Monday, December 22, 2008

Blurt Digizine

I’ve never had the bandwidth to check this out before (it’s 90 KBs), but Blurt does a digital magazine now that looks very much like the old Harp. It’s just that you have to print it out on your own paper.

Anyway, I have reviews of Christina Carter’s Original Darkness and Chris Brokaw’s Canaris, both very fine, in the current issue, as well as a short interview with the Wild Beasts.

Download the whole thing here:

Also, I’m not crazy about holiday music, except when it’s played on pipe organs and sung by boys whose voices haven’t changed yet, but 65 Days of Static has graced us with one called “I’m Dreaming of a White Noise Christmas.

The combination of less to say (everything’s closed down now until 2009), Christmas and travel probably means that I’ll be posting infrequently for a while…have a nice holiday everyone!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Another best-of list

Blurt (the old Harp) put out its year end list yesterday, and, I have to say, it's way more in line with my 2008 than any other aggregated list I've seen. I had some input into it...but then I had some input into the PopMatters list, which has not a single one of my top-ten picks in its top 60.

But Blurt has singled out a bunch of my favorites -- not just Alejandro, but Thalia Zedek and the Gutter Twins.

So, wow, I feel like a part of something for once, instead of a lone kook in the desert.

Here's the list.

Illustrating the “scraps” principle

This very low-key but enjoyable folk-influenced album by a member of the extended Banhart tribe came from PopMatters’ leftover list and was released on a label so small that no website exists.

And I could have been reviewing Fall Out Boy.

Viking Moses, The Parts that Showed (Epiphysis/Music Fellowship)
Viking Moses, the musical nom de plume of Brendon Massei, has been turning out limited edition vinyl and short-run CDs since 2003, but The Parts that Showed is only the second full-length. Massei is loosely associated with freak folk movement, having gotten early exposure on the Golden Apples of the Sun compilation and played bass with both Devendra Banhart and Vetiver. Here, however, he takes on not the hearts-and-unicorns fancies of new folk, but rather the more plainspoken aura of Palace Brothers and Bonnie Prince Billy. (It’s no surprise really, since he recorded chez Paul Oldham in Kentucky.) These are lonely musings on hardscrabble lives, sung in a ruminative voice and couched in subtle arrangements of guitar, drums and bowed saw. The single “Jones Boys” rumbles along on percussive strums and old-time-y brush and hit hat rhythms, a porch sing-along-chorus buoying the song into communal optimism. Yet it’s better still to turn to the slow drama of “Little Bows” with its pulsating rhythms and warble-y intensity or the slow, lovely flourishes of guitar in “Under a Soda Sky”. Massei says his dearest wish is for Dolly Parton to sing this album, which is maybe why he’s included a cover of “I Will Always Love You”. It’s a bold move, stripping this diva-friendly show-stopper down to the barest shades of longing, but it works. Dolly, who never let big production get in the way of emotional honesty, would be proud. [Amazon ]

“Jones Boys”

I’m interviewing Fennesz in 30 minutes…wish me luck.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

an interview with an unusually perceptive freelancer

no fucking clue who it is...

Try here

Dancer Vs. Politician

I'm thinking Politician by seven...what do you say?

Here's my review of this German pop-electronic confection, up yesterday in Blurt:

Dancer Vs. Politician
A City Half Lost

For dream-fuzzed ventures through warm acoustic and percolating electro territories, Berlin-born Sanni Baumgartner has enlisted almost a score of Athens, Georgia-based musicians, playing everything from electric guitar to cello to clarinet to musical saw. Yet populous though this CD is, it never feels overweighted. Baumgartner's supple, soothing voice weaves through rich string arrangements and twinkling glockenspiel, augmented, never overwhelmed.



"Mach Dich Los"

"Justin Fairborn"

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Stealing other people's ideas again

Nate Knaebel, one of the garage people at Dusted, has his list up today. What I know on this list (Dirtbombs, Cobra Verde, Jay Reatard, Pink Reason) is mostly excellent…I’m not sold on the Vivian Girls, but everything else looks pretty good. But there is also a ton of stuff that I don’t know, so I thought I’d throw a few videos up and see what you all think.

Eddy Current Suppression Ring, “Which Way to Go”
I’m pretty sure I have this on at least one computer, so you might want to rifle through Raven Sings the Blues and see if he put any mp3s up. I think he probably did.

Nodzzz, “I Can’t Wait”

The Goodnight Loving, “Drafted Into War”

And, to close things out, Prisonshake live in Columbus in September. There are bunch of videos from Prisonshake’s first incarnation, but this is the only one with current footage.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The old made new…and M83

I’ve got a couple of “best reissues” blurbs up in PopMatters’ year-end extravaganza: Roy Harper’s Stormcock at #18 and Big Dipper at #4 . (Best new records went up yesterday….I forget who won, but it wasn’t Fleet Foxes at least. They came in second.)

Also a live review of that M83/School of Seven Bells show

I went in to Turn It Up yesterday and tried to order The Bug’s London Zoo, but the guy says it’s only available as a vinyl import and very, very pricey. Sigh.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Petra Haden in her own (non) words

I have a little feature interview with Petra Haden up at Blurt today. She’s pretty cool…half of the Petra Haden and Miss Murgatroid duo I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, friend of Mike Watt, collaborator with Yuka Honda and daughter of the bass god Charlie Haden…

Here’s a bit:

In her latest, Hearts and Daggers, a collaboration with Miss Murgatroid (aka Alicia J. Rose), Petra Haden loops baroque swaths of vocal sounds around the twining drones of violin and accordion. There's melody, emotion, depth and complexity there...but almost no words.

"Anytime I write a word, I hate it," Haden admitted in a recent phone interview, adding that she has only recently, in collaboration with Yuka Hondo called If By Yes, begun to experiment with lyrics. Still, she is not using words in the conventional way, to tell a story, to get a point across. "When I say a word, it's just something that I think fits. I'm not even thinking of a theme. I'm just, the note that I'm singing, in my head, sounds like the word 'silhouette.' And that word ‘silhouette' sounds like the note."


Here she is covering the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows”

Embedding is disabled on this video of “I Can See for Miles” but you can watch it at YouTube by going here:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Fuck yeah…other people’s lists

So I’m at the tea shop charging up my laptop, and idly rifling through the WFMU blog, and I find Brian Turner’s year-end list, which includes a band named Wounded Lion, and god-damn, he’s right, it’s awesome.

Here is a video of “Pony People”

Also on his list Mayyors, awesome hard-assed punk. (There is a wholly objectionable, nasty, gory video of “White Jeep” on YouTube, with better sound quality, but I just can’t put it on my blog page.)

I’m gonna check out the rest when I have more time, maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Still no power

...and the newspaper is saying it will take a week to ten days in some spots. Hope we're not one of those spots.

Five worst things about no power:
5. No email, except at the library
4. No hot food
3. No light
2. No heat (it's going down to 5 below tonight...we do have a wood stove, fortunately)
1. No water, so you can't flush the toilet

But think of all the oil we're saving this week.

Had a shower today at the YMCA today and feel positively giddy about it.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Iced in, powered down

We had a pretty ferocious ice storm last night. All night long you could hear the trees breaking in great cracking shudders, a hail of ice and then a thud...when we got up this morning, there were branches as thick as my thigh lying less than a foot from the house. We were very lucky that nothing fell on the roof. Anyway, we are out of power for at least the next few days. The wires have huge trees leaning on them and the power crews are overwhelmed. Unfortunately, the well pump and the furnace both require a certain amount of power so that means no heat and no water, as well as no lights (and no computers). Not a very good time.

I'm at the Brattleboro public library typing this, where the lights are on and the wireless works. I haven't had a shower in a day, but otherwise, things seem pretty normal here.

Anyway, if you find yourself with a little time to kill, I would recommend heading over to Dusted for a couple of really excellent year end's -- Cole Goins, who used to be program director for WXYC in Chapel Hill and Ben Donnelly. Especially Ben's because he's got a mix up and it's pretty damned great: the bug, benga, cheap time, dirtbombs, etc. etc. Go get it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Recent purchases…Marc Ribot and Blues Control

Bill and I snuck off to Northampton last Sunday, where the local used CD store has LOTs more interesting records (or at least a bunch that I haven’t rifled through 1000 times). I ended up buying Marc Ribot and Ceramic Dog’s Party Intellectuals, an excellent, rough-edged and noisy take on Ribot’s jazz-Latin-no wave art…there’s even a Doors cover that I kind of like (“Break On Through”, god even the title makes me shudder, but the cover is pretty good). The best song, though, is called “Todo El Mundo Es Kitsch”.

Here’s Ribot and Ceramic Dog

I also picked up the ST Blues Control album, which earned grudging respect from the sales guy. (He mentioned that he’d seen them when they were still Water Spouts. We commiserated about the death of the Flywheel, where all the experimental bands used to stop by until the owner sold the building.) I’ve been playing the record in the car, and it is definitely not a car record, but I am starting to love it a little bit anyway…very distorted, mesmerizing, dirge-y stuff, with occasional bouts of extreme clarity.

Here they are playing a show in Philadelphia

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Freaky stuff from Brother JT

Anyone who wants to know exactly how out-there rootsy garage and soul can get should check out the new vinyl-only album by Brother JT, Jelly Roll Gospel, reviewed yesterday at Blurt.

Brother JT
Jelly Roll Gospel
Drag City

How many guys could credibly play Terrastock and Little Stephen's Garage? Not many besides John Terlesky, AKA Brother JT. Here, on Jelly Roll Gospel, the visionary of Allentown straddles two, often separated worlds: garage rock and psychedelia. In a kind of "stone soup" approach to music making, Brother JT loads up the pot with every kind of roots music imaginable - blues, rock, R&B, soul, and reggae - then pulses it into a strange, mild-altering brew. His band, this time bassist Art DiFuria (of the Photon Band) and drummer Jamie Knerr (from Psyclone Rangers), are right there with him, pushing the limits of 1960s-influenced rock and soul. Classic rock tropes, a woozy 1960s organ, a sweltering Jimi-esque wah-wah guitar, a triumphant Sly and the whole damned Family Stone chorus are bent into fantastic new shapes. JT's music is familiar and deeply freaky at exactly the same time.


Our brother at work:

Hey, this is kinda cool…he’s playing with Bardo Pond!

Friday, December 5, 2008

What I said about the grammys...

A couple of months ago, upon misguidedly volunteering to review some tepid crap by Los Lonely Boys, I went out on a limb to observe that "grammy-winning" or even "grammy-nominated" is often a synonym for "not very good."

On Monday, I am interviewing Adele, the 20-year-old British phenom just nominated for four Grammys.

Her album 19 is a bit top-heavy -- with strings and such draped over fragile little melodies, a slickness that it turns out you can buy at a store, if you know where to shop and have a big credit line, and, I admit, a certain amount of charm.

It's for Venus.

Here's a video of Adele on Jools Holland.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Rio En Medio, Justin Moyer in drag and some decent power pop

An unusual amount of web activity, today...something for everybody, I hope.

Rio En Medio
Manimal Vinyl

Rio En Medio's Danielle Stech-Homsy has one of pop music's most wispy and delicate voices, a thread of melody that slips into and under gossamer textures of guitar, synthetic blips and field recordings. Her first album, The Bride of Dynamite in 2007, set her ethereal template, with dreamlike lyrics wrapped in crinkled tissue layers of sound. With Frontier, she has turned a shade more electronic, a bit less faerie-magic folky, with the blurts and wheeze of synthesizer percolating under clear currents of song.



I had a couple of other reviews up this week at PopMatters. Some of you might remember Antelope, Justin Moyer’s very jittery, minimalist post-punk project, which I liked very much. He’s got another band, sort of an alter-ego really, called Edie Sedgwick. The music is not very different from Antelope, but I had some problems with the celebrity oriented lyrics…Anyway, here’s the last paragraph of the review:

“Moyer is, obviously, a provocateur, throwing musical Molotov cocktails to see people jump. He’s good at what he does, clever with the lines, cuttingly funny, and skilled at the minimalist, rhythmically compelling arrangements that frame his satire. Perhaps there is some larger agenda at work, a critique of celebrity, a use of outrageousness as a tool to get people thinking. But you can’t help but wish Moyer would focus his considerable intelligence and musical ability on something more serious. (There is one political song, “Bambi/G.W. Bush”, but it doesn’t go very deep.) I mean, really, after you’ve punctured the cult of Rob Lowe, made fun of Mary-Kate’s stick legs, and called Angelina on her self-promoting philanthropy, what’s next? The dark side of Zac Efron? The terrible absurdity of Miley Cyrus? These kinds of celebrities are caricatures already. Why waste time satirizing them?”

“Sissy Spacek”

And then there was another really pretty solid power pop record from Transit of Venus (who also have Julie Ocean and the Trolleyvox on their roster)…this one from Like a Fox. My review from today’s PopMatters:

Like A Fox, Where’s My Golden Arm (Transit of Venus)
Philly’s Transit of Venus has become sort of a hub for 1960s-loving power pop, first with the Trolleyvox, later Julie Ocean, and now Like a Fox. This latest band follows the crunchy guitars and catchy melodies trajectory of the other two, with a big dose of Beatlemania. You can hear a dash of 1990s lo-fi, even Elephant 6 fantasy in the skewed acoustic strums that open “A Feeling that Launched a Thousand Wars”, as songwriter Jay Laughlin sings through a cracked mic cable. “Happiness is so elusive”, he ventures in the brief pause before the song picks up a beat and starts to swagger. When the electric guitar comes in, it has the rich, 1970s bravadoccio of Cheap Trick or Queen. But it’s a sweet-ish sort of power pop, the kind that undercuts its sugary harmonies with minor key choruses and disturbing thoughts. “Internal/External”, the album’s best cut, comes on like a Guided by Voices fragment, all aggressive slanting guitars, but it breaks into a big trippy psych interlude with “Lucy in the Sky” overtones. “Oh yeah, it comes on like a tickle / Oh yeah, it leaves you like a cripple”, sings Laughlin, neatly summing up the seemingly ephemeral, but actually quite durable appeal of power pop bands like these. Laughlin relies on Dave Grubb, from his old band Lenola, to add the hyper-colored, harpsichord-ish keyboards that turn simple songs into 1960s baroque overtures. There are also some grand, expansive Pink Floydish moments late in the album, particularly in the closer “Just a Light Hit”. Not exactly revolutionary, but consistently solid and engaging. [Amazon ]


My year-end is supposedly running on Monday at Dusted, so that’ll be that for 2008.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Star Trek fever

The third season of Star Trek (the original 1960s version) arrived at our house about a month ago unexpected and, more to the point, unassigned. I wrote about it anyway for PopMatters, because how else could I justify watching it? The review ran yesterday...Here's a bit

Star Trek: The Original Series – Series 3 RemasteredCast: William Shatner , Leonard Nimoy, DeForrest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols
(NBC, 20 Sep 1968-3 Jun 1969) Rated: N/A
US release date: 18 November 2008 (Paramount)
UK release date: Available as import

by Jennifer Kelly

Boldly going, going, gone

Everything I know about kitsch, I learned from Star Trek .

At age 10 or 11, I’d dash home from school every day to catch the show with babysitter Jane, a high school girl from across the street. Watching Star Trek with Jane was different from watching with my brother (who thought it was cool) or my parents (who thought it was beneath contempt). Jane showed me how funny the show was – from the clunky, over-the-top writing, to the absurdly unlifelike acting, to the terrible fate waiting for any minor character who beamed planet side. Have you ever watched Kirk and Bones fall down? First graders playing cowboys and Indians do it more realistically. And the costumes! Who knew that in the 23rd century women on every planet, in every galaxy, would be wearing mini-skirts? We laughed until the milk squirted out of our noses.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Cheap Time on WFMU

I'm gonna try to tune into this live set from Cheap Time, who seem to everybody's favorite garage rock band this year...they're on Brian Turner's show this afternoon sometime between 3 and 6 (I'm hoping closer to 6, but not sure...)

You can tune into various streams via the main page, or wait a couple of days and it'll probably be available in archives.

Here's what Turner has to say about his guests.

Cheap Time
Tuesday, December 2nd, 3pm - 6pm
on Brian Turner's show
With their rough-yet-economically-streamlined three minute anthems, this Nashville trio perfectly boil down the essential elements of snotty Killed By Death primitive punk, Sparks angularity, and glam-inspired power pop hooks perfected by the likes of Milk N' Cookies and Redd Kross (in fact RK's Steve McDonald produced their debut for In the Red Records). In a sea of garage rock combos getting in line to replicate each other, Cheap Time take a somewhat deviant path and nail some great sideways references from across the board. Turn them up this afternoon on Brian's show, and see them live all over NYC from November 20-22nd.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

I really like this record, and I'm guessing that PopMatters will give it to someone else and Dusted will hate it, so the chances of my reviewing it are maybe 5%...

Anyway, I know there are some J&MC and shoegaze types out there, who would enjoy this clattery, drone-tinged kind of pop. Here's an mp3 of "Everything With You" to check out.

And a video of the same exact song

Monday, December 1, 2008

Devendra's latest

Vapor Records

If you thought Devendra Banhart already got his fun-loving, free-spirited, ambisexual side out in records like Cripple Crow and Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Megapuss, Banhart's guest-studded partnership with Priestbird's Greg Rogove, is a giggling, tickling, free-ranging orgy of musical styles, full of inside jokes and porno-aspiring imagery. This is, after all, the band that debuted in LA with Banhart in a penis skirt.


“Adam & Steve”

“Crop Circle Jerk 94”