Thursday, June 28, 2012


You can't believe how relieved and happy I am about the Supreme Court's surprising turn towards sanity. I have been struggling with some health issues lately, probably nothing but maybe, worst case, cancer...and thinking what the hell do I want to spend $1000 on tests for something that I have no money to treat? so anyway, if it is cancer (and it's probably not) it may be too late for me, but Sean will have health care, even if he doesn't make any money, Bill will have health care...and all you musicians out there will have health care...lots fewer Alex Chilton's dying because of lack of treatment.

so I'm going to go ahead and have that ultrasound when I get home and we'll see...

Embryonic Silver Jews/Pavement

Hey look, I just wrote this yesterday...a review of Silver Jews' Early Times, up today at Dusted.

Silver Jews
Early Times
Label: Drag City

Early Times compiles Silver Jews’ earliest out-of-print recordings: 1992’s Dime Map of the Reef and 1993’s The Arizona Record, a 7” single and an EP made while Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus was still a regular member of Silver Jews. Really terribly recorded – on a boombox or answering machine, depending on who you ask -- these noisy, haphazard songs are interesting mainly as a document of the development of two of 1990s indie rock’s definitive bands. Inside the murk and chaos, you can hear bits of Silver Jews’ incipient slanted attack on Americana and traces of Pavement’s intelligence and erratic tunefulness.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Red River Dialect

Really excellent new album from the Cornish singer songwriter David Morris...reviewed in today's Dusted.

Red River Dialect

When I last heard from David Morris, the singer-songwriter-guitar player behind Red River Dialect, he was cleaning up the mess left behind after he put up Arbouretum, Hush Arbors, Hiss Golden Messenger and Michael Chapman during a series of shared west U.K. shows. That’s good company, a sort of who’s who of muscular, psych-leaning, electrified folk music, and with his new album awellupontheway, Morris shows that he is perfectly capable of holding his own among them. Morris’s songs, eight of them here, take the lilt and roll of British sea chanties and blow them into amplified, feedback-droning, violin squalling anthems. This is, no kidding, one of the best folk-derived, psych-filtered rock albums of 2012, a great hoary rampaging beast of a record that rakes bloody, violent claws through the symmetries of traditional folk.


Have a listen here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Beechwood, Sparks

Okay, so I'm back home in Indiana, to grab a phrase from Michael Jackson, lovely weather, iffy internet and I notice that Blurt is running my Beechwood Sparks review (also in the print issue so quite short) and it goes like this:

Beachwood Sparks
Tarnished Gold
(Sub Pop)

"This goes out to my good friends," says Farmer Dave Scher, over a swirl and twang of psychedelic country guitars that has been missing for nearly a decade. The Beachwood Sparks, last convened in 2003, are back as if they never left, spinning trippy goodtime vibes, ethereal metaphysics and slacked out California pop.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Sonny and the Sunsets

Hey, I'm in a little town called Medina, Ohio, somewhere between Cleveland and Columbus...I drove 600 miles yesterday and didn't speak to a single person all day (well, after I left, I had quite an extended conversation with Bill before taking off) until I got to the hotel.

And still, somehow, life goes on without me.

Dusted is running my Sonny and the Sunsets review today:

Sonny and the Sunsets
Longtime Companion

Sonny Smith is, in a way, the songwriter with a thousand masks. He’s been a playwright and performance artist as long as he’s been a singer. One of his earliest recordings was called One Act Plays, which was exactly what it sounds like — a series of short dramas set to music. His 100 Records project created full-blown singles for 100 imaginary bands, art and all. Smith and half of San Francisco’s psychedelic garage scene acted out his musical scenarios — as Nuggets guitar-chimers, Latin garagistes and, in one case, a lost and lonely Johnny Cash-style country crooner – on 2011’s compilation Hit After Hit. The “I” in Sonny Smith’s songs is almost never the “I” in Sonny Smith’s life, and he extends this concept well beyond lyrical content, to matters of style, genre and musical arrangement.


I'm going to drive to Indianapolis today, with a possible stop in Columbus for lunch and a look at Ohio State (they must have record stores, right, even a football school?).

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Three noise bands and Gary Higgins walk into the Flywheel...

My review of last week's show Man Forever show at the Flywheel is up now at Blurt:

I'm driving to Indiana tomorrow and will be online intermittently at best.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Oh Michael...2012's best covers album

I wrote about the Michael Chapman tribute once before, shortly after I received it, but it's a grower, and I like it, oh, maybe three or four times as much now that I've listened to it a few times.

My review is up at Blurt today.

Various Artists

Oh Michael, Look What You’ve Done: Friends Play Michael Chapman

(Tompkins Square)

Not long ago, Michael Chapman was a lot of people's favorite overlooked folk singer, the gruff voiced, lyrically-fingered veteran of the 1970s folk revival that never seemed to have gotten his due. Well received reissues of Fully Qualified Survivor and Rainmaker, as well as tours with younger pickers like Jack Rose (now sadly gone), have righted the balance.

Oh Michael, Look What You've Done goes one step further, gathering contemporaries, admirers and bill sharers to reinterpret Chapman's songs. It is a lovely tribute, one which allows the beauty of the songs to shine through multiple lenses and illuminate various facets of Chapman's appeal. There is a floor-stomping, string-band-style romp from Rose's former band, the Black Twig Pickers, Takoma-style reinvocations of the man's guitar skills from William Tyler and Nick Jonah Davis, and a heart-wrecked and luminous cover of "That Time of Night" from Lucinda Williams (with Doug Pettibone evoking Chapman's eerie, haunted guitar work). Chapman's own generation of folk revivalists kick in some of the album's most gorgeous moments, with Maddy Prior of Steeleye Span finding a shape-note spirituality in Chapman's song "The Prospector" and Bridget St. John quietly, understatedly killing on "Rabbit Hills."


Hiss Golden Messenger - "Fennario" (Michael Chapman)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

David Lowery on music industry economics

Haven't actually read the intern's post that started all this, but Lowery makes a very good case for buying music here.

Dead Leaf Echo

Pretty, eh?

Dead Leaf Echo is a trio from Brooklyn, currently working on its first full-length album.  the song above is from a split single with SF's Slowness.  the first pressing sold out, but there will be more later in the month from Greenfuse Records. 

They're playing some mostly east coast shows this month and next:

6/23 - Inciting HQ - Philadelphia, PA

6/24 - Gansevoort Park - New York, NY (DJ Set @ 5:30PM)

6/29 - T.T.'s The Bears - Boston, MA

6/30 - Paperbox - Brooklyn, NY (Split 7" Release Party)

7/20 - South Park Tavern - Dayton, OH

7/21 - Big Day In Festival 2 - Columbus, OH

7/27 - Big Snow Buffalo Lodge - Brooklyn, NY

8/2 - Pete's Candy Store - Brooklyn, NY (Acoustic show)

9/8 - Cameo Gallery - Brooklyn, NY

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Man Forever Live

So I went last night down to the Flywheel in Easthampton to see Man Forever and Gary Higgins and a couple of other bands.  Man Forever, you might have heard, is John Colpitts' mostly drumming project (he's also Kid Millions in Oneida), while Gary Higgins is the man behind lovely, shadowy, long-lost Red Hash, one of the great unjustly buried folk rock albums from the early 1970s.  You might not think they have much in common, but actually I think they're from the same town in Connecticut.  Anyway, I'm writing about this for Blurt, so I don't want to shoot my whole wad here, but it was a very interesting night. 

I have not written anything about Man Forever (yet, working on it), but I interviewed Gary Higgins for Splendid when Drag City finally located him and reissued Red Hash a few years ago.  Here's the piece, if you want to read it. 

Also on the bill a kind of cool saxiophone/feedback/tape fuckery/film imagery project from a guy named Benjamin Miller and a local improv/experimental outfit (with Chris Cooper, who has been in a million bands and is also the fire marshall at the Flywheel, apparently) called Barn Owl.  This is not the drony, hazy Barn Owl now on Thrill Jockey, but another thing entirely.  There, I'm going to go write something intelligble about this whole evening now...just wanted to put the photos up. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Alice Cohen, Ramona Falls, Eternal Sunshine

Hey, just catching up on what looks likely be purely recreational listening...a couple of albums that I liked at least medium but will probably not be reviewing.

Alice Cohen's Pink Keys is a floaty, synthy, soul-kissed daydream that reminds me, at its best moments, of Bachelorette.  Cohen is best known for her years fronting new wave's The Vels, a band out of Philadelphia that once opened for the Psychedelic Furs and the Thompson Twins.  I like the way the keyboards squish and melt all over the drum machine sounds in "Sunspots", sort of like that Dali painting with the liquifying clock faces. 

 Also just passed the four-times mark on Prophet from Ramona Falls, which is a new-ish project from Brent Knopf (ex of Menomena).  I like it.  It's brainy, intricate, complicated and also kind of haphazard at the same time, like a geodesic dome made out of popsicle sticks. 

Also, watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind again last night on Netflix and continue to believe that this is maybe the most romantic movie ever...all about trying to preserve love against memory, against time, against indifference.  when the two of them get to their first memory together (the last one to go), the guy says, "This will be over soon.  What do we do know."  and teh girl answers: "Enjoy it."  Which is sort of how I feel about love and loss and oblivian...been thinking about this a lot because of some medical issues which, god I hope they're nothing...Anyway, great movie.  Made me cry again.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Neneh Cherry

Sort of pleased about how this came out from a writing standpoint...

Neneh Cherry & The Thing
The Cherry Thing
Smalltown Supersound
At first glance, Neneh Cherry’s latest looks like a style-crossing free-for-all, the R&B/electronic/hip hop/punk/fashion/DJ diva in collaboration with Swedish free-jazzers, The Thing, all of them working out the kinks of a grab bag of songs from The Stooges, MC Doom, Ornette Coleman and Suicide. Yet while The Cherry Thing seems designed to frustrate any attempt at genre-sorting, it is, itself, fairly cohesive, criss-crossed as it is with non-standard, industry-unsanctioned, personal connections.


Let's see, in other news, I was listening to Fiona Apple's new one this morning on the NPR app and thinking that I could like it, but I would probably never love it...

Also, check out Dusted's Midyear report...I was not in it this year, I think because my favorite is a bit off message (it's Shearwater's Animal Joy, yes I know...totally wrong, but it's the one I like the best.)  But there are some really great records on there, just getting into Duane Pitre and starting on Merchandise and both excellent from what I've heard. 

I might do my mid-year at some point this week.  I've got some juggling to do since the last iteration, and ten is getting to be a very small number again, but that's the fun of it, right?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Sugar getting the reissue treatment

Merge Records is re-releasing the three early 1990s Sugar albums on July 24th -- my favorite Copper Blue (1992), as well as Beaster(1993) and File Under: Easy Listening (1994). I've probably got enough Sugar to make me happy, but if you're just catching up, there are the usual enhancements (bonus downloads, outtakes, live material).

Not sure exactly why, but I've been listening to "Helpless" a good bit lately and it totally holds up, at least in my humble opinion.

I went to see Mould about a year ago, mostly because Chris Brokaw was opening, but it was really good show. You can read about it here if you want.

Friday, June 15, 2012

I am mystified by Keuhkot


Keuhkot, the Finnish musician Kalevi Rainio, can probably not be fully understood by listening to Laskeutumisalusastia, or for that matter, any of his other albums. His songs, in inscrutable Finnish, natter on in impassioned, staccato dissonance, meshes of looped rhythm and synthesizer punctuated by sharp stabbing guitar chords. Google translator makes only the most elusive sense of the lyrics, chanted in a monotone, continually, without audible line breaks, unearthing stray phrases about the natural world, consumerism, political and social mores. There is a rabid, jittery, visionary propulsiveness to the whole enterprise that recalls Beefheart, early Pere Ubu and The Ex, but what it means, what it aims at, what it’s meant to convey? A mystery.


Thursday, June 14, 2012


I just had a kind of mystifying conversation with a publicist who was just sure I would love Clare and the Reasons, and I had to explain that indie pop is not really my thing...I may like a record here and there, but very little of it seems to matter. (By the way, I listened to the free giveaway from the new Clare and the Reasons and immediately moved was pretty enough but completely inessential.)

So anyway, Hollyhocks is probably the "record here and there" that will confuse's really nothing but indie pop, but well done, and I do love that "EO" song near the end of the album.

My review from Blurt a couple of days ago.

(Mystery Lawn)

The Hollyhocks make a luminous, pristine sort of pop, last spotted in the dreamy days of the Sundays. Guitar lines are polished to a high, reverberant glitter, so that individual notes seem to hang, sparkling, against a velvety drape. A brash rhythm section grounds these songs in rock, but singer Kristin Sobditch is always untethering them. Her soft, lucid voice floats like a helium balloon over the instrumental arrangements, buoyant, untroubled and effortless. The sound on Understories is so clean and bright that you might not notice at first that "Photograph" is the Def Leppard single, stretched to a languid, day-dreamy ballad, embellished with swoops of strings and incorporating, right at the end, a quotation from "Baba O'Reilly."


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cheap Time

Another really excellent rock record from In the Red.

Cheap Time
Wallpaper Music
In the Red

Cheap Time’s Jeffrey Novak was Jay Reatard’s last roommate, sharing an unheated apartment with the garage punk provocateur during the final months of his life. He also shared a certain disregard for Little Steven conventions with Reatard, looking for ways to break out of the garage rock straightjacket while retaining its best elements. Wallpaper Music, then, is heavily influenced by Reatard and Reatard’s demise. And like Reatard’s best work, it’s a conflicted, difficult endeavor that can pass as a party record. These are good time songs about death and disillusion, their big triumphant guitar gestures continually undercut by drawled detachment, their catchy melodies always getting sucked down into an existential vortex.


There are a whole bunch of free downloads at the Free Music Archives.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fresh and Only's Cohen pulls a rabbit from his hat

I really like the Fresh & Onlys, and I've also been liking a good number of the offshoot groups, Tim Cohen solo, Wymond Miles solo and now Magic Trick, reviewed today at Dusted.

Magic Trick
Ruler of the Night
Hardly Art

For a guy who spent his formative years listening exclusively to hip hop, Tim Cohen has become a surprising force in pop. Magic Trick is a busman’s holiday from the meatier, guitar-driven Fresh & Onlys, an ephemeral solo project turned semi-solid with the addition of a full-time band. More private, less celebratory than his main gig, with Magic Trick, Cohen finds space for unhurried, introspective balladry and billowy girl harmonies, the yin to Fresh & Onlys’ yang.


This is pretty great

Portland Cello Project covering Kanye/Jay-Z

Monday, June 11, 2012

Japandroids on Fallon

A bit late on this, and on Japandroids in general, but this video is pretty awesome, might have to buy the record.


What a great weekend I had.

Saturday, Sean and I went to a big screen simulcast of the National Theater production of One Man, Two Guvnors...which was so, so, so funny and some of the best physical comedy I've ever seen.

Then on Sunday I went to Boston to meet a college classmate of mine for lunch (dim sum).

How frivolous!

Also school is over so I got up after 7 a.m. and enjoyed that a good bit. I've got a review of the mysterious and beautiful new record by Kandodo. It's on Thrill Jockey and out this week, I believer.

Thrill Jockey

These introspective guitar jams, hemmed by keyboard drone, are lucidly calm most of the time, yet occasionally injected with subtle, pulse-racing shots of adrenaline. Kandodo -- the name of the project, the record and a supermarket chain in Africa -- comes from Simon Price of the much woolier Bristol psych band The Heads. Here, alone, he finds a meditative center in home-recorded layerings of guitar, keyboards, a drum pedal and various field recordings.


Friday, June 8, 2012

Maga Bo

Quilombo do Futuro landed in my inbox a few weeks ago...a bit outside my normal listening patterns, but pretty cool nonetheless. It reminds me most of Buraka Son Sistema, which is to say it has really fantastic beats that get their heat both from traditional hand-played percussion and electronics. It's hard to pin down exactly what style Brazilian/American DJ Maga Bo favors, let alone what country, but you can hear elements of dance/funk/Afro-Caribbean/dancehall etc.

NYT had an enthusiastic review a few days ago:

Maga Bo

Hand-played percussion and hard-nosed voices are the rocket fuel for Maga Bo’s “Quilombo do Futuro” (Post World Industries), a cultural manifesto riding on rhythm. Make that rhythms. Maga Bo, a widely traveled American D.J. and producer who relocated to Rio de Janeiro in 1999, uses kinetic Afro-Brazilian beats as the album’s foundation and superstructure. But his tracks also mix in drum-machine sounds, stray ricocheting electronics, Brazilian guitars and glimmers of soundsystem bass music like Jamaican dancehall as well as Brazilian baile funk. Atop them — rapping, chanting and singing their own lyrics — are voices that can keep pace with the syncopations or sail above them. In Portuguese and occasionally English, Maga Bo’s collaborators often praise culture as survival mechanism and resistance tactic, while the beats constantly prove them right.

There's a lot more information about Maga Bo and his music here.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Honest Jon's Spring Sampler

Holy crap, this is good, and it's free if you buy anything at all from the Honest Jon's label (online and on the Portobello Road in London). It's a ten-song mix, spanning jazz, world, electronic and folk and, more than that, bridging the difference between them. I'm posting Youtube of as much of it as I can find, but just buy something and get this.

1. "Cuban Nightingale," Buddy Pipp's Highlifers

2. "Lolo," Rocket Juice and the Moon: Damon Albarn, Flea and Tony Allen's afro-funk project.

3. "Yangissa," Moritz von Oswald Trio

4. "Apocalíptica," Las Malas Amistades. "Picture if you will a group of intoxicated folk musicians let loose in a studio filled with antiquated synthesisers and random percussion instruments and you may muster some idea of what Las Malas Amistades sound like. The fact that the group, hailing as they do from Colombia, sing entirely in Spanish makes the whole exercise even more impenetrable to the monolingual Anglo-Saxon ear," says Chris White of the BBC.

5. "Marble Plexus," Actress

6. "In the Water Where the City Ends," Simone White

7. "Cuernavaca," Kelan Philip Cohran & The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble -- maybe my favorite thing on the whole comp

Says Honest Jon's, "Phil Cohran was a star of the classic, early-sixties Arkestra lineup — masterpieces like Angels And Demons. He was co-founder of the AACM and taught Maurice White to play thumb piano. In the early seventies he released a deadly mix of the New Thing and street funk on his own Zulu imprint; and over the decades he has put out some of the most spiritual jazz there is. Eight of the HBE are his sons. 'This is my music and their band', says Phil, 'we don’t have to rattle on more than that.'"

8. "Tincture of Tears," Trembling Bells featuring Bonnie Prince Billy

9. "Ominira," West African Rhythm Brothers

10. "Mark Ernestus Meets Shangaan Electric," Mark Ernestus

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Liars' palindromic new album

Pretty sure this is in the new print issue of Blurt, which came in the mail yesterday, looks great and will soon be on newsstands everywhere(ish).


Liars don't tread the same ground twice, but WIXIW is less of a jump than usual. The sixth full-length continues progress towards a chilled, incantatory electronic sound that has been in motion since Drum's Not Dead. Kraut-ish influences drift in and out, but here they are muted to a Beta Band-like hybrid of soft melody and twitchy beat.


Pitchfork is streaming the whole thing.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


I've been really enjoying Sumud, the third album from Iranian emigre band Niyaz, a wildly propulsive, emotionally stirring kind of thing, mildly electrified but not jarringly synthetic or modern. The title means "steadfast" and the album is, apparently, all about surviving through struggle. Before I embarrass myself trying to describe a kind of music that is mostly unfamiliar, how about just lifting from the label site:

Niyaz, which means ‘yearning’ in Persian and Urdu, was formed in 2005 by Ali, multi-instrumentalist Loga Ramin Torkian and two-time Grammy nominated producer and electronic musician Carmen Rizzo. The band borrows from an historic lineage of Middle Eastern poets setting verse to music, perhaps most famously known today through the work of the 13th century Persian poet Rumi and theendless barrage of quotes attributed to him on Twitter and Facebook. While the immediate goal of Niyaz was to explore the music and identity of Iranians living in exile and struggling to maintain their cultural identity in the modern world on their first two acclaimed records, Niyaz and Nine Heavens, the band has expanded that theme with Sumud.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Late again? Try this

Not much going on today, music reviews, no interviews, nothing blowing me away in the promo I thought I'd just share the first decent song that comes up on random and it was Art Brut, pleading for one more go and, you know, laying the fault on public transportation.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

a mix for late spring

I haven't posted a mix for a while, but I do make them pretty much every month out of the stuff I've been listening to. Here's a new one which starts out in garage punk, veers over into a country blues-ish direction and then goes kind of pop experimental towards the end.

Cheap Time's "Night to Night"
Royal Headache's "Psychotic Episode"
Ty Segall Band's "Tell Me What's Inside Your Heart"
Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires' "Centreville"
Cory Branan's "Survivor Blues"
Shannon Stephens' "What Love Looks LIke"
Woods, "Wind Was the Wine"
Bridget St. John "Rabbit Hills" (Michael Chapman cover)
Human Don't Be Angry, "Monologue: River" (Malcolm Middleton)
Kandodo, "Laud the Hyena"
The Hollyhocks, "EO"
Magic Trick, "Torture"
Musotics, "Else Queen Elsie"

Download here

Saturday, June 2, 2012

In which we are all encouraged to write positive reviews...of everything

Still reeling, a bit, from Andrew Falkous' response to a Pitchfork review of Future of the Left's The Plot Against Common Sense... and so very, very glad it wasn't me. (Last artist who said anything mean about me was Mux Mool, but they were probably right.)

It sort of makes me want to hear the record, though.

Junior Electronics' puzzle palace pop

Happy Saturday...roads washed out from storm last week, five mile trip to town is now about 20 miles going round, Sean's taking SATs today, wish him luck...someday the pace will slow down but for now still struggling. Here's a review that went up yesterday at Blurt.

Junior Electronics
(Bureau B)

A mesostic is a form of wordplay where a vertical list of words is aligned so that a word or phrase is formed horizontally. (The Mother's Day poem that starts "M is for the million things she gave me" is a crude form of mesostic.) Joe Watson, a sometime Stereolab keyboardist and High Llamas producer, applies this principal to music, building complex, interlocking bits of baroque pop that tick along like clockwork, while producing bizarre, accidental bits of poetry in the way the elements glance off of one another.

Watson puts a lush palette of instrumentation in service of his abstract ideas, bringing together synthesizers, guitars, harpsichords, organs, pianos, machine drums and fluttery vocals together in lavish yet cerebral combinations. Overall, the sound falls somewhere between XTC's most elaborate psych pop, Stereolab's intricately patterned drones and the warm, humane electronics of the Morr Music stable.


Friday, June 1, 2012

Flowers in their hair...

Great little comp from Secret Seven, compiling the brightest lights of SF's psychedelic garage pop scene...Vetiver, Grass Widow's Hannah Lew, Chuck Prophet, Kelley Stoltz, Fresh & Onlys' Tim Cohen and Wymond Miles, Ty Seagall, the Papercuts and Paula Frazier. You can stream the whole damn thing here:

Nobody's little sister...Marissa Nadler

Another very beautiful record from Marissa Nadler, reviewed yesterday in Blurt.

Marissa Nadler
The Sister
(Box of Cedar)

A younger sibling to last year's self-titled album, this eight-song EP has a more casual, less fussed over air. Its arrangements are noticeably less dense, its lyrics more down-to-earth, its vocals unadorned. Yet this Sister is no one's plain relative; its simplicity has been polished to too mysterious a sheen. Personal, introspective, yet shot through with an otherworldly melancholy, the EP filters experience through an opalescent lens.


The video was directed by Ryan Walsh, who is the main guy in Hallelujah the Hills...