Wednesday, November 30

WELL, IT *IS* ALMOST DECEMBER...

THE DECEMBERISTS

I had thought for sure that the Decemberists' Picaresque would make my Top 10 for 2005, but, at the moment, it ain't looking good.

Still, I very much enjoy four of the songs on the disc, and I am offering three of these for your listening enjoyment ("Eli, the Barrow Boy," alas, will have to be the odd man out).

[MP3] [left-click] "We Both Go Down Together"

[MP3] [left-click] "The Engine Driver"

[MP3] [left-click] "The Mariner's Revenge Song"

Buy it at Insound!

Monday, November 28

THE NON-POISONOUS VARIETY

IVY

Adam Schlesinger, who is one-half of Fountains of Wayne, makes up one-third of Ivy. He is not the focus of this latter group, however; that would have to be lead singer Dominique Durand, whose voice is as smooth and cool as her name. ("Ivy," by the way, should not be confused with ska-punkers "Operation Ivy" or folk-popsters "Ida.")

Ivy certainly aren't as in-your-face-catchy as Fountains of Wayne; their sound merges pop with St. Etienne-esque soundscapes. My favorite songs by them tend to lean a bit more to the "pop" side, as may be evident below....

[MP3] [left-click] "Corners of Your Mind" [from the LP In the Clear, 2005]

[MP3] [left-click] "Kite" [from the LP Guestroom, 2002]

[MP3] [left-click] "Edge of the Ocean" [from the LP Long Distance, 2001]

[MP3] [left-click] "The Best Thing" [from the LP Apartment Life, 1997]

Saturday, November 26

#11?

BLOC PARTY

In reviewing some CDs for my upcoming (and inevitable) Top 10 Albums of 2005, I found myself re-grooving on five or so songs from Bloc Party's Silent Alarm.

I don't think the record's going to quite make the Top 10, but "Banquet" certainly deserves a place on my Top 20 Songs of 2005.

[MP3] [left-click] "Banquet"

[MP3] [left-click] "So Here We Are"

[MP3] [left-click] "Luno"

Buy it at Insound!

Friday, November 25

###

BY THE NUMBERS

[MP3] [left-click] The Strokes/"12:51"

[MP3] [left-click] Rialto/"Monday Morning 5.19"

[MP3] [left-click] Rufus Wainwright/"11:11"

[MP3] [left-click] Deathray/"10:15"

[MP3] [left-click] Elastica/"2:1"

Tuesday, November 22

BLACK TUESDAY

BLACK BOX RECORDER

England's Black Box Recorder are often compared with St. Etienne, but that's crap. Most likely, that error is made because BBR singer Sarah Nixey's elegantly icy vocals do bear some resemblance to St. E's Sarah Cracknell's (though one might just as easily invoke Yaz's Alison Moyet).

Bottom line: while I've always found the bulk of St. Etienne's music to be airy to the point of pointlessness, Black Box Recorder's efforts have always had a tangible gravity and tang to them. Thus, I think it's much more accurate to insert them somewhere along the continuum between Pulp and Goldfrapp.

Arch lyrics... deadpan delivery... very, very British... sounds good to me....

[MP3] [left-click] "These Are the Things" [from the LP Passionoia, 2003]

[MP3] [left-click] "Goodnight Kiss" [from the LP The Facts of Life, 2000]

[MP3] [left-click] "Swinging" [from the LP England Made Me, 1998]

[MP3] [left-click] "Brutality" [from the LP The Worst of Black Box Recorder, 2001]

Monday, November 21

ALEX LLOYD
CRASH VEGAS
THE FRAMES

AHH, NOSTALGIA...

Every now and again, I like to pull an old mix CD off the shelf and see if it has held up with the passage of time. Invariably, certain songs fall flat, while others resonate and reward all over again. For me, at least, the three tunes below fit comfortably in the latter camp.

Alex Lloyd is an Australian singer-songwriter. "Green" is a lush little charmer with chiming guitars that reference mid-period R.E.M. more than the Smiths. There are also some happy-yet-melodramatic strings that might scare a few hardcore indie enthusiasts away, but screw those snobs. This one would give Kermit a peaceful, easy feeling.

Crash Vegas was a Canadian outfit featuring Michelle McAdorey on vocals and one or two members of Blue Rodeo. I heard the song "On and On (Lodestar)" in the summer of '95 or '96 on Canadian radio (just across the river from Detroit). I instantly fell in love with this haunting and autumnal tune. The mood? Think: "California Dreamin'."

The Frames are an Irish outfit that's been kicking around since 1991. I don't think they're particularly well-known in the States, but "Pavement Tune" deserves more than a little international attention. Blissfully simple, it's basically one big hook. Irresistible.

[MP3] [left-click] Alex Lloyd/"Green"

[MP3] [left-click] Crash Vegas/"On and On (Lodestar)"

[MP3] [left-click] The Frames/"Pavement Tune"

Saturday, November 19

SINGLE-ARTIST SATURDAY

JOSH ROUSE

An Aquarium Drunkard reported the other day that Josh Rouse has a new EP, Bedroom Classics, Vol. 2, out on iTunes. As I'd already been planning to post a few of my favorite songs from this Nebraska singer-songwriter, the time seemed nigh.

Apparently, Mr. Rouse listened to a lot of the Smiths and the Cure in his youth, and you can certainly hear a bit of Morrissey & Marr in the chiming, rollicking "Winter in the Hamptons." Can't say that I hear much of Robert Smith in these particular tracks; "Flight Attendant," if anything, has more of a David Byrne thing going on. And the earlier "Directions" sounds like one of Matthew Ryan's better efforts.

Solid stuff, through and through.

[MP3] [left-click] "Winter in the Hamptons" [from the LP Nashville, 2005]

[MP3] [left-click] "Flight Attendant" [from the LP 1972, 2003]

[MP3] [left-click] "Directions" [from the LP Home, 2000]

Thursday, November 17

IT'S JUST A STUPID SLED, DAMMIT!

THE ROSEBUDS

Yep, we're already going boy/girl again... this time with North Carolina's charmingly chimey the Rosebuds. Primary members Ivan & Kelly have been making music together since 2001 and should be around for quite some time to come. I have to say: I like these folks considerably more than the too-low-key-for-my-tastes Yo La Tengo.

Besides the ones I'm offering here, you can download many more Rosebuds MP3s from their site [left-click on band name above].

[MP3] [left-click] "Boxcar" [from the LP Birds Make Good Neighbors, 2005]

[MP3] [left-click] "Outnumbered" [from the LP Birds Make Good Neighbors, 2005]

[MP3] [left-click] "You Better Get Ready" [from the EP The Rosebuds Unwind, 2005]

[MP3] [left-click] "What Can I Do?" [from the LP The Rosebuds Make Out, 2003]

Wednesday, November 16

GUSTAV, AGAIN

Seems that my pre-sleep weariness this morning got in the way of the facts re: Gustav & the Seasick Sailors. The LP Vagabond's Polka is, in fact, the band's debut album, while the one coming out in March of 2006 is to be entitled SIRKUS. The first three MP3s below are from the debut, while "Angels Fable" will appear on the sophomore disc.

Gustav e-mailed me again to say that, while Vagabond's Polka was more of a "singer/songwriter" type of effort, SIRKUS will have a more "raw, gypsy kinda quality." The infectious "Angels Fable" would certainly suggest that that's true.

I should be able to offer up a couple more tracks from SIRKUS as the March release date approaches. In the meantime, scroll down and check out the back-catalogue.
GUSTAV
& THE SEASICK SAILORS

GUSTAV & THE SEASICK SAILORS

[The correct, full-length MP3 of "Nightlife" has now been inserted in its proper slot below. My apologies to those that previously downloaded the truncated version. Me be dumb.]

I'm staying up past my bedtime this morning because I just received an e-mail from Sweden. Specifically, I received an e-mail from Gustav & the Seasick Sailors, an artist/band that I was already familiar with by way of their super-swell song "Angels Fable."

Seems that Gustav (just 20 years old, apparently) and his friends will be releasing an LP (Vagabond's Polka) in March of '06. I'm liking what I'm hearing thus far - lots of acoustic guitars and piano. Often gentle. Sometimes ever-so-slightly unhinged. Yes, it seems that Sweden has done it again (hell, even Madonna's sampling the Swedes).

Here's hoping that Gustav & his sailors receive many warm welcomes in many foreign ports...

[MP3] [left-click] "Nightlife"

[MP3] [left-click] "Mr. Moment and Miss Clarity"

[MP3] [left-click] "Minnie D"

[MP3] [left-click] "Angels Fable"

Tuesday, November 15

THE RIVER IS RUSSIAN; THE BAND IS FROM AUSTIN

OKKERVIL RIVER

Okkervil River is probably a pretty familiar band to those that regularly trawl the blogosphere. I discovered them first with the ragged epic "The War Criminal Rises and Speaks," and I've been with them ever since. There's something unhinged about these guys - the charmingly circuitous lyrics; the lead singer's cracked, semi-hysterical voice; the warm-yet-eccentric instrumentation. Somehow, they strike me as a more lo-fi and eclectic Decemberists.

Hard on the heels of their 2005 LP Black Sheep Boy, Okkervil River will release a bonus EP on November 22. Like everything else they've done, it will surely be worth a listen.

[MP3] [left-click] "No Key, No Plan [from the EP Black Sheep Boy (Appendix), 2005]

[MP3] [left-click] "Black" [from the LP Black Sheep Boy, 2005]

[MP3] [left-click] "The War Criminal Rises and Speaks" [from the LP Down the River of Golden Dreams, 2003]

[MP3] [left-click] "Westfall" [from the LP Don't Fall in Love with Everyone You See, 2002]

Saturday, November 12

.215

Friday, November 11

THE MENDOZA LINE

Uh-oh... it's those nefarious boy-girl vocals here to beguile me again.... This time, they come courtesy of the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Athens, GA band the Mendoza Line. Their new LP, Full of Light and Full of Fire, will get its official release on November 22.

"Catch a Collapsing Star" gives us an idea what a duet between Bob Dylan and Neko Case might sound like (pretty damn good, natch).

[MP3] [left-click] "Catch a Collapsing Star" [from the LP Full of Light and Full of Fire, 2005]

[MP3] [left-click] "Golden Boy (Torture in the Shed)" [from the LP Full of Light and Full of Fire, 2005]

[MP3] [left-click] "It's a Long Line (But It Moves Quickly)" [from the LP Fortune, 2004]

[MP3] [left-click] "What Ever Happened to You?" [from the LP Lost in Revelry, 2002]

[MP3] [left-click] "Baby, I Know What You're Thinking" [from the LP We're All in This Alone, 2000]

[For more MP3s by the Mendoza Line, check out An Aquarium Drunkard.]

Wednesday, November 9

LUCKY SOUL

MADONNA, TAKE 2 + LUCKY SOUL

Hmm.... For some reason, my posting of Madonna's "Sorry" did not work the first time around. So here's an alternative source, just in case I can't get the old link up and running.

[MP3] [left-click] "Sorry"

Also, I have fallen in very-quick-love with an English band called Lucky Soul. I discovered them today over at Indie MP3 - Keeping C86 Alive!. So high-tail it over there and download all four available songs.

Tuesday, November 8

AND YOU CAN DANCE...

MADONNA

Poor, pitiful Madonna... I mean... um... "Esther." The harder the girl tries to infuse her acting with poignancy and passion, the more clear it is that she has absolutely no talent in that medium whatsoever. So disregard her babbling from that balcony and by all means cry for her, Argentina. For the love of god, cry for her.

Madonna's music, on the other hand, deserves at least one listen before being utterly dismissed. The fact that she has survived (and often thrived) for nearly 25 years now is almost beyond miraculous. I mean, who could have foreseen this upon first hearing "Holiday" back in the day? (And poor Cyndi Lauper; this could have been her.)

With her latest LP, Confessions on a Dance Floor, it seems clear that Madonna had her eyes, ears, and marketing mojo squarely fixed on Gwen Stefani's Love. Angel. Music. Baby. This time around, Madonna wants her fans (even the straight ones, I presume) to set their booties to "vibrate" and forget 2003's comparatively subdued (and commercially unsuccessful) American Life.

Unfortunately, these are fairly mundane Confessions - a lot of "I took the Lord's name in vain" instead of "I coveted my neighbor's wife... from behind... many times." Still, I'm a sucker for any song that samples ABBA so brazenly as lead single "Hung Up," and there are one or two other tracks that break from the otherwise generic pack. No doubt that will be enough to keep the Material Matron treading water in the pop-culture pool well into her 50s.

[MP3] [left-click] "Hung Up"/Madonna

[MP3] [left-click] "Sorry"/Madonna

[MP3] [left-click] "What You Waiting For?" [Jacques lu Cont remix]/Gwen Stefani

Saturday, November 5

MADRUGADA OBLONGATA

Thanks again must go to Chris the Swiss at Music of the Moment for so generously sending me an extra song by Madrugada. For some reason, it put me in mind of a favorite song of mine that I'd yet to post here, so now seems as good a time as any.

I'm not sure that the songs sound all that much alike - the Madrugada settles into a nice soothing groove and stays pretty consistent to it (Tindersticks-esque, methinks). The other song is by Craig Armstrong and Paul Buchanan. Armstrong worked with Massive Attack and is also a soundtrack guy (Romeo + Juliet; Ray), while Buchanan was (and perhaps still is) the lead singer of the Blue Nile. I love how the strings and vox build to such an emotional crescendo on their collaboration, and I always find myself putting it between Portishead's great live version of "Roads" and the Smiths' "There is a Light That Never Goes Out" on mix CDs. So, what the hell, I guess I'll go ahead and post those, too. Enjoy the mood...

[MP3] [left-click] "Let's Go Out Tonight"/Craig Armstrong & Paul Buchanan [from the Craig Armstrong LP The Space Between Us, 1998]

[MP3] [left-click] "Roads"/Portishead [from the LP PNYC, 1998]

[MP3] [left-click] "There is a Light That Never Goes Out"/The Smiths [from the LP The Queen is Dead, 1986]

[MP3] [left-click] "Majesty"/Madrugada [from the LP Grit, 2002]

Friday, November 4

THIS IS GIVIN' ME NORWEGIAN WOOD...

MADRUGADA

I've given a lot of love to the Swedes since starting this blog back in June. Only relatively recently did Beat the Indie Drum turn me on to one of their neighbors from Norway (the bound-to-be-big Robert Post, whose great "Got None" is still available [here]... but hurry).

Madrugada is a Norwegian three-man band that's been making music for about a decade now. Their last LP, The Deep End, was released earlier this year, though I doubt many Americans have even heard of it. I would highly recommend the three songs from the album below. The lead singer has a highly distinctive and resonant voice, and each tune succeeds in carving out its own unique character.

So let's show the oft-neglected Norwegians a little love here...

[MP3] [left-click] "The Kids Are on High Street"

[MP3] [left-click] "The Lost Gospel"

[MP3] [left-click] "Subterranean Sunlight"
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