds, perhaps, an understanding of the powers of guitar distortion and blur, an otherworldly sheen that encases “His Loyal Love” and other cuts in battings of tranquility or that launches “Not One Stone” from a My Bloody Valentine-esque howl of guitar.


“Beautiful Axe”

“Not One Stone” (Not actually a video…but a damned good song)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Perhaps I was too harsh?

Kinda went off on band-of-the-moment caUSE co-MOTION, but my problem is this: once you strip off all that comfy, sounds-like-the-clash-crossed-with-wire familiarity, what the hell is left?

Anyway, there are a couple MP3s, you can judge for yourself.

It’s Time
[Singles & EPs 2005-2008]

US release date: 28 October 2008

UK release date: 28 October 2008

by Jennifer Kelly

A singles comp with no single

Twenty-one minutes, 14 songs, four guys and maybe a couple hundred dollars in production expenses. Yup, it’s lo-fi, sounds-like-the-1980s time again at Slumberland Records, in this instance on the shoulders of Brooklyn-based, Wire-and-early-Clash referencing, oddly-capitalized caUSE co-MOTION.

It’s Time collects all the singles to date from this road-hardened pop-punk band, every one of them full of switchblade sharp guitars, pogo drum and bass and echo-cased, romantic vocals. It’s a fun sound, especially if you came of musical age during the Carter years. It carries all the angsty scramble of post-punk, all the ache and hurt of reverbed Britpop. And yet, listen to this album two, three, ten times, and you’re still where you started: enjoying the ride but unable to distinguish between songs. It’s a paradox. In an album constructed entirely of singles, there is no clear, catchy, ear-wormy category-killer.


"Who's Gonna Care"

"Which Way Is Up"

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hush Arbors, Robbie Basho and Crystal Stilts

Three reviews up today, two at PopMatters, one at Blurt.

Hush Arbors
Hush Arbors
(Ecstatic Peace)
US release date: 21 October 2008
UK release date: Available as import

by Jennifer Kelly

Like Sun Through Leaves

Hush Arbors’ Keith Wood has made any number of home-recorded albums, some under his current nom de plume, others with Sunburned Hand of the Man and Golden Oaks. Along with Ben Chasny of Six Organs of Admittance, he can sometimes be found playing guitar in David Tibet’s Current 93, yet he has little of Tibet’s visionary foreboding. In this self-titled album, the first on Ecstatic Peace, he explores an exceptionally sunny, calm, natural landscape with clear acoustic guitar and fuzzy electric one. Every track feels suffused with organic energy, the glow of natural light, the green haze of leafy vistas, the bright optimism of sunny days.


Couple of streams here

Crystal Stilts
Alight of Night

You'll get a good whiff of Creation Records off these reverb-heavy, bass-driven grooves, which clank and drone like Jesus & Mary Chain, but slip in a bit of Felt's pop iridescence. Singer Brad Hargett has got the deep, hollow-toned Brit-voice down, though he hails from Brooklyn, and JB Townsend manages to make jangly tangles of guitar both light-hearted and ominous. A tambourine clatters through the whole album, so that no matter how fun-house echoey things turn -- and they do seem to be recording in a concrete bunker -- you always know it's a party. And if you get lost in the clouds and fogs of sound, there is always the bass line (that's Andy Adler of the Ninjas) galloping forward to guide you.

The rest

"Crystal Stilts"

Robbie Basho
Bonn Ist Supreme

Robbie Basho, Bonn Ist Supreme (Bo’ Weavil)
Robbie Basho is now recognized as one of the great guitar players of the 20th century, ranking alongside acoustic innovators such as John Fahey and Leo Kottke for his expansive redefinition of how a steel string guitar might sound. This live recording, laid to tape in late 1980 just six years before Basho’s death, provides a very intimate glimpse into his genius. Here you can observe him in his natural element, not just coaxing an orchestra’s worth of sounds from his 12-string, but also retuning, venturing a few phrases in German and apologizing for the “fussiness” of a 115-year-old instrument.

Like many of his contemporaries, Basho refused to be pigeonholed into any single style. His music incorporated Appalachian folk, deep southern blues, raga and European classical influences. He took his name “Basho” from a Japanese poet and experimented with Asian scales and tonalities in his work as well. This disc gives a reasonably good overview of where Basho had traveled during his career. “California Raga” recorded on 1971’s Song of the Stallion shows how Basho first began splicing together American and Celtic folk melodies with the piercing tonalities of classical Indian raga. He sings on this piece, in addition to playing, in a high stirring voice that is, perhaps, not as accomplished as his fingers, but spiritually moving all the same.

You also get a taste of his classical side. Basho believed that the steel stringed guitar—both the 12 and the six-string models—deserved as important a role in classical music as the concert piano, and he wrote and played extensively in this tradition. In this show, he plays a smattering of pieces from his 1979 disc The Art of the Steel Stringed Guitar 6 and 12—a surpassingly delicate and evocative reimagination of Debussey’s “Claire De Lune,” a magnificent, symphonic rendition of “Cathedrals Et Fleur De Lis”, and beautifully melancholy “The Grail and the Lotus”, which slips American blues and Indian drones into themes from Wagner’s “Parsifal”.

The disc comes packaged with appreciative quotes from followers Jack Rose and James Blackshaw, as well as longer essays from guitarists Steffen Basho-Junghans (who altered his name in admiration of Basho), Richard Osborn and Glenn Jones (who produced the album, as well). Osborn, in particular, sheds light on Basho’s spiritual side, noting that he once performed Basho’s “The Falconer’s Arm” at a “metaphysical church.” “Later a member of the audience came up and asked ‘Where did you hear that music?’”, Osborn writes. “I replied that I had learned it from Robbie Basho. He then said, ‘Before tonight, I have only ever heard it in the spirit world.’” It’s a strange story, but perfectly in line with the ineffable beauty of Bonn Ist Supreme. [Amazon ]

“Redwood Ramble”

"Variations on Easter"

Basho's (posthumous) MySpace