Monday, September 30, 2013

Two ways to wake up in the morning

Gorgeous morning today, went to the Y just to change, then out for a run, still a little foggy both weather-wise and alert-ness wise, and I came screamingly, joltingly into focus with music from the Body.

Here's the tag line from their Thrill Jockey page:
“There’s heaviness. There’s brutality. Then there’s The Body.” – Metal Sucks

Oh yeah, and in case you didn't get the biblical overtones in the band name, the current album is called Christs, Redeemers...plural, that will really bother some people, won't it?

It's remarkable that just two guys -- Chip King and Lee Buford -- make all this racket, or maybe not, considering they're from Rhode Island and have to compete with all that Lightning Bolt legacy.

Anyway, it's awesome and epic and only metal in the loosest possible sense...but I can't really recommend it for your iPod clock radio. Here's a bit:

Now it's later and I'm done running and have had some coffee, so naturally I am listening to something far gentler, far softer and more welcoming...something, in fact, that might be perfect for easing into a morning run, except for the danger of nodding away and veering off the sidewalk. It's an EP called Eternality by an LA-based film composer and electronic guy named Cuscino...lovely cool, rhythmic, faintly unsettling textures of electronics and voices.

Let's see what else...I am terrified that my paying job is just going to stop dead again, as it has half a dozen times since the global meltdown when the Republicans do something insane. (Let's tie the CR to mandatory baptism, full immersion, too, fuck that sprinkling shit.) Who cares about the country or the global economy when you get the chance to stick it to Obama once more, right?

Also I'm interviewing Zachary Cale this evening, not prepped at all. after I thrash around pointlessly trying to get some work this morning, I'm going to start working on that.

And finally, I am going to see Angel Olsen and Pillars and Tongues tomorrow and will be writing it up for Blurt.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Taste the sun

I ran ten miles today, not just without pain, but also one of those light-footed, bouncy "Is that eigth miles already?" runs. Which I attribute entirely to Bardo Pond and their ability to bend infinity back on itself and make it seem like no time at all. New album Peace On Venus out October 28th on Fire Records.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

I Get Chills

The Chills wrote "Pink Frost" one of the best songs ever, and "I Love My Leather Jacket" one of the best fashion statements ever, and "Heavenly Pop Hit" which, in a better, fairer world, would actually be one. They are the radiant, pop-jangling magicians of the NZ pop triad (Clean, Bats, Chills), and they have a new live album out called Somewhere Beautiful. It's got all three of those songs I just mentioned and 17 others, a triple LP if you buy the vinyl, and it could not possibly be more fun. If you have all the Chills' proper albums (and I have a bunch of them), it's still worth listening to, even if just to hear them rough things up.

The Chills released a single "Molten Gold" this year, their first new material since 2004.

Here's a kind of minidocumentary about Somewhere Beautiful

Martin Phillips just does a little taste of "Pink Frost" in the above, which hardly seems right. Here's the whole thing. Isn't it wonderful?

Friday, September 27, 2013

If the whiskey's strong and the band plays on, I can do no wrong

There's a new album by Barton Carroll, the sometime Eric Bachman sideman who is also, seriously, one of the best alt.county songwriters you never heard of. The album is called Avery County, I'm Bound to You, and it's more down-home than my previous favorite The Lost One, not as funny and more blatantly tethered to real life. But it's really, really good, and you should check it out.

This is all I can find from the upcoming album.

"Superman" is pretty great, too.

Tour dates are of really limited use, unless you live in one of the Carolinas (in which case, good times!).

Friday, Oct 11
Seattle, WA
Conor Byrne
Record Release show for Avery County, I’m Bound To You
w/The Tripwires and Wayfinders

Thursday, Oct 17
Birmingham, AL
The Bottletree
w/The Delicate Cutters

Saturday, Oct 19
Charlotte, NC
Snug Harbor

Tuesday, Oct 22
Greenville, SC
The Dark Room Theater

Wednesday, Oct 23
Durham, NC
The Pinhook
w/Wood Ear

Thursday, Oct 24
Asheville, NC
The Grey Eagle
w/Band Of Heathens

Friday, Oct 25th
Spruce Pine, NC
Penland College

Saturday, Oct 26
Boone, NC
The Black Cat
w/The Karloffs

Monday, Oct 28
Banner Elk, NC
Lees McRae College (Evans Auditorium

Thursday, September 26, 2013


I have been really liking Camera's Radiate out on Bureau B now, but beyond stating the obvious, duh, Krautrock, er, Neu!, don't have anything very original to say. Fortunately, Ben Graham at the Quietus has the whole thing under control. He says:

Just when you thought you didn't need another contemporary neo-krautrock outfit in your life... along come Camera, whose heavy kosmische grooves are not only near-irresistible, but who have more claim than most to be upholders of the kraut tradition, whatever that may be. Genuine Berliners, for a start, the three-piece have also been championed by Michael Rother of Neu! Rother gave the young band several early support slots before inviting them to play a joint show with him and his old Harmonia buddy Dieter Moebius, who was equally impressed with the way Camera have not only appropriated but extended the motorik machine music he and his peers pioneered throughout the 1970s.

The old school radical krautrockers may have been equally appreciative of Camera's liking for guerrilla gigs in public spaces, with stunts like gatecrashing the German Film Prize after show party, setting up and playing until security realised they weren't actually booked and booted them out, somewhat reminiscent of the anti-establishment, near-situationist streak that was such an important part of the make-up of bands like Neu!, Faust, Can and Amon Duul, but which inevitably has been filtered out as new bands take on the sounds without any of the political philosophy.

While setting up and playing in a Berlin underpass or public toilets may not equate with raging against the Nazi relics still holding public office in the late 60s / early 70s, or harbouring members of the Baader-Meinhof gang in your band squat, it does at least exhibit a taste for mischief-making and confrontation, and a disdain for conventional music biz careerism, that the old guard must have been relieved to find was still on the agenda.

Another quality of their forebears that Camera retain is a love of improvisation. Initially formed with no intention of recording or even of writing songs as such, the trio laid down Radiate! live in the studio, using just a couple of guitars, a synthesiser and a pared-down drum kit. The result is a muscular spontaneity that makes even the more by-numbers moments come alive, imbuing familiar musical phrases with an urgency and velocity that many more considered, reverential players often lose.

There's a bit more track by track description here.

I've always really liked the Quietus. I tried to write for them a while ago, but it didn't work out.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Motivational issues

I've been treading water in the sea of despond for a couple of days (yeah, the water's pretty warm, try it), no real reason, just that edge of unreality that sometimes creeps into things and makes it hard to focus. Work has slowed down and I might've done a stupid thing last week, asking for more money for something that looked like an awful lot of extra work and possible jeopardizing the small amount of money that I've been getting anyway. It's a fine line. I'm doing okay, but it could all fall through any second. I should be more careful with my family's livelihood.

I've also been listening to a lot of stuff, and was actually really enjoying the new Lee Ranaldo until my friend Bill Meyer shat all over it and gave me my usual complex about liking too much crap. What do you think? Is it boring? I must like boring.

Hey, how about this? Fun, eh? Band name: Giant Dog Single title: Bone. Hah. I need a big glass of wine.

Anyway, nice sunny fall weather, you can see your breath in the morning...trees on fire here and there, but not the way it will be later...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Spencer Krug goes piano bar

Spencer Krug, whom you may know from Wolf Parade, Swan Lake and Sunset Rubdown, has a solo project called Moonface, which is, apparently, whatever he feels like doing at the moment, in terms of instrumentation, sometimes marimba and shit-drums, sometimes organ (and not vibraphone like he'd hoped) and, in this case, piano. This is as close to Spencer Krug unplugged as we're likely to get, no electronics at all, just that wavery, emotionally-vibrating tenor and piano chords. I kind of like it -- he's an interesting writer -- though I like his stuff with drums a little better.

Anyway, it's out October 29 on Secretly Canadian. It's called Julia with Blue Jeans On. He's got a few shows lined-up, probably in places where there's a working piano. (St. Pancras Old Church!)

09/29/13 Montreal, QC - Pop Motreal @ Ukrainian Federation BUY TICKETS
11/08/13 Philadelphia, PA - Underground Arts
11/09/13 New York, New York - Le Poisson Rouge
11/23/13 London, UK - St. Pancras Old Church

There's a fair amount of drama in the first single. It bangs more, wanders less than the rest of the album.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Kill Yourself Dancing

This is totally out of character for me -- you know devote of mopey indie rock, drone, freak folk and 1960s garage -- but I cannot stop listening to the two-disc compilation Kill Yourself Dancing: The Story of Sunset Records. Inc. 1985-1989. It's a collection of early Chicago house music about which I know absolutely zilch, except that if you like that song "Pump Up the Volume" you will probably like this. Some of the tracks go on and on and on, which of course, brings me back to NYC in the mid-1980s and Danceteria, the Palladium, etc. where they could stretch a Madonna song out for several days...I was never really that into the whole beautiful people thing, but I went a few times with my roommate (who worked for Ralph Lauren and got invited to everything), and it was interesting but never exactly pleasant...

Yeah, so I've got nothing on this recording, no one-sheet, no liner notes, no clue, except for this pretty good article in the Chicago Reader , which you should probably read if you're really interested in context.

You don't need the context, though. It's pretty self-explanatory.

Did I mention "Pump Up the Volume"? I think I did.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Belle Adair

Just getting into The Brave and the Blue a very cool, folk-pop album by Belle Adair. They're from Muscle Shoals, but really, don't expect any of the classic soul associated with that area. The album reminds me, in all the right ways, of Vetiver. It's out now on Single Lock Records.

There's also a Daytrotter session here.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Bitchin Bajas...just like a Rothko painting

I reviewed the new (relatively new) Bitchin Bajas album for Blurt this's up now.

BITCHIN BAJAS – Bitchtronics
Drag City


There’s a Mark Rothko painting I like to look at when I go to the Chicago Art Institute. It’s large canvas, a square of burnt orange sitting atop a square of yellow, simple enough. Yet if you stare at it long enough, you begin to see striations and gradations in the tone, undercurrents of darker and lighter color, subtle shifts in intensity that seem almost musical. “Turiya” from Bitchtronics seems to me like an audible variety of the same experience, a monochrome soundscape that opens up in concentrated listening into dense, woozy variegation, the tones and undertones and ghost echoes filling space from edge to edge. The piece is enveloping, expansive and nowhere near as simple as it first appears.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

We should probably do this with music reviewers, too

Have chefs rate them, I mean. :)

The Daily Meal asked chefs and restaurateurs to vote on America's 20 most prominent critics in 2012, on a restaurant-review scale of zero to four stars (four being best), based on four criteria: culinary knowledge, prose style, integrity (perceived), and personal likeability. We also asked for comments. "OK," you could almost hear the restaurant folks saying, "Want to visit my restaurant incognito a few times on your company’s dime and complain about a mistakenly sent-out plate and how loud I play my music then run to your messy desk and dock me a star? Gonna judge me on cuisine, atmosphere, d├ęcor, and service? Well, I’ve got a review for you, too!"

Last year, it was interesting to recognize that nobody came anywhere near a full four stars, and that nobody was given a goose egg. The nation's best food critic? Jonathan Gold. America's worst? The Orange County Register's Brad A. Johnson — who, incidentally, has described himself as the "best food critic in America and worldwide." Chefs rated Jonathan Gold and Brad Johnson (respectively) as America's smartest and dullest critics, gave Jeffrey Steingarten of Vogue his due as having the best prose style, and identified The Houston Chronicle's Alison Cook as having the worst. The most trusted critic was Jonathan Gold; the least trusted reviewer, Brad A. Johnson. As far as likeability — we asked our panelists which critics they'd most like to sit down at a table with —Jonathan Gold again took first place, while Tim Carman of The Washington Post brought up the rear. (Check out last year’s full report for more details, and chefs, ahem, pithy comments.)


The Dirtbombs do their bubblegum album

There was a week once, when I was running features at Splendid, when I interviewed Mick Collins from the Dirtbombs on one day and Ian MacKaye from Fugazi (actually we were talking about the Evens) on another, maybe the highlight of my life, music features-wise. One of the things that Collins told me was that the next thing he wanted to do was a bubblegum album. After that, he said, the Dirtbombs would be done most likely. That was about ten years ago, so obviously he may have changed his mind. But in any case, he has finally made good on his threat to explore the lighter side of 1960s psych rock, with Ooey Gooey Chewey Ka-blouey, out yesterday on In the Red. Sounds pretty great to me. What do you think?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ambiguity between the Sam Amidon review

I might have mentioned I was going to's up today at Blurt.

Sam Amidon 9/12/13, Northampton MA
September 12, 2013
The Iron Horse, Northampton MA

It’s a family affair: the show at the Iron Horse included Wes Hartley and the Tall Trees.


“All music is folk music,” Sam Amidon says, midway through a stripped down, unaccompanied set of plaintive shape note hymns, shaded in intriguingly modern ways. He goes so far as to include Gangstarr in the “folk music” category, since rap is, obviously, a music of the people, but he might as well be making room for his own very traditional, but also not, form of folk music, which finds doubt and ambiguity between the notes of even the most righteous of sacred harp certainties.

Amidon is playing at the Iron Horse in Northampton, just a stone’s throw from the southern Vermont community where he first learned to sing (and play guitar, banjo and fiddle) at sacred harp gatherings. His father and mother, still active in local singing groups, are in the audience this evening, and it turns out that 1936 Gibson Amidon is playing (and which has beautiful, luminous tone) belongs to his father. His regular guitar has a hole in it, courtesy of the TSA, who put the capo under the body of the guitar in its case after inspecting it.


He did a nice interview show for New Hampshire Public Radio yesterday, too.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Under the boardwalk

File this under, hazy, gauzy, slo-mo dream pop, like Beach House in the first couple of albums or like Speck Mountain pretty much any time. the only weird thing is that the record is on Stone's Throw, which, am I confused again, didn't that used to be sort of an alternative hip hop label?

Boardwalk shares with Beach House a kind of ocean-vacation vibe, a drone-y, diffuse organ-based sound, soft, caressing female vocals and a reliance on drum machines for rhythms. (Remember when Beach House used to tour with a boom box?) They are also a male-female duo, the singer Amber Quintero, the arranger/player Mike Edge made some of his own equipment. So, yeah, very pretty...hope they don't get all ripped up and tossed out to sea in hurricane season...try for yourself.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Barbez's lovely, hard-to-describe Bella Ciao

Very cool, completely unclassifiable album from Barbez...reviewed yesterday at Blurt.

BARBEZ – Bella Ciao


Barbez is hard to classify, but let’s give it a shot. They are a large ensemble, ethnically curious, jazz-experimental, proggily complex outfit with a tendency to explore beautifully obscure corners not just of the music world, but also of literature. Their last album Force of Light set the poetry of Romanian holocaust survivor Paul Celan to restless, rhythmically complex music. This current one, Bella Ciao performs a similar kind of alchemy with Roman Jewish liturgical song, taking ancient, archetypical melodies and embellishing them with complex swathes of stringed instruments, clarinet, Theremin, malleted percussion, guitar, bass and drums.


They are streaming the whole album at PopMatters.

I'm also about halfway done transcribing my interview with Oneohtrix Point Never's Dan Lopatin, and it's a good one, stay tuned. And further, I am going to see Sam Amidon play live for the first time, despite the fact that I've been following his career since 2007's But This Chicken Proved False Hearted, and he grew up 25 miles from here, and his dad once wrote a musical for New England Youth Theater (my son's home turf). (I also got some good quotes from him for my sacred harp story, which was never published except on this blog, but which still draws hits pretty regularly.) Anyway, about time, wouldn't you say? I hope it stops thundering before 5 when I have to leave.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

all the crap i listened to this summer

So, what I do, when I finish a review or an interview or a show write-up, is I pick my favorite song from the relevant album and dump it into a file which is usually named after a month. Then, at the end of the month, I spend several blissful, useless hours trying to arrange those songs in a way that makes sense. It is more difficult some months than others.

Anyway, a bunch of things happened this summer. Both Dusted and Blurt were, at different times, on hiatus. Sean was leaving for college. I was working more than usual on my financial writing business. So I ended up with a "June 2013" playlist that went on for several months, and which I have just stopped adding songs to, like yesterday, well into September.

I also did not spend the usual amount of time fiddling with fact I spent no time on it. Caveat emptor.

I did put the whole thing -- or the whole thing minus a couple that aren't available -- on Spotify. Have a go if you like:

Like angels...

I asked about reviewing the new Trentemoller at Blurt, and got shot down, which is fine, I got a bunch of other good stuff, but nothing quite as ethereally gorgeous as this cut, "The Dream" which is sung by Low in that tight, trembly harmony that they do, which just sort of picks you off the ground and floats you away.

Anyway, very pretty. There are some other really interesting people on this album -- Jana Hunter of Lower Dens, Sune Rose Wagner of the Raveonettes, Kazu Makino of Blonde Redhead, Marie Fisker and Ghost Society. It's out September 24 on In My Room.

I didn't blog yesterday because I was to the wall with work stuff, and also because Blogger kept logging me out, but it seems to be working now. I'm doing pretty well career-wise now, but let's see what happens when Syria blows up or the Fed cuts its stimulus, probably right back to the toilet for financial writers. Anyway...let's enjoy it while it lasts.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Dense, messy psych from Destruction Unit...and some weekend purchases

The label, Sacred Bones, is calling Destruction Unit's first full-length garage rock, and I guess there's some sort of personal connection with the late Jay Reatard. But really this is more like Bardo Pond or Heavy Hands than anything on In the Red, it's dense and messy and droning, and really, pretty good if you like this sort of thing. The band is from Arizona, so unless they hang out with Calexico or Neil Hagerty or (I guess now) Tim Rutili (no evidence of any of these artists having the slightest bit of influence, BTW), there's not much scene to constrain them. Which is always the best way to be. How do they do this?

"The set list is usually improvised, which sometimes has us all playing different songs at the same time. Writing new songs happens the same way: someone starts playing and everyone else just follows until pieces are in place. After we jam long enough, we listen back to it and cherry-pick the stuff we liked. When it all comes together, it really works—introducing elements of chance operation into rock based music." Destruction Unit guitarist Jesco Starewell Aurelius II in a recent Noisey interview.

What does it sound like?

I did a dumb thing yesterday and went to the used record store after I'd already had a pint at McNeils (world's best brew pub IMHO, located on Elliott Street in Brattleboro, opens at 2 on weekends, and 4 the rest of the week, stop by if you're ever in town)...and I bought three records out of the junkpile. (total cost $8.24)

Magazine's After the Fact (posthumous compilation, all the "hits", fun listen...I should probably have a proper Magazine album at some point, but this will do for now).

Super Furry Animals' Rings Around the World...(sort of a sentimental pick, cos Radiator was such a favorite when Sean was little, we listened to "Chupacabra" probably a million times, and anyway, it was there and I had had a beer, and why not?)

The Lucksmiths' Why Doesn't That Surprise Me? (because someone at Splendid, can't remember who, was a huge fan of the Lucksmiths, and it can take a lifetime to check out all the weird back alleys and byways that other people who love music want to send you on, but you have to keep at it. I'm really liking this, actually, smart pop that's loosely constructed enough to breathe.)

I also bought the Neko Case on Saturday, which is pretty wonderful, too, but I'm not ready to write about it yet.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sic Transit Sic Alps

The lo-fi SF outfit known as Sic Alps have called it quits, but for those who enjoy that acid Beatles wrapped in scuzz kind of sound, fear not. Sic Alps main man Mike Donovan has taken his show solo, with the inchoate but still rather lovely WOT? out mid-October on Drag City. One or two listens in, I am liking as much as I ever liked Sic Alps, maybe a little more. Anyway, see for yourself.

In other news, we watched the riveting but not quite classic Frenzy last night, the next to last of Alfred Hitchcock's films, shot in 1972 and really, a bit giddy with its wrongly accused hothead, its florid, suave villain, its necktie strangled girls and its fixation on the horrors of classic French cooking. One interesting thing about the film is how it wasn't. Michael Caine was supposed to be the killer but turned away the script in nausea. Helen Mirren was initially considered for one of the victims, didn't do it, and regretted it for life. (Maybe why she jumped on Hitchcock?) I wish there were more Hitchcock on Netflix, just this one and The Lady Vanishes and if we want more, we'll have to pay for it.

Also, of interest to no one, I like my shiny purple running shoes. I did a 10-mile run this morning in them, first time in ages I've run over eight, and I had next to no pain, just a twinge on the worst uphill. (I could probably run 15 if I could find one with no hills.) So for the first time in several years, a voice is whispering "marathon" in my ear again, not this fall, certainly, and probably not in the spring, but maybe next fall if I can get the training going.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

New Wooden Shjips!!!

So, okay, it's Saturday and I have an as yet unmet deadline for the great Dusted magazine, but instead I am listening to the new Wooden Shjips album, and it is AWESOME, exactly like every other Wooden Shjips album (which is to say hypnotically repetitive, with a hard bass-drum beat that somehow lulls you into paralysis and a soft, otherworldly vocal and guitars that spin off into the ether, and you know you had that shopping list to finish somewhere, but you've been spending the last 45 minutes staring into space and...hmmmmmmmmmm) So, there is NOTHING new here, sorry, I know how novelty obsessed we all are. But still, if you like Wooden Shjips, there is MORE of it and that is a very, very good thing.

Yup there's a video, enjoy your afternoon.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Casually polished, beautifully offhand

I've gotta write some more reviews. I'm running out of stuff to post.

FELSEN – I Don’t Know How to Talk Anymore


Felsen, a slyly clever power pop outfit from Oakland, has one foot in 1960s and 1970s classic rock, the other in the web-connected, socially-mediated early teens. Songwriter Andrew Griffin is a Berkelee trained session drummer turned Wilco/Matthew Sweet/Teenage Fanclub acolyte. He may be old-school enough to slip a line from “Cinnamon Girl,” a riff from Zep’s “Good Times, Bad Times” into opening salvo “Rock ‘N Roll’s Not Dead,” but he’s no stranger to the blogging, commenting, sharing (and over-sharing) present.

I Don’t Know How to Talk Anymore is Felsen’s fourth LP, a casually polished, beautifully offhand collection of smart, quirky pop songs. Griffin has the trick of .


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Mark Lanegan, frustrated crooner

The world's best (and lowest) rock voice finds itself toying with ALL kinds of ungodly shit, and, since it's Mark Lanegan, makes it sound surprisingly good. Don't even get me going on the Abba cover ("Solitaire") ...there are also alternate treatments of Chelsea Wolfe's "Flatlands," Nancy's Sinatra's "You Only Live Twice" and Bobby Darin's "Mack the Knife."

Here are a couple samples, neither embeddable...but whatever.

"I'm Not the Loving Kind" (John Cale)

"Deepest Shade" (Twilight Singers)

I listen to the new Kandodo and all I hear is water

My review of the really beautiful, languid, lyrical new Kandodo album is up today at Dusted, and now that I read it, I'm thinking that maybe I went, er, overboard on the water business.

Thrill Jockey

Kandodo’s self-titled album conjured wide, treeless plains, a large scale landscape given drama not by its features but by the expanse of space without them. k20, coming a year later, is similarly vast, but this time oceanic. You can hear the waves, literally, on brief sound-sampling “Waves” and on lengthy, droning “Swim into the Sun.” You can sense the pitch and roll of currents on nearly all these tracks. It’s no accident that the sprawling second side’s “Swim into the Sun” evokes passage through water. There’s a slippery liquid envelopment in Kandodo’s sound, now amniotic and warm, later chilly and bracing, but always washing over in long waves.


In other news, I am interviewing Miles from EMEFE today for Blurt. I'm going to ask him if they've ever all tried to fit in a Volkswagon.

We also got the word that our washer is kaput and we will now have to come up with a very unfun, unexpected $700 or $800 to replace it. We bought it a week or two after we bought the house, so it's not like we didn't get some use out of it. Also, things have been going well workwise, so it's not a terrible time to have to do this. Still, I can't help but feel that we will never, ever get ahead. It's always something.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Califone's Stitches

My friend Bill Meyer (who wrote this reoord up for Magnet) thinks that Stitches is maybe not so personal and direct as Rutili is giving out, and it is fairly cryptic for a confessional..I might have gotten sucked in by the one-sheet on this. Anyway, really enjoyed the album, another good one from Califone.

Dead Oceans

Califone has always worked in the subconsciously familiar, hammering together folk memories and spare industrial parts to create altered-but-recognizable textures. Yet here on the collective’s seventh full-length, Tim Rutili seems to have taken the same approach with his words, eschewing the vivid abstractions of past work to talk more plainly about his own condition. Despite its references to Chinese opera and deep-sea divers, the album’s title track is a love song, pure and simple. “Didn’t we fit together like someone else’s sweater?” he asks, likening stitches to sutures, needlework, embroidery in the way they connect and enhance disparate beings.

Stitches, then, uses large-scale mythological imagery to hone in on concerns like love and mortality. Its lyrics are unusually direct and readable, at least by Califone standards, but infused with a collective conscious’s ghostly imprint. Here, monumental figures like Moses, Jacob and Esau and Mary Magdalene give resonance to Rutili’s queries about life’s meaning (or lack of it). In “Moses,” for instance, the prophet forever exiled from the Promised Land is a stand-in for an ordinary man’s inability to commit to a lover. Califone’s hoarse-shouted chorus of “if I let myself need you, how long before we die?” feels personally, individually true, but also archetypical and vast.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Soul psych, blue jasmine and jazzfest by proxy

This was one of those very long lead, maybe-for-print type reviews, so I sort of forget about what the record sounded like but it seems like I must have liked it.

Idle No More


It’s been six years since King Khan and the Shrine’s soul-psych extravaganza What Is?, where the Montrealean garage revivalist channeled an acid-tripping Sam and Dave or, perhaps, a Syd Barrett duck-walking in shiny pointed dress shoes. Khan has apparently spent the early teens honing a sleeker, denser, more Spector-esque sound, the raw scrape of, say, “Torture” moussed and primped into a wall-to-wall swirl of sensation. At its best, for instance in the unstoppable “I Got Made,” Khan balances a sharp, swaggering attack with the pillow-y lushness of a Morricone score. Or he allows bumping 1960s Motown bass-lines and crackling Blaxploitation wah wah solos to simmer under the giddy crescendos of girl-group-y “Thorn In Her Pride.” And single, “Bite My Tongue” (in the video a profanely hilarious Batman vs. Jesus duel) has the slanted drive of a Nuggets garage anthem, embellished with the brass and string swells lifted from James Brown.


We went to see Blue Jasmine on Sunday, and Cate Blanchett should totally get the Oscar for it. She can go from poised to poisoned in about 3 seconds -- and she has can add 20 years to her face just by the way she holds her mouth. The most squirm-worthy scene -- and also maybe the best -- is the one where she explains her sordid situation to two tweener boys she's babysitting at a diner over cokes. Amazing. Bobby Carnavale is pretty great, too, and Sally Hawkins. (Alec Baldwin is doing a variant on Jack Donaghy, but he's good that that, so why quibble?)

Sean called late Sunday to tell us that he'd gone down to Chicago Jazzfest with a pack of his friends and he wasn't sure what he'd seen (Robert Glasper, apparently), but LUPE FIASCO had come on stage!!! Very cool that he's getting the best out of the city...kind of jealous that he can just saunter over to the park for things like this.

Not the greatest video but... (it's not Sean's. I found it on the internet.)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Holy's Emefe

I don't know what you did to start your weekend, but I went to see Emefe, the 10 to 12-person Afro-Beat collective surrounding Miles Amtzen.

I spent all morning writing it up, so if you want more, you'll just have to see what I said at Blurt.


Emefe + Mammal Dap 8/31/13, Northampton MA
Dates: August 31, 2013
Location: Iron Horse, Northampton MA



You don’t even realize the show has started until it has. Sometime in the complicated set-up for Emefe – 10 players, two drum stations, stacked keyboards, two guitars, a bass, a four-man horn line — all the shaker gourds have disappeared. Now towards the stairs that lead down to the bathroom, a syncopated beat has started to pound, a snaky conga line has formed, the bell-ends of trumpet, trombone and two saxophones are swinging side-to-side as the non-plugged in members of Emefe swagger in to “Stutter,” the opening track from their self-released album, Good Future. People in the audience are already sucked in to a swaying, blatting, stop-start Afro-beat groove before they have time to think about it. You can’t imagine how a sound this large – forget that, a band this large – will fit on the tiny Iron Horse stage. In fact, they’re taking up most of the dance floor, stomping and shaking in a circle, horns facing inward, a bleating, fluttering, agitated sound rising out of the center.