Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Phosphorescent interview

My interview with Phosphorescent's Matt Houck, which I was pretty excited about and which, upon reading it a couple of months later, still sounds pretty damned good to me, ran today at PopMatters.

Phosphorescent: Peeling Back the Surface

By Jennifer Kelly 30 June 2010

“The Mermaid Parade,” off the new Here’s to Taking It Easy, just might be Matt Houck’s best song yet, a sprawling narrative of melancholy and regret and mystery that feels like, a short story or a novel. Its storyline traces the dissolution of a brief marriage, the husband away touring, while his wife takes up with an older, married man. Lyrically, the song is utterly realistic and modern, heartfelt without veering into sentimentality and all the more powerful for its blunt, unornamented language. Yet it is the chorus, drawing inspiration from the boardwalks of Coney Island in its parade of naked mermaids that really catches the ear. Houck’s words tap into a vein verging on magical realism, using the street and its denizens to evoke a mythological dimension. That sense, of other, weirder, wilder worlds lurking just beyond the threshold of our perception is what lies at the core of Phosphorescent’s music.


"Mermaid Parade"

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Swervedriver’s frontman back with new hazy, distorted, guitar-fuzzy album

This is the second album by Adam Franklin (from Swervedriver) and his Bolts of Melody…and I found myself really, really enjoying it. My review runs at Blurt today.

With Swervedriver, Adam Franklin had an eight-year run spinning out dreamy textures of distorted guitar that, however, loud they might turn in live performance, had an unruffled serenity to them. Bolts of Melody, following a quieter interlude as Toshack Highway, pursues the same muscular, feedback-glazed reveries as Swervedriver, its reflective melodies hedged with swirling masses of guitar sound. Franklin's band - which now includes Ley Taylor on guitar, Josh Stoddard on bass, Gerard Menke on pedal steel - has gotten noticeably more confident on second Bolts outing I Could Sleep for a Thousand Years, building dense, hallucinatory thickets of sound around Franklin's rueful songs.

The rest

Monday, June 28, 2010

Nina Nastasia’s Outlaster

My review of the very stark and beautiful Outlaster ran last week at Blurt.

Here’s a bit:

Starting in folk and slipping the leash, late in the album, towards wilder, more dissonant post-classical forms, Nina Nastasia's Outlaster sheathes powerful emotions in stoic restraint. Endurance, self-control, muted strength are much on display here in Nastasia's voice which can rise in an instant from murmur to wail, or finish an operatic climax with whispered, octave-leaping subtlety. And, yes, there is plenty to endure, too, in ten meditations on romantic situations too tangled to exit, too intertwined to repair.

The rest

Friday, June 25, 2010

Also, the mid-year wrap

Dusted put up its mid-year ten today...Mine's Jack Rose's Luck in the Valley. Lots of other good stuff. I've heard bits of maybe half of it.

Check it out.

Wovenhand’s latest…and maybe best

I’ve been a huge fan of David Eugene Edwards’ Wovenhand project since Consider the Birds (when, fun fact, he and Dosh were two artists who came through when we needed an interview in 24 hours at Splendid for the weekly feature). It’s my feeling that he continues to get better with each album, and not just him, but his band which has gotten more emphatic and cohesive over time. (though my favorite Wovenhand song ever is “Dirty Blue” from Mosaic, which figured in any number of mix CDs in the year it was released.) His latest is number 6 in the Wovenhand canon, and this time even Pitchfork has gotten over its secular queasiness…at Blurt, we called it “Album of the Month”. Here’s a bit of my review:

“Oh beat the drum for him, oh holy measure, strum and buzz for Him, is our only treasure," booms David Eugene Edwards in his echo-haunted, arena-scale voice on "Oh Holy Measure." And yes, in this sixth full-length as Wovenhand (following more than a decade with 16 Horsepower), there are plenty of driving drums, an onslaught of raw and stinging open-chorded strumming, an ominous undercurrent of buzz throughout, and, perhaps most important, the palpable, overriding presence of the "Him." One of 2010's most intense and riveting albums, The Threshingfloor (Sounds Familyre) infuses the bone-shaking transport of rock music with spiritual struggle.

The rest

If you get a chance, go see him live. It’s an intense experience. I’m also pretty curious about how his handful of dates with Tool will go…seems like a weird pairing, but whatever. Here he is performing “Raise Her Hands.”

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hey, if you lived in North Carolina, you could be going to see Health tonight.

Most of the U.S. tour is winding up, but a few dates remain in the south…then they head to Europe for Roskilde and assorted other festivals.

June 23, 2010 Snug Harbor, Charlotte, NC
June 24, 2010 529, Atlanta, GA
June 25, 2010 One Eyed Jacks, New Orleans, LA
June 26, 2010 Red 7, Austin, TX

More dates and additional tunes at the MySpace

I wrote a little preview for the Philly show, which was Monday.

Health + Indian Jewelry
7:30pm, $12. First Unitarian Church.
God knows what Nine Inch Nails fans made of Health last summer when the drum-battering, mic-torturing, spazzed-out noise combo opened on Trent Reznor’s last-ever extravaganza. For this date, they’re sharing a more natural bill with Indian Jewelry, the Houston-based, distortion-fuzzed outgrowth of Swarm of Angels and NTX + Electric. Lately, both bands have been leaning away from free-form noise and towards a warped, woozy form of dance music. Health’s latest salvo was its remix album Disco2, a collection of radiant reinterpretations of Get Color tracks by artists including Javelin, Tobacco and (also on this bill) Gold Panda. Indian Jewelry’s Totaled, out this spring on We Are Free, spliced droned-out mantras with the undulating rhythms of drum machines. (Jennifer Kelly)

Really love Tobacco’s remix of “Die Slow”…very Black Moth Super Rainbow. It's up at LA Weekly's blog but the link doesn't work, so I put it on sendspace.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Teenage Fanclub

It’s been a while since I’ve been this psyched about an interview, actually a set of interviews with the three main songwriters in Teenage Fanclub. My feature piece is up today at Blurt.

“Sometimes you wake up and you want to be Link Wray and other days you wake up and you want to be Burt Bacharach," says Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub.

Blake is one of the band's three songwriters, the one who wrote "The Concept" and "Mellow Doubt," and he was wrestling with a question regarding the essentially cool thing about his more than two decade old band, how they combined some of power pop's prettiest melodies with blisteringly loud guitar distortion. The song in question, the single "Hang On" from 1994, starts in a firestorm of feedbacky soloing, then resolves into a verse that has some of the Byrd's knack for easy, closely harmonized tunefulness.

Read the rest

“Baby Lee”

Monday, June 21, 2010


The Social Registry is reissuing a long (perhaps always) out of print debut album from the early 1980s NYC band Interference…and on the basis of two tracks, I’d say it’s well worth checking out, esp. if you’re into no-wave.

Here’s what they say on the Social Registry blog:

“Forming out of the musical insurgence that was the NoiseFest at White Columns Gallery in 1981; Interference coalesced around three key figures of New York’s downtown scene: Anne DeMarinis, David Linton and Michael Brown. DeMarinis had just parted ways with an early incarnation of Sonic Youth and co-curated the NoiseFest with Thurston Moore. Linton had headed to NYC a few years earlier with then school/band mate Lee Ranaldo, eventually hooking up with Rhys Chatham for a three year stretch. Brown, then a twenty six year old PhD candidate at NYU, had recently broke rank with Rhys Chatham and drafted a wholly unconventional percussive approach to the Fender bass.”

They’re giving away an mp3 of one of two digital bonus tracks from this vinyl-only re-release, and it’s tense and driving and chilly in that early post-punk robot-funky way and, all in all, pretty great.

“Excerpt 1”

We spent the weekend watching my son decathalon

I took some photos.

He did okay for a freshman, over 3000 points...the worst part was no-heighting in the pole vault, the best was his 1500 at 4:59, clearly his fastest ever and that's his main event. He also did a 1:02 in the 400, which is quite a lot better than the last time he did it, though that was a year ago. It's a pretty cool event, because you have to do everything, including, for almost everyone, some things you're not good at. I wish I could have tried heptathalon when I was in high school. (The girls do seven events, the boys ten.)

Anyway, a personal aside, back to music tomorrow.

Beta Band’s Steve Mason releases solo Boys Outside

I was put off at first by the squeaky clean-ness of Steve Mason’s new album Boys Outside, especially compared to the wonderfully scruffy, scratchiness of early Beta Band cuts like “Dry the Rain,” (which I missed the first time around, thanks to Michael for helping me catch up). But it grew on me, especially the back end of the album. My review’s up at Dusted today. I end it like this:

In songs like “All Come Down” and “Boys Outside,” the combination of extremely clear, extremely pop production with rather harrowing themes seems to expand the scope of the work. It turns what are obviously personal songs into something larger, more inclusive and more general than the experience that brought them forth. There’s a lift to the swelling vocals. The arching choral climaxes make you feel a resolution to the suffering here – and not just Mason’s personal suffering, either. He’s turned a hard patch into something transcendental. However brief, however ephemeral, there’s a sense of spiritual overcoming that encompasses not just his own history, but the experiences that listeners bring to these sad songs, as well.

the rest

“All Come Down”

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cheetah Chrome and Sylvain Sylvain touring with Batusis.

I’ve been kind of enjoying a four-song EP from Batusis, a new band with some old, old names in it…namely Cheetah Chrome from Rocket from the Tombs and the Dead Boys and Sylvain Sylvain from the New York Dolls.

That’s a pretty storied punk pedigree, but the songs are more in the line of old-time rock and roll. Opener “Blues Theme,” is a long surfy 1960s vamp, for instance, nothing punk about it. And, ahem, aren’t the punks supposed to be a little less misogynist than spandex rockers? Nah-uh, at least if you listen to “What You Lack in Brains,” a kinda creepy come-on to a girl still in knee socks with very little upstairs…yeah, and these guys are old enough to be her grandpa, eeewww.

But okay, hang on, because “Bury You Alive,” is the best kind of guilty, cock-rock-ish pleasure, with big spiraling guitar solos and probably some cowbell, and “Big Cat Stomp” also all-instrumental (I like them better when they’re not talking) is pretty rad as well.

No MP3s or video to speak of, but here’s the MySpace.

They’re also touring a good bit this summer.
Wed., 7/14 at Rutledge in Nashville, TN
Thur., 7/15 at High Tone in Memphis, TN
Fri., 7/16 at Off Broadway in St. Louis, MO
Sat., 7/17 at Rockbox in Chicago, IL
Sun., 7/18 at Small's in Detroit, MI
Tues., 7/20 at Opera House in Toronto, ON
Wed., 7/21 at Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, OH
Fri., 7/23 at Irving Plaza in New York, NY
Sat., 7/24 at Brighton Bar in Long Branch, NJ
Sun., 7/25 at M Room in Philadelphia, PA
Tue., 7/27 at Crooked I in Erie, PA
Wed., 7/28 at Quarter at Bourbon Street in Baltimore, MD
Thur., 7/29 at Black Cat in Washington, DC
Fri., 7/30 at Tremont Music Hall in Charlotte, NC
Sat., 7/31 at Earl in Atlanta, GA

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Hi…first day of summer, up at a more reasonable 7:30 today, rather than 5:30 and my son is still sleeping. Catching up…my review of Sister Kinderhook, the latest album from punk cellist Melora Creager, ran yesterday at Blurt.
Intense, intricate and full (occasionally over-full) of drama, Sister Kinderhook is something unusual in the music business: the work of a very intelligent person doing exactly what interests her. There are no compromises, no waterings-down, no obvious singles or sing-along choruses. Still if you want to hear what it sounds like when a talented, eccentric, serious intellect wrestles with big issues, check this one out.

The rest

Monday, June 14, 2010

Posthumous Jack

I’m thinking that this review of jack rose and D. Charles Speer is a tad over-written…like, too many clauses and adjectives and crap like that…but in any case, the album’s very fine, so try to ignore my shortcomings.

I still kinda like the closing paragraph.

There’s a tendency to canonize people who die way too young, as Rose did, to cast everything they do in a serious and purposeful light. Ragged and Right reminds everyone that Rose could take a drink and play loose and sloppy, too, and that it was a beautiful thing while it lasted. It’s a shame no one will ever hear these songs live again, or find out what would have happened if Rose and Shuford continued on this path, but four songs this loose-jointed and glorious are better than nothing at all.

The rest

“In the Pines” is the first track on my mix, so if you don’t have it yet, go get it.

I just finished a big piece on Woods and the Woodsist label, which I thought went pretty well. It’s for PopMatters, so you should see it in about six months.

I got a new shuffle over the weekend, hurray for random-ness!

Saturday, June 12, 2010


I know I mentioned that National's High Violet as my main disappointment so far this year, but that was before I bought the Hold Steady's Heaven Is Whenever...

which is just awful.

to the point where it makes you doubt everything you thought you liked about the band.

eek, take it away.

I also remember, now, that I wasn't exactly taken with the new Tunng either.

Might be getting crabby in my old age.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Joe Pernice likes Dinosaur Jr, the English Beat

I wrote another short bio for the Dusted Listed feature, this one for the Pernice Brothers, headed by semi-local (Brattleboro or thereabouts) hero, Joe Pernice, whose list of favorites favors power pop, but also includes proto-grungy Dinosaur Jr. You can read about his ten favorite songs here.

It’s all in support of the new Pernice Brothers album, Goodbye, Killer. Here’s the single, a track about the Valley of the Dolls novelist called “Jacqueline Susanne”.

Also, I never wrote about this, but I saw Death Vessel, Micah Blue Smalldone and One A.M. Radio in Peterborough, NH a few weeks ago. They were all pretty good, but One A.M. Radio especially so, and also a surprise, since I didn’t know anything about him. It’s a solo thing, basically, very quiet guitar-based songwriter music, but just so unusually pretty that it breaks the form a little. I notice that One A.M. Radio is giving away a free mp3 of the new song “Credible Threat,” so you can check it out, too.

Have yourself a lovely weekend. For once, we don’t have much to do, so may catch Ironman 2 finally, at the Bellows Falls Opera House on Saturday and, you know, go to the YMCA and the farmers market and get the groceries in Brattleboro and maybe watch a few more episodes of Heroes, this month’s guilty TV-on-DVD pleasure. Boring, but I’m looking forward to boring right now.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


I’ve been getting some electronic/hip hop type releases of the Anticon-ish variety lately, and kind of enjoying them, though I’m not sure I have the context to say anything very interesting about them. Not that that’s stopped me in this case, from reviewing the very sexy, dub-influenced Barefoot Wanderer (not actually on Anticon, but rather the German imprint Bpitch Control). In Blurt yesterday, I observed “The extra ‘h’ in Jahcoozi puts god in a hot tub, which is maybe a metaphor for the way that the band blends the sensual with the spiritual, the machine with the soul. These are body moving tunes that open a window to the sublime…not a bad trick at all.”

The whole review is here

Here’s the video for “Barefoot Dub”

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Johnny Bertram and the Golden Bicycles

I’ve been going through the piles again lately, and mostly it’s a pretty thankless job. (I know, boo hoo, listening to music that’s not very good, poor me.) But what’s cool is when you find something good in amongst the dross, and in that regard, the more dross the more you appreciate it. I found Johnny Bertram and the Golden Bicycles a few days ago, for instance, and I’m glad I did.

Johnny Bertram is, apparently from Boise, Idaho, and pursues a sort of mildly countrified psychedelic pop. Of his latest album Days that Passed, I am really liking “Fortification” which has a kind of open-roads, alt.Americana swagger to it, with high, lonesome harmonies and a pretty kicking mandolin solo mid-cut. “Private Land,” the mp3 giveway, is a little harder-edged, a little less dreamy and dissolute…and I like it, too, but not quite as much.

Here’s a video of “The Fall” also from Days that Passed, which is pretty good, too.

The album came out in April on the Esperanza Plantation label, which is the only indie rock label I can think of based in Mississippi.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Scott Tuma’s Dandelion

Scott Tuma, ex-of cult-ish, avant-gard-Americana outfit Souled American, treads the fine line between electronic experimentation and evocative country folk in his fourth solo album Dandelion, with glistening threads of backwoods melody running through altered found-sound and the drone and clatter of free improv. It’s beautifully elusive, this album – you follow it like a will o’ the wisp, sure that you’re going to grasp it momentarily, then opening your hands to find empty air and a vague sense of mystery and loveliness. Think of Califone with all the connective tissue and accessibility rubbed out, or Ethan Rose’s electronic experiments waltzing in country time…or just stop thinking and listen, because you’re never going to nail it and that’s okay, too.

There were only 400 copies made and a lot of them have already been sold…but Digitalis has made three MP3s available.

“Red Roses for Me”

“Hope Jones (Jason’s Song)”

“Free Dirt”

Monday, June 7, 2010

Pearly Gate Music

I wasn’t crazy about Pearly Gate Music, the solo project from J. Tillman’s (Fleet Foxes) little brother Zach. It seemed a little bit self-indulgent and over-dramatic to me, and also, as I wrote for Venus “there’s a bubble-boy isolation to these self-sensitive tracks, where other people appear only on the margins”. Here’s the rest of the review

Here’s a live version of “Gossamer Hair.” Maybe you’ll like it more than I do.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Mid year favorites

Coming up to the year’s halfway point, here are my top ten albums so far.

1. The Soft Pack The Soft Pack So fun…I feel guilty about this at #1, but it’s the one I play in the car all the time, even when I should be listening to other stuff, just because I love it so much. “Pull Out” is my #1 song as well.

2. Jack Rose Luck in the Valley A beautiful coda to Rose’s career…started out loving the raga tunes best, then gradually warmed to the ragtime ones. What a bummer that there’s not going to be any more of this. (Except that there probably will be, given DAT files and reissues and so forth.)

3. Wetdog Frauhaus My favorite female-led post-punk so far this year, Dum Dum Girls be damned….”Lower Leg” is also one of my favorite songs for 2010.

4. Rangda False Flag Fantastic guitar duel between Sir Richard Bishop and Ben Chasney with the not-incidental bonus of Chris Corsano setting off firestorms of drumming in between. There are harsh, explosive tracks and longer, more lyrical ones, but my favorite is the 15-minute closer “Plain of Jars”

5. Clogs In the Garden of Lady Walton Much beloved post-classical instrumental band brings in the singers – mostly Shara Worden, but also Matt Berninger and Sufjan – for this really wonderful CD, which starts in a madrigal-renaissance mode and moves into a sort of folk-influenced place late in the disc.

6. Eluvium Similes Clearly my best interview so far this year and also a pretty stunning album, also with vocals, for the first time for this mostly ambient, electronic endeavor.

7. Ted Leo The Brutalist Bricks Ted now, Ted forever.

8. White Fence White Fence A semi-slow burner, this home-recorded side-project from the Darker My Love frontman touches all the bases of 1960s psychedelia without getting too, too referential and archival. “Sara Snow” will go pretty high on my list of songs, too.

9. Laura Veirs July Flame Really fine, very well put together and beautifully arranged batch of songs from Laura Veirs, who must be a mom by now.

10. Damien Jurado St. Bartlett Spooky, spectorish wall-of-sound departure for this under-followed, under-appreciated songwriter, nothing flashy, but beautiful anyway.

Black Tambourine
Nirvana Bleach
Easter Monkeys Splendor of Sorrow

Also really enjoyed Rocky Votalato, Beach House, Besnard Lakes, Jack Rose with D. Charles Speer & the Helix, Future Islands…and probably a lot more that I can’t remember at the moment.

My main disappointment has been the new National record, though on a lesser scale, I was also not blown away by the new Good Shoes.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

So, today is Teenage Fanclub day

My review of the new one, Shadows, which I probably like a little more now than when I wrote this two weeks ago, runs today in Dusted.

I opined:

“More or less a generation past landmark albums like Catholic Education and, especially, Bandwagonesque, comes album No. 9, Shadows, with all of the lush melodic sensibility of earlier material, but none of the grit and friction.

The review

I can’t find any media from the current album, but here’s some footage of them doing an interview and then performing “Everything Flows”

I also reviewed Norman Blake today for Blurt, and he was really nice and quite interesting, and has a really cool Scottish accent, though I may have some difficulties with that as I transcribe…

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Nice Nice...very nice

I had a brief show preview up at Philly Weekly over the weekend on the Nice Nice, who also made an appearance on my latest mix.

Here's the blurb:

Nice Nice
9pm, $12. Johnny Brenda’s.
Portland’s Nice Nice build ecstatic, Boredoms-esque grooves out of post-tribal chants, clamoring percussion and bits of dub, free-improv and krautrock. The duo’s two principals—Jason Buehler and Mark Shirazi—have been head-tripping since the late 1990s, but their latest album, Extra Wow on Warp, takes their noisy, mantric aesthetic to new levels of celebration. “See Waves,” the disc’s highlight, has the shimmer of Konono No. 1, the singalong communality of Animal Collective, and the futuristic glamor of Fuck Buttons. When people talk about math rock, they’re usually talking about geometry—all sharp angles and dissonant parallels. Think of Nice Nice as more like calculus, employing abstruse formulas to map the curve of infinity. (Jennifer Kelly)

There are a few dates left on the tour, namely:

Jun 1 2010 8:00P Grog Shop Cleveland, OH
Jun 2 2010 7:00P Turner Hall Ballroom Milwaukee, WI
Jun 3 2010 8:00P Turf Club Minneapolis, MN
Jun 6 2010 8:00P Mississippi Studios Portland, OR
Jun 8 2010 8:00P The Independent San Francisco, CA
Jun 10 2010 8:00P Troubadour West Hollywood, CA