Friday, January 29, 2010

Retribution Gospel Choir

Kind of a silly review of the second Retribution Gospel Choir, which I really, really liked, but maybe I did a few too many reviews that week. It’s up today at Blurt. Here’s the goofy part:

When Alan Sparhawk switches between Low and Retribution Gospel Choir, does he have to change in a phone booth? It's a fair question, because RGC's louder, wilder sound stands in roughly the same relation to Low as Superman to Clark Kent. It's not that the cape and the lack of glasses will totally fool you either, since there's plenty of Low's suppressed intensity tucked into the crevices. Yet there's a superpowered kick to this second in the series. Sparhawk and company (that's Steve Garrington on bass and Eric Pollard on drums) are leaping over tall stacks of Marshalls, and if they are not faster than speeding bullets, they are awfully damned powerful.


The video for “Hide It Away”

I put “Electric Guitar” on my last mix, too.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


New Zealand’s Brunettes seem to have fallen off the Sub Pop roster, but they are still making very nice, slightly twee romantic pop. My review of Paper Dolls ran today in Dusted. Here’s how I wound it up.

Paper Dolls is a really delightful piece of work, tender and whimsical and, despite a certain amount of artifice, touchingly sincere. To say that the music is lightweight is to miss the point. The songs are light as dandelion fluff, certainly, but this is what allows them to drift free of the mundane.

Read the rest.

Here’s the video for “Red Rollerskates”, which is also on my last mix.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sharon van Etten

Sharon van Etten’s Because I Was in Love unexpectedly turned into one of my favorite records last year. It’s translucently simple, full of light and clarity and these beautiful serpentine harmonies that Sharon sings with herself…Greg Weeks produced it and boy did he do a good job shining the light on her.

Anyway, she did pretty well in Blurt’s year-end rating (#36) and she’s playing some shows with Damon & Naomi, so got to I write a little show preview on her here

There will be a longer write-up when I go to the show in Cambridge on Sunday.

Meanwhile, here she is singing “Keep”

What a pretty voice, eh?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tin Huey…strangest of a strange lot

Fred Mills at Blurt decided to make my long discursive review of a Tin Huey compilation (not exactly a reissue, since it was all new versions of things) into a feature, which is kind of cool.

A bit of it:

Lots of very strange bands have come from Ohio - proto-punks like Dead Boys and Pere Ubu, conceptual new wavers like Devo. Still none was stranger than Tin Huey, whose baroque conglomeration of jazzy saxophone, abrupt tempo changes, joke-infested lyrics and funk-punk feral drive outweirded even inspirations like Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa..


Here they are playing “Hump Day” in at the late, great Tonic (reunion show, obviously)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Just enough, livin’ for the …

Citay’s Dream Get Together is out this week, another deceptively breezy ride that is a lot more complicated than it sounds…My review from Dusted, up today.

It’s easy to forget how much art and science can go into airy, breezy confections like Dream Get Together. Though effortless pleasure for the listener, the album is the result of rigorous calculations and precise combinations. Its guitar patterns, layered four or five to a track in intricate interlocking patterns, may sound like rustic III-era Zeppelin, Laurel Canyon folk pop, or free-wheeling Allman Brothers jams, but that’s the curtain, not the mad scientist scurrying behind it. Rarely has so much effort gone into anything that sounded this easy.


“Careful with that Hat”

Saturday, January 23, 2010

New mix for January

I haven't been blogging much this week, so I thought I'd try to win back your hearts and minds (and hard drives) with a mix of some of the stuff I've been listening to since the holidays. Just the good stuff, no'll have to find that on your own.

Here's the mix.

Wetdog "Wymmin's Final"
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists "Where Was My Brain?"
Good Shoes "Under Control"
Tin Huey "Slide"
Scout Niblett "Lucy Lucifer"
Pit Er Pat "Chavez Ravine"
Chicago Underground Duo "Quantum Eye"
Blockhead "Pity Party" (Pretty sure that's Antony singing)
Beach House "Ten Mile Stereo"
Laura Veirs "Little Deschutes"
Clogs "Last Song" (the one with Matt Berninger from the National singing)
Brunettes "Red Rollerskates"
Retribution Gospel Choir, "Electric Guitar"

Friday, January 22, 2010

Beach House and Good Shoes

I've been kind of busy lately and haven't been very disciplined about posting, but I do have a couple of reviews up at Dusted this week.

Beach House's third, Teen Dream, is one of my favorites so far this year, which surprised me, because I liked but never loved their first two albums. This one is a lot more substantial, more pop and more driven by rhythm, and what can I say? I like that stuff.

Here's a link to the review

and Sub Pop is sharing an MP3 of "Norway"

I also have a slightly less enamored review of the new Good Shoes, No Hope, No Future, which is just not as good as the first one. It's at Dusted, too, check it out here.

And, okay, here's a thing. Pazz & Jop came out this week and for the first time ever, I don't have a single album that no one else voted for. (I've got two where there was only one other voter, and one three, so it's not like it's getting crowded.)

Surprised me how high Neko placed...good album, great singer, but I had no idea that she was as hype-y as Animal Collective/Dirty Projectors/Grizzly Bear, etc.



My ballot

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Brilliant Colors

Nice long weekend, how about you? I’ve decided to run the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington this spring (May 30) and while I haven’t really started training yet, I’ve definitely jacked up the mileage a bit, which feels pretty good, though I’ve been falling asleep more.

We had some snow yesterday, maybe four to six inches, then it turned warm and sunny….Currier and Ives weather, really, nice after all that bitter cold. Oh, and we’re almost done watching the first season of Fringe on DVD. Have you seen this? It’s so fun, sort of like X Files. I’ll be sad when we get the last one.

Here’s a review of Brilliant Colors Introducing, which ran late last week in Blurt.

As the first saw-toothed guitar chords of "Absolutely Anything" splinter into rainbow colored dissonance, you'll be carried back three decades, reminiscing not just about girl punks like the Slits and Raincoats, but the sloppy, fuzzy anthems of the Buzzcocks. It's the best song on concise, blistering Introducing, the SF all-female trio's first full-length, but just by a hair. "English Cities" is almost as rackety sweet, and "Over There" piles on the "Jail Guitar Doors" guitar clangor of the Clash.


“Absolutely Anything”

Let's all cross our fingers about Massachusetts, yes? Be a terrible thing if a vote from Teddy Kennedy's old seat doomed health care.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Pit Er Pat

I was going to post this yesterday but then Reatard went and broke my heart.
This is a Chicago-based duo (used to be a trio) with a sparse, rhythm-intensive kind of aesthetic that sounds like post-punk with all the connective tissues excised sometimes and others kind of like hip hop.

I had a review up at Dusted yesterday, which began:

The CDDB entry for The Flexible Entertainer lists eight different genres for eight different tracks, some real, some made up, one simply “Pit Er Pat.” In most cases, you’d ignore such posturing (okay, genre classifications are mostly bullshit, what else have you got?), but in this instance, there’s a kernel of truth. Though they share a certain over-arching aesthetic – complicated rhythms, unsettling riffs, jump-rope chanting, a bat cave sense of dim, three-dimensional space – these tracks are wildly different from each other, as well as most easy reference points. Soundtrack, hip hop, new wave, no wave, dub, dub-step, Latin and vaguely Middle Eastern sounds flare up and fade suddenly. By the time you’re sure you’ve heard them – hiccupy cuica on “Chavez Raven”, lone melodica on “Specimen” – they’re gone.

Here’s the rest


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Well that's it for punk rock

Jay Reatard died last night in his sleep at 29. He was, musically, probably one of the most exciting writer/performers of the 00s, a long-time vet given his early start at 16, but still young enough to promise greatness and, hell, to deliver it more often than not. You didn't have to listen to his songs for very long to notice that they were all about alienation and self-doubt, the laceration wrapped in some of the best actual songs of the last few years. No word on how it happened, but you don't die in your sleep at 29 without you? What a shame.

Haven't been this sad about a rock and roll death since Joe Strummer and he had a comparatively long and happy life.

Here he is doing "Nightmare"

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wetdog...seriously, check this out

My two favorites so far this year (yes, in January, what are you looking at me like that for?) are Wetdog, the London post-punk trio blogged here earlier and Beach House...they could hardly be more different, except for a strong female presence. Maybe this is the year I have more than one girl-dominated band in my top-ten. Anyway, I got to review Wetdog for Blurt and it ran today.

Yay for 2010...I'm betting it'll be better than last year.

Here's the graf one of the review.

A spiky sketch of bass calls, a trio of female voices responds in tear-dropped shaped exclamations of "oh-oh." Girlish sweetness fights it out with ascerbic dissonance, rickety rhythms with soothing melodies. The band is jittery, unstrung, buoyed by enthusiasm, as pure an expression of thrift-shop excellence as anything out of Leeds circa 1978 or the riot grrrl northwest a dozen years later. The band in question is Wetdog, the song "Lower Leg," and both represent one of the best new discoveries of a still infant new year.

More here

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Laura Veirs

My first interview of the year with the adorable, very smart and slightly geeky Laura Veirs runs today at Blurt.
Lush, natural, organic - you might think that Laura Veirs' July Flame, her seventh full-length, came easily to the Portland songwriter. Its melodies are caressingly warm, the images of plant life and summertime, the mood tranquil and unhurried. Still, let other musicians sit patiently and wait for inspiration. Veirs works at her music, in a methodical, disciplined way. She is, for instance, the only musician we know who keeps a practice chart in her studio and grades herself on a one-to-five scale for her efforts.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Real Estate…probably off swimming somewhere

My review of the beach/pool/lake-obsessed ST from Real Estate ran today at Blurt…one of lo-fi’s gentler, sweeter constituents making the laid back album of 2009’s late fall. I said:
Martin Courtney's Real Estate is the latest in a string of soft-focus, lo-fi bands that filter the late 00s fascination with fuzz through a bucolic lens. Like Woods and Ganglians, Real Estate aims for eerie beauty, rather than ear-splitting volume, but unlike them, the inspiration is the water. Six of ten songs on this debut album reference various swimming venues - beaches, pools, rivers and lakes. But more remarkably, the sound itself has a watery sheen, as sweet slippery currents of reverbed guitar course over distant water-fogged fragments of melody. There is a sense of floating on cool, gently rocking waves, of summer's idle reveries if not its heat and excitement.


“Beach Comber”

does anyone else think...

...this new Yeasayer sounds kind of like the Back Street Boys?

Ambling Alps

With Phil Collins producing?


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Willie Mitchell died

Legendary Memphis producer Willie Mitchell died yesterday at the age of 82.

Mitchell guided Hi Records through the 1970s, developing a signature sound for artists including Ann Peebles, O.V. Wright and, perhaps most famously, Al Green. Berry Gordy sent engineers to Mitchell's Memphis studios during the height of Hi's run, looking to reverse engineer the distinctive feel of Mitchell's recordings. Mitchell was cagy about his secret sauce, refusing even as late as 2004, to divulge any of the tricks of his trade, though many people suspected it had something to do with the way the drums sounded. Whatever it was, it worked, and over his career, Mitchell presided over more than 100 records that went either gold or platinum, including this one, co-written with the Reverend...

what a great song.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dennis Diken with Bell Sound

Wow, just dropped by the myspace for this ex-Smithereens drummer, who has a really great, 1960s psychedelic pop record out called Late Music on Cryptovision Records.

Here's the MySpace if you want to check it out.

I think that's pretty much all there is, but it's fantastic, have a listen.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Pontiak...not the car

Pontiak, the heavy three piece out of the backwoods of Virginia (and now Baltimore), has been making a lot of records lately. Three Carney brothers make up the band, a hoary, drone-y, sludgy stoner-type outfit, with forays into folk and Americana. Their debut Sun on Sun came out last year, reissued on Thrill Jockey, followed by a split with Arbouretum, and another full-length Maker. Sea Voids is a long-ish EP, and it feels a little bit slapped together, honestly, though it is not without its moments. I wrote about it for Dusted and the review’s up today. (So we are officially back to normal, I guess…whatever that is.)

Pontiak’s fourth full-length is a grab-bag of styles: Sabbathy-sludge, amp torturing experimentation, Cream-like alchemies of whispery verse and electric blues. and quiet little folk tunes. Where Sun on Sun and Pontiak’s half of Kale (split with Arbouretum) seemed to place the band on a trajectory towards Kyuss’ bludgeoning hallucinations, Sea Voids opens up a jigsaw puzzle box worth of possibilities, jamming pieces in side by side without much thought about how they fit together.

Here they are playing “Maker” in Italy a year and a half ago.