Monday, October 30, 2006
Not too much of interest to iff this week, although we salute both Meat Loaf and Bang Tango for soldiering on with awesomely ridiculous 80s album covers. Don't they know 12-year old boys don't buy albums anymore?
Willie Nelson - Songbird (buy it)
It's Slant vs. Pop Matters in this Ryan Adams-Willie Nelson-Great American Songbook mashup. Pop Matters gives a mostly positive 7: "Producer Adams brings out the Lone Star septuagenarian’s rougher side, and simultaneously shows off the sheer prettiness of Nelson’s artistry." Slant rebuts: "Songbird sounds like—I shit you not—a jam session between the Jayhawks and Wesley Willis. Adams's affected production brings on the gospel choirs and delay-pedaled lap steels so heavily that it's nearly impossible to detect a melody in any of the instrumentation. And Nelson gives his weakest vocal performance to date, slurring through Fleetwood Mac's "Songbird" and Gram Parsons's "$1000 Wedding" like a drunk in a karaoke bar." Ouch! Do you get a prize for recording the 1 millionth cover of "Hallelujah"?
Stream: The whole album
Andy Partridge - Fuzzy Warbles Collectors Album (buy it)
Andy Patridge of XTC finishes up his 8-volume Fuzzy Warbles odds-n-sods series with a collection of all tunes in a stamp-set box with a bonus EP, book, and actual stamp set. This is a pretty standard fans-only closet-cleaning, but a must-buy for fans of the classic pop soundz.
MP3: Andy Partidge - Sonic Boom
Watch: A whole bunch of XTC live performances and videos
"A professor composed a paper in 1995/suggesting the world's love songs would soon be in short supply/he'd done complicated equations based on the number 53/that showed the love song to be a form of non-renewable energy". So begins "The Last Love Song in London" by Paul Hawkins and Thee Awkward Silences, whose rants and raves remind me of a drunk British Tom Waits crossed with bits of Jarvis Cocker and Nick Cave. "Last Love Song" is the rarest of birds, a poetry slam entry that passes as a pretty good song, or at least one you might listen to all the way through. Think of the men in suits who depend on a steady stream of love songs; will they have to import them from a foreign nation?
"The Evil Thoughts" is a throbbing, senile come-on/kiss-off ("Don't get me wrong, you're a truly sweet girl/but your taste in men is the worst in the world/and I understand if you don't want me as your man but you really should"). It's got an infectious beat and while the flatly shouted vocals may put you off for a few lines, soon you're sucked into the simple hypnotic keyboard line and the irrepressible ravings of an endearing id.
MP3: Paul Hawkins and Thee Awkward Silences - The Last Love Song in London
MP3: Paul Hawkins and Thee Awkward Silences - The Evil Thoughts
Saturday, October 28, 2006
I'd never seen Germano perform before despite being a fan for longer than I can remember (I don't believe she's played a solo show in the DC metro area any time in the last six years, although she has appeared with Neil Finn and the Eels). With an artist like Germano, who doesn't have any hits, per se, you really don't know what to expect with the set list. Of course I knew she'd play a good number of tunes from In a Maybe World, but beyond that it was a mystery. I went in with low expectations, hoping to hear a few of my favorites.
Fortunately it seems my favorites from her catalogue also seem to be hers. "Wood Floors", from the peerless Slide, sounded just about perfect, a beloved warm blanket. She went to on play lots of songs from Slide, including "When I Think of Love" and "Reptile", as well as my favorite song from Exceprts from a Love Circus, "Small Heads". She seemed very much at ease playing piano, once commenting that she didn't like to stop between songs, preferring to lose herself in the music. A friend who didn't know her music called it very "sensual", an apt description; to me it was just Lisa Germano. The new material sounded better and more immediate live, especially the soaring "Into Oblivion".
I met her afterwards; she sold merch from the stage, including a cool rarities disc with a handmade cover, Rare Unusual or Just Bad Stories (which you can also order off her web site). She was kind enough to let me have the set list and sign it. Please go see her play; she'll be in Europe through November and back for another US leg in December.
Also see a nice interview with Germano in Wears the Trousers magazine.
MP3: Lisa Germano - Too Much Space
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Also up is Mark Kozelek's show at the Parish in Austin on 10/11, featuring his cover of Bob Seger's "Main Street" and lots of great heckling. Blogger Crazy Talk recalls: "When an audience member asked Kozelek why he didn't just bring more guitars so he didn't have to waste time going in and out of different tunings, Kozelek replied, "You know what, I do have another guitar in the back. It's the one I'm going to break over your face!"" Koz also mocks the sexual skillz of text messagers. Unfortunately it's in the form of one long Mp3 but you know you want to listen to it straight through anyway.
iff would love to profile more up-and-coming saddoes and folkies, so send some suggestions our way.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
MP3: Fancie - Stranger to None
MP3: Fancie - Baptism for the Dead
Next up on the blogger honor roll is Hugh's Liepaper, who comes through with news of NYC folkie Linda Draper's new EP Traces Of. Draper has long put out records produced by Kramer, but is striking out in a different direction with Traces Of and next year's LP Keepsake, both on Virginia Beach's Planting Seeds Records: Major Matt Mason, who has worked with Kimya Dawson, Adam Green and Jeffrey Lewis, has production duties. Hugh also conducted a nice interview with Draper last year. Draper's got what you might call a "catalogue" but the only thing I've heard is the title track from the upcoming EP, and I keep playing it over and over. The first line is drawn out perfectly to hook you in: "Hey old man, how have you been/I can see that life has not been kind to you/even though you always held the door open/for her." It's all dusty, spare melancholy with just enough ambiguity to give it a spooky edge. Perfect for late Sunday afternoons, maybe it will work for Wednesday morning too.
TW Walsh (ex-Pedro the Lion) of The Soft Drugs is now offering their entire EP, In Moderation, for free download.
The Chicago reader talks to San Francisco songwriter Sonny Smith, whose upcoming album Fruitvale it says "plays like a postmodern barrio version of Our Town set to music, a series of character sketches drawn from the mostly Latino neighborhood in Oakland where he lived for three years. Smith refracts the fragile pop of Daniel Johnston, the cracked bohemian poetry of Tom Waits, and the underdog narratives of Randy Newman through his own skewed kaleidoscope." He's also got a record in the can, One Act Plays, which features vocal turns from Mark Eitzel, Edith Frost, Neko Case, Jolie Holland, and Andy Cabic from Vetiver, among others. Check out "People Seeing People".
MP3: Sonny Smith - People Seeing People
Manic Street Preacher Nicky Wire reminices in the Guardian about busking to afford a burger and a 7" of Tallulah Gosh in a look back at the C86 era, "The Birth of Uncool".
M. Ward shuffles his iPod for The Onion's AV Club and comes up with lots of M. Ward!
Monday, October 23, 2006
"Even with its subverted mainstream pop productions, the Blow is still very indie-pop and very K-sounding; they're just not trapped in any preconceptions of that that means. Paper Television is exciting and accomplished, the album where the Blow goes from being interesting to being addictive." - All Music.
MP3: The Blow - Pile of Gold
Bright Eyes - Noise Floor (buy it)
This long-overdue rarities collection from Bright Eyes is sadly less than comprehensive (even taking into account the five bonus tracks available on the vinyl edition). But many of his best songs live here, and their fuzzy, unselfconscious fury overshadows the ample solipsism. Even better, none of the songs are about being famous. The closest he comes is the still-sublime "Motion Sickness", a transporting dirge of a song ostensibly about being on the road but more about floating around in some kind of suspended animation. This release brings back memories of trolling Audiogalaxy for b-sides to super-limited-edition split-7" tracks. You'll still have to troll some other site to find "North of the City" or "Feeling It (for Ian)". Any handful of songs on this disc is preferable to the output of the "important artist" he's become.
MP3: Bright Eyes - I Will Be Grateful for This Day, I Will Be Grateful for Each Day to Come
Norfolk & Western - Unsung Colony (buy it)
Adam Selzer, Rachel Blumberg & crew turn out a gorgeous album of miniature pop epics treated with carefully understated production and extra creaks & wails. See 'em on tour with Corrinna Repp in the coming weeks.
MP3: Norfolk & Western - The New Rise of Labor
Various Artists - The Harry Smith Project: Anthology of American Folk Music Revisited (buy it)
Steve Earle, Beth Orton, Nick Cave, Wilco, Sonic Youth, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, and many others cover songs from the legendary collection of original American recorded music, which in turn had a huge influence on the folk revival of the 60s. The performances are culled from a series of concerts curated by Hal Willner. While I'd liked to have seen some more contemporary artists on this set who operate in a rougher, rawer, lower-fi style and spirit of the originals, this is still sure to be a great listen.
Video stream: Wilco - "James Alley Blues"
Various Artists - Old Town School of Folk Music Songbook, Vol. 1 (buy it)
"These kids today with their sequencers, samplers, loops, USB interfaces, pitch controllers and iPods holding 5,000 songs. They think music was invented yesterday by them and their buddies and tunes are spit out at the push of a button in patterns of Zeroes and Ones. Ain’t it time we all unplugged, slowed down and got our folk back on? To wrap our hands around the cool maple neck of an actual guitar and our brains around actual songs passed down for generations?" Pretty mean ad copy for a great-looking compilation, co-released by Bloodshot and Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music. John Langford, John Stirrat from Wilco, and Robbie Fulks and others pay tribute to classic songs, with real live folklorist Paul Tyler offering up liner notes with song histories.
MP3: Colby Maddox - Shady Grove
MP3: Janet Bean - Deep River Blues
Lucinda Williams - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (Deluxe Edition) (buy it)
Williams' record of amazing songs and overdone production is almost certainly enhanced by the addition of three bonus tracks and most importantly a bonus live disc of a WXPN concert from 1998, featuring many of the best songs from the album ("Metal Firecracker", "Drunken Angel") in rawer form.
About halfway through the set, a respectable crowd had gathered to listen, and O'Connor treated the crowd to a single solo song. (You can hear stripped-down versions of four songs from the album via her Daytrotter session.) But the band complimented O'Connor's sad but forceful songs well, particularly on the set and album closer, "I'll Bring You Home", which is in the running for best album closer of the year, with a chorus that's lonely and sing-along loud at the same time.
Starting tonight, she starts a new leg of her tour, this time opening for the Mountain Goats in the South. She'll also be playing at a Bob Dylan tribute show at Avery Fisher Hall November 9, also featuring Bob Mould, Cat Power, Jay Farrar, Roseanne Cash, Jill Sobule and many others.
Matador has posted two songs from Across the Mountain, "Today" and "Exeter, Rhode Island". Buy the album here, and also check out her second album The Color and the Light on Kendall Meade's Red Panda Records.
MP3: Jennifer O'Connor - "Today"
MP3: Jennifer O'Connor - "Exeter, Rhode Island"
MP3: Jennifer O'Connor - "Track 12" (from The Color and the Light)
Friday, October 20, 2006
11/4 San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill w/ The Dead Science & Sholi
11/5 Los Angeles, CA @ Knitting Factory w/ The Dead Science & The Papercuts (6:30 early show)
11/6 San Luis Obispo, CA @ Downtown Brewing Co w/ The Dead Science & The Papercuts
11/7 Santa Cruz, CA @ The Attic w/ The Dead Science & The Papercuts
11/8 Davis, CA @ UC Davis Coffee Shop w/ The Dead Science & The Papercuts
11/9 Portland, OR @ Someday Lounge w/ The Dead Science & The Papercuts
11/10 Seattle, WA @ The Paradox w/ The Dead Science & The Papercuts
11/11 Missoula, MT @ Higgins Hall (Boys and Girls Club) w/ The Papercuts
11/12 Fargo, ND @ the Aquarium w/ The Papercuts
11/13 Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock Social Club w/ The Papercuts
11/15 Bloomington, IN @ Landlocked Music w/ The Papercuts
11/16 TBA (we are open to suggestions)
11/17 Chicago, IL @ the Mission w/ The Papercuts
In the meantime, check the sounds of smart but underachieving middle-class lonesomeness.
MP3: Casiotone for the Painfully Alone - Young Shields
MP3: Casiotone for the Painfully Alone - Lonesome New Mexico Nights
Click if you dare: The Onion AV Club posts "13 seriously scary album covers".
Best news of the day: Edwyn Collins is alive and recording following a life-threatening brain hemmorage. Thanks, Idolator! He's stuck up three new songs on his MySpace, including "Home Again", a gentle way to sway into the weekend.
MP3: Edwyn Collins - Home Again
MP3: Edwyn Collins - A Girl Like You
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Kirstiecat has a knack for making it to great shows I miss. Check out her amazing picture set from Nina Nastasia's Chicago show, along with a nice write-up.
Vee Device over at the music borg MOG has posted a fine review of iff's September Pick of the Momth, The Places' Songs for Creeps: "If Emmylou Harris had written OK Computer, it might sound like this...Like Radiohead’s magnum opus, Amy Annelle’s latest album is awash with swirling eddies of atmospheric paranoia, self-derision, doubt and longing. Those feelings are wrapped in a warble that, like Harris’, sounds neither here nor there — as if the singing is an exorcism of demons we’ll never know or comprehend. But with Songs for Creeps, we at least catch glimpses of them."
Kill Rock Stars may be shuttering its experimental sister label 5RC, but it has a huge trove of free downloads, including iff favorites The Robot Ate Me, as well as Sleater Kinney, Elliott Smith, Comet Gain, The Gossip, and more. Pay special attention to The Robot Ate Me's mind-bogglingly great "On Vacation", which quivers its way into your heart with its mix of hope, fear and suntan lotion.
MP3: The Robot Ate Me - On Vacation
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
The Onion's AV Club gets to the heart of The Magnetic Fields' The Charm of the Highway Strip, as part of their "Permanent Record" series. "Highway Strip cleverly, candidly documents the doomed drifters who hit the open road to escape themselves, only to discover that there's no escape."
Stereogum is giving away a copy of the upcoming Anthology of American Folk Music Revisited, which features Nick Cave, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Mary Margaret O'Hara, Petra Haden and plenty more, playing tunes from Harry Smith's famous comp.
El Popo slaps up some great Portland songs, including several Mirah tracks: the new remix of "La Familia" by Chris Baker, and live versions of "Advisory Committee" and "We're Both So Sorry".
Another song for preview from Tom Waits' upcoming Orphans has appeared. "Road To Peace" is a political song pitched somewhere between grand statement and drunken Dailykos blog post. What rhymes with Kissinger?
MP3: Tom Waits - Road to Peace
In any case, maybe a new moniker will do Barnett good, however endearing it's become to the KOLS faithful. I've always liked his output and sometimes loved it like crazy: the combo of a memorable, close-miked voice straining for the high notes, gut-spilling honesty and a punk-folk sensibility was always worth hearing, even when it missed the mark by a mile. Which wasn't too often.
The one time I caught Barnett, at the lil Galaxy Hut in Arlington, VA, he played acoustic and unamplified with frequent collaborator David J, after the rest of the band apparently bailed on the tour. Standing on chairs, they alternated between the Spitting catalog and the tunes of the late great Phil Ochs, who, in the year 2002, I'm ashamed to say I had only a passing knowledge of. The next time I tried to catch 'em, opening for John Vanderslice, Ben apparently bailed on/was booted from the tour the night before it got to me. It's hard out there on the road.
KOLS went on to record a fine tribute record to Ochs. Here's a cut from that record, along with a few more of their tunes. Please buy their records here and here. KOLS is dead, long live KOLS.
MP3: Kind of Like Spitting - Aubergine
MP3: Kind of Like Spitting - When I'm Gone (Phil Ochs)
Monday, October 16, 2006
Bragg's second, less essential box set includes Workers Playtime, Don't Try This At Home, William Bloke and England Half English, plus the requisite closet-cleaning bonus discs of rarities and a DVD with concerts from 1991 and 2006. Workers Playtime is a classic worth owning if you don't already have it, and the bonuses include some enticing covers, including Tim Hardin's "Reason to Believe" and the Rolling Stones' "She Smiled Sweetly".
Tim Hardin - 3/Live In Concert (buy it)
Russian label Lilith is behind this welcome reissue of Tim Hardin's 1968 live album, perfectly recorded at a sold-out Town Hall in New York flanked by five ace jazz musicians. Hardin, who one Amazon reviewer speculates is playing a "cheapie" guitar bought before the show and sold afterwards for drugs, sounds incredible and appreciative of the crowd, at what must have been the height of his minimal fame. For sheer 60s folk immersion, play this loud, imagining the Town Hall crowd hanging on every word Hardin the wonder boy sings. Genuinely full-hearted and likely drug-fuelled, Hardin walks the tightrope with musicians he likely hadn't played with much before. I don't know of any voice like it. This is make-out music for Chelsea Hotel fantasies.
The one downside to the package is that the florid, wide-eyed liner notes by Michael Zwerin of the Village Voice are presented here in Russian. They're half interview, half hagiography, detailing the apparent boomlet of press interest in Hardin, who is strung out in his hotel room. "He seems misplaced - almost foolish - up there playing his guitar and singing for the multitude; Emily Dickinson reciting her verses at the Republican convention, Eric Satie playing a Gymnopedie in the Astrodome...Tim Hardin sings the pain in this heart and we clap our hands. He is irrevocably on the brink of some catastrophe. His voice cracks... untrained... soft...musky...the suspense is high drama". Musky! Unfortunately you'll need a Russian friend to translate the muskiness for you if you get this edition. The vinyl's got its charms.
If Okkervil River's recent album Black Sheep Boy, named after one of Hardin's best songs, has piqued any hipsters' interest, here's the best way to dive in. "Turn the Page" only appeared on this live album.
Bert Jansch - The Black Swan (buy it)
The New York Times warns: "Two things must be understood going into it. This is not a comeback. Mr. Jansch has been making a new record every few years, with his same craggy voice and strong fingerpicking in minor-key ballads and acoustic-blues songs. And it’s far straighter than this label’s other ventures into this territory; it’s the rare example of a Drag City record that isn’t the slightest bit perverse, ironic, hermetic or bizarre. The truth is that Mr. Jansch isn’t that weird..." I'll be picking this up tomorrow nonetheless.
MP3: Bert Jansch - The Black Swan
Sunday, October 15, 2006
I hope so, because Smoke Reality, produced by Tara Jane O'Neil, deserves to be heard; it's full of smart little missives from the land of down but not out. "Lose Yourself in Nature and Find Peace" and "Topanga" are deceptively well-crafted folk songs about getting away from what ails you. The one-two punch of "Come Back" and "Love Horse" are the sort of slightly sinister, sultry tunes Barbara Manning used to turn out in her heyday. There's also also a touch of Manning in two frentic, piano-driven tunes, "Parents" and "Clean Girl", the latter is a perfect character snapshot at 76 seconds, a lazy eye surveying its own insecurities through another.
This eclecticism, musically and emotionally, is in the best tradition of indie music. Padgett mixes things up but keeps a common thread through the force of her guardedly optimistic personality, not always an easy task.
Check out the title track, "Smoke Reality", a hazy, lazy meditation resting atop a hypnotic, Jim O'Rourke-like thicket of sound. You can buy the album here.
MP3: The Naysayer - Smoke Reality
Friday, October 13, 2006
Mark Kozelek has officially announced his new live album Little Drummer Boy, a double-disc package limited to 10,000 copies, and out November 28th. It features live performances over the last several years, including "Mistress" at the 4AD anniversary show, and two new songs, "Moorestown" and "Unlit Hallway". Pre-order it now and put food on the Kozelek table.
The new issue of Mojo, on newsstands now, comes with a free CD, "The Quiet Revolution", full of 15 previously released tracks from folkies like Vashti Bunyan, Bert Jansch, Akron/Family, Diane Cluck, Espers and Woven Hand. Along with the must-read Elton John cover story, quite an $8.99 value...
The Guardian talks to a bunch of songwriters, including M. Ward, Joanna Newsom, Will Oldham and John Darnielle, about their lyrics in relation to poetry. "Indeed, poetry - in the book sense - has a bad reputation among even the most literary songwriters. "I see a huge gulf between poetry and song lyrics," insists Bill Callahan [Smog]. "Poetry is so often an internal and individual thing. Music is a social art that speaks to the body more than the mind. Even if you choose to listen to music alone, you are still a part of a living thing. Poetry is about separating yourself out from the masses. It's about not being a social animal. I dislike poetry!"
The reviews for Bert Jansch's The Black Swan, out next week on Drag City, are trickling in. Dusted Magazine is pretty pleased: "If The Black Swan doesn’t have the cross-generic impact of Jansch’s 1970s music, in its place is a hard-won serenity and quiet pleasure in the joys of unassuming folk endeavor...Jansch’s self-penned tunes are as affecting as ever, none more so than on the deep blue threnody “High Days,” or the opening title song, which is as heartbreaking as Jansch’s classic “Needle of Death.” Sure, it’s sentimental to simply be thankful that the lovable old rogue is back, but this time round, it’s no false sentiment. Now, if only his old sparring partner Anne Briggs would make a similar return…" Seattle Weekly is less forgiving: "Jansch fucked up when combing the pages of Arthur, searching for young acolytes to work with. If he really wanted to challenge himself, then Jansch should have collaborated with Joanna Newsom...as it is, Black Swan is just a well-crafted collection of introspective ballads like "High Days" (a reminiscence of long-gone singer-songwriter Tim Hardin), traditional tunes, and one or two bluesy numbers...Jansch is supposed to blow minds, not produce slightly above average folk music." Ouch.
Kirstiecat has a nice review and a slew of amazing pictures from the Chicago Mojave 3 concert. Check them out on their remaining tour dates, and listen to a few great tracks from their latest album, Puzzles Like You.
MP3: Mojave 3 - Breaking the Ice
MP3: Mojave 3 - Puzzles Like You
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Hoquiam/Now That I'm In Your Shadow/There Goes Your Man/Denton, TX/Tragedy/Gasoline Drinks/Abilene/What Were The Chances/Gillian Was a Horse/Lottery/December/Montesano//Roller Skating Queen/Ohio
Damien Jurado is now releasing records and touring as "Damien Jurado"...the band. Eric Fisher on guitar, keys, and drums and Jenna Conrad on cello...Damien Jurado, guitar and lead vocals. Take this as a gentle nod to, or swipe at, scores of songwriters who hide behind band-like names (Sparklehorse, Bright Eyes, Sun Kil Moon et al). The trio came to DC ready to rumble.
The cello was a new wrinkle for Jurado and a big boost to his live act, adding some ballast to his stark, lonely story-songs. While he can devastate all on his own - and did so in the encore, treating the longtime faithful to Trampoline b-side "Rollerskating Queen" and his best song, "Ohio" - Conrad's subtle playing payed dividends over the course of the set, which consisted mostly of unfamiliar songs from a new album that didn't come out until the next day. She also used a megaphone to whisper ghostly backing vocals on the new "What Were the Chances", one of the set's highlights.
Damien began Ghost of David's "December" on guitar, then made like Phil Collins and slipped behind the drum kit for a rousing rave-up ending. But the drummer for most of the set was Fisher, whose kicks on "Gillian Was a Horse" (a new song left off the album, but available for download in solo demo form below) gave the song just the right amount of low-key swagger, reminiscent of "Johnny Go Riding". He appeared in good spirits despite being robbed in Canada, leaving him to wear a Black Flag t-shirt three days straight. (Which was OK, because he likes Black Flag). He also ran into Ian Svevonius beforehand, and could not believe it.
Try to catch Jurado on his remaining dates, and check out these two demos Spin has kindly made available.
MP3: Damien Jurado - Gillian Was a Horse (demo)
MP3: Damien Jurado - And Now That I'm In Your Shadow (demo)
Monday, October 09, 2006
Vancouver pop ace Abram Nelken, who's worked with A.C. Newman and Sparrow, debuts on Mint with an album full of throwback pop hooks and melodies and desperation aplenty. Not quite as busy as Newman's Pornographers, this is fine songwriting wrapped in bittersweet cotton candy, somewhere in the Shins' zip code.
MP3: The Awkward Stage - Heaven is For Easy Girls
Califone - Roots & Crowns (buy it)
The preview track, "Spider's House", has a nice lazy feel with sad wailing horns. AllMusic sez: "The detailed arrangements and production are amazing: there's almost always a lot going on but there's still enough space for the songs to emerge. The sonic detail is a treat, with percussion of all sorts and electronic flotsam and jetsam all around the stereo field. Marimbas, pianos, guitars, strings, white noise, field recordings, samples and a host of other esoteric items ... This is a very original group who are really hitting their stride. They write interesting melodic songs, they've got brilliant ideas for arranging and production, and they've got the studio savvy to pull it all off in spectacular fashion."
MP3: Califone - Spider's House
Micah P. Hinson - Micah P. Hinson and the Opera Circuit (buy it)
Fresh off his collaboration with John Mark Lapham of the Earlies, as The Late Cord, Hinson returns with his gravel-buried, well-fallen voice and oddly rousing tales of desolation. "Jackeyed" adds bells and horns to augment what might be his peppiest anthem of deep dark confusion yet.
MP3: Micah P. Hinson - Jackeyed
Damien Jurado - And Now That I'm In Your Shadow (buy it)
All Music sez of Damien's latest: "The feel is late night, on the edge of quiet, and full of pathos. Once upon a time he refrained from writing confessional material; his songs are drenched in it now, whether metaphorical or not. Jurado's storytelling skills, however, have become more sophisticated and multi-dimensional than they were before." Stay tuned for a Damien live review shortly.
Robert Pollard - Normal Happiness (buy it)
Early orders of Bob's latest from Merge receive at no additional cost "MOON - ROBERT POLLARD LIVE -A 15 track disc featuring Robert Pollard and the Ascended Masters (Tommy Keene, Jon Wurster, Jason Narducy & Dave Philips) live at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati Ohio - June 24 2006." Visit his website for tons of free demos. Bob says, you can never have enough Bob.
MP3: Robert Pollard - Supernatural Car Lover
Portastatic - Be Still Please (buy it)
Mac's latest features backing vocals from Laura Cantrell and Annie Hayden. In addition to the new track below, please check out absolutely killer Portastatic track "I Wanna Know Girls" from their last album Bright Ideas, which Mac is making available on the Portastatic website.
Posthumous final album from underground hero and former Jacobite Nikki Sudden. Press mess: "Completed just a week before he left for his final American tour in March of 2006, there could not be a more perfect swan song for a man whose personal life and rock & roll life knew no boundaries. Nikki was glowing with excitement when he flew across the Atlantic for his final US tour. Not only was he ready to tour, but he was so pleased with the new album he had in his satchel, and had just completed his autobiography to boot. If Nikki's 49 well-lived years and 30+ years making music publicly could be summed up in any way, shape or form, it was in the two documents he had under his arm - one compact disc and one manuscript. While we may have to wait a while longer for the latter, we can now bask in the wonder of the former."
See iff's post from the other day for info and a link to Kramer's contribution.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Together as the Blow, they put together intimate music you can blast at your next party. Maricich's voice often reminds me of labelmate Mirah; in particular, "Hey Boy" is a more aggressive version of the sort of sly confessional that filled up You Think It's Like This But It's Really Like This. Drum machines, samples, and fun, danceable little songs that are serious and seriously silly while never becoming novelty.
K is making their whole seven-song EP Poor Aim: Love Songs availble for free download until their new album Paper Television drops October 24th; I dare you to keep this out of rotation.
MP3: The Blow - Poor Aim: Love Songs EP (.zip file)
MP3: The Blow - Pile of Gold (from Paper Television)
The New York Times covers the trend of reissue labels like The Numero Group and Gear Fab: "Therein lies the rub: are private-press records special because they’re great or because they’re rare? “I’m not so certain that just because something isn’t reissued, it should be,” Mr. Shipley acknowledged. Meanwhile Mr. Maglio is making plans for Gear Fab’s next release: a collection of songs by 1960’s psychedelic bands from Arkansas."
Jagjaguwar has posted a preview song, "Medicine Blues", from Simon Joyner's tenth album Skeleton Blues, out November 21st, just in time to play during Thanksgiving Dinner. Press mess: "Unlike recent albums recorded in studios with professional musicians, Joyner expanded his Fallen Men and recorded live in a vacant old train station building in Omaha over the course of one lost weekend. Veteran collaborator Michael Krassner flew in to engineer and was forced to join the band on "warehouse" piano. Chris Deden (drummer from the early Sing, Eunuchs! records) returns, along with the protean Alex McManus (The Bruces, Lambchop, Bright Eyes), this time cutting his teeth on pedal steel and sharing lead guitar duties with Dave Hawkins. Lonnie Methe is back too, playing organ and vibes instead of violin. Mike Tulis plays the bass."
MP3: Simon Joyner - Medicine Blues
Even when Baumbach put the album's gorgeous closer "Holland Tunnel" on the soundtrack to his last film, The Squid and the Whale, I failed to take heed and check this album out. Fortunately its recent deluxe reissue by Varese Saraband records, complete with eight bonus tracks from the original sessions and amazingly detailed liner notes, finally encouraged me to pick it up.
Wolf King, it turns out, is a classic of confessional songwriting, its easygoing proto-country-rock and full-throated background vocals from Darlene Love, Jean King and Fanita James (The Blossoms) serving as a bed for Phillips' genuinely confused and tumultuous life following the breakup of his short-lived superstar band amid early-70s California decadence. The surrounding backstory detailed in the liner notes - with appearances from Elvis, Dennis Hopper and Myra Breckinridge director Michael Sarne - frames the loose narrative in a snapshot of the cultural climate, and with interviews from most of the key players, musical and personal, it's a great read.
Phillips, looking like a cross between Animal and Dr. Teeth on the back cover, writes about himself honestly and self-effacingly, and despite his decadent environs and celebrity friends, it comes across as incredibly rich and relatable, not the woe-is-me-I'm-famous rant you might well expect. Stories surrounding his disintegrating first marriage and discovery of new love, of boredom and bewilderment, are somehow only enhanced by the backstory, made slummily glamorous rather than distant.
Nowhere is this more true than on the brilliant second track, "Topanga Canyon", wherein John, having lost his band and marriage, relates restless, aimless drives up and down Pacific Coast Highway. "Oh Mary, I'm in deep water, and it's way way over my head/everyone thought I was smarter than to be mislead".
Order the album here.
Friday, October 06, 2006
Eef Barzaley is doing a hell of a blog marketing campaign for his new tour. Today he talks to yet another site, Daytrotter: "My 4-year-old son woke me up at 6 a.m. excitedly proclaiming, “The food goes in the food holes and the blood goes in the blood holes.”"
Some covers to get you going for the weekend: Vic Chesnutt doing rough justice to "I'll Melt With You", Amy Annelle doing "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue", and Ben Barnett of Kind of Like Spitting covering Gram Parsons' "Sin City" and Yo La Tengo's "Tom Courtenay".
MP3: Vic Chesnutt - I'll Melt With You
MP3: Amy Annelle - It's All Over Now, Baby Blue
MP3: Kind of Like Spitting - Sin City
MP3: Kind of Like Spitting - Tom Courtenay
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Tamara Dobson, AKA Cleopatra Jones, passed away Monday: "Tamara Dobson, the statuesque model-turned-actress who made a name for herself in two Cleopatra Jones "blaxploitation" films of the 1970s, died Monday of complications from pneumonia and multiple sclerosis, her publicist said. She was 59. "
In tribute, here's Mark Eitzel's ode, from his tragically out-of-print but highly affordable album 60-Watt Silver Lining.
"The people I was with said you were nothing but a fag hag and a dope fiend/but the song of your eyes was of the loneliest woman I've ever seen/we talked drunkenly at the bar, I thought there's a sweetness here the world is missing/you just got fired and now you're out high and drunk and celebrating/Cleopatra Jones/if they don't see you, then they're blind/Cleopatra Jones/liquor and love and everything that's kind..." (full lyrics at Exit Productions).
"Whatever subtlety Germano's voice and lyrics might lack is buttressed by the deceptive simplicity of her music. Perhaps her songcraft is too deceptive-- a casual listener might think these songs are just gauzy doodles of piano and guitar. But an attentive ear will learn otherwise. She knows when to hit a bum note, as on the flat chord struck during "Land of Fairies" or the sourness in "A Seed". She can also conjure moments of surprising beauty."I have a feeling the songs will cut deeper live. The first leg of Germano's tour begins tonight in Philly, and is highly recommended.
Thu 10/5/06 North Star Bar Philadelphia PA
Fri 10/6/06 Tonic New York NY
Sat 10/7/06 Iron Horse Music Hall Northampton MA
Sun 10/8/06 PA’s Lounge Somerville MA
Mon 10/9/06 AS 220 Art Space Providence RI
Tue 10/10/06 Valentine’s Albany NY
Wed 10/11/06 Mohawk Place Buffalo NY
Fri 10/13/06 Beachland Tavern Cleveland OH
Sat 10/14/06 Publico Gallery Cincinnati OH
Sun 10/15/06 Little Brothers Columbus OH (8pm early show)
Tue 10/17/06 Buskirk-Chumley Theater Bloomington IN
Thu 10/19/06 Cactus Bar Milwaukee WI
Fri 10/20/06 Turf Club St. Paul MN
Sat 10/21/06 Beat Kitchen Chicago IL
Mon 10/23/06 Stormy Records Space Detroit MI
Tue 10/24/06 Quiet Storm Coffee House Pittsburgh PA
Wed 10/25/06 Gravity Lounge Charlottesville VA
Thu 10/26/06 Iota Cafe Arlington VA
Fri 10/27/06 Barbes Brooklyn NY
MP3: Lisa Germano - Too Much Space
Lots of iff-friendly stuff in the blogsphere this morn:
Said the Gramaphone has a couple of interesting downloads today along with its usual great commentary, of Village folk grandaddy Dave Van Ronk and Cat Power. "There are more cello voices than trumpet voices in this world and many more trumpet voices than woodwind ones. Double reed voices are more rare than the raw steak I'm eating right now, so sell Dave Van Ronk's voice on eBay; it'll fetch a fortune."
Chromewaves reports on the Joanna Newsom live experience.
My Old Kentucky Blog interviews Eef Barlazey and offers a few interesting Eef downloads. "You're a dad, I'm about to become one. Can you still be cool with a kid? Any going-into-fatherhood advice? Well, you can't be a total self-absorbed asshole anymore which is really quite liberating. And although it's restricted my free wheeling rock and roll lifestyle it's also made me more empathetic and less apt to hide."
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
A few tributes of interest to iff are due out soon. Living legend Kramer has a new label, Second Shimmy (really a second-coming of his storied Shimmy Disc label, a name sold years ago to the Knitting Factory). The first release out of the gate is I Killed The Monster: 21 Artists Performing the Songs of Daniel Johnston, out October 10. Coming just a few years after the estimable The Late Great Daniel Johnston: Discovered Covered, which featured Beck, Teenage Fanclub with Jad Fair, Calvin Johnson, Clem Snide and M. Ward among others, Killed is a decidely non-redundant and lower-fi affair, with antifolk standard-bearers Kimya Dawson, Jeffrey Lewis, and Major Matt Mason, along with Kramer himself (both with and without Jad Fair) performing much-beloved Johnston catalogue, presumably with much love and care. The first sounds of the record can be found on Kramer's MySpace, where you can listen to his rendition of "Bloody Rainbow", a true Johnston song chock full of unrequited love and innocently creepy imagery.
Coming a week later is Do it Again: A Tribute to Pet Sounds, with a roster indie folk fans daydream of. Thanks to AngryApe for providing more info than the death-to-flash Houston Party website, including the tracklist:
01. Oldham Brothers - Wouldn't It Be Nice
02. Vic Chesnutt - You Still Believe In Me
03. Nobody And The Mystic Chords Of Memory With Farmer Dave - That's Not Me
04. Centro-Matic - Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)
05. Micah P. Hinson - I'm Waiting for the Day
06. Raygun - Let's Go Away For A While
07. Dayna Kurtz - Sloop John B
08. Daniel Johnston - God Only Knows
09. Mazarin - I Know There's An Answer
10. Jody Wildgoose - Here Today
11. Patrick Wolf - I Just Wasn't Made For These Times
12. Architecture In Helsinki - Pet Sounds
13. The Wedding Present - Caroline No
Yikes, zoinks all around. Daniel Johnston doing "God Only Knows"? What have we done to deserve this?
Bradley's Almanac has the complete Eric Bachmann show from Cambridge a few weeks ago in MP3. Although lacking the excellent reworked "Bad Man Coming" from the DC show, it does include my favorite song from To the Races, "Little Bird".
Last week I highlighted Kath Bloom's awesome contribution to Arthur Magazine's new anti-war comp. Pop Matters looks at her new comp, Finally: "Best known for her fragile, folk-centric 1980s work with experimental guitarist Loren Mazzacane Connors, Kath Bloom returns to music after a couple of decades with this modest, beautifully evocative collection of songs."
Speaking of contests, don't forget to enter iff's, for a free copy of the new Kozelek-approved Corrina Repp. Read a new review of the album at indieworkshop and a quaint live review in college paper The Whitworthian.
Generous Anti has posted another MP3 from Tom Waits' upcoming Orphans.
MP3: Tom Waits - You Can Never Hold Back Spring
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Hat-tip to Brooklyn Vegan for posting on Eef Barlazey's upcoming solo tour dates. Unfortunately I'll be missing Mr. Clem Snide in favor of some crosstown Smog (I just saw Eef this spring, making this tough call easier) but I can't say enough about his solo live show. He's got such a rich, interesting voice and wraps it around increasingly touching but ever-ironic tunes - his live solo rendition of Soft Spot's "All Green" nearly brought me to tears, if only because such a talent was playing to 50 people in a tiny bar. Please catch him up-close if you can:
10/7 Jammin Java Vienna, VA
10/8 World Café Philadelphia, PA
10/10 Mercury Lounge NYC
10/11 Maxwells Hoboken, NJ
10/12 Iron Horse North Hampton, MA
10/13 Club Lambi Montreal
10/14 Rancho Relaxo Toronto
10/16 Schubas Chicago, IL
10/17 High Noon Madison, WI
10/18 Mojos Columbia, MO
10/19 Duck Room St. Louis, MO
10/20 The Basement Nashville. TN
11/01 Crocodile Café Seattle, WA
11/02 Doug Fir Portland, OR
11/03 Sam Bonds Garage Eugene, OR
11/05 Café du Nord San Fransisco, CA
11/07 Hotel Café Los Angeles, CA
11/16 Irving Plaza (Daily Show concert)
MP3: Clem Snide - All Green
MP3: Eef Barlazey - The Ballad of Bitter Honey
Monday, October 02, 2006
The latest from Young God Records, All Music gushes about this mini-album: "It's over 35 minutes, and includes the nine-plus-minute opus "Blessing Force" that moves from silence to rock-out mantra, to chant to intricate polyrhythmic interplay to free-form, improv, wig city back to guitar, bass, drums zone-out to skronk. All you can say for a brief second is "Oh yeah," before they enter with acoustic guitars, hand percussion and the paraphrased English translation of a Buddhist mantra on "Gone Beyond." There's melody and beauty and space and earth in sharp contrast to the fire of the previous cut. The vocals here are utterly beautiful and joyous and the spiritual vibe is set. Clocking in at only 3:22, it would have been interesting to hear what this might have been like at ten minutes." "Gone Beyond" will indeed chime and chant its way into your heart like old time freedom rock.
MP3: Akron/Family - Gone Beyond
Robyn Hitchcock - Ole! Tarantula
Featuring Soft Boys members, Ian McLagan, and most of the Minus 5, Hitchcock's new record is touted as a return to mid-80s form. Of the four new tracks streaming on his MySpace page, It's hard to resist "Adventure Rocket Ship", but I also really like dreamy, glammy "NY Doll". Also check out his musty ol' website, which is a museum! Coat check to your left fulla radio sessions.
Nina Nastasia - On Leaving
The Dirty Three's Jim White drums on Nina's first album in three years and first for Fat Cat. "Utterly and skeletally and hauntingly comely". One of the best things I've heard all year, "Why Don't You Stay Home" is clean and clear without being bloodless, Nastiasia's incredible voice and gentle guitar lulling you until piano notes drop in like anvils.
The Pernice Brothers - Live a Little
Definitely the best Pernice since The World Won't End - although this opinion is probably due to my dread of 80s britmope production that cropped up on the last two discs. Still, this is clean and shiny and deeply depressed as ever. Check out the killer chorus on "Somerville".
MP3: The Pernice Brothers - Somerville
Ridiculous internet gossip abounds about Pink Floyd: The Movie, supposedy directed by Cameron Crowe and starring Ashton Kutcher as Roger Waters and Mark Kozelek as David Gilmour! With Sir Ben Kingsley as the ballsy Judge at the Wall.
Meanwhile, Caldo Verde's third release will be a live Koz album, Little Drummer Boy, due out in November with an as-yet-unknown tracklist. And a nice interview in the Lansing State Journal reveals that he's got ... no plans at all. "'I'm approaching 40,' Kozelek said by phone from his home in San Francisco. 'After this tour, I really have no plans at all to do any recording. I have no plans for a new album. No acting plans. What I'm doing right now is where it's at for me. I feel pretty good right now, and I've always done things in an unorthodox fashion.'"
Pitchfork reports on a group of French schoolchildren known as the Young Rapture Choir, who so far perform Laura Veirs tunes exclusively. Their first record is available from Raven Marching Band records, and you can stream one of their performances on their MySpace page.
Time Out London covers antifolk under a recurring "Secret Scenes" feature: "There are countless similarities between our city and its transatlantic cousin, but the best thing London and New York have in common is that they are home to a legion of misfits and outsiders who manage to find each other in their city’s myriad music scenes. Antifolk is just one of these, and it’s been bubbling away across the pond and in our own backyard for the last few years."
The first post-Luna release from Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips, Words You Used to Say, features the title track original and four covers, including tunes by ex-Moldy Peach Adam Green and Donovan. It's due out October 17th.
Here's Luna doing a live cover of Donovan's "Season of the Witch" in Chicago, 2004, courtesy of Luna supersite Head Full of Wishes's a/v trove.
MP3: Luna - Season of the Witch
Sunday, October 01, 2006
The esteemed Hush Records has a new signee, Laura Gibson, who along with her Forestry (aka members of Norfolk and Western) have a record coming out on Hush November 28th.
First off, to get you interested, some connections. Laura's recording her new album with Adam Selzer of Norfolk & Western, as well as Dylan Magierek of Badman Recordings, who has recorded the likes of Mark Kozelek and the Innocence Mission. She recently performed on stage with M. Ward on a small east-coast jaunt.
Her MySpace sounds-like says "an old jazz singer, a wide-eyed kid". I'd say it's the sound of fall falling, of brutal summer yielding to lazy, dusky, blanketed fall. In other words, comfort music, in the best way. Gibson's warm nylon-stringed guitar is an ideal instrument for her songs, sidling the fence between sultry and gentle, and when the subtle strings and horns kick in, it's all you can do to keep from closing your eyes and drifting away. The trumpet in particular adds a rich, lonely tone not heard by these ears since early Belle & Sebastian.
Reference points here are Edith Frost and Rosie Thomas, but Gibson's got a sound all her own, the creative arrangements and a certain special catch in her voice making this really distinctive.
You can buy her debut EP here, and try to catch her on a few upcoming dates, including the Hush CMJ showcase at NYC's Living Room November 1.
MP3: Laura Gibson - Hands in Pocket