Friday, April 30, 2010


There’s a new Phosphorescent album coming out May 11th, called Here’s to Taking It Easy, and it’s a helluva thing, dark and desperate and really beautifully arranged. It’s apparently already Mojo’s album of the month for May. I’m prepping for an interview maybe next week, maybe later, so I’ve been listening to it a good bit, and so far, three songs are just killing me – “Mermaid Parade,” “Hej, Me I’m Light” and the long Neil-ish closer “Los Angeles.” Dead Oceans has put “Mermaid Parade” up as a free sample, so you can check it out , too.

“Mermaid Parade”

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I fall off the back of the National truck…

My decidedly ambivalent review of High Violet runs today at Dusted. It’s complicated, as are my feelings about this move to the mainstream by one of my very favorite (possibly ex-very favorite) bands, so I’m not going to summarize…you can read the whole thing right here.

Or just skip to the giveaway track, the best on the album in my view, which is called “Bloodbuzz, Ohio”.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bizarre...but kind of pretty

Snow...April 28, 2010...after the rhododendrons.

Not much happening music-wise, but I am really, really enjoying the Mojo Heavy Soul comp. It's the one that comes with the Janis Joplin cover.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

High Places

Think I skipped one in the middle, but the new High Places Vs. Mankind is significantly sleeker and more accomplished than the singles Thrill Jockey released on CD a couple of years ago. I even heard a little hint of Madonna…but still liked the record a whole bunch.

Here’s my review, up at Blurt a few days ago (who can keep up?)

High Places dials down the eccentricity in their second full-length, finding a very sweet spot where experimental freak folk meets top 40 diva pop. High Places Vs. Mankind is delivered in much sharper focus than the duo's earlier output, tethered to stronger, more lucid beats. Yet it still has a dreamy surreality, a lullaby softness in Mary Pearson's voice that sounds at once as if it is right next to your ear and, also, distantly inscrutable. "The Longest Shadows," opening the disc, is mostly ramshackle rhythm, fitted out with little blurts of keyboard and an eerie synthetic melody. Pearson's self-harmonies are intoxicating, warm syrup dripping over partner Rob Barber's glossy, chilly electro arrangements. "On Giving Up" has even more of a new wave, disco feel, its plasticine keyboards evoking the Cure, its insistent cadences strobe-lit and glamorous.


“On Giving Up”

Monday, April 26, 2010

Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs

Hey, crap, it’s Monday again, isn’t it? I’m not sure what the hell I did this weekend, except for working out a couple of times and making burritos Sunday night and finishing a kind of silly thriller called The Bell Ringers, but all that’s over now and it’s time to concentrate.

I’ve got a review of Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs Medicine County up now at Dusted which (the record, not the review) I’d pretty highly recommend…unless you’re one of those people who can’t stand even the slightest hint of country. Yeah, I used to be one of you. You might get over it. Anyway, here’s a bit.

The trick with this type of deeply traditional songwriting is to express one’s love for older forms without letting it turn to worship. Golightly, though a serious collector of old records and songs, has a knack for letting her material breathe. She brings out the rugged eccentricity in her material whether it’s archival (“Blood in the Saddle,” “Jack O’Diamonds”) , borrowed (“Murder on My Mind” from Wreckless Eric and “Escalator” from Tom Heinl) or original. She allows a certain rough-kicking country humor to break through, even in the most death-and-jesus centered of songs.


“Forget It”

Friday, April 23, 2010

Screw Bonnaroo, let's all go to Spain

Look at the line-up for Primavera Sound this year.

Is it not like every band you ever wanted to see?

And you thought nothing ever happened in Brattleboro.

Brattleboro is an old hippie town in Southern Vermont. It’s full of coffee shops and independent bookstores and places where you can buy hand-made whatever…We buy groceries, almost every Sunday, at its co-op, surely one of the best of its kind, and in the summer, the Farmer’s market is pretty ace as well. There’s a brew pub called McNeils which, despite only intermittently having a working bathroom, is one of my favorite places in the whole world. We go there after the groceries usually. It takes the sting out of the weekend’s end.

But Brattleboro is not exactly a world capital of music, so it’s sort of cool that Sweet Apple – a collaboration between Cobra Verde’s John Petkovic, J. Mascis and Dave Sweetapple (from Witch) – got started there. My review of their new album “Love & Desperation” ran early in the week on Blurt.

Sweet Apple, the new project from J. Mascis and John Petkovic, sounds a lot more like Cobra Verde (Petkovic’s band) than Dinosaur Jr. There are occasional, inflammatory surges of Mascis’ inimitable guitar, mostly on “I’ve Got a Feeling (That Won’t Change),” and in a sidewinding break in “Crawling Over Bodies”. Still for the most part, Mascis stays in the background and seems mostly to be playing drums (as he does in Witch). Petkovic has even brought along Tim Parnin, his guitarist from Cobra Verde. Dave Sweetapple, who is also in Witch, plays bass, but you won’t hear a lot of that band’s sprawling, sludgy metal here. Instead, the tunes are mostly of the glam-leaning, power-chord studded, 1970s-referencing ilk of Cobra Verde. Not that that’s a bad thing. In fact, after an extended break and a rough personal stretch, it looks like Petkovic has got his mojo back. If Love & Desperation were a Cobra Verde album, it would be the best one since Easy Listening, far more consistent and hard-hitting than 2009’s Haven’t Slept All Year.


“Do You Remember”

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Okay, that was interesting…

I’ve been stressing all week about the possibility of a Fall interview, which really looked like it wasn’t going to happen and then early this week, suddenly, like it was. What I’d asked for was Mark E. Smith, because …well, obviously, he is the Fall and everybody else is secondary. So it was kind of a shock when I picked up the phone today just after 11:30 and it was his wife Eleni, ready to do the interview. You can imagine, my whole list of questions was written for him, and none of them really worked for her. If I’d had time to think about it maybe some “What’s it like to be married to Mark E. Smith?” type questions would have popped up…you know, really getting into what he likes for dinner and whether he lets her have a crack at the crossword first…But as it happened, I muddled through a couple of questions, got some very bland and inoffensive answers and gave up.

So anyway, not as surreal as some Fall interviewing experiences, but strange enough.

I did have a little piece on the Low Anthem’s live show up yesterday at Blurt, so you’ll have to make do with that, I guess.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

White Fence

Really nice home-recorded psychedelia from Tim Presley, who is a main force in Darker My Love, and also played in the Fall circa Reformation Post TLC. By the way, speaking of the Fall, some interesting developments there…hate to jinx it, but things are looking good for tomorrow. Hope he’s drunk.

Here’s that White Fence review from Friday’s Dusted:

White Fence, Tim Presley’s bedroom psych project, is either deeply allusive or derivative, depending on what kind of mood you’re in, steeped in references to all the great late 1960s mind-benders, from Syd Barrett, to the Who, to the Byrds, to Skip Spence. It’s a wispy, fuzz-fogged, solitary affair, layered in that home-taper way where the pieces fit together only loosely, like furniture bought at rummage sales that doesn’t quite match.

Even so, it’s hard to dismiss and harder still to pry off the music player, with startling moments of lyrical clarity (the very lovely “Sara Snow”) lodged amidst bursts of genial cacophony. It might be a lost 1960s classic, if you overlooked the mad punkish bits and tried not to hear the programmed drumming. It has not just the chords and guitar-wants-to-be-a-sitar twang, but the tarnished purity of that decade.

The rest

White Fence’s MySpace

Thanks to Michael for his help with the White Fence.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Harlan T. Bobo…the happy album

Harlan T. Bobo, the Memphis garage compatriot of various Oblivians and the Viva L’American Death Ray Music crew, has a new album called Sucker out on Goner now, and it’s a good one, with whispery guitar-picked ballads and all-out rockers (“Bad Boyfriends” is my favorite of these). I reviewed it for Dusted, and here’s a bit of that:
In his last album, I’m Your Man, Harlan T. Bobo rasped out his desire for a more settled existence in a line from “My Life,” admitting, “I’d love to have a family and a home” in the verse and finishing the guitar-blistered finale with a repeated longing for “someone to love.” Since that 2007 release, the Memphis blues eccentric has, in fact, gotten married and fathered a son. He now spends summers, apparently, scooping ice cream at his French wife’s beach-side ice cream stand. It sounds like a reasonably happy life, and this sense of contentment reverberates throughout Bobo’s third album, beginning right up front with the string and brass-embellished Franco-phile pop, “Sweet Life.” “It took so, so long to understand,” sings Bobo, in his tarnished but noticeably hopeful murmur, “life is sweet.”

Wait, there’s more.

I’m not finding any media, except for the MySpace.

Monday, April 19, 2010


I really like power pop, when it’s done well and not too cute, if you know what I mean. So, as I was over at WFMU trying to think of something to post on a non-review-running day, their blurt about the Laureates caught my eye. It was recommended for people who are into Sloan, GVB, Big Dipper, in other words people like me. It also reminds me of Brendan Benson and Jason Falkner, which is a good thing. Laureates have got a new EP out, and you can download the whole thing on the Free Music Archive, so what are you waiting for. I mean, I’m waiting for broadband personally, but even at 45 minutes a track, it’s a pretty good deal. Go check it out.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Indian Jewelry

Some of you are into Houston's noise-drone-funk-wave Indian Jewelry -- and I guess I'd count myself as one of you -- so I thought I'd post the first single from the upcoming Totaled slated for May 11 release on We Are Free records.

It's called "Oceans"

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dosh: round two

I interviewed Martin Dosh, the multi-talented percussionist/loopest/post-rock-electro-rhythm maven last month, around his new Anticon record Tommy, and PopMatters ran the resulting feature today. Here’s a bit:

People Said It Was Impossible: An Interview with Dosh
By Jennifer Kelly 15 April 2010
Two years ago, the percussion-looping, Rhodes-playing Martin Dosh posted a video on YouTube of himself and collaborator Mike Lewis playing live in his basement. They build up a song called “Capture the Flag” during this six-minute video, with Dosh laying down a flurry of drums, then looping them so that they continue while he turns his attention to the keyboard. Lewis, meanwhile, alternates between a series of instruments ranging from percussion, guitar to saxophone, like a magician pulling rabbits from a hat. The whole song is rigorously structured around a repeated beat, but that structure allows for almost infinite variation.

It also looks really, really hard to do. In fact, some viewers thought it was impossible. “I went back and read the comments,” said Dosh while taking a phone interview with PopMatters. “This is like a year after I put that up, to see what people said about it. There were a bunch of people who literally thought that there was no way it was possible that we did what we did in that video. They thought we were play-syncing to stuff that was already there.”


Check out that video

This was my second time interviewing Dosh, and if you want to reach back into the dawn of…I don’t know, my stretch as a rock journalist?…here’s a link to the first one:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Hold Steady almost kills me in Northampton

I think I mentioned that I went to see the Hold Steady last week in Northampton, really fantastic show and kind of a surprise, since I’ve been a little bit off the Hold Steady since Separation Sunday.

It seems to me that the Hold Steady have sacrificed the difficulty and complexity of their earlier records for the more anthemic, crowd-pleasing sound of their live show. But while this may prevent them from ever making another album as brilliant as Separation Sunday, it does make their performances pretty riveting. Anyway, here’s the review.

I gave it nine stars, which is something I hardly ever do.

There are some pretty wonderful photos by Oliver Scott Snure, too.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Smoke Fairies

Really liked this new a- and b-side compilation of Smoke Fairies singles. They’re a two-girl, folk-blues outfit, who sing really lovely harmonies and play some pretty mean slide guitar. They’re also pretty enough that when they accosted Jack Black a couple of years ago in a bar with CDR in hand, he not only took the CD but played it. And the CD was good enough that he recorded with them. So there, forget what your mother told you about talking to strange men in bars.

Here’s a bit from my Smoke Fairies review, up today at Dusted.

Smoke Fairies have a tendency toward preciousness, which sometimes glosses their tracks like Enya productions. The best cuts, in contrast, have a bit of the rough to them, murky textures of slide guitar, side-slipping vocal slurs and slides. “Living with Ghosts,” the track that caught Jack White’s attention (he has since recorded a single with Smoke Fairies on Third Man Records), is the standout here. Full of banked heat and smoldered slides, its singing is pitched lower, with a bruised vulnerability that is almost entirely unadorned by trills and frippery. There’s a bit of acoustic Zeppelin tucked in here, an ominous sense that the cut could turn operatically rock but is held in check.


“Living with Ghosts”


Monday, April 12, 2010

The Do

I quite liked the Do’s debut a couple of years ago when it turned up on a Dusted bulletin board, and liked its “unclassifiable mix of confessional songwriting, sprightly folk pop, and world rhythm-ed hip-hop” no less when it got an American release on Six Degrees records. I reviewed it for Venus last week. Here’s the review.

Just for comparison, here’s Brandon Bussolini’s far more negative review of the same album in Dusted today.

Decide for yourself?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Let’s Wrestle…gap-tooth bravado

I liked but didn’t love the new album from Let’s Wrestle.

Here’s a bit from my Blurt review

In the Court of the Wrestling Let's is a crooked-toothed grin of an album, all cocky bravado and bristly post-punk brashness on the surface, but with an engaging undercurrent of goofy vulnerability. Feckless charm will only get you so far, but that's where Let's Wrestle takes you. They are, as Wesley Patrick Gonzales intimates in a voice that's cracked all the way through, the men you'll grow to love.

Musically, these songs are mostly founded on a spatter of eighth note guitars, a barrage of frantic drums, an occasional dropped-in, sing-along chorus. Above it all, Gonzales reigns with a half-baked charisma, letting his romantic insecurities ("I'm in Love with Destruction", "It's Not Going to Happen"), adolescent humor ("Diana's Hair") and mild psychosis ("Insects") hang out with a slip-sided smile. A couple of times, the band dips a toe into milder, more melodic waters, with the ukulele-strummed lyricism of "Only in Dreams" and the waltz-timed, doo-wop-tinged "My Schedule." Yet mostly this is about young men bashing guitars and hammering drums and making triumphant choruses out of the silly things that flit through their heads. It's fun, in a rough-hewn, mildly funny, self-aware sort of way -- like Art Brut but not as clever - mostly because it's never entirely clear how seriously you are supposed to take all this.


“We Are the Men You’ll Grow to Love Soon”

“I’m in a Fighting Mood”

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Eluvium…at long last

Hey, look, my Eluvium interview ran today at Pop Matters. Very exciting. I personally feel that it’s a good one, and my husband, Bill, said it was the best thing I’d ever written on process…so that’s cool.

Here’s a link

I went to see the Hold Steady last night and had a pretty great time, but so, so tired today, and also very busy, more later.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The two faces of Noveller

Noveller, according to The Onion, is an i-Phone ap that allows you to write your novel as you go through your day.

Noveller, according to Sarah Lipstate (ex of cool bands like Parts & Labor, Carla Bozulich and others), is an electro-acoustic, ambient noise project with an album called Paint on the Shadows out on No Fun Productions this April. She is currently moving up the heavily played list at WFMU, which is how I found out about her, and you can see why…what she doesn’t isn’t exactly easy or comfortable, but it is very, very beautiful stuff.

Here she is performing at P.S. 1

Some live tracks recorded at the Issue Project Room have turned up at the Free Music Archive

More at MySpace

Monday, April 5, 2010

Tunng…kind of disappointing

It took me a long time to recognize that I was bored with Tunng’s latest And Then We Saw Land, just because I expect to like Tunng’s work and find it hard to adjust to a scenario where I don’t. But there it was, the time just seemed to drag whenever I had to listen to the new one. It seemed fine, very pretty in spots, but really thin next to the rest of the band’s catalogue.
So I was wondering how often bands get to coast on their past efforts, how often people just assume that they like a new record because they liked the last one? Must happen, at least some of the time.

Anyway, my Dusted review:

Now with And Then We Saw Land, Tunng has shed one key member, Sam Genders, and turned less equivocally toward pop. The shadowiness that made Tunng so intriguing has disappeared (though you can find some of it on Genders’ new project, the Accidentals), and in its place a sort of domesticated sunshine shines through. This is not always a bad thing – “Don’t Look Down or Back” has a wonderfully buoyant chorus that is as uplifting and joyful as anything Tunng has ever done – but it is less like the old Tunng and more like the rest of the world.


“Don’t Look Down or Back”

Friday, April 2, 2010

Black Tambourine

Black Tambourine was one of the names that got checked, fairly often, in the initial flurry of enthusiasm over Vivian Girls…and yeah, you can see some parallels, the fuzzy guitars, the dreamy half-focused girl vocals, the uneasy abutting of noise and pop. But now with Slumberland’s 17-track retrospective of this early 1990s, American-born adulator of sheeny, sheets-of-sound, shoegaze, you can see that there’s a lot here that never made it into the Vivian Girls aesthetic. I am personally really enjoying the skree and squall of MBV-ish feedback over puppy-cuddly melodies, yes, yes, yes. Reminds me of the Vaselines from just about the same era, different continent.

Anyway, I’m not writing about this, except to the extent that I just did (barely), but why not check out the free track, which is “For Ex-Lovers Only”?

Hey, d’ya think Beck wrote that “Black Tambourine” song about these guys? Or was it an actual black tambourine.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

New mix for spring

Wow, have I been lazy about blogging lately. I've had this mix for a few weeks -- actually I could probably do another one with new stuff at the moment -- but haven't had time to upload it. It starts kinda mellow but really gets going near the end. Hope you like it. Here's the track listing

Jack Rose "Tree in the Valley"
Laura Gibson and Ethan Rose, "Old Waters"
Eluvium, "The Motion Makes Me Last"
Moon Duo, "Escape"
Rocky Votalato, "Red River"
Wolf People, "Black Water"
Liars, "Scarecrows on a Killer Slant"
These New Puritans, "Attack Music"
The Soft Pack, "Pull Out" (My favorite song of 2010 as of right this moment)
Quasi, "Little White Horse"
EAster Monkeys "Take Another Pill"
The Splinters, "Sea Salt Skin"

Download here

I'm interviewing this guy from Plants & Animals tonight, probably should listen to the record a couple more times.