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)


jonder said...

Thank you for doing the public a service by wading through all this stuff. I'm a little confused by your ratings scale: Happy Flowers get a 10 (which I assume is most desperate); Helios Creed, who you say is "beyond desperate", gets a 1? Are you saying that Helios is so far beyond desperate that it's like bizarro-desperate?

I look forward to the next sections of the alphabet. I hear that Translator is reuniting for SXSW. How will that rate on the scale of desperation?

Jim H said...

I wouldn't try to find any logic in my desperate scale. Yes, Helios Creed is so far beyond desperate that he's gone to infinity and reset the ticker.

Anonymous said...

You and your damn ratings scale!

Jasmine Star is going to be at SXSW? I posted about her a while back and there seems to be some controversy about her in the past.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the "how will a Translator reunion at SXSW" rate on the scale of desperation...well...actually, the shows went really great! We played 3 gigs. We are not approaching any reunion shows as "desperate" nostagia trips. It's fun and the shows rocked like crazy. We got encores at all the gigs (which is unusual for SXSW). We are doing this for the love of playing music together (I also have my own band, which I'm not leaving). I know that in our current age of "let's find the cynical reasons why someone might do something" - it's rare to find a band who is playing for the sheer love of making music. But, that's why we did it. We are not desperate to "get a deal". It's really just wonderful to make a big noise together. Nothing wrong with that, right? Thanks, Steve Barton (Translator)

Jim H said...

Hey Steve - only wish I was there to see it.


jonder said...

I wasn't trying to be sarcastic or critical about a Translator reunion, as I am actually a big fan of the band. I apologize for coming across that way. I was happy to hear that the members of Translator were playing together again, and I'm glad that it went well.