Wednesday, January 31

ROYAL TREATMENT PLANT




I've been carrying on a one-sided love affair with London's ROYAL TREATMENT PLANT ever since I first heard their song "You Don't Need Me" back in October of '06. It made my Best Of mix that month, and I still find it a nearly perfect blend of dance/thrash pop/rock.

Turns out, the band has been keeping some other gems up its collective sleeve, and the members were generous/sympathetic enough to throw a bone to this sad-sack, unrequited-love junkie. Perhaps seeing it as the audio equivalent of a pity-fuck, the group agreed to send me an MP3 of their new single "Carry Me" [available from iTUNES and AMAZON.COM (UK) as a four-song EP].

Lo and behold, a signature sound -- in an "empowering," not "restrictive" sense -- begins to emerge. SAM's sharp, staccato, sometimes siren-like guitar. TOMMY T's understated, retro, sense-of-menace synth fills. CHRIS and DJ's rumbling, cymbal-crash rhythm section. And, above it all, frontwoman PRINCESS P's playful yet authoritatively aggro vox -- effortlessly escalating from a coo to a caterwaul.


BLONDIE as covered by SONIC YOUTH? No, not exactly. But if that's enough candy to get you into the smiling-televangelist-man's Caddy, then go ahead and take the bait. The right tunes can make any ride worth risking.

ROYAL TREATMENT PLANT on
MySPACE.

ROYAL TREATMENT PLANT on stage...

Feb 2 2007 8:00P/On The TV present GIRLS!GIRLS!GIRLS! @ The Luminaire/London
Feb 17 2007 8:00P/Feeling Gloomy Club Night @ Bar Academy/London
Feb 21 2007 8:00P/The Social, London/London
Mar 1 2007 8:00P/Another Form of Relief/London
Mar 21 2007 8:00P/Industry, London/London
Mar 28 2007 8:00P/Headphones off @ Catch/London
Mar 31 2007 3:00P/Ladyfest @ The Loft/Cambridge

[MP3] "Carry Me"

[MP3] "You Don't Need Me"

[MP3] "Trained"

[MP3] "Funky" [live]

Tuesday, January 30

CLINIC



Whether they're the world's biggest M*A*S*H fans or simply bird flu-fearing, the four Liverpudian lads of CLINIC certainly know their way around a gimmick.

They also know their way around a dense, insular sound that seems almost perversely determined to push you away even as it's drawing you ever-closer to its cold, hard heart.

Listening to VISITATIONS, their 2006 album that was just released in the U.S. this past week, is perhaps a bit akin to navigating that hedge-maze in THE SHINING. But not during the daytime, in the fall, with SHELLEY DUVALL (though Shelley Duvall is certainly creepy and then some). No, this would be a nighttime navigation, in the dead of winter, with a freshly-hatched-from-the-cuckoo's-nest JACK NICHOLSON lurching after us with an ax.

This is music that revels in dead ends. Blind corners. Everywhere you turn, the sense of impending doom and deja vu is overwhelming. Depressing. Deadening. Don't go into the light, Carol Anne! But never mind; there's no light to be had. And no SCATMAN with a Sno-Cat to save you.

(How 'bout that. Turns out this entire post was just an excuse to get in an entirely irrelevant SCATMAN CROTHERS reference. Odd. Very odd.)

CLINIC on
MySPACE.

CLINIC in the UK, US, and CA...

Feb 3 2007 7:00P/The Social/Nottingham, Midlands
Feb 4 2007 11:00P/Optimo/Glasgow, Scotland
Feb 9 2007 7:00P/Concorde 2/Brighton, South
Feb 10 2007 7:30P/Club Academy/Manchester, Northeast

Mar 2 2007 8:00P/Troubadour/Los Angeles, California
Mar 3 2007 8:00P/Noise Pop/San Francisco, California
Mar 6 2007 8:00P/Black Cat/Washington DC
Mar 7 2007 8:00P/Johnny Brendas/Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Mar 10 2007 8:00P/Middle East/Cambridge, Massachusetts

Mar 11 2007 8:00P/La Sala Rossa/Montreal, Quebec
Mar 12 2007 8:00P/Lee's Palace/Toronto, Ontario

From the LP VISITATIONS, 2007 >>>
[MP3] [VID] "If You Could Read Your Mind"
[MP3] "Jigsaw Man"

From the LP WINCHESTER CATHEDRAL, 2004 >>>
[MP3] "Anne"
[MP3] "Thank You (For Living)

From the LP WALKING WITH THEE, 2002 >>>
[MP3] "The Equaliser"

From the LP INTERNAL WRANGLER, 2000 >>>
[MP3] [VID] "Distortions"

Monday, January 29

SIERRA SWAN




Watch your backs, PHOENIX and ZAPPA families, and make way for the silkily alliterative, friend-of-the-Earth-monikered SIERRA SWAN -- a young, up-and-coming California singer/songwriter who has already collaborated with a couple of the music biz's most respected song stylists. (Oh, and, just to solidify her family's standing in the wacky, terrestrial/ethereal name-game: Ms. Swan's sister is also a singer... and is named "Planet.")

Sierra Swan began her music career at the age of 16 -- writing songs and playing coffee houses in the San Fernando Valley. Before long, Atlantic Records came a'callin' with a contract, and the beginnings of a bright, promising career seemed all but assured.

Alas, in that oldest and most cliched of cautionary tales, artist and record label did not see eye-to-eye on the artistic-vision thing, and Atlantic dumped her like detritus. (No doubt TORI AMOS -- who lived the same exact tale with the same exact record label some ten years before -- can sympathize.)

Then, as so often seems to happen, a professional setback was enjoined and eclipsed by a personal one -- with Ms. Swan's mother taking seriously ill and passing away in February of 2003. It was at this emotional low ebb that Swan met songwriter, producer, and just general "uber-guru" LINDA PERRY. Before long, the two were writing together -- a partnership that would eventually yield 2005's LADYLAND, Sierra Swan's first album.

From the beginning, this collaboration had a kismet quality to it -- not just because the two proved to be so compatible as composers, but because their voices have a definite, kissing-cousin quality to them. Swan's may not be quite as over-the-top rough-and-tumble as Perry's was in the latter's 4 NON BLONDES days, but there's a seductive scratchiness to her purr that adds a welcome heft. Think: FIONA APPLE. Or -- on some of the poppier numbers -- one of Perry's previous proteges: PINK. (Also, the sometimes-playful, sometimes-darkly-intense piano figures that animate many of the tracks tend to evoke Ms. "UNDER the Pink" -- Tori Amos.)

As yet, Swan isn't the most accomplished lyricist you're likely to hear, but what she lacks in literary polish she more than makes up for in tell-it-like-it-is emotional punch and irony-couching-anger honesty. Obviously, having Linda Perry at her side is a pretty effective creative crutch. And, just for a little added assistance, AIMEE MANN co-writes and lends vocal support to the suffers-no-fools kiss-off, "Get Down to It."

Turns out, then, that Sierra Swan has a lot more going for her than that silkily alliterative name of hers. But even so: River, Rain, Summer, Liberty, and Leaf... watch your backs. Dweezil, Moon Unit, Diva, and Ahmet... eat your hearts out.

[SIERRA SWAN will be playing
THE HOTEL CAFE in Hollywood at 10:30 PM on January 31.]

SIERRA SWAN on
MySPACE.

[MP3] [VID] "Don't Say"

[MP3] "Just Tell Me"

BONUS TRACK >>>

[MP3] "It's a Merry Time"

IDLEWILD



The Scottish collective IDLEWILD will release their latest LP, MAKE ANOTHER WORLD, in the UK on March 6. You can pre-order it [HERE].

IDLEWILD on
MySPACE.

IDLEWILD on the road, eventually...

Mar 12 2007 8:00P/Newcastle University/Newcastle
Mar 13 2007 8:00P/Manchester Academy/Manchester
Mar 14 2007 8:00P/Norwich UEA/Norwich
Mar 16 2007 8:00P/Wolverhampton/Wulfrun Hall/Wolverhampton
Mar 17 2007 8:00P/Oxford Brookes University/Oxford
Mar 18 2007 8:00P/Leeds Met University/Leeds
Mar 19 2007 8:00P/Aberdeen Music Hall/Aberdeen
Mar 20 2007 8:00P/Perth Concert Hall/Perth

[MP3] "In Competition for the Worst Time"

[MP3] "You and I Are Both Away"

Sunday, January 28

AMERICA




What with George "The Decider" Bush deciding to do everything in his power these past six years to weaken the United States every which way and worse, there can be little doubt that AMERICA is in need of a comeback.

Maybe that's why DEWEY BUNNELL and GERRY BECKLEY -- two/thirds of the hit-making, soft-rocking '70s group AMERICA -- felt compelled to get the band back together. Well... with a little prodding from some of their younger-generation admirers, that is.

To start with, those admirers were ADAM SCHLESINGER (FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE) and JAMES IHA (SMASHING PUMPKINS). They not only helped convince Bunnell and Beckley to record a new full-length CD for the first time since 1998; they agreed to produce it. Well... with a little help from their friends, that is.

Those friends would ultimately come to include RYAN ADAMS, BEN KWELLER, and members of MY MORNING JACKET, and NADA SURF. Which begs the question: Would THE EAGLES or BREAD -- the two groups AMERICA essentially nestled themselves between during their heydey -- be able to elicit such nostalgic love and loyalty? Well... probably THE EAGLES, but that's not the point....

The point is that, some 30 years after releasing their 4+ million-selling Greatest Hits collection, AMERICA is back with a new double-CD, HERE & NOW. "NOW & THEN" might have made for a more accurate title, seeing as the first disc consists of new compositions, while the latter is dedicated to the group's glory days -- with the guys gamely performing live/in-studio versions of ALL of the tracks on that aforementioned Greatest Hits collection.

Now, you might rightly wonder: Does the world really need present-day, live/in-studio recordings of such distant hits as "Sister Golden Hair," "Lonely People," "Tin Man," "A Horse With No Name" (not to be mistaken for a NEIL YOUNG song), and "Ventura Highway" (not to be mistaken for an EAGLES song)? The answer: Of course not. But if the boys are feelin' frisky -- and are willing to release their double-disc at a non-apocalyptic price (just $11.99 @
AMAZON) -- then who are we to judge or begrudge them?

Methinks some judgment IS warranted on the first disc, however, seeing as this is the face AMERICA wishes to put on their current creative incarnation. The good news (or "bad," depending on your point of view) is that the band is back to sounding like they did in the '70s. Credit Schlesinger and Iha for keeping the arrangements largely uncluttered -- with gently strummed acoustic guitars and the group's trademark harmonies carrying the better part of the day. The songs themselves are pleasant, if forgettable (though Schlesinger's co-writing efforts on a couple of them help to elevate the general proceedings).

Bottom line: There's nothing wrong with surrendering oneself to a bit of nostalgia every now and again. And as a young kid in the early-to-mid '70s, I grew up listening to AMERICA on AM radio. Whether I truly need to listen to them on XM Radio today remains a pressing question, but kudos to Bunnell and Beckley for not giving up the ghost -- and kudos to Schlesinger and Iha for not just respecting their elders, but for celebrating them.

AMERICA on
MySPACE.

AMERICA's upcoming transcontinental canoodling...

Feb 2 2007 8:00P/McKinney Performing Arts Center/McKinney, Texas
Feb 3 2007 8:00P/McKinney Performing Arts Center/McKinney, Texas
Mar 9 2007 8:00P/Keswick Theater/Glenside, Pennsylvania
Mar 10 2007 8:00P/Louisville Palace Theatre/Louisville, Kentucky
Mar 13 2007 8:00P/Hammersmith Apollo/London, UK
Mar 14 2007 8:00P/Civic Hall/Wolverhampton, UK
Mar 15 2007 8:00P/Corn Exchange/Cambridge, UK
Mar 17 2007 8:00P/The Anvil/Basingstoke, UK

[MP3] "Ride On"

[MP3] "Work to Do"

[MP3] "Don't Cross the River" [live/in-studio]

[MP3] "A Horse With No Name" [live/in-studio]

[VID] "Ride On" [live on LETTERMAN]

BONUS TRACKS >>>

[MP3] "Sister Golden Hair"

[MP3] "You Can Do Magic"

Friday, January 26

THE APPLES IN STEREO



Fresh off his participation on THE COLBERT REPORT's "Guitarmageddon" [see it HERE], ROBERT SCHNEIDER and THE APPLES IN STEREO will be dropping their latest album, NEW MAGNETIC WONDER, on February 6. Seems a safe bet to expect more of their highly distinctive "sunny pop" -- '60s-influenced songs often extending no more than two to three minutes. (Actually, the two songs from the new record below run about 3:30, but they're still fuzzed-up and, yes, pretty damned "sunny.")

THE APPLES IN STEREO on
MySPACE.

THE APPLES IN STEREO on their upcoming tour...

Feb 8 2007 8:00P/The Dame/Lexington, Kentucky
Feb 9 2007 8:00P/Top Cat's Club/Cincinnati, Ohio
Feb 10 2007 8:00P/Grog Shop/Cleveland, Ohio
Feb 11 2007 7:00P/The Buffalo Icon/Buffalo, New York
Feb 12 2007 7:00P/Diesel/Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Feb 13 2007 8:00P/Black Cat/Washington, DC
Feb 15 2007 8:00P/Bowery Ballroom/New York City, New York
Feb 16 2007 9:00P/North Star Bar/Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

From the LP NEW MAGNETIC WONDER, 2007 >>>
[MP3] "Sunndal Song"
[MP3] "7 Stars"

From the LP VELOCITY OF SOUND, 2002 >>>
[MP3] "Please"
[MP3] "Baroque"

From the LP THE DISCOVERY OF A WORLD INSIDE THE MOONE, 2000 >>>
[MP3] "The Rainbow"

Thursday, January 25

DEAN WAREHAM & BRITTA PHILLIPS



DEAN WAREHAM & BRITTA PHILLPS -- formerly of LUNA -- will be releasing their second full-length CD, BACK NUMBERS, on February 27.

Upon first listen, I'm not sure I'm liking this one quite as much as 2003's L'AVVENTURA. But time will tell....

DEAN & BRITTA on MySPACE.

From the LP BACK NUMBERS, 2007 >>>
[MP3] "You Turned My Head Around"
[MP3] "The Sun is Still Sunny"

From the LP L'AVVENTURA, 2003 >>>
[MP3] [VID] "Moonshot"

AMY WINEHOUSE



Where the hell has AMY WINEHOUSE been hiding herself? Well... In England, apparently. I guess she's fairly well-known there, but I have to admit to never having heard of her till just a few days ago.

But what a voice. Soulful. Funky. Poppy. Instantly distinctive. And I've been grooving on retro-'60s female vocalists for a good long while now.

Ms. Winehouse's second album, BACK TO BLACK, was released last year -- overshadowed in some quarters by the woman's penchant for partying and, specifically, boozing it up in a big way. Good for her for dumping her record company when they tried to force her into rehab.

Obviously, she doesn't just have a voice; she has balls, too.

AMY WINEHOUSE on
MySPACE.

AMY WINEHOUSE on the road...

Feb 17 2007/8:00P/Corn Exchange/Cambridge
Feb 18 2007/8:00P/Guildhall/Southampton
Feb 19 2007/8:00P/NME Awards Show/Astoria/London
Feb 21 2007/8:00P/Academy/Birmingham
Feb 23 2007/8:00P/Academy/Liverpool

[MP3] "Back to Black"

[MP3] "You Know I'm No Good"

Wednesday, January 24

THE COOPER TEMPLE CLAUSE



THE COOPER TEMPLE CLAUSE is one of those groups that I want to like more than I actually do. Thus, they've always been a bit of a frustration to me.

Unfortunately, that frustration continues with their third full-length, MAKE THIS YOUR OWN, which will be released in the UK on January 22. (Which was yesterday... I guess. This clearly isn't going to be a very productive week for me. Blame it on the vodka.)

And one more thing: I don't like how THE COOPER TEMPLE CLAUSE's album titles are always telling me what to do. I'm my own man, dammit. (Except on Fridays, when I put on my mother's muu muu and curl my hair.)

THE COOPER TEMPLE CLAUSE on
MySPACE.

From the LP MAKE THIS YOUR OWN, 2007 >>>
[MP3] "Connect"
[MP3] "Head"

From the LP KICK UP THE FIRE, AND LET THE FRAMES BREAK LOOSE, 2003 >>>
[MP3] "Promises Promises"

From the LP SEE THIS THROUGH AND LEAVE, 2002 >>>
[MP3] "Safe Enough Distance Away"

Friday, January 19

CREEPY VOCAL VOODOO SUICIDE



As I mentioned in the last post, the exceedingly non-Swedish KEREN ANN pulls double-duty as one-half of LADY & BIRD. Her corresponding half is BARDI JOHANNSSON, whose main gig is BANG GANG. The two put out a self-titled album in 2003 which included a rather pristine and haunting rendition of "Suicide is Painless" -- the theme song from M*A*S*H.

The record was re-released in 2006, presumably intended for an American audience. As a bonus, an extra track -- "Do What I Do" -- was affixed to the disc. But it's the "song" that comes before it that served as the genesis for this post.

"La Ballade of Lady & Bird" is just plain strange. Spooky. Creepy. Over a gentle, acoustic guitar, a girl and boy (Lady & Bird, of course) carry on a sad, warped conversation. Perhaps their evil grandmother has locked them in the attic. Or perhaps they're just coming to grips with the pointlessness of existence. Who the hell knows? But it's decidedly strange. Spooky. Creepy.

Which put me in mind of the RADIOHEAD "song" "Fitter Happier." The voices on the former tune aren't computerized the way that the voice on the latter is -- just filtered for full-on eerie, existential echo. Apparently, the voice on the RADIOHEAD track belongs to "Fred," a real-life employee at the Microsoft Corporation. Turns out, he's no one-trick pony. Years later, he would cover the song that broke RADIOHEAD to the world. He really does have to work on his vocal stylings, however; he tends to be a little flat.

[MP3] Lady & Bird/"La Ballade of Lady & Bird"/"Do What I Do" [live/acoustic]

[MP3] Radiohead/"Fitter Happier"

[MP3] "Shitter Crappier"

SOMEWHAT RELATED BONUS TRACKS >>>

[MP3] Lady & Bird/"Suicide is Painless"

[MP3] Radiohead/"Creep" [as "sung" by FRED from "Fitter Happier"]

[MP3] Manic Street Preachers/"Suicide is Painless"

[MP3] Bang Gang/"Find What You Get"

Thursday, January 18

KEREN ANN (IS NOT SWEDISH)


I thought I was going to be continuing my cyber-vacation in Sweden today, seeing as I thought that KEREN ANN was a native of that country. But Yahoo burst my bubble, as such: "Singer/songwriter Keren Ann Zeidel, who records under the name Keren Ann, was born in Israel in 1974 to a Dutch-Javanese mother and a Russian-Israeli father."

Okay, fine. But maybe they had a Swedish milkman.

Then it occurred to me why I had made that incredibly uncharacteristic mistake. Ms. Zeidel, you see, also performs with BARDI JOHANNSSON as part of LADY & BIRD. Ha! There you have it. I mean, have you ever heard a name more Swedish than "Bardi Johannsson"?

Except that it turns out he's from Iceland.

Shit.

This entire post was intended to be built around the incontrovertible fact of KEREN ANN's unimpeachable Swedishness. Now what the hell am I going to do?

Well... I guess I'm going to tell you that the woman has a new, self-titled LP coming out this year. It'll be released in Europe on April 23 and in the U.S. on May 8. Till then, I've taken the liberty of offering up a few of her older tracks below.

[But wait! I KNEW there had to be SOME kind of KEREN ANN/Sweden link. Just for the record: On February 26, 2005, she played the Swedish American Hall in San Francisco. So there you have it.]

KEREN ANN on MySPACE.

From the LP NOT GOING ANYWHERE, 2004 >>>
[MP3] "End of May"
[MP3] "Sailor & Widow"

From the LP NOLITA, 2004 >>>
[MP3] "Que N'ai-je?"

Wednesday, January 17

THE CARNY


LAST.FM informs us: "THE CARNY is a rock band based in the city of Halmstad, on the sunny side of Sweden." Sunny? Well, with it being 12 degrees F. here in the Mitten at the moment, that sounds pretty good to me. Book my flight.

Now then... calling THE CARNY a "rock band" may be a bit of a stretch. "Indie pop" seems more their milieu. Sort of with a '60s/gypsy flair. This is one of those bands that seems to have way too many members to ever make much money. But -- like their fellow Swedes PINTO [see:
HERE] -- THE CARNY don't seem to care about the cash.

I guess it's true what I've heard... the Swedes are not just a pretty people; they're rich. A Saab in every driveway; an eel in every pot; a flask of Absolut in every pocket. Now, I realize that Sweden is a socialist country, so I'm guessing that its citizens are therefore required by law to split their incomes equally amongst the masses. They were probably able to coast through the '70s and early '80s on BJORN BORG's winnings and ABBA royalties alone.

Despite the best efforts of ROXETTE, ACE OF BASE, and STEFAN EDBERG, the rest of the '80s must have been relatively lean times for the Swedish people. INGMAR BERGMAN got so depressed he stopped directing films. INGRID BERGMAN [no relation] got so depressed she just up and died. But then: a ray of light (not SUNlight, of course; they don't have sunlight in Sweden... just... um... windmills... and wooden shoes... and... um... frozen tulips).

No, the ray of light came in the form of a new and ingenious export: hockey players! By my careful calculations, the combined 2006 salaries of two NHL players alone -- PETER FORSBERG and NICKLAS LIDSTROM -- split evenly amongst the Swedish people, would net each man, woman, and child the tidy sum of $1.46. That translates to, approximately, 10 kronor (kronor are the currency Swedes use to purchase vodka and eels).

Anyway, all of this was to make the point that, because they are supported by the labors of their exported hockey players, the musicians of Sweden often find it unnecessary (even repugnant) to accept money for their musical endeavors. They practically throw the stuff away. The way that Americans throw away Canadian coins (no love for the loony). The way the English throw away the dental-hygiene care packages dropped daily by UN relief planes (fancy a floss?).

THE CARNY represent this type of careless, free-love sort of record distribution. At present, you can go to their website and download what looks to be pretty much everything they've ever recorded. Good stuff it is, too. Just click on "MUSIK." (Just because their rich and pretty does'nt mean they no how to speak n spell English good).


Did I mention that THE CARNY play indie pop music with a '60s/gypsy flair?

While wearing wooden shoes.

THE CARNY on
MySPACE.

From the EP BABY BLUE, 2006 >>>
[MP3] "Your Life Doesn't Do Your Living"

From the LP MONEY MAKES US, 2005 >>>
[MP3] "Man Under the Sun"
[MP3] "Where the Daffodils Grow"

From the EP BESTSELLER, 2005 >>>
[MP3] "Proud of Who I Am"

BONUS TRACK >>>

[MP3] "This Christmas (If You Come Back)"

Tuesday, January 16

ETHER AURA


ETHER AURA are a Detroit-based quintet whose music spans the range from garage rock to shoegaze; country to goth. The band -- singer KATE HINOTE, multi-instrumentalist TONY HAMERA, drummer WILLIAM KING, bassist BRET HAUPT, and rhythm guitarist ALEX BONGIORNO -- dropped their first full-length CD, CRASH, in 2005, and are set to follow it with the February 17 release of BEFORE WE COULD SING.

The new record will continue to show off the group's musical range -- incorporating elements of indie rock, dreampop, and "goth twang." Indeed, while it's entirely appropriate to cite COCTEAU TWINS, CURVE, and early-period LUSH as influences on the ETHER AURA sound, listeners can expect a few left-turn detours along the way. When the spirit so moves them, they are more than capable of crafting pure, top-notch pop [see song #1 below], and they clearly have a facility for the well-chosen cover [see songs #2 and #3 below].

The ETHER AURA album CRASH can be purchased at
CDBaby or from EMusic. BEFORE WE COULD SING can be pre-ordered (until January 29) by sending $12 (shipping included) to tonyhamera@yahoo.com via PayPal.

The release party for BEFORE WE COULD SING will take place February 17 at THE BERKLEY FRONT. The band will perform, starting at 9 PM, supported by fellow Detroiters
I AM WAX.

Ether Aura on MySPACE.

From the LP CRASH, 2005 >>>

[MP3] "6 Days Yesterday"

BONUS TRACKS >>>

[MP3] "I Speak Your Every Word" [CURVE cover]

[MP3] "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me" [THE SMITHS cover]

THE HOLLOWAYS



I know next to nothing about the London four-piece THE HOLLOWAYS, but I'll be damned if I'm going to let that stop me from sharing a bit of their music with you.

I do know that they released their debut LP, SO THIS IS GREAT BRITAIN?, in the UK last October, and that they've been a band since 2004. Their sound seems influenced by THE CLASH and, more recently, BLOC PARTY and THE LIBERTINES. It should be noted, however, that they do seem a bit younger, happier, and... um... "soberer" than the last group on that list.


Overall then: a bit of light, carefree fun. Summertime music in the deep, dark heart of an icy winter. Wherefore art thou, El Nino? Why hast thou forsaken us?

The Holloways on
MySPACE.

The Holloways on the road >>>

Jan 25 2007/8:00P/The Hub/Colchester
Jan 27 2007/8:00P/Fleche D'Or/Paris
Feb 1 2007/8:00P/Circolo degli Artisti/Roma
Feb 2 2007/8:00P/Covo/Bolongne
Feb 3 2007/8:00P/Extra/Recanti
Feb 11 2007/8:00P/The KLA Social/Bristol
Feb 12 2007/8:00P/The Zodiac/Oxford

[MP3] "Generator"

[MP3] "Malcontented One"

Sunday, January 14

01. THOM YORKE: THE ERASER

In some ways, this pick comes as a complete surprise to me. In other ways, it was entirely inevitable.

THOM YORKE, after all, is the voice of my favorite band -- a band that shattered my spirits early in '06 by announcing that they wouldn't be releasing a new album until at least 2007. Lazy bastards.

But then ol' Thom pulled a surprise out of his hat (his detractors -- and he seems to have many -- might say: "ass") by revealing that he had crafted a solo album with the help of long-time RADIOHEAD producer NIGEL GODRICH. Hallelujah!, thought I. This -- along with countless bootlegs of Radiohead's 2006 world tour -- would get me through.

There was, of course, one catch. Mr. Yorke was very quick to inform his fans that THE ERASER was almost entirely an "electronic" album. Blips. Bleeps. Loops-a-palooza. Cut. Paste. Not-so-okay computer.

Not that that came as any great surprise. I mean, the band itself hadn't done the full-on guitar-thing for almost a decade. At least, in the studio. So... I crossed my fingers and waited for the inevitable Internet leak, which, naturally, followed promptly enough.

First off, the STANLEY DONWOOD-designed album art was typically cool and creepy, which was reassuring. But then it was time to actually start listening to the thing, which kind of scared the shit out of me, to tell you the truth. You see, I'm really not a "blips and bleeps" kind of guy. I'm one of those people who wouldn't mind hearing "real" guitars on the next Radiohead record. Not that I need another BENDS, exactly, but something that incorporates some of that album's sense of music-made-by-humans "warmth" would be welcome.

So, when THE ERASER's title track initiated its sequence like one of KID A's more alien efforts, my heart despaired. But then: a reprieve -- in the form of that "wall of Thom Yorkes" chorus that's as "warm" as I could ever want or need it to be. Second song "Analyse" I liked even more -- more multi-tracked Yorke vocals, but this time coupled with some simple but haunting piano work.

Over the next couple tracks, I realized that my worst fears were not going to be realized with THE ERASER. This was not going to be one long, unvarying drone of a record. True, the robots-have-taken-over-the-world electronics were the steel-rod spine that held everything together, but they were differentiated enough that actual SONGS emerged from the murk. Even more importantly, Yorke's voice was left sufficiently "unfucked with" to humanize the proceedings -- most notably while upbraiding the Iraq-apologists in the Blair regime on "Harrowdown Hill" or spewing simple, oh-the-humanity mantras for the 21st century like "Black Swan"'s "[This is] fucked up, fucked up."

As it turns out, what I thought would be little more than a placeholder for me as I awaited the next Radiohead epic, has turned out to be the album that most moved me in 2006. Who knew that a series of "blips and bleeps" could spawn such an irresistible emotional undertow.

Thom Yorke on MySPACE.

BONUS TRACKS >>>

[MP3] "Analyse" [live/in-studio]

[VID] "Cymbal Rush" [live/in-studio]

[VID] "The Clock" [live/in-studio]

[MP3] "Analyse" [VARIOUS Remix]

[MP3] "Atoms for Peace" [FOUR TET Remix]

SO... SUMMING UP...


2006 >>>

01) Thom Yorke/The Eraser
02) The Veils/Nux Vomica
03) Mojave 3/Puzzles Like You
04) The Essex Green/Cannibal Sea
05) Now It's Overhead/Dark Light Daybreak
06) Scissor Sisters/Ta-Dah
07) The Pipettes/We Are the Pipettes
08) Malajube/Trompe-L'Oeil
09) The Format/Dog Problems
10) Regina Spektor/Begin to Hope
11) The Submarines/Declare a New State!
12) The Fratellis/Costello Music

[Yeah, looks about right. For now, at least...]

Saturday, January 13

02. THE VEILS: NUX VOMICA


THE VEILS are singer/songwriter FINN ANDREWS's baby, especially after he fired all of his bandmates after their 2004 debut, THE RUNAWAY FOUND. As he was barely 20 at the time, that deed no doubt seemed premature and precipitous -- the act of an emotionally unsteady enfant terrible.

Be that as it may, if the guy continues to produce thrillingly schizophrenic albums like 2006's NUX VOMICA, I say let him lay as many sacrificial heads on the chopping-block as his cold, dark heart desires.

Andrews' music has a shape-shifting, chameleon-quality to it (as does his voice, which is one that some listeners will have to grow to love). Just when you've got the record pegged as a well-executed exercise in breezy indie-pop and bright, joyous choruses ("Calliope!," "Advice for Young Mothers to Be"), the guy hauls out his hairshirt and starts going to town ("Jesus for the Jugular," "Pan"). But once that's done, he'll find the time and inclination to lighten up and do the BRUCE/E STREET BAND thing ("A Birthday Present"), or put his own stamp on the whole FRANZ FERDINAND/EDITORS/etc. trend ("One Night on Earth"). Through it all, that aforementioned voice of his rises and falls; sags and soars. At times, it's highly evocative of STARSAILOR's JAMES WALSH. But on the slow-burn-to-explosive title track, he could just as well be JEFF BUCKLEY's bitter big brother, angrily lurching his way through a DOORS/LED ZEPPELIN bender.


My hope is that the two songs below will give you some idea of the sonic extremes to be found on Nux Vomica. The trip it'll take you on isn't the easiest you'll ever experience; there are a number of detours you'll have to endure. But, sometimes, getting lost and having to find your way back by unexpected means can make for the most exhilerating and worthwhile trip of all.

Me, I'll follow this kid anywhere.

The Veils on MySPACE.

[MP3] "Advice for Young Mothers to Be"

[MP3] "Nux Vomica"

Friday, January 12

04. THE ESSEX GREEN: CANNIBAL SEA


If I didn't know better, I'd guess that THE ESSEX GREEN were modern-day English hippies, lounging about some shabby-chic London flat, rotating out FAIRPORT CONVENTION and KINKS records under a bounteous, pungent haze.

Thing is: They're from Brooklyn. (I'm sticking with everything else.)

I'm not even going to try to list the members of the band; they've had a habit of switching out players over the years. Also, they're one of those groups that likes to moonlight, with members pulling second shifts with the likes of LADYBUG TRANSISTOR and THE SIXTH GREAT LAKE.

With their third full-length under the Essex Green moniker, the band seems to have found their comfort zone. As with THE SUBMARINES, these folks make skillful use of boy-girl vocal interplay while spinning their neo-psychedelic, indie-folk yarns. What makes CANNIBAL SEA the best record of their career to date isn't just that the song cycle here is the strongest they've yet produced (though it is), but also the fact that they've embraced a wider sonic palette and a more expansive, "cleaner" production style. The song below is one of the more simple and stripped-down on the album, but even here the charming vocals and familiar-but-winning melody-line win the day.

The Essex Green on MySPACE.

[MP3] "Rue de Lis"

05. NOW IT'S OVERHEAD: DARK LIGHT DAYBREAK


Well, here's ANOTHER record that I had low hopes for coming into 2006. Truth be told, I hadn't heard much from ANDY LeMASTER's project in the past that had impressed me overmuch. Somehow, his sometimes formless, shoegaze-inspired compositions seemed over-stuffed, almost too intense, and just plain unappealing.

Not so for NOW IT'S OVERHEAD's third release, DARK LIGHT DAYBREAK. In November, I wrote: "the songs seem to have some sharper edges than in the past (which [is] welcome), but there remain[s] a certain unsatisfying drone... a certain lumbering quality to the note and chord progressions...."


Obviously, at that point, I still wasn't entirely sold on the CD, even though I felt good enough about it to write it up and post a couple of songs. I have absolutely no problem recommending DARK LIGHT DAYBREAK fully now, after listening to it through a number of times. LeMaster's voice remains entirely recognizable from his earlier efforts, and some of that old, dense intensity remains. But the SONGS are better here, and that has to be the biggest step forward this Athens, Georgia band made in 2006.

Now It's Overhead on MySPACE.

[MP3] "Let Up"

06. SCISSOR SISTERS: TA-DAH


I didn't particularly care for SCISSOR SISTERS' self-titled debut LP when it "came out" in 2004. I found the lead singer's voice annoying, and, after about a minute, their cover of PINK FLOYD's "Comfortably Numb" quickly skipped down the Yellow Brick Road toward tedium.

So, I didn't have the highest of expectations for 2006's follow-up, TA-DAH. Nonetheless, first single "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'" disarmed me quite a bit when it first hit the Internet, and I made a mental note to give the full album a fair shot before compiling my end-of-year Favorites list. Turns out, that mental note was a fortuitous one, as I ended up enjoying this record from "top-to-bottom." To my ears, it slants more toward late-'70s BEE GEES this time around than mid-'70s ELTON JOHN, so maybe it's my internal disco queen that's driving this pick. Regardless, like THE PIPETTES and THE FRATELLIS further down my list, Scissor Sisters traffic in fun, escapist pop for dancers and non-dancers alike.

Scissor Sisters on MySPACE.

[MP3] "I Can't Decide"

07. THE PIPETTES: WE ARE THE PIPETTES


When I was but a wee lad, it was the era of the great Bubblegum Wars. I'm not talking about bubblegum pop MUSIC, by the way, but about ACTUAL bubblegum. You see, whether you preferred HUBBA BUBBA or BUBBLICIOUS back in the day could have a very major effect on a person's popularity at LEWIS CASS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL (or Lewis "Ass" Elementary School, seeing as pranksters were always making off with the "C").

All of that has pretty much nothing to do with my #7 selection for Top Album, 2006. I just happened to enjoy the hell out THE PIPETTES and their '60s-styled pop debut. Shallow? Perhaps. Not destined for a long shelf-life? Maybe so. Do I sometimes skip past Pipettes songs while blasting mix CDs from my car windows -- fearful that people on the street might mistake them for THE SPICE GIRLS? Guilty as charged.


But great chord progressions are great chord progressions; great harmonies are great harmonies; great pop songs are great pop songs. Regardless of which brand of bubblegum you chew.

The Pipettes on MySPACE.

[MP3] "Judy"

08. MALAJUBE: TROMPE-L'OEIL


Somebody should check the water in Montreal; there's something fishy (Vichy?) going on. What else to explain the greatness of ARCADE FIRE's 2004 FUNERAL and the also-pretty-damn-well-swell 2006 debut by city-mates MALAJUBE? The latter group shares some of the former's boisterous energy, though its songs tend to play out in their native French. But no matter. The careening, devil-may-care soundscapes require no translation, and they've more than succeeded in keeping me occupied while awaiting Arcade Fire's upcoming effort. Viva la French!

Malajube on MySPACE.

[MP3] "La Monogamie"

Thursday, January 11

09. THE FORMAT: DOG PROBLEMS


[Well, surely you didn't think I'd neglect to prepare a Top Albums lists for 2006 -- just like every other blogger and his brother? I spent quite a lot of time over the holidays re-listening to albums that I thought might make the final list. Some, of course, didn't quite live up to my initial evaluation(s). Others seemed to improve with the passage of time. I'll be rolling these out over the next few days, and you won't be seeing such blog beloveds as JOANNA NEWSOM, TV ON THE RADIO, SUFJAN STEVENS, or BEIRUT here. Their popularity continues to mystify me.]

Sometimes, being dropped by your record company can be a GOOD thing. It seems to have worked out that way for Arizona's THE FORMAT, who were dumped by Atlantic before releasing 2006's excellent DOG PROBLEMS.

On June 27, I wrote about these guys: "You can hear a bit of XTC in THE FORMAT's sound. Also: BEN FOLDS and THE FLAMING LIPS. But there's something of the '70s burbling up in there, too. A heaping helping of HARRY NILSSON, perhaps? A sliver of SUPERTRAMP? Well, why the hell not."

The Format on MySPACE.

[MP3] "I'm Actual"

10. REGINA SPEKTOR: BEGIN TO HOPE


REGINA SPEKTOR sometimes seems to be a bit of a freak. We won't blame that on her Russian heritage, because, to the best of my knowledge, similar "freaks" such as TORI AMOS, KATE BUSH, NELLIE McKAY, and FIONA APPLE don't have an ounce of Soviet kitsch in their genetic make-up.

With 2006's BEGIN TO HOPE, Ms. Spektor seems to have turned a significant corner in her career -- putting together a solid and catchy record that keeps her grounded yet still allows for the occasional flight of fancy. Keep flying that freak flag, Regina; I'm toasting you with a nice swallow of vodka even as I'm typing this.

Regina Spektor on MySPACE.

[MP3] "On the Radio"

11. THE SUBMARINES: DECLARE A NEW STATE


And we thought THE WHITE STRIPES were a soap opera....

L.A. duo THE SUBMARINES consist of JOHN DRAGONETTI and BLAKE HAZARD -- a man and woman who had a relationship, then broke up, then got back together, then got married, and then put out a record album. That album, DECLARE A NEW STATE, doesn't sound much at all like the White Stripes -- more like STARS or RILO KILEY, with the two singers trading leads and occasionally doing the boy-girl counterpoint vocal thing that I like so much. It may be that things get a little too slow and shoegazey on the second half of the CD, but the music here is quite beautiful and would seem to promise great things to come for these two. (So long as they don't break up again, natch.)

The Submarines on MySPACE.

[MP3] "Peace and Hate"

12. THE FRATELLIS: COSTELLO MUSIC


On December 13, on this blog, I wrote:

"Scottish trio THE FRATELLIS play an energetic style of glam/pop/punk that evokes everyone from the BEATLES to the POGUES; BLUR to SUPERGRASS."

Even so, I wasn't too sure that their 2006 debut, COSTELLO MUSIC, would make my end-of-year list of top albums. But, as you see, it just got in under the wire.

Not the most original sound under the sun (as my original post was meant to suggest), but nonetheless competent, consistent, and -- most importantly -- quite a bit of fun.

The Fratellis on MySPACE.

[MP3] "Flathead"

Friday, January 5

BEST OF DECEMBER


Now that all those annoying holidays have passed, I'm hoping to get back to more regular posting next week.

In the meantime, feel free to left-click
[HERE] to download last month's mix...

TRACKLIST >>>

01) The Beautiful South/Manchester
02) Scissor Sisters/She's My Man
03) Mark Mallman/Death Wish
04) The Fratellis/For the Girl
05) Consequences/Come On
06) Pinto/Armchair Anthropologist
07) The Electric Pop Group/She's Playing With Your Heart
08) TIAC/It's Always the Same Anyway
09) Relax to Paris/Flavor of the Month
10) The Long Blondes/Once and Never Again
11) Veldt/Bullet
12) Johndoe/Nattskift
13) The Shins/Split Needles (Alternate Version)
14) Loveninjas/I Wanna Be Like Johnny C
15) Now It's Overhead/Type A
16) Yellowish/This is My Direction
17) The Killers/A Great Big Sled
18) The Frames/Rise
19) Marit Bergman/This is the Year
20) Warm in the Wake/Tame Thoughts

21) Serge Gainsbourg/Initials B.B.
22) Bob Seger/2 + 2 = ?

Thursday, January 4

BIG LOVE (AND WHAT IT LEADS TO)







[First, I'd like to once again thank my friend JIM for riding to the rescue re: my long-lacking blog banner. I owe you, sir. Big time.]

My parents have been in town for the holidays, so I've been spending quite a bit of time lately holed up in my bedroom listening to music (suddenly, I'm a teenager again). One of my re-discoveries was LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM's rather rippin' live version of "Big Love," as performed during the much ballyhooed FLEETWOOD MAC reunion of some 9 or ten years ago. His performance still jumps out of the headphones at me, and I wish to hell I could play guitar like that (or play guitar AT ALL, for that matter).

"Big Love" got me thinking about the HBO show BIG LOVE, whose title sequence unspools to the strains of THE BEACH BOYS' "God Only Knows." I seem to be one of the only human beings on the planet who thinks that PET SOUNDS is overrated, but certainly this song (along with "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and, to a lesser extent, "Sloop John B") are deserving of "timeless" status.

From there, my free-associating jones took a leap to film. I'd just re-watched THE BOURNE IDENTITY on TV not long before, so I was reminded of the pretty cool tune that accompanies that movie's pretty cool Mini Cooper car chase. "Ready Steady Go," indeed.

Apropos of nothing, I then got to thinking about one of my brother STEVE's "old" favorites -- TRUE ROMANCE. At the time, I was quite fond of the scene in the club in which CHRISTIAN SLATER does the duel-thing with a dreadlocked GARY OLDMAN. The insistent music that plays underneath it is key to its sense of impending, TARANTINO-etched mayhem. (Also unforgettable in that film, for better or worse, is the over-the-top, titanic battle between PATRICIA ARQUETTE and a pre-Tony Soprano JAMES GANDOLFINI.)

Somehow, that led me to MIDNIGHT EXPRESS [written by the Tarantino of his day (sort of), OLIVER STONE]. I remember being entranced by the simple and repetitive synthesizer aria that highlights the desperate, dirty-Turkish-streets foot-chase between "Hey, It's Only Hashish" BRAD DAVIS and "Hey, I Only Want To Help You Help Yourself, Billy" BO HOPKINS.

GIORGIO MORODER composed that particular piece of music, so it seems at least somewhat apropos that I then started thinking about BLONDIE's "Call Me" -- which Moroder produced and co-wrote, and which appears in the movie AMERICAN GIGOLO. I have heard that RICHARD GERE goes full-frontal in that particular picture, but I'm still holding out for his infamous Gerbil-goes-a'gamboling escapade to show up on You Tube.


[And don't forget to come back tomorrow for the ever-popular BEST OF DECEMBER mix.]

[MP3] Lindsey Buckingham/"Big Love" [live]

[MP3] Fleetwood Mac/"Big Love"

[MP3] The Beach Boys/"God Only Knows"

[MP3] Paul Oakenfold/"Ready Steady Go"

[MP3] Nymphomania/"I Want Your Body"

[MP3] Giorgio Moroder/"Chase" [from MIDNIGHT EXPRESS]

[MP3] Blondie/"Call Me"

Wednesday, January 3

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE QUEEN



As many of you already know, DAMON ALBARN's new collective, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE QUEEN, will be releasing their first album on January 22. If you pre-order it [HERE] before January 15, you'll have the ability to listen to five more of its tracks.

For my money, the first song below actually sounds a bit like PARKLIFE/GREAT ESCAPE-era BLUR, while the second leans more in the GORILLAZ' direction. GNARLS BARKLEY's DANGER MOUSE is producing.

[MP3] "80s Life"

[MP3] "History Song"

[The Good, the Bad and the Queen on MySPACE.]

Monday, January 1

2007


Unlike SADDAM HUSSEIN, the rest of us have made it through another year. Congrats (I guess).

On an entirely unrelated note, the two universities that saw fit to grant me degrees are playing each other today. Here's hoping Michigan blows USC off the field (though I doubt they will).

[Look for my BEST OF DECEMBER mix on Friday and my TOP ALBUMS OF 2006 shortly thereafter.]

[MP3] U2/New Year's Day"

[MP3] Casiotone for the Painfully Alone/"New Year's Kiss"

[MP3] Asobi Seksu/"New Years"

[MP3] Azure Ray/"The New Year"

[MP3] The Lonelyhearts/"Next Year is Shaping Up to Be Real Awesome"
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