Friday, July 29, 2005

Tenement Halls...

Some asides:

1) I heard The Silver Jews' Tanglewood Numbers yesterday. Wow. I'll leave it at that. Serious candidate for record of the year. It easily stands with the best stuff i've heard so far. Berman has taken it to another level. The sound is loose and fast with Berman's usual lyrical acumen anchoring everything just so. There's a lovely duet with his wife that just blew me away. You must get this upon its release. Must. What I heard had ten songs, I imagine final sequencing might be longer.

2) My daugher's two favorite albums are now The Decemberist's Castaways And Cutouts and Rhett Miller's The Intigator. She's six. I don't know what that means, except that perhaps there is a pop gene.

Now on to Tenement Halls. The band has risen from the ashes of the once great and criminally overlooked Rock*A*Teens. The common ground with both bands is singer songwriter Chris Lopez. Lopez is one of those rare souls who can pen a pop tune that transcends the limits of what can be done in 3 or 4 minutes. His voice is ragged and always seems on the edge of falling apart. It's frayed but composed. Lyrically Lopez haunts the melancholy halls of heartbreak and ragged living, but disquises the worst of it with catchy guitar pop melodies and up temp timing that recall early REM, the Kinks and Elvis Costello. The record, Knitting Needles and Bicycle Bells, is released Aug. 23.

from Knitting Needles And Bicycle Bells:

Now She Knows

Up & Over The Turnstiles

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Oh, smack. Here we go again. Don't ever say I didn't ever give you nothin' because once again dear reader I'm hipping you to the delicious. Brakes is a strange and naughty little side project by Eamon Hamilton from British Sea Power, Tom and Alex White from the Electric Soft Parade and Marc Beatty from The Tenderfoot. If you're reading from Britain I imagine you've already heard of these folks, but here state side they're nobody. Hopefully that will change when their record Give Blood hits over here. Sure, there's a certain smug brit distance in their music that never translates well to Yank ears, but there's also a refreshing punk rock meets brit more beer please attitude here. None of the songs on Give Blood are longer than 3 minutes. In fact many of the songs clock in under 2 and there are a couple under 30 seconds. I'm not saying that short = good. It's more like brevity. Imagine the hookiest parts of a Fountains of Wayne song reduced its purest essense. It's guitar pop with only hooks and no filler. It's refreshing, fun and not to be stewed upon or fucking Pitch4orked to death. Eamon's voice is odd and not at all tuneful, but it works on these poppy punk compositions. Best played loudly.

from Give Blodd:

I Can't Stand To Stand Beside You

Ring A Ding Ding

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Lake Trout...

Their website says that they're sound is dark subtle melodies and ethereal vocals. Yeah I suppose so, but really that simply rock. I have absolutely nothing to base this on but my ear but I hear similarities (in the way that cousins can look similar but not like brothers and sisters) to The National. Lake Trout blasts seriously anthemic rock music that doesn't seem to hide from the fact that there's some U2 records in the crate back home. But it's seriously more complex than anything U2 has done. Sure, it's pop/rock music but it does its damn best to reach back and touch everything from 70's prog rock to snippets of modern electro and hip hop (but not in a corny way that makes you yech). And it's catchy as all hell. I've been cranking this shit up for the last couple of days and I must say that one of its best attributes is that it not only grabs initially but also gets better with successive listens. None of this "it grows on you" shit. It's jsut there.

Not Them, You drops on Sept. 13th. If there's a little justice in the world it will make a bigger splash than frickin' Wolfie Face Frog Tongue Parade or whatever they're called.

2 songs from Not Them, You:

Street Fighting Man (Stones cover)

Now We Know

Monday, July 25, 2005

Video Post...

I'm short of time and nursing a cold. That means I'm going lazy on the post today. But that also means you have some cool videos to watch and i'll hazard that you haven't seen many of these. A couple choice watches. Enjoy. I'll get back to the music.

Okay - Game

Okkervil River - For Real

Sleater Kinney - Entertain

The Unicorns - I Was Born A Unicorn

Maximo Park - The Coast Is Always Changing

For more videos THIS is a great place to go.

Thursday, July 21, 2005


I'm told that Soltero is a bit all over the map musically. I don't have enought experience with their records to confirm or deny that rumor. However, I can say that the record I do have The Tongues You Have Tied is a brilliantly quiet record full of introspective wit that I'd liken to M. Ward or Tim Easton though more urban (and much funnier in a very tongue in cheek way) than either of those guys. There's an interesting interview with them over at Junk Media. They're such unassuming cardigan wearing fellas. They have a new record called Hell Train which is much more pop/rock than the acoustic leaning The Tongues You Have Tied.

from The Tongues You Have Tied:

The Light Bulb Above Ypu

The Tongues You Have Tied

from Hell Train:

From The Station

Hands Up

Songs Of The Season

Couple of reviews I've got up at the moment if you feel like checking:

Okemah & Melody of Riot

Aw Come Aw Wry

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin...

I won't even try to claim this as my discovery because I totallly got hipped to it by the excellent site Catbird Seat. Here's a band with a name that rivals The Prayers And Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers. While the Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin is one of the more awkward band names to spew out when impressing friends with your knowledge of obscure indie rock, the songs are not in the least awkward. Au contrarie (sp? I ain't french) what they're good at are brief power pop songs sliced into convenient 3 and 4 minute bits. SSLYBY hail from Springfield, Missouri and like to give their songs clever names like "Pangea" (likening a love affair to the original super continent automatically makes it good as far as I'm concerned). The album is Broom and can ordered off their website.

Power pop goodness on a Tuesday. It's the little things.

from Broom:

House Fire

from their EP Gwyn and Grace:


We Can Win Missouri

Friday, July 15, 2005

Black Lipstick...

Sometimes you just need a little dirty rock in your life. Sometimes that need is filled by a band like Daimond Nightsbut other times it needs to be a bit more unkempt. You know, a little sloppy, ragged. unhinged, more Velvet Underground than Van Halen, more Sticky Fingers than Pet Sounds. Lately that particular bill has been filled by Sincerely, Black Lipstick by Black Lipstick. Both the VU reference and the Stones reference are apt starting places for these guys. But I can also hear REM (they probably wouldn't admit it) and the driving drone pop overtones of Luna. There's also a nice boy-girl vocal interplay on some of the songs that has a charming kind of we-can't sing-great-but-here-we-go-anyway attitude.

From Sincerely, Black Lipstick

Grandma Airplane

Also check out this excellent review over at Coke Machine Glow. It's not the review of the music as much as the discussion of the current nature of music consumption that's so striking. I've been feeling this for awhile, the tendecy to consume music in large amounts due to availability but never falling deeply in love with any of it because it feels like we need to rush on to the next thing. I guess it's self critical to a certain degree since I do write a music blog, music reviews, band interviews, etc. I do miss that feeling I had when I was young of sitting down in my room with a record (let's say The Specials The Specials) and deveouring it, playing it over and over, reading the lyrics, being %100 committed to the idea of it. I suppose part of that had to do with money being hard to come by thus making purchases much more important, but a lot of it had to do with the fact that it was hard to find out about bands so when you found one you latched on like a pitbull. Is music, particularly "alternative" and "indie-rock", turning into an episode of Short Attention Span Theater? There's lots of quality music out there and that shouldn't be a problem, it should be as blessing. But perhaps the total unfettered access to it ends of being detrimental. Than there's the whole issue of trophy records. Albums that are purchased based on buzz but are never loved or listened to with extended admiration. Instead they're name dropped into conversations as if they were celebrity sightings, worn like badges of hipness but not loved or deeply appreciated. I try to be engaged with the music I post here at Bars & Guitars but sometimes I'm guilty of playing this game or worse propagating it. So I may slow down my posts a little. I've always shot for 5 a week, but maybe 3 updates a week would allow me to better present the music to you good reader. Just something to think about. We'll see. I'm not going back and proofreading all that spittle so please forgive the typos.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Flotation Toy Warning...

As you know I'm a huge fan of the folks at Misra Records. I think their records by Phosphorescent and Slow Dazzle are amazing. Not to mention that they handle Will Johnson, Centro-Matic and South San Gabriel (hey if you haven't heard SSG's Carlton Chronicles check it, check it, check it). They're good people and support the blogger community totally and faithfully. Now they've gone and hooked up a little exclusive for all of us. For a limited time take advantage of being able to purchase Flotation Toy Warning's new cd Bluffer's Guide To The Flight Deck at blogger special of 12 bucks. Support the good people. Support the good music.

Of course any post about a band wouldn't be complete without me rambling on for a few paragraphs about esoteric abstrations like how the music "feels' or why the sound of the mandolin is so wonderfully out of step with the horn section it follows. So what about Flotation Toy Warning? Well imagine a band that's fascinated with the sounds of childrens toys, has an unhealthy obsession with Laurie Anderson, and has a heart of carved from equal parts ABBA Gold and Tones on Tails. Once you've got those elements fixed in your head you're getting close to FTW's sound. It swirls and ebbs pushed by synths, keyboards, some horns and oddly maniacal choruses. These songs are ponderous but not thick. They don't welcome you in but do leave the door unlocked. The record grows on you but it doesn't knock you out.

from Bluffers Guide To The Flight Deck:

Popstar Researching Oblivion

Blogger Special Buy It For $12 here

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Son Volt...

Well, it arrived at the store today, Son Volt's newest long player. Depending on your school of thought it's either amazing how overlooked Jay Farrar has been or clear as glass exactly why he's been so overlooked. I for one am of the school of thought that good ole Jay hasn't made a record that could even touch Trace. The problem is that Trace was sublime and Farrar (in my opinion) has had trouble living up to that high bar. It's as if he's plotted the course of his career in reverse, starting out impossibly high and working downwards. Not that his catalog is bad, it's better than most even at its worst. But Trace must feel a bit like an albatross around his neck. Now he's back, solo baggage discarded, with his old band (or most of it). The new album Okemah And The Melody of Riot feels decidedly like an attempt at recreating the sonic footprint of Trace. That's not necessarily a band thing if you believe that roots rock is what he does best. Unfortunately I don't think the album is another Trace (can lightning strike twice anyway?) but it's far better than much of Son Volt's later catalog which I paid less and less attention to as each subsequent record came out. I suppose it's unreasonable to expect anyone to consistently recreate what is probably one of the best records of the 90's if not of the latter quarter of last century. This new one grows on me. Each time it grows on me.

1 song from Okemah And The Melody of Riot


Monday, July 11, 2005

The Robot At Me...

I've always had an attraction to fragile music. That fragility can take on many guises and I note that because a folk singer with a guitar doesn't have to be fragile, nor does a fully plugged in rock band unable to create fragility within the framework of that they do. I think the Decemberists songs are often fragile, I think Billy Bragg is rarely fragile, I think Wilco's best moments are steeped in fragile. A band like Phosphoresccent is all about fragile in the same way that Palace Music was and the Scud Mountain Boys were. The new Sufjan Stevens Illinois (incredible record by the way) is filled with fragility, an almost indescribable ache that's projected through pacing, instrumentation, voice and density (by density I mean how much space there is to move within a song. Phosphorescent is really dense. Sufjan actually feels more open (as best i can describe this feeling is that it sounds like there's space between the sounds of the instruments, where as Phosphorescent feels as though there's oatmeal poured into any available space) though he's still able to convery an amazing amount of emotion. The Robot Ate Meis a spare, economical band that hangs its emotion on lead singer Ryland Bouchard's lyrics and creaking voice. The songs are soft heartbroken affairs seemingly obvious candidates for my nebulous tag of "fragile". But the songs never seem to crack, it's as if there's almost too much confidence. Not necessarily a bad thing. I like Carousel Waltz a lot but it surprises me that the record doesn't feel more vulnerable. Perhaps it's the dose of slightly twee, self conciousness that Bouchard injects into the songs. By self-conscious I mean it feels like he's very aware that he's operating under the tag of "indie-rock" and plays to those conventions. Anyway, judge for yourself how full of shit I am.

2 songs from Carousel Waltz


Just One Girl

Friday, July 08, 2005


I will be the first to admit that I've been resistant to the sounds of Deerhoof. They're a San Francisco band and i've got many friends singing their praises in my ear but for some reason I could just never get my ears around what they were trying to do. I think a lot of it has to do with my love of tradiitional song structure (verse-chorus-verse please and I'll take a side of bridge with that) and pure melody. I've often found that I'm resistant to what doesn't grab my ear immediately. But with that said I must admit that some of my favorite records are ones that I've been initially unmoved by. So it was with trepidation that I laid my hands on Deerhoof's Green Cosmos. But it's an EP so the $ commitment wasn't much and it fits my short attention span. Lo and behold I like it a lot more than I thought. There's a certain disjointed frenzy in the songs that's more about head nodding than head scratching. I'm now tempted to investigate more of their records, if anyone knows a good starting point give me the heads up. In the meantime I'll keep cranking it up:

Spiral Golden Town

Come See The Duck

Both from Green Cosmos. Have a good weekend.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Diamond Nights...

It must be a summer thing. Lately I've been in full on power pop mode. Yesterday driving home from work it was one after another. First "Going Under" by Oranger, then the new Lake Trout record, then I put on the Diamond Nights ep Once We Were Diamonds and holy shit does this thing have guilty pleasure written all over it. 5 songs of loud melodic semi-pop-metal goodness. Think The Darkness if their ridiculous attitude was replaced by Fountains of Wayne's pop sense. Or The Old 97's crossed with The Cars if Ric Ocasek had been a satan worshipper. Maybe you get the idea, maybe not. It's only 5 songs so the EP is cheap.

1 song from the EP Once We Were Diamonds:

Destination Diamonds

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Back in the Saddle...

Well Friends I'm back from the East Coast. I think I'm finally completely Californianized because I found myself thinking a lot about the saying "it's not the heat it's the humidity". Never really bothered me that much growing up in the DC area but that muggy is fizucked. Good trip though lots of family time which is great since I never see the blood relatives anymore. But back to work now in all senses of the word. I must admit that it was nice to have a break from the awesome responsibility that it Bars & Guitars. I can only take the wait of the indie leaning music world borne on my shoulders for so long.

So for the first post back I thought I'd share with you the 2 things that I listened to the most on my trip.

Item 1) Laura Cantrell's new record Humming By The Flowered Vine is just great. I'm not often touched by those among us with absolutely beautiful voices singing in a traditional medium (country music) but Laura gets me the same way that Patsy Cline still does, Neko Case does occasionally and Maria Mckee has been doing with Peddlin' Dreams. Get this. Hurry.

Poor Ellen Smith

Item the second) Somehow mellow country tinged Americana lends itself very well to muggy nights populated by the winks of fireflies. It just sounds so good with a cold beer in one hand, the sounds of kids running summer crazed through the deep green of suburban lawns lingering with the languid notes of a band like Last of the Blacksmiths. They're a San Francisco based band paying their homage to the sounds of an America both real and imagined. They sound a good bit like the deceased Granfaloon Bus which is a great compliment as far as I'm concerneed. They're current record which is, I believe, self released is self titled and full of the slow moving and careful kind of songs that lull you into a mesmerized state before you realize there's something at least a little sinister going on under the still waters. Very strong.

Pushing Down

Russian River

Good to be back. How've you been?