Friday, March 30, 2007

(03.30.07) Recommends:

The Andrew Bird Triumvirate.

Part One was last Friday. Part Two was Monday. And today, the finale in the three part series, "Darkmatter." But just between you and me, I might link to more tracks from this album. Because I can't stop listening to it. I hope you've purchased it by now.

Andrew Bird - Darkmatter - mp3.
(mp3 via Vague Space)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

(03.28.07) Recommends:

Arcade Fire on Take Away Shows!

You've heard the hype that Arcade Fire is the most important indie-rock band of its generation. Perhaps you're not convinced. This video elegantly shows a band owning it. Yes, that's Richard Reed Perry, the band's Napoleon Dynamite-esque bass player ripping out pages of a magazine, creating a steady beat for the band. And yes, that's you, skeptical you, thinking "why yes, magazine pages as bassline, it makes perfect sense." This is a band that is so needed.



Here's more info about the Take Away Shows! series.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

(03.27.07) Recommends:

Amy Cutler, Recent Works.



I first stumbled upon the brilliance of Amy Cutler in 2004, when she was a Visiting Artist and exhibiting at the Kemper. I've watched from afar as her career continued its upward trajectory, including inclusion in the 2004 Whitney Biennial, and publication of a book of her art:



I've even blogged about her in passing. And just today I stumbled upon a press release announcing her newest exhibition, Recent Works, showing at Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects in NYC. Her work is like childhood fairy tales mixed with News of the Weird. It usually features women and animals and hybrid women-animals in whimsical settings. I'm not qualified to judge whether it is fanciful for fanciful's sake, or if it is making a comment on contemporary culture. I encourage you to search the links provided and come to your own conclusion. But regardless, I can't get enough of her work.

Monday, March 26, 2007

(03.26.07) Recommends:

More Andrew Bird.

I've been endlessly listening to two tracks in particular from Andrew Bird's newest record, Armchair Apocrypha. The first I mentioned on Friday. The other is Fiery Crash. This is such a great song.

Andrew Bird - Fiery Crash - mp3.

(mp3 via A.M. 180)

Friday, March 23, 2007

(03.23.07) Recommends:

Andrew Bird, "Armchair Apocrypha" (Fat Possum, 2007).

2007 refuses to stop with the great new music releases. Today I've got to talk about Andrew Bird. Every time I see his name, I think Andrew W.K. Every time I see his face, I think Josh Groban. That might be two strikes against him, but try this on for size: He has a music performance degree from Northwestern. According to the internet, he has taught at the Old Town School of Folk Music. He played violin in muthafuckin' Squirrel Nut Zippers. He might be the greatest rock 'n roll whistler ever. And now we all have "Armchair Apocrypha" to deal with.

This album has great music and great lyrics and, like I said, great whistling.

Andrew Bird - Scythian Empires - mp3.
(mp3 via Music For Kids Who Can Read Good)

His homepage.
His myspace.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

(03.20.07) Recommends:

Obsessing over old music on New Music Tuesday.

So the torrent of good new music being released in 2007 continues today. There's LCD Soundsystem's new one, which garnered a 9.2 from Pitchfork. There's the new one from Modest Mouse, which the bloggers have been debating for the last month. There's Panda Bear, who's a part of Animal Collective, and who dropped "Person Pitch", which will end up as one of the Top Ten Albums of the Year. In addition, there's new stuff from Ted Leo, and doubtless other bands whom I'm forgetting -- or don't even know yet (get in touch with me and let me know about your new release!) -- as I type this.

However. However. All day I have been obsessing over Jolie Holland's "Catalpa," a lovely record that came out way back in the halcyon days of 2003. Holland was a founding member of The Be Good Tanyas -- a band I've blogged about here and here -- and she is in excellent form on this album. This is full of stripped down, sleepy, weepy, folk songs. No frills. Just a beautiful voice and a guitar. If you're feeling overwhelmed by all the new music about which you are expected to know and for which you are expected to have strong feelings, please feel free to serve yourself a cold glass of lemonade, put your feet up, and listen to some Jolie Holland:

Jolie Holland - All The Morning Birds - mp3.
Jolie Holland - December 1999 - mp3.
Jolie Holland - Ghost Waltz - mp3.

Monday, March 19, 2007

(03.19.07) Recommends:

Of Montreal, "The Past is a Grotesque Animal" from "Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?" (Polyvinyl, 2007).

2007 has been a very strong year for new music releases. Nearing one-fourth of the way through the year, it seems like a good time to stop and reflect on all this goodness. Today, I put forth my front runner for Track of the Year. Of Montreal really puts it all together on this track. The song is a Dylanesque effort: a lyrical bender that clocks in at 11:53. And the lyrics on this thing are just fucking incredible. There are at least a half-dozen lyrics that are now in competition for Greatest Lyrics Ever. Including:

"I fell in love with the first cute girl that I met
Who could appreciate George Bataille
Standing at Swedish festival discussing the 'Story of the Eye'"

"Things could be different but they're not" (repeat)

"It's so embarrassing to need someone like I do you
How can I explain I need you here and not here too."

"But you know, no matter where we are
We're always touching by underground wires"

But none of those compare with the song's greatest line:
"But it's like we weren't made for this world
Though I wouldn't really want to meet someone who was"

And then there's the music. It's some kind of psyche-techno-synthe-disco-indie rock. It could equally track a great dream or a nightmare. I imagine it's the preferred party music for German scenesters and robots. In fact, it could be played at a German scenester/robot party that took place in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, and neither the German scenesters nor the robots would be able to tell that the song was released in 2007. Timeless, is what I'm getting at.

Talking about this song does it no justice. Listen to it; you'll be mesmerized:

Of Montreal-The Past Is a Grotesque Animal

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

(03.13.07) Recommends:

Dylan Hears a Who!

Question: What would you get if you crossed two of the literary giants of the 20th Century, Bob Dylan and Dr. Seuss?

Answer: This.



This elaborate paraody site contains 7-tracks of a Highway 61-era-Dylan-soundalike singing classic Dr. Seuss stories. The results are pretty amazing. I particularly like "Green Eggs and Ham" set to "Tombstone Blues," the epic 12-plus minute "The Cat in the Hat" set to "Visions of Johanna," and "Too Many Daves" the story of Mrs. McCave, who had twenty-three sons and named 'em all Dave, made emotionally stirring put to the music of (what is likely) "Worried Blues." Not only are the songs ridiculously awesome, but the crackle-and-pop sound effect of the record player is a completely perfect touch.

You might never be able to hear Dylan or read Dr. Suess the same way again.

Monday, March 12, 2007

(03.12.07) Recommends:

Charlie Louvin, "Charlie Louvin" (Tompkins Square, 2007).

In 2007, Charlie Louvin is being called the father of alt.country. He wrote "The Christian Life" and performed it with his brother in the aptly-named band the Louvin Brothers. Then Gram Parsons covered that song during his stint with the Byrds. And Gram Parsons was a heavy influence on, among others, Uncle Tupelo, the first modern alt. country band. Hence: Charlie Louvin, father of alt.country.

He is 80 now, and recently put out a solo record. It's just him singing old songs with some new voices (Jeff Tweedy, Will Oldham, Paul Burch) and some old voices (Bobby Bare Sr, Elvis Costello). It's produced by Mark Nevers, occasional member of Lambchomp (another great alt.country project). I love projects like this -- rediscovery of great artists -- and we've seen some great ones over the last several years: Rick Rubin/Johnny Cash. Jack White/Loretta Lynn. Rick Rubin/Neil Diamond. Last year's Springsteen album full of Pete Seeger covers. This is an album that goes on that list.

The two tracks I've listened to most frequently are "Great Atomic Power" (w/ Tweedy) and "My Long Journey Home" (w/ Burch). Uncle Tupelo covered "Great Atomic Power" on their album "March 16-20, 1992." I was hoping John Kerry would have used this as a campaign song in '04. It certainly would have gotten most people's attention. And freaked the holy hell out of everyone else. Which was needed in '04. But alas: irony and politics, meet oil and water.

Here's the album version of "Great Atomic Power."
Here's Uncle Tupelo's version.
(links via Each Note Secure)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

(03.11.07) Recommends:

Concert Photography, Vol. 7.

Bright Eyes, Night 2.
Great American Music Hall
San Francisco, Calif.
03.10.07
Opening: Port O'Brien, Vetiver.
Special Guest: M. Ward

So I also decided to attend the the second Bright Eyes show. Both shows "sold out" in "seconds." Which meant -- this being a show at GAMH -- I had to show up about an hour before the doors opened to purchase a ticket at the box office. Still trying to figure out what it means when a show "sells out" at GAMH. Also still trying to figure out why people shell out lots of money for "sold out" shows at GAMH on eBay or craigslist.

Anyway.

First up was Port O'Brien, a very cool indie-folkie-rockie band from Oakland. They have a very energetic live show. A little Arcade Fire-meets-the Decemberists. M. Ward recently called the band his Favorite New Band. The band has some sort of nautical roots and hence the lead singer wore some kind of captain's hat:



Next up was Vetiver. They played second both nights. Another fun band based in San Francisco. They had long hair, and beards, and wore fedoras and played really good music:


With gratuitous banjo plucking thrown in for good measure:


Then Bright Eyes came out and put on another solid show:




And M. Ward joined again (that's him, in the baseball cap, on the right):


Saturday, March 10, 2007

(03.10.07) Recommends:

Concert Photography, Vol. 6.

Bright Eyes
Great American Music Hall
San Francisco, Calif.
03.09.07.

As with every proper blog entry about a GAMH show, we shall start with the facade (for fans of foreshadowing, there's a rather large omission on said facade):



This paragraph is where I traditionally post a few pictures of the opening band, and try to say a few nice words. At this show, however, the opening bands were overshadowed by a special guest, so I'll get right to the main course.

Capital y Young Capital d Dylan came out with his much-discussed new 'do:



And the band promptly kicked into the new single "Four Winds," which is a ridiculously catchy song (notwithstanding an opening stanza that possibly is a rip off of a famous holiday song). Listen and tell me how much you love this tune.

Now, at this point in the show (one song in) I'm actually a bit distressed; I'm thinking to myself, they just kicked off the show with such a great song. Does this show now have nowhere to go but down? Ummmmm, no. Enter: special guest:



It's a bird!



It's a plane!



It's M. effing Ward!

Two of the most important singer/songwriters of their generation. Together on one small stage. Needless to say, everybody in the crowd vomited in excitement. So did Young Dylan. So he did what any rock star would do, he wiped it off with his sleeves!


I know what you're thinking: Less talk, more rock. Following find more pictures of the show:









So, that facade was a lie by omission. Here's what it should have said:

Thursday, March 08, 2007

(03.08.07) Recommends:

Concert Photography, Vol. 5.

Noise Pop Opening Night Party
f. Extra Action Marching Band, Har Mar Superstar, Tapes n Tapes.
DJ Shepard Fairey. MC David Cross.

The Mezzanine.
San Francisco, Ca.
02/27/07.

Noise Pop is San Francisco’s week long music/art/film festival. I attended this year’s opening night party.



Shepard Fairey played DJ all night. He is a graphic designer best known for his guerrilla campaign Obey Giant. Chances are you’ve seen the stickers around your hometown:



David Cross was there MCing and telling jokes. At one point an audience member doused him with a full bottle of water. He took it in stride.





The first band was the Extra Action Marching Band. They were a full-sized marching band, San Francisco-style. And by this I mean most members were either drinking beer or were mostly naked. I took no pictures because, well, if you’ve seen one of these San Francisco things – a nominally normal event, say a bike race or a road race, but with the San Francisco twist of pubic drinking/public nudity – you’ve seen them all. So just google the band if you're interested in pics.

Next was Har Mar Superstar. Who, it turns out, performs mostly naked as well. You might think this was too much San Francisco funny business for one night. And you might be right but for the fact that he is hysterical. He looks like a mix of Jon Lovitz and Ron Jeremy:



He sings in an R ‘n B style, with over-the-top lyrics about his extraordinary sexiness and awesomeness. I was stone cold sober, yet was pretty much amazed by his stage show.



Most people attempting this persona would come off as obnoxious, but Har Mar Superstar is completely endearing. If a stage show featuring near nudity, profanity, and constant references to sexual prowess could ever be described as family friendly, it would be Har Mar Superstar. He’s from Minnesota; that’s just how Midwesterners roll, I suppose.



The main attraction, at least for my money (did I mention that this evening was free, you just had to get on a "guest list" to get in), was another Minnesota product, Tapes ‘n Tapes. They were fantastic. One of the most energetic shows I’ve seen in the last three years.







The band might be named after tapes, but they have the most kick-ass rock 'n roll drummer on the planet. Seriously. I dare you to try to listen to The Loon and not play air drums as you listen.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

(03.06.07) Recommends:

Illinois, "What the Hell Do I Know?" (Ace Fu, 2007).

It has been a whirlwind 2007. Some great records released. Some great shows seen. And despite all the awesomeness I have been out of the blogging game since December. But just the other day I received an unexpected little package in the mail that excited me enough to get the recommendations started again. It’s a 7-song EP called “What the Hell Do I Know” by a band called Illinois. It's put out by Ace Fu, and I guess it's time to ask: can Ace Fu do any wrong? With releases by the likes of Annuals and DeVotchKa, among others, they had a pretty ridiculous 2006 and with this release look poised to repeat that success in '07. Anyway, back to the record. I’ve been listening to it pretty much non-stop for days now. What does it sound like, you ask? Well, remember the first time you heard Ryan Adams’ solo material? And each song reminded you of about three artists, but you couldn’t really put your finger on exactly which artists you were recalling? It’s kinda like that with Illinois. And I mean that in a really good way. Vocally, I hear a bunch of bands that I listened to constantly in 2006 – the aforementioned Annuals, Oxford Collapse, the Whigs. Sonically is where this thing gets interesting. There’s some YHF-era Wilco. Meets Beck. Meets the Flaming Lips. Meets those weird swirling keyboards of the Unicorns. There’s one track (I’m not sure the name because it’s track 2 on my hard copy EP, but track 4 when I listen to it on Rhapsody) that has a hip hop foundation, layered with banjo plucks and distorted indie-rock yelps. It's catchiness cannot be denied and it's an early favorite for Track of '07.

This is a record you'll end up listening to a ton this year, so do yourself a favor and get to know this band:

Take a listen to Screendoor.

And listen to more on their myspace.

Their website.