Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mark Eitzel's Don't Be a Stranger

I'm headed to Chicago for the weekend, but not before posting a link to Mark Eitzel's latest solo album, reviewed today at Dusted.

Mark Eitzel
Don’t Be A Stranger

Mark Eitzel has always had lounge pop tendencies, a slick melodic penchant that he’s undercut in his American Music Club and solo work with various kinds of violence. Last time around, with the American Music Club reunion album Golden Age, he used long-time collaborator Vudi’s guitar to roil his cabaret songs with danger. Now, on his sixth solo album, Don’t Be a Stranger, he sticks mostly to a piano-bar palette of sounds — lovely minimal jazz piano by Larry Golding, reticent drums from Elvis Costello associate Pete Thomas, a modest string section and Vudi again, though in much quieter mode — to frame his songs. The necessary darkness comes, this time, from the lyrics, which are lacerating, self-loathing and devastatingly clever.

Eitzel wrote most of these songs after suffering a heart attack in May 2011, so, perhaps not surprisingly, Don’t Be a Stranger is a skull-beneath-the-skin kind of record. It is permeated throughout by observations on the nearness of death, the façade-ish falsity of life and the ways people distract themselves (love, music) from these essential realities. In this vein, the single, “I Love You But You’re Dead,” is its strongest song. It conveys all at once the seedy glamour, the existential futility, the inexplicable uplift of making rock music. Eitzel dives into a scene so particularly observed that you see beer-soaked stages, rotten carpets on plywood, a singer crawling on their hands and knees, bands turned weightless with sheer obliterating volume, but he holds himself apart. The last line of the song is chilling: “I control my arms and my legs and my hands and my hair and my face, like I’m holding a gun in a video game.”


You can stream the whole thing at Paste.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

David Byrne & St. Vincent and a big brass band

So, I have to say that when I saw this performance on Fallon and even later when I listened to Love This Giant in its entirety I was a little zzzzzzzzz about the whole thing. In fact, I had just gotten to the end of my usual four listens when I put the record on for a run, and god damn, it is such a good exercise record. I mean, it's so rhythmic and in the most unexpected ways, like I guarantee that one foot will be lifting up on the horn beats, the other one on vocal lines. It's all very staccato and pointillist, like the songs are made up of bits of confetti, and kinda cool. At least that's what I thought yesterday. I might change my mind again.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Rangda, Round Two

I've got a PopMatters on Rangda coming (it's done but in the pipeline), but meanwhile check out my review of the band's second album, up late last week at Blurt.

Formerly Extinct
(Drag City)

The last Rangda record, 2010's False Flag, was recorded just a couple of days after the band's three principals had their first practice session, a day max after the first time they played on stage. It was a rough, improvisational triumph, somehow melding the Richard Bishop's Eastern-tinged pyrotechnics with Ben Chasny's molten psychedelia, Chris Corsano's explosive energy with the two twining, exploring guitars. This second entry in the Rangda catalogue is altogether more premeditated, though still writhing with untamped power. It came after a month of East Coast shows, a day or two at Corsano's home to rough out songs and a full week of studio time at Jason Meagher's Black Dirt facility.

The songs are, consequently, more fleshed out and complicated, containing, in several cases, multiple movements and moods. "The Vault," for instance, starts in a blur-paced barrage of percussive picking, a batter and clash of chaotic drums, a bee swarm of noise and musical ideas that crowds sonic space right to the edges, everybody hammering at once. And then there's a break, and a slow, stately 1960s psych melody breaks out, two guitars moving in ritual accord, one frayed to breaking with dirt and distortion, the other ringing clear and luminous over it.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Dirty Three feature

My feature on Dirty Three's Towards a Low Sun ran in the summer print issue of Blurt, but it's up online now for the first time. It's one of my favorite pieces of writing (of mine anyway) for the year and also one of my favorite albums, so check it out.


The wizards of Oz release their first album in seven years - and a North American tour kicks off this week.


"We tried to record this album a couple of times, and nothing seemed to fall into place," says Warren Ellis, for 20 years the violinist in one of rock's rawest chamber orchestras, the Dirty Three. "Then we did some shows and we realized that the way in was to kind of try and concentrate on the way we play live. We needed to take some really basic material, really skeletal structures and explore them in a very free way."

"After stagnating, we decided we wanted to capture the spontaneity and energy evident in our live performances on tape," concurs guitarist Mick Turner, another of the band's three founders. "So we tracked all three of us at same time."

The band's latest album Towards the Low Sun (Drag City) is its first in seven years, reconvening the Aussie trio of Ellis, Turner and drummer Jim White in an explosive, restless exploration of possibilities that pushes at the boundaries of rock, post-rock, jazz and classical music.


They're touring, too.
09-23 Washington, DC - Sixth & I Historic Synagogue
09-25 Detroit, MI - 1464 Gratiot
09-26 Chicago, IL - Lincoln Hall
09-28 Minneapolis, MN - Cedar Cultural Center
10-01 Vancouver, British Columbia - The Biltmore Cabaret
10-02 Seattle, WA - Neumos
10-03 Portland, OR - The Mission Theater
10-04 Portland, OR - The Mission Theater
10-08 Los Angeles, CA - Bootleg Theater
11-20 Birmingham, England - The Glee Club
11-21 Manchester, England - Manchester

The great Free Music Archive has their whole set from Primavera Sound 2012 up and available for streaming or downloading. Check it out here.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Annette Peacock

A pretty amazing reissue of Annette Peacock's 1971 album I'm the One landed in my inbox a month or so ago. Peacock was right in the thick of the counterculture. Her husband, bassist Gary Peacock, played with Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and SOnny Rollins. She herself toured with Albert Ayler and dropped acid with Timothy Leary.

I've been getting a lot of long-lost 1970s female records lately, and I have to say, this one is so, so, so different from the airy-fairy, hippie princess stuff that started surfacing during Vashti Bunyan's second run. Peacock sings from the gut. She is more influenced by jazz and blues than anything else, and her work is chilling and brave and not anything like what you expect (even after you've heard a couple of tracks, she is fully capable of surprising you on the next one).

Anyway, here's some footage of her performing in her heyday.

And here is a link to the CD Baby page for I'm the One, a recording The Wire included on its list of "Albums that Set the World on Fire" at #5.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Red Room Cinema

Another one of those epic, space-filling guitar bands, along the lines of Explosions in the Sky, Red Sparrowes, Pelican and others...Red Room Cinema is a two-man operation -- Anthony Maltese on guitar, Brian Burleson on bass and someone, not sure who but maybe one of them, playing drums. They're from Tampa, Florida...their latest, Apsis, was apparently inspired by the stories of Italo Calvino.

Here's a bit called "We Raise Our Eyes Between the Walls of Glass and Steel".

The album is out next week on New Granada.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Stupid fuckin' people

My son, Sean, is in a play this fall. He's going to be Daddy Warbucks in the musical Annie. he's been very excited about it since he got the part in May.

He's also in band.

His band director has scheduled the holiday concert for Sunday, December 9th at 2 p.m. There is also a matinee of Annie at this exact same time. he has told Sean that the concert represents 40% of his grade. If he is not there, the highest grade he can get in the class (and also in choir, which he is also in) is 60%...a failing grade. Sean has never gotten anything lower than a 98% in band, and he is probably the best male singer at his school. If Sean fails band and choir, he will not be able to be on the XC ski team, where he is the second or third best skier. He will not be in National Honor Society. He will have a very good chance of not getting into a decent college (unless he gets into Northwestern early decision, which would happen before the 9th...but I'm not sure we can count on that). the band director is being a total asshole about this, with no flexibility at all. (The choir director said it sounded like a reasonable excuse to her, but she is not the chair of the music department.)

Let me just mention that there is almost nothing that happens at that school that my son does not put his heart and soul into, that he is always exhausted from doing all the school work and community volunteering and sports and band and choir and what have you that they ask of him. He has never said no to anything. He is currently ranked 5th in his class. he's a great kid. he loves theater more than anything, and he cannot miss a performance.

My question is: why would the school do this to a kid as smart and motivated and gung ho as Sean?

I dedicate this song by the Bell-Rays to the pin heads at his school. It's much too good for them.

Lost Lost...more posthumous Jay Reatard

Last year, Goner Records anthologized the Reatards, the late, great Jay Reatard's noisy, punky garage band. This year, they're giving the same treatment to the Lost Sounds, a goth-y, new-wave-nodding, keyboard-heavy outfit that balanced Jay's nihilistic tuneful-ness with Alicia Trout's feral girl group charisma. Lost Lost: Demos, Sounds, Alternate Takes & Unused Songs collects the Memphis bands' diverse, extremely raw catalogue, which ranges from Jay-like punk anthems ("No Count" sounds just like him, and also contains the line "I'm a reatard") and odder, jerkier, damaged Human League-ish outings like "NoOne Killer". There's some weird sound experiement stuff, a long fairly amazing psycho cut called "Total Destruction," which might turn into my favorite, I don't know.

Anyway, great they are playing live

And again

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cleaners from Venus

I mentioned this a couple weeks ago, but now there's a review of the Cleaners from Venus reissues up at Dusted.

The Cleaners from Venus
The Cleaners from Venus, Vol. 1
Captured Tracks

This initial trio of reissues documents the first three DIY cassette-only releases made by Cleaners from Venus, a British duo whose lo-fi pop experiments filtered British eccentric pop, a la The Kinks, Syd Barrett and XTC through the most minimal of recording technology and a scrim of politically engaged madness. The two Cleaners – Martin Newell and Lawrence “Lol” Elliott – met in Wivenhoe, a small-ish coastal town in southeast England at the beginning of 1980. They convened every day from November 1980 to April 1981, working from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to write, perform and record songs. Two a day was the goal.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Clinic's Free Reign

The new album from Clinic (out November 12 on Domino) is quite good, well in line with previous material (reverbed keyboards, jerky rhythms, abstract lyrics) but a bit jazzier than I recall...Daniel Lopatin from Oneohtrix Point Never mixed it, and it has a certain kind of coiled energy, as if it might, any moment, rear up and bite you, but it doesn't.

Anyway, there's an album preview-ish youtube up, which you can check out below.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Black Forest Fires

Another pretty impressive psychedelic guitar record out of Austin, this one from Blac Forest Fires, a threesome made up of singing drummer Karen Skloss and guitar/vocalist Jay C. Tonne Jr. and bassist Doug Walseth

Transit of Venus is out mid-November on Sedimental Records.

Fun fact: the album art was designed by Storm Thorgerson, who also designed covers for Pink Floyd‘s Dark Side of the Moon and Led Zeppelin‘s Houses of the Holy.

Here's the opening track, a really wonderful combination of driving bass and daydreaming vocals. The guitar in this one reminds me a little bit of fellow Austinites Explosions in the Sky, and also (again from Austin) Experimental Aircraft. "Live News Feed"

Here they are playing at SXSW

Sunday, September 16, 2012

New Bailterspace...after 13 years

I put a bunch of new stuff onto my iTunes today, about time...I have been really scrambling to keep up with reviews lately, but the best of the bunch so far is a new album from Bailterspace, called Strobosphere. Bailterspace, as you may know, was founded by the Gordon's Alister Parker and the Clean's Hamish Kilgour in the late 1980s. The band was, from the beginning louder and more distorted than the typical run of NZ pop. Melody Maker once called them "the Sonic Youth of the Southern Hemisphere." Anyway, they've all been doing other things and let a decade plus slip by, but Strobosphere shows no signs of senescence at all.

Here is "No Sense" which appears to be the single, or at least the free giveaway.

The record's been out for about a month on Fire Records.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sofrito International Soundclash

Loving this new compilation of tropical dance/funk/etc tracks curated by Sofrito DJs Hugo Mendez and Frankie Francis now on offer from Strut Records.

Let's not even pretend I know what I'm talking about here, though, and just cut to what Strut says:

The new selection effortlessly mixes the old with the new, plucking dusty gems from Trinidad, Colombia, Dominica, Congo, Cameroun and beyond. Exclusives include the deep Pacifico sound of Grupo Canalon's 'La Zorra y El Perol' - a new project from Nidia Góngora, singer with Quantic's Combo Barbaro - a previously unreleased track by UK/Kenyan sensations Owiny Sigoma Band, and a Tropical Treats edit of Haiti's dynamite Les Difficiles de Petion-Ville. Other highlights include an incendiary lesson in Soca groove from Lord Shorty, stunning up-to-the-minute carnival sounds from Guadeloupe's Mas Ka Klé, all backed up by deep bassline Cadence, synthed-out Soukous and other Afro Latin encounters. Over the last year Sofrito have brought their inimitable vibes to clubs across the world - sharing the stage with Haitian Ra Ra collectives in Paris, running all-night sessions in Bogota alongside Quantic, warehouse parties with the Owiny Sigoma Band in London and sweaty parties in illicit lofts in Brooklyn. Their "Sofrito Super Singles" vinyl series continues to make waves on the underground, unleashing raw dancefloor edits and attracting the likes of Daphni (aka Dan Snaith), DrumTalk and Sweden's Tropical Treats to contribute guest re-works. For this release, visual maestro Lewis Heriz interprets Sofrito's fresh perspective on the world with a specially designed cut-out globe on a pull-out poster to accompany the CD and Double LP.

And the tunes themselves...awesome.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fresh and Onlys interview

Part one of my epic survey of the SF garage rock scene ran yesterday, a piece on the Fresh & Onlys up at Blurt online. (It'll also be in print, though shorter.)

Sep 11, 2012

Or, how the beloved San Fran band evolved and learned how to love the bomb.


"We never really did identify as a garage band," says Tim Cohen, the singer and main songwriter behind San Francisco's shambolic Fresh & Onlys, a jangly, melody-obsessed outfit whose latest album Long Slow Dance (Mexican Summer) is anything but lo-fi.

The band's fourth full-length was recorded with TransAm's Phil Manley on a mixing board once used for Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London." It is noticeably cleaner sounding than anything the band has done to date. "Part of it is maturing as a band and asking, ‘How are we going to become the band that we want to be?' says Cohen. "We came together to say, let's not put limitations on ourselves. Let's not hide behind layers of reverb and distortion. Let's let the lyrics stand out for once."

"There was really no concerted effort to make a clean sounding record," he adds, "but we did get money to record. We had time to record. We were like, ‘Let's make this sound like an actual record sounds.'"


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Estrogen Highs

I've personally never experienced an estrogen high, but judging by this New Haven lo-fi band's output, I'd say it's a foggy, messy, somewhat disorganized form of exhilaration that lasts 2-3 minutes at a time. My review of Irrelevant Future runs today at Dusted.

Estrogen Highs
Irrelevant Future
Trouble in Mind

Estrogen Highs makes cheerfully messy, sloppy garage pop, alternately strung out and loose like The Clean at its least premediated, and punching and popping with punk-ish energy a la Tyvek or Nodzzz. The band, which hails from the townie end of New Haven, Conn., makes a modest artform out of disintegration, its shout-along choruses dissolving into clouds of fuzz.

A bit less structured, even, than the slackest, slyest pop deconstructionists — I’m thinking The Beets and maybe Times New Viking — Estrogen Highs works mostly at the level of vibe and aura. You’ll find a radiant jangle here, a scrabbly racket of drums there, an unhurried, mostly untuneful approach to singing everywhere, but not much in the way of songs you can hum in the shower.


P.S. Root canal yesterday, feeling better, slept all the way through for the first time in three days...quarterly taxes today, broke tomorrow.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Weird day, heading to the dentist

I've been having really bizarre tooth problems since Friday, feel fine all day long, lie down, sleep, couple of hours later wake up in excruciating, obliterating pain, get up and pretty soon after the pain is gone. So, I went to the dentist this morning, and he took exrays all over my mouth and couldn't find anything very definitive wrong, maybe one small area that migth be an infection, way down under my very back right tooth, so I am going to an endodontist today to see if I need a root canal. I'd love for them to say everything's fine, you don't need it, but then I'd have the same pain tonight and the night after and all the rest of the I'm kind hoping there's something they can find and fix, hwoever, painful the fix is in the interim.

Anyway, long way of saying, I might be too zonked on pain killers tomorrow to post. Or possibly to post anything that makes sense. We'll see.

Wish me luck, eh?

Also, my last act before going will be to interview Mike Donovan from Sic Alps...which I better do just about right now.

See ya.

Can you BELIEVE they tried to sell this to Virgin?

Drag City is reissuing Royal Trux's great, Stones-y, ballsy, chaotic and completely not-mainstream-commercial classic Accelerator, the album that got Hagerty and Herrema politely excused from their major label obligations and returned them to the Drag City fold. It is a pretty fantastic album, if you tend towards the messy and loosely strung... I like "I'm Ready", "Juicy Juicy Juice" and "Liar" a whole lot.

This is not, by the way, one of those stuffed-to-the-gills-with-added-materials's pretty much exactly what you would have gotten in 1998. Which is pretty good.

Are you ready?

The live experience

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Listen to Sabbath much?

I finally got to Golden Void's self-titled debut, an album that has been lurking on my iPod for a week or two but that, somehow, seems immune to random play. So anyway, it's on Thrill Jockey, led by Isaiah Mitchell from Earthless, and leans heavily on the kind of epic, heavy, oddly melodic theatrics of the first couple of Sabbath albums. There's even a long trippy outro called "Atlantis" that reminds me of "Planet Caravan." Not that sounding like Sabbath is a bad thing, not that it's even that unusual, but still, you can't help noticing...The name might be a Hawkwind reference. There's a Hawkwind song called "Void of Golden Light"...or it might not be. In any case, 1960s-influenced heaviness, lightened just perceptibly by really on-key melodies and some interesting keyboard work.

Here's "The Curve"

Saturday, September 8, 2012

New Earlimart

I've been a bit stretched, as far as listening to stuff lately, because of a print deadline for Blurt and a really long Dusted assignment (all three reissued Cleaners from Venus discs)...which is kind of a weird situation, because, in order to fix it, you kind of have to sit there and listen to music and can't do much else. So to outsiders it looks like you're doing nothing at all, and to be honest, it kind of feels that way,'s the kind of time when it would be good to have a big pile of not very demanding real-job works to do, but I don't at the moment.

So anyway, in between cramming for various rush poorly or unpaid jobs, I have listened a couple of times (well once before and I'm listening to it now) to Earlimart's new album System Preference, which is out September 18th on the band's own The Ship records. I've always liked Earlimart, though I think the one time I interviewed him, we had some tense words about how much he (Aaron Spinoza) sounded like Elliott Smith...I'm not really sure how that happened, because I like Elliott Smith and it would be nice if more bands sounded like him.

In any case, System Preferences really doesn't sound like Elliott Smith in all kinds of ways but most particularly the strong female presence of Ariana Murray, who also used to be in Panty Lions, the criminally under-appreciated slacker pop duo whose So Dang Rad from 2002 was one of the number one reasons I didn't mind reviewing no-name records ever again after I got that one.

So, wow, I'm rambling, aren't I? Here's the single from the new Earlimart.

And if you want to check out my borderline uncomfortable interview with Espinoza (from eight years ago), here it is.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Ormonde's gentle, sensual songs

Another good one from Home Tapes, one of those little labels with a definite personality and viewpoint. I'd say that most of their artists are extremely good musicians, low key but willing to experiment. Megafaun is maybe their biggest artist -- also Bear in Heaven (though I think they're elsewhere now). Ormonde is a little more folk-pop, a little less prog, but a very nice addition to the family.

(Home Tapes)

Ormonde, the first-time collaboration between Robert Gomez and Anna-Lynne Williams, simmers gently rather than boiling over. These are quiet songs, tranquil but not exactly static. There's a subtle yet unmistakable sensuality in Williams' caressing voice, the main connective thread in most of the songs, as well as the intricate, light-filled arrangements of guitar, accordion and percussion that frame her. When you learn that the band's name was taken from Lolita, or that its lone cover is the uncomfortable Gainsbourg song "Lemon Incest," it makes sense. There's a certain amount of pheromone permeating even the most serene of these cuts.

The hush comes naturally. Gomez has toured with Midlake and recorded a string of quietly stunning solo albums, Etherville, Brand New Towns and Pine Sticks and Phosphorous. Williams, for her part, was once the voice of dreamy Trespassers William and also the soft, fetching counterpoint to the Chemical Brothers "Hold Tight London." The two holed up in a house in Marfa, Texas to record these songs, allowing serendipity, not to mention proximity, to meld their separate, undeniable but unshowy charms.

The best song here is "Sudden Bright," Williams singing with the edge-blurred warmth of, say, Mirah, against a precise yet sun-bathed lattice of guitars. Gomez comes in after a while, his own voice just as quiet, a little more reserved and shadowy. Their voices together melt into lovely tight harmonies, no sign at all of where one begins and the other ends. There's a bit of keyboard at the back, a single inorganic sound amid a world of breath and skin. The title track is a bit more emphatic, its organ trills and reverberating guitars punched through with drum fills, and still, even here, Williams drips melody like honey from a spoon, sweet, slow, glistening with sunlight.

Machine is the kind of album you have to settle into. Expect too much right at the start, and you might find the ten tracks same-ish, slow and without obvious climax. Yet if you let it drift by once or twice without too much effort, Machine turns into a gentle, enveloping, time-stopping experience, the very best kind of indolent pleasure.

DOWNLOAD: "Sudden Bright," "Machine" JENNIFER KELLY

I'm still putting up whole reviews from Blurt because I can't even get in with Internet Explorer with all the virus warnings. But if you want to go the site, here's the address.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Bob Mould's blistering new solo album

Bob Mould's new album Silver Age is almost surely going to make my top ten. It's the kind of record that benefits from the insight and perspective of age, without making any concessions to it. It rocks, it rages and it has really powerful melodies...everything you'd want from Mould. Here's my review for Dusted:

Bob Mould
Silver Age

Bob Mould has been looking back for the last couple of years, first in the process of writing his biography, later as a result of some full-album recreation shows where he plays 1992’s Copper Blue from end to end. It’s the kind of introspection that he mostly skipped during his 1980s Hüsker Dü heyday, and it’s evidently good for him. When I saw Bob Mould a couple of years ago playing a low-key, non-record-promoting kind of show with Chris Brokaw, he was unexpectedly genial, expansive and glad to be there. He played unaccompanied, ranging mostly through his solo material, but also dipping back into Sugar and even Hüsker songs. And in between, he told stories and made jokes about his gayness, a topic that he never touched as a Hüsker and which was an open secret until a 1994 Spin interview with Dennis Cooper outed him. He had, at the time of the show, just finished his book and seemed to have come to terms with his past, his sexuality and his music.

During the course of the evening, he played “If I Can’t Change Your Mind,” most likely one of the cuts that Silver Age’s title track is referring to in the line, “I didn’t want to play the songs that gave people so much hope.” However, he played it in an altered, non-jangle pop way that was hardly recognizable. Hey, it’s my song, he seemed to be saying, “I’ll play it the way I want to.” And perhaps even, “You’re lucky that I’m playing it at all.”

Silver Age, Mould’s ninth solo album and the first since 2009’s Life and Times, continues this exploration of the past, embracing the blistering tunefulness that has characterized Mould’s work since Hüsker Dü’s Everything Falls Apart and waxing borderline nostalgic about youth and rage and success and pain. There’s an elegiac mood to Silver Age, though couched in a firestorm of tightly wound guitar aggression.


You can stream the whole album at Stereogum.

Here's a recap of that show I mentioned.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Cooly G

I'm still getting virus warnings every time I log onto Blurt so, again, I am posting the whole review of Cooly G's Playin Me, which went up on the site yesterday.

Cooly G
Playin' Me

Cooly G's version of "Trouble" is a far cry from the piano-lush, falsetto'd sentimentality of Coldplay, punctuated by whip-shot electric percussion and the chilled slinkiness of manicured synths. Cooly G, one of dubstep's only female producer/MCs, crosses warm sensual vocals with brainy, intricate rhythmic syncopation. She somehow makes the song both more emotionally real and less conventionally accessible than the original, a neat trick like turning processed cheese into runny camembert.

Playin Me is the artist's first full-length, following a string of well-received 12"s, splits and a much-remarked solo turn on King Midas Sound's Without You compilation. Cooly, whose real name is Merissa Campbell, does it all on these 13 tracks, writing, producing, arranging and mixing these uneasy concoctions of rhythm, mood and atmosphere. As a singer, Cooly G proceeds with smooth assurance, her voice as sleek and melodically capable as an old-school soul vocalist. Yet she contradicts and complicates her pretty lines with antsy, twitchy, chopped-up rhythms and ominous textures of synth. "Playin Me" starts with the accessibility of commercial radio pop, yet is quickly submerged in the trickeries of off-kilter rhythms, the uncertain undertows of echoey dread. Airy, dreamy "Landscapes" (aided by Sinbad) would float away if its billowing melody weren't riddled with the buckshot cadences of complicated electronic drums. And "Sunshine," transforms a warm, easy reggae back beat into something cerebral and spiritual, a caressing daydream heated just through with sensuality.

In interviews, Cooly G downplays her singular status in a male-dominated industry. Still it's not hard to suss out a distinctively female warmth pulsing through this traditionally chilly genre. Listen to the way her slippery, sexually-charged presence shifts the icy percussion and machine-smooth synths of "Good Times" into sensuality. Nobody's playing Cooly G. She's playing herself - and very well.

DOWNLOAD: "Good Times," "Playin Me" JENNIFER KELLY

And in non-music related news, I have been engrossed in the convention in Charlotte...that thing with all the female congresswomen and Nancy Pelosi made me so proud to be a Democrat, I cried at the Teddy Kennedy tribute, loved Deval Patrick and Michelle Obama is my new #1 hero....

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Messy, abrasive, static-fuzzed Animal Collective

I've been struggling with the new Animal Collective, not exactly loving it but not able to dismiss it entirely review's up today at Dusted.

Animal Collective
Centipede Hz

Animal Collective’s 10th album, Centipede Hz falls about as far from 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavilion as possible, replacing that beloved record’s clean, weightless anthemry with messy, abrasive, static-fuzzed sonics. It is shot through with radio references, both in the voices that filter through cuts like “Moonjock” and “Monkey Riches” and in the between-the-stations indefiniteness that veils even the most emphatic tracks. Recorded more or less live, with Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Geologist and Deakin all taking part (Deakin sat out Merriweather Post Pavilion), the album has a ceaseless busy-ness. “Today’s Supernatural,” the single, is nearly impenetrable, a frantic, antic fugue-state of video game and carnival sounds that coalesces only in the call to “let-let-let-let-let-let go.” And yet, at its best, in the closing “Amanita,” for instance, Centipede Hz conjures absolute joy.


You can stream the whole album (if you haven't already) here.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Plume Giant

A callithump, according to Google, is a riotous parade. It is also the debut full-length from a band called Plume Giant, a trio of Yale educated, classically trained musicians evidently fascinated with the old-time-y, porch-friendly country/blues/folk tradition. Their Callithump is, indeed, a parade of rambunctious, off-kilter exploits in traditionally rooted styles, though sweetened by some really lovely harmonies, counterpoints and other vocal flourishes. You can stream the whole album at Soundcloud...check it out.

They've got some entertaining covers up at Youtube...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Totally enamored of FacDance

I mighta got a tiny bit obsessive about FacDance the new compilation of dance-oriented material from Factory Records. It's Sunday and a three-day weekend, so let's not do any heavy lifting. Here's Strut Records, the compilation's issuer, on what we've got, actually, here...

The album traces early experiments from Blurt's avant garde mutant funk to the fertile post-Joy Division period as the label's unique, coruscating post-punk sound took shape through seminal bands like A Certain Ratio and Section 25. The album also expressly documents Factory's strong links and cross-pollination with New York's 1980s club culture, as New Order joined forces with producer Arthur Baker, fresh from his pioneering electro work with Afrika Bambaataa, and acts like Quando Quango and Sweet Sensation's Marcel King enlisted NY remixer Mark Kamins for tough-edged club treatments. Factory bands including Quando Quango would also play live at some of the city's seminal nightspots, including the Paradise Garage.

The compilation also touches on some of the wider directions explored by Factory during its early years – Durutti Column's melancholic beauty, the latin jazz and jazz funk of Swamp Children, Kalima and Tony Henry's 52nd Street and a track from the label's only reggae single, the Dennis Bovell-produced ‘See Them A'Come' by X-O-Dus. This is the music that would provide the blueprint for the Manchester scene of the late ‘80s and Factory's heady later years – the Happy Mondays, James, Northside and the rest.

FAC. DANCE is compiled and annotated by Bill Brewster of and features rare artist photos alongside original label artwork by Peter Saville. The album is produced in association with James Nice at LTM Records.

And then there's this...

Saturday, September 1, 2012

California Wives

California Wives, out of Chicago, splits the difference between c86-ish rain-on-windows guitar pop and a spikier, punkier kind of thing, drenching fragile melodies in shimmering water-curtains of jangly guitar. My main thought was Pains of Being Pure at Heart, but you can probably hear a ton of other Young Scotland-ish influences, as well as a very clean, late-1980s synth pop-ish vibe (Split Enz, Tears for Fears etc.)

Anyway here's a taste.