Monday, November 30, 2009

The Axemen live on WFMU

I know I’m not the only one around here who’s a tad obsessed with the New Zealand sound…a scene which can easily be oversimplified as fuzzy, strummy, melodic lo-fi pop. There’s more to it, obviously, some much rougher, punk-ier stuff like the Axemen, who did a live show on WFMU last week.

Here’s Brian Turner’s description of the show and the band
One of the big touring surprises for 2009 has to be the visit of New Zealand's legendary Axemen to U.S. shores. The band began in Christchurch in 1981 and stood somewhat aside of the pop path exhibited by much of the the Flying Nun label roster, but are without doubt one of the more fascinating Kiwi exports. Various live shows and releases displayed a loose but virulent amalgamation of avant-garage, Half Japanese style sax primitivism, confusion, and general air of maladjusted greatness. They've got two reissues "Big Cheap Motel" and "Scary!" out now on Siltbreeze, and are hitting the road coast to coast with Times New Viking. You can see them Nov 27th in Columbus and 28th in Chicago. More info at their Axeblog and My Space. Stevie McCabe: Guitar/vox, Stu Kawowski: drums, Bob Brannigan: guitar/bs/vox, Dragan Stojanovic: bass/gtr/vox. Thanks to the Axemen, Adam and Times New Viking, Jason and Alex, and Tom Lax. Songs today: Be My Slave / Nutsack / Shacked Up In Yr Egyptian Tomb / Barney Rubble / Loosely Breathren / Carmen On Ice / Baby Eater / Made 2 Die / (Interview). Download this set via the Free Music Archive!

You can listen to the show here

Or download it here

Hope you all had a nice weekend and, if you celebrate Thanksgiving, a good one of those, too.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Have you heard the new Robyn Hitchcock?

It’s called Goodnight Oslo. I’ve been listening to it a little bit over the weekend. I’m by no means a strict proponent of skill and craft in popular music, this one is so beautifully, intelligently made that it makes you wonder about all that substandard dreck floating around in the blogosphere.

You know about Hitchcock from the Soft Boys, but you might not know that his band, the Venus 3, is made up of Scott MacCaughey, Peter Buck and Bill Rieflen…all serious musical threats on their own terms (except, perhaps, for MacCaughey, who is very good, but hardly ever serious about anything).

Here’s a video of the title track, performed at the Austin City Limits Festival this fall.

Oh, I never closed the loop on Jay Reatard, but he was very, very good – in fact, I can’t remember the last time I saw someone who was so completely out there. He’s also, in some way, really reserved, I don’t think you could see more than a fifth of his face the whole show because of the hair in it, and he doesn’t banter at all. But the songs were totally intense, one after another, no breaks (like the Ramones), starting with material from Blood Visions and proceeding more or less chronologically through the In the Red singles, the Matador singles and finally this year’s Watch Me Fall. He had three different guitars, which seemed to be matched to three different sets of songs, a flying wedge electric for the Blood Visions stuff, a plugged in acoustic for the Matador singles and another electric for the end. The crowd was really, really young because Who Shot Hollywood had opened (average age maybe 17?) and brought all their friends, so it was very high energy down near the stage and absolutely exhilarating. If you get a chance, go see him. This was one of the best concerts I’ve been to all year.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Jay Bolotin, Jay do you tell them apart?

My last Dusted review for the year is up today. It’s Jay Bolotin’s self-titled folk album, briefly available around its 1970 release, then lost for decades until Locust Music picked it up for reissue. Here’s part of the review:

Another in the parade of long-lost singer-songwriter records recently recovered and dusted off for contemporary consideration, Jay Bolotin’s self-titled debut has been out of circulation almost since its 1970 release. (Since that time, Jay Bolotin has had an interesting career, writing a song for Dan Fogelberg, earning Kris Kristofferson’s admiration, writing an opera and creating a film out of animated woodcuts called The Jackleg Testament.) Recorded in New York City, with bassist Kenny Lyon, keyboard player Mark Taber, guitarist David Mowry and Bobby Mason of the Fugs on drums, the album has a quiet intensity. Its sureness and maturity are surprising, given that the songwriter was only 17 or 18 years old at the time.

The songs are a shadowy mix of Appalachian folk, blues and country. In “Dear Father,” for instance, a delicate web of guitar picking evokes Bolotin’s Kentucky roots, while Mowry’s blues lead lends a smoke and heat not unlike Richard Thompson’s work in Fairport Convention. Bolotin’s voice – echoey, dramatic and full of shadings – is pitched somewhere between Bert Jansch and Johnny Cash. And the song, though grounded in a very traditional web of influences, turns surreal with visions of snakes swallowing their own tails. If you had to imagine what it would sound like for a backwoods country boy to discover late-1960s psychedelia (and possibly pharmaceuticals), this would be it.

Read the rest of the review.

There’s nothing up on the web from this album, but I did find this video from The Jackleg Testament.

I’m going to see Jay Reatard tonight, just for fun, with my husband and son. I might post about it tomorrow, but probably not seeing as it’s a holiday and I’ve got a ton of cooking to do.

Have a nice Thanksgiving (if you’re in the US) and a nice end of the week, if you’re not.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Am I shallow enough to care about this? You bet.

Grayson Currin quotes an old interview I did with Gary Higgins in his not-very-favorable review of the songwriter’s first album of new material in 40-some years. I am oddly touched that anyone still reads anything from Splendid, which, in retrospect, was the best music-writing gig I ever had. (It was unpaid and an unending amount of work, but I could interview anyone I wanted to and it would run within a month, sometimes within days.)

Here’s the Pitchfork review (a 3.2, ouch!).

And here’s my interview with Gary.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Apse Climbs Up

Apse has changed a whole lot since the last time I check in with them a couple of years ago…gotten way more dance-driven and pop for one thing, brought the vocals up a bit for another. It took some getting used to, this new one Climb Up, but eventually it sort of clicked, especially the last two tracks. This review is kind of late, because the PR firm (Tell All Your Friends – thinking of re-naming them Tell Some of Your Friends) was incredibly inept at getting me a copy of the record, and I ended up getting a scratchy burner (with a couple of tracks unlistenable) from my editor at Blurt. The review starts like this:

The body-moving, bass driven psychedelia of Apse's Climb Up represents a sharp curve away from the more cerebral atmospheres of 2006's Spirit. Where before the band rode galloping drum beats over vast, brooding landscapes, now their tunes writhe and groove hedonistically. Spirit felt like an obscure sacrament, while Climb Up seems more like a celebration, one that culminates in two late-album pop psychedelic anthems, "Climb Up" and "Closure."


Friday, November 20, 2009

Gods Gift

A late addition to my favorite records of 2009, Gods Gift’s Pathology: Manchester 1979-1984 reissued this fall by Hyped2Death. My review is up at Dusted today:

There were plenty of good reasons why Manchester’s Gods Gift never made it big. They were, after all, a bit madder than the Fall, bleaker than Joy Division, and more apt to wreak havoc live than the Happy Mondays. (The liner notes have a fantastic description of a riot that Gods Gift started when opening for the Dead Kennedys in late 1981.) Just don’t imagine that it had anything to do with the music – harsh, droning, feedback-drenched, prone to chaos and, at least some of the time, claustrophobically brilliant.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cold Cave

I have another feature this week at Philly Weekly, this time a short interview with Wes Eisold of Cold Cave.

Couple of free mp3s
“Laurels of Erotomania”

“Life Magazine”

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hush Arbors

Seems like every record I review these days has J Mascis sitting in (MV + EE, Hush Arbors and oddest of all, Jeffrey Lewis), but that’ s not such a bad thing, really. I’m finding this new Hush Arbors just a hair less compelling than last year’s self-titled (which was not the first Hush Arbors, not by a long-shot, this guy’s got an armload of small label/self-release/limited edition product floating around), but still fairly engaging. My review ran today at Blurt.

Keith Woods, who records under the name Hush Arbors, has played with many of psychedelic folk's leading lights - Current 93, Six Organs of Admittance, Sunburned Hand of the Man and Wooden Wand among others. His eleventh full-length (and second on Ecstatic Peace!) pulls away, a bit, from the transcendent folk loveliness of last year's self-titled, quickens the pace and jacks up the country two-step under another set of very strong songs. Yankee Reality opens with freewheeling guitars - in "Day Before" one of two tracks where J. Mascis sits in on guitar - and whispery vocals, its warmth as watery and uncertain and welcome as the winter sunshine of its lyrics. "Lisbon" brings in the skittery one-two beat of Saturday night country (it returns, with Mascis drumming this time, in with "Coming Home").

The rest

“Day Before” (guess who on guitar!)

“The Devil I Made You High” (my favorite)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dan Deacon

I went to see Dan Deacon a week ago, at what turned out to be his last show before blowing out his back. I pretty much hated the show. Everyone else seemed to be enjoying it. That’s always sort of interesting, to be the only person who doesn’t like something that everyone else is clearly into. But it might have been an age thing. Everyone else looked like 20 or under. As my friend Bill Meyer put it: “There comes a time when you can’t go to college parties anymore. It may not be the end of college, but it will happen.”

Anyway, I wasn’t going to write about it, especially when I found out that he’d finished the show in terrible pain from sciatica and wasn’t going to do anymore for a while. It seemed churlish and cranky, and hell, I go to shows to have fun.

But I thought maybe, just on my blog, I’d make a couple of observations about the show.

First of all, Dan Deacon is a very serious musical guy, with some sort of advanced academic degree in composition. I liked Bromst. Everyone told me that he was better live.

Actually, he’s exactly the same live, in musical terms. The music is all recorded. He doesn’t play it. He mostly plays the crowd.

Which means that, for the first ten minutes of the show, we had this weird sort of Maoist aerobics class, where everyone is encouraged to express their uniqueness by making the exact same gestures: one finger up in the air, finger pointed down, knees bent, both arms up in the air…put your right hand in and shake it all about etc. There is going to be a countdown, how exciting! We are all directed to shout out the names of seven presidents not on US currency. Someone suggests Martin Van Buren. Turns out he’s on the $1000. Fuck Van Buren, says Deacon. It is not something you generally hear at rock shows.

Then it turns a little ugly as we are all directed to point at someone who is not participating. That’s right. There’s a penalty for not having a good time. (I have been participating up until this point, and have decided to yell out William Howard Taft when the time comes, but I’m not doing this.)

And then the music starts, from somewhere in the middle of the throng, and it sounds just like Bromst. Exactly like Bromst. Except the speakers aren’t very good and they’re turned way, way, way up.

And that sort of sets the pattern. There are long gimmicky intervals of audience participation and short blasts of recorded music. The crowd is very pleased with itself, as you get closer to Deacon (who is down on the floor and, hence, invisible to all but the first three rows of kids) more and more frantically into whatever it is that they are doing. On the fringes, where I have migrated after getting a mouthful of someone’s afro (you know the people who say “excuse me” and shove you out of the way so they can stand EXACTLY WHERE YOU WERE STANDING? There were a lot of them there.), people look bemused, puzzled, eventually bored. Everyone says about Deacon, “Oh you really have to be there.” But you really have to be in the first five rows.

So, I left, which is the main reason I couldn’t really write about the show. I can’t remember the last time I left a show because I was bored. It’s been a really long time.

But I did want to give points to Nuclear Power Pants, who also had a fairly high gimmick-to-music ratio, but at least their gimmick was wearing giant shark masks.

I have some photos, but my connection is so slow today, they're not going through.

Monday, November 16, 2009

2009 faves

So I made my 2009 lists, feel free to make fun of them.

Best of list: 2009
1. The Clean, “Mister Pop” Merge
2. Akron/Family, “Set ‘Em Wild/Set ‘Em Free” Dead Oceans
3. Lotus Plaza, “The Floodlight Collective”, Kranky
4. Fresh & Onlys, “Fresh & Onlys” Castleface (also Grey-Eyed Girls)
5. Jack O and the Tennessee Tearjerkers, “The Disco Outlaw”
6. Sharon van Etten, “Because I Was in Love,” Language of Stone
7. Tyvek, “Tyvek” Siltbreeze
8. Sir Richard Bishop, “Freak of Araby”, Drag City
9. The Bats, “The Guilty Office,” Parasol
10. A.C. Newman, “Get Guilty,” Matador
11. Ty Segall, “Ty Segall” Castle Face (technically from last year, but I don’t like Lemon as much as the debut)
12. The Ohsees, “Help” In the Red
13. The Reigning Sound, “Love & Curses” In the Red (also Live at Goner Records)
14. Tara Jane O’Neil, “A Ways Away” K Records
15. Mirah, “(a)Spera,” K Records

1. Feelies, “Crazy Rhythms”/”Good Earth”
2. Red Red Meat, “Bunny Gets Paid” Sub Pop
3. Gods Gift, “Pathology: Manchester 1979-1984” Hyped2Death
4. Zero Boys, “Vicious Circle,” Secretly Canadian
5. Volcano Suns, “Bright Orange Years”/”All Night Lotus Party” Merge

Favorite song
“Widow of My Dreams,” Obits

Favorite new band
Fresh & Onlys

Best shows
Dinosaur Jr.
The Ohsees
Ty Segall
Kurt Vile/Blues Control

Friday, November 13, 2009

We’re Gonna Change the World

Kind of a fun mid-1960s compilation of Quill Records’ Beatlemaniac garage pop out now on Sundazed…I my review ran yesterday at Blurt.

The British Invasion spawned local imitators everywhere it landed, with boys in bowl cuts picking up fuzz guitars from Belgrade to Buenos Aires. Chicago's Quill Records, founded by producer/promoter Pete Wright in 1965, fomented the Midwestern Beatles pop rebellion, finding, promoting, recording, even inventing flash-in-the-pan garage rock bands during a brief flare of mid-1960s three-chord creativity. This short, long-forgotten period is lovingly collected and documented by Sundazed records in a limited edition package that includes 19 songs from 14 bands, contemporary photos and an enthusiastic essay by Jim Jarema.

The only media I can find is this (apparently reunion) footage of the Ricochettes, which is just not very good.

So screw it, I’m uploading “Just out of Reach” (Zombies cover) by Delights.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pylon fan alert…

You may have heard that DFA is reissuing Pylon’s Chomp, the band’s 1983 second album. Perhaps it will surprise you (it surprised me) that Pylon was, up until about a year ago, an intermittently functioning band that still, occasionally, gave shows. There was even a side project, Supercluster, formed around Pylon alums Randy Bewley and Vanessa Briscoe Hay, actually pretty good and reviewed in today’s Dusted. (Bewley’s death early this year probably put a stop to Pylon reunions and maybe to further material from Supercluster, too, but who knows?)
Musically, Waves is a blast from a variety of pasts. You can hear the fizzy, chanted deadpan of late 1970s/early 1980s new wave, a la Pylon and the B-52s. Bill David puts a high flickering filigree of mandolin on many of these tracks, recalling REM. And a brace of E6ers – Will Cullen Hart, Heather McIntosh, John Fernandes – swaddle bright melodies with shadowy, multi-instrumented psychedelia. There’s even a flash of the 1960s in simple, if not simplistic, sentiments. Songs favor peace (“Peace Disco Song,” “Time to End the War”), environmental stewardship (“Brave Tree”) and female empowerment (“Mermaid’s Tale”), in cheerful, non-didactic ways.

“I Got the Answer”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pants Yell!

I wasn't as crazy about Pants Yell! as some of the writers seem to be.

My Dusted review:

Lately, lots of bands have their sights on the C-86 sound – jangly, effete, fluid romantic pop – but Pants Yell! seems to be drifting away from it. There’s an off-kilter angst in the guitar riffs that surround Andrew Churchman’s slippery croons, an almost mathy syncopation and energy. An edgy, caffeinated energy pervades Received Pronunciation, making it more interesting that it would otherwise be, but not quite saving it.

If you compare Received Pronunciation to 200x’s Alison Statton a slight but palpable uptick in abrasion emerges. Smooth, sustained bits – like the languid guitar slides in “Evan’s Wood” or the Cure-like washes of synths in “Two French Sisters” – have been tamped down. Guitar lines stutter stop-start strum-lines, slashing ahead then pulling back (“Got to Stop”), or jittering off-balance in asymmetrical bursts (“Rue de La Paix”). Churchman still sings like a lo-fi, slightly flat Morrissey, blowing fleeting impressions out into lush romantic gestures, but he is hedged and braced by tougher arrangements this time.


“Cold Hands”

Going to see Dan Deacon tonight, more later.

Monday, November 9, 2009

MV + EE (and J Mascis)

Matt Valentine and Erika Elder live nearby, and I know a guy who plays with them sometimes (but not on this one), and I see Erika at the co-op once in a while though we don’t know each other. I just know what she looks like. Anyway, we’re not friends or anything, but it seems kind of like a victory for the home team when they put out an album as good as Barn Nova which continues to move away from the really pastoral, Incredible String Band-ish folk raga end of things, into a more rock-centric, Neil Young-ish kind of territory. Oh, yeah, and another local hero, J Mascis plays guitar and drums on the album, so that’s fun, too.

Here’s a bit from my Blurt review:

Even backwoods mystics like to rock out once in a while. With Barn Nova, Matt Valentine and Erika Elder move further away from the Basho/Fahey axis of finger-picked primitivism, closer to Neil Young's amplified guitar anarchy. They get a boost, on "Summer Magic," from J. Mascis, his guitar wheeling and spiraling against slow, shuffling blues and incense-scented chants. Dropping Frampton-esque bends and pull-offs, cranking Crazy Horse-ish turmoil, Mascis puts the "wild" back in this duo's imagined wilderness. But even without Mascis, as on epic "Bedroom Eyes," Valentine approximates the heat and ferocity of Young's fiery dirges, carving arcs of distortion not unlike those on "Down By the River" or "Southern Man."

The rest

There’s a track on my mix from yesterday. Here’s “Summer Magic” which is the one with J.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I made a new mix

Track listing

Elliott Brood “Write It All Down for You”
The Ettes, “Walk Through that Door
Brilliant Colors, “Absolutely Anything”
Fresh & Onlys, “D.Y.”
Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, “Would You Still Love Me If I Was in a Knife Fight”
Sin Fang Bous, “Melt Down the Knives’
Mum, “Hullabbalabbaluu”
Atlas Sound, “Quick Canal (with Laetitia Sadier)”
Volcano Choir, “And Gather”
Cold Cave, “Life Magazine”
THao and the Get Down Stay Down “Easy”
MV & EE, “Get Right Church”
Califone, “Krill”

Download here


Friday, November 6, 2009

Prince Rama of Ayodhya

Here’s a really interesting mix of rock, improv, drone, raga and jazz from a NYC-based band called Prince Rama of Ayodhya. I caught onto them while writing a show preview for Philly weekly, not of the band itself, which played Philadelphia on October 18, but of a benefit to help them raise money to replace instruments which had been stolen at this earlier gig. The benefit is on November 16 at National Mechanics (22 S. Third Street), and Hermit Thrushes, Strand of Oak and Tinmouthy are on the bill, so if you’re in Philadelphia check it out.

Couple of live mp3s (thanks to WFMU, best radio station ever)

“Om Mane Padme Hum”

“Panoptic Yes”

Lots more here

it's my birthday tomorrow, so if you've got any cool music that will take my mind off how old I'm getting, send it over.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thao Nguyen

Quickie feature on Thao and the Get Down Stay Down up at Blurt today…

Thao Nguyen says that she may not really have been ready to process a romantic break-up at when she first started writing the brutally frank songs that make up Know Better Learn Faster, her second record as Thao With The Get Down Stay Down. She had just come off an extended tour, for one thing, and for another was still feeling wounded and vulnerable. But studio time for her band's second full-length had already been booked, and Nguyen was feeling pressure.

"There's definitely an undercurrent of helplessness," Nguyen explains. "It was not the ideal time. It was something very important that I was not quite ready to write about it."

Maybe that's why she exhorts herself to "Know Better Learn Faster," in the album's title track, while recognizing that you can only learn as fast as you learn. "I have come to find you can't know better or learn faster until it's too late," says Nguyen. "The title is kind of a joke."


“Know Better Learn Faster”

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mum’s the word…

My review of the really wonderful Mum/Sin Fang Bous show I attended last Sunday is up now at Blurt.

"I have been thinking about this beautiful note, a note that we begin every show with," says Múm's co-founder Őrvar Póreyjarson Smárason as his seven-person band finishes setting up drums, keyboards, pedal boards, cellos, violins, guitars, two melodicas and one ukulele. "It's such a beautiful note. I can't stop thinking about it."

And then Iceland's long-running electro-pop band drifts into the ethereal opening to "Illuminated," into a note grows and wafts upward in breathless, scale-climbing "ooh ooh oohs." It's the kind of note you could, indeed, get lost in, and both the band and the audience is simultaneously transfixed by its startling purity, its soft dreamlike intensity.

Indeed, tonight's show is all about the jaw-dropping, sudden beauty of experimental pop. Múm, along with opener Sin Fang Bous, both traffic in gentle, delicately arranged pop songs, billowing with soft harmonies and given spine by hard, dance-floor-thudding rhythms. Both are from Iceland. Both have new records out on German electro-label Morr Music, and both surpass these records decisively in live performance.


Mum’s MySpace

Sin Fang Bous’ MySpace

Monday, November 2, 2009

Reading Mojo, raking leaves…but not at the same time

Very quiet weekend. Sean was sick, though if it was swine flu, it was an extremely mild case. It’s no joke though. Twelve kids are out from his high school with confirmed swine flu, lots of others just staying home sick, and they’ve been cancelling extracurricular stuff. Also, we have lots of big trees, so there are vast quantities of leaves and pine needles to rake, which would be even more tedious than it is without the iPod. We did get into Brattleboro to buy groceries, and I stopped at the record store and bought the new Mountain Goats, which is excellent, but no way am I ready to talk about it yet, and the latest Mojo. The comp CD is all electronic music, timed to complement a big interview with Kraftwerk. This is truly not an area of expertise for me, but I am kind of enjoying it, and without anything better to say, will leave you with this video of Kraftwerk’s “The Robots.”