Thursday, May 31, 2007

Jack White Gets Pissed at Chicago DJ Over Leaked "Icky Thump"

Download: The White Stripes - "Icky Thump"

I don't really listen to a lot of terristrial radio, let alone terristrial radio that plays a lot of mainstream-alternative music, but I saw this on Idolator and it caught my eye. One of the DJ's at Chicago radio station Q101 got a leaked copy of "Icky Thump," the new record from The White Stripes. The DJ played the record in its entirety on the air. Apparently, Jack White got wind of all this and was none too happy about it. Long story short, White called up the station and the DJ to complain, and told the DJ that she was "ruin(ing) the music industry."

Electra, the DJ in question, tells all about the encounter on her blog.

Now, if I were Jack White, I'd probably be unhappy that someone had played a leaked, poor quality, version of my record on the radio. That said, is it really constructive to yell at people about it? Doesn't yelling at someone about how they're ruining the music industry make White sound like the rock music equivalent of Bill O'Reilly?

(Jonathan Graef)

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New Blonde Redhead Video

This video, the latest from Blonde Redhead (and taken from their most recent album 23), was directed by Mike Mills. No, not the REM bassist, but rather, the director of acclaimed indie Thumbsucker. The conceit of "Top Ranking" is that the video is "one pose per second," so the model (film director Miranda July, best known for helming Me and You and Everyone We Know) strikes over 200 poses. From what I understand, it's a live-action take-off on stopmotion animation.
Pretty cool stuff.

(Jonathan Graef)

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New Tegan and Sara Songs

Download: Tegan and Sara - "The Con"
Download: Tegan and Sara - "Back In Your Head"

Tegan and Sara leaked two new songs yesterday, however, I found five. I guess someone else leaked three more. But to be the honorable chap that I am, I will only post the two songs that Tegan and Sara intended to leak because, well, I want to marry them.

Both of the songs are great and at the same time both a departure from and a return to their two most recent albums. Simple, sexy and completely kick ass.

The Con, the new album to which I reference, will be out July 24 and just so happened to be produced by Chris Walla. Very cool.

MySpace Page
(Ian Anderson)

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

White Rabbits - Fort Nightly

Grade: A-

Let's face it - sometimes us bloggers are full of shit. Tempted by the prospect of being the first person to hype a hype-worthy band, we overdo it a little bit. So I'm often resistant to even my own colleagues' opinions about the supposed Next Big Thing.

These were the circumstances in which I found myself when listening to blog favorites White Rabbits. These, in many ways, were ideal circumstances. Not only were my expectations lower than usual, I was able to hear the record with a bit of healthy skepticism. I should also note that a good friend of mine knows the band, and she had recommended them to me. This made me more curious, and in terms of balancing my skepticism, the personal recommendation didn't hurt.

I'm glad I listened. Fort Nightly isn't quite indie's second coming, but no one said it was supposed to be, and I don't think that's what Brooklyn's White Rabbits are going for, anyway. No, they're going for fast, melodic, fun rock 'n' roll, the kind Hot Hot Heat used to make before they went corporate. They're going for The Walkmen with horns, or whatever lazy comparison works for you. White Rabbits aren't necessarily going for something new, they're aiming for the pleasure center of your brain.

When they succeed, the results are glorious. The best track for my money is "While We Go Dancing," a song with an irresistible piano hook underneath an irresistible vocal hook, and a song with the perfect amount of energy to improve your bus ride. It's a sweet piece of pop, and tracks that stick to this genral formula - specifically, the cymbal-crashing fury of "The Plot" and the vaguely Eastern European lilt of "Kid On My Shoulders" - make the best impression. "Kid On My Shoulder" starts off the record, and when the "We held our tongues throughout it/One day we'll laugh about it" refrain kicks in, you have no choice but to succumb to White Rabbits.

One of the band's biggest strengths is its arrangements. These songs have hooks, energy, and fun, but they also bring with them a heavy dose of keyboards and horns. "Navy Wives" chugs along nicely enough at first, but then some tinkly piano comes in with the usual guitar, and you realize what a difference a unique instrument makes. The same song features what sounds like a baritone saxophone, and it somehow fits right in.

Fort Nightly isn't perfect - this blizzard of shaky pop is a little too unrelenting for its own good - but it's a more-than-solid rock/pop record, just in time for summer. And if you're after more than that, you're listening wrong.

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Live Video of The Jesus Lizard (Courtesy of Pitchfork)

Download: The Jesus Lizard - "Puss"
Download: The Jesus Lizard - "Then Comes Dudley"

Pitchfork has a live clip of legendary Chicago noise-rock band The Jesus Lizard performing their song “Boilermaker” (from their album Liar) at the Venus de Milo in Boston way back in 1994. The footage is part of a new DVD being released next week by MVD Visual called “Live.” The DVD is an entire show of David Yow (regarded as one of the most awesomely confrontational lead singers ever to grace a stage) and company tearing shit up on stage and will be on video on June 5th.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with The Jesus Lizard, here is the Wikipedia page on the band. Below you’ll find several videos I have found posted on YouTube, of the band performing at Chicago’s The Vic Theatre in 1996. Best part is the beginning of the “Wheelchair Epidemic” video. You’ll know what I mean.

(Fly on the Wall)

(Bloody Mary)

(Destroy Before Reading)

(Wheelchair Epidemic)

(Jonathan Graef)

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Low Quality Footage of the first Police concert in 20 years

Here is some footage of The Police performing "Walking In Your Footsteps" from their first reunion show, which was on the 27th of May. It may not be the greatest quality, but when seeing the band in question costs 250 claims, I'll take YouTube over the real thing any day of the week.

(Jonathan Graef)

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Fields - Everything Last Winter

Everything Last Winter (Black Lab Records/Atlantic)
Grade: B

Download: Fields - "Song for the Fields"
Download: Fields - "Feathers"
Download: Fields - "You Brought This On Yourself"

Not enough indie bands sound like Yes. I think that's why I like Fields; they remind me of Yes, even though they don't have a wackjob lead singer like Jon Anderson, whose nonsensical hippie ravings continue to confound dorky stoners everywhere. But despite their lack of a Jon Anderson persona, Fields still are interesting, mostly because they write pretty folk songs that are doused in thick and pretty guitars. Dense and intense, this band is exciting and bursting with ideas, which is why I don't quite understand the cool critical reception Everything Last Winter, the debut album from the English/Icelandic band, has received. Last year, the group's EP, 7 From the Village, got a number of people excited (myself included) about the group's explosive potential. Everything Last Winter makes good on that initial promise, delivering a solid batch of folk-infused melodies and heavy, Zeppelin-style guitar jams. Maybe it's not the revelation people expected, but it's certainly a captivating take on tired classic rock motifs. Highlights include the opener "Song for The Fields," which is driven by a titanic drumbeat, "Feathers," "You Brought This on Yourself" and "If You Fail We All Fail."

(Pete Farrell)

New Video from The Narrator

Download: The Narrator - "Surfjew"
Download: The Narrator - "Start Parking"

Lots of news lately from Chicago's The Narrator, all of it quite good. First, the band released a video for the song "Breaking The Turtle," from their newly released album, All That To The Wall. That one you can find posted above. Second, the band staged a triumphant show this past Sunday (5/27/07) opening for fellow Flameshovel labelmates Bound Stems and Russian Circles at Chicago's the Double Door. The show was free, and, yes, I attended, and a good time was had by all. Expect a review of the concert sometime in the next couple of days. Thirdly, the band was featured as Spin's Band of The Day this past Friday (5/25/07). And last, but certainly not least, the band is about to launch a nationwide tour in support of All That To The Wall. Dates are posted below:

05.31.07 @ The Waiting Room | Omaha, NE
w/ Cursive, Malpais
06.01.07 @ Larimer Lounge | Denver, CO
06.02.07 @ Kilby Court | Salt Lake City, UT
06.04.07 @ Comet Tavern | Seattle, WA
w/ The End of the World
06.05.07 @ Towne Lounge | Portland, OR
w/ The End of the World
06.06.07 @ Press Club | Sacramento, CA
w/ The End of the World
06.07.07 @ Hotel Utah Saloon | San Francisco, CA
w/ The End of the World, Dame Satan, Cervantes
06.09.07 @ Che Cafe | La Jolla, CA
w/ The End of the World, Lanterns, Cancer Leo
06.11.07 @ Knitting Factory | Hollywood, CA
w/ The End of the World
06.12.07 @ Modified | Phoenix, AZ
06.14.07 @ Emo's | Austin, TX
w/ Ume, Bring Back the Guns
06.16.07 @ Rudyard's | Houston, TX
06.17.07 @ Fletch & Gabe's House | 440 E. State | Baton Rouge, LA
06.19.07 @ Lucky's Pub | Wilmington, NC
w/ The Ataris
06.20.07 @ Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar | Charlottesville, VA
w/ Cataract Camp
06.21.07 @ Maxwell's | Hoboken, NJ
w/ House and Parish
06.23.07 @ Cake Shop | New York, NY
w/ The Subjects
06.24.07 @ T. T. the Bear's | Cambridge, MA
06.25.07 @ Black Cat | Washington, DC
w/ Cataract Camp, The Ear The Eye The Arm
06.26.07 @ Bug Jar | Rochester, NY
06.28.07 @ Carabar | Columbus, OH
w/ Get Him Eat Him
06.30.07 @ Beat Kitchen | Chicago, IL
w/ Get Him Eat Him (18+)
08.01.07 @ Beachland Ballroom | Cleveland, OH
w/ Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, The Jai-Alai Savant

Boo-urns to the fact that they're not playing in Minneapolis, but I am sure they can be persuaded by massive demand for them. Get to it, Minneapolis folk!

(Jonathan Graef)

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Monday, May 28, 2007

I Just Graduated, So Here Is A Mix

I just graduated from College yesterday afternoon, which is very exciting for me because it means that I no longer have to "attend class," "do homework," or "be responsible." So, in honor of this self-indulgent event, here is a mix of songs that I listened to on that, the day of my graduation. They are in alphabetical order, so feel free to work in your own sequence.

Download: Andrew Bird - "Heretics"
Download: Beirut - "Prenzlauerberg"
Download: Belaire - "Back Into the Wall"
Download: Belle & Sebastian - "Is It Wicked Not To Care?"
Download: Blonde Redhead - "23"
Download: BLOW - "Long List of Girls"
Download: Built to Spill - "Car"
Download: Crystal Skulls - "Baby Boy"
Download: David Bowie - "Changes"
Download: David Vandervelde - "Jacket"
Download: Elliot Smith - "Needle In the Hay"
Download: Al Green - "I Can't Get Next To You"
Download: Guided By Voices - "Glad Girls"
Download: The Hold Steady - "You Can Make Him Like You"
Download: Les Savy Fav - "The Orchard"
Download: Nirvana - "Dumb"
Download: Page France - "The Joker's Joke"
Download: Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - "Oregon Girl"
Download: Tegan and Sara - "I Can't Take It"
Download: Voxtrot - "Trouble"
Download: Yes - "Roundabout"

(Ian Anderson)


Friday, May 25, 2007

Lavender Diamond Are Coming

Download: Lavender Diamond - "You Broke My Heart"

Lavender Diamond will be playing at the Cedar Cultural Center on May 27! Lavender Diamond pride themselves on being the actual, reality-based manifestation of love itself through the glory and majesty song. I don't think they're wrong.

Here is "You Broke My Heart" from their hard-to-find EP The Cavalry of Light, a cute, slow jam that focuses primarily on the fact that some bloke broke lead singer Rebecca Stark's heart - bastard.

They have a record out on Matador now that I have yet to get my hands on, but I will, don't you worry.

MySpace Page

(Ian Anderson)


VH1 Rock Honors

So the VH1 Rock Honors were on last night and, in a moment of weakness/boredom, I manage to catch some of it. Naturally, the show was filled with the same ostentatious crap as a lot of the other award shows from this day and age. But surprisingly, there were some pretty good performances. The first one was of Queens of the Stone Age covering Black Sabbath's "Paranoid," in tribute to Ozzy Osbourne. The second was country star Gretchen Wilson being backed-up by the surviving members of Alice in Chains to perform "Barracuda," in tribute to Heart. The Queens performance rocks, but the Wilson/Chains performance is also pretty solid. Wilson does a uncanny job emulating Ann Wilson. So, here are videos of those performances, along with some MP3's that were posted on Idolator yesterday from Queens of the Stone Age's forthcoming release, Era Vulgaris.

(Queens of the Stone Age, "Paranoid")

(Gretchen Wilson with Alice in Chains, "Barracuda")

Download: Queens of the Stone Age - "Make It Wit Chu"
Download: Queens of the Stone Age - "I'm A Designer"

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Chicago F'In Rocks: Chic-a-go-go!

(Drawing taken from Chi-A-Go-Go! Cyber Gallery)

Download: The 1900s - "Bring The Good Boys Home"
Download: The 1900s - "A Coming Age"
Download: The 1900s - "When I Say Go"

Originally, this post was to be about The 1900s playing on Chic-A-Go-Go! on Tuesday. But alas, I could not find any footage of said performance (the mp3s posted above are compensation for that lack of footage). However, I figured this would be a good opportunity to write about Chic-A-Go-Go! itself. The cable access program, hosted by Miss Mia and her puppet friend Ratso, started in 1996 as a self-described "dance show for kids of all ages" and has continued ever since. Basically, it's a kids show done by, and for, hipsters, and not in a satirical "Wonder Showzen" way. Rather, the show has the same kind of morals as a kids show ("stay in school," etc) as a typical kids show, but instead of that message being delivered by Mr. Rogers, it's given by Sleater-Kinney. See how much cooler that is? No matter how old you are, Chic-A-Go-Go! will make you feel like this:

(Photo taken from Chic-A-Go-Go! gallery)

You can read a more detailed biography of the show here
and watch past episodes of the program here. To give you a sampling of what Chic-A-Go-Go! is all about, I've posted some clips of the program I found on YouTube. In order, they are clips of Bobby Conn performing a song about Passover, Neko Case performing "Brown-Eyed Handsome Man," and interviews with Sleater-Kinney and TV on the Radio. Enjoy, and let your inner child get its indie-rock on.


(Bobby Conn)

(Neko Case)


(TV on The Radio)

(Jonathan Graef)

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Voxtrot Session on Daytrotter

It's a party over at Daytrotter and Voxtrot was totally invited. Click here for the details.

Oh, and if you don't own this record yet, we can't be friends.

*200th post!

(Ian Anderson)

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Digitata - II Daggers

Grade: A-
Download: You Best Believe Me

When I first heard Digitata's debut Sexually Transmitted Emotions a couple years ago, I wasn't sure what I was listening to. I'm not usually a stickler for categories, but finding one for Digitata turned into an addictive puzzle: was it dance-pop? Technopop? Or was it just good?

I settled on that last one, because in the end, "good" beats whatever crap genre you invent. Unlike labelmates Mel Gibson and the Pants, whose music is generally a self-indulgent mess, Digitata take beat-based confusion and turn it into something tangibly melodic. The band consists of Drew Christopherson on drums, Ryan Olson on assorted instruments, and Maggie Morrison on vocals and keys, and everyone sounds much more assured this time around. As good as Sexually Transmitted Emotions is, there's something hesitant about its approach. II Daggers comes at you head-on, wasting no time as it bursts into "Banging J.A." (that's "Jessica Alba").

The best tracks are the faster and peppier ones, and for this reason, "You Best Believe Me" is the disc's highlight. It's just dark enough to be intriguing, and has a steady enough rhythm to get your attention. Subsequent songs, such as the sweetly poppy "Diet Riot" and "Digitata 4Ever" reek of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and that's a good thing. It's about time Minneapolis had its Karen O, and I don't mind going out on a limb to give Morrison the distinction.
(David Brusie)

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Star - Devastator

Download: Star - "Acting So Tough"
Download: Star - "Pure Gold Reason"
Download: Star - "Switchblade Heart"

Devastator (Lovely Rebel Records)
Grade: B

As you may know based upon previous posts,I love me some shoegaze. So when I read the descriptions of Star's debut album, Devastator, which compared the Chicago band to The Jesus and Mary Chain, Sonic Youth, and My Bloody Valentine, I, of course, flipped my gourd.

After a few half-assed (and one whole-ass) searches, I finally found the album. I have to say that upon first listen, I was disappointed. Sure, Devastator sounds like those other bands, but a little bit too much like those other bands, if you know what I mean. However, after that initial listen, the album grew more and more favorably on me. It's still too deriviative in some places, and loses stream toward the end. But there are several tracks on here that are warm, poppy and fuzzy, like the best of all shoegaze music.

"Pure Gold Reason" is one strong example of that kind of hazy, highly melodious music and it just so happens that it's the album's first track. After a brief, wavy sound collage, the band starts off with super-charged guitars, echo-laden vocals and a steady pulsating drumbeat. During the verses, the band backs off a bit and emphaises the more ambient aspects of their guitar sound while singer Shannon Roberts rips into the pretentious doofus who's hitting on her.

The music for the rest of Devastator is pretty straightforward, with the band hitting every dreamy verse and chorus that they should. Every song here is meant to be a people pleaser, as the songs get in, get out and do what they were meant to do. Only one song, "Jailor," is longer than three minutes. Even the more introspective, more soundscapey songs are barely above two minutes long.

One interesting aspect about the band is the lyrical perspective. The words in the songs have more in common with Guyville-era Liz Phair (and, when Roberts is using her lower range, she even sounds a bit like Phair) than they do with most shoegaze fare. The aforementioned "Jailor" actually begins with "This is what you get for being such a prick" and another lyric is "Your parents should of had a girl."

Wow. But the hostility in the lyrics and the laidback vibe of the music make for a great contrast, and the result is that Devastator is much more interesting once you grasp what the lyrics are (which you may not do on the first listen, due to the fact that Roberts' vocals are so reverb-heavy, as well as that the songs are so brief).

All in all, Devastator is a solid listen and a good start for Star.

Those of you in the Chicago area who are reading this can check out Star tonight (5/23/07) when they play Quencher's (corner of Western and Fullerton) at 9:00 p.m.

(Jonathan Graef)

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John Mayer Stand-Up

Seeing as the last post was really highfalutin', I'd figure I'd post something that fell a little bit more on the stupid side. I think I may have succeeded too much. This was taped at New York City's the Comedy Cellar over the weekend.

Update: Video no longer works. If you really still want to see it, head to The Superficial

(Jonathan Graef)

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Live Review: The Arcade Fire, The Chicago Theater, 5/18, Chicago, IL

The Arcade Fire
St. Vincent
Chicago Theater


Black Mirror
Keep The Car Running
(Antichrist Television Blues)
No Cars Go
Neighborhood #2 - Laika
Neon Bible
My Body is a Cage
The Well and The Lighthouse
Neighborhood #3 - Power Out
Rebellion (Lies)

Encore #1:
Ocean of Noise
Neighborhood #1 - Tunnels

Encore #2:
In The Backseat

I’ve been thinking a lot about televangelists, and to a greater extent, fundamentalist Christianity, lately. I don’t think that it’s necessarily because of Jerry Falwell’s death, or the fact that we have a televangelist as our current commander-in-chief. I think it’s because I’m fascinated by the fact that people like Falwell, or Pat Robertson or whoever their equivalent on the Left is (if one exists), can gain so much power and influence in society by insisting upon a truth that cannot be tangibly proved. No one is 100 percent sure that there is a God. That’s what the concept of faith is about: Trusting in a higher power, and living ethically by the rules that that power has set. The reward for that discipline, then, is happiness on a level so profound that most cannot, or possibly will not, ever understand it.

There are people of faith who have come to these conclusions based on self-reflection and rigorous study. But then there are others, like Falwell, who bullied his audience into belief by telling them that they will burn in hell for even thinking thoughts that differ from his own. Not only that, but those who question his supposed authority are dismissed and disavowed, along with those whose versions of that truth differ from the one that the religious authorities are trying to push.

Ultimately, I am saying that fundamentalism is crazy and more harmful than helpful. Groundbreaking stuff, to be sure.

And yet, there are so many well-intended people who spend almost all of their life devoted to a cause from which they will not reap the rewards from until they are dead. The question then, to me, is a simple one: Why? Why spend so much of your time fighting for a cause that absolutely no one can prove, no matter how convincing that the arguments for that cause may be?

I had these thoughts for exactly one minute before the Arcade Fire took the stage for the first of three sold-out shows at the legendary Chicago Theater. The audiences for both the band and of Falwell are more similar than perhaps either one wants to address. Both audiences are utterly devout and consume a message that is being presented with rabid fervor. And yet, one audience listens to hateful thoughts that are divisive and prey on the fears of modest, unassuming people; the other gets to hear a celebration of life, music and hope. Guess which one The Arcade Fire is.

The Arcade Fire’s first record, 2004’s Funeral, was full of a desperate, but fundamentally idealistic, yearning for answers surrounding the difficult questions of how to come to grips with loosing a loved one.

Neon Bible, this year’s follow-up, has a similar emotional template as Funerall. But this time, instead of mourning the death of a loved one, the band seems to be mourning the death of a country. Because the band’s concerns are with the world-at-large, the songs on Neon Bible feel more urgent, undoubtedly due to the fact that the stakes are higher (this is true, even when the songs are performed live). Recovering from a personal tragedy is one thing, but to have an entire nation recover from several tragedies (9/11, Katrina, The second Iraq war) is something that can test an entire generation.

What’s great about both records is that they refuse to take the easy way out in addressing grief and loss. They acknowledge the bad, instead of trying to push it off to the side or repress it. Perhaps that’s why people turn to televangelists. They offer an easy answer, and because of the fact that the Falwell’s of the world are so reassuring (yet, paradoxically, scare the shit out of their audience while comforting them).

Win Butler, and the rest of The Arcade Fire for that matter, have the stage presence and charisma of televangelists. But the band are ringleaders for hope instead of an agents of intolerance. One could say that the Arcade Fire’s performance itself was the consummate religious experience for blue-staters. That is, the show had the reverence of a church service, except the content of the service was fervently anti-dogma in the way a church service could never be.

The band began the show on an appropriately apocalyptic note, heavy on a red color scheme and walking out to a played-backwards version of “Black Mirror.” Then, as soon as the ten members of the Canadian collective walked on stage, they promptly began an ominous version of the real thing, albeit with multi-instrumentalist Richard Reed Parry making much more noise than he did on the studio version.

That, along with the rest of band’s instrumentation, allowed “Black Mirror” to awe the audience with its sheer sonic density. The chorus took on majestic proportions at many times, with the music threatening to overwhelm the audience like a juggernaut of cathartic emotion.

With that kind of impact being made by ten people, all playing different instruments (sometimes in the same song), one might suspect that The Arcade Fire may have a hard time keeping their sound from becoming too muddled. Or to put it more bluntly, the band would have a hard time not becoming a sonic clusterfuck.

Those assumptions would be wrong.

What’s truly impressive about The Arcade Fire, other than the obviously transcendent quality of the music, is the fact that they successfully turn up every nuance of the songs to arena-rock volume and still have them properly translated. In other words, it’s both bombastic and subtle.

To make a literary allusion, The Arcade Fire is the sound of not going quietly into the night. Songs like “Keep The Car Running” (the rendition of which gave me goosebumps) and “Windowsill” examine dark and complex emotions (and are rejecting of the blind faith that authority requires), but with lyrics that keep a hopeful, empathetic perspective. It’s awfully hard not to admire the kind of idealism it takes to sing the lyric “I don’t want to work in a building downtown” (from ((antichrist television blues)) in the middle of the Chicago Loop.

That song, along with other cuts from future classics Neon Bible and Funeral, was rapturously received by the audience. The raw quiver of Win Butler’s tenor is the piercing, but reassuring, voice of reason.

More importantly, the band was the voice of acceptance. With each song, Butler and company seem to say, “Hey, I’m confused, you’re confused, but it doesn’t have to be this way. We can make our lives better without having to sacrifice ideals or cave in to dogma of any kind.” The passion that the band put forth was rewarded immensely by the audience, and that in turn, fueled the band to become even more passionate. Band members would run into each other accidentally, use each other as instruments, and sing at the top of their lungs, even if they weren’t mic’ed. Even when stripped down (relatively speaking), the Arcade Fire’s live sound has a life-affirming quality that the hugest sounding of rock bands could never approximate.

I guess that what it comes down to is that fundamentalists refuse to acknowledge the existence of doubt and uncertainty, let alone try to address it in a constructive manner. A group like The Arcade Fire, however, perhaps acknowledges doubt and uncertainty a bit too much. But at least they are trying to turn that confusion into something constructive, not destructive – music. Music at its best is a reassuring best friend, and the performance that The Arcade Fire gave last Friday was the greatest comfort that a human being could get.

That’s why The Arcade Fire is the greatest live band playing music today.

Oh yeah, and I got my picture taken with Win Butler.

(Photo taken by Autumn Notter)

(Jonathan Graef)

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Wilco on Sound Opinions

Download: Wilco - "You Are My Face" (Live on "Sound Opinions")
Download: Wilco - "What Light" (Live on "Sound Opinions")
Download: Wilco - "Side With The Seeds (Live on "Sound Opinions")
Download: Wilco - "Sky Blue Sky" (Live on "Sound Opinions")

Wilco recently appeared on National Public Radio's "Sound Opinions," hosted by rock critics Jim DeRogatis of the Chicago Sun-Times and Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune, and played a few live renditions of songs from their just-released album, Sky Blue Sky. We've posted MP3's of those performances, but you can download the podcast of the show here and hear Wilco answer questions about the new record. It's a great interview, and you should listen to it (and donate what you can to NPR).

(Jonathan Graef)

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Voxtrot - Voxtrot

Voxtrot (Playlouder Records, 2007)
Grade: A

Download: "Kid Gloves"
Download: "Firecracker"

I've been piecing together the Voxtrot puzzle ever since I saw them play at the Triple Rock last spring. Two 7-inches, three EPs, a few live shows, and a rumor here or maybe over there have added up to twenty great songs and my growing impatience. The shroud of mystery that surrounds frontman Ramesh Srivastava has had me riveted since 2003 and finally, finally, Voxtrot will release their first full-length tomorrow.

The self-titled debut is the best album of the year. I have slotted a few releases this year already in my Top Ten, but this one right now is slotted at #1 - with a freakin' bullet (Jon, you will love it).

The Elvis Costello meets Belle & Sebastian pseudo-70s pop bombast fronted by Srivastava's crooning vocals just kill me - not to mention a spec of Crystal Skulls to top it off. The songs are stronger, edgier and catchier than any of their previous releases and just flat out rock harder.

I had quite the time trying to figure out which two songs I wanted to post because they are all top notch. But here are the two I settled on.

"Kid Gloves" is the obvious first single and really shows off what Voxtrot is capable of: loud and epic expressions of anguish and loneliness that leave you more empowered than powerless. Anybody can write a sad song that makes you sad, but it takes a true songwriter to take that sadness and make it inspiring. Plus, the line "Cheer me up, cheer me up, I'm a miserable fuck. Cheer me up I'm a vanity whore" is just awesome.

"Firecracker" is my favorite track off of the record. Building from a low rumble of floor-tom-bass-guitar interplay, the song leads smartly from a near Arcade Fire pre-chorus to the great chorus line "I will never be tricked by you." The chorus actually reminds me of the better days of Superdrag (which is a good thing) but is completely their own.

Voxtrot will be in Minneapolis on June 5 at the Triple Rock Social Club, don't miss it.

MySpace Page

(Ian Anderson)


New Music from Mark Olson

Download: Mark Olson - "Clifton Bridge"
Download: The Jayhawks - "Last To Know" (Alejandro Escovedo cover)
Download: The Jayhawks - "Blue"

When we did the 50 songs for the 32nd state post, a lot of people wondered why we didn't include The Jayhawks. Consider this post an apology for their exclusion. Salon has an exclusive MP3 from Mark Olson, one of the co-founders of The Jayhawks, whose new album, The Salvation Blues, drops on June 12th on Hacktone Records.

Stream more songs at his MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)

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Chicago F'In Rocks: New Music from The Cool Kids

Download: The Cool Kids - "What It Iz"
Download: The Cool Kids - "Mikey Rocks"
Download: The Cool Kids - "Black Mags"
Download: The Cool Kids - "Gold and Pagers"
Download: The Cool Kids - "One Two"

This one goes out to Pete Farrell. On Friday, Pitchfork posted two new tracks by the old-school hip-hop revivialist act The Cool Kids. Incidentally, these fine lads hail from the great city of Chicago. Along with the two new tracks ("Black Mags and "What It Iz"), I figured I would post a few more songs from the forthcoming Totally Flossed Out. There's no release date that I know of yet, but as soon as there is one we will let you know.

(Jonathan Graef)

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Minus the Bear @ the Triple Rock

Download: Minus the Bear - "Pachuca Sunrise"
Download: Minus the Bear - "Fulfill the Dream"

Minus the Bear played an all ages matinee at the Triple Rock Social Club last night, and will be playing an 18+ set tonight at the T-Rock again. The band was great last night, drummer Aaron Tate stole the show, but the band delighted the young crowd with three new songs that are definitely step forward. Half of the band was sick, but it just added to the band's already high intensity.

MySpace Page
(Ian Anderson)


Thursday, May 17, 2007

28 Weeks Later

Download: Muse – “Shrinking Universe"
Download: Muse – “Hysteria"
Download: Muse – “Time Is Running Out"

So, I saw the shit out of 28 Weeks Later with my lady last night. She thought it to be merely ok, but I liked it quite a bit. Essentially, it's the horror movie equivalent of Children of Men. I haven't watched the first one since I saw it in theatres but, from memory alone, I would say that Weeks is as good as Days, if not necessairly better per se. Weeks definitely has more thought put into it than most horror movies these days, seeing as the film is a feast of dramatic irony. There are allusions, some blunt and others more subtle, to our current situation with that camel-fucker in Iraq. There's even a bit of an elektra subtext to the movie, for you Freud-fans out there. Best of all, the movie is quite scary, gory, and also retains the human element that made the first one so renowned amongst film fans.

I have been scavaging the interweb for the theme to 28 Weeks Later, which is reminscent of Explosions in the Sky style post-rock (i.e., moody and instrumental, but also relying mostly on simple rock band arrangements). So far, I've had no such luck finding it, but I have found the song that was used in the 28 Weeks Later trailer. That song, "Shrinking Universe" by British band Muse, is posted above (in addition to other Muse tracks with titles relevant to tense movies).

If any of you fine readers have seen the film, and can find an mp3 file of the instrumental theme of which I am speaking, please send it to me so I can post it. It would be greatly appreciated.

Update: Found it. The song is called "In The House, In A Heartbeat" and its written by the film's composer, John Murphy.

Download: John Murphy - "In The House, In A Heartbeat

(Jonathan Graef)

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

New Smashing Pumpkins Cover Art

Download: Smashing Pumpkins: "Mayonaise"
Download: Smashing Pumpkins: "Here is No Why"
Download: Smashing Pumpkins: "Let Me Give The World To You"

Read more about it here.

Personally speaking, I like the cover a lot, though I am very much skeptical of a Pumpkins reunion album on the whole. It's got a Planet of the Apes (Heston's version, not Tim Burton's dubious remake) meets USSR propaganda feel to it. The statue of liberty drowning is very creepy and definitely evocative of our current political and social climate. Or, to put it using the parlance of our times, it's Zeitgeist-tastic.

And yes, I should have posted an mp3 of "Drown," but alas, I could not find one.

(Jonathan Graef)

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NPR hearts Andrew Bird

Download: Andrew Bird - "Dark Matters"
Download: Andrew Bird- "Fake Palindromes"

Andrew Bird has got two NPR-related activities going on this week. First, he appeared on the show "World Cafe," he discussed all things musical and performed a few songs. You can stream that appearence here.

Second, Bird's Sunday night concert at Washington D.C.'s 9:30 club will be broadcasted all over the world as part of NPR's "Live Concert Series. Find out more here.

And lastly (and non-NPR related), Bird has posted the first of what will be a series of live performance videos on his MySpace page. This first part is from his March show in Paris, and it is a clip of Bird perfoming "Imitosis" from his latest record, Armchair Apocrypha. Below is the video in all of its glory:

Andrew Bird - Episode # 01 - Imitosis

Add to My Profile | More Videos

(Jonathan Graef)

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Immaculate Machine - Fables

Grade: B
Download: Dear Confessor

You'd expect the New Pornographers brand of serious power pop to get old at some point, wouldn't you? So why hasn't it? I'm going to submit that good songwriting always wins in a battle with genre exhaustion, and that's why the New Pornographers, with their slippery lyrics and unpredictable chord changes, always succeed. This is also why NP member Kathryn Calder's band Immaculate Machine has put out a really solid record.

Fables starts with the uber-catchy "Jarhand," which sets the stage perfectly: sweet melodies, a driving beat, and a surprise or two. (Spoiler alert: the track features Alex Kopranos from Franz Ferdinand. Surprise!) The upbeat tracks work best here, and while perhaps unfair, it's fitting to compare Immaculate Machine with Calder's other band. The New Pornographers have perfected this kind of dramatic pop, dropping the energy level only when entirely necessary. A sudden lag happens in the middle of Fables, starting with the slow, minor-key "Old Flame" and picking up steam again with track eight, the lovely "C'mon Sea Legs." "Pocket," the second-to-last track, is a quick little pop song, an example of how the right melody, the right lyrics, and the right tempo can combine for a great song. ("I can't offer you more than the gun in my pocket right now," sings Luke Kozlowski over a driving beat.) With the last track, a sparse ballad called "Blinding Light" sung by Calder, things draw to a close on a nice, understated note.

This is only the band's third LP (following Ones and Zeroes and Transporter), and there is enough self-assured songwriting and confident performances here to hint of great things to come. Here's hoping.
(David Brusie)

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Benoit Pioulard - Precis

Download: Benoit Pioulard - "Triggering Back"
Download: Benoit Pioulard - "Ext. Leslie Park"
Download: Benoit Pioulard - "Needle & Thread"

Benoit Pioulard
Precis (Kranky, 2006)
Grade: B+

This album review is neither timely nor seasonally appropriate. Last winter, when Benoit Pioulard (who's known to his family and friends as Thomas Meluch) released a snowy collection of weird pop songs, Precis. At 22 years of age, the depth and quality of Meluch's songwriting caused a number of people to sit up and take notice. But more importantly, his aesthetic--warm vocals, fuzzy instrumentation and dissonance--resonated with those of us that suffer through long Midwestern winters. Meluch's a native of Michigan, and I've always felt that this album sounded like a lonely drive around an icy lake, where the warmth of the car is at odds with the bitter cold of your surroundings.

Appropriately, then, I'm writing about this album when it's summer and all of that snow and ice seems distant. But Precis stands up on its own two feet even without the winter background. Check out the two tracks I've posted, and if you dig, try and check out the entire record. Meluch spent a lot of time sequencing Precis, and it works as an album, with a beginning, middle and end.

(Pete Farrell)

Chicago F'in Rocks: Flameshovel Records

Download: The Narrator- "All the Tired Horses"
Download: The Narrator- "Breaking the Turtle"

May is going to be quite the month for Chicago's Flameshovel Records. First off, the Windy City label releases a very strong album from The Narrator today, 5/15/07 (which I have reviewed here, on this very blog). The Narrator record will very likely be on my local best-of at the end of the year. By clicking the link in the previous sentence, you can read my more in-depth thoughts on All That To The Wall. Also, The Narrator was profiled in the last issue of Chicago's alternative newspaper, The Reader. Read that article here.

MySpace Page

Download: The Race - "Feathers" (from Ice Station)
Download: The Race - "Safe and Sound" (from If You Can)

Also released on Flameshovel today is the latest record from Chicago's The Race. The album is titled Ice Station. As you may have guessed already, I have written about The Race on this blog before, and you can click on the link to read my thoughts about this excellent band. The Narrator's success may threaten to overshadow The Race. If that is the case (which I obviously think it shouldn't be, as they are both praiseworthy bands deserving of success), then expect Ice Station to become one of the year's most underrated records. The Race plays a record release party at Chicago venue The Hideout on June 2nd, 2007. Read more about the band here.

MySpace page

Download: Bound Stems - "Andover"
Download: Bound Stems - "Western Biographic"

Last, but not least, are the Bound Stems, who released their most recent record, Appreciation Night, on Flameshovel in 2006. Click the two links above to get a sample of what the band is about (fans of Modest Mouse may find a kindred spirit in this band). The stems are playing a FREE show at Chicago's Double Door on May 27th, 2007, at 8 p.m. with...(drum roll) guessed it, The Narrator and The Race. Good times, indeed. If you don't have anything going on that night, you should definitely go, as you'll be seeing many of Chicago's finest bands for a price that's almost too good to be true. Get a better background on the Bound Stems here.

MySpace page

You can stream or, better yet, order all three albums from the Flameshovel website

(Jonathan Graef)

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Seymore Saves the World on Pitchfork

Seymore Saves the World's self-titled debut was reviewed on Pitchfork today and received a 5.8. Read the full review here.


(Ian Anderson)


The Blow - Poor Aim: Love Songs

The Blow
Poor Aim: Love Songs (K Records, 2007)
Grade: B+

Download: The Blow - "The Sky Opened Wide Like The Tide"
Download: The Blow - "Hock It"

I've been anticipating this re-release for some time and certainly was not disappointed. Portland-based The Blow was a collaboration between Khaela Maricich (the original Blow member) and Jona Bechtolt (YACHT) who released Poor Aim: Love Songs originally in 2004 on Pregnancy Series, and now on K Records.

Maricich has a very cool, very conversational style of writing that is both disarming and rather informative. The Blow have no shame when it comes to dissecting relationships and know how to lay down a big beat. Most of the tracks on the record hang in the indie-dance feel, but have a bit more content to keep things lively.

This record essentially consists of eight killer pop gems and their subsequent remixes, courtesy of Portland-based Strategy. It's totally worth picking up, as is their 2006 release Paper Television.


(Ian Anderson)


Happy Birthday, Sofia Coppola!

Today is Sofia Coppola's birthday. The American director turns 36. And so, in her honor, I figured I would post some mp3's of songs that were featured in the three movies she has directed (The Virgin Suicides, Lost In Translation, and Marie Antoinette, respectively). Here you go!

(The Virgin Suicides)

Download: Air - "Highschool Lover"
Download: Air - "Suicide Underground"
Download: Todd Rundgren - "Hello, It's Me"
Download: Heart - "Magic Man"

(Lost In Translation)

Download: Death In Vegas - "Girls"
Download: Kevin Shields - "City Girl"
Download: The Jesus and Mary Chain - "Just Like Honey"
Download: Roxy Music - "More Than This"

(Marie Antoinette)

Download: The Strokes - "What Ever Happened?"
Download: Bow Wow Wow - "Fools Rush In" (Kevin Shields Remix)
Download: The Cure - "Plainsong"
Download: New Order - "Ceremony"

Happy Birthday, Sophia!

(Jonathan Graef)

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Friday, May 11, 2007

This American Life! Live! Uncut!

Download: Ira Glass on "The O.C" - "This American Life"
Download: Dan Savage on "The Suite Life of Zach and Cody" - "This American Life"

So National Public Radio had their spring pledge drive a little while back and, as an incentive to donate, one of the gifts was a double-disc set of a "This American Life" show from the tour that the show did earlier in the year to promote the TV version of "TAL." The double-disc is exclusive and, from my understanding, much of it was unaired (hence the incentive to donate). If you donated money at a certain hour, you got the double-disc set, no matter how much or how little you gave to NPR. Last night, the CDs finally arrived in my mailbox, and it's glorious.

I figured I'd post two MP3's from it on the site. The theme of the program was "What I learned from Television." The first MP3 is "This American Life" host Ira Glass talking about his love for "The O.C.," with Mates of States doing a version of the show's theme song (Phantom Planet's "California") at the very end. The second MP3 is of "Savage Love" writer Dan Savage talking about the effect of "The Suite Life of Zach and Cody" on his son, and has Mates of States performing a cover of Nico's "These Days" (which you know from its use in The Royal Tenenbaums) at the very end.

I'm not sure if the disc set was a one time deal but, at any rate, you should click on the NPR link above and donate what you can. After all, without money, "This American Life" can't be on the air. Then what are you going to listen to? Your local morning zoo crew? Only if you want to vomit in terror.

(Jonathan Graef)

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The Best Show of the Weekend

Saturday night, Pete Biasi (of Signal to Trust, Superhopper, Total Fucking Blood and Shadow Government Fame) is throwing quite the party in celebration of the end of his collegiate life.

Hosted by The Turf Club and Big V's, this dual-show extravaganza will absolutely destroy midway St. Paul. Here are the details:

Turf Club Show:
Will Whitmore
The Plastic Constellations

Big V's Show:
The Brokedowns

Both shows start at 9pm and are 21+.

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50 Songs for the 32nd State

Today is a noteworthy day for both music and history. The history part is because of the fact that, on the 11th of May, 1858, Minnesota was admitted as the 32nd U.S. state.

So, we, the MFR staff, have compiled a wonderful, Minnesota mix of the 50 best songs to ever come out of Minnesota.

This is also the prelude to the amazing dawn of our world-destroying Podcast that will begin next week, and will air weekly.

Artist - Album - Song
1. The Replacements - Tim - "Bastards of Young"
2. Husker Du – New Day Rising - "I Apologize"
3. Lifter Puller - Fiestas and Fiascos - "Space Humping $19.99"
4. Prince - Purple Rain – “Purple Rain”
5. Paul Westerberg – Come Feel Me Tremble - "Making Me Go"
6. The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls In America - "Massive Nights"
7. Haley Bonar - Lure The Fox - "Ransom"
8. The Soviettes - The Soviettes LP - "Tailwind"
9. P.O.S. – Audition
10. Bob Dylan - Love and Theft – "Mississippi"
11. The Replacements - Tim - "Kiss Me On the Bus"
12. Husker Du - New Day Rising - "New Day Rising"
13. The Hold Steady - Separation Sunday - "Multitude of Casualties"
14. Mouthful of Bees - The End - "The Now"
15. Tapes ‘n Tapes – The Loon - "Cowbell"
16. Low - Things Lost In The Fire – "Like A Forest"
17. P.O.S. - Audition – “De La Souls”
18. Cloud Cult – They Live On the Sun - "Fairy Tale"
19. The Replacements – Tim - "Waitress In the Sky"
20. The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls in America - "You Can Make Him Like You"
21. Atmosphere - God Loves Ugly - "Give Me"
22. Hockey Night – Keep Guessin' - "Grim Break"
23. The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls In America - "Party Pit"
24. The Replacements - Let It Be - "Unsatisfied"
25. Prince - Purple Rain – “Let's Go Crazy”
26. Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited – “Queen Jane Approximately”
27. STNNNG - Dignified Sissy - "New National Anthem"
28. Babes in Toyland – Fontanelle – "Bruise Violet"
29. Tapes 'n Tapes - The Loon - "Crazy Eights"
30. Heiruspecs - A Tiger Dancing - "Work"
31. Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited
32. Jayber Crow - The Farmer and the Nomad - "Eugene, Oregon (Manifest Destiny)"
33. A Night in the Box - The Hustler, The Prayer, The Thief - "Tom Sawyers and Lawyers"
34. Dillinger Four – Situationist Comedy - "Fuzzy Pink Hand-Cuffs"
35. Tapes 'n Tapes - The Loon - "Just Drums"
36. The (Olympic) Hopefuls - The Fuses Refuse to Burn - "Drain the Sea"
37. Soul Asylum - Hang Time
38. Tapes 'n Tapes - The Loon - "Manitoba"
39. Bob Mould – Workbook
40. Husker Du - Metal Circus – "Real World"
41. Lifter Puller – Fiestas and Fiascos - "Lake Street Is For Lovers"
42. Husker Dü - Zen Arcade
43. Cloud Cult - Advice From the Happy Hippopotamus
44. The Suburbs - Love is the Law
45. Lifter Puller - Half Dead & Dynamite
46. The Bad Plus - Give – "Iron Man"
47. Semisonic - Feeling Strangely Fine - "Closing Time"
48. Halloween, Alaska- Halloween, Alaska - "The Four Corners"
49. Sugar - Copper Blue – "Hoover Dam"
50. Fitzgerald - Raised By Wolves – “Bloody Stumps”

(MFR Staff)


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Watchers - Vampire Driver

Vampire Driver (Gern Blandsten)

Download: Watchers - "Chess Champion "
Download: Watchers - "Mercenary Birds"
Download: Watchers - "Flicker Pays"

Watchers are a smart, talented, and rhythmically tight group from Chicago that have been compared to other smart, talented and rhythmically tight bands like Modest Mouse and Talking Heads. But, for some reason or another, I just can't fully get behind their latest release, Vampire Driver.

I hear a lot of interesting things going on in "Chess Champion" and "Flicker Pays," like the way the guitar, drums and bass all push and pull against each other. It's like they're all trying to get out of the same horribly claustrophobic space, only they don't realize quite yet that there is no way out.

However, I also hear a lot of shortcomings, namely in the vocal and production areas. Many of the vocals on this record are flat, thin and a little off-key. The production makes a lot of the instruments sound too trebly and cold. I don't know if it's me, but I kept trying to adjust my stereo to see if I could get some nice thick low end where it was so desperately needed.

Take "Chess Champion", Vampire Driver's first track. The song starts out with a machine-gun drumming pattern and a bass line that matches up exactly with it. So far, we're off to a taut, menacing start. But then the guitars come in, and they sound like crap. The vocals also don't have nearly enough presence as they should have. What you have then is a battle between a song which has the potential to be quite excellent and the big black void that's trying to make the same song sound incredibly shitty.

The give-and-take experienced by the listener extends pretty much throughout the entire record. "Young One" and the aforementioned "Flicker Pays" have slinky, sexy beats, but are weighed down by anemic melodies and barely in-tune instruments.

Ultimately, Vampire Driver is all about the rhythm section. If you can pay attention solely to the excellent drum and bass (as opposed to drum-and-bass), then you will greatly enjoy the work Watchers do on Vampire Driver. If it's guitar action and strong vocals you seek, then you are well-advised to look elsewhere.

(Jonathan Graef)

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The Jai-Alai Savant - Flight of the Bass Delegate

The Jai-Alai Savant
Flight of the Bass Delegate (Gold Standard Labora)
Grade: A-

Download: The Jai-Alai Savant- "White On White Crime"
Download: The Jai-Alai Savant- "When I Grow Up"
Download: The Jai-Alai Savant- "Akebono"

I know that I've already written about these guys before, but I just picked up this record last wee and I've listened the shit out of it ever since. Flight of The Bass Deligate is a party record that just may unite nerds and rastas alike. It's an incredibly good and melodic record.

Basically, The Jai-Alai Savant are pumped-up, post-punk version of The Police but updated for the 21st century. The Jai-Alai Savant have a stronger emphasis on the rock and reggae aspects of their music, and are also without a singer who isn't constantly enamored with himself. "Scarlett Johannson, Why Don't You Love Me?" smartly recycles the staccato guitar riffs of Andy Summers, while other tracks like "Akebono" and "Sugar Free" feature the kind of bass lines that should make dub fans salivate.

Every song on here has an insane amount of groove to make you unleash your inner private dancer and the melodies are strong enough to the point that they will stay in your head for ages. Seriously, this is the record that you put on while you are having your friends over and grilling veggie burgers. It's the summer record for hipster BBQ's.

The record's first proper song, "Arcane Theories," has the kind of harmonizing that The Police were known for, but the rhythm section is more pounding and the guitar more fuzzy. The record kicks off on an amazing high and keeps on going, through the self-deprecating "Scarlett," the movie-sample heavy "The Low Frequent See" (the quotes I recognized were from Enter The Dragon and the old radio show "The Shadow") and the soundscape-laden and bass-driven "Transmissions From The Dub Delegate."

This record is just one solid highlight after another. It very well be the most enjoyable record from a Chicago band I've heard this year. It's certainly the album that will get the most play when the guests I'm hosting demand to hear something funky and exciting that they can get down to.

(Jonathan Graef)

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The Narrator - All That to the Wall

The Narrator
All That To The Wall (Flameshovel, 2007)
Grade: A-

Download: The Narrator - "August 32nd"
Download: The Narrator - "SurfJew"
Download: The Narrator - "Panic at Puppy Beach"

This record scares me. No, not because that The Narrator are a death-metal band (they're obviously not). To be totally truthful, The Narrator owe their sound more than just a little bit to Pavement's charmingly slack ways. Rather, it's the way that The Narrator's latest record (due out this Tuesday on Flameshovel Records) is a frighteningly accurate document of the internal mix of confusion, uncertainty and stagnation known as your mid-20s. I believe Jeff Buckley referred to this period of your life as when you're "too young to hold on, but too old to just break free and run."

You have a stable job and a steady relationship, but you aren't quite ready to settle down and give up your freewheeling college ways just yet. Adulthood is right around the corner, but you're still having a good stroll down the sidewalk of your somewhat reckless youth. You don’t quite feel tied down to anything just yet, but you still have the sense that you need to settle into a routine that will eventually become the rest of your life, It’s a confusing time. By expertly capturing this specific kind of malaise, All That To The Wall serves as the kind of record that may not necessairly change lives, but will certainly make living through them much, much easier, due to its slacker empathy.

Like Oxford Collapse, The Narrator are best thought of as being a kind of indie-rock comfort food. The songs are energetic and passionate to the point where you forget that this is a band who wears its influences almost too proudly on their sleeves. However, the lyrics are sly, self-deprecating and, most importantly of all, have the ring of truth to them.

What makes the songs on All That To The Wall really interesting is that they are simultaneously driven and laid-back. This is due to the fact that while the guitars are fuzzy, jangly and explosive, but singer Sam Axelrod has a voice that serves as the intersection between Stephen Malkmus and Gordan Gano.

As you can imagine, Axelrod has a bit of a sarcastic streak, and it serves him well on on songs like "Surf's Up" where the off-kilter hooks serve to buoy sly lyrics like "Yeah, I Miss The City/I Miss Every City," as the rhythm section thrashes around like a deliriously happy toddler.

Other lyrical highlights include "My brain's working overtime/but my body's on salary" and "with happiness comes responsibility/I think I'll quite while I'm behind." The music, with distorted electronic drums and pentatonic guitar riffs reminiscent of bands like Modest Mouse, Pavement and Chin Up Chin Up, is an upbeat force to be reckoned with, and always remains catchy and clever. There's some musical stretching as well, with banjo and organ enhancing on "All The Tired Horses."

Listening to The Narrator is like commiserating with a friend about the uncertainties of your life at that moment. You compare notes, you laugh, and you relate. But unlike your real friends, these friends can rock out and you can dance to their thoughts. As you select a soundtrack for your mid-20s malaise, you should put on Narrator's All That To The Wall

(Jonathan Graef)

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Mandy Moore - "Extraordinary"

Mandy Moore - "Extraordinary"
Grade: C+

Mandy Moore's "Extraordinary" off of her upcoming Wild Hope debuted last month, but the video was just released on May 7th.

I just don't know how to feel about this whole thing. I realize most of you were probably listening to the Pixies and Husker Dü when you were in the seventh grade, but not me. I was hung up on two people: Rob Thomas and Mandy Moore. I've been looking forward to Wild Hope, thinking that maybe Mandy Moore had grown up with me and was going to release some songs I can enjoy as a grown-up as much as I liked "Candy" as a kid.

Yeah, I'm not holding out hope for that so much anymore. And that breaks me up inside.

The song itself isn't so bad. It's just that with the production and vocal mix, Moore panders to the same crowd she pandered to before: Girls who like pop music but can't get into the over-the-top personas of other singers.

The video is a neat concept, with a massive tower of Mandy Moore's stacked sky high, each Moore a little different than the one below her. But nothing happens. Ever. And after 30 seconds, my eyes started hurting from all the damn grey.

It's unfortunate. I really want to like Mandy Moore, especially after her stints on Clone High and Scrubs and her role in Saved!, but I just don't think she'll ever be able to capture the magic she had back when I was a kid.

(April Wright)


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