Sunday, November 20, 2011

Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost (True Panther Sounds; 2011)

Girls has made one of my favorite records of 2011. To be honest, I'm kind of surprised. At first listen, I didn't think Father, Son, Holy Ghost could touch their debut album, Album. Too polished, not enough of the ramshackle charm that was so appealing about that first record. Nothing about this record says "knocked out in the studio." However, even though the loose vibe of Album may be not be as present here, there are truly well-crafted, well-thought out songs on this record. And while the wider variation in sound may put off some listeners, it's certainly not like an Enya/Black Sabbath mixtape. So once I got over how different this record sounds from what I expected and gave it a solid listen, I realized how brilliant most of this record is.

I wanna cover the whole album, but let me just talk about the song "Vomit" for a second.  I love it. A lot. It came out as a single before the record was released and I think it's pretty clear why. To create a buzz about an upcoming record you need a stunner and this song is just that. It starts off pretty intimate, glimpsing the messy, crazy thoughts of a lonely, lovesick man. A gently played guitar and spare drums give way just for a moment to a huge chorus; "Looking for love" gets half-moaned, half sung while drum hits and organ chords momentarily raise the volume. Dude sounds depressed maybe desperate. Slowly the temperature of the song rises with elements of each previous section staying in the mix, building and changing the tone. Like Voltron lions forming a single, beast-slaying song, it all comes together at the end and the forces of good triumph over evil. "Come into my heart" gets repeated at the end, lifted on the wings of gospel background vocals. The absence of love felt at the beginning seems replaced by a glimmer what the future could hold. It almost sounds hopeful. Damn.

And the rest of the album is great, too. It opens up with an old-school, rock n' roll hip-shaker called "Honey Bunny." It's a sunny and catchy way to get things going, not terribly different than previous Girls material. Two songs later, it's a completely different vibe. "Die" is a distortion-heavy stomper with heavy, 70s-style guitar licks repeated until it goes all wonderfully acoustic at the end. Tracks like "Just a Song" and "Saying I Love You" have an upbeat tune coupled with patented lovelorn lyrics typical of Chris Owens. The second half of the record might be a little plodding for some folks, but I think it's truly beautiful. The organ that closes out "Jamie Marie" and the background vocals on "Love Like a River" are pretty amazing.

Here's a couple of streams. Then I encourage you to watch some live videos after the jump.

Honey Bunny
Saying I Love You
Jamie Marie

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Call Me Lightning

It's been awhile and I'm sorry for that.  I think I've taken a long enough break and it's time to start again.  Thanks for the encouragement and kind words about the previous posts. Hope these new, probably shorter posts will still fit the bill for ya!


So let's get started again with a band I had in mind since day one; the Milwaukee chaos merchants named Call Me Lightning. I first saw them on the Pretty Girls Make Graves farewell tour at the Black Cat a few years back. I really doubt if more than a handful of the folks in the sold out show had heard about them. I had never even seen their name in a magazine or a blog post. I should have been looking harder, man. From the first song I knew I was in for a good show and by the end of the set I was pretty sure that I had just found a new desert island band. While most of the crowd chatted amongst themselves, CML tore through a set of chugging, punk-meets-arena rock songs. Guitars snarled and drums got the living crap pounded out of them from the first notes until the very end. Despite having the guitars turned up to 11, Nathan Lilley had the pipes to deliver crazed, yelping, yet somehow intelligible vocals above the swirl. It was awesome. They sweated and thrashed and never once looked disappointed that the crowd was too busy talking to listen up. It was an amazing performance and to my surprise, I found that their live performance energy translated pretty well to the record I picked up; 2007's Soft Skeletons. I like it so much that it only took a week before I got their eponymous debut which is pretty dang good.  However, I think their most recent record, When I Am Gone My Blood Will Be Free, could be their best to date. The whole record just really hangs well together and show a little more experimentation with different sounds. Choosing songs to post below took forever. If you like what you hear, you will not be disappointed by their records.

One other quick point. As many of you know, I love a good F-bomb from time to time. I know, childish. But the song "Soft Skeletons" ends on pretty much has the most cathartic, blood curdling F-bomb ever. I like the song so much I've posted the track and a live video below. I think you'll like it too whether you like F-bombs or not.

From Soft Skeletons (Frenchkiss, 2007)
Call Me Lightning - Soft Skeletons
Call Me Lightning - Nobody Dies

From When I Am Gone My Blood Will Be Free (Dusty Medical, 2010)
Call Me Lightning - Called to the Throne
Call Me Lightning - The Fog

Some pretty awesome videos after the jump!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Possible Furlough ZipMix

The Angry Furlough EP (1-5) and The Furlough Activity Book Mix.

Click Here for File.


Angry Furlough EP

i'm so anrgy about furloughs!

1) Bad Religion - You Are (The Government)
2) Avail - Mid-Town West
3) Face to Face - No Authority
4) Fugazi - Blueprint
5) The Damned - Smash It Up (Parts 1&2)

Furlough Activity Book

Things to do/experience/enjoy while on furlough.
6) Aloe Blacc - Good Things
7) Dismemberment Plan - A Life of Possibilities
8) Spearmint - We're Going Out
9) Headlights - Get Going
10) Hockey Night - Get Real
11) Cake - Rock 'n Roll Lifestyle
12) The Drums - Let's Go Surfing
13) Built to Spill - Car
14) Air France - Beach Party
15) Harlem Shakes - Niagra Falls
16) Beach Fossils - Vacation
17) Holy F*ck - Stay Lit
18) Les Savy Fav - Calm Down
19) Dinosaur Jr. - Puke + Cry
20) Local Natives - World News
21) Papercuts - Charades
22) Surfer Blood - Swim
23) Seam - Petty Thievery
24) Magic Bullets - Lying Around
25) Sea Ray - Revelry
26) Husker Du - Flip Your Wig
27) Crooked Fingers - New Drink for the Old Drunk
28) Magnetic Fields - World Love
29) Smith Westerns - Dance Away

Friday, March 25, 2011

Quick Blip: TV on the Radio - "Will Do"

Another tough work week for me with no posts. I've had half of a future Wild Flag post done for days and just can't find the time to finiish the sucker up. In the meantime, enjoy this video for a new TV on the Radio song called "Will Do." The song is an excellent, pretty low-key number with an extremely memorable guitar line. The bell sounds and occasional "wooshes" are nice touches. They always seem to know when to say when though with the bells and whistles. The instruments and vocals are really well balanced. I was gonna post this song a couple weeks back for another lazy post, but I couldn't get a link from the soundcloud to work. I really hope the rest of their new album, Nine Types of Light, will be this good.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

LIVE: Marnie Stern, Tera Melos, Ice Cream @ Red Palace 3/2/11

This was only my second show at the Red Palace. I unfortunately found out that a three band line-up on a weekday starts on time the hard way. So, unfortunately, all I can say about the band Ice Cream's live show is that the bartender thought they were "pretty good."  You can download an ep and a demo at their Bandcamp page. They both sound like they were recorded inside a giant trash can. Recording quality aside, the songs sound like they could have been good live. I'll make sure to show up on time the next time they open for two other bands. Promise. Unless Airwolf is on.

Next up was a band I'd heard good things about; Tera Melos. The first thing that struck me as I watched the band set up was the number of pedals they had. Board after board of pedals it seemed. Some had Disney stickers. Some had blinking lights. Some looked space-age. Some looked like they were made in East Germany in the '80s. Both guitarists had theirs, the bass player had his. I think the drummer had a distortion pedal just so he wasn't the only one without one. This made me a little wary. Like they might just play an A-chord and stomp a bunch of pedals and turn it into "Flight of the Bumblebee." While I appreciate technology and what it can do, sometimes I think bands can rely on bells and whistles too much. Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about.

Once all the pedals were plugged in and the power grid for the Eastern seaboard was re-established, Tera Melos ripped into their set. Within seconds the drummer broke a stick and a little piece of plastic went flying off the bass. Dudes meant business. It was frantic, loud, and off-kilter. The guitarists hands were a blur while he carefully danced above his 15 or so pedals. Ferocious sounds with tons of fuzz would suddenly mellow to a clean sound and shift again into a nice groove. And then back again but this time with arcade noises. Like Q-Bert fronts a noise band. The band was tight despite all of the changes and the songs flowed from one to the next. Really interesting, exciting stuff. The kids standing next to me were screaming the words to the songs they knew. When it was over one of them half-shouted toward the stage, "I'll cut my nuts off for you." He then explained to his friends that, to him, that would be the highest form of praise a band could receive.  Hmmm.

Here are a few songs from their record, Patagonian Rats, that don't capture their stage energy completely but are still pretty interesting:
Tera Melos - Kelly
Tera Melos - The Skin Surf
Tera Melos - Aped

Now on to the headliner, Ms. Stern. As you may have read in my previous post, there has been some debate about her chops on the guitar. In my opinion, there is no debate. She can play! Yeah, she might loop a couple of things here and there, but whatever. She switches from strums to finger taps effortlessly. It's kind of soothing to watch in a way. You want improv, you got improv. Over a sort of "Levee Breaks" bass jam, Stern and drummer, Vince Rogers, played off of each others cues for five or ten minutes; making eye contact the entire time. Then it all came crashing down in a spectacular ending. Two sips of white wine later, she is back at it with yet another frantically paced number. Stern keeps things fresh, playing up the dance beat in "Ruler" a little more in concert than on the record. Her voice really came through as well. Over weaving guitar and pounding drums in "Transparency is the New Mystery," Stern shouted "It's not enough... I'm not enough." like she was beggin for understanding or forgiveness. I felt emotion in the delivery. It was pretty awesome.She invited Nick from Tera Melos on stage for the final song of the set for that added dose of rawk. Highly recommended.

No new Marnie songs for this post. Check 'em out at the previous one. Couple of YouTube videos and bunch of my crappy pictures after the jump though.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

First Video Cop Out Post

First of all, I want to say thanks to everybody who has been reading the blog. I've received a lot of really nice feedback. As much as I'd like to say that I'm all punk rock and would do this for myself, FTW, yadda-yadda-yadda, it's really nice to know that other folks are getting something out of this. So, thanks. Big up yourself!

Now, I need to ask for your patience. It's a busy week for me and I don't have a lot of time to write up something thoughtful. (Yeah, I actually gave the other post thought, despite the grammar errors and typos) This is meant to be a thoughtful blog; not a music news feed. At the same time, if I don't post something I feel like a total slacker. So I'm gonna do the first (and probably not last) "cop out post." Here are some music videos for your viewing pleasure.

This brand new video has been included 1) because I really like The National and this song and 2) STAR POWER. John Slattery from Mad Men and Cadillac is a lovelorn secret service agent assigned to the POTUS, played by Flight of the Conchords' Kristen Schaal. Poor Mz. Prez. So bored, so lonely. Slattery vs Hamm - Slattery by KO. "Conversation 16" is found on The National's excellent High Violet record put out by 4AD.

Here is an amusing video/bloodbath for "Fever Dreaming" by No Age. This band has really grown on me over the past few years. When they came out, it seemed like everyone felt the need to make clear in interviews and album reviews that they were part of The Smell scene in LA. I couldn't help but wonder if people were reviewing the whole scene or just the music. Then I got over it. This song is available on their great Sub Pop release, Everything in Between. For a pretty cool behind the scenes look at how this video was made, check this out.

This last video comes from an electronic group, Above & Beyond, of which I know next to nothing. I was kind of into trance while I studied abroad, but it's pretty much off the radar now. I saw this clip on Stereogum a couple of weeks back. I like the track, called "Sun and Moon," quite a bit but I love the Northern soul dance moves and tender performances in the video. This song will be released as CD-single later in the month on Anjunabeats.

Monday, March 7, 2011

DeVotchKa - 100 Lovers (Anti-; 2011)

"What bands are you into lately?" When people ask me that, more often than not my mind goes completely blank for a second or two. I try to remember what I've listened to most recently on my mp3 player and evaluate whether it is worthy of a mention. Then I usually just say "Parts and Labor is a cool band." (New record this week, post will follow sometime soon). After a short discussion, the conversation moves on and only then do the I think of all of the other bands I should have mentioned. Among those names, nearly always is DeVotchKa. For the past couple of years, they are a band I routinely turn to on my commute. I listen to them at least few times each month. So now it's payback for all the times I should have brought them up.

A buddy of mine from graduate school introduced me to DeVotchKa in 2005 or so. At the time, it seemed like a lot of bands were making waves by combining rock and Eastern European folk music. I liked the sound a little bit, but didn't make it much past Beirut and the odd song here and there from the music blogs. It wasn't until watching Little Miss Sunshinewhich featured DeVotchKa prominently, that the band really clicked for me. Their music goes well beyond an amplified gypsy party. There are southwestern sounds and really beautiful, classic vocal melodies. The melodies got stuck in my head and I was left humming "How it Ends" to myself for a few days until my eMusic account refreshed.

Reading reviews of DeVotchKa's latest record, 100 Lovers, some folks seem a little surprised that we're not being immediately treated to an accordion hoedown. Instead, the album opens with a fairly majestic, string-embellished four song mini-suite of huge-sounding music. There's a lot of feeling in Nick Urata's vocals. Bows and guitar picks flickering away. Skittering drums and brisk piano runs. It's a very full sound to start the record and it stirs the emotions. My wife said that the second song, "All the Sand in all the Sea,"  "tore out my heart, cried tears into the hole that was left, and then stuffed the hole full of roses." (Music has very little effect on her.) There is still a definite international flavor to these songs, especially with sitar drone sound on "The Common Good." So, while I may not immediately picture a man cranking a music box with a monkey on his shoulder when I hit play, I don't think that is boring or even unusual for the band. 

The rest of the record is nearly as good as its opening run and does have a lot more in common with the DeVotchKa of previous records. Perhaps its the Little Miss Sunshine connection, but these songs really do have a cinematic quality to them. Each conjures up a vision that changes with your mood. The front-and-center guitar and accordion (concertina maybe?) that starts "The Man from San Sebastian" reminds me of a 007 film. Probably Roger Moore. "Bad Luck Heels" starts off with a spaghetti-western feel but has "ohhs" reminiscent of the theme from Breakfast and Tiffany's. Mancini meets Morricone. Eastwood on guitar, Hepburn on trumpet. And it's only a matter of time before the whistling beginning intro of "Exhaustible" is used to sell Honda hybrids. The song has that hand-in-your pockets ramble that seems to make the ad-men crazy these days. I never said the images that pop into my mind would win Oscars (or even a Clio), but it's kind of cool to have music that inspires such a response from the listener. In short, a truly engaging record.

DeVotchKa - All The Sand in all the Sea
DeVotchKa - The Common Ground
DeVotchKa - Bad Luck Heels

Make the jump for a few of videos including one from Little Miss Sunshine. Even if you don't like the song, the movie footage will warm your heart. Awwwwwwww. Stay off drugs Abigail Breslin. You too, Greg Kinnear.