Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Viva L'American Death Ray Music

Four songs. Might as well be four bands. Still no idea exactly what VLADR actually is, but I like some of it a whole lot. (I like the first track, the one that sounds like the Fall, really excessively.)

I reviewed the EP Behold! A Pale Horse for Dusted, and it went up today.
Guessing the shape of Viva L’American Death Ray Music, too, requires a certain amount of mental flexibility. The Memphis trio — Nicholas Ray of (Limes, Golden Triangle and ‘68 Comeback) leads on guitar and voice, while Harlan T. Bobo plays bass and Jeffrey Bouck (Lithops, Polyphonic Spree) plays drums — refuses to be boxed into a category. In fact, they range so far over the range of possible sounds that it may require a larger sample to get any sort of handle on who they are.

Here they are at Goner Fest

Monday, March 29, 2010

Jason Falkner is OK, are you?

I’ve been really enjoying this new Jason Falkner album I’m OK, You’re OK, though I don’t think I can review it anywhere. Falkner is really one of the great power pop songwriters, horribly overlooked. He got his start with the Three O'Clock in the late 1980s, then joined Jellyfish, then the Grays with Jon Brion. What I really loved, though, was his first solo album Presents Author Unknown, and especially the song “She Goes to Bed.” I don’t think I’m OK, You’re OK is quite that good, but it’s very good anyway.

I’m linking two videos, the first is “This Time” from the new album, performed live at Spaceland about a year ago.

And the second is “She Goes to Bed” which is one of my favorite songs, ever, period.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Las Rubias Del Norte

Do you guys remember Chiche Libra? I’ve written about them a couple of times (and a MOG post about their cover of “Popcorn” was, I think, the most popular thing I ever wrote there…who’d have thought?)

Anyway, Olivier Conan, who started Chiche Libre also runs the Barbes label (and is part owner of the club with the same name in Brooklyn) and also plays cuatro in Las Rubias Del Norte, whose new album Ziguala, I reviewed for Blurt this week. Here’s a link to the review.

A live version of “El Alcaravan”

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Archie Bronson Outfit …hey, check out that opening track!

Okay, I’m repeating myself. I posted about ABO a few days ago. But now I have a review up and I’ve listened to Coconut ten or eleven times, and I’ve decided that I really only love the first song. Which is “Magnetic Warrior.” Which I posted last week.

So you get to see the video again. Silly, isn’t it?

Oh, and here’s the track they want you to hear, which is called “Shark’s Tooth.”

Maybe you want to read the review?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

White Hinterland

I’ve been a fan of Casey Dienel’s for a while now (how could I not when she recorded her breakout Wind-Up Canary in Western Mass during the dead of winter?), and really enjoyed her latest White Hinterland album even though it sounds nothing like the fresh-faced, piano-bar-crossed-with-bedroom-folk debut that I feel for in the first place. Of Kairos, I wrote “Dienel has made a sharper break from the past, building chilled, echoing, dub-infused caverns of sound and singing within them in a very sophisticated, R&B flavored style.”

The review was in Blurt yesterday or maybe the day before


We watched Hoosiers last night, and I got unexpectedly teary and nostalgic about Indiana high school basketball…Of course, I couldn’t wait to get out at the time, go figure.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Splinters…but not in my feet

Another entry in this fuzzy, not-too-serious, girl-led pop category, this one from four Berkeley grads trying desperately (and mostly succeeding) to camouflage their smarts…not bad at all, but on the evidence of “Oranges”, they could do better.

My review, up Friday at Dusted


Friday, March 19, 2010

These New Puritans

You’ve got to pause when any band – except Clogs who have a life-time pass – start to toy with bassoons. Indeed, the history of fully-orchestrated rock albums is littered with things like Days of Future Past….proceed with great caution. Still, These New Puritans latest CD, Hidden is a good one, brave as lions but twice as musical.

Here’s a bit from my Blurt review, quietly up yesterday amidst SXSW madness:

Even if Hidden didn't work - and it mostly does - it ought to be celebrated for sheer bravery. On this follow-up to 2008's Beat Pyramid, These New Puritans again build a framework of big thwonking hip hop beats. It's just that instead of overlaying them with stripped down rock songs, as they did on the debut, they have added a whole post-modern orchestra of sounds - strings, bassoons, vibraphone, flute and brass. It's a surprising turn, perhaps foreshadowed in the more flamboyant crevices of Beat Pyramid, but here wholly realized and stunning.


“Orion Hidden”

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Crap, another great one down

Can we just declare a moratorium on moratoria for a little while?

Seabear’s Icelandic pop

I kind of forgot about this one but it came up last night on album shuffle and it’s a really nice CD. The singer is Sindri Már Sigfússon, who is also the main engine behind Sin Fang Bous. I went to see Sin Fang Bous last year, when the band was touring with Mum, and you can read about it here.

Seabear is quite similar to Sin Fang Bous, in terms of wispy melodies and dreamy harmonies, but arranged in a little bit more of an Americana style…with strings, for instance…and with a little less of that rocking kick to it. But really pretty.

Anyway, here’s “Lion-Faced Boy” from the album We Built a Fire, out at the end of the month on Morr Music.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Besnard Lakes

I feel like I’m liking too many records this year, but what can you do?

For instance, I really liked the new Besnard Lakes, Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night reviewed today at Blurt, eight stars worth.

The third album by Montrealean married duo Olga Goreas and Jace Lasek churns cathedral-sized anthems and clots them with MBV-ish miasmas of guitar murk. It pits unstoppable melodic climaxes against paranoiac visions of espionage and betrayal. Enormous in scale, absorbing, obliterating, this is an album that picks you up on a tidal wave of conjured emotion, sucks you under, tosses you about and finally leaves you beached and gasping. It is an anti-war album that could rally an army, rousing powerful, untethered emotions to who knows what end. It is inchoately persuasive, and you buy in without really knowing what the message is.

The remainder here


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Frightened Rabbit

I called The Winter of Mixed Drinks Frightened Rabbit’s “best so far” in my Dusted review…and I’m really, really liking the heft of it, the chemical reaction between lushness and sparsity, the late-album upward turn the converts this from a suicide note to a paeon to love.

Here’s that opening paragraph:

No one who’s listened closely to “Sing the Greys,” off Frightened Rabbit’s 2007 debut, would question whether Scott Hutchison has a close acquaintance with depression, nor that his brother Grant’s frantic, kit-battering drumming is fueled by anger. It’s always been easy to overlook Frightened Rabbit’s dark side, focusing instead on the ragged buoyancy of their melodies, the fractious energy of their scrubby guitars. Still, it’s there. It’s always been there. So, while in some ways The Winter of Mixed Drinks is the band’s darkest, most soul-searching album yet, it’s not unprecedented. What’s new is the sense of cathartic overcoming in this third full-length. The front half of Mixed Drinks is littered with images of drowning, grave-digging and really excessive consumption of alcohol, but by its penultimate song, the triumphant “Living in Color,” you get the sense that the Hutchison brothers have turned the corner.

There’s more if you like

“Nothing Like You” (they’re pushing the simplest, least interesting song on the album…as usual)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Archie Bronson Outfit

So I went through a big stack of promos over the weekend (or maybe it was Thursday night, can't remember), and I don't know why I even bother, because the ones I liked were the ones I thought I'd like and the ones I'd never heard of contained no real pleasant surprises...

But damn, this new Archie Bronson Outfit album Coconuts is super awesome. I'll be reviewing it fairly soon. For now, this video of my favorite tracks:

Other faves, which I'm maybe or maybe not covering (probably not in most cases)

Sightings, City of Straw
Black Tambourine, S-T
The Do, A Mouthful (yeah i've had this for a couple of years, too, but apparently it's just coming out state-side)
Smoke Fairies, Ghosts

Also, exciting news (in the most likely pointless category). I'm trying to get an interview with Mark E. Smith who has somehow put out another really fantastic album called Our Future, Your Clutter...looks doubtful, cross your fingers for me.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Mjoon Djuo

Kind of grooving on this Wooden Shjips side project (it’s really Moon Duo, I just can’t stop it with the Js), which is just as trippy but a little bit more rock than the mothershjip. You can read my Blurt review here.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mary Halvorson

So, one of the things I do every week, or mostly every week, is write the short bios that go in front of Dusted’s Listed features. It’s a bit of a challenge sometimes, because maybe half to a third of the time, I’ve never heard of the band, and if I have, I don’t know that much about them. Still, it’s not a huge amount of work, really, and I kind of like it because it forces me to go out and find some tracks by a bunch of generally very interesting artists. The Free Music Archive is helpful in this regard, and since no one is running anything with my byline today, I thought I’d share a long free-jazz improvisation from Mary Halvorson, Ingrid Laubrock and Tom Rainey, which I stumbled upon in exactly this way. It was recorded about a year ago at the Issue Project Room.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pierced Arrows

I went off the res yesterday and started listening to a whole bunch of stuff that I don’t have to write about – mostly old music, but also a few new things – and maybe the best discovery of the whole day was some new material from Pierced Arrows. You probably know about them. It’s Fred and Toody from the now defunct Dead Moon and really, essentially, they’re up to the same fabulous tricks. I’d say this is not your father’s garage rock, except it is, and if you’re really young, possibly your grandfather’s, but that doesn’t make it any less menacing and wonderful.

Here’s “Let It Rain” from the new Descending Shadows. Sorry about that annoying tag at the end.

You can also get a whole bunch of their stuff at the Free Music Archive as well.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I go completely batshit for the Soft Pack

That’s it, my second 9 rating ever (the first was for the National’s Boxer, and I still feel a little weird about that one, since it wasn’t my #1 for that year, but whatever…) .

The band in question is the Soft Pack and there is really nothing complicated about their debut, but they do it so, so, so well. This is the one we’re playing in the kitchen, in the car and very soft, late at night, in the living room, just for the sheer pleasure of it. And, when I think about it, how long has it been since I wanted to listen to a record not for a review or an interview or because I had to catch up with everyone else…but just because it was so damned good.

Anyway, go ahead, throw spitballs…here’s a bit of my review, up late last week at Blurt.

By the end of this decade, none of the components of the term "guitar rock album" may mean anything anymore. We may not care much about guitars or rock or even albums. But if we do (and personally, I intend to, even it turns me into a raging anachronism), the Soft Pack's self-titled debut will surely be one of the great ones. This is, quite simply, one of the best and most enjoyable straight-up rock albums to come along in forever, a reason to get up in the morning, if you're looking for one, and certainly a reason to keep digging through the cultural detritus.

The rest (equally florid, I’m afraid)

“Answer to Yourself”

Monday, March 8, 2010

Late again, but you’ll forgive me, because I’ve got Ted Leo

Wow, today kind of got away from me, but I do have a couple of reviews up in various places.
Let’s go with Ted Leo (and leave my slavering at the mouth review of the Soft Pack for tomorrow, stay tuned), whose Brutalist Bricks is pretty freaking great and a dead certainty for top ten for me at least.

Ted Leo, one of the last socially-engaged punk rockers standing, has the unenviable challenge of rallying “the long-manipulated and the willfully dumb” (“Mourning in America”) to the cause of justice. The brutalist bricks are flying in his sixth full-length, tossed by an angry mob that should, in its own interest, be on the other side. Though images of suicide bombing, torture and the end of the world flit through his songs, it’s the people themselves that seem the scariest. And yet, paradoxically, the complexity of this worldview gives his songs an added punch. There are no unadulterated good guys in the ravaged world he holds to account, no hard truths, no absolutes, and that, in some way, makes his principled stance more touching. “We strive to survive, causing the least suffering possible,” he sings in “Ativan Eyes,” and it’s a modest manifesto, a kind of last stand against selfishness gone epidemic.

More, including my rant on Tea Party America…

“The Mighty Sparrow”

“Even Heroes Have to Die”

I’m interviewing Dosh tonight, wish me luck!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Let’s just pretend it’s tomorrow already

Because I’m going to be gone all day tomorrow and right now I’ve got something really exciting to post – my feature interview with Clogs. This is a three-person interview piece, which is obviously technically difficult and time consuming, but I think it’s always more interesting to show things from different perspectives, don’t you? And also, it’s just such a beautiful, wonderful album, so even if I had completely screwed up the interview and writing, you should still read it so you’ll want to hear the music.

Here’s the first bit:

The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton (Brassland), the fifth full-length for classically-influenced quartet Clogs, begins two voices, at first staccato and spare, a little later lush with madrigal harmonies and finally oddly birdlike, the main melodic line twittering and fluttering over complicated counterpoints. This is "Cocodrillo," and the singers are Clogs composer Padma Newsome and My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden. It is the first of eight songs to feature vocals. That's a departure in some ways for this guitar, strings, bassoon and percussion ensemble which shares members with indie rock's The National, and yet, says guitarist Bryce Dessner, also a continuation.

"As we've been working as Clogs there have been songs," said Dessner, in a recent phone interview. "You can hear some of the instrumental pieces as songs, and actually, some of them maybe were songs where we removed the singing, so it's been there. We write songs."

The whole thing

“On the Edge” (with Shara Worden)

“Red Seas” (Padma Newsome sings this one)


My Quasi review (American Gong) ran today at Blurt. Here’s a bit:

Quasi isn't exactly settling gracefully into an elder statesman slot. The band - a partnership between Sam Coomes and Sleater-Kinney/Jicks drummer Janet Weiss - has been going, intermittently, for 17 years now, with eight studio albums and a clutch of singles to show for it. Conflict was always part of the band's DNA, on a personal level, one guesses, since the two principles are divorced former partners, but also on a musical one. There's a deep divide between Quasi's witheringly caustic lyrics and its buoyant sing-along melodies, between its Beatles-pop rocksichord hooks and the surging maelstrom of its guitar freak-outs, and this chasm has only grown deeper of late.

The rest

Weirdly, the giveaway is the worst song on the album, “Laissez les Bon Temps Roulez”

We’re going away for the weekend again, starting tomorrow, up to Jackson, NH to watch Sean ski in the J2 championships. Go Sean! (who flat-out won his classic race on Tuesday at the Meet of Champions). And next weekend we are god-damned staying home if it kills us, because it’s been fun the last three weeks, but we are all exhausted.

Oh, and one more thing. If you’ve got any spare cash, go pledge at WFMU this week. They’re having their marathon, and what they do is important if you care about independent music at all.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Overnight Lows

Dead Moon/Pierced Arrows made it safe for old married people to make punk rock. Now we have Overnight Lows with a new record on Goner called City of Rotten . Very nice in the Ramones/Angry Samoans/Zero Boys hard-fast-simple traditions.

Here's the beginning of my Dusted review...

A photo inside City of Rotten Eyes shows Marsh and Daphne Nabors face to face with a mic between them, no more than an inch or so separating their wide-open mouths. The photo makes it clear that they are singing – or, more likely, shouting – at the top of their lungs, in sync for the moment, but apt, in the next flash, to sputter pinball caroming call-and-response. They look totally charged about what they’re doing, as if they’re right in the middle of an adrenalized flow that makes concepts like happiness seem like an abstraction.

This may not be everyone’s idea of how to spend a life with a loved one, or to grow old gracefully or even to make a living, but there’s a lot to recommend it. Marsh and Daphne have been making music as the Overnight Lows since 1995 and before that as the Comas. They picked up a new drummer in 2005, namely Paul Artigues, an alumnus of Die Rotzz (and also, oddly, a featured chef on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives), who helped them toughen up their sound. But for the most part, the Overnight Lows are doing what they’ve done most of their adult lives – hard, fast, antagonistic punk rock. They’ve just never gotten around to recording it until now.

The rest

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Golden Triangle

I was a bit lukewarm on Golden Triangle, in a review up today at Dusted.
Golden Triangle, out of Memphis but lately residing in Brooklyn, make the kind of fuzzy, female-fronted garage rock that is not exactly scarce these days. The energy level on Double Jointer (their first full-length after a string of singles and an EP on Mexican Summer) is high, and that goes a long way. Still, it’s not clear that there’s much here besides raw energy. The production values are low and many of the songs aren’t much more than a shout, a riff and a muffled Bo Diddley beat. The songs are fun in a fizzy, party-in-a-box, ephemeral way, but nowhere near as interesting as those of similarly structured (part-female, double-guitared, 1960s-inspired) Fresh & Onlys.


“Neon Noose”

Monday, March 1, 2010

I found this really interesting

Some stats jock has done a very thorough analysis of PFK's ratings history -- things like what the real median is (it's not 5.0), how the score relates to best new music (loosely, but 8.6 and over guarantees it) etc.

It's pretty thought-provoking. If you're a geek like me, you should read it.

Puerto Muerto and a blast from the past weekend

I spent the weekend in NYC again, this time because my last roomate before Bill was having her 50th birthday party there. There were between 10 and 20 women at all of the events, of which there were a lot, and mostly I didn’t know them because they were friends from either earlier (college) or later (now) than when I really knew Angela. But it was fun, and I did know a couple of other people besides my roomie and met a few more. I got to run in the park again a couple of times, very cool, because it had snowed heavily the day before and everyone was out sledding and building forts and snowmen and by “everyone” I mean mostly parents and kids but not entirely.

Maybe the coolest place we went all weekend was something called The Campbell Apartment, which is in Grand Central and is apparently the former office of John W. Campbell, a railroad tycoon (not the science fiction writer), who commissioned an architect to recreate the look and feel of a Florentine palace. It’s very beautiful in a dark wood, masculine, early 20th century kind of way. (It’s like the Morgan library, but smaller, if that helps.) They serve old-fashioned, prohibition-era cocktails there, kind of pricey, but interesting. I took one look at the menu and had to get a Jack Rose…which has apple brandy in it and tasted really good. Of course, being at a table of 50-ish women, no one else got the reference, but you guys will.

Also, I’m writing for Venus again, or at least they’re up and running again, and I’ve done one article of them, which ran on the web last Friday. It was about Puerto Muerto, a blues-influenced, male-female duo with a complicated history who are not the White Stripes. Kind of sad, they’re breaking up both as a couple and as a band, so hello, goodbye, all together. Anyway, here’s the first bit. Follow the jump for the rest.

If you sense a darkness in Puerto Muerto’s latest album, Drumming for Pistols (Fire), you’re not imagining things. The Chicago duo has always imbued its punk-charged, cabaret-exotic material with creepiness — but when writing their sixth full-length a year ago, things turned from downbeat to downright dismal.
“Everything was going in the toilet,” says Christa Meyer, the singer, songwriter, and sometime drummer for the band. Not only was larger picture bleak — with the U.S. economy entering freefall, jobs drying up, and homes going into foreclosure — but life at home was no picnic either. As Meyer and her husband (and longtime band mate) Tim Kelley were recording the album, they were also splitting up as a couple.

Meyer and Kelley had been working together since before they were married, with Kelley kicking in the band’s sharp, eruptive punk energy and Meyer bringing strong classical training and a penchant for Kurt Weil–esque theatrics. The pair recorded 13 albums together as Puerto Muerto, starting with 2003’s Elena.