Friday, July 28, 2006

Best of 2006 so far...

AllMusic weighs in...

Completely agree with Tim Sendra's comment about Camera Obscura...

If the album were nothing but "Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken" and 40 minutes of ceiling fan hum, it'd still be a treasure.



Monday, July 24, 2006

Human Television

If you've got a penchant for 80's-inspired jangle-pop, whether it's R.E.M. or C86 bands, I'm pretty sure you'll like Human Television. I read a review of their debut album Look at Who You're... in the latest issue of Magnet and the next day, heard one of their songs on RadioK. Serendipity. Embarrassingly, I soon discovered that I had downloaded a song from an earlier EP some time ago and forgot about it. Insound.com has 3 free MP3s to offer; the band's MySpace page has 2 additional songs for download (not counting 2 that overlap with those on Insound).

Several reviews I've read mention some similarity to My Bloody Valentine and other bands from the epic Creation record label. None of the songs mentioned here for free download have much of a shoegaze feel, but the songs RadioK played (wish I knew the name) definitely sounded like mid-period My Bloody Valentine, by which I mean Ecstasy & Wine through Isn't Anything. We tend to forget that Kevin Shields actually jangled...

Monday, July 17, 2006

Tokyo Police Club

I'm really enjoying Lesson in Crime, the debut 7-song EP from Tokyo Police Club. Recommended if you like Pavement, Sonic Youth, Yatsura, and to my ears, bouncier noise-pop purveyors like The Legends (see our earlier post). Good angular indie rock--think the aforementioned Pavement if they had been charmingly peppy instead of charmingly slack. You can download their single Nature of the Experiment from Insound.com or hear more of their songs at MySpace.com.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Back to The Futureheads

After wringing my hands about the potential for a massive sophomore slump, I would be remiss if I didn't say how much I like the new Futureheads album, News And Tributes. Ultimately, I think they just chose the wrong song to be their lead-off single. I've come to like Skip to the End, but it's not my favorite song on the album. There are plenty of songs that are a logical extension of the first album (the first 3 tracks on the album, Yes/No, Cope, and Fallout, for example). Plus, there are other songs that are more of departure, like Burnt and Back To The Sea. Back To The Sea may be my favorite song on the album. A review I read somewhere suggests that the band now sounds more like English Settlement-era XTC instead of earlier White Music or Black Sea XTC. The Futureheads DO have their own distinct sound, but the XTC influences are very tangible, particularly during the skittery moments of Favours For Favours. All in all, a very good album - sorry I doubted them.

Asobi Seksu

Asobi Seksu is a New York-based dream pop band whose first album I really enjoyed and posted about last year. Their name apparently means "playful sex" in Japanese. While the My Bloody Valentine / Sonic Youth, influence is still there, they remind me more of dream pop bands like Lush and February. The Allmusic.com review also mentions The Primitives, which actually makes sense in some places (can you imagine The Primitive's Crash sung in Japanese?). Along those lines, their bouncy noise pop moments also remind me a bit of The Legends, which we posted about here. You can download 2 songs, Thursday and New Years, from the band's website. (Thursday is also available from Insound.com here.) Asobi Seksu's website also offers the 4 songs from their first album that I posted about previously, in case you want to explore the band further.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Doctor May


At the risk of degenerating into a music trivia blog, I just had to mention an interesting tidbit I heard today. Apparently, Brian May, legendary guitarist for Queen, is back on track to complete his PhD in astrophysics, which he abandoned in the 1970s. Could be that he was busy with something else at the time. Read more about it at NME.com. Also, check out May's official web site.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Can I Get a Fact-Check on That, Please?

I just came across the following mind-bending factoid, quoted courtesy of AllMusic.com:
"Elvis Costello was as much a pub-rocker as he was a punk-rocker and nowhere is that more evident than on his debut, My Aim Is True. It's not just that Clover, a San Franciscan rock outfit led by Huey Lewis (absent here), back him here, not the Attractions..." Now, how can that possibly be true?!? Next thing, you'll tell me that Neil Young and Rick "Superfreak" James were college roomates. Oh wait...

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Via Vegas

Up-front non-legally-binding disclaimer: Via Vegas is a vehicle for Glenn Perachio, my friend, former roomate, and former bandmate. Having got that out of the way, let me just say how much I'm enjoying his recent work. Glenn seems to have come full-circle. When we first met in the late-1980's in college, we shared a passion for The Church and The Smiths. Later in college, his songwriting influences were more informed by funk a la Red Hot Chili Peppers. In the late-1990s, he led a band in Minneapolis called The Bison Burns, that seemed more influenced by Summerteeth-era Wilco. These days, Glenn seems to have returned to Starfish-era Church. I was impressed by a group of 6 songs he was offering for download on his website Via-Vegas.com a year or two ago; particularly, Love at Antietam, which starts off slow but offers a big melodic payback when the chorus kicks in. More recently, he's recorded a couple of new songs, of which The Distance is my favorite with it's snarling, atmospheric guitars. You can listen to the aforementioned 2 Songs at Via Vegas' MySpace site, as well as two others. I've had some difficulty tracking down Via Vegas within MySpace. If the provided link doesn't work, go to my own MySpace page and follow the link to Via Vegas. And yes, he's my only MySpace "friend," and frankly, I'm comfortable with that, no matter HOW old you SAY you are...

Friday, June 23, 2006

Never Mind the Bollocks

I just watched a documentary from 2002 called Classic Albums: Sex Pistols - Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols. It was a lot of fun, and I'm eager to compare it to The Filth and the Fury, another documentary about the Sex Pistols from 2000, which Steve posted about here. I gather that documentary is perhaps more historical whereas this one is more focused on how the music was made. It featured many interviews with producers and sound engineers who worked on the classic album itself. I have a pretty low tolerance for lengthy discussions of studio wonkery (I don't know what compression is and I don't care to learn), but I found those pieces fascinating. As I'd often heard, Sid Vicious played not a note on the album; all of the bass lines were guitarist Steve Jones basically playing the same bar chords an octave lower. Also, while Steve Jones is no Kevin Shields, there are many more guitar tracks on any given song that I'd realized. Basically, it turns out that the Sex Pistols--with the glaring exception of Sid Vicious--were actually quite talented musicians.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the documentary, which included individual interviews with all four members of the band (by which I mean to include original and current bassist Glen Matlock, who co-wrote many of their greatest songs), was how generous they were to each other and how sad and wistful they were over their lost opportunities. I just wasn't expecting quite so much perspective from Johnny Rotten, I guess.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

An Epitonic for the Troops


The other day, out of the blue, I got an email from the fine folks at Epitonic announcing their return from the dead, or at least a year-and-a-half coma of their own choosing. Started in 1999, Epitonic was a free and legal source of indie rock MP3 downloads. However, for some time now, their site has essentially been dormant with no new MP3s being added. Now, it looks like they're back with new material and a new site design. The material is great, but the site design is ill-advised, weird, and just plain non-intuitive. Nevertheless, if you can figure out how to navigate the new site (which seems to be inspired by Tetris or a crossword puzzle), you can find some great downloads by bands like Mates of State, Cat Power, Spoon, Coco Rosie, and more.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Mylo

I finally got around to listening to the Mylo album Destroy Rock & Roll that has gotten a ton of positive press. Like most I had heard Drop the Pressure but I had not really dug into the album.

All I can say is what took me so long? It is an incredibly diverse album. Recorded at home on simple computer equipment, Mylo hits on a bunch of styles and tempos including Acid House and Downtempo. Favorite tracks on the record include Sunworshippers, Valley of the Dolls, In My Arms (with the sample from the 80s hit Bette Davis Eyes) and Emotion 98.6 (which sounds a bit like Moby). You can listen to a sampling of songs on myspace but this really is a diverse album and a must own as well.

Amadou and Miriam

Another band I have been listening to an awful lot lately is Amadou and Miriam and their album Dimanche a Bamako. Amadou and Miriam are a married couple from Mali that are both blind. They are very popular across Africa and Europe and their music, like Nomo, is also Afrobeat but it has been more accurately been described as Memphis guitars combined with African singing. Checkout the songs La Realite and Senegal Fast Food on Myspace and you will end up buying the whole album.

Nomo

Saw the band Nomo at Bottom of the Hill last week. Originally from Ann Arbor, they are now on a long, long tour and the night in San Francisco seemed to catch lightning in a bottle. From the outset they were absolutely on fire. Nomo plays a combination of Afro-Beat, Dub Reggae, and Funk, very much in the same vein as Fela Kuti from Nigeria in the 1970s.

With searing horn solos, little singing, and a rhythm section keeping a ferocious beat, they tore through about an hour set. One of the first songs was Nu Tones which is on their new release from Ubiquity Records called New Tones. I have no idea what instrument the leader of the band was playing on this song but it is a relentless and quickly captured the attention of crowd that had been lulled to sleep by possibly the worst opening act I have seen in years. You can listen to this as well as two other songs at Myspace.

The Futureheads are Spinning

All too rarely, I add a new album to my mental list of albums I'll be listening to for the rest of life. That august list includes classics like My Bloody Valentine - Loveless, the self-titled debut by The Stone Roses, the self-titled debut by The Clash, anything by The Beatles from Help through Sgt. Pepper, and Simon and Garfunkel - Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme (yes, you're reading that last one correctly).

In 2004, I added the self-titled debut by the Scottish group The Futureheads to the list. There isn't a song on that album that doesn't make me want to shout along in a bad imitation of a thick Scottish accent. Late in 2005, I posted here about Area, a new single by the band.

Within a few short days (June 13), News and Tributes, the sophomore album by The Futureheads will be released in the US (it's already out in the UK). Until then, you can content yourself with Skip to the End, the lead single from the album, which Insound.com has posted for free. Do I like it as much as anything from their debut? Not really. Am I worried about the quality of the 2nd album living up to the 1st? Significantly. Notice how many of the albums listed above are "self-titled debuts" rather than sophomore surprises. Will I still enjoy the debut album if News and Tributes sucks? You bet! Just this weekend, I listened to the The Stone Roses' debut and hardly thought at all about their ridiculously tepid, grandiose-titled follow-up Second Coming. So, don't worry Futureheads, your place on my list is secure! They'll be so relieved.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Sky Drops

Holy flurking snit! Check out these 2 free songs from Wilmington, DE band The Sky Drops that 3Hive just posted about. Since there will never be a follow-up to My Bloody Valetine's Loveless, you might as well enjoy these songs. Read more about The Sky Drops on their website.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

In memory of Grant McLennan

Grant McLennan of the Go-Betweens died on May 6. Read more about it at NME.com. LittleHits, one of my favorite music blogs, is posting a free download of the classic Go-Between song Cattle and Cane.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Better Than Prozac: Listening to New Order

Slate is featuring a good article about New Order entitled Better Than Prozac: Listening to New Order. Besides heaping well-deserved praise on some of our favorite Mancunians, the article mentions that a new Ian Curtis biopic is in the works, directed by Anton Corbijn (who I know mostly from having taken many of the defining early pictures of U2).

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Church

Last time, I wrote about Echo & the Bunnymen, a band that meant a lot to me back in the day but until recently has seemed increasingly irrelevant with each new album that comes out. The same could be said for The Church. I WORSHIPPED The Church from the time I bought Heyday in high school up until Gold Afternoon Fix. I bought everything in their back catalog at a time when I couldn't really afford it. But after they failed to replicate the relative commercial success of Starfish with Gold Afternoon Fix, The Church seemed to say screw it! and retreat away from the jangle-pop of their best work, becoming more experimental and to my ears, much less interesting. I won't say that their latest album Uninvited, Like the Clouds, is a complete return to form. However, I strongly recommend the song Easy, which recalls their best work. The song Unified Field is also good. I may end up downloading a few more of the songs from eMusic.com, but those 2songs seem to be the standout tracks.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Echo & the Bunnymen


It's not that I'm not an Echo & the Bunnymen fan. Far from it. Seeing them live in 1987 along with New Order was one of the seminal moments of my youth. However, I'll admit that my affections haven't been constant. Far from it. I haven't bought one of their albums since Songs to Learn and Sing (unlike some of my co-contributors, I suspect). So, when their latest album, Siberia, was released late last year I was indifferent at best. However, after reading some positive reviews and hearing some songs from more recent Echo & the Bunnymen albums that sounded pretty good to me, I decided to download Siberia from eMusic.com. So far, I really enjoy it, particularly the AllMusic.com picks. And, without actually having heard any of the intervening albums in their entirety, I can say with absolute metaphysical certitude that Siberia is Echo & the Bunnymen's best album of new material since Ocean Rain.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Breakestra

An LA band led by Miles Tackett playing very heavy funk reminding me of the best of the JBs as well as the Meters. Breakestra released Hit the Floor last year on the Ubiquity label here in California and the album sounds in the same vain as this song Take My Time.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Goldspot

Goldspot. A band I ran across at Virgin record. It sported a sticker saying "Nic Harcourt's favorite album of 2005" and yes I had never heard of them. Apparently a song of theirs has appeared on "the OC" which I no longer watch so I am behind again. Check them out. The lead singer has the India music angle (lead singer named Siddhartha) combined with influences including REM, The Smiths, Travis, Radiohead. You can listen to four of their songs on myspace. Others are on their website including the song Cusp, which is a great, great song.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Envelopes


Envelopes is a Swedish group that sounds a bit like Pavement and the Pixies. Their new album Demon came out last month and Insound.com is currently offering a free MP3 of one of the singles, Sister In Love.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Arctic Monkeys Editors Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers

Huh? I don't know - it's a stream of consciousness post title. Anyway, I just discovered that Insound.com is offering free downloads of MP3s by several artists we've discussed here recently. First, they have I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor by the much-hyped Arctic Monkeys, which Steve mentioned here. Second, they have Munich by Editors, which I've mentioned here and here. And, of course, they have dozens of other great MP3s for free.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Melismatics


This morning, RadioK played 2songs by The Melismatics as part of their Concert Box segment, in which they feature bands that will be playing concerts in the Twin Cities over the weekend. The Melismatics are a local band that I've heard of but never really heard; apparently, I've been missing out. The songs New Infection and Rite Where You Belong from their 2003 album New Infection are very catchy indie power pop on the harder end of the spectrum. Think Cheap Trick. You can download 2songs from the website of their label, Susstones. Also, you can listen to other songs on their website or MySpace.com space.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Figurines


3Hive.com has been posting some great stuff lately, including Field Music, The Stills, and Tapes 'n Tapes (a Mpls band), but the Danish group Figurines is my favorite. Apparently, they turned quite a few heads at this year's SXSW festival and were a Spin band-of-the-day. Read more about them on their official site.