Friday, March 31, 2006

Crystal Skulls...

This may be the shortest post over here at Bars & Guitars but I've got shit to do and I wanted to leave you good people with some of this sick power pop guitar interplay songcraft from the Crystal Skulls. They may sound death metal ish but they are in fact full of hook and melody and clever songwriting. It's as simple as that. They have a new record coming out on April 11th called Outgoing Behavior. I haven't heard it but I've been rocking their old record Blocked Number for two weeks now and it's just so tasty.

Have a good, safe weekend.

Locked Down

The Cosmic Door

Baby Boy

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Norfolk & Western...

Long promised but slow to develop at long last is the post on Norfolk & Western's EP A Gilded Age. Not that I thought you were waiting on pins and needles or anything but I like to keep my promises. Perhaps you heard Norfolk's last album Dusk in Cold Parlors? That record was a quiet beautifully rendered set of acoustic americana with a dusty time's passed me by feel. It fit a mood perfectly though you probably wouldn't pick it as your dance partner. Norfolk consists of the startlingly good combination of Adam Selzer and Rachel Blumberg (she drummed for the Decemberists for awhile and if that ain't indie cred what is?). His voice is steady and smooth thought relatively unremarkable, her's is pretty and fills all the gaps in his. Norfolk and Western doesn't by definition fall into the singer songwriter category but both Dusk... and A Gilde Age have the feel of projects driven by a vision that Selzer holds dear. It's a unique sound Norfolk has created: a very moden interpretation of a very antique process. At least that's how it wa, A Gilded Agte has turned many of my notions about Norfolk on their ear. While the new EP certainly bears many of the same marks as Dusk... such as Selzer's clever lyrics and some interesting instrumentation, the band is clearly sleeping with their electic guitar, amp and effects peddles. A lot of the "dust" in the band's sound has been swept away in favor of a more indie-rockin' approach to the songs. I guess I'll be totally non commital and say that this change in attitude is neither good nor bad, it just is. A Gilded Age's "Porch Destruction" is an excellent example of the way the band bends their old stylistic tendencies (viola, clavinet) towards a more modern interpretation (the distortion laden guitar that fires up the 2nd half of the song).

The songs are still first rate and there are moments (particularly "There Are No Places Left For Us" and "Minor Daughter") that reveal the band's continuing fascination with creating an atmosphere that brings to mind a turn of the century steamboat house party adrift on the Mississippi. Except they've gone and electramocuted the boat and plugged in. You can't begrudge a band some evolution and ultimately A Gilded Age works due to the strengths of Selzer's songwriting. Quite first rate.

a song from A Gilded Age due April 11th:

A Porch Destruction

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Moore Brothers...

Today is the release date of The Moore Brother's newest album Murdered By The Moore Brothers. If you're not familiar with The Moore Brothers here are a few things worth knowing: 1) They really are brothers 2) they're from the SF Bay Area 3) they are very nice gentlemen. As to that last point you wouldn't know it from the lyrics which tend toward a cutting wit and a clever way with a turn of phrase. Perhaps you've heard the term freak folker? A term inescapable in 2005 though a bit less prominent this year. The Moore Brothers are not freak folk or new folk or neo-folk. They are simply startlingly good songwriters who have an uncanny ability with harmonies. If anything the Moore Brothers are a modern extension of the very traditional folk tradition that includes Simon & Garfunkel, Fairport Convention, the Mamas & The Papas, etc. The Moore Brothers have been at this for awhile (I think this their fourth album) and there's been little change in their formula. They write wonderful lyrics couple with simple arrangements based around acoustic guitar and their two part harmony. On Murdered By The Moore Brothers the boys add some piano and light percussion on two tracks but is, as before, driven by the voices of Greg and Thom. Mellow but very beautiful.

1 track from Murdered By The Moore Brothers:

Bury Me Under The Kissing Teens

On an unrelated aside there's a fairly interesting interview on WNYC regarding Neutral Milk Hotel's In The Areoplane Under The Sea. It's not super illuminating but it's a good listen. Check it HERE

Friday, March 24, 2006

Adam Arcuragi...

I've been rocking Adam Arcuragi's last self titled record for a little while now. It's good solid indie pop rock with a streak of confessional heart on the sleeve style lyrics. Adam has one of those indie rock voices that immediately seems indebted to Isaac Brock and Elliott Smith. His singing contains a certain charm that seems well suited to the stories he tells in his songs, but it has its limitations and can at times begin to have an unrelenting sameness that can get a bit tired. This probably wouldn't even an issue because his voice his far from unpleasant but he likes to write long songs (the first three songs on his album go 7:22, 5:50, 5:20, 5:14) and the length seems to slowly undermine his voice instead of hold it up.

Now that I've gone and put my criticisms first I can tell you why I like the record. Let's start with the stellar folks he gets to help with his albums, members from Audible, Mazarin, Bitter Bitter Weeks, National Eye, Matt Pond PA, the Rachel’s, the Trouble With Sweeney, and Ink & Dagger all assist on Adam Arcuragi which is available from High Two via eMusic and iTunes as well as the more traditional avenues of dissemination. Aside from the hired help Arcuragi has an undeniable knack for hook and melody. To me he's Matt Pond PA without everything that annoyed me about Several Arrows Later, i.e. more sincerity, less schlock, letting the songs stand on their own without a bunch of saccharine coating. For all intents and purposes Adam Arcuragi is a folk rock album that rests on the strength of Arcuragi's ability to make fresh that which is currently common and that's no small feat.

courtesy of the High Two website, both from Adam Arcuragi:


The Christmas Song

Thursday, March 23, 2006


That's the title of Josh Rouse's new record and I won't be intimidated by certain friends into denying my love for Josh's music or this record. I know, I know a Josh Rouse post and a Rhett Miller post within a week of one another. I can hear the cries of sellout, middle aged, soft underbelly, romantic, pouring down from the bleachers. But fuck, c'mon, this a good record. I'm not going to say that musical history has been rewritten or anything but it's better than Nashville and has moments just as strong as anything on 1972 and I love that record. I think the fact that Rouse has made a record that incorporates elements of all his best recorded moments is what charms me about this record. You can hear the folk elements fo Under Cold Blue Stars, the white boy funk of 1972 and a touch of the country rock that was done so well on the 3 best songs on Nashville. Of course there's a certain overt simplicity that gets to be a bit tiresome here and there. This is particularly true lyrically for Rouse. I find myself alternately won over by his simple meditations on love, small towns, and girls got away and pushed away by their triteness. All in all I've been spending a lot of time with this record which must mean it strikes a chord with me somewhere. I've been playing this one a lot lately:

from Subtitulo:

His Majesty Rides

Monday, March 20, 2006

Bits & Bobs...

There are a couple of records I really want to post about but something has gotten in my way since I posted last week. I have feeling you probably know of what I speak. No, not bowling though the team is 2nd in the league right now (we confront team #1 tomorrow). It's March Madness. I'm a huge basketball fan. I love March. The tournament makes me very distracted and the tournament thus far has been pretty remarkable. I can't remember the last time so many mid-majors made so much noise. Parity is a good thing, it makes for good stories and exciting, anything can happen style games. So while my intention is to post about the new Norfolk & Western followed by the new Moore Brothers, I've just not been able to get my mind off the hoops. So my promise to you is at least 2 posts this week about those two very good records plus this one which is pretty much a rambling excuse about why I haven't posted as much lately. But I have been listening to music. Nothing brand sparkling new but a couple of songs I think are worth mentioning just in case you haven't heard either of these bands.

Cub Country is a side project of one of the guys in Jets To Brazil. I checked out Cub Country simply because I've been a big fan of JTB. What I found was a very alt-country pickin' and strummin' singer songwriter set of songs that falls about as far from JTB as it could. But I loves me some alt-country and have been happily listening since I got this one off eMusic. The record's at least 2 years old and there's nothing new on the horizon, but the record, while a little lengthy at points, is generally a heartfelt effort.

1 song from Stay Poor, Stay Happy:

Leaving The Bar

I've also been listening to Hem which has been described most accurately as country-politan. Indeed the band's sound has more in common with traditional country and the band Lambchop than Uncle Tupelo or Whiskeytown. It's more country and less "alt" than what I'm usually drawn to but Sally Ellyson's voice is so enchanting and lovely that what I've heard of them so far has totally charmed me. Their record Eveningland is supposed to be excellent though what i've been listening to is their EP I'm Talking With My Mouth.

1 song from I'm Talking With My Mouth:


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Dust Congress Records Presents...

If you're not a regular reader of Dust Congress you're missing out on a veritable smorgasborg of good stuff from Poetry to music to political musings to photography and a bevy of quality links. Not long ago Dust Congress entered into the record business starting up a label, Dust Congress Records. Well, I have in my hands the current result of their labors SJBB3P: Part 2. I'm not sure what number one entailed but I think I have a good idea of the genesis of the idea. Mr. Dust Congress is a huge Silver Jews fan and to that end spends a good deal of time on the Silver Jews bulletin board (SJBB, get it). It seems that the frequent contributors over there are a fairly talented bunch musically, they're in bands and they write songs and if you ever wondered how much of an influence David Berman could be on a generation of songwriters this particular compilation hints at the answer. The 10 songs by ten different bands on SJBB3P: Part 2 have Berman's paw marks all over them. Whether it's the slightly atonal vocal stylings, semi-country jangle, or the boy/girl harmonies that strongly resemble Berman and wife a la Tanglewood Numbers, the common thread here is Silver Jews. Of course, that's probably the point given the source and inspiration of the compilation. And while I feel the similarities in tone need to be mentioned (there are times when the disc feels like a songwriters 101 project: write a song in the style of...), it shouldn't denigrate the quality of the songs which range from OK to pretty fucking brilliant and as often as not rise high enough to stand shoulder to shoulder with their source material.

Hit up the contact on Dust Congress if you're interested in getting a copy of this compilation.

I give you my 2 favorite songs from SJBB3P: Part 2:

Lady Lay Down - Holla Copter

Is Not A Cowboy - Rising Shotgun

Monday, March 13, 2006

Pinetop Seven...

I've been a bit off the back with posts the last few days so apologies to all whose days revolve around reading posts here (I think that may pretty much include my mom). I'll try to be back on the boat with more frequent posts this week. So here we are with an infrequent Monday post but it's a good one. I raved about Pinetop Seven and their Americana tinged epic The Night's Bloom last year and I still find that record to be a strong point of 2005. Darren Richard is the heart and soul of Pinetop Seven as he plays most of the instruments and writes all the songs. He has a firm grasp on the sound of traditional American music but don't let that conjure up images of toothless porchbillies plucking at banjos (not that there's anything wrong with that) or Garth Brooks-esque singers bastardizing a traditional sound into a political movement (there is something wrong with that). Richard's vision is far more sweeping and epic. He thinks and develops his songs on very broad canvas that can easily touch jazz, country, soundtrack, pop and rock. So here comes Richard and company with an addendum to The Night's Bloom called Beneath Confederate Lake. I suppose it fits the EP category onlyl because it's not a proper album of brand new material. Some of these songs have been floating around Richard's head for awhile, some are from soundtracks he's written for, some are leftovers from The Night's Bloom sessions. In the same that Will Scheff added the Black Sheep Boy Appendix to last year's Black Sheep Boy Beneath Confederate Lake seems to act as a clearinghouse for Richard, a way for him to clear out the ideas that didn't fit with his last project. Don't interpret this record as a bunch of throwaways. Beneath Confederate Lake is as strong and engaging as anything released thus far in 2006. Richard has an undeniable talent that deserves a far wider recognition. If you loved The Night's Bloom then this record is a must have and while The Night's Bloom is clearly your best starting point for Pinetop Seven's sound you won't go wrong in picking this up first. A strong, beautiful set of songs.

1 song from Beneath Confederate Lake:

The Western Ash

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


On the May horizon is a new record from Shearwater. Misra is throwing around some interesting comparisons which seem to revolve around preparing the fans for a fairly radical change in direction for the band. Indeed the one track they have up from the forthcoming record Palo Santo is a far cry from the gothic folk that the band gave us on Thieves and Winged Life. This song has a scattered kind of dirgey (is that a word?) feel to it. It's not a bad song by any stretch, it's simply different. It may grow on you.

1 song from the May release of Palo Santo:

Seventy Four Seventy Five

P.S. The bowling team killed it last night. I think we raised our average too much setting us up for a serious beat down next week.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Mr. Rhett Miller

So recently I've gotten into bowling. I know, I know, you're thinking I've given up on athletics all together and have just given into the slow slide into middle age without even a little bit of fight. Not true I say, not true. I'm still active in a number of competitive or at least aerobic sports but recently I've discovered the joy of rolling the ball down the lane. It's undeniable, it's American, it's wholesome family fun. Frankly, my six year old daughter loves it and is pretty good considering the ball is about half her size. I don't want you to think I'm ashamed of being a bowler (my wife and I have actually joined a league) it's just that I think there's a stigma associated with an overweight guido with greasy hair and bad acne competing on the pro bowlers tour Sunday morning on ESPN. I'm not saying that's how it, I'm saying that's how it may be perceived. Okay, I admit that the typical bowler at my lanes the fabulous Country Club Bowl (it has a bar called The Candlestick Room that serves Bud in bottles shaped like bowling pins, c'mon how cool is that?) may be a bit pear shaped or graying but they're having a good time and not sitting on the couch. I guess what I'm trying to do is remove the stigma attached to bowling which brings me to my absurdly awkward segue way into Rhett Miller. Rhett Miller just isn't cool by himself. Cool with Old 97's yes, solo cool no. But Why? I've made no secret of my love for his last solo record The Instigator which was generally panned but has always tickled my pop funny bone just so. Much like bowling Rhett Miller albums are fun. Don't think about it too much just do it and enjoy it. Which is the way you need to approach his new record The Believer. The Believer is every bit as good as The Instigator and no matter what you think of his solo work you can't deny that Miller can write a great pop song and turn a phrase or lyric with wit and pastiche. It's an album of catchy guitar pop with not much of the alt-country style of the Old 97's. You won't find this record on many year end lists (admittedly not mine either) but it will bring joy and love into your heart, just like bowling.

So in conclusion friends both bowling and Rhett Miller are OK. Don't fear that your hipster cool cover will be blown. We're all allowed a guilty pleasure here and there in this life and I think that either bowling or Rhett Miller solo albums will do just fine. Both, even better.

2 songs from The Believer:

Meteor Shower

I'm With Her

Friday, March 03, 2006

Cast King...

Got a hold of this about three days ago. It's much more country than alt but there's something so deeply authentic about Cast King, the record speaks of a hard life and indeed his back story is a good one. I won't recount it here but read it over on the website. Cast's voice bears a strong resemblance to that of Johnny Cash. It's mostly guitar and voice but Locust Music has done a good job of just slightly embellishing the songs with light percussion, some pedal steel, a touch of mandolin, it's tasteful and lets Cast be the star.

from Saw Mill Man:

Saw Mill Man

Thursday, March 02, 2006


I can only supposed that whole whorld now knows about what's happened to Pitchfork's Nick Sylvester. My piece: he fucked up and probably from a journalistic stand point deserves what he gets. But I can't help but feel a little bad for his public humiliation. But maybe that's the best medicine for this particular disregard for truth and proper journalism.

Eef Barzelay..

If you don't know who Eef Barzelay is then you probably don't know the band Clem Snide and on both accounts you are a sad, miserable little rockist. Most likely you've heard of Eef's band Clem Snide who last year gave us a lovely record in End Of Love because if you heard the name Eef you'd probably remember it. Well the folks at Spin Art have quietly released a Barzelay solo record. No much fan fare and just about under my radar (remember I don't live in New York) Barzelay's Bitter Honey is a wonderful slice of, well, bitter honey. Combining his uncanny ability to write hooky melodic pop songs with what can only be termed a bitter streak a mile wide Barzelay has produced a quiet almost folky solo record. It doesn't have the full band treatment of Clem Snide and never rocks as much, but its really quite precious and nice. Barzelay has a way with lyrics and this stripped down approach really allows his cynical, sarcastic, caustic words to take center stage. A fine outing from one of our better songwriters. It's available on iTunes.

1 song from Bitter Honey:

Bitter Honey