Monday, December 31, 2012

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Not that nostalgic for Fleetwood Mac...

...but this Liars cover of "Chain" (from the latest Mojo giveaway CD) is awesome. It's dark, claustrophobic and stalker creepy which is quite possibly more in line with what was going on with Fleetwood Mac around Rumours than the sunny covers. Also worth hearing on the disc -- Julia Holter's ghostly, attenuated "Gold Dust Woman" and the Besnard Lakes' sweeping, space-rocking "You Make Loving Fun."

It's always bizarre when stuff you'd change the radio station for, whenever it came on, that you couldn't stand to hear even one more time becomes a touchstone. Though I guess if I can survive the Bee Gees revival, this should be easy.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Also, another list ....

For those of you who aren't burnt out on lists by now, Blurt has just posted its top 75 records which, as usual, leans heavily on real people playing real instruments (not entirely, but it's a bias -- and one that I probably share). Anyway, Ty Segall made the top 5, and in honor of that, Fred pulled out my Ty interview from the fall.

Read the list here.

And if you haven't already, my piece on Ty Segall.


Pretty crazy choral arrangements from this Seattle-based band...every one of them a music major, either composition or performance, but don't let that scare you off. (I used to dread getting no-name CDs from people who'd gone to Berklee, all skill no heart mostly.)

Anyway, my review is up since yesterday at Blurt, which is still running reviews, even now, deep into holiday vacation week.

Brighten & Break

Pollens, from Seattle, set contrapuntal choral arrangements to syncopated Saharan beats, working an undeniable groove with discipline and intellectual rigor. They're often compared to Dirty Projectors, but you can also make links to the vocal intricacies of Petra Hayden, the colorful, communal polyrhythms of Skeletons, Akron Family or Starring.

Pollens is a band full of music majors. Founders Hanna Benn and Jeff Aaron Bryant met in 2008 while studying composition Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. Bassist Lena Simon and keyboard player Whitney Lyman, who joined later, were also composition majors while Kelly Wyse, another keyboardist, studied performance for piano, and drummer Adam Kozie majored in jazz percussion.

The skill - and training - shows up in the extreme precision of even Pollens' most exuberant moments. The off-the-deep-end close of "Splinters and Pointheads" for instance, with its manic percussion, syncopated group shouts and one guy yelling "Head! Head! Head!...Pointhead! Pointhead!" over and again is exciting the way a rollercoaster is exciting. Moreover, like a rollercoaster, no matter how many sharp turns it takes, it stays firmly on the tracks.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Amor de Dias

It's been snowing all day, very pretty, glad it's finally here. It's the kind of snow that wraps a soft thick blanket around everything, including sound, so that it seems even more quiet and peaceful than usual.

I had to drive to Brattleboro to get Sean, and the roads were dice-y in spots but not too bad. I had Damien Jurado's Maraqopa on most of the way there, and it was just about perfect for the trip...soft-spoken, but also kind of incandescent.

And now I'm home and listening to another reticent sort of pleasure, the second album from Amor de Dias. That's essentially Alistair McClean from the Clientele and Lupe Nunez-Fernandez from Pipas, both sides hushed and lovely, one indie-pop, one Latin, but not so much difference between the two as you'd expect.

I just wish my iPod would stop forgetting where it put this album. Pretty much every time I boot up, I have to manually locate it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


I have been very much enjoying the guitar-driven (and over-driven) psychedelia of DIIV's mid-year debut Oshin and I'd tell you why, except I don't think there's any way I could top this review from the NME.

Which says:

Fuck off the real world. Fuck off illness. Fuck off the train. Fuck off newspapers. Fuck off other people. Fuck off music you have to think about. Fuck off the recession. Fuck off five-a-day. Fuck off Poundland. Fuck off Twitter. Fuck off music that’s in a hurry. Fuck off trying to know everything about everything then forgetting it all anyway. Right now, fuck off anything that isn’t the woozy Washed Out/How To Dress Well/War On Drugs glory that is DIIV – blissed-out bringers of woozy rock’n’roll who aren’t into the everyday, the mundane, the normal, but are into (sound the bullshit alarm!) “dreams of aliens, affection, spirits and the distant natural world”.

There's more, naturally...

Monday, December 24, 2012

Hey look, there's gonna be new Frightened Rabbit soon!

Happy Christmas and let's hope (against all indicators) that 2013 will be a good one.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Naomi Punk...smells sort of like teen spirit

The end of the world is, apparently, a lot like heavy rain.

Naomi Punk is not Nirvana, but not bad either...

The Feeling
(Captured Tracks)

Naomi Punk from Olympia, Washington tries Nirvana's hybrid of rock and punk, floating haunted shreds of semi-anthemic melody over primitive, whammy-barred riffs and a brutal clatter of drums. The trio - Travis Coster and Neil Gregerson on guitars, Nicolas Luempert on kit - released The Feeling last spring on tiny Couple Skate records, where it sold out almost immediately. Enter Captured Tracks, bringing this primal wail to a larger audience.

The Nirvana comparison is inevitable, due to volume, geography and a shared tendency towards scorched earth distortion, and, as always, sort of unfair. But let's just say it, Naomi Punk is nowhere near as nuanced - or as obliterating - as Cobain & Co. Their "The Buzz" wallows and lurches through tone-bending, lead-weighted chords, clumsily heavy next to Nirvana's more agile, but still lacerating "Love Buzz." However, like Nirvana, the threesome do raise a miasmic, sludgy racket and will it into tunefulness. Listen to how melody threads through pounding, gut-thudding "Voodoo Trust" and skitters over lurching, cement-booted "The Spell." Check out the title track, which with its thundering chords and hammer-head beat, sounds more like super-heavy, mildly psychotropic Ty Segall than anything from the flannel shirt era.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

RSTB 2012 recap

Yes, the PFK list is (partly) up -- as well as their much more interesting "Overlooked" list -- but, personally, I got a lot more pleasure out of Raven Sings the Blues' year-end wrap. It's one of those lists with enough records that I already really like to make me want to check out the ones that I haven't heard. Anyway, link here.

Gotta get his Deep Time record for one thing.

Andy Stott...yes, I like Luxury Problems, too

Entering the final phase of the "me too" month in music, the one where I post about stuff that I just heard about, that other people have been listening to and thinking about for months, and I come to Andy Stott, whose Luxury Problems is creepily gorgeous.  People who loved that second Burial album (Ian, I'm talking to you) should check this out if they haven't already.  It's got the same desolate, hollowed out beauty. 

Anyway, what do I know?  Patrick Masterson reviewed it for Dusted, saying, "Luxury Problems continues the trajectory with a few added inspirations: He’s now using vocals wholesale rather than just vocal samples. It was a risk bringing in the piano teacher from his youth, Alison Skidmore, but the pairing works spectacularly. This is the most arresting music of Stott’s career in large part because it is his most approachable."  You can read the whole review here

Also well worth reading, my Dusted boss' NPR feature on Andy Stott.  He concludes: "I haven't run across a producer who mixes voices so high and heavenly with vibrations this deep. From a sonic standpoint, you won't hear anything else like Luxury Problems this year." 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sean in his Daddy Warbucks get-up

Holy Other

This post-year-end couple of weeks, I've been listening to stuff that I couldn't possibly review -- and enjoying the hell out of some of it.  Okay, so I'm going to leave it to you to decide whether Holy Other is witch house or dubstep or some chilly variant on R&B...I don't know.  I don't care much.  It's ominous and subdued and vaguely inhumane, but i like it.   I also like the BBC review of Held, especially this second-to-last paragraph.

"These are bass ballads for clubs where everyone sits around wearing headphones luxuriating in their own private misery. The tracks are instrumental but there are voices everywhere, cut up and tweaked or stretched out, leaving echoes of silence. Inpouring is typical of Held’s abstract quiet-storm funk with its aching keyboard chords and pitch-shifted vocals adding to the aural fog."

I've been experimenting with Elance and thinking that I don't really mind working for free -- or for very little money -- when it's for a noncommercial site like Dusted.  But I'll be damned if I'll write five 500 word articles a week for blog farms at $10 each. 


Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Really like this Beacon EP, No Body, it's got that weird combination of chilliness and sensuality.  You know, the musical equivalent of Jude Law...a while ago, in Gattaca maybe. 

Anyway, not much happening today, which makes it very hard to motivate.  We saw Lincoln over the weekend, which I thought was stupendously cast and acted, but overall a giant bore.  I mean, when you get past Daniel Day Lewis' mercurial portrait (seriously, how many actors can act that smart), the script was bloated, the camera shots consistently far too long and the scenario riddled with cliches you could not get away with in a 7th grade social studies flick.  (Examples: the soldiers parrotting back the Gettysburg Address to Lincoln, word for word, that god-awful shot through a flame at the end, the visual of Tad Lincoln screaming through the balcony when his dad's death is announced...yikes.)   I see the film is at the very top of a bunch of best of lists, which makes me think that I probably do not want to see the others very bad. Except The Master...I do want to see that. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

I usually don't post about Christmas music...

...because I tend to like fairly traditional Christmas music.

However, I am really liking Dawn McCarthy and Bonnie Prince Billy's Everly Brothers' covers, and it's not out for a while so I probably shouldn't blog it, but in the meanwhile, they have a Christmas video out which is quite nice, too.

Also, if you enjoy the rock 'n roll Christmas genre, Blurt has an extended feature on it today.  (I begged off, personally.) 

So, I hope you're enjoying your holidays, not spending more money than you can afford and not watching the news too much.  (I spent an hour on the exercise bike at the Y this morning and got about all the photos of dead seven-year-olds that I can stomach.) 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Psychic Ills' One Track Mind

I missed the last Psychic Ills album, but from what I can remember about the one before that, Mirror Eye, they have evidently taken a turn away from the extended free-form drone and towards the VU-Stooges-Jesus & Mary Chain fuzz-crusted rock 'n roll.  I like One Track Mind a lot...and here's an interesting factoid -- Neil Hagerty is singing back-up. 

What do you think?

One Track Mind is out in February on Sacred Bones.

Friday, December 14, 2012

I sort of don't have the heart for this today

My son, Sean, got rejected at Northwestern. He's 5th in his class. He got 2020 on his SATs. He gets consistent 4s on his AP tests. He runs a 17:15 5K, a 5:05 mile, a 58 second 400. He's an amazing singer and actor, currently putting the heart and soul into a local production of "Annie" (it's kind of a heartless show, but he makes all his parts more humane than they have any right to be). He's an all-around good guy. Fucking colleges.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sondra Sun-Odeon

Really pretty good album from an artist who would have been part of the freak folk nation a few years ago (she's recorded with another band on Greg Weeks' Language of Stone imprint), but now seems to be mostly on her own. Witchy, spooky, lovely stuff, though.


There's a wildness in Sondra Sun-Odeon's altered folk, a sense not of home-y hedgerows and kitchen gardens but salty, windblown shores. It starts in her flickery voice, now a soft, shy murmur, now an in-drawn octave-leaping breath, now a raw bird-like cry cutting through the mix. This is Sun-Odeon's first solo album, following an album and an EP with Silver Summit, a Brooklyn psych-folk duo she shares with David Shawn Bosler. (A second Silver Summit album is apparently in the works.)

Sun-Odeon is not too tethered to traditional melody. Instead, she slices in and out of a tumultuous backing. All the elements of her songs -- throbs of cello (that's Espers' Helena Espvall), tremulous vibrations of violin and viola (that's Carla Bozulich collaborator Lenya Marika Papach, crashes and bumps of percussion (Ben McConnell) and her remarkable voice - seem to career in from the edges, meeting in the middle in a tangled urgency. Unlike Espers, which makes a space within ordered parameters for wildness (as in the guitar break midway through "Flaming Telepaths"), Sun-Odeon thrives in keening disorder. There's something feral, something unpremeditated about the way she darts and swoops through the guitar-strummed architectures of her songs.

There's a streaming song here, but I can't figure out how to embed it.

Cody ChestnuTT's Landing on a Hundred

Time to catch up on things I missed this year, like this Kickstarter financed, classic soul influenced, really pretty excellent album from Cody ChestnuTT, Landing on a Hundred. Says American Songwriter, "[Landing on a Hundred Years is] a much leaner, concise collection of rich and soulful tunes that takes in the last 50 years of funk, soul and R&B, and catalyzes that history into something warm and vibrant, yet altogether fresh." Exactly.

Here's Cody talking about the album, only his second and coming after a ten year hiatus:

And here's a live performance of "Under the Spell of the Handout."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Twilight Sad remixed

Not essential, but not bad album of remixed tracks from the Twilight Sad's No One Can Ever Know.

No One Can Ever Know: The Remixes

The Twilight Sad's third full-length, No One Can Ever Know was noticeably chillier and synthier than the debut Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters or its follow-up Forget the Night Ahead. Even before getting the remix treatment, its cuts couched the band's aesthetic in harsher, more industrial terms. You heard James Graham's floridly mannered singing, Mark Devine's stomach-shaking drumming reverberating in krautish dystopias.

As a result, it is not a very big stretch to bring in contemporary electronic artists - Lithuanian dubstep DJ Brokenchord, 1980s synth revivalist Com Truise, Brighton-based DJ Ambassadeurs, as well as EDM-leaning indie artists like Liars and the Horrors' Tom Furse - to rearrange and reimagine these tracks. The nine-track remix album includes three versions of "Sick" (two from BrokenChord, one from Com Truise), and two each of "Nils," "Not Sleeping" and "Alphabet."


Here's the Liars' contribution.

Speaking of Liars, I just broke down and bought the year-end Mojo, mostly because in its free CD tribute to Fleetwood Mac's Rumors Liars are inexplicably chosen to cover "The Chain." Haven't played it yet, but that's why I bought the magazine.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mark Lanegan/Who Made Who

I really liked Mark Lanegan's foray into techno this year, so I found this kind of interesting. He's essentially traded remixes with the Danish electro band Who Made Who, with fairly striking results.

Here's Who Made Who's take on "Deep Black Vanishing Train"

And Lanegan's version of "Below the Cherry Moon"

Monday, December 10, 2012

Triple Hex

Kind of a nasty, dirty, sexually predatory vibe going here in this new EP from Brooklyn's Triple Hex...that's partly due to Dave Hex's menacingly reverbed voice, partly to the stripped down, back to basics guitar-bass-drums and partly (mostly) to lyrics like "I don't want no love songs/I just want to fuck" (to a kind of pogoing rockabilly beat).

Interesting, Matt Verta-Ray (the other half, with Jon Spencer, of Heavy Trash) produced...he and Hex got a really intense, pitch-black, twisted gothic sound out of it.

Anyway, recommending with reservations...certainly not with children in the car...

Friday, December 7, 2012


Hey, look, it's a review!

Our House on the Hill

A second album from this Vivian Girls/Woods collaboration cleans up the sonics a bit, but leaves the Babies sweetly blurred, folk-garage drone sloppiness intact. Kevin Morby, elsewhere the bass player for Woods, carries most of the weight, writing and singing lead on all but a couple of songs, putting slack vulnerability into even the rawest, most ragged riffs (see "Get Lost") and rasping Dylan-folk style on plaintive "Mean." Cassie Ramone plays along on guitar, chips in airy whoa-oh-ohs and brassy counterpoints, additionally taking the mic on two cuts, "Baby" and "See the Country."

Still, the magic in Our House on the Hill comes when these two merge their two particular vibes, shading country-psych with Velvet Underground-ish murk, sweetening plainspoken lo-fi with giddy girl group flourishes. "Moonlight Mile" is the album's standout, a dense propulsive mesh of jangly guitars, rumbling bass, monochrome punk rants (that's Morby) and swirling wordless swoons (that's Ramone). It's the track on the album that feels least sketched, most colored in; and it, along with Ramone's "Baby" and Morby's "Get Lost," give you a sense of what this band might accomplish as a full-fledged endeavor, rather than a side project.

But there's charm even in the most skeletal offerings, the woozy, reticent romance of "On My Team," the disconsolately folkish "Mean," the back-handed ease with which these two musicians finish each other's sentences in "Slow Walking." Sure this House on the Hill could be more soundly constructed, but one suspects that ricketiness is part of the appeal.

DOWNLOAD: "Moonlight Mile," "Baby" -JENNIFER KELLY

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Neil Nathan fights the power

I'm not sure if there are any MOG people out there who still read my blog, but if so, you might remember Neil Nathan, a very nice, glam-rocker/singer songwriter who was a regular participant there. (Funny, I always thought that when I got broadband, I would go back to MOG but I visited a few months ago, and it's so different that I lost interest.) Anyway, I've been in fairly sporadic contact with Neil since then -- I wrote a one-sheet for one of his albums -- and he sent me a link to his latest album Sweep the Nation. It's a sort of garage rocking protest album, written around the time of Occupy Wall Street, and inspired, Neil says, by his work as a history teacher in NYC, where he got students involved by playing socially conscious music like CSNY's "Ohio" Roger Waters' "Watching TV."

I'm liking Sweep the Nation because it's a little rougher and more raucous than some of Neil's stuff...I'm partial to the title track, "I Ain't No Company Man" and the Lou Reed cover, "There Is No Time," which you can check out below.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Speck Mountain...Veronica Falls

The theme for today is female-fronted bands that are named after natural landmarks, I suppose...unless it's writing about whatever the hell has been clogging my inbox lately. In any case, here are new releases by two groups that I've reviewed before and liked, and whose follow ups seem cleaner, clearer, less mysterious and vaguely disappointing.

First up, Speck Mountain, a Chicago-based outfit whose debut I reviewed back in 2007 at Dusted, saying "It's that combination of sweetness and unearthliness, of accessible pop and trippy psychedelia, that make Summer Above so appealing…and so hard to get a grip on. And yet, if you lie perfectly still, the combination makes utter sense. It's space rock made with warm organic instruments, pop filtered through the language of the subconscious, and, finally, a waking daydream too beautiful to shake off."

Their third album, Badwater, is out in January on Carrot Top. It is the first to feature a regular drummer (Chin Up Chin Up's Chris Dye) and an organ player (Linda Malonis). As before, though, Speck Mountain's dreamy, drifty aesthetic derives mostly from singer Marie-Claire Balabanian and guitarist Karl Briedeck, who manage to embue chilled, ethereal space rock with a certain amount of warmth. I do like the guitar work a good bit on this one. It meshes with the drums very nicely, though it is perhaps this traditional rock element that makes Badwater less narcotically strange than the debut. I felt, finally, that you didn't really tip over backwards into these songs, the way you did with "Way Out West," that there was a scrim of performance or production or effort or something that made it harder to immerse oneself in this third album.

I also quite liked Veronica Falls' debut a couple of years ago. It came within a hair's breadth of making my top ten for 2011, and I wrote for Blurt:

Had enough of drone-y, dissonant, reverb-drenched R ‘N R? Too bad. It's time to suck it up and make room for one more band with bright-and-shadows harmonies, rackety riffs and a thing for guitar effects. Veronica Falls, out of London, runs way ahead of the Pains-of-Being-Dum-as-a-Vivian Girl pack with a bittersweet debut. They nod to all the usual influences - Jesus & Mary Chain, VU, Orange Juice etc. - but in fresh and unaffected ways. "Found Love in a Graveyard" may explore a nexus of death and teen love as old as, say, Wayne Cochran's "The Last Kiss," but it sounds unencumbered by history, as if these four had just cottoned onto the scary idea of mortality.

Veronica Falls' second album, Waiting for Something to Happen, is due out on Slumberland in January, and while the sound is recognizably the same (good melodic singing, slanting, stinging guitars, a rather tense, tetchy rhythm section) the indefinable oomph of the first album has been dialed down. To be honest, it's hard to quantify these things. I was never really sure why Veronica Falls hit me as hard as it did (when there were tons of records, then and now, attempting the same sort of thing). Now, I'm not really sure why the follow-up is leaving me all "well, all right, fine, nothing wrong with that really".

Anyway, judge for yourself. There's a soundcloud stream of the first single "Teenage" up now, and if you're at all on the fence, be advised that it is clearly the best cut on the album.

So that's it for now, though I might mention that I've caught a bit of the new Scott Walker on Brian Williams' WFMU show yesterday and thought that was about enough of that. Also been dabbling in this all Everly Brothers, all covers collaboration from Bonnie Prince Billy and Dawn McCarthy, which definitely has its moments.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Alec Redfearn...Michael Gira

I think I mentioned that I was going to be freestyling a bit over the holidays, that is, posting brief, not-very-exhaustively-considered impressions of albums I'm listening to but not reviewing, so i thought I'd start with one that's hitting lots of best-of lists and one that's not.

Swans, The Seer, leaves a bit of a bruise, per usual. It's quite long, unrelentling intense, repetitive, cathartic, pulverizing and, undoubtedly, much better live. I have yet to get through it all in one sitting, and I feel, as I usually do with Swans, that I am just not trying hard enough. Well, okay, it's a demanding listen, is it worth it? I think probably so, but I also think that life is short and getting to the point where I hear this album as a whole, in my head, without prompting is probably too much work. I'll believe those of you who say this is album of the year...that is believe that you mean it...and congratulate you on earning the right to say so. But I won't be saying it myself.

The Eyesores' Sister Death is the latest from Providence-based experimental accordionist Alec K. Redfearn, whose fascination with drones and gypsy melodies and Eastern European textures here gets a substantial injection of Krautrock, as well, as a bit of eerie folk pop from new associate Orion Rigel Domisse. As the title suggests, the album is not exactly light-hearted, but it is rather lovely and not too difficult. (You may sense, from this and the above paragraph, that I am not in the mood for difficulty lately).

Anyway, Alec's sort of an oddball favorite of mine going all the way back to my Splendid years. I interviewed him for Splendid, in fact, and though it's wildly out of date, you can read it here if you don't mind.

Here's his new ensemble, including Orion.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Daniel Bachman

A VA-born, Philly-based acoustic guitar player who is not Jack Rose has a pretty excellent new album out on Tompkins review ran at Blurt today.

Seven Pines
(Tompkins Square)

Daniel Bachman has Jack Rose's knack for guitar music that celebrates both the flower and the stem of the American Primitive tradition. His compositions are lush, note-proliferating reveries that blossom into exhilarating excess, quick fingered phrases that tumble one over the other in ever-shifting permutations. Yet underneath it all, there's a rhythm and a discipline, if not quite Rose's swing. This is a young man not afraid to go way out on a gnostic, mystic limb, but also not quite untethered from earthy tradition.


Did I mention that we finally went to Feeding Tube Records in Northampton? (highly, highly recommended) and they have a whole pile of records from the estate of Jack Rose for sale...lots of blues and bluegrass and at least one Rolling Stones disc.

The year of DSL

My year-end essay is up now at Dusted. Now I just have to remember not to read ILX for a couple of months.

Also, I made a zip file of songs from my top ten, though they're not in any particular order.

Nice weekend. Saturday, Sean and I went to a community Messiah performance, mostly because one of his friends was singing the solo soprano parts, and it was beautiful. (Though not thanks to anything I did, except when I lost my place and gave up.)

Anyway, there won't be a lot of new reviews running from here on, so I'll probably be posting a lot of short things about whatever I'm listening to at the moment.