PHW Songs of the Month - 3/08

At the end of every month I like to recap my favorite album and a handful of my absolute favorite songs. These are the tracks legally released in March that I know will soundtrack much of the year to come….
I’ve said it before - this Felice Brothers song sounds as if the Hold Steady were playing accordian driven Americana, or better yet, if The Band decided to cover “All The Young Dudes”. From their latest self-titled album; released via Team Love earlier this month.

MP3 :: Frankie’s Gun!
(from The Felice Brothers. Buy here)

This was a very pleasant surprise from the new one from State Bird - Mostly Ghostly. A sparkling acoustic raver with all sorts of wild backing vocals and random horns. I think this song is closer to what the people who’ve only ever read bad reviews of Sung Tongs and never actually listened to the band expect of Animal Collective. I mean that in a good way.

MP3 :: I Saw The Light
(from Mostly Ghostly. Buy here)

This is from the (extraordinarily) oddly titled debut from A Faulty Chromosome - As An Ex-Anorexic’s Six Sicks Exit,…, which I’ve been listening to for a few days now and will most likely post further about later in the week. This one is pure weird indie-pop mixed with smothered show-gaze - completely chaotic, messy, and strangely beautiful.

MP3 :: Them Pleasures of the Flesh
(from As An Ex-Anorexic’s Six Sicks Exit,…Buy here)

A standout from the remarkable Visiter. The Dodos have accomplished a rare feat - crafted an album with 14 tracks and a run time of over 60 minutes that doesn’t get dull. Freak-folk never sounded so celebrity-playlist-ready as on the first single.

MP3 :: Fools
(from Visiter. Buy here)

Songs of the Month - January
Songs of the Month - February

PHW Album of the Month - 3/08

Sorry about the lack of posts over the past few days (and the exceedingly short ones too). Been outta town over the weekend celebrating 3 years of knowing my favorite girlfriend ever. It was mostly all very romantic until I “accidentally” almost chopped off her arm in the car window as she was waving to her dad. She called me a wide variety of expletives as she screamed in pain. Ah, love.

Anyhow, hands down the PHW Album of the Month for March is Street Horrrsing by Fuck Buttons. Read my original post from last week here. The first listen knocked me on my ass, and since then it’s only gotten better. Quit being guitar snobs - this album rocks.

MP3 :: Bright Tomorrow
MP3 :: Sweet Love For Planet Earth
(from Street Horrrsing. Buy here)

The Dodos - Visiter

The Dodos Visiter is a breathtaking album - full of chaos, beauty, and one of the year’s best singles in “Fools”. It’s far better than I anticipated despite all the glowing reviews I‘ve been reading. Maybe I was wary of a band named after a bird species that has been extinct for 250 years. Whatever though, this party is still raging, so I didn’t miss out. Just consider me fashionably late. Recently released from French Kiss Records.

MP3 :: Fools
MP3 :: Walking
(from Visiter. Buy here)

New Music - State Bird

Yes, I do like some records that would be considered “freak-folk”, but in general I dismiss albums that are labeled with the tag. Most are just useless nonsense - artists that can’t really write good songs but throw in some tribal drumming, weird chanting, and faster-than-usual strumming and get lumped in as Devendra Banhart acolytes. Nothing like being late to a genre and using its coattails to sell a few more pieces of merch.

Anyway, State Bird is an Ohio band (a collaboration between Coby Hartzler and Jared Riblet, among other guests) who just released their sophomore effort through The Record Machine. Anyone paying attention will most likely hear the term “freak-folk“ in every State Bird review over the next few weeks and months, though it is deserving of a better fate. Mostly Ghostly is a pleasantly rag-tag collection of percolating rhythms, ever-shifting time signatures, eccentric male/female harmonies, random horn section interruptions, and driving acoustic guitar. In other words, nearly exactly what you’d expect from a freak-folk album, only better. Its saving grace is that Mostly Ghostly continually impresses with its lyrical depth and memorable melodies - effortlessly evoking a long lost time when man vs. nature wasn’t so one-sided. Images of pilgrims, Indians, ghosts, mountains, woods, light, and fire dominate the song titles - placing the setting somewhere between the untamed frontier of the Wild West and a State Park campfire with friends. The songs themselves would comfortably fit either.

After a brief album opening interlude of accordian and whistling, highlight “I Saw the Light” gets things off to a rollicking start. Its obvious allusion to the classic Hank Williams song is only a part of its charm - the rest belongs to the pristine interplay between the horns, acoustic guitar, and vocals. The lead vocals are interspersed with an off-kilter backing of assorted hollers, screams, and call-and-response shouting, which all work together beautifully and almost make you forget about those few seconds where everything drops out but the tribal drumming. Similar arrangements adorn most of these 12 tracks and make for a very enjoyable listening experience - a lovely blend of old-timey sounds (especially on another standout, “Hollerin’ Mountains”, which breaks down into about 15 seconds of spontaneous laughter at its conclusion) and some of the most listenable “freak-folk” I’ve heard.

MP3 :: I Saw the Light
MP3 :: The Golden Glowing Mask
MP3 :: What’s All That Racket In Our Haunted Attic?
(from Mostly Ghostly. Buy here)

State Bird are hitting the road, surely coming to a state near you:

Wed Mar 26 New York, NY - The Annex
Fri Mar 28 New York, NY - Fat Baby
Tue Apr 1 Akron, OH - Musica w/Cheyenne
Wed Apr 2 Marion, IN - Noah's
Thur Apr 3 Columbia, MO - East Side Tavern
Fri Apr 4 Kansas City, MO - The Record Bar
Sat Apr 5 Tulsa, OK - The Monolith w/The Non
Sun Apr 6 Denver, CO - Brooks Center Arts: Underground Tea House
Tue Apr 8 Salt Lake City, UT - Urban Lounge
Fri Apr 11 Seattle, WA - Q Cafe
Sun Apr 13 Port Townsend, WA - The Boiler Room
Mon Apr 14 Portland, OR - Towne Lounge
Wed Apr 16 Mountain View, CA - Red Rock
Thur Apr 17 Pioneertown, CA - Pappy and Harriet's
Fri Apr 18 Los Angeles, CA - Brother's House Show
Sat Apr 19 Los Angeles, CA - Pehrspace
Mon Apr 21 Phoenix, AZ - The Trunk Space
Tue Apr 22 Roswell, NM - The Unity Center
Wed Apr 23 Oklahoma City, OK - The Conservatory w/The Non
Thur Apr 24 Dallas, TX - Club Dada
Fri Apr 25 Austin, TX - Hole in the Wall w/Dana Falconberry
Sat Apr 26 McAllen, TX - The Incubator
Thur May 1 Bowling Green, KY - The Brewing Company

Destroyer - "Trouble In Dreams" Released This Week

I'm pretty sure you didn't need me to remind you of that, it's been everywhere lately, but this is my hobby. After living with these 11 new Bejar songs for the past 2 months or so I'd have to say the "very good but not quite as great as Rubies" type reviews it's generating to be fair and accurate. Coke Machine Glow has an interesting pair of point-counterpoint reviews up, and Pop Matters likes it just slightly more than Pitchfork.

I'm listening right now, and while I often enjoy trying to decode Bejar's surrealistic, drunken pirate poetics (cool album art dude), sometimes it gets exhausting. Unless this thing has some serious legs and starts sharing some pretty awesome secrets I'm not in on yet, I'm not hearing an Album of the Year contender (as I found its predescessor to be). Nevertheless, Trouble In Dreams is easily among the best albums I've heard 3 months into 2008 and certainly worth your attention - if for no other reason than for the killer lines in "Shooting Rockets" - it's not that i quit/it's not that my poems are shit/in the light of the privelege of dreams/alive she cried once now alive she screams.

MP3 :: Foam Hands
(from Trouble In Dreams. Buy here)

New Music - M83

M83, the musical project of Anthony Gonzalez, will release Saturdays = Youth on April 14. I’m just now catching up with M83 after recently picking up their critically acclaimed Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts from 2004, and so far I‘m really enjoying the process.

From the new record, “Graveyard Girl” is a slippery, guitar driven synth-pop anthem and perhaps the most accessible song I‘ve heard yet from the band. “Couleurs” is the sprawling, addictive first single - 8 ½ minutes of pulsing beats and pillowy electronics. Granted I’m new to this band, but I’d find it hard to think of fans being disappointed by either of these new songs.

MP3 :: Graveyard Girl
MP3 :: Couleurs
(from Saturdays = Youth. Buy here)

New Sounds Goin' Round....

Props to Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands for this one. Cranes & Crows are on the tiny little label, Amble Down Records, that just so happened to put out Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago last year. This song, from Blame Winter, is a perfectly wistful and yearning little gem, and shows the guys at Amble Down know their rustic, wintry folk as well as anyone.

MP3 :: So It Goes
(from Blame Winter. Buy here)

Jay Reatard is a name that I feel funny saying or typing, like my girlfriend the social worker wouldn’t appreciate my insensitivity or something. No, Re-a-tard sweety. Snap girl, you know I’m not like that. Yikes. This is from a Matador comp coming out in June.

MP3 :: Always Wanting More
(from Matador)

Windsor For The Derby will release How We Lost on 5/20 through Jagjaguwar/Secretly Canadian. Pretty much everything from those guys is money. Um, so yeah….

MP3 :: Hold On
(from How We Lost. Info here)

Gold Soundz: "I Saw The Light"

My Easter was very nice, thanks for asking. After the turkey dinner and subsequent nap on the living room floor (of my girlfriend’s parents house) I woke up to the sounds of a family jam session, which, come to think of it, may have been initiated to drown out my snoring. It was basically her very talented brother playing guitar and those who knew the words to the songs he played singing along as best we could. Being Easter there were a bunch of old spirituals and what not, and though not my genre of expertise, they hit the spot.

And it also made me appreciate “I Saw The Light” even more. I’ve always loved the song - from Hanks Williams’ original to covers from Bill Monroe, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Bap Kennedy and so on. Without question, this is one of those songs you hear once and it’s forever etched into your brain. I had to ask last night whether Hank wrote the song himself, or if it was some timeless old folk song he appropriated, but he did in fact write it. It wasn’t much of a hit for Hank in his day, but over the years it’s become one of his most recognizable songs. I bet that if this song (and others like it) was used in church I might get my ass there more than once a year.

I probably appreciate Williams’ influence and mythology more than I actually listen to him though - usually when I do it’s a few songs in a row, sometimes over and over, before I move on to something else. My drive home from her house last night was just such an occasion - “I Saw The Light” playing 4 or 5 times on repeat, with Hank’s cracked country voice dancing in the light with a joyous fiddle. And then wouldn’t you know it….the Belt Parkway backed up to a crawl as the procession of Sunday drivers made their way Westbound into a beautiful blinding sunset.

MP3 :: I Saw The Light
(from Hank Williams: Gold. Buy here)

Gold Soundz highlight some of my favorite songs of all time. “Gold Soundz” because I thought it would be cool to rip off a title for a “column” from a not-at-all obscure Pavement song. Previously featured in Gold Soundz:

Slobberbone :: “Gimme Back My Dog”
The Jam :: “In The City”
World Party :: “Way Down Now”
Elmore James :: “The Sky Is Crying”
John Prine :: “Lake Marie”
The Band :: “Jawbone”
Neutral Milk Hotel :: “Holland, 1945”
The Velvet Underground :: “I Heard Her Call My Name”

New Music - Fuck Buttons

I’m normally late to albums from genres I’m not in love with. Eff You See Kay (pronounced Fuck) Buttons new album of miniature electronic symphonies, Street Horsssing, is just such an example of my tardiness. I bet I’ve heard the name (like you could forget it) many times since they released the album for free on their website last year, but avoided a listen because, well, that’s one scary name. Turns out there’s nothing to be frightened of at all - unless you’re a guitar purist who can’t deal with beautiful, gently swelling washes of computer and synth generated noise effects and incoherent (albeit low-in-the-mix) screaming. This blending of sounds creates an environment that straddles the line between aggressive and tranquil - a world of beautiful noise that’s hard to leave.

And I can’t describe this music any better than that. I don’t know the right cliches, but for some reason I think this music transcends them anyway. Like The Field (whom “Bright Tomorrow” recalls). Fuck Buttons (it’s a funny thing typing that, like I’m going to get in trouble or something) are one of the most deservedly hyped acts out there right now. Street Horsssing has now been made properly available from ATP Recordings - and it’s the most combative and rewarding new music I’ve heard in a while. Glad I finally listened.

MP3 :: Bright Tomorrow
MP3 :: Sweet Love For Planet Earth
(from Street Horsssing. Buy here)

Listen :: Centro-matic's "Dual Hawks"

Centro-matic may be the most dependable indie-rock act out there today. The only other band I can think of off the top of my head that has released such a strong string of records, dating back to the late 90s, is Spoon. I couldn’t put Centro-Matic’s albums in order of preference if you paid me, though if you want to pay me I’d be willing to give it a go…

As previously reported, Will Johnson and the band will soon release Dual Hawks - a split LP with their own side project South San Gabriel on Misra Records. The double album will hit European shelves April 14th, with a June 3rd release date Stateside. They’ve recently updated their myspace page to allow you to stream 5 new tracks, which don’t disappoint in the least. Once you’ve checked them out, head over to SSG’s page to stream some of their new ones as well.

MP3 :: Triggers And Trash Heaps
MP3 :: Patience For The Ride
(from Fort Recovery. Buy here)

Previously :: Centro-Matic: Feedback Recovery (a primer with tons of mp3s courtesy of Misra Records and the band)

New Music - Animal Collective

It was only about 8 months ago that Animal Collective dropped one of 2007’s best albums with Strawberry Jam, but here we are 3 months into ‘08 and they’re already set to follow it up. The avant-pop maestros will release Water Curses, an EP comprised of 4 songs left over from the Strawberry Jam sessions on May 5, again through Domino Records.

Water Curses is a more stripped down and (almost) ambient affair than its predecessor - more akin to earlier recordings such as Sung Tongs or Feels than Strawberry Jam's near-traditional indie-rock structures. Each song is its own sonic adventure working together to create a concise, languidly blissed-out listening experience.

“Street Flash” is what I’ve had on repeat for the past half hour or so - Avey Tare’s vocal range on display over gentle electronics, droning noise effects, and some scary-ass background screaming. It’s getting late, I’m getting tired, and I’m afraid this song may soundtrack some pretty intense, albeit mellow, nightmares tonight.

MP3 :: Street Flash
(from Water Curses. Info here)

New Music - Anders Elowsson

More good music coming in from overseas - this time from Swedish-born Anders Elowsson. Despite the boyish profile, Elowsson demonstrates a seasoned mastery of the studio environment on his debut, It Used To Feel So Good. These are some sunny, chiming folk-rock jams that, not unlike some of the latter-day Jayhawks material, have a professional polish brightening the melodies without dimming the passion. Elowsson’s nasally-challenged croon will no doubt cause many a critic to use “sounds like Dylan” comparisons, whether or not its deserved. He uses the voice to great effect though, especially on soulful standout “Main Street” (which, come to think of it, is reminding me melodically of Grand Prix-era Teenage Fanclub). It Used To Feel So Good will be released April 7th by Marilyn Records.

MP3 :: Main Street
MP3 :: It Used To Feel So Good
(from It Used To Feel So Good. Info here)

Gold Soundz: "I Heard Her Call My Name"

Last week I posted a few classic songs from The Band, so this week for Gold Soundz I thought I would go with something I consider their polar opposite. For two great American bands that existed in roughly the same era, you could hardly find music as contrary to The Band as The Velvet Underground. Where Robbie Robertson’s crew looked to history and tradition for inspiration, seemingly drawing from the entire canon of American music, Lou Reed and his crew pushed the sonic envelope forward - and in doing so basically became the fathers of alternative music.

Although all 4 of VU’s proper records are unanimously considered essential, it’s usually the two that bookend their short recording career that receive the most critical and commercial attention. The timeless debut, The Velvet Underground & Nico, comes with a legacy of influence - it’s been said many times that few people heard it upon its release, but those who did all formed bands of their own. Loaded ended the collaboration and yielded The Velvets only real radio hits in “Sweet Jane” and “Rock and Roll” - but also demonstrated that this once uncompromisingly anti-commercial band was capable of writing enduring pop songs with somewhat surprising accuracy.

While both of these albums are unquestionably great, I more often throw on one of the middle 2 records - White Light/White Heat for its dissonant guitar squalls and the eponymous third album for its quiet, elegant introspection. These two albums, separated by less than 2 years, are nearly as different in sound and scope from one another as VU was to The Band. The degenerate, 17-minute “Sister Ray” would probably be the go-to track from the former, but it’s “I Heard Her Call My Name” I’m going to spotlight here. The track truly captures the album’s spirit - layered fuzz and some of the harshest electric guitar ever put to tape envelope a very melodic Lou Reed vocal.

MP3 :: I Heard Her Call My Name
(from White Light/White Heat. Buy here)

It’s even harder for me to choose a track from The Velvet Underground, as most are worthy of individual attention. The album came at a time of great upheaval within the band, as Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker were forced to choose sides between the warring leaders of the band - Reed and John Cale (who was the primary force behind the last album’s abrasiveness). Obviously both chose Reed, who went on to pen some of the most beautiful songs of his entire career for their next recording. “I’m Set Free” is my favorite at the moment - it’s growing hymn-like vocals are soothing and anthemic, and capture the album’s themes of release and forgiveness as well as any.

MP3 :: I’m Set Free
(from The Velvet Underground. Buy here)

Gold Soundz highlight some of my favorite songs of all time. “Gold Soundz” because I thought it would be cool to rip off a title for a “column” from a not-at-all obscure Pavement song. Previously featured in Gold Soundz:

Slobberbone :: “Gimme Back My Dog”
The Jam :: “In The City”
World Party :: “Way Down Now”
Elmore James :: “The Sky Is Crying”
John Prine :: “Lake Marie”
The Band :: “Jawbone”
Neutral Milk Hotel :: “Holland, 1945”

New Music - Hospital Bombers

There’s been a solid string of releases, as usual, coming in from overseas already in 2008. I recently posted tracks from Norwegian singer/songwriter Hanne Hukkelberg (here) and Swedish indie-folk rockers The Second Band (here). Now, here come Hospital Bombers (named after a Mountain Goats song), straight outta Amsterdam and playing, as they call it, “stadium folk”. We’ll have to wait until May for the U.S. release of their new album Footnotes, but here’s a sneak peak with first single “The Devil’s Music” - as fine a piece of Old World folk-punk I’ve heard immigrate in quite a while. Footnotes will be released by Excelsior Recordings on May 13.

MP3 :: The Devil’s Music
(from Footnotes. Info here)

Video: Spoon - "You Got Yr Cherry Bomb"

Here’s the second (or possibly third) official video from PHW’s second favorite album of 2007. The cut and paste animations are almost the complete aesthetic opposite of “The Underdog’s” one-shot studio trickery, but it fits the song - images flashing before your eyes trying to keep up with Britt Daniel’s explosive melodies. If you’re reading this right now you all but certainly already own Spoon’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, but if you don’t I feel sorry for you. Get with the program stinky.

Also, Spoon will be releasing a new single on April 8th. It’s for “Don’t You Evah” - one of the album’s highlights and the first cover song since Girls Can Tell’s “Me And The Bean” on a Spoon recording. The single will house a new Spoon song, “All I Got Is Me”, 5(!) remixes of the single, and The Natural History’s original version.

MP3 :: The Underdog
MP3 :: The Ghost Of You Lingers
(from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. Buy here or at the new Merge Records digital store)

Previously: Did you know Gimme Fiction could've been better?


Catch Spoon on tour:

04.02.2008 Kansas City MO @ Uptown Theater #
04.03.2008 Davenport IA @ Capitol Theater #
04.04.2008 Chicago IL @ Vic Theatre #
04.05.2008 Cincinnati OH @ Bogart's #
04.06.2008 Detroit MI @ Emerald Theatre #
04.07.2008 Pittsburgh PA @ Carnegie Music Hall #
04.09.2008 New York City NY @ Terminal 5
04.10.2008 Philadelphia PA @ Electric Factory %
04.12.2008 Norfolk VA @ Norva #
04.14.2008 Atlanta GA @ Center Stage Theatre of Atlanta #
04.16.2008 Ft. Lauderdale FL @ Revolution #
04.18.2008 Nashville TN @Vanderbilt Alumni Lawn &
04.19.2008 Indianapolis IN @ The Vogue Theatre
04.20.2008 Lawrence KS @ Liberty Hall

# = with The Walkmen & White Rabbits
% = with The Walkmen
& = with The Avett Brothers & Colbie Cailat

Introducing: Blip Blip Bleep

Talkin' New York, Vol. 12:

As well as being the first year of this blog, 2007 was also a year of growth in my own personal music tastes. I guess that came with the territory of trying to put together a website that people would come to for discovering some new tunes. It was the first time in my life when I listened to hardly anything but new music, and in doing so I became more accepting of genres beyond indie-rock and folk. I guess that’s not exactly accurate - I’ve listened to a good amount of blues, country, jazz, and soul for most of my adult life. I guess the music I opened up to, and which I had previously avoided at all costs, was of the electronic variety. Songs and albums by Dan Deacon, LCD Soundsystem, The Octopus Project, M.I.A., Burial, and The Field were among my favorites of last year, and are still getting plenty of play here at the luxurious Pop Headwound headquarters (the car, the iPod, the apartment, etc). Just don’t ask me to dance.

I can now add Blip Blip Bleep to the list. Blip Blip Bleep is the work of Sean Han, Brett Thompson, and Sarah Lee - 3 Brooklynites who play incredibly well written, high-energy electronic rock. Alarm Clock, Snooze Bar, Get Up (4/8, Undercover Culture Music/IODA) is the name of their soon to be released sophomore EP and I’ve been playing it pretty consistently for about a month now. It’s actually a very even mix of electronic and rock sounds - plenty of live drums to go with the synths, and plenty of electric guitar to go with the sound effects. Over its 6 pulsing tracks the EP tells the story of a day in the life of an anonymous working 20-something New Yorker. Getting up for another day of work, struggling to make it to the 5 o’clock whistle, and then going out and getting fucked up until the early morning hours. Work, drink, sleep, repeat. You don't have to be a New Yorker to know this lifestyle.

Alarm Clock, Snooze Bar, Get Up sets the hazy repetition of those post-college/pre-adult years into urgent, kinetic sonic environments that work for fans of both indie-rock and electronic music. Sonically, these 6 songs bristle with shimmering pop hooks and throb with dance-floor ready beats. The title track gets things going with one bad-ass guitar riff and some great dual vocals from Han and Lee on its chorus. From there each song is equally strong - not a bum note gets played - making for a strikingly cohesive and consistent mini-concept album. “Okay Lover” (as in “you were an okay lover” and featured below) plays out like a more muscular version of The Postal Service, and features some of the record’s most visceral, direct lyrics. Thematically, the EP reminds me quite a bit of LCD Soundsystem’s 2007 tour-de-force “All My Friends” - one could easily imagine this EP's narrator going through life in this repetitive manner for 10 or 12 more years, then waking up one day wondering, as James Murphy’s does, about where his years and friends have gone. Until then there’s only the monotony of working life and lonely drunken nights - and an alarm clock that keeps the cycle going.

MP3 :: Okay Lover
Stream :: Da Me Cinco
(from Alarm Clock, Snooze Bar, Get Up. Info here)

The EP will be available come the release date basically on all legit online retailers and thru Blip Blip Bleep’s website. There will also be a CD release party at the Mercury Lounge on Friday, 4/25. BBB hits the stage at 8:30.

Check the sidebar for previous "Talkin' New York" features on emerging New York talent ---->

Gold Soundz: "Jawbone"

There’s no way I could shed any new light on the legacy of The Band, so there’s no reason to try. But lately I’ve been listening to the very worthwhile A Musical History boxed set every chance I get and marveling once again at the scope of the music therein. The music and mystique created by Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, and Garth Hudson, especially during the Big Pink era that yielded Music From Big Pink and The Band, are damn near unparalleled in the canon of American music. To call them a rock band is missing the point - I can think of no other band in rock history that melded so many influences so seamlessly. One only need watch or listen to The Band perform alongside such diverse luminaries as Dr. John, Muddy Waters, Ronnie Hawkins, Emmylou Harris, and The Staples Singers during their farewell concert, The Last Waltz, for proof of this.

When looking back over the 15 or so year career of The Band it’s inevitably the years from around 1965 to 1969 (the Dylan/Big Pink years) that get the majority of the focus, and rightfully so. And ironically for me, one of my favorite songs of this period, Richard Manuel’s “Jawbone”, is the one and only song from the eponymous second album that is not included on the boxed set. I can’t really understand its omission - to me it captures the old world aura the Band so thoroughly crafted as well or better than any other. Like many of those songs, “Jawbone” sounds like it could have been written at any point over the previous, oh, 100 years or so - some long lost Civil War-era folk song as easily as modern rock. I’m sure that’s mostly me completely buying into the scruffy little hobo promotional pictures (like the one above), but still.

The other thing that wrecks me about “Jawbone” is the chorus - I’ve never been able to understand a word Manuel is singing. I have no idea what the song’s about, no idea what that powerful melody is saying - but it sounds perfect nonetheless. I’d like to keep it that way too. I know that no matter what the words are, they can’t match the emotion, the conviction, Manuel puts behind them. To know what they are may just take away from that connection I’ve made with their sound. The meaning is meaningless. An overlooked gem in their canon, no doubt.

MP3 :: Jawbone
(from The Band. Buy here)

Right now I’m also really enjoying “Ophelia”, from the 1976 album Northern Lights-Southern Cross. Those classic early years (“The Weight”, “Up On Cripple Creek”, “Stage Fright”, etc.) are rightfully lauded, and while they had clearly passed their creative peak by the mid-70s, the later years were certainly full of their share of classic tunes. “Ophelia” is sung by Levon, and with its jaunty, playful lyrics and horn arrangement sounds like it’d be ready for a steamy New Orleans evening. I’m not saying it’s my favorite Band song, but right now it’s sure doing the trick.

MP3 :: Ophelia
(from A Musical History. Buy here)

And here’s the live version recorded for The Last Waltz, with Garth Hudson’s “Chest Fever”-tease organ solo intro:


As a bonus, and to give Rick Danko equal face time with Manuel and Helm, here’s one of the many previously unreleased gems scattered about on A Musical History. Again it’s a late-period track, this time written and sung by Danko, and for some reason left off the 1977 album Islands.

MP3 :: Home Cookin’
(from A Musical History. Buy here)

New Music - We Were The States

I’ve been listening to this new album from We Were The States a lot lately. It’s called Believe The Thieves and it came out this week via Chicken Ranch Records. These 5 guys from Tennessee bring energy to spare to these 12 songs, and though it isn’t wowing me with originality, Believe the Thieves is a promising debut from a band firmly rooted in passionate, nervy modern rock - a la The Walkmen or The Strokes. No pretense to be found, just straight ahead rock n' roll. Remember that?

MP3 :: Up Your Sleeve
MP3 :: See If I Care
(from Believe the Thieves. Buy here)

And the video for “Up Your Sleeve”:


New Music - The War On Drugs

I just finished watching Season 1 of The Wire on DVD the other night. I’m a Lost guy through and through, but The Wire was really mind-blowing. Easily the most effective and affecting fictionalized documentation on this country’s war on drugs that I’ve seen since Traffic. Gritty, brutal, brilliantly written, perfectly cast - I’m going to enjoy getting caught up with seasons 2, 3, 4, & 5 over the coming weeks, no doubt. As satisfying as the last episode was though, the fact that the problem can’t be eradicated was never sugar-coated or ignored - one group of dealers and suppliers is arrested, another takes their place. The show ended poignantly with this fact, sad but true.

Luckily things aren’t quite so hopeless with the band The War On Drugs. (Nice segue, eh?). Recently signed to Secretly Canadian, The War On Drugs is influenced by Bob Dylan, CCR, and Suicide. They will be releasing a full length in mid 2008, but for a limited time are giving away (read: free) their Barrel of Batteries EP. Combining 3 well crafted indie-rock tunes with 3 short ambient instrumentals, the EP showcases lead singer Adam Granduciel’s unique vocals and the band’s inventive arrangements. Get a taste here or download the whole EP (for a limited time) from SC:

MP3 :: Arms Like Boulders
(from Barrel of Batteries EP. Download here)

The EP is also available as a free download over at emusic

Video: Capgun Coup

Capgun Coup was one of 2007’s unexpected pleasures for me - the CD got sent along from Team Love Records and it wound up soundtracking a good portion of my late summer. In fact, “Bobby Chops And The Do-Gooders” ended up as one of my favorite songs of last year. Here’s the new video for one of Brought To You By Nebrakafish’s stranger tracks - “A Liar In Texas In A Green Room In Memphis”.

MP3 :: Bobby Chops And The Do-Gooders
(from Brought To You By Nebraskafish. Buy here)

The Best of Mid-90s (Mostly) Canadian Post-Grunge Alt-Rock (Seriously!)

Listening to Buffalo rock stations during my college days in the mid-90s led to a few inevitable guilty pleasures. Of course I didn’t think that at the time - back then these songs just flat out rawked. What this short mix proves is that Canadians did post-grunge radio rock much much better than, say, American bands like Seven Mary Three or whoever. Back in the day I had no problem saying these songs were fucking great. Today, with only a hint of irony, is no different. “Starseed”? Are you fucking kidding me?

MP3 :: Starseed [by Our Lady Peace (pictured above in tight clothes)]
(from Naveed. Buy here)

MP3 :: That Song [by Big Wreck]
(from In Loving Memory Of… Buy here)

MP3 :: Mighty K.C. [by For Squirrels]
(from Example. Buy here - used and for $0.13! Barely worth it)

MP3 :: Shine [by Junkhouse]
(from Fuzz. Buy here)

MP3 :: Red [by Treble Charger]
(from Maybe It’s Me. Buy here)

MP3 :: Indestructible [by Matthew Good Band]
(from In A Coma. Buy here)

Spoon: Gimme Fiction (Re-Imagined)

Right from the very beginning Spoon was never a band content with sitting still. A distinct line of evolution is discernible between every album (and even EPs, in some cases). 1998’s A Series Of Sneaks (and especially its predecessor, the Soft Effects EP) was a great leap forward from Telephono, the inauspicious debut of a bunch of Texas kids bred on Wire and The Pixies. Follow-up Girls Can Tell showed Britt Daniels had a much broader scope of musical influences. On it he displayed a more personal and lyrically detailed side to his songwriting, and introduced a soulful, balanced band sound that relied on keyboards nearly as much as piercing guitar work. And Kill The Moonlight, one of 2002’s brightest indie-rock moments, took the pop influences that were beginning to surface in the music and stripped them down to their skeletal minimum - the perfect accompaniment for Daniel’s frightened, starving, razor-sharp songs.

By that point Spoon had reached the upper-echelon of independent American bands. They toured heavily, as the fan interest had caught up to the critical acclaim, and set out to record the follow-up in late 2004. In the spring of 2005 the band emerged with Gimme Fiction, an album that continued the band’s evolution by streamlining their signature sound into something a bit more polished and radio-friendly. It’s a well-produced set of songs that were more fleshed out that any the band had released in years. The guitar solos came early and often in “The Beast and Dragon, Adored” and “My Mathematical Mind”, housing some of Britt Daniel’s most inspired 6-string anti-heroics. There were brilliantly written and executed indie pop-rock songs in “The Two Sides Of Msr. Valentin“ and “I Summon You”, and with “I Turn My Camera On” and “Sister Jack”, the perfect vehicles for some much-deserved crossover attention.

On paper, Gimme Fiction sounds like an overwhelming success, and for all intents and purposes, it certainly is. I’d put the first 7 tracks up against any other album of the decade in terms of quality and consistency. Unfortunately for us demanding perfectionists who enjoy their records playable from start to finish, Gimme Fiction doesn’t fully satisfy. After the final strums of “I Summon You” there is an obvious drop in song quality over the Gimme Fiction’s final act. “The Infinite Pet” and “Was It You” sound like the band self-consciously trying to be artsy and challenging, “They Never Got You” has a nervy, 80s pop feel to it but comes across as little more than a unfinished demo, and “Merchants Of Soul” aimlessly brings the album to an unmemorable conclusion. Don’t get me wrong, on the strength of its opening run Gimme Fiction is an excellent album, but as with The Replacements’ Tim and Wilco’s A Ghost Is Born, there was potential for it to be much stronger, start to finish.

Luckily for us Spoon was in quite a prolific state at the time of Gimme Fiction’s recording. There were a handful of tracks recorded that were used as b-sides and bonus tracks that are considerably stronger than a few of the album’s lesser moments. So, the following is nothing more than how I wish the album were released. If it had been I think I’d be talking about my favorite Spoon album, instead of one with just a remarkable opening 2/3.

1 - The Beast And Dragon, Adored
2 - Two Sides of Monsieur Valentin
3 - I Turn My Camera On
4 - My Mathematical Mind
5 - The Delicate Place
6 - Sister Jack
7 - I Summon You

8 - MP3 :: Monkey Feelings (from the Sister Jack U.S. single. Buy here) - no, this song isn’t reinventing the wheel of indie-pop songs, but it’s drum-tight rhythm is prime Spoon and Daniel throws some really nice harmonies on top.

9 - My First Time Volume 3 (Itunes exclusive) - sorry, no mp3 here. But this song, well worth the $.99 price tag, features the same sort of slinky bass work as “I Turn My Camera On” and that falsetto voice that brings the babes out to the shows.

10 - MP3 :: Sunday Morning, Wednesday Night (from the Sister Jack import single. Buy here) - placed at this point on the album, this track breaks up the string of up-tempo songs preceding it, and shows the band hadn’t forgotten its way around an echoed, moody, strangely beautiful ballad.

11 - MP3 :: Carryout Kids (bonus track from Gimme Fiction) - this is exactly the type of song Gimme Fiction was lacking - a daring sonic assault that features a manic, keyboard dominant arrangement. Here it finishes off the album as a link between Kill the Moonlight and the haunted atmospherics of “The Ghost Of You Lingers”.

Again, I’m not trying to knock this album - Spoon has probably become my favorite working band over the past 4 or 5 years. But, what do you think about this re-imagining? Leave well enough alone? Do these tracks improve on an already impressive album? Leave a comment, share a thought or 2….

New Music - Jim White

My only familiarity with the music of Jim White before hearing his latest, Transnormal Skiperoo, was his 2001 album No Such Place. After reading quite a few fawning European reviews I had decided to check it out - and I enjoyed about half of it. There were a handful of very interesting folk-noir standouts, and a few songs whose, well, weirdness, were lost on me. A few years later I ignorantly ignored 2004’s follow-up Drill A Hole In That Substrate And Tell Me What You See, despite again reading some very positive British reviews and enjoying the only song I heard from it - “Static On The Radio”.

So it was with some unwarranted reservation that I listened when this new one found its way to my inbox the other day. Being a product of David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label might explain some of that weirdness that creeps through these dark, near-whispered stories, but I can’t help but notice a stronger sense of melody working here than on previous efforts (or, at least, the previous efforts I’m familiar with), as well as more fleshed out, interactive aural settings.

The 12 songs on Transnormal Skiperoo work together sonically to create their own little minor-key universe. It's a haunting, soulful place where White’s stories (rife with oddball characters and religious imagery) and hushed vocals meet up with his band’s spacious (and spacey) arrangements. “Crash Into The Sun” might be the best thing I’ve yet heard from the man - a spry, bluesy tune with plenty of horns and some fun call-and-response background vocals. Album opener “A Town Called Amen”, with a few less bells and whistles, could easily pass for a long lost classic from Townes Van Zandt. Good stuff indeed. Transnormal Skiperoo is out now.

MP3 :: A Town Called Amen
MP3 :: Crash Into The Sun
(from Transnormal Skiperoo. Stream the album here. Buy here)

Video: Bon Iver - "The Wolves (Act I & II)"

The video for “The Wolves (Act I & II)” is the first to come from Bon Iver’s modern masterpiece For Emma, Forever Ago. It gets said often about many records, but this one really does get better every time I listen to it. Justin Vernon’s backwoods melodies are unfailingly sturdy and deceptively elastic at the same time - evolving like wine into something more beautiful every single day.

Directed by Matt Amato for The Masses. Filmed on location in Fall Creek, Wisconsin - January 2008.

MP3 :: Skinny Love
(from For Emma, Forever Ago. Buy here)

Watch the video at Virb or Jagjaguwar as well.

Previously - For Emma, Forever Ago

New Music - The Felice Brothers

I am thoroughly enjoying the self-titled new album from The Felice Brothers. This marks the second excellent release, after Flowers Forever, already this year from the folks at Team Love - the imprint co-founded by Conor Oberst. As luck would have it The Felice Brothers wound up opening for Bright Eyes late last year, including a show at Radio City that I was supposed to go to (shoot!). They were soon signed and put together some songs from older, self-released albums with a few new tunes for this record. The band itself is actually comprised of 3 brothers, amongst other musical contributors, and got their start the old fashioned way - by busking on subways, at farmers markets, etc.

Lead single “Frankie’s Gun!” is, like Muzzle of Bees said, one of the best things I’ve heard all year. It’s an outlaw tale with heart that sounds like The Hold Steady playing accordion-fueled Americana, or better yet, The Band covering Mott The Hoople’s “All The Young Dudes”. Much of the rest of the record is more low key, but no less interesting. “Wonderful Life” is a beautiful standout, as are the rousing, drunken-country spirituals “Take This Bread” and “Radio Song” - both fit to be sung along to in the bar on Saturday night or in a church on Sunday morning. When all is said and done, The Felice Brothers is a sprawling, ragged collection that takes roots music and turns it on its ear.

MP3 :: Frankie’s Gun!
MP3 :: Wonderful Life
(from The Felice Brothers. Buy here)

Hear more music and find tour dates on myspace

Gold Soundz: "Way Down Now"

If there’s a bigger cliché in music writing than calling a pop song “infectious” I’d like to hear it. No matter the true meaning of the word though, “Way Down Now” by World Party is totally infectious - a shimmering should-be classic that hit my ears around the height of grunge and couldn’t help but jump out amongst all those slow, plodding riffs. Karl Wallinger’s sole mission appeared to be channeling the entire British Invasion, especially Revolver-era Beatles. With “Way Down Now” he wrote a song that stands up nicely to that era.

“Way Down Now” was a minor alternative radio hit in the U.S. after its release. It was maybe too British for broader American popular taste, what with “faceless gets” and “Sympathy for the Devil”-aping “whoo-whoo’s” running amuck, so it never really crossed over to the mainstream. It’s a song that got lost in time. It missed its chance at a snug little spot between “And Your Bird Can Sing” and “The Kids Are Alright” on the charts, and finally poked its head out to a world that no longer fell for songs that sounded like 3 and ½ minute choruses with an Cockney accent.

It’s also kind of a mess really. In fact, I think that’s what made it a revelation for me hearing it as an impressionable young high-schooler. It was sloppier than most anything I’d ever heard before. It certainly didn’t sound radio ready to my 15 year old ears in 1990, but therein lied its charm. It was glorious and perfect and sloppy as hell. I was infected and am yet to recover.

MP3 :: Way Down Now
(from Goodbye Jumbo. Buy here)

These are some of my favorite songs of all time. “Gold Soundz” because it’s cool to have a “feature” that rips off a not-at-all obscure Pavement song.

Gold Soundz - “Gimme Back My Dog”
Gold Soundz - “In The City”
Gold Soundz - “Lake Marie”
Gold Soundz - “The Sky Is Crying”
Gold Soundz - “Holland, 1945”

Wilco Perform "Walken" On SNL

Good performance. Better outfit. And what’s wrong with the world when it takes Wilco 13 years to get on SNL, but Vampire Weekend gets on after about 13 days? Let the backlash to the backlash to the backlash begin.

Previously :: Wilco’s A Ghost Is Born - Reimagined

New Music - Tokyo Police Club

Tokyo Police Club were apparently quite the blog sensation a few years back with a pair of well received EPs. Me though, I’d never heard a note before being sent this new single. [joke about living 'in a cave' edited out]. I thought they were going to sound like an Asian Interpol or something (my bad), and I just didn't think the world needed another one of those bands. This song's from their upcoming debut full length, Elephant Shell, which will be released by Saddle Creek on April 22. It’s taut, tight, and catchy, and sounds familiar (in a good way) and not at all like Interpol. Color me impressed.

MP3 :: In A Cave
(from Elephant Shell. Info here)

The band will be hitting NY for a few dates around release time. Check the rest of the dates here.
Sun Apr 20 - New York, NY Bowery Ballroom
Mon Apr 21 - Brooklyn, NY, Music Hall of Williamsburg
Tue Apr 22 - New York, NY Bowery Ballroom

New Music - Shearwater

Though they share primary members with Okkervil River, the music of Shearwater only vaguely recalls their indie-folk brethren. While the former, led by sometime Shearwater collaborator Will Sheff, combines highly literate narratives, Sheff’s rough-edged vocals, and ragged folk-rock sensibilities, Shearwater’s tunes often glide by on a bed of delicate instrumentation and Jonathon Meiburg’s choir-boy voice, like a poor man‘s Jeff Buckley. On this new song, the (almost) title track from the forthcoming Rook (Matador, June), the band puts forth one of their finest recordings yet. Rook is the follow-up to the band’s critically acclaimed Palo Santo from 2006. Thanks to Chromewaves for the heads up.

MP3 :: Rooks
(from Rook. Info and more music here)