Thursday, September 29, 2005

Echo & The Bunnymen live on...

Admittedly this is a little bit of nostalgia post for me a child of the 80's. But Echo is back with Siberia and despite the fact that Will and Ian are getting a bit on in age (aren't we all) this record sounds as fresh as anything that the Bunnymen have done. I can't help but feeling that if this was a new band bursting onto the scene right now the kids jaws would be hitting Pergo hard. But that's not the case and this album will be sadly overlooked because it's fresh and minty. The combonation of Will Sergeant's guitars and Ian McCulloch's voice is unmistakable. These guys have never garnered the kind of positive historical retro gazing that has graced other 80's luminaries like The Cure, The Smiths and New Order, but strains Echo & The Bunnymen can be heard IMHO everywhere in today's fashionably hip indie-rock.

2 songs from Siberia

Parthenon Drive


Talk To Brian Wilson...

You heard about this? Check out Brian Wilson and donate $100 to his Hurricane Relief fund and he'll call you. That's right you can speak briefly with the architect of Pet Sounds and an American legend by opening up your wallet for a good cause. All reports appear to say that this is for real. He'll chat for a bit or you can ask him a couple of questions. Kinda cool.

The forthcoming Marah record If You Didn't Laugh You'd Cry is good. I've decided. It ranks right next to Kids In Philly and shouldn't be ignored.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Random Stuff 'Cause I'm Busy...

Just some cool links until I can get one of my patented world in 35 words review up. If you haven't hit the link to the right for Junk Media's excellent blog World Of Sound you should absolutely do so now because he's got links to some recent live Buffalo Tom. Good Stuff.

Here's a great linke to a cool quicktime movie about My Morning Jacket. Their forthcoming record Z is supposed to quite kick some arse.

Here's my review of California Oranges. I told you I really like that record. You should buy it. They're better than Fountains of Wayne, and I really like Fountains of Wayne.

Perhaps more later.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Minus Story...

If memory serves me correctly (and it often does not) the last time I made mention of Minus Story was when they released their uniformly excellent EP Heavn And Hell early this year. In a lot of ways Heaven And Hell was a classicly Jajaguwar release: quirky, interesting, unpredictable and very unique. The band liked to say they used a "wall of crap" technque when recording.

The band's new record No Rest For Ghosts is set for an October 11 release. The new record has taken everything good about the EP and expanded it. The whole thing is still covered in varied instrumentation oddly configured, but that's the charm. Not to mention that the record alternately rocks and weeps in perfect measures. The whole thing is still anchored (or upended depending on your view point) by Jordan Geiger's thin warble of a bird call voice. No Rest For Ghosts is not a knock your socks of right out of the cellophane wrapper album. No, it defiintely asks a bit of the listener, but, man, the rewards for repeated listenings are huge. This is one of my favorite releases this year. Keep an eye out for my Popmatters review.

1 song from No Rest For Ghosts

Knocking On Your Head

Little Wet Head

Friday, September 23, 2005


Freakwater is back with a brand spanking new album. Thinking Of You is another fine dance by Ms. Bean and Ms. Irwin on the line between old time country and modernity. I must say that this record finds the girls in unusually good spirits. This may be deceptive as the music is more accesible than past albums but the lyrics are still full of drinkin' and death. While some may call me a heretic and blasphemer (I've been called worse) I think that Thinking Of You is just as good as Old Paint and may be even better in some ways. I mean you've gotta love the exuberant percussion of "So Strange" and the horn section that is, I swear, referencing "Crimson And Clover" on "Hi Ho Silver". It's a great album from two sweet singin' ladies who deserve a degree of popularity beyond the cult audience they currently have.

1 song from Thinking Of You:

So Strange

Random Thoughts:

The only thing wrong with In The Reins, the collaboration between Calexico and Iron & Wine, is that it's too short. Those are seven of the best songs I've heard this year.

The new Portastatic record is good. Don't argue with me. It just is.

In other news of old indie rock guys making good records: Tanglewood Numbers is still kicking my ass.

I still mean what I said about California Oranges. There hasn't been as good a power pop album in a very long time.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Oranger is Back...

and they've got a fine new album of melodic power pop full of hooks. The record is called New Comes And Goes. I'm going to obnoxiously lump this record in with a couple of other good ones thus far this year by Mazarin, California Oranges, and The National. New Comes And Goes is definitely more polished than Oranger's previous efforts. It's not like they've turned into Nada Surf or Coldplay but the production is crisper and there feels as though there's a certain bid for the next level type of thing in the air. That's not a knock as much as fact. The record's strong and don't think you can deny the fact that the band's songwriting is becoming first rate. Around my parts there's definitely a love 'em or hate 'em vibe with these guys. I'm falling on the side of loving right now but that's only because I'm a no good hippie (please know that I'm kidding about that).

2 songs from New Comes And Goes:


Radio Wave

Friday, September 16, 2005

Time For More Marah...

Well those irrepresible scamps from Philadelphia known as Marah are gearing up for the early October release of their new record If You Didn't Laugh, You'd Cry. Now I'm a huge Marah fan but haven't been really blown away since Kids In Philly and thought that Float Away With The Friday Night Gods was an unmitigated disaster. There was a degree of success with 20,000 Streets Under The Sky but the fire was still not so very bright. For the new album Marah went into the studio to record live to tape in an effort to capture the manic energy of their live show, an energy that even manages to make much of Float Away... listenable. The experiment was pretty much a success. I'm enjoying the new record for more than I had expected to. There's a good balance of semi-out-of-control rockers and mid-tempo balladeering. In fact, some of the slower songs seem to be direct descendents of Westerberg's best ballads. I mean that as a deep compliment.

In other random thoughts:

1) I totally missed the boat on Smog's A River Ain't Too Much To Love. I got it about 3 weeks ago and, man, do I love this record. Where was I?

2) I'm just now getting into !!!'s Louden Up Now and it makes my bottom move like a first grader after three bowls of Super Sugar Crisp.

3) I really meant what I said about California Orange's Souvenirs

1 song from Marah's If You Didn't Laugh, You'd Cry which is available for preorder on their website:

Demon Of White Sadness

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

California Oranges...

I can't as yet find a website for this band, but they're on Darla Records and the Darla website says this, "Darla's Sacramento crew have finished their third new wavey power pop record chock full of rockin' guitars and sweet vocal harmonies." I suppose this is as apt and description as any, but it just goes so much deeper than that. I really try hard not to run head long into long bouts of hyperbole when I'm talking about music because A) talking great about lots of bands eventually denigrates the value of a writers opinion (i.e., that schmuck likes everything) and B) because I don't believe in piling on to the music blog-internet hype machine unless a band really deserves it (I'll give you Arcade Fire but I'm playing that record way less than I thought I would) and C) I really am only mildly to completely not impressed by most music that I hear (that's one of the reasons that posts have slowed down considerably here at Bars & Guitars). But I am absolutely wowed by California Oranges third album Souvenirs. I want to make a compelling arguement for why everyone should go out and buy this record. I want to wave my magic music wand and have it heard. I've been listening to this record intently, as if it's going to disappear and I won't have it any longer. It's not groundbreaking. It's not strikingly original. It's simply a well done rock record full of songs about breakups, love, and the SCENE. Its it "new wavye"? I guess but not in a derivative way. You can hear The Connells, The Hoodoo Gurus, The Buzzcocks, Velocity Girl, The Fastbacks, and the list goes on. Is it "power pop"? I suppose, but I don't have a pat definition of that for you. There are guitars that buzz and saw, boy/girl vocals, upbeat tempos. I could talk about The Darling Buds or Red Five or other obscure rock bands with girls. I could even talk about the Bangles but none of it would be able to convey how deer in the headlights this frickin' record makes me. Maybe it's because it reminds me of a time when I was younger and music meant everything and my friends and I treasured the bands that we discovered. I know, I know I'm being a big sap. But this records is great and I want you to hear it. 12 songs in 34 minutes. Perfect. As always here are a couple of tracks, but seek out more, listen to the whole thing. Let me know what you think after you bounce to this.

From Souvenirs:

Next Season

Run Away

Monday, September 12, 2005

El Capitan...

So I was up a bit late last night taking in The Decemberists at The Fillmore here in SF. Such a great band and such exuberant performers. I really thought that today's post would be about the band relegated to the Fillmore's back room, playing in between the sets of the bands on the main stage the Wine Chuggers (I haven't been able to track down a website as of yet) played super smooth alt-country-lounge rock reminding me very much of a more urbane Scud Mountain Boys. Good stuff. But I have no music to post about them, though they're sending me a CD so I'll have something at some point.

So today I speak (well, write I guess) of El Capitan a San Francisco five piece that plays a lovely brand of folk pop. The songs are really strong though I find they meander a bit, I think there's some jam base in these guys. But aside from my knee jerk reaction to all things vaguely hippy I really like what they're doing and really like that they're local. If you're in the SFBA they're playing this wednesday at The Rickshaw Stop with Phosphorescent (who I think put out one of the best albums of the year) and my man Dominic East from Our Lady of The Highway (who have one of the best unreleased album of the year). Should be a good show.

3 songs from El Capitan's Self Titled debut:


Cat's Cradle

Silo Song

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Occasion...

The Occasion is a NY band that doesn't sound like a NY band. I mean that in the best way. There's little pretension and posturing on their October 4 release Cannery Hours, which is wide open almost cinematic at times with big codes and instrumentation that straddles both tradition and experimentalism. Three of the band's five members share vocal duties (which usually bugs me but doesn't here) and in addition to the usual guitar, drums, bass The Occasion throws in a percussionist and tape looper. There are instances, moments, in the songs that sound very much like well crafted indie rock but more often than not those moments are taken over by this oddly epic tone. I keep thinking about Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd when I listen to Cannery Hours, and while I don't espouse any particular love of the classic rock cannon I think such comparisions are very flattering for any band playing today. The album never gets heavy in the metal sense, its weight is more atmosphere and density. It broods and glowers rather than yells at you. I didn't expect to like this record very much, but it's won me over and it's done it not by charming me with melody and catchiness (though there's much of that here) but by being well executed and original. I think this may well be one of the better records of 2005. You heard it here first.

1 song from Cannery Hours (they've got additional mp3s on their site and at their myspace location):

Cannery Hours

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

dios (malos)...

o the music in a moment. I guess I've gotta talk a little bit about what's happened in New Orleans. I don't want to be another voice piling on to the feds response (it sucked) to what is surely one of our nations most profoundlly tragic moments, but if nothing else what happened in NOLA is a magnifying glass on what our country is and is becoming. Racial divides are still deep (especially in the South) and the rift between the haves and have nots gets wider with each tax cut throttled through congress by the majority party. All this has been repeated over and over and I don't think my voice of complaint, shock, shame and horror at what happened (and continues to happen) to the people in and around NOLA adds much to the debate.

But over the weekend I spent the majority of my time in a small town just outside of Yosemite called Mariposa. It's an old gold mining town nestled in the foothills, quiet but growing, conservative in outlook, mostly white, rapidly varying household incomes that range from retirees building homes to trailer park denizens who've never left the area. Each year my family travels to Mariposa for the Mariposa County Fair. It's an old time county fair where everyone knows everyone, the highlights of the weekend are the livestock auction and demolition derby, and you can go all weekend without seeing a shade of skin much darker than a healthy causcasian suntan.

When you walk around the Mariposa County Fair you feel an ordered sense of priorities. The people in Mariposa believe in God, their neighbors, their jobs, their family. Without being condescending (which is against my educated liberal nature I'm told) I find Mariposa to be both wonderful and repulsive. People care about each other in Mariposa, deeply and honestly, but there's also a deep distrust of minorities and "outsiders". It's a town that clings to its sense of identity even as the elements that shape that identity are changing. A new University of California System school up the road is bringing the promise of prosperity, new jobs and potential to the town but also new faces, unfamiliar accents, uncomfortable ideas and new ways of thinking. Amidst all of this the town maintains a generosity that I found unexpected. At the livestock auction the entirely white crowd (and I would argue nearly entirely Bush supporters) quickly raised nearly $40,000 for the aid the victims of the hurricane. This was entirely funded by individuals and businesses in town. It was generious, heartfelt, honest, and bore no hesitation on account of skin color. It was the best of what this country offers when others are in need and it was hopeful and, ultimately, what it's about to be American. Much has been made (rightly) about the reaction of our government to this catastrophe, but in these bitterly partisan times I found it encouraging that we as communities can instantly set aside those media propagated divisions, those soundbite controlled info bits, the tons of spin excreted from the belly of the DC beast, and act in the best interest of others no matter who they are. To hear the auctioneer behest the audience to bid up the price of the donated livestock to get more money for the relief effort and then to see the audience stand and applaud at the final dollar figure, to stand in that crowd as an outsider only slightly welcome was to see a little bit of the generosity of both wallet and spirit we're (and by "we" I mean every member of every community across the country) capable of. It was hopeful. As one gentleman sitting next to me said, "not bad for a podunk little town."

Ok the sermon is over. dios (malos) has new record coming out in October, you may the remember the band of Hawthorne, Ca kids as being Dios. But I guess Ronnie James Dio got a bit miffed about that so they had to adjust the name. They're last record a self titled excursion into pop inflected psychedelia showed much promise. The new record dios (malos) has a greater emphasis on pop than on weird. It's a strong record that may scream sell out to some older fans, but is sure to make a bunch of new ones. Me, I'm on the fence. It's a good listen and it's growing on me. We'll see.

1 song from dios (malos):

My Broken Bones

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Megan Reilly...

I know very little about the silken voiced Megan Reilly. What little I do know was prompted by my purchase of of Verse Press's Isn't It Romantic (which I posted about in February I think) a great book of poetry that came with a CD chock full of love songs by all variety of singer songwriters. Recently I had the iPod on random and it landed on Reilly's contribution to that disc, a song called "With You", and I was absolutely transfixed. What a beautiful voice, heartfelt and sincere. So I did some digging and found her site and learned that she's got a pretty sizable following. She writes good songs, mellow, a certain jazz vibe but they all rest on the strength of her pipes. She's easing me into the morning just right today.

from her album Arc Of Tessa:


With You

He Is