Thursday, August 31, 2006

Morning Shorts

The Soft Drugs are Not Working

TW Walsh, ex of Pedro the Lion, produced two of my favorite singer-songwriter albums of the past decade, and he's got a new project, The Soft Drugs. Lucky for you, he's offering MP3s aplenty: a couple cuts from the EP, In Moderation, plus monthly demos. How is the EP? I'm still digesting. At first, I thought Walsh's fantastic, Neil Young-inflected voice, full of plaintive yearning, wasn't always used to its full potential on these lean, mid-tempo indie rock songs. It's slowly growing on me. I'd recommend downloading "Don't Sweat It", my favorite cut so far.

Those two albums, How We Spend Our Days (1999) and Blue Laws (2001), don't appear to be available from TW, and he offers no downloads, but Amazon has sound clips for Blue Laws, so do yourself a favor and listen to a few. The lone reviewer calls it "great, rich, aching, American music" and I can't say it much better. It's to Walsh's credit that I remember Blue Laws as a very stripped-down record, but re-listening to it now, with headphones, I'm struck by the careful layers of production, strings and vocal harmonies backing up his wonderful songs, fleshing them out while keeping things amazingly intimate.

The Soft Drugs also also contribute a song to the new Silkworm tribute record, An Idiot to Not Appreciate Your Time: The Songs of Silkworm. They perform "Give Me Some Skin", and Matt and Bubba Kadane (Bedhead, The New Year) play "Clean'd Me Out". It's only eight bucks for two discs, and possibly worth it for those two songs.

MP3: The Soft Drugs - Don't Sweat It

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Nick Jaina, 7 Stations

Portland, OR indie folker Nick Jaina is thowing a record release party tomorrow night for his new album 7 Stations, and he talks to Wilmette Week about working with folks from Point Juncture, WA and Heroes and Villains. The new record will be available at some point soon from Pinball Publishing, on eco-friendly paper.

In the meantime, check out his MySpace page to stream four songs, the best of which, "Maybe Cocaine", recalls the ramshackle swirl of Lullaby for the Working Class' later records.

Morning shorts

  • The Village Voice snarks on the NYC Book Eaters show, drawing an unfavorable comparison between the sets of John Roderick of the Long Winters and Sufjan Stevens:
    So there's John onstage, playing to several more thousand people than he is perhaps accustomed, singing gorgeous grad-school folk ballads in a high, keening voice, but also looking a bit menacing at six-foot-plus, lumbering around like he'd wandered in between bar fights. He noted that he'd bumped into Sufjan and his crowd of prim and proper accompanists backstage—"They seem happy and full of life, and their clothes fit so well." The crowd was clearly unnerved. Was this a compliment? Is this guy gonna beat someone up?
    He played three songs.
    Should've played 30.
    Sufjan and his daisy Mafia played five. Should've played . . . well, actually, five's about right. You gotta admire the intricacy and anthemic power of his best tunes—"Chicago" especially. And he doesn't force his backing crew of horns and violins and tambourines to dress like cheerleaders anymore, thank God. But there's still no threat of his beating anyone up. Too bad. His tunes are little dollhouses of orchestral splendor, ingeniously complex but emotionally distant. Model railroad vistas with no actual locomotion. Tea that isn't brewed too strong. His last tune was entitled "That Dress Looks Nice on You." Right.
    It's about time the Stevens backlash began in earnest. "Emotionally distant" is as good a description as any for how most of Stevens' catalogue sounds to these ears, and it's time the press gave more ink to other folks.
  • Pitchfork gives M Ward's Post War an 8.2, calls it "consistently rewarding".
  • Pop Matters goes maybe a little bit overboard in dubbing Lambchop's Damaged "their greatest achievement", rewarding it a 9.
  • Dusted Magazine's excellent college chart is back after a month-long hiatus. Dusted's charts are valuable because they survey a select group of stations most dedicated to pumping out great music and less likely to be bought by promo reps; Dusted's lack of any advertising gives extra sheen to their reliability. The first charts of the semester see M Ward at #2, Six Organs of Admittance at #3, and the Mountain Goats at #4. Sady, Dave Pajo's excellent new album is lagging at #40 - c'mon, DJs, give this another listen.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


  • The Pernice Brothers just posted three songs from their upcoming album, Live a Little, in streaming audio: "Somerville" (also available to download), "Cruelty to Animals", and "Grudge Fuck 2006" (an update of the classic Scud Mountain Boys track they often pull out in concert). I'm liking what I hear so far. Also, don't forget to pre-order the record and get an exclusive 17-track bonus CD, autographed by Joe!
  • David Byrne is hosting a night of freak-folk at Carnegie Hall on February 2nd, to feature Devendra Banhart, Vashti Bunyan, Vetiver, Adem, and CocoRosie (via Brooklyn Vegan).
  • An interview with Dave Bazan (ex-Pedro the Lion), whose debut solo EP Fewer Moving Parts I've been spinning a lot (also via Brooklyn Vegan).
  • Canadian magazine Exclaim! talks to indiefolkforever favorite Chad Vangaalen (via Chromewaves).
  • Metacritic roundup: Lambchop's Damaged, 82; M Ward's Post War, 80; Mountain Goats' Get Lonely, 74; Eric Bachmann's To The Races, 70; Chad VanGaalen's Skelliconnection, 67.
  • Kimya Dawson gives birth! (via the can't-miss Celebrity Babies Blog)
  • indiefolkforever hears...Vic Chesnutt reportedly gave an unannounced concert in Athens this afternoon for the benefit of a graduate student writing his dissertation on ... Vic Chesnutt. Previously, Chesnutt talked to AZNightBuzz about playing the upcoming 21st birthday festival at the historic Hotel Congress in Tucson Sept. 1-3. The show will also feature Centro-Matic, Eric Bachmann, John Doe, Richard Buckner, and a bunch more.

MP3: M Ward - To Go Home (from Post War; via Pop Matters; highly reccommended)
MP3: Tara Jane O'Neil - Blue Light Room (from her new In Circles; also via Pop Matters)

Cursed singles

The LP's not even out yet, but Drag City has announced a second single from Bonnie "Prince" Billy's new record The Letting Go, this one for "Cold & Wet". The disc also includes a live version of "The Way", originally from Billy's Master & Everyone album, plus the hook of the single, a cover of Kenny Rogers' "Buried Treasure", and a video of the title track, and will drop in November.

In a move not as unlikely as you might think, DC is also issuing Bert Jansch's new album in October. The legendary British folkie is joined by Otto Hauser and Helena Espvall of Espers, Beth Orton, David Roback, and Devendra Banhart on The Black Swan. Hipsters may remember Jansch from last year's soundtrack to Noah Baumbach's The Squid and the Whale, where three of his tracks were featured alongside the brilliant, unearthed "Holland Tunnel" from Mamas and the Papas' John Phillips.

Burnin' for You

The latest entry in the Burn to Shine series is out, and this time the house-burnin' is taking place in the musical hotbed of Portland, OR. For those unfamiliar, Burn to Shine is being produced by Fugazi's Brendan Canty. They travel from town to town, finding doomed houses, assembling a lineup from the local music scene, and shooting the acts doing a single song each in the living room before the whole thing is burned down.

The new edition features such luminaries as The Decemberists, Quasi, and The Thermals, but the highlight for this blog is Mirah, doing an as yet undetermined song. Mirah has long been one of the most underappreciated songwriters we've got, mixing chops, intimacy, eclectic, inventive arrangements, a coy sexy-as-all-get-out voice and most of all, teriffic songs.

K Records is also reporting on an an exciting new Mirah release, Joyride:Remixes, due November 21. Who's involved?

The remix chewing up and spitting out is accomplished by folks close up and far away, including Khaela Maricich (the Blow), Phil Elverum (Mt. Eerie), Guy Sigsworth (has remixed Madonna, Bjork and etc.), screamclub, Jona Bechtolt(YACHT) and Melanie Valera (Tender Forever). For the vinyl-loving, it fits nicely on a double album. The music is hot, sweet and teeming with rhythmic divinity. Turn it up and dance it off.

The first track to come out, which K kindly makes available as a free download, is hooliganship's remix of C'mon Miracle highlight "The Light". On the original, an unadorned voice/guitar verse erupts into a rollicking distorted-drum-machine chorus. The remix takes what makes the chorus great and expands it to song-length, beefing things up with fuller beats and fat casio lines.

MP3: Mirah - The Light (remixed by hooliganship - from Joyride: Remixes)
MP3: Mirah - Cold Cold Water
MP3: Mirah - Sweepstakes Prize

New Release Tuesday

  • M Ward's Post War CD is out this week on Merge, a week after the LP edition. His cross-country tour begins Sept. 1.
  • Two Daniel Johnston reissues, holding three vintage albums that have long been nigh impossible to find. First up is Continued Story/Hi How Are You, the former being Johnston's first album recorded in a studio. Also out is the semi- legendary Yip/Jump Music from 1983. Buy 'em direct from Daniel's site, Hi How Are You.
  • Smithsonian Folkways reissues Sam Hinton's 1962 children's album Whoever Shall Have Some Good Peanuts? All Music writes:
    A respected marine biologist and a director of the Scripps Oceanographic Institution, Hinton brings a kind of scientific exactness to the folk songs he performs, and what sounds offhand in his performances is actually carefully considered. Even at that, Hinton still manages to sound incredibly casual and relaxed on this charming set of twenty folk songs intended for children... Unhurried, unruffled, playful and often elegant, the album is nigh near perfect, easy and calm as a cloudless summer day.

MP3:M Ward, Jim James and Conor Oberst - The Girl from North Country(via Chromewaves)

Book Eaters

Last night was the Revenge of the Book Eaters show in San Francisco. The series of shows features musicians and authors coming to together to benefit writing centers nationwide. Last night's San Francisco show featured Dave Eggers, Sarah Vowell, Jonathan Richman, Aimee Mann, and indiefolkforever favorite Mark Kozelek. While no show reports have surfaced yet on Kozelek superfan site Sad Reminders or elsewhere, we'll report soon.

In other Kozelek news, Mark's new label Caldo Verde is making available a vinyl edition of his well-recieved Modest Mouse covers project, Tiny Cities. It features an alternate version of Exit Does Not Exist, plus a bonus EP with live versions of Trucker's Atlas, Neverending Math Equation, Convinient Parking, Tiny Cities Made of Ashes, Four Fingered Fisherman, Dramamine and Jesus Christ Was an Only Child.

Caldo Verde's first non-Koz release will be longtime Hush songstress Corrina Repp's The Absent and the Distant, on September 17th.

MP3: Corrina Repp, "I'll Walk You Out"

Not just for fetishists anymore

Vinyl may or may not sound warmer, but the LP edition of Eric Bachmann's new solo disc To the Races, courtesy of microindie Foreign Leisure, is the preferred way to hear it.

The CD features the title track as a 2:08 instrumental featuring Devotchka's Tom Hagerman's violin, serving as a short segue between the album's most spiky, driving tracks, "Lonesome Warrior" and "Liars an Thieves".

The vinyl expands the track to over twice that length and adds vocals from Bachmann, and, on the chorus, Miranda Brown, where they sing in a killer melody:

Let's go down to the races/ and hide among the lonesome faces
Nameless fallen heroes come and gone
Stay all night wired and wasted/ til the moonlight melts away on
Heavy eyes as sorrow sings her song

The album's about down-and-out hiding and dislocation, but Bachmann's lyrics are mostly abstract and expansive. It's really only on this track, with its lyrics buried on a 1000-copy limited edition record, that we get the grounded, grungy imagery Bachmann so often used on Crooked Fingers releases, the Bukowski setting of a race track.

Vinyl or no, the album's highly recommended. "Little Bird" is an instant favorite.

Stream the Whole Album
MP3: Carrboro Woman
MP3: Lonesome Warrior
Purchase Vinyl