Thursday, October 31, 2013

Short but gorgeous...Kurt Vile and Sore Eros

Jamaica Plain is only three tracks, but they're lovely...the wavering tones of electric amplification and feedback weaving through picked clarity, little bits of drumming and noise tossed in to friction...only one track ("Serum") with vocals, but who needs them? This is a long-buried effort from Kurt Vile and Robin Robertson, who did some time in the Violators but is mostly known as Sore Eros. They recorded in the early aughts, it well before Vile-mania, when Kurt was just a long-haired kid with a way into and past folk guitar and Robertson was, well, pretty much exactly as obscure as he is today. I like it a lot, but if you put it on and leave the room, it'll be over before you get back.

It's out next week on Care in Community Recordings.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Roar, sprawl, obliterate

First snow of the year falling right now, just a dusting, sticking a little to dark green pine trees but not at all to roads and brown grass....

Meanwhile, I've got a review of Bardo Pond's latest up at Blurt. I like it a lot, though I have to differ with Michael Gibbons about exactly how minimal it is...

Peace On Venus
Bardo Pond
Label: Fire


Bardo’s Michael Gibbons is calling Peace on Venus “a less is more statement in essence,” but don’t look for minimalism here. These tracks roar, sprawl and obliterate, in a hypnotic, heavy-booted march to enlightenment. Wall-sized guitar tones fray and blister into dissonance, drums pound in monolithic, relentless forward motion, and Isobel Sollenger’s voice floats over the roil and racket like a dream you had once as a child. Even more melodic entries like “Taste” have a palpable weight and density, their own field of gravity that pulls you in and keeps you there.


I love this band.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Digging back into Hiss Golden Messenger

I reviewed the most recent Hiss Golden Messenger album back in March, liked it a lot and concluded, "Whether Hiss Golden Messenger is whooping it up country style or slinking and slithering in a late-night approximation of Stax-ish soul, there’s a directness in its attack. These songs don’t refer to certain styles of music, they embody them, contradict them, warp them and, in the process, breathe life into them. If that’s what scares all those people with their folk guitars, I’d say bring it on."

So now I'm on the Hiss Golden Messenger list, I guess, and I recently received a reissue of the band's 2009 Bad Debt, a bit sparer, a bit more single-mindedly country folk, and also, really, quite powerful. There's an early version of "The Serpent Is Kind (Compared to Man)" (also on Haw), and, you know, I find this stuff geekily interesting. The older one is a bit murkier, less buoyant, noticeably less clearly produced, but also maybe a little more attuned to the darkness in this is, after all, about not trusting other human beings.

Not that MC Taylor is exactly Mr. Happytimes, now, but I think he's a shade more ominous on Bad Debt.

Here's a not-really-a-video of "Balthazar" from Bad Debt.

The record will be out (again) on Paradise of Bachelors January 14, 2014...making it the first record of next year yet to be mentioned here. So yes, I suppose I have signed up for another year.

Monday, October 28, 2013

I just love this song from Courtney Barnett

And in my dreams, I wrote the best song I've ever written, I can't remember how it goes...

Which means it was better than this one, which is pretty awesome. From the recent queen of CMJ, Courtney Barnett, an Aussie songwriter who draws occasional comparisons to anti-folk types like Jeffrey Lewis. (It's got a Triffids reference which has a certain semi-obscure message board go kind of nuts.

I like this song better than anything else on The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas (which combines two shorter recordings previously only available in Australia), but I like it a lot.

Pitchfork gave her the "Rising" treatment about a month ago, if you're interested in backstory.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Like ESG? Try Las Kellies

Sticking up for the Buenos Aires branch of the Kellies empire (who knew that the plural had an "i"?) here. Las Kellies is an all-girl, post-punk outfit from Argentina...where they haven't gotten the word yet about the 20-year nostalgia cycle shifting to grunge from Gang of Four and still soldier on in the stark, sparse, syncopated style of early 1980s bands like Delta 5, ESG and the Slits. Anyway, there's a new album out called Total Exposure a bit slinkier, a bit less spiky, more dub, less jitter...but quite good. It's been out since mid-September, but I haven't seen a word about it anywhere. Shame.

This one has reggae great Dennis Bovell singing (he of Matumbi and a long-running partnership with Linton Kwesi Johnston).

This one is just the girls, but still heavily borrowing from dub/reggae etc. (Sounds like the Slits, dunnit?)

And this one, from the last album, just in case you didn't get the ESG connection.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Oneohtrix Point Never interview

I was just whining about how long this one was taking a couple of days ago...and now here it is. In my very humble, probably biased opinion, this is one of the best interviews I've done all year, mostly due to him, not me.

Anyway, check it out.

The Uncanny Effect of Being Almost Real: An Interview with Oneohtrix Point Never

By Jennifer Kelly 24 October 2013

A whistle. A church organ. A choir of angels. The album R Plus Seven is full of sounds that almost jive with real life experience, but which—on closer inspection—depart from the ordinary in subtle, unsettling ways.

“That uncanny effect of being almost real is a really uncomfortable and glorious state for me. I find it disturbing,” says Daniel Lopatin, who for the last half dozen years has recorded under the name Oneohtrix Point Never. His latest OPN album is, in some ways, his most grounded and homemade, built out of brief, mostly keyboard-based sounds, recorded at home, and approaching the structures of riff and melody. Yet it is also a deeply odd, somewhat disorienting piece of work, full of staccato, agitated motifs that overlap, contradict and interrupt one another, and woven through with the sound of inhuman voices, unreal instruments and not-quite-right rhythmic underpinnings.

“I wanted to make something that has a beautiful aspect but also a dread or unease. That reaches to be real and almost sentient, but then is not,” says Lopatin. “I felt like that was there already a lot of the time, but my job was to exaggerate that and characterize it even further.”


Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Herms

I'm not going to pretend I knew about the Herms when they were tearing it up in the Bay Area about a decade ago...I didn't. But John Dwyer from the Ohsees sure did, and now he's reissuing all their recordings on the retrospective Drop Out Volume 1...and it's amazing. Really. Sort of a cross between 39 Clocks and the Dirtbombs. I was listening to it a lot in Chicago, but I still don't have anything half as good to say about as Dwyer, who writes:

No one sounds like The Herms.

No one sounds like Matthew Lutz.

The Herms are a smudged window into a neighboring dimension to ours, Berkeley. Even though it’s right next door to Oakland and San Francisco, it may as well be a million musical-miles away. Back when they were playing around town, it felt to me like not too many in my scene “got” this band. I thought people should have been going crazy for these guys. The local rag gave them accolades (a curse perhaps?), and even a cursory listen to this collection should clue you in to how great they were. This may be one of the few times that I have to concur with a music writer – this band is amazing. They are sun, heartbreak, pop and fried-static all in one master package, evolving from song to song, and I think they’re fantastic.

The Herms did have a proper release years ago, but on CD only (gasp!) and frankly I’ve always been in love with these earlier, rawer 8 track Tascam demos. They sound like the band did when you were standing in front of them. I love The Herms and have been waiting a looooong time to do a proper release for them. Sorry it took exhuming their songs from the grave before I was ready. Please listen loudly with the windows open, so maybe that music writer may pass by, hear it and think, “Finally! I told you so, you assholes”.

John Dwyer 7-10-13

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

EMEFE and back from Chicago

I know it's been a while since I've posted, not that you or I or anyone missed it. Fortunately not much happened, music-writing-wise, while I was gone. Dusted is basically shut down again, the folks at Blurt are subsumed in the upcoming Fall print issue and PopMatters is taking its usual 3-4 months to publish my Oneohtrix Point Never interview.

But meanwhile, I did have one piece go up this Monday, an interview with Miles from EMEFE, whom you might have seen playing congas on Red Hot and Fela's Fallon appearance. (You probably didn't, and if you did, you may not have payed much attention to the skinny, white conga player, but it was a good segment. Not everybody comes off that well on TV.)

Anyway, here's the video.

And here's the feature

Let's see, maybe I should write a little bit about my trip to Chicago...

I got in about 8 a.m. on Friday (had to leave 4 a.m. from home to make my flight), too early to check into the hotel, so I took the train into Chicago and got off at Logan Square to look around. (Sean said he couldn't see me until 5 p.m., so I had PLENTY of time, a recurring theme on this trip.) I picked Logan Square because I had just read about it as a happening food neighborhood in Bon Appetit, and it did, indeed, seem pretty cool, even at 9:30 in the morning. I ended up taking a walk down Kedzie, which is gorgeous, tree-lined and full of sort of lo-rise gothic apartment buildings, a big grassy island in the middle. You could imagine living quite comfortably in a neighborhood like this, fun places to eat and drink right there and the train to the city close by. So, I wandered around for a while and enjoyed it, then stopped for a coffee at New Wave Coffee where all the boys looked like they were in bands, and the girl behind the counter was talking about her BFA in stage management, so though I was 30 years older than everyone else, it felt sort of like home...we could definitely live in a neighborhood like this if we could afford it.

So from there, I walked down Milwaukee towards the city, following the Blue Line in case it was too far (it was) or I got tired (I didn't, oddly). I found more WIFI in Bucktown and heard from a friend of mine, also visiting a son in Chicago, and we made plans to meet at the Art Institute, so I got on the train and arrived about 10 minutes later. We looked at some paintings and then had lunch at the museum -- split a beer and talked a long time about our sons and what a hole they've left now that they're gone.

We had just finished up when I got a text from Sean saying that he was done with his class (theater tech), and he could meet me a little early, so I hustled off to Café Cito, near CCPA, and bought him a sandwich, and oh my god, was it good to see him. He talked about his classes, his prospects for the summer (really surprisingly good, though I'm not supposed to share specifics until he hears for sure) and various other things. Then I got on the train again and headed back towards O'Hare, which is where my dad had booked a hotel. Sadly, the hotel was FOUR MILEs from the subway stop, so I had to call my mom and after a little wait, she and my brother came to get me. We had a very suburban meal at Chili's and went to bed early.

Next day, I got up early to run and then we went to see Northwestern lose to a very weak Minnesota. I found it very weird to be back at Northwestern. Last time I was there, I was really hoping (and stupidly expecting) that Sean would be going there for college. I still have not really forgiven them, and was a little bit (secretly I hope) glad that they got humiliated by a Big Ten bottom-feeder. The people from Minnesota, too, were so happy to have won one. It reminded me of being a Fall Mountain football mom and how excited i'd get if we got a first down, let alone scored, let alone won a game. So, my dad was a little out of sorts from losing, and also he is just not in very good health, much worse than last time I saw him in August.

We had planned to go into Chicago and have dinner with Sean, but when we got into the car it wouldn't start. the girl at the hotel desk gave us a jump, and we got to the train station, then the city and it became apparent that my dad just could hardly walk at all, and had a lot of trouble getting to the restaurant, which was about six blocks from the nearest subway stop. We probably should have stayed in the burbs and not tried to see Sean, who, I have to say, did not make much of an effort with his grandparents. he is very happy, but it seems to have made him a little self-involved. I was thinking about how he used to always ask me how my day had been all through high school, and now nothing I say is of the slightest interest to him. I know that it's good that he's so independent and confident. I understand that the fact that he doesn't need me anymore is good, but I need some time to process this. I miss the guy who was the most important person in the world to me...he's not just far away, he's sort of gone.

I had planned to stay another day and spend it with Sean, but as it turned out, he was busy all day except for the one time that I had made plans to go to a show with an old music writing friend from Splendid. So I was in Chicago all by myself, which is not a terrible thing. I went to the Chicago International Film Festival in the afternoon, then to see John Wesley Coleman that night at the Empty Bottle. I got to see Sean one more time for breakfast on Monday, ran on the lake and checked out of my hotel. With an 11 a.m. checkout, I had about eight hours to kill. so I went to Little Goat for lunch, did some desultory shopping, then holed up in the library for a while to do some work. Then I came home, uneventfully, and have been exhausted and a little depressed ever since. It's a combination of Sean being so gone, and my dad so unwell and money and all other worries. I did get an IM from Sean before I left, and was all excited (maybe he's got some time!), but it was just to tell me that he had to change his (nonrefundable) flight back to Chicago this January, because he had to be there a week before classes start. It's like the Stevie Wonder song, "I just say...can I have another $400?"

So I'm thinking that it's sort of like getting over a breakup, that I have to try to think less about Sean and not IM him as much. I love him, of course, but I need to need him less. Maybe we were too close. Maybe it was never healthy. I don't know. Anyway, life keeps on just like it always has until it changes, right? We just have to keep changing with it somehow.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Mike Uva is a pretty great songwriter

Daniel Bejar habla espanol

Remember when everyone thought Destroyer was a flash-in-the-pan New Pornographers offshoot that sounded way too much like David Bowie. Yeah, me, too, just barely...I think I was driving to Boston to interview Mr. Airplane Man the first time I heard Destroyer and I thought, "Okay, but I've already got Hunky Dory, what do I need this for?"

It was a long time ago. I came around for Your Blues and more or less stayed there. I was excited to get a new Destroyer EP, even if it is all in a foreign language. (On some level, all Destroyer songs are in a foreign language, aren't they? I mean, sort of like English, but not?) And I really like Five Spanish Songs, possibly all the more because I don't know what it's about. (Although this, as I alluded to earlier, is not really a big change from previous Destroyer albums.)

The EP is out November 26th, which seems like a long time away, but once you get into picking your Halloween costume and buying a big turkey and spending money for Christmas that you don't have, it'll go like lightning. Meanwhile, Pitchfork and Merge have entered into an unholy alliance to confuse everyone by leading with the only "rock" track on the disc. If you like this track, well, I have no idea if you'll like the rest of the EP because it is completely different. (Softer, more acoustic and probably more literate, since I'm catching a reference to Franz Kafka, but who knows really?)

This one, on the other hand, sounds kinda like "My Woman from Tokyo."

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A more forceful Volcano Choir

My review of Volcano Choir, the weird mutant offspring of mega-indie star Justin Vernon and the Table of Elements vetted experimentaists in Collections and Colonies of Bees runs today at Blurt. Can you tell I used to be a drummer?

More explosive than 2009’s Unmap, this second album from the combined Collections and Colonies of Bees and Justin Vernon takes the machine-like intricacy of instrumental post rock, the airy spirituality of Bon Iver into a more forceful direction.

Like the National, Volcano Choir drapes its indie rock anthemry over unusually sharp and interesting drumming. Here’s its Jon Mueller, an intense and brilliant percussionist, one of the few drummers able, really, to carry a solo album. In Repave, Mueller seems to have moved slightly forward in the mix, not dominating, certainly, but putting his mark on nearly every track. Most of these tracks start in restraint, a drone and vibration building, a few beautifully realized sounds sketching mood and melody, a thread of vocals…and then explosion. Mueller is the force behind these volume shifts, an exhilarating push into overdrive.


I decided to review Repave after seeing Volcano Choir on Fallon (a video which is, sadly, not available anymore). Here instead is a concert that the band did for NPR about a week ago.

One more thing, when I saw Sam Amidon in September, he had just come off a show with Volcano Choir and he went off on a long riff about Jon Mueller the drummer. The essence was that Mueller looks just like Christopher Walken and also plays the drums exactly like Christopher Walken would, if he played drums. I think we can all think Amidon for the abiding image of Christopher Walken playing drums (with intensity, I imagine, slightly demented humor and weird, pause-filled cadences).

Monday, October 14, 2013

Holy crap, it's the Claudettes

Had this one on my Sunday long-ish run, a total blast, a Red Bull in mp3 format...the Claudettes, a piano and drumming duo, out of Oglesby IL (halfway between Chicago and St. Louis) that is irreverent enough to name one of this tracks "The Land of Precisely Three Dances." This is manic, jackhammer piano blues, not traditional by any means, but hard to pinpoint exactly why it's not (it's faster than most, but that's not it).

Anyway, super fun to listen to, even more fun to watch.

Here's part of a review of their live show from the Chicago Sun Times.

"This is [pianist Johnny] Iguana’s first project fusing his blues and punk sides, and all points between. Teenage heroes Mike Watt, Joe Strummer and Junior Wells all inhabit his barrelhouse piano, revealing themselves in surprising ways. {Drummer Michael} Caskey’s sticks have served Koko Taylor and Chuck Mangione. He’d probably have anchored Raymond Scott’s madcap jazz, had their careers overlapped."

Try to find another pianist who’ll admit lifting a Minutemen outro for his swinging ballroom blitz, as Iguana did for “Hammer and Tickle.” Then check “Deep Soul for High Society,” which owes audible debts both to Ray Charles and the Meat Puppets.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Clara Moto

Hey, it's the end of the world as we know it...or at least it will be on Thursday. Do you feel fine?

I actually feel reasonably good for someone who hasn't been paid for anything for about a month and who is running out of money with frightening speed. I'm not a Federal Worker, but my clients have all shut down anyway...figures. Though, really, I'm going to be working a good bit next week, and I have a pretty healthy amount of receivables. I suppose it'll work itself out eventually.

Meantime, I did a small 5K through the woods on Saturday and came in an improbably 3rd (woman, I did say the race was small, didn't I). I'm also getting ready for the annual trip out to Chicago for my dad's birthday. He's 83, so you never know when it will be the last one...I hope to get to see my son, Sean, as well. I'm staying an extra day downtown to that end, but if he blows me off (he is so BUSY), I'm planning on trying to hit the Chicago Film Festival and see something really strange and foreign that will never show up in the Colonial Theater in Keene.

And speaking of foreign and strange...we ended watching Rules of the Game last night, and it was sort of fascinating...30s French film, what they'd call a "door play" in theater, because everyone's going to bed with everyone else and coming in and out of doors all the time. We have to tap into Criterion more often. There are about 100 films on there that I feel like I should see if I want to be civilized, and still, we end up watching Good Wife instead. What cretins.

Oh, and the title of the post is the name of an Austrian DJ whose Blue Distance I have, more or less, fallen into backward this afternoon. You know what an unmannered philistine I am about electronic music, if you read this blog or know me at all, but I know what I like FWIW, and I like this a lot.

Try a little

Friday, October 11, 2013

Ancient Sky

I've been giving a sort of desultory listen to All Get Out, the third album from Brooklyn guitar psychadelicists Ancient Sky, and you know what? It's not bad. It's got a space-y, trippy vibe, not anywhere near as heavy as Bardo Pond or even Black Mountain, not as proggily experimental as the Vocokesh, more in the vein of early Mercury Rev, Apse and the unlucky but wonderful Black Sun Ensemble. I am not saying that they are as good as these bands (well, maybe as good as Apse), just that they work in the same general neighborhood. By which I mean epic space rock, slow spins off into the cosmos, big shattering cymbal crashes, laser arcs of lead guitar, bottom-of-a-well spooky reverbed vocals. Members of this band have been around -- apparently someone was in Woods, someone else in Meneguar, but can't tell you a thing about who or what they played. In the absence of much information, why not just listen to the music, eh?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Angel Olsen

My live review of the Angel Olsen/Pillars & Tongues show is running as a feature at Blurt today.

RARE AIR: Angel Olsen

On Oct. 1, songstress Angel Olsen and Windy City pals Pillars and Tongues utterly captivated a Northampton, Mass. audience at the storied Iron Horse venue. BLURT’s contributing editor was there to bear witness.


Two Chicago bands – one stuffed to the gills with equipment and instruments, the other spare as a twig in winter – played Northampton’s Iron Horse last week (Oct. 1). Pillars and Tongues, a trio, wove dense, drone-y layers of violin, synthesizer, bass guitar and harmonium into enveloping textures. Angel Olsen, touring in support of her recently-released Half Way Home album, sketched a stark landscape with folk guitar, minimal bass and drums and her extraordinarily expressive voice.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Weird overtones, spooky dissonances

I review Crystal Stilts' excellent new Nature Noir at Blurt today, and say, "These songs are the Crystal Stilts most pop tunes ever, but they are still tinged with weird overtones, spooky dissonances and cavernous, moisture-dripping reverberation."

Full review is here.

This one's from the first album, Alight of Night which was pretty awesome, too.

I saw them once at SXSW, one of the best live music nights of my life, but NOT because of Crystal Stilts.

I hear they've gotten better at the live thing, and anyway Zachary Cale is playing second guitar on their current tour, so that's a good thing. Might be worth checking them out again if you live in any of these places.

10/09 Detroit, MI – Garden Bowl^

10/10 Chicago, IL – Empty Bottle^

10/11 Grinnell, IA - Grinnell College - Gardner Lounge^ (free show)

10/12 Denver, CO - Walnut Room at Larimer Lounge^

10/15 Seattle, WA – Barboza^

10/16 Vancouver, BC – Electric Owl^

10/17 Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios^

10/18 San Francisco, CA – The Chapel^ w/Widowspeak

10/20 Los Angeles, CA – Part Time Punks^

10/21 Phoenix, AZ – Rhythm Room^

10/24 Austin, TX – Red 7^

10/25 Dallas, TX – Club Dada^

10/26 Oxford, MS – Lamar Lounge^

10/27 Birmingham, AL – The Bottletree^

10/28 Atlanta, GA – The Earl^

10/29 Richmond, VA – Strange Matter^

10/30 Washington, DC – Black Cat^

10/31 New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom^#

11/13 - Groningen, Netherlands - Vera

11/14 - Copenhagen, Denmark - Stengade

11/15 - Stockholm, Sweden - Debaser

11/16 - Oslo, Norway - Revolver

11/17 - Goteborg, Sweden - Pustervik

11/18 - Aarhus, Denmark - Voxhall

11/19 - Hamburg, Germany - Hafenklang

11/20 - Berlin, Germany - Gretchen Club

11/21 - Cologne, Germany - King Georg

11/22 - Kortrijk, Belgium - De Kreun

11/23 - Brighton, England - Green Door Store

11/24 -, Liverpool, England (presented by Liverpool Psych Fest) Shipping Forecast

11/25 - Glascow, Scotland - Mono

11/26 - Leeds, England - Brudenell Social Club

11/27 - Bristol, England - The Exchange

11/28 - London, England - Cargo

11/29 - Brussels, Belgium - Maison De Musiques

11/30 - Utrecht, Netherlands - Le Guess Who? Festival

12/1 - Paris, France - Point FMR

12/2 - Zurich, Switzerland - El Lokal

12/3 - Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland, Amalgame Club

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Josephine Foster is a dreamer

Wow, talk about an old-fashioned voice. Josephine Foster is meant for the Victrola, her voice trilling with old-time-y vibrato, flicking in and out of the notes, sliding in and then floating effortlessly free. She's a folk singer, I guess, though she sounds a good bit more mannered than that, and there's more than a hint of blues in the corners of these songs. She records, sometimes, with a flamenco band, but this album I'm a Dreamer tends more towards Americana -- guitar, piano, pedal steel and her. It's gorgeous, shadowy, ambiguous and if you're in the right mood (quiet, ruminative) absolutely mesmerizing.

I'm a Dreamer will come out on Fire Records in early November, but for now here's a taste.

Here she is, some time ago, playing the harp...unearthly eh?

In other non-musical news, my husband Bill has been getting some really good feedback from Blacklist on his movie script "Yours Truly Christopher Walken" (which also got to the finals in the Austin Film Festival Script Writing Contest). He got an 8 (of ten) on his professional read, as well as some really helpful notes, and that information is all public and on his profile now, so he has had a trickle of industry people starting to read it. Today, they sent out an email with all recent scripts rated 8 and up, so he is getting even more reads. I hope something happens for him. It is a really good script.

Also, I found out, almost by accident, that one of my biggest clients has been acquired, and though people have told me not to worry, of course I am worried. They are not as big (to me) as they used to be. They used to be by far my biggest client, and now they are third. Still, I don't need to be losing business at this stage. I need to be gaining it.

What else? We went to see Blackfish last night, the documentary about the killer whale that killed two trainers. It makes the point that the whale had every right to kill someone, after the way he'd been treated, but probably not those two particular people. Anyway, if you go to this movie, you will never want to see another aquarium show. It is horrible how they treat those beautiful, intelligent animals.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Lee Ranaldo

I've got a review of Lee Ranaldo's Last Day On Earth today at Dusted.

Lee Ranaldo was always the “Mr. Inside” of Sonic Youth, as much an architect of the band’s blinding, sheets of feedback guitar sound as Thurston Moore, as much a visual arts synthesiac as Kim Gordon, as offhandedly knowledgeable about pop and experimental music as either of them, but not as quick to the spotlight. Here in his second album with the Dust – that’s fellow SY vet Steve Shelley, Alan Licht and, this time, Tim Lüntzel on bass – Ranaldo makes a quiet claim on that band’s legacy. He is comfortable enough with the sounds and effects we associate with Sonic Youth to replicate them without the intervening distance of reference, but he is also ready to push these sounds into other more conventionally tuneful byways. Who knew that anyone could sound so much like Sonic Youth, and also so much like R.E.M., in the same song? Who would have guessed that it would work as well as it does in “Lecce, Leaving” where a college rock jangle twines around expansive blasts of feedback, where anthemic choruses give way to amp-torturing frenzies?


I was kind of hoping I could do this one and Angel Olsen on the same day, so I would just piss off Bill Meyer once, but alas...

Saturday, October 5, 2013


Typical Saturday, we go to the YMCA and work out then split a sandwich at the local coffee shop, then go to Turn It Up, the used record store downstairs from the movie theater and usually...don't buy anything.  (I love, love, love buying records, but you should see the pile on my desk.) 

Anyway, this time, Bill is bored with records stores and decides to go the the co-op instead in search of bee pollen (which is really good for allergies, as long as it's local), so I'm heading off to the record store he says, "Look for some Roots" because we have both been watching Fallon lately and thinking about how much we love the Roots (without having bought a whole lot of their recorded material, sadly).  But this time, I am on a mission, and so I go straight to the hip hop section, P-R, and there is Phrenology, the follow-up to what is widely considered the Roots' best, Things Fall Apart (which I think we have somewhere?)  So I buy it and we listen to it all the way home and it's phenomenal. About ten years ago, when it came out, Mojo called it "another masterpiece," Blender a "a nonstop joyride through some very complicated brains," and Spin said, "The Roots have never sounded this raw on record, this much like an actual band playing in an actual room."  (Which is essentially their whole shtick right there, but I guess they made it work?)

There are a bunch of interesting guests on this, Jill Scott, Talib Qweli, and, on this track Cody Chestnutt....Isn't is awesome? 

Anyway that my weekend discovery of the completely obvious.  I hope you found something fantastic out there in the world, too. 


Friday, October 4, 2013

This was a ....drawn out feeling

I've been quite taken with the wispy, fanciful, semi-cracked folk tunes of Mathew Sawyer (one "t", not a typo) lately, whose album Sleep Dreamt a Brother is out this month on Fire Records. I suppose the inevitable reference is Syd Barrett, but really, it's completely different. His voice sounds a good bit like Daniel Bejar, but that's about as far as that one goes...nothing in common in terms of songwriting style.

Here's a bit...weird how it's both skeletal and also kind of baroque...the piano and strings are almost transparent in the arrangement, but still there.

Sawyer is better known as a painter, apparently. Want to see some of his work?

I'm just finishing up my live review of that Angel Olsen/Pillars & Tongues show, looking forward to the end of this dreadful week. (However, on the bright side, I seem to have successfully opened an account on, though I can't buy a policy yet, since they're still checking my identity.)

Rain, rain, rain.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Another side to Mick Turner

It seems like I've been writing a lot, for the last couple of years, about Mick Turner, who is the guitar player for The Dirty Three (feature interview 9/12 in Blurt) and Venom P. Stinger (review in Dusted from last summer) and now the driving force behind a solo project which is called Mick Turner. (He's a painter, too, but I haven't written anything about that.)

This new album Don't Tell the Driver leans more towards the Dirty Three ethos than Venom -- it's expansively instrumented with brass and reeds and just a little singing, certainly more post-rock than post-punk, and gorgeously sad and spare.

Wait, I just found a paragraph about who's on the record, which is, apparently, an opera. (Like Tosca! or Tannheuser! except not!) This is from Exclaim, whose writer apparently got liner notes, lucky dog.

It's unclear if the narrative is connected throughout the concept LP, but Turner brought in Caroline Kennedy-McCraken (Dead Star, the Plums, Caroline No) and opera singer Oliver Mann to sing on the set. Additionally, bassist Peggy Frew leant a hand to the recordings, while Ian Wadley (Bird Blobs, Minimum Chips), Jeff Wegener (Laughing Clowns) and Kishore Ryan (Kid Sam, Where Were You At Lunch) played drums throughout the LP.

There's no audio yet, because the record's not out until November, but how about some Dirty Three instead?

There will be some shows, too, though mostly west coast and nothing in New England.
11/8/13 Union Pool Brooklyn NY
11/12/13 Rhythm Room Phoenix AZ w/ Bill Callahan
11/13/13 Pappy and Harriets Pioneertown Palace Pioneertown CA w/ Bill Callahan
11/14/13 Japan American Theatre Los Angeles CA w/ Bill Callahan
11/15/13 Soho Restaurant & Music Club Santa Barbara CA w/ Bill Callahan
11/16/13 Great American Music Hall San Francisco CA w/ Bill Callahan
11/17/13 The Chapel San Francisco CA w/ Bill Callahan
11/19/13 Aladdin Theater Portland OR w/ Bill Callahan
11/20/13 Neumo's Seattle WA w/ Bill Callahan
11/21/13 Beachland Ballroom Cleveland OH w/ Mono
11/22/13 Bottom Lounge Chicago IL w/ Mono
11/23/13 The Loving Touch Detroit MI w/ Mono

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Kelley Stoltz and Double Exposure

From my review of the new Kelley Stoltz, Double Exposure, up yesterday at Dusted.

"Poor Kelley Stoltz. For seven full-lengths and about 15 years, he has been the ultimate songwriter’s songwriter, a perennial touchstone, godfather and sometime producer for SF’s lo-fi scene who still makes a living tending bar and selling records. He works in an endless cycle of melancholy inspiration, getting so caught up in confecting jewel-like 1960s-psych-garage songs about love and its aftermath that his girlfriends inevitably get steamed and leave, providing yet more material for rueful romanticism. You’d have to feel sorry for the guy if he didn’t, fairly consistently, come up with the prettiest, sweetest, smartest DIY psych on the market."


an older song, but a good one

Angel Olsen

I went to see two Chicago bands -- Pillars and Tongues does a very interesting, layered, drone-y, electronically rhythmed indie rock with violin, guitar/bass/drums (one guy), synths and a harmonium.

Angel Olsen, who I first heard backing Will Oldham on Wolfroy Comes to Town has a kind extraordinary country folk voice, now shadowy and cool like Joni Mitchell, now vibrating with old time country tremolo, now carving a raw slice out of the air with a sharp, punk-ish yelp. She's an interesting, kind of prickly presence on stage.

I'm going to write about this later, so I don't want to go into a lot of detail, but I enjoyed it.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Pain is beauty...and intensity

Hey look my Chelsea Wolfe interview is up at PopMatters!

No Boxes: An Interview with Chelsea Wolfe
By Jennifer Kelly 1 October 2013

Chelsea Wolfe tells us about pain, beauty, synths, black metal, D.H. Lawrence and why she is really not the same as Zola Jesus at all.

“One of the things I used to really love about black metal, actually, is that kind of white noise. A lot of it has got this white noise to it that I find really comforting. Even if the song is really heavy, there’s a really peaceful white noise,” says Chelsea Wolfe, the LA-based songwriter whose dark, challenging work has ranged from metal to noise to goth to acoustic chamber folk over four albums, and currently includes elements of electro-pop. She made her mark, early on with a Burzum cover; she has, more recently, interpreted the work of Nick Cave. (She is one of the few contemporary artists to be represented on Mark Lanegan’s all-covers Imitations; he sings her song “Flatlands”, from the unplugged Unknown Rooms.)

If it all sounds a bit intense, well, it is. Wolfe’s latest album, Pain Is Beauty, plumbs the dangerous, obsessional side of love, seeing the urge to connect as a primal natural one, like animals migrating thousands of miles to nesting grounds. And there’s her other connection to heavy music, she adds. “A lot of death metal artists are really inspired by nature and use that as fuel to write music. That was actually something that inspired me a lot for this album, the beauty of nature, contrasted with the ugliness of nature.”


On the edge of the pit looking down

And slightly softer but still intense