Monday, December 31, 2012

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Not that nostalgic for Fleetwood Mac...

...but this Liars cover of "Chain" (from the latest Mojo giveaway CD) is awesome. It's dark, claustrophobic and stalker creepy which is quite possibly more in line with what was going on with Fleetwood Mac around Rumours than the sunny covers. Also worth hearing on the disc -- Julia Holter's ghostly, attenuated "Gold Dust Woman" and the Besnard Lakes' sweeping, space-rocking "You Make Loving Fun."

It's always bizarre when stuff you'd change the radio station for, whenever it came on, that you couldn't stand to hear even one more time becomes a touchstone. Though I guess if I can survive the Bee Gees revival, this should be easy.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Also, another list ....

For those of you who aren't burnt out on lists by now, Blurt has just posted its top 75 records which, as usual, leans heavily on real people playing real instruments (not entirely, but it's a bias -- and one that I probably share). Anyway, Ty Segall made the top 5, and in honor of that, Fred pulled out my Ty interview from the fall.

Read the list here.

And if you haven't already, my piece on Ty Segall.


Pretty crazy choral arrangements from this Seattle-based band...every one of them a music major, either composition or performance, but don't let that scare you off. (I used to dread getting no-name CDs from people who'd gone to Berklee, all skill no heart mostly.)

Anyway, my review is up since yesterday at Blurt, which is still running reviews, even now, deep into holiday vacation week.

Brighten & Break

Pollens, from Seattle, set contrapuntal choral arrangements to syncopated Saharan beats, working an undeniable groove with discipline and intellectual rigor. They're often compared to Dirty Projectors, but you can also make links to the vocal intricacies of Petra Hayden, the colorful, communal polyrhythms of Skeletons, Akron Family or Starring.

Pollens is a band full of music majors. Founders Hanna Benn and Jeff Aaron Bryant met in 2008 while studying composition Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. Bassist Lena Simon and keyboard player Whitney Lyman, who joined later, were also composition majors while Kelly Wyse, another keyboardist, studied performance for piano, and drummer Adam Kozie majored in jazz percussion.

The skill - and training - shows up in the extreme precision of even Pollens' most exuberant moments. The off-the-deep-end close of "Splinters and Pointheads" for instance, with its manic percussion, syncopated group shouts and one guy yelling "Head! Head! Head!...Pointhead! Pointhead!" over and again is exciting the way a rollercoaster is exciting. Moreover, like a rollercoaster, no matter how many sharp turns it takes, it stays firmly on the tracks.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Amor de Dias

It's been snowing all day, very pretty, glad it's finally here. It's the kind of snow that wraps a soft thick blanket around everything, including sound, so that it seems even more quiet and peaceful than usual.

I had to drive to Brattleboro to get Sean, and the roads were dice-y in spots but not too bad. I had Damien Jurado's Maraqopa on most of the way there, and it was just about perfect for the trip...soft-spoken, but also kind of incandescent.

And now I'm home and listening to another reticent sort of pleasure, the second album from Amor de Dias. That's essentially Alistair McClean from the Clientele and Lupe Nunez-Fernandez from Pipas, both sides hushed and lovely, one indie-pop, one Latin, but not so much difference between the two as you'd expect.

I just wish my iPod would stop forgetting where it put this album. Pretty much every time I boot up, I have to manually locate it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


I have been very much enjoying the guitar-driven (and over-driven) psychedelia of DIIV's mid-year debut Oshin and I'd tell you why, except I don't think there's any way I could top this review from the NME.

Which says:

Fuck off the real world. Fuck off illness. Fuck off the train. Fuck off newspapers. Fuck off other people. Fuck off music you have to think about. Fuck off the recession. Fuck off five-a-day. Fuck off Poundland. Fuck off Twitter. Fuck off music that’s in a hurry. Fuck off trying to know everything about everything then forgetting it all anyway. Right now, fuck off anything that isn’t the woozy Washed Out/How To Dress Well/War On Drugs glory that is DIIV – blissed-out bringers of woozy rock’n’roll who aren’t into the everyday, the mundane, the normal, but are into (sound the bullshit alarm!) “dreams of aliens, affection, spirits and the distant natural world”.

There's more, naturally...

Monday, December 24, 2012

Hey look, there's gonna be new Frightened Rabbit soon!

Happy Christmas and let's hope (against all indicators) that 2013 will be a good one.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Naomi Punk...smells sort of like teen spirit

The end of the world is, apparently, a lot like heavy rain.

Naomi Punk is not Nirvana, but not bad either...

The Feeling
(Captured Tracks)

Naomi Punk from Olympia, Washington tries Nirvana's hybrid of rock and punk, floating haunted shreds of semi-anthemic melody over primitive, whammy-barred riffs and a brutal clatter of drums. The trio - Travis Coster and Neil Gregerson on guitars, Nicolas Luempert on kit - released The Feeling last spring on tiny Couple Skate records, where it sold out almost immediately. Enter Captured Tracks, bringing this primal wail to a larger audience.

The Nirvana comparison is inevitable, due to volume, geography and a shared tendency towards scorched earth distortion, and, as always, sort of unfair. But let's just say it, Naomi Punk is nowhere near as nuanced - or as obliterating - as Cobain & Co. Their "The Buzz" wallows and lurches through tone-bending, lead-weighted chords, clumsily heavy next to Nirvana's more agile, but still lacerating "Love Buzz." However, like Nirvana, the threesome do raise a miasmic, sludgy racket and will it into tunefulness. Listen to how melody threads through pounding, gut-thudding "Voodoo Trust" and skitters over lurching, cement-booted "The Spell." Check out the title track, which with its thundering chords and hammer-head beat, sounds more like super-heavy, mildly psychotropic Ty Segall than anything from the flannel shirt era.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

RSTB 2012 recap

Yes, the PFK list is (partly) up -- as well as their much more interesting "Overlooked" list -- but, personally, I got a lot more pleasure out of Raven Sings the Blues' year-end wrap. It's one of those lists with enough records that I already really like to make me want to check out the ones that I haven't heard. Anyway, link here.

Gotta get his Deep Time record for one thing.

Andy Stott...yes, I like Luxury Problems, too

Entering the final phase of the "me too" month in music, the one where I post about stuff that I just heard about, that other people have been listening to and thinking about for months, and I come to Andy Stott, whose Luxury Problems is creepily gorgeous.  People who loved that second Burial album (Ian, I'm talking to you) should check this out if they haven't already.  It's got the same desolate, hollowed out beauty. 

Anyway, what do I know?  Patrick Masterson reviewed it for Dusted, saying, "Luxury Problems continues the trajectory with a few added inspirations: He’s now using vocals wholesale rather than just vocal samples. It was a risk bringing in the piano teacher from his youth, Alison Skidmore, but the pairing works spectacularly. This is the most arresting music of Stott’s career in large part because it is his most approachable."  You can read the whole review here

Also well worth reading, my Dusted boss' NPR feature on Andy Stott.  He concludes: "I haven't run across a producer who mixes voices so high and heavenly with vibrations this deep. From a sonic standpoint, you won't hear anything else like Luxury Problems this year." 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sean in his Daddy Warbucks get-up

Holy Other

This post-year-end couple of weeks, I've been listening to stuff that I couldn't possibly review -- and enjoying the hell out of some of it.  Okay, so I'm going to leave it to you to decide whether Holy Other is witch house or dubstep or some chilly variant on R&B...I don't know.  I don't care much.  It's ominous and subdued and vaguely inhumane, but i like it.   I also like the BBC review of Held, especially this second-to-last paragraph.

"These are bass ballads for clubs where everyone sits around wearing headphones luxuriating in their own private misery. The tracks are instrumental but there are voices everywhere, cut up and tweaked or stretched out, leaving echoes of silence. Inpouring is typical of Held’s abstract quiet-storm funk with its aching keyboard chords and pitch-shifted vocals adding to the aural fog."

I've been experimenting with Elance and thinking that I don't really mind working for free -- or for very little money -- when it's for a noncommercial site like Dusted.  But I'll be damned if I'll write five 500 word articles a week for blog farms at $10 each. 


Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Really like this Beacon EP, No Body, it's got that weird combination of chilliness and sensuality.  You know, the musical equivalent of Jude Law...a while ago, in Gattaca maybe. 

Anyway, not much happening today, which makes it very hard to motivate.  We saw Lincoln over the weekend, which I thought was stupendously cast and acted, but overall a giant bore.  I mean, when you get past Daniel Day Lewis' mercurial portrait (seriously, how many actors can act that smart), the script was bloated, the camera shots consistently far too long and the scenario riddled with cliches you could not get away with in a 7th grade social studies flick.  (Examples: the soldiers parrotting back the Gettysburg Address to Lincoln, word for word, that god-awful shot through a flame at the end, the visual of Tad Lincoln screaming through the balcony when his dad's death is announced...yikes.)   I see the film is at the very top of a bunch of best of lists, which makes me think that I probably do not want to see the others very bad. Except The Master...I do want to see that. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

I usually don't post about Christmas music...

...because I tend to like fairly traditional Christmas music.

However, I am really liking Dawn McCarthy and Bonnie Prince Billy's Everly Brothers' covers, and it's not out for a while so I probably shouldn't blog it, but in the meanwhile, they have a Christmas video out which is quite nice, too.

Also, if you enjoy the rock 'n roll Christmas genre, Blurt has an extended feature on it today.  (I begged off, personally.) 

So, I hope you're enjoying your holidays, not spending more money than you can afford and not watching the news too much.  (I spent an hour on the exercise bike at the Y this morning and got about all the photos of dead seven-year-olds that I can stomach.) 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Psychic Ills' One Track Mind

I missed the last Psychic Ills album, but from what I can remember about the one before that, Mirror Eye, they have evidently taken a turn away from the extended free-form drone and towards the VU-Stooges-Jesus & Mary Chain fuzz-crusted rock 'n roll.  I like One Track Mind a lot...and here's an interesting factoid -- Neil Hagerty is singing back-up. 

What do you think?

One Track Mind is out in February on Sacred Bones.

Friday, December 14, 2012

I sort of don't have the heart for this today

My son, Sean, got rejected at Northwestern. He's 5th in his class. He got 2020 on his SATs. He gets consistent 4s on his AP tests. He runs a 17:15 5K, a 5:05 mile, a 58 second 400. He's an amazing singer and actor, currently putting the heart and soul into a local production of "Annie" (it's kind of a heartless show, but he makes all his parts more humane than they have any right to be). He's an all-around good guy. Fucking colleges.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sondra Sun-Odeon

Really pretty good album from an artist who would have been part of the freak folk nation a few years ago (she's recorded with another band on Greg Weeks' Language of Stone imprint), but now seems to be mostly on her own. Witchy, spooky, lovely stuff, though.


There's a wildness in Sondra Sun-Odeon's altered folk, a sense not of home-y hedgerows and kitchen gardens but salty, windblown shores. It starts in her flickery voice, now a soft, shy murmur, now an in-drawn octave-leaping breath, now a raw bird-like cry cutting through the mix. This is Sun-Odeon's first solo album, following an album and an EP with Silver Summit, a Brooklyn psych-folk duo she shares with David Shawn Bosler. (A second Silver Summit album is apparently in the works.)

Sun-Odeon is not too tethered to traditional melody. Instead, she slices in and out of a tumultuous backing. All the elements of her songs -- throbs of cello (that's Espers' Helena Espvall), tremulous vibrations of violin and viola (that's Carla Bozulich collaborator Lenya Marika Papach, crashes and bumps of percussion (Ben McConnell) and her remarkable voice - seem to career in from the edges, meeting in the middle in a tangled urgency. Unlike Espers, which makes a space within ordered parameters for wildness (as in the guitar break midway through "Flaming Telepaths"), Sun-Odeon thrives in keening disorder. There's something feral, something unpremeditated about the way she darts and swoops through the guitar-strummed architectures of her songs.

There's a streaming song here, but I can't figure out how to embed it.

Cody ChestnuTT's Landing on a Hundred

Time to catch up on things I missed this year, like this Kickstarter financed, classic soul influenced, really pretty excellent album from Cody ChestnuTT, Landing on a Hundred. Says American Songwriter, "[Landing on a Hundred Years is] a much leaner, concise collection of rich and soulful tunes that takes in the last 50 years of funk, soul and R&B, and catalyzes that history into something warm and vibrant, yet altogether fresh." Exactly.

Here's Cody talking about the album, only his second and coming after a ten year hiatus:

And here's a live performance of "Under the Spell of the Handout."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Twilight Sad remixed

Not essential, but not bad album of remixed tracks from the Twilight Sad's No One Can Ever Know.

No One Can Ever Know: The Remixes

The Twilight Sad's third full-length, No One Can Ever Know was noticeably chillier and synthier than the debut Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters or its follow-up Forget the Night Ahead. Even before getting the remix treatment, its cuts couched the band's aesthetic in harsher, more industrial terms. You heard James Graham's floridly mannered singing, Mark Devine's stomach-shaking drumming reverberating in krautish dystopias.

As a result, it is not a very big stretch to bring in contemporary electronic artists - Lithuanian dubstep DJ Brokenchord, 1980s synth revivalist Com Truise, Brighton-based DJ Ambassadeurs, as well as EDM-leaning indie artists like Liars and the Horrors' Tom Furse - to rearrange and reimagine these tracks. The nine-track remix album includes three versions of "Sick" (two from BrokenChord, one from Com Truise), and two each of "Nils," "Not Sleeping" and "Alphabet."


Here's the Liars' contribution.

Speaking of Liars, I just broke down and bought the year-end Mojo, mostly because in its free CD tribute to Fleetwood Mac's Rumors Liars are inexplicably chosen to cover "The Chain." Haven't played it yet, but that's why I bought the magazine.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mark Lanegan/Who Made Who

I really liked Mark Lanegan's foray into techno this year, so I found this kind of interesting. He's essentially traded remixes with the Danish electro band Who Made Who, with fairly striking results.

Here's Who Made Who's take on "Deep Black Vanishing Train"

And Lanegan's version of "Below the Cherry Moon"

Monday, December 10, 2012

Triple Hex

Kind of a nasty, dirty, sexually predatory vibe going here in this new EP from Brooklyn's Triple Hex...that's partly due to Dave Hex's menacingly reverbed voice, partly to the stripped down, back to basics guitar-bass-drums and partly (mostly) to lyrics like "I don't want no love songs/I just want to fuck" (to a kind of pogoing rockabilly beat).

Interesting, Matt Verta-Ray (the other half, with Jon Spencer, of Heavy Trash) produced...he and Hex got a really intense, pitch-black, twisted gothic sound out of it.

Anyway, recommending with reservations...certainly not with children in the car...

Friday, December 7, 2012


Hey, look, it's a review!

Our House on the Hill

A second album from this Vivian Girls/Woods collaboration cleans up the sonics a bit, but leaves the Babies sweetly blurred, folk-garage drone sloppiness intact. Kevin Morby, elsewhere the bass player for Woods, carries most of the weight, writing and singing lead on all but a couple of songs, putting slack vulnerability into even the rawest, most ragged riffs (see "Get Lost") and rasping Dylan-folk style on plaintive "Mean." Cassie Ramone plays along on guitar, chips in airy whoa-oh-ohs and brassy counterpoints, additionally taking the mic on two cuts, "Baby" and "See the Country."

Still, the magic in Our House on the Hill comes when these two merge their two particular vibes, shading country-psych with Velvet Underground-ish murk, sweetening plainspoken lo-fi with giddy girl group flourishes. "Moonlight Mile" is the album's standout, a dense propulsive mesh of jangly guitars, rumbling bass, monochrome punk rants (that's Morby) and swirling wordless swoons (that's Ramone). It's the track on the album that feels least sketched, most colored in; and it, along with Ramone's "Baby" and Morby's "Get Lost," give you a sense of what this band might accomplish as a full-fledged endeavor, rather than a side project.

But there's charm even in the most skeletal offerings, the woozy, reticent romance of "On My Team," the disconsolately folkish "Mean," the back-handed ease with which these two musicians finish each other's sentences in "Slow Walking." Sure this House on the Hill could be more soundly constructed, but one suspects that ricketiness is part of the appeal.

DOWNLOAD: "Moonlight Mile," "Baby" -JENNIFER KELLY

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Neil Nathan fights the power

I'm not sure if there are any MOG people out there who still read my blog, but if so, you might remember Neil Nathan, a very nice, glam-rocker/singer songwriter who was a regular participant there. (Funny, I always thought that when I got broadband, I would go back to MOG but I visited a few months ago, and it's so different that I lost interest.) Anyway, I've been in fairly sporadic contact with Neil since then -- I wrote a one-sheet for one of his albums -- and he sent me a link to his latest album Sweep the Nation. It's a sort of garage rocking protest album, written around the time of Occupy Wall Street, and inspired, Neil says, by his work as a history teacher in NYC, where he got students involved by playing socially conscious music like CSNY's "Ohio" Roger Waters' "Watching TV."

I'm liking Sweep the Nation because it's a little rougher and more raucous than some of Neil's stuff...I'm partial to the title track, "I Ain't No Company Man" and the Lou Reed cover, "There Is No Time," which you can check out below.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Speck Mountain...Veronica Falls

The theme for today is female-fronted bands that are named after natural landmarks, I suppose...unless it's writing about whatever the hell has been clogging my inbox lately. In any case, here are new releases by two groups that I've reviewed before and liked, and whose follow ups seem cleaner, clearer, less mysterious and vaguely disappointing.

First up, Speck Mountain, a Chicago-based outfit whose debut I reviewed back in 2007 at Dusted, saying "It's that combination of sweetness and unearthliness, of accessible pop and trippy psychedelia, that make Summer Above so appealing…and so hard to get a grip on. And yet, if you lie perfectly still, the combination makes utter sense. It's space rock made with warm organic instruments, pop filtered through the language of the subconscious, and, finally, a waking daydream too beautiful to shake off."

Their third album, Badwater, is out in January on Carrot Top. It is the first to feature a regular drummer (Chin Up Chin Up's Chris Dye) and an organ player (Linda Malonis). As before, though, Speck Mountain's dreamy, drifty aesthetic derives mostly from singer Marie-Claire Balabanian and guitarist Karl Briedeck, who manage to embue chilled, ethereal space rock with a certain amount of warmth. I do like the guitar work a good bit on this one. It meshes with the drums very nicely, though it is perhaps this traditional rock element that makes Badwater less narcotically strange than the debut. I felt, finally, that you didn't really tip over backwards into these songs, the way you did with "Way Out West," that there was a scrim of performance or production or effort or something that made it harder to immerse oneself in this third album.

I also quite liked Veronica Falls' debut a couple of years ago. It came within a hair's breadth of making my top ten for 2011, and I wrote for Blurt:

Had enough of drone-y, dissonant, reverb-drenched R ‘N R? Too bad. It's time to suck it up and make room for one more band with bright-and-shadows harmonies, rackety riffs and a thing for guitar effects. Veronica Falls, out of London, runs way ahead of the Pains-of-Being-Dum-as-a-Vivian Girl pack with a bittersweet debut. They nod to all the usual influences - Jesus & Mary Chain, VU, Orange Juice etc. - but in fresh and unaffected ways. "Found Love in a Graveyard" may explore a nexus of death and teen love as old as, say, Wayne Cochran's "The Last Kiss," but it sounds unencumbered by history, as if these four had just cottoned onto the scary idea of mortality.

Veronica Falls' second album, Waiting for Something to Happen, is due out on Slumberland in January, and while the sound is recognizably the same (good melodic singing, slanting, stinging guitars, a rather tense, tetchy rhythm section) the indefinable oomph of the first album has been dialed down. To be honest, it's hard to quantify these things. I was never really sure why Veronica Falls hit me as hard as it did (when there were tons of records, then and now, attempting the same sort of thing). Now, I'm not really sure why the follow-up is leaving me all "well, all right, fine, nothing wrong with that really".

Anyway, judge for yourself. There's a soundcloud stream of the first single "Teenage" up now, and if you're at all on the fence, be advised that it is clearly the best cut on the album.

So that's it for now, though I might mention that I've caught a bit of the new Scott Walker on Brian Williams' WFMU show yesterday and thought that was about enough of that. Also been dabbling in this all Everly Brothers, all covers collaboration from Bonnie Prince Billy and Dawn McCarthy, which definitely has its moments.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Alec Redfearn...Michael Gira

I think I mentioned that I was going to be freestyling a bit over the holidays, that is, posting brief, not-very-exhaustively-considered impressions of albums I'm listening to but not reviewing, so i thought I'd start with one that's hitting lots of best-of lists and one that's not.

Swans, The Seer, leaves a bit of a bruise, per usual. It's quite long, unrelentling intense, repetitive, cathartic, pulverizing and, undoubtedly, much better live. I have yet to get through it all in one sitting, and I feel, as I usually do with Swans, that I am just not trying hard enough. Well, okay, it's a demanding listen, is it worth it? I think probably so, but I also think that life is short and getting to the point where I hear this album as a whole, in my head, without prompting is probably too much work. I'll believe those of you who say this is album of the year...that is believe that you mean it...and congratulate you on earning the right to say so. But I won't be saying it myself.

The Eyesores' Sister Death is the latest from Providence-based experimental accordionist Alec K. Redfearn, whose fascination with drones and gypsy melodies and Eastern European textures here gets a substantial injection of Krautrock, as well, as a bit of eerie folk pop from new associate Orion Rigel Domisse. As the title suggests, the album is not exactly light-hearted, but it is rather lovely and not too difficult. (You may sense, from this and the above paragraph, that I am not in the mood for difficulty lately).

Anyway, Alec's sort of an oddball favorite of mine going all the way back to my Splendid years. I interviewed him for Splendid, in fact, and though it's wildly out of date, you can read it here if you don't mind.

Here's his new ensemble, including Orion.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Daniel Bachman

A VA-born, Philly-based acoustic guitar player who is not Jack Rose has a pretty excellent new album out on Tompkins review ran at Blurt today.

Seven Pines
(Tompkins Square)

Daniel Bachman has Jack Rose's knack for guitar music that celebrates both the flower and the stem of the American Primitive tradition. His compositions are lush, note-proliferating reveries that blossom into exhilarating excess, quick fingered phrases that tumble one over the other in ever-shifting permutations. Yet underneath it all, there's a rhythm and a discipline, if not quite Rose's swing. This is a young man not afraid to go way out on a gnostic, mystic limb, but also not quite untethered from earthy tradition.


Did I mention that we finally went to Feeding Tube Records in Northampton? (highly, highly recommended) and they have a whole pile of records from the estate of Jack Rose for sale...lots of blues and bluegrass and at least one Rolling Stones disc.

The year of DSL

My year-end essay is up now at Dusted. Now I just have to remember not to read ILX for a couple of months.

Also, I made a zip file of songs from my top ten, though they're not in any particular order.

Nice weekend. Saturday, Sean and I went to a community Messiah performance, mostly because one of his friends was singing the solo soprano parts, and it was beautiful. (Though not thanks to anything I did, except when I lost my place and gave up.)

Anyway, there won't be a lot of new reviews running from here on, so I'll probably be posting a lot of short things about whatever I'm listening to at the moment.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Technically they're pyramids, not triangles, but....

It's still a very cool video from the upcoming (Feb 19th) new Matmos album, The Marriage of True Minds.

Matmos - Very Large Green Triangles from Thrill Jockey Records on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Red Clover Ghost

Another one from the slush pile that's really pretty good, a new self-titled from Red Clover Ghost, out of Virgina Beach. The band is made up of two identical twin brothers, Gibb and Clint Cockrum, who play a variety of traditional, acoustic instrument (lots of guitar, lots of banjo) and sing in very close, very pretty harmonies that, for some reason (not the banjo) reminds me of Elliott Smith. Anyway, I've been thoroughly enjoying the album which can be streamed in its entirety on Bandcamp.

There are also a couple of videos floating around

Not that into Ray Stinnett

My mildly distempered review of the long-lost folk album from a guitar player best known for his role in "Wooly Bully"...A&M shelved it because they got super, super busy with the Carpenters.

So, A Fire Somewhere is another long-lost 1970s folk album, full of dusty, half-remembered political posturing and dopey assumptions about peace and love. In its favor, Stinnett is an appealing figure, his wavery tenor freighted with warmth and sincerity. He’s a nice guy — that comes through full-blast — and he obviously means what he’s saying about man’s tracks in the sand (“Salty Haze”), the value of stopping all war (“Stop”) and the self-evident benefits of getting our thing together for freedom (“America”).

And yet, every song is a string of clichés and generalities. There’s nothing to think about, nothing to linger over. It’s enough to make you long for Dylan’s sidewise surreality or Phil Ochs’ specificity.

Here's the whole review

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


I interviewed Mike Lee from Letting Up Despite Great Faults about a month ago and discovered that he loves the vocoder.

Here's the interview, up yesterday at Blurt.

DON’T LET UP NOW Letting Up Despite Great Faults
Nov 27, 2012

Mike Lee sits at the intersection of twee pop and technology.


"Vocorder." That's Mike Lee's favorite sound in Untogether (New Words), the second full-length from the L.A. born but currently Austin-based electro-pop band Letting up Despite Great Faults. It comes up twice, once in the single, "Bullet Proof Girl" and again in the closer "On Your Mark," and if you can't quite make it out, that's because Lee's bandmates -- keyboard player Annah Fisette, bassist Kent Zambrana and drummer Daniel Schmidt -- don't like it nearly as much as he does. They and the band's manager tried to convince Lee to ditch the robotic Kraut-into-prog-gish sound, but Lee only doubled it with untreated vocals.

"It's a cliche, but that's what's so great about it," Lee explains. "I've always been really attracted to that sound, because it's a kind of disguise. You can't make out who's singing."

It's also another example of the way that Letting Up Great Faults straddles the worlds of pop and electronics, pacing rain-on-windows twee-pop with booming programmed drums, lacing the bittersweet vulnerability of lo-fi guitar music with cerebral cut-and-paste. Lee learned to play guitar because of Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins, but became fascinated with sampling after stumbling on DJ Shadow.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012


My review of the really pretty excellent Meat + Bone (the first JSBX album since 2004) is up today at Dusted. I obsess in it about the lone instrumental track, which is called "Zimgar."

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
Meat + Bone
Mom and Pop

Meat + Bone, as the title suggests, is a stripped down, no frills return to basics for the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, the first album for the band since 2004’s Damage. It focuses relentlessly on the Cramps-inspired, John Lee Hooker filtered, James Brown-loving, Elvis-nodding core of the JSBX aesthetic, without much detour, experiment or any guests at all. There’s a discipline, almost a rigor, to Meat + Bone which, despite its surface hedonism, can stop, pivot and roar to life again with the precision of a Formula One race car.

It’s an interesting move for a band that’s been on ice for eight years, not to replicate past successes, but to pull back the skin and nerves and try to find what gave them life. It’s not just that Meat + Bone sounds like JSBX in the old days (it does), but that it does this without being self-referential or studied. The main elements are all as before. There is the dual guitar interplay of Judah Bauer and Jon Spencer, one of them (often Spencer) taking up the sonic space where a bass should live, the other working higher up, in the bends and pull-offs and shifting intonations of electric blues. There is Russell Simins who plays with an impossible combination of ferocity and delicacy, rattling intricate syncopations out of snare and kick drum and cowbell, then thwacking the most basic hell of out the kit with a force that surely is hard on the drum heads. And finally, there is Jon Spencer, the singer, with his gut-shot yelps, his syllable-stretching howls, his vaguely menacing mutter of non sequitors, his lurid Elvis-y blues croons, his mad preacher, rolling-eye rants, all delivered with 100% self-conviction.


What, you never read my live review of JSBX from a couple of weeks ago? I'll give you one more chance.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Black Moth Super Rainbow

I've got another interview up at PopMatters, this one with Tobacco, the auteur behind Black Moth Super Rainbow.

Transcending Logic: An Interview with Black Moth Super Rainbow

By Jennifer Kelly 26 November 2012

“Black Moth Super Rainbow is not drug music,” says Tobacco, the main singer and songwriter behind one of indie rock’s trippiest sounding bands. “If you want to use it to enhance your experiences, that’s fine, but I get kind of bothered sometimes when everyone’s so quick to credit drugs for making this stuff.”

Black Moth Super Rainbow has been making its candy-colored, vocoder-filtered, Rhodes-and-synthesizer-shimmering psych since the mid-00s, emerging, appropriately enough (at least in lepidopteral terms), from another band called satanstompingcaterpillars.
The band’s third album Dandelion Gum was the break out, pulling in giddily positive reviews and, er, a bunch of drug references. I myself, writing for PopMatters, opined that “Dandelion Gum is one of those records that makes you feel like you’re high, even when you’re not, like you’re on the verge of shambolic visions, even if you’re taking out the trash, like there’s an ineffable order to the universe, even when all signs point to chaos. ”

The association with contraband has dogged Black Moth Super Rainbow through its sprawling collaboration with the Octopus Project, its Dave Fridmann-helmed Eating Us and, now, the band’s fifth album, Cobra Juicy. Tobacco, who goes by the name of Thomas Fec in the real world, has just gotten back from a six-mile bike ride when we talk. He says that he gets more out of cycling and running and hanging out with friends than from any artificial substance. He doesn’t even take drugs.

Tobacco is fine with the idea of alternate realities. In fact, he explains his band’s use of nicknames (Seven Fields of Aphelion, Iffernaut, etc.), masks, film, and costumes as a way of creating a self-contained musical universe. “I just never wanted music to be attached to a person. I just wanted it to be its own world, with its own visuals and names,” he says.

But, Tobacco maintains, it is not a world that you need a pill, a joint or any other kind of chemical assistance to enter. “People just don’t want to use their imagination,” he says. “The easiest thing is, ‘Ah, it’s just drugs.’ Then you don’t have to think about it. But it has nothing to do with it.”


Kind of disturbing, this video for "Windshield Smasher"

I like "Hairspray Heart" the best anyway.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ex Cops

I'm not going to say I can't get enough of that rain on windows, wistfully romantic, guitar strumming pop, but I've got a little more room for it now that Pains of Being Pure at Heart has moved along. So why not Ex-Cops, a relatively new project from Bryan Harding, who used to front Hymns, and Amalie Bruun of Minks.

Here's the first single, which has been kicking around for most of 2012, but what the hell?

The debut full length, called True Hallucinations is out in January on Other Music.

I won my age group in two separate races this weekend, which says more about stubborn-ness than speed, but anyways...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Give these girls a turkey sandwich

We had a really nice, very quiet holiday, and hope you did the same.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

More long-form ambience from Oneida

I've got a review of Oneida's latest, A List of the Burning Mountains up at Blurt now.

I really liked it, though it's not as immediately accessible as their earlier stuff.

A List of the Burning Mountains

Oneida's psych masters have been experimenting with long-form, unconventionally structured atmospherics lately, gradually stripping out the motorik chug of their earlier material and diving into the measureless vastness of deep space rock. A List of the Burning Mountains advances the argument considerably with two side-long experiments in altered perception.

The opening salvo sifts the sounds of rock - heavily distorted guitar, rampant tonally-varied drumming - through a chilly electronic filter, creating a meditative, wholly beautiful tranquility in noise. "Side B" waxes comparatively lyrical, its tonal washes trembling, blossoming and soothing, its space cruiser blips and vibrations shimmering, while Kid Millions, the anchor, the main color and the clear protagonist, punches and weaves in fractious, off-kilter drum fills. There's a sense of wonder here, of journey, of discovery, but not much conventional forward motion or even a recognizable time signature. A band that started with Can's hypnotic propulsion has ended up floating in Tangerine Dream's weightless free formity, but it's gorgeous stuff.



That time of year again...

1. Shearwater, Animal Joy (Sub Pop)
2. Sharon van Etten, Tramp (Jagjaguwar)
3. Mark Lanegan, Blues Funeral (4AD)
4. Dan Melchior, The Backward Path (Northern Spy)
5. Calexico, Algiers (Anti-)
6. Damian Jurado, Maraqopa (Secretly Canadian)
7. TheeSatisfaction, Awe Natural (Sub Pop)
8. Dirty Three, Towards the Low Sun (Drag City)
9. Various Artists, Oh Michael, Look What You’ve Done (Tompkins Square)
10. Spider Bags, Shake My Head (Odessa)

also the next ten
11. Ty Segall and White Fence, Wet Hair (Drag City)
12. Grass Widow, Internal Logic (HLR)
13. Red River Dialect, Awellupontheway (Lono)
14. Japandroids, Celebration Rock (Polyvinyl)
15. Sic Alps, Sic Alps (Drag City)
16. Rangda, Formerly Extinct (Drag City)
17. Easter Island, Frightened (Self-Released)
18. Cheap Time, Wallpaper Music (In the Red)
19. Six Organs of Admittance, Ascent, (Drag City)
20. Bob Mould, Silver Age (Merge)

1. Cleaners from Venus, Blow Away Your Troubles/On Any Normal
Monday/Midnight Cleaners (Captured Tracks)
2. Royal Trux, Accelerator (Drag City)
3. Cravats, Double Volume: Cravats in Toyland (Overground)
4. Charles Mingus, Jazz Workshop Concerts: 1965-1966 (Mosaic)
5. Annette Peacock, I'm the One (Light in the Attic)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Vex Ruffin

Really liking this stark, minimal cassette tape from Vex Ruffin. It's called Same Thing Tomorrow and it's very spare and DIY and dark, sort of lo-fi Suicide crossed with Dalek. Anyway, good stuff. It's out on Stone's Throw, which, in addition to the usual bio/one-sheet, has posted a hand-written "Ten Random Things about Vex Ruffin" which doesn't read very clearly when I try to post the image, so I've typed it out for you.

Ten Random Things about Vex Ruffin
1. I love basketball. When I was a kid, my dream was to play in the NBA like Hakeem Olajuwan.
2. I'm an early bird. I wake up at 7 a.m. every day.
3. When I first started making music, I wanted to be like Madlib but instead I turned out to be something else. Beastmaster!
4. I get really grumpy when I'm hungry and tired. Beastmaster!
5. I don't know how to play the guitar. I just do the one finger string thing.
6. In high school, my favorites were the Cure and DMX.
7. None of my friends listen to rock and roll.
8. My dream is to tour the world with my band.
9. A lot of people don't get me, maybe because I'm a Beastmaster.
10. I never was a handy man but I was good at breaking things. Alpha male.

Friday, November 16, 2012


The best of the current crop of neo-shoe gaze, reviewed in Blurt print, but also up on line now...

Tender New Signs
(Mexican Summer)

Tamaryn, the dream pop singer from New Zealand (and lately San Francisco), takes another slow dive through atmospherics in this second album, teaming again with her long-time producer/guitarist Rex John Shelverton to build luminous textures of sound. You could sink into the Tamaryn aesthetic like a soft pillow, so enveloping, so welcoming and gentle the sound, yet these are not formless exercises in texture. No, all nine of these slow-moving cuts are built on actual melodies, simple enough to stick right away, radiant enough to hang like this album's overtones, well after they are finished.

Tender New Signs is meant for all-the-way-through listening, preferably horizontal, preferably with headphones, yet a couple of the songs stand out. "I'm Gone," the opener, shimmers like rainbows atop a puddle slicked with oil, yet there's structure under the glow. "No Exits" brings the vocals up, adding a bit of warming vibrato in to Tamaryn's weightless, disembodied style. Behind her, around her, guitar chords crash and break like ocean surf, as in nature, even the violence radiates serenity.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Angel Olsen

This lady's got a really interesting, arresting voice, which I may have gone slightly over the top in trying to describe...the review's from today's Dusted.

Angel Olsen
Halfway Home

Angel Olsen was the behind-the-scenes heroine of Bonnie Prince Billy’s last album, Wolfroy Comes to Town, her voice a luminous aura, a down-home cackle, a blues-y scrape and roll, a sacred harp harmony around Oldham’s cracked tenor. Here, on her second solo album (counting limited-release, cassette-only Strange Cacti from 2011), she brings that instrument out in front, singing 11 emotionally-freighted original songs, with the merest hint of instrumentation — strummed guitar, terse bass, occasional drums and pump organ.

Olsen’s vocal technique is unorthodox, guttural, nearly feral at times. She has evidently never had a singing lesson, and that’s not a complaint, because her wildness is utterly compelling. She often starts in a matter of fact way, murmuring breathy melodies against a backdrop of guitar picking. Her “Acrobat,” Halfway Home’s first song, circles in waltz-time, its melody (not too different from Delibes’s “Waltz from Copelia”) side-stepping up the scale, her voice quiet, fresh and unshowy. It sounds like she is standing next to you, maybe to one side, with her breath tickling your ear. Yet, as she rounds the first verse, her voice turns unpredictable, flickering up octaves like a wildfire catching. “I want to be the bed you mess,” she confides, finding a cavernous physicality in her girlish voice, a hollowed, animal-like, bluesy sound that goes straight to your spine and sets off a tingle. There’s something exciting about the way she sings, something predatory and dangerous about the way she soars up into a high note, seizes it, still wiggling with vibrato, and drags it back to earth.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Jessica Pratt

Tim Presley from White Fence has his own label now. It's called Birth, and I believe that the first release is a self-titled debut from SF singer songwriter Jessica Pratt which is very, very good. I'd say that Pratt falls somewhere between Joanna Newsom and Dolly Parton, which is to say she's got a lovely little catch in her voice and her new album a lot. Here are a couple of soundclouds to get you started.

By the way, there's an opera singer in NYC called Jessica Pratt, but I am pretty sure they are not the same Jessica Pratt. (You should check out all the Jennifer Kellys on the web, some of them dead....)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

It moves

So, you have to watch this video (of Autre Ne Veut's single "Counting") very carefully to see the slow, subtle changes in the painting, and in fact, the first time you notice that the picture is moving, you are not even sure (or at least I wasn't) that is really is. Anyway, interesting video, not so sure about the song.

The album, if you want it, is out next February on Software Records.

The UV Race - Unknown Pleasures by RSTB

Love these guys, new record out, love to hear more of it...for now, here's the free mp3 pinched from Raven Sings the Blues

The UV Race - Unknown Pleasures by RSTB

Golden Void

The extremely, borderline objectionably Sabbath-y Golden Void debut, reviewed last week at Dusted.

Golden Void
Golden Void
Thrill Jockey

Golden Void is named after a Hawkwind song, a guitar and synthesizer freak out from 1975’s Warrior on the Edge of Time, the same album, coincidentally, that provided the name for Lemmy Kilmister’s post-Hawkwind gig (ahem, “Mötorhead”). It’s not a bad point of reference for this excess-loving band of psychedelicists. TrouserPress’s Jim Green enumerates Hawkwind’s virtues as “that gargantuan and impenetrable pre-metal/hardcore drone, those great riffs, that inexorable drive to destinations unknown.” He could just as well be talking about Golden Void.

Yet Golden Void filters 1970s metal-prog bravado through a West Coast underground psych lens, slipping languid blues-tripping guitar solos between monstrous, wall-to-wall riffs, finding a droning center in the most violent onslaughts. Isaiah Mitchell, once of Earthless, gets to sing here, floating an eerie, heavily-echoed, fundamentally serene tenor over lurching, sawed off guitar salvos. Cream’s Jack Bruce is probably the classic model for what he’s doing vocally, the coolness, the trippiness, the nearly crooning gentleness against blistered distortion, but you can hear younger guys like Matt Reed from Mount Carmel and Joel Winter (formerly of Pearls and Brass) trying a similar alchemy. There are some very nice, absolutely nailed harmonic bits in these songs, too, especially the two at the end, “The Curve” and “Atlantis.” The drum-bass-guitar sound is loud, leaning from 1970s hard rock into metal, but the singing is near folky and strikingly melodic.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Pollard’s Who-like aggression and Kinks-like whimsy

GBV's third album of 2012 is pretty damned good...

Guided by Voices
The Bears for Lunch
Guided by Voices Industries

The old school line-up of Guided by Voices – that’s Bob Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Greg Demos, Mitch Mitchell and Kevin Fennell – started its second run only two years ago, for the Matador 21st Birthday Concert in 2010. The Bears for Lunch is the third album since this configuration’s mid-1990s break, and also the third of 2012. That’s a remarkably fast restart. Just for comparison, it took Mission of Burma five years to add three new albums to their catalogue, and Big Dipper and Gang of Four have released just one since reforming.

Of course, Pollard-related projects are, almost by definition, insanely prolific, so the real question is not how many songs the reconfigured band can record, but how good they are. The answer: pretty good, and almost surely getting better. The Bears for Lunch is a far more solid affair than Let’s Go Eat the Factory, balancing Pollard’s Who-like aggression and Kinks-like whimsy in punchy, melodically memorable songs. There are fewer throwaways and sound experiments this time. (I’d nominate “Military Dance School Dismissal” for fast-forward, but it’s the only one that springs to mind.) The band is more assured, too, crisp and almost tight by this beery outfit’s standards. Even the sound is more professional, capturing wavery harmonies and fuzzed-out guitar lines with unusual clarity.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Mingus wall to wall

I've been listening to the six-disc set of Charles Mingus' Jazz Workshop Concerts: 1964-1965 lately, and I'm not going to pretend that I have anything very intelligent to say about it, except that it's wonderful and you should check it out if you like jazz or bass or, I don't know, music?

Here's some background from Mark Medwin's really excellent review of the set:

As I understand it, the Jazz Workshop was as much a philosophy as an ensemble, necessitating the constant exploration and reconfiguration of whatever music Mingus handed to his musicians. A good portion of the set’s success is in its presentation of live performances in a concentrated chronological space, allowing those reconfigurations to be heard in context. The seven discs span the 16 months from April 1964 through September of 1965. In the booklet notes, Sue Mingus and Brian Priestly discuss the concerns and projects that were coming to a point of culmination, realized or not, during this protracted period. Mingus was still smarting from the strange and disastrous 1962 Town Hall concert, at which he had attempted to record portions of the epic large-ensemble work we now know as Epitaph. His April 1964 return to the venue, the first of the concerts presented here and taking up the first and second discs, finds him in collaboration with what might have been his most sympathetic group, the sextet including Eric Dolphy and Clifford Jordan on winds, the underappreciated Johnny Coles on trumpet, Jaki Byard in the piano chair, and Danny Richmond (the one constant in these performances) on drums. Mingus would take this group to Europe that same month for a series of concerts, and we can hear their Concertgebouw date on the third and fourth discs. Unfortunately, partly due to Dolphy’s death in July, this group would not last to take part in Mingus’s huge triumph at the Monterey Jazz Festival the following September, occupying the fifth disc. A year later, at the same festival and almost to the day, the scene was very different, with scheduling problems causing a much smaller audience and a vastly reduced set time, and we now get to hear the mere half-hour’s worth of frustrated musical vision on the sixth disc. The box set ends resiliently with a May 1965 concert in Minneapolis, during which Mingus denounces major labels, in effect biting the hand that was not feeding him what he’d earned.

There's also a lot of information about the sessions and players at the label site.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Hot and Cold

A bit late on this, a new album from the Montreal-born, Beijing-based duo Hot & Cold, who crank repetitive, Krautish grooves that fall somewhere between Wooden Shjips, Suicide and the Fall...really good stuff. The album's called Border Area, it's been out since the summer on Moniker Records.

You can stream the whole thing at the Bandcamp site.

Friday, November 9, 2012

It's been a pretty good week for things getting's my review of the Cairo Gang's The Corner Man, up since yesterday at Blurt.

The Corner Man
(Empty Cellar)

Emmett Kelly has haunted a good many corners of the American-into-indie world, touring with the OCS (back when Dwyer spelled it like that) and the Fall, playing back-up for Beth Orton and Will Oldham. The Corner Man, his fourth recording as The Cairo Gang, falls not too far from Oldham's neighborhood, offering a hushed and understated folk music, spare until it turns lush, quiet until it blasts off and hemmed in until it vaults off into unexpected directions.


I would also like to point out a really excellent article on Questlove from the Roots in the current New Yorker. One of my favorite things about having DSL is being able to watch Fallon once in a while -- and a big part of that is the Roots as backing band.

Anyway, really good article, I wish more people took writing about music and musicians as seriously.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Evanescent atmospheres in motion...the new Martin Eden

Athena turned out to be a big nothing up here, not even a trace of snow, not that I'm complaining. Anyway, we've got a couple of easy non-5:30 a.m. days coming up because Sean's school has parent teacher conferences, so yay for that. We had a really nice dinner last night for my birthday, hanger steak, potatoes, asparagus and carrot cake. I don't think I really care about presents (though I got some good ones, the new Martin Amis novel, a pair of badly needed running shoes, socks, tee-shirts, etc.) as long as I get carrot cake.

So that was that, another year, and I put up a new photo last night just for truth in advertising. (More or's the most flattering one of about three.)

Meanwhile, I have a review of the new Martin Eden up at Dusted, which you can read right here.

Martin Eden
Dedicate Function

Eluvium’s ambient landscapes have always shimmered from one horizon to another, their gorgeous, shifting textures of piano, synthesizer, treated guitar and other unclassifiable sounds seeming to exist outside time and space. Tracks like “Zerthis Was a Shivering Human Image” (from 2003’s Lambent Material) had a beginning and an end, but no sense of progress between these poles. Cooper’s compositions floated, hovered, flickered and decayed, but they did not stride purposefully into the next moment. Even his last, vocal-tethered album, Similes, diffused song structure into limpid pools. “How does the motion make me last?” he asked on that album, contrasting the eternality of the spirit with the ceaseless business of the physical body. But his songs, however beautiful, were more about stillness than motion, more about transcending the cadences of heartbeat and breath than harnessing them. Martin Eden, Cooper’s new solo enterprise, sets evanescent atmospheres into motion, adding a locomotive beat to what has been, in Eluvium, a timeless stasis.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A fevered, desperate intensity

Report: Jon Spencer Blues Explosion Live in MA



"A fervid, desperate intensity": November 1 at the Iron Horse in Northampton, operating in the long shadow of Hurricane Sandy, the boys decide it's time to fuck some shit up - and deal with that damned black mold, too.

Photos & Text By Jennifer Kelly

Two days after Sandy, leaving friends and family in cold, dark, water-less apartments, Jon Spencer's Blues Explosion made its own heat in Northampton, MA. Toting two battered guitars, antediluvian tube amps, a much-punished drum kit and a Theremin, JSBX railed against black mold, encouraged the world to take its pants off, (somewhat contradictorily) extolled the virtues of bellbottoms and generally raised the roof. Perhaps because of the difficulty factor (god knows how they managed to gas up the tour van), this was an unusually charged show, celebrating rock ‘n roll in the face of disaster with a fervid, desperate intensity. 

Thanks to Pop Catastrophe for documenting the experience.  

We did it

I could not possibly be happier about the outcome of last night's election. We won the popular vote by a slim but unarguable margin, demolished the electoral college, held the senate and made some significant improvements in the house (see Custer/Shea-Porter in my neck of the woods).

Plus it's my birthday!

Have a nice day.

Music stuff coming in a little bit.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ty Segall Day

So who has loved Ty Segall longer and more publicly than me?

Not Dave Letterman, who just caught on this week. (But cool that he did.)

My Ty reviews so far;

Dusted -- Ty Segall, Ty Segall
Dusted -- Ty Segall and White Fence, Wet Hair
Dusted -- Ty Segall, Melted
Blurt -- Ty Segall Slaughterhouse
Blurt -- Ty Segall, Lemons

An interview I wrote for the Quietus, but they never ran it, so I posted it on my blog.

A Twins-related interview for Blurt.

If you haven't already, listen to Ty and go vote.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Dan Melchior's Backward Path

Nov 05, 2012

On the harrowing yet hauntingly beautiful The Backward Path, Melchior pays tribute to his wife Letha while trying to make sense of the impermanence of life.


"This album is for Letha," says the back cover of The Backward Path (Northern Spy), the most personal and introspective Dan Melchior album yet. Letha, if you haven't been following along, is Melchior's wife and sometime band member, who has been struggling with cancer these last couple of years. The two of them have been engaged in a draining battle against health insurers and medical establishments, drug providers and the deadly disease itself. There is a very good article about exactly how daunting the last two years have been for them at Indy Week, and if, after reading it, you feel that you want to help, there is a PayPal account set up to defray Letha's medical expenses.


You can stream the whole thing at Spy Records...but buy it, it's really good and they need the money.

Rangda feature at PopMatters

This is probably my favorite piece (of my own) for 2012. Really good record, too.

Just Don’t Call Them a Super-Group: The Rangda Interview
By Jennifer Kelly 5 November 2012

All three members of Rangda—that’s Sun City Girls’ Richard Bishop, Six Organs of Admittance’s Ben Chasny and free-jazz drumming legend Chris Corsano—have their own claims to “super-ness”, at least in pure musical ability. Just check out Bishop’s blur-speed, ethnically-tuned bouts of picking, Chasny’s hallucinatory arcs of psychedelic folk, or Corsano’s manic, chaotic yet totally-in-control percussive wizardry. Still all three palpably bristle when you bring up the term “super group”.

“It’s pretty ridiculous,” says Chasny, when asked about a phrase usually associated with unit shifters like Asia, Chickenfoot and the Travelling Wilburies. “That is a term generally given to bloated rock stars. You never hear that with jazz—‘Oh! That was Miles Davis’s super group!’ No, you just note the people playing.”

“Super groups are always kind of less than the sum of their parts,” says Corsano, noting that these ensembles are often put together with more of an eye towards commercial impact than artistry. “Rangda totally wasn’t that,” he adds. “It was Ben saying ‘I’ve played with Chris, and I’d like to play with him more. And I’ve played with Rick and I want to play with him more.’ I think that’s how every band should get together.”

Yet while Rangda may have started as the casual confluence of three major talents, it has evolved through touring and a second album. Formerly Extinct, released in September 2012 on Drag City, shows the threesome evolving from a fearsomely talented pick-up band into a living, breathing, continuing entity. We spoke to all three members about Rangda’s beginnings, their egalitarian approach to sharing leads, and their emergence as one of the most interesting part-time gigs in indie rock.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Blue Hawaii

A Braids offshoots' delicate, ethereal dance-electronic music has recently snuck up on me. on first listen it sounds like literally nothing, just washes of pastel colored sound and diffident, altered female vocals, but give it a listen or three and it starts to take hold, little shards of hard rhythm glinting out of gauzy drapings...I kinda like it.

Anyway the band is called Blue Hawaii, its two main partners are Raphaelle Standell-Preston (of Braids) and Alex Cowan, and their album #2, Untogether is coming early next year on Arbutus records.

Here is "In Two"

Friday, November 2, 2012

JSBX live

Still recovering from an emotionally-charged, post-Sandy JSBX show last night (in which all three of the band left family behind in dark, cold, electricity-less NYC).

More later on this, meanwhile..."Black Mold" was apparently written about Hurricane Irene but it's at least as relevant now. Disturbing video, eh?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Wonder Revolution

You'd think that a band that puts "wonder" and "revolution" next to one another, right there in the name of the group, would be pretty loud and in-your-face and celebratory. But actually, the Wonder Revolution, out of Kansas, is kind of a quiet outfit, spinning gossamer textures of shoegaze out of altered guitars, faraway voices and dreamy, drone-y keyboards. The band is a big one, collecting the talents of people from lots of bands that you might know about if you lived in Kansas (well, okay, I know about the Appleseed Cast, but none of the others, Paper Airplanes, Francis Moss, Solagett, The Music Wrong). The songs are full of natural, often night-time imagery (look at that cover), and they're calm and restful...without necessarily putting you to sleep.

The latest album (their third) is called Firefly and it's out on something called Air House Records on December 11th.

Check out the title track. Why not?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Moon Duo...Emerson, how do you tell them apart?

Any music review that requires me to read Emerson is a good time...

Moon Duo
Sacred Bones

Moon Duo, like its half sibling Wooden Shjips, grinds out grooves that are both tightly coiled and expansive, its repetitive measures circling in an endlessly rolling boundary which is, nonetheless, occasionally an entryway to otherworldly sensation. The idea of limits that turn into doorways and doorways that lead to more limits runs all through Moon Duo’s transcendental reveries. So, it makes sense, in a way, that Moon Duo guitarist-singer Ripley Johnson would gravitate towards one of the original Transcendentalists, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

In his essay “Circles,” Emerson posits perception as an endless series of concentric circles, the consciousness at the center constantly forced to break through what it sees as boundaries into the next realm of knowing. Says Emerson, “The eye is the first circle; the horizon which it forms is the second; and throughout nature this primary figure is repeated without end.” Says Moon Duo’s Johnson on the Emerson-inspired Circles, “O is where the time seems to never end, when all the past is just present again.”


Here's "Sleepwalker"

Also, you can hear their whole set from the 2011 Primavera Sound Festival at the Free Music Archive.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I'm interviewing Mirah and the lights go out

So, basically, everything is fine here. We had some very high winds last night and the power was out for about four hours, but that happens all the time, even without is nothing like those photos of NYC, Atlantic City, Ocean City etc. here. We were lucky.

And in fact, extra lucky, because I had been trying to get hold of Mirah for more than a week in order to do a Philadelphia Weekly feature on her, and it finally came through late yesterday afternoon (it's due tomorrow, or at least it was before the world went underwater). Weirdly, I was on the phone with Mirah talking about her upcoming tour when the lights went out here. She was telling me about the older songs that she almost has to do, every time she does a live show, or else her fans get very disappointed. One of them, appropriately enough, was "Cold Cold Water."

I hope you are all well and safe.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy...Hurricane Bill

So there's a new Big Dipper album now, for the first time in 22 years, It's called Big Dipper Crashes on the Platinum Planet and it's out on Almost Ready label November 27th.

I have to say, I think it's not quite as good as the early stuff, but still pretty good. The main principals are still involved: Gary Waleik, Bill Goffrier. the sound is very much the same, leaning heavily catchy melodies, chime-y guitars, a goofy sense of humor. There's a song called "Hurricane Bill" that I would definitely put up today, in honor of our extreme weather, but they're old-fashioned and appear not to be giving any tracks away on Soundcloud and/or Youtube, so you will have to settle for a very old video of "Faith Healer."

I did an extended feature on Big Dipper for Dusted a couple of years ago.

We are all fine so far. It hasn't even really started raining, and we are 100 miles from the storm surge. The most that could happen to us, probably, is losing power and maybe some trees down. We're on a hill, so it doesn't usually flood here. Some roads may wash out. We'll be okay, but may possibly lose internet at some point.

Anyway, if you're in Sandy's path, stay safe and do what they tell you.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

She lives in an airport

Hey look, it's new Guided By Voices! The third full-length this year!

It's pretty good!

(It's the end of October so I had to use up my exclamation point quota.)

Happy Saturday. About time for pizza, I'd say.

Friday, October 26, 2012

FAC. Dance like it's 1982

I so, so, so enjoyed this one...

Fac. Dance 02

The second in Strut's survey of Factory Records' dance-electronic side goes deeper into the well of early 1980s dub-funk-world-punk, revisiting Fac. Dance 01 favorites like A Certain Ratio, Durutti Column, ESG and 52nd Street and branching out into the wilder, southern-hemisphere-sampling hybrids like Fadela and X-O-Dus.

The material comes from the first half of the 1980s, the same period during which most of Joy Division reformed as New Order and established it dark, dance-oriented new sound. Yet at the same time, lots of other loosely aligned bands were attempting the same alchemy, splicing the knotty, twitchy dissonance of post-punk to sinuous, body-moving grooves. Consider the Wake's 1983 "The Host," a knife-edge blend of shudder and sigh, dark blasts of synthesizer flaring up from a sensualist's bedrock of bass and drums (that's Bobby Gillespie, pre-Jesus & Mary Chain, on drums), and Caesar McInulty murmuring alienated phrases over. It is nearly eight minutes long, an endless, hypnotic, hip-centric groove that has just enough punk disaffection to give it bite.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

I wander into a assaulted by hair

I mentioned my Divine Fits adventure earlier in the week, and now the complete report is up at Blurt. I am an idiot. What can I say?

How Not to Review a Divine Fits Concert

I spent all of last Friday night at the wrong show.

I'd planned to catch the Divine Fits, the new sparse, electro-funky super collaboration between Spoon's Britt Daniel, Wolf Parade's Dan Boecker, New Bomb Turks' Sam Brown and Alexi Taylor. I'd been listening all week to A Thing Called Divine Fits, in fact, and was kind of excited about seeing it in real life. But oh, terrible thing, Divine Fits was downstairs and Conspirator, a Disco Biscuits electronic dance side project, was upstairs, and I followed the crowds without thinking, up to the big room, where a big synthesized bass drum was thumping already, four on the floor loud enough to rattle your it would thump for the rest of the night. I stayed up there for roughly three hours, in the vain hope that, somehow, what I was hearing would align with what I expected to hear, and sadly, figured it out only around midnight, when Divine Fits had already finished.

How could I be so stupid? How could I not know the difference? Here are seven excuses, all pretty lame:

1. A Thing Called Divine Fits is by far the most electronically rooted thing that Britt Daniel has ever done...maybe he really likes drum ‘n bass and wanted to tour with bands like that?
2. The opening band is something called Strobe Horse, which is a mostly electronic local band...the kind of outfit that could very well use laptops and keyboards and drum machines.
3. There's a drum kit behind the mountains of speakers, which I look at hopefully throughout the evening, as one act after another relies on programmed and sampled beats. (Conspirator uses live drums.)
4. If Britt Daniel were ever to dress up in sun-glasses, a furry top-hat and feather boa, don't you think he'd look sort of like this?


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

1-800 Band

No reviews running today, nothing exciting coming in the mail, so time to start trolling the WFMU heavily played list for bloggable ideas...and I find this.

The 1-800 Band is a four-piece out of Brooklyn pursuing a very catchy, keyboard-leavened variety of garage rock. Kind of basic, but super fun...

Like this one a lot.

There are a whole bunch of live tracks (which, honestly, sound about as good productinon-wise as the video) at the Free Music Archive.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Naomi Punk

Slow day, not much happening...which makes it that much harder to do even the stuff that I could be doing...

Anyway, this is a great track, almost stirred me from my torpor.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby

I was really happy with the way this one came out...up today at Dusted.

Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby
A Working Museum
Southern Domestic

“Do You Remember That?,” the final song on this third Wreckless Eric (Goulden) and Amy Rigby album, tells the story of how the unlikely pair became a couple. It starts with Rigby covering “Whole Wide World” at a club in Hull with its author in the audience, glances over the tentative beginnings (“Everyone said I should stay away from you, but I didn’t listen”), remembers early bonding over music (“We played guitars, sang ‘Me and Bobby McGee’”) and describes a disastrous first show as a duo (“Together we were crap, do you remember that?”). The song is like a more entertaining version of listening to your parents telling you the story of how they first met, except that it rhymes and follows a melody that sticks in your head. And in a way, that’s what Goulden and Rigby do best: translate the medium-sized, particular events of their shared lives into songs. The most intricate, personal details are presented with the ends tucked in and the syllables lined up. It sounds effortless, as if they’d found the lyrics this way, as if all life happened in rhyming verse.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Dum Dum Girls

I think Dum Dum Girls is my favorite of all the aughts/early teens girl groups, largely on the strength of Dee Dee's fantastic, Chrissie Hynde-ish alto, but also because of the casual strenghth of the songs she writes. her songs are never showy or fuzzy, there are no weird instrumental touches or off-beat arrangement choices, but they work really well within the punk-slanted-Spector-vaulting category that she shares with the Slumberland roster, all of the ex-Vivian Girls, Best Coast and assorted others. She's maybe my favorite female singer of her generation and getting better all the time -- witness her new EP End of Days, which has been out for a week or two, and features this single, "Lord Knows."

Had kind of an interesting weekend, starting with a really botched attempt to see Divine Fits, winding through an extremely young but rather good "Romeo and Juliet" production and ending now with all hell breaking loose on a work project.

Also, on Saturday, BIll and I had a quick beer to celebrate 22 years of marriage.

So there's that.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Barbaras...finally, a record

I've got a little review of the Barbaras one-and-only album, a piece of work that very nearly never got released.

The review's up at Blurt.

The Barbaras 2006-2008

The Barbaras, out of Memphis, made goofy, rough-edged, addictively tuneful garage pop. They performed with props and costumes, putting on elaborate shows for scanty punk crowds. A fixture in the Memphis scene of the late aughts, their recorded output was, up until now, a 7" single put out by Goner in 2010. The a-side, "Summertime Road," got a fair amount of blog love, its bleary good cheer nearly drowned in distortion and bottom-of-a-deep-well sonics.

The Barbaras' full-length is altogether cleaner and more pop, the group's giddy psychedelic side and penchant for melody brought out by clearer production. It was produced, as it happens, by Jay Reatard, and at about the same time that Reatard was, himself, turning towards tunefulness with Watch Me Fall.

The Barbaras album was originally slated for release on In the Red in 2010, but very nearly never got released at all. The band was closely aligned with Jay Reatard - they opened for him and two members (Stephen Pope and Billy Hayes) were in his band. Reatard was producing the album - and had the master tapes and files - when Pope and Hayes quit his band mid-tour in October 2009. Bad feelings flowed and Reatard threatened to destroy the tapes. A few months later he died, and everyone assumed that the Barbaras sessions were lost forever. But then Alicia Trout found the files on Reatard's hard drive and the project was revived.

The Barbaras have mostly moved on - three of them are in the Magic Kids, others have moved out of Memphis - but their lone full-length album makes you wish that they had continued. It's poised somewhere between the straight-up, one-two punk of bands like Tyvek and the languid pop of Real Estate. "Flow," which first appeared on the "Summertime Road" single, here expands into psychedelia, lush vocal harmonies draped over its twitchy, tetchy rhythm. "Super Ball" bounces between silly exuberance and romantic longing. Reatard was fascinated, during the last years of his life, with New Zealand lo-fi pop, and it's easy to see how that might have slipped into the Barbaras' toolbox as well. "Topsy Turvy Magic" reflects Kinks-ish musical hall through the Clean's fuzz-crusted mirror, even adding some Wilson-esque vocal flourishes on top. Yet however elaborate the arrangements can get, there's a disarming, punk-style enthusiasm behind them.

Let's not kid ourselves. If The Barbaras 2006 - 2008 had never gotten out, not much in music or life or art would have changed. But these songs go down like melted ice cream on a warm day, and you've hardly finished one when another one charms its way into view. They're fun, they're easy to love, and they're here. Isn't that enough to celebrate?

DOWNLOAD: "The Flow," "Topsy Turvy Magic" JENNIFER KELLY

Late summer, early fall tunes

I haven't done this in a while, but here are some songs I was listening to in August and September.

Ty Segall, "Love Fuzz" From his third album this year, the awesomely guitar-centric Twins
The Legs, "(Let's Do the) Legs" Rough-assed garage rock from Goner, the band (not Goner) now sadly defunct.
Chris Brokaw, "Danny Borracho" Possibly the single most under-rated player, writer, performer with another really good album out.
Royal Trux, "Liar" From a reissue of RTX's chaotic, Stones-loving Accelerator
Tamaryn, "I'm Gone" This year's best dream pop...which is kind of a crowded category.
Mark Eitzel, "Oh Mercy" Third solo album, first since his heart-attack, wonderfully pop and full of bile.
Harlan, "You're a Teenager" Bedroom electronic-pop from Louisiana.
Calexico, "Para" From the much loved Algiers, Calexico's best in a long time.
Rangda, "Idol's Eye" I've got an interview in the pipe where Bishop talks about how Chris Corsano offhandedly suggested putting the main riff into a minor key...which turned out to be almost impossible to play except he's fucking Richard Bishop, so no problem.
Firewater, "Ex-Millionaire Mambo" World's happiest, bounciest song about living in a box, keeping life savings in one's socks.
Black Swan Runners, "Ff Ff Fire" It's just indie pop, but good indie pop.
Cleaners from Venus, "Marilyn on a Train" This is probably CFV's "She's Fetching," the song that plays at proms in some alternate, preferable universe.

Get it here.

Happy Friday...I'm going to see Divine Fits tonight, if I can stay awake.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Chris Brokaw's Gambler's Ectasy

Another very fine record from Chris Brokaw, this one more or less in the indie-pop vein of Incredible Love but with members of Tortoise along. The review's up now at Blurt, which is still giving me virus warnings every time I go there.

Gambler’s Ecstasy

Chris Brokaw hasn't been quiet in the six years since Incredible Love, recording a half-dozen albums in the interim. Still Gambler's Ecstasy is the first real guitar pop album for Brokaw in more than half a decade, once again threading the songwriter's sandpapery voice through thickets of rock guitar and drums. Brokaw works mostly solo, but Tortoise's Doug McCombs and John Herndon turn up to add density to the long album centerpiece, a droning, kraut-pulsing, faintly hallucinatory cut called "The Appetites." Here Brokaw's voice seldom rises above a murmur, the tone confidential but the words abstract.

Likewise, the music sounds more accessible than it is, layering indie-rock strumming with oddball melodic flourishes. Later Thalia Zedek's violist, David Michael Curry embellishes the album's lone cover ("Crooked" from Cincinnati band Wussy) with melancholy swoops of strings. Brokaw makes his best lyrical statement in "Danny Borracho," a barn-raising, tongue-biting snapshot of scenester pretense. Gambler's Ecstasy takes some risks, pursuing diverse styles and eccentric paths to tunefulness, but it mostly comes up sevens.

DOWNLOAD: "Danny Borracho," "The Appetites" -JENNIFER KELLY