Thursday, December 30, 2010

Elfin Saddle

A little off the beaten track, but wonderful in its way, this multimedia endeavor from a Montrealean trio on the Constellation record label. Can’t believe Blurt is running reviews this week, but there it is:

I said,” The members of Elfin Saddle, out of Montreal, are as much concerned with the visual and performing arts as with music. On the one hand, the band's founders Emi Honda and Jordan McKenzie (with help from Nathan Gage of Shapes and Sizes on bass and tuba, Nicholas Scribner and Kristina Koropecki), compose delicate reveries of folk-banjo, accordion and polyrhythmic percussion that fall easily into line with fellow Constellation artists Godspeed! You Black Emperor. On the other, they construct equally intricate sculptures and installations, little universes teeming with tiny representations of animal and plant life. The Wurld project combines these complementary arts in a variety of ways.”


I'll be back on a more regular basis next week. Until then, enjoy your holiday.

Monday, December 27, 2010

soft as snow but warm inside

Yes, it finally snowed here, and snowed big, maybe a foot or slightly under. We are more or less trapped at the moment, no plows in sight, though the driveway's clean now. so, I'm hoping I'll be able to get into town this afternoon because the property tax is due today, but if not, well, they'll have to wait one day and charge me a dollar or two of interest. I'm not risking my life to be on time.

Anyway, I've been listening to a lot of early 2011 promos and really liking the new Akron/Family, Eleventh Dream Day, Skull Defekts (I'm reviewing this eventually), Arbouretum (already reviewed and an interview in the works), Luyas (interview coming on this, too)...haven't even gotten to new Parts & Labor or Obits yet, but hard to imagine not liking those at least a little.

Anyway, on we least once the main road's clear.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy happy....

Well, things are finally winding down and all the presents are wrapped and we bought all the stuff for a nice Christmas dinner, so that's that. I also got a very few Christmas cards out, meant to do more but ended up sending mostly to family and people I knew would send to us. That's our Christmas photo. You can probably tell, it was taken at absolutely the last minute with an iPod touch and its amazing reversable camera.

Also, Blurt has its year-end extravaganza going now. There are two sets of individual writers' lists. I'm in the first one, but the second one is worth perusing, too, if you've got time.

There is also a list of 50 best records.

So have a nice break wherever you are, whatever you do to celebrate. We got some snow last night and it finally looks like Christmas. Looking forward to sleeping in next least past 5:30, which is killing me.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Los Explosivos

I reviewed two Get Hip albums back to back a week or so ago, which was sort of like taking a brief vacation in the Kennedy era. Ugly Beats was a little too pretty (ironic, eh?) and melodic for me, but I really liked the Mexican band Los Explosivos, whose latest album is called Sonidos Rocanrol!!!.

I said, “Los Explosivos performs songs that only sound like vintage rock and roll, circa the first Beatles album. The main difference is that Los Explosivos make none of the mop top era's concessions to cuteness. There are no harmonies, no keyboards, no dramatic-change-of-pace ballads to break up the assault. It's a rougher, more abrasive take on garage rock than you may be used to - but that just makes it rock harder.

Here’s a video of “Moscas & Aranas”

And, in a non-album bit of silliness, here they are doing “Louie, Louie”

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ugly Beats

I reviewed the new-ish album from these garage revivalists about a week ago at Blurt.

It’s called Motor!.

The Ugly Beats, out of Austin, party like it's 1965 on their third full-length Motor!. Joe Emery, the band's singer and main songwriter, has a high, romantic way with a verse, sounding at times like a lonely cowboy ("See"), at others like a mop-topped British invader (on the Neil Diamond cover "You'll Forget"). Jeanine Attaway, she of the knee-high go-go boots, adds a lush swirl of organ sound to the whole enterprise, a sustained texture that does much to smooth over rackety exuberance of guitar, drums and bass. And about those guitars, two of them, one manned by Emery, the other by Jake Garcia. They oscillate between hard fuzz and soft jangle, but always pursue satisfyingly symmetric riffs. In fact, the guitar lines are not so much predictable as inevitable. They go exactly the way that they have to go -- from the first ringing power chord to the last baroque flourish.


They’re super fun live if you ever get a chance.

I think every time I've ever seen the Ugly Beats, I've been at SXSW with Clif, who knows them somehow.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Another winner from the Detroit band with the funny name…My review, up at Blurt today, goes like this:

“Cranked, cracked, bashed and frantic, Tyvek's second full-length pogos on a tightrope. There's an abyss dropping away on either side, an endless bottom one missed mortgage payment or judicial crack-up away. And yet a sense of manic joy permeates, too. "Potato" swings hard on a one-two pendulum, rushed as a late commuter, yet has time, lyrically, for a recipe for hash browns and a bout of make-up sex. "Animals" is as straight up as a hard-core song can be, its toughness undermined only slightly by the kitty mews near its final blow-up. Tyvek reminds you that the great punk bands had a sense of humor, or at least of absurdity, and that rage by itself gets boring.”

There’s more

“Underwater To”


Friday, December 17, 2010

Laetitia Sadier

Hey, my Laetitia Sadier piece went up today at Blurt.

It was email, and so a little shallow...but maybe not terrible.

Reshuffle, Reshift: Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier

One door closes and another opens. And then sometimes, the first one opens again.

At least that's what happened to Laetitia Sadier when Stereolab went on hiatus after nearly 20 years. "I did fear that the ‘Lab going on indefinite hiatus would leave a massive emptiness," she said, in a recent email interview. "It was interesting to observe that as soon as there was room, my project naturally moved to the fore to occupy into this space."

Her project, a solo album called The Trip, came out on Drag City in September of 2010. Then, a bare two months later, Stereolab resurfaced with Not Music, a collection of songs originally created during the Chemical Chord sessions of 2007. Suddenly Sadier was at the center of a lot of activity, hardly the "massive emptiness" she'd been apprehensive about.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Also, some reaction to my mid-year

Yeah, so I was reading ILX again, and people are really hating my list and my year-end wrap-up, which is fine, whatever. You can read about it here, though you'll have to page down to about December 14 if you don't want to read the whole thread.

I don't post on ILX, but I do have a couple of responses.

First, the main reason I spent all the time talking about the consensus was that it seemed pretty awful and that it's always awful, every year, and that I never care a rat's ass about the top ten records that end up on it. I didn't actually vote for the Animal Collective last year or include it on my list. Enough people completely missed the point of that, that I think probably I must have written it badly.

Second, I have heard Kanye now, though I hadn't when I wrote the list. I like parts of it and dislike others. I'm not sure it would have made my top 20. In any case, I've always felt weird about putting rap records on my list, because I only listen to a few of them, and even if I like them, I'm not sure I have the context to judge them. There are plenty of people listening to these records. I don't think they need me.

Also, in terms of the number of records I've listened to, I review probably 4 records a week all year long, which is 200, plus some interviews, maybe another 10-20, and then listen to one or two songs on a bunch more. It's true that some people listen to more records, but a lot of people listen to less, too.

And finally, I don't think I'm very standard indie. If I were I'd have Arcade Fire and the National and Vampire Weekend and all kinds of crap on my list, and I don't.

So anyway, that's that.

What your favorite album says about you?

My editor at PW wrote this, and it made me laugh.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My year-end is up now

Check it out.

Or, if you just want the list:

1. The Soft Pack – The Soft Pack (Kemado)
2. Jack Rose -- Luck in the Valley (Thrill Jockey)
3. Wetdog – Frauhaus! (Captured Tracks)
4. Eluvium – Similes (Temporary Residence)
5. Rangda --False Flag (Drag City)
6. Ted Leo --The Brutalist Bricks (Matador)
7. The Fall --Your Future Our Clutter (Domino)
8. Mavis Staples –You Are Not Alone (Anti-)
9. Damien Jurado -- St. Bartlett (Secretly Canadian)
10. Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs --Medicine County (Transdreamer)

11. White Fence – White Fence (Make a Mess)
12. Clogs -- In the Garden of Lady Walton (Brassland)
13. Wovenhand -- Threshingfloor (Sounds Familyre)
14. Kelley Stoltz --To Dreamers (Sub Pop)
15. Andreya Triana --Lost Where I Belong (Ninja Tune)
16. Sharon Van Etten -- Epic (BaDaBing)
17. Current 93 -- Baalstorm, Sing Omega (Coptic Cat)
18. Ty Segall -- Melted (Goner)
19. Frightened Rabbit -- Winter of Mixed Drinks (FatCat)
20. Bottomless Pit -- Blood Under the Bridge (Comedy Minus One)
21. Jonsi -- Go (XL)
22. Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby -- Two Way Family Favorites (Southern Domestic)

and also, if I'd heard them in time, probably the Fresh & Only's Play It Strange and the Ex's Catch My Shoe would have gone somewhere in there. At some point, you just have to stop. Which I think is probably now.

On to 2011 our last year before the Mayan apocalypse...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pink Frost

I have been kind of depressed lately…not sleeping well, antsy, worried about money as usual. I’m not working enough and starting to worry that this is not just the recession, but possibly I’ve lost my edge and will never get back to a place where I can support my family comfortably. So, anyway, I’ve been not a lot of fun to be around lately, but made an effort over the weekend. We went to get a Christmas tree, which was oddly stressful and unrewarding, and then to a youth production of “Fiddler on the Roof”, though to get there, we had to drive through a terrible rainstorm, where you could hardly see five feet ahead. Anyway, we tried to do some fun stuff, but none of it was very much fun, if you know what I mean. Oh, yeah, I went out for a run on Sunday and slipped on a skim of ice and fell and hit my back and head…so even that didn’t work out very well. It’s been an odd, kind of punishing few weeks, where pretty much everything turns to shit.

One mildly good thing, though I can’t say it offset the above, we got “Pink Frost” twice on the random play on the way down to Brattleboro, so, with no reviews for the foreseeable future (Dusted’s gone to best of lists which are worth checking, too), here’s a video of that.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Line of the month

“Green party bumpersticker there on a hummer…offering suspicious generosity.”

From Giant Sand’s “Man Than Me”, on the new Blurry Blue Mountain, out now on Fire Records, who are also doing new Bardo Pond, so yay for them.

I could post the song, but, of course, that would be wrong. Here’s the one that the label has sanctioned, which is not bad either. It’s called “Ride the Rails.”

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Majeure’s Timespan is Kraut-ish electronica from Zombi drummer A. E. Paterra, with three originals and three remixes (by, respectively, Steve Moore, Justin Broadrick and Black Strobe), all fairly extended and minimalist. For my review at Blurt yesterday, I concluded:

“There's a sense of both forward motion and eternity in these tracks, a sense that movement and stillness are not so much opposites as two sides of one perception. You have to be in the right mental space to appreciate Timespan, but it's an interesting place once you arrive.”

The rest


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Liz Janes

Liz Janes' Say Goodbye is one of the most beautiful albums of this late 2010 season,and I spent a little time a few weeks ago talking to Liz about the songs, the way she made them while spending most of her time with her two young kids, and the people who helped her flesh them out. The result is what I think of as quite a good feature, though obscure enough that probably no one will read it, which went up yesterday at Blurt.

Here's a link.

"I Don't Believe"

I took down the last mix, BTW, because "Rob," who runs some sort of Mogwai blog, seemed to object. I think of these things as sort of like making mixes for friends, technically illegal, too, but no one cares. Anyway, I guess they're more public than I thought and people mind, so whatever, I'll stop doing it. (Oddly enough, someone from Drag City contacted me, too, but not to protest, just to say that I'd gotten one of the track titles wrong. It was wrong when I pulled it up in iTunes, in my defense.)

I should probably also retract the bit about Laetitia Sadier, who provided pretty good email responses to my questions yesterday, so that story is on again. It'll be at Blurt probably within a week or two, and if not, after the holidays.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Twin Shadow is not my usual kind of thing

It’s definitely on the chilly side and very slickly produced and draws inspiration from genres (disco, new wave) that are, well, not my favorites. And yet, despite all that, it’s quite good and surprisingly emotionally compelling. It goes without saying that it’s way, way more impressive than any other bedroom dance groove project I’ve heard in the last couple of years…and there are a lot of them lately. So here’s to Twin Shadow for making it work and giving it soul.

My Dusted review

“The problem with most glo-wave is that the very personal wants to be whispered rather than danced, that it’s difficult to transform the songs you think of in your bedroom into communal, body-moving anthems. Twin Shadow has an unusual ability to blow out bits of ordinary experience into large-scale synth pop, injecting hedonism without losing the difficulty and doubt. Forget is sleek, glossy and almost intimidatingly chic, but also quite moving. Nicely done.”


“Castles in the Snow”

A live performance of “Slow”

Monday, December 6, 2010

Callers interview

I've got another interview at PopMatters, this time with the up-and-coming indie pop/soul/jazz influenced trio known as Callers.

Here's a link.

Here's that Wire cover

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas music

Pretty amusing bit of holiday silliness from the Superions, fronted, as you will immediately recognize, by Fred Schneider of the B-52s.

"Fruit Cake"

There's also a video of a Serge Gainbourg semi-homage, called "Santa Je T'Aime."

Ho ho ho.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Holy shit, this new Mogwai is good

...and it doesn't even really start to sound like Mogwai until about halfway through.
(Though who am I to say what Mogwai does and doesn't sound like? It's good anyway, even the bright-ish, pop-pish, vocalized bits.)

Out in February on Sub Pop.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kelley Stoltz

I've got an interview with one of my favorite songwriters, Kelley Stoltz, up now at Blurt online, a shorter version of which was published in the fall print issue a few months ago. Kelley's most recent album To Dreamers just missed my top ten this year (spent most of the post-holiday weekend working on my Dusted year-end), and, unusually for him, centers around a cover.

Here's the story.

"I Remember You Were Wild"

"I Don't Get That"

Monday, November 29, 2010

William Tyler

Still catching up on stuff that ran last week, like this review of the solo mostly acoustic guitar album by Lambchop alum William Tyler. It ran in Dusted maybe Wednesday, before the whole Turkey frenzy took hold, and it's too good to be buried there. (The album, not the review, which is so so and repeats the word "luminous" at least once too often.)

Anyway, here's a bit:

Though he’s only about 30 now, William Tyler has played with most of Nashville’s alt.Americana A-list over the last decade. He started right out of high school with Lambchop, but has also worked with Silver Jews and Bonnie “Prince” Billy. He sometimes collaborates with Paul Nieuhaus of Calexico. Around the middle of the aughts, he played with David and Hamish Kilgour. Last year, working in the shadow of late John Fahey, he released an album of finger-picked guitar and electronic experiment under the name Paper Hats. His “Between Radnor and Sunrise” on the fourth volume of the Imaginational Anthem series was one of the disc’s highlights, grounded in American primitivism and played with precision and rigor, yet glazed over somehow with an aura of almost mystic wonder. It’s not an accident that he cites Peter Walker along with Fahey as an influence. Like both of them, Tyler uses the guitar as a pathway to the spiritual.

And more

This is him doing his Paper Hat thing.

I also finished Virgil Thompson's The State of Music last night, and have to write about it at some point...what a cranky, crabby, funny diatribe on the problem of making a living in classical music, circa 1940. (And updated, a little bit, for a second edition in 1961.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Reading Rainbow.

I used to watch Reading Rainbow when I was young, not as much as Sesame Street, but some...I was weirdly fascinated with educational shows at one point. Anyway, there's a band called Reading Rainbow now down in Philly, just two people, a boy and a girl, making bash and pop garage rock with a surprisingly sweet-sad element of choral harmony spliced in. I ended my Dusted review by saying, “There’s a slow song hidden within every fast one here, a choral elegy spliced into even the peppiest banger. Here’s what happens when you shine punk rock energy through a prism, and it breaks into a million different colors.”


"Wasting Time" (via Gorilla Vs. Bear)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I’m back

I was in Philadelphia and then NYC this weekend and had a really pretty great time.

I ran the Philadelphia Marathon on Sunday (3:48 something I think...maybe 3:49) and did not spectacularly, but not so terrible.

I also visited the Philadelphia Art Museum, where the special exhibit was by an Italian artist named Michaelangelo Pistoletto, who was, among other things, apparently fascinated with mirrors. He painted on them, lifesize figures on mirror-like backgrounds, which is cool, because when you go to look at them, you and other other people in the museum are also, sort of, in the painting. And when they are on facing walls, you can see the painting you’re looking at and the one behind it and, reflected in that, the one you’re looking at, and so on and so on and so on. You can see me taking a photo in this one.

I also went to NYC and did not very much of note, but got to see a few of my friends and had a couple of very nice meals, so that was good.

And now I’m back and have all kinds of stuff up on the web, including this review of a record by Masonic, when ran yesterday in Venus.

This Texas dream pop outfit spins bittersweet webs of Left Banke-ish melody over the muted roar of shoegazy guitar effects on their fifth full-length album. Three of the five Masonic’s are brothers—John and Kevin Mason switching off on guitar and keyboards, sibling Brian on rackety, dust-kicking drums—but their not-so-secret weapon is singer Eryn Gettys. She has a glossy, early ‘60s pop voice, warm and sweetly luxuriant, buoyant and breezy yet undercut with hard-won experience. An undercurrent of vulnerability, as on the plaintive “They Wanted So Much,” in Gettys unfailingly smooth, on-key delivery connects her to the craft of French café singers, while a dreamy gauziness ties her to ‘90s vocalists like the Sundays’ Harriett Wheeler. She is poised and professional, even mildly detached, as she sings about the most rueful sort of romantic discoveries.


“Lifetime of Deception”

Friday, November 19, 2010


I’ve got another review up at Venus now, this one of a no-wave-ish, female-fronted outfit called KIT.
I said, “These spitfire spaz punks push the melodic envelope on their second full-length, leavening noise-blitzed shout fests with slithery bits of songcraft, strung-out dronescapes, and strings. KIT clattered onto the stage in the mid ‘00s, pitting frenetic dual guitar mayhem against abrasive upper register chanting (that’s one-named Kristy at the mic). Since then, the band has led a charmed life, sharing splits with noise royalty like Deerhoof, Thurston Moore, and Kim Gordon. Their earliest efforts—the split with Deerhoof, for instance—were nearly unadulterated blasts of energy, shrill, rapid-fire barrages knocked sideways by slanted, trebly riffs.

And a bit more

Arthur Magazine has an mp3 of “Merticane

I’m driving to Philly today and will probably not be blogging again until Tuesday. Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Oberhofer, Twin Sister and Morning Benders

Super bloggy evening last Wednesday, couldn't have been more different from Tuesday when everybody was my age and seated for Bob Mould...on Wednesday, it was all kids...bobbing around, dancing, cracking each other up and hanging over the railings to make eyes at each other. Very nice. I remember that...dimly.

Anyway, the three bands are all pretty trendy in their various ways, but that didn't stop two of them from being pretty great. I would highly, highly recommend that you see Oberhofer, highly (see that's one less "highly") recommend Twin Sister and shrug and say, "do what you want" if you asked me about Morning Benders. Because lots of people like this band, and compare it to Fleet Foxes and Vampire Weekend, whom they seem to like as well, but I missed it, whatever it was. I thought it was kinda boring.

Anyway, enough of this semi-conscious garble...on to the official write-up, which appeared yesterday afternoon at Blurt.

Sometimes the bill is upside down.

Tonight, for instance, when scrappy upstart Oberhofer upends strummy, sunny, two-guitar-effects-and-some-harmonies-away-from-a-jam-band Morning Benders, in a blitz of eerie "ooh ooh oohs." The middle of the bill, too, dream-tripping Twin Sister, led by the wide-eyed, raccoon-hatted Andrea Estrella, is considerably more interesting than the headliner. That the Morning Benders are vastly popular and that two-thirds of a large turnout seems to know their songs by heart only confirms what everyone already knows. The indie kids have a taste for the bland.


Oberhofer’s “Don’t Needya” (via Stereogum)

Twin Sister would actually like all of you musical hotshots to remix their album cuts and have helpfully placed WAV files of "stems" of these songs on their website. So what's stopping you?

"all around and away we go" stem

"Lady Daydream" stem

And the Morning Benders have done a couple of Daytrotter sessions. Here's the latest one.

In other news, I am absurdly psyched to be back on the Sub Pop distribution list...about five early 2011 records came yesterday, including new Twilight Singers (score!) and Mogwai (double score! and what the hell happened to Matador). Now if I could just get ForceField with its entire In the Red, Captured Tracks and Woodsist roster back, I'd be happy.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gorevette and Parting Gifts…stuff I heard on the radio

Now that I have an iPod touch, I can listen to WFMU again, so I am wasting lots of time DLing shows and listening to them. I’d forgotten how much I liked doing this, or how it interferes with reviewing 4-5 records a week. But on the bright side, I’ve heard a couple of things that are just too good to sit on, both in the garage vein, both by really veteran performers.

The first one is Gorevette, which combines the energies of Nikki Corvette and Amy Gore from the Gore Gore Girls.

Here they are performing the title track from their Lustfully Yours EP which is out now on Strange Girls records.

Parting Gifts, also a kind of super-group, has Greg Cartwright from the Reigning Sounds and Coco Hames from the Ettes together. Their album, Dandelion Strychnine is out now on In the Red. In addition to these two, Dave Amels from the Reigning Sound is on the records, as well as Dan Auerbach (Black Keys), Patrick Keeler (Greenhornes) and the remainder of the Ettes.

Here’s “Keep Walking” What a killer.

Also, there’s a video of Cartwright solo doing the title track in Detroit.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Have I mentioned that I went to see the Posies once, in Chicago, and by the end of the show, Ken Stringfellow had stripped down to his underwear? Yeah, good show, they were down on the floor for the last third of the set, doing most of the songs I love from Frosting on the Beater, and Ken was in these silky, shiny black briefs that weren’t unequivocally men’s underwear, if you know what I mean. Apparently, he does that when he feels like it’s a good show. It was a good show.

I was impressed. I bought a tee-shirt.

So, anyway, the Posies have a new album out called Blood/Candy, which is damned good, actually…unless you’re one of those hard-headed people like my husband who employs the word “candy-assed” whenever the spectre of power pop rears its head. My son likes it, so there.

There are some interesting cameos – Hugh Cornwall from the Stranglers on “Plastic Paperbacks”, Kay Hanley from Letters to Cleo on “The Glitter Prize” and Lisa Lobsinger, who is part-time front-woman for Broken Social Scene, among other things, on “Licenses to Hide”. “The Glitter Prize” is probably my favorite song on the album, with that knife-edge balance between sweetness and aggression that I like in bands like Teenage Fanclub, Big Star (which is kind of a Posies side-project now) and, obviously, the Posies.

“So Caroline” is pretty good, too

Monday, November 15, 2010


Hello, happy Monday…we had a nice quiet weekend, watched the last DVD of season two of Fringe, which I enjoyed very much, and the movie Rent which was bloody awful and about twice a long as it needed to be. Am I hallucinating, or was this the musical that was supposed to save Broadway? It sucked.

Anyway, I have a small-ish review up at Blurt of an EP by a one-person outfit called Botany, which was really lovely and a total pleasure to review.

Picture Botany's music unfurling like a brightly colored scarf, silky smooth and light in the breeze, vaguely sensual in the most abstract of ways, full of diaphanous textures that brush against you without any sense of friction at all. This five-song EP jingles with bells, blossoms with bubbly keyboards, percolates with gentle rhythms, its abstract narratives as often carried by tropical birdcalls as by angelically altered voices.


“Feeling Today”

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this, but I’m running the Philadelphia Marathon on Sunday, very excited about doing a new one and getting to spend a little time in Philadelphia.

Oh, and sad news, I think my laptop has died, so no more DLs for me for a while, at least until I have enough money for another one.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Did I mention I went to see Bob Mould and Chris Brokaw

Yes, in fact, I went to shows TWO NIGHTS IN A ROW, and maybe will have to take the rest of the year off.

I'm still struggling with my Morning Benders, Twin Sister, Oberhofer review, but my report on Bob Mould and Chris Brokaw is up right now at Blurt.

"In 1985, I went to see Hüsker Dü at Maxwell's," says Chris Brokaw, on a break from his acoustic set. "And about eight years later, I was playing in a band called Come and Bob was playing in Sugar, and we toured together and hit it off." Since then Brokaw and Mould have played together intermittently, hitting Northampton last six years ago on Halloween, but it hasn't gotten old for Brokaw. "It is still a genuine thrill to play shows with Bob."

And more

I've been listening to a LOT of Jon Spencer lately

That's mostly because of the vast 77 track reissues of Orange/Orange Experimental Remixes/Acme now out on Shout Factory. There's an interview with Spencer coming at PopMatters at some point (I finished it a couple of weeks ago, but god knows when they'll run it), but meanwhile I also did a review for Dusted, which is almost as sprawling as the reissues themselves.

Read it here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Moaners

Had another review up today at Blurt, this time of the Moaners, a two-woman, country blues band out of North Carolina that used to be on Yep Roc (where they were, I think, the only women on the label) and now release via smaller, more local Holiday for Quince.

I said:

The Moaners are often compared to the White Stripes, but it's more telling to set them up against the late, lamented Mr. Airplane Man. Where the Boston blues duo flirted with the glossiness of girl-group rock and roll, the giddy amp distortion of urban garage rock, the Moaners are all back porch stoicism. Even the most electrified, rollicking tracks on this third full-length sound hand-cranked and home-made, and the 12/8 waltzes (traditional "Moonshiner", traditional-sounding "Raggedy Tune", and wonderful saw-inflected "Blue Moon") have the ache of deep country longing.


“Humid Air”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Psychedelic Aliens meet Santana

I’ve got a review up now at Blurt of a reissue of all the work (or all the work that could be found) of a 1960s and 1970s African band called Psychedelic Aliens, which has recently been resurrected by Academy Records, with some help from the Voodoo Funk crew. Psychedelic Aliens had a kind of transformational moment in 1971, when they met Santana at a festival and were inspired by the mix of traditional and rock elements in Santana’s music.

Santana's re-imagination of Latin rhythms moved the Psychedelic Aliens to draw on their own musical heritage, the percussion-heavy, hallucinatory high-life of West Africa. You can hear the shift immediately in "Gbe Keke Wo Taoc", in the hard rush of syncopated drums. Now, the organ lines no longer drift and meander, but push forward. Nothing is subdued. Nothing is laid back. Everything drives relentlessly ahead. And when the band lets the drums fly, as it does on the standout "Homowo," it's a frenzied, multi-tonal tour-de-force.


Fred found this really fantastic video/collage type thing.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Go see Clinic and tell me what it’s like

I once travelled to Boston for a Clinic show only to arrive and find that they had cancelled because of some sort of stomach issues. As I was getting ready to write the preview below, their website said that they had cancelled a UK tour, again because of illness. So, while I love the band, I’m only recommending the show to people who have a relatively short distance to travel and a good idea of what else to do if one of the Clinic guys feels unwell. Here’s my blurb for the Philly show over the weekend.

9:30pm, $13-$14. Johnny Brenda’s.
On their landmark debut, Internal Wrangler, surgically masked Ade Blackburn and Jonathan Hartley did something that very few bands ever accomplish: create a wholly original and distinctive sound. How’d they do it? They polished junk-store keyboards to a finely reverbed gloss. They cranked spasmodically funky jitter-punk to “Voodoo Wop” proportions. They caught the pathos in a world paced by rickety drum machines and rife with mournful organs, but sadly, delicately “free of distortions.” Their sixth and latest album, Bubblegum, veers slightly into a vein of 1960s psychedelia, which should make the pairing with San Francisco’s trippy garage rockers the Fresh & Onlys all the more interesting. (Jennifer Kelly)

“I’m Aware” from Bubblegum

They’re touring with Fresh & Onlys, one of my very favorite new-ish bands. I haven’t really spent much time with their newest album Play It Strange yet, because now other people want to review it. (I had them on my Pazz and Jop ballot last year, along with maybe one or two other people, but that doesn’t count for anything this year.)


They’re done with the East Coast now, but you can still catch them in Canada and out west.
11.09.10 - Montreal, QC - La Sala Rossa
11.10.10 - Toronto, ON - Lee's Palace
11.11.10 - Chicago, IL - Lincoln Hall
11.12.10 - Minneapolis, MN - 7th St Entry
11.15.10 - Seattle, WA - Neumos
11.16.10 - Vancouver, BC - Biltmore Cabaret
11.17.10 - Portland, OR - Doug Fir Lounge
11.19.10 - San Francisco, CA - The Independent
11.20.10 - Los Angeles, CA – Troubadour

I might be going to see Chris Brokaw and Bob Mould tonight, then also the Morning Benders on Wednesday, all while continuing to get up at 5:30 a.m. to get Sean ready for school. Don’t expect much clarity round about Thursday, okay?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Old 97s

I'm breaking a fairly long dry spell today with a review of the Old 97's The Grand Theatre, Volume One in Venus, an album which I said, "seeks, with some success, to bring both sides of the Old 97’s together, the jittery, twangy rampages and the Elvis Costello-ish suavity."


We were out of power for a couple of hours this morning, after a pretty scary rain and wind storm, but everything's back to normal now.

Great live band, btw, the Old 97's

Friday, November 5, 2010

Everett True’s guide for covering live music…and how it backfired

Definitely experienced a wince or two while reading Everett True’s snarky tips for reviewing live music, having, on occasion, mentioned the weather, politics, clothing, stage banter and otherwise-not-the-music occurrences in live reviews. It’s pretty funny, though, and you should read the piece, which went up a day or so ago on the Philadelphia Weekly music blog. My favorite line -- which is really not how I do things, (except for the part about scrawling things that you can’t read later, which I do all the time) but I wish it was -- is this: “You may get inappropriately drunk, scrawl meaningless notes which you can’t decipher the next day, forget most of what happened during the show and rely on friends’ accounts and sheer bullshit to scrape together your pitiful pile of words to meet the limit.”

Okay, now you want to read the rest, don’t you?

The article actually shamed me into, ahem, researching the support bands (and the headliner, who would be a support band anywhere else) at a show we were all thinking about going to tonight at the Flywheel…with the unhappy result that I decided they all sucked and maybe we should see a movie instead.

Submitted for your (dis)approval
The Diet Cokeheads (wouldn’t you think that a band with that kind of name would at least have a sense of humor?)

Foreign Objects (not the mid 1990s death metal band, apparently)

An mp3 of “1” from Shoppers

Deceivers’ MySpace

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Everything you ever wanted to know about Dustdevils

The WFMU Beware of the Blog has done a really nice interview with Michael from Dustdevils, which you should really read, if you're at all interested in the NY no wave scene of the 1990s. I think Michael maybe left out some of the messy parts about the Wedding Present (and perhaps others, who knows?), but it's a good interview.

There's also a video, which is well worth checking out. I can't seem to embed it, but you can find it here.

Rain, rain, rain...what a dreary day.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Joy Formidable

I'm not sure, but I think the Joy Formidable might be kind of a guilty pleasure. It's that wall-of-guitars sound that I always like in more serious bands, cut with a chaser of exuberant, quite melodic pop. I just wrote a preview for Philly Weekly, why not check out this single, "Whirring"?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Erland and the Carnival...but where's the carnival?

I'm really liking this new four-song single from Erland and the Carnival. It's kind of like Tunng used to be, soft and weird and melancholy, but with this bubbly pop undertone and scratchy little electro elements. (Tunng has recently tipped pretty far over into the pure pop area, away from the weirdness and melancholy.)

The "Erland" in Erland in the Carnival, is Gawain Erland Cooper, a folksinger. But he's got some pretty interesting bandmates for a folkie -- namely, Simon Tong, whom you may recognize from the Verve, and Orb drummer David Nock.

Here's a video of my favorite song from the disc, which is called "Trouble in Mind," and includes the lyric "Didn't mean to disappoint you/I'm just sorry that I did" which I can relate to my life in about 600 ways, how about you?

The single's on Full Time Hobby in the UK and Yep Roc here in the States.

By the way, if you live in the states and are not certifiably mad...please vote. The liars and idiots are on the verge of taking over again and every little bit helps. We've got wall-to-wall ads for Kelly Ayotte on here, all funded by big outside, corporate-funded organizations that are not remotely interested in NH itself, and I'm pretty sure that's a nationwide trend. They sucker you in by promising tax cuts, but remember, if you're not fairly well off, you don't pay a lot of income taxes and they are never going to cut FICA, which is mostly where your paycheck goes.

If you're rich, go ahead, vote for the robber barons. it's probably in your interest, and screw everybody else, right? But if you don't make $200,000 a year, you're shooting yourself in the foot and they'll do their best to make sure that there's no health care for you after you do it.

Okay, I'm done.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Roots Manuva remixed

Yeah, that’s right. There I go, reviewing stuff that’s way out of my corner of the universe, in this case Roots Manuva, the London-born DJ whose concoction of rap and reggae was an early entry in the grime category. He’s got a new-ish album out called Duppy Writer, in which another producer Wrongtom, remixes material from all of his previous albums. I reviewed it in Blurt last week.

“Roots Manuva joins with the mysterious producer Wrongtom for an album of roots-infused remixes of mostly older material. Roots Manuva, whose combustible cocktail of hip hop, reggae, dancehall and dub helped originate grime and dubstep, has long spliced street poetry and protest to slinky backbeats. His collaboration with Wrongtom accentuates the island rhythms of some of his best-known songs. ‘Tropical, shit, you know? Like the juice that you drink in the morning,’ guest DJ Riddla observes, as the upbeated slouch of ‘Butterfly Crab Walk,’ creaks into organ bleating motion, and indeed, the whole album has the heat of equatorial sun on urban sidewalks.”


You can hear that “Butterfly Crab Walk” here

I did my last long run before the Philadelphia Marathon on Sunday, a 20, and it didn’t go very well. I mean, I finished, but it was slow and I was pretty destroyed afterwards (and, you know, six more miles to go in the actual race, so you want feel decent at 20 in the real thing). I woke up with a pretty bad sore throat today, so it’s probably not lack of fitness, just some kind of bug, but what a drag. The marathon’s on November 21st, though, so I have lots of time to rest beforehand. I’m driving down, staying with my Philly Weekly editor and maybe stopping on the way back in NYC to see my friend Bill (who would probably prefer that I were running the NY Marathon).

We also went to see Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter on Sunday, which is quite a good movie, actually, and about a subject (near-death experiences) that has always fascinated me. Things I liked about the movie:
1. The “magic” parts (the actual footage of the tunnel etc.) were mercifully brief and not too literal.
2. The actors were decent-looking, but human…no one was perfect
3. Both Paris and London looked wonderful.
4. The tsunami scene was terrifying
5. The cooking class…I want to take that.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cloud Nothings…and a scathing review of Brian Eno

I reviewed Cloud Nothings, another one of those solo bedroom pop artists who has grown into lo-fi garage outfit, for Dusted today. I actually liked the record a whole lot, at least the end of it, and look forward to hearing whatever’s next for this band…if you like Wild Nothing at all, it’s a pretty good bet, soft, diffuse garage pop with a little eccentricity and originality starting to show through.

Anyway, the review is here.

“Hey Cool Kid”

My favorite Cloud Nothings song is “Morgan”

But really, the Dusted review you should read today is Brandon Bussolini’s take-down of Brian Eno…possibly my favorite slam for the whole year.

I haven’t heard the record, by the way, so I’m judging strictly on the basis of entertainment value and writing quality.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Finally getting into Street Songs of Love

So, you probably already know this. Alejandro Escovedo has had a new album out since last summer. It's called Street Songs of Love, and it's got guest shots by people like Ian Hunter and Springsteen. Actually in all fairness, I remember Alejandro talking about Ian Hunter in fairly worshipful terms as far back as 1996, and I'm not saying he wasn't doing it before then. If he's got enough juice now to get Mr. Mott the Hoople to sing with him, good for him, it's about time.

Anyway, I was underwhelmed with the new album the first time thorugh, admittedly in the car and not paying full attention, but I listened to it this morning and it seems less glad-handed and more soulful than I thought at first.

It's still a little less raw and personal than The Boxer and, at least to me, less devastatingly wonderful than Real Animal. You can sort of tell he's been touring with Springsteen, if you know what I mean, there's a degree of effort and showmanship that wasn't so obvious before.

But anyway, it's new Alejandro and that's a good thing. Here he is playing Letterman. About time for that, too.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Black Mountain

This is one of those reviews I wrote several months ago, for the print edition of Blurt, which came out a few weeks ago (and looks really nice, I think…I’ve got a little interview with Kelley Stoltz and a longer one with Nic Offer from !!! in it, as well as this review). The Black Mountain piece is up on the website now, a pretty good review, if I do say so myself, for a really good record.

Here’s how I started:
“Monstrous riffs, molten sludge, the bludgeoning weight of guitar overload-those have always been Stephen McBean's stock in trade, and never more so than on third Black Mountain full-length Wilderness Heart. Yet where most of Black Mountain's 1960s forebears were all-male affairs, this band has Amber Wells to shake up the stereotype. Just listen to how her warm, vibrato-laced contralto casts a witchy spell over the title track, making its head-thudding guitars, its rampaging drums into something wilder, sweeter and altogether more unpredictable. ‘Old Fangs,’ too, has the palm-muted, ‘vette-on-blocks stomp of classic Sabbath, yet synths and Wells' singing brings its old-style menace into the modern era.”

The rest is here.

“Old Fangs”

“The Hair Song”

I finished transcribing my Jon Spencer tape yesterday, and I might take a crack at writing the piece today. If I don’t screw it up somehow, it should be excellent. We spent a lot of time talking about his links to hip hop and interest in remixes circa Orange and Orange Experimental Remixes. Also, weirdly, we were up in Hanover NH at around the same time in the early 1980s, he finishing up at Hanover High and me at Dartmouth; I’m pretty sure my roommate Helen had a Professor Spencer for organic chemistry, who, in retrospect, had to be his father.…Anyway, he’s an interesting guy, no question, can’t wait to get to it.

I’m also getting ready to review this Psychedelic Aliens reissue, which is pretty great…it’s more funk/soul from 1970s Ghana, some beautifully laid-back Booker-T-ish grooves up front and a load of truly crazy percussion in the later (long gone missing, recently re-located) singles that round out the disc.

That’s it for now, back to work.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A story about a pigeon…a review where I go off on web 2.0

My husband, Bill, has just started a blog where he is serializing some of his fiction. He’s got one of my favorites going up now, a story about a New Yorker who turns into a pigeon. You can check it out here.

Also, I have a bit of a rant up at Dusted today, ostensibly about Small Black’s New Chain, but really, I was so unaffected by the record itself that I ended up writing about other stuff…sorry. I do hate it when other people do this, but sometimes it happens. You can read it here, if you like.

The best song on the record, which is still kind of forgettable, is “Photojournalist

Friday, October 22, 2010

I am a bead on the thread connecting my father and daughter

My friend Michael sent me some rough mixes of his second album with Bendle (Crow) last summer, and I’ve been meaning to write about them ever since. The album, which is now finished and mixed and available via Michael’s blog, is called While Speaking Softly You can Hear the Insects Sing. It’s really beautiful, like the first one, with a sort of dreamy layer of murmured spoken word (that’s Bendle, I think) over a mesh of incandescent guitar and drums (Michael, I assume). Last time, I said it reminded me of Current 93, and I think that’s still a fair reference point, though I am also hearing bits that remind me of the Incredible String Band this time around, and other auras that sound like Belong and William Basinski, and as someone else mentioned last time, later, more experimental John Fahey. My favorite piece is something called “Zebra Mix 12feb,” which starts in a sort of monk’s chant and weaves through a hallucinatory landscape of echoey, interleaved vocals, eastern tinged guitar and hand drums. I am also quite taken with “Breathing In Mix 19 June”, which has a circling, almost round-like quality, three voices this time, one a woman, in overlapping layers, whose delicacy is not at all undermined by some very distorted guitar and battering drums. But anyway, why take my word for it, when you can have the whole thing?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My Neu! interview is up!

I’m really kind of psyched about it…have a look.

In other news, poor Ari Up, RIP…remember when I interviewed her last year and we talked about period cramps and UTIs?

Also, on a personal note, kind of a bummer, Sean (my son) dislocated his shoulder playing football on Monday and will probably not be able to play again, ever, for risk of re-injury. He’s also going to miss some of the lead-up to X-C ski season, which is even more of a downer, because he’s quite good at that, but success is all about conditioning. He’s real sad, refuses to play Madden NFL on Xbox even, poor guy.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Black Angels

I’ve got a review of Black Angels Phosphene Dream up today at Dusted. I enjoyed it, but with some reservations, liking especially the handful of tracks where the disc “diverges from VU-ish drone into brighter, janglier territories.”

The whole review is here.

Here they are playing “Telephone” on Letterman.

Hey, I might be interviewing Jon Spencer today, if he has time. (He’s calling me…weird.)

Intriguing stuff that’s come in recently:
Exrays…new project from Tim Cohen
Reissue of T. Rex’s The Slider
New Giant Sand
Live Ex

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Heavy

I’ve been really enjoying a new EP by the funk-soul band the Heavy, who are just off a tour with Sharon Jones and a Dap Kings and ready to embark on another one with Mayer Hawthorne. As the name implies, they have a very hard-hitting, rock-oriented sound, but the singer reminds me a little of James Brown, a little of Curtis Mayfield.

“That Kind of Man 1.1" (mp3)

They’re touring all over the place, just missed them in Boston.

October 20, 2010 | Albany, NY The Heavy @ Jillian's^
October 21, 2010 | Washington, DC The Heavy @ The Black Cat*
October 22, 2010 | Atlanta, GA The Heavy @ The Masquerade*
October 23, 2010 | Birmingham, AL The Heavy @ The Bottletree*
October 24, 2010 | Nashville, TN The Heavy @ Mercy Lounge*
October 25, 2010 | Asheville, NC The Heavy @ The Orange Peel*
October 27, 2010 | New Orleans, LA The Heavy @ One Eyed Jack's^
October 28, 2010 | Houston, TX @ Fitzgeralds^#
October 29, 2010 | Austin, TX The Heavy @ The Mohawk^
October 30, 2010 | Scottsdale, AZ The Heavy @ Martini Ranch^
October 31, 2010 | Las Vegas, NV The Heavy @ Hard Rock Cafe^
November 3, 2010 | Seattle, WA The Heavy @ The Showbox at The Market^
November 4, 2010 | Portland, OR The Heavy @ Wonder Ballroom^
November 6, 2010 | Los Angeles, CA The Heavy @ El Rey Theatre^
November 7, 2010 | San Diego, CA The Heavy @ The Casbah^
November 8, 2010 | San Francisco, CA The Heavy @ The Independent^
November 9, 2010 | Salt Lake City, UT The Heavy @ Club Sound^
November 10, 2010 | Denver, CO The Heavy @ The Bluebird Theater^
November 11, 2010 | Lawrence, KS The Heavy @ The Bottleneck^
November 12, 2010 | Minneapolis, MN The Heavy @ Fine Line Music Cafe^
November 13, 2010 | Chicago, IL The Heavy @ Double Door^
November 14, 2010 | Milwaukee, WI The Heavy @ Turner Hall^

Friday, October 15, 2010

Ninja Tune XX

I hardly ever get excited about promos anymore, but I got excited about this one, a four-disc retrospective (the non-press version is six discs plus a bunch of singles) of experimental electronic and hip hop label Ninja Tune, which is now 20 yeqars old.

I reviewed it for Blurt, observing: A sprawling compilation documents Ninja Tune's double decade of slice and dice innovation, its nearly 100 cuts dizzyingly diverse, yet united by a common commitment to relentless juxtaposition, unexpected repurposing and the art of re-imagination and remixing.

The rest

Toddla T’s “Want U Now Featuring Miss Dynamite”

Eskmo’s “12-Minute Mini Mix”

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Extra Lens

I’ve got a review of the new Extra Lens album – a collaboration between John Darnielle and Franklin Bruno, by the way – up now at Blurt, which the publicist said was her favorite thing anybody had written so far about Undercard. It’s not always a good thing to make publicists happy, but I think, in this case, with someone this nice who reps such good records (she’s does PR for Merge), it’s probably okay.

Anyway, on with the show…here’s a link

“Only Existing Footage”

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Some cool stuff I saw in Chicago

This is my favorite painting in the whole museum, a study for "The Jungle" by the Cuban painter Wilfredo Lam. Sorry about the reflections.

My mom studying a huge Miro

The Buddha...this is the old part of the museum, obviously.

We went to the Chicago Art INstitute on Saturday -- and visited the new wing, where all the modern art is, for the first time since it was constructed. The new wing is amazing all by itself, full of natural light and really serene and beautiful, and of course, it has most of the stuff that I'm interested in. They also allow photos as long as you don't use a flash, so I took some.

Oh, and here's a photo of me and my dad. I swear I'm not drunk, though I look it.

Hey cool, new Giant Sand

Big Blurry Mountain will be out November 25. Until then here's this single, called "Fields of Green," which is the little snippet of "there's a kind of hush all over the world."

"Fields of Green"

I'm in another dry spell for reviews.

Friday, October 8, 2010

One more for the road...acoustic guitar style

I’m going to Chicago for the weekend for my dad’s birthday, but I leave you with a review of the latest installment of the Imaginational Anthem series, which ran a day or two ago at Blurt.

The Imaginational Anthem series started in 2005, as a way to unearth forgotten guitar pickers from the American primitive tradition. For Volume 1, label head Josh Rosenthal doggedly sought out men (and one woman) from the Takoma school's 1960s heyday, resurrecting the careers of Steve Mann and Harry Tausig, remembering Takoma-school patron saint John Fahey, and also welcoming younger players like Harris Newman, Glenn Jones and Jack Rose. Yet as the series continued, it has moved out of the past, towards a younger generation of folk blues traditionalists. Volume IV focuses almost entirely on younger players, demonstrating, if nothing else, the strength and staying power of acoustic guitar blues.


Tompkins Square is not big on free mp3s, so there’s nothing to post from this installment, but what the heck, here’s James Blackshaw playing “River of Heaven,” from #2, which is better anyway…

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Watt and friends

Mike Watt has an album out with kind of an all-star back-up band – Nels Cline to start, but also Yuka Honda and Dougie Bowne. It’s called Floored by Four, and I have a review of it up at Dusted today.

Floored By Four is a one-off collaboration between a quartet of musicians, each with at least one foot in conventional rock, the other in more experimental jazz and improv. Mike Watt, who started the project, splits his time between playing bass for The Stooges and Porno for Pyros on the mainstream side, while also working with people like Elliott Sharp and Nels Cline. The latter, too, has a rock day job with Wilco, in addition to more eccentric outlets via his own solo work, the Nels Cline Singers and numerous jazz and improv collaborations. Yuka Honda made her name in Cibo Matto, but also partners with Boredoms percussionist Yoshimi Pe-Wei and has three records on Tzadzik. She used to be married to Dougie Bowne, the Lounge Lizards drummer, who has himself collaborated with John Cale, Arto Lindsay and many others. Now Honda is engaged to Nels Cline. It’s an interesting collection of talents, to say the least, and connected to one another with varying degrees of history, mutual understanding and past collaboration.


At Summerstage last summer…

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Demon's Claws

I have a review up today at Dusted of the new Demon’s Claws album, The Defrosting Of, which I called “laid back and loosely strung even as it blows apart at the joints, a countrified shamble buried in its most frantic moments”

It ‘s also the only album I can think of this year that rhymes “carolina” with “vagina.”

The full review

Probably best experienced live…

Monday, October 4, 2010

Static Static

My husband, Bill, and I (mostly me) recently discovered that you can download WFMU shows onto your iPod touch and then listen to them over and over again until you've pretty much memorized them, then go back to the WIFI cafe and get another one.

You have no idea how happy this made me. I basically haven't been able to listen to WFMU since they upped the bandwidth of their transmissions and put it out of range of dial-up connections. So, now I can. Though I don't have a Touch myself, so I have to pirate Bill's when he's not looking. I hear rumors, though, that I might get one for my birthday.

Anyway, I was listening to Liz Berg's show from 9/20 for the second or third time, and it occured to me that I just LOVED a couple of songs by a band called Static Static, who are, I think, from Canada, and post-punk-ish in aesthetic.

THey have a MySpace here.

They also have the two songs that caught my attention ("Satanic Speaker/Dementia", but especially "Dementia") on the Free Music Archive right here.

Okay, here's your chance to vote on my professional life. Should I take on a job that's huge and that pays about a tenth of my going rate, just because I'm not busy? I sort of tentatively said yes to ghostwriting a textbook at an absurdly low pay scale (I get three or four times as much for writing Philadelphia Weekly blurbs and I do that for fun), and ever since, have been getting a whole bunch of much better, paying assignments. Which makes me feel like I should maybe concentrate on the good stuff. However, I'm superstitious about turning down work, because god listens when you say you don't need anymore of it, and damn, I could sure use a steady stream. So, do I suck it up and do it? Or not?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Brad Laner

Another really nice piece of work from Home-Tapes, the wandering indie experimental label that used to be in Arkansas, then Athens now somewhere else entirely. It's Brad Laner, who does a kind of soft-focus, but challenging layered experimental pop.

I reviewed it last week in Blurt:

Meticulously plotted daydreams, Brad Laner's songs shamble and wander through flowery psychedelic landscapes, all ease on the surface. Scratch that surface, though, and obsessively pixilated detail emerges, a mesh of intersecting layers and sounds that shifts measure to measure, second to second. The primary colors may be Beatles psychedelia and Beach Boys-ish vocal counterpoint, but you can also find little intervals of shoe-gazing guitars, electronic glitch, sound collage, hip hop beat making and Hall and Oates-esque soul falsetto. On the best songs - "Brain" for instance - Laner spins out swirling mandalas of indistinct revelation, precision subsumed in clouds of intuitive feeling.


“Eyes Close”

It's raining here...time for a sloppy, squishy kind of run.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Intelligence

Atlantic says males are on their way out…which seems unlikely and anyway is kind of a bummer. The Intelligence – Lars Finberg from the A-Frames with whoever else wants to play – dedicates a whole album to them, which I reviewed last week for Dusted.

I said, The song “White Corvette” from The Intelligence’s sixth full-length begins as a low-end buzz, about 10 seconds in length. Longtime fans should enjoy it while it lasts, because it’s the only distortion on the track. The rest is airy, melodic and precise, The Intelligence’s characteristic jittery aggression set in Hemingway’s “clean, well-lighted place.” Not that there’s any give-up in intensity. The band’s scrambling post-punk guitars, its straight-up, dry-as-a-bone drums, its laconically abstract verses are all here, just viewed through an unusually clear lens.


“Like Like Like Like Like Like Like”

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Another great songwriter hiding out in his basement

My review of Jeremy Messersmith’s really excellent, criminally under-heard The Reluctant Graveyard ran yesterday at Blurt.
Jeremy Messersmith's self-released third album handily outperforms a whole Grey's Anatomy compilation's worth of Beatles-esque pretenders. From its earliest moments - say the moment that "Lazy Bones"'s jaunty, piano-pounding swells into multi-voiced pop hedonism - to its melancholy conclusion that "This is how it has to end, so love somebody while you can" The Reluctant Graveyard flawlessly balances joy and melancholy, intelligence and intuition. This is one of the best pop albums of the year, and next to no one has heard it



By the way, this has never happened before, but I am simultaneously out of records at Dusted, Blurt and Venus, so I don’t know, maybe I’ll just listen to Hot Rocks for the rest of the week. Cheers.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Prince Rama

So here’s a hint for all you aspiring bands seeking media coverage: leave your van unlocked.

Yes, that’s right, I first heard about Prince Rama when they had all their instruments stolen in Philadelphia. I immediately DL’d a bunch of their live tracks from the Free Music Archive, and liked what I heard, a cinematically vast take on eastern meditation music. And eventually, when they replaced their instruments and finished their full-length for Paw Tracks, I reviewed it for Venus.

I concluded, “Shadow Temple isn’t going to be for everyone, and the mainstream will probably never be ready for a dance/psych/drone aesthetic grounded in Hare Krishna chants. Still for its visceral force, its large-scale, mythical scope, and its sheer eccentricity, it’s hard to beat. Om mane padme hum, indeed.”


“Lightning Fossil”

Monday, September 27, 2010

Hello it’s me the mistress, will you please pick up the phone?

Number 55 or so in my list of records that really should make my year-end list on the basis of quality, but which probably won’t on the basis of 10 is a tiny little number, Amelia Curran’s Hunter, Hunter has been out in Canada for a year or so, and even got a Juno. It’s so good…I wrote:

Hunter, Hunter sneaks up on you. The songs aren’t showy. There are no gimmicks. Curran plays no tricks with her voice, and sticks close to tradition with her arrangement. Yet listen after listen, these melodies gain traction and little bits of the lyrics stick in your head. You realize, quite gradually, that this album is a subtle triumph, maybe even a minor classic, and in any case, well worth waiting the year or so it took to make it to the States.


I put “The Mistress” on my August mix, which I’ve been listening to a lot lately while doing the dishes, etc.and it’s pretty damned good. You can still get it here, if you want.

There’s also this live performance of “All Hands on a Grain of Sand”

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

You are my consequential girl....

Don't you hate it when bands do the same damned thing over and over and over? Doesn't it piss you off when they change? Yeah, it's a conundrum, isn't it, how much to change, how much to stay the same. Abe Vigoda has solved by pretty much completely reinventing itself, shifting from a Mae Shi-ish epileptic fit of a band two years ago into cold wave, synth romantics for the new one, called Crush. I quite liked Skeletons-period Abe Vigoda, which had a weird kind of tropical shimmer over its punk-ish anxiety (they got very sick of being asked about "tropical punk" but there is definitely a warmth there). I also really enjoyed Crush, possibly because it took me back to my wasted late (very late) adolescence daydreaming about Bryan Ferry and trying to decide whether I loathed Tears for Fears or secretly enjoyed it a little.

Anyway, here's the beginning of the review:

When Abe Vigoda broke out in 2008 with the shimmery punk Skeleton, it was closely associated with No Age and other spazzy, high energy, barely-teenaged punk bands like Mika Miko and HEALTH. Now, two years later, the band’s celebrating its fourth album, Crush, with a series of shows with Cold Cave. And curiously, the new pairing will probably work at least as well as the old ones. While Abe Vigoda hasn’t entirely left its trebly, guitar-spiking aggressions behind, it’s made a dramatic move toward a kind of dark new wave-y plasticine glamour that recalls not just Cold Cave, but forebears like the Cure, Depeche Mode and New Order.

The rest

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Too late for dancing

I did a little interview for Venus with Caila Thompson-Hannant, who is the main singer for Shapes and Sizes, who started out as kind of a spazzy, epileptic dance outfit a la Deerhoof and have ended up more bass-heavy and trippy. There's a new album called Candle to Your Eyes, which sounds like some sort of Colonial-era self-defense maneuver, but actually is pretty good and not as abrasive as you'd expect.

Here's the interview.

And here is "Tell Your Mum"

And "I Need an Outlet"

Monday, September 20, 2010

I like Clinic…but I like it better when it’s really Clinic

Took a new band called Suuns to task for sounding a little too much like one of my favorite bands in this review, up last Friday at Blurt.

Suuns never really establishes its own consistent sound, until, near the end, the band settles on an aesthetic of jittery, robot-funky beats, murmured vocals, and repetitive keyboard riffs. It's entertaining, but unfortunately sounds awfully familiar. "PVC", in particular, is a dead ringer for "The Return of Evil Bill", while "Organ Blues" cuts almost as close to "Goodnight Georgie," Obviously, no one's got a patent on beat-driven, groove-stuttering, reverbed pop, and if Suuns wants to do this, god bless. Just be aware that there's an elephant in the room, and it's wearing a surgical mask.


You can download the whole thing for free, if you want. You have to go here and enter your email address to get it.

Have any of you seen the French movie A Prophet?...we watched it over the weekend...really gripping story about an Arab boy who goes to prison and makes enough connections there to start his own hashish dealing business.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Lost Where I Belong

Somewhat off my usual beat, but really, really enjoyable...this new R&B/new soul record by Andreya Triana, who sang on Bonobo's Black Sands. I reviewed it for Venus.

Lost Where I Belong is a wonderful album, impressive on the first run and only getting better on repeat listens. In an era when most soul is recycled—or at least heavily referential—Triana is making her own way, with her own material and a refreshingly modern take on R&B sounds.

The rest

Here’s a remix of “Town Called Obsolete” by Mount Kimbie

A remix of “Draw the Stars” by Flying Lotus

And the video for "Lost Where I Belong"

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I hate the 80s cos the 80s were shit

Surprisingly strong new album from the Vaselines...whose recording of new material came out in 1990.

My review ran in Dusted today, ending:

No one can be a teenager again, not after 20 years, and The Vaselines have lost some of the feckless charm of their earliest material. Still, as they’ve gotten older, they’ve held onto much of what made them special – the reckless fun, the gritty melodies, the taunting humor – and picked up some skills. They’re aging well.

You can read the beginning and the middle, if you like, by going here.

"Sex with an X"

"I Hate the 80s"

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mavis Staples

Mavis Staples has a new album out, produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, and pretty unabashedly excellent. In my review at Dusted this morning, I said, Its selection of covers, variety of arrangement styles, its suppleness in supporting Staples’ voice all speak to a real understanding of who she is and what she does. And so, unlike some May-December musical partnerships, You Are Not Alone seems less about updating the older musician’s image or making her relevant to a younger audience, and more about celebrating what is unique to her.


Here’s the title track, one of two that Tweedy wrote for her

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

They say the things that must be said

I’ve been kind of a fan of Menomena’s herky-jerk pop since the last album, Friend or Foe, but it seems to me that this new one, Mines, is even better. Plus, bonus trivia, Brent Knopf and I went to the same college…though decades apart. Here’s to people who mortgage their futures to the Ivy League and then spend their lives farting around with indie rock. Go team!

Anyway, I said:

“Mines feels considerably smoother, sleeker and more premeditated than usual. There were always songs hidden in the mesh of conflicting rhythms. This time, they seem more obviously melodic, less manically crowded, fluid even, though certainly not predictable or clichéd.”

I said more, too, if that’s not enough

I put “TAOS,” which I like a lot, on my last mix. You can download that here.

Here they are playing “KILLEMALL” (Kill ‘Em All?) at PDX Pop.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Richard Thompson live album

I had some reservations about the new Richard Thompson album, Dream Attic, which I aired over the weekend in Venus, observing:

So, while Dream Attic supplies everything you want from Richard Thompson—the ornery humor (“The Money Shuffle”), the soul-searching lyricism (“A Brother Slips Away”, “If Love Whispers Your Name”), the slyly updated murder ballads (“Sidney Wells”), the striking folk-blues guitar work (“Stumble On”)—it also has intervals of forced, uncomfortable gaiety. There are penny whistle stretches in “Here Comes Geordie” that makes you wonder if Thompson has seen Riverdance one too many times, and an over-long, over-happy “dance, dance, dance” break in “Demons in Her Dancing Shoes” that leads one to speculate he may be plotting some sort of PBS pledge drive.

The rest is here

I put "Big Sun Falling in the River" on my August Mix, which I think you can still get here.

Or you can watch the man perform "Bad Again"

Saturday, September 11, 2010

New back to school...nine years after 9/11 mix

Not that it has anything to do with either. I'm still not sure about the order. I had to put the Neu! track last, because it's got about 20 seconds of dead silence at the end, and Swans didn't seem to play very well with any of the other kids...there's a weird, weird transition going into Baths...but the songs are pretty good, some of them damned good. Enjoy if you's only music after all.


1: Swans, "My Birth"
2. Rangda "Sarcophagi"
3. James Blackshaw "Part 6"
4. Sharon van Etten "Don't Do It"
5. Tortoise, "Charteroak Foundation"
6. Baths, "Indoorsy"
7. Menomena, "TAOS"
8. TV Buddhas "Fun Girls"
9. Major Stars, "Portable Freak Factory"
10. Superchunk "Learned to Surf"
11. Jeremy Messersmith, "Dillinger Eyes"
12. The Extra Lens, "How I Left the Ministry"
13. Neu! "Negativland"

All is falling…

Tried and failed to get an assignment to review the new Swans, which is excellent, but I did manage to snag James Blackshaw’s lovely All Is Falling for Blurt.

I wrote:

An extraordinarily beautiful eight-song cycle, All Is Falling continues James Blackshaw's development as a composer and arranger, as well as guitarist. Like last year's Glass Bead Game, it extends well beyond the 12-string wizardry that first brought Blackshaw notice, moving into dizzying landscapes of guitar, piano, voice and strings.

The rest

One of those “not really a video” videos of Part 3

I’ve got a new mix coming pretty soon…trying to get all the songs I want to put on into some sort of order that makes sense, though I may give up at some point and just slap it up there.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Consider the Tortoise

After a long dry spell, there were finally a couple of shows I wanted to see last week in Northampton. I already blogged a couple of times about Rangda. Here's my Tortoise write-up, which ran yesterday at Blurt.

Tortoise -- the five-person, instrument-switching, jazz-rock-fusion band out of Chicago that single-handedly launched post-rock -- has just kicked "High Class Slim Came Floatin' In" up a notch. Two drummers, Dan Bitney and John Herndon face off on kits set back to back, playing syncopated rhythms that move in and out of phase with each other, now an identical beat doubled, now two intersecting cadences that fill in each other's spaces and dot each other's "I"s. John McEntire is up on the multiple-tiered keyboard synth set, while Doug McCombs settles into a groove in the back. For now, guitar-bass-keyboard player Jeff Lewis is picking out a melody on a keyboard in the back, but don't get too comfortable. When the song's over, everyone will change places. It would be remarkable if the band's five members were this good on one instrument. Instead, they're adept at three or four.


Thursday, September 9, 2010


Kind of a late review of Baths' Cerulean up at Dusted today. It's a fascinating piece of work, with elements of hip hop, pop, electronic music, but not really dead center of any of these genres. The album's been out since late summer on Anticon, and it's well worth checking out.

I said, "The tension often arises when Wiesenfeld’s lush, flowery melodies coincide with the hard abstraction of rhythm. His beats are slant-wise, not quite square, and prone to plunging forward then hitching back. They are, all by themselves, worth thinking about, at once physically compelling and off-putting. You feel like a surfer trying to stay on top of them. And even if you didn’t want to think about them, you’d have to, because they are presented at a dominant level, as if the piano or guitar is playing in a room down the hall, but the drums are right there next to you.

You view the melodies, then, as if through a barred window, catching little flurries of baroque ornamentation between massive beats."

The rest of the review is here.

"Plea" and "Maximallist" live