PHW Album of the Month - 4/08

Frightened Rabbit released my favorite album of the month of April. There’s little question about that as it has dominated my personal listening for the past 3 weeks, although I did give some thought to Attack & Release and Kensington Heights as well. After February and March’s favorites it’s nice to see the rock bands getting some love again.

The Midnight Organ Fight is a pained documentation of the “frustrated male” - which is the one recurring theme that ties this expansive, but never long, record‘s 14 tracks together. The “organ” of the album title doesn’t refer to a musical instrument by the way, but some combative contact between the male/female fun parts, as “Fast Blood” makes perfectly clear. Sexual references abound throughout - “The Twist” is a sad, desperate cry for some female attention (and again, the title isn‘t referring to the dance), and “Keep Yourself Warm” recognizes that that kind of disposable Mclovin’ is only a short term cure for loneliness. Other highlights include “The Modern Leper” - a thesis statement in self-loathing, “I Feel Better” - it’s mirror image, and “Head Rolls Off” - the sparkling first single. But every song on Frightened Rabbit’s sophomore album bristles with real emotion, memorable hooks, and tight musicianship. 14 songs and not a bad apple among them. Loud guitars and a singer who means it. Go get this one.

MP3 :: The Modern Leper
(from The Midnight Organ Fight. Buy here)

And here’s that official video again for “Heads Roll Off”:


And another great album track, “Old Old Fashioned”, performed acoustic in a radio session:


Band pic from Lazy Eye Photos

New Sounds Goin' Round....

The Pedaljets first intended to release their self-titled second album way back in 1989, but weren’t happy with how it came out so didn’t. Now, nearly 20 years later and with the help of some modern studio manipulations, the record has been dusted off and is set for release on May 6 through OxBlood Records. “Agnes Mind” is the first single and recalls both the 80s underground it was originally intended for as well as modern Americana.

MP3 :: Agnes Mind
(from Pedaljets. Buy here)

“Autobahn” by Sinkane has no relation other than name to the Kraftwerk song. It is though a musically fluid and hypnotic track that’s meant for widescreen listening. It’s easy to imagine the singer walking through a vast open space, alone, with the clichĂ© of shooting stars streaking the night sky overhead.

MP3 :: Autobahn
(from Color Voice. Buy here)

Pitchfork recently bestowed the title of Best New Music to The Airing of Grievances, the new one from New Jersey’s Titus Andronicus. So that should help them out. “No Future” is a cracklin’ epic that matches the bleakness of its title with a whirlwind of grimy electric guitars doing battle with lead singer Patrick Stickles’ gruff vocals.

MP3 :: No Future
(from The Airing of Grievances. Buy here)

[bootleg] The Replacements - "Simply Unacceptable"

To follow up the recent Gold Soundz post on The Replacements I thought I’d share this widely circulated bootleg from 1985. Commonly known as Simply Unacceptable, it was recorded in the band’s hometown of Minneapolis, MN on July 1, 1985, right at the crossroads that separated the early years (Twin Tone/Bob Stinson) from the later years (Sire/Slim Dunlap). Of course, not much changed about The Replacement’s live shows over their careers. I was too young and got into them too late to ever see a show, but I know people who did who say the shows were either rock and roll epiphanies or the band’s “dysfunctions” made you want to walk out. This one would fall under the former. Simply Unacceptable is the band in top form playing reckless, inspired versions of their own songs along with a handful of choice covers. Enjoy…

MP3 :: Never Been To College
MP3 :: Bastards of Young
MP3 :: Gary’s Got A Boner
MP3 :: Color Me Impressed
MP3 :: I’ll Buy
MP3 :: Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out
MP3 :: Unsatisfied
MP3 :: Punk Poop (aka 1977)
MP3 :: Jean Genie
MP3 :: Can’t Hardly Wait
MP3 :: Dose of Thunder
MP3 :: The Man Who Invented Himself
MP3 :: I Wanna Destroy You
MP3 :: I Will Dare
MP3 :: Little Mascara
MP3 :: Left of the Dial
MP3 :: Take Me Down To The Hospital
MP3 :: Takin’ A Ride
MP3 :: I’m In Trouble
MP3 :: Rattlesnake
MP3 :: Hitchin’ A Ride
MP3 :: Customer
MP3 :: Kids Don’t Follow

[video] The Mountain Goats - "Sax Rohmer"

Heretic Pride was a welcome return to form for The Mountain Goats after the disappointing Get Lonely. It finds John Darnielle back on top of his game with a collection of emotionally bruised songs almost as direct as those from The Sunset Tree. Like that album did in 2005, Heretic Pride is finding itself slowly rising among my favorite albums released thus far in 2008. Lead single “Sax Rohmer #1” is a tense declaration of intent - I am coming home to you if it’s the last thing that I do. Don’t forget to leave the light on.

But with the white suits, scribbled lyrics on the walls, and lines like every moment points toward the aftermath that make up this dizzyingly circular video, Darnielle’s earnestness can easily be mistaken for a slight emotional imbalance - this welcome return leading to its own sad end.

MP3 :: Sax Rohmer #1
(from Heretic Pride. Buy here)

Gold Soundz: "Favorite Thing"

No other band has influenced my tastes over the past 17 years more than The Replacements have. They are, without a doubt, the reason I am the music fan I am today.

That being said, the brand new Rhino re-issues of the first 4 Replacements albums have a lot to offer any fan - the casuals who may need to fill in their collection’s missing pieces, the hopelessly devoted die-hards looking for unreleased gems (like myself), and those who fall somewhere in between. Documenting the period prior to the band’s signing to Sire Records in 1985, the recordings capture the band at their wild, careening best - quite realistically the most exciting American rock and roll band of the past 3 decades. Many of the newly unearthed rarities on these discs are actually songs I’ve loved for years (“Perfectly Lethal” especially), others are nice surprises I never knew existed.

I first heard The Replacements driving in an older friend’s car sometime in the winter of 1991. “Waitress In The Sky” and “I’ll Be You” were on a mixtape and I was taken immediately. I think I started with buying the tapes - Let It Be and Don’t Tell A Soul originally and I filled in the gaps from there. I was a little taken aback by Let It Be at first - it thrashed more than I expected compared to the shuffling folk-rock I’d already heard. Soon enough though the songs started making sense and I had a new favorite band.

There are countless Replacements’ songs I could include in a Gold Soundz post, but if pressed I think “Favorite Thing” truly captures their early spirit. Even though Westerberg did some of his best writing post-Let It Be, I’ve always felt that the Twin Tone years were the band in their prime (not revelatory, I know) and once they were on a major that the studio albums lost the drunken punk spirit that set them apart. “Favorite Thing” catches the band absolutely ripping to shreds, but also a typically inspired lyric from Paul, which, when he wanted them to be, were becoming more and more insightful (“Gary’s Got A Boner” notwithstanding). Stone classic.

MP3 :: Favorite Thing
(from Let It Be. Buy here)

Related :: The Replacements - Tim (Re-Imagined)

Gold Soundz columns highlight some of my favorite songs of all time. “Gold Soundz” because I thought this blog would be cooler if I ripped off a title for a “column” from a not-at-all obscure Pavement song. Previously featured in Gold Soundz:

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

[video] Radiohead on Conan O'Brien

Radiohead performed a sublime version of “House of Cards” from In Rainbows last night on Conan. The video was prerecorded in London exclusively for use on the show in support of NBC’s week of green programming. And oh yeah, Yorke dropped the twat word on national television. Bleeped of course.

Sun Kil Moon - April

Don’t make the same mistake as me with the new Sun Kil Moon record, April. The first 2 times I tried listening to it were in the car on my drive home from work. A 45 minute battle along the Belt Parkway with half the cars in Queens/Brooklyn trying to make your brain explode is not the way to take in Mark Kozelek’s gentle, swirling hymns. The obvious beauty of these songs was completely lost on me, and for the past few weeks I‘ve been ignoring them. Until today. Sitting here in the early-morning hours trying to shake off one of those perfect night sleeps when you don’t have to get up for work is a much better setting to hear an album that, more than most, is not meant to be heard under all conditions.

Those first 2 listens made me pretty vehement in my early negative opinion, but I‘ve since come around. April may not be quite the record Ghosts of the Great Highway was, but if you liked that record (and chances are if you did, you really did) then April is a must hear. It’s 11 more songs that have all the same qualities that made Ghosts such a pleasant surprise and a modern Americana classic - carefully plucked acoustics and piano; winding Crazy Horse-grooves; Kozelek’s sturdy, reassuring voice; and a hazy, sustained mood running from start to finish. The melodies again take time to settle in and show their faces, but once they do you’ll be helpless to them. Just make sure you aren’t driving in traffic when you first listen.

MP3 :: Moorestown
(from April. Buy here)

Tall Firs - Too Old To Die Young

New York based Tall Firs recently released their sophomore record - Too Old To Die Young. Coming from his Ecstatic Peace label, the album has Thurston Moore’s fingerprints all over it. The partnership is fitting because if Tall Firs recall another band it’s the more melodic side of Sonic Youth (think “Candle” from Daydream Nation or “Incinerate” from Rather Ripped). If you counted the rings you’d find these firs date back to the era of vintage 80s/90s indie rock of bands like Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Pavement, and Mudhoney. The vocals are a cross between Moore’s and the stoned drawl of J Mascis - furthering the connection to the alt rock heyday that the tossed off fluidity of the music easily conjures, and the songs feature a youthful nostalgia (see “So Messed Up’s” references to underage drinking and drugging - we were acid crazed teenage tweak-outs/those blues for days of pills and freak-outs/tonight we‘ll be alright/we‘ll make it through tonight/tonight we’re so messed up) that probably shouldn’t ring as true as it does. At 9 songs and just 36 minutes Too Old To Die Young (the title itself a sort of secret password into a club for kids of the late 80s and early 90s) is a concise and consistent listen - and one of 2008’s most unexpected and welcome surprises to date.

MP3 :: So Messed Up
MP3 :: Hairdo
(from Too Old To Die Young. Buy here)

Johnny Karaoke Superstar

Sometimes John takes pictures for PHW. Sometimes I post pictures of him with real headwounds, drunk but not defeated. And now I post hilarious videos of him singing his heart out to 800 people on a cruise. This one is sort of Meatloaf meets Chris Farley. One need not have been friends with him since high school to enjoy. But it certainly helps. Royal Caribbean, you're beautiful. GOODNIGHT!

[record review] Constantines - Kensington Heights

Even though I was shut out of hearing the Constantines’ show this week at Mercury Lounge, my anticipation for getting a copy of Kensington Heights was not dulled by that unfortunate turn of events. Those waiting for a CD release still have a few days to go (April 29, Arts & Crafts), but if you’re willing to go the digital route you can purchase the album right now from eMusic, who have the advance.

Now that I’ve (figuratively) spun the record a few times it’s safe to say that Kensington Heights is another tight and tense collection of urgent rockers and slow building ballads from a band that’s shown more in the way of consistency than evolution over their career. I’d put (self-titled debut) The Constantines and Shine A Light up against any hard indie-rock album of the decade, and 2005’s Tournament of Hearts just a notch below. Kensington Heights is probably going to be grouped with and compared to the latter, as it once again finds the band inching away from the aggressive post-punk of those first 2 records to a sound with more nuance and subtlety.

But that’s not to say Kensington Heights forgets to rock, as it does so well on several occasions. Twitchy opener “Hard Feelings” matches anything in their canon - it’s a bracing rocker that downplays its pop-potential for something more in-your-face exciting. The riff that begins “Million Star Hotel” is huge and comes in and out of the mix at all the right moments, and “Trans Canada” is a near robotic track that features an icy cool rhythm on the verses and an explosive vocal on the all-too-brief chorus. The driving pop-rock sound found on past albums (“Soon Enough”, “Young Lions”, etc) is met with “Our Age” and “Credit River”, but the best of the rockers may be “Brother Run Them Down”, a ferocious anti-generational anthem that kicks off the album’s back half.

The slower portion of Kensington Heights has nearly as many high points, beginning with the mid-album “Time Can Be Overcome”, which takes its time to get going, but once it does is not to be missed. You can feel the primordial blues of Bryan Webb’s vocals deep in your bones as he turns in what must be considered amongst his finest performances. Album closer “Do What You Can Do” is just as effective, with the gradual swell of Webb’s positive message not lost among an intensely dynamic band performance. And the acoustic “New King” surprises in its directness, if not its earnest lyrics about a family trying to make it through some hard times.

The heights referenced in the album title isn’t the sound of Constantines reaching new ones, just the same ones for the fourth time around. Again the band is far more positive in their over-arching themes than most of their gloomy peers - not so much shiny happy people as able to make you feel united with others against the trials of everyday living. Long since past needing the Springsteen/Clash/Fugazi comparisons to make people listen, with Kensington Heights the Constantines have delivered another solid batch of rousing rock n’ roll songs to sing along with alone after a hard day at work or collectively with friends on Saturday night.

MP3 :: Hard Feelings
(from Kensington Heights. Buy here)
(from Tournament of Hearts. Buy here)
MP3 :: On To You
(from Shine A Light. Buy here)

MP3 :: Arizona
(from Constantines. Buy here)

Live Review - Tapes 'n Tapes/White Denim

Some thoughts on the Tapes ‘n Tapes / White Denim show from Saturday night at the Music Hall of Williamsburg:

1. That was my first time to the (still kind of) new Music Hall and I thought the sound was pretty good. I’m not a sound man though, so it might have been shit and I still would think it was alright.

2. If you’re going to gut your building and remodel it after another venue then The Bowery Ballroom is an excellent choice. Manhattan’s finest midsize venue now has a Brooklyn clone.

3. I’ve tried a few times since hearing about White Denim (mostly from Gorilla vs. Bear) to get into them, but for some reason they never really took. But the other night they were phenomenal - playing high energy, nervy garage rock that had me and my show buddy convinced immediately we were watching a top notch band.

4. After White Denim (pictured above, btw, in a photo swiped from An Aquarium Drunkard) finished I predicted to my buddy “Tapes ’n Tapes won’t be as good as that”.

5. Tapes ’n Tapes weren’t as good as White Denim. Not by a long shot.

6. They opened with “Jakov’s Suite”, which was incredible and never matched by anything that followed until a really pretty “Manitoba” in the encore.

7. They ran through about 4 or 5 songs in a row from Walk It Off after the first song, and only “Le Ruse” was really any good. “Time Of Songs”, which I kinda like on record, didn’t connect live. “Conquest” was serviceable and “Headshock” was instantly forgettable.

8. About halfway through the set I went to pee and noticed the downstairs area was nearly deserted, which was strange for a sold out show because the upstairs wasn’t overly crowded either. I didn’t have to fight my way through the crowd back to my spot halfway to the stage.

9. They played “Insistor” and “Hang Them All” back to back late in the set, and I’d guesstimate that half the crowd left after that. Yikes.

10. That was a shame because, like I said, “Manitoba” sounded great in the quick 2-song encore.

11. Overall I thought TnT put on a rather ordinary show that had a few high points but too many long stretches of boring songs that didn’t seem to connect with the audience. Besides “Hang Them All” and a couple of other stand outs, Walk It Off is not a strong record and the live show made that really apparent.

12. I’d go see White Denim again anywhere anytime.

13. This is the last time Tapes ’n Tapes gets mentioned on PHW until my Favorite Songs Of The Year List in December. I think we both could use a break.

MP3 :: Hang Them All
(from Walk It Off. Buy here)

MP3 :: Insistor
MP3 :: Omaha
MP3 :: Cowbell
(from The Loon. Buy here)

White Denim:

MP3 :: ShakeShakeShake
MP3 :: Don’t Look That Way At It
MP3 :: Let’s Talk About It

[mp3] No Age - "Eraser"

Oh snap bitches - that’s a new header photo up there. Not bad right? It’s a picture I took last year at Rockwood Music Hall at a show from the now-defunct Here Lies Pa. After a year and a half of not having a clue how to crop a photo my girlfriend comes home today and does it for me in about 8 seconds. I feel like my blog is all grown up now. Maybe on to advertisements next?

On the music front for the weekend, I’ve been spinning the new record from recent Sub Pop recruits No Age pretty relentlessly over the last few days. I’ll admit to being late to the Weirdo Rippers phenomenon of 2007, and even after hearing it months after the fact I (embarrassing admission coming…) wasn’t blown away . Different story entirely for Nouns (out May 6) - a more song oriented collection than the often murky debut. Nouns downplays the dissonance a smidge and ups the tunefulness a bunch, revealing to me what many heard last year - that this is a young band to reckon with now and be excited for what their future holds.

MP3 :: Eraser
(from Nouns. Info here)

No Age are set to play The Bowery Ballroom on May 6

[mp3] My Morning Jacket - "Evil Urges"

For those of you that thought 2005’s Z was My Morning Jacket pushing their sonic boundaries to the limit, be prepared to lose your minds. Hot off the press is the ridiculously awesome title track to the forthcoming studio follow up, available now as a free download by the band and the folks at ATO. “Evil Urges” ups the ante, finding the band flawlessly combining the aspects you already love about them (the balls out rocking) with what you soon will (the pretty much unrecognizable new Prince-like falsetto of Jim James, lavish strings; subtle electronics). Evil Urges is due out 6/10 and I have a very evil urge to hear it before then.

MP3 :: Evil Urges
(from Evil Urges. Info here)

[mp3] The War On Drugs - "Taking the Farm"

The War On Drugs are getting ready to release their debut full length, Wagonwheel Blues, for Secretly Canadian on June 17. You may remember that I shared an excellent track last month from a recently released free EP called Barrel of Batteries, which is still available here. That track, “Arms Like Boulders” and featured again below, will appear in a new version on the upcoming album.

“Taking The Farm”, the first new single from the forthcoming record, is almost helplessly anthemic - the band’s energy just flooding from the speakers. It’s an exciting mix of sounds and styles - with elements of pure Americana, the 80s American underground, psyche-rock, and electronic flourishes. Lead singer/songwriter Adam Granduciel has an expressive voice which meshes comfortably with the echoed guitars and insistent beat drummer Charlie Hall lays down. I think the song says it best: You can feel it in the ozone zone/ you can feel it in the knees knees knees/ you can feel it in the dirt that’s under your feet/ you can feel it in the highways/ and in the one-way streets/ when you’re digging for diamonds at the bottom of the sea.

MP3 :: Taking The Farm
(from Wagonwheel Blues. Info here)

Wagonwheel Blues tracklist:

Arms Like Boulders
Taking the Farm
Coast Reprise
Buenos Aires Beach
There is no Urgency
A Needle in Your Eye #16
Reverse the Charges
Show Me the Coast
Barrel of Batteries

Upcoming shows:

05/05/08 New York, NY- Piano's- Brooklyn Vegan's Rock and ROFL w/ The Acorns, and Comedians
05/14/08 Northampton, MA - Iron Horse w/ Bishop Allen
05/15/08 Boston, MA - Middle East (Downstairs) w/ Bishop Allen
05/16/08 Brooklyn, NY - Music Hall of Williamsburg w/ Bishop Allen
05/18/08 Washington DC, - The Black Cat w/ Bishop Allen
06/07/08 Philadelphia, PA - Johnny Brenda's

New Music - Neva Dinova

The Saddle Creek / Team Love partnership has already yielded more than their fair share of solid releases this year. Between terrific new albums from Flowers Forever, Tokyo Police Club, The Felice Brothers, and A Weather (which I haven’t gotten around to posting about yet, but mean to) the labels have been in heavy rotation around here for the better part of 2008. Add this new one to the list - You May Already Be Dreaming by new Saddle Creek signees Neva Dinova.

The founding members of Neva Dinova, singer/songwriter/guitarist Jake Bellows and bassist Heath Koontz, have been playing together for almost 20 years now. Their new record is full of lush, gauzy, drug-referencing folk-rock that keeps things on the melancholic tip, although doesn’t hesitate to rock out in a few choice places. The windswept open space in the music and provocative lyrics bring to mind many of their fellow Omaha-ans, and proves that this artist/label team should be a perfect match for years to come.

MP3 :: Clouds
(from You May Already Be Dreaming. Buy here)

Thank You Mercury Lounge Box Office Girl

That was awesome tonight how you told me when I called that the Constantines were on at 10:00, when really they were on at 8:30. I thoroughly enjoyed spending a combined 2 and 1/2 hours riding the subway in and out of the city to miss the show I've been waiting to see for 2 months. I'd actually prefer to be venting here about this mistake than writing up a nice little review of what I'm sure was a kickass show.

Sarcasm aside, I very easily could have checked the website, but I decided I wanted to get the word straight from a human. I asked you, Box Office Girl, what I thought was a very simple question - "what time do the Constantines go on tonight?" - apparently I should have been clearer in what I meant. You see, I wanted to know what time they would begin playing their music, not what time they would end.

I understand things can get hectic. I understand brain farts. I understand sometimes people have trouble reading from a schedule, even when it is their job to be able to do so. I was just really disappointed to miss this show. I will give your venue the benefit of the doubt - I've seen many shows there over the years and most have been pretty good (despite the spotty sound and cramped space). But please try harder in the future to be better at your job.

Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight

Frightened Rabbit are a band from Glascow, Scotland - birthplace of my paternal grandfather. He was one of 9 children (the only boy!) and when he emigrated in the mid-1920s to New York he left about half of his sisters behind. Which means of course that I probably have dozens of first and second cousins still living over there that I’ll never meet. I’d like to imagine them all rocking out at a Frightened Rabbit show, championing a band they knew 2 or 3 years ago was destined for bigger things. Their new sophomore record, The Midnight Organ Fight, was just digitally released by Fat Cat Records and seems to be just the record to make that a reality on these shores.

People seem to be using The Twilight Sad as a reference point in describing Frightened Rabbit, which is fair I guess being that they share a homeland, as well as a similar tension and drama inherent in their music. To me The Midnight Organ Fight seems a perfect soundtrack to that gritty industrial city I’ve never seen - songs with bad teeth, whiskey breath, and minimum wage filled pockets. Songs covered in smog that kick and snort with a smile. Songs with loud guitars and a singer who means it. It’s available over at emusic and is well worth checking out. I have a feeling this could wind up near the top of many indie-rock year-end best of lists, including mine.

MP3 :: The Modern Leper
(from The Midnight Organ Fight. Buy here)

And the video for “Heads Roll Off”:


[mp3] Eugene Francis Jr - "Beginners"

A few weeks ago I posted the hypnotic first single from Eugene Francis Jr's The Golden Beatle, along with an awesome pic involving an Indian headdress and a Captain America sheild. The latest single, “Beginners”, is a livelier effort than the more melodic “Poor Me”, and it sports a line where he somehow pulls off rhyming “bizarre” with “Pisa” (as in The Leaning Tower of…). The first few seconds are sounding an awful lot like some old, ragged Marah song - the electric guitar Francis plays practically mimicking the banjo that kicks “Faraway You” into high gear. Then those bedroom synths kick in and send “Beginners” in a completely different direction - pure indie-pop that hits the spot.

MP3 :: Beginners
(from The Golden Beatle. Buy here)

Deer Tick Do Daytrotter

I hadn't perused around Daytrotter for a few weeks before last week's post on the Tapes 'n Tapes session, but now that I've caught up a bit with their recent guests I thought I'd mention this one. After dropping one of the best debut records of 2007 with the mostly jangly, occasionally heavy, psyche-folk and soul of War Elephant, as well as touring the hell out of the U.S., you’d think Deer Tick would spend some time re-grouping and planning their next move. And you’d be wrong. Already this year the band has impressed by covering a Top 40 radio hit and now comes a terrific session they did recently for Daytrotter. Singer/songwriter/owner-of-a-vintage-60s-styled rock and roll voice John McCauley and his band ran through 4 songs - 2 from War Elephant and 2 previously unreleased. For the uninitiated, I’d recommend checking out the 2 mp3s below from the album first. For those in the know, here are links to the new tracks:

MP3 :: Ashamed / Baltimore Blues No. 1
(Live from Daytrotter. Originally on War Elephant)

MP3 :: Little White Lies / The Ghost
(Live From Daytrotter. Previously Unreleased)

MP3 :: Dirty Dishes
MP3 :: Diamond Rings 2007
(from War Elephant. Buy here)

[mp3] Wolf Parade - "Call It A Ritual"

Now that the litter of Wolf Parade side projects has grown to the point where keeping track is a challenge in and of itself, the band has announced the release of their loooooong awaited, as-of-yet unnamed sophomore effort. Sub Pop will again have the honors, and the record will hit shelves on June 17. Here’s the first single, “Call It A Ritual”, hot off the press and with Spencer Krug on the mic. Its simple and repetitive piano line pounded out over frantic electric guitar and feedback is making me think of Spoon’s “My Mathematical Mind” from Gimme Fiction. A sign of good things to come.

MP3 :: Call It A Ritual
(from the next Wolf Parade album. Info here)

The tracklist:

1 Soldier's Grin
2 Call It a Ritual
3 Language City
4 Bang Your Drum
5 California Dreamer
6 The Grey Estates
7 Fine Young Cannibals
8 An Animal in Your Care
9 Kissing the Beehive

Tokyo Police Club - Elephant Shell

Tokyo Police Club finally release their Saddle Creek debut, Elephant Shell, next week. Though the title denotes something large, there’s nothing particularly big about Elephant Shell - the whole thing blows through in barely over 28 swirling, catch-your-breath-if-you-can minutes. Having now heard the whole thing, the same thing I mentioned last month about “In A Cave” holds true for this entire album - it’s taut, tight, catchy, and sounds familiar in a good way. If you dug that first legally released single, then chances are you’ll dig the whole thing - the album is nothing if not consistent. But if you need more convincing, here’s one more from the album (which I’d like to think was written before the movie it shares a name with, but who knows).

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

And those tour dates in NY I mentioned last month are fast approaching:

Sun Apr 20 - New York, NY Bowery Ballroom
Mon Apr 21 - Brooklyn, NY, Music Hall of Williamsburg
Tue Apr 22 - New York, NY Bowery Ballroom

Iron & Wine: Early Outtakes (pt. 2)

As promised, here is another batch of vintage Iron & Wine outtakes from around the time of The Creek Drank The Cradle. All of these tracks prove that the The Sea & The Rhythm EP could’ve easily been more than just 5 measly tracks. By the way, most of part 1 were songs I picked up over at The Good, The Bad, & The Unknown a few months ago - I forgot to mention that in the first post and you should go check out that blog. If you search through his history you’ll find lots of essential Radiohead b-sides and rarities from throughout their career.

MP3 :: Sleeping Diagonally
MP3 :: Hickory
MP3 :: Dead Man’s Will
MP3 :: Swans And The Swimming
MP3 :: Red Dust
MP3 :: Overhead

And an awesome THANKS are in order to a Pop Headwound reader named Jeff who sent along these next 3 tracks yesterday.

MP3 :: Mothers Of The Rodeo
MP3 :: Two Hungry Blackbirds
MP3 :: In Your Own Time

Unlike the first batch, all of these tracks are Sam Beam originals. “Dead Man’s Will” and “Red Dust” were dusted off and spruced up for the In The Reins EP with Calexico. Otherwise I’m not sure that any of these have ever seen proper release.

Gold Soundz: "Big Dipper"

Guilty pleasures are a tough call man. Many would probably be embarrassed to admit an affinity toward David Lowery’s post-Camper Van Beethoven 90s alternative hit-maker(s), Cracker, but I’m not buying it. When I was just a young, impressionable set of 16 year old ears I thought I heard the greatest song ever written in “Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now)” from their self-titled debut. It’s biting mix of sharp lyrics and driving folk-rock easily won me over, and the album was an easy-to-like collection of similarly ragged tunes with similarly memorable lyrics. A few years later came Kerosene Hat, a more polished effort that housed the smash hit “Low” as well as a bunch of other equally impressive songs.

One of those is “Take Me Down To The Infirmary” - a song that was easy to overlook for the alternative fans, but whose country guitars and slow, narcotic groove made a big impression on me at the time, and remains one of my favorite Lowery-penned tracks. The song showed me another side to the smart-assedness (?) and often overly cute cultural references that regularly popped up in his writing. The weary and soulful words didn’t seem to feature any of his usual cynicism or absurdity, and made me look forward even more to what would come next. Unfortunately The Golden Age, the 1996 follow-up, was a mess - a seemingly calculated attempt at broader alternative rock appeal with its abysmal singles “I Hate My Generation” and “Nothing To Believe In”. Fortunately the album was saved from being a total loss by a few sparkling ballads - deep album tracks that again showed off Lowery’s way with the pen.

“Big Dipper” was just such a track, and bettered just about everything that had come before it. Lowery’s writing is sharper than ever with a narrator realistically worn down, lethargic, and self-defeating. There are some great lines in the song that smack with some incredibly hard hitting irreverence, and some with an equally effective (and surprising) earnestness. The “violent bloom of flowered dresses” was certainly a line my college-aged hormones related to, and the idea that he was sitting on the cafĂ© steps with Jim Kerouac, “brother of the famous Jack”, was about as perfect an image as I’d ever heard and really captured the bottomed-out feeling of the song. Lousy album, good band, great fuckin’ song.

MP3 :: Big Dipper
(from The Golden Age. Buy here)

Gold Soundz columns highlight some of my favorite songs of all time. “Gold Soundz” because I thought this blog would be cooler if I ripped off a title for a “column” from a not-at-all obscure Pavement song. Previously featured in Gold Soundz:

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

[mp3] Spoon - "Don't You Ever" (The Natural History Version)

Quietly crashing into your local independent record stores this week is the new single from Spoon’s #2 Album of the Year from 2007 (according to me), Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. “Don’t You Evah” is but one of many brilliant moments on the record, and on this new single it truly gets the royal treatment - 5 new remixes from some of music’s brightest young DJs (I’m just saying that, sadly I don’t know who any of them are). Oh yeah, and Ted Leo too.

The 8-song release features a brand new Spoon song - “All I Got Is Me”, which sways from dark and foreboding verses led by pounded pianos to a catchy, tambourine and slashing guitar fueled chorus. Also included is the original version of “Don’t You Evah” (actually titled “Don’t You Ever” - apparently Britt lost it in translation) by The Natural History. I hadn’t heard this band’s version before, but imagine Urge Overkill covering the Spoon version and you’d be close - dude’s voice is very close to Mr. “Sister Havana” himself, Nash Kato.

MP3 :: Don’t You Ever (by The Natural History)
(from Don’t You Evah EP. Buy here)

P.S. - Best album art evah?

Iron & Wine: Early Outtakes (pt. 1)

Iron & Wine’s 2002 debut, the masterful The Creek Drank The Cradle, is not what you’d consider a groundbreaking album in the traditional sense. The album was recorded with no pretense of impending fame, and I can imagine Sam Beam was probably as surprised as anyone to find out that Sub Pop was willing to release it “as is” when they first heard the tapes. Who would have thought at the time that Beam’s frail sounding southern anthems would find the strength to influence the next wave of bedroom boys with gentle voices and battered guitars? His influence is discernible throughout the modern indie-folk genre, and the blogging community (including this one) has been guilty many times of using The Creek Drank The Cradle as a reference point for reviewing similar artists.

There is no doubt that Beam, ever the self-challenging artist, has developed into a songwriter capable of more sonic tricks than The Creek Drank The Cradle ever hinted at. His band’s sonic progression, from the debut to Our Endless Numbered Days and last year’s The Shepherd’s Dog (as well as his various side projects and EPs), are all the work of a man very much aware of the need to evolve as an artist in order to maintain relevance. The one constant over the past 6 years though has been the consistency of his writing. Each album is full of songs with striking imagery, uniquely original metaphors, and allusions to the many driving forces that inspire him - tradition, religion, sex, death, the South, nature, family, childhood, memory, and so on and so forth.

Though each album in the Iron & Wine catalog is essential, the one I find myself returning to most often is in fact the debut. I’d dare say that The Creek Drank The Cradle is the best example of what a man can do with an acoustic guitar and an 8-track since Nebraska. Originally a film professor in Florida, Beam recorded dozens of songs before he had ever even played in front of an audience. Eventually those songs were whittled down to the 11 that finally wound up on the album. Over the years other songs from these early years have been released here and there, most notably the The Sea & The Rhythm EP. Others became the object of many a serious fan’s fruitless online search. That’s where this post comes in. Here are a few noteworthy outtakes from that bountiful era that, to my knowledge, have never seen legal release:

MP3 :: Sacred Vision
MP3 :: Same Old Song
MP3 :: Call Your Boys
MP3 :: Her Tea Leaves
MP3 :: Ab’s Song
MP3 :: Waiting For A Superman

As far as I know “Sacred Vision”, “Call Your Boys”, “Her Tea Leaves”, and “Ab’s Song” are Sam Beam originals recorded around the same time as the songs from The Creek Drank The Cradle.

“The Same Old Song” is a cover of a classic Motown song originally made famous by The Four Tops.

“Waiting For A Superman” is, of course, Iron & Wine covering The Flaming Lips song from the classic The Soft Bulletin. This one has been in pretty regular circulation for years.

There is plenty more where these came from. Check back in a day or 2 for another batch of early Iron & Wine rarities.

Tapes 'n Tapes Do Daytrotter

With the impending release of the good not great Walk It Off (today, actually - 4/8), Tapes n’ Tapes recently found time to record a session for Daytrotter featuring 4 songs from the new record. The highlight, of course, is a version of the blistering first single, “Hang Them All” (which I’ve already featured not once but twice), quite possibly the finest indie-rock single of the young year.

MP3 :: Hang Them All / Demon Apple / George Michael / Conquest
(Live from Daytrotter. from Walk It Off. Buy here)

MP3 :: Hang Them All
(from Walk It Off. Buy here)

The band hits New York a few times next week (w/ White Denim):

4/18 - Fillmore NY @ Irving Plaza
4/19 - Music Hall of Williamsburg

[mp3] King Khan & The Shrines - "Torture"

The 60’s inspired rock n’ soul of King Khan & The ShrinesWhat Is?! was one of those records that slipped under my radar for most of 2007. That is, until mop up season in December. I’d now say “No Regrets” and “Welfare Bread” are easily among 2007’s best singles, and only didn’t appear among my faves because I didn’t hear them until it was too late.

Word today via Pitchfork is the band has recently signed on with Vice Records, home of their more well-known/less ass-kickin’ garage rock compadres The Black Lips. This June they’ll release The Supreme Genuis Of…, and, if first single “Torture” is any indication, the king will once again be reigning supreme over any and all bands equally smitten with The Stooges and James Brown.

MP3 :: Torture
(from The Supreme Genuis Of… Info here)

MP3 :: Welfare Bread
MP3 :: No Regrets
(from What Is?! Buy here)

Album Review: The Black Keys - "Attack & Release"

When word came a few months ago that esteemed hip-hop producer Danger Mouse (Gnarls Barkley, Gorillaz, The Grey Album) would be behind the boards for the new Black Keys record, Attack & Release, my initial reaction was that at the very least it would have more life to it than 2006’s rather dull Magic Potion. I figured on the heels of all the attention they got for Rubber Factory, not to mention signing on with Nonesuch Records, the band was poised to catapult to the top of the indie-rock world with its follow up. But of course that never happened, and for me The Black Keys remained among my second or third tier of favorite modern rock bands. Well, Attack & Release was released last week and it doesn’t disappoint at all - in fact it’s the best album, from start to finish, that the band has ever released. Working in a real studio for the first time has led to increased production qualities throughout these 11 tracks, but for the most part Danger Mouse smartly avoids trying to tamper with the band’s trademark hard blues-rock sound. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel with all sorts of blips and beats, he simply adds the occasional flourish (a little banjo here, a little piano there, backing vocals in a few places) to keep things interesting.

Though he has helped shape Attack & Release into The Black Keys’ most adventurous album to date, Danger Mouse is not the star. That role belongs squarely to the dynamic Akron, Ohio duo of singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Karney. I wouldn’t necessarily say that their songwriting has grown by leaps and bounds on Attack & Release over earlier efforts such as The Big Come Up, Thickfreakness, or Rubber Factory, but it is certainly more consistent. Meaning if you’ve enjoyed the Keys’ in the past, then this album will be right up your alley. Lead single “Strange Times” is effective, if not as incredible as “10 A.M. Automatic“ or “Set You Free”, and “I Got Mine” and “Remember When (Side B)” rock out familiarly. “Lies” is a dark, incendiary slow-burner that recalls early Zeppelin (and may better it), and the Danger Mouse fingerprints come through on the haunted country-blues of “Psychotic Girl” in the tinkered piano and ghostly background vocals.

The album’s high points though may be a trio of laid-back tracks that employ open space better than anything in the Keys back catalog - opener “All You Ever Wanted” ambles beautifully, Auerbach showing off his gruff vocals more than usual. “Remember When (Side A)” and “Things Ain’t Like They Used To Be” are similarly gripping and effective - both heartfelt songs of pure heartache. What makes this their best effort to date is the fact that they kept it to a brisk 11 songs, without any filler. Each song is individually memorable, and many, including “Same Old Thing” and “So He Won’t Break”, get better with more listens. The only thing that’s going to keep Attack & Release from attaining the same level of indie-rock stardom as, say, Band of Horses, is the lack of a truly gripping single with crossover potential, a la the aforementioned “10 A.M. Automatic”. But that’s fine with me. The Black Keys, to these ears always a band on the cusp, have finally released an album that fulfills their early promise. Welcome to my first tier boys.

MP3 :: Strange Times
MP3 :: Remember When (Side A)
(from Attack & Release. Buy here)

Musical Fun with Barack Obama

Both brilliant. The second is Earl Pickens covering his own Pennsylvania version of Johnny Cash's cover of "I've Been Everywhere".


ABKCO Catalog Now Available @ emusic

If the age old hypothesis is true - that you can’t like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones equally - then chalk me up as a Stones guy. Not to say anything negative about the Fab Four, but the street grittiness and folk/blues/rock n’ roll influence of early and mid-period Stones always appealed to me more so than The Beatles cuter, studio-perfected pop genuis. I’m just saying.

So you can imagine I’m tickled pink right now because of what I just saw as I was browsing around over at eMusic - the very best online mp3 hub just landed a pretty sweet deal. How about the ABKCO catalog? The 60’s home of The Rolling Stones, Sam Cooke, ? & The Mysterians, and Herman’s Hermits, among others. I haven’t checked, but I don’t know if this stuff is even over at iTunes. And if it is you should still get it at emusic because iTunes is stupid. Does iTunes offer 25 or sometimes 50 FREE downloads for joining? Nope! Is iTunes DRM-free? Nope!

My monthly downloads just reset the other day, so this weekend I’ll be browsing through a few Stones Singles Compilations looking for old b-sides I’ve never heard before. Then maybe I’ll move myself into some Sam Cooke, who, other than a few of his bigger hits, I’ve never really listened to much. Very exciting indeed.

MP3 :: Memo From Turner
(from Metamorphosis. Available from EMUSIC)

[mp3] Ladyhawk - "S.T.H.D."

That new Ladyhawk album, Shots, has kind of snuck under my radar since its release earlier last month. I’m yet to hear the full album, but after hearing this newly released track I’m going to make it a priority. I was a big fan of the first single, “I Don’t Always Know What You’re Saying”, when it hit the web back in January. If you liked that earlier track you will no doubt get sweaty from “S.T.H.D.” too - it’s more of the same monster riffs, gruff vocals and pounded rhythms. There’s certainly nothing lady-like brimming out of these speakers - these hairy manly men sure know how to bring the R.O.C.K. Shots is available through the good folks at Jagjaguwar Records.

MP3 :: S.T.H.D.
MP3 :: I Don’t Always Know What You’re Saying
(from Shots. Buy here)


MP3 :: War
(from Fight For Anarchy EP. Buy here)

MP3 :: The Dugout
(from Ladyhawk. Buy here)

[mp3] Centro-Matic - "I, The Kite"

Songs from the upcoming split LP from Centro-Matic and South San Gabriel, Dual Hawks, are still streaming over at their respective myspace homes, but today comes the first free and legal mp3 from either side of the project. “I, The Kite” sounds like one of the most dependable bands in all of indie-rock delivering the goods yet again - the acoustic rhythm guitar giving the track slightly more of a folk-rock feel to go along with Will Johnson’s unmistakable rasp and the band’s feedback-drenched dynamics. Promising indeed.

MP3 :: I, The Kite
(from Dual Hawks. Out June 3 in U.S. Info here)

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

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

New Music - A Faulty Chromosome

A Faulty Chromosome is a Texas band that has recently hit my ears in a big way. They self-released their debut earlier this year, the infinitely weirdly titled An Ex-Anorexic’s Six Sicks Exit, which has basically been on playing on repeat in my car all week. I featured the album’s lead-off track, “Them Pleasures of the Flesh”, earlier this week among my favorite tracks of March, as it’s found its way onto nearly every play list I’ve made over the past few weeks.

The album itself is a dense and caustic mix of sweet indie-pop, atmospheric MBV-styled shoegaze, and a decidedly lo-fi recording spirit. The guitars are sometimes harsh, sometimes chiming and are supplemented with all sorts of cool electronic sound effects. And barely noticeable on first listen amongst the murk are the strength of the Dalke-penned lyrics, which veer from heartfelt confessionals (“Them Pleasures of the Flesh”) to melodic and irreverent pop songs (“Anomie’s The Enemy”) to comically insightful character sketches (“The Lonliness Of The Short-Distance Walker” imagines its narrator as a drunken old man trying to make it home from the donut shop). All in all, An Ex-Anorexic’s Six Sicks Exit is a solid debut album from a promising band. It deftly balances its cloudy sonic layers with bright, strong melodies as it demands repeated listens.

To get the album the band asks that you make a donation ($6.66 is the suggested amount) through their myspace, though you can go higher or lower depending on your financial situation. Meaning if you like these songs you can very easily hear 8 more of them for cheap.

MP3 :: Them Pleasures Of The Flesh
MP3 :: Jackie-O
(from An Ex-Anorexic’s Six Sicks Exit. Buy here)

Nicolai Dunger - Soul Rush

The other day as I was cooking breakfast I put on an album I hadn’t listened to in years. Swedish born songwriter Nicolai Dunger’s Soul Rush was one of those interesting discoveries I made through a music magazine’s CD sampler not long before the internet became my primary source for new music. You’re probably wondering what a music magazine is, right? Well, they were these things that were filled with pictures and words, they shared opinions, and basically told you what you should listen to and what to avoid. What a dumb idea. No wonder they’re dropping like flies in 2008. But this CD sampler had a song called “Dr. Zhivago’s Train” on it that blew my mind, and I ordered Soul Rush straightaway.
The first thing I noticed, as would any listener, is that Dunger is blessed/cursed by sharing a damn-near identical voice to Van Morrison. I guess if your voice is gonna be a dead ringer for another artist’s you could do much much worse than Van the Man. Geddy Lee…..Kip Winger…..the guy from Supertramp - those are just off the top of my head. It became clear very quickly though that Dunger was/is a uniquely talented singer and songwriter in his own right, and any vocal similarities he shares to the Irish bard is more a coincidence than a conscious effort on his part to emulate a legend.
Soul Rush came out to little fanfare here in the states back in 2001 and for a pretty long time after that I thought I had stumbled onto one of the great lost folk/soul albums I’d ever hear, and I might have. Its mix of strings and horns over Dunger’s impassioned vocals and the folk backdrops of the Esbjorn Svenssons Trio are often totally captivating. Dunger has gone on to release a few more solid albums in the years since, collaborating occasionally with Mercury Rev and Will Oldham, but nothing has come close to these earlier recordings in my opinion. With Bon Iver’s soulful indie-folk making me dizzy lately I thought I’d go back and explore other artists in the same musical ballpark, and these songs, both from Soul Rush, are superb.
MP3 :: Dr. Zhivago’s Train
MP3 :: Ballad Of A Relationship
(from Soul Rush. Info here)