Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A liquor-drenched review of Doubled Exposure

So, I got a little hung up on the idea of liquor as a metaphor for D Charles Speer and the Helix's latest album, Doubled Exposure, and may have gone too far. I really like the album, in part because it seems to balance really out of control intensity with, um I guess, control. Anyway, I wrote:
Doubled Exposure ends in a slouching, low-hitting boogie, the grime-crusted, whiskey-tilted swagger of “Tough Soup” taking this latest album from one-time NNCK-er Dave Shuford out in a round house punch, stars circling, cartoon birds tweeting. It’s a fitting climax to an album that lines up tumblers full of many different varieties of folk-brewed liquor, chugs them down and breathes them out with an intensity that could be lit with a match like a propane torch.

Here, in “Cretan Lords,” the retsin-scented guitar tremors from Shuford’s solo Arghiledes vibrate against an electric blues vamp redolent of Jack Daniels. There in “The Heated Hand,” a veneer of nightclub jazz sophistication slicks over a country two-step, like cracked ice cooling a serving of home-made moonshine. There’s even the sound of a bottle popping to open “Bootlegging Blues,” a dark, primitive slink through the dangerous side of country blues that recalls Charlie Feathers and Johnny Cash. And who knows what sort of intoxicants seep through the smoke and haze mysticism of “Mandorla at Dawn?” the album’s longest, loveliest track is a dead ringer for Rangda’s brand of mandala-spinning psych, though colored with twanging pedal steel.

There's more here

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Ten mile run, three records

Yeah, so a little demon has been whispering "marathon" in my ear again lately...now that my hip is finally holding up through medium-long runs (6-8), I've been wondering if I could go longer. Today, I did a 10 with no problems at all (well, minor problems, I am a little sleepy this afternoon and eating like a madwoman), so I guess the next thing would be a 15 and if that goes okay I get out the competitive marathoner's handbook (a dog-eared edition from the late 1980s) and start writing mileage numbers on my calendar.

Anyway, I had forgotten how much time there is to listen to music on these long-ish runs. I got through all of two and most of one more records while out slogging. Here's what I listened to (it's bands in alphabetical order from a playlist of stuff that's either new or in my review pile, plus a few random things...like I got the Fall's "Bury Part 1+2" because it had gone over 30 play counts and I reset it to zero so now iTunes thinks I need to listen to it again...which is a-okay with me.)

Dead Rider, Chills on Glass
I'm reviewing this later, so let me be superficial...this is Todd Rittman's most polished and R&B redolent excursion into post-rock dystopia, it slinks and sashays through cratered desolation and recoils stylishly from bristling barbs of guitar noise. It reminds me of that W.B. Yeats poem, "The Second Coming" for some reason, perhaps I'll figure out why (or more likely it'll stop reminding me) before I write my review.

Ex-Cult, Midnight Passenger
First time through this, and oh hell yes, I like it a lot, a spikily corrosive kind of punk rock that reminds me of the Wipers, the Observers and (a couple of times) the Zero Boys. It's out in April. I have to figure out how I can write about it.

Frances Harris, Minutes of Sleep
Also the first time through...no, not quite, I had dipped into a couple of tracks before and gotten distracted by the sparseness of the beat, like wha? isn't there any music? but the good thing about running and headphones is that you're not distracted, you are using the music as a distraction from boredom and tired-ness, so you hear everything, and there's jazz blowing in the window on this, jazz like you'd forgotten it for a year or two and then suddenly remembered how it sounded...it's very soft, but beautiful...

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Gacha...just gorgeous

I have been a little bit transfixed with the 6-song EP from Gacha, When the Watchman Saw the Light lately. Gacha is an electronic producer originally from Tblisi, Georgia in the former Soviet Republic, but he now lives in Berlin. His EP is soft and beautiful, with really touching, engaging vocals from Natalie Beridze Tba, another Georgian, who reminds me of Mia Doi Todd on that first Dntel record or maybe Laura Gibson working with Ethan Rose. The record is out on Apollo this week.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Like Robyn Hitchcock but more Francophile and less strange

I've been really enjoying the upcoming Trip to the Coast by British songwriter Bill Pritchard. Pritchard has been around for a while, and he's got a very nicely weathered, rueful tone, songs well put together but unfussy, catchy in a very casual way. It's the kind of album that sneaks up on you.

Pritchard also sounds a good bit like Robyn Hitchcock, the same growly bottom, the same pitch and timbre in the mid-range...I don't think they really have much else in common, except maybe a pallette of late-1960s influences, but their voices are similar.

Anyway, check it out if you like

The record will be out on Tapete Records early in March.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Wish me luck

Today, I am doing something that terrifies me. I am speaking via a phone webinar to the Public Relations Society of America.

I spent most of Sunday practicing, and I think it will be okay, but I will be so, so, so glad when it's over.

Anyway, here's the announcement that Kent Wissinger sent to publicize the program.

Financial Communications at a Crossroads

Feb. 18, 2014

Markets have been surging and profits at financial institutions are up, so why haven’t opportunities improved for communications professionals? Employment challenges, increased job pressures, and a convergence of media continue to limit communicators in workplace and marketplace. Join us for an insightful presentation by veteran financial writer Jennifer Kelly of Kelly Communications who will provide an in-depth look at this issue and steps we can take to improve our positions. Kelly has more than two decades of experience serving a diverse client base of investment banks, mutual fund managers, insurers, private equity firms and related service companies. For her presentation, Kelly will review:

· Overview of financial services industry

· Shifting trends in communications

· Taking advantage of emerging opportunities

Back to music tomorrow.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Angel Olsen

I had what I considered kind of a big, important review for Dusted, which ran at the inexplicable hour of about 10 p.m on Sunday (It's PFK's lead review today...), so I guess no one will see it, but here it is:

"Angel Olsen has a prickly kind of intensity. She reveals herself in hushed confession then flutters away in vibrato-laced trills and abstractions, leading you into quiet contemplation one minute and shattering your serenity with a banshee keen the next. She has a beautiful voice when it suits her. Her work on Bonnie Prince Billy’s Wolfroy Goes to Town was pure lushness and pleasure.

Still, there’s a danger there, an unmoored, unhinged flood of feeling that spills over the edges of her songs. By 2012’s chilling Half Way Home, you could sense a feral energy just under wraps. When I saw her last fall, performing mostly that last album, but a few tunes from the current one, that wildness had come much closer to the surface. Sharpness poked out of even her softest songs. A punk yelp, a rockabilly yodel slipped glass shards and knife edges into her folk-leaning murmurs. For about half the set, she had a rock band, the same on that appears on Burn Your Fire for No Witness — Joshua Jaeger on drums, Stewart Bronaugh on additional guitar."


This record is probably going to be on my top ten for 2014, not that anyone cares.

I think I am probably putting too much time into Dusted. I may back off a little.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Wow, it's been a while

So, today started with four album's worth of snow shovelling, a wet, heavy mess that couldn't be pushed or thrown very far and so took forever to remove from the driveway. We've woken up a number of times this winter, looked out the window and said, "Well, it could be worse," but this time, it was worse.

Anyway, that gave me some time to listen to stuff, and I am really enjoying New Electric Ride's Balloon, which is kind of a 1960s bubbly psych thing, reminds me of Pretty Things' "Baron Saturday", Dukes of Stratosphear's "25 O'Clock" and Pink Floyd's "Lucifer Sam." They are British and perhaps travel around in the bus on their album cover, but beyond that I know nothing.

Also listened to Angel Olsen's new one, which I like a lot, but have to write about, so I'm going to hold my fire...as well as a new improvisational thing with David Grubbs on it and JoyCut, which is an Italian band much enamored of synths and pounding rhythms.

I've been really, really busy lately, and have not had a lot of time to blog. It's starting to feel like the late 1990s again, which is good from a financial standpoint. We had a wonderful time in Chicago and felt that Sean has clearly grown and developed as an actor, even in the short time he's been there. He had some very out-there parts -- a schizophrenic, a POW and a sexually abusive father -- and I thought he did really well in going to the dark side without being cartoonish or overacting...as people often do. But I'm his mom, what do I know?

He also has a really lovely girlfriend now, per Facebook, and is making some really interesting progress on his summer work plans, which I am not supposed to talk about.

So that's that. I'll try to get back here more often.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Couple of new items

So, I'm getting crazy hits on my Damien Jurado post, so I thought I'd just milk it for all it's worth. I also reviewed his live show at Blurt. Check it out here.

Also, we have been scrambling to fill space at the Dusted tumblr, and I think we're getting almost to the point where there's enough momentum to stop pushing so hard already. But I've still be writing a ton of reviews for the site, most recently of one by a New Zealand freakfest (and I mean this in the nicest way) called Orchestra of Spheres, which you can read here.

You know how much I like good percussion, right?

The other main news is that we are going to Chicago tomorrow, mostly to see Sean's freshman acting showcase, but we will also be hitting one of the final shows of Steppenwolf's "Tribes, and a Rempis Trio show at the Hideout. I'm very excited about it, and I really hope that the travel part goes smoothly. (We built in a couple of days so that if we were delayed, we might still make the showcase.)

I'm not sure I'll have very consistent internet, though, so this may be it for a while.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Damien Jurado

Once again, I have fallen hard and early...I would be surprised if Damien Jurado's Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son is not in my top five at the end of 2014. (It's right behind the new Protomartyr now at #2, but Jurado records have, in the past, been growers.)

I need to hack through my live review today, but meanwhile, here's what I wrote about the new record for Dusted.

"Ever since he began working with producer Richard Swift, Damien Jurado’s music has become progressively trippier and more psychedelic, slipping whatever folk-strumming bonds he might once have been tied by and vaulting into surreal, ineffable spirituality. He has also, since about Maraqopa, been experimenting again with 1960s rock sounds, infusing dream-fogged ambiguities with Richard Farina-ish guitar heat. Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son takes it all one step further, opening brightly lit portals to other realities, layering aching, longing, rock-slanting melodies with glittery, silver-toned transcendence."


I also had a hand in Zachary Cale's Listed, which, for the first time, includes a Spotify playlist at the end, so you can hear as well as read.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Courtney Marie Andrews

As I mentioned yesterday, we went to see Damien Jurado last night, and it was really great and I will write more about it later. Right now, I want to tell you all about his opening act, Courtney Marie Andrews, a really wonderful guitar player with a voice straight out of classic sixties folk, high and pure and fluttery with vibrato like Joan Collins, just enough grit to remind you, intermittently, of Joan Baez. Jurado called her "my favorite living artist," strong words and further than I would go, personally, but she was very, very good. She's also sort of adorable with her long bangs and her fumble-y small talk as she retunes between almost every song (big fan of alternate tunings apparently). She seems about 15 until she opens her mouth and then she could be any age at all.

Here's the bandcamp. Check it out.

If you like Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen, people like that, you should definitely give this a try.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tim Cohen pulls another rabbit from hat

My review of the new-ish Magic Trick album, River of Souls is up today at the Dusted Tumblr, which just passed its 100th post.

I said, "Both in his Fresh & Onlys project and here in the solo-thing-that-grew called Magic Trick, Tim Cohen has been moving gradually towards clarity, shrugging off the iridescent fuzz of Grey Eyed Girls and the home-taped indefiniteness of his first solo album to move into focus. Here in the follow up to 2012’s Ruler of the Night, Cohen continues to make his sound more legible than ever, while retaining the easy-going, transcendental mysticism that has always made his songs so charming.

"Cohen recorded River of Souls at his own Tree House studio with Phil Manley. Manley is a master of clean, uncluttered recording. His own band, The Fucking Champs, makes albums so sharply accurate you could cut your finger on them; they’re like metal albums sterilized for the operating theater. Yet while the two of them have cleared pretty much all the fuzz, allowing you to hear and separate layers of sound, Cohen maintains a certain soft and gentle feel. River of Souls is a precise rendering of laid-back ideas, one where you can hear every background vocal, every bass line, every slap and shiver of tambourine, without losing the general sense of hippie well-being."


This is the one that reminds me of Sam & Dave.

The snow mostly missed us this time (sorry NYC), but damn, it's cold. I got out about a quarter of a mile to the main road this morning and decided that I would get frost-bite if I did my normal run. So I headed the other way, which goes through more woods and less open fields, and actually, it was pretty stunning, bright sun, white snow, blue sky and the sound of trees shifting in the wind. I had that wind at my back all the way back, up the big hill, and it was like a physical presence pushing from behind. Anyway, beautiful run, glad I did it, no sign of lingering damage. (From the wind or the big hill, which I've been avoiding because of my hip.) Bill and I used to always call that run the "Ireland run" because it's got some very pretty, wild looking hills where cows graze and in the summer it gets very green...haven't done it in probably a year.

Also, we're seeing Damien Jurado tonight. More about that later.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

My fall 2013 playlist is getting kind of unwieldy...

....so I thought I would just dump it out on you. 

Enjoy.  Notable lacunae, as always, where Drag City artists would go.  With all due respect for their decision not to be on Spotify. 

Time to start another one. 

It's shoegaze cos Neil Halstead sings

My review of the new not-very-metallic but still quite beautiful new Alcest album runs today at the Dusted Tumblr.  It's causing all kinds of problems for people who like their black-gaze straight....

I said:

"A gorgeous swirl of diffusive sound, Alcest’s Shelter falls pretty far from frontman Neige’s black metal past, or even black-gaze, the metal-shoegaze hybrid that he did so much to define in the ’00s. Shelter’s weightless textures, its pretty, folk-derived guitar figures and its gleaming edifices of shimmering, amp-altered sound all argue for post-rock (Explosions in the Sky), space rock (Sigur Rós) or even avant experimenters like Ghost. Its sweeping, swooning scope gives it a fog-bound 1990s shoegaze feel, augmented, no doubt, by Neil Halstead’s English language cameo.  Metal? Hah. This is an album that could pass unmolested through a TSA screener — and that’s intentional. "


Nice vid, though. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

I just love this song

It came up on random as we were driving to the YMCA, and I remembered how much I liked it.  (It was on Blacklist weirdly, such a gentle, pretty song, such a brutal show...) 

Also spent some more time on the $3 rack at Turn It Up and picked up Dungen's Ta Det Lungt

Also the Hidden Cameras' Smell of Our Own

I think I'm going to like them both.  Anybody else buy music this snowy Saturday?  Get anything good?

Friday, January 17, 2014

I finally saw the Big Star documentary

What, was there no live footage?

Did they not have rights to the music?

I mean, come on.

Anyway, great band. Great story (we all thought Big Star was Alex Chilton, but turns out it was Chris Bell the whole time, doh!)

We also saw Dallas Buyers Club last night, which was phenomenal, excellent, beautiful -- and also maybe 20 minutes too long? Those Oscar nominations are well deserved, though. McConnaughy had to get old before they would let him really act...why don't they do that for women?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

I like Animal Collective better when it's really them

My review of the new Painted Palms album, Forever went up yesterday at the Dusted Tumblr.

"You never believe it until it happens, but stick around long enough and bands that once seemed impossible to copy will attract a swarm of also-rans. Back in 2002, no one sounded like Liars (though Liars sounded, for a brief interval in 'Tumbling Walls' exactly like ESG). A few years later, weaker tinctures from Franz Ferdinand, Maximo Park and the Futureheads pounded those same jerky, abrasive sounds into oblivion. Devendra Banhart was goddam weird in 2003, then in just a couple of years a tribe of moonchild, freak folkers came to surround him, all bleating the same slyly innocent hippie nonsense.

It’s happened, too, with Animal Collective, whose tribal beats, yelps and sunny, ether-vaulting melodies made for one of the weirdest aesthetics ever to go mega. How could you copy that kind of insanity, we might have asked, back in 2001 or 2002? And yet, here we are with Au and Nurses and Braids and Le Loup and – let’s just get it out of the way – Painted Palms. All are vaguely reminiscent, none nearly as good. The inimitable is beset on every side by imitators, and if the sonics are similar, the energy is lacking. There is nothing quite so disappointing as giddiness that falls flat.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

New single from Allah Las

Yes, yes, yes, I am liking this a lot, even if it does make me wonder what year (who am I kidding, what decade) it is.

The backstory is that these guys all worked at Amoeba in SF, so they have clearly been dipping into the vintage vinyl, but also giving it a good bit of breath and spit and fire...I just love that slanty, major-minor guitar thing, don't you?

If you live in NYC, you might know that they were supposed to play at the Rough Trade store, but had to postpone while RT sorted their noise/neighborhood relations issues out. That show is back on the calendar now for 3/27th, and if I were in NYC, I'd go.

Did I mention I was in NYC last week? Awesome time. Got the biggest project (by $s anyway) of my life, saw the Glass Menagerie (which was radiant, perfect, brilliant, unbelievable), ran in my park three separate times and ate pretty damned well. We still have a bunch of cheese and smoked salmon from Zabar's, so we're still eating well. Looking forward to not being poor for at least six months, too (though there are some pretty big credit card bills on the way). And that's that.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Absolutely natural...and absolutely strange

My review of the really quite good Rickolus album from late last year runs today at Blurt. It reminded me quite a lot of Neutral Milk Hotel, but I didn't mind at all...as you can see from the first two paragraphs:

Rickolus, otherwise known as Richard Colado, has a way of filling out fragile folk melodies with bittersweet bravado, so that verses murmur and harmonica-and-accordion-stuffed choruses soar. His “9th Street to San Pablo” expands from a plaintive acoustic guitar song, into a marching band’s bluster, then flowers into vocal profusion at its extremity, sounding very much like Neutral Milk Hotel’s “King of Carrot Flowers, Pt. 1”

Indeed the shadow of Jeff Magnum hangs over Troubadour: Roads, in the jaunty surreality of its lyrics, as well as the major-to-minor-shaded melodies. There is even a burst into lo-fi rock exuberance a la “Holland, 1945” late in the album with “We Paint the Rocks Gold.” Both NMH and Rickolus have the trick of sounding absolutely natural — and also absolutely strange — at the same moment.

You can read the whole thing here.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Japanese prog pop from Eiko Ishibashi

From my Dusted review, published over the weekend:

"Eiko Ishibashi wraps rhythmic complexity in the frothy ease of pop, making brief nods to acoustic folk, prog-rock, jazz and sunny Stereolab-ish drone. A drummer first, she paces her tunes with the gentlest syncopations, not the hip-jutting starts and stops of say, James Brown, but rather a dreamy, skip-skittering bounce.

There is a whimsical quality to these compositions. However artful and difficult the musicianship, you get a sense of bubbly, effervescent play.
Imitation of Life came out last year in Japan, where Eiko is a well-known improv hand, with four solo albums to her credit. This one, like the previous Carapace, was produced by Jim O’Rourke, who has been living in Japan since he left Sonic Youth in the mid-aughts. It was likely through O’Rourke that Eiko made the connection with Drag City which resulted in this first American release.

Both Eiko and O’Rourke are active in Japan’s improv and jazz scenes, where the rest of Ishibashi To Mou Shinda Hitotachi (which translates as “the People Who are Already Dead”) come from. In addition to Eiko and O’Rourke, the band includes sometime Melt Banana collaborator Toshiaki Sudo, jazz percussionist Tatsuhisa Yamamoto and string player Atsuko Hatano (who has worked with OIOIO). With that sort of background, it’s no surprise that they push the fluid boundaries between jam and composition, playful experiment and structured melody."

More http://dustedmagazine.tumblr.com/post/72319703797/eiko-ishibashi-imitation-of-life-drag-city

Friday, January 3, 2014

Stone Jack Jones

I have a little piece up at Blurt now about a new video from Stone Jack Jones, who is amazing not nearly as well known as he ought to be.

Here's a link to the write-up.

And also the video

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Blurt's top 75

Yet another list to ponder, this one from Blurt which skews a bit older, more song-based and more Americana-tipped than any of my other outlets. Still if my #1 is Blurt's #2, we've got a fair amount in common.

Read it here.