Monday, April 30, 2007

Ramona Cordova is Heavy on My Head

I'm a little behind the times musically speaking. I didn't listen to the Beatles until I was a Freshman in college, didn't hear Belle and Sebastian until two years ago, Neutral Milk Hotel, last October. And there's a few very good reasons for my lag. I won't burden you now with the reasons, just know part of one of them has to do with Christian parents, a steel curtain and the impending apocolypse.

So I don't feel like it's a problem to be writing about an album from last year right here in the middle of April. Especially when songs from this album are haunting me more every day that passes.

I'm speaking of the Ramona Cordova album; The Boy Who Floated Freely. The best part is: I've never even listened to the entire album.

I was introduced to Ramona Cordova through a campfire sing along in which every person singing busted a neck veign trying to hit the high notes of a serpentine beautiful melody. The song was Heavy on My Head and every version I've ever heard, from the first to the last is as good as the first time. I love this song.

It's achingly wonderful. It's so proximus to where you sit. No matter how loud or quiet you listen, how energized or mellow you are this song pulls you up next to the troubador and his guitar. It's starlight. I'm not exaggerating.

The album only gets more and more intruiging. Heavy on My Head is on the list of the best songs I've heard but other Ramona Cordova songs fit right in. Maybe thats because the album is concept album. Its a story about a boy marooned on an island away from home. Each song tells a piece of the story at large but each song is solid on its own. The Giver's Reply seems to get stuck in my mud like an ear worm no matter how long ago I listened.

It's Ramona's falsetto. It's one of the best falsettos to hit music since Al Green. And his vibratto is comparable to Devendra Banhart. His melodies... I don't think there's a comparable person in my small encylopedia. I leave that open for comment.

Give his music a listen on his myspace

Saturday, April 28, 2007

[strawberry] fields. [forever]

fields is an Anglo-Icelandic band formed in London that has been popping up on the indie scene/college radio stations these days. They've done some touring with the old Wolfmother and the old Bloc Party but now that their first full length album entitled "Everything Last Winter" is out they will be venturing off on their own.
Hearsay tells me that Pitchfork gave this record a nine out of ten. I tried checking, but couldn't find the review, most likely because I am internet-challenged. Regardless, I am not sure how I feel about "Everything Last Winter." The whole time I was listening I kept waiting for something significant to pop out at me and nothing ever truly did. The first two tracks really weren't all that significant, but the rest of the album was decent. fields reminds me a lot of MBV but much more subdued and poppy with a rather produced sound. (However this may be my extreme partiality to low-fi kicking in.) I think I would like this album better if each song had some sort of climax but the pacing of every song was always strikingly similar to the one before it. "Everything Last Winter" is a leisurely listen by a decent band that will probably do cool things in the future; but, for now, I'm sticking with the better bands they remind me of.

Don't Smoke Get off the Internet

I only recently stumbled upon this record on a blog entry, and I couldn't believe it. Phil Elvrum is recording under the Microphones moniker again and I hadn't even heard about it. Everybody should be flipping out, I am flipping out, how did I miss this? I don't know when the record was officially released but it says on the case "early 2007". I swiftly paid the 7$ that the record costs of at pwelvrum and suns and soon was the proud owner of some pretty white vinyl. The songs are awesome, it sounds like the Microphones, I highly recommend all interested parties get their hands on a copy, cause I don't have any mp3s to post. I wonder if this means there will be more new microphones? Maybe a full new record? Who knows.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Hop Along {with}, Queen Ansleis

take everything you've ever thought about girls with guitars and throw it out the window. i think i can confidently say that if you were to listen to only one of the bands i've written about in the last few months...i would recommend Hop Along, Queen Ansleis. in a world where seemingly every female songwriter is a genetic splice of sarah mclaughlan, jewel, and ani defranco; Hop Along's Francis Quinlan is a mutation that Darwin would hold to his heart and praise as the paragon of natural selection.

brash as it may seem, these opinions come from hearing only 6 of her songs. 4 on her myspace, and 2 more on her pure volume site. The 2005 release "Freshman Year" is on my list of things to buy, along with one of Chris Eaton's novels (check out Dave's post on Rock Plaza Central), a new tire (to replace my slashed one, those bastards) and pay a parking ticket, most likely all purchased in that order.

Whereas the gene pool of Mclaughlan-DiFranco monsters jump up and down the vocal registers to show how pretty and versatile their female voices are, Quinlan puts them all to shame without really trying to. sometimes she whelps, other times its almost a cry, and here and there she hops octaves into a beatiful falsetto; often times all of those and more jammed into one 3 minute song, creating a consistently up-tempo melody and showing her exceptional talent. yet in no way will you think she does it as a fanfare of her skills. the songs are humble and fragile, they might shatter into pieces if you stop listening, yet they burst out of the speakers with energy and excitment about her seemingly infinitely loving family, bonzai trees and spinach.

while frances' voice is a dominant force in the songs, often times with 4 or 5 distinct vocal tracks all happening at once, its not the only noteworthy sound going on. her brothers and friends contribute to the recordings on banjos, drums and kitchen utensil percussion creating a delightful sound that i envision can only come from a warm, sunlit room where you can see the dust particles in the air and everything in there has been placed in its location for some specific reason, which may or may not make itself known and that doesn't really matter.

maybe i'll do a follow-up post once i get the album. but if not, go to her myspace and copy down her address in brooklyn and send her $10 and wait as the days crawl by like a millipeed with a blister on every foot until it gets to you. there's only one song available for download, which i will post at the bottom, the others you will have to stream from her myspace and purevolume.

i fall in love with her all over again everytime a new verse starts.

i'm only posting one mp3 out of lack of having anymore than one, but my suggested tracks would be "Of My Brothers..." off her myspace and "Bruno is Orange" on her purevolume.

mp3: the bonzai tree u bought 4 me

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Jorge Ben Makes Me Hot

Normally I’m not a very definitive person, but I can say without a doubt that Jorge Ben’s recording of “Menina Mulher da Pela Preta” on his 1972 album A Tabua de Esmeralda is definitely the best song ever recorded. I was recently introduced to Ben by a friend whose Latin music mixed CDs will be pumping through the speakers of a vegetable mobile perusing the inner city streets of Schenectady, Albany, and Troy.

Ben is the epitome of warm weather inner city music, and his recording of “Menina Mulher da Pela Preta” (which tells me means “Girl Wife of the By the Black One” and since my Portuguese isn’t very good I’ll have to take their word for it) captures in 2 minutes and 57 seconds the equatorial feel of Brazil (which I’ve never been to but I imagine to be hot).

As a lover of samba, salsa and other hot music, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to find out about Ben, who wrote arguably one of the most well known bossa nova songs “Mas, Que Nada” (or “But That Nothing”) which was covered by numerous well known artists, such as Sergio Mendes. You probably know it, (think: women with high voices singing “oooh, waaaadeeeeaaah ooo oooohh baaa oohhh baaa”). I never knew it was Jorge Ben that wrote this classic song. “Mas, Que Nada” is one of those songs that you think doesn’t have an author, it just exists and always has. I felt the same way about “This Land is Your Land” until I found out that Woody Guthrie wrote that song. And the mystery authors revealed never disappoint me.

The only downfall to this recording of “Menina Mulher da Pela Preta” is that some silly producer cuts off his absolutely mind blowing vocal jam at the end of the song. But the same way in which some jazz connoisseurs say that the biggest mistake ever made in the history of jazz recording was arranger Gordon Jenkins’ addition of a Protestant Choir behind Billie Holiday’s unchoirlike voice in “God Bless the Child,” we realize that big mistakes cast upon great songs make the listener realize just how tough great songs really are. They can stand up to the mistakes and still leave you shaking your head in awe of it all.

Check out Jorge Ben’s sweet tropicaliaish web site, full of song clips and even sheet music, but brush up on your Portuguese because I don’t think will be able to help you out with his lengthy biography.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Illinois: Not From Illinois?!

Some albums are meant to be listened to like most novels are meant to be read, from front to back. They may tell a story, or convey an overall idea when aspects of each track are compiled chronologically. Who knows? There are even times when the music can't help but flow effortlessly like a cohesive work of art. But some albums just don't, and that's cool too. Right?

Take the sophomore EP by a band called Illinois, titled "What the Hell Do I Know?", released on Ace Fu records. It's seven tracks long, and each one takes from something else, grabs for some new sound and is distinctly different from the next. Have you ever tried to rip a mix CD your friend gave to you? And when you do, the CD ripping program (I use Windows Media Player) asks you to identify the genre. Identify the genre?! But it's not in just one genre! How absurd! That's how this feels.

This EP isn't just country, or pop, or spoken word, or your standard indie-rock fair, but at times it is all that. On the track that will most expectedly catch your ear, "Nosebleed", Illinois take an inventive approach to folk and blue grass using a rolling banjo line with electronic beats in the background and distorted vocals. Think Langhorn Slim getting his hands on a drum machine and keyboard. They appropriately fain a southern drawl for the song and it comes together quite nicely. I was disappointed to find the rest of the album not sounding like that, but that's not to say the rest isn't plenty enjoyable.

Further tracks like "One on One" exhibit a bigger band sound they are capable of, with the synths and guitars adding much depth and volume. Songs tend to be quite short which makes for quick flow through various sounds, keeping me, the listener on my toes. Vocally, Illinois are hard to pin down as well. Each song sounds like there's someone new singing. In the song "Headphones" a vocalist with a slightly shaky voice sounds like he's singing through a telephone giving an old school Conor Oberst feel. The closing track "Bad Day" delivers booming drums and bass with someone in the background monotonously complaining about random events in his day, cursing a bunch and eventually bringing about the chorus harmony of "Now I'm Free!". What the hell?

These Pennsylvanians (there are four guys in the band, three of which sing [they are NOT from Illinois!]) have a knack for compelling and appealing songs harmonies and lyrics, yet they keep their sound borderless. Illinois dodge the silver bullet of being confined to one genre, preventing them from being beaten down by it. And yes. they are werewolves. There's a lot of potential in a band like Illinois. After listening to their EP you'd have no idea where they are going to go with a full length and I doubt they do yet. Sometimes It is nice not to know what's coming next.

Check them out at or

The World Was Hell To Us.- How Chipper, Rock Plaza Central.

Novelists are sad, sad people. Rock Plaza Central's lead singer Chris Eaton has written two novels: The Grammar Architect and The Inactivist. I haven't read them, but if his prose is anywhere near as good as his songs (which I have a sneaking suspicion that they are) they are probably better than anything I will ever write, especially this little post. I recently picked up RPC's first indepedent release The World Was Hell to Us (2003), and its much different than their runaway hit Are We Not Horses? (2006), but these discrepancies are forgivable, even applaudable. Their newer record is big: a concept album questioning subjectivity, epistemology, perhaps even Cartesian mind/body dualism, which is accompanied by big instrumentation (nearly every song teems with accordians, mellophones, trombones, banjos, violins,etc.) The World is more sparse, but in this simplicity there is no-nonsense heartache. After just a few listens, I would claim that the highlights is "You Don't Need" a song about the autonomous self, and the loneliness a life surrounded by others selves with whom you will never actually connect. The themes from Are We Not Horses are still here, but in less metaphoric, one could say, poetic sense. Horses is a poem; The World is a novel.

The single for this album is "The Things that Bind You", vaguely reminscent to my favorite song on Horses "How We Go, When We Go Pt. 1". The raw eroticism and pangs of unrequited love and acceptance excudes from every pore of this band and this album outlines the heights of where this band can and will go. Don't get me wrong, this album is not an outline, but a fully fleshed out work of art. I agree with Chris Eaton, and I almost have my self convinced that "I don't need" anything outside myself. Except this album.

Check out their songs from both albums here:

And Eaton's Novels here:

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Frog Eyes; Tears of the Valedictorian

It has been 5 years since the release of Frog Eyes first record The Bloody Hand. They have been listed as influences for such popular indie acts as Xui Xui and Wolf Parade (with whom they share a member, Spencer Krug). Krug sings (and I assume writes) some of the songs on this album and the rest are fronted by Carey Mercer (also of Swan Lake). Some of the Krug songs on the album could very well fit on to a Wolf Parade album and the whole record in general shows some of the same reverence for Modest Mouse although for the most part its wierder and more jumbled than anything Isaac Brock ever put out. The songs are very varied in sound, feeling and length (ranging from 1 minute to 9) making for a very interesting album which doesn't necessarily feel like an album as much as it does a really good collection of songs.

mp3:Reform the Countryside
mp3:The Policy Merchant, The Silver Bay

if you digg, you can pre order here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Very Dynamic Duo

Redbear./Super Famicom

When I first met Patrick and PJ, I was pretty sure they were on hard drugs and I didn't really want to have to deal with them. I sadly kind of shrugged them off for the first hour I knew them, then that all changed when Patrick (aka Redbear.) took the stage at the Oneonta Youth Center on April 14th.
I remeber his opening song very distinctly which happens to be the first track on his new full length "Love Songs for a Nihilist", and according to his live track of the song is his classic opening song about ghosts. His body instantly started a kind of spastic twitch that kept up with the speed strumming of the song and then he started belting out the lyrics in his Devandra Banhardt-esque squeal (and in "Brains!" he says 'sexy stingray', if you haven't heard Devandra Banhardt's "Little Yellow Spider" I would high suggest it). He takes Devandra and Dylan and morphs it into an ominously opaque cloud that's impossible to see through, but inside you're fairly certain there's something beautiful and honest.

Then PJ Famicom (aka Super Famicom) took the 8 people watching the show (5 of them being people in bands) into the backroom of the building, which is the old Armory, donned his facemask (look left), pulled out his travel guitar and began to frantically pace around, ramble about tornadoes and tigers, and play 2 minute songs here and there whenever the mood struck him. Did I mention this room smelled like shit? Did I mention he rolled around on the floor doing backwards summersaults without missing a note? If not, I suppose I didn't mention that afterwards the whole place smelled like crap, for the rest of the night. After the inital shock of their extreme physical weirdness (which many couldn't get past) I realized that I was witnessing something that is truly unique, maybe a little over the top, but as my eyes were questioning what they were seeing my ears were really digging what they were hearing.

Redbear. played along for most of Famicom's set, whether on guitar, banjo, mini-Casio or just carelessly singing along. "Everybody Else In My Band is Romantic" (Tract 045) is 12 tracks that span a whole 25 minutes. In fact you could listen to both Redbear. and Super Famicom's new albums in under an hour, which works well for all us hustle and bustle people. ha, oh man, thats a good one.
All 12 tracks are questions, and the recordings are very different from what I remember in that nasty ass room. There's a lot of Microphones-y sounds going on, and in that vein its kind of darkly melodic, trippy songs that always overwhelm the not so sober brain. I could easily imagine myself getting swallowed by a Lazy Boy while listening to these songs, I think I would be confused... but not in a stressful way, in a way that proves there's still new things to be discovered in the world.
Redbear. sums himself up pretty well in "Fiber!":
"And I know that sometimes my songs can seem a bit sad
so find my underlying message of hope
and this is a song that you can sing out loud when alone
or a song to sing when you want to come home" (there's a really fantastic live sing-a-long version of My Ghost that I highly highly recommend available here)
p.s. they are on a crazy long tour/adventure right now playing shows and generally being weird dudes. so if they come anywhere around you, go see them, it will probably be free and it most certainly be like nothing you've ever seen before.
p.p.s. i'm really bad about chosing mp3s to post, i debate deeply with myself, so once again i can't help but post a lot of them. but listen to them all, they're good.
mp3: Redbear. - My Ghost-Love Jam
mp3: Redbear. - Brains!
mp3: Super Famicom - What Are the Hills White Like?
mp3: Super Famicom - Is This Being Recorded?
(i dont know why i can't get this to space right, but we all must learn to deal with that)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


I keep all of my CDs filed in an old dresser drawer. Each disk sits in its own plastic sleeve cut from the old CD book that grew too heavy for me to ever put CDs away in. The albums are arranged alphabetically, because at times I have obsessive-compulsive issues, but moreover –alphabetization just makes sense.

Of course, some CDs pose a problem to categorize. Would Django Reinhardt be filed under D or R? Others lend themselves to easy categorization. I would never consider putting Jolie Holland under J. Without hesitation she was filed under H, but Django…well, Django sits in D because when for the week I did stash him under R, I found myself shuffling through the D’s only to find that old Depesche Mode CD tucked in between Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, and Nick Drake.

Then there are the albums that don’t easily fit into an alphabetized system. Such albums are filed under “Mixes” or “Soundtracks”. But this week I found I had to make an entirely new category altogether for a growing section of my collection: “Local”.

In the past week alone I have acquired three new disks from the Schenectady based band Desperately Obvious (see Tim’s blog from April 4th), Albany based Laura Boggs’ new album Whiskey & Springtime, an album by Schenectady musician Erin Quillinan, and another Albany gem: Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned’s new disk While waiting for the Space Age. Add that to the formerly acquired disks –The Greatest Gravity, a project of Sgt. Dunbar’s Tim Koch, Get off the Moon, the album of Albany based Scientific Maps, along with my stack of impressive underground Hobo Banned recordings and demos, and you’ve got yourself a worthy cause to start a new category in the CD drawer.

Falling in the genre of local musician myself, I have been beyond fortunate that all of this incredible music was bestowed upon me in exchange for nothing but for my own time and efforts. I have found local musicians incredibly willing to trade you their hard work, manifested in CD form, for your hard work manifested in CD form. I am encouraged to know that although starving artists may not have the monetary funds necessary to help feed each other in order to support art, they still have the ability and the willingness to support one another in an often more impacting form. In place of money they offer muse, encouragement, and track after track of inspiration. Not to mention a reason to create an entirely new category for a collection of CDs.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

I see a darkness

In a week where this blog has taken a week to reflect on old favorites or new found old favorites (except for tim who's always forging ahead) I decided to go with the trend. If this blog entry had been on time it would have been on friday the 13th a day held to be bad news in many modern cultures. Paraskavedekatriaphobiaks all across the globe fretting with the badness of the day it seemed appropriate to do an album that has a minor space and thus I was going to talk about my recently blooming love for I See a Darkness by Bonnie 'Prince' Billy aka Will Oldham. I was actually turned on to this album by fellow b3nsonite dave a couple months ago and I keep coming back to it. Here are a couple of my favorite tracks.

mp3:I see A Darkness
mp3:A Minor Place

For all things B 'P' B check out drag city records.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Red Rogue

Alt-Country From the City

The Red Rogue hails from Staten Island, but at least one or two of the Rogues are originally from the area and their toe tappin', knee slappin', foot stompin', hand clappin' country tunes are sure to put a smile on your face.

The lead vocalist (who I'm almost positive is Tim Cushing) has a charming baritone voice and when he reaches up for the higher registers it becomes a little more unpolished, but for all us who prefer home recordings for their honesty and faults, it is perfectly unperfect in the line of Langhorne Slim. Their instrumentation fills up the whole audio spectrum with a jug-band type thump bass, 16th notes flying off the mandolin strings, and Carolyn's accordian which can add to the driving tempo of the song as it does in "Flight" or float along melodically with the vocals like it does in "Have Not". From the pictures I've seen it seems that Billy Jock plays a make-shift drum kit consisting of a snare and tambourine with his hands, though he may also use sticks sometime as well.

I am absolutely ecstatic to see these guys live. There's an awesome video on their myspace thats clips from their shows with people dosey-doh-ing arm in arm, and then Evan Jagles comes down and joins them with his mandolin and the mayhem only amplifies.

They were recommended to me by a co-worked after he came out to see a Dunbar show. Most music recommendations coming from outside of my small circle of friends usually don't pan out very well, but this one was a direct hit and was a welcome blast of new music that has sunk in deep enough to effect my own songwriting.

They'll be in Troy at the Kismet Gallery on April 27th and I am counting the days. Just today I've also asked them to come back on or around May 12th for a tentative show at the Capital District Federation of Ideas and have my fingers crossed. Keep checking their myspace to see where they'll be and when.

I would like to write a lot more about them, but 1. i have time constraints right now, and 2. there's a very limited number of songs of theirs availabe to listen to. You can listen to them on their myspace (no downloads) but you can download three of the from their Sonic Bids Electronic Press Kit, under the Media tab. Word on the street is they've recorded a 5 song EP, but I have yet to get my hands on it. So for now, listen to the mp3s and see them in Troy on April 27th (and hopefully again in Albany on May 12th) and warm up your thawing winter feet with some tunes you can't help but jump around to.

The Red Rogue MySpace

SonicBids Electronic Press Kit (you can download songs here)

mp3: This Is the Last Time

mp3: Flight

mp3: Help Out

The Faintest Ideas

My Apologies to Peter who wrote this like a week ago and I haven't posted it yet. Hopefully this week we'll make it so he can post himself and he will be added into the regular (or not so regular) rotation on Sundays.

Recently working at SUNY Albany's WCDB 90.9fm, has taught me two things; Douglas Schieder can never be replaced, ever; AND Sweden is slowly taking over the world with their cute and catchy indie-rock. Of course, Sweden is no stranger to the world of independently awesome music, bringing us some monster acts such as Refused and The (International) Noise Conspiracy, but the multitude of artists emerging from that far region of the earth is growing. Quickly. And frankly, I'm terrified. NOT!
Swedish artists have been getting plenty of attention as of late. Here's a few who've been mustering up some sick hype: Loney Dear, The Knife, Jens Lekman, I'm From Barcelona, The Concretes, and Frida Hyvonen are all quite wonderful acts, but one band I find much overlooked is The Faintest Ideas. This four piece from Gothenburg Sweden take the lower road approach toward the heart of today's indie rock scene. Rather than finding fun dance beatz circa 1987, 43 members all holding different instrument, a cute female vocalist or a bubbly keyboard to make a wonderfully childish and endearing album, TFI make for nitty gritty punk rock; something lacking in the "scene", if I do say so myself.
TFI were formally known as Javelins, but according to their website, Javelins was a hot moniker over in Sweden. They formed in 2003 on a whim taking advantage of available studio time their former bands neglected. Since then they've put out 4 sold out EPs and since then have compiled them and unreleased tracks on an album released January 2006 titled "Terrific times and unrehearsed crimes". TFI are Martin Cannert, Christoffer Lärkner, Daniel Svanhög and Joel Görsch. The bands first full length release, "What Goes Up Must Calm Down", released on Magic Marker and Club Pop Records clocks in at a wopping 28 minutes and 21 seconds [divided between 15 tracks]. The longest track, "Try Too Hard" measures 2 minutes 47seconds which is a minute longer than most on the album. Needless to say, its starts out fast and ends before you know it [not to be confused with myself in the bedroom, ohhhh]. It's raw. It's fun! It's Lo-Fi. It's fast! It's sincere. It's awesome!
The guitars are a goddamn mess. The vocals, buried beneath the sloppy riffs and drums, are difficult to understand but the melodies sink to into your ears. I get an 80's feel from TFI. Not the exhausted new wavey 80's feel, the early punk, Clash-esque 80's feel, to be exact. The lyrics don't attempt to be particularly poetic, they're mostly honest songs of love, heartache and being young and stupid, including the brief opening track "You're Beautiful".
It's hard to find extreme differentiation between the fifteen tracks, although there are definitely those that stick out among the rest. The majority contain a similar fast paced drum beat and overdriven guitar melodies accompanied by the dual vocal power of the two guitarists Christoffer and Daniel . Joel on bass offers back-up vocals as the drummer Martin whacks away on drums. Christoffer and Daniel have separate vocal ranges allowing lower melodies to compliment high-pitched whines and at times you can catch a scream or squeal. It's great. The Faintest Ideas are trying to bring heartbreak back in the simplest ways possible and I love it. Their music breeds youthful veracity and it will get you shaking your ass and a put a smile on your face. I recommend beer with this album. And friends. It's a good time and that's that.

Recommended Tracks: You're Beautiful, All Stars, Missed Misses, Gun Totin Hooligans, Nosebleeders On The Track, Dexter's Got A Sinister Heart, Everything Is Black

A video for "Beautiful" and some Bio can be viewed here.

mp3:Everything is Black

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

An Elegy to Sleater-Kinney

By the time I got around to listening to Sleater-Kinney, it was already too late. They broke up just a few months ago, but not before releasing an album that has been called their masterpiece: The Woods (SubPop, 2005). That album's great, but the disc that really kicked my ass in their second release, Call the Doctor (Chainsaw, 1996). It opens with the title track, a rock 'n' roll song, epic in its simplicity. Coming from the Riot Grrrl movement, reductively the female counterpart of grunge, (posthumously mostly because of the tragic love affair of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love), but musically S-K sound punk, hard punk, political punk. "They got a DC sound, shudder to think Fugazi." Listen to the first few songs of this album, then listen to the beginning of Cursive's Domestica (Saddle-Creek, 2000). Okay, good. Now hear, Sleater-Kinney was writing better hard emo than my favorite emo bands, at least four years before. Sleater-Kinney doesn't rock because its comprised of three girls, S-K rocks because they are fuckin' brillant.

Case in point: "Good Things", the sixth song on the album. Lyrics include "We can't be friends, we can't be enemies...The hardest part is things already said/ Getting better words I cannot tell/ Why do good things never want to stay?/ Some things you lose some things you give away." Imagine these lyrics bellowed over a curdling baseline and crunchy guitars. Yeah, its amazing. And the next song is ever better. And they stayed together for 10 years after.

I haven't digested The Woods yet, but so far I can say: think Sunny Day Real Estate with balls. The guitar work is out of this world,surreal. The soundscape is haunted by guttural, inhuman screams and booming drums. It rocks, girl style.

So I missed my moment, I should have payed attention before the broke up, but tardies like me rejoice! Janet Weiss, S-K's drummer, recently joined Stephen Malkamus's band the Jicks. Carrie Brownstein is writing for McSweeney's Believer and Corin Tucker has started releasing solo-stuff. Better late than never, but I'm telling you. One day more is too many days to not listen to Sleater-Kinney.

Edith Piaf and Vivaldi: I am Waiting for Spring

I’m waiting for it to get warm, for it appears that it is still cold. I am waiting for the day that my hands stop bleeding from this perpetual cold and I can shove them into the earth that is my garden and they’ll come up warm and covered with dirt.

But for now the ground is frozen, the poor worms.
And all I can do to stay warm is to curl underneath quilts, drink red wine and listen to the sultry voice of Edith Piaf.

Once when I was in middle school I had to do a listening assignment for music class. We were told to listen to a piece of classical music and write what we heard. I wrote that while listening to Vivaldi I thought that it really did sound like spring. I wrote that I could almost hear the crocuses and tulips poking through the ground and I could see the birds flit from tree to tree.

I got a D on that paper.

Apparently my music teacher wanted us to write what INSTRUMENTS we heard, not the vivid imaginings of life that were evoked from the music.

I still think that Vivaldi chose a very good title for his piece called “Spring” and perhaps it was because of the discouragement of my middle school music teacher that to this day I continue to enjoy describing music in non-musical terms.

Perhaps it was what got me to the point of thinking that Edith Piaf’s Volume III on vinyl sounds like warmth –it sounds like a hot Paris basement bar, where the walls are made of sweating stone and everyone sitting at little tables seems to be drinking big pitchers of warm sangria, filled to the brim with sun kissed fruit.

Okay, it may be unfair of me to evoke that image, because I did actually hear an Edith Piaf record played in a hot Parisian basement bar where the walls were made of sweating stone and everyone sitting at little tables was drinking big pitchers of warm sangria filled to the brim with sun kissed fruit, but that most certainly was not the first time I heard Edith Piaf. When I did hear Edith for the first time it STILL evoked that image for me, so much so that when I finally was listening to her in Paris in that oven of a bar, I thought that the sangria had gone to my head, because the coming to life of my anti-music-class-listening-assignment-images was so synchronistic.

Sometimes I find it difficult to describe music in musical terms. Music can be complex, and an attempt at pigeon holing it into one genre or another, or even four overlapping genres can leave out crucial aspects to it. I could easily call Edith’s music a combination of gypsy-French-cabaret-pop, but that would exclude far too much. Edith’s music is like being at the top of a Ferris wheel at a carnival in the center of Moulin. Edith’s music is like a day you spend alone in the city, spending your money only on bouquets of flowers –for yourself. Edith’s music is like when everyone inside is wearing feather boas and sleeveless dresses and everyone outside is wearing wool overcoats and scarves. Edith makes me warm.

So until it gets warm I will listen to Edith, and as soon as it does I will swap in Vivaldi and while I shove my fingers into the earth he will be the perfect accompaniment to the wriggling of the worms and the budding of the trees.

Take that music teacher! (She was just a substitute anyway.)

Monday, April 9, 2007

Andrew Bird, The Veggie Mobile and The Indie Aesthetic

Coming into this week Veggie Mobiled out I have decided not to write about anything new. The reason for the decision is that I don't have anything musically new to write about. I could write about the possible shows we might have or might see in the near future but those haven't happened yet. And besides they mostly involve B3nson collective bands. Except for the Green Light Tour, which comes through on May 15th.

I'm fresh out of hip.

I was thinking about writing about my favorite album of the past five years. It isn't a straight shot favorite or anything. It hasn't been sitting ontop for five years running. It is just consistently at the top of my list of albums. And by list, I mean, that it is consistently in my five disc changer. I don't usually make lists.

Full Disclosure: Myself and five friends made a collective top fifty songs list in a sweaty hot room in Bangkok one night. It was a terrible list. And I swore I'd never make another list again.

So I was going to write about this album, which I may or may not reveal the title of, but in reading Alex's post, which for anyone who cares, was 3 days late, I was stopped by a theory he stated about the term indie.

I have been chasing the term indie for a while now. And I'm not going to say that the words "indie is more an aesthetic than a genre..." ever came out of my mouth in any conversation Alex and I have had, but I will say that the topic has come out on more than one occasion. Each time I make some claim that indie is a sensibility that should include most sophisticated arthouse pop. And I usually say something about Wes Anderson films, Dead Man, Belle and Sebastian, and the mix of melancholy and Joy.

I will at some point expand upon this indie sensibility/aesthetic. Not tonight. I'm too tired and Veggie Mobiled out.

So I've decided to write about Andrew Bird and The Bowl of Fire: Thrills, because Andrew Bird just recently came out with yet another album that sounds nothing like Thrills. Thrills is always in my disc changer. It is brilliant. I can't believe he was 25 when he put it together. It's genius.

The album has tastes of jazz, caberet, German Weimer Republic nightclubs, Edith Piaf's French chanson mixed with Bertolt Brecht, drunken drums, and the Gypsi jazz of Django and Stehpen Grapelli. And that's just the music. I can't help but find dust, vinyl, orangy light on a grimy wall, Tennyson, Browning, and my imaginations of Budapest in there as well.

This album is timeless and should be listened to by all connoisseurs of tasteful music.

Recommended for dinner parties, driving long distances, or deep into a night of drinking whiskey or wine.

Dust From 1000 Years (Live / Buzzard)

I think Tim was going to do this as his entry this week but I can't really help myself, sorry tim, this cd is so good. We (aka Sgt Dunbar) had the pleasure of playing with Dust From 1000 Years last monday night and I had little idea of what to expect knowing only that they were the touring band of the night. I was highly impressed with their set of haunting songs and perfect melodies, they had the entire room hanging on every note, up in arms with their rhythms and back again. As hard as I try I can't really think of anyone to compare these guys too, though they definetly fit into the indie folk genre but in a completely different way from us I think maybe because indie and folk are more aesthetics than genres.
After the show we swapped cds, and I got my hands Buzzard. Its now a week later and I still haven't stopped listening to it. I really wish I could have heard the cd before I saw them live cause the show would have been magnificent. I really can't wait to see them again and sing along. 13 Tracks spanning 40 minutes with an eerily wonderful sense of melody & harmony, deftly crafted lyrics, amazing ambience and beautiful lo-fi hiss these songs get stuck in my head non stop, especially Bad Thing.
You can grab this cd and their two older cds at their myspace. They are still on tour and anyone who reads this blog from brooklyn, richmond, atlanta, nashville or a few other places south of the mason dixon (aka nobody) would be well advised to check them out.

mp3:Bad Thing
mp3:Goin on forever
mp3:Immortal Hair

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

"Awesome Band" (from, 4 April 2007)

Desperately Obvious at the Capital District Federation of Ideas
April 2nd was another wonderful night to be a local hipster; my confidence in the people of the Albany area to be creative and entertaining has been gaining strength all throughout 2007 so far and Monday was another testament to that. The Capital District Federation of Ideas (CDFI) hosted their first ever full blown show at Point 5, their house/gallery at 383.5 Madison Ave. This included Sgt Dunbar, Desperately Obvious (as far as I believe, mostly local) and Dust From 1000 Years, on day 4 of their 16 day tour out of Bloomington, Indiana.
Desperately Obvious kicked off the show and continued to impress me song after song as the small space began to fill up and heat up with students, graduates, bosses and random passers-by. I was finding some very good influences in their tunes, starting with vocalist/guitarist Richard Nolan's wailing voice's similarity to that of Willy Mason. Add the rest of the band: a stripped down drum kit played with brushes, a very pretty bass, slide guitar and keys and you end up with an alt-emo-country pop-bluegrass band entering your head. If you're as big an Okkervil River fan as me then these guys are right up your alley, and their cover of "Westfall" was true enough to the original to see the bands respect for their influences, but also creative enough to be what is somewhat rare, a good cover song, and well adapted to their lack of a mandolin player.
CDs were swapped and I ended up with a copy of their press kit, the album art of which was done in my favorite meidum: pen on lined paper, along with Dust From 1000 Years full length called "Buzzard" (check out next Wednesdays post) also done in one of my favorite mediums: crayon on construction paper. I enjoy when bands post their lyrics, and when I read along with the songs on their impressivly available myspace, where their lyrics are posted,I really began to appreciate the lyricism that's there when you can get past the excellent instrumentation and composition.
The disc starts with "New Flower", a very humbly poetic love song to a flower that evokes deep and honest longing. Then slows right down into "Cheatin' Heart", a mellow sort of Pink Floyd-ish bob your head bluesy kind of song, leaning towards more of a dramatic, fictional lyrical subject... at least I hope he didn't dump a mans body in a river. (these are the two mp3s i will post, so i suppose i should have described some of the other songs, but...tan tan tan).

You can see them in Utica, at the Resonance Center with Sgt Dunbar and Fig Mints (of your Imagination) on April 28th at 8pm.
They have at least one album out on Make Your Fate Records (comprised of them and the Mathmaticians), possibly two at this point. You can buy it from the MYF website (synonomous with the Desperately Obvious site) or probably just by sending them a message on myspace. For their presumably newer radio/press kit, you'll probably have to just go out and see them, which is a pretty good deal if you ask me.
Desperately Obvious
Pink font, stars, smiley faces, cleavage:
Make Your Fate Records/Desperately Obvious
Capital District Federation of Ideas:

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

RPM Challenge Recap Parts II-IV

“Excuse me, could you tell me where the Portsmouth Music Hall is?” Eric leaned out the car window toward a woman who exuded “I’m a local” from her pores.

“Right there.” She pointed to the large brick building directly in front of us.

We’d made it.

Musicians mingled in the mezzanine, sporting name tags like “Hello My Name Is: Lithia Spring and the Beatniks of Destruction.” People stood in line, plastic cup of wine in hand, waiting to hop on stage and get a glimpse of the cover art for just a handful of the 850 CDs that had been turned in for this years RPM Challenge (see yesterday’s blog: RPM Challenge Recap Part I). The stage was covered with new music. There were office supply store branded CDs scrawled on with Sharpie, there were hand painted cardboard cases and there were inkjet printed cases. I even saw a hand quilted CD case. Already I was giddy. But the fun had only just begun.

Soon the packed Music Hall was greeted by RPM organizers Dave Karlotski, Chris Greiner, Jon Nolan, and Karen Marzloff, who took the time to bestow as much credit as humanly possible to the musicians in the audience and around the world for making the RPM Challenge possible. The humble nature of these hardworking folks became a theme throughout the night. The behind the scenes work of organizing such a massive musical endeavor as the RPM Challenge, not to mention the Global Listening Party alone, is no small feat (especially when they were doing it for free, and still writing for, editing and publishing The Wire magazine…all just because they love music). But the organizers never once focused on their own sleepless nights uploading 8,500 new songs into what Dave Karlotski called “one of the biggest free independent music sites that I know of.”

This Listening Party it seemed was not a place for the godly organizers to unload about how in the past two months they’ve drank more coffee, had less sleep, torn open more manila envelopes, or stared at more computer screens than ever before. No, this was a time for celebration. And what better way to celebrate than with surprises?

The 550 person audience cheered ecstatically when Bob Boilen, director of NPR’s All Things Considered, and creator of All Songs Considered, as well as RPM Challenge Participant himself, joined us Back to the Future II style when his face glid across the massive projector screen on a live Skype Internet call.

Independent musicians everywhere were crying in their beers after his inspirational and heartfelt words. Okay, maybe it was just me that was crying. I was glued to every word that came out of his mouth. I absorbed the image of the shelves and shelves of vinyl and CDs that were stacked in the study that was the background of his massive face. I marveled at how his eyes looked even more tired than the organizer’s. And I grew weepy when he said exactly what independent musicians around the world know so deeply: There is something more personal about music that is recorded by the musicians themselves. The recording process itself becomes an extension of your art. Whether you’re recording in your bedroom, or your kitchen, or your basement, it’s you that’s doing the recording. It’s you that has the final say. There’s no more of this getting in your car to drive for your 10am appointment at the studio. Every artist knows you can’t make an appointment with creativity.

The time of unfeeling, expensive, professional recording is over, Boilen said, “and it should be.”

Boilen’s unseen audience cheered so loud that he stopped talking and laughed, raised his hands and shook his head in disbelief. Comprehending aurally just how many independent musicians were in the audience he was speaking to.

The intimate call from Boilen was followed by a video, yet another massive undertaking by the RPM organizers. It included still shots played in fast time of every single CD that was handing in to them, interviews with musicians about the highlights and lowlights of their month (one memorable quote was: “it’s takes a lot of work to put all of your energy towards procrastinating on such a gigantic project”), and home videos sent in documenting recording processes (one guy recorded his entire album on a reel to reel tape player). The Music Hall occupants then dispersed to six different venues around Portsmouth to listen to varying set lists.

Some musicians handed out their CDs for free, others exchanged email or recording techniques. I jotted down notes of artists I wanted to look into further after hearing their preferred track streamed through a warm, crowded, smoky (it’s New Hampshire remember –live free or die) bar.

The party’s over, but the work for the RPM organizers isn’t finished yet. Right now you can visit and hear the 2007 Jukebox of 850 songs, amounting to one track per artist. But in the next few days all 8,500 songs will be available. As Dave Karlotski said when asked what the organizers would do once they’re finished: “we have a lot of new music to listen to.”

RPM Challenge:
The Wire Magazine:
Bob Boilen’s All Songs Considered:

Monday, April 2, 2007

The RPM Challenge Recap Pt. 1

I wonder what might have happened if Pitchfork never covered the RPM Challenge. I wonder if it would have quietly worked its way up in size or if it would have fizzled out. I may have found out about it through some other avenue, who knows. But it first crossed my eyes on Pitchfork. I read the article, clicked on the website, played the jukebox, read the rules, picked up the phone, called Jen, told her to read the article and within twenty minutes we had agreed we were in. We were making an album in 28 days. The month of February was going to be Record Production Month.

Last year was the first year of the RPM Challenge. It was organized by the alt-weekly magazine The Wire, out of the cool seacoast town of Portsmouth New Hampshire. Loosely modeled after the February Album Writing Month (FAWM), which was a take on the National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo), The RPM Challenge was going to challenge songwriters in New Hampshire to write AND record an entire album in a month. Record it on whatever you can find: tape recorder, four-track, Protools, even your mother’s answering machine. 10 songs or 35 minutes of recorded music, noise, whatever you want to call, however you want to make it, you got 28 Days to complete it.

28 days is not a lot of days. That’s entirely the fun of it. The lure of the RPM Challenge is that you can’t get things perfect if you want to get things finished.

This year a lot of people were lured. People from outside New Hampshire, people all the way out in Albany and beyond. Chicago, Seattle, Tokyo, Bangkok, all the way to Dublin and below the equator. Get out your maps. Put a pin on a globe. Chances are you’re striking a country with a RPM Challenge participant living in it. Actually, you can just go to They have a map there.

850 bands made albums for the RPM Challenge in 2007. 850 Albums that might never have been made otherwise. 850 albums from all over the globe. So what does a little alt-magazine from Portsmouth do in response to such a response?

They threw a killer global listening party March 30th. That's what they did.

It was a listening party played over the web. The RPM challenge asked each participant to choose one song off of their album to be put into a custom built high-tech juke-box to be streamed over the web (once again Registered gatherings in major cities across the U.S. were given set lists full of the songs written by attendees to those parties. The beer flowed like wine. The hipsters, the Goths, the hippies, the freaks, the lumberjacks, the white collar 9-5ers all came out to see and be seen, to hear and be heard.

I was in Portsmouth for the big soiree, along with the other half of the band We Are Jeneric. It was awesome. I drank a lot of Old Grandad and I danced like a fool.

I’ll let Jen fill in the rest for tomorrow.


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