Friday, February 26, 2010

I’m back after a short break at PopMatters

My first interview for them ran this week. It was with Rocky Votolato, the Seattle-area punk rocker turned singer-songwriter and his latest album True Devotion. I’m sort of pleased with the way it came out and am cautiously optimistic about doing a few more of these things for PM.

Here’s a bit:

“Lucky Clover Coin,” the song that opens Rocky Votolato’s sixth solo full-length, is a man’s conversation with his young son: an apology, an explanation, a bittersweet request for understanding from someone who
almost left for good, as a suicide. It’s lush and lovely with strings,
courtesy of Votolato’s friend Casey Foubert, yet also charged with effort and heavy with personal stakes. A story, certainly, but also a slice of Votolato’s life in the last few years, as he battled severe depression after his last solo album The Brag & Cuss and finally won through.

“I’ve been dealing with depression my whole life and not really knowing
it,” said Votolato in a recent phone interview. “I didn’t really know how sick I was.”

The rest

“Red River”

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Easter Monkeys

So, I got this Easter Monkeys reissue late last year, because I’d reviewed a Tin Huey retrospective from the same label, and I’ve got to say, it was pretty excellent. The only contact I’d had with Easter Monkeys up to that point, surprisingly, was that “Underpants” cover on the Cobra Verde covers album (which I liked, and which I thought sounded the most Cobra Verde-ish of all those covers, and that maybe proves how well they fit into the Cleveland post-punk vein). But that’s all been remedied now, and I’ve seen the light and like this better than the Tin Huey, better even than the Rocket from the Tombs reissue a few years ago…but not quite as well as late 1970s Pere Ubu.

Easter Monkeys, part of Cleveland’s thriving early 1980s post-punk scene, were short-lived and poorly documented. The band formed in 1981 around the core of Jim Jones, ex- of Electric Eels (and later a member of reformed Pere Ubu) and singer/saxophonist Chris Yarmock. A ferocious rhythm section drove the band, with bassist Chris Ditteaux’s clanking and grinding through a miasma of no-wave disgruntlement and drummer Pat Hudson bashing out hard, repetitive rhythms, head down, arms flailing. To that, guitarist Jones sometimes added a shimmering, mesmeric kind of precision, a wavery tone built of whammy bar, distortion and chords clutched way up on the neck that sounds almost like R.E.M. or True West. (Try “Heaven 357” to hear it best.) And Yarmock contributed the necessary element of madness, raving about Catholicism, drugs, newspaper and horror movies in a claustrophobe’s monotone, pulling at his hair and letting loose with de-tuned saxophone blares. They were also a band not afraid to go long. Their masterful “Nailed to the Cross” runs over eight minutes, taut as a bowstring the whole time.

So which do you bleed, water or wine?

My internet connection is so slow today that I can’t even load this…hope it’s really the Easter Monkeys and not some sort of Catholic propaganda.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Oh, heavy snow…

We are in the middle of a pretty big snow storm today (maybe 8-10 inches today, more coming on Thursday). It is soft and wet and very heavy, absolutely perfect for snowmen or forts or what have you, but we are all, suddenly, too mature for that sort of thing. (14 is so much older than 12.) Anyway, I don’t have much to blog about at the moment, so I thought I would share this lovely little performance video from Julie Doiron at SXSW last year, singing “Heavy Snow”

I was at this show, but I don't think you can see me in the video.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Jack Rose

Bet you thought I'd said everything I had to say about the great, sadly deceased Jack Rose...but nope. Gotta a review of Lucky in the Valley up at Blurt, and it (the record not the review) is very, very, very good.

Here's a link.

Here is "Woodpiles"

There's a very nice video embedded in the main article, too.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Dustdevil & Crow

You can now listen to pretty much all of the latest album from Dustdevil & Crow on the Free Music Archive. Dustdevil, if you didn’t know, is Michael Duane of the no-wave DustDevils and numerous other projects – Atlantic Drone, some others. (he’s also … and knows pretty much everything there is to know about punk, post-punk and 1960s-1990s experimental music.)

Crow is Bendle of the late 1970s experimental band The Door and the Window (and, again, other projects).

The music is quite beautiful, mysterious, dream-like, with overlapping vocals and warped effects, so that you feel like you’re moving through water or fog or sheets of very thin cloth. There’s not actually that much guitar on it, though some It reminded me a little bit of Current 93 at first, but now I’m not sure that’s right at all.

Anyway, here’s “Moss

IF you want more, go to and search for Dustdevil (or Crow if you want to sift through a lot of extra stuff).

Friday, February 19, 2010

New Tunng!

Very exciting, new album from Tunng coming in March on Thrill Jockey.

Here's the first single, "Don't Look Down or Back"

Hey, i'm blogging from the Millburn hotel in New York City

Yeah, couldn't stay away...pathetic really.

Anyway, I have a review up at Dusted today of Wolf People's Tidings:

Wolf People’s Tidings sounds an awful lot like a reissue the first time through, a letter-perfect rendition of the freaky interstices between Cream and Hawkwind, with the Incredible String Band’s campfire folk songs floating through Jeff Beck’s borrowed electric blues and Jethro Tull’s panpipes tootling over Syd Barrett’s damaged faerie gardens. You might easily mistake it for a missive from the late 1960s, maybe early 1970s. Except it’s not; it’s completely contemporary, and only subsequent listens let you glimpse the post-modernist scaffolding on which this trompe d’oiel fa├žade has been constructed.


“October Fires”

Also, while I was over at Jagjaguwar linking the mp3 above, I noticed this live video of Oneida at Sonic Boom in Toronto…well worth checking out if you love Oneida as much as I do (but you don’t, no one does).

Anyway here’s the show

We're having a really good time in NYC. We saw Christopher Walken chew up the stage and spit it out in big chunks on Wednesday at a preview of "A Behanding in Spokane". I love Christopher Walken and he was totally, totally on, so that was good. The play was kind of implausible, though, and also relentless with the language (it would be interesting to count how many times the phrase "motherfucker" recurs -- i'm guessing high 70s, maybe 100 times). We also drank wine in the afternoon at Otto, which was fun, have seen some old friends and did a little shopping (I bought a knit dress which I am wearing right now at a Filene's BAsement which is going out of business for $12, down from $60 I think, good times.)

Tinariwen played last night and has another show tonight, but it is sold out and anyway in Brooklyn, so no go on that, though I would like to see them. Back home tomorrow, that'll be a drag.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

So long for a bit

I'm headed down to NYC for a few days, not sure if I'll be posting much (but maybe, there's WIFI at the hotel).

In the meantime, that Laura Veirs show review ran yesterday at Blurt.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


I wrote this little show preview for the Inlets concert last week in Philadelphia, which apparently went on despite the snow…(we don’t have snow, up here where we need it to ski on, but they’ve got plenty in Philly and DC)…Anyway, now I’ve blown through all the tour dates except SXSW, so you can’t go see them at the moment. Still here’s the plug and, at the bottom, an mp3 to check out.

Inlets’ Sebastian Krueger is nothing if not a multitasker, adding woodwinds to the last My Brightest Diamond album, playing banjo for Feist and contributing to recent records by DM Stith and Marla Hansen. His instrumental prowess came in handy on the Vestibule EP, out late in 2006, an orchestral pop gem that drew praise from the blogosphere and garnered 40,000 free downloads. Now with Inter Arbiter, out this April on Twosyllable Records, Krueger makes a leap to indie rock ubiquity, with home recorded symphonies that recall Sufjan Steven’s loveliest extravagances, Dirty Projectors’ sly intellectual subversions and Pattern & Movement’s pop-glazed complexities. (Jennifer Kelly)

You have to go visit Stereogum to get an MP3 of “Bright Orange Air”

Or you could check out the MySpace

Monday, February 15, 2010

Laura Veirs live

Went to see Laura Veirs last night and enjoyed her set, leaning heavily on July Flame but also including songs from Saltbreakers, some older stuff and one Fleetwood Mac cover. It was a lovely evening. She let two of her three band members perform solo, the violinist Alex Guy and the instrument-switcher Nelson Kampf who did the folksinger thing, then invited a friend up for some electro-pop a la Bobby Birdman.

So anyway, pretty good night and there will be more later at Blurt, but look at the photo. Omigod, is she ever pregnant!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Scout Niblett’s latest…and I get out of the house again

I have a review of Scout Niblett’s most recent album, The Calcination of Scout Niblett up today at Blurt. I can recommend it for early hours soul searching, though maybe not for putting the warpaint on for Friday night. It’s very stark and very powerful. From my Blurt review, up yesterday:

The songs on Calcination are deceptively simple sounding, constructed out of repetitive, minimal melodic lines and impressionistic images, but that simplicity is where they get their power. "Lucy Lucifer", accompanied just with drums, has the primitive clarity of a hex laid down by firelight, while the wonderfully uneasy "I.B.D." follows a thread of Appalachian picking through the darkest thickets of self-doubt. There's something ritual about these songs, an aura of hard, necessary healing through pain. It's not an easy listen, but Calcination will stay with you for a long time.


Also, I went to a show last night in Keene, which is remarkable because a) Keene is only 10 miles away b) nobody ever plays there and c) this show was damned good.

The 1,2,3s

Openers 1,2,3s were local, I think, breaking in a new drummer and having a bit of trouble with vocal levels but not bad, not bad at all. The first song was kind of a mathy, funky jam with fast pick-less bass and hard drumming (it was in 5/4). Later efforts skirted baroque pop, with waltz-time pop melodies ornamented tonight only by trombone, but possibly at other times by strings and all many of instruments. (“Carousel” said the singer, was named for its endless repetition of a theme and its campy instrumentation.)

The Daredevil Christopher Wright

Pretty enjoyable, but I had really come for the Daredevil Christopher Wright, a threesome out of Wisconsin, two brothers and an unrelated drummer. One of the cool things about this band is that they sing pretty elaborate three part harmonies and the two brothers – John and Jason Sunday – have voices that are eerily similar, so that it sounds like one voice doubled, except it’s not. They really nail those harmonies, and on very minimal sound equipment and a space like someone’s living room, the instruments sounded unusually balanced and good. Those were mostly guitar, bass and drums, with the principals switching around a bit, but also some xylophone.

Lyrics were unusually good, acerbic and occasionally pretty funny. Probably the biggest romp was a song called “Conversation about Cancer” all one-two, up-and-down slashing and gleeful, giddy harmonies.

Towards the end, they attempted to teach the crowd the art of multi-part singing, dividing the audience into three groups for “The East Coast” and leading us in singing fairly complicated counterpoints. I sucked, personally, but it was kind of fun trying and anyway, as bandleader John said, “it doesn’t really matter, does it?”

So anyway, this is good stuff and if they’re touring Keene, they’re touring everywhere. Why not check them out. Dates:

Feb 12th - Providence, RI - AS220
Feb13th - Brooklyn, NY - Glasslands
Feb15th - Baltimore, MD - Golden West Cafe
Feb16th - Philadelphia, PA - Johnny Brenda's
Feb17th - Columbus, OH - Wholly Craft
Feb19th - Indianapolis, IN - Planet Home
Feb 20th - Milwaukee, WI - Cactus Club
Mar 4th - Madison, WI - High Noon Saloon
Mar 5th - Champaign/Urbana, IL- Mike ’n Molly’s
Mar 6th - St. Louis, MO- Lemp Arts Cente
Mar 7th - Lexington, KY - Natasha’s Bistro
Mar 8th - Nashville, TN - The Basement
Mar 10th - Asheville, NC - Bobo Gallery


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hating Yeasayer, liking Blockhead, celebrating victory…

So I think I might have mentioned how much I hate this new Yeasayer album Odd Blood. Apparently, I’m out on my own on this. Charlie Wilmouth, who is one of my favorite writers at Dusted, was offput but not wholly negative, and the chatter on ILX is that PFM will give it Best New Music and a rating probably north of 8.5.

I repeat, I really hate this album and had lots of trouble getting through it the six to eight times it takes to review something, even something really awful.

Well, okay, if you’re going to be wrong, be wrong with conviction. Here’s my Blurt review:

Yeasayer, naysayer... this album blows.

Yeasayer, the Brooklyn ethno-trance-dance celebrants, caught a wave set in motion by Animal Collective in 2007, releasing All Hour Cymbals to unequivocal praise. MTV called them "One of Seven Bands at SXSW That Matter." Pitchfork gave them a 7.8. Entourage ran "Sunrise" over its closing credits. Beck offered an opening slot. And all this for an album released on tiny We Are Free label.

Odd Blood, the second album, looks to be the band's bid for a commercial killing, released on a bigger label (Secretly Canadian) with simpler, more accessible songs and far, far cleaner production. But unfortunately, clarity is not working in Yeasayer's favor. Getting a good listen to Odd Blood is the music world's version of waking up in bed with someone who is not as good looking as you thought, not good looking at all in fact, and possibly not even of the opposite sex. What were you thinking?

Want more? Feel free.

The infamous “ONE”

On the other hand, I rather liked Blockhead’s The Music Scene, which you can read about here.

Here’s “It’s Raining Clouds”

On a final, personal note, I gotta brag a little about my son, Sean, who has had a really awesome season in XC skiing. His team finished second in the state yesterday and he, as a freshman, placed 12th in the classic race (if he’d been 30 seconds faster he would have qualified for the Meet of Champions, which would have been cool, but he’ll get them next year). He’s also on the New Hampshire J-2 team, which is the top 20 skiers aged 14 and 15, who will be competing against other state’s teams (VT and ME are apparently the ones to beat) on the first weekend in March.

Here he is clutching the runner-up trophy from yesterday with the world’s biggest smile on his face. (Thanks to Dominic St. Pierre for the photo.)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Soft Pack...and some lame excuses

Hey, sorry, I’ve been interviewing people all this week and last and just haven’t been cranking out the reviews…so it looks like I’m not doing anything, but in fact I am.

Anyway, kind of loving this new self-titled from the Soft Pack, out of San Diego and formerly The Muslims. It’s sharp, tight, unsentimental guitar punk, not genre-busting or particularly thought-provoking but hella fun. Here’s the giveway.

“Answer to Yourself”

The record's out on Kemado right now, so what are you waiting for?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bonarroo or a nice long nap?

Can't decide, what do you think?

The Avett Brothers
The Flaming Lips with Stardeath and White Dwarfs perform “Dark Side of the Moon”
Medeski Martin and Wood
John Fogerty
Cross Canadian Ragweed
Ingrid Michaelson
The xx
Regina Spektor
Mayer Hawthorne & the County
Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers
Norah Jones
Monte Montgomery
Punch Brothers
Thievery Corporation
She & Him
Jimmy Cliff
Tokyo Police Club
Kid Cudi
Dr. Dog

Oh, nap, I'm getting sleepy just thinking about all these medium temperature bands!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bridge Carols

A really beautiful collaboration between electronic collagist Ethan Rose and Portland songwriter Laura Gibson. It’s called Bridge Carols and it’s out tomorrow on Holocene Records.

Here’s a bit from my Dusted review.

Ethan Rose has made a career – and some very beautiful music – out of manipulating old-time sounds electronically. Player pianos, carillions, music boxes have all provided the fodder for his dream-like collages. He chooses sounds that are layered with history, seeped in associations, so that even muted, stretched or sculpted via computer, they carry an emotional charge, glinting like memories in the drone and chatter of consciousness. Now with Portland, Ore., folksinger Laura Gibson, Rose has turned to the most evocative sound of all, the female voice, as the keynote for a new series of dream-like meditations.



Friday, February 5, 2010

Sharon van Etten feature

I know I’ve been posting a lot about Sharon lately, but this is the last one, the feature I wrote on Monday about her and her show with Damon & Naomi in Cambridge. I thought it came out pretty well.

Here’s a bit to get you started:

She stands alone at the mic, clutching a bright red guitar that seems too big for her. Dressed in a sensible cardigan and khaki pants, she is small and sharply drawn, all cheekbones, flashing eyes and little spikes of pixie hair falling forward over her eyes. She looks like a girl you might share a cubicle with, quick, bright, young and eager to be friendly. And yet, when she looks sideways, lifts her chin and lets loose with the crystalline croon of "Much More Than This," the girl next door disappears, and Sharon Van Etten joins a long line of mournful songwriters, unearthly, tragic and cutting right to the heart of the world's saddest love stories.

The rest is here.

There’s also a new mp3 from Sharon at Weathervane Music, a nonprofit run by Brian McTear, who produces pretty much every record worth caring about in the general Philadelphia area.

It’s called “Much More”

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Liking, not loving the new Liars

Sisterworld is all woozy menace, downtempo paranoia, creeped out organ drones and freak folky croons …There are no catchy tunes, but that shouldn’t surprise you since Liars have been done with catchy tunes for a while. I’m kind of liking it, though not in any extreme, omigod you gotta hear this, kind of way. Also bearing in mind that some people think it’s crap (hi Michael!), here’s “Scissor.” What do you think?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Delta Mirror

Hey, remember Interpol back at the dawn of the zero decade, wearing their sharp suits and cranking that brooding, echoey, sound that reminded everyone of Joy Division? Well, there’s this new band called Delta Mirror that sounds an awful lot like Interpol, at least the first album from Interpol, which is the only one that I really paid much attention to. (I liked it a lot, but didn’t really need any more. Does that ever happen to you?)

Here’s a preview track from Delta Mirror which is called “He Was Worse Than the Needle He Gave You.”

They’re only giving away via Pitchfork, so I hope it works, but if it doesn’t, it’s their fault, not mine.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sharon van Etten, Damon and Naomi and Kurihara

So, I got off my winter-ized lazy ass yesterday and hied me down to Boston, mostly to see Sharon Van Etten sing finally, live and in person. She was playing a show at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge, which was mostly a Damon & Naomi Show, celebrating the release of Naomi Yang's tour diary film Song To the Siren. This was a record of D&Y's eight years ago tour with Michio Kurihara, supporting the Damon & Naomi and Ghost album, so for this retrospective moment, they brought back Kurihara. Actually, the show went like this:

Tour film
Q&A with the head of the film department at Harvard tossing kind of softball questions, if you ask me.
Damon & Naomi and Ghost

The video was okay -- it's a nice theater and a good place to see almost anything -- but the Q&A made it plain that they'd left most of the interesting parts out. Like, okay, brief footage of a silly national television show in Spain telegraphed the fact that they had canceled an actual live show with paying customers so as to make TV, and the promoter was so mad at them that he didn't pay them for the remaining week of shows in Spain. Not only that, he was calling venues ahead of time to tell them that Damon & Naomi had cancelled, so when they showed up, no one was expecting them and they had some explaining to do.

So, anyway, this may have been implied in the film, but I didn't get any of it and neither would you. But D&Y told another story about this whole incident which made me decide never, under any circumstances, to ever interview them. (Except for a little email exchange for the story I wrote about Sharon, which was already done anyway and MAY NOT BE THE SLIGHTEST BIT TRUE!!!)

The story is that to commemorate the incident of skipping a show in San Sebastian Spain in order to be on some cheesy TV show, Damon & Naomi and Kurihara came home and recorded all of their material in their home studio and called it Damon & Naomi Live at San Sebastian. As a joke. They played it for Sub Pop, their label at the time, and Sub Pop liked it and decided to release it as an actual live album, with audience noises intercut from a bootleg. And when it came time to promote the album, it was promoted as an actual live album. Damon recalled the first interview they did for the album, and the journo asked them, "What was that night like?" And they flailed around for a while, because of course, there was no night and who knows what it was actually like. But the point is, they never admitted that it wasn't a live album and apparently none of the reporters were diligent enough to check the tour dates and see that it had been cancelled.

The show afterwards was very beautiful, and Sharon is just as heartbreaking in person as she is on record, though only on stage. Off it, she seems perfectly normal and very nice and well-adjusted. So there.

Anyway, there will be a nice long piece about her in Blurt at some point.