Thursday, June 23, 2005

Various Stuff...

Well, first of all it's summer time and the living is easy. Which is my way of saying that I'm going to be out and about visiting my far flung family for about 10 days so this will be my last post most likely until July 5th. If I can sneak something in from on the road I will, but realistically it's not likely. So you'll have to be without my insightful and witty observations for a little while. Somehow I think you'll manage. But in the meantime here's a bit of a mish mash of things I've been listening to and thinking about.

Item #1: I think that Clay Your Hand Say Yeah are for real. I've been listening to the 3 songs on their website for a while now and it's imminently enjoyable. These guys have been getting the Arcade Fire buzz styley but they may warrant it.

item #2: The current and only competitor with CYHSY for super hype 2005 must go to Wolf Parade. The sound is much more disonant. Check out the mp3 on the Subpop page.

item #3: The more I listen to the new Pernice Brothers record the more I like it. I was a bit on the fence before but it's charmed me.

Music Buffet:

Here are a couple of songs that I've been listening to a lot. Sample and enjoy.

Is That Blood by The Radar Brothers. Their record The Fallen Leaf Pages has been creeeping up my faves of 2005 list. I love this song. It's the chorus that gets me. So damn catchy.

Two Broken Hearts by Richmond Fontaine. These guys make sad sack broken hearted gambled my money away and my lady left me for my best friend Americana of the highest note. Last years Post To Wire really should've been on more Top 20 lists. Currently my favorite alt-country outfit along with Ox,

What the heck. One more from Richmond Fontaine: Post To Wire.

The Tailors are british but play Americana style music (Briticana?). They recall Tom Petty, Gram Parsons, early Richard Buckner. Good stuff. Try the many tracks on their site and Backslap Club.

Check out the clip for the forthcoming Flaming Lips documentary Fearless Freaks. Looks cool.

If I don't talk to ya enjoy the next 10 days. I'll see ya later.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Oranger is another San Francisco band that's recorded for the alcohol sodden folks at Jack Pine Social Club. The band is repeatedly described as playing a retro psychedelic 60's loving California sun infused rock (ok some of that I made up). I suppose you can hear some of the Beatles trippier moments here and sure there's lots of fuzz loaded guitars (and I do find myself saying "groovy" alot when I listen to their record). But what sticks out to me are melody, quirky instrumentation, harmonies and craft. These guys have been working on their sound for a long time and it shows particularly on their last album 2003's Shut Down The Sun which is highly recommended. These guys have done high profile tours with everyone from REM to Wilco to Elliott Smith. It's like they're always one single away from the "big time"; the old always the bridesmaid never the bride axiom may be applicable here. But none of that should detract from the songs.

2 songs from Shut Down The Sun

Going Under

Just A Little Dumb

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Dying Californian...

The Dying Californian has had a soft spot in my heart for awhile now. I was a huge fan of thier first album We Are The Birds That Stay which I posted about months and months ago but has remained in pretty constant rotation. The band plays a blend of Americana and rock with a serious nod towards their punk rock roots. I originally described them as "like My Morning Jacket with better drumming". I don't know if I stand by that statement now or not, but it's a good starting point. I suppose I heard MMJ's blend of southern rock and reverb and jumped to conclusions. Anyway I like to cruise by the Turn Records site every couple of weeks to see what's going on with those cats. I noticed that The Dying Californian has a couple of tracks availbable that their working on for their next album. The songs very from great to O.K. But it's good to know that they're out there working on the next thing. The Dying Californian is a band worth noting, they feel to me like they're just an album away from indie-rock notoriety. My fingers are crossed.

New Mixes from the LP to come:

Blurred Just The Same

The Martyrdom of Perpetua

Forest For The Trees

Couple of songs from We Are The Birds That Stay:

Frozen Path

My Heaven Knows No Reign

Friday, June 17, 2005

The Orange Peels...

The Orange Peels is a rare post where I'm not intimately familiar with the band through extensive listening. I don't like to post music until I'm sure I like it, but today I make an exception. This is probably good because it will spare you, dear reader, from my usual rambling and desperate search for metaphor. The Orange Peels are from the bay area and they sound like (to me) the follow: The Smiths, The Housemartins, The Beach Boys, the beach, summer with the top down.

I got their record Circling The Sun yesterday and have been loving 3/4 of it and scratching my head at the remaining 1/4. But that 3/4's kills it.

Have a good weekend. Oh yeah, here's my review of the new Pernice Brothers record which is very good (the album not really the review).

2 songs from The Orange Peels:

Something In You

California Blue

Thursday, June 16, 2005


I once described listening to bands like Phosphorescent as akin to watching a ball of string unravel. That may sound as exciting as watching paint dry but don't take me so literally when I'm trying to be metaphoric. Imagine the string to be made of a rainbow of colors and a bunch of weird textures if you must. There are other bands that I tried to apply this metaphor to, bands like Radar Brother, the fabulous Slow Dazzle and The Tears And Prayers of Arthur Digby Sellers. These are bands that wrap their songs in languid beginnings that slowly gather momentum building towards perfect little crescendoes, delicate sometimes, clumsy and large at others, but always intoxicating. Bands that do this well always surprise me with a horn or steel guitar at the song's peak, a rattle of glass bottles or a strange keyboard that sounds as if it was salvaged from a swamp. Song structure in a standard sense may be tossed aside in the interest of peeling apart a musical idea and putting it back together again. But you can see my problem with the metaphor. It's not really about unravelling, it's more about building up. Perhaps a metaphoric snowball growing in size is more appropriate. My point here, and there is a point, is that Phosphorescent (another product of the Misra Records fountain of good music) plys this territory and plys it really well. So well in fact that I've been struggling with aptly describing their sound. I want to say Palace Music crossed with Luna? Acoustic Neil Young and Sonic Youth? Songs:Ohia and My Morning Jacket? Fuck, I just don't know. I do know that there's something wonderful about this record, though it took awhile to grow on me. I'll spare you the biographical details (the Misra site has that and the links to purchase) and simply suggest that you follow the string as it unravels or the snowball as it gathers momentum or the comparisons as they pile up.

The Album is Aw Come Aw Wry. Here are some songs:

Joe Tex, These Taming Blues

Dead Heart

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Fire Theft...

I for one was a big Sunny Day Real Estate fan. I also thoroughly enjoyed Jeremy Engick's The Frog Queen which had all the quirkiness of Sunny Day but also a certain bravado and scope that seemed to take Sunny Day Real Estate songs and blow them up in a blinding flash of pomp and circumstance. I guess it wasn't a huge surprise when Sunny Day broke up in 2002, dissent had been in evidence. So then came The Fire Theft which sounded alot more like The Frog Queen than any of Sunny Day Real Estate. The Fire Theft and their self titled debut album was so richly cinematic that it seemed to parody itself at times. The choruses were huge and rolling, the bridges built of steel and cable, the verses seemingly proclamations of enormous weight. But I liked it, it was still melodic and catchy even if it was meant to be shouted from mountain tops instead of played on boomboxes. Before The Fire Theft came out there was a teaser CD Single that included the song "Hands On You". It had the same bombastic over the top pseudo-arena rock style as the album to come but seemed a bit more intimate. I always thought that the intimacy of the song is what kept it off the album, it just didn't fit. Anyway I've been listening to The Fire Theft lately and enjoying it more than I remembered. Maybe I had the whole thing wrong the first time around or, more likely, I'm just more attuned to the heights they were aspiring to no matter how silly.

2 Fire Theft Songs:

Hands On You


Monday, June 13, 2005

Pernice Brothers...

Well, tomorrow Joe Pernice and the boys release yet another installment in their long running development of mope rock. It's always a good day when The Pernice Brothers release a new album. Discover A Lovelier You is, what, the 5th Pernice Brothers album? I think that's right. I've loved everyone of them. Joe Pernice is a songwriter with few peers, only problem is that he seems to write the same album over and over again. I guess that's not necessarily bad when you consider how wonderful his formula is. Bright shiny pop tunes hiding a deadpan wit that always sees the glass as half empty. I'm quite proud of the fact that i've been listening to this for about 3 months now and haven't posted a track yet. I'm reviewing it for Stylus Magazine (should be up some time this week) and in an effort to prove that not all music writers are unethical I kept this one underwraps until now. Discover a Lovelier You is more of what you'd expect from the band. The songs are uniformly excellent, the production is a bit slicker this time out but to no detriment to the songs. If you loved Yours, Mine & Ours you'll readily embrace this album as one of the best you've heard. My only fear is that people are starting to get innured to the excellence that is Joe Pernice. Are we starting to take him for granted simply because we always expect an album of great pop tunes and invariable get them? You really can't argue that Pernice has made many albums (including his side projects) that stray far from his guitar based pop formula. It's always good, but are we beginning to be unimpressed by his impressiveness? Maybe a bit of experimentation is in order on the next outing. For now this album is another excellent entry into the Pernice Brothers discography.

1 track from Discover A Lovelier You:

My So Called Celibate Life

Friday, June 10, 2005

Our Lady of the Highway...

Our Lady of the Highway is one fine band. If you didn't hear their 2004 release About Leaving which was about as perfect an illustration of the lonliness that pervades a heart when one returns to a home that is no longer a home but instead a seemingly random series of disconnected assocations. That record was gentle and beautiful. It was melancholy set to music. You must have it. Full disclosure requires me to say that the kids in the band are friends of mine. I was at their first show. I've seen them change and grow. I've seen singer/songwriter Dominic East become more confident in his craft. So here we are in 2005 and after much hand wringing, financial struggle, line up changes and various assorted challenges that face just about every band trying to play their out of their scene into something a bit bigger the finishing touches have been put upon Beauty Won't Save Us This Year. I posted some early mixes of the songs here in late 2004 and I have to say that I'm blown away by how far the band has taken these songs. Where as About Leaving was rooted in an acoustic alt-country vein, Beauty Won't Save Us This Year has taken a decided turn into the realm of pure pop/rock. This should not be viewed as a negative, at all. East's songwriting continues to mine a territory that stars broken hearts and stiff drinks, but now the weeping seems to be subsumed by an anger that comes out as louder guitars and subtle effects that include keyboards and certain electronic elements. In a perfect world all we'd be arguing about is the marked difference in production between the two records. But since Beauty Won't Save Us This Year currently has no home no one is going to hear it soon. It's unfortunate because this record will have little trouble finding an appreciative audience. The record is currently in the hands of friends like Rogue Wave, so maybe the right people in the right places will notice. In the mean time let's enjoy a couple of songs, down load About Leaving from iTunes, and if you're in the SF bay area see them live.

From Beauty Won't Save Us This Year:


Parable of Strength

Fine Dancer. Duet with Anna Coogan.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Slow Dazzle...

This is my favorite kind of record. The kind that creeps up on you with repeated listening. The first time I listened to it was at work on tinny computer speakers. I was busy, distracted and not getting the full effect so I was in full shrug mode, meh. I knew Slow Dazzle was half of the songwriting team from Mendoza Line, but it didn't sound like Mendoza Line. I was having issues here and I generally like what the folks at Misra Records put out. I figured you can't hit a homerun everytime. Recently I put The View From The Floor in the car and that's when the record started to turn the corner for me. I got home and put it on the good stereo and listened to it 4 straight times. No kidding. This is a good album that echoes Galaxy 500 & the Velvet Underground. Those bands are good starting points but Slow Dazzle's sound is fairly unique. While the songs are adorned with white noise hiss, electronic blips, odd percussive elements, their foundation is guitar pop. There's melody here slow and cool. If you're a Mendoza Line fan don't run away, there's good listening here.

There are 2 songs available at the Misra site so I'm only posting one from The View From The Floor:

Wedding Dance

BTW it's gonna be San Antonio in 7.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Buckner & Langford...

Here's an interesting collaborative project between Richard Buckner and the Mekons' Jon Langford. It was recorded in 2002 at Sally Timm's apartment in Chicago and is now released on Langford's Buried Treasure Records. It's both more and less than you would expect from these 2 alt-country rocker/crooner types. The record is mostly upbeat pickin' and stompin'. There's very little of the balladeering that Buckner may be more known for. The record certainly has a very raw feel to it, which in the Buckner's case is really nice. His work lately has felt ponderous and heavy so It's nice to hear him sound like he's enjoying himself. The record is only 9 songs but they stick in the brain basket quite well. It's not the alt-country record of the year but it's a great listen and there are some really brilliant moments. I got my copy from CD Baby but I think you can order of the Buried Treasure site as well.

1 Song from Richard Buckner and Jon Langford's Sir Dark Invader vs. The Fanglord

Sweet Anybody

Monday, June 06, 2005

Anna Coogan & North 19...

I came across Anna Coogan & North 19 while browsing the Our Lady Of The Highway website. I just heard the new Our Lady disc (as yet unreleased) and I was just blown away, so I went looking for their next show dates. Well, turns out the next scheduled show is July 19th at 12 Galaxies and playing with them was this band North 19. Hmmm, I thought. I'll play follow the links. What I found was that Ms. Coogan has a pretty amazing set of pipes. She can really sing. The songs are a strange hybrid of bluegrass, country and rock. The songs I've heard are all banjo based but it doesn't really sound like bluegrass. There's definitely a rockin' element to it (not to say that pure bluegrass can't rock, don't get me wrong) that perks up my ears more than true bluegrass. You can get a hold of the album Glory over here.

2 songs from their album Glory:

Another Day

Love Will Find A Way

I'm gonna try to get permission to post some songs from the new Our Lady of the Highway album. I don't believe it has a home yet so if you're label related listen closely.

Friday, June 03, 2005


Shearwater is a direct relation of Okkervil River. I've posted stuff from their wonderous album Winged Life before, but they're on tour shilling for an EP called Thieves which is more twisted mellow takes on folk pop. I'm keeping it short today because I've already talked your ear off. But this is worth your attention. If you didn't want to commit to the LP go in for the cheaper EP and then find yourself forced to backtrack. Go on, it'll be fun. Buy it HERE. Unbelievable live as well.

1 song from Thieves:

I Can't Wait

30 Day Update...

At the end or beginning of each month I like to jot down my thoughts on what I've heard so far this year. Kind of a running top 10. It helps me reflect on what i've been listening to and, maybe, alerts some of you good folk to something that may not be on your radar. It also gives me a chance to babble incessantly and I looooove to babble incessantly. Ok so here in no particular order (I'm saying these are the best I've heard so far though I haven't begun the arduous and patently absurd process of giving them sparkling little rankings):

Mountain Goats - The Sunset Tree. Just a fantastic record. I think I've listened to it once a day since I got the promo copy. I've even turned my wife into a confirmed Darnielle fan.

Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy. Excellent. And Sheff's a very nice guy.

Archer Prewitt - Wilderness. I think this was technically the first album I reviewed this year. It still has the staying power that only great songwriting can muster.

The Decemberists - Picaresque. I listen to this alot. I mean alot. I sing loudly and badly to it in the car.

The Hold Steady - Separation Sunday There's been much debate over this record most of which revolves around whether or not anything really original is being done musically. I think the answer is probably no on a technical level, but on an emotional level this record is fantastic. Sure, you can level accusations of amateur poetry at Mr. Finn if you like, but I think you're missing the point. There's something brazenly fun, naked, honest, disturbing going on here and you can feel it.

The National - Alligatore. Ah more controversy. This record seems to be a love it or hate it proposition. I gave the review an A- over at Stylus and Jon Langmead (fine writer) gave it a 2 over at Pop Matters. What gives? I guess you buy it or you don't. I still love this record.

Damien Jurado - On My Way To Absence. I think this is the best alt-country release thus far this year. It's easily better than Buckner's Dents And Shells. A deeply felt record. Jurado's voice is wonderful, deep and resonant. He tells well imagined often heartbreaking stories.

Maria Mckee - Peddlin' Dreams. I'll admit I stopped paying attention to what Maria was doing years ago. She started to lose me with the hyperbole and cinematic grandeur of her songwriting. I just wanted to hear her sing melodies with that beautiful voice of hers. On Peddlin' Dreams she does just that. She returns to the rootsy americana of Lone Justice, her first solo record and You Gotta Sin To Be Saved. The record is sad, heartbreaking at times. Her voice has never sounded better. Runner up for best alt-country record going thus far.

Andrew Bird & The Mysterious Production of Eggs. What a wonderful and unusual record. Precious and peculiar. It was stuck on repeat in the CD player for awhile. It's playtime has since decreased a bit but I popped it in the other day and guess what? It's stil great. Melodic and clever. I've discovered completely different favorite songs this go around.

Other records occupying inordinate amounts of my time that I consider fucking sahweet:

LCD Soundsystem
Spoon - Gimme Fiction
Of Montreal - The Sundlandic Twins
Mobius Band
The Oxford Collapse - A Good Ground

I'll have another post with music later today. Just wanted to spit this out as I've been thinking about it.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Architecture In Helsinki...

Architecture In Helsinki reminds me of summer for some reason, which is odd because when you think about it it's getting set for winter in Australia right now. But it's not the geography that of this aussie band that makes me think of summer, it's the twee light hearted bouncy pop that they play. Last year's Fingers Crossed was nothing if not one of the most fun releases of the year. It teetered between an orchestra of over caffeinated junior high schoolers who had listened to way too much Go Team! and pure indie pop. The new record In Case We Die is an equally schizophrenic take on having a good time. Songs will bounce merrily along and just as you think you've found the appropriate head nodding groove things change up, flip around, smile and run away. It must be one of the dangers of songwriting by committee and the committee is freakin' big, we're talking like 8 or 9 people on the stage hammering away. The instrumentation is varied from drum machines to drums and percussion, horns, keyboards of all sorts, electronic bleeps and coughs, the kitchen sink.

In Case We Die is a current guilty pleasure for me. It's not the kind of music I can throw myself into because it's seems so lite. I know that's obnoxious and not really sensible but there it is. I must say that on "Do The Whirlwind" when the horns come in and then give way to the big fat chorus of "ahh, ahh, ah ah" and then finish up with the horns again I grin from ear to ear.

1 song from In Case We Die:

Do The Whirlwind

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Faris Nourallah...

Faris Nourallah (formerly of the Nourallah Brothers of Dallas, Tx) occupies that odd but charming territory that exists somewhere amongst the intersections of folk music, alt-country, pop, and the heartbroken ditch that Elliott Smith was unable to climb out of. It's a territory that artists like the aforementioned Smith, Unbunnny (who's Snow Tires was one of my favorites of last year), and Feist seem to successfully hover around. I find in listening to their music, and particularly to Nourallah's Kind Of Sweden, a weird ability to be stylistically all over the map and still emotionally centered. That sounds like a bunch of horseshit, but it's true. On King Of Sweden Nourallah crafts a tale of a boy's dillusionment with the world through carefully wrought pop songs. The songs vary from introspective folk to near 80's synth dance pop. It shouldn't make sense but Nourallah manages to do it, each song feels in touch with both the emotion of the song and the storytelling of the whole. Much like the Unbunny record King Of Sweden has grown on me slowly, charming away my cynicism for its all too brief 33 minutes. Did any of that make sense?

2 songs from Faris Nourallah's King Of Sweden:

I Can Run Faster Than You