Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kelley Stoltz

I've got an interview with one of my favorite songwriters, Kelley Stoltz, up now at Blurt online, a shorter version of which was published in the fall print issue a few months ago. Kelley's most recent album To Dreamers just missed my top ten this year (spent most of the post-holiday weekend working on my Dusted year-end), and, unusually for him, centers around a cover.

Here's the story.

"I Remember You Were Wild"

"I Don't Get That"

Monday, November 29, 2010

William Tyler

Still catching up on stuff that ran last week, like this review of the solo mostly acoustic guitar album by Lambchop alum William Tyler. It ran in Dusted maybe Wednesday, before the whole Turkey frenzy took hold, and it's too good to be buried there. (The album, not the review, which is so so and repeats the word "luminous" at least once too often.)

Anyway, here's a bit:

Though he’s only about 30 now, William Tyler has played with most of Nashville’s alt.Americana A-list over the last decade. He started right out of high school with Lambchop, but has also worked with Silver Jews and Bonnie “Prince” Billy. He sometimes collaborates with Paul Nieuhaus of Calexico. Around the middle of the aughts, he played with David and Hamish Kilgour. Last year, working in the shadow of late John Fahey, he released an album of finger-picked guitar and electronic experiment under the name Paper Hats. His “Between Radnor and Sunrise” on the fourth volume of the Imaginational Anthem series was one of the disc’s highlights, grounded in American primitivism and played with precision and rigor, yet glazed over somehow with an aura of almost mystic wonder. It’s not an accident that he cites Peter Walker along with Fahey as an influence. Like both of them, Tyler uses the guitar as a pathway to the spiritual.

And more

This is him doing his Paper Hat thing.

I also finished Virgil Thompson's The State of Music last night, and have to write about it at some point...what a cranky, crabby, funny diatribe on the problem of making a living in classical music, circa 1940. (And updated, a little bit, for a second edition in 1961.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Reading Rainbow.

I used to watch Reading Rainbow when I was young, not as much as Sesame Street, but some...I was weirdly fascinated with educational shows at one point. Anyway, there's a band called Reading Rainbow now down in Philly, just two people, a boy and a girl, making bash and pop garage rock with a surprisingly sweet-sad element of choral harmony spliced in. I ended my Dusted review by saying, “There’s a slow song hidden within every fast one here, a choral elegy spliced into even the peppiest banger. Here’s what happens when you shine punk rock energy through a prism, and it breaks into a million different colors.”


"Wasting Time" (via Gorilla Vs. Bear)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I’m back

I was in Philadelphia and then NYC this weekend and had a really pretty great time.

I ran the Philadelphia Marathon on Sunday (3:48 something I think...maybe 3:49) and did not spectacularly, but not so terrible.

I also visited the Philadelphia Art Museum, where the special exhibit was by an Italian artist named Michaelangelo Pistoletto, who was, among other things, apparently fascinated with mirrors. He painted on them, lifesize figures on mirror-like backgrounds, which is cool, because when you go to look at them, you and other other people in the museum are also, sort of, in the painting. And when they are on facing walls, you can see the painting you’re looking at and the one behind it and, reflected in that, the one you’re looking at, and so on and so on and so on. You can see me taking a photo in this one.

I also went to NYC and did not very much of note, but got to see a few of my friends and had a couple of very nice meals, so that was good.

And now I’m back and have all kinds of stuff up on the web, including this review of a record by Masonic, when ran yesterday in Venus.

This Texas dream pop outfit spins bittersweet webs of Left Banke-ish melody over the muted roar of shoegazy guitar effects on their fifth full-length album. Three of the five Masonic’s are brothers—John and Kevin Mason switching off on guitar and keyboards, sibling Brian on rackety, dust-kicking drums—but their not-so-secret weapon is singer Eryn Gettys. She has a glossy, early ‘60s pop voice, warm and sweetly luxuriant, buoyant and breezy yet undercut with hard-won experience. An undercurrent of vulnerability, as on the plaintive “They Wanted So Much,” in Gettys unfailingly smooth, on-key delivery connects her to the craft of French café singers, while a dreamy gauziness ties her to ‘90s vocalists like the Sundays’ Harriett Wheeler. She is poised and professional, even mildly detached, as she sings about the most rueful sort of romantic discoveries.


“Lifetime of Deception”

Friday, November 19, 2010


I’ve got another review up at Venus now, this one of a no-wave-ish, female-fronted outfit called KIT.
I said, “These spitfire spaz punks push the melodic envelope on their second full-length, leavening noise-blitzed shout fests with slithery bits of songcraft, strung-out dronescapes, and strings. KIT clattered onto the stage in the mid ‘00s, pitting frenetic dual guitar mayhem against abrasive upper register chanting (that’s one-named Kristy at the mic). Since then, the band has led a charmed life, sharing splits with noise royalty like Deerhoof, Thurston Moore, and Kim Gordon. Their earliest efforts—the split with Deerhoof, for instance—were nearly unadulterated blasts of energy, shrill, rapid-fire barrages knocked sideways by slanted, trebly riffs.

And a bit more

Arthur Magazine has an mp3 of “Merticane

I’m driving to Philly today and will probably not be blogging again until Tuesday. Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Oberhofer, Twin Sister and Morning Benders

Super bloggy evening last Wednesday, couldn't have been more different from Tuesday when everybody was my age and seated for Bob Mould...on Wednesday, it was all kids...bobbing around, dancing, cracking each other up and hanging over the railings to make eyes at each other. Very nice. I remember that...dimly.

Anyway, the three bands are all pretty trendy in their various ways, but that didn't stop two of them from being pretty great. I would highly, highly recommend that you see Oberhofer, highly (see that's one less "highly") recommend Twin Sister and shrug and say, "do what you want" if you asked me about Morning Benders. Because lots of people like this band, and compare it to Fleet Foxes and Vampire Weekend, whom they seem to like as well, but I missed it, whatever it was. I thought it was kinda boring.

Anyway, enough of this semi-conscious garble...on to the official write-up, which appeared yesterday afternoon at Blurt.

Sometimes the bill is upside down.

Tonight, for instance, when scrappy upstart Oberhofer upends strummy, sunny, two-guitar-effects-and-some-harmonies-away-from-a-jam-band Morning Benders, in a blitz of eerie "ooh ooh oohs." The middle of the bill, too, dream-tripping Twin Sister, led by the wide-eyed, raccoon-hatted Andrea Estrella, is considerably more interesting than the headliner. That the Morning Benders are vastly popular and that two-thirds of a large turnout seems to know their songs by heart only confirms what everyone already knows. The indie kids have a taste for the bland.


Oberhofer’s “Don’t Needya” (via Stereogum)

Twin Sister would actually like all of you musical hotshots to remix their album cuts and have helpfully placed WAV files of "stems" of these songs on their website. So what's stopping you?

"all around and away we go" stem

"Lady Daydream" stem

And the Morning Benders have done a couple of Daytrotter sessions. Here's the latest one.

In other news, I am absurdly psyched to be back on the Sub Pop distribution list...about five early 2011 records came yesterday, including new Twilight Singers (score!) and Mogwai (double score! and what the hell happened to Matador). Now if I could just get ForceField with its entire In the Red, Captured Tracks and Woodsist roster back, I'd be happy.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gorevette and Parting Gifts…stuff I heard on the radio

Now that I have an iPod touch, I can listen to WFMU again, so I am wasting lots of time DLing shows and listening to them. I’d forgotten how much I liked doing this, or how it interferes with reviewing 4-5 records a week. But on the bright side, I’ve heard a couple of things that are just too good to sit on, both in the garage vein, both by really veteran performers.

The first one is Gorevette, which combines the energies of Nikki Corvette and Amy Gore from the Gore Gore Girls.

Here they are performing the title track from their Lustfully Yours EP which is out now on Strange Girls records.

Parting Gifts, also a kind of super-group, has Greg Cartwright from the Reigning Sounds and Coco Hames from the Ettes together. Their album, Dandelion Strychnine is out now on In the Red. In addition to these two, Dave Amels from the Reigning Sound is on the records, as well as Dan Auerbach (Black Keys), Patrick Keeler (Greenhornes) and the remainder of the Ettes.

Here’s “Keep Walking” What a killer.

Also, there’s a video of Cartwright solo doing the title track in Detroit.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Have I mentioned that I went to see the Posies once, in Chicago, and by the end of the show, Ken Stringfellow had stripped down to his underwear? Yeah, good show, they were down on the floor for the last third of the set, doing most of the songs I love from Frosting on the Beater, and Ken was in these silky, shiny black briefs that weren’t unequivocally men’s underwear, if you know what I mean. Apparently, he does that when he feels like it’s a good show. It was a good show.

I was impressed. I bought a tee-shirt.

So, anyway, the Posies have a new album out called Blood/Candy, which is damned good, actually…unless you’re one of those hard-headed people like my husband who employs the word “candy-assed” whenever the spectre of power pop rears its head. My son likes it, so there.

There are some interesting cameos – Hugh Cornwall from the Stranglers on “Plastic Paperbacks”, Kay Hanley from Letters to Cleo on “The Glitter Prize” and Lisa Lobsinger, who is part-time front-woman for Broken Social Scene, among other things, on “Licenses to Hide”. “The Glitter Prize” is probably my favorite song on the album, with that knife-edge balance between sweetness and aggression that I like in bands like Teenage Fanclub, Big Star (which is kind of a Posies side-project now) and, obviously, the Posies.

“So Caroline” is pretty good, too

Monday, November 15, 2010


Hello, happy Monday…we had a nice quiet weekend, watched the last DVD of season two of Fringe, which I enjoyed very much, and the movie Rent which was bloody awful and about twice a long as it needed to be. Am I hallucinating, or was this the musical that was supposed to save Broadway? It sucked.

Anyway, I have a small-ish review up at Blurt of an EP by a one-person outfit called Botany, which was really lovely and a total pleasure to review.

Picture Botany's music unfurling like a brightly colored scarf, silky smooth and light in the breeze, vaguely sensual in the most abstract of ways, full of diaphanous textures that brush against you without any sense of friction at all. This five-song EP jingles with bells, blossoms with bubbly keyboards, percolates with gentle rhythms, its abstract narratives as often carried by tropical birdcalls as by angelically altered voices.


“Feeling Today”

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this, but I’m running the Philadelphia Marathon on Sunday, very excited about doing a new one and getting to spend a little time in Philadelphia.

Oh, and sad news, I think my laptop has died, so no more DLs for me for a while, at least until I have enough money for another one.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Did I mention I went to see Bob Mould and Chris Brokaw

Yes, in fact, I went to shows TWO NIGHTS IN A ROW, and maybe will have to take the rest of the year off.

I'm still struggling with my Morning Benders, Twin Sister, Oberhofer review, but my report on Bob Mould and Chris Brokaw is up right now at Blurt.

"In 1985, I went to see Hüsker Dü at Maxwell's," says Chris Brokaw, on a break from his acoustic set. "And about eight years later, I was playing in a band called Come and Bob was playing in Sugar, and we toured together and hit it off." Since then Brokaw and Mould have played together intermittently, hitting Northampton last six years ago on Halloween, but it hasn't gotten old for Brokaw. "It is still a genuine thrill to play shows with Bob."

And more

I've been listening to a LOT of Jon Spencer lately

That's mostly because of the vast 77 track reissues of Orange/Orange Experimental Remixes/Acme now out on Shout Factory. There's an interview with Spencer coming at PopMatters at some point (I finished it a couple of weeks ago, but god knows when they'll run it), but meanwhile I also did a review for Dusted, which is almost as sprawling as the reissues themselves.

Read it here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Moaners

Had another review up today at Blurt, this time of the Moaners, a two-woman, country blues band out of North Carolina that used to be on Yep Roc (where they were, I think, the only women on the label) and now release via smaller, more local Holiday for Quince.

I said:

The Moaners are often compared to the White Stripes, but it's more telling to set them up against the late, lamented Mr. Airplane Man. Where the Boston blues duo flirted with the glossiness of girl-group rock and roll, the giddy amp distortion of urban garage rock, the Moaners are all back porch stoicism. Even the most electrified, rollicking tracks on this third full-length sound hand-cranked and home-made, and the 12/8 waltzes (traditional "Moonshiner", traditional-sounding "Raggedy Tune", and wonderful saw-inflected "Blue Moon") have the ache of deep country longing.


“Humid Air”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Psychedelic Aliens meet Santana

I’ve got a review up now at Blurt of a reissue of all the work (or all the work that could be found) of a 1960s and 1970s African band called Psychedelic Aliens, which has recently been resurrected by Academy Records, with some help from the Voodoo Funk crew. Psychedelic Aliens had a kind of transformational moment in 1971, when they met Santana at a festival and were inspired by the mix of traditional and rock elements in Santana’s music.

Santana's re-imagination of Latin rhythms moved the Psychedelic Aliens to draw on their own musical heritage, the percussion-heavy, hallucinatory high-life of West Africa. You can hear the shift immediately in "Gbe Keke Wo Taoc", in the hard rush of syncopated drums. Now, the organ lines no longer drift and meander, but push forward. Nothing is subdued. Nothing is laid back. Everything drives relentlessly ahead. And when the band lets the drums fly, as it does on the standout "Homowo," it's a frenzied, multi-tonal tour-de-force.


Fred found this really fantastic video/collage type thing.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Go see Clinic and tell me what it’s like

I once travelled to Boston for a Clinic show only to arrive and find that they had cancelled because of some sort of stomach issues. As I was getting ready to write the preview below, their website said that they had cancelled a UK tour, again because of illness. So, while I love the band, I’m only recommending the show to people who have a relatively short distance to travel and a good idea of what else to do if one of the Clinic guys feels unwell. Here’s my blurb for the Philly show over the weekend.

9:30pm, $13-$14. Johnny Brenda’s.
On their landmark debut, Internal Wrangler, surgically masked Ade Blackburn and Jonathan Hartley did something that very few bands ever accomplish: create a wholly original and distinctive sound. How’d they do it? They polished junk-store keyboards to a finely reverbed gloss. They cranked spasmodically funky jitter-punk to “Voodoo Wop” proportions. They caught the pathos in a world paced by rickety drum machines and rife with mournful organs, but sadly, delicately “free of distortions.” Their sixth and latest album, Bubblegum, veers slightly into a vein of 1960s psychedelia, which should make the pairing with San Francisco’s trippy garage rockers the Fresh & Onlys all the more interesting. (Jennifer Kelly)

“I’m Aware” from Bubblegum

They’re touring with Fresh & Onlys, one of my very favorite new-ish bands. I haven’t really spent much time with their newest album Play It Strange yet, because now other people want to review it. (I had them on my Pazz and Jop ballot last year, along with maybe one or two other people, but that doesn’t count for anything this year.)


They’re done with the East Coast now, but you can still catch them in Canada and out west.
11.09.10 - Montreal, QC - La Sala Rossa
11.10.10 - Toronto, ON - Lee's Palace
11.11.10 - Chicago, IL - Lincoln Hall
11.12.10 - Minneapolis, MN - 7th St Entry
11.15.10 - Seattle, WA - Neumos
11.16.10 - Vancouver, BC - Biltmore Cabaret
11.17.10 - Portland, OR - Doug Fir Lounge
11.19.10 - San Francisco, CA - The Independent
11.20.10 - Los Angeles, CA – Troubadour

I might be going to see Chris Brokaw and Bob Mould tonight, then also the Morning Benders on Wednesday, all while continuing to get up at 5:30 a.m. to get Sean ready for school. Don’t expect much clarity round about Thursday, okay?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Old 97s

I'm breaking a fairly long dry spell today with a review of the Old 97's The Grand Theatre, Volume One in Venus, an album which I said, "seeks, with some success, to bring both sides of the Old 97’s together, the jittery, twangy rampages and the Elvis Costello-ish suavity."


We were out of power for a couple of hours this morning, after a pretty scary rain and wind storm, but everything's back to normal now.

Great live band, btw, the Old 97's

Friday, November 5, 2010

Everett True’s guide for covering live music…and how it backfired

Definitely experienced a wince or two while reading Everett True’s snarky tips for reviewing live music, having, on occasion, mentioned the weather, politics, clothing, stage banter and otherwise-not-the-music occurrences in live reviews. It’s pretty funny, though, and you should read the piece, which went up a day or so ago on the Philadelphia Weekly music blog. My favorite line -- which is really not how I do things, (except for the part about scrawling things that you can’t read later, which I do all the time) but I wish it was -- is this: “You may get inappropriately drunk, scrawl meaningless notes which you can’t decipher the next day, forget most of what happened during the show and rely on friends’ accounts and sheer bullshit to scrape together your pitiful pile of words to meet the limit.”

Okay, now you want to read the rest, don’t you?

The article actually shamed me into, ahem, researching the support bands (and the headliner, who would be a support band anywhere else) at a show we were all thinking about going to tonight at the Flywheel…with the unhappy result that I decided they all sucked and maybe we should see a movie instead.

Submitted for your (dis)approval
The Diet Cokeheads (wouldn’t you think that a band with that kind of name would at least have a sense of humor?)

Foreign Objects (not the mid 1990s death metal band, apparently)

An mp3 of “1” from Shoppers

Deceivers’ MySpace

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Everything you ever wanted to know about Dustdevils

The WFMU Beware of the Blog has done a really nice interview with Michael from Dustdevils, which you should really read, if you're at all interested in the NY no wave scene of the 1990s. I think Michael maybe left out some of the messy parts about the Wedding Present (and perhaps others, who knows?), but it's a good interview.

There's also a video, which is well worth checking out. I can't seem to embed it, but you can find it here.

Rain, rain, rain...what a dreary day.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Joy Formidable

I'm not sure, but I think the Joy Formidable might be kind of a guilty pleasure. It's that wall-of-guitars sound that I always like in more serious bands, cut with a chaser of exuberant, quite melodic pop. I just wrote a preview for Philly Weekly, why not check out this single, "Whirring"?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Erland and the Carnival...but where's the carnival?

I'm really liking this new four-song single from Erland and the Carnival. It's kind of like Tunng used to be, soft and weird and melancholy, but with this bubbly pop undertone and scratchy little electro elements. (Tunng has recently tipped pretty far over into the pure pop area, away from the weirdness and melancholy.)

The "Erland" in Erland in the Carnival, is Gawain Erland Cooper, a folksinger. But he's got some pretty interesting bandmates for a folkie -- namely, Simon Tong, whom you may recognize from the Verve, and Orb drummer David Nock.

Here's a video of my favorite song from the disc, which is called "Trouble in Mind," and includes the lyric "Didn't mean to disappoint you/I'm just sorry that I did" which I can relate to my life in about 600 ways, how about you?

The single's on Full Time Hobby in the UK and Yep Roc here in the States.

By the way, if you live in the states and are not certifiably mad...please vote. The liars and idiots are on the verge of taking over again and every little bit helps. We've got wall-to-wall ads for Kelly Ayotte on here, all funded by big outside, corporate-funded organizations that are not remotely interested in NH itself, and I'm pretty sure that's a nationwide trend. They sucker you in by promising tax cuts, but remember, if you're not fairly well off, you don't pay a lot of income taxes and they are never going to cut FICA, which is mostly where your paycheck goes.

If you're rich, go ahead, vote for the robber barons. it's probably in your interest, and screw everybody else, right? But if you don't make $200,000 a year, you're shooting yourself in the foot and they'll do their best to make sure that there's no health care for you after you do it.

Okay, I'm done.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Roots Manuva remixed

Yeah, that’s right. There I go, reviewing stuff that’s way out of my corner of the universe, in this case Roots Manuva, the London-born DJ whose concoction of rap and reggae was an early entry in the grime category. He’s got a new-ish album out called Duppy Writer, in which another producer Wrongtom, remixes material from all of his previous albums. I reviewed it in Blurt last week.

“Roots Manuva joins with the mysterious producer Wrongtom for an album of roots-infused remixes of mostly older material. Roots Manuva, whose combustible cocktail of hip hop, reggae, dancehall and dub helped originate grime and dubstep, has long spliced street poetry and protest to slinky backbeats. His collaboration with Wrongtom accentuates the island rhythms of some of his best-known songs. ‘Tropical, shit, you know? Like the juice that you drink in the morning,’ guest DJ Riddla observes, as the upbeated slouch of ‘Butterfly Crab Walk,’ creaks into organ bleating motion, and indeed, the whole album has the heat of equatorial sun on urban sidewalks.”


You can hear that “Butterfly Crab Walk” here

I did my last long run before the Philadelphia Marathon on Sunday, a 20, and it didn’t go very well. I mean, I finished, but it was slow and I was pretty destroyed afterwards (and, you know, six more miles to go in the actual race, so you want feel decent at 20 in the real thing). I woke up with a pretty bad sore throat today, so it’s probably not lack of fitness, just some kind of bug, but what a drag. The marathon’s on November 21st, though, so I have lots of time to rest beforehand. I’m driving down, staying with my Philly Weekly editor and maybe stopping on the way back in NYC to see my friend Bill (who would probably prefer that I were running the NY Marathon).

We also went to see Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter on Sunday, which is quite a good movie, actually, and about a subject (near-death experiences) that has always fascinated me. Things I liked about the movie:
1. The “magic” parts (the actual footage of the tunnel etc.) were mercifully brief and not too literal.
2. The actors were decent-looking, but human…no one was perfect
3. Both Paris and London looked wonderful.
4. The tsunami scene was terrifying
5. The cooking class…I want to take that.