04 June 2007

Earworm: Bob Schneider - Wish

Bob Schneider used to be a favorite of mine, in the years right after college; I haven't listened to him much lately, but Wish off of Songs Sung & Played on the Guitar came up on random the other day, and it was arresting. It's a wispy, insubstantial song, but the understated grotesquerie of the opening image saves it from being saccharine. It's not as cutting as some of Schneider's other lovely, acidly melancholy songs like The King of the World, but striking nonetheless.

tags: , ,

31 May 2007

Milquetoast @ Hennesy's Upstairs

So I've been honored to be asked by the Queen to help keep the blog moving while she plugs away at the dissertation. Although I'm very good at being opinionated, this is my first time telling the rest of the world what to think, so please bear with me while I get the hang of this blogging thing.

As an introduction, I'll start off with the show that I went to last night. There were a number of bands, but, we went out to see Milquetoast to see what the Queen was on about.

They were very competent. The lead singer started of with a solo guitar that reminded me a little bit of Chris Cornell's solo work (although without the distinctive vocal style.) It was nice, and it was interesting to see how he led in, but it didn't grab the crowd. It wasn't until the cellist came up a few songs later that the show really started to move.

The musical styling moved all over from a Tom Waits influenced waltz, to more classic blues riffs, but the musicianship was quality throughout. In fact, so good was the cellist that she made me truly believe that the cello is the most underrepresented instrument in modern music. After I left, I came somewhat to my senses, and realized I must have had one too many Stellas, but it doesn't diminish the depth and breadth that Robin lends to what might otherwise be a fairly tame set.

That's not to knock the composition. I though that Jimmy's songwriting and composition was very solid with occasional gems (the Tom Waits-like waltz comes to mind.) The music also covered a very broad spectrum without getting spread too thin, which I felt was a nice accomplishment.

Finally, like the musical styling, the stage presence was also a bit erratic; which mostly worked. Jimmy had enough charisma to keep the audience with him through a meandering slightly sappy dedication to his mom, and the rest of the time he was entertaining and funny without resorting to stand-up.

tags: ,

24 April 2007

ATSS Goes Dark

Due to impending dissertation proposal, ATSS will be dark for a while. I'll be back when I can!

tags: ,

10 April 2007

Myspace Find: Plushgun's EP

Plushgun, who I've mentioned earlier, has an EP up for listening (though not downloading or buying) on Myspace. I'm inclined to be disappointed; the energetic beat of Just Impolite camouflaged the tremendous sentimentality of the vocals, and new tracks "The Dark in You" and "An Aria" aren't nearly as balanced. I'm going to be the ravenous fan and demand more before I make up my mind; you may notice that it's the same mp3 and the same image between the two entries. That's all there is! For the degree of polish in the music, there's oddly few materials available. I'd really like to see Plushgun get some kind of production deal and have enough of a presence that I can finally make up my mind about them!

tags: , , ,

09 April 2007

Earworm: Jens Lekman - Rocky Dennis' Farewell Song

Last winter there was about a seventy percent chance that Jens Lekman would be an earworm at some point in the day; but on going back to him now, I find him uneasily precious most of the time. Melodious and soothing and well-constructed, generally, but very precious. This morning, though, I woke up with the twee twinkling opening of Rocky Dennis' Farewell Song echoing in my head. It's from an EP called Rocky Dennis, which apparently led to some confusion about whether the artist was named Rocky Dennis or Jens Lekman, which was resolved by this song. Now all I have to do is find out why Jens has a thing about the main character in Mask.

tags: , , ,

04 April 2007

VS: Rilo Kiley and Neko Case

I remember reading somewhere--Phoenix? Dig?--that there are some who have created a rivalry of redheaded-alt-country-singers between Neko Case and Jenny Lewis (of Rilo Kiley); which seems kinda foolish, since everybody can have both. Neko Case was my first exposure, and I was addicted almost immediately: the loping grace in Star Witness was unarguable. The whole of Fox Confessor Brings the Flood was similarly stellar, and since the Rabbit Fur Coat tracks that I'd heard failed to grab me, I figured Neko'd won. But then Last.fm starting playing me Rilo Kiley songs, they're now back on more of an even par; A Man/Me/Then Jim is particularly compelling.

Neko has more strength in her sound, but Jenny tends to be more willowy; Neko's lyrics are more likely to be reflective and Jenny's bitter; Neko's more consistent, but Jenny sings with Postal Service! How does anyone choose?

Luckily, no one has to.

tags: , , , , ,

02 April 2007

Mike Doughty & Zox @ Tufts

It was an odd gig--students only, in a back room of a cafeteria--still I'm very glad I went; last time Mike Doughty came through he was opening for Dave Matthews in great big arenas, so the small venue was a treat. I still can't pin down why I like Mike Doughty's music so very much; I keep coming up with uninformative answers like "because it's good." It was nice to hear Soul Coughing gems like St Louise Is Listening in the stripped-down current format and alongside newer tracks from Haughty Melodic like Looking at the World from the Bottom of a Well.

The bassist/multi-instrumentalist of the evening, Scrap Livingston, was a treat as well. Dude was an interesting addition: classically geeky in aspect with the collared shirt and wire-rimmed glasses (which traveled further down his nose as each song went on), but rocking some seriously fluid fingerwork and the chillest stage presence I've ever seen. It was a good, good set.

I'd never heard of Zox before the show, and had to look them up afterwards: an unusual quartet featuring an electric-violinist, who played most of the time in a pose that looked strikingly like Quasimodo. They were loud, energetic, and engaging--a nice bonus after the much-anticipated main event.

tags: , , , , ,

29 March 2007

Earworm: Sting - Ghost Story

Sting's Ghost Story (from Brand New Day) is the song sitting in my ear today, after Ray LaMontagne's Be Here Now (from Until the Sun Turns Black) reminded me of it: the guitar lines are very similar in the beginning, and both songs have similarly hushed vocals and hesitant, upward-flowing melodic phrases.

tags: , , , ,

Myspace Rundown: Greg Schuler, Shrinking Islands, Austin Newcomers, Roy Davis

Greg Schuler is . . . can boys sing bubble gum pop? Can there be a one-member boy band? That's the sound he seems to be going for, with maybe a little more old-school instrumentation than most: I can almost see the instrument-boogie the horn chorus is doing.

Shrinking Islands has a nice though unexceptional sound--guitars, drum set, male tenor (when did we decide all male vocalists have to be tenors?)--but their vocalists need better mikes.

Austin Newcomers's first track Kamikaze is firmly in the frenetic party pop category, but On the Roof and You Must Try are more meditative. They do sound like a band that would do well live in Austin, too.

Roy Davis sounds a bit like Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst, but not so bloody over-the-top. It can be a nice sound, when it isn't overdone, but there isn't anything else striking enough about these tracks to recommend them.

Overall, a disappointing, unexceptional bunch of MySpace denizens. Dammit.

tags: , ,

Top o' the Inbox: Plushgun - Impolite

Just Impolite starts out sounding a whole lot like Postal Service, with luminous, upbeat electronica and a thin tenor; the vocals become less Gibbardly as the song goes on, although I couldn't say what they do become. Sadly, that's the only Plushgun song; it'd be nice to hear an EP's worth of this and get a feel for the range of the band.

tags: , , , ,

27 March 2007

New Laura Veirs!

New Laura Veirs is very welcome; Carbon Glacier and Year of Meteors are regulars on my rotation, and given her unusual voice and sense of phrase, I'm always curious to hear what she'll be doing next.

Saltbreakers comes out 10 April in North America; "Pink Light" is streamable on her Myspace, and Don't Lose Yourself (Saltbreaker) is floating around on several blogs. The sound is more polished, but still features her unique phrasing and tempo. It does raise the question, though: once Carbon Glacier, Year of Meteors and Saltbreakers are all equally familiar, which sound will win out?

tags: , , , , ,

22 March 2007

Earworm: Lily Allen - Knock 'Em Out

This is a bit of a mystery. Normally I have an allergy to slick pop (it's pretty bad, I should carry an epipen but I don't)--but I am finding Lily Allen's Alright, Still very, very addictive. I'm not sure how that happened, but I'm enjoying it; her lyrics are nimble and sharp, and delivered with a fluid, easy creativity that makes them better still. It seems all of the tracks on the CD have been earworms, but at the moment it's Knock 'Em Out.

Can't knock em out, can't walk away,
Try desperately to think of the politest way to say,
Just get out my face, just leave me alone,
And no you can't have my number,
"Why?" Cause I've lost my phone.

tags: , ,

Sia - Little Black Sandals

I am puzzled by Sia. I enjoy Zero 7 for the most part, but seeing her live was a sore disappointment: the songs sounded pretty much the same as on the CD, and a bloody annoying stage manner meant that I should've just stayed home and listened to Healing Is Difficult. (Her website, unfortunately, is as annoying as her stage manner, with far too much space wasted on big graphics and tiny, tiny frames with frustrating scrolling mechanisms.)

So she's got a new live CD coming out, Lady Croissant, and the nice people over at Astralwerks have sent out a demo from the recording sessions, Little Black Sandals--and even after listening to it for an hour, I can't tell: do I like it? Her vocal style starts out in a creaky tone that's supposed to be heartfelt, I think, but is mostly just creaky. After that, though, it smooths out and takes on the a more familiar chillout flow, although there is the occasional excessive vocal flourish. So I like it, but not the beginning?

tags: , , ,

21 March 2007

Lost in the Trees

So, yes, I have a soft spot for Trekky Records because of The Never; I like to think that it's also because they choose music I enjoy. Lost in the Trees is another example of this; it's a hard-to-categorize project of Ari Picker, frontman for The Never (several more points in its favor). I believe their Myspace declares them to be "classical/hip-hop/folk." Be that as it may, the vocals are the usual sensitive-indie-tenor sound, but it's the instrumentals that really caught my attention. Tall Trees starts out with a fairly standard piping, but the quick addition of a wooden-sounding beat that's almost Bollywood, cello loops, and then a chorus of violins put together an intriguing sound that stops just short of florid. The instrumental I've Always Loved the Fall is notable for its occasional urgent passages on the organ, which sets up a nice tension with the mellow, sweeter cello. So I'm liking their very recent EP Time Taunts Me, and may try to check out their March 29 show at P.A.'s Lounge (which gets all the good, under-the-radar acts in town, it would seem).

tags: , , ,

20 March 2007

A Jesuit Likes Tom Waits

Well now, this is interesting. Times Online has an article about a Catholic priest, Father Antonio Spadero, writing in a Jesuit journal that Tom Waits represents "the marginalised and misunderstood," and that rock music "has great expressive power which reaches peoples’ souls." Tom Waits's beliefs aren't public as far as I know--which makes the statement just that much more surprising--though he gets into God territory every now and then, such as in Road to Peace or God's Away on Business.

If I were a Catholic, I'd be very sad at how surprising a statement like that is--regardless of how self-evident it sounds to the rest of the world. Can we have this guy for pope next? A world with fewer public figures saying stupid things would be so nice. . .

tags: , , ,

19 March 2007

Left Out: Peter Bjorn and John

Seems like there's always gotta be one artist or group that every blogger in the world is hailing as the up-and-coming next thing--that leaves me completely cold. Last year it was Joanna Newsom, whose jumpy, feathery concoctions make me want to, well, turn them off; right now, it's Peter Bjorn and John. They're not bad; but they don't give me any reason to listen to them. Like most bands that come with strong recommendations from good sources, I'll keep listening until I get to the same point I did with Cassandra Wilson, Joanna Newsom, and all the others who didn't convert me: when I realize that I know the music fairly well, and still don't particularly want to hear it. I even think I have a fair sample--their KEXP performance at SxSW. I've heard them called power-pop, or the Swedish Spoon; but although Stars and Magic Numbers are major contributors to Earworms both written-up and otherwise, and Spoon has been a favorite for years, nothing about PB&J is interesting to me. Except maybe the abbreviation--d'you suppose they did that on purpose?

Peter Bjorn & John for KEXP in Austin, TX
File Paris 2004
File Amsterdam
File Young Folks
File Let's Call It Off
File Object Of My Affection

tags: , , , ,

17 March 2007

Earworm: Psapp - Hi

Psapp is one of my most charming recent acquaintainces, and only partially because of toytronica, the lovely word invented for the music they make; although both The Only Thing I Ever Wanted and their earlier Tiger, My Friend have some of the tinkly, comforting sound you'd expect from such a name (like Velvet Pony)--an indie music box in the toy world--there are also surprisingly jaunty pieces like Hi, so full of angular, stylized motion it would have to be a clockwork tango doll.

tags: , , , ,

15 March 2007

Myspace Spotlight: Mumpsy

One of the lovely things about a post office box for review goodies is that you never know what's in it; sometimes it's a curious, interesting gem you'd never have found otherwise, and sometimes it's a sad thing that you're embarrased to listen to. Mumpsy is the former. Frontman Jeff Ilgenfritz has a reedy voice that works well within the twee, boppy arena of each song--think Belle & Sebastian, or The Kinks by way of The Shins. It's a less saccharine sound than Belle & Sebastian, and less faithfully lo-fi than The Shins, but it's just as infectious. (N.B.: As far as I can tell, Ilgenfritz really is his name. This is just too cool for words.)

64 Colors is as instantly appealing as the big box of crayons in the title; the lyrics only filter through the bright colors after listening several times, and then the colors get a little bit darker. 3 People stays a careening romp no matter how many times you listen to it--sort of the musical equivalent of pretending to be an airplane in the front yard. These songs're from the EP 3 People--not out yet, but on April 10 it'll be here.

tags: , , , ,

14 March 2007

Milquetoast @ Lizard Lounge

Tuesday night saw Hazel Levy and Milquetoast playing at the Lizard Lounge. Hazel started off the night with her square, easy, unadorned stage presence and flowing songs that don't leave much impression after they end--like a musical palate cleanser; it's a challenge to stand out as a singer-songwriter, with so many around. She did say one thing I remembered: "It's hard to sound rock'n'roll by yourself." Which is true, and might partially explain one really awful show.

Milquetoast started out with Jimmy McAndrew solo for a couple of songs, then joined by cellist Robin Ryczek (Jethro Tull's cellist, no less), and then finally by bassist Joe Mageary and drummer Panama Quinn. With each new addition the sound of the band made more sense, and by the time the full arrangement was reached, it was a dynamic, nimble, driving sound. Cellos are beginning to pop up in indie music (Zoe Keating, Hilary Hahn with And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead), and it's easy to see why: they can (and in this case, did) take a band's sound from driving and intelligent to layered and interesting.

Tess of Miss Tess and the Bon Ton Parade guest-harmonized on Static Cleanse, and that was my favorite song of the night; the extra harmony balanced the song nicely between graceful and strong. Million Ways was another standout, with the clockwork energy in its repetitive chords.

Although it's clear live that it's a young band--not always prepared to start or end together, uncertain about banter--their material, stage presence, and performance were strong enough to make it a night well spent.

tags: , , , ,

13 March 2007

Earworm: Frou Frou - Hear Me Out

It's been two years since I first heard Frou Frou, and I still think Imogen Heap is one of the best vocalists out there: her voice is powerful and versatile, and either she isn't inclined to melismatic overkill like many vocalists, or she's got a smart listener giving her feedback.

Today it's Hear Me Out from Details that's on repeat; it's got a nice, steady tempo that doesn't quite hint at what the words are describing, but as that's all in Imogen's voice, it makes a nice contrast.

tags: , , , ,

12 March 2007

Myspace Find: Mason Proper

MySpace find Mason Proper is a bit of an odd band: they go from startlingly metallic in My My Bad Fruit, to meandering Explosions in the Sky-style intro to Chemical Dress Eliza, to more usual vocalist-driven rock that reminds me of OK Go--within three songs. It's a little challenging imaging all this melding into a coherent show, but overall the songs have a enjoyable, smart vibe to them.

Fortunately for me, they've got a show at the MidEast Upstairs on March 30; I may have to see if I can't get to that--and it may even work, since Birdmonster will be taking the stage as well!

tags: , , , ,

28 February 2007

Music Around the Web

Bradley's Almanac has posted a compilation celebrating seven years of the 'Nac; it includes Starlight Conspiracy, a new song from Charlene, the Madelines song that gave the site its name, Starlight Conspiracy, and so on. He's even put 'em all in a handy zip!

Hear Ya has a sampler of mp3s from SxSW bands.

Lala is streaming live performances from Noise Pop, including John Vanderslice, Damien Jurado, French Kicks, Snowden, and Midlake.

Grist has a playlist from Al Gore.

Raghav Gupta has an interesting article highlighting changes and predicting more in the music business on GigaOm.

Tripwire reports that Telefon Tel Aviv is releasing a CD of rare remixes.

I like Califone.

tags: , , , , , , , , ,

27 February 2007

Top o' the Mailbox : Thailand

Thailand is another datum supporting the comeback of Cure-style bombast: keyboards fizzing with effects, unbounded reverb, and a certain fey attitude in the vocals are all getting to be staples of the indie-er side of music. Thailand is an electro take on this, sometimes verging on the toytronica, and their December release Motorcade (which can be bought on their Myspace page) is a strong debut. It should be noted that the album was mastered by Dave Cooley, who's also worked with Silversun Pickups, Long Distance Runner, and Dangermouse (on the Grey Album, I believe). Bergerac is the most immediately appealing, with the luscious, drama-queen sweep contrasting nicely with the world-weary lyrics; This Officer's Life is a compelling, tinsel rock shout, as well--none of it is music to be listened to sitting down, or in sweatpants, in any case: it demands glitter somewhere.

tags: , ,

20 February 2007

Earworm: TV on the Radio - Modern Romance

Modern Romance is TV on the Radio's stickiest song, more so than anything from Return to Cookie Mountain; it reminds me of sitting on top of the dryer as a kid, and feeling that buzzy wum wum wum wum vibrating through me.

tags: , , ,

It's a Josh Ritter Kind of Day

It would seem, since Chromewaves is covering his show in Toronto last Thursday, and Kwaya Na Kisser posting his live set from KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic, the world is in agreement. The Animal Years makes up most of the set, but Other Side (from Golden Age of Radio) makes a welcome appearance as well. Josh looks so much like a young Tom Waits that it always surprises me how edgeless his sentimentality is; this is clearest in a live cover of Chelsea Hotel, which is played quietly and soberly, downplaying its anger.

tags: , ,

15 February 2007

Earworm: M. Ward - Vincent O'Brien

This, it seems, is the song that plays in your head when you wake up at five o'clock on a day where six inches of water have frozen solid in all the places you want to walk.

M. Ward - Vincent O'Brien, from Transfiguration of Vincent

tags: , , , ,

14 February 2007

Myspace Find: Caitlin Frame

Caitlin Frame is a recent Myspace find; she has some of the pleasing swing of Aimee Mann's vocals, but melodic phrases are executed with less hesitation. She's also the subject of Band in Boston's new set, which means everyone who missed her set at Abbey Lounge last night can get filled in.

tags: , , ,

09 February 2007

Song of the Day: Belle & Sebastian - A Space Boy Dream

It's hard not to dismiss Belle & Sebastian as unbearably twee, the style change in A Life Pursuit notwithstanding. They're so boppy and hair-floppy most of the time that a flash of imagination like A Space Boy Dream is a tremendous surprise. Particularly given how rarely spoken word really works; but there's a hypnotic flow to this track that fits the dream setting well--or maybe it's just Stuart Murdoch's accent.

tags: , ,

08 February 2007

New Music: The Glass Set

The Glass Set's CD Something Unknown showed up in my mailbox, languished awhile on my desk, and then found its way into my ears. I'm glad it did, because it's in the vein of Metric, minus some of the aggro: sharp, stylish, angular music heavy on the attitude. Maybe less devastatingly elegant than Metric, but maybe also with more sounds to offer. It was difficult to choose the song to post: Telescope's beat is smart as military buttons, but Something Unknown has a nice, graceful flow in the vocals; Tradition won out as the favorite for the moment, with its easy, catchy bounce.

It seems they're playing at Castle Greyskull in Allston tomorrow night. Good timing on their part, or mine, or someone's.

tags: , , ,

07 February 2007

Earworm & Upcoming Show: Alexi Murdoch

Alexi Murdoch's 2006 release Time Without Consequence is one of those nice CDs where the tracks take turns: each time I listen to it, a different one strikes me. This time it's Home; its lyrical repetition contrasts nicely with the evolution of the sound, from cozy and acoustic at the beginning to the rougher, more impressionistic end.

Alexi Murdoch has a show with DJ Carbo and Midnight Movies at Great Scott tomorrow night, as part of the Fenway Recording Sessions series.

tags: , , ,

06 February 2007

a'tris @ Tommy Doyle's

Local favorite a'tris (now semi-local) had their most recent show at Tommy Doyle's on Friday; I couldn't make it, but now there's the next best thing: the whole live set! Conquer All, Difficult Time, and Orion are the new songs, and the rest are off of Appeal. Mason's habit of peeling the middle to end of phrases into the back of his throat becomes obtrusive in Conquer All, but Difficult Time is classic a'tris, nimble and stylish.

a'tris @ Tommy Doyle
File 01ConquerAll.mp3
File 02GhostintheCloset.mp3
File 03DifficultTime(St.PaultheEvangelist).mp3
File 04CactusBride.mp3
File 05EvadetheUnavoidable.mp3
File 06GreenLand.mp3
File 07Orion.mp3
File 08YouMadeTheDecision.mp3
File 09NoSuchThingasSilence.mp3
File 10Duality.mp3
File 11Compassion.mp3
Provided by

tags: , , ,