Friday, December 30, 2011

Blurt writers' lists

When I say that I love "best of" lists, what I mean is individual lists, which seem, in most cases, to be honest appraisals of the music that people loved and listened to. (I've heard about people putting records into their lists that they didn't really listen to, just because they thought they should, but I don't know anyone like that.)

Anyway, BLurt has a whole bunch of them up at the site now. Mine, which you are undoubtedly familiar with (and probably a little nauseated by at this point) is in Part 1. There is also a Part 2, equally worth a browse.

I spent some time on Wednesday listening to the New York Times Popcasts on best albums and best songs, so now I've heard bits of a lot of the mainstream albums that made mainstream writers' lists, and I've got to say, Beyonce, Paul Simon, Drake and Feist are not doing anything for me, but I kind of like that Adele song, "Rolling the Deep" and I might be into Tuneyards if I listened to it enough.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Luke Roberts

Blurt is still running reviews this week...and I've got one up today.

Luke Roberts
Big Bells and Dime Songs
(Thrill Jockey)

"One time...I spit and hit a dime," Luke Roberts' growls over a spare, rough-hewn scrim of picking. His "Dime Song" sounds as if it were recorded as if in the back room of a deserted bar in the bleary beginnings of a morning after. His voice breaks and stretches over the notes, mournful and exhausted and beaten. It's an old-time sound, the kind of thing that ought to have been recorded, originally, on wax cylinders. It speaks of hard times and discouragement and endless persistence with few rewards, an artifact, perhaps, from the Great Depression. Yet Roberts is 20-something, scraping by in post-credit crunch America rather than the 1930s. He laid the track down a year or two ago, with Harvey Milk's Kyle Spence sitting at the boards of his Athens, Georgia recording studio. His spiritual contemporaries may be Karen Dalton and Woody Guthrie, but he is about the same age as Lady Gaga. Strange world, isn't it?


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Got room in your head for one more list?

Blurt's is up today...Waits won.

See it here.

Writers' list tomorrow.

Colin Stetson

It's that time of year again, the time when you realize that you never heard a bunch of the records that everybody else loved and if you had, who knows, maybe they'd have been your favorites, too. Anyway, I've been catching up on Colin Stetson's New History of Warfare, Part 2: Judges, and liking it a whole lot.

Here's what Dusted's Adam Strohm had to say about it:

"New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges is an album of somber beauty, its flashes of color existing amidst a broad spectrum of grays. Like experimental films than toy with narrative and bend the viewer’s expectations in terms of plot, the album hints at some underlying tale, but, in the end, Judges is more concerned with atmosphere than event. “A Dream of Water,” with its visions of the chaos, despair and confusion, and Stetson’s cover of Blind Willie Johnson’s “Lord I Just Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes” are the disc’s most evocative tracks, the former featuring Laurie Anderson’s familiar spoken delivery, the latter a slow, sorrowful performance from Shara Worden. Many of Judges compositions are relatively straight lines, explorations of a theme or technique that, save for a few exceptions, aren’t especially demonstrative in their emotion. This way, Stetson avoids much of the constructed inevitability and dynamic shifts that can so blandly constitute emotional import in instrumental music. The inclusion of a choir on “All the Colors Bleached to White” and some of Anderson’s spoken work can feel a little too heavy, but moments of melodrama are fleeting, and change is always afoot. It’s rare that a track sounds too much like those that come before or after: in one of the most striking pairings, the beatbox-esque “Red Horse (Judges II)” is followed by the ecstatic “The Righteous Wrath of an Honorable Man,” with its hints of Albert Ayler, Stetson’s purest nod toward the sound of classic free jazz."

The rest of the review.

"The Stars in His Head (Dark Lights Remix)"

Even if you're not familiar with Colin Stetson per se, you've probably heard him playing for various high profile bands, including Arcade Fire, TV on the Radio, Tom Waits, the National, etc. etc. He's just been nominated for the Polaris Prize, too.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sharon van Etten

I'll be writing about Sharon van Etten's third album Tramp later for Dusted, but meanwhile, let me just say that it's great and it builds on the guttier, more empowered things she was doing with Epic without, in any way, compromising the fragility and purity that you heard in her self-titled debut.

It's gotta be top ten for 2012 -- along with Shearwater's Animal Joy -- and if you live in a major city in the eastern half of the U.S. or Canada, you've got a pretty good shot at seeing them together. Lucky you.

02/10/12 Philadelphia, PA - Johnny Brenda's w/ Shearwater
02/11/12 Washington, DC - Black Cat w/ Shearwater
02/12/12 Carrboro, NC - Cat's Cradle w/ Shearwater
02/14/12 Columbus, OH - Wexner Center w/ Shearwater
02/15/12 Newport, KY - Southgate House w/ Shearwater
02/16/12 Chicago, IL - Lincoln Hall w/ Shearwater
02/17/12 Chicago, IL - Lincoln Hall w/ Shearwater
02/18/12 Minneapolis, MN - Cedar Cultural Center w/ Shearwater
02/21/12 Toronto, ON - Lee's Palace w/ Shearwater
02/22/12 Montreal, QC - Il Motore w/ Shearwater
02/23/12 Boston, MA - Paradise w/ Shearwater
02/24/12 Brooklyn, NY - Music Hall of Williamsburg w/ Shearwater
02/25/12 New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom w/ Shearwater

Here's "Serpents" from Tramp

Friday, December 23, 2011

How the sausage gets made

Interesting piece from the Wire's blog about how they ended up naming a record nobody particularly liked as #1 for the year.


Another review up at Blurt today.

(Bureau B)

It's probably a lot of fun to watch Kurt Dahlke, the electronic composer and DJ who records under the name Pyrolator, perform his pulsing, pounding music. He uses a Buchla Lightning II to sculpt his sounds, manipulating beats, tones and samples by moving two rods in the air in front of this machine. He also employs a Marta, controlled by touch. So, unlike many electronic artists who sit, in a fairly static way, behind their laptops, Dahlke's performance is roughly as kinetic as his music, which blends the thump, thump, thump of the club with delicate, sometimes otherworldly melodies.


Sort of interesting how he does what he does

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tycho's Dive

A really beautiful, serene bit of melodically-anchored electronica from Ghostly artist, Scott Hansen a.k.a. Tycho, reviewed yesterday at Blurt.


Tycho's Scott Hansen explores the warmest corners of electronic music, using well-worn vintage synths to float dreamy melodies over insistent stutters and clatters of percussion. He splices organic sounds - scratchy acoustic guitars, the distant boom of bass, human voices - into otherworldly soundscapes seamlessly, so that notes made by instruments sound as luminous, as idealized as those elicited from synths and programming decks.

Listen for instance, to the way synthetic washes of tone crest and fade in "Hours," the album's standout track, one synthesizer laying a foundation, while another picks out a cerebral melody. A crisp, minimalist rhythm kicks in on snare and cymbal, lending a twitchy sensuality. And then there is the bass, soft, but insistently physical, as it grounds "Hours" in the world of blood and breath and sweat. There are lots of different elements in "Hours" but they co-exist in a sort of super-real clarity. You feel no confusion or complexity, just a bright, warm rush of serenity.


I really like the cover art, too.

Here's "Hours"

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mountain Goats do holiday cheer

Let's add this Darnielle take on "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" to the annals of unlikely covers...despite his last record's Bible verse titles, I've always more or less thought of him as a fellow secular humanist. But, you know, it's Christmas and why not? From the AV Club, enjoy.

The Mountain Goats cover "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas"

Cardinal...after a long wait

Cardinal, the extremely intermittent collaboration between Eric Matthews and Richard Davies of the Moles, has a new album out called Hymns and if you like clever, ambiguous, insanely catchy but not-quite-graspable pop, this is one for you.

The record is out in January on Fire Records. And just worth mentioning: It's been 18 years since the last Cardinal, so you might want to, I don't know, buy two to tide you over.

Meanwhile, Here's "Love Like Rain"
Cardinal - Love Like Rain by FIRE RECORDS

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lijadu Sisters

Knitting Factory Records is re-releasing four long-out-of-print albums from the Afro-Beat pioneers the Lijadu Sisters, one of the very few female-led acts to gain traction in Nigeria in the mid-to-late 1970s. The Lijadu sisters were second cousins to Fela Kuti (and also Nobel prize winner Wole Soyinka), but had difficulty breaking through taboos against female songwriter/artists in Africa in the 1970s. Ginger Baker was a fan and brought them to Europe, including an appearance at a cultural festival connected to the Munich Olympics in 1972.

The sisters recorded four albums in the 1970s, now considered classics. I've got Danger, recorded in 1976, and it's a wonderful blend of African and reggae rhythms, American funk and soul and socially conscious protest music. Knitting Factory is also reissuing Mother Africa (1977), Sunshine (1978) and Horizon Unlimited (1979). They have a song, "Orere Elejigbo" on the fabulous Nigeria 70 compilation.

The Lijadu's run ended when Kehinde suffered a terrible accident, falling and breaking her spine. Though expected, at first, to die, she recovered, but the pair was unable to perform afterwards. The two now live in Harlem together.

Here they are (briefly) performing with Ginger Baker.

and longer track from Danger, but without live footage.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Do U Really Wanna Fight?

There are probably all kinds of nuances and genre-specific excellences to Africa Hitech's recent single "Do U Really Wanna Fight?", but being kind of a pop-punk-garage dumbass, I obviously am not the one to point them out. However, I will say that it is absolutely the best psych-yourself-to-run-in-single-digits song in quite some time, and slow as I am, it makes me go a little faster.

As you might infer from the photo the Nordic season has started and Sean skiied his first-ever 10K in Craftsbury VT this weekend and did quite well. There was no real natural snow, but they managed to make enough to cover a 1.4 K loop, which means that he had to do this particular hill six times...yikes. He passed someone every time I saw him climb it.

So anyway, he was racing against Olympians and state champions and college team skiiers, so he came in pretty close to the back, but he is definitely in much better shape and likely quite a bit faster than last year, so yeah for Sean!

Friday, December 16, 2011

I went to see Pterodactyl last night

Live, they're a lot noisier, less pop, more like Parts & Labor (though not as intense) and you can hear their drummer better. For some reason, and maybe it's the management, all the Brah bands seem to have good drummers.

Also totally insane boy-girl duo called Math the Band, like Matt & Kim, but way, way, way more caffeinated, using guitar and one tom and lots of vintage synths, to make something between Peelander Z and Atom & His Package and Shonen Knife. Fun.

And, before that Whore Paint from Rhode Island, whose singer's lovely voice was often pitched at a teeth-rattling screech, but sometimes quieted to spooky, gothy Zola Jesus-ish spirituality. Musically, the band was more punk than metal, found myself wandering down ill-considered if Ozzy was a girl thought paths, but that's not really it. Also funny, these girls were all wandering around in very demure cardigans and long sleeves before they went on...and then they all peeled down to black spaghetti strap dresses.

Severe Severe was before that, though, alas, i hadn't decided whether I was going to work for my ticket (because, in truth, I had to pay for my ticket) and have no photos. This was an interesting psych-rock, double-drumming outfit, whose members have obviously heard an Amon Duul record or two. They had this bizarre movie about Turkey or some other middle eastern place running the whole, and I kept getting sucked into watching the movie and forgetting the music, which was, maybe, the point? Anyway, one of the drummers was the guy from the Bunnies, the Bennies and about 600 bands. He's everywhere.

I still haven't made up my mind whether I'm writing about this. I've got a lot to do...probably not.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hey, look I'm back at Philly Weekly

I have a little blurb this week about Saturday's War on Drugs show.

The War on Drugs
With this year’s Slave Ambient, the War on Drugs moved up into a select group of alternative universe stars, bands that might be huge except that, these days, rock bands don’t ever swell to Zeppelin-esque proportions. Aaron Dessner, who plays guitar in the National (clearly another of th outfits), called the record “ridiculously good” and “incredibly ambitious sonically,” pointing to the way that simple song structures got blown to outsized, anthemic scale. And indeed, WOD frontman Adam Granduciel has a way of hitching road-toughened, working man’s rock to a knob twiddler’s smorgasbord of interesting effects. Live, the band emphasizes its arena-rocking, blue-collar tendencies, though they’re swirled in drone and dipped in haze. -Jennifer Kelly

Sat., Dec. 17, 8pm. $14. With Sun Airway + Ape School. Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St. 215.232.1200.

I really like "Baby Missiles"

And here's the Aaron Dessner interview I referenced.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New Sole single...with Carla Bozulich

I've got a little news piece up at Blurt today about a new EP from Sole and the Skyrider band, which features an unlikely partnership with Carla Bozulich.

Here's the article.

And the single itself.
Sole and the Skyrider Band "Challenger" (feat. Carla Bozulich) by sole...

Also, my review of Sole's last album (my #12 for the year) Hello Cruel World at Blurt.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Jigsaw Seen

I have a piece up at Blurt on mod-psych band, the Jigsaw Seen, and its new not-really-a-holiday album Winterland


In which we learn how to make a not-exactly-a-holiday-album.


Why would any self-respecting rock band make a Christmas album? The bargain bins are tipping with seasonal detritus, ill-advised forays into holiday cheer. My own favorite, a cassette that wore out years ago, was The Reggae Christmas, which, I dimly recall, had Eek-A-Mouse's version of "The Night Before Christmas." It was just the thing to clear the room of all relatives over the age of 30, damned useful in those days. But really, after a whole month of schlepping through Target and Macy's and waiting on hold for a Lands' End operator, who has any real need for more Christmas music? Surely we can agree that no version of "Jingle Bell Rock" is either a) music, or b) any kind of holiday.

Tell that to the Jigsaw Seen, LA's best mod-referencing, power-chording, melodic rock band, an outfit that has made not one but two holiday recordings, the first a 2006 EP called What About Christmas, the second, out now, a full-length named Winterland. And here's the shocker: they're both pretty good.

The secret, says Dennis Davison, is to not really make a Christmas album. "Very few of the songs are actually about Christmas," he says. "Even those are not really so much about Christmas. They just happen to take place during Christmas. So, yeah, we were very conscious of the idea that we didn't want the whole concept to come across like a bunch of cornball Christmas songs."


What About Christmas? by The Jigsaw Seen

Snow Angels Of Pigtown by The Jigsaw Seen

Monday, December 12, 2011

Duchess Says

Canadian synth-thrash-punk band located somewhere between early Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Ponytail...reviewed last week for Blurt.

Duchess Says
In A Fung Day T

Sparks fly when Annie-Claude Deschênes lights into "Antepoc," an industrial strength, punk-speed, strobe-lit track just a little too ferocious for the dance floor. Deschênes' scrappy, abrasive delivery is the main attraction in Duchess Says, but not the only one. Ismael Tremblay, he of the buzz-sawed riffs, the crazed horror-scape keyboard lines, is much of factor, and you just can't pump it this hard without a rhythm section on steroids - that's bassist Phillipe Clément and drummer Simon "Says" Besre.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Thee American Revolution

A side project from Robert Schneider of the Apples in Stereo and fellow Athenian Craig Morris has been in deep storage for years. Their debut album Buddha Electrostorm finally got a release via Fire Records, and it's pretty fine, loosely structured, lo-fi psych a la the Dukes of Stratosphere. I really hated the last Apples in Stereo, but I kind of like this.

Here's a video for the song "Grit Magazine," which, oddly enough, my grandmother used to subscribe to, and I can remember reading old issues at her house. (They were full of homespun humor and uplifting stories and, I think, crafts projects...very heartland in the 1970s.) I may have even had a poem in there once...can't remember.

Anyway, check it out

Friday, December 9, 2011

Mats Morgan live

The Mats Morgan band pursues a virtuoso kind of jazz rock fusion, playing with fugue-state complexity across in multiple, difficult time signatures. The band is anchored by its two founders, Mats Oberg on synthesizers and keyboards, and Morgan Agren on drums, both hyper-skilled but with a playful sounds like fun rather than a math problem. Both founders toured briefly with Zappa, towards the end of his career and near the beginning of theirs, and that's not a bad reference when you consider how cerebral and complex this music is. For this live recording, made in Stockholm's Fasching Club in 1999, they were supported by Morgan's brother Jimmy on guitar, Tommy Thordsson on bass, and Eric Carlsson and Robert Elovsson on additional keyboards -- that's right, three keyboard players.

The record, called Mats/Morgan Band Live, is out now on the reliably proggy Cuneiform label.

I reviewed a couple of Mats/Morgan CDs a few years ago for PopMatters. If you want, you can read about it here.

You kind of have to see it to get it, though.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hardboiled Wonderland

I put this album, by the electronic duo Hardboiled Wonderland onto my iTunes because it referenced one of my favorite books, Haruki Murakami's Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World. Murakami's Hardboiled Wonderland accomplishes the unusually difficult feat of pursuing two wildly different plot lines for most of its length and then, just at the end, showing how the two plots were really one plot all along. It's the kind of book that you want to read again the minute you've finished it, because now you know something that will maybe help you understand the story better.

Anyway, the musical Hardboiled Wonderland is a two-fold project as well, with Martin Birke building sinuous beats out of synthesizers and drum machines and Percy Howard adding a florid, ornate, classic soul tenor over. If you like what Antony did with Hercules and Love Affair, or that Konkylie record, I think there's a pretty good chance you'll enjoy this.

Candy For The Meatman-club mix by HARDBOILED WONDERLAND

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Doug Jerebine

I would probably love Drag City's re-release of New Zealand cult guitarist Doug Jerebine's Jess Harper a whole lot if it did not sound EXACTLY like Jimi Hendrix. I mean it's great that we have record companies scouring the earth for rare stuff that no one would hear otherwise...but, wow, everything, the voice, the guitar style, even the songs themselves are so close to Jimi that I'm having trouble taking it at face value as its own thing.

Though, if you'd never heard of Jimi, it would probably sound pretty sweet.

Here's a little background on the guy, courtesy of Drag City:

Who is Jesse Harper? Doug Jerebine is Jesse Harper. And who is Doug Jerebine? Born in rural Tangowahine, of New Zealand's North Island, Doug became one of New Zealand's finest guitarists thate cut his teeth on guitar from the age of 12, learning first from a half-Maori, half-Greek instructor who introduced him to everything from George Van Eps to Hank Marvin. And one day, he found Doug teaching him. Even though he was only a high schooler, Jerebine was ready to play out. By the early 1960s, Jerebine was hopping around in Auckland bands, including The Embers and The Brew. After hearing the overdriven sounds of Steve Winwood and Jimi Hendrix in 1966, Doug refined his own approach to a similar effect. At the same time, dove deeply into the virtuosic sitar sounds of Vilayat Kahn and Ravi Shankar, and learned to play that instrument as well. His interest helped form his spiritual beliefs, and Doug eventually decided his true path was Hare Krishna. Before landing in India, however, he stopped in England for a chance at making something big happen musically. In 1969 he recorded the Jesse Harper record, playing everything but drums, with the encouragement and assistance of Dave Hartstone, another London-based Kiwi-transplant from the scene.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Wow I just listened to the new Shearwater eight times in a row

It's extremely good.

It's called "Animal Joy" and it's out in February on Sub Pop.

More later.

It's bird, it's a's a Pterodactyl

I caught Pterodactyl in mid-evolution from a Brah-released noise band into a baroquely arranged, harmonized art pop outfit a la Animal Collective or Grizzly Bear in the new album Spills Out.

My review runs today at Blurt.

Spills Out

Pterodactyl comes out of a noisy, aggressive, art-punk tradition, a white noise enclave of tortured guitars and rapid-fire drum rampages. They record, after all, for Oneida's imprint, and once shared a guitarist with Seconds. Their earliest records were more likely to draw comparisons to Lightning Bolt or Ex Models than Brian Wilson. Yet somewhere along the way, this Brooklyn band seems to have been infected with the Animal Collective/Grizzly Bear virus. Their third album, Spills Out, downplays frenetic energy for layered vocals, harmonies, tunes and a nod towards pop.



Monday, December 5, 2011

My year-end is up

Read all about it here. By the way, there's a button you can press to listen to music from my list while you're reading. It obviously doesn't work on dial-up (what does?) but if anyone wants to try it and tell me what it's like, that'd be cool.

Or, skip the words, and just check out the list:
1. Skull Defekts, Peer Amid (Thrill Jockey)
2. Psychic Paramount, II (Important)
3. David Kilgour, Left by Soft (Merge)
4. King Creosote and Jon Hopkins, Diamond Mine (Domino)
5. Dirtbombs, Party Store (In the Red)
6. Gem Club, Breakers (Hardly Art)
7. Mogwai, Hard Core Will Never Die But You Will (Sub Pop)
8. Sidi Toure, Sahel Folk (Thrill Jockey)
9. UV Race, Homo (In the Red)
10. Bonnie Prince Billy, Wolfroy Comes to Town (Drag City)
11. Veronica Falls, Veronica Falls (Slumberland)
12. Bats, Free All the Monsters (Flying Nun)
13. Sole and the Skyrider Band, Hello Cruel World (Fake Four)
14. Demdike Stare, Tryptych (Modern Love)
15. Get Help, The Good Green Earth (Midriff)
16. Arrica Rose and the Dot, Dot Dots, Let Alone Sea (PopRock)
17. Sam Phillips, Solid State (Littlebox)
18. Emperor X, Western Transport (Bar/None)
19. Ty Segall, Goodbye Bread (Drag City)
20. Bad Sports, Kings of the Weekend (Dirtnap)

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Fall...#29

I've got a review of the new Fall album up at Blurt now. It's not as good as the last couple, but still worth a listen...that's the gist of my opinion. Actually, I really liked Douglas Wolk's review of the same album in PFK yesterday and wonder if I'm one of those people who's been blinded by Smith's persona. Our main difference is that I really liked the instrumental backing and Wolk thought it was weak. But anyway, here's a bit from mine:

"Ersatz G.B. finds him in fine and vicious form, savaging Snow Patrol and laptop users and British folk singers with geriatric venom. His band, the same since Your Future Our Clutter, locks in behind him, furnishing the hard-hammered foundation, the funk-punk-robot rigor, that give his rantings scale and drama and a weird euphoric edge. Consider, for instance, how "Mask Search" bounces bodily on an elastic bass line, how its guitar twitches with ecstatic tension, how the whole thing shimmies and pulses with sensual life, and how Smith hems and haws above it all, muttering about encaustic and lime. Or, the bizarre, metal-crunching "Greenway" how Smith's gargling, ravaged voice rises above the mayhem to inject some existential uncertainty. ("Channel hopping the other day through Danish Rock TV, I noticed a video where the person had a remarkable, coincidental resemblance to myself, to the video I was in recently," he recounts, entirely discounting the possibility that it was him.) The band's discipline, its blocked out musical precision, contrasts powerfully with Smith's visionary wanderings. Neither would work nearly as well by itself."


And here's Wolk's take.

There was also a rather good profile of Smith and the Fall in the New Yorker a couple of weeks ago.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Live Fugazi...up for grabs

This is pretty cool. The Fugazi Live Series Archive has posted an initial batch of 130 live Fugazi shows...and plans to release mp3 versions of as many as 800 of the shows recorded by the band's sound engineers between 1987 and 2003. There's a suggested price of $5 per show (about what you'd have paid for a ticket), but it's a sliding scale and if you don't have $5, you can pay what you want. (But really who doesn't have $5? I'm not sure I have $627 to pay for heating oil, or $800 to pay for flying to Chicago to see my parents, but I definitely have $5.) There are also photos, set lists, flyers etc. wherever available. It's maybe not an adequate substitute for going to see Fugazi, but let's deal with the possible. It's pretty good.

Check out the archive Here.

Fucking hell, it's December already.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Rob Crow hates the Beatles...and so do I

I had a pretty entertaining interview with Rob Crow a few months all about it at PopMatters today.


Seems like just the other day i was digging the Beets debut out of one of the piles on my floor, two years late, but just as enjoyable. They've come out with two albums since then and cleaned up their sound considerably. I'd say that right now, they're one of the really good, promising garage rock bands...sort of where the Fresh and Onlys were a year or two ago.

Anyway, I reviewed the third (very quickly) for Dusted and it runs today.

The Beets
Let the Poison Out
Hardly Art

“A collection of 13 songs about letting the poison out of your system by the Beets,” reads the line-drawn cover of this third album from the Jackson Heights band. The art, as per usual by Matt Volz, is colorful and primitive, showing grinning girls murdering ghosts in various ways (cutting, burning, whacking with a baseball bat). And so, right away, before even listening, we are confronted with the main elements of this album — the childish glee, the violence, the giddy-colored simplicity of its sawed-off garage pop.


Doing As I Do"

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Erkin Koray

This was freaking great…a singles comp from one of Turkey’s foremost rockers.

Erkin Koray
Meçhul: Singles and Rarities (LP)
(Sublime Frequencies)

Erkin Koray is widely regarded as the father of Turkish psychedelic rock, a polyglot stew of alternate Eastern-tinged tunings and American- and British-style guitar bravado. Beginning in the late 1950s and continuing to this day, Koray has blended traditional Anatolian folk with the fuzz and swagger of amplified distortion. Like his home city of Istanbul, he stands at the conjunction of many different traditions, in geographic terms spanning the music of Europe, Asia, the Middle East, in temporal ones, the folk melodies of pre-history, the psych ferment of the 1960s, the progressive experiment of the 1970s, the new age-y ethno-explorations of the 1970s and 1980s. Using primarily Western instruments - guitar, bass, drums - but also an amplified lute-like instrument called an electric baglama, Koray juxtaposes the swirling, psychedelic excesses of Nuggets-era rock and roll with the primal longing and fundamental rootedness of Turkish folk. His music sounds at once like a lost 1960s band you never heard of, and a dazzled meander through a souk, foreign and familiar elements shifting second by second, measure by measure.


erkin koray - mechul - singles & rarities (album preview) by experimedia

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dan Melchior Und Das Menace

Checking out WFMU's Heavily Played 11/23/11 edition and found this right at the top, a new-ish record from Dan Melchior called Catbirds and Cardinals on the Northern Spy label.

I don't have the record, but the soundcloud giveaway is cracking me up...with some pretty good side swipes at Posh and Beckham, Liam Gallagher and others who arose a uniquely "English Shame." Anyway it's fuzzy and rough and primitive, but in a very smart way. Enjoy.

Dan Melchior und das Menace - English Shame by Northern Spy Records

Friday, November 25, 2011

Geoffrey O'Connor

A couple of weeks ago, I downloaded a whole bunch of promos people had sent me, put them all in a file on my thumb drive and imported them simultaneously into iTunes. All of which was very time-efficient and practical, except that some of them hadn't been tagged properly (i.e. at all) so I had a bunch of stuff that I didn't know what it was and which album it belonged to, and all in all a big mess. One of the ones that got most screwed up was Geoffrey O'Connor's Vanity Is Forever. I'm still not sure I've heard the whole album and there are a couple of tracks that might or might not be part of the album, who knows? But in any case, what I've heard is pretty good, medium-sad synth pop which reminds me, at its best, of Scritti Politti, especially this give-away track "Whatever Leads Me to You."

"Whatever Leads Me To You"

Hope you all got to Walmart in time for the $300 laptops, if that's your thing, or if not, that you are enjoying a free Friday ...I know I am. Now for that Erkin Koray review.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Thanksgiving day, yeah, turkey's in the oven, half an hour done, four hours to go...and meanwhile a shout to the Dutty Artz label and DJ Rupture for discovering Moroccan singer and banjoist Hassan Wargui of the band Imanaren, whose mesmerizing, hypnotic, otherworldly self-titled album is out now.

Says Dutty Artz:

Imanaren is beautiful mystical music from the south of Morocco. Jace found them during our Beyond Digital residency project last summer in Casablanca- and after becoming close friends with the band leader Hassan, we decided to re-release their self titled, DIY full length. We traveled to Hassan’s hometown of Issafen via a grueling 12 hour drive into a sublime desert of martian rock formations and dusty oases. Nearly half way through our stay, Hassan’s father finally asked us why exactly we had come. Hassan isn’t allowed to play music in the house, so we recorded with his local friends and fellow musicians in a natural amphitheater carved out by a waterfall in a dry gorge. We will be selling an extremely limited number of the original Moroccan CD pressings that Hassan had distributed on a small scale through Morocco- other then that, stream it all on Hassan’s youtube channel – or cop it amazon, boomkat, or any other fine digital shop. Watch the video we shot in Issafen for “Flowering Of The Wise” and Hassan’s first collabo with Nettle below.

Have a lovely day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Until the telephone started ringing, ringing, ringing

Yeah, so I'm interviewing Jimmy Tamborello in about an hour, supposedly, about the new deluxe reissue of Dntel's Life Is Full of Possibilities...which I bought when it came out but hadn't listened to in ages until recently...and it's holding up really well, I think.

You might remember the single "This Is the Dream of Evan and Chan" which Ben Gibbard sang and which formed the basis for the Postal Service (the band, not the mail delivery organization...remember the copyright wrangle over that?).

Anyway, wish me luck.

After that I'm going to do some cooking, so tomorrow isn't so busy. Have a good thanksgiving and drive carefully, if you're driving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Susanna...without the Magical Orchestra

I've got a review up today at Dusted of an interesting project from Susanna Wallerud...the "Susanna" part of "Susanna and the Magical Orchestra." This particular album is a cycle of poems by Guvnor Hofmo, one of Norway's foremost modern poets...and it's pretty good, though only so far released in Norway.

Susanna Wallǿumrod
Jeg Vil Hjem Til Menneskene>

With her Magical Orchestra, Susanna Wallǿumrod has made some of the 2000s most haunting music, transforming over-heard chestnuts like “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” into evocative, nearly otherworldly experiences. She has, up to now, seemed strongest as an interpreter. Her last album with The Magical Orchestra, 3, was mostly originals and mostly fairly forgettable electro pop. With Jeg Vil Hjem Til Menneskene, Wallumrǿd sets herself to the task of interpreting the work of one of Norway’s leading modern poets, Gunvor Hofmo, whose earliest published work “Jeg Vil Hjem Til Menneskene,” or “I Want to Go Home to the People,” provides the album’s title.


There are some song samples at the Forced Exposure page.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Nordic Nomadic

This one slipped by on Friday at Dusted, my review of the second album under the Nordic Nomadic name by Deadly Snakes' Chad Ross.

Nordic Nomadic
Worldwide Skyline
Tee Pee

A lattice-work of acoustic picking is ruptured abruptly by thunder-rumbling electric guitar. A nature journal’s litany of plant-and-animal-life metaphor shifts suddenly into talk of the devil. This second album from Nordic Nomadic explores the interstices of quiet folk and louder psychedelia, of ordinary life and its supernatural undercurrents. Chad Ross, the group’s sole member and a veteran of Deadly Snakes and Quest for Fire, inserts Six Organs-esque drones and Greg Weeks-like acid leads into placid country forms, in a transcendental meditation on the elements of freak folk.


I'm not really finding any media to go with this, but there's a clip in the Dusted review.

We had a pretty good time in Chicago. My son and I did our first college visit at Northwestern, and also saw my parents and went to a football game. The interview/tour went really well and though NU was Sean's first choice before this, it is probably even more so now. He wants to major in theater, which is a really, really strong department there.

Anyway, I'm already missing him and he's still here, but I can see him happy there, so that's something.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Amen Dunes

I had a pretty big week at Dusted, three reviews, including this one of the drony, folky, Velvet Underground evoking Amen Dunes, whose album Through Donkey Jaw is out now on Sacred Bones.

Again, I'm just going to give you my favorite paragraph.

"The main thing with Through Donkey Jaw is texture, a haunting, indeterminate mesh of sounds — usually electric guitar, sometimes keyboards, often shaken percussion — that coalesces around a dreaming, haunted mood. The primary colors vary — 'Not a Slave' is 'Venus In Furs' style Velvetiana, 'Lower Mind' evokes acoustic Kurt Vile, 'Baba Yaga,' the folkier elements of Michael Yonkers — but they are all smudged and strung out and attenuated to the point of dissolution. Even the more abrasive outings, nightmarish 'Jill,' endless, static 'For All,' are falling apart as you look at them. Decay is not just part of the sound. It is the sound. This is a boy in his bedroom fighting against entropy, dropping fragile observations about love into the roar of an abyss."

The rest of the review.

Amen Dunes - Christopher by sacredbones

In other, far less cool and acceptable news, I was listening to an NPR report on the demise of R.E.M. and decided that I just had to hear those songs again, so I have loaded Murmur, Green and Automatic for the People onto the iTunes. Because of my own OCD mental illness tendencies, that means I will have to listen to all of them at least three and preferably four times over the next couple of weeks, so expect to see the tilt noticeably towards Athens. Weirdly, my husband and Bill Barry were almost exact lookalikes roundabout Murmur, so looking at the photos in the expanded reissue are kind of like looking at the guy I decided to marry, all those years ago. No idea if they still look the same.

Also, I'm going to Chicago for the weekend and will probably not be around to post and/or respond to comments. (though who knows, I'll have an iPod touch with me and I do get bored....)

So have a good weekend and go Northwestern!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Shocker: I love the new Bats

Yeah, I gave it all away in the title didn't I? After about half a lifetime of really enjoying the Bats, I am, unsurprising, quite taken with the eighth and newest album, which is called Free All the Monsters.

Here is my favorite paragraph from a review up at Dusted today, in which I fumble to explain why my favorite part of the album (which is not going to be everyone's favorite part) is so great. All together now..."Hey-ey-ey-ey-aye."

"You could spend a lot of time unearthing middle age insecurities in Free All the Monsters’s lyrics, the simple things that no longer satisfy, the days that drag on, the years that fly by. It’s all there, observed obliquely but accurately, and without self-pity. Still, I have to admit that my favorite line is the “hey-ey-ey-ey-aye” that brackets each verse of “Fingers of Dawn.” There’s a warmth and assurance in these meaningless syllables, a serenity that transcends any linear narrative. The song is about waking up from a dream, relinquishing an imaginary haven and coming to terms again with ordinary life. It’s an unpleasant process, this daily rebirth and reorientation, but I like to think of the “hey-ey-ey-ey-aye” refrain as the sunlight streaming through the window, making another day of the quotidian struggle possible, even somewhat attractive."

What, you still want to read the rest of the review? Inexplicable.

Here's an official video for "In the Subway," which raises the question, "Are there subways in Dunedin?" Who knew?

In other breaking news, I am also totally loving Ersatz G.B., the 900th (or is it 901st?) album from Mark E. Smith & Co. (Did I mention that I hung up on his wife once? No? Hah, get me drunk and I'll tell you about it.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Crystal Stilts do Hazelwood, Blue Orchids

A five-song EP from the Brookyn drone-pop romantics who were, last time I saw them, dreadful live, but pretty damned good on record. The EP is most remarkable for its two interesting covers -- one of Lee Hazelwood's "Still of the Night" the other (the main reason I put it on the player in the first place) Blue Orchids' "Low Profile."

anyway, reviewed for Blurt a day or two ago.

Crystal Stilts
Radiant Door
(Sacred Bones)

Crystal Stilts has always worked in a glamorous murk, submerging spectral melodies in pools of reverb, shrouding strident post-punk rhythms in a penumbra of distortion. Their debut, Alight of Night, threaded hopelessly romantic hooks through a dungeon cavern of echo, the doomy miasma as much a part of the sound as the tunes themselves. Yet here, on this five-song EP, the band reaches for a measure of clarity. Perhaps it's the assistance of Gary Olson, he of the super-clean, super-clear Ladybug Transistor; perhaps there's more money for production; or perhaps the band just feels that their music has matured enough to bear closer scrutiny. In any case, Radiant Door is sharper and more focused than any Crystal Stilts recording to date. The hand-claps (yes, hand-claps) on opener "Dark Eyes" practically leap out of the mix, and the guitar strums that keep time with them are only a hair less startling. Yes, there's a fair bit of organ drone for blurry continuity and Brad Hargett is still singing as if from the bottom of a well, but this is a brighter, more lucid Crystal Stilts than before.


Crystal Stilts - Dark Eyes by sacredbones

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Nathan Salsburg

Very nice solo acoustic guitar album from Nathan Salsburg

Nathan Salsburg
No Quarter

Nathan Salsburg makes intricate guitar figures sound uncomplicated and sunny. A veteran of Tompkins Square’s Imaginational AnthemM project, he picks with brio through a septet of front-porch blues originals (and one traditional cover). The notes fly thick and fast, landing with precision and a swaggering bit of swing, yet there is never any sense of hurry. Salsburg, who has worked as an archivist for the Alan Lomax project for more than a decade, and whose Root Hog or Die blog and radio program document historical picking styles, has clearly learned not just the technique but the pace of pre-automobile, pre-internet America. Whether bouncing merrily through buggy-trotting, country-lane evoking “Sought and Affirmed” or taking a more meditative turn in “Eight Belles Dreamed the Devil Was Dead,” Salsburg seems to have all the time in the world.


"Sought and Hidden"

Monday, November 14, 2011

Oneohtrix Point Never

A short review of Oneohtrix Point Never's Replica at Blurt today...

Oneohtrix Point Never
(Software/Mexican Summer)

Synth wizard Daniel Lopatkin injects a sense of rhythmic play into Replica, turning the boundless, water-colored landscapes of last year's Returnal, just like that, into kinetic sculptures. Early single "Sleep Dealer" dusts synth-washed undercurrents with glittery-high keyboard flourishes, transforming deep mystery into primary-colored child-like wonder.

More (but not much more)

A lot of people really don't like this video, apparently.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Kathryn Calder

Sometime New Pornographer Kathryn Calder has a pretty good album out now in Bright and Vivid, which I reviewed for Dusted and it ran today.

Kathryn Calder
Bright and Vivid
File Under Music

Kathryn Calder makes bright, uneasy pop. Its surfaces glitter, its interior a spider-web of hairline fractures. Her second album, following 2010’s Are You My Mother?, explores existential dread in the chipper textures of synthesizer and diva pop.


"Who Are You"

We were going to see the Feelies tonight, but the roads are still out from Hurricane Irene and I couldn't figure out how to get there. So we're watching more of Season Three of Fringe instead...and I'm kind of psyched about it.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Like that dreamy psychedelic pop? Willing to brook sweeping, Liberace-style piano runs and even the occasional harp flourish? Obsessed with the fact that someday, you and everyone you know will die? Boy, have I got a band for you.

It's Sunbears! (punctuation required), a Florida-based duo whose lavish, cosmically-minded debut You Will Live Forever (no you won't) debuts next week on New Granada records. It's large scale, pop madness, along the lines of Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev and MGMT, though obviously on a smaller budget.

Why not "Give Love a Try" a try?

"Give Love a Try"

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Lemony Snicket weighs in on Occupy Wall Street

I love this.

Thirteen Observations made by Lemony Snicket while watching Occupy Wall Street from a Discreet Distance

1. If you work hard, and become successful, it does not necessarily mean you are successful because you worked hard, just as if you are tall with long hair it doesn’t mean you would be a midget if you were bald.

2. “Fortune” is a word for having a lot of money and for having a lot of luck, but that does not mean the word has two definitions.

3. Money is like a child—rarely unaccompanied. When it disappears, look to those who were supposed to be keeping an eye on it while you were at the grocery store. You might also look for someone who has a lot of extra children sitting around, with long, suspicious explanations for how they got there.

4. People who say money doesn’t matter are like people who say cake doesn’t matter—it’s probably because they’ve already had a few slices.

5. There may not be a reason to share your cake. It is, after all, yours. You probably baked it yourself, in an oven of your own construction with ingredients you harvested yourself. It may be possible to keep your entire cake while explaining to any nearby hungry people just how reasonable you are.

6. Nobody wants to fall into a safety net, because it means the structure in which they’ve been living is in a state of collapse and they have no choice but to tumble downwards. However, it beats the alternative.

7. Someone feeling wronged is like someone feeling thirsty. Don’t tell them they aren’t. Sit with them and have a drink.

8. Don’t ask yourself if something is fair. Ask someone else—a stranger in the street, for example.

9. People gathering in the streets feeling wronged tend to be loud, as it is difficult to make oneself heard on the other side of an impressive edifice.

10. It is not always the job of people shouting outside impressive buildings to solve problems. It is often the job of the people inside, who have paper, pens, desks, and an impressive view.

11. Historically, a story about people inside impressive buildings ignoring or even taunting people standing outside shouting at them turns out to be a story with an unhappy ending.

12. If you have a large crowd shouting outside your building, there might not be room for a safety net if you’re the one tumbling down when it collapses.

13. 99 percent is a very large percentage. For instance, easily 99 percent of people want a roof over their heads, food on their tables, and the occasional slice of cake for dessert. Surely an arrangement can be made with that niggling 1 percent who disagree.

Jennifer O'Connor -- I Want What You Want

Female singer/songwriters are a dime a dozen, but very few of them as are raw and honest and intelligent and just good at what they do as Jennifer O'Connor. You might remember, she used to record for Matador, but has lately been releasing on her own Kiam label. Her latest, I Want What You Want came out yesterday, apparently her birthday, so in addition to everything else, we're practically twins. (go team scorpio!)

Anyway, you can stream the whole thing here on Soundcloud. I've been enjoying it a lot and may try to review it somewhere when i finish up some other stuff.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Buraka Som Sistema

Pretty good afro-electro-dance type stuff from Buraka Som Sistema, out today...

Buraka Som Sistema

The Angolan-born, Lisbon-based Afro-dance collective Buraka Som Sistema makes a "day of the dead" style offering of the year's spookiest, butt grooves. Komba, the band's third album, ups the techno factor from 2008's Black Diamond, pushing Buraka's infectious kuduro-samba-house-rave hybrid into shinier, more modernistic directions.

At the same time, though, the band digs deep into tradition, mining Angolan theories of the afterlife. The first song, an insouciantly, body-moving cut called "Eskeleto" concerns a skeleton. The second, "Komba" describes a ritual party held seven days after a person's death, graveside, with singing, dancing, food and drink. A clear highlight, the song rattles with street parade snare cadences, burbles with organs and quick-steps to a better world on chant of "We're setting up the komba, they cry for me, the komba, they dancing at the komba, celebrate my life, the komba." The komba sounds like fun. It's a shame you have to die for it.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Look my Bonnie Prince Billy review turned into a feature...

It's up at Blurt

I concluded..."These are subtle songs, sparely arranged and underplayed, murmured, sighed and spoken as much as they are sung. There are a few showy passages, but mostly Oldham whispers to you. He gives you space to lean in and listen. He allows time between the notes for you to ponder along with him, the transience of life, the cruelty of disappointment and the saving grace of music. Wolfroy Goes to Town haunts you quietly, in a private way that is, somehow, all the more devastating."

This is a remix of "Quail and Dumplings"

Agent Ribbons

A week or so ago, i put on the two disc Friend of Friends compilation from the Tender Loving Empire label, 47 tracks in all, and, to be honest, most of it pretty high on the "meh" factor. However, There is one cut on the second disc that has caught my attention, called "I'm Alright" by Agent Ribbons.

Agent Ribbons is not, technically, a Tender Loving Empire artist. They're on the uniformly excellent Antenna Farm instead, and Antenna Farm is, very generously, sharing this track.

"I'm Alright"

I won't bother you with the other 46.

Hey, it's my birthday. It's a big round one, too (hint, the last one that is a factor of 100 until I actually hit 100, if I am so lucky) that may just tip me over into the "too old to write about music" category, I don't know.

I'm still younger than Michael Gira, Thurston Moore, Ian MacKaye...but older than pretty much everyone else.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Emperor X's Western Transport

A very late addition to my year-end list, this more or less one man effort from hyper intelligent Chad Metheny. Emperor X reminds me a lot of Hallelujah the Hills in its overpacked, nervous upbeat-ness and the way it runs roughshod over a very dense mesh of references and associations. I called it, "an intricate, but convoluted kind of pop, in my review at Dusted, and noted that, "There’s a buzz of feedback at the back of many of these percolating melodies, a sense they could turn feral at any given moment, that they’re held in check only by the intense concentration of their multi-talented ringmaster."

The rest of the review is here.

Anyway, the album, which is called Western Teleport has been out for a month or two on Bar/None records. There are a couple of free downloads ("Erica Western Teleport" and "Canada Day") at the Western Teleport website.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Gringo Star

In the category of not life-changing but really, really fun, I offer Gringo Star, the Atlanta-based shamble-pop outfit, whose second album Count Yer Lucky Stars is out now on Gigantic Music.

My fellow Blurt writer, Barry St. Vitus, reviewed it effusively a week or so ago, saying "Folks that frothed over the first album will find that the band has ripened some in their songwriting, but that it still carries the exuberance, as well as the Puckish mixture of Brit-pop, a la Supergrass and The Kinks, some ‘50s ducktail, and the surfy-garage sound they're keen on. Fans of Harlem, the Sorrows, the Soft Pack, and the Gringos' fellow Atlantans The Black Lips, will eagerly clamber on board for these guys."


I like "Got It" the best, and it reminds me of something that I absolutely cannot put my finger on...but of course, they're pushing "Shadow" instead.

They're supposed to be pretty good live, too, if you happen to live in any of these towns:

11/3 - Urban Lounge - Salt Lake City, UT
11/4 - Triple Nickel Tavern - Boulder, CO
11/6 - Turf Club - Minneapolis, MN
11/8 - Club Garibaldis - Milwaukee, WI
11/9 - Firebird - St. Louis, MO
11/10 - Subterranean - Chicago, IL
11/11 - Loading Dock - Traverse City, MI
11/12 - MOTR - Cincinnati, OH
11/13 - Black Cat - Washington, D.C.
11/14 - Kung Fu Necktie - Philadelphia, PA
11/15 - Slim's - Raleigh, NC
11/19 - Star Bar (Album Release Party) - Atlanta, GA

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Human Instinct reissues

The great reissue house Sunbeam has resurrected the New Zealand psyche-blues-acid-prog band Human Instinct's three full-lengths including the classic Stoned Guitar form 1970, which featured the antipodes best response to Jimi Hendrix in the guitar work of one Billy TK.

Here's Human Instinct's page at Sunbeam.

The official Human Instinct web page (warning, no music of any kind, not even streams or 30-second samples on offer.

A promotional video

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Time is round and space is curved

You could do a lot worse than spending a week with Robyn Hitchcock's new best-of collection, Chronology...which is what I've been doing. My review runs at Blurt this morning, but there's actually not much to say about this, except it's a good listen, a reasonable entry point and an excellent, manageably-sized reminder.

I wrote, "There are no real surprises here, nothing new for the devoted fan to chew on. Still pretty much every track is a winner, from the opening salvos of punkish "I Want to Destroy You" through the spare melancholy of acoustic "Queen Elvis" through the shadowy, charcoal smudged mysteries of "Goodnight Oslo." Look at Chronolology as the world's oddest Whitman's box sampler. Choose any one of these truffles of eccentricity and bite down. You can hardly go wrong."

The rest

Monday, October 31, 2011

Weekend's Red

My weekend was more white than red. We got about a foot of snow, to be specific, which is at least a month early by historical standards. Anyway, it's all showeled and we got home from Manchester okay. (My son Sean's state meet was Saturday, really nail-biting drive back, then I'd let him go back on the bus with his friends, so I had to go out in the worst of the storm with no snow tires to pick him up in town...but as I said, all's well that ends well).

Anyway, that was my's someone else's, Slumberland's to be's a five-song EP from the San Francisco noise-drone-rock outfit, and actually, a pretty good one, though Veronica Falls is still my favorite Slumberland this year, and after that Gold-Bears, and maybe this third.

Stereogum has the sing,e "Hazel", up for grabs.

Friday, October 28, 2011

I freaking love this new Beets album

It's called Let the Poison Out and it's just as goofy, just as loveable, but way, way, way more clean and listenable than anything they've done before. I see them as the East Coast version of Nodzzz, sloppy but smart.

The record is out now on Hardly Art, which, I don't know if you've noticed, this, is releasing a whole lot of really fun records.

Here's "Doing As I Do"

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Kiran Ahluwalia

Odd but interesting collaboration between an Indo-Canadian classicist and the Tuareg blues band Tinariwen, reviewed yesterday at Blurt.

Kiran Ahluwalia
Aam Zameen: Common Ground
(Avokado Artist)

Kiran Ahluwalia is an upper class Punjabi who grew up mostly in Toronto, fascinated at an early age with the ghazal, a form of poetry (and singing) fascinated with love and loss, but couched in sophisticated, literary written language. Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, by contrast, grew up in the deserts of Northern Mali, watched his father killed by rebels at the age of 4, drifted in and out of refugee camps, fought for Quaddafi's Libyan army as a young man and broke finally out of the most abject poverty into international stardom with the desert blues band Tinariwen. You could hardly imagine two life stories more different, and yet, the two meet here in sinuous hand-drummed rhythms and droning, hypnotic textures. Aam Zameen: Common Ground finds an unlikely meeting place between Malian proto-blues and Indian classical traditions.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Noveller's Glacial Glow

A really wonderful experimental guitar album from Sarah Lipstate who has, among other tihngs, played guitar in Parts & Labor.

Glacial Glow
Weird Forest

Guitarist Sarah Lipstate started out in the noisy environs of the not-fun crowd, crafting her first couple of solo works out of feedback, rather than guitar. She has focused more and more, over the course of four albums, on the guitar itself. In Glacial Glow, she filters her tones through an array of pedals, loops and effects, creating ghostly, luminescent textures of sound, but they are recognizably guitar sounds, however altered.


There's a good bit of Noveller at the Free Music Archive.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I went to see Grass Widow last week

My write-up went live today at Blurt.

"It's a pretty good night for girl power at the Flywheel. Grass Widow, maybe the best of the current crop of female-centric post-punkers, is here from San Francisco to headline, while Coasting, a guitar-and-drums duo from Brooklyn and Nashville that is just starting to make a splash, has the #2 slot. The locals on the bill are more gender neutral - with jazz-rock-fusionists Troop of Echoes holding down for the boys, and shout punk Outdates two-thirds male, but with a long-haired and ethereal looking girl bass player thumping out a Wipers-esque low-end."

The rest

There's a whole bunch of Grass Widow at the Free Music Archive

And also one from Coasting

Mark Sultan's Whatever/Whenever

Had an entertaining troll through Mark Sultan's blog to write this review of the one-CD summary of two vinyl records, all of it out now on In the Red. I concluded: There’s a powerful, surprisingly complicated interplay of emotional currents in these songs, so that even in the most overt party anthems (the Jay Reatard-ish “Let Me Freeze,” for instance) have a raw and wounded underbelly. That’s probably what makes them interesting, in a way that most 1960s-referencing garage rock is not. Mark Sultan breathes fire into genres that, in most hands, only gather dust. He’s learned to embrace his anger, and if that doesn’t save rock ‘n’ roll, it does at least make for a gripping take on it.

The whole review

Monday, October 24, 2011


Really beautiful, serene, down-tempo electronic music from Tycho, who is known in real life as Scott Hansen. I've been listening for a couple of weeks, off and on, and Dive is a grower, fairly minimal sounding if you're not paying attention but gaining depth and nuance and variety as you go on. It reminds me a little bit of Oneohtrix Point Zero, but a bit more anchored in beats. It's on Ghostly.

Anyway, you can check out "Hours" here.
Tycho - Hours [Dive LP - Nov. 2011] by Tycho

Sunday, October 23, 2011

My lost Ty Segall story

So, I wrote this for the Quietus, and they must not have liked it, because it never ran. I thought I'd share it with the 5-10 people who read my blog anyway.

Ty Segall: All Alone No More
SF’s one-man punk phenomenon Ty Segall has grown up quickly, collaborating with most of the Bay Area’s psych garage mainstays and churning out a series of increasingly melodic, psychedelic albums, but these days Segall says he can feel the aggression coming back.

“You can literally hit a drum and sing and it’s a great song,” say Ty Segall, the Bay Area garage rocker who has evolved, in less than five years, from a frenetic one-man punk band to one of his generation’s best psychedelic songwriters . His latest album, Goodbye Bread, swirls blues-based 1960s-influenced romps with Beatle-esque multi-colours, slows things down and ponders looming questions like whether or not to purchase a couch. It’s a far cry from the fuzzy mania of early records like “Horn the Unicorn” or the ramped-up, amped up raves of the 2008 self-titled LP, but Segall shrugs off the differences. “I don’t think there are any rules about what makes a good song good.”

Segall, raised blocks from the shore in Orange County, first found punk rock through skate-boarding videos, latching on, as an early teenager, to Minor Threat and Bad Brain, the Dead Kennedys and the Misfits. He knew right away, he says, that he was going to be more than a bystander. “The thing about punk rock is that anybody can do it,” he observes. “It’s kind of understood that from the beginning, you just have to want to do it.”

Segall formed Epsilons while still in high school, playing guitar and singing in a band that released three full-lengths before he packed off to college in San Francisco. There he hooked up with the Traditional Fools, whose lo-fi and primitive take on Nuggets-era rock caught the attention of Eric Butterworth at Make a Mess records. Butterworth, who is also in Nodzzz, asked Segall if the Traditional Fools could play a show in San Francisco sometime in 2007, and Segall agreed. Then he forgot to tell his bandmates about it, they couldn’t make the show at the last minute, and, just like that, a solo career was launched.

“Instead of cancelling it, I asked if I could just come and play. I had some songs I was working on – the songs that ended up on the first record -- so I was just going to show up and play the guitar,” says Segall. “Then I got there, and I saw a kick drum and a high hat, and I said, ‘Man, can I borrow a kick drum and a high hat and try to make some noise with my feet?’ I had never done that before. “

The show went well enough that Segall began performing by himself, one foot on the bass drum, one on the high hat, a guitar cradled in his lap and a tambourine within swatting distance. His high-energy stage show won some key fans. In a spring 2008 Listed feature at the online magazine Dusted, John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees included Ty Segall and The Traditional Fools in his ten favorite bands of the moment, saying “Ty has started doing a one-man band thing that is ridiculously killer.”

Mike Donovan of Sic Alps remembers an Oh Sees, Sic Alps, Ty Segall tour through the south in the fall of 2008, where, he says, Segall impressed him as “supremely talented and a great singer.” Afterwards, Sic Alps invited Segall to join the band, and he and Donovan played a series of East Coast shows with Eric Bauer shortly after. (Donovan also penned Segall’s Goodbye Bread bio, as a joke signing it Andrew Loog Oldham.)

Dwyer’s Castleface Records released Segall’s self-titled album, the record that documented Segall’s one-man band phase, late in 2008. “I recorded that first record live in a buddy’s basement,” says Segall, adding that, as at the live shows, he played all the instruments and sang, sometimes all at the same time.

“After we did that, I was like, ‘Cool, that sounds good, but I don’t really know if I want to do another one-man band record, ‘ “ he adds, “That’s the one man band record. It’s pretty unique.”

Segall was also just plain worn out from his madly-energized live show. “It’s definitely tiring,” he says. “If I haven’t done it for a while, I have to take a week or two to get back into it. It’s really hard for me to just jump back into it. And my legs…it’s just kind of a full-on feeling. You have to get back into it.”
He adds, “It’s fun now, when I haven’t done it for a long time, but I was doing it for two years straight. I realized it was just too much pressure. If stuff gets screwed up, it can go downhill. It really sucks because everything is you.”

So, with his first album finished and his body aching from night after night of constant thrashing, Segall began to think about forming a band. He went first to his college friend, Emily Epstein, a drummer. “I had to convince her to play with me, because she hadn’t played drums in a band for a long time,” he says. “I was like ‘dude, come on, please, please!’ and it took a month or two of trying to convince her to play. I think she was just shy or something.”

He also began working with a succession of bass players, Shayde Sartin of the Fresh & Onlys, then Mikal Cronin (with whom he later recorded Reverse Shark Attack in 2009), then Tim Hellman, then a girlfriend named Renee and then back to Cronin.

With a full band in place, Segall was able to push his songwriting in different directions, evolving towards a slower, more melodic, trippier sound in Lemons , Melted and, finally, Goodbye Bread, his first on Drag City. “I guess I’m just trying to make things sound a little different than they have in the past,” says Segall, struggling to articulate a process that is, clearly, at least for him, mostly intuitive. “It’s just experimenting with how to write a song, with tunes or whatever…I’m just trying to get better. I don’t know how to explain how I’m doing it.”

One thing that has changed is Segall’s mix of influences, which has broadened considerably since his skate-punking days. “For sure, back when I did that first record, I was mostly into garage rock. But now lately I’m into glam and pop and softer music and weirder music, like noise music and really crazy psych music and krautrock and stuff like that. Definitely I think that me being interested in types of music than in the past probably has gone into my songs. I’m sure that has a lot to do with it.”

As a result, like Melted, Goodbye Bread has a definite downtempo vibe, its sounds winding hazily through folky guitar cadences, Segall’s voice slowed to a codeine-sticky crawl. If the self-title edged evoked the Ramones and Dexter Romweber, Goodbye Bread sounds like late Beatles psych, though a bit unstrung and more casually delivered. Segall acknowledges the change in pace, but says he might be almost done with this particular phase. “I did kind of mellow out for a while, but the aggression is coming back,” he comments. “What I want to do is to make music like Goodbye Bread but with more aggression. I want to do that for the next record.”

Meanwhile, Segall is living the life of a working musician, spending 40% or more of his time on the road and re-acclimating grudgingly, in his rare time off, to mundane tasks like paying rent or buying groceries. You can hear some of his reservations – about the 9 to 5 and, conversely, about its more bohemian alternative – in Goodbye Bread. In “Comfortable Home,” for instance, he struggles to understand why a girlfriend wants to buy a couch. “I Am With You,” later on, lists a litany of things that Segall has had enough of: trumpets, kids, hats, dresses, the man and home or, as he puts it, “the place with the fuckin’ fog.” The dog on the cover of Goodbye Bread is not Segall’s dog. There’s no way he could have a pet given the way he lives right now.

Both on the record and over the phone, Segall sounds like a man who hasn’t wholly decided whether a regular life is preferable to touring, or vice versa. “That’s definitely part of the record, “ he says, when asked about the tension between home and the road. “but it’s not just about wanting that [settled] lifestyle because part of me doesn’t want that. There are things that I miss having but there are also things that I’m thankful for being able to do.”

For instance, when we speak, Segall is just back from Australia, where he played shows with Melbourne’s UV Race, hung with Eddy Current Suppression Ring’s Mikey Young and absorbed a scene that is very much like the one that surrounds him at home. “It’s maybe the combination of the surfing, having the ocean near by, and the music scene,” he says. Punk rock, obviously, doesn’t require sun and surf, Segall says, and some of its greatest bands have come out of snowy, landlocked cities like Cleveland and Detroit. Still, there’s something about the combination of garage-rock energy and sunniness that sets San Francisco’s current scene apart from the others.
“It’s hard to say whether there’s a San Francisco sound,” says Segall. “There’s a psychedelic element and a pop element that everybody shares – well, not everybody, but bands like Thee Ohsees, Sic Alps and Kelley Stoltz.”

“I’m definitely influenced by my friends,” he adds. “It’s not like I pick up something from John Dwyer, or learn something. It’s more like I say, ‘Oh shit, this new Oh Sees album is amazing. Damn, I’ve got to make a good record, too.’”

Friday, October 21, 2011

Supreme Dicks reissue...Breathing and Not Breathing

Pretty awesome stuff from the vaults...Jagjaguwar is re-releasing the complete catalog of Western Mass's Supreme Dicks, a band whose flexible line-up occasionally included Lou Barlow. This reminds me of Gira's Angels of Light, based in folk, but proceeding from those roots in really dangerous, violent directions. Anyway, I like it a lot, and notwithstanding the fact that we're practically neighbors, I had never heard of this band until the promo came in the mail.

Mine is another one of those sampler thingies, but if you buy this, it's a four-box set including: The Unexamined Life, The Emotional Plague, Workingman’s Dick (a collection of early archival recordings) and the EP This Is Not A Dick, plus some unreleased tracks.

Fuck yeah, happy Friday.

"In a Sweet Song"

Human Switchboard

Another forgotten post-punk band getting the reissue treatment, this time from Bar/None...It's well worth checking out if you like this sort of thing.

Human Switchboard
Who's Landing in My Hangar: Anthology 1977-1984

“In this town, a third can’t find work. Another third drink to go to sleep, but everything, everything still seems possible.” Bob Pfeifer murmured into the mic in a tremulous baritone remarkably like Lou Reed’s, his guitar alternating between jangle and brutal stabs, his partner Myrna Macarian throwing up a keening, reeling swell of organ behind him. It was 1981, perhaps the bleakest year of the Rust Belt recession. Cleveland’s Human Switchboard was recording what would be its one and only studio album, a nervy, sexually fixated jitter along the peripheries of post-punk, girl-group and new wave. Who’s Landing in My Hangar?, released on IRS’s Faulty Products imprint, turned out to be Human Switchboard’s commercial and artistic highpoint, and by 1985, after a deal with Polydor fell through, the band broke up.


(Say No To) Saturday's Girl by Human Switchboard by BarNoneRecords

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dreamers of the Ghetto

think about it. How long has it been since you've heard anyone use the word "ghetto"? It's like a 1960s word, isn't it? You could only use it if you lived pretty far from any actual inner city in, say, Bloomington, Indiana, for instance.

That's where Dreamers of the Ghetto comes from and, to be honest, I have a soft spot for Indiana bands. but not this one. It's that kind of big rock Coldplay-into-U2 anthemry (and yes, I know U2 ranks really high in my playlists, but that's my son's fault, not mine) that died out, mostly, a decade or two ago.

I gave them a four out of ten. (Pitchfork.liked the album a lot more and even remarked on the strength of the songs, which kind of blew me away.)

I said, "The sonics are undeniably impressive, ragged-cornered soul longing and technologically enhanced guitar trickery. Yet the songs, over repeat listens, never develop past this impressive facade. The drama becomes bombast as you realize no tunes are actually is actually holding up these enormous gestures."

You can read the whole thing here.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Paul Hiraga has been doing this understated alt.folkish Downpilot project long enough to have a Splendid review in the file (which is a long time now), and his latest, New Great Lakes is his fourth album. Noel Murray of the AVClub gave it a B-, but noted that, "Hiraga’s lovely vocals—and the way he uses those vocals to keep pushing his melodies upward—never fails to enchant. And when Downpilot has all its pieces in place, as on the woozy, hypnotic title track, the band rivals Dolorean and The Low Anthem in the 'achingly gorgeous Americana' game." You can read the whole review here. I like it at least B, maybe B+ personally.

Tapete Records has short versions of three songs at SOundcloud.
Downpilot - New Great Lakes by Tapete Records

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bitch Magnet reissues

Temporary Residence is reissuing all three of Bitch Magnet's late 1980s/early 1990s full-lengths -- Star Booty, Umber and Ben Hur (which had David Grubbs from Squirrel Bait on it). They were all remixed by John Congleton and with some bonus, previously unrecorded tracks. I got a nine-song sampler, three from each record, and though I seem to have missed the Bitch Magnet phenomenon the first time, the sound is very recognizably late Reagan era, hard-core-into-post-rock, with crashing waves of guitars and, inside the din, a bit of angry tune-ful-ness. I've been enjoying the sampler a whole lot.

Here they are in Berlin in 1989

Monday, October 17, 2011

Letting Up Despite Great Faults

Wow...these band names are getting so long now.

Letting Up Despite Great Faults makes a kind of quietly shoe-gazey, guitar-fuzzed, synthesizer assisted pop, with the vocals (that's Michael Lee, the band's sole member, so it's all him) buried under a eider-down quilt of soft noise. There's an EP out now on Old Flame Records called Paper Crush which I like a whole lot. It reminds me of Maps' EP from a few years ago, which was so much better than the full-length. But anyway.

Here's the best song.
Letting Up Despite Great Faults - Teenage Tide by lettingup

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Na Hawa Doumbia
La Grande Cantatrice Malienne Vol. 3
(Awesome Tapes from Africa)

Na Hawa Doumbia was just beginning a four-decade long career as one of Mali's foremost female singers when she recorded the four songs on La Grande Cantatrice: Vol. 3. This particular recording was one of three made in Abidjan, Ivory Coast in 1982, released in vinyl and for many years unavailable. It is the first physical release from Awesome Tapes from Africa, an mp3 blog which uncovers and disseminates music from rare cassette tapes from the African continent. [Crucial stuff at that. - Afrocentric Collector Ed.]

In 1982, Doumbia was just two years past her first public performance at the 1980 Youth Week in Bamako, where she won first prize for her song "Tinye De Be Laban". She had, only recently broken free of the caste restrictions that forbid people outside the Manding tribe from becoming musicians. A young woman, by the photo hardly more than a teenager, she was just beginning to win recognition for her warm, soulful interpretation of the Wassoulou tradition.


This video is from much later

Friday, October 14, 2011

Shayna Zaid & the Catch

Kind of a nice, jazz-into-earthy-Americana debut from Shayna Zaid, a Malaysian-born, New York-based singer. I like the quicker songs from the album's first half the best and "Lighthouse" maybe most of all. Later album ballads like "It's You" drift uncomfortably into "My Heart Will Go On" territory. Still, she's a strong singer, almost a belter, with enough taste to pull back when warranted, and her band is excellent.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A preliminary stab at best-of

So Ian got me thinking about best of 2011 yesterday, and I've made my usual stab at irrelevance...all records that I enjoyed quite a lot, the top ten is pretty solid (by which I mean that I am personally solidly behind them). The second 10 gets a little goofy, I guess...anyway.

1. Skull Defekts, Peer Amid (Thrill Jockey)
2. Psychic Paramount, II (Important)
3. David Kilgour, Left by Soft (Merge)
4. King Creosote and Jon Hopkins, Diamond Mine (Domino)
5. Dirtbombs, Party Store (In the Red)
6. Gem Club, Breakers (Hardly Art)
7. Mogwai, Hard Core Will Never Die But You Will (Sub Pop)
8. Sidi Toure, Sahel Folk (Thrill Jockey)
9. UV Race, Homo (In the Red)
10. Veronica Falls, Veronica Falls (Slumberland)
11. Sole and the Skyrider Band, Hello Cruel World (Fake Four)
12. Demdike Stare, Tryptych (Modern Love)
13. Get Help, The Good Green Earth (Midriff)
14. Sam Phillips, Solid State (Littlebox)
15. Bad Sports, Kings of the Weekend (Dirtnap)
16. Obits, Moody Standard and Poors (Sub Pop)
17. Arrica Rose and the Dot, Dot Dots, Let Alone Sea (Poprock)
18. Faust, Something Dirty (Tapete)
19. Emperor X, Western Transport (Bar/None)
20. Washed Out, Within and Without (Sub Pop)

By the way, I have close to 4000 tracks from 2011 on my iTunes this year, so I may not have been listening to the right stuff, but I haven't been lazy.

Still Corners...and Twin Peaks

My review of British dream pop outfit Still Corners' first album (Creature of an Hour) includes an extended, possibly overextended, comparison to Julee Cruise...Read all about it at Dusted by following the jump.

Still Corners
Creature of an Hour
Sub Pop

Still Corners lives in a shadowy, twilight world, the band’s melodies fogged in with ambiguities, but sharpened by an indefinable sense of threat. The core duo, songwriter Greg Hughes and singer Tessa Murray, work in the most delicate shades of noire, creating something like a Sam Spade novel realized in film by Jean Cocteau.



Wednesday, October 12, 2011

One More for the Owl...returning to Gabriel Miller Phillips

This probably the best self-release I've had all year.

Gabriel Miller Phillips
One For the Owl

Gabriel Miller Phillips' debut is a collection of ghostly, melancholy songs, begun, it seems on acoustic guitar, but fleshed out at times with spectral guitar effects. The sometime ballet dancer, sidelined with a tibial bone inflection, turned to songwriting at a dark intersection in his life, a period when he could hardly walk for pain.

That era produced his first EP Shoot the Moon, yet even now, a couple of years later, you get the sense of persistence through trouble, epiphany through disappointment and discomfort. These songs track lonely, late-night snow-trails through wintery Boston ("Memorial Drive") and diffident, unsuccessful attempts at connection ("Last Dance") with elegiac grace.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Shimmering Stars

Slumberland has been on a bit of a roll lately with that Gold-Bears record, and then Veronica Falls. They've got another good one in Shimmering Stars' Violent Heart, which came out maybe a month ago, and I am just catching up. The disc is, per the fashion, heavily reverbed, fuzz-dusted pop, indebted to Phil Spector and Brian Wilson and all their latter day followers (Panda Bear comes to mind).

I'm especially liking the track "I'm Gonna Try," and mostly the moment in "I'm Gonna Try" where the singer pauses, steels himself up for the confession, and says, "In my a violence." I'm not doing justice to it, but there's something there that cuts through the confectionery sweetness of pop, right to its desperate core...and I like that a lot.

Anyway, they're giving the single away on Bandcamp so you can listen to it yourself and tell me how full of it I am...

Benjamin Ewing reviewed it for Dusted, and said, "Violent Hearts occasionally plods, as on 'No One,' 'Other Girls,' and the opener 'Believe,' (at least before its delightfully messy climax). But more often it quietly impresses, revealing new melodic and harmonic strands with each subsequent listen. Put differently: male anxiety, swagger and romance slowly make their way out of the abyss of echo, and they are once again in harmony."

You can read the rest here, if you want.