Friday, November 30, 2007

it's time for someone to put their foot down. and that foot is mammoth.

as the year winds down, it becomes ever more obvious that no one gives a shit about anything released after october (as evidenced by stylus's early, ambitious list). mr. mammoth here is no exception (honestly, was anyone excited by this?), but the whole concept of a "best of" list is absolute anathema here at mammoth HQ. clearly, some albums are better than others, but how can you say this album is better than this one? they're both impossibly excellent, and are crafted in totally disparate styles - i couldn't say one is better than the other. maybe i enjoyed one more, but better is such a bullshit subjective phrase that i won't even waste your time pretending that my opinion of "best" is really that valuable of a guide. what all qualitative reckonings require - and what most "best of" lists lack - is context. therefore, mr. mammoth is proud to present our 100% subjective, 100% contextual best of 2007 report - a month-long look at some albums i really enjoyed for some very specific reasons. i'll try to update three times a week between now and the end of the year, and maybe - just maybe - there will be something new for you. fingers crossed.

first album tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

sell this place

when i was in high school, i'd go music shopping pretty much every weekend (after getting my allowance) down on st. mark's place. my favorite music store was sounds, because a) they were as stuck up as those know-it-alls at kim's down the street and b) they had a 88¢ bin. while most of the 88¢ albums deserved their marked-down price (they sucked), i did manage to find some gems, one of which i still listen to (also, i taught myself how to juggle to its opening song). that album is sell this place by kill henry sugar, released in 2002 by surprise truck records.

kill henry sugar are a folk duo from new york who have recently gained attention as joan baez's backing band (yes, also on the weeds song), though their own musical legacy should not be scoffed at. billed as "folk music from the roots of gotham," kill henry sugar released their fifth LP this year, entitled swing back and down, which has received excellent critical responses, though without accompanying popular acclaim. that is an unfortunate constancy for kill henry sugar, whose wistful folk-pop deserves more.

sell this place is neither revolutionary nor reactionary; it's just plain good. songwriter erik della penna has an ear for simple, alluring melodies, like the banjo-picked one on "mussolini," a lighthearted look at the italian dictator's demise, which is often only fleshed out by dean sharenow's electric guitar. della penna's lyrics are smart and informed, his musical stories captured in three to four minute bursts with beginning, middle, and end. "his trumpet's gone" is one such song, a touching ditty about a jazz boy's missing trumpet. the song opens with his horrified discovery as della penna sings "broken were his dreams," sees him as he frantically searches for it and "vanishe[s] from the scene," and we see him at the end, with "a steady job, he never makes a sound."

sell this place is front-loaded with catchy songs, like "little faker," which is so carefully produced that it seems to have been the album's first (only) single. della penna and sharenow are accompanied by a brushed snare and organ, sharenow's guitar sly and suspicious, dropping away under della penna's repeated "cuz he's such a little faker." "in the mission" is a sweet ballad, delivered in della penna's slightly breathy, melodious tenor with a minimal amount of instrumentation. "bending spoons," on the other hand, has a lot of jazz guitar, though the overarching sound is that of old-style country music.

kill henry sugar is a band devoted to playing the music of old new york - their new album features a song named "tammany hall" - and their sound carries the simple ring of authenticity. the past several years have seen an explosion of creativity in music, albums and artists carving new niches of style that don't even have names, but it's nice to come back to an artist like kill henry sugar and a sound that doesn't need to be over-intellectualized to be comprehensible.

kill henry sugar - "mussolini" & "his trumpet's gone"
buy sell this place from your local independent record store and
newer khs releases from surprise truck entertainment.

Monday, November 26, 2007

awesome song monday! - "tristan"

awesome song day! is a spontaneous feature, when i am moved by a song's singular awesomeosity and feel the urge to share its awesomeness with all of you. the song below is awesome.

patrick wolf - "tristan"
buy wind in the wires at your favorite independent record store.

i've clearly been enjoying a resurgence of affection for patrick wolf, which has prompted me to listen to his back catalog with more attentiveness. while the album as a whole hasn't captured me like the magic position, "tristan" could be my favorite p. wolf song ever. it's dirty and dark, characteristically sexual, and his voice sounds fantastic, like he's singing through gravel, with an ominous harmonium rolling in the background. i've listened to it about 15 times in 2 days. it's pretty awesome, y'all.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

sea wolf

sea wolf is the solo project of alex brown church, a songwriter from los angeles and member of indie pop outfit irving. unsuited as some of his songs were for that band, church lit out on his own and started sea wolf as a creative outlet, a side project that has outstripped irving in acclaim and popularity. church is conscious of the overabundance of "wolf" bands, and offers a tongue-in-cheek disclaimer on his myspace: We want to be JUST LIKE: Wolf Eyes, Wolf Parade, We Are Wolves, AIDS Wolf, Wolfie, Wolf Colonel, Patrick Wolf, WolfMother, Guitar Wolf, Steppenwolf, Hugo Wolf, Kate Wolf, Laurent Wolf, Wolf City, Duran Duran (though they don't really count. they were just 'hungry like a wolf'), Howlin' Wolf, Superwolf, White Wolf, Seasons of the Wolf, Wolf & Cub, Peanut Butter Wolf, Peter Wolf, Peter and the Wolf, Los Lobos, Fuckwolf, The Wolfgang Press, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Wolfstone, The Wolfnote, Wolves in the Throneroom, Le Loup... sea wolf is signed to dangerbird records, an appropriate home for his catchy post-pop, and released leaves in the river two months ago today.

sea wolf gives me a hard time. the music is accessible and enjoyable, with hooks that stick in your head for hours and hours, but there's one thing about leaves in the river that troubles me: half the songs are really good, and half the songs are totally boring, which is kinda a big deal on an album with just nine songs. the disparity between the good songs ("you're a wolf," "don't you love me anymore," "black dirt," and "black leaf falls") and the bad songs (everything else, except "leaves in the river," which is somewhere in between) is so striking that it's confusing. how is it possible that the split is so severe? i can't explain it.

sea wolf's sound is comfortable - a listener-friendly blend of post-rock and will oldham-esque songwriting, with church's solo guitar buttressed by expansive guitars and a particularly pronounced cello. considering the success dangerbird has had with putting other signees silversun pickups on big lineups and mainstream radio, sea wolf seems destined for top 40 success, with church's inoffensive mellow pop already ranking high on billboard. one of the better good songs is "don't you love me anymore," a melancholic anthem church delivers with his characteristically flat inflection to music that is almost hip hop-like in its regularity. "black dirt" is the album's clear winner, however, a song that builds with a strong chorus and pregnant pauses. church starts out solo but is joined by elbowy guitars after a verse, propelling the song forward, the simple chorus riding over the progressive instrumental crescendo.

sea wolf is less of a band and more of a rotating cast of musicians church draws on for help, and the aid they give to his simple songwriting is immense. it is easy to imagine sea wolf's songs stripped down and played solo, though that thought is not inviting; without the skillful aid of his backing band, sea wolf wouldn't warrant any attention. the four great songs on leaves in the river are great because of the sea wolf members who aren't alex brown church, though that doesn't diminish their innate quality. also, phil ek helped produce the album, and his talents are more than enough to transform plain songs into gems.

sea wolf - "you're a wolf" & "black dirt"
buy leaves in the river from dangerbird records.

Friday, November 23, 2007

we all have battles in our lives

there are some battles we cannot win. fortunately, this is not one of them.


battles - live at vegoose, 10/27/07
race: out
tij
unknown
tonto
atlas
leyendecker
race: in

download the whole show as a .zip here.

yo, you remember how good q and not u was?

this week has definitely been q and not u week in mr. mammoth's head. the vegan posted something about them looking for pre-breakup live footage for a possible dvd (fingers crossed!), and everyone and their mother has been posting about georgie james, so there's been a lot of q and not u noise in my head. anyway, all that reminded me how good they were, so i've been listening to no kill no beep beep all week, and i figured i would remind all of you how good they were as well.

q and not u disbanded two years ago, ending a seven year stint as one of the more relevant and original bands to emerge from the d.c. punk scene. though the term "dance-punk" is one often associated with q and not u, the unfortunate connotations and limitations of that genre really can't explain the band's rather unique post-hardcore sound. q and not u released all three of their albums on d.c. punk mainstay dischord records, an appropriate home for both their angular melodies and frontman chris richards's leftist lyrics. the band's breakup came as a surprise to many, considering the critical and financial success of power, q and not u's last album; in their farewell note, richards wrote, "we feel that we've reached all of our shared goals as q and not u and we're ready to move on to other projects in life."

q and not u's members have certainly moved on - john davis (georgie james) has received a lot of publicity lately, christopher richards released the disco-inflected purple blaze last year as ris paul ric, and harris klahr is currently recording as president, with an album expected (and a show at glasslands on 11/27). none of these projects reflect an iota of the q and not u spirit, perhaps affirming that the goals of the band were fulfilled, and then discarded. it is really only through q and not u's absence that the breadth of their contributions (and the hole they left) is apparent.

q and not u exploded onto the scene in 2000, in the kind of way where no one noticed. no kill no beep beep, i contend, is their best album, rich in its creativity. an addictive blend of punk's recklessness and anti-establishment dogma, and the jarring, angular guitars of dance-punk, no kill no beep beep is furious and detached, a mix of biting social commentary ("fever sleeves," a bald, disdainful attack on fashion and the upper class) and the joy of sweaty moshpit dancing (the anthemic "hooray for humans," where klahr wails "D-O-W-N; and that's the way we get down!"). these traits, of course, continued to set q and not u apart throughout its lifetime, but no kill no beep beep set the foundation and benchmark for the band. every song is worth listening to; every song is worth enjoying. the air crackles with energy in eardrums, their music tenacious, raw, and exhilarating.

no kill no beep beep opens with a bang as the electric "line in the sand" sputters to life. instantly recalling the more well-known art-hardcore of fellow d.c.ers the dismemberment plan, "line in the sand" is taut and furious. as davis lays down a stiff beat, guitars wildly distorted as richards and klahr sing with screams, the song evolves, stark and harsh at the start, into a clap-happy, angular dance song. some songs are clearly more infectious than others, such as "nine things everybody knows," a spastic dance anthem, but no kill no beep beep rarely falters. q and not u make one concession on the album, the slow, ruminative "kiss distinctly american," marked by richards's repeated "we kissed goodnight with a firm handshake," one of the more baleful looks at american society, but q and not u are none the less ferocious for the calm - before it is extinguished in a slow decrescendo, "kiss distinctly american" rises to a haze of distortion. "little sparkee," on the other hand, carries some screamo overtones, a barely two-minute klahr song with lots of jagged guitars and wailing. as for the album's end, "sleeping the terror code" - it trembles with prescient anxiety, fearful of a creeping evil.


q and not u returned two years later, now a three piece (matt borlik played bass on no kill no beep beep), with different damage, a more sober (yet just as disparaging) look at america. different damage occupies a strange place in the q and not u discography as their sophomore album; they have clearly moved away from the whirling intensity of no kill no beep beep, but have not yet fully embraced the synthy, dance sounds that define power, their third album. different damage follows "kiss distinctly american" and "sleeping the terror code" more than their peers, less punky and more experimental, almost, especially on songs like "o'no." different damage is a turning point, divided nearly in half between frenetic punk and slow, deliberate songs about life, love, and, of course, politics.

the first two songs on different damage set the album's tone, the divide between ferocity and reflection - "soft pyramids" is almost tender, a sweet singalong that is starkly contrasted with its neighbor, the vitriolic "so many calls," a jittery and sneering attack on our broken healthcare system. the album continues pairing soft songs with edgy ones, as "air conditions" and "black plastic bag" attest, the latter another wailing klahr tune with fingernail guitar and a round bass line built for dancing. a personal favorite is "everybody ruins," an elbowy on-off-on again tune that is all the more satisfying for its denial. "no damage nocturne," towards the end of the album, is a return to clap-happy form, but falls more in line with "soft pyramids" than "line in the sand." the preponderance of quiet songs on different damage does not foreshadow power in the least, and that album shocked as many longtime q and not u fans as it attracted new ones.


in a way, i'm almost glad q and not u broke up after this album. their evolution from an arty post-hardcore dance-punk band to a not-so-arty, not even hardcore, dance (light on the punk) band is disappointing, to say the least. with power, they were able to curry the favor of the prevailing dance craze, embodied by bands like bloc party and the rapture, but this success came at the expense of their older punk ethic. power finds q and not u relying on synthesizers in an unprecedented way; whereas klahr and richards took turns playing bass on different damage, klahr stuck almost exclusively to his keyboards and synths on this album, propelling q and not u out of tiny clubs and into dance halls.

q and not u did not totally abandon their sound, however, and power's best songs are a powerful blend of their jarring, angular startstop style and thick synthy bass. the best representation of this is "wet work," defined by its bouncy, twitching guitar line and richards's falsetto, the synths reinforcing rather than dominating. the falsetto richards uses here is a common trick on power, appearing on album opener "wonderful people" as well as "district night prayer," a trick previously unused. the first song that really attracted me to power was "collect the diamonds," an anti-diamond mining diatribe with a catchy piano part and self-disparaging singalong chorus, though richards's lyrics are noticeably lacking his normal ferocity. interestingly, power's back half sounds much more like old q and not u - "x-polynation" is a furious, charging song, one of the band's best, and "book of flags" and "tag tag" are the perfect epilogue for q and not u. "tag tag" is the culmination of three albums' worth of songs about secrecy and anonymity. here, as on "we heart our hive" and "everybody ruins," richards's lyrics revolve around the value of individuality, of divorcing our minds and bodies from the corrupt, false power of bureaucracy. its chorus, "tell me nonfiction," the most powerful idea richards ever had, is q and not u in a nutshell. rebellious and anti-establishment to the last, q and not u is a band sorely missed.

"wet work"
"x-polynation"

buy all q and not u albums from dischord.

awesome song day/late night! - "b + a"

awesome song day! is a spontaneous feature, when i am moved by a song's singular awesomeosity and feel the urge to share its awesomeness with all of you. the song below is awesome.

the beta band - "b + a"
buy the three eps at your friendly neighborhood record store.

out here on the east coast, we had a bitching thanksgiving - warm during the day, bitterly cold at night. we ate a lot, and ate well, and i find myself listening to the beta band, pre-bed. i've been finding solace in old music lately, and the three eps are an album i could listen to forever. the obvious album standout is "dry the rain," probably the best song the beta band ever wrote, but the three eps are considered the band's best release for a reason. the whole album is exploding with creativity and innovation, keeping it fresh every time you hear it. "b + a," the third track, is a progressive instrumental number defined by its swift internal changes. the beta band spend the first three minutes building "b + a"'s beat, bringing the tension to a climax and backing down, before finally, satisfyingly launching blissfully into the heavy bridge. then they switch back again. it's simple yet absolutely captivating. and totally awesome.

Monday, November 19, 2007

final fantasy & cadence weapon @ bowery ballroom, 11/11/07

remember this?


yeah, i was so right. cadence weapon has some new songs in his set, including a cover of "isolation" by joy division. he was joined onstage by final fantasy for "sharks." unfortunately, his set was marred by the pasty pasty crowd, who had apparently never seen someone rap before. shame on you, limpwristed hipsters!

final fantasy - so good i can't even find words.

the clever & awesome guy at lullabyes taped sets from both cadence weapon and final fantasy from a week before this show. show him some love.


all hour cymbals

it's hard to discuss grandiose bands in simple terms. i've run into this problem every two to three minutes while conceiving this review, and it's a doozy. yeasayer is a band instructed by contradictions, a band that embraces double standards and duplicitous perspectives - in other words, the most authentic american band of the new millennium. yeasayer waves this banner high, the flag of fear and uncertainty, bedecking their sound with pangeaic rhythms from countries that we fear the most. it's a compelling hybrid, coupling worried lyrics with globally inspired sounds, and it makes all hour cymbals one of the year's most ambitious releases.

the brooklyn quartet vaulted into the musical consciousness earlier this year, after the release of "2080," the band's first single. driven by a restless bass hook, "2080" is yeasayer's multiculti paradigm, and the lens through which they will eternally be judged. charismatic and precocious, "2080" is all hour cymbals in miniature. on the track, frontman chris keating's voice is tremulous and boasts a hefty amount of reverb, begging the oft-repeated peter gabriel comparison. the linchpin of the song is the near-acapella chorus midway through, backed by bare drums, acoustic chords, and a distinctly subcontinental pan pipe melody, a carefully arranged cultural hodgepodge. such is the blueprint for the entire album, especially their repeated four-part vocal harmonies (all of yeasayer's members were in vocal groups as young men). it is keating's words, however, that inspires yeasayer's entire framework; lyrics from "2080" are not only the most often scrutinized, but they also adorn the pages of their website. deservedly so - "2080" is a capsule of fear and worry, as the graphic to your right sums up. the song opens with keating's honest fright as he sings "i can't sleep when i think about the times we've living in; i can't sleep when i think about the future i was born into," tapping into a natural (universal?) fear. but keating remonstrates us, "in 2080 a.d. i'm sure to be dead, so don't look ahead, never look ahead." fearful but determined to live for the moment, yeasayer's sprawling sound reflects our national attitude.

yeasayer has positioned themselves at a unique intersection in music, one that both defines and generates their sound. they play what is undoubtedly "world" music, called such not because they hail from a different musical heritage, but because they have assimilated (and reinterpreted) the sounds of the world. all hour cymbals features, in addition to a clear homage to genesis, peruvian pan pipes, native american and pagan imagery, african drumming patterns, the laughter of children, shaker harmonies, and sleigh bells, just to name a few. this trans-cultural borrowing is yeasayer's hallmark, along with their bizarre songcrafting. yeasayer are so deliberately progressive that all hour cymbals could be the product of a resourceful (and brilliant) one-man band, slowly layering disparate phrases until the aural goal is reached; as it is, a yeasayer song is like a mystery novel, with seemingly unrelated clues accumulating until awareness comes. yeasayer are globalization bluesmen, spinning yarns about our unsteady times with melting pot melodies.

yeasayer - "2080" (from their daytrotter session)
"sunrise" (from all hour cymbals)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

awesome song day! - "love and caring"

awesome song day! is a spontaneous feature, when i am moved by a song's singular awesomeosity and feel the urge to share its awesomeness with all of you. the song below is awesome.

crystal castles - "love and caring"
their full-length debut is due february 19, 2008.

a friend turned me on to crystal castles a couple days ago. their music is like brain crack. i double dare you to listen to "love and caring" and not a) wantonly dance around and b) have to listen to it again, over and over. i've listened to it about fourteen times in three days. it blows my mind with awesome.

edit: i've noticed this page gets lots of hits, so i re-upped the song. enjoy!

mount eerie w. woelv, flying, karl blau @ lutheran church of the messiah, 11/8/07

(sorry for the delay, my computer broke this week and only got it fixed today).

phil elverum and his friends (at least the ones who played at the lutheran church of the messiah last week) have something in common: they are astounding. last thursday's incredible basement show, lit by candles and colored lightbulbs, was simply transportive. the 150 or so people crammed into the greenpoint church were quiet, respectful, and stunned by what we saw - simply, one of the finest shows of the year.

as you may have guessed by now, this was a todd p show (who else has concerts in church basements?), and was a study in sharing and tolerance. the neighborhood demanded low volume (the word was that the mount eerie show, audible only if no one else was talking, was the loudest ever in that space), and the hush became an integral part of the show's magic. huddled in a basement with polish beer and flannel jackets, the stage barely illuminated by amber and blue cliplights, all four acts (karl blau, flying, WOELV, and mount eerie) played with noble restraint, their music replacing their selves as the audience's focus.

karl blau, last-minute addition to the bill, was another horse from the k stable (along with woelv and mount eerie), and a longtime elverum disciple. blau was a looping wizard, crafting gauzy sonic tapestries with a heavy 60s pop feel. it was often enjoyable unclear the extent to which blau improvised on premeditated melodies; his songs developed organically, growing note by note without any discernible guide. it was riveting, reinforcing the incredible intimacy of the space, especially when he didn't use the mic, his voice carrying just as far without amplification. between songs, blau seemed to suffer from some stage fright, stammering and telling stories, but there was no such nervousness in his songs. methodical and compelling, blau set the tone for the show: quiet, intense, and remarkable.

"dark magic sea" - available at kelp monthly.

flying, next up, was the only non-k band, and the difference was palpable. while blau, and later, woelv and mount eerie, embraced the quiet, flying was clearly less at home. the trio, however, adapted well to the limits of the space, expanding and dimming their sound without diluting it. flying commented more than once on the required volume, saying "we've never played such a quiet show before." yet because flying was the only band limited by the volume constraints (and, actually, the only band, since all the others were solo artists), their set was aurally and visually engaging and innovative. during one song, flying's drummer and keyboardist stalked along the back edge of the stage, yelping and hooting in time with the music, their grunts echoing in the hushed space. flying's sound was an odd one, a sort of postmodern weimar cabaret effect, creating a pastiche of prettiness, like juana molina without electronics. it often seemed as if all three were playing in disparate keys, rhythms, and tempos, yet the music was well-blended and exciting.

"minors" - from just-one-second-ago broken eggshell, available from mill pond records.

one of the coolest elements of the show was the effort todd p made to keep the crowd seated. for a stage that was no more than two feet high, this was both a logical and aesthetic decision. though sitting on a hard floor for three hours really kills the butt, a sitting crowd kept the show intimate and special. sitting there, in the near-darkness, the music literally washed over us, and the church's basement was really a sanctuary.

WOELV is the inexplicable pseudonym of geneviève castrée, a quebecois artist who deserves every single comparison to sigur ros. true to her roots, castrée sings only in heavily stylized french, backed only by guitar and her own looped voice. breathtakingly beautiful in her stark musical simplicity, WOELV was riveting. castrée's airy choral onomatopoeias served a feather bed for her verses, warm and soft against the transcendent wails. castrée's vocal style begs comparisons to jónsi birgisson, her singing chillingly evocative. WOELV used a guitar for some songs, but the most moving songs were the acapella ones, her voice echoing against itself in the tiny room, relaxing yet spine-tingling. as with blau, WOELV found that using the microphone wasn't absolutely necessary, and some of the evening's best moments were during her set. i was stunned by the sheer beauty of her songs.

"drapeau blanc" - WOELV's tout seul dans la forêt en plein jour, avez-vous peur? will be released on december 4 by k records.

mount eerie is a band for completists. phil elverum has released somewhere between 8 and 10 million albums, as both the microphones and mount eerie; his lastest, mount eerie pts. 6 & 7, is a 132 page photobook that is "the visual counterpart to pretty much the entire catalog of the microphones and mount eerie," overexposed and lovingly reimagined images of our natural world. accordingly, mount eerie's set was backdropped by short movies of beautiful and terrible interactions with nature. phil elverum, minimalist, naturalist firebrand, matched his songs to the images, pairing his more frustrated songs with videos of steel refineries and the soothing, elegant ones with ferns blowing in the wind or fog rolling over an evergreen forest. at times, it was so beautiful that tears came to my eyes. having extinguished all electric lights, elverum was lit only by candles on the stage and the reflected light from his backdrop, and it was the easiest thing in the world to close your eyes and see the cloud-topped mountain or the moon rising over a harbor. serene, reflective, optimistic, mount eerie was as spiritually rejuvenating as a sermon.

mount eerie plays new york again in december, at st. mark's church. you would do well not to miss it.

"wooly mammoth's absence" - from australian tour ep, available here.

phil elverum runs his own store here, where you can buy mount eerie pts. 6 & 7, among other treats.

mount eerie song

Monday, November 12, 2007

awesome song day! - "let's get ready to crumble"

awesome song day! is a spontaneous feature, when i am moved by a song's singular awesomeosity and feel the urge to share its awesomeness with all of you. the song below is awesome.

buy let's get ready to crumble from upper class recordings.

the russian futurists is the pseudonym of one matthew adam hart, a toronto-based guy who makes shimmering and gaudy lo-fi electronica. bursting from the seams with brilliant pop hooks and cheery choral numbers, let's get ready to crumble is cheerful, positive, and really catchy. but the rest of the album doesn't even hold a candle to the title track, which still manages to light up my mood and make me want to dance after years of listening to the album.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

the black angels w. a place to bury strangers @ bowery ballroom, 11/7/07

i was so impressed by passover, the black angels' full length debut, that i was seriously considering thinking about going to see them open for queens of the stone age at madison square garden last month. i decided not to, mostly because the tickets were forty bucks and i didn't really care about seeing qotsa again, but the real wisdom of that decision wasn't clear to me until last night, when the black angels headlined a sludge fest at bowery ballroom. featuring fellow led zeppelin devotees spindrift and hotly hyped a place to bury strangers, the night was loud, and, ultimately, disappointing.

from their first note, the reason that spindrift was on this tour was blindingly obvious: they and the black angels play such a similar brand of neo-psychedelic medal that they were nearly the same band. spindrift even borrowed a black angel to round out their band, affirming the similarity. though spindrift rocked, rumbled, and churned with the same intensity (and much to the same effect) as the black angels later would, one thing proved these were not the same bands in disguise: instead of borrowing native american rhythms and iconography, as the black angels are wont to do, spindrift, based in southern california, had adopted the stylized melodies of the spanish conquistadores as their foundation. spindrift was mostly instrumental - drums, two guitars, keys, guitarbass, and the borrowed christian bland on maracas - though some songs featured surprisingly tender vocals from spindrift frontman kirpatrick thomas. tender in tone only though; thomas avoided speaking actual words, preferring to emit something between a murmur and a howl. more primeval than the black angels (and extremely hirsute), spindrift suggested the kind of music neolithic men and women would have played, and thomas's vocalizing added to this effect. they also played one really cool song with a harmonica.

the night featured a reverse dancing trend - very interesting. there were several people dancing during spindrift's set, and rightly so. the black angels tip the scale towards metal a little more than jefferson airplane, but spindrift's ties to the 60s are a little clearer, and people responded to that, with dancing. a place to bury strangers, more visceral and fuzzy, meant fewer dancers, though the more committed ones continued, but the meandering, flat jams of the black angels quelled the dancing. it was almost sad.

second up, a place to bury strangers totally stole the show. their visceral show featured swirling and charged visuals, as like the photo. because of the projection, the stage was nearly black for most of the set, until a strobe light from the floor illuminated everything. aptbs's set, for me, was an package experience; totally unfamiliar with anything about them, i was very happily a blank slate for their show. aided by the indistinct visuals (nothing identifiable like peoples or shapes), their churning, gloriously heavy rock turned into a circle of sound, marked by crescendos and decrescendos. i saw and heard guitarist oliver ackermann singing, but it blended in with the music in the haze of distortion, and the whole experience was almost out-of-body - the most successful noise rock experience i've ever had. unfortunately, after a while, the deafening loudness canceled itself out, but their show was great up until the very end. the last eight or ten minutes of their set, accompanied by the strobe lights, aptbs embarked on a epic metal jam, during which i kind of lost interest in the music, so i watched the drummer. jono MOFO, the drummer, is fucking crazy. he could easily pass as andre the giant's midget brother, still towering over his bandmates, furiously and happily beating the shit out of his drumkit. he was awesome.

the whole time the black angels played, i couldn't figure out whether they had the worst stage presence ever, or whether they were trying to up their mystique. i don't know if they expected to smell more acrid smoke than they did, or were attempting to live up to their motto "turn on, tune in, drone out," except with more droning. though their music was less psychedelic and more plodding, the black angels tried to time travel by playing stock vietnam footage from 1972 and projection pseudo-trippy images. it made me wonder whether bands are creating visuals so they don't have to have a stage presence. needless to say, the black angels have clearly chosen that route.

much of passover's attraction was in the lyrics of singer alex maas - fervently anti-war and reactionary, they provided a verbal foundation for the drones of the band. however, maas bumped up the reverb on the mic up to "indistinguishable," so that nearly everything he sang was just a haze of sound. lacking even the most basic physical connection to their sound, the black angels stood on the stage, moving only occasionally. playing with a blunt intensity yet obvious ambivalence, the black angels lack anything that passes as a "show." unwilling to watch the band, i stared at the projection and listened to the music, which also turned out to be a mistake. maybe i had just never noticed it before, but the black angels were really aimless. flat jams appealed to neither the neo-psychedelics nor the metal fans, and were overwhelmingly unsatisfying. the black angels droned to their hearts' content - good for them, bad for us.



here's a song by a place to bury strangers:


the black angels - "the first vietnamese war"

Saturday, November 10, 2007

awesome song day! - "ship the majestic suffix"

awesome song day! is a spontaneous feature, when i am moved by a song's singular awesomeosity and feel the urge to share its awesomeness with all of you. the song below is awesome.


buy ships from secretly canadian.

i've been working on getting into danielson lately, but for a long time, i was stymied by "ship the majestic suffix." the song is awesome, ladies and gentlemen. it opens the album, and i couldn't get past it - i just listened to it over and over again. though daniel smith is a weird dude, he writes incredible songs. ships is fantastic, but the best part of it is the opening track. enjoy.

autumn is a terrific season

i love new york, but it's no place to enjoy autumn, which is a major bummer, because it's my favorite season, and a terrific one, and this rambling introduction is brought to you by these are powers, because it was their terrific seasons that prompted me into writing this post.

i've been working on staten island lately, and my call went very late tonight, so i didn't get home until nearly 4 am. i napped on the ferry (sleeping through half of begin to hope), but didn't want to sleep through a 1 train, so i started thinking about all the shit i need to review. i've got the black angels show from wednesday, the mount eerie show from thursday, i've been preparing my full all hour cymbals review - suffice to say, it was enough to keep me awake. and as i sketched out some ideas for the yeasayer post, "no need to worry" on repeat on my headphones, i gradually woke up. so by the time i get home at 4, i know i'm gonna a little too mentally jazzed to collapse into bed. so what did i find on my desk? terrific seasons, you guessed it!

you will remember these are powers as the thermals' opener at warsaw last week - i really enjoyed their frenetic sound, which i've since learned is referred to as "ghost punk." honestly, it sounds better than "neo-psychedelic sludge rock," which is how i heard the black angels described the other day, though i'm at a total loss as to what it means. anyway, i got in contact with the band, who offered to send me a review copy of terrific seasons, an offer i readily accepted, despite my claim that it was "probably not something i could stand in my headphones for more than 90 seconds." also, who doesn't love packages?

though not unexpected, it was amazing to find the album when i did. i'm going on 24 hours without sleep, and finding a package cheered me up (and woke me up). intrigued by their cover art and best label name ever (more on that in a moment), i popped the cd in and waited. my expectations of them were already shaped by their live show (and the video of "you come with nothing" that i took), and what i expected to come out of the speakers didn't, not in the slightest.

aside: interestingly/disappointingly, the label that these are powers claims to have released terrific seasons on could possibly not exist. in two places, the inside cover and the cd itself, these are powers credit the album to pre teens of the himalayas (i am not lying. i couldn't make up something that good.). click the link. okay, you get the problem? what if pre teens of the himalayas doesnt' exist? these are powers, i hope you're not fucking with me. the back cover of the album credits hoss records, as does their myspace (and hoss records themselves), so you lead me to conclude you are fucking with me. no joke, i did a doubletake and laughed out loud, in my empty house at 4.30 am. i hope pre teens of the himalayas are real.

after that aside, i know you all have one question: what the fuck is ghost punk? (sorry for all the cursing. i'm getting cranky from lack of sleep, but goshdarnit, i'm finishing this post!) i still have no idea what ghost punk is. but here are some names that will give you a frame of reference:
at the drive-in (lots!)
sleater-kinney
fugazi
old school sonic youth
since these are powers' bassist used to play with liars, maybe they sound like liars? i never got into them, so i don't know...
anyway, tons of great stuff.

so, i'm really tired now, and you'll have to entertain yourself with these two mp3s below. these are powers play death by audio in two weeks with clipd beaks. there's a bitching poster on their myspace.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

parades

"in a parallel universe, songs like 'mirador' and 'caravan' would be number one forever..."

bold claim.



buy parades from the leaf label.

"mirador"



situated somewhere in the bermuda triangle between sufjan stevens, the postal service, and sigur ros, there is efterklang. the danish group, which has five core members and four additional touring members, puts a lot of emphasis on how "otherworldly" their sound is (as you can tell from the quote above). to my ears, however, parades sounds a lot more like the bizarre creation of an indie pop mad scientist than hot alien jamz.

the name "parades" come from the album's creative mission, a desire to link song sections so they parade through a listener's ears, but, oddly enough, parades itself has more than a little marching-band feel. "mirador," the album's first single, actually features a brass quintet, playing with raucous cheer, and the sheer exuberance of efterklang (and their assorted contributors, a string quartet and three separate choirs as well as the brass) inspires visions of dance troupes backflipping down city streets. parades dances past you with a nervous energy, awesome in its eccentric majesty, melodies, harmonies, singalongs bursting from its seams. like symphonic shoegaze on speed, efterklang has redefined "over the top" in the best possible way. songs range from the reflective ("mimeo") to the reckless (the excellent "maison de réflexion") as efterklang synthesizes their mutant pop, weird yet wonderful.

Monday, November 5, 2007

who needs english? - čechomor

the latest superstars to be featured in the appallingly irregular who needs english? series are čechomor, or, as they used to be known, českomoravská hudební společnost. say that three times fast, or once correctly. at least golem and peatbog faeries make some concessions to courting the english speakers in this world; čechomor are czech, and goddamn proud of it (try making head or tails of their website if you don't speak czech). facing with insurmountable language barriers, i have employed all of my cunning, memory, and google skills to write the best who needs english? about a band that clearly doesn't.

českomoravská hudební společnost (the czech-moravian recording company) formed in 1988, as a place for traditional czech musicians to gather and work together. the czech folk scene is a strong one, and frantačerný, frontman of the company, had no trouble organizing four other like-minded musicians into a band. čechomor is responsible one of the most dramatic sound shifts of any band i can think of, maturing from straight folk (1991's dověcnosti) to a pronounced world-fusion sound (2005's co sa stalo nove).

i was introduced to čechomor in 2002, when i studied in prague for several months and lived with a czech family. my czech brother immersed me in the local music scene, and, before long, i was listening to čechomor and other, far less popular czech bands. in 2001, čechomor released proměny, their most successful and well-received album that quickly went platinum. proměny was a breakthrough album for the band, in ways beyond the commercial. composer jaz coleman, best known for his work in killing joke, an enormously influential english industrial band, joined forces with čechomor for proměny, having switched his focus to classical music. proměny won three golden angels (the czech music award) the year it was released, netting "album of the year," "band of the year," and "song of the year." small wonder they are the most popular czech band in the world (and personal favorite of ex-president/revolutionary vaclav havel). the album features of mix of new and old songs, all orchestrated by coleman, with čechomor backed by the czech philharmonic orchestra. this unprecedented collaboration launched a new wave of interest in the band, including mine. i quickly went out and picked up all the čechomor albums i could find, and discovered a talented and engaging group (and learned to sing a little czech myself).

though their name has changed, čechomor maintains an overwhelming commitment to traditional czech music; co sa stalo nove, their most recent album, is the only one that contains original songs, all others being reworked traditional ones. songs occasionally repeat themselves in čechomor's catalog, especially favorites like "mezi horami" or "proměny," though čechomor does take pains to rework each rendition. i never got the chance to see čechomor perform, though, judging from čechomor live, the band is excellent in a live setting. čechomor has six albums, and they all have at least fifteen songs apiece (most many more), so i'm gonna pass on a list of their "best" songs, primarily because there are simply too many "best" ones. i've put up four mp3s below, from three albums, and i have no idea where you would be able to buy these outside of the czech republic. if you're a czech speaker, and can navigate www.cechomor.cz better than i, there is a link to buy their albums here.

čechomor - "hop he" from mezi horami
"pivnickova" from čechomor
"dobre ti je janku (happy janek)" and "vetricek (the breeze) (radiomix)" from proměny

battle and victory

i've been a bad blogger lately. i apologize. i picked up some new jobs, and some other ones reached fruition, and i've had barely a minute to write anything but concert reviews. i'd like to make it up to you by telling you about nancy elizabeth cunliffe.

cunliffe, who records as nancy elizabeth, is the newest jewel in the crown of the leaf label, an extraordinarily prescient label where many well-received artists have begun their careers. i (and you, perhaps) know them best as manitoba's spiritual home, the place where his opus up in flames has a home, but the leaf label reaches far and wide, dedicated to unearthing talent anywhere, in any form. in addition to manitoba, boom bip & doseone, efterklang, psapp, and critical faves a hawk and a hacksaw have all released albums through leaf as well. the leaf label maintains its reputation as a diviner of excellence with nancy elizabeth's first long player, battle and victory.

nancy elizabeth is a songstress with an impeccable musical pedigree, her ethereal work instantly generating comparisons to artists like sigur ros and nina nastasia. her songs are spun like merino wool, sheer and light, and are yet heavy, dense, substantial. battle and victory walks a rail, counterbalancing cunliffe's high, thin voice with sweeping, delicate melodies that still resonate with power and forcefulness. central to her sound is a 22 string celtic harp, its plucked notes creating austere, minimalist soundscapes. in addition to the harp, cunliffe wields a bouzouki, harmonium, appalachian dulcimer, and khim, in addition to a much more traditional acoustic guitar, though battle and victory also features percussion and horn sections on some songs, though cunliffe's shimmering string work is always the album's focus. the circumstances surrounding the recording of battle and victory are a significant part of its sober allure as well; cunliffe shut herself up in a 17th-century welsh cottage and a village hall outside manchester, using only the barest of recording equipment to capture her multi-layered sound. the result is an album that charms with its intimate preciousness and still manages to incorporate a tremulous undercurrent of anxiety and intensity.

i find myself imagining a forest when i listen to battle and victory, though it changes as quickly as the album's songs. it is no coincidence that celtic and nordic music has such strong ties to paganism and the supernatural; on battle and victory, as on other, stirring records, it is easy to hear the power of nature in every note. cunliffe's song titles often allude to the natural realm, albeit in circuitous ways, as songs like "i'm like the paper," "8 brown legs," and "coriander" suggest, though "off with your axe" or "the remote past" evoke more of a tolkien feel.

the fantastic is never out of reach on this album, especially for "hey son," one of battle and victory's two singles. cunliffe's dramatics and naturalism have earned her comparisons to radiohead, mogwai, and talk talk, but the clearest point of reference i have for "hey son" is godspeed you! black emperor. while the artists fundamentally unalike, "hey son" builds in a very gybe fashion. beginning with cunliffe's breathy and restrained voice singing over a simple guitar melody, "hey son" reaches a satisfying climax in less than three and a half minutes, as cunliffe adds something new for each verse, starting with a small chorus and including an angular guitar, timpani, and lots of cymbal crashes. it is clearly one of battle and victory's best songs.

i am also quite fond of "i used to try," the album's other single, draped, as it is, in taut strings and a focused, progressive sound, though its neighbor, "off with your axe," is battle and victory's hidden gem. here, cunliffe incorporates more vocal harmonies over a restless guitar, looping it before adding the harp and an off-step delivery that captivates and intrigues. lots of albums have one song that is so unlike the others that it must be the single (i'm thinking of summerteeth, mostly), but "coriander," the "can't stand it" of battle and victory, is not its single. "coriander" is a radical departure from the rest of battle and victory, clothed in a sound more parisian than pixie. a waltzing harmonium and horn section are the song's flesh, and one of the few cuts on the record that doesn't fit into the progressive mold.

battle and victory is a tenacious debut, so often haunting and insubstantial that cunliffe's voice seems to exist on its own. the distance is palpable, no doubt a result of her innovative recording locations, and adds an unexpected depth to the record, again evoking mysterious environments. dark without being brooding or sinister, battle and victory is transportive, an album that inspires creativity as much as enjoyment in the listener.


battle and victory was released in september 2007 by the leaf label. it is available for purchase here.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

the thermals @ warsaw, 11/1/07

by their own count, this was the thermals' sixth show in new york this year, and my first ever chance to see them. i, along with a lot of other people, might hate on pitchfork, but i'm mammoth enough to admit that the only reason i ever would've heard of the thermals is because the body, the blood, the machine was rated so highly by the site. it took me a little while to understand why, because all i heard at first was rather simple punk melodies and well-enunciated lyrics about christofascism. though i eventually became deeply immersed in the thermals' music, especially the guitar solo in "here's your future," the only solo on the album, hutch harris's talk-sung fables about a christian totalitarianism remain to be the body, the blood, the machine's most compelling feature. despite their staggering number of new york appearances this year ("more than portland," [the thermals' hometown] according to harris), it seemed that many in the crowd were in the same boat as i - first time thermals viewing. my expectations were average - i didn't think the thermals were going to move worlds, but i wanted to check them out and do some dancing (since halloween was a bust for moves).

it was a loud one at warsaw last night, and an exhausting one to boot. covered in sweat, my feet, so willing to jump and bounce a few minutes earlier, felt like lead as i staggered back to the L. i stared into space, zombie-like, yawned frequently, and reflected on the great night of blistering noise and excellent pit dancing i had just participated in.

up until the show, i had no idea who was performing with the thermals; warsaw's website only obstinately said "special guests," so it wasn't until i scoped out the merch table that i knew what to expect. first openers reporter also hail from portland, or. , and play a brand of lo-fi post-punk punk similar to the thermals, so they made sense as an opener. though i only caught a few songs from their set, reporter is straightforward, almost to the point of being predictable, though very listenable as well. vocal duties were split between the female bassist and male guitarist, though the award for reporter's best stage presence goes to their drummer, whose abundant energy and passion was far more interesting than reporter's songs. also, i was very impressed that he managed to keep his glasses on.

reporter - "blaze"

i discovered during the set break that these are powers were the next opener, a discovery that quite pleased me. these are powers are a band i've heard a lot of blog press about, but never looked into them, and i was excited to get a taste here.

these are powers are loud. really loud. they've christened themselves heralds of "ghost punk," which i know about as much about as you. i think their music occasionally had some dancey elements, and frontlady anna barie was certainly jumping around like we were supposed to be dancing, or at least moving, but i, along with everyone else, spent most of the set staring with not a little bewilderment at the stage, before inevitably feeling their persistent rhythms. driven by pat noecker's heavily fuzzed-out bass and bill salas's bizarre percussion (including a kit, a drum machine, and a suitcase possibly filled with xylophones), these are powers' sound is greater than the sum of its parts, thanks to noecker's army of pedals. whether songs included barie on guitar or not, they were often powerful and pulsating with energy, dense cacophonies that included a lot more joy than similar efforts by their noise-rock peers. these are powers were excited about what they were playing, and their enthusiasm was massively engaging. acolytes at the altar of noise, these are powers nonetheless had a humorous side, joking about being from "brookcago" and "pierogies filled with love" (warsaw, nestled in polish greenpoint and an extension of the polish national home, serves pierogies at all of their shows, giving the venue its slogan, "where pierogies meet punk"). for the last song in their set, barie handed out noisemakers to the front row, and then jumped into the crowd with the mic, twitching and shaking among us, possessed by some barely satiated demon of noise. though probably not something i could stand in my headphones for longer than, say, 90 seconds, these are powers are definitely enjoyable live, when you let the floor-shaking sound seize you.

these are powers - "little sisters of beijing"
"you come with nothing"



hutch harris, the thermals' frontman, managed to pen an entire album about the omnipresent danger of america becoming a christofascist empire, yet looks like the all-american boy. clean-cut, wholesome, dressed in a tucked-in flannel shirt and spotless cowboy hat, harris looked more like an assistant at a southern men's clothes emporium than an erstwhile socio-religious critic. his starched look was indicative of the thermals' stage show, which was very plain, especially after these are powers' exuberance. harris and bassist kathy foster had some head-to-head rock moments, but, by and large, the thermals just played their music, and let us excite ourselves.

by the end of opening song "returning to the fold," a dance pit had formed in front of the stage. it would not dissipate until the thermals encored with a note-for-note cover of built to spill's "big dipper," a song not known for its pumping-up ability. in between the two, as the thermals played insouciantly, churning through nearly all of the body, the blood, the machine, the energy in the pit built to a climax, until warsaw's over-excited security guards tried to yank dancers out. the thermals didn't add or subtract anything from their live performance, and it was the crowd that made the show good, recklessly smashing into each other and dancing maniacally. the thermals played songs from more parts per million and fuckin a, though it was their newer songs that earned the greatest applause. they ended with a crushing "a pillar of salt," encored with three covers, and let us go, sweaty and exhausted, into the night.

the thermals - "here's your future (live on kexp)"

buy thermals stuff at sub pop.

"an ear for baby"

Thursday, November 1, 2007

golem w. rasputina @ music hall of williamsburg, 10/31/07

halloween with klezmer and victorian cello rock. ooh, spooky!

to tell you the truth (if the title didn't give it away), i was there for golem. it's no secret that i've been enjoying the excellent fresh off boat all year long, and their captivating live act is what turned me on to them in the first place. as i missed their last show in new york, in september, i was definitely not going to miss them here for halloween! golem waltzed onstage, proud members of the living dead, to what was a very disappointingly small crowd, which was destined to not grow much bigger. in april, golem was greeted with cheers and manic dancing, electrifying bowery ballroom with their trademark "eastern european folk punk," but they couldn't score the love in their own backyard. a shame that, because golem, despite their gaping wounds and bloodied faces, tore through their set with a furious energy.

golem opened with a song i didn't recognize, a disappointment that became a trend throughout the set. some were old, like the set closer from homesick songs, golem's second album, and some were new, songs so fresh that they didn't have names, from golem's next release, with a hopeful 2008 release. fortunately, golem quickly segued into "warsaw is khelm," their ostensible single and most famous song. what makes "warsaw is khelm" really distinctive, beyond the fierce charm and dance-friendly upbeats, is that it is one of golem's only songs in english. golem virgins (of which there were plenty at the show) definitely needed golem's standard bilingual introduction, delivered by accordion/vocalist annette ezekiel and tambourine/vocalist/count dracula aaron diskin. ezekiel and diskin, speaking in short bursts, answered the unspoken question "what the hell were they speaking?" it isn't english; it isn't german; it isn't even hebrew - it's yiddish! golem's lingua franca originated in eastern europe, the language of displaced jews, who also gave the world the marvelous form of music known as klezmer, from which golem draws not a little inspiration.

the two previous times i've talked about golem, i've been seriously impressed by their lack of electric instruments - while no great shakes in the klezmer world, it is a novelty in indieland, and, from my perspective, a major force in shaping their sound. however, i'm not going to talk about that today (even i know when a dead horse has been flogged enough); the issue at hand is how skilled golem is at their respective instruments. this isn't really a surprise, considering how virtuosic fresh off boat was, but even that doesn't hold a candle to their live performance. trombonist curtis hasselbring and violinist alicia jo rabins soloed in nearly every song, their arms blurs as rabins' bow raced over strings or hasselbring punched the air (with his trombone) in exhilaration. bassist taylor bergren-chrismas and drummer tim monaghan also enjoyed their time in the (metaphorical) spotlight, especially on "charlatan-ka," which will henceforth be remembered as the song when all the lights went out, and stayed out. power failure? accident? who knows. golem played by the light of cell phones, and the song went on without a hitch.

showmanship and quality are often inversely related - the flashier a band less, the less they want you to concentrate on their sound. this is not always the case, of course, and golem handily juggles the two, sacrificing neither. i feel strongly that monaghan's face, gripped in wild-eyed delight and contorted into bizarre expressions signifying the raw excitement and intensity of golem live, could be their most valuable (or inadvertent) stage spectacle, but it is really just one piece of their performative charm. ezekiel and diskin share singing duties in well-practiced harmony, but diskin is golem's real eye candy. jumping and gesticulating wildly, in time to the music or not, diskin manages to catch eyes. aaron diskin performed one of the most outstanding feats of boozingi have ever seen - or would have, if there had been actual cognac in the bottle he downed during a particularly fierce drinking song. but his actual intoxication is beside the point; diskin's pantomime was the perfect accompaniment. how else can you perform a drinking song, other than with drinking? dressed as a convincing jewish dracula, diskin wore a black cloak with red lining and was presumably caked in talcum powder, which irregularly came off him is great dust clouds. for "bublichki," one of fresh off boat's finest songs, about, according to ezekiel, "an orphaned boy...with a fucked up family." oxymorons aside, "bublichki" was one of the set's best musical moments, though it's finest spectacle came during golem's sexy song, the name of which i actually don't know. i saw it in april as well, as song that sounds rude to my non-yiddish ears, and is probably even worse if you understand it. here, ezekiel and diskin's chemistry is perfected, mocking and passionate, lascivious and absolutely kosher.

golem are not merely an excellent studio band, proven beyond a shadow of a doubt with fresh off boat, but superb in concert, visually and aurally engaging, especially in white and black zombie makeup. yet the most important part of any great concert is the excitement of the fans, and golem's music couldn't coax them into dancing (or, possibly, comprehending its amazingness). there are several good reasons why no one danced, with complete ignorance probably at the top of the list. however, golem is staking their claim, playing impressive live shows and releasing solid albums, and i doubt many will remain ignorant for long.


so, rasputina? i never warmed to them, even after a friend made me listen to thanks for the ether, but i can't deny that i was intrigued to see what they were going to do for halloween. how do neo-victorians play dress-up? i was hoping they would all come onstage in modern attire (i would've laughed), but their costumes seemed only barely distinguishable from their standard ones. frontlady melora creager was dressed as a native american guide, complete with feathered headdress, though her outfit was somewhat incomplete and only made sense when she explained what they were all dressed as. fellow cellist sarah bowman was "edgar allan crow biotch," whatever that means, though drummer jonathon tebeest earns kudos as rasputina's best dressed member of the night. mostly naked from the waist up, tebeest was a very convincing "god of the deep sea cucumber," bedecked in shells and beads, and resplendent in a plastic crown and trident. rasputina's penchant for costuming was clearly in effect, though not quite as glamorously as i had expected it to be, especially on halloween.

i won't lie: i left before rasputina's set was over. i just couldn't get into their sound, which seemed more a muddle of cello and effects pedals than any semblance of songwriting. rasputina played at least three covers last night, opening their set with a version of "all tomorrow's parties" that didn't quite cut it. for me, it didn't get much better. rasputina attempted a cover of belle & sebastian's "fox in the snow," quite stripped down and spare, though creager was clearly straining a little too much to hit murdoch's high notes. they followed that with "wish you were here," greeted appreciatively by the crowd, but i'd heard enough. especially after golem's furious foot-stamping klezmer rawk, rasputina seemed a little weak - i wanted raucous, drunk dancing, but everyone seemed merely content to stand around and gape.


buy golem's fresh off boat here, and rasputina merchandise here.

golem - "bublichki"