Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ghost of Corporate Future

About three hours into the five and a half hour drive to Cape Cod I wore out my go-to CDs and popped in a mix my brother made for me. My brother and I share a love for music, but I will admit that at times our tastes desperately clash.

Ben Folds is to my brother what Jeff Buckley is to me.

He has Ben Harper, I have Stevie Wonder...(although we shared a beautiful sibling moment after a choir concert of his when he was in middle school where he performed, but had never heard "Sir Duke." I'll never forget the look on his face when I laid "Songs in the Key of Life" onto the record player to show him just what exactly it was he had been singing. I've never seen a smile like when he first heard those horns, and he couldn't believe that his choir teacher hadn't played the song for them before they were asked to perform it. It was a tacit musical joy we shared that evening).

I admit that most of the songs on the CD I skipped. But not only did I not skip "Ghost of Corporate Future" by Regina Spektor, I played it on repeat four times.

I'd never heard this woman before, but she reminded me of Bjork, except with a happy sarcasm.

Apparently Regina Spektor has already gotten pretty big, I'm usually the last to know about these sorts of things. The newest of her three CDs "Begin to Hope" is her first on a major label and was given a 7.5 on Pitchfork.

But "Ghost of Corporate Future" is off of her album "Soviet Kitch" a minor release.

I read that she's playing Bonnaroo, and Lollapalooza, and so probably doesn't need this seriously huge press I'm giving her, but that's life.

Unfortunately all of the songs I have heard off of her new album are too much for me to handle more than ten seconds of (although after hearing "Ghost of Corporate Future" I forced myself to go back and listen to "Sampson" which my brother also included on the CD. Admittedly the song gets exponentially better around 00:35, though the version included on "Begin to Hope" lacks the energy of the version my brother put on my mix).

There are times when her music sounds like the clone-female-musician that crowds the seats of open mics and chokes the radio waves. It may be a horrible analagy, and I've probably been spending too much time in the garden but her songs are like weeds. Some should be pulled, tossed in the bin, burned even (though burning things I normally do not advocate, except for candles, wood, and the occasional credit card statement). But then there are the ones that have flowered before you've gotten to them, and they're so lovely, and they grow on their own without your planting of them, and they spread, and you don't mind, in fact, it's downright wonderful.

I'm not sure what I think about Ms. Spektor as a whole, and I think that it's too late for me to continue thinking about it, and in fact I most likely won't come back to thinking about it. But "Ghost of Corporate Future" is a great song. And worth listening to at least four times.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Les Savy Fav <3's cartoons

I found this at Muzak for Cybernetics but haven't seen it anyplace else so I figured I'd post real quick cause people might be interested but adult swim released a new Les Savy Fav track (as well as tracks from Broken Social Scene and TV on the Radio among others. Its pretty cool, check it out here. Les Savy Fav have yet to set a release date for their newest album other than to say it will be out this year, some time.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Kamikazee Hearts

I once played a show with the Kamikazee Hearts in northampton massachusetts a couple of years ago, before I even knew who they were. I didn't stay to see them though because it was at a bar and my under 21 friends that had come along for the show weren't allowed in and had to wait outside. So I just left. I still haven't seen them live to this day, although thats mostly my own fault.
The Kamikazee Hearts signed to One Little Indian last year, making them in theory the most important band in Albany, that I know of. (One little indian is Bjork's own label in case you were wondering and strangely their website gives little mention to the hearts). They also maybe one of the longest running, having just released their fifth album Onieda Road (and having survived the metroland cover curse). I haven't heard much of their older records, but I don't really know what to think about Onieda Road. The Kamikazee Hearts often get billed as porch sitting folk music or alt country, I guess because they have a mandolin player but I just don't really see that in these guys at all. These guys owe more to 70's rock like the Doors or Journey than they do to folk. Tangentially they remind me a lot of Matt Durfee, who existed subsequently to them but who I knew first.
They don't have a lot of scheduled dates coming up, maybe they are already working on their next album but I'm not going to put it off anymore, next time they play in Albany I am there.

You can check out a couple of Songs on their myspace:
or By the Album at Emusic:

Holy Canada! Let's Have Some Fun!

So here's the deal. I'm going to let you in on a secret.. psst.. you should probably know about this band.. they're named Malajube.. and they are amazing!

That said, I stumbled upon the masterpiece of Malajube in the fall of 2006 when they released their second album, Trompe L'oeil. If I used a CD player it would have been melted at this point by over play.
Malajube, like many recent bands of great prowess hail from the greater state of Canada. Montréal to be exact. Malajube sing entirely in French, but despite the fact that I can understand a total of.. six maybe seven words, they are action packed and full of fun. In interviews, I've read how they can (and do) speak fluent English, but given that they were so affected by anglophone American music during their youth, they wanted to grant the same experience for us non-francophonies.

It's difficult to equate Malajube's musicianship to anything in particular, considering that every other song brings a new monster of noise and melody, so I refuse to try. But the range is from catchy but entirely novel pop songs (Montréal -40°C, Pâte Filo) ominous and thundering choruses (Casse-Cou, Fille À Plumes) to piano led upbeat saloon sing alongs (Ton Plat Favori) and ridiculous electronic songs (La Russe).

Their lyrics could be god awful and possibly be promoting some of the most vile degrading shit you've ever heard
, but I'm entirely ignorant to them. (An online translator told me they were singing about "ejaculate", but you can't trust those things!) The interesting thing about non-anglophone music (for me) is that the experience is more that of instrumental songs. The melodies of Malajube's vocalists come off as complementary innovative instruments. I find myself screaming along in my own French gibberish like a little kid, whose ear is too slow to make out the lyrics to the songs playing on the radio.

The real nail in the coffin for me was listening to Malajube while staying in Paris in January. At this point in time I had developed such an appreciation for the French language I was ecstatic to be able to connect with something that the culture which was blowing my mind at the same time would probably appreciate.

So here's the rub. Malajube. They're playing a FREE show at the Prospect Park Band Shell in Brooklyn on June 30th, my birthday! I would kill to see them. That may mean I have to kill everyone I invited to my party.. we'll see.

Here's their really well done music video for Montréal -40°C

And their website. http://www.malajube.com


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

First I Was Their Fan: Part Two

Ok so, my title is a bit of a falsehood, but I liked Jen's idea so much I couldn't resist ripping off it. My post is about a little acoustic act called myfriendpeter. The great part is he is actually my friend peter. Cute, right?

Peter Philip Lawrence Mollica hails from "the great jungles of southern Brooklyn" and is widely known as the kid in the really tight pants (which he looks great in by the way). Like the guys in Dunbar he plays a collection of instruments; one of the phrases one is most likely to hear Pete say is "Ohhh mannn I want a "insert some sort of instrument here." The latest addition to his collection that I know of is a lobstermonica, which is a harmonica shaped like a lobster claw. He bought it for about two dollars at a rest stop when we were coming home from Boston. It sounds pretty ghastly when you blow on it but knowing Pete I'm sure he will find a way to make it sound good if he wants to.

Instruments aside, there is something else you should know about my friend peter. Or myfriendpeter. He is a wonderful songwriter. I'm not just saying this because he is my friend, Pete's lyrics really grab you. Every song. Every time. His songs can be about squirrels, bugs, sex,trees, ice cream, it doesn't matter. What I like about Pete's music is how personal it is, and it's difficult to achieve that without falling into the "emo" trap a lot of young songwriters tend to get stuck in. The fact of the matter is Pete's songs are more than just happy or sad. They're reflective in creative way that can only be done by a visionary. They are completely transcendent of the simple "emo" label most people would want to put on them. They're way more than that.

I'm not an overly passionate person and typically recieve criticism for my predominantly blase attitude. However, I have screamed myfriendpeter's lyrics at the top of my lungs. I've harmonized softly on the quiet parts. I've participated in an "all girl chorus" in a song about zombies. I've felt longing, desire, and joy. And I know it's not just me. While I'm sitting around surrounded by friends and see them singing pete's songs, their heads thrown back, brows knotted fervently, their voices rising above and beyond not just the instruments but the room itself, I know they are feeling the same way I do.

I don't think everyone is capable of affecting people that way.

I really like myfriendpeter. I'm glad he is my friend (peter).


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

First I was Their Fan

It may not be fair of me to write this blog about some of my favorite people, but a vast part of my unbiased mind tells me I’m allowed to. Before I was their friend I was their fan.

The B3nson blog was set up so that members of the B3nson Collective could share with our readers the bands and music that has struck a real chord with us. But what happens when the music that has become the most prevalent in your life, the most listened to, the most stuck in your head, is the music made by the people in the very Collective you are a part of? Is it something you ignore? I’m afraid it can't be.

I first saw them sometime at the end of last year’s summer. They knocked their way into the Muddy Cup coffee shop, banging hard cases against door jams and their own shins. The hard cases were covered with stickers like the one that says “Love your Enemy.”

I didn’t know them. I’d never seen them before. But they had handkerchiefs hanging out of the back pockets of pants they wore in three quarters lengths and lumberjack looking shirts and musical saws and Jacques Cousteau red knit hats. I hoped their music would live up to the expectations I had of them. I elbowed my own partner in crime. He was tuning his guitar, trying to figure out what two songs he would play at the open mic.

Open mics can be awful painful at times. But this band was the reason we kept going back. We sat in hard chairs from 8pm until 11, just to watch them play two songs. Just to watch them pull out their choose-your-own-adventure combinations of instruments…accordion, typewriter, French horn, trumpet, trombone, saw, guitar, ukulele.

I’d never seen anything like them; their joyous lyrics, their magical earwormish melodies, their phenomenal musicianship, and their exuberance on stage made them an act I didn’t want to miss.

Sgt. Dunbar & the Hobo Banned released their newest CD While Waiting for the Space Age this past Saturday at a show held at the Capital District Federation of Ideas. Each time I see them live I’m impressed by them. They have managed to grow and evolve as musicians even in the less than a year that I’ve known them. On stage they work. They sweat. They laugh. They stand on tables. They play two instruments at once. They get the crowd shouting for more.

I am their friend, but first I was their fan.
They impress me.
And so does their music.


Tuesday, May 8, 2007

I Like Listening to Ponies in the Surf

I don’t exactly remember the first time I listened to Ponies in the Surf. I think it must have been in 2004 at a show they played somewhere in Boston at a place where they served beer and there was art hanging on the walls, but I can’t be any more specific than that.

I watched them up on stage, just the two of them, brother Alexander and sister Camille. I watched the way they interacted. I watched how she stood still and gracefully stiff, clutching her microphone in her little hands, while he sat and played an orchestra out of his guitar. I watched the way they looked at one another, how she followed his fingers up and down the neck so that she knew when to sing the next harmonic note on time with her in-his-own-world-melody-making brother.

I felt a connection to them right away. Maybe it was because I had been in their place before. I had studied the changes and cues of my own in-his-own-world-melody-making band mate; I had learned his own unlearnable, unpredictable, and fascinating indications of changes and progressions. I had, on many occasions, stood quietly and still on stage, as Camille did often throughout the set, watching her own band mate with pleasure, as though she were hearing the songs she had co-written for the very first time.

They impressed me with their stage presence. It seemed as though we might have been sitting in their living room while they played, and even in their living room they were as soft spoken, polite, and joyous as they were on stage.

I forget who they were opening for, we hadn’t come for the headlining act. And during the headlining act we stood around the Ponies in the Surf merchandise table, chatting sheepishly to the band that was so grateful we wanted to purchase their album, that they gave us a few free Ponies in the Surf buttons.

A demonstration is the kind of album where each time a new song comes on I think it’s my favorite, until I hear the next one. There is something sweet, something innocent, something French and polka dotted, something wildfloweresque about each song. There’s the long and catchy chorus of See You Happy, followed by a Linda Rich cover of More to Living which sounds so much like one of their own songs that I thought it was until I read the liner notes. I loved Ventricle so much that we covered it a few weeks later at a show we played in Boston, the parumpapumpum in Government Brand recalls for me my Burl Ives childhood, the lyrics to Je T’aime were written by their ten year old neice… I could go on.

Since a demonstration, Ponies in the Surf has come out with another album, Ponies on Fire, and there is talk of another, with some unreleased tracks available on their myspace site for listening and download.


Monday, May 7, 2007

Young Folks by Peter Bjorn & John

Here I am writing about music from 2006 again.

A friend of mine sent me an email late last year from a cafe in Bangkok alerting me to the Peter Bjorn & John song "Young Folks". I found the video on Youtube, watched it twice, then continued to play it on repeat a couple more times while working. This song is infectious to say the least. It's definately a great song and I'm surpirsed it wasn't on radio repeat until the whole world was sick of it (i'm thinking of Modest Mouse's big hit Float on).

The song is on Peter Bjorn & John's latest release "Writer's Block". It's their third LP, all of which have garnared wave reviews from the critics. Peter Bjorn and John were formed in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1999 and released a self-titled disc in 2002, followed by the excellent album "Falling Out" in 2005. "Falling Out," like "Writer's Block," is a set of new wave inspired pop, arranged with everything from glockenspiels to Speak & Spells, to zithers, omnichords, and cheap synths

But I'm stuck on Young Folks. I think it's my favorite Peter Bjorn & John song, although "object of My Affection" is right behind. Young Folks is one of those genius songs. It's the type of song that teaches a songwriter how to write the basics again. The melodies seem easy in their simplicity, the topic of the song and the arrangment are like why didn't I think of that?!?!? I really hated them when I first heard the song. Hatred is one of my lesser qualities and it happens when I get jealous. I don't really hate for long, just a second or two and within days of hearing the song I had encorporated the maracas into a recording, a month later my band We Are Jeneric wrote our first song that included a boy and a girl talking to eachother .

Search youtube for the Young Folks, you'll know you found it when you see a cartoon with two people on a park bench. There is also a great live version on youtube. On Peter Bjorn & John's myspace you can find a great sitar version of the song called "Sitar Folks". Also don't miss "Objects of My Affection" it's gooooood.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

I'll be your friend Camera Obscura

As I write this blog, there is currently a stack of cds sitting next to my elbow. No matter how hard I try, I can't make myself complete a single one of them without coming back to this charming little band from Glasgow. Camera Obscura formed in 1996 but didn't get around to recording an album (called "Biggest Blue Hi-Fi") until 2000. After that break through recording, the band followed it up with several others; "Underachievers Please Try Harder" was one of the first to be released in America. Currently, my favorite is their latest release "Lets Get Out Of This Country."

Why do I like this band? Mostly just because they are just so darn adorable. Listening to their music makes me feel like I am driving down an old French road in some retro-fancy European car. To be more succinct, they just make me want to do cute things. Their sound is definitely a throwback to the sixties and seventies with the kind of cheesy string sound in their songs which, I believe, was a fairly common characteristic in music from those eras. It works for them really well though. If you are familiar at all with Jens Lekman I can see him either a) working on a song or b)touring with these guys because the songwriting for both bands is very very similar. Jens Lekman's lyrics are a bit sillier though. (Which is why they are so great.) But enough about Jens; the point here is, you aren't going to walk away from Camera Obscura blown away with their songwriting skills, but you will be smiling, which in my opinion is more than par.

Two tracks from "Lets Get Out Of This Country" that I keep coming back to in particular are the title track and "I Need All The Friends I Can Get" How can you not love lyrics that utilize the phrase "it's the bees knees"? I sure as heck find them pretty irresistable, hence my current inability to focus on any other records I am trying to review right now. (Or my fifteen page paper.) Anyway, listen to Camera Obscura if you haven't already, and don't be surprised when after doing so you will be seized with the sudden urge to go on a bike ride wearing some kind of bright article of clothing. That being said, I guess I have a paper to get back to.

P.S. Check these links out peoples.



Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Don't Forget about Matt Durfee, Matt Durfee

i sincerely hope that matt durfee as a distinct musical entity is not entirely gone. his recent collaboration with a long time friend Mike Poulopoulos in the country-blues duo "Palatypus" has been keeping him very busy between recording EPs and playing a plethora of shows in New York and the surrounding provinces.

but for those of us who have been following the Durf-star around for months/years Palatypus is a bit of a trade-off. There's something about watching Matt Durfee alone with his guitar...maybe its his long skinny fingers dancing on his guitar doing things that normal fingers don't do, or it could the charming rural Schoarie county twang of his voice that he doesn't try to hide, or it could be the way he bobs his head, or maybe it's just the man-crush i have on him, and i know i'm not the only one.

he won much aclaim in the capital region before forming Palatypus, including Metroland's "Best Singer/Songerwriter 2006", which we used to start a fire one night when the b3nson crew went out to Indian Ledge southwest of Albany, the name of which they took for their music collective which includes Matt Durfee, Palatypus, Turtle Writing and Alta Mira.

"It's a Good Life" is a song that always makes me feel good. It's not gushing with optimism, in fact it's not even really that optimistic at all, but when he say's it a good life, you know that he's right.

last month he played a rare solo set somewhere in Troy for something, i missed it and am very dissapointed in myself for that. i will not miss the next one, which hopefully there is at somepoint. for now, Palatypus will suffice. don't get my wrong though, I'm as big a Palatypus fan as the next guy. they're much easier to catch around town, they play all over all the time and are definitely worth a trip to see.


dear matt durfee,
please don't forget about matt durfee. "It's a good life" has a very special place in my heart, and the Gypsy Song makes me smile a smile that smiles for nothing else.




mp3: It's a Good Life

mp3: Etched in Red

(the mp3's will not be uploaded until later tonight or tomorrow for all of you up-to-the-minute Bensonites, you can no longer download them from his myspace so I have to track them down, but I will find them, for now go the ol' myspace-a-roo)

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

If I Were An Owl

I first heard Tinyfolk last Thursday while tuned in to the awesome Albany radio station 90.9 FM. The song was “If I Were an Owl.” I was in the kitchen, watching hawks fly overhead.

Talk about romantic... “If I were an owl and you were a mouse I’d eat you up for breakfast, I’d take you under my owly wing and I’d buy you presents for Christmas… I’d hunt the oak tree late at night…tryin’ to figure out whoo whoo whooooo you were.”

“If I Were An Owl” is off of Tinyfolk’s multi-syllabic release Platapeasawallaland: A Rainy Day Owlbum. Yet another band from what is turning into be the music capital of the world, Bloomington, Indiana.

When I listened to their song “William You Were On To Something” I immediately thought of Ponies in the Surf. Whom I will devote an entire blog to next week. The song smacks of Alexander McGregor’s vocal and guitar songwriting, and that makes it good. That, and the fact that following the song there’s an audio clip from the film Annie Hall. I love Woody Allen. He’s a funny guy. He’s like when you take a sip of coffee and then say, “hey, this ain’t coffee…this is kool-aid.”

Tinyfolk will shortly be touring the country, mostly with the band Real Live Tigers, which hails out of Austin. So if you happen to find yourself in Indiana, Nevada, Iowa, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Kansas, or Wisconsin it would be an owlfully good idea to check them out. And if you’re not heading west, just go online and check them out. They’re a hoot.


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