Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Lavender Diamond...

Honestly I don't usually go in for the more baroque, esoteric sounds. I don't know what it is but high pitched voiced female singers put me off, there I said it. It must be some odd bias I picked up when I was growing up on a cherry orchard just south of Kennebunkport. Joanna Newsome? I didn't get it. I tried, but I didn't get it. Karen Carpenter? I got. So maybe that explains why I kinda dig Lavender Diamond. They're so retro at times that the music becomes forward thinking. The sound of AM pop radio has been invoked in regards to Lavender Diamond and I do hear some of those orchestrated moments of traditional songwriting. But the key component of the band is front woman Becky Stark and her ethereal voice. My initial reaction was very resistant but after listening a few times I was charmed by Stark's stories, her sense of melody and the superb interplay of the band. The instruments never seem to be competing with Stark's voice but instead hold it up, cradle it, make it a bed and tuck it in. And the band is first rate echoing everything from British psych folk to pop to elements of tin pan alley. Give these two songs a couple of listens if it doesn't grab you the first time.

2 songs from the self released The Cavalry Of Light:

You Broke My Heart

Rise In The Springtime. Great crescendo/finish on this one.

Friday, January 27, 2006

My Dad Is Dead...

Well, he is. But that was a long time ago and a subject for another blog. What I'm talking about is the band. I wish I could claim my discovery to be pure as untouched snow, found all by my lonesome, but the fact is that the good Mr. John Darnielle (Mountain Goats, of course) has an excellent (linked to the left there) site called Last Plane To Jakarta and that is where I recently learned about My Dad Is Dead and the new CD A Divided House. Unbeknownst to me My Dad Is Dead has been slaving away at that Rubik's Cube we call the music game for some time now releasing a couple of very well thought of records in the late 80's and early 90's. Those earlier CDs are part and parcel of the guitar based indie rock sound that was being pushed by J Mascis, Steve Albini and such bands as Dino Jr, Buffalo Tom, british shoegazer, Jesus And Mary Chain, I swear I hear all those sounds on My Dad Is Dead's early goings on. A Divided House mines similar musical territory, the guitars are buzz saw, vocals barely holding a melody, production decidedly mid-fi. But the way songwriter (and basically only member) Mark Edwards lays open his midwestern soul is pretty astounding to one like myself who tends to keep his insides very much to himself thank you very much. A read of his lyrics is all you need to recognize that Edwards isn't just playing Sir Mope-A-Lot but is instead very much living in the real world. You know, the one that we all live in, the one that's full of struggle and good things and challenges and successes and lots of questions about whether we're doing the right thing at any one time. I mean, really, no one lives their life completely enveloped by the murderously horrid ideas we have bouncing around the bone of our head. We all have them, but most of us have lots of other things going on as well like: what time's carpool? Should I have said that? I love how she/he smells and we're not so different you and I. Edwards' voice reminds me of a slightly less nasal but just as flat Bob Mould from back in the Husker Du days. It's a strong record and a self produced affair so do the music world a favor and buy a copy from the website.

In unrelated news: I really like the new Cat Power CD. Honestly I've never been into any of Chan Marshall's stuff. This is the first CD of hers I've tried (please don't inundate me with emails telling me which of her CDs are so much better than this one) and I'm quite enjoying it. It's on eMusic which is why I ended up giving it a whirl.

Oh yeah, the beard has fully arrived. It's almost it's own person. We'll see how long it's gonna stay. Someone said that I now have an "indie rock hipster" beard. I didn't know such a thing existed and it makes me rethink the whole ball of hair.

1 song from the wonderful A House Divided by My Dad Is Dead:

My Safe Place

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Gibbard...

Well I had all kinds of cool ideas about a post that juxtaposed today's competing Rilo Kiley related releases providing one song from Jenny Lewis' album and one from the new Elected but then I saw that Pitchfork had run reviews of both albums. While I am generally an indie rock snobby doofus I refuse to even appear to be following Pitchfork's lead in anything. So I've had to change gears at the last second, fortunately I avoided tearing my musical ACL during the cutback. Don't fret. So here I go with an old Benjamin Gibbard song from a split EP with Andrew Kenny of American Analog Set. Released in 2003 via Morr Music the EP is called Home and is pretty much what you'd expect from these two breathy voiced indie rock stalwarts. By "what you'd expect" I mean melodically lovely songs full of sad sack emotiveness presented in a singer/acoustic guitar format. Folk music? Eh, maybe, if you define folk as anything played on an acoustic guitar. No matter how you fell about Death Cab For Cutie (I'm just now coming around to Plans) Gibbard is a fine songwriter and has a way with the turn of phrase.

I'll also say that Rabbit Fur Coat is passably good. Her voice is lovely and paired with The Watson sisters sweet tones there's about a small country's worth of soaring harmonies. The lyrics, however, are pretty middle of the road. I do like the record but I'm not as blown away as I thought I would be, perhaps that will come with time. As to Sun, Sun, Sun I'm initially more taken with it than Lewis', but I have to say I'm a bit put off by it's length. At 16 songs in nearly an hour it violates my usual demand that a CD has a band's absolute best 10 songs and then gets the fuck off the stage before the noodling starts. Still it's got some great songs and ventures even deeper into the alt-country realm shedding the bits and pieces of electronica that Me First had.

Speaking of my annoyance with CDs that meander far beyond their play by date, I've realized I criticized the new East River Pipe for being too brief. I must point out that 13 songs in barely a half hour means that something's askew. Indeed, I found that many of the songs on What Are You On? reach half way to brilliant before just petering out. I also find this very frustrating. Please avoid teasing me with great ideas and then pulling the rug out just as I start to buy into them.

from the Home EP a lovely Ben Gibbard song:

You Remind Me Of Home

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Friday Post...

Ah, the friday post. It's always such a challenge for me because I'm inevitably excited about the weekend and I want that feelling of joy to come across in this end of the week post. But honestly there are times when I'm just not excited about the music that I'm a) listening to or b) have to review. This just happens to be one of those days. In fact it's been one of those weeks. Nothing new has grabbed me by the balls so I've been listening to some olders stuff that it's been hanging around my ears for awhile. Patterson Hood's solo record Killers And Stars (came out in 2004 I believe) has been occupying a bit of time. I don't love the whole thing but there are heart wrenching moments, in particular the song Hobo has done some repeat time. That whole album is imbued with a raw, barren feel that speaks to dark rooms and loneliness. Sometimes you need the dark to see the light.

Another song/artist with a similarly raw approach to songwriting is Chris Flemmons of The Baptist Generals. I swear sometimes he sounds as if the songs are held together with spit and dental floss. It's the fact that they actually hold together until the end that sometimes makes them seem so miraculous. Flemmons sounds like his heart is more than worn on his sleeve but has actually been stitched into the fabric of the shirt. I mean one listen to Going Back Song should convince even those with hearts of steel that homey goes deep.

Anyway, enough depressing songs of sin and salvation. How about a video with dogs and house music? Yes, my friends I think that pooches and beats go hand in hand, don't you? Check out this Vitalic Video.

Also pay a visit to World Of Sound a get an exclusive Haywood track. Then go and have a great weekend. First Bud's on me.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Timesbold came to my attention via the amazing magazine Yeti (Mike, you need a website because I'm definintely doing a post on Yeti because the magazine rocks) which contained an interview with main man singer/songwriter Jason Merritt. The interview was so engaging that I sought out some Timesbold for no other reason than I was curious as to whether or not the music would be in step with the personality. And indeed I find Timesbold to be thoughtful, careful music, nuanced and introspective, smart and literary. Sonically the music treads in the land of Americana, touching elements of folk and even bluegrass. The band uses varied instrumentation (from banjo to mellotron to vibraphone to odd electronic bits) and has a way with harmonies. Comparisons come easily: Will Oldham, Scud Mountain Boys, etc. It's well played and particularly well produced, though if you're like me you'll probably be more taken with Merritt's lyrics and his soulfull (for a white boy) voice. I've been spending time with their EP Once We Were (which is available on eMusic) and can highly recommend it, especially if you have musical ADD like me and tend to love the EP format.

from Once We Were:

Longtime Man

from Timesbold:

Gin I Win

e.e. cummings

Friday, January 13, 2006


So I received the Midstates cd Boxing Twilight a couple of weeks ago and was immediately wary of the descriptors which go like this: "Chicago avant rock mello heavy space pop bedroom cathedral rock". Huh. After a couple of listens I actually started to believe some of that crap. Do you remember the old Reeses Peanut Butter Cup commercials? Your peanut butter is in my chocolate, your chocolate is in my peanut butters, etc. Well Midstates strikes me a bit like that in the sense that it makes me think, someone dropped a bunch of silly hippy into my indie rock and then added effects...hey wait, this isn't bad. At the heart of each of the songs on Boxing Twilight is a guitar based pop song of the indie variety. I hear Edge-esque U2 guitars in there, chiming Coldplay like notes but it all gets slathered in effects, reverb, long drawnout guitar passages and enough keyboards producing any variety of noises to make both The Cure and New Order happy. Now that my friends is quite a candy bar. It's trippy and fun and despite some transgressions and a bad decision or two will hold your attention through all 11 songs.

1 song from Boxing Twilight:

Under There

Passed For Promotion

They also have a number of web exclusive mp3s to check out.

The beard? Glad you asked. It's gotten long enought that I'm being told I need to shave my neck. I think the idea is that you shave the neck in order to accent what's on the cheeks. I think it's entered a new stage.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

A Quick Post Aimed at the East Coast

If you're on the East Coast you've gotta check this out. It's called the Undertow Orchestra and consists of Will Johnson (Centro-matic, South San Gabriel), Mark Eitzel, Dave Bezan (Pedro The Lion) and Vic Chestnutt playing songs in the round. Not one on stage followed by another but all four taking turns playing their stuff while backed by the others. And no fucking West Coast dates!! If you're in one of the cities you must go, buy me a t-shirt and illegally record the whole thing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Jenny Lewis with The Watsons...

Coming Jan. 24th on Team Love Records is Rabbit Fur Coat from Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley. Supposedly Jenny was chasing the ghosts of white soul on this record. I think she caught a couple because the two songs that are available for download right now are pretty stunningly beautiful. If I had to cast a net of comparisons I'd look towards Dusty Springfield and Nancy Sinatra, though there is an undeniable feeling of modernity to these songs which save them from merely being homage to another era. Here are the links in case you're too lazy to get them yourself.

Rise Up With Fists

Melt Your Heart

In other news the beard is coming in quite nicely. I've stopped itching and believe I can actually make to a point where I don't look like a homeless man. Thanks for asking.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Calling All Monsters...

Turn Records has a lot going for them as far as I'm concerned. 1) They have a great roster of bands (Thee More Shallows and The Dying Californian would be enough for most but Turn adds Dealership and Calling All Monsters to their musical juggernaut) 2) They're SF Bay Area and support bands in the region 3) Jeff from Turn is (at least via email) a very nice man. What more could you want?

Now about Calling All Monsters. Calling All Monsters has risen from the ashes of the fabulous Track Star. Helmed by that band's Matthew Troy Calling All Monsters bears only a minimal resemblance to Track Star. The difference is simply that where Track Star tended to whisper and caress their guitars, Calling All Monsters screams and beats the shit out of them. Turn is using the tag line "putting the rock back in indie rock" and I'll buy that. Calling All Monsters' The Traps That Work Best feels raw and torn open: the vocals are far from pretty but just melodic enough to push the songs past the initial impression that the band is all loud and no subtle. Repeated listens will convince you that The Traps That Work Best isn't just loud but also full of nuance and texture. This has been in heavy rotation for a couple of weeks now and shows little sign of letting up. Highly recommended by the entire staff here at Bars & Guitars.

The Turn Records site has a couple of mp3's from The Traps That Work Best but this song is my favorite:

Calling All Monsters - The Station Agent

The beard is coming along fine, thanks for asking. I'm kind of reluctant to move beyond the homeless guy phase because sympathetic folks have given me just over $17 in the last week.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Various + Some Tailors

Well the beard is coming along nicely if you think of nicely as something akin to a large tract of forest about a month after a major fire. I'm sticking it out thought because I've decided that every man needs to grow a beard before he turns 40 and frankly i'm running out of time.

Way back in 2005 (remember those days before we commuted via jet pack and all had video iPods so we could watch "Lost" instead of looking anyone square in the eyes) I posted a couple tracks from a british band doing a great imitation of Neil Young. They're called The Tailors and I thought i'd check in to see what was going on because they had a song called Telephones that I really liked. Well they're still at it and still playing a straightforward though enjoyable brand of alt-coutnry that isn't exactly groundbreaking but is still well done. Sometimes you just need to hear the pedal steel weep, ya know wot ah mean? Here are a couple more tracks (I think more recent) from The Tailors:

Giddy And Maudlin

Your Voice

Also if you have about 7 hours and the inclination some enterprising soul has compiled a Top 50 videos of 2005. Some really cool stuff here and well worth at least a scan through: Top 50 Vids of 2005.

Kill it this weekend my friends.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Back from the Tropics...

Well I'm back in the states and I'm tan and semi bearded. I've never been good with facial hair in that I seem capable of growing little more than a few lonely strands that end up looking more like sun shy indie rockers on the first day of Coachella than a cohesive statement of aesthetic style. So for the last 6 days I've done little more than sit on the beach drink beer, talk with strange but nice jewish lawyers from Texas (don't ask), and listen to the iPod. On that last point I realized that I missed the boat on Cold Roses . Maybe it was the borderline annoying prolificness of Ryan Adams this year making the double album format of Cold Roses seem a bit self indulgent. Or maybe it was the homage to the Grateful Dead (a band that I've never really understood) that made it seem a bit of stretch. But in hindsight, after a couple of beer soaked listens, this record is really good. I'm enjoying disc 2 more than disc 1 but both are good. I've been a fan of Adams since Whiskeytown and still think that Heartbreaker is a beautiful sad moving album. Like many I stopped paying close attention to what Ryan was doing after he released his 247th record. It all just seemed, I don't know, impossible to digest? Overwhelming? Cursory? Whatever. My point here is that my own biases prevented me from realizing what a fat bunch of great songs were on Cold Roses. So there you are, Ryan you owe me a beer.

1 song from disc 2 of Ryan Adams Cold Roses a record you should really go back and listen to again if you think it's merely mediocre:

Dance All Night