Friday, September 29, 2006


Channels straight up hits it hard; rocks, know what I'm sayin'. Channels is a three pieces set up fronted by J. Robbins who you may remember from Jawbox another band that hit it pretty hard. Channels' Waiting For The Next End is a loud shard of guitar noise that always seem to assemble itself into a tuneful melodic final product. I would expect nothing less from J. Robbins. Of particular interest on this record are a) the decidedly political lyrics that don't beat you over the head but nuddge and allude and b) the additional female vocals of Robbins' wife Janet Morgan that temper the rought edges just right.

I've only listened to this about 4 times thus far but find myself mighty impressed. Frankly, I don't know how this one snuck by me. I'm a huge Jawbox fan and a DC native at that. I might be a little late to this party but I know that this record deserves far better than the 6.6 that Pitchbitch gave it. Waiting For The Next End is full of hooks, loudness, noise, rock, melody, sincerity, beauty:


Today's political note: With the impending passage of the terrorist detainee act the political powers of our country, both those that conpsired to pass this legislation and those that stood by and watched due to election year paralysis, have officially took down its pants and shat on everything that our forefathers (and I mean anyone from 1776 to Vietnam Vet) fought to preserve.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Van Occupanther Videos...

Bella Union is releasing a bunch of Midlake videos every week or so, or at least that's how I understand it. Midlake Videos

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Bettie Serveert...

Bettie Serveert is an indie rock band that, much like the Energizer bunny, just keeps going. They've been up and they've been down, they've had good records and mediocre ones, but no matter what you can't deny that they've stayed true to their sound and soldiered on. This year they released Bare Stripped Naked which is as the title implys a quiet acoustic affair that lets the songs sit front center with a special spotlight on the lush vocals of Carol van Dyk. Two of the songs are reworked versions of songs on earlier records and the rest is new material. It's an interesting context for these songs as I've always experienced Bettie Serveert as an upbeat rock band with plenty of attitude. Sure the songs have been melodic and Van Dyk's vocals make them pretty, but the songs always seemed closer to post punk in attitude than mainstream. Anyway, long story short is this: the record is very good, a different tone for a band that deserves a larger audience and has earned its right to play with their sound. The album also contains one of the best songs of the year. You'll like it and it should make you want to buy/download the record:

Hell = Other People

In what is becoming a regularity here at Bars & Guitars I'd like to give a huge shout out to Keith Olbermann who is quickly becoming the lone voice of reason, justice and straight talk in a country whose media failed the people long long ago. If you believe that Bill Clinton was wrong in his reaction to Chris Wallace's interview then I fear you are lost, lost to the fog, delusion, and heart stopping feats of ignominy that have so regularly been splashed across the face of our nation since this administration took power. I personally lay awake last night wondering why Clinton didn't go across the table for Wallace or glass him with his coffee mug. I would've thought it justified.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Paul Basile...

I was given the heads up about Paul Basile from my friend Grey who can be, at times though rarely, a pretty hip guy. Paul had contacted Grey on Myspace about being "friends". Grey actually went and listened to his music, where as I always start with the best intentions of doing just that and then never do. But thanks to Grey's prompting I actually made the long cyber journey over to Basile's Myspace page and listened. Basile has the whole acoustic singer/songwriter deal going but instead of sounding absolutely run of the mill he instead evokes early Richard Buckner, Nick Drake, some Violent Femmes. He's got a thin voice that compliments his lyrics well (I immediately latched onto his line about "being up for days" as I had a late night on Saturday/Sunday and at my advanced age it takes approximately two and a half months to recover from 1 long night).

Basile is streaming a number of songs from his website. I like these:

Further North

Down And Out

In a non-music but decidedly political aside I'd like to encourage everyone to check out Iraq For Sale. It's a documentary on the privatization of the war in Iraq, how it puts our soldiers in jeopardy, wastes billions of our tax dollars, and lines the pockets of the administration's cronys.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Friday Random...

2 posts in like, what, six days? I know, I know I'm out of touch with the people, up here in my ivory castle occasionally tossing scraps of scribbled on Post-It notes down to the waiting throngs. But how long will they wait? Well hopefully until the always fun and completely unpredictable zaniness of the friday random. That'll placate the masses for sure, a bunch of links to feed the ADD minds of the current listening populace who will surely forgive and forget any of my transgressions, real or imagined, incurred in absentia.

While my listening ear has been decidedly distracted lately a good single will always perk me right up. I've got two of those for you. The first is by a band called Duplomacy. I heard a song called Remember This playing on the XM radio the other day and it totally sucked me in. It's a slowly unfolding slice of dream pop that doesn't ask much from you, but washes over so pleasantly in a head nodding kind of way. The album All These Long Drives (ironic that I first heard it in the cary, huh? I so love irony) is part and parcel to "Remember This": dreamy, sleepy, jangly, kind of a slow-core-Galaxy-500ish-lullaby-swirly-romantic thing.

The other single that's been making me smile is the new one from Portastatic. They've put out a nice little 4 song internet only EP to promote their October release Be Still Please. On said EP is a song called Sour Shores and is as good as any piece of driving guitar pop that Mac McCaughan has written. Good stuff.

There's some other good stuff out there that you really should check out:

White Whale's WW1 is excellent.

M. Ward's Post War has a good shot at being the best record of the year.

The new Hold Steady is going to be great from the 5 songs I've heard, but I won't post anything because Craig Finn might get mad at me.

The soon to be released Pernice Brothers album is going to be excellent. And stop calling it "chamber pop". I hate that term, what the fuck does that mean. Though I must admit to being baffled by why Joe would want to rerecord "Grudge Fuck" which was an amazing song on Massachusets. It's like, why remake Titanic or The Omen? They were great as is. Just for the sake of adding strings isn't a good enough reason. But still, it's Joe Pernice so he gets a pass.

Have a good weekend.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Evens...

Man, I've been a lazy blogger. Wait, is there another kind of blogger? I kid. It's just been so busy at work that I've either a) had no time to post or b) when I do have time I absolutely have no desire to look at a computer screen and type on a computer keyboard. The other negative to being busy is that my musical intake gets limited. I've been listening to new Mountain Goats, a couple of tracks I finagled from the new Hold Steady (very good), the new Bettie Serveert (on the fence) and the untitled new record from The Dying Californian (pretty rippin'). Nothing an avid reader of this small smug salon wouldn't be at least passingly familiar with (TDC aside) and have read about 40 posts on other blogs. So I'll steer clear of boring you.

Instead by way of my friend Dom East I've been listening to an older record by the The Evens from 2004. If you haven't dug your teeth into this as yet I do recommend. It's a moody stripped down type of deal with just guitar, drums and voice. I must say that I've never really thought of Ian MacKaye (Fugazi) as a singer so much as a vocal stylist who does the best with what he's got. But he's really very expressive on this record and melds well with Amy Farina. They find a nice spot in their range that creates their own unique boy/girl harmony type thing (actual musical term).

Sorry for the long delay between posts, but life happens like that.

1 from The Evens:

You Won't Feel A Thing

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Jeremy Enigk...

In the not too distant future Jeremy Enigk will have a new record out. It will be called World Waits and I think it will be quite good. Here are 2 songs in the way of preview:

Been Here Before

River To Sea

As the folks over at the Pernice Brothers are want to do, there's a very funny film of Joe Pernice signing advance copies of the new record. The best line is his mumbled, "this is like a temp job". Check it out right about HERE


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Richard Buckner...

Well, Meadow came out yesterday. Did you notice? There was certainly a time in my life when anything that Richard Buckner did was greeted by my doing a kind of odd little jig across my living room. I guess not to much anymore. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to disparage Meadow which is a pretty fine, if a little uninspired, album. It's the feeling that Buck's phoning it in a little or maybe it's that he's a little too self conscious of those heady early years when he made such a large splash across the alt-country scene. As with Dents And Shells Meadow is chock full of perfectly acceptable mid tempo acoustic rock numbers. There's still little of the folkier picking and strumming and psuedo-appalachian yodelling that characterizes his best work. But the real bummer for me is that once again Buckner buries his lyrics. So many of his lines are buried in a furrowed mumble or under questionable production. It's too bad because his lyrics are meant to be appreciated, mulled over, considered. I don't like it when I sound as if I'm pigeonholing an artist into a certain style, especially a style that was developed when said artist was younger. But Buckner's devolution from a folksy troubadour of the broken hearted to his current incarnation as a purveyor of a slightly bland acoustic-rock is to bad.

But Meadow specifically. In truth if this record appeared on your doorstep out of the blue without the baggage of Richard Buckner's fine back catalog, you'd be pleased with the offering. The songs have a certain sameness to them but they're fine songs. With the exception of the album closer "The Tether and The Tie" and "Mile" the songs all have the same mid-tempo pacing. While this tends to give the record a rather monochromatic feel, it's easy to find a least a couple of tracks that are mix worthy or easy to rock in the car.

I still maintain that Buckner's best effort of his more recent output is his collaboration with Jon Langford Sir Dark Invader vs. The Fanglord.

For most Meadow would be a reasonable achievement for Buckner it's merely par for his current course.

My favorite track off of Meadow:


Monday, September 11, 2006

Pacific Ocean Fire...

Pacific Ocean Fire's new record From The Station To The Church We Are Under The Same Stars is out now. I've always been a bit wary of Americana rock music via the British, but POF has convinced me for the second time that it's not about geography but about something a bit more whimsical like "feeling" or "heart".

Downloads can be found at their myspace site. Sorry about the lazy linkage but work's a bit too busy today for me to upload tracks to my usual location. The songs are all good and all inhabit a territory of rootsy rock music tempered by a very british guitar focused grandiosity. I know that's an awkward description but after thinking about it for awhile I couldn't come up with something that invokes their sound more precisely. I'm thinking about a sound that mixes equal parts Uncle Tupelo, Farmer Not So John, early Marah, Gram Parsons' Hot Burrito #1 with Oasis, Snow Patrol, Ride, Lush, Blur, etc. It sounds odd but POF really makes it work and makes it uniquely their own. Give it a listen

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Harbours...

Dishing out some of the local love for SF band The Harbours. How to describe these guys without sounding disparaging? They're not breaking any new ground in the rock and roll world, they're just doing what they do really, really well. They play and smooth talking kind of Americana. Something that can easily be likened to Tom Petty, maybe the Counting Crows' best moments but with a singer that can sing, you know, folk rock with a swagger. The singer, by the way, alternately reminds me of Gordon Lightfoot and the guy from America. In my opinion neither of those comparisons is in the least bit negative, not even a little. They're actually quite complimentary in the funny little world I spend a lot of time in. The record is Second Story Maker on Stab City Records. You'll hear everything from the Beatles to the Jayhawks to Golden Smog in their songs. This record is a reall grower, keep listening it keeps getting better. Big ups to the Mission District!

from Second Story Maker:

Not The Same

Keep Your Days

In other news I continue to be baffled by Joanna Newsom's new disc Ys. It surely has something to do with the fact that I had a tough time getting into the Milkmaid's Mender Pony Show Sunrise or whatever it was called. Her voice is interesting and her lyrics fantastical but it just never penetrated my cynical ears. You'd think I'd have even more issues with a disc that's 5 songs covering almost an hour, the first song clocking in a like 13 minutes. I'm making a concerted effort to stick with Ys because something about it screams "this is important, understand this" but that takes some of the fun out of it. I'll keep trying.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Shinobu is one of those rare bands that send me stuff that I actually like. I try to think of myself as a fairly discerning listener, though I readily acknowledge that I'm often full of shit, which often means that I'm listening to albums the first time through with an overtly critical ear. What I mean is that often I'm initially listening from a position of suspicion. I'm like, what crap are you trying to put over on my ears, bitch? This can put unsolicited band submissions at a distinct disadvantage over the music that I'm legitimately excited about. Shinobu is different. Not that it's perfect, but they have something special. At least part of that specialness lies in the ragged youthfulness of their album Worstward, Ho!, set to come out later this month on Asian Man Records. I've found that people who write about Shinobu try to make a connection that traces a line from Jawbreaker to The Weakerthans, lumping them in with a post-punk lineage that perhaps relies a bit too much on their perceived influence's dissonant boom.

For me Shinobu is a logical flowering of the the noise that Pavement did such a good job of making or what The Replacements would've sounded like if Westerberg had refused to grow up. I'll concede the Weakerthans because that band is particularly good with a melody and much of what makes Shinobu so arresting is their melodicism. When Shinobu is on, as they are on songs like "Not Gonna Happen" "Boourns" and "Regular Love Triangle", the songs seem held together by little more than chewing gum, sweat and a good hook. The tension makes the songs exciting. I like that.

As I said the album isn't perfect. By pusing the album to 14 songs they've violated one of my primary edicts of: make me love you then get the fuck off the stage. They stay a bit too long. I could also do without the extended noodling of the six and a half minute "Hail, Hail, The Executioner", I'd rather not be forced to listen to band practice. Small complaints really given the strengths of the finer songs.

2 songs from Worstward, Ho!:


Can Dialectics Break Bricks?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Russian Circles...

I've been sitting on this Russian Circles record Enter for entirely too long. I finally got around to writing the review for Pop Matters last week and really regretted dragging my feet for so long. I think I was initially intimidated by the fact that the band plays instrumental rock. I often find that I have a hard time wrapping my head around instrumental music because a) I'm not a musician and b) it often lacks the hook or signature that I usually use to access a band's style. But really those are lazy excuses. So on a long drive before the Labor Weekend I put Enter (released on Flame Shovel Records) into the car CD player and let it rock me. It's unfortunate that instrumental rock music is thought of as less accessible than music with a vocalist and lyrics. Simply put Enter is a powerful record. It's heavy and loud, full of moments of metal, hardcore, indie rock, punk and spiraling slightly psych passages. It's varied and dynamically arresting, often traveling from moments of quiet simplicity to a raging barrage of guitar squal freak out. It was a great record for a long drive. It may not have vocals but the songs do speak. It's a strong record that deserves more attention than it's gotten.

2 songs from Enter:


Death Rides A Horse