31 August 2006

Kamikaze Hearts

The Kamikaze Hearts are playing tonight at my favorite folk venue, Club Passim. It's my favorite because it's a cheery, friendly place with inventive and shockingly good vegetarian food, and because they choose their acts well.

So I thought I'd give Kamikaze Hearts a listen, since they already come with the Club Passim stamp. It's a little hard to listen to them objectively and as themselves, since to my ear at least the frontman's voice sounds like Ben Folds in his less-gentle moments, or Barenaked Ladies' Steve Page: drawling, somehow throaty and reedy at once. I have no particular love for either Ben or Steve, so it's hard to listen fairly at first.

I suspect they're one of those bands that are better live, which increases my chagrin at not being able to go tonight; recorded they sound like serviceable, enjoyable folk-veined indie rock, but live they've drawn intelligent raves from sources that I respect (sources that unlike bloggers, have the necessity or the motivation to write about music they don't adore).

They've got a new CD Oneida Road; Top of Your Head I like, but it's got the strongest Barenaked Ladies impression--their instrumental style and genre allegiances are entirely different, but the vocal impression is (for me anyway) unshakeable, and it only gets stronger in "You Can't Just Leave".

No One Called You A Failure is a little easier, but it's "Defender" that's much easier to listen to as an independent song; the four-part harmony is enough to obliterate the distracting resemblance, and it becomes clearer that they're a strong group both in writing and in performance--the grimly upright side of folk is always appealing, and it's well done here.

The vocal resemblance disturbs me; it's unfair to the band that I shouldn't be able to hear them clearly because they sound like a singer I don't particularly like; but them's the breaks, I suppose. It seems inevitable but unfair that most singers end up standing or falling on the similarities of their timbre and manner to preceding singers. But I'd still like to see them live.

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30 August 2006

Bits & Pieces

Final Fantasy is playing at PA's Lounge in Somerville on Friday! I missed Owen when he came through the first time, and I'm not bloody missing out again.

Amy Millan is coming to the Paradise in November. Fancey (Tim Fancey from the New Pornographers) is coming to Bill's Bar in September. Rogue Wave is coming to the Middle East in September. Maybe I won't move to Seattle.

Peter Mulvey, whom I saw at Club Passim, is on All Things Considered. Good for him.

Now that Chan Marshall is dry maybe the MFA shows become a better bet?

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29 August 2006

Stephin Merritt @ Bumbershoot

Damn, I'm not even going to pretend not to be jealous. Stephin Merritt is playing a benefit show for 826 Seattle, a nonprofit writing & tutoring youth center, at Bumbershoot on Friday 1 September. It's part of People Talking and Singing, which was already featuring readings or live sets from Dave Eggers, Sarah Vowell, Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket), Smoosh, Zach Rogue of Rogue Wave, and Colin Meloy. The only downside is they're selling tickets through the evil ticket overlords.

Do I need to move to Seattle?

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28 August 2006

Myspace Rundown

New sorta feature. Now that I'm on the tweener's paradise, I get random friends requests from a fair number've small bands. Thought a brief rundown might be a nice thing to do; it'll also make me write about music that isn't a particular favorite, as part of my ongoing Really Be Critical campaign.

Joe Pena Greyhound Soul: Not bad. Nice laid-back vibe, weak vocals on some tracks like "Into the Room;" but "World Demo" has a Tom Waitsy kinda appeal. B+, mebbe.

Lono: At first glance, not very interesting. Overwrought Tool-type music without the structural depth of Maynard. It's got some of the same driven testosterone appeal, so it's ok if that metal's your bag in general, but there's no particular draw or reason to hang on to it otherwise. C+.

Fallen View: Pretty bland, but pretty nice. Their little blurby bit by their picture (I'm sure that part of a profile has a name, but I don't know what it is) about sums it up: vocally-driven melodic niceness. C+.

mechanical birds: Loses points before I've even heard anything by doing this odd white-out thing that makes the Myspace URL hard to read. Why do that? It's sugary techno-pop, maybe a little more skilled than I would have expected. B.

There seems to be a common theme here--most of these bands fill a niche very adequately but without much innovation or creativity (always remembering, of course, that these opinions were formed after listening to three tracks a couple of times each). I don't think this is necessarily representative of musicians on myspace--a'tris is my favorite example, they're damned good, and there are all kinds of really stellar people like Regina Spektor and Casey Dienel and Birdmonster. Is it just the law of averages, or are bands looking to befriend random music bloggers uniformly mediocre? Only time will tell, I s'pose.

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Earworm: Stars - Tonight

It's a funny thing; most sweetly sentimental songs aren't very catchy, and most very catchy songs are more cheerful than sweet. This might be a little more practical if rephrased to say that catchy songs are usually more up-tempo--I wish somebody would do some experiments to pin down the perceptual components that make up or equate to catchy. But I sort of shudder to think of the Pavlovian haiku advertising that would come out of such research, so maybe it's better undone.

Stars seems like a good band to explore the catchy sentimental possibilities, since they do both sides so well; and they might've even figured out the formula, since Tonight from Nightsongs has been stuck in my head for three days now, so it must be catchy; I think--on second thought I'm not sure if that's a fair conclusion; can songs that aren't catchy be persistent earworms? but it's definitely not up-tempo or cheerful.

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25 August 2006

Earworm: Nick Cave - Babe You Turn Me On

This is a most wonderful song. The frank juxtaposition of arousal and the quiet end of purpose or the world--I don't know what to make of it, but it's powerful.

Nick Cave - Babe You Turn Me On

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24 August 2006

The Death of Dynamic Range

Disclaimer: I'm not an engineer. Anybody who is, please chime in with clarifications, corrections, or more information.

The excellent Jerry Yeti has pointed out an informative article on The Death of Dynamic Range; this is a consequence of making music on CDs uniformly loud (since digital music has an absolute peak amplitude, unlike analog). If you try to exceed this limit, the sound gets distorted as it's limited to the digital range; basically, by making everything almost as loud as a CD can encode, the dynamic peaks (bits louder, usually for emphasis or a sense of climax) are pulled back down to the peak admissible amplitude--which, because the whole thing is nearly at peak, is the same as everything else.

Interestingly, it's taken Europe and Asia longer to jump on the loudness-wars bandwagon; below are waveforms from Ricky Martin's 1999 ear-bleeding single "La Vida Loca."

The very-zoomed-up version, with the left stereo channel on top and the right one on the bottom:

You can see, at the bottom of both channels, the amplitude is artificially cut off. This is bad.

Compare a 1999 UK release, "Swear It Again" by Westlife:

There's one point at peak while the rest moves around it. This is good; instead of the whole track being pretty uniformly loud, it has a focus.

I wish there were examples from classical music on this article; it seems like the loss of dynamic range would be particularly devastating to classical music, or even most instrumental-only stuff--so is it happening, I wonder, or is this a vocal-pop-only phenomenon?

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23 August 2006

Bishop Allen @ Middle East (Up)

Full disclosure: I have a considerable, and possibly unfair, affection for Bishop Allen; a dear friend introduced me to Charm School, which came out while I lived abroad; I listened to it in the métro on the way to the pool most mornings, in my tank suit and baggy Homestar hoodie. I found and still find their mix of utter dorkiness, diffident charm, and Modest-Mousey bombast to be addictively . . . well, addictive. I definitely show symptoms of the fankid syndrome with them. Full disclosure, like I said.

Even with that, though, it was a good show last night. The MidEast Up was full (granted it's not the biggest venue in the world, or even the biggest small venue in Boston); interestingly, the crowd seemed less ferociously hip than the crowd at Jens Lekman's show around the corner not too long ago. Younger, more simply dressed, a little more awkward.

They started out playing so softly that it seemed they were going to make the live mistake of gentling everything, in reaction to the other live mistake (Indiscriminate Rock Out With Your Cock Out). Thank goodness they made neither mistake--they started gently and built from there. They played less from Charm School than I'd expected--just Empire City, and possibly one other; I'm sure they're tired of those songs, but inevitably Empire City went over like a house on fire. The Monitor (from the March EP) and Flight 180 (from the April EP) were the best tracks of the evening; Flight 180 was a favorite of mine from beforehand--who can resist that opening?--but I'd neglected The Monitor until now. They did play a couple that I didn't know--one called Rain, and one possibly called Conversation. I fervently hope that Rain is on the August EP.

Their sound was well done, and they played well onstage: none of the muffing and fumbling that often happens in live shows, and thanks to the presence of a couple of multi-instrumentalist friends handling the saxophone, xylophone, oboe, drums, and other various bits, the instrumental funkiness of the studio recordings was maintained. Speaking of studio! One of the many reasons Bishop Allen is so brilliantly cool is that they're making a go of truly independent distribution; they have an EP-a-month project this year, and you can buy them all straight from the band here. They are all top-notch, $4 for the digital-download version and slightly more for a beautifully packaged hardcopy. Go buy all of them and dance around ridiculously like I do.

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22 August 2006

Unexpected Covers: The Laura Veirs Chorus?

So it seems there's a CD called The Young Rapture Choir; this album is a collection of songs written by Laura Veirs and performed by a choir of school children in Cognac, France. The one track that's floating around is their version of Magnetized; aside from the oddness of hearing Laura's lyrics in a French accent, it's even odder to hear one of her songs done rhythmically straight, with all of her odd leaps and syncopations ellipsized. It's no better or worse than one might expect, I think, but still interesting to hear.

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Cat Power & Decemberists

Note: Cat Power - Wonderwall isn't as good as it should be; the chord work is oddly plodding. Too bad--the song suits her voice and manner.

I've heard variously that The Crane Wife is going to be more mature than past Decemberists stuff (although I'm not sure what that means, really), or that it's going to be even more self-pitying. Obviously I'm hoping for the former; having listened to four tracks, I wonder if "more mature" doesn't mean . . . abandoning their accustomed nineteenth-century, flouncing rhythms. The Crane Wife certainly seems to do that less, and it might pass for maturity.

The Perfect Crime is oddly disco-sounding for the Decemberists; and Colin repeats the perfect crime so many times it loses its meaning. When the War Came almost gets into prog rock territory, with its spiraling instrumentation. It's not the Decemberists we all know of old, but I like it.

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Bits & Pieces

Thank goodness somebody else is thinking this too! Harp has an article on the proof that supergroups aren't always a good thing.

John Darnielle has done an eMusic Dozen of immersion tank CDs. This is funny because he's also done an Extreme Metal Dozen that, er, only has ten items.

Chan Marshall is doing a couple solo shows at the MFA in September. My respect for them as a music venue continues to grow. She has a pretty spotty performance history, so I hope she pulls it off--but I'm not paying 25$ for a possible meltdown-as-spectator-sport.

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21 August 2006

New Find: Wax Poetic

I've been listened to Wax Poetic's 2004 CD Nublu Sessions for a few years now--I think I got my hands on the track Angels pre-release; but I've only just found their older self-titled CD. I am, how you say, very pleased.

It share some tracks with the later CD; by and large, the ones it doesn't share are more groove and less melody, so it's not quite the same thing. There are lots of short, atmospheric, non-sequitur tracks, which makes it one of those CDs that should definitely be listened to by itself and in order, at least until you've got a handle on it. There are fewer vocals, and the ones that do show up are more atmospheric spoken-word stuff than actually sung.

At the moment, my favorite track is On. It's still very groove, but it saves itself from being featureless by the variety its different tracks show in timbre. There's a very diffuse, electronica-sounding sorta-bass line, a very physically textured midline (it sounds like spoons) and the occasional appearance of a sort of whizzbee noise that makes me think of a diminutive comet.

There's another track I'm inclined to like called "Mother Earth," but it loses points with a too-consciously-rhythmic, suave spoken word part. So it seems it wouldn't do to go into this CD expecting the same kind of thing as Nublu Sessions, but it's still an interesting listen.

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19 August 2006


So this is interesting--the Raleigh News & Observer (or News & Disturber as the locals call it) is profiling a startup that aims to increase the online presence of label-less bands. My first though is--is that necessary? We've all been beaten over the heads with how Myspace and music/mp3 blogs are making labels unnecessary for indie bands, and new artists like Lily Allen who are making their name almost entirely from online buzz. (Note: She says she's "pop/hyphy/ska." What's hyphy?)

The site isn't up yet, but I'm very curious how exactly it'll work and how orchestrating online and largely decentralized publicity will help--it seems contradictory to me.

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18 August 2006

Bloggers and New Music

Bloggers have a reputation for being uncritical fankids; I suspect this comes from writing about only what you want to--none of us have editors breathing down our necks to get a column out or do a review of the new [insert name here] CD. We don't have to write about anything we don't like, so most of us don't. Reviewing the mediocre is particularly hard--if it's good or bad you can usually get to the meat of why, but if it's mediocre what is there to say--"It just isn't very good"? Not much of a satisfying review; so we all slant to the positive, and write about what we like.

This aggravates me. Uncritical anything is rarely good. So I've decided to review every damn mp3 that ends up in my box, good, bad, or indifferent. I can't possibly love all of it, so it'll involve learning how to figure out why music is not very good or bad.

The first victim of this decision is a couple of bands that Cloud Recordings sent out--Dark Meat and The New Sound of Numbers.

Dark Meat is one of the growing numbers of supergroups; their proper name including all of their members is Dark Meat/Vomit Lasers Family Band/Galaxy, which certainly makes my list of candidates for the Worst Band Name Evar Award. Aside from that, they're from Athens, Georgia, and they have a new CD coming out in late October called Universal Indians.

Honestly, I don't think they're very good; all of their songs sound like they got a little too excited about having so many members. Their voice parts are intermittently discordant but rarely interesting, and their instrumental sound is sprawling and shapeless without any redeeming grandeur. Angel of Meth is the best song I could find; it starts out a cool hybrid between vocal harmony and yelling, and judging by their other songs, holds together pretty well. Later in the song, though, the vocals take an unfortunate turn towards Robert Smith. No.

The second one is much better, or at least much more to my liking--The New Sound of Numbers' Frequency Transmission System, also from Athens; their new CD comes out in October too. It's called Liberty Seeds, and eventually you'll be able to order it from Cloud Recordings. A jerky, jointed beat reminds me of--Bonobo? Xploding Plastix?--and the vocals approach the artificiality of medieval chants or a skipping record at times. They're pretty kooky. I like 'em.

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17 August 2006

Torquil & Dumont: Memphis

I guess, since Amy Millan has one or maybe two other bands depending on how the term's defined, Torquil's allowed one too. I'm curious about all of their non-Stars projects, since I can never make out if either one is the dominant pleasure in Stars, and a solo project gives me a chance to figure it out; and Memphis (Torquil and Chris Dumont) has a new CD called Little Place in the Wilderness.

Memphis is nice--the whisperiest of Stars songs--but it's a little too consistent, I think. I like the balance of Stars, where they can't be said to be consistently either dreamy or anthemic (although they're usually one or the other); over the course of the Memphis CD, I start to feel like Torquil is whispering too much.

Time Away is one of the songs that make me impatient. Too much like dreamy Stars, too contrastless. I'll Do Whatever You Want I like better--a little more energetic, a little less whispery, although I'm not sure what I think of the wind section's contribution. (It's pretty irrelevant to the music, I suppose, but Daniel Handler aka Lemony Snickett is set to direct the video for this track.)

Hearing Torquil without Amy's decided me, I think; Amy's the greater pleasure in Stars--I like her solo stuff unreservedly. She's got a better balance of tempo (see Headsfull below), and her voice has a clearer, stronger tone. I still like their lyrical interactions as Stars and they're both necessary for that o'course, but judging them as vocalists, I say Amy wins.

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16 August 2006

Chris Walla solo CD @ Barsuk

It seems Barsuk is going to release a Chris Walla solo CD in March of next year; which sounds a bit ambitious, considering it hasn't been recorded yet?

I laugh a little bit inside when I hear of Chris Walla, ever since I saw Death Cab playing in Boston, and here's why: Chris only dances backward. While he was playing he would dance backward for maybe five paces' distance, and then walk forward until he was at his starting point again, and then dance backward. This continued for the whole show, and it is funny.

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I'm on the Blogger beta setup now, and Tourb.us has kindly obliged me by creating a super-easy badge creator, so the look will be changing a bit until I get everything solidified. The now-integral Blogger tags will be the biggest change. . . gotta figure out whether I like that or the Technorati tags bettah.

But argh, damn! Somehow porting over to the new Blogger seems to have removed the labelr tags I'd already put on all the entries. Damn hell ass.

15 August 2006

Emiliana Torrini: A Joanna Newsom for the Rest of Us

I wanted to like Joanna Newsom--I really did. There aren't nearly enough vocalists playing instruments other than guitar, and I suspect that her deliberately obscured rhythms would delight a musician who's interested in thinking about that sort of thing; but it just feels obstructivist to me in the end.

Emiliana Torrini has some of the same babylike vocal qualities that Joanna Newsom shares with Björk and Anais Mitchell; but it doesn't feel like she's trying to keep you out of her music like Newsom, and her mannerisms aren't obtrusive and distracting like Mitchell--and, rather obviously, she doesn't share the electronica experimentalism bit with Björk, and her vocals tend to be somewhat more restrained. (I guess it would be hard not to be more vocally restrained than Björk. I s'pose it should also be noted she's Icelandic, as is Björk.)

It's possible that in a couple of weeks I'll be finding Emiliana twee and precious, too dreamy; and some of her songs I do already find so--I wish she had a little more edge, a song that was notably undreamy. But there are the occasional vivid lyrics (we gather like ravens on a rusty scythe / just to watch such a little dove) that might push that opinion out a little further into the future. For now, I'm enjoying her.

Emiliana Torrini - Nothing Brings Me Down from Fisherman's Woman

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14 August 2006

The Shape of Song

Martin Wattenburg has created a javascript that puts together a structural visualization of any MIDI file; this means you get to see the different layers of repetition. It's a little limited--as far as I can tell it only analyzes repeated phrases or notes and doesn't take into account harmony and dissonance; I have no idea how adding that next level could be done, but it'd win major props from me.

This is Phillip Glass's "Candyman;" the two tracks represent two voice parts, and it won't surprise anybody who's familiar with Phillip Glass.

This, on the other hand, is Chopin's Mazurka in F sharp minor. Again, it won't surprise anybody who's played or listened actively to Chopin.

It's interesting to look at the different parts from a complex song like, say, Radiohead's "Exit Music (for a Film)", but another limitation of the script is, there's no way to overlay these tracks or see how they might interact. It's still damn cool, though.

I lurve creatively analytical people.

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10 August 2006

ATSS dark for the weekend

Off to DC for the Washington, DC Fountain Pen Supershow (yes, I'm that kind of geek, too) and expecting minimal to no internet, so ATSS will be dark for the weekend. Hopefully I can get all my pens on the plane, even if I have to empty the ink out of 'em. . .

09 August 2006

Bishop Allen July Out

I'm always excited about these; Bishop Allen does a mix of pathos and stomping bravado that I don't resist. I love their self-published EP project, am geekily proud of knowing where Bishop Allen Drive is, and tickets to their show at the Middle East are on my dresser.

But Justin in a movie? Damned if I had any idea of that. Fortunately, it does come to Boston, so I'll get to see it; unfortunately, it has a pretty limited release.

Bishop Allen - Clickclickclickclick from the new EP. I think that's the right number of clicks, anyway.

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08 August 2006

Stephin Merritt Interview @ Pitchfork

Everything from Stephin Merritt is good; this includes the interview at Pitchfork, but not showtunes, because I said so. Particularly interviews wherein artificial lyric engines come up. . .

Pitchfork: You've spoken a lot about the importance of new technology in pushing music forward. Do you think that new technologies might actually revitalize song craft, by necessitating new techniques of writing and production?

Merritt: Well, I'm still waiting for the lyric generator.

Pitchfork: There are text machines, but they're not very well-oiled.

Merritt: The good lyric generator. I can imagine lyrics becoming better written by smart machines rather than stupid musicians. Songwriters generally have nothing to say. They may as well be replaced by machines.

Does he consider himself a songwriter with nothing to say? That would be odd. He also mentions "serious music," but just as something that isn't subway-headphone material. What's serious music? Is Magnetic Fields serious music? Interesting interview, anyway.

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The [Infamous] Stringdusters @ Club Passim

The stage at Club Passim is a bit small; spacious for two and more than adequate for three, it becomes comically tight trying to hold the six guys of The (now infamous) Stringdusters. (It seems they had to change their name--whether because of the rare-book store of the same name I found upon googling them, or some other cause, I couldn't say.) There's Andy on dobro, Jesse on mandolin, Chris on banjo, Travis on bass, another Chris on guitar, and Jeremy on violin--pretty much everybody sings at one time or another.

The upside of crowding this many musicians on a stage is that it seems more like a hangout session in an impossibly musical group of friends than a band. They sidle around eachother, trying not to produce any unintentional hijinks by whacking anybody with guitarnecks; Travis produces an almost audible cartoon-style whpp-zhyrm when he shoots up from the back to do vocals. With that many players onstage, comparing musical mannerisms becomes an inevitable game: Chris-on-guitar can only do certain notes if he's on his tip-toes; Jesse is impossibly fast; Travis watches people like he's trying to read their hand at cards; Chris-on-banjo is the dispassionate one; Jeremy is channelling Colin Meloy in style matters.

In their sound, too, the advantages of so many musicians become obvious: the different timbres weave and complement eachother just as nicely as the musicians. Their CD is coming out on Sugar Hill Records (same label is Nickel Creek), but no word on title or date; below is the best samples I could get--an excerpt of "Dream You Back" and one of "Letters from Prison"--"Dream You Back" showcases the nimble celerity that bluegrass demands, and "Letters from Prison" has some appealing harmony. They're only excerpts, though, so we'll all have to wait for the CD.

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07 August 2006

Earworm: Regina Spektor & Amy Millan

Two earworms today, both wonderfully cool female vocalists. First, Regina Spektor; damnably, she came to Boston four months ago, before I'd started listening to her. Hate it when that happens! Her lyrics are a little . . . self-indulgent? just the usual pop romantic disappointment--but the rhythmic structure in this song is created by plucked strings, which makes up for the lyrics a bit.

Regina Spektor - Fidelity from Begin to Hope

Second song is Amy Millan, the luminous voice from Stars, and it's a little more folky, a little less driven than Regina's track but lyrically much nicer--a kind of matter-of-fact wistful that lapses into the overwrought sometimes (not a bad portrait of a breakup, in fact).

Amy Millan - Baby I from Honey from the Tombs

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04 August 2006

Daytrotter's Next Set: Thao Nguyen

Daytrotter's next set, which goes up 7 August, is Thao Nguyen. I've heard a song or two of hers, but Daytrotter's sets are nice because they give you an EP's worth of material . . . enough to get a feel for a musician.

Also, it seems Thao is touring with Laura Veirs and the Tortured Trombonist and Drummer in Europe this summer. Only in Europe, dammit!

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03 August 2006

Playlist in Progress: Comfort Food

This is the soundtrack of the kind of day that makes you want to refuse to get out of bed: music that's comforting just because it is so damn good. Heavy on the strings, and the luminous voices, and the contented beats.

1. Iron & Wine/Calexico - Burn That Broken Bed (off of In the Reins)

It's just so good--it sparkles and flows and hisses like cooling, molten metal.

2. Ben Taylor - Digest off of Another Run Around the Sun

One of those lovely songs that admits that life is hard, to the tune of a contented groove.

3. Kristin Hersh - Trouble off of Sunny Border Blue

4. Beth Hart - Leave the Light On off of the CD of the same name

One of the few girl-powery CDs I can stand; the acoustic bit at the end is the loveliest.

5. Kings of Convenience - Love Is no Big Truth off of Riot on an Empty Street

First song by them that caught my ear. A cheerful, snappy disco tune denying that love is a big deal? It might ring a bit hollow, but how can anyone not be comforted?

6. Res - Tsunami from How I Do

Laid-back beat and sweet, sweet vocals.

7. Neulander - Flying off of Smoke + Fire

Still a laid-back beat, but with more movement to it; and sweetly distorted vocals.

8. Mike Doughty - I Hear the Bells off of Haughty Melodic

Upbeat, with Doughty's gravelly voice; and hearing joyful bells is one of those Things. It's good.

9. Spoon - Chicago at Night from Girls Can Tell

10. Rogue Wave - Screw California off of Descended Like Vultures

Somehow very irrelevant and lovely; Zach Rove's voice on showcase.

11. Alexi Murdoch - Breathe from Time without Consequence

12. Ben Gibbard - Carolina from Home vol. V

Maybe just because I'm from a Carolina.

13. The White Stripes - In the Cold, Cold Night off of Elephant

Always did wish Meg would sing more.

14. Ernie - I Don't Want to Live on the Moon from Bert & Ernie's Greatest Hits (yes really)

The ultimate comfort song.

15. Dar Williams - This Is Not . . . from The Honesty Room

Girl's voice is like a flute.

16. James Taylor - Line 'Em Up from Hourglass

This song was my alarm clock when I lived in the Netherlands; I always see sunlight on the walls of my bedroom there when I hear it. So o'course it's gotta be on the list. Plus, it's James Taylor, who might have the most comforting voice ever.

17. Some By Sea - The Beginning of the World Often Comes from On Fire

Well, I said it was gonna be heavy on the strings.

18. R.E.M. - Sweetness Follows from Automatic for the People

Michael Stipe goes with James Taylor in the voice category. What is that quality--timbre? Expressiveness? Hard to pinpoint.

19. Aaron Copeland - Simple Gifts from Appalachian Spring

Just for the times when the brass carry the melody.

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02 August 2006

New: For Those Who Know

Is a band from Austin that describes'emselves as "post-punk rock and pure psychedelic shoegaze pop" on their Myspace, but this pretentious, purple review says they're emo. Is that a contradiction? I'm bloody rotten at genres.

That review there actually makes me think about a problem with music journalism (which goes equally for the old-skool print stuff or the blogosphere)--most of the writers either aren't musicians, or are writing with a non-musician audience in mind, and so the technical specifics are sorta off-limits; in trying to be vivid and communicative, writers just end up being abstract, overwrought, and unverifiable. It's a bit like talking about wine, maybe: some people understand the vocabulary and use it with precision, but most people (like me) just Make Shit Up. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but usually lacks restraint as far as accuracy and relevance go. Thinking about this does make you ask: what exactly do I have to say about this music?

So having said that, I now have to keep my comments simple and pragmatic: I think I like 'em, although it's not something I could see myself wanting specifically--more like a way to fill out a playlist without introducing any real outliers. They're free literally with their early works, quite literally: you can download their whole EP here (flash-based website, so it's not a direct link, but click on Audio to the left), even though they're also selling it, although only through MySpace so far.

Most've their show dates are in Texas--which means I won't get to hear 'em live. Shame--but I still like the EP.

For Those Who Know - Competition off of the self-titled debut

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01 August 2006

Squave Wave Punch rE(P)dux

Sean from SWP had the coolness to email me their EP (and give permission for it to go up). This is good--much better than trying to form an impression of a band from just one track. Given the number of hits that entry's been getting, it seems there's some interest, so here it is, along with some notes. (The Underrated Blog is a big fan o'theirs, and some live pictures of them on a Flickr set--is that a tinsel backdrop?)

Given more material, my impression gets better; I think they're still part of that just-rock group I was thinking about, but upon hearing more they seem more substantial, more interesting. Might be just because I listened to them back to back, but SWP sorta reminds me of the jagged, comfy swing of Pinback minus their distinctive guitar sound, a'course, and plus a little more intensity and edge. It is maybe also noteworthy that there's a song called "Neckface"--which makes me wonder if it has anything to do with the elusive (reclusive?) grafitti artist.

Anyway, I like. I want more. I hope they do a Boston show soon.

Square Wave Punch - shhh . . . Keep Quiet EP, which isn't for sale anywhere that I could find--maybe at shows? Streaming below is (or will be, once Castpost comes back) my favorite track of the moment, "Out In the Field."

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Good News: New Pinback

Sorta new, anyway; it's a bunch of early rare material, from 1998-2001 as far as I can tell, being released by their label Ace Fu Records. This is good by me; any Pinback is good Pinback. (Which, by the way, is a reference to the whiny janitor in Dark Star. I did not know that.)

The album cover seems to feature Green Lantern and Darth Vader's lovechild in a landscape by Dali. Sure, why not? Doesn't really seem to fit Pinback, though--they're not dark or melty enough for that.

Pinback - Byzantine off of Nautical Antiques, which's supposed to be released 5 September.

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