Thursday, December 31, 2009


Been catching up on promos the last couple of days…good new stuff from Pit Er Pat, Retribution Gospel Choir, Citay and (possibly my favorite) a London post-punk trio called Wetdog, which sounds like a skuzzier, low-fi-er take on Delta 5 or the Raincoats.

Here’s a video of the first single “Lower Leg”. The album – looks like their second – is called Fraushaus and it’s coming January 12 on Captured Tracks.

Off for a run and then First Night in Northampton. Have a happy, safe new year’s eve!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Retribution Gospel Choir

I don't know if you remember how I went apeshit a couple of years ago for Alan Sparhawk's turn-up-the-amps side project Retribution Gospel Choir?

Well, okay, he's back and this time on Sub Pop, with an album called 2. Catchy title, eh? I've listened to it once, all the way through, and my initial read is that it's a little cleaner and more anthemic than the first, but just as good.

Sub Pop is giving away the opening track, which is called "Hide it Away." Go ahead, have a taste. The rest will be out on January 26th.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


I’ve got a review of OOIOO’s last album Arminco Hewa up now at Blurt.
Fourteen years and six albums on from the day that Yoshimi P-We pulled together a fictional all-female band for a magazine article, OOIOO continues its euphoric, drum-pounding, girl-chanting adventures. Arminico Hewa enlists the same quartet of wild celebrants as 2006's Taiga: guitarist Kayan, bassist Aya and the double-drumming duo of Yoshimi and Ai. However, this latest album seems a hair more melodic and fluid than the last. In amongst tribal chants and ululations, you can pick up the occasional thread of conventional singing, sometimes even in English.



Monday, December 28, 2009

Bear in Heaven

Last week, while I wasn’t really paying attention, Blurt ran my review of Bear In Heaven, out since November on the (really great) Home Tapes label.
Here’s a bit:
John Philpot's second full length as Bear in Heaven is an inchoate monster of an album, weighted with ritual percussive clangor and slow blossoming modal melodies. It's also a good deal more pop than you might expect, given Philpot's current association with experimental Home Tapes and his history (via previous band Presocratics) with avant gard Table of Elements. Not that he's headed for the Top 40 anytime soon -- elements of chaos and experiment lurk in nearly every cut of Beast Rest Forth Mouth. Still, they are unexpectedly leavened by dance-floor jitters of synthesizer, buoyant pop hooks and the slush of disco cymbals. You can hear Yes and Tears for Fears, Human League and Soft Cell side by side in these compositions, a weird, effortful, compelling mix of prog, new wave, rock, pop and even blue-eyed soul..


“Wholehearted Mess”

Also, if you haven’t yet, go see It Might Get Loud, the documentary that brings together Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White, but only if you really, really like guitars.

Friday, December 25, 2009

No, really, go back to whatever you were doing...

I know it's christmas and I hope you have something better to do than to read my ridiculous blog, but if you don't, here's something kind of fun...Wooden Shjips covering "Oh Tannenbaum".

Happy happy...we're having a nice really quiet day, big breakfast, presents, long-ish runs or walks, and lots of new books to curl up with (well, that's me and Bill, Sean has been transfixed by Assassins Creed II).

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas everyone…(or happy whatever you celebrate)

Hey, look, it’s here, and I am still way behind, but I believe I’ve bought all my presents and finally gotten the Christmas card situation under control and, best of all, I don’t have to go anywhere this Christmas, so no huddling in a plastic chair in Detroit or Chicago waiting for a golf-cart-sized prop plane to make its way through a snowstorm so that I can board.

But okay, what do you care about that? What’s going on in the fascinating world of music criticism. So glad you asked. Blurt has posted its year-end wrap-ups. You can peruse the aggregate top 50 here (yay, Sharon van Etten!), and (much more interesting, I think) the individual rankings here.

Oh and in another instance of the vast power of the internet, Steve Murphy from Gods Gift has just become one of my friends…weird world, isn’t it? Still waiting on Johnny Depp and Ralph Fiennes.

Ho ho ho!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Another running diary

So, things have slowed to a crawl in most ways, though I have gotten two “are you working Christmas week?” emails from corporate clients in the last 24 hours, so not entirely. Still the music stuff is just about moribund until 2010, so I have been dabbling in review CDs and mostly listening to whatever the hell appeals to me. Last night, while playing Trivial Pursuit with my son, we happened on The Veils’ “The Letter” and Sean was like, “Who is this? Can I have it?” So I burned it for him, and we listened to it on our very early drive to school.

I know really almost nothing about the Veils, except that their singer has a very dramatic, somehow-more-than-shoegaze-y kind of voice and that they use a lot of shiny, glossy, effect kinds of things to build shivery walls of guitar sound. Here’s a video of “The Letter.” If you like it, you might see if your mom could finagle a copy of Sun Gangs for you. It works sometimes, though not always.

And, while it was still barely light, I tromped off for my run, a very chilly one so that even with my hood pulled up, the iPod earplugs kept freezing and falling out of my ears. On the upside, it was long enough for another listen through the very excellent Yeti 4 compilation, all 28 tracks of it. (Thanks Michael!) I was intrigued by the comp because it had a track by Souled American, a band about which I know jack shit, except that it merited a long digression in Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem. And look here, I found a video by Souled American, though not of the song on the comp. This one is “In the Mud.” Don’t you love the internet?

Finally, as I was finishing my run and also buying Christmas dinner (hangar steak) and driving home, I listened again to The Mountain Goats We Shall All Be Healed, which I love really a lot more than the new one. The thing about Darnielle versus all the other clever songwriters (Stephin Merritt comes to mind) is that he really seems to care whether you hear him or not. There’s none of this ironic, posed detachment, and instead a kind of stridence and urgency which I would call sincere except that sincere has all kinds of zero-brained connotations and Darnielle is really, really smart. So, anyway, here’s a video of “Your Belgian Things” (there are some Shearwater folks playing back-up…whoo hoo!)

Stay warm!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas from my friend Neil Nathan

All you MOG (and ex-MOG) people may remember Neil Nathan...garage rocker, acoustic folker and habitue of famous Detroit recording venues with Bobby Harlow from the Go. He's a great guy and and he sent me a Christmas video, a really nice version of "Santa Claus" is coming to town. It's meant to raise money for the Fred Gabler Helping Hand Camp Fund, which raises money to send underprivileged kids to camp.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Really sad story

I wrote a little piece about a Philly benefit for Dave Sommer, who is the guitarist for a band named Cloud Minder which is sort of in the epic, Explosions in the Sky instrumental category and pretty good. Sommer was diagnosed late last year with brain cancer…it’s a really terrible thing. He’s only 27. They are trying all kinds of experimental therapy and he’s fighting hard but god, it’s just so sad.

Anyway, his record label Anthropic Records is offering Cloud Minder’s first CD as a donate-what-you-want download with all proceeds going to Sommer’s medical expenses. Here’s the link for that.

Also there was a benefit show last week, and you can read about it here.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Like music in another language

Kandinsky Improvisation #31, Sea Battle

If you're in NYC before January 13th, go see the Kandinsky show. It's amazing.

Friday, December 18, 2009

good morning new york

I'm in New York today, going back later tonight. Had a pretty good day yesterday, mostly working, but it's good to work. I was too tired to do anything afterwards (getting to an 11 a.m. meeting in NYC entails leaving by 5 a.m.), even though Dave Halstead put me on the list for a Mountains and The For Carnation (!!!) show in Brooklyn...I just couldn't. Anyway, I'm going running now in Central Park, which is, like, my favorite thing in NYC and then having breakfast with my friend Bill and then going to the Guggenheim to see the Kandinsky show (who is one of my very, very favorite painters) and then buying some stuff and going home.

Meanwhile, I have a couple of things up over at Blurt. There's a review of Radian's Chimera. Also a short feature on King Khan.

See ya later.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I’m not here for a long time, I’m just here for a good time

My year-end essay is up today at Dusted. I’m not thrilled about it as a piece of writing, but it does have some really good records on it.

Also, if you’re looking for a little sonic wallpaper to go with it while you read, I have made a mix out of some of my favorite songs from 2009.

You can download it here.

Or just read the track names and nod your head sagely. (Some of you have already heard most of this...back to new stuff soon.)

The Clean “Back in the Day”
Akron/Family “River”
Lotus Plaza “What Grows?”
The Fresh & Onlys, “The Mind Is Happy”
The Feelies, “The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness”
The Bats, “The Guilty Office”
Sharon van Etten, “Consolation Prize”
Richard Bishop, “Solzenara”
A.C. Newman, “All of My Days and All of My Days Off”
Jack O and the Tennessee Tearjerkers, “Switchblade Comb”
Tyvek, “Hey Una”
Red Red Meat, “Carpet of Horses (Cleversly Version)”
The Obits, “Widow of My Dreams”
Gods Gift, “Discipline”
Zero Boys, “Forced Entry”
Volcano Suns, “Jak”

I’ll be in NYC tomorrow and Friday, not sure if I’ll post, but maybe…

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Emperor Machine

I’ve been slacking lately on the review CDs and listening to a big pile of stuff that various people recommended. I’m pretty unqualified to review electronic music, like Emperor Machine’s Space Beyond the Egg, but I have been enjoying it a whole bunch. It’s Andrew Meecham’s project, as he describes it “born on last day of the last century spawned from a desirous and dirty relationship between an EMS VCS3 and a Roland System 100.”

Kind of a cool video for “Kananana”

Monday, December 14, 2009

I'm now accepting nominations...

for best band EVER.

I'll start.

Anyone want to raise?

Friday, December 11, 2009


Fred Mills from Blurt has been all over Wiretree, an Austin-based power pop band centered around Kevin Peroni. The band's second album, called Luck has been out for a couple of months...and it's a grower. Check them out.

"Back in Town"

Here they are doing an instore at Waterloo Records in Austin.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Holopaw goes underground

I first encountered Holopaw when the debut showed up in a box of Splendid review CDs sometime late in 2002…and was immediately transfixed by its whispery intensity. (It didn’t hurt that it was a Sub Pop record in the midst of a pile of self-releases and vanity productions…this was we-review-everything Splendid, after all, and I hadn’t worked my way up the totem pole very far yet.) It was good enough that I went to see Holopaw at my first SXSW. He was holding down the 8 p.m. slot in a long series of much-louder bands. The industry types, there for much-hyped atrocity Hot Hot Heat, talked all the way through the set, which was fairly stunning even so. (This was before iPhones, etc. I’ll say one thing for texting. It’s quiet.) Holopaw’s third album is not on Sub Pop, and the self-release phenomenon (plus a mostly new, much bigger band) seems to free Orth from expectations in a couple of ways. I concluded my review, up today at Dusted, like this:

Oh Glory, Oh Wilderness pulls in two very interesting ways. The more accessible, more exciting arrangements make it more than ever a pop record. Its appeal is immediate, rather than slow burning, and you can see it pulling in fans who are less transfixed by eccentricity, more interested in tightly constructed songs. Yet at the same time, the words and images in these songs are deeply personal and self-revealing in a way that, I think, the first two albums were not. Orth has found a way to make himself more accessible and more himself at the same time with this third album…a neat trick worth repeating.

"The Art Teacher and the Little Stallion"

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Jack Rose again...

I have a piece up now at Philly weekly, with some very nice recollections of Jack Rose and his music. He sounds like a wonderful man, very much loved by fans and colleagues alike...wish I'd known him.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Doh, missed another one

Hey, this new Yo La Tengo is pretty good, don't you think?

It's called Popular Songs, which I'm guessing is meant to be slightly tongue-in-cheek.

Takes forever to get through the last three songs, but worth it.

Pazz & Jop is allowing me in again...apparently I'm one of 1500 odd critics.

No idea where I fit in on the oddity scale but let's hope I'm extreme.

"Periodically Double or Triple"

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Jack Rose RIP

Jack Rose, one of his generation’s best acoustic guitar players, passed away this weekend of a heart attack. He was 38.

Rose contributed to both Imaginational Anthem 1 and 2, the first with the lovely “White Mule III” and second with the even more riveting and beautiful “Crossing the North Fork II.” He played on A Raga for Peter Walker, as well, and even gave me quote about Peter for a piece I wrote for Dusted.

I had the very good fortune to see Rose play a little over a year ago, opening for Michael Chapman. I met him briefly afterwards, and he seemed like a very nice, unassuming type…and also, quite young even to be playing this type of Fahey-esque primitive style. Let alone dying. You can read about it here, if you want.

Here’s Rose playing “Kensington Blues” in Sacramento a couple of years ago.

All thoughts and prayers to his family and friends. Very sad.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Goner Fest 4…damn

I got this DVD in the mail yesterday from Goner Records of Goner Fest 4 and watched most of it last night. I’m not sure I’ll be reviewing it, but if you like garage rock at all, you should check it out. It’s a total blast and includes pretty much every two-chord, distortion-crazed outfit worth caring about (circa 2007, there are some new ones since then). The production is better than you’d expect (better than some of these bands’ actual albums) with reasonably decent sound and three professionally manned cameras in continuous operation. You get about one song per band, two if you’re lucky, and some entertaining footage of spectators…you can almost smell the beer.

A partial list of bands:
Jay Reatard
Greg Cartwright
Mr. Airplane Man
Eddy Current Suppression Ring (also the Ooga Boogas)
Hank IV
Marked Men
Quintron and Miss Pussycat
The Preacher’s Kids

Hank IV was one of my favorites:

It really made me want to go sometime….but I suppose that’ll never happen.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Corner Laughers…smart bubbly pop

Quite enjoyable new album from the Corner Laughers, a SF-area pop band that reminds me a little bit of Cub, a little bit of the Decemberists.
My review is up today at Blurt.

Smart, bubbly pop from two girls who have been pals since high school, The Corner Laughers' Ultraviolet Garden cuts studs its sugary hooks with quiz bowl vocabulary and surreal imagery. The tunes are airy, breezy and laced with unexpected lyrical twists as Karla Kane sings and plays ukulele here, while long-time pal, Angela Silletto slings a melodic Mersey inflected guitar. Their second album, produced by the Orange Peels' Alan Clapp, puts a 1960s sheen onto conflicted, ebullient and intricately intelligent girl pop.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wingdale Community Singers’ Spirit Duplicator

I'm not usually into actor/artist/writer-turned-musician projects, but Wingdale Community Singers (with Rick Moody) is pretty good. Here's my review in Blurt.

Wingdale Community Singers, an old time music collective made up of four decidedly post-modern artists, has always been a study in contradictions. Pristine clarity, city slicker ironies. Delicate melodies, lush counterpart and harmonies. Buttoned down tradition, wicked humor. There's a constant tug of war between the lulling simplicity of the songs and the sharpness of the words.

Perhaps this is because Wingdale draws together such divergent talents: novelist Rick Moody, folk singer Hannah Marcus, academic and musical experimenter David Grubbs and, lately, visual artist and songwriter Nina Katchadorian. The concept always sounded like a sitcom pitch ("so this famous author decides to start a bluegrass band..."), still the band has developed into a sure and accomplished musical enterprise. None of the songs on Spirit Duplicator sound like they're trying too hard, or arguing their point, or playing the devil's advocate. Instead, these compositions exist peacefully in a quiet, well-tended space, growing in eccentric and twisted ways out of the most traditional American music. They may or may not be making faces at us when we turn our backs.


Best I can do for audio is the MySpace

I've been thinking about doing some original interviews, just for my blog. I really miss talking to baby bands, and I'm not doing very many interviews anymore. What do you think? Would people do it? Is there any way to get more people to read them? (Besides, you know, being brilliant and insightful and first on something that breaks big...I'm already planning on that.)

Anyway, let me know if you have any ideas.

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.”

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Impediments

Sort of forgot about this one, though it’s really good garage pop, and recently got a mention at Dusted as well. It’s the Impediments…get the hell out of the way.
My review at Blurt starts:
Four teenagers, crazed by guitars and hormones, slashing out two-chord, one-take bashers at Greg Ashley's Oakland Creamery, full of spit and sweat and balls-out, foul-mouthed aggression... By now, you're either suppressing a yawn or on your way to the MySpace. There's nothing specially new here, nothing not already attempted by the Dolls/Stooges/MC5 axis of good times, nothing not raked over in a million ways by garage dwellers of every decade. And yet, the Impediments - Nick Allen, Ray Seraphin, Mike Liebman and Rene Macleay -- do what they so with particular intensity and heat ... not to mention obscenity. (Yes, they are shouting "Don't you vomit on my cock" in the chorus to "Vom," what are you going to do about it? )

And goes on

The MySpace

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Went to see two Icelandic electro pop bands on Sunday…absolutely blown away by Múm and also enjoyed Sin Fang Bous quite a lot. There will be a review later at Blurt, but for now, here’s Múm’s “Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Video diary from my long run in the rain

Really dreary morning here, fog, cold, drizzly rain and of course, dark as midnight until about 7 a.m. I’ve been pretty disciplined lately about listening to stuff I need to listen to, but this morning I went a bit off the res and heard a bunch of albums that I’ve been done with for a while…here’s what came up random-style.

Thin Lizzy “Jailbreak”
I reviewed Still Dangerous, a recently discovered live recording of a late-1970s show in Philadelphia, earlier this year, and honestly, is there any better way to wake up?

Scotland Yard Gospel Choir’s “Ellen’s Telling Me”
Totally loving I Bet You Say that to All the Boys, SYGC’s debut, which reminds me, in turns, of Belle and Sebastian, the Kinks and the Lemonheads…later stuff is much twangier but still pretty good. Hope these guys are doing better.

Tyvek, “Stand and Fight”
Tyvek’s self-titled was at #3 of my mid-year list and may have slipped to low teens by now, but it’s still the best punk (or post-punk, what exactly is the dividing line, anyone?) album from this year, not counting garage which is a close call between the Ohsees and the Reigning Sound.

Red Red Meat’s “Chain Chain Chain”
This is actually just about perfect for a rainy fall morning…and perfect anyway. Look how young Rutili is here. Sic transit rock and roll.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Does anyone else really love this song?

So I was running again this morning and I had a bunch of random stuff on, and more than that, it was the same random stuff as yesterday – which is no way to listen to every possible song in the universe. But anyway, towards the end, this song came on, and I loved it so much that I played it four times in a row. It’s the Wrens’ “This Boy Is Exhausted,” and here they are playing it at the Knitting Factory half a decade or so ago. (No time at all in Wrens-world….)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Espers III

I've got a little piece about Espers' latest CD (III, out on Drag City) up now at Philadelphia Weekly.

I really like it, though it's a bit sunnier than II and neither is as wonderful as The Weed Tree, or particularly, their cover of "Flaming Telepaths."


Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Jonathan Kane

My friend Holly just sent me this new video for Jonathan Kane's February. Kane was one of the founding members of Swans and has been in a whole bunch of other seminal no-wave type outfits. (He's Holly's husband, too.) Anyway, great stuff.

The woman playing guitar is Peg Simone, whom I've written about here and there.

I'm having some real problems embedding the clip, but it's worth watching, even if you have to leave my lovely blog. It's here

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Up with the birds again

I may have mentioned that I am getting up at 5:30 these days. Mostly it sucks, and I am walking around like a zombie half the time, but there is one good thing: by 9 a.m. when I sit down to write this ridiculous blog, I have already listened to two, three records and run 6-10 miles.

About my run this morning, let me just say that I started out in fog and very dim light and that, with three miles or so to go, the sun broke through and everything turned to soft colors like the inside of an oyster shell. I ran from town, along the Connecticut River, and though we are somewhat past peak, the trees are still radioactively, psychedelically colorful, some of them as if they had caught on fire and others like they got some acid mixed in with the ground water.

About the music, I’m not going to talk about The Joshua Tree because I mostly listen to that with my son (who had to be at school early this morning, earlier even than the very-early bus, so I drove), and you have undoubtedly already made up your mind about it one way or the other.

However, I will mention Elliott Brood’s Mountain Meadows, a really very fine rough-house country-ish album, with banjo (expected) and garage-y group shouts of “hey, hey, hey!” (unexpected). Mark Sasso and the rest of Elliott Brood (a band name, not a guy) is from Toronto. They probably know the Sadies -- my guess is that they would all get along really well. Mountain Meadows is the band’s second album, and it’s out now on Six Shooter records.

Here they are playing “Write It All Down for You” which is just such a good song.

I’ve also been listening to Now It Can Be Told: Devo at the Palace 12/9/88 a good bit, since buying it for $5 in the bin at Turn It Up. I didn’t actually have any Devo anymore, and being the age I am, they obviously played a role in my formative years…so it’s been sort of fun, but I’d forgotten how kitschy they could be. The album starts with kind of an unplugged version of “Jocko Homo” but gets going about halfway through with “Girl U Want” and “Whip It.” It ends with a medley that includes “Shout” “Disco Dancer” and, oddly, “Somewhere” from West Side Story.

Here they are in their heyday, eight years before the concert that I’ve been listening to:

And finally, Introducing Brilliant Colors is absolutely kicking my ass. I had it on a random mix yesterday while I was running right next to the Au Pairs’ “You” (for reasons I won’t go into, I have to listen to random mixes in alphabetical order, by artist name, or my iPod gets very confused), and it won, hands down. So I listened to the whole thing today and it totally rips…hope I’ll get to review it somewhere. I wanted to do it last summer when it came out on some tiny little label, but they had run out of copies by the time I asked and anyway passed this band onto the slightly bigger time. If you like late 1970s girl punk, it’s sort of in that vein…really fun, have to listen to it 7-8 more times to get a handle on it.

Here they are in Brooklyn last summer

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My 20 minutes with Ari Up

I did a little feature interview with Ari Up a month or so ago, and while a shortened version will appear in the print issue of Blurt, the extended take is up today on the website. It starts:

There's a 30-year gap between the first Slits album and the band's third Trapped Animal, but that's just barely time for the world to catch up with the band's groundbreaking feminism, embrace of world cultures and fiercely independent approach to making music. But through it has been three decades since her gang of teenage revolutionaries posed naked for the cover of Cut, Ari Up says it's like no time at all has passed. "We were the first and now we'll be the last, too," she says. "It's all one big time to us...1979 or 2009."


Here’s some vintage Slits, live in Paris circa 1978.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fuck Buttons

Here I go embarrassing my kid again with my filthy mouth. Not my fault this time, it’s the band name. Their new album Tarot Sport out now-ish on the All Tomorrow’s Parties label.

Thanks, Simon, for the heads up on this band. Also, thanks Arjun for pointing out that the review was live. I wasn’t expecting this one to run until tomorrow.

With this second full-length, Fuck Buttons continue to move from noise to transcendent raves. Their early singles may have sounded like a less abrasive Black Dice, but Tarot Sport calls upon the beat-driven, spiritually-enflamed techno a la Moby and Underworld. Even the album name hints at Fuck Buttons’ volatile combination of mysticism and sweatiness. Here, glistening swaths of synthesized other-ness are punctuated by the driving, drum-machine pulse of vigorous exertion. (read the rest here.)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Daniel Johnston yes, Ancestors no

I’ve got a couple of new reviews up at Blurt today, which makes this, all in all, a pretty productive week.
I liked Daniel Johnston’s collaboration with Jason Falkner a lot, concluding:
The bottom line: this is the most accessible, least squirm inducing Daniel Johnston record ever. That will undoubtedly be a problem for the folks who turn up primarily for the peep show, but if you come for the music, listen up. Jason Falkner has run Daniel Johnston's vision through a focus lens. The subject matter is still pretty odd, but you can see it better than ever.

The full review is here.

There’s a free mp3 of “Freedom,” too.

Not so crazy about Ancestors’ Sound of Mind, which is kind of a prog metal thing.

The review

The MySpace

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Shelley Short again

I’ve been away all day, down in Northampton, nice day, nothing very reportable about it. Meanwhile, Blurt’s run my review of Shelley Short’s A Cave, a Canoo, which I enjoyed very much, albeit in a low-key way. I said:

Shelley Short makes simplicity look easy. Her gentle, minimally accompanied songs sound like they might have been composed on the spot, sung in a near-whisper so as not to wake the young ones up and recorded directly on the collective memory. Her soft voice flutters effortlessly over quick flights of melody and slides languorously into sustained notes, not a hint of artifice glinting through. Her guitar playing is soft and unassuming, a string of lovely notes left to hang in the air. Her lyrics touch obliquely on everyday natural images, often drawing the connections to love, life, death and memory through ellipsis and understatement.

The rest

“Time Machine/Submarine”

I’ve put this mp3 up before, but if you didn’t catch it, here it is again.

Blurt has also got another live review of the Lightning Dust/Cave Singers tour up today. Whose do you think it better, eh? (Don’t answer that, I don’t really want to know.)

Jud Cost’s


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Three Dusted reviews in three days…a record I think.

Today’s is Grooms, a Brooklyn-based up-and-comer that used to be known (in a slightly different configuration) as Muggabears. Their new album Rejoicer is out this week on the Death By Audio label. My review begins:

For many of its best moments, Rejoicer separates into layers. Here, warm, melodic guitars are heard dimly through shimmering curtains of noise; there, strangled pop vocals trace a wandering path through dissonance; over there, sticks on rims beat a nervous pattern against gauzy washes of sustained sounds. In general, more than one thing is going on – either sequentially, as songs stop, then start up again in entirely different directions, or simultaneously, as sparse parts interlock only casually, as if built separately first, then hammered together at the joints. There is a constant tension between song and sonic splatter.

And continues

“Dreamsucker” (courtesy of Stereogum)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Another day, another Amazing

I posted about an LA punk band called The Amazing a month or two ago, then saw “The Amazing” on the Dusted list and decided to jump on it. To my surprise, this was an entirely different Amazing, one comprised mostly of people from Dungen, with a little bit more pop thrown into the mix. My review went up today at Dusted. Here’s a bit:

The Amazing filters psychedelia and California pop through a cool Scandinavian lens, wrapping eddies of drumming and rampant guitar in fuzzy serenity. The band’s combination of styles is perfectly understandable when you consider its members: four guys from Dungen and former Granada frontman Christoffer Gunrup.
It’s hard to overstate how damn pleasant this record is -- the very thing, if you’re so inclined, for staring out the window mid-morning on a nice Saturday. Little tempests of noise brew in the harder, more psychedelic tracks, but never disturb the tranquility. Dungen’s Johan Holmegard drums, often, as if he’s in a much louder band, building a busy, clamorous friction under watercolor washes of temperate sound. Reine Fisk, also from Dungen, strews globs of bent guitar sound over sunstreaked melodies, sometimes surreally lucid, other times explosive, yet always subsumed within an unruffled whole. And singer Gunrup has one of those cool, unhurried, effortlessly carrying voices suited for the backward-looking emotions of pop – regret, nostalgia, distant fondness.


The MySpace

Monday, October 12, 2009

Heavy Trash

I'm back, had a pretty good time in Chicago with my family (my old family, Sean and Bill didn't go). We went to see Northwestern beat Miami of Ohio, but not as badly as they were supposed to, ate barbecue and Chinese and saw a very funny show at Second City. (It was not the main Second City, but a secondary troupe, so maybe second Second City?) I met my brother's new girlfriend who seems very nice and super good for him, so that was cool, too.

On the music front, I have a review up today at Dusted of the third Heavy Trash album. Heavy Trash, if you're coming in late , is what Jon Spencer has been doing for the last several years, along with Matt Verta-Ray from Speedball Baby and Madder Rose. I opined:

With this third album, Midnight Soul Serenade Spencer and Verta-Ray heat-warp all kinds of hoary traditions, their old-time rockabilly sincerity twisted with the green gleam of madness, their shout-along soul choruses redolent with sexual violence. The music is vastly entertaining, devilish, solder trickles of white-hot intensity running through cracks in its nailed-down façade. It’s contained, but at the same time, so over the top that you never know whether the record – and, by extension, the whole Heavy Trash project – is some kind of baroque kind of practical joke.

The rest

“Gee I Really Love You”


Friday, October 9, 2009

Post #401

I'm in Chicago. Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. The hotels are all full of skinny marathoners (the Chicago Marathon is on Sunday, but I am not even going to be a spectator.)

I have a review of Lisa Germano's Magic Neighbor up at BLurt today, which, try as I might, I can't seem to excerpt, so you will have to at least scan the whole thing (or skip it).

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Random stuff and pictures of me in the rain

Hey, look at me, running in the rain. Awesome, huh? Nice hair. This is the end of my marathon, and I am picking my feet up at least 2 centimeters off the ground, so you can tell I feel great.

I'm going to chicago for the weekend tomorrow and not getting a lot done today, so I thought I'd leave you with a taste of some stuff that I've been enjoying lately...and which I will not be writing about, so I can't tell you who the bass player is and stuff like that.

Here's a live track of Buraka Som Sistema, courtesy of the Free Music Archive, which is, you know, better than coffee and St. John's Wort.

The Thermals "Now We Can See."

Tune-Yards "Sunlight"

And, for Simon, who is evidently keeping a very close eye on my page, this video:

To answer his question, yes, sort of...I am a very casual fan of Dexy's Midnight Runners and I just found Too Rye Ay on my hard drive and had to play it at least once.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Terrible news about Scotland Yard Gospel Choir

I've learned over the last couple of days that Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, who are a really excellent indie-pop/jangly kind of band on the Bloodshot label, have been involved in a really terrible van accident. Two members of the band are still in the hospital, the van and much of their equipment/instruments is ruined, and they are unable to tour to support their new album And the Horse You Rode In On.

Apparently both the people who had to be hospitalized have health insurance -- which is great -- but they're not working, either at their day jobs or the band, and when they get better they are going to need to buy guitars and a new van and pay rent and all that...So Bloodshot is raising money for them, both through some benefit concerts and through a PayPal donation account. If you want to help out, go here.

If you're not familiar with this really terrific band, here is "Stop" from their new album.

Music Go Music

I have a little feature up today at Blurt in which I helpfully point out all the differences between Music Go Music and Abba.

Here's Music Go Music's "Warm in the Shadows", which, you may notice, sounds kinda like Abba.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

She regrets the error

I made a pretty big, pretty stupid mistake in my Dusted review of the new Mission of Burma today (fixed now, I called Vs. and Signals late 1970s albums, eek!), but I think the basic argument still stands: another very good album from a band that seems to be getting better all the time, notwithstanding decades of history. All of which proves a) nobody's perfect, b) you only really screw up the stuff you know and c) people actually read Dusted, even early in the morning, and care when it has dumb-ass errors in it.

Anyway, you can read the new amended review here if you want. Try not to find any more mistakes, okay?

“1,2,3 Partyy!”

Also, pretty funny, Sunday was apparently "Mission of Burma Day" in Boston.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Slaraffenland...more milk, more honey from Danish fusionists

There's a new record by the Danish quintet Slaraffenland which seems to be slipping, quite undeservedly, under the radar. It's called We're on Your Side and it continues, at least in my view, the more melodic and vocally driven elements of Sunshine while retaining Private Cinema open-ended, multi-instrumented, quasi-jazz feel. It's on the really quite wonderful Home Tapes label, which is moving up in the small-but-beautiful category alongside some of my other favorites (Locust Music, Strange Attractors, Language of Stone).

Check out "Meet & Greet"

Read my review at Blurt here

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Thinking about heading to Rio for the Olympics?

You might want to have a look at this audio slide show from the favelas up at the New Yorker's site. It accompanies a really stunning article in this weeks edition in which reporter Jon Lee Anderson interviews one of the gang bosses (and a bunch of other people) in one of the notorious slums of Rio. People have been killed (and chopped up into little pieces) for less. Anyway, there's a link to the article in the slide show and you should read it.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Consensus on the new Califone record, All My Friends are Funeral Singers seems to be more of the same, but also more of the excellent. I’m not finding it as compelling, one listen through, as Roots & Crowns but it is still damned good.

Here’s “Funeral Singers”, my favorite cut and also sort of the title.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Beat Circus

From the Boston chapter of New England’s weird folk organization…Beat Circus’ Brian Carpenter used to work with Alec Redfearn and finagled Larkin Grimm into singing back-up for this one. My review of Boy from Black Mountain ran in today’s Blurt.

Skewed traditionalist Brian Carpenter's third album under the Beat Circus name draws its inspiration from both past and future. Its righteous backbone - one-two bass, rackety clattering drums, gospel harmonies, oompah brass bands and the swell and squeal of fiddle - hails from the backwoods hymns and hoedowns of his agrarian childhood. The jittery modernity comes from Carpenter's close ties to Boston's multi-instrumented underground - and to his anxiety over a son diagnosed with autism during the recording period.


“Boy from Black Mountain”

“February Train”

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fresh & Onlys and Panther

I’ve had a couple of new items up at Blurt lately.

My favorite new band for 2009, the Fresh & Onlys, is doing that thing where they flood the market and confuse everybody…Grey-Eyed Girls is their second album in six months, but who’s counting when it’s this much fun?

Fresh & Onlys Grey-Eyed Girls

The Fresh & Onlys' self-titled debut earlier this year established the SF garage psych outfit as one of the best new bands of 2009. This second full-length, just a couple of months later, intensifies the sound, pushes it into slightly darker, more echoey corners, and, overall, strengthens the case. The songwriting has gotten stronger, spookier, funnier (the album's first line observes, "You don't have to pray/for beautiful skin/when you live/in a black coffin") and the band has improved noticeably with practice. There's nothing radically different about Grey-Eyed Girls, as compared to the first record, just a sense that everything has been nailed down a little harder.


“Invisible Forces”

And then there’s Panther, which used to be a one-man, boom box aided, kind performance art, but now is sort of a band (a duo with live drums and multiple instruments). This was Blurt’s “Band of the Week” last week.

Panther Entropy
In physics Entropy measures disintegration and disorder, the continual process of things falling apart. That's a fitting name for Panther's latest work, where pop forms are unceasingly put together, pulled apart and reassembled. Here rhythms, melodies and harmonies rub together in a humming friction of point, counterpoint and chaos.


“Love Is Sold”

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My rant on health insurance

I am one of the 47 million people in the United States without health insurance.

I’m 47. I’m self-employed. My husband had a mild, treatable, totally over form of cancer in 1999. I’ve been to the doctor once or twice for not-very-serious problems. According to the insurance companies, we’re both in the “high risk” group. Even though we both exercise every day, are of moderate weight and almost never get sick. My son went to the doctor last summer for his football physical, an appointment which consisted mostly of weighing, measuring, two shots and the doctor remarking on what great shape Sean was in. It cost $300.

We know people who have $10,000 deductible insurance which costs $1000 a month. (This is more like paying the mob not to burn down your house than health insurance.) The last time we were quoted a policy it was well over $1000 a month. This was a couple of years ago, and the premiums go up for individual policies by 15-30% a year. Moreover, insurance companies have a nasty habit of revoking your policy if you ever need it. We’re hoping, I guess, to make it to medicare without getting hit by a drunk driver or getting cancer or whatever else could happen to us.

So I was excited about the policy of health reform, but I am very, very worried about what’s on the table. The Baucus plan would require us to spend at least 13.5% of our income on payments to health insurance companies. It might be a lot more. I’m not sure what the number is for a family of three, but they’re quoting for four, and it’s just over $55,000. I make more than that most years. Which would mean that I would be required to pay whatever the insurance companies wanted to charge. I don’t have an extra $20,000 a year lying around. I don’t like giving money to what is essentially a criminal enterprise. If there’s no public option, all health reform will be, for me, is a requirement to make Anthem Blue Cross even more profitable than it already is.

I resent being called a “free rider.” I pay for everything my family needs. I pay into Medicare every year for other people though not, for another 20 years, for myself. I don’t have any of those fat slob long-term problems like diabetes, heart disease. I don’t smoke. I don’t do drugs or drive recklessly. My family has never used more than $6000 worth of health services in a year, and that was the year my husband had skin cancer. What Blue Cross wants is for me to pay them two to three times the maximum exposure they could ever have in insuring me. To hell with them. I’m keeping the money.

This talk of exchanges is complete bullshit. There are only a couple of insurance companies that do business at all in New Hampshire. We’ve had policies cancelled when one of them left the state because of some sort of regulation that made it harder to dump people will illnesses. There’s no reason to think that anything will change after reform, or that costs will be lower because of “competition.” (Competition with who? It’s a monopoly.) We need a public option and if our government delivers a mandate without a public option, they have screwed every self-employed person in the country.

But what else is new?

Lightning Dust and Cave Singers live

I went to see Lightning Dust, part of the extended Black Mountain family, and Cave Singers a couple of weeks ago and wrote this for Blurt.

Cave Singers and Lightning Dust have a fair amount in common. Both are from the Northwest - Cave Singers from Seattle, Lightning Dust from Vancouver - and seldom play the smaller towns on the east coast. (Lightning Dust has been to Northampton once, Cave Singers never.) Both are offshoots of louder bands in aggressive punk and rock traditions. Derek Fudesco was in Murder City Devils and Pretty Girls Make Graves before Cave Singers, and Amber Webber and Joshua Wells both hail from the Black Mountain family. And both are now exploring gentler, more traditional Americana sounds - though with an edge and intensity that comes from rock.

The rest of the review

Lightning Dust’s “I Knew”

Cave Singers’ “At the Cut”

Monday, September 28, 2009

There's a reason they call it 'Black' Heart Procession

Dark, dark, dark, as the Mekons might say.

My review of Six runs today at Dusted. Here's a bit:

The Black Heart Procession’s sixth full-length is, as you might expect, moody, gothic and quivering with existential dread, a dark-toned graze through waltz-time piano ballads, twitchy, slouching, tamped down guitar rock and eerily keening musical saws. Its tenderest song, “Drugs,” observes the circling-down-the drain-resolution of a love for an addict. Its most propulsive cut, “Suicide,” considers the upside of ending it all. Images of heaven, hell and the devil lurk in a good plurality of the songs (god is less prominent). Yet, like 2007’s Spell, Six is prone, at the most unlikely moments, to spontaneously burst out of its downer straightjacket and rock out, with the abyss-staring intensity of the Gutter Twins or Wovenhand. (I’d add Nick Cave if BHP had even the slightest sense of humor.)

A bit more


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Another triumph of mind over (aging) body

Hey, I ran a 3:43 marathon today and felt damned good the whole time.

I wasn't wearing a watch, so the time was a total surprise. I was hoping for a little under 4 hours.

Now if I could just get my stomach to settle down a little bit so I could eat something.

Results are up now.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hallelujah the Hills strikes again

Their Colonial Drones is out this week on Misra Records. I reviewed it for Blurt and the review went up yesterday.

Hallelujah the Hills, out of Boston, build rough symphonies out of homespun materials and shouted choruses out of existential crisis. With their battered orchestra pit of brass and strings, slightly unstrung sincerity, and way with an unstoppable melody, they are, perhaps, the best latter day heir to Neutral Milk Hotel.


“Blank Passports”

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Um, Om, yeah?

Somehow I found myself reviewing the quintessential dude record for Dusted…and really getting into it. Though, like the record, my review took its sweet time getting going. I said:

The film Lawrence of Arabia masterfully conveys the size of its subject – the desert – through extended panoramic shots. You see, for instance, miles of blank sand and, somewhere, in the corner, a tiny black dot moves. Time passes and you see that the black dot is a man on camel back, and even so, it may be a minute or more before the character enters the scene fully enough to speak or act. It may help to think along these panoramic lines as you listen to Om’s long opening track “Thebes,” which takes shape as if out of a heat mirage, a drone coalescing into a repetitive loop of minor key notes. Two minutes pass before any vocals can be discerned, six before a drum kit gets any use, and eight and a half before the players crank the amplifiers for a Sabbath-like drone. The piece enters your ear space very slowly, in stages, as if coming from a long way away. As in Lawrence of Arabia, there is quite a lot of waiting for things to happen, and this is, possibly, why some people find Om tedious, others hallucinatory and compelling. After all, one person’s cinematic is another person’s boring.


“Cremation Ghat II”

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Coupla punk rockers

I've been really enjoying a couple of new punk-garage type releases lately.

The Marked Men's Ghosts is basic but pretty great...kind of a Ramones vibe. Nothing at Youtube from the new record, but this video of "Dr. Dan" will give you a flavor.

And in the category of harsh but beautiful, the LA punk band Audacity has a very fine record out called Power's them, playing "Teenage Town".

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ettes, mad as hell…

My interview with Coco from the Ettes runs today at Venus. Venus is having some problems at the moment, so not sure whether I’ll have any more pieces over there…but I hope they work it out.
The Ettes’ latest album, Do You Want Power (Take Root), starts in a massive way: bassist Jem Cohen thundering an aggressively huge riff, drummer Poni Silver answering in thudding thunder, singer Coco Hames wailing about blood and skin fragments under the fingernails. The song, “Red In Tooth and Claw,” is one of a number of gore-themed, balls-out rockers on the Ettes’ third full-length.
“There is kind of a lot of violence,” admits Hames. “There was a lot of frustration and there’s a lot of wanting to lash out and…” she giggles, “cause people physical harm. We all feel that way sometimes, but it’s kind of alarming to see it delineated in these 12 or 13 songs.”


I can’t find any mp3s from the new album, but there are a ton of videos from before.

This one’s called “Marathon,” so obviously, I had to put it up.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I'm back...

I had a lovely weekend, thanks for asking. We went to see The Informant! which was quite bizarre and funny, in its way, but I think billing it as a comedy per se is stretching things.

We also rented Anchorman, which I hated unreservedly, except for Steve Carell who might as well have been in a different movie (a much more interesting movie). And, let's see, Sunshine Cleaning, which was okay, just okay.

I'm not running as much because my marathon is next week, so that feels strange.

I wrote four show previews today which is at least twice and sometimes four times the usual -- Os Mutantes, Japandroids/Coathangers, BLK JKS, and Mayer Hawthorne. Exhausted, all those youtube videos!

People have been sending me shit-tons of records lately, and I am drowning in it, but offhand would recommend any of the following if you're looking for a way to burn more of your already failing hearing (oh, yeah, that's me, not you).

Mission of Burma The Sound The Speed The Light...Burma!!! (thanks Michael.)
Mayer Hawthorne A Strange Arrangement...a white dude in hipster square frames, who sounds eerily like Curtis Mayfield, very strange. He's from Detroit.
Polite Sleeper The Lake Effect...very nice E6 type pop, the singer sounds like Darnielle, but much sweeter...
Sun Dial Return Journey...some sort of 1960s psychedelia, kinda Amon Duul-ish, liking a lot...bought it used.
Audacity Power Drowning...insanely sloppy, wonderful, hard-edged punk rock from a band that apparently all met in 6th grade. (They're not in 6th grade now, but I bet they're not out of high school either.)

And those are just the ones I've been listening to so far ...such a pile I have to get through...Simon's turned me onto this band called Rifles, may have to check out more of that when I come up for air again.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Happy sloppy garage pop …why the hell not?

My review of the NYC band Darlings’ really fun, not mind-bendingly serious Yeah I Know runs today at Dusted.

Yeah I Knowfeels both familiar and oddly fresh. It’s an old car running on high-test gas. It’s the ephemera high energy of new adulthood funneled through well-travelled pop channels. And, not so remarkably, that energy carries the day. Whether you grew up on the Stones, the Replacements, Pavement or the Thermals, its sloppy exuberance will resonate like an old photo of a putatively simpler time.”


“If This Is Love”

“Teenage Girl”

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Black Moth Super Rainbow

I've got a live review of Black Moth Super Rainbow and Soundpool up now at Blurt.

Check it out here, if you like.

Jim Carroll RIP

Great poet, definitive punk rocker, but who'd a thought he'd make 60?

The obvious choice, though really I like "Catholic Boy" better.