Summer Mix

Since it was a rather slow month for great new music I thought I’d forego the usual “Song of the Month” post and just put together a Summer Mix for you. I’m not into all that muxtape rubbish, and I’m too lazy to figure out how to set these up as a ZIP file, but I think these 15 tracks make a nice summery mix of some songs I’ve posted before, and some I haven’t gotten to. Enjoy…

MP3 :: Easy Does It - Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy
MP3 :: Walk Through A Cloud - The Donkeys
MP3 :: Cherry Tulips - Headlights
MP3 :: Collapsing At Your Doorstep - Air France
MP3 :: Feel The Love - Cut Copy
MP3 :: Lights Out - Santogold
MP3 :: Turn On Me - The Superfantastics
MP3 :: In The New Year - The Walkmen
MP3 :: Celebrate The Body Electric (It Came From An Angel) - Ponytail
MP3 :: Too Drunk To Dream - The Magnetic Fields
MP3 :: Do You Love Me? - The Explorer’s Club
MP3 :: I Woke Up Today - Port O’Brien
MP3 :: Main Street - Anders Elowsson
MP3 :: I’m Nobody Any Good - Bruce W. Derr
MP3 :: He Doesn’t Know Why - Fleet Foxes

PHW Album of the Month - 7/08

Sorry to be so boring and predictable with my selection for PHW’s Album Of The Month for July, but seriously, what were my choices? June saw 2 of the year’s best so far in Fleet Foxes and Wagonwheel Blues, but July just wasn’t as giving.

I did write a (for me) in depth review of Stay Positive a few weeks ago that I think says some things about the album that other reviewers haven’t, but overall I’m not as blown away by Stay Positive as I was by Separation Sunday or Boys & Girls In America. Not even close. There are a large handful of stand out tracks that come close to equaling the band’s best though, and in a slow month like this that’s enough.

In short, Stay Positive finds the usual assortment of The Hold Steady’s archetypes growing up bit. Plenty of binge drinking and youth-gone-wild sensationalism abound, but those familiarities are tempered by a world weariness not yet heard from Craig Finn and crew. The most successful songs are the ones that forego new tricks and just sound like Boys & Girls In America leftovers - “Sequestered In Memphis”, “Yeah Sapphire”, and “Magazines” especially. In other words, rock.

Stream :: Constructive Summer / Sequestered In Memphis / Lord I’m Discouraged
(from Stay Positive. Buy here)

[mp3] The Second Band - "No Song"

It’s been a few months since I’ve mentioned The Second Band, one of Sweden‘s finest purveyors of indie-pop. Earlier this year came their first full length, The Definite Form, on Orange Grammofon, after a series of very solid EPs. That record saw the band expand on it’s “Americana-with-an-accent” style to good effect - exploring some of their homeland’s tendency for orchestrated dream-pop and addictive vocal melodies.

The band recently recorded a new song and have decided to give it away for free on their website. “No Song” poses the question “what’s the point of making music no one listens to?” - and proceeds to subvert, as the title suggests, it’s own intentions as a piece of music altogether. They may be “nothing especially original - just another Swedish indie band made up of hetero, middle class guys” but they certainly know their way around a song that’s catchy as all hell.

MP3 :: No Song
(recently released for free via their website)

MP3 :: The Urgency Of Now
MP3 :: The Future
(from The Definite Form. Buy here)

MP3 :: What’s Up, Tiger Lily?
MP3 :: A Song I Can’t Recall
(from early EPs. Highly Recommended! Buy here)

Release Info - The Walkmen / Bob Dylan

Two interesting bits of release information came down the pipe yesterday - first of all, just when you thought it was impossible to be surprised by another innovative digital release strategy out come The Walkmen to show everybody up. Their startlingly good You & Me, already previewed here and due out August 19, is now available for $5 right here in 320 kbps. The offer will be around for 3 weeks, and the best part is that all proceeds will be going to charity (the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center). Besides being a great cause the album sounds twice as good as that 160 kbps leaked version you’ve been listening to. So get to it.

"All donations go to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in honor of Luca Vasallo, a friend to the band and a current patient who is seven months old and doing a great job fighting a very difficult disease," said Peter Bauer of The Walkmen. "This is a very good organization that certainly deserves the attention."

MP3 :: In The New Year
(from You & Me. Buy here)
In unrelated news, the latest chapter in the continuing Bob Dylan bootleg series will hit stores this October. The set is the 8th of the series and will be called Tell Tale Signs - Rare and Unreleased 1989-2006. By signing up at his official website you can download a free version of the first single, a Time Out Of Mind outtake called “Dreamin’ Of You”. Treble’s got the full tracklist and information about the 3 different versions to be released.

While you’re at it, go check out Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks, The New York Sessions I posted a few weeks ago.

Wilco Demos - A.M.

I’m getting excited for the Wilco show at McCarren Pool in Brooklyn just 2 short weeks from now. I haven’t been to an outdoor show such as this yet this summer, though I also plan to take in the Pool Party this coming Sunday (Deerhunter, King Khan, Black Lips). Large outdoor empty pool, lots of sunshine (fingers crossed), beer, and friends - you can’t beat that. Leading up to the day I’ll be posting an assortment of Wilco rarities from my collection, starting off with these 2 ultra-rare A.M. demos.

Though left off the album for obvious reasons (they are pretty clear throw-aways), both show a primitive side of Jeff Tweedy’s early songwriting - especially “Let’s Hear It For Rock”, a song whose unabashedly straightforward lyrics about a man’s love for rawk music would probably make him cringe today. Listening to these songs again makes me wonder why some of his better Uncle Tupelo tracks like “Black Eye” and “New Madrid” were so much more lyrically complex and poetic (precursors to what he’d do again later) than the songs on A.M. - maybe he was rushed to throw songs together to beat Farrar to the punch? Regardless, the sound quality is pretty rough on these, but completists will certainly enjoy.

MP3 :: Let’s Hear It For Rock
MP3 :: Gone
(from Wilco A.M. demos)

Now that I’m listening again, the song “Gone” may be called “I Am Willing”, or something - it sounds familiar. Damn, should’ve held onto those old Kazaa downloads from back in the day.

New Music - The Avett Brothers

The Avett Brothers are at the fore of young bands continuing the folk tradition - last year’s Emotionalism was an underappreciated gem that mixed traditional American music with punk rock attitude and Beatle-esque harmony. When I came across “Murder In The City” from their new EP (The Second Gleam, sequel to their first EP, The Gleam) I had a feeling I’d be hearing the band attempt a song from one of the great sub-genres of folk music - the murder ballad. Alas, no such luck - the song starts off the Avetts actually asking for a loved one to not risk getting “locked away” by seeking revenge if the singer is murdered in the city. It turns into a poignant rumination on family - a delicate and thoughtful ballad that is practically the opposite of what the title suggests. Very good song indeed.

MP3 :: Murder In The City
(from The Second Gleam. Buy here)

The Second Gleam ends a successful run between the band and Ramseur Records, as the boys have jumped ship and gone to American/Columbia. They are currently working on their next full length with producer Rick Rubin. Here are some tracks from their past few releases:

MP3 :: Will You Return?
(from Emotionalism. Buy here)

MP3 :: Matrimony
(from Four Thieves Gone. Buy here)

MP3 :: If It’s The Beaches
(from The Gleam. Buy here)

[mp3] Conor Oberst - "Danny Callahan"

I’m not going to pretend to know the difference between a Bright Eyes release and the upcoming self-titled Conor Oberst record. But there has to be one, right? “Danny Callahan” doesn’t stray much from the simple folk style of I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning, which in my opinion has always clearly been his bread and butter. It’s a loose, mid-tempo ballad that escapes Cassadaga’s tendency for overproduction, conveying a song of human frailty in a straightforward and effective way. Conor Oberst is due out August 5 from Merge.

MP3 :: Danny Callahan
(from Conor Oberst. Buy here)

You can stream Conor Oberst here or here.

[mp3] Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson - "Buriedfed"

Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson’s name has been everywhere lately -- and seriously, who could forget it? There is a tremendous amount of letters. The 24-year-old Brooklyn singer/songwriter recorded his self-titled album with help from members of Grizzly Bear - but don’t worry, from what I’ve heard it’s not at all pretentiously artsy or impossibly dull like Yellow House. Yes, I did just say what you think I said.

I’m really digging this song “Buriedfed” that’s been going around the past week or two. Don’t ask me what the title means, but the slow building barroom folk is augmented by some excellent lyrics (curses, yay!) and Robinson’s charmingly disaffected vocal style to create a fully engrossing listening experience.

MP3 :: Buriedfed
(from Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson. Buy here)

Photo credit

[mp3] Parts & Labor - "Nowheres Nigh"

Brooklyn speed freaks Parts & Labor like to work quickly. Hot on the heels of last year’s speaker blowing Mapmaker comes Receivers, due out on Jagjaguwar this October. The album finds the band with 2 new members and songs with longer, more expansive arrangements. First single “Nowheres Nigh” has been edited down to a brisk 4 minutes for this mp3 release. It maintains the band’s sense of energy and propulsion but loses some of the abrasiveness of the past - a streamlined introduction to this new version of the band.

MP3 :: Nowheres Nigh
(from Receivers. Info here)

New Music - Paul Westerberg

In the latest case of guerilla album marketing & release, Paul Westerberg dropped his latest album, a 44-minute hodgepodge of home recordings called 49:00, yesterday. Surprise! His idea was to charge $0.01 per minute, but if you hold him to that you’ll surely feel gypped seeing as the running time comes in 5 minutes short of that. Whatever Paul.

The album is available as 1 MP3 track via Amazon, the only retailer who agreed to the rather innovative release strategy and pricing. Like virtually everything he’s released over the past 6 or 7 years, it’s a complete mess with moments of shining brilliance - for cryin’ out loud it’s Paul Westerberg knocking instruments around in his basement and stitching some songs together. And in typical Westerberg fashion the best song of all may well be sloppy-as-all-hell-but-still-radiant-ballad that starts at around the 36 minute mark, long after most of the distracting noise and nonsense. Go buy it here, it‘s 49 damn cents.

In unrelated Westerberg news, you may have heard about the second set of Replacements reissues, which will be released in September on CD and through digital retailers. The reissue series will cover the Sire years - Tim, Pleased To Meet Me, Don’t Tell A Soul, and All Shook Down. Lots of unreleased material featured in the track lists, including the stone classic “Nowhere Is My Home” from the Tim sessions. Peter Jesperson (The Mats’ long time producer and friend) left some comments on this blog regarding the first set of reissues a few months back - check those out here. Pitchfork has the full details on this latest set.

Here’a a few songs recorded live from Saturday Nov. 6, 2004 @ The Pantages:

MP3 :: AAA
MP3 :: Waitress In The Sky
MP3 :: Knockin’ On Mine
MP3 :: I.O.U.
MP3 :: Can’t Hardly Wait

Related :: [bootleg] The Replacements - “Simply Unacceptable”

[mp3] Calexico - "Two Silver Trees"

We’ve already had a sneak peak at what the forthcoming Calexico album will sound like, but here’s a much fuller glimpse. Carried To Dust arrives September 9 on Quarterstick Records and may well split the difference between Feast of Wire’s Southwestern Americana and Garden Ruin’s atmospheric indie-rock. “Two Silver Trees” is moodier than a typical first single, but there’s plenty of the hushed vocals, picked acoustic guitars, and lush strings fans are used to at this point.

MP3 :: Two Silver Trees
(from Carried To Dust. Info here)

Daytotter Session - Bon Iver

In case the title of this post wasn't enough of a clue, there’s a Daytrotter session up today featuring Bon Iver. No new material or covers, just 4 songs from the amazing For Emma, Forever Ago, including my personal 2 favorites - “Lump Sum” and “Re: Stacks”.

MP3 :: Flume / Lump Sum / Re: Stacks / Creature Fear
(originally from For Emma, Forever Ago)

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

Bon Iver hits NY next week:

07/29/08 New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom w/ Bowerbirds
07/30/08 Brooklyn, NY - Music Hall Of Williamsburg w/ Bowerbirds

Previously :: Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

New Music - Shannon McArdle

If Shannon McArdle wanted to really make it as an artist then she may have done well by leaving The Mendoza Line behind. Don’t get me wrong, I love TML, especially 2002’s slapdash Lost In Revelry, but to stay with a band that’s named after the all time lowest batting average for a full time major league player over the course of a full season (.198, Mario Mendoza, 1979) may have been slightly self-defeating. Well, that and her marriage to bandmate Timothy Bracy dissolved before last year’s 30 Year Low, which didn’t really leave another option. Anyone who was paying attention though over the band’s last 4 albums had to notice McArdle coming into her own - gradually her songs became more and more prominent parts of the albums. Both her singing and songwriting blossomed as well over that time into a strong female presence to supplement, and often overshadow, Bracy’s cracked masculinity.

McArdle’s stepping out this August with her debut solo album, Summer Of The Whore, which, judging from the title and the bio at her new website, was born from a sense of emptiness after that relationship crumbled. “Poison My Cup” gets away from the straight folk-rock arrangements of her former band, and uses her deep, hushed feminine voice to good effect over a more modern sounding bed of sound effects, ambient guitars, heavy drums, and some haunting background vocals. It’s a beautiful and damaged song from a woman who sounds like she’s trying to convince herself she’s okay. She’s playing Union Hall on August 8th, and the CD release show is at the Mercury Lounge August 19.

MP3 :: Poison My Cup
Stream :: This Longing
(from Summer of the Whore. Info @ Bar/None Records)

And here’s a smattering of McArdle’s songs from The Mendoza Line:

MP3 :: Since I Came
(from 30 Year Low. Buy here)

MP3 :: Mysterious In Black
(from Full Of Light And Full Of Fire. Buy here)

MP3 :: It’s A Long Line
MP3 :: Throw It In The Fire
(from Fortune. Buy here)

MP3 :: The Way Of The Weak
(from Lost In Revelry. Buy here)

Album Review - The Hold Steady :: "Stay Positive"

Easily America’s best bar band since Izzy Stradlin & the Ju Ju Hounds, The Hold Steady returned this week with Stay Positive - their latest set of rousing anthems, morally challenged characters, and Craig Finn’s lyrical stream of unconsciousness. As expected, the critical acclaim and communal blog love afforded the band on Boys & Girls In America has spilled over to the new record. And honestly, these cats deserve it - I don’t remember the last time a band has so earnestly (and effectively) embraced the simplest instincts of both the classic rock lifestyle and the working man. The fact that these 5 regular guys are just that, regular, and living out their rock and roll fantasy is never far from the minds of their rabid fanbase. When Finn enthusiastically thanked the sold out crowd over and over last November at Terminal 5 for being the reason behind his band’s success it was very obvious that the man was 100% sincere.

So then, let’s talk about the new record - their first new material since their hard-earned success. Stay Positive once again has all the by-now familiar Hold Steady trademarks - the binge-drinking, the God fearing, and the youth gone wild sensationalism - as well as a few new tricks. “Navy Sheets” features a slippery synth-line and some inspired lyrics that seem to hint, for once, at a Finn character growing tired of the same old decadence. “Both Crosses” further expands the sonic palette with a J. Mascis cameo on banjo, and “One For The Cutters” has a fucking harpsichord of all things! Fortunately the band hasn’t forgotten how to, you know, rock. “Constructive Summer” barrels out of the gates, trying desperately to be this album’s “Stuck Between Stations”. Though it doesn’t quite reach those heights it does get things off to a ferocious start - it’s a soon-to-be concert sing-along with its call and response of “get hammered” and a toast to “St.” Joe Strummer. The title track is that “thank you” from November in song form - the good feelings and scene harmony spewing out of Finn like a keg stand. And “Sequestered In Memphis”, “Yeah Sapphire”, and “Magazines” are all more of the band’s patented pop-rock anthems that further cement these guy as light years beyond whoever the silver medal American "bar band" may be.

Although the band’s development as musicians has continued, to the point where calling them a bar band is just actually reductive, Stay Positive once again puts the main focus on Finn and the impossibly evocative nature of his stories and characters. His occasional borrowing of another’s lyric to decorate his own songs can still be an effective tool. Who can forget how “Certain Songs” picked off Billy Joel and Meatloaf lines to sentimentalize fans’ relationships with their favorite music, or how “tramps like us and we like tramps” from “Charlemagne In Sweatpants” tweaked a well-worn Bruce line into something entirely new. On “Both Crosses” he again hits up a Billy Joel lyric and salvages one of the only worthwhile lines from the man’s entire catalog - “you Catholic girls start much too late” - fitting it right into the song’s religious imagery. Whereas this line is well placed and a perfect fit (like Finn would have written it himself if it wasn’t already), not every reference is as successful. The album suffers in places from an overabundance of tacky self-references and, in “Joke About Jamaica”, too many Led Zeppelin song titles passed off as lyrics. The occasional lyrical connections between past albums and songs has always felt natural, like an inside joke was being used to further a current story or character. On Stay Positive these recycled lines come so often that the ones that don’t work seem stale and forced. In the song “Stay Positive” one of Separation Sunday’s thesis statements is used verbatim (“there’s gonna come a time when she’s gonna have to go with whoever’s gonna get her the highest”), and makes it clear that an overused, misplaced reference can just seem like cheap pandering.

Thematically, Stay Positive isn’t as tight as Separation Sunday or Boys & Girls, but the occasional maturity that slips into the stories links this record to Born To Run. I’m not intentionally trying to further contribute to the by-now rote Springsteen comparisons, but it was on the Boss’s third album where his one-time reckless characters began their own growin’ up process. On Stay Positive more of Finn’s characters deal with redemption, forgiveness, and moving on - adulthood rears its ugly head and, surprisingly, some of these boys and girls seem okay with that. He reminds us that “the kids at the shows they’ll have kids of their own”, and in numerous songs there are references to being tired and worn out from years on the scene. Gone are the long-loved, heavily damaged characters like Hallelujah and Charlemagne, and in their place are people who may just be learning from old mistakes and bad habits. Not to say that the album isn’t littered with horny, Catholic teenagers and drug addicted, alcoholic pimps, because it is (OK, maybe no pimps), but there’s also plenty of regret and weariness to go with it, and in “Yeah Sapphire”, a guy cut and gushing blood looking to a woman to help him get clean. In the past, the closest Finn came to salvation was “How A Resurrection Really Feels”, which is more a character’s waking up after hitting her lowest point than a sincerely life-changing moment.

So, Stay Positive is certainly better than 95% of the rock albums you’ll hear this year, but after the genre defining triumphs of Separation Sunday and Boys & Girls In America, it sounds like the band coming back down to Earth instead of blasting off to the next level. For every new classic here there’s a snoozer like “Lord, I’m Discouraged” or “One For The Cutters” that begs for the skip button. As in the past though, the best songs on Stay Positive will no doubt get scratched into your soul, there just aren’t as many here as on the last 2 albums. The handful that work though (“Constructive Summer”, “Sequestered In Memphis”, “Yeah Sapphire”, and “Magazines” among them) are well worth the admission price, and if you haven’t yet given in to the hype surrounding this band, Stay Positive’s slick production and radio-ready choruses make for as good a place to start as any. You won’t get the inside jokes, but you’ll just have to learn them for next time.

Stream :: Sequestered In Memphis
(from Stay Positive. Buy from Vagrant Records)

And that video from the David Letterman Show the other night:


Video: She & Him - "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?"

Part Itchy & Scratchy grotesque comic-violence and part campy, mock-Leave It To Beaver wholesomeness, the first video from She & Him is easily the weirdest (best) thing I’ve seen all year. Damn.

MP3 :: Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?
(from She & Him Volume 1. Buy here)

[mp3] Mercury Rev - "Senses On Fire"

After an entire career of pushing the sonic envelope, which peaked with the high-on-helium masterpiece Deserter’s Songs and continued with its lush follow up All Is Dream, 2005’s disappointing The Secret Migration felt more like a comedown than a letdown for Mercury Rev. The first single from the band’s forthcoming releases (there are 2 - one free, one not) finds the band trying out some new tricks. The dream-pop orchestration of the first minute or so will sound familiar to anyone listening over the past decade, but after a slow build-up gives way to left-field sound effects, echoed guitars, and some skittery beats, it’s clear the band is into some different aural territory. The repetitive, slightly distorted vocals don’t sound anything like the Wonderland croon Jonathon Donahue has employed for so long now either, but somehow fit the song’s tempered propulsion just fine. No, this isn’t exactly “Opus 40” great, but “Senses On Fire” is feistier than anything the band has done in years and is hopefully a sign of what to expect.

MP3 :: Senses On Fire (via P'fork)
(from Snowflake Midnight. Info here)

Video: Damien Jurado (from Fuel TV)

Sounds as though there’s more to look forward to from that new Damien Jurado album, Caught In The Trees (9/9/08), than just the (previously heard) barroom-folk of “Gillian Was A Horse”. Jurado stopped by Fuel TV’s The Daily Habit recently and performed 2 other new tracks from the forthcoming release - both of which are solo efforts and make clear that there are few as captivating with just a guitar and voice as Jurado.

“Everything Trying”



MP3 :: Gillian Was A Horse
(from Caught In The Trees. Info here)

On Tour!
08/30/08 Seattle, WA - Bumbershoot
09/06/08 Eugene, OR - WOW Hall
09/07/08 Sacramento, CA - Harlow's
09/09/08 Los Angeles, CA - Spaceland
09/10/08 San Francisco, CA - The Independent
09/12/08 Portland, OR - Doug Fir Lounge
09/13/08 Seattle, WA - Triple Door
09/25/08 Chicago, IL - Schubas
09/26/08 St. Louis, MO - Biliken Club
09/27/08 Bloomington, IN - Rhino's
09/29/08 Cambridge, MA - T.T. The Bear's Place
09/30/08 New York, NY - Mercury Lounge
10/01/08 Brooklyn, NY - Union Hall
10/02/08 Washington, DC - Rock & Roll Hotel
10/03/08 Philadelphia, PA - First Unitarian Chapel
10/04/08 Columbus, OH - Milo Arts

In Rewind: Eric's Trip - "Love Tara"

All this talk of the Sub Pop 20th anniversary has got me thinking about my favorite lost gem in their back catalog. There have been literally hundreds of good to great records released by the label over the past 2 decades, and a few that I love more than Love Tara, but as far as ones go that you may not be familiar with - this one is it. I’ve actually written about it in more detail before, but this Eric’s Trip record was my first “lo-fi” experience way back before the term was (not) a household name. The songs are just brimming with beautiful bedroom-born melodies and angst-fueled guitar noise, like a shoe-gaze band with punk rock roots. I guess, in a way, this album shows exactly how consistently great Sub Pop has been for so long - that this, a record that would clearly be among many labels’ best, is all but forgotten among the Nirvanas, Wolf Parades, Shins, and Mudhoneys. Time for a discovery:

MP3 :: Behind The Garage
MP3 :: Secret For Julie
MP3 :: Sunlight
(from Love Tara. Buy here)

New Music - Titus Andronicus

It’s late, so I’m not up for writing too much tonight, but I just got back from a weekend road trip and want to share my $0.01½ about an album I’ve been neglecting for the past few months. I’ve already mentioned the warm, drug-addled epic “No Future”, but it took a while for me to catch up with the rest of the debut record from Titus Andronicus. As you’d expect from the title, there’s a lot of angst on The Airing Of Grievances - imagine a more muscular, Springsteen-esque take on the pre-I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning Bright Eyes albums (the ones where he tore his throat yelling and cursing into home microphones) and you‘d have a good idea what these cathartic little anthems sound like. I was rocking out to this album a few times between Massachusetts and Brooklyn today and loving every speaker-blowing minute of it, especially the song named after the band named after one of Shakepseare’s earliest, bloodiest tragedies.

MP3 :: Titus Andronicus
MP3 :: No Future
(from The Airing Of Grievances. Buy here)

[mp3] Blitzen Trapper - "Furr"

Last year Blitzen Trapper burst onto the indie-rock scene with a debut, Wild Mountain Nation, that garnered heaps of hype and attention from music bloggers much better than me. They were praised for their Pavement-meets-Southern rock sound, which is a pretty lethal combination, admittedly, on paper. But something about the songs I heard left me cold, wondering what all the fuss was about. I know it’s impossible to like everything, but this was something that should’ve been right up my alley. So Blitzen Trapper, on a smaller scale, were my 2007 “hype hate”, joining Grizzly Bear from ‘06 and Sufjan from ‘05 - widely glorified bands/artists whose music I found soulless, or precious, or just bored the shit right out of me. Hope I still make music blogger heaven someday after saying that.

The thing with Blitzen Trapper though was that they never reached the popularity level of those other 2, so I didn’t feel as compelled to at least try too hard to figure out what everyone else seemed to hear (I mean, I’ve suffered through Illinois like a dozen times and genuinely like “Casimir Pulaski Day” and “Chicago” and that’s it). I read the reviews, and I listened to 3 or 4 of the Wild Mountain Nation tracks that went around. They just didn’t do anything for me. Simple as that. Haven’t listened to the band since - until recently. Not one to hold a grudge, I figured I’d give a listen when a new track surfaced from their forthcoming sophomore record. You Ain’t No Picasso had it first - the song’s “Furr”, from a Sup Pop album due in September of the same name, and wouldn’t you know it, it knocked me on my ass. More understated than anything I’ve heard from them before, it’s a little folk spiritual - a journey through faith and nature and one of the prettiest songs I’ve heard in a long while. Not precious or boring at all, and full of soul. Whomp, there it is.

MP3 :: Furr
(from Furr. More info forthcoming)

[mp3] The Donkeys - "Walk Through A Cloud"

One of the best pure summer songs I’ve heard in a long while is the first single from The Donkeys’ upcoming Living On The Other Side (Dead Oceans, Sept. 9). “Walk Through A Cloud” is just as sunny as the title suggests and as simple as 60’s pop - tightly wound California harmonies over breezy, chiming guitars. Dude may have “been gone for too long” and “left (his) baby sad and blue” but it doesn’t sound like he’ll be down for too long.

MP3 :: Walk Through A Cloud
(from Living On The Other Side. Info here)

Sneak Peak - Calexico's "Carried To Dust"

That there’s a quick first look and listen to what we can expect from the new Calexico record, Carried To Dust, due out September 9 on Quarterstick Records. As much as any band I can think of, the music Calexico create reflects where they’re from (the Southwest). This video and the short song snippet look like the band will continue that geographical connection on their upcoming release. Which is cool.

Carried To Dust will feature a host of musical collaborators, most notably Sam Beam, who you’ll remember has already done good work with the band in the past on the In The Reins EP.

In other Calexico news, the band just had their song “Crystal Frontier” played in space, and by all accounts it was the first alternative Tex-Mex indie rock tune that has ever been played above the stratosphere. In celebration they are offering the tune up as a free download.

MP3 :: Crystal Frontier
(from Even My Sure Things Fall Through. Buy here)

Bonus MP3 :: Across The Wire (acoustic version)
(Previously unreleased. Original version from Feast Of Wire. Buy here)

Stream :: History of Lovers
(from In The Reins. Buy here)

Gold Soundz: "Vancouver Divorce"

I’ve never hidden my unabashed love for Canada’s greatest rock band of the 90’s, The Tragically Hip. The highly literate, driving anthems on Road Apples, Day For Night, and Phantom Power soundtracked my college years and will always be sentimental favorites. But save last year’s excellent “In View”, most of what the Hip have done over the past 7 or 8 years has been significantly less interesting than their classic early material. Sometimes I feel like the band has seemingly given in to the expectations of their (dominantly Canadian) fan base and churned out a series of increasingly predictable albums this decade catering to them.

Not so for Hip front man Gordon Downie though on his two solo albums. In fact, I’d say these are 2 best records Downie has been involved with this decade - both of which have gone in very different directions than his main act. 2001’s Coke Machine Glow is a sprawling, spontaneous sounding, highly poetic affair that houses 2 of the best song’s he’s ever penned (“Vancouver Divorce“ and “Chancellor”). He followed that up in 2003 with the tighter Battle Of The Nudes, an album recorded with his Country of Miracles band. Both albums stray far from the strictures of recent Hip albums, showing less dependence of riffs and more on utilizing the diverse assortment of Toronto musicians who were more than willing to play with a legend of Canadian music. Fans of the Hip’s early years should find plenty to enjoy from these 2 solid albums.

MP3 :: Vancouver Divorce
MP3 :: Chancellor
(from Coke Machine Glow. Buy here)

MP3 :: 11th Fret
(from Battle Of The Nudes. Buy here)

Gold Soundz columns highlight some of my favorite songs of all time. It‘s called “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:

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”

New Music - Ponytail

So far this summer, while I have some, ahem, extra time on my hands, I’ve been catching up with some of the music that I couldn’t get to earlier in the year. Making a big impact these days is the careening, childlike indie-pop of Ponytail. When I first started reading about their new record, Ice Cream Spiritual (out now on We Are Free), I incorrectly assumed that I’d find it a difficult listen. Reviews kept bringing up a stylistic connection to Deerhoof, a band I’ve always wanted to like more than I actually do, and one where the vocals are my biggest issue. The main focus of everything I’ve read about Ponytail was the band’s reliance on Molly Seigels’ non-vocals (she hoots, hollers, coos, caws, screams, bleats, yelps, screeches - everything but sings), and that worried me. I figured her vocals would be annoyingly distracting, but it didn’t take long to realize I was wrong - they fit right in with this joyful kaleidoscope of sound in a way that makes imagining Ice Cream Spiritual without them virtually impossible.

Even without traditional vocals and lyrics the music on Ice Cream Spiritual is strangely riveting - a physical force full of pounding riffs, blazing electric guitars, and shifting rhythms. The 8 tracks blow by in one breathless surge of energy (33 minutes) that practically begs you to start it over again right away. Unlike other bands that employ the stranger aspects of this kind of excitable, ADHD-fueled pop music, Ponytail keeps everything within very tight melodic boundaries. The songs are wild and all over the map, yet still somehow focused. In fact, they sort of bleed into one another, which only adds to the roller coaster feel of the album. Every time the ride might be slowing down there comes another unexpected drop or twist or turn that gets things moving again. “Celebrate The Body Electric (It Came From An Angel)” is as good an entry point as any - an unpredictable ride that goes through too many different settings to keep track of, yet builds to a cathartic finale. Just like the rest of the album, it’s a sonic whirlwind that’ll leave you gasping.

MP3 :: Celebrate The Body Electric (It Came From An Angel)
(from Ice Cream Spiritual. Buy here)

[mp3] The Walkmen - "In The New Year"

Before this festive holiday weekend kicks off I’m going to leave you with the new one from The Walkmen. 2004’s brilliant Bows & Arrows was one of my very favorite records of that year, but I was left pretty cold by the follow up, A Hundred Miles Off. You & Me is due out August 19th via Gigantic Records and the first single, “In The New Year” brings back all the woozy grandeur that that I loved about them in the first place. Watch out, if this first single is any sign of what’s in store, this could turn out to be one of the year’s best.

MP3 :: In The New Year
(from You & Me. Info here)

Ryan Adams & Mandy Moore Split!

No! Look at that hair! They were made for each other. Not even public groping in a comic book store could save the most bizarre celebrity couple since Lyle Lovett & that chick from Pretty Woman. Ryan Adams' publicist has confirmed that his relationship with (watch out, terrible pun alert) Miss Mandy is no moore (ouch).

The break-up, which was caused in part by tempermental Ryan's aversion to the paparazzi, sparked what just might be the greatest quote in the history of spoken language. On the split, Ryan said: "I found the entire speculation and subsequent photographs and intrusions terrifying and only wish to live as normal a life as possible, so that I might always remain punk as f*** AND sober. Also, I just want to jam. Plus I like metal A LOT."

And there you have it. With that quote I will always consider Ryan Adams cool as shit (or punk as f***, whatever) no matter how many terrible albums he releases every year.

Thanks to Rawkblog for the heads up.

New Music - Forest Fire

In what will no doubt be remembered as “The Radiohead Method”, letting the public decide how much your album is worth is fast becoming a widely used marketing strategy among bands of all levels. The latest label to attempt this very progressive method of distribution is Catbird Records, of the music blog The Catbirdseat. They have made Brooklyn-based Forest Fire’s new album, Survival, available through a plethora of ways and means, including a pay what you want option that allows you to download for free. That’s nice of them, but quite unnecessary, as Survival is an impressive little weird-folk record with several striking highlights that deserves to rake in some coin. My favorite track so far is “Slow Motion” - a buzzing, fractured folk song that is easily among the best new music I’ve heard in some time. Cut the Velvet’s “Heroin” in half and turn it into a campfire sing along and you’re getting close. Worth checking out, and certainly worth a few of your hard earned dollars.

MP3 :: Slow Motion
MP3 :: Survival
(from Survival. Buy here)


Just call An Aquarium Drunkard butter, because they’ve been on a roll lately. Blatantly bad jokes aside, AAD are 3 for 3 with their recent in-depth interviews with the indie-world’s top rockers. Last week they got spoke to Craig Finn of The Hold Steady (in 2 parts! - here and here), and Canadian songwriter Hayden (here). Today it’s Centro-Matic’s Will Johnson (what are you waiting for) who just released another solid album, Dual Hawks. The best part - Johnson spills the beans on an album he and Jason Molina did together that will likely be released sometime in early 2009!

MP3 :: I, The Kite
MP3 :: Trust To Lose
(from Dual Hawks. Buy here. AAD are hosting 2 more mp3s with the interview)

After months of no activity it’s nice to see Marathon Packs back as a regular active blog. Eric’s always got insightful things to say about music and culture, and now he’s hosting a very generous mix of his favorite tracks (The Mid-Term Mix) so far of 2008. You can download it as a ZIP with individual files or as one long 60+ minute track. Either way, it’s full of great stuff, about half that I already know and half that I didn’t.

And I Am Fuel You Are Friends has the trailer for the 2007 Joe Strummer documentary The Future Is Unwritten, as well as an mp3 from Strummer’s pre-Clash band, The 101ers.

New Music - The Low Low's

The Low Low’s are set to release their new record, Shining Violence, this August via Misra. Their version of The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Modern Romance” was already one of my favorite June songs. The album contains it and 8 other tracks in what looks like it's going to be one of the summer’s best. “Modern Romance” is a good place to start, but the rest of these songs are just as good - the band excels at combining sweeping, desert sky indie-rock with droning guitar noise and three-part harmonies. Imagine a night time jam session on your back porch with elements of Giant Sand and Mazzy Star’s druggy Americana and My Bloody Valentine’s white noise and you’re getting very warm.

MP3 :: Modern Romance
(from Shining Violence. Info here)

New Music - Matt Mays & El Torpedo

Matt Mays & El Torpedo are back with a new record called Terminal Romance on July 8. Mays has always played it pretty straight in the folk-rock and alt. country genres, and these 2 new tracks don’t stray much from his comfort zone. Imagine latter day Jayhawks jamming with Lucero (not hard, I know) and you’re close. The title track, especially, is an impressive, nearly-epic slab of hard hitting Americana that’s worth the price of admission alone.

MP3 :: Terminal Romance
MP3 :: Tall Trees
(from Terminal Romance. Buy here)