Saturday, May 30, 2009

Richard Bishop

I don't usually post on weekends, but my Richard Bishop interview just went up lasdt night at FlavorWire, the latest of my unpaid writing gigs...the good thing about this one is that it only took about a week and a half, from assignment to web posting, and also that Richard Bishop is so amazing and they said okay anyway unlike some websites I could mention...but won't.

Anyway, here's a link to the story

Also, wish me luck. I'm running the Pack Monadnock 10 miler tomorrow morning, a scenic jaunt through southern new hampshire that ends with a 1.3 mile climb up Pack Monadnock...not as big as actual Monadnock, the tallest mountain in SWNH, but still a big hill. I'm in reasonably good shape considering it's not even June yet, but maybe not that good. We'll see.

Friday, May 29, 2009

I dabble in pop metal…

My strategy of asking for anything at all from Hydra Head finally ran aground with the mildly entertaining, but really kind of pretentious new album from Big Business…It came out last week, and I reviewed it today at Dusted.

Big Business
Mind the Drift
Hydra Head

Big Business grows from a two-piece to a trio with this third album, augmenting the sludgy, low-end, drum and bass buzz of the band’s Here Come the Waterworks sound with a serious melodic turn toward big floating psych riffs and three-part harmonies. Bassist Jared Warren and drummer Coady Willis take a big step away from their part-time jobs in the Melvins (and from Warren’s work in Karp) by inviting guitarist Toshi Kasai into the club. The bass may still be an ominous thunder of distortion, the drums a continual, chaotic kit-hopping roll, but the vocals now sound like a weird cross of stadium metal and the Beach Boys.

There’s a cut from Mind the Drift on my fabulous new mix, next entry down.

“Gold & Drift” can be downloaded from

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Yet another mix

Warning, my husband didn't like this one, said a couple of the songs reminded him of 70s lite rock, and may have even used the phrase "Elton John crap" proceed with care. Downlown here


1. King Khan and the Shrines, "Le Fils De Jacques Dutronc" From What Is?, a formerly German-only release just repackaged by retro soul/garage stuff, especially in French.
2. Fish Turned Human, "The INternational" Possibly my latest very favorite song, torn from a fundraising compilation put together by WFMU's Terre T, and featuring, apparently, Andy Metcalfe from the Soft Boys. 1979-ish and sounds it.
3. Tyvek, "Hey Una" My other new favorite song, this one from the latest record by Tyvek, out of Detroit, whom I vaguely remember seeing a couple of years ago at SXSW. Apparently shitgaze is over now, so it is very uncool to like this stuff anymore. Sigh.
4. Vaselines, "Sex Sux (Amen)" Sub Pop reissue I'm liking very much and doesn't it go really well with the Tyvek?
5. Blank Dogs, "Tin Birds" More lo-fi, subtley Cure-like in the bass, but so fuzzy, you're not exactly willing to put your reputation on the comparison.
6. Lali Puna, "I Like Rain" from that NZ cover compilsation. The original's by JPS Experience.
7. Jeffrey Lewis, "Mini Theme: Moocher from the Future" Nice bit of whimsy from the graphic novelist, anti-folk songwriter. This may have been one of the 70s songs referenced above.
8. Jack O and the Tennessee Tearjerkers, "Blood Bank Blues," My current favorite Oblivians side project...though this could change any any time.
9. Those Darlins' "Wild One" More Tennessee, this time all girls and pretty damned country for an aging punk like me.
10. Sir Richard Bishop, "Barbary" From the guy's Arab album, though possibly one of the least Arab songs on it.
11. Six Organs of Admittance, "Cover Your Wounds With Sky" More guitar, more effects, very nice.
12. John Vanderslice, "Carina Constellation," My pick off The Romanian Names, which is to say a tall-ish dwarf. Clearly one of the 70s objectionables.
13. PJ Harvey and John Parish, "Black Hearted Love" Might be interviewing Parish later, not sure.
14. Crystal Antlers, "Tentacles," Great band, lousy interview, more later.
15. Oneida, "I Will Haunt You," Have I mentioned how much I like Oneida? Thought so, sorry.
16. Big Business, "I Got It Online," Two guys who are best known as late additions to the Melvins, kind of a weird, choral harmonized metal record.

Oooh, new Jay Reatard!

Jay Reatard’s Blood Visions is maybe the only record I’ve heard in the last five years or so that stands a chance at all-time top ten…brilliantly sharp and short and dark and paranoid, but lightened somehow by a strangled pop sensibility and new wave keyboards. His last set of singles (the Matador set) seemed to point towards even better things, a broadening and deepening of a sound that had already knocked me flat. So now, very exciting…Matador has put up a free mp3 from Jay Reatard’s upcoming (August) full-length, Watch Me Fall.

It’s called “It Ain’t Gonna Save Me” and, I beg to disagree. It may just save us all.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Symbols in this world

Nice to see some big thinking out there in's my review of songwriter Dan Zimmerman's latest, up last week at Blurt.

Dan Zimmerman, Cosmic Patriot (Sounds Familyre)
Immanence, the concept that the divine resides within the material world, is the driving force behind this eccentrically powerful songwriter album. Zimmerman, who has lived all kinds of lives, from preacher's son, to itinerant hippie, to gallery-approved visual artist, finds a bit of god's spark in everything and his songs link ordinary observations to animating mysteries. "Symbols in this world, of the world to come," he sings in his big hollow baritone, at times sounding like Leonard Cohen, at others Richard Thompson or Silver Jews' David Berman, but always seeking the hidden spiritual underpinnings of everyday matter.


“Symbols in this World”

I wrote the bio for his Dusted Listed a couple of week ago, too.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Toussaint’s turn to jazz

I had the distinct honor, a few weeks ago, of interviewing Allen Toussaint about his new album The Bright Mississippi, out now on Nonesuch. Here’s the result, up today at Blurt:

New Orleans Vitality: Allen Toussaint

Since the 1960s, Allen Toussaint has been nearly synonymous with New Orleans' funk, soul and R&B, writing classic songs like "Fortune Teller," "Sneaking Sally Through the Alley," "Working in a Coal Mine," and "Pain in My Heart" and working with everyone from Lee Dorsey to Paul McCartney to Labelle to Fats Domino to Elvis Costello.

What Toussaint had never really done, until this year's The Bright Mississippi, was to play jazz. Funny, because Toussaint grew up in the town that invented jazz and played piano in its juke joints and dance hops from the age of 13 on. His neighborhood, Gert Town, was full of musicians, an old banjo player on one side of the block, a blind guitarist on the other. The music of New Orleans' funeral marches and Dixieland clubs was in the air, drifting through the windows, playing on radios, and yet Toussaint never tried his hand at it. "Well, I heard jazz, but I didn't take to performing it really," says Toussaint. "I had been busy with the R&B and didn't really know how to find these wonderful songs."


Thursday, May 21, 2009

The DVD that got me fired from PopMatters

Well, screw them, I reviewed it for Blurt…and they made it a feature.

It’s actually a pretty wonderful DVD about Tinariwen, with concert footage, a couple of documentaries and a long interview with the band’s founder. I was particularly fascinated with the extra features, writing, “The landscapes of Northern Mali and Algeria come to life in these extra features, their wild, sparsely populated expanses, traversed by camel caravans, torn by war and rebellion, stunted by famine and drought, but ultimately the source of inspiration for all of Tinariwen's art.”

Read all about it here .

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What would you ask Richard Bishop?

I mean...besides, how do you do it?

Interview at 9:30 tonight, wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What I want is more Oblivians side projects

Because Greg Cartwright’s Reigning Sound’s Live at Goner Records was one of my favorite records last month and this month, even better, I got a Jack O and the Tennessee Tearjerkers CD…reviewed late last week at Blurt. There were only three of them, and the other guy, Eric O, is running Goner Records. So I’d call that a three for three, wouldn’t you?

Read the review.

Oh, and it looks like pretty much everybody (and especially Pfork) likes the Vanderslice more than I do.


Monday, May 18, 2009

I go off on the whole concept of “nice”

John Vanderslice
The Romanian Names
Dead Oceans
It’s practically de rigueur when writing about John Vanderslice to mention what a nice guy he is – and, indeed, in the very limited contact I’ve had with the man (one phone interview, two albums ago), he seems thoughtful, self-deprecating, empathetic … all the qualities that make up “nice.” But honestly, I’ve been thinking about “nice-ness” and wondering if it isn’t a weak version of kindness, one that doesn’t require messy self-sacrifice, embarrassment or real understanding of other people. It seems like a social skill, rather than a real virtue, and in no way as demanding as integrity, honesty, courage or altruism. Nice is nice, but you shouldn’t get a medal for it.

I’ve been thinking about this while listening to Romanian Names, because this is a “nice” album, not a great one. It pleases with clean, intelligent production, thoughtful arrangements, clever, elliptical words. It assuages your feelings of inadequacy with songs so accessible that they seem to meet you at the door and introduce you to all their friends. It’s like a party in a well-lighted, tasteful room, full of upscale people who read the New Yorker. It’s entertaining enough on the surface in a chattery, well-informed way, but ultimately empty and a tiny bit boring. Somebody needs to say something offensive, or fart out loud, or get drunk and start ranting about the Trilateral Commission, or we’ll all get quietly wasted and want to kill ourselves.

More (which is actually about the songs on the album and stuff)

"Fetal Horses"

Friday, May 15, 2009

Jeffrey Lewis

My review of the very smart, very interesting new album by Jeffrey Lewis is up today at Dusted...

Jeffrey Lewis
'Em Are I
Rough Trade

What is Jeffrey Lewis afraid of? This graphic artist/New York Times columnist/songwriter can dash off hyper-literate, clever verses at lightning speed, wrapping weirdo meditations on death and reincarnation in neat couplets, skewering every aspect of hip modern life – and often himself – with piercing insights. Yet while intelligence is his stock in trade, Lewis doesn’t seem to trust it. Even in his smartest songs – the deconstruction of dysfunctional love in “Broken Broken Heart,” the consideration of the limits of human perception in “To Be Objectified,” the agnostically giddy “Whistle Past the Graveyard”– balance philosophy with self-conscious naivete. In fact, it’s almost as if he’s embarrassed by the verbal tricks he can perform and retreats, after a particularly good one, into Beat Happening-ish studied simplicity. For instance, he’s the kind of writer who can use big words like “voracious” (three times in “Bugs and Flowers”), then back up to chide himself for pretension. Or follow up a graceful verse about the afterlife of bugs and flowers with a third-grader’s chorus of “These flies and insects…are really weird.” And though he must be aware of how agile and multifaceted and capable his mind is, he sometimes seems like he’d rather not be bothered with it. “It would just a relief to see…I’m just a natural thing,” he says in “To Be Objectified.”



Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wooden Birds

My review of this American Analog Set-related project ran today in Blurt, where I called Magnolia “as laid back as a hammock swing, as pleasant as a warm breeze,” but got a little bored with all that prettiness before mid-album.

Read the whole thing here and check out a couple of MP3s if it sounds good….but make sure you have a nice cold glass of lemonade handy.

“False Alarm”


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Whatever Zola wants…

I saw Zola Jesus at SXSW – and was immediately fascinated by her extended vocal capabilities meshed with this year’s accessory of choice, heavily reverbed keyboards. Got back and a friend shared some Zola recordings with me, also pretty compelling…including this EP called Tsar Bomba, which I reviewed for Dusted . I began:

“Zola Jesus, known in real life as Nika Roza Danilova, is a striking woman, with pale skin and long glossy black hair, dressed conservatively, almost primly by rock standards, and with a certain chilly reserve about her. She looks every inch the classically trained vocalist that she is – and so it is a bit of a surprise when she begins wailing into the mic, howling and keening above industrial abrasions of synth and drum machine. Like Jarboe in Swans, she floats arias atop a grinding mash of inhuman noise. Like Caberet Voltaire, she and her band perform obscure sonic rituals to mesh spirit and machine. There is, perhaps, a bit more frivolity implied in these dance-ish synth rhythms than No Wave ever allowed, but not much. If pop enters in, as it does sometimes in Danilova’s sweet middle register, it is quickly swamped by tides of distortion.”

More here.



Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I went to Mogwai on Saturday…

…and realized that, despite liking the band and owning more than half of their albums, I could hardly tell one song from another and really had no business trying to review the show.

But I did anyway. Here’s the write-up, which posted yesterday at Blurt. (It’s actually a pretty decent review of the Twilight Sad, about half of whose set was new material.)

“BatCat” from the Hawk Is Howling.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Akron/Family Unhinged

Hey, this is super cool. Akron/Family stopped by WFMU to record a long set of totally improvized freakout...which you can download free and legal from the free music archive in three parts.

Go here to get started.

Two new reviews

Weird. I thought I'd done this earlier, but now the post isn't there, so I assume dial-up strikes again. I'm at the library and have WIFI for the moment, so let's try again...

I had two new reviews up today.

One, really lovely stuff, is a solo debut by Sharon Van Etten, up today at Dusted.

I called Because I Was In Love "quietly riveting, translucently pure, and infused with eccentric intelligence. " Read all about it here.

She's singing "Consolation Prize" in this video:

Also, reviewed two Dukes of Stratosphear records, a mid-1980s side project of XTC in Blurt...super fun stuff, very psychadelic 1960s, though obviously about 20 years after the fact. Here's the review.

And here's a video of "Mole from the Ministry"

Friday, May 8, 2009


I'm kind of liking this new song from's maybe what I was looking for, and not quite getting, from Abe Vigoda. Anyway, it's called "First Daze" and you can DL here.

I think I met someone from Pterodactyl at SXSW, but can't be sure...

King Khan on welfare…

I interviewed King Khan last week for Blurt – and it went pretty well, and I wrote my little story which I’ll probably link later. But I had a word count to fit, and there was some stuff left over, including a little side discussion we had about the song “Welfare Bread”…and how welfare (in Germany) had given King Khan the breathing space to get his music career going, but also enough negativity to push him to do well enough to get off of it.

Here’s the excerpt from the interview:

JK: No, he went into acting instead. He’s doing a lot of that. Anyway, this song “Welfare Bread,” It’s very sweet. It’s a love song to your wife, isn’t it?

KK: Yes, it is.

JK: You guys had some rough economic patches, I guess. Want to talk about that?

KK: We had our first kid when I was 22. It was in Germany, and so we went on welfare for a few years, and actually that helped out. I was able to do my musical stuff. I didn’t have to worry. I needed a kick in the butt and try to make that happen.

JK: Is it better to be on welfare in Germany than in some other places?

KK: Yeah, they’re pretty fair. But they’ve changed everything now. At first, we were living in a small town. When we moved to Berlin five years ago, we went to the welfare office there, and it was like out of a Kafka movie. It was in a huge gymnasium. There was an endless snake of a line. And people were in the line waiting with five children. And all of them crying and screaming, and my wife started to cry. It was really emotional. I knew from that time on, we had to get off of this thing. And it worked. Thank god, for the last five year’s it’s been really good.

And here’s the man himself, singing this kind of touching love song for his wife:

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tara Jane O'Neil

I've got a short interview piece about Tara Jane O'Neil's new album A Ways Away, up now at Venus. Here's the link.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Hey look my Akron/Family feature is up

This might be my favorite album of 2009 so far. (Yes, I'm very fickle this year...I think I only had two favorites all year last year.)

I talked to Miles, who kept wanting to talk about sex and the Beatles.

By the way, it seemed too silly for the article, but if we do the Beatles typology on Akron/Family, it would be:

Seth -- John
Ryan -- George
Miles -- Paul (though, of course, we hope he will avoid late-life atrocities like "Ebony and Ivory")
Dana -- Ringo

Here's the link.

My last PopMatters feature.

Pink Mountaintops

This happens once in a while…I got bored with Pink Mountaintops before I really had much to say about it. It wasn’t that it was painful listening to it or I hated it or anything like that…I just didn’t have much of a reaction.

That, of course, didn’t mean I was off the hook for reviewing it.Here’s a bit from my review at Dusted.

Last time out, reviewing Pink Mountaintops’ Axis of Evol, Dusted’s Emerson Dameron described a much improved, more consistent effort, “the first record [Stephen McBean has] made that can be heard front-to-back, repeatedly, without losing most of its shine.” Outside Love, two years later, is another solid effort with a handful of quite good songs – and only a few embarrassing ones. It’s also the record that lifts McBean’s lo-fi Black Mountain side project out of its home-recorded, self-referential box. A good half of these songs are fully, even elaborately arranged, with big booming drums, piano, strings and backup singers.



Monday, May 4, 2009

I blame you!

My Obits review ran on Friday at Blurt…as I think I might have mentioned, “Widow of My Dreams” has become a bit of an obsession lately, possibly my favorite song of 2009. (The album is quite good, too, though maybe not top ten as a whole.)

Here’s a bit from my review:

Rick Froberg's post-Hot Snakes outfit has been a long time in gestation, surfacing last year in shows in Brooklyn and Philadelphia, and immediately setting off mp3-trading, word-of-mouth anticipation. The full-length, coming about 12 months after that, delivers on the promise of early live bootlegs, with killer cuts like "Widow of My Dreams," and "Two Headed Coins," cleaned up but still smouldery, a haze of hallucinatory smoke hanging over their blues-rock grooves. Hot Snakes fans have been vocal about the fact that Obits is not the old band, and they're absolutely right. Froberg's spat, sneered vocals are familiar - as in Hot Snakes, he tosses lyrics over the side of a moving musical vehicle, sung lines dopplering off into the distance as the train moves relentlessly forward. Still, there's a stretched, zoned-out quality to Obits best cuts that feels less like flame-throwing garage rock, more like smouldery, long-distance blues.

And the rest:

“Pine On”

Also, went to see Mogwai/Twilight Sad on Saturday night, really good, have to to try to write something before I forget what my notes meant...we had an all-day track meet on Saturday and Sean took 3 seconds off his 400 time. I ran 12 miles on Sunday and then we went to see the new X-Men Origins movie. Exhausting weekend, but fun. I could use about a week of sleep.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Mika Miko…and the daily drama

I really liked this new album by Mika Miko, whom I’m pretty sure I saw not this year but last at SXSW, though maybe just the tail end of their set. One of the things that I liked most about the album is that while they are mostly female and empowered and all that…they seem mostly to be in it for the music, rather than scoring feminist points. Myself, I am definitely a feminist, but more in the “pay me what you’d pay a man” sense, than the “please don’t ever say anything that might offend me” politically correct sense…which makes me a little bit sick to my stomach.

So anyway, that Mika Miko review, up today at Dusted:

Mika Miko is the mostly female mainstay of LA’s Smell Scene, a skittery, no-wave five-piece, whose jagged rhythms, blunt alto-chanted non sequiturs and staccato guitars recall late 1970s bands like Delta 5, Liliput and the Raincoats. There’s one male member now – new drummer Seth Dunham – but the energy is like an all-women’s dorm at 3 a.m., raunchy jokes, shrieks of laughter and late night snacking (the album features not one but two songs about wanting a “Turkey Sandwich”). Yet, while there’s no getting around the fact that Mika Miko is predominately female, they’ve got no interest in girl-band clich├ęs. Mika Miko doesn’t really try to exploit its members’ sexuality, a la the Donnas or the Runaways. It doesn’t try to score ideological points, like Bikini Kill, Erase Errata or Sleater-Kinney. The message is matter of factly post-feminist: We’re girls. We’re in a band. Get over it.


Here they are playing “Wild Bore” and “Capricornations”

Also, I finally severed ties to PopMatters last night. I’ve been feeling not-very-valued there for some time. I stopped doing CD reviews last summer, when it became clear that if anyone else asked for a record, I wasn’t going to get it – and in fact, I hadn’t had a competitive assignment since Elvis Costello’s Momufuku, which, I was having some email problems and I might have asked for several times in one day…I’ve also had some issues with features, too, like for instance, when I went to see Chiche Libre last summer, Olivier told me that I was the first person to ask for an interview, on the EP rather than the album. We could have been early on a band that got press in the New Yorker, the New York Times etc, but instead, we waited five months and ran it slightly behind everyone else. My Fennesz piece, which was the #5 most read article on PopMatters yesterday, sat in the vault for four months. I’ve stayed with it mostly because I can’t find anywhere else to do interviews, but enough is enough.

The tipping point was a DVD review which, admittedly, I was late on. I got three emails on it yesterday, the first time anyone had contacted me. The first was a list of DVDs that were overdue. The second was a one-line note that this particular DVD was overdue (two hours later, maybe). I said I’d do it over the weekend and left to coach track. Then when I got back, the editor had posted asking someone else to do the review. This seems unnecessarily bitchy to me, but not out of character.

The thing is that PopMatters is absolutely the most impersonal site that I write for. There’s none of that community feeling that you had at Splendid or have at Dusted…not even the kind of informal back and forth with editors that I get, occasionally, at PW and Venus. You enter your little pieces into the database and then weeks or months later, they appear on the site. It’s like working for a widget factory, except without the paycheck.

I will sort of miss doing show reviews…though I can do some of them for Blurt. If I go to SXSW again, though, it’ll most likely be on my own.

So anyway, onward…