Monday, July 31, 2006

Pitchfork Festival

Some great pictures from Chicago's 2006 Pitchfork Festival are up at Good Hodgkins. Unreal amount of awesome bands. Destroyer, Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, The Walkmen and The Silver Jews in the same evening? I'm speechless.

Apologies for the brief posting absence, but it bears repeating that all material posted on this blog is meant to wet your appetite for the mentioned bands - perhaps you will go out and buy a CD, go see a show or even find a new favorite band and get their uber-trendy T shirt. I have a great time doing this, but it's important to remember that there are people out there trying to make livings off this stuff. Jeff Tweedy's kids have to go to college too, people.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

TBS Recommended: Camera Obscura- Let's Get Out Of This Country

So you're in a pleasant yet unassuming indie pop band, and you get together and make music and put it out and see what happens. Turns out that the music you are making sounds really similar to another pleasant yet unassuming indie pop band, who just happen to have come along years before you and monopolized the sound you're going for and have become untouchable and cannonized in the eyes of critics. So what do you do? You mix your pleasant yet unassuming indie pop with an awesome pseudo-classic pop/Motown aesthetic and recording style and release a far superior album than your cannonized peers' recent effort.

If you haven't gotten the point yet, here it is: Camera Obscura have always been pegged as a poor man's Belle And Sebastian, and rightfully so. The whole fey, precious UK indie pop thing has been done before, many times. But with Let's Get Out Of This Country, the band successfully mixes some of their most heartbroken songwriting with a classic instrumentation and production aesthetic and released one of the better albums of 2006.

Lyrically and mood-wise, this is like the poppy female counter-point to Ryan Adams' Heartbreaker. Tears and/or heartbreak are mentioned no less than 352 times, and lead singer Tracyanne Campbell's lonesome musings sound right at home underneath the layers of strings and horns. While the lyrics toe the line between earnest and emo, Campbell has a way of always coming out on the endearing side. She is a lost, hurt little girl in a 20-something's body, attempting to relocate (hence the title track) to leave behind a lost love and broken heart, and you can't help but find her appealing.

On so many levels (earnest lyrics, classic pop production) this album could have failed, just coming off as silly. In the hands of lesser bands, this album wouldn't have worked. But these folks pull it off beautifully. Soft and endearing, yet with more songwriting substance than much of the indie pop out there. Excellent album.

Camera Obscura- Hey Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken

Camera Obscura- Dory Previn

Previous TBS Recommendations:

Destroyer- Destroyer's Rubies

Neko Case- Fox Confessor Brings The Flood

Liars- Drum's Not Dead

The Walkmen- A Hundred Miles Off

TV On The Radio- Return To Cookie Mountain

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Ray LaMontagne acts like petulant little child, cancels tour; Ryan Adams continues kicking ass, taking names, occasionally snorting devil's dandruff

Generally pleasant yet apparently thin-skinned singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne has been making a bit of a name for himself recently for on-stage tantrums and canceling tours, inevitably inviting comparisons to other folky primadonnas such as His Excellency David Ryan Adams. Adams is currently back playing 29-song shows with an incarnation of his best backing band since Whiskeytown, The Cardinals, and, if unsubstantiated posts on messageboards are a legitimate source (they are, we've covered this before), is planning to record three more albums next year. These three albums will likely be good to great (all three released last year), terrible (Rock N Roll) or not be released at all (The Strokes cover album, a warehouse full of other material).

Now I have nothing against Ray LaMontagne. Trouble was a nice little album, and the guy impressed the hell out of me when I saw him at the Sasquatch Festival two years ago. But refusing to play a show because people are too loud or disrespectful when you're in a bar or opening for a band whose median fan age is 16 just silly. Plus, if you're going to blow up and look like an asshole, at least do it with some style, as Mr. Adams did in his famous "Summer of '69" blowup at the Ryman Auditorium:
Adams was playing at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium when an audience member yelled out "play 'Summer Of '69,'" referencing the hit by Canadian superstar Bryan Adams. It seems that young Ryan is a little tired of the Bryan Adams jokes, because he pulled a major freakout.

Maybe Ryan would've preferred "Run To You" or "Cuts Like A Knife."

According to the Associated Press, Adams started cussing violently and then ordered the light technician to turn the house lights on. Once the lights were up, Adams found the fan who made the request and singled him out. Adams personally refunded the guy the $30 that he paid for the ticket and kicked the guy out, refusing to continue the show until the guy had left the theatre.

On his way out, the unidentified and, more than likely, confused fan was stopped by the manager of the auditorium, who apologized for Adams' bizarre behaviour. The man returned to his seat and pocketed Adams' 30 bucks.
And finally, until you write something of this caliber, you haven't reached the point where acting like this is acceptable:

Ryan Adams- In My Time of Need
from Heartbreaker

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals Tour Dates, which are eternally subject to change:

Jul 27 Myrtle Beach SC House of Blues
Jul 28 Charleston SC Charleston Music Hall
Jul 29 Atlanta GA The Tabernacle
Aug 1 Nashville TN The Ryman
Aug 2 St Louis MO The Pageant
Aug 3 Indianapolis IN The Vogue
Aug 4 Chicago IL Lollapalooza
Sep 8 Anaheim CA House of Blues
Sep 9 San Diego CA House of Blues
Sep 10 Los Angeles CA Hollywood Bowl
Sep 21 Newcastle UK Newcastle Academy
Sep 22 Glasgow UK Glasgow Academy
Sep 24 Nottingham UK Rock City
Sep 25 Birmingham UK Birmingham Academy
Sep 27 Cambridge UK Corn Exchange
Sep 28 Manchester UK Manchester Academy 1
Sep 30 London UK Shepherds Bush Empire
Oct 3 Amsterdam NL Paradiso
Oct 6 Koln DE Kantine
Oct 7 Assen NL Take Root Festival
Oct 9 Hamburg DE Ubel & Gefaehrlich
Oct 10 Berlin DE Postbahnhof
Oct 12 Munich DE Muffathalle
The weather in Seattle in early September is beautiful, Ryan. Plus coke grows on the trees.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Pass The Hatchet

Thanks to the good people at Matador records and Stereogum, we have a full version of "Pass The Hatchet" from the upcoming (9/12) Yo La Tengo record. I'm waiting to hear a complete version of the album, but what I've heard so far has me floored and made me add these guys to the short but growing list of bands/artists I must see before I die. Now only if we could get Tom Waits to split the bill with them. Turn this one up to 11, it's like the best of the 60's psychedelic movement crammed into 10:46.

MP3 taken down, even though it can still be found on Matador's web site.

I really need to buy an electric guitar.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

But you can't use my phone...

My Old Kentucky Blog has some My Morning Jacket covers. Elton John's "Rocketman" is a must listen and Erykah Badu's "Tyrone" is pretty awesome, as is hearing Jim James refer to himself in the third person.

My Morning Jacket- Tyrone (Erykah Badu)


I can't believe I've been doing this blog for three months and have yet to mention one of the more promising bands to come along in ages. Akron/Family released two of the most innovative and strong albums of last year, their folkier self-titled album and a more rocking split with Michael Gira, founder of freak-folk super-label Young God Records. News came last month that they are prepping a "mini-album" for release this September, which may include some recording they did with members of Broken Social Scene.

These guys get grouped in with that whole "freak-folk" thing, but that really just begins to describe what these guys are doing. Psychedelia, prog-rock, gentle folk, classic rock, ambient jamming and stellar Beach Boys-esque harmonies can all be found in the band's limited but impressive body of work. What sets them apart from other such bands that are all over the map is that these guys not only attempt to jump from genre to genre, but they pull off each experiment with a suprising amount of success. Their live shows careen from absolute brilliance to an utter train wreck and back again. Without a doubt, this is a band to keep an eye on. If this band keeps growing from here, they could blow a lot minds in the next year or so.

In all seriousness, the studio version of "Raising The Sparks" is actually kind of tame compared to a live setting.

Akron/Family- Raising The Sparks

Akron/Family- Running, Returning

Akron/Family- Italy

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Konono No.1 and Bjork

A confession: If something says "world music" in the description I rarely bother to listen. I should really break this habit, because Konono No. 1 is an example of something genuinely groundbreaking coming out of that all-encompassing and generally dull genre of "world music."

Turns out that the unique lo-fi-Afro-electro-ambient project recorded with Bjork last month. There are no release plans yet, but this sounds promising.

So who are Konono No. 1? I'll let their PR guy and a New York Times writer do the work for me:
Konono No. 1 was founded over 25 years ago by Mingiedi, a virtuoso of the likembe (a traditional instrument sometimes called "sanza" or "thumb piano", consisting of metal rods attached to a resonator). The band's line-up includes three electric likembe (bass, medium and treble), equipped with hand-made microphones built from magnets salvaged from old car parts, and plugged into amplifiers. There's also a rhythm section which uses traditional as well as makeshift percussion (pans, pots and car parts), three singers, three dancers and a sound system featuring these famous megaphones.

The musicians come from an area which sits right across the border between Congo and Angola. Their repertoire draws largely on Bazombo trance music, but they've had to incorporate the originally-unwanted distorsions of their sound system. This has made them develop a unique style which, from a sonic viewpoint, has accidentally connected them with the aesthetics of the most experimental forms of rock and electronic music, as much through their sounds than through their sheer volume (they play in front of a wall of speakers) and their merciless grooves.
NY Times:
The band plays curious instruments that resemble children's toys; its cymbals look like smashed hub caps; its sound is harsh and otherworldly. But what really makes "Congotronics" (Crammed Discs), the debut album by the African band Konono No. 1, one of the most startling of recent world-music releases - and drawn comparisons to the German electronic-music pioneers Kraftwerk and the reggae producer Lee Perry - is the amplification system the band has used for the last 30 years.

Konono No. 1, a 12-piece group led by the septuagenarian Mawangu Mingiedi, performs in outdoor cafes in Kinshasa, Congo. To make its traditional trance music heard above the roar of the traffic-choked streets, it amplifies its toylike likembes, or thumb pianos, using pick-up microphones made from the magnets in car alternators and loudspeakers left behind by Belgian colonists in 1960. The squalling feedback this lo-fi system produces is worked into the polyrhythmic drumming and call-and-response chanting to create a brutal, neotraditional genre Kinshasa's musicians call tradi-moderne.

"When I encountered it, I thought it was the equivalent of punk music in Africa," said Vincent Kenis, a Brussels-based producer who first heard Konono No. 1 on a French radio station in 1980. "From then it took me 10 years to go to Kinshasa and look for them and another 10 years to find them." He finally tracked down the band in 2000 and discovered it sounded just as it had 20 years before: no equipment had been replaced.

"Congotronics" was recorded outdoors using an Apple laptop and a handful of microphones, and was mixed in Mr. Kenis's hotel room with members of the band. It has sold 15,000 copies worldwide, a respectable number for such an esoteric record, and will be released in the United States on June 28; the band has embarked on its first tour of Europe, with the United States to follow in November. Electronic-music devotees have raved about "Congotronics" on the Internet, while some world-music fans remain suspicious. "They say this is rock and not traditional African music," Mr. Kenis said. "They don't believe it. But the public that doesn't care about African music immediately catches on to this music. African music is not only pretty voices recorded in Europe and America. It can also be very violent and very special and very inventive." - Andy Pemberton
I think the "equivlent of punk music in Africa" line is the best description I've heard.

Konono No. 1- Lufuala Ndonga

Thursday, July 20, 2006

TBS Recommended: TV On The Radio- Return to Cookie Mountain

I remember the first time I heard the Pixies pretty clearly. Not because I loved it - I’m not even a huge Pixies fan compared to many out there. The reason I remember is because of the feeling it gave me. It’s a feeling that those of us that listen to music religiously have all had – the feeling that we were hearing something that was singularly unique and completely unclassifiable in our mind’s conception of music. In an age where music is pre-packaged, pre-classified, pre-marketed and compartmentalized before we ever hear it, it’s easy for the serious fan of music to listen to 95% of the music out there and immediately be able give it a genre and list a few of the band’s influences. So as a fairly sheltered suburban kid who listened almost exclusively to the Dave Matthews Band, watching a chic, urban hipster girl put on Doolittle and dance around manically while snarling like Frank Black, I was understandably shaken. It was so raw and foreign, yet it made complete sense. They were a band that you could point at and say, “These guys took music a step forward from where it was then to where it is now.”

You may have heard of Return to Cookie Mountain by now - and if you haven’t, you probably will pretty soon. One of those chic hipster girls will probably put it on the stereo at a party, and you will sit and stare for a while, soaking it in and realizing that you have no pre-made compartment in your brain for this music. This experience may leave you absolutely floored, or it may piss you off and confuse you. Either way, you won’t be able to explain what you heard after the fact.

This album is the sound of a band forging its own singular, unique, unclassifiable sound. That alone makes it worth the listen, and makes it one of the better albums to come out this year.

“I Was a Lover” starts it off with a bang, mixing electronic hip hop drums, a couple of fractured, hypnotic symphonic samples, Beatles-esque use of electric sitar, upper-register vocals, wall-of-noise guitar sound and a beautiful sing-a-long piano bridge into something all at once alarming, dark and yet incredibly danceable and joyous.

Trying to spot influences is futile – this is unlike anything out there now or ever before. It is an amalgamation of sounds and styles that shouldn’t work, yet inexplicably do. Tribal drums and chanting on “Let the Devil In,” four melodies, some whistling and doo-wop vocals on “A Method” and David Bowie singing backup vocals on “Province” all give this album a sense of grandeur.

Without a doubt the band doesn’t pull off everything perfectly. The soaring atmospherics and off-kilter drums on “Playhouses” drag a good idea out for too long, losing the sense of urgency that makes the awesome tracks (cc: “Wolf Like Me”) so great. “Blues From Down Here” wanders around, never heading in any particular direction. "Hours" is a pretty underwhelming reprise to "I Was A Lover."

But with an album like Return to Cookie Mountain, it’s less about execution and more about the effort and direction involved. This is an album and a band that (like the Pixies) doesn’t follow any rules and (unlike the Pixies) has no qualms about jumping between genres, styles and sounds at will, with occasionally incredible results. Over the top internet hype aside, the potential hinted at on 2003’s Young Liars EP and 2004’s Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes has finally come to fruition and TV On The Radio has arrived as one of the more innovative bands of our generation.

TV On The Radio- I Was A Lover from Return to Cookie Mountain

TV On The Radio- Wolf Like Me from Return to Cookie Mountain

Previous TBS Recommendations:

Destroyer- Destroyer's Rubies

Neko Case- Fox Confessor Brings The Flood

Liars- Drum's Not Dead

The Walkmen- A Hundred Miles Off

Monday, July 17, 2006

Just what we needed, more mediocre Sufjan

Last week saw the release of Sufjan Stevens' The Avalanche, a collection of B-sides from the Illinois sessions. As I'm sure I've mentioned before (I tend to tell anyone who will listen, like one of those old men at the bus stop that is starved for attention), everyone's favorite indie pop superstar has written some killer tracks in his day. The problem is that those great songs are generally surrounded by track after track of dull, unaffecting filler. Not to mention that every other track is over-orchestrated to the point of sounding like the background music to the SNES version of "Sim City". ("Come On! Feel The Illinoise!", I am looking your direction.) There are many other criticisms of the man's work that I don't have the time or energy to touch on, especially since Stephen Thomas Erlewine did it so well already, but suffice it to say that The Avalanche isn't any different. Just like much of his earlier work, each track, while being pleasant, sterile and unabrasive in that classic Sufjan way, blends into the last in a way that prevents the album from creating any real sense of identity. But, just like before, there are a couple absolutely killer melodies intermixed here around the filler and inexplicable multiple versions of "Chicago." "Pittsfield," in particular, is probably one of the best things the man has done thus far, and belongs on the theoretical Sufjan greatest hits album, which would absolutely own, BTW. Some MP3s are forthcoming, but here is most (or all?) or the album streamed thanks to good old Uncle Soofie.

Sufjan Stevens- The Avalanche (Part 1)

Sufjan Stevens- The Avalanche (Part 2)

Sufjan Stevens- The Avalanche (Part 3)

I'll give him one thing, though. The beard he is sporting in that picture is awesome beyond words.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

..and the second-best news of the day

Is The Arcade Fire one of "those"* bands, or was Funeral just a flash in the pan? Only time will tell, but this news looks really promising.
"The band went into the church ahead of me and my assistant James Ogilvie," Colburn wrote. "They recorded a sample of the organ playing a chord in different registers. Win called me and told me how excited he was about the organ. He said is [it] was super loud and so overwhelming that it brought a tear to his eye. I promptly called him a pussy.

"When I first walked into the church and saw the organ, I just stood dead in my tracks. 'Now THAT's a fucking pipe organ!' I thought... During the first take, I became overwhelmed by the grandeur of the whole thing. I heard that piece in it's finished state and it was magnificent! Tears rolled out of my eyes. I don't know what came over me, but it was a complete emotional release. The problem was that there were mics all around me, so I really couldn't sob. So I'm trying to hold back any kind of vocal component to this overwhelming joy I was experiencing.

"When the take was over, I took off my headphones and dryed my eyes on my shirt. James asked if i was OK and I said, 'yeah man, that was a great take!' I looked at Regine with my red eyes and said, 'awesome!' and then I thought...'whose [sic] the pussy now?'"

What better way to celebrate the Solstice than recording a pipe organ in a catholic church! I can not wait for you to hear this song. Every time I listen to the rough mix and it hits that key change I get choked up. Prepare yourself world! This record is simply amazing!

It's so refreshing to have a band that remembers why kids pick up guitars and get into music in the first place. A band that actually fucking cares and shows it every time they play.

* = decade/generation-defining bands that will be seen as classics 30 years from now; Radiohead, Wilco


Shearwater is the side project of Okkervil River, who is awesome. Their new album is called Palo Santo. Think of Okkervil River music, Jeff Buckley lyrics with The National aesthetic. Great gentle, folk-based indie, the likes of which can often be heard on on Sunday nights from 10-midnight.

Shearwater- Red Sea Black Sea from Palo Santo

Shearwater- Failed Queen from Palo Santo

Enough of that wussy shit, though. The Black Keys own me. They are the Beatles of garage bands.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

New Black Keys single

Some Velvet Blog has the new Black Keys single, which makes me feel inadequate as a guitar player. Their new album, Magic Potion, will be released September 12, and they kick off a fall tour at The Showbox in Seattle on September 6. Absolutely do not miss these guys. They put on one of the best rock and roll shows I've ever seen.

Monday, July 10, 2006

WTF? (or Brightblack Morning Light)

Forgive the over-the-top simile, but listening to Brightblack Morning Light is like wandering out in the woods on a beautiful spring day, hearing mysterious sounds floating through the air and coming upon a clearing where there is a rag tag group of hippies, hillbillies, burnouts and other sorts of riff raff drugged out of their minds and playing old school R&B/Funk/Soul music at half of its natural speed. Their new self-titled album is actually less creepy and much more appealing than that sounds. These guys have freak-folk roots (discovered by Will Oldham of Bonnie "Prince" Billy fame, friends with Joanna Newsom and Devendra Banhart, etc.), but this album is completely unique from what those guys are doing. I don't know if "freak soul" is a good buzzword, but it works better than anything else. The kicker? The two main songwriters reportedly live in the woods of Northern California in tents during the warm months and in a cabin during the colder months. Awesome stuff. Check out the track on their myspace. I would rarely use the word "groovy," but this grooves with the best of them.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Flying saucer eyes

As you've probably heard, our boy Thom Yorke made a solo record, entitled The Eraser. Seeing as how Radiohead has written maybe two or three songs that aren't fucking stellar in the last, oh, eleven years, you'd think this would be a great album. It isn't. It's actually quite average. But if I've learned anything from the Dave Matthews Band, it's that you can't expect too much from the obligatory "whateva, whateva, my band is world-renowned, I do what I want" solo album. Thom screwed around for a couple weeks and this is what we got, and I can't really think of many people whose screwing around sounds this decent. (Except maybe me when I cover almost the entirity of Blood On the Tracks ... j/k) The lyrics are a bit lacking in parts, but this is really about the soundscapes Thom creates, which would have made great background noise for Jonny to blow peoples minds over if these were made in a Radiohead setting. There are certainly some highlights, though:

Thom Yorke- The Eraser from The Eraser

Thom Yorke- Atoms For Peace from The Eraser

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Chad VanGaalen

Chad VanGaalen's
new album, Skelliconnection , is due out in August. One listen through and it seems much more mature, though still pleasantly sophomoric and lo-fi. It's all over the map, but the guy has some talent that shines through no matter if he's doing gentle acoustic ballads, moody electronic pieces or aggressive rock tunes.

Chad VanGaalen- Sing Me To Sleep from Skelliconnection

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Court & Spark

So The Court & Spark are a pretty essential band for any fan of modern alt-country music. Folk sensibilities, plenty of sonic experimentation and beautiful production - they're like a poor man's Wilco. (I mean that in the best way possible.) Their new album, Hearts, isn't as solid as 2001's Bless You or 2004's Witch Season, but still very much worth the listen, with the exception of "Let's Get High" which is like a terrible version of "Suffolk Down Upon The Night." But when the band sticks to what they're good at, such as on "We Were All Uptown Rulers" and "The Ballad of Horselover Fat," they are one of the best out there at making gentle, compelling folk-based music.

The Court & Spark- We Were All Uptown Rulers from Hearts

The Court & Spark- Steeplechasing from Witch Season

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Oh, young lions

I need a catchy title for my series on some of the greatest balls-to-the-wall Rock n Roll songs I know, "Young Lions" being today's selection. Help a brotha out.

The Constantines- Young Lions from Shine A Light.