PHW Exclusive! New Music - Tunnel Motor

I was recently in touch with Andy from the Brooklyn-based Tunnel Motor who passed on word that the band is set to release a brand new EP called Substantial Ranch. And, of course, with everything from 80h Records, Tunnel Motor’s own web-based label, the EP will be available for free download in its entirety at the website.

A lot can and has been said recently about the way Radiohead went about their business a few weeks ago, but for every In Rainbows there are countless bands without that name recognition who are trying similar tactics to get their music heard. Most of them suck big-time though. Not so with Tunnel Motor. This is a band that writes catchy, driving Americana styled rock n’ roll - a little bit Guided By Voices, a little bit Mike Cooley-led Drive-By Truckers - and releases their songs for free, with the hope that a fan-base will grow out of respect for a band that obviously isn’t in it for the money.

Substantial Ranch is basically a work in progress. The band plans to record the follow-up to last year’s With Fins in the coming months and a few of these songs may turn up again on whatever comes of those sessions. For now we’re left with 5 tracks that rock, roll, spit, sway, swear, rip, cut, bleed, and groove. I wish these guys would quit their day jobs, but I guess that’s up to you….

MP3 :: Oh Hell
MP3 :: I Don’t Think
MP3 :: Hatchet Head Blues
MP3 :: Geiger
MP3 :: In The City
(from Substantial Ranch. You can’t buy it. So if you like it, see them live for cryin’ out loud)

Previous :: Tunnel Motor Stay Free

New Music - Your 33 Black Angels

Your 33 Black Angels has been getting a lot of attention lately, and rightfully so. Here’s some things you should know about them:

1. They are the only band I can think of in the past 15 years (at least) that I first heard about through Rolling Stone magazine. Not the actual magazine of course, I haven’t bought one of those in, well, about 15 years, but through a fan of the band (thanks Bryan) who directed me that way. To think, in this day and age a band can be featured in RS virtually before anywhere else. Remarkable.

2. Lonely Street, their debut album, was first released in a limited edition LP with only 250 individually numbered, pressed copies earlier this year. It’s now available on CD.

3. “Y33BA was born in Brooklyn, but dreamed in a West Harlem flophouse. There was a bottle of Wild Turkey, grown men in boxers, and far too much bachata music going around.” I don’t know what a flophouse is, or bachata music for that matter, but it sounds like a good time.

4. The band is playing a big Halloween show in Brooklyn. Check it:
90 Manhattan Ave. Brooklyn. $7 door. 7 PM.

5. Critics (well, bloggers and David Fricke) are mentioning Loaded-era Velvet Underground quite a bit in describing Y33BA’s sound, as well as Pink Mountaintops (not familiar), and The Unicorns (not hearing it). Personally I’m hearing The Silver Jews, especially on leadoff track “I Took A Deep Breath”. Lead singer John Westfal’s voice is a very un-Brooklyn-like creeky drawl that immediately brought David Berman to my mind.

6. The band mixes hard-driving Bob Dylan-meets-Dinosaur Jr. rockers (“Psycho On Your Side”) with completely un-ironic, feel-good, mid-tempo country rock (“Me And My Girl”) to great effect.

7. Lonely Street is the best kind of debut album - one that has plenty of highly enjoyable tunes scattered throughout it, but more importantly shows real promise for the future. It sounds like a band that is still feeling itself out, getting comfortable playing and recording with one another, but still knocking out melodic, passionate, memorable rock n’ roll songs.

MP3 :: Psycho On Your Side
MP3 :: I Took A Deep Breath
(from Lonely Street. Buy here or here)


You may have heard about The New Pornographers recent YouTube based contest to “get weird” with their music. The above is the winner - a version of “It’s Only Divine Right” as performed by Michael McDonald.

Daytrotter invited Andrew Bird in for a studio session recently. The results are terrific, but after releasing one of the year’s strongest records, Armchair Apocrypha, what would you expect? Here's a sampler:
(download 4 more songs at the above link)

Sucks that Stylus will be closing it's cyber-doors down. It’s been among my favorite music websites for some time now, and a great resource for someone like me who needs to check his facts pretty regularly. They’re running lots of their “greatest hits” right now, so if you’re unfamiliar with the site, check it out before it’s too late.

Some of my favorites they have up right now:

I Am Fuel You Are Friends has a great “New York” themed mix available.

Rolling Stone has a list of the 30 Best Moments of The Office. Yes, seems silly since the show is just one 21 minute “best of” video every Thursday night. Worth watching the clips though if you are yet to be converted to the funniest show of all time. All time. I found another compilation, this one on YouTube and highlighting some of the best encounters between Jim and Dwight. My favorites are #6 (Jim puts Dwight’s things in the vending machine) and #7 (Jim sends a message from “Future Dwight”):


Watch a Deer Tick video over at Oceans Never Listen. It’s one of my favorite songs from one of the best debut’s of the year, War Elephant.

A lot of bloggers are talking about the new movie, Control, that is based on the life of Ian Curtis and the music in Joy Division. Check out Rawkblog for in-depth coverage.

New Music - Castanets

Castanets first 2 releases, 2004’s Cathedral and 2005’s First Light’s Freeze, while well-received and widely available, never found their way to my ears. It wasn’t until In The Vines dropped last week that I explored this band’s catalog, and since then I’ve listened to hardly anything else. Led by singer-songwriter Raymond Raposa, the band plays a slow and meditative form of American music - equally inspired by Appalachian folk as they are by experimental sounds. Think Califone led by Tom Waits and you’re getting warm. In The Vines has very quickly emerged as a strong candidate for whatever end-of-the-year list I put together.

Album opener “Rain Will Come” begins with a real downer - “so it’s going to be sad and it’s going to be long and we already know the end of this song” - played over gentle and buzzy acoustics. Raposa’s voice is a perfect instrument for music that sounds like it was recorded outside at night in the middle of nowhere - deep and rich but creeky; harrowing and inviting at the same time. The song devolves over its final third into a wall of noise that would scare away anything getting too close in the dark. “This Is The Early Game” follows it and I’ll be damned if that isn’t Matthew Houck (of Phosphorescent, but I don‘t have proof) wailing in the background - not so much harmonizing as yelling to the same microphone as Raposa from the next room. It’s beautiful in every sense of the word, a classic folk melody brought back to life over brushed drums and pedal steel guitar.

MP3 :: Rain Will Come
MP3 :: This Is The Early Game
(from In The Vines. Buy here)

Bonus MP3 :: All That I Know
(from First Light’s Freeze. Buy here)

Bonus MP3 :: Three Days Four Nights
(from Cathedral. Buy here)

Cover Me

Recently I posted a whole bunch of covers of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” as done by some of 2007's brightest young acts. As a sort of companion piece to that post here’s a sampler of some of my other favorite Bruce covers.

MP3 :: Tougher Than The Rest - The Mendoza Line
(from Final Reflections Of The Legendary Malcontent. Buy here)

MP3 :: Streets Of Philadelphia - Marah
(from Point Breeze [single]. Buy here)

MP3 :: Further On (Up The Road) - Johnny Cash
(from American V: A Hundred Highways. Buy here)

MP3 :: Something In The Night - Aram
(from The Songs Of Bruce Springsteen. Buy here)

MP3 :: Racing In The Street - Townes Van Zandt
(from Road Songs. Buy here)

MP3 :: Atlantic City - Ed Harcourt
(from an Uncut sampler)

Some Videos For Your Monday....

The Black Lips - “Cold Hands”

Animal Collective - “Peacebone”

Feist - “1 2 3 4”

LCD Soundsystem - “All My Friends”


Destroyer :: "City of Daughters" Re-released

Merge has recently re-released Destroyer’s second album, 1998’s acclaimed City of Daughters. If you are a fan of Dan Bejar’s more recent work - including PHW’s favorite album of 2006 Destroyer’s Rubies, or his contributions to The New Pornographers (I mean he only wrote the best song on Challengers) - than check out Bejar’s first attempts at recording outside of the confines of his bedroom. It’s full of the madcap genius that is so evident in his fully realized, current incarnation. It’s because of this that City of Daughters feels out of time - a revisionist’s dream that is easier to appreciate today than when it was released because we hear it as a starting point.

MP3 :: The Space Race
MP3 :: I Want This Cyclops
(from City of Daughters. Buy here or from eMusic here)

MP3 :: Myriad Harbor
(from The New Pornographer's Challengers. Buy here)

Music News - Evangelicals

Relatively new label Dead Oceans has been and will continue to be very busy. Having just released the debut full-length from Bishop Allen over the summer and the terrific new record from Phosphorescent this week the label will now be looking ahead to early 2008. Evangelicals are working on the follow up to their 2006 debut So Gone. There aren’t many details yet, but the band has released a seasonal song to hold fans over. “Halloween Song” is available for free download at the label’s site, or below for those who’d just assume not leave PHW.

MP3 :: Halloween Song
(from Dead Oceans website)

Evangelicals will be performing at Austin’s upcoming Fun Fun Fun Fest

New Music - Wakey!Wakey!

photo from
These days it’s good to be in Wakey!Wakey! The band, fronted by NY singer/songwriter extraordinaire Mike Grubbs, has been rapidly gaining a larger and larger audience with practically every show they‘ve played over the last few months. So while they’ll continue to play to packed houses at their practical home base Rockwood Music Hall, they’ll also start playing to larger venues in the coming months. Much larger venues. Like Central Park’s Bandshell this coming Saturday at 1:30 as part of the Pumpkin Festival. Come on out, carve a pumpkin, celebrate Fall (or Indian Summer, whatever), and hear some great tunes. Stick around long enough and you’ll get a set from Chris Barron, former front man of the legendary jam band The Spin Doctors - who just happen to be the first band I ever saw live. Yup, I just said that.

But that’s not all the exciting news in the W!W! camp. Their long-rumored live album has finally been officially named (via a fan contest no less), given cover art, and will apparently be available at shows in the near future. Silent As A Movie is the name by the way, beating out rough draft (and the slightly “masturbatory” PHW favorite) Make A Fist Inside Your Pocket, as well as the tongue-in-cheek Wakey!Wakey! Sucks Live! and Wakey!Wakey! What’s Your Namey? It will feature live versions of fan favorites such as “War Sweater” and “Fallin’ Apart”. In the mean time the band will be releasing a different cover song every week for the next 10 weeks. For now go over to their myspace (link above) to hear a live version of everyone’s 3rd favorite Cindy Lauper song “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”. Yup, I just said that too.

Mike was nice enough to pass along an exclusive mp3 to PHW for sharing. It’s a live version of “LGA”, one of his more straightforward ballads, recorded live with a string quartet at Rockwood a few months back during his residency. The strings carry the song up to it’s understated climax, adding nuance to Grubbs affecting vocal melody and piano. The story is inspired by that annoying holiday airport traffic, waiting for a loved one to get home before the celebration ends. Appropriately enough, it’s going to be released on the forthcoming Liberated Matter Holiday Album to be released later this year.

MP3 :: LGA (live)
(from Liberated Matter’s Holiday Album. Release TBD)

Be sure to check out Wakey!Wakey! at some of their upcoming shows:

This Saturday at 1:30 central Park Bandshell,
Friday Nov 2nd, 10PM Rockwood Music Hall
Friday Nov 16th, 9PM Rockwood Music Hall
Wed Nov 21st, 8PM Highline Ballroom
Wed Dec 5th, 8PM Rockwood Music Hall

Previously :: Talkin’ New York Vol. 1 - Wakey!Wakey!

It's Cool To Like Bruce Springsteen

Pitchfork’s Mark Richardson wrote an article last week detailing the recent emergence of Bruce Springsteen as an indie rock hero, which followed Stephen Duesner’s review of Magic in which he claimed Bruce has supplanted Brian Wilson as the go-to “ideal” among young bands. I’d noticed this trend of late as well, as many of my favorite young bands (The National, The Hold Steady, Handsome Furs, etc.) sport a fairly obvious influence of said American icon, who happens to be my own first musical hero. I still remember quite clearly buying Born To Run from a catalog in 4th grade because I figured it was the one with “Born In The USA” on it. Well, it wasn’t. Regardless, I spent the next 2 or 3 years pouring over the technicolor words of “Jungleland”, “Backstreets”, and the rest of those rock n‘ roll poems.

I wonder though, now that Bruce is “cool” again, if the ever-trendy Pitchfork would reassess their notion that not one of Springsteen’s classic 70s albums were worthy to be named among that decade’s Top 100 albums. Seriously, the 4th best Brian Eno album (including the 1 with Roxy Music) is better than Born To Run? Nothing against Eno - I have Another Green World and Here Come The Warm Jets and enjoy both a great deal, but that’s about as poor a verdict on any list I’ve seen online. And yes, I’ve seen all those ridiculous Rolling Stone lists.

Anyway, in the article Richardson uses the fact that he’s heard 4 different bands cover the Boss’s “I’m On Fire” over the past few months as proof of his assertion. I’d heard 2 myself - - one being the previously posted A.A.Bondy version that hasn’t been officially released, the other a P’fork posted version by a band called Chromatics. I did some searching over at the new Hype Machine for the other 2 he was speaking of and came away with several other “I’m On Fire’s”, including live versions by Bats For Lashes and Heather Nova (which actually dates back to the mid-90s) and a really fantastic song by a band called The Soft Hands, which in no way, shape, or form resembles the Springsteen penned classic (more on this exciting young L.A. band soon). So, in case you read the same article and were looking for all these songs in the same place, here they are. And don't worry, it's cool:

MP3 :: I’m On Fire - AA Bondy
MP3 :: I’m On Fire - Chromatics
MP3 :: I’m On Fire - Bats For Lashes
MP3 :: I’m On Fire - Heather Nova

Here’s a fiery (pun intended) version that I don’t think Richardson was talking about:

MP3 :: I’m On Fire - Earl Pickens & The Black Mountain Marauders

Video: Band of Horses

Has anyone else noticed just how simple and repetitive the lyrics to “Is There A Ghost” are? I guess I’ve always just allowed myself to be swept up in Bridwell’s voice and those glorious power chords without paying too much attention to what he’s saying. Turns out I wasn’t really missing much. But oh how I love it anyway....


And here’s the official video for “Is There A Ghost”, complete with a very original take on the Tooth Fairy:


MP3 :: Is There A Ghost
(from Cease To Begin. Buy here)

Related :: PHW’s Cease To Begin Review

Fred Eaglesmith - "Water In The Fuel"

This post isn’t going to be any sort of official list of my favorite alt.-country songs of the 90s or anything, but it’s close. That time period and genre were crucial in my development as a music fan, and I go back to those artists, songs, and albums all the time when I need a little twang, a little insurgency, or just a little shuffle beat to pick up a slow day.

When I think of my favorite songs from that time it’s mostly the standards that spring forward. Son Volt’s “Tear Stained Eye”, The Old 97s “Timebomb”, and Uncle Tupelo’s “New Madrid” were all fixtures to nearly every mixtape I made during the last years of college and that blurry time immediately after.

But another song from that era that I consider just as great is “Water In The Fuel” by Fred Eaglesmith. While Farrar had the voice, Tweedy the spirit, and the Old 97s the spunk, Fred Eaglesmith’s classic trucker song was all about the story. I’d dare say it’s the best trucker song since “Willin’” actually. A little lost treasure at the end of his Lipstick, Lies, & Gasoline album from 1997, the song spins a heartbreaking tale of a couple separated by the endless turnpike miles. Everything about the song is perfect - Eaglesmith’s gruff vocals, the microscopic detail (“I got a left front tire throwing thread..”), the mandolin that sweeps in halfway through the song, and the image of driving a truck out on the ice and spinning it round and round. Highly, highly recommended….

MP3 :: Water In The Fuel
(from Lipstick, Lies, & Gasoline. Buy here)

And while we’re on the subject of this song, Australian singer/songwriter Kasey Chambers recorded an unlikely cover of it as a b-side for a song from The Captain, I think. With her child-like voice she obviously doesn’t sound at all like she’s lived the song, but it’s a beautiful rendition in its own right.

MP3 :: Water In The Fuel

Led Zeppelin Get Digital

The Daily News reported earlier this week that Led Zeppelin will be releasing their music online in the usual digital places (iTunes, etc.) on November 13. These leaves only 2 of rock’s all-time bands yet to join the digital world - The Beatles (I’m sure Sir Paul will make the jump once the deal and timing are right) and Radiohead (who’ve recently proven that they don’t need to follow any sort of normal path of online distribution). The band will simultaneously release a(nother) retrospective, the 2-CD Mothership, on the same day.

Led Zeppelin, like many of you I’m sure, were one of the first classic rock bands I gravitated towards during my formative musical years. Without an older sibling to guide me to The Smiths, The Cure, or Sonic Youth during the late 80s I became fascinated with any and all bands played on classic rock radio. Even today, after my love for The Doors, Pink Floyd, and, er, Steve Miller have long since run their course, I still find a little Zep every now and then does the trick.

“When The Levee Breaks” is my favorite, and has to be one of the biggest, scariest, most dominant sounding songs I’ve ever heard. It rides what could easily be considered the most recognizable drum track of all time (how many times has it been sampled?) for 7 pulsing, pounding minutes. “Stairway” may get the radio love, but it’s not in the same league as this wild take on the heaviest of Delta blues. And how about some “Custard Pie” too, just because it was a favorite from when I was a kid.

MP3 :: When The Levee Breaks
(from Led Zeppelin IV. Buy here)

MP3 :: Custard Pie
(from Physical Graffiti. Buy here)

Talkin' New York, Vol 9 - Soft Black

It’s easy to tell that New York singer/songwriter Vincent Cacchione worships at the same Bob Dylan-altar as his friend Eric Wolfson, whose own State Street Rambler I‘ve been hooked on for a few months now. Cacchione fronts a folk-rock band called Soft Black, and has recently released Blue Gold, their second record. It’s not surprising that Blue Gold shares the same kind of Bringing It All Back Home feel as Wolfson’s album - both were born out of the same scene (Antifolk) and both feature the same producer behind the boards (Dan Costello).

State Street Rambler was such a fun listen because of its “Bob Dylan Halloween celebration” approach - let’s make each song sound nearly identical to a different Dylan tune - Blue Gold doesn’t follow the same path. Cacchione’s voice is more akin to Bobby Bare Jr. than a true Dylan sound alike. His lyrics are often either remarkably poignant or comically ironic. The opening words to “Santa Fe” catches a delicious line with infinite potential - “I fell in love with a plate-glass girl” - and follows it up with a series of lines equally as image-filled and irreverent - “I called the cops on your wedding day/ I kissed a girl and still felt gay”, “I struck the chord and I found that spot/ I read my will to a polka dot”. It’s a funny little song, and perhaps the most immediate Soft Black gets, but is only one of many highlights running through the 11 tracks. The other 10 songs feature humor and self-deprecation as well, but also raw emotion and lyrical insights.

Soft Black follows what you may expect from an album made by folk-rock regulars within walking distance of Bleeker Street. There’s lots of acoustic guitar and harmonica, some surprisingly frenetic electric guitar solos, the occasional banjo and violin, and plenty of piano and organ as well. The rhythm section is patient and keeps things in the mid-tempo range, and although it is specifically unaccredited, either Maya Caballero or Caitlin Jaene provide some fine harmonies on “Pearl With No String”. That song houses the album’s most memorable melody as well - it’s been swirling around my head all week at work. Blue Gold is a noteworthy record from a talented artist - filled with songs that convey complex emotions but never sounds heavy handed. It’s as memorable as the city skyline from a East Village rooftop.

MP3 :: Santa Fe
MP3 :: Pearl With No String
(from Blue Gold. Buy here)

Catch Soft Black at one of their upcoming NY shows:

10/27 - Sidewalk Café - 8PM
11/6 - Pianos. Cross Pollination. - 8PM
11/8 - Trash Bar - 8PM (Brooklyn)
12/14 - Sidewalk Café (w/ Brook Pridemore) 11PM

Dylan Biopic - "I'm Not There" Soundtrack

The soundtrack to the new Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There will feature a virtual who’s who of revered artists, both contemporary and classic. Head over to the brand new myspace (link below) and be one of the first to stream tracks by Sufjan Stevens (“Ring Them Bells”), Cat Power (“Stuck Inside Of Mobile…”), Jim James & Calexico (“Goin’ To Acapulco”), and Jeff Tweedy (“Simple Twist Of Fate”).

Also of note is the inclusion of the never before officially released “I’m Not There” - a long lost member of the Genuine Basement Tapes, as well as a version by Sonic Youth.

Stream :: Ring Them Bells / Stuck Inside of Mobile… / Goin’ To Acapulco / Simple Twist Of Fate

Full Track Listing:

All Along The Watchtower - Eddie Vedder & The Million Dollar Bashers
As I Went Out One Morning - Mira Billotte
Ballad Of A Thin Man - Stephen Malkmus & The Million Dollar Bashers
Billy - Los Lobos
Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window - The Hold Steady
Can’t Leave Her Behind - Stephen Malkmus & Lee Ranaldo
Cold Irons Bound - Tom Verlaine & The Million Dollar Bashers
Dark Eyes - Iron & Wine & Calexico
Fourth Time Around - Yo La Tengo
Goin’ To Acapulco - Jim James & Calexico
Highway 61 Revisited - Karen O & The Million Dollar Bashers
I Wanna Be Your Lover - Yo La Tengo
I’m Not There - Bob Dylan
I’m Not There - Sonic Youth
Just Like A Woman - Charlotte Gainsbourg & Calexico
Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues - Ramblin’ Jack Elliot
Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door - Antony & The Johnsons
The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll - Mason Jennings
Maggie’s Farm - Stephen Malkmus & The Million Dollar Bashers
Mama You’ve Been On My Mind - Jack Johnson
The Man In The Long Black Coat - Mark Lanegan
Moonshiner - Bob Forrest
One More Cup Of Coffee - Roger McGuinn & Calexico
Pressing On - John Doe
Ring Them Bells - Sufjan Stevens
Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power) - Willie Nelson & Calexico
Simple Twist Of Fate - Jeff Tweedy
Stuck Inside Of Mobile With Memphis Blues Again - Cat Power
The Times They Are A Changing - Mason Jennings
Tombstone Blues - Richie Havens
When The Ship Comes In - Marcus Carl Franklin
Wicked Messenger - The Black Keys
You Ain’t Goin' Nowhere - Glen Hansard & Markta Irglov

Live Review - AA Bondy @ Southpaw

Last evening I had the distinct pleasure of catching PHW favorite A.A. Bondy live for the first time. He played at Southpaw and came armed with an acoustic guitar, a small fleet of harmonicas, and his “pretty wife” (not my words, my girlfriend’s, though I’m not disagreeing) Claire (?) on piano for a handful of songs.

Please don’t let the obvious amateurism of my photography offset what I thought of Bondy’s set. I’ve championed this man’s music several times this year and hopefully the world (or whoever it might be that checks this blog out) is beginning to listen. The crowd last night, a nice amount of people for an 8:00 performance on a Tuesday, was spread throughout Southpaw’s spacious, comfortable environs. Many though were standing right up close to the stage, listening intently to Bondy sing his often disarmingly beautiful folk songs.
Bondy mostly played songs from his recently released record American Hearts, as fine a collection of songs as has been released all year, genre regardless. On personal favorites “Of The Sea” and “Witness Blues” Bondy proved his cracked, Southern melodies were versatile, as he tweaked them ever-so-slightly to fill the large room. The piano accompaniment only added to the beauty of a song like “American Hearts” and the rhythm of “Killed Myself When I Was Young”. A mid-set cover of Tom Waits’ “Hang Down Your Head” was especially poignant and received quite a rousing response from the crowd.

The set ended too soon with a gorgeous “Black Rain, Black Rain” - one of the many highlights from the album. Bondy is not to be missed live - if you’re a fan of American Hearts (and seriously, you oughtta be) make sure to check him out when he hits your town. He’s playing NY again Thursday, October 18 at Mo’ Pitkins (for free!) in the afternoon.

MP3 :: There’s A Reason
MP3 :: Vice Rag
(from American Hearts. Buy here)

Bonus MP3 :: I’m On Fire (Springsteen cover)
(American Hearts outtake)

New Music - The Octopus Project

I made a mistake in a post the other day when I said that The Octopus Project's brand new 3rd album, Hello, Avalanche, was released last week. Actually it came out yesterday. To celebrate (the release, not the mistake) Fanatic Promotions passed along 2 more fantastic mp3s to share. Each has struck me just as much as "I Saw The Bright Shinies", the first released mp3 and member of every self-made playlist I've put together since July. These 2 new tracks are just as vibrant - full of bright pop hooks, shimmering keys, and winding instrumental passages.

MP3 :: Bees Bein' Strugglin'
MP3 :: An Evening With Rthrtha
MP3 :: I Saw The Bright Shinies
(from Hello, Avalanche. Buy here)

The Octopus Project is playing the High Line Ballroom in NYC tomorrow night (Thurs. 10/18)

New Music - Phosphorescent

I haven’t heard the entirety of the new Phosphorescent album, Pride. What I’ve heard is the legal mp3 that Dead Oceans graciously made available, the lilting “A Picture Of Our Torn Up Praise”, and also the haunting “Wolves” which was released through Stereogum. I’ve also heard the live version of “Cocaine Lights” that the band cut for Daytrotter a few months ago which will also be on Pride. Based on these early songs, plus all the excellent feedback that a few trusted bloggers have already provided, Pride is my most anticipated new release of the coming months, possibly the remainder of 2007.

After hearing Aw Come Aw Wry, 2005’s rich, meditative record for Misra, I tucked this band into the category of those that are young and promising - similar to how I thought of Okkervil River after Down The River Of Golden Dreams. As that band did with Black Sheep Boy, I have a feeling that Matthew Houck and his, well, non-band (on the new record he’s recorded all the instruments himself save the vocal choir) have created a record that far exceeds past work. Again though, this may be wishful thinking, but check out these songs from the new record and tell me you don’t feel the same way.

“A Picture Of Our Torn Up Praise” has been available for a while now, and was featured on this blog previously. Its hazy melody has lodged itself into my head in the best possible way. It sounds like a logical progression from the last album’s similar chant-like attack on song craft - layered vocals lie atop assorted percussion and easy acoustics. “Wolves” may be even more affective. Intimate and heavily reverbed vocals vie with a stunningly beautiful ukulele (?) melody (God what an underutilized instrument!), as Houck weaves an allegorical tale of wolves fighting in the woods outside a home, preventing life to go on normally.

Like what Sam Beam is doing now or Will Oldham did in the 90s (an easy reference point many reviewers go to - even check the album art for Pride vs. Oldham’s Days In The Wake), Phosphorescent makes traditional American music sound vibrant and alive - not an easy task in a genre that often gets lost in its own conservativism. With one foot in the past, one stepping lightly ahead, Matthew Houck is making some of the most beautiful and rewarding folk music I’ve heard in quite some time.

MP3 :: A Picture Of Our Torn Up Praise
MP3 :: Wolves
(from Pride. Pre-order here)

MP3 :: Cocaine Lights
(from Daytrotter Sessions)

New Music: The Cave Singers

PHW has officially, until Wednesday, exceeded its bandwidth for the month. Guess that's what I get for posting about Radiohead. Sorry, I’d do something about it if I could. If you see an mp3 in an older post that you'd like to sample come back later in the week after we get our bandages fixed. For the time being I’ll be hosting mp3s linked from outside sources, which is good because it gives me the chance to write about some bands that I’ve been enjoying lately that I haven’t yet explored their music further than the tracks that are floating around other blogs.

This song by The Cave Singers has been slowly growing on me since I first came across it a few weeks ago. Vocally, lead singer Peter Quirk sounds to me like he was named by a fortune teller. He has one of those drunk-on-helium voices that bloggers like myself jump to label ‘quirky’ on first listen. Actually, Quirk reminds me of Michael Nau of Page France - vocally and because of the kaleidoscope take on folk-rock the bands both employ. It’s hard to make out exactly what Quirk is getting on about here, but the shuffle beat and chiming guitars do some beautiful speaking for themselves. His words escape in and out of the mix, images surface more than concrete, linear ideas until the band falls out entirely at about the three and a half minute mark, leaving just an acoustic guitar and that voice singing about shadows and flowers behind billboards. When the band rejoins it is aided by a mournful horn, another element that makes this pretty little sad song sound much bigger than it has the right to.

“Seeds of Night” was the first legally released mp3 from Invitation Songs - their debut album that came out late last month via Matador.

MP3 :: Seeds of Night
(from Invitation Songs. Buy here)

Beyond In Rainbows

With all the blog love & affection going to the very worthy In Rainbows this week, you could almost forget that the week saw a plethora (always wanted to use that word in print) of other exciting new releases. So, here’s the week, In Review:

Beirut :: The Flying Club Cup
I have to admit that I wasn’t the biggest fan of Gulag Orkester when it lit the blogging world on fire last year, but it’s found a niche in a my regular rotation over the past few months. The follow up continues Zach Condon’s exploration of European folk music, shifting from the Balkans to France. Stylistically The Flying Club Cup is not a great departure from the debut or the Lon Gisland EP, but does feature some improved production and a set of very consistent songs.

MP3 :: A Sunday Smile
(from The Flying Club Cup. Buy here)
Band of Horses :: Cease To Begin
Already wrote quite a bit about this one earlier this week, so I won’t repeat myself. But I’m not tiring of the latest from Ben Bridwell and crew, and don’t intend to.

MP3 :: Is There A Ghost
(from Cease To Begin. Buy here)
The Octopus Project :: Hello, Avalanche
Can’t wait to hear more from The Octopus Project. I’ve had the first single, “I Saw The Bright Shinies”, on a regular rotation since mid-summer.

MP3 :: I Saw The Bright Shinies
(from Hello, Avalanche. Buy here)
Robert Pollard :: Coast To Coast Carpet of Love / Standard Gargoyle Decisions

The former leader of Guided By Voices is releasing two (more) solo records. It can be quite a daunting task keeping up with Bob’s output, but you know the man is always good for a bunch of great tunes with every release.

MP3 :: Current Desperation (Angels Speak Of Nothing)
(from Coast To Coast Carpet of Love. Buy here)

MP3 :: Pill Gone Girl
(from Standard Gargoyle Decisions. Buy here)
Sunset Rubdown :: Random Spirit Lover

I’m not nearly as enamored with this band as certain other bloggers, but the stranger half of Wolf Parade has released the follow-up to last year’s Shut Up I Am Dreaming. Not for everyone, but Spencer Krug has a unique ability to connect on a very deep level with some listeners.

MP3 :: Up On Your Leopard, Upon The End Of Your Feral Days
MP3 :: Winged/Wicked Things
(from Random Spirit Lover. Buy here)
Jens Lekman :: Night Falls Over Kortedala

A bona-fide superstar in his native Sweden, Lekman creates a very unique brand of twee Euro-pop that flourishes because of his skill as a songwriter. He was on my radar for a while and these first tracks are reason enough to dig a lot deeper.

MP3 :: Friday Night At The Drive-In Bingo
MP3 :: The Opposite Of Hallelujah
(from Night Falls Over Kortedala. Buy here)
Cass McCombs :: Dropping The Writ

“That’s That” first came to my attention over the summer, and since then I’ve been looking forward to checking out more from McCombs.

MP3 :: That’s That
(from Dropping The Writ. Buy here)
The Fiery Furnaces :: Widow City

I got tired of Blueberry Boat fairly quickly a few years ago, and haven’t checked out any of the last few Furnace’s releases. Widow City is getting some write-ups saying it’s a return to Blueberry Boat’s eclecticism, so if you’re a fan of that record check out a new song.

Stream :: Duplexes Of The Dead
Stream :: Automatic Husband
Stream :: Ex-Guru
(from Widow City. Buy here)

New Sounds For Yer Weekend...

Trances Arc is a 5-piece rock band from Atlanta. They recently put out their second album, XOXOX, through Slush Fund Recordings. Previously released song “Champagne Wishes” was recently featured on a Starbucks Hear Music sampler called Off The Clock. Of XOXOX lead singer Eric Toledo says “we tried to capture the energy of our live show, exploring the long hallways and exposed brick walls of this cavernous studio space... it sounds huge in here”. The band’s done well in that - these songs bristle with intensity. 10 tightly played, mid-90s sounding alt-rock anthems.

MP3 :: Parliament
MP3 :: (Star Spangled) XOXOX
(from XOXOX. Buy here)

The Black Kids self-released EP Wizard of Ahhhs was recently given the coveted Best New Music status over at Pitchfork. They said: they're giving away something we can't buy often enough: a record with not just a distinctive aesthetic, but also one single-worthy track after another. Dueling keyboards and scrappy lo-fi guitars give rise to Go! Team-style shouted-back cheers, a communal urgency not unlike the Arcade Fire's, and an uptempo bounce paying homage to Motown 45's. In short, Black Kids make catchy, tightly executed songs that put a memorable stamp on pop's classic themes.

The EP is not available in stores - instead head over to their myspace and download the whole thing…for free! Here’s a sampler:

MP3 :: Hurricane Jane
MP3 :: I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You
(from Wizard of Ahhs. Download)
The Epochs are an electro-pop band that will playing 4 CMJ shows in NY. Self described as Radiohead meets Junior Boys meets A.C. Newman. Or think piano meets computer meets scruffy white-boy soul on a crisp Autumn day in Brooklyn.

MP3 :: Mouths To Feed
MP3 :: Opposite Sides

Oct. 15th 10:00AM KEXP On-Air Performance NYC

Oct. 18th 8:00PM Blender Theater (w/Datarock) NYC

Oct. 18th 11:45PM R Bar NYC

Oct. 19th 8:00PM BAM Cafe Brooklyn

New Music: David Shane Smith

One of my favorite New York musicians, David Shane Smith, has a new collection of songs he’s distributing. I wrote about Smith a few months back in a Talkin’ New York feature - his albums are all burned onto homemade CD-Rs and passed out for free at his shows. Angry Earth is the latest, joining Love Songs and Wintertower as some of my most played local artist albums.

The songs and sounds of Angry Earth are obviously related to the cold, distant ones of Wintertower. There is a clear progression in the recording techniques - Angry Earth is more instrumentally varied than either of its predecessors, and the recording is much cleaner as well. That’s not to say that anyone’s going to think David Fridmann manned the boards, but the added crispness of the recording only helps to shine a light on Smith’s voice and words. It’s as if Radiohead were recording with no budget - with Smith sleep-rapping his nuclear wasteland poetry over bedroom blips and bleeps. The images remain stark and mechanical - payphones, window bars, calculators, religion on the bathroom stalls, but these songs still manage to come across as more personal than Wintertower’s bleak dead-city scenes, and on album centerpiece “Burnt Forest”, even hopeful as new life rises from the ashes.

MP3 :: Calculator
MP3 :: Burnt Forest
MP3 :: New World
MP3 :: I Smoke
(from Angry Earth)

Smith recently played his final New York show. He’ll soon be relocating to the West Coast, so if you happen to live in the L.A. area be sure to check him out live.

Bonus MP3 :: Sorry
(this is a favorite of mine that David passed along. It’s an older song but features one of his most tuneful and memorable choruses)

Somewhere Over In Rainbows

I’m sitting here listening to the 10 new Radiohead songs on In Rainbows for the very first time right now as I type. Before today I’ve only ever heard a live version of “Arpeggi”. I’m honestly glad to have never listened to the countless bootlegs that have been available for a long time (years, even) of these songs. “Videotape” will not let me down compared to what they played at Bonnaroo or whatever. I have no preconceived ideas, no expectations, no alarms and no surprises.

“House of Cards” is playing now. It’s track 8, and so far I have been amazed at the music that I’ve heard. I’m not going to be so bold as to say “best album since….” (I mean I haven‘t even listened through once yet), but In Rainbows sounds to me like Radiohead at the top of their game. It sounds like the perfect synthesis of “rock” Radiohead and “electronic” Radiohead that Hail To The Thief aimed for. It sounds like the most talented band in the world regaining themselves.

MP3 :: House of Cards
(from In Rainbows. Buy (or don’t - your conscience) here)

New Music - Division Day cover "Plowed"

Division Day’s recent Beartrap Island has been a real grower for me over the past few weeks. As you may have heard the band has been releasing previously unheard covers and remixes every week for the past month or so to help promote the album. The most recent one to find my inbox is this cover of “Plowed” by long since forgotten mid-90s grunge latecomers Sponge. I’ll have to admit that that first Sponge album, with this song, “Rotting Pinata”, and “Molly”, was quite the guilty pleasure in college. Hearing Division Day turn it from an alt-rock anthem into burbling electronic maelstrom was a fun listen today. Check it out, as well as other recent covers/remixes.

MP3 :: Plowed (Sponge cover)

MP3 :: Every Shining Time You Arrive (cover)
MP3 :: Ricky (Tandemoro Remix)
MP3 :: Enjoy The Silence (Depeche Mode cover)
MP3 :: Reversible (Ginormous Remix)

MP3 :: Tigers
(from Beartrap Island. Buy here)

Stream Beartrap Island at Virb

And here is the video for “Tigers”:


Album Review - Band of Horses: "Cease To Begin"

Looking back at my Top 10 of 2006, I wouldn’t change a thing about it now. But I’ll tell you what - the album I’ve played most from that list in 2007 is not #1 (Destroyer) or #2 (Califone) - it’s Band of HorsesEverything All The Time, which placed at #3. It’s an album I don’t ever tire of and can listen to almost anytime, the rare type that can be enjoyed without thought of time, place, or context. Today Band of Horses releases their sophomore record, Cease To Begin. Once again coming via Sub Pop, the new album finds the members of the band after having relocated from Pacific Northwest to the cozy confines of South Carolina. It’s this change of scenery that has everyone focused on the more laid back, country-ish feel to many of the new songs. To me though, Cease To Begin is more a continuation of the debut (which possessed a healthy amount of this sound) than a dramatic departure from it.

The most striking aspect to Cease To Begin is how effective Ben Bridwell sells his sometimes poetically-challenged lyrics. Although that’s not a new thought after Everything All The Time, on the new record Bridwell seems particularly capable of not only wowing you with his reverb-drenched pipes, but making you believe every simple, heartfelt, earnest declaration he makes. Without a shred of irony or sarcasm Bridwell wails that “the world is such a wonderful place” and “no one’s gonna love you more than do”. If you’re going to sing words like these, you’d better sound like you mean them, and I‘ll be damned if he hasn’t made my entire worldview change with those simple words. It is a wonderful place! Bridwell’s performance should be evidence enough that “what is said” isn’t as important as “how it’s said”.

The country tones come through on the languid sway of “Detlaf Schrempf” and album closer “Window Blues”. The gorgeous “Marry Song” is easily the most harmonious song I’ve heard all year. These are some of the more powerful songs on Cease To Begin, and show Bridwell equally comfortable with the quiet as the loud. “Is There A Ghost” comes closest to the anthemic songs of the debut, gradually building to a blast of power chords that most closely recalls the dramatic quiet/loud/quiet of “The Funeral”. It, like the album, is deeply satisfying despite never once upsetting your expectations. “Cigarettes, Wedding Bands” achieves a similar feat - loud, crashing guitars wrestle with Bridwell’s echoed drawl, rising and falling against one another over and again. The only other rocker on the album, “Islands On The Coast”, isn’t as memorable and fails to provide the series of great rock songs that “The Great Salt Lake”, “Wicked Gil”, “Weed Party” did on the debut.

Bridwell has already caught some slack for selling and licensing his songs to various media outlets. But who could blame him? Artists have the right to make sure their music is heard, especially in this day and age of little to no radio support. Songs as good as those that populate Cease To Begin deserve it more than any. With this record Band of Horses can expect to reach the next level of indie-rock superstardom with or without the help the commercials and TV placements allow, one co-habited by Spoon, The Shins, and The Decemberists. They deserve nothing less.

MP3 :: Is There A Ghost
(from Cease To Begin. Order here)

Bonus MP3 :: The Funeral
Bonus MP3 :: The Great Salt Lake
(from Everything All The Time. Buy here)

Video: Spoon On SNL...

"The Underdog"

"You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb"


Video: Animal Collective On Conan..


Friday Night Is Killing Me

If you’ve read this blog with any sense of frequency than you may be aware of my adoration for The Replacements. Paul Westerberg and his drunken compadres spent the 80s making some of the most viscerally charged hard rock and heart-on-the-sleeve balladry of all time. In the early 90s the band splintered into fourths, with most of the attention focused on what Westerberg would do next. After laying low for a while he surfaced with a pair of songs on the soundtrack to the movie Singles (including the hard-hitting and catchy “Waiting For Somebody”), and a solo debut in 14 Songs. Both did a lot to put him back into the indie public eye, but neither provided the mainstream crossover success that they were obviously aimed at.

Somewhere around the same time his former bassist, Tommy Stinson, slipped out his own ragged collection of tunes to little fanfare. I read the 3-star review of Bash n’ Pop’s Friday Night Is Killing Me in Rolling Stone and was intrigued, and having heard the first single “Loose Ends” on the radio, picked up the CD. All those years of under-aged touring and watching a great songwriter work up close had provided plenty of inspiration to Stinson, who was amazingly at the time still in his mid-20s. Friday Night Is Killing Me initially hit me much harder than 14 Songs, and provoked, along with the solo work of Westerberg and drummer Chris Mars, a famously naïve quote (among my friend John and I) that “I’m glad the Replacements split up. Now we get 3 times as many albums that sound like them.”

If you’re a fan of The Replacements than you’d be wise to check out Friday Night Is Killing Me. Until the Stereo/Mono albums in 2002 it was my favorite, along with 14 Songs, post-Replacements record. The title track alone is worth the price, but the album houses a healthy mix of barroom rockers and weepy folk rock ballads. It may not be Let It Be or Tim, but it’s certainly better than Don’t Tell A Soul or Eventually.

MP3 :: Friday Night Is Killing Me
MP3 :: Loose Ends
(from Friday Night Is Killing Me. Buy here)

New Music - Murder Mystery

It will only take you about 10 seconds to identify the city Murder Mystery hails from. They flaunt the New York retro-rock flag of The Strokes about as obviously as one could expect. But whereas The Strokes are clearly influenced by the late 70s punk/post-punk NY scene of Television, The Talking Heads, Blondie, and The Ramones, Murder Mystery doesn’t draw on those sources as clearly as their fellow-New Yorkers. Instead it’s a mix of Is This It-like brattiness, 80s New Wave romance, and just enough of the occasional shuffle-step in the drums to let you know they own a handful of the alt-country classics.

What they’re good at is churning out ultra-catchy, energetic pop-rock songs in rapid fire succession. Their grammatically challenged debut, Are You Ready For The Heartache Cause Here It Comes, is a 12 song, 33-minute blast of rock n’ roll hooks. It shows off the band’s melodies and professional musicianship - they’re tight, with some poppy bass-lines and intricate guitar work. More than half of these songs would fit comfortably on any modern rock playlist. Lead singer Jeremy Coleman has seemingly adopted Julian Casablancas’s laid back disaffectedness, but his voice falls a little short of that singer’s occasionally distinct howl. And the decision to not mix up the tempos (every song is upbeat) makes listening straight through a bit tiring by the album’s second half. Since it’s a debut though they can get away with the lack of diversity - next time a wider variety of tempos and sounds will be needed. For now Murder Mystery gets by on a simple notion - catchy songs with a good beat will get people’s asses on the floor.

MP3 :: Who Doesn’t Wanna Give Me Love?
MP3 :: Honey Come Home
(from Are You Ready For The Heartache Cause Here It Comes. Buy here)

Website :: Murder Mystery


Robert Pollard has a pair of new albums slated for release through Merge Records. I haven’t heard too much of Pollard’s solo stuff since the demise of GBV, but these songs sound promising. Here is one from each release:

MP3 :: The Killers
(from Standard Gargoyle Decisions. Pre-order here)

MP3 :: Rud Fins
(from Coast To Coast Carpet Of Love. Pre-order here)

Well, Stereogum has proven once again that they are in no way shape or form an ordinary music blog. After wowing everyone in the music world a few months back with the OKX compilation, they’ve done it again. Drive XV was released for free digital download at their site and brings together some of the best bands in indie rock today covering all the songs from REM’s classic Automatic For The People. You need to check this out if you’re a fan of old REM, or a fan of The Wrens, Meat Puppets, Blitzen Trapper, etc. Plus, they’ve promised a whole mess of outtakes in the coming days, so keep checking in.

As a follow-up to the BIG news earlier this week regarding In Rainbows, Dave over at Rawkblog has put together a live compilation of all the new Radiohead songs.

There’s a lot out there for Iron & Wine fans these days. In addition to all the press the pretty excellent The Shepherd’s Dog is getting, Pitchfork has an interview with Sam Beam that gets in depth into the writing and recording process of the album. Also check out The Good, The Bad, And The Unknown - they have a host of rare I&W songs from throughout their career, even a few I never even knew existed.

Again, AOL Spinner is streaming the new Bruce Springsteen album Magic all week. It’s gotten some lukewarm reception so far, but c’mon, it’s the Boss.

Stream :: Bruce Springsteen - Magic

I saw Okkervil River play the other night at The Bowery Ballroom in NYC. They were fantastic, as usual, despite me being slightly distracted by the barrage of text messages I received from my brothers with all sorts of bad news about the Mets. For the encore Will Sheff came out and played an acoustic version of “A Stone” - one of my favorite songs from Black Sheep Boy. Today I saw a write-up at Stylus regarding the same song. Yeah, it moves me too.

Congratulations are in order to my friend Evan, whose blog If I Blog It, They Will Come achieved its goal of getting Kevin Costner to send in a photo of himself looking at the blog that they began around the same time I started PHW. Well done Ev. Now on to Robin Williams…..

New Music - Spokane

Spokane released their latest record, Little Hours, through Jagjaguwar this past summer. The album is the first for the Richmond, Virginia based band in 4 years. It’s a somber, minimalist affair - full of hushed vocals, delicate acoustic guitar, brushed percussion, and spacious keys. These songs sound so fragile that the slightest movement could break them into a thousand pieces. Think Low if they were from the South. And slower. With more distance between the notes. Stark, stately, and captivating.

MP3 :: Thankless Marriage
(from Little Hours. Buy here)

Video for “Thankless Marriage”:


Who Is Radiohead?

I obviously wasn’t going to post about Radiohead today, but it seems as though it’s kind of a mandated thing in light of the BIG announcement from earlier today. Leave it to the most innovative large-scale rock band in the world to utterly befuddle the music industry (not to mention all the “up-to-the-minute” music bloggers and webzines) in a day and age when that is becoming harder and harder to do. This may be the all-time musical sneak attack.

In case you somehow haven’t heard, Radiohead will release their 7th studio album, In Rainbows, on 10/10. Oh yeah, they’re doing it electronically (at least at first) and they’re only asking for a fair donation as reimbursement. All the details can be found at Pitchfork, or just about any music blog on the internet. For a minute I lost myself.

Here’s a few B-Sides from earlier this decade:
MP3 :: Paperbag Writer
MP3 :: Where Bluebirds Fly

MP3 :: Karma Police (live)
(from The Glastonbury Festival. 6.28.97)

And where’s “Arpeggi”? The only new live song I’ve downloaded doesn’t appear to be on the 10 song album, nor the bonus disc that comes with the “discbox” purchase.

MP3 :: Arpeggi (live)
And let's not forget that another of music's heavy hitters is releasing a brand new album today (10/2/07). Bruce Springsteen is dropping Magic, his first studio release with the E Street Band since 2002's The Rising. The good folks over at AOL's Spinner will be streaming the new record all week.