Monday, December 30, 2013

Paul Messis

I've got a new review up at the Dusted In Exile Tumblr of the very retro Case Closed from paisley revivalist Paul Messis.

Paul Messis — Case Closed (State Records)

The very first song on Paul Messis’ latest record, the 1960s-redolent Case Closed is called “I Hate the World Around Me.” It’s pretty clear why that might be the case. The song, which could easily fit on the Nuggets-Pebbles continuum, begins in a flower power jangle of guitar, psychedelic Moon drums kicking under Byrdsian electric folk rock. There are tight, giddy harmonies, a la the first couple of Beatles records, and quick mercurial shifts from major key brashness to minor key diffidence, just like in Odeyssey and Oracle.

It’s the kind of song that would have raised no eyebrows at all in 1967 or so, but singing it, Messis himself acknowledges its out-of-time-and-place oddity and his own anachronistic predicament. “To make it in this world / I’ve got to be somebody else / Live a life against myself,” he sings.


This was one of those records I picked off the WFMU heavily played list without really knowing anything about it.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Ooops, missed one

We are now entering that part of the year in which reading other people's lists makes you realize that a dump-load of good music seems to have been released while you weren't paying attention and that maybe your top 10 is not the omniscient survey of 2013-ness that you thought it was. (if you did).

Anyway, I was listening to Mojo's free CD with their favorites on it, and I got all the way to the end before I said "What is THIS?"

And it was Low.

So, Sub Pop, you send me Thumpers but not this? Don't you like me any more?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Doug Keith with a famous shredder guest, other recent listening

I've been catching up on promos the last few days, trying to listen to everything I put on mid-December a few times before it falls off the new list> I'm really liking Doug Keith's Pony, which will be out February 11th on Keith's own Village Label. Keith has been playing bass for Sharon van Etten lately...and he's apparently made some connections with the W. Mass indie mafia. There is a guitar solo of unmistakeable provenance* on this song "Pure Gold in the 70s," also one or two others. Keith has a thoughtful, interesting blog, too, whose most recent post connects him to Northampton's other famous guitar player,** so I don't know, maybe he's a neighbor? He never calls, never would I know?

That's the giveaway track, but the one that I keep playing over and over is "Black Metal Black." It reminds me a lot of Luna.

I have also been listening a good bit to:

ILLLs (with the extra L), which reminds me a lot of Blank Dogs and is what I would consider a near miss.

And also Mirror Travel, an Austin-based, two-third-girls threesome in the psych-drone-garage vein, which I like a little better than ILLLs, but not as much as Keith.

I am not into Gardens & Villa at all, so you'll have to find your own soundcloud if the falsetto-and-synthesizer, neo-disco thing is your deal.

Merry Christmas or [insert your own preferred holiday greeting here]!


Monday, December 23, 2013

Nathan Salsburg

Another quiet gem from old time archivist and Takoma-style guitar player Nathan Salsburg, reviewed today at the new Dusted Tumbler

I wrote: "Nathan Salsburg’s reels and jigs and rambles run placidly through this nine-song, mostly solo collection. This is a remarkably calm and unruffled album, intricately played but without show-off-y virtuosity, held to a constant rhythm and contained within a fairly narrow dynamic range. Salsburg is never in any hurry, but there are no long pauses either. The pieces proceed at the same mid-level volume until they’re quiet at the end. No crescendos, no sudden stops and starts. A shadow-y shift from major to minor, a sudden surprising bent note, these are the only, fairly modest revelations that these tunes offer. And yet, though bereft of big gestures or spontaneous combustions, the songs are rather lovely in a quiet, sun-dappled country way."


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Destroyer in Spanish

So, happy Christmas, merry holidays, ho ho ho and all that. After some weather-related drama, my son is home for the break, and he is not feeling especially good (bad cold, which I believe he's been putting off until he had time to have it, and now he does), but it is still very sweet to have him in the house again.

I have been pretty delinquent about this blog lately, I know...the new dusted tumblr has been hoovering up my spare time, and, also the holiday thing is a bit consuming...but I do have a couple of things to report on.

First my review of Destroyer's brief, very enjoyable Five Spanish Songs is up now at Blurt.

DESTROYER — Five Spanish Songs

On Five Spanish Songs, Daniel Bejar pulls off the rare trick of covering five songs by a single author – the Spaniard Antonio Luque, who records as Sr. Chinarro – while sounding precisely like Daniel Bejar.

That’s a feat for any performer, but more so for Bejar, who is, by nature, slippery and hard to define. He is a midi-mastering solo symphonist one minute (Your Blues), a full-band rocker the next (Destroyer’s Rubies), and most recently a lite-fm Gerry Rafferty devotee (Kaputt, which is a good name for it). The main connector, for me, has always been his skill as a writer. His words have a sinuous-ness that glide effortlessly until they land in a tangle, dense, elegant, impacted with inference. He’s just too good at the oblique image, the tossed off bon mot, the line-drawn portraits of strangers in a crowd to be considered apart from the words. The music just wraps around them.


Also my review of the much more difficult, less accessible (but still interesting) Rene Hell album Vanilla Call Option is up now at the Dusted Tumblr. I picked this off the old Dusted dropbox by closing my eyes and clicking on it (I got three albums this way), and then when Otis was asking for reviews last fall, offered to review it. I have an extremely inadequate background for this sort of thing, so bear with me.

I said, "Jeff Witscher, in his latest effort as Rene Hell, has pushed beyond rhythm, melody and motif into pure abstracted sound. Squeaks, squibbles, odd itches, burbles and scratches are floodlit with blinding clarity, set like museum pieces against backgrounds of bright, disturbing silence. If “Smile Models” sounds, from certain angles, like an unoiled door swinging open and shut, it is the dream of a dream of a dream of that door. It squeaks without real friction, heat or physical presence."

There's more here.

Here is a sample of his stuff

I am just going to assume that this is the one and only blog post ever to feature both Destroyer and Rene Hell until someone shows me another one.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The indescipherable prettiness of Sumie

SUMIE – Sumie (Bella Union)


Sumie Nagano plays a spare and delicate folk music, her fingers tracing spidery guitar patterns that circle one chord and then another, her voice cutting clean through a sparkling silence. She sounds a bit like Linda Perhacs if you can imagine her without the occasional blues slide, or perhaps somewhat akin to Sharon Van Etten, though more remote and less vulnerable.

The person she does not sound like, at all, is her sister Yukimi Nagano, who shades the electro-pop of Little Dragon with stylized R&B cools and trills. Little Dragon is all stylish pose and posture. Sumie, by contrast, brings almost no artifice to this self-titled debut. She uses no vibrato, indulges in no surface emoting, refuses to belt and declines, even, the drama of a well-placed stage whisper. Sumie merely sings, hitting the notes crisply and exactly. Her guitar playing has the same distilled clarity, each note plucked and rounded and left to hang, nothing fancy like bends or pull-offs or hammer-ons.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Bailter Space...still back

Whoa, look, it's mid-December and I'm still stumbling on records that mighta/shoulda/woulda found a place on my top ten (if I had not already filled it up with albums I love). Check out Bailter Space from NZ, who re-emerged last year from a decade-plus hiatus and re-re-emerged this year with a noisier take on an already noisy genre.

BAILTER SPACE – TrinineFire (Fire)
Release Date: September 30, 2013


In 2012, Bailter Space put out its first album in thirteen years, the spectacular Strobosphere, which merged the band’s dense, dissonant murk with wavery tunefulness. It was a welcome return for the band tagged as New Zealand’s Sonic Youth, the wild card noise instigators among its lo-fi janglers. Now just a year later, Bailter Space has returned with more abrasive take on its feedback-altered storm and drone. Trinine builds on static-fuzzed foundations laid down more than three decades ago in cuts like “Grader Spader” (off the wonderful Flying Nun compilation In Love With These Times). It just takes them a little further into mess and distortion than Strobosphere did.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Difference Machine

I am sort of loving this new record from the Difference Machine, which (I guess, there's not much info) is a psychedelic rap collective from somewhere near Atlanta. HOnestly, there's not enough really trippy rap around anymore, last time i heard something like this it was Erykah Badu...

Wait here's some biographical background from the press agent:

The Difference Machine is comprised of Dr. Conspiracy and DT. The teaming up of these two has led to the creation of an album that is set apart from any “ordinary patterns and structures.” Looking through the histories of these artists and you’ll find two resumes in Atlanta that run nearly parallel in timing and impact. DT, of Clan Destined, found hip-hop through his cousins, who also taught him to freestyle and make beats. Dr. Conspiracy, whose father was a musician, grew up playing drums in various bands. They both came to Atlanta looking to weave themselves in the city’s hip-hop fabric. DT studied under Machine Drum and Vinyl Junkies, while Dr. Conspiracy was with Zone 7 and Expatriots, learning the art and craft of creating, not just absorbing, hip-hop.

In other news, my year-end is up now at Dusted in Exile, and it's getting a lot of hits, at least three of them from name-brand PFK writers...though possibly people have come to sneer. (At least they came.)I posted the list here a couple of days ago, but if you want to read my meandering observations, try here.

I would also highly, highly recommend Derek Taylor's review of the George Guesnon retrospective, because even if you don't know Guesnon (I didn't, he was a NOLA Dixieland banjoist), the story of his immense talent and difficult personality is moving on a human level. Derek knows so much about the music he covers, but he's also really good at capturing the human struggle behind his artists and records.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Year-end...just the list

So, I have some writing to do, but I did put together the numerical list for my year-end and thought I would share it with whoever reads this blog.

We're going to run individual lists after the new year on the brand new, so stay tuned.

Top ten new records
1. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Push the Sky Away (Bad Seed Ltd.)
2. Waxahatchee, Cerulean Salt (Don Giovanni)
3. Kelley Stoltz, Double Exposure (Fat Possum)
4. Kinski, Cosy Moments (Kill Rock Stars)
5. William Tyler, Impossible Truth (Merge)
6. Lisa Germano, No Elephants (Badman)
7. Mikal Cronin, MCII (Merge)
8. Califone, Stitches (Dead Oceans)
9. Sam Amidon, Bright Sunny South (Anti-)
10. Savages, Silence Yourself (Domino)

1. Come, 11:11 (Matador)
2. Venom P. Stinger, 1986-1991 (Drag City)
3. Various Artists, Afrobeat Airwaves 2: Return Trip to Ghana (Analog Africa)
4. Verlaines, Juvenalia and Hallelujah All the Way Home, (Captured Tracks)
5. Various Artists, Kill Yourself Dancing (Still Music)

Also loved (and not really in any kind of order):
Bottomless Pit, Shade Perennial (Comedy Minus One)
Dan Melchior, K-85 (Homeless)
Sonny and the Sunsets, Antenna to the Afterworld (Polyvinyl)
Woolen Men, S-T, (Woodsist)
Amor de Dias, The House at Sea (Merge)
Speedy Ortiz, Major Arcana (Carpark)
The Pastels, Slow Summits (Domino)
Purling Hiss, Water on Mars (Drag City)
Grumbling Fur, Glynaestra (Thrill Jockey)
Bardo Pond, Peace on Venus (Fire)
Grass House, A Sun Full and Drowning (Marshall Teller)
Warm Soda, Someone for You (Castleface)
Charles Bradley, Victim of Love (Daptone)
Overseas, S-T (Undertow)
Hiss Golden Messenger, Haw (Paradise of Bachelors)
Pere Ubu, Lady from Shanghai (Fire)

Guilty pleasures (i.e. I like these a lot more than I think is probably cool)
The National, Trouble Will Find Me (4AD)
Frightened Rabbit, Pedestrian Verse (Canvasback/Atlantic)
Yo La Tengo, Fade (Matador)

I made a spotify list with most of this stuff on it. (Not everything is on Spotify.)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Hurray for the slushpile, which gave up Patrick Park

I found this EP in a pile and put it on for a lark. I think, that day, I played 30 seconds each of about ten records and ripped two of them. Patrick Park's We Fall Out of Touch was one (the other one was by a psychedelic hip hop collective called the Difference Machine, which I may write about at some point, if I ever get a handle on it). Now, having lived with it for a week, i cannot fathom why this guy is not better known. It is, quite simply, one of the best singer songwriter records I've heard this year.

Park has been around for a while. His wiki page lists six EPs and five full-lengths, dating back to 2003. He's played shows with My Morning Jacket, Seawolf, Grandaddy, Beth Orton, Liz Phair and Shelby Lynne. His producer, Dave Trumfio, has worked with Wilco and My Morning Jacket. Yet for a singer with kind of cool, clear assurance, for a songwriter with this subtle a sense of melody and arrangement, he seems to have left remarkably little internet trail. The only coverage I can find of this really remarkable EP is in Broadway World, of all places.

But never mind that, We Fall Out of Touch is the good stuff, and if I need encouragement next time I plough through the no-name pile, I'll just have to remember that that's how I found this one.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Grass House...a really good one

Hey, sorry missed yesterday...this Dusted in Exile is a bit of a time-suck and I wanted to actually write a review for a change, which I did, but when I finished it, I looked up it was pitch dark and almost 7 o'clock and time for dinner and the news and all that bourgeoisie stuff that so defines my life...anyway, I'm back today.

This is a review I did a week or so ago for Blurt on an artist that I didn't know anything about (I mean before I picked it, obviously, I did some research before writing), which turned out to be such an unexpected pleasure. I'm thinking about making Grass House and EMEFE my picks for "new artists" this year, if anyone asks.

Anyway, here's a bit:

GRASS HOUSE – Sun Full and Drowning (Marshall Teller)


Grass House sheathes the comfort of weathered Americana in glittery space-rock atmospherics. Modest, monochrome melodies weave through cavernous reverbed spaces, whiskery poetics are murmured as dual guitars vault up and away in rattling blurs. The four piece, native to Yorkshire but now living in London, has drawn comparisons to various baritone indie folk (Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Matt Berninger of the National), but to me, the singer, Liam Palmer, sounds like a younger, less damaged Shane McGowan, muttering bleak abstractions but softening the edges with a Northern burr.


Oh yeah, and in the way of babysteps towards writing my year-end essay, I did make a Spotify list of my favorites. My Spotify name is "Jennifer Kelly" (yeah, we creative types, always thinking outside the box), so check it out if you like. I didn't put it in any sort of order, so some of the transitions may be pretty rough. It's also missing some of the stuff I loved -- Kelley Stoltz, Purling Hiss, Venom P. Stinger, Dan Melchior's latest -- because they are not on Spotify.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

This is crazy...Guerrilla Toss

This is electro-shocked no wave of the first, most chaotic order, jittering out in every direction, knife edges flying out with centripetal force. I haven't loved a band this dissonant since Ex Models (Shahin, still one of my favorite Splendid interviews, though it's been a decade probably and nobody even remembers Ex Models anymore, do they?) and they're from tight-assed Boston of all places, so you know they've suffered for their art.

Anyway, give it a spin. You probably won't like it.

I think they played the Flywheel once before I knew who they were. Hope they come back.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Far-Out Fangtooth

I've been kind of swept up in the new Dusted in Exile tumblr (, but I did want to mention that I've been listening to one really good new one, the spooky, shadow-y, chain-clanking r 'n r of Far-Out Fangtooth, which is out now on the Siltbreeze.

Here's a video, check it out.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Magic Trick, C. Spencer Yeh and Snowbird

First the obligatory post-Thanksgiving thanks for having a roof over my head, a nice family, reasonable health and really excellent food at, as an added bonus, $600 to pay the first heating oil bill of the year!


Now, onto what I've been listening to lately, in the free-ranging, nearly-assignment-less interval of December, when I slap on whatever people send me...

Magic Trick, River of Souls (Empty Cellar) Kind of a headphones record, though I can't figure out why. It is not especially complicated or overstuffed or even hard to parse -- in fact, it is exceptionally, almost surreally clear sonically. But the fact remains that I listened to this once in the kitchen on speakers and thought it was dull, then twice on a run with earphones and thought it was remarkable.

What do you think?

C. Spencer Yeh / Okkyung Lee / Lasse Marhaug, Wake Up Awesome (Mexican Summer) Extended technique (i.e. banging, squeaking, scratching and, in general, playing your instrument in ways that would drive your orchestra teacher batty) and electronics make this an odd, twitchy, discontinuous listen...and weirdly, the breaks from abrasion make it all the more difficult to get situated. There's a hovering, half-focused loveliness buried in scratch and hiss on "Ophelia Gimme Shelter," a baroque throb of cello(?) in "Mission: Nothing" and even some kind of German music-box-y sentimental song in "Anise Tongue and Durian Wet Dream" in jarring conflict with the harsher elements of this album. Actually the soft pretty bits are just as jarring and the noisy ones. It's the constant back and forth that unsettles. Like when you're in Paris with your English-speaking friends and you'd be picking up a lot more French if you weren't always switching between languages. But it's interesting, and if you listen to it a few times (like three or more) it starts to make sense as a whole.

Snowbird, Moon (Bella Union) This is Simon Raymonde from the Cocteau Twins and Stephanie Dosen and it's very pretty, maybe too pretty, too soft? IDK. Guest shots from members of Radiohead, Midlake and Lanterns on the Lake, lots of gauzy, dreamy textures, but no spine, do you know what I mean?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

No thanks to Weekender

Weird, I was going to post about Weekender, a Philly-based neu-gaze outfit whose Spanish Peaks came out on Paper Cup Records about a week ago. It's a pretty great little EP, shades of J&MC, a bit of the softer, hazier 1990s overdrive (i.e. more Slowdive than MBV). But apparently the band has taken down all of its videos and soundcloud you'll have to take my word for it, or, more likely forget about it. Does a video with 318 likes really need piracy protection? IDK, seems silly.

Okay correction, there is a soundcloud:

Thanks to Derek Sheehan for the link.

The other thing that I have been listening to and liking this week is a four-song EP from Synkro, a Manchester-based, dubstep type whose real name is Joe McBride. The Lost Here is full of wavery, water-y tone and skipping reminds me a lot of Burial's great Untrue in that it inserts a great deal of soul, emotion and humanity into a cerebral artform. That's partly down to Robert Manos who sings on the title track and also "In My Arms."

We are going for Thanksgiving dinner to a friends' house in town, who still have their teenage son and also a couple of other young men, maybe exchange students, in the house for the meal. I am not sure whether this will make me happier or sadder. (I have been a little sad, lately.) Anyway, all I have to cook is scalloped potatoes, which I did yesterday and they turned out beautiful, so I'm going for a little run now. It's very cold, sunny and a crust of snow on the ground, pretty much ideal over-the-river-and-through-the-woods weather.

Hope everyone is safe and warm and surrounded by loved ones. 16 days until Sean comes home.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Entrance Band is back

The Entrance Band, that sepulchral electric blues outfit led by Guy Blakeslee, put out another album this week, the sublimely dirge-like, mandala-spinning guitar-psychedelic Face the Sun from whence comes this disturbing video.

I like it a lot, especially the sprawling, vaguely Middle Eastern flavored "Fine Flow" which sounds like Richard Bishop and the Doors in some sort of unholy mashup.

I reviewed the Entrance Band's Prayer for Death a sort-of-astonishing seven years ago, saying:

To the hallowed triad of sex, drugs and rock and roll, we should maybe add a fourth: death. Like the other three, death has certainly been a source of innumerable song lyrics and the intoxicant of choice for mystics, bluesmen, rockers, folk singers and assorted other scruffy geniuses. It's certainly Guy Blakeslee's drug this time out. Prayer of Death, as its title implies, doesn't just face the great inevitable, it embraces it, celebrates it, psychedelicizes it, becomes giddy on its poison fumes. "I want to die without no fear / I want to die rejoicing," he sings on the title track, perhaps the most gospel and straightforward blues number here, and he's not kidding. He really is happy about the whole idea.

You can read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Lovers ...who says electropop has to be chilly?

I've got a review of the all-woman Portland band, Lovers, up today at Blurt.

LOVERS – A Friend in the World


Like a handmade Hello Kitty lunchbox, Lovers, out of Portland, splices pop ephemera with DIY freshness and honesty. A Friend In the World’s perky synthetic keyboards and dance rhythms conjure princess pink diva-pop, but singer Carolyn Berk weaves knowing cock-eyed melancholy through it all. It’s like Mirah’s peppiest dance party ever, like cold wave synth revival warmed to bath temperature. Someone never told the women of Lovers – Berk, Emily Kingan and Kerby Ferris – that electropop had to be chilly and inhumane. Their version breathes and sighs and confides, even as it urges the girls to dance.


Monday, November 25, 2013


I've been pretty vocal about Waxahatchee's Cerulean Salt ranking high in my top ten (it's #2 behind Nick Cave at the moment), but how about the other Crutchfield sister, Allison, whose band Swearin' put out a pretty fine blues-rocking album called Surfin' Strange a week or two ago on Wichita. It reminds me of the Moaners, which I know, is probably no help to anyone, but here try this...It's blistered, dissonance-altered guitar sweetened by longing, softened by understanding. It's what you hear at one a.m. from the radio, the crackle of static popping like acid as it eats through melody, leaving holes that just reinforce what you've lost. Yeah, like I said...reminds me of the Moaners.

Or you could just listen for yourself, eh?

Oh and how about that Waxahatchee? I just spent 45 minutes on ILX looking at year-end and it seems that I'll be alone again on this one (but not the Cave).

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Eiko Ishibashi

Eiko Ishibashi is multitalented -- a well-regarded drummer (There are a number of really interesting female Japanese drummers, aren't there? Wonder why?), pianist, singer and composer. Her album Imitation of Life came out last year in Japan. I'm guessing that the fact that Jim O'Rourke plays on it got her a hearing at Drag City, which is now releasing it in Japan.

The album reminds me a lot of Petra Haden and Yuko Honda's If By Yes project, which is to say, proggily complex, intricately arranged, and yet oddly welcoming and soft. Imitation of Life pits pillowy soft vocals against spikily difficult arrangements of piano, drums and strings, so that you feel like you're in a sort of pop song where the floor is always shifting and the mirror-walled contours are showing you bits and pieces of things that might be you, yourself, or might be infinity.

Anyway, it's interesting. Have a listen.

We had our first snow last night, just a dusting really, though we caught a pretty dense squall on the way back from Northampton. Sean is safely arrived in Indianapolis, where it sounds like it will be non-stop fun stuff with his aunt and uncle. I had a pretty good week last week -- got paid from three different clients and have since paid all my outstanding bills and maybe able to spend a little on Christmas. I also think, though I'm not sure, that I've picked up a new client who, if I do everything right, could be pretty substantial. Also we continue to muddle through with Dusted. A few of us are trying to set up a Tumblr, Dusted in Exile, to publish the backlog of reviews and see where it goes from there.

So that's pretty much it, except that last week, I had this weird dream that I had written a musical and I remember nothing about it, except that John Boehner was a character and his show-stopping tune was called "The King of No." Pretty silly.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fela covers and Dylan-ish rasp

I've got a couple of reviews up today at Blurt, one of the Fela Kuti-honoring Red Hot & Fela which I found mostly kind of tepid with a couple of really good songs. I wrote, "despite the abundance of good intention, Red Hot & Fela is only intermittently compelling. Listen to any of these cuts against the originals, and they sound chilled, glossed, smoothed and, especially, much abbreviated." There's more here.

Here's video of a concert at Lincoln Center which featured the disc's music...

There's also a new review of Ezra Furman's second Harpoon-less endeavor, The Day of the Dog, which I quite liked. I wrote: "Ezra Furman turns existential angst into roadhouse bravado on this second solo LP, framing burnt black lyrics with vamping sax, rollicking piano and double-time romps. Furman may be “broken, wide-open, bleeding everywhere” (per “The Mall”), but he’s still thrashing around in protest. The protest, in this case, takes the form of rousing, blustery, forget-yourself-in-rock-and-roll arrangements that recall everyone from electric Dylan to classic gospel to Bo Diddley (“At the Bottom of the Ocean”)." There's a bunch more here.

We finally hit Season 3 of The Good Wife last night, which I am enjoying immensely, especially Archie Panjabi and Alan Cumming, but also that the show has guest cameos from so many great theater actors, not to mention a running gig for Julliard-educated Christine Baranski. I'm a little worried about the two-main-characters-finally-having-sex thing, which has ruined so many good shows...I don't want to know anything about what happens, but does it suck from here or not?

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Hey, this is kind of cool, a two-disc compilation of electronic music whose proceeds benefit Dalit (untouchable) children in Southern India. Lots of good people on the comp -- Deerhoof, Califone, White Hinterland, Four Tet, Doseone -- and they all incorporate vocal samples from the Light of Love Children's Choir, which is comprised of kids who might theoretically benefit if you were to plunk down for this thing. I am personally really loving the way that the kids' voices thread through so many different kinds of material. The exact same little melody floats through Deerhoof's whimsied geometries and Califone's weathered junkyard folk, but it sounds completely different.

Here's the Four Tet song.

BOATS is out in January on Transgressive North

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Zachary Cale

My interview with Zachary Cale runs today at PopMatters. I thought it turned out pretty well.

So after a really long dry period, I got two pretty substantial checks yesterday, enough to pay all the bills and live on for a little bit. We might go down to Springfield and get a case of wine for the holidays on Saturday -- nothing very grand, but it's always fun.

Also Sean has a slot to audition for the Texas Shakespeare Festival, which, good news, has an intern program for college students so he's not competing against seasoned actors. it's a lot better known than Arkansas, though, so will probably be a pretty tough get in any case. I do think that more good things happen to people who try harder, though, so best of luck to him and hope that something breaks for him.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Too free-rangingly ruminative to ever play out on a public stage

Love this album, and rather like the way the review turned out...up today at Blurt online and also in the soon-to-hit-your-newsstand print issue.

MICK TURNER – Don’t Tell the Driver

Drag City


Don’t Tell the Driver is not an opera, whatever Dirty Three guitarist Mick Turner might tell you. This languid, introspective, loosely drawn series of musical mood pieces is too diffuse and glancing, for one thing, insinuating but never quite laying out a story line of remembered love and idealized connection. For another, there’s not that much singing, just a couple of impossibly tender, breathy, vocal caresses from Caroline Kennedy-McCracken (she of the Plums, Deadstar and The Tupils), and one rather stunning performance Oliver Mann (who is, as it happens, an actual opera singer).

And lastly, Don’t Tell the Driver is far too gorgeously personal, too hushed, too subtle, too free-rangingly ruminative to ever play out on a public stage. Instead its chaotic swirls, its muted flares of brass, its clackety storms and ebbs of drumming (three percussionists, Kishore Ryan, James Wegener from Laughing Clowns and Ian Wadley all sound remarkably like the D3’s Jim White) seem destined to play out in private theaters—ours and Turner’s. In the dreamlike space this album inhabits, we, too, recall liaisons so immediate and overwhelming that a line like “Sometimes lover I can’t tell where your hair ends and the rest of the world begins” is not poetry but a literal description of the way things are.

DOWNLOAD: all of it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Found long-lost Gary Higgin a pile under the desk

This record Red Hash was lost for, oh, maybe 30 years...a whispered-about folk classic recorded just before Gary Higgins was hauled off to jail. Ben Chasny dug up the songwriter (and the music, subsequently released on Chasny's label Drag City) and now Higgins sometimes even plays live (I saw him at SXSW once, and gotta say, if he takes that long to tune, it's no wonder he's only cut three albums in 40 years). So yeah, I didn't lose the album for that long. It's probably only been on my floor for 3-4 years, but it's good to have it back.

In other good news, I figured out Skype (I'm not expecting a prize for over-50 use of technology or anything, just saying), and had a video chat with my son last weekend, an unexpected joy. The big storms had just cleared over Chicago, and Sean had, being my son, just gotten back from a run through the apocalypse (and almost, per facebook, got himself blown off Navy Pier). The other cool thing (besides going for a jog through the tornado watch) that my son did this weekend was try out for the Arkansas Shakespeare Festival. He did something from Romeo and Juliet and his Trinculo monologue ("man or fish") from the Tempest and sang something by Scott Allen. It was for the regular company, not an internship, so it would be surprising if anything came of it, but how great that he tried. I should mention, maybe, that he did not get an audition slot when he applied, but went anyway on Saturday to see if they had walk-ins and they did. That kind of thing will pay off someday I think, and I am prouder of his grit than his talent (and, as you probably can surmise, I am plenty proud of his talent).

So onward and upward. Maybe I'll get paid for something this week.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Shade Perennial
Bottomless Pit
Comedy Minus One


“Rolling along like a middle child, happy as we had been in a while, forgot about you, myself too,” sings Tim Midyett in “Null Set,” sounding calm and centered in the space carved out for him. He sings in the midst of crashing guitar chords, blister-y bass, monstrous drum beats and firewalls of feedback, a typical maelstrom for this band formed in the wake of Silkworm drummer Michael Dalquist’s tragic death. This third full-length allows no let-up in the bludgeoning dissonance, the melancholic aggression that has characterized Bottomless Pit from the beginning, and yet it also has an edge of triumph to it, a brutal clarity that celebrates as much as it mourns.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Clara Hill's Walk the Distance

Really beautiful new album from Berlin's Clara Hill...pitched somewhere between Schneider TM (who plays guitar on one track) and My Bloody Valentine. (Which is to say, it's electronically based, but has some very interesting wall-of-sound elements.)

This is maybe the most acoustic and song-like of the album's tracks, with the most overt vocals

This one's a bit rowdier and shoe-gazier. (Erg, shoe-gazier!)

If you're looking for more about Clara Hill, the Quietus -- fast becoming my favorite source for background on emerging artists -- just published a long interview.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Scary rabbit...the Nobunny conundrum

Nobunny the recording artist makes some of the music world's catchiest bubblegum garage, his albums, including the latest Secret Songs, a nonstop 1960s sock hop with nary a five o'clock shadow's worth of ambiguity or the most passing glimpse of hell. Nobunny, the performer, is truly disturbing, however, clad in a pants-less get-up with bondage gear and the world's dirtiest bunny mask.

So who is this guy, dissolute furry or uncomplicated party rocker? Both, neither. Just check the album out. It's a good one. (Out on Goner now.)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sumie...softly devastating

A fragile, lovely collection of songs that might, a few years ago, have been described as freak folk, just guitar and a simple, ice-pure female voice. Sumie is the sister of the singer from Little Dragon, which, perhaps, will mean more to you than it does to me. She started singing and writing and recording songs after having two children, so she's stubborn and focused if nothing else. There's no sense of strain or chaos in this album,'s clear all the way through like water and beautiful. Check it out.

Her self-titled debut is out December 2nd on Bella Union

Monday, November 11, 2013

Jazz, lounge, dub...and a guest shot by Bad Brains' H.R.

I've been listening to the hard-to-classify Chaliwa from John Zorn protege Jamie Saft's New Zion Trio a good big lately, and just noticed that the singer on "Chant It Down" is H.R. from Bad Brains.

That's a surprise, because, for the most part, Chaliwa is wonderfully reticent and insinuating, an acoustic simmer of piano, stand-up bass and drums. The album lives in jazz but visits reggae -- you hear the dub influence mostly in a slinky backbeat.

Anyway, it's a really good album but fantastically hard (at least for me) to write about. Let's leave it to Sean Murphy at PopMatters, who wrote:

"An ostensibly straightforward ensemble, featuring [Jamie] Saft’s keyboards, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Craig Santiago, the trio manages to pull off a variety of sounds, ranging from narcotic lounge music (in a good way) to traditional piano jazz (think Bill Evans by way of Kingston) and darker-than-dread reggae meditations. On Chaliwa, the players double down on the dub, and the results are every bit as satisfying this time out."

You can read the whole review, including a good bit about Saft's other project Slobber Pup, here.

The album is out now on Veal Records.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Blind Joe Death

When I cleaned up my office last week, I found a bunch of pre-iTunes albums in a pile on the floor, which I had probably intended to rip at one point and never got to...really good stuff, it is finally in my hard drive (and also refiled upstairs in the "permanent collection"). The best of the three is John Fahey's The Legend of Blind Joe Death. It's his first album, a double recorded in 1959, when folk revival mostly centered on field recordings of elderly blues players. Fahey, then, recorded Blind Joe Death incognito in the person of an imaginary old-time blues-man. One side of the album was credited to "Blind Joe Death", the other styled as Fahey's covers of this hypothetical musician. Many of the songs are traditional -- there's a wonderful cover of "in Christ There Is No East or West", a couple of versions of "St. Louis Blues" etc. -- but Fahey hints at the whole open-ended folk-raga-blues of the 1960s and 1970s in his epic "The Transcendental Waterfall." None of the latter day pickers -- from Jack Rose to Glenn Jones to Daniel Bachman and William Tyler-- would be playing the way they do (or did in Rose's case) without this record.

Anyway, good to have it back. Apparently there's a Fahey documentary called In Search of Blind Joe Death that will be airing next month on the BBC. Looks pretty interesting.

Here's that "In Christ There Is No East or West"...just radiantly simple and beautiful, don't you think?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Ghana ingests funk and soul, inspires Fela

So, just to follow up on what has become my all-time most clicked blog post, I recently wrote a full review of Afrobeat Airwaves 2: REturn Flight to Ghana, the Analog Africa compilation of 1960s and 1970s Ghanaian funk-soul-highlife music. I close with the observation:

This is a wonderful survey of a fascinating era when Ghanaian highlife opened up to incorporate a wide range of new influences, funk, soul, reggae, the desert blues of Nigeria. Later, the liner notes say, Ghanaian bands began using more electronics and synthesizers, a development that subtracted and watered down the music, rather than adding to it. But here, pan-global curiosity pays off in complex celebrations of syncopated groove, as raw as they are brave, as emotionally resonant as they are adventurous.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Body...astonishingly volatile, obliterating

My review of art-punk-metal-chorale, The Body, ran yesterday at Blurt.

"The Body, out of Providence, fuses three varieties of heavy music – noise punk, metal and classical choral arrangements – into an astonishingly volatile, obliterating mix. The two principals Body parts — Chip King and Lee Burford – supply the first two elements. They are a guitar and drums duo, not as fast as their neighbors in Lightning Bolt, nor as light-footedly playful, but possessed of the same sparking, smoking intensity. King is, among other things, a superlative screamer, shrieking a trebly, half-human overlay to the disc’s most exhilarating onslaughts. Yet in between these bursts of white-noise, blur-speed, shriek fests, the Body turns slow, heavy, metallically weighted, as drum beats slow to dirgeful marches and guitar notes splinter into blatting firestorms of feedback and dissonance. “Bearer of Bad Tidings” shifts from antic, frantic speed punk to monstrously distorted heaviness. For a bit more than a minute, the Body threatens to blow itself up into a million shimmering, shattering particles, then it pulls up, blaring single blistered tones across slow measures, landing so hard on the ones that the floor shudders underneath."

Actually, no sorry, this is the one I wanted.

In other news, I am recovering from food poisoning, spent all night Tuesday throwing up, all of yesterday asleep and feverish, feel okay today, but haven't eaten in a couple of days. Also it's my birthday, yay for me. Bill got me a couple of really interesting books and a new hoodie for running. Sean sent me a nice note on Facebook. Mom and dad and my brother Edward called.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Elephant 6 is everywhere

The late, great, sprawling psych movement known as Elephant Six may have made its biggest splash in the mid-1990s, but its imprint is everywhere the day-glo garage scene of the Bay Area (see Sonny Smith's great new comp I Need You, which I am not supposed to talk about until after Thanksgiving), in the still unwinding, long-awaited tour of Neutral Milk Hotel, in the surviving, still working bands like Elf Power and in one other called Rickolus, whose Troubadour: Roads is giving me a serious, very welcome whiff of In an Aeroplane Over the Sea. Let's take them one at a time.

Polyvinyl has very particularly asked reviewers not to cover I Need You Bad for a couple of weeks, but it's pretty great...with tracks from Sonny himself, Magic Trick (that's Tim Cohen from Fresh & Onlys), and Warm Soda (who had a really wonderful, way-under-appreciated LP out on Castleface last spring, and, god knows I tried, but no one would let me cover it). The very best track, to my ears, is "Dreams" by Jessica Pratt, which is not available (yet?) on soundcloud or youtube, but here she is singing "Hollywood" from her debut album, which will maybe give you an idea.

And, oh, Neutral Milk Hotel, for a decade, Jeff Magnum wouldn't tour, now you can't stop him with a stick. Here are dates through February 2014:

November 12, 2013

w/ M. Ward, and Superchunk
The Tivoli
Brisbane, Australia
tickets >
November 14, 2013

w/ M. Ward, and Superchunk
Enmore Theatre
Sydney, Australia
tickets >
November 15, 2013

w/ Superchunk, and M. Ward
The Forum
Melbourne, Australia
November 16, 2013

w/ Superchunk, and M. Ward
The Forum
Melbourne, Australia
tickets >
November 20, 2013

Dunedin, New Zealand
On Sale at Cosmic
tickets >
November 22, 2013

Wellington, New Zealand
James Cabaret
On Sale at RPM and Slowboat
tickets >
November 23, 2013

Auckland, New Zealand
The Kings Arms Tavern
On Sale at Real Groovy
tickets >
November 24, 2013

Auckland, New Zealand
The Kings Arms Tavern
On Sale at Real Groovy
tickets >
NOVEMBER 28, 2013

Taipei, Taiwan
tickets >
NOVEMBER 30, 2013

Tokyo, Japan
Hostess Club Weekender
Yebisu Garden Hall
tickets >
January 13, 2014

Ithaca, NY
The State Theatre
On Sale October 25
January 14, 2014

Jersey City, NJ
Loew's Theatre
tickets >
JANUARY 16, 2014

Orpheum Theatre
Boston, MA
tickets >
JANUARY 17, 2014

Orpheum Theatre
Boston, MA
tickets >
JANUARY 18, 2014

Olympia de Montreal
Montreal, QC
tickets >
JANUARY 19, 2014

Kool Haus
Toronto, ON
tickets >
JANUARY 20, 2014

Kool Haus
Toronto, ON
tickets >
JANUARY 22, 2014

The Capitol Theatre
Port Chester, NY
tickets >
January 23, 2014

BAM Howard Gilman Opera House
Brooklyn, NY
tickets >
JANUARY 24, 2014

BAM Howard Gilman Opera House
Brooklyn, NY
tickets >
JANUARY 25, 2014

BAM Howard Gilman Opera House
Brooklyn, NY
tickets >
JANUARY 27, 2014

Webster Hall
New York, NY
tickets >
JANUARY 28, 2014

Webster Hall
New York, NY
tickets >
JANUARY 29, 2014

Tower Theatre
Upper Darby, PA
tickets >
JANUARY 30, 2014

Union Transfer
Philadelphia, PA
JANUARY 31, 2014

DAR Constitution Hall
Washington, DC
tickets >
FEBRUARY 1, 2014

Cat's Cradle
Carrboro, NC

FEBRUARY 2, 2014

Cat's Cradle
Carrboro, NC
FEBRUARY 4, 2014

Ryman Auditorium
Nashville, TN
tickets >
FEBRUARY 5, 2014

The Pageant
St. Louis, MO
tickets >
FEBRUARY 6, 2014

The Riviera Theatre
Chicago, IL
tickets >
FEBRUARY 7, 2014

The Riviera Theatre
Chicago, IL
tickets >
FEBRUARY 8, 2014

Orpheum Theater
Madison, WI
tickets >
FEBRUARY 10, 2014

First Avenue
Minneapolis, MN
tickets >
FEBRUARY 11, 2014

First Avenue
Minneapolis, MN
tickets >
FEBRUARY 13, 2014

Uptown Theatre
Kansas City, MO
tickets >
FEBRUARY 14, 2014

Cain's Ballroom
Tulsa, OK
tickets >
FEBRUARY 15, 2014

Majestic Theatre
Dallas, TX
tickets >
FEBRUARY 17, 2014

ACL Live at the Moody Theater
Austin, TX
tickets >
FEBRUARY 18, 2014

ACL Live at the Moody Theater
Austin, TX
tickets >
FEBRUARY 19, 2014

Warehouse Live
Houston, TX
tickets >
FEBRUARY 20, 2014

Elf Power started just about the same time as Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control. The main differnce is that they're still going. I reviewed their latest Sunlight on the Moon a couple of days ago at Blurt. I said:

Sunlight on the Moon is Elf Power’s 12th full-length, and while it still sounds exuberantly, defiantly amateur (in the best, “for the love of it” sense), the band has clearly gotten better at what it does. These fuzz-toned, delicately arranged melodies curve in a gratifying ways around bizarrely evocative imagery. They are well-constructed, tightly knit songs that fizz with eccentricity and bubble with subconscious impulses. “Even in the dreamworld, you will not comply with my commands,” sings Andrew Rieger on the mesmeric “Strange Designs”, and you do get a sense of dreams that permeate the music, infiltrate it, co-opt it, and refuse to cede to the real world.

And finally, for those who really long for MORE Neutral Milk Hotel, or at least something that sounds like it. time to check out Rickolus. The album's called Troubador: Roads...and I like it a lot.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Golden Bicycles

How about another sad case of unacknowledged excellence?

I give you Johnny Bertram and his Golden Bicycles...even I, a fan after the debut, let this one sit on my desk for a year and a half. Neon City is as good as anything the Moondoggies have ever done and a hundred miles ahead of all the other country-tinged Neil Young-loving rock bands. (I am not saying he's as good as Neil Young, just better than the wannabes.)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Damian Jurado should really write the next Bond theme

One of my lost causes (Kelley Stoltz, Mike Uva, Graves Brothers....), the guys that really ought to be much better known than they are, is Damian Jurado...he's been on a spooky, atmospheric roll since St. Bartlett and it seems likely to continue with Brothers And Sisters of the Eternal Son. I have to say that with both St. Bartlett and Maraqopa his songs took a little time to catch on, but this one is grabbing me right out of the box. The lead-off track is called "Magic Number" and it's got this wonderful, slinky, decadent Goldfinger-ish aura that is both completely out of character for DJ, but also completely right. It's not out until January, and I will most likely to be writing about it in more detail, but for now, check this out...

Friday, November 1, 2013

Yo Baby Yo...a brief meditation on Chicago house music

My review of Kill Yourself Dancing: The Story of Sunset Records 1985-1989 runs today at Blurt...I opine, "It’s a mystery how music this physical, this raw and this primal could emerge out of a rig of synthesizers, but for a brief period in the late 1980s in Chicago, it certainly did."

The full review (which is kind of dry and expository, honestly) runs here.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Short but gorgeous...Kurt Vile and Sore Eros

Jamaica Plain is only three tracks, but they're lovely...the wavering tones of electric amplification and feedback weaving through picked clarity, little bits of drumming and noise tossed in to friction...only one track ("Serum") with vocals, but who needs them? This is a long-buried effort from Kurt Vile and Robin Robertson, who did some time in the Violators but is mostly known as Sore Eros. They recorded in the early aughts, it well before Vile-mania, when Kurt was just a long-haired kid with a way into and past folk guitar and Robertson was, well, pretty much exactly as obscure as he is today. I like it a lot, but if you put it on and leave the room, it'll be over before you get back.

It's out next week on Care in Community Recordings.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Roar, sprawl, obliterate

First snow of the year falling right now, just a dusting, sticking a little to dark green pine trees but not at all to roads and brown grass....

Meanwhile, I've got a review of Bardo Pond's latest up at Blurt. I like it a lot, though I have to differ with Michael Gibbons about exactly how minimal it is...

Peace On Venus
Bardo Pond
Label: Fire


Bardo’s Michael Gibbons is calling Peace on Venus “a less is more statement in essence,” but don’t look for minimalism here. These tracks roar, sprawl and obliterate, in a hypnotic, heavy-booted march to enlightenment. Wall-sized guitar tones fray and blister into dissonance, drums pound in monolithic, relentless forward motion, and Isobel Sollenger’s voice floats over the roil and racket like a dream you had once as a child. Even more melodic entries like “Taste” have a palpable weight and density, their own field of gravity that pulls you in and keeps you there.


I love this band.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Digging back into Hiss Golden Messenger

I reviewed the most recent Hiss Golden Messenger album back in March, liked it a lot and concluded, "Whether Hiss Golden Messenger is whooping it up country style or slinking and slithering in a late-night approximation of Stax-ish soul, there’s a directness in its attack. These songs don’t refer to certain styles of music, they embody them, contradict them, warp them and, in the process, breathe life into them. If that’s what scares all those people with their folk guitars, I’d say bring it on."

So now I'm on the Hiss Golden Messenger list, I guess, and I recently received a reissue of the band's 2009 Bad Debt, a bit sparer, a bit more single-mindedly country folk, and also, really, quite powerful. There's an early version of "The Serpent Is Kind (Compared to Man)" (also on Haw), and, you know, I find this stuff geekily interesting. The older one is a bit murkier, less buoyant, noticeably less clearly produced, but also maybe a little more attuned to the darkness in this is, after all, about not trusting other human beings.

Not that MC Taylor is exactly Mr. Happytimes, now, but I think he's a shade more ominous on Bad Debt.

Here's a not-really-a-video of "Balthazar" from Bad Debt.

The record will be out (again) on Paradise of Bachelors January 14, 2014...making it the first record of next year yet to be mentioned here. So yes, I suppose I have signed up for another year.

Monday, October 28, 2013

I just love this song from Courtney Barnett

And in my dreams, I wrote the best song I've ever written, I can't remember how it goes...

Which means it was better than this one, which is pretty awesome. From the recent queen of CMJ, Courtney Barnett, an Aussie songwriter who draws occasional comparisons to anti-folk types like Jeffrey Lewis. (It's got a Triffids reference which has a certain semi-obscure message board go kind of nuts.

I like this song better than anything else on The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas (which combines two shorter recordings previously only available in Australia), but I like it a lot.

Pitchfork gave her the "Rising" treatment about a month ago, if you're interested in backstory.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Like ESG? Try Las Kellies

Sticking up for the Buenos Aires branch of the Kellies empire (who knew that the plural had an "i"?) here. Las Kellies is an all-girl, post-punk outfit from Argentina...where they haven't gotten the word yet about the 20-year nostalgia cycle shifting to grunge from Gang of Four and still soldier on in the stark, sparse, syncopated style of early 1980s bands like Delta 5, ESG and the Slits. Anyway, there's a new album out called Total Exposure a bit slinkier, a bit less spiky, more dub, less jitter...but quite good. It's been out since mid-September, but I haven't seen a word about it anywhere. Shame.

This one has reggae great Dennis Bovell singing (he of Matumbi and a long-running partnership with Linton Kwesi Johnston).

This one is just the girls, but still heavily borrowing from dub/reggae etc. (Sounds like the Slits, dunnit?)

And this one, from the last album, just in case you didn't get the ESG connection.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Oneohtrix Point Never interview

I was just whining about how long this one was taking a couple of days ago...and now here it is. In my very humble, probably biased opinion, this is one of the best interviews I've done all year, mostly due to him, not me.

Anyway, check it out.

The Uncanny Effect of Being Almost Real: An Interview with Oneohtrix Point Never

By Jennifer Kelly 24 October 2013

A whistle. A church organ. A choir of angels. The album R Plus Seven is full of sounds that almost jive with real life experience, but which—on closer inspection—depart from the ordinary in subtle, unsettling ways.

“That uncanny effect of being almost real is a really uncomfortable and glorious state for me. I find it disturbing,” says Daniel Lopatin, who for the last half dozen years has recorded under the name Oneohtrix Point Never. His latest OPN album is, in some ways, his most grounded and homemade, built out of brief, mostly keyboard-based sounds, recorded at home, and approaching the structures of riff and melody. Yet it is also a deeply odd, somewhat disorienting piece of work, full of staccato, agitated motifs that overlap, contradict and interrupt one another, and woven through with the sound of inhuman voices, unreal instruments and not-quite-right rhythmic underpinnings.

“I wanted to make something that has a beautiful aspect but also a dread or unease. That reaches to be real and almost sentient, but then is not,” says Lopatin. “I felt like that was there already a lot of the time, but my job was to exaggerate that and characterize it even further.”


Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Herms

I'm not going to pretend I knew about the Herms when they were tearing it up in the Bay Area about a decade ago...I didn't. But John Dwyer from the Ohsees sure did, and now he's reissuing all their recordings on the retrospective Drop Out Volume 1...and it's amazing. Really. Sort of a cross between 39 Clocks and the Dirtbombs. I was listening to it a lot in Chicago, but I still don't have anything half as good to say about as Dwyer, who writes:

No one sounds like The Herms.

No one sounds like Matthew Lutz.

The Herms are a smudged window into a neighboring dimension to ours, Berkeley. Even though it’s right next door to Oakland and San Francisco, it may as well be a million musical-miles away. Back when they were playing around town, it felt to me like not too many in my scene “got” this band. I thought people should have been going crazy for these guys. The local rag gave them accolades (a curse perhaps?), and even a cursory listen to this collection should clue you in to how great they were. This may be one of the few times that I have to concur with a music writer – this band is amazing. They are sun, heartbreak, pop and fried-static all in one master package, evolving from song to song, and I think they’re fantastic.

The Herms did have a proper release years ago, but on CD only (gasp!) and frankly I’ve always been in love with these earlier, rawer 8 track Tascam demos. They sound like the band did when you were standing in front of them. I love The Herms and have been waiting a looooong time to do a proper release for them. Sorry it took exhuming their songs from the grave before I was ready. Please listen loudly with the windows open, so maybe that music writer may pass by, hear it and think, “Finally! I told you so, you assholes”.

John Dwyer 7-10-13

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

EMEFE and back from Chicago

I know it's been a while since I've posted, not that you or I or anyone missed it. Fortunately not much happened, music-writing-wise, while I was gone. Dusted is basically shut down again, the folks at Blurt are subsumed in the upcoming Fall print issue and PopMatters is taking its usual 3-4 months to publish my Oneohtrix Point Never interview.

But meanwhile, I did have one piece go up this Monday, an interview with Miles from EMEFE, whom you might have seen playing congas on Red Hot and Fela's Fallon appearance. (You probably didn't, and if you did, you may not have payed much attention to the skinny, white conga player, but it was a good segment. Not everybody comes off that well on TV.)

Anyway, here's the video.

And here's the feature

Let's see, maybe I should write a little bit about my trip to Chicago...

I got in about 8 a.m. on Friday (had to leave 4 a.m. from home to make my flight), too early to check into the hotel, so I took the train into Chicago and got off at Logan Square to look around. (Sean said he couldn't see me until 5 p.m., so I had PLENTY of time, a recurring theme on this trip.) I picked Logan Square because I had just read about it as a happening food neighborhood in Bon Appetit, and it did, indeed, seem pretty cool, even at 9:30 in the morning. I ended up taking a walk down Kedzie, which is gorgeous, tree-lined and full of sort of lo-rise gothic apartment buildings, a big grassy island in the middle. You could imagine living quite comfortably in a neighborhood like this, fun places to eat and drink right there and the train to the city close by. So, I wandered around for a while and enjoyed it, then stopped for a coffee at New Wave Coffee where all the boys looked like they were in bands, and the girl behind the counter was talking about her BFA in stage management, so though I was 30 years older than everyone else, it felt sort of like home...we could definitely live in a neighborhood like this if we could afford it.

So from there, I walked down Milwaukee towards the city, following the Blue Line in case it was too far (it was) or I got tired (I didn't, oddly). I found more WIFI in Bucktown and heard from a friend of mine, also visiting a son in Chicago, and we made plans to meet at the Art Institute, so I got on the train and arrived about 10 minutes later. We looked at some paintings and then had lunch at the museum -- split a beer and talked a long time about our sons and what a hole they've left now that they're gone.

We had just finished up when I got a text from Sean saying that he was done with his class (theater tech), and he could meet me a little early, so I hustled off to Café Cito, near CCPA, and bought him a sandwich, and oh my god, was it good to see him. He talked about his classes, his prospects for the summer (really surprisingly good, though I'm not supposed to share specifics until he hears for sure) and various other things. Then I got on the train again and headed back towards O'Hare, which is where my dad had booked a hotel. Sadly, the hotel was FOUR MILEs from the subway stop, so I had to call my mom and after a little wait, she and my brother came to get me. We had a very suburban meal at Chili's and went to bed early.

Next day, I got up early to run and then we went to see Northwestern lose to a very weak Minnesota. I found it very weird to be back at Northwestern. Last time I was there, I was really hoping (and stupidly expecting) that Sean would be going there for college. I still have not really forgiven them, and was a little bit (secretly I hope) glad that they got humiliated by a Big Ten bottom-feeder. The people from Minnesota, too, were so happy to have won one. It reminded me of being a Fall Mountain football mom and how excited i'd get if we got a first down, let alone scored, let alone won a game. So, my dad was a little out of sorts from losing, and also he is just not in very good health, much worse than last time I saw him in August.

We had planned to go into Chicago and have dinner with Sean, but when we got into the car it wouldn't start. the girl at the hotel desk gave us a jump, and we got to the train station, then the city and it became apparent that my dad just could hardly walk at all, and had a lot of trouble getting to the restaurant, which was about six blocks from the nearest subway stop. We probably should have stayed in the burbs and not tried to see Sean, who, I have to say, did not make much of an effort with his grandparents. he is very happy, but it seems to have made him a little self-involved. I was thinking about how he used to always ask me how my day had been all through high school, and now nothing I say is of the slightest interest to him. I know that it's good that he's so independent and confident. I understand that the fact that he doesn't need me anymore is good, but I need some time to process this. I miss the guy who was the most important person in the world to me...he's not just far away, he's sort of gone.

I had planned to stay another day and spend it with Sean, but as it turned out, he was busy all day except for the one time that I had made plans to go to a show with an old music writing friend from Splendid. So I was in Chicago all by myself, which is not a terrible thing. I went to the Chicago International Film Festival in the afternoon, then to see John Wesley Coleman that night at the Empty Bottle. I got to see Sean one more time for breakfast on Monday, ran on the lake and checked out of my hotel. With an 11 a.m. checkout, I had about eight hours to kill. so I went to Little Goat for lunch, did some desultory shopping, then holed up in the library for a while to do some work. Then I came home, uneventfully, and have been exhausted and a little depressed ever since. It's a combination of Sean being so gone, and my dad so unwell and money and all other worries. I did get an IM from Sean before I left, and was all excited (maybe he's got some time!), but it was just to tell me that he had to change his (nonrefundable) flight back to Chicago this January, because he had to be there a week before classes start. It's like the Stevie Wonder song, "I just say...can I have another $400?"

So I'm thinking that it's sort of like getting over a breakup, that I have to try to think less about Sean and not IM him as much. I love him, of course, but I need to need him less. Maybe we were too close. Maybe it was never healthy. I don't know. Anyway, life keeps on just like it always has until it changes, right? We just have to keep changing with it somehow.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Mike Uva is a pretty great songwriter

Daniel Bejar habla espanol

Remember when everyone thought Destroyer was a flash-in-the-pan New Pornographers offshoot that sounded way too much like David Bowie. Yeah, me, too, just barely...I think I was driving to Boston to interview Mr. Airplane Man the first time I heard Destroyer and I thought, "Okay, but I've already got Hunky Dory, what do I need this for?"

It was a long time ago. I came around for Your Blues and more or less stayed there. I was excited to get a new Destroyer EP, even if it is all in a foreign language. (On some level, all Destroyer songs are in a foreign language, aren't they? I mean, sort of like English, but not?) And I really like Five Spanish Songs, possibly all the more because I don't know what it's about. (Although this, as I alluded to earlier, is not really a big change from previous Destroyer albums.)

The EP is out November 26th, which seems like a long time away, but once you get into picking your Halloween costume and buying a big turkey and spending money for Christmas that you don't have, it'll go like lightning. Meanwhile, Pitchfork and Merge have entered into an unholy alliance to confuse everyone by leading with the only "rock" track on the disc. If you like this track, well, I have no idea if you'll like the rest of the EP because it is completely different. (Softer, more acoustic and probably more literate, since I'm catching a reference to Franz Kafka, but who knows really?)

This one, on the other hand, sounds kinda like "My Woman from Tokyo."

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A more forceful Volcano Choir

My review of Volcano Choir, the weird mutant offspring of mega-indie star Justin Vernon and the Table of Elements vetted experimentaists in Collections and Colonies of Bees runs today at Blurt. Can you tell I used to be a drummer?

More explosive than 2009’s Unmap, this second album from the combined Collections and Colonies of Bees and Justin Vernon takes the machine-like intricacy of instrumental post rock, the airy spirituality of Bon Iver into a more forceful direction.

Like the National, Volcano Choir drapes its indie rock anthemry over unusually sharp and interesting drumming. Here’s its Jon Mueller, an intense and brilliant percussionist, one of the few drummers able, really, to carry a solo album. In Repave, Mueller seems to have moved slightly forward in the mix, not dominating, certainly, but putting his mark on nearly every track. Most of these tracks start in restraint, a drone and vibration building, a few beautifully realized sounds sketching mood and melody, a thread of vocals…and then explosion. Mueller is the force behind these volume shifts, an exhilarating push into overdrive.


I decided to review Repave after seeing Volcano Choir on Fallon (a video which is, sadly, not available anymore). Here instead is a concert that the band did for NPR about a week ago.

One more thing, when I saw Sam Amidon in September, he had just come off a show with Volcano Choir and he went off on a long riff about Jon Mueller the drummer. The essence was that Mueller looks just like Christopher Walken and also plays the drums exactly like Christopher Walken would, if he played drums. I think we can all think Amidon for the abiding image of Christopher Walken playing drums (with intensity, I imagine, slightly demented humor and weird, pause-filled cadences).

Monday, October 14, 2013

Holy crap, it's the Claudettes

Had this one on my Sunday long-ish run, a total blast, a Red Bull in mp3 format...the Claudettes, a piano and drumming duo, out of Oglesby IL (halfway between Chicago and St. Louis) that is irreverent enough to name one of this tracks "The Land of Precisely Three Dances." This is manic, jackhammer piano blues, not traditional by any means, but hard to pinpoint exactly why it's not (it's faster than most, but that's not it).

Anyway, super fun to listen to, even more fun to watch.

Here's part of a review of their live show from the Chicago Sun Times.

"This is [pianist Johnny] Iguana’s first project fusing his blues and punk sides, and all points between. Teenage heroes Mike Watt, Joe Strummer and Junior Wells all inhabit his barrelhouse piano, revealing themselves in surprising ways. {Drummer Michael} Caskey’s sticks have served Koko Taylor and Chuck Mangione. He’d probably have anchored Raymond Scott’s madcap jazz, had their careers overlapped."

Try to find another pianist who’ll admit lifting a Minutemen outro for his swinging ballroom blitz, as Iguana did for “Hammer and Tickle.” Then check “Deep Soul for High Society,” which owes audible debts both to Ray Charles and the Meat Puppets.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Clara Moto

Hey, it's the end of the world as we know it...or at least it will be on Thursday. Do you feel fine?

I actually feel reasonably good for someone who hasn't been paid for anything for about a month and who is running out of money with frightening speed. I'm not a Federal Worker, but my clients have all shut down anyway...figures. Though, really, I'm going to be working a good bit next week, and I have a pretty healthy amount of receivables. I suppose it'll work itself out eventually.

Meantime, I did a small 5K through the woods on Saturday and came in an improbably 3rd (woman, I did say the race was small, didn't I). I'm also getting ready for the annual trip out to Chicago for my dad's birthday. He's 83, so you never know when it will be the last one...I hope to get to see my son, Sean, as well. I'm staying an extra day downtown to that end, but if he blows me off (he is so BUSY), I'm planning on trying to hit the Chicago Film Festival and see something really strange and foreign that will never show up in the Colonial Theater in Keene.

And speaking of foreign and strange...we ended watching Rules of the Game last night, and it was sort of fascinating...30s French film, what they'd call a "door play" in theater, because everyone's going to bed with everyone else and coming in and out of doors all the time. We have to tap into Criterion more often. There are about 100 films on there that I feel like I should see if I want to be civilized, and still, we end up watching Good Wife instead. What cretins.

Oh, and the title of the post is the name of an Austrian DJ whose Blue Distance I have, more or less, fallen into backward this afternoon. You know what an unmannered philistine I am about electronic music, if you read this blog or know me at all, but I know what I like FWIW, and I like this a lot.

Try a little

Friday, October 11, 2013

Ancient Sky

I've been giving a sort of desultory listen to All Get Out, the third album from Brooklyn guitar psychadelicists Ancient Sky, and you know what? It's not bad. It's got a space-y, trippy vibe, not anywhere near as heavy as Bardo Pond or even Black Mountain, not as proggily experimental as the Vocokesh, more in the vein of early Mercury Rev, Apse and the unlucky but wonderful Black Sun Ensemble. I am not saying that they are as good as these bands (well, maybe as good as Apse), just that they work in the same general neighborhood. By which I mean epic space rock, slow spins off into the cosmos, big shattering cymbal crashes, laser arcs of lead guitar, bottom-of-a-well spooky reverbed vocals. Members of this band have been around -- apparently someone was in Woods, someone else in Meneguar, but can't tell you a thing about who or what they played. In the absence of much information, why not just listen to the music, eh?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Angel Olsen

My live review of the Angel Olsen/Pillars & Tongues show is running as a feature at Blurt today.

RARE AIR: Angel Olsen

On Oct. 1, songstress Angel Olsen and Windy City pals Pillars and Tongues utterly captivated a Northampton, Mass. audience at the storied Iron Horse venue. BLURT’s contributing editor was there to bear witness.


Two Chicago bands – one stuffed to the gills with equipment and instruments, the other spare as a twig in winter – played Northampton’s Iron Horse last week (Oct. 1). Pillars and Tongues, a trio, wove dense, drone-y layers of violin, synthesizer, bass guitar and harmonium into enveloping textures. Angel Olsen, touring in support of her recently-released Half Way Home album, sketched a stark landscape with folk guitar, minimal bass and drums and her extraordinarily expressive voice.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Weird overtones, spooky dissonances

I review Crystal Stilts' excellent new Nature Noir at Blurt today, and say, "These songs are the Crystal Stilts most pop tunes ever, but they are still tinged with weird overtones, spooky dissonances and cavernous, moisture-dripping reverberation."

Full review is here.

This one's from the first album, Alight of Night which was pretty awesome, too.

I saw them once at SXSW, one of the best live music nights of my life, but NOT because of Crystal Stilts.

I hear they've gotten better at the live thing, and anyway Zachary Cale is playing second guitar on their current tour, so that's a good thing. Might be worth checking them out again if you live in any of these places.

10/09 Detroit, MI – Garden Bowl^

10/10 Chicago, IL – Empty Bottle^

10/11 Grinnell, IA - Grinnell College - Gardner Lounge^ (free show)

10/12 Denver, CO - Walnut Room at Larimer Lounge^

10/15 Seattle, WA – Barboza^

10/16 Vancouver, BC – Electric Owl^

10/17 Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios^

10/18 San Francisco, CA – The Chapel^ w/Widowspeak

10/20 Los Angeles, CA – Part Time Punks^

10/21 Phoenix, AZ – Rhythm Room^

10/24 Austin, TX – Red 7^

10/25 Dallas, TX – Club Dada^

10/26 Oxford, MS – Lamar Lounge^

10/27 Birmingham, AL – The Bottletree^

10/28 Atlanta, GA – The Earl^

10/29 Richmond, VA – Strange Matter^

10/30 Washington, DC – Black Cat^

10/31 New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom^#

11/13 - Groningen, Netherlands - Vera

11/14 - Copenhagen, Denmark - Stengade

11/15 - Stockholm, Sweden - Debaser

11/16 - Oslo, Norway - Revolver

11/17 - Goteborg, Sweden - Pustervik

11/18 - Aarhus, Denmark - Voxhall

11/19 - Hamburg, Germany - Hafenklang

11/20 - Berlin, Germany - Gretchen Club

11/21 - Cologne, Germany - King Georg

11/22 - Kortrijk, Belgium - De Kreun

11/23 - Brighton, England - Green Door Store

11/24 -, Liverpool, England (presented by Liverpool Psych Fest) Shipping Forecast

11/25 - Glascow, Scotland - Mono

11/26 - Leeds, England - Brudenell Social Club

11/27 - Bristol, England - The Exchange

11/28 - London, England - Cargo

11/29 - Brussels, Belgium - Maison De Musiques

11/30 - Utrecht, Netherlands - Le Guess Who? Festival

12/1 - Paris, France - Point FMR

12/2 - Zurich, Switzerland - El Lokal

12/3 - Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland, Amalgame Club

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Josephine Foster is a dreamer

Wow, talk about an old-fashioned voice. Josephine Foster is meant for the Victrola, her voice trilling with old-time-y vibrato, flicking in and out of the notes, sliding in and then floating effortlessly free. She's a folk singer, I guess, though she sounds a good bit more mannered than that, and there's more than a hint of blues in the corners of these songs. She records, sometimes, with a flamenco band, but this album I'm a Dreamer tends more towards Americana -- guitar, piano, pedal steel and her. It's gorgeous, shadowy, ambiguous and if you're in the right mood (quiet, ruminative) absolutely mesmerizing.

I'm a Dreamer will come out on Fire Records in early November, but for now here's a taste.

Here she is, some time ago, playing the harp...unearthly eh?

In other non-musical news, my husband Bill has been getting some really good feedback from Blacklist on his movie script "Yours Truly Christopher Walken" (which also got to the finals in the Austin Film Festival Script Writing Contest). He got an 8 (of ten) on his professional read, as well as some really helpful notes, and that information is all public and on his profile now, so he has had a trickle of industry people starting to read it. Today, they sent out an email with all recent scripts rated 8 and up, so he is getting even more reads. I hope something happens for him. It is a really good script.

Also, I found out, almost by accident, that one of my biggest clients has been acquired, and though people have told me not to worry, of course I am worried. They are not as big (to me) as they used to be. They used to be by far my biggest client, and now they are third. Still, I don't need to be losing business at this stage. I need to be gaining it.

What else? We went to see Blackfish last night, the documentary about the killer whale that killed two trainers. It makes the point that the whale had every right to kill someone, after the way he'd been treated, but probably not those two particular people. Anyway, if you go to this movie, you will never want to see another aquarium show. It is horrible how they treat those beautiful, intelligent animals.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Lee Ranaldo

I've got a review of Lee Ranaldo's Last Day On Earth today at Dusted.

Lee Ranaldo was always the “Mr. Inside” of Sonic Youth, as much an architect of the band’s blinding, sheets of feedback guitar sound as Thurston Moore, as much a visual arts synthesiac as Kim Gordon, as offhandedly knowledgeable about pop and experimental music as either of them, but not as quick to the spotlight. Here in his second album with the Dust – that’s fellow SY vet Steve Shelley, Alan Licht and, this time, Tim Lüntzel on bass – Ranaldo makes a quiet claim on that band’s legacy. He is comfortable enough with the sounds and effects we associate with Sonic Youth to replicate them without the intervening distance of reference, but he is also ready to push these sounds into other more conventionally tuneful byways. Who knew that anyone could sound so much like Sonic Youth, and also so much like R.E.M., in the same song? Who would have guessed that it would work as well as it does in “Lecce, Leaving” where a college rock jangle twines around expansive blasts of feedback, where anthemic choruses give way to amp-torturing frenzies?


I was kind of hoping I could do this one and Angel Olsen on the same day, so I would just piss off Bill Meyer once, but alas...

Saturday, October 5, 2013


Typical Saturday, we go to the YMCA and work out then split a sandwich at the local coffee shop, then go to Turn It Up, the used record store downstairs from the movie theater and usually...don't buy anything.  (I love, love, love buying records, but you should see the pile on my desk.) 

Anyway, this time, Bill is bored with records stores and decides to go the the co-op instead in search of bee pollen (which is really good for allergies, as long as it's local), so I'm heading off to the record store he says, "Look for some Roots" because we have both been watching Fallon lately and thinking about how much we love the Roots (without having bought a whole lot of their recorded material, sadly).  But this time, I am on a mission, and so I go straight to the hip hop section, P-R, and there is Phrenology, the follow-up to what is widely considered the Roots' best, Things Fall Apart (which I think we have somewhere?)  So I buy it and we listen to it all the way home and it's phenomenal. About ten years ago, when it came out, Mojo called it "another masterpiece," Blender a "a nonstop joyride through some very complicated brains," and Spin said, "The Roots have never sounded this raw on record, this much like an actual band playing in an actual room."  (Which is essentially their whole shtick right there, but I guess they made it work?)

There are a bunch of interesting guests on this, Jill Scott, Talib Qweli, and, on this track Cody Chestnutt....Isn't is awesome? 

Anyway that my weekend discovery of the completely obvious.  I hope you found something fantastic out there in the world, too. 


Friday, October 4, 2013

This was a ....drawn out feeling

I've been quite taken with the wispy, fanciful, semi-cracked folk tunes of Mathew Sawyer (one "t", not a typo) lately, whose album Sleep Dreamt a Brother is out this month on Fire Records. I suppose the inevitable reference is Syd Barrett, but really, it's completely different. His voice sounds a good bit like Daniel Bejar, but that's about as far as that one goes...nothing in common in terms of songwriting style.

Here's a bit...weird how it's both skeletal and also kind of baroque...the piano and strings are almost transparent in the arrangement, but still there.

Sawyer is better known as a painter, apparently. Want to see some of his work?

I'm just finishing up my live review of that Angel Olsen/Pillars & Tongues show, looking forward to the end of this dreadful week. (However, on the bright side, I seem to have successfully opened an account on, though I can't buy a policy yet, since they're still checking my identity.)

Rain, rain, rain.