Real Music Alternatives, featuring the Year in Music: Tom Waits, Radiohead, Wilco, Wild Flag, PJ Harvey, Bon Iver, Bright Eyes, Wye Oak, R.E.M. and more. Also, meet Yuck, the band that made 2011's best album. Plus Charlotte Gainsbourg, Cass McCombs, David Lynch, Deer Tick, Brian Wilson, Matthew Herbert, Surfer Blood, John Wesley Harding and more.
Charlotte GainsbourG I Cass MCCoMbs I DaviD lynCh r e a l m u s i c a lt e r n a t i v e s Meet The Band ThaT made 2011's BesT alBum Music Tom WaiTs Radiohead Wilco Wild Flag PJ haRvey Bon iveR BRighT eyes Wye oak R.e.m. $4.99 | ISSUE no. 83 the Year in Surfer Blood, John Wesley Harding and more ... Plus Deer Tick, Brian Wilson, Matthew Herbert, Introducing RPM FRANK KOZIK Four figures. Limited edition run of 5000 blind box pieces. Available at select indie record stores and online at www.recordstoreday.com a Record Store Day vinyl figure series created by SHE CH R I STMAS A VE RY H IM from ZOOEY DESCHANEL and M.WARD magnet 1 1 2 HOLI DAY CL A S SIC S R e A l m u S i c A lT e R n AT i v e S 1 YEAR � 12 ISSUES � only $24.99 to AmericA's originAl subscribe independent music magazine Sign me up! Check one: NAME 1 year (12 issues) $24.99 2 years (24 issues) $44.99 ADDRESS APT # CITY STATE ZIP EMAIL ADDRESS Make check/money order payable to MAGNET Magazine or pay with your Visa, Mastercard, Discover or Amex. Mail completed order form and payment to: mAgneT Subscriptions 1032 Arch St., 3rd Floor philadelphia pA 19107 Allow 4-6 weeks for delivery. PHONE NUMBER VISA / MASTERCARD / DISCOVER / AMEX EXP DATE SIGNATURE (FOR CREDIT CARD ORDERS) For faster service, subscribe online at magnetmagazine.com. We accept credit cards and PayPal on our website. find us online at www.magnetmagazine.com n o 83 . Departments 6 Letters 8 static contents cover story Charlotte Gainsbourg is fed up with trying too much; Cass McCombs channels his inner Ritchie Valens; Deer Tick remains full-grown men acting like kids; John Wesley Harding gets by with a little help from his (famous) friends; Surfer Blood keeps on rocking in the free world; Matthew Herbert makes pearls out of swine; Brian Wilson is finally SMiLING; and Caithlin De Marrais likes taking risks. The Year in music 2011 pg. 36 26 On the recOrd David Lynch 30 Magnified 51 reviews Future Islands, Mr. Gnome, Thee Oh Sees, Stalley New releases from Tom Waits, Radiohead, U2, R.E.M., Bj�rk, Ryan Adams, Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, She & Him, Kate Bush, Los Campesinos!, Kurt Vile, 65DaysOfStatic, Atlas Sound, Mike Patton, Mayer Hawthorne, Hurricane Bells and more. MAGNET surveys the 20 best albums of the year (from Tom Waits and Thurston Moore to PJ on The cover Harvey and Eleanor Friedberger Yuck to Wild Flag and Fucked Up), tells photographed October 14 you about 10 essential records you in Brooklyn for MAGNET probably missed out on, picks all the by Shane McCauley other must-hear music from 2011 (including reissues, punk/hardcore, hip hop, jazz, world music and tons more) and interviews Yuck, the young British band responsible for the year's best album. 64 the Back Page Looking Back At 2012 editOR'S nOte R E A L M u S I C A LT E R N A T I V E S # 8 3 www.magnetmagazine.com publiSheR editOR-in-chief managing editOR Alex Mulcahy email@example.com cOntRibuting WRiteRS Eric T. Miller firstname.lastname@example.org Andrew Bonazelli email@example.com it'S a pRetty RaRe OccuRRence, but every once in a while a band hooks you from the very first couple of minutes you hear them. For me, over the last 20 or so years, it's happened with the debut albums by the Stone Roses, Nirvana, Pavement, the Wrens and a handful of others. You never really expect it, but suddenly there's a record full of everything you were looking for, even though you didn't realize it. It happened again to me in fall 2010, when I got an advance copy of the self-titled debut by Yuck. All I knew about the band was that two of its members had played in Cajun Dance Party, an outfit I had found pretty unremarkable. I had recently renewed my expired driver's license and taken to listening to music in the car again. For whatever reason, I grabbed the CD and gave it a spin while running some errands. I was instantly floored. I had to eject the CD to see what band this was that blew me away after only a few songs. Yuck is an unabashedly indie-rock album that sounds current, vintage and timeless all at once. It's like the band took the best parts of all the music MAGNET covers and reduced it to 12 tracks spread over 45 minutes. Each listen reveals new influences, but what makes Yuck so special is the band's way with a hook. Somehow this group arrived fully formed and achieved greatness on its first attempt, when most bands are still taking baby steps. Fast-forward 12 months. To help compile the magazine's list of the top 20 albums of 2011, we did our annual poll of MAGNET writers to find out what their favorite records of the year were. Imagine my surprise when the album with the most votes from our staff was Yuck's. The LP joins such classics as Guided By Voices' Bee Thousand, Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs and SleaterKinney's The Woods as MAGNET's album of the year, and it becomes the first debut to ever top our list. Perhaps the best indicator of just how good a band Yuck is came when the Fat Possum label released a "deluxe edition" of Yuck in October with bonus tracks. Any of the six could have easily fit on the proper LP with ease, and a couple of the songs are as good or better than the album's best tracks. I can't wait to see what these guys do next. On a much sadder note, two members of the MAGNET family lost their mothers while we were working on this issue: Back Page guru Phil Sheridan and bookkeeper extraordinaire Alicia McClung. Phil and I have known each other for almost 20 years, and I count him among my very best friends; Alicia and I only met a few months ago, but she has gone out of her way to make this new guy feel like a welcome addition to the Red Flag Media team. I hope both Phil and Alicia know how sorry I am for their losses. cOntRibuting editOR aRt diRectOR cuStOmeR SeRvice deSigneR pROductiOn inteRnS Matthew Fritch firstname.lastname@example.org Jamie Leary email@example.com Patty Moran firstname.lastname@example.org Melissa McFeeters Lucas Hardison Frida Garza Alex Hosenball Elena Rivera Higgins Eric T. Miller maScOt adveRtiSing Online technical SuppORt cOntRibuting editOR cOntRibuting WRiteRS Ed Morgan Julia Friedland Lindsey Colferai Emily Costantino Katie Delaney Haley C. Knight Brendan Mattox Thea Ryan Eric T. Miller adveRtiSing Sam Adams A.D. Amorosi Brian Baker Patrick Berkery Jud Cost Raymond Cummings Jakob Dorof Neil Ferguson M.J. Fine Jeanne Fury Adam Gold Joe Gross Justin Hampton Matt Hickey K. Ross Hoffman Brian Howard Steve Klinge Devon Leger Sean L. Maloney Michaelangelo Matos BIll Meyer Mitch Myers Noah Bonaparte Pais Michael Pelusi j. poet Patrick Rapa Bryan C. Reed Matt Ryan Eric Schuman Elliott Sharp Phil Sheridan Rod Smith Lee Stabert Kevin Stewart-Panko Matt Sullivan Jonathan Valania John Vettese Eric Waggoner cOntRibuting phOtOgRapheR main Office 1032 Arch Street, 3rd Floor Philadelphia, PA 19107 Tel: 215.625.9850 / Fax: 215.625.9967 www.magnetmagazine.com RecORd StOReS Shane McCauley yuck! To carry MAGNET, call 215.625.9850 x105 magnet SubScRiptiOnS MAGNET subscriber service/change of address: 215.625.9850 x105 or email@example.com To order by mail: Consult the subscription page To order by phone: 215.625.9850 x105 To order by fax: 215.625.9967 To order online: www.magnetmagazine.com Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express accepted Subscribers: Please alert us of any change of address 6-8 weeks before the date of your move. MAGNET is not responsible or obligated to re-ship issues missed because of a move we were not informed of 6-8 weeks before the move took place. magnet back iSSueS/meRchandiSe To order by phone: 215.625.9850 x105 (10 a.m. � 6 p.m. EST) To order by fax: 215.625.9967 To order online: www.magnetmagazine.com MAGNET (ISSN 1088-7806) is published monthly by Red Flag Media, Inc., 1032 Arch Street, 3rd Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19107. Annual subscription price is $24.99. Submission of manuscripts, illustrations and/or photographs must be accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope. The publisher assumes no responsibility for unsolicited materials. Postmaster send changes of address for MAGNET to Red Flag Media, 1032 Arch Street, 3rd Floor, Philadelphia PA 19107. Copyright� 2011 by Red Flag Media, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission of the publisher is strictly prohibited. Eric T. Miller, Editor-In-Chief 4 magnet pRinted in the uSa magnet 5 letters It made me feel all warm and fuzzy to see MAGNET's logo/title/name on a real live magazine issue! Fuck yes. I've been a subscriber since 2001 or before, and I'm glad you're back. The online thing is fine (I like your Over/Under column), but it's not the same. I have an iPod and all, but all of this Internet/mp3/e-book shit is for the birds. (There'll be some sort of solar flare/ electromagnetic storm some day and 30 years of our culture will be erased, assholes.) Anyhow, thanks, and welcome back, guys. So, anyway, I'm so psyched that you're back in print. What I've always loved about MAGNET is the beautiful combination of the old and the new. Usually a cover and several big articles about someone I know (often) and (at the very least) respect, then many lesser-known folks (in the Magnified section) and reviews of albums sandwiched together in issue #81 by Eric Miller's editor's note and Phil Sheridan's Back Page. Reading those opening and closing remarks made me feel like I was back home again. Awesome. Matt Romano, Portland, ME First off, happy to have you back, and in my mailbox every month. Second, issue #82: Guided By Voices, the Smiths, Kimya Dawson, Crooked Fingers and Ben Lee mentioned on the cover? I don't know whether to make fun of you for being stuck in your past, or give you props for making yourselves into the Mojo of indie-rock mags. Paul Ramaeker, Sarasota, FL Why put Wilco on your cover [#81], then slag the new album in a short, narrow-minded review that claims they teeter on "self-parody"? Not a brilliant return to form, MAGNET. Mike Betts, Lexington, KY What a great surprise to find issue #81 in my mailbox! Welcome back--you've been missed. I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking there has been a huge void in American music journalism since MAGNET went into hibernation a few years back. I've always felt there's no real reason why printed media and electronic media couldn't coexist together--resurrecting your printed magazine is a very good idea, of course. I'm sure this new era of MAGNET will be very successful; your experience, hard work and, above all, passion for the music you cover makes certain that MAGNET will maintain being a successful and worthwhile venture. It's great to have you back! Here's my two-year subscription. MAGNET has always been informative, insightful and just plain fun to read. I look forward to much good reading from you in the future! Lawrence Salvatore, Joliet, IL Welcome back. I missed you and your reviews. In 1999, I received issue #38 from my boss and started my subscription immediately. I never imagined this small gift would still be giving more than 10 years later. Because the publication was not monthly, I never seemed to know exactly when my next issue would show up, so it was always a pleasant surprise in my mailbox. After issue #80, I guess I lost track of time because it was close to six months before I realized I had not received a new issue. I went online and saw that #80 was still the current issue and soon noticed that MAGNET was online only. I checked out the site a few times looking for the thing I came to miss most, the music reviews, but they were not there. Over the previous nine years, your reviews had helped introduce me to a countless amount of new music. I searched online for a replacement for MAGNET's reviews and settled on two sites-- Metacritic and Pitchfork--to try and fill the gap. For a lack of anything better, I started tolerating their style of reviews. Not until I got "surprise issue" #81 in the mail did I realize how hard it has been to find out if either one of these sites like an album or not, and how much I really missed MAGNET. Your reviews were always concise and to the point, unlike this letter. Now, with the addition of stars to go along with the review, it is even easier to understand whether you like or dislike the album being reviewed. I have checked out more new music in the last few days because of MAGNET than I have in more than a month from those two sites combined. Thank you for remembering me and sending me issue #81. With my subscription, I look forward to many more great issues and the new music I am sure to discover in the pages of MAGNET. Robert Hipke, Ocala, FL Send letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your real name and address. Letters may be edited for clarity and length. 6 magnet GOOD THINGS HAPPEN WHEN YOU THINK OUTSIDE THE BAND MUSIC FROM SOME OF ROCK'S GREATEST FRONTMEN-GONE-SOLO $9.99 OR LESS BOB MOULD Life And Times MORRISSEY South Paw Grammar JOE STRUMMER Global A-Go-Go ROBERT PLANT Now & Zen *titles and prices vary by store. Music galore--from frontmen and their bands--less than $10 every day at a record store. magnet 7 static s tat i c 8 magnet photo by jean-baptiste mondino 40 And Furtive Charlotte Gainsbourg baby-steps to whispers before writing Charlotte GainsbourG arrives at New York City's tony Bowery Hotel with her twomonth-old daughter swaddled to her stomach, the baby's tiny legs protruding bizarrely from just above Gainsbourg's narrow hips. She's the daughter of France's iconic singer/ songwriter/actor Serge Gainsbourg and ravishing English-born actress/singer Jane Birkin, but Charlotte has an understated grace that betrays her own mega-star status in the indie-film world. She doesn't fill the room like some big shot. Her humility is pronounced, a bit disarming, even. During her interview with MAGNET, Gainsbourg spends a good deal of time explaining why she doesn't consider herself a singer (though she's on album number four) or an actress (though she won best actress at Cannes in 2009 for Lars von Trier's Antichrist) or an artist (see: previous two examples). She enjoys referring to herself as "unprofessional." "I like using other people's words, and I don't find that artistic," she says. "I love working intensely, so it really doesn't mean that the work is less strong--I really put myself there--but I like to be someone else's instrument and to be used." Clearly. In addition to her work on 30-plus films, Gainsbourg has three full-length studio albums under her belt. Her father composed almost all of her first album, 1986's Charlotte For Ever; Air, Jarvis Cocker and Neil Hannon were responsible for 2006's 5:55; and Beck wrote 2009's IRM. Fine, Gainsbourg's not a songwriter, but when her ethereal, stirring singing voice enters the fray, she's the immediate focal point. Nowhere is that more evident than on her latest release, Stage Whisper (Because/Elektra). Comprised of live recordings, plus a handful of new tracks written by Beck, Conor O'Brien (Villagers), Noah And The Whale, Connan Mockasin and Asa Taccone (the composer/producer who wrote "Dick In A Box" for Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake; yes, really), the album is Gainsbourg at her most sure-footed, which is ironic because she purposely went into it with a devil-maycare attitude. "(On IRM), Beck pushed me quite a lot," she says. "It was different (this time) because I wasn't writing. I wasn't trying. (The songwriters) wrote lyrics, and I made them mine by singing them. It worked in a weird way." Since Gainsbourg didn't consider Stage Whisper to be a proper LP, the pressure was off. "There was no logic," she says of the amalgamation of songs. "This album for me was like a rehearsal. It was accidental and little experiences." It also gave her a great excuse to indulge in something she's always wanted to try: a choreographed group-dance routine. The video for first single "Terrible Angels" features Gainsbourg busting out some poor man's Britney Spears moves with a score of doppelg�ngers in a parking garage. "I don't want to take myself too seriously with the dancing," says Gainsbourg, cracking up. "I was so bad, but it was really fun! And the fact that it's a bit awkward works, I think. The thing is, I was five months pregnant, so it was really hard. The director had to digitally erase my stomach!" The funniest part? When a car plows into Gainsbourg (her stunt double, that is) at the end of the video and she goes tumbling over the roof. Hilarious. This loosey-goosey approach is something new for Gainsbourg. "Little details annoy me when they're not right," she says, noting that her father was obsessive in a similar way. That Stage Whisper includes live versions of her songs is a wonder in and of itself. Gainsbourg doesn't like live recordings. (She only listens to one: a very old album by British blues singer John Mayall.) "It's always a pale version of the studio album," she says. "I like the perfection of a studio album." Surprise, surprise. Gainsbourg never sang live prior to her 2009 outing to support IRM. She had wanted to tour for 5:55, but fear got in the way. Two years ago, she finally built up the nerve for a brief jaunt around the world. That the new album is called Stage Whisper indicates how Gainsbourg sees herself as a performer. In fact, when I ask her what it was like to lead a band for the first time, she looks at me like I'm yanking her chain. "I wasn't the lead," she says with a giggle. "No, thank God. (Musical director) Brian LeBarton was there. He had worked with Beck, so I was very reassured that he would be faith- ful to what Beck had done on the album. He was the lead!" Regardless of this safety net of sorts, "I was petrified of losing my lines," says Gainsbourg. "I talked to Beck about it, and he said, `It happens all the time. You just invent words.' But, I mean, he could do it. I can't invent words. I went blank. It was horrible. But in the end, you manage. It's knowing that--it's easy to say that here--you can overcome anything." Gainsbourg tilts her head to the side when recounting her performance at Coachella, like the fact she even possesses this memory is completely bonkers. "I don't know what I did, if it was good or not, but it didn't matter," she says. "The audience was just incredible, and that made me understand the pleasure you get out of that experience. It's worth it because the people are there. They make it worth it. I hadn't thought of that before." The joy and confidence Gainsbourg received as a result of gigging helped her to get out of her own way so life could proceed unfettered. One of Stage Whisper's standout songs is "Got To Let Go," written by and performed with Charlie Fink of Noah And The Whale. It's a break-up song, but it's the essence of Gainsbourg's experiences in the art and entertainment world--she sounds like she's singing the song to herself. "That idea of letting go is for me so important because it has a lot to do with the acting," she says. "The real goal for me is letting go. If you're too much in control, it's not interesting. Nothing really happens. If you plan everything ahead, it's not worth it. I imagine it's the same for everything. I have to fight against that." She's throwing one determined punch at a time, hoping to knock some sense into herself. "Before the (IRM) tour, I took singing lessons," she says. "I was so scared about having a sore throat; I stopped smoking ... all that good intentions to try and be this good pupil. And I'm fed up with trying too much. Trying too hard is not a good thing, I find. Because I'll never be like (Maria) Callas." She laughs. "I'll never have a wonderful voice, so I'm just who I am. Maybe it was good to have those lessons and to warm up my voice, but you can also do without it." --Jeanne Fury maGnet 9 static s tat i c 10 magnet The Uncanny Valley exploring the end of wit and the risk of humor with Cass McCombs and ritchie Valens Walt Wilkey's Mannequin Gallery lies on a flat barren stretch of road in Pacoima, Calif., an impoverished factory town on the northern slope of the San Fernando Valley. Here, in a 4,200-square-foot showroom warehouse, several hundred lifelike-yet-lifeless figures stand, sit and lounge around, facial expressions frozen, their appendages fixed in midgesture: curvaceous clothing displays, crashtest dummies, CPR training buddies, even miniatures of kids and dogs. It's a nightmarish setting for an acute sufferer of pediophobia, the odd but all-too-real fear of dolls (hello, Chucky)--or, more broadly, any faked representation of a sentient being, i.e., models, robots (hello, Asimov) and, yes, mannequins. It's the ideal locale for an examination of the uncanny valley effect, however, a psychological theory posited in 1970 by Japanese robotics professor Masahiro Mori. For modern minstrel Cass McCombs, who came to Pacoima chasing Ritchie Valens' ghost and took with him an eerie song--"Meet Me At The Mannequin Gallery," off the new Humor Risk (Domino)--the Valley is both uncanny muse and metaphor. Based on writings by Sigmund Freud and Ernst Jentsch, Mori's effect describes a rift in the charted positive response of humans in the presence of an almost-flawless replica, firing up temporary but intense feelings of revulsion. The 34-year-old McCombs has a near-zero bullshit tolerance (a fact known to anyone who's ever tried to interview him), but among recurring references to the failings of faith, memory and physical and mental health in his cryptic six-album catalog, the dodgy notions of fidelity, veracity and sincerity--or the lack thereof--rank high on his list. Humor Risk is the second impressive LP McCombs issued in 2011. It follows six months after its predecessor, the aptly named Wit's End, a trudging album of stark, unrelenting elegiac beauty with a now-trademark marriage of florid lyrical formalism and quietly disturbing imagery. "Stinking corpse, I smell but cannot see, you hateful neighbor," he sings in hushed tones on the latter's "Buried Alive," hitching it to an impossible couplet: "Pride, monomania, everything from Earth, topaz vapor/High-chloridized polyethylene resin-lacquered newspaper." With quicker tempos and less ornate instrumentation, Humor Risk feels like cathartic relief--until its words come into focus. The plodding guitar-and-drums thump of "Mannequin Gallery" relates a sneakily metered exchange with an employee there, replete with queasy detail of its "fiberglass aroma," on the problems inherent in forging a model's model: "`You see, she had no features, her face was smooth and clear/So, it was difficult to sculpt an accurate result/But that is why we think some people have beauty,' said the secretary/ At least, this is my theory." It was in 2008, while working on their initial collaboration, Catacombs, that McCombs and producer Ariel Rechtshaid made the 30-minute drive from Glassell Park--where they had set up studio shop in an old house outfitted with analog gear--to the San Fernando Valley and Pacoima. "The unofficial patron saint of our recording was Ritchie Valens, because we were recording it in various parts of Los Angeles, out in the Valley," says McCombs. "Of course, Ritchie's from San Fernando and Pacoima. So, one day we made a pilgrimage to his high school, his home. Places like that, where he walked and lived." Trading the swooping, Pro-Tooled sound of 2005's PREfection and 2007's Dropping The Writ for the ground-level, stripped-down production style of Catacombs, McCombs and Rechtshaid purchased a vintage eighttrack, one-inch tape recorder. The machine provided unnecessary practical backing for the road trip: The closest servicer was in nearby Sunland. "We're both big fans of old rock `n' roll and Ritchie Valens, and that kind of represented L.A.," says Rechtshaid. "Cass saw the virtue in that. He's a fan of those records that were made that way. It wasn't that we talked about stripping it down as much as we just decided how we were going to do it: live in the room, no headphones. I knew if we were doing it with an eight-track, there's not going to be any room for anything, really. You're going to get 100 percent Cass. It's going to be about him." Wit's End and Humor Risk, though wholly dissimilar in mood, are products of the same process. With McCombs out on tour and Rechtshaid stationed in L.A., the records came together like patchwork quilts, each piece captured in a new place, with new people: in New York City, with high-profile pals like engineer Chris Coady, multi-instrumentalist Robbie Lee and Peter Mor�n (of Peter Bjorn And John); and in Chicago, one of McCombs' many homes-away-from-home, with random friends playing random instruments. "Everything about Cass' music is about the people that he knows, and the stories about them," says Rechtshaid. "That's really what it is: a narrative. It fits right in, because a lot of those people are musicians as well. I just ran into Peter last night randomly at a bar in L.A. He was like, `I think, one drunken night, I played on Cass' record.' I said, `You did--it was `A Knock Upon The Door.' ("We were all drinking," says McCombs, laughing. "I don't really remember it myself.") He picks people to play on his records more for their personalities than their musical ability, I would say." "The recordings are based on where I am and what I can pull together, and who wants to contribute," says McCombs. "There's not a lot of forethought put into it. It's very fly-by-night. These records, they're about trying to make it as human as possible. I want you to hear the blemishes. It's not about perfection. In fact, we don't do a whole lot of editing. We just kind of do it, and do it quickly. Sounds good." McCombs stakes no claim to the exotic voicing on Wit's End. "That's not part of my composition," he says. "I write the songs on a guitar or a piano, and I'm done with it. But in the studio, friends come by. In this case, Robbie brought a whole collection of his medieval and eclectic world instruments, flutes and portative organ. He's a virtuosic musician. So, we just let him. Try to keep the recording environment as free as possible. Anyone who wants to play whatever they want to play-- free your soul. That's what it's about. Music is freedom." Executioner, comedian, parishioner, heathen, mannequin: They're all costumes, a cast designed to act out the everyday tragedies and banalities McCombs witnessed as a custodian, a projectionist, a construction worker, a soda jerk, a songwriter. "It may sound like some heavy shit, but we're actually having a gas," he says. "If you could see our faces, you would know that we're actors, and we're engaged. We're stimulated by the music." "I run into people often who are confused or mystified by Cass," says Rechtshaid. "I don't have the same experience with him at all. It's this very straightforward, very clear individual. He's not necessarily easy to understand. But I do think he speaks for a lot of people. He talks about the pain, really. And it's honest." --Noah Bonaparte Pais MaGnet 11 static s tat i c Friendly neighborhood riFFs The Tarot Classics eP envisions even more success for Palm Beach upstarts Surfer Blood Surfer Blood Signed to Warner Bros. due to the label's long-running partnerships with the Flaming Lips and Built To Spill. According to frontman John Paul Pitts, it's as simple as that. "They haven't really gone anywhere," Pitts says. "Free to record at whatever studio or with whatever producer they want to work with, what bands they want to have open for them. All you can ask from any label is that sort of freedom." Freedom's a key engine for the Floridian four-piece, which garnered wide-ranging comparisons from Weezer to Vampire Weekend to AC/DC on last year's debut album, Astro Coast, recorded entirely in a college dorm. Or, as Pitts calls it, the band's "collective bedroom." Surfer Blood even twists shape from thick surf reverb to lunkheaded power chords to choppy highlife, all within breakthrough single "Swim." But even with impressive touches like the orchestral flourish at the end of "Floating Vibes" or chiming glockenspiel on "Fast Jabroni," song titles like "Harmonix" and "Neighbor Riffs" betrayed one definite common thread: guitar obsession. "A riff could be anything, or a hook could be anything," says Pitts. "It could be any instrument. But I'm not really that good with electronic equipment, honestly. I get really frustrated trying to set up a cable onstage--I don't know what I'd do if I had a MIDI rig. Arranging the guitar just comes kind of naturally to us." But like his favorite band, Yo La Tengo, people tend not to excavate Pitts' intriguing lyrics ("Catholic Pagans") from beneath the group's remarkably thick, detailed sound. "I think lyrics are really important," he says. "I lose sleep over them, you know?" Perhaps the new Tarot Classics EP, Surfer Blood's final release for Kanine Records before its major-label debut in 2012, will shed light on that. "I think lyrically it's a little bit more directed, but then again it's only four songs," says Pitts. "On Astro Coast, colorful ideas were more pieced together, and lyrics sounded good with the songs. And these are a little more traditional, or at least something resembling an A-B part. And they're about relationships that are starting or ending. A lot more content and less frills maybe." Classics, so named because Pitts' sister was presenting the band with tarot-card and stained-glass-like artwork, has a meaty, Pixies-esque feel, especially "Miranda," which particularly plays like an homage to "Allison" on Bossanova. Pitts mostly agrees. "I've always been a huge sucker for song titles with the name of a girl," he says. "I wouldn't call it an homage, but it sure has a lot of elements that Pixies would use." When asked about the transition to a major label, Pitts admits it wasn't the band's initial idea. "Our A&R guy was a good sport because we totally fucked with him for the first three months he was trying to talk to us," he says. "We'd all send him dozens of text messages at once. I'm sure there's some people at Warner Bros. who still think we're a bunch of dicks." --Dan Weiss 12 magneT PHOTO BY DAN MONICK T H E F A C T O R N E W M U S I C T H AT HITS THE SPOT Grouplove NEVER TRUST A HAPPY SONG The Joy Formidable THE BIG ROAR Gym Class Heroes THE PAPERCUT CHRONICLES II IN STORES 12/6 The Maine PIONEER Caveman COCO BEWARE Arctic Monkeys SUCK IT AND SEE tho Free li hase c ith pur plies w ile sup wh last Free fl e with p xi disc u while rchase suppli es last Jonsi WE BOUGHT A ZOO SOUNDTRACK The Kills BLOOD PRESSURES static s tat i c Pig Love? Swining and dining with Matthew Herbert, who sharpens his sampling chops on One Pig 14 Magnet photo by socrates mitsios In retrospect, It's not so surprIsIng that People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) got its knickers in a twist over Matthew Herbert's new record. The artist himself refers quite casually to having made an album out of a pig. But to be clear, One Pig (Accidental) is not some sort of high-concept, pressed-on-pigskin art project; rather, it's a high-concept, squeal-sampling sonic art project. Herbert's a DJ/producer who's made a career of stitching together found sounds, ambient noise and recording glitches1 into dance music that's varying degrees of danceable. For One Pig, he followed, recorder in hand, a single pig from birth to abattoir to plate; then he chopped, sliced, processed and cured the resulting sounds into nine tracks of rhythmic, guttural mayhem that's at turns touching, disturbing, dystopic and even sentimental. Yes, an animal was indeed harmed in the making of this record. But had PETA bothered to have a chat with the Kent, U.K.-based Herbert before knee-jerking him around (claiming he "thinks cruelty is entertainment"), they'd likely have learned that Herbert's values are not antithetical to their own. "I think it's a huge problem where we see animals as products and that they're just there for our use," says Herbert. "I think I would be hard-pressed to say that eating meat is fundamentally wrong, since it's something that we've done since humans first came on the planet. But I certainly wouldn't be comfortable saying we had a right to eat meat." What he seems to be saying with this record is less slogan-ready than "meat is murder." It's more like: Meat, as it's presently processed and consumed, is thoughtless and highly disrespectful. Heady stuff, especially for a "pop" record. Which is likely why PETA assumed the worst--that Herbert was recording, essentially, the soundtrack to an Animal Planet snuff film. But don't think he doesn't appreciate the dustup's deeper implications. "It made me very excited, apart from being annoyed," says Herbert. "I love that it was the idea of music that got them upset; they hadn't heard it yet, because I hadn't written it yet. I love the idea that a piece of music was threatening somehow to their beliefs." The picture One Pig2 paints of the life of an animal raised for slaughter (even one, as here, raised on a humane farm) is--to whip out some Hobbes--nasty, brutish and short. Save for the hopeful squeals of opening track "August 2009" and the melodic postscript lament of closing track "May 2011," much