Thursday, November 30, 2006
If you miss the miss the woozy, lo-fi intimacy of 90s Cat Power and Smog, you couldn't do much better than this track. There are lyrics, but the androgynous vocals spill out with such honest feeling, and the production is so close-in claustrophobic, that any meaning drawn from the words are secondary, picked out after the sounds have long done their work on you, leaving you in something of a wistful stupor. It's takedown by phoneme.
You can pick up her debut album Black Unstaring Heirs of Doom here and see her December west-coast tour dates over here. She's also done a few music lists worth reading, for Pitchfork and Discollective. And you can listen to her interview at Indie Interviews and download an MP3 of the excellent "Restless" here.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Last week we covered Corrina Repp's DC show; she shared the bill with Norfolk & Western. On Wilmette Week's Local Cut, N&W love NY and share the tale they lived to tell about what playing and loading out of a DC9 show is like:
"Washington DC proved to be a less pleasant experience for all of us. DC is not the safest city in the world to begin with, and according to my sources, the club we played at was located in a particularly bad area. The guy running sound at the club was hands down the worst soundman any of us have ever worked with. He obviously didn’t give a flying fuck about making it sound good and actually alternated between seeming annoyed and laughing at us when we demanded unreasonable things like, oh, turning the microphones on, or turning down the bass. During Corrina’s set, Joe looked like he was either going to kill somebody or cry. After the show, as we were loading out our equipment, our van was surrounded by what I can only assume were six or seven gang members complete with bandanas and masks over their faces. They just stood there, staring at us shoving thousands of dollars worth of equipment into the van piece by piece. A couple of them even leaned up against the van, casually smoking cigarettes. Corrina got pissed off and said, “You guys want some of this shit?” to which one of them replied, “Fuck yeah, I want some of this shit. I’ve got thirty years, bitch.” They didn’t leave, even after all of the gear had been loaded into the van. I’ve never been so happy to leave a city in my life."
The icing on the cake? We got paid twelve dollars for the gig.
Huzzah! Greatest living songwriter Mark Eitzel has announced a bunch of tour dates. For those who haven't seen him solo, it's a special night, so no missing it for C.H.I.P.S. DVD marathons.
Mark and Vudi appear as McArthur Park Music Club
Dec 1- Los Angeles, CA - Spaceland
* seven new songs and a couple of old ones *
Mark Eitzel Solo Shows
Dec 18- Brighton UK- Sussex Arts Club 7 Ship Street
Dec 19- Winchester UK- The Railway 3 St Pauls Hill
Jan 18- New York NY - Tonic
Jan 19- Brooklyn NY - Union Hall
Jan 20- New York NY - Winter Garden The American Beauty Project - free show
Jan 21- New York NY - Winter Garden The American Beauty Project - free show
Jan 22- Boston MA - Middle East Upstairs
Jan 23- Northampton MA - Iron Horse
Jan 24- Philadelphia PA - Northstar Bar
Jan 25- Arlington VA - Iota
The Live Music Archive (part of the archive.org empire) is mostly a wasteland of jam bands, but there are a few Kimya Dawson shows available. Live, the "fun" vibe, with multiple, chipper, tuneless background singers, can diminish the power of her subversively moving, personal songs (particularly those from her first three albums), but "Singing Machine", a highlight from Hidden Vagenda, benefits from the drums and overall enthusiasm.
MP3: Kimya Dawson - Singing Machine
Monday, November 27, 2006
If you're ordering this, make sure to do so direct from Caldo Verde, which will enter you into a contest to win Mark's Takamine 12-string. Picture yourself strumming "Mistress" while making high-pitched dolphin wails just like Mark does. Multiple orders mean multiple entries, so those looking for gifts for saddo friends might want to double down.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
On a cold and quiet Monday night in DC, Corrina Repp opened the night for touring partners Norfolk & Western and local duo Georgie James' Laura Burhenn.
Repp has put out a couple of great lo-fi torch folk records for Hush Records, and is touring in support of her new one, The Absent and the Distant, on Mark Kozelek's Caldo Verde Records.
Repp and her bandmate played a nice 45-odd-minute set covering her catalog. Repp played most of the set with her guitar, shifting to the keyboard for a few tunes and the drums for one. There's a casual intensity to her songs, which are full of offhand, genuine emotional honesty - the kind of thing you can't really fake. I didn't make a note of the setlist, but the MySpace-downloadable "I'll Walk You Out" sounded even better live, the piano notes playing off the silences and Repp's everyday thoughts transforming into otherworldy unease.
Catch the rest of the tour dates on her MySpace.
MP3: Corrina Repp - I'll Walk You Out
MP3: Corrina Repp - Finally
MP3: Corrina Repp - Upstairs, Outside
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
I do have pictures of the talented Corrina Repp, appearing last night with Norfolk & Western, to be schlepped up on this site tomorrow.
Despite some disagreement in my household I remain convinced that George W. is a secret free-jazz saxophonist. This news and a full report on the Three Million Tongues Festival in Chicago featuring Bert Jansch, courtesy Kirstiecat.
Mark Eitzel and a bunch of other folks are participating in The American Beauty Project, paying tribute to the Grateful Dead's Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, in NY in January.
Pitchfork has the scoop on the new Dean Wareham/Britta Phillips album, due February 27th. They chat with Dean on post-Luna relations: "Wareham told us he still keeps up with his former Luna bandmates, although "I haven't seen [guitarist] Sean [Eden] in quite a long time, which is strange after seeing each other every week for, like, 12 years. And he only lives about a block away from me, too.""
Drag City has kindly posted a preview track from the upcoming Alasdair Roberts album, The Amber Gatherers.
MP3: Alasdair Roberts - The Old Men of the Shells
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Dave Fischoff - The Crawl (buy it)
Chicago librarian and creepy folk noisemaker Dave Fischoff returns after a five-year hiatus to spring more atmosphere, found sound and insidious melody on the willing. And just where are the cover folks crawling to? City life getting to you, Dave?
MP3: Dave Fischoff - Ghost of an Afternoon
Simon Joyner - Skeleton Blues (buy it)
AllMusic sez: early Dylan meets Television at a Velvet Underground show! If it's an eightieth as good as all that, the umpteenth Joyner record and the first that really rocks is worth picking up.
MP3: Simon Joyner - Medicine Blues
Mirah - Joyride (remixes) (buy it)
It's no J to Tha L-O!: The Remixes but we all gotta strive for something.
MP3: Mirah - The Light (Hooliganship Remix)
Tom Waits - Orphans (buy it)
Like a giant loogie aimed straight for your heart.
MP3: Tom Waits - Bottom of the World
What are you picking up this week?
Sunday, November 19, 2006
One of the most beguiling and unique songwriters around has quietly released his fifth album, Radical. It comes about a year since his last set of songs, the brilliant Routine, a tears-of-a-clown conceptual song cycle mixing autobiography, semi-ironic cultural critique and deeply satisfying melancholic songwriting.
The true genius of Mr. Lennon is his total command of ambiguity- he means everything and nothing, whether mourning John Ritter's death or mocking Saturday Night Live, Lennon's emotional head-fakes keep you guessing. On Radical, the concept is a bit looser than usual but touches on our perceptions of fame and success. The opener, "Secret Band", concerns the issue of underground bands being more easily accessible in the internet age, and the effect on their mystique ("this information is hard to get/it's not even on the internet/and the thing the amp does/is the closest that they ever get to buzz/music not on demand/don't spread the word, it's a secret band").
And the closer, "Song for Caveh Zahedi", documents the underground director's lack of expected success and laments a vicious review by Newsday's Jay Carr of Zahedi's semi-autobiographical film, I Am a Sex Addict, in which Zahedi plays the title character with a jones for prostitutes. This has more than one effect; the genuinely mournful, reflective tune shows Lennon's sympathy and empathy for Zahedi, both as a metaphor for his own life and success and for his creative role as a songwriter who barely conceals his life behind conceits.
A few of the songs in between concern the identity of the American college student; "Young People Need Guidance" is my current favorite. Lennon alternates between the dismissal of typically recommended life experience ("We don't need to go abroad our spring semester/and we don't need to trek through Europe one summer/we don't need those things") and affecting asides ("It's one thing to be young/it feels good to be young this time of year") that hit deeper for being in the middle of the list-making exercise, for shifting tone and point of view. That the ringing chord changes and soaring, multi-tracked chorus vocals score high on the nostalgia-pop meter makes it all the more improbably great.
Buy Radical here.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
We are excited to have Laura Gibson as the first contributor. Laura's new record If You Come to Greet Me is out this week on Hush Records. The songs on If You Come to Greet Me succeed on the strength of her intimate, genuine vocals, careful pacing and wide-open arrangements that make the most of every note. It's one of our favorite records of the year and perfect for the colder weather. Here, Laura talks about the music she listened to while making the record.
I began writing the songs for If You Come to Greet Me during a monthlong stay in my little hometown, helping out, and spending time with my family (Coquille, Oregon). Living in Portland, I am exposed to really good and creative new music all the time. It's wonderful but can be overwhelming. So I left all of my music in my Portland apartment and limited my music intake to what I could find at the Coquille Library. Mostly, I would listen to these old music anthologies. I found these really great folk and Delta blues anthologies, and listened to Skip James, Mississippi John Hurt and Elizabeth Cotton. These are some of my all-time favorites. I really love their stories and have learned a lot listening to their guitar playing.
During that month in Coquille, I spent a lot of time reading through these old letters that my grandparents wrote back and forth during the 30's and 40's, while my grandfather was out at sea. When I read those letters, and picture them writing, I imagine swinging jazz and dreamy waltzes in the background. I found a good soundtrack for my letter reading (again at the Coquille Library) through Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. I have no idea whether my grandparents would have listened to this music, but it seemed right. The song "Nightwatch" on my album was originally inspired while reading these letters and picturing my grandparents, imagining what kind of song might have played in the background; I like that phantom nostalgia I feel when I am listening to music from other eras. Most of my songs were probably birthed in some sort of feeling of nostalgia.
MP3: The Innocence Mission - Tomorrow on the Runway
MP3: The Innocence Mission - Where Does the Time Go?
Norfolk and Western - Dusk in Cold Parlours
A friend loaned me this album, and I loved it so much and remember listening to it over and over while lying in bed. At the time, had no idea that these would be the people with whom I would record If You Come to Greet Me. Adam and Rachel's sense of orchestration and instrumentation just kills me. Listening to their music opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me of what I might want a record to sound like. I fell in love with the trumpet and the vibraphone. I am also really captivated by Adam's songs. I think I am probably a visual person; there is always a little silent film running through my head when I am writing or listening to songs. It seems like his songs always pay attention to the atmosphere and surroundings where the song is taking place, and I find there's always a picture, a character or scene in my head when I listen to Norfolk and Western (a city bus, a dusty saloon, a foreign town).
MP3: Norfolk and Western - Impossible
M Ward, especially Transfiguration of Vincent (that album as a whole). I love the otherworldly quality of his voice, and he has inspired me to become a better guitar player. M Ward is one of my biggest influences.
Stream: Three songs from Transfiguration of Vincent
Dolorean (another Portland band): the song "The Light Behind My Head" from Not Exotic is probably my favorite of his songs.
As for Laura's music, you can download "Hands in Pocket" and stream "Nightwatch" and "Wintering" on her MySpace.
Monday, November 13, 2006
The cover's a good hint. Continuing in a long tradition of exporting Portland's finest, Hush brings us Laura Gibson's spare, honest folk songs custom-made for late fall/early winter daydreams. Backed by an all-star Norfolk & Western cast, Gibson has made an album no iff reader should miss.
MP3: Laura Gibson - Hands in Pocket
Joanna Newsom - Ys (buy it)
What to say? Being old-school I haven't heard it yet but I'm sure the woman who turned Bill away from Smog has something powerful up her frock. The link above is for the CD, but why not go for the 2LP gatefold vinyl? Lugging around a harp can't be too much fun, so go see her on the tour, too.
Various Artists - Do It Again : A Tribute to Pet Sounds
The Oldham Brothers doing "Wouldn't It Be Nice". Micah P. Hinson with "I'm Waiting for the Day". Daniel Johnston's take on "God Only Knows". The most annoying web site ever. It's Pet Sounds from Brian's sandbox years. My money's on Bonnie Billy making this worth it.
The Chicago Tribune talks to Bert Jansch and Vashti Bunyan about the "new folk movement": "None of the labels applied to this music -- `freak folk,' `new weird Americana' -- make sense to me," Bunyan says. "The only link between us is individualism. I don't mind being lumped in with them, but I think it's the wrong way around. These people opened up an area of music that my music could finally fit into. They made my music visible."
WMBR college radio has a show, Phoning It In, where your favorite indie rock layabouts call and perform - live! Mac from Portastatic, Scout Niblett, The Wrens, Jens Lekman, Simon Joyner, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, even Graham Smith from Kleenex Girl Wonder. It's a lo-fi Daytrotter Ma Bell can love. They've also got a blog featuring all the performances in MP3, although you'll need to download the streams, then open them in text editors for the actual MP3 file link... someone's a little possessive of bandwith.
Speaking of Graham Smith, his new band, Graham Smith & Herbs, has a Monday residency this month at NYC's Pianos, including a show tonight. His last solo album, Final Battle, combines his amazing hook-making ability with endless streams of charming, knowingly neurotic lyrics.
MP3: Graham Smith - HDTV
Friday, November 10, 2006
Favorite Jennifer O'Connor recently contributed a blurb to a Bizarre Concert Experiences post at Marathonpacks, and lo and behold her taste is excellent: "Let me preface by saying I am a huge huge huge Mark Eitzel/AMC fan. A couple of years ago at SXSW AMC gave a most unusual, amazing performance...Mark was in very rare form: he kept talking about Viagra and there was lots of rolling around on the floor. He got out into the crowd a couple of times. He seemed very upset---and the show was indeed out of control---but it was truly amazing and completely riveting." My two favorite Eitzel experiences:
1) Mark crawling into the crowd on his hands and knees and headbutting me and others while singing "Help Me Make It Through the Night" on the Courage and Confidence tour. This was, I think, pretty enjoyable for both of us.
2) Mark playing the "If I Had a Gun", one of the most harrowing songs in his already harrowing ouvre, at the Magic Stick on the Caught in a Trap tour. There are pool tables to the side of the stage and you could hear the crack of the balls hitting loudly during this song. He adapts, singing "If I had a gun/I know what I would do/I would shoot some pool". (Cue laughter...) This is why Mark Eitzel is the greatest living songwriter. He can both sell a murder/suicide ballad and make light of it at the same time.
Speaking of great living songwriters, Pitchfork reports that Jen has a new eMusic-exclusive EP, Another Side of Jennifer O'Connor, with a cover of "To Ramona" and three previously unreleased tracks. I'm no fan of online-music-store-only releases - my old muddled mind can't help but want to pluck a disc with that cover off an actual shelf - but if you're gonna do it, eMusic is the way to go as the store is DRM free. No such luck for Decemberists fans - their new EP is only available in Sony Connect Rootkit Special Recipe.
The Village Voice gives a thumbs up to Gob Iron's Death Songs for the Living, the Jay Farrar/Anders Parker proto-folk collaboration that has completely snuck up on me. It's got Stephen Foster's "Hard Times"! They're even on tour now.
Election eve I posted For Stars' brilliant song of longing, "If I Could". For the afterglow, here's a solo live version of Clem Snide's "I Love the Unknown" (appropriately recast as "I Love The Onion"). Uh...Dems with power? What?
Monday, November 06, 2006
Karen Dalton - In My Own Time (buy it)
Beloved by most any songwriter from the 70s and plenty since, this reissue of Dalton's solo album from 1971. Her vocals are a bit of an acquired taste, but oh the grit! Light in the Attic is pimping out the money quote: "My favorite singer in the place was Karen Dalton. Karen had a voice like Billie Holiday's and played the guitar like Jimmy Reed." - Bob Dylan
MP3: Karen Dalton - Katie Cruel
Linda Draper - Traces Of EP (buy it)
Draper's new EP features the haunting (really!) title track previously spotlighted on iff, along with a Phil Ochs and Harry Nilsson covers and an alternate version of Draper's "Big Blue Sky". Draper is a rising star in the iff jukebox, a clear-voiced wonder who pairs her vocal beauty with touches of all-too-genuine sadness, resignation and resolve.
MP3: Linda Draper - The Priest Who Colored Like Elvis (live)
MP3: Linda Draper - Colorblind (live)
Sunday, November 05, 2006
I'll be catching Bill Clinton at a big GOTV rally today, an event that reminds me of the one and only "Texas Songbird" Larry Shannon Hargrove's classic pleading, "Leave Bill Clinton Alone". While I don't have the track to offer, you can stream this tune on its Amazon page, along with a heartfelt cover of "Wing Beneath My Wings".
Finally, a track of inspiration for all iff readers who are offering time, money or general sympathies to the Democratic cause. Election soundtrack, iff style!
What has happened to Carlos Forster? The helium-voiced leader of SF's For Stars has seemingly dropped off the Googlable Earth, but back in 2001 his band put out We Are All Beautiful People, the third For Stars release, which ended with this absolutely classic anthem of bedroom-power-pop exuberance. While early For Stars highlights were inevitably spare acoustic laments, soaring on Forster's plaintive, transporting voice alone, this tune is a wonder of miniature bombast, a shout-along burst of hope for humanity amid barely-concealed skepticism. It begins with the album title phrase "we are all beautiful people" and ends in the heartbreakingly sincere "I'll make you see/the good in me". Get out the vote!
Saturday, November 04, 2006
Russian site Punk-Disco-Rock has a complete Nikki Sudden live show from Christmas day 2003 in Moscow. The show was originally released as a free CD in a Russian music magazine in 2004.
Earlier this week we talked up XTCer Andy Patridge's massive Fuzzy Warbles box set. Lucky for you Largehearted Boy is giving away a free copy; deadline to enter is midnight EST on Monday.
Kirstiecat serves up more beautiful pictures from her charmed concert life, this time from Xiu Xiu's Chicago appearance, complete with set list.
Bradley's Almanac has Cat Power's Boston set. Apparently "Say" from Moon Pix accounts for the '90s portion of the set these days (says cranky old fan). Good set, though, including a Will Oldham cover.
Coming this week: election playlist, reviews of the new Laura Gibson & Super XX Man records, much more.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Amy and crew will be in DC tonight at the new place to be, The Red & the Black, along with "French gypsy/prog/psychfolk/punk duo" Vialka and acoustic guitar heroes Sean Smith and Matt Baldwin. See future tour dates here. She took some time to talk with iff about her music and life on the road.
iff: "Blessed Speed", from Songs for Creeps, is something of a road ode. The whole album gives me a feeling of dislocation and drifting. Do you do a lot of writing on tour?
Amy Annelle: I do a lot of writing on the road, but more when I am wandering or rambling than I do when I am actually on tour playing music every night. I've spent more time on the road than I bargained for, and yes, its lurid and lucid hand has shaped my life and songwriting.
iff: What's the strangest place you've ever played?
AA: The strangest place I play is in my dreams, and it happens pretty often.
iff: You've been recording a lot of covers lately, including songs by older folkies like Bert Jansch and Michael Hurley. I love how you're calling attention to great, underappreciated singer-songwriters. How do you pick which songs to cover? Can we expect to hear some covers at your shows?
AA: I cover songs that I can't get away from. Once they get inside me like that, it's a just a matter of letting them back out again, through my voice and hands. I haven't been playing covers on this tour though the songs on the covers album (FAWNS WITH FANGS: Selections From the Dark Heart of the Thicket) were all part of a live set at one time or another. The last new cover we played live was a Kinks song, "Complicated Life"off Muswell Hillbillies. I love Ray Davies' songs, I want to play "Here Come the People In Grey'" or "Too Much on My Mind" next. I usually only play one or two cover songs at a show, if any.
iff: You sometimes write about exploring places off the beaten path. When The Places arrive in a city and have a few hours to kill before load in, what's the agenda?
Amy Annelle: Usually we get to town in time to load in right before the show. It's the next day that you might have some time to hang around, drink coffee, walk, fix gear, eat something, go to the thrift store. There's honestly not a lot of time for exploring on tour. When I'm rambling, I like to look at maps and find areas that have a lot of blank space, towns printed in small fonts, or just start walking towards something that looks interesting. Old or ignored. Broken. Scrap yards, abandoned drive-ins, game trails, abandoned homesteads.
iff: Recently, Mark Eitzel, Will Johnson, Vic Chesnutt and Dave Bazan toured as the Undertow Orchestra, performing each other's songs. Would you be into such a tour, and if so, who would you love to play with?
AA: I can't name names, but yes I would like to do something like this and sort of have something in the works.
iff: When can we expect to hear the next Amy Annelle solo album? What are your plans after the tour?
AA: I use The Places handle for my songwriting. Other projects will have different names. After this tour I maybe am recording out west. I have a whole album worth of songs ready to go. I have no fucking idea what I am doing after this tour. I am worried about it right this minute.
Visit The Places online and check out a trove of tracks here.
MP3: The Places - Don't Sing Love Songs