iff has one sealed copy of Corrina Repp's awesome new Caldo Verde release, The Absent and the Distant, to give away to a lucky reader, postage paid. All you have to do is email us and put "iff contest" in the title. We'll take entries until 12pm EST on Friday, October 6, and then randomly pick a winner.
Friday, September 29, 2006
Our first entry is The Bobby McGee's (apostrophe theirs), a combo who have surely grown up on C86 and Sarah Records and are now paying half-ironic, incredibly silly tribute. Cuteoverload.com, you've been served.
"Please Don't Dump Me" is the more direct b-side to every insufferable Bob Wratten weeper, while "No Friends" is the absolute end all of tweecore. On "The Best Star Wars..." the wimpiest anorak in all the land pleads, "I don't want to be Jar Jar Binks/Please don't make me be Jar Jar binks no more", and you want to cry.
They've got their first 7" coming out soon on Cherryade Records.
MP3: The Bobby McGee's - No Friends
MP3: The Bobby McGee's - The Best Star Wars...
Stream: The Bobby McGee's - Please Don't Dump Me
Thursday, September 28, 2006
We've got a favorite new blog, Kirstiecat, reporting from the Second City. Today she's excited about a new Bert Jansch tour date in Chicago, and also recently reported on live shows from indiefolk metahero Jandek and Vashti Bunyan, complete with shiny pics. Pitchfork also has a Bunyan live report today.
Calvin Johnson talks with the Minnesota Daily about K Records and its place in the indie scene: "In all, K Records has created and maintained the do-it-yourself mentality central to genuine indie rock. K Records and Calvin Johnson have aided in the creation of a gray area in punk music, looking to sign the 'weirdos recording in their bedrooms,' he said, rather than 'the band in the bar down the street.'" Their tour with Mt. Eerie and various other folks starts Saturday in Fargo! Chuck Klosterman would be proud.
New iff favorite Jennifer O'Connor talks to should-be-video game Chart Attack! about her new album and tour:
Check out her Daytrotter session and her upcoming tour with Portastatic.
She enlisted Yo La Tengo's James McNew (who she knew from his side project, Dump), Sparklehorse's Kendall Meade and Spoon vocalist Britt Daniel to flush out the sound on Over The Mountain's 13 songs. "I didn't really know Britt, but one of the people from Matador brought him to one of my shows and we hung out a little and chatted," O'Connor explains. "I'm a huge Spoon fan and when we recorded, I really wanted to have a guy singer on a couple of the songs, so I just aimed for the moon."
O'Connor sent Daniel four songs in advance, and he chose two to sing on. She picked him up and drove him to The Fort studio in Brooklyn. Eschewing any kind of structure or plan, she hoped that a more spontaneous collaboration would yield the best results in the few hours they had together. Afterwards, she drove him to the airport.
Metacritic says Universal Acclaim! to the new My Morning Jacket double live album, Okonokos. One of my favorite little labels, Badman, is putting out the 4-LP vinyl edition, with a whole side of bonus material. Badman's got a nice trove of free downloads from their catalog, including the Innocence Mission, Mark Kozelek, new signee Kyle Andrews and the inimitable Mark Mallman. They're one of those labels you can practically buy from blind.
MP3: The Innocence Mission - Tomorrow on the Runway
MP3: Mark Kozelek - Find Me, Ruben Oliveres
MP3: Kyle Andrews - Amos in Ohio
MP3: Mark Mallman - Death Wish
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Word's come in that Mark Eitzel, along with his Lost Anchors of the Pacific, performed 3rd's "Holocaust" at the 12 Galaxies Big Star tribute show last week. Anyone got a recording of this...?
Also known as Sister Lovers, Big Star's legendary third album has been released and re-released countless times around the world with different
track listings, different mixes and different cover art. Now for the first time since its debut release in 1978 is a re-release of the vinyl LP with the original cover art, including the inner sleeve with the complete detailed liner notes and the original mixes and track listing. The master tape coming directly from Ardent Studios provides the highest sound quality of this vinyl classic – available as it was first released for the first time in 28 years.
Metacritic adds up reviews for Sparklehorse's Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain and comes up with an OK 77; the LA Times compares it to the Eels' Electro-Shock Blues.
The Manchester Evening News awards four stars to Fionn Regan's live show, which will hopefully make it to these shores soon. "Storytelling is Regan's strong point, and he delights the enraptured crowd with tales of his drugged up adventures punching random Irish ostriches ('If I hadn't punched that ostrich, I wouldn't be here tonight')." I award the Manchester Evening News a hat-tip for giving stars to concerts, which you really don't see too much.
Anti has posted a song from Tom Waits' upcoming 3-disc opus Orphans.
MP3: Tom Waits - Bottom of the World
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Jeffrey & Jack Lewis - City and Eastern Songs
Jeffrey Lewis is a talented comic artist, high-school Deadhead, and Moldy Peaches tour alumnus. He also writes and performs some of the finest antifolk NYC has to offer. Here's an unreleased song, "Roll Bus Roll".
MP3: Jeffrey Lewis, "Roll Bus Roll"
Sparklehorse - Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain
Lo the many years since Mark Linkous whispered his way around the iff stereo. OK, I do like to spin "Junebug" now and then. I'm pretty curious about this new record, which has a Tom Waits leftover from It's a Wonderful Life. Mark should definitely take Amy Annelle out on tour, you know? Mark? (A free 7" of unknown songs comes your way if you order via Insound, link above).
MP3: Sparklehorse - Please Don't Take My Sunshine Away
"We started out into 'the great starting out' again."
Conventionally this record might be folk, psychadelic, avant-pop - more or less undefinable - but most of all it's got a grip on the sprawling, strange, optimistic, terrifying feel of open-road America, if you squint at it a little bit. If novelist Joy Williams made music it might sound like this - hard realism and unknown spirits mingling in a hazy daydream.
Amy Annelle, sole permanent member of The Places, has been putting out music for a while, but Songs for Creeps is the first to really capture the full scope of off-kilter dislocation and warm uneasiness she's been working towards. It's like a good collection of thematically linked short stories, the narrator chasing time and looking for a sense of place on the road, in tawdry boarding houses and changing seasons, and for those tuned to this wavelength, comforting in its total embrace of dreamy discomfort.
Annelle's trademark found sounds announce the album and float around the margins, adding layers of atmosphere (try headphones, especially on "My Weary Eye"). There's satisfaction here in the literal and the abstract, often in the same song; in clean, ringing twang ("Blessed Speed", a road ode with a vocal hook in the chorus that gives me shakes) and mood pieces thick with echoes and ghosts.
My current favorite track, "The Damn Insane Asylum", is a story of two strangers in New York on a party-refugee date searching for the title institution, but finding nothing but "a planned community from the seventies, and an unclimable wall around where the asylum wreck should be". It's got the appropriately gauzy, surreal feel of late-night, strange-city memories, and blunt, clever lyrics that flow a lot better than it seems they should.
None of this would really work without Annelle's vocals, here stretched in all directions, from the sly, close-in storyteller of "Asylum", to intense bad-dream creep-out ("Miners Lie!"). It's a perfect mix of otherworldy and organic, grounded and elusive.
It's best heard up close and personal, so try to catch The Places on their Fall tour. In the meantime, you can buy Songs for Creeps and start learning these fantastic songs.
MP3: The Places - Miners Lie!
Stream: The Places - Worse & Wise
Monday, September 25, 2006
MP3: Jeffrey Lewis - Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror
Brooklyn Vegan has the scoop on fall tour dates for the illustrious Mt. Eerie and Calvin Johnson. K Records' Karl Blau is opening lots of shows, and having seen him with Laura Veirs earlier this year I can vouch for his unique, genre-hopping, loop-happy stage show as something worth showing up early for.
National Public Viking looks at the new Damien Jurado record, Now That I'm In Your Shadow, and likes what he hears, calling it his best album since Ghost of David.
An album that's stuck with me for a few months is Boat's loose, lofi bedroom pop opus Songs That You Might Not Like. Check out "Last Cans of Paint" for a Monday morning slap of pop.
MP3: Boat - Last Cans of Paint
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Josephine Baker, under the Arthur Magazine banner, has put together So Much Fire To Roast Human Flesh, a response to overzealous and downright wrong military recruiters. "All profits from sales of So Much Fire... will be distributed to specific counter-military recruitment and pacifist organizations and programs who effectively advise high school students and other Americans at risk of being taken advantage of by the military's recruiters and omnipresent big-budget marketing campaigns."
I'm no pacifist, but I can't imagine anyone signing up for anything under this administration, least of all under coercion, so every cent this comp generates is a worthy one in my mind.
A whole litany of folks, freak and otherwise, contribute tunes, from Michael Hurley to Devendra Banhart. Mostly the theme is anti-war, though some songs are a lot more explicit than others. Some of the more interesting contributions: Rachel Mason's "The War Clerk's Lament", a totally unhinged performance that captures the narrator's cog-in-the-machine state of mind; Feather's "Dust", an awesome slab of acid rock straight from a late-60s AOR playlist; Dave Pajo's Neil Young-like "War is Dead", which chugs along like a slow, determined train; and MVEE's take on Young's "Powderfinger", taken to new places thanks to Erica Elder's smart double-tracked vocals and a close-miked, campfire ambiance.
Here are two of my favorites: Kath Bloom's "Baby Let It Come Down on Me", an absolutely breaktaking song about a selfless offering of support (to a man, returned from war, to the country?) with keening vocals rivaling the best Mary Margaret O'Hara ever belted out; and John Allingham and Ann Tiley's "Big War", a high lonesome folk ballad of love in a time of war, its chorus an empowering call to stop the war in all its simple, plaintive calm.
Worth every penny and then some. Buy the album here.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
So, might as well say "free money for folk bloggers, click here", and I've been led astray before by reckless RIYLs, but while MOJO is fairly far off in its comparisions I'm not sorry they got me to his music.
"A beguiling amalgam of Jackson C Frank, Paul Simon and Mark Kozelek… A debut that oozes rare confidence, startling maturity and originality.” MOJO – 4 Stars ****
“There’s a new luminary in our midst. The Irish born Fionn delivers a spell-binding release that captures the essence of early-Dylan's symbolist songwriting by way of Baudelaire, the delicate vocal delivery of Jose Gonzales, and the classical romanticism of Nick Drake." gigwise.com – 4 Stars ****
The first and best of the four tracks available for streaming on his MySpace page is "Put A Penny in the Slot", and as I write this I'm on the seventh or eighth consecutive listen. The verses recall the steady, sad, wise and fatalist thrum of Songs of Leonard Cohen, the lyrics somewhere between Cohen's wistful narratives, Simon Joyner's penchant for specific, urgently delivered, meter-stretching details, and the gentle weariness of Sodastream's Karl Smith. Then on to the brilliant chorus hook, an ascending vocal line Donovan would be proud of. The whole thing's suffused with the feel of stumbling down a windswept city street in winter, with characters and stories and mystery you can't quite put your finger on. Are you streaming this yet?
"Snowy Atlas Mountains" is closer to something Mark Kozelek might pull off, fingerpicked patterns and washes of reverb underlining something darkly remembered. "My vehicle is in your drive/the wolves came on the radio/transmitting through a portal in the snowy atlas mountains"
Buy the record here.
Friday, September 22, 2006
Spin reports that Damien Jurado recorded a bunch of Nick Drake covers for bandmate Eric Fisher's birthday. Check out this eerily faithful cover of "Pink Moon", then never listen to it again.
MP3: Damien Jurado - Pink Moon
Today is your last chance to pre-order the Pernice Brothers' latest album with a sad-sack pun of a title, Live a Little, and get a bonus CD of demos and alternate takes autographed by Joe. What are you waiting for?
Kimya Dawson decides against the Fuel promo. She's playing what I think is her first show as a mom on Saturday in Seattle with lofi godfather Calvin Johnson.
Boston blog Bradley's Almanac has posted an excellent live show by Bedhead successors The New Year, including new song "MMV".
In iff fall movie news, I might actually be more excited to see Kelly Reichardt's Old Joy (starring Will Oldham with tunes by Yo La Tengo) than Christopher Guest's Purim-themed For Your Consideration*. The Onion awards Old Joy an A-.
Slow grower status is duly awarded to Jennifer O'Connor's Over The Mountain, Across The Valley, and Back To The Stars, which sounds better every time it loops around.
MP3: Jennifer O'Connor - Exeter, Rhode Island
*(unless I find out Eugene Levy plays Haman)
Thursday, September 21, 2006
With that image in mind I headed out to Iota last night to see Bachmann, who's touring with Richard Buckner. Based on Chromewaves' review I expected Buckner to open, but tonight Bachmann took the early slot, opening with Archers of Loaf's "Chumming the Ocean" (!). His backing band (up to three folks depending on the song) included Races vocalist Miranda Brown and Kate O'Brien on violin; they faithfully performed the new album's material and added whole new dimensions to the Crooked Fingers songs. The highlight of the set for me (accurately listed on the setlist with the exception of "Sleep All Summer" also being played after "Carrboro Woman", with killer vocal harmonies from Brown and O'Brien) was Red Devil Dawn's "Bad Man Coming", lifted from a truly creepy dirge to a galloping, mid-tempo country tune, Bachman's impressive figerpicking laying down the foundation for O'Brien's swirling, slightly ominous playing.
Do the right thing and try to catch this show on the handful of southern and midwestern dates remaining. iff approved this message.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Made in Mexico Records has reissued Damien Jurado's long out-of-print 1998 EP, Gathered In Song, with new cover art and extra late-night lonesomeness in the form of five bonus track demos, including a guitar version of the piano-ballad b-side to the UK Letters and Drawings single, "As You Were". The best demo? A super-excitable take on Where Shall You Take Me's mellow "Matinee", the way it was always meant to be. ("Admission's cheap and the soda's free" after all).
As you might guess, the sound is pretty similar to his Sub Pop debut Water Ave S.; his voice has this certain craggy catch when he sings the high notes, which I love and miss - it kind of went away on Rehersals for Departure forward.
Jurado's new album, And Now That I'm In Your Shadow, is out October 10th on Secretly Canadian, who've made available a pretty teriffic preview track, "What Were The Chances". His tour starts next week, like all great journeys, in Provo.
MP3: Damien Jurado - What Were The Chances
A note on pronouns: third person is not working so much anymore. There's an illustrious new contributer in town, vpc, and I'm iff, and we're writing in the first person from now on so as to keep things in line.
so, i have been asked by fuel tv if they can license "i like giants" for an animated promo played on their station. it would be like 20 seconds of animation with the song in the background, that ends with the station logo. fuel tv is a network for "action sports" like skateboarding, wakeboarding, surfing, snowboarding, bmx. and i like the fact that the kids that do these things are getting backed by a network but i don't like the fact that the network is commercializing this stuff because well- football and baseball just aren't as "cool" these days. and the networks research what certain demographics want and appeal to them. but the promo won't be SELLING the network, just playing for people who are already watching. so is it actually backing a product? is a promo the same as a commercial? i said once that i would only put my songs in commercials for hugs and breastmilk.So, besides Hugs and Breastmilk being a good name for the next Wolfie side project, what do you think? I say, go Kimya go. What could really be objectionable about action sports? This will open up a whole new fanbase of skaters, beer pongers, and whatever other extreme sports get shown on an extreme sports network. (I mistakenly went to Fuse TV first, home of the world's only naked dancing show, Pants-Off Dance-Off).
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Hungry For Music is a grassroots volunteer-driven 501 (c)(3) charity organization with a nationwide and international outreach. Hungry for Music's mission is to inspire underprivileged children (and others) by bringing positive musical and creative experiences into their lives. Since becoming a non-profit in 1994, Hungry for Music has brought the healing quality of music to thousands of people through its musical instrument donations, concerts, and workshops. We support our programs through memberships, benefit concerts and events, raffles, and the sale of Hungry for Music produced compact discs.
First up is A Case for Case: A Tribute to the Songs of Peter Case, a honking 3-CD set featuring Richard Buckner, Victoria Williams, Joe Ely, Steve Wynn and John Prine. This'd be a not-bad way to brush up on the Case songbook if you plan on catching the reunited Plimsouls on their fall tour.
Also out soon, but not yet on their web site, is the ninth edition of their baseball-themed Diamond Cuts series. As on all other eight releases, Dan Bern contributes a song, this time "Rincon" (presumably about juiced Twins reliever Juan Rincon). Bern's been playing another baseball- (and tennis- and cycling-) tune on his current tour, "Bonds and Landis and Rafael Nadal". It's the kind of topical, off-the-cuff tune you hear him do live but usually not on an album, that makes it worth catching the show.
The New York Times goes behind the music to explain all those erratic Cat Power shows: "Another day, another fifth of Scotch. And that wasn’t all. Chan Marshall said her mornings began with a minibar’s worth of Jack Daniel’s, Glenlivet and Crown Royal." It's all a bit uncomfortably Leaving Las Vegas. But with things on the upswing, Chan might be hitting a big or small screen near you:
Like Will Oldham, another indie-folk rocker who is currently starring in the film “Old Joy,” Ms. Marshall is considering a foray into acting. She said that the cult director Wong Kar-wai invited her to play Jude Law’s ex-lover in the movie he is now shooting. Mr. Wong, she said, told her he was in the habit of playing “The Greatest” for his actors before each scene.
Ms. Marshall spoke of auditioning to join the cast of “Saturday Night Live” next summer. Then again, maybe her future involves domesticity. She said she was ready for a relationship and wanted to have children.
Austinist has a YouTube clip of Smog and Joanna Newsom performing together on Tuesday, Newsom playing piano against the deep dark tide of Billy's "Rock Bottom Riser". Did we tell you not to miss his tour?
Bert Jansch has announced a few shows to support his Drag City debut. He'll play LA and San Francisco in October, then Brooklyn and Chicago in November.
Portland folksters A Weather traffic in the sort of unassuming, melodically-rich music that made Bedhead such a compelling band in the mid-90s. But unlike many descendents of that seminal slow-core mainstay, A Weather is more than an empty amalgam of terrapin-paced guitars and whispered vocals. Forsaking reverb for clean, detailed production, the band makes intricate and thoughtful music that has a life all its own and grows more rewarding with every listen. Imagine Arab Strap's Aidan Moffet without the Glaswegian drawl singing overtop harmony-rich acoustic arrangements reminiscent of the Red House Painters' Ocean Beach. Throw in feathery female vocals and nuanced finger-picking, and you'll have some sense of what makes A Weather tick. Composed of old friends Aaron Gerber and Zoe Wright and new partners Sarah Winchester and Zachary Boyle, the band will be releasing a 7 inch on Conor Oberst's Team Love label within the next few months. We had the opportunity to exchange emails with Aaron and got his thoughts on food, Portland, what its like to play in such a quiet band and, of course, the weather.
Being a die-hard Julia Child fan, I was excited to see on your myspace page that you're a fan of cooking shows. Any favorite TV personalities? I'm imagining A Weather playing along side Doc Gibbs and the Emeril Live Band and laughing to myself...what a contrast that would be!
I have a strange fascination with Rachael Ray. I can't really say why. There is both something comforting and frightening about watching her that makes it hard to look away. Aside from that, I am a big Alton Brown fan. He makes learning fun. I like that he tells you why things happen. I've tried out a few of his recipes. Zoe and I watch the Barefoot Contessa sometimes. She likes Bobby Flay, but he's a little too masculine for me. It would be fantastic to play with Doc Gibbs and the Emeril Live Band. A Weather could use a bit more jazz-fusion influence don't you think? Doc Gibbs's conga playing could push our little songs to new heights. I wouldn't be as good at laughing at Emeril's jokes though.
Are there any bands or albums that first inspired you to start writing music? If so, what was it about them that you found exciting?
In high school my friend gave me a sort of 'quiet-indie-rock-sampler-pack' which contained albums by Bedhead, Low, Yo La Tengo, Galaxy 500, and Ida. I remember sitting in my bedroom with my headphones on listening to The Dark Ages and being startled that a song didn't need to have a huge bombastic chorus to get my attention. There was also a mystery about those records. I liked having to strain to hear what was being said, like the lyrics were secrets that weren't intended to be overheard. Also the intimacy and warmth of the recordings were really nice, but ultimately I think it was the restraint and moderation that was most important for me. Bedhead is still one of my favorite bands because they seem to be a 'band' in the truest sense: a group of people contributing equally to a whole. I think of R.E.M. in this way too. I am also pretty influenced by ambient music and idea of a piece of music being a static place that the listener can explore. It is hard to achieve this exact result in pop type song writing but I am curious to see how the two might coexist somehow.
A Weather could be filed along side Bedhead, Nick Drake or Elliott Smith--artists who are great at crafting introspective and hushed songs that, despite their subdued volume, manage to be enveloping and substantial. What are some of the challenges of making quiet, inward-looking music?
Well a big challenge is playing live and getting the vocals loud enough. You can't just sit down in the middle of a party and play your newest hit for your friends without telling everybody to hold their breath for five minutes. We've done a few shows without PA's and it's really frustrating because you lose that sense of intimacy and like you say, that enveloping feeling. It is also hard when the club down the street is playing techno dance beats and it drowns out the quieter parts of your songs. You use the phrase 'inward-looking' and though I agree that there are definitely moments of introspection in our songs I also think there is a whole lot of outward-looking too. There is also a whole lot of irony and playfulness which for some reason people miss. It is very interesting to me how singing something in a quiet, mournful way can impart so much sincerity to otherwise silly lyrics. Though of course it has to be balanced. Will Oldham and David Bazan are really good at doing this.
There's a great amount of detail in your arrangements; I notice more and more with every listen. Is the process of constructing your music a laborious one involving lots of reworking, or does it come out pretty naturally?
It is a pretty slow process. We aren't the type of band that writes songs by 'jamming.' We rarely 'jam.' Not that there is anything wrong with 'jamming' it just doesn't suit the type of songs that we make. Most often one of us will come to the group with a chord structure and lyrics and then we will start to form an arrangement around this. We spend a lot of time on very small parts and we talk about things a lot. It is kind of tedious sometimes but for us it is more rewarding this way. I am a huge fan of interlocking parts: two guitars that fit seamlessly together so that the listener can't always tell who is playing what. Our vocal harmonies are also getting more complicated. Early R.E.M. was really great at putting two melody lines together and creating a beautiful meshwork. We are trying to do something of that.
You and Zoe began collaborating while attending college in Massachusetts. Since your move to Portland last year, how have things changed? Its seems to be a fertile ground for bands of your ilk, and I wonder if the change in environment has brought about new ways of working.
Portland has been sort of a slow burn. When we moved here last year I wasn't immediately blown away by the music I heard and it took quite a while before I discovered other bands in the area that inspired me. In a way I feel like Portland lacks a center, which might be a good thing. There are lots of little pockets of things happening but it is hard to sift through these little pockets, if that makes sense. I am also sort of close-minded and hard to please so it's probably my fault too. But, anyway, I feel like I am slowly learning how to get into Portland and it is slowly learning how to get into me. I am really happy to have met Sarah and Zach here and that is pretty important.
Last question, and I can't resist: What's your favorite type of weather?
Sweater weather of course.
MP3: A Weather - Oh My Stars
Monday, September 18, 2006
We love us some Dan Bern, always have, but we're worried the new Breathe tips the scales from smartly comforting to sentimental based on the title track we've heard. The other track made available for preview, "Trudy", is a bit better, though: "all the questions you've been saving for the next electric wave/will all be answered in the Christian new year".
MP3: Dan Bern - Trudy
Bonnie Prince Billy - The Letting Go
We like our Oldham served with a woman, and lucky for us Faun Fables' Dawn McCarthy is on board adding her vocals to The Letting Go . Pitchfork gives it an 8.2, but says that "the beauty and eccentricity of The Letting Go doesn't provoke deep absorption or self-reflection so much as a kind of fond familiarity." Now they're dishing out 8.2s for fond familiarity? Watch Billy get his peacock on tonight on Conan and judge fer yerself.
The Hidden Cameras - Awoo (!)
OK, so Hidden Cameras tracks like "Ban Marriage" (from their debut The Smell of Our Own) and "The Fear Is On" (from Mississagua Goddamn) are among the best pop songs we own, but the tinny production just doesn't do them justice. They always sound better in our head. Still, this is sure to be a keeper. AllMusic deems it "by far their most accessible and cohesive record yet" and assures America "there are no songs about pee this time around".
MP3: The Hidden Cameras - Death of a Tune
Corrina Repp - The Absent and the Distant
Despite being Hush Records fanatics, we've never gotten around to hearing much Corrina Repp. However, the Hush pedigree + Mark Kozelek making her his only Caldo Verde signing + the crazy talented Rachel Blumberg on drums = instant purchase.
Tomorrow sees the release of Bonnie "Prince" Billy's The Letting Go, and to coincide with the CD, LP, DVD-Audio, and wax cylinder formats available to you, Drag City is pushing BPB in front of the cameras for his network television debut on Late Night With Conan O'Brien (12:30 EST, you know).
He'll be playing "Strange Form of Life" from The Letting Go with a backing band of Paul Oldham, Matt Sweeney, Jim White and Andrew WK. Andrew WK?! Let's get rocked.
In the meantime, you can watch three commericals for The Letting Go, featuring America's celebrity spokesperson Neil Hamburger, here.
(picture courtesy the Drag City mailing list)
I remember watching MTV over the summer sometime around 1990 (give or take three to five years) and seeing some fairly avant-garde video (people wearing weird costumes on a weird landscape) for an instrumental song. It wasn't by any group I'd heard of (not Enigma or Dave Stewart or anything;didn't sound like them at all). Any clues?
As for this website: feel free to Ask Indiefolkforever something about Joel Phelps tunings on the Warm Springs Night tour.
Kimya Dawson explains why she named her baby Panda, livejournal users discuss.
Chromewaves reports on the Toronto Eric Bachmann/Richard Buckner show. We'll see 'em Thursday.
Stylus Magazine has a great feature all week long on favorite record stores of the staff, past and present. Today, the east coast is covered. Our pick is Spaceboy Music, a great little shop with a not-so-great web presence on South Street in Philadelphia, where all manner of offbeat singer-songwriters are stocked and the new releases are helpfully labeled.
MP3: Kimya Dawson - I Like Giants (live)
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Don Lennon has four albums, but we'd only been familiar with his third, Downtown, which consists mostly of sly, subtle jabs at pop culture, including two songs about Dave Matthews, one from Dave's perspective ("even after all we've accomplished, it's like we're just getting started...we have so much room to grow"). Fun songs, but nothing that got too far under your skin.
Lennon's upped the ante on Routine, his bone-dry Jonathan Richman/Jens Lekman-like croon cutting much closer to the quick. The running theme on this album is stand-up comedy; on "Last Comic Standing", we hear his reaction to a John Ritter TV retrospective, and then on the low opinion comics have of acts with props ("that's one thing about comics/they take their work seriously"). On "What SNL Stands For", his ironic-or-not take on Jimmy Fallon: "he plays guitar/he's got a CD/I've heard it, the guy can really sing/and he's got this problem that lots of guys I know have/he can't keep from giggling".
There's a sort of sad story, possibly autobiography, running through the disc, though, a sarcastic takedown or hide-behind-humor lament (your pick) of privileged young-adult malaise (think Noah Baumbach's film Kicking and Screaming). From "Best Years of Our Lives" ("those were the best years of our lives but we made do/we held lacrosse sticks like bass guitars and microphones") to the minor-chord "Trust Fund" ("well have you heard about the trust fund?/it's the latest craze/seem like everybody's doing it 'nowdays/it's a pretty easy thing to do/'fact it doesn't even depend on you"), you wonder: is he singing about himself or others? Either way, it's the funniest/saddest song about trust funds you'll hear this year.
The most explicity serious and personal song on the disc is the closer, "The Death of My Imagination", where he sings "well I really don't know what I thought/I think I thought I'd be an artist/and just like a lot of young people I guess/I pictured myself in the Village/stumbling out of dark bars late at night/in love with the hustle and bustle/laughing out loud with a handful of friends/a little bit like Keri Russell/that was all before the death of my imagination". But even then we're not quite sure how much he means it; is he making fun of people like this? Or is it him?
We can't recommend this record enough (seriously). Buy it here, and keep an eye out for his new disc, Radical, coming soon.
MP3: Don Lennon - My Resume
Stream: Several songs
Saturday, September 16, 2006
I finally got around to checking out Gawker's meta-music-blog blog, Idolator. They had us at "Zach Braff, step off!":
This is the sound of the center shifting. (He is fine in Scrubs but we can't help ourselves at doubling over during the Last Kiss trailer as Braff tries to look terminally lovesick and it plays like a parody of the rain scene in Say Anything.) But Idolator lifts our spirits with excellent regular features for meta-lovers like us: Pick of the Folk (spot the fake Pitchfork sentence) and Everybody's a Wenner, which tracks Rolling Stone's three-star reflex.
Braff got it in his head that he was something of a musical tastemaker. To be clear, there's nothing wrong with Braff as an actor (Scrubs = good stuff). Nor do we have anything against the Shins (even though we'd very much like to stop hearing their music in every bar in Brooklyn). What's scary to us is that Braff's yuppie-rock affections are slowly turning the alt-rock realm into one big tasteful dinner party--take, for example, the soundtrack to The Last Kiss, which hit theaters today.
Friday, September 15, 2006
MP3: Bishop Allen - That Summer (live)
MP3: Bishop Allen - The Flood (live)
Pitchfork gives the rundown on the dizzying array of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone releases coming down the pike. We love CFTPA, who somehow make synths sound more organic than your local co-op produce section. Please check out their fine Daytrotter session. The key track here is a reworking of "Tonight Was a Disaster" from older album Pocket Symphonies for Lonesome Subway Cars: "I'm crying in the cab ride home/with Frank Sinatra on the radio/but it might as well have been Lil' Kim/when every song you hear still reminds you of him".
Puddlegum reports that Kill Rock Stars will release a new Elliott Smith compilation next spring, featuring unreleased tracks from the KRS era. Let Unfinished lead you to some Basement on the Hill- era demos.
We like UK antifolker King!, who shines some new light on the Daniel Johnston musical legacy. Check out "The City".
MP3: King! - The City
Thursday, September 14, 2006
(via San Francisco Party Party)
iff favorites Clem Snide, along with Superchunk and The Upper Crust, will play "The Daily Show presents 'Ten F#@king Years (The Concert)" at NYC's Irving Plaza November 16th (via Brooklyn Vegan)
PopMatters loves the new Xiu Xiu, giving it an 8 and declaring, "The Air Force is, without a doubt, Xiu Xiu’s best album and grandest statement. Continuing to sabotage otherwise-perfect pop numbers, here the sabotages in question make the Xiu Xiu experience all the more compelling, instead of distracting." We haven't heard this yet, but are hoping to grab it this weekend. Pitchfork agrees exactly, also awarding an 8 (.0).
A couple who loves Mirah and each other have gotten matching tattoos, each with part of the lyric "let's go sit under the apple tree"...for their sake we hope it's the love of a lifetime.
MP3: Xiu Xiu - Boy Soprano (from The Air Force)
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
While the inventive bedroom-symphony arrangements played a big part in the success of Infiniheart, VanGaalen did a fine job translating the music to a live setting, peforming most of the set solo, with his feet kicking snare and bass drums. His voice, in these new, sparer arrangements, is surprisingly affecting, in modes ranging from fragile, shaking yelps on his ballads of paranoid technophobia (think Her Space Holiday meets Neil Young in a Voivod phase) to stomp-and-stammer power-pop sing-alongs (Skelliconection's "Burn to Ash").
Members of Dawes later joined VanGaalen, adding a second guitar, drums, keys, and lots of volume, but our favorite moment was the new "Graveyard", a yearning plain-and-simple folk song that benefitted from the live setting. For all his versatility as an arranger and his oddball lyrical themes, VanGaalen knows his way around a song, and we hope to catch him again in a headlining role. (Special thanks to Jenny Miller for entrance assistance).
Try to catch him at one of the remaining tour dates...
09-14 Carrboro, NC - Cat's Cradle
09-15 Charlotte, NC - Tremont Music Hall
09-16 Mt. Pleasant, SC - Village Tavern
09-17 Atlanta, GA - Variety Playhouse
09-18 Columbia, SC - Headliners
09-19 Nashville, TN - Exit/In
09-20 Birmingham, AL - Bottle Tree
09-21 Oxford, MS - Proud Larry's
09-23 Norman, OK - Guestroom Records (4pm instore)
09-23 Oklahoma City, OK - Conservatory
09-24 Lawrence, KS - Granada Theater
09-26 Boulder, CO - Fox Theater
09-28 Salt Lake City, UT - Club Sound
09-30 San Diego, CA - Epicentre
10-02 Los Angeles, CA - Avalon
10-03 Los Angeles, CA - Avalon
10-04 San Francisco, CA - Fillmore
10-06 Eugene, OR - WOW Hall
11-04 Seattle, WA - Showbox Theater
11-05 Seattle, WA - Showbox Theater
MP3: Chad VanGaalen, Clinically Dead
QT Video: Chad VanGaalen, Clinically Dead (highly recommended!)
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
We love the trend of small reissue labels digging into this era, and hope to hear more from Finders Keepers' "library of obscure, obtuse, obsolete and obsessive vintage music from the 60's and 70's." In the race for psych-folk obscuro-porn: Christie's album was originally pressed in a run of only three vanity copies - top that, Numero.
You can buy Christie's record here.
A forgotten folkie and former denizen of Donovan's creative colony on Scotland's Isle of Skye (is there a docu on this??), Vashti Bunyan is having an unlikely second go thanks to the freak-folk community. The Boston Herald does a good job telling her story, inspiring iff to finally pick up one of her records next time they're record shopping.
"For Your Consideration", Christopher Guest's follow-up to folk music send-up "A Mighty Wind", is given an early, thumbs-up review by Hollywood Reporter.
iff is checking out Chad VanGaalen's live show tonight, so stay tuned for pics + full report.
Yo La Tengo - I Am Not Afraid of You And I Will Beat Your Ass
A jaw-dropping 89 rating on Metacritic, and even its worst review compares it to Exile on Main Street and London Calling.
MP3: Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind
Richard Buckner - Meadow
Apparently a more instrumentally fleshed-out record than usual, with help from ex-Guided By Voices henchmen Doug Gillard and Kevin March. Popmatters awards a solid 6. You can stream it on Merge's site.
Magnolia Electric Company - Fading Trails
Secretly Canadian hype: "Composed of recording sessions Molina and company did with Steve Albini at his Electric Audio Studio, David Lowery at his Sound of Music Studio, and at the famous Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee, Fading Trails also features songs from the home recorded Shohola sessions. The essence of these recordings were extracted to create one cohesive being and thus defining what Magnolia Electric Co. truly is. Something that is hard to define. One head, multiple bodies...the opposite of a hydra head."
MP3: Lonesome Valley
Tara Jane O'Neil - In Circles
MP3: Blue Light Room
Xiu Xiu - The Air Force
See a poster series on the album
MP3: T.D. Reisert, Henlawson
MP3: T.D. Reisert, Concordat
Monday, September 11, 2006
Slant slyly calls the new Yo La Tengo "a bloated, overreaching long-player in the tradition of bloated, overreaching long-players like Sign O' The Times, Exile On Main Street, and London Calling."
Through Scottish arts project FunctionSuite, which joins artists and hospitals, The Royal Edinburgh Hospital in Edinburgh is showing the exhibition "... and other stories" through September 29th. It features alternative and comic drawings from Kimya Dawson, Daniel Johnston and others.
Mark Kozelek's book of lyrics, set lists, and other stuff, Nights of Passed Over, previously available only through Portuguese import, will be reissued stateside by ex-Low bassist Zak Sally's La Mano 21 imprint:
Mark Kozelek ( of Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon) and La Mano will be co-publishing a book of his lyrics (and ephemera) called "Nights of Passed Over". This book was originally published in Portugal, with both English and Portuguese translations. We will, obviously, be releasing just english: however, mark will also be submitting new material unavailable in the previous edition: a new introduction, the lyrics to Sun Kil Moon's "Ghost of the Great Highway," additional handwritten lyrics and setlists. RHP and SKM fans take note-- this version will be revamped and expanded, easy to find, and will be available through us and our distros and Mark's Caldo Verde website. Mark is a great guy and one hell of a songwriter, and we're both honored and happy to be working with him on this book. Look for this to be released by January or February next year.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
One of the best things in the world is 1) hearing a great album by an artist you didn't know of and 2) realizing they have a huge back catalog. That's the case for iff and Super XX Man's new album, X, an album title alluding their nine previous albums. This one features rerecordings of songs from the catalog, and is released by one of our very favorite labels, Portland's Hush.
Scott Garred, who works as a music therapist in a maximum-security prison, has a gift for writing disarmingly direct, melodically assured, stripped-down folk songs that are confused and comforting in equal measure. The subdued arrangements fit the songs well, especially the careful background vocals by Alison Wesley.
The lyrics are mature without being boring, and he often takes simple phrases and turns them into low-key anthems, as with my favorite song on this disc, "Garage Apartment". "I want another chance to be with you", he sings to open the song, and soon he's apartment hunting, repeating to himself in the same melody a phone number for a rental, "458-4492, 458-4492, a garage apartment", so he'll remember it. With only a skeleton of a story, he paints a vivid picture, and the combination of specific details and ambiguous backstory makes it infinitely relatable.
Vocally, Garred reminds us most of the Weakerthans' John Samson in his more acoustic moments; shades of Clem Snide and the Mountain Goats also spring to mind. See below for two downloads: "Garage Apartment" and another killer track from X, "Up Up Up".
MP3: Super XX Man - Garage Apartment
MP3: Super XX Man - Up Up Up
Friday, September 08, 2006
Not sure if this is old news, but slurry Scots Arab Strap have split, according to Undercover:
Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton have reportedly made a mutual decision to disband, in order to pursue their respective solo careers. There will be one final release, ‘Ten Years Of Tears’, a collection of b-sides and unreleased tracks, to be released October 23.
iff always thought they should enjoy Arab Strap more than they actually did; the usually-mumbled vocals over the spare arrangements lacked enough melodic backbone to keep us engaged most of the time. But when their typical verse was paired with a chorus like that on "Girls of Summer", things looked up. We'll miss you (kind of), Arab Strap!
Here, they cover one of our favorite holiday tunes.
MP3: Arab Strap - Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)
I'm in love with Sweet Thunder - not a Foghat tribute band, but a website of found sounds pulled off of abandoned cassette tapes. Mr. Thunder scavenges thrift stores and garage sales for these gems, a hobby/art form I was first exposed to on Damien Jurado's excellent Postcards and Audio Letters album.
There are 71 tapes posted, with a new one every week. I haven't made it through the whole archive, but favorites so far include:
- The Young and the Fuck: "This week we have a crazy tape from the late 80s. It features some juveniles recording a parody soap opera about suicide and getting it on."
- The Kiss Sisters Love Letters: "Meet the Kiss Sisters from New York. These two young girls are in love with Peter Criss and just got a new tape recorder for Christmas."
Watch what you leave in your cast-off walkmen, people, because Sweet Thunder is waiting.
Meanwhile, Pitchfork reports that Smog appeared with maybe-girlfriend Joanna Newsom at a show in Austin to bang-up results. The fork isn't sure if Joanna is joining Billy on the upcoming tour, and I've got mixed feelings. It would bring lots of attention to Smog's long-underappreciated songbook, but Joanna would probably overshadow things and maybe make it difficult for iff to get into the aptly named Iota. Smog has long been the stud of the indiefolk scene, having previously moved to the country with Cat Power and immortalized her on a subtle album cover. Remember those tour dates.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
No sooner did iff find out about the existence of a grilled cheese specialty shop in NYC than we sadly hear of its untimely demise, via Eater. Beyond sad bastard music, there's nothing iff likes more than gimmicky restaurants highlighting a single dish or ingredient. Tragically, Grilled Cheese NYC is off to the frying pan in the sky, but aficianados can always head west to Denver's Chedd's Gourment Grilled Cheese, which promises "you've never had grilled cheese like this!!". Meanwhile, NYers missing culinary gimmicks can continue to feed at the Peanut Butter Company. Today's comments thread is officially open for any readers who can suggest similar nosh halls around the world.
Meanwhile, MPR has posted an awesome in-studio set by M Ward, whose Post War is getting lots of time in iff's car. Ward performs "Eyes on the Prize," "Today's Undertaking," and "Magic Trick."
In related M Ward news, Rake claims to have uncovered "A Legitimate B-Movie Gem" in 2004's Dead Man's Shoes, whose soundtrack features Ward, Smog, Will Oldham and Calexico. Netflix queue's a callin'.
Finally, Bishop Allen's new July EP is out, and this great track is available for download. Buy July here.
MP3: Bishop Allen, Click Click Click Click
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Darren's forging on with his solo career now, playing gigs in the UK (of course), but Hefner's likely swan song is Catfight, a massive slab of unreleased tracks that surely must clear out the closet. The 43 songs are arranged over two discs in reverse chronological order of their recording. Things get a bit dodgy on the second disc, but the first is more than worth the price of admission; plenty of cuts had me singing along by the second chorus. iff recommends you pick this up posthaste. For a taste: "The Pines", from a Peel Session, is something to do with love among outlaw Pagans loose in the deep south; "Country Song For Simon" is for all the folks "with Travis CDs coming up to their knees, but they don't even know what the lyrics mean".
Buy Catfight here.
- Jens Lekman offers his personal end-of-summer mix of songs as a single 36mb mp3 download, including America and Ennico Morricone (via Pitchfork)
- The NYC restaurant I'm dying to dine at, Mo Pitkin's House of Satisfaction, is holding their first anniversary shindig tonight, featuring buckets o' talent including Laura Cantrell and comedians Eugene Mirman and Todd Levin (of the longtime net great tremble). iff strongly encourages NY denizens to go, nosh some deep fried mac 'n cheese and matzoh ball soup, and report back.
- Insanely great session-site Daytrotter posts a new Bonnie "Prince" Billy four-song set, along with Oldham banter. On "New Partner", he writes:
One of the most requested songs that I get to play, it wasn’t until this trip that I started to understand, from inside, why this is. To me, this was an exercise in writing. It takes parts of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box,” the Rolling Stones’ “Get Off of My Cloud,” both Willie’s and Elvis’s versions of “You Were Always On My Mind,” and the song “Tony” by D.C. Powers, as performed by Johnny Cash. On this trip, I understood it to be, somewhat disturbingly, about not not loving someone who you are not with.”
- Psycho Daises reviews Burn to Shine-Portland, calls Mirah's "The Light" "the oddest and most surprising performance on this disc, and one of the best."
- UK blogger Highway Five posts some excellent Mark Eitzel/American Music Club links, among them a recent Eitzel podcast, and incredibly, the entirety of AMC's classic Everclear for legit download. Eitzel recently posted a message to the Undertow boards on his new band, All the Lost Achors of the Pacific, who performed with him last week in SF.
- Punk-o-matic! DIY. (via DailyKos)
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
About the only release that catches my eye (other than the potentially tragic American Songbook Willie Nelson release) is a new one by the most unintentionally funny folk singer around, David Rovics. If you've ever wished for Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! in a folk song format, Rovics is your man. He makes Phil Ochs sound like Jack Johnson. He continues to make me laugh on his latest chucklefest, Halliburton Boardroom Massacre! (eek!)
Rovics kindly makes most of his catalog available for free download, including such classics as "Who Would Jesus Bomb?", "Henry Ford Was a Fascist", and "Drink of the Death Squads" (it's not VitaminWater). Fun times.
I'll use this opportunity to plug a great protest song, David Dondero's "Pre-Invasion Jitters", which is tagged on to the current release of his brilliant first album Spider West Myshkin and a City Bus. Available from the venerable Ghostmeat Records, it's a ragged, honest, timeless must-have for indiefolkers everywhere. Seriously, don't not buy this.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
Reading The Yellow Stereo's post, I'm reminded that indiefolkforever favorite Bill Callahan, aka Smog, will be contributing to Ys.
Smog's got a sort-of-recent EP out, Rock Bottom Riser, which combines rerecordings of two of the best tracks from last year's A River Ain't Too Much To Love with two new tracks and two videos for the album tracks. The spare reading here of "Rock Bottom Riser" is classic Smog, circa Knock Knock - wherein his unsentimental baritone, so often making pitch-black fun, is 98% sincere, leaving you with a totally comforting 2% of uncertainty. This is music to listen to disoriented in the dark after an afternoon nap in winter.
Smog is hitting the road in what I'm pretty sure is a solo tour, and seeing him solo is the best way to enjoy the tension between the serious and silly sides of Bill Callahan. Tour dates begin tomorrow and are listed at the botom of his Drag City page, which also has videos for "Rock Bottom Riser" and "I Feel Like the Mother of the World".
Friday, September 01, 2006
- In Onion-worthy humor: Stay Classy Dallas writes about the inevitable Paris Hilton/Neutral Milk Hotel connection. Package tour?
- Pitchfork gives Dave Pajo's new album 1968 a deserving 7.4, calls lead track "Who's That Knocking" "mind-blowing". They also love new tracks from Yo La Tengo and the Hidden Cameras.
- So Much Silence mp3-ifies the recent KEXP Long Winters session.
- Newsweek has an interesting article on the trend of R&B acts going indie, and how this makes it "safer" for hipsters...HMM.