Sunday, June 30, 2013


This is good stuff, traditional instruments bent in non-traditional ways, airy vocals twisted into surreal and haunting shapes. The Aquarian is referencing Jim James, but I'm hearing more Stars Like Fleas, Akron Family and Megafaun.

The band leader's name is Peter Frey, there are five other players involved and they have lived in Minnesota (before and now) and Austin (in between). That's pretty much all I know, but the art work is of the main reasons I checked this out in the first place. (Yes, we critics are extremely fickle and like pretty things.) I'm glad I did, why don't you?

This is the album cover.

And here's a video.

Disposition from Kazyak on Vimeo.

I have been working extremely hard...I mean, I often get hired because I'm fast and that means there's a lot of pressure, but this is beyond the usual...five fairly substantial drafts in about a week. If I focus I can make $4500 this week and the same again the next...which will help a lot with Sean's college expenses. Of course, one of the risks is that you kill yourself to make deadlines and then the client stops things dead after D1 because they realize they can't keep up/think they could do better if they slowed down/or some other excuse I can't think of right now but it happens frequently. In that case, you only get half, but even half is pretty good.

So forgive me if I'm not on 30secondsover all the time. I have to put food on the table and money into the college account.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Mood Rings...mine was always black

So, yes, full disclosure...I, too, had a mood ring in the 1970s, back when everyone had a mood ring. I may never have owned another ring until I got married 20 years later, but I had one of those Mood rings, as you might recall, changed colors supposedly to reflect your mood, but really to reflect the temperature of your hands. Then as now, mine were always cold, and so I was in a foul mood, all the time, according to the ring.

Which is actually sort of how I remember the 1970s.

Now there's a band named after these things, and they're not too bad.

VPI Harmony

Mood Rings

Mexican Summer


Mood Rings, a five-piece out of Atlanta, concocts airy, dreamy, wholly imaginary landscapes out reverbed guitar, synthesizer and blur-edged vocals. Though sometimes tagged with the “shoegazer” label, the band lands at the very softest end of that spectrum, nearer Slowdive than Ride and far distant from the gauze-overlaid roar of My Bloody Valentine. But really, Mood Rings sounds more like last year’s slacker pop (Real Estate, Wild Nothing) or chillwave (Washed Out) than anything historical. These are whispery, wispy bits of romantic melancholia, the fey vulnerability of the vocals backed by surging crescendos of guitar and synthesizer.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Pedaljets split the difference between Paisley Pop and Mats-style mayhem

Blogged this the review, up yesterday at Blurt. I gave it four stars, which is about as high as I go...totally enjoyable, especially if you came up in the early MTV years.

What's In Between
Electric Moth


Pedaljets arose in the mid-1980s out of the same rough-housing Kansas indie scene that birthed The Embarrassment (whose Bill Goffrier came east to co-found the great Big Dipper). The band was, at one time, a raucous r ‘n r contender in the hunt for the next ‘Mats, Husker or Meat Puppets. They shared stages with all these bands. Yet Pedaljets made just two albums in its heyday, the grungy, rackety debut Today Today in 1988 and the rushed and less satisfying S-T in 1989. They split a year after the second record, worn out with touring and disappointed with their showing. The Pedaljets’ sophomore effort apparently rankled so much that the band actually reformed to re-record it in 2006.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The songs fall out of the air

My interview with Josh Rouse, which apparently took place during SXSW (ahem, more than three months ago), is finally up today at PopMatters. I kinda picked it off the list and ended up not being that crazy about the album (though I like "Julie Come Out of the Rain"), but the interview turned out well, I thought. Anyway, check it out:

The Songs Fall Out of the Air: An Interview with Josh Rouse

By Jennifer Kelly 26 June 2013

“Nick Drake’s ‘Pink Moon’“ says Josh Rouse, when asked to name a great song. “There are hardly any words in that song and it only lasts two minutes. But it balances space and timing and it all works together somehow. I’m sure [Drake] sat down and worked on it somewhat, but it was probably also just kind of a thing that came out,” he adds. “The best songs fall out of the air, and you have to see if you can grab a couple of them.”

Rouse has been crafting his own catchy, melodic songs since the 1990s, mining a soft country rock vein which he first heard on AM radio while growing up in the Midwest. His first full length, 1998’s Dressed Up Like Nebraska celebrated the stark landscapes of the Great Plains. AllMusic Guide called it a classic. He moved to Nashville in the early aughts and recorded Home there, kicking off a string of highly-regarded, urbane pop records: Under Cold Blue Stars in 2002, 1972 in 2003, his tribute to radio-friendly California rock.

Rouse moved to Spain in the mid-00s, met his current wife and recorded three more albums—Subtitulo in 2006, El Turisto in 2010 and this year’s Happiness Waltz, his tenth full-length to date. Along the way, he and his wife moved to NYC then back to Spain and had two children, now aged one-and-a-half and four. When I catch him by phone between SXSW gigs and ask the former Army brat about his newly settled, domesticated situation, he laughs and proposes yet another move.

“Part of me likes being settled down,” he admits, “but then I get bored and want some change. I haven’t figured it out. Maybe I just haven’t found the right place yet. Maybe I should be in Los Angeles.”


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Mantles

I've been hearing about the Mantles for a while. They're part of that sunny, trippy SF garage scene that maybe started with John Dwyer and Kelley Stoltz and has now expanded to include Ty Segall, Sic Alps, Fresh & Onlys, Mikal Cronin and, I don't know, maybe a dozen others. Their latest album, Long Enough to Leave will come out July 18th on Slumberland, and it's got a very NZ-ish slack-tempo'd radiance ("Brown Ballon" especially, is super-Bats-ish, and they just played a show with the Bats, but you missed it, didn't you?). I'd also venture Woods, the Beets, Nodzzz (who should've been on that SF list above, oops) as relevant comparisons.

So, how about that "Brown Balloon"?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Builders and Butchers

Another in string of muscular yet mournful, raucous yet not entirely celebratory alt-country bands -- I'm thinking Moondoggies, Hiss Golden Messenger, D. Charles Speer and Red River Dialect -- here comes Portland's Builders and Butchers.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


A pretty much perfect balance of the hard and the soft...

From the Willamette Week:

"What I enjoy about Portland’s Houndstooth is the unconventional combination of singer Katie Bernstein’s tranquil, poppy vocals and guitarist John Gnorski’s sprawling, jammy electric guitar riffs. In this town it’s easy for female-fronted indie-ish groups to blend together, but the sprouting Houndstooth is growing into its distinctive characteristics of subtle Southern-fried rock that’s framed by a sweet, unruffled voice." EMILEE BOOHER

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Grace Woodroofe

Goofing around this morning, listening to WFMU's Sunken Planet, I stumbled onto this amazing Australian folk-jazz singer named Grace's sort of perfect for Saturday morning, soft and pretty, but also full of smoky shadows and ambiguity.

Here's the song that caught my attention.

Want more? This is the title track from Ms. Woodroofe's album I've Handled Myself Wrong. Nice, huh?

NPR picked the tune "Tranformer" as its "Song of the Day" at the beginning of May, saying, "While her band dispenses chaos, Woodroofe stares down the object of her devotion without blinking. That's far more unnerving than hearing her let loose."

Friday, June 21, 2013


So, I was definitely around during the Pedaljets first, late-1980s run, and definitely listening to music, but I do not remember a god-damned thing about this band. Now, I learn that they were from Lawrence Kansas and toured with all the bands i DID like a lot -- Mats, Husker, Meat Puppets -- and still I managed to miss the whole phenomenon.

Too, bad, cos I probably would have been a fan. I might even be a fan now, belatedly, on the occasion of the Pedaljets' first album in 24 years, which is called What's In Between.

Here's the second single. Pretty good, huh? What an ignoramus I was in 1989. (I was kinda busy with getting married and starting my business and figuring out a way to get out of NYC so I could have kids, but still, no excuses.)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Wiretree's Get Up

I am really not sure that I like Wiretree's new album Get Up as much as I liked Luck...which I liked a lot...and it doesn't help that my favorite song on the new album ("In the City (Rail)") was also one of my favorites on the last one. My son says it sounds a lot like Luck, maybe a little too much like it, and to me, it just seems thinner and less urgent.

However, this is quite a good band, poised somewhere on the continuum between strummy, R.E.M.-leaning indie rock, alt-Americana and Brit-pop. They're from Austin and while Blurt has pretty publicly gone ape-shit for them, the rest of the world seems not to have taken any notice. Here's my boss, Fred Mills, on a very early listen to Wiretree:

The title track is very pleasant...just not sure whether it's anything more than that. Fun video, though.

There's more at the Soundcloud page.

Get Up is out August 19 on Cobalt Works Music.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Jonathan Richman...both childish and astonishingly wise

My review of Jonathan Richman's live show, last weekend in Northampton, is running today at Blurt. (sorry about the lousy photos.)

I begin:

Jonathan Richman is the world’s oldest child, his bug-eyed sense of wonder filtered through world-weary years of experience. His mid-song spoken word intervals can conjure the unguarded innocence of a six-year-old, or they can sound like the disgruntled peeves of an oldster. It is a curious mixture, the way he dances with the herky-jerky abandon of a preschooler, his face shadowed with a very adult sadness and knowing.

More here

This is maybe my favorite Jonathan Richman song right now (just passed previous bestie "19 in Naples"). It ended the show.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Jenn Rawling and Basho Parks

Wow, this is pretty, Tarantula Arms, the second album from Portland Oregon duo Jenn Rawling and Basho Parks...Jenn the main songwriter and singer, Basho the accompanist on various strummed and bowed string instruments. Rawling's voice has a wonderful little catch in it, a bit of grit that makes the sweetness sweeter. She apparently wrote these songs while working at a fire tower near Mount Hood. The two of them filmed this very stripped down version of "Dead Leg" in the same location.

Though really I like some of the slower material better. Their previous album, Take the Air, can be streamed in its entirety at bandcamp. Very nice.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Superchunk hates music

Or at least that's what they're telling us. I don't believe it personally, because how could you and run Merge, and bring the world Neutral Milk Hotel and also, this August, release another really great album, the tenth under the Superchunk name (not counting Portastatic albums), which is called I Hate Music.

It's another good one, bristling with aggression, super melodic, ruminating on mortality and, simultaneously, rocking out pretty hard.

The album trailer

How's everything at the front of the house? Pretty good, thanks.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Trails and Ways

Pretty good, slightly exotic electro-pop from an Oakland based band. I like this "Come Te Vas" track a lot better than the rest of the EP, which is called Trilingual.

It appears to be label-less and release-date-less, but you can hear most of it at the Soundcloud page. Very summery.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Sonny Smith's Antenna to the Afterworld

I really like Sonny Smith...a songwriter, visual artist and conceptual creative type whose defining achievement might be the 100 Records Project in which he invented out of whole cloth the bands, sounds, songs, art and liner notes to 100 singles, then took the whole thing on a gallery tour. It's an impressive thing, but more so because the songs were so good.

Antenna to the Afterworld is not a 100 Records offshoot but it shares that project's unbridled creativity, offhand craft and sci-fi goofiness. It's not as country as Longtime Companion either...a plus in my book.

You can stream it here:

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Overseas...another super group of relative unknowns

I seem to be inordinately fond of the Kadane brothers various projects...Bedhead, obviously, but also the New Year, Macha, Consonant and, probably, two or three others I can't remember at the moment. Anyway, I was excited about the new Overseas album, since it's Matt and Bubba, plus David Bazan (I interviewed Bazan, BTW, a year or so ago for PopMatters) and Will Johnson of Centro-Matic and South San Gabriel. The album is really quite good and it's odd, because of the two singers, I think Johnson does the best job melting into the overall aesthetic, but Bazan's songs are odder, more abrasive and, because of that, more interesting. My review ran yesterday at Blurt.



Overseas collects the restless, subtly shifting energies of four individuals, two of them the Kadane brothers from Bedhead and the New Year, one Seattle’s rough-housing spiritualist David Bazan, the other Will Johnson, the ghostly Texan murmurer of Centro-Matic and South San Gabriel.

The four are connected by criss-crossing ties of touring and playing together over the years, but the main node of intersection seems to run through the Undertow Orchestra, a collaboration between Bazan, Johnson, Vic Chesnutt and Mark Eitzel of American Music Club. It was shortly after Chesnutt’s death in 2009 that Overseas first convened. All four of the new band’s members had been affected, in one way or another, by the songwriter’s life, work and passing, all four looked to the Orchestra’s model of shared songwriting and equal contribution as a way to work together.

The album took about three years to finish, working from sketches and jams into the fully-realized songs. Bubba Kadane played mostly guitar, his brother Matt a variety of instruments – guitar piano, drums – Johnston played drums and guitar, and David Bazan picked up the bass. Even so, it has a casual, lived-in grace, a happily accidental quality of four rather different sensibilities fitting together without losing their own shapes.


Overseas "Ghost To Be" from Undertow on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Heirlooms of August

I have a couple of reviews running today at about this one from Red House Painters bassist Jerry Vessel.

Down at the 5-Spot
Heirlooms of August
Caldo Verde


Down at the 5-Spot is laid-back and ruminative, full of countrified touches like pedal steel, harmonica and close, male-female harmonies, but defined, mostly, by personal confidences. Red House Painters’ bass player Jerry Vessel writes about his garden, his young nephew, the low-key pleasures of road-side dining, arranging casual observations into gemlike patterns.

This second Heirlooms of August album feels more like a solo record than 2011’s Forever Moon because it centers on Vessel’s whiskery voice, but also because it hovers on the border between art and personal confession. Even the love songs – “Annabelle” – seem to exist mostly in Vessel’s head, as he wonders about the smell, taste and maternal inclinations of a chance encounter. It’s a pretty song, but without momentum. You can’t imagine the singer making his move.


There are no videos or soundcloud or anything for Down at the 5-Spot,but I do like the title track from the first album.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Nicholas Altobelli's Without A Home

This one caught my eye, late in the game, because of the guests...John Dufihlo from the Deathray Davies and Salim Nourallah, that Dallas-centered Texas pop mafia still making exquisite power pop without, as far as I can tell, anyone's encouragement. Nicholas Altobelli is, indeed, a member of that scene, a native of Southern California, but a Dallas-ite since fourth grade. Without A Home is his fourth album...a lovely, effortless thing, wistful and softly song, but full of big shimmering hooks.

No Depression may have gotten the best read on this album, in the February "stack" reviewed by Lee Zimmerman (who is also a contributing editor at Blurt):

"What a lovely dissertation! Produced by the great Salim Nourallah, a superb solo artist in his own right and the man behind the boards for the Old 97s, Without a Home boasts a series of sublime, wide-eyed narratives, each powered by subtle refrains, quietly engaging melodies and the sort of sentiments that automatically elevate them to pop perfection. Altobelli may be a newcomer, but his instincts are spot on; with songs like “Glitter,” “I Don’t Think Tonight Is Going To Be a Good Night,” “Never Enough” and “Over My Head” he retraces the same wistful terrain usually trod by Ron Sexsmith, Steve Forbert, Josh Ritter and others who are often found kneeling at the throne of one Ray Davies. That is to say, Altobelli possesses the same self-demurring attitude as those others -- modest, reserved and oftentimes understated, and yet he’s still adept at pulling out brilliant hooks and indelible imagery. Consider Altobelli one brilliant discovery and an artist to look forward to hearing again and again. Spot on!"

Monday, June 10, 2013

Haunted West

Liking this second album from Wooster-Ohio-by-way-of-California based Haunted West, which, as you'd expect from the title is mournful and ghostly and (loosely) tied to Americana styles. it reminds me a lot of R.E.M. and a little of (similarly named) True came out very late last year on what looks like the band's own Haunted West label.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Soft Hills

Really nice guitar psych from Seattle's Soft Hills...Huffington Post is hung up on a Fleet Foxes comparison, but I think the vibe is more Mercury Rev.

Of the new one, Chromatisms, PopMatters' John Bergstrom says, "What this Seattle band has done is take the languid tempos and ragged, molten, Neil Young & Crazy Horse feedback of classic grunge and applied them to more reflective, golden-hued contemporary indie songwriting. And they have added some of the grandiosity and crushing guitar sweep of what used to be called shoegaze."

I like that "what used to be called shoegaze"...what are they calling it now?

Anyway, totally enjoyable, check it out here:

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Jon Hopkins

It appears that Pitchfork liked this one a bit more than I did...I did like it, just not as much.

Jon Hopkins


Jon Hopkins works in a shifting palette of organic and electronic sounds, building glitch-scratched beats out of jingling keys, stomped piano pedals and breath. “We Disappear” starts in the recognizable sounds of a key turning, a door slamming and footsteps, a mundane set of signifiers which morphs, gradually into an abstract sort of beat. It’s the human dissolving into auditory signal, experience melting into synapse flashes, an idealization that is not quite familiar, but feels as if it ought to be.

Hopkins has worked with Brian Eno, Coldplay and, most recently, with the British folk singer King Creosote on Diamond Mine, one of 2012’s most evocative and lovely albums. His work here is far more austere and cerebral than on Diamond Mine, and, paradoxically, more tethered to rhythm. “Collider”, Immunity’s long centerpiece pulses with jackhammer insistence, yet seems to inhabit an idealization of a dance floor, rather than the sweaty thing itself. That sense of Platonic ideal will be familiar to anyone who spent time with Diamond Mine, where the sound of voices, birds, clinking cutlery conjured not just a seaside town, but the idea of the sea itself.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Club 8

You've probably caught on that super polished, dance-oriented electro-pop is not my main thing, or really my thing at all. Still, I've been kind of enjoying the new one from Club 8, a long-running Swedish band that shares members with PopRace and Acid House Kings. Their latest, Above the City, has a melancholy shimmer that separates it, somehow, from all the other perky, synthy electro-bands and puts it more in the line of the XX than, say, Razika. (I could do without the super-poppy, thump-thump-thumping "Stop Taking My Time," and lean, instead, towards moodier entries like "Kill Kill Kill" and "You Could Be Anybody"). A lot of it reminds me, naggingly, of bands I really don't like, so this is not the most ringing endorsement and I probably enjoy what I do enjoy for all the wrong reasons, but fuck it...try for yourself.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Woolen Men

We had a little best of 2013 so far discussion a week or two ago on the Dusted board, and one of the albums that came up repeatedly was the self-titled debut from the Woolen Men, out since early March on Woodsist. I'd gotten a promo, but hadn't put it on yet, so I checked it out, and it's excellent...kind of teetering on the edge between super-punky early R.E.M. and the most melodic bits of Mission of Burma. (And if this seems like an odd place to find common ground, you should check out R.E.M.'s cover of "Academy Fight Song".

Anyway, I kind of like early R.E.M. and, if you've been paying attention, you know I LOVE can also hear little echoes of Wire and the Buzzcocks in here, all the good stuff as far as I'm concerned.

Check it out

Monday, June 3, 2013

Kid Congo...king of the party ghosts

Hey, happy Monday!

I had a very weird Sunday, first some unexpectedly good news on the college scholarship front, which I cannot talk about in detail but which makes next year look much, much, much more doable. Second, my brother broke up with his girlfriend and she started sending me some very odd, very angry Facebook messages and email messages and so on. Vile stuff, full of f-bombs and not very well spelled or punctuated and, as far as I can tell from talking to my brother and seeing what she was writing about me, completely untrue. But okay, fine, if we were friends maybe it would make sense that she was including me in her meltdown, but we're not. I mean, I've only met her once or twice and have no real relationship with her outside the fact that she sees my brother (ahem, saw my brother), so what the hell? confusing, so tawdry.

Anyway, and more to the point, I also have a music review up today at Blurt.

Haunted Head
In the Red


Kid Congo continues his ju-ju spooked, surf-whammied, mystically debauched brand of rock ‘n roll, infusing sawed off, minimalist guitar riffery with a whiff of the supernatural. Haunted Head tends towards the eerily subdued, its grooves blaring in through some trapdoor to the otherworld. Shreds of rockabilly, soul, r&b and punk wind their way through these shrouded tunes, all much to be expected from a founding member of the Gun Club, a sometime Cramp and a guitar slinger for the Bad Seeds.

“Killer Diller” brings all these threads together, in a straight-up rock ‘n roller that is built on pompadour-spiked 4/4 guitar riffs, slurred insinuations and inebriated shouts of “yeah.” It’s a slouchy, slippery, decadent kind of rockabilly, dedicated apparently to Phyllis Diller. You can imagine Elvis breaking in for a verse or two, turning green and vomiting over the side. “I Don’t Like” which follows, is even better, a slanting, ranting, two-chord assault that must surely get the people moving live.