Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Thermals @ the Triple Rock Last Night

2/27/07: The Thermals at the Triple Rock Social Club

Fire and heat jokes, ahoy! The Thermals blazed through a blistering set Tuesday, Feb. 27 at the Triple Rock Social Club.

The show opened up with Middlepicker. The name is about right – they were pretty average. The highlight of the set was when that guy showed up. Anyone who has ever been to a concert knows that guy. The guy looks like he could be 16, maybe a little older, and because he's so moved by the music, feels compelled to run up right in front of the stage and dance. The fact that the band wasn't playing dance music and that he does not, in fact, know how to dance does not deter this guy.

So he shuffles about, sure with his feet, but unsure with his arms. So, he ends up pointing to each band member as if to say "You are my sunshine. My rising star. Thank you." Part of me wanted to go dance with him, to show him he's not alone in this world.

But a bigger part of me wanted to go Jeff Tweedy on his face. And no, I don't mean tenderly sing a moving rendition of "Ashes of American Flags" while gazing into his eyes. I mean I wanted to flip out and punch him.

Well, it's a good thing I didn't, because I would have been kicked out. I would have missed the awesome second opener The Big Sleep. I don't normally like openers, but they were epic. From the skill of all three band members (In particular bass player Sonya Balchandani had superb technique. Just being able to watch her hands was worth it.) to the Earth-shattering force of their sound, I was impressed with all facets of their show. I'm a huge fan of both Sonic Youth and Spoon, and this band hit that sweet spot right in the middle of rhythm and noise.

And the Thermals just fucking rocked. It's so hard to say anything else about them. Everything about their performance was right on and I just don't know where to start.

I guess I'll start with their presence. I saw the Thermals the last time they were here, and they really have grown as a stage band since then. In particular, front man Hutch Harris has developed a much more identifiable stage presence. Especially with the delegation of some guitar duties to Joel Burrows, a tour guitarist who looks suspiciously like John Darnielle, Harris has really been able to come into his own. He dances around like the bastard child of a televangelist and Burt Bacharach. It's hotter than it sounds; trust me.

Naturally, the band drew heavily on material from their newest record, The Body, The Blood, The Machine. Since they played my favorite songs from their older records, I really can't complain. There's no shame in playing to your strengths, and the new record really puts solid rock songwriting at the forefront.

The band just pushed it throughout the entire show. Their records are so ridiculously high energy that it's hard to believe they could be topped. I have no idea how they do it, but The Thermals mounted an all-out auditory assault that makes their studio albums seem tame.

MySpace Page

(April Wright)

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Oh Yeah...I'm From Rolling Stone: Parts 5 and 6

Hola, Compadres!

I totally forgot about this feature I was doing. This is due to the fact that Sliver evolved into what I coloqually refer to as MFR. I'm having loads of fun explaining to my co-workers at my day job what the "F" stands for. Actually, that's not quite true. When I have to explain what the "F" is for, I usually just yell, "Frau Blücher," and then I run away while all of the horses in the stables get upset.

For those of you who are new to MFR and didn't read the Sliver website, allow me to explain what this feature was/is/will be. MTV and Rolling Stone, the nefarious kings of all things pop-culture, joined forces to produce, "I'm From Rolling Stone," a show about six young journalists competing for a writing gig at the birthplace of Lester Bangs and Hunter S. Thompson. Don't worry if you haven't heard of the show. The only two people watching it are myself and the folks over at Idolator.

Also, don't fret about not watching this show, as "I'm From Rolling Stone" is basically one not-so-glorious exercise in anti-climatic non-conflict. Normally, I'd be happy about a show with no tension whatsoever falling by the wayside and being canceled. But here's the rub: the reason that this show is boring is because the show is about making the journalists do actual work , rather than focus on whom is sleeping with whom. My God! A reality show where people do things!

In concordence with the show, is running a writing contest where the fine folk at home who are watching the show submit 300 word "articles" about a subject that, in some way, pertains to the episode which just aired. For example, the assignment for the episode where the gang goes to Lollapalooza (boy, did they screw the pooch on that one) was to design your own music festival, in 300 words or less. For the past seven weeks or so, I have been submitting articles for this contest, and then writing about how dumbed down my writing has gotten. I'm batting 0 for 5. I'd never thought I'd get depressed about something like this, but sweet jesus. The last assignment (which I missed, due to my visit to the Deuce Cities this past weekend) was to write an album review and, amongst the entries picked, two are favorable reviews of fucking Fall Out Boy? Argh!

The last time I wrote, I was about to see if my ladyfriend's entry about an African festival had won this round of the writing contest. Her entry was for assignment four, which was the create your own music festival one. Now that she hasn't, I can tell you about the fast one she pulled on the RS editors. She called her festival "Wota Memam Dhon!" which she translates as "Come Be With Us." In actuality, the phrase means "Don't Touch Me There!" Was this fact checked? Probably not.

For assignment five, I was to interview a local celebrity. I shot an e-mail to the editor of the other blog for which I write asking if she had any contacts. Because, oddly enough, I'm not exactly rubbing elbows with the big shots on a daily basis. Shocking, isn't it?

My editor gave me the name of her magazine's copy-editor, a chap by the name of Joel who plays in a band called Painkiller Hotel. Yikes. But Joel was nice, chatty, funny and enthusiastic about his band's prospects (they're playing SXSW in a couple of weeks and just recorded in Nashville). Though I can't reprint what I wrote (once you send your article, it's property of Rolling Stone), I can tell you that Joel made Nashville sound like the happiest place on Earth. We talked for 20 minutes, and I wrote a 300 word profile about the dude. I unfortunately couldn't find a context to print the quote I liked best, in which Joel discussed watching the lead singer of PH channel his "inner Bob Marely." But so it goes. You can only say so much when you have a word count.

Like I said, I missed assignment six. But for assignment seven, I'm supposed to pitch a story idea about the band who will next break wide. Goody!

Here are my ideas so far:

Mouthful of Bees
David Vandervelde
The Changes
Let's Get Out of This Terrible Sandwich Shop
M. Ward

That last one is in there because, let's face it, RS is about six to seven months behind the times. Or, I was thinking I would just make a band up. What do you think, dear reader? If you had to choose the next band to blow up big (in RS terms), who would you write about? How can I damn the man in the most subtle way possible? Let me know by leaving a comment in the...uh, comment section.

(Jonathan Graef)

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Lily Allen, Alright, Still

Ah, summer. The sunny blue … skies. And the warm, the warm, the …. Okay, so I don’t really remember anything about summer. Or blue skies. Or the sun. This admittedly stood in the way of fully enjoying Lily Allen’s unrelentingly summery Alright, Still, which is the sunniest record since … since … Uh, I can’t remember any other sunny records right now. Give me a couple months.

For some reason, Capitol Records decided to delay this CD’s release, despite being a huge hit in Britain upon its release there last July. This, of course, has only upped the expectations for its domestic release. If you’ve heard anything about the hyped-to-death album, you’ve likely heard everything about it – about its light, reggae-inflected sound; about Allen’s lilting, spirited delivery; about the songs that are beyond catchy. All of those rumors are true, as evidenced on the big single “Smile” and the perfect pop confection “LDN.”

That said, there is a surprising amount of drab filler on Alright, Then, such as the inane “Take What You Take,” which sounds like it was unearthed from a 1995 time capsule. (Allen sings “Say what you say, do what you do/Feel what you feel, as long as it’s real,” over a midtempo dance beat. Somewhere, the Spice Girls and the New Radicals are collaborating on a lawsuit). These songs make the record’s middle sag, but this only means either end is held up by pure pop buoyancy. It kicks off with “Smile” and the joyous “LDN”, and closes out with the playful, sibling-ribbing “Alfie” and a blissed-out Mark Ronson-produced remix of “Smile,” which ends the record on a Stax-reverent high.

Though Allen has become the poster child for the New Music Industry - she was signed to English label Regal Records last April mainly because of the songs on her MySpace page - Alright, Then is charmingly old-fashioned. Horns (albeit largely sampled) blare serenades, and Allen’s oft-discussed potty mouth lets loose rarely. Beats are strong, but only to provide Allen with a solid foundation for her sweet melodies.

Alright, Then isn’t quite the pop phenomenon you’ve heard about, but the record’s surrounding hype would have prevented that regardless. Instead, Alright, Then is exactly what you want to hear this time of year. It’s warm, it’s pleasant, it’s everything Minnesota lacks in February.

A word of warning, however: hearing Allen chirp, “Sun is in the sky, oh why, oh why/Would I wanna be anywhere else,” as she does on “LDN,” won’t make your sub-zero wait for the bus any warmer. It’ll just make it catchier, which, if you listen hard enough, is almost the same thing.

(David Brusie)


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Emo News Report

I don't even know what to say. This may be the funniest thing I've seen in years. Oh, this is real by the way; this was shown on a Devil's Lake-Grand Forks, N.D. WDAZ on Feb. 23.

(Ian Anderson)

Win Butler smashes

I've always thought that smashing a guitar is pretty lame. But for whatever reason, it seems oddly appropriate that Win Butler chose to end Arcade Fire's SNL appearance by beating the hell out of his acoustic. For whatever reason, these BIG ROCK MOVES are resonating with people again. Think Hold Steady, a band that, for all their lyrical complexity, essentially channels greasy '70s riff-rock. Butler is funneling something different, something darker, but sometimes I can't help but think that every Arcade Fire song is essentially a variation on "Sunday Bloody Sunday." And maybe that's not a bad thing? Butler's not ashamed to be shooting for catharsis, and he does it with less words than Springsteen and more grace than Bono.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

David Vandervelde - The Moonstation House Band

David Vandervelde
The Moonstation House Band (Secretly Canadian)
Grade: A-

Download: David Vandervelde - "Nothin' No"

Chicago native David Vandervelde is changing lives. I am no exception. The Moonstation House Band is already one of the best albums of 2007 in my book, and I dare a band to try to take its place.

Fighting the good fight for classic rock and roll, Vandervelde has brought back the no frills attitude of 1968 backed by some seriously great songwriting. His music possesses a swagger both powerful and dynamic and maintains a level of authenticity that bars any pretension.

Furthermore, his T.Rex-inspired riff-rock is flat out awesome. Not to mention the elaborate string accompaniments, which add to the already John Lennon-esque stylings of his smooth vocals -- "Wisdom From A Tree" sounds like it belongs on Sgt. Pepper, no joke. The production plays to Vandervelde's already-present psychedelic traits and accents the dreamy qualities in his loose songwriting and performance.

Here is "Nothin' No," my favorite track off the record, which actually gets me in the mood to listen to my Big Star records. Vandervelde's vocals are completely compelling and have a David Bowie quality that I haven't heard in quite some time.

To order the album, visit Secretly Canadian
MySpace Page

(Ian Anderson)

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Haley Bonar and Erin McKeown: the camera phone special!

Disclaimer: One of this post's subjects, Haley Bonar, is on Afternoon Records, in which some of this blog's writers have a financial interest. This doesn't change the fact, however, that Bonar is objectively awesome.

Download: Erin McKeown - "To The Stars"

I caught Haley Bonar and Erin McKeown at the Cedar last night, and hot damn. That was a show. Though I preferred McKeown's jazzy, bluesy, and extremely entertaining performance to Bonar's subdued, though lovely, set, the whole show was a perfect example of how the opener/headliner dynamic should work. Bonar gave what amounted to a beautiful warm-up; her songs easily filled the huge room, even though she only had a drummer as back-up.

McKeown came up next, and owned the stage from the first moment. McKeown's diminutive frame was already striking surrounded by the Cedar's giant space, and her look - bright orange t-shirt, yellow necktie, hair standing on end - made the overall visual immediately great. Then there's her songs, which sound timeless. Not only does she dip into both Tin Pan Alley and the Brill Building for inspiration, she does it in a way entirely her own. This is folk music that isn't exactly "folk" - it's part rockabilly, part swing, part pop. And McKeown's amazing guitar skills, played on an instrument making up a third of her size, are something to behold. She was backed by crack band Allison Miller on drums and Sam Kassirer on piano and organ.

Be a good music fan and check out her records Distillation, Grand, and Sing You Sinners (the latter being her new record, a covers album of standards).

(David Brusie)

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Record Review: Bobby Conn, King for a Day

Bobby Conn
King For A Day (Thrill Jockey)
Grade: A-

Bobby Conn has been a fixture on the Chicago music scene for ten years now. His notoriety in the Chi-town scene is more than likely due the fact that, in past interviews, Conn made the following claims: that he is the anti-Christ; that he chopped off a finger to remove a wedding ring; and that he is the last frontier of rock-star sexuality. Conn is also notorious for his absurd, hypersexual lyrics. For example, on “Whore” (found on 2001’s The Golden Age ), he sings from the perspective of a half-toothed prostitute giving a blowjob (!).

With this information in mind, it’s easy to say that Conn’s outlandishness has overshadowed the music he has made in the past decade. However, with his last two records, 2004’s The Homeland , and the just-released King for a Day , Conn has made strides toward maturity. He’s made the sexuality in his music implicit rather than explicit, and his lyrical concerns are now more political than sexual. The Homeland was a work of political satire, but at times was too explicit with its message, too obvious in its intent.

King for a Day , on the other hand, leaves the excess strictly in the music and shifts the emphasis from satire to allegory. The result of Conn’s focused ambitions is an album that stands up on repeated listens and is compelling from beginning to end; also, it rawks like a beast!

The best part about listening to King for a Day is hearing Conn-the-ambtious-songwriter-storyteller go head-to-head with Conn-the-entertainer. It’s a battle that goes on throughout the album, and one that makes King for a Day delightfully idiosyncratic.

You’ve got songs like the 8-minute epic opener “Vanitas,” (which starts off with a quiet, Texas-style blues riff, adds prog-rock and jazz influences, then ends with a some jamming worthy of Sabbath) standing next to “When The Money’s Gone,” a song that is essentially Motown with a harpsichord. Other of King’s highlights include the grinding bass of “(I’m Through With) My Ego,” the uptempo glam-rocker “Anybody,” and the reflective, Aimee Mann-influenced ballad “Mr. Things” (sung by violinist Monica Boubou).

With King for a Day , Conn gives the listener a strong example of what can happen when an artist channels all of their ambitions and influences into one quirky, memorable, grandiose statement. The result of Conn’s efforts is his most cohesive album yet.

Also, did I mention that this album will rock you like a hurricane?

(Jonathan Graef)

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Arcade Fire, Live at Judson Memorial Church

NPR released their recording of Arcade Fire's Feb. 17 New York show at the Judson Memorial Church for free download. It is a bit quiet and some parts are hard to make out at times, but its definitely a cool listen -- especially for the new songs.

Download: Arcade Fire - Live at Judson Memorial Church (Live)

(Ian Anderson)

Musicals and Dying Cities

Andrew Bird
Armchair Apocrypha
Grade: A-

Download: Andrew Bird - "Heretics"

When Andrew Bird’s first couple of albums came out, he was referred to in the press as “the violinist from the Squirrel Nut Zippers.” As his solo releases progressed – beginning with Andrew Bird’s Bowl of Fire in 1997 and especially upon the release of 2003’s Weather Systems – people started realizing that they were listening to someone who was more than a violinist. Andrew Bird, they realized, is a great singer-songwriter.

The “singer-songwriter” tag has its shortcomings too, because describing Bird’s music is an exercise in futility. There are acoustic guitars, but – despite a few of his records appearing on Ani Difranco’s Righteous Babe label – he’s not exactly “folk.” Instead, his records are best described by moments: swirling violins; thumping, pulsating drums; Bird’s soaring, seemingly elastic voice.

These are all present on Armchair Apocrypha, a release whose hype has grown as Bird’s live reputation has grown. Bird toured with Martin Dosh last fall (even making a quick stop in Minneapolis for a couple shows with Dosh at Bryant-Lake Bowl). Dosh’s improvisational, sample-laden approach proved a perfect fit for his collaborator, and his guest spot on Armchair Apocrypha also works well with Bird’s overall motif. This record doesn’t stray too far from Andrew Bird’s well-worn formula, but since that formula includes good songs, it doesn’t need to. Leadoff track “Fiery Crash,” with its head-nodding beat and steady, two-chord progression, is a perfect introduction to this consistently solid disc. Things get a bit more complicated from there – from the minor-key tango of “Imitosis” to the piano arpeggios of “Scythian Empires” – but never overly so.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the best track on Armchair Apocrypha is also its most concise. “Plasticities” starts with gently plucked violins and some vague guitar chords, but it soon snaps into pop lockstep, with a chorus featuring Bird singing, “We’ll fight/we’ll fight for your musicals and dying cities.” It’s simply a gem of a song, one that may be featured a little too early on the album to make a significant impression.

For this reason, the album sags on its second half. The songs aren’t bad, but, with the exception of “Scythian Empires,” they are not nearly as memorable as the record’s early tracks. But on the whole, this collection is well worth your money, if only for its amazing highlights.

(David Brusie)

Live Review: Sparklehorse @ First-Ave

Live Review: Sparklehorse @ First-Ave (2/19)
Grade: B-

It's not every day that I see an opening band better than the headliner, but this was definitely the case at the Jesse Sykes/Sparklehorse show on February 19th.

Jesse Sykes and her band, the Sweet Hereafter were just great. It's easy for an alt-country girl to get lost in the explosion of female talent in the genre, but she really stood out. Most of that owes to the fact that she owes a lot more to the "country" than the "alt."

Often, her music featured twangy, vibrato-heavy, western sounds not unlike Nancy Sinatra. But she still pulled it off with the style and flair of Patti Smith. I was really impressed with the mixture of country, confessions and raw energy in her performance.

Sparklehorse was all right. They were three main flaws with their performance:

1.) Mark Linkous' voice: It just didn't sound that good tonight. He normally sounds great on record, but tonight he just sounded a little rough, tired and bored.

2.) Linkous' mediocre performance exacerbated a lot of annoying lyrical details I don't normally notice. Has he always sounded like some absurdist Japanese poet and I never noticed?

3.) The drummer for this tour kept pounding on his drums like Thor bringin' down the hammer. His drunken posturing was annoying and totally took me out of the moment.

But the performance wasn't a total bust. Much to their credit, the band was awesome musically. They were very together, especially on "Don't Take My Sunshine Away," and replicated the lushness of their studio albums admirably. On top of it, there was more energy and more motion on stage than I anticipated. I came not expecting much (we've all heard about Linkous' dottiness onstage and off), and I left happy.

(April Wright)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Live Review: The Plastic Constellations, 2/13/07

Download: The Plastic Constellations - Sancho Panza
Download: The Plastic Constellations - Davico

The last time we checked in with The Plastic Constellations, the band had just released its first album with national indie bigwigs, Frenchkiss Records. One year later, the wonder boys from Hopkins have hit the road in support of Crusades five times, playing over a hundred shows in most of the lower 48 and garnering considerable critical buzz along the way.

Last Tuesday, St. Olaf College was lucky enough to host the hardest working band in Minneapolis before they break to write another record, and the well-oiled road warriors showed off their live prowess, treating a small and energetic crowd to another fearsome display of chunk rock.

Relaxing before the show with a game of Buck Hunter, the band was enthusiastic to be back in the Twin Cities.

"We’ve been on the road so much lately, it's good to be back and see our girlfriends. 2006 was the craziest year of our life," guitarist and vocalist Jeff Allen said. "Touring is a lifestyle choice, and it’s not a normal lifestyle."

Of course, the Plastic Constellations are not a normal band. They've already logged eleven years together, which is particularly noteworthy considering no band member has hit 27 yet.

"We've been doing this rock band thing together since we were 14," Allen said. "But this is the first year that we actually did multiple big national tours and really pushed ourselves."

TPC's push has clearly paid off. Leading off with the biting punk-stomp of "Sancho Panza," the band moved, shook and pounded like a tightly coiled machine. Always a stellar live act, the band's sacrificed some of its loose energy for precision, but their collective passion remains palpable.

Instead of just moshing away into a sweaty oblivion, the band focused more on dynamics, capturing the little quirks that elevate their songs above the fray, like the wiggling guitar line on "Quixote" or the power chord snap of "Bring What You Bring."

But don't get me wrong: TPC still play with enough fire to burn any house down. As Atmosphere once put it, "This city is not big enough to hold their energy." True to form, the band worked themselves into a frenzy more than a few times, immediately establishing a rapport with the small, supportive crowd, and using the relaxed setting as an opportunity to cut loose.

Tired of pimping Crusades for over a year, the band played a healthy dose of material from 2004’s Mazatlan, including an absolutely searing take on “Davico.” At the end of their set, they even let St. Olaf junior Brendan Golle join them onstage for an impromptu freestyle. After the crowd practically forced Golle onstage, TPC launched into Jay-Z's "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" so Brendan could, as Allen put it, spit fire.

But most exciting for longtime fans was the opportunity to hear the band test out some new material, all of which will be on the band's next record. The new songs, while obviously rough in spots, showed tremendous promise. The group hopes to go back into the studio this spring, with an eye on preparing another record for release before the New Year.

"We’ve written four songs and we'll hopefully record with Joe Mabbot in late spring." Aaron Mader, the group's other guitarist, said. "We've got a lot of ideas right now. This last time around, we got to make our big, larger-than-life rock record. Now we want to take that sound we found on Crusades and fuse it with the poppier stuff we've been writing.”

Judging by the band's weighty performance to a smattering of St. Olaf students on a snowy Tuesday night, any TPC release will continue to deserve our complete and unbridled attention.

(Pete Farrell)

Happy Birthday Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain would have been 40 years old today. Hard to believe, right?

While you drink to Kurt, read NME's greatest Nirvana moments and watch the band at the height of its power.


We still miss you, Kurt...

Monday, February 19, 2007

So Many Dynamos - Flashlights

So Many Dynamos
Flashlights (Skrocki)
Grade: B+

Download: So Many Dynamos - "In Every Direction"

The first time I heard So Many Dynamos’ new record Flashlights, Ryan Wabash was shifting nervously on my couch trying to make himself comfortable.

“Remember, this is the unmastered version,” he assures me, again.

Norm, the drummer, is sitting with his legs crossed on the couch across from Ryan and I – he’s picking at his nails and air drumming. Griffin, the other guitar player with the boyish charm, is eating some macaroni and cheese with sliced up bits of tofu dogs that I found in my mother's fridge. I just pulled the hot pot off the stove as Ryan and I were ripping on Thunderbirds Are Now! Aaron Stovall, the singer and synth player, is up in my old bedroom already asleep.

I’m house sitting for my parents while they’re in Europe and, naturally, So Many Dynamos are spending the night.

So Many Dynamos’ first full-length album, When I Explode, was a gem of savvy pop, hidden in the guise of dueling guitars, thumping drums and chaotic arrangements. Flashlights is the same, but better.

Plagued with Dismemberment Plan comparisons for the past 40,000 years, Dynamos have yet to receive the critical acclaim they readily deserve – except for a very nice 7.8 provided by Pitchfork Media. Kudos. Yeah, I mean, so what if they're nerds, they write great songs.

Energetic as always, Flashlights expands on the standard Dynamos sound to incorporate horns, piano, large choral arrangements, and even a banjo.

Stepping into his own, Stovall is finding his voice. It's hard to be witty and not sound like an ass, lucky for us, Stovall has been able to crack the formula. Spinning line on top of line and laced with innuendo, there's never a dull moment. Not to mention that the guitars slay -- Wabash admitted to his attempts at ripping off Cinemechanica, which is not entirely true, Dynamos' riffs have always been killer, and dare I say, dynamic.

"In Every Direction" is my favorite beast off the disc. I am particularly fond of the line "Planes and trains and Auto-tuners" and the "Let me see that thong" melody line behind the chorus. This is by no means the catchiest song off Flashlights, which is saying something, but it definitely rocks.

MySpace Page
(Ian Anderson)

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

On the wings of a dream...

So I'm working on this uber-serious review of the new Bloc Party album, A Weekend in the City, but a friend of mine showed me this video, and nothing matters anymore. Prepare yourself for an onslaught of EXTREME POWER METAL from DRAGONFORCE, London's most gargantuan, colossal, immense, overpowering, mammoth, monumental, towering, titanic, titilatingly epic band.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

New Arcade Fire Track

Download: The Arcade Fire - "Antichrist Television Blues"

I got this in the mail today and was completely refreshed to discover that at least one band is still making good music. Plus, it makes reference to my favorite lullaby. Yey Arcade Fire!

(Ian Anderson)

Fall Out Boy Is Totally Lame

Fall Out Boy
Infinity On High (Island)
Grade: D

Fall Out Boy - "Thnks fr th Mmrs"
My Chemical Romance - "The Sharpest Lives"

As you all know, I love the pop-punk music. Always have, always will; it's just the way I'm made. All my friends hide their faces in their hands whenever this fact comes up in conversation, they claim to wonder how I have yet been unable to leave the lame TRL-annointed genre behind. The answer: I love the hooks.

Personal City Pages-esque digression aside, this means that I pick up a copy of every major pop-punk release, and last week's Fall Out Boy record was next on my list.

Unfortunately, it turns out that Fall Out Boy's new record Infinity On High sucks complete ass. Apparently, they've lost all that was good (in the pop-punk sense) and green about them and replaced that void with the worst aspects Maroon 5 and best aspects of My Chemical Romance. Seriously, what were producer Neal Avron and FOB thinking? Granted, Jay-Z makes a special guest appearance on the lead track "Thriller," which is definitely cool because Jay-Z owns, but there are 1.5 good songs on the album, "This Ain't A Scene It's An Arms Race" is by far the best.

"Golden," the soft piano jam avec strings is one of the worst songs I've heard, check out this lyric: "Tongues on the sockets of electric dreams when the sewage of youth drowned the spark of my teens," it sounds like they ripped it off from "My Lady 'L,'" the song written by that tall guy from "Freaks and Geeks" for Lindsay Wier.

However, the true kicker is "Thnks fr the Mmrs" ("Thanks for the Memories" for those who appreciate vowels), which appears to be thrown in after the band realized My Chemical Romance's Black Parade totally kicked ass and sold records. With a near identical verse, chord progession and mood as My Chemical Romance's "The Sharp Lives," which is actually a killer song, I haven't heard as big of a rip off as this since Green Day's "American Idiot" ripping off Dillinger Four.

Here are the two songs next to each other. Specifically, listen to the first 30 seconds of each song right after the other and be shocked.

(Ian Anderson)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Menomena, Friend and Foe

Friend and Foe (Barsuk)
Grade: C

Download: Menomena - "Wet and Rusting"

Menomena's Friend and Foe is the most overrated record of the year. The odd thing about this record is that, while all of the songs on Friend and Foe have different stylistic foundations, every single melody on the record sound the same. They all have the same sort of siren-sounding, singsongy quality of children’s songs like “Ring around the Rosy.”

Normally, this wouldn’t bother me, as everyone likes singing along to singsongy melodies. But when you hear this type of melody in literally every song, it gets really annoying, really quickly.

The main reason, however, why this record is overrated is because once you get past the admittedly cool way that Menomena layers their sound and the way that their record is produced, you’ll find that Friend and Foe is just a sonic pastiche of better, more interesting bands. Essentially, Menomena sound like a blue-eyed soul version of TV on the Radio.

Friend and Foe begins with “Muscle N’ Flo,” a song about a certain grind of the day-to-day variety. The track begins with a brief, drum-heavy intro, before the vocals start hovering over a trance-inducing bass line. As "Muscle N' Flo" progresses, two guitars make their musical presence known; one with a low-fi fuzzy quality, the other a slide-guitar. Even further into the song, the listener hears a coda with a twinkling piano, a humming B3 Hammond Organ and, eventually, the addition of a rumbling brass section.

It's impressive that Menomena can have a varied amount of instrumentation and sonic trickery to their songs without having their compositions become complete messes. But the whole time I was listening to “Muscle N’ Flo,” I couldn't help but think of its resemblance to Wilco's song “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” (particularly the way that the cymbal crashes in each song).

What the two songs also have in common is that they kick off records that try to blend avant-garde arrangements with folksy melodies. The reason why a band like Wilco succeeds and a band like Menomena fails is that if you stripped away all of the ambience and quirky production touches that "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" has, you would still end up with something that's pretty great (i.e., the demo version of the song which opens the Wilco documentary).

Now imagine that you are stripping away the ambient and quirky ingredients of "Muscle N' Flo" or the tribal-drum enhanced "Air Aid" or the Beatles-esque pop of "Rotten Hell." What would you get?

For me, I got the realization that the parts of Friend and Foe are greater than its sum. This record is more about what's in the background of the songs (the arrangements, if you will), as opposed to the foreground (the melodic content of the songs themselves).

Having said that, Friend and Foe does have a few good songs on it. "My My" is an excellent piece of crescendo-rock, and "Boyscout N" has a group-whistled melody which gives the track a wonderfully demented sense of whimsy.

But all in all, I just wasn't impressed with Menomena, and I have to say that the hype surrounding their latest LP is utterly unwarranted.

(Jonathan Graef)

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Monday, February 12, 2007

The Foundry Field Recordings

Download: The Foundry Field Recordings - "Warning Raids Over Kiev"

The Foundry Field Recordings released their debut full-length Prompts/Miscues in June 2006, but I haven't met anyone who has actually heard this great record. FFR had a steady stint on the CMJ charts, but this sleepy gem passed by quietly without anyone noticing.

Obvious influences Built to Spill and Modest Mouse are there, but the Foundry Field Recordings work within the standard genre of indie-riff-rock to make something a bit more fresh and artful. Much of this is due to lead singer Billy Schuh's completely captivating voice -- you know the type: the kind that makes you put down your drink at the bar and interrupt conversations.

"Warning Raids Over Kiev" is my favorite track off the record. It begins with a great dissonent build that turns into a Pixies-esque guitar line before switching gears into a great vocally-driven groove. I'm afraid to liken them to Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin (they're both from Columbia, MO -- okay, Boris is from Springfield, but close enough), but FFR has captured an equally-as-cool living room feel that really works for this track and the album in general.

They made a less sonically pleasing, but still cool EP Fathers As Robots in 2005 that is also worth picking up. Check out their MySpace page for details.

(Ian Anderson)

Friday, February 09, 2007

Our Wildest Dreams Have Come True: Peel

Peel is a new blogger download program that functions as an automatic mp3 updater for all of your favorite blogs. Peel allows you to subscribe to blogs and get notified when new music is posted on any given blog of your choice. You can then download each track, preview it in Peel's iTunes-like audio player, then download the track to your iTunes library. It's really get. Check it out HERE. Don't forget to add us to your list!

(Ian Anderson)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

These guys are GAY...GAY BEASTS!

Download: id politic

Gay Beast make magic marker music. Smashing together broad blasts of neon-pink punk guitar and spastic drums, the band's songs are wobbly and chaotic chunks of red-hot rawk. The vocals leave a little to be desired, but you don't listen to a band like Gay Beast and expect some Celine Dion style vocal acrobatics. No, you listen to a band like Gay Beast when you want to inspire blood-splattering bedlam. To tell you the truth, I don't know much about this Minneapolis-based band's backstory, and their myspace doesn't exactly help. This is the information they offer: "SHIFT!!!!! Minneapolis. big gay stopping yes/no/yes starting music lives. touch it and it touches back!!!!!!!!!!!! Crack the unicorn horn open and spread the marrow on your chest. It's the only cure for a broken heart."

There you have it; Gay Beast is the best cure for a broken heart. Expect more from us on these guys later. Until then, you can check out the band's website and listen to some dope tracks, like id politic.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Tapes 'n Tapes Tour Dates

Starting off with what will probably be one of the best shows of the season, the leaders of the new free world (Tapes 'n Tapes) have annonced their spring tour dates, which includes a set at Coachella. Also, stay tuned for a feature and interview with the guys sometime in the next two weeks.

Here are the dates:

02.23.07 - St Paul, MN (Fitzgerald Theater with Chuck Klosterman)
03.10.07 - Mexico City, Mexico (MX Beat @ Deportivo)
04.16.07 - Columbia, MO (Blue Note)
04.17.07 - St.Louis, MO (Creepy Crawl)
04.18.07 - Nashville, TN (Mercy Lounge)
04.20.07 - Dallas, TX (Gypsy Tea Room)
04.21.07 - Austin, TX (Emo's)
04.22.07 - Houston, TX (Numbers)
04.27.07 - Indio, CA (COACHELLA)
05.02.07 - San Francisco, CA (Great American Music Hall)
05.04.07 - Portland, OR (Dante's)
05.05.07 - Seattle, WA (Neumo's)
05.06.07 - Vancouver, BC (Plaza Club)
05.09.07 - Denver, CO (Bluebird Theater)
05.10.07 - Omaha, NE (Sokol Underground)
05.11.07 - Des Moines, IA (Vaudeville Mews)
05.12.07 - Chicago, IL (The Abbey | Two shows)
05.15.07 - Montreal, QC (Le National)
05.16.07 - Toronto, ON (Lee's Palace)
05.18.07 - New York, NY (Irving Plaza)
05.19.07 - Boston, MA (Paradise Rock Club)
05.23.07 - Columbus, OH (The Basement)
05.24.07 - Newport, KY (Southgate House)

(Ian Anderson)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A Good Band is Easy to Kill

Last night, I watched "A Good Band is Easy to Kill," a documentary chronicling Beulah's last tour. Appropriately, the band is touring in support of Yoko, an album about break-ups, because "A Good Band is Easy to Kill" is not so much a tour documentary but a film about a band on the verge of its own breakup.

Infamously, the movie opens with Miles telling an interviewer that Yoko is a "realer" album than Dylan's Blood on the Tracks. The opening interview sets the tone for the rest of the film; Miles is so desperate for success, you get the sense that he really doesn't understand why Dylan gets critical props and mainstream acceptance while he has to settle for indie-kudos. Even though the film is a little slow, it's a fascinatingly realistic and empathetic portrait of an aging band that knows its window for financial success and security has passed, a band stuck in obscurity when obscurity is no longer glamourous. On the other hand, Miles & co. recorded music that meant something to a lot of people, and part of their general disillusion must stem from that passion – I don't think Miles knows what to do besides make music. And he certainly made some beautiful music.

Check out the film here
(Pete Farrell)

Chris Martin and Ricky Gervais

I considered not posting this, but I cracked right before bed. Enjoy.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Movie Trailer

March 23 is the day we will aln learn to love again. And live again. And, in turn, love. Here is the trailer (that just came out today, woot) for the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie entitled: Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters. Genius.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Weekend Plans (2/2)

Things to do in the Twin Cities this weeked:


5PM(AA)/9PM(ID) at the Triple Rock - Minneapolis
The Plastic Constellations
Hockey Night
The Future

9PM(ID) at the Uptown Bar - Minneapolis
Halloween, Alaska
Jeremy Messersmith

9PM(ID) at the Turf Club - St. Paul
Die Electric
A Night In the Box
Mouthful of Bees

The Broken West - Down in the Valley

Download: The Broken West - Down in the Valley

The Broken West sound like a California band. Their first full-length, I Can't Go On, I'll Go On, is chock full of "sunny" melodies that seem tailor-made for the next OC compilation. That's not necessarily a criticism, either. Quality power-pop albums are few and far between, and, for all its faults, I Can't Go On, I'll Go On is a fine record. Certainly, the band's songs go down easy, and the record is strikingly consistent. But consistent records are often unmemorable records, and that's The Broken West's biggest problem: I Can't Go On has no real low points, but it doesn't have any high points, either. The record is flat – no valleys, no peaks. It's like sex without the orgasm, vanilla ice cream with no chocolate sauce. You get the idea.

I'm probably being a little too harsh; I really do enjoy the album. It just strikes me that the only chorus that's managed to stick in my brain is from "Down in the Valley," a driving slice of pop-rock that reminds me of the first few Beulah records, replacing that band's tinny horns with warm synths and sturdier guitars. Check out the record here

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Lay & Love

Download: Bonnie"Prince" Billy - Lay & Love

There is something strangely haunting about all of Will Oldham's music. His cracked, threadbare voice and somber songs are like little wisps of Southern wind floating in from some desolate American hinterland. Occasionally, Oldham lets his minimalism work against him, and his songs suffer from emotional inertia. But for the most part, Oldham knows when to let the light break through his dark compositions; he knows the power of a simple lyric of love or a major chord when the mood is decidedly minor.

"Lay and Love," his latest twelve-inch single, comes hot on the heels of the well received The Letting Go. Unfairly overlooked on critics' year-end lists, The Letting Go found Oldham stretching out, forgoing the starkness of Master and Everyone and indulging in expansive string arrangements and layered instrumentation. The results were striking, and the record lacked none of the emotional heft of its predecessors.

Here, Oldham abandons that approach and strips down, and, once again, the strength of his songwriting saves the tune from being too dry, too bare, too severe. But I can't help but wonder whether one of those fancy Letting Go arrangements would give the song a little more room to breathe.

(Pete Farrell)

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