Thursday, December 30, 2010

Elfin Saddle

A little off the beaten track, but wonderful in its way, this multimedia endeavor from a Montrealean trio on the Constellation record label. Can’t believe Blurt is running reviews this week, but there it is:

I said,” The members of Elfin Saddle, out of Montreal, are as much concerned with the visual and performing arts as with music. On the one hand, the band's founders Emi Honda and Jordan McKenzie (with help from Nathan Gage of Shapes and Sizes on bass and tuba, Nicholas Scribner and Kristina Koropecki), compose delicate reveries of folk-banjo, accordion and polyrhythmic percussion that fall easily into line with fellow Constellation artists Godspeed! You Black Emperor. On the other, they construct equally intricate sculptures and installations, little universes teeming with tiny representations of animal and plant life. The Wurld project combines these complementary arts in a variety of ways.”


I'll be back on a more regular basis next week. Until then, enjoy your holiday.

Monday, December 27, 2010

soft as snow but warm inside

Yes, it finally snowed here, and snowed big, maybe a foot or slightly under. We are more or less trapped at the moment, no plows in sight, though the driveway's clean now. so, I'm hoping I'll be able to get into town this afternoon because the property tax is due today, but if not, well, they'll have to wait one day and charge me a dollar or two of interest. I'm not risking my life to be on time.

Anyway, I've been listening to a lot of early 2011 promos and really liking the new Akron/Family, Eleventh Dream Day, Skull Defekts (I'm reviewing this eventually), Arbouretum (already reviewed and an interview in the works), Luyas (interview coming on this, too)...haven't even gotten to new Parts & Labor or Obits yet, but hard to imagine not liking those at least a little.

Anyway, on we least once the main road's clear.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy happy....

Well, things are finally winding down and all the presents are wrapped and we bought all the stuff for a nice Christmas dinner, so that's that. I also got a very few Christmas cards out, meant to do more but ended up sending mostly to family and people I knew would send to us. That's our Christmas photo. You can probably tell, it was taken at absolutely the last minute with an iPod touch and its amazing reversable camera.

Also, Blurt has its year-end extravaganza going now. There are two sets of individual writers' lists. I'm in the first one, but the second one is worth perusing, too, if you've got time.

There is also a list of 50 best records.

So have a nice break wherever you are, whatever you do to celebrate. We got some snow last night and it finally looks like Christmas. Looking forward to sleeping in next least past 5:30, which is killing me.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Los Explosivos

I reviewed two Get Hip albums back to back a week or so ago, which was sort of like taking a brief vacation in the Kennedy era. Ugly Beats was a little too pretty (ironic, eh?) and melodic for me, but I really liked the Mexican band Los Explosivos, whose latest album is called Sonidos Rocanrol!!!.

I said, “Los Explosivos performs songs that only sound like vintage rock and roll, circa the first Beatles album. The main difference is that Los Explosivos make none of the mop top era's concessions to cuteness. There are no harmonies, no keyboards, no dramatic-change-of-pace ballads to break up the assault. It's a rougher, more abrasive take on garage rock than you may be used to - but that just makes it rock harder.

Here’s a video of “Moscas & Aranas”

And, in a non-album bit of silliness, here they are doing “Louie, Louie”

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ugly Beats

I reviewed the new-ish album from these garage revivalists about a week ago at Blurt.

It’s called Motor!.

The Ugly Beats, out of Austin, party like it's 1965 on their third full-length Motor!. Joe Emery, the band's singer and main songwriter, has a high, romantic way with a verse, sounding at times like a lonely cowboy ("See"), at others like a mop-topped British invader (on the Neil Diamond cover "You'll Forget"). Jeanine Attaway, she of the knee-high go-go boots, adds a lush swirl of organ sound to the whole enterprise, a sustained texture that does much to smooth over rackety exuberance of guitar, drums and bass. And about those guitars, two of them, one manned by Emery, the other by Jake Garcia. They oscillate between hard fuzz and soft jangle, but always pursue satisfyingly symmetric riffs. In fact, the guitar lines are not so much predictable as inevitable. They go exactly the way that they have to go -- from the first ringing power chord to the last baroque flourish.


They’re super fun live if you ever get a chance.

I think every time I've ever seen the Ugly Beats, I've been at SXSW with Clif, who knows them somehow.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Another winner from the Detroit band with the funny name…My review, up at Blurt today, goes like this:

“Cranked, cracked, bashed and frantic, Tyvek's second full-length pogos on a tightrope. There's an abyss dropping away on either side, an endless bottom one missed mortgage payment or judicial crack-up away. And yet a sense of manic joy permeates, too. "Potato" swings hard on a one-two pendulum, rushed as a late commuter, yet has time, lyrically, for a recipe for hash browns and a bout of make-up sex. "Animals" is as straight up as a hard-core song can be, its toughness undermined only slightly by the kitty mews near its final blow-up. Tyvek reminds you that the great punk bands had a sense of humor, or at least of absurdity, and that rage by itself gets boring.”

There’s more

“Underwater To”


Friday, December 17, 2010

Laetitia Sadier

Hey, my Laetitia Sadier piece went up today at Blurt.

It was email, and so a little shallow...but maybe not terrible.

Reshuffle, Reshift: Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier

One door closes and another opens. And then sometimes, the first one opens again.

At least that's what happened to Laetitia Sadier when Stereolab went on hiatus after nearly 20 years. "I did fear that the ‘Lab going on indefinite hiatus would leave a massive emptiness," she said, in a recent email interview. "It was interesting to observe that as soon as there was room, my project naturally moved to the fore to occupy into this space."

Her project, a solo album called The Trip, came out on Drag City in September of 2010. Then, a bare two months later, Stereolab resurfaced with Not Music, a collection of songs originally created during the Chemical Chord sessions of 2007. Suddenly Sadier was at the center of a lot of activity, hardly the "massive emptiness" she'd been apprehensive about.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Also, some reaction to my mid-year

Yeah, so I was reading ILX again, and people are really hating my list and my year-end wrap-up, which is fine, whatever. You can read about it here, though you'll have to page down to about December 14 if you don't want to read the whole thread.

I don't post on ILX, but I do have a couple of responses.

First, the main reason I spent all the time talking about the consensus was that it seemed pretty awful and that it's always awful, every year, and that I never care a rat's ass about the top ten records that end up on it. I didn't actually vote for the Animal Collective last year or include it on my list. Enough people completely missed the point of that, that I think probably I must have written it badly.

Second, I have heard Kanye now, though I hadn't when I wrote the list. I like parts of it and dislike others. I'm not sure it would have made my top 20. In any case, I've always felt weird about putting rap records on my list, because I only listen to a few of them, and even if I like them, I'm not sure I have the context to judge them. There are plenty of people listening to these records. I don't think they need me.

Also, in terms of the number of records I've listened to, I review probably 4 records a week all year long, which is 200, plus some interviews, maybe another 10-20, and then listen to one or two songs on a bunch more. It's true that some people listen to more records, but a lot of people listen to less, too.

And finally, I don't think I'm very standard indie. If I were I'd have Arcade Fire and the National and Vampire Weekend and all kinds of crap on my list, and I don't.

So anyway, that's that.

What your favorite album says about you?

My editor at PW wrote this, and it made me laugh.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My year-end is up now

Check it out.

Or, if you just want the list:

1. The Soft Pack – The Soft Pack (Kemado)
2. Jack Rose -- Luck in the Valley (Thrill Jockey)
3. Wetdog – Frauhaus! (Captured Tracks)
4. Eluvium – Similes (Temporary Residence)
5. Rangda --False Flag (Drag City)
6. Ted Leo --The Brutalist Bricks (Matador)
7. The Fall --Your Future Our Clutter (Domino)
8. Mavis Staples –You Are Not Alone (Anti-)
9. Damien Jurado -- St. Bartlett (Secretly Canadian)
10. Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs --Medicine County (Transdreamer)

11. White Fence – White Fence (Make a Mess)
12. Clogs -- In the Garden of Lady Walton (Brassland)
13. Wovenhand -- Threshingfloor (Sounds Familyre)
14. Kelley Stoltz --To Dreamers (Sub Pop)
15. Andreya Triana --Lost Where I Belong (Ninja Tune)
16. Sharon Van Etten -- Epic (BaDaBing)
17. Current 93 -- Baalstorm, Sing Omega (Coptic Cat)
18. Ty Segall -- Melted (Goner)
19. Frightened Rabbit -- Winter of Mixed Drinks (FatCat)
20. Bottomless Pit -- Blood Under the Bridge (Comedy Minus One)
21. Jonsi -- Go (XL)
22. Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby -- Two Way Family Favorites (Southern Domestic)

and also, if I'd heard them in time, probably the Fresh & Only's Play It Strange and the Ex's Catch My Shoe would have gone somewhere in there. At some point, you just have to stop. Which I think is probably now.

On to 2011 our last year before the Mayan apocalypse...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pink Frost

I have been kind of depressed lately…not sleeping well, antsy, worried about money as usual. I’m not working enough and starting to worry that this is not just the recession, but possibly I’ve lost my edge and will never get back to a place where I can support my family comfortably. So, anyway, I’ve been not a lot of fun to be around lately, but made an effort over the weekend. We went to get a Christmas tree, which was oddly stressful and unrewarding, and then to a youth production of “Fiddler on the Roof”, though to get there, we had to drive through a terrible rainstorm, where you could hardly see five feet ahead. Anyway, we tried to do some fun stuff, but none of it was very much fun, if you know what I mean. Oh, yeah, I went out for a run on Sunday and slipped on a skim of ice and fell and hit my back and head…so even that didn’t work out very well. It’s been an odd, kind of punishing few weeks, where pretty much everything turns to shit.

One mildly good thing, though I can’t say it offset the above, we got “Pink Frost” twice on the random play on the way down to Brattleboro, so, with no reviews for the foreseeable future (Dusted’s gone to best of lists which are worth checking, too), here’s a video of that.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Line of the month

“Green party bumpersticker there on a hummer…offering suspicious generosity.”

From Giant Sand’s “Man Than Me”, on the new Blurry Blue Mountain, out now on Fire Records, who are also doing new Bardo Pond, so yay for them.

I could post the song, but, of course, that would be wrong. Here’s the one that the label has sanctioned, which is not bad either. It’s called “Ride the Rails.”

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Majeure’s Timespan is Kraut-ish electronica from Zombi drummer A. E. Paterra, with three originals and three remixes (by, respectively, Steve Moore, Justin Broadrick and Black Strobe), all fairly extended and minimalist. For my review at Blurt yesterday, I concluded:

“There's a sense of both forward motion and eternity in these tracks, a sense that movement and stillness are not so much opposites as two sides of one perception. You have to be in the right mental space to appreciate Timespan, but it's an interesting place once you arrive.”

The rest


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Liz Janes

Liz Janes' Say Goodbye is one of the most beautiful albums of this late 2010 season,and I spent a little time a few weeks ago talking to Liz about the songs, the way she made them while spending most of her time with her two young kids, and the people who helped her flesh them out. The result is what I think of as quite a good feature, though obscure enough that probably no one will read it, which went up yesterday at Blurt.

Here's a link.

"I Don't Believe"

I took down the last mix, BTW, because "Rob," who runs some sort of Mogwai blog, seemed to object. I think of these things as sort of like making mixes for friends, technically illegal, too, but no one cares. Anyway, I guess they're more public than I thought and people mind, so whatever, I'll stop doing it. (Oddly enough, someone from Drag City contacted me, too, but not to protest, just to say that I'd gotten one of the track titles wrong. It was wrong when I pulled it up in iTunes, in my defense.)

I should probably also retract the bit about Laetitia Sadier, who provided pretty good email responses to my questions yesterday, so that story is on again. It'll be at Blurt probably within a week or two, and if not, after the holidays.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Twin Shadow is not my usual kind of thing

It’s definitely on the chilly side and very slickly produced and draws inspiration from genres (disco, new wave) that are, well, not my favorites. And yet, despite all that, it’s quite good and surprisingly emotionally compelling. It goes without saying that it’s way, way more impressive than any other bedroom dance groove project I’ve heard in the last couple of years…and there are a lot of them lately. So here’s to Twin Shadow for making it work and giving it soul.

My Dusted review

“The problem with most glo-wave is that the very personal wants to be whispered rather than danced, that it’s difficult to transform the songs you think of in your bedroom into communal, body-moving anthems. Twin Shadow has an unusual ability to blow out bits of ordinary experience into large-scale synth pop, injecting hedonism without losing the difficulty and doubt. Forget is sleek, glossy and almost intimidatingly chic, but also quite moving. Nicely done.”


“Castles in the Snow”

A live performance of “Slow”

Monday, December 6, 2010

Callers interview

I've got another interview at PopMatters, this time with the up-and-coming indie pop/soul/jazz influenced trio known as Callers.

Here's a link.

Here's that Wire cover

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas music

Pretty amusing bit of holiday silliness from the Superions, fronted, as you will immediately recognize, by Fred Schneider of the B-52s.

"Fruit Cake"

There's also a video of a Serge Gainbourg semi-homage, called "Santa Je T'Aime."

Ho ho ho.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Holy shit, this new Mogwai is good

...and it doesn't even really start to sound like Mogwai until about halfway through.
(Though who am I to say what Mogwai does and doesn't sound like? It's good anyway, even the bright-ish, pop-pish, vocalized bits.)

Out in February on Sub Pop.