Monday, February 27, 2006

A rare Monday Post...

There's a saying in the messenger biz that goes like this: The rain doesn't hate me, but the wind does. Today is one of those winter days. Here are a couple of things I think are cool:

New video for The Hold Steady's "Your Little Hood Rat Friend

A very cool piece of flash called "Drum Machine"

Have fun. Stay dry.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Friday Go Go...

This is so far away from the usual sounds I post here, but it's a slice of my youth and it'll get your ass moving on a Friday. I grew up in Washington DC which is, if you didn't know, the home of Go Go music. If you think you've never heard go go, you have. You just didn't know it. In a lot of ways go go was a predecessor to both hip hop and rap. Go Go is sweaty, funky, ass shakin' music that simply never got it's due. Perhaps it was because its city of origin was DC and not New York. Maybe the beat was too complex. Maybe the sound was too provincial. I don't know but I've been listening to some old Go Go the last few days and it sounds as fresh as anything on KMEL or any other urban format station.

Back in the day I feel in love with a Go Go compilation called Go Go Crankin'. It had all the songs I loved by all the Go Go biggies, i.e. Trouble Funk, E.U., Chuck Brown. It was fantastic. I had a radio show in college and there were certain songs on the comp that I played every week. What love for hip hop/pop/funk that I have in me (and there's a good deal more than my indie rock leanings would indicate) radiate directly from the go go beat. A few years ago I started trying to find the Go Go Crankin' comp. Of course it's out of print and despite much searching I could find no copies. Then about 6 months ago I found a vinyl copy right here in the SF Bay Area. I purchased it and then went about getting the vinyl digitized. It took a little while but finally my good friend, musician extraordinaire, and design god John hooked me up. And now I hook you up. Some of these songs may be familiar to you (Chuck Brown's "We Need Money" or Trouble Funk's "Drop The Bomb") but I swear that all other recordings pale in comparison to the way they sound on this comp. They just did something right.

I don't know why but hearing this again brings back alot of great memories. Everything from high school dances to sneaking into clubs while underage. It's great stuff that's never really gotten its due. When you're getting ready to go out tonight crank these tracks up and tell me they don't make you shake your ass.

from Go Go Crankin':

Chuck Brown & The Soul Searchers - We Need Money

Trouble Funk - Drop The Bomb

Thursday, February 23, 2006

So this is what I'm thinking...

Feeling much better today but I'm still going with a totally random and scattered post. Stuff that's been landing on my potential best of 2006 list at this stage of the game:

The Jenny Lewis record Rabbit Fur Coat is great. There's just no way around it. I like it more with every listen.

Beth Orton's Comfort of Strangers I am not feeling. Maybe it's because the Jenny Lewis is so good, but Orton's record just sounds a bit thin. May it'll grow on me.

Centro-matic's Fort Recovery is easily their most consistent, well produced, expansive album yet. You will get it.

Arab Strap's Last Romance is also a completely arresting work from a band that was always good but for me a couple of songs away from being top of the line. Not this time, this album is great.

Brian Borcherdt's last album was released in 2005 but since I was late coming to it I will bend time itself and include him in my 2006 list. I can do that. I continue to be impressed by his Vol. 2. It just gets better. Please reread my post on him as there wil be a quiz later.

And in parting here are 2 tracks from Neko Case's impending album Fox Confessor Brings The Flood:

Star Witness

Hold On Hold On

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Catfish Haven...

Ok first off I'm really sleepy. I'm looking for sympathy or anything i'm just stating the facts and giving you a reason for a less verbose offering than perhaps you're used to. I'll just leave it at this: I got the Catfish Haven 6 song EP on Secretly Canadian yesterday and spent the evening listening to it while folding laundry (I know too much information) and it's frickin' good, homie can really sing. It's good stuff and bodes well for a full album. I'm too sleepy to post files myself at the moment so I'm being a lazy schmuck and linking to an mp3 file over at Secretly Canadian. Apologies to all who are offended, but it's so worth a listen.

from Catfish Haven's EP Please Come Back

Please Come Back

Buy it over HERE

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Jolie Holland...

I hope everybody had a good President's Day. If you were like me you spent the day venerating and celebrating the great men who comprise the illustrious list of our nation's presidency. First I watched John Ford's amazing 1939 Young Mr. Lincoln before reviewing all of Taft's interoffice mail and then moving on to a survey of Grover Cleveland's weight loss efforts. Just kidding, but I do believe that the recently released on DVD Young Mr. Lincoln is a kick ass movie.

I have a suspicion that most folks that read Bars & Guitars are probably familar to some degree with Jolie Holland since she's one of those indie alt-country chanteuse types like Neko Case or Caitlin Cary or perhaps Feist. So why am I posting about her? Pretty much because I'm making an effort to keep it real in the sense that I want this blog to be about music that I'm digging and not play the blogosphere game of "must get on cool tip band immediately because everyone else is posting about them and I love being part of the hype even though I've only listened to that album once". Of late I've been listening to Holland's album Escondida a great deal. She has such an amazing and mutable voice that's equally at ease tackling tunes that range from old time blues to bluegrass to light rock. She's defiintely plying a territory that's steeped in a traditional American context (bluegrass, trad country, vocals) but she's able to update any and all of those sounds with her amazing voice and her modern lyrical storytelling. It's a fantastic album and I highly recommend picking it up. It's available on eMusic if you've got an account (and you should).

1 song from Escondida

Goodbye California

Thursday, February 16, 2006


Man I love these guys. I can't even say why since their sound falls well outside of my usual listening habits. As i've mentioned many times before I have a pretty huge and constantly oscillating pop detector. I love melody and organization and verse/chorus/verse song structure. Enablers (no "the" please), who share a label (Neurot) with some of music's heaviest acts, are not metal and not really very "noise" instead they've carved out an odd niche that wavers between rock and spoken word. Pete Simonelli handles the vocal duties for Enablers and speaks, or more acurately conjures, poetic stories filled with dark hole in the wall bars, sooty city streets, and characters both imbued with and denied hope. The combination of the music and Simonelli's deeply confident voice produces a thick mix that sounds like a warped radio transmission from a fog shrouded gothic town, a place where the sun is constantly battling to burn through the haze.

When I started this blog one of my early posts regarded their excellent last album Endnote but the new record, due out in March called Output Negative Space, ups the ante. Simonelli is still spinning his yarns of the downtrodden full of literate poetic language and clever turns of phrases but the music has gone to another level. There's certainly no sign of any traditional song structure and definitely nothing resembling verse/chorus/verse. As with Endnote the music wraps itself around Simonelli's narratives, chasing them, giving them form and emotion, walling them off and opening them up as appropriate. But now there are patches of melody and a symetric attention to phrasing that gives the ear something to fix on and follow. It's an excellent record that has the ability to reveal itself in ways both musical and lyrical with each listen. Coming in March and highly recommended.

1 song from Output Negative Space:

Sudden Inspection

2 from Endnote:

About Last Night

Pauly's Last Days in Cinema

Purchase Endnote here

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Sometimes either bored or obsessive internet hunting leads to the same result. Whether accomplished through the lazy clicking of links or through a well strategized, well organized, well focused hunt, the end result is often equal. That's a real bitch sometimes. I guess either way I should be thankful for ending up with anything worthwhile at all much less a band as interesting and fresh as Kickball from Olympia, Wa. At this point I can throw around some obvious and rather loaded referents such as: quirky, indie, rhythmic, jangly, lo-fi. Sure they all apply but because I throw them around a lot I fear that they'll become like so much background scenery in a Road Runner vs. Coyote chase sequence. But they do apply and apply well. Coming across a band like Kickball is the kind of thing that makes writing this labor of love worthwhile. Check 'em out, they're touring extensively during March and Feb and may just be coming to a bar near you.

In addition to their My Space songs there are some assorted tracks from their self released records:

from 2005's ABCDEFGHIJKickball:



Friday, February 10, 2006


There's absolutely no reason that Centro-Matic shouldn't be playing to packed houses while being lauded by critics. Will Johnson is one of our best young songwriters and whether he's streaming his talents through Centro-Matic or South San Gabriel or his solo work he's developed a signature style/sound/voice that's unmistakably his. On March 7th Misra Records will release Fort Recovery the first Centro-Matic album in three years. Currently you can mailorder the record from Misra right now and I highly recommend you getting your hands on it sooner rather than later because it is beautiful and loud and velvety and rough and so accomplished. I've been a Centro fan for awhile, but I really think this might be the band's most coherent, accessible, melodic, confident record yet. But even with a slightly (and really only slightly) more "pop" approach to the songs the album still revolves around Will Johnson's broken, inimitable but somehow pretty vocal style and his mush mouthed enigamtic metaphors.

While there are a number of songs on Fort Recovery that stay close to Centro's formula for bombastic fuzzed up rockers replete with crashing crescendoes the heart of this record is with the slower ballads. It's to the band's credit that they're able to transition from a rocker like "Patience For The Ride" into back to back slow songs ("I See Through You", "In Such Crooked Times") without the listener losing patience or getting an itchy "next" finger. It all feels part of a whole, each piece necessary to the rest.

There are 2 tracks availbale from the Misra site:

Triggers And Trash Heaps

Calling Thermatic

I'll add one more at the risk of over exposing the album.

In Such Crooked Times

Great record that deserves to be heard in the same way that I felt Okkervil's Black Sheep Boy needed to be heard last year. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Brian Borcherdt...

Actually the name he's recording under is the remains of Brian Borcherdt but that's a minor detail given the overall elegance of his third solo recording. Perhaps the more esoteric of you out there are familiar with Brian's other band Holy Fuck which is in a lot of ways an experimental noise band except for the fact that the noise they make isn't really noisy but is instead rather dancey. Holy Fuck's stated goal is to create electronic dance music without using any of the favored props (i.e., laptops, sequencers, midi, etc.) instead they're using toy keyboards and film editing machines. Using the organic to mimic the digital, I like it. But that isn't at all what Borcherdt's solo material is like. No, not at all. In his solo work Borcherdt is much more of a traditional singer songwriter using traditional instruments. On recommedation I recently picked up his April 2005 release The Remains of Brian Borcherdt, Vol. 2 (yes, there's a Vol. 1 and no I haven't heard it yet but I will) and have been very impressed. His songwriting his heart rending, personal, honest, celebratory and sad at the same time. Borcherdt's voice is a little twisted (in a good way) which compliments the cacophonous aspect of his songs well, but that same twisted quality also imbues the quiter songs with what I can only think to call honesty. I know that sounds cheesy, but there's just something believable and sympathetic about Borchert's songs. Imagine if John Mayer melded with Tom Waits and ended up with a personality, all of a sudden those bodies wouldn't all be coarse wonderlands but fragile pieces of beauty to be handled with delicate hands and real emotion.

2 songs from The Remains of Brian Borcherdt, Vol. 2:

Moments of Protest


In other news over at Misra Records they're streaming the new Centro-matic album Fort Recovery which may be, frankly, their best record yet and I 'm a huge Centro fan. I'll be posting something from the new record tomorrow, but for now listen to the stream and be blown away. It's really that good. Really.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Tony Rojas...

We're going local today. Tony Rojas is a longtime fixture on the San Francisco independent music scene thought he's probably best known as the doorman for Doc's Clock and the guitarist/singer for Shotwell. Well Tony's gone and put out a solo record called Time To Burn and it's pretty darn good. The disc is a mix of barnstorming guitars, country weepers, and most of all straight ahead power pop. If forced to draw comparisons I'd touch on everything from The Kinks to Candy Apple Grey era Husker Du to the rockier moments of Whiskeytown. It's pretty consistently engaging and with ringing endorsements from Mark Eitzel, Dan Carr of The Court And Spark and Spiral Stairs of Preston School of Industry he must be doing something right.

I'm not really sure how much effort Tony's putting in to promoting the record which has been out for about a year now. He seems busy with Shotwell but maybe a little run on Time To Burn will prompt an interest in doing some shows. There are three downloads on Tony's site so go grab 'em; I'm posting my favorite song.

From Time To Burn:


Friday, February 03, 2006

Field Notes...

That's right I said Field Notes not to be confused with the San Francisco band Field Music. Field Notes is basically Mark Edwards who's played in a number of math rock/hardcore bands over the years but seems to have settled into a poppier frame work. Field Notes new record is called Color Of Sunshine and I can't profess to love it which is odd for this blog because I tend to only gush. But in the case of Color Of Sunshine I've found the record to have enough weak points (and by weak I mean it meanders a bit, gets too long, too slow) that I'm prevented from being effusive. However, with that said it does have some great moments of jangly pop rock pseudo-Psych Furs charm that I do really like. And this, my friends is what I must give you.

1 song from Color Of Sunshine:

Sister Says

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Touch of Josh Rouse...

Despite the protestations of my good friend Jeff who insists that Josh Rouse is sissy music for those fading peacefully into middle age, I've always liked his sense of humor, his way with lyrics and his songwriting. I loved 1972 and reviewed Nashville positively for Stylus Magazine. So it is without an overly self conscious looking over my shoulder type of feeling that I sometimes get when I think I'm doing something that Jeff thinks isn't cool that I post a new video from Rouse's forthcoming album Subtitulo due March 21st. Enjoy.

Josh Rouse - Quiet Town