Monday, October 30, 2006


O'Death is one of those "WTF" bands. Banjos, fiddles and hillbilly vocals taken to sometimes absurd extremes mixed with psychedelic drug trips and theatrical, furious energy. It's basically how Man Man would sound if they had all grown up in rural Kentucky. It's certainly not for anyone, but for fans of Man Man, Primus or Tom Waits' frantic 1990's work, O'Death may tickle your sick, twisted fancy. Much of this would make excellent Halloween music. Plus their band name kicks ass on so many levels.

O'Death- Down To Rest from O'Death

O'Death- Allie Mae Reynolds from O'Death

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Okkervil River: 10/15/06 - Bowery Ballroom

In the words of Tall Buildings Shake's first guest blogger, Ms. Alexa Sparks:

Okkervil River - an amazing band with good hair. Basically everyone should like them. They played two shows this month at New York City's Bowery Ballroom (which, in my opinion, is a pretty sweet venue.) The Saturday night show was sold out, but I was able to go to the Sunday night show. I would be curious to find out what the set list was like on Saturday, because I speculate that they were different. I dug that they had a lot of variety in the songs they played - lots of older songs off of Don't Fall in Love With Everyone You See, as well as newer ones from Black Sheep Boy, which has received heavy listening from me lately. I would advise that if you ever get the opportunity to see Okkervil River live - definitely do it. The way Caleb feels about The Hold Steady is the way I feel about Okkervil River - very strongly.

Editor's Note: Seriously guys, if this band continues improving at the same rate they have in the last couple years (last year's criminally overlooked Black Sheep Boy and this year's criminally domestically unreleased Overboard & Down Australia-only EP), the next full length could be a classic.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Norfolk & Western

Portland-based Norfolk & Western just released another full length, The Unsung Colony, building on their understated folk-rock sound. Featuring former and current members of fellow Portland-ites (how did Portland get to be the hippest town in the country all of a sudden?) The Decemberists, the band is a vehicle for Adam Selzer, who has also worked with what has to be the most talented man to come out of Portland, M. Ward. Norfolk & Western's music contains the same reverence to history and storytelling as the two aforementioned artists. Maybe it's the town's proximity to the end of the Lewis and Clark trail or something. Don't be fooled though, Selzer and Co. know how to use a studio and modern musical inventions - there is some interesting production on tracks like "Arrangements Made" and that cool ghostly wah instrument (EDIT: turns out that instrument is old school too) on standout track "How To Reel In." Fans of down-trodden, orchestral Northwest indie rock will dig this.

Norfolk & Western- The Longest Stare from The Unsung Colony

Norfolk & Western- How To Reel In
from The Unsung Colony

Tour dates ahoy!
11-10 Spokane, WA - Whitworth College
11-13 Minneapolis, MN - 7th Street Entry
11-14 Madison, WI - Café Montmartre
11-15 Chicago, IL - Subterranean
11-16 Pittsburgh, PA - Club Cafe
11-18 Philadelphia, PA - North Star Bar
11-19 New York, NY - Mercury Lounge'
11-20 Washington, DC - DC9
11-21 Greensboro, NC - The Flying Anvil
11-24 Norman, OK - Opolis
11-25 Denton, TX - Rubber Gloves
11-26 Austin, TX - Emo's
11-28 Tucson, AZ - Plush
11-30 Los Angeles, CA - TBA
12-02 San Francisco, CA - TBA
12-07 Seattle, WA - TBA
12-08 Portland, OR - Doug Fir Lounge

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I finally made it, guys...

Wow. After all the hard work, I finally got the chance to pay tribute to my favorite American musician - on my favorite television show, even! Thanks to my team of backup dancers. I couldn't have done it without them. We're gonna take Broadway by storm, gals!(Thanks to Stereogum)

Monday, October 23, 2006

On The Rocks

Caution, shameless plug ahead:

Last night's radio show went especially well. Just a reminder that if you're in the mood for bittersweetness from 10 p.m. until midnight (PST) on Sunday nights, On The Rocks is just a couple clicks away.
Elliott Smith: Sweet Adeline
Bobby Bare Jr.: Where Is My Mind?
The Court & Spark: Steeplechasing
Townes Van Zandt: Dead Flowers
Johnny Cash: Folsom Prison Blues
Norfolk & Western: How To Reel In
THe Kamikazee Hearts: Defender
Beach House: Apple Orchard
Uncle Tupelo: Wait Up
Sufjan Stevens: For The Widows in Paradise, For The Fatherless in Ypsilanti
Califone: The Orchids
Yo La Tengo: Damage
Cat Power: I Found A Reason
Bob Dylan: Nettie Moore
Sigur Ros: Agaetis Byrjun
Joanna Newsom: Peach, Plum, Pear
Bonnie "Prince" Billy: Cursed Sleep
Johnny Cash: I See A Darkness
Gillian Welch: Hickory Wind
Bob Dylan: Girl From The North Country
Nina Nastasia: Why Don't You Stay Home?
Radiohead: Motion Picture Soundtrack
R.E.M.: King of Birds
Tom Waits: Come On Up To The House
Pedro The Lion: Of Up And Coming Monarchs
Neil Young: Motion Pictures
Elliot Smith: The Biggest Lie

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Busy weekend with an even busier week coming up, but a couple things bear mentioning:

1) I saw The Hold Steady for the second time this tour last night, and I don't know what exactly I can say anymore to make people understand how much I love this band. It's like I'm 13 and hearing rock music for the first time. Amazing show that included a drunken/shirtless Shawn Na Na to open, "Stevie Nix" and a view from the second row right in front. But who moshes anymore? I'm all about energy too, but if I wanted to get drunk and hurl myself at people I'd go play a pickup game of football. I guess that's a negative consequence of feeling like you're 13 again. Go see this band if you get a chance.

The Hold Steady- Killer Parties from 2004's Almost Killed Me

2) Elliott Smith died three years ago yesterday. Such a fucking shame. He's still one of the more talented composers in our era of pop music. I have no problem putting him with The Beatles and Beach Boys as far as the nuts-and-bolts of a pop song go.

Elliott Smith- Angeles from 1997's Either/Or

Friday, October 20, 2006

Bobby Bare Jr.

Bobby Bare Jr. is all over the map in a beautiful way. With one of those raspy, yelpy voices that sounds like a better version of that guy from Kings of Leon, Bare Jr. does raucous rockabilly, tender My Morning Jacket-ian balladry and a strait-up mariachi-flavored Gram Parsons country tune - and that's just the first three tracks of his most recent release The Longest Meow. 11 songs recorded in 11 hours with help from half of MMJ and members of Clem Snide and Lambchop, The Longest Meow has the sense of endearing sloppiness and all the rough edges you'd expect from an album recorded entirely in a day.

Those that contend that "alt-country" died when Wilco wandered off towards ambient sound and classic rock and Ryan Adams decided to try a new genre with every record should give this cat a listen. Like Adams, Bare Jr. tries a little bit of everything, but instead of viewing the world through a different set of glasses for every experiment, Bare Jr. never strays too far from where his talent lies - rootsy Southern rock.

Plus the guy even pulls off covering The Pixies' "Where Is My Mind?"

Bobby Bare Jr.- The Heart Bionic from The Longest Meow

Bobby Bare Jr.- Where Is My Mind (Pixies cover)
from The Longest Meow

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Pitchfork's Jet Review

Pitchfork's Jet Review

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

...but all will spoil with the lies I tell

Nina Nastasia writes sparse, affecting folk music, reminiscent of Cat Power, Hem or Gillian Welch. The arrangements are fairly minimalist (a few piano chords, a little bass or three-piece drum kit and the occasional bit of atmospherics), allowing Nastasia's songwriting to take center stage. There's enough going on here to set her apart from your average sad-chick-with-a-guitar. You're sure to be drawn to her pretty delivery, but the lyrics are what keep you coming back - bittersweet and affectingly pedestrian. Her album On Leaving is out on Fat Cat Records.

Nina Nastasia- Why Don't You Stay Home
from On Leaving

Nina Nastasia- Our Day Trip from On Leaving

Monday, October 16, 2006

Newsflash: There is nothing better than a hot girl with good taste in music

If this proves to be true, Scarlet Johanson just got about 50 times hotter. As Stereogum pointed out for us, Fox News' entertainment page (literally the bottom of the media barrel, take it with a grain of salt) reports that Johanson will be releasing an album full of Tom Waits covers entitled Scarlett Sings Tom Waits. I don't know that I've ever heard the woman sing, but this is still pretty sexy based on the idea alone. Go for "Time," Scarlett.

Coupled with her role in the music video for Bob Dylan's new single "When The Deal Goes Down," Johanson is quickly becoming the hippest person in Hollywood in my book. Lord knows my book matters in Hollywood.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The river is deep and the river is wide, and the girl that I love is on the other side.

I don't know if this is a compliment or not, but I think that if I was ever in a band, I'd want my band to be just like Okkervil River in every way. Tight band that can play rock and roll just as well as tears-in-your-beer folk, a perfect balance between sonic experimentation and pop sensibilities, well-written lyrics and a huge dose of passion. Here's a live video of "Kansas City," courtesy of Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands and GooTube.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Parallel lines on a slow decline

So I'm a few years too late, but Guided By Voices were a great band. The sheer volume of material is a bit intimidating, but Bee Thousand, at least, lives up to the hype you've probably heard about this band. Robert Pollard's fractured, esoteric lyrics and the band's lo-fi mastery of doing a lot with a very little make these guys one hell of an intriguing indie rock band. It may not be apparent after the first listen, but there is a lot more going on here than meets the eye.

Guided By Voices- I Am A Scientist from Bee Thousand

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

In Case You Forgot: Neil Young- Time Fades Away

As big of a Neil Young fan as I claim to be, it's a shame it took so long for me to give Time Fades Away a listen. The story goes like this: After the country-rock perfection of 1972's Harvest made him a superstar, Young went on tour, sans roadie/guitarist Danny Whitten (the guy who trades those awesome staccato guitar licks with Young on "Down By The River"), who died of a drug overdose after Young fired him from the Harvest sessions for excessive drug use. Whitten's death was the motivation behind some of Young's anti-drug rants such as "Needle And The Damage Done" and "Tonight's The Night." It also cast a sense of gloom over the band's next tour, which was marked by the whole band's drug and alcohol abuse, Young's guilt over the death, and crowds that were confused by the band's sloppy, drunken playing and brand new songs. Luckily, the tour was captured for live release, leading to the spectacle that is Time Fades Away.

As intriguing as the backstory is, it's not Whitten's death that make this a vital Neil Young album - it's the incalculable sense of passion in the record. The band seems to constantly teeter on the edge of disaster - the playing is sloppy and off-kilter and Young screams as much as sings. The music exudes a depression, fury and energy not seen on another Young record (though On The Beach and Tonight's The Night would later become Young classics by farming the same dark genius found on this record.) Time Fades Away is the soundtrack of a group of men at the end of their collective ropes, weighed down by guilt and grief and the drugs and alcohol they drowned their problems in.

Neil lost much of his commercial following in these years, but undoubtedly wrote some of his best music. Young's release of a dreary, ragged live album consisting almost entirely of unreleased music while at the height of his commercial success is up there with Dylan's electric 1966 Royal Albert Hall "Judas" concert as one of the better examples we have of an artist following his muse off a cliff. It's sloppy, loud and brash and fueled by depression, poison and self-destruction, just like the best rock and roll.

Neil Young- Don't Be Denied from 1973's Time Fades Away

Neil Young- Love In Mind from 1973's Time Fades Away

Interestingly enough, it is also one of two Young albums that is not available on CD, leading to a fan petition that it be rereleased. Wikipedia says:
Time Fades Away was recorded directly from the soundboard to final 2-track masters using the Quad-8 CompuMix, the first and utterly unreliable digital mixing soundboard--against the wishes of producer David Briggs, who referred to it as the "Compufuck" but was forced to yield to the desires of technophile/audiophile Young. This resulted in a murky-sounding release; because the final mixes were those rough cuts, the album cannot be remixed.
Time Fades Away Petition

This isn't on the album, but I absolutely love this video:

Monday, October 09, 2006

God's portrait in the clouds

Wooden Wand (aka James Toth) is an obscenely productive psych-folk singer-songwriter from New York. I haven't had the time or energy to dive into the numerous albums he's been involved with over the last couple years, but Second Attention, reportedly the least-indulgent of his numerous releases, is very diggable. Gothic-yet-pretty folk songs with esoteric, religious lyrical themes sung in Toth's appealing tenor remind me of Devendra Banhart and other freak-folkers. But then again I am a sucker for that stuff. Couple that with a really cool lo-fi production ethic and you've got a damn enjoyable little neo-folk album. Check out "Lost Angeles Manna", which sounds like an Iron & Wine tune if Sam Beam had read "Salem's Lot" as a kid.

Wooden Wand And The Sky High Band- Portrait In The Clouds from Second Attention

Wooden Wand And The Sky High Band- Lost Angeles Manna from Second Attention

Friday, October 06, 2006

Tweedy DVD

Wilcoworld has a preview of the new Jeff Tweedy Solo DVD up. The song is kind of average, but the DVD looks and sounds great. Tweedy and My Morning Jacket are going to be in a battle for the best music-related DVD released this year. Here's the tracklist:
01 Sunken Treasure
02 Theologians
03 The Ruling Class
04 How to Fight Loneliness
05 Summerteeth
06 The Thanks I Get
07 I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
08 ELT
09 Shot in the Arm
10 Black Eye
11 In a Future Age
12 Laminated Cat
13 (Was I) In Your Dreams
14 Airline to Heaven
15 Heavy Metal Drummer
16 War on War
17 Acuff Rose
Be excited to hear how "Airline To Heaven" and "Acuff Rose" sound.

Wilco & Billy Bragg- Airline To Heaven from 2000's Mermaid Avenue Vol. 2

Uncle Tupelo- Acuff Rose
from 1993's Anodyne

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Beach House

So if you're not getting drunk and listening to Boys And Girls In America (and really, there is no reason you should be doing anything else at this juncture), but are in the mood for something a bit more moody and introspective, give Beach House a listen. The Baltimore male/female duo's new album is actually suprisingly unique, fusing brooding, layered Hammond organs, slide guitar and whispy vocals into something that just screams "soundtrack to autumn 2006." Think mellow Velvet Underground or Fiery Furnaces without the masterbatory freakouts. Some tracks tend to meld into one another, creating a big, forgetable lump, but there are a couple of superb songs on this record, "Apple Orchard" being the prime example.

Tour Dates:
Beach House & Over The Atlantic TOUR DATES
Oct 26th Philadelphia, PA Johnny Brendas
Oct 28th Baltimore, MD H and H Building (Floristree Space)
Nov 1st New York, NY Cake Shop (Carpark / Paw-Tracks CMJ Showcase w/ First Nation, Peppermints, Lexie Mountain Boys, and WZT Hearts)
Nov 2nd Cambridge, MA The Lily Pad
Nov 3rd Montreal, QC TBA
Nov 4th Toronto, ONT Tanzac
Nov 5th Pittsburgh, PA Garfield Art Works
Nov 6th Chicago, IL TBA
Nov 7th Minneapolis, MN Big V’s
Nov 8th Fargo, ND Aquarium
Nov 10th Seattle, WA TBA
Nov 11th Vancouver, BC Pat’s Pub
Nov 12th Portland, OR Towne Lounge
Nov 14th San Francisco, CA Hemlock Tavern
Nov 16th Los Angeles, CA The Echo (w/ Daedelus)
Nov 18th Dallas, TX TBA
Nov 19th Austin, TX Emo’s
Nov 20th Houston, TX The Proletariat
Nov 21st New Orleans, LA One Eyed Jacks
Nov 22nd Atlanta, GA Drunken Unicorn
Nov 24rd Chapel Hill, NC Nightlight
Nov 25th Washington, DC The Red and the Black
Nov 26th New York, NY Tonic (w/ Avey Tare and Kria Brekken)
Beach House- Apple Orchard from Beach House

Beach Houe- Master of None
from Beach House

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Gonna walk around and drink some more - The Hold Steady 10/1/06 - Irving Plaza

Everyone knows at least one. The kid in school who was generally good-natured, but drank and did drugs and never went to college because he lacked the desire, not the brains. He probably stuck around home when you went away to college that fall, working various jobs and moving in an out of his parents' basements for a few years before he found other kids just like him and moved into a shitty apartment in the city where he and his burnout friends did more random jobs, perhaps bartending, working at a gas station or cleaning toilets, just so they could make enough money to buy booze, drugs and guitars they used to play rock music with their other burnout friends and their burnout friends' friends.

Are they any less of people than you and I? No, they just prefer to live life for the moment instead of the future, opting for self-destruction because they don't want to grow up and turn out like their dead-beat and emotionally unavailable parents, who are the ones responsible for their kids' choice of lifestyle in the first place.

These kids practiced and got really good at their instruments and formed a band, and it was The Hold Steady.

Sunday's show at Irving Plaza in New York City was probably the most fun I've ever had at a rock concert. The band blew through most of the newly released Boys And Girls In America and many from their earlier albums with reckless passion. Craig Finn absolutely controls the crowd, even getting the "snivelling indie kids" to give in and show enthusiasm. It's childish and stupid (as is rock n' roll), but I for one feel like I'm hearing rock music for the very first time when I listen to this band. The band let everyone know where they were headed after the show, giving me the opportunity to show off how much of a fanboy I've become in the last few weeks since I first heard the new album. Craig was butthoused and seemed to be catching up with old friends, but was responsive enough to take some pictures and discuss Joe Mauer's batting title and the Minnesota Twins' pennant, which had motivated "the first costume change in Hold Steady history" when he came out for the encore in an old-school Twins jersey. Name me another frontman that can talk trash about Derek Jeter at the big New York gig and still win over every single person in the crowd.

Good press from Pitchfork and Rolling Stone (quick digression: wtf with the reference to "Chillout Tent" being the album's best track - you're telling me this Rob Sheffield character can have a job at Rolling Stone and I can't?) is just the beginning - this album is pretty close to perfect. Do yourself a favor and grab a six pack and listen to the entire new album streaming off the label's web site.

"Stuck Between Stations" live: