Album Review - Arcade Fire, "Neon Bible"

So far the only review I’ve seen online for Arcade Fire’s brilliant sophomore album, Neon Bible, is the one from Rolling Stone. It’s their typical safe, 3 ½ star rating that covers their ass either way, no matter the actual quality of the album. But if you read David Fricke’s review, you’d wonder how it even scored so high. Until the last paragraph it does nothing but point out what Fricke sees as the album’s flaws - its excessiveness, and the “muffled” sound that comes with too much reverb. He claims to not be able “to hear it”. It’s too bad, because he, and the magazine, are missing out on a record that at the very least deserves a far better account, and will most likely wind up being one of the strongest albums released this year.

Funeral, the 2005 Arcade Fire debut, was a record clouded by death, as several band members lost close relatives around its recording. Even still, their was a strong sense of optimism running throughout the 10 songs, and by the time it ended it seemed as if the demons were conquered, or at least set aside. Fans of Funeral probably found themselves yelling along to “I guess we’ll just have to adjust” during “Wake Up”. While not an outright positive thought, it still provided a cathartic sing-along moment, devoted, in its own way, to a sense of hope. That sentiment has turned much more dour on Neon Bible, as fans may find themselves singing along to “every spark of friendship and love will die without a home”. These lines, from lead single “Intervention”, seem to sum up the band’s new world outlook.

Neon Bible is bleak, shrouded in an austere darkness. Lead singer/primary lyricist Win Butler hasn’t given much to grab onto here for those looking rays of light. However, the musical accompaniment his lyrics get is consistently uplifting, as all seven members of the band contribute to make the record even more intermittently driving than its predecessor. In other words, Arcade Fire have figured out what they do best. Nearly every song rises to anthem-status, sounding like they would rather be played in a stadium than a sweaty rock club. If there is something to complain about it’s that the band seems to be operating from its comfort zone, giving us more of the same melodramatic shout-alongs we already knew they could. But, after only 2 albums, the sound has hardly grown old, especially when each and every song is so instantly memorable.

If one song on Neon Bible can be heard as its thesis statement, it’s “Windowsill”. In the song, as on many of the others, Butler is disillusioned with America’s television culture (“MTV, what have you done to me?”), and its leading the world in an unjust war (“I don‘t want to fight in a holy war”), and uses these images coming into his home (“I don’t want to see it at my windowsill”) as a reason to escape from what is troubling him so deeply. By repeating lines such as “I don’t want to live in my father’s house no more” and “I don’t want to live in America no more” Butler is asserting himself away from the institutions that have supposedly been keeping him safe all this time. So too does Neon Bible as a whole, as themes of helplessness and despondency repeatedly surface in the lyrics. There is no solution to it either, only the chance of escaping to a safer place, far removed from society’s ills.

“Keep The Car Running”, “The Well & The Lighthouse”, and “No Cars Go” are all cut from the same aggressive cloth - deceivingly depressing lyrics dressed up as party music. Each pulses dynamically, anchored by a deep bass and drum combo, drenched in reverb, and sometimes filled with horns, accordions, mandolins, and strings. “Intervention”, “Black Mirror”, and “Ocean of Noise” are the mid-tempo entries. They sacrifice none of the drama the faster songs possess, as each rises to its own passionate heights. These songs demonstrate a mastery of atmosphere, sometimes using pipe organ and sound effects to conjure a sinister mood. Best of all though is “(Antichrist Television Blues)”, Win Butler’s frenetic rant against the parents of the stars of American pop culture. He weaves his way through a tale of a father overcoming his own hardships (“working downtown for the minimum wage”) and finally getting the chance to capitalize on a chance at wealth, no matter what the consequences. Over the 5 minutes and 13 verses Butler hardly stops to breathe, coming on like David Byrne imitating mid-60’s Dylan.

So Rolling Stone, you can take your 3 and a half stars and shove ‘em. If there has been an album deserving of 5 stars in recent times, it’s Neon Bible. This could turn out to be a generation defining record, gathering legions of fans believing that there is a safer place, one where “no planes go”. Just keep ignorantly peddling your classic rock and teeny bopper pop to whoever it is that still reads your mag. Us kids know better.

MP3 :: Black Mirror.mp3
MP3 :: Keep The Car Running.m4a
(from Neon Bible)

Visit Arcade Fire’s website, myspace

February, The Month In Music, Pt. 2

My favorite songs of the month:

MP3 - Beautiful Life :: Gui Boratto

This song pulses along to a mechanical throb reminiscent of Krautrock, but also dips and dives through some mesmerizing keyboard flashes that recall all my least favorite music of the 80’s. I can’t explain my fascination with this song. It’s like The Knife, only happy and beautiful. It’s so far removed from most of the music I listen to that it seems to come from another dimension, one filled with an elegance and wonder that I’m not related to. I can’t seem to escape this song, and I don’t want to. Gui Boratto's website.

MP3 - Intervention :: The Arcade Fire (live from KRCW radio)

The studio version begins with an organ that sounds like it’s from some 1944 horror movie. But this one, recorded live on KRCW, is a rated PG version, not nearly as unsettling. Gentle piano and acoustic guitar set the scene, but Win Butler is feeling the disillusionment of a childhood surrounded by a religion that doesn’t mean a thing to a realist. He’s feeling the irreparable effects of a war waged under the very lies he’s been railing against for too long. Neon Bible hits stores on March 6 and easily lives up to the hype. It is the best, most fully realized, album of this young year. Check back tomorrow for a full album review. Arcade Fire website.

MP3 - Four Winds :: Bright Eyes

The first single from April’s Cassadaga finds Conor Oberst and crew borrowing heavily from “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” during the first minute’s instrumental lead in. But once he gets going with his fire and brimstone lyrics the holiday setting is quickly blown away. The song sounds like a news report from a battlefield just minutes after the battle, the bounding music belies the certain doom of the lyric. A sweeping anthem for all you undying pessimists. Bright Eyes/Saddle Creek website

MP3 - Almost Ready :: Dinosaur Jr.

This song bursts through the gates with more energy than that of most bands 20 years younger. The first song off the first Dinosaur Jr. album with all 3 original members since 1989, Beyond, has all the creaky melodies and sludgy rhythms of the band in its prime, as well as the heroic guitar of post-Lou Barlow classics such as Where You Been. Not only did they not miss a step, they’re setting the pace. Dinosaur Jr. website, myspace.

MP3 - Bushels :: Frog Eyes

Previously described as a 9-minute assault on the senses, this song finds lead singer Carey Mercer gasping for air and yelping his lungs out in the middle of a hurricane. One that subsides and picks up over and over again, crashing into him and tossing him about, only to taunt him with relief before doing it again, and again. Mercer is determined, never letting down his guard, as he continuously mounts comebacks. Comes complete with the dreaded open-ended conclusion. Tears Of The Valedictorian will be released May 1 through Absolutely Kosher Records. Frog Eyes website, myspace.

MP3 - Like New :: Deerhunter

Deerhunter’s Cryptograms was very well-received, and hot on its heels comes the Flourescent Grey EP, a follow-up release that was recorded at the same time as the album. This song begs to be played loud as it shimmers in all its shoe-gaze glory. Deerhunter myspace.

MP3 - All These Accidents :: Track A Tiger

“All These Accidents” is from Track A Tiger’s forthcoming sophomore album, tentatively titled I Speak To You With A Single Heart. The song is more of the alluring laptop-folk previously displayed on last year’s Woke Up Early The Day I Died, only this is more confident. It struts boldly out of your iPod and dares you to sneak it onto the mix you’re making for your indie-hipster little brother. Track A Tiger website, myspace.


February, The Month In Music, Pt. 1

At the end of January I ran a look back at the month in music, and damn if it didn’t get off to a fast start. There were about a half dozen notable album releases, and plenty of great tracks as well. This mild Brooklyn winter was made even more bearable with a nice set of ear phones and plenty to listen to.

February slowed things down a little on the music front, and wouldn’t you know it, was dang cold too. But there was still a lot of music to keep warm with. February saw the release of 3 albums that really turned my ear. Each is vastly different in sound than the other two. In fact, the only commonality these 3 albums share, other than my enjoyment, are the cohesive listens provided from start to finish.


The National Lights - The Dead Will Walk, Dear

Jacob Berns has crafted a fine addition to the American folk canon with his band’s debut album, which is being released today (2/27) through Bloodshake Records. His songs are delicate and beautiful, filled with fetching melodies that hide some pretty dark, gothic subject matter. More a collection of thematically linked songs than a concept album, the album takes the idea of Neil Young’s “Down By The River” and spreads it out over the course of 10 songs. It’s the sound of a lazy, secret river, a few traces of regret, and some carefully scattered hearts and bones. Murder ballads have hardly sounded prettier.

MP3 - Midwest Town
MP3 - O, Ohio

The National Lights website, myspace, Bloodshake Records

Read the Pop Headwound album review here, and our exclusive interview with Jacob Berns here.

The Besnard Lakes - The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse

Combining the strange bedfellows of 60’s influenced harmony with 70’s influenced prog-rock, The Besnard Lakes released a stunning album on February 20th. There is a strong emphasis on vocal melody running through all 8 songs, but it is also dark, ominous, and fateful. Call it the feel good soundtrack for the end of the world.

The Besnard Lakes website, myspace, Jagjaguwar Records
Read the Pop Headwound album review here.


Deerhunter - Cryptograms

I got on board late with this album, and by late I mean a few weeks. There was early buzz galore among the blogging community, and a great review on Pitchfork, but early tracks didn’t grab me. Still, their name kept popping up, and eventually I decided to give them a good listen. Turns out Cryptograms is worthy of the hype. It’s a dense blur of hypnotic, shoe-gaze noise, not easily penetrable at first (6 of the first 8 tracks don’t really have vocals). The songs do reveal themselves in time, some easier than others, and combine to make a balanced listen, despite stemming from 2 separate recording sessions held months apart.

Deerhunter - myspace


Richmond Fontaine - Moving Back Home

Criminally underappreciated (at least in the U.S.) Portland based roots-rockers Richmond Fontaine released one of 2005’s best records in The Fitzgerald. Lead singer/songwriter Willy Vlautin wrote the songs over the course of a month spent in the Reno hotel that named the album, inspired by the despondent people he met there and the stories they shared. Bleak and quiet, the album stands in stark contrast to the “Husker-country” of earlier efforts. The songs are skeletal, and focus mostly on Vlautin’s voice and lyrics, with as little musical accompaniment as possible. It’s their Nebraska, rich with detail and despair that reflect the hard times people face.

2007 sees the band ready to return to its more band-oriented roots. They are set to release Thirteen Cities in the U.S. on May 8th. It was produced by JD Foster, and also received musical assistance from Paul Brainard, Ralph Huntley and Jill Coykendall, as well as members of Calexico, Giant Sand, and Luca. It is their 7th studio release. Early songs indicate a propensity towards the poignant Americana on which they cut their teeth.

Lead single “Moving Back Home #2” kicks in with some previously unheard Mariachi horns, and a beat reminiscent of the Old 97’s circa Too Far To Care. Vlautin’s vocals, part Jay Farrar, part Matthew Ryan, are not as prominent on this song as on The Fitzgerald. The band is kicking up dust though, and Vlautin is “down before I even begin” and “trying to find the sun, coming up somewhere”. Willy possesses one of those voices that bleeds honesty, and may not even know the meaning of irony.

MP3 - Moving Back Home #2

And watch the video for the song “Capsized”, also from Thirteen Cities.

Visit the Richmond Fontaine website to see other videos and hear more mp3s.

Arcade Fire - Live from NY!!

With just a short wait left for Neon Bible to hit stores (3/6, Merge Records), The Arcade Fire appeared on SNL last night. Win Butler and crew didn't hold back at all. They sounded tight after all those recent NY shows at Judson Memorial Church, playing first single "Intervention" and album-highlight "Keep The Car Running". This is certainly a band on the cusp. Let the world domination begin.


"Keep The Car Running"

And check out I Guess I'm Floating for some interesting recent comments Win Butler made regarding some of rock's biggest megastars.


The White Stripes: The Peel Sessions

A few years back I had a friend named Tim who was a huge fan of The White Stripes. He made me a CD compilation (complete with the really cool artwork) of some live Stripes songs he said were from sessions with John Peel, the esteemed English DJ and champion of The Smiths and Nirvana long before their popularity soared. The CD still remains, even if the friendship, sadly, does not.

The Complete Peel Sessions collects a wide array of Stripes’ tunes, ranging from album cuts from their first 3 records, The White Stripes, De Stijl, and White Blood Cells, to a cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”, to several takes of traditional folk and blues (“John the Revelator”, “St. James Infirmary”). The performances are evidence that Jack White possessed a strong sense of showmanship before there was much of an audience to show off for. He is consistently engaging while interacting with the crowd and his host.

The music is strong straight through the 22 tracks presented here, with Jack and Meg White (still being introduced as a “brother/sister” combo) rampaging through most songs at a breakneck pace. The riffs come heavy, sweaty, and loud. Jack’s vocals are more frantic than on record, he sings as if he’s being chased by something terrifying. Meg does what she does, keeping steady, if simplistic, time at the drums. This is an interesting set, especially for fans of the band who weren’t there yet in 2001/2002 when the band broke. It provides a good snapshot of the early period, pre-Rolling Stone/MTV/corporate rock radio, of one of the decade’s best rock bands.


Check out The White Stripes’ website here.


Music News - Centro-Matic

There is some news to report coming out of the Centro-Matic camp. In the wake of last year’s stellar Fort Recovery (#8 on Pop Headwound’s Top 10 of 2006), the new year will see a new EP from the band. Straight from the horse’s mouth:

Houston Party Records will release Centro-matic's Operation Motorcide EP this spring. Far as I know, it'll be available via iTunes and some of those other downloadable cyber avenues as well. The tracklisting will be as follows:

“All This Fresh Mutiny”
“Operation Motorcide”
“A Celebrated Grime”
“Blood On The Floor”
“Daggers Sharp Enough”
“Circuits to Circuses”
“74 Cuts 74 Scars”

Artwork is again done by our good friend, Dave Ewald. More info will be available here and at as the days go.

Centro-matic's live performance from Austin City Limits Music Festival 2006 is now available for download at iTunes. Enjoy!”[ DOWNLOAD FROM iTUNES ]

In other news, Centro-Matic side project South San Gabriel will spend some time this winter recording new material. More info when it’s available, but for now:

South San Gabriel embarks on its next recording experience in just a few days. We'll hole up traditional-like in the confines of Argyle, Texas' Echo Lab until early March. We'll have all Centro-matic folks, Matt Stoessel, Bryan Vandivier and Robert Gomez onhand to make this stark and dark recording dream real.”

MP3 - Patience For The Ride
MP3 - Triggers And Trash Heaps
(from Fort Recovery)

Centro-Matic website
Centro-Matic myspace

Album Review - The Besnard Lakes, "...Are The Dark Horse"

I posted a few weeks ago about the new album from The Besnard Lakes, The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse. This week saw its official release through Jagjaguwar records. The album is a voluptuous mix of Brian Wilson-influenced harmonies with the epic song structure of mid-70’s prog-rock. Certainly a combination that doesn’t work on paper (or a computer screen), but it actually does on record in a big, bold, grandiose way.

The cover image of a dark horse riding through a fiery backdrop suggests a heavy, ominous set of songs, and, for the most part, the album delivers on this proposal. However, …Are the Dark Horse opens with perhaps its most understated moments - the simple chords, tape hiss, violin/horn interplay, and high vocals of lead singer Jace Lasekon on “Disaster”. Soon enough though he sings, “your life’s work, and shred it to pieces”, and some voluminous power chords blast in, turning the song into a wall of fuzz and melody. Then comes some thunderous drums to match the guitar, and the chorus of “you’ve got disaster on your mind” washes over you like an acid rain. The song started out as a gentle lull, then exploded into a downpour of something more caustic, which is the template for much of the album.

But knowing where these songs are going doesn’t impede the ride to get there. Album centerpiece “And You Lied To Me” is the perfect example. Starting with a threatening, bass-heavy groove and plaintive vocals, the song brings you ever closer over several minutes to its expressive, reverberant conclusion - a guitar solo so menacing you’ll want to experience it again immediately. “Rides the Rails” is one of the more immediate sounding songs on the album, as it rides a chorus that lodges itself in your head. And the beat of “Cedric’s War” gallops in proudly, humming a Beach Boys tune while laughing off the apocalypse.

The dark horse symbol this album portends can be viewed as two separate entities. First, the traditional dark horse as underdog. This is a band with a strange combination of influences compared to much of the indie-rock universe, and for them this album is their chance at an upset. The dark horse also implies a dark rider, one bringing something fateful along behind. These songs act like the soundtrack to a heartbroken end of the world, the last chance for a slow dance before we’re all swept away.

MP3 - And You Lied To Me

Go to The Besnard Lakes myspace to hear more.


Number 1, I Love You

Recently I ran a feature on a band called Tunnel Motor, and the label they run, 80h. While surfing around on that site I discovered another band that really caught my ear. They're called Number 1, I Love You, and just like Tunnel Motor, you can download their songs for free by following this link. The artwork above (that may recall The Decemberist's The Crane Wife) is from their 6-song EP Mon Petit Choux.

The song that jumped out to me was “Kissalil’ Bit”. Possessing the same trance-like repetition and lulling girly-harmonies as Broken Social Scene’s “Anthems For A Seventeen Year-Old Girl”, the song sways gently from start to finish. If you listen closely enough you may hear some kids braving the opposite sex for the first time, then telling each other secrets they don’t want the grown-ups to hear.

Band leader James Diotte had this to say about the band: “Number 1, I Love You was a project I started about 2 years ago (maybe more). It's just a bunch of friends that got together to work on some songs and for a reason to hang out. The album was pretty much entirely written by me but each member wrote their own parts. It's the team effort that really shapes the song. Recently we've had a line up shift (a few of us have our own solo projects - including myself) and have had less time for the "Number 1, I love you" collective. But other members have picked up the slack and are actually close to finishing up a new album (which is sounding great!).”

Besides his work in Number 1, I Love You, Diotte has a solo album available released under the moniker Between the Pine. Look for a post maybe next week regarding this this, as I haven‘t had a chance yet to give it a good listen. Check out some tunes at his myspace for now.


New Music - Bright Eyes, "Four Winds"

Saddle Creek just sent along another brand new Bright Eyes track, this one the first single from the new LP Cassadaga (due in April) and the focus of the "Four Winds" Single/EP coming out March 6.
Upon first listen, “Four Winds” continues the folk-influenced song craft that pervaded 2005’s brilliant I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning, yet there is something almost Springsteenian about it as well. Sporting a galloping shuffle-beat, and some fancy violin, it comes on with a (not so) sly wink to "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town". The cheery bounce is soon undercut with some Revelations-style biblical imagery and many allusions to our war-filled world, as well as some seering electric guitar work. The song is powerful and sweeping, and makes a rather cathartic sing-along for all us pessimists out here. It makes a fine first glimpse at what could be one of 2007’s best releases.

Straight from Saddle Creek’s press release:

“the first single from the album (Cassadaga), “Four Winds” is set to be released as the Four Winds CD/12" on March 6 and will include 5 exclusive b-sides.

With the once revolving line-up of musicians settled on the three constants of Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott, Bright Eyes spent much of 2006 in the studio working on their follow-up to the acclaimed simultaneous releases Digital Ash in a Digital Urn and I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. The first single from these sessions, "Four Winds", is presented here along with 5 exclusive B-sides.

Retaining the simmering glow of its predecessors, Four Winds is full of the magic that brought Bright Eyes to international attention. Carefully played, deftly poetic and quietly enchanting, the release has a wandering country charm and all of the story-telling seductiveness of earlier work.

Four Winds and Cassadaga were recorded in various studios in New York City, Los Angeles, Portland, OR and Lincoln, NE. The sessions included a host of guest performers including M.Ward, David Rawlings, Gillian Welch and Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney.

Sun-Feb-25, Chicago, IL, Metro w/ Maria Taylor, All Smiles
Tue-Feb-27, Toronto, ON, Opera House w/ Ohbijou
Wed-Feb-28, Somerville, MA, Somerville Theatre w/ M. Ward
Fri-Mar-02, New York, NY, Bowery Ballroom w/ Craig Wedren, AA Bondy
Sat-Mar-03, New York, NY, Bowery Ballroom w/ McCarthy Trenching, Company
Mon-Mar-05, Washington, DC, 9:30 Club w/ Wooden Wand, McCarthy Trenching
Wed-Mar-07, Los Angeles, CA, El Rey w/ Vetiver, Whispertown 2000
Thu-Mar-08, Los Angeles, CA. El Rey w/ Vetiver, Annie Stela
Fri-Mar-09, San Francisco, CA, Great American Music Hall w/ Vetiver, Annie Stela
Sat-Mar-10, San Francisco, CA, Great American Music Hall w/ Vetiver, Port O'Brien
Sun-Mar-11, Seattle, WA, Showbox w/ A Weather

Dinosaur Jr. - Bringing the Rock

One of the early surprises so far of 2007 is the quality of the first few Dinosaur Jr. tracks to surface from the forthcoming reunion album Beyond. We reported the May 1st release through Fat Possum a few weeks ago, and the anticipation levels have grown exponentially since then. The album is now available for pre-order at the Fat Possum site.

I say “surprises” because band reunions can be quite a sticky subject. The idea of band reunions are sometimes cringe worthy (ouch…Genesis), sometimes laughable (seriously, The “New” Cars, The “New” Doors?) and sometimes are actually exciting to imagine, only to be ultimately disappointing (Pixies…it could‘ve been better). I can’t think of a single reunion off the top of my head that has actually added anything worthwhile to a band’s legacy. Unfortunately, I could probably sit here all morning and recall those that sadly tarnish once impenetrable reputations (not to infer that Genesis, The Cars, or The Doors have impenetrable reputations, but you know what I mean…).

Enter Dinosaur Jr. The original members - J. Mascic, Lou Barlow, and Murph - have been playing live together again for a while now and have recorded a new album that, 2 songs in, leads me to believe they may have avoided the cliché. “Almost Ready” has been making its way around the internet for a week or so now, thanks to Pitchfork, and instantly recalls the band’s glory days. It has the patented creaky melodies and sludgy rhythm of prime 80’s albums like Bug and You’re Living All Over Me and the piercing guitar of Where You Been. It sounds like the first time you smoked pot all over again, only this time its your kids, not your parents, who are asleep in the other room.

The band recently updated their myspace as well, streaming another new song called “Been There All The Time”. Just as frenetic as “Almost There”, the song further proves the band is interested in picking up exactly where they left off in 1989. They didn’t cut corners, there was no “how can we fit in with what’s ‘cool’ today?”, no pandering. Damn if I don’t feel like me and my buddies ditched our lame prom dates and are hanging out in the back of a limo with the radio turned up really, really loud.


Pavement - "Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain" Re-Imagined

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I’ve really enjoyed Matador’s Pavement reissue series. To this point the first 3 Pavement records have been re-released with loads of extras and some fancy packaging. Their dense and mysterious debut Slanted and Enchanted was first, offering plenty of incredible extra songs from the era that many would argue they never topped. The third album, the sprawling and eclectic Wowee Zowee, was released this past Fall. It was another tremendous effort by Matador, giving fans plenty of hard to find b-sides and EP tracks, as well as never-before-heard live versions of many songs.

Best of all though is Pavements’s second album, the sure-fire classic, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. This is quite simply one of my favorite records of all time. By the time of its release in 1994 Nirvana had pushed open radio’s door for alternative bands, and Pavement found themselves on the brink of a major commercial success. Crooked Rain is a sharper, more focused collection of songs from a band that was anything but sharp and focused. “Cut Your Hair” was a staple of alternative radio at the time, as well as late-night MTV, and the band was suddenly playing to larger audiences than ever before.

Among the unreleased songs from the Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain sessions is one called “All My Friends”. It was recorded in early 1993 at Louder Than You Think studios in Stockton, CA., and features original wild man drummer Gary Young. Starting off with a deep breath from lead singer Stephen Malkmus before bursting into an instantly catchy groove, the song ranks as one of Pavement’s finest ever recordings. Full of memorable Malkmus one-liners (“she’s got a neck like a Saturday paper, you read it fast before a Sunday mass”) and feedback fueled guitar blasts, the song catapults along for its first 2 minutes before settling into its relaxed middle third. The band dawdles into a lazy drawl, led by a lonesome organ sound, and Malkmus sings as if trapped in slow-motion. Before you know it though the band comes back at full force, all pistons firing, with Malkmus yelling out indecipherably (is he saying ‘why you sad? Or ‘wasteland‘? or something else altogether?). Finally the propulsive guitars and renegade drums begin to crumble, and Malkmus sing-speaks some clear phrases (“homeland…divorce…countries..”) over a suddenly spooky organ line. It’s a glorious and completely sloppy epic song, delivered in the nonchalant genius that Pavement was notorious for.

So, how did this song get overlooked when recording resumed later in the year? No idea! Nothing against Spiral Stairs, but “Hit the Plane Down” is far below the rest of the songs quality-wise. Replace it with “All My Friends” and you have an album that can stand up to any in the rock canon. Here, take a look:

Silence Kit
Elevate Me Later
Stop Breathin’
Cut Your Hair
Newark Wilder
MP3 - All My Friends
Gold Soundz
Range Life
Heaven Is A Truck
Fillmore Jive

What you have now is an album that was already one of the best of the 90’s becoming that much better. “All My Friends” has every element that a classic Pavement song need possess, and kicking off Side 2 on Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, it finally gets the attention it deserves.

Buy Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain from Amazon, or from Matador.


More M. Ward

Straight from the Merge press release:

On February 20th, 2007, M Ward will release a new single, To Go Home, from his current album Post-War. The album cut, “To Go Home”, a rollicking honky tonk version of the Daniel Johnson tune, comes backed with three previously un-released tracks: “Cosmopolitan Pap”, “Human Punching Bag” and “Headed For A Fall”. This single features contributions from special guests: Neko Case, Howe Gelb, Jim James and Nels Cline amongst others. "Headed For A Fall" is a cover of a Jimmie Dale Gillmore song, while "Cosmopolitan Pap" and "Human Punching Bag" are M. Ward originals.
Following up on his sold-out solo tour this winter, M. Ward will embark on another round of live shows in the spring, this time opening for Norah Jones, with whom he appeared as a guest vocalist on her brand new Not Too Late album.

Tour Dates:

Fri-Apr-13 Wallingford, CT @ Chevrolet Theatre
Sat-Apr-14 Boston MA @ Orpheum Theatre
Sun-Apr-15 Portland, ME @ Merrill Auditorium at City Hall
Tue-Apr-17 Providence, RI Providence @ Performing Art Center
Wed-Apr-18 New York @ NY Theatre at Madison Sq. Garden
Fri-Apr-20 Philadelphia, PA @ Tower Theatre
Sat-Apr-21 Atlantic City, NJ @ Borgata Casino
Mon-Apr-23 Washington, DC @ DAR Constitution Hall
Tue-Apr-24 Greensboro, NC @ War Memorial Auditorium
Thu-Apr-26 Nashville, TN @ Ryman Auditorium
Fri-Apr-27 Atlanta, GA @ Tabernacle
Sat-Apr-28 Asheville, NC Orange Peel ***headline show***
Mon-Apr-30 Birmingham, AL @ BJCC Concert Hall
Tue-May-01 Indianapolis, IN @ Murat Theatre
Wed-May-02 St. Louis, MO @ Fox Theatre
Fri-May-04 Ann Arbor, MI @ Michigan Theatre
Sat-May-05 Milwaukee, WI @ Riverside Theatre
Sun-May-06 Minneapolis, MN @ Orpheum Theatre
Tue- May-08 Chicago, IL @ Chicago Theatre
Wed-May-09 Cleveland, OH @ The State Theatre at Playhouse Sq
Fri-May-11 Toronto, ONT @ Massey Hall
Sat-May-12 Montreal, QUE @ St. Denis Theatre
*All Dates (except for 4/28) support Norah Jones And The Handsome Band

If you want to listen to “Headed For A Fall” head over to Sand Is Overrated by clicking here.

Two weeks ago Pop Headwound ran a feature (with all sorts of great mp3s) on M Ward and his brilliant/eclectic repertoire of cover songs. Well , we forgot one. Here’s M. covering Pete Townsend’s “Let My Love Open The Door” (mp3).


Tunnel Motor - Stay Free

The other day I came across some Tunnel Motor songs in my iTunes that I’ve had floating around for a few years now. I liked the songs “Revenge” and “Cresson” quite a bit when I first got them, but filed the band away in the back of my head as something I would pay attention to the next time they released something. Well, it’s been a while now, so I decided to take the bull by the horns and find out what‘s going on with this band.

It turns out that the band runs its own label, 80H Records, and distributes all their music for free online. Yeah, you read me right. Tunnel Motor has an album, a really good one, called With Fins, that you can download right now….for free. It reminds me of the raw roots rock of a band like Lucero mixed with the lo-fi pop-rock of prime Guided By Voices.

Tunnel Motor guitarist Andy Hooker recently emailed me to shed some light on this interesting marketing strategy. “I wanted to make everything free so that more people would give it a listen. I think it can be difficult to convince someone to spend money on a band they have never really heard before. Once someone has established a fan base it's a little easier to get people to buy an album.”

I originally started the label as a way to put our music and friends' music out. I thought people would be more likely to listen to a band or artist if there was another band/artist they already enjoyed on the same label. It's been something of a networking thing... hoping that if you put a few bands together people will notice one and explore the others.

Right now, as far as I know, everyone on the label has a day job. I have no income from the band or the label. One benefit is that there is no pressure to make something that is a "product" and has to actually sell. Also, a lot of us record at home so we don't have thatexpense of the recording studio. I've paid to have a few things mastered here and there and we have done some recording in a real studio but for the most part we just do it all ourselves.”

Download With Fins right now by clicking here.

Tunnel Motor will be playing live in Brooklyn on March 24 @ Rocky's

351 Kent Ave
Brooklyn, NY


Wilco's "Sky Blue Sky" Tracklist Revealed

Three weeks ago the title and release date of the new Wilco album was announced. Sky Blue Sky will still be released on May 15 via Nonesuch Records. Today, Pitchfork revealed the tracklist for album. It is as follows:

01 Either Way
02 You Are My Face
03 Impossible Germany
04 Sky Blue Sky
05 Side With the Seeds
06 Shake It Off
07 Please Be Patient With Me
08 Hate It Here
09 Leave Me (Like You Found Me)
10 Walken
11 What Light
12 On and On and On

All of these songs have appeared on Wilco setlists over the past year and a half or so, save "You Are My Face", "Hate It Here", and "Leave Me (Like You Found Me)". The band's message board over at Via Chicago is uncertain at this point if "You Are My Face" is actually "Let's Not Get Carried Away", another song that has been in rotation live for a while now.

So, at least we don't have to wait as long for this as we do for The Shepard's Dog.


Great Lake Swimmers Announce New Album

Great Lakes Swimmers have announced their next release. Ongiara will see the light of day in the U.S. on May 8 through WeeWerk Records. The band is the primary operation of singer/songwriter Tony Dekker. However, Ongiara saw the help of many talented musicians. It features other Great Lake Swimmers Erik Arnesen (banjo, electric guitar) and Colin Huebert (drums, percussion, glockenspiel, timpani), as well as special guest appearances by singer-songwriter Serena Ryder (backing vocals, autoharp), Bob Egan of Blue Rodeo (pedal steel and dobro), Sarah Harmer (backing vocals) and Owen Pallett of Final Fantasy and Arcade Fire (string arrangements). Mike Overton (upright bass), Darcy Yates (electric bass), Mike Olsen (cello), and Mike Bonnell (organ) also appear.

According to the Weewerk press release, "Ongiara continues to explore the worlds of indie folk, roots music and alt-country pop, with a focus on lyrics and the craft of songwriting. The new record is permeated with a rich natural reverb, courtesy of London, Ontario's Aeolian Hall, which creates the magical background on which the songs are painted.”

An easy reference point for Great Lake Swimmers would be the work of Sam Beam in Iron & Wine because of the tendency towards melodic folk. Their last album, Bodies and Minds, was recorded in a lakeside church, and this one in London, Ontario's Aeolian Hall. These open settings give the recordings the sense of containing wide open space, and the natural reverb gained is similar to the effect My Morning Jacket used to get recording in a grain silo.

Here’s the first released track from Ongiara:

Check out the band’s myspace to hear more music.
Check out their website here.


Ugh....Happy Valentine's Day.

Songs for a fake holiday:


Vote for Paul Basile at Music Nation

Local favorite Paul Basile passed along word today that he’s participating in the Music Nation Video Contest. The weekly contest lets unsigned artists send in videos to the website and be voted on by professional musicians, fans, and curious web-browsers. The winners each week go on tournament style, competing against other winners from other weeks. The winner in each genre at the end of the contest gets a record deal with Epic Records.

The video you’ll find at Music Nation is Paul playing “Further North” from Skeletons at a recent show at Bar Matchless in Brooklyn, NY. Click here for a direct link to watch his performance. Then register at the site and vote.

"Further North" was the #3 song of 2006 on the Pop Headwound Top 20 songs of the year. If this site had existed then I’d be able to prove it. Believe me though, the playlist is in my iTunes.

Paul’s been hard at work since releasing Skeletons last year. Besides playing shows all over Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Alaska (and even as far away as Long Island and the Bronx) he’s found time to write and record some new tunes, thaw out his beard, make a lot of internet friends on myspace, and totally rock Bar Matchless with his new band, Here Lies Pa. Let’s go folks, head over there and vote for Paul.

Check out Paul’s website here to keep up with what‘s happening in his world.


New Music - Track A Tiger

I first came across Chicago-based Track A Tiger during last year’s mp3 craze. It seemed that most of the music blogs I frequent were heavily pushing this band. It turned out that their debut, Woke Up Early The Day I Died, was the first CD I bought solely on the advice of bloggers. It’s a short album at 9 songs and apparently was quite a long work-in-progress, as the band was recording while they learned to play with one another. The songs mix a healthy amount of acoustic/folk with something more progressive. Album opener “Glad To Be Scattered”, with its long, gorgeous instrumental lead in, was one of my favorite songs of 2006. Several others weren’t far behind. “Sound As Ever” and “Seashaken Heart” are rich with some beautiful male/female harmonies. “Flood” and “Happy” are Yankee Hotel Foxtrot-worthy laptop-folk rock songs. I couldn’t have been happier with this find.

Track A Tiger is the primary song vehicle for Jim Vallet, a Chicago special education teacher. Over the past few years, as their popularity has picked up, the band has gotten closer to being a full time endeavor. 2007 will see the release of a newly recorded full length album, which is tentatively being called I Speak To You With a Single Heart. It is currently being mixed and mastered. As soon as a release date is set we’ll let you know. In the meantime, add it to the already huge list of highly anticipated releases set for this year.

Track A Tiger was recently featured on Daytrotter. There is a huge interview and some live takes of Woke Up Early The Day I Died songs. The 2 MP3s below are new recordings from the forthcoming album, graciously provided by the band:

Visit the band’s website here
Visit the band’s myspace here


Music News - Iron & Wine

There is some exciting breaking news in the Iron & Wine world today. After being quiet for a long while about a new album, Muzzle of Bees and Pitchfork are both reporting today the band has recorded a new album, entitled The Shepard's Dog. Those links both have lists of new song titles that may appear on the album, which is set for release on Sub Pop sometime later this year, tentatively September 25th. Enjoy the wait.

Las summer's show at McCarren Pool in Williamsburg was something really special, as Sam Beam and company wowed the mostly indie-kid crowd with hushed melodies and a few moments of near-rocking out. At one point Beam quipped "that's enough about that" when a loud fan up front asked for some new album info. During the encore he played a new song, followed by "The Trapeze Swinger", that back to back were two of the most beautifully played songs I've ever heard live.

New Music - Frog Eyes

There are a few new Frog Eyes songs procreating their way around the internet right now, and one in particular has taken me by storm this weekend. “Bushels” is a 9-minute assault on the senses, segueing from soaring rock to something tenser and moodier and back again. Lead singer Carey Mercer is in the eye of the hurricane, wailing, screeching, gasping, and yelping as if the end of the world might try again another time if he gets it all in. His voice is a powerful instrument, the center of the song, but the band supports him with something equally dynamic. Piano and guitar rise and crash as if caught in a riptide, pummeling the beach one minute, gently fading out to sea the next.

Tears of the Valedictorian, the new Frog Eyes album, will be released by Absolutely Kosher Records on May 1. They have all sorts of deals set up here where you can pre-order the CD/LP and receive an early digital copy.

MP3 - Bushels

Check out Frog Eyes on tour:

3/16/07 - Austin, TX @ Pok-e-Jo's
3/17/07 - Austin, TX @ Habana Calle 6 patio
4/14/07 - Victoria, BC @ Logans
5/01/07 - Seattle, WA @ Crocodile Café
5/04/07 – San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill
5/10/07 – Denton, TX @ Rubber Gloves
5/11/07 – Austin, TX @ Emo's
5/12/07 - Houston, TX @ Proletariat
5/15/07 - Chapel Hill, NC @ Local 506
5/16/07 – Washington, DC @ The Rock and Roll Hotel
5/17/07 – Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
5/18/07 – New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
5/22/07 - Montreal, QC @ La Sala Rosa
5/24/07 - Toronto, ON @ Sneaky Dee's
5/25/07 – Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Tavern
5/27/07 – Chicago, IL @ Schubas

David Vandervelde - New "Jacket" Video

One of the year's early surprises is Secretly Canadian artist David Vandervelde. The 22 year old singer/songwriter/glam-rocker/Jack Black lookalike released one of 2007's best straight forward rock records last month in The Moonstation House Band. There is a BIG Marc Bolan/T. Rex influence running throughout the album, but also shades of many other late 60's/early 70's rock as well. The record's first and strongest song, "Nothin' No" was featured in Pop Headwound's January recap as one of the month's finest tracks. It was co-written by former Wilco multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett. The MP3 is available below for you to check out, and you totally ought to.

We got word recently that he's just wrapped up the video for the album's first single, "Jacket". The label had this to say: "The world's first taste of David Vandervelde came via the "Jacket" b/w "Murder In Michigan" single. One of the catchiest songs on Moonstation, "Jacket" is now a video by up-and-coming Los Angeles-based director Iqbal Ahmed". Check it out in all its grainy 70's-vibe glory here:

Or, if you want to view it with slightly better resolution you can view it at the Secretly Canadian website.
MP3 - Nothin' No (from The Moonstation House Band)
And don't miss David on tour:
02/22/07 Athens, OH - Casa Nueva
02/23/07 Cincinnati, OH - Alchemize
02/26/07 Brooklyn, NY - Union Hall
02/27/07 New York, NY - Piano's

New Music - The Besnard Lakes

The other day the folks at Jagjaguar sent me a heads up about a new band that I‘ve since become very excited about. The Besnard Lakes are from Montreal and have their sophomore album, The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse, set for release February 20th. The album begs the question - what if Brian Wilson had grown up listening to Dark Side of the Moon? It is a combination of the epic song structure of Pink Floyd mixed with lush harmonies that are instantly reminiscent of The Beach Boys.

The album is available for pre-order at the Jagjaguar website, and is also streaming in its entirety there as well. It certainly works as a good old fashioned album-listening experience, as there is a definite uniformity running through the album’s 8 songs. Primarily the work of the husband & wife songwriting team of Jace Lasek and Olga Gorea, the album was recorded at their own studio. Bands like Wolf Parade, Islands, and Sunset Rubdown have also recorded there, and the album features an assortment of talented artists from the thriving Montreal scene contributing to the songs as well.

MP3 - And You Lied To Me

And get more info at their myspace.

And look for The Besnard Lakes near you:

03/11/07 Bloomington, IN - Landlocked Music w/ Madeline
03/15/07 Austin, TX - TBA w/ SXSW
03/16/07 Denton, TX - Hailey's
03/19/07 Phoenix, AZ - The Paper Heart
03/20/07 Los Angeles, CA - Echo
03/22/07 Costa Mesa, CA - Detroit Bar
03/23/07 San Francisco, CA - Rickshaw Stop
03/25/07 Salt Lake City, UT - Kilby Court
03/26/07 Denver, CO - Hi-Dive
03/27/07 Lawrence, KS - Jackpot
03/29/07 Chicago, IL - Schuba's Tavern


The Fortified Winter Anti-Folk Fest @ the Sidewalk Café

The Fortified Winter AntiFolk Fest officially kicks off this Friday night at Manhattan’s famed Sidewalk Café. The event runs 9 days and promises exceptional live music every night. This Saturday night features several Pop Headwound local favorites ready to lay down some antifolk tunes. Check this out:

7:30 PM - Tim Lauben
8:00 PM - Olivia Mojica
9:00 PM - Chelsea Labate
10:00 PM - Chris Maher
11:00 PM - Wakey!Wakey!
11:55 PM - Here Lies Pa

Chris Maher has been around the anti-folk scene for a few years and is set to release his debut album, Epigram On The Death Of Feeling, in late winter/early spring of this year. I emailed him after being impressed by the songs up on his myspace and we’ve made some tentative plans for an upcoming exclusive interview. He’s a really talented singer-songwriter and I’m anxious to hear more from him.

Pop Headwound was there for the Here Lies Pa debut performance last month at Bar Matchless in Brooklyn, and the band has continued to make a name for themselves with several shows since then. Lead singer/songwriter Paul Basile and the band have a charming rawness about them, but they’re getting tighter by the day. They’ll be bringing the rock Saturday night.

I’m only familiar with Wakey! Wakey! and Chelsea Lynn Labate’s music through random encounters at open-mic nights here and there, but both were quite memorable. Labate has released 1 album and apparently has one more set to go. Her voice is reminiscent of a feminine Devendra Banhart, and her songs are often cleverly disguised stories. Wakey! Wakey! has got himself some pipes. The guy can flat out bring the whisper-to-a-roar vocals. On his myspace page is a video of a song called “War Sweater” that has to be heard to be believed.

Music News - Okkervil River

There was some exciting news that came from the folks at Jagjaguar today. Looks like Pop Headwound favorites Okkervil River will be having a busy 2007 ahead of them. The band is currently working on the follow-up to 2005’s brilliant Black Sheep Boy (which would have come in at #2 on our year-end list, had we existed). The as-yet-untitled album is being produced once again by Brian Bettie, the man behind the boards on Black Sheep Boy and Don’t Fall In Love With Everyone You See, and will be released sometime later this year. We seriously can‘t wait. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.

In other exciting news, the band will be releasing a 2xCd deluxe edition of Black Sheep Boy. The definitive edition is set to include the original album, the Black Sheep Boy Appendix EP, the song “The Next Four Months” (from the “For Real” single) and a video of a new take on “No Key, No Plan”. Also included will be the requisite huge booklet and gold sleeve. Look for it March 6.

Unfortunately, Okkervil River lead screamer, Will Sheff, has been sidelined after damaging his vocal chords. Doctors advised him to rest up for a while. He’s had to cancel a string of solo appearances where he was to be opening for Josh Ritter. Get well man.

Just so you don’t forget what Will sounds like, here’s a reminder:

MP3 - Black (from Black Sheep Boy)
MP3 - No Key, No Plan (from Black Sheep Boy Appendix)

Check out the band at their myspace.


M Ward - Under Cover

M. Ward is best known for his rough, gravelly singing voice, sweet, modern folk songs, and his immaculate sense of production. Each of his past four albums, dating back to 2001’s End of Amnesia right through 2006’s Post-War, are seamless collections of dusty little folk treasures. You can’t make a claim that any one is better than the rest, as all sound like a continuation of one great collection of songs.

What doesn’t get mentioned enough is how affective Ward is at covering the songs of other artists. On all his albums, save End of Amnesia, Ward tackles a song or two by another artist, and the result has never been short of stellar. Ward always makes the songs fit his style, sometimes completely re-imagining the music to something that barely resembles where it came from.

Here’s a sampling of some of the covers that have appeared on Ward’s records:

MP3 - Let's Dance - (David Bowie)
Stripping Bowie’s super-glossy 80’s original down to it’s bare essentials, Ward takes a song that has no business resembling folk into a song I can no longer hear any other way. Appears on 2003’s Transfiguration of Vincent.

MP3 - You Still Believe In Me - (The Beach Boys)
This instrumental begins Transistor Radio in a disarmingly understated way. Ward’s acoustic guitar mimics the beautiful vocal melody most prominent as the original fades out. And if you don’t have Pet Sounds there may be something wrong with you.

MP3 - Sweethearts on Parade - (C. Lombardi/C. Newman)
This is a jazz standard, having been performed by the likes of Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, and Nat King Cole, among many others. The mix here of traditional folk with modern sounds proves no one, possibly save Califone, does this sound better. This also appears on Transistor Radio.

MP3 - To Go Home - (Daniel Johnston)
Last year’s Post War was another great collection of songs, but this one stood head and shoulders above the rest for me. With Neko Case wailing in the background, Ward and band attack this song, giving it more of a polished indie-rock sheen than anything he has attempted before. One of the best songs of 2006.

MP3 - Sadie (Joanna Newsom). - (Joanna Newsom)
Joanna Newsom’s original is filled with a child-like whimsy that Ward isn’t capable of. Instead he converts the song to one that is weary, knowing, and mature, in the process giving it more of a sense of purpose. And when he sings her line “this is an old song, these are old blues, and this is not my tune, but it’s mine to use” he summarizes the history of American folk music in a way Newsom isn’t quite yet ready to do.

MP3 - Pale Blue Eyes - (The Velvet Underground)
This is from a European live recording called “Live Music & the Voice of Strangers”. It dates back to just before the release of Transfiguration of Vincent.

And finally there was a recent benefit single, a remake of CCR’s classic “Green River”. Available only on itunes, this song was recorded as a benefit for MercyCorps:


green river - benefit for mercy corps

purchase the single from itunes online.

Hear more of M Ward’s music at his myspace or at

Seriously, buy all of these albums at Amazon, Insound, or the mp3s at Emusic.

Visit Merge Records for more information about M. Ward’s music


Dinosaur Jr. - New Music News, Old Tune

So last week I was on the subway, pinballing underneath a frozen Brooklyn, watching heavily insulated strangers enter and leave my life without so much as a look. I was uncommonly into the fact that I was underground. At some point I was underground and underwater, surrounded by the strange mixtape of faces a ride on the subway is always good for. So I’m sitting there all full of wonder and detachment and “Get Me” by Dinosaur Jr. comes on my iPod. As if I wasn’t separated enough from all those strangers around me on the subway just by their (and my) refusal of so much as eye contact, I had my favorite guitar solo ever violating my skull. Those suckers had no idea.

MP3 - Get Me (from Where You Been)

I mentioned in a post 2 weeks ago that Dinosaur Jr. has recently signed on with Fat Possum. Word out now is that they plan to release Beyond on May 1. It is the first album with the original line-up of J. Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Murph since 1988’s Bug, and lead singer/songwriter J Mascis‘s first album under the Dinosaur Jr. moniker since 1997‘s underrated Hand It Over. Billboard recently ran an article about the whole thing. You can read it here, but not until I’m done.

Hearing this news has led me to listen again to the early 90’s Dinosaur Jr. records, Green Mind and Where You Been. The thing is, they’ve never gone too long without a spin. The music I listened to in high school fluxuated pretty drastically over 4 years, but went something like this. Freshman year = Def Leppard (shush!). Sophomore year = Led Zeppelin. Junior Year = Pearl Jam/Nirvana. Senior year = Mostly jam bands (shush!!). There may or may not be a logical progression there, I don’t know. It made sense at the time. Somewhere in there, maybe by early senior year, Dinosaur Jr. snook in. They are on a very short list of bands that I was really into in high school that I ever still listen to. Sure a stray Led Zep or Nirvana song shows up every once in a while, but I go back to Dinosaur Jr. albums all the time. I won’t begin to think the band is capable of matching those classics anymore, but let them try. It’s been too long, and I want a higher probability of Dinosaur Jr. songs popping up when I’m on shuffle.

The tracklist for Beyond:

“Almost Ready"
"Pick Me Up"
"Back to Your Heart"
"This Is All I Came To Do"
"Been There All the Time"
"It's Me"
"We're Not Alone"
"I Got Lost"
"Lightning Bulb"
"What If I Knew..."

Visit the band’s website here, and their myspace here.


Music News - Voxtrot

Pitchfork recently ran a huge article detailing what the band Voxtrot has been up to over the past few months. Read the whole thing here, but in short, the band will be releasing their debut LP worldwide on May 22 via Playlouder.

Despite this being a debut, the band is no stranger to internet-savvy music fans. 2005/2006 saw the release of three self-released EPs that were pretty much everywhere in the blogging world. Raised by Wolves was released in late 2005 and introduced the band’s highly contagious songs. Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, & Wives dropped the following spring and expanded the band’s sound with a fuller production and edgier guitars. The title track was one of the year’s best rock tunes, driving, propulsive, and hyper-melodic. It appears below for you to check out. Finally, Your Biggest Fan followed just 6 months later to lesser fanfare, as it contained only 3 new songs.

2007 will see if the band can run with the hype the internet has afforded them over the past 15 or so months. After reading singer Ramesh Srivastava’s enthusiastic interview at Pitchfork we can’t wait to hear the results.

Buy Voxtrot music at Emusic, Insound, and Amazon

Check out the band’s myspace.


Blog of Dreams

If you haven’t been swept up in the craze that is IfIBlogIt, then here’s your chance to get in on the ground floor. My friend Evan Kessler has started a celebrity baiting blog that is (not so) subtlety tempting Kevin Costner to send in a photo of himself looking at the site. Full of laugh-out-loud pleas to Mr. Costner to take a career-defining step (as well as some reworked lyrics to one of the early 90’s very best power ballads), the blog displays Evan’s genuine appreciation of Costner’s classics, and even those that were, um, slightly less well-received. Go for it Ev. He will come.

Besides, Costner is in a band now apparently, so check that out. And all this time I thought baseball was his favorite hobby. Whatever, I bet his band rocks.

January - The Month @ Pop Headwound (Part 2)

Here’s your chance to catch up with some of the tracks we thought were really great this month.

MP3: David Vandervelde - Nothin' No

Vandervelde does his best at impersonating him some T. Rex, and fools just about everyone who’s never heard them. This song proves to be its own electric warrior, full of jagged, crunching guitars, and witty phrases.

MP3: Viking Moses - I Will Always Love You

Moses strips this sometimes overbearing song down to its essence, finds the heartache and makes it his own. Said the Gramophone said it best, “Some feelings can only be expressed in a few particular phrases; some things need to be said over and over, while they still hurt”.

MP3: Somme - Massless

Words aren’t necessary when you can carry this much weight on your shoulders.

MP3: Maria Taylor - Lost Time

Taylor returns this March with Lynn Teeter Flower. This delicate, beautiful folk song represents one side of her talents, as the album mixes folk with something more electronic. She’s at her best here, just that vulnerable voice floating in and out of some simple guitar chords and a lilting piano on the chorus.

MP3: Bright Eyes - Tourist Trap

What do you call home when you don’t recognize it anymore? The percussion sounds like footsteps on a gravel road, somewhere dusty and flat. Conor Oberst sounds tired of the city’s cement walls, imagines them crumbled, and leaves to find his love and bring her home, wherever that is. His heart may be an open door, but the home it leads to has been torn down.

MP3: The Swimmers - Goodbye

This one is like Damien Jurado‘s “Honey Baby” meets A.C. Newman. Just a really pleasant pop song that rolls along under bright skies as it tries to say its goodbyes.

MP3: Andrew Bird - Heretics

Bird is set to return on March 20th with Armchair Apocrypha, his debut for Fat Possum. Bird spoke to Billboard last year while working on the album. He said the songs are “big and spacious, with long, stretched out phrases, a sense of large, open air. But it's also really concise. I'm trying to keep it to 10 songs, but short is pretty hard to pull off when you're trying to create space”.

MP3: Casiotone For The Painfully Alone - Graceland

What if the Mississippi Delta was shining like a Mac Power Book?

MP3: The Shins - Sleeping Lessons

I have to say that I’m really pretty disappointed in Wincing the Night Away as a whole. The Shins have never changed my life, nor are they favorite of mine, but I was kinda hoping they’d do something remarkable with so much time between albums. Instead they trade their hyperactive songs overflowing with hooks for something more “mature” and “slick“ and “blah”. “Sleeping Lessons” kicks off the album right though. It starts off dark and moody, with a winding chorus, before building up to a blast of power chords that finally relieve the tension.

MP3: The National Lights - Midwest Town

The Dead Will Walk, Dear is a debut album filled with dark little murder ballads and ghost songs. It’s a stunningly cohesive record filled with this and 9 other songs equally as beautiful and secretive.

MP3: Ted Leo & the Pharmacists - The Sons Of Cain

Ted sounds reinvigorated on this one, frantic yet self-assured. He’s in his comfort zone, the band is prime - all punk rock fury mixed with some Who-like power chords - and it all comes on like nothing we’ve heard from him in years.