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 ""! 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 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="">Tropics by Slang Chickens</a>

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