Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sufjan Stevens on Cassette Tape

If you've been wondering whether or not Sufjan Stevens froze somewhere in Lake Michigan or blew up in a train on its way from Virginia - everything's OK. He's alive and searching through his old tapes (literally tapes) of recorded songs. He posted a short blurb about his experience on his site through Asthmatic Kitty, read his post here.

"But the world of youth was where I tried on new ideas, new outfits, new names, and new rhyme schemes—-a world where the banjo was my journal, where Sofia Coppola was my imaginary confidant, and where singing out of tune was perfectly OK!"

So let me get this straight, Sufjan Stevens has done the following things in the past couple of years or so:

1. Write a 11 minute song for Dark Was the Night
2. Write a exclamation point heavy preface for Dave Eggers literary series, Best American Nonrequired Reading
3. Find a song buried on mylar dedicated to the Coppola family
4. Not release a new album to follow up the beautifully symphonic Illinoise
5. Made the longest Christmas Album ever

The funny thing is, it's not really a great song or anything. It sure is damn pretty though, and he's an emotive banjo player.

Sufjan Stevens - Sofia's Song

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Album Review: Handsome Family - Honey Moon

You know, if I wasn't smart, I would think The Handsome Family is making fun of me. Their new album, Honey Moon, is overpoweringly rich with sex and nature. Their descriptions of "honey moons" and crisp "moon sugar" are so beautifully heavy that I'm pretty sure they're laughing behind the microphone. It is both sardonic and David Bowie-esque (if he was in a chrysalis in Oklahoma) and a little bit of Billie Joel.

Describing the album as simply "funny," wouldn't be giving them their due expert-credit. "The Loneliness of Magnets" has pretty whistling and nice drum brushes, but the lyrics are so wild to pull you up from the roses and the sky. It's sort of heartbreaking and charmingly stupid as Brett Sparks wails, "I feel the loneliness of magnets / and the tides across the sea." The best track by far is "Linger, Let Me Linger" though - with its touches of city love and Joel-esque piano.

Who knew you could make Keats funny? The 19th century romanticism (and a penchant from describing birds in the trees) is all over "Love is Like" and roars in "Junebugs." Imagine Frankenstein, with more love-sickness and you'll enjoy this album. I did.

"And I will find you in the darkness / where water turns to steam / your pull upon my heart could steal 10,000 wings"

Handsome Family - The Loneliness of Magnets

Handsome Family - Linger, Let Me Linger

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bob Dylan's Ghost - Blitzen Trapper & Fleet Foxes

Is Bob Dylan listening somewhere? His recipe is getting big. Good friends Fleet Foxes and Blitzen Trapper joined each other in pretty damn good harmony for "Furr" in Oregon. Check out the song in its entirety: "I'm a rattlesnake babe / I'm like fuel on a fire."

I feel like Dylan can rest easy. His musical influences have clearly trickled down to a next generation of folk, and they are inspired. The people are writing. Would it be calling it early to name this a folk revolution?

Blizten Trapper - Furr

Monday, April 20, 2009

Wait for the Summer Good Friend

Lollapalooza, Coachella, ACL -

What's wrong with a music festival in the dead of winter? The bare skeleton trees with that little bit of snow, the big jackets and listening to Yo La Tengo or Broken Social Scene...Wouldn't that be great?

In the trend of music festivals taking place in a windless, hell heat - this year's Pitchfork Music Festival is starting to shape up into something amazing.

Yeasayer, Blitzen Trapper, Plants & Animals and Women just added to the un-penetrable wall of Chicago heat. It's worth going, but bring a fan, a rain dance, and linens. Extra towels too.

Also, if you haven't seen Yeasayer or Plants & Animals live - please do so. Simply put, they make world-savvy rock with bright harmonies and simple lyrics:

"It takes a good friend / To say you've got your head up your ass / It takes an enemy / To help you get out of bed"

(Above image taken from the evilly hot 2007 summer at Austin City Limits)

Yeasayer - Wait for the Summer

Plants & Animals - Good Friend

Friday, April 17, 2009

Rambling Fever

The Avett Brothers are insane.

I bought "Four Thieves Gone" at Good Records in Dallas - and couldn't push past the first song because I kept repeating the track at a volume that would crack plaster (see attached and try not to dance). It's killer, and so is the rest of the album. In fact, all of their albums crackle with a beard and banjo happiness that is hard to find.

I mention Texas because The Avett Brothers are best listened to on the dry heat, open plain. Bluebonnets in the wind sort of thing. In that vein, The Avett Brothers play at Grimey's (in Nashville) on Record Store Day. Wish I was there to hear them "let the indolence go / wild and flying through." I expect reports from those who do go.

They'll be at the Henry Fonda Theater in Los Angeles, courtesy of Aquarium Drunkard on May 9th, and later this summer they're putting out a new record called "I and I Love You" on Columbia Records.

The Avett Brothers - Talk on Indolence

The Avett Brothers - The Weight of Lies

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Vampire Rock, Shiny Around the Edges

Record store Day is coming up on April 18th. One band from Denton, Texas I wish I would be around to hear as they shake the windows with their heavy, vampire rock is Shiny Around the Edges.

Even though they look like a dark version of the Handsome Family, there's something vicious and sexy about "Come Closer," a hard as skulls single from their new album Holy Roller: "Come crawling the right way / down the hallway."

They're playing at Good Records in Dallas, a store owned by Tim DeLaughter of the Polyphonic Spree. They've been having good underground shows there for years. Grandadddy, Grizzly Bear even. Go to Lower Greenville, eat a perfect bowl of salty, beautiful queso at Blue Goose. Then please go to Good Records.

Shiny Around the Edges - Come Closer

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tallest Man on Earth and an 1800's Guitar

Tallest Man on Earth - The Gardener - A Take Away Show from La Blogotheque on Vimeo

Shallow Grave came out in April of last year, and many people have talked about the Freewheelin' Bob Dylan qualities. At this point, I've listened to the record so frequently, I don't care who he sounds like.

I saw him play at the Troubadour in LA last month, and it was mesmerizing. The guitar ripped open like a thundercloud, and even with his thin frame, (and groomed mustache) he swaggered around the stage like Johnny Cash (or Freewheelin' Bob Dylan).

He ended the set with an old blues song by Son House, Death Letter. The White Stripes put this on their excellent album De Stijl, but Tallest Man's version was different. It was not pastiche. It was honest. So that's the best I can think of for this beautiful video. Enjoy.

The Sparrow and the Medicine - Tallest Man on Earth

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"Don't Lie" - Abe Vigoda

Abe Vigoda - Don't Lie from Weston Currie on Vimeo

A few weeks ago I was at Family, a bookstore in Los Angeles, and I saw Jack Black wandering with a huge bag full of books. I was staring at Abe Vigoda's incredible CD - Skeleton. The album art is a man covered in a tarry paint in front of a wall of flowers. I turned to Jack Black and I said:

"Ever heard of these guys, they're awesome."

And that's when Jack Black said, "Abe Vigoda. I know the man." (Referring to the pony-like old man)

So maybe Jack Black listens to them now. Either way, Abe Vigoda (the band) has some experimental, art rock that has really expanded with their new EP, Reviver, which has some exciting new touches to it. My instant thought was Wolf Parade - but that doesn't give the band their due credit. A surge of cosmic noise, and a wall of sound behind the harmonies that sound something like an electric violin in reverse. Really cool.

Dead City/Waste Wilderness - Abe Vigoda


Last night, I went to Spaceland specifically to see The Broken West and catch another raucous Henry Clay People Show.

The Broken West is pretty straight forward American rock, and they do it really well. The twenty-dollar minimum at Spaceland put me three beers in by the time they were done, which is just fine. The harmonies did some nice soaring, and the bassist did the thing where he rapid fire thumped over staccato drum beats, so hey, that's always good.

The Henry Clay People though - they have something really special. The guitarist was up on the amps, kicking the symbols. Who does that anymore? I accidentally bumped into the lead singer, Joey, who fresh off the stage looks somewhere in between a young member of an AC/DC cover band and your suitemate from college, and we talked about the Rolling Stones.

It really makes sense. What's great about Henry Clay People: they just play. No questions, no advanced metaphors about the way buildings look like people. It really is as straight forward as Country Honk (Honky Tonk Women) and it has that dirty boot-bar quality that is so appealing of blues rock. In the liner notes, on the back of Let it Bleed, it says "THIS RECORD SHOULD BE PLAYED LOUD." I love that.

It's the kind of music that is bursting out of the bar when the door swings open to let you in. Anyway, my opinion is: Play The Henry Clay People really loud.

You Can Be Timeless - Henry Clay People

Country Honk - The Rolling Stones

Monday, April 13, 2009

These Days - St. Vincent

St. Vincent's new album, Actor, comes out on May 5th. This video's from a bit ago, but it's electric and beautiful. As if the Nico song already didn't destroy you. Kind of a heartstopper.

For Los Angeles people, she's at the El Rey on May 28th.

The Strangers - St. Vincent

I Hate Tom Petty but Kind of Love The Broken West

The Broken West is at Spaceland tonight in Los Angeles with The Henry Clay People. They're gonna rip-roar some shimmery silver curtains. It's tremendously catchy, and they sound somewhere in between Tom Petty (is "Last Dance with Mary Jane really a good song? I don't think so. What do you think of THAT) and Built to Spill.

The Broken West has a new album out on Sept. 9th on Merge called "Now or Heaven," but in the mean time check out this track. It's makes me want to put on a party dress (Oh my my, oh hell yes.)

Down in the Valley - The Broken West

Friday, April 10, 2009

16 Days

Worst concert ever - When I was younger, I saw George Strait play at Texas Stadium. I thought it was awful. Skoal rings in jeans, and standing on a vinyl pad in pools of Miller Lite. The lyrics sounded like country mad-libs: fill in the blank heartache!

That kind of country - that Alan Jackson, Toby Keith fightin' them terrorists style country, where the song writers are far from the musician, sitting in a blank room somewhere in the Warner Brothers Corporate Lab, pulling the tabs off their coke, trying to calculate a Billboard top 100 hit - is not good.

The funny thing is, everybody laughs at country music. Because it's bad. Terrible.

A recent album that really blew me away was To Willie, by Phosphorescent. It has that smell and feel of an Austin bar or a Wyoming blue sky feel. Yes, everyone sings about smoking and drinking and never thinking - but there is a way GOOD country music does it that makes you feel like nightswimming.

Anyway, to me there's not much better stuff out there, so I thought I post a few songs that get me.

Stranger's Almanac (the awesome special edition) and Anodyne by Uncle Tupelo.
16 Days - Whiskeytown
We've Been Had - Uncle Tupelo

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