Friday, July 29, 2011

dustdevil and crow

I spent a little time last week working on a bio/one-sheet-ish sort of thing for Michael's dustdevil & crow project (with Bendle from a door and a window), whose third full-length is now available on bandcamp and via the Free Music Archive. Michael said it would be okay if I shared it here, and I thought it came out pretty well so here goes...

dustdevil& crow
…and chuang tzu dreamed that he was me

“I've always hated electric guitars! I've played one myself, so this is a thorny relationship, but in pop and "rock" music i often want to silence the guitarist, especially solos (I often feel the same about sax players in jazz!),” says Bendle, ex of late 1970s/early 1980s post-punk outfit The Door and the Window and now one-half of the electro-acoustic, noise-folk-industrial experiment known as dustdevil & crow. “ And here I am playing with a guitarist - who makes this amazing noise! I always feel honoured that such a brilliant musician wants to work on my songs!”

That guitarist is Michael Duane, one-time leader of NYC No Wave mainstays The Dustdevils, erstwhile Wedding Present guitarist and, more recently, a collaborator with Railroad Jerk’s Steve Cerio (in psych-rocking Atlantic Drone) and Jackie-O Motherfucker. He and Bendle have been working together as Dustdevil& Crow since 2008, when they connected via a blog post Duane had made about The Door and the Window.

Bendle contacted Duane to thank him and a musical conversation ensued, conducted, then as now, entirely over the internet. Bendle sent Duane some solo material, including a song meant for his next album. Duane replied, “I need to play bass on this!" and the partnership began. “Initially I'd build a bed of loops and sing a melody line over the top, and Michael would add stuff and then I would add more. Often I'd then remove some or all of my original loops,” Bendle explained. “Now the beginnings of songs come as often from Michael's end as from mine.”

Working in this way, mostly by exchanging files, but occasionally touching base by phone, Bendle and Duane created three albums together, 2009’s while walking slowly you can see the grasses grow, 2010’s while speaking softly you can hear the insects sing and now …and chuang tzu dreamed that he was me. The album was named for the 4th century (BC) Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu who, myth has it, once dreamed he was a butterfly and woke up wondering if he were a butterfly dreaming of being Chuang Tzu.

A dreamlike sense of mystery pervades the title track and, indeed, the rest of the album, in elliptical poetic lyrics and a hazy intuition of alternate realities. Yet the songs are also fringed with rock aggression, rough-edged guitars, abrasive noise and, in two places, a drum beat reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks.” There are clearly two very different sensibilities at work. The way they mesh with and contradict and reinforce each other is part of the fascination.
Bendle said that he was occasionally surprised by what Duane had added to his compositions, but that the two worked from a foundation of trust. “Sometimes I can't even hear a connection between [what I’ve sent and what he’s written] when i first listen, but I have learned that it always works,” Bendle said. “After all, he's the musician in this band. I am maybe good at constructing music, but have limited capacities for properly playing anything... after many years of on/off performing and recording music I am still a non-musician.”

He continued, “I’m also always amazed that Michael accepts my processing and sometimes mangling of what he does. For example ‘November’ began as a guitar duet from the same session, and having the same kind of sound as,’Fritz Haber’... and I turned it into something rather different! And even on “Fritz Haber’, i took the original guitar parts and cut and spliced them in a way that I felt worked for the song.”

…and chuang tzu dreamed that he was me, as well as the two earlier dustdevil& crow albums, can be downloaded via

For all other enquires, use the contact button at the bandcamp site above.

Bad Sports

Wow, busy week, mostly workwise, but also in terms of some music stuff that I'll maybe be posting about later. The good news, I guess, is that after two months of no paying work at all, I am now officially we will not go down with the ship this time, at least as long as we can make to September or so, when people actually start paying for things.

Anyway, I have a bit of an early review of the new Bad Sports record Kings of the Weekend up at Dusted today. It's mostly for you garage fans out there...if you like that In the Red/Goner/Hozac stuff, you will totally go for this one. I mean, I did.

Bad Sports
Kings of the Weekend

....Bad Sports touchstones are classic first-wave punk, the Ramones and the Clash prominently, bands whose buzz-saw riffs slice right through bubblegum worthy melodies. They sound just like the Ramones on “Can’t Just Be Friends,” and superbly Clash-like on the chord-crashing, “You Don’t Want to Know.” Not as goofy as their counterparts in the Wax Museums, these guys are still pretty funny. “I’m In Love With Myself” is a palm-muted paean to narcissism. “Who needs girls when you’ve got a mirror?” indeed. Later songs plead with the emotionally damaged (“Schizophrenia…won’t fix itself” from “I Can Be Cruel”) and fume over unwanted guests (“I don’t want you on my couch…get out!” from “Can’t Stay”) with black humor.


"Teenage Girls"

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Joshua Stamper

Joshua Stamper is sort of the house arranger for Sounds Familyre records, which releases a lot of the cream of the evangelical indie pop -- Danielson, Wovenhand, etc. He's also a pretty interesting contemporary composer, whose self-release album Interstitials, I reviewed for Dusted this week.

Joshua Stamper

Joshua Stamper has made his share of “interstitial” music, arranging the horn, string and woodwind breaks for artists like Danielson, Twin Sister and Ben + Vesper. He’s a subtle element in a whole catalog of eccentric pop music, taking on the colors, chameleon-style, of the artists he’s working with. Listen hard, for instance, and you can make out his impact, in the chamber music swells that tip Dan Zimmerman’s “Silence Is a Golden Mountain” from morosity to resilience, in the blasts of horns and string embellishments that separate I Was a King’s Old Friends from the common run of power pop, or in the gleaming string textures that make Twin Sister’s upcoming In Heaven glisten with eeriness.

On his own account, Stamper has made six full-length recordings, composing for various jazz ensembles, chamber groups, films and himself. Interstitials employs a broad palette of instruments – voice, guitar, clarinet, bassoon, trombone, flute and others – in compositions that are dense, but never overcrowded.


I got a really nice note from Joshua just after the review went up.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Christine Owman

What an unexpected pleasure from Sweden, this dark-folky, industrially-roughened Throwing Knives from the songwriter Christine Owman. Owman performs, frequently, in front of film projections, by the videos, much of it playing with traditional and non-traditional imagery of the female. Her album, too, seems unusually liberated (and liberating), celebrating the autonomy and self-expressive ability of a woman who defines her own place in her relationships.

Here's a bit from my Blurt review, which ran a couple of days ago.

Much of women's pop and rock seems to be primarily directed at men, packaging femininity in ways that confirm or overturn male-generated stereotypes. Throwing Knives comes at womanhood from the inside, painting a far more complicated, conflicted view that may or may not appeal to the opposite sex. That it's couched in beautiful, eerie melodies, sometimes delicate, sometimes ragged arrangements, and a dream-like vocal prettiness can only add to the conundrum. Christina Owman is certainly not going for the obvious.


05 Dance - CHRISTINE OWMAN by Christine Owman

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bare Wires

I've got a new favorite song..."Don't Ever Change" by Bare Wires.


I don't know if I've mentioned this, but I may be doing some writing for The Quietus fact, I just turned in my first attempt at a feature, which was on Ty Segall. If you're not familiar with the Quietus, it's a really wonderful site, whose aim is to do for current, living, working musicians what Mojo does for dead ones. There are a lot of really good, recognizeable writers on the masthead, far better known than I am (which is not saying much, obviously, but it goes beyond that).

Anyway, there's a really thoughtful, moving piece on the tragedy in Norway, which you should read. Most of the coverage is designed, more or less, to break your heart, but this piece is different in that it makes you a little bit proud, again, to be human. The Norwegians are a much better, more forgiving, humane people than we are, evidently.

David Bazan

I had a really interesting conversation with David Bazan back in March, I think. PopMatters mislaid the interview for four-five months, but now it's up and it seems to read really well, to me at least.

Taking Stock with David Bazan
By Jennifer Kelly 26 July 2011

David Bazan is trying to be good.

The Seattle singer songwriter and Pedro the Lion founder was raised in a Pentacostal church. He has long been concerned with issues of faith and social justice. Still now with Strange Negotiations his second solo, the focus has turned to personal integrity. It’s a concept that makes some of his more traditionally religious friends and family members uneasy.

“Oddly enough, coming out of evangelical Christianity, it was almost scandalous for me to say, ‘I want to be a good man,’” Bazan explained in a recent phone interview. “The concept of salvation within evangelical Christianity really short-circuits people being good. There’s no real incentive for people to be good. If people confess the right things, then they’re saved and they will get to heaven, whether they are good or not.”


The music's really good, too. We get to that later in the interview.

"Wolves at the Door"

Monday, July 25, 2011


This is good, this new album, Family & Friends, by the Chicago's a series of interlocking stories about various family relationships, not all of them very admirable. (One song, "Goddammit" has a bigamist as its main character, juggles a 17-year-old girl and a 30-something wife, both believe they are married to him.)

Interesting, it's produced by Yoni from Why? plus a guy named Advanced Battery Base, who is also, in his indie-pop guise, known as Casiotone for the Painfully Alone.

"The Whip," a song about a UFC fighter, is the best thing on the album, but the video is for "Flutes".

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I was never much of an Amy Winehouse fan

Though of course it's always sad when someone destroys herself, and also, when that person is surrounded by folks who ought to be protecting her and they don't.

That said, it seems to me that there are far better neo-soul singers out there. Here are three now that Winehouse is gone.

The obvious one is Sharon Jones

I also really like Bonobo collaborator Andreya Triana

And. in my book at least, Lisa Kekaula from the Bell Rays is the very definition of the "real thing."

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Erik Friedlander's Bonebridge

Erik Friedlander is one of the pre-eminent cellists of jazz – and he also plays with rock artists, from time to time, most notably John Darnielle’s Mountain Goats. His new project Bonebridge, however, looks for inspiration in the American south…juxtaposing the restless rhythms of small-ensemble jazz with the rich melancholy of country blues, gospel and R&B. He’s working here with the two other members of the Broken Arm Trio – that is, bassist Trevor Dunn and drummer Mike Sarin – plus slide guitar master Doug Wamble. The result is very warm, immediate music that is, perhaps, just a tad too unsettled and questioning to qualify as down home. I’m particularly taken with the rhythm section, whose scratchy, twitchy late night cadences place even the lushest moments into an urbane, unsentimental context.

I’m more or less along for the ride on this one, but Jason Bivins, who writes for Dusted, said this: “For starters, the sound of this disc is a sheer delight, with a warmth that brings out all the woody colors marvelously (its sound reminds me consistently of that living room feel on Merle Haggard’s Roots Vol. 1). And at the center of these winning tunes is Friedlander’s gorgeous pizz sound, so limber and lyrical and unostentatious. Fittingly, this is a groove recording that’s unafraid of unabashed hooks and sing-song melodies. The gifted Wamble and Friedlander trade off themes throughout, and play them in sweet unison, too. Occasionally the band uses some gentle overdubbing for background high keening or an almost organ-like effect, but in general the sound is spare and exuberant.”

You can read the rest of his review here.

Here’s Friedlander talking about his inspiration for the Bonebridge project

Friday, July 22, 2011's catching

Earlier in the week, I had some post-punk from Buenos Aires (Las Kellies, no relation, obviously). Here's the German equivalent...a band called Herpes whose Symptome und Berchwerden is out later next month on Tapete Records. (They also did the last Faust record.)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sole and the Skyrider Band's Hello Cruel World

My review of Anticon founder Sole's latest (and incidentally non-Anticon) disc ran yesterday at Blurt. I finished it up saying,

"This is not a feel-good album. A palpable sense of anger - at the music industry, at politicians, at the war machine, at the lack of universal health care, at damned near everything - hangs over the proceedings like a dirty fog. Lyrical moments, the gentle, melodic observation that 'I started as a cell/now I'm a planet losing planet status,' from 'Formal Designation 134340' are widely separated.

And yet, how sharply Holland expresses his rage, how clearly his disappointment reveals betrayed idealism. The world is a dark and greedy place, run by idiots and criminals, and Holland's just reporting what he sees when he says, 'You say I'm pessimistic, as if I'm out of touch/take a look around/I ain't pessimistic enough.' Strong stuff."


My favorite song, by far, was "Napolean," which has a cameo from Xiu Xiu.
Sole and the Skyrider Band "Napoleon" (feat Xiu Xiu) by sole...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Circuit Des Yeux

Haley Fohr, three albums into her run as Circuit Des Yeux, puts a powerful, classically trained voice to work in rough-edged rock-into-blues experiments. Her album Portrait is out now on DeStilj. I reviewed it today at Dusted, ending:

"Fohr showcases the cathartic, heavily amplified impact of her show in “I’m on Fire,” the sole live track. Here she spits and moans and banshee shrieks against a crashing clamor of guitars, sounding more like Jarboe at her scariest than any latter day diva. There’s something so primal, so self-immolating about this track that you forget, for a moment, how young Fohr is. That is, until she reminds you, chanting “Twenty-two…to be twenty-two…twenty-two…to be twenty-two.” If Fohr can light herself on fire like this now, at barely legal drinking age, imagine what she’ll be like at 30."


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Las Kellies

Post-punk from Argentina? Why not? Especially if they're going to slip in an ESG cover. My review of Las Kellies runs today at Blurt.

Las Kellies
Las Kellies

Las Kellies' cover of ESG's "Erase You," slinks and struts with an animal grace, its spiky minimalism grounded in grunting, primitive bass and embellished with scrappy, taunting vocals. These three Argentinians - like their South Bronx forebears - are clearly women who will take no shit from anyone, but who, left to their own devices, can make a party out of the barest elements. Las Kellies, the band's third album, throws a quick nod to ESG, as well as the Slits, the Raincoats and Delta 5, shouting multilingual jeers and boasts to a backslanting, reggae-flavored beat.


"Perro Rompebalas"

Does anyone else love this song like I do?

It's "Falling Down," off Hotel Lights' Girl Graffiti, the third album from ex-Ben Folds Five drummer Darren Jessee, out late next month on Bar/None, but it sounds like a lost, lovely outtake from Teenage Fanclub.

The rest of the album is pretty good, too, but not like this.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dark Mean

Dark Mean belongs in that category of roots-instrumented bands that aren't really alt-country at all. You can make a banjo punk. You get even turn a slide guitar into something psychedelic. A certain hoarse-voiced urgency is all you need to transform folky-melodies into brash indie pop. And, hey, it always helps when you know how to use brass, really use it, to pump up little ditties into homespun epics...

Formed in Hamilton, Ontario, about half a decade ago, the band has two earlier EPs under its belt and now, the self-released self-titled Dark Mean, which contains this song "Happy Banjo" which I like a lot. In terms of subject matter, it describes a romantic relationship in which both parties "like it on top"...but there's no reason they can't work that out if they take turns, don't you think?

Anyway, here's the track. Have a listen. Reminds me of Rural Alberta Advantage and Hallelujah the Hills...which is always a good thing.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


I don't know if I've mentioned how excited I am about an upcoming show, Monday after next, at the Iron Horse. Psychic Paramount whose II is, so far, my #2 for the year (ah, the power of auto-suggestion!), is playing that you might remember, Psychic Paramount is a couple of guys from Laddio Bollocko who play blur-speed, loud, feedback-bent instrumental music that sounds like the sheer rush of adrenaline you might get in a fire fight in an open air plane or in the jungle when a tiger is about to jump on you.

Okay, that's the opener, what about this band Disappears, which also appears on the bill? What the hell is their story? I wonder. And being a naturally curious, google-equipped sort of person, I go to find out.

Disappears, out of Chicago, inhabits the same guitar-driven, post-rock slice of the universe as Psychic Paramount, though tending more to the Kraut-rocking end of things and incorporating some vocals. Steve Shelley has been closely aligned with the band for a while...he is now the drummer, and he has done some recording/engineering work for them. (His presence maybe explains what they're doing in Northampton, along with Psychic Paramount...thanks Steve!)

Disappears' Brian Case did one of those Listed features for Dusted a while ago.

I got a DL of their latest Guider from someone who wanted me to review a Philly show (I'm not sure how you say, "I don't live in Philly" so that people understand it; the straightforward way (i.e. "I don't live in Philly.") doesn't seem to work. But anyway, the record, which came out on Kranky late last year, is pretty awesome. I was already pretty hotly anticipating this even a little more.

Here's the obligatory not-really-a-video of "Guider"

Friday, July 15, 2011

Trotsky Icepick story at Blurt

I had nothing to do with this, but, very cool, Blurt has a feature up now about the L.A. punk band Trotsky Icepick, who fell at the more melodic end of the SST spectrum and shared members with the Urinals. I got lured into the whole Trotsky Icepick experience a year or so ago on YoungMossTongue, mostly on the strength of the name, but damn, what a band.

Anyway, they're reuniting all about it here.

Anti-Social Music

I’ve been kind of liking Anti-Social Music Is The Future Of Everything, the fourth album from a collective of downtown avant-classical experimenters that includes Franz Nicholay (once of the Hold Steady) and various members of Gutbucket, World Inferno Friendship Society, the New York City Opera and the New Jersey Philharmonic.

The album’s a bit of a project, with at least three distinct suites of music, written by various members and performed in a variety of styles…I’m liking the one called “Correction” the best, a long, fairly abstract composition in strings and woodwinds which ends with a bit of spoken word. The spoken word makes three separate corrections – one to a report of a conversation between then-President Richard Nixon and his chief of staff Bob Haldeman, another to an article in Slate about the differences between creationism and intelligent design, and a final to an NPR piece on lunar equipment named after Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Then the same voice announces a series of errors in the preceding music and the orchestra plays those bits again. I think it’s interesting, because the corrections are all “deck chairs on the Titanic” types of emendations. That is, a minor factual error in what Nixon said about his bugging activities, an errant attribution of the divine watchmaker analogy…fixing these kinds of things won’t alter the fundamental wrong-ness of Nixon’s wiretapping or creationism. So you wonder if the authors felt the same way about the music…that fixing a few error would not salvage fundamentally flawed material. Or maybe I’m reaching. In any case, thought-provoking stuff.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

(Not very) Brilliant Colors

I am really not impressed with Brilliant Colors' follow-up...From Dusted today...

Brilliant Colors
Again and Again

Two years ago, Brilliant Colors’ Introducing twitched and careened and yelped behind a veil of fuzz. “Absolutely Anything,” the knock-out from this Bay Area band’s debut, threatened to dissolve around the edges, but there was no mistaking the firestorm of energy at its fractious center. “English Cities” was a mess of clangor, guitar-frantic dissonances breaking up in feedback, shouted “oh-hos” sticking like bayonets out of murmur-y verses. Here was a band, you might have been excused for thinking, that only needed a bit of tidying up to really score.

With Again and Again, Brilliant Colors gets that scrub job, and holy crap, are the results ever disappointing. This second full-length is like looking at fog through a clean window. There’s nothing there, and boy can you ever hear that nothing clearly.


"How Much Younger"

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Small Sur

I downloaded a couple of the songs off Small Sur’s Tones a few weeks ago and was only moderately intrigued…but a bit later, found the CD on my desk (my desk is such a mess) and ripped it in. The album seems to work a lot better as a whole than in isolated songs…not sure whether this is because they didn’t pick the best cuts for mp3s or you just need time to get acclimated. I’m leaning towards the latter explanation, however, because this is extremely subtle, quiet music, whose appeal is its utter natural-ness, its simplicity, its slow blooming-ness. I’d say that the best point of reference is Bowerbirds, whose songs also develop like Polaroids over time, so that where you at first perceived nothing much at all, later, the images and melodies clarify into startling beauty.

Small Sur is sort of an expanded solo project of Bob Keal, a South Dakota-born (there’s a very lovely song called “South Dakota” on Tones), Baltimore-based songwriter. He’s got a full band on Tones, with guest shots from members of Lower Dens (that’s Jana Hunter’s new thing) and Wye Oak.

Anyway, as I said, the single by itself didn’t wholly convince me, but if you like it at all, I’d suggest you check out the album, out now and available from the Small Sur website.

“The Woods”

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Washed Out

My Washed out review is up at Blurt now. Read it here, if you want. I really like the album. The review is not very good.

"Amor Fati"

Monday, July 11, 2011

Eleanor Friedberger

Eleanor Friedberger

Last Summer


Eleanor Friedberger has always been the id of Fiery Furnaces, the free-spirited traveler whose casual observations, lightly digested, take shape in surreal, discontinuous stories. She has always been the one who navigated her brothers’ abrupt, shape-shifting melodies, laying a guide-rope of pop through Escher-esque puzzles of musical structure. Moreover, she has always been the one standing outside the whole enterprise, rolling her eyes, putting a half-twist on things so you can’t take them literally, can not, in fact, take them too seriously. Talk to Matt Friedberger about Fiery Furnaces and you’ll get a long, rambling discourse on influences, conceptual underpinnings and the meaning of art in a transient world. Talk to Eleanor and you’ll get a string of one-liners and put-downs. Whatever Fiery Furnaces was, and it has changed from album to album, she has never seemed to buy in entirely.

It is surprising, then, that Eleanor Friedberger’s first solo album, Last Summer, is so direct and straightforward.


"My Mistakes"

I've never talked to Eleanor, but I've interviewed Matt a couple of times, once for Splendid and once for Neumu.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Digital downloads now illegal?

The RIAA just announced new rules requiring your ISP to report you if it (the ISP, I guess) thinks you are illegally downloading stuff. My ISP is small and local, so it's hard to imagine them working this very hard, but my question is: how do they know that what you're downloading is illegal? I mean, they can probably tell that you're DLing an album-sized file, but what if it's something that Merge or Thrill Jockey sent you, that they clearly want you to have, that would cost them money to send you by mail? Is that illegal, too?

I mention Thrill Jockey because they're digital only (at least as far as I can tell, maybe they send physicals to "special" people), and I'll miss their stuff. But I'm not going to jail for them.

Here's an article about the new rules.

Life just gets more and more fun, doesn't it?

Tommy Guerrrero

Tommy Guerrero is a former professional skateboarder (and ex-member of skate-punkers Free Beer). About the middle of the 00s, though, he took a turn for the experimental with Jet Black Crayon, as well as a series of genre-crossing solo albums that mixed rap, jazz, funk, soul and rock. His latest, Lifeboats and Follies, is flat-out great…a smouldering, mostly instrumental series of grooves that can remind you of David Axlerod and Mulatu Astatke, sometimes at the exact same time.

Dusted’s Emerson Dameron picked Tommy as his mid-year #1, though it doesn’t look like he ever turned in copy…

Here’s “Que S’est-il Passe”

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Nobunny scares the easter eggs out of me

My live review of Nobunny appears today in Blurt.

Nobunny appeared late, having waited until the very last minute, and past it, through tense conversations between members of his band and the staff. He came out, from god knows where, finally, face obscured behind a dirty, long-furred, animal mask. He wore, on top, a short leather jacket, on the lower half, not much of anything at all, black jockey shorts, a long handcuff dangling from one thigh, and bare legs, exposing an elaborate tattoo on one calf. He was disguised as a rabbit, not the cuddly, Easter-basket-filling, carrot-nibbling type, but rather a rabid, feral, sharp-toothed version, maybe the one that mauled Jimmy Carter all those years ago. You could have nightmares about this animal. Forget Frightened Rabbit. This is frightening rabbit.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tomorrow's Tulips

Hazy, shady, VU-influenced pop damned near engineered for late summer heatwaves and beachside romances, that's what you get from Eternally Teenaged, the debut full-length from Southern California lo-fi duo, Tomorrow's Tulips. Tomorrow's Tulips is Alex Knost, who has that echoey, hollow-voiced, almost goth delivery that will remind you of Royal Baths. His girlfriend, Christina Keyes, plays drums and sings sometimes. I like one of her tracks the best, and not just it shares a name with one of my favorite Thermals songs. It's called "Shades of Grey," but the one they're giving away is the title track. Enjoy.

"Eternally Teenaged"

Eternally Teenaged comes out next week on Galaxia Records, also responsible for that excellent Tommy Guerrero album, Lifeboats and Follies, which I might have to write about later on this week...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bon Iver, round two

Bon Iver, aka Justin Vernon, has made a pretty huge splash with his second, self-titled album...and given that I liked the first one a whole lot and I had $100 credit at the record store (thanks people for those full-art promos of records I could care less about...), I bought it and have been listening to it, off and on, ever since.

You may have heard that it is vastly different from For Emma...but it is not. It has the same eerie vocals, the same elliptical lyrics, the same fascination with place (though more places, certainly, this time...Perth, Michigan, Calgary, Lisbon, Ohio). It is more densely arranged than the first one, with a good deal more use made of synthesizers, but this is a detail, one that does not detract, for the most part, from the pretty melancholy of these songs. I like all but the last one, which is giving me a little bit of a Peter Frampton vibe..."Calgary" is lovely.

I think that if you bought the first one and liked it, you will probably like this one, though it's not as much of a shock, so maybe not as much. People who didn't hear the first one first may like this even better, and given the sales figures, there are going to be a lot of them.

Some of you may remember that I interviewed Justin Vernon about five minutes before he blew up huge and had one of the early versions of the "boy in the woods giving up on himself then writing a masterpiece story." You can still read it here, if you want.

Pretty funny. one time Michael Goldberg was telling me why he never put my posts on the first page, and instead favored people like IndiePixie (who is probably a nice person but yeesh!). He said, "Well, people just aren't going to be as interested in an interview with someone like Justin Vernon..." as, I don't know, whoever the hell was she slavering over at the time. Tee hee. Being's a lot like being wrong, eh?

Anyway, hope you all had a lovely 4th or just a nice weekend if you live outside the US. We all ran a 4 miler yesterday...really fun, I won a shirt in the raffle after.

Friday, July 1, 2011


I learn to go with the flow, once again, when Oneida decides to try something new...

Absolute II

Even long-time Oneida fans, trained over multiple albums to expect the unexpected, may balk at the radical minimalism of this album. Put it simply: Everything you think of as Oneida-ness is missing.

Particulars? Kid Millions, one of experimental rock's best and most distinctive drummers, has completely abandoned his kit. There are no audible drums in any of these tracks, and in the closing cut, no rhythm, no marking, even of the passage of time. You can hear Millions singing, faintly, discontinuously, as if through a helicopter rotor in "Horizon," the only track with vocals. Still, the whispery folksiness, so at odds with Oneida's pummeling propulsiveness, is nowhere in sight. Other core members are likewise disguised. Hanoi Jane who laid down the bass that drove Oneida's earlier material into infinite groove had disappeared into a miasma of electronic hum. Fat Bobby is, undoubtedly, still manning a stack of keyboards, but not with the kind of motoric, two-finger keyboard riffs that pushed "$50 Tea" and other songs over into manic overdrive. Instead, keyboard tones lie in limpid pools, one note lapping over another, with no sense of motion or urgency. If Rated O made you realize how many different sides Oneida had, Absolute II hints at as yet unexplored dimensions. We are a long, long way from "All-Arounder."


"Horizon (edit)"


Totally fell for this album, which has just enough fuzz and scratch and boom to make the tunes stick...


Are You Falling In Love?


There are lots of precedents for a record like Are You In Love?, the debut from Atlanta’s Gold-Bears. You can start with their label-mates in The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, who, on their first album especially, set the template for this sort of fizz-popped euphoria. You might draw in Wild Nothing, who cleaned and polished the concept to a fine gloss, or Yuck, who strung out and drawled and fogged over their pretty songs, as if beauty itself was kind of a bore. Cloud Nothings could come up, too, since their infectious balance of twitch and swoon, of swagger and sensitivity, is much like the Gold-Bears. And that’s just the current crop, never mind their forebears in bands like Guided by Voices, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Pavement and so on. The point is that, in conceptual terms at least, Are You In Love? breaks no new ground. And yet, even within defined parameters, this album overfills its boundaries, exceeds whatever limitations the genre sets and explodes with energy. It comes across as altogether fresh, irresistible even, on the strength of its outsized personality, eccentric sweetness and rambunctious hooks.