Friday, April 29, 2011

Jeff Buckley

I've been listening to Grace for a few different reasons lately. I started because I was reviewing the new Gary Lucas disc, The Ordeal of Civility, and I wanted to hear him play with Buckley again. And then I was reviewing Wild Beasts' Smother, and I wanted to see if their voices were really similar or just both high and full of vibrato. (I think there's more to it, actually.) And then once I started listening to it, it became not about those reasons and more about the fact that this is a wonderful, wonderful album and it's been way too long since I spent time with it.

So, happy Friday, and let's not be maudlin about it. (Personally, all I ever had access to was the records, and they're still here...) Here he is performing "Mojo Pin" in Chicago in 1995.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


This new Donkeys album Born With Stripes is their best so far, I think, still ramshackle in all the right ways but a lot more engaging. I reviewed it for Dusted today and said:

Born With Stripes is more gripping than its predecessors. The sound is clearer and more focused, thanks perhaps to Vetiver producer Thom Monahan. The rhythms are crisper and less meandering, and the songwriting has become both rougher and more exotic. More important, they’ve done all this without giving up the indolent charm that has been The Donkeys’ stock in trade.


There are two free mp3s:

"Don't Know Who We Are"

"I Like the Way You Walk"

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Raveonettes live again...and Globes on disc

I've got a couple of new things up today at Blurt. First the full write-up on the Raveonettes show (I wrote about this earlier here, but only in the briefest, most sketchy, bloggy way...I hope this is better.)

A lot has happened since the last time I saw the Raveonettes on a minor stop in their Chain Gang of Love tour sometime back in the mid-00s. Their splice of girl group melody and rackety, effect-driven guitar sounded new then, or at least relatively unusual. It was still half a decade before Vivian Girls, Pains of Being Pure at Heart and their many followers would colonize this blend of haze and sweetness. Rock was back, at least temporarily, and there was plenty of room for a gorgeous blonde bass player, a floorboard's worth of guitar pedals and a sound that linked the Ronettes to the Ventures to the Jesus & Mary Chain.

As it turns out, there's still some room for Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo, whose live act has gotten sharper even as their recorded output has grown more diffuse and atmospheric. For this tour, they've got a slate of spooky tunes - they play the bulk of new Raven from the Grave tonight - as well as a beefed up line-up. In addition to the band's two main members, there are two other guys in tow. For much of the night, they play short-handed drum sets - just a snare, floor tom, crash cymbal and tambourine - in perfect synchronization, pounding out primitive, booming beats that give even the Raveonette's airiest new songs a rush of adrenaline. The set is heavy on new material, but also includes selections from Whip It On, Chain Gang of Love, Lust Lust Lust, and In and Out of Control, plus at least one cover.

The rest

Also, my review of the Globes' Future Self goes live today. The Globes are a fairly new phenomenon from the Northwest whose best songs balance the symmetries of good Brit Pop with the unexpected turns and eerie atmospheres of Radiohead...anyway, they've got two EPs plus this debut on Barsuk to their name as yet, but I'm guessing we'll hear more about them presently.

I said: The Globes transform complexity into something accessible on this impressive debut. Here intricate rhythms jitter under chilled otherworldly vocals, translucent guitar textures blossom unexpectedly into off-kilter flourishes of proggy dexterity. Melodic pop lines may shoulder softly into view, but only to be shredded into prismatic, asymmetrical bits. If the best comparison is Radiohead that is partly because both bands are so unpredictable, so ready to fracture time signatures and break chord structures, so that the line you hear is subtly, intriguingly different from what you expect to hear.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Let's Wrestle

The bristly, guitar-strummy punk-pop of Let's Wrestle is always half a shade darker than it seems, its staccato tune-ful-ness wrapped around songs about alienation, loneliness and (sometimes) end-of-life care. The band's second full-length, recorded with Steve Albini, is called Nursing Home, and it's super fun in an antsy, abrasive, aggressively sardonic way.

Merge is offering "Dear John" as the free mp3.

The album's out May 17th.

I reviewed Let's Wrestle's first album for Dusted a year or two ago. You can read about that here if you want.

Some interesting things have been happening. Out of the blue, I got an invitation to write a one-sheet for a band on Sub Pop, and that worked out pretty well, if quickly and over Easter weekend. (I don't know what the rules are, so I'm not going to say who it was, other than that it's a kind of flying mammal...)

Also had a visit from my parents, who at 78 and 79, travelled 800 miles to see my son, Sean, in My Fair Lady. He was brilliant, by the way, my son. Everyone said so, not just his mom. He played Alfie Doolittle and had two of the show's best songs, "Little Bit of Luck" and "Get Me To the Church On Time." There's a page of photos and an essay he wrote about acting at the theater's website here, if you're curious.

Also, I've been elected a library trustee in my town, which seems bizarrely responsible and adult. (I ran unopposed. No one else wanted to do it, but still...)

So pretty busy, but not necessarily on music stuff. Hope you're all well.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Už Jsme Doma

I have a new review up at Blurt of Caves, the latest album from Czech prog collective Us Jsme Doma.

The long-running Už Jsme Doma has been through a quarter century of mayhem, beginning its intricately-plotted, anarchically-energized career in then Soviet-dominated Czechoslovakia. Early on, the band played in secret, risked imprisonment and joined in resistance efforts to form a more democratic state. Then, post-glasnost, they emerged onto a larger, international stage, touring Europe and the United States and once, serving as backing band for American art eccentrics, the Residents.

Now, 11 albums and hoards of members later (Pepe Cervinka is the band's ninth bassist), the band careens on. No founders remain. The last remaining original member was saxophonist Jindra Dolansky, and he left in 2001. Yet under the direction of longtime singer, songwriter and lyricist Miroslav Wanek, Už Jsme Doma plots a high-intensity, exotically complex course. It's prog from Prague, certainly, but there are also hints of marching band music, workingmen's chants, jazz, folk and even early 20th century classical music in these hard-to-categorize tunes.



Fan Modine

The one-man baroque outfit known as Fan Modine isn’t especially prolific – Gordon Zacharias has made three albums in the last decade and a half – but the first two have become cult classics, and the third, Gratitude for the Shipper is a well-polished pop gem that could easily follow the same trajectory.

Zacharias recorded his first album Slow Road to Tiny Empire in the mid-1990s, eventually releasing it on Rykodisc. The follow-up, Homeland came in 2004. Pitchfork gave it an 8.0 rating and said, “On this sophomore effort, Fan Modine mastermind Gordon Zacharias draws from the elegance of early Magnetic Fields and the groove-based intimacy of The Folk Implosion more than, say, Beat Happening.”

Gratitude for the Shipper was co-produced by the dBs’ Chris Stamey at his studio in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Although the record has the eccentricity of a solo project, it is densely orchestrated, with a slew of musicians including Mitch Easter, Ash Bowie (Polvo), Jeremy Chatelain (Jets to Brazil), Lee Waters (Essex Green, Dean Wareham) and Chuck Johnson (Shark Quest, Idyll Swords). It’s out May 24 on Daniel 13 Press Records and can be ordered via the Fan Modine website.

"Julu Road"

"Smile for Me (The EMI Song)"

Friday, April 22, 2011

Faun Fables

PopMatters ran my Faun Fables piece today…it’s pretty stale, they’ve been holding it for, I think, five months. But it’s good to have closure, I guess.

“When I was living in New York City, and almost having a breakdown from stress and stimuli, I really discovered a kind of a solace in the kitchen,” says Dawn McCarthy, the songwriter behind psych-folk-theatrical Faun Fables. “It sounds really simple, but it was really one of those survival moments, you know. It was really what worked for me, as I got into basics, like using herbs and cooking things from scratch.”

That battle—between the threat outside and the warmth within—runs right through McCarthy’s fifth full-length album as Faun Fables. In some ways, Light of a Vaster Dark is a continuation of ideas she laid down in 2007, as part of her EP A Table Forgotten. In others, it’s an expansion of By the Light of the Kitchen Table, a musical theater piece she developed for the Idylwild Arts Academy in southeastern California that same year. Yet it’s also a summary of where her life has taken her over the last several years, away from the seedier parts of Oakland to the rolling hills of Sonoma County, out of a self-directed, autonomous existence into marriage and motherhood. Last year, she married her partner, Nils Frykdahl—also in Faun Fables but best known for heading Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. They now have two daughters, Edda, who is two, and Uru, who is six months old.


Sonny & the Sunsets

It seems like it was just a day or two ago that I was marvelling at Sonny Smith's 100 Records project, in which the Bay Area artist invented 100 garage bands and furnished each with a single, including art work. Well, he's got another album called Hit After Hit out now on Fat Possum, which is more conventional (no made up bands) but just as good. I reviewed it for today's Blurt.

“Smith has a knack for tossing off beautifully constructed songs with a casual shrug, and shrouding striking melodies with a shambling, rumpled finish. If you envision a very well-made tweed jacket from, say, 1963, that has been tossed and tumbled and left in the dust, you can get a pretty good idea of the combination of excellence and dishevelment.”


You can stream the whole album here.

Or download an mp3 of “I Wanna Do It” from Brooklyn Vegan

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Jackie O Motherfucker

Tom Greenwood's experimental folk/noise/improv outfit changes depending on who's in it, so you never know exactly what to expect when you put a new one on the player. Earth Sound System is quite a lot mellower than the last one I spent time with (Freedom Land), shading into the Appalachian shadowiness of bands like MV+EE and Sunburned Hand in spots, but turning a good bit more experimental and prickly on the two long raga tracks ("Raga Joining" and "Raga Separating"). It's all pretty great, though...

This time out, Greenwood is working with two of the guys from Eternal Tapestry, Nick and Jed Bindeman on guitar and drums, as well as Brian Mumford on guitars and home-made electronics.

Here's "In the Willows"

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Timber Timbre

Here’s the end of a long dry spell (in terms of reviews running, I’m still writing 3-4 a week), my review of Timber Timbre’s Creep on Creepin’ On, out now on Arts & Crafts.

I said at Dusted this morning: The Canadians in Timber Timbre have found the ghost story in Americana styles like folk, blues, jazz and doo-wop. A sense of dread hangs over the steady, staccato plink of piano, the ominous thud of kick drum in “Bad Ritual.” The 12/8 swagger of R&B turns gothic in “Lonesome Hunter.” These songs’ outlines are familiar, even traditionally rooted, yet like visiting spirits, they turn translucent, warped and faintly disturbing.


I saw Timber Timbre open for the Low Anthem a couple of years ago, just the singer really, and it was pretty good. Here's a link to my write-up. (It's mostly about the Low Anthem.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I went to see the Raveonettes last night

Which is funny because I haven’t really been that into the Raveonettes since Whip It On…I like the last half of their new album Raven From the Grave okay. For me it sags a little in the middle, goes a little too soft and sweet and atmospheric.

Still, the show was pretty great. They’re playing most of their songs with two drummers, both playing not-quite-complete kits with a snare, a big floor tom, a tambourine and a crash cymbal…when they’re both pounding really primitive beats, something wild happens in the contrast between the melting ice cream sweetness of the vocals (a good bit of the time in harmony) and the screech and squall of the guitars. They are fairly committed to the effects pedal…I counted 18 of them on the floor, and Sune had, I think, a chart that sketched out which was which.

There were also lots of strobe lights

Tamaryn opened, and, unfortunately, I missed most of it. (Whoever heard of a band starting on time?) But what I heard, the last song, sounded pretty great, more girl-fronted shoe-gazery, though slipping more towards Zola Jesus’ damaged, demon-ridden end of things than Sharin Foo’s pop-and-drone.

Here's "Forget That You're Young" which was one of the encore songs.


Here's Tamaryn's "Love Fade"

There will be more on this at Blurt later.

Monday, April 18, 2011

WFMU swag

I gave money to WFMU during the last pledge drive, mostly because it's an awesome station, responsible for at least 90% of whatever kind of musical taste I've got and continually introducing me to new stuff, even now when I get 30 records a week through the mail and about the same as DLs. Not to mention better new stuff.

Anyway, I gave them some money and they sent me a tee-shirt, which thanks awfully, but after half a life of running, I've got plenty of tee-shirts (I gave it to my son, who will look way better than me in it anyway). But they also sent me a compilation disc called Caligula's Frat Party. It was put together by Bill Kelly, who has the same name as my husband, is, I think, roughly the same age as my husband, and has very similar taste to my husband, but who IS NOT my husband. Go figure. But whoever he's married to, he's got a pretty awesome mix going, all garage or punk, mostly vintage but some new. I can't find any of it on Youtube, but here's an alternate track from the Danish garage band The Setting Son, a new discovery, at least for me. They're pretty damned good, don't you think?

It's school vacation week, so I'm trying not to commit to a hell of a lot of work. I'll post when I can, certainly if anyone publishes any of music writing ever again.


Pitched somewhere between Mogwai and Tortoise, this Memphis-based instrumental five-piece makes music that is more ominous than dreamy, its cinematic landscapes touched with phosphorescent glow. The instruments are standard post-rock, guitars, bass, drums, synthesizer and, per the Tortoise comparison, some sort of malletted percussion, either vibes or xylophone. Yet, while it’s easy for this type of music to recede into the background, Glorie’s compositions play as the soundtrack to some unfathomable yet compelling narrative, building tension, forboding and, occasionally, letting it all go in sudden release.

Members of Glorie have, according to bio, played for Cat Power, Jay Reatard, Al Green and, let’s play one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-others, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. The band leader, Jason Paxton, was once in a band called Satyrs. Their debut album is self-titled, available May 17th on Makeshift records.

Here’s “Highrise”

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Annabel Alpers, the New Zealand-based pop-electronic songwriter, has a new album coming out on Drag City this May, her third, which makes it a little odd that it’s self-titled, but not unprecedented. I interviewed her a couple of years ago, just after she’d gotten picked up by Drag City for her second full-length My Electric Family…and I liked the record a lot, as well as her earlier Isolation Loops. (Both it and a previous 12” called The End of Things have since been reissued by Drag City.) But I have to say that her new one is better, a really stunning piece of work that is, simultaneously more intricate and easier to process…a really rich kind of experience where you are captivated right from the beginning but, as time goes on, continually noticing new things .

Here’s my “Destined” piece on Bachelorette.

Drag City doesn’t seem to be offering any videos or mp3s from this album…in fact, all I can find is the MySpace.

So, it looks like YouTube isn't permitting people to embed videos's a link to a video of Annabel performing live at Cake Shop. You'll have to leave to see it. Bye!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Winter Drones

This is another project from Leon Dufficy of Hush Arbors, a great deal less folky and more shoe-gazing than you’d expect given the lineage, but quite good.

Michael Ardaiolo from Dusted, liked the giveaway track “Winnie Cooper’s Bones,” a whole lot, describing it like this:

“Winnie Coopers Bones” embraces the best principle of My Bloody Valentine: play it crushingly loud, but make sure the distortion shimmers rather than blinds. Dufficy’s massive seesawing riff throbs well amidst the steady march of percussion, wailing overdubs, organ drones and melodic-leaning vocal cues. He has a talent for reining in the feedback just to spiral it back out again. But, of course, this is the 21st century: we have budget restraints, hard drive studios and release quotas limited to cassette tapes, mp3s and limited-run LPs. Dufficy’s song sounds nowhere near the scale of the torrential MBV, but it still sounds damn good ringing from within white ear buds.

You can read the rest of the review here.

These aren’t full tracks, but you’ll get the idea. The album’s called Blood in the Coffin and it’s been available since late last year at the Weird Forest label.

“Winnie Cooper’s Bones”

“Stiff Wizard”

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

White Noise Sound

On the theory that MBV ( and J&M Chain) can never have too much influence, that guitars should be fuzzed and frizzed until they sound, not like any man made instrument, but like the rushing sound of the seas tumbling over the edge of a flat world, that the most beautiful things are hemmed and swathed in fog, I offer White Noise Sound, whose sort of self-titled debut WNS came out early this year on Alive Records.

Andy Gill (of G04) reviewed it for the Independent noting that, “it all comes together with maximum impact on the opening "Sunset", whose electro-punk pulse could be from Suicide's debut album, and "No Place to Hide", in which dense layers of synths and miasmic guitar drones ride a determined groove to a pleasing Neu!-style conclusion.” The rest of his review is here (it’s short).

Here’s that “Sunset” cut he was on about. I like it a lot.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Art Brut’s new one

There’s a free track from Art Brut’s new album Brilliant! Tragic! up now at Pitchfork, which I am kind of liking even though it seems frightfully suave, well-behaved and vaguely Jarvis Cocker-like compared to Mr. Argos’ other material. (The exclamation points in the album title seem very Argos-esque, though.) Am I imagining it, or is there a little bit of the Temptations’ “Sugar Pie, Honeybunch” in the opening riff? Probably hallucinating.

Anyway, the record will be on Cooking Vinyl, which is one of those labels that you can buy anything they do and it’ll be good. The album’s out, let’s see, May 24th, but the single can be had a week sooner, May 16th.

“Lost Weekend”

I may be flogging stray mp3s quite a lot this week, since Blurt’s editor is off and all my Dusted reviews are somewheres in the May-ish future, so bear with me.

First day of track season, today, too…off to run with the kids again!

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Killing time at the local used record store -- and yes, we are still backward enough to have them here-- I found a copy of the Psychic Paramount's Origins and Primitives Vol. 1&2.

So I bought it.

In other news the Internet seems to have swallowed whole an extended post on that Obits show on Thursday. I forget what I said. We had a good time. Happy Sunday.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Wild Billy Childish and the Blackhands

I picked up Wild Billy Childish and the Blackhands Play: Capt'n Calypso's Hoodoo Party a few weeks ago, and it's a bundle of total insanity. If you are familiar with Childish's brand of intellectually-rigorous primitivism (yeah, he's really smart and plays really simple, early-rock songs, that's what I mean), this is different. It's from 1988 and consists mostly of calypso covers of an odd assortment of songs, all knocked on their asses, robbed at knife point and left bleeding in the alley. It's on the Damaged Goods label...I wish I could find the liner notes because there was some very funny stuff about one of the players ending up at the wrong house on the wrong day at the wrong time and nonetheless pounding on the door for hours...but alas, my office is a mess and I may have given this to my husband anyway.

Here's one of the weirder covers, one, incidentally, that you might expect to be able to stand up for's "Anarchy in the U.K." Hah!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

If By Yes

I have a review of If By Yes’ Salt on Sea Glass up today at Blurt.
If By Yes, the collaboration between one-woman vocal orchestra Petra Haden and Cibo Matto's Yuka Honda, sounds on the surface like bright, dreamy pop. Put on the headphones, though, and complexities emerge in unexpected chord changes, non-standard rhythms and richly layered points and counterpoints. Haden's soft, naturally sweet voice is, by turns, as accessible as radio pop, as sensually shaded as vocal jazz, as intricately arranged as doo wop, and as wild and unearthly strange as alternative vocalizers like Jarboe. She flits through Honda's subtle concoctions of funk, jazz, Latin, pop and rock like a songbird through a tropical forest, a flash of color in a steamy profusion of musical life.


Impossible Hair

On the theory that rock and roll should sometimes be an adrenaline rush (Psychic Paramount), sometimes a mystical experience (Skull Defekts), sometimes god-damned beautiful (Vetiver) and sometimes just hella entertaining…I introduce Impossible Hair, a Baltimore and DC based power pop band.

Impossible Hair’s second album Toast A Dozen on the Outside was recorded with the Oranges Band’s Roman Kuebler in bristly, Nuggets-esque analogue. It has, it must be admitted, maybe the ugliest cover of the year, but let’s leave that aside. It also contains 15 short, sweet, surreal and fuzz-toned songs, which may remind you of the more off-the-wall, UFO-obsessed moments of bands like Guided by Voices and Big Dipper, and the trippier bits of Sloan and the Posies. I was expecting exactly nothing when I popped this into the player, but damn, I like it, I like it a lot.

Hard to pick a favorite. The songs, at mostly two minutes and under, whip by like some sort of banana-split-induced sugar frenzy. Still, let’s just posit “Girl in the Echo” as our best guestimate of what Big Star would sound like on amphetamines, or “The High Official” as an unholy cross between “Clash City Rockers” and, I don’t know, Brendan Benson. Does that sound like fun? Because it’s fun, really, I promise you.

“The High Official”

"You Can Own"

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I missed one…Erland and the Carnival’s Nightingale

Funny, just saw this review at Blurt…must have run a week or so ago.

I should really start paying attention.


Eerily tuneful, caught between stark simplicity and over-the-top electronic excess, Nightingale is to folk music what the movie Edward Scissorhands was to fairytales. That is to say, it is fey and pale and full of shadowy uncertainties, yet also, when it wishes to be, sublimely, tunefully pop.



New Vetiver

It's probably too early to write about this, but I love Andy CAbic's Vetiver, and they(he mostly) keep getting better and better. There's a new album called Errant Charm coming out in mid-June on Sub Pop and it is, I think, the best thing Vetiver's ever done, which is saying quite a lot. It's less folk and more pop than Vetiver was in the beginning, though that's more of a continuation than a break at this point. It also has a really nice kind of Brazilian lightness in its this song which is called "Can't You Tell," though it's the opening track, "Worse for Wear" that destroys me every time.

Beautiful stuff.

And a live version of "You May Be Blue" from a few years back.

Look I got through an entire post on Vetiver without even mentioning Devendra Banhart.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The sublime and the silly

Having a bit of trouble getting going this Monday morning...more snow, how depressing.

Anyway, I was just letting the iTunes run on random and Robbie Basho came up, so I thought I'd see if there was anything the web. He was, as you possibly know, one of the true masters of the steel string acoustic, a primary inspiration to James Blackshaw and an all-around amazingly spiritual player...he died young. His name is a tribute to the Japanese poet. A German guitarist named Stephan Basho-Jungans has now taken his name, so the circle continues to roll...anyway, lovely, wonderful stuff, highly recommended.

On a wholly frivolous note -- and please don't expect any more talking babies on my site, this is special -- here's a very funny bit from Conan. I've watched it maybe five times and it makes me laugh out loud every time. Especially the part about the fridge.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


SEcond album from Asa Osborne's non-Lungfish, looped keyboard project is pretty awesome.

Thrill Jockey just posted a free mp3 to whet your's called "Openings"

There are also some shows coming up, mostly with also excellent Skull Defekts and Mountains:

Mar 31 Chicago, IL The Hideout w/The Skull Defekts, Mountains
Apr 1 Pittsburgh, PA Howler's Coyote Cafe w/The Skull Defekts
Apr 2 Buffalo, NY Soundlab w/The Skull Defekts, Mountains
Apr 3 Brooklyn, NY Littlefield w/The Skull Defekts
Apr 4 Boston, MA Great Scott w/The Skull Defekts
Apr 5 Providence, RI Machine With Magnets w/The Skull Defekts
Apr 6 Scranton, PA Embassy Vinyl w/The Skull Defekts
Apr 7 Philadelphia, PA Danger Danger Gallery w/The Skull Defekts
Apr 8 Baltimore, MD Floristree w/The Skull Defekts
Apr 9 Chapel Hill, NC Nightlight w/The Skull Defekts
Apr 10 Knoxville, TN The Pilot Light w/The Skull Defekts
Apr 11 Atlanta, GA The Earl w/The Skull Defekts
Apr 12 Asheville, NC Harvest Records w/The Skull Defekts

I reviewed the first Zomes a while ago...let's see, here's a link.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Is anybody else not feeling the new Pains of Being Young at Heart?

Cos, I just saw it got "Best New Music," and I've tried twice to listen all the way through and got bored both times. And, you know, the first one is still all over my top 30 songs list, because I loved it and played it to death.

What do you guys think?

There's a stream up at Stereogum, who calls Belong breathtaking.

Fool like me

Every year on April Fool's Day, my mother would wake me up by saying, "Get up, Jennifer, it's snowing!" Now I liked snow a whole lot when I was young, so I would always get up all excited and look out the window and snow.

This year, we're getting a foot of snow on April Fool's day.

Happy spring everyone.

Here's King Khan singing "A Fool Like Me."