30 November 2006

The Trekky Yuletide Orchestra

Well, see, this isn't fair. I'm going to get a reputation as an Ebenezer for doing bad reviews of Christmas CDs--I don't mind Christmas, really!

But it does seem that I can't stand the music. Trekky Records has done a New Old-Fashioned Christmas with their various bands (The Never, Lost in the Trees, formerly The Beauregards). I'm big on The Never's latest release Antarctica, so I was really wanting to like this'n.

But of the songs I can get my hands on, I really, really don't. Baby, It's Cold Out There features deplorably Bright Eyes-style scratchy, breaking vocals; It Came Upon the Midnight Clear is a pile of fey, faux-Sufjan sweetness, complete with wind section and dainty bells, and I can't stand either one. It's the dark side of indie these days: sentimental, floppy, and sprinting after the bandwagon.

But! Trekky let The Never produced Antarctica, so they can't be all bad. See?

Sharpest Place in the World

tags: , , , ,

27 November 2006

Memphis' a little place in the wilderness

I've reviewed Memphis before, but now that I've assimilated the whole CD more thoroughly, I thought I'd revisit. Which is maybe unnecessary, since my opinion hasn't really changed--I still think Memphis is sweet but too consistently dreamy--but, possibly due to familiarity effects, I like it better. It's good music for a melancholy mood, but it's irritating outside of one; they're good songs individually, but as an album it's overkill. Sweet and dreamy like Iron & Wine, but poppier, and without the jump and beauty of the Iron & Wine/Calexico collaboration.

I find spoken word hard to take, but oddly, I like In the Highest Room nearly best--maybe because it's one of the least whispery tracks, and whispering is even worse than spoken word. It's disappointing; I was hoping for better from Torquil-not-Stars.

tags: , , , ,

a'tris show @ Tommy Doyle's

This is old news by now, but a'tris played a show at Tommy Doyle's last Friday. It's a'tris mark II, since they've replaced the drummer and the bassist, but the sharp, stylish electro-rock sound from their first CD appeal is still there. They've got a new single Orion coming out on Shut Eye Records, and the creative team of Kreher (producer/writer)and Taylor (vocalist/writer) is clearly intact. It's an exploratory song for the band: incongruously materialistic lyrics, sandwiched by meticulous musical skill and Mason's carefully constructed vocal act, topped off with a wistful, ironic zinger. It brings together the dream of champagne--the sparkling, incisive clarity of opulence--with the need for the dream of champagne. I think the lyrics (all about stardom and bling) come off as aspirational where they're meant to be ironic, but it's got all the hallmarks of the a'tris music I like so much.

tags: , , ,

16 November 2006

Live: Amy Millan @ Paradise

Went to the Amy Millan show at Paradise last night--man was it undersold. One of the consequences of living in the blogosphere is that I have no idea what the average music listener knows about. Stars is pretty big, so Amy'll probably get a lot of that, right? Not s'much--Paradise was maybe a quarter full. Which is too bad, because she's sharp.

Eric Bachmann opened, and I gotta say I was not impressed. Irritatingly unexceptional is the best I can say--a skillful guitar, but immature vocals notable more for their odd, jarring flourishes than anything else. There was a startlingly clear recorder-like tone that I'm surprised any human can make unedited, but there was also a very out-of-place bluegrass nasal vibrato at the end of some phrases, which contrasted pretty unpleasantly with the overall vocal style. Most of his songs slipped by without making much of an impression; the only one that caught my attention was a Crooked Fingers track A New Drink for an Old Drunk, which had more energy than most.

And then Amy came on, and it was all better. She's playing with a band she called Tumbleweed, on which I can find precisely nothing; a country-bluegrass sorta deal with a bass, mandolin, banjo, plus among other things, a trombone and a saw. They only really got to rock on Headsfull, but that song was tight and joyous--you could see the band having fun.

Amy is still an odd bird (her stiff gestures remind me of a few friends, and they're all odd birds too), but her voice has a ribbony charm that's more than enough to satisfy me. The country material on Honey from the Tombs is a departure from Stars-style power pop, but the whiskey-drenched lyrics suit her; she also did a cover of Death Cab's "I'll Follow You Into the Dark" that was well-chosen and well-done.

Live mp3s of her solo are few and far between, but a live set she did at MPR is streamable here.

tags: , , , ,

15 November 2006

NPR Streaming Ecce Cor Meum

I don't know what I think of Paul McCartney these days; the Ecce Cor Meum project seems over the top and not even very original, given that the late Ben Britten and the live John Tavener (among others) have been doing this kind of thing for, oh, round about fifty years now between them.

Be that as it may, NPR is streaming last night's performance. Maybe that will help me make up my mind.

(Sample Tavener and Britten mp3s'll go up once YouSendIt is back on its feet.)

tags: , , , ,

09 November 2006

Unwed Sailor Tour Dates

Unwed Sailor is one of those bands I keep meaning to catch up with, in fact I was just thinking about it the other day; turns out I might get a chance to do that live, since he's announced new tour dates. Johnathon Ford has a hell of a resume: Pedro the Lion, Damien Jurado, Roadside Monument, Rosie Thomas, Seldom, Early Day Miners, and Decahedron. Unwed Sailor has Mogwai's wandering, cyclical vibe without the epic sweep or the predilection for noise; sometimes it sounds more like typical guitar-driven rock, but those songs aren't its strongest, lacking the focal line of a voice part. It'd be interesting to see live, I think; that's where these wandering, instrumental things either come sharp or fall apart.

Ruby's Wishes from the Firecracker EP
Cuckoo Clock from The Marionette and the Music Box

16 November - O´leavers - Omaha NE
17 November - The Belmonte - Springfield MO
18 November - The Vaudeville Mews - Des Moines IA
19 November - Schuba's w/ Early Day Miners - Chicago IL
20 November - The Ballroom @ Ball State University - Muncie IN
21 November - The DAAC - Grand Rapids MI
22 November - The Nite Owl - Dayton OH
23 November - Southgate House - Newport KY
24 November - Jacob's Well - Traverse City MI
25 November - Brillobox - Pittsburgh PA
26 November - Champion Ship - Lemoyne PA
27 November - The Middle East - Cambridge MA
28 November - Johnny Brendas, w/ Parts & Labor - Philadelphia PA
29 November - Pianos - N.Y.C
01 December - Emmaus - Gettysburg PA
02 December - Relative Theory Records - Norfolk VA
03 December - The Flat Iron - Greensboro NC
04 December - New Brookland Tavern - West Columbia SC
05 December - Soapbox Laundro-Lounge - Wilmington, North Carolina
06 December - Gypsy G's Roadhouse, w/ The Dark Romantics - Greenville SC
07 December - The Backbooth, w/ The Dark Romantics - Orlando FL
08 December - Jackrabbits, w/ The Dark Romantics - Jacksonville FL
09 December - Transitions Art Gallery/Skatepark Of Tampa, w/ The Dark Romantics - Tampa FL
10 December - Lillian's, w/ The Dark Romantics - Lakeland FL
11 December - The Beta Bar, w/ The Dark Romantics - Tallahassee FL
12 December - Drunken Unicorn - Atlanta GA
13 December - The End - Nashville TN
14 December - Hi-Tone - Memphis TN
15 December - The Cavern, w/ Shapes & Sizes, Oh No! Oh My! - Dallas TX
16 Dec - The Conservatory - Oklahoma City OK

tags: , , ,

08 November 2006

Spit on a Stranger

Well, this is a surprise. I haven't been listening to Pavement as long as the rest of the world--my exposure to current pop culture started in, oh, '99 or so--and I've only just now realized that Nickel Creek's Spit on a Stranger from This Side is in fact a Pavement cover. Now that is strange.

Not surprising, though--this was the CD that made it clear that Nickel Creek was bored with being the most popular bluegrass band in decades.

Pavement - Spit on a Stranger from Terror Twilight

Nickel Creek - Spit on a Stranger from This Side

tags: , , , ,

07 November 2006

Top Five Britrock Bands to Watch/Avoid

According to the Boston Herald, anyway--mainstream media writing about music that is "hip" (please to translate those actual quotation marks into air-quotes) always makes me suspicious. I'm not sure if that's snobbery or experience speaking, but I surely am curious to see how much credibility the BH retains on this one.

So what are the Britrock bands to watch-slash-avoid? Badly Drawn Boy, Babyshambles, The Ordinary Boys, The Fratellis, and Kasabian. Babyshambles I'll go along with, because as far as I can tell it's one of those publicity stunts diguised as a band dealies; Kasabian as well, since I don't hear anything interesting there. The Ordinary Boys and The Fratellis I'm not familiar with, but it's the comments on Badly Drawn Boy that really get my attention.

While he hits pay dirt on occasion - fans of the movie “About a Boy” will remember the gorgeous “Silent Sigh” - tunes with melody are the exception rather than the rule.

See that? Tunes with melody are the exception rather than the rule--so they are. (Although the ones there are, like Walking Out of Stride, from the About a Boy soundtrack, are very, very nice.)

I'll be damned: s/he got it quite right. One point to the mainstream, at least.

tags: , , , ,

John Vanderslice - Charles Rennie Mackintosh Numbered Lithograph (live)

New track from Vanderslice, which is aimed to be on the next album. My attempt at the lyrics is below; I like the song, but I think the lyrics are uneven. The repeated "I've never been lonelier"s are self-pitying and annoying, but I like the images in between the mawkish interludes, and the abrupt end makes the ambiguous last image very powerful.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh Numbered Lithograph, from his set in Karlsruhe on Hallowe'en

when you left me at the table
to go to the ATM
I've never been lonelier
and your cell phone it shuddered and blinked
it was your boyfriend again
I've never been lonelier
I've never been lonelier
I've never been lonelier
I've never been lonelier
a light-skinned black held up a
Charles Rennie Mackintosh numbered lithograph
I moved to the edge of the suburbs
and lost most of my friends
I've never been lonelier
I've never been lonelier
bird crashed through my window
and he panicked and thrashed
up against the window glass
he crashed and crashed
I've never been lonelier
I've never been lonelier
I've never been lonelier
the boy recoiled as he
got out of the heated pool
it was midnight

tags: , , ,

G'bye, Rainer Maria

Well now, this is an unwelcome bit of news. It seems Rainer Maria has thrown in the towel, and although it is a shame to lose them, I guess they've had their innings, since they've been around for a decade and change.

We are grateful to our new listeners and especially our longtime fans for their endless support and attention. We feel incredibly fortunate to have come up during a unique time in rock music, in a community that grew with us from the Midwest to Brooklyn and beyond. Making records has always been a revelation, and walking onto stage together we found a vision we could share. For us, this transition can be nothing short of heartbreaking. But for reasons both musical and personal, the three of us have chosen this time to move on.

Alchemy, from their 2002 Ears Ring EP

tags: , ]

03 November 2006

Riding Paper Airplanes: Too Dreamy By Half

Riding Paper Airplanes' self-titled debut CD is kinda Postal Service: sweet melodic electronica, with smooth vocals over it. It's a nice template, but I'm not sure Riding Paper Airplanes holds up as well as Postal Service did. Homecoming Weekend in a Small Town features those smacky-sounding beats and tinkly noises recognizable from Postal Service (most recently, anyway), but John Wu's vocals are dreamier and less energetic than Gibbard's--which is saying something! The other songs on Myspace are less smooth and move a little more, but the lyrics are still painfully dreamy. We need a little more grit, a little more detail, a little more texture, I think. . .

Stream it (M3U)

tags: , , ,

Myspace Rundown: The Electrolites, Pleasant, The Speakers, Mean Creek, Day Action Band, The Simples

Oh yes, another one! I've got far too many friend requests from bands I've never heard of, so it's time to weed through them and see if any get the stamp of approval.

The Electrolites are kinda good; very seventies-sounding vocals (they use a tambourine, too!). They're jangly and bouncy and pleasant, if you can take that seventies-style musical optimism. Togetherness: B. Creativity: B.

Pleasant is more usual guitar-driven rocky stuff; there's a tangled harmony in the guitars that's a little unusual (in a good way), but the vocals are doing that retro-mod sound I still need a name for. It's more posturing than I'm happy to hear. Togetherness: B+. Creativity: B-.

The Speakers come as a nice contrast--sweet and dreamy--although maybe equally hackneyed, since the two major types of indie vocals now seem to be the posturing retro-mod thing (think Editors) and the humble blurry sweet approach (think Iron & Wine). Togetherness: B+. Creativity: B-.

I kinda like Mean Creek; they combine brash instrumentals with the softer vocal style, and it works pretty well--the crashing and the sweetness go together rather nicely. Togetherness: A. Creativity: B+.

Day Action Band is immediately appealing: steady, harmonic guitar, fluid vocals, and lyrics with just enough subtlety catch your attention. Togetherness: A. Creativity: A-.

The Simples have a rather awful Myspace page, where the designer can't resist putting a very cool graphic in the background, despite the fact that it makes a good deal of the text illegible. Despite that, they're pleasant if unexceptional. Togetherness: A-. Creativity: A-.

Might change my grading criteria to Skill and Sound, since I think they're more accurate labels.

tags: , ,

01 November 2006

K. Fed Is a God. Clearly.

Girls say I'm cocky/ I think I'm humble/ Basically y'all just talk like Bryant Gumbel

Genius! I'll never mock him again. (But I'm not sure if I should tag this entry Music or not.)

tags: , ,

The Sea Navy

The Sea Navy is a new project with Jay Cox (The Ivory Coast) on vocals and guitar, Stuart Fletcher (The Sorts, Sea Tiger) on bass, and TW Walsh (Pedro the Lion, Headphones, The Soft Drugs) producing (and helping out with bass, for a while). Arctic Advice is their headlining song on Myspace for a reason; the initial guitarwork is sharp and ear-catching. Which seems a common theme, actually; their songs always start off with notably dapper instrumentals, but by the end, the momentum of cool seems gone or tarnished.

Jay's vocals remind me a bit of Conor Oberst when he's feeling adequately medicated, and a bit of Colin Meloy, and a bit of one of the Nada Surf vocalists--I think it's Matthew Caws. I need a name for this infusion of the London retro/mod sound; it seems to be big for up-and-coming bands. It rarely makes for distinctive music, though, unless done devastatingly well; there's so much of it that it doesn't make much of an impression. Unfortunately, in this case I think the music is much the same as the name: initially promising, but redundant on further exposure.

Stream their Myspace-available music (M3U)

tags: , ,