Monday, January 31, 2005

Anders Parker...

You may heard of Anders Parker's old band Varnaline. They were long time stalwarts of the alt-country scene. Know as much for their loud guitars as for their pretty picking. Well, Anders is off on his own now with a very strong record called Tell It To The Dust. He's certainly mining the alt-country end of the singer/songwriter spectrum, though it has a very pop sense about it. Every now and then he slips into the guitar crazy style of Tonight's The Night era Neil Young. It's a well balanced record that won't get near as much attention as it deserves. Too bad he could put a lot of smiles on peoples faces if given the chance.

3 songs from Tell It To The Dust:

Keep Me Hanging On

Feel The Same

Doornail (Hats Off To Buster Keaton

Purchase at will.

On a side note I thought I'd mention some of the best records I've heard so far in 2005. I know, I know it's only a month old but these records are well worth your money:

Magnolia Electric Co - Trials And Errors. A live album from Jason Molina and his new electric configuration. Forget what you thought about Songs:Ohia this band turns it up and rocks. Bodes very well for their spring release.

Archer Prewtt - Wilderness. Just sublime. Absolutely subliime.

Okkervil River - Sleep And Wake Up Songs. This was actually released at the tail end of 2004. But i'm including it here because it's so frickin' good. Another EP that bodes very well for their April release entitled Black Sheep Boy.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Chris Stamey...

After ten years without a release Chris Stamey has gone a little nuts the last 16 months or so. First there was Travels In the South last year and now we have A Question of Temperature just released on the 25th. I've long had a soft spot for Chris Stamey. You have to remember I was raised on the jangle pop new wave of early REM, Connells, Hoodoo Gurus, Let's Active, db's, etc. Stamey (and pal Mitch Easter who mixes A Question of Temperature) were pretty central to that whole sound. A Question of Temperature has a slightly different twist in that indie rock stalwarts Yo La Tengo act as his backing band. It makes for a pretty dynamic sound. Of the 13 tracks 5 are covers which range from the Byrds to Television. Question of Temperature is good stuff, a little uneven at points but when he and the band hit their stride it's some sweet pop music. Don't be shy about purchasing this one.

3 from A Question of Temperature:

Sleepless Nights

The Summer Sun


Thursday, January 27, 2005

Andrew Bird...

Here's a quirky singer songwriter for you. Andrew Bird writes what I describe as dense, meticulously crafted songs. They're lyrically very strong and deep. You've gotta listen close. His choice of instrumentation is always a little off beat but the songs shine, they really do. He's preparing to release a new record in February called The Mysterious Production of Eggs, which is as much as anything else an indication of his skewed world view. Not skewed in a bad way, like deranged, but skewed in the sense that he sees things differently, processes them differently and comes back with songs that sound just a little off kilter though hardly unpalatable. The more I listen the more I like, always a good sign.

2 from his last album Weather Systems:



Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Heartless Bastards...

I haven't gotten into the whole resurgence of guitar based blues that's been such a craze since White Stripes took off. The Black Keys, et al, just aren't my cup of tea. Every now and then I'll hear a single that I nod my head to, but the sustained effort it takes for me to wade through a complete album puts me off. But the other day I came across The Heartless Bastards. They're a three piece fronted by a woman named Erika Wennerstrom who hails from Dayton, Ohio. That's kind of useless information, unless you're the type to assume certain things about a band due to their geographic home (Detroit=House or Bluesy Rock, Bakersfield = country, Dayton = um, unseemly classic rock?, etc.). Well, don't assume anything about The Heartless Bastards, don't let the name fool you; these guys aren't just about loud and fast or thick ass guitar riffs (though there's a good deal of that). Erika is a fine songwriter first and the tunes on their soon to be released album on Fat Possum Records called Stairs And Elevators prove that. Sure they rock, but it's about songs first and being loud second. Ms. Wennerstrom's voice reminds me a lot of Concrete Blonde's Johnette Napolitano. This album's a keeper. Turn it up loud.

3 songs from Stairs And Elevators:


New Resolution


Go Here to buy this record.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

rare Double Post Blacky Ranchette & Shivaree...

I really wanted to a longer post on The Band of Blacky Ranchette which is a side project of Howe Gelb's Giant Sand. As you can see from the Blacky Ranchette page the folks backing up Howe are a who's who of the alt-country/desert southwest scene. You've got Calexico, Neko Case, M. Ward, Chan Marshall all lending talents on some or all songs. As I understand it The Band of Blacky Ranchette developed as a way for Gelb to really fulfill his need to play "pure" country. Though from what I've heard he sounds like he's channelling the country of Neil Young more than the country of say Willie Nelson or Merle Haggard. Anyway I could only get a hold of one MP3, which is not at all the norm here at Bars & Guitars. I've always felt you need at least two songs to get a feel as to whether or not you should shell out your hard earned dollars for music. So to make up for it I'm posting two tracks from the band Shivaree which is, as far as I'm concerned some of the best stuff I've heard in a while. I actually paid for the CD. Although I do do that a lot, it's still a testament to the bands power as I ordered it immediatelly after hearing some tracks posted by the good folks at Womenfolk (great site by the way).

1 song from The Band of Blacky Ranchette:

Mope A Long

2 songs from Shivaree:

I Close My Eyes

The Fat Lady of Limbourg

You can get (and you really should) Shivaree HERE. Hey, it's on sale right now too. Hurry.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Tilly And The Wall...

Hey Kids, sorry i've been gone a few days, but I had business to attend to on the East Coast. While that sounds very important, it really isn't. But I did get snowed on and during said snow storm the good folks of at the Washington DC Parking and Traffic Department were kind enough to tow my car because it was parked on a snow emergency route. If that storm was a snow emergency than I imagine they'd simply detonate offending vehicles during a challenge of more biblical proportions. Locusts!! Remove all cars immediately!! We need more plastic explosives...aaaahhhh!! It wouldn't have been so bad if all my family's luggage hadn't been in the trunk,

Anyway, back at the helm now and very excited about how much good music there is on the horizon this year. Tilly and The Wall are on Team Love Records which is Conor Oberst label. Till and The Wall are part of the whole Omaha scene that Mr. Oberst has done such a good job of promoting. Tilly and The Wall however sound nothing like The Faint or Cursive. They're much more twee, full of bouncing melodies, boy/girl harmonies, handclaps and humming synths . I swear some of the songs on Wild Like Children were written to take the place of "Kumbaya" around the old campfire. But when they get it right it's really good pop music. The lyrics are very high school focused and frankly I already did that and don't really want to relive it. Still there are some fun songs here that show the band could have promise after a little more seasoning.

Two songs from Wild Like Children:

Nights of the Living Dead

Perfect Fit

If you like these proceed to the website where the whole album is available for download in mp3 format. I know it makes these files a bit redundant but give me a break I've been on a plane all day.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Sin Ropas...

Yes, you're correct that translates from the Spanish as "without clothes". But it's also the name of a band that makes such an unusual noise. Derived from the band Red Red Meat, Sin Ropas consists of Tim Hurley (Red Red Meat bassist) and Danni Iosello. Let me tell you Sin Ropas fall pretty far from the Red Red Meat sound. I'm pretty sure that Sin Ropas isn't going to rub everyone the right way. It's delicate under produced music that seems close to fallling apart at any second. I think of it as a child's precious teddy bear that's splitting at the seams; thread bare and over loved, it teeters within that awkward time when the child mourns its disintegration but knows it's time to let go of such things. Hidden under the bustle of guitars, piano, sampler, concertina, clarinet, bass, organ, harmonium, korg, glockenspiel are the melodic underpinnings of wonderful songs. They move slowly, deliberately, with considerable pace. It's an acquired taste, but I don't want that statement to scare anyone away. The reward for patience with these songs is tremendous. Their record Trickboxes on the Pony Line can be bought at the Sad Robot Records site.

Three songs from Trickboxes on the Pony Line:

Butter on Cane

Hands Inside

Syrup Coat

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


Man, I don't know what they're feeding babies in Denton, Tx but that town sure seems to produce an inordinate amount of good music. In addition to Will Johnson's various bands (Centromatic, South San Gabriel) and his solo work, there's Mandarin, Explosions In The Sky, and now I've discovered the brilliant Midlake. Midlake plays like a surreal daydream. The kind of brief nod off in the middle of class or work where you dream you're awake and it isn't until Bozo the Clown walks by dressed as Zeus do you realize you'd better get your ass up. The boys in Midlake are music school kids who know how to play their instruments and record records, though I have it on good authority that they're still trying figure out how to translate the songs on their album Bamnan And Silvercork into an engaging live performance. But I suppose that's neither here nor there because the album is very strong. It's a hodge podge of acoustic instruments, keyboards and some electronics coming together to make a surprisingly cohesive listen. The vocals are of the detached, brooding variety though melodic and lyrically quite literate. This is a band with huge potential. I hope they stick together and continue to refine their sound. You can purchase Bamnan And Silvercork HERE.

4 songs from Bamnan And Silvercork:


Moppers Medley

Kingfish Pies

Balloon Maker

Additionally today check the band Shivaree at the excellent music blog Womenfolk. Great band.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

revisiting Frog Holler...

A couple of weeks ago I posted about Pennsylvania band Frog Holler. With three albums under their belts they're practically cagey old veterans of the alt-country scene. I'm a big fan of Frog Holler so I was understandably pleased when I got their newest EP in the mail recently. The High Highs and The Low Lows is a 7 song set of older and unreleased songs that's not entirely representative of the bands "usual" sound, but is very good none the less. EPs are tricky. I've always liked the format since I have a short attention span and it feels like you're getting a lot for something less than the price of a full album. If you (like me) think about Frog Holler as being a satisfying middle ground between rock and country/blue grass picking, you'll find The High Highs And Low Lows to land much closer to the rocking end of the Frog Holler spectrum. The songs here tend to wind out a bit longer, push the guitar to the front of the mix and generally want to be played loud. It's a very fun collection, though I don't know if I can argue that it's representative of their catalog as a whole.

2 songs from The High Highs and The Low Lows:


Million Good Things

Monday, January 17, 2005

Magnolia Electric Co...

It can get a little confusing trying to figure out what moniker Jason Molina is going under. His 2003 album entitled Magnolia Electric Co. under the name Songs:Ohia was easily one of my top 5 albums of that year. Tomorrow the good folks at Secretly Canadian release a live album entilted Trials and Errors recorded under the name Magnolia Electric Co. and taken from a live show in Belgium in 2001. Personally, I've been starved for some of Molina's work. I was a bit disappointed in his last release (under the name Pyramid Electric Co.) but I've been hearing really good things about this live album. The Secretly Canadian site has a couple of tracks available for download and it sounds great. How do you describe Molina? He plays a brand of rural influenced country blues that carries certain echoes of Will Oldham's best work, but tends to rock harder and gets jammier (don't like that word). Molina's voice isn't going to win any beauty contests, but that's ultimately the charm of his heart-on-his-sleeve lyrics; they're delivered in a melodic but edge of cracking fashion. If you're unfamiliar with Songs:Ohia Magnolia Electric Co. I urge you to go out and get IT. Also note that April 9th is the release date for Songs:Ohia's next album.

from Trials and Errors:

Dark Don't Hide It

Cross The Road

from Songs:Ohia's Magnolia Electric Co.:

Farewell Transmission

Friday, January 14, 2005


I was up too late last night. I should know by this late age that going out on a school night only leads to a day of spacey often trying non-productiveness. It's just this kind of day that makes a band like Okkervil River sound so good. OR plays often languid dreamy pop tunes, though they practice the sort of slow build towards crashing cresendos that remind me of the cartoon scene where some unfortunate character (usually Wiley Coyote or Elmer Fudd though often Daffy Duck) is lifted into the air by a thrust of water from a fire hydrant that has been destroyed or tampered with, said character bounces on his ass above the street balancing impossibly on this jet of water. Often the jet of water will wane, lowering the poor sucker towards the street, and then regain its force, pushing the victim skyward once again. It's an awkward though apt metaphor for the sonic tides that sweep towards Okkervil River listeners. This is the kind of music that fans of Neutral Milk Hotel would love. You should read the band bio at their website, much like the songs very literate and entertaining.

From 2003's Down The River of Golden Dreams:

It Ends With a Fall

The War Criminal Rises And Speaks

From their current release Sleep And Wake up Songs:

A Favor

My current review on Pop Matters is pretty far off the beaten path of what I usually write here. If you're curious about an organic/electronic project by Collection of Colonies of Bees check out the review.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Chad Vangaalen...

Ok so in the interest of full disclosure I ended up listening to some of Chad Vangaalen's work from Stylus Magazine's excellent Stypod. Luke Adams (also a writer at Stylus) had posted three tracks by lesser known Canadian artists and I was so taken by Chad's work that I followed the links. Chad Vangaalen seems to be one of those bedroom savants. I don't mean he's exceptionally great in the sack but couldn't pour his own milk to save his life, I mean that he holes up in his little home studio and writes song after exceptional song, putting out CD-Rs for friend, familly and such. It seems that Flemish Eye Records took such a liking to his stuff that they pared his hundreds of home bred songs down to 19 and released Infiniheart. There are three downloads available on the site and I've been listening to them non stop this morning, clearly annoying my co-workers with my insistent explanations of why they should also love this stuff. The sound on these songs isn't of the highest quality as far as production values go, but it's more than compensated for by Chad's wonderful folk/pop songs. I keep racking the archives of my muscial brain to come up with a convenient comparison to make the doubter into believers but I'm having a hard time. Perhaps I should just say that the songs are good and you should listen to them and hit the buy button on the website.

Three songs from Infiniheart:


Somewhere I know There's Nothing

Clinicly Dead

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Wise And Foolish Builders...

There was a brief moment there during the last few years when it seemed the piano was being hailed as the new rock guitar. Aside from the whole Ben Folds Five shmeg we had Spoon and the amazing second album Elysium from The Velvet Teen which was all piano based bombast in the best way. So today I come across a band called IWise & Foolish Builders who seem to ply a territory similar to the bands I just mentioned. Many of the reviews on their site refer to them as being similar to Radiohead. I don't really hear that. I think the lead singer sounds a lot like Jeremy Engick from Sunny Day Realestate and Fire Theft, but maybe that's just me. Considering how much I liked Elysium it's really no surprise that I'm taken with the piano based pop songs of Wise & Foolish Builders. It takes a listen or two to grab you (much like Elysium) but once it does it's easy to get sucked in.

2 songs from Wise & Foolish Builders:

I Recognize Your Fist

Sleight Of Hand

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Two Gallants...

According to the SF Bay Guardian at least there's a musicalmovement going on in the off-the-beaten path musical venues and neighborhoods of San Francisco. It seems that an increasingly tight knit group of young musicians who have discovered the joys of rockified country. These kids (and I don't say that condescendingly, they really are young) have discovered the joys of cow punk, that is music in the style of Rank & File, Scruffy The Cat, Fetchin' Bones, The Buckets. Is it country? Well maybe but I think it has more incommon with punk rock. That doesn't mean it's country played loud and fast, as much as it means country played with an attitude. The Bay Guardian article spends alot of time focusing on a band called Trainwreck Riders, but I think the best band of this burgeoning movement is Two Gallants. I recently picked up their album Throes and it's a great listen. Many of the songs are simply voice, guitar and drums and the effect is very immediate music. They write great stories into their songs. You can feel the joy these guys have in making this music, it's charge you get when you're young and doing something you really believe in. Here's yet another chance to get on the bus before it starts picking up all the hipster folk. Throes can purchased HERE or downloaded at iTunes.

2 songs from Throes:

Nothing To You

Train That Stole My Man

An urelated aside:

Check out my review of the new Archer Prewitt at Stylus Magazine. It's the sites record of the week. A really great album. If you're so inclined please read the review.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Tom Heyman...

Heyman has been around the SF rock scene for quite awhile. He's currently a member of Court & Spark, but has assisted everyone from Chuck Prophet to Chris Von Sneidren. But he put out a solo album in 2000 called Boarding House Rulesthat was about as good a country rock record as you were likely to find that year. It's a sound dominated by slide guitar and vocal harmonies. Many of the Bay Area scene made appearances including Chuck Prophet, Virgil Shaw, "Teenage" Rob Douglas (now playng with Pete Anderson) and Stephanie Finch. It's available HERE. I imagine Tom is pretty busy with the Court & Spark at this stage of the game, but if you ever see him playing solo in your neck of the woods you should check him out.

Here's three from Boarding House Rules originally on Innerstate Records:

Till I Forget Her Name

Eggs & Whiskey

Bottle Full Of Wishes

Friday, January 07, 2005

Call And Response

A jazzy, funky, smooth groovin, group originally from the Bay Area. Call And Response have an new EP out called Tiger Teeth that recasts some of their early material in a new light. I think I'll take the easy way out here and not try to come up with a clever metaphor for the sake of elucidating their sound, but instead simply say that they sound a lot like Stereolab. Or at least they used to. Later albums revealed a more "mature" sound that left some of the electro-bubble pop behind. Too bad because I love the sickly sweet pop tunes. Perhaps the release of Tiger Teeth is a signal that they plan to return to the groove oriented slightly synthyesque sound of yesteryear. I do like this EP alot, it's breezy fun music. I withhold judgement on the later stuff which is surprising considering how judgmental I am.

From Tiger Teeth:


From Winds Take No Shape:

Trapped Under Ice

Thursday, January 06, 2005

The Blood Arm...

Man, I've been busy as fuck all at work today. Unbelievable. It's as if my life of relative relaxation came crashing down. Oh well, I guess you've got to earn your keep now and then. I think the The Blood Arm is being smiled upon by the rock gods because these guys are getting some serious buzzzzzzzzzz. It's a very garage rock sound, unsanded for sure. They're more tuneful, melodic than the better known contemporaries that they'll inevitably be compared to (Strokes, Vines, Hives, et al). They're LA kids so make what you will of that.

From Bomb Romantics Demo:

Do I Have Your Attention

Can I Unwind

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Archer Prewitt

In my opinion I've been listening to the best record to be released so far in 2005. Though it hasn't been released in US yet Archer Prewitt's Wilderness is salve for the soul. It's music of the highest quality. Slated for a release on January 25th Prewitt has become over his three solo albums the very definition of classic pop. On White Sky he layed the strings and large scale panoramic orchestration on thick. On Wilderness he scales things back a little but accents the proceedings with harmonica, vibes, pedal steel. This is music that was Top 40 once and I mean the Top 40 of Jimmy Webb and Burt Bacharach. It was to be loved and not mocked. While it's tough for any artist to keep up the level of excellence that transpires on Wilderness for an entire 11 songs, there is a 4 song run here (O, Ky, Go Away, Judy Judy, No More) that is as good musically as you're likely to hear. Of course, this won't find the widespread audience it deserves. It will be heard and treasured by a number that should be multiplied by 10 for every Jack Johnson or Dave Matthews record that is sold. If you're a fan of well written songs, romantic lyrics touched with melancholy, are a sucker for the perfect turn of phrase and a musical transition that makes you grin, you must BUY this record.

2 songs from Wilderness:

Go Away

Judy, Judy

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Dirty On Purpose...

This came in the mail yesterday. The band is Dirty On Purpose and their EP is Sleep Late For A Better Tomorrow. I know there's currently a slight backlash against what sounds like updated new wave music (whatever that is), I think it's being called now-wave or neo-wave or something. In alot of cases I think it's a valid complaint (I think The Faint could've done better than Wet Before Birth, The Killers essentially copped an entire moment and have successfully vomited back at us) but sometimes just because a band echoes an era shouldn't be a knock against it. I think it's more than OK, perhaps even to be encouraged, for a band to legitimately update a sound thus making it new and their own. I think that's going with Dirty on Purpose. I'm pretty sure they're from New York, but don't think Strokes. This is sound is more akin to The Call and Echo & The Bunnymen but with a lovely boy/girl vocal exchange and a sickly sweet guitar buzz that makes things both more and less modern. That was a poor descriptive sentence, but cut me a break I do this for free. I highly recommend the PURCHASE of Sleep Late For A Better Tomorrow.

Couple of mp3 links from their website:


Mind Blindness - This is an early mix of the song on Sleep Late For A Better Tomorrow. I like it a lot.

Monday, January 03, 2005


A quirky band from the Bay Area Dealership is a crafty three piece that plays sparkling pop music. It's a mix of indie rock guitars, keyboards, and skittering drums. It's fun stuff. They're on the same label (Turn Records) as The Dying Californian who I wrote about recently (and kicks some serious ass I might add). Depending on which song is on Dealership reminds me of a louder Papas Fritas or a more spastic Yo La Tengo. Though don't hold me to either of those comparisons as they do have a sound that is uniquely their own. If you live in the SF Bay Area take note that on Thursday Jan. 13 Turn Records will be having a show at the Cafe Du Nord. Not only will Dealership and The Dying Californian be on the bill but the long missing Track Star will make a triumphant return, should be a rocking good time.

From Dealership's most recent record Action/Adventure:


Pure Of Heart

From TV Highway to the Stars: