Monday, December 30, 2013

Paul Messis

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

Paul Messis — Case Closed (State Records)

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

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


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

Friday, December 27, 2013

Ooops, missed one

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

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

And it was Low.

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

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Doug Keith with a famous shredder guest, other recent listening

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

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

I have also been listening a good bit to:

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

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

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

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


Monday, December 23, 2013

Nathan Salsburg

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

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


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Destroyer in Spanish

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

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

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

DESTROYER — Five Spanish Songs

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

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


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

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

There's more here.

Here is a sample of his stuff

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

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The indescipherable prettiness of Sumie

SUMIE – Sumie (Bella Union)


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

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


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Bailter Space...still back

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

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


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


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Difference Machine

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Year-end...just the list

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 6, 2013

Hurray for the slushpile, which gave up Patrick Park

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

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

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

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Grass House...a really good one

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

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

Anyway, here's a bit:

GRASS HOUSE – Sun Full and Drowning (Marshall Teller)


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


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

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

This is crazy...Guerrilla Toss

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

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

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

Monday, December 2, 2013

Far-Out Fangtooth

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

Here's a video, check it out.