Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Morning Shorts: The Places Go West

Amy Annelle and her Places have a bunch of West coast tour dates in March, including one on the Oregon coast with psych-folk godfather Michael Hurley, plus one Brooklyn show with Castanets. She's playing several cities we've heard of and several we haven't. Regardless of which type you live in, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better way to spend an evening.

Noel Murray of the vaunted Onion A/V Club pretty well captured the wonder of the last Places album: "An angelic voice and an interest in dark, grainy visions of the American Nightmare…the Places' new Songs For Creeps runs through sprawling songs that nod at Will Oldham, Johnny Cash and Fairport Convention...Annelle captures the ominous, awesome feeling of storms rolling across the plains, with the sun periodically breaking through".

March 19th - Pioneertown, CA, Pappy & Harriets (with Bingo Dream Band)
March 20th - San Diego, CA, Kava Lounge (with Bunky, Roxy Jones)
March 21st - Lompoc, CA, Sugar Magnolias (with Le Petit Protest)
March 22nd - San Francisco, CA, Rickshaw Stop
March 23rd - Live on KDVS: Michael Leahy's Cool as Folk Program (12 pm)
Davis, CA, Delta of Venus (with 'Oogie) (9 pm)
March 24th - Portland, OR, Towne Lounge (with Zak Riles, Pseudosix)
March, 25th - Astoria, OR, Voodoo Lounge (with Michael Hurley)
March 29th - Brooklyn, NY @ Lutheran Church of the Messiah (with Castanets)

We interviewed Amy Annelle last fall, and you can read it here.

MP3: The Places - Just a Bum (Michael Hurley)
MP3: The Places - Half Right (Elliott Smith)
MP3: The Places - It's All Over Now, Baby Blue (Bob Dylan)

Pitchfork talks to Lou Barlow on the eve of the Sebadoh reunion tour.

"I always hear bands that sound like Pavement and Sonic Youth to me, but never Sebadoh. Whenever someone says like, "Oh, it really sounds like Sebadoh," I listen to it and I'm like, "No. What are you talking about?! It doesn't sound like Sebadoh." Like people were saying that guy from Snow Patrol sounded a lot like me. I'd actually met him a few years ago, and his friends practically pushed him on me, like, "HE SOUNDS JUST LIKE YOU!" And I'm like, "Uhh..."
Kirstiecat has some nice pictures and a set list from the Chicago Sparklehorse show. His set skews older (think Vivadixiesubmarinepilot and Good Morning Spider classics) so maybe he didn't like Dreamt much either.

Paste Magazine has the first review of the Innocence Mission's We Walked in Song, and awards 4 stars.

Eight days ago I mentioned a few reissues of semi-legendary Aussie band The Triffids. The back-to-basics one, that was recorded in a sheep-shearing shed, is In the Pines, and features future Bad Seeds and Grinderman bassist Martyn Casey. The sound is grounded in the doomier side of 80s alt, with a vocalist Nick Cave and Smoke fans will appreciate. "Kathy Knows" from In the Pines is the AmpCamp song of the day.

MP3: The Triffids - Kathy Knows

Monday, February 26, 2007

New Release Tuesday - Dean & Britta

The only new release that caught my eye this week was Dean & Britta's Back Numbers (buy it). Based on the first track, "Words You Used to Say", this won't be a big departure from their recent work, great mellow tunes and sweet vocal harmonies, plus some choice covers of Lee Hazelwood and the Troggs. And their previous release, the Words You Used to Say EP is worth getting for the incredible cover of Donovan's "Colours" alone - what was delightfully dippy is something else entirely in D&B's hands.

They'll be hitting the road in support of the album starting March 8th. And if you can't get enough Luna, add the tour documentary Tell Me Do You Miss Me to the Netflix queue.

IFF Contest #3: Tower Salvage

In the waning days and hours of Tower Records, the prices dropped so low that you felt a certain sadness for any artist whose discs were still left on the racks. Amid what seemed like thousands of Stadium Arcadium deluxe edition cubes and Captain & Tenille DVD gift sets were some fine discs already in the iff collection that we just couldn't bear to see homeless.

The iff Tower Salvage Package includes:

David Dondero - South of the South

Damien Jurado - Rehersals for Departure

Jeffrey & Jack Lewis - City & Eastern Songs

The Legends - Public Radio (2-disc edition)

The Robot Ate Me - On Vacation

Still sealed with a collectible Tower price tag, these discs can all be yours simply by sending an email to with "iff contest" in the title. We'll pick the winner on Monday, March 5th.

MP3: The Robot Ate Me - On Vacation
MP3: The Legends - He Knows the Sun
MP3: The Legends - Hide Away

Friday, February 23, 2007

Innocence Mission announce new tour dates

Badman has uncerimoniously snuck up the first two tour dates for the Innocence Mission to promote the new album We Walked In Song (out March 13th, but available from Badman now). Here's hoping for a bigger tour; Karen Peris' vocals and husband Don's guitar make for a transporting live show (and you might get lucky and hear them cover "Follow Me" or "Homeward Bound").

April 15 - Brooklyn, Southpaw
April 21 - Philly, World Cafe Live

Morning Shorts: Kimya Dawson barnstorms colleges

Daytrotter reviews Castiotone for the Painfully Alone's live act (he's covering "Streets of Philadelphia" with apparent sincerity) and posts a new session from Elvis Perkins.

The Boston Phoenix interviews Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse, who humbly recalls worrying no one would come to the shows this time around. Oh the redemption. I still need to give Dreamt for Light Years another shot (I gave it two when it came out, then indifferently shelved it), but there's always "Junebug".

Pitchfork has put up a song from Low's upcoming album Drums and Guns, "Breaker". Low was always one of those bands I liked, but didn't feel the need to own more than a few albums by. I was taken in more by the mood than the individual songs. This one takes a while to get going, then runs the percussion through one stereo channel and the vocals and keys through the other, mostly. This is OK, but doesn't really sway my opinion.

Aquarium Drunkard posts a Beth Orton/M. Ward live set from 2004.

You can't get enough Fionn Regan... Quiet Paws has an interview, The Independent gives his live show five stars, and he's added a second LA show, with Lisa Germano, March 13th at Largo.

Kimya Dawson is interviewed by The Ithican, and has some east coast tour dates, starting tonight.

2/23 Syracuse University w/ Diane Cluck
2/24 Alfred University w/ Diane Cluck, Gr. Glacier & Obvious Dolphin
2/25 ABC Cafe, Ithaca, NY, w/ Dufus, Angelo Spencer, Gr. Glacier & Obvious Dolphin
2/26 The Rugroom, New Paltz, NY w/Angelo Spencer, Gr. Glacier & Obvious Dolphin
2/27 Mountain View Manor, Hamden, CT w/James Downes, Angelo Spencer, Gr. Glacier & Obvious Dolphin
2/28 Europa Club, Brooklyn, NY w/ Bloody Social, The Sad Little Stars, Angelo Spencer, Gr. Glacier & Obvious Dolphin
3/1 Sarah Lawrence College w/Angelo Spencer, Gr. Glacier & Obvious Dolphin
3/3 Philadelphia, PA w/ Matty Pop Chart, Erin Tobey, Angelo Spencer, Gr. Glacier & Obvious Dolphin

I think this is a new song, and it's been showing up in her live sets. This is from a Seattle show at the Sunset Tavern last March.

MP3: Kimya Dawson - The Sound of Ataris (live)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

RIP Sodastream

Via Skatterbrain, the sad news that Australian band Sodastream is calling it a day after 10 years. The duo of Karl Smith and Pete Cohen built up an impressive catalog of songs that are mostly elegaic in the best way - full of nostalgia and sorrow but never mawkish or sentimental. The most obvious distinguishing feature of the band was always Cohen's double bass, and the sound it of anchoring sweet, resigned melodies sung by Smith is truly distintive. It's dignified moping of the highest order.

They made it to America once, in 2004, and even stopped by the local micro-venue Galaxy Hut, but I was out of town for some reason or another and missed what turned out to be my only chance.

I've gotta agree with Matt that their finest moment was "Fitzroy Strongman", from their 1999 debut LP Looks Like a Russian: "cause there’s no higher ground/there’s too much trouble here/i wish these days would leave this town/and I have brittle bones/i wear my shallow grin/and spread my wickedness around."

Also classic is "Devil On My Shoulder" from follow-up The Hill for Company, even though the Washington City Paper nearly ruined it for me by comparing it to an Ozzy Osbourne ballad.

MP3: Sodastream - Fitzroy Strongman
MP3: Sodastream - Devil on My Shoulder

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Morning Shorts - New Laura Veirs

Laura Veirs is streaming a new song, "Pink Light", on her MySpace. It's on Saltbreakers, out April 10th on Nonesuch. No mp3 from the new one, but Laura does have some older stuff on her site for download, including the mournful "Song My Friends Taught Me" from 2003's Troubled by Fire.

MP3: Laura Veirs - Song My Friends Taught Me

The Zincs have a new album, Black Pompadour, coming out on Thrill Jockey March 20th. Their sound is a bit The National meets Jens Lekman, with some 80s alt-Brit overtones. The lead track, "Head East, Kaspar", is pretty good, but I can't help but think the production is holding things back. Better is "Beautiful Lawyers", from their last album Dimmer.

MP3: The Zincs - Head East, Kaspar
MP3: The Zincs - Beautiful Lawyers

Via resourceful superfan Lament at Sad Reminders, there's a great Mark Kozelek interview in Folly magazine. He talks about his improving relationship with his dad, his non-acting acting career, and life on the road.

KC: How important to you is performing music for a live audience?

MK: Important, but less as I’m getting older. It’s a struggle for me, the travel part, and adjusting to younger crowds. Chatty kids with cell phones, text messaging, in a hurry to rush home to their computers. Fans seem impatient, not as invested in listening for long periods of time anymore. It’s a challenge. Now and then, I get it right and the audience is great. But a lot of times there’s anxiousness.
It may be just a few people, but it kills the vibe. I’m trying to be more selective about venues and cities in the future. But it’s tough. As an example, I love Florida – the south, the beach, the air, the food - but most of the venues there are terrible and audiences are rude without realizing it. Getting drunk and talking with your friends through the entire length of a show is standard. From my end, that’s a tough situation. But now and then, the sound, the venue, the audience, it all comes together. I just have to be more selective about where I go.

Pitchfork reports on an upcoming Elliott Smith double-disc rarities set, culled from the Elliott Smith-Either/Or period. It's out on Kill Rock Stars May 8th.

Bradley's Almanac has Jennifer O'Connor's set from last October in Boston. It's full-band and highly recommended.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

New Release Tuesday: Nico Comes Alive

David Karsten Daniels - Sharp Teeth (Fat Cat) (buy it)

Hugh at Unfinished turned me on to DKD a while ago. He's got the back-porch vocal curl of early Will Oldham, but with a bit more production and forays into more straightforward indie rock.

Stream some DKD at MySpace

Dolorean - You Can't Win (Yep Rock) (buy it)

Stream the whole album here. A favorite of Laura Gibson's, I've yet to give Dolorean a full hearing but might pick this up.

MP3: Dolorean - Heather Remind Me How This Ends
MP3:Dolorean - Beachcomber Blues

Nico - All Tomorrow's Parties (2-CD live) (Cherry Red) (buy it)

A double-disc import of two full Nico shows from the early 80s, it's a steal at $13. Wes Anderson fans will miss both "These Days" and "Fairest of the Seasons", but VU devotees get two versions each of "Femme Fatale" and "All Tomorrow's Parties". Also included is her epically morose cover of "The End".

Elvis Perkins - Ash Wednesday (XL Recordings) (buy it)

All Music sez: "Son of actor Anthony Perkins, who died of AIDS-related pneumonia in 1992, and photographer Berry Berenson, who was killed in the September 11 attacks, Elvis Perkins has plenty of material about which to write, and plenty, if he wanted, to make his debut, Ash Wednesday, a bleak affair. But while the album is certainly not uplifting, filling its 11 songs with their fair share of heartache and loneliness, Perkins avoids reveling in depression and instead follows the route that other singer/songwriters like Leonard Cohen, Nick Drake, and Bob Dylan have put down before him, telling detail-driven stories of people and life ("...your cameras caught me crying as I left your gates/...your maintenance men, they caught our last embrace") rather than painful confessions."

MP3: Elvis Perkins - While You Were Sleeping

Saturday Looks Good to Me - Money in the Afterlife 7" (Ernest Jennings) (buy it)
A 1000-copy limited 45 with two songs from the upcoming SLGTM full-lenth due in the fall. These tracks are not from this 7", but will give you an idea of the wonder that is SLGTM.

MP3: Saturday Looks Good to Me - Lift Me Up
MP3: Saturday Looks Good to Me - Underwater Heartbeat

Richard Swift - Dressed Up for the Letdown (Secretly Canadian) (buy it)

I'll definitely be picking this up tomorrow. Lead track "Kisses for the Misses" is one of my favorites of 2007 so far. Check out the video.

M Ward - To Go Home EP (Merge) (buy it)

I found a copy of this in the racks last week; the Jimmie Dale Gilmore cover is excellent, and all three new tracks are worth your time.

Also out: a few bonus-track-laden Triffids reissues on Domino - one of which was produced in a remote sheep-shearing shed in Australia. And a comp of Jackie DeShannon? Is this someone I should investigate?

Monday, February 19, 2007

A new record from Novi Split

I've been digging the new Novi Split record Pink in the Sink, out March 13th on Hush. Novi Split is David J, who was half of Kind of Like Spitting on the Learn and The Thrill of the Hunt records. He's got a very disarming, affable personality that comes through in his songs. That's especially apparent in opening track "You Got Served", which was sung by Ben Barnett on Hunt. Barnett's got a prickly way of approaching a song, but it takes on new dimensions of empathy here.

David's also got a smart list of influences (Phil Ochs, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Woody Guthrie, Marvin Gaye, Prince, Billy Bragg, David Berman, among others) and seems to think Robyn Hitchcock and John Prine love is something to be guilty about...maybe we can lasso an Uncommon Folk out of him and get to the bottom of this riddle.

There's also a cover of Beyonce's "Crazy in Love" I'd put up against Clem Snide's "Beautiful" any day.

MP3: Novi Split - Crazy in Love (Beyonce cover)

also see:
Novi Split at Hush
Novi Split page (with more downloads)
Cloak and Dagger Feature (with downloads of Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Material Issue and Robyn Hitchcock covers)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Bright Eyes, M. Ward duet on "Smoke Without Fire"

Amp Camp has posted up a track from the upcoming Bright Eyes EP Four Winds, "Smoke Without Fire", after Pitchfork put up "Tourist Trap" the other week. I gave "Tourist Trap" a couple listens and found it perfunctory, dull, lacking the fire of old. Then I read Fluxblog's take on the song, which amounted to a deluxe backhand compliment on how Oberst is finally listenable now that he's "mature" (he even cops "Horse With No Name", you see, and you could do worse - bravo!). What I find dull, Fluxblog sees as a long overdue evolution beyond his entire oeuvre til then, in which Oberst's voice invariably amounts to "a deeply unappealing whine which makes him come off like an entitled, petulant teenage boy telling his dad to get out of his room when he's angry, or like a kid about to eat some worms when he's sad."

Say what you will about "A Perfect Sonnet" or "The Calendar Hung Itself" being myopic, immature whinging of the highest order (sure, maybe), but they had hooks, drive, feeling. Can Conor Oberst make the transition to an "adult" rocker, or is it a futile?

The latest piece of inconclusive evidence is "Smoke Without Fire", a traditional Oberst narrative about someone who cries wolf, and baby, it's not working for you. Maybe he's singing in the second person about himself. It's an OK tune, produced to sound like it's being performed around a smoky campfire, but when M. Ward comes in and sings a few verses, the song's transformed. For better or worse probably depends on your feelings for the two vocalists. But it sure seems like Ward steals the show.

MP3: Bright Eyes (w/ M. Ward) - Smoke Without Fire

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Morning Shorts

The new Innocence Mission album We Walked In Song isn't in stores til March 13th, but you can get your copy direct from Badman now, and pre-order the vinyl, which will contain a bonus track. If you order both, you get a copy of the Lakes of Canada EP free.

Pitchfork posted some sparse info on Iron & Wine's upcoming album. It's called The Shepherd's Dog and will be out on Sup Pop in the fall.

Fionn Regan has added an LA show, March 12th at Spaceland with Low vs. Diamond and Berko. I posted a link to his video for "Be Good or Be Gone" a while ago, but there's a copy up on YouTube now that's much easier to view.

The New York Times has a really fine article profiling 67-year-old Judy Collins, who last night made her cabaret debut at the Carlyle, and will be there through March 3rd. She's working on an autobiographical one-woman show, will be given the tribute treatment on an upcoming album to feature Leonard Cohen, Chrissie Hynde and Dolly Parton.

Back in 2004, Tract Records issued a 2-disc Will Oldham tribute, limited to 500 copies. It's since been consolidated to one disc and reissued, along with a new track not on the original, Mark Kozelek's cover of "New Partner". It's highly recommended, and not just because I'm a sucker for tributes - it's also got fine contributions from Iron & Wine and Scout Niblett, among others. One of the songs that didn't make the cut onto the one-disc version is Diana Darby's quiet take on "Valentine's Day".

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

New Release Tuesday

This week's pick:

Papercuts - Can't Go Back (buy it)

An early contender for song of the year is Can't Go Back opener "Dear Employee" (sample); it lifts me up and away every single time. Hazy, up-tempo chamber pop sets the mood of slumming grandeur; Jason Quever's soaring Mac McCaughan-like vocals wail the refrain "I don't need you" with different inflections each time, recalling "Chelsea Hotel" and "I Am the Cosmos" in its epic, ironic ambivalence. Put it on the Valentine's mix tape you won't give to your unrequited crush.

Nothing else quite knocks me out, but lead track "John Brown" is a fine pop song in its own right, "Take the 227th Exit" sounds like long-lost mid-period Kinks, and the record is chock-full of dreamy ballads you'll feel OK drifting uneasily to sleep to. Their tour with Grizzly Bear starts 2/16 in Seattle and crosses the country.

MP3: Papercuts - John Brown

Also out:

Lucinda Williams - West (buy it)

Plenty of reviews are already in on this long-awaited disc, and they run the gamut from pick to pan. Entertainment Weekly loves it, giving it an A; Pop Matters is a lot less enthusiastic, describing the recording process: "she decided to change her ways and instead took her original 2005 demos for West to New York producer Hal Willner, in search of something “mature yet hip". Somebody should probably tell Lucinda that mature is rarely hip." You can stream it here.

Essie Jain - We Made This Ourselves (buy it)

Essie Jain has a rich, pure voice and sings in a classic folk style, often double-tracking the vocals. The songs are slow and deliberate, if maybe a bit too soothing. From Ba Da Bing!, the folks who brought you Beirut.

MP3: Essie Jain - Glory
MP3: Essie Jain - Haze

Monday, February 12, 2007

Uncommon Folk: Don Lennon

Uncommon Folk is a feature in which artists we admire talk about the music and other media that inspired and influenced their own work. Don Lennon's fifth album, Radical, continues in the Lennon tradition of smart, inscrutable lyrics on topics both personal and universal, set to endlessly catchy melting-pot pop arrangements. Radical finds Lennon exploring body image, college students, filmmaker Caveh Zahedi, and the state of indie music in 2006.

Radical, like all of my albums, was written sporadically, over many years and influenced by my own experiences, conversations with friends, books, television, music, food, etc. Things creep in without you realizing it. And one thing that crept in is Bongwater. Someone broke into my car once and the only thing stolen was the Bongwater box set. I was really upset. I hadn’t liked music in a while, and this box set was the first thing to inspire me in years. So I bought it again. I might be the only person in the world who bought the Bongwater box set twice. “Folk Song” is their “Stairway to Heaven.” It shows how much you can do with a song. And it really captures something about the East Village. Like most of their songs, it’s very funny, but there’s a huge amount of cultural criticism in there that’s very serious.

Now, I didn’t realize it at the time I was making it, but a lot of the songs on Radical are loosely related to the topic of school. (I’m glad I didn’t realize it. I would have said, “You can’t have this many songs about school on one album.”) There was a Harvard guy in the 50s named Tom Lehrer who wrote some great funny songs. A lot of them revolve around school. “Bright College Days” is one of my favorites. He liked to portray himself as kind of a dufus, but there’s a lot of truth in a line like: “To the tables down at Mory’s (wherever that may be).” He had the good sense to stop writing songs when it started to bore him and went on to teach math. I can hear him in some of these songs.

By far the most obvious presence on the album is filmmaker Caveh Zahedi. His movies tend to be hyper-autobiographical and usually involve his working through a real life crisis. When I first saw his movie A Little Stiff, I was amazed. At one point I fell out of my chair and just lay on the floor for a while. It seemed like he had figured out a way to put reality onto the screen. As far as I know, his short The World is a Classroom is the best movie ever made about September eleventh. There are little bits of Caveh throughout the album (lyrics about very Zahedian things—teaching, God, sex, masturbation—too many to be a coincidence). So I thought it was fitting to choose a song I wrote about him years ago, “Song for Caveh Zahedi,” to close the album. He says his next movie will be called “How to Legally Overthrow the US Government.” Am I the only one who’s curious about this?


We've raved about Lennon's albums Radical and Routine before.

You can buy them here.

MP3: Don Lennon - Young People Need Guidance
MP3: Don Lennon - Song for Caveh Zahedi

Hear more at his MySpace.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Antifolk Festival tonight in Durham, NC: "Eat Our Ass, Newport!"

Antifolk: a term so loosely defined, it could be the new emo if only it were easier to mock. That said, practitioners of the art kick it tonight at the Antifolk Southeast Winter Extravaganza at the Duke Coffeehouse in Durham, NC. "Eat our ass, Newport!" is the defiant yawp of their MySpace page.

Since you probably don't live in the greater Triangle area, here's a rundown of the artists, so you can create your own little festival of the mind.

Charles Latham
"A beer make shit feel good," sings Latham, "like if you want you could kick anybody's ass". It's just twee enough, with female backing vocals that start off too soon, to kind of pull it off. That's from "Hard On" ("it doesn't mean you're in love"). What's more, he's the self-proclaimed "heir to the KY Jelly fortune".

Listen at his MySpace

Midtown Dickens
Maybe it's just me, but these guys have a real undercurrent of all-out delirium just beneath their very straightforward lyrics and pleasantly mellow indie-pop. And I like it. Especially "Eggs and Toast".

Listen at their MySpace

The Wigg Report
These folks have sort of a summery new-wave vibe, with generously applied vintage synth sounds.

MP3: The Wigg Report - Sun is Out

Billy Sugarfix
Billy's behind, where you can pay to have a song written and recorded just for your needs. The cheapest option is the Ten Dollar Birthday Song (send in a name, he'll sing it to this song!). He'll also write a theme song for your radio show, blog or podcast (see "It's Todd" or "No Love for Ned", which is especially catchy). In fact, he'll write a song about anything at all.

MP3: Billy Sugarfix - Ten Dollar Birthday Song
MP3: Billy Sugarfix - It's Todd
MP3: Billy Sugarfix - No Love for Ned

Also appearing: The Future Kings of Nowhere and The Tourist.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A. Weather, Liz Isenberg: Movin' on up

A couple of emerging artists we've been lucky enough to interview - A. Weather and Liz Isenberg - have scored themselves opening slots with some major acts.

Portland band A. Weather had a nice write-up in Willamette Week music blog Local Cut last week, which talks up their song "Oh My Stars":

Regardless, the contrast between the guy/girl vocals on “Oh My Stars” (an expression I’ve always been quite fond of) is not only striking, but quite lovely. Gerber’s deep repetition of the words “Oh My Stars” under the gal’s slyly sweet “I won’t wake you up” has all the careful timing of David Bazan (Pedro the Lion) or our own Laura Gibson. And the placement of an alternately rising and crashing discordant sound (saw, steel guitar, violin?) adds an eerie effect to the track, a quality that somehow legitimizes the band throwing “whiskey” and “40s” into its influences as easily as “cats” and “cuddling on couches.” Yeah, it’s cute, but just not-cute enough to be really good.

They mention the Team Love 7" due out in March, and not entirely surprisingly given the label connection, A. Weather also has the opening slot at Bright Eyes' March 11th show at the Showbox in Seattle. Hopefully this is a springboard to bigger things, including some east coast dates...

MP3: A. Weather - Feather Test
MP3: A. Weather - Oh My Stars
Interview: A. Weather

Meanwhile, Liz Isenberg, whose amazing Seeport Seaport Seeport was our #5 album of 2006, has a bunch of dates coming up with Leisure Class labelmates Vio/Mire and Cassette Concrete, but before then, she's scored a slot opening a free show at NYU with Mirah and The Blow.

3.07.07 Liz Isenberg with Mirah and The Blow @ NYU

Leisure Class Records Tour-- (Liz Isenberg, Vio/Mire, Cassette Concrete)
3.15.07 Somerville, MA @ P.A.'s Lounge
3.16.07 Providence, RI @Summer Camp (w/ Chris Paddock, friends)
3.17.07 Annandale-on-Hudson, NY @ Bard College (w/Dandelion Fiction, Fruits of Our Loins)3.18.07 Brooklyn, NY @ Galapagos Art Space
3.19.07 Carlisle, PA @ Dickinson College (the Cubiculo)
3.20.07 Cleveland, OH @Tower 2012
3.21.07 Gambier, OH @Kenyon College
3.22.07 State College, PA @ Dragon Chasers Emporium (w/A Brown Leaf)
3.23.07 Lancaster, PA @TBA
3.24.07 TBA (Trenton?) NJ @ TBA (w/ friend from Brother and Brother Records)
Interview: Liz Isenberg

Vio/Mire has a record release show of their own coming up. Their music is a blend of slowly evolving, textured soundscapes and intimate vocals, not unlike Jim O'Rourke late-90s work or more recently, Karl Blau's record on K. If that sounds intriguing, they're very much worth checking out.

3.10.07 Vio/Mire Record Release Show @ The Purple House (Northampton, MA)

Lastly, Leisure Class is introducing a care package subscription service that beats a bunch of plain old 7"s any day. Here's the scoop, per Ben @ Leisure Class:

Leisure Class Records is introducing Care Packages. These are all hand-assembled boxes of things we hope you will love. They contain music by our artists and friends plus a combination of small drawings and paintings, ephemera picked up from thrift stores, tag sales, and antique shops, baked goods (tell us your allergies), mix tapes, handicrafts, videos, comic books, our mothers' best recipes, photographs, seashells...

Tell us some things you are most fond of and we will try to personalize each package. If you'd be interested in having your art included in a package, please let us know.We're selling these pretty much at cost ($15/per or $60/year bi-monthly subscription, and that includes US shipping*)--It's kind of like a singles club but with lots of extra little things, and the money we do make goes towards helping fund more experimental releases and projects. If you want a care package but can't afford a subscription, we can do a packagetrade. Please contact us with any questions, orders, or ideas.
*note: this price is for our first packages and may be adjusted after we figureout how much shipping actually ends up costing us.

You can subscribe or get more info by writing

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Mark Eitzel, Iota, Arlington, VA, 1/25/07

This show obviously happened quite a while ago now, and I hadn't written it up yet partly out of laziness and partly because of the lack of artifacts to share. The club he played, Iota, has a no-photos policy (which plenty of camera-phoners ignored, but I like to keep in the club's good graces...) and I didn't notice any setlist to nab. But a cursory check of the January archives of the Eitzel listserv Firefly seems to suggest that no one wrote up the Arlington show, so maybe someone might appreciate this.

Eitzel strode in the small (natch) Iota just before local opener Vandaveer took the stage. I'd heard his name mentioned before as someone to watch on the local folk scene but had never caught him before, and I'm really glad I did. He's got a voice that goes down easy (it reminds me a bit of early Donovan), and the songs had a straightforward folk sound, but with enough spirit, tempo and invention to keep them from lapsing into trope territory. A female vocalist joined him toward the end of his set for a pretty cover of the Magnetic Fields' "Book of Love".

MP3: Vandaveer - However Many It Takes

I first saw Eitzel back in the mid-90s in Detroit, and it's never the same as the first time, which I hazily recall as a bracing chug of the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster indie-folk style. But Eitzel live, especially solo, is always amazing and therapeutic. I can't recall if I'd seen "Patriot's Heart" performed solo before, but it was a highlight of the set, despite the presence of plenty of AMC gems, and that's even more satisfying; that you don't have to pretend to like the new stuff while patiently waiting for the oldies. He's still writing incredible songs.

The crowd was a pretty decent size, laughed at all the right times and hushed when called for too. Eitzel'd been sleeping in his car before the show, ambled on stage with a small acoustic guitar, and seemed to be enjoying himself, playing a longer set than other shows on the mini-tour.

Setlist: Last Harbour, Jenny, One Step Ahead, Heart and Soul (Joy Division; quickly aborted), Patriot's Heart, Rest of My Life (?), Western Sky, Jesus' Hands, Windows on the World, Another Morning, My Pet Rat St. Michael, Firefly, Sleeping Beauty, Home//All The Lost Souls of San Francisco, Johnny Mathis' Feet

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Interview: Kathy Cashel

Washington, DC-based singer-songwriter Kathy Cashel has been building an impressive catalog of songs that range from prickly indie rock to acoustic tunes full of sweet harmonies. Through it all, her sharp vocals create satisfying tension between the sincere and the sardonic. Before going solo, Cashel played in two Dischord bands, Cry Baby Cry and Norman Mayer Group. She was gracious enough to take some time to talk to us about music, books and vegan ethical dilemmas.

You used to be in the band the Norman Mayer Group. Who was Norman Mayer?

He threatened to blow up the Washington Monument; he was a peace activist who just kind of lost it. He came to Washington because he needed to fix things - it was the Reagan era, and it felt like it needed a lot of fixing. He went to all the mainstream peace groups like SANE/FREEZE, and they dismissed him. The next thing you know he’s standing in front of the Washington Monument with a motorcycle helmet on and a TV remote in his hands, telling the park police that he’s gonna blow up his truck, that it’s full of explosives. The Park Police shot him in the head, and riddled his truck with bullets. He was our martyr.

How did you go from being in bands to playing as a solo artist?

I was in a loud rock band called Cry Baby Cry and I was writing this really quiet, utterly depressing, sad stuff that was kind of embarrassing my bandmates, but I had to play it at the time, so I was doing in on the side. So the band kind of lived through its natural band lifecycle, and that’s what you have left, so you just keep doing it. I’ve never really pursued a solo career per se. It’s funny – DC is a horrible place to do music in any careerist sense, except that artistically people that I’ve known in the music scene have always taken themselves very seriously, taken doing music seriously.

Your albums are out on Exotic Fever Records; how did you get involved with them?

It’s a cool thing – it’s basically Katy Otto, who’s one of the main Exotic Fever ladies, was big Norman Mayer Group fan, she came to almost every show of ours, she was the mega-fan, the superfan. She has always been behind me, I’ve gone out on tour a few times solo, and she’s always been happy, “you should go, you should tour!” and she even booked one of them for me. Exotic Fever is music that [co-label head] Sara [Klemm] and Katy like. It may even be just people that Sara and Katy like, it’s hard to tell, but either way it’s a good thing. And those ladies work hard for their bands.

I read you’re contributing a track to a benefit compilation for Compassion Over Killing?

Exotic Fever’s putting it together and it will probably be sold at the counter at Sticky Fingers [DC vegan bakery]. They’ve done a couple of compilations in the past; the last one was for Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive, which counsels sex workers, and it’s a great compilation. Comps tend to be kinda throwaway, bands will give them their throwaway songs, but that one is really good, almost every track on it is really good, I’m proud to be on it.

Are the songs on the COK comp thematic?

Well, they’re specifically asking bands to give tracks that aren’t on anything else. As for the theme, some bands are, some bands aren’t. Gina Young is doing a track that I’ve heard her play at a show, which she wrote specifically for it, which is great. I tried to write something about it, I started to try to write to order, a song about being vegan, and it ended up being…not so much. The working title right now is, “If You Eat Someone Who’s In a Coma, Are You Still A Vegan?” And I think yes. The answer’s yes.

What’s up with your new band The Succulents?

It’s more of a project than a band. Tristana and Rebecca are also in a band called The Caution Curves, and their drummer Amanda ended up moving to New York, she found her dream job there. I had been playing with Amanda. She’s great, she plays guitar too, and has that real cool, edgy feel of someone who’s learning and approaching it from a new angle. I sleazed my way into highjacking her bandmades after she left, and that was what the Succulents is. They’re very much coming at it from a fine-art perspective, which I really wanted. It’s scratching an itch for me. Since then, they've started another band, called Whelp, with a different drummer.

What have you been listening to lately?

I’ve just got into modern classical, which I’d never listened to before ever. Schoenberg, Henry Cowell, Harry Partch. I've gone on some weird musical tangents. I read a novel called The Rotter’s Club [by Jonathan Coe]; it references a lot of obscure Northern England prog rock bands from the 1970s, and in one of the climactic scenes in the book, they talk about Vaughn Williams, they reference this piece by him and said it was amazing. So I went and dug it all up on the internet. And somehow I ended up listening to Schoenberg; I always dismissed his stuff as pretentious bullshit - that doesn’t move me emotionally, I don’t even want to look at it. There’s an early piece that he wrote, "Verklarte Nacht." that’s just incredibly beautiful, and it all sounds very modern. He was way ahead of his time. If you heard this in a movie soundtrack, you would think it was contemporary, and you’d think, oh my God, this is amazing, who wrote this?

They had an interview with Schoenberg on the internet, and he's just this old guy from Vienna, and he’s such a sweetheart. He apparently painted as well. The interviewer was asking him, why don’t you make your paintings public, and he basically says, they would be attacked the way my music has been attacked, so I haven’t put them out there. You’re thinking, mea culpa! I attacked you! I never listened, I didn’t know! It’s clearly someone who cares about what he’s doing. So, pretentious bullshit? Not really.


You can watch movies, hear songs, and buy albums at

She plays tonight, February 6th, with Len Bias, at DC's Black Cat, in a benefit for the Visions In Feminism conference at the University of Maryland (9 PM, $5).

MP3: Kathy Cashel - King of the Geeks
MP3: Kathy Cashel - Antibiotics

New Release Tuesday

Lonely, Dear - Lonely, Noir (buy it)

You might not be floored by "I Am John" but you'll probably like it. It's like a twisty movie you want to watch again right away to catch what you missed. What starts off as a low-key Islands-esque quirk-folk song with pretty female vocals slowly, almost imperceptibly evolves into a compressed power-pop anthem you want to turn up the volume on and jump around to. I hope the rest of this new Sub Pop signee's debut album is half as good.

Eleni Mandell - Miracle of Five (buy it)

Torchy Mandell's umpteenth album's got a vocal intimacy to it I haven't heard from her before, based on the four tracks streaming on her MySpace. You'll also find tour dates there; her tour starts Thursday in LA, then heads to Europe after a few more west coast dates.

Sun Kil Moon - Ghosts of the Great Highway (reissue) (buy it)

Released way back in...2003, this is a reissue on Mark Kozelek's own Caldo Verde label. It comes with a bonus disc that includes an alternate version of "Carry Me Ohio," an acoustic "Salvador Sanchez," a radio recording of "Gentle Moon," two versions of Leonard Bernstein's "Somewhere", and "Arrival," an instrumenal cut from the soundtrack to The Girl Next Door. Kinda skimpy if you already own the album, but not a bad deal if you don't.

Also out: new records from the Apples in Stereo, Rickie Lee Jones, and ex-Velocity Girl Sarah Shannon.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Dylan influence Eric Von Schmidt dead at 75

In DC, we've had a gradual shift in music retail over the last few years. There are fewer indie shops selling CDs and a few new ones that focus mainly on vinyl. I've been combing the folk sections of these shops, mostly full of Weavers/Baez/Seeger et al, and once in a while I come across something unusual, like Eric Von Schmidt's 1969 album Who Knocked the Brains Out of the Sky? Hadn't heard his name before, but the blurb on the back by Bob Dylan was enough for me to give it a shot.

Turns out he was a major figure in the Cambridge folk scene of the late 50s and early 60s, and an influence on a young Dylan. And not a month after I started listening to his music, his name showed up on the obituary page. His fascinating New York Times obituary mentions his meeting with Dylan:

In the early 1960s, Mr. Dylan had shown up at Mr. von Schmidt’s doorstep in Harvard Square in Cambridge. The two traded harmonica licks, drank red wine and played croquet. Before crashing on the couch, Mr. Dylan eagerly absorbed some of his host’s voluminous knowledge of music, including folk, country and the blues.
“I sang him a bunch of songs, and, with that spongelike mind of his, he remembered almost all of them when he got back to New York,” Mr. von Schmidt said in The Boston Globe.
A few months later, Mr. Dylan’s first album came out. Over the guitar introduction to “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down,” he told of meeting Mr. von Schmidt “in the green pastures of Harvard University.”

There are a few Von Schmidt albums on CD, but not Brains, which is full of smart, rollicking folk-blues and Von Schmidt's full-throated vocals, which strike a nice balance between joy and concern. My favorite track is the title track, below. RIP Eric.

MP3: Eric Von Schmidt - Who Knocked the Brains Out of the Sky?

Friday, February 02, 2007

Morning Shorts: The Great Crap Factory

Throwing open its virtual doors is Kimya Dawson's Great Crap Factory, where you can purchase handmade items like this here cat totebag.

Drowned in Sound talks to Jeffrey Lewis about working with City and Eastern Songs producer Kramer and the sweet, sweet joys of lo-fi. The Kramer stuff is hysterical:

I was really happy to get Kramer on board because of all the Galaxie 500 records and Daniel Johnston stuff that he did, and a bunch of other records that he’s made that I really loved. But, it was just so tense. he’s very, uh… like, he would just fly into these fits of, “Okay, you wanna do it your way? Well, this record’s gonna sound like garbage, but fine! I mean, I’ve made thousands of records, but no, you wanna do it your way – fine!”

The great Bradley's Almanac has mp3ified Sloan's January Boston show.

Ampcamp offers another fine download o' the day in the form of recent Pernice Brothers tourmate Elvis Perkins. Perkins is setting off on a headlining tour of his own, starting February 27th in Allston, Mass.

MP3: Elvis Perkins - While You Were Sleeping

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Radio Radio: In House Radio with Jeremy Peterson

In House Radio with Jeremy Petersen is a weekday, hour-long radio show out of Pocatello, ID I should have recommended long ago.

So: Jeremy's on top of most of the new releases I mention here, as well as lots of the big ones in the indie/rock/folk world I don't. You'll hear pre-release tracks; the other day, he spun a new Lucinda Williams song from the upcoming West.

Every day has a featured artist or two; recently, the honor went to the deserving Ron Sexsmith, and the In House listener was treated to several songs from the new Time Being along with a few well-chosen older tracks. And most sets are peppered with plenty of oh-wow classics (hearing handpicked singer-songwriter gems like Damien Jurado's "Simple Hello" and Freedy Johnston's "Pretend It's Summer" amid all the best new stuff is almost too good to be true). Peterson fills in the gaps with just enough interesting commentary to make it feel like radio.

In short, it's a great way to keep up in daily, commute-friendly hour-long doses, and fortunately it's available in podcast form. I recommend the Sexsmith show to start (beyond Ron, the playlist crams in Karen Dalton, Catherine Howe, Andrew Bird, Kristen Hersh, Richard Swift, George Harrison...singer-songwriter heaven).