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.