Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy day after...

Hope everyone had a nice day off yesterday. We all went for a run in the morning, then cooked, then ate, then watched about eight episodes of 30 Rock Season Two, then watched them again...not a terrible day all in all.

Nothing is happening today, of course, but I did have a short review up earlier this week.

Her Space Holiday
XOXO, Panda and the New Kid Revival
Mush Records

A sharp departure from the lush, electronically-derived sounds of Her Space Holiday's earlier work, this seventh full-length recalls the laid-back pop of Beulah. Serene in tone, arranged with tambourines, banjos, acoustic guitar, toy xylophones and found sounds (sirens, tea kettles, crotchety old voices), the disc has, nevertheless, a melancholy underbelly. "Two Tin Cans and a Length of String" may sound like a shout-along celebration, but it's about the preciousness of connection in the face of illness. ("I remember the day the spot was found/the kids moved back just to help us out/You held yourself with such dignity"). This and other songs on the album make it clear that Marc Bianchi has lost someone recently, a parent or grandparent. They are warm, wonderful songs about loving and saying goodbye.


“Sleepy Tigers”

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Jimi! and a difficult interview

Coupla cool things up this day before the Turkey. One is my piece on Electric Ladyland, for PopMatters, two-week-long celebration of 1968.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Electric Ladyland
Electric Ladyland was recorded at the very peak of Jimi Hendrix’s recording and playing powers, in a series of marathon, late-night, drug and alcohol fueled sessions, with guests including Steve Winwood, Dave Mason, Jack Casady coming in, and a steady escalation of conflict between long-time Experience bass player Noel Redding and Hendrix himself. This volatile climate of hedonism, interpersonal conflict and obsessive perfectionism—Dave Mason is said to have done 20 tracks of the acoustic guitar part on “All Along the Watchtower” before Hendrix let him go—produced one of the landmark albums in guitar rock.


"All Along the Watchtower"

The other is what I hope will be my last-ever email interview...with James Johnson of Wilderness. Awesome album...complete asshole.

It's in Copper Press, and there's a PDF file of the whole issue...very nicely put together, I might add. Here's a link.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I guess the winter slowdown is over…

There’s an ever-shorter break for music writers, starting a little after Halloween and stretching towards…well maybe now. That’s because no one but rappers, American Idol types and ex-Beatles want to release an album in December, after all the best of lists have been finalized and during the great distraction of the holidays. I’m thinking it was over yesterday when a big pile of those manila envelopes showed up again, with some interesting stuff in them, namely:

Dan Kalb, I’m Gonna Live the Life I Sing About”…founding member of the Blues Project (with Al Kooper) reinterprets blues classics like “Can’t Judge a Book By the Cover” (Willie Dixon) and “I’m in the Mood” (John Lee Hooker), also slips a few originals in. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a one-sheet with quotes from Muddy Waters (“You really got to me.”) and Bob Dylan (“Always a powerful guitarist.”) Nice.

Loney Dear Dear John …the Swedish pop songwriter is at it again with songs that are both spare and lavish, melancholy and full of joy. On a first listen, I’m thinking maybe not as good as Loney Noir, but a first listen is never very definitive with this kind of thing. He’s switched from SubPop to Polyvinyl, wonder why?

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, ST…I have been a little savage about Slumberland Records’ string of 1980s replicants (Crystal Stilts, The Lodger, cause co-MOTION) lately, but either they have worn me down or this one is better. Listened to this three times in the car yesterday, sort of a dark J&MC pop, like the Raveonettes but less polished. The best song is about a furtive hookup in the library…hah, I knew I was missing something…all those hours in the stacks wasted.

And finally..
Where's Captain Kirk? The Very Best of Spizz…unlike Slumberland, Cherry Red traffics only in genuine 1980s material, this one a band that got its big break opening for Siouxshie…of note so far, two songs about Star Trek. (I’m reviewing Season 3 of the original series for PopMatters right now, so it’s serendipitous to say the least.) I’ll be writing about this one for Dusted, so hopefully I’ll get a handle on it at some point.

One more thing, I have a short review of a very interesting electronic improvised record from Berlin up at PopMatters today. Watch me flail around in a genre that fascinates me…but which I know next to nothing about.

Klangwart, Stadtlandfluss (Staubgold)
For nearly a decade, the Berlin duo of Markus Detmer and Timo euber have been developing an improvisatory piece, built on loops and electronically generated sounds, which they perform in concert. The piece, called “Stadtlandfluss”, is never exactly the same. Its permutations of tone, concept and rhythm vary according to the venue, the audience, and countless random factors that have impact on the two principals’ creative state of mind. As a result, this album is not really the Stadtlandfluss but a Stadtlandfluss, one iteration among many.

The piece is divided into seven tracks somewhat arbitrarily. You will not
know where one ends and the other begins, unless you are listening on a player that intersperses silence between cuts. There is, however, an arc of movement, a narrative almost, in a piece that progresses from near silence (I thought my speakers were broken the first time) to euphoric cacophony, from far-off machine sounds to distant transmissions of radio voices. It starts slowly, a patchwork of long hanging tones and the zing of metallic power tools. You will not hear any overtly human element until “Radio” about 13 minutes in, and even then, the voices are obscured by static and erratic swoops of strings. And yet, though, rare, human sounds make up an essential element of the story. The piece crests in its two central cuts, “Hamanamah” and especially “Telemann”, the first a shivering adrenaline rush of electronic anticipation, the second all clangorous bells and frictive, rhythmic bowed strings. These two cuts are exciting in some primal, limbic way, particularly when they crescendo in a wordless female voice. The energy ebbs, the calm returns in “Strom” and by closing “Mein Herz, Mein Haus”, the sound has died down to a subliminal duet between a woman’s whispers and synthetic tones. It is, overall, quite a journey, one that brings you back to equilibrium, but not quite the same as before.

Klangwart at work...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Another lost folk singer...

My review of Linda Perhacs’ Parallelograms is up today at Dusted.

It’s got some typos….sorry about that.

Here’s a bit.

Linda Perhacs

Recorded in 1970, mastered badly, almost entirely unpromoted and forgotten for decades, Parallelograms was, up till recently, one of the great lost albums of the early 1970s. Its author, a dental technician by profession, was completely untrained, yet had an unusually sophisticated ear for harmonies and counterpoints. Her voice was, and remains, crystal-clear yet flexible, capable of the most otherworldly trills (“Parallelograms”) as well as earthy jazz slides (“Paper Mountain Man”). She sounds a good bit like Joni Mitchell, who was recording in the same Southern California scene at about the same time. Like Mitchell, she sings songs that flirt with folk, blues in jazz, yet unlike Mitchell she sounds fundamentally untethered to any of these conventions. Perhaps the most remarkable thing is this: Perhacs had no formal training, in writing, singing or arranging music. But there is nothing naïve about Parallelograms. It is intricate as well as hauntingly beautiful, carefully, complexly composed as well as utterly natural.



Friday, November 21, 2008

This is weird

Timothy Geithner, who looks to be the next US Secretary of the Treasury and is currently running the NY Federal Reserve, was a year ahead of me at Dartmouth...there's a chance we took Money & Banking the same term, though obviously he's making much better use of it.

So, I am definitely in the running for the title of "least successful Dartmouth grad ever"...go team!

Thursday, November 20, 2008


My friend Carson, who is the drummer for Amargosa, slipped me a copy of the reissued Rumors of the Faithful by Moviola a couple of weeks ago, and it has steadily been working its way under my fingernails and into my skin. The album came out a while ago, September 11, 2001 to be exact, ran into some timing issues and quietly dropped into the hole. But it’s wonderful, slack, easy country rockin’ bliss with a layer of fuzz on top of it. Doug Mosurock reviewed a couple of earlier Moviola records this February and found plenty of connections between latter day Columbus lo-fi (Times New Viking, Psychedelic Horseshit) and this. I’m hearing more of a Pollard-ish touch, the perfectly symmetric melodies wrapped in dirty gauze…

Weird that a band named after a video cameras should be so poorly represented on YouTube, but here’s the Myspace:

And, for a limited (7-day) period, a couple of my favorite cuts.

"Exit Pearl"

“Sam’s Curfew”


So I wrote to the PR guy at Holy Mountain to ask exactly what instruments are played on this really, quite good, trippy, mesmeric solo album from Asa Osbourne. The liner notes are, to put it kindly, terse. And this PR guy says, well, you're the writer. What does it sound like? And I said, fine, it sounds like baritone sax, is that okay with you? But really it doesn't...Here's my Dusted review, up today.

Holy Mountain

Zomes, in case you didn’t know, are structures built out of non rectangular polyhedrons – like triangles, pentagons, hexagons and so on. The best-known one is Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome, but you can build one yourself, any time. There’s a company in Colorado that sells Zomes kits for children as young as seven.

More to the point, Zomes is also a musical project from Lungfish guitarist Asa Osborne. It’s not clear, actually, what the link is between Zomes and Zomes, or whether Osbone has spent time with the color coordinated dowels and sockets of polyhedral construction. (He is a visual artist, so you can’t rule it out.) However, it seems just barely possible to make a connection. This sound is droning and fuzzy, certainly, without the hard geometrical edges that you might expect. Yet it is built out of small, irregular musical ideas, repeated kaleidoscopically and creating vast, improbable constructions of light and tone.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A question

Would you write for a web site that only assigns you records that no one else asks for?

I'm about to jump.

More acoustic guitar…can you stand it?

In the last couple of months, I have reviewed a live Robbie Basho album, gone to see Ciaran Nugent, Ben Reynolds, Jack Rose and Michael Chapman and referenced John Fahey a surely illegal number of times. But too much is, as always, not enough, so I also reviewed this solo album from Max Ochs (Phil Ochs’ cousin)…follow the jump for actual commentary on the album. I took my sweet time getting going on this one.

Max Ochs
Hooray for Another Day
Tompkins Square

Guitarist Max Ochs recorded the two tracks that bookend Vol. 1 of the Imaginational Anthem series – two versions of the composition that gave the series its name, one recorded in Och’s Takoma heyday in 1969, the other just before the album was released. Listening to them closely, it is hard to say exactly how Ochs grew or changed in the interim. Both cuts are lovely, haunting, but at the same time physically rigorous. You could hear his fingers sliding on the strings, scraping sometimes as they reached for another chord. And there was a swinging, swaggering rhythm to the whole thing, a sense that it might pick up and saunter off at any moment.

Here on Hooray for Another Day, Och’s first solo album in many years, there is yet another version of this song, and again, it is hard to draw a straight line from the old to the new. Said Ochs, when interviewed about the tune, “The Imaginational Anthem ….evolved taking many shapes like the Trickster before that recording day. And it still ain’t finished.” It was, he added, “a tribute to Fahey, a play on ‘National Anthem,’ a rhythm derived from ‘Put Another Nickel In.’ I was lovin’ the Beatles’ ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Blackbird.’”

The rest

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Electro pop and ethno-experimentation

Two reviews up today, one of the new record by electro cut-and-paster Max Tundra, the other by folk re-interpreter Savina Yannatou, whose new album Songs of An Other defines the term "unclassifiable." But it's pretty.

Yo, Max...

Max Tundra
Parallax Error Beheads You

Meticulous Ben Jacobs, listed on marquees as Max Tundra, takes his time making records. He works on just one cut at time, in album order, to carefully layer organic and inorganic sounds. He's perfectly willing to take a break once in a while. If, for instance, he needs a trumpet sound and doesn't know how to play it. He'll get it, just check back in a month or two. The result is often a long gap between Max Tundra records. This one, his third, comes six years after the UK release of Mastered by Guy at the Exchange. Jacobs has admitted in interviews that he worried about dying before finishing, and regularly told his friends where to find the finished tracks should anything happen to him.

Two more sizzling paragraphs.

Which Song

Bonus trivia: Ben Jacobs' sister is the only girl in Tunng!

Ready, Savina?

Savina Yannatou
Songs of An Other

US release date: 8 September 2008
UK release date: 25 August 2008

by Jennifer Kelly

Savina Yannatou brings together several worlds that seldom collide. In fact, if you drew a Venn diagram of where the spheres of Mediterranean folk, classical music, and free jazz improvisation intersected, you might find her all alone with the intrepid Primavera En Salonica in it. It’s a small, eclectic corner, but well worth visiting, as she and her six-person band explore the interstices of tradition and free experiment, classical capabilities, and folk simplicity.

Even more chatter about her mix of avant classical/jazz/folk music...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Synthy shoegaze and other people’s writing

So, I went to see M83 last night, a band that I have next to no knowledge about…and I’m going to be hacking through some kind of review later day. (I also didn’t know jack shit about School of Seven Bells, so it’ll be good times cobbling together track titles, but anyway…) Both bands were quite good, though and worth further exploration. School of Seven Bells is a trio, synthesizer and two guitars…twin sisters (the synth player and one of the guitarists) singing very high sweet, almost Japanese pop harmonies over turbulent waves of sound. M83 is also synth-based, pitting hard techno beats (though they have a very powerful live drummer) against shivering walls of guitar and synth (you can hear a little bit of MBV, Kraftwerk, the Cure and sometimes J&MC …weird combination but it works).

A video for M83’s “Kim & Jessie” which I am almost certain they played last night.

School of Seven Bells’ “Half Asleep”

Anyway, I’m going to tackle that, and a review of Lungfish offshoot Zomes later today, but meanwhile PopMatters is running two pieces about bands I’ve written about…a Q&A with Roy Harper and a think piece on David Eugene Edwards .

Friday, November 14, 2008

Michael Chapman and Jack Rose

I've got a live review of another acoustic guitar show, again at the Bookmill...this one much better attended. I didn't mention it in the review because it seemed a little too star-fucker-ish (and possibly intrusive), but Thurston Moore and Kim Gorden were there, as well as pretty much everyone else in a band in the Pioneer Valley. Moore sat on the floor. Kim got one of the couches.

I'm noting that this review really doesn't have a lead paragraph. Here are a couple of paragraphs about Michael Chapman:

A road-tested veteran in every sense of the word, he mentioned that he had recently celebrated 40 years of touring. He marked the occasion, he said, with a show at the very same venue he’d begun his career at, with a set that started 40 years to the minute after his debut. “Some of the same people were there,” he said, marveling. “They’d been home, though, you know.”

Born in Yorkshire in 1941, Chapman was part of the great folk revival of the 1960s and 1970s, sharing stages with Roy Harper, John Martyn, and others. He recorded four albums for Harvest Records in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Rainmaker, Fully Qualified Survivor, Window, and Wrecked Again, then moved to Deram, a Decca subsidiary, in the later half of the decade. His latest album Time Past and Time Passing, with songs from nearly every stage of his 40 year career, made up the bulk of the evening’s set list, interspersed with often very funny stories about his life so far.

You can read the rest here.

There's a song on the new album called "Silver King/Dustdevils" which is, unfortunately, not a tribute to that no wave band we all like so much...but it's pretty good anyway. Check it out. The link will work until November 21, 2008. After that, you're stuck with the Myspace.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Swedish pop from Fredrik

The first song on the record from Fredrik, called "Black Fur" is one of the best pop songs I've heard this's my review of the whole record, up today in PopMatters.

Na Na Ni
(The Kora)

US release date: 4 November 2008

UK release date: Available as import

by Jennifer Kelly

Soft pop and scratchy rhythms

You wouldn’t think it, but Fredrik’s Na Na Ni is one hell of a running record. What’s that? You say that this kind of cotton-candy pop is for daydreaming, for lazying around the house, for thinking about the one that got away? Fair enough. But Fredrik, a six-piece band out of Malmö, Sweden, has laced its tunes with insistent, prickly rhythms. The staccato scrub of guitar, the stomp of feet, the clang of bells, it all works as architecture for these gentle, wistful tunes, and it’s regular as a metronome. You could set your pace to this record and knock the miles off like clockwork, every one perfectly in time with the other.

There is, in fact, an almost mechanical precision to the way these songs are played and arranged, a hint of inorganic exactness in the repeated sounds and rhythms. The voice, soft and vulnerable, floats atop a junkyard choir of percussion, the swell and subsiding of cello, the regular pulse of progress. And so, unlike many pop bands, Fredrik allows you no time for stasis, meandering or self-pity. The songs work on a forward trajectory. They crest into gentle climaxes, reaching an effortless kind of joy, before melting back into the beat. These are songs, not for staying in bed all day, but for throwing back the curtains, having a big stretch and rushing out into the sunshine. It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it? Why mope around?


You can get a DL of "Black Fur" here

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My mother would be so proud...

...of my Eagles of Death Metal review.

Aren't you.

It's in Blurt today.

Imagine the Eagles of Death Metal in a world without sex. That's right, let's say that Heart On (heh, get it?) was beamed into a universe where people propagate by splitting off cells or are fertilized by roving bands of cyber bees. Would this slab of raging, rocking, eyebrow cocking come-on make any sense at all? Imagine parthogenetic societies trying to figure out the appeal of tight pants and jiggling rears. Picture them asking, "What exactly is he doing with his hand?" Nightmare, right? Absolutely unsustainable. Because Eagles of Death Metal breathes sexual innuendo the way that Martians breathe silica gas...or something like that.

More here

They wanna be in LA, apparently.

Year-end mix

Here are some songs from my favorite albums of this past usually, I've screwed it up, at least slightly. I forgot to put any Man Man on, and also Roy Harper, both highlights...oh well.

It's in two parts, here's the first

The second is somewhat weirder and less homogenous, if that's even possible.

Big Dipper "Faith Healer"
Alejandro Escovedo "Golden Bear"
Ian Matthews "Desert Inn"
Thalia Zedek Band "Green and Blue"
Wovenhand "Not One Stone"
Gutter Twins, "Idle Hands"
The Dirtbombs, "Leopardman at C&A"
Human Bell "Ephaphatha (Be Opened)
Mount Eerie with Julie Doiron "You Swan Go On"
Karen Dalton "Katie Cruel"
Experimental Aircraft "With a Gun"
Jay Reatard "Flourescent Grey"
Giant Sand "The Desperate Kingdom of Love"
Bon Iver "Skinny Love"
Lights "At Midnight"
Kelley Stoltz "I Nearly Lost My Mind"
Steve Wynn "Wait Until You Get To Know Me"
Calexico "El Gatillo"
Boston Spaceships "Still in Rome"

Part 2
King Khan and the Shrines "No Regrets"
The Starlite Desperation "I Lost My Bees"
Fabulous Diamonds "Untitled" (They're all untitled, this one is track 4)
Mahjonggh "Tell the Police the Truth"
The War on Drugs "Taking the Farm"
Pontiak "Dome Under the Sky"
Retribution Gospel Choir "Destroyer"
Stars Like Fleas "I Was Only Dancing"
The Accidentals "I Can Hear Your Voice"
Michael Chapman, "A Stranger's Map of Texas/The Twisted Road"

They'll be up for seven days...I might re-up the whole thing when my year-end essay runs. But first I have to write it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Nothing to say...yet

I haven't got any reviews up today, but I'm thinking after I finish a work project, I might try to put together my year-end mix. so stay tuned.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Death and pop

Miriam Makeba, the South African singer who did much to raise awareness of apartheid's evils, died last night. She went with her boots on, so to speak, having just performed a benefit concert in London for the author Robert Saviano. Nelson Mandela called her "South Africa's first lady of song." Very she is singing "Pata Pata."

Bill and I went to a memorial service over the weekend for one of the real originals here in town...a very strong, smart, difficult, generous character named Bob Jasse. He apparently voted for Obama from his death bed, the town clerk brought his ballot over. That surprised me, because he'd been driving around with a McCain sticker on his truck for years...but he soured on the man in the last campaign and felt very passionate about the need for change. He died on Wednesday. He voted for the last time on Tuesday. I'm not doing justice to him, but he was a very interesting man, truly self-made, and not just in the economic sense. You get the idea that he had exactly the kind of life he wanted, and he did it through unremitting hard work and optimism. He owned an apple orchard in town, one of the most beautiful places on earth, all sort of a second career for him after some success in business. Hundreds of people came to the memorial -- from all levels of society, farmers, congressmen, retired people, the kids who had picked his apples.

Lot of people dying lately...we just heard that another friend, a guy who used to do sound for Ken Burns named Sean Huff, died of cancer in Madrid a few weeks ago. He was a little younger than I was, ex-professional bass player and passionate about all sorts of politics and movies and sports. he'd come to dinner and always bring some sort of board game for our Sean and, here's the cool part, actually play it with him. Nice man, what a tough hand he got.

And on a more frivolous note, I have a couple of new reviews up...

I mentioned Magnificents last week, the Scottish new wavy, post-punkish band getting a belated US push...It's a good record, this Year of Explorers, though coming too late in the year to probably get much ink. Here's the review.

The Magnificents
Year of Explorers
(KFM Records)

US release date: 4 November 2008
UK release date: 17 September 2007

by Jennifer Kelly

New wave synths and post-punk urgency

The Magnificents' MySpace page helpfully suggests that if you’re too cheap to buy Year of Explorers and too law-abiding to download a torrent, you can try playing Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music in one speaker, Abba’s The Visitors in another. It’s not a bad idea, though you might also hazard a mix of Gang of Four and Human League, PiL and Flock of Seagulls… and still not get it quite right.

The Magnificents, out of Scotland, are as slyly ambitious as their name suggests, hitching glistening synths to straight up post-punk beats, room-shaking soccer chants to jaundiced bouts of pessimism. Huge fist-in-the-air choruses ride flashy, self-mocking flourishes of glam, nonsensical verses get explosive, exclamation-pointed delivery. The band has two synthesizers in play at all times, yet feels nonetheless gritty, live and unpremeditated.

the rest

streams at the myspace

And the Bears are a sort of wonderful, low-key pop band, just the thing if you're into Papercuts, the Botticellis, Donkeys...that kind of supermelodic, breezy, California music. (I am a bit weak for this stuff...I know a lot of you aren't.)

Simple Machinery

US release date: 2 September 2008
UK release date: Available as import

by Jennifer Kelly

Amazon The Bears’ second full-length opens with their best song, the swirling, swooning, indefinitely moody “Please Don’t”. The song is all cloudy harmonies and squiggly 1960s organ, paced in a vaguely chest-vibrating way by the simplest of bass lines and broken by handclaps. Melodically, its sweetness is shadowed somewhat with minor key harmonies and fading vocal flourishes. It’s a half-smile of a song, braced by sighs, about a boy who needs some space, and it could take its place alongside of recent work from the Donkeys, the Botticellis and the Papercuts as quintessential California pop. The irony: The Bears are from Cleveland. Ever hear a song about Ohio dreaming?

Let’s set geography aside, though, because songs like “Wait and See” and closer “Everything I Need” casually nail the jangly, day-dreamy, not-trying-too-hard tunefulness associated with the Golden State. Led by songwriters Charlie McArthur and Craig Ramsey, and supported by a full complement of two-guitars-bass-drums-keyboards, the Bears build dense but filmy textures of musical sound. Love and out-of-love songs predominate, embellished often with enlivening, real-life details. In “Another Tiger Romance”, a lover ponders the nesting panda doll he bought for his girl four happy years ago. In “Subtle Way”, another enamored soul thinks fondly about antiquing and eating maple candy with his beloved. And yet every happy song carries a tinge of sadness, every sad song the subtle ballast of joy. “I’m letting you go and moving on,” sing the Bears, late in the album, as keyboards chime, drums pound and an indefinable ray of sunshine seeps into their sound. Very nice.

You can hear a lot of the tracks at CD Baby .

so that's pretty much everything I have in the pipeline...have to go off and write a few more things.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Oneida again

So, I'm thinking I'd really like to go to this, but it's impossible to get a hotel in NYC around it would depend on finding a bit of floor or someone's couch at 4 in the morning.

Like to go to what? Oh, yeah, I've buried the lead again...Oneida's curating a one-day sort of festival, which they are calling OaF, short for Oneida Fest. It's on December 13, it costs $10 and here are the bands involved...(obvious highlights: Oneida, Oakley Hall, Dirty Faces, Parts & Labor, but these guys have excellent, serious taste, so I wouldn't be surprised if there were some good surprises among the earlier bands).

Main Space

9 - Brava Spectre
10:30 - Oakley Hall
11:45 - Sightings
2 - Oneida

Tap Bar

10 - Pterodactyl
11:30 - Parts and Labor
1 - Neptune

Old Office

9:30 - Cave
11 - Knyfe Hyts
12:30 - Dirty Faces

Been listening to that new Parts & Labor quite a bit, and it's pretty good, lots louder and less poppy than I thought at first.

Another year, another couple hundred records

It's my birthday today, another one, jesus.

Here's my all-year horoscope from the New York Post, which seems, I dunno, kind of noncommital and irrelevant, but at least it doesn't say you'll lose your house and get divorced and gain 50 pounds.

November 7, 2008

You won't lack for opportunities over the coming 12 months, but will you make the most of them? According to your birthday chart you are still waiting for that one really big chance to come along. But what if it never does? Work with what you've got.

So, as I sadly write off my "really big chance" (hah, I did this at 23), I do have some new music writing type stuff to point out.

First up, my review of A Darker Bloom, a collection of Blue Orchids material, including early singles, the one great album and some subsequent stuff. I would never have heard about Blue Orchids except for Michael, and am still not sure I'm really worthy of reviewing this stuff. (I got the assignment by commenting "ooh Blue Orchids" on a Cherry Red mailer forwarded to Dusted writers.) You might also want to check out the Crystal Stilts review today, by Ben Tausig, since he gets everything I've been thinking about this album out in full, easy-to-read sentences (which has eluded me). You may recall the free-for-all trying to establish exactly which early 1980s British post-punk band Crystal Stilts sounded most like...apparently, they say the Blue Orchids are the key influence.

Anyway, here's my review.

Artist: Blue Orchids
Album: A Darker Bloom – The Blue Orchids Collection
Label: Cherry Red
Review date: Nov. 7, 2008

Post-punk has been many things, but rarely beautiful. The Blue Orchids, out of Manchester, turned its thrift shop formula of damaged guitars, stuttering rhythms, badly-tuned keyboards and corrosive visions into something as rare and unlikely and delicately gorgeous as the band’s name-sake. A Darker Bloom traces the band’s development from its first abrasive singles, through its stunning only full-length The Greatest Hit and its last original line-up EP Agents of Change. There are also some songs from later iterations of the band, reformed in 1985 and 1991.


And here is a video of the band backing up Nico sometime in the early 1980s

And here they are playing "NY Gargoyles"

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Here's what I sent to Pm for top 10

Best albums

1. Alejandro Escovedo, Real Animal
2. The Dirtbombs, We Have You Surrounded
3. Woven Hand Ten Stones
4. Thalia Zedek Band, Liars and Prayers
5. The Gutter Twins, Saturnalia
6. Man Man, Rabbit Habits
7. Experimental Aircraft, Third Transmission
8. Human Bell, Human Bell
9. Mt. Eerie and Julie Doiron, Lost Wisdom
10. Jay Reatard, The Matador Singles

1. Big Dipper, Supercluster
2. Roy Harper, stormcock, Flat Baroque and Berserk,

3. Ian Matthews, If You Could See Thru My Eyes
4. The Friggs, Today Is Tomorrow's Yesterday
5. Karen Dalton, Green Rocky Road

Last night...

...went to the Matt & Kim show in Northampton, a very hyper-kinetic, excitable duo, whose drummer (kim) is adorable, with a 100 watt smile and a manic, straight-up-and-down attack...Matt was pretty cute, too, but more in the pop way...they were sort of like the Thermals but peppier and friendlier. Since Matt apparently went to Brattleboro High School not too long ago, the crowd was packed with locals, a very young audience who knew a lot of the songs and spent much of the set stage diving and stage surfing. Matt was very excited about our regime change and kept dedicating songs to Obama. Fun stuff. Here's "Yea Yeah"

And "5K" (she's a runner, in addition to everything else, apparently...if I were even the least bit gay I'd have a giant crush)

Best Fwends, also from Brooklyn, were in the middle of the bill. their music, have to say, is pretty ordinary, a mix of rap and metal and spazz punk. Still the stage show is highly, highly entertaining, with 6' tall inflatable gargoyles, a banner of hand-drawn cartoon faces and lots of theater. At the end, they punted the gargoyles out into the audience, where they bounced like giant, mildly nightmarish beach balls on top of the audience and then gradually deflated.

Here is "Skate or Live"

And some live footage

The opener was an electronics guy named Eric Hnatow, a local, who spent part of his set wearing a set of blinking christmas lights and another part inciting the audience to wave big strings of multicolored lights. His music was pretty good, too, with huge thumping beats and one slightly more meditative piece towards the end, performed with another guy, that reminded me a little bit of Ecstatic Sunshine. (though obviously no guitars) I am not finding any video, so you will just have to take my word.

Here's his MySpace, though

I'm not writing about this show for PopMatters or this is it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hah, we won!

Very excited about our new president...and also a little scared about all the things that will have to happen in order for him to be in actuality the great president that he seems to be in potential. I thought his acceptance speech was wonderful...did you see Jesse Jackson almost in tears?

I also, strangely enough, fell half asleep between Virginia and Florida and woke up feeling certain that there was a large, warm black dog sleeping right next to my leg, just like he used to. Of course, there wasn't. Paddy's been gone for going on seven months now. Still, it was very sweet feeling, one that stayed with me for the rest of the night and on into today. I miss him so much. Glad he came back to visit for whatever reason.

It seems sort of trivial to talk about music now, but trivial is what I do, so what the hell. here's a review of a new album by Hospital Ships, a band whose main songwriter leads the Minus Story and plays trumpet in Shearwater. It ran in Blurt yesterday.

Hospital Ships
Oh, Ramona

Hospital Ships takes its name from a Flaming Lips song, and its emotion-laden vocal flutter from the Wayne Coyne playbook. Yet there's an engaging home-made-ness and small scale to these tremulous songs, whose delicate melodies erupt into marching band flourishes of snare and brass. Where the Minus Story, songwriter Jordan Geiger's other project, tends to anchor dreamy bits of song in clanging guitar and drums, here the arrangements more whimsical and keyboard based, a bit of carnival organ careening through "Bitter Radio Single" and glockenspiel glinting amid "Baby for J."


"Bitter Radio Single"

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A weird one

Mark Tucker
In the Sack
(De Stilj)
US release date: 9 September 2008
UK release date: Available as import

by Jennifer Kelly

Originally self-released in 1982, In the Sack is a mad, funhouse-mirrored excursion through offbeat field recordings, improvised piano jams, twisted original pop and subtly warped standards. You might write it off as the work of a loony, namely Mark Tucker, aka T. Storm Hunter, a disaffected postal worker and self-recorder. You might, that is except for one surpassingly beautiful pop song tucked away amid nutter ramblings. The song, “Everywhere with Sally”, is included twice on this reissue. The first time, and the best, is the version that Tucker intended. It’s recorded backwards but phonetically backwards, so that you can make out the stretched and elided lyrics. Hard to convey exactly how mysteriously gorgeous the song becomes, the notes hissing and blossoming and distorting within a pristine pop melody like a lucid-dream version of the Clean’s prettiest melody. Even conventionally, played forward near the end, it’s a winner, though not so remarkable.

Elsewhere Tucker’s songs convey the difficulties of unconventional intelligence thwarted at work, at home and in love. His surreptitiously recorded “The Importance of Making Molehills of Specks” contains all you need to know about all-hands meetings at the local postal office, while his wickedly awry “Attractive” skewers the tennis-playing lookers on his delivery route. This is never a comfortable listen. In fact, even the covers — what I think of as the “easy listening” portion of the disc — are unsettling. A flowery, piano-trilling, loop-vocalled version of “When I Fall in Love”, (yes, the chestnut made popular by Doris Day) is played straight, but remains ominous, while the 1960s one-hit “Love (Can Make You Happy)” seems faithful enough until you realize that the drum line comes from a typewriter. “She-Voices” seems downright cruel, as Tucker loops and repeats recognizable voices and phrases into absurdist textures. A casual “oooh” near the end morphs from part of a sentence to a near-orgasmic utterance, bad luck for the girl who came within range of Tucker’s mic. Still, as weird and offputting as In the Sack can be, you’ve got to give credit to the man who wrote “Everywhere with Sally”. Crazy beautiful is still beautiful.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Robert Pollard's latest

PureMusic has been on hiatus for a while, and maybe will be for a while longer after this, but meanwhile, there's a new issue up , and I've got three reviews in it.

The one I like the best covers Robert Pollard's new project Boston Spaceships. I wrote it last summer about the first Boston Spaceships album Brown Submarine and Pollard being Pollard (and in my view a national treasure), there is already another one in the wings.

Here's the review.

BROWN SUBMARINE • Boston Spaceships

Robert Pollard is said to have 1000 songs registered to his name at BMI. He has released two multi-disc Suitcase box sets, named after the bulging valise in which he carries his demo recordings. People who want to trace his discography must master not just Guided by Voices and solo material, but dozens of semi-fictitious alter egos and hypothetical band names. You wonder how, in all the years and all the projects, he has managed not to write the same song twice...and, if you keep thinking about it, you also wonder whether he would realize it if he did.

Boston Spaceships is Pollard's newest project, a real life, flesh and blood band, whose members include ex-Decemberists drummer John Moen and frequent GBV collaborator Chris Slusarenko. It is quite good--and quite reminiscent of the great GBV records, Bee Thousand in particular. (See if you can listen to "You Satisfy Me" without hearing echoes of "Gold Star Robot Boy".) These are short, absurdly hooky songs, as casually ear-wormy as advertising jingles, but as surreal as Magritte's head-scarfed kiss. From the first slanting, sly guitars of "Winston's Atomic Bird" through the jangly, lo-fi "Go for the Exit," Brown Submarine is all fizzy pleasure.


"Go for the Exit"

If you back the site up to the reviews section you can read my other reviews, of Noa Babayof (an Israeli freak folkie) and Mudhoney.

Also, I'm reviewing this soon, but thought I would share this video by a Scottish band called The Magnificents. Their record, Year of Explorers, has apparently been out for a while in the UK, but I am just getting to it. It's really good.

The song is called "Ring Ring Oo Oo"