Thursday, June 30, 2011


Fun night, more later...

The Wax Musuems

Super fun, silly garage punk from Denton Texas' Wax Museums, reviewed yesterday at Blurt.

The Wax Museums
Eye Times
(Trouble in Mind)

The Wax Museums write fast, sloppy punk songs about any damned thing, chronicling summer's highs ("Breakfast for Dinner") and lows ("Mosquito Enormo" and "Sunburn") with Ramones-esque bravado. Their lyrics sound like someone's smart-mouthed teenage brother ("You know I hate the space between/your neck and eyebrows" from "Between") cracking wise between huffs of paint. Their music, too, is the essence of garage punk simplicity, two- and three-chord rave-ups stripped of ornamentation and pushed to maximum velocity.


Here they are at one of the world's best places to see punk bands.

"Sunburn" (via Austin Town Hall)

I also reviewed their last album for Dusted.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

We're going to see Nobunny tonight...

It was going to be a tough call because Sic Alps and Purling Hiss were originally playing the Flywheel last night and Nobunny tonight...But Sic Alps/Purling Hiss cancelled, so....easy choice.

Anyway, Nobunny looks fun, yeah?

Here's "Live It Up" from First Blood, which can be had from the great Goner Records.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fruit Tree Foundation

A couple of summers ago, it seemed like I was listening to nothing but Scottish music, the two early albums by Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit, a bit of James YOrkston, some reissued Fire Engines, Sons & Daughters...and it wasn't a bad thing at all. The Fruit Tree Foundation brings together a few of these artists -- plus a few others (Rod Jones from Idlewild, Emma Pollack from the Delgados, Alasdair Roberts -- to raise money and awareness for the Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival.

Unlike a lot of benefit records (and even for-profit compilations), this one is not made up of cast-offs from earlier sessions. The artists actually went to a house in Perthshire to write the music, consciously focusing on themes around mental well-being...The songs fit together rather well as a result, and, moreover, there are lots of interesting pairings. I like this one, particularly, which puts Scott Hutchison from Frightened Rabbit and Rod Jones from Idlewild together, in a fairly compelling blend of vulnerability and guitar shimmer...

"I Forgot the Fall"

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sorry Bamba

I've got a review up at Blurt of a collection from Malian bandleader Sorry Bamba...which I just didn't like as much as I expected to...

Sorry Bamba
Volume 1: 1970-1979
(Thrill Jockey)

Thrill Jockey collects the early works of Sorry Bamba, one of Mali's pre-eminent post-colonial bandleaders, in this first of two planned installments. The compilation, put together by Bamba himself, as well as Extra Golden's Alex Minoff and Ian Eagelson, spans the artist's years with the Kanaga Orchestra. During this period, from the mid- to late-1970s, in a series of government-sponsored biennial competitions, Bamba and his orchestra re-framed traditional Malian music in electrified (and occasionally electrifying) terms.

Culture is always political, but never more so than when a new republic is establishing its own identity after many years of foreign rule. Sorry Bamba emerged as an artist during the fertile years of the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Mali's first president, Modibo Keita, began to promote his country's music through Radio Mali, concerts and competitions. Sorry Bamba thrived in this environment by being more than a musician, or even a conductor. His tasks - preserving culture, bringing arcane traditions into the modern era, demonstrating the value of indigenous music and dance - had political, as well as artistic, overtones. He was, for instance, one of the first to popularize the music and dance of the Dogon people, a little-understood tribe living in the cliffs and caves around Mopti, who were known for elaborate masked funeral dances, and he also incorporated traditions from the Peul people. So, while Sorry Bamba's music had undeniable physical appeal - his biggest hit, "Yayoroba", was a song about women with unusually large posteriors - it was also a form of propaganda or at least a shoring up of national identity.



Friday, June 24, 2011

Here's my son throwing the javelin 124 feet

We were at decathalon all last weekend


Pretty stunning bit of dance pop from the Danish outfit When Saints Go review ran at Blurt yesterday.

When Saints Go Machine

A new competitor for the Antony Hegarty Memorial "Most Delicate Falsetto in a Disco Setting" award has emerged from the unlikely environs of Copenhagen. Nikolaj Manuel Vonsild may not be a bird now or ever, but he's got the same quavery vulnerability, the same whispery flamboyance as Hegarty, against the same sleek, strobe-lit dance vibes as Hercules & Love Machine.

Vonsild is the most visible member of Danish four-piece When Saints Go Machine. The new album is named for a conch shell, but put this beach flotsam to your ear and you're more likely to hear shivery synths and percolating electro keyboards than any kind of ocean. Their sound is super clean, super sharp, but with a touch of the mystic. The titular opener takes shape like a lost Talk Talk outtake, Vonsild's voice fluttering in chilled landscapes of electro-tones. Later, "Cut By the Same Scissors" floats right off the dance floor and into epiphany. Its tremolo'd synths and Gnostic verses make a case for human connectivity, even as its drum machines urge the hips to shift. Concluding track "Adds and Ends" is even more spiritually evocative, its friction-y pizzicato string lines dissolving into lush, synthetic vistas, all lost, as Vonsild trills, "in yellow light."


Thursday, June 23, 2011

These Trails

Drag City seems to be mostly in the business of locating and reissuing lost 70s folk classics and semi-classics (and if you think about the dull-ish Carolyn Kleyn album they're hawking, non-classics)...and This Trails is a good one. It's unusual in that there's a bit of a Hawaiian flavor to it, mostly in the lyrics...nothing overtly Don Ho-ish here.

My review ran yesterday or so at Blurt.

These Trails
These Trails
(Drag City)

....These Trails is full of lyrical references to Hawaiian places. "House in Hanalei" recalls an idyllic cottage where Cockett and Morgan once lived together. "Rusty's House" commemorates gatherings at the home of surfer Rusty Miller. And haunting "Waipoo" was inspired by a hike on the rim of the Waimea Canyon. Still, in pure sonic terms, the music in These Trails more closely linked to British folk revivalists like Pentangle or Incredible String Band than anything overtly Hawaiian. The two "Psyche" tracks - "Psyche and I Share Your Water" and "Psyche II" - follow a serpentine, bend-filled guitar line over rustic landscapes, the weather mostly sunny but with occasional dark flurries of minor-key picking. Morgan's voice is flute-like in its tremulous, breathy vibrato. She sounds like purity and simplicity embodied in "Rapt Attention," one of the disc's prettiest songs, her soprano wreathed in dizzying close harmonies. In other tracks, such as "Hello Lou" where she sings in breezy unison with Cockett, there's a translucence to the vocals, as if you could see right through these brightly colored notes to the silence behind them."


"El Rey Pescador"

The Tunnel

The Tunnel
Fathoms Deep
(Glorious Alchemical)

The Tunnel, out of San Francisco, swaggers through a doomed and noir-ish landscape of abandoned taverns and spectral red light districts. Armed with just the basics — guitar, drums, a few keyboards and a bass — its three members transform California’s normally sunny surf rock into something dank and infected, chords hanging in the miasma, riffs clanking chains in damp, moldering basements. The band is said to have first convened at a punk/goth club called Death Rock Booty Call, founders Pat Crawford and Jeff Wagner drawn together by a shared love of The Birthday Party. Not surprisingly, there’s a good bit of Nick Cave’s theater of the macabre here, along with shreds of The Cramps’ campy horror movies, Lydia Lunch’s pulp fiction, and Bauhaus’ morbid dramas.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Anni Rossi

Anni Rossi impressed me at SXSW two years ago, wedding baroque viola to punk rock rawness...but Heavy Meadow left me kind of cold. My review went up yesterday at Blurt.

"Heavy Meadow's burble-y, synthetic vibe should not come entirely as a surprise - Rossi has, after all, had a cover of Ace of Base's "Living in Danger" in her set list for several years. And, let's be fair. Surely every classically minded prodigy has occasional pop diva dreams. But it seems odd when an artist tosses the one thing that makes her unique over the side, blithely replacing it with mid-1970s pop artifice. It's not quite like Zola Jesus waking up with a Captain & Tennille fetish, but it's close and a bit disturbing."


"Land Majestic"

Bee Mask

Chris Madak, the electronic composer who goes by the name of Bee Mask, has, until recently, mostly released his eerie, atmospheric compositions on cassette and CDR. Elegy for Beach Friday, on Editions Mego's Spectrum Spools imprint, collects this hard-to-find material in CD format, as a companion piece to the same label's reissue, earlier this year, of Canzioni dal Laboratorio del Silenzio Cosmico. Tiny Mix Tapes included this latter record on their top 50 for 2011, calling it "a dazzling display of synthesizers and haunting sound collage."

Hyperborean Trenchtown (excerpt) by Bee Mask

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pontiak's long drive to nowhere

No one ever talks about desert rock anymore, do they? Maybe they should start again. My review of Pontiak's road-trip-inspired Comecrudos runs today at Dusted.



Thrill Jockey

Driving long distances can sometimes feel like a metaphor for life itself. Cruising through vast, unchanging landscapes, you can feel that the view hardly shifts at all, that you yourself make little mark on the passing miles which look just the same in the rear view as through the front windshield. And yet, you start here, you end there, and whatever you pass through — mountains, deserts, endless cornfields, commercial strips — becomes a part of your narrative. Long journeys make the passage of time concrete and observable, in a way that nothing else does, except, perhaps for music.

Comecrudos was inspired by a trip from Phoenix to Texas, driving south on Route 385 through mountain ridges and volcanic craters and camping out along the Rio Grande. Although not a long record (its four tracks total about 25 minutes), the EP strives for, and often attains, the sprawling vastness of the landscapes that inspired it. The personal exists, intermittently, in shreds of lyrics about memory, meaning and impermanence, but it is often swallowed up larger scale contemplations.


"Part III"

Monday, June 20, 2011

Anne-James Chaton

Not really how to describe this, Anne-James Chaton is a French artist/poet/electronic artist who makes beats out of stray phrases, then reads essentially random series' of letters and numbers from ticket stubs and other disposable media over that...It sounds odd -- and let's face it, it is odd -- but it's also fascinating, hypnotic and, on some level, weirdly moving. There's something about the way that the murmuring backdrop, the endless streams of meaningless numbers, pulls short and you hear the phrase clearly at the end of each section. It has some bearing on the way we live, I think, inundated by streams of data and only occasionally able to see the point. I find it oddly affecting.

His latest album, Événements 09 is out now on Raster-Norton. Brad LaBonte picked it as his #1 through the first half of 2011, so you can read about it from the perspective of someone who actually knows what he's talking about by going here

Here Chaton is performing...

Friday, June 17, 2011

White Noise Sound...again

I posted about White Noise Sound a few weeks ago, after more or less aimlessly poking through the wfmu heavily list and looking for mp3s. I liked "Sunset" a lot at the time, and more now, so I ended up reviewing the album for Dusted.

White Noise Sound

“Sunset,” the first and best track off this space-rocking debut, is a hailstorm of psychedelic torment, its Suicide-ish synthetic drones plonking down on sheets of grey-guitar-driven murk. Dense, roiling, squalling layers of sound fold over and under the song’s uninflected chant-song, kept in line by the thwacking precision of the drum line. In a decade when everyone can be forgiven for never wanting to hear another song that reminds them of The Jesus and Mary Chain, “Sunset” cuts right to the point, its turbulent mayhem swirling around tormented pop melodies.

Though if you read on, you'll find that I was somewhat less impressed with the rest of the album, especially the second half.

Still, it's a hell of a song, "Sunset," maybe my favorite from 2011 so far.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mia Doi Todd

Mia Doi Todd's latest seemed a little too easy listening to review at Blurt.

Mia Doi Todd
Cosmic Ocean Ship
(City Zen)

Mia Doi Todd has a voice that flickers like flame, unfurling at the slightest breath of air into acrobatic plumes and flourishes, then drawing back into itself in calmer moments, steady and free of vibrato. High and sweet, she can mimic a piccolo's purity. In lower, jazzier registers, she sounds more like a clarinet, sliding softly over the half tones. Todd's singing is so remarkable that listeners become transfixed by it, failing, in their concentration, to notice the subtle way her songs are put together or the aptness of the instrumental arrangements.

Todd has, perhaps, struggled with this a bit. Her last album, Morning Music, was all instrumentals, and on this ninth full-length, she seems to be pulling back from pure vocal intensity. She floats here, mostly, over downtempo reveries in various Latin idioms ("Paraty", "Gracias a la Vida"). She sings sweetly, without much drama, to the lilting rhythms of Laurel Canyon pop ("My Baby Lives in Paris"). She follows the contours of slow-bending melodies with a fluting, fluttering serenity, never rushing, never straining, never ruffling the surface of her pretty songs. Where Manzanita's loveliness sometimes dropped away to reveal shocking depth of feeling, these songs seem to surf atop the froth. They're easy to listen to, but hard to pin down. Where is the muscle, blood and bone?


Check out the album stream here

Dusted Mid-Year

It's list time at Dusted, which runs a wrap of our favorite albums so far this year. Mine is Skull Defekts...others include Demdike Stare, Peaking Lights, Apache Dropout, Milk Music, High Llama, Anne-James Chaton, Tommy Guerrero, King Creosote and the Magic ID. I've heard probably 70% of this and it's all pretty interesting.

Have a look.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

UV Race

Another good one from In the Red records, an Aussie band that really doesn't sound as much like Eddy Current Suppression Ring as people say...

The UV Race
In the Red

The UV Race, out of Melbourne, often gets lumped in with Eddy Current Suppression Ring, a band whose version of garage rock really does distill lust and alienation and boredom into protean simplicity. And while these two bands are connected by geography and friendship and professional collaboration (Mikey Young of ECSR recorded and mixed Homo), The UV Race is a good bit more complicated. Its squalls of conflicted noise may be anchored by blunt and brutal drumming, its stream-of-consciousness rants may seem unfiltered and unpremeditated, but there are snarled complications bristling out of every song. People who compare The UV Race to The Stooges or The Troggs or even (with all due respect) Eddy Current Suppression Ring are listening only so hard. Artists like The Fall or The Pop Group -- where intelligence pokes through paranoiac repetition, where experimental excess warps cadence and melody -- are better reference points.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Vetiver’s new album, The Errant Charm, totally won me over, so I spent a little time talking to Andy Cabic and his long-time producer Thom Monahan about it for Blurt.

"When a critic calls Vetiver a leading freak folk band, that, to me, immediately marks them as not knowing what they're talking about," says Andy Cabic, the band's singer and songwriter. Yes, it's true that Cabic once lived in the same house as Devendra Banhart, that the two sometimes wrote songs together and that Banhart sang on the first Vetiver album. It is also a fact that Cabics' band was included on the genre-defining compilation Golden Apples of the Sun and played on a 2004 tour with Banhart and Joanna Newsom that was memorialized in Kevin Barker's documentary The Family Jams.

And yet, there is nothing remotely folky about Cabic's fifth and best album, The Errant Charm, a landmark of understated, electronically-enhanced pop. Adds Cabic, "I've never really thought of us as a folk band and I never really felt any affinity for the tag freak folk, either. "

Read the rest.

Listen to “Wonder Why

Monday, June 13, 2011

Milk Music

You'll get a big whiff of Dinosaur Jr. off this Olympia, Washington-based band's EP Beyond Living (extending, even, to the title), but that's no reason to back away. Not if you like huge swaths of over-driven guitars, Sabbath-y sludges of grinding bass and surprising tuneful-ness. There's some Nirvana in the sound, too, and a little of Hüsker's inchoate fury.

Mosurock caught it early, as usual, in Still Single, saying, "The immense, pillowy tone of the guitar and bass (credited to “N/A”) and highly-attenuated tone of both recalls a wonderful mix of Karp, J Mascis and Thin Lizzy/NWOBHM dynamics, oozing charisma and busting through walls of shitstorm melodic rock ‘n’ roll, Kool-Aid Man style. They have the woods sound, the flannel feel, and the singer hollers over top, barely in control, kinda like Lou Barlow on the first Dinosaur record, or Greg Sage on Over the Edge. Combined with some solid, Murph-style drumming, this is a very simple but infinitely fulfilling exercise in riff worship and less-is-more songwriting that improves with each spin it’s gotten over here tonight."

There's more

I'm not sure how you get it, officially, but the files are around, if you do a Google search.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

National Shite Day

The best song from my favorite Mojo compilation in quite some time, entitled Mojo Presents Panic: 15 tracks of Riotous '80s Insurrection..."National Shite Day" from Half Man Half Biscuit. It is not actually from the '80s, though HMHB is. It comes from the post-mid-1980s-break-up, post-1990s reunion album CSI: Ambleside...but it is pretty insurrectionary.

The sound's not very good on this live version

And this one isn't really a video

But you get the idea...happy Sunday.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

To What Strange Place

It's a rainy Saturday here, everybody feeling kind of sluggish and out of it, though we did make it into town for the gym and lunch and the used record and book stores...buying nothing very notable, mostly father's day stuff (1000 buildings to see before you die for my husband the architecture fan) and summer reading for AP US history (Last of the Mohicans, a book of essays).

anyway, what better way to spend the afternoon at home than by listening to a bit more than two and a half hours of music from Turkey (though mostly by ethnic minorities who would not consider themselves Turks, per se) recorded between the wars in America?

That's what I did anyway, listened all the way through, to To What Strange Place: The Music of the Ottoman-American Diaspora 1916-1929...It's very different from what I usually listen to, needless to say, though intermittently stunningly beautiful and, the rest of the time, at least pretty interesting. The third disc has some spoken commentary from Ian Nagoski, who put the compilation together, which does a lot to pull it together and bring it into context.

You can listen to seven of the songs on Soundcloud. I personally find Zabelle Panosian's "Groung" to be particularly haunting.

The set is being released by the Tompkins Square label, which is probably best known for its Takoma-style guitar compilations -- the Imaginational Anthem series, as well as a series of solo records that focus on individual performers.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Messthetics 108

The intrepid crate diggers at Hyped to Death visit the church sales and second hand stores of Britain’s south coast to document a scene that was almost unheard of even when it was going on. Messthetics 108 does the usual quality job of gathering photos, cassette covers, ticket stubs and quotes from contemporaries, as well as 24 tracks. I reviewed the album, which is very diverting, for Dusted today, and said:

“A complete lack of support — from the music press, labels, local institutions and damned near everyone else — enabled this South Coast scene to develop in distinctive ways. Women played a large part in many of these bands. A strong thread of pop melodicism ran through much of the music, juxtaposed with dark, even disturbing lyrical imagery. DIY to the point of amateurism was fetishized, to the point where one of the scene’s best loved bands, Mike Malignant and the Parasites, was unable to play its songs twice in the same way. The guitarist and bass players simply improvised, in bizarre, shapeless riffs that changed every time. (The drummer, just to mix things up, was technically very skilled and a bit of a child prodigy.) A common way of getting gigs was to jump on stage when another band was playing, grab their instruments and perform until a fight broke out.”

There’s more here.

Also check out the streamable and downloadable mp3s here.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Are You Falling in Love? is a wonderfully fuzzy, guitar-squalling, yet really melodic first album by the Gold-Bears. They’re on Slumberland, the label that has almost single-handedly revived c86 pop, but sound, to me, more like New Zealand with bits of GBV thrown in, though not so emphatically. I get a shit-ton of garage pop, in varying flavors and degrees of hardness and softness, and you’d think I’d be immune by now. Still, this record jumped out at me right away. I wanted to play it again even while it was playing the first time, which is impossible obviously, so I had to wait…but not that long.

Anyway, here’s a video for “So Natural”

And also “Record Store”


Two characters out of Our Band Could Be Your Life have, unexpectedly, waltzed off the page and into my promo pile lately. That would be Mike Watt of the Minutemen and Kira Roessler of Black Flag, both bassists, once married and, for a long time but not continuously, engaged in the offbeat project known as Dos. Dos means "two" in Spanish, obviously, and that's what it is, two bass players, engaged in intricated, almost baroque interplay that sounds more like Sandy Bull or Peter Walker than, oh let's say, Bootsie Collins. There's a new album out on Original Records (also Watt's own Clenchedwrench label) in June, and no one seems to be doing the usual things to promote it. (Maybe if you're Watt, you don't need to distribute free mp3s or film conceptual videos for Youtube.) However, I did find some footage of Watt and Roessler performing together late last year...

The album's really good, did I mention that?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ty Segall’s Goodbye Bread

Ty Segall has followed his friends in Sic Alps over to Drag City for his new album Goodbye Bread, in which he continues his drift away from manic Elvis-y frenzies (see: “Pretty Baby, You’re So Ugly”) towards a late Beatles-esque psychedelic vibe. The giveaway track, “You Can Make the Sun Fry,” is a genuine pleasure, indolently trippy and expansively, radiantly pop. The rest of the album is pretty great, too. You’ve got to love a guy who’s willing to make a song out of his girlfriend’s desire for a nice couch in her living room…and also, he may have put his dog on the cover. Looking forward to diving deeper on this one.

The album’s out June 21, and Segall is touring everywhere but here in support:
06.16.11 Toronto, Ontario. The Garrison
06.17.11 Toronto, Ontario. Wrongbar
06.18.11 Toronto, Ontario. Bovine Sex Club
07.02.11 San Francisco, California. The Independent
07.21.11 San Diego, California. Casbah (San Diego)
07.22.11 Los Angeles, California. Eagle Rock Center
07.24.11 Las Vegas, Nevada. Beauty Bar
07.25.11 Reno, Nevada. Holland Project
07.28.11 Portland, Oregon. East End
07.30.11 Seattle, Washington. Crocodile Cafe
07.30.11 Vancouver, British Columbia. Biltmore Cabaret
07.31.11 Olympia, Washington. the Brotherhood
08.12.11 Detroit, Michigan. Magic Stick
08.14.11 San Francisco, California. Outside Lands Festival
09.15.11 Tucson, Arizona. Plush
09.16.11 Lubbock, Texas. Bash Riprocks
09.17.11 Austin, Texas. Mohawk (Outside Stage)
09.18.11 Denton, Texas. Rubbergloves
09.19.11 New Orleans, Louisiana. One Eyed Jack's
09.20.11 Birmingham, Alabama. Bottletree
09.21.11 Nashville, Tennessee. Exit/In
09.23.11 Atlanta, Georgia. Earl
09.24.11 Durham, North Carolina. Duke Coffeehouse
09.25.11 Harrisonburg, Virginia. Festival Ballroom A at JMU
09.26.11 Washington, DC. Comet Pizza
09.27.11 Baltimore, Maryland. Golden West Cafe
09.29.11 New York City, New York. Bowery Ballroom
09.30.11 Cleveland, Ohio. Beachland Tavern
10.01.11 Chicago, Illinois. Empty Bottle
10.03.11 Northfield, Minnesota. The Cave (Carleton College)
10.04.11 Iowa City, Iowa. Blue Moose
10.05.11 Omaha, Nebraska. Slowdown
10.06.11 Denver, Colorado. Hi-Dive
10.07.11 Salt Lake City, Utah. Kilby Court

Monday, June 6, 2011

A new song from the War on Drugs

I seem to be off the Secretly Canadian/Dead Oceans/Jagjaguwar list these days, which may have something to do with the "I'm fucked" post a few months ago...or maybe they're just super busy and don't have time to get together and want to send promos to other people for a while.

In any case, I did wangle a DL of Oneida's new one, Absolute II about which more later, but probably here and not in print, because it's already out and I haven't even gone to the WIFI to download it yet. Pitchfork kinda liked it, if you care about that.

But you know, what the hell, there's a free mp3 of the War on Drug's latest single "Baby Missiles" on Secretly Canadian's website and, holy crap, it's awesome, and, even holier crap, you don't have to be a music writer to get it or promise to interview anybody or dedicate five-six unpaid hours to trying to think of something to say about it. You can just have it. Why not go get it?

Mid-year favorites

In three groups.

First, my favorite: Skull Defekts, Peer Amid (Thrill Jockey)

Psychic Paramount, II (Important)
Mogwai, Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will (Sub Pop)
David Kilgour, Left by Soft (Merge)
Dirtbombs, Party Store (In the Red)

And then…
Sidi Toure, Sahel Folk (Thrill Jockey)
Arbouretum, The Gathering(Thrill Jockey)
Vetiver, The Errant Charm (Sub Pop)
Howe Gelb and a Band of Gypsies, Alegrias (Fire)
Obits, Moody, Standard & Poor (Sub Pop)

How about you guys (and girls)?

Little Bear

A five song EP with hand-drawn cover/notes arrived on my doorstep a few weeks ago from the Nashville band, Little Bear, and I, with my long training at Splendid (Motto: It'll probably suck, but how do you know until you listen to it?), gave it a spin. Turns out the EP was excellent, with haunting little songs edging sometimes into country and sometimes into soul, but never really settling into either. Of particular note is lead singer's voice, which has some of Dolly Parton's warm vibrato but also a bit of very post-modern reserve and restraint.

"Parachute," perhaps the loveliest of these five tracks (really six if you count that annoying end track, which is blank except for the last few seconds), is up for listening at the band's MySpace.

The record, which can be had from Plastic350 records, is called Bridges.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Brute Heart

Really interesting mix of dissonant, post-punk energy and exotic post-traditional sounds in this second album from Brute Heart, a trio out of Minneapolis. The free single “Blindfolded” has an unsettling balance of sustained drones and staccato rhythms, a bit of whirling dervish in its ghostly overtones, a touch of Delta 5 in its skittish propulsion.

The album, called Lonely Hunter is out now on Soft Abuse.

The great Jon Langford and another of his mad projects

Jon Langford and the Burlington Welsh Male Chorus
Skull Orchard Revisited
Jon Langford’s first solo album, Skull Orchard, was pegged on its release in 1998 as his most Welsh release ever. It was studded with odd consonants for one thing, places like Aberfan, Youghal and Rhondda. Moreover it was nostalgic, both lyrically and musically, for an admittedly imperfect lost Wales. Here tracts of industrial wreckage, port town decadence, minor historical events and figures were recollected fondly but roughly, in Langford’s gruff growls and extravagantly rolled Rs. Even in its original incarnation, backed by assorted Wacos and Mekons, listeners remarked on its folk-ish bent, hearing sea shanties and jigs in its rollicking ditties.

About a decade later, and via a circuitous route, Langford came into contact with the Burlington Welsh Male Chorus, a group based in Toronto but steeped in the group-singing traditions of Langford’s childhood. He was in Toronto recording The Sadies’ live album when he met up with the chorus’ leader, Julian Murray, and soon was deep in beery plots for a touring musical of Moby Dick. Sadly, that never materialized, but Langford did invite the chorus to accompany him at a CeltFest in Chicago in 2007. The songs of Skull Orchard, he decided, were a natural fit. He wrote later, in the book that accompanies this reissue, that “The tunes on the original Skull Orchard album were unknowingly written with a Welsh male choir in mind….They were meant to be sung at international rugby matches in an alternative universe where Tom Jones is the president of a free Welsh republic and Garndiffaith win the Heineken Cup.”


Thursday, June 2, 2011


Seapony falls nicely into the “summer tunes” category, enveloping listeners in sunny, dreamy, not-incredibly-demanding garage pop. Singer Jen Weidl has a nicely chilled reserve in her voice that might recall Young Marble Giants, though the rest of her band guitarist Danny Rowland, bassist Ian Brewer doesn’t sound like that at all. (Not as eccentrically, skeletally odd, for one things, these songs are almost lush.) In any case, Seapony’s tunes are translucently uncomplicated, shimmering in your peripheral vision, but dissolving under too close attention. Seapony originated in Oklahoma, spent time in Olympia, Washington and now dwells in Seattle…but neither Saddle Creek-ish baroque emo, K Records DIY juvenilia or Sub Pop-ian guitar turmoil has much to do with this sound. Instead, I’d look towards a misty seacoast, far removed from the nearest train station or McDonald’s franchise and just enough electricity to plug in guitar amps. Their album Go With Me is out this week on Hardly Art.


“Blue Star”

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds

Kid Congo Powers has quite a resume. He was an original member of the Gun Club, a Cramp, a Bad Seed and now, apparently, a Pink Monkey Bird. His latest record Gorilla Rose , out now on In the Red, is a total blast, touching on the rockabilly madness, the skewed nocturnal surf rock, the lurid spoken word and the maniacal repetition of his many influences and forebears (let’s see, Gun Club, Cramps, the Fall, the Pop Group and, per the title and one other reference, the Screamers, at least for starters). My favorite cut is something called “Catsuit Fruit,” where our hero mouths the names of different fruits, turning phrases like “loquat” and “lime” into something profoundly sexual and decadent.

Did I write a review? Oh, yes, I did.

Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds

Gorilla Rose
(In the Red)

With its crazed surf vamps, head-knocking Fall-like litanies, lurid poetry and vampiric sexuality, Kid Congo's third album with the Pink Monkey Birds sits at the conjunction of Stax, glam, Manchester post-punk and 1960s beat poetry. Flamboyant, surreal and utterly entertaining, it's a fine addition to a career that has includes stints with the Gun Club, Cramps and Nick Caves' Bad Seeds.

Powers has dedicated his album to Gorilla Rose, the performance artist associated with L.A.'s Screamers, a proto-synth-punk outfit known for wild, theatrical performances and gender-blurring sexuality. There's a photo of Gorilla Rose in the liner notes, boa'd, bejeweled and decadent, eyes rimmed with black starbursts, a cigarette dangling from mustachio'd lips. It's a disturbing image, but absolutely makes sense as an inspiration for an artist who can make his grocery list sound like a sex crime (and basically does just this in the outré "Catsuit Fruit").


Here he is covering the Gun Club in Marseilles