Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Intelligence

Atlantic says males are on their way out…which seems unlikely and anyway is kind of a bummer. The Intelligence – Lars Finberg from the A-Frames with whoever else wants to play – dedicates a whole album to them, which I reviewed last week for Dusted.

I said, The song “White Corvette” from The Intelligence’s sixth full-length begins as a low-end buzz, about 10 seconds in length. Longtime fans should enjoy it while it lasts, because it’s the only distortion on the track. The rest is airy, melodic and precise, The Intelligence’s characteristic jittery aggression set in Hemingway’s “clean, well-lighted place.” Not that there’s any give-up in intensity. The band’s scrambling post-punk guitars, its straight-up, dry-as-a-bone drums, its laconically abstract verses are all here, just viewed through an unusually clear lens.


“Like Like Like Like Like Like Like”

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Another great songwriter hiding out in his basement

My review of Jeremy Messersmith’s really excellent, criminally under-heard The Reluctant Graveyard ran yesterday at Blurt.
Jeremy Messersmith's self-released third album handily outperforms a whole Grey's Anatomy compilation's worth of Beatles-esque pretenders. From its earliest moments - say the moment that "Lazy Bones"'s jaunty, piano-pounding swells into multi-voiced pop hedonism - to its melancholy conclusion that "This is how it has to end, so love somebody while you can" The Reluctant Graveyard flawlessly balances joy and melancholy, intelligence and intuition. This is one of the best pop albums of the year, and next to no one has heard it



By the way, this has never happened before, but I am simultaneously out of records at Dusted, Blurt and Venus, so I don’t know, maybe I’ll just listen to Hot Rocks for the rest of the week. Cheers.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Prince Rama

So here’s a hint for all you aspiring bands seeking media coverage: leave your van unlocked.

Yes, that’s right, I first heard about Prince Rama when they had all their instruments stolen in Philadelphia. I immediately DL’d a bunch of their live tracks from the Free Music Archive, and liked what I heard, a cinematically vast take on eastern meditation music. And eventually, when they replaced their instruments and finished their full-length for Paw Tracks, I reviewed it for Venus.

I concluded, “Shadow Temple isn’t going to be for everyone, and the mainstream will probably never be ready for a dance/psych/drone aesthetic grounded in Hare Krishna chants. Still for its visceral force, its large-scale, mythical scope, and its sheer eccentricity, it’s hard to beat. Om mane padme hum, indeed.”


“Lightning Fossil”

Monday, September 27, 2010

Hello it’s me the mistress, will you please pick up the phone?

Number 55 or so in my list of records that really should make my year-end list on the basis of quality, but which probably won’t on the basis of 10 is a tiny little number, Amelia Curran’s Hunter, Hunter has been out in Canada for a year or so, and even got a Juno. It’s so good…I wrote:

Hunter, Hunter sneaks up on you. The songs aren’t showy. There are no gimmicks. Curran plays no tricks with her voice, and sticks close to tradition with her arrangement. Yet listen after listen, these melodies gain traction and little bits of the lyrics stick in your head. You realize, quite gradually, that this album is a subtle triumph, maybe even a minor classic, and in any case, well worth waiting the year or so it took to make it to the States.


I put “The Mistress” on my August mix, which I’ve been listening to a lot lately while doing the dishes, etc.and it’s pretty damned good. You can still get it here, if you want.

There’s also this live performance of “All Hands on a Grain of Sand”

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

You are my consequential girl....

Don't you hate it when bands do the same damned thing over and over and over? Doesn't it piss you off when they change? Yeah, it's a conundrum, isn't it, how much to change, how much to stay the same. Abe Vigoda has solved by pretty much completely reinventing itself, shifting from a Mae Shi-ish epileptic fit of a band two years ago into cold wave, synth romantics for the new one, called Crush. I quite liked Skeletons-period Abe Vigoda, which had a weird kind of tropical shimmer over its punk-ish anxiety (they got very sick of being asked about "tropical punk" but there is definitely a warmth there). I also really enjoyed Crush, possibly because it took me back to my wasted late (very late) adolescence daydreaming about Bryan Ferry and trying to decide whether I loathed Tears for Fears or secretly enjoyed it a little.

Anyway, here's the beginning of the review:

When Abe Vigoda broke out in 2008 with the shimmery punk Skeleton, it was closely associated with No Age and other spazzy, high energy, barely-teenaged punk bands like Mika Miko and HEALTH. Now, two years later, the band’s celebrating its fourth album, Crush, with a series of shows with Cold Cave. And curiously, the new pairing will probably work at least as well as the old ones. While Abe Vigoda hasn’t entirely left its trebly, guitar-spiking aggressions behind, it’s made a dramatic move toward a kind of dark new wave-y plasticine glamour that recalls not just Cold Cave, but forebears like the Cure, Depeche Mode and New Order.

The rest

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Too late for dancing

I did a little interview for Venus with Caila Thompson-Hannant, who is the main singer for Shapes and Sizes, who started out as kind of a spazzy, epileptic dance outfit a la Deerhoof and have ended up more bass-heavy and trippy. There's a new album called Candle to Your Eyes, which sounds like some sort of Colonial-era self-defense maneuver, but actually is pretty good and not as abrasive as you'd expect.

Here's the interview.

And here is "Tell Your Mum"

And "I Need an Outlet"

Monday, September 20, 2010

I like Clinic…but I like it better when it’s really Clinic

Took a new band called Suuns to task for sounding a little too much like one of my favorite bands in this review, up last Friday at Blurt.

Suuns never really establishes its own consistent sound, until, near the end, the band settles on an aesthetic of jittery, robot-funky beats, murmured vocals, and repetitive keyboard riffs. It's entertaining, but unfortunately sounds awfully familiar. "PVC", in particular, is a dead ringer for "The Return of Evil Bill", while "Organ Blues" cuts almost as close to "Goodnight Georgie," Obviously, no one's got a patent on beat-driven, groove-stuttering, reverbed pop, and if Suuns wants to do this, god bless. Just be aware that there's an elephant in the room, and it's wearing a surgical mask.


You can download the whole thing for free, if you want. You have to go here and enter your email address to get it.

Have any of you seen the French movie A Prophet?...we watched it over the weekend...really gripping story about an Arab boy who goes to prison and makes enough connections there to start his own hashish dealing business.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Lost Where I Belong

Somewhat off my usual beat, but really, really enjoyable...this new R&B/new soul record by Andreya Triana, who sang on Bonobo's Black Sands. I reviewed it for Venus.

Lost Where I Belong is a wonderful album, impressive on the first run and only getting better on repeat listens. In an era when most soul is recycled—or at least heavily referential—Triana is making her own way, with her own material and a refreshingly modern take on R&B sounds.

The rest

Here’s a remix of “Town Called Obsolete” by Mount Kimbie

A remix of “Draw the Stars” by Flying Lotus

And the video for "Lost Where I Belong"

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I hate the 80s cos the 80s were shit

Surprisingly strong new album from the Vaselines...whose recording of new material came out in 1990.

My review ran in Dusted today, ending:

No one can be a teenager again, not after 20 years, and The Vaselines have lost some of the feckless charm of their earliest material. Still, as they’ve gotten older, they’ve held onto much of what made them special – the reckless fun, the gritty melodies, the taunting humor – and picked up some skills. They’re aging well.

You can read the beginning and the middle, if you like, by going here.

"Sex with an X"

"I Hate the 80s"

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mavis Staples

Mavis Staples has a new album out, produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, and pretty unabashedly excellent. In my review at Dusted this morning, I said, Its selection of covers, variety of arrangement styles, its suppleness in supporting Staples’ voice all speak to a real understanding of who she is and what she does. And so, unlike some May-December musical partnerships, You Are Not Alone seems less about updating the older musician’s image or making her relevant to a younger audience, and more about celebrating what is unique to her.


Here’s the title track, one of two that Tweedy wrote for her

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

They say the things that must be said

I’ve been kind of a fan of Menomena’s herky-jerk pop since the last album, Friend or Foe, but it seems to me that this new one, Mines, is even better. Plus, bonus trivia, Brent Knopf and I went to the same college…though decades apart. Here’s to people who mortgage their futures to the Ivy League and then spend their lives farting around with indie rock. Go team!

Anyway, I said:

“Mines feels considerably smoother, sleeker and more premeditated than usual. There were always songs hidden in the mesh of conflicting rhythms. This time, they seem more obviously melodic, less manically crowded, fluid even, though certainly not predictable or clich├ęd.”

I said more, too, if that’s not enough

I put “TAOS,” which I like a lot, on my last mix. You can download that here.

Here they are playing “KILLEMALL” (Kill ‘Em All?) at PDX Pop.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Richard Thompson live album

I had some reservations about the new Richard Thompson album, Dream Attic, which I aired over the weekend in Venus, observing:

So, while Dream Attic supplies everything you want from Richard Thompson—the ornery humor (“The Money Shuffle”), the soul-searching lyricism (“A Brother Slips Away”, “If Love Whispers Your Name”), the slyly updated murder ballads (“Sidney Wells”), the striking folk-blues guitar work (“Stumble On”)—it also has intervals of forced, uncomfortable gaiety. There are penny whistle stretches in “Here Comes Geordie” that makes you wonder if Thompson has seen Riverdance one too many times, and an over-long, over-happy “dance, dance, dance” break in “Demons in Her Dancing Shoes” that leads one to speculate he may be plotting some sort of PBS pledge drive.

The rest is here

I put "Big Sun Falling in the River" on my August Mix, which I think you can still get here.

Or you can watch the man perform "Bad Again"

Saturday, September 11, 2010

New back to school...nine years after 9/11 mix

Not that it has anything to do with either. I'm still not sure about the order. I had to put the Neu! track last, because it's got about 20 seconds of dead silence at the end, and Swans didn't seem to play very well with any of the other kids...there's a weird, weird transition going into Baths...but the songs are pretty good, some of them damned good. Enjoy if you's only music after all.


1: Swans, "My Birth"
2. Rangda "Sarcophagi"
3. James Blackshaw "Part 6"
4. Sharon van Etten "Don't Do It"
5. Tortoise, "Charteroak Foundation"
6. Baths, "Indoorsy"
7. Menomena, "TAOS"
8. TV Buddhas "Fun Girls"
9. Major Stars, "Portable Freak Factory"
10. Superchunk "Learned to Surf"
11. Jeremy Messersmith, "Dillinger Eyes"
12. The Extra Lens, "How I Left the Ministry"
13. Neu! "Negativland"

All is falling…

Tried and failed to get an assignment to review the new Swans, which is excellent, but I did manage to snag James Blackshaw’s lovely All Is Falling for Blurt.

I wrote:

An extraordinarily beautiful eight-song cycle, All Is Falling continues James Blackshaw's development as a composer and arranger, as well as guitarist. Like last year's Glass Bead Game, it extends well beyond the 12-string wizardry that first brought Blackshaw notice, moving into dizzying landscapes of guitar, piano, voice and strings.

The rest

One of those “not really a video” videos of Part 3

I’ve got a new mix coming pretty soon…trying to get all the songs I want to put on into some sort of order that makes sense, though I may give up at some point and just slap it up there.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Consider the Tortoise

After a long dry spell, there were finally a couple of shows I wanted to see last week in Northampton. I already blogged a couple of times about Rangda. Here's my Tortoise write-up, which ran yesterday at Blurt.

Tortoise -- the five-person, instrument-switching, jazz-rock-fusion band out of Chicago that single-handedly launched post-rock -- has just kicked "High Class Slim Came Floatin' In" up a notch. Two drummers, Dan Bitney and John Herndon face off on kits set back to back, playing syncopated rhythms that move in and out of phase with each other, now an identical beat doubled, now two intersecting cadences that fill in each other's spaces and dot each other's "I"s. John McEntire is up on the multiple-tiered keyboard synth set, while Doug McCombs settles into a groove in the back. For now, guitar-bass-keyboard player Jeff Lewis is picking out a melody on a keyboard in the back, but don't get too comfortable. When the song's over, everyone will change places. It would be remarkable if the band's five members were this good on one instrument. Instead, they're adept at three or four.


Thursday, September 9, 2010


Kind of a late review of Baths' Cerulean up at Dusted today. It's a fascinating piece of work, with elements of hip hop, pop, electronic music, but not really dead center of any of these genres. The album's been out since late summer on Anticon, and it's well worth checking out.

I said, "The tension often arises when Wiesenfeld’s lush, flowery melodies coincide with the hard abstraction of rhythm. His beats are slant-wise, not quite square, and prone to plunging forward then hitching back. They are, all by themselves, worth thinking about, at once physically compelling and off-putting. You feel like a surfer trying to stay on top of them. And even if you didn’t want to think about them, you’d have to, because they are presented at a dominant level, as if the piano or guitar is playing in a room down the hall, but the drums are right there next to you.

You view the melodies, then, as if through a barred window, catching little flurries of baroque ornamentation between massive beats."

The rest of the review is here.

"Plea" and "Maximallist" live

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Jeremy Messersmith

I’m not even sure who sent me Jeremy Messersmith’s The Reluctant Graveyard or how long it sat on my hard drive before I got around to listening to it…but it’s really really good.

Messersmith is a songwriter out of Minneapolis, leaning towards the Beatles-pop end of the spectrum, with little hints of the Zombies, Elliott Smith, Beach Boys, Jason Falkner. This is his third album, which he is offering on a “pay what you want” basis from his website.

It’s always hard to say what makes good singer songwriter better than a so-so one -- hooks, lyrical interest, personality,that kind of thing -- but whatever it is, he’s got it. I particularly like the second song on the album, which is called “Dillinger Eyes” and a rowdier song, later on the album, called “Violet”.

He’s just made a video for “Organ Donor” which is not bad either.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Rangda, Major Stars, Sunburned Hand, holy shit!

So, after hardly going to a show all summer, I suddenly escaped my living room twice last week, first for Rangda, Major Stars, and Sunburned Hand of the Man at the Flywheel (reviewed below), and last night for Tortoise at the Iron Horse. Both really good. Still struggling with what to say about Tortoise, but my piece on Rangda ran this morning at Blurt. It begins:

We had ALL the guitars Thursday night.

Or at least that was how it seemed on a hot night in Easthampton. It was like all the guitars, all the pedals, all the guitar players had stepped onto a tilted board and slid helplessly towards the Flywheel. There were two of them in Sunburned Hand of the Man, three in Major Stars, two in Rangda (and at least one pretty famous one in the audience), and when they got going, in Sunburned's endlessly morphing drones, in Major Stars' psychedelic 1960s mayhem, or in Rangda's closing waterfall cascades of guitar notes, Sun City Girls' Richard Bishop and Six Organs Of Admittance's Ben Chasny locked together in the beautiful downward scales of "Plain of Jars," it could sound like an army. If you were looking for a guitar last Thursday and you were anywhere else, good freaking luck. You should have been at the Flywheel.

the rest

Here they are playing “Sarcophagi” in Dublin last summer.

Friday, September 3, 2010

I went to see Rangda last night

...and it was awesome.

I'm going to write about it tomorrow, but for now, a few photos.

Sunburned Hand of the Man, or some of them...there were 12 people on stage at one point, including one guy in a Spiderman mask

Major Stars...Kate Village is my new hero

And the really incomparable Rangda...if you get a chance, go see this.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Go see Tortoise this week.

I’m going to see Tortoise next Monday in Northampton, and if you live on the East Coast of the US or Europe, you might be able to do the same fairly soon. I interviewed Dan Bitney for Venus about a year ago, and you can read the piece, if you still want to, right here.

Remember, these are busy guys, in an average of five bands each, even if you leave out McEntire who is in 25, so there aren’t a lot of Tortoise tours and you shouldn’t miss one if you can help it.

What does it look/sound like? Like this:

Thu Sep 2 Buffalo, NY Soundlab
Fri Sep 3 Herkimer, NY - Moe Down
Sat Sep 4 Monticello, NY - ATP Festival
Sun Sep 5 South Burlington, VT - Higher Ground
Mon Sep 6 Northampton, MA- Iron Horse
Tue Sep 7 Boston, MA- Paradise
Wed Sep 8 Philadelphia, PA - World Cafe
Thu Sep 9 Richmond, VA - The Canal Club
Fri Sep 10 Asheville, NC - Orange Peel
Sat Sep 11 Raleigh, NC - Hopscotch Festival
Sun Sep 12 Washington, DC - Black Cat
Mon Nov 15 London, UK- Koko
Tue Nov 16 London, UK - Koko
Wed Nov 17 Paris, France- Elysee Montmartre
Fri Nov 19 Amsterdam, Netherlands - Paradiso
Sat Nov 20 Berlin, Germany- Admiralspalast
Sun Nov 21 Vienna, Austria - WUK
Mon Nov 22 Prague, Czech Republic - Meetfactory
Nov 23 Dresden, Germany- Beatpol
Wed Nov 24 Katowice, Poland - Ars Cameralis Festival
Thu Nov 25 Leuven, Belgium - Het Depot

I'm going to see Rangda tomorrow, too. Very psyched.