New Music: Bon Iver

You’d be wise to check out the rustic indie-folk of Bon Iver now before it explodes. You see, after receiving praise from all over the music blogging world, and then wowing New York audiences during CMJ, his self-released debut For Emma, Forever Ago was picked up by Jagjaguwar and will see wide distribution on February 19th, 2008. This is music I’ve been hearing about for a few weeks now, but have only in the past few days really listened to attentively, and I’m glad I did. Bon Iver is one of those artists that is easily deserving of whatever internet hype he receives.

Bon Iver (pronounced: bohn eevair; French for "good winter" and spelled wrong on purpose) is the work of Justin Vernon, a native of Wisconsin who returned home to record in a cabin in the woods after his band, DeYarmond Edison, disbanded. The results are endlessly soulful and intimate folk and folk-rock. Vernon has a voice that is worlds beyond most of his contemporaries, both in range and nuance. He swings from a haunted falsetto to a strained roar throughout the songs, most closely recalling, as Pitchfork reported in their review (Recommended, 8.1), TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe.

From Jagjaguwar on the recording process: It wasn't planned. The goal was to hibernate. Vernon moved to a remote cabin in the woods of Northwestern Wisconsin at the onset of winter. He lived there alone for three months, filling his days with wood splitting and other chores around the land. This solitary time slowly began feeding a bold, uninhibited new musical focus. The days slowly evolved into nights filled with twelve-hour recording blocks, breaking only for trips on the tractor into the pines to saw and haul firewood, or for frozen sunrises high up a deer stand. All of his personal trouble, lack of perspective, heartache, longing, love, loss and guilt that had been stock piled over the course of the past six years, was suddenly purged into the form of song.

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

Stream the whole album at Virb

Zookeeper @ Pianos Tonight!!

Anyone looking for something last minute to do on the Lower East Side tonight should swing by Pianos and check out Zookeeper. The band, led by lead singer/songwriter Chris Simpson, will be playing at 8:00 in support of their excellent new record, Becoming All Things. They're also playing a free show on Sunday (12/2) at Sound Fix in Brooklyn.

MP3 :: Snow In Berlin
MP3 :: Trumpets
(from Becoming All Things. Buy here)

Classic :: The Velvet Underground

Sometimes unfairly overlooked in the Velvet Underground catalog, more by listeners than critics, is their eponymously titled third album. The subdued, meditative record isn’t as revolutionary as the historic debut, The Velvet Underground & Nico, (“not many heard it, but everyone who did started a band” is the famous quote), as bracing as the sonic squall of White Light/White Heat, nor as characterized by being an accessible pop-crossover as Loaded, The Velvet Underground is an album that stands entirely on its own as the most unlikely album of the quartet.

Released soon after the departure of John Cale, the band’s primary avant-garde member, The Velvet Underground captured the band turning away from the challenging art-rock of their first 2 records to a more somber setting for Lou Reed’s plaintive songs of sin and redemption; infidelity and rock and roll. AMG says it was “as if the previous albums documented some manic, speed-fueled party and this was the subdued morning after”. With each VU album being so different from the others, as well as each being a stone classic, it’s impossible to say where this one fits in as far as overall quality goes. But I go back to it frequently, usually on those subdued mornings after, and appreciate the band for being as beautifully quiet as they were dissonant the night before.

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

New Music - The Junior League

The Junior League, not to be confused with Junior League or Junior Boys, is a power-pop band from Louisiana. Their first record, Catchy, was released last year and sent to me recently. It contains nothing but, well, uh, catchy, polished little rock n’ roll nuggets. It takes balls to name your album Catchy, especially when working in a genre that so depends on the music being so, but in the case of The Junior League it couldn’t have been named more accurately. For fans of The Minus 5, The Posies, and Fountains of Wayne.

MP3 :: Let Me Win
MP3 :: Hear My Voice
(from Catchy. Buy here)


Low - “Breaker”

Happy Birthday dude.

Wilco enthusiasts should check out The Good, The Bad, & The Unknown. Did you know that Tweedy was commissioned to write the theme song, Friends-style, to the short-lived Christina Applegate sitcom Jessie back in the late-90s? Neither did I, but apparently it’s true. I know this because I read it on the internet. He’s got 2 demos (one you may recognize would later become “The Ruling Class”) that weren’t used for the program.

Stereogum reported yesterday on an interesting debate on the state of modern music.

They also have a huge list from Paste magazine - they’re Top 100 Albums of the Year. That’s way to long, there’s no need to dilute the year’s music so much. And there was no need to leave Panda Bear and Handsome Furs off (among several others in my opinion, but you‘ll have to wait a few weeks for my list to know what). That’s just stupid. Way to go though with The National taking top honors. Somewhat gutsy move from a magazine that caters mostly to the Starbucks type - notice Norah Jones coming in ahead of Battles, and Josh Rouse coming in ahead of Beirut, Okkervil River, and Dan Deacon.

Pitchfork has a great interview with Kevin Drew. It’s rare that I actually read an entire interview instead of just skimming through to find the parts where they actually talk music. Plenty of worthwhile bits here though, musical and not.

Gorilla vs. Bear lists their favorite live shows of the year, as does Muzzle of Bees. List season is upon us, and Largehearted Boy is keeping track of all of them in one convenient place.

That Truncheon Thing is all about quality over quantity. Part 1 of a 2-Part Led Zeppelin bootleg is their latest offering. They also have a live-in-studio version of Radiohead’s “Bodysnatchers” from the web cast last weekend that I don’t know if I’ve seen anywhere else.

What Came Before The Blues: Jason Molina Live Session

Magnolia Electric Co./Jason Molina completists will want to check out this live session recorded sometime between the release of 2003’s classic Magnolia Electric Co. and 2005’s What Comes After The Blues. The set finds Molina doing a solo radio promo via telephone - yes, all these tracks are recorded live through the wires. The natural ache of Molina’s voice and the by-now standard lyrical themes (moons, darkness, ghosts, the blues, etc.) combined with the lo-fi sound quality of a landline makes this a truly compelling, albeit challenging, listen. It sounds much closer to the Harry Smith Anthology Of Folk Music than music written and recorded in the 21st century.

Especially of note to collectors is that none of the 11 songs recorded during this session had ever seen proper release at the time. “Leave The City” and “Hammer Down” would soon be highlights of What Comes After the Blues, and many others would later populate Fading Trails and the Sojourner box set. This session shows that after solidifying his band’s line-up for the first time Jason Molina was writing at such a prolific rate that the band couldn’t keep pace on the commercial side (hence the 4-disc Sojourner to catch up).

They all sound great (in performance), but take a listen to “Whippoorwill” especially, which between this version and the demo version from Magnolia Electric Co. (will be posted later in the week, stay tuned) has become one of my very favorite Molina tracks:

Still waiting for you to sing that song again
The one you were singing at the very fall of man
It ain’t Hallelujah but it might as well have been…

MP3 :: Texas 71
MP3 :: Lonesome Valley
MP3 :: Hammer Down
MP3 :: Trouble In Mind
MP3 :: Down The Wrong Road Both Ways
MP3 :: Don’t Fade On Me
MP3 :: Leave The City
MP3 :: What Comes After The Blues
MP3 :: Nashville Moon
MP3 :: Down On The Bowery
MP3 :: Whippoorwill

New Music: Black Mountain

The first sounds of the new Black Mountain album have finally been made available in the form of the first “single”, “Tyrants”, an 8-minute tour-de-force that finds the band waist deep in mammoth, 70s-inspired psyche-rock nearly 3 years after their eponymous debut. Far from a one-trick pony though, the song employs beautifully executed quiet/loud dynamics as it shifts dramatically several times from thundering guitar rock to fragile folk, only adding to the epic scope of the song. In The Future will be released by Jagjaguwar on January 21, 2008.

MP3 :: Tyrants
(from In The Future)

New Music: Pet Politics

Here’s a great new song straight from that other center of the music universe (the one that isn’t Brooklyn or Austin). Hailing from Gothenburg, Sweden and recording under the Pet Politics moniker, Magnus Larsson lovingly crafts dreamy, lo-fi indie-pop for a label called The Great Pop Supplement. He has recently released a very limited edition 7” EP for the label with a song called “The Spring” as the A-Side (streaming at his myspace), and this track, “Taken Away By Aliens”, as the b-side. The track makes me stop wondering what would have happened had Ray Davies (circa 1968) recorded with Robert Pollard (circa 1994). It’s a whimsical tale of alien abduction that makes you wish it could happen to you too.

MP3 :: Taken Away By Aliens
(from The Spring 7”. Buy here)

Live Review: The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady concluded the tour in support of Boys & Girls In America this past Wednesday night by playing to a packed house at New York’s new home for large scale indie-bands, Terminal 5. The tour has kept the band on the road since just after the record’s release late last summer, but in no way did that seem to diminish the energy Craig Finn and co. brought with them to the stage. In fact I brought my younger brother with me to the show, who isn’t really much of a music fan and hadn’t ever heard The Hold Steady’s music before, and he got such a kick out of Finn - first with a “wait, that guy is the lead singer?!?” first impression and later by both his onstage antics (the unabashedly dorky waving, clapping, ranting, smiling, dancing), as well as those of the suit-and-mustached keyboardist Franz Nicolay.

It was clear from the outset that the band was excited to play its final show in its adoptive home city. They ripped through the first 3 songs (“Hot Soft Lights”, “Stuck Between Stations”, and “Chips Ahoy!”) from last year’s critically adored album to get the crowd into a quick frenzy. I haven’t witnessed that much (good-natured) pushing, nor crowd-surfing, in an audience in a long time, and the band barely provided an opportunity to for them to catch their breath until the end of the 90 minute set.

They focused much of their set on the highlights from Boys & Girls In America (playing everything save “Same Kooks”, “Citrus”, and “Chillout Tent”) and Separation Sunday, with a few notable new songs thrown in for good measure. Highlights of the main included “The Swish” from Almost Killed Me (the only song I can think of that namedrops the Tuskan Raiders and gets away with it), “Party Pit”, and a new song that seems destined to be a fan favorite called, I think, “Ask Her For The Adderol”.

The main set closed with “Southtown Girls”, followed by a 3 song encore of “First Night” and album closers “How A Resurrection Really Feels” and “Killer Parties”, during which they were joined by members of opener Art Brut. There was a lot of obvious emotion coming from the stage over these final few songs, as Craig Finn thanked the crowd repeatedly for all the support the band has received over the past year +, and tearfully remarked that “there’s so much joy on this stage in doing what we do” to a rousing ovation. I left that night thinking that it might have been the best show I saw all year. Thanks Wagner.

MP3 :: The Swish
(from Almost Killed Me. Buy here)

MP3 :: Your Little Hoodrat Friend
(from Separation Sunday. Buy here)

MP3 :: Stuck Between Stations (Live on the Current)
MP3 :: First Night
(originally from Boys & Girls In America. Buy here)

The photos aren't from the show. They are from The Food Of The Future.


New Music: The Color Wheels

Sometimes this whole music blogging thing is really easy. Sometimes the bands you want to write about find you. And sometimes the best music is the simplest - the bands who know a handful of chords and bleed memorable melodies like they’re poppin’ blood-thinners. Sometimes gems like this one just fall right into your lap.

A band from Poughkeepsie called The Color Wheels emailed me a few weeks ago and asked me to listen to their music, which I did. And now I’m a fan. Easy as that. The Color Wheels are a husband and wife duo, Jon and Psalm Sebastian, who have been playing music together since he taught her how to play drums in 2003 while they were college sweethearts. They started out, as most bands from Poughkeepsie probably have to, by playing in libraries, living rooms, and community colleges. Now they make catchy, exuberant power-pop for a label called Viper Bite Records. Their new self-titled full-length record was produced by Jacques Cohen (Mercury Rev) at The Space Recording Studio in Poughkeepsie.

On the surface The Color Wheels seems like little more than a collection of simple power-pop songs, but closer listening reveals the album to be a look into the complex themes of emerging adolescence. “Trying to resist temptation while at the same time being confused and consumed by it,” Jon explains. The Color Wheels is 11 songs filled with loud guitars, contagious spirit, and sparkling melodies. Though the tempos hardly vary, the songs are catchy as hell. Sometimes that’s all you need. This is music for fans of early Weezer, and just about any good power-pop band of the 90s.

MP3 :: Rock My World
MP3 :: Green Means Go
(from The Color Wheels. Buy here)

The Color Wheels are playing Arlene’s Grocery in NYC on December 16th.

New Music: Marah - "Angels of Destruction" (Stream)

Thanks to Yep Roc Records you can now stream the upcoming Marah release, Angels of Destruction! Leave a comment and let me know what you think of the 6th studio album from the kids from Brooklyn by way of Philly.

After 1 listen, Angels of Destruction! sounds like the band’s biggest departure from expectation since they headed over the pond to record Float Away With The Friday Night Gods with Oasis producer Owen Morris back in 2002. But where that album disappointingly tried to ape the huge guitar sounds of Brit-rock to the point where most of their fanbase wanted nothing to do with them, here they mix their trademark folk-flavored E Street Bandisms with hints of jazz, ragtime, vaudevillian, and much more (I think I’m hearing mid-80s Elvis Costello on a lot of these songs?). One of the best songs, the fantastic "Can't Take It With You", does all this without ever sounding like anyone but Marah.

Angels Of Destruction! also finds Marah using locale as a lyrical inspiration once again, though this time they're singing about much more than just the streets of their hometown. The references to places, such as "a wine bar in the middle of Madrid", the Wild West, or a Holiday Inn in Tippecanoe, Indiana, provide the backdrops for the overarching themes - the religion, destruction, redemption, and angels that populate these stories.

The band attempts to make these influences sound seamless, and for the most part does. Although I don’t think I’m hearing the highs I heard on If You Didn’t Laugh You’d Cry, this could be their most consistent set of songs since Kids In Philly, their masterpiece and one of my 5 favorite records of the decade. Other early favorites here are the wordy "Wild West Love Song" and the driving "Santos De Madera".

Stream :: Angels Of Destruction!
(pre-order here)

New Music: Burial

2007 has been a year of musical discovery for me. I’ve fallen for the warm electronica of Sweden’s The Field and Brazil’s Gui Boratto, as well as American acts like Dan Deacon and The Octopus Project - all of whom play a form of music I wouldn‘t have given 2 minutes of my time prior to this year. As someone who has almost exclusively listened to white boys with guitars for the past, oh, 16 or 17 years, I’ve been pretty proud of myself for this branching out. The closest I’ve ever come to listening to “dub” though might be the 2 times I’ve tried listening to Sandanista, which A.) probably doesn’t count and B.) I’ve never made it through anyway. This week I’ve branched out again on the advice of nearly every blogger on the web to check out a record that’s crossing genre borders.

The new record from Burial, Untrue, is the one that has everyone in a tizzy. After receiving Best New Music honors from Pitchfork, as well as glowing reviews from just about everywhere else, I decided to forego any preconceived notions I had (from labels such as “dub”, “grime” and “drum and bass” - not my forte) and checked it out. It’s virtually all I’ve listened to in the past 72 hours.

Burial is from the UK. That’s about all we know of him (or her - Burial keeps the focus squarely on the music by staying safely behind the curtain). The music is the perfect soundtrack for the cold winter days ahead; a distant and alien sounding collection of R&B vocal samples, emaciated beats and keyboards, and scratchy blips and bleeps. It’s so stripped down it sounds like it’s coming from some kind of other haunted dimension. It’s hypnotic and it’s not letting me listen to anything else.
MP3 :: Archangel
MP3 :: Ghost Hardware
(from Untrue)

New Video: Earl Pickens, "I Know What You Want"

What do you get when you cross hotcakes, the Lewisburg PA High School Track & Field team, and a group of guys ordering milk at a bar? Not much probably. But add in a life size version of the cover art of the Earl Pickens’ EP Turn On The Radio with cut-out holes for the country rock maestro himself and you’ve (once again) got homemade music video magic. Earl followed up his previous video entries this week with a new one for the latest single, “I Know What You Want”. It’s pure wholesome goodness (and a little tongue-in-cheek self-promotion) with more than one guaranteed laugh, not to mention some pretty sweet Rickenbacker 12-string electric guitar and a killer melody to boot.

Stream :: Can I Turn On The Radio?/ So Wild
(from Turn On The Radio. Buy here)

Centro-Matic :: Feedback Recovery

One of my favorite working bands is Denton, TX's Centro-Matic. Led by the hyper-prolific songwriting of Will Johnson, the band, and all its various incarnations, have released no less than 12 full length albums since their inception way back in 1995, as well as a smattering of singles and EPs in that time. Their most recent full length was last year’s excellent Fort Recovery, which found the band at its most cohesive and accessible while still remaining true to their garage/roots/folk-rock background.

Looking back over the Centro-Matic catalog it’s amazing to me just how consistent each record is. It’s hard to pick a favorite, or one that doesn’t quite live up to the high standards the band has set for itself. Their early LPs, like Redo The Stacks (probably one of my 50 favorite albums of all time) and The Static Vs. The Strings, are just as likely to bristle with loud distorted guitar rockers as they are to sooth with earnest acoustic ballads. The band often found themselves compared to Guided By Voices during these years, more I think for the staggering amount of songs they put out than any glaring similarity in sound (Will Johnson always seems more influenced by an “American sound, whereas Pollard never hid his love of the British Invasion). These records led to a mid-period of more focused albums such as All The Falsest Hearts Can Try (2000), Distance and Clime (2001), and Love You Just The Same (2003). Each featured slightly stronger production values than the one before it without sacrificing the fuzzy grit that I loved.

It was around this time that the band members started releasing records under various side projects. 1999’s Navigational was billed as Centro-Matic, and featured the original band members, but is now largely considered the first South San Gabriel album due to its gentler soundscapes. This sound became the trademark of 3 later SSG releases, South San Gabriel Songs (2001), Welcome, Convalescence (2003), and The Carlton Chronicles (2005). Johnson has also released 2 acclaimed solo albums - Murder of Tides (2002) and Vultures Await (2004) - that focused more on the singer-songwriter side of his talent.

Centro-Matic is a treasure of an American rock and roll band, and if you haven’t yet checked them out then today is your lucky day. They’ve always hosted numerous mp3s on their website and I’ve gone through and rounded them up here in one convenient place. If nothing else, it’s worth it just to hear how effortlessly they use feedback as an integral part of many of their songs - better than any other rock band I can think of and constantly buzzing out of the speakers. But there’s so much more here than that. Magnet magazine, when reviewing Love You Just The Same, said it’s “what a trucker cap would sound like if it could sing. Oh, and play violin” and I can’t think of a more accurate description. Check this band out:

MP3 :: Triggers And Trash Heaps
(from Fort Recovery)

MP3 :: Flashes And Cables
MP3 :: Argonne Limit Co.
(from Love You Just The Same)

MP3 :: Janitorial On Channel Fail
MP3 :: To Unleash The Horses Now
(from Distance And Clime)

MP3 :: Most Everyone Will Find
MP3 :: Huge In Every City
(from All The Falsest Hearts Can Try)

MP3 :: Numbers One And Three
MP3 :: The Massacre Went Well
(from Navigational)

MP3 :: The Dark Of Garage
MP3 :: I Am Six Pounds Of Dynamite
(from The Carlton Chronicles)

MP3 :: Smelling Medicinal
MP3 :: Saint Augustine
(from Welcome, Convalescence)

MP3 :: Glacial Slurs
MP3 :: Ninety Secretaries Down
(from Songs)

MP3 :: Karchers Contacts
MP3 :: Murder of Tides (Westerlies)
(from Murder of Tides)

Buy all of these titles and more HERE

Some Random Videos...

Unbelievably (or not) I have once again gone over my bandwidth for the month. Ugh, ya know? Two months in a row. I guess I didn’t learn my lesson last month not to post Radiohead mp3s. Anyway, it’ll reset in 2 days, so if you see something you want by all means, come back soon. Until then, here’s some videos I’ve been enjoying lately. None of them are new to the world, but they are to me.

Los Campesinos - “You! Me! Dancing!”


The Octopus Project - “Truck” (live)


M.I.A. - “Bird Flu”


Band of Horses - “No One’s Gonna Love You” (live)


New Music - The Soft Hands

A few weeks ago while I was innocently searching for cover versions of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” over at The Hype Machine I came across a song with the same name by The Soft Hands, a band from Long Beach, CA. Well, my first listen may have been accidental, but I was hooked right away. The Soft Hands have an angular, post-punk sound - something close to a West Coast version of The Strokes - with lots of distorted energy and fuzzy guitars. The band is completely independent at this point - their only available music is a digital EP - 3 songs of which you can hear below.

MP3 :: I’m On Fire
MP3 :: Up The Ladder
MP3 :: I Hope So

Okkervil River on Daytrotter

Daytrotter is not generally a website I peruse to find new music, but rather to hear the live sessions of bands I already enjoy. The site provides a unique forum for more daring bands to mess around with expectations a bit by playing covers and new songs, as well as giving their own deep cuts new arrangements. It’s when bands take advantage of this free reign that I inevitably enjoy Daytrotter most.

There’s a new session up today featuring Okkervil River that does exactly that. It finds the band taking on 3 cover songs that up until today I’d never even heard of before, as well as rearranging - and thus bringing to life - one of The Stage Names' lesser tracks, “You Can’t Hold The Hand Of A Rock n‘ Roll Man”.

The Stage Names, and especially 2005’s classic Black Sheep Boy, have already cemented Okkervil River to be one of the most vibrant indie-rock bands working today, as well as one that draws its influences from a wide array of diverse artists. They’ve previously used a semi-obscure Tim Hardin song as the building block for a brilliant song cycle, and now Will Sheff once again proves he is well-versed in music history. Today the evidence is covers of lost classics from John Phillips, Carole King, and Jimmy Webb.

MP3 :: April Anne (John Phillips cover)
MP3 :: No Easy Way Down (Carole King cover)
MP3 :: Do What You Gotta Do (Jimmy Webb cover)
MP3 :: You Can’t Hold The Hand Of A Rock n’ Roll Man
(from Daytrotter Sessions - Okkervil River)

Bonus MP3 :: Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe
(from The Stage Names. Buy here. myspace.)

Radiohead's Webcast Highlights

Radiohead had a busy weekend. In case you’ve missed it almost everywhere else here are some live performances of songs from In Rainbows as well as covers of The Smiths, Bjork, and New Order from the webcast at Not only some great music but Thom Yorke as host and funnyman. Brilliant stuff (the music).

“The Headmaster Ritual” - (The Smiths)

MP3 :: The Headmaster Ritual (live in studio)
“Ceremony” - (New Order)

MP3 :: Ceremony (live in studio)
“Unravel” - (Bjork)

MP3 :: Unravel (live in studio)
“Jigsaw Falling Into Place” - (from In Rainbows)

“Bodysnatchers” - (from In Rainbows)

“Faust Arp” - (from In Rainbows)

“Reckoner” - from In Rainbows)


Live Review - Josh Ritter @ Webster Hall

Josh Ritter played to a capacity crowd Friday night in New York at the beautiful Webster Hall. He and his band played a 90-minute set that was heavy on this year’s The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter and last year’s fantastic The Animal Years.

Josh bounded out to the stage at 9 with an ear-to-ear grin that barely left during the whole show. It was so refreshing to see a performance that didn’t contain a shred of indie-rock pretension. Both Josh and his band were obviously overjoyed to be playing in front of such a large audience and never once tried to contain that emotion for appearance sake. The crowd couldn’t help but share in Josh’s obvious enthusiasm and responded with their own during the upbeat songs and a hushed reverence for the quiet ones.

The band was well versed in many styles, swinging from the polished folk-rock of “Open Doors” and “Good Man” to swaggering barnburners like “To The Dogs Or Whoever”. They even threw in a brief cover of Modest Mouse’s “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes” in the middle of “Harrisburg”, which delighted me but was probably lost on most of the more “mature” audience members. A horn section joined for a handful of songs from the latest album, including “Right Moves” and “Real Long Distance”. When Josh played solo on “The Temptation of Adam” and “Girl In The War” you could hear a pin drop among the audience, while fan favorites “Kathleen” and “Wolves” provided perfect counters as folks were happily singing along. The only disappointment was the notable absence of “Thin Blue Flame” - the mind-blowing apocalyptic climax to The Animal Years, which I thought for sure would close the show.

Stream :: The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter

MP3 :: Girl In The War
MP3 :: Thin Blue Flame
(from The Animal Years. Buy here)

MP3 :: Kathleen
MP3 :: Snow Is Gone (live)
(from Hello Starling. Buy here)

MP3 :: Harrisburg
(from Golden Age of Radio. Buy here)

Opening for Ritter was Eric Bachmann, former front man of Crooked Fingers and current solo artist. He played a well-received 45-minute set that featured songs from his 2006 solo album To The Races. He was accompanied on violin and keys by a woman (er, whose name I didn’t catch) who was right in step with his guitar playing the whole set, even when she tripped mid-song. After a brief pause Bachmann joked that she was drunk and they picked up exactly where they left off, to the delight of the crowd. Before last night I wasn’t really familiar with Bachmann’s music but after seeing him play I’ll certainly check out his back catalog.

MP3 :: Carrboro Woman
MP3 :: Lonesome Warrior
(from To The Races. Buy here)

A Friday Mix:

Just trying to catch up a bit. Here’s a nice little mix of some things that have been floating my boat lately. Happy Friday:

MP3 :: Page France - Chariot
(from Hello, Dear Wind)

MP3 :: Los Campesinos - You! Me! Dancing!
(from Sticking Fingers Into Sockets)

MP3 :: The Field - A Paw In My Face
(from From Here We Go Sublime)

MP3 :: Battles - Atlas
(from Mirrored)

MP3 :: Radiohead - Worrywort

MP3 :: Sleater-Kinney - Burn, Don’t Freeze
(from The Hot Rock)

MP3 :: Jay-Z - No Hook
(from American Gangster)

MP3 :: The Cave Singers - Dancing On Our Graves
(from Invitation Songs)

MP3 :: Saturday Looks Good To Me - Make A Plan
(from Fill Up The Room)

MP3 :: Teenage Fanclub - Alcoholiday
(from Bandwagonesque)

MP3 :: Hello, Blue Roses - Shadow Falls
(from Shadow Falls)

New Music/Old Music - The Cotton Jones Basket Ride/Page France

Michael Nau of Page France has already released one of 2007’s best folk record’s with his band’s …And The Family Telephone. Word going around now is that he’ll be releasing a new record in early 2008 as part of a side project called The Cotton Jones Basket Ride. The first released track:

MP3 :: Had Not A Body
(from Paranoid Cocoon)

Which brings me to this next track. After listening to …Family Telephone so much this year I decided to go ahead and check out Page France’s prior record, Hello, Dear Wind. I was naively thinking that it wouldn’t be quite as strong as its very well-received follow up, but oh how wrong I was. Hello, Dear Wind is by far the stronger of the 2 records, as well as the more raw. Nau’s vocals are rougher, but in a good way. In fact, in a great way - he sounds more like a regular guy at a microphone after a hard day than one who‘s just sucked back a balloon’s worth of helium. He spends 14 songs dropping biblical imagery like it’s the second coming. Themes and images continually resurface, giving the record a seamless feel to go along with its whimsical folk-pop.

“Chariot” is the lead-off track and my current favorite. It makes me believe in happy endings. If you download one song all day make it this one:

MP3 :: Chariot
(from Hello, Dear Wind. Buy here)

Bonus MP3 :: Junkyard
Bonus MP3 :: Bush

New Music - Little Lebowski Urban Achievers

Little Lebowski Urban Achievers started out as a joke - a side project where members of other bands would get together to blow off steam, get drunk, and write some short punk-rock songs. But a funny thing happened. They were good, and soon the side project became the main event. Thus LLUA was born.

Heavily influenced by all the great music to emigrate out of Minneapolis over the past 25 years (Husker Du, The Replacements, etc.) LLUA hasn’t changed its approach since those first drunken band practices a few years back. They still put aside any and all indie-rock pretensions, and make their band strictly about the good times and the songs. Here’s 2 from their EP Is This A Party Or An Intervention?

MP3 :: I Wish I Knew How To Quit You
MP3 :: Tito I Need Your Keys, Nothing Personal
(from Is This A Party Or An Intervention? Buy here)

In Rewind: M. Ward Covers

M. Ward is best known for his rough, gravelly singing voice, sweet, modern folk songs, and his immaculate sense of production. Each of his past four albums, dating back to 2001’s End of Amnesia right through 2006’s Post-War, are seamless collections of dusty little folk treasures. It’s hard to claim that any one of them is better than another, as all sound like a continuation of one great collection of songs.

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

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

MP3 - Let’s Dance

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

MP3 :: You Still Believe In Me

This instrumental begins Transistor Radio in a disarmingly understated way. Ward’s acoustic guitar mimics the beautiful vocal melody most prominent as the original fades out. And if you don’t have Pet Sounds there may be something wrong with you.

MP3 - Sweethearts On Parade

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

MP3 - To Go Home

Last year’s Post War was another great collection of songs, but this cover of Daniel Johnston's song stood head and shoulders above the rest for me. With Neko Case wailing in the background, Ward and band attack this song, giving it more of a polished indie-rock sheen than anything he has attempted before. It’s also one of the best songs of 2006. Also check the version of Jimmy Dale Gilmore’s “Headed For A Fall” from the To Go Home EP, which is cut from nearly the same cloth.

MP3 - Sadie

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

MP3 - Pale Blue Eyes

This Velvet Underground cover is from a European live recording called “Live Music & the Voice of Strangers”. It dates back to just before the release of Transfiguration of Vincent.

MP3 :: When I Get To The Border

This Richard & Linda Thompson song, a duet with actress Zooey Deschanel, will be featured on the soundtrack to the film The Go-Getter, which stars Deschanel and was scored by Ward. It debuted at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival back in February.

MP3 :: Buckets Of Rain

While we’re talking duets, here’s a great one with Beth Orton. It was recorded live a few years ago at the Seymour Centre in Sydney, Australia.

MP3 :: Let My Love Open The Door

Ward does a similar thing to this song as he did to Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” - stripped away all those regrettable frills artists seemed so prone to in the 80’s and just let the song shine through. Adding some weepy pedal steel doesn’t hurt either.

And check out this cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Green River”. It’s a benefit single available only at iTunes.

green river - benefit for mercy corpspurchase the album from itunes online.

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

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

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

Live Review:Band of Horses @ Terminal 5

Band of Horses played to a packed house last night (Sunday, 11/4) at Terminal 5 in New York. It was my second time to this new Bowery Presents venue, which seems to be doing well as the new spot for the top-tier indie bands to play (The National opened the building about 3 weeks ago). Capacity is 3000, with a big open floor space and 2 levels around the sides and back overlooking the floor and stage. The sound is great and conveniently enough there are bars and bathrooms on every floor.

Band of Horses plowed through a 90-minute set of songs from both Everything All The Time and the recently released Cease To Begin. They played everything you’d expect from both albums (assuming you’re familiar with both albums) except for the notable absence of “Detlaf Schrempf“ and “Weed Party”, which might have saved some face for the band to play after flubbing and abandoning a cover during the encore. Instead the audience was left a song shy of the 4 song “encore” Ben Bridwell had just said they would play.
This is just minor sour grapes though, as what the band did play was fantastic. Tyler Ramsey, who opened the show with a short set of solo songs, ably played guitar with the band, and the dude (not his real name) playing keys and singing harmony was great as well. Opening the set with the slow building intensity of “Monsters” was an early high point. It always seems to be a good decision for a band to start a show with a song that builds to a dramatic finale - really gets the crowd ready for a rocking set. Or maybe that’s just me. The mid-set pairing of “Marry Song” and “The General Specific” was particularly inspired, with the former losing none of the beautiful harmonies of the record, and the latter bringing the crowd to life after a few mellow songs in a row. “The Funeral” was every bit the epic monster it is on record, and both “Our Swords” and "Cigarettes, Wedding Bands” in the encore were godsends. Band of Horses had the crowd in the palm of their hands for 90 minutes. A great show.

MP3 :: Is There A Ghost
Video :: Is There A Ghost
(from Cease To Begin)

MP3 :: The Funeral
MP3 :: The Great Salt Lake
(from Everything All The Time)
P.S. - I don’t think I’ve ever felt the urge to knock an unknown band on this blog, but I just have to say this time that show openers The Drones were miserable. I won’t say that it was the worst music I’d ever heard in my life, but it isn’t a good sign when you’re standing there watching a band and the thought that it might be the worst band you’ve ever heard is even faintly in your head. Sorry Drones. But seriously.

Thanks to Johnny Fabulous for the pics!

New Music - Marah

The brand new Marah EP, Can’t Take It With You, was digitally released this week (iTunes, eMusic, you know) proving the title entirely un-prophetic, as you can now purchase it and take it with you everywhere you go on one of those little electronic things that fits in your pocket. The EP is the precursor to Angels of Destruction, which will be released via YepRoc Records in early 2008. It will be Marah’s first full-length album since 2005’s If You Didn’t Laugh You’d Cry, and 6th proper.

Starting off as a sort of honky-tonk shuffle and featuring finger-picked banjo, the title track really takes off at the chorus, which echoes “Point Breeze” by using “seeing the light” as a starting point. Dave Bielenko’s voice is still a beautifully rasping instrument - an unhealthy mix of cigarette smoke and late nights - but has grown smoother over the years. It sounds right at home snuggling up to the street-procession horn section that joins it. Sonically, “Can’t Take It With You” may most closely resemble a more refined and soulful version of the horn-fueled, ragged folk-rock of “Fever” from their debut Let’s Cut The Crap And Hook Up Later On Tonight. As fine a compliment as one could bestow.

MP3 :: Can’t Take It With You
(from Can’t Take It With You EP. Buy here)

Stream :: Can’t Take It With You EP
If you’ve never caught Marah live (or celebrated Christmas with them) you have no idea what you’re missing. Full Christmas Extravaganza shows:

12/7 - Theatre of the Living Arts. Philadelphia
12/8 - The Bowery Ballroom. New York

Previously on PHW:

Cover Me (Bruce Springsteen covers)
Music News - Marah
“Outside The Dollar Store I Didn’t Have A Broken Heart”