Sunday, March 26, 2006

Antietam: Music From Elba

In a sense, Music from Elba (Homestead HMS-068) is supposed to be a progression from Antietam's self-titled debut album, released just the year before. It also seems to be a commentary on their status in Louisville - Elba was the place of exile for Napoleon and there's more of a concerted effort to explore their mid-Western / Southern roots of the Kentucky border state. The album seems to be answering the question - just what does an art-punk band from Lousiville Kentucky sound like? That they can't settle on an answer is what makes the album compelling in spite of its faults.

So obviously, there's more roots showing here - nods are made towards country, folk and even square dance music. There's also still the ample love for San Francisco acid rock and Beach Boys pop that was in the debut album but we also hear obvious tributes to Antietam's contemporaries - X, minutemen, Meat Puppets, Feelies. If Elba was a perfume it would be a mixture of leather, patchoulli oil and freshly cut hay. One also hears echoes of the band's precursor's - Babylon Dance Band (Key and Harris's art punk outfit) and Your Food (Wolf Knapp's roots hardcore band). As a result, the band tries to go both for the head (art punk) and the gut (roots hardcore) and that sometimes causes what critics would call "stylistic problems" a nd what I would call songs that fall flat on their faces.

There's also a jittery, overly caffenated feel in some of the songs that wasn't present in the sort of relaxed first album. The sound isn't great either but it was the rare independent record that lucked into a good production. On vinyl, it doesn't have the "tinniness' that some have claimed but there are problems with the mix - especially in songs where the lyrics are lost in the frantic guitar and bass playing. As was the case with a lot of these 80's indie albums, the drums are often amateurishly mic'ed and then given too much prominence in the mix. But even with that, the best recordings of that era can compensate for those problems by the quality of songs and enthusiasm, spirit and tone of the playing. That's not the case with some of the songs here, though, and I wouldn't recommend this as their best effort.

The most interesting compositions are either written or co-written by bassist Wolf Knapp - who left the band when they moved to New York City - he also takes the most chances which is good in and of itself but when the band can't keep up, the songs accordingly suffer. "M.V. Augusta" appears to be about a man riding his motorcycle around town - it shifts between a minutemen-style narrative of a bike ride and instrumentals embellished by Danna (Fetchin' Bones) Pentes' violin breaks -- including a square dance, a Meat Puppets meet Scarlet Rivera style lament -- the shifts, though, are abrupt and the drummer seems lost at times. Another composition "The Haunting of Rocky Face Ridge" (which closes the album) is written by the entire band but has Knapp's hand all over it. It also boasts a complex song structure (three movements and coda), vocal trade-offs and instrumental breaks and aspires to be something special but it just isn't a stand-out and suffers from some real amateur hour playing all around.

Knapp's other songs, though, are my favorites of the album even if they are obvious tributes to some of the more prominent roots-punk bands of the time -- there's X ("Until Now", co-written with Harris) and The Meat Puppets ("Concord") peaking out from behind the curtain in the best of them. The other obvious tribute is Knapp's "War Is (The Health of the State)" which sounds like a mash-up of The Knitters with d. boon's minutemen but just not as intense (and that scary crash and smash sound the minutemen had in the studio).

At any rate, I wonder if the band had spent more time rehearsing and improving these songs, whether this might have been more of a stand-out. Instead, it's a warm-up for things to come and also begs the question of "what might have been" had Knapp continued with the band.

Band line-up:
Tim Harris - Bass, Guitar, Vocals (seated front)
Tara Key - guitars, vocals (left with open mouth)
Wolf Knapp - bass, vocals (top right)
Sean Mulhall - Drums, mouth harp (top left)
Danna Pentes - Violin (right of Tara Key)
Albert Garzon - producer (middle, beard, glasses)


"Fontaine Ferry" - apparently named after a controversial amusement park in Kentucky that was closed in 1969 after youth riots, this instrumental provides a chance to hear the band's sound unencumbered by vocals. Written by Tim Harris.

"Until Now" - You'll hear the obvious X influence but the mid-song vocal break takes the song into another dimension

"Concord" - Meat Puppets taking a ride on a Jefferson Airplane.

This album is out of print but can be found on E-Bay or used record stores.

What others have said:

New York Times:
"But it's passion, not complexity, that makes Antietam's music so impressive. The clinical precision of old-fashioned progressive-rock bands (who often played simpler music) isn't for Antietam; band members pick and strum and sing as if caught in a whirlwind. The lyrics on Antietam's new album, ''Music From Elba,'' are about surviving while structures collapse; the music builds new structures from fragments and clings to them with desperate urgency." - live review by Jon Pareles, New York Times, 1986
Trouser Press Guide to 90's Rock:
"The two mid-80's releases are marred by an over-abundance of restraint: just when Key and her bass playing significant other Tim Harris start to approach lift-off, they think better of it and remain content to chuf on terra firma. There's nothing really wrong with the discs - save the sub-standard harmonizing that makes X sounds like the New Christy Minstrels - but the songs are a bit too inconspicious, too gentle to really grab the listener by the lapels." (David Sprague)
A school was being born in Kentucky that would be influential throughout the 1990s. Its early leaders were bands at the crossroads between roots-rock and noise-rock, and Tara Key's Antietam were the most typical in bridging those two styles, i.e. the South and Sonic Youth, the rural and the urban sound, tradition and modernism.
All Music Guide:
Although the R.E.M. comparison no longer holds up, there's a moody, near-psychedelic feel to this quietly intense album that shows a definite similarity between Antietam and the mid-'80s Hoboken bands such as the Feelies and the Individuals. (Stewart Mason)

Circular free association fun: Antietam the band was formed in Louisville on Derby Day, 1984. A horse named Swale won the Derby that day. A swale is a "depression in the earth." Antietam was named after a Civil War Battle that occurred on September 17, 1892. The "Bloody Lane" is an 800-yard "sunken road" - or a "depression in the earth" is one of the more notorious sections of the Antietam battlefield. Music from Elba includes an anti-war song "War is (the health of the state)" Another song from Elba is called "The Haunting of Rocky Face Ridge" home of another Civil War Battle in Georgia. Georgia Hubley produced the third Antietam album, Burgoo, which is a traditional Kentucky stew served on Derby Day.

Antietam's Myspace streams songs from their most recent album (Victory Park), one cut from their 1994 Rope-a-Dope and a 2004 Esopus compilation cut.

Carrot Top Records

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Best of SXSW 2006 (U-Z, Loose Ends)

Caption: Bobby Bare is so excited about playing Austin, he can't keep his hands out of his pants....

Or should I call this "Best of South Of" - as the Washington Post tells us that's how all the "hipsters" refer to SxSW - someone has called me a hipster in their de.lic.ious (whatever!?) capsule description as in "hipster digs through his record collection."

I am not nor have I ever been a hipster. I have always been outsider - I don't have a funny haircut, a hipster job, I'm afraid of tattoo parlors and my gut makes any ironic t-shirt look, well, ironically ironic.

So, I will continue to refer to it as "Best of SXSW" - but will pronounce it "SIXSOO" ...

At any rate - this LAST (applause, applause) posting goes into the remainder of the alphabet and ties up loose ends - namely the A-G songs that were in the second bit-torrent, which hadn't been released when I started this.

First, let's do the honorable mentions. The following were a bunch of heretofore unknown (to me) bands that had songs that almost made the cut - let me know if I'm wrong not to give them 5 stars: The Fever, Uncut, volcano! and Willy Mason. Here's some of the notable has-be--- I mean comeback: Chris Stamey, The Effigies, Garland Jeffries, Zolar X and Billy Bragg. And finally, here are the indie mp3 blog darlings that you probably have already downloaded to death elsewhere but are worth checking out: Band of Horses, The Boy Least Likely To, Earlimart, The Weepies and Wooden Wand.

Caption: Who's your Ume, bitch?

Ume - "Wake" - I'm glad I kept listening to this as the beginning is sort of a ho-hum doom metal that sounds like it was recorded in the living room but then Lauren Larson's ice-chipped voice starts, uh, crooning and it all kinda makes even less sense - which in effect becomes the charm of the song. She sounds like my cat used to sound when he had a sore throat. The song is kinda like a lost prog-diddle from Scrawl's Smallmouth.

Vague Angels
- "The Princess and the Newt" - Chris Leo's lyrics read like the internal voice of a novelist which, in fact, he is. Here he's in bed trying to scribble lyrics and hold a conversation with his girlfriend, which is apparently near impossible.

Very Be Careful - "El Camionero" - Vallenata (Columbian folk) music is accordion, bass and percussion, mostly and its the specialty of this L.A. Band. Gotta love their band name.

The Weird Weeds - "Holy Train Wrecks" - Like Animal Collective, Weird Weeds use acoustic guitar folk as a jumping off point to make what is in its essential "art" music - here describing the quiet before and after an accident.

- "Munkisi Munkondi" - And here is art music on the opposite end of the spectrum. Whitehouse have only gotten better at pushing the envelope of industrial-sound based music. Although, I'm wondering why they're wasting their time in Austin when they could be headlining the No Fun Fest.

WHY? - "Rubber Traits" - The lyrics sound like something from Trent Reznor while the music is pure Death Cab meets Brian Wilson. Dog lovers will love the accompanying video.

Winterpills - "Pills for Sara" - Pretty little fluff-folk peace with "achingly beautiful" (spot the indie cliche catchphrase) harmonies.

Xiu Xiu
- "Muppet Face" - I love Xiu Xiu. Only Jamie could conflate the death of a little kitten into the politics of the day and then back it up with a turkey call. Has the best huhwhah? lyrics since, well, "support our troops, oh!":
pull down your pants by the shi'ites
as I run my tongue over your gums
oh God, what a donkey
it smells like Fallujah
a hammock rod
this shirt clings like dander
this kiss scrapes like rust

Auktyon - "My Love" - The only Russian band in Austin this weekend will be Auktyon - who combine Russian folk rhythms, sensibilities and melodies with that alt-rock thing. For the very stupid (like me), think Pogues from St. Petersburg, Russia. Picture via Laura Williams

Bettye LaVette - "Down to Zero" - Joan Armatrading's original version was laced with sympathy for the ex-boyfriend who finds himself on the reverse rebound -- probably because Armatrading could relate - after all, he broke up with her first, right? Bettye retains almost none of that sympathy and instead seems to want to rub ex-boyfriend's sad sack face in the dirt -- it's only at the very end that she relents and opens the door for the poor little cur. Great soul update of a 70's under-rated classic.

Billy Faier - "New World Coming" - With all the comeback mania of 60's songwriter-folkies, Faier seems poised, for well, something - I mean he's gotta be in his 70's by now, so he's due for it. And he's no Johnny-Came-Never, he's been around playing the coffeehouses forever, has a resume stretching back to the 50's and can meaningfully improvise on the banjo - most of this 7 some minute song is basically improv that surrounds a version of Faier's Seegerish signature song from 1973 sung in Faier's now gravel-laced voice.

Bobby Bare (picture at top of posting) - "Are You Sincere?" - Weren't bobbysoxers like the emo-kids of the 50's? Here's a third bookend to Elvis's "Are You Lonely Tonight" and Nat King Cole's "Ramblin' Rose" - from Mr. Bare, who was recently pulled out of retirement by his indie-rock son (who is also playing at the festival) because, well, everything that was old and good is hip once again. Check out that bass line in the beginning and tell me you don't think of something James McNew would do. Check out the three-girl backup vocals intoning "Bobby, Bobby, Bobby" and while its kinda cheesy, you only wish you had a three-girl back chorus singing your name.

The Bronx - "Heart Attack American" - Someone has a big hardcore punk collection and even updates the sound a little with some v. tight guitar and drum flourishes. Easily the best HC punk song in the entire 932 song collection, if that means anything to ya. They're about to go onto a major label (Island), so get 'em before they start to suck.

Caroline - "Where's My Love" - She (pictured left) sleeps in her recording studio and sings as if she's lived in America all her life. Pitchfork call it: "a beautiful experiment in minimalist pop arrangements and angelic vocals" and all the emo-boys are already crushing on her but don't hold that against her.

Clipd Beaks - "Smoke Me When I'm Gone" - I'd say smoke it now before they're gone. Best use of analog reverb I've heard this year.

Dengue Fever - "Sni Bong" - Heavily textured Cambodian pop music by way of L.A. (and Cambodia).

Diamond Nights - "Destination Diamonds" - Powerful cock-rock in very tighty whiteys - open your mouth, no teeth please. Perfect music for the soundtrack of a yet to be unwritten movie about stupid co-eds (paging Lohan, Spears and Simpson). Currently looking for groupies to complement their bullet belts (really, I'm not kidding - this is a kool kut).

The Drift - "Invisible Cities" - Ambient, sound-effect-laden dub-bop from San Francisco.

epo-555 - "Il Presidente" -
Ok, lad os sige - Disse Danes er afsindicated kraft halvtosset og cookeis gerne nå til vor landskab og fuck al vor nubiles chicks and boystuds. De må af sted standsede!!!!

Shearwater - "I Can't Wait" - I had passed this by in an earlier posting but it came up on the Shuffle and so I'm giving it that proverbial American second chance. And they're the only band that get this honor this year, so isn't there like an award? Why yes, there is - Shearwater, I have an unopened copy of The Meatmen's War of the Superbikes that is yours for the claiming. And since M comes before O, you can file it right next to all those Okkervil River CDs you had to go buy.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Best of SXSW 2006 (S-T)

Caption: The Sundresses Light One Up for John Ashcroft

Argggghhhh... if "S" stands for "Saturation," then "T" stands for "Thirsty" well, that today's paradox. So much crap to drown in and then so little fine wine to drink of ...

I remember last year around this time, asking why I decided to take this on when I could be spinning some old vinyl.... or new (I just got a dumptruck load of 7" records recently).

But we're coming into the homestretch... one final post after this.

Here's the songs:

Sailboats Are White - "Veto" - Dischordant and disorienting is exactly what I think they were going for - one of the lyrics you pull out of the knife tornado that is this song is "who am I?"... indeed...

Sam Baker - "Waves" - A real tear-jerker this. Baker, who nearly died in a Peruvian terrorist attack, came back to life and started scribbling songs. This sounds like Dylan in his C&W phase, if that means anything to you.

Sarah Hepburn - "Hey...OK" - Has that Breeders cool feel but with a slick sound and a standout guitar riff. Music for wearing sunglasses to and then retching over the side of your convertible in middle of the summer.

Sean Smith
- "bittersweet tobacco farewell" - The touchstones are clearly Fahey and acoustic Kakouen (sans vocals, thank you). A steel guitar instrumental for all the guitar fans.

Spinto Band - "Oh Mandy" - I know I'll hate myself in the morning for loving this sugary indie pop golem - the vocals whine, the band is overly cloying but I can't help but wishing I had a life that this was the soundtrack to. Or maybe I'm wishing that this is the soundtrack to the life of someone I wanna beat up. I'll stand by to take the slings and arrows now. I'm am St. Stephen Spinto.

SSM - "Exit Strategy" - In the year 3006, they will probably still be playing garage punk rock in Detroit and it will still be sounding fresh and great.

The Sundresses - "The Love Song" - Slide guitars and Delta blues-hop is usually not what you would associate with political lyrics (think minutemen crossed with Doors) but rock comes in endless combinations - celebrate diversity, maaaaan.

Tapes 'n Tapes - "Cowbell" - So, last year I jumped on the CYHSY bandwagon for about 15 minutes - then I heard the rest of the album. This year's model is Tapes who Pitchfork recently smeared wet lipsticky kisses all over. This is sort of a rock version of one of those Russian dances where you cross your arms and get your ass way down low and shoot your feet out from below - I hear buzz guitar, flute, hand claps, non-annoying singer and I'm sorry to report no cowbell.

Tarantula A.D. - "Who Took Berlin (part i)" - I was reading an article recently where Radiohead was claiming that the reason they hadn't signed onto iTunes was because offering individual song for download would degrade and besmirch the integrity of The Album. I can't speak for Radiohead (nor do I want the dry cleaning bill I'll amass if I try to) but taking a cut from this, one of my favorite albums from last year, seems unfair since it's so all over the place (doom metal, gloom folk, orchestral rock, prog, etc.) and deserves a close listening in its entirety (unlike, say, Hail to the Thief, which deserves nary a listen). But if any one cut can stand alone it's this one, a classical rock variation on what sounds like wistful midevil army campfire song - the song you sing after you've lost the battle.

Th' Faith Healers - "This Time" - Another 90's band reunites for a lap around the states and Europe - promoting their recent Peel Sessions CD (they played for BBC five times). If you missed these guys first time around, as I did, this song reminds me of The Breeders trying to write a Dinosaur Jr tribute song.

Times New Viking - "We Got Rocket" - If any band last year set out to destroy capital R Rock - which is generally in the doldrums - and start rebuilding it shorn of all the current bullshit that it is mired in, it was Times New Viking with their incredible debut album (on Siltbreeze). Looking forward to find out where they go next.

Tom Brosseau - "West of Town" - One of those pretty folk pop songs that makes time stand still and makes you stare into space as the songwriter paints his picture for you.

The Trashies - "Bad Check" - Some scum rock from Seattle preaching good advice for all those Austin visitors ("spent all your money on booze and weed? / write a bad check, write a bad check") that I'm sure the locals will appreciate.

Tunng - "Tale From Black" - Mike Lindsay, who's been a one man folk and electronic collective, puts together the band for a short Texas tour - in Austin, they're playing with Man Man and n0 Things on Thursday and that sounds like much better thing than I'm gonna be doing on Thursday.

Tom Russell (pictured right) - "Grapevine" - This goes out to Bubba who I'm sure is still "writing movies in his head at night." Glen Campbell but with only a smidgen of country schmaltz.

The Twilight Singers - "Teenage Wristband" - Not a perfect song in my view (the vocals are a bit overcooked) but all honorifics to Greg Dulli, ex-Afghan Whigs are due. Except with something like two albums out since this came out (in 2003), why not pull out something from the newer recordings, Greg?

Saved Rounds: Just wanted to note that Savage Republic, a sort of B-list art punk band that was on the outskirts of the L.A. 1st/2nd wave SST teenage riot will be reuniting here on Friday. Also, if you want a laugh, Foo Fighters drummer will be "showcasing" his songwriting project. If you failed to pick up Sia's "Breathe" - the closing song from Six Feet Under - when it was making all the rounds of the Cool Kids Blogs, here's your chance to score a legal copy. Oh look, The Secret Machines are still shilling the same old song.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Best of SXSW 2006 (Q-R)

Your River City Tanlines are showing

...this is just a quickie cuz I gotta gotta break out of here for some fambly business.

So, here's what I think is notable in the Q-R run of the SXSW Bittorrent - all songs guarenteed listened to for at least 45 seconds... I'll try and complete the rest next week (whew):

Qien, es Boom! - "Brittle Britches" - OK indie pop that takes cues from Paul Simon and just about every other indie pop band.

Rachel Goldstar - "Christmas Day" - Languid guitar shoeglaze psyche from ex-Experimental Aircraft Rachel Staggs.

Ralph White - "Morning Sickness" - Sounds like a live recording of this banjo singer-songwriter type. White has that hippie hillbilly outsider feel of Johnny Dowd or Michael Hurley often adding in notes to fit his lyrics or stopping mid-song to exclaim thank you apropros of nothing.

Real Ones - "Ballad of an Old Man" - What the Pogues did for American-Irish bar last calls with "Body of An American", I'm sure these guys are gonna do for all those American-Norwegian bars that are popping up everywhere. If you get drunk enough, you'll even forgive the mid-song guitar solo and sing along with the shambling Polyphonic Spree-ish chorus.

River City Tanlines - "Black Knight" - Some ol' fashioned punk rock like Runaways jamming with Ramones.

Ronny Elliot - "Mr. Edison's Electric Chair" - He's lucky I like Johnny Cash so much otherwise I'd say this is stone-cold rip-off of The Man in Black. But the way I see it, this is more a not-so-embarrassing tribute, with a slight tongue in cheek, and we can never get enough murder ballads.

Rosanne Cash - "Black Cadillac" - Speaking of Johnny Cash.... Rosanne sings a song for her Dad (his voice is sampled in the beginning). I don't really like this predictable C&W song but am including it mainly for the tribute lyrics/historical interest. The MP3 has some encoding errors so there's an annoying digital "sn-snitch" every few seconds. Picture via Richard Silverstein. R.I.P. JC...

Ryan McPhun and the Ruby Suns - "Maasai Mara" - More oddball Brian Wilson Unbound stuff - this time from New Zealand.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Best of SXSW 2006 (N-P)

Nadja - "Memory Leak" - Ambient doom-metal will be what all the kids will be listening to this year, assuming someone invents an ambient doom-metal haircut. Here's 16:27 of the plodding, crashing, swirling and at times whispering of ancient dinosaurs reawakening on a chilly sun-glaring morning. Kinda like driving to work in DC and dealing with people with Virginia liscense plates. In fact, I listened to it while driving with my eyes closed and failed to fall asleep so something must be going on.

Navruz - "Navruz" - From Uzbekistan, Navruz will be playing their 2000 year old instruments on Saturday evening in one of the few world music showcases. But just as Nadja is music for meeting the urban dawn, Navruz is music for the rural early morning. And just after I wrote this, I found out Navruz stands for "New Day" in Farsi and is the Zoarastorian New Year's Day celebration on March 21st. So get an early start.

The Naysayer - "Silent Night" - Wow, Ms. Naysayer (pictured, right), way to go, desecrating this over-revered Christmas song into a gripe about too-tight pants. "Hope you'll forgive me, if I got the words all wrong." No problem.

Nieminen & Litmanen - "N&L Theme" - Swinging Hammond Organ jazz from Northern Europe never sounded so right.

Noahlewis' Mahlon Taits - "Street of Dreams" - Music for sitting on the porch and listening to on an ancient radio. Big surprise that this quiet de/reconstruction of American depression-era pop comes from a Japan lo-fi group. Well, not that big of a surprise.

Nobody & The Mystic Chords of Memory - "Broaden a New Sound" - Sunny California pop like Mamas and the Papas always struck me as having an undercurrent of evil, cult family connotations. This group succeeds in only strengthening that stereotype. But at least cultists are usually smiling and singing, even when they're cutting your guts out.

Novillero - "The Hypothesist" - I was on the fence for this one, but eventually the portion of this that pays tribute to the 60's Philly soul sound overwhelmed my misgivings.

The Octopus Project - "Tuxedo Hat" - Funny uniforms and rabbit ears won't make you the next Flaming Lips especially if you are an instrumental group, but searing hooks, tense combo interplay and carefully chosen musical climaxes just might. Kinda reminds me of a more playful and less dorkish Saxon Shore. Apparently, they got a Coachella gig thanks to a Myspace contest.

Odiorne - "Sirocco (Heavy Wish)" - Where Jim Chambers' (ex-Mercury Rev) has made his home since 2001. Has a similar big sound to Rev but with a dash of early Pink Floyd.

Oh, Beast! - "Outroduction" -A heavy-ass Austin band that I'm sure all the locals hate because they're annoying and loud and barely know how to play their instruments. And those are the good thing about them. They also all have facial hair. That's the bad thing. Check this out to get a good sense of where they're coming from.

One Umbrella (pictured left) - "Eintrocinc" - More tense ambient but less metallic and more shimmering than Nadja.

The Owls - "Air" - This is a song that I seem to love during lunchtime but hate when I got home. Right now I'm liking it. It's got that delicate side of Velvet Underground ("Stephanie Says" or Moe Tucker stuff) feel but with some keyboards might have been a more girly YLT or Stereolab.

P.O.S. - "P.O.S. Is Ruining My Life" - Hey, this is my second rap song so far of this great and insane SXSW Mp3 plow. Has a great punk-noise feel to it and none of the cliches I normally hear in the genre these days - seems to be inspired by the better demons (the non-gay/women bashing demons) of Eminem.

Palaxy Tracks - "Grey Snake" - Apparently, SXSW will be the last Palaxy Tracks show as a band as the singer/songwriter is moving to Austin and the other dudes are staying in Chicago. He (Brandon Durham) is joining Octopus Project (above). While this may have that standard indie pop-rock feel to it, it distinguishes itself with a forceful arrangement and that fact that it's based on a ghost story by Raymond Carver.

Peter and the Wolf - "The Fall" - First heard this on Gorrilla vs. Bear and made it a linchpin in a mix-CD of appocalyptic songs. This is like Iron and Wine writing songs for the The Day After or The Postman. Not totally sold on his voice but this is a fine piece regardless.

Pieta Brown - "#807" - Some nice and pretty singer-songwriter stuff from Ms. Brown (pictured left). Again, comparisons to Iron and Wine can be easily drawn.

Pilotdrift - "Bubblecraft" - One of the strangest confluences of streams in this set - think about the din that might be created if Wayne Coyne, Chris Corsano (drummer for Six Organs last release), Burt Bacharach and the guy who wrote the Theme from Charlie's Angels got together for a jam.

Pink Mountaintops - "Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy" - More fun in the rotting forest with Stephen McBean. Every one of his songs deserves repeated listening.

Polytechnic - "Pep" - A Go-Team-ish pop song that climbed onto my hard drive, broke open a stick of bubblegum and insisted that it should not go unnoticed.

Poni Hoax - "Budapest" - In case you wanted to know what happened when Romeo Void had Boney M's love child.

Pony Up - "Shut Up And Kiss Me" - I almost didn't include this cutesy novelty la-la song but it drew a belly laugh from me when the girl tells her boyfriend to just shut up and "let's be dumb / I'll show you how." So, I'll let you decide whether its fluff or worth a place on your playlist.

Pterodactyl - "I Can See A River" - I gotta keep my punk cred, right? RIGHT? This headache-inducing screamer will burrow into your skull and actually make you see that river... and it's a stinking, polluted moving scum stream filled with rotting cats and half-eaten birds.

SAVED ROUND: There's a new update at Teenage Gluesniffer feature Mike Greenlees' (Tar) fanzine Big Yeah - check the 1987 interview of Big Black.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Best of SXSW 2006 (K-M)

Lots of stuff I had a hard time throwing out so I'll just provide some quick links to their page.

The first group are kinda regular MP3 blog mainstays and don't need any further love from me - and I wasn't that ga-ga over their tracks anyway: Most Serene Republic, Magic Numbers and Lady Sovereign (this year's M.I.A.)

The others were songs I've previously linked to and with the exception of the last one, still like: Man Man, Magnolia Electric Company, Minni-Thins and Madagascar.

Another group are major label pseudo-controverial but not all that awful: Dreamworks' bad boys - Living Things and Geffen's Wilson-Phillips for the Aughties - The Like.

And finally just bands that didn't make the cut but were noteworthy: Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey, too L.A. for me "biker punks" Lords of Altamount, what-the-fug Japanese singer Konimotu Takeharu, Sub-Pop's latest gem-in-the-rough Kelley Stoltz and the Flaming Lips meets American Analog Set Mazarin...

Now onto my picks:

King Straggler (pictured right) - "Good Man" - All the things I'm not. About the most trad. country-folk I'm gonna get here.

The Kingdom - "I Am Constellation" - A bizzare re-imagining of Baltimore Colt Johnny Unitas as a cluster of stars blazing in the night with a strong GBV influence.

Laura Viers - "Galaxies" - This years singer-songwriter girl with glasses model has a right pretty song here in case you haven't already snagged it during her acoustic tour with Colin Meloy.

Lions - "Movement" - I've got a few punk songs that just happened to come out in a row. Something about bands with names that start with "L". Lions are an Austin group that do pounding hardcore and then morph into sludgey metal with reverb-turned-up-to-11 on a guy who sounds like Dylan-gone-wild. If that sounds familiar, so what - you need some of this in your life. Sounds like they've played their amplifiers so hard their about to burst into flames.

Live Fast Die - "Forged in Flames" - They've really let themselves go and they don't care. Crappy recording works fine for this fuzzy Ramones update. Playing with the DC Snipers on Saturday night.
Lonelady - "Hi Ho Bastard" - My lady who is a friend says, "finally a song about you." Grrr... there's a reason this lady (pictured left) is alone. This year's outsider.

The Longcut - "Transition" - British "dance music" (that's what they call any band in the UK who play songs in 4/4) with a healthy respect for fellow Manchesterites Joy Division. Really, so far, this is the cream of the crop coming across the pond this week. Great spazz-out at the 2:30 mark. Wait for it. Uhhnn...

Love of Diagrams - "No Way Out" - The best punk song of 2005 that you never heard. Why? Because the CD was only distributed in Australia.

The Low Lows - "The Low Lows" - OK, all the indie-alt-country types can come out from behind their futons. The punk set is over. Here's the cremains of Parker and Lily's divorce playing a Gothic This Mortal Coil. Over and over until all the demons are exorcised. Lily still plays with them in the studio but she won't tour with her ex-husband again.

The M's - "Future Women" - You almost expect this to be performed by a Salvation Army band around a camp fire. Nice sound - original enough that I can't draw many comparisons.

The Mammals - "Father William" - A guitar-banjo-violin-drums and bass western band. Wouldn't be surprised if this story song makes it to the Deadwood Season 3 soundtrack.

Maneja Beto - "Ciudadano" - An alt-Latin piece with an electric mariachi hook. Not Los Lonely Boys so they won't be winning any Grammies anytime soon.

Metric - "Monster Hospital" - They update Bobby Fuller's "I Fought The Law" in a bizarre way - reimagined as a monster movie as an analogy for the struggle against "the war"... About the closest I would go to the prevailing MTV punk pop this week.

Minsk - "bloodletting and forgetting" - This doom-psyche-metal piece should be called "forgetting and bloodletting" as the violent release comes near the end after a slow psychological build-up.

Mittens on Strings - "The Most Complete Skeleton Ever Found" - Sung from the perspective of the "most complete" fossil (a tiny fish) who looks forward to the day that kids will "love me" and "he'll be studied in the future / but the Brontosaurus is only / going to fuel a Ford Taurus"... Best band name of this set.

The Mudville Project - "The Tea" - Uncle Tupelo fronted by Lou Reed. Other than that I don't know why I like it but I do.

My Brightest Diamond (pictured right) - "Golden Star" - One of the standouts of the mostly tedkous Asthmatic Kitty compilation earlier this year was MBD. Who is she and where did she get that pretty voice and songwriting chops? Comparisons to Kate Bush are made in the liner notes and that's not a bad thing.

My Way My Love - "Captain" - Oddball Japanese band led by a guy named Yukio Maraka who sings like an American and lays disconcerting abrasive static and sirens over the verses. Indie-kids, there's nothing wrong with music that makes you uncomfortable. Noise-children, your new God is current deplaning. If Love of Diagrams had the best punk song of 2005, here's one for the running in 2006.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Best of SXSW 2006 (H-J) - The Desperate Mix

Jana Hunter is just desperate to get home...

A comment left by somebody on a previous thread notes that SXSW is too "desperate and business-like" for his tastes. This person has a point - SXSW is defined by the desperate fans trying to get into the "right" shows, the desperate bands looking for attention and deals, the desperate A&R guys looking for the next big thing and the desperate Austin-ites just trying to get home. But there's something distinctly American about it all - I know of nothing that even comes close to weeklong influx of musicians, filmmakers, fans in the world, the blatant commercialism and covert whoring (maybe Sundance).

So in honor of that commentator - and we love our commentators as there are so few of them - we'll call this the SXSW H through J Desperate Mix.

The High Violets - "Sun Baby" - Neo-shoogass pop from Portland, Or opens up the set. Dig the power chords.

Desperate scale: 6 - they're shagging a new album and have some miles on their tires already (pictured left)

Headlights - "Tokyo" - Might as well keep up the shoegaze - or maybe shoeglaze-electro? Love these opening lyrics: "You're walking / walking slow / But you gotta move fast / In Tokyo" and the just off the left speaker female backup vocals.

Desperate scale: 2 - these guys got it going on, it's up to the rest of the world to figure it out.

Healthy White Baby - "Soul" - Picking things up in the third song is one of my cardinal rules of a successful mix tape and this 60's R&B-style rocker does the trick.

Desperate scale: 4 - any band who is aping the Stones in 2006 can't be that concerned about a career.

Ill Ease - "One Hell of a Bender" - Nice to see someone representing the old lo-fi pop "K" sound here as most of those folks in Olympia avoid such "desperate and businesslike" spectacles. There's a little bit of a Scrawl/Waitresses vibe here, too - especially with the lyrics. Sample lyrics grab: "I remember the face and I remember the smile / And that's the last thing I remember for awhile..."

Desperate scale: 7 - First, it's a song about getting wasted and not knowing who you fucked and what's up with Ill Ease's website not showing any in-focus or close-up pictures of its main performer/song-writer?

Happy Flowers - "They Cleaned Out My Cut With a Wirebrush" - This will be the dance sensation of season - I'm looking forward to the dance remix and seeing hipsters writhing around the dance floor. Mr. Horribly-Charred Infant and Dave Anus return from Foster Home for the Abused and Disabused to do another triumphant tour.

Desperate scale: 10 - They're real desperate, desperate to continue this joke for as long as possible.

Helios Creed/Chrome - "Got to Have Someone" - Helios is also back and hopefully it won't be the total fuck-up that his last comeback (2000) was. If the rest of his new album is anything like this, it's a welcome return of Buttholes-tastic noise-rock (and yes, I know, Chrome came before the Buttholes).

Desperate scale: 1 - Helios is beyond desperate and extra deduction points for his business-like promo photograph (right).

Instruments - "When the Stars Shine" - Whoa, where did these freaks come from? The answer: Athens, GA which is increasingly reestablishing itself as a new music power center (Liz Durette, Of Montreal, plus the dozen or so attending this year's festival) Sounds a bit like Akron/Family in their more mellow moments.

Desperate scale: 4 - Some will say freak-folk is so over but I say M. Gira, here's your next big thing (well, not really - having not heard the rest of the album)

Jasmine Star - "Guide Us" - Speaking of Liz Durette, here's another haunting/haunted ghoul thing except unlike Durette who "died" in the 60's, Jasmine seems to have expired in the 50's. (pictured left).

Desperate scale: 3 - Well, it's probably her real name but my first thought was that this was an aspiring Pop Tart. Couldn't be further from the truth.

Jana Hunter - "Farm, CA." - Devendra's best friend who is a girl drops one of her trademark songs, an easy country-folk song that would have gone well on the Cold Mountain soundtrack. Currently touring with the Castanets.

Desperate scale: 2 - She's has pretty much done what she's set out to do but we'll give her one penalty point for the myspace page.

The Jason Seed Elixir Ensemble - "The Ol' Striped Carp" - Jazz-prog samba sing-song with vibes, sax, a hep drummer, a nice mid-song Jeff Beck-style guitar solo and Jason Seed's smooth vocals make this a welcome side-trip on our mix.

Desperate scale: 1 - Virtually no commercial potential here and just one of many "projects" for Jason means he's a functioning professional musician who doesn't need all the hype crap.

Jesca Hoop - "Seed of Wonder" - I know you're probably getting tired of these female singer-songwriter pieces but this one is different - a sort of one-guitar plus vocal harmonies (a la Larkin Grimm but in tune) and a pseudo-reggae feel.

Desperate scale: 6 - Well, it's not her fault that Nic Harcourt likes her and hence she's like the next big thing in L.A. but does she have to quote the NY Times story about Harcourt that describes her as if it's a NY Times story about her?

Humbert - "the ladybug and the beetle" - Gentle hippie psychedelia with a surprising hard texture to it... which perfectly describes the flower-laden, palm treed but broke-down hometown of Humbert - Hialeah, Fla where I once bummed around for a season hanging out with horse groomers and the scum of the town. I can see that it's a fertile area for the aspiring songwriter. You have to see the fantastic video that accompanies this song. Open it up in a new window as it takes awhile to load.

Desperate scale: 6 - they quote The Big Takeover review of their CD in their SXSW liner notes ("Cheers, toast... I absolutely love this disc!") - but I'll be gentle as I'm probably going to buy it (though not on Jack's recommendation! Cheers! Toast!).

Hologram - "bird" - Pop eats Mono. Even more shoegazer (what is it about shoegaze and bands that start with "H"?) but this time from Japan.

Desperate scale: 6 - Everybody knows that Mono will eat Pop.

Jim Noir - "My Patch" - Beatles/Beach Boy laptop music but don't let that unsell it for you - Noir has a knack for tight harmonic pop that makes this worth a spin on your hard drive.

Desperate scale: 9 - "currently looking for a label" after three sold-out 7" ... extra deduction for wearing a Charlie Chaplin suit.

The Happy Bullets - "The Vice and Virtue Ministry" - Love the faux-guitar minuet and the obvious Kinks tribute (foppish vocals, song title) but are they really from Dallas, Texas??

Desperate scale: 5 - Had they been from, like, Leeds or London, I woulda given them a 10.

Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan - "Do You Wanna (Come Walk With Me)" - ex-Belle and ex-Tree make pretty music together in this slightly creepy paean to statutory rape. The rest of the album is recommended especially if you like sussing out what folk song they've rewickered.

Desperate scale: Isobel: 8 (this is her big breakout), Lanegan: 6 (this builds on his great solo album and makes up for that other band he was in - Queens something)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Sylvester on Mp3 Album Blogs

Nick Sylvester rants away about this particular virulent breed (although he indirectly - and unfairly - implicates Aquarium Drunkard).

The worst of these blogs post entire albums, steal onesheet copy, utilize free hosting services (against the terms of service of those services incidentally) and then rake in advertising dollars as the hit rates go up.

Not really looking to get into the morality discussion, or the "what blogs can and can't do, what's a blog's real function, etc" one. We can take for granted that upping a new album from a living, breathing artist who supports himself off this stuff or wants to--that's pretty shitty, even if you disclaim that "All music posted here is for a 24 hour testing period. It is not my responsibility to make sure that you follow these rules, it is your own. I will not be held accountable."

MP3song blogs can rationalize teasing an album, drumming up interest, etc. The best of them have focus past NEW SHIT NEW SHIT, either curating old with new or taking advantage of the internet's collective memory to preserve some random seven-inch or mixtape freestyle nobody will remember if someone doesn't decide it should be.

Verbatim (that's my new unhip way of saying "Word") to that.

However, Sylvester also posits that this will lead to even shorter cycle lives for albums that deserve a longer "listening period" - I'm not sure I totally agree with that. Of course, Sylvester likes mostly shitty music so maybe the short life span he worries about has to do with that. No, good albums were "lost" just as much in the 60's as they are today. Eventually the shitty stuff gets flushed or turned into an object of nostalgic derision.

UPDATE (8:11 PM): Nick has taken down the link to Aquarium Drunkard's hit rate page...