Thursday, April 30, 2009

Best of the Week - April 28


Bill Callahan
Patrick Watson
Hoots & Hellmouth

Also check out: Ape School, Jason Lytle, John Doe & the Sadies, Starfucker, The Vaselines, Woods

Tinted Windows

Add Date: April 28

Artist: Tinted Windows

Album: Tinted Windows

Label: S-Curve

Genre: Rock, pop

Comments: I guess when you have such big names as Taylor Hanson (yes, that Taylor Hanson), Bun E. Carlos (Cheap Trick), James Iha (ex-Smashing Pumpkins) and Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne) getting together to form a rock band, the label "supergroup" is applied automatically. But there's absolutely nothing super about Tinted Windows' self-titled debut. While there's also nothing wrong with the music, this brand of bland power pop has been done over and over and over and over again, to the point where I have just one question: Why was this collaboration/record necessary? Surely, it's so that deep thoughts such as these, from "Cha Cha," can be recorded for posterity:

I just want you to feel me
I just want you to hear me
I just want you to heal me
You're my cha cha
You're my cha cha
Cha cha

I need say no more.


Add Date: April 28

Artist: Crocodiles

Album: Summer of Hate

Label: Fat Possum

Genre: Rock, indie rock

Comments: No Age's Dean Spunt propelled Crocodiles into the limelight by calling their stuff "real good kinda early eighties electro punk pop" on Stereogum. "It is super catchy," Spunt added. The weekly Seattle Stranger describes Summer of Hate as "wobbly, woozy indie-pop/punk marked by steady rocking (drum-machine?) rhythms, waves of feedback, and sunlit shafts of surfy guitar fuzz." Fans of No Age, Abe Vigoda, Vivian Girls, the Jesus & Mary Chain and Fat Possum labelmate Wavves will find something to enjoy on this San Diego duo's debut. Start with "Soft Skull (In My Room)."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ape School

Add Date: April 28

Artist: Ape School

Album: Ape School

Label: Counter

Genre: Rock, psych pop

Comments: The onesheet says: "This second one-man-does-all album by Michael Johnson--the first to use his primate moniker--marries primitive songs with incorporeal sound... From the start of 'Wail to God,' the tonal breadth and sonic fluidity of Ape School is clear. A song like 'Did What I Did' flirts with pop sensibility, but delves into subtle feedback before it reaches repetition. Elsewhere, as on 'My Intention' and 'Deathstomp', Michael goes for full mechanical shredding, focused romps of analog rock glory, awash in system buzz. Other more spacious moments like 'That's OK', 'It's Over' and 'The Underground' reveal the songs' instrumental basis, and showcase more clearly the clever, eloquent lyrics of his elastic tenor... Although Ape School is in its most natural form a solo project that reminisces early David Byrne, Johnson's live band features members of the Lilys, Holopaw and Human Television."

Young Love

Add Date: April 28

Artist: Young Love

Album: One of Us

Label: Island/Def Jam

Genre: Rock, pop-punk, dance rock

Comments: Formerly of the Austin post-punk band Recover, Dan Keyes now makes dancier pop-punk under the moniker Young Love. For fans of Head Automatica or Bloc Party; the song "Discotech," from Young Love's 2007 debut Too Young to Fight It, was featured on the soundtrack for FIFA 07.


Add Date: April 28

Artist: Starfucker

Album: Jupiter

Label: Badman

Genre: Rock, electropop, psych pop

Comments: A mini-LP to follow up last year's well-received eponymous debut from this Portland band. You can't say their name on the air--let's go with "Star-F-er" instead--but you can play all eight of these poppy, synth-driven tunes that fall somewhere between Of Montreal and MGMT on the musical spectrum. Starfucker don't separate making music from having fun, and as such the two best songs on Jupiter are called "Boy Toy" and "Biggie Smalls." Also check out an unnecessary-yet-interesting cover of the Cyndi Lauper hit "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," as well as a remix of "Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second" from their 2008 LP.

Dusty Rhodes & the River Band

Add Date: April 28

Artist: Dusty Rhodes & the River Band

Album: Palace and Stage

Label: SideOneDummy

Genre: Rock

Comments: From the onesheet: "'It's time to shine, this time it's mine' are the lyrics that not only lead off, but define the new album Palace and Stage from Dusty Rhodes and the River Band... [T]he band's sophomore album... bring[s] with it a new batch of adventures, characters, sing-a-longs and stories. The band successfully blends modern rock, gospel, Motown, and folk to showcase a sound that is as accessible as it is original.

"Dusty Rhodes and the River Band is comprised of singer/keyboardist Dustin Apodaca, singer/guitarist Kyle Divine, violinist/singer Andrea Babinski, guitarist/singer Edson Choi and drummer Eric Chirco. Palace and Stage is an album of timeless songs ranging from the sweetly soulful 'Andy,' to the up-tempo rock anthems 'All One' and 'Blind Lead the Blind' ... The group's music defies easy categorization but boasts the freewheeling approach that draws natural comparisons to Arcade Fire, The Decemberists and Exile on Main St.-era Rolling Stones."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

John Doe & The Sadies

Add Date: April 28

Artist: John Doe & The Sadies

Album: Country Club

Label: Yep Roc

Genre: Folk, alt-country

Comments: The label says: "A post show hang-out between X & the Knitters' John Doe and The Sadies produced the idea to join forces to make an album of country songs. Timeless sounds abound on Country Club, driven by Doe's gorgeous vocals, the dueling thousand pound chops of the guitar-wielding Good brothers and The Sadies' world class rhythm section of Mike Belitsky and Sean Dean. Here, the Countrypolitan sound of late 1960s Nashville is filtered through the telecaster-based tonk of Bakersfield, CA, and the results are stunning."

John Doe and Toronto's The Sadies, who've collaborated with Neko Case, among others, have produced a fine record of country standards (Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Mel Tillis, Roger Miller) and original tunes. Begin with the opening track, "Stop the World and Let Me Off," a tune made famous by Patsy Cline.

Los Straitjackets

Add Date: April 28

Artist: Los Straitjackets

Album: The Further Adventures of Los Straitjackets

Label: Yep Roc

Genre: Rock, instrumental, surf rock

Comments: From Yep Roc: "The Los Straitjackets' latest album, The Further Adventures of Los Straitjackets, continues their conquest as the champion luchadores of instrumental rock. With the heroic efforts of Eddie Angel, Daddy-O Grande, Pedro Del Mar and Teen Beat, the world renowned kings of Chopsville are set to release one of their most remarkable albums to date. Los Straitjackets' newest full length album features 13 tracks of future vintage sounds straight from planet Straitjacket. The lead single 'Sasquatch' thrills by combining an ardent electric tempo with culminating beats."

On Ensemble

Add Date: April 28

Artist: On Ensemble

Album: Ume in the Middle

Label: Turtlefield Music

Genre: International

Comments: From the promoter: "On Ensemble takes the ancient instruments of taiko into new realms. Infusing the powerful rhythms of ensemble Japanese drumming with elements of hip-hop, rock, and electronica, On Ensemble's unique sound has been praised as 'completely original and brilliantly conceived.' With musical experience ranging from centuries-old Kabuki music, to jazz and electronica, the On Ensemble has crafted a repertoire of ground-breaking taiko music."


Add Date: April 28

Artist: Woods

Album: Songs of Shame

Label: Shrimper/Woodsist

Genre: Rock, folk rock, psych rock

Comments: Through the Woodsist label, Woods are affiliated with Vivian Girls, Blank Dogs, Wavves and several other bands working their way up the ranks of underground NYC music. Unlike the noisy punk sound of some of those other acts, though, the duo of Jeremy Earl and Jarvis Taveniere focus more on what Pitchfork's Matthew Murphy calls "a more pastoral and rustic vein of songcraft" leading to "a distinctive blend of campfire folk, lo-fi rock, homemade tape collages, and other noisy interludes, all anchored by deceptively sturdy melodies." (Pitchfork gave Songs of Shame an 8.3 rating and the "Best New Music" label.) Start with "Gypsy Hands."


Add Date: April 28

Artist: Years

Album: Years

Label: Arts & Crafts

Genre: Rock, experimental rock, folk

Comments: Years is Ohad Benchetrit of Broken Social Scene and Do Make Say Think, and this self-titled album on Arts & Crafts is his first solo release. Benchetrit's mostly instrumental, experimental blend of rock and folk will appeal to fans of early BSS; think a lighter version of Feel Good Lost. Try "Don't Let the Blind Go Deaf" and the horn-driven tune "The Major Lift."

Jason Lytle

Add Date: April 28

Artist: Jason Lytle

Album: Yours Truly, The Commuter

Label: Anti-

Genre: Rock, psych pop

Comments: Jason Lytle was the driving force behind indie pop icons Grandaddy, which he founded way back in 1992. Now, Lytle has released his official solo debut on Anti-, and to support it he'll be touring with labelmate Neko Case this summer. Yours Truly, The Commuter isn't a major departure from Lytle's previous work, in part because of his distinctive voice, but also because the music is similar to the dreamy, psych-laced pop that Grandaddy became known for on its five studio records. Start with "It's the Weekend," "Brand New Sun" and "Rollin' Home Alone."


Add Date: April 28

Artist: Akron/Family

Album: Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free

Label: Dead Oceans

Genre: Folk, freak folk, psych rock

Comments: Akron/Family's early work placed them at the center of the freak-folk movement, drawing them comparisons to artists like Devendra Banhart. They're both now alumni of the Young God record label, and much like Banhart (see Megapuss), trying to break out of the somewhat restricting mold. There's still a lot of '60s and '70s folk running throughout Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free, the band's first issue for Dead Oceans (Bishop Allen, John Vanderslice), but it's interspersed with psychedelic rock influences. The promoter's RIYL includes Yeasayer and the Dodos, and I think that encapsulates the change in direction. For a good rock tune, try "MBF," and fans of Akron/Family's folksier side should spin "River" and "Set 'Em Free."

The Vaselines

Add Date: April 28

Artist: The Vaselines

Album: Enter the Vaselines

Label: Sub Pop

Genre: Rock, pop, punk

Comments: Take a trip through rock history with Enter the Vaselines. Disc 1 is simply a re-release of all official music released by The Vaselines throughout their history, which only amounts to two EPs and one LP. Even though brief, they were very influential, with bands like Belle & Sebastian and Nirvana listing them among their influences. As for their style, it oddly exists somewhere between the two, like a very immature and vulgar (although not DNP, for the most part) twee-punk. As for the second disc, it is only demos and a live album, with only one song not listed on the first album. With the higher recording standard on the first CD, focus there, the second one mainly being for fans of the band and rock historians.

Silversun Pickups

Add Date: April 28

Artist: Silversun Pickups

Album: Swoon

Label: Dangerbird

Genre: Rock

Comments: After surprising success from their first album, Carnavas, Silversun Pickups return with Swoon. Although I haven't heard their first album to compare, Swoon features many strong songs, especially opener "No More Secrets this Year" and "Panic Switch," although neither live up to "Lazy Eye" from Carnavas.

Strix Vega

Add Date: April 28

Artist: Strix Vega

Album: Estranged Meadow

Label: Self-released

Genre: Rock

Comments: "Ending with a howl, Estranged Meadow marks a shift away from the musings of the band's debut album, Drunken Sky, toward increasingly layered, eerie prog rock... many songs start with an acoustic lament and build up to a satisfying squall of drums, keys and gong crashes." -- Jeanne Platt: Chico Enterprise Records

This record actually never gets all that CRAZY DARK ROCK, but there really is something slightly off-putting in the acoustics. I liked "Mad Rain."


Monday, April 27, 2009

Wake the President

Add Date: April 28

Artist: Wake the President

Album: You Can't Change That Boy

Label: Magic Marker

Genre: Rock

Comments: "Guitarist Bjorn's uplifting melodies bear the unmistakable jangly watermark while hovering below the surface of the band's ebullient melodies; his twin brother Erik's tales of debauchery and deception in Glasgow are reminiscent of the melancholic '70s indie pop. Each track glimmers with the existential angst of an art student with a nasty hangover."

Fun stuff that sometimes reminded me of Voxtrot. Listen to "Professor."


Arthur Nasson

Add Date: April 28

Artist: Arthur Nasson

Album: False Prophets

Label: Philistine

Genre: Rock, Pop

Comments: "Arthur Nasson shapes a wide array of musical elements into a rich, exciting presentation that is highly melodic, and filled with harmony and vivid lyricism" in a Paul McCartney sort of way.


Jeremy Enigk

Add Date: May 5

Artist: Jeremy Enigk

Album: OK Bear

Label: Lewis Hollow

Genre: Rock

Comments: "In the 90's Jeremy Enigk's on-again off-again relationship with Sunny Day Real Estate cast him as a sort of enigmatic emo-rock icon. Overused genre classifications and debatable perceptions aside, there's a depth to Enigk's work that confirms his undeniable music contribution.

"OK Bear offers a sense of intimacy through song immediacy. 'Restart' is a straight-ahead, jangle-y, radio friendly pop gem, while the tracks 'In a Look' and 'Same Side Imaginary' create a perfectly lazy and pensive ambiance for Saturday mornings in a swinging 6/8 time signature."



Add Date: April 28

Artist: Dreamdate

Album: Patience

Label: Skywriting Records

Genre: Rock, Pop, Indie Lo-fi

Comments: "Dreamdate get right down to the business of brightening out day with their short, snappy tunes. The overall sound of Dreamdate can readily be spoken of in the same breath as early '90s crushworthy indie pop a la Louis, Cub, and Tiger Trap. As the unaffected and uneffected electric guitars strum away happily and the drums keep things simple with an uncluttered beat, you might find yourself hummin' along with these gals' warm, smooth female vocals. Nice." --Aquarius Records

Go to "Have I Told You?"


Caustic Casanova

Add Date: April 28

Artist: Caustic Casanova

Album: Imminent Eminence

Label: Self-released

Genre: Rock

Comments: "Blazing through 14 tracks, DC's Caustic Casanova cover styles ranging from Pixies punk to Sabbath riffage. Imminent Eminence brims with fizzy and ragged drums and stirring guitars as features on the ode to love gone awry 'Titian Titillation.' The heavier elements of Imminent Eminence come through on 'Anhedonia,' with fuzzed-out bass and feedback-laden guitars."


Thunder Power

Add Date: April 28

Artist: Thunder Power

Album: Love Yourself EP

Label: Slumber Party

Genre: Twee Pop

Comments: This good-natured sextet from Omaha "swells sweetly with biting wit and folk ballads. Fans of Camera Obscura, The Clientele and Bears will have no problem wrapping themselves up in the sweet twee sounds of Thunder Power."

Start with "Take a Hike."


The Horrors

Add Date: April 28

Artist: The Horrors

Album: Primary Colors

Label: XL

Genre: Rock

Comments: The Horrors follow from the dark, sombre side of the British post-punk tradition tracing its way back to Joy Division. However, that is not to say they are a Joy Division copy. The songs on Primary Colours are more intricate and layered than Joy Division's, and calls on a wide range of instrumentation.

The Fresh & Onlys

Add Date: April 28

Artist: The Fresh & Onlys

Album: The Fresh & Onlys

Label: Castle Face

Genre: Rock

Comments: "Although it's 2009, The Fresh and Onlys emerge from San Fransisco with a debut LP steeped in such a level of haze and fuzz that it wouldn't be out of place during the city's garage rock heyday of the 1960's... unpolished gems... herky-jerky... manic... mesmerizing. Fan boys and girls of Thee Oh Sees, The White Stripes, Vivian Girls, The Velvet Underground and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club take note!"

Check out "Feelings in My Heart" or "Fog Machine."


Hoots and Hellmouth

Add Date: April 28

Artist: Hoots & Hellmouth

Album: The Holy Open Secret

Label: MAD Dragon Records

Genre: Folk

Comments: "Co-produced with Bill Moriarty (Dr. Dog, Man Man) and described by Paste as "where soul meets barnstomp," Philadelphia-based Hoots and Hellmouth creates new music for old souls on their new album. ... Blending folk, bluegrass, gospel and good old rock n' roll, this ragtag bunch seeks a revival of spirit. Outfitted with three-part harmonies, acoustic guitars, mandolin, upright bass and foot stomps, Hoots and Hellmouth enlivens your spirit through their blend of Americana style and punk rock attitude. At once fresh and vibrant, yet somehow strangely familiar, The Holy Open Secret covers a lot of ground both stylistically and lyrically while maintaining a central focus on the song-craft."

Certainly enjoyable. All of the above may actually be true. I liked the more subdued "Ne'er do Well," but for a rip-roaring number, listen to the opener "Roots of the Industry."


Paper Arrows

Add Date: April 28

Artist: Paper Arrows

Album: Things We Would Rather Lose

Label: Quell Records

Genre: Rock

Comments: Energetic, robust rock with poetic lyrics, pop sensibilities and grown-up vocals.


Patrick Watson

Add Date: April 28

Artist: Patrick Watson

Album: Wooden Arms

Label: Secret City

Genre: Rock, Indie folk

Comments: Really stunning work that sounds like a mix of Andrew Bird, Bon Iver and Chad VanGaalen. When I read that Watson won Canada's 2007 Polaris Prize, beating out Arcade Fire and Feist, it seemed likely that something must be up. Beautifully composed and crafted songs with an intimate, thoughtful folksy feel.

Go straight to the lovely "Big Bird in a Small Cage," but then be sure to also check out "Tracy's Waters."


Jon Hopkins

Add Date: April 28

Artist: Jon Hopkins

Album: Insides

Label: Domino

Genre: Electronica

Comments: "Jon Hopkins is a 28-year-old electronic musician and composer from London. On Insides, Hopkins showcases an intriguing musical aesthetic to brilliant effect. Insides is about juxtaposition: natural, arcane textures welded to pulsing, hypnotic rhythms, beautiful acoustic melodies set against jarring bass."

Coldplay were so taken with Hopkins' music that they asked him to rework "Light Through the Veins" (from Insides) to bookend their album Viva la Vida.

Tara Jane O'Neil

Add Date: April 28

Artist: Tara Jane O'Neil

Album: A Ways Away

Label: K

Genre: Folk, singer/songwriter

Comments: "On this record [Tara Jane O'Neil] has put her voice out front, and as in the past, the vocals are perversely and meticulously arranged and gorgeously sung. There's compassion and concern, wisdom and heartbreak, moving on and waking up in these songs. ... It is an expansive and dynamic mystery sound. There is space in it, there is volume and electricity in it, and there is no fear. O'Neil coaxes sonorities or tiny gongs out of her guitar, thick dissonant tone clusters or rapid finger picking to support her mellifluous call."

Check out "Drowning."

Team Clermont

Cocktail Slippers

Add Date: April 28

Artist: Cocktail Slippers

Album: Saint Valentine's Day Massacre

Label: Wicked Cool

Genre: Rock

Comments: This Norwegian girl rock band isn't as dark or angry as grrrl rock tends to be. In fact, there is a bit of a tropical/'80s sashay to their beats. Go to the title track or "Heard You Got a Thing for Me," which were written, produced and arranged by Steven Van Zandt.


Shout Out Out Out Out

Add Date: April 28

Artist: Shout Out Out Out Out

Album: Reintegration Time

Label: Normals Welcome

Genre: Electronica

Comments: Reintegration Time is the second album from six-piece Canadian electronica band Shout Out Out Out Out, but the first to be released in the United States. Some of the songs are instrumentals, some with vocals (including guest vocalist Cadence Weapon telling the audience "We Do Acid" over and over again), and all should be good for fans of the genre.

Cage the Elephant

Add Date: April 28

Artist: Cage the Elephant

Album: Cage the Elephant

Label: Relentless

Genre: Rock

Comments: Cage the Elephant is one of those bands that finds themselves in the somewhat awkward position of being more popular abroad (the UK) than at home in the US. I can see why this album appeals more to a British palate, though, as my first thought was "Wow, lead singer Mark Shultz sounds a lot like an American version of The Arctic Monkeys' lead singer Alex Turner." Well, the thought wasn't that well fleshed-out, but you get the point. And really, the rest of the band follows from that, sort of what the Arctic Monkeys would have been if they grew up in Bowling Green, Kentucky. They have the same youthful exuberance, the same vocal style, and the same taste for pop-rock. The only real difference is that Cage the Elephant is anchored in Southern Rock, while the Arctic Monkeys came from a long tradition of Britpop. Worth a listen, especially "Tiny Little Robots" and "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked."

Friday, April 24, 2009

Built By Snow

Add Date: April 21

Artist: Built By Snow

Album: Mega

Label: Self-released

Genre: Rock, alternative

Comments: Says the promoter: "Built By Snow captures that Matt Sharp synth driven genius" from Weezer's early records. "Take the '90s pop, add modern 8-bit attitude, and Built By Snow builds more than just a snowman. The moments that will really catch your eye are when the tempo slows and the art shines through all the modulated tones, exposing something that very few artists manage to have, substance... RIYL: Weezer, Her Space Holiday, Hockey Night."

The Beautiful Confusion

Add Date: April 21

Artist: The Beautiful Confusion

Album: The Beautiful Confusion

Label: Self-released

Genre: Folk, folk rock

Comments: The promoter says: "The Beautiful Confusion is the latest incarnation of the songwriting collaboration between singer/songwriter Dalen Bakstad and guitarist Eric Svirida. Joined by another longtime musical partner, Jason Kardong on pedal steel, the trio released their first EP in February 2008, making the band a mainstay in the local Seattle club scene. Their diverse musical background is evident, blending elements of folk, pop, twang, '70s rock and atmospheric ambience, creating a sustainable cross-genre sound that is anything but forced."

Sun Kil Moon's Geoff Stanfield produced this self-titled record, and you could definitely see this band opening for any of Mark Kozelek's projects. Start with "Mistake."

James Yuill

Add Date: April 21

Artist: James Yuill

Album: Turning Down Water for Air

Label: Nettwerk

Genre: Folk, electropop

Comments: The promoter says: "Turning Down Water for Air is constructed of gently-plinking guitar, cello and laptop, and the outcome is a combo of sweet and innocent acoustic melodies with darkly introspective electronic magic. Drawing comparison to a more electronica Iron & Wine, and a more folk driven version of The Postal Service, Yuill manages to create dance-friendly tracks as well as more subdued tunes. Combining the lyrical and emotional depth of Radiohead and the beats of The Chemical Brothers, Yuill has created his own niche of folktronica."

Those are lofty comparisons, of course, but they at least lead you in the right direction. And I can't get enough of that "gently-plinking... laptop..." Fun with syntax! Check out "This Sweet Love" and "How Could I Lose."


Add Date: April 21

Artist: Greycoats

Album: Setting Fire to the Great Unknown

Label: Self-released

Genre: Rock, pop

Comments: Greycoats' music is pretty standard, though certainly listenable, Brit pop-inspired fare; the promoter compares them to U2, but I think Setting Fire to the Great Unknown is closer to Coldplay or Snow Patrol. If that's your thing, you'll like this record.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Best of the Week - April 21


Camera Obscura
White Rabbits
Mouthful of Bees
Floating Action

Also check out: Allen Touissant, Art Brut, The Bicycles, BrakesBrakesBrakes, Joe Pug, Prefuse 73

Great Northern

Add Date: April 21

Artist: Great Northern

Album: Remind Me Where the Light Is

Label: Eenie Meenie

Genre: Rock, dream pop

Comments: From the onesheet: "Great Northern (consisting of members Rachel Stolte and co-writer Solon Bixler) aren't afraid to enter into what Bixler describes as 'uncomfortable territory' with the release of their sophomore album Remind Me Where the Light Is. The album takes a decidedly dark, but hauntingly beautiful turn from the duo's previous efforts, as evidenced in the album's single, 'Houses.' Taking that risk helped them find beauty in sadness, the uplifting elements in the devastating."

For fans of Earlimart--Bixler spent a few years with those fellow SoCal indie-poppers--and current playlist bands Doves and Eulogies. There's definitely a Jesus & Mary Chain-type psychedelic undertone to this record. In addition to "Houses," try "Mountain" and "Warning."

Art Brut

Add Date: April 21

Artist: Art Brut

Album: Art Brut vs. Satan

Label: Downtown

Genre: Rock, post-punk

Comments: Art Brut frontman Eddie Argos is such a brilliant lyricist, with a not-quite-talking, not quite-singing delivery to match the likes of Craig Finn or John Darnielle, that it's been easy to forget how good the rest of the band is. After listening to Art Brut vs. Satan, we'll remember. The band's first two LPs were chock full of memorable songs, from Bang Bang Rock & Roll's "Formed a Band" and "Emily Kane" to It's a Bit Complicated's "Nag Nag Nag Nag" and "People in Love." Such is still the case with Art Brut vs. Satan, with Argos opining on "Demons Out!" that "the record buying public shouldn't be voting" while Freddy Feedback wails on guitar, or with the driving lead single "Alcoholics Unanimous." But, thanks in part to the production of Black Francis, and to the band's continued attention to detail, this might be their best overall record yet. Art Brut might never fulfill Argos' musically stated wish to be among the most popular bands in the world, but it's not because they're doing anything wrong. Also check out "What a Rush" and "Summer Job."

Prefuse 73

Add Date: April 21

Artist: Prefuse 73

Album: Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian

Label: Warp

Genre: Electronica, ambient, psychedelic

Comments: From the promoter: "For Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian, [Prefuse 73's Guillermo Scott] Herren rejected the idea of straight digital recording and instead went the much more intensive route of recording to analog Ampex tape, giving the album the sound of a lost tape of exploratory studio musicians from the not-too-distant past. In addition to the recording process, Ampexian also differs in its composition, existing as a tapestry of tracks of varying lengths and moods, albeit with a remarkable linear flow and, of course, unmatched rhythmic bump."

Herren has recently remixed TV on the Radio, Pelican and Japanese pop star Cornelius, and has collaborated with School of Seven Bells, Hella's Zach Hill and Warp Records colleagues Battles. The music on Ampexian will appeal to fans of Boards of Canada, Daedelus and Caribou. Check out "Regalo" and "Punish."


Add Date: April 21

Artist: BrakesBrakesBrakes

Album: Touchdown

Label: FatCat

Genre: Rock, post-punk, Brit rock

Comments: Brighton's BrakesBrakesBrakes (known on the other side of the Atlantic simply as Brakes) return with their third album, and first for FatCat Records (Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad). Touchdown is not as frenetic as their 2006 Rough Trade issue The Beatific Visions, but the energy of Eamon Hamilton and the band is still there, as is the catchiness of nearly every song on the record. So says the label: "... Touchdown is an exuberant maelstrom of blazing riffs and relentless hooks, fuzz and squall, witty lyrics and singalong choruses that is sure to earn the band more devoted followers." For fans of British Sea Power (for whom Hamilton used to play keyboards), Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire and the Pixies. Start with "Worry About It Later" and "Do You Feel the Same?"

Monday, April 20, 2009

Manchester Orchestra

Add Date: April 21

Artist: Manchester Orchestra

Album: Mean Everything to Nothing

Label: Favorite Gentlemen/Canvasback

Genre: Rock

Comments: "Mean Everything to Nothing is deceptively complex and overtly Southern, giving the impression of a straight-ahead rock album, but riding countless dynamic shifts, instrumentation changes and separate song movements. ... In fact, there's something familiar about every corner of the album, which the band loosely based around Weezer's 'Pinkerton.' While 'My Friend Marcus,' with its quirky instrumentation and overdriven guitar, could easily fit on that disc, there are elements throughout 'Nothing' that seem to subliminally pay homage to the likes of everyone from the Beach Boys ('The Only One') to Nirvana ('In My Teeth'). But Manchester Orchestra manage to take these influences and weave them into something patently fresh-sounding." -Alternative Press (Tim Karan)

Impressively intimate, honest rock worth checking out if you like bands like The Hold Steady or Nirvana. Go to "The Only One" or "In My Teeth."

The Syndicate

Jane's Addiction

Add Date: April 21

Artist: Jane's Addiction

Album: A Cabinet of Curiosities (sampler)

Label: WB, Rhino

Genre: Rock, Alternative

Comments: This sampler features selections from the 3 CD/ 1 DVD Box set of unreleased tracks, demos, B-sides and live recordings sure to please fans of Jane's Addiction.


The Life and Times

Add Date: April 21

Artist: The Life and Times

Album: Tragic Boogie

Label: ARRCO

Genre: Rock/Pop

Comments: "We wanted to make the kind of record that a big-name band with a lot of money might make, except that we don't have any money. But we said what the hell and decided to do it anyway by going in debt and built out own studio and recorded it in my basement," says The Life and Times band member Allen Epley. The result was Tragic Boogie, which is billed as "12 songs about the sun and love and death." This turns out to make for big, loud, layered symphonic rock. Their influences include The Flaming Lips, Doves and Interpol.

Check out the opener "Que Sera Sera."


Add Date: April 21

Artist: Barcelona

Album: Absolutes

Label: Universal Motown

Genre: Pop Rock

Comments: This West Coast MySpace hit sounds like it could be on Laguna Beach. It is recommended for fans of Travis, Mutemath, Coldplay, The Fray, and Jeff Buckley. Listen to the emo-tinged "The Takers."

Paper Route

Add Date: April 28

Artist: Paper Route

Album: Absence

Label: Universal Motown

Genre: Pop Rock

Comments: This ambient pop rock with lots of keyboard and fast guitars backing intimate lyricism from Nashville group Paper Route sounds like Death Cab rock with some Coldplay or Bon Iver thrown in. Well-crafted and polished. Listen to "Carousel."

"'We're very sentimental, emotional, hopelessly romantic guys,' says JT Daly (vocals, keyboards, samples), 'and that’s not cool. But we’ve found that when you are just brutally honest, people connect with that. A lot of things that people are running away from, we’ve always found ourselves gravitating towards.'" -Alt Sounds

Oh Happy Day

Add Date: April 21

Artist: Various Artists

Album: Oh Happy Day

Label: Vector/EMI Gospel

Genre: Compilations, Gospel

Comments: Billed as "An All-Star Music Celebration," this album has renditions of gospel classics done by a collection of artists including 3 Doors Down, Jon Bon Jovi, Robert Randolph, Patty Griffin, Al Green, Mavis Staples, the Fisk Jubilee Singers and Queen Latifah.

Allen Toussaint

Add Date: April 21

Artist: Allen Toussaint

Album: The Bright Mississippi

Label: Nonesuch

Genre: Jazz

Comments: Legendary New Orleans pianist Allen Toussaint releases his first solo album in over a decade with this record of 20th century New Orleans-associated jazz standards. It includes songs from the likes of Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton, Django Reinhart, Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington, and features a band of highly regarded musicians for the live sessions.

Band of Skulls

Add Date: April 21

Artist: Band of Skulls

Album: Band of Skulls (EP)

Label: Shangri-La

Genre: Rock

Comments: Catchy head-bobbing, foot-stomping, hand-clapping rock with a bit of a thick Delta Blues sound. Check out "I Know What I Am."

The Bicycles

Add Date: April 21

Artist: The Bicycles

Album: Oh No, It's Love

Label: Fuzzy Logic Recordings

Genre: Rock, Indie Pop

Comments: This really is a "sparking collection of carefully crafted 2 minute pop jewels" featuring tracks of exuberant twee pop to country ditties, soft-rock ballads and power anthems. Warm and often reminiscent of Of Montreal, though some of the vocal stylings sound much like Elliott Smith. Check out the extremely catchy title track, "Once Was Not Enough" or "Stop Calling Me Baby."


Tristan Clopet

Add Date: April 21

Artist: Tristan Clopet

Album: Duende EP

Label: Self-released

Genre: Rock, Singer-Songwriter

Comments: "Tristan and his band have engraved their names on the South Florida music scene and recently Clopet was invited over to the UK, to play with platinum selling artist Sandi Thom. The show was a resounding success, with manager Janet Farmer calling it 'An exciting, original performance by a talented singer-songwriter who blends funk and blues with an endearing easy charm.'"

"The End of an Era" is very smooth and sounds honest.


Dark Room Notes

Add Date: April 28

Artist: Dark Room Notes

Album: We Love You Dark Matter

Label: Gonzo

Genre: Rock, pop

Comments: Electro-synth-pop with "a slightly somber overtone and introverted lyrical sensibility." More cool than gloomy, the group could be some mix between Mates of State, She Wants Revenge, New Pornographers and Joy Division. Check out "Love Like Nicotine."


Million Dollar Mouth

Add Date: April 21

Artist: Million Dollar Mouth

Album: Villains

Label: Atonal

Genre: Rock

Comments: This L.A. based quintet makes big rock with no-nonsense pop sensibilities. According to Lollipop Magazine, "Cool drips off these warm-toned, lazy tunes like a whiskey waterfall into a bong basin." Recommended for fans of Queens of the Stone Age, The Killers and Foo Fighters.


The Gary

Add Date: April 21

Artist: The Gary

Album: Chub

Label: Cedar Fever

Genre: Rock, modern rock

Comments: "The Gary is a product of circumstance and simultaneously a victim of chance-- the band was formed on a whim... while on a beer-soaked canoe trip. They emerged having successfully applied their own nonchalant Texas aesthetic to the kind of guitar-driven, lyrically wry rock that recalls Guided by Voices."
Recommended: 2 & 3


Camera Obscura

Add Date: April 21

Artist: Camera Obscura

Album: My Maudlin Career

Label: 4AD

Genre: Rock, pop

Comments: Tracyanne Campbell and her fellow Scots return with a breathtaking followup to the 2006 gem Let's Get Out of This Country. They've made the move from one indie behemoth (Merge) to another (4AD) for My Maudlin Career, another showcase for Campbell's songwriting prowess and the musical brilliance of the entire band. Camera Obscura are sometimes labeled as a female-fronted version of Belle & Sebastian, and while that's deserved high praise, it really doesn't capture what they do. They're as poppy as Stuart Murdoch's ensemble ever dreamed of being, but Camera Obscura is a lot more than a soundalike band to their countrymates. The orchestral flourishes, for one, set My Maudlin Career apart from most bands. What's more, Campbell and company seem to live in the past, as My Maudlin Career sounds like it could have been recorded four decades ago. That's certainly not a bad thing; there are a lot of bands doing throwback pop, but none doing it better, and none putting more of their own stamp on it, than Camera Obscura.

Here's Campbell on the record: "Some people who have heard it say it's intense and quite dark. I suppose it is in a way. We were even more open and brave when making it than we were with the last record." The online site All Music Guide has this clever and accurate rejoinder: "You might not find heartache as enchanting as this anywhere else." So true. Check out the brilliant lead single (and album opener) "French Navy," and also spin the title track, "The Sweetest Thing" (not a U2 cover, don't worry), "Swans" and "Honey in the Sun." While you're at it, put My Maudlin Career down on your short list for Top 10 of 2009.

Mouthful of Bees

Add Date: April 21

Artist: Mouthful of Bees

Album: Mouthful of Bees

Label: Afternoon

Genre: Rock, orchestral pop, experimental

Comments: Many of you might remember this Minneapolis band's throwback, garage-punk debut The End from 2007. If so, please forget it, as the band's sound is completely unrecognizable from just two years ago. On this eponymous release, Mouthful of Bees' newly-expanded lineup veers off into orchestral, richly textured pop music that will appeal to fans of Grizzly Bear, Beach House, Here We Go Magic and Mum, or perhaps even the quieter, less electronically-driven moments of Animal Collective. Occasionally, the guitars flare up and take over, especially on the radio-ready "Appling" and "Round Dance," but instead of being the main focus, it's as a means to an end. Just not The End.

Sorry, that was awful. I'm not even the English major on this blog, so I have no excuse for poor wordplay. But I did like this record. The sound is very, very different, but it really works for Mouthful of Bees. Also check out "Please and Thank You" and "Enhance Your Starry Night."

Friday, April 17, 2009

White Rabbits

Add Date: April 21

Artist: White Rabbits

Album: It's Frightening

Label: TBD

Genre: Rock

Comments: From the onesheet: "It's Frightening plays like a classic reel of tape from start to finish. Opening with the visceral drums of 'Percussion Gun,' it is clear that time off from the road has served the band well. The many highlights include the emotional centerpiece 'Company I Keep,' the new sonic territory of 'Lionesse' and the macabre lyrics of 'Right Where They Left.' Fans of [the band's 2007 debut] Fort Nightly will find much to go weak in the knees over, and new listeners are in for an awakening as White Rabbits flip the switch on an already impressive beginning."

White Rabbits avoid the sophomore slump with this issue on TBD, a subset of Dave Matthews' ATO Records and the U.S. home of Radiohead. This may even be a stronger album overall than Fort Nightly, although it's hard to pinpoint tracks that stand out in the same way as "The Plot" or "Kid On My Shoulders." The lead single, "Percussion Gun," comes close, as the sextet's two percussionists go to town. Spoon fans take notice: It's Frightening was produced by Britt Daniel.


Add Date: April 21

Artist: Zoe

Album: Reptilectric

Label: EMI

Genre: Rock, post-punk international

Comments: From the onesheet: "Perhaps the most successful band to emerge from Mexico City's burgeoning rock scene, Zoe play delicately crafted rock and roll anchored by producer Phil Vinall's (Radiohead, Pulp, Elastica & Placebo) magic touch. For their fourth album (first in US), Reptilectric, Zoe have come into their own with tight percussion and spiralling synths. 'No Hay Dolor' showcases Zoe's guitar-drenched, anthemic rock that has made them one of Mexico City's most popular bands. 'Fantasma' finds Zoe experimenting with more electronics and carries an industrial sound that changes the shape and span of Reptilectric. Fans of Mute Math, Kinky and Minus the Bear will have no problem crossing the language barrier and falling head-over-heels in love with Zoe."

Aeroplane Pageant

Add Date: April 21

Artist: Aeroplane Pageant

Album: Even the Kids Don't Believe Me

Label: Self-released

Genre: Rock, indie pop

Comments: The promoter says: "Aeroplane Pageant's new dream pop opus finds itself somewhere between of Montreal and Grand Archives, with stirring guitars and groove-oriented bass lines. 'Memory Begins Elsewhere' opens with heavily effected, dreamy vocals over a gentle piano that gives you an instant feeling of warmth. 'Even the Kids Don't Believe Me' tip-toes into '60s sunshine psych-pop territory, creating another layer to the album..."

Also try "Where To?" and "Stars Still Pretty."

Joe Pug

Add Date: April 21

Artist: Joe Pug

Album: Nation of Heat EP

Label: Self-released

Genre: Folk, singer/songwriter

Comments: From the promoter: "Don't let his unusual moniker fool you, Chicago's Joe Pug is quite possibly one of today's strongest young songwriters. Pug created the spectacularly gripping Nation of Heat during the wee morning hours after his days laboring as a carpenter. His hearty baritone delivery imbues his barebones odes with an air of sincerity and world weariness well beyond his young 23 years... Standout track 'Hymn #101' is filled with lyrical musings that will leave you heartbroken for its characters, but elated with the track's overall beauty. Though Nation of Heat might not launch Pug into the stratosphere of the greats like Bob Dylan, John Prine or Bruce Springsteen, it is very likely that, as PASTE has suggested, Pug might be a barometer for musical success [that] others are measured against in 20 years' time. Nation of Heat is not only one of the strongest debut EPs in years, but it is also an EP that any fans of The Tallest Man on Earth, Fleet Foxes, Jason Anderson, The Boss, Paul Westerberg or Bon Iver would be loathe to miss!"

That's glowing praise, but after listening to the EP, I would say it's well-deserved. In addition to the aforementioned "Hymn #101," check out the title track and "Hymn #35."

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Add Date: April 21

Artist: Paleface

Album: The Show Is on the Road

Label: Ramseur

Genre: Folk

Comments: From the onesheet: "More than a decade since his last major label release, Paleface, a founding member of NYC's anti-folk movement, is back with The Show Is on the Road (Ramseur). The album is an intimate, 11-song diary that transcends genres with its ingenuous lyrics and deceptively unassuming style--just Paleface, his girlfriend Monica 'Mo' Samalot on drums and backing vocals and himself on acoustic guitar and harmonica (with the occasional piano overdub). Paleface is the sort of artist who brings you into his world--his voice is sweetly ravaged and effortlessly expressive, as intimate as a friend whispering in your ear..."

According to the Internet, which never lies, Paleface is a former roommate of Beck and friend of Daniel Johnston. The Show Is on the Road will appeal to fans of the Avett Brothers (two of that band's members are guests on the record), as well as Langhorne Slim and Two Gallants. Check out the title selection, "Try to Hold Your Own" and "If Only I."

Floating Action

Add Date: April 21

Artist: Floating Action

Album: Floating Action

Label: Park the Van

Genre: Rock, blues rock

Comments: Floating Action is Chapel Hill's Seth Kauffman, who has released several good records under his own name--including the vastly underrated 2007 issue Ting. He's now putting his stuff out on Park the Van (the Peekers, Dr. Dog, the High Strung); here's some info from the promoter on Floating Action: "Kauffman has performed and recorded virtually every note himself at his home studio, and--in an age where obsessive computer editing and auto-tuning are taking the humanity out of even most home recordings--once again his refreshingly organic approach to making music is receiving rave reviews..." Daytrotter adds: "He invokes those classic, soul staples of deep and penetrating bass lines, simple but ideal and perfect lyrics about the troubles of love and jingling guitars. He gives you the jitters and the absolute sway is all his."

Floating Action's lo-fi blues rock tunes occasionally are infused with Motown soul ("Say Goodbye") or border on reggae ("Dying Punch" and "Pills to Grind"). Also check out "Don't Stop (Loving Me Now)," "50 Lashes" and "Cinder Cone."

The Everyday Visuals

Add Date: April 21

Artist: The Everyday Visuals

Album: The Everyday Visuals

Label: Self-released

Genre: Folk, folk pop, indie rock

Comments: Decent folk pop from this Boston-via-New Hampshire band that will appeal to fans of Sea Wolf, Fleet Foxes and the Grand Archives. CMJ says of the Everyday Visuals: "Harmony-rich popsters... with more hooks than the Gorton's Fisherman." Start with "Florence Foster Jenkins" and "Daydream Ghosts," and also check out the ballad "Restless Heart."

Revolution 9

Add Date: April 21

Artist: Revolution 9

Album: Music By Numbers: rem1xes + r3ject5

Label: Scarab

Genre: Electronica, electropop

Comments: A collection of remixes and B-sides from an electronic act that, well, you've probably never heard of. But that's OK. The Hollywood duo Revolution 9, whose name is presumably taken from a White Album tune, turn New Order-style synth pop into straight-up electronica on this collection, the follow-up/companion to 2007's proper studio album, Music By Numbers. The rem1xes + r3ject5 disc also features a new single, "Work."

Brad Hoshaw

Add Date: April 21

Artist: Brad Hoshaw & the Seven Deadlies

Album: Brad Hoshaw & the Seven Deadlies

Label: Self-released

Genre: Folk, alt-country

Comments: From the onesheet: "Recently described in SPIN as one of Omaha's 'best troubadours,' Brad Hoshaw's somber melodies and 'sweet high lonesome sound' (David Dondero), have been compared to Damien Jurado, Townes Van Zandt and Paul Simon... Brad Hoshaw & the Seven Deadlies reflects the experiences and observations that Brad has perceived in his life and through the lives of others. It is a dynamic journey from melancholy melodies and contemplative lyrics to heart swelling crescendos and soaring guitars."

Very solid folk/alt-country that will appeal to fans of Dondero, Whiskeytown and Conor Oberst's recent work. Check out "Powdernose" and "Another Man."


Add Date: April 21

Artist: Cryptacize

Album: Mythomania

Label: Asthmatic Kitty

Genre: Rock, experimental pop

Comments: A very good sophomore effort from Cryptacize, released by Asthmatic Kitty (My Brightest Diamond, Sufjan Stevens, Shapes & Sizes). The group folds elements of '60s pop and angular indie rock around soulful vocals--usually from Nedelle Torrisi, but occasionally from Chris Cohen. Think of a jazzier version of Cohen's former band, Deerhoof, and you'll be on your way to figuring out Cryptacize. Mythomania is poppy enough to begin with, but I have a feeling this album grows on you even more with additional listens. For now, start with "One Block Wonders," "Tail & Mane" and the title track.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Boy In Static

Add Date: April 14

Artist: Boy In Static

Album: Candy Cigarette

Label: Fake Four/Circle Into Square

Genre: Rock, synth pop

Comments: Comparing San Francisco's Boy In Static to similar acts goes hand-in-hand with providing some context for the band. They've opened for 13 & God, the collective featuring members of Themselves and the Notwist; Candy Cigarette will certainly appeal to fans of the latter band's last two releases, Neon Golden and the 2008 playlist gem The Devil, You + Me. Boy In Static's synth-aided, yet folksy pop will fit right in with Her Space Holiday, whose Marc Bianchi is a guest on this record. See how easy that was? Check out "Starlet" and "Toy Baby Grand."

Chester French

Add Date: April 14

Artist: Chester French

Album: Love the Future

Label: Star Trak

Genre: Rock, synth pop

Comments: The first half of the debut LP from Chester French made me think that the duo had maxed out its potential with the falltime release She Loves Everybody. While the two album tracks from that EP (the title selection and "The Jimmy Choos") are still among the strongest on Love the Future, there's some other decent stuff on the second half, in particular "Neal" and the delightfully out-of-place folk-pop tune "Beneath the Veil." The album shows Chester French delving into many different styles, but unlike the electro-rock EP, this is a rock record with occasional synth-pop flourishes. On the Neptunes' Star Trak branch of Interscope.

Xrabit & DMG$

Add Date: April 14

Artist: Xrabit & DMG$

Album: Hello World

Label: Big Dada

Genre: Hip hop

Comments: The promoter's spiel: "On their debut Hello World, Xrabit & DMG$ take hip hop to a place that only a German electro producer and two hungry Texas MCs could--to a forward-looking blend of eclectic beats and endearing bragadoccio that's unlike any hip hop you'll hear this year. Owing debts to modern club music, bassy Southern boasts and hipster-friendly blog-hop, every track here teems with ideas and attitude without any fear of categorization or looking hip, instead protruding effortless freshness."

This sounds decent. In a March review, the BBC's Elle J Small said "[t]alent is definitely present," but also described the trio as "a less memorable Spank Rock." Start with "Damaged Good$."

Comet Gain

Add Date: April 14

Artist: Comet Gain

Album: Broken Record Prayers

Label: What's Your Rupture?

Genre: Rock, indie rock

Comments: From the label: "Comet Gain is a beloved British indie rock band, formed in 1993 by visionary songwriter David Charlie Christian Fleck. Over five full-lengths and 20 or so 7"s, Comet Gain's music has evolved into a culmination of sounds that range from Northern soul, the riot-grrrl movement, and '60s girl groups. Comet Gain is often considered contemporaries to the likes of Huggy Bear, The Clean, Bikini Kill, Heavenly, Television Personalities, and the Pastels, and has been cited as a major influence on the rising jangly underground [bands] Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Crystal Stilts, and caUSE co-MOTION!"

Broken Record Prayers is a collection of songs from that line of 7" releases, Peel Sessions from the BBC, and more. Well worth your time, either as a fan of Comet Gain, or as a proper introduction to the band.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Eagle and Talon

Add Date: April 14

Artist: Eagle and Talon

Album: Thracian

Label: Self-released

Genre: Rock, indie rock, post-punk

Comments: The promoter says: "Los Angeles' Eagle and Talon have been splicing angular guitars and intricate rhythms with Casio keyboards since 2003. With their new album, Thracian, Kim and Alice Talon forge their artfully executed noise with primal feminine abandon. Thracian finds the girls ditching rock minimalism for a more expansive sound, utilizing organs, horns and piano. Tracks like 'All of My Guardians' and 'It's a Fortress' exemplify E&T's knack for jagged yet sugary sweet post-punk. Fans of Fol Chen, Friendly Foes & Chairlift will find themselves possessed in the claws of Eagle and Talon's new album."

I almost feel ashamed in reprinting the awful/wonderful pun found in the last sentence of that paragraph, but I'll forgive myself because everything else said above is true. I also liked the song "Ice Life."

Screaming Females

Add Date: April 14

Artist: Screaming Females

Album: Power Move

Label: Don Giovanni

Genre: Rock, punk

Comments: From the promoter: "Screaming Females are New Brunswick, NJ's premier garage-punk shredders. Bombastic vocals and urgent solos fill Screaming Females' first full-length, Power Move, with raw power and emotion that pour through pummeling drums. Singer Marissa Paternoster channels Iggy Pop and Karen-O into an all-out grinding menagerie of yelps and shredded vocal chords. Screaming Females' sustained shred and swagger... through 10 tracks of '70s-inspired rock... is both vibrant and original... [F]ans of Mika Miko, Bikini Kill & Vivian Girls will be screaming along..."

Check out "Lights Out" and "Halfway Down."

Easy Star All-Stars

Add Date: April 14

Artist: Easy Star All-Stars

Album: Easy Star's Lonely Hearts Dub Band

Label: Easy Star

Genre: Reggae

Comments: The concept behind Easy Star All-Stars is simple: record reggae versions of classic rock and roll albums. Thus far, the band has released Radiodread (their take on OK Computer) and Dub Side of the Moon (obvious, I hope). Now, the Beatles' 1967 classic Sgt. Pepper comes into play. As might be expected, some songs work a lot better as reggae redos; while it's hard to imagine that John and Paul had dub in mind when they wrote "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds," it's the best track on Lonely Hearts Dub Band. Also worth a listen are "With a Little Help From My Friends" and "A Day in the Life."

Immaculate Machine

Add Date: April 14

Artist: Immaculate Machine

Album: High on Jackson Hill

Label: Mint

Genre: Rock, indie rock

Comments: British Columbia's Immaculate Machine immediately bring to mind the New Pornographers. That's hardly a surprise, considering that Carl Newman's niece Kathryn Calder now plays with both acts, but that can make it difficult for the former band to stand out. Fortunately, they do a nice job of differentiating themselves from the NPs, and other Canadian indie pop acts, on House on Jackson Hill--particularly on the second half of the record. My favourite songs were "Primary Colours" and "Neighbours Don't Mind," both taken from the centre of the album.

Black Dice

Add Date: April 14

Artist: Black Dice

Album: Repo

Label: Paw Tracks

Genre: Unclassifiable, experimental

Comments: From the promoter: "The fifth album by the Brooklyn-based trio, Repo finds Black Dice delving into dirty noise loops and processed samples and coming up with unlikely hooks and roiling, distorted abstract lullabies. Like the album's cover, Black Dice take familiar themes and remix them into garish, confrontational art with nods to musique concrete and No Wave rhythm... [Black Dice have] never worked harder at crafting a set of concise, sonically battering, or flat-out bizarre tunes than on this collection of fringe-surfing tone bombs. Yet a new roadhouse blues-band philosophy has simultaneously emerged, allowing the group to loosen up and toss off a record packed with blurry hooks and zoomed-in riffs..."

King Khan & the Shrines

Add Date: April 14

Artist: King Khan & the Shrines

Album: What Is?!

Label: Vice

Genre: Rock, garage rock, psychedelic rock, soul

Comments: For years, Montreal native King Khan and his garage revivalist band suffered from a criminal lack of attention in North America. The album What Is?!, their third full-length, was originally released in Germany--Khan has lived in Berlin for several years--back in 2007. Finally, folks on this side of the Atlantic are taking notice. Vice put out The Supreme Genius of King Khan & the Shrines last summer, and now the official U.S. release of What Is?! comes our way. There's overlap between the two albums (Supreme Genius was a compilation), but that's hardly an issue, especially when you're talking about terrific songs like "Welfare Bread." King Khan & the Shrines' devotion to the garage and psychedelic sounds of the '60s put them in company with Black Lips and the Dirtbombs; however, their big-band approach, which includes several musicians stolen away from the jazz world, leaves them in a class by themselves. Start with the aforementioned track 3, but also spin "(How I Can Keep You) Outta Harms Way," the Yardbirds-esque "Fear & Love" and "I Wanna Be a Girl."

Harlem Shakes

Add Date: April 14

Artist: Harlem Shakes

Album: Technicolor Health

Label: Gigantic Music

Genre: Rock, indie rock, pop rock

Comments: It's about damn time. More than two years after teasing music fans with a very, very good EP, the February 2007 issue Burning Birthdays, Brooklyn's Harlem Shakes have released their debut full-length on Gigantic Music (The Walkmen). Turns out it was worth the wait. Technicolor Health is a great and diverse pop rock record, adding horns, gang vocals (especially on opening number "Nothing But Change Part II") and the occasional handclaps to the traditional rock band structure. Fans of White Rabbits, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Born Ruffians take notice: this record is for you. There isn't a bad song among the 10, but I'd recommend "Sunlight," "Natural Man" and the title track.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

SCORE!: The Covers!

Add Date: April 14

Artist: Various Artists

Album: SCORE! 20 Years of Merge Records: The Covers!

Label: Merge

Genre: Compilations, rock, folk

Comments: Chapel Hill indie powerhouse label Merge Records is observing its 20th anniversary this year, and part of the celebration includes a subscription box set that consists of, among many other wonderful things, curated compilations of Merge favorites, a remix disc, and a book of Merge cover art. What's more, proceeds go to Chapel Hill and Durham-area charities. Alas, it's too late to subscribe--some of us, such as myself, are obviously much more on the ball than others--but this particularly desirable set of non-Merge artists covering their favorite tunes from the label's catalog will be available to the general public.

So who's on this record, and what bands are covered? Imaginary questioner, I'm glad you asked. Superchunk gets the deserved royal treatment, as Les Savy Fav, Ryan Adams, Death Cab for Cutie and the Hive Dwellers (featuring K Records founder Calvin Johnson) all have a go at the seminal '90s band, whose Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance founded Merge Records in 1989; additionally, Barbara Manning provides a fine rendition of "Through With People," from McCaughan's other project, Portastatic.

In an unexpected collaboration, Jens Lekman and Tracey Thorn (Everything But the Girl) tackle the Magnetic Fields, as does Bright Eyes (whose Conor Oberst, by the by, releases stuff on Merge these days). Some of the hidden treasures from the label's history pop up, too, from Okkervil River and the Mountain Goats doing East River Pipe tunes, to the work of Chris Lopez getting redone by the Shins (Tenement Halls) and the New Pornographers (Rock*A*Teens), to Broken Social Scene taking a stab at the influential New Zealand band the Clean. Plus: St. Vincent and the National joining forces for a Crooked Fingers song; Ted Leo & the Pharmacists remaking Robert Pollard; the Apples in Stereo doing a fuzzy electropop version of "King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 3" from fellow Elephant 6 member Neutral Milk Hotel; Lavender Diamond reworking Destroyer; and much, much more.

The Peekers

Add Date: April 14

Artist: The Peekers

Album: Life in the Air

Label: Park the Van

Genre: Rock, indie pop

Comments: The New Orleans-based label Park the Van delivers another delightful release, this time from the Peekers, who hail from nearby Shreveport. Life in the Air is 13 tracks of unadulterated, blissful indie pop that dares you not to hum along or tap your feet. The sextet has been described as "almost annoyingly precious" (Austin Chronicle); their label says: "Anyone within earshot is an instant spelunker plunged into a labyrinth of four-part vocals and reciprocating lead guitars." For fans of Page France, Bishop Allen and fellow Park the Vanners Dr. Dog and the Spinto Band. Check out "Canoe Trip," "Your Morning Toast" and "Concrete Feet."


Add Date: April 14

Artist: Jeniferever

Album: Spring Tides

Label: Monotreme

Genre: Rock, post-rock, shoegaze pop

Comments: Says the promoter: "Jeniferever is a four-piece band from Uppsala, Sweden. Some have compared their sound to the physical beauty of their native country, with its aural landscapes of slow-placed melodies which build to orchestral-like climaxes. Stylistically, the music can fit into a number of different genres, containing elements of ambient indie rock, post-rock, shoegaze and dream pop. Lyrically compelling and poetic, the songs deal with themes of nostalgia, loss, and longing, yet also manage to convey an uplifting sense of optimism."

Jeniferever's second LP draws on influences that range from Mogwai to Sigur Ros to the Cure, and Spring Tides is a nice mix of post-rock and atmospheric pop tracks. Check out "Nangijala" and "Green Meadow Island."

Linda Draper

Add Date: April 14

Artist: Linda Draper

Album: Bridge and Tunnel

Label: Planting Seeds

Genre: Folk, singer-songwriter

Comments: Queens artist Linda Draper writes nice tunes and has a wonderful voice, making it possible to distinguish Bridge and Tunnel from the countless number of singer-songwriter records that show up in our mailbox each month. Time Out New York says: "Linda Draper approaches folk music with spare songs and a high register not unlike folk mama Joan Baez." She's also been compared to Aimee Mann, Suzanne Vega and Joni Mitchell. Start with "Pushing Up the Day."

The Help Desk

Add Date: April 14

Artist: The Help Desk

Album: Peel the Sun

Label: Self-released

Genre: Rock, indie pop, jam band

Comments: Peel the Sun from Chicago band the Help Desk almost sounds like two unrelated EPs, hurriedly married into a single album. The first half draws heavily on the Shins and '60s pop, beginning with the standout lead track "My Favorite Wrapper." But starting with the sixth song, "Snakeman," jam band influences (think moe. or Umphrey's McGee) take over for the rest of the way. While the band seems adept at both styles, I'm not sure that such a strange and sudden juxtaposition really works.

Empire of the Sun

Add Date: April 14

Artist: Empire of the Sun

Album: Walking on a Dream

Label: Astralwerks

Genre: Electropop, New Wave

Comments: Never before has an album cover been so informative. The "WTF" that this image surely inspires is repeated endlessly throughout the 43 minutes of Walking on a Dream, the debut from the newly-forged duo of Luke Steele (the Sleepy Jackson) and Nick Littlemore (Pnau). At its core, this is an electropop record, and it starts harmlessly enough with four songs, including the excellent title track, that bring to mind fellow Australians Cut Copy. From there, things devolve into a stylistic mess. Perhaps Empire of the Sun were too ambitious, but they simply can't decide on what, if anything, they're trying to accomplish here.

In his Pitchfork review, Mike Orme quipped that "few buzzes die so abruptly as in the transition of the complex, ethereal melodies of 'We Are the People' into the following cut 'Delta Bay', which sounds like 'Thriller' sung by cats." Those kinds of bizarre transitions continue the rest of the way--in terms of the mix, it becomes the polar opposite of Cut Copy's brilliant and seamless 2008 issue In Ghost Colours. Yet that's not to say there aren't any good moments on the second half of the record, as I enjoyed the New Wave ballad "Without You" and the instrumental "Country." Overall, however, the promising start to Walking on a Dream goes unfulfilled.

Samantha Crain

Add Date: April 14

Artist: Samantha Crain & the Midnight Shivers

Album: Songs in the Night

Label: Ramseur

Genre: Folk

Comments: To be perfectly frank, I wasn't a big fan of the EP that Samantha Crain released last summer. I agree with Clara's review about there being too much going on, particularly in terms of instrumentation, and Crain seemed to be straining her voice in an attempt to emulate, say, Joanna Newsom. Less than a year later, though, Crain's musical maturity is at the forefront of a very good debut LP. The music is still intricate, but not cluttered to the point where it obstructs Crain's much more controlled delivery, as well as her excellent songwriting. Songs in the Night is the latest in a line of impressive releases from the upstart North Carolina label Ramseur Records, most famous for being the home of the Avett Brothers. Start with "Rising Sun" and "Get the Fever Out." For fans of Newsom, Alela Diane and Devendra Banhart.


Add Date: April 14

Artist: Yonlu

Album: A Society in Which No Tear Is Shed Is Inconceivably Mediocre

Label: Luaka Bop

Genre: Folk, psych folk, international

Comments: Yonlu was the online persona of Brazilian Vinicius Gageiro Marques, who tragically took his own life in 2006 at the age of 16. Prior to his death, Marques had gained a considerable online following for his lo-fi folk tunes, which drew comparisons to Nick Drake, Badly Drawn Boy and his fellow countryman Caetano Veloso (referred to as "Brazil's Bob Dylan"). Now, some three years later, David Byrne's Luaka Bop label is releasing Yonlu's recordings to a North American audience. A Society... is built out of folk tunes--some in English, others in Portuguese--that infuse South American musical styles into '60s and '70s singer-songwriter standards. The results are rather enjoyable. Check out "Humiliation," "Estrela, Estrela" and "Olhe Por Nos."

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tee Pee Records Sampler

Add Date: April 7

Artist: Various Artists

Album: Tee Pee Records: Spring Sampler

Label: Tee Pee

Genre: Compilations, psychedelic rock

Comments: A nice collection of psychedelic and stoner rock from this independent New York label. The liner contains very helpful and accurate comparisons for the 11 different bands featured, which range from psych pop (Hopewell, the Warlocks) to space rock (Graveyard) to droning psychedelic rock (NAAM, Witch) to '70s metal-inspired acts (Night Horse, Black Math Horseman). The only thing out of place is the album closer from alt-country act the Weight, but "Closer Than a Friend" is a nice change of pace to finish out a great set from an underappreciated label.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I Was a King

Add Date: April 7

Artist: I Was a King

Album: I Was a King

Label: The Control Group

Genre: Rock, power pop, psych pop

Comments: I Was a King is the project of Norway's Frode Stromstads, who delivers half an hour of very enjoyable guitar-driven pop on this self-titled sophomore record. Guests include Sufjan Stevens, Daniel Smith (Danielson Familie), Emil Nikolaisen (Serena Maneesh) and Gary Olson (Ladybug Transistor). From the slightly shoegazey musical style to Stromstads' vocals, the music reminds me a lot of Elephant 6 bands like Elf Power and the Apples in Stereo. Spin "Step Aside" and "Norman Bleik."

Monday, April 6, 2009

Scott Weiland

Add Date: April 7

Artist: Scott Weiland

Album: "Happy" in Galoshes

Label: Softdrive

Genre: Rock

Comments: EXACTLY what I expected from the dude who got kicked out of Velvet Revolver. But there are two things that transplant Weiland from the "genius" to the "virtuoso" category: first, No Doubt (minus Gwen Stefani) is his backing band; second, he covers David Bowie/John Lennon's "Fame." I know. Still better than Chris Cornell.



Add Date: April 7


Album: Fist of God

Label: Dim Mak/Downtown

Genre: Electronica

Comments: From the promoter: "The Toronto-based duo's long-awaited sophomore album, Fist of God, is a sinewy and aggressive take on the distorted synth melodies and thick-hipped club beats that have been at the heart of MSTRKRFT's music. Fist of God downplays the more melodic house tendencies in favor of an aggressive, biting barrage of more, better, faster and cheaper beats. The relentless pace works wonders if the pleasure receptors in the musical part of your brain are wired to Daft Punk and Justice."

Try "1000 Cigarettes," "Heartbreaker" and the title track.

Junior Boys

Add Date: April 7

Artist: Junior Boys

Album: Begone Dull Care

Label: Domino

Genre: Electronica, pop

Comments: This Canadian duo continues to refine its craft on Begone Dull Care, their third proper full-length (and second with producer Matthew Didemus, who replaced original member Johnny Dark). The excellent 2006 issue So This Is Goodbye was a dance record, with some songs bordering on house music; Begone Dull Care finds Junior Boys focusing more on the craft of songwriting, though never at the expense of Didemus' beats. Frontman Jeremy Greenspan's lyrics have never been stronger, and his vocals take center-stage on several tracks, including the standout, R&B-infused single "Hazel." Also check out "Bits & Pieces," "Work" and album opener "Parallel Lines."

A Camp

Add Date: April 7

Artist: A Camp

Album: Colonia

Label: Nettwerk

Genre: Indie pop

Comments: "We're gonna party like it's 1699," sings Nina Persson, Cardigans frontwoman and vocalist for A Camp, who might just be the best Swedish poppers since ABBA (totally serious, I'm a closeted ABBA fan). Persson has a voice that's crisp and clear against production that's just the same, and in her antiquated style and lyrics, I can't help but be reminded of Morrissey. With mentions of opium dens and pendulums and reserviors, A Camp certainly studied for its SAT verbal section. Lovely and lush, check out "The Crowning" and "Here Are Many Wild Animals."

Still Flyin'

Add Date: April 7

Artist: Still Flyin'

Album: Never Gonna Touch The Ground

Label: Ernest Jenning Record Co.

Genre: Reggae and ska, indie pop

Comments: Okkervil River's Will Sheff called Still Flyin' his new favorite band, and I see why. Sean Rawls and 15 or so more folks combine well-crafted reggae/dance/funk jams with quirky indie pop, courtesy of Architecture in Helsinki's Gus Franklin and Isobel Knowles. While the song titles might sound like an indie rocker's worst nightmare ("Forever Dudes," "Act of Jamming," and "Aerosmith, Take Me to the Other Side" among them), they're all really terrific, short and sweet, but with enough kick to make me click the repeat button. Unpretentious and the perfect soundtrack to a Spring Term afternoon, check out "Forever Dudes" and "Ginko Biloba."

Joker's Daughter

Add Date: April 7

Artist: Joker's Daughter

Album: The Last Laugh

Label: Team Love

Genre: Folk pop, soul

Comments: Danger Mouse + beautiful songstress in the style of Jenny Lewis, Neko Case, and Emmylou Harris + Team Love (Conor Oberst's label) = a treat to listen to. A child prodigy in her native London by way of Greece, Helena Costas (a.k.a. Joker's Daughter) churns out a curious little gem, that is as much Renaissance as it is funk and soul. A couple of years ago, Costas began mailing home recordings to everyone's favorite non-Timbaland producer, Danger Mouse, and it paid off. They create something weird and wonderful, employing violin right alongside electronic drum beats. Raw and whispery, the best ones on here are the straighter folk-rock (?) numbers, "Worm's Head" and "JD Folk Blues."

The Twang

Add Date: April 7

Artist: The Twang

Album: Love It When I Feel Like This

Label: Arena Rock

Genre: Rock, Brit pop, alternative

Comments: The U.S. release of Love It When I Feel Like This comes nearly two years after the Birmingham band's debut came out in the UK in June 2007. Lead singer Phil Etheridge sounds like a cross between Bono and Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner, and the band seems to draw influences as readily from '80s and '90s alternative as from more modern Brit rock. The two best songs on the U.S. issue are found in the bonus tracks section: the Streets' remix of "Either Way," which features raps from both Mike Skinner and up-and-coming British MC Professor Green, and the Mint Royale remix of "Two Lovers." On the album proper, check out "Push the Ghosts."


Add Date: April 7

Artist: Micachu

Album: Jewellery

Label: Rough Trade

Genre: Rock, experimental, samples

Comments: The debut effort from 21-year-old Briton Mica Levi, a.k.a. Micachu, is a wonderfully weird pop record. Label Rough Trade says Jewellery is a "mangled outpouring of fidgeting guitars, untameable bass splurges, fragile, swoonsome wails, sabre-toothed electronics and snatched sounds, from rattling bottlenecks to demonic hoovers. While on paper it doesn't sound [like] a sing-a-long setup, in between the shudders, splurts, stabs, stutters, stops and starts, spills a pure, pristine thread of melodic playfulness that makes Jewellery one of the most fiendishly addictive breakthrough albums of the year."

Check out "Just In Case" and "Sweetheart."

Friday, April 3, 2009


Add Date: April 7

Artist: Metric

Album: Fantasies

Label: Last Gang

Genre: Rock, dance rock

Comments: The new release Fantasies begins with a gem of a pop song, "Help I'm Alive," which was issued as the album-teasing single back in December. It's a study in Metric's strengths: first and foremost, Emily Haines' songwriting and powerful, yet beautiful delivery; but also the driving guitar of James Shaw, the expert bass lines of James Winstead and the nifty percussion work of Joules Scott-Key. The band is as tight-knit musically as anyone out there, so there's never a bad moment on the record. But there are ups and, at least relatively speaking, downs; somehow, Fantasies doesn't quite maintain the same level throughout. Maybe that's simply because the high points are so very, very good. In addition to the single, check out "Gimme Sympathy," "Sick Muse" and closer "Stadium Love."

Gramercy Arms

Add Date: April 7

Artist: Gramercy Arms

Album: Gramercy Arms

Label: Cheap Lullaby

Genre: Rock, power pop

Comments: The most striking thing about this self-titled release from New York's Gramercy Arms is the guest list: Sarah Silverman (yes, the Sarah Silverman, who sings backing vocals on "Looking at the Sun"), Matthew Caws and labelmate Joan (As Police Woman) Wasser are among those who chip in. But don't overlook the music: The record is a solid collection of pop-rock and power-pop tunes that will appeal to fans of Caws' band Nada Surf, Sloan and Matt Pond PA. Check out "Fakin'" and "Automatic."


Add Date: April 7

Artist: Doves

Album: Kingdom of Rust

Label: Astralwerks

Genre: Rock, Brit pop, dream pop

Comments: The fourth album from Manchester trio Doves further solidifies their spot atop a heap of British bands playing melodic pop-rock. (Think a less proggy edition of Elbow, or a much better version of Keane.) Kingdom of Rust is a very good record from start to finish, showing a bit of versatility--the album's strongest track is "10:03," arranged by Chemical Brother Tom Rowlands--but, more than anything, the band is impressive in its consistency. Doves don't ask too much of their listeners, except to sit back and enjoy their dreamy take on Brit pop. Also try "Jetstream" and "House of Mirrors."

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Add Date: April 7

Artist: Eulogies

Album: Here Anonymous

Label: Dangerbird

Genre: Indie rock, pop rock

Comments: The Southern California rock band Eulogies is, simply, a perfect fit for their record label. I mean that in a wholly complimentary way: their sound meshes quite nicely with the label's roster, from Silversun Pickups to Sea Wolf to current tourmates the Dears. Not to mention that Hrishikesh Hirway, from Dangerbird artist the One AM Radio, co-produced Here Anonymous with Eulogies frontman Peter Walker. Enjoyable pop rock that falls somewhere between Death Cab for Cutie and the Mercury Rev. Check out "Bad Connection."

The Thermals

Add Date: April 7

Artist: The Thermals

Album: Now We Can See

Label: Kill Rock Stars

Genre: Rock, power pop

Comments: Portland's finest pop-rockers return with a terrific new album, their first for the Kill Rock Stars label after a seemingly amicable departure from Sub Pop. It's also their first studio release with drummer Westin Glass, who joins original members Hutch Harris and Kathy Foster without missing a beat (bad, bad pun intended). Now We Can See is that rare record that never inspires you to skip a track, starting with the punchy single "When I Died" and continuing through to the foot-tapping album closer "You Dissolve." From melodies that stick endlessly in your head to Harris' straightforward yet poignant lyrics, the Thermals have hit their stride, building off the successes of their three previous releases to produce their best work to date. It's difficult to nail down the best songs on such a solid record, but I would recommend starting with any of the first three tracks, the finale, or "At the Bottom of the Sea."

Hammer No More the Fingers

Add Date: April 7

Artist: Hammer No More the Fingers

Album: Looking for Bruce

Label: Churchkey

Genre: Rock, lo-fi

Comments: Hammer No More the Fingers' new release Looking for Bruce immediately brings to mind the modern-day (and scream-free) Cursive, but a closer listen seems to peg them even closer to '90s indie rock acts like the Archers of Loaf and Superchunk. (The latter is hardly a surprise, considering the proximity of the band's home of Durham to Mac McCaughan's Merge Records lair in Chapel Hill.) Stereogum says of HNMTF: "College rock in that best old-school, early '90s sense, though it goes some place else with it, too." Start with "Nobody Knows."

UPDATE: I found out after writing this post that HNMTF are opening for Superchunk at the Chapel Hill hot spot Cat's Cradle later this month. No surprises there...

Creative Belfast: Sounds of the City

Add Date: April 7

Artist: Various Artists

Album: Creative Belfast Presents: Sounds of the City

Label: Northern Ireland Music Industry Commission

Genre: Compilations, rock, folk

Comments: This compilation highlights modern rock and folk artists from Northern Ireland's capital city. What's more, it's conveniently divided (and labeled) into "Electric" and "Acoustic" sections. Because we wouldn't have been able to figure that out from listening to the music? Thanks for displaying a complete lack of faith in us, Belfast. Thanks a lot.

I enjoyed the selections from the Lost Brothers, as well as recent playlist artist Escape Act.

The Devil Makes Three

Add Date: April 7

Artist: The Devil Makes Three

Album: Do Wrong Right

Label: Milan

Genre: Folk, newgrass, country

Comments: California band The Devil Makes Three play an enjoyable blend of bluegrass, blues rock and country that will appeal to fans of Old Crow Medicine Show, the Avett Brothers, and current playlist band the Felice Brothers. Lead singer Pete Bernhard wails about religion, life on the road, the plight of the working man, and drug and alcohol use--all country music standards, but the group's energy keeps them from sounding stale. Check out "Gracefully Facedown," "Aces and Twos," "All Hail" and "Help Yourself."