Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Mojave 3...

Mojave 3 have been at it a long time. As far as indie rock bands go they're practically grandparents. They've always had a nice blend of jangle and twang and the new record Puzzles Like You on 4 AD keeps up their excellent track record. More so than their other records Puzzles Like You has a much poppier taste. It harkens back to the early records and the Slowdive days much less than in the past. The sense of moodiness that occupies much of M3's catalog (instigated by liberal uses of pedal steel) doesn't hang over this record. There's much more emphasis on guitar jangle, harmony and soaring choruses. It's an strong record that perhaps doesn't distinguish itself as much as I'd like. Older M3 records may have made you nod off a bit but at least they were uniquely identifiable. Puzzles Like You feels too long by 2 songs but the 10 best songs on this record are far better than the dreck issuing forth from KLLC and Live 105. All in all a pretty fine record.

2 songs from Puzzles Like You:
Big Star Baby

To Hold Your Tiny Toes

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Sunset Rubdown...

I must say that Absolutely Kosher has been doing a great job as of late. Last year's 2 disc set from Okay comes to mind as well as Hearts the new Court & Spark record. Add to the list Shut Up I Am Dreaming from Sunset Rubdown. Sunset Rubdown is a solo or side project from Wolf Parade singer/songwriter Spencer Krug. Honestly I didn't really latch on to Wolf Parade's Apologies To The Queen Mary. I fully realize that it was hailed as an indie masterpiece that challenged Funeral for the title of best thing to come from Canada since ice hockey (San Jose Sharks how you broke my heart). Shut Up I Am Dreaming has been engaging me in a way that Wolf Parade just didn't. Krug's vocal delivery is essentially identical to what he does for Wolf Parade: he flails and tears at this vocal chords, barely holds notes, warbles, begs, the whole nine yards. So what's different? I find Sunset Rubdown to be a more personal record. By "personal" I'm not just talking lyrically, though Krug is disarmingly straightforward and honest, I'm also talking about the mood of the record. That mood is both intimately welcoming and cinematic. The songs often teeter on the edge of epic but never quite reach that level, but that's okay because it's the tantalizing tease of being on the edge of something grand that's part of what makes this record so fun. The ten songs on Shut Up I Am Dreaming often stretch beyond five minutes with starts and stops, false crescendoes, build ups with no payoffs that turn to mist coagulate again and reform. I've heard this record refered to as "difficult" but I find it very accessible. Into the best of 2006 it goes.

1 song from Shut Up I Am Dreaming:

Stadiums And Shrines II

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Virgil Shaw...

Virgil Shaw is a Bay Area music fixture. Initially as lead singer/songwriter for long gone and sorely missed SF band Dieselhed and later as solo performer who released a couple of excellent albums, Quad Cities and Still Falling. Now here's my confession: I hadn't put Still Falling in the old headphones in about 2 years. Why? I don't know. Just one of those albums that fell by the wayside for whatever reasons. But then Dominic from Our Lady Of The Highway started singing its praises a few days back, so I dug it out and...damn!! Bottom line is that Still Falling borders on genius. This is a semi-country-semi-psych piano and trumpet fused slab of beauty. Everything about it is good, from the music to the slice of life stories. You've gotta love a heartfelt apology that goes, "I'm sorry I left you there, sleeping naked in a beanbag chair". And it still sounds special. Still Falling reminds me of the following things: The Band, Elton John (Tumbleweed Connection era), Clint Eastwood in The Good The Bad And The Ugly, jigsaw puzzles, last night's game 7 of the Spurs-Mavs series, Raymond Carver, Townes Van Zandt, and Granfaloon Bus. Just listen it will all make sense in the end.

1 song from Still Falling:

Still Falling

Remember May is National Masturbation Month. Do your part.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Bits And Bobs & General ADD...

Hi. Here are a variety of things that I'm liking today. Enjoy them as well please. Grab a mint on the way out.

2 songs from Sonny Smith's Sweet Lorraine. Smith is playing with the fabulous and sorely missed Dieselhed reunion show at 12 Galaxies here in San Francisco this Sunday.

I Heard The Words

The Fingers Long

Here's a video of The Bellrays playing the Late Show With Craig Ferguson. I love the Youtube.

Bellrays Live

More Youtube fun gives us:

Wilco on Conan this past friday. New Song. Totally starts out sounding like The Dead before blossoming into a lovely classic Wilco gem.

Thank you.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Maritime is comprised of former members of the defunct Promise Ring and Dismemberment Plan. I can't say I was into either of those bands though I know they flew the emo flag pretty high. That's not a knock against them it's more of a fact. So I got hipped to Maritime's recent album (released last month) We, The Vehicles a couple of weeks ago and slept on it. Then the song "Tearing Up The Oxygen" came on the iPod while in the shuffle mode and suddenly I was interested. I've now listened to the whole album probably 10 times and I've decided it's good. It's good in a subtle guitar pop kind of way. Maritime doesn't try to overwhelm you, it's more like they try to charm you on their own terms. It's catchy, hummable, filled with clever flourishes and touches like new wavey synth lines. A very strong record that's quietly creeping up my list of best of 2006.

A couple of songs provded by the Flameshovel Records:


Parade Of Punk Rock T Shirts

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Appleseed Cast...

15 or 20 years ago The Appleseed Cast would've been one of those new wave bands that puts out consistently good records but doesn't get the attention they deserve while bands like Johnny Hates Jazz and The Cutting Crew have their 15 minutes of fame before being cyro-frozen until VH1 decides to thaw them out for an episode of Where Are They Now. The Appleseed Cast over the years has done something a lot of bands aren't allowed to do anymore and that's develop. In their early years they wore the emo badge though their sound was more complex than most of the bands associated with that three letter word, noisy complicated rhythms probably put some off. Then the band went and grew up. They experimented with touches of electronica and glimmering, meandering stoner rock. They were stretching and garnered comparisons to Kid A, deserved or not.

Well here we are in 2006 with Peregrine. The Appleseed Cast continues to stay true to what they hear in their heads. Peregrine is unique in that the band is able to give the listener both dissonance and melody often in the same song. The songs can be both gentle and explosive at the same time.

In order to connect this whole thing with my opening paragraph regarding unappreciated eighties album I'll say this album reminds me very much of The Chameleons UK, specifically the album Strange Times. No easy feat. At the risk of gushing like a fanboy (which I'm not I came to Appleseed Cast rather late in their career) I just don't hear many albums like Peregrine anymore. It's clear that the band is true to their sound, damn the torpedoes. Good stuff.

1 song from Peregrine:

Sunlit And Ascending. This song is probably the poppiest on the record and desrves to be on many a mixtape (yeah, I still call them mixtapes).

Thursday, May 11, 2006


If you've blogged for long enough about music and such eventually you end up on the email list of many many publicists who send you blanket emails pimping their clients. No matter if the group is completely inappropriate to what you cover in your blog, you're caught in the net. I usually ignore these things, hitting delete after a cursory glance at the body of the email. Well at the risk of encouraging a ten fold increase in these emails one of them has finally stuck. Perhaps I'm showing my ignorance to fans of
Snowglobe who will chastise me with cries of "about time!" As I understand it Snowglobe really only had one proper album Doing The Distance before essentially disbanding. They now collaborate from afar with each member taking a turn as the point man and main songwriter for a record. The new one is called Oxytocin and is managed and written by Brad Posthelwaite (sorry Brad, I'm sure I just butchered your name). The band's sound in general tends towars a slightly psychedlic pop that I'd liken to both Neutral Milk Hotel and Flaming Lips. The songs from the forthcoming record are a bit more engaging. But it's all good as the kids say.

2 songs from Doing The Distance:

Changes - dig the handclaps.

Regime - love the organ on this one.

2 songs from Oxytocin out in July:



Monday, May 08, 2006


First things first. Rest in peace Grant McLennan. Listen to a Go-Betweens track today and remember what a wonderful talent Grant and the babd were.

Sorry about the long delay between posts. I've just been getting so hyphy lately. And listening to too much E-40 evidently. But on to the subject at hand namely the forthcoming album from Shearwater. If you've been a fan of the band for awhile then you are familiar with the ethereal shimmer of the band's last few releases the ep Thieves and Winged Life. Those two releases garnered comparisons to such alt-winsome bands as Belle And Sebastian and Talk Talk. Such awkward points of reference as "soft rock chamber music" were bandied about in an attempt to corner just what it is that Jonathan Meiburg and Will Scheff (both of Okkervil River) do in the context of Shearwater. Stop straining your powers of metaphor and clever referents because the new record Palo Santo (due to be released tomorrow) is a brand new beast altogether. I can cite a couple of obvious differences from past Shearwater releases immediately: 1) Meiburg does all the singing, you won't hear any of Scheff's highly identifiable warble anywhere on this record, 2) Meiburg (who's credited with writing all the songs) has pushed Shearwater's sound far from the breathy hum that we've come to expect. If you read Bars & Guitars with any regularity you're probably already familiar with Palo Santo's free download Seventy -four, Seventy-five. That song is a fairly good indicator of the direction that Meiburg is taking his band. Things are a bit louder, more grandiose, even more theatrical in tone. The sound the band is aiming for is clearer of a broader scope than their past releases. Meiburg ably attacks the sole vocal duties and even pushes his high pitched voice towards some dramatic crescendoes. Palo Santo is a powerfully dramatic record. Nothing is writ in smaller case letters here the band really goes for the gold on every song and thankfully succeeds most of the time. The heavy presence of keyboard and piano recalls Elton John before he settled into the soft complacency of super stardom, uber-wealth and "Candle In The Wind". Meiburg is fully in control of these songs and this confidence pays off with subtle careful powerful songs. Beautiful accents abound in these songs whether it be the surprising interjection of a trumpet or a vibraphone and they abutt very well with the noiser elements of found sound, guitar riffage and distortion. A fine album that's certainly on the current best of 2006.

1 from Palo Santo

Johnny Viola

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Court And Spark...

Yes, the new album has arrived and while there probably won't be a whole lot of fanfare there really should be. Bands like Court And Spark make me proud to be living in San Francisco. The city has long nurtured the alt country movement (I think it's the gloom of the fog) and Court And Spark certainly has it's roots in that sound. Though with Hearts it seems that the band has distanced itself to some degree from it's countrified California sound that echoes to varying degrees The Flying Burrito Brothers and Poco. Hearts has less of the country psychedlia of Ventura Whites and more of the poppier moments of Witch Season. Despite a huge variety of instrumentation that includes pedal steel, banjo and hammered dulcimer there's not a lot of twang here. In fact what I kept thinking about as the album played was The Band. My only complaint about Hearts is that it seems to uniform in tone. This is a mellow record. Despite my hopes that the band would let down their hair and attack some of these songs with a rockers mentality as they had done when I saw them live opening for Magnolia Electric Co. But this record runs much closer to the mellow vibe of Magnolia Electric Co.'s What Comes After The Blues, Jason Molina even lends a hand on one song on Hearts, but without Molina's gut wrenching open wound style of songwriting some of these songs just seem very quiet. Not that quiet is bad, they're still very good songs they just seem to become wallpaper until a the band hits it out of the park with a song like "You're Mother Was Lightning" and you remember how great they can be. MC Taylor's voice is buttery smooth and his lyrics cryptic tales of strange semi-familiar towns.

Hearts is a fine record thought I don't believe the band's out done Witch Season. I don't think they even tried. Maybe that's the problem. I was expecting the band to really stretch for something grand, sweeping and classic. They have it in them.

1 song from Hearts:

Your Mother Was Lightning