r e a l m u s i c a lt e r n a t i v e s
The Triumphant Return of the Classic-Era Lineup
Bright Lights, Big City
Don’t Dream It’s Over PLUS John Doe, Rachael Yamagata, Ivy,
Modeselektor, Superchunk and more ...
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N o. 82 Departments 7 Letters 10 Static
Crooked Fingers comes full circle; Kimya Dawson proves the political is personal; Ivy makes you feel cooler; John Doe ages gracefully; Rachael Yamagata lightens up; Modeselektor takes you to Monkeytown; Social Climbers return after 31 years; and MT6 Records might just give Baltimore a good name.
26 On The Record
Kathryn Calder, Dan Mangan, Pterodactyl, Poor Boy’s Soul
New releases from the Smiths, Superchunk, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Bonnie Prince Billy, DJ Shadow, Matthew Sweet, Wavves, Deer Tick, Comet Gain, Tori Amos, Rob Crow, Crooked Fingers, Scott H. Biram, Kimya Dawson, Jens Lekman, Samiam and more.
64 The Back Page
I’m With Stupid
Guided by voices
Back in the mid-’90s, the “classicera” lineup of Guided By Voices was responsible for making such oN the cover seminal indie-rock albums as Bee Guided Thousand, Alien Lanes and Under The By Voices photographed Bushes Under The Stars. Fifteen years September 3 in Los Angeles after the band members parted ways, for MAGNET by Neil Visel Robert Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Kevin Fennell and Greg Demos are back with Let’s Go Eat The Factory, an LP recorded in secret during GBV’s recent reunion tour. MAGNET brings you the untold story behind one of the most anticipated albums of 2012.
Inspired by a recent move to Los Angeles, French electronic shoegazer Anthony Gonzalez returns with an ambitious double album exploring dreams.
editor’s note If there’s been one band closely associated with MAGNET over the years, it’s Guided By Voices. This is mostly because of me. Actually, that’s a lie. It’s all because of me. I fell hard for Bob Pollard and the boys after the first time I heard Vampire On Titus back in 1993. MAGNET was the first national publication to do an interview with the band. (I think the long-defunct Puncture magazine would claim the same thing, but hey, I’m telling the story here, so we’ll stick with my facts, thanks.) MAGNET named Bee Thousand the best album of 1994, Alien Lanes the best of 1995 and Under The Bushes Under The Stars the best of 1996. I had an opportunity to spend a day and night in NYC with the “classic lineup” while doing a GBV cover story back in February 1996. The whole behindthe-scenes drunken tale was told as part of issue #80’s 15th anniversary section, so buy a back issue and read all about it. Around that time, I became friendly with both Bob and Toby Sprout, hanging out with them when they came to Philly, and talking on the phone and sharing music with them via the mail. I sort of fell out of touch with them over the years, but I certainly never fell out of touch with their music. My two favorite bands of all-time are GBV and the Kinks. And if push came to shove, I’d have to go with GBV every time. Fifty or 100 years from now, people will look back at Bob’s staggeringly enormous body of work and finally realize that he is one of the greatest songwriters of all-time. That’s not just opinion; that’s fact. So, it goes without saying that this was my first thought last year when I heard that the classic lineup was reuniting to tour: “God, I hope they do a new album.” And without telling anyone, they did. (If you have ever spent any time with Bob, you know the fact he kept this a secret is pretty incredible.) When I heard rumblings at the end of July that a new album did indeed exist, I immediately emailed David Newgarden, Bob’s longtime manager: “I’m hearing rumors of a new classic-lineup GBV album in January ... You have anything you want to tell me?” David’s reply: “Circus Devils album in early October. That’s all I know. Raleigh will be the last GBV classic lineup show.” After a series of non-denial denials that would make the Nixon White House jealous, and me disclosing the then-secret news that MAGNET was returning to print and that we would gladly put GBV on the cover if the band had indeed made an album, David sent me a link to a site where I could stream the first new music that Bob, Toby, Mitch Mitchell, Kevin Fennell and Greg Demos (oh, and Jimmy Pollard!) had made together in 15 years. It also came with this note: “For your ears only. Absolutely cannot be shared.” So I didn’t. And I kept the news of a new GBV LP a secret until the band made a formal announcement in late September. So right about now you are probably wondering what Let’s Go Eat The Factory is like. (Unless it leaked in the time between I wrote this and the actual “right about now.”) It’s not like a great classic-era GBV album. No, it is a great classic-era GBV album. To get the story behind the record, we sent James Greer (GBV biographer, former classic-era bassist, allaround good guy) to Dayton, Ohio, for a Q&A with Bob. MAGNET’s Matt Hickey interviewed the other band members, GBV obsessive Reuben Frank picked the 100 best classic-era songs, and Bob himself wrote up notes to guide you through Let’s Go Eat The Factory. This marks the fourth time GBV has appeared on the cover of MAGNET. It’s nice to know the GBV camp trusted me enough after all these years to keep a secret for a couple of months in order to make this happen. I was feeling like I was back in 1996 and in the band’s inner circle when I heard word of a second GBV album to be released next year called Class Clown Spots A UFO. I emailed David in mid-September to see what he could tell me about it. I still haven’t heard back. Maybe Puncture is returning to print and got to him first.
Eric T. Miller, Editor-In-Chief 4
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new music you need to hear now. check it out at your local independent music store.
He Thinks He’s People Tempor ary Reside nce Ltd.
More dynamic and eclectic than its predecessor, He Thinks He’s People marries Pinback frontman Rob Crow’s penchant for drawing inspiration from a variety of genres with an uncanny ability to create a subtle, relaxing mood throughout. This is likely attributed to his remark able voice, a trademark that has helped make Pinbac k an institution. The ease and sincerity with which he delivers lines or playfully revels in the morbid demise of people who talk on their cell phones during movies – is what make Crow truly one-of-a-kind, and a shining light who continues to thrive on the outer edges of pop music.
We Were Promised Jetpacks
In the Pit of the Stomach
y, England, and have played with The Sons formed in the city of Derb iella Cilmi, Atomic Kitten and Nine Black Alps, 10,000 Things, Gabr in England. They spent the es Ian Brown in most of the major citi tal Europe. After spending inen cont ut last 3 years touring througho in the studio, they are ready to nearly a year freezing and sweating e Words Committee. Taking its unleash their second album, The Prim back then to right here and lead from classic pop music from way d, with desolate scenes and base song now, the music is unashamedly music and melody. dark characters painted in colorful
Reverie ANT I
Reverie came to fruition when Joe Henry and his fel low musicians convened in Hen ry’s basement studio for three days of exploration. And that’s saying a lot: for more than two decades Grammy-wi nner Henry has produced some of the most celebrated names in music, from Ornette Col eman and Elvis Costello to Ani DiFranco and Madonna. Wor king with his regular stable of musicians and guests including master guitarist Marc Rib ot, singer Jean McClain and organist Patrick Warren, along with a special app earance from recently produced Lis a Hannigan, Henry has pro duced another masterful set of songs.
new music you need to hear now. check it out at your local independent music store.
Marketa Irglova, one-half of Oscar-winning duo the Swell Season, says her solo debut Anar is like a time capsul e of her first year in New York, where she moved from Ireland in June 2010. Fame came early to Irglova when the film Once became the breakout independent hit of 2007. On that soundtrack album and the subsequent Swell Season release Strict Joy, Irglov a won over audiences as a musician and songwriter. Now at the ripe age of 23, her decision to branch out on her own was inspired by a combination of a Swell Season hiatus and reloca ting to New York.
The Prime Words Committee Canno n Fodde r
y, England, and have played The Sons formed in the city of Derb Gabriella Cilmi, Atomic with Nine Black Alps, 10,000 Things, r cities in England. majo the of Kitten and Ian Brown in most ughout continental thro ing tour s year 3 They spent the last freezing and sweating Europe. After spending nearly a year ash their second album, in the studio, they are ready to unle lead from classic pop its ng Taki The Prime Words Committee. and now, the music is here t righ to then music from way back scenes and dark characters unashamedly song based, with desolate painted in colorful music and melody.
Live Music rou gh tra de
Live Music (as in, liv ing the music) is Aus tin, Texas’s The Strange Boys’ third album, after The Str ange Boys and Girls (2008), and Be Brave Club (2010). Live Music was recorded in April 2011 at the Austin hom e studio of Spoon dru mmer Jim Eno, who produced the fourteen track album.
Penguin Prison Downt own Recor ds
Glover (ex-Interscope). Penguin Prison is NYC native Chris the Penguin Prison name. r This is his full-length debut unde of 7/5 for “Don’t Fuck Week ine #1 track/artist on Hype Mach ures “Fair Warning”, feat ase rele led -tit With My Money”. Self s kick off with spot a remix by Dirty Vegas. Fall tour date Popscene (9/22). for o dates in NYC (9/8) and San Francisc
I’m so glad you’re back. Other magazines have come and gone, or I’ve come and gone from them, but there was always something special about getting my MAGNET in the mail. No magazine can completely cover all my music interests, but MAGNET always came close. The first thing I did upon receiving my issue was turn to The Back Page to see if Phil Sheridan was there. Yes! Next to the Editor’s Note to read about just what a labor of love MAGNET is for Eric Miller. In the few years you’ve been absent, I’ve often looked at my stack of old MAGNETs and thought, “If they only knew how much their magazine has meant to this one fan, and I know there’s many more like me.” To see how hard Eric and his crew had to slog to get the magazine back in print is truly inspiring, and hopefully you know how much many of us appreciate it. MAGNET has alwasy been a certain lifeline to music for many of us. I started reading MAGNET in the mid-’90s when I was already in my mid-30s. Was I too old to rock ‘n’ roll? Nope, MAGNET helped remind me then that music keeps us young at heart, and you that you don’t have to be 20 to appreciate new bands. When MAGNET went out of print, it was like an era had ended. I felt older ... again. For the three years you were gone, “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” With you being in print again, it feels like the world just corrected itself. →→ Rick
I’m thrilled that MAGNET is back in print. And 12 times a year! Even awesomer. Thank Eric Miller and Alex Mulcahy for making my month. →→ Michael Mongillo, Meriden, CT
Evans, Thousand Oaks, CA
I’ve been a semi long-time subscriber and was pleasantly surprised to see your magazine in my mailbox. Keep up the good work. And keep in touch. →→ Alfonso Lopez, Rowland Heights, CA Congratulations on the relaunch. MAGNET always set a high water mark for content and graphics in the area of print journalism on alternative music. No magazine ever looked better than MAGNET, and that is true not just for alternative music. I believe there will always be a place for print magazines, and to see MAGNET again is a great thing. Good luck and all the best. →→ Casey Fundaro, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Well done, guys and girls, as your genre(s) of music haven’t been very well represented since you gave up the print side of the equation. I’m personally hoping those irritating twats Andrew Earles and Phil Sheridan are back into the mix, as those are my kind of irritating twats. I miss their selfabsorbed wit, as there’s plenty of fence-riders out there writing about music (and everything else) these days, and those generic types have nothing substantial or entertaining to offer. →→ Russell Moore, Midland, Ontario, Canada Great news to see MAGNET returning to print! Still have all my old issues. Good luck for a successful future. →→ David Molinary, Azusa, CA
So glad to hear you guys are back in print. Things might not be so bleak. →→ Joshua James Olympia, WA
Congrats on the move back to print. It’s a good idea, for sure. →→ Matt Werth Brooklyn, NY
I have been missing it. →→ Harald Helgesen Bergen, Norway
Received the new print issue. Looks great. Congratulations! →→ Jeff Kilgour New York, NY
Great news. Welcome back, gang! →→ Bill Benson Athens, GA This made my day. Huey Warwick, NY
I just received my newest MAGNET and was pleasantly surprised. I was a brand new subscriber (and purchased lots of back issues) and had only received one issue (the Nick Cave cover) when you went solely online. So I am elated that you are back in print. Welcome back. →→ Dale Glaser, San Diego, CA
Congratulations on bringing back the print version of MAGNET! The new magazine looks great. →→ Jeffrey Konrad Rock Island, IL
Psyched that the print version of MAGNET is back! →→ Todd M. LeMieux Springfield, MA This is awesome. Any plans to make a digital e-version as well? →→ Paul Mackie Silver Spring, MD New issue looks great! Loved that you did a spotlight on Meg Baird; she has one of the most beautiful voices in music. →→ Nathan Walker Portland, OR
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Glad to see you’re back. I had subscribed a while ago and then figured you guys went out of business or something, so I was quite shocked to receive the new issue today. →→ James Basile, Two Rivers, WI Just received the “first” issue. Awesome. Glad you are back. As a Pavement fan, I loved Phil Sheridan’s “1995” Back Page. →→ Art Johnson, Lutherville, MD Wow. I received issue #81 in the mail yesterday. What an extremely pleasant surprise. It’s great to have you back in magazine format. Long may it continue. Best of luck for the future. →→ Pete Dennis, Azusa, CA
Welcome back to print. Happy to see this. Who says print is dead? →→ Krista Vilinskis Minneapolis, MN I am so excited to have MAGNET back in glossy form. Call me a Luddite, but I love magazines. Congrats on bringing it back! →→ Leslie Hermelin New York, NY This is great news! DaRosa Sacramento, CA
I find your magazine to be the best read and resource for my music tastes. →→ Steve Padalino Aptos, CA Just received the new issue of MAGNET. Looks really great. Congrats! Amazing job. So happy to have it back. →→ Brittany Pearce Los Angeles, CA I am so excited. →→ Rick Jones Frankfort, IL
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Keene to Succeed Tommy Keene cranks up his classic jangle for Behind The Parade Tommy Keene has suffered so much be-
nign neglect over the past three decades, he should hire a custody lawyer and sue the music industry for non-support. Although the L.A.-based singer/songwriter has recorded one crackling guitar-pop masterpiece after another, the frustration of being a 30-year cult phenomenon takes a toll. In 1998, Keene threatened to quit if his second Matador release, Isolation Party, didn’t sell; it didn’t, but he persevered. He offers a similar proviso for his third Second Motion LP, the patently amazing Behind The Parade. “I wanted to put everything I had into this,” says Keene. “I could have put out the retrospective (2010’s You Hear Me—A Retrospective: 1983-2009) and said, ‘That’s the best of
what I’ve done,’ but I had some more to give. I don’t know where to go from here. It’s sort of a test, trying to get to the next level in this thing I call a career. It’s a dare to myself.” Keene’s spartan goal of 10 songs for Parade forced him to drastically self-edit, but the brisk 40-minute album ranks among his best work. It’s an overworked phrase that applies to a fair percentage of Keene’s catalog. “I was pickier with choices of songs,” says Keene. “In the past, I would have gotten lazy and said, ‘That’s enough for a record.’ I kept throwing out songs.” Behind The Parade shimmers with Keene’s hallmark elements: chiming guitars, thunderous rhythm section, introspective lyrics. He has little interest in anything else.
“I like things really jukebox-y,” he says, laughing. “People have complained that I should make sparse records, but they’re not as exciting as Phil Spector-ish productions. I tend to get bombastic, but I like bombasity, if that’s a word.” Many would posit that Keene’s lack of sonic compromise has hindered him, but it’s a short-sighted argument that doesn’t account for his crystalline musical vision. “I have this musician friend in a big sort of band, very successful, and he says, ‘Why do you have all these things going on? Why don’t you just have drums, one guitar and your voice?’” says Keene. “I say, ‘That would be boring—like your music.’ I want it all.” —Brian Baker
photo by chris rady
new music you need to hear now. check it out at your local independent music store.
Habits Of Heart Elemen t 9
Idle Warship is the duo of hip hop artist Talib Kweli and singer Res who have been releasing tracks for 4 years. They performed together at SXSW in 2009 and completed a European tour followed by a mixtape last year, a 12-tra ck collection of a mash-up of soul hip-hop, alternative and electronic. Single “Beautifully Bad” being worked at Top 40 and Rhythmic first week of October. “Rat Race” is being worked at College radio. “Laser Beams” released virally 9/7. Spot dates in Brooklyn, Pittsburgh, Ann Harbor in October, and working on a 45-minute show with a full symphony.
The Great Escape Artist Capit ol
write their own. Great bands break rules, but legends the rule book for Jane’s Addiction has actually written combination of a ugh alternative music and colure thro experience. live c mati cine genre-defying songs and a inand, Interpol), Ferd z Fran e, (Mus ey Cost Produced by Rich ction’s first studio The Great Escape Artist is Jane’s Addi ures creative feat also album in eight years. The album who contributed k, Site Dave o’s input from TV on the Radi album. The new the on bass ed play to the writing and e.” Forc albums lead single is “Irresistible
AUDIO, VIDEO, DISCO
New Ele ktr a
Justice is a French electr onic music duo consistin g of Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay, known for inc orporating a strong rock and indie influence into their music and image. Their debut album † (Cross) was released in June 2007 to critical acclaim, nominated for a Grammy Awa rd for Best Electronic/Dance Alb um, came in at #15 on Pit chfork’s Top 50 Albums of 2007, and #18 on Blender’s 25 Best Albums of 2007 list. It was nom inated for the 2007 Shortl ist Prize, losing out to The Reminder by Feist. Their remix of the MGMT song “Electric Feel” won the Grammy for Best Remixed Recording, Non-Cl assical in 2009.
static s tat i c
photo by justin evans
Using Protection Eric Bachmann balances life in Archers Of Loaf and Crooked Fingers with aplomb Eric Bachmann doesn’t like staying put.
In the three years since his band Crooked Fingers released Forfeit/Fortune, he’s moved from Colorado to Taiwan and back to the American south, where his music career began more than two decades ago. “I get bored if I stay in one place too long,” he says. “I want to settle down or at least find a place to live, but I don’t know where that would be.” It’s fitting that Bachmann’s travels have brought him full circle, since the year began with the surprise reunion of Archers Of Loaf, whose 1990s albums were touchstones for a generation of aggro indie rockers. If there were any questions about whether the Archers’ music still resonated 13 years after their breakup, the speed with which recordings of their unannounced set at Carrboro, N.C.’s Cat’s Cradle circulated confirmed that they had not been forgotten. Over the years, Bachmann has been less than enthusiastic about the prospect of getting his former band back together, but his attitudes are as changeable as his forwarding address. “When the Archers broke up in ’98, that was the worst-sounding shit to me,” he says. “I didn’t want to hear it. But I don’t feel guilty about changing my mind.” As it turned out, the band’s three other members—Matt Gentling, Eric Johnson and Mark Price, who’ve all moved on to full-time day jobs—were all on board for a reunion, although Bachmann was unaware a consensus had formed in his absence. “I was the holdout,” he says, “but I did not know I was the holdout. When I said, ‘Yeah, I’d be into that,’ the floodgates opened.” The impetus for the Archers’ re-up is Merge Records’ ongoing reissue of their four studio albums, beginning with 1993’s Icky Mettle, a double-disc set that also includes several single releases and the follow-up Vs. The Greatest Of All Time EP. Their summer tour, a weekendwarrior string of Friday and Saturday nights, was a packed and sweaty affair, with crowds in their 30s and 40s screaming every word to “Audiowhore” and “Web In Front.” While his bandmates go back to their
lives, Bachmann has time to kill, so the Archers’ frontman has also been acting as their equipment manager. “Matt, Mark and Eric are adults, and they work,” he says. “My childlike ass is still doing music for whatever reason. So, I can drive the gear to a different city, do a Crooked Fingers gig between shows and let my voice rest.” It’s a schizophrenic existence, screaming angst-ridden anthems to sellout crowds on the weekends and playing Crooked Fingers’ droning, melodic folk rock in small clubs during the week, but for Bachmann, it’s worked out perfectly. “Bouncing back and forth keeps me entertained,” he says. “If I did Archers shows 10 in a row, I’d get bored. If I do Crooked Fingers shows a month in a row, I want to do something else.” For the moment, though, Bachmann’s focus has shifted to Crooked Fingers and sixth album Breaks In The Armor (Merge). Since Forfeit/Fortune was composed of previously discarded songs Bachmann re-recorded to give a consistent feel, Breaks is the first new album of Crooked Fingers material in six years and Bachmann’s first since 2006 solo album To The Races. In characteristically seesaw fashion, Bachmann’s busy 2011 follows a period in which he considered giving up music altogether. While he was in Taiwan, where he moved to teach English, Bachmann recalls thinking, “‘I’ll always work on songs or make music, but I don’t necessarily give a shit if nobody hears it.’ That’s where I was.” Fortunately, circumstances conspired to reacquaint Bachmann with his muse. First, he discovered that he was a terrible teacher, or at least that he lacks the disciplinarian streak that a schoolteacher needs. (“I’d be in a situation where I maybe should have said, ‘Don’t do that,’ but my thought instead was, ‘This could be interesting.’”) Then, he moved back to the U.S. to work on Azure Ray’s 2010 album Drawing Down The Moon and found himself spending a lot of time in the Archers’ erstwhile home base of Asheville, N.C., visiting both his father and the collection of instruments he’d stored
at Gentling’s house. Although the Crooked Fingers album was recorded as the Archers were plotting their comeback, Bachmann says the only possible relationship between the two overlapping projects is an inverse one: As he got ready to crank up the noise with the Archers, Crooked Fingers got quieter and more stripped-down. Past albums have featured strings and horn sections, but Breaks In The Armor is a spartan affair, right down to the rhythm track. On those songs that have percussion, the principal instrument is a floor tom played standing up, Moe Tucker-style. “Typhoon,” which opens the album, builds on a quarter-note drum pulse and a two-note guitar riff, an elemental pattern that gathers strength as it swirls round again and again. “I wanted it to have a Sasquatch feel, very heavy-handed,” says Bachmann. Rather than gild the songs with rhythmic accents, he eschewed them almost entirely. “There’s only 20 cymbal hits on the record, if that,” he says. “I have a friend who plays drums in a very popular band, and I won’t name-drop, but he was talking about how if you only hit the cymbals once every three songs, it really means something when you do it.” Bachmann’s trying to take that advice to heart in life as well. He draws an example from the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi, who describes shyly keeping mum at political meetings only to find that when he did speak up, his words carried added weight. “People talk too much,” says Bachmann. “Sometimes I wish I said six things a day, because that’s really all the meaningful stuff I’m saying.” At the moment, Bachmann isn’t doing a great job of keeping quiet: Crooked Fingers are touring through the fall, and the Archers are planning more dates next year to coincide with future reissues. (Fans who lamented the dearth of late-period material in the summer’s shows can be reassured that set lists will shift to favor recent rereleases.) But chances are Bachmann will change his mind again some time soon, and maybe this time, it’ll stick. —Sam Adams
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photos by chrissy piper
Thunder Road Four years after Juno, Kimya Dawson is still courting unlikely muses I have a theory that Kimya Dawson is my
generation’s Pete Seeger. She doesn’t play the banjo, but she does channel Seeger’s humble folk persona in a way that speaks more to GenXers than to boomers. Like Seeger, she’s political to the point of making it personal, and she genuinely cares about connecting with her audience. When I mention my theory to her, she laughs out loud, replying, “Well, I have to say that is not an insult.” She’s talking on the phone from a street corner in Detroit, where she just flew in to meet a friend before touring the Midwest. She’s going to see Mos Def, and though she’s best known as the gentle folk singer from the Juno soundtrack, she understands a thing or two about hip hop. While talking with her, I can’t help but think about Seeger’s infamous attempt to sabotage Bob Dylan’s electric set at Newport in 1965. (Folk music sure has changed.) Flash to 2011, and Dawson’s touring with Aesop Rock, a noted hip-hop MC, and far from feeling out of place in the hip-hop world, she’s got Aesop shooting videos of her singing at home in her chicken coop. There’s something disarming about Dawson’s honesty, something that cuts through the bullshit of the hip-hop and indie-music industries. Though it’s a bit of a cliché, her new album, Thunder Thighs (Great Crap Factory), may be Dawson’s most personal work to date. She says it’s the LP that feels most like her own. Dawson’s always drawn deeply from her personal life for her lyrics, and while 2006’s Remember That I Love You focused on being a new mom, Thunder Thighs shows her mostly settled into adult life. She still has that particular blend of confidence and insecurity: “So, hold on to your loved ones/Hold on for dear life/Try to walk like thunder/Leaving footprints that are light,” she sings on “Driving, Driving, Driving.” She seems more grounded, more centered, and it’s likely from her new focus on self-healing. “I’m going to try to be easier on myself and be more loving toward myself and forgiving,” she says. “Like working really hard on acceptance of the wide range of emotions that there are and just kind of being like, ‘You know what? There’s up days and there’s down days.’ And I have to just ride that.” Some of the down days came with her decision to issue the album on her own. This is her first recent release not on K Records, the
venerable Northwest indie label. She funded the album’s release on her own and had to hire publicists and a manager, something she hasn’t done before. With her background in DIY punk communities, it’s clearly hard for Dawson to relinquish control over her music. It’s part of the irony that comes with having her lo-fi career launched into the mainstream of American culture. With Juno now four years behind us (and already starting to feel dated), it’s time for Dawson to move on, and with Thunder Thighs, she returns to her own world and personal vision. The music on Thunder Thighs sees Dawson drawing from her many friends and connections to create a pastiche of her life as a mom and an upstanding member of the community. Sing-alongs mash together with rambling rap and choral groups, she sings along with her daughter on a song (“The Mare And The Bear”) that the two co-wrote, and one track, “The Library,” even features local librarians. There are also some surprisingly eclectic guest appearances: Aesop Rock, Murs, John Darnielle (Mountain Goats), Thao Nguyen and Nikolai Fraiture (Strokes), as well as guest ensembles like the Olympia Free Choir and the Forever Young Senior Citizen Rock And Roll Choir. Those last two groups are part of the music community in Olympia, Wash., where Dawson has lived off and on for years. “I moved to Olympia the month that Nevermind came out,” she says. “Riot grrrl was exploding, and I was like this little nerdy kid, you know, like 19 years old and did the whole punkhouse thing. Going to shows, dancing on the amps and just being crazy, and I love that that scene still exists in Olympia. I’m sort of on the outskirts of it now, and I watch all of these— we call them ‘baby punks’—sort of come to town. And then there’s a bunch of us pushing 40, and we have potlucks and maybe see each other at the Y. We’re older and have to start taking care of ourselves. We can’t party like that anymore. I’ll still play a house show or go to a house show; I’m just way slowed down, sort of, compared to that scene. I go to water aerobics, I hang out with my kid and eat sushi and stuff like that.” Though Dawson’s always been known for her community roots, the new record takes
it to the extreme as said community expands to social networks. “The day that we recorded ‘Solid And Strong,’ we had the studio reserved, but we didn’t really have anything planned,” she says. “I posted on Facebook that anybody who wants to sing or play on this song today, come to the studio at 3 p.m., and there were 40 people ... banjos and guitars and voices.” Social networking also brought Dawson together with her new creative muse, Aesop Rock. The two on Twitter are chatty Cathys, bouncing ideas and inside jokes back and forth constantly. They got together recently to trade songs; Aesop wanted to feature her on his blog, and Dawson needed a beat for her song “Zero Or A Zillion.” Further discussions led to Aesop opening up about losing his best friend, Camu Tao, to cancer. Dawson invited him to contribute a verse about this to her own meditation on loss, “Walk Like Thunder,” which ended up on Thunder Thighs. The two liked working together so much that they’ve started touring as a duo and have close to 13 songs finished for an upcoming collaboration. Talking with Dawson, you realize her answers to your questions keep looping back to her life and her personal history. It’s not a selfcentered thing; it’s that she seems to have so carefully built her life and her community as insulation from the world that her worldview constantly looks inward. This goes a long way toward explaining her songs, which are so selfreferential. It would be weird for anyone except Dawson, but part of the reason it’s not for her is that she’s not alone in her world. She’s filled it with family, friends and a huge musical network that stretches across the United States. While her songs may look inward, her music reaches far and wide. — Devon Leger
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Funny Games Rachael Yamagata says goodbye to the dark side, kind of Sultry is an apt description of Rachael Yamagata’s vocals. She
often sounds half-asleep, wavering between contentment and indecision, balanced between struggle and surrender. Her poetic lyrics explore the darker side of unrequited love with a vulnerability that makes her songs resonate with anyone who has ever had a broken heart. She still sounds troubled on Chesapeake (Frankenfish), but her buoyant melodies and the music’s bright pop sheen keep things from getting too grim. “I’ve actually lightened up a little bit this time,” says Yamagata. “I’ve discovered how to let go, especially in the studio. This record has a few songs that are almost positive. That’s a new thing for me.” Yamagata made the album at the home of producer John Alagia. He turned his house into a studio, and Yamagata invited along a group of musicians she’d worked with in the past. “It was a spontaneous, seatof-the-pants recording session,” she says. “Most of it was done live, in seven days. We didn’t have the ability to separate things, so we’d rehearse, play it through over and over and use the best take. The only [things] done after the fact were a few keyboard and xylophone tracks Zac Rae did in L.A.” Heartache is still the overarching theme, but Yamagata includes songs of reconciliation and even humorous numbers like “I Don’t Want To Be Your Mother” and “The Way It Seems To Go,” a talking blues track with a jazzy hip-hop arrangement. “I used to scare the people working with me by saying I was going to do a rap song, but I think my humor comes through on this album and that song,” she says. “I am dark and like dark songs, which allows me to be happier in my everyday life.” Yamagata stretches a bit on “Deal Breaker,” the closing track. It has a muted, late-night feel and describes the comfort a familiar track can bring to a troubled soul. Writing a song about a song is risky, but “Deal Breaker” has one of Yamagata’s strongest melodies and a wrenching vocal performance. “I wanted to convey the heartache of a failed relationship, and this song has a sadness and a maturity and some consciousness and guts,” she says. “Live, it’s always been successful, so I made a choice to put it at the end of the album. I still think of my songs as albums. People say the world is changing and track-by-track is the way to go, but to me, every album is a section of my life that was a full emotional experience. I want to present all of the flavors.” While Yamagata has lightened up a bit on Chesapeake, the tunes still reflect a woman having trouble navigating the choppy waters of romance. Are her real-life relationships as grim as those she tends to write songs about? “I’m fascinated by how people interact when they’re in love,” she says. “There is a level of emotion we feel every day, but it’s in high gear during a relationship. When I see Facebook comments guessing that I’m being dramatic about what I’m going through, I have to laugh. If we went out for drinks and I told you the truth about my relationships, you’d think I was underplaying the drama.” —j. poet
photo by laura crosta
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Still Corners’ full-length debut glows with the delicate vocals of singer Tessa Murray and the atmospheric, cinematic influences of songwriter Greg Hughes. Creatures of an Hour’s ghostly guitar, distant organ and ethereal vocals form deceptively simple pop songs that linger long after, like half-remembered dreams.
Freedom Run is Rifles’ third record, a new studio album that bristles with energy, confidence and maturity. Recorded at Paul Weller’s studio, Black Barn, and produced by Chris Potter, the tracks range from light, fun Phil Spector-tinged pop symphonies to raucous soul-inflected heartfelt pop-rock.
Written and recorded in Spring 2011 at Andy R’s grandmother’s Chicago-area house while she was away on vacation, Gauntlet Hair is a subtle refinement of the sounds we’ve come to associate with the band—the trunk-rattling bass; the ecstatic, tinny post-punk guitar; the din of ecstasy.
VHS Or Beta
Let the Poison Out was captured on tape at Marlborough Farms and finds the Beets shaking off the lo-fi brashness of their first two LPs. The jangly acoustic guitar, brutal and surreal lyrics, and catchy and breezy sing-a-long songs that people have come to worship by the band, have remained.
First release since Bring On The Comets featuring their hit new single and video “Breaking Bones.” VHS or Beta has been asked to use “Breaking Bones” by Hard Rock Hotels for in common area play and download. Fall tour with Ladytron is being planned in key markets throughout the US.
From the band that’s been labeled everything this side of Top 40 comes a true-to-form rockn-roll record. They wanted to make a record that was truer to their live set: raw, loud, heartfelt and completely uninterested in whatever the rest of the music industry is up to—unlike anything you’ve heard before.
Creatures of an Hour
Let The Poison Out
Diamonds And Death
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Checks and Balances A married couple and sonic savant butt heads to keep Ivy thriving There are songs that transport you, dissolving the
dinge of your present surroundings and replacing it with the glitter and sheen of a bustling nightclub. Songs that, in short, make you feel cooler just for listening to them. Cue up Ivy’s All Hours (Nettwerk)—the trio’s sixth album and first in five years—and the reality of windowless office or sensible sedan, cramped subway car or cluttered kitchen, falls away. Suddenly, you’re somewhere else, somewhere luxurious, somewhere fabulous. In a more just world, the members of Ivy might live a life more like the one evoked by their songs—or by the cover of All Hours, which features Dominique Durand, Andy Chase and Adam Schlesinger lounging in the back of a limousine as flashbulbs pop around them. But life and art don’t always coincide. Although the band got a promising start thanks to ebullient early singles like “This Is The Day,” Ivy’s success has long since been eclipsed by that of Schlesinger’s other band, Fountains Of Wayne. Over the past decade, as Durand and Chase
have cared for a family that now includes three children, ranging in age from two to 12, Ivy’s pace has slowed to a crawl; All Hours is only the trio’s second album of new songs in 10 years. Not surprisingly, logistical difficulties played a substantial role in the between-album break. In addition to his duties in Fountains Of Wayne, Schlesinger has a busy career as a prolific songwriter for hire whose credits range from the movie Music And Lyrics to Stephen Colbert’s Christmas special. Chase, who co-owns a Manhattan recording studio with Schlesinger and former Smashing Pumpkin James Iha, released several albums with Brookville, as well as collaborating with Durand on atmospheric side project Paco. But it didn’t help that Ivy was well down the road to crafting a follow-up to 2005’s In The Clear when the band members decided to scrap the recordings and start over. “We had amassed what we thought was a pretty good collection of new Ivy songs,” says Chase. “We kept meeting for two or three really intense weeks in the studio,
photo by phillippe garcia
and then Dominique and I wouldn’t see Adam for four or five months. All of a sudden, three years had gone by.” In early 2010, they convened to listen to what they thought was most of their next album. But as the tracks played, their hearts sank as one. “We all had the same reaction,” says Chase. “We all got completely depressed. We realized that this record was such a piece of junk.” “It was not a piece of junk,” Durand interjects softly. “You could hear it was uninspired,” maintains Chase. “It sounded like our older stuff. We have to keep feeling like we’re moving forward and evolving as musicians. It’s not necessarily reinventing yourself, but it’s trying things you haven’t done.” Durand takes most of the blame for the blind alley. “I had in my head the idea that I wanted to make a record like Tom Tom Club,” she says. “Very minimal, going more childish and very immediate, very hooky, very simple— almost like children’s music, but not for children, with that naïveté and innocence. That was my idea. I think I led the guys to do that, and it didn’t really work.” Fragments of the discarded album can be heard on All Hours’ “Suspicious,” which is built around a sparse handclap beat and chiming keyboard line. “When we scrapped the record, I was like, ‘Let’s not scrap this one,’” says Durand. “‘This idea is good. We just haven’t figured it out, but we will.’” Although most of the backing tracks are generated by Chase and Schlesinger, Durand plays a critical role as Ivy’s gatekeeper. Schlesinger’s far-flung catalogue is testament to his ability to slip into almost any musical style, from rockabilly to showtunes. In the studio, Chase says, he’s “like a wild horse. He just starts taking off, and you don’t know if he’s going to go toward the desert, toward the ocean, up in the mountains.” “Distant Lights,” the first song on All Hours, came together when Schlesinger and Chase were trying out new sounds in neighboring studios, with Durand floating between them to check on their progress. “At some point, I went into where Adam was, and he said, ‘Listen to this, I’ve got something,’” says Durand. “He played that beat and that keyboard sound, and I’m like, ‘Adam, do you think you’re in a nightclub in Greece somewhere? It’s so cheesy! It’s horrible!’ He looked at me like, ‘Really, you think it’s cheesy?’ And I’m like,
‘Yeah, it’s really bad.’” Durand suggested a few tweaks to “de-cheese” the track, and what emerged was a fusion of Ivy’s breathy remove and the kick-drum pulse of a dance-club floor-filler. “It’s because of that alchemy that’s so dependent on Dominique’s radar,” says Chase. “Had Dominique not gone in, and eventually me, that song would have ended up being a Greek discotheque dance song.” He laughs. “And probably a much bigger hit than it’ll be for us.” If their abortive first try at least gave them a sense of where to go—away—“Distant Lights” helped establish the template for All Hours, which was subsequently knocked out in a relatively brief nine months. It’s a studio rat’s record, full of layered sounds and unexpected textures, but some of the stripped-down quality Durand pushed for the first time around still shines through. The release of All Hours was attended by only a small handful of shows, and though Ivy hopes to play more, the complications of touring with three young children are formidable. Durand has no regrets about parenthood, but neither does she have any illusions about the difficulties of squaring it with artistic endeavors. “I would say for any musician who wants to be in a band and wants to be … not even a rock star, but just a creative person: Don’t have kids,” she says. “It really does not go together.” She expresses admiration for Patti Smith and Rosanne Cash, women who put as much of themselves into raising children as they had into making music. “Maybe for a guy, it’s different,” she says. “It does give you inspiration: Kids are such a magical thing, and it gives you a different way of seeing the world. But it takes so much energy out of you.” At first listen, All Hours’ “How’s Never” sounds like a brush-off from one of the beautiful people, but you can also hear it as the harried cry of an overscheduled parent whose social calendar is jammed not with parties and gallery openings, but playdates and soccer games. Of course, Smith and Cash also emerged as reinvigorated artists after their children had grown, and it’s clear Durand and Chase have no intention of slowing down. They’ve already recorded an album as the Neverendings, their first collaboration without a third party, which should be out in 2012. It may be five more years until the next Ivy album, but they’re in it for the long haul. —Sam Adams
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It only took three decades for Social Climbers to fulfill their namesake’s destiny
The music industry never ceases to con-
found. The purchasing of less and less physical product coupled with the disintegration of the old model of publicity has caused much grief, hemorrhaged boatloads of cash and ignited countless layoffs. Still, each week, the availability of reissues upon reissues of old and notso-old albums runs amok. Oftentimes, you’ll stumble across a reissue of something that has no business being reissued. Or reissues of reissues. From the Reissue That Actually Deserves To Be Reissued department comes Social Climbers’ self-titled 1980 full-length. Social Climbers were a trio of forward-thinking NYC musicians who, back then, were playing with the likes of Glenn Branca and working with choreographer Charles Moulton. “(Keyboardist) Dick (Connette) and I were both participating in a lot of music that would be referred to as ‘downtown,’” says guitarist/ vocalist Mark Bingham. “We put this band together for whatever reason and called it Social Climbers, which is the worst name in the history of the world. It was like a bad joke
to play one gig, a benefit at the Mud Club, and make fun of the scene at the time, which was a bunch of rich kids in black clothes, socialclimbing. We all hated the idea so much that it was like, ‘Let’s do it!’” The trio—rounded out by bassist Jean Seaton Shaw—recorded three angular, drum machine-driven seven-inches that crossed the new wave of Talking Heads, the Cars and Blondie with the no wave of Suicide and Static, though the pressing of each of these singles was apparently done with all the care of an orangutan ripping into a mango. The deeply flawed records were compiled into a fulllength, after which, laughs Bingham, “They were all supposed to die, but the guy from Gulcher Records hung on to a few.” When asked about why this 31-year-old album is being reissued now, he responds, “I don’t know. I think it was Drag City finding and liking it. The rest of us hadn’t thought about it in 30 years. We broke up in 1982 … It’s a pretty cool record, and it always got a certain amount of juice from the fans. One of the things that
held it back 30 years ago was that it was really different from a lot of the stuff that was going on then. We knew where we going with the use of the drum machines. There were a few other drum-machine bands around at the time, but we would sometimes use three at a time and do some crazy stuff with them. And we created some pretty cool music, considering we were using these non-human elements. But it was still fun to listen to because the songs were simple.” With the reissue officially out of the way, the obvious question that follows is whether reunion shows are too far behind, a query at which Bingham laughs. “I mean, I’ve produced over 200 records since then, and when I listen to Social Climbers, it’s not like I’m embarrassed,” he says. “But I doubt there will be shows. Dick works with Loudon Wainwright and is in a whole other universe of the music industry. Plus, do you really want to see 60-year-olds jumping around onstage to rhythm machines?” —Kevin Stewart-Panko
photo by Patti Perret
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LA resident Jimmy Tamborello records, releases, and performs under the name Dntel. This is an expanded, remastered, 10thanniversary reissue of Dntel’s album Life Is Full of Possibilities and includes copious bonus material in the form of new remixes, outtakes, and b-sides; also available on vinyl.
This is the fifth installment of the annual release from Ultra Records. This double disc package includes the biggest dance/pop hits impacting now and through 2012 from several top artists, including the MEGA hit from Alexandra Stan “Mr Saxobeat,” which is blowing up the charts.
Kaskade, one of America’s most exciting talents in the dance music world, returns with an album of sparkling new tracks. He defines the signature San Francisco house sound, with his luscious productions and mixes being slices of shimmering house perfection.
Hold your horses as the next big thing in dance music has arrived. Her name is INNA and with a string of hits under her belt and the clubs of the US and Europe already at her feet, she is ready to take the whole world by storm with her new album.
Pat Grossi of Active Child has many musical styles to his sound, from singing with his heavenly voice as a choir boy to recent forays into laptop-assisted indie pop made in his bedroom. The album is indebted to drums-and-synths to danceable hip-hop beats, topped off with R&B melodies. Touring nationally w/ M83.
Murs is the hardest-working rapper alive, hip-hop festival creator, and producer. His “sitcom rap” is songs about the everyday life the majority of us are living. His lyrics are straightforward, down-to-earth, and honest, delivered with a vocal tone and forcefulness that recalls a slightly more relaxed Ice Cube.
Life Is Full of Possibilities
I Am The Club Rocker
You Are All I See
Fire And Ice
Love & Rockets Vol.1
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Mr. Anonymous 57 is the new 21 for living punk legend John Doe “John Doe.” The toe tag used by a morgue
for an unidentified male corpse was the perfect stage name for the punk-rock era of the late ’70s. In addition to being a cursory nod to Meet John Doe, the 1941 Frank Capra-directed movie starring Gary Cooper, the name had just the right blend of anonymity and “don’t give a shit.” The singer and bassist for X chose John Doe as his alias for its nondescript nature. “I was thinking of this William Burroughs character in a gray suit, blending into the background,” he says. “Crazy, but still going for it.” Paired with Exene Cervenka as X’s hairraising boy/girl vocal tandem, Doe has turned what was supposed to be a brief musical fling into a career. Still firing on all four cylinders, X also includes original members Billy Zoom on guitar and D.J. Bonebrake on drums. Scratching another itch, Doe has parlayed his musical notoriety into a lengthy film résumé, as well. When John Duchac, an ardent Lou Reed/Velvet Underground fan, left Baltimore in the mid’70s, he first checked out the music prospects in New York City. “I saw Talking Heads and the Heartbreakers at CBGB and said, ‘Oh well, this scene is pretty much sewed-up. I think I’ll go to L.A,’” says Doe, who had thoroughly digested sordid, tell-all volume Hollywood Babylon. Hoping to find the remnants of the Kerouac/Ginsberg Beat scene that had vanished 20 years earlier, he met Cervenka, instead, at the Poetry Center in Venice. She had changed her name from Christine to Exene—à la shortening Christmas to Xmas—and had the band name ready to go. The astringent vocal blend the pair cooked up for X was totally unplanned. “She wasn’t aware of how to sing traditional harmony,” says Doe. “As a band, X had a real attraction to doing things differently: backward and wrong.”
After his group appeared in 1981 punk documentary The Decline Of Western Civilization, Doe landed a starring role in Border Radio, a noirish 1987 indie directed by Allison Anders. He’s kept the acting flame fanned over the years with parts in Boogie Nights, Great Balls Of Fire and TV series Roswell. With the recent release of his ninth solo album, Keeper (Yep Roc), and an occasional movie role, Doe has positioned himself to do pretty much what he likes these days, including X’s upcoming tour of South America with Pearl Jam. “We’ve survived,” he says. “We still have the same band members in X, and I still have enough creative juice to make a solo record every two or three years.” As a welcome by-product of keeping busy at age 57, Doe seems happy with life these days. “I think it’s important once you get over 40 to have some satisfaction,” he says. “You no longer have to maintain this angry young man thing. That life isn’t fair.” But getting old has its challenges, too. As his personal life improved and he moved to Northern California, Doe found his creative spark had been extinguished. “For two years after things began to change for me, I didn’t give a shit about writing songs,” he says. “‘What? I’m happy’. Then I realized, ‘Wait a minute. I do this for a living. I need to find out how to write songs where people are loved, without it being this lightweight, la-de-da stuff.’ What’s somebody gonna do, call me a sissy?” Cervenka, recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, is also dealing with the downside of middle age. From her dynamic appearance at the annual “Xmas With X” show at Slim’s in San Francisco in December 2010, however, you would never know she was ill. “The short version is that she’s stronger than ever,” says
Doe. “At this point, there’s still the question of what form of the disease she has.” Singing alongside a woman is something Doe embraces heartily. Keeper features Patty Griffin, Jill Sobule and Cindy Wasserman following in the footsteps of Cervenka. “I think it complements my voice,” he says of the duo setting. “I’ve got a good voice, but not one that’s quirky with a strange tone, like Macy Gray or Bob Dylan. Or a not-so-good voice with an appealing aspect to it, like Serge Gainsbourg or Lou Reed.” The extra vocal layer a woman provides, says Doe, adds dimension to the lyrics: “Not to get too intellectual about it—it just sounds good, it feels good and it’s fun.” Making movies is still a kick, too, Doe insists, although he got tired of the auditioning and the heated competition. In 2010, he appeared in an indie film called Hated. “I played the shitty, lying, cheating manager of an upand-coming rock band,” he says. “It was really fun. I had a nasty little ponytail.” In the can is Doe’s first encounter with the zombie genre. Directed by Jesse Dayton, Zombex is about a drug manufacturer distributing a Prozac-like substance to victims of Hurricane Katrina. “It turns them into flesh-eating zombies—not just your average pharmaceutical kind of zombie,” says Doe. Following the recent film trend of more mobile zombies seen in 2009’s Zombieland, Zombex uses both the traditional, staggering ghouls alongside the more dangerous, speedy variety. “I didn’t really get to see too many zombies, though,” says Doe. “I was the guy telling the lead character, ‘Better be careful. Shit’s coming down the pipe.’” With its groundbreaking 1983 album More Fun In The New World, X broadened its crash ‘n’ burn concept to include a more populist sound
photo by autumn de wilde
influenced by ’50s honky-tonk, though Doe says he didn’t listen to country music at home. “My parents didn’t play it,” he says. “They liked classical.” But when he heard country songs from the early ’60s—like LeRoy Van Dyke’s “Walk On By” or “From A Jack To A King” by Ned Miller—crossing over into the pop charts, the appeal was immediate. “It just kind of clicked,” he says. “You gravitate to what you can do, and I couldn’t sing like Wilson Pickett or Otis Redding.” Tired of dipping an occasional toe into the pond, Doe took the plunge in 2009 when he fronted Toronto combo the Sadies on Country Club, an album of country classics. “We picked the ones everybody knows, not the obscurities,” says Doe of a set list that included down-home chestnuts like Bobby Bare’s “Detroit City,” Johnny Cash’s “I Still Miss Someone” and Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through The Night.” When Doe and Cervenka feel the urge to make more traditional music, they can wheel the Knitters out of the garage with Bonebrake, former Blasters guitarist Dave Alvin and standup bassist Dave Bartel. “We do the Knitters for fun,” says Doe. “It was only supposed to last a few months.” More ordeal than fun was the making of Jerry Lee Lewis biopic Great Balls Of Fire in 1989. “We spent 10 weeks drinking like monsters in Memphis,” says Doe. “Dennis Quaid thought he could be Jerry Lee himself and lived the role. It almost killed us.” Doe has survived the bumps in the road with a newfound appreciation of his life’s work. “That’s the advantage of not overdosing and sticking around,” he says. “You become the voice of authority, and you get to do cool shit.” —Jud Cost
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Berlin Sprawl Modeselektor keeps it inclusive and expansive on Monkeytown Heaven, it is famously said, is a place where the lovers are Italian,
the French are chefs and everything’s run by the Germans. And any period of time spent with Modeselektor reminds you of that. After all, whether it’s a car, a space rocket or a photovoltaic cell, Germany’s been there, done that and just maybe did it even better than we did in the U.S. So, even when you’re dealing with a left-field electronic act like Sebastian Szary and Gernot Bronsert’s long-running partnership, you can expect them to grok the inner workings of a Skype conference call and be more prepared for a routine promotional interrogation than even the interviewer may be. (Which wasn’t the case, btw.) And that’s a good thing; after all, they’ve got a city to create. Or a town, rather: Monkeytown, the name of both their third LP and their record label. It’s here where an old-school techno rave-up featuring IDM mainstay Otto Von Schirach (“Evil Twin”) shares space with minor-key electro-ballads fronted by modern-day cyberpunk bon vivant Thom Yorke. Indie hip-hop MC experimentalists like Busdriver and Anti-Pop Consortium are placed on equal footing with digital-rock act PVT. And it’s also a means of promoting the work of other non-mainfloor producers such as microedit prodigy Siriusmo and upstart Americans Lazer Sword and Elan. Bronsert, the geeky, talkative half of the group, sees Modeselektor’s latest as part of a continuum of growth beginning with 2005’s Hello Mom! and stretching into Happy Birthday! four years later. “We always named our records after the circumstances that we’re living in,” he says. “Hello Mom! was [us] telling our moms, ‘We are not the little DJs from around the corner anymore.’ It was kind of a homage to our [families]. Happy Birthday! was recorded after the birth of our children. And our records. And part three of the trilogy is Monkeytown, as we have been building our town, if you will, for two years now.” Much has been made of Modeselektor’s willful eclecticism. As youthful ravers buoyed by the fall of the Berlin Wall and the emergence of acid house in the late ’80s, Szary and Bronsert took in both the funky minimalism of Detroit techno and the side-room experimentalism of the early Warp Records catalog. Because of Modeselektor’s insistence on having it both ways, it’s not always been easy to classify the group. In 2008, for instance, the duo won the Beatport Award for best dubstep/grime act, an achievement that would be unthinkable now that dudes like Skrillex and Rusko have ushered in the brostep era. For his part, Bronsert has no problem with the newschool headbangers; he reacts with playful bemusement over the ultra-agression he witnessed Americans embrace while on tour with IDentity Festival this summer. But he doesn’t see the connection.
“We’ve always tried to make beats no one has ever made before,” he says. “We very quickly found love within the U.K. bass-music scene. [But] I didn’t even know that we produced dubstep when we won this contest. It’s OK. The kids, they have fun [with it], and they have a good time. It’s colorful. It’s not boring, and I appreciate that. But I could never make music like this. Maybe I’m too old for [it].” Which is fine, since Modeselektor has enough in its toolkit to weather the trends. In keeping with Szary and Bronsert’s personalities, Monkeytown is lighthearted and charming in character, refusing to take anything but the music too seriously. While there’s no uptempo club assaults on the level of Hello Mom!’s “Kill Bill Vol. 4,” “German Clap” provides amply for this LP’s techno fix, and Miss Platinum collabo “Berlin” continues in the vein of eccentric American R&B homages started with 2005’s “Silkon.” Unlike most EDM LPs, Modeselektor recorded Monkeytown in its own proper studio, a former film synchronization house in Berlin refurbished by previous tenant/Detroit techno producer Dan “DBX” Bell. And while Yorke was the only collaborator who stopped by personally to record his vocals, Modeselektor considers all of its recording partners personal friends. That’s the only way the duo will collaborate with an artist. “If we work with someone, it’s more than just producing a beat, making a record and shit,” says Bronsert. “It’s more about hanging out, having an idea together. You have two choices: Work with someone who is totally new in the game and you can form him or her, or work with people you know, and you know where you’re going [with them]. But it’s always a question of understanding and of respect. I think we have this respect base with all participating artists [in our work].” Nowadays, even non-mainfloor EDM sounds have a global reach, with the U.S. only catching up to Germany with the numbers and saturation of the music into its culture. As old-schoolers who’ve seen the rise of German dance music’s emblematic Love Parade phenomena—and witnessed its tragic demise in 2010 with the stampede deaths of 21 people from afar—they clearly know where they want their career to go and where they don’t. Says Bronsert, “The Japanese [have a saying]: ‘I don’t want to lose my face.’ We always wanted to look in the mirror every morning and like what we see. We were always between underground and mainstream. And I think that’s like a gray zone. We always didn’t have the target to get our music in the charts and to sell out the stadium. [Because] it’s not that small, what we are doing here in Europe. We are creating whole stages on big festivals, and we are quite happy with what we have. But I could never make plain music just to get a bigger crowd. So, I want to keep the Berlin flag up.” —Justin Hampton
photo by ben de biel
static s tat i c
TEA KETTLE DRILLCORE
Robert Inhuman Drowning In Betrayal (cassette)
Inspired, perhaps, by the hamfisted spoken word of Henry Rollins, Inhuman likes to pontificate, to philosophize, to enlighten, to hear himself talk. But since his rants and rationales are only fleetingly entertaining, it’s a relief that most of Drowning In Betrayal is dedicated to neutering audiences with varying degrees of coruscating, nauseating feedback and orgasmic sound-grabs from porn flicks. If you’re into pre-Bermuda Drain Prurient, this is probably right up your scorched-brick alley. SHORTWAVE INDUSTRIAL BOUNCE-TO-THE-OUNCE
Balance Equality (CD-R)
MT6 records No single label, collective or sustained happening
comes as close to soundtracking, in hard-rock strokes, the seedily unsavory underbelly of Baltimore City—the piss-scented alleyways, the litter-strewn harbor, the discarded drug baggies pretty much everywhere—as MT6 Records. Launched in 1998 by musician Alex Strama, the effort has exploded, spinning out ball-busting annual MT6 festivals, DVDs, frequent informal live showcases (many of these are documented on archive.org) and an avalanche of cassettes, CDs, CD-Rs, seven-inches and LPs from oddballs of every description and persuasion, local and national alike. On the Bodymore front, Whistletips bring bent-circuit buzz to the party, woozy stoner-fuzz outfit Bad Liquor Pond contributes appetite stimulants, and moody sonic collagist Jonathan Badger chips in with post-climax melancholy. Creepy Murdle’s hard-as-jawbreakers whiplash shred hits like a mouthful of Pop Rocks and Jolt, Animal Twat’s no-holds-barred hardcore stuns, Strama’s own unpredictable Newagehillbilly guise straddles everything from old-school punk to electronic noise to ambient drone, and the Agrarians proffer narcoleptic king’s court folk. Out-of-towners, meanwhile, include NYC’s unfathomably sketchy Talibam! and bent Cincinnati scree/ screed-guy Robert Inhuman. With dirt-cheap prices, downloads for some recordings—Rosemary Krust’s devastating, chromosome-depleted Slow Light can be had for $3.99 in mp3 form and is worth three times that price, in our humble opinion—and physical limited-editions running out fast, you (the underground sound fetishist) are encouraged to get familiar now. — Raymond Cummings
There’s just the barest, slightest hint of melody at work on this fourtrack, 20-minute EP, which seems to showcase monstrous rhythms in semi-disintegrated states of being. The dramatis personae are allegedly culled from stalwart preexisting MT6 groups, only without the usual flesh-and-bone, upside-down-rollercoaster weirdness. Rather, Equality is notable for its marginalized sense of warmth and humanity, its spurts of helicopter-blade rattling, whippit hitfugue static swells, bursts of whip-crack hiss—even the involuntary invocation of long-retired Saturday Night Live skit “Sprockets.” You’ll think of markers on whiteboards, the ticking of time bombs remixed to a crawl, broiling heat, aliens haphazardly pushing button after tonesynched button on incomprehensibly massive spacecraft keyboards. And underneath all of that and more besides—whispering through the wavelength fuckery, the gathering storm clouds and the intoxicating swirls of distortion that bring to mind Stylophonic’s housemusic sideswipe “R U Experienced?” and NYC noise/ techno polymath Speak Onion—are real, honest-toHoyle earworm hooks that burble innocuously or swivel like haunted conference-room chairs, irritatingly in and out of phase, mocking the listener. MADCAP ESOTERICA
BNT Prize Fighters (CD-R) This mysterious recording—credited to Strama and one “B. Price,” “recorded early 2000,5,” no song titles, packaging appearing to have been crafted from S.A.T. Xeroxes, no longer listed for sale on the MT6 site—roams all over creation and back again. There’s a 13-minute intergalactic-electronic-drum-pad vs. effectspedal-assisted-guitar duel. There’s an inebriated organ/ drum-kit showcase reminiscent of the first Pit Er Pat LP. There’s a gilded miniature echo-chamber of reverberating bells, a mock-rap interlude, a sojourn into lysergic, swank funk that briefly blossoms into a space-rock shred clinic before reverting back. There’s this one cut where slippery synth pulses, effects and bass rumbles just go at it, throwing down, beating one another first to a pulp, then to a paste. Fighters is hardly a game-changer; awkward, uneven and rambling in spots, it might have benefitted from more judicious editing. Yet the curious, fearless sense of adventurousness and daring embodied here deserves a salute—and begs for a repress. — R.C.
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Continually shot out of a cannon, Pujol contorted through his latest flaming hoop, releasing this EP. Moving at the speed of the ‘60s, it’s his 10th release in less than two years and focuses on the idea of cultural maxims dominating the individual’s ability to vocalize and interact with the external world.
Leaving behind most of the garage-rock bursts that peppered previous albums, A Turn in the Dream-Songs is a sweeter record than previous releases, a warmth enhanced by the fact that the current songs were recorded entirely on 2-inch analogue tape at England’s Analogue Catalogue all-vintage studio.
Wild Flag is a quartet consisting of Carrie Brownstein, Rebecca Cole, Mary Timony, and Janet Weiss. The members have played in numerous and notable bands including Sleater-Kinney, Helium, Quasi, The Minders, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, and others. All tracks were recorded live except for the vocals.
Girl In A Coma
Paley & Francis
Mates of State
Exits & All the Rest is the fourth album by Girl In A Coma. Embraced by artists as diverse as Morrissey and film director Robert Rodriguez, the Texas trio hasn’t slowed down, much less stopped since signing with Blackheart. Tour after tour, this band has honed a sharp edge, creating a sound that is all their own.
The new collaborative effort between Brooklyn’s Reid Paley and Black Francis of the Pixies, with legendary Muscle Shoals players David Hood on bass and Spooner Oldham on piano. Recorded by John Tiven in Nashville, it’s loose, off the cuff, and raucous.
On Mountaintops, the textures have become more intricate, deeper. Mates of State have also begun throwing in the occasional trumpet or guitar, but it is still stunning how much they can do with just keyboards and drums. Mountaintops is an album you have to love.
Nasty, Brutish, and Short
Exits & All The Rest
A Turn in the Dream-Songs
Paley & Francis
on the record a conversation with
ben lee Ben Lee had barely cracked the puberty code when he fronted renowned Aussie alt-rock combo Noise Addict, and as a wellweathered 16-year-old, he began his debut solo album, the astonishingly mature yet still appropriately naïve Grandpaw Would. Lee’s third album, Breathing Tornados, garnered best male artist and album of the year nominations in Australia. After 2002’s big-selling hey you. yes you., Lee started his own label and released the most upbeat LP in his increasingly dark catalog, 2005’s Awake Is The New Sleep, requiring him to compose acceptance speeches for best male artist, best independent release and single of the year wins at home. Lee’s impressive string of successes continued with 2007’s Ripe, featuring cameos by Mandy Moore, Benji Madden and the Heartbreakers’ Benmont Tench, among others, but the streak abruptly stopped with 2009’s The Rebirth Of Venus. The quasi-concept album of Lee’s ruminations on women was almost universally derided as half-baked philosophical twaddle set to a weirdly diverse pop soundtrack. Ironically, Lee subsequently experienced the transformative effect of women, marrying actress Ione Skye in 2008 and welcoming daughter Goldie the next year. Simultaneously, he was also examining the inherent power of dreams with Dr. Jan Lloyd, who led him through the labyrinth of his brain’s nocturnal creations. Sadly, Lloyd’s death last year forced Lee to balance the joy of his daughter’s first year with the agonizing loss of his good friend and trusted therapist, all of which inspired Lee to again brave the concept-album waters with Deeper Into Dream (Dangerbird), a loosely threaded set about the mind movies our brains script, direct and discard every single night. From his Laurel Canyon home, Lee discussed his inspirations for Deeper Into Dream and, in the spirit of his ephemeral subject matter, what it all means. What was Deeper Into Dream’s creative evolution? I felt my greatest record artistically was Awake Is The New Sleep, which taught me that my records are most satisfying when I explore something that’s really important to me, no matter how idiosyncratic. I’d made two records in a row, Ripe and Rebirth Of Venus, sort of consciously exploring the rock mill of touring/records/touring/records, because I’d never really done that. And I’d just had a baby, and I decided I was next going to make a record when I really had something I wanted
to explore, because I was in no rush to get out on the road or spend a minute away from the baby. I was letting this sense percolate of when I really wanted to have something to share. The other thing was I started doing this really amazing dream analysis. When I was first telling my management and label about this, they were like, “Huh?” Like talking about therapy is the least rock ‘n’ roll thing you could possibly do, unless it came after being a drug addict. So, being a dad and doing this work with my dreams led me into a different relationship with my creativity. Then the amazing therapist I was working with died, and suddenly all of this music and these ideas started coming out. I wanted to make a record to tribute the new way he’d shown me to look at the world and dreams and the imagination and to make sense of his death and becoming a dad. There’s been so much radical change in the last few years, and it suddenly felt like the big pot was starting to boil. How did Dr. Lloyd’s revelations about your dreams come out in this record? Jan’s way of looking at dreams was, very simply, they reveal what’s going on with you that day, which is such a basic idea. But what’s concerning you in your dream life, what you’re afraid of or what you desire, is often radically different from the persona we walk around with in our daily life. That’s when it starts getting really interesting. There’s a huge chasm between what I felt, who I am and the self that I’ve been, not just in public to my fans, but to my family, my friends, my pets. [Laughs] I really started appreciating what’s going on inside me and each of us, who are infinitely more complex than we say when people ask how we’re doing. It led me to this appreciation of complexity, ambiguity and conflicting feelings.
How did you start recording people recounting their dreams? I would ask friends how they were, and they’d answer, then I’d say, “Did you have any dreams recently?” They’d share a dream and actually be more honest when they were sharing dreams, and it would amuse them how honest they were being. I have this home studio, and I got into this thing of “Can I record your dream?” I didn’t know how I’d use it exactly, but I started building this big file of all these dreams. It continues to be an exploration that raises more questions than answers, but that feels real to me. Did you begin by writing songs that grew into the concept, or did you begin with the concept? That first line on the record—“Have you ever woken from a dream and convinced yourself you’ll remember it in the morning?”—really hit me. That’s where I started exploring. It hasn’t worked well in the past when I’ve put the concept before the music, and in a lot of songs on the record, it’s a loose connection. Like “Indian Myna” and “Church Of Everybody Else,” they’re just songs, but because they were all written in a few months’ period and I was trying to tap into what was going on inside me, they’re all kind of connected. I was just trying to write songs. The Rebirth Of Venus was raked over the coals critically. Did that make you hesitant about doing another concept album? Not really. I never judge by whether people like it or not. With this record, I have quite a deep feeling of satisfaction creatively, so it could be unanimously panned and rejected and it’s not going to change my perception of it. It’s such a fun moment when you have a record that people connect with on some kind of scale; it just doesn’t happen every time. There’s no logic to it as far as I can see. Did you have to adjust your writing process to write about something so intangible? It happened naturally. I wasn’t interested in the process mirroring the subject matter. And I had it at home, and it wasn’t a studio where I was on a few hundred dollars a day. Most days, I didn’t do more than two or three hours work, but it took a longer time to make, so it had a more emotional thread to it. —Brian Baker
photo by ione skye
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Dirty Projectors + Bjork
Days is a gorgeous suite of timelessly melodic, achingly melancholy pop songs and a delightfully confident follow up to 2009’s exceptionally well received eponymous debut.
Mount Wittenberg Orca is the 7-song suite composed by David Longstreth for his band, Dirty Projectors, and Bjork. The suite was originally performed as a oneoff benefit concert in 2009, but the work was so strong they got back together a year later to make this stunning recording.
As might be implied by the title, In Heaven improves on 2010’s critical darling Color Your Life EP in every possible way, showcasing the band’s wildly imaginative songwriting paired with flawless execution, by way of intense dedication to both musicianship and recording.
Cymbals Eat Guitars
Eric Bachmann, who writes, records, and performs songs mainly under the name Crooked Fingers, lives in Athens, GA, where he recorded Breaks in the Armor at The Bakery with Matt Yelton (live sound engineer for the Pixies) throughout the winter of 201011, with the help of Liz Durrett on backing vocals.
Corroded recently teamed up with EA Games and produced the main soundtrack Age of Rage for the upcoming Battlefield Play4Free Game. The band and album are already creating a crescendo in building a buzz on the internet in all known Game blogs and platforms reaching more than 40 million followers.
Lenses Alien is a marriage of classic pop forms and ambient haze that makes for a stark, dusky psychedelia.
Breaks in the Armor
Mount Wittenberg Orca
Exit To Transfer
Pterodactyl broadens its horizons without losing the psychedelic plot
In writing Spills Out (Brah), Pterodactyl
found inspiration in the ends of things: relationships, jobs, even lives. But the Brooklyn trio’s third and best album refuses to dwell on the past. Instead it represents a new approach and, not coincidentally, the band’s best work. Unlike previous efforts, where individual members would present their own songs to the group, Pterodactyl created Spills Out as a band. “We wrote almost all of it together, in the room together,” says bassist Jesse Hodges. “Even the lyrics. It was definitely weird, but weird in a good way. It’s not like there’s one person making an executive decision; we had to struggle.” The struggle was worth it. Hodges is joined in Pterodactyl by guitarist Joe Kremer and drummer Matt Marlin. All three sing. And on Spills Out, all three sing a lot, their voices fanning out in pristine harmony or crisscrossing in counter-melodic tangles. Against the busy and kinetic swirls of melody Pterodactyl stacks into its loft-party psych rock, these more confident multi-part vocal arrangements enhance the momentum of
songs like first single “School Glue.” Spills Out finds the band broadening its instrumental palette as well. “The Hole Night” is a relatively spare arrangement, with harmonic coos and a falsetto lead suggesting an early Beach Boys nugget as interpreted by Parts & Labor. Marlin’s drumming is as active as ever, but it never overpowers the warm breeze of classic pop that glazes the song. It’s a bold move, but it’s still unmistakably Pterodactyl. “No matter what, it’s ultimately going to sound like us,” says Hodges. “It doesn’t matter if I’m listening to ‘Everyday’ by Buddy Holly over and over and over again and want to write my version of ‘Everyday’; it’s not going to sound like that.” So, when “The Break” dips into the Pixies catalog for the distant, ethereal backup harmonies at its conclusion, or when “Thorn” leans toward Earth-ly mantra metal at its outset, there’s nothing to lose. The character of Pterodactyl is too well-defined to be swayed so easily. Hodges compares his relationship with his bandmates to family. “You hang out as much as you can, but it can be a kind of heavy, serious relationship, so we don’t always get along
either,” he says. “But, like family, I know those guys have my back and vice versa.” It’s the type of relationship that enables the sort of close collaboration and pull-no-punches editing that made Spills Out so clear and consistent in its results. Pterodactyl recorded the album at Hodges’ home and the band’s practice space, surrounding itself with friendly, trusted collaborators. But while the comforts of familiar spaces and faces contribute to Spills Out’s ascendant momentum and depth of sound, it’s not the multitude of guests that gives the album its voice. Spills Out is the product of overcoming challenges both personal and creative. Its sound is triumphant, and it deserves to be. The necessary obstructions of a new approach asked a lot of Pterodactyl’s principles, but in the end, it was just the dare the band needed. “Those moments where you’re maybe a little bit afraid—like, ‘Oh man, I don’t know if I should do this’—for me, that’s the perfect moment,” says Hodges. “That’s exactly what I want to do. I want to scare myself. I want to push myself to the point that I’m nervous about it, because that’s when I know what I’m doing is real.” — Bryan C. Reed
photo by sabine rogers
Bright And Blue Kathryn Calder tests out new textures
When something bad is heading straight
at you, time slows and every thought seems worth examining. When the moment of impact comes at last, you lose even basic plot points, like where you are and what you’re supposed to be doing. You can hear the difference in Kathryn Calder’s first album, recorded while her mom was dying, and her second, made while she was absorbing the loss. The arrangements on 2010’s Are You My Mother? were largely sparse, the edges crisp; when Calder sang through fuzz on “A Day Long Past Its Prime,” she was bracing for a blow and armed with a rare blast of rock. That song, placed toward the end of the record, served as an omen of things to come. Her new album, Bright And Vivid (File Under: Music), is shrouded in layers of keyboards, guitars and strings. Opener “One, Two, Three” all but buries Calder’s vocals beneath swirling distortion, leaving the listener to grasp only a few phrases, like “When you were younger/Did you think that your mother/Was all you could belong to?” and “When you were older/And you didn’t have a mother/You found yourself
photo by caleb beyers
under that bridge.” That was intentional for Calder, who has also made four records with Immaculate Machine and three with the New Pornographers. “I picked that song to go first because I kind of wanted to make a bit of a particular statement that it wasn’t gonna be exactly like the last record,” she says. Another standout, “Right Book,” pivots between Calder’s fluttery vocals and doomy piano before the drums take flight. “That song was incredibly difficult to get right,” she says. “We just spent a long time with different structures and different sounds and trying to build it right.” It’s fitting that Bright And Vivid isn’t so accessible, because Calder herself hasn’t really wrapped her head around it. She knows she was lost in the fog after her mother’s death and trying to make sense of her new reality. But that’s not out of character for her; it often takes time to process her thoughts through her work. “The way I write songs, I’ll write the song and then only later I’ll really know what it’s
about,” she says. “And so I haven’t quite figured out what some of the songs are about yet. I haven’t lived with them long enough. But I will. I’ll know. If you ask me in a year, then I’ll know.” By then, she may have another batch of songs. Or not. “Appearances make it seem like I’m prolific, but I’m not really,” she says. Not everyone can release two very different albums in under a year and a half, but Calder doesn’t have anything in reserve if writer’s block hits. “I used every song,” she says. “I just made them work.” Still, if Bright And Vivid’s last track, “Younger Than We’ve Ever Been,” is any indication, she’ll find a way to reconcile her tendency for airy melodies and organic percussion with her thirst for unusual textures. It’ll take some work, Calder concedes, but she’s used to it. “I don’t really find inspiration if I don’t sit down and write,” she says. “I generally find tasks to do, like laundry. Laundry happens, instead of songwriting. So, if I don’t put in the time to sit down and actually write, I’ll never, ever get anything done.” — M.J. Fine
Down On the Upside
Dan Mangan is lucky to have so many options at his fingertips
“When I first started out, I was very much
doing guy-with-a-guitar, singer/songwriter stuff,” says Dan Mangan on the eve of the release of Oh Fortune (Arts & Crafts). “As soon as I started touring and putting out records, I felt totally boxed in by what that was. By the time I made this record, I’d spent a couple years on the road with an amazing band. The way they talk about music has helped me figure out what I want to do.” What he wants to do is everything. When Mangan cites indie rock, folk and jazz as components of his sound, he’s barely chipping the tip of a very large iceberg. To top it off, everything is tied together for maximum coherence. It’s not just that the guitar solo at the end of “How Darwinian” could easily find a place on any Muse record; the rock part of the blackened pop epic’s aesthetic bleeds into Broadway disco march “Post-War Blues” as soon as Mangan stops crooning.
“With Oh Fortune, for the first time ever, I had the luxury of spending a lot of time on an album,” he says. “Even though there are so many great people on this record doing so many great things, I feel that the record is more honestly me than anything else I’ve done in the past.” Being honestly himself allows for surprises, too, like closing both “Jeopardy” and the album with trumpeter J.P. Carter’s rollicking, New Orleans-informed solo. “All these other players who’ve been on the record in a supporting role, finally, during this last two minutes, get to step up for this great instrumental ending,” he says. “In part, because I’m no longer in the picture, it’s actually probably my favorite part of the record.” Mangan’s aptitude for fashioning unusual juxtapositions also often helps shape his lyrics. “I lit up like a match,” he sings nonchalantly on “About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being
Any Help At All” over accompaniment perfect for a formal ball on a buccaneer’s frigate. “And I bled gasoline/Made a torch of myself ’til the moon was mine/And the stars made of me/ How I lit that skyuhyyyyuy!” As if turning into a winged bear, the singer lets his last note break up into a triumphantly ascending growl as the string section spirals urgently upward. “Even though the record has its share of sadness and death, I don’t see it as a sad record,” he says. “It has a subtext of hopefulness and joy. To me, lighting yourself on fire isn’t so much giving up as letting go. The fact that the world is so chaotic, so troubling and full of hypocrisy can really get you down. But if you can let go of all that, you can experience joy and really appreciate it. I think that’s something human beings walk away from all too easily. Sure, things are pretty screwed up. But man, doesn’t it feel good when you put on a fresh pair of socks!” —Rod Smith
photo by jonathan taggert
Anxiety Attack Poor Boy’s Soul stomps out some timeless blues
When Trever Jones rips into “Nails In The Pine,” one of
the songs on Burn Down, his self-released debut as Poor Boy’s Soul, you’re immediately transported to the Mississippi Delta, circa 1924. The music is relentlessly driving, the lyrics a bleak celebration of self-destruction, and his big, bold National resonator guitar fills the room with its ominous, metallic clanging. His bluesy howling vocals send a chill down your spine with a ragged presence that suggests the sound of an obscure 78-rpm record. All the songs on Burn Down have a similar aura of stomping blues tunes cut by Jones in a salute to the one-man bands of yesterday. “I saw the Reverend Deadeye’s No Man Gospel Band a few years ago,” says Jones. “He played tambourine and bass drum with [foot pedals] and inspired me to perform acoustic stomp music. When I discovered slide guitar, I stripped everything down to the basics and got back to the old-time, rhythmbased music you can feel in your body when you hear it.” It’s hard to believe that one man is generating everything you hear on Burn Down. With the help of producer/engineer Rick Duncan, Jones created a scruffy maelstrom of rhythmic noise that pins you to the wall with its raw, immediate feel. “For most of the album, I used a semi-acoustic Gibson ES-335,” he says. “It’s put through a Blues Driver Pedal to fatten up the sound. Rick put up a lot of mics, three or four in the room and a couple in the hallway, to gather the ambient noise. That pulled in a lot of overtones for a live, warm sound. The percussion is all foot stomps, bass drum and tambourine, with overdubbed harmonica and handclaps on one track.” The attack Jones gets with a single instrument is a prime example of bluesy roots rock at its primal best. He complements it with gritty vocals full of unsettling intensity. “I don’t have a huge range vocally,” he says. “I like guys like Mississippi Fred McDowell, who don’t have much more than a growl, but they put a lot of emotion into it. I’m an anxious person and get worked up about a lot of things, so I don’t sound pretty or happy. I sing about extreme situations and put a lot of emotion into it.” Jones got his first guitar when he was 10 and played in metal and punk cover bands in high school. After graduation, he bought a cheap acoustic and hit the road. He rode freight trains, sang songs in hobo camps and played on street corners. “I learned a lot of folk songs, bluegrass and blues on the road and developed my own guitar style,” he says. “People taught me songs by Pete Seeger, Dylan, Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie. I realized all I needed to make music was a guitar and a campfire.” While working as a farmhand in southern Oregon, Jones played nights in a punk-influenced bluegrass band. After seeing the Reverend Deadeye, he put together his own one-man band and developed his driving, rhythmic sound. “The album was cut like a live performance,” he says. “If I miss a note or skip a beat, I leave it in. I want to make real music, and real music isn’t about perfection—it’s about feeling.” —j. poet
photo by katie whitaker
now hear this on sale now at your local independent music store
Great Crap Factory/ Burnside
Piers Faccini is a brilliant singer/ songwriter in the vein of Nick Drake or Ray LaMontagne who has been releasing albums worldwide with much success for years, including last years’ Two Grains of Sand. US Fall tour dates coming soon. Ben Harper is a big fan, and Piers has toured with him in the past.
Deeper Into Dream is Ben’s eighth solo record. This is his first self-produced album, recorded by Noah Georgeson (Joanna Newsom, Devendra Banhart, The Strokes). “Catch My Disease,” a Ben Lee documentary, will be released in the US shortly as well, upping his presence in the marketplace.
Ex-Moldy Peaches singer/ songwriter Kimya Dawson is known for the Grammynominated, platinum selling Juno soundtrack. Thunder Thighs has themes including oceans, cancer, transgendered heroes, feeling safe in your own skin, saving public libraries and making big albums in a small, familial way.
The Best Imitation Of Myself: A Retrospective Legacy
This is the long-awaited careerspanning anthology chronicling the adventures of pop’s quintessential post-modern singer-songwriterpianist. Remastered from original tapes, it brings together Ben’s biggest hits, deep catalog fan favorites, hidden treasures, collectible rarities, and premiers new tracks.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn–Part 1 Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Atlantic
Highlighted by the new single, “It Will Rain,” by Bruno Mars, the soundtrack also features new tracks from Christina Perri, The Joy Formidable, The Belle Brigade, Theophilus London, and Mia Maestro, and a new version of Iron & Wine’s “Flightless Bird, American Mouth.”
Deeper Into Dream
The Janie Jones Soundtrack Nettwerk
The Janie Jones Soundtrack features a total of eight songs recorded by the film’s main actors, Abigail Breslin and Alessandro Nivola, in addition to songs from William Fitzsimmons, Gemma Hayes and Patrick Watson. Janie Jones is a sweet family drama and an independent, music-based film.
Choose Your Own Adventure
M83’s Anthony Gonzalez goes wherever his childlike muse suggests story by K. Ross Hoffman • photos by Anouck Bertin
in 1781, French astronomer Charles Messier published the final version
of his magnum opus: a catalog listing more than 100 “deep sky objects”— nebulae, star clusters, galaxies—that he had discovered. Two hundred years later, his equally starry-eyed countryman Anthony Gonzalez was born in the sleepy Côte d’Azur resort town of Antibes—incidentally, not a bad spot for gazing at stars, of either the celestial or (at least during the annual film festival in nearby Cannes) celluloid variety. Sort of like a dream, isn’t it? “Yeah, the south of France is a perfect place for a kid to grow up,” says Gonzalez. “The weather is perfect, there’s the beach, the mountains, there’s tons of stuff to do as a kid.” Gonzalez is in Los Angeles, where he moved in early 2010 after 29 years in France. “I just needed a change,” he says. “Antibes was great—very sunny and close to the beach. L.A. feels like kind of the same place, except it’s a little bit less boring.” Over the past 10 years—which is to say, throughout his 20s—Gonzalez has built up a pretty stellar catalog of his own: six albums, plus a smattering of soundtrack work and remixes, with the heavily atmospheric electronic outfit he named after object number 83 in
The idea to make a double album was also to do something not too much, not too long, so that people can still listen to the whole thing. Just listen to one disc, then the next day listen to the other one.
Messier’s catalog, a particularly classic-looking formation popularly known as the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy. From the tremendously dense, largely instrumental synthesized shoegaze of 2003 breakthrough Dead Cities, Red Seas And Lost Ghosts to the plush, pillowy dream pop of 2008’s Saturdays=Youth, M83 (initially a duo with Nicolas Fromageau, but effectively a one-man operation since 2004) has charted a musical course rife with analog lushness, earnest sentimentality, epic bombast and a well-documented penchant for the cinematic. That’s one reason Gonzalez’s arrival in Los Angeles feels particularly apropos, almost predestined. While he’s still stimulated by the splendor of the natural world—five or six of the songs from his newest album were written away from the city (“I would just take my laptop and go on a road trip by myself,” he says, “just to clear my head and compose music in the desert, or up along the coast toward San Francisco”)—movies are at least as significant an inspiration. “When I’m making music in my studio, I always like to have a small TV,” he says. “I like to put a DVD and watch a movie while I’m composing, just for the pictures.” (So, what’s he been screening lately? “A lot of old movies,” he says. “I was playing Live At Pompeii from Pink Floyd, Aguirre by Werner Herzog, Peau d’Âne by Jacques Demy, a lot of old Japanese anime from the ’70s.”) The title of M83’s latest, grandest opus, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (Mute), neatly conveys both the visceral, emotional urgency and the vividly hallucinatory fantasy that have marked the band’s music all along, both elements
that—in typical M83 fashion—are intensified even further on this album. (If recent outings marked a minor retreat from the monumental melodrama of 2005’s Before The Dawn Heals Us, Gonzalez is certainly making up for lost time here.) An incremental trend toward augmentation and expansion is evident in terms of length alone: After a string of albums clocking in at 57, 61 and 62 minutes, respectively, Dreaming would be pushing the limits of a single CD at 73. Instead, Gonzalez has made it double album, something he’s always wanted to do. “Since I was a teenager, I was in love with the Smashing Pumpkins’ double album, and I always dreamed about making one myself,” he says. “I just thought it was the right time for it—it’s my sixth album, and I feel more confident about myself than ever. And I had so many songs, and I wanted to use most of them.” But it wasn’t just about excess. “The idea to make a double album was also to do something not too much, not too long, so that people can still listen to the whole thing,” he says. “Just
listen to one disc, then the next day listen to the other one.” Gonzalez describes the double album variously as a “journey” and a “rollercoaster,” but says its two parts are more like companion pieces than contrasting sections or halves of a conceptual sequence. “The concept is to have two discs very close to each other—almost the same kind of disc twice,” he says. “Every track has kind of a sibling on the other side. It’s a brother-and-sister kind of thing.” He calls my attention to the two young children on the album’s cover art, always a significant consideration for such a visually oriented artist. “The little boy for disc one, the girl for disc two,” he says. “Or vice versa.” If Saturdays, with its soft-focus cover shot of playfully costumed teenage misfits, has been firmly established as Gonzalez’s loving aural tribute to the ‘80s teen comedies of John Hughes (and to teen-dom in general), Dreaming’s adorable, vaguely sinister image (by Anouck Bertin) of siblings basking in the
purple glow of a TV screen, one cradling a grotesque monster mask, suggests a shift in focus to earlier in childhood (and perhaps some inspiration from the youth-oriented fantasy and kiddie-horror films of the same era: Labyrinth, Legend, Gremlins, The NeverEnding Story.) “When I first started to work on this album, I was by myself in L.A.,” says Gonzalez. “I was kind of feeling a little bit lonely—you know when you’re moving to a new city and you don’t know a lot of people—and I was by myself in my studio working on the songs, and I had this nostalgia about my childhood. And all of a sudden I started to remember stories of me being a kid. This album is definitely a tribute to my childhood more than anything else. It’s also kind of a retrospective of my 30 years of being a human being.” Dreaming’s fascination with childhood— and specifically with storytelling and imagination—is apparent right from the first lines of narration on the grandiose, mythictoned “Intro,” which features a tale about a
I think it’s the most wonderful thing on earth, sleeping and dreaming. It’s a great source of inspiration to me. For me, this album is like a collection of dreams. very tiny, very special, reality-altering magic frog, but it’s most evident on “Raconte-Moi Une Histoire” (“Tell Me A Story”), as told by Zelly, the daughter of album producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen. (“She’s five,” says Gonzalez. “And she’s such a character.”) “The title of the track is actually the name of a French kids’ magazine I used to read when I was a kid,” says Gonzalez. “Every month you had this magazine with a small cassette where you could look at the pictures and listen to the stories; my mom used to buy it for me and I was totally in love with it. The stories were totally creative and crazy, and so with the song I wanted to recreate the same kind of feeling. We wanted to have something very, very childish, but also very meaningful and very dreamy at the end.” Speaking of dreams (Zelly apparently told Anthony all about hers immediately upon their first meeting at his apartment), they of course go hand in hand with storytelling, fantasy movies, the generally surreal,
fanciful, image-rich experience of childhood. And, obviously, they’re right there in the album’s title. Gonzalez, one would suspect, must have some pretty incredible dreams. “Well, unfortunately, I don’t remember my dreams anymore, because I think I smoked too much pot when I was a teenager and I can’t remember anything anymore,” he says. “But I just love the idea of being lost in a dream and how the dreams are different every night, a different story, a different adventure. I think it’s the most wonderful thing on earth, sleeping and dreaming. It’s a great source of inspiration to me. For me, this album is like a collection of dreams.” Wait, no dream memories whatsoever? Gonzalez concedes one: “It’s weird; when I first moved to L.A. and started to work on this album, I started to remember some of my dreams from when I was a kid. In France, we had a lot of crazy anime from Japan when we were kids, a lot of which took place in space, like space adventures. So, I had dreams where I was kind of a space pirate or something, and I was going from planet to planet and going on adventures with my little pet monkey.” Hence, perhaps, such songs as “Train To Pluton” and “Year One, One UFO” and lyrics like “A slide on the starlight/Watch out!/A new planet right on my trail!” from one of Dreaming’s most infectious cuts, the vaguely Policelike “Claudia Lewis.” The track’s namesake, according to Gonzalez, is “this girl who writes space poems; I found her online. She writes the cheesiest space poems ever.” Actually, it turns out that Claudia Lewis is a reasonably well-respected children’s poet and author (of, among other things, 1967’s Poems Of Earth And Space)—at least, respected enough to have a poetry prize named in her honor. But, eh, let’s not tell Gonzalez that. (He didn’t want to get in trouble if I wrote that she was a terrible writer.) Better just to let him dream. M
Factory Men story by James Greer ::: photo by Neil Visel
Working-class hero Robert Pollard and his fellow “classic-era” Guided By Voices bandmates clock in with Let’s Go Eat The Factory , their first album in more than 15 years.
Twenty years ago, I interviewed Guided
By Voices for a different magazine. It was in an RV belonging to Ed Deal—Kim and Kelley’s dad—parked in back of a club in Columbus, Ohio, after a Breeders show. The whole band was there, crowded around my enormous early-‘90s vintage cassette recorder: Robert Pollard, Jimmy Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Kevin Fennell and Dan Toohey, who would soon become an ex-member due to his propensity for leaving long notes to Bob about various dissatisfactions with certain band practices. Bob did most of the talking, which will come as a great surprise to exactly no one who has ever met, seen, heard or read about him. According to Ed Deal, who has a better memory than me, after every answer, Bob would ask, “Was that OK? Was that a good answer?” In other words, Bob was nervous, and in retrospect, sure: It was one of his first “real” interviews (even though the piece I was writing was very short). Anyone would be nervous in that situation. He had not yet released Bee Thousand, the album that would come to define, for better and worse, the public perception of Guided By Voices as masters of short bursts of melodic lo-fi rock with mostly incomprehensible lyrics. He had spent the previous seven years nursing grudges and making records that he wouldn’t let anyone hear, because he was worried they weren’t good enough. Was that OK? Was that a good record? Twenty years later, sitting in a bar in the Oregon District of his hometown, Dayton, Ohio, Bob is anything but nervous. He orders two buckets of Miller Lite in bottles (a bucket is really just a six-pack on ice, so it’s not as much as it sounds) and slides onto a chair in the back room of the bar next to Mitch Mitchell, who Bob has known longer than he’s been in the
band, which means he and Mitch have known each other for about 45 years. “I have some conditions,” he announces, before I turn on the tiny little machine I brought to record our conversation. I don’t know how it works. It’s digital. Maybe it doesn’t work. I hope it works. (Update: It works.) “I’m going to talk about whatever I want to talk about,” he continues. “I’m going to tell you exactly what happened during the making of this record. But you can’t use anything that would hurt anyone’s feelings.” Turns out over the course of the next four or five hours and several buckets of Miller Lite, augmented by shots of tequila so big they come in tumblers (and should be illegal), Bob doesn’t say anything that would hurt anyone’s feelings. And now that I have fulfilled the requirement to mention how much Guided By Voices and/or Robert Pollard drinks, we can get down to the business of discussing Let’s Go Eat The Factory, the first album of new material by the “classic lineup,” featuring everybody who sat in Ed Deal’s RV that night minus Dan Toohey and plus Greg Demos, who brought his striped
100 Colors ( 1 ) Smothered In Hugs ( 2 ) Game Of Pricks ( 3 ) Over The Neptune/ Mesh Gear Fox ( 4 ) Tractor Rape Chain ( 5 ) Motor Away ( 6 ) I Am A Scientist
( 7 ) I f We Wait ( 8 ) My Impression Now ( 9 ) Unleashed! The Large-Hearted Boy ( 10 ) Gold Star For Robot Boy ( 11 ) The Official
white pants and dervish intensity to the touring band for about six months before deciding to take a job offer with a law firm, where he’s now a senior partner. The new album represents a deliberate effort to return to the spontaneity of Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes, but advances in technology and in Bob’s songwriting make drawing straight lines from here to there impossible. Songs were recorded at Toby’s house. Songs were made up in Mitch’s garage and Greg’s basement. Sometimes Bob played drums and Jimmy played bass. Sometimes Toby played everything, as he often used to do on his own songs. The result is recognizably “classic” Guided By Voices, but in some unexpected ways (more prevalent use of keyboards and samples, for one thing), the 21st century can’t help but poke its nose into the resulting music. MAGNET: At what point during the reunion tour did you guys decide to make a new Guided By Voices record?
First of all, Kevin wanted to make one the whole time. Mitchell: I secretly was wishing for one, too. Pollard: But I was like, “I don’t know, man. Let’s just do the reunion tour.” Then, the tour was what, 11 months? And about three-quarters of the way into it I started thinking, “You know, the chemistry’s good. Maybe we deserve to make an album as a reward to ourselves. Let’s make a fucking record and see how it goes.” It still took until a couple months later before we finally decided definitely to do it. Toby and I were in Chicago in a bar with our wives and some other people, and we saw this really cool picture on the wall we thought would look great for our album cover. We ended up not using it. But it worked perfectly with Let’s Go Eat The Factory, because I already had the title. Pollard:
Was that a previously existing title you had planned to use for something of your own?
MAGNET’s resident GBV nerd Reuben Frank ranks the 100 best songs from the band’s classic years
Ironmen Rally Song ( 12 ) Redmen And Their Wives ( 13 ) Hardcore UFOs ( 14 ) Echos Myron ( 15 ) The Goldheart Mountaintop
Queen Directory ( 16 ) My Valuable Hunting Knife ( 17 ) Bright Paper Werewolves ( 18 ) Don’t Stop Now ( 19 ) A Salty Salute
( 20 ) Queen Of Cans And Jars ( 21 ) Wondering Boy Poet ( 22 ) Dusted ( 23 ) Dayton, Ohio, 19-Something-And-5 ( 24 ) Quality Of Armor
photo by daniel coston
Pollard: No, it was just spur of the moment. As soon as we decided to do the album, I thought up the title, and I thought it worked well for the album. It kind of implies that we’re our own industry now, our own factory, and instead of the factory eating us, we’ll eat the factory. Chock full of vitamins.
How did you approach the recording process itself?
You know how they say you can’t go back again? I realized you can go back again. ” —Bob Pollard
Pollard: You know how they say you can’t go back
again? I realized you can go back again. Actually do it the way we used to, where … I mean, it’s not a complete democracy. It’s not a collegium. It’s still a semi-dictatorship. I make the calls, but everybody had a little bit more control back then. I took input. We co-wrote some songs, Toby wrote some songs, people would do different things. We’d switch instruments. Whereas, in later-period Guided By Voices, I decided I was going to be the only songwriter.
( 25 ) Drag Days ( 26 ) Shocker In Gloomtown ( 27 ) Sensational Gravity Boy
And you stopped playing guitar yourself in later iterations.
I delegated. On this record, I wanted to get back to doing more stuff. Playing guitar. Playing drums. There’s a lot of people switching up and doing different kinds of things. Like Mitch plays guitar and drums and keyboard and bass. Everybody is playing all the instruments. Pollard:
( 28 ) Watch Me Jumpstart ( 29 ) Your Name Is Wild ( 30 ) Closer You Are ( 31 ) Lord Of Overstock ( 32 ) My Son Cool ( 33 ) Heavy Metal Country ( 34 ) You’re Not An Airplane
( 35 ) Jane Of The Waking Universe ( 36 ) As We Go Up, We Go Down
Is this the album you guys would have made if you’d stayed together after Under The Bushes Under The Stars?
No, because we were headed into a slicker, more polished studio sound. We were headed in that direction anyway. That’s another good thing about this one is that we broke it all down to where we recorded everything in our houses and shit. Jimmy and Mitch and I did a Pollard:
( 37 ) Crunch Pillow ( 38 ) Exit Flagger ( 39 ) Gleemer ( 40 ) Underwater Explosions ( 41 ) Red Gas Circle ( 42 ) A Good Flying Bird
vampire on titus Scat (1993)
( 43 ) On The Tundra ( 44 ) Back To Saturn X ( 45 ) Buzzards And Dreadful Crows ( 46 ) Little Whirl ( 47 ) Man Called Aerodynamics
session at Mitch’s house. We did an acoustic session at Greg’s. The stuff Mitch recorded sounds live.
It mostly was. I just used a couple of overhead room mics. Pollard: That’s part of the reason everything sounds different, which is what we wanted. Because we recorded in different places at different times, with different people. Like the first song, “Laundry And Lasers,” just totally didn’t turn out the way that it should have. It should have had more clarity and separation in the instruments, but still big-sounding. But the thing is, after I listened to it for a while, I started to think it sounded like it was recorded live. Which I thought was kind of an interesting effect for the first song. From a band that hasn’t done an album in 15 years, you have this muddy, murky, but still powerful live-sounding song to start the record. Kind of confusing. The two heaviest songs on the album are the first two songs. Mitchell:
( 48 ) Ex-Supermodel ( 49 ) Rhine Jive Click ( 50 ) Blimps Go 90 ( 51 ) Indian Was An Angel ( 52 ) Wished I Was A Giant ( 53 ) Matter Eater Lad ( 54 ) To Remake The
Young Flyer ( 55 ) Pantherz ( 56 ) 14 Cheerleader Coldfront
We try not to try. That should be our motto.” —Bob Pollard That and “The Head.” It’s completely misleading to come out with those two songs. You think it’s going to be a really heavy record and then “Doughnut For A Snowman” comes on and you’re like, “Oh, man. What is that?” It doesn’t fit. It’s jarring. But I like that. I wanted that. Let’s talk about that song. Pollard: I’ve had that title around forever, I just
could not think of how to use it. “She starts off her day with a Krispy Kreme doughnut.” But now the lyric makes sense, because, like, her boyfriend is the Good Humor man, and
( 57 ) Big Boring Wedding ( 58 ) Acorns & Orioles ( 59 ) Why Did You Land ( 60 ) No Sky ( 61 ) Yours To Keep ( 62 ) Uncle Dave ( 63 ) Atom Eyes
Bee Thousand Scat (1994)
he says, “They don’t call us that.” She runs through the street and hands a doughnut to her snowman—he’s the snowman, because he’s the Good Humor man. It comes from a jingle that I wrote for Krispy Kreme donuts. I talked to (GBV manager) David Newgarden a few times about maybe sending it to them, but in the end I thought, “No, it’s too goofy.” So now I’ve taken the back way around. Instead of “Here’s a goofy Krispy Kreme doughnut jingle,” it’s on the record. It’s a legitimate Guided By Voices song. Now we can go to them with a little bit of integrity. [Laughs]
( 64 ) Dodging Invisible Rays ( 65 ) The Key Losers ( 66 ) Sot ( 67 ) Non-Absorbing
( 68 ) Cocksoldiers And Their Postwar Stubble ( 69 ) Expecting Brainchild ( 70 ) Planet’s Own Brand ( 71 ) Gelatin, Ice Cream, Plum ( 72 ) Always Crush Me
Somehow it fits on the album, though.
It adds to the diversity of not only the songs, but the sound of each song on the album, and how it’s all over the place. It gives it staying power. You can keep listening to it. It’s a weird record. We actually set out with the intent of making it sound better than it does. But because of what we had to do to fix things, and fuck things up that were too creamy, it makes it more interesting. Pollard:
I understand there were problems with some of the songs you originally recorded with Toby.
We probably didn’t give him enough time. We went in there for a couple of days, and I expected to come out with a finished product. So, he had to redo a lot of things and had trouble mixing some of it. I don’t think he’s used to recording with two Marshalls and a full band at that volume. Some stuff needed work on the guitars, some needed even drums. The song “Hang Mr. Kite” originally kind of rocked. Now it’s just basically chamber music. An “Eleanor Rigby”-type song. It’s completely different. But I like it better. Pollard:
a full song that goes with that; it’s only about 50 seconds long. Maybe it’ll be a b-side or something. It’s called “So High.” The recorder is not easy to play. The secret to playing woodwinds is you have to have a real light touch. The blowing of the pipes and the touching of the holes. [Laughs] But I came up with that little recorder part, which is basically “Hang Fire” by the Stones. And then I came up with the rest of the song, and I got really scared that I would never be able to play that recorder part properly again, so I had to record it immediately. I haven’t seen the cover of Let’s Go Eat The Factory yet, but I’m guessing you did a collage.
The cover reaches a new standard of what-the-fuck-is-that. Collages of photographs I’ve taken and other stuff, really intangible. Abstruse would be the word I would use. It’s difficult to figure out what’s even going on. Pollard:
Right, because a lot of your collages are visual puns. Pollard: This is not directly connected to anything
on the record. Very oblique. It’s ridiculous. You’re famous for working quickly. Start to finish, how long did this album take to record?
Way longer than it should have. Because we had to fix and fuck things up. Sometimes if you record a song cleanly, it becomes too obvious. But if you fuck it up, put some weird noises in or a layer of static over it, then you’re like, “There’s something cool under there.” So, we had to do that a little bit, go through that process. Toby works a little bit more deliberately than I do. Pollard:
There’s a lot more samples on this record that in the old days. Of course, even one would be more than there used to be. Pollard: I like the samples. They sound like the
real thing, so why not? What are we gonna do, have an orchestra come in? But we still did stuff ourselves. The recorder at the beginning of “Doughnut For A Snowman” is me. There’s
( 73 ) Ester’s Day ( 74 ) Big School ( 75 ) Striped White Jets ( 76 ) Supermarket The Moon ( 77 ) Straw Dogs ( 78 ) Lethargy
photos by daniel coston
Everybody works a little more deliberately than you do.
So, we probably took … I think we started in late May, and the cover’s just being finished now. So, that’s what, four months? Pollard:
That’s like a Queen album or something. Pollard: When we made Do The Collapse with Ric
Ocasek—because the Cars had recorded with
( 79 ) Cut-Out Witch ( 80 ) Marchers In Orange ( 81 ) King And Caroline ( 82 ) Melted Pat ( 83 ) Kicker Of Elves ( 84 ) Dusty Bushworms ( 85 ) Hey Aardvark
( 86 ) Awful Bliss ( 87 ) It’s Like Soul Man ( 88 ) Perhaps Now The Vultures
Are you gonna make up studio names for every place you recorded like on Alien Lanes? For the credits.
No. We decided to keep it simple with no specific credits for who recorded what or who played what. Because it could get really complicated. And because I like preserving a certain sense of mystery. Pollard:
Clearly your songwriting has evolved over the last 15 years, but you still write songs that are immediately identifiable as “classic” Guided By Voices songs. “The Unsinkable Fats Domino,” “Chocolate Boy,” “Doughnut For A Snowman,” on this album, for instance. That’s not always the case with songwriters—to somehow retain the ability to write songs that are as good as the ones they wrote when just starting out. Why do you think that is?
One loses one’s innocence because of public acceptance. You become cognizant that the whole world is listening, and you’re not just writing for yourself. You have to maintain the attitude of a child. Pollard:
You become self-conscious.
You’re trying to please everyone and end up pleasing no one. You have to be able to throw your own record against the wall, like we did with (1986 debut) Forever Since Breakfast. You have to make records for yourself. That sounds selfish, but it’s a paradox. By making records for yourself, you’re being not selfish. It means you’re not trying to make records for the whole world, and the record will be better because of that. I see people to this day complaining about how they keep sending stuff out and banging their heads against the wall and not getting anywhere, and it’s because they’re trying too hard. We don’t try too hard. Mitchell: We don’t even try. Pollard: We try not to try. That should be our motto. M Pollard:
( 89 ) Do The Earth ( 90 ) Jar Of Cardinals ( 91 ) Weed King ( 92 ) Sheetkickers ( 93 ) Scissors ( 94 ) Deathtrot And Warlock Riding A Rooster
( 95 ) Postal Blowfish ( 96 ) Run ( 97 ) Break Even ( 98 ) Peep-Hole ( 99 ) Hot Freaks ( 100 ) Colossus Crawls West M
under the bushes under the stars Matador (1996)
Roy Thomas Baker, who did a lot of the Queen albums— I told him, “We have to have one song with those harmonies.” He goes, “You got like three months? For one song?”
Greg Demos bass
What You Did Musically, Or Otherwise,
I was back in Guided By Voices in 1998—I played on Do The Collapse and a handful of shows. I also played with Bob on his solo albums Kid Marine and Choreographed Man Of War, in his group Moping Swans and a few leads for Boston Spaceships. Favorite Part Of The Reunion Being with the guys again and realizing we could still play the same way after so many years. Least Favorite Part Of The Reunion It ending. Final Thoughts What a year! Between 1996 And 2010
Tobin Sprout guitar/Vocals
What You Did Musically, Or Otherwise, Between 1996 And 2010 I painted a lot and did quite a
few one-man art shows. After one of the shows in 2006, I was approached by a publisher about writing a children’s book based on my paintings; in 2009, Elliott was released. It’s about April, a little orphan girl who lives in an abandoned church, and a rabbit named Elliott, who works for a carnival owner. I released a few solo albums and did a of couple tours. I also built a mudroom and garage with a second-floor studio, opened a gallery for three years, pounded nails for a builder for four years, rebuilt a 1964 Rupp go kart with my son, cut grass and, with my wife Laura, raised two kids. Favorite Part Of The Reunion The whole thing. It was a real turn of fate to see it happen again (thanks to Matador) and to have it be received so well by all the fans. I can’t say enough about them. The clubs were more fun because the people are right there—you can touch them and, sometimes, I did. But then the festivals kick, too. It just wasn’t as intimate, but the crowds were huge and loved it. All in all, it was incredible. Least Favorite Part Of The Reunion Flying to Oslo on a 747. That’s too long to be in a big can and in the air. And the flight was delayed for hours because of an air-traffic strike in Germany. Final Thoughts I’m grateful that I’ve been able to do everything I wanted to do with my life: be in a band, write songs, do art for a living, raise a family. To have it go full circle with the reunion tour put the icing on it. I still can’t believe I can get up and go to my studio and do something I love every day. Now that the tour is over, I’ll be starting work on art pieces for “The Big Hat And Toy Show,” an art show Bob and I are doing together, tentatively in early to late spring 2012.
The Other Guys Matt Hickey Catches Up With The Four Members Of GBV Not Named Bob Pollard mitch mitchell guitar
Age 52 and still kicking
Job GBV for the last two years. I’m starting my own trucking company. What You Did Musically, Or Otherwise,
I was trucking and doing some Terrifying Experience stuff. Favorite Part Of The Reunion Being able to spend the day with my friends and brothers, playing Between 1996 And 2010
kick-ass music, making new friends and seeing old ones. Smoking cigs. Least Favorite Part Of The Reunion Having to sleep. Final Thoughts When Bob called me about the reunion, I was so excited. I’ve always loved being a part of GBV, and to have a chance to revisit it was awesome. From the very first show—hell, from the first rehearsal—the response has been unreal. We’re blessed to have the best fans (friends) a band could have. I wouldn’t trade these last two years for anything.
photo by neil visel
TOM WAITS BAD AS ME
throughout his career, Tom Waits has created milestone albums that serve both to refine the music that has come before, and to signal a new phase in his career: Rain Dogs and Mule Variations are both counted by fans as among these pivotal works. Now comes Bad As Me, his first studio album of all new music in seven years, which finds Tom Waits in possibly the finest voice of his career and at the height of his songwriting powers, working with a veteran team of gifted musicians and longtime co-writer/producer Kathleen Brennan.
(l-r): Greg Demos, Tobin Sprout, Robert Pollard, Mitch Mitchell, Kevin Fennell
Kevin fennell drums
Job I’m a licensed independent chemical dependency counselor. I treat some alcoholism. but mostly opiates. What You Did Musically, Or Otherwise,
I didn’t do anything musically. Bob is the best songwriter in the world, so I figured if I wasn’t doing Guided By Voices, I really didn’t want to do anything else. My heart wouldn’t be in it. So, I just focused on academia; I have a master’s degree in social work. Favorite Part Of The Reunion Honestly? Just getting back with the guys. It felt like a really long time since we spoke, since we saw each Between 1996 And 2010
other. It just felt so good to hang out again. I think we’re really more than just a band. There’s some really true, deep friendships between all of us. And it was great playing again. At one point, I figured my music days were over, so getting out and playing in front of enthusiastic crowds felt even more positive than “back in the day.” It was nice for my ego, too. Least Favorite Part Of The Reunion I don’t think I have a least favorite. I really can’t think of anything negative to say. Final Thoughts I’m really excited that we’re making records again. I truly enjoy making records; that’s my thing. Travel, touring, playing live—that’s great. But making records is where it’s at. I can’t wait for this new one to come out.
What about, bob? 1. Laundry And Lasers
6. God Loves Us
The title is what we used to call Kevin (Fennell)’s basement when we recorded songs for Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes. This and the last song on the album are the only two of my songs recorded at Toby (Sprout)’s that remained intact as an original mix. The rest we either had to fix or fuck up. This one sounded good to me because it was murky, but still powerful. It sounds live with one mic, even though it’s not.
This was an instrumental that Mitch, Jimmy and I recorded at Mitch’s house. I’m on drums, Jimmy’s on bass and Mitch does the power chords. We sent everything we did at Mitch’s to Toby, and he sent this one back to me with the vocal over the top. I love what Toby did with Mitch’s chords. It’s arena. It’s gospel arena. I really like the incongruity of the music and the lyric. Toby said he got it from the Ben Franklin quote “Beer is proof that God loves us” or something like that.
2. The Head Done experimentally at Mitch (Mitchell)’s. Jimmy (Pollard) started it with bass, and I came in with the simple rising chord progression out of an open E, and Mitch came in on a snare and tom. I sang a ridiculous lyric. Both were first takes. Toby added a church-organ sample at his house.
7. The Unsinkable Fats Domino
11. How I Met My Mother
They found him on a rooftop in the flood of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I thought it was really heroic and hilarious imagery. This title’s been lying around for a long time. I used it for the title of a CD comp I made of Cheap Trick.
A song about the school of thinking that one can sort of choose one’s parents for incarnation.
3. Doughnut For A Snowman
8. Who Invented The Sun
This started out as “Yellow Bird Girl.” I wrote it about 25 years ago. About 10 years ago, I decided to use it as a jingle for Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and then decided against it. Now I think they should use it. Probably the goofiest, twinkliest song I’ve ever written.
A Toby song. Really sparse and pretty. Kind of like Galaxie 500 or something. The lyric and vocal were spontaneous. Just a guide vocal, but I insisted he keep it, that it would be difficult to improve upon. Toby plays everything, like he usually does on his songs.
4. Spider Fighter
9. The Big Hat And Toy Show
Toby song. I think it’s fantastic. Especially the piano/vocal coda. Toby came up with this title the night we decided to do an album. I had the title Let’s Go Eat The Factory that night also. It’s what Matter-Eater Lad did. He constructed a factory just to see how it tasted.
I had deleted this song from the album, but Toby insisted that we keep it. It’s just a jam at Greg (Demos)’s house. Greg on wah-wah, me with super fast tremolo and Jimmy on bass. I think it deserves a spot. It’s funny.
5. Hang Mr. Kite
There’s a melody line in this that I used in a Circus Devils song somewhere. I occasionally forget what I’ve already used. The title’s on something else also (The Power Of Suck). Greg plays the lead on the end. It’s a good wrap-up for side one.
This originally rocked harder, but Toby took out some slightly clumsy moments and added a bunch of string samples and vastly improved it. I thought it would sound nice coming out of the end of “Spider Fighter,” and I think it does.
10. Imperial Racehorsing
I thought the voices were two little girls, and then Toby told me they were him.” —Bob Pollard 48
Bob Pollard breaks down all 21 tracks on Let’s Go Eat The Factory
12. Wave This was the very first song recorded for the album. It’s a Toby song. If we had put out any singles, this would probably have been one of them.
13. My Europa The ridiculous tremolo/shattered-glass effect on the guitar amp was Jimmy’s idea. I sang through a different amp to try to get a sort of ’50s Brenda Lee feel. This may have been an outtake from (Boston Spaceships’) Let It Beard.
14. Chocolate Boy Another possible single. I don’t even want to begin to explain what it’s about.
15. The Things That Never Need Toby. I thought the voices were two little girls, and then he told me they were him. The piano riff gives it kind of a creepy, melancholic feel.
16. Either Nelson This was originally straight rock, and Toby added this jazzy piano thing. I did the lead. I like what Kevin did on this. His pattern gave it a groovy dance vibe. I personally think this is one of the weirder songs on the album.
17. Cyclone Utilities (Remember Your Birthday) This we recorded at Mitch’s. It’s a new version of a really old song (probably late ’70s or early ’80s) that Mitch and I made up in his parents’ basement. It was called “Sequence.” It might be on a Suitcase or something. I used lines from the back cover of some ’60s business communications development LP. “Spark positive reactions,” “Arrow to bull’s-eye” and things
photo by daniel coston
ASHES & FIRE Ashes & Fire will remind you why Ryan Adams is one of his generation’s most gifted artists. From the slow burning stunner of an opener “Dirty Rain” through the infectious shuffle of the title track and irresistible harmonies of “Lucky Now,” to the closing lament of “I Love You But I Don’t Know What To Say,” Ashes & Fire is arguably the most cohesive and beautiful album of Ryan Adams’ distinguished career. Ashes & Fire also features guest turns from Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers’ keyboardist Benmont Tench as well as Norah Jones who contributes piano and backing vocals on several tracks.
like that. When Mitch was mixing it, a guitar track toward the end came in extremely loud, and I told him to leave it that way.
18. Old Bones Toby song. Very pretty and out of step, I think, with the rest of a record that is already diverse in tone. Toby told me that the song is about five years old or so.
19/20. Go Rolling Home/ The Room Taking Shape I just sang some lyrics I had written over a couple of Greg’s acoustic demos in his basement. We had been drinking a lot of Maker’s Mark. I like the way they come out of “Old Bones” and set up the big finale.
21. We Won’t Apologize For The Human Race “We Won’t Apologize For The Human Race” is my favorite song on the album. Mitch and Toby did the synth-drone thing while I was out of the room. I think it makes the song. It’s beautifully executed. There are a lot of cool, accidental things going on, and Kevin and Greg’s parts are great. It’s actually comprised of three different, old songs that I had written that may have even been years or decades removed from one another. The sections just clicked together. That sort of thing happened a lot on Bee Thousand. Toby said he thought it sounded like Peter Gabriel doing “I Am The Walrus.” The lead at the end is Greg.
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82 reviews |
Bonnie Prince Billy p. 52 DJ Shadow p. 54 Noel Gallagher p. 56 SIGUR ROS p. 60 SUPERCHUNK p. 61
What We Want
At long last, a definitive Smiths retrospective—the hard way
he Smiths remain easy to love largely because
“Hand In Glove” hit the shelves in ’83, but what emerges from Complete (listening in chronological order generates the best results first time out) is a guitarist equal to the likes of Ry Cooder and Mark Ribot: a master musician capable of The Smiths creating new worlds as easily as he inhabited and recombined old ones without ever hogging the spotlight. rhino He did the same as a comyour neighborhood bar’s kaposer. Sure, Marr had habits, raoke night earlier this week as did his songwriting partner. already knows how fucking But Marr’s often inspired Morgood they were. rissey, per “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard Not that the anthology doesn’t yield inThis One Before.” Because Morrissey always recorded vocal tracks after the rest of the band sights, especially where Marr is concerned. Sure, he’s been a respected instrumentalist had finished, his tendency to revisit the same since a couple seconds after debut single moods and themes could sometimes produce
they never wore out their welcome. Unlike so many of their contemporaries—R.E.M., U2 and the like—Steven Morrissey, Johnny Marr, Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce kept the door open for succeeding generations by denying early-adapter fans the opportunity to grow old with them and make excuses for their fading creative powers. By opting to implode in 1987, with four studio albums, three singles collections and one live album to its credit, the band remain, ahem, forever young. Thanks to the Smiths’ refusal to go stale, Complete—which features all the above in our choice of formats (digital, CD, vinyl and, uh, deluxe collector’s)—affords less an opportunity for reassessment than a cause for celebration. Everybody from converted firstwave haters to that noise kid who pulled off a serviceable rendition of “How Soon Is Now?” at photo by stephen wright
reviews less-than-optimum results, as with the lugubrious “Girlfriend In A Coma.” Missteps notwithstanding, he was meal ticket number one—a fact Marr and engineer Frank Arkwright apparently never lost sight of while remastering the band’s catalog for Complete. Morrissey’s vocals are more front-and-center than ever, albeit often strangely suspended in the mix. It’s as if Marr was thinking, “I’m going to put you exactly where you think you should be, but I’m going to turn you into a friendly ghost.” That he does this least on Strangeways,
Here We Come suggests that the strategy might hinge more on musical standards than on enduring bad blood between the two. All four members of the band have long argued that their last album was their best by far. Hearing it in context makes it impossible not to agree. For those of us who care, that revelation alone justifies the price of admission. —Rod Smith
Night Of Hunters Deutsche Grammophon
Ol’ Miss Side Saddle returns, after falling out with Epic and vowing to eschew
majors altogether, on a classical label part of the Universal family. Tori Amos’ workaday contradiction—never forget Y Kant Tori Read—parallels the constant give-and-take of her music. Night Of Hunters is a concept album inspired by the tradition of variation on a theme. Here, familiar sections from classical masters Bach, Stravinsky, Chopin and Schubert are used as jumping-off points for Amos’ own compositions. She delivers everything from dark, Uta Lemper-esque cabaret with a fiery approach (“Shattering Sea”) to alt-rock touched by Danny Elfman-like playfulness (“Star Whisperer”) and coquettish moroseness on “Job’s Coffin.” She left her band out of the studio, preferring to work with members of the Berlin Philharmonic;
Will Oldham’s annual BPB installment ponders The Man Upstairs
Bonnie Prince Billy
Wolfroy Goes To Town Drag city
lot of years are busy years for Will
Oldham, and 2011 is no different. In these past few months, the singer/songwriter released a series of 10-inch singles benefiting a number of charities, and he performed on the audiobook recording of Rudolph Wurlitzer’s Slow Fade. While Oldham’s convoluted catalog bears a number of different monikers, a new Bonnie Prince Billy album from the songwriter has become a near yearly occurrence. Add another to that list. Wolfroy Goes To Town is a meditative and sparse collection, and much of it continues the same train of thought at work on the “There Is No God” b/w “God Is Love” single. That a-side stated that there is no God “but that which puts mouth on cock and vagina,” while
the other said that God is, well, love. I guess that’s really two ways of saying the same thing. On Wolfroy’s lead single, “Quail And Dumplings,” God has minions on our side. Over the country lilt of opening track “No Match,” Oldham sings, “I’m no match for those who love the Lord, and they are no match for me.” On “Time To Be Clear,” his attitude is “God isn’t here or else it’s too late.” It’s the whole I’m-spiritual-but-notreligious thing, which could easily teeter into cliché, but Oldham saves it. He explores these conflicts in a confessional way, yet he never lets go of the ambiguity. But while Oldham’s worldview has evolved over the course of his 20-year career, on tracks like “We Are Unhappy,” he still sees a darkness. —Matt Sullivan
photo by dirk knibbe
despite certain songs dragging on longer than need be, Night combines classical and flighty pop quite masterfully. —Kevin Stewart-Panko
War To Head
Ape Machine Music
Hair today, more hair tomorrow
When bands do covers, it’s either out of reverence to their influences or because they’re having a laugh. Metallica has positioned itself as the Greatest Cover Band Ever with careerspanning nods to its punk and new-wave-ofBritish-heavy-metal inspirations. Modern metal bands Children Of Bodom and August Burns Red are both guilty of making themselves out to be fools by covering Britney Spears. Chalk Portland, Ore.’s Ape Machine alongside Metallica with its devotional cover of Deep Purple’s “Black Night.” However, embarking upon said path is about as obvious as it gets. The only thing this quartet could have done to make where it’s coming from more blatant is cover Blue Cheer from the back of a garish, airbrushed, ’70s-era shaggin’ wagon. That wispy beard you’ve been working on all year will be nipple-length and luxurious after you make it through War To Head’s nine tracks. —Kevin Stewart-Panko
Scott H. Biram
Bad Ingredients Bloodshot
Hard luck/ traveling music
Scott H. Biram’s music has been called a lot of things: punk, metal, country, blues, folk, outlaw, psychobilly, hellbilly, you name it. And it is all those things and more, cranked out by one guy with a tangled mess of vintage microphones duct-taped together, a beat-up old guitar, a stompbox and a burning desire to get people off their asses. Biram has always tapped into the darker roots of American music, primarily old country, blues and hillbilly tracks, but on his new album, his sound is harder than ever. Most of the songs are originals (his tunes have been covered by Nashville Pussy and Hank Williams III), and they’ve got that trademark blue-collar roughneck vibe that Biram does so well. His guitar solos are more electrified than usual, and they sound like burning juke-joint riffs. Bottom line is that Scott H. Biram is a true American original. —Devon Leger
Howl Of The Lonely Crowd What’s Your Rupture?
Though Comet Gain is a British indie-pop band, there’s always been something incredibly hardcore-punk about the group. Since ’92, this now-seven-piece,
led by David Feck, has been writing some of the most affecting songs for directionless, discouraged kids, and Howl Of The Lonely Crowd keeps it coming. Powered by garage-rock swing and a dapper, mod mojo, the band’s sixth album packs a handful of positive-mental-attitude tracks with lyrics that you just want to shout at the top of your lungs. From the teeth-gnashing fuzz of “Working Circle Explosive!” to the bright, steely “Clash Of The Concrete Swans,” Comet Gain straps on some shit-kickers and implores the kids to “let their howling hearts be heard.” It’s a bummer that the second half of the LP aims for poignancy via softer songs; it feels like a contribution to the It Gets Better campaign. Howl works best when Feck and Co. marry their frustrated empathy with hopeful jubilation, letting the kids know that although they’re lonely, they’re certainly not alone. —Jeanne Fury
Cumulus Of Dream Pop
The label doubles as description
Everything you need to know about L.A.’s Correatown is encapsulated in “Further,” the second song on the band’s sophomore album. “We have so much love,” sings Angela Correa, “but we need so much more.” Her voice is sweet, but firm—four parts resolve and one part neediness. Drums and handclaps underscore the mood, strings shimmer, and a simple piano tattoo drifts in and out. It’s the song that’ll stand out on first listen and the one that sticks. The rest of Pleiades isn’t so memorable, but it’s never less than pleasant and frequently pleasurable. Correa’s companions drape tunes like “Sunset & Echo” and “The Point” in gauzy textures, giving the singer a safe spot to acknowledge the cost of guarding her heart. Waiting for what you want is rarely as calm a condition as Correatown makes it sound, but its soothing touch may make it a touch more bearable. —M.J. Fine
Breaks In The Armor Merge
Following the crooked and narrow
Just as Paul Westerberg’s punk roots bore sweet Americana fruit, Eric Bachmann’s tenure with ‘90s noise-rock avatars Archers Of Loaf ultimately gave way to the forceful roots/folk of Crooked Fingers. After 2008’s aggressively produced Forfeit/Fortune, a burned-out Bachmann abandoned music for a Taiwanese teaching post, until songs came of their own volition. On the sixth Crooked Fingers album, Bachmann maintains a spartan atmosphere—he and longtime member Liz Durrett are the album’s only players—as evidenced by the haunting Dylan/Springsteen textural, ambient
M83. HurryUp, We’reDreaming.
Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is a doublealbum journey that takes us to the horizon and introduces us to new landscapes. About awakening, craving, and conquering, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming pushes into new vocal territory for M83. Here we see Gonzalez test out different ways of singing, ranging from a spectral breathy whisper to a howling scream. Produced by Justin Meldal-Johnsen (Beck, NIN), including contributions from Brad Laner (Medicine) on guitar, Saturdays=Youth vocalist Morgan Kibby, and guest vocalist Zola Jesus.
Diminishing Returns The solution has become the problem on DJ Shadow’s latest disappointment
folk of “The Hatchet” and “Heavy Hours,” but the pair makes a righteous tumult on the dusty swagger of “Bad Blood,” the insistent worksong menace of “Black Candles” and the Eno-appointed racket of “Went To The City.” There’s a noisy undercurrent on Breaks In The Armor, which may become even more prevalent with the return of and cross-pollination with Archers Of Loaf, but the album’s stripped-back, still powerful songs might be indicating Crooked Fingers’ path from here. —Brian Baker
He Thinks He’s People Temporary Residence
Not among the heavier vegetables
As a founding member of Pinback and a member of side projects like the Ladies, Thingy, Goblin Cock and a million others, Rob Crow keeps busy. Those projects dabble in mathy indie rock to metal to goofy rap songs, and not surprisingly, his solo output is eclectic. He Thinks He’s People is Crow’s fourth solo record, and like the rest of that portion of Crow’s catalog, his latest finds him shifting gears from noodly indie pop (“Prepare To Be Mined”) and spazzy freakouts (“Build”) to donning his Elliott Smith mask (“This Thread,” “Purpose,” “Unstable,” etc.). Crow’s sense of humor still peeks through an otherwise melancholy baker’s dozen of tracks. On “I’d Like To Be There,” he wants to be present when the person talking on the phone in the movie theater is zipped in a body bag. The late frontman of infamous grindcore shit-stirrers Anal Cunt (“Recycling Is Gay,” “The Internet Is Gay,” “You’re Gay,” et al) is name-checked on “Locking Seth Putnam In Hot Topic,” a jaunty and playful number that Putnam would have called gay. —Matt Sullivan
ood news first: In listening to The Less You
Know, The Better, you’re not going to encounter any hyphy or crunk rap. That alone will be cause célèbre The Less You for DJ Shadow diehards after 2006’s dire The Outsider, regardKnow, The Better less of whether his fourth LP lives up to the instrumental hiphop highs of his earlier work. Verve It doesn’t, of course, and that’s in large part thanks to a permanent shift in the way Shadow works. What made Endtroducing… so compelling was the way he took countless wax shards of forgotten music history— samples few could hope to recognize—and wove them into a dark tapestry all his own. Nowadays, Shadow prefers to keep it separated, creating two-dimensional tributes to obvious sounds and styles instead. So, where his earlier work felt dense and all-inclusive, new albums like The Less You Know inevitably feel sparse and non-cohesive, a scattershot of genres that fail to cohere when combined in a track or on a tracklist. This time around, we get a misguided mash-up of Led Zep riffs and breakbeat in the form of “Border Crossing” and a straight rehash of wiry, early-’00s post-punk with “Warning Call,” for which Shadow recruits Tom Vek to help counterfeit a Franz Ferdinand dud. Worst of all is the maximalist barf of “I’m Excited,” a tribute to grime that can hang with the saddest lows of The Outsider. Some of Less You Know is fit for salvage— “Tedium” coolly channels DJ Krush’s ’90s work, the piano balladry of “Sad And Lonely” is hard to deny, and “Enemy Lines” even hints at what an update of Endtroducing… might sound like—but it just isn’t enough. DJ Shadow first made his name by delving deep into the world’s bottomless pile of vinyl debris to redeem the wannabe hits and halfformed artistic statements of our musical past. Now, he contributes to it. —Jakob Dorof DJ Shadow
Great Crap Factory
Overdue and fine
“You see, I have changed, and I’ll keep on changing, and maybe my songwriting will suffer/But it’s OK if at the end of the day, all I can do next is be a good mother,” Kimya Dawson murmurs at Thunder Thighs’ outset. She needn’t have worried. From this inauspicious beginning—a temporal zigzag swaddled in frumpy, folk-chord twinkles called “All I Could Do”—Thighs explodes into Dawson’s most expansive, daring collection of forget-me-nots yet.
photo by dirk lindner
Certainly, her trad core principles are on loopy “Hoop Of Love” and the dance-floorraspy display—love your friends, revere the ready “Lady Is Sleek And So Petite.” The romanGolden Rule, potlucks are awesome—but these tic lyrics complement melodies that sound like tunes feel huge, enhanced by a newfound con- they could fit alongside the Psychedelic Furs or fidence, choirs literal and adhoc, and the snap- OMD on a John Hughes soundtrack. Invitation bracelet rhyme schemes of pal Aesop Rock. is at once retro and modern, a dichotomy that Folk ditties like AA sing-along “Year 10” feel infi- isn’t easy to nail. —Eric Schuman All Things Will Unwind is the third, stunning offer from Detroit-based experimental pop chanteuse My Brightest Diamond, aka Shara Worden. nitely more motivational and lived-in than their Known for her many collaborations with indie rock royalty (Sufjan Stevens, Field Bon Iver, David Bryne, The Decemberists, and The National) predecessors, and while epic tattoo backstory The as well as her extraordinary original material, Worden is coming into her “Walk Like Thunder” might be the heaviest Looping State Mind own as an artist and Of human on this 11 song recording. At once accessible and intelligent, the songs were written exclusively for celebrated chamber track she’s ever cut in several senses, Thighs ensemble yMusic (Bon Iver, Antony & the Johnsons, The New York We’re Dreaming is a doubleHurry Up, Kompakt brightens the mood with preschool silliness like Philharmonic & Rufus Wainwright) and they are featured on each track. album journey that takes us to the Truth in advertising “The Mare And The Bear.” The shock here is All Things Will Unwind are as eclectic as its’ author, but listeners will recognize hints of Roberta Flack, Regina Speckhorizon and introduces us to new how well Dawson is built for hip hop, laying into Axel Willner brought this all tor, Edith Piaf and Antony & The Johnsons throughout the album. Inup-with-libraries synth rap (“The Library”) and on himself. The Swedish early sinspired by loopster’s becoming a mother, chats with legendary performance artist landscapes. About awakening, Laurie Anderson, presidential addresses, and class warfare, Worden is eff-Twitter jeremiad “Miami Advice” with a go- gles and 2007 debut were so ineffably sublime, craving, and conquering, Hurry Up, nality. All Things Will Unwind is a picture of an artist maturing; considering for-broke vehemence that’s as refreshing as it so where does he go from there? Commendjoy and pain, beauty and horror, yet bravely standing in the tension beWe’re Dreaming pushes into new STREET DATE: October 18, 2011 is unexpected. —Raymond Cummings hasn’t been toward tween the twoand singing about it. FORMAT: CD/LP ably enough, his answer vocal territory for M83. Here we CD BOX LOT: 35 simple recursion (much as he adores it), but TRACKS LP BOX LOT: 45 1. We Added it Up 4:05 see Gonzalez test out different Deer Tick expansion: Album two broadened his original GENRE: Pop / Symphonic 2. Reaching Through to the Other Side - 3:42 PRICE CD: $14.98 Divine Providence LIST approach, and the inanely literalistic Looping 3. In The Beginning 4:20 ways of singing, ranging from LIST PRICE LP: $16.98 4. Escape Routes - 3:28 DISCOUNT: 5% Standard State(CD Ofonly) Mind magnifies that trend, offering All Things Will Unwind is the 5. Be Brave 4:17 a spectral breathy whisper tothird, NO EXPORT Does Not Brave the War - in 4:05a Partisan mutations of6.hisShe trademark sound, LIMITED EDITION:seven No stunning off er from Detroit-based 7. Ding Dang 2:31 a howling scream. Produced No need for an CD PACKAGING: Wallet newly expansive array of tempos. Though, in8. There’s a Rat - 4:09 LP PACKAGING: Single Jacket experimental pop chanteuse-My High Low Middle - 3:34 by Justin Meldal-Johnsen RETURNABLE: CDterestingly, only intervention there’s9. nothing quite as quick as 10. Everything is in Line - 4:32 Brightest Diamond, aka Shara Worden. 11. early I Have Never Loved Someone - 3:39 (Beck, NIN), including With its title alluding to the band’s Rhode Island his consistently zippy work. CD UPC: 656605608525 Known for her many collaborations with home, Divine Providence is Deer Tick’s fourth So: “Is This Power” feels like a From Here We contributions from Brad KEY MARKETS indie rock royalty (Sufjan Stevens, Bon album and bears a much stronger, more unified Go Sublime track pitched down and smeared, Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, New York/Brooklyn, Los (Medicine) AngeLaner on les, Indianapolis, Iver, David Bryne, The Decemberists, and character than anything the group has done to somewhat nauseous effect;Detroit the misnamed guitar, Saturdays=Youth UPC: 656605608518 before. Gravel-throated singer JohnLPMcCau“Arpeggiated Love” glides along harmlessly, The National) as well as her extraordinary vocalist Morgan Kibby, ley’s rollicking battle cry of “Let’s All Go To The while “Sweet Slow Baby” is utterly numbing. original material, Bar” and gritty start/stop blues on opener “The Yeah, there’s more going on: more live instruand guest vocalist Worden is coming Bump” recall a time when alt-country lived up mentation, more vocals drifting in and out Zola Jesus. into her own as to both parts of the designation. Guitarist Ian of the mix. It’s all so much gum in the works, an artist and O’Neil gives exceptional counterpoint with the mussing Willner’s pearly, ultra-glide smoothhuman on jangly “Walkin’ Out That Door” and the soaring ness for the sake of some vague, psychedelic interest-added. And yet, the feeling remains. “Now It’s Your Turn.” this 11-song Though Deer Tick has moonlighted as a —K. Ross Hoffman recording. Nirvana tribute band, it’s the group’s love for Asthmatic Kitty Records PO Box 1282, Lander WY 82520 the Replacements that shines on Divine ProviFuture Islands dence, particularly on Westerberg-penned boOn The Water nus cut “Mr. Cigarette.” That hidden treasure asthmatic kitty Thrill Jockey places Deer Tick firmly on an exalted timeline of Electropop scholars chart bands that don’t just exist between genres, but a forward-facing course effortlessly transcend them by simply having fun. —Eric Schuman The biggest difference between ’80s-informed music now and 10 years ago (remember elecDominant Legs troclash?) is seriousness. Like labelmate NichInvitation olas Bindeman (Tunnels), Future Islands care about as much about ironic distance as, say, Lefse My Morning Jacket. Though it reveals apparEverybody talk ent influences ranging from Eyeless In Gaza about pop muzik to Simple Minds, the Baltimore trio’s nautically The current San Francisco music scene is themed third album finds the band updating largely defined by fuzzbox-smashing, lower- rather than simply recreating from the moment than-lo-fi garage punk. But like any thriv- its opening seaside field recordings fade into ing community, there are outsiders making the title track’s deeply textured synths. sounds that are alternative to the alternative. Electronics whiz Gerrit Welmers deploys Dominant Legs is the creative outlet for Ryan a palette big enough to serve a dozen bands William Lynch (who also plays with emotionally without ever getting heavy-handed. Guitartaxing outfit Girls), and debut album Invitation ist/bassist William Cashion outdoes him in combines many familiar elements into a glit- restraint, consistently leaving the spotlight tery and effervescent package. open for Samuel T. Herring. While the singer’s Generally speaking, Dominant Legs’ music Bowie-esque delivery might seem a little too fuses bouncy ’60s bubblegum with dreamy sincere to souls raised on Har Mar Superstar, ’80s synthpop. There’s a particularly excel- actually making lines like “the dancing bear, the lent triptych toward the album’s middle that bouncing ball” (“Grease”) seem heartfelt would includes the shimmering “Darling Girls,” the be no mean feat in any decade. —Rod Smith
My Brightest Diamond
All Things Will Unwind
MY BRIGHTEST DIAMOND ALL THINGS WILL UNWIND
The Jigsaw Seen
Like Saw’s Jigsaw, except actually compelling
“The orange and palm trees sway/There’s never been such a day in old L.A./But it’s December 24/And I’m longing to be up north.” Not since Darlene Love spoke those melancholy words in her Phil Spector-produced version of “White Christmas” almost 50 years ago has anyone so well expressed the unusual flavor of the Yuletide season in the land of eternal sunshine. And now the Jigsaw Seen, whose core members Dennis Davison and Jonathan Lea are 25-year veterans of swimming upstream in Tinseltown’s music scene, have cut Winterland, an ornately detailed dark side of the moon to Spector’s 1964 album
A Christmas Gift To You. Santa Claus, sleigh rides and Frosty The Snowman have been replaced here by loneliness, isolation and depression. “What about promises?/What about you and me?” trills Davison forlornly on “What About Christmas?” over a bountiful backing track hauntingly reminiscent of Love’s classic 1968 album Forever Changes. —Jud Cost
The Vision 4AD
Dubstep heavy-hitter plays it too safe
After three-odd years of riding the U.K. underground as an enthusiastically name-checked DJ and producer, Joker unwittingly set the bar high for his debut full-length. Unsurprisingly, it falls short. The Vision comes within months of 4AD releasing Dedication, the latest offering from one of his dubstep peers, Zomby. Whereas that album took an adventurous, abstract approach, reimagining the style as a softer and more
sensual listening experience, Joker’s collection coolly plays it safe, delivering bass-heavy breakdowns and turbo-charged anthems that ultimately dissolve into the background. Opening stroke “Slaughter House” features Turboweekend’s Silias delivering a thrilling hook over fuzzy, pumping low-end synth notes; sweet, but very trad. The same instrumental pattern plays into “Tron” and “My Trance Girl,” but without vocals, nothing distinguishes them. Elsewhere, “Milky Way” is a generic chilloutroom cut circa 2001. If this collection were meant solely for club play, it’d work, but releasing it commercially demands more inventiveness. —John Vettese
Audio, Video, Disco Ed Banger
Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay of Justice created a new electro-rock language with a glossy, stuttering handful of this decade’s worthy, wonky “D.A.N.C.E.”-related material. They rewrote the script penned by
All Over But The Wibbling
Noel Gallagher’s up in the sky, learning to fly without Liam
t’s been two years since the battling Gallagher
brothers called an end to Oasis, their sprawling, brawling musical partnership that spawned seven consecutive Noel Gallagher’s (U.K.) number-one studio albums, worldwide sales of 70 milHigh Flying Birds lion units and a thousand dead-even fistfights. Given the very Noel Gallagher’s tangible gifts that Liam and Noel Gallagher brought to Oasis, High Flying Birds there was a very real danger that their split and division of labor Sour Mash/Mercury would find them each taking something away that the other desperately needed, from Noel’s songwriting and production genius to Liam’s charismatic presence at the front of the stage. Both Gallaghers reference the Walrusy/Peppery Beatles in their post-Oasis outings, Liam in Beady Eye and Noel in his High Flying Birds collective. On his solo debut, Noel shows off his acclaimed songwriting skills on the Kinks-like dancehall swing/’60s spy theme of “Soldier Boys,” the carnival/vaudeville pop of “The Death Of You And Me,” the anthemic church-of-rock hymn of “Stop The Clocks” and the horn-drenched, melancholic sunshine melodicism of “Dream On.” It’s all very appealing and completely listenable, if sometimes slightly overreliant on mid-tempo rhythms with occasional surges in passion and pacing, like the slow-burning, swaggering “The Wrong Beach” and the towering prog touches of “Everybody’s On The Run” and “Record Machine.” Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds will certainly tweak the pleasure centers of Oasis fans everywhere, but more than a few of them may find themselves with a subconscious yearning for a little unhinged brotherly argy bargy sprinkled judiciously throughout it all. —Brian Baker
photo by lawrence watson
Daft Punk that turned electronica into rawk and rawk into a daring wall of sound as formidable as My Bloody Valentine or Phil Spector. There was—and is—a sense of cool kitsch that infiltrates all that Justice does, the sheen of arena grandeur. Yet on Audio, Video, Disco, the duo (which plays most of the instruments on the home-recorded creature) temper the torpor of the brashly epic (“Civilization”) with the sonorousness of quiet. It’s not ’70s soft rock (luckily) that infiltrates the sweeter moments of Audio, Video, Disco. Yet, there is a peculiar gentle spaciousness to the new proceedings that allows the likes of guest vocalists—Morgan Phalen (Diamond Nights), Vincenzi Vendetta (Midnight Juggernauts), Ali Love—to breathe. But make no mistake: This is dense and metallic and gorgeous. —A.D. Amorosi
with sight intact. The album’s first gurgling strains appears to quote “Lord Of The Dance”; this seems fitting, given that Album’s default mode seems to be one of unblinking bliss, of ecstatic felicitousness. Synthesizer scarves twirl and spiral; spectral ingénues confide in vocal filters; majestic keyboard figures dare you to forget the 1980s; sweet, sweet polyrhythms help upend the sense of passing out in a Klonopin bottle. Sometimes, as on “Loved-Up,” echodrenched guitars amble into the mix; “Sa Sa Samoa” deals Lion King tribal harmonics into the equation. Yet as mesmerizingly Zen as Korallreven’s dreamy, glazed gaze is, it’s hard not to long for the band to shake itself free of its googly-eyed trance, if only for a moment or two. —Raymond Cummings
An Argument With Myself Secretly Canadian
Damn, dude, shut up already!
Words: wicked overrated. If we had a nickel for every dipshit who derailed an otherwise good song with inane mumbling and illiterate screeching, we’d pay just about all of them to take a long walk off a short pier. Not that we’re against singing or lyrics; it’s just that singing and lyrics tend to blow. A lot. Like “goats for quarters around the corner” blow, and an entire continent of Leonard Cohens couldn’t change the tide with all of their Canadian superpowers set to full blast. Jibber-jabber bullshit, through and through. (For the most part.) On the other hand, there’s this month’s onetwo punch of heavy, wordless power prog from Kerretta and Russian Circles, which is practically bullshit-free. The sophomore album from New Zealand’s Kerretta is an overdriven, illtempered space-rock opus, while the fourth LP from Chicago’s Russian Circles finds the band leaving a bit of the motorik behind for more melodic and dynamic territory. Both albums can be bludgeoning at times, beautiful at others, often more emotive than any whiny dipshit could ever be. —Sean L. Maloney
An Album By Korallreven Acephale
Adrift in memory-wiped bliss
Swedish duo Korallreven makes vaguely ethereal electronic-pop music for bouts of snowblindness, for whiteouts. So intense is the radiance An Album By Korallreven generates that one almost requires Stunna Shades to emerge
If there’s one word that encapsulates Swedish troubadour Jens Lekman, it’s “charming.” The silken-voiced singer has a rare blend of playfulness and grace, along with an ear for silly details and stylish nods to heartache. His latest EP pushes his glossy pop inclinations even further; the five tracks are quick and sweet, gussied up with quirky instrumentation (trumpets, strings, bongos) and pop-culture references (including an entire song about stalking Kirsten Dunst). The rollicking title track is a perfect example: punchy, clever to the point of laughter and carried by Lekman’s charm. It’s all good listening, but if there’s an argument to be leveled against the sprightly An Argument With Myself, it’s that Lekman might have overindulged his precious impulses. The songs seem to rush by in a sugary haze—pleasant, but not necessarily all that memorable. —Lee Stabert
The Louvin Brothers
Satan Is Real
Light In The Attic
They so horn-y
No one made damnation as appealing as Ira and Charlie Louvin. On the cover of their 1960 album, lovingly reissued by Light In The Attic, they stand amid the flames of hell, gesturing with open arms as a plywood devil looms over their shoulders. “There’s A Higher Power” and “The Christian Life” tread a devout, even unforgiving line, but there’s no malice in the way they sing the latter’s “Others find pleasure in things I despise.” Satan’s bonus disc, which features songs picked from the Louvins’ catalogue by such luminaries as Emmylou Harris and Will Oldham, ups the ambivalence with the chilling “Knoxville Girl,” whose account of a brutal murder is far more detailed than its fire-and-brimstone consequences. Perhaps the Louvins’ flawless close harmonies are like the stained-glass
YAMAGATA Chesapeake Rachel Yamagata has reunited with Happenstance producer, John Alagla (Dave Matthews Band, Jason Mraz) for her third studio album Chesapeake, the followup to her heralded 2-CD Set Elephants... Teeth Sinking Into Heart. FRANKENFISH
reviews windows that lured illiterate peasants into medieval churches, but the conviction in songs like “The Kneeling Drunkard’s Plea” suggests they’re engaged in the battle for their own souls as well. —Sam Adams
Medicine Show #12— Raw Medicine (Madlib Remixes) Stones Throw
Just what the doctor ordered
For the past 12-odd months—odd being the operative word—Madlib has complied and defiled an astounding découpage of beats, rhymes and life from his vinyl collection through his Medicine Show series. For the project’s final installation, Madlib has dispensed with the specific musical focus on specific genres, geographic locations or time periods (Jamaican reggae, Brazil or psych rock) that shaped previous releases in favor of a scattershot approach. Similar to Prefuse 73’s Extinguished, which soldered together outtakes from One Word Extinguisher, Madlib lets his ADD take control: one minute (and many of these tracks are rarely longer), you’re hearing Q-Tip and Busta Rhymes; the next, you’re hearing a tongue-incheek ad for the Beverly Hills Blues Festival. Each listen throws up yet another discovery, from once-forgotten disco grooves to sound advice for aspiring MCs, and while disconcerting, there’s never a dull moment. So, listen up; you might learn something. —Justin Hampton
4Everevolution Big Dada
No need to watch this throne
For years, you could count the number of credible U.K. rappers on one finger, that dubious accolade being afforded to Roots Manuva. Indeed, up until the advent of the Streets, Dizzee Rascal (who both owe him big time) and the rest of the British grime wonder kids, Manuva pretty much was the face of U.K. hip hop. He’s the missing link between the blunted ’90s trip hop of Massive Attack and Tricky and the latter-day heroics by the likes of Plan B and Tinie Tempah. And it’s business as usual on this, his seventh album. And that’s a good thing. We’re talking intelligence, wit and panache, anchored by bowelquaking bass lines, burbling synths and samples that refuse to take the obvious route, all underpinned by Manuva’s instantly recognizable deep, warm, avuncular tones. Converts to the cause will find much to love here, and for curious newcomers and Anglophiles, it’s as good a place as any to start. —Neil Ferguson
Shake It Up
Two Olivia Tremor Control reissues capture the Elephant 6 offshoot at its most inscrutable
f the Apples In Stereo were the Elephant 6 col-
lective’s pop purists and Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum its wounded prophet, the Olivia Tremor Control’s Bill Doss and Will Cullen Hart were its mad scientists, incessant basement tinkerers welding white noise and the White Album into towering sculptures that sometimes crashed noisily to earth. The Olivia Tremor Control Chunklet’s vinyl reissues of the Olivias’ two LPs come Music From The with slews of download-only bonus tracks (two hours plus Unrealized Film Dusk for Cubist Castle alone, another album’s worth with Black At Cubist Castle Foliage), but the records are sprawling enough themselves. Chunklet Vinyl listening eases the transitions, but it’s still hard to square the lysergic pop of Cubist Castle sides one, two and Black Foliage: four with the shamble and splatter of the side-long “Green Animation Music Typewriters” montage. At its best, the album is a dizzying ferment of styles, a pitch and roll between harmony and disChunklet sonance; the horns on “No Growing (Exegesis)” gradually wander in and out of tune like a painting seen through a constantly shifting lens. (The fitful shards of “unrealized film” story function along similar lines.) Black Foliage confines most of the abstract excursions to between-song “animations,” making for a more harmonious whole, although the 11-minute “The Bark And Below It” is still an amorphous drag. “A Peculiar Noise Called Train Director” and “I Have Been Floated” cram an album’s worth of ideas into three-minute packages, staying just this side of the line between excess and overkill—and sounding like the Olivias already knew their time was running short. Based on the recently released “The Game You Play Is In Your Head, Parts 1, 2, & 3,” the decade off filled up the band’s store of ideas, and Doss, Hart and Co. are ready to recombine them again. —Sam Adams
My Brightest Diamond
All Things Will Unwind Asthmatic Kitty
Shara Worden returns with a very Björk-like album cover and an even more Björk-like approach: a series of genrebending compositions written with New York chamber-music ensemble yMusic that puts her full vocal range on display. As with previous My Brightest Diamond efforts, Worden is most comfortable with melancholic and downtempo notes. Her wispy vocals on “In The Beginning” are a familiar discomfort, a fine example of her ability to evoke complex moods with deceptively simple arrangements. Worden has always ignored current trends in pop music, and her pairing with the equally outsider approach of yMusic pays off on All Things Will Unwind. She injects a little bit of Edith Piaf’s brassiness into her lilting soprano on “We Added It Up,” then lets yMusic take the reins on sublimely weird vaudeville number “High Low Middle.” A little give and take, and a really powerful synergy. —Nick Green
They vant to rock your blood
If there’s only room for one more freaky pop group from Portland, Ore., let Nurses lock the door behind them. The trio’s second album is an expansion on their previous work in just about every way. Rather than the click-anddrag post-production that led to 2009 debut, Apple’s Acre, Aaron Chapman, John Bowers and James Mitchell tackled the songs on Dracula with a more organic approach. Rotating instruments and sharing production credits, the trio delivers a set of psychedelic pop imbued with an ear for worldly polyrhythms. Opening track “Fever Dreams” sets the scene with Chapman’s idiosyncratic vocals (they’re kind of like Prince meets Panda Bear). Mitchell’s percussion loops shine on “Extra Fast,” which moves between programmed blips and clattering rhythm sticks. Dracula gurgles with slower, more experimental moments at times, but the brief drags are balanced out by funky hip-swingers (“Trying To Reach You”) and modern nuggets (“Wouldn’t Tell”). —Eric Schuman
Oneohtrix Point Never
Stuck in Neverland
Fresh off of the blogospheric success story of retro-synth pop project Ford & Lopatin, Brooklyn-based avant-synth composer Daniel Lopatin returns once again to the foundational atmospherics of his Oneohtrix Point Never persona with Replica. Those just
tuning in to OPN need to know going in that these formless, melancholy soundscapes are the rule rather than the exception; matter of fact, Lopatin has this time eschewed the vocals that occasionally emerged from the ether of 2010’s Returnal, thusly removing any signs of life from this lonely, barren terrain. That’s not to say it’s all textures and space here. Lopatin has obviously taken a cue from obvious ambient architects like Brian Eno and Manuel Göttsching, alongside early Boards Of Canada. And he knows how to integrate plangent tones with somber piano chords to give the title track a plaintive, wistful quality, making sure to throw enough glitch in so that it doesn’t get stranded on Windham Hill. —Justin Hampton
Spills Out Brah
It’s in your head
Ordinarily, I try to avoid comparing one band to others, but the imitations/ references on Pterodactyl’s third album, Spills Out, well, spill out. On opening track “School Glue,” the LP sounds like a new release by Akron/Family or Parts & Labor. (P&L’s Dan Friel makes an appearance on the album.) Pterodactyl found its vocals in ’60s harmonies, bassist/vocalist Jesse Hodges citing the Beatles in particular. I hear the Beach Boys on “Zombies” and Doug Martsch reverb on “Hold Still.” Then, the Brooklyn (by way of Ohio) outfit strips down to its garage undergarments on “Searchers” and “Allergy Shots.” Here, Pterodactyl tries on—without committing to—the frenetic layering that’s earned the trio the noise-rock label. This is where the band excels: garage rock, subtly layered by noise and vocal harmonies. But Spills Out is considerably less interesting, and more cerebral, when Pterodactyl sounds like other bands. —Matthew Irwin
Pretty, not vacant
The Garden State blog darlings in Real Estate were already onto a pretty good thing with their 2009 self-titled debut: melding melodic, twangy, earthy, surfy jangle pop with spot-on schoolboy-slacker delivery and shot-on-Super-8 production. While they haven’t really changed up that formula on this second LP, they have gotten exponentially better at brewing it up. So, dreaded sophomore slump averted. And that’s a good thing, because seeing a band so rich with potential command its blemished haze of gliding harmonies, wistful refrains and borrowed Peter Buck-isms is really quite a pleasure, especially when song titles like “Younger Than Yesterday” and “Out Of Tune” advertise falsely to the contrary. Leadoff single “It’s Real”
DARK PAST The new album from Seattle’s funloving quintet Brite Futures (f/k/a Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head), is a youthful swaggering mix of synth-happy pop, rock, funk, disco, and New Wave that the band likes to describe as “punk rock Abba disco Osmonds with chainsaws.” It challenges the notion that irresistible pop can only be peddled by solo artists propped up by bigname songwriters and major labels. It’s game on for these pop, indie-minded twenty-somethings when the band releases their new album mixed by Eliot James (Two Door Cinema Club, Kaiser Chiefs) on November 1, 2011.
T U R N O U T / AT L A N T I C
reviews (easily the band’s most immediate toe-tapper to date and Days’ finest hour) shows the group excitedly milking a shimmering, descending guitar riff with so much self-assured mirth that an opening cadence of couplets rhyming “wheel” with “feel,” “deal,” a second “feel” and “real” is completely forgiven by a rousing, wordless chorus of “whoa-oh-ohhh”s. Feel it, for real. —Adam Gold
Some bands never change. Slayer and AC/DC have both been playing the same handful of riffs for years, but that hasn’t muted the frenzied reaction of their fan bases. In fact, as times have become more chaotic, the insane devotion of fans of the aforementioned has grown. While you’ll probably never see a bunch of checker-shirted and horn-rimmed types drunkenly screaming “Saammiamm!” in a Tuscaloosa parking lot like Slayer supporters, know that the Berkeley, Calif., quintet has barely changed since its 1990 debut, and “80 West,” “Clean Up,” “September” and “How Would You Know” still exhibit the driving uptempo, alt-punk able to generate sing-alongs and genteel mosh pits. There are a couple of sections on Trips that flirt with soft-rock territory, but in these uncertain times, Samiam’s consistency provides one more thing—along with drunks screaming “Slaaayeeer”—you can rely on. —Kevin Stewart-Panko
In-Demand Translators Sigur Rós may speak our language sonically, but we’re not the focus of this live extravaganza
igur Rós may actually translate to “victory rose” in its native tongue, but for the most Sigur Rós part, the angelic Icelandic art-rock group remains Inni synonymous with inscrutability. This is the band whose back XL catalogue is teeming with songs that vocalist Jon Thor Birgisson sings in a language of made-up gibberish. This is the band that recorded an EP featuring a fisherman reciting poetry. This is also the band that somehow managed to record segments of two albums (or maybe two whole albums; who knows?) and play shows while supposedly being on “indefinite hiatus.” The crow don’t fly straight in Sigur Rós’ land, and while the 100-minute-plus live half of Inni takes the listener on a walk through 15 or so years of a robustly lush and sumptuously luxurious ethereal-pop weirdness clashing with colossal waves of noise rock, the DVD is the centerpiece of this release.
Filmed in black-and-white monochrome, with extreme close-ups being the central technique, Inni views more like a long-lost art-house film than concert DVD. The massive crowd at London’s Alexandria Palace rarely factors into the equation, as extreme tight shots of feet on pedals, hands on strings, cymbals being pummelled and fingers twinkling ivories drive the visual narrative alongside off-center frame shots obviously inspired by surrealist cinema. Ultimately, it’s another stylistic method of experiencing the band’s dynamic music, and it meshes with the off-beat unclassifiable noise Sigur Rós has been caressing our ears with over the course of five albums. —Kevin Stewart-Panko
Everything Is Boring And Everyone Is A Fucking Liar Bad Blood
Groangroangroangroan Lies! Not everything is boring—just watching Spank Rock open up for Ke$ha in a mid-sized arena in a second-tier market. Seriously, the best part of the set we saw was the part where we stood in line for beer behind a blackoutdrunk Bible-college dropout who wanted to tell us about some band named the Beatles. Maybe it’s just detached hipsterism run amok—on his side, on ours—but man, we can just not muster the energy to give a shit about the new Spank Rock tunes. Which is a shame, and we bet you saw this coming, as we really liked his first album, Yoyoyoyoyo. “Nasty” (featuring New Orleans’ Big Freedia) and “Car Song” (featuring Santigold) are fun, but for the most part, we’re just not feeling Everything. Of course, maybe hearing these tunes for the first time while surrounded by glitter-crusted cretins wasn’t the hippest decision on our part. —Sean L. Maloney
photo by eva vermandel
Split Imperative Superchunk’s break-up masterpiece remains a must-own 17 years later Superchunk
here do you begin talking about a great
band’s best record? How about that it’s high time Superchunk’s 1994 full-length finally joins the ranks of blue-chip indie staples with a long-warranted, deluxe, remastered makeover. Written and recorded in the wake of frontman Mac McCaughan’s nonconsensual break-up with bassist Laura Ballance, Foolish is ’90s indie rock’s Rumors or Tragic Kingdom (if you prefer a more, uh, contemporary example)—emotional indictments, bloodletting, golden pop hooks galore and all. As legend has it, Ballance, who stayed on despite McCaughan painting her as an
How sweet he still is
In the 20 years after his captivating 1991 breakthrough, Matthew Sweet has turned out a consistently satisfying string of excellent guitar-pop albums that all seemed to come a close but clear second to the dazzling emotional highs and lows of Girlfriend. Sweet’s latest is slightly off his standard beam, which might be the key to its nomination as the worthiest successor to his two-decade-old masterpiece. Modern Art bristles with the purer essences of Sweet’s ’60s influences, from the Byrdsian jangle of “She Walks The Night” to the Beatlesque history lesson of “When Love Lets Go I’m Falling” to the psych-pop frosting of “Late Night In The Power Pop” and the similarly delightful chaos of “Ivory Tower” (featuring drums
by Saturday Night Live’s Fred Armisen). Maybe Sweet’s recent cover collaborations with Susanna Hoffs as Sid ‘n’ Susie have brought his deeper pop influences into clearer focus; whatever has touched Sweet’s creative core, Modern Art is the better for it. —Brian Baker
VHS Or Beta
Diamonds And Death Krian Music Group/
unblinking heartbreaker, would strike the vocals from her monitors live to avoiding a nightly 50-minute pummeling of high-pitched howls about what a succubus she was. But McCaughan is nowhere close to picking up the pieces. Instead he leads the band—lost lover in tow—through a dozen tracks that revel in the total emotional blowback of a broken man. But such heartache was his muse: The record boasts the quartet’s most focused, slickly produced, dynamic set of songs to date, from slow-burning, for-slackers torch ballads (“Drive To Driveway,” “Like A Fool,” “Kicked In”) to pogo-ready, frenetic scorchers (“Water Wings,” “The First Part,” “Saving My Ticket”). Now for the specs: This golden-era indie-rawk classic comes complete with a remaster of the original LP, liner notes by drummer-turned-WFMU funnyman Jon Wurster, a sixth installment of the band’s Clambakes live series (capturing a complete, Purple Rain-trumping ’94 performance at Minneapolis’ famed First Avenue club) and an odds-and-ends disc of b-sides and demos. —Adam Gold
vocal strains, tastefully appropriate guitars and layers of sounds seemingly taken straight from the floor of Studio 54, all buffering the mechanization nicely. There are times when the results knock boots with chintzy dubstep and AOR radio (“All Summer In A Day”), but mostly Diamonds And Death is post-dancepunk as seen through the hip-shaken eyes of those who know what resonates enough with crowds to get them on the dance floor. —Kevin Stewart-Panko
Hey DJ! The brainchild of Craig Pfunder and Mark Palgy often gets overlooked by those whose cranks are turned by more organic brands of music, primarily because of their backgrounds as DJs, remixers and turntablists. Obviously, all manner of computerized, electronic and digital clips abound in Diamonds And Death’s sonic landscape, but there’s also a soulful funky groove to the rhythm patterns, choral
Ben von Wildenhaus
Great Melodies From Around Riot Bear
Sonic poems dissolving into ancient radio static
“My biggest hope for these tapes is that someday someone will ﬁnd one at a Goodwill in a random town,” says Ben von Wildenhaus about
Worn Copy Jako b D o r o f o n wax
2010’s Great Melodies From Around, which is getting the vinyl-reissue treatment, “put it in their car stereo and be honestly confused as to the decade, country-of-origin and intended target audience of the music.” The 13-track LP opens with “[Sine Waves (Falter Sky)],” a luscious, Earth-rumbling drone reminiscent of minimal composer Terry Riley’s early flirtations with the thin line between noise and meditation. Von Wildenhaus’ melancholic electric guitar makes its first appearance on “[Cumberland Winter],” where, after accompanied by a drunken piano phrase, the sonic poem dissolves into the distant crackle of ancient radio static. From country twang and psych-rock whirls to Eastern modes and pondering tones, there’s a delightfully fluid, dreamlike quality to this bizarre book of tunes. —Elliott Sharp
As a big fan of Guided By Voices, Pavement and Daniel Johnston, it feels weird for me to praise someone for dropping the lo-fi shtick. Or at least some of it. Nathan Williams’ first two albums as Wavves sounded tossed-off, a ham-fisted approximation of surf rock soaked in digital distortion. The artificially low fidelity was neither endearing nor challenging, and it sounded more like a mask that Williams was hiding behind. On King Of The Beach, he learned that you didn’t have to fuzz up the whole mix at once, and it made a world of difference. The Life Sux EP is another jump in fidelity. Tracks like “Bug” and the Best Coast-guesting “Nodding Off” aren’t big departures, but elsewhere Williams pits his angst-y tendencies against grunge’s proven, angst-coddling backdrop. “I Want To Meet Dave Grohl” is an indicator, but it still keeps King’s breeziness. “Poor Lenore” apes Nirvana aping the Pixies, while the best track, “Destroy,” is almost completely taken over by Fucked Up. —Matt Sullivan
Go Tell Fire To The Mountain LYF
British quartet World Unite Lucifer Youth Foundation—amusingly tempting to confuse with its rather distant stateside counterparts World/Inferno Friendship Society (both bands are, at least, similarly fervent, unruly and rabble-rousing)—crafts music that’s every bit as elemental, emphatic and willfully enigmatic as this album’s title. On its own terms, stripped
is the season for 1 Dan Deacon throwbacks, appar-
ently. A refill of breakthrough LP Spiderman Of The Rings comes as little surprise, but what’s interesting here is the Carpark label’s fresh pressing of two burnt-CD albums Baltimore’s weirdo king assembled in 2003—marking the first time they’ve ever been given a proper physical release. Be forewarned: They’re about as experimental and scatterbrained as Deacon gets, each featuring a mishmash of bitcrunched, Raster-Noton sine waves, acoustic and amped-up hell jams and the auteur’s own cartoon-absurdist, faux-homophobic sense of humor. They’re similar rides, but each has its merits. Meetle Mice boasts a live Sun Ra impression called “30,” makes heavy-metal noise out of American arena veterans on “Aerosmith Layer” and marks the origin of spoken-word ramble “Drinking Out Of Cups,” a YouTube meme and fan favorite. Silly Hat Vs. Egale Hat is the more accessible of the two, with the sampled Patsy Cline pop of “My Name Is Robert” and surprisingly amicable chiptune “I Will Always Have Juice Today.” But either way, this is stuff strictly for aficionados of Deacon and exploratory musics in general, though the multicolored vinyls’ double-LP runtimes and digital download cards sweeten the deal nicely.
of the hyped-to-hell/anti-hype vortex of its appealingly mythic but all-too-familiar backstory, Go Tell Fire To The Mountain offers both considerable beauty and ugliness (including some brutish, pounding grooves, but especially Ellery Roberts’ instantly divisive guttural caterwaul, which is potent in chunks, but dreadfully wearisome at unremitting album-length full-throttle), neither of which feel like ends in themselves (nor a purpose-driven juxtaposi-
Then we’ve got the penultimate 12-inch in 2 Radiohead’s self-congratulatory series of remixes for The King Of Limbs on Ticker Tape. About time, too: Between Modeselektor’s limp take on “Good Morning Mr. Magpie” and the club/lounge mess Objekt makes of “Bloom,” it sounds like the bottom of the barrel for all involved. Recommended only if you’ve already got the other five and have OCD. Lastly, 3XL Recordings has issued a most unusual kind of promo ephemeron: two feet of vinyl showcasing some of the favorite songs the label released in 2011 as a giveaway offering to the first 1,000 fans to email in. It’s an impressive display that more or less cements XL as the hippest almost-major in the world. There’s an all-right cut from Adele’s 10-million-selling sophomore LP, recent Radiohead a-side “Supercollider,” songs by U.K. sensations Friendly Fires and the Horrors, the best tracks yet released by 1 promising new talents Jai Paul and Tyler, The Creator, plus a piece by the late, legendary Gil Scott-Heron (as remixed, albeit lamentably, by Jamie xx). This thing probably got snatched 2 up faster than we could blog about it, let alone go to press, but you might want to try eBay; this will someday make a fine memento from one of our time’s most im3 portant labels.
tion) so much as value-neutral vehicles striving, straining, yearning toward pure, pummeling visceral emotion. And, to the (inconsistent) extent that they keep things abstract (read: post-rock-ish) and avoid sounding like any other bunch of dull, drudgy indie-rock also-rans (most of the bits invoking their self-conception as “heavy pop,” a rather sour, chore-like description), it mostly works. —K. Ross Hoffman
now hear this on sale now at your local independent music store
Full fall tour scheduled 10/1211/15! Grammy Award-winning artist. Lead single “Revelation Road” is getting great early radio play!
Billy Jack is the brand new follow-up to their 2008 debut, First Rodeo. They just completed opening a sold out tour w/Christina Perri. The Ten Buck Tour, coheadline run w/Joshua James, runs through November. The first vinyl pressing will be on clear wax as part of the Lost Highway 10Year Anniversary Campaign.
Circle Sound, LLC/ Thirty Tigers
Black Country Communion
Show Dog Universal Music
Four The Record will build upon the foundation of her three previous platinum albums and showcase her evolution as songwriter and vocalist. Produced by Frank Liddell, Four The Record is the follow-up to her platinumcertified, CMA and ACM Album of the Year, Revolution, which yielded several singles.
ZZ Top: A Tribute from Friends features a number of their greatest hits performed by an eclectic group of contemporary artists. Artists included on this album are Jamey Johnson, Grace Potter, Nickelback, Daughtry, Coheed and Cambria, Filter, Wolfmother, Steven Tyler, Mastodon, Wyclef Jean and Loaded.
Live Over Europe J&R Adventures
This is the first recorded concert of the super group Black Country Communion consisting of Joe Bonamassa, Glenn Hughes, Jason Bonham, and Derek Sherinian. Live Over Europe was recorded in Hamburg, Munich and Berlin with 14 HD cameras. Palladia TV will show the concert for 6 months.
Four The Record
Through A Crooked Sun Before he was 25, Rich Robinson had fame as the guitar player for the Black Crowes, fortune, a beautiful wife and home; seemingly, he had it all. But in the blink of an eye, much of it was gone. How he managed to make it through with graciousness and his sense of self-intact is examined on Through A Crooked Sun.
ZZ Top: A Tribute from Friends
the back page
by phil sheridan
I’m With Stupid
dmittedly, it was fun to watch thom yorke’s mind explode into a million tiny pieces on national television. It just was, and I say that knowing it doesn’t make me a good or even acceptable human being. Still, while it was happening, an issue that has been nagging at me for a few months now came bubbling back into my own (mostly) still-intact mind: America is choking to death on its own snark. A little background is in order. Yorke and the rest of Radiohead made an inexplicable, but thoroughly entertaining appearance on an extended episode of The Colbert Report in late September. We have to assume that the band, and other guests, are either aware of host Stephen Colbert’s shtick coming in or are briefed on it. Frankly, it just wouldn’t be fair to send someone out into that studio believing Colbert’s empty-headed right-winger persona is real. The fact that Yorke and his mates are British shouldn’t matter. They may not be as familiar with Colbert from watching him on Comedy Central, but come on: They’re Brits. They’re from the land of Monty Python and the Goons and Peter Sellers and Dudley Moore and Ricky Gervais. They’re also Oxford-educated, for the most part. It should be easy-peasy (that’s Britspeak for easy as balls) for them to get a handle on the situation. Colbert interviewed the band in character—at first sitting in front of a giant sign that blurted “Dr. Pepper Flavor Zone”—tweaking the band’s anti-corporation ethos from the get-go. The other four guys seemed somewhere between amused and tolerant. But Yorke, bless his heart, kept looking around at the rest of the band as if this were the goddamnedest thing he’d ever been involved in. His body language and expression— head cocked, eyes narrowed— screamed, “Is this guy for real?” and the unfortunate corollary, “Are Americans really this stupid?” The answer to the first question, as we know, is no. The answer to the second, well, we’re getting to that. Colbert is arguably a genius. He stays in character almost constantly. He interviews not just rock stars, but authors, scientists, actors, political leaders and other pundits as if he were the hellspawn of a three-way between Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. (It’s OK if you need to pause here for a shot of tequila or other means of erasing that image from your mind’s eye.) It requires a remarkable amount of talent, acting ability and improvisational adroitness for Colbert to do this. With Radiohead, for instance, he asked about being a British band and taking away American “rock jobs.” He accused them of being greedy for no longer sharing their income with record labels. He asked who was “saving the world better, you or Bono?” It was funny stuff. But here’s where the nagging comes in. By portraying a conservative moron who is barely distinguishable from the real morons on the far right, Colbert entertains and amuses progressives, liberals, moderates and possibly even some open-minded conservatives (they do exist). In other words, he is playing a stupid person for the amusement of smart people. Over on The Daily Show, from which Colbert spun off his nightly halfhour show, Jon Stewart does it the other way. Stewart is also a genius. 64
He also assumes a character, a news anchor, but one so close to his actual personality that there’s hardly a distinction. He’ll play dumb like a classic straight man for some bits, but generally he lets brilliantly edited video clips and pitch-perfect writing do the trick. But it’s the same trick. Stewart is the smart guy making fun of stupid people to entertain and amuse other smart people. Both of these guys are different. But that little voice starts nagging whenever they’re on the official MAGNET flatscreen. As entertaining and informative and spot-on as these shows are, I suspect they are actually undermining what I assume to be their main purpose. While the spoofed are organizing, forming Tea Parties and voting, the spoofers’ target audience is laughing, feeling superior and then signing on to Facebook to bitch about Facebook. Years ago, on this very page, I started to use the phrase Moron Nation to cover the general dumbing down of our popular culture and politics. Since then, Green Day has coined “American Idiot” and Charles Pierce, one of my idols, published a book called Idiot America: How Stupidity Became A Virtue In The Land Of The Free. These are harsh words—idiot, moron—but I’m afraid they barely scratch the surface of what we’re actually dealing with. It’s a little bit like the line Tommy Lee Jones delivers in Men In Black: “A person is smart. People are stupid.” That is especially true of people in a society where education is being attacked, pop culture is almost entirely without merit or substance, and politics has become a cynical charade acted out by men and women entirely beholden to corporate money— and that covers Democrats as well as Republicans. Moron Nation? I was being way too kind. So, why am I getting worked up about some of the smartest, most worthwhile stuff available among the reality shows, talent contests and egregiously contrived crime dramas? Because ultimately, I think Stewart and Colbert, despite good intentions, are numbing the very viewers they’re trying to stimulate. I’m not criticizing the shows, really, so much as I’m criticizing the audience. And I’m in the audience, too. But the shows are remarkably effective most nights. When Stewart shows a montage of Fox Newsers spewing the same buzzwords about an issue or political foe, it should outrage us to the point where those pundits and politicians lose all credibility. It doesn’t, because no one who thinks they have credibility in the first place is watching. And no one who is watching is going to do anything except laugh, feel superior and then log on to Google+ to bitch about Facebook. When Colbert demonstrates the dazzling illogic of what passes for public policy by following that policy to its ridiculous end, it should be as devastating to the nimrods who spout it as Swift was to the British occupiers of Ireland. But the people watching just sneer, long onto Twitter and bitch about the quality of the tweets on their timeline. It is asking too much of entertaining and informative TV shows to change the world. That’s really not the point. What worries me is that these shows are contributing inadvertently to the general malaise by making their target audience of relatively intelligent and educated people feel as if they’ve already accomplished something by watching. While we sit on the couch, chuckling at the idiots, the idiots are winning elections and turning the country finally and irrevocably into Moron Nation. Kind of makes you wonder who the idiots really are. illustration by gluekit
biophilia: the new album “What I always wanted to do was to reconnect musicology with nature,” Icelandic composer and performer Björk recently told the New York Times. “I always wanted to make bass lines behave like gravity.” Biophilia is the Icelandic singer and composer’s most ambitious undertaking in a 20-year career distinguished by continuous innovation and artistic evolution. In addition to the music itself, this project will offer interactive iPad apps, designed by the industry’s most creative minds that feature games, music, and editorial content-allowing listeners to explore more deeply the concepts and sounds of each of Biophilia’s 13 sonically brilliant and emotionally stirring new songs.
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Published on Nov 3, 2011