Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Youth Born Again

Backspacer - Pearl Jam

My allegiance is reaffirmed.

It feels great to listen to a straight forward rock album from a band that defies age and stereotypes. I've long been a fan of Pearl Jam, but like most have lost touch since the early part of the decade. This album reminds me of why I had a Ten poster on my wall and why I used to wake up to VS every morning. Shoot, I played the shit out of Binaural, but there have been plenty of miscues over the years.

This is Pearl Jam's bold statement that they aren't going away and we are all better for it.

It's tight, fast and loud. The lyrics aren't always on point, but they never have been for this band. Gossard and Amet don't write the best songs but they play the heck out of them. Vedder shines bright here knocking a few home runs early and closing strong. He brings to PJ a little of his solo magic from the OST to Into the Wild with "Just Breathe", a song I can't get enough of.

I dig this album and the band.


Freaks Alive!

Embryonic - Flaming Lips
(Fast Review)


This is the most difficult album of the year, in the best possible way. The Lips have never been one to dwell in the approachable realm for all. They are, afterall, the purveyors of oddity and showmen of the other world. They love to freak and they love the bizzare but moslty the love to be themselves.

The album has it's certain ups and downs but when played as a cohesive unit the spacious and alientating tracks take form and things flesh themselves out into a rather stunning collection of sounds.

There are the quick fix hits scattered about, but mostly you'll find the band at play with free style jazz influenced, jam outs that tip around the direction you assume (and at times yearn) they will head. It's almost like the want the fans to be frustrated and it's fucking awesome.

Take the trip, leave reality and assumptions at home.


Monday, October 26, 2009

New Fang

Video for the first single from Powerhouse Super Group: Them Crooked Vultures

New Fang:

This Fears Got a Hold on Me

To Lose My Life - White Lies

When words like power, angst, emotive meant more to music there was a sound that wasn’t rock and it wasn’t pop. Listeners could find a connection to the words and find them real in their own lives. The songs were beat driven and flowing to keep listeners engaged but still challenging and complex enough to inspire. It felt artistic, creative yet safely reassuring. The music had a style or an attitude that you could see almost more than you could hear. It wasn’t dark exactly but it was far from happy, a paradox to the pop structure of the songs.

We know this music now to be the popular music of the 1980’s, lead mostly by the movie soundtracks and hit songs that defined our youth. It’s brilliantly simplistic music that was ageless the day it hit the airwaves. Bands like A-Ha, The Cars and Tears for Fears found a way to make pop music for the mind and lead a movement. It was post Clash and the disco movement but pre hair metal. The tagline, emo rock founds its origins with bands like the Cure and the Smiths a standard that would carry over into the music of INXS.

In the early part of this decade a band took these sounds and blended them with the rawness and musical genius of the brooding Joy Division, that band is Interpol. Once thought to be the next icon along with the Strokes, Interpol has met it’s match. M83 has nothing on this band.
White Lies is all that made those 80’s soundtracks sound so great minus the bubble gum and hair product. They are darker than many of the bands above but the sound is built on the same foundation. The range and sincerity of this album is stunning at times. The lyrics are what make this album a true prize.

Having stumbled upon them via a Day Trotter Session, I soon became engulfed with their work. After touring with Kings of Leon and building a fan base in their home of England, White Lies is ready for American domination and I for one welcome it.

Songs to hear: "Fifty on Our Foreheads", "Death", "Unfinished Business"


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Voice of the Woods

Unmap - Volcano Choir

Collaboration from Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and Collections of Colonies of Bees gives us Volcano Choir. Beautifully Bizarre.

Mixed opinions on this one. I love that Justin is as ambitious as he is but the heavily instrumental and sparse arrangements leave much to be desired for me. It sounds more like a small collection of songs strung together with outtakes from studio sessions given the ‘alone in the woods’ treatment Bon Iver has now mastered. I enjoy minimalism in music but get lost when I feel the intent is to push listeners past a point of focus and trail off with no intent to retain or draw back. Thom Yorke explores as well as anyone as we have been reminded again this year, but he never loses me despite what I take to be some of better attempts.

"Island, IS" comes as a hands down winner and is among my favorite songs of the year. If more of the tracks had this kind of direction I feel the overall project would be more of a success had the outfit followed a more structured approach. Some can argue that the point of this project was to explore new soundscapes, I can’t argue, but I’ll leave exploring soundscapes to Califone.


I Just Wanna Bang on the Drums All Day

Single from the new project of the Black Keys, drummer, aptly titled: Drummer.

The song is post grunge, a lot like a Dinosaur Jr. fuzzy riff heavy stuff of late. I dig it and look forward to digging into this album soon.
"Feel Good Together"

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Suckin Ya Dry

Deertick with Johnny Corndawg - The Visulite, October 18th 2009

Sunday night shows are tough in a town like Charlotte. For the most part, Charlotte is a play it by the book kinda town, the crisp shirted, big banking folks who enjoy being scene at the best spot more than checking out the scenes that the backside of this town offers. Sunday nights are tough because most folks have hit it hard all weekend and most guys just wanna sit on the couch and watch the tube. But every now and then, if you venture out, you'll catch a rare show, a band in their groove on a Sunday.

I've caught a few Sunday shows in my time and the most amazing of them is My Morning Jackets show at the Tabernacle on the Z tour; changed the way I see live music.
Deertick is not going to redefine anything about my life, but there is plenty they solidify, and on a Sunday sometimes the best thing going is a true affirmation. A calling of faith of all things southern, twangy, rough and tough, a little boozed up and full of grit, hard lessons and broken hearted songs.

The last time I attempted to see Deertick was over a year ago at the world famous Milestone in town, where there were maybe 5 people in attendance and Deertick pulled a no show; flat tire en route. How Deertick landed a gig at Visulite I ain't real sure. Despite it being sparse in crowd, Deertick made the place feel like home, playing a show more like they are your buds jamming out at your favorite bar than a national touring act. This sits well with me on a Sunday and it matches all my expectations of the band.

The opening act is of course just the band with an additional vocalist, Johnny Corndawg. Corndawg is a mix between the guy that works at the general store that sells you beer in High School, a drunk art student and Hank Williams Jr (like a 30yr old version of Willie Nelson's grnadpa). His music is all twang and life and the lyrics are raw and twisted but delightful. He sings about his love being a cherry with chocolate mouse on top and a dog sporting a red rocket and a married couple yelling at one another in a long roadtrip ("Shut Up"). It's damn entertaining stuff and you can feel the realness of this guy coming over the PA. Despite a nagging cough that left him napping center stage until his bandmates woke him to start the set and his momma's sweater, the boy put on a show. http://www.myspace.com/thecorndawg

Deertick as a whole was everything I want them to be. Torn, scratchy, loose put together. Having fun, being themselves and keeping things light and movin. They open with an A-cappella version of "Dirty Dishes" and the trend for taking old standard songs of theirs and others in new directions is the theme for the evening. "Ashamed" came full steam ahead, enjoyable but not the tender, rip your heart out style I prefer. Mixed in the set were a variety of songs by John Prine and a number co-written with members of Those Darlins; a naughty number at that.

Despite my request for "Nebraska", MacCauley (lead) informs me that they are from Rhode Island, a witty conversational stageman with good anecdotes and crowd interaction. My only complaint would be the volume, could have used it turned down a notch in order to catch more vocals when things picked up tempo.

After a nice solo set that included a great version of the Replacements, "Can't Hardly Wait" (also covered perfectly by Justin Townes Earle this year), there was a solid encore featuring "La Bamba", "Maybellene" (suits there swagger and rockabilly attitude) and a tease of "I'll Be Home for Christmas."

A perfect birthday gift of a show to me

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fuzzing on the Heavy

Post-Nothing - Japandroids

First off this is the best title for an album I have seen in years. A swift f-you to the genre geeks and loser bloggers eager to dissect and ascribe unneeded titles and classifications (ahem). Secondly, this is the most awesomest and aptly fitting band name I have seen in years. Album cover alone and these guys kick ass.

I come to my perspective of this album and band by means of No Age. Were it not for No Age's incessant fuzz and yet underlying catchy hook/riff driven formations I may not have had the ear for this album. I am lucky I am a No Age fan (also also band name), for it brought me to an even better place.

Post-Nothing is just that; almost nothing at all. It's a lot of guitars on top of guitars with thudding drums, heavy reverb droned with feedback and muffled yelling of vocals. I love it.

Each song frustrates as much as it rewards. Yearning for some semblance of song structure brings one to claw deep into the songs, hanging tight until it hits and then wham, a sick chorus explodes and a guitar riff kicks in and it almost sounds like something you've enjoyed before and then it's gone again.

The Boys Are Leaving Town is not the easiest of opening tracks so for newcomers try Crazy/Forever, undeniably fun.


Simple Sounds of the World

Person to Person - Foreign Born

David Byrne is the king of mixing elements of world music and generating expert skilled pop miracles. Foreign Born have taken the success of recent upstarts such as Vampire Weekend and Ra Ra Riot to heart, embracing the sounds of African Pop music and reinterpreting it into their own. The difference and success here falls with the efforts of the band to hop around to more than one continent. Sounds come from South America, the islands and they mix healthy doses of folksy guitars to round it all out. At times they sound clean and tight like a post punk 80's collaboration; say Aha etc., and at times they dabble with the workings of something more accustomed to say String Cheese Incident. It actually sounds a whole heck of a lot better than I just described it.

The overall sound of the album does drone a tad and tracks wash into one another at times but it stands strong as a complete piece of work. Blood Oranges, the opening track is solid as are the first few songs, but when you reach Winter Games you realize this isn't just another indie band to toss into the mix as the decade ends. They are sincere contenders. Not bent on blowing you away with a single or riding the hottest trend, the skills displayed here indicate a band ready to ride it out for a while and win over fans one by one until the collective ear pays attention and recognizes how good this all is.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The In Sound From Deep Down

Man on the Moon: The End of Day - Kid Cudi

Damn this boy has some emotional issues. More Emo than rap, Man on the Moon, is in many ways a second coming of Kanye and in some ways a glimpse at an artist that could learn to embrace himself and be a legend.

The problem with manic people regardless of their abilities and aptitude is that their creative output is likened to their disposition; sporadic, confused, lacking confidence and direction. When Kid Cudi shines he brings the light of a new day in Indie Hip Hop, when he wanes he brings an eclipse of sound sound to the light he holds within.

There are tracks on this album that rank among the best Hip Hop I've heard in years. The flow in Simple As, the chorus to Day N Night (Nightmare) and the genre bending of Pursuit of Happiness (Nightmare) are such glimpses of talent. Great lyrical delivery and use of time and rhythm. Yet every one of these sounds is blimished by trailings of un needed and unjustified banter, noise and confusion at the end of the track. Keep the Kid straight and he'll deliver, let him dwell inside and things get messy.

Guests like Ratatat and MGMT bring life and depth to the album, highlighting the best of what Kudi has to offer. Guests like Common and Kanye weigh him down, bring out a psuedo thug and ruin the effect.

If this Kid can learn to harness his abilies he'll be big, otherwise he'll go the way of Lupe Fiasco and Jurassic 5, artists that faded too fast. Get this Kid with the Roots and Mos Def!


Building Up From Cut Parts

Salvation is a Deep Dark Well - The Builders and The Butchers

In a year chopped full of bands plucking away at the sounds of the west and south comes Portland's The Builders and The Butchers with their sophmore release, a nod to the wild west.

The album plays jangly like a live recording which gives a powerful punch and a foot stomping notion to the whole collection. The tales are what will really draw a listener in. Steeped in the matters of everyone from Hank, Cash and Willie to Felice Brothers and Avett Brothers, this band mixes the elements of dark folk lore and the legenedary sounds of country western with modern flare.

You feel like you are listening to the soundtrack of a salvation show, full with fire and brimstone. Don't let the snake bite ya, else you'll be condemned a sinner of the soul!

It's a fun album, nothing overly triumphant, but nothing dissapointing. Give Devil Town a whirl and see if it's for you.


The Future Comes From the Past

After Robots - BLK JKS

I can't quite figure this one out. It's ambitious as hell but for me it falls short of the intended goal.

It's been tagged as the African version of OK Computer and the band as been called upon to be the next U2 of sorts, I don't see it. The album is droning at times and awkward too often. It's loses me far more than it draws me in. I have no issues with a language barrier, but where Amadou and Mariam celebrate the modern abilities of African music, BLK JKS seem to force something new upon themselves. Instead of feeling I am listening to the warrior anthems of a new generation I find myself relating the sounds I hear more to MUSE and Mars Volta than TV on the Radio.

Maybe I'm missing it, but it'll have to come to me soon as I am growing tired of trying on this one.

Try Standby or Taxidermy.


Pour Your Heart Out All Over Me

A Brief History of Love - The Big Pink

This album completely caught me off guard, in the best possible way.

I had never heard of The Big Pink and aside from a brief album review I had glanced at on P4K I didn't realize they were on a worthy radar; I am better for the introduction. An album that isn't afraid to be many things and be many things for the better. I cannot help but feel similarities between this album and Liars Liars, as they both sweep from fuzz heavy darkness to pop melody club tunes. This album has many facets, all of which are rewarding in their own regard, but when they are all played out in a single listen the album hits as a true success.

Their is the common theme of young love lost and the anguish that follows. But with love there are ups and downs and this album tosses and turns like a relationship on the brink of failure. Too Young To Love is a great number, full of life and hurt. Dominos is a blast of a song and the happiness is infecting and the lyrics encourage behavior of yesteryear. At War With the Sun and Frisk are perfect examples of this albums scope and impact.

All in all I dig this album and I find this interesting as it took me a long time to appreciate this genre of music and I feel like now I've found my gateway drug. Love's a bitch and then you write the songs to prove it.


With Given Time

Broken Side of Time - Alberta Cross

The production is bigger and cleaner but the heart is still very much in tact. They may be yankees via the brits in makeup, but they are every bit southern in focus and delivery.

Many songs off the breaktrhough EP (Thief and Heartbreaker) are still present and are presented in a "cleaner around the edges" manner and the new tracks show a band on the path to bigger things. ATX shows a shraper more guitar driven approach and it plays well to make the bands sound more robust, lending nicely to a live performance. Rise From the Shadows is a steady song and one that helps strengthen the second half of the album. A good mix of songs, just wish there were more new tracks.

They have the makings of a band that could go the route of a Band of Horses and be road warriors long enough to be of the MMJ elk; but they have a lot of the ambtion of a Kings of Leon. Let's hope they follow the path of the former.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Music on the Verge

> Alec Ounsworth of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is prepped to release his first solo outing via ANTI. The album, Mo Beauty, was recorded in New Orleans and features an all-star supporting cast. One of my favorite drummers Stanton Moore (Galactic etc.) will be on skins and Robert Walter, George Porter Jr. and a who's who of New Orealns trendsetters are all a part of the party. Certainly a break from the CYHSY days, but so far I am impressed and intriqued.

ALEC OUNSWORTH This Is Not My Home (After Bruegel) and Holy, Holy, Holy Moses

> The preppy boys that are long in the tooth and quick to the hop, Vampire Weekend, are readying a new album for the first of next year. The material is more advanced than the afro-american punk pop of the self titled rookie release, but promising all the same. Download the first single from: CONTRA, it's called Horchata, after a drink presumably.

> Finally, I am scanning through the material from the latest Thom Yorke unleashing, featuring several new tracks of solo material, Radiohead tunes and the sounds/sights of recent gigs from his new group that features FLEA on bass, Nigel and the drummer for Beck/REM. Not too shabby, eh!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Modern Day Hipster Folkies Make Beatles Proud

I guess my whole dissection of the current state of Indie and the presence of the rootsy/folksy/southern styling’s in so much that is released of late started with a little jab at the Beatles. It seems only fitting that I’ll lay the topic to rest for a bit with a complete circling of the wagons.
Monsters of Folk – Monsters of Folk

A few months back Jim James of My Morning Jacket release an EP of George Harrison songs under the moniker Yim Yames. This in and of itself could be of little interest to a casual listener, but alas, for the likes of LTME this raised much interest as well as concern. For starters, I love Harrison and I am very much a fan of his contributions to the Beatles and rock n’ roll. I also love Jim James’ voice. This should be a perfect marriage. The EP is solid, but still uneasy. ‘Jim James’ ? Why? James seems to force odd and eccentric these days and his lyrics and direction have suffered as a result. I know this is the year the Beatles got famous again so it seems oh so fitting that James wanted to get this album out in the public. However, I knew it was just the start of what was coming.

I caught the Bright Eyes and ‘Special Guests’ set on Austin City Limits latenight back a few years ago. I have had an up and down love it or leave relationship with Conor Oberst from the onset. He was tagged as such a brilliant prodigy at such a young age that the hype of being the next ‘Dylan’ had to weigh heavy on him. But damn if the boy wasn’t depressed as all get out. It wasn’t until I heard Another Traveling Song that I bothered to really give Bright Eyes it’s just listening – thanks for the rec Pickle.
I’m Wide Awake and It’s Morning may have emo tendencies but it’s also a stunning album once you get past the politics. This marked Conor’s entry into the alt-country world, a stunning approach to that which Ryan Adams had been so desperately attempting for years. But what was most interesting about the songs Conor played under the Bright Eyes tag on ACL was the guests. The second Conor stood next to Jim James and they began to pluck away at Golden something tripped in me. It was a messing of worlds that I never thought would occur. Needless to say I had a major under appreciation for the Indie world at the time and not much of an understanding of the ‘community’ amongst the artists. I didn’t know much about M Ward aside from the name so upon finishing the show I grabbed another Bright Eyes album, this time Lifted or the Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground and a selection of M Ward tunes. After a while I lost focus on this collaboration and continued ahead with My Morning Jacket as well as keeping tabs on Conor.

At the beginning of the year M Ward released a powerful album in Hold Time, he re-entered my world. Not long after news began to swirl about the reuniting of these artists along with Mogis. I listened and explored, excited.

With such diverse backgrounds and seemingly opposite directions each artist was working in at the onset of ’09 the collaboration seemed. Conor is now head over heels into alt-country, M Ward has been experiencing the most success his career has known with She and Him as well as massive praise for his own release and James is still coming to terms with super-stardom and mixed praise on Evil Urges and a swelling fanbase. Mogis has been Conor’s right hand man for ages, so the foursome have a LOT to live up to.

Where would they take the music? Could James heavily influence his love of funk/reggae and bizarness? Will Conor insist on loner ballads and trite lyrics of depression and loss? Will M Ward be more of another name but not much of a true contributor with so much else on his plate? Can Mogis bring them all together?

The Verdict:

Success, but not what we expected.

Most Beatles fans mark Let It Be as more than just the final album, they see it as a metaphor for what the band had become, four separate entities trying to mesh together to sound as one. Often when artists reach a critical point in their career they find solace in the folk music/country rock world. It’s easier to not meet expectations and the music can soothe the soul of the artist. It can also be seen as a copout.
So now that I’ve played MOF several times over I can’t get past the stunning similarities between it and Let It Be. MOF almost want you to feel this, they almost want to pretend they are modern day Beatles at the twilight. Dear God, these folks have made a Beatles album!

Assuming you’ll go along with this let me engage the topic. To pigeonhole Jim James as Harrison is easy, James clearly wants to be Harrison in this mess, but he could just as easily be Paul…both find a way to drop some of the most frustratingly simplistic lyrics at the worst times amidst such great songs. That aside, we’ll keep things easy and leave James to be George. Ward is Paul, or the Walrus, however it is that you want to see him. He’s kinda the smiling face and comforting force to the band. His contributions to MOF never dazzle, but they are the most consistent and rewarding. His stays true to himself and finds great success amongst the others. Oberst is John, obvi. There is more hit and miss with Oberst, more look at how complex and important my work is compared to the rest. Oberst is as talented they come these days, but like Lennon, he’s also full of shit and pretty annoying. Mogis of course is Ringo. The backbone, the one that can take the heat, keep everyone together and keep them moving forward and focused. In a way this band can be seen as three monsters and a folkie, and for the role of folkie, Mogis earns his keep. I dare say this album would have been quite bad were it not for someone like Mogis in the room. The product we are given however works and works well at times.

But, just like Let It Be, despite its ability to ‘work’ it ultimately Lets You Down.

James takes the lead on the opening track and his touches are all over it, but thankfully he soon finds his role as one of the guys as the album rolls on. Conor has some high points and lyrically he is as good as he has ever been. Where James will sing about Magic Markers, Conor is telling the story of everyman in a tough world. Mogis’ work keeps the variety of sounds and styles together and the mixing allows for a unified feeling to the album, making so many individual tracks truly play as an album.

In my mind, Ward is the highlight of the album. His voice never wavers and his acknowledgment of the others and the way he plays off them shines of so much more comfort than the others. When James sings it sounds like a side project of MMJ, Conor sounds like his solo stuff but Ward makes you believe this MOF this is legit and that they’ve got legs to stand on in their own right.

Dear God is really the only song where the workings of James’ obsessive adobe slabs comes to play, it’s a good song, but not a powerful enough of an opener for what’s enclosed. Whole Lotta Losin’ has a looseness and life to it that hints at the band hitting their stride and giving a glimpse of the certain to be highly energetic live performance. The Right Place is the noted single and perhaps the most successful in effort for what MOF is striving towards both musically and lyrically. As has been the calling card of James and Oberst of late, remind people that if what they are doing makes them happy and if it makes them feel good, then it’s alright. I for one can’t argue with that when it comes to music. This mantra pretty much sums up my thoughts on the genre as a whole and MOF embrace it well.

Map of the World is pretty much a throwaway and I’m not harping on James, I just expect so much out of him that I find his silliness disappointing. But the real winner is The Sandman, the Brakeman and Me. This song is just perfect. Not surprising it’s Ward that carries the track and brings home the vibe the best while everyone else is still very much involved.

I believe that it is fair to toy around with the idea of these guys trying to make a Beatles album; I think they’d get a kick out of it. Shoot, more likely than not the jokes already on me.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again in summary of the album and the topic. Music is all about feeling good. It’s about reaching people with a message and a vibe. The message hear is strong and good and the vibe with honest and true.

Monsters of Folk didn’t make a landmark album, but they have formed a truly inspiring band.