The blog is still going but, after six years, I finally got my got my own URL:
Please update your links and join me at my new digs.
The blog is still going but, after six years, I finally got my got my own URL:
Please update your links and join me at my new digs.
Last night's 30 Rock was the most quotable episode of the show since the classic "Secrets and Lies" back in Season 2. It would be so even without Tracy Jordan's litany of horrific, repressed childhood memories brought to light after his entourage tried to convince him to do Oscar bait film Hard To Watch, Based on the Book 'Stone Cold Bummer,' by Manipulate. But it was those dredged-up memories that provided the biggest laughs. Here they all are, in list form:
While the song title reminds me of a downbeat Korean bus ride with a lady holding a chicken*, the new Drums single is pretty stellar, a further refinement of their sound -- which answers the question "What would the Pretty in Pink soundtrack have sounded like if it had been produced by Martin Hannett?" The video for the song makes Greenpoint look like Salford as much as it possibly could, and features a little kid with an asymmetrical haircut. Yet no wild jumping with tambourines, the signature of their live show. Speaking of, it's almost the one year anniversary of The Drums live debut at NYC Popfest 2009. No anniversary show in NYC, though -- they're spending most of the summer in Europe where people appreciate wild prancing with tambourines.
The Drums debut album is out June 7 and if you give the band your email address, they'll let you download an MP3 of "It Will End in Tears." And below the "Forever and Ever Amen" video:
*Of course I'm mis-remembering. The series finale of M*A*S*H* was "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen." So nevermind, Drums. However, more than one person has asked if it's a Randy Travis cover.
Growing up in the late '70s/ early '80s, I spent a lot of time in the car with my parents and the only radio station we could ever agree on was WRON in my hometown of Lewisburg, WV. The FM station was easy listening (way more horrible than the Lite FMs of today) and it's AM version which played the hits. And at the time, the hits were all pretty mellow. Barry Gibb was writing for everyone, the Doobie Brothers were huge, "You Light Up My Life" was unavoidable, and the Little River Band was the WV-approved version of Steely Dan.
Despite the path my musical taste has taken since, I still have a soft spot for soft rock. (Yes, I own England Dan & John Ford Coley's Nights Are Forever on vinyl.) And I like it when current bands manage to appropriate the better aspects of that time (strong melody and musicianship) into something a little less cheesy. Or even bands that embrace the cheese without irony. I've got three current examples, which is what magazines call a trend piece:
One of the best is Nashville's Silver Seas, the brainchild of Jason Dehming. The band take their sweet time making music, the upcoming Chateau Revenge is only the band's third album in their 10-year career, and their first since changing their name from The Bees in 2006. (If you haven't heard High Society, it's great.) Four years is a long time for a record, but one listen to Chateau Revenge and clearly it's worth the wait. The arrangements on this album are f-ing gorgeous, thick with harmonies and strings. A bit more rock -- in an ELO kind of way -- than their last but no less tuneful. A perfect summer record.
Chateau Revenge is out physically July 6 but you can buy it digitally right now from their website.
Then there's LA eccentric Ariel Pink, who has been making weirdo low-fi bedroom versions of soft rock and '80s cheese since 2004. (Lowfi '80s cheese is basically the chillwave blueprint.) Now signed to 4AD, his forthcoming album Before Today (June 8) goes even further towards yachtrock legitimacy, if not sonic fidelity, thanks to co-producer Rik Pekkonen, an industry veteran who has worked on records by Seals & Crofts, Bread and Kenny Loggins. Mind you, it still sounds like you're listening to a cassette -- it just doesn't sound like it was recorded on one. The songs remain crazy catchy, and no less weird.
And finally we have Rob Smoughton who records under the name Grovesnor and who, if you are a regular follower of this blog might remember his song "Drive Your Car" from a Summer Fridays mix two years ago. More recently you might recognize him as Hot Chip's live drummer/pinch hitter. After a string of intermittent singles over the last few years, Grovesnor just dropped his debut album titled, appropriately enough, Soft Return, and it's nearly impossible to listen to it without conjuring images of Steely Dan, Rupert Holmes, the Doobie Brothers, etc. But listen further and there's a lot more going on here, the production is really nuanced and clever, especially rhythmically. (There's a lot of subtle hip hop / jungle / techno touches going on.) Anyone who's seen Hot Chip play in the last year know how versatile Smoughton is and it's clear he really loves this stuff. Soft Return sounds like a midnight drive through a a rainy neon city as filmed through a Vaseline smeared lens.
I know that when most who think about me actually think of me, three words pop into their heads: Prince Rogers Nelson. Which is why I'm DJing this "Prince Themed" party at Bruar Falls this afternoon from 5 - 8PM. The party goes all night, with bands doing Prince covers and then drunken midi karaoke. I will be playing a mix of actual Prince songs, bands from the Paisley Park stable, cover versions and stuff I deem Prince-esque. Plus, general '80s music probably. Three hours is a long time. If you're artistically inclined, there's a drawing party for the next issue of in-house 'zine TOOT. More info here. Free BBQ. It's all free, actually. Except the booze.
While we wait for Finland's Cats on Fire to make a third album, we can look forward to Dealing in Antiques, a 20-track odds-n-sods compilation from the band's eight year existence. The album is out May 12 on Matinée Recordings and includes a pretty great cover of White Town's unlikely '90s hit "Your Woman," which will probably make Pains of Being Pure at Heart keyboardist Peggy Wang happy if no one else. Check it out:
Last year's Our Temperance Movement made my Best of 2009 list and if you haven't heard it, you should definitely give it a spin. It's like all the best jazzy, jangly bands (Orange Juice, The Smiths, Felt, Wild Swans, etc) of the early '80s all rolled up into one new foppy delight that is fantastic in it's own right.
MP3: Cats on Fire - Letters from a Voyage to Sweden
They're also a great live band, and their Don Hill's performance at last year's NYC Popfest was the highlight of that weekend. So good. They're not playing it this year, but they will be flying over to California later this month, playing Hungry Beat! party at La Cita in LA on May 29 and then the San Francisco Popfest on May 30 (with the Tyde, My Teenage Stride and more!) -- do go see them if you live over there. They'll then jet to Hong Kong for a show on June 12. Hopefully we'll get them to the East Coast this year at some point.
Full track list for Dealing in Antiques after the jump:
Folks were just beginning to file downstairs at Cake Shop when the band launched into "C'mon," clearly ready to get on with their Friday night. It was totally a I-won't-do-what-you-tell-me Soft Pack thing to do. The LA band were finishing up a whirlwind tour promoting the release of their debut album, which included 10 shows the previous Saturday in their current hometown and had been going nonstop ever since. Only one show this day in NYC, but it was a late one -- doors at midnight -- as well as being all-ages and free. Me, I was in the bathroom line when they started but made it down front by the end of the the second song of their 13-number set.
The Soft Pack are a lot of fun to watch: Guitarist Matt McLoughlin has an intense, gnashed-teeth grin on his face the whole time; bassist David Lantzman (whose birthday it was) is all laid back California cool; and stand-up drummer Brian Hill keeps things barrelling along sans hi-hat. And singer Matt Lamkin ties it all together with that low key but we-mean-it-man attitude. We got most of the new album, a few choice cuts from their Muslims days and their almost unrecognizable cover of Phoenix's "Fences." They finish with the storming "Parasites" (the new album's only retread of old material) that makes the most of it's one chord. The song typifies the Soft Pack too. Maybe the parts aren't new, but they play them like they are.
SETLIST: C'Mon | Down On Loving | Answer to Yourself | Extinction | Bright Side | Right and Wrong | Tides of Time | Beside Myself | More or Less | Faith Man | Fences | Pull Out | Parasites
MP3: The Soft Pack - Pull Out (buy it!)
I think "Pull Out" may be my favorite song on the new album, rivalling "Parasites" for energy and snarl, sort of surf rock via New Zealand. The whole album is good and, apart from "Parasites" (which was just a single) it's all new material. That first EP never really got a proper release so they coulda just reused all those songs for this, which they didn't (and clearly didn't need to) do and you gotta give them credit for that. The Soft Pack will be back in NYC in April with Nodzz, The Beaters and Male Bonding, so don't miss 'em when they're play. Dates are after the jump.
This year could be for Hot Chip what 2009 was for Phoenix: one where a band who've grown steadily more popular over the years release their fourth album and officially blow up. That's the feeling I got from the band's show at Music Hall of Williamsburg where the band had the sold-out crowd going bonkers the entire set. And the crowd wasn't just too-cool hipsters, either. (Though they were in full effect.) There are plenty of "normal" folks too, young and not-so-young. Everyone was dancing, sweating, singing along to every song. The positive vibes were definitely felt by Alexis, Joe and the rest of Hot Chip who pretty much beamed the whole show, especially guitarist Al Doyle who also rocked the steel drum on a few songs and seems to relish playing in two of the best dance bands in the world. (He's also a member of LCD Soundystem.) This was my seventh or eighth time seeing Hot Chip and without a doubt it was the best I'd ever seen them -- by a mile.
We got about half of Hot Chip's great, new, gushingly romantic album One Life Stand as well as a smattering of songs from Made in the Dark and The Warning. (Don't think we got anything from Coming on Strong but I could be wrong about that.) Perhaps realizing this was a Saturday night crowd, apart from new number "Slush" in the encore they left the ballads at home. With a touring drummer now added to the mix, band both Doyle and singer Alexis Taylor playing additional percussion, all the songs have a little more oomph. Hot Chip always seeming to be changing the arrangements of their songs: "Boy From School" becoming a full-on dancefloor rager; "Ready for the Floor" has become such a better song I almost wish they'd rerecord it; and new track "We Have Love," spare in it's recorded version, sends the crowd into ecstasy; "Hold On" rocks harder. One Life Stand's "I Feel Better" still sounds like "La Isla Bonita" but still has the crowd (including Les Savvy Fav's Tim Harrington, a row behind me, singing all the words) going mental.
And there is no stopping "Over and Over," sending the crowd over the edge into undulating hysterics, like when the killer in Perfume finally releases his perfect fragrance on an unsuspecting crowd. At the end of the song, I found myself a good 20 feet to the left of where I was standing at the start of the song. I'm not sure how that happened, but I still had all my clothes on at the end, so I'm not too worried about it. It may only be February, but it's gonna be hard to knock this show out of my Best of 2010 show list.
MP3: Hot Chip - One Life Stand
Best New Music recipient One Life Stand is out tomorrow on Astralwerks/DFA. The band will be back in April playing Terminal 5 with The XX and tickets are still available for the 4/23 show.
Openers The French Horn Rebellion are a lot of fun, sort of the white nerd version of Chromeo with a bit of comedy team in there too. Siblings Robert and David Perlick Molinari (here with help from Savoir Adore's Paul and Diedre) maybe try a bit too hard in the yuks department, but when they actually get around to playing songs (like their killer single "Up All Night") you can't really argue with the grooves and hooks. They've got the studio skills, and will have their live show figured out soon, so watch out. Download a free EP's worth of tracks here.
Also in attendance: Cameron and Abbey of 'Sup who I braved the front of the crowd with for most of the night and have much better pictures than I do. A couple more grainy shots after the jump...
It's rare when a single's a-side is bettered by the flip. Rarer still that a cover surpasses the original. But I think both those things happen with Veronica Falls' debut 7" on Captured Tracks. "Found Love in a Graveyard" made my Favorite Singles of 2009 list when it was just an MP3 floating around on the internet -- indiepop at its sad, romantic best. But what a treat too see they covered Roky Erickson's "Starry Eyes" for the b-side. Roky's take (of which there are many versions) was more twangy power pop, but Veronica Falls let the lovelorn lyrics lead the understated arrangement, punctuated with ooh-wee-oohs and the fragile vocals of Roxanne Clifford and Patrick Doyle, both late of Glasgow's Royal We and Sexy Kids. Perfect for you next crush mix-tape.
MP3: Veronica Falls - Starry Eyes