Friday, September 29
Yes, it's that time again. Hope you enjoy this month's mix (or at least some of it).
Left-click [HERE] to start the procurement process...
[Some temporary bandwidth issues with some of the other files at the moment. Please keep trying.]
01) The Pipettes/Guess Who Ran Away With the Milkman?
02) Prophet Omega/The Right Thing
03) Citizens Here and Abroad/Accelerator
04) The Sunshine Underground/Panic Attack
05) The Magic Numbers/Take a Chance
06) Nightmare of You/I Want to Be Buried in Your Backyard
07) The Research/I Bet if We Kissed
08) Hooray for Earth/Take Care
09) The Format/The First Single
10) Bjorn Norestig/Hello Inside
11) Pilot Speed/Barely Listening
12) Beck/Think I'm in Love
13) The Legends/Another Sunday
14) Can Joann/Indecision's Way
15) Mark Mallman/Death Wish
16) Nightmare of You/Dear Scene, I Wish I Were Deaf
17) The Veils/Under the Folding Branches
18) Pete Yorn/Splendid Isolation
20) Superheroes/What's Going On?
21) Shiny Toy Guns/Starts as One
Despite saddling themselves with a name that suggests some sort of unholy Al Gore/Robert F. Kennedy Jr.-led oompa band, Hooray for Earth really just want to... you know... rock you. Granted, they want to do it from odd angles and in between showings of Jackass #2, but don't underestimate their ability to simultaneously charm your pants off and pummel you stupid with their music-making.
These four guys from Boston just unleashed their self-titled debut on an unsuspecting populace, and they describe its sound thusly: "Blur, Nirvana, and Enya breaking things at a video arcade in hell." Another reviewer put it slightly differently, pegging the band as "the missing link between the Magnetic Fields and Andrew W.K.." Okilee-dokilee then... that clears THAT up.
Actually, the Nirvana/Andrew W.K. comparisons might not be entirely inappropriate. Opening track "Simple Plan" offers up a handy-dandy blueprint - thrashing drums, guitars so crunchy and distorted they sound as though they've been filtered through a wood chipper, lead singer Noel Heroux's sometimes-droning/sometimes-striving vocals (also distorted, Starflyer 59-style), and, perhaps the group's secret weapon, synthesizer lines so succulent they'll remind you of boobs. And bubblegum. And summer. And boobs and bubblegum in summer.
So, with all apologies to Enya, let's call this "grunge-pop." At its best, it's catchy, anthemic, and just plain fun - the musical equivalent of jamming a firecracker in your best friend's ass-crack just to see what happens.
Hooray for Earth's debut CD can be purchased on iTunes or right [here].
Hooray for Earth on MySpace. Hooray for Earth at a venue near you...
Sep 30 7:30P/Harpoon Octoberfest/Boston, MA
Oct 3 8:00P/NYC Cd Release @ The Annex/New York, NY
Oct 11 9:00P/TT The Bears/Cambridge, MA
Nov 9 8:00P/Lit Lounge/New York, NY
Nov 10 8:00P/AS220/Providence, RI
Dec 15 9:00P/El 'N' gee/New London, CT
Dec 16 8:00P/The Plan @ Great Scott/Allston, MA
[MP3] "Simple Plan"
Thursday, September 28
For better or worse, singer/songwriter Amos Lee has been called the "male version of Norah Jones." Whether that translates as praise or damnation obviously depends on your personal feelings for (or against) Ms. Jones. But that description is clearly meant to suggest that Lee's work thus far in his young career fits comfortably into the same smooth/clean/calculated/controlled/accomplished box that Jones works so well within. In this context, to be all-inclusive and non-threatening is a huge part of the game-plan - with the selling of boatloads of records the ultimate goal.
Amos Lee's sophomore full-length, Supply and Demand, will be released by Blue Note Records on October 3. As was the case with his debut, it's difficult not to name-check Bill Withers and James Taylor while listening to Lee's particular brand of soulful folk. Carefree, easy-goin' tunes like the title track cast him as a tie-dyed, Haight-Ashbury busker circa 1970, while slower cuts like "Careless" evoke some of the same angels-on-high ache that Bobby Womack and Marvin Gaye were so natural at channeling.
[I loathe Jay Leno, but Amos Lee will be performing the single, "Shout Out Loud," on The Tonight Show tonight (Thursday). So tune in with about five minutes left in the show for that (and then watch Conan).]
[Apparently, that same song will be featured tonight on the new ABC show Six Degrees at 10 PM.]
See Amos Lee's October concert dates below. Visit his MySpace page to see more.
Oct 12 8:00P/Variety Playhouse/Atlanta, GA
Oct 13 8:00P/Music Farm/Charleston, SC
Oct 14 7:30P/Cannery Row/Nashville, TN
Oct 16 8:00P/Orange Peel/Asheville, NC
Oct 17 8:00P/Attucks Theatre/Norfolk, VA
Oct 19 8:00P/Cat's Cradle/Carrboro, NC
Oct 20 8:00P/Recher Theater/Baltimore, MD
Oct 21 8:00P/9:30 Club/Washington , DC
Oct 24 8:00P/Town Hall/New York, NY
Oct 27 8:00P/Stone Pony/Asbury Park, NJ
Oct 28 8:00P/Iron Horse/Northampton, MA
Oct 29 8:00P/Somerville Theatre/Boston, MA
Oct 30 8:00P/HG Showcase Lounge/Burlington, VT
[MP3] "Supply and Demand"
The Magic Numbers will release their second album, Those the Brokes, on November 6. You will find the first single a couple inches or so below...
Oct 9 8:00A/Melkweg/Amsterdam
Oct 11 8:00A/Debaser/Stockholm
Oct 16 8:00A/Le Boule No/Paris
Oct 19 8:00A/Lido/Berlin
Oct 21 8:00A/Atomic Cafe/Munich
[MP3] "Take a Chance"
Wednesday, September 27
At just 22 years of age, Aaron Schroeder already has a bit of the wanderlust about him. For the moment, at least, he's cooling his jets in Washington State - albeit some 200+ miles southwest of that once white-hot musical mecca, Seattle.
Schroeder released his first full-length effort, Southern Heart in Western Skin, earlier this year. At nine songs and 29 minutes, it truly is the musical equivalent of a Southern gentleman - with no intention of overstaying its welcome or overtaxing your attention span. This is charmingly low-key folk-pop with just a touch of twang - which explains why Schroeder lists Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, the Mountain Goats, and Silver Jews as some of his artistic touchstones.
Southern Heart in Western Skin can be purchased for a mere $7 at PayPal and for $7.99 at both CD Baby and Amazon. And more music will be on the way shortly, as Mr. Schroeder is already hard at work on his next record. I look forward to sharing some tunes from that one with you just as soon they're available. In the meantime...
[MP3] "Dead Rabbits"
BONUS TRACKS >>>
[MP3] "Sky Ain't Blue" [demo]
[MP3] "Streets of Fear" [demo]
The first Tori Amos song I ever remember hearing was "God" off of her second "proper" album, Under the Pink. I didn't like it. There was something just a little too intense about it. It scared me.
So, when a friend approached me not long after with a copy of Ms. Amos's FIRST "proper" album, Little Earthquakes, my instinct was to run as though fleeing fire. But I didn't. Instead, I reluctantly accepted the disc, reluctantly slipped it into my CD player, reluctantly strapped on my trusty headphones, and reluctantly settled in to listen to the thing with the very lowest of expectations.
To say that those expectations were exceeded would be the ultimate of understatements. As it happened, I only had time enough that day to listen to the first five tracks before scampering off to class. Now, a full 12 years later, I still consider that particular stretch of music to be pretty much perfect - intensely intimate and vulnerable, yet empowering. Intense (there's that word again), yet fragile. Sometimes, Amos pounds her piano to a pulp; other times, she just barely breathes on its keys. Either way, Earthquakes is a bona fide masterpiece - one that was highly influential in the years leading up to the whole Lilith womyn "thing."
I can't say that I've liked anything Tori Amos has put out since that time nearly as much (though Under the Pink bears much fruit with repeated listens and Scarlet's Walk seems a lot stronger to me now than it did when it first came out). For whatever reason, her lyrics gradually strayed toward the hysterically esoteric (especially on Boys For Pele), and she began to downplay the lilting strings and layered vocal freakouts that were so crucial to Little Earthquakes. 2005's The Beekeeper, to my ears, was easily her least interesting effort to date - a record so middle-of-the-road and mundane I could barely soldier through to the end.
Yesterday saw the release of A Piano: The Collection - a five-disc box set that collects a goodly number of Amos's b-sides, remixes, covers, and "classic" tracks. Devoted fans will no doubt gobble this up with abandon - even if they've previously procured this music through... um... "alternative" means. As with any collection of this size, there are, to be sure, some diamonds to be discovered. But most of it's coal. Which won't matter one iota to tenacious Tori-philes. They love their Faerie Queen. They love her nursery-rhyme non-sequiturs. They love her big-gulp, trill-alicious singing. They love her borderline-pornographic live piano playing - writhing and gyrating as though her stool were a stove set to "SCORCH." But, perhaps most of all, they love the fact that Tori Amos's music is an acquired taste - "anchovies," as opposed to "potato chips." Anybody can love potato chips. Only a select few can say they're fond of the fishies.
[MP3] "Blue Skies"
[MP3] "A Case of You" [Joni Mitchell cover]
[MP3] "The Happy Worker"
Tuesday, September 26
This one darn near slipped right past me. I'd heard that Metric's Emily Haines had a solo album coming out at some point, but I didn't realize it was happening today (in the U.S.).
Knives Don't Have Your Back is being attributed to Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton. The latter would seem to consist of Sparklehorse's Scott Minor, Broken Social Scene's Justin Peroff, Stars' Evan Cranley, and Metric's Jimmy Shaw. Most likely, these fellows contributed to the project individually, as the songs on Knives consist primarily of Emily's deeply reverbed voice and haunting piano playing. As she writes on her MySpace page: "When I was a little kid, I would creep downstairs to the piano and write rudimentary songs about imaginary places. I'm told the first song I ever wrote was a love song to a cranberry tree."
In other words: Don't expect this record to sound particularly Metric-like.
The song below will give you a pretty good idea of the album's general pace and mood. The aformentioned piano playing tends to be simple yet trenchant, and there's a fragile beauty to these tunes that's just perfect for cool autumn evenings.
Emily Haines has the following show upcoming...
Oct 1 8:00P/Kool Haus - See Vous Play (CBC Radio 3)/Toronto
[For another track from the new CD, visit Fingertips.]
From the LP Knives Don't Have Your Back, 2006 >>>
[MP3] "Crowd Surf Off a Cliff"
From the LP Cut in Half and Also Double, 1996 >>>
[MP3] "Eau de Toilette"
Monday, September 25
Though they've only been around for a few years now, I've already read a number of negative things about the British band Razorlight. Some center on lead singer Johnny Borrell. The suggestion seems to be that the guy's a bit of a prick. I have no idea if this is the case or not, but it would hardly be a novel concept. The line between self-confidence and self-importance is always a fine one - especially for preening lead singers. And let's be honest: it can be amazingly entertaining to watch them teeter along that line - and even more entertaining to watch them fall off it. (Quick, somebody hook Pete Doherty up a safety net. Nah, never mind... too late.)
The other knock against Razorlight seems to be that they sound quite a lot like quite a lot of other bands. How shocking! Drum them out of the musicians' union! But while you're at it, drum Radiohead out for sounding a bit like Nirvana on "Creep." Drum Coldplay out for sounding like Bends-era Radiohead. Drum Keane out for sounding like Coldplay. Etc. Ad infinitum. Is it really any great surprise that a lot of today's groups sound alike - considering that so many of them grew up in the '80s listening to the Clash and the Cure and Joy Division and U2?
In the end, all I much care about is that I like the four songs I'm offering up below. I guess, when it comes down to it, I don't require artists to be the most original or "new" thing on the block. TV on the Radio seem pretty original to me. And I can't stand them. Fiery Furnaces? Likewise. There's nothing wrong with having a comfort zone, and there are solid chunks of the Razorlight canon that obviously fall into mine. So sue me. Call me a prick. Drum me out of the MP3 bloggers' union. I could use the free time.
From the their self-titled LP, 2006 >>>
[MP3] "In the Morning"
[MP3] "Fall to Pieces"
From the LP Up All Night, 2004 >>>
[MP3] "Golden Touch"
We'll start things off today by shining a little spotlight on Chicago's the Saturday Nights. Led by songwriters Paul Foreman and Finn Swingley ("Finn Swingley" - how cool a name is THAT?), these guys released their debut CD, Queenslandicus, earlier this year. You can purchase it directly from their website [here] - either as a $5 digital download or a $10 disc. (It is also available from iTunes.)
The three songs below should give you at least some idea what to expect from the rest of the album. "Stranded" has a classic, timeless sound to it (think: Big Star at their most straightforward and gorgeous). The songwriting here seems deceptively effortless, right down to the utterly charming bridge. "There is a Sign" starts with some drunken drums and Foreman's swoony croon before shifting into higher gear with a combination of "ooh-ooh" backing vocals and a sweet 'n' juicy guitar solo that erupts out of yet another perfectly executed middle eight. Finally, "Julianna Convince Me" amps things up with a wall of ferociously fuzzed guitars and a swampy backbeat that just wants to keep kicking you in the chest till you're dead. (If the rumor is true that Jack White purchased the 7" single of "Stranded" and "Julianna," one can only guess that he found special kinship with the latter track.)
Check out the Saturday Nights' MySpace page. And see and hear them at the following venues...
Sep 29 9:00P/Local's Only/Indianapolis, IN
Oct 11 9:00P/Schubas/Chicago, IL
[MP3] "There is a Sign"
[MP3] "Julianna Convince Me"
Paul Foreman also makes music with a fellow by the name of Carl Saff in a project dubbed the Warmth. They do their own version of "You Crafty Devil" (which is the final song on Queenslandicus), but, for my money, "Motown Stars" is the true standout here. (One can almost imagine Morrissey singing that chorus.)
[MP3] "You Crafty Devil"
[MP3] "Motown Stars"
Friday, September 22
Last Friday, I put up a couple songs by the band Drugscene. This Friday, I'm putting up songs about drugs. Makes some sort of sense, yes?
Of course, Nancy Reagan implores all of you to "just say no." But I'm pretty sure she's talking about the drugs, not the songs. So feel free to indulge yourselves...
[MP3] The Verve/"The Drugs Don't Work"
[MP3] Juliana Hatfield/"Choose Drugs"
[MP3] Pulp/"Sorted for E's & Wizz"
[MP3] R.E.M./"So Fast, So Numb"
[MP3] The Perishers/"Pills"
[MP3] The Rolling Stones/"Mother's Little Helper"
Thursday, September 21
This song has been bouncing around for a while now, but I figured that a few of you may have somehow managed to miss it. Which would be a pity, seeing as it's kind of swell.
I've been a fan of the Legends ever since I heard the song "There and Back Again" from Up Against the Legends. At the time, I assumed that this was indeed a full band at work, but it turns out that it was pretty much masterminded by Johan Angergard from the very beginning. Seeing as he's also a member of Acid House Kings and Club 8, it would seem that Mr. Angergard is the poster-boy for "prolific." You go, boy.
From the LP Facts and Figures, 2006 >>>
[MP3] "Lucky Star"
Wednesday, September 20
The Brunettes are Jonathan Bree and Heather Mansfield. They are from New Zealand and played hobbits in the first and third Lord of the Rings movies. (One of the statements in that last sentence is false; I'm not telling you which.)
What does the Brunettes' music sound like? Well, take it from their website: "... Boy/girl melodrama pop inspired by '70s New York punk and '60s girl groups." Well... sounds good to me; count me in.
But wait... there's a twist. The Brunettes are creating their "melodrama pop" in Auckland, New Zealand, which apparently features a scene "of opiate-infused garage rock 'n' roll." Who knew? I mean, Amsterdam, sure, but AUCKLAND? Learn something new every day.
Elsewhere on the Brunettes' website, their music is described as "bubblegum." Yeah, maybe, a little. But if so, it's bubblegum that's already been chewed by somebody else - somebody with rotten teeth and breath like a stench. Maybe that's what I find so charming about these two. No matter how pristine and calculated the song arrangements are, there's something undeniably ragged about the execution. Like they've planned it that way. Like maybe they record their vocals after a long night of devil-be-damned carousing. Cigarettes. Booze. Opiates. Apparently, Auckland is home to all of these and more. Sounds good to me; book my flight.
It may well be that the Brunettes are on the verge of breaking through here in the States. Their next album is due to be released sometime before the end of the year, and they're looking to tour here in the spring of '07 (after previously touring the U.S. with the Shins and Rilo Kiley). One guesses that the Brunettes' MySpace page will eventually tell us the wheres, whens, and such like.
In the meantime, there are these...
From the LP Mars Loves Venus, 2004 >>>
[MP3] "Bestfriend Envy"
[MP3] "You Beautiful Militant"
From the LP Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks, 2002 >>>
[MP3] "Talk to Jesus"
By now, everybody and his brother knows that Arab Strap have called it quits. Their final release, Ten Years of Tears, will be released October 23 and include b-sides, rarities, live tracks, etc. They'll also be going on tour one final time.
Here are the October dates...
23-Oct-06 COPENHAGEN, SMALL VEGA
24-Oct-06 ARHUS, VOX HALL
25-Oct-06 LUND, MEJERIET
26-Oct-06 BERGEN, GARAGE
27-Oct-06 OSLO, BLAA
28-Oct-06 STOCKHOLM, FRITZ CORNER @ DEBASER
30-Oct-06 ROTTERDAM, Rotown
31-Oct-06 BRUSSELS, ORANGERIE
From the LP Ten Years of Tears, 2006 >>>
[MP3] "Rocket, Take Your Turn"
Tuesday, September 19
UK-based Fields are a tough band to pigeon hole. Is their music shoegaze? Folk? Both? And, if folk, what KIND of folk? Pastoral? Psychedelic? Both? And what about indie pop? Surely there's a bit of that in there as well. But again, what KIND? Sufjan indie pop? Arcade Fire indie pop? Both? Neither? All of the above? Good grief.
Well, however the hell you want to label them, these four Brits (and one Icelander) create quite the agreeable amalgamation. The truth is, "all of the above" probably is the best answer to the above questions. Folk/indie pop is the overriding combo (and let's make that Arcade Fire indie pop; just listen to those verses accelerating into the choruses on "Charming the Flames"). Fields have a way of lulling the listener into a misguided sense of reverie, only to pull the rug out with a sudden (but subtle) throttle-up of drums and/or voices.
And those voices are key. The leads are alternated between Nick Peill and Thorunn Antonia, but the overall effect is reminiscent of some creepy cult singalong around some haunted-forest campfire. Are these people hippies or Druids? Are they roasting marshmallows or sacrificing animals? Both? Neither? All of the above? Good grief.
Fields' first full-length CD should be out sometime this fall. Keep an eye on their MySpace page for updates.
Where Fields can be seen and heard in the days and weeks ahead...
Sep 28 8:00P/The Legion/London
Oct 2 8:00P/Mercury Lounge/New York, NY
Oct 4 8:00P/Troubadour/Los Angeles
Oct 5 8:00P/Popscene/San Francisco
Oct 8 8:00P/Zodiac/Oxford
Oct 9 8:00P/Custard Factory/Birmingham
[MP3] "Charming the Flames"
[MP3] "Song for the Fields"
Monday, September 18
Isobel Campbell - erstwhile of Belle and Sebastian, the Gentle Waves, and her recent collaboration with Mark Lanegan - has a new solo album coming out in November called Milkwhite Sheets (V2 Records).
Here's a taste...
[MP3] "Cachel Wood"
[Visit *Sixeyes for another track from the upcoming album.]
Pilot Speed is the new name for the band formerly known as Pilate. They're already a fairly big thing in their native Canada (though lead singer Todd Clark is originally from New Zealand), having released an EP (For All That's Given, Wasted) in 2001 and their first album (Caught By the Window) in 2003.
When they were still going by the name Pilate, the group released their second full-length, Self Control for Life's Speed, earlier this year. Now, to match their new moniker, they've re-titled the album (Into the West) for an imminent American release. Look for it on iTunes this Tuesday, and in stores (as near as I can tell) on October 3.
As for Pilot Speed's sound... we can start by saying that singer Clark often sounds like a dead ringer for Remy Zero's Cinjun Tate. In fact, Into the West's almost-too-delicate "Alright" recalls that band's contribution to the Garden State soundtrack, "Fair." If I have any criticism of Pilot Speed and their new album, it's that the proceedings are perhaps a bit too staid - a bit too tame. Only a few of the tracks serve to pick up the pace (including standout single "Barely Listening"); the rest of them - though impeccably executed - tend to recede into the background a bit.
Still, there's no shame in producing a very solid and very pretty record - Coldplay have pretty much made a career of it. And you shouldn't be surprised in the least to hear a Pilot Speed song on an upcoming episode of the OC (or on the next Zach Braff movie soundtrack).
Pilot Speed have the following shows upcoming. They'll also apparently be touring the U.S. later in the year, so check out their MySpace page for further details on that.
Sep 22 8:00P/Grant MacEwan Community College/Edmonton, AB
Sep 23 8:00P/University of Victoria/Victoria, BC
[MP3] "Barely Listening"
[MP3] "Knife-Grey Sea"
I'm an absolute sucker for nostalgia; have been from the beginning (ha). But when it comes to unapologetically embracing the past, the NYC-by-way-of-the-UK band the Primms put me to shame.
For one thing, the lads have borrowed a certain affectation for substituting their band name for each of their own last names. Thus, the lead singer becomes Andy PRIMM; the drummer: Rob PRIMM, the guitarist: Gav PRIMM, and the bass player: Adam PRIMM. Clever, eh? Of course, some of you may be old enough to remember another group that implemented that little trick. Hint: rhymes with "Zamones."
As for their music, it seems that the Primms are determined to prove Santayana's famous saying false - for it seems that they both remember history (the history of rock 'n' roll, anyway) AND are condemned to repeat it. Or, at the very least, "compelled" to repeat it.
Just listen to the guitar riff and drum thump that open "Sacrifice" and you may find yourself reminded of a certain American band from the Pacific Northwest that made a great noise circa 1991. Hint: rhymes with "Zirvana." And the Primms' singer's semi-tortured croon on "Do You Know the Future?" may or may not put you in mind of another singer (Brian... um... "Zolko") and his band (er... "Zlacebo"). (Okay, that one doesn't work. At all. So screw it. Brian MOLKO. Of PLACEBO. There. The cat's out of the bag. But curiosity killed the cat. And imitation is the highest form of flattery. So let's cut the Primms some fair share of slack, shall we? Even the Zamones and Zirvana had their influences.)
Call me a casualty of cloudcuckooland, but I like these guys just fine. I envy them their youth. Their energy. Their obvious love and respect for their elders. And they're young'uns yet, so the best, it's safe to say, is yet to come.
You can catch the Primms' live show at any of the following times and places...
Sep 21 9:30P/Pianos -- residency/New York, NY
Sep 23 11:45P/The Middle East/Boston, MA
Sep 28 9:30P/Pianos -- residency/New York, NY
Sep 30 4:00P/Rusty Rudder (Acoustic Afternoon Performance) -- DBMC/Dewey Beach, DE
Sep 30 11:00P/Rusty Rudder -- Dewey Beach Music Conference/Dewey Beach, DE
Nov 3 9:00P/CMJ Showcase/New York, NY
[MP3] "Do You Know the Future?"
Friday, September 15
Another Friday. Therefore, more mindless, dance-y rock.
Drugscene calls Hollywood home and makes... well... mindless, dance-y rock. Did you already hear this music back in the '80s? Yes, you did. Were Drugscene listening to the Cure and Billy Idol in those days? I'd be willing to bet they were.
Some upcoming Drugscene shows >>>
Sep 20 10:00P/Club Moscow @ Boardners (Residency)/Hollywood, CA
Sep 27 10:00P/Club Moscow @ Boardners (Residency)/Hollywood, CA
Sep 29 10:00P/Hear Gallery - Club Cigarettes & Alcohol/Los Angeles, CA
Oct 14 10:00P/THE ROXY/Los Angeles, CA
[MP3] "Be My Dancer"
Wednesday, September 13
The Clock Work Army is a trio from San Diego. They have an EP out now on Banter Records called A Catalyst for Change. You can purchase it through their MySpace page.
"The Day We Woke Up Without Mouths" may be one of the band's "poppier" songs, what with its "cute," skittering synthesizer line and handclappy background. But don't be fooled; there's danger here - especially as perpetuated by lead singer Emily Neveu. She's that scary aunt you had with the wild, bird's nest hair, the killer-clown lipstick, and the unfiltered cigarette forever perched between fingers and lips. She's the aunt you prayed would never be asked to babysit you, because you just KNEW that her soothing lullabies would inevitably turn into bitter, gin-fueled freakouts. And if she wanted to play the "Got Your Nose!" game with you, you'd damn well better have the number of a good plastic surgeon on speed-dial.
Feel free to check out The Clock Work Army's MySpace page. But be forewarned: Auntie's hemorrhoids have been itching something awful lately, and she'd like to tell you all about it....
[MP3] "The Day We Woke Up Without Mouths"
Prophet Omega is the one-man show of Joe Magistro, who's based in the burrough of Brooklyn and has an album coming out on September 19. That album is called The Natural World and is being released through Astralwerks.
"The Right Thing"'s rolling-thunder drums and simple, filthy guitar licks evoke '60s garage rock at its most simple and straightforward. A breath of fresh air.
Be sure to visit Prophet Omega's MySpace page.
[MP3] "The Right Thing"
No Wait Wait is a four-man band operating out of Duluth, Minnesota. They released their second album, About You, through Chairkickers' Union Music on Tuesday.
Musically-speaking, "Don't Give Up (On Your Man)" features dark, lurching verses that carom into choruses that - while slightly lighter - do little to alleviate the bitter, angry tenor of singer Marc Gartman's message. One gets the distinct impression that the song's title isn't so much a suggestion as a demand.
And yes, No Wait Wait have a MySpace page.
[MP3] "Don't Give Up (On Your Man)"
I still remember the first time I heard Arcade Fire's Funeral. The experience was, in a word, "discombobulating." I had become so accustomed over the years to settling for albums containing just two or three worthwhile tracks (at best), that to discover one that brought me wall-to-wall ecstasy seemed almost a first-of-its-kind experience.
In fact, I would have had to go back a full seven years to find the last time I had so "lost" myself in a full-length CD. That CD was OK Computer, and, in that case, I had at least been primed for the possibility of a transcendent event by my on-going adoration for The Bends.
Before THAT particular experience, I would have had to set the wayback machine to 1992, when R.E.M.'s Automatic for the People was occupying all of my time and attention. It was then that I finally, finally got around to investigating that band's early works, and they were nothing short of a collective revelation. Murmur, in particular, remains a unique and exquisite aural experience, and I can't help but envy all of those prescient pioneers who jumped the R.E.M. bandwagon long before it became cool to do so.
Even now, 25 years after releasing their first single, R.E.M. and their early recordings retain a certain cachet in the music business. All of those early recordings were released by the now-defunct I.R.S. Records, but Capitol has gone ahead and broken into the I.R.S. vault, sifted through the one EP and five "official" albums of the period, and released And I Feel Fine: The Best of the I.R.S. Years (1982-1987). The collection is divided into two discs of 21 tracks each. As one might expect, the first CD collects the more "traditional" stuff - singles and popular album tracks. The second offers up the ephemera - live performances, alternate takes, and a personal favorite from each of the band members (including long-retired drummer Bill Berry).
As is usually the case with these things, the second, "bonus" disc is likely to appeal only to the most serious of R.E.M. fans. And even that presents something of a problem in this case, as the truly serious will have already collected these tunes and performances over the years, by one means or another. Thus, the sticker on the package proclaiming "10 unreleased tracks!" - while technically correct - will be scoffed at by the many who have been trading bootlegs and outtakes amongst themselves since well before any of the Arctic Monkeys breathed air on Earth.
[On the plus side, the full set seems to be selling for just $14.99 (U.S.) at Amazon.com, so that ain't a bad bargain.]
I heartily encourage anyone who hasn't heard much of R.E.M.'s early stuff to strap on a good pair of headphones, crank up the volume till you can barely stand it, and settle in for the ride. One way or another, it's bound to move you.
[A quick note: the songs below are my own mix and have nothing to do with the official release - though you'll find many of the same songs on both collections. Also, some of you sharper-eyed folk may notice that I neglected to include any tracks from Murmur. No doubt, your instinct is to scream, "Blasphemy!" I can only assure you that this was a conscious choice - made because I find that particular album to be so of-a-piece that to tear any of the leaves from the tree is to strip it of the very things that made it beautiful to begin with. Or something like that.]
To acquire the tracks below, please left-click [HERE].
01) Radio Free Europe [Hib Tone single]
02) Can't Get There From Here
03) So. Central Rain
04) I Believe
05) The One I Love
06) Ages of You
07) Driver 8
08) Pretty Persuasion
09) Carnival of Sorts (Box Cars)
10) White Tornado
11) Femme Fatale
12) Begin the Begin
13) These Days
14) Fall on Me
15) Welcome to the Occupation
16) Exhuming McCarthy
17) Disturbance at the Heron House
18) Green Grow the Rushes
21) Wendell Gee
22) It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
Tuesday, September 12
It's been all doom-and-gloomy around here lately - weather and otherwise - so I think I need to find me some sort of Rocky Mountain high. Or to fly like an eagle or... you know... something.
Not too long ago, I was thumbing through Rolling Stone's special 1000th issue and stumbled upon the following quote from David Bowie, circa the mid-'70s: "The cultural leaders used to be Humphrey Bogart, James Dean, and Elvis Presley. Now it's John Denver."
Why, the nerve of that snotty little punk, I thought - disparaging poor, dead JOHN DENVER like that! And why? Because John Denver didn't dress in drag (as far as we know) or sleep with Mick Jagger (as far as we know)? Because John Denver seemed as wholesome as Wonderbread, looked like Cousin Oliver from The Brady Bunch, and was constantly thanking God for making him a Country Boy? Well, my word, I thought. Wouldn't Mr. Bowie, of all people, have some understanding of the concept of TOLERANCE?
And let me tell you something directly, Mr. Thin White Dupe: You may have been "The Man Who Fell to Earth" (also: "Sir Roland Moorecock," "Jareth the Goblin King," "Julian Priest," and "Pontius Pilate"), but when God (aka "George Burns") came down to Earth looking for a human representative, who did he choose? That's right: JOHN DENVER.
(And do I also have to remind you that John Denver starred in two - not one, but TWO - TV specials with the Muppets. And you just know that he and Miss Piggy were doin' the back-bacon thang behind Animal's drum kit, so don't even think about calling the man a prude.)
Now, if you don't mind, Mr. Ziggy Stardunce, why don't you do us all a great big favor and drag that pale, androgynous ass of yours back to Mars, where it belongs. (And take your creepy Spiders with you.)
Okay, I'm done ranting at Bowie for now; now I'd like to talk to YOU. I'm sure that many of my loyal visitors (there are five of you now) weren't even BORN in the '70s, let alone know the music of that great visionary, JOHN DENVER. Just know that the man made singing about mountains and eagles and other suchthings immensely, intensely cool. (Hell, even his duet with Placido Domingo was darn purty, so long as you weren't listening too closely. Or at all.)
Truth is, John Denver is one of the voices of my youth - right there alongside Karen Carpenter, Jim Croce, and recent (and highly deserved!) Emmy winner Barry Manilow. So, yes, I truly do recommend that you download these tracks, crank 'em loud, crank 'em proud, and settle in for some peaceful, easy feelins. Who knows? You might just find yourself feeling that Rocky Mountain high I was referring to earlier. (Though, if you don't think the songs themselves are gonna be enough to get you there, feel free to engage in the ganja - just to sort of help things along.) (But only if you're 18 or older.) (And have cataracts.)
[MP3] "Annie's Song"
[MP3] "Looking for Space"
[MP3] "Fly Away" [w/Olivia Newton-John] [Mr. Bowie best not start talking smack about Ms. Olivia, either.]
[MP3] "Take Me Home, Country Roads"
[MP3] "This Old Guitar"
Monday, September 11
Brooklyn-based Favourite Sons will release their debut album, Down Beside Your Beauty, September 12 on Vice Records. Only together a couple of years now, they already seem to possess the sort of chemistry that some bands take years to develop (and some never do).
Much of this chemistry may be readily explainable, as four of the guys played together previously in the Philadelphia neo-psychedelic outfit Aspera. They have now been joined by former Rollerskate Skinny frontman Ken Griffin, whose voice and pockmarked-heart-on-cirrhotic-sleeve lyrics serve as the group's soul and centerpoint. That voice, actually, is something of a wonder - gliding effortlessly from growly-baritone mode to something more akin to a sad, sweet croon.
Musically, Favourite Sons are just as supple. Almost all of the songs - from one angle or another - tend to take on the sort of '70s sienna tones that in another artist's hands might be described as "honeyed." Here, they often just seem weary. Worn-out. Washed-out. But not dead yet.
Indeed, the band doesn't sound anywhere near dead on songs like "No One Ever Dies Young" and "Hang On, Girl." Here, the riffs and rhythm section rise from whatever deep pit of disappointment and despair the singer previously dug himself into. And, for his part, the singer sounds grateful to have been saved.
Finally, it occurs to me: somebody should have told these guys that there's a natural consequence for producing a debut record this impressive.
You can only go down from here.
Favourite Sons will be playing the following shows in the very near future. I'm guessing they'll be great.
Sep 12 8:00P/Sound Fix In Store/Brooklyn (Williamsburg), NY
Sep 14 12:00P/KEXP's Cheryl Waters' Show/Seattle, WA
Sep 14 8:00P/Chop Suey/Seattle, WA
Sep 16 8:00P/Café Du Nord/San Francisco, CA
Sep 18 8:00P/Spaceland/Los Angeles, CA
Sep 19 8:00P/Safari Sams/Los Angeles, CA
Sep 22 8:00P/Mercury Lounge/New York, NY
[MP3] "Hang On, Girl"
[MP3] "Down Beside Your Beauty"
It's difficult to know how seriously to take a band like Ima Robot. There's the name, to begin with. (Though, come to think of it, Radiohead's a pretty silly name, too, now isn't it?)
But there's also the music - which mixes in so many bits of so many styles that you've almost got yourself a gumbo. Not a BAD gumbo, mind you - just a bit thin. The ingredients? Well... you'll need to start with some chopped power-pop. A cup of punk. Thicken with addition of new-wave roux. Drop in dollop of electro-pop. Garnish with glam.
Now, before I drive this culinary metaphor completely down the disposal (yeah, I know; too late), let me also tell you that Ima Robot hail from Los Angeles (entirely appropriately), and that they were founded and are still led by didn't-want-to-die-just-a-cry-for-help haircutted singer Alex Ebert and guitarist Timmy "the Terror" Anderson. Their second record, Monument to the Masses, will be released tomorrow (September 12), and I have a feeling the kids are gonna eat it up with a spoon (ahh, that fucking metaphor again).
Finally, it might be noted that these guys previously toured with Hot Hot Heat. I'm here to tell you: it just as easily could have been the Faint. Or Hard-Fi. Or, as Ima Robot themselves have been wont to mention: Panic! at the Disco. All of which is to say: their music is slick. Sassy. Super-slick. Mad-ass sassy. It is also superficial. Stupendously, silly-ass superficial. But the hooks are humongous. The choruses are colossal. And their youthful exuberance may well go a long way toward softening even the hardest of indie hearts.
If you'd like to hear some Ima Robot songs that are not offered here, you'll want to go to their MySpace page.
If you'd like to catch one of Ima Robot's live shows in the not-too-distant future, you'll need to go to one of the following places, at one of the following times...
Sep 12 8:00P/Safari Sam's/Los Angeles, CA
Sep 16 9:00P/Mezzanine/San Francisco, CA
[MP3] "Happy Annie"
Sunday, September 10
What with the success of so many retro, '80s-styled, British-influenced bands in recent years, it seems entirely appropriate that Rhino Records has been re-releasing a number of discs from the Cure canon. It's also no coincidence, I'm sure, that the band just turned 30 this year. Heavens to Betsy! What must Robert Smith's cosmetics bill be THESE days?
Now, if you'll permit me, a little personal story: Many years ago, while driving with a friend, a Cure song came on the radio. With a voice teetering between anger and dread, she asked, "Is this the Cure?" Upon being informed that it was, she promptly responded, "I can't STAND the Cure! It isn't even MUSIC!"
Well, music it most certainly is. But I'm quite sure my friend's view at the time has been shared by many over the course of the Cure's career. For some, maybe it WAS the cosmetics. Or maybe it was just the gloomy-doomy downer-ness of so much of it. You had the goths calling the Cure popsters. You had the popsters calling the Cure goths. What a goddam mess. Is this what it's like for Dashboard Confessional? (We can only hope.)
Yet, quite obviously, there have always been plenty of disillusioned, disenfranchised, and just plain depressed teens and young adults who have understood the Cure and their particular vibe to the very core. These were the people who breathed in every lachrymose lyric and gorgeously mordant minor chord, seemingly convinced that these things might just ultimately reveal the path to personal salvation - a path that didn't lead up to the light, but further down into the all-consuming, all-concealing dark. (But... Heavens to Betsy! What must these poor, sad-soulled creatures have made of "Friday I'm in Love"? The heart shudders to wonder.)
Surely, for these hardcore hangers-on, 1989's Disintegration served as both the summit and terminus of the Cure's coolness. Just before that time, however, when the frontman/future Edward Scissorhands inspiration was but a mere pup of 28, the band released the far more sprawling, far less-focused, yet far more accessible (for the most part) Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. Well, guess what kids? Thanks to the aforementioned Rhino Records, it's back again to work its happy/sad black magic. It has, of course, been digitally remastered, though only those with 20/20 hearing (and is this even possible on our iPod-dominated planet?) may be able to detect much difference from the original incarnation.
So, what else do you get for your $19.97 (U.S./Amazon)? Well, you get a whole 'nother CD, for one thing. Unfortunately, pretty much half of the tracks are by-the-numbers, instrumental demos. Beyond that, you get a handful of alternative mixes, none of which comes particularly close to eclipsing its official twin. Finally, there are a couple of live tracks of less-than-perfect sound quality that I seriously doubt even the most ardent Cure aficionado will find indispensable. One will also find the requisite booklet, which features, alas, not a track-by-track synopsis by Robert Smith, but a general essay by... well... somebody not directly in the band. Oh, but it DOES have lyrics. Yee-ha. Whoop-de-doo.
Clearly, then, the main attraction here is the original album itself, which remains a fascinating puzzler. On the one hand, the band is clearly taking some Talking Heads-esque leaps with their "signature" sound here - playing around with rhythms and instrumentation. On the other hand, you'll find such intensely straightforward and satisfying classics as "Just Like Heaven" and "Why Can't I Be You?" here as well. A mixed bag, in the end? That's always been MY take. But for those who breathed in every lyric and mordant minor chord... this ranks as one of the Cure's absolute classics. The final word, as always, is yours...
[MP3] "All I Want"
[MP3] "Like Cockatoos"
[MP3] "Icing Sugar" [alternative mix]
Dark Side of the Cop is the electronic - and largely experimental - project of Marco Panella. His self-titled debut album is premised on a couple of unquestionably unique and eccentric conceits. For starters, he set out to execute a modern-day re-imagining of the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack (thereby answering the prayers of the millions of us who could never get enough of Glenn Frey's "The Heat is On" and the Pointer Sisters' "Neutron Dance"). Of course, this was never meant to be a literal, track-by-track remake, but rather an effort to wed the Detroit-cop-fish-out-of-water-revenge-comedy-in-Beverly Hills plotline with moody, anti-"Axel F Theme" electronic textures and slight hints of '70s-era, California-styled songwriting. Talk about a concept album....
But that apparently wasn't enough for Mr. Panella. He was also intrigued by the infamous/ambiguous Dark Side of the Moon/Wizard of Oz synchronization concept. So this, too - in some way - is meant to pervade the spirit of the music and mood. Ultimately, of course, it is up to the listener to see where, when, and how well these somewhat intellectual conceits work with the music itself. The songs below should provide you with at least some small starting point in that endeavor.
You can visit Dark Side of the Cop's MySpace page and download one of the other best tracks on the album, "Love Me From Above."
You can purchase the album itself at Auger Down Records.
[MP3] "Shaky Little Rules"
Saturday, September 9
If yesterday's Everclear post wasn't quite your cup of tea, perhaps a bit of lush-yet-understated, country-inflected pop from New York's Hem will be more successful in transporting you to your special place. These three guys and a girl just released their second album of 2006, Funnel Cloud, on Nettwerk Records. (No Word From Tom, a collection of b-sides, rarities, covers, etc., came out in February.)
Funnel Cloud expands a bit on the band's previous sonic palette (on 2001's Rabbit Songs and 2004's Eveningland). Still, fans should have no problem recognizing the low-key proceedings, extensive-but-unobtrusive instrumentation, and the smooth, lyrical vocals of singer Sally Ellyson. In part because of those vocals, Hem are often compared to Cowboy Junkies, but I personally find Ellyson's voice "lighter" than Margot Timmons' - which is neither a good nor a bad thing... just a different thing.
[Hem's MySpace page.]
[MP3] "I'll Dream of You Tonight"
BONUS TRACK >>>
[MP3] "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"
Friday, September 8
Who woulda thunk it? Some 11 years after breaking into the grunge/pop-punk buzz bin with "Santa Monica" and Sparkle and Fade, Everclear is still alive and kicking and kicking out the jams. Their new album, Welcome to the Drama Club, will be released September 12 on Eleven Seven Records.
Of course, Everclear has always been the creative domain of Art Alexakis - relying on his songwriting and deep personal well of woes (failed mariages, bankruptcy, drug dependency) to build songs chock-a-block with musical and emotional crescendoes. Now 42, the singer is still at his best when spitting venom at any number of enemies - whether personal or political. First single "Hater" has already drawn much attention for its religion-baiting, "Hater Jesus" music video.
Vocally, Alexakis still has all the range of an arthritic snail. And his song structures haven't changed a whole hell of a lot over the years, either. If one hears an Everclear tune, one immediately KNOWS it's an Everclear tune. That can be a good thing; brand recognition and all. But obviously it can be interpreted from the negative end of the spectrum as well; heard one Everclear song, heard 'em all.
So... Welcome to the Drama Club isn't likely to earn Everclear many new fans. But the old diehards should be neither surprised nor disappointed by what they find there. That may be small comfort for the band, but it's exactly things like comfort and familiarity that keep a rock outfit rolling into their second decade of existence.
From the LP Welcome to the Drama Club, 2006 >>>
From the LP Slow Motion Daydream, 2003 >>>
From the LP Songs From an American Movie, Vol. 1, 2000 >>>
Friday, September 1
Okey-dokey then, here's my best effort at a Best of August mix. I'm in too lousy a mood (have been for forever now) to present this with much fanfare. But I'd like to think the songs are better than my current disposition. Feel free to agree to disagree.
[Also note: Unlike most of my Best Of mixes, this one runs past 80 minutes and thus will not fit on a traditional CD-R disc. I am confident, however, that you will be able to listen to the tracks and jettison the requisite number to make yourself a "personalized" (and perfect) mix. Edit away.]
At your leisure, please left-click [here] to collect the collection.
01) The Beautiful South/There is Song
02) The Killers/When You Were Young
03) The Hussy's/Tiger
04) Razorlight/In the Morning
05) Funky Nashville/Hitch a Ride
06) The Features/Wooden Heart
07) Ima Robot/Happy Annie
08) Paul Brill/Paris is On
09) The Damnwells/Heartbreaklist
10) The Cloud Room/Hey Now Now
11) Thom Yorke/Harrowdown Hill
12) Outkast [w/Janelle Monae]/Call the Law
13) The Legion of Doom/Crazy As She Goes
14) Peter, Bjorn and John [w/Victoria Bergsman]/Young Folks
15) The Needles/Dianne
16) Cosmic Rough Riders/Just a Satellite
17) Sing-Sing/Feels Like Summer
18) Richard Buckner/Town
19) Ben Kweller/Penny on the Train Track
20) Lady & Bird/Suicide is Painless
21) LD & the New Criticism/Unpaid Endorsement
22) Kashmir/Rocket Brothers