Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cloud Nothings…and a scathing review of Brian Eno

I reviewed Cloud Nothings, another one of those solo bedroom pop artists who has grown into lo-fi garage outfit, for Dusted today. I actually liked the record a whole lot, at least the end of it, and look forward to hearing whatever’s next for this band…if you like Wild Nothing at all, it’s a pretty good bet, soft, diffuse garage pop with a little eccentricity and originality starting to show through.

Anyway, the review is here.

“Hey Cool Kid”

My favorite Cloud Nothings song is “Morgan”

But really, the Dusted review you should read today is Brandon Bussolini’s take-down of Brian Eno…possibly my favorite slam for the whole year.

I haven’t heard the record, by the way, so I’m judging strictly on the basis of entertainment value and writing quality.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Finally getting into Street Songs of Love

So, you probably already know this. Alejandro Escovedo has had a new album out since last summer. It's called Street Songs of Love, and it's got guest shots by people like Ian Hunter and Springsteen. Actually in all fairness, I remember Alejandro talking about Ian Hunter in fairly worshipful terms as far back as 1996, and I'm not saying he wasn't doing it before then. If he's got enough juice now to get Mr. Mott the Hoople to sing with him, good for him, it's about time.

Anyway, I was underwhelmed with the new album the first time thorugh, admittedly in the car and not paying full attention, but I listened to it this morning and it seems less glad-handed and more soulful than I thought at first.

It's still a little less raw and personal than The Boxer and, at least to me, less devastatingly wonderful than Real Animal. You can sort of tell he's been touring with Springsteen, if you know what I mean, there's a degree of effort and showmanship that wasn't so obvious before.

But anyway, it's new Alejandro and that's a good thing. Here he is playing Letterman. About time for that, too.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Black Mountain

This is one of those reviews I wrote several months ago, for the print edition of Blurt, which came out a few weeks ago (and looks really nice, I think…I’ve got a little interview with Kelley Stoltz and a longer one with Nic Offer from !!! in it, as well as this review). The Black Mountain piece is up on the website now, a pretty good review, if I do say so myself, for a really good record.

Here’s how I started:
“Monstrous riffs, molten sludge, the bludgeoning weight of guitar overload-those have always been Stephen McBean's stock in trade, and never more so than on third Black Mountain full-length Wilderness Heart. Yet where most of Black Mountain's 1960s forebears were all-male affairs, this band has Amber Wells to shake up the stereotype. Just listen to how her warm, vibrato-laced contralto casts a witchy spell over the title track, making its head-thudding guitars, its rampaging drums into something wilder, sweeter and altogether more unpredictable. ‘Old Fangs,’ too, has the palm-muted, ‘vette-on-blocks stomp of classic Sabbath, yet synths and Wells' singing brings its old-style menace into the modern era.”

The rest is here.

“Old Fangs”

“The Hair Song”

I finished transcribing my Jon Spencer tape yesterday, and I might take a crack at writing the piece today. If I don’t screw it up somehow, it should be excellent. We spent a lot of time talking about his links to hip hop and interest in remixes circa Orange and Orange Experimental Remixes. Also, weirdly, we were up in Hanover NH at around the same time in the early 1980s, he finishing up at Hanover High and me at Dartmouth; I’m pretty sure my roommate Helen had a Professor Spencer for organic chemistry, who, in retrospect, had to be his father.…Anyway, he’s an interesting guy, no question, can’t wait to get to it.

I’m also getting ready to review this Psychedelic Aliens reissue, which is pretty great…it’s more funk/soul from 1970s Ghana, some beautifully laid-back Booker-T-ish grooves up front and a load of truly crazy percussion in the later (long gone missing, recently re-located) singles that round out the disc.

That’s it for now, back to work.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A story about a pigeon…a review where I go off on web 2.0

My husband, Bill, has just started a blog where he is serializing some of his fiction. He’s got one of my favorites going up now, a story about a New Yorker who turns into a pigeon. You can check it out here.

Also, I have a bit of a rant up at Dusted today, ostensibly about Small Black’s New Chain, but really, I was so unaffected by the record itself that I ended up writing about other stuff…sorry. I do hate it when other people do this, but sometimes it happens. You can read it here, if you like.

The best song on the record, which is still kind of forgettable, is “Photojournalist

Friday, October 22, 2010

I am a bead on the thread connecting my father and daughter

My friend Michael sent me some rough mixes of his second album with Bendle (Crow) last summer, and I’ve been meaning to write about them ever since. The album, which is now finished and mixed and available via Michael’s blog, is called While Speaking Softly You can Hear the Insects Sing. It’s really beautiful, like the first one, with a sort of dreamy layer of murmured spoken word (that’s Bendle, I think) over a mesh of incandescent guitar and drums (Michael, I assume). Last time, I said it reminded me of Current 93, and I think that’s still a fair reference point, though I am also hearing bits that remind me of the Incredible String Band this time around, and other auras that sound like Belong and William Basinski, and as someone else mentioned last time, later, more experimental John Fahey. My favorite piece is something called “Zebra Mix 12feb,” which starts in a sort of monk’s chant and weaves through a hallucinatory landscape of echoey, interleaved vocals, eastern tinged guitar and hand drums. I am also quite taken with “Breathing In Mix 19 June”, which has a circling, almost round-like quality, three voices this time, one a woman, in overlapping layers, whose delicacy is not at all undermined by some very distorted guitar and battering drums. But anyway, why take my word for it, when you can have the whole thing?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My Neu! interview is up!

I’m really kind of psyched about it…have a look.

In other news, poor Ari Up, RIP…remember when I interviewed her last year and we talked about period cramps and UTIs?

Also, on a personal note, kind of a bummer, Sean (my son) dislocated his shoulder playing football on Monday and will probably not be able to play again, ever, for risk of re-injury. He’s also going to miss some of the lead-up to X-C ski season, which is even more of a downer, because he’s quite good at that, but success is all about conditioning. He’s real sad, refuses to play Madden NFL on Xbox even, poor guy.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Black Angels

I’ve got a review of Black Angels Phosphene Dream up today at Dusted. I enjoyed it, but with some reservations, liking especially the handful of tracks where the disc “diverges from VU-ish drone into brighter, janglier territories.”

The whole review is here.

Here they are playing “Telephone” on Letterman.

Hey, I might be interviewing Jon Spencer today, if he has time. (He’s calling me…weird.)

Intriguing stuff that’s come in recently:
Exrays…new project from Tim Cohen
Reissue of T. Rex’s The Slider
New Giant Sand
Live Ex

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Heavy

I’ve been really enjoying a new EP by the funk-soul band the Heavy, who are just off a tour with Sharon Jones and a Dap Kings and ready to embark on another one with Mayer Hawthorne. As the name implies, they have a very hard-hitting, rock-oriented sound, but the singer reminds me a little of James Brown, a little of Curtis Mayfield.

“That Kind of Man 1.1" (mp3)

They’re touring all over the place, just missed them in Boston.

October 20, 2010 | Albany, NY The Heavy @ Jillian's^
October 21, 2010 | Washington, DC The Heavy @ The Black Cat*
October 22, 2010 | Atlanta, GA The Heavy @ The Masquerade*
October 23, 2010 | Birmingham, AL The Heavy @ The Bottletree*
October 24, 2010 | Nashville, TN The Heavy @ Mercy Lounge*
October 25, 2010 | Asheville, NC The Heavy @ The Orange Peel*
October 27, 2010 | New Orleans, LA The Heavy @ One Eyed Jack's^
October 28, 2010 | Houston, TX @ Fitzgeralds^#
October 29, 2010 | Austin, TX The Heavy @ The Mohawk^
October 30, 2010 | Scottsdale, AZ The Heavy @ Martini Ranch^
October 31, 2010 | Las Vegas, NV The Heavy @ Hard Rock Cafe^
November 3, 2010 | Seattle, WA The Heavy @ The Showbox at The Market^
November 4, 2010 | Portland, OR The Heavy @ Wonder Ballroom^
November 6, 2010 | Los Angeles, CA The Heavy @ El Rey Theatre^
November 7, 2010 | San Diego, CA The Heavy @ The Casbah^
November 8, 2010 | San Francisco, CA The Heavy @ The Independent^
November 9, 2010 | Salt Lake City, UT The Heavy @ Club Sound^
November 10, 2010 | Denver, CO The Heavy @ The Bluebird Theater^
November 11, 2010 | Lawrence, KS The Heavy @ The Bottleneck^
November 12, 2010 | Minneapolis, MN The Heavy @ Fine Line Music Cafe^
November 13, 2010 | Chicago, IL The Heavy @ Double Door^
November 14, 2010 | Milwaukee, WI The Heavy @ Turner Hall^

Friday, October 15, 2010

Ninja Tune XX

I hardly ever get excited about promos anymore, but I got excited about this one, a four-disc retrospective (the non-press version is six discs plus a bunch of singles) of experimental electronic and hip hop label Ninja Tune, which is now 20 yeqars old.

I reviewed it for Blurt, observing: A sprawling compilation documents Ninja Tune's double decade of slice and dice innovation, its nearly 100 cuts dizzyingly diverse, yet united by a common commitment to relentless juxtaposition, unexpected repurposing and the art of re-imagination and remixing.

The rest

Toddla T’s “Want U Now Featuring Miss Dynamite”

Eskmo’s “12-Minute Mini Mix”

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Extra Lens

I’ve got a review of the new Extra Lens album – a collaboration between John Darnielle and Franklin Bruno, by the way – up now at Blurt, which the publicist said was her favorite thing anybody had written so far about Undercard. It’s not always a good thing to make publicists happy, but I think, in this case, with someone this nice who reps such good records (she’s does PR for Merge), it’s probably okay.

Anyway, on with the show…here’s a link

“Only Existing Footage”

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Some cool stuff I saw in Chicago

This is my favorite painting in the whole museum, a study for "The Jungle" by the Cuban painter Wilfredo Lam. Sorry about the reflections.

My mom studying a huge Miro

The Buddha...this is the old part of the museum, obviously.

We went to the Chicago Art INstitute on Saturday -- and visited the new wing, where all the modern art is, for the first time since it was constructed. The new wing is amazing all by itself, full of natural light and really serene and beautiful, and of course, it has most of the stuff that I'm interested in. They also allow photos as long as you don't use a flash, so I took some.

Oh, and here's a photo of me and my dad. I swear I'm not drunk, though I look it.

Hey cool, new Giant Sand

Big Blurry Mountain will be out November 25. Until then here's this single, called "Fields of Green," which is the little snippet of "there's a kind of hush all over the world."

"Fields of Green"

I'm in another dry spell for reviews.

Friday, October 8, 2010

One more for the road...acoustic guitar style

I’m going to Chicago for the weekend for my dad’s birthday, but I leave you with a review of the latest installment of the Imaginational Anthem series, which ran a day or two ago at Blurt.

The Imaginational Anthem series started in 2005, as a way to unearth forgotten guitar pickers from the American primitive tradition. For Volume 1, label head Josh Rosenthal doggedly sought out men (and one woman) from the Takoma school's 1960s heyday, resurrecting the careers of Steve Mann and Harry Tausig, remembering Takoma-school patron saint John Fahey, and also welcoming younger players like Harris Newman, Glenn Jones and Jack Rose. Yet as the series continued, it has moved out of the past, towards a younger generation of folk blues traditionalists. Volume IV focuses almost entirely on younger players, demonstrating, if nothing else, the strength and staying power of acoustic guitar blues.


Tompkins Square is not big on free mp3s, so there’s nothing to post from this installment, but what the heck, here’s James Blackshaw playing “River of Heaven,” from #2, which is better anyway…

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Watt and friends

Mike Watt has an album out with kind of an all-star back-up band – Nels Cline to start, but also Yuka Honda and Dougie Bowne. It’s called Floored by Four, and I have a review of it up at Dusted today.

Floored By Four is a one-off collaboration between a quartet of musicians, each with at least one foot in conventional rock, the other in more experimental jazz and improv. Mike Watt, who started the project, splits his time between playing bass for The Stooges and Porno for Pyros on the mainstream side, while also working with people like Elliott Sharp and Nels Cline. The latter, too, has a rock day job with Wilco, in addition to more eccentric outlets via his own solo work, the Nels Cline Singers and numerous jazz and improv collaborations. Yuka Honda made her name in Cibo Matto, but also partners with Boredoms percussionist Yoshimi Pe-Wei and has three records on Tzadzik. She used to be married to Dougie Bowne, the Lounge Lizards drummer, who has himself collaborated with John Cale, Arto Lindsay and many others. Now Honda is engaged to Nels Cline. It’s an interesting collection of talents, to say the least, and connected to one another with varying degrees of history, mutual understanding and past collaboration.


At Summerstage last summer…

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Demon's Claws

I have a review up today at Dusted of the new Demon’s Claws album, The Defrosting Of, which I called “laid back and loosely strung even as it blows apart at the joints, a countrified shamble buried in its most frantic moments”

It ‘s also the only album I can think of this year that rhymes “carolina” with “vagina.”

The full review

Probably best experienced live…

Monday, October 4, 2010

Static Static

My husband, Bill, and I (mostly me) recently discovered that you can download WFMU shows onto your iPod touch and then listen to them over and over again until you've pretty much memorized them, then go back to the WIFI cafe and get another one.

You have no idea how happy this made me. I basically haven't been able to listen to WFMU since they upped the bandwidth of their transmissions and put it out of range of dial-up connections. So, now I can. Though I don't have a Touch myself, so I have to pirate Bill's when he's not looking. I hear rumors, though, that I might get one for my birthday.

Anyway, I was listening to Liz Berg's show from 9/20 for the second or third time, and it occured to me that I just LOVED a couple of songs by a band called Static Static, who are, I think, from Canada, and post-punk-ish in aesthetic.

THey have a MySpace here.

They also have the two songs that caught my attention ("Satanic Speaker/Dementia", but especially "Dementia") on the Free Music Archive right here.

Okay, here's your chance to vote on my professional life. Should I take on a job that's huge and that pays about a tenth of my going rate, just because I'm not busy? I sort of tentatively said yes to ghostwriting a textbook at an absurdly low pay scale (I get three or four times as much for writing Philadelphia Weekly blurbs and I do that for fun), and ever since, have been getting a whole bunch of much better, paying assignments. Which makes me feel like I should maybe concentrate on the good stuff. However, I'm superstitious about turning down work, because god listens when you say you don't need anymore of it, and damn, I could sure use a steady stream. So, do I suck it up and do it? Or not?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Brad Laner

Another really nice piece of work from Home-Tapes, the wandering indie experimental label that used to be in Arkansas, then Athens now somewhere else entirely. It's Brad Laner, who does a kind of soft-focus, but challenging layered experimental pop.

I reviewed it last week in Blurt:

Meticulously plotted daydreams, Brad Laner's songs shamble and wander through flowery psychedelic landscapes, all ease on the surface. Scratch that surface, though, and obsessively pixilated detail emerges, a mesh of intersecting layers and sounds that shifts measure to measure, second to second. The primary colors may be Beatles psychedelia and Beach Boys-ish vocal counterpoint, but you can also find little intervals of shoe-gazing guitars, electronic glitch, sound collage, hip hop beat making and Hall and Oates-esque soul falsetto. On the best songs - "Brain" for instance - Laner spins out swirling mandalas of indistinct revelation, precision subsumed in clouds of intuitive feeling.


“Eyes Close”

It's raining here...time for a sloppy, squishy kind of run.