Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The New Year

My review of The New Year's album The End is Near appeared in today's edition of Seven Days. Seven Days policy is to review local bands or national bands that are playing at a local venue. So, fans of The New Year may wonder how they wound up in a Burlington paper. Well, bass player, Mike Donofrio now lives in the area which qualifies them as local in our book. This may appear a bit like the US national soccer team claiming David Regis as an American just so he could play left back but I don't care because The New Year is a damn good band. Much better than Regis was at left back.

Back in the mid-90's, a friend in grad school turned me onto Bedhead which featured a pair of brothers from Texas named Matt and Bubba Kadane. I loved their albums WhatFunLifeWas and Beheaded. The wall of fuzz they created was punctured regularly with very addicting melodies. However, I lost track of them towards the end of the millenium and only rediscovered what the Kadane brothers were up to after meeting Mike.

The New Year has a similar sound to Bedhead except the songs are slightly easier to get into. Bedhead showed glimpses of a more approachable side with songs like "Felo de Se" and "Smoke" which can now be heard in tunes like "Gasoline" and "Chinese Handcuffs".

The New Year isn't currently touring but Mike said that the next time The New Year tour on the east coast he is going to try to encourage a Vermont show. You can download a few live tracks on this site.

Also, you can see their video for "Disease" here. The video rivals Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's video for "I Gave You" for the most minimalist video I've seen in the last few years.

The New Year - Gasoline (from their previous album, Newness Ends)
The New Year - Chinese Handcuffs
The New year - Disease

Belle & Sebastian

Two pieces of news from the Scottish Kings of Tweedom, Belle & Sebastian:

The first is that on Dec 6th, they will be releasing a live album called If You're Feeling Sinister: Live At The Barbican. The album is a recording of their September performance at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival where bands were asked to play classic albums the whole way through. The release will only be available via iTunes as a download and the proceeds will go to the Asia Quake Appeal.

I can still remember walking into a record store in Hoboken, hearing If You Are Feeling Sinister for the first time blaring over the store's sound system and tracking down a clerk to tell me what it was that I was hearing. I think I bought the album at the same time I bought Lambchop's How I Quit Smoking. I then spent the next few months spinning those two CDs over and over again. Two of my favorite albums of the 90's in one trip to the record store. I wish all trips to record stores were that successful. Suffice to say that I'll be downloading the album early next Tuesday morning.

The other B&S news is that on Feb 7th, they'll be releasing a new full album of original material. The album will be called The Life Pursuit. Matador Records has posted a track from the album on their site called "Another Sunny Day". I haven't enjoyed their last few albums from B&S as I did the first three albums and EPs. However, if this track is any indication, The Life Pursuit may be a great revival of their earlier sound.

Belle & Sebastian - Another Sunny Day

UPDATE: The blog, Daily Refill, has another track from The Life Pursuit available.

Belle & Sebastian - Sukie in the Graveyard

Iron & Wine | Calexico Live on NPR | Nov 30th

Sorry about the late notice folks but at 10pm EST tonight, NPR's All Songs Considered will broadcast Iron & Wine | Calexico live from the 9:30 Club in DC.

The link to start streaming the show isn't up yet but if you go to this site around 10pm, I'm guessing that we'll be able to find the link to the show.

If you miss the performance, they occasionally archive the shows. So, it may be worth checking the site again later.

By the way, if you want some mp3 files of the two bands performing together. Big O has some very high quality files available from their performance at The Triple Door in Seattle. The two covers of the VU's "All Tomorrow's Parties" and The Stones' "Wild Horses" are worth the visit alone.

The tour will be coming to Montreal next week (Dec 8th). JDS and I are heading on up for the show. Right now, the weather forecast is clear. I hope it stays that way becasue the drive back from The Black Keys show sucked.

UPDATE: The host of the program just said that the concert will be archived. The highlights of the show will even be available in tomorrow's All Things Considered podcast. He said the podcast should be available late tomorrow afternoon.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Gustav & The Seasick Sailors

It's been over a week since I've posted about a band from Sweden and I was starting to get the shakes. So, I figured I'd feed my demons and throw a post up about Gustav & The Seasick Sailors.

Gustav is some punk-ass 20-year-old from Helsingborg who fancies himself a songwriter. Well...actually...based upon the tune "Nightlife", he is a pretty good songwriter.

The tune is a built-up sugary-sweet pop diddy with a folk base. Did I mention it's sugary-sweet? Hell, Gustav makes Belle & Sebastian sound like Fugazi. But despite it's easily digestible qualities, it's a good tune to throw into a mix CD or playlist. Piano. Organ. Acoustic guitar. Drums and bass. It reminds me of Hothouse Flowers a bit (without the brogue).

Gustav & The Seasick Sailors - Nightlife

Monday, November 28, 2005

Eux Autres

OK. I'm diggin' on Eux Autres but I don't get the French thing.

Heather and Nicholas Larimer were born in Omaha and moved to Portland, OR to start a band; just the two of them. Heather on drums and Nicholas on guitar. So far, everything makes sense to me. Sounds like a few other recent indie bands. But here's the twist...half the time they sing in French.

Hey, whatever floats their boat (or allows them to separate from the field). The fact is that their album Hell is Eux Autres kicks ass (or "donne un coup de pied l'âne" according to the Google translator). It's classic 60's Euro-pop straight out of central casting. Bopping beat. Bright guitar melodies. Handclaps. Shared vocals.

The bonus is that they seem to be soccer fans. Viva La Omaha!

Eux Autres - Ecoutez Bien
Eux Autres - Other Girls
Eux Autres - The Sundance Kid
Eux Autres - Partick Nil

By the way, the blog, Hello Gina tipped me off to Eux Artres. Many thanks.

One more thing...Heather used to date Stephen Malkmus and joined him on stage for some of his shows with The Jicks. Hey, I've now worked Malkmus into back-to-back posts that really had nothing to do with him.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Bottomless Pit

Back in July, Michael Dahlquist, the drummer for Silkworm died tragically when a car blew through a light and plowed into a car carrying Dahlquist and two of his friends. The remaining members of Silkworm, bassist Tim Midgett and guitarist Andy Cohen, decided that would be the end of Silkworm. Michael was too big of a part of the trio to carry on with anyone else filling his seat.

However, Tim and Andy have recently decided to form a new band called Bottomless Pit. The band also inlcudes two former employees of Steve Albini's Electrical Audio studio, bassist Brian Orchard and drummer Chris Manfrin. Orchard also plays in .22 and Manfrin has drummed with Seam and Archer Prewitt.

The new band performed four songs in Chicago a week or so ago and are scheduled to play Dec. 21st at The Hideout in Chicago. Three of the four songs are originals and the fourth is a song Silkworm had performed live before. The website for Bottomless Pit is just a placeholder right now but if this project moves forward, it'll be updated with the latest info.

So far, there haven't been any reports about how Bottomless Pit sounds but it's good to see Tim and Andy playing again. They must have run through a boatload of emotions during the brief set but hopefully playing again brings them some comfort after wrestling with Michael's death for the last few months.

Here's a live track from The Crust Brothers which is Stephen Malkmus of Pavement with Andy, Tim and Michael of Silkworm. This is them doing Silkworm's "Never Met a Man I Didn't Like" except with Malkmus on vocals. The full benefit album is available through the record shop at Silkworm's site.

The Crust Brothers - Never Met a Man I Didn't Like

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Yep. It's Winter.

It finally sunk into me today as I was staring at my car...winter is here. The ten inches of show over the last few days didn't do it. The temperatures in the teens didn't do it. The sledding down our driveway didn't do it. It took looking at my car to convince me that winter is here.

The icicles hanging off the front license plate. The brown sludge caked onto the back license plate. The windswept snow dunes across the roof. The clumps of unidentifiable toxic crap hanging from the underside. It all adds up to winter.

So, what is there to do with this realization? Go skiing.

My son was game so the two of us headed over to Bolton Valley for the afternoon. Bolton Valley isn't the coolest Vermont resort but I like it. It's very relaxed and reminds me of the place where I learned to ski as a kid in NJ, Hidden Valley. You can just throw your stuff in a corner of the lodge and not worry about anyone touching it. Plus, you can't beat the price...free.

Until my son turns four in February, he's too young for lessons at Bolton Valley so we just spend our time on the bunny slope called Mitey Mite. Bolton doesn't charge you to use the rope-tow and bunny slope for the day so it's a fun and cheap way to spend the afternoon.

They had more snow there than I was expecting to see although only three lifts and a handful of slopes were open. Despite the limited operations, the place was fairly busy which was good to see since Bolton always seems to be in one state of bankruptcy or another.

Yep. It's winter. But as long as there are a lot of days like today, I can deal with the next four months.

Yo La Tengo - Winter A Go-Go

Friday, November 25, 2005

Shop Like Trey

I heard an amusing story yesterday. There is a cool, although expensive, store in Montpelier called Artisans Hand Craft Gallery. The store is a partnership among a bunch of local artists to sell their crafts through a downtown shop. The place is packed with everything from pottery to unframed photos to hats to jewelry to forged iron work (and on and on).

Well, apparently, last year around Christmas time, a scraggly haired guy in tattered and worn clothing came in with his shopping list. He proceeded to go right down his list, picking out different items and giving the staff at Artisans Hand the addresses where to ship the items. As his bill grew and grew, a concerned employee went into the back of the store to alert the other employees that "there was some guy in shaggy clothing spending thousands of dollars in the store". The other employees quickly peaked out into the store to see what was going on. It was then that someone finally identified the guy as Trey Anastasio.

They said he liked the stuff in the store so much that he just plowed through his whole list. One stop shopping and good support of local artists.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Clap Your Hands Say "Vomit Launch"

Fake Science has an interesting podcast on their site regarding the role that record labels will play in the future and what the new business model will look like for indie bands as a result of the impact that the internet has had on the scene. Specifically, they discuss Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and whether their success can be replicated by other bands. Joining the discussion is Larry Crane who is currently the editor of Tape Op magazine and formerly the bass player in legendary indie rock band Vomit Launch.

You can either download the podcast or stream it from the Fake Science site. To download it, right-click on "Clap Your Hands and Say 'Vomit Launch'". To stream it, left-click on the blue arrow next to the podcast link.

The good point that Crane brings up is how much work is involved in promoting a band. He notes that musicians are interested in playing their music and are often not interested in the business activities of the band. I imagine that it kills a lot of the fun of being in a band when you know you have to get up in the morning to join a conference call with some lawyers.

One amusing moment during the podcast is when they are discussing the difficulties of arranging licensing deals without the help of a label. I'm sure this was a solid point back in October when they recorded the podcast. However, it appears that CYHSY has managed that task nicely since one of their songs was used in last night's episode of The Office.

By the way, if you aren't familiar with Crane's prior band, Vomit Launch, I included a link to their beautiful tune, "Hallways", from their 1987 album Not Even Pretty. If there had been an internet back then, Vomit Launch may have had a shot. However, there weren't any mp3 blogs to hype them so I think a lot of people just laughed at their name and moved on. They're occasionally called the original indie rock band but they're sound still holds up today, 18 years later. The guitars harken back to early REM but Trish Rowland's vocals remind me of Barbara Manning and it's all wrapped in that ubiquitous early 90's lo-fi production.

Vomit Launch - Hallways

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Sunny Duval | Achigan

A few months ago, I posted about the Québécois garage band, Les Breastfeeders, that has spent the last year tearing up Montreal clubs following the release of their debut album, Déjeuner sur l'herbe. Well, the guitarist from Les Breastfeeders, Sunny Duval, decided to release a solo album during the downtime between Breastfeeder releases. His new album is called Achigan and is available via Bonsound.

Based upon the few tunes you can stream from the album on Duval's website, the material isn't as strong as the stuff from Les Breastfeeders. However, if you like that garage punk sound, it's still a fun listen. It just lacks the cheesy organ bopping along in the background. Regardless, my favorite so far is "J'aime la barmaid" ("I Love the Barmaid").

Regarding Les Breastfeeders, they are playing a one-off show this Friday, Nov. 25 at Maison de la Culture Maisonneuve. Based upon the photo on that site, it looks like a fancy venue for a bunch of roughnecks like Les Breastfeeders. Here's Duval's description of one of their shows back in October:

Damn it, my teeeeeth ! I must have got hit at least 2 or 3 times by my own mike, playing the Escogriffe last saturday night, the crowd was jam-packed and this guy kept falling on us, 'til he was evicted by doorman Hugo Mudie from the Ste-Catherines, I guess, cause I didn"t see him again. Some hippie kept coming back onstage, even though I kept pushing him away -I'll push anyone who comes near. Many heard me screaming (translate) "Go fuck away, hippie", but I'd like to say that I have nothing against hippies, as long as they don't smell of patchouli or don't come onstage. I just screamed the first word to come to mind to describe him.
Sounds like a fine rock'n'roll show.

In an email from Duval, he said that besides the show this week, they won't be playing again until next year. They are taking time to write some new material. In the meantime, we can enjoy Déjeuner sur l'herbe and Duval's Achigan.

Les Breastfeeders - Mini-jupe et watusi
Les Breastfeeders - Laisse autant le vent tout emporter
Les Breastfeeders - Ostrogoth-à-gogo

Monday, November 21, 2005

Tapes 'n Tapes

What's the hottest band in the blogosphere right now? Art Brut? Arctic Monkey? Wolf Parade? Oh, those bands are so pre-Veterans Day. These days it's all about Minneapolis' Tapes 'n Tapes.

Their debut album, The Loon, just landed and the bloggers are going blogo over it. Based upon what I've heard so far, the praise is worth it though. Their infectious brand of mid-tempo rock features a clean western-twinged guitar and drums, background keys and Gordon Gano-like vocals. Their song "Insistor" is the standout track for me but I'm a big sucker for that western guitar twang.

It'll be interesting to see what they do with this newfound attention. All of their current show dates are for Minneapolis clubs. Perhaps, this will spur them to make some road trips.

The current playbook on blogosphere-hype is to lay low for a little while and then book a very limited tour of NY and LA to give the big bloggers there a chance to post about your exclusive tough-ticket live shows. They can then hope David Bowie goes to one of their shows and finally they should send a nice fruit basket to Pitchfork's offices.

Tapes 'n Tapes - Insistor
Tapes 'n Tapes - Cowbell
Tapes 'n Tapes - Omaha

Green Mountain Bob Dylan Wanna-Be Contest | For Sale

Patrick Mullikin sold Riverwalk Records a month or so ago. However, it now appears that he has retain the rights to the names Howard BEAN Cafe and The Great Green Mountain Bob Dylan Wanna-Be Contest. Apparently, he has received trademarks for the names and is willing to sell them to the highest bidder.

Spiralbound.net has some quotes from Mullikin regarding the Dylan contest:

“While I have kept it a free community event, it does have the potential to be a money-maker for the right company or individual — say, for example, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. From a publicity standpoint, this event it is priceless. Dylan’s popularity continues to grow, and people are willing to stand up before an audience to imitate him. Odder yet is that there is an audience willing to watch all this.”
Wow. In one paragraph, he manages to just about kill the event for me. Between his desire to turn it into a corporate event and mocking the people who have attended it by showing surprise at their interest in watching the event, he turned the contest from a goofy night of fun for Montpelier into something less desireable. I always felt he was a part of the community; not someone mocking it and looking to make a quick buck off it.

Perhaps I'm being overly sensitive but I wish I hadn't read those quotes from Mullikin regarding the contest.

By the way, I finally got a chance today to spend some time rolling through the racks at the new Riverwalk Records. I'm not a vinyl collector so I don't know how his prices stack up but the selection seemed pretty good. The REM section had some interesting live bootlegs from the early 80's and the concert posters included a bunch of cool shows from the 90's at the Filmore, Roseland, Trocadero and many others. Plus, Jake was really helpful and not the least bit pushy.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Art Brut, You Ready?

For those of us that live in the hinterlands and didn't have a chance to catch the magic that is Art Brut, WFMU has archived Art Brut's on-air performance there last week. The host is largely annoying but actually provides frontman Eddie Argos plenty of material to respond to.

The New York Times has a review of their show in the basement of the TriBeCa Grand Hotel. The article says that they are planning an American release of Bang Bang Rock & Roll early next year. However, you can always just get it from iTunes right now for $9.99 and avoid the import price.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Black Keys | Cabaret La Tulipe | Nov. 17th

In early 1990, I spent a night eating venison sausage, drinking Iron City beer and watching Buster Douglas knock-out Mike Tyson. It was a highpoint in masculinity for me. However, watching The Black Keys and Nathaniel Mayer shake the shit out of Cabaret La Tulipe last night in Montreal nearly matched that high. I didn't have any tough meats to gnaw on or rough beers to choke down but I saw a kick-ass rock'n'roll show.

The show got going on time around 9pm. The only noteworthy part of the drive up was the large number of homes in Canada that are already decked out in Christmas lights. I guess with their Thanksgiving in October there isn't anything holding back their unbridled love for the Baby Santa Claus. I got into La Tulipe around 9:10pm and Mayer was already on stage. I wasn't sure what to expect from the guy so I was pleasantly surprised when he proceeded to spend the next hour schooling all the indie kids in 60's Northern Soul showmanship. The guy turned a set filled with generally average tunes into one of the most memorable performances I've seen in a long time.

The guy has to be in his mid-to-late 60's and moves fairly stiffly but he's still packed with moves, charisma, charm and a sense of how to work a crowd that is nearly absent in today's rock world. As I said, the music was good fun stuff but wouldn't be anything spectatular without Mayer strutting around the front of the stage in the coolest suit this side of Elvis.

Before, during and after songs he was working the crowd. Pointing to girls and telling them to "shake what their mother gave 'em", pointing to guy's and asking them if "they are a satisfied fool", choreographing the audience to yell "Hell, Yeah", borrowing hats from folks and finally inviting some ladies up on stage for a little flirting and AARP bump-and-grinding. I just stood there bopping to the soul-filled bass line with a huge smile on my face the whole time. However, it wasn't just his interaction with the crowd that was so good. He also did an expert job of orchestrating the band through high-energy dances and mid-song low-beat story-telling sessions; each time bringing the band up a little higher till the place was ready to explode. He finished the night with a version of "I Want Love and Affection (Not a House of Corrections)" that must have lasted over twenty minutes as he wandered off stage and back on repeatedly to further intensified flourishes from the band. The guy was great and a perfect opening band for the night.

I had read on Misanthrope about the long break between Mayer and The Black Keys so I my expectations were properly calibrated. However, it was still amazing to watch four guys take 45 minutes to set up a drum kit, two Marshal amps and check two guitars. It was like watching an old WPA New Deal work project. When it came time to bring out the water bottles (you can see two of them on top of Auerbach's amp in the picture), the guy would bring out one bottle, put it down, go back for another bottle, put it down, go back again, etc. I wouldn't have noticed it if Misanthrope hadn't mentioned it but it was still hilarious to watch.

Once the gear was ready, The Black Keys hit the stage and tore the place up. I only have Rubber Factory from them so I was only familiar with about a third of the songs but every song grabbed your attention from the first bars. The crowd was packed with big Black Keys fans because they knew every song from those first bars and the room would immediately start to bounce with each song. That heavy bluesy rock guitar andprimative pounding beat just shoots right through you and gets you moving. When they launched into "10 A.M. Automatic" and "Till I Get My Way" the place went nuts. Eventually, a few punks went up top and started surfing the crowd around the room. I can't remember the last show when I saw so much crowd surfing. By the way, the other thing I was surprised by was how much Black Keys fans love their pot. Damn, it was everywhere. I thought I was at Reggaefest or something.

Patrick Carney's drumset is moved up to the edge of the stage for their shows which gives you a good look at his drumming. It's fun to watch the guy because he doesn't conserve an ounce of energy. Every part of his body is moving at all times. He's the anti-Charlie Watts and I love him for it. After about half the set, he would sit there hunched over like he had just ran a marathon but once Auerbach would start the next song, Carney would spring to life pounding those skins and tins into submission. His ferocity and the lack of subtlty in any of their songs made the excessive pre-show roadie-tinkering with their equipment that much more bizarre.

They did two encores and the crowd cried for a third but it was almost midnight so the show was over. A great night of ass-busting rock'n'roll.

The drive home kind of sucked though. It had snowed on the way up but it wasn't sticking to the road. During the drive back, the road was blanketed in white as you can kind of make out in this picture through my windshield. Twice, I found myself driving on the other side of the yellow line when there weren't any car tracks to follow. I got home around 2:30 to find my daughter had just woken up. So, I told my wife I'd take care of her. However, I probably wouldn't have said that if I had known that I wouldn't get to go back to sleep until 4:30am. It was a brutal end to an otherwise fun night of music. However, I'm confident that in years to come, I will have forgotten about being so tired and will only remember Mayer strutting his stuff and The Black Keys shredding the blues.

UPDATE: I guess I wasn't overreacting when I was complaining about the roads during the drive home. Today's Burlington Free Press' front page story is about how State Senator Ed Flanagan and his overturned car were discovered at the bottom of a 200 foot embankment on Friday afternoon. The police believe that Flanagan went off I-89 around the time I was driving back from the concert and laid there for about twelve hours before someone spotted him. He went off the nothbound side while I was heading southbound but, in general, the road conditions sucked for such a tiny little storm. Flanagan's family has asked the hospital to not release his condition which doesn't sound very promising. Hopefully, he'll recover from this.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Vermont Music Update

It's been a few weeks since I looked at what Vemonters are buying and listening to, so it seemed like a good time to pull it together.

Here are the top ten albums purchased at central Vermont music stores over the last week (courtesy of Seven Days):

Pure Pop, Burlington

1. Tragically Hip - Hipeponymous
2. Kate Bush - Aerial
3. Danger Doom - Mouse and the Mask
4. Trey Anastasio - Shine
5. Fiona Apple - Extraordinary Machine
6. Atmosphere - You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having
7. Mars Volta - Scab Dates
8. Bruce Cockburn - Speechless
9. Neil Young - Prarie Wind
10. Grateful Dead - Fillmore West 1969

Buch Spieler, Montpelier

1. Trey Anastasio - Shine
2. Grace Potter & the Nocturnals - Nothing But the Water
3. Neil Young - Prarie Wind
4. Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane - At Carnegie Hall
5. Sheryl Crow - Wildflower
6. Susannah Clifford Blachly - Middle of the Night
7. Kanye West - Late Registration
8. Patti Casey - The Edge of Grace
9. John Coltrane - One Up/One Down
10. Grace Potter - Original Soul

Exile on Main St., Barre

1. L.A. Guns - Black List
2. Daniel O'Donnell - Teenage Dreams
3. John Fogerty - Long Road Home
4. Santana - All That I Am
5. Herbie Hancock - Possibilities
6. Melissa Etheridge - Greatest Hits: The Road Less Traveled
7. Black Eyed Peas - Monkey Business
8. John Mayer - Heavier Things
9. Depeche Mode - Playing the Angel
10. Billy Currington - Doin' Something Right

I'm not going to include Middlebury's Vermont Book Shop this week because their list is just too friggin' weird (e.g., #1 is Ronan Tynan and #6 is a Putumayo compilation) and Seven Days isn't updating these lists on their website anymore so I have to type them out. So, since the place isn't representative of anything and it requires more work on my part, Middlebury is out.

Vermont is Treyland so it isn't surprising to see him on two of the lists. However, I was a little surprised that he didn't make the list in Barre; although that says more about Barre than it does about Trey.

Neil Young continues to hang around two of the lists a month or so after he was on all four lists. Perhaps Vermont is more Neilland than Treyland.

Is there any other record store in the world with two different Coltrane albums and two different Grace Potter albums in their top ten? Montpelculiar, indeed.

As for the top bands from the Vermont group on Last.FM, here are the most listened to bands for the last week:

1. Broken Social Scene
2. Belle and Sebastian
3. Yo La Tengo
4. The Beatles
5. Wilco
6. Pixies
7. Elliott Smith
8. Radiohead
9. The Decemberists
10. Iron & Wine

Indie rock and The Beatles...that's what the 29 members of this group love. In fact, that's pretty much what every group on Last.Fm looks like...indie rock and The Beatles. Regardless, it's nice to see folks enjoying the new BSS album. By the way, jds has a good post up about catching their show when he was in CO recently.

Here were my top ten for the last week:

1. Devendra Banhart
2. Pavement
3. Palace Brothers
4. Art Brut
5. Acid House Kings
6. DJ Shadow
7. Belle and Sebastian
8. DJ Danger Mouse
9. The Legends
10. Dirty Three

I remember listening to a few Pavement tracks while deciding which ones to send over to a friend but I didn't think it was that many. I must have walked away from the computer for a while when it was playing the tunes and iTunes just rolled through the Pavement songs.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Carolina Pranksters

This is sophmoric but damn funny.

About two years ago, some merry pranksters (AKA drunk college students) realized that the local news station, News 14 Carolina, allowed schools, daycare centers and businesses to use the internet to enter information related to "bad weather closings". However, nobody at News 14 Carolina was reviewing this information before it started scrolling across the bottom of the TV screen. That's how you get hilarious moments like the one captured in this picture.

I don't get all of their witty puns and "inside Carolina" jokes but they have a bunch of these screenshots on this site here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Mix Tape

Discussing cool and uncool album covers is soooooo 2004. The good word these days is all about cassette tapes and our retro love for them.

That's why Cassette Jam '05 is so much fun. It's a hoot looking over all the different style of tapes over the years and finding the ones that you used. I bought several hundred dollars of these Maxell tapes during the 80's and 90's. Gave away about half of them, have about a quarter of them in boxes in my basement and the rest are scattered under the front seats of various cars in scrap yards in DC and NJ.

Along these lines, 11 a.m. Air Raid had a great post up last month regarding the book Thurston Moore edited called Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture.

Laakso

Laakso is an example of Last.FM paying dividends.

The other day, I was checking out my musical neighbors on my Last.FM account when I noticed that the person with the closest match to my musical tastes was some 26 year-old lady from the US who goes by "meteorology". This is an improvement since my closest match used to be some kid in high school in South Korea.

So, I noticed that her second most listen to band was some outfit called Laakso that I had never heard of before. A few minutes later and I was groovin' to Laakso's nifty little ditty, "High Drama".

All of the press articles about them seem to be in Swedish and their website is short on details so I don't know a lot about them but here is what I've managed to decypher:

- They are from Sweden and met at a university near Uppsala.

- They've released three LPs and two EPs since early 2003. Their most recent album was released this September and is called My Gods.

- Their website sucks.

- You can only buy their most recent albums at their gigs which all seem to be in places I'll never visit. Hence, their website sucks.

- They are friends with The Concretes who played on their most recent album which can only be bought at their gigs which explains why their website sucks.

Seriously, the song "High Drama" is a cool bit of SwedePop which gets rocking during the last furlong. You can also stream other tunes from the High Drama EP here.

Laakso - High Drama

Soccer & Indie Rock

Do you need any more proof that soccer and indie rock go together like chocolate and peanut butter?

If so, here's the confluence of my passions...amidst a nationwide tour together, The National and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah took time out for a game of soccer. And these are American bands; not a bunch of strangers in a strange land playing their comfort sport from home.

All the pictures can be seen here.

I like the fact that they wore the t-shirts that they are selling at the shows as their jerseys.

By the way, I'm still loving Clap Your Hands' debut album but The National's Alligator has been growing on me over the last few weeks. It's definitely in my top ten for the year and possibly top five by the end of the year.

The National - Abel
The National - Mr. November
The National - Baby, We'll Be Fine

On a soccer note, the second leg of the World Cup Qualifying playoff between Bahrain and Trinidad & Tobago will be on Fox Soccer Channel on Wednesday (11/16) at 11am EST (live from Bahrain; there'll be a re-broadcast of the match at 8pm EST). The first leg ended in a disappointing 1-1 draw for T&T. T&T's midfield looked horrible Saturday and if they don't pull off a great performance tomorrow, Bahrain is going to win the playoff.

If the aggregate score over the two games is tied, the first tiebreaker is away goals. Whoever scored more goals on the road wins the playoff. So, since Bahrain scored in Port of Spain on Saturday, a 0-0 draw tomorrow will send Bahrain to the World Cup over T&T. Therefore, T&T has to score a goal and will be pushing forward which will open space behind them for Bahrain. It's a tough spot to be in and even worse when your players aren't playing very well. Hopefully, the Soca Warriors have a little magic left.

Nathaniel Mayer

The opening act for The Black Keys on Thursday night (11/17) Cabaret La Tulipe in Montreal is expected to be Nathaniel Mayer. I had never heard of the guy before I spent some time trying to decide whether it was worth getting up there in time for the opener. However, it sounds like he'll be a fun opener and worth the early arrival.

Mayer is a soul singer from Detroit who had a few Top 40 hits back in the early 60's with fantastic song titles like "I Want Love and Affection (Not a House of Corrections)". However, after a falling out with his record label, he disappeared until recently when DJs started digging his 45s out of bins and spinning them. The renewed interest got him signed to soul label Fat Possum where he just released his first full-length album four decades after his initial success.

Rock Star Diary had a favorable review of his performance at Warsaw in Brooklyn over the weekend and that suit looks spectactular. A little 60's showmanship in the 21st Century. Love it.

It's actually amazing that Mayer is performing at all since it appears that he had a stroke back in August. I was debating whether to go to the show or not due to a lingering hacking cough I can't shake. But if Mayer is prepared to strut his stuff three months after stroke, the least I can do is make the drive.

By the way, if you want a quick preview of The Black Keys' performance, Fat Possum has a 45 second clip of their live DVD on their site. The only potential downside to this show is the fact that The Black Keys apparently wait a really long time before taking the stage. Misanthrope said that they took a hour to set up one guitar and a drum set the other night at Warsaw. At least I know this in advance and can adjust my expectations.

Nathaniel Mayer - I Found Out
Nathaniel Mayer - Stick It or Lick It

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Devendra Banhart | Interview | The Believer

Over the last two weeks, I'm been listening a lot to Devendra Banhart's Cripple Crow. I was never a fan of his before hearing Cripple Crow playing in Buch Spieler back in October. It sounded good and my friend, Michael, there vouched for it's greatness. I was a bit leery because I wasn't enamored with the little bit I had heard from his earlier albums and, in general, haven't fallen for that new folk movement personified by him and Animal Collective. However, Cripple Crow has proven to be much more conventional and accessible than the stuff I had heard earlier. There's a full band supporting Banhart and the melodies, beat and chord progressions, while still sounding a bit hippy-ish, are more traditional than Animal Collective's and other freak-folk tunes. The album has really grown on me.

In a weird bit of timing, the November issue of The Believer arrived this week with an interview with Banhart. The interview isn't available online but there are a few interesting moments in the article.

BLVR: I heard you got into a fight with Sammy Hagar.

DB: Yeah. When I started out, I didn't have a booking agent or a good label or anything like that, and I was playing really shitty shows. A friend booked a show for me at a placein L.A. that's also a sushi restaurant. At the time, I was way into Patty Waters and Diamanda Galas and Yoko Ono. I liked their confrontational, screeching styles - using your voice as an instrument - and I would do a lot of a cappella singing. I would strum a chord and hold the guitar up and sing the song in that key. It's a lot of falsetto, and I'd hold that for as long as I could. And this is a sushi restaurant, so, like, nobody's having it. And Sammy Hagar and his posse are trying to eat their spider roll or whatever. He looks like a canned pickle, or beef jerky, and you can hear him talking and talking, and I'm just doing my thing. I'm in a kind of trance, and he asks them to put the jukebox on. "Put on some Van Halen!" he says. And they do. Really fucking loud. Of course, I'm aware of it, and I just start spitting in their sushi, and then the next one, and I'm frothing at the mouth and it's all landing right in their food. So Sammy gets up, and he's got this really nasty, curly blond hair, and I just grab it, sort of latch onto it. I'm pulling his hair and he's trying to grab me, and I end up on their table, and eventually we get pulled apart and I get asked to leave.

BLVR: Did you ever play there again.

DB: No, never. I would play there again though. Sammy, man, I'm waiting for the fucking rematch.


As much as I want to believe this story, I don't. It's too perfect. Hippy folkie fighting a cock-rocker; grabbing his glam-rock hair; spitting in their food. It sounds like a fantasy of Banhart's rather than a reality. It reminds me of the faux story that used to swirl around in the 90's about Scott Kannberg of Pavement beating up Jason Priestly on the set of Beverly Hills 90210. Never true but still a good story.

BLVR: Has performing live gotten easier?

DB: Well, in the beginning that sort of thing was really hard to swallow because it was so confrontational. And it wasn't intimate. It was exclusive. I wasn't including everybody. I played a show at the Knitting Factory in L.A. - and I used to drink so much before a show, man, o much - and I was doing the screeching and screaming, but with a little artsier crowd that was like, "Oh, it's so obscure, it's cool." My dad came to that show and afterwards he said to me, "Look, a perfromance needs to be respectful and confident, to yourself but also to the people, to the music, to life." And that really changed everything for me. I realized that I wasn't being respectful or confident. After that, I didn't get too many weird reactions from audiences. Every now and then I still do, just because it's hard for people to get that it's electric.


That is some fantastic advice his father gave him. The shows I've seen that have been really bad can usually fall into the bucket of the artist not being respectful of the audience and their music. Great advice.

BLVR: I read somewhere that you said you act more on instinct than intellect, that you're not calcualted. Does that apply to songwriting as well?

DB: Well, I only have one method for songwriting. I have these Mead composition books full of words. I'll go through them and I'll only get one line out of a whole book. So it's a process of reduction. It's such a bummer because before I record I'll have like ten or fifteen books full of writing, and I'm like, "Yeah, man, I'm gonna make twelve records out of this." And then I go through a whole book and I only get one line.


I'm calling bullshit here too. I don't doubt that he filters a lot of writing down to a few choice lines but to say that he boils an entire notebook down into one line means that over the 23 tracks on Cripple Crow, he would have gone through hundreds of those Mead composition books.

By the way, regarding the large amount of tracks on Cripple Crow (23 songs; 74 minutes), I think the album could be exhibit A in Mark Mothersbaugh's point, from the September issue of The Believer, about how the CD format has affected songwriters. His point was that when he only had 22 minutes per side on vinyl records, it forced him to be more acute in his songwriting and track selection. CDs, with their 80 minutes of available time, have led some artists to include everything they recorded which leads to albums with a more uneven feel and more low points. Cripple Crow is a really strong album but boiled down to eleven or twelve tracks would have given it a more concise powerful feeling.

By the way, in another odd coincidence, the keynote speaker at the recent Second Vermont Republic seccession convention, James Howard Kunstler, is also interviewed in this month's issue of The Believer.

Devendra Banhart - I Feel Just Like a Child
Devendra Banhart - Chinese Children
Devendra Banhart - Koreandogwood

Sock Sale

This morning, my sister, son, two nieces and I headed over to Northfiled for the annual sock sale at the factory of Cabot Hosiery Mills. Cabot Hosiery Mills is one of the dwindling numbers of clothing manufacturers in the US but they still do about $9M a year in sales (~10,000 pairs of socks a week).

Their socks are usually sold under the name of national brands like The Gap, American Outfitter, etc. but once a year, they open the doors of the factory and sell the socks to the local folks. Socks that normally retail for $10-$15 per pair are sold for $1-$3. It's a great deal.

The sale always runs during the two weekends of deer hunting season basically to give the wives something to do while their husbands are off in the woods. Since I'm not a hunter, it's basically me and a shitload of old ladies at the sale. It's not my most testosterone moment but I love getting a few pair of high quality socks at cheap prices each year.

The sock sale isn't widely advertised because the word-of-mouth alone generates about 10,000 shoppers each year. It'll still be running next weekend so if you want to go and are looking for details, try calling the mill at 802-485-6066. The success of the sock sale has led a few other companies to piggyback on its success and have their own sales at the same time. There is a t-shirt/sweatshirt sale at Norwich University that benefits Northfield Hockey and Black Diamond has a sale on fleece clothing at their factory on Gallison Hill Road in Montpelier.

By the way, that isn't an optical illusion in the photo. My right foot really is a lot smaller than my left. My left is a size 13 and my right is a size 11.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

McRorie-One Man Live

What traits does someone possess to find themselves living the life of McRorie Tait? Is it a greedy man that chooses to be an entire band themselves? Is it a conceited man that believes they alone are better than an entire band? Or is it just a matter of using a gimmick to gain attention in a crowded music marketplace? Or is it just that he's Canadian?

Regardless of what the engine behind the formation of McRorie-One Man Live, it's bizarre to watch. Who are these people that hire him to perform Santana's "Low Rider"?

So many questions and so few answers. Although, it's ironic that he can do it all himself but the Go! Team has six folks on stage and still have to pump in pre-recorded tracks.

courtesy of Insound

Ronaldino Footage

In the age of sci-fi editing techniques, you never know whether what you are seeing is real or not, but this video clip of Ronaldinho warming up with a ball is unbelievable. It has to be fake because I just can't believe that someone can nail the crossbar four straight times like that and to get a perfect rebound every time. Regardless, it's still an entertaining clip.

On another soccer note, the US plays a friendly match tomorrow against the Scottish National Team in Glasgow. The match will be on Fox Soccer Channel at 11am EST. A lot of young guys are going to be given a chance to prove themselves which will make the match mildly interesting. However, Scotland is running out a B-team too. So, it may be difficult to guage the performances. It may work better as a chance to rule players out rather than rule anybody in.

Lastly, MLS Cup will be played in Dallas on Sunday (ABC 3:30pm EST) between Los Angeles Galaxy and New England Revolution. The Revolution won the Eastern Conference while LA struggled to a fourth place finish in the West. However, I think LA is going to win the Cup. They've been playing well lately and Landon Donovan is having a good playoff run. Meanwhile, the Revolution cooled off after a blistering first half of the season and then almost got bumped from the playoffs in the first round by the Metros. LA 2-1.

Art Brut

Britian's answer to vitamin B12 shots, Art Brut, started their first US tour this week with a show at the legendary Maxwell's in Hoboken. extrawack! was there to record the historic event with some great photos (such as the one shown here) and post.

Check out Eddie Argos' teeth in the photo where he's in the crowd screaming. They need to find a US label with a dental plan.

The tour is pretty short and consists of a few big cities. Hopefully, they'll come back with a more extensive tour in 2006.

09/11/05 @ Maxwells, Hoboken, USA

10/11/05 @ Mercury Lounge, NYC, NY, USA

11/11/05 @ North 6, Brooklyn, USA

12/11/05 @ Tribeca Grand, NYC, USA

14/11/05 @ Lee's Palace, Toronto, CA

15/11/05 @ Schubas, Chicago, USA

17/11/05 @ Spaceland, Los Angeles, USA

18/11/05 @ The Echo, Los Angeles, USA

Art Brut - My Little Brother (courtesy Badminton Stamps)
Art Brut - Fight (courtesy Badminton Stamps)
Art Brut - Formed a Band (courtesy Interpretations Diverses)
Art Brut - Emily Kane (courtesy Interpretations Diverses)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

New Owner of Riverwalk Records: Jacob Grossi

I had been meaning to hang a post about this all week but I kept forgetting. Casey Rea had the scoop in Seven Days regarding the new owner of Riverwalk Records. Here's a blurb from the article:

The good news is that Mullikin has already found a buyer for the business, and it isn't Hot Topic. Jacob Grossi, who provided Riverwalk Records with its vintage concert posters, is taking over as proprietor, effective immediately.

The 31-year-old entrepreneur and Worcester, Vermont, resident has been buying, selling and trading gig adverts for more than a decade. "I have one of the largest collections in the country," he explains. "My biggest batch is from Portland, Oregon -- I have over 20,000 pieces. You can really get a feel for how the music scene there has developed over time."

Grossi hopes to make his posters a big part of the new Riverwalk. "There will be a lot more high-end pieces," he explains. "It'll be definitely the only place in New England where you can see an original poster advertising a Bob Marley concert. We've got a full set of tickets to Jimi Hendrix at the Fillmore in 1969." Too bad he doesn't have a time machine.
I wish the guy good luck but I'm not sure how big the vinyl records and vintage posters business is in central VT. Having seen the posters in the store in the past, they are definitely cool posters to see and he even has some posters from more recent indie rock shows. I've seen some cool GBV posters. However, unless I saw a poster of a really memorable show that I know I attended, I probably wouldn't buy one. They aren't something that I collect and they don't appeal to me as something I'd decorate with in my house.

Two other interesting tidbits from the article:

1) Patrick Mulikin is retaining the name "Howard Bean Cafe"
2) The Green Mountain Bob Dylan Wanna-Be Contest will continue next year.

Acid House Kings

A few months ago, I posted about the Swedish garage pop band, The Legends, and their great album Up Against the Legends. Well, that album has only grown on me since to the point where I hear at least a few tunes from it each day.

So, I started poking around this internet-thingy to see what else they have going on. It turns out that Johan Angergård of The Legends also play in another band called Acid House Kings. The stuff lacks the rocking punch of The Legends' fuzzy guitars but if you like mellow Swedish indie pop, then Acid House Kings are a-ok. The Acid House Kings have also been around a lot longer with albums going back to 1992.

This year, Acid House Kings released their fifth album, Sing Along with Acid House Kings which is available in the US via TwentySomething Records. I don't know how many copies they've sold but the first 2,000 copies come with the karaoke DVD. Who the hell thought of that promotion?

Acid House Kings - This Heart is a Stone (from Sing Along with Acid House Kings)
Acid House Kings - Do What You Wanna Do
Acid House Kings - Sunday Morning
Acid House Kings - This and That

The Legends - Call It Ours
The Legends - Make It All Right

Monday, November 07, 2005

It's Official: Montpelier = Cosmopolitan

We have cool bookstores, our own film festival, hipster coffee shops, restaurants serving eclectic-American dishes, topical political protests and a food co-op but I never realized that Montpelier had arrived as "cosmopolitan" until I heard an ad blasting out of my radio promoting speed dating in Montpelier.

That's right. The town where it takes twenty minutes to just get a sandwich made is going to hop upon the social blender that is speed dating. As I understand it, people have a few minutes to meet someone and determine whether they like them or not before moving onto the next desperado. How can that possibly work with a populace that requires five minutes to just explain the correct pronunciation of their name? "It sounds like Joplin because my parents were fans of Janis' but it rhymes and is spelled like the French philosopher that they studied while traveling in...blah, blah, blah"

Well, I'm glad to be married and not to have to go through that mating dance but if Montpelier is now the home to speed dating, it should only be a matter of time before Christo is wrapping the town in colorful fabric.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Out of 5

This week's mix over on Out of 5 is called They Got It Right the First Time. The idea is to spotlight great original versions of tunes that gained fame via their inferior covers.

The last few weeks haven't been too hot for Out of 5 but this is a pretty good mix of tunes. I had never heard neither Gloria Jones' version "Tainted Love" nor Tom T. Hall's "Harper Valley PTA". Some of the tunes, are completely new to me. I had never heard the original or cover of Shuggie Otis' "Strawberry Letter 23" and Jimmy Smith's "Root Down (And Get It)" but they are both good tunes and worth having.

I'm trying to think of another tune that would fit their theme. However, I'm tired as all hell and my mind is grinding really slow. My first thought was Rev. Gary Davis' "If I Had My Way" which became well known as "Sampson and Deliah" by The Grateful Dead. However, The Dead's version is good too and I think another bluesman wrote "If I Had My Way". I also thought of Pavement's "Box Elder" since The Wedding Present had a bigger hit with it. However, in the end, I think, in the US, more people are familiar with the tune via Pavement.

As usual, the mix is available as a downloadable zip file. All ten mp3 files are in the zip file and the file will be available for the next week.

Mohawk Lodge

I love listening to my iPod while walking through the airport. The combination of being an anonymous soul and having music blocking out all the other sounds, makes me feel like I'm not really there. I'm somehow floating through the airport. It doesn't matter if the tunes pumping into my ears are loud or mellow. It all works.

Well, the one of the tunes that got me through my flights down to DC and back was Mohawk Lodge's "Making Music". It's an acoustic folk number with bass, drums, occassional handclaps and Ryder Havdale's warm vocals.

I haven't gotten the full album, Rare Birds, yet but if the rest of the tunes hold up to "Making Music" it would be a dman fine album. However, they usually don't hold up and that's the rub but I'm always the optimist (and they're Canadians) so I'll give it a whirl. Even though that background photo on their website is very troubling.

Mohawk Lodge - Making Music

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Parallel Campaign

The blog called The Parallel Campaign has been pretty damn good recently. Michael K has had three different posts recently that I wanted to link to but failed to get around to. So, I thought I'd throw all three in one link dump.

The first post is about Swedish popster Pelle Carlberg. There is a link on the site to the song "Riverbank" which, if you like Swedish pop, is a great tune to grab. The song "Oh No! It's Happening Again" is OK but not as good as "Riverbank".









The next post has a paragraph at the bottom about US goalkeeper, Kasey Keller, body slamming the horse-like mascot of his German club team, Borussia Monchengladbach. It's a hilarious moment. 11 A.M. Air Raid has a post on it too. Plus, it's discussed in depth over on BigSoccer.






The last post is about a website dedicated to people sending in photos of themselves flipping off Hummers. I always find these kind of sites addicting to roll through looking at all of the photos. It would be more interesting if people photographed themselves flipping off the owners of the Hummer rather than the lump of metal but it's still good.




By the way, keeping the link dump rolling, extrawack! has a link to a great video of a guy doing a demo of a synthesizer drum session. It's about 3/4 of the way down the post.

The Viola's

Yesterday, I flew down to DC to see a friend get inducted into his high school's Athletic Hall of Fame. Joe Viola graduated from Gonzaga High School in 1983 and returned to the school in the 90's to teach and work there in various jobs. In 1999, he became the coach of the swim team and over the next five years, racked up a boatload of championships (there are too many different leagues and swimming tournaments to keep track of them). A few years ago, The Washington Post named him the All-Met Swimming Coach of the Year.

It was a great honor to see a friend receive. Joe doesn't think he deserves it but apparently, a lot of others folks thinks he does. Afterwards, they had a reception where it was fun catching up with a bunch of friends I have from my post-college days of living down in DC. It was a good time. Plus, I got to see what Joe looked like in high school.

After the reception, Joe's parents invited friends and family members to a bar down the street for some more drinks. Joe's father, Herman Viola, is a curator at the Smithsonian, a prolific author and one of the country's foremost experts on the American West, in general, and American Indians specifically. Plus, like his son, he's a good storyteller so it's always fun to talk to him.

Herman said he was working on a new book called Warriors in Uniform about the role American Indians have played in the US military over the years. It's interesting because, he said that a large number of American Indians have had heroic careers in the military but also enjoyed carrying their ancestors' traditions surrounding being a warrior into a modern battle with them. For this reason, Herman said that the US military doesn't want him to write this book. They are afraid that if stories about US soldiers taking scalps got attention in today's climate, that they would have a large public relations issue on their hands.

I don't really see how the US miliatry draws a distinction between the brutality of the large-scale killing that is done in its name and the taking of a scalp. Neither act deserves the moral upperhand.

Herman told the story of a paratrooper in Vietnam named Carson Walks Over Ice who was awarded the Bronze Star. However, Walks Over Ice was less excited about receiving the Bronze Star than he was about achieving the four stages of being a warrior in his tribe. In his tribe, to be a warrior, the four things you have to do is touch someone you killed, take an enemy's weapon, scalp someone and finally take an enemy's horse. During his time in Vietnam, Walks Over Ice acheived the first three. However, he failed on the fourth but always tried to reconcile it against the fact that he once shot a Viet-Cong riding an elephant on the Ho Chi Min trail and took the guy's four elephants. He didn't know what to do with the elephants (all four were harnesed trunk-to-tail) so he just tied them to a tree. Apparently, Walks Over Ice has always wondered if taking an elephant was the equivalent of taking an enemy's horse.

Regardless of how I feel about the violence in such stories, I would like to see Herman Viola catalog these stories in a book before we lose them forever. Having an accurate account of history and telling the underreported story of the role the American Indian has played on the battlefield is important. Hopefully, the military won't interfere with his work.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Go! Team | Paradise Rock Club | 11/1/05

Before I rip The Go! Team for having a shitty live show, let me point out that I love Thunder, Lightning, Strike. In fact, barring any revelations over the next two months, it'll probably be my album of the year. I got it back around the beginning of the year and have been consistently spinning it ever since. That's why I was willing to drive down to Boston to see them at the Paradise Rock Club last Tuesday night.

After work, I headed down to Beantown to meet-up with my brother-in-law, John. It's a 2 hr. 45 min. drive but, in general, it's an easy drive in good weather because it's basically two interstates the whole way there. Straight shot and no traffic. So, after hanging out with him and his wife for a while, we walked over to the show.

We got to the Paradise about half-way through The Grates set. I had never heard them before, but I had read some good things on other blogs about them; which just goes to show that you can't trust everything you read on the internet. The Grates were more grating than great (I'm sure they've heard that one a million times, so let's just say they sucked). The Grates is a trio comprising a drummer, a guitarist and a female lead singer. My two problems with them was the singer's voice which can best be described as "amateur bar band shrieking" and the guitarist. If your band comprises just you and a drummer, you better play that guitar like you friggin' own it. He basically just sat back and played without an ounce of energy which left the lead singer's voice to dominate the sound. The best thing I can say about them is that they finished on time.

I had never been to the Paradise before so it gave me a chance to check it out. Nice space. Wider than it is deeper with a balcony wrapping itself around three sides of the stage. Plus, the stage was nice and high so you could get a good view from a lot of different places. My brother-in-law had caught the Sun Volt/Fruit Bats show the prior week and raved about the sound. So, I was starting to get excited to see the gang from London/Brighton.

While we were waiting for the show to start, John and I noticed a guy hanging out to the left of the stage with a console of electronics. The sound board was up in the balcony, so we weren't sure what this guy's job was. We figured he was just a roadie but when The Go! Team hit the stage, he didn't leave. In fact he worked throughout the entire show spinning his dials and switches.

The first thing that gave me the impression that the show wasn't what I was expecting was when the lead singer, Ninja, hit the stage. She came charging out looking and acting like an aerobics instructor on speed. Plus, I knew they had added a singer but I didn't know they had added lyrics to a lot of the songs to give her something to do.

If you aren't familiar with The Go! Team and their story, it basically goes like this: Ian Parton created the songs that are on Thunder, Lightning, Strike on his own in his apartment using clips from various obscure albums. He'd take the piano from this song and the guitar from that song and the trumpet from another song, etc. and put them together to create new tunes. So, there wasn't a band of musicians developing these songs and the tunes were largely instrumentals. There are some vocals but they tend to be in the background, indecypherable and act more like another instrument than a classic lyric. That's one of the things that makes Thunder, Lightning, Strike such an interesting album. It doesn't sound like anything else. However, someone had the bad idea that a live band needs a lead singer and he/she has to sing. So, they added Ninja and gave her a bunch of lyrics to sing.

The other thing that is annoying about Ninja is the way she talks to the crowd. She's sounds more like a late-night infomercial host than the front person of a band. She would say stuff like "Everybody yell 'GO TEAM'!" or she would have to tell you what album each song was off of so you could go out and buy it. "This is a song called "We Listen Everyday" off of the Junior Kickstart album!" There was zero couth to her. She actually detracted from the show for me.

Now, back to the guy with the gizmos along the side of the stage. I circled him in the top picture above. The other thing that disappointed me about the show was the number of samples mixed into the show. The most obvious was the horns. There are a lot of songs on Thunder, Lightning, Strike that include trumpets or bass sax. So, rather than hire someone to play those parts live, they hired the ponytailed guy in the tight black t-shirt to mix them into the sound. The biggest problem with this is that it doesn't allow for any improvisation by the band. They have to hit their parts perfectly to keep up with the clip of the horns. I can listen to the labum at home. In concert, I want to hear a live version of the tunes. Whether it's a radically different take on the song or just minor changes, it's one of the things that makes concerts so exciting. By using didgital horm clips throughout the songs, they killed any chance for that live excitement.

They would have been better off hiring a horn player or a DJ who would share the stage with them to mix and scratch the sounds into their live show. It would have made for a much more daring and exciting live show than what we saw.

John even questioned whether Ian Parton was actually playing his harmonica or not. John, who graduated from the New England College of Music said that playing a harmonica live is tough and particularly tough when you are also playing guitar and running around on stage. His point is that your first breath through the harmonica tends to be off-key and at the wrong volume. Then you quickly adjust for those following breaths. However, he noticed that Parton's harmonica playing was pitch-perfect from his first blow. Knowing that they were already mixing in other instruments, is it really a big leap to be mixing in the harmonica bits as well?

The one last thing that was disappointing about the show was the new tunes. There were about three of them and they didn't hold up very well at all in comparison to the stuff Parton created in his apartment. In fact, the song when Chi came out from behind the drums to sing while someone played piano and the others rested was downright laughable. If they had presented it as a joke, that would be one thing but they didn't.

There were a few tunes when Ninja wasn't singing and there weren't any horns which sounded great. It was only for about 3-4 songs but it proved my point to myself about how much cooler the show would have been without Ninja and or the samples.

I should also note that I think my opinion was in the severe minority. The place was packed and most people were dancing and going nuts through out the show. In fact a few people ever climbed up on the instrument/gear cases and started dancing. So, it may have been a combination of my jaded nature (although I tend to cut bands a lot of slack live) and high expectations. I'm still a big fan of the album but I don't need to ever see them live again.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

I Am a Cold Rock. I Am Dull Grass.

While pulling together information for my post on Sun Kil Moon, I stumbled upon a tribute album to the music of Will Oldham called I Am a Cold Rock. I Am Dull Grass. The album is (or was) on Tract Records out of Indiana and featured artists such as Calexico, Iron & Wine, Mark Kozelek, Jolie Holland and a bunch of bands I've never heard of.

Well, it turns out that the album is out of print unfortunately. The upside is that the owner of Tract Records is planning to re-issue the album soon. So, I exchanged a few emails with the guy and here are the details of the re-issue.

The album will be re-issued in early December. However, they are now taking pre-orders for the re-issue right now. The first 250 copies ordered will also receive a bonus cd of Tract artists and associates covering each others' songs called ENGANO. The album will cost $13 ($15 for international orders) including postage. You can either send the money in via PayPal or send a check/money order to:

TRACT RECORDS
PO BOX 2721
RICHMOND, INDIANA
47375 USA

If you decide to use PayPal, pay the money to this address:
thomas@tractrecords.com

You can also use that address to contact them with any other questions.

According to Thomas, the track listing will look something like this:

Mark Kozelek "New Partner"
Jolie Holland "Drunk At The Pulpit"
Unbunny "For The Mekons, Et Al"
Court And Spark "The Sun Highlights The Lack In Each"
Viking Moses "When Thy Song Flows Through Me"
Elephant Micah "Ohio River Boat Song"
Moyra Mc Bride and Maxon Blewitt "Disorder"
The Strugglers "Riding"
Calexico "I Send My Love To You"
Boy Omega "A Sucker's Evening"
Pink Nasty "May It Always Be"
Pinetop Seven "A Minor Place"
Sodastream "Southside Of The World"
Iron And Wine "We All, Us Three, Will Ride"
The Impossible Shapes "Rider"
Rivulets "You Will Miss Me When I Burn"
Racingpaperplanes "Careless Love"
Scout Niblett "Trudy Dies"

The webpage for the album on Tracts' site includes some brief clips of various covers from the album. Calexico's cover of "I Send My Love To You" (from Palace Brothers' 1994 LP Days in the Wake) sounds particularly good.

I dropped my check in the mail tonight.

Calexico - I Send My Love To You (1 minute edit version)
Iron & Wine - We All, Us Three, Will Ride (1 minute edit version)

Climate Mash

Are you one of those people that feels strongly about the environment, likes those JibJab cartoons and can't get enough of novelty tunes? Having trouble marrying your passions into one glorious moment? Well, Bobby "Boris" Picket's Climate Mash may be just for you.

courtesy of WFMU Blog

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Sun Kil Moon

A few years ago, Mark Kozelek, frontman from Red House Painters, went to see The Shins open for Modest Mouse. After The Shins were done, Kozelek stuck around to see Modest Mouse, despite not being familiar with them at all. Well, Kozelek was blown away by the Mouse and that strong reaction has led to tomorrow's release of Tiny Cities. The release from Kozelek's solo project, Sun Kil Moon, is an album of eleven Modest Mouse covers.

Kozelek is a covers master. In 2001, he released an album of all AC/DC covers and has also covered Will Oldham, Neil Diamond and others. However, his strength is not just in his choice of covers but also in his re-interpretation of the songs. His versions sound so little like the originals that they may as well be original tunes. He stays true to the lyrics but the melodies are fair game in Kozelek's mind. Plus, he brings everything down to a dark mellow folk quotient.

So, whether you like or hate Modest Mouse, it doesn't matter. These tunes stand on their own and will be enjoyed by anyone who likes picking acoustic guitar, echo vocals and backing strings that provide a smooth texture.

The first four tracks below are from Tiny Cities. The rest are from other releases.

Sun Kil Moon - Ocean Breathes Salty
Sun Kil Moon - Convenient Parking
Sun Kil Moon - Neverending Math Equation (courtesy The Camera As Pen)
Sun Kil Moon - Trucker's Atlas (courtesy threejivekids)
Sun Kil Moon - Carry Me Ohio
Sun Kil Moon - Kentucky Women (Neil Diamond cover)
Mark Kozelek - New Partner (two-minute edit version of his cover of Wil Oldham's "New Partner")