Friday, May 30, 2008

Top Ten Tracks on Elbo.Ws Reviewed in 50 Words or Less: 5/16/08--5/31/08

Bi-Weekly, MFR Reviews the top ten tracks on music blog aggregator Here are the songs for the weeks of May 16th through May 31st. Lots of Blondie influence and slow-burn songs here.

1. Mates of State - "My Only Offer"

The fact that this song has grown on me so much since the last time I wrote about it probably means one thing: That I'm becoming older. But, then again, "My Only Offer"'s effortless effervescence has proven pretty hard to resist. Furthermore, you gotta wash the dishes to something, and there are a lot worse options out there.

Grade: B+

2. RATATAT - Mirando

Why this song receives a lot of attention, and Matmos doesn't, I'm not sure, but the second single from RATATAT's upcoming LP3 features many of the same electronic flourishes/trills and not-quite syncopated grooves that should please fans of Supreme Balloon. That said, wasn't this already released earlier this year?

Grade: B-

3. Beck - "Chemtrails"

The leaked first single from the tentatively titled Modern Guilt shows Beck dabbling in Brian Wilson-influenced dream-pop, while retaining the haunting Nigel Godrich touch of his past few albums. "Chemtrails" is a striking departure, one that causes curiosity to definitely pique.

Grade: A-

4. RATATAT - "Shiller"

See above. (Though the soundcapes are legitimately pretty, and this song has grown on me over time as well).

Grade: B-

5. Ponytail - "Celebrate The Body Electric (It Came From An Angel)"

The titular shout-out to Walt Whitman hints at only the slightest idea as to the joyfully noisy racket this Baltimore quartet is capable of. Though "Celebrate" certainly is long, it ultimately rewards the patience of the listener by eagerly revealing its sonic sunlight upon multiple listens. Simply amazing.

Grade: A

6. The Ting Tings - "Shut Up and Let Me Go"


Grade: B

7. Music Go Music - "Light of Love"

Yet another Blondie 2.0 (after The Ting Tings), though Music Go Music hew closer to having hearts of glass, lest they be ones to endure the rapture. The vocals owe more than their fair share of debt to Debbie Harry, but the band plays catchy, competent 50s Doo-Wop in the background. This is a song that I can't be enthused about, but will remain in my head the rest of the day

Grade: B-

8. The Ting Tings - "That's Not My Name"

Is it possible just to mainline sass directly into my veins? At least this is more Missy Elliot than Debbie Harry, so it's in this decade.

Grade: C+

9. Mudhoney - "I'm Now"

"I'm Now" contains one of the best lines to capture the zeitgeist since we found ourselves half-awake in a fake empire. The music, a ramshackle combination of blues and punk, ain't half bad either.

Grade: B

10. Coldplay - "Violet Hill"

While I don't necessarily believe that Eno saved this band from the mumbly doldrums of most mope-rock, he, along with the band's new sense of expressing musical darkness through dynamics, has certainly helped to create the best new Coldplay song since our heads rushed with blood.

Grade: B+

(Jonathan Graef)

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Doomtree Announce New Album...Or Do They?

Hmm...I can't decide whether this is cryptic in a humble kind of way--i.e., "if you build it, they will come--or if this is announcement is mysteriously annoying. Either way, the promise of a new album by MPLS-based hip-hop collective Doomtree is a prospect that's definitely worth getting excited about. The group, and its cast of thousands, posted the image you see above with only the words "7.29.08" in the subject line, on the band's MySpace bulletin.

So what's the significance of the date? Only time will tell. But hey, July 29th is an excellent day already, because it's my birthday, as well as the birthday of several good friends (not the least of whom is the significant other of one April Wright, a standup guy if there ever was one). So that must be it. Doomtree is planning a birthday celebration for all of us. If they aren't, then that means we all get to do a Stephen Colbert-esque post about Who's Not Honoring Us Now?. In all seriousness, if the band keeps writing songs like "I'm Talking" (no longer available on the band's MySpace!), then this release is something to look forward to.

As soon as we find out things like tracklisting and title, we'll let you know.

Doomtree MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)

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Video: RZA as Bobby Digital - "You Can't Stop Me Now"

If we can't stop the RZA now (as if we ever could), may we at least hope to contain him? Or will he dominate the post? Find out by watching the video, which has nothing to do with basketball, above.

RZA MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)


Tonight: Baby Guts at 7th Street Entry

Download: Baby Guts - "Drag"
Download: Baby Guts - "Tiny Cuts"

If you're in the mood for a blistering, female-fronted rock show, the 7th Street Entry is the place to be tonight. The Minneapolis-based neo-riot-grrrl trio Baby Guts will be holding the release party for their new record, The Kissing Disease. Having seen the band live a few times over the past few years, I can say that they've gotten better and better with age. You can check out two hot tracks from Disease above.

Chambermaids, the Sleaze and the Vignettes open. The show is at 9 and is 18+. For 6 bucks, catching Baby Guts is probably the most worthwhile thing you can do tonight.

Baby Guts MySpace Page

(April Wright)


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New (Official) Wolf Parade - "Language City"

Download: Wolf Parade - "Language City"

Though the track has been floating around the internet for quite some time (especially after Wolf Parade posted it on their MySpace Page), it's only today that Sub Pop has made the second single from At Mount Zoomer available for download. As P4K said, the band's two-for-two in terms of advance MP3s. Listen to "Language City" at the top of the post.

(Jonathan Graef


Tonight in Minneapolis: M83 at the Triple Rock

Download: M83 - "Graveyard Girl"

Introspective, darkly melancholy-new-wavers-turned-brightly-nostalgic-shoegazers M83 are set to play a show tonight at the Triple Rock. The group is touring behind its stellar new album Saturdays=Youth. It's fitting that the concert is 21+, because Youth is the kind of album that examines the emotional time-period of adolescence through the tranquility of adulthood. Tickets are

M83 MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

High School Cheerleading Squad Does Dance Routine To Shearwater

Download: Shearwater - "Red Sea, Black Sea"

Not even joking. Matablog posted this two days ago, and it's definitely worth watching, as the choreography is as impressive as the song choice is surreal. Which is to say, very. I'm not sure what high school this is--the warrior logo is more than a little generic--but I will say that I've been colored impressed. The song the routine is choreographed to is from Shearwater's last album, Palo Santo, and it's called "Red Sea, Black Sea."

Rook, Shearwater's upcoming album, is available on June 3rd.

(Jonathan Graef)

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Video: Kanye West - "Flashing Lights" (2nd Version)

(Jonathan Graef)

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Live Review: Soundset 2008

Download: P.O.S - "P.O.S Is Ruining My Life"
Download: Aesop Rock - "Coffee (feat. John Darnielle)"
Download: Atmosphere - "Yesterday"
Download: Mac Lethal - "Pound That Beer"
Download: Blueprint - "Lo-Fi Funk"
Download: Brother Ali - "Take Me Home"
Download: Eyedea and Abilities - "Now"

While I can scarcely type due to painful sunburn on my hands, today I'm bringing you my Soundset '08 report. Obviously, I couldn't catch everything, but I got most of the good stuff.

: While I've never been a huge fan of Musab on CD, I really enjoyed his stage show. The beats sounded great pumping through massive speakers, though I'm still not huge on his lyrics, which often vary between insightful and witty and just kind of silly.

Mac Lethal: How did this guy get on the bill? Yes, Mac, I'm aware that intelligent, educated men such as yourself would like girls like me better if we would just "chug that beer," but beer costs 12 tickets and causes dehydration. Thanks, but no thanks.

: The first really standout performance of the day. The most impressive thing about Blueprint has always been his freestyling, though after working with RJD2 on a few albums, he's now got a great thing going on with his records now, too: Blueprint has a polished sense of rhythm and lyrics that express frustration with what has become of mainstream hip-hop without getting too preachy. Inject hot freestyling into that, and you've got the recipe for a powerful performance.

P.O.S.: Local fave P.O.S. is someone who I've always meant to catch, but because he tours so much, I end up putting it off. And now I regret it. Despite hearing mixed reactions to his live show, I'm happy to report that P.O.S.'s punk-inspired brand of rap translates very well to a live setting. A little bit of an awkward performer, P.O.S. differentiates himself from other rock-inspired acts by incorporating more diverse rhythmic elements, which, in the end, helps him avoid sounding like Limp Bizkit.

Eyedea and Abilities: I don't know what was going on, but no matter where we stood, this set sounded awful. It was clearly a sound issue, as my friends who were near the front said they sounded great. What a Pity.

Brother Ali
: Do I even need to say that Brother Ali was one of the top acts of the day? While his beats sound just like the album, it's Ali's delivery that makes his show great. With his marvelously expressive voice, Ali brought his gospel of social change home to each and every person in the audience. Clear and strong, Ali radiates calm intensity, making it easy to believe completely in his sincerity.

Aesop Rock: Another performer marred by awful sound. I was really disappointed – Aesop Rock was one of the sets I was most looking forward to. Maybe one of you closer to the stage can weigh in how the set sounded from up there?

Atmosphere: Brought the house down. I'm perpetually surprised at the sense of authority Slug is capable of commanding over a crowd. I'm mean, look at the guy. Could he be any more of a stereotypical weedy white dude? But Slug's deeply introspective lyrics allow each and every member of the audience to put themselves in his shoes. There's something transfixing about the way that he manages to pound the crowd with rhymes that perfectly encapsulate the experience of young people everywhere.

Musically, Ant and the backing band were top-notch. The addition of Mankwe Ndosi calls to mind the Rolling Stones on later tours. Atmosphere's strength at this show was definitely the ability to move between a more straight-up hip hop sound and the style of more recent material without sounding forced or insincere. Atmosphere's set easily blew everyone else out of the water.

Listen to MP3s of some of the acts at the top of the post.

(April Wright)

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Mates of State - "Rearrange Us"

Mates of State - "The Re-arranger"

Mates of State have delivered what I am dubbing "The Best Record of 2008, So Far." Fully-loaded with great pop melodies, interesting arrangements and overt husband-wife references, the record picks up right where "Bring It Back" left off: a hard-working band just getting better with every release. Here is one of my many favorites off the new "Rearrange Us" (Barsuk).

Click below to pick up a copy.

Buy from Barsuk Records
Buy it on Amazon

Mates of State on MySpace

(Ian Anderson)


Live Review: VHS or Beta, May 9th

Download: VHS or Beta - "Burn It All Down"
Download: Tiger City - "Are You Sensation?"
Download: Maps Of Norway - "Manners"

Friday, May 9 was my first-ever VHS or Beta show, my interest fueled by their reputation for putting on a fantastic live set, coupled with my love for their latest album, Bring On the Comets. They had been a recent discovery for me, after a friend of mine gushed about seeing them at Coachella, claiming, “Their energy is addicting like crack. They are so much fucking fun.” After listening to the rest of their catalogue, I needed to see them in all their glory at 7th Street Entry. Opening were the local Maps of Norway and Brooklyn-based Tigercity, who I had seen perform with Chicago’s OFFICE back in December, and absolutely loved them.

Maps of Norway “opened” the show around 8. I say “opened” because they started off rather clumsily; it was almost as if they didn’t have time to tune or set up properly, and while I’m pretty used to openers often tinkering with sound and fidgeting with instruments, they seemed to be off in their own little world for most of their set. Vocalist Rebecca Leigh was all about eye contact with the band and not so much about connecting with the audience, save a few friends of hers who she came down to greet before the set even ended. The songs themselves weren’t half bad (bass playing was fantastic), but I was so distracted by their stage presence it’s difficult to say. I had heard decent things about Maps of Norway live, and I don’t know if they were just having an off night, but I was confused and a little disappointed.

True to form, Tigercity followed and brought the fierceness of their fun, synth-soaked songs, with vocalist Bill Gillim jamming out with his amazing bravado and fabulously massive gold chain necklace. Tigercity played favorites from their ‘Pretend Not to Love’ EP, including songs ‘Are You Sensation?’ and the electropop jam ‘Other Girls.’ Tigercity have such a fun disco sound, and I can safely say I didn’t see a single body within my vicinity standing still.

By the time VHS or Beta hit the stage, 7th Street was brimming over with bodies, clinking beer bottles and roaring shouts of excitement. Amber spotlights glared forward into our eyes, and 5 silhouettes burst into the starter notes of “Burn It All Down,” stimulating a synchronized bounce from the masses. Newer tracks were definitely the main focus of their set, peppered with older hits like ‘Night on Fire.’ The audience was a literal sea of hands clapping while shouting, ‘Put your hands together and we’ll light this night/We’ll light this night on fire.’ VHS or Beta’s overall sound was clean, sharp and soaring – like their records, only amplified. The guitars during their set were nothing short of brilliant; Craig and Zeke did a phenomenal job of blaring each note and losing themselves in song. We as an audience became our own entity for the time being, which is every concert-lovers’ dream. Nothing else mattered except the music and good company, and when their set ended, you could definitely feel the pulse of energy and excitement lingering with everyone who experienced it.

VHS or Beta MySpace Page
Tigercity MySpace Page
Maps of Norway MySpace Page

(Tara Rogan)


This Weekend In Minneapolis: The Birthday Suits, The Long Blondes

(Birthday Suits live in Chicago.)

Not one, but two opportunities to see garage-punk band Birthday Suits tonight. First, for an all-ages show at 5, second a 21+ show at 9. Both shows are $6 and are at the 7th Street.

Birthday Suits MySpace Page

Download: The Long Blondes - "Here Comes The Serious Bit"
Download: The Long Blondes - "Guilt"

UK quintet The Long Blondes seemed to have a pretty good thing going when they released their debut album Someone To Drive You Home in 2006. The group's sound was a sleek, sensual and feminine reminder to all of the post-punk revival boys that, hey, Blondie was once considered punk as well. So it's a bit of a surprise, then, that for "Couples", the band's latest effort, the band has done not-so-much an 180 degree shift, so much as an 75 degree shift. The odes to sexual frustration are still there, but, because the band has inevitably gotten older, the perspective is much more bitter, as on the title track, where singer Kate Jackson laments how people in relationships "have the nerve to tell me they're lonely" when she, in fact, is the single one. As far as how "Couples" actually sounds, the music still has an hi-hat-snare-drum driven pulse, but the reference points here are more Pet Shop Boys (albeit with a less synthy sound) than Blondie. It's a stylistic shift that I'm not sure the band needed to make, but it's one that they do pull off more often than not, especially on songs like the disco-chic "Guilt" and the minimalist art-noir of "Too Clever By Half". Less successful are self-consciously "different" tracks like "Round The Hairpin", which is too turgid and goes nowhere, but those low-lights are made for by the manic, frantic energy and lyrical wit of "Here Comes The Serious Bit" and "I'm Going To Hell", the latter being a funny, defiant exercise of grace under bad judgment. Though "Couples" isn't entirely successful, it has enough pleasures to make it a contender for one of the most underrated albums of the year.

Show is 21+, and tickets are $13. More show info here

(Jonathan Graef)


Thursday, May 22, 2008

New Muja Messiah - "Oh, Silly Me" (Feat. Slug of Atmosphere and HAP)

Download: Muja Messiah - "O Silly Me"

Switchblade Comb debuted this new track from Minneapolis hip-hop artist Muja Messiah yesterday. It's an excellent track from a record called Massacre: Soundset 08 Edition. "Oh Silly Me" has got a rumbling bass hook that should sound greatly coming out of car speakers--that is, if any of you are still driving. Listen for guest verses by fellow Minneapolis emcee Slug.

Switchblade also revealed that Muja's new album, Thee Adventures of a B-Boy/D-Boy drops via Black Corners on July 29th.

Listen to "O Silly Me" at the top of the post.

Muja Messiah MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)

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Toki Wright Reflects On The "Best Week Ever", Plays the Blue Nile on Friday

Download: Toki Wright - "Future Rock"

Toki Wright, as he stated a few weeks ago on his website, has been chronicling the past week of his life in a series called "Best Week Ever". As he has done for the past two weeks, reggae/hip-hop influenced artist and rapper Wright has uploaded the latest edition of "Week" to his MySpace Page. Here's what he had to say about the week of May 16th:

Another eventful week has passed. People are graduating from college. Nearly 50,000 people were buried alive in an earthquake in China. Kevin Garnett is one game closer to getting a ring. Hillary Clinton smashed Obama in West Virginia though its almost impossible to catch up. People were saying "hell no I didn't vote for no colored" (verbatim) in the exit poll interviews. Obama picked up a John Edwards endorsement. You caught your baby momma creeping out of your cousin's window. Whatever the case may be. Every week is another week to appreciate living. So whatever is on your brain be at ease. Relax. Release.

There surely will be relaxation and release this Friday, when Wright plays the Blue Nile with St. Paul Slim, as well as many others. All of the relevant information is at the top of the post.

And, just in case you think Wright is being hyperbolic about West Virginia, take a look at this:

Toki Wright MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)


New Doomtree - "I'm Talking"

Stream: Doomtree - "I'm Talking"
Download: Doomtree - "Flex"

After triumphing in the City Pages Best Of, where they won the "Best Concert of The Past 12 Months" Award for their blowout at First Ave, the Minneapolis-based hip-hop collective Doomtree returned the scene of the crime in hopes of giving another award-winning performance. But in order for a group to play, there needs be music that's worthy of a live setting in the first place. This, and other observations, can gleamed from Jon Graef's Big Book of Whoopty-Fucking-Do!, to be released in paperback this Fall by Simon & Schuster.

What's perhaps less of an obvious statement is that Doomtree are a very prolific force in Minneapolis hip-hop, and that they continue to churn out great work. Their newest track, "I'm Talking", was premiered exclusively on the band's MySpace Page two days ago. The song is a mid-tempo track driven by smooth guitar doublestops and keys/strings, a device that the Wu-Tang Clan has used on many am occasion. It's a technique that provides "I'm Talking" with a haunting, mournful, and soulful atmosphere that permeates to the lyrics as well.

But even if things sound dire in camp Doomtree--indeed, the emcee warns the listener that "there ain't no message in that bottle/it's hollow", as apt an visual metaphor for hopelessness as there can be--the collective still manages to come up with a chant that could get the crowd riled up. The fact that the chant is "It goes on/and on/and on" is filled with existential dread about life's future is a particularly ironic stroke of genius.

The titular lyric may be "I'm talking/but no one's listening", but as long as Doomtree continuing to record hip-hop that's as simultaneously thoughtful and thought-provoking as "I'm Talking", the collective all but ensure that they'll be definitely holding the fervent attention of their loyal fans.

Stream "I'm Talking" at the Doomtree MySpace Page.

(Jonathan Graef)

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Atmosphere Performs For "You" on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien"

MPLS hip-hop duo Atmosphere performed one of When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold's more accessible tracks on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" last night. You can watch the video of it right at the top of the post. The lineup consists of backup singers, a guitarist and, of course, Ant on the ones and twos.

(Jonathan Graef)


Lykke Li To Release Full-Length Debut Album, Youth Novels, on August 19th

Download: Lykke Li - "Tonight"
Download: Lykke Li - "Dance Dance Dance"

Swedish pop songstress Lykke Li may have just issued her Little Bit EP stateside this past week, via her own label LL Recordings, but that doesn't mean that Li can't be focused on future releases. Indeed, as the NME reported yesterday, Li is planning on releasing her first full-length long player on August 19th. The record's title is Youth Novels, and it will also be issued by LL Recordings. The 14-track album was produced by Bjorn Yttling of fellow pop-minded Swede craftsmen Peter, Bjorn and John.

Here's the tracklisting, courtesy of NME:

'Melodies & Desires'
'Dance Dance Dance'
'I’m Good, I’m Gone'
'Let It Fall'
'My Love'
'Little Bit'
'Hanging High'
'This Trumpet In My Head'
'Complained Department'
'Breaking It Up'
'Everybody But Me'
'Time Flies'

Youth Novels is out on August 19th.

Lykke Li MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New Sunfold (Feat. Members of Annuals) - "Sara The American Winter"

Download: Sunfold - "Sara The American Winter"

As you may or may not know, Sunfold are an offshoot of beloved blog buzz band Annuals. In fact, Sunfold pretty much are Annuals, but with band member Kenny Florence in the lead role instead of regular frontman Adam Baker. Earlier this year, Annuals/Sunfold released what was essential a split EP with themselves called Wet Zoo. Now, Sunfold is going to have the spotlight all to themselves, courtesy of Annuals' newly re-formed collective/label Terpsikhore Records.

On July 22nd, the label's first release will be...that's right, you guessed it! Frank Stallone Sunfold. The record is titled Toy Tugboats, and its first absolutely adorable single is called "Sara The American Winter". As you probably ascertained, Annuals and Sunfold have some sonic similarities to one another.

However, the differences are notable. The emphasis for Sunfold's sound seems more grounded in jazz and soul than psychedelia and rock. That said, lovely harmonies? Check. Epic chorus? Double check. Nods to world music? Triple check, especially during the breakdown of the song, where the wordless chants echo a certain afro-pop tune about lions sleeping. In sum, this is solid, but seems unnecessary on the whole. The track essentially sounds like a band imitating Annuals, but doing a good job of it.

Toy Tugboats is out July 22nd.

Sunfold MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)

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Top Ten Tracks on Elbo.Ws Reviewed in 50 Words or Less: 5/01/08--5/16/08

Ok, ok, so this is a little late. Alright, a lot late. But, in my defense, I did a lot of moving over the past week-and-a-half or so. Not only for myself, but for others as well. As a result, I haven't given these tracks the consideration they are due. So this will be an especially quick 50 words. And the word count may skew closer to 65, or 10, depending on how stream-of-consciousnessy I'm feeling. So here we go! The top ten tracks on for the first half of May.

1. The Radio Department - "Freddie And The Trojan Horse"

Download: The Radio Dept - "Freddie And The Trojan Horse"

This track by the Swedish trio (formerly a quartet) is a subdued bit of New-Wave pop with political overtones relevant to the government of their homeland Sweden. This sounds splitting the difference between The Cure and one of the many anonymous synth-pop one-hit-wonders that topped the US Charts twenty years ago. Not bad, but needs more bite.

Grade: B

2. No Age - "Eraser"

Download: No Age - "Eraser"

Once the novelty of the nifty soundscapes wear off, as they do upon multiple listens, I'm surprised at how simplistic, in a bad way, this song is. Not that I dislike it now--the main section of "Eraser" is too much of a good-natured romp to not enjoy--but maybe the musical honeymoon is over?

Grade: B-

3. Brendan Canning - "Hit The Wall"

Download: Brendan Canning - "Hit The Wall"

The latest member of BSS to make the solo plunge, Brendan Canning debuts a cool, smooth ambient-pop song that, like its antecedents in the Broken Social Scene canon, takes its sweet time getting to an expansive, horn-drenched refrain about life's regrets. It would seem counterintuitive that bitter sounds sweet, but "Hit The Wall" does a great job of proving us wrong.

Grade: A-

4. RATATAT - "Shiller"

Download: RATATAT - "Shiller"

Lovely, and strangely reminiscent of The Fucking Champs, but anti-climatic. I should greatly enjoy this, given my musical tastes toward shoegazer and ambient music. That said, despite the sonic gymnastics, I still felt bored, like I was listening to a segue track while waiting for a proper song to begin. Should the song prove to be very popular, perhaps it will grow on me.

Grade: C+

5. Tokyo Police Club -Tessellate (Tom Campesinos Remix)

Download: Tokyo Police Club - "Tessellate" (Tom Campesinos Remix)

This remix of Tokyo Police Club's (the inferior North American answer to Arctic Monkeys) by Tom Campesinos--hey, where's the exclamation point?--reminds me of "Plainsong" by The Cure, in terms of the instrumental interplay on an epic scale. This remix does a very good job of placing the vocals in different context without sounding to "remixy".

Grade B+

6. Sunny Day Sets Fire - "Brainless"

Download: Sunny Day Sets Fire - "Brainless"

Given how much I loved "Stranger", I was highly anticipating this track. What a shame that this song, in comparison to "Stranger", is an anonymous piece of blog-rock, filled with POPPOPPOP and no other distinctive characteristics. Oh well.

Grade: C

7. Usher - "Love In This Club" MSTRKRFT Remix

Download: Usher - "Love In This Club" (MSTRKRFT Remix)

Layla? Seriously?. Whatever gets me dancing, I guess. Daft Punk would be proud.

Grade: B

8. This Is The Ivy League - "The Richest Kids"

Download: This is the Ivy League - "The Richest Kids"

This is like being strangled by twee cute and vintage 60s pop. Certainly catchy, and well-crafted. But on the other hand, Belle & Sebastian, or maybe The Zombies, should sue. That said, am I going to have this song's chorus stuck in my head the rest of the day? Survey says...

Grade: C+

9. Mates of State - "My Only Offer"

Download: Mates of State - "My Only Offer"

Speaking of adorable overload, here come Mates of State. Again, well-crafted, and certainly melodic, but also hardly distinctive. But also again: Will I the chorus of this song alternate in my head with the Ivy League? Survey says...

Grade: B-

10. Four Tet - DJ Mix

Download: Four Tet - "DJ Mix"

This is actually pretty awesome, but I more than understand if you don't have the time to listen to it. Still, this makes for a hell of a soundtrack for walking in the city.

Grade: A-

(Jonathan Graef)

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New Hold Steady - "Sequestered In Memphis"

Download: The Hold Steady - "Sequestered In Memphis"

We went koo-koo for The Hold Steady's proverbial cocoa-puffs, which, in 2006, arrived in the form of Boys And Girls In America, their third studio album in as many years. 2007 came and went with no new record from the Brooklyn-via-Minneapolis quintet, the first year that has happened since the band's inception. However, the band still toured and, on a few shows, they debuted some new songs like "Lord, I'm Discouraged" and "Joke About Jamaica" to various degrees of fanfare. Once it was announced that record number four would be called Stay Positive, and it would arrive on July 15th in the States and the day before abroad, anticipation heightened. And now, finally, we have a first single called "Sequestered In Memphis".

So how is the track? Very solid. The mid-tempo track doesn't differ too much from the band's old material, but there are many hints in the arrangements that this band is surely--but also definitely slowly--edging away from the works of their past. Like "Hot Soft Light", "Sequestered In Memphis" is about a night in the pokey with a gal who "In bar light..looked alright(but) daylight...looked desperate". The horn touches are very Pleased To Meet Me. All in all, a decent effort with a great sing-along refrain at the end.

Stay Positive is out July 15th.

The Hold Steady MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pitchfork Interviews Paul Westerberg

Download: Paul Westerberg - "Baby Learns To Crawl"
Download: Paul Westerberg - "We May Be The Ones"
Download: Paul Westerberg - "Dirty Diesel"
Download: Paul Westerberg - "As Far As I Know"

Pitchfork has an excellent interview with former Replacements frontman Paul Westerberg. The interview, conducted by Joshua Klein, touches on subjects like the Mats' supposedly legendary substance habits, the group's dabbling in the hardcore punk scene, how Hootenanny became the first true Replacements record, and the general evolution of Westerberg's songwriting, which includes how Paul was tentative about introducing his more confessional, ballad-like material to the band. Westerberg has many funny, insightful lines, and the interview is well worth the read. Take a look at it here , and then listen to a few songs from Paul Westerberg's Vagrant recordings. "We May Be The Ones", from his 2002 album Stereo, might be my favorite solo Westerberg song.

(Jonathan Graef)

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Shearwater Announce Minneapolis Date

Download: Shearwater - "Rooks"

Those fans of grandiose, melodramatic art-rock with folk touches are in luck. After opening several dates on British rock eccentrics Clinic's tour (including a date at the 7th Street Entry), the band, led by now-former Okkervil River member Jonathan Meiburg, will return to the Entry on June 25th, one day after their Chicago date. This is the second time that Shearwater have played at the entry in as many months. Perhaps Meiburg found a species of bird indigenous to the Entry that considers serious study? I, for one, would be highly amused by the discovery of a black-bellied whistling duck inside the friendly confines of First Ave. They'd have to name it after either Prince or Grant Hart.

Tickets for the 21+ show are $8 and can be bought here. Below you'll find a list of previously announced dates, as well as the new date for Minneapolis on the 25th of June.

May 20 West Hollywood, CA Troubadour *
May 22 Tucson, AZ Solar Culture
May 29 Austin TX The Parish with 8-piece orchestra
June 13-Atlanta Earl
June 14-Chapel Hill Local 506
June 15-Washington DC Black Cat
June 17-Philadelphia Johnny Brenda's
June 19-Brooklyn, NY Music Hall of Williamsburg
June 20-Cambridge, MA T.T. The Bear's Place
June 21-Danbury, CT Heirloom Arts Theatre
June 24-Chicago, IL Mansion
June 25-Minneapolis, MN 7th Street Entry
June 27-Fort Worth, TX Lola's
June 28-Austin, TX Mohawk

The show page at First Ave lists the openers as "Special Guests", but one can perhaps safely assume that the opener will be either Frog Eyes or Evangelicals, both of whom had been previously revealed as tour openers.

As far as Shearwater's more immediate future is concerned, the band will play another one of their Rook shows in their hometown of Austin. On May 29th, the trio will play through Rook in its entirety, and backed by a string quartet, woodwinds, a harpist. Visual projections will also be provided by the team behind Rook's cover art, which so happens to be the image at the top of this post.

Rook is out on June 3rd.

Shearwater MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)

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Delicious Venom Profiled By New York Times, Condemned By Right-Wing Douchebags, Defended By Culture Bully

Download: Delicious Venom - "Genocide in Laos"

This past week has been a great one, in terms of media exposure, for Hmong rapper and Minneapolis natives Delicious Venom. First off, the duo, and specifically Tou Saiko Lee, were the subjects of a video profile at the New York Times. The video explores, as you might imagine, how Lee reconciles his cultural ancestors--both in Laos and in Hip-hop--in today's society. Of course, that's just the jumping off point. It's very much worth watching, and you can do so here.

That said, not everyone is so enamored of Delicious Venom, or his efforts to use hip-hop in order to teach awareness, and have people "learn", about how societies and cultures different from their own function. Jason Lewis, a conservative commentator from the Twin Cities who has served as a substitute host for Rush Limbaugh and has written for the Wall Street Journal, denounced the PTA in South Washington County, for having Lee come in for a day and speak to the sixth graders about creating poetry and the benefits of self-expression.

About the PTA, Lewis said:
“Along with the school district in South Washington County: to hell with Shakespeare, to hell with Tennyson, to hell with science and math; we’re going to teach our sixth graders how to be hip hop emcees.”

Who wants to pitch in a few bucks so we can get Lewis a "Jump To Conclusions Mat", Office Space-style?

Lee, as well as Culture Bully writer Kyle Myhre, does a fantastic job of defending himself and his art, so much so that any other further commentary is superfluous. Read the article here.

Listen to "Genocide in Laos", which surely sounds like its about bitches, guns and hoes, and has nothing to do with this, at the top of the post.

Delicious Venom MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)

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New Bound Stems - "Happens To Us All Otherwise"

Download: Bound Stems - "Happens To Us All Otherwise"

Bound Stems are a math-indie (Mindie?) rock band from sweet home Chicago who, in the fall, will put out the follow-up to their debut record Appreciation Night. The record is called The Family Afloat, and, hopefully, music fans will appreciate the new effort (did you like what I did there?) as much as they did the old. The first song from Afloat, "Happens To Us All Otherwise", sounds like the most straightforward song they've ever done, with a gloriously anthemic chorus taking center stage. But if this is the same band that I saw at the free Flameshovel sponsored show last year at the Double Door, I know that they still have a few wild tricks up their sleeve.

The Family Afloat is out in September.

Bound Stems MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)

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Monday, May 19, 2008

New Baby Guts - "Tiny Cuts"

Download: Baby Guts - "Drag"
Download: Baby Guts - "Tiny Cuts"

Minneapolis' own riot-grrl revivalists Baby Guts have posted another track from their forthcoming record The Kissing Disease up on their MySpace page. In contrast to the minor-key rage of "Drag", the first single from Disease, which you can listen to at the top of the post, "Tiny Cuts" is a little more melodic and old-school punk sounding--perhaps one could call this Dead Girls? Luckily for us, I doubt Laura Larson will have the same fate as Stiv Bators. She's too busy screaming like a hell-bent banshee bent on sweet, sweet world domination, and her band sounds like her devotedly trashing followers. Based on the quality of this, as well as "Drag", one can only assume that Baby Guts will have many more followers once Disease drops.

The Kissing Disease is out on May 29th.

Baby Guts MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)

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New Ponytail - "I Celebrate The Body Electric (It Came From An Angel)"

Download: Ponytail - "I Celebrate The Body Electric (It Came From An Angel"

Ponytail are a quartet from Baltimore who travel in the same circles as experimental multi-culti melodists Yeasayer and droney soundscapers Indian Jewelry. This fact should come as no surprise, seeing as all three of these bands are on We Are Free, the Yeasayer family imprint. So where do Ponytail fit in?

The band--who are often compared to Deerhoof, which, based on this song, is partially valid--are the energetic, youthful, punk and pop (but not punk-pop) influenced band who specialize in making sonic digressions. There's many of those--hence the Deerhoof comparison--in "I Celebrate The Body Electric (It Came From An Angel)", the Walt Whitman-biting first single from the band's forthcoming second album Ice Cream Spiritual.

Once June 17th rolls around, you'll be able to determine how an entire album's worth of that spastic, sugary approach works--but, based on how gloriously epic this seven-minute (patience, young Skywalker) sounds, as well as the reception to the band's previous work, I'd say that Ponytail has nothing to worry about; this is awesome.

Ice Cream Spiritual is out June 20th.

Ponytail MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Tonight in Minneapolis: Parts For All Makes, The Haves Have It

With guitars and drum sticks blazing, indie-rock threesome The Haves Have It played to a packed crowd at Hexagon in late March in honor of their first full-length album, Friction – expect a similar experience when the band plays tonight at the Uptown, opening for Parts For All Makes’s CD release party.

Friction contains a lot of fan favorites that have been in THHI repertoire for a few years, like the haunting, moody "Dark Dark" and angsty, guitar-heavy "Burnsville." However, the band also cranked out a few new tracks for the album, like the harmonious and echoing "Tow Tag." Friction is one of those no-fuss, no-muss first albums. The kind where you instantly know that the band isn’t going to conform to what is stereotypically popular in indie rock, or in any other genre for that matter. It’s simply The Haves Have It: 2 girls and a boy who know who they are and put it out there for all to hear.

THHI were in raucous form for the show, the trio was full of smiles when they took the stage and sounded as if they’d blow the top off the bar (in a good way). The show definitely proved these guys definitely own a unique sound that is original to them; each member existing in every moment of music, creating a tripod of how rock and roll should sound.

Portia belted out the anthem "Pie" (about the food or the body part? You decide!) much to the amusement of the entire room, causing a spontaneous chain of bouncing to the guttural bass strumming from Jenny Gallup and Kelly Pollack’s drum thumping. After playing a majority of the songs from Friction and a few others, THHI thanked the audience profusely for all their support. Looking back to a sea of people that reached as far back as the outside doors, it was pretty apparent we were thanking them for their continued awesomeness. Expect nothing less at the Uptown tonight.

Uptown Bar:

Parts For All Makes MySpace Page
The Haves Have It MySpace Page

(Tara Rogan)

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Tonight in Minneapolis: EL-P, Dizzee Rascal

Buy the tour-only EL-P CD, for which you see the cover of at the top of the post, when EL-P and Dizzee Rascal stroll into the Triple Rock for a 21+ show. Tickets are $20 and can be bought here.

(Jonathan Graef)

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Bon Iver at First Ave: Tickets Go On Sale Today

Here's hoping that Bon Iver get a better reception at First Ave on August 13th than they did at Lutefest. Seriously, St. Olaf, what the hell is the matter with you? First, Carleton College gets Gospel Gossip, then their choir covers Vampire Weekend, and now, apparently Bon Iver totally harshed your Case Day buzz, maaaaaannnnnnnn? One of the best portraits of solitude since Elliot Smith, or Jeff Buckley, and you're too drunk on Grain Belt to even notice? What, you'd prefer friggin' Dave Matthews? Does St. Olaf have anything cool at all anymore? There's only so much work that this blog, Jayber Crow, and Masses With Masses can do.

Buy tickets here, dammit. Watch above and learn, you asshats.

Bon Iver MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)

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The Hold Steady Are "Sequestered In Memphis" - But Not For So Long That They Can't Go On Tour

(Pic via Switchblade Comb)

Download: The Hold Steady - "Your Little Hoodrat Friend"

We already know the track-listing, title, and release date for the fourth long player from Brooklyn-via-Minneapolis indie-nostalgists The Hold Steady - but what about the first single? Will it allow us to Stay Positive about the Craig Finn-led group's irresistible winning streak of a recording career? We'll have to wait until July 15th until we truly know for sure, as that's when the album drops. But, on May 20th, which is in a few short days, we'll be able to hear the first single from Stay Positive. The song is called "Sequestered In Memphis", and it will be available on iTunes on the date mentioned in the previous sentence. No word on whether the label or the band will release that MP3 as a promo, but if we do, we'll let you know.

Being "Sequestered in Memphis" may or may not sound like your cup of tea vis-a-vis shootin' the shit and having good times, but certainly, a Hold Steady tour will float your boat. The band announce a full-length jaunt which begins in late June and goes all the way through August, with stops in Chicago for the P4K festival, amongst other summer fests. Check out the dates below.

6.08 - Chula Vista, CA - 94/9 Independence Jam
06.27 - Baltimore, MD - Ram’s Head Live!
06.28 - Philadelphia, PA - Festival Pier - School of Rock Festival
06.29 - Brooklyn, NY - McCarren Pool
07.17 - Cleveland, OH - Beachland Ballroom
07.18 - Pontiac, MI - Crofoot Ballroom
07.19 - Chicago, IL - Pitchfork Festival
07.21 - Madison, WI - Majestic Theatre
07.22 - Minneapolis, MN - First Avenue
07.23 - Fargo, ND - Fargo Theatre
07.26 - Seattle, WA - Capitol Hill Block Party
07.27 - Portland, OR - Crystal Ballroom
07.29 - San Francisco, CA - Mezzanine
07.30 - Los Angeles, CA - Avalon
08.02 - Tucson, AZ - Rialto Theatre
08.03 - El Paso, TX - Club 101
08.05 - Dallas, TX - Palladium Ballroom
08.06 - Austin, TX - La Zona Rosa
08.08 - Oxford, MS - Proud Larry’s
08.09 - Athens, GA - 40 Watt
08.10 - Charleston, SC - The Pourhouse
08.12 - Carrborro, NC - Cat’s Cradle
08.13 - Norfolk, VA - The Norva

Tickets for the MPLS show go on sale at 10 AM Today. Click here for tix.

The Hold Steady MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Stream: New Atmosphere - "Happy Mess"

Download: Atmosphere - "Don't Stop"
Download: Atmosphere - "Lyndale Avenue Users Manual"
Download: Atmosphere - "Sunshine"

Speaking of tour dates, and Rhymesayers acts, hip-hop duo Atmosphere have been touring like crazy. It's hard to blame them, seeing as they have a chart-topping album on their hands and that the shows have been consistently selling out. Perhaps fans are eager to get their mitts on the tour-only Sad Clown, Bad Spring 12 , the latest edition in their long-running series of seasonally themed EPs. If, for whatever reason, you've been unable to see Atmosphere live, and thus haven't been able to pick up the EP, fear not. The duo have released Spring 12 track "Happy Mess" as a stream on their MySpace Page. The track itself is more in vein with vintage Atmosphere material, with a soul sample driving the action, with Slug, or a character voiced by Slug, apologizing for transgressions against a romantic partner. Good times.

When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold is out now. At the top of the post, check out MP3s of tracks from past Sad Clown EPs, courtesy of Rhymesayers.

MySpace Page

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Eyedea & Abilities Announce East Coast Tour

East Coasters who've been waiting for a taste for Midwest hip-hop can finally indulge their rhymethical palatte (and dance their asses off, too), because Minneapolis rap duo Eyedea & Abilities have announced a brief East Coast tour. The duo, who've been mainly working seperately on other projects. , have reconveined for the follow-up to their so-called "Appetite for Distraction" tour. As the Rhymesayers page notes , this is the first time the pair have played East Coast dates since their album E&A dropped back in 2004. Hopefully, these dates will be a warm-up for a more extensive tour, and maybe, just maybe, a record. Or at least a free EP. After all, it isn't like Rhymesayers acts are reluctant to release their art directly to the masses, right?.

Here are the tour dates:
5.27 - Washington, DC @ Rock and Roll Hotel
5.28 - Philadelphia, PA @ Barbary Saloon
5.29 - New York, NY @ Knitting Factory
5.30 - Providence, RI @ Living Room
5.31 - Allston, MA @ Harper's Ferry
6.01 - Burlington, VT @ Higher Ground

For more show details, click here. Or, you could just roll up in your 6-4 the night of the show and pray to Jebus that tickets are still available. Anyway you want to do it. We're not here to judge.

Eyedea & Abilities MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

New Music: Mates of State - "My Only Offer"

Download: Mates of State - "My Only Offer"

Mates of State released a sweet new jam. It's complete with great harmonies and a really solid bridge. Check it out, let us know what you think.

Mates of State on MySpace

(Ian Anderson)


Tonight: Hey There Cowboy Play Free Show at Zombie House

Download: Hey There Cowboy - "Aging Pear"

Pop-punk band Hey There Cowboy will headline a free show Tonight at Zombie House. In order to get all of the deets, message them at MySpace, and they will let you in on all of the show action. In other Cowboy news, the band has posted a few new live recordings on their MySpace page from a performance at the 7th Street Entry. You can check those out here. If you don't catch them at Zombie house, then you need not worry, because the band's summer is looking hella hectic, with dates especially plentiful in late July. Check it all out on their MySpace page.

Hey There Cowboy MySpace Page

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Doomtree Headline Free "Best of City Pages" Show, Post Exclusive Remix on MySpace

There probably isn't a more apt way of celebrating your win as City Pages "Best Concert of the past 12 months" than putting on a live show, and Minneapolis hip-hop collective Doomtree are about to demonstrate tonight why they won that award. The show at First Ave. is absolutely free, but 21+. Flier above has all of the pertinent details.

To get a taste of what you'll be in for, check out this video that The Current uploaded of the hip-hop group performing their song "Stand Up" at. The footage was taken from the award-winning blowout at First Ave. last year:

Also playing with Doomtree will be indie-rockers The Alarmists and Country-tinged romanticists Romantica.

In other Doomtree news, the band posted an exclusive mash-up of their song "Slow Burn" on their MySpace Page. Check it out by clicking the hyperlink in the previous sentance.

(Jonathan Graef)

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First Communion Afterparty Announce New Album Info, CD Release Party, New Drummer

Download: First Communion Afterparty - "The Mini-Apple

They say that the only thing that doesn't change is the nature of change itself. With this aphorism in mind, we can't say that we're surprised at the news of a First Communion Afterparty member (drummer Kiernan) exiting from the MPLS-based psychedelia revivalists, what with their extensive history of personnel changes and everything. But based on what's written online, this split sounds more than amicable.

From the band's MySpace Bulletin:

Our drummer Kieran has left FCAP to consentrate on Strange Lights (who if you havent heard yet then do so) and we are happy to announce that Justin of Huge Rat Attacks (who also if you havent heard yet then do so) has joined FCAP in his place. We are now working on material for the new new full length to be released in early winter. Our new album "sorry for all Mondays, and to those who cant sing" will be out on July 12th 2008 and an album party will be bringing down the house at the 7th Street Entry that night ...18+ btw. Other than that we are going on hiatus for a month or so to write more music and iron out the kinks with our new line up.

That's a lot of bands to check out! Sorry For All Mondays, And To Those Who Can't Sing has to be one of the better non-sequitur album titles out there. Although I'm sure Liars will come up with something quite memorable for their next record, unless they decide to title all of their future release eponymously.

As far as a label for distribution is concerned, the Afterparty hasn't named any names. However, given their history of freely giving away songs on their MySpace Page, we would be none too surprised if the band kicked it Radiohead style. Obviously, that's speculation. As soon as we have the facts, we'll vote yes, we'll let you know what's up. Ditto for any new songs.

If the band sounds as good as they do on these remastered recordings of their demos, or live in Wisconsin, then Mondays should be a very promising record indeed. At the top of the post, you can check out the *potential* cover art for the album, designed by head Party member Liam Watkins.

Sorry For All Mondays, And To Those Who Can't Sing is out July 12th.

First Communion Afterparty MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)

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Tokyo Police Club Abide By The Onion A.V. Club's "Random Rules"

Download: Tokyo Police Club - "Tessellate" (Tom Campesinos Remix)

"Random Rules" is one of the Onion A.V. Club's more creative, hell, maybe even ingenious, features. The premise is simple, but effective. A band sits down with their MP3 player for a brief interview. The interviewee is asked to put their player on random/shuffle, and then asked by the interviewer to comment on the tracks that come up. No skipping aloud, no matter how embarrassing the results are. For this week's edition, the AV Clubbers interview singer/bassist David Monks of Tokyo Police Club, who are currently hot as shit on the artists list. The song selections themselves are surprisingly tame--it pretty much consists of every significant indie artist from the past 5 years. Still, it's an insight into the guy's iPod. Can't go wrong with that.

Read the article here.

Elephant Shell is out now.

Tokyo Police Club MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)

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Non-Profit Indie Label Accuses Crystal Castles of Plagiarism

Yikes – buzz in the 8-Bit blogosphere is that Crystal Castles has been ripping off several musicians and artists on their way to the top, most notably on the unreleased song “Intersection”. The track has been on their Myspace for years and is frequently performed live. However, the Crystal Castles seems to have lifted a large part of "Intersection" from another 8-Bit artist named Lo-bat.

Lo-bat’s work was released under Creative Commons, a non-profit organization that allows artists to legally upload and share their art, so long as proper credit is given. In other words, if Crystal Castles wanted to use Lo-Bat's music, the work would have to be attributed. According to a screen shot from last month (view here), it wasn’t. The work also has to be non-commercial and distributed under Creative Commons licensing, which Crystal Castles’ work was not. 8bitpeoples, the label that released Lo-bat’s music, has a statement condemning Crystal Castles’ action here.

The band also copied artwork from an artist, Trevor Brown. Crystal Castles say they found the art, and added the attribution when he came forward. Well, yes, but the artist has asked the group to either stop using his art or compensate him. No luck so far. You can read about his struggles here.

Really, really uncool stuff. Lots of bands release things under Creative Commons, and it’s very wrong for Crystal Castles to take advantage of that. For a more in-depth look at what Crystal Castles has done, visit here. You can also hear “Intersection” and the song it ripped off there – I figure we shouldn’t post mp3s of Crystal Castles’ until they clear this mess up. To read up on Creative Commons licensing, visit the Creative Commons website.

Crystal Castles MySpace Page

(April Wright)

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tonight in Minneapolis: Clinic and Shearwater at 7th Street Entry

The Entry
8 P.M. Doors

(Jonathan Graef)

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New Video: The Kills - "Last Day of Magic"

The Kills on MySpace

(Ian Anderson)


New The Cool Kids - "Miami Beach"

May is a great month for Chicago hip-hop. Not only are Kidz in the Hall releasing their sophomore effort today (which you can stream here), but The Cool Kids are set to release their highly, highly anticipated debut EP The Bake Sale. Listen to new song "Miami Beach" at the top of the post. Thanks to Nah Right for debuting the track.

The Cool Kids MySpace Page
Kidz in the Hall MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)


Cloud Cult Profiled By The Wall Street Journal

(video via WSJ)

Here's the lede for the piece about MPLS art-rockers Cloud Cult.

A Cloud Cult concert doesn't end with the encore; it ends with a bidding war. After every performance by this rising Minneapolis rock band, fans vie in a silent auction for one-of-a-kind souvenirs from the show: pictures painted to the music by the group's two on-stage artists.
Cloud Cult offers a unique pairing of music with live painters onstage. And proceeds from the art help boost the group's bottom line.

When the drums kicked in at a recent concert in New York City, painter Connie Minowa swiped a streak of blue across a blank canvas. By the close of the group's stormy one-hour set, she'd completed a poster-sized painting marked by rippling shapes and dripping pigment. It sold minutes later for $1,000 -- about as much as the group typically gets paid to perform.

Read the article here. In sum, the piece, written by WSJ's John Jurgensen, contemplates Cloud Cult's unorthodox contracts and methods as an innovative business strategy, with emphasis on how artists will creatively navigate around the tough times in the music industry, and the economy in general. Worth a read.

(Jonathan Graef)

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Monday, May 12, 2008


In sum, the City of Chicago is trying to pass an ordinance which will effectively kill the underground music scene in Chicago as we know it. A petition condemning the ordinance can be found here. MFR strongly encourages you to sign it so that you may save Chicago's music scene.

For a more detailed explanation, read on.

Now, I realize that this is a blog about Minneapolis and everything, and how absurd that it is that I, living in the city of Chicago, am covering a music scene of a city 450 miles (give or take) Northwest of me, but hear me out. This news should be appalling to anyone and, more importantly, any band-- that's ever played the great city of Chicago--whether it's been at the Empty Bottle (as Mute Era did on the 1st of this month), Subterranean, the Beat Kitchen, The Hideout, The Metro, or at one of the myriad of great underground venues that this city has. I hope that my hometown has been hospitable to you and that you enjoyed it. If the City of Chicago passes an ordinance on the 14th (Wednesday), the opportunities for bands, regardless if they're local or from out of town, to play underground venues will be forever gone.

The City of Chicago, in light of various nightclub tragedies (specifically, the E2 club tragedy, which would have been prevented had previous enacted laws had been enforced), has pushed forth legislation, without any input from the participants in Chicago's music scene, which would try to root out "illegitimate" underground promoters. While such a goal is unquestionably noble, the law itself is so poorly written that it will undoubtedly skewer the very scene that it's trying to save.

Jim DeRogatis elaborates:
If approved by the committee and the City Council, the law would require anyone promoting any event drawing more than 100 people to obtain a license — even if they are working with a well-established and already licensed promoter.

Licensees would also have to carry at least $300,000 in commercial liability insurance (even if the venue is insured), and they would have to be at least 21 years old (thereby ruling out enterprising college students, D.I.Y. punk fans and other budding young entrepreneurs from hosting a concert or a legal rave — and if you think that’s not a good idea, you should know that several of the top promoters in Chicago actually started their careers at age 18 or 19).

What all this means is that if, say, a local fanzine wanted to promote a monthly concert featuring the bands in its new issue at a well-established local club of 200 capacity, the editors would have to apply for a promoters’ license and meet all of the requirements and expenses, even if the club already has a license and can boast of a clean record of trouble-free events. The same would hold true of many regular benefit gigs.

As it now stands, the law would only allow venues with “fixed seating” — that is to say, chairs that can’t be removed — to host one-time events by unlicensed promoters like our magazine or benefit in the example above. This requirement rules out the exact sort of clubs that would most benefit from these events, including venues such as the Empty Bottle, Buddy Guy’s Legends and Metro.

One music activist who asked not to be named said that “the net impact of this law is simple: It’s going to make it harder for a lot of people to promote concerts in Chicago, and therefore there’s going to be less music in Chicago.

As you can imagine, many of those who are active in making Chicago music happen are not pleased. The petition came my way via the newsletter for The Empty Bottle. This quote comes from the Chicago Music Commission, a group who strongly opposes the measure (again, via DeRogatis):

The language of the ordinance as drafted unnecessarily and perhaps prohibitively increases the cost of doing business for any promoter seeking to work with PPA-licensed music venues under 500 seats and those without "fixed seating", including, among many others, Schuba’s, Buddy Guy’s Legends, the Vic Theater, the Riviera Theater, the Metro, The Hideout, Uncommon Ground, and Martyrs’. Many of these small and non-fixed seating venues rely on contracting with third party promoters for a significant portion of their revenue while their customers safely enjoy the entertainment. This ordinance will not address the "bad actors" CMC and the City agree are the root of the problem--underground promoters seeking to make a quick buck who put on unsafe events.

Imagine what would happen if the Turf Club, or Kitty Cat Klub, the Triple Rock, or 7th street entry, the Hexagon, Stasiu's, or any other venue in Minneapolis were to be subjected to such laws: it would severely impact, perhaps even bankrupt, the music scene. Furthermore, what would happen if other clubs in other cities were to fold because they could not afford to pay the promoter's fee? Where would bands tour? Live music is, like many other industries, already suffering enough due to mitigating factors as market saturation and the dismal state of the economy. Ordinances such as these--again, unquestionably well-intentioned in light of the E2 stampede--will nonetheless suffocate art which strives toward non-conformity, and the venues who support said artists.

Again, the petition is here.

Thank you for reading and signing.

(Jonathan Graef, on behalf of MFR)

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