March Madness...

There were a bunch of really solid new releases this month, my favorites being Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible and Andrew Bird’s Armchair Apocrypha, but Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, Modest Mouse, LCD Soundsystem, and Panda Bear all released strong albums as well. None of these albums snuck up on me though, so, if you haven’t already, read about the albums at the above links and then check out some great tracks I’ve come across this month:

MP3 :: You Am I - Secrets

Vastly underrated Aussies You Am I have recently released their latest album, Convicts, through Yep Roc. A gritty and ferocious record, if wildly uneven, Convicts has moments of truly inspired passion, this being one of them. “Secrets” is one of the few ballads, even if it doesn’t play like one, building to a raggedy declaration of trust, with the requisite gleam in its eye and card up its sleeve.

Visit You Am I’s website

MP3 :: Dan Deacon - The Crystal Cat

Weird, but a few of my favorite songs this year have been of the electronic variety. At least that’s what “genre” in my iTunes library says. But you have to hear this song. At first it awkwardly tried to fit-in in my iPod, but didn’t sound at all like the tougher songs, the 8-minute guitar rock monsters, the punks, and the alt-country purists. Slowly though the nicer songs, the sensitive singer-songwriters, the indie-rockers, and the soul men, one by one, started taking to it. It made them laugh, and those laughs were the “with” kind, not “at”. It started showing off its dance moves, and when it got to the noise solo that sounds like a crystal cat having a stroke, well, it was everyone’s best friend. Now it’s the song that plays in my iPod when it’s off, all the other songs dancing around, arms flailing wildly, singing along as best they can, wishing they could be as cool as it.

Visit Dan Deacon’s myspace

MP3 :: The Tragically Hip - In View

My favorite band of the 1990’s releases their most exciting song since, well, the mid-90’s. Ditching the plodding expectations of most of their Canadian fanbase, the Hip have abandoned the same old same old that has handcuffed them to mediocrity for the entire 21st century, if only for this song’s 4 minutes. Sporting synths and an acoustic guitar propelling the song along, Gordon Downie offers his most pop-conscious lyrics ever, and succeeds, fully completely.

Visit The Hip’s website

MP3 :: Loney, Dear - I Am John

If ever a song started off inconspicuously, it’s this. Just some simple strums and some (kind of) pretty singing. It doesn’t take too long for the pace to quicken, and quicken it does, building in stages to its dramatic finale: male-female harmonies (or does this dude just sing really high?), and a driving rhythm racing the fuzzed out guitar to the finish line, neck and neck, each incrementally getting faster as the other does.

Visit Loney, Dear’s website

MP3 :: Wilco - What Light

Ahhhh, I missed you guys….


And of course these 2, which are basically everywhere already:

The National :: Fake Empire (from Boxer, due through Beggars on May 22)
Voxtrot :: "Kid Gloves" (from Voxtrot, also due through Beggars on May 22)

New Music - You Am I, "Ain't It Funny How We Don't Talk Anymore"

Like their Canadian brethren The Tragically Hip, Australia’s You Am I is a hard rock band that has been churning out remarkable music for a long time. Also like the Hip, they have received little fanfare here in the States. In an effort to change that, the band recently signed with Yep Roc Records for its U.S. distribution, and released Convicts, their 7th studio album, and first in a long time to see widespread U.S. release. The songs of lead singer Tim Rogers & co. are consistently smart and energetic, influenced by such luminaries as Big Star, The Replacements, and The Rolling Stones.

Yep Roc has this to say about working with the band: “Legendary Australian rockers You Am I are touring the U.S. in support of their seventh studio album, Convicts, a freshly squeezed pint (and a half) of fresh brewed rock'n'roll soul juice recorded in 16 days in five different studios. Their first outing for Yep Roc Records, Convicts catches the band at its tightest AND loosest ever. Here's the deal - since 1992, You Am I have set an Australian record for three consecutive straight-in-at-No. 1 albums (Hi-Fi Way, Hourly Daily, No. 4 Record), bagged seven ARIAS, attracted legions of adoring fans, picked up some heavyweight admirers/touring partners (Oasis, Soundgarden, Sonic Youth), been asked to gig with their idols (The Who, The Rolling Stones), and given several foreign artists their first widespread exposure down under (The Strokes, The Detroit Cobras, The Dirtbombs). Not to mention they rock. So, we're excited to be working with them in the States.”

From the recently released Convicts, here is the first single:

MP3 :: Ain't It Funny How We Don't Talk Anymore

And the video:

Check back soon for more You Am I.

Spoon Reveals New Album Details

------------------------ "who named this thing?"---------------------

Over the past few years Spoon have slowly and surely crept up to the top of the short list of my favorite working bands. Girls Can Tell, Kill The Moonlight, and Gimme Fiction are 3 of the top rock records of the decade, and their live show is one of the best going. The band recently revealed the title and tracklist of their new album, once again to be released by Merge, and hitting stores July 10. The album will contain 10 brand new songs, and according to a recent article over at Billboard, will have more of a soul feel, which maybe suggests more songs like “I Turn My Camera On”, less like “The Guestlist/The Execution”. That’s O.K. with me too, I’m a fan of all phases of Spoon music.

I’m excited, it’s always fun to anticipate what a new album from a favorite band will sound like. I love everything about this. Everything, that is, but the album title. Seriously, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga? Is that a joke? The above titles, along with A Series of Sneaks, each seemed to perfectly capture that sound and feel of the music the album contained. Girls Can Tell, with its piano enhanced focus on more pop-leaning songs, Kill the Moonlight with its deconstructed, skeletal stabs at pop-rock, Gimme Fiction with its rich sonic detail and vivid characters. They all made sense. They all fit.

I just went looking through my iTunes to see if I could find a worse album title than Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. Be He Me stood out. So did The Longest Meow, Just Like The Fambly Cat (notice a pattern with those two?), Gangstabilly, Return To Cookie Mountain, and The Hour of Bewilderbeast. Each of these is particularly cringe-worthy, and there were plenty of others too, but you get the idea. None of those are as dopey as Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. Not by a long shot. All day I’ve been hoping this is a joke, that the real name, something really cool like We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank or Our Endless Numbered Days, will emerge. But I think it’s for real. I know that it really doesn’t matter all that much. I know the songs will sound great. I’m sure even the cover art will be fantastically impressive. But God, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga?

The tracklist (spelling intentional) for (cough) Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga:

Don’t Make Me A Target
The Ghost Of You Lingers
You Got Yr Cherry Bomb
Don't You Evah
Rhthm And Soul
Eddie's Ragga
The Underdog
My Little Japanese Cigarette Case
Finer Feelings
Black Like Me

Visit Spoon’s website for music, tour dates, videos, etc.

Here is “Don’t You Evah”, performed at Stubb’s in Austin TX - 3/17/07:


On Vacation with Adam Chandler

I first came across Adam Chandler’s music last summer after a friend of mine had caught his set at the Sidewalk Café, . He made me listen to Vacation (“dude, you gotta listen to this!”), Chandler’s 2005 album, and described how “I’d learn to play bass just to be in the guy’s band”. Chandler’s best songs possess a youthful, energetic charm that is unmistakable, informed with a lo-fi punk bluster and huge pop hooks. But I’m barely sure Adam Chandler even exists. After that day I’ve had little luck trying to find much of anything about him online. According to google, he’s a character on All My Children. There’s no shortage of folks on myspace who share his name, but I did eventually track his site down. Once. Now I can't find it...should've bookmarked it. Whatever though, there weren't any songs, videos, or concert dates to speak of, nothing that would suggest Chandler is into promoting his music.

For some reason, despite the lack of information, I’m compelled to post “All I Want Is You”, one of the standout tracks from Vacation. You’d think writing a song like this would be simple, it sounds so primitive and amateurish at first. But listen closely to the intonation and the clever little turns of phase. Listen to the way he holds certain vowel sounds, then repeats the same line holding different ones, refreshing the melody by twisting it around. Listen to the way he rhymes “pavement”, “basement”, “radio station” and “vacation” like they were meant to be. Listen to the confidence, the positivity, the goddamn swagger. This is a bare bones attack on a new classic, and sure, it could use a full band rockin’ out with as much abandon as he sings it with (it would probably sound awesome with The Who or The Jam as his backing band, but what wouldn't?). But this version puts his singing, his words, right in your face where they belong. Chandler means it, and that’s so much more than most singers can say.

Now if he’d only come out of hiding.

MP3 :: All I Want Is You
(from Vacation)

Visit Adam Chandler at Folding Leg Records.

The Tragically Hip - "In View"

For the past 20 years American audiences have almost universally ignored Canadian stalwarts The Tragically Hip. It doesn’t matter that in their home country the Hip regularly sell-out arenas, have sold millions of records, and are considered nothing short of a national treasure. Since 1987 the Hip have been releasing albums roughly every 2 years, and very recently released their 11th studio effort, World Container. Predictably the disc adds 11 more solid, workmanlike rock songs to the band’s back catalog, and once again shows Gordon Downie to be a consistently engaging songwriter. And predictably the album was largely ignored south of the border upon its release.

World Container was produced by Bob Rock, the same man that famously led Metallica to the mainstream in the early nineties with the Black Album, and in doing so turned off most of their long-time fans. On this album he has reined the band in, focusing more attention to the twin-guitar approach of Rob Baker and Paul Langlois. During the album’s recording he also approached an open-minded Downie about trying to write in a more straightforward manner, to ditch his sometimes wordy, opaque style in favor of something immediate. His vocals are right up front in World Container’s mix, adding to the tighter, slicker sound the record encompasses, and displaying a lyrical directness missing since the early days of story-songs about drowned hockey players and killer-whale tanks.

The Hip have never been known as a band that reinvents their wheel. They know what their fans expect and give it to them album after album. There has hardly been an effort to change their sound or style since 1998’s Phantom Power, and admittedly this has caused my own interest in the band to wan over the years. The past few albums were solid, if not all that exciting, retreads of older sounds, rarely incorporating anything but the already familiar.

World Container does however offer some interesting moments that I’ve never heard come out of a Tragically Hip recording. This is most especially true for the first single, “In View”. It’s the first real attempt at a pop song in the band’s long history, and surprisingly, is wildly successful. The keyboard/acoustic guitar driven song is hyper-melodic in a mercurial way , sounding more like The Cure’s “Inbetween Days” or the beginning of Wilco’s “Pot Kettle Black” than themselves. It is the result of a band finally letting go of expectations and taking a chance on a sound that may disappoint hardened fans, (similar to the Black Album), but instantly revitalizes the Hip as a vital, engaging, seasoned act.

MP3 :: In View
(from World Container)

And check out the video:


Visit the Tragically Hip’s website (where World Container is streaming) and myspace.

Purchase World Container through Amazon.

New Music - The National, "Fake Empire"

The National have released the first song from Boxer, the new record hitting stores May 22 via Beggars. “Fake Empire” presents slight tweaks to the National’s sound we’ve become accustomed to through their awe-inspiring 2005 release, Alligator. Beginning with a simple-enough piano progression and Matt Berninger’s rich baritone crooning about spiking his lemonade and hitting the “shiny city” in his “diamond slippers”, Berninger seems discontented, “half asleep in the fake empire”. He remains calm, maybe somewhat detached, even after those drums slide in (damn, Bryan Devendorf is good!) and the song picks up considerably. He’s hiding somewhere between the piano and bass, seemingly uninterested if you can fully make out his words or not, in stark contrast to his “hey, listen to me” vocals which rode high above the music on Alligator. The track is augmented by horns, and evolves into a full band romp that never quite loses control like it teases it might.
MP3 :: Fake Empire
(from Boxer)

Visit the National on their myspace

Great, Now I'm Broke....

Wow, what a week for indie-rock! In addition to strong new albums from Andrew Bird, Modest Mouse, and Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, this week also saw releases from LCD Soundsystem, Low, and Panda Bear, easily adding up to the year’s most prolific date for new music thus far. If your wallet isn’t a lot lighter at the moment then I don’t know what the hell you’re waiting for. Run, don’t walk, to your local mp3 downloading website and pick up a few digital files fer cryin’ out loud!

Panda Bear - Person Pitch

This is the one that all the indie-kids are raving about. Panda Bear is the moniker for Noah Lennox, song-writer/drummer/whatever in Animal Collective. This album reminds us of his more established band in its experimental nature, yet certainly adds quite a bit more in the way of pop-sounds. There is an immediate and obvious Beach Boys influence in the harmonious singing/chanting, but also has plenty of the freakishly wild folk, violently schizo-rhythmic percussion, and anything-goes sound effects of his primary band. Reviews have been overwhelmingly positive across the blogging community, and Stylus reviews it here, Tiny Mix Tapes here.

MP3 :: Comfy in Nautica
Panda Bear’s myspace

LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver

James Murphy, the man behind LCD Soundsystem, dropped his second record this week. Pitchfork is eating it up, but Coke Machine Glow is spitting it back out. Tough call, as I usually trust both. Either way, Murphy’s brand of New York dance-rock melds countless influences into something, well, not necessarily completely unique, but certainly worth listening to and drawing your own conclusion. I need a little more time with this record before figuring it out, but, so far, so good.

MP3 :: All My Friends
Visit LCD Soundsystem’s website

Low - Drums & Guns

Low returns to its slow-core roots with Drums & Guns, abandoning the slightly more upbeat indie-pop of 2005’s The Great Destroyer. Once again, Low was produced by venerable indie super-producer David Friddmann and released via Sub Pop. Pitchfork is liking it, and again Coke Machine Glow is not quite as gushing.

MP3 :: Breaker
Low’s Sup Pop website

Album Review - Ted Leo & The Pharmacists - "Living With The Living"

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists return this week with their first new release since 2004, the eclectic Living With The Living. The record marks more of a return to form than a great leap forward for Leo, reestablishing him as an artist comfortable working with a vast array of influences, as well as a vital political voice. It was produced by Fugazi’s Brendan Canty, and offers a long set of songs (15 of ’em!) where his trademark punk is once again mixed healthily with soul, dub, Celtic, classic rock, pop, and reggae. Ted Leo has never sounded more consistently invigorated, and while Living With The Living may not be his best collection of songs, it may well be his most listenable, offering plenty for both enthusiasts and newcomers.

For much of the record Ted and the band sound refreshed and convincing, much more so than on 2004’s forgettable Shake the Sheets. Living With The Living swings for the fences. It plays out like his attempt at a London Calling, brimming with every influence Ted can throw in the pot, and full of enough memorable songs to impress for at least ¾ of itself. So yeah, few albums that run an hour have the attention span to be considered greats, let alone mentioned in the same breath as London Calling, and this one unfortunately suffers from these same editing issues. More than one experiment comes across as half-baked (the pop-influenced “Colleen”) , or just unappealing altogether (the militaristic “Bomb. Repeat. Bomb.”). Listening straight through can become tedious, especially since several of the songs have running times in the 5-7 minute range. There is a great 10 or 11 song album, Ted’s best, buried in Living With The Living, so it works better if listened to in spurts, or condensed into a shorter play list, so these moments come in quick succession instead of waiting around for them.

“The Sons of Cain” started making its way around the internet in January, and served as an exciting first listen. Capturing the brash and audacious energy gushing from the first half of the album, the song is propelled by a frantic, self-assured efficacy. He’s in his comfort zone and the band is prime - all punk rock fury mixed with some Who-like power chords. “La Costa Brava” is Ted successfully trying something new. At nearly 6 minutes, the song rides a highly melodic rhythm guitar line reminiscent of, dare I say, popular 1980’s music, and combines it with a vocal melody that is among his most immediate. The band lets loose at a few points, but finish the song with a prolonged meshing of harmony vocals, something that hasn’t been used by the band this effectively prior to this song.

MP3 :: The Sons of Cain
MP3 :: La Costa Brava
(from Living With The Living)

Visit Ted Leo’s website and myspace

Buy Living With The Living from Amazon and Insound.

Modest Mouse - "We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank"

Today (Tuesday 3/20) sees the release of the 5th proper studio album from Modest Mouse, lovingly entitled We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank. It features 14 brand new songs from head mouse Isaac Brock, as well as the highly publicized addition of Johnny Marr on guitar. We Were Dead… marks an even further departure from the hard, angular indie-rock Modest Mouse was once synonymous with to the more melodic indie-pop that got a test run on 2004’s Good News For People Who Love Bad News.

Ironically enough, it’s on the more pop-oriented tracks that We Were Dead… is most successful. “Dashboard” is one of the most obvious, and has been working its way around the internet for a few months now. It appears to be this album’s “Float On”, the transcendent lead single from Good News…. It sports a chorus that trips over its own bliss, and both horns and strings that help fill out the sound without getting in each other’s way. Like “Float On”, it is undeniably infectious, even if it never quite reaches the heights of its predecessor.

“Little Motel” is a true form power ballad, and may now be the most beautiful song in the Modest Mouse catalog. It begins so gently that you’d think you could bully the sound waves by blowing them back into the speakers, but gradually gets louder with the introduction of some tasteful power chords. The arrangement is spacious enough to allow the guitar solo to hover over the rest of the song, circling it before landing back in the mix.

It is on the tracks that try to keep in touch with the old sound that find Modest Mouse sounding tired and out of fresh ideas. “Steam Engenius” and “Spitting Venom” may have been more effective as b-sides, allowing the album to run a lot shorter and have a more seamless sound. While long time fans may be disappointed by the commercial sounding songs Brock is writing these days, to an unprejudiced ear they are more interesting melodically and musically, and display Brock has shifted his focus quite successfully. So much so that We Were Dead…suggests he may want to think about permanently severing all past ties.

MP3 :: Little Motel
(from We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank)


Watch the video for “Dashborad” :


Visit the Modest Mouse website, myspace

Buy We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank from Insound, Amazon

New Voxtrot Song - "Kid Gloves"

Beggars has made available the first song from the forthcoming self-titled Voxtrot album. "Kid Gloves" is instantly recognizable, once again displaying the band's now trademark influences (The Smiths, Belle & Sebastian), as well as a build up to a thunderously loud finale. Lead singer Ramesh Srivastava's vocals never dominate the mix, instead are perfectly matched to the high-energy jangle of the band, becoming more impassioned as the music continuously climbs to its arresting finish. He may sing "cheer me up, cheer me up, I'm a miserable fuck", and you may along with him, but you won't feel the same after hearing this song.
Visit Voxtrot's myspace for more music and tour dates

Andrew Bird - "Armchair Apocrypha"

This Tuesday (3/20) sees the release of 3 new albums from long time Pop Headwound favorites. Weeks ago, before I had heard any of them, my interest was in this order: Modest Mouse, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank; Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, Living With the Living; and third, Andrew Bird, Armchair Apocrypha. Having lived with the three for a few weeks my order of appreciation has changed. I find myself unable to stop listening to Bird, somewhat impressed by Modest Mouse, and a little under whelmed by Ted. Needless to say, Armchair Apocrypha delivers the goods, offering plenty more of Bird’s jazz-tinged, literate indie-rock.

The record is the 7th studio offering from Bird, following 2005’s highly regarded Andrew Bird & The Mysterious Production of Eggs. Perhaps indie-rock’s most notorious whistler, Bird spent much of 2006 laying the groundwork for the excellent set of new tunes, produced by Ben Durrant, and featuring the musical contributions of Haley Bonar and Chris Morrissey. The songs feature many of the same Bird trademarks - lots of violin, whistling, and lyrics that display a wide vocabulary. In addition, several songs employ an electric rhythm guitar that remind me of Kid A-era Radiohead, or at least what that album’s demos may have sounded like before being deconstructed and reshaped.

“Heretics” is the obvious starting point for those unaccustomed to Bird, combining all his strengths into something immediate and enduring, and featuring some impassioned singing and memorable lyrics (“thank God it’s fatal, thank God”). “Scythian Empire” is stunning, melding a folk-influenced acoustic guitar progression, sound effects, and a dreamy vocal melody to beautiful effect. The set also features a electronic collaboration on Martin Dosh’s “Simple X”, a spry electro-pop song that features falsetto-singing and a more beat-oriented drum loop. These new flourishes, along with the already familiar, add up to one of the year’s finest releases to date.
MP3 :: Scythian Empire
MP3 :: Heretics
(from Armchair Apocrypha)


Visit Andrew Bird’s website and myspace for tour dates and to hear more music.


Purchase Armchair Apocrypha from Insound, Amazon.

Papercuts - "Can't Go Back"

Papercuts is the band-vehicle for San Francisco songwriter Jason Quever. They have recently released their second album, Can’t Go Back, through Gnomonsongs. The album is a full of the kind of hazy folk that seems to have been sent to us straight from the 60’s. Quever owes a giant debt to Blonde On Blonde-era Bob Dylan, as many of his songs possess a similar complexity that comes across as raggedness, as well as these sinuous little melodies that sneak into your head through the back door.

Careful listens reveal these songs to be much more than the tossed-off afterthoughts they may seem at first. There are layers of gentle instrumentation, and Quever has a voice that is perfectly suited to the dreamy, shadowy folk running through the album‘s 10 songs. “Take the 227th Exit” stumbles in like a drunk at a wedding, ready to steal the bride but winding up innocently dancing with the flower girl. It is the track most obviously Dylan- influenced, and, if not for the vocal differences, would fit comfortably between “Most Likely You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine” and “Temporary Like Achilles”.

The band is currently on tour with Grizzly Bear and Beach House, so that may give you an idea of what their sound is like, but Papercuts is more traditional and rustic than either band.

Check out some mp3 samples below, and purchase Can’t Go Back from Insound.


MP3 :: John Brown
MP3 :: Take The 227th Exit
(from Can't Go Back)

Visit Papercuts myspace for tour dates and more band info.

I'm Talkin' New York, Vol.1 - Wakey!Wakey!

A few weeks back I mentioned Wakey!Wakey! in a post about the Sidewalk Anti-folk Winter Fest at the Sidewalk Café in New York. Turns out Mike Grubbs, the man behind the name (and the incredible voice), has some exciting news to share. He has recently signed with Family Records, home of The Undisputed Heavyweights and Casey Shea. The New York based label will release a Wakey!Wakey! live album, to be recorded at Pianos on April 24th, with a May release. The show and recording will feature Mike’s new band, complete with a full string quartet, bass, drums, and synth, as well as Mike on piano.

I first heard Wakey!Wakey! last summer at an open-mic at Park Slope’s Bar 4 and, I imagine like everyone else that night, was awestruck. His voice is like a smoke alarm in the dead of night: huge, dominant, unable to be ignored, maybe even life-saving. His singing commanded the room, but his songs resonated for more reasons than just the one. They are instantly memorable, alive with a 70’s piano-pop flair and melodies that slap you in the face. I’m looking forward to seeing what he’s capable of backed by a band. Let’s get to know Mike a little, shall we? According to his bio:

Mike Grubbs was raised underneath the burgundy baby grand his mother gave lessons on for extra money. His father was a singer with a day job. They would never bring him to New York on vacation, so when he was old enough, he moved there and started what is now WAKEY!WAKEY!

Mike is most often seen alone on stage, behind his piano or guitar. His most common comparison is Ben Folds, but always with the immediate addition of, "with more edge". With inspiration drawn from Soul, Punk Rock, and his classical background, his main influence is the integrity of the artists with which he has surrounded himself.

His songs are extremely intimate portraits of naked emotion, sang, whispered and screamed into the consciousness of the growing crowds that currently enjoy his live shows all along the East coast.”

Check out this MP3 he sent along:

MP3 :: You Could Do Better

And watch this performance of “War Sweater”:

Hear more Wakey!Wakey! Music on his myspace.


"Outside the dollar store I didn't have a broken heart..."

I first discovered Marah about a year after the release of Kids In Philly, 2000’s swaggering, brilliant homage to the streets of their hometown Philadelphia. The review, from a British magazine, was filled with the kind of fawning that was usually reserved for articles about the classics. In the 5-star review nearly all my favorite bands were name-checked, from Wilco to The Faces, The Replacements to Bruce Springsteen. The writer loved this album as much as any of those band’s most revered, and quite possibly more.

So, Kids In Philly came to me with high expectations, the kind that almost always result in severe disappointment. How could it live up to the comparisons to Born To Run, Being There, or Let It Be? My first listen went by in a blur. I only knew 1 song (“Round Eye Blues”), and found myself both confused and excited by the reckless energy and street-tough wordplay. I played it again. Then again, and again, over and over. For weeks. I too was soon thinking of this album in the same sentences as those classics.

At barely over 35 audacious minutes, the record is a whirlwind of dizzying sonics - radiant banjo, soulful horns, and infinite spirit. Each song lives its own life, each a completely original painting of a city by a band that might as well have been playing on the street corner, astutely observing every microscopic detail surrounding them. An easy and often cited reference point is early Springsteen, relocated just a short drive from the Jersey shore to the same streets Rocky ran at 4:00 in the morning. This is a fair and accurate comparison, although Marah are not as character-driven as the Boss. On Kids In Philly they are more interested in setting, whether it be the invitation to hang on “Christian St.”, to fish under a bridge, or just describe a city’s dirty secrets hidden in the river. They offer strikingly detailed accounts of the places where beautiful and terrible things happen all the time.

But it’s the heartbroken observances from a bus that I find myself absorbed into most often. Opener “Faraway You” kicks the album off disjointedly, a mess of drums, banjo and harmonica. Slowly the pieces start making sense when Dave Bielenko’s voice enters, observing the “rain-soaked mattress”, the “apartment house of death” and “horse cops tak(ing) the beat”. He graces us with one of the great lines in recent years as though it’s an afterthought - “outside the dollar store I didn’t have a broken heart”. All is well until the bus cruises past the park where his girlfriend is making out with someone who isn’t him, and the meticulous story he’s weaving is now about feeling helpless, as life goes on on the bus, and throughout the city, while his has seemingly ended. The chorus is a rush of harmony. The drums finally settle into a groove you can tap along to, and propel the song onward into the second verse, where he lays down to sleep on his front step, too dejected to try to get up after dropping his keys. Quite simply, my favorite song from one of my favorite albums.

MP3 :: Faraway You
(from Kids In Philly)

Purchase this seminal album for yourself, and anyone you know who's ever liked a rock and roll song, here.

Visit the Marah website, myspace


9 New Iron & Wine Songs - Recorded Live

Captain’s Dead recently posted an Iron & Wine show from the Pabst Theatre in Milwaukee. The show, beautifully recorded by an audience member, was a chance to catch Sam Beam sans band for the first time in a long while. The set focused primarily on new material, as more than half was devoted to songs to be featured on the forthcoming The Shepard’s Dog. You can still find the show in its entirety at Captain’s Dead for download.

Today though, I’m just going to share the new songs with you. Familiar Iron & Wine themes surface throughout these songs (religion, family, Southern imagery, ghosts, nature, animals, etc.), yet they never seem to be retreads of past songs. Hell, it may be the first time the biblical Noah has ever been referred to as a crack-head (“Carousel“). At least on record. I knew that dude had to’ve been on something though, the smell on that boat must have been pretty ripe.

The new songs, Live From Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee, 2/8/07:

A release date has yet to be finalized for The Shepard’s Dog (or is it really Dawg?) by Sub Pop, but it’s looking like it’ll be September. The tracklist was just released last week, and 8 of the above songs will indeed be on it:

The Shepard’s Dog :

Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car
White Tooth Man
Lovesong of the Buzzard
House by the Sea
Innocent Bones
Wolves (Song of the Shepherd's Dog)
Resurrection Fern
Boy With a Coin
The Devil Never Sleeps
Peace Beneath the City
Flightless Bird, American Mouth


Maria Taylor - "Clean Getaway"/"Lost Time"

It’s hard not to be overshadowed in a week that sees new releases from Arcade Fire, Son Volt, The Tragically Hip, Jesse Malin, and Bright Eyes, but slipping in under the radar is Lynn Teeter Flower, a new album from Maria Taylor. According to Saddle Creek:

With Lynn Teeter Flower, Maria Taylor is taking her songcraft to new heights, mixing together soaring guitars, bubbly electronics, feathery farfisa organs and sugary layers of vocals into the sweetest confection of an album you'll hear all year.

The songs for Lynn Teeter Flower, an album named after a family friend in Maria's native Birmingham, Alabama, were written in between tours for 11:11. The collection reveals a woman settling very well into her role as a solo artist, peeling back some of the layers of the last album to reveal a more organic sound, one that resembled the hundreds of shows she had done all over the globe in support of 11:11 over the course of the last year.”

By far my favorite song on the album is “Lost Time”, which I have posted about before. After a wild first night we decided to slow things down, to “just see what happens”, start by trying to be friends. With the perfect combination of honesty and beauty, it didn‘t take long to realize this one's a keeper. We’re going steady.

MP3 :: Lost Time

Another song I‘m crazy about, although I have no idea how to keep it a secret from “Lost Time”, is “Clean Getaway”. Taylor’s voice is a lovely instrument here, conveying a vulnerable and tragic lonliness, and the song possesses a bare, lo-fi charm that suits the isolation of the lyric.

MP3 :: Clean Getaway

These 2 songs are not really representative of the album as a whole, as much of it employs the aforementioned “bubbly electronics” that make some of it sound like it’s shooting for VH-1 countdowns and Jewel playlists over at iTunes. But it is all very pleasant and listenable, and might be something your girlfriend adores, so check it out. Saddle Creek has the album streaming here. New Yorkers can catch Maria at one of the following upcoming shows:

03.16, Fri, New York, NYMercury LoungeKCRW Presents

03.17, Sat, Brooklyn, NYSouthpaw


Maria is on an extended tour right now, so check out further dates at her myspace.

Port O'Brien - "There's a feelin' in my gut....

....tellin' me to shut the fuck up"

Port O’Brien is a band led by Van Pierszalowski, a songwriter from Cambria, CA. who spends his summer months working 20 hour days on his father’s Alaskan fishing boat. According to Van himself, “The name Port O’Brien is the site of a now-abandoned cannery on Kodiak Island, where my parents met in 1969.” Ahh, how sweet.
His songs are very obviously inspired by his true love of this nautical setting. “I Woke Up Today”, a song that recently got serious attention from both Pitchfork and M. Ward, comes across like a sea shanty sung at the weary end of a long day of hauling fishing nets with all your best friends, legs draped over the stern, watching the moonlight reflect off the black water. If only it was written in time, it could have been used in the drunken sing along scene of JAWS.

From the band’s website: “What started as a solo project of Van's has become a full on rock and roll band featuring Cambria Goodwin (banjo, vocals, baked goods), Caleb Nichols (guitar, vocals, tambourine, melodica), Josh Barnhart (drums, vocals, egg shaker), and Ryan Stively (bass, vocals). They have played with likes of MAN MAN, AKRON/FAMILY, VETIVER, LITTLE WINGS, and many others. The live shows are always different, but the key emphasis is a little old thing called FUN.”

The band has been turning ears lately, having recently been featured on Daytrotter, and impressed M. Ward enough at a recent show that he set them up to open for Bright Eyes in San Francisco in March. They have 2 releases available for purchase at their website - When The Rain Comes, an LP released in March of 2006, and Nowhere To Run, an EP released the following September.

MP3 - I Woke Up Today
(from Nowhere To Run)

MP3 - My Eyes Won't Shut
MP3 - Five And Dime
(from When The Rain Comes)

Port O’Brien myspace
Port O’Brien website

Dan Deacon - "The Crystal Cat"

You have to hear this song. At first it was a sadistic thing, I was listening just to laugh at it. It was the song the nerd songs felt good about having around because it kept them from catching the beating. It tried to fit in, but didn’t sound at all like the cooler songs. Slowly though the nicer songs, one by one, started taking to it. It made them laugh, and those laughs were the “with” kind, not “at”. It showed off its dance moves, and when it got to the noise solo that sounds like a cat having a stroke, well, it was everyone’s best friend. Now it’s the song that plays in my iPod when it’s off, all the other songs dancing around, arms flailing wildly, singing along as best they can, wishing they could be as cool as it.
MP3 :: The Crystal Cat
(from Spiderman of the Rings - due May 8th)

Dan Deacon is a pretty far out. He is described by Wikipedia as a “absurdist electronic music composer/performer” (God, is there anything you can’t find on there?), and yeah, absurd just about covers it. Check out this TV appearance, where he explains a little bit about what it is he does. He has an album, Spiderman of the Rings, due May 8th, and his myspace is filled with lots of interesting videos and other songs.


A Thousand Things I Want To Say To You

Billboard is reporting that The Jam (well, all of them except Paul Weller) is planning to reunite and perform again. It seems a little strange for a trio to be doing so without the band’s front man/songwriter, but what do I know?

I know this: “In The City”, from the Jam’s debut album of the same name, is a throbbing call to arms filled with youthful enthusiasm and naiveté. The band pounds out its simple chords with a cocksureness that comes from strutting down the street, bumping everyone else out of the way. Weller sings as though your life depends on him, and he’s scrambling because he’s only got 2:20 left ‘til the bomb goes off.

MP3 - In the City
Buy The Jam’s In The City from Amazon.

If the song had more than just a live-performance video, I'd like to think it would be similar to that Verve video for “Bittersweet Symphony”. The one where Richard Ashcroft has got a Moses-like single-mindedness, parting his way through a busy city street. He bumps into people, yet remains carelessly focused (oblivious?) despite people reacting to him angrily. That’s almost how I picture Paul Weller singing this. But he’d be a foot shorter, so he has to fight that much harder just to make it half the distance. And unlike Ashcroft, he has a purpose: he’s pissed at The Man. The street’s more crowded, and he’s running, and pushing and jumping and yelling. He’s actively trying to instigate the crowd instead of ignoring it. He’s invented a new form of recruitment by grabbing people by the shoulders, violently spinning them around, then shoving them out of the way when he’s done with them. He’s becoming Rocky, as everyone under 25 gradually starts in with him, faces shining bright, racing down the street, finally with someone to believe in.

Here’s the Verve video in case you have no idea what I’m talking about:

And here is The Jam, playing live in their heyday:


The Second Band, Wherever They Are

Let’s play a game. Take a listen to any of The Second Band’s mp3s provided below and see if you can guess where the band is from…. Go ahead.

If you listen to “Bellystings & Sunshowers” you may say “oh, they’re from Austin, TX. They may even owe Will Sheff back rent for the basement apartment they’ve been hiding away in downstairs from Okkervil River’s recording studio. Hell, they may sneak up there when the band’s on tour and use their equipment”. Cold.

MP3 :: Bellystings & Sunshowers
(from What’s Up, Tiger Lily? EP)

If you hear “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?” you may bet your life they were from Omaha, NE and were childhood friends with Conor Oberst. They’re the ones Conor never mentions in interviews because you may never listen to him again. Still cold.

MP3 :: What’s Up, Tiger Lily
(from the What’s Up, Tiger Lily? EP)

Going by “A Song I Can’t Recall” you might say they used to get drunk and shoot off firecrackers with Ryan Adams and Caitlin Cary under blankets of North Carolina stars. They may have even opened for Whiskeytown once, and Ry-Ry starting copping their singer’s delivery. Well, this would be your warmest guess yet, but you’re still miles (and miles and miles) off.

MP3 :: A Song I Can't Recall
(from Your Dark Side Is On The Phone)

There is something distinctively American sounding in The Second Band’s songs, yet they can’t really be tied to one particular place very easily, can they?. If you’ve given up then let me help you out. The Second Band is from the decidedly un-American country known as Sweden. It’s on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean somewhere, and not even remotely close to any of your guesses, silly. Better luck next time. I found this band in a recent post over at The Punk Guy, and was immediately taken with the songs, and felt the need to share them.

The Second Band - myspace, website

New Wilco Song: "What Light"

Die hard Wilco fan‘s PCs have had a very busy few days. On Thursday the first leaked tracks from the upcoming Sky Blue Sky started making their way around music blogs, and caused all sorts of scrambling to get them downloaded before they disappeared. “Either Way”, “You Are My Face”, and “Walken” caused a lot of snap judgments over at Wilco fan site Via Chicago’s message board, as well as some thoughtful/interesting insights into the sound of the new material. My official snap judgment is that I like the stuff I’ve heard a lot. Sky Blue Sky is not going to be a dramatic, “important”, deeply artistic statement like their past several albums, but rather just a collection of really nice songs. Dig it.

Perhaps influenced by the leak, the band decided to share a sneak-peak at the album Saturday night. Sky Blue Sky was streamed in its entirety at 10 P.M. Central Time, giving fans their first taste of a more straightforward, soulful Wilco sound. It wasn’t soon after that that the album officially leaked all over file sharing sites. It’s out there folks, and if you don’t mind running the risk of being sued, spending some time in jail, or a big fat guilt complex, it can be had and heard free of charge. Until May 15th of course, when you need to support the artists and buy it in stores.

Today Wilco decided to provide fans with a free MP3 from Sky Blue Sky. Head over to Wilcoworld to legally download “What Light”. The song is an excellent representative of the album, as the lyrics perhaps shed a little light, one light, into Jeff Tweedy’s writing process for Sky Blue Sky. Letting go of the restrictive artistic inclinations that have lately, for better or worse, dominated Wilco albums, the song embraces the collaborative relationship between artist and fan. It reminds us that once a song has reached a fan’s ears the artist loses his complete control over it, as it now has the ability to move people in ways he can no longer direct.

And as a bonus, here is a live version of “Let’s Fight”, a new song that did not make the Sky Blue Sky cut. Personally it was one of my favorites among the new songs the band has been playing live over the past few tours, and I hope a studio version pops up somewhere in the very near future.

MP3 :: Let's Fight


Bright Eyes - Live @ The Bowery Ballroom, 3/2/07

This past Friday night Conor Oberst’s Bright Eyes played the first of 2 sold-out shows at New York’s Bowery Ballroom. The set covered all 6 songs from Four Winds EP, which is to be released this Tuesday, March 6, as well as offering a small glimpse at Cassadaga, the new album due April 10. The new 6 piece band, featuring long time member Mike Mogis on guitar, mandolin, and pedal steel, spent the evening joyously trading off between instruments. They were joined mid-set by friend M. Ward for 2 songs off of Four Winds, who added his trademark tasteful musicianship.

The enthusiastic crowd was receptive to the new material, politely listening to quieter songs such as “Smoke Without Fire” and “Tourist Trap”, and erupting for “Four Winds” as though it was a long time favorite. The set featured only a handful of offerings from past Bright Eyes albums. Introduced as a ‘country song’, “Make War” showed up several songs into the set, to the delight of the crowd. It was given a noisier, feedback fueled arrangement that suited the song well, despite not really resembling ‘country’ very much at all. The encore closed with “Laura Lament”, a rousing sing-along between band and audience.

The night’s biggest crowd-responses were saved though for the 2 songs played from I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning, “We Are Nowhere And It’s Now” came early in the set and displayed the band’s ability to play intricately arranged folk-rock songs. Mogis’s mandolin swept in and out beautifully, perfectly complimentary to Oberst’s vocals, and the crowd erupted at the close of each verse. “Old Soul Song” was the last song before the encore. It benefited from a more rock-oriented arrangement, as Oberst led a twin electric guitar attack, and was punctuated mid-song by a drum-fill from Rachel Blumberg that propelled the song, and the set, to a dramatic finish.

The decision to ignore so much of his back catalog was somewhat gutsy, but the 3 new Cassadaga songs came across well. Not as successful was the decision to play all of the lesser songs off of Four Winds. “Stray Dog Freedom” is especially awkward, and sounded so, coming across as mediocre 70’s rock. “Cartoon Blues” was energized, with the band obviously giving it their all, but has a melody that sounds too familiar to stand out among the new songs. Only “Reinvent the Wheel” improved upon its slick studio incarnation, as it was helped along by M Ward’s sharp harmonica playing. Still, these songs didn’t make Cassadaga for a reason, and made an otherwise impressive set a little too heavy on the b-sides.

One would imagine that as the tour progresses Bright Eyes would focus more on the Cassadaga songs, and sets would undoubtedly improve if they did. New song “Soul Singer In A Session Band” was a rousing way to kick off the encore, as it posesses an almost drunken-Irish sing along personality, and is sure to become a fan favorite. I’m sure most folks left the Bowery Friday night feeling they had just witnessed a great show, and they’d be perfectly justified. Far from disappointed, I left hoping to catch another show in about 6 months with a much different setlist.

Here's a video from Friday of "Four Winds". And no, he isn't lip-synching:

Big thanks to Stuart Mockba for the great pics!!


New Albums Galore!!

Wow! Year-End Lists are going to have plenty of big names vying for coveted spots. In what has to be some sort of record, this week 4 of my current favorite artists have released details of impending new albums. They join Wilco, Iron & Wine, and Frog Eyes on my “Records I’m Really Excited About” list. They are:

The National: Boxer

The follow up to 2005’s friggin’ awesome Alligator will be released by Beggars Banquet on May 25. Pitchfork has an interview up with lead singer Matt Berninger with lots of album info, insights into the band’s songwriting, and thoughts on Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

Voxtrot: s/t

After 3 EPs released over the past year and a half, Voxtrot has finally gone about recording their debut full-length. It is a self-titled affair and will include all new songs. Again, Pitchfork has much more information. This could be a sleeper, as the bands EPs show considerable promise.

The White Stripes: Icky Thump

With what has to be the weirdest album name in a while, The White Stripes will dump Icky Thump on us “as soon as corporately possible”. Hmm…excellent. The brother/sister duo (hee hee..) recorded the album over the course of 3 weeks in Nashville, the longest the band has ever spent in a studio. Hope they haven’t gone and gotten all slick sounding. Back in the good ol’ days, meaning 2005, they could’ve banged out 5 or 6 albums in that time. Read all about it here, Candy Cane Children.

And check out my recent post about their Complete Peel Sessions, with loads of early, live mp3s, here.

Ryan Adams: Easy Tiger

In what has to be another record, the usually much more prolific Ryan Adams will release his first album in 18 months on June 5. Again coming courtesy of Lost Highway, the record will contain 13 new tracks. Unfortunately it looks as if “Dot Com Motherfucker” will not be included.


2007 has already seen more than its fair share of exciting new releases (read about them here, and here), and March and April have much more in store as well, what with new ones from Arcade Fire, Andrew Bird, Ted Leo, Modest Mouse, and Bright Eyes. So, come on Wolf Parade, Spoon, Animal Collective, Radiohead, Marah, etc. - join the party and give us the scoop already! The more the merrier.