Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Born Ruffians - Red Yellow Blue

Born Ruffians are interesting to me. They really are not doing anything difficult or overly complicated, they are just doing simple things in very unique and entertaining way. It's just bass, guitar, and drums, but when you add in the playful vocal acrobatics, it all becomes pretty astonishing art. I read someone compare this to Modest Mouse earlier today. While I can understand the comparison, I think it is unjust. They have far too much originality and flair. This is really enjoyable music that will bring a smile to almost anyone's face.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ladyhawk - Shots

I once asked a Canadian musician friend of mine why it was that Canadian indie is sooooo much better than the vast majority of the indie from the US. The answer was essentially that everyone ignored Canadian musicians for so long that they stopped trying to imitate American indie bands of the 90s and just started making music that makes them happy. I think this statement fits well when trying to explain the sensational music coming from Ladyhawk. They have been doing pretty well for themselves for the last few years just making their own unique brand of easy going rock. Shots keeps the winning streak alive. Their take on what is virtually straight-forward rock is so completely earnest and entertaining that you can't help but to love this album. Unless you are a twee pop diehard, go out and get a copy of Shots.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Reasonable Disappointment or Unfair Expectations?

disappointment noun

1. a feeling of dissatisfaction that results when your expectations are not realized; "his hopes were so high he was doomed to disappointment"
2. an act (or failure to act) that disappoints someone

I am still kind of heartbroken by 3 releases from 2007. And these were releases I was desperately awaiting, anxiously biding my time for 3 of my favorite band's new records to come out. Now that I have a music blog, I can finally get this off my chest! The 3 big disappointments are:

Let's start with Arcade Fire. Funerals was a masterpiece. Almost every indie rocker in the world has the lyrics from the album memorized and intimately knows every single note of every single song. It would be an impossible feat to top Funerals. (Perhaps that is why Neutral Milk Hotel walked away after In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.) However, Neon Bible is almost like they weren't even trying. "Intervention" is a decent enough song. But the rest of the album feels like they rushed it or were under pressure to get another release out. And, don't hand me, "But, No Cars Go was a good song." It's drivel. The Wedding Present wrote that same basic song 10 times in their career and did it better every single time. So, maybe I am being unfair... In truth, I did want another Funerals. So, maybe I am being childish since I didn't get my own way. But, for me, this was a giant step backwards from one of my favorite bands. PS: Any time the mainstream media like Entertainment Weekly starts saying you are really great, you are totally screwed.

Clap You Hands Say Yeah's sophomore effort also seemed like a rush job! The self titled debut release is also one of those albums that just floors you. The first time I heard the bass kick in on "Let the Cool Goddess Rust Away" I melted and knew I was in love. Perhaps my biggest problem with Some Loud Thunder is the producer so royally screwed them over on the first track, the album was never able to catch up. None of the songs seem to have the same since of wonder of tracks like "The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth" or "Upon This Tidalwave of Young Blood." I have a good friend who yells at me all the time about my feelings on this album. He says I'm stupid and that the songs, while not as catchy, are certainly more musically interesting and well done than the first album. Perhaps he is right. But, after listening to Some Loud Thunder at least ten times, I have to ask myself, "Is This Love?"

Stars In Our Bedroom After the War is colossally upsetting. I had no expectations that they would ever be able to recreate a song like "Your Ex-Lover is Dead." Everyone understands that song is one of those once in a lifetime creations that will endure for decades to come. However, what I did not expect is an exact recreation of the songs on the previous albums. Literally, you can take almost every song on this album and say, "Hey! Didn't they do this one on the last album?" The songs you can't do this to are the embarassing Torq sung torch songs that should never, ever, ever ,ever be allowed on any other release. If you have not heard Stars before, this is not such a bad album. But if you have time, energy, and emotion dedicated to this band over the last 4 or 5 years, then this album is a gigantic slap in the face. It's not awful or anything. It's just that we have heard it all before.
I will still go see all these bands play live. I still love them all to death. I just can't take it when I see bands I love go downhill when they have already proven they are capable of so much more.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

No Kids - Come Into My House

Those wacky Canadians! No Kids have created something pretty interesting and unique on Come Into My House. Filled with falsettos, drum machines, odd syncopations, and kookie instrumention, it is impossible to say that No Kids sound even remotely like any other band. Highly original and entertaining. Songs like For Halloween and Dancing in the Stacks will leave you delightfully perplexed! Actually, the whole album will. Be sure to check No Kids out.


Monday, February 18, 2008

King of Prussia - Save the Scene

Oddly enough, if you omit the opening track of King of Prussia's Save the Scene, this is a really beautiful album. King of Prussia shines strongest, not when they overdo the psychedelic sounds of the 60s, but rather when they downplay it and keep it on the fringe of their songs. Tracks like "Misadventures of the Campaign Kids" are complete pop gems replete with fuzzed out bass and that amazing reverb sound Athens, GA bands seem to have mastered. "Cheerleaders" really shines, too, with it's sea chanty feel and down home country warmth. "Terrarium" has a lovely upbeat, yet haunting feel to it. Perhaps my favorite track is "Physics Never Stood a Chance" with its phenomenal opening line, "I hesitate to call you mine, property's an ugly crime." Check this album out.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

LA Tool & Die - The Last Thorn of Summer

There seems to be two different bands on LA Tool & Die's The Last Thorn of Summer. One is an irreverent cheeseball of sillyness that found a way to write one of the funniest send ups of our beloved Indie Rock genre in quite some time; the other is a beautiful, talented band that is part indie and part modern folk. It's a little distracting, but it seems to work out ok. The hilarious song "My Brother in Law (Won't Go To Your Show)" chronicles what happens to aging indie rockers as they get into their 30s and have ultimately lose touch with the scene in which they were once immersed. Line's like "he used to DJ college radio, but that was 13 fuckin' years ago" ring true to all of us who are getting old and unable to keep up with all the new releases (the whole reason I started this blog). This song includes references to the Silver Jews, Unicorns, Built to Spill, and I think I heard a Polvo in there along with a few others. This song alone is worth having this CD. But, it is not the only highlight. Songs like Well A Day and Ship to Shore are wonderful mid-tempo numbers. Matador has an amazing sound with an incredible new wave keyboard solo. And then...there is this voice on the album that would put any 70s Van Morrison-esque crooner to shame in both it's timbre and sincerity. The best example of this voice is on the ending track "Good Things For You". It starts off slow and builds to a thundering conclusion that makes me well up a little. This is really a great record. Maybe since I'm getting old it hits me differently than it would have when I was 20 and just wanted to rock. But, regardless, this is a fantastic effort and is worth your time.
LA Tool & Die Website
LA Tool & Die Myspace

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Punch Brothers - Punch

Punch Brothers, whose name is taken from the Mark Twain short story, Punch, Brothers, Punch!, are just plain incredible. I know folk/bluegrass isn't for everyone, but this is some of the best music and musicianship I have heard in years. Masters of highs and lows, they do an amazing job of not making this the same old bluegrass you have heard time and time again. It is neither all happy-go-lucky, nor is it all songs about suffering and loss. Rather, it is filled with nuance, passion, and holds interest with masterful song craftmanship. I can't recommend this enough.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Red Collar - The Hands Up EP

Ok, I came across this a little after the fact. But, the song Used Guitars charmed me so much I had to find out more. Hailing from NC, Red Collar has a unique working man's sound that is quite interesting. A little bluesy, a little garagey, but all forthright and sincere. Everyone who misses Sleazefest should pick this up and feel comforted that a band in the SouthEast is out there still doing it right.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Mountain Goats - Heretic Pride

John Darnielle's has been going strong since 1995 with The Mountain Goats. Never bombastic, never over the top, the music has always been simple and straight forward in order to allow the sincere vocals and amazing lyrics to do the work. Heretic Pride is a fantastic album featuring songs about mythology, movie monsters, and everything else you can think of. This is another great album from a great songwriter.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Raveonettes - Lust Lust Lust

Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo are at it again. Blending 60s pop with mid-90s dirge rock, sweet harmonies, and angst ridden screams, Lust Lust Lust is a pretty fun record. Songs do tend to blend into each other after awhile, but if you listen one track at a time, it's pretty special.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Ex - Building A Broken Mousetrap DVD

Hailing from the Netherlands, The Ex have been creating their own brand of experimental rock since 1979! 15 albums later, they end up teaming with Touch and Go on a DVD release Building A Broken Mousetrap. Admittedly, not having heard much from The Ex prior to the dvd, this next statement is coming from their press release: The Ex developed over the years into a melting pot of divergent musical styles. Noise, jazz, improvisation, and ethnic music have been interwoven under one unique umbrella: Ex-music. Discordant, highly rhythmic guitars and the rolling, almost African drumming style give the music of The Ex its special character.

I'm not so sure about the African drumming statement, but the music on Building a Better Mousetrap harkens back to the mid-90s when Math Rock was all the rage and more bands were fringing on the edge of experimentalism and crazy rhythmic syncopations. Songs like Dog Tree would have made all of these bands green with envy. This is a pretty interesting watch. It will be challenging to those who are more attuned to indie pop. But, for the more adventurous, this is a must have.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Kelley Stoltz - Circular Sounds

A lot of people try to pull off the 60's sound, but few actually are as successful or innovative at it as Kelley Stoltz. Circular Sounds is full of warm, vibrant sounds. Horns, effortless harmonies, and happy melodies abound. The album also pretty entertaining cover of "Good Day Sunshine." The home recorded production values have even improved dramatically from Stoltz's earlier recordings. All in all, Circular Sounds is a pretty effortless spin!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Rescued from Obscurity circa 1996! The Feelings - Especially For You!

Ralf Youtz, best known for his work with The Halo Benders, The No-No's, and of course Built to Spill, had an amazing band in the mid-90s known as The Feelings! Their debut CD Especially For You was released by tiny, but amazing, label Pop Secret. The first time I heard it I fell in love. There is a fun, poppiness about this record that is missing from many of his other bands. Its as if this band existed merely to put a smile on everyone's face with strong hooks and funny lyrics. The band really consisted of two different types of singers, one bubble gum, sweet as syrup vocal, and one mush-mouthed, garbled, vocalist who's style is what you might expect from someone with a slight palsey. The instrumentation is pretty spectacular, too. It's as simple as guitar, bass, drums, and the casio keyboard that you had as a kid. The result is pure magic.

The opening track "Blowing My Mind Like a Summer Breeze" is an amazing 3 part opus that features lyrics such as "lets roll through the grass like fat little bees." Songs like * L-- (asterisk space L dash dash) are sheer genius. Or, better yet, there's Paculiar Girl which features the spoken word break down, "Darling I don't want to beg, I know I'm something of a bad egg, but quando, quando, quando?" Also, the album has perhaps the best "Born To Run" cover I have ever heard.

The Feelings had a great follow up album in 1997 called Dearling Darling. But after that, they just kinf of disappeared. If you can find a copy of this record or download one, I promise you will have the time of your life.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Miwa Gemini - This Is How I Found You

Miwa Gemini's This Is How I Found You is a pretty terrific album. Dark and seductive, Miwa's voice is a welcome departure from the traditional indie fare. The songwriting is clever and interesting ranging from old bluesy lamentations to really well done uptempo songs of disappointment, loss, and hope for the future. This album is perfect to play for those days when you just want to kick back, lose yourself in your thoughts, and think of every single good and bad thing that has ever happened to you in your life. I highly recommend This Is How I Found You.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

British Sea Power - Do You Like Rock Music

A thunderous start that, while not bad, never quite lives up to it's potential. That really kinda sums up the latest release from British Sea Power. Do You Like Rock Music is a decent album filled with thunderous joy and epic sounds that renews my passion for music. But, the songs themselves are a bit flat and not really up to snuff with the music supporting them. Musically, this is a great album. Lyrically and songcraftwise, this disappoints. So it's a conundrum for me. I would recommend at least listening to it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Grand Archives - The Grand Archives

I don't think I can say enough nice things about Grand Archives (Ex Band of Horses' Mat Brooke)! The Grand Archives reminds you of every thing good and pure, peaceful and beautiful in this world. Feel good country, swings and breezy, happy 60s pop motifs combine with indie sensibilities to create amazing songs that you can listen to over and over. The Grand Archives is a must have.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Throw Me The Statue - Moonbeams

Throw Me The Statue has made themselves one heck of an indie pop album! Moonbeams is full of amazing instrumentation, happy melodies, wonderful harmonies, and interesting instrumentation. One real stand out is the unique and innovative drum work on About To Walk. It helps transform the song from above average into truly special. The musicianship is really solid and interesting throughout. This is a solid effort that will totally delight indie pop-rock purists.

On a side note, Secretly Canadian does a real disservice to TMTS by comparing them musically to Neutral Milk Hotel's In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (visit the Sec Can website). It is a totally impossible standard for virtually any band to live up to. While not dissimilar to the Elephant 6 efforts of the 90s, Throw Me The Statue has done some fine work here that is original enough to merit a description that is based on their own creation and not some other band's laudits.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Times New Viking - Rip It Off

What a delicious fuzzball of fun! I was caught pleasantly off-guard by Times New Viking's 3rd release Rip It Off! Switching to Matador from a smaller label can sometimes be great, and sometimes a big, giant flopping albatross. This time, it's phenomenal. Bigger, badder, louder, noisier, key-boardier, the songs can't help but make you smile. This is one of the most enthusiastic recordings I have heard in a good while. You can hear the good times in every note.

Folklore - The Ghost of HW Beaverman

Folklore's The Ghost of HW Beaverman is a fantastically unique concept record! Fronted by Elf Power guitarist Jimmy Hughes, Beaverman focuses on the stories of how one man, HW Beaverman, basically upset the lives of almost everyone he came in contact with in a small town in upstate New York . Hughes spent years collecting these stories for a novel that never came to pass. Luckily for us, he used his considerable song writing skills to capture the stories in verse and share them with the world. Guest vocalists abound on this record all singing as various characters from the town telling their individual stories. Just to name a few: Andrew Rieger (Elf Power), Amy Dykes (I am the World Trade Center), Pete Erchick (Olivia Tremor Control)....The songs are poignant and provocative, heartbreaking and haunting. Truly a great effort by Hughes and absolutely everyone involved.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Biirdie - Catherine Avenue

Earnest and heartfelt, Biirdie's Catherine Avenue is a beautiful album. The interplay between boy/girl vocals is a real treat. My only concern on this album is the affected vocal stylings on some of the songs. One doesn't need to slur and pronounce things with a slight british accent for the words to be important. That aside, this is a quality album that deserves 45 minutes of your time. Excellent songwriting.

Friday, February 1, 2008

1994 Revisted - Built To Spill - There's Nothing Wrong With Love

I can't believe it has been 14 years since the release of Built To Spill's There's Nothing Wrong With Love! Since this was my first experience with Doug Martsch's epic indie stylings, it still has it's place in my heart as my favorite all time BTS record. Songs like Reasons, Car, Big Dipper, and In the Morning all showed us glimpses of what the future held for the band and secured their place as indie rock legends. The music was so different and the guitar work so much more imaginative than most of what was going on at the time. The sound helped define the entire indie genre and brought forth a decade's worth of imitators and homages.

Not only were the guitar riffs revolutionary, the lyrical content, while somewhat silly when read off of a sheet of paper, came to life with such sincerity that the emotional impact was almost devastating. For example, in the song Reasons, Martsch utterly nails the feeling of overwhelming passion one has when a love interest makes an appearance with the simple yet astonishingly perceptive phrase, "You arrive and I'm on fire." Let's not forget the incredible refrain in Car, "I wanna see movies of my dreams."

So, 14 years is a long time. Many of the people running college radio or getting into indie rock now were in elementary school in 1994. It's hard to imagine that this much time has passed. One thing is absolutely for certian, There's Nothing Wrong With Love has stood the test of time and is as relevant an album today as it was when it was first released. If you love indie rock, go out and get this album now.

Watch REASONS live:

Built to Spill Websites:

School of Language - Sea From Shore

Sea From Shore, the debut release from School of Language is really charming! Playful and inventive, tracks like Rocklist Part 1 (of 4) hook you immediately and never lose your attention. The U.K. always seems to be a little ahead of the curve when it comes to lovely pop that is sophisticated and happily whimsical at the same time. It's totally worth a listen.

Radar Bros. - Auditorium

The Radar Bros. have got it figured out. Musically they keep it simple and beautiful and let their lyrics and melodies do the work. On their 5th release, Auditorium, the Radar Bros. weave a dreamy haze of originality and musicianship. The Radar Bros. really have their own unique sound and ultimately deserve whatever success that comes their way.