Wednesday, January 30, 2008

awesome song day! - "cassius"

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.

if there is one thing i wish indie rockers would learn from hip hop divas (and nas, who is not a diva), it's how to pull off a diss track. i would love nothing more than to have massive indieland feuds (a dream matchup would be team love and southern lord) and bands writing songs about how much the new vampire weekend sucks (yeah, you weren't actually expecting me to like a buzz band, were you?). i'm not sure if "cassius" really falls into the "diss track" category, since it's unclear whether frontman yannis philippakis is singing about this french band, but i'd like to imagine that he is, especially when he sings "cassius it's over /you're second best second best second best second best." sounds like a diss track to me, and it fits into the pre-existing anglo-franco conflict. as a proud supporter of scotland (as if you couldn't guess, right?), i just want to say: go france!

seriously though, cassius does kinda suck. check it.

even if the idea of an electropunk diss track doesn't appeal to you, you should like this song anyway. it's all elbows and sharp guitars and groovy post-dance beats and too-skinny jeans. sounds like the perfect recipe for success, doesn't it? hmmm...didn't i say i don't like buzz bands? at least foals has an original sound, instead of ripping off paul simon.

foals play bowery ballroom on 2/12 (who has no thumbs and his ticket for this already? mr. mammoth) with also-awesome team robespierre. they then play silent barn (915 wyckoff in ridgewood) with tba guests on the 13th, and chop suey in seattle on the 14th. those are their only american dates. hope cassius don't show up for their 4 dates in france/see other (mostly sold-out) tour dates at their myspace.

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, you can get more live traxxxxx (it's funny, because foals have a song called "xxxxx") at the fan-run foals band dot com.

pre-order the cassius single here; it's released in the uk on march 10.
foals' debut antidotes is due april 8 on

Monday, January 28, 2008

in the future

three januarys ago, a widely read, distinguished music zine named pitchfork media called black mountain's self titled debut a "best" record, making the band a household name (in austin, chicago, and my headphones at least). black mountain is a grateful debt paid to late 60s guitar rock (with interest), music of the future that owes it all to the past. a common story, really, but black mountain digs deeper and, consequentially, offers greater rewards for the studious. anchored by frontman stephen mcbean's dynamic and pathos-ridden voice (imagine jason molina without the deadpan), black mountain is reverential yet inventive, blowing all misconceptions away with "modern music," a saxophone-laden anti-pop track, or "druganaut," a funky dead jam, determinedly drafting a different blueprint for this band. it is doubly ironic, then, that in the future, black mountain's second album (and, nominally, its most forward-reaching) is less progressive than their debut, and much more rewarding.

from its first notes, it is clear that black mountain is channeling something deeper for their future. they've shed their playful and nervy attitude, as well as their saxophonist, for a future more ancient than possible, keeping pace with heavy retro-rockers everywhere. mcbean and fellow bandleader amber webber eschew the lighthearted creativity of black mountain, shelving its derring-do and toe-treading in favor of a more mainstream aesthetic of gritty prog-rock. it's both a commercial and aural shift. in the future is a satisfying, reverb-rich epic of crunching guitars and tremulous wails that begs to be louder and longer - a progressive hard rock album that was released forty years too late (and arrived right on time).

along with their new brooding stares (check out this photo) and heavier tunes, black mountain have embraced an appropriately dire outlook. jagjaguwar's press release compares the band's sophomore album to freshman year of high school, a supposedly liberating time, "the first real taste of independence in the quest for absolute freedom." last time i checked, the first year of high school was a truly frightening experience, choked with budding pituitary glands and vicious cliques, and in the future is a much better soundtrack of anxiety and rebellion than of independence. like an alienated adolescent, in the future is moody and disenchanted, an exorcism and escape. there's no cheekiness in the title of "stormy high" - it's the national anthem of a stoned fantasyland. this is outcast rock for kids who played dungeons & dragons, then retreated into a smoky haze.

what black mountain have dreamed up is a post-apocalyptic dark ages, with heroes, villains, and crunching guitars. like an eight minute dystopian vignette, "tyrant" (the future's ostensible single) is a morality play acted through dynamics, a ham-fisted loud-soft-loud-soft "effigy" for the new millennium. "tyrant" is still brutal, an aural rendering of one likely apocalypse that is delivered like a B+ science fiction screenplay, emotive without any attempt at finesse. (on the other hand, who ever wanted subtlety from a hard rock futurist nightmare?) "tyrant" delivers the goods, a neat little package of guts and guitars sweetened by amber webber's prophetic howling, so evocative that you can, if you close your eyes, see her renting her garments and vowing vengeance on the cruel dictator in a wide, pan shot of the wreckage of her burnt house (appropriately tolkienesque, i feel).

though black mountain have retired some of the tools from their self-titled, in the future does feature other important developments, like that of amber webber. in a role expanded from her relegated use on black mountain, webber's vocals consistently shape songs and define their most rewarding moments. her wailing on "tyrant" and "bright lights" form those songs' cruxes, and her solo, alice-in-weirdland "queens will play" - though it suffers of a progression that promises more than its payoff delivers - is darkly portentous and heavy. webber still does regular duty on harmonies, but even then she works in tandem with mcbean, providing tantalizing and haunted vocals that accentuate and enrich his own. their interplay is one of in the future's best features, her keening laments and harmonies really filling out their sound.

what, despite its flaws, makes in the future such an appealing album? well, for one thing, black mountain go totally medieval on our asses, ditching the quirky 60s amalgamation for a solid shot of hard rock, no chaser. no surprise that they were invited on the last queens of the stone age tour; in the future is the best kind of stoner metal, luxuriously heavy and plush with intensity. the album starts on the right foot with "stormy high," a swaggering neo-viking war march that only improves with volume, a characteristic the album shares. fuzzball "evil ways" lingers , thanks to a screeching guitar and mcbean's raw vocals, and the ballad "angels" shows off a different side of the band entirely. at the tail end of in the future is black mountain's greatest opus t0 date - the sixteen minute "bright lights." it starts gently, switching "bright light" and "light bright" around lyrically, mcbean and webber chanting ritually, and abruptly lurches into fifth gear, bellicose and bristling for a fight before dissolving into a dreaded spacey-pedal-fest, a bad decision that it never fully recovers from, though it puts up a good show - the last minute and a half of "bright lights" might be the best on the record.

in the future is a more successful album than black mountain, for its commercial appeal as much as its sonic one - richer, deeper, and blissfully heavier than anything their debut could have suggested, in the future is the work of more attuned yet less confident artists. my own enjoyment of in the future notwithstanding, it is a stylistic regression for black mountain, a hedged bet, regurgitating the past for fresh ears. slavishly constructed, this is an easily digestible homage liberally slathered with inspiration, instead of the other way around. no small part of in the future's importance is this eponymous conundrum: if this is the music of the future, why does it sound so much like the past? if anything, black mountain is the future, lessons learned from ancient masters, reinvigorated and refreshed, and not merely an accomplished mimicry. in the future apes the old and calls it the new like some orwellian thought program, a self-imposed verbal hurdle that is never quite cleared.

"stormy high" & "tyrant"

follow this sweet little .gif to jagjaguwar's online store.

black mountain embark on their north american tour on thursday in seattle. they play your city ___.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

aesop rock @ southpaw, 1/22/08 (myspace secret show)

well, i couldn't feel my fingers or toes by the time we got in, but we got in. boo-fucking-yah. i won't bore you with stories about the line or the security (is it always like that in park slope? i had to prove my camera was a camera!), and cut straight to the chase: great fucking show. i'd never seen aesop rock before, and have always wanted too, especially since the moste excellent none shall pass was released last year. def jux's biggest star pulled out all the stops for the über-intimate myspace secret show at southpaw, giving love to the crowd and spitting verses til he was out of breath, bringing mad guests on...a really great show that was even sweeter because it was free.

naturally, def jux was in the house, and aes corralled labelmates hangar 18 as openers, who proclaimed themselves "rap's best interracial group" by way of an introduction. funny thing is, they might be right (also, it's not exactly a packed category). a party rap crew like the beastie boys (but with more flavor), hangar 18 is dirty, funny, and a hell of a good time. at one point during the set, mcs wind and alaska took a quiet moment to tell the crowd about some serious shit going down, and how we live in hard times, when there are two major issues we all need to take seriously - trapped in the closet and drinking. book these guys for your frat house right now. with their slick, joking rhymes, they seemed the odd man out in the def jux stable - a critically minded label known best for the acerbic rhymes of aesop rock, labelhead el-p, or whiz kid cage (when was the last time you heard some serious discourse about bitches and barhopping?) - but they were fun and definitely got the crowd going. also, they sampled "jump on it," which was pretty funny.

"baking soda"
buy sweep the leg from definitive jux.

"take no chances"

there was virtually no between-set downtime, which was awesome - aesop rock, rob sonic, and dj big wiz hit the stage maybe ten minutes after the departure of hangar 18 to deafening cheers, opening with none shall pass's first track, "keep off the lawn." though his eyes were half closed, aes was fucking spot on, nailing verses and really bringing his songs alive, adding callbacks and chants that kept the crowd involved. rob sonic, aes rock's compatriot and producer of "dark heart news," was his cheerleader, adding another voice to his raps and finishing his verses, and the two working in perfect tandem. in a myspace blog post written right after the show, aesop rock said "rob sonic and wiz, of course, were on point. we're like 3 massive peas in an even larger pod at this point. a hip hop pod."

unsurprisingly, aes performed most of the tracks from none shall pass, including killer versions of "39 thieves," "dark heart news," and "bring back pluto." the biggest applause, however, was reserved for his older work - a reworked version of "no regrets," from labor days, which cut its normal running length of 5+ minutes to under 3, and encore "daylight" were probably his biggest hits of the night. not one to hog the mic, aes gave rob sonic two turns in the spotlight, who busted two joints from last year's sabotage gigante. dj big wiz also had a solo turn, building a beat from scratch as aes and rob took a breather. throughout the night, the two mcs teased us, telling us about the special guests waiting backstage, but i don't think anyone guessed how many there were. el-producto came out with a brand new mustache to do a track from i'll sleep when you're dead, battling through the flu to deliver the goods, which was fucking awesome, but the best hadn't come yet. asking "does anyone here like freestyles?," aes dropped a few verses before slug (from atmosphere) walked out. then el-p returned, followed by yak ballz and despot ("world's tallest rapper"), who is one of def jux's most recent signees. they all busted dope rhymes and despot climbed on rob sonic's shoulders, and it was clear they were having as much fun as we were. aesop rock finished with "coffee," which the crowd had been hollering for all night, a fitting end to a great (free) night of music. thanks myspace!

"dark heart news (feat. and prod. by rob sonic)"
buy none shall pass from definitive jux.

"no regrets (remix)"

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

sometimes they collide

have you ever tried to have a conversation about music with someone who hasn't really listened to anything since 1973? it's fucking hard. so many of the words we use to describe music are only understood by us, people who listen and follow it religiously, and have absolutely no correlation to a) how music actually sounds, and b) any conventional use of those words in english. one of the most irksome genres (for its practitioners as much as for its nomenclature) is shoegaze. while it is easy to understand (music that makes you want to look at your shoes), it's really time for shoegaze to get the proverbial axe. most bands that embrace "shoegaze" as a self-descriptor generally play crappy progressive music - songs that start with a lone, cold-sounding guitar and grow, over seventeen achingly boring minutes, into some cacophonist mogwai ripoff. christ. fortunately, the hectors are hip to the shoegaze game, and brazenly combine the best elements of that failing genre (yup, there are a couple of those) with a mainstream rock sensibility that make their songs both edgy and easy to enjoy. having just released sometimes they collide, their second ep, for tarantism records, the hectors are getting all antsy in their pantsy and ready to prove that, though shoegaze has no future (and thank god for it), that doesn't mean that we can't get something decent out of it before it goes.

one of shoegaze's most potent (and worthwhile) attributes is its distinctive guitar sound, which characteristically starts delicately, pinpointing notes that hang in the air, then gradually builds into a wail, screeching with distortion and epiphany, thundering and glorious. for most bands, this takes an achingly long time. the hectors consistently do it in under five minutes, and with actual melodies and honest-to-goodness dynamics. what a rare find. as their press release says, "the hectors write and perform songs about geeks ('cold star'), thugs ('carol and sanford'), slackers ('proof of sale') and dreamers ('i drove all the way from bridgeport to make it with you')", but rick parker (BRMC, dandy warhols) buries frontwoman corinne dinner's vocals deep in the mix, accentuating the depth of her voice but also losing many of her lyrics. the loss is negligible, since the hectors' fierce guitar layering rightly deserves it be the focus - album highlight "a million fingers" showcases the interplay between lead robert bonilla's and dinner's guitars, dynamic and ominous.

only the hectors' second release, sometimes they collide is impressive, and puts the band in good position to get snapped up by a serious label. with strong hooks and charismatic guitar work, sometimes they collide bring to mind a gentler silversun pickups (a band that mr. mammoth is a big fan of). the hectors have successfully fleshed out the skeleton of shoegaze into a serious pop force, and future work from this band is sure to be as enjoyable and expansive as this ep is.

"cold star" & "a million fingers"

buy sometimes they collide at your local independent record store.

Monday, January 21, 2008

awesome song & dance day! - "i wish that i could see you soon"

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.

herman düne - "i wish that i could see you soon"
giant, herman düne's fifth album, was released by source etc. records in europe.

french anti-folksters herman düne were awarded the honor of having written the 89th best song of 2007 for this gem, a sweet, catchy love ditty, but the best part of the song is the video, directed by toben seymour. two different versions of the video have been released, the "work in progress" one and the completed one, and i have to say, i think the work in progress one is way cooler. but check 'em both out and see what you think. i guarantee this - you're gonna be jealous of herman düne's dancing ability.

fake gold

you might recall that i didn't sound particularly impressed with team robespierre when i saw them last, opening for yeasayer at the friction party. that's because i wasn't, and one of the band's singers really (really) needed a shower. but i really liked their aesthetic, living on the fringes and loving it, and i bought a t-shirt and picked up a sampler the band was handing out, because, hey, sometimes these things grow on you. lucky i did, because fake gold, the bruising 5 song sampler/ep, has been in my headphones all week, and i just can't get team robespierre out of my brain.

where does their appeal come from? i'm not a fan of punk, but that's the clearest architect of team robespierre's sound, a fierce, infectious blend of joy and anger. understandably disenchanted with the global web of deceit spun by authority figures, team robespierre is striking back with an arsenal of spastic electropunk songs that rarely clock in at more than a minute and a half. sometimes furious ("big deal") and sometimes wry ("88th precinct"), fake gold is as much an observation as a critique, but team robespierre don't let their resentment get in the way of having a hell of a good time. some of the choicest lyrics on fake gold are in "ha ha ha," where they yell "i'm not looking for a job / i just wanna be a heartthrob!" that shit is priceless.

one of team robespierre's punkest tendencies (and most appealing qualities) is their almost universal lack of musical ability. the band has two lead singers who play instruments (and trade off on the mic), and two musicians who sing backup (and a drummer who dives off his kit), so song structure isn't the team's strongest suit. generally, it seems that whoever doesn't sing plays an instrument, so some songs have guitar ("ha ha ha") and others have keyboard ("black rainbow"), and some have both ("laika"). one quality common to all of team robespierre's songs is how badly they make you want to get into a stinky sweaty mosh pit and dance your heart out in a physical cacophony of elbows and knees.

more a cathartic release than music you listen to on headphones, team robespierre is really intended to be heard in a live environment, where your face can be dive-bombed by any member of the band. their energy is infectious, but the team's members are their own biggest fans - they rock the hardest and dance the jitteriest, and crowd surf as much as possible. i was really excited when i found out they were opening for foals (who i've also been enjoying lately), and i really hope the crowd at bowery ballroom is gonna be down for some serious spazz-dancing. if you can't wait that long (or doubt the danceability of bowery), team robespierre is having a record release party on february 1 at death by audio. be there or be a stooge.

team robespierre's debut full length, everything's perfect, will be released on 1/22 on impose records. (thanks for the tip mike!)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

au revoir simone w. april march, bell @ bowery ballroom, 1/18/08

my long love affair with au revoir simone came to a head at last night's bowery ballroom show, their first at that venue and my first time seeing them, in a night that was defined by its inordinate and disgusting amount of face-sucking as much as the great music onstage.
i normally don't mind people getting intimate at shows, but the bowery must've been hosting couples night, because i was beset on all sides by the non-stop sound of slobber. kudos to the few couples who learned restraint and decorum, but the rest of you: SHAME. if you're gonna go at it like no one else is around, at least do it on the side of the stage, not right in the goddamn middle of the crowd. that's not cool! (sorry, just needed to get that off my chest.) it was my first show since returning from the u.k., and one i had been looking forward to for a while. you may recall that the bird of music was one of my favorite albums of last year, and while i had some reservations about their live show (mostly from tearknee, who was decidedly unthrilled by their latitude performance), i was, on the whole, excited to see my favorite vintage keyboard band live.

good thing i had my ticket in advance - the show, quite to my surprise, was sold out before the first opener went on. i had no idea au revoir simone had that kind of drawing power. the crowd seemed to mostly be girl-packs and the aforementioned kissing couples, though there were a number of single gentlemen; a crowd very unlike those at most shows i've been to (they even danced a little bit!). interestingly, a significant portion of the crowd seemed to have come only for opener april march, a well-respected underground sensation known best for "chick habit," the song that soundtracks the beatdown kurt russell receives at the end of death proof. april march's myspace boasts of her bilingual songwriting and that "france considers her their own cultural property." since she is not a regular live performer, catching april march (not her real name) is a rare pleasure, and it was clear that some had come only to see her.

the bowery presents selects opening bands for acts on tour alone, and it's always a hit-or-miss selection. i had no idea what to expect from opening act bell, having missed this tidbit that got people interested in her a couple weeks ago, but things certainly sounded good from the line outside, and i had a sinking feeling that i had made a mistake in arriving a little late. fortunately, i only missed a few songs, but i won't make the mistake of coming late for a bell set next time. bell is olga bell, a russian-born songwriter who plays a keyboard and macbook, who is blessed with one extraordinary voice. it's rich and versatile, velvety when subdued, and simply paralyzing on songs like "suerte loca," which featured some of the best vocals of her set. feist is a name that springs instantly as a comparison, as is that of shara worden, but bell's voice has a playfulness that sets her apart. her songs had no real pattern, save that they kept me riveted; had she shown up on the scene a few years ago, it's not a stretch to think that she would be where this other russian-born songwriter is now. she was joined onstage by a full band, who were themselves very impressive - drummer gunnar olsen and guitarist gary mcmurray really fleshed out bell's sound. olsen's drumming is inventive and engaging, and mcmurray's distorted guitar added a lot to bell's appeal. one of the set's many highlights was a (now well-known) compendium of covers, radiohead's "videotape" segueing into thom yorke's "the eraser," which was quite good. bell's take on "the eraser" was quite better than many of the songs from the eraser remixes, and as compelling as yorke's original. bell plays with takka takka at cake shop on february 1.

"suerte loca" (live on fair game, january 2008)
get the whole show from shane at the torture garden.


april march put on an interesting show, but i couldn't quite figure her out. her backing band were clearly strangers to her (she didn't even know the name of her guitarist), but were much better performers than she. i assume april march writes all her own music, but she played no instrument, and her body language didn't really suggest that she got into her performance. her music straddles a fence between languid francopop, of the edith piaf variety, and new wave bohemian beach rock with strong keyboards and guitars. her band was color-coded, with everyone in pink, and their energy far outstripped hers, with drummer steve weiss winning love from the crowd for his passionate pounding of the skins. the disconnect between april march and her band is probably nothing new, but it really colored my impression of her; her music is really solid, her voice is nice, but her set would've been crap without the band (and not just because i hate acapella). they injected her songs with great vigor, so that songs like "there is always madness" (which ended her set) absolutely blew me away. the band was rocking out, and april march was barely swaying back and forth. maybe she has stage fright, i don't know. the fact of the matter is, i would pay to see her band play again, but not her.

"chick habit" (song and video)

it was really cool to see the stage get set up for au revoir simone's set - i've never seen the stage so empty. usually cluttered with amps, mics, drums, guitar stands and so on, au revoir simone, naturally, only had keyboards set up in a row - i was just enchanted by how clean and empty the stage seemed, buttressing the band's aura of delicacy and deliberation.

though i love the bird of music, i was trepidations about how well au revoir simone's sound would translate to a live atmosphere. so much of their appeal is and, indeed, the bowery ballroom failed to satisfy, giving the band far too much bass and not compensating for the ladies' quiet vocals. that, in turn, gave their saccharine songs a trance-like quality, making "i couldn't sleep" ironically soporific and intensifying the hypnotic qualities of lusher songs like "a violent yet flammable world." for their part, however, the band seemed genuinely happy - erika forster was especially ecstatic, exclaiming at the top of the set how thrilled she was to be on the stage of a venue she'd seen most of her favorite shows at - though their enthusiasm soon was hidden by the seriousness with which they performed. even during the "dance portion" of their set (which was two songs long), au revoir simone played with a determined focus, smiling only at a song's end.

au revoir simone played a short but solid set (only 45 minutes), and whatever disappointment i left with was, i knew, not the band's fault. the sound just sucked - the band themselves asked for their mixes to be adjusted six or eight times throughout their set, and whoever was running the soundboard clearly had no idea what au revoir simone's music should sound like. despite the aural obstacles, it was a nice time, and the band put on a good show. they played each other's keyboards, sometimes in the middle of songs, they used a tambourine and maracas, and they had a really cute encore, which one expects from a really cute band. the last song was "the lucky one," opening track of the bird of music, and for the chorus, april march's band, passionate crowd members, and longtime friends we are scientists joined the band onstage, for a great singalong. it was a nice night, and a nice way to get back to nyc, and, ultimately, au revoir simone is just that - nice.

"sad song" (from their daytrotter session)
get the band's set live on fair game from the smudge of ashen fluff.

"dark halls"

Thursday, January 10, 2008

the clientele @ the luminaire, 1/8/08

first, a disclaimer: were it not for the serious dearth of live music in my life (my last proper show was yeasayer), i would not have bothered going to see the clientele the other night. nothing against them personally, but their underwhelming tweed-rock isn't my thing in the slightest - yet the live scene in london nowadays is so dismally bare (the spice girls' epic marathon run at O2 is pretty much it) that the moment i saw the name of a band i even slightly recognized, i jumped on it (also, it only cost me a fiver).

the clientele are a london-based four-piece that play polished adult rock, and who have found a home on merge records in the us, where they are far more popular than they are in their native land. that being said, the luminaire was absolutely sold out for their first show on 2008, and well and truly packed long before they were set to go on. last year's god save the clientele certainly won them a wider audience, egged on by catchy little songs like "bookshop casanova," though, as i said, their style has always seemed rather too understated and, well, too old for me. much like alligator, the standard for adult rock (which has always sounded too slick and not quite original enough to catch my ear), the clientele too are overly polished and unremarkable, and, dare i say, rather boring. nonetheless, i approached their show with an open mind (and ears), knowing only "bookshop casanova" and "since k got over me," not expecting to be wowed, but neither to be disappointed.

unfortunately, it was the latter. a more disappointing three hours of live music have i rarely paid for, and i was completely flabbergasted by how strongly the crowd felt about the artists performing for them. by adult rock standards, i think we got an all-star lineup, from the left outsides to darren hayman (ex-frontman of john peel faves hefner), but as tearknee and i seemed the be the youngest in the room by about seven years, we were clearly not the target audience. the left outsides played harmless viola-inflected easy rock to the eager crowd that defied easy categorization, beyond their collective age. their slow, passive songs, a clear homage to the often bland jams of british bands of the 70s, suited a room full of tortoiseshell- bespectacled and elbow-patched lager drinkers, and practically put both of us to sleep.

we hoped darren hayman would jolt us out of our bland-rock coma, and the applause to greeted his arrival on stage, with only a wurlitzer and two bottles of beer for company, was definitely encouraging. hayman is best known for his work as the driving force of hefner, a storied "urban folk" band with a legion of devoted fans, of whom there seemed to be more than a few in the audience. i'm totally unfamiliar with hefner, and can't compare hayman-as-hefner with hayman-as-solo artist, but i've definitely come up with an opinion about hayman-as-solo: yawn. his piano melodies were incredibly simple, his stage presence a joke - the only partially engaging element of his songwriting were his lyrics, which varied between the trite (why hayman wants to live in elderly capital eastbourne) and the amusing (a little ditty about the national canine defense league). ultimately, however, sitting down and waiting for the clientele to come on was a more satisfying decision than watching the rest of hayman's set.


ah, the clientele. polished, understated, and not exactly riveting, the clientele opened with "since k got over me," the most recognizable song from their 2005 attention-getter, strange geometry. frontman alisdair maclean sings in a breathy tenor, his screwed-up face the only tell of the concentration put into his singing. multi-instrumentalist mel draisey was the most visually engaging member of the group, and that's only because she was the only one who bothered moving around. granted, the luminaire's stage isn't exactly spacious, but the clientele's stiffness, combined with their aural plainness, made them a not very fun band to see. kudos are definitely owed to the sound man, who sets the best levels i've ever heard in a live space - every note, thump, and tinkle (from draisey's xylophone) was clear as a bell. granted, that didn't make the clientele's sound much more engaging, but at least it wasn't an aural mess. they played a couple covers, of the monkees and television, the latter a band to whom the clientele owe no small debt, and from whom the clientele took some of their best ideas; on a few songs, and a few songs only, the clientele broke out of their leather armchair stupor and seriously almost rocked out, the volume and intensity building impressively, though their demeanor remained as stolid and straightfaced as ever. unsurprisingly (if you've listened to their records), the clientele's live performance was plain and unremarkable, an unrewarding experience that only their most devoted fans must enjoy.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

professor murder

professor murder are a spastic dance quartet from brooklyn, who caused something of a sensation last summer with the release of their first ep, rides the subway. well, maybe "sensation" is a little hyperbolic - pitchfork loved it, but when i listened to "champion," i was less than impressed. chaotic to the point of being directionless, mumbled lyrics, and kinda repetitive, "champion" wasn't enough to sell me on the album or the band, and i filed them away in the "awesome artwork, mediocre music" section of my brain. see how cool the artwork is! too cool for school.
anyway, i can't really explain why, i felt the need to look up professor murder again over the summer. maybe i had been scrolling through my library and recognized the name, or perhaps i was colossally bored. in any event, i checked out their old website (it's down now), and decided to give the band another chance. this decision was due primarily to the fact that they had free songs available for download, and if i'm a sucker for anything, it's free music. so i grabbed this live set from pianos, five songs deep, from 2005, and gave it a few spins. well, you might've guessed this by now, but i totally dug it. this time, i filed it away in the "better than before, should blog about this" category, and promptly forgot about it until now.

live at pianos, 4/3/05 (.zip)
the mountain
(too much) gun talk
camron's new color (part 3)

some other news about professor murder, if you're just joining their party: they like giving away shit for free. they have a big ole mixtape available at their myspace, and their new ep, on a desert island, is being released song by song through rcrd lbl, and the first song, "flex-it formula," has been available for about a month. no word on when the next songs will be posted.

awesome song night! - "teenage riot" (with epic p.p.s.)

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.

ruby isle - "teenage riot" (sonic youth cover)

this song made the rounds back in march of '07, but it's so good, i had to serve it up again. ruby isle is a trio from athens and minneapolis, comprised of mark mallman, dan geller, and aaron lemay. mallman and geller are well-known in their own rights, mallman as the composer of "marathon 2," the longest song in history (clocking in at 52+ hours), and geller as half of the fantastically awesome IDM outfit i am the world trade center. having joined forces with lemay, ruby isle make slick, smart, and bratty electropop, often covering better known bands. in addition to this version of "teenage riot," ruby isle made some waves recently with their destroyer/ stunt a couple months ago. anyway, this song is fucking awesome.

p.s. hear more ruby isle covers (including a download of "tyrant" by black mountain) at their myspace.

p.p.s. so i did a bit more research, and got a tip or two, and it turns out this deal is more than just a one-off - it's a regular deal for geller, mallman, and lemay. the hello, blue roses song was just the beginning of what has become an epic project: "we are going to continue to do covers of the #1 spot on the hot tracks chart on a semi-weekly basis until we get bored or the songs get bad." this week's track is a mash-up cover of steven malkmus's "baltimore" and m.i.a.'s "paper planes," completely refurbished and re-imagined, ruby isle-style. check it out here. you can also download all the previous ruby isle/ covers from here.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

best album by a sexually ambiguous troubadour

it’s been a very tumultuous year for patrick wolf. he literally catapulted into the annals of indiedom when the magic position was embraced by pitchfork, relentless arbiter of hipness that they are, racking up some of the best headlines of the year alongside some of its better songs (do you remember when he blasted mika on his myspace? those were some good times.). the hot-panted singer, adored for his style as much as his substance, rode one hell of a rollercoaster in 2007, a ride which ended mere days ago with a pair of concerts at london’s shepherd's bush empire (one of which our very own tearknee attended). wolf, who is known for his ambiguous missives as much as his questionable sexuality (those pants, man!), is probably taking some time off to work on a new album, or his own record label (lycanthropy and wind in the wires are its first slated releases, natch), or hem some more shorts and dye his hair another color, or who the fuck knows. patrick wolf’s home life is probably just as bizarre and interesting as the magic position, which is to say, lots.

patrick wolf is one of the closest things we have to a prodigy (i’m so not counting tiny masters of today, by the way), a songwriter whose budding genius was abundantly visible to fat cat, if no one else, at the ripe old age of sixteen. while most of his peers were illegally drinking and trying to pull similarly drunk girls, wolf was squatting with friends and developing a unique personality and songwriting approach. the fat cats at fat cat gave him some new equipment and studio time, and received lycanthropy, an album that only begins to hint at his talent and genius. by wind in the wires wolf’s style was honed to razor sharpness, his distinctive talent blossoming. often defined by the twin cores of glitchy drums and string-snapping violin, wind in the wires is grand and epic, wolf’s fascination with mythology evident on songs like “tristan” and “the libertine.” for the magic position, however, wolf’s gaze turned inward.

the magic position is, first and foremost, a love album, one that captures its nuances, ecstatic highs and crushing lows both, with more charisma and sophistication than many of its peers (and is very enjoyable to boot!). one of the most striking features of the magic position is wolf's obvious versatility and flexibility, to say nothing of his candid self-assurance. his public persona is unabashedly dramatic and highly sexual, and the magic position overflows with a tangible sense of purity - this is wolf as he really is, vulnerable yet confident. however, were it not for his musical dynamism and ingenuity, patrick wolf could be just another melancholy singer/songwriter, possessed of an abundance of joy and misery; instead, he ranks as one of the most inventive and innovative pop songwriters of the new millennium, joyfully blending stiff, harsh electronic beats with wanton strings and horns, each anchored in his sweeping vision for a brave new aesthetic.

naturally, the album's most engaging song is its titular one; "the magic position" is catchy, with a riveting violin hook, and exuberant, wolf's voice soaring with delight, combined with his overwhelmingly positive lyrics, delivered in enough of an off-tempo cadence to catch the ear and keep it. his style is so bold that the magic position is, at times, almost difficult to listen to - the whole record is truly ingenious, but its brilliance is so pronounced as to make hearing it an effort. it is not easy listening. wolf can purportedly play sixteen instruments, and the aural depth of the magic position would suggest that he takes a turn at all of them - it is simply baffling, and nearly impossible, to try and identify every sound or every instrument in even a single song. that being said, the magic position has many overarching instrumental themes, chiefly, as before, a heavy reliance on dirty electronic beats and distorted drum effects. but wolf trades in his younger brashness for a more nuanced sound; album highlight "augustine" is almost a ballad, led by a emotional piano that underscores the audible worry in his voice. "(let's go) get lost," indisputably the magic position's best song, is very nearly a cacophony, with horns, theremin, keyboards, hand claps, finger snaps, and assorted electronic gadgets chirping in time, while perfectly capturing the blinding exultation of love. the magic position is very obviously an ode to love, that most universal (and indescribable) human emotion, and wolf's own love for his music is evident at every turn. he plays with a vivaciousness and rampant happiness that is absolutely infectious, so that "accident & emergency" plays on repeat in your skull, and brings a smile every time.

i have to stress that the magic position is not an easy album. it took me a long time to listen to it and really enjoy it, more than a couple months, but sticking it out is so very rewarding. it is really a brilliant piece of work, and every time i remember all that he's accomplished at the embarrassingly young age of 23, it fills me with a deep and abiding sense of shame. i think his songwriting is, more than anything else, brave - it's absolutely original and absolutely captivating and far more engaging than the absurdity of freak-folk or drone-rock, or whatever genre is in vogue right now, and pretty damn inimitable. the taut drama of the magic position is important, nay, essential, for furthering the evolution of contemporary music. it may not be the best album you've heard this year, or even the most enjoyable (it isn't either for me), but i think it's the most critical. patrick wolf is doing things musically that i'm not hearing anywhere else, and the magic position is his best work yet. it deserves your attention, and your respect.