Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Rose Windows...blown out psych from Seattle

I've been catching up on some summer records from Sub Pop ... and in the process warming up to Sun Dogs, the debut release from Seattle's Rose Windows. It's heavy psych with a kind of pop melodic slant, reminds me a lot of Black Mountain though with maybe a bit more middle eastern drone woven in. (The vocals are very Geddy Lee, which I had some trouble with early on, but now have acclimated to...your mileage may vary.) Anyway, the album's out in June. See what you think.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Wolf People are really not that much like Jethro Tull

Here's my review of Fain, published in today's Dusted.

Wolf People

Since the beginning, Wolf People has been dogged by Jethro Tull references, a comparison that was easier on the last album, Steeple, when the band still had a flute player. (Indeed “Tiny Circles,” the single from that record, sounds like Ian Anderson wandered into Yes’s “Roundabout” sessions.) It’s still not an invalid reference. There is certainly something about the wiry guitar licks, the modal, folky melodies that ties Wolf People not just to Tull, but to other Celt-drenched British rock bands – at the softer end Fairport Convention, at the louder one, Led Zeppelin.

Still, it’s interesting how these comparisons fall apart on closer inspection. Spend 10 minutes watching late 1970s Tull videos and you realize that Wolf People is a whole different endeavor, more complicated, less theatric, built on twining dual guitar lines, intricate, jazz-leaning rhythms and, yes, the half-stepped melodies of misty Britain.


This video was the one that gave me a little bit of a Tortoise vibe...

Sunday, April 28, 2013

White Fence

Fell in love with White Fence a couple years ago, was almost equally enamored with Hair (a split with Ty Segall), but Cyclops Reap had me wondering when oh when was the smoke going to clear.

White Fence
Cyclops Reap
Castle Face

It is probably apt that Cyclops Reap begins in a false start, a two-second blare of organ and drum machine that stops abruptly and gives way to Tim Presley’s signature fuzzed guitar. All White Fence albums are, to one degree or another, exercises in ignoring distractions, clearing away extraneities and brushing off the dirt and distortion. The reward, when it comes, is in fragments of melodic beauty glinting like beach glass amid sand and sea junk.

Cyclops Reap is, if anything, more loosely strung and haphazard than earlier White Fence albums, a tidal drift of floating guitar lines, Lennon-ish whimsies, minimalist drums and tape hiss. Nothing leaps out of the mess like “Sara Snow” did from the self-titled LP, nothing grabs you by the lapels like “I Can’t Get Around You” did in the Ty Segall split Hair. “Pink Gorilla” is the single almost by default. It is only fractionally more in-your-face and immediate than any of the other songs.


Friday, April 26, 2013

William Tyler

Another one of those guys who seems like much, much more than just a guitar player (and nothing wrong with being a guitar player...far from it), William Tyler has played with most of Nashville.  he does so again in his excellent new album Impossible Truth, out now on Merge and reviewed yesterday (or the day before) at Blurt. .         
Album: Impossible Truth
Artist: William Tyler
Label: Merge
Release Date: March 19, 2013
William Tyler

 William Tyler is, maybe, the best young fingerpicker left since Jack Rose died, effortlessly balancing the feathery complexities of blur -peed picking with the trapdoor-to-the-eternal mysticism of thrumming sustained drones. Impossible Truth is his second solo album and, like the first, hardly a solo album at all. For one thing, he’s locked in an endless dialogue with himself, overlaying various kinds of guitars in a fluttering, multi-toned conversation, so that even the barest, least orchestrated tracks take on a variegated shimmer. For another, he’s enlisted Nashville veterans to fill out half the cuts, pulling in fellow Lambchop-ers like Luke Schneider and Scott Martin in for pedal steel and drums, recruiting trombone-man-about-town Roy Agee and Chris (yes, grandson of Earl) Scruggs on acoustic bass and lap steel.  
 Yet Tyler is capable of finding infinite permutations in a single electric guitar’s sounds, as he proves on “The Geography of Nowhere,” the album’s most haunted and lovely track. Here Tyler starts in a bent, smouldery blues mode, his guitar tones wreathed in reverb and wavering like candle flames in an imperceptible breeze. Then the while the player and instrument remain constant, the song changes completely, the guitar now turned to a bucolic, gamboling country folk sound. Before you might have pictured drifts of smoke, neon reflected in rain, late night tables ringed with whiskey glasses, and now you’re thinking bunnies and baby lambs.  It’s abrupt but somehow wholly natural when the song shifts again, back to the eerie blues glow, like sticking a landing in some sort of guitar gymnastics meet. And, in fact, most of these songs have multiple movements, distinct changes in style and mood that demonstrate how easily Tyler moves between blues, folk, jazz, baroque classical and psychedelic modes.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bobby Sutliff interview


Bobby with TL3 1 jpeg

Recovering from a near-death experience, the songwriting auteur and erstwhile Windbreakers co-founder makes a triumphant return to Pop. Above, he’s pictured onstage in Atlanta this past January with his old pal Tim Lee (with band The Tim Lee 3).
 “I was unconscious for three days. It was four days before they would tell anybody in my family, including my 21-year-old son, whether I had a chance of living,” says Bobby Sutliff, the Windbreakers veteran, recounting the damage from his near fatal car accident last summer. “I had a huge major brain injury that I still suffer from somewhat. But even down to my neck and below, I think from what I understand, I broke 16 bones, including some stuff that could have caused me permanent paralysis. I was lucky.”
 Lucky indeed. When I speak to Sutliff, he has just been cleared to work again at the Wal-Mart distribution center near Columbus, Ohio, where he has held a job for 15 years. He is walking again and playing the guitar. Though he still struggles for certain words, proper nouns mostly, he is functioning remarkably well for a man who almost died.
 Moreover, Sutliff is lucky in other ways – in the network of Paisley Pop musical legends who have lent their support to him in the months after the accident. A tribute album called Skrang: Sounds Like Bobby Sutliff compiles 18 cover versions from many different phases of Sutliff’s career, from the first Windbreakers EP to a 2002 solo album. The participating artists are good friends, but also well-known artists from the jangle-pop 1980s – among them, Peter Holsapple of The dB’s, Russ Tolman from True West and the Rain Parade’s Matt Piucci. Not to mention Sutliff’s old Windbreakers partner, Tim Lee.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Kingsbury Manx

Hey, I'm in Erie, Pennsylvania right now, but about to move out, and I noticed that Blurt had put up my interview/feature on the Kingsbury Manx. 



For their new album the beloved, if perennially under-the-radar, Tarheel combo decided to throw caution to the wind and rock the fuck out…
“We were joking about how we expected this to be the backlash record,” says songwriter Bill Taylor of the Kingsbury Manx, whose seventh full-length, #The Bronze Age# comes well into the second decade of the band’s career. And while earlier albums caught comparisons to soft-rock icons like the Beach Boys and the Byrds, this one rocks harder.
“We knew that on this record we were going to end up getting into some songs that were more upbeat in tempo and more straight ahead rock than people were probably used to from us – things that were a little out of our comfort zone,” Taylor continues. “I was wondering whether people would say, ‘These guys are really trying something new, that’s great.’ Or, ‘You guys should stick to what you know.’”

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Wake up, it's Lamps

Cruising through the WFMU heavily played records list, I ran across this and had to share...

Maybe you should have had some coffee first?

Album's called Under the Water Under the Ground and it's out on In the Red now. (Fun fact: Lamps played Clockcleaner's last ever show...how'd we all miss that one?)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Karl Bartos

So I know you've all been staying up late, your brain on an endless loop, legs thrashing, unable to concentrate because of one thought running through your head, "What exactly has Karl Bartos been up to?" Bartos (and since you've been losing sleep over hin, I assume you know this)was not an original member of Kraftwerk, but he played some self-constructed electronic percussion instruments on highly regarded Trans-Europe Expressway and Man-Machine, among other Kraftwerk albums. He has also been involved in a bunch of other projects including: Electronic (with Bernard Sumner andJohnny Marr), OMD (with Andy McCluskey), Information Society (USA), The Mobile Homes (Sweden), and Anthony Rother (Germany), as well as making records for his own project entitled: Electric Music.

And now he's made a new solo album.

It's called Off the Record and it is about as shiny and glossy and machine-ish-ly precise as you'd expect. The Quietus says:

Off The Record is based on a "secret acoustic diary" compiled by Bartos during his Kraftwerk days. The composer/producer extraordinaire has rifled through his "musical jottings" to create these new, remarkably fresh-sounding compositions. Dramatic opener 'Atomium' features pulsating bass, stabbing synths and narration from a heavily cybernated tour guide. "Welcome to one of the most emblematic buildings in the world..." announces Bartos, or Professor Hawking, or Twiki from Buck Rogers. Constructed for the Expo '58 World's Fair, Brussels' Atomium symbolises "the rise and fall of the atomic age". Exploring time, travel, landscape and radioactivity using electronic instrumentation and androidy vocals is all very Kraftwerkian, but this is no act of arrested replication. To the remnants of his old group's sounds, Bartos adds a harsher, almost oppressive industrial edge which even threatens to tumble into noise music at around the two-minute mark, when he hurls a bag of swirling, tempestuous fuzzery into the mix. What better way to mark his return?

I like it -- and I categorically dislike autotune, of which there is a bunch -- so why not check it out?

Also a short film called "Without a Trace of Emotion"

Friday, April 19, 2013

California X

In which I make a somewhat repetitive case that California X is not Dinosaur Jr., and that's okay.

California X
California X
Don Giovanni

There’s a steady chug running through California X’s debut, a hard riffing rhythm that cuts through the asbestos-splintered, diesel-caked fug of pedal distortion. Before I knew the front man’s name was Lemmy Gurtowsky, I assumed that the “Lemmy’s World” song was a nod to Motörhead, and it could be, running like a rust-bucket that’s had serious engine-work, so that it revs and roars with mechanical power all out of proportion with its rough exterior. You can extrapolate a connection to Dinosaur Jr. from geography (California X is from Amherst, Mass.), guitar tone (epic and fuzzy), a producer (Justin Pizzoferrato) and general mess and ferment (and plenty of writers have). But, really, this racket is too relentlessly mobile to resemble Dinosaur. Where Mascis spins out mandala-ish guitar solos that revolve in endless circular motions, Gurtowsky cranks a head-banger riff. California X is more like the Modey Lemon or the Cherry Valence than Dinosaur, tripped out in a purposeful, palm-muted, gut-punching, 1970s-classic-hard-rock sort of way.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bill went to see Kinski last night...

...lucky bastard.

The rest of the tour.
Thu – 4/18 – Cambridge MA @ Middle East Upstairs – with William Tyler, Hurricanes of Love & Pray For Sound.
Fri – 4/19 – Brooklyn NY @ Death By Audio - with Ancient Sky & Landing (!)
Sat – 4/20 – Pawtucket RI @ Machines with Magnets

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Preston Lovinggood

Preston Livinggood was the singer and lead guitarist in a southern folk-ish, rock-ish band called Wild Sweet Orange, which made a late aughts run at major label success (whatever major label success was in 2008) recording on Sony imprint Canvasback and appearing, once, on the David Letterman show. I missed the Wild Sweet Orange phenomenon personally, but I'm liking Livinggood's new solo album a lot. It's stripped down but spike-y, with this cool, echoey production that makes Livinggood sound like he's right there next to you, but also maybe disembodied and spectral. The album is Sun Songs and it's out now on the Communicating Vessels label.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Life Coach

I've got another review up at Blurt, this one of Phil Manley's new-ish project, Life Coach.


Life Coach

(Thrill Jockey)

Propulsive, motorik, euphoric and immaculately recorded, Alphawaves splices the super-clean, proggy aggression of Phil Manley’s main gigs (Trans Am, Fucking Champs) with the ecstatic repetition of side work in Oneida. Like much of Manley’s production work, the album sheathes Krautish gnosticism in a glossy technological perfection, somehow finding mystery in sounds that are surreally precise and clear.


Life Coach - Fireball from Thrill Jockey Records on Vimeo.


I've run the Boston Marathon three times, last in about 2001. It's a fantastic marathon, where slots are awarded according to ability rather than how much you spend on local races (hello NYC), extremely challenging because of the way it's laid out (8 miles down, 8 miles up, last 10 down and holy shit, you can't believe how much a downhill can hurt at that point) and supported by locals with unbelievable intensity. The last time I ran Boston, I stopped just before the finish line to hug my son Sean, then still small enough for his dad to lift him up over the barricades, and perhaps a year or two younger than the child who died yesterday a few blocks away.

So, let me say this: It is terrible that someone has used this event for his/her sick agenda, whatever that agenda might be. It is shocking to inject violence into something that is, really, a celebration of the human spirit, of discipline over exhaustion, of the joy of physical strength and the almost mystical moment when physical strength gives out and you go on anyway. It is a very, very sad day, and my heart goes out to the families of dead and injured and the thousands of people who will never feel really safe in a public place again.

I say all this, but I also beg Boston and the running community and America itself not to overreact. If we lock down the Boston Marathon -- and all other marathons -- we lose something essential about being human and trusting one another and striving together for something difficult. Sure, you can run all the bags through a metal detector. Sure, you can have heavily-armed guys in flak jackets all along the route. Sure, you can identity checks and verifications everywhere. But that will ruin the marathon in so many ways (not least the added cost). Let's be sensible about this, and accept that bad things are going to happen and that we cannot prevent all of them. Let's catch the fuckers who did this and move on and live our lives as before. We've already let 9/11 drag us into two wars and ruin air travel...can't we keep the marathon the way it is?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Is it not cool to like the Oh Sees anymore?

Otis with a kinda snotty tweet about my Oh Sees review...

But fuck it, I do like the album, the band, the whole scene around it, so I guess I'm a dweeb...again.

My review at Dusted ends like this:

“Minotaur,” oddly both the album’s first single and its closing track, dips further into late Beatles psychedelia, with its rough vibrations of cello and its vocal counterpoints. “La la la la la la,” Dwyer barks, amid string flourishes and pretty pop fancies, and you can hear the punk past, the propulsive present and the baroque psych experiment all melding stitch-less-ly into one of indie rock’s most idiosyncratic wholes. Lots of bands that record one or more albums per year are just crapping out more of the same. Thee Oh Sees continue to mutate in fascinating ways.

Want to read the beginning? It's here.

Double Dagger...once last time

The Baltimore punk band known as Double Dagger has called it quits. Their final recording 333 will be released by Thrill Jockey for this weekend's Record Store festivities, and though short, it's a burner. If you have any fond feelings for the prime mid-1990s Dischord era of post-hardcore, you should check it out and then kick yourself for not getting to Double Dagger earlier, when it maybe would still have made a difference.

I'm pretty sure I reviewed a Double Dagger album once, but must have been for Blurt, because damned if I can find it.

Here's a little mini-documentary about Double Dagger.

Couple other videos as well

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Brother JT

"We are who we are because of the nature of who we are..."

Exactly, and no one is more who he is than Brother JT, the Philadelphia-based, outsider artiste of psychedelic garage blues boogie. Brother JT started with the Original Sins, which the great TrouserPress describes like this:

Led by diminutive howler/guitarist J.T. (John Terlesky), the quartet — which didn't change, lineup-wise, save for one drummer change, between its 1987 debut and 1996's Bethlehem — has stayed true to its chosen era, re-creating the down and dirty organ-fueled excitement and atmosphere of '60s punk bands like the Standells and Seeds. Synthesizing convincing originals from standard ingredients, the Sins have been remarkably consistent in their quality control, trying new vintages now and then but keeping stylistic ambition from overtaking them (like the Chesterfield Kings) while steering clear of the sense that they've done it all before (like the Lyres).

Brother JT has been a solo artist since the early 1990s, working a territory that is somewhat saner than Daniel Johnston and somewhat less perplexing than Beefheart -- but not by much in either case. He has a new record coming out on Thrill Jockey this May called The Sveltness of Boogietude, and it is as demented and wonderful as the man can be. It is the first Brother JT album to incorporate string arrangements (but don't worry, no softening here). It has a truly deranged lo-fi funk cut called "Sweatpants" which starts from two improbable premises -- a) that Brother JT can pull off a libido-soaked R&B track and b) that said track can be about the sexual appeal of sweatpants -- and somehow makes it work.

It's not the single, though, for obvious reasons. This is:

Friday, April 12, 2013

Mount Kimbie's Cold Spring Fault Less Youth

Mount Kimbie, the British electronic duo of Kai Campos and Dom Baker, are releasing their follow-up to 2010's Crooks & Lovers in late May. It's called Cold Spring Fault Less Youth (catchy, eh?) and it'll be on Warp.

Crooks & Lovers was something of a landmark, appearing on more than 30 "best of" lists in 2010 and earning Mount Kimbie a spot on the NME's "30 Artists for 2011." The BBC said that "Crooks & Lovers is an album of abrupt changes and paradoxes, at once organic and heavily processed, drowsy and yet with moments of eyes-on-stalks urgency, acoustically sweet and electrically charged. It's akin to gently drifting in and out of consciousness on a bus trip, only to be sporadically jolted back into consciousness."

The new album is already making some waves, as demonstrated in The Guardian UK's review/preview:

Bigger and bolder than their 2010 debut Crooks & Lovers, Mount Kimbie's forthcoming second album Cold Spring Fault Less Youth not only features vocals from King Krule but also from the duo themselves. While this isn't exactly revolutionary, it's a step away from their debut's reliance on pitched and screwed vocal snippets, in favour of fully arranged song structures and a sense of wider ambition. While their debut worked around a post-dubstep framework of scratchy guitars, glitchy beats and air-tight atmospherics, 'Made to Stray,' the first taster from its follow-up released last month, is a much more expansive, airier affair. As the pair explained: 'Two years is a long time. Tastes change, what you want out of your life changes, and so on. Naturally, how we want to sound has changed too.' A further shift away from their debut is represented on 'Blood and Form' – premiered here – which utilises a strangely woozy-sounding, marching-band beat and oddly pitched synth lines opposite a warm vocal to create something welcoming yet oddly alien.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

hellish day...not Charles Bradley's fault

Taking a short break from my anxieties to post a review of the new Charles Bradley CD which came out a few weeks ago on Daptone Records. (What do you need reviews for anyway? If it's on Daptone, just buy it.)

CHARLES BRADLEY – Victim of Love

The “Screaming Eagle of Soul” cut his first album at age 62, after a lifetime of hard knocks, homelessness, brushes with death and a long-standing gig as a James Brown impersonator. Here, on his second, Charles Bradley branches out with his sound, wrapping his raspy, growly, velvet-rubbed-the-wrong-way voice around classic Stax horn ballads (“Strictly Reserved for You”), Barry White-esque hormonal croons (“Victim of Love”) and Farfisa-infused, slapped-and-popped funk a la James Brown himself (“Where Do We Go From Here”) and one blown-out trip into psychedelia (“Confusion”). Bradley sounds most like Otis Redding, in his “Dock of the Bay” down-tempo moments and his “Try a Little Tenderness” squawks, yelps and howls, but you can also hear echoes of Marvin Gaye, James Carr and, most particularly, O.V. Wright, whose “Drowning on Dry Land” is the only old-style soul song I can think of this with level of desperation and release.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mice Parade interview

So, as it turned out, I was only moderately into Mice Parade's latest album, and the interview with Adam Pierce didn't go well at all...but you know, we can't be brilliant ALL the time, can we?

Anyway, my interview with Pierce ran yesterday at PopMatters...check it out. By the way, I don't know why he's so snotty about 1-4-5 chord progressions. I love that Frightened Rabbit album he's referring to.

No Flamenco: An Interview with Mice Parade’s Adam Pierce

Seven albums and 15 years into his career as Mice Parade, Adam Pierce refuses to be pigeonholed, hemmed in or even defined by critical expectations.

By Jennifer Kelly 9 April 2013

“There’s absolutely no flamenco on this record,” says Mice Parade’s Adam Pierce, who, it must be said, is a little touchy about the whole concept of world music influences. He has, indeed, studied flamenco guitar, played Chinese harps and based the percussion on one song on his new album Candela on a beat by Thomas Mapfumo.

Rather, he suggests, the new record is more of an indie rock album. He’s even appropriated the 1-4-5 chord structures favored by Frightened Rabbit (he mixed their new Pedestrian Verse) into his toolbox. “Mice Parade would intentionally use non-traditional chord progressions,” he says. “But I worked with a lot of bands—Frightened Rabbit for instance—that have 1-4-5 in every song. And I just figured it would be fun…”

“People always ask me about this world music, other music, but that was never a goal,” says Pierce. “I never had that conscious thought. It’s true that I love music from all around the world, I think it’s a shame that more of us don’t listen to more of that kind of stuff. I guess that whatever you listen to will naturally sort of happen in your songwriter.“


Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Really liking the new album from Stuart Howard a.k.a. Lapalux, Nostalchic, out March 25th on Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder label. ...it's chilled and slinky and evocative in a way that reminds me of Burial, How to Dress Well...I'm not really that knowledgeable about electronic music, though, so you shouldn't take my word for it.

There's a really interesting interview with Howard here, where he goes some way to explain his philosophy and aims as follows:

“I focus so much attention on the detail it actually drives me insane sometimes,” Howard explains. “I like to make music people can listen to several times and still find something new, buried in there somewhere. I enjoy complexities and getting immersed in sound so you forget who and where you are. I like to focus on moments in my music instead of alternating sections and formulaic structure. Like having little moments where a massive bass drum swallows up the mix or little pitch/ time slips here and there. I hate anything that sounds too perfect. Biology is massively complex and never perfect. I like that idea and enforce it in my music.”

Or screw explaining, maybe you should just have a listen? This video is giving me a little American Horror Story frisson...

Monday, April 8, 2013

Bex not Beck...also an update on my son's quest for stardom

My review of the sporadically excellent House of Mercy by Bex Marshall runs in today's (newly virus and malware free) Blurt. 

I said, " Move over fashion plates, front-women, one-chord wonders and just-learned-the-bass-for-my-boyfriend’s-band chicks. Bex Marshall is a real woman of rock, a scorching hot guitar player with a cat’s-tongue of a voice that caresses even as it scrapes a layer of skin away. A Brit with a serious fixation on American roots, gospel, blues and R&B, she’s on fire in this third full-length, picking and sliding and bending the guitar notes until they wreathe around her like a heat mirage.

 Her “House of Mercy” kicks things off in a whine of organ, a hip-jutting chink of tambourine. “Let the service begin,” Marshall insinuates, in a dirty whisper, as her tamped down guitar vamps against a bass-y cadence. A choir of gospel belters is on hand, too, ready to throw their hands and voices up at the chorus. Like all blues-people, Marshall talks in metaphors, using a vampire story (“Bite Me”), a fishing tale (“Gone Fishin’”) and a rattlesnake (“Rattlesnake”) as platforms for sexual innuendo. The heat is there anyway, pulsing through the lyrics, permeating Marshall’s playing and singing with a smoky sensuality. Her band is top-notch, too, with Barry Payne (quite possibly the love interest in “Barry’s Song”) bumping a groove on stand-up bass, Crispin Taylor on drum kit and Danny Bran on sizzling auxiliary percussion.

The rest

In personal news, my rock star son has gotten himself waitlisted for the BFA acting program at Syracuse, one of the nation's very top drama schools, and he did it without his best stuff, because they had a "no Shakespeare" rule at Unifieds.  So we're leaning towards CCPA/Roosevelt, even though I have NO idea how we can pay for four years of it at $40,000 after loans and scholarships (pathetic scholarships, but still) to start and probably more as years go by.  He might have to go for a couple of years, see what he can learn and who he can meet and then just start trying out for shows...Or maybe I'll make some more money.  Or maybe Bill will sell a script.  Or maybe Sean will get another scholarship or two.  Or maybe, this weird, hard-to-believe offer of a free apartment near U Chicago will come through, via one of my library trustee friends, who has a friend in Chicago who needs a dog sitter. Also Syracuse considers financial need, of which we have a bunch, so if he gets in there, he might get more aid.  We live in hope and sleep (or fail to) in fear. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Separated at birth...Austra and Young Galaxy

Two records I've been listening to lately, and I'm still not entirely sure I can tell them apart.  Both are pristine electro-pop, anchored by really superlative female voices...I'm not saying it's a bad thing to have two albums so similar in the queue (or that it doesn't happen fairly often, the human brain is always looking for patterns, whether they're there or not), but it's a little unsettling. 

Anyway, Young Galaxy is from Vancouver, started mid-aughts as a duo of Stephen Ramsay (vocals/guitar), Catherine McCandless (vocals/keyboards), dabbled in shoe-gaze and eventually picked up a few extra members.  Ultramarine, their fourth, is out April 23 on Paper Bag Records.  It is extremely synthy, somewhat bubbly, but with a very cool, complicated undercurrent...more Cold Cave than Cut Copy. 

Here's the single, "Pretty Boy"

Austra is a much bigger deal, obviously.  The band formed around classically trained Kate Stelmanis and drummer Maya Postepski in Toronto in 2009.  The first full-length, Feel It Breakranked 85th on the 2011 Pazz & Jop Poll, appearing on 13 top-ten ballots.  I didn't vote for it, personally, but I did like it enough to interview Ms. Stelmanis for PopMatters that year. 

The new album is, I think, even better than Feel It Break, same really kind of thrilling voice, but sleeker, more assured arrangements...I haven't finished listening to it, but there's plenty of time.  Home is out June 10 on Domino. 

For now, there's the title track, which has a kind of Tori Amos shimmer to it...amazing voice, right?

Don't they sound similar, though?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Villagers' (Awayland)

This is not my usual thing at all...a fairly blippy, sleek songwriter pop, but the thing is that under the ingratiating surface, there are some amazingly complex things going on, rhythms and counterpoints and noises and textures that go pretty far beyond whatever category we started in.  I haven't listened to it enough to review it, and I don't have it assigned anywhere, so I'm guessing that's not going to happen.  So let's just crib from someone who has and who also seemed to enjoy Villagers' (Awayland) a whole bunch.  How about the Independent for starters: 

Like many a gifted writer garlanded with lavish acclaim at the outset of their career, Villagers' Conor J O'Brien was wracked with self-doubt when the time came to follow up his Mercury-nominated, Ivor Novello Award-winning debut. The treadmill of two years' touring had all but crushed his creative spirit, and he hated the songs he was writing with a guitar. So he adopted an entirely different approach, re-immersing himself in youthful penchants for electronica, krautrock, funk and jazz-fusion, and creating groove soundscapes as the basis upon which to build new songs.

The results are transformative, and by the sound of it, welcomed by O'Brien's fellow Villagers, whose collective input shapes the songs much more deeply than on Becoming a Jackal. Unlike that album, {Awayland} sounds like a band, one keenly engaged in creating their own musical road as they walk upon it. Whether it's buffing the Bon Iver-esque sheen of "My Lighthouse" with sleek harmonies, or building "The Waves" from its staccato tattoo into a maelstrom of snarling guitar, pulsing synth and sweeping orchestration, these songs fizz with the excitement of creation.

Or the Quietus
{Awayland} is a treasure trove of an album, brimming with ideas, most of which work and all of which, at the very least, prove that O'Brien is not simply another little-boy-lost lamenting the fact his parents wouldn't pass him the salt, but a songwriter of real note. Of all the lines from this sad, funny, exuberant and brilliant record that I now wish to have tattooed across my face, I think I've settled for this from 'Judgment Call': "we've gotta get the kids before they grow / God forbid they retain their sense of wonder". Consider mine rediscovered.

Here's one of those video press release video things

You can also stream the whole album, at least for now, at NPR

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Subsonics' In the Black Spot

What a freaking great garage scene they've got in Atlanta, however much it gets ignored in favor of hip hop. I am streaming, right now, the late 2012 latest from the Subsonics In the Black Spot, a Dolls-ish, T. Rex-ish, Cramps-ish vortex of punk and glam and a little rockabilly. Black Lips, who are really no slouch themselves, called the Subsonics the "best band in Atlanta." My first SXSW, I was sitting around in a hotel room with a bunch of people trying to figure out what to do, and somebody said "Subsonics" and I went, but only because I thought they said "Sonics," which is a whole different thing.

So yeah, check it out.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Overloaded with Pastels

So you might have heard that twee-pop pioneers the Pastels are doing a new album, the first one credited to them alone in a very long time (there was a joint effort with the Tenniscoats a couple of years ago, very nice, but not a proper Pastels record). The album is quite good. It's called Slow Summits and in addition to the core line-up of Stephen McRobbie and Katrina Mitchell, it includes as guests two-thirds of Teenage Fanclub (Gerard Love, Norman Blake) and original member Annabel "Aggi" Wright.

I've been listening to it and liking it, and as often happens when I like something, I offered to review it for Dusted. Otis said something along the lines of "sure" or "excellent" and then asked me if I'd like the full catalogue for context. Well, you probably know how I react to the words "full catalogue" -- with a mix of anticipation (cos it's great stuff) and dread (cos it'll take forever) -- but I have been listening to Up All Night and a singles collection and an EP and a few Peel outtakes and aside from the fact that it makes it hard to review anything else, it's been wonderful. From my slight acquaintance with the band, I thought it'd be a lot more fragile and dreamy than it is -- and with a lot less muscle and friction. But it's actually pretty rough in spots and hardly ever precious, so I like it a lot. Thanks Otis. Sorry about all those April records I should be writing about. (Slow Summits comes out May 27 on Domino, which is a long, long time from now in internet-music-reviewing terms...I mean some people who will be writing about this record haven't even graduated from Bennington yet.)

So anyway, that was a long ramble. How about some music?

The new one is kind of soft and dreamy, but not in a bad way.

This is my favorite from the old stuff.

Monday, April 1, 2013


Really liking this epic, orchestral guitar metal album from Survival which is primarily Hunter Hunt-Hendrix of the Brooklyn avant-metal outfit Liturgy, but also Greg Smith and Jeff Bobula. The band has been around for a long time, and used to be known as Birthday Boy. I listened to the album (which is self-titled) twice at the gym today, fairly loud, and was blown away by the intricate, cerebral gorgeousness of these thundering, riff-based songs. "Tragedy of the Mind" will give you a flavor, part Sabbbath, part Gregorian chant, part experimental prog. It's actually not very good working out music in one way, because the time signatures are always changing and you sort of lose your place in whatever measure you were in, but that's not a terrible thing if you're not holding a benchpress or something. (I was mostly running and biking, personally.)