Friday, April 29, 2005

Oxford Collapse...

Just got the forthcoming CD from Oxford Collapse entitled A Good Ground. Lumped in with the whole "dance/punk" movement that encompasses such a disparate variety of styles that it seems to have already lost any meaningful signifigance as a term, Oxford Collapse sounds to me to have much more in common with The Jam than with The Rapture, !!!, or Franz Ferdinbland. Oxford Collapse is lots of jangly guitars, driving rhythms, quick breakdowns and pace changes. It's a frenetically paced record and while I'm sure you could dance to some of these songs with relative ease and not look like a total spazz alot of is total spazz music, and that's a compliment. Much of A Good Ground feels (such a lacking word as a descriptive) like the guys who started that first really good band in high school would sound had they kept at it for the last umpteen years. I'm really enjoying this record. If you have a chance to see them live I understand they absolutely kill it so check their tour schedule and see if they're coming to your hometown.

A Good Ground is released on June 7th:

Prop Cars

Cracks In The Causeway

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Great Lakes Swimmers...

Work is an interesting combination of busy and stupid today so i've got to keep my usual verbosity to a minimum. Perhaps that's a relief for some.

Great Lakes Swimmers are a mellow acoustic based Canadian band. They walk a territory previously explored by the likes of acoustic Neil Young, Nick Drake, early Richard Buckner (think Bloomed era), with echoes of My Morning Jacket if they were an acoustic only outfit or Will Oldham if he played things straight up. I think a big deal was made of the fact their first record was recorded in an old grain silo. It does make for an interesting sound full of echo and reverb (thus the MMJ comparison) and you can hear the crickets trilling in the background (I think people think it makes the songs sound particularly rustic). Their self titled debut record (the one I'm posting on, I think they've just released their sophomore album but I haven't heard it yet) is all well written songs based on a very traditional folk structure. There are wonderful harmonies, a little bit of pedal steel, some soft percussion but mostly it's acoustic guitar. Very nice on an expectedly rainy day.

2 songs from Great Lake Swimmers:

Merge, A Vessel, A Harbour

Three Days At Sea

For those of you interested I have a feature piece on Okkervil River at Pop Matters today. Check it out.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Bottom Of The Hudson...

Bottom Of The Hudson are one of a myriad bands slugging it out in the clubs and bars of our fine country making a wonderous racket for the discerning ears of a very few. Sure, their story is played out over and over by any number of deserving bands making good music keeping their fingers crossed for some semblance of a break. Signed to one of my favorite labels Absolutely Kosher which released the slightly amazing 2 records from Okay, BOTH has just released their second effort Song From The Barrel Commando which got a very good review from Pop Matters today. Myself I'm more familiar with their last effort The Omaha Record which is a great hyrid of Velvet Undergroundesque drone and stomp, folk pop, and Dino Jr. like indie guitar rage. It's a very diverse set of songs and while that sounds a bit clinical it's meant as a great compliment.

3 songs from Bottom Of The Hudson:

Chilling Sorcerer. From The Omaha Record

Motorcaid. Also from TOR.

One Of Us.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Victoria George...

It was just odd this AM. I'm leaving to go to work and I see a package on top of the mailbox. It was clearly too large for the box so the kind postal worker had left it on top. I stop and grab it because there's a chance of rain in the afternoon and I don't want no soggy package. I open the thing up and it's a CD by this woman Victoria George. She looks all cowgirl and honky tonk on the cover, it's got a press release and some info. I can't for the life of me figure out how the woman got my home address. I mean my email gets around some because of this site and the writing I do for various publications but not my home address. Anyway, I'm scratching my head as I ride my bike to work thinking less about what the CD may sound like than how it ended up in my mailbox. At work I'm looking at the cover thinking that it seems much more appropriate to the more country leanings of Songs Illinois and that maybe I'll just pass it along to Craig. I put it in the CD player, lo and behold I'm impressed. Out of all the times where I've been contacted by bands about featuring their stuff here, there have probably been 2 times where I liked the material enough to post about it. But this Victoria George clearly has something going for her. She walks the line between alt country, folk pop and a touch a rock. More interesting is that she's clearly at a cross roads. The songs are there, the production needs some work, over all the 5 songs here are good. Now when I say she's at a crossroads I mean that she can go a number of ways as her career blossoms. Does she stay the course of such non-mainstream leaning artists as Lucinda Williams, Joni Mitchell, Fiona Apple, or Shelby Lynne? Or does she start to sell her soul for the good fortune and vapid art of a Shania Twain? Her EP Far As I'm Concerned is self-released I think, so please email her off her site about getting a hold of one. If you really want it I'll burn it for you and mail it to you (assuming that's ok with Victoria). It's that intriguing.

Here's 1 lonely song from Far As I'm Concerned:

Love Sick

Let me know what you think.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Pedro The Lion...

I come to you uncultured in the way of Pedro. During a recent discussion with my friend Dave (you may recall as drummer extraoridinaire and fellow wallower in the muddy waters that are The Golden State Warriors) I learned that I really should be listening to Pedro The Lion. It was a discussion, as I'm want to have, regarding the best of the current crop of indie songwriters (please see this post for general obsessiveness); he insisted that after touring with Pedro The Lion (he was drumming for Vanderslice) he thought Dave Bazan was surely one of the most underrated and overlooked songwriters working. Ha! I thought. How could this be? I've barely heard of this Bazan guy and I, as a snobby rock elitist, know everything. But because I'm an agreeable guy I tracked down a copy of 2004's Achilles' Heel. On first listen I was totally unimpressed. Perhaps I'd biased myself somehow against Pedro (as I did with The Decemberists and I'm glad I got over that) and was unable to find the virtue in the music. The next day I listened to it again on the way to work. Reaction on 2nd listen: Hmmm, this kinda cool. Lyrics are a bit mopey, but homey can write a song. Reaction on 3rd listen: Ok, I totally missed the boat. This is great. "I Do" and "Simple Plan" are fantastic, "Arizona" is oddly charming. Where was I when this came out?

Since that fateful day of introduction I've listened to Achilles' Heel a lot and am preparing myself to jump into the rest of the catalog. My only complaint is the production. According to my sources Pedro & co are very much do it yourself. They'd rather build a studio and learn how to make records then hire an outsider. This is commendable to the highest, but it does bury Bazan's excellent songwriting. It's like looking at a beautiful photo though gauzy cheesecloth. There are things you need/want to know that are obscured from view. I really think that Achilles' Heel could've been a 2004 top 5 record with brighter production, i.e. punchier drum sounds, more dynamic mix, etc. I'm not talking about putting a sheen or pop gloss on these songs, on the contrary I'm advocating simply taking them out of their shell a bit, letting them breath. None the less, this is a great record.

2 songs from Achilles' Heel:

I Do

A Simple Plan

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Clem Snide...

Clem Snide is too smart for their own good. I've little doubt about that. Lead singer Eef Barzelay hooked me with Ghost Of Fashion. The band created on that record a set of songs that managed to straddle a territory containing alt-country, sly wit, and indie pop. It was handsomely good. Now along come Barzelay and company to release End of Love and up the ante as far as what we can expect from quality indie rock. End Of Love swings from jangly 80's era REM to more twangy roots flavored songs, all the while the whole smorgasborg (sp?) is anchored by Barzelay's cleverly sly lyrics.

1 song from End Of Love:

End Of Love

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Of Montreal...

Just a quick post today on Of Montreal. Got the new album The Sundlandic Twins a couple of days ago and desptite the profligate fawning by the critical press I like the damn thing. It's full of quirky beats, soaring 60's harmonies, crashing choruses, it's like a big long ear to ear smile. You can order the thing right about here.

This is my current favorite song. But that's like trying to pick a favorite Charlie's Angel. They are all so damn sweet. I did have the Farrah poster now that I think of it. I think the outline of her nipple is burned into my mind.


1 From The Sunlandic Twins:

Forecast Fascist Future

Monday, April 18, 2005

One or Two Other Things...

If you're so inclined check out my interview with Will Johnson of Centro-matic and South San Gabriel. He's a very bright, interesting guy. I had fun chatting with him and the new SSG record The Carlton Chronicles is fantastic.

My review of the forth coming Mountain Goats record "The Sunset Tree" is up at Pop Matters.


Damien Jurado...

It wasn't so long ago that I posted about Jurado. It was after he opened up for Richard Buckner at San Francisco's Great American Music Hall, a show that was basically redeemed by Jurado's presence. Buckner's headliner set was at best uninspired. For me the revelation that night was Jurado. I had one of his albums but it was an early one and i'd no idea how far his sound had progressed. So lately I've been listening to his newest album On My Way To Absence and I'm fairly enchanted. I think that the word "enchanted" recalls the world of Dungeon & Dragons, Hobbitts and poorly groomed teenaged boys, but for some reason it seems to fit. Jurado's baritone fits his story/songs well and the music feels more fully realized here than on past efforts. The percussion is fuller, the guitar a bit louder. Jurado may be from a folk tradition but it's a sound that's starting to lean more towards the best parts of Bruce Springsteen's early catalog than Woody Guthrie or acoustic Dylan. Check out Damien here

2 songs from On My Way To Absence:

Lion Tamer


Saturday, April 16, 2005


Goldcard is an off shoot of the once fabulous band Pond. When
Pond broke up Charlie Campbell formed Pond while his former song writing partner Chris Brady went on to form the wonderous rock of Audio Learning Center. Goldcard is a quirky little record that vacillates between odd snippets and fully realized pop songs. It veers into disco and then returns to rock, leaps into piano interludes and then lunges back towards guitar driven "indie" rock. When Campbell hits his stride it's pretty damn good. I just can't always listen to the thing all the way through. I admit to hitting the skip button at certain points, though this is only to get to the really good songs. Forgive me.

2 songs from Goldcard:


Destroy And Recreate

Question: if you heard the metaphor "comes at you like an itchy petting zoo" what would you think? I like it but I can't decide if it gets my meaning across. All comments welcome.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Mendoza Line...

The Mendoza Line is a good band that plays smart music labeled heartland rock or Americana or Alt-country or whatever. Truth is that they're criminally underappreciated despite putting out one of the best albums of 2004 in Fortune. Fortune was catchy, politically challenging and honest. A recipte for being ignored in this hipper than thou competition we currently call the music biz. The linked songs are from their website, they have a number of other mp3s, not to mention a well done site. Spend some time there. Buy a CD.

from Fortune:

Throw It In The Fire

Let's Not Talk About It

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Rhett Miller...

Okay, stop laughing at me. It's not my fault I was born with a pop sweet tooth. I'm sure most of the people that read Bars & Guitars have a certain fondness for The Old 97's. I sure do. Great live, great on record. A couple of years ago Rhett Miller put out a widely panned, negatively received, oft made fun of solo album called The Instigator. I'm still not absolutely sure why the record was so negatively received, perhaps it had something to do with the semi-beefcake-look-at-me-I'm-a-poster-boy album cover. Bottom line for me is that the record has loads and loads of catchy pop songs. I know it wasn't high art, it didn't rock like the Old 97's, it wasn't true to the aesthetic of the 97's, but damn it was/is fun. So in an effort to convince others that this record is worth something beyond a surface on which on deseed your pot or carve lines I give you a couple of highpoints from Rhett.

Do not underestimate the power of a good pop song. They don't all have to save world, some just need to make it better for three minutes.

from The Instigator:

Come Around

Things That Disappear

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The '89 Cubs...

The truth must be told. I've been a tad indifferent to the '89 Cubs. It's not they aren't good, they've certainly got the pedigree boasting members of Bright Eyes, The Good Life and Desaparacidos, but I was underwhelmed by the music. It just seemed so...replaceable despite being on the same label as Velvet Teen. Modest Mouse meet '89 Cubs, '89 Cubs meet Blink 182, etc. etc. It's the indie rockers indie rock. I listened a few times and stopped paying attention. Then about 3 weeks ago someone said something to the effect of "you fucking elitist snob, give it another listen, it's fun". And you know what? It is fun. Fun in the way that Good News For People Who Love Bad News is fun. Melodic, jagged, indie rock fun. I've come around to the darkside. I'll let you judge for yourself.

2 songs from 2004's There Are Giants In The Earth:

Oh, The Things We Put In Our Heads

Sorry Tornado

Monday, April 11, 2005


There's not much info about Cropduster out there. I'm talking about the California Cropduster, not the band of the same name that hails from the east coast. The Petaluma, CA Cropduster was thoroughly Americana, playing a brand of country rock that touched Neil Young as well as Uncle Tupelo. They put out a great record in 1999 called A Strange Sort Of Prayer. It was and is a great record filled with gentle moments and rocking loud guitars. It's a remarkably assured record for a bunch of kids banging away on their first record. Much of the credit probably goes to the assured writing of Andrew Asp and his raspy voice which imbues the songs with an authenticity that they may or may not deserve. I believe they've since broken up. Can't find much beyond this record. Anyway this has long been a favorite of mine, hopefully you'll find somthing special about it as well.

2 songs from A Strange Sort Of Prayer:

A Man Doesn't Cry


Friday, April 08, 2005

The Mountain Goats...

I can't hold back any longer. I've been listening to The Sunset Tree a whole lot and while it won't be released until the end of this month I just gotta give you a little taste. Unlike past Darnielle albums (last year's We Shall All Be Healed the notable exception) The Sunset Tree lays Darnielle's insides out to bake in the sun. There are no fictionalized couples here, no stories of characters in bars; it's his life presented for all of us to see. The central figure on the album is his step father, and he looms over every nook and cranny of this record. It's powerfully stuff, not necessarily confessional but certainly intimately personal.

Musically, some long time fans of Darnielle's work have bemoaned his more advanced recording techniques(read: the fact he is no longer is singing into a Walmart boombox), but frankly I love the more fully realized sound. It certainly doesn't negatively affect the piercing nature of his lyrics.

Currently my favorite song on The Sunset Tree but that might change tomorrow:

The Lion's Teeth

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Summer Hymns...

Summer Hymns make wonderful alt-country music. Mellow and loping with a lead singer that sounds like the guy in America. The music swirls and eddies and sometimes sounds like a carnival full of sad faced ponies. It's yet another fine record from Misra Records who also put out records by South San Gabriel and Centro-matic.

These songs move slowly, unwind in carefull tortured phrasing. On a day filled with unexpected rain that palls the looming presence of spring like a funeral procession driving through a child's chalk drawings these songs feel good.

Baby You're Not Bleeding

Trouble (my favorite)

Something's Going On

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Hold Steady...

Brothers and Sisters I am off the back on this one. Just goes to show you that no matter how close you think you have your ear to the ground there's always something you're missing. But that's always been the point of this blog (all music blogs, I think), to seek out and illuminate that which is deserving (my but I sound pompous today, don't I ?). Anyway, The Hold Steady are from Brooklyn and they rock. I mean really rock. Like AC/DC rock, Husker Du rock, drunken good rock. I was tipped off to these guys by one of the other writers at Stylus who was hyping their new record that comes out in May.

I believe these guys are an off shoot of Lifter Puller, but looser in song structure, sloppier, more animated. The lead singer's voice reminds me of Bob Mould doing a strange hybrid of singing and spoken word, in fact in addition to the aforementioned Husker Du similarity let me go ahead and name drop Sugar as well, but more ragged and a bit dumber (and I mean that in a good way).

1 song from 2004's Almost Killed Me

The Swish

1 song from the forthcoming Separation Sunday

Your Little Hoodrat Friend

An aside: Have I mentioned how great Aliigator by The National is? I firmly believe they make the following bands look like silly sissies:

The Bravery
The Killers
The Strokes
Hot Hot Heat

Thank you very much.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


Well, today's the day that Riviera releases their new album At The End of the American Century. This is very much music as part of the Americana or alt-country movement and I imagine that alot of critics will automatically point their fingers at Wilco as a clear starting point. While such a comparison may have validity I'm much more drawn to comparisons that place Riviera's sound closer to the country rock moments in The Rolling Stones catalog. There's a very honky tonk element to the bands sound. Lead singer and songwriter Derek Philips has a nice way with his lyrics. With the warm weather coming this record will be a perfect soundtrack to drinking beers on the porch. Go ahead and PURCHASE the record here. At The End of the American Century is what I call a "creeper". By that I mean that with each successive listen something new grabs you, it may not deliver an initial knock out punch but it just keeps coming and coming and coming.

2 songs from At The End of the American Century:

Your American Past

Ashes On The Moon

Also note that today Okkervil River's Black Sheep Boy is released today. This album is a 2005 top ten, must have, must hear.

Monday, April 04, 2005

A Little Centro...

I've posted about Will Johnson's various musical projects before on this here musical buffet. i've talked about his solo work, about the fabulous South San Gabriel and I've talked about his rock band Centro-Matic. Well, in the services of Junk Media I'll be interviewing Will this Friday. I'm looking forward to speaking with him because I've always been curious about how prolific songwriters decide how to designate which songs to which project. In preparing for the interview I pulled out some of my old Centro-matic discs that I haven't listened to in a while. I was struck in particular at how fresh The Static vs. The Strings vol. 1 still sounds years after I bought it. It's melodic and pretty while sounding slightly damaged and torn at the same time. I've now spent the last 3 days listening to only Static vs. Strings and The National's amazing Alligator which gets released on April 12th.

I really can't recommend The Static vs. The Strings vol. 1 enough, either as introduction to the band or for the someone who came to Centro-matic a little later.

2 songs from The Static vs. The Strings vol. 1:

Curb Your Turbulence

Say Something/95 Frowns

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Golden Smog...

Golden Smog is a special band and not just because it's an "all star" group. I pulled the CD Weird Tales off the shelf yesterday having not listened to it for months. It reminds me of the time when I was courtin' my wife, good times, good memories. I remember seeing the band play in SF at Slims. Hands down one of the best shows I've ever scene. It's rare that you see a band enjoying themselves as much as those guys did that night. They seemed to love the music and love the company that they kept. The place was electric with the energy from the stage.

If you don't know Golden Smog is composed of Jeff Tweedy, Gary Louris (Jayhawks), Dan Murphy (Soul Asylum), Marc Perlman (Jayhawks), Jody Stephens (Big Star), and Kraig Johnson (Run Westy Run). Records are infrequent as best given the commitments that these guys have, but the results are special. I heard rumor that they were getting together in Spain to record a follow up, we can only hope it's true.

Weird Tales is 15 songs of Americana rock and roll. Writing credits are spread pretty evenly around the members. If you ever get a chance to see them live, jump at it if for no other reason than the covers they choose are amazing.

2 songs from Weird Tales:

Looking Forward To Seeing You

Can't Keep From Talking