Friday, June 29, 2007

Star Tribune Releases "Top Ten Local Albums of 2007...So Far" Today

Our fearless Twin Cities Music Critic Leader Chris Reimenschneider of the Star Tribune released his Top Ten So Far List for local records today. Read the full piece here.

Here are the records that made the cut:

"America," Romantica (2024)
"Atomism," White Light Riot (50 Entertainment)
"Balms of Gilead," Molly Maher (House of Mercy)
"The End," Mouthful of Bees (Afternoon)
"HCMC: The Mixtape," Träma (Chosen Few)
"Jubilee," Charlie Parr
"The Meaning of 8," Cloud Cult (Earthology)
"Paper Sky," Ben Weaver (Fugawee Bird)
Storyhill, self-titled (Red House)
"The Undisputed Truth," Brother Ali (Rhymesayers)

(Ian Anderson)


Things to do this weekend

Cloud Cult @ the First Avenue Mainroom - 8pm, 18+

Download: Cloud Cult - "Take Your Medicine"
Download: Cloud Cult - "A Good God"

MySpace Page

Tomorrow!Built to Spill @ the First Avenue Mainroom - 6pm, 18+

Download: Built to Spill - "Car"

MySpace Page

(Ian Anderson)

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Ryan Adams and The Cardinals, Live on David Letterman

Enjoy this clip of Ryan Adams performing "Two," from his just released album, Easy Tiger, on "The Late Show with David Letterman." I'm working on my review of the album right now; expect it up next week. In the meantime, stream Easy Tiger here

(Jonathan Graef)

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Stream New Chemical Brothers Album

Are you a fan of block rocking beats? Sure you are! In that case, stream the upcoming album from the Chemical Brothers from their MySpace page. The album will be released July 2nd in the UK and July 17th in the States.

(Jonathan Graef)

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

White Stripes Have Best Sales Week Ever

(Photo taken from Pitchfork)

Download: The White Stripes - "Conquest"
Download: The White Stripes - "Icky Thump"
Download: The White Stripes - "300 MPH Torrential Outpour Blues"

So, despite all the hubbub about leaks Rolling Stone reports that the White Stripes had their best sales week ever for Icky Thump The Stripes' sixth album sold a total of 224,000 copies, which was good enough for number two behind the latest from Bon Jovi.

Now, although this information is new, I have to wonder what people will say about the Stripes' sales total in spite of the leak. On the one hand, I wouldn't be happy if my record had leaked three weeks early and people were snatching up left and right online. On the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised if the publicity generated by the radio station dust-up heightened the profile of the record, which may have lead to the increase in sales. On the other other hand, perhaps it's because Icky Thump is just a better record that its predecessor.


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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Live Review: Shearwater, 6/17/07

Download: Shearwater - "Ella Is The First Rider"
Download: Shearwater - "Red Sea Black Sea"
Download: Shearwater - "Room For Mistakes"
Download: Shearwater - "An Accident"

I first fell in love with Okkervil River when I saw them opening for the Decemberists a couple years back. And, as the river to the ocean goes, Okkervil led me to Will Sheff and Jonathon Meiburg's other band, Shearwater.

Where Okkervil had previously been the more popular Sheff/Meiburg band, this year belongs to Shearwater. They signed to Matador in February, and last year's much-lauded Palo Santo hit shelves in a re-recorded, repackaged, remastered, expanded version in May (For new fans, the extended edition is a good buy because it has bonus material. For those of you who have the album, maybe not so much, though the extended edition on vinyl is pretty sweet).

It's an awesome record, which afforded me an equally awesome chance to check them out on Wednesday night. The show opened up with Minus Story opened up the show. I hadn't heard of them before, but they reminded me a whole lot of Minneapolis' own Aneuretical. It might be the homesickness talking, as I've never been a big Aneuretical fan, but they sounded fantastic. At least until about halfway through the set when they went all soft-rock on me, which totally killed their momentum (Incidentally, the only songs they have up on their myspace are the aforementioned momentum-killers. The Minus Story was in Minneapolis last night (Monday the 25th), but they're well-worth checking out the next time they swing by.

Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu fame followed up the set with some of the most confusingly awesome folk music I've heard in a while. I was kind of worried about his set, because I either love Xiu Xiu or hate them, depending on my mood. I'm pleased to report that Stewart's solo set was a head and shoulders above anything he's done with Xiu Xiu. He blended the earnest strummings and lyrical simplicity of Woody Guthrie with intensity not normally heard in folk music. Stewart's brand of folk was vulnerable, quivering and beautiful.

And Shearwater. I just don't know what to say. They were perfect. Honestly, every note was right on time, every instrumental flourish was placed in exactly the right place and Meiberg's operatic, Bauhaus-esque voice reverberated powerfully at exactly the right moments. I had never seen a band that performed so perfectly and put forth such a powerful front before I saw Shearwater. And the best thing about them was that they didn't seem pompous as really artsy, dramatic bands can. Quite the contrary, they were all very animated and clearly having a great time. They're winding down their tour now, but definitely put Shearwater on your list of bands to see.

(April Wright)

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Art Brut, It's A Bit Complicated

Download: Art Brut - "Direct Hit"
Download: Art Brut - "St. Pauli"
Download: Art Brut - "I Will Survive"
Download: Art Brut - "Jealous Guy"

Art Brut
It's A Bit Complicated (Downtown Records, 2007)
Grade: B

Along with The Narrator's All That To The Wall, Art Brut's It's A Bit Complicated is the record that applies to my life in a way that would give singer Eddie Argos seemingly omniscient powers. I just experienced "Late Sunday Evening" two nights ago (both literally and figuratively) and a certain lyric (from "I Will Survive") encapsulates both my life at the moment and how I feel about this record: "I've been ignoring my grown-up problems/because I have no idea how to solve them."

The thing is, most bands, and indeed, most people, mature. Sometimes they mature for the better and sometimes they turn into boring past versions of themselves. If anything, maturity is defined by routine; namely, the routine of the working lifestyle. Get up, get yourself to work, apply all of your mental capacities to tasks that require zero, if any, of your creative instincts, eat lunch for half-an-hour, then do the same kind of work for another four hours. Get yourself home, spend time with your sweetie, take care of your grown-up responsibilities (bills, laundry and such), do some writing, go to bed. Rinse and repeat.

The thing is, routine and repetition are death to a rock band. Rock is one of the few places where not only you can remain eternally adolescent, but people actually admire you for it. To become mature is to succumb, a little bit, to the drudgery of day-to-day life. But you can't lose the essential teenage heart of your band, otherwise the spontaneity that is inherent to the spirit of music will be lost as well.

So what happens when a gleefully adolescent band tries to abandon the endearing, but undeniably gimmicky, premise of its debut and show the world that they are not a one-album sham but, rather, actual artists?

Well, needless to say...that's a bit complicated.

There's strong material on this album, to be sure, but overall, the stab at maturity that Art Brut is attempting is both a hindrance to the band's enthusiastic spirit and an aid to their songcraft. You can tell that Art Brut have improved immensely as players, judging by their expanded dynamics in songs like "Sounds of Summer" and "Nag Nag Nag Nag" but also as arrangers in songs such as "Late Sunday Evening" (with its amiable horn section), "Pump Up The Volume" (with its sighing backup vocals) and the poppy sheen of "Blame It On The Trains".

But the more refined approach also means that singer Eddie Argos holds back lyrically as well. While there are some great one-liners here (you'll have to discover them yourself), I feel that Argos didn't want to be taken just slightly more seriously. He still cracks wise at himself, but also admits that past obsessions were mere adolescent concerns. Good for him for trying to expand his lyrical range, but did he have to do it at the expense of his awesomely jovial outlook on topics like modern art and popular culture? Which, incidentally, still no longer applies to me.

Ultimately, It's A Bit Complicated feels like a band trying admirably to mature and grow-up musically, but somewhat failing because they have absolutely no idea how to be a grown-up. It's a perfect sentiment to describe your mid-20s (and a summation of yours truly), but one that doesn't necessarily make for the most consistent of rock records.

(Jonathan Graef)

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Buzz Bin: Welcome to the Cinema

Welcome to the Cinema should be boring. They've got all the familiar quirks we've come to expect from an indie-band--synths, affected vocals, "angular" guitars, etc. I get the impression that they used to listen to a lot of Modest Mouse, and, more recently, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, although I bet they don't listen to either of those bands frequently anymore. Basically, Welcome to the Cinema sound familiar; they're a band you've already heard without really hearing them.

But even though Welcome to the Cinema should be boring, they're not boring. Like Chicago's Ponys or early Interpol, you can easily spot the influences, but that doesn't necessarily detract from the music. The song that caught my ear, "Ireland," is a fist-pumping chunk of post-punk that's verse is almost as catchy as its infectious chorus. Similarly, "Tasty Taste" churns on the strength of a minor-key guitar riff and pulsating bass, while "Holy Ghost" is a pleasant enough piece of wide-eyed pop. The weakest song of the bunch, "Sound of Thinking," isn't even all that bad; it just sounds so much like a Cure power-ballad that it freaks me out. Still, "Sound of Thinking" is a good Cure imitation, and good imitations are better than bad imitations. A good imitation gives me hope that Welcome to the Cinema will find their own voice, and, if they do, it will be a powerful voice.

This band probably has more songs, but I've only been able to hear the stuff that's posted on their myspace. Once my copy of their first, cleverly titled Welcome to the Cinema EP arrives I'll do a full review. Until then, check them out here.

(Pete Farrell)

The Fiery Furnaces Sign To Thrill Jockey, Announce Album Title and Release Date

Download: The Fiery Furnaces - "Quay Cur"

From the Thrill Jockey newsletter comes the...uh, news, that the Fiery Furnaces have signed Thrill Jockey who will be putting out the Oak Park-based band's newest offering, Widow City, on October 23rd. Just in time for Halloween!

In addition, the Friedberger clan is now on tour, no doubt playing old favorites and cuts from the forthcoming City. Click here to see photos of the band's show Chicago's Empty Bottle from this past Friday (June 22nd). Below is the list of remaining dates on the tour:

Fiery Furnaces Tourdates:

Jun 25
Toronto, ON
- The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern
w/ Dios

Jun 26
Ottawa, ON
- Barrymore's
w/ The Hot Springs, The Chinese Stars

Jun 28
Philadelphia, PA
- North Star
w/ Dios

Jun 29
Boston, MA
- Paradise Rock Club
w/ Dios

Jun 30
Hoboken, NJ
- Maxwell's
w/ Kapow!, Tris McCall

Jul 1
Brooklyn, NY
- Studio B
w/ Dios

Jul 5
Washington, DC
- Black Cat
w/ Dios

Jul 6
Raleigh, NC
- Lincoln Theater
w/ Dios

Jul 7
Atlanta, GA
- The Earl
w/ Deerhunter

Jul 8
Asheville, NC
- The Orange Peel
w/ Dios

Jul 9
Charlotte, NC
- Visulite Theatre
w/ Dios

Jul 19
Salt Lake City, UT
- The Gallivan Center
w/ Yo La Tengo

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Smashing Pumpkins to Release Four Versions of "Zeitgeist"

The Tripwire posted today that Zeitgeist (out on July 17) is coming out in four different manifestations (listed below). The different track listings will be available depending on where you purchase the album (an independent store, a big box chain, or iTunes). But what gets me is that it appears that the big box store and iTunes versions are "better" (have more tracks) than then the indie version. So, this would beg the argument that the mighty SP may be trying to persuade their listeners to support large chains rather than indies. Thoughts? Comment back on this.

01. "Doomsday Clock"
02. "7 Shades of Black"
03. "Bleeding the Orchid"
04. "That's The Way (My Love Is)"
05. "Tarantula"
06. "Starz"
07. "United States"
08. "Neverlost"
09. "Bring The Light"
10. "(Come On) Let's Go!"
11. "For God And Country"
12. "Pomp And Circumstances"

Best Buy:
01. "Doomsday Clock"
02. "7 Shades of Black"
03. "Bleeding the Orchid"
04. "That's The Way (My Love Is)"
05. "Tarantula"
06. "Starz"
07. "United States"
08. "Neverlost"
09. "Death From Above (Bonus Track)"
10. "Bring The Light"
11. "(Come On) Let's Go!"
12. "For God And Country"
13. "Pomp And Circumstances"

01. "Doomsday Clock"
02. "7 Shades of Black"
03. "Bleeding the Orchid"
04. "That's The Way (My Love Is)"
05. "Tarantula"
06. "Starz"
07. "United States"
08. "Neverlost"
09. "Bring The Light"
10. "(Come On) Let's Go!"
11. "For God And Country"
12. "Pomp And Circumstances"
13. "Zeitgeist (Bonus Track)"

01. "Doomsday Clock"
02. "7 Shades of Black"
03. "Bleeding the Orchid"
04. "That's The Way (My Love Is)"
05. "Tarantula"
06. "Starz"
07. "United States"
08. "Neverlost"
09. "Bring The Light"
10. "(Come On) Let's Go!"
11. "For God And Country"
12. "Pomp And Circumstances"
13. "Stellar"

MySpace Page

(Ian Anderson)

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Indiana Jones 4

This is actually happening, right now. Think about THAT.

(Ian Anderson)


Road Trip Mix #1

I spent last weekend touring the Midwest with my high voltage rock 'n' roll outfit, and with every tour comes a tour mix! Here is a mix of all of the songs that received significant play. Please note the crucial balance of actual good music versus the songs listened to for purely novelty purposes. Also, there was a far greater frequency of Blink-182 and KISS played than I am comfortable with, so those two artists have been omitted, but deserve mentioning.

Download: Antelope - "Game Over"
Download: Archie Bronson Outfit - "Cherry Lips"
Download: Avril Lavigne - "Hot"
Download: The Battle Royale - "Oh Martha"
Download: Belaire - "Back Into the Wall"
Download: Beyonce - "Get Me Bodied"
Download: Big Star - "Don't Lie To Me"
Download: Bob Dylan - "I Want You"
Download: Cat Power - "I Don't Blame You"
Download: Elvis Costello - "Pump It Up"
Download: Ela - "Cuts and Stars"
Download: Mates of State - "For the Actor"
Download: Metric - "Combat Baby"
Download: The Rentals - "My Summer Girl"
Download: Rilo Kiley - "With Arms Outstretched"
Download: Rooney - "Shakin'"
Download: The Strokes - "Trying Your Luck"
Download: Superdrag - "Sucked Out"
Download: Tegan and Sara - "The Con"
Download: Weezer - "Pink Triangle"
Download: White Stripes - "Conquest"

(Ian Anderson)


Shellac - Excellent Italian Greyhound

Excellent Italian Greyhound (Touch and Go, 2007)
Grade: B+

Download: Shellac - "Be Prepared"
Download: Shellac - "Steady As She Goes"
Download: Shellac - "The End of Radio"

Lester Bangs, in his classic essay about The Stooges, pontificated about the Velvet Underground (as he was wont to do) by explaining that the Lou Reed-led band were an extension of the sonic experiments begun by groups such as The Yardbirds and The Who. Bangs wrote that the Velvet Underground’s music “might at first …seem merely primitive, unmusicianly and chaotic, (but that) at its best(had) sharply drawn subtleties and outer sonances cutting across stiff, simplistic beat(s…”

Later, Bangs uses an anecdote from another book to set up this description of the thumpin’ music that The Stooges made back in the day: “(the music) comes out of a primal illiterate chaos gradually taking shape as a uniquely personal style, emerging from a tradition of American music that runs from the primordial wooly rags of backwoods bands up to the magic promise eternally made and occasionally fulfilled by rock: that a band can start out bone-primitive…and evolve into a powerful and eloquent ensemble.”

Excellent Italian Greyhound, the first album from the Steve Albini fronted math rock pioneers Shellac in seven years, is the sound of the Bangs quotes intersecting and exchanging ideas on how to improve one another. The album starts off with a song that is eight-minutes of punk's sardonic confrontation, the Velvet's bitter guitar noise, and exploding, galloping, out-of-control drumming. “The End of Radio” is Albini’s tale of being the last man, and the last DJ, on earth. It starts off unassuming and quiet, with whispering vocals and a distant snare hit that has the disarming quality of a gunshot off in the distance; similar to the quiet before the storm. Sure enough, the song’s storm arrives with a sharp, trebly, monotone guitar and with Albini saying in a raspy voice, “Can you hear me now?”

Albini is, of course, being satirical, turning the ever-ubiquitous Verizon catchphrase into a desperate, howling cry for humanity in a post-apocalyptic scenario. Albini’s voice serve as reminder that Kurt Cobain and Frank Black both have roots with the legendary post-punk master.

“The End of Radio” is a perfect example of what Bangs described as music that is seemingly chaotic, unprofessional and noisy, but ultimately has many layers and many subtleties. Minor and major keys clash, and the band plays in polyrhythmic synchronicity, creating an intriguing dissonance; one of the main musical motifs recalls a score to a spaghetti western.

However, the song is eight-and-a-half minutes long. So I don’t exactly begrudge anyone for not listening to it in full – there’s a lot of repetition, but somehow, very little structure – in fact, “The End of Radio” is a song that I admire more than a song I actually enjoy, despite its Vonnegut-esque sense of humor regarding the end of humanity.

Still, in the context of the record, “The End of Radio” serves as a litmus test for the listener; meaning, if you can get through this headfuck of a song, then you’ll be rewarded with songs that are more accessible and conventional. It’s a trick that Albini performed with the last Shellac album, 1000 Hurts.

If “The End of Radio” serves as the epitome of the first Bangs quote, then the next few songs (“Steady As She Goes,” “Be Prepared” and “Elephant”) are the summation of the second. “Steady As She Goes” is raw as a flesh wound (and is a thousand times Stooges song than any of the Stooges songs that appeared on The Weirdness…this fact is made even stranger and confounding by the fact that Albini produced that sorry sack of shit of a comeback album), “Be Prepared” is a bluesy and raucous number, and the Fugazi-quoting “Elephant” contains woeful, politically charged lyrics, interweaving vocals and drums.

All of the songs are taut lead-ups to the next auditory experiment, “Genuine Lulabelle.” I don’t even know how to describe this song, other than mentioning that its nine minutes long, contains a cameo from Strongbad and the movie-trailer voice guy, and begins with Albini singing in a style of a choir boy and the breakdown is only vocals. Like “The End of Radio,” the song has some incredible merits, but not exactly a joy to sit through.

“Genuine Lulabelle” seems like it’s another litmus test for the listener, as the next few songs are the poppiest on the record (well, poppy in the context of Shellac). “Kittypants” sounds like Mogwai instrumental, “Boycott” emulates Bleach-era Nirvana (or rather, shows who Cobain and company were imitating with that record) and The Who but adds a disturbing minor-key arpeggio for spooky texture. “Paco” continues the minimalist and haunting post-rock vibe that permeates the album, and closer “Spoke” closes things on a bass-driven punk note, highly reminiscent of Nirvana’s “Negative Creep” (there I go again with the Cobain thing).

Excellent Italian Greyhound is like hearing chaos taking form right before your very ears. As I was listening to it, I wondered what Bangs would have said about its boundary pushing tendencies and formless content. Though he may have not found it to be as groundbreaking as the Velvets were back in the day, I imagine that he still would have enjoyed its sardonic edge. Its that edge that keeps the more experimental tracks human, and makes the punk songs even more snarky. Though Excellent Italian Greyhound is out there, but there's always a minimalist heartbeat that keeps the album ground to reality.

(Jonathan Graef)

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Voxtrot Videos from Daily Motion

(Voxtrot, "Soft and Warm")

(Voxtrot, "Trouble")

Hold on to your potatoes, Ian Anderson! Here are some videos of Voxtrot performing, courtesy of Daily Motion

(Jonathan Graef)

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Tales from the John Cusack: 1408

Today marks the release of the latest Stephen King adaptation for film, 1408. Normally, I avoid films based on King's books like the plague, but this one has John Cusack and Samuel L. "Muthafuckin'" Jackson and a 83 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. So it's got that going for it, which is nice. At any rate, I figure I'd post some songs with "14" "8" or "1" and "4" in the title, both to tie into the film and in tribute to Cusack, seeing as he was master listmaker in "High Fidelity." Enjoy!

Download: Guided By Voices - "14 Cheerleader Coldfront "
Download: Daft Punk – “One More Time”
Download: Metallica – “One”
Download: The Beatles – “Eight Days A Week”
Download: The Byrds – “Eight Miles High”
Download: Husker Du – “Eight Miles High”
Download: Beat Happening – “Fourteen Sam”
Download: Twilight Sad – “Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters”
Download: The Vandals – “Fourteen”
Download: Led Zepplin – “Four Sticks”

(Jonathan Graef)

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

New St. Vincent Video

Download: St. Vincent – “Paris is Burning”
Download: St. Vincent – “Now Now"

Pitchfork has an exclusive live video of St. Vincent (aka 23-year-old Annie Clark) performing "Paris is Burning" from her upcoming album Marry Me which will be released July 10th on Beggars Banquet. Click here to watch the video.

I'm super excited for this record. St. Vincent opened for The Arcade Fire when I saw them back in April and they did an incredible job. If Jeff Buckley had Joe Satriani's chops, but used them with great taste and discretion and also kept his stellar songwriting abilities, then that would sound like St. Vincent.

Pre-Order the album from here

(Jonathan Graef)

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

New Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene) MP3

Download: Kevin Drew - "tbtf"

I realize that I am a day late and a dollar short on this one, but I figure it would be worth posting anyway. The jam above is from Broken Social Scene-ster Kevin Drew's forthcoming solo album entitled Spirit If..., which will be released Sept. 18th. on Arts and Crafts. If this track is any indication, Drew's solo album (first in a series of albums presented by Broken Social Scene) should continue the mellow, atmospheric, psychedelia that he brings to BSS.

(Jonathan Graef)

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Black Before Red - Belgrave To Kings Circle

Grade: A-
Download: Goddess In Trauma

Sometimes, no matter how much you love your favorite records, you need something completely new. And not just a new record from a band whose name you kind of recognize, but totally and utterly new to you. That's why Belgrave to Kings Circle by Austin band Black Before Red is such a great surprise.

Belgrave is their debut record, and it's really, really fun. It starts off with a little piece of abstract noise on "Underneath Gold," which quickly gives way to snappy drums, some muted horns, and a punchy bassline. Then the band's harmonized voices come in, and you know you're in for something great. The record's promotional materials stress the band's similarities to the Shins, which isn't inaccurate, but ultimately does Black Before Red a disservice. This band is all about original details, whether it's the marching band snare that sneaks into the right channel on the driving "Matagorda" or the chiming piano touches on album highlight "Goddess In Trauma." On top of these details are songs that most bands would envy, boasting melodies you might expect from Of Montreal or (yes, yes) the Shins.

When songs don't entirely work, it's simply because they don't make an impression. "Bossa Nova #7," despite a shuffling tempo that provides a brief respite from straight-ahead pop rhythms, lacks a strong melody to keep the song afloat. The next track, "Finding Peace In The City," suffers from the same problem, adding too much heft to the record's middle.

Which is why the next song, "Teenage America," comes at exactly the right time. It's the seventh track, and it features a simple 1-4-5 chord progression, "ba ba ba" backup vocals, and sweet harmonies. It's exactly what you need after a couple of downer tracks, and it's really just a hell of a song.

Black Before Red is clearly a band to keep an eye on. Debuts like this don't come around very often.

(David Brusie)

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Belated Father's Day Playlist and Videos

Here are some MP3's and videos of songs that somehow relate to fathers and the relationships with their offspring. Good News: There are a plethora of songs about Dads, and most of them are quite good. Bad News: Most songs about fathers are really, really depressing. At any rate, a Happy Belated Father's Day to all MFR readers!

(Jonathan Graef)

Download: Pearl Jam - "Man Of The Hour"
Download: Cat Stevens - "Father and Son"
Download: Lupe Fiasco - "He Say She Say"
Download: Paul Westerberg - "My Dad"
Download: Harry Chapin - "Cats In The Cradle"
Download: Aphex Twin - "Come To Daddy (Pappy Mix)"
Download: Johnny Cash- "A Boy Named Sue"
Download: Simon & Garfunkel - "Bridge Over Troubled Water"
Download: U2 - "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own"
Download: Everclear - "Father of Mine"
Download: Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Fortunate Son"
Download: The Temptations - "Papa Was A Rolling Stone"
Download: Dusty Springfield - "Son of a Preacher Man"
Download: Madonna - "Papa Don't Preach"
Download: David Bowie - "Kooks"
Download: Rufus Wainwright- "Dinner at Eight"
Download: Billy Joel- "Lullaby (Goodnight Angel) (sample)"

(Ben Folds, "Still Fighting It")

(Radiohead, "Sail to the Moon")

(Aerosmith, "Janie's Got A Gun")

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Seymore Saves the World on Tour

Scott Hefte (of Superdanger fame) and his Seymore Saves the World crew are on tour! Here are the dates:

Tuesday, June 19th – The King Club – Madison, WI
Wednesday, June 20th – The Firewall – Stillwater, MN
Thursday, June 21st – The House of Rock – Eau Claire, WI
Friday, June 22nd – The Stonefly – Millwaukee, WI
Saturday, June 23rd – US Beer Co. – Chicago, IL
Sunday, June 24th – Melody Inn – Indianapolis, IN
Monday, June 25th – Earx-tacy In-Store – Louisville, KY
Wednesday, June 27th – Howard's H – Bowling Green, OH
Thursday, June 28th – The Velvet Lounge – Washington D.C.
Friday, June 29th – Pianos – New York City, NY
Saturday, June 30th – Arlene's Grocery – New York City, NY
Sunday, July 1st – The Saint – Asbury Park, NJ
Monday, July 2nd – The Great Scott – Boston, Mass.
Tuesday, July 3rd – Club Café – Pittsburgh, Penn.
Thursday, July 5th – The Kraftbrau Brewery – Kalamazoo, MI
Friday, July 6th – The Yacht Club – Iowa City, IA
Saturday, July 7th – FIRST AVENUE MAINROOM – Minneapolis, MN

MySpace Page

(Ian Anderson)


Monday, June 18, 2007

Q101: Now Shuffling For Relevance By Tangoing With The White Stripes

So remember that White Stripes versus alternative-rock cesspool Q101 battle about the Chicago based station playing a leaked version of the now newly-released Icky Thump a week in advance?

The Chicago Reader (Chicago Reader= Chicago as City Pages=Minneapolis) had an article about the dust-up and what the aftermath of the confrontation says about the way music is now being consumed, in the age of the iPod, and how terristrial radio is getting lost in the shuffle. Spike, the music director from Q101, openly admits that radio is being made irrelevent by the internet.

It's a very interesting read, and you can see the article for yourself here. In addition, P4K has a review of the album on its website right now. Expect an MFR review of the album in the next few days.

(Jonathan Graef)

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Assembly Now on XFM (live in the studio)

Download: Assembly Now - "It's Magnetic" (Live in the XFM Studio)
Download: Assembly Now - "Cool To Be Kind" (Live in the XFM Studio)

Here are some MP3's of British post-punk revivalist (Post-Post-Punk?) band Assembly Now performing live in the XFM studio, where they were recently invited to record some songs. I was sent these MP3's by someone associated with the band, so I believe these may be exclusive to the MFR website (if not, they're still very good tracks, filled with all kinds of rambunctious energy that can only come out live).

At first listen, I thought the band to be too derivative of Bloc Party, particularly in the vocal/barking rhelm. That said, Bloc Party doesn't really sound like Bloc Party these days (for better or worse, they're is trying to be U2). Part of what made the first Bloc Party record great was that it sounded raw and unpolished, but still had great hooks and a raw energy. I hear a lot of those qualities in Assembly Now, and a little bit of American Proto-Emo bands like Jawbreaker. Perhaps unintentionally, I think that "Cool to be Kind" sounds a little like Pavement, musically speaking.

Their last single, "Leigh-On-Sea," was selected as an NME radar single-of-the-week, and their new one, "Graphs, Maps and Tree's" will be out August 6th on Kids Records, with a tour to follow throughout the summer. We'll keep you posted as to how the band develops.

At the very least, you have to love a band that posts a graphic like the one above (re-posted on this site) on their website.

(Jonathan Graef)

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Flight of the Conchords Interview and Podcast

Download: Salon Podcast Interview - Flight of the Conchords.

I've written about "Flight of the Conchords" before, but this is to good not to share. Salon has a podcast interview with the self-described "fourth most popular digi-folk paradists," along with the accompying feature story. Flight of the Conchords has its premiere Sunday (June 17th) on HBO.

(Jonathan Graef)

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Arcade Fire on NPR's Fresh Air

Click here to listen to our favorite Canadian orch-pop/art-rock collective on NPR staple Fresh Air. The interview is a good one.

(Jonathan Graef)

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Thursday, June 14, 2007


Download: The Narrator - "Speeding Up The Gang"

My day job, much like the SuckCut on Garth's head in Wayne's World, is sucking my will to live.

That is all.

(Jonathan Graef)

Chicago F'in Rocks: Chicago Rocks

No, I'm not being redundant. This past weekend (6/8 and 6/9) was the 5th annual Chicago Rocks Hip-Hop Festival, with the first night being held at the excellent Abbey Pub and the second night being held at the Metro. The show is a two-day all hip-hop extraveganza, and all of the artists involved are based in Chicago. This year included The Cool Kids, Flosstradamus and Crucial Conflict, amongst others, and years past have included the likes of Rhymefest and All Natural. Below you will find video clips of past performances from the festival. Enjoy!

(Jonathan Graef)

(Immortal Technique, Chicago Rocks 2005)

(Capitol D, from All Natural, Chicago Rocks 2005)

(The Primerdians, Chicago Rocks)

(Rhymefest, Chicago Rocks 2005)

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Grade: A
Download: The Underdog

If you had told me that Spoon would be adding a horn section to their sound for the new record Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, I would have made the face I make after tasting grapefruit, an expression somewhere between disgust and disappointment. In his article about Spoon in the June 11 issue of The New Yorker, Sasha Frere-Jones notes that Spoon "shows the rewards of restraint." Which is exactly it, isn't it? Britt Daniel's songs are basically fleshed-out sketches, with guitar and piano parts that emphasize the beat more than anything else.

So it is with great satisfaction and delight (equivalent facial expression: eating a Golooney's mushroom and onion pizza) that I report to you that Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, despite its stupid title, is a remarkable piece of work.
The first song, "Don't Make Me A Target," is vintage Spoon. It's bare-bones, with fierce, pulsating guitar work. In fact, the first indication that something different is going on comes with the third track, "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb," a Motown-like stomp with Britt Daniel using that well-loved falsetto to complement the low-end horn section. It's a hell of a track, and it alludes to greater things to come, including the Jon Brion-produced song "The Underdog," which is a propulsive, upbeat number in the vein of "Sister Jack" and "Take The Fifth." Horns ring, acoustic guitars jangle, and you sing this song all day because it won't leave your head. That's just how it works, and there's no sense avoiding it.

Now, it's easy to exaggerate the different sound of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga - this is still a Spoon record, after all, and this is no reinvention. It's merely a welcome broadening of their established sound, one that retains the good ol' Spoon style we've come to know. Some songs, like "Rhthm & Soul" and "Don't You Evah," sound like they could have come from slightly tweaked versions of Kill The Moonlight and Gimme Fiction. Daniel's songwriting remains great; he still trusts his instincts to hold things back and keep you on your toes. This, of course, is all very, very good news.

Welcome, summer.

(David Brusie)

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Live Review: The National, 6/7/07, The Metro, Chicago

For a band that constantly sings about disappointment, regret and barely registering one’s own existence in a faux-Rome, The National sure knew how to deliver a hell-of-a-show. Much like the band’s recorded oeuvre, the Brooklyn-based group’s (touring behind their latest album, Boxer) live show started out slow and steady, but finished with a raging passion and intensity that would be only rivaled by…well, a boxer.

The National choose to lead off the night by emphasizing the more subdued and atmospheric aspect of their sound. Using Yo La Tengo’s “Everyday” as entrance music and emerging from a smoky, purple light (one of the concert’s funniest moments involved singer Matt Berninger requesting that a dry-smoke machine be taken off stage), the band opened with two laid-back cuts from Boxer, “Start a War” and “Anthem.”

Both songs started out quiet and patiently, with circular, repetitive guitar and piano arpeggios laying the stage for choruses on a grand scale. Berninger’s robust baritone, reminiscent of Leonard Cohen and Ian Curtis, gave voice to characters that are past their prime and are bitterly disappointed with the hand that life has given them. But still, they manage to enjoy what they have and appreciate the simpler pleasures of life, even if it is just staying home and watching television. It’s as if The National personify the slow realization that everything will eventually turn out for the better, even if present circumstances are less than ideal.

What The National does best is turn melancholy emotions into uplifting songs. “Anthem,” in particular, was a strong embodiment of that bittersweet emotion, and an even stronger indication of what The National is truly great at. As my internet buddy David Brusie said, they’re as transcendent as U2. But unlike the latter-day incarnation of that band, The National actually earns their grandeur without resorting to cheap sentimentality. Judging by the austere acoustic strumming and Berninger’s low, almost muttered, vocals that start off “Anthem,” you wouldn’t necessarily expect to be absolutely floored by the most straightforward of combinations: a spare, piano line and the words “you know I dreamed about you/for twenty-nine years/before I saw you.”

But there we all were, in Chicago’s legendary Metro club, having our minds blown by a sentiment that would undoubtedly come off as sappy and maudlin in any other hands. However, since most songs by The National begin in a modest fashion, they have nowhere to go but up. It takes a certain kind of genius to write a winning crowd-pleaser about “staying in until somebody finds us/do(ing) whatever the T.V tells us,” and an even better kind of genius to sell that song to a crowd that very well could have taken that advice instead of seeing the band (Chicago was supposed to have storms with winds of up to 80 to 100 m.p.h. the night that The National played).

However, the band more than made sure that the audience was rewarded for braving the elements by showcasing the best cuts from Alligator and Boxer. “Fake Empire” contained the best summation of this sort decade thus far (“we’re half-awake in a fake empire”) and renditions of songs like “Abel” and “Mr. November” pleased the enthusiastic crowd greatly. The two sets of brothers which comprise The National’s instrumental section (Aaron and Bryce Dessner; Scott and Bryan Devendorf) made for a particularly taut musical outfit, with instruments (especially violin) being torn into with an unbridled passion.

That brand of passion was apparent throughout the entire night. But by slowly but surely revealing their enthusiasm, and by patiently building their glorious choruses brick by musical brick, The National rewarded their listener’s patience and loyalty by giving them an entire concert’s worth of memorable songs and moments.

Opening for The National were Shapes and Sizes and Talkdemonic. Talkdemonic had a great musical conception, with moody, minor-key guitar arpeggios and jazzy, pre-recorded, organ and drum-machines being enhanced by live violin and drums. However, most of their songs ended with the same, sudden, anti-climatic non-resolution. Eventually, the unpredictability of their songs became quite predictable and, thus, less interesting. A lack of variety in the tempo and format of their songs contributed to the problem, as well. For all the beauty in their arrangements and skilled musicianship, Talkdemonic suffered mostly from the lack of a songwriter in the group. The band’s instrumental songs would make great study music though.

Note to Shapes and Sizes: Before you can be deconstructive, you have to know how to actually construct something. Like, say, songs. The band aimed for the fragmative sounds of groups like Deerhoof and The Fiery Furnaces, but ended up failing to reach those heights miserably. What was supposed to sound like a musical detour ended up just sounding like a sloppy, shambling attempt to throw together a bunch of musical styles at once in desperate attempt to find one, any one, that works. The less said about the singer’s attempt to hit very high notes, the better.

(Jonathan Graef and April Wright)
(Photo by Autumn Notter)

A version of this article was published at Yerp Magazine.

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Film Review: Once

If you've driven by the Uptown Theater lately, you've probably seen the billboard advertising the "Irish indie-pop musical" Once. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't generally get too jazzed about musicals. There's something about people spontaneously bursting into song that makes me uncomfortable. Besides, the very idea of an "indie-pop" musical seems counterintuitive. Most musicals that I've seen are lush, grandiose affairs. Whether it's the sophisticated Parisian stomp of "Moulin Rouge" or the chic film noir of "Chicago," popular musicals in the last decade have lacked neither scope nor ambition. But Once, which lacks both sweep and visual splendor, manages to thrive on its huge heart.

The story is simple enough: a lovelorn and lonely Dublin busker strikes up a friendship with a similarly lovelorn, lonely (and gorgeous) Czech immigrant, Markéta Irglová. Over the course of a few weeks, the two forge a musical and emotional bond. Markéta urges the "busker" to record and polish his songs, and slowly they fall in love. The "busker" is unnamed in the film, but he's played by Frames' head honcho Glen Hansard. Hansard's songs propel the narrative, and his beautiful little acoustic slices of emotion match up perfectly with director John Carney's off-kilter direction. It's a charming love story in a charming country's most charming city, a grainy snapshot of the creative force of love told with whimsy and warmth. At a breezy 85 minutes, it doesn't last long, but it's well worth your time.

Here's the trailer:

(Pete Farrell)

Monday, June 11, 2007

New Liars Track Premiered By Pitchfork

Liars - Plaster Casts of Everything

Pitchfork posted the first single from the upcoming album from the Liars, creatively entitled Liars. Medigs this track a lot. It's upbeat and more in line with their older material, but with the haunting falsetto of Drum's Not Dead. The new record looks very promising indeed.

(Jonathan Graef)

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The Slowdown Opened Friday

The Saddle Creek Complex has been a long time coming. Last Friday, Saddle Creek Records label executives Robb Nansel and Jason Kulbel opened the Slowdown, a 470-capacity music venue and bar in the north downtown district of Omaha, Neb. known as "NoDo."

The complex includes two buildings and 56,000 square feet of indie-rock easy livin'. The south building will be the new headquarters for Saddle Creek Records and its eight full-time employees, The Film Streams art-house theater, the venue itself and utility spaces for artists to work and even live.

I'll be in Omaha in two weeks and will check it out and report back!

For more information on this awesome creation, check out the label site.

(Ian Anderson)

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The Decemberists Cover Brian Eno on Sound Opinions

Download: The Decemberists - "I'll Come Running" (Brian Eno Cover)
Download: The Decemberists - "Oh, Valencia"
Download: The Decemberists - "The Perfect Crime"
Download: The Decemberists - "Summersong"

The Decemberists made an appearance on NPR's Sound Opinions over the weekend and, in addition to performing three songs from last year's The Crane Wife, did a cover of Brian Eno's "I'll Come Running." You'll find that MP3 posted above, along with other MP3's of the band's live renditions of Crane Wife highlights "Oh, Valencia," "The Perfect Crime" and "Summersong."

Click here to download the MP3 of the show itself. It's worth a listen, as the band acts out the entire backstory of The Crane Wife! That alone makes the interview a classic.

(Jonathan Graef)

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Stream the new Queens of the Stone Age Album

The album comes out tomorrow, but if you want to get a taste of Era Vulgaris in its entirety, click here and listen away.

(Jonathan Graef)

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Editors and Bjork on Later with Jools Holland

(Editors, The Racing Rats)

(Editors, Smoking Outside The Hospital Doors)

(Bjork, The Anchor Song)

Check out these videos of Editors performing on the Later with Jools Holland show, and then check out Bjork doing the same. Bjork I'm excited about. Editors, eh, not so much. But, seeing as the have a new album coming out that's getting some attention, I'll post the videos anyway and let the readers decide.

(Jonathan Graef)

(Jonathan Graef)

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Map of Africa - "Bone"

I love mysteries. I love everything about them: their mystery, the very little factual information known about them, and the ever-out-of-reach solution. Map of Africa is a mystery. There is so little information about them on the interweb, that I had to write a twenty-word lede to this story, and then later reference it just to get my point across.

What I do know is the following: they may or may not be based out of the US, it could be England, and they probably will have a record out in the near future, unless it is already out, in which case, 4 copies were made of the album and then given only to close family members.

Either way, I will solve this mystery, and I will solve it soon dear reader. Here is the one track I've been able to get in mp3 form, "Bone," a smooth groove-based trotter that makes me think, "live it, love it."

Download: Map of Africa - "Bone"

And if you happen to know anything about them, totally email me.

MySpace Page

(Ian Anderson)

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Friday, June 08, 2007

The Race Get Reviewed on Pitchfork

Download: The Race - "Walls"
Download: The Race - "Feathers"
Download: The Race - "The Shortest Way To China"

Click Here to read Pitchfork's review of Ice Station, in which the album receives a very solid 7.5. Well done, kids!

Of course, you've read about The Race already, if you read this blog, both here and here, respectively.

(Jonathan Graef)

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

New Track from Mick Turner of The Dirty Three

Download: Mick Turner and Tren Bros. - "Swing (part one)"
Download: The Dirty Three - "Ocean Shore"
Download: The Dirty Three - "Sirena"
Download: The Dirty Three - "1000 Miles"
Download: The Dirty Three - "Odd Couple"

Drag City has posted an MP3 from Mick Turner and Tren Bros. forthcoming collaborative album entitled Blue Trees. For those of you who don't know, Mick Turner is one-third of The Dirty Three The Dirty Three, an instrumental, classical and post-rock influenced trio from Melbourne. Blue Trees is the fourth solo album from Turner. From the sound of it, it looks like Blue Trees will continue the mellow, minimalist and subdued instrumental sounds of Turner's day job. Click on the previous link to access the band's Wikipedia page, and click on the MP3's above to hear more of The Dirty Three.

Blue Trees is due out on August 21st, 2007, on Drag City. Order it by clicking on the link in the previous sentence.

(Jonathan Graef)

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New Minus the Bear Track

Seattle's wonderboys Minus the Bear posted a new song yesterday. I'm just going to go ahead and say it's pretty awesome. Now remember, their new record will be out August 21, so, remember that.

Download: Minus the Bear - "Throwin' Shapes"

MySpace Page

(Ian Anderson)


Flight of the Conchords

From HBO (and to a greater extent, New Zealand) comes the "new" show Flight of the Conchords. Like most new things on television, Flight of the Conchords (Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement) have been around for quite some time. They've already had an HBO special (YouTube "Rhymenoceros" and revel in the glory), and, of course, have been performing in the U.S., New Zealand and many other places around the world. They're basically like a more polite, less metal, version of Tenacious D. The clip above is taken from their first episode, which airs on HBO on June 17th at 9:30 central time (10:30 eastern).

(Jonathan Graef)

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

They Might Be Giants - The Else

They Might Be Giants
The Else
Grade: B-

Okay, They Might Be Giants, it was really cool of you to release The Else two months early on iTunes and all that, but what is the deal with the production on this record? What immediately struck me when I put this record on was the weird vocal mix and how flat everything sounded. I'm not very interested in production value, but I had to mess around with my sound settings to get a mix that wasn't distractingly bad. This improved later in the album, but "I'm Impressed" was very hard to listen to.

I've always liked They Might Be Giants' sense of humor, and I feel like a lot of it has been lost over the years. Songs about failed romance on The Else don’t have the same wit & bite that they used to. It looks like TMBG won't ever release another "Lucky Ball & Chain." I've suspected it for a long time, but hearing "Take Out the Trash," which was lyrically bland and boring to a previously unseen high, confirmed it.

My other complaint is how little they sound like themselves. If it wasn't TMBG's unique vocal stylings, I wouldn't even realize it was them on some tracks because they're borrowed so heavily from other current indie acts in instrumentation. It's always nice to see band branch out rather than getting stuck in a rut, but they really seem to be staying away from wacky songwriting that earned them a loyal, nerdy following.

The whole album isn't bad, though. "Climbing the Walls" is a great song, especially for the graduation season. It is, admittedly, more juvenile than one would expect from TMBG at this stage in their career, but John Flansburgh's vocals are absolutely gripping and the overall rhythm of the song reminds me of a better time in TMBG's history.

I feel like a broken record for saying this about a good half of the records I've heard recently, but here goes: There are a lot of nice moments on the record, even if it isn't that good on a whole. The album ends on a high note with "The Mesopotamians," a song about a fictional rock band. Well, fictional band for now. In the next week, there will probably be no less than 8 TMBG cover bands by the same name. There is literally nothing I can complain about in this song because it's clever, hilarious and has all of the quirks expected from They Might Be Giants.

And since every TMBG record has one lyric that just makes you bust up whenever you hear it, here's mine: "Driving home from my meth lab, I realized something had changed," from "Shadow Government." You know, I can totally relate to funky shit going down on the way home from the lab. Although with me it's the bio lab… Because I'm a nerd.

MySpace Page

(April Wright)


Tin Cup Prophette - Liar and the Thief

Tin Cup Prophette
Liar and the Thief
Grade: B

Tin Cup Prophette scored some serious points with me when she was featured doing a cover of "Tongue" on R.E.M.'s holiday single this year. So, when her latest, Liar and the Thief, finally got some distribution in Minnesota, I snatched that shit up.

I think Amanda Kapousouz, the Tin Cup Prophette herself, shows a whole lot of potential. Kapousouz also arranges her songs beautifully. I never thought I'd actually hear trip-hop and violin work together in a way that isn't all gothy and miserable, but she works that arrangement really well. Liar and the Thief sounds very full for how few instruments she works with.

And I can pay to Kapousouz a compliment I pay all too rarely: I love her voice. It isn't just there, it's not just a vehicle for lyrics and passion (or whiney break-up lyrics, whatever), her voice is very sultry and full. Kapousouz makes her presence as a vocalist felt when she sings, and I love that.

In general, the CD is pretty dark and a little sleepy. The exception is "Going Numb," a glockenspiel and violin piece. It's not a terribly happy song, but it's just the ray of sonic sunshine the album needs to break up all the dreariness of the rest of the album. "Going Numb" is by far the best track on the album by virtue of being unique but still accessible and poppy.

Unfortunately, Kapousouz falls into the same trap as other artists who exert near-total control over their songs: Many of the songs on Liar and the Thief sound nearly the same. I think the main culprit is that she doesn't have a real drummer, and so the rhythm of each song is pretty uniform from the opening to the closing bars. Even from song to song, the feel and tempo stay pretty much constant. The result is that most of the album just kind of melts together. And that really is unfortunate because the instrumentation on this album is arranged beautifully, but the monotony gets in the way of really enjoying it.


(April Wright)


Fourth Of July - Fourth Of July On The Plains

Grade: B+
Download: Long Gone

Fourth Of July's label is Range Life Records, which is perfect in a few ways. For one thing, there's something rural about the band's music. Maybe it's that they're based on Lawrence, Kansas, but whatever it is, you think of country roads instead of city streets as you listen. Another perfect thing about their label name is that there's some shameless Pavement riffing going on here, and why not? People tend to get all upset when a band has clear inspirations, but if they've got good songs, who cares?

And Fourth Of July has good songs. The songwriter in the band is also its lead vocalist, Brendan Hangauer, and he's got a great sense of melody. Not all the tracks are gems, but the ones that work are lilting, upbeat numbers with a commitment to sounding pleasant. It's a really good summer album, with songs "Long Gone" and the Built To Spill-like "Purple Heart" as great ones to blast with windows down on the way to Dairy Queen or the Saints game. There's something to be said for a really solid pop band who only wants to give you a good time, and that's Fourth Of July's modus operandi.

There have been a lot of bands popping up in the past few years with that motive - locally I can think of The Hopefuls and Hockey Night - and I for one am glad to see giving a shit back in style. Here's to its renewed popularity, and here's to Fourth Of July.

(David Brusie)

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Buzz Bin: Animal Collective

I don't really buy hard copies of CDs anymore. Don't get me wrong--I still make an effort to purchase every album that really impresses or moves me. But I've moved so many times over the past five years that hauling around my CD collection was becoming a huge hassle. So last summer I decided to sell nearly every disc I own and burrow even further down the digital rabbit hole--my new record library is entirely electronic. I know this makes me part of the problem, one of "those people" that's partially responsible for the decline of local, independent record retailers, etc. Pushing the bigger issue aside, though, there are still a few bands that I'll always make a trip to the record store for, like Radiohead, The Walkmen, Modest Mouse and, most importantly, Animal Collective.

For my money, Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Deakin and Geologist are making the best and (arguably) most innovative music today. A few days ago, Stereogum previewed and posted the tracklist of Animal Collective's forthcoming album, Strawberry Jam. Brooklyn's finest have been playing most of these songs for over a year now. (In fact, you could argue that their newer "new" material is even more compelling than the Strawberry Jam stuff.) In any event, I've posted some live videos of the band testing out the new material on the road. Keep in mind that there's generally a big disconnect between Animal Collective's live/studio sound, and most of these songs have changed significantly over the past year. The recorded versions of these songs may sound markedly different. But assuming they're even half as good as the live versions, prepare to get blown away by these guys again.

"Reverend Green"

"Peace Bone"

"Cuckoo Cuckoo"

And here's the tracklist. Domino will be unleashing Strawberry Jam this September.

01 "Peacebone" (5:13)
02 "Unsolved Mysteries" (4:25)
03 "Chores" (4:30)
04 "For Reverend Green" (6:34)
05 "Fireworks" (6:50)
06 "#1" (4:32)
07 "Winter Wonder Land" (2:44)
08 "Cuckoo Cuckoo" (5:42)
09 "Derek" (3:01)

(Pete Farrell)

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Live Review: The Narrator, Double Door, 5/27/07

When you’re attending a show by a band that writes as many wiseass anthems as The Narrator does, twenty-something hipsters ironically wearing trucker hats and second-hand t-shirts is as inevitable as mortality and annual payments to the government. One shirt, in particular, stuck out to me. It said the following: “Genius by birth, lazy by choice.”

All That To The Wall, the new album from up-and-coming band The Narrator, is the sound of that t-shirt slogan as a rally cry. Whether that’s intentional or not is one thing. But what is truly certain is that, both live and on record, The Narrator articulate the woes and tribulations of people who are others see as working beneath their potential, but who see themselves as not quite ready to sell their ideals out to the adult world yet.

The Narrator’s set for Flameshovel’s Memorial Day showcase at the Double Door emphasized the more upbeat cuts from Wall and, as a result, the band effectively contrasted the slacker malaise of their lyrics with an energetic, crowd-pleasing performance. Album highlights such as “Surfjew” and “Son of the Son of the Kiss of Death” were upbeat and catchy, with the latter’s twin-guitar attack recalling fellow Chicago band Chin Up Chin Up’s work on This Harness Can’t Ride Anything.

The band’s lighting helped emphasized the tension between the band’s lackadaisical sarcasm and its tight, rhythmical attack, as the stage was bathed in strong reds and laid-back blues. Other times, the music itself was provided served as the juxtaposition for the band’s ethos, as songs that started out slow, ambient and feedback-laden would suddenly switch to double-time and come ragingly back to life. It’s as if the band had just woken up from an afternoon nap and then proceeded to accomplish a day’s worth of tasks in ten minutes.

That quality, along with the fact that the band’s music can be highly energetic and charming (in spite of whatever doubts and reservations about mid-20s life that are expressed), is what The Narrator has in common with legendary groups like Pavement (to whom they are strongly indebted) and Dinosaur Jr. (to whom they bear zero sonic resemblance). Most of the band’s likeability, though, comes from their stage patter, as singers Sam Axelrod and Jesse Woghin joked about winning a Grammy, told the audience in mock-reassurance that there was no pressure to smoke that night, and introduced their cover of Bob Dylan’s “All The Tired Horses” as U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”

It was that set closing number which showed the band’s capacity for being both sincere and sarcastic simultaneously. The Narrator invited audience members to come up on stage to sing along with them, and then dropped down one of those sparkling disco balls you saw at your junior prom. The moment may have meant to been ironic, but ended up as a great sing-a-long for the audience and a sweet way to have ended the set. If it’s true that by scratching a cynic, you’ll actually find a disappointed idealist, then The Narrator’s set last Sunday at the Double Door was like slacker aloe for the fresh wounds of adulthood.

Following The Narrator were fellow Flamshovel labelmates Bound Stems and Russian Circles. With regard to the art-pop (think Deerhoof or The Fiery Furnaces) of the Bound Stems, I can’t help but think of their music as simultaneously hearing two songs separated by a common melody. The band’s creative hodgepodge included such diverse elements as quirky boy-girl harmonies; folksy acoustic-guitar; classic pop chord progressions; ska-influenced bass lines; and finally, polyrhythmic drums. Here’s a group with a definite case of musical ADD. Luckily, the songs were always melodious, even a bit melancholy at times, but sweet merciful crap, they were hard to follow. The band’s Franken-pop was the sound of permanent transition. I stopped keeping track of the stylistic changes after a while, but I also vowed to spend more time with the band’s work.

Russian Circles then closed the evening with their brand of instrumental post-metal. The band’s guitar riffs crunched like a captain, and the snare hits of the drums blasted out like a gunshot. Songs started out quietly, with an eerie, cryptic guitar line straight out of Metallica’s Cliff Burton-era catalog segueing into a jabbing, riffy distorted guitar. The twin guitar-play was masterful, and, at its best, the music of Russian Circles approached cinematic proportions. The Russian Circles proved themselves to be the true masters of the Metalocalypse.

This article has been cross-published at Yerp Magazine.

(Jonathan Graef)

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Parts and Labor on Sound Opinions

Les Savy Fav is the Future of History, Now

I have had a torrid love affair with Les Savy Fav since 2000. I have often cited these Brooklyn-based miscreants as my "single most favorite band ever ever ever." If you have heard me say such a thing, I was not lying.

Last week, their faithful and equally as dubious record label (Frenchkiss Records), which so happens to be owned and operated by LSF bass player Syd Butler, released the first single - "The Equestrian" - off of Les Savy Fav's forthcoming album, set to be released this fall.

Now, I've been waiting for a new track off of this record for some time, so I am understandably excited. So, here are a few of my favorite tracks from their entire catalog to honor this moment and also to entice you to go out and buy all of their albums. Now.

Download: Les Savy Fav - "The Equestrian" - Forthcoming Full-Length
Download: Les Savy Fav - "Raging In the Plague Age" - Plagues and Snakes
Download: Les Savy Fav - "Knowing How the World Works" - Inches
Download: Les Savy Fav - "Disco Drive" - Go Forth
Download: Les Savy Fav - "Hide Me From Next February" - Rome EP**
Download: Les Savy Fav - "J' Taime" - 3/5
Download: Les Savy Fav - "This Incentive" - The Cat and The Cobra

**My favorite LSF song and release.

Les Savy Fav on MySpace
Frenchkiss Records - Buy Stuff Here

(Ian Anderson)


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