Tuesday, December 28, 2010

These 10 Albums Were Really, Really Good in 2010

It's been an intense year: dark, strange albums alongside peppy ones (see Contra). Albums spewing their guts all over us. So, want to return to long lost music blog after a long 2010--with a fevered new year upcoming with 35 Conferette and SXSW (see you there?).

Consider this the first of the new year. Here ya go: top 10 albums of the year, filtered through a biased folk lens!


Monday, May 3, 2010

Anti-Edge Fest

Yes, Limp Bizkit played on Saturday at Edgefest--just when you thought they were encased in calcite in the annals of The Great Hall of Music. As a middle finger to whole Pizza Hut Park process, Hailey's hosted a multi-part celebration of the whole damn reason indie music is good for the soul. I wrote up a review for DC9 at Night, the Dallas Observer music blog (it helps I work over there). In the meantime, I shot this video with ol' point-n-shoot of the rip-roaringly good "The Wild Hunt."

Note: the reason the sound blows out is because Kristian Matsson's voice absolutely sizzles.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hey, Pictures! Heartless Bastards at Lola's Fort Worth

The Heartless Bastards smoked up Lola's in Fort Worth. A much delayed post, but who cares when it's rock 'n roll pics? More after the jump.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Wiping Your Mouth-Slate Clean

Got a new idea: Watch Carl Sagan's Cosmos with volume-down, medically enhanced brownies in a pyramid, and a Color Your Life playing record style. Like wiping your mind clean, and replacing it with a jar of sloshing milk. Twin Sister's newbie, among the faded- wishy-surfy-dream-peace-pop-rock trend (help me, I love it), is free on their website. Free like one of those sea-birds. Listen to the over 7 Minute "The Other Side of Your Face"--it surges like a lost haunting track from A Ghost Is Born meets Beach Houses' loneliness.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Joe Pug @ J&J's, Roadside Graves @ Lamberts

These two videos explain two things: why I've barely slept the last two weeks, and why I love these bands.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

AM - Future Sons and Daughters

Because I was born in 1984, I was forced to listen to AM's charismatic folk-pop album, Future Sons and Daughters, as a postmodern thing. However awful that word is, folk-pop bands are utilizing the excitement of the movement these days: upending modernity like a Dadist paints a pipe and then says it's not a pipe, and then paints a dog smoking a pipe. In a way, it's what AM is doing. There's a Christmas tree of adjectives and genres he's hanging his music on, and all of it is done with charm. So many postmodern artists today challenge listeners in their own ways, and a lot of it is raw, rough or coarse. AM approaches his music with a cosmic milkiness, a sugary groove, and a Vampire-Weekend-esque swagger.

The sweet, ukulele strummed "The Other Side," is sung as a broadcast as opposed to a romantic whisper: "Hear my words / Don't you listen?/ Because I don't know about the other side of me." And it's damn catchy. It's really catchy. Because he's confident. An attractive quality in a postmodern artist; how many bands could we list that play with an intense, horrifying perspective on a dying world?  

"Take my time and take my chances / Cuz I don't know what all of this will ever mean" AM sings instead.

The album continues the upbeat groove with "It's Been So Long" and even "Darker Days" has a worldly swagger: "Liberate my love / from the futile hands of those who don't believe / in what I need." These two songs, I argue, are the more hook-less points of the album. They're pleasant tunes, but the album's strength comes from the acoustic, almost Nick Drake-ian, "Leavenworth." It breaks down what it means to locked in a loveless relationship. You can't find the light in this sort of prison, he says: "And in Leavenworth / you knew / what you wanted but couldn't do." Like many bands these days, AM is mimicking his influences by playing in their decade--but not like an rebellious outlaw, or an emotional criminal ready to sink the world. His desire is to love and be loved in return, or know that it can come if you want it.

AM is on tour right now with Air, and his album is available wherever MP3s are sold. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Dawes at the Cavern, Thursday

The maximum capacity sign bolted to the front swinging doors of the Cavern say "49", but there was way more people there for Dawes on Thursday. I don't know if they were all fans (there was a couple behind me who collapsed from what I assumed was a washing machine of Jagermeister and Shiner inside their bodies), but I know the guy to my left was. He knew every lyric, every song.

Not to prove a point, but I love North Hills--it reminds me of Springsteen's Nebraska. North Hills has enormous quantities of heart, and doesn't give a shit whether you like slow songs, fast songs, or perfectly-edited radio hits. The album's about exploring the story behind the decisions you make when you're lonely, heartbroken, or just regular-old broken. It's about how all of that interacts with the city that you're living in.

So, it was hard to dance. But for the guy next to me, who made me feel like I should be holding a proud beer up to Dawes' good lyrics, it was a raucous occasion. Am I still a fan / good concert-goer if I stood there with my arms crossed? I felt the bend of the strings during "When You Call My Name"; teared up during "That Western Skyline"; swayed, head down, to "Love is All I Am." I'm not being rhetorical--I'm actually asking: is there a right way to hear music live?

Because to me, Dawes is a band you experience internally. Even their new songs, which, god help me, were so full of folk beauty I wanted to hug the lead singer Taylor Goldsmith, were rich with hurt. Obviously, there isn't a handbook. But it's important to find a band that can turn the bass down, and place you inside your head.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bury Him Far From His Reconstruction Era Sadness

Jason Killingsworth, the deputy editor at Paste Magazine, is quoted in a praising review of Joe Pug's talent to say, "Twenty years from now, lazy journalists will compare every halfway decent songwriter to Joe Pug. Mark my words." Listening to Messenger, Pug's debut LP, it's hard not to feel the resonance. One of the more stunning and original tracks from Joe Pug's debut is the harrowing and stunning Bury Me Far (From My Uniform):

"Just bury me far from my uniform / so God might remember my face / From the iron cross medal I would have worn / From the statues that sisters and widows mourn / From the newspaper clipings and microform / From Geneva to Hague and Nuremburg / From the sex of this world that I'll no longer taste"

Like the majority of the album, it's played naked and acoustic. His voice seems almost coated with the depression of the characters he sings. I'm sure other tracks will become radio popular on college indie stations around the country (as he is getting big in the ol' blog hemisphere), and Dylan-esque adjectives will be applied, as they should, but I'm stuck on the power of Bury Me Far (From My Uniform)--a single track on a great album.

Thanks Pug's digital ingénue, you can stream Messenger (out now) below.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Hey Stop By

Many folk-rock bands, that have considerable "Indie" strength, skip the DFW area for reasons unknown to me. Please come by The Morning Benders. We would like to see you. This heartwarming, Phil Specter-esque video of the Benders with John Vanderslice, and some dudes from Girls is proof in the pudding that they should come.

The Benders just released a healthy tour (here), and are stopping plentifully in SXSW--but alas not Dallas.

Review: Nick Oliveri (Acoustic), Aquaholics, Pure Luck @ Doublewide

Three facts from the other night--
1) A Yukon Trail bearded man sang into the microphone, while simultaneously smoked cigarette
2) Nick Oliveri fan confronted insanely loud woman, "Hey how about watching the show?" to which she replied, "No! I'm going to talk to my friend Dana!" (Or Dianne? not sure)
3) Jeff Pinkus was wasted

A hairy evening, for sure. Because it was a packed show, and there were so many moments of musical force, head splitting loudness and tech screw-ups, I'm going to break the evening down into a series of short phrases:

Talking. Bad sound. Shiner Bock in can. Pure Luck is hard as nails, cocaine country. Jagermeister shots in plastic cups, thrown down vigorously when done. Story about a cool fight John Iskander got in. Crazy women pets friend's dreadlocks. Weirded out. Aquaholics are smoking, Dick Dale rock. Fun. Another beer? More shots for band. Sweaty forehead and pits. That guys shirt says "Fuck" on it, a lot. Nick Oliveri is screaming and bald. It takes hefty courage to play acoustic metal (oxymoron?) solo. Long set. Breaks string. Takes requests. Three fans sing "Cocaine Rodeo" to close the show, one is a friend. Me excited for friend. Poster signing. Afraid to to talk to Nick Oliveri in fear of being eaten from the eyeballs down. Bartender screams, everyone out.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Somebody's Darlin' at Good Records, Willie Nelson's Ghost

Somewhere in between brisket and brain melting Texas heat, there's the familiarity of Somebody's Darlin'. For example, the cover of their S/T debut album is a black and white candid of the band chillin' at a bar, whiskey and beer in ready reach. I have the taste of 'tabbecer' brewin' in my lip already. Oh, the thing is: they can really play. Last week, SD celebrated the national release of their S/T album at Good Records, and it couldn't have been stronger. Minus the criminality of bad volume control lessening the impact of Amber Farris's voice, the band as a whole was spot on. "Horses," the opening track to the debut, was as good as any Cardinals / Ryan Adams hybrid out there. "Chug Chuggin'" was heartwarming and showcases Darlin's softer side. "Penny of Thoughts" was through-and-through country (the good kind) that a pair of boots suddenly appeared in my hand, and the ghost of Willie Nelson gently pushed me through the saloon doors of a Austin bar, where country musicians turned and smiled in a grand ballroom like the final scene in Titanic. Oh Willie Nelson's ghost (not dead), take me into the abyssal deep. Lead me by your wrinkly hand. The lights are growing dim. It's really heaven. Look! There's Bocephus by the keg! Wait, he wrote that Monday Night Football thing get him outta' here. I welcome ya'll, Somebody's Darlin'. For your wicked country rock warms our whiskey ready hearts.

Somebody's Darlin' S/T debut is out now via Palo Duro Records.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Review: Jeff the Brotherhood & Screaming Females @ The Lounge Dallas

For a one-and-a-half person band, Jeff the Brotherhood is loud. Half because the guitarist played with only three strings. I don't mean "they broke mid-way through the set"--I'm talking the strings were patiently removed beforehand so that power chords would be the only thing you would hear. Which I noticed when guitarist, Jeff Orrall, took his extra long XLR cable for a heavy metal ride down the hallway all the way to the bar. That's about the time everyone at the bar turned their heads and shut the hell up.

Jeff the Brotherhood is, yes, two brothers: Jeff and Jake Orrall in vintage tees, smokers thin jeans and long 70's haircuts. For a heavy rock-punk band, the kind with metaphors of graveyards and smoke, they were surprisingly focused. Drummer Jake seemed to be on some sort of mega rhythm drug, keeping karate-punch fast drum beats in perfect pace. Jeff's voice live, however, is not the greatest thing you've ever heard, but with songs like "I'm a Freak" and "Screaming Banshee," what's the difference? That said, you have to hear their sound. My first blush impression was "Eh, I've heard this before in another bar," but their focus and timing were so strong it held attention. It was so strong that the audience wasn't really sure when they finished songs (it didn't help they actually had music playing when Jeff tuned his guitar): the songs rang out to the vibrant sound of not-clapping. In this setting, they were a perfect opening band. Granite freaking hard, loud and just...awesome.

Before the Screaming Females (pictured above) came on, a tiny woman in a Norman Bates floral print dress was drifting through the audience. I noticed her because she was so damn small (belly button high to the dude next to me), and her dress was something from Grandma's closet. This is lead singer Marissa Paternoster. Next, let me pause any sense of journalistic language and grammar here, they annihilated my face with rock and bone. Dude, Marissa Paternoster can wail! Jarret Dougherty and "King Mike" on drums and bass, respectively, can wail too! "Bell," from their LP Power Move, was a near perfect Dinosaur Jr. guitar homage, and some leopard scream rock howls from Paternoster; "Baby Teeth" was just as fast and completely furious, with catchy lyrics:

"i am tired of your mouth/ when you're talking about/ the injustice of speech/ on a bus to the beach"

Honestly, I liked every minute. The thrashing drums, the syrup heavy bass, and the solos...my god the solos. They were melting the corduroy off every single hipster jacket. Marissa Paternoster is a force of freaky nature on stage, with seemingly endless larynx wind speeds. Without her, the band becomes another hard punk cog in the machine, though a damn good one. Take a look at some of her lyrics (from "What if Someone is Watching Their T.V.?"):

"this a nice place that you've been living in/ all processed in cans / tricking black ponies into a crippled dance/ buried in the sand"

So, she takes it to new levels of scream vision. Luckily, The Females are on tour in the near future with Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. Here's a straight rule: I like any band that makes their guitars sound like harmonizing puma screams.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Rock Me Like a ______________ Austin Band

In an interview from 2009, Trey Pool, guitarist of THE GARY, told Madeloud that they would be doing a record around the theme of hurricanes and hailstorms. The album turned out to be exactly that: the sound of a hurricane. Logan, which was digitally released in 2009 and set to be physically released next month, has enough thrashing guitars to blow your curtains off the pole.

I like tracks like “Ancient Music” and “Don’t Send Me There” that sound rough and powerful, as though they sweated the making of it. The opening verse from the 7th track, “Hurricane Radio” slows the rock down:
 “Hurricane radio 1,2,3 / I detect my memory trying to out run me …is this a vague broadcast / do you read me?”

It's the gruff, last broadcast of a dying relationship. This is the metaphor of Logan, and the musical elements used are earthen and gruff. There’s no ease in this album. The bass is fiery and the guitar has that ragged, fevered sound that you can hear in good garage bands from Texas. I agree with Austin Sound’s analysis (here) that these guys are more than a one-noter, and like Ryan Adam's fertility- drugged-birthing of multiple country-blues records (or, really, Whiskeytown's rose metaphors), there is room to grow.

The Gary's Logan is available now in print and mp3.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Low Anthem in a Rail Car (and then at the Granada)

Low Anthem - This God Damned House - A Take Away Show from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.

If you were at the Granada around Halloween of last year, you might have caught The Dallas Family Band outside, in their wicked high school band uniforms, thumping drums and piccolo-ing. If you were there around October 28th, and had eagle-keen eyes, you might have noticed that members of the Low Anthem had donned dorky band jackets and joined the fun.

The Low Anthem is an unsuspecting band. Their Steinbeckian folk rock is studded with poetic images of loneliness, empty rooms, American horizons, and of course, birds. The above is one of their best examples, "This God Damn House" (beautifully lit and filmed by La Blogetheque in a railway car outside New York City). Even better news is the glorious, undeterred by SXSW show they have at the The Granada, March 17th. Make sure you catch it, or it will flutter away. Ok that was dramatic, but you should go because they play clarinets, clavinets, and a big harpsichord.

Have You Seen the Mountain Man?

One day, stacks of books (or eBooks or laser books or something) in some faded library will point to the first half of the 2000's and the following decade as a folk revolution. In the meantime, all you have to do is search Myspace. Mountain Man has the sound you're looking for (if you're into hardcore, elvish folk)--soil and trees and elemental strings. They're bringing Appalachian sounds to SXSW in March, but in the meantime check out this video, by artist Yours Truly, which perfectly compliments their harmonies. Ironically, their songs rarely are about the machinations behind concrete or man-made tunnels.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Review: Menkena @ City Tavern in Dallas (Hey, it's shoegaze!) Feb 6th

Have you ever tried to run in a pool? There's a feeling of permanent slow motion, as though you're about to die in a Hollywood action sequence. If you add a heavy dose of stargaze & shoegaze, you have Menkena. Saturday at the City Tavern was all the shoegaze you could stand in one night, which required as much Shiner Bock as I could muster. Menkena is a synaesthesia of a lot of elements. Mollasses. Syrup. Cosmic bathtub. Rooftop winter smoking. I imagine if you had mind altering substances, or an overdose of insulin, it would feel like a trip to the Milky Way, but if you're a member of a half-drunk Texas audience it can lean towards melodrama.

Menkena consists of Jimmy Menkena (guitar, vocals), Mike Simmons, Nolan Thies (of Little Black Dress local Dallas fame), and Brent Elrod. If you haven't seen Jimmy, he's an easy man to spot in a honky tonk--he has a sleeve of tattoos up both arms and a big scoop of curly black hair and thick chops which gives him the Alan Palomo look. I would love to post which Menkena songs were best, and which ones had the most exciting lyrical storytelling, but I was lost in two sensations that made me forget to get a tracklist:

1) Each song made me think I was the Silver Surfer, riding comet speed past Jupiter.
2) Wouldn't if be funny if I were running in slow motion to these songs with my hand outstretched towards the ocean?

Honestly, most Menkena songs sound the same. It doesn't mean they don't make it work--"Red in the Morning" has cool, slowburn guitar that The Edge would be proud of; "I'm One" is a good love song fix. But shoegaze is a take it or leave it genre. You either want it, or you don't. Menkena takes it on the way the Bravo Channel likes to air Real Housewives of Whatever City. It's all over the place, man. It's plastered on the walls. Each song was a cosmic wave of sound, a scintillating reverb of guitar; a acoustic wonderwall. Personally, I find Menkena the kind of band you'd want to go to alone, to nurse a beer and discover new thoughts. For your next Menkena show, bring your Moleskin. You'll be happy you did.

Menkena is in the studio now, according to their Myspace, so look out for an album at your local hang soon.

Friday, February 5, 2010

More Ray at Your Church

Is there anything cooler than a experimental acoustic band from Austin playing in a church? Balmorhea, pronounced Bal-more-ray, is set to release their new LP 'Constellations' at the Central Presbyterian Church in Austin on February 19th. Damien Jurado is on board to accompany, so it promises to be lush enough to shatter some stained glass.

The band is busy. Along with a fat US tour, the band has a Daytrotter session to be released Feb. 23rd, a SXSW stint for Western Vinyl in March, and then it's off to the Netherlands. If all that's boring to you, listen to the brooding song, "Bowsprit," from the new album. You can practically hear the ship's bow dipping into the silvery sea, or of a flag going up a post, or the Master and Commander crew drinking grog quietly in bed.

It's all very serious, but it's still very good. For your art kicks, check out Balmorhea's newly revamped website. It's possibly the most haunting band site ever.

Balmorhea - Bowsprit

No Electrocution this Time

In 2005, Lo-Fi Chorus frontman Erik Thompson was electrocuted, in a gentle reminder that sometimes machines rule us, by faulty equipment at the Cavern in Dallas. His drummer Erik Issacmen kicked a drum and split, but Chad Walls, as Noah Bailey at the Observer reported, put a sock over the microphone and kept the show going.

This is the tenacity of a good-times alt country band. They brought their act back to The Cavern last night, with no technical issues, and it couldn't have been more honest. An adjective I would pick is Kristoffersony. Or, Billy Bragg-esque. They had a Texas flag hastily clipped to the drum, and Erik Thompson had a beat up leather jacket under his harmonica holder. True to the name, some songs were simply Thompson's deep bass notes, and Chad Walls' iPhone synthesizer. Sound fun? It was. No frills. Just bar-country-rock. This was my first experience with Lo-Fi, so my reaction after a robust set was to ask for more band members--a fiddle player? Maybe a big guy with sunglasses and a sexy bass?

Thompson and the rest of the Chorus have a local reach right now (the above, lowlight Youtube video from 2008 is about the only online presence they have)...but that's because they're a local band. They don't have an annoying Twitter feed, and their website goes to a generic domain. Who cares when the music is as honest as a toothpick?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Best Post Punxatawny Phil Concert

Despite what the first verse of Yours Truly, The Commuter reports, Jason Lytle has not been left for dead. He's full of epinephrine; the same vinegar that got him through Grandaddy. His new project, Admiral Radley, is a collaboration between Jason Lytle, former Grandaddy frontman (and friend to the Big D), and Earlimart's Aaron Espinoza & Ariana Murray. It's difficult to pinpoint online -- they don't have a myspace page and the Google search goes about one page deep. So what do they sound like? To find out, you will have to attend the Best Under The Radar Show of the spring season in Dallas: The Low Anthem with Admiral Radley @ The Granada, March 17th.

If you don't know The Low Anthem, then you don't know one of the best folk albums of last year Oh My God Charlie Darwin (Nonesuch). Their particular brand of Steinbeckian Americana has been in Dallas before, but under the umbrella of Blind Pilot. This is their first headlining show. Listen to the minimalistic, soaring Charlie Darwin and the feral, sky melting "Champion Angel." It's poetry (is that too cliche? I don't care.)

There's lots of shows to attend post Punxatawny Phil in Dallas, but I assure you this will be one of the best.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Revenge on the Orange Bearded Man (Why Dallas Doesn't Suck)

A few months ago, The Soft Pack played at The Cavern in Dallas. There were maybe ninety people there, forty-five more than the "maximum occupancy" listed on the road sign near the swinging doors. It was loud and chowder-soup warm in the bar (so was the beer) and the lights were dim enough that you couldn't see the black x on your hand. Even louder were three guys next to me, who I tried to avoid by leaning coolly on the metal pole next to me. One of the guys had a thick orange beard and a big gut, and he drunkenly debated what he should drink at such a volume that anyone in the bar could have suggested "decaf" or sleepy time tea. These three dudes spent the first half of the show overcheering, projecting some weird, undeserved guilt that was later confirmed when the orange bearded guy yelled to the band,

"Sorry Dallas sucks man! Austin is way better."

The Soft Pack continued to play, uncaring and having a California blast. They rip-roared through their electric surf rock and macabre punk. The mood was high, so it makes sense that a few songs later the orange bearded guy bought the band apology shots. I guess for having to play in such a terrible place? He put the glasses on stage with a cocky grin showing beneath his nuclear beard.

So to prove that guy wrong, I want to post four musical based reasons why Dallas Doesn't Suck (in this first half of 2010):

1) Akron / Family with Warpaint @ The Granada, Feb. 25
2) Abe Vigoda (the band, not the man) with The Vivian Girls @ The Lounge, March 16th
3) BROFEST 2010 a festival of music including Dum Dum Girls, Slang Chickens, Those Darlins and a big heaping handful of other underground bands that will melt your teeth
4) Dawes with Cory Chisel & the Wandering Sons @ The Cavern, March 4th

As a special bonus piece of news to Mr. Orange Bearded Man, The Soft Pack will be back for Bro Fest, as announced today by John Iskander over at Parade of Flesh. I will be there, along with several other great shows, watching and waiting for you, Mr. Beard Man: poised with verbal brass knuckles to show you why Dallas kicks butt musically.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Dying Was Much Better (Odd Blood Album Review)

Melancholy dying is a common theme in modern blues inspired rock, but few have done it so thrillingly (or so happily) as Yeasayer's first album All Hour Cymbals. With a bell toll piano and a piercing baby scream, "Sunrise" began the album with a inspired new version of an over-used Carpe diem motif:

"The sky cracked a million ways making me blind / and as the trees grew higher and higher / and the fish began to fly/ I went and stole some wings / and thought why can't I"

Then, the album closed with the remarkable (if you have surround sound) funeral dirge "Red Cave": a mystical celebration at the swirling end. A musical heaven, equivalent to the Northern Lights:

"I went out past the willow and the well / caught my breath upon the hill / at the edge of the domain"

A well executed concept in a very over-used theme: dying, real good. Now we have Yeasayer's sophomore attempt, Odd Blood, to be released February 2nd via a shiny new label (Secretly Canadian). My first impression was the same thrill that opened All Hours--"Grizelda" is like a lost Paul McCartney track fronted by Anand Wilder's well seasoned voice. Grizelda is layered with programmed beats and a delicatessen of influences and world beats. Anand's harmonies are seamless and interesting. That's about the last inspiration I had. The rest of the album takes on the derivative shape of a worn nightclub. Alternate singer Chris Keating's fronted songs are hollowed out, 90's melodrama rock like "I Remember" and "Ambling Alp":

"I remember making out on the airplane / Still afraid of flying but with you I'd die today."
(more after the jump)


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Mirror, Mirror

More Austin news beyond SXSW: Dana Falconberry is releasing a new, redux of her debut LP Oh Skies of Grey. If you already have Skies of Grey, you know most of the songs on the album. Hallets is fuller, richer, and with a warm fidelity--as if all the songs were recorded snug next to "You Are My Sunshine."

As if Falconberry (best last name ever) scooted up to the mic and simplified the music. The Austin Sound reports: "Like her familiar thrift store dresses and worn cowboy boots, there is a timeless quality to Dana Falconberry’s songs. There’s a touch Emmylou Harris in her combination of subtle grace and uncompromising power."

The power is there in the difference between the two cuts of "Singing Lullabies" (see MP3s below). One is indie folk, the other is more moving, Gillian Welch inspired. I prefer tracks from her debut album like "Silver," which have a more interesting, fuzzy guitar bite. Hallets is out now via Falconberry's website: here.

Dana Falconberry (Hallets) - Singing Lullabies

Dana Falconberry (Oh Skies of Grey) - Singing Lullabies

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

In the Citay

Somewhere in between Broken Social Scene's number of members and the grassy, mountainous guitar from Led Zeppelin 3 is Citay. Their new CD, Dream Get Together, came out Jan. 10th (via dead oceans), and since they've been on a neat little tour with The Fruit Bats. I think this is an obvious band, meaning, if you don't like them, you're pretty much missing a lobe. This is what NPR said in 2008:

"The music of San Francisco's Citay brims with a casual, unforced effervescence that belies meticulous arranging."

Dream Get Together is only eight tracks long, so no excuses. Listen to the melting, autumnal "Tugboat" and the playful "Careful with That Hat." Brooding, Highlander guitar in "Return from Silence" (55 seconds): in the droning opening seconds, I imagine Christopher Lambert brandishing a neon sword, and then being hit with a pie-to-the-face of "Dream Get Together."

One thing Citay has is consistency and some meat on their bones, the guitars always have a classic fuzz and the vocals are echoey. There's enough music to go around on this album. There's no bullshit minimalism or fantastic-space programming (though I do love that stuff). It's all guitar girth and peaceful tunes. 

Citay - Return from Silence

Citay - Dream Get Together

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Very Important Message to People That Play Music

If you play through a lightning storm, you immediately become the coolest person in the Milky Way.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Sword

Heavy metal, like killing, is an acquired taste. In my whole life, I've listened to 2, maybe 3 heavy metal songs all the way through. Then there's the Austin band The Sword, with their song titles like "Maiden, Mother & Crone," "How Heavy this Axe," and "Iron Swan": how is a mortal human not supposed to fully enjoy that? For crying out loud, their website url is "swordofdoom.com"! My understanding of heavy metal and bands like Gwar and Motorhead is they have an undercurrent of humor to it; that you're supposed to laugh a little bit at the excess, dripping intensity. The Austin Sound illuminated The Sword beyond the normal cock rock and bad hair in a recent interview:

"JDC [J.D. Cronise] : One thing people always seem to be amused by is the fact that as a band we listen to a lot of hip-hop. They seem to assume we listen to nothing but Black Sabbath. I actually owned a Run-DMC record before I owned a Led Zeppelin record...

...I try to draw inspiration from archetypal mythological forms and look for the commonalities among various stories and traditions. One such archetypal story is the hero’s journey, which is illustrated in countless myths, legends, books, movies, etc. I’ve always been fascinated by tales of a lone hero on a quest, and that plays prominently into the themes of the songs for our next album."

The themes are nothing new in the family of bands with names like Alabama Thunderpussy, but the Sword stands out musically. For me, heavy metal is something you just have to do with a deep breath, and simply plunge your face into the ice. Not that you should stop thinking about its potency or its storyline (as The Sword said above), but if you're into Neil Young's greatest hits--it requires some acoustic sacrifice. The Sword, however, is one of those bands that hits the hammer harder then most. More like the feeling you get when you listen to Dinosaur Jr. over Gwar, The Sword makes you think: this is great.

The Sword - Mother, Maiden and Crone

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Lesser of Two Weevils

Defying time and logic, Frank Fairfield has a wholly digital session of new tracks posted on Daytrotter. I imagine the staff of Daytrotter getting Fairfield around the fancy beeping lights and mics the same way Pecos Bill attempted to wrangle that tornado.

Few artists have the privilege of the live history that Frank Fairfield has: playing with a open violin case at his feet in front of Amoeba records, in gospel churches, at Sausage Grinders. When you listen to his music, you know why. Somewhere in that pre-Reconstruction banjo and ancient folk warble is a 24 year old dude who lives in SoCal. A while ago, I met Fairfield at the Sausage Grinder: he was wearing a tweed jacket, and his banjo strap was made of string. If you're wondering if his music is a novelty in the decade of the "year we make contact," it may just be--but Fairfield is so good that it doesn't matter. Listen to this stunningly old and good cut of "Bo Weevil." Also check out the piece Jeff Weiss did for the LA Weekly, it's the perfect company to the Daytrotter session.

Frank Fairfield (Daytrotter Session) - Bo Weevil

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

To Lothlorien! On the subject of Dork Folk (an MP3 post)

You know how folk artists have that decades old, Woodstock era reputation of being "lame"? Dorkish? Sniffling with thick coke-bottle glasses? Well, I'm a dork. When I was a senior in high school, I spent $400 dollars on a bevel cut, suede hued frame for a Lord of the Rings Poster.

If we're looking at the definition of "cool music," isn't Led Zeppelin the coolest (/bad ass")? In a poll conducted by the Foundation for Songs About Sex in Bathtubs (FSSB): a staggering 98% of participants rated "Dazed and Confused" as the coolest song of all time, while putting all Hall and Oates songs in a low .05 percentile. This low of a percentage rates alongside "Wearing a Pedometer" level of coolness and "Fasting for political issues" cool. How about this little factoid--Robert Plant loved Lord of the Rings. In 1975, live at Earls Court on a Europe tour, Robert Plant can be heard screaming "STRIDER!" at the end of an electrifying performance of Bron Y Aur Stomp (5:40):

Turns out: "Strider" is the Ranger name of Aragorn in Lord of the Rings. Who's the dork now, huh! You can like elves and metaphors about mossy trees.

Which brings me to my point: Meg Baird's "Riverhouse in Tinicum" from her Mother-Nature-pleasing album Dear Companion. Part of me feels like it would accompany the fellowship on the way to Mordor, and the other wants to spin the record with a strong beer. It's charming, unassuming folk in a new decade that will nearly match, if not totally dwarf the folk output of the 1960's. If you feel odd or unsettled piping this mp3 through your work speakers while others are matching the ohms with Lady Gaga or Alicia Keys' song about New York something: do not feel low. Folk is way cool and so is Lord of Rings. Fly you fool and listen to flowers-in-your hair music! Don't quote me though, everyone hates me.

Meg Baird's solo Dear Companion features great collaborators like Arborea (playing at SXSW) and Fern Knight Glenn Jones. Also she's played on tour with Vetiver and Avi Buffalo. Very cool.

Meg Baird - Riverhouse in Tinicum

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cut Your Ear Off (at SXSW)

If Van Gogh and Cezanne had an alt. country band, I think it would be The Deep Dark Woods. Not just because of their water colory album art. Of course, recent news suggests Van Gogh didn't cut his ear off, it was torn, Mike-Tyson-style by Cezanne. But I don't think The Deep Dark Woods are fighting (nor are they actually fighting) because they're busy: last year Hang Me, Oh Hang Me was awarded Best Roots Group by the Canadian music awards; smoking up SXSW; recording sessions at Hear Ya, which is more of the point of this post.

"Banks of the Leopold Canal," an 8 minute track from...wait...none of their records that I can find. But you have to hear it because it's got all kinds of memory to it: Dylanesque Train a Rollin' and WWII and Jay Farrar. A sky blue piano rolls in with reverb and a honeyed voice--

"Time is a tickin' my love / I can no longer stay / Government has ordered me and I must go away...to the banks of the place they call Leopold Canal"

I'm pretty ready for my ear to go bye bye. How weird is it that Van Gogh is cliche? That's sad. Winter Hours is out now, and by far one of the better Alt. Country releases of 2009. 

Deep Dark Woods (Hear Ya Session)- Banks of Leopold Canal

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tim Buckley, Live at the Folklore Center, NYC - March 6, 1967

If you didn't know already, Tim Buckley died in 1975. He was 28. Cut to Sweden, where legendary folk proprietor Izzy Young was sitting on a master tape of Buckley for over twenty years.

The tape was Tim Buckley, age 20, rip-roaring through a acoustic live set at the Folklore Center in New York City. Thanks to the prowess of Tompkins Records (everything they release is good), we have the CD now.

You have to hear it. When a great musician dies too young, his or her critics are left wondering, "What magic would he have created?" Live at the Folklore Center is a captured moment of Buckley's powerful musical talent. Listen to the energy, guitar and voice, of "Song for Jainie," and the stunning "Just Please Leave Me."

Like listening to Nick Drake, or Buckley's own son Jeff Buckley, you feel an undercurrent of sadness sitting with Live at the Folklore. He was too good, too young to die and the way Buckley's acoustic guitar rings in your chest--it feels like you knew him. The warmth and fidelity of this record makes his music all the more personal and moving.

Tim Buckley (live) - Song for Jainie

Owen Pallett : Heartland + MP3

Owen Pallet, the violinist prodigy responsible for the most-impossible-band-to-google Final Fantasy, is a huge dork. He Poos Clouds, his last CD, was partially based around the eight schools of magic in Dungeons and Dragons (won the prestigious Polaris Prize in 2006). He's also a church organist. Forget that--look at his rap sheet. His good friends and collaborators are Beirut, Grizzly Bear, The Mountain Goats, Arcade Fire.

Heartland, his newest release, drops the moniker "Final Fantasy" for bigger, more poetic themes. But if you've seen Owen P. live, you might feel short changed on the album. In a small room / ballroom / bar, Pallet is a winged thing--he rips up the air and his voice is effortlessly perfect. Heartland is good, but often so rich with harmony and layers of strings it becomes cloying. The writing is fascinating and fun, like the verse from the best song from the album, "Lewis Takes off His Shirt":

"My senses are bedalzzled by the parallax of the road / I concentrate to keep contained the overflow"

"Tryst with Mephistopheles" has the catch needed on more songs of the album, and a more balanced mix of classical and indie-pop. Of course, fulfilling his dork destiny, the chorus is partially in Latin. It would be pretentious to say the album is bad: it's too good to sweep it under the one-word-rug. The best part is the concept (the poetry of living in American mind), and the wildness of his sound. Why he's better live--the layers are stripped down and it's just violin and voice. It allows him to let his dorkness fly with no shields, power-ups, or medicinal mushrooms.

Heartland is out now on Domino Records. Get it on big ol' vinyl, it's better that way.

Owen Pallett - Lewis Takes off His Shirt

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Crazy Heart (with Vampires): A.A. Bondy @ Lola's Sixth

I wrote a review for Dallas based Parade of Flesh, check it out here. If you don't feel like clicking, here's a bit of it:

First of all, I missed a huge chunk of the opening act of this show thanks to the Hellraiser labyrinth of Texas highways on the way to Fort Worth. I hate missing opening acts, (sorry Amy Cook) it’s like joining a movie five minutes in: you feel hustled, out of breath, the need to reach over and bug the person next to you with questions like, “What just happened? Who’s that guy with the rifle?”

Unlike me, A.A. Bondy was prompt and charismatic, and he calmed my hurried nerves. It’s the first thing you notice from his stage presence: he exudes confidence. Which is hard to do considering his music is dark, lonely, and bourbon washed. Like Bob Dylan, Bondy likes to mix his songs up live–”Oh the Vampyre” was deliciously slow and full of rich steel guitar; “I Can See the Pines Are Dancing” was finger-picked instead of strummed. With his dark red light on stage, I imagined A.A. Bondy’s live show to be Cormac McCarthy's favorite band.


Friday, January 8, 2010

Dante's Inferno (The Crawdad & Weed in the Mouth Version)

Daytrotter is currently showing an absolutely killer session with Los Angeles boot-kickers Roadside Graves.

Occasionally their songs are about Heaven and Hell, and that's when they transcend modern fiddle country into good, Rolling-stones like blues rock (listen to "Far and Wide" at the bottom of the Daytrotter post, and then scream obscene words like I did because you can't download it).

Roadside will be playing hearty sets at SXSW this year, as you can see from their Myspace page. Their album My Son's Home is out on Autumn Tone Records.

Roadside Graves (Daytrotter Session) - Ruby

Thursday, January 7, 2010

For Your Cocaine Habit

Fair Park in Dallas, TX is known for concocting recipes of deep fried imaginations (enough to make you lose that leg of yours) like fried coke, and fried ghosts. The last one is fake, but I'm ready for whatever.

More realistically amazing, as you can see from the visual aid, MusInk is hosting a kick ass live set: Old 97's, Lucero, Shooter Jennings (for your cocaine habit a-forming), and the great and local Telegraph Canyon. Get your arteries ready by drinking some cheddar and picking up Telegraph Canyon's freaking great album The Tide and the Current.

Telegraph Canyon - Into the Woods

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Civil War Reenactment Music

One of the few folk artists out there giving a little Antebellum flavor to his folk is Joe Pug (see "Bury Me Far From My Uniform"). He's one of the better songwriters out there:

"Your senses have been soaked / it must be more than smoke...She's a messenger if she knows she doesn't care"

He's part of a dirty secret: there is good country music out there amongst the nonsense.

Pug's new album debuts Feb. 16th, and you can see the tracklist here. Also, his site has a embed player available, so you can hear a few new tracks:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Your Local Burlap Sack

Welcome to your local hand-sewn burlap sack record (literally): the new LP from Los Angeles band Slang Chickens. The Chickens are full of piss and folk vinegar:

"I got blues dripping down my leg / I should go to the doctor but I really want to stay in bed"

Through some genius digital-atude, you can listen/embed/stream five songs from the S/T album (see the fancy player below). It's good for wave crushing, banjo licking and not cutting your hair for a long time in rebellion of a conservative mom. I love it.

<a href="http://slangchickens.bandcamp.com/album/slang-chickens">Tropics by Slang Chickens</a>

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