Page 1

Charlotte Gainsbourg I Cass McCombs I David Lynch

r e a l m u s i c a lt e r n a t i v e s

Meet The Band That Made 2011’s Best Album

the Year in

Music Tom Waits Radiohead Wilco Wild Flag PJ Harvey Bon Iver Bright Eyes wye oak R.E.M. $4.99 | ISSUE no. 83

PLUS Deer Tick, Brian Wilson, Matthew Herbert,

Surfer Blood, John Wesley Harding and more ...



a Record Store Day vinyl figure series created by

FRANK KOZIK Four figures.

Limited edition run of 5000 blind box pieces. Available at select indie record stores and online at





from ZOOEY DESCHANEL and M.WARD magnet


R e a l M u s i c A l t e r n at i v e s

1 year • 12 issues • only $24.99


to America’s Original

independent music magazine Sign me up! Check one:












1 year (12 issues) $24.99

2 years (24 issues) $44.99

Make check/money order payable to Magnet Magazine or pay with your Visa, Mastercard, Discover or Amex. Mail completed order form and payment to: MAGNET Subscriptions 1032 Arch St., 3rd Floor Philadelphia PA 19107 Allow 4-6 weeks for delivery.

For faster service, subscribe online at We accept credit cards and PayPal on our website.

find us online at

N o. 83 Departments

cover story

6 Letters 8 Static

The Year in music 2011

Charlotte Gainsbourg is fed up with trying too much; Cass McCombs channels his inner Ritchie Valens; Deer Tick remains full-grown men acting like kids; John Wesley Harding gets by with a little help from his (famous) friends; Surfer Blood keeps on rocking in the free world; Matthew Herbert makes pearls out of swine; Brian Wilson is finally SMiLING; and Caithlin De Marrais likes taking risks.

26 On The Record

David Lynch

30 Magnified

Future Islands, Mr. Gnome, Thee Oh Sees, Stalley

51 Reviews

New releases from Tom Waits, Radiohead, U2, R.E.M., BjĂśrk, Ryan Adams, Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, She & Him, Kate Bush, Los Campesinos!, Kurt Vile, 65DaysOfStatic, Atlas Sound, Mike Patton, Mayer Hawthorne, Hurricane Bells and more.

64 The Back Page

Looking Back At 2012



MAGNET surveys the 20 best albums of the year (from Tom Waits and Thurston Moore to PJ oN the cover Harvey and Eleanor Friedberger Yuck to Wild Flag and Fucked Up), tells photographed October 14 you about 10 essential records you in Brooklyn for MAGNET probably missed out on, picks all the by Shane McCauley other must-hear music from 2011 (including reissues, punk/hardcore, hip hop, jazz, world music and tons more) and interviews Yuck, the young British band responsible for the year’s best album.


editor’s note real m u sic alternatives # 8 3 Publisher

Alex Mulcahy


managing Editor

It’s a pretty rare occurrence, but every once in a while a band

hooks you from the very first couple of minutes you hear them. For me, over the last 20 or so years, it’s happened with the debut albums by the Stone Roses, Nirvana, Pavement, the Wrens and a handful of others. You never really expect it, but suddenly there’s a record full of everything you were looking for, even though you didn’t realize it. It happened again to me in fall 2010, when I got an advance copy of the self-titled debut by Yuck. All I knew about the band was that two of its members had played in Cajun Dance Party, an outfit I had found pretty unremarkable. I had recently renewed my expired driver’s license and taken to listening to music in the car again. For whatever reason, I grabbed the CD and gave it a spin while running some errands. I was instantly floored. I had to eject the CD to see what band this was that blew me away after only a few songs. Yuck is an unabashedly indie-rock album that sounds current, vintage and timeless all at once. It’s like the band took the best parts of all the music MAGNET covers and reduced it to 12 tracks spread over 45 minutes. Each listen reveals new influences, but what makes Yuck so special is the band’s way with a hook. Somehow this group arrived fully formed and achieved greatness on its first attempt, when most bands are still taking baby steps. Fast-forward 12 months. To help compile the magazine’s list of the top 20 albums of 2011, we did our annual poll of MAGNET writers to find out what their favorite records of the year were. Imagine my surprise when the album with the most votes from our staff was Yuck’s. The LP joins such classics as Guided By Voices’ Bee Thousand, Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs and SleaterKinney’s The Woods as MAGNET’s album of the year, and it becomes the first debut to ever top our list. Perhaps the best indicator of just how good a band Yuck is came when the Fat Possum label released a “deluxe edition” of Yuck in October with bonus tracks. Any of the six could have easily fit on the proper LP with ease, and a couple of the songs are as good or better than the album’s best tracks. I can’t wait to see what these guys do next. On a much sadder note, two members of the MAGNET family lost their mothers while we were working on this issue: Back Page guru Phil Sheridan and bookkeeper extraordinaire Alicia McClung. Phil and I have known each other for almost 20 years, and I count him among my very best friends; Alicia and I only met a few months ago, but she has gone out of her way to make this new guy feel like a welcome addition to the Red Flag Media team. I hope both Phil and Alicia know how sorry I am for their losses.


Eric T. Miller Andrew Bonazelli

Contributing Editor

Matthew Fritch

Art Director

Jamie Leary

customer service

Patty Moran


Melissa McFeeters


Lucas Hardison


Frida Garza Alex Hosenball Elena Rivera




Eric T. Miller

Online Technical Support Contributing Editor

Ed Morgan

Contributing Writers


Julia Friedland Lindsey Colferai Emily Costantino Katie Delaney Haley C. Knight Brendan Mattox Thea Ryan Eric T. Miller

Main Office

1032 Arch Street, 3rd Floor Philadelphia, PA 19107 Tel: 215.625.9850 / Fax: 215.625.9967

Contributing Writers

Sam Adams A.D. Amorosi Brian Baker Patrick Berkery Jud Cost Raymond Cummings Jakob Dorof Neil Ferguson M.J. Fine Jeanne Fury Adam Gold Joe Gross Justin Hampton Matt Hickey K. Ross Hoffman Brian Howard Steve Klinge Devon Leger Sean L. Maloney Michaelangelo Matos BIll Meyer Mitch Myers Noah Bonaparte Pais Michael Pelusi j. poet Patrick Rapa Bryan C. Reed Matt Ryan Eric Schuman Elliott Sharp Phil Sheridan Rod Smith Lee Stabert Kevin Stewart-Panko Matt Sullivan Jonathan Valania John Vettese Eric Waggoner Contributing photographer

Shane McCauley

Record Stores

To carry MAGNET, call 215.625.9850 x105 Magnet Subscriptions

MAGNET subscriber service/change of address: 215.625.9850 x105 or To order by mail: Consult the subscription page To order by phone: 215.625.9850 x105 To order by fax: 215.625.9967 To order online: Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express accepted Subscribers: Please alert us of any change of address 6-8 weeks before the date of your move. MAGNET is not responsible or obligated to re-ship issues missed because of a move we were not informed of 6-8 weeks before the move took place. magnet Back Issues/Merchandise

To order by phone: 215.625.9850 x105 (10 a.m. – 6 p.m. EST) To order by fax: 215.625.9967 To order online: MAGNET (ISSN 1088-7806) is published monthly by Red Flag Media, Inc., 1032 Arch Street, 3rd Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19107. Annual subscription price is $24.99. Submission of manuscripts, illustrations and/or photographs must be accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope. The publisher assumes no responsibility for unsolicited materials. Postmaster send changes of address for MAGNET to Red Flag Media, 1032 Arch Street, 3rd Floor, Philadelphia PA 19107. Copyright© 2011 by Red Flag Media, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission of the publisher is strictly prohibited.

Eric T. Miller, Editor-In-Chief 4






It made me feel all warm and fuzzy to see MAGNET’s logo/title/name on a real live magazine issue! Fuck yes. I’ve been a subscriber since 2001 or before, and I’m glad you’re back. The online thing is fine (I like your Over/Under column), but it’s not the same. I have an iPod and all, but all of this Internet/mp3/e-book shit is for the birds. (There’ll be some sort of solar flare/ electromagnetic storm some day and 30 years of our culture will be erased, assholes.) Anyhow, thanks, and welcome back, guys. So, anyway, I’m so psyched that you’re back in print. What I’ve always loved about MAGNET is the beautiful combination of the old and the new. Usually a cover and several big articles about someone I know (often) and (at the very least) respect, then many lesser-known folks (in the Magnified section) and reviews of albums sandwiched together in issue #81 by Eric Miller’s editor’s note and Phil Sheridan’s Back Page. Reading those opening and closing remarks made me feel like I was back home again. Awesome. →→ Matt Romano, Portland, ME First off, happy to have you back, and in my mailbox every month. Second, issue #82: Guided By Voices, the Smiths, Kimya Dawson, Crooked Fingers and Ben Lee mentioned on the cover? I don’t know whether to make fun of you for being stuck in your past, or give you props for making yourselves into the Mojo of indie-rock mags. →→ Paul Ramaeker, Sarasota, FL Why put Wilco on your cover [#81], then slag the new album in a short, narrow-minded review that claims they teeter on “self-parody”? Not a brilliant return to form, MAGNET. →→ Mike Betts, Lexington, KY

What a great surprise to find issue #81 in my mailbox! Welcome back—you’ve been missed. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking there has been a huge void in American music journalism since MAGNET went into hibernation a few years back. I’ve always felt there’s no real reason why printed media and electronic media couldn’t coexist together—resurrecting your printed magazine is a very good idea, of course. I’m sure this new era of MAGNET will be very successful; your experience, hard work and, above all, passion for the music you cover makes certain that MAGNET will maintain being a successful and worthwhile venture. It’s great to have you back! Here’s my two-year subscription. MAGNET has always been informative, insightful and just plain fun to read. I look forward to much good reading from you in the future! →→ Lawrence Salvatore, Joliet, IL Welcome back. I missed you and your reviews. In 1999, I received issue #38 from my boss and started my subscription immediately. I never imagined this small gift would still be giving more than 10 years later. Because the publication was not monthly, I never seemed to know exactly when my next issue would show up, so it was always a pleasant surprise in my mailbox. After issue #80, I guess I lost track of time because it was close to six months before I realized I had not received a new issue. I went online and saw that #80 was still the current issue and soon noticed that MAGNET was online only. I checked out the site a few times looking for the thing I came to miss most, the music reviews, but they were not there. Over the previous nine years, your reviews had helped introduce me to a countless amount of new music. I searched online for a replacement for MAGNET’s reviews and settled on two sites— Metacritic and Pitchfork—to try and fill the gap. For a lack of anything better, I started tolerating their style of reviews. Not until I got “surprise issue” #81 in the mail did I realize how hard it has been to find out if either one of these sites like an album or not, and how much I really missed MAGNET. Your reviews were always concise and to the point, unlike this letter. Now, with the addition of stars to go along with the review, it is even easier to understand whether you like or dislike the album being reviewed. I have checked out more new music in the last few days because of MAGNET than I have in more than a month from those two sites combined. Thank you for remembering me and sending me issue #81. With my subscription, I look forward to many more great issues and the new music I am sure to discover in the pages of MAGNET. →→ Robert Hipke, Ocala, FL

Send letters to Please include your real name and address. Letters may be edited for clarity and length. 6




$9.99 OR LESS





Life And Times

South Paw Grammar

Global A-Go-Go

Now & Zen

*titles and prices vary by store. Music galore—from frontmen and their bands—less than $10 every day at a record store. magnet


static s tat i c



photo by jean-baptiste mondino

40 And Furtive Charlotte Gainsbourg baby-steps to whispers before writing Charlotte Gainsbourg arrives at New

York City’s tony Bowery Hotel with her twomonth-old daughter swaddled to her stomach, the baby’s tiny legs protruding bizarrely from just above Gainsbourg’s narrow hips. She’s the daughter of France’s iconic singer/ songwriter/actor Serge Gainsbourg and ravishing English-born actress/singer Jane Birkin, but Charlotte has an understated grace that betrays her own mega-star status in the indie-film world. She doesn’t fill the room like some big shot. Her humility is pronounced, a bit disarming, even. During her interview with MAGNET, Gainsbourg spends a good deal of time explaining why she doesn’t consider herself a singer (though she’s on album number four) or an actress (though she won best actress at Cannes in 2009 for Lars von Trier’s Antichrist) or an artist (see: previous two examples). She enjoys referring to herself as “unprofessional.” “I like using other people’s words, and I don’t find that artistic,” she says. “I love working intensely, so it really doesn’t mean that the work is less strong—I really put myself there—but I like to be someone else’s instrument and to be used.” Clearly. In addition to her work on 30-plus films, Gainsbourg has three full-length studio albums under her belt. Her father composed almost all of her first album, 1986’s Charlotte For Ever; Air, Jarvis Cocker and Neil Hannon were responsible for 2006’s 5:55; and Beck wrote 2009’s IRM. Fine, Gainsbourg’s not a songwriter, but when her ethereal, stirring singing voice enters the fray, she’s the immediate focal point. Nowhere is that more evident than on her latest release, Stage Whisper (Because/Elektra). Comprised of live recordings, plus a handful of new tracks written by Beck, Conor O’Brien (Villagers), Noah And The Whale, Connan Mockasin and Asa Taccone (the composer/producer who wrote “Dick In A Box” for Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake; yes, really), the album is Gainsbourg at her most sure-footed, which is ironic because she purposely went into it with a devil-maycare attitude. “(On IRM), Beck pushed me quite a lot,” she says. “It was different (this time) because I

wasn’t writing. I wasn’t trying. (The songwriters) wrote lyrics, and I made them mine by singing them. It worked in a weird way.” Since Gainsbourg didn’t consider Stage Whisper to be a proper LP, the pressure was off. “There was no logic,” she says of the amalgamation of songs. “This album for me was like a rehearsal. It was accidental and little experiences.” It also gave her a great excuse to indulge in something she’s always wanted to try: a choreographed group-dance routine. The video for first single “Terrible Angels” features Gainsbourg busting out some poor man’s Britney Spears moves with a score of doppelgängers in a parking garage. “I don’t want to take myself too seriously with the dancing,” says Gainsbourg, cracking up. “I was so bad, but it was really fun! And the fact that it’s a bit awkward works, I think. The thing is, I was five months pregnant, so it was really hard. The director had to digitally erase my stomach!” The funniest part? When a car plows into Gainsbourg (her stunt double, that is) at the end of the video and she goes tumbling over the roof. Hilarious. This loosey-goosey approach is something new for Gainsbourg. “Little details annoy me when they’re not right,” she says, noting that her father was obsessive in a similar way. That Stage Whisper includes live versions of her songs is a wonder in and of itself. Gainsbourg doesn’t like live recordings. (She only listens to one: a very old album by British blues singer John Mayall.) “It’s always a pale version of the studio album,” she says. “I like the perfection of a studio album.” Surprise, surprise. Gainsbourg never sang live prior to her 2009 outing to support IRM. She had wanted to tour for 5:55, but fear got in the way. Two years ago, she finally built up the nerve for a brief jaunt around the world. That the new album is called Stage Whisper indicates how Gainsbourg sees herself as a performer. In fact, when I ask her what it was like to lead a band for the first time, she looks at me like I’m yanking her chain. “I wasn’t the lead,” she says with a giggle. “No, thank God. (Musical director) Brian LeBarton was there. He had worked with Beck, so I was very reassured that he would be faith-

ful to what Beck had done on the album. He was the lead!” Regardless of this safety net of sorts, “I was petrified of losing my lines,” says Gainsbourg. “I talked to Beck about it, and he said, ‘It happens all the time. You just invent words.’ But, I mean, he could do it. I can’t invent words. I went blank. It was horrible. But in the end, you manage. It’s knowing that—it’s easy to say that here—you can overcome anything.” Gainsbourg tilts her head to the side when recounting her performance at Coachella, like the fact she even possesses this memory is completely bonkers. “I don’t know what I did, if it was good or not, but it didn’t matter,” she says. “The audience was just incredible, and that made me understand the pleasure you get out of that experience. It’s worth it because the people are there. They make it worth it. I hadn’t thought of that before.” The joy and confidence Gainsbourg received as a result of gigging helped her to get out of her own way so life could proceed unfettered. One of Stage Whisper’s standout songs is “Got To Let Go,” written by and performed with Charlie Fink of Noah And The Whale. It’s a break-up song, but it’s the essence of Gainsbourg’s experiences in the art and entertainment world—she sounds like she’s singing the song to herself. “That idea of letting go is for me so important because it has a lot to do with the acting,” she says. “The real goal for me is letting go. If you’re too much in control, it’s not interesting. Nothing really happens. If you plan everything ahead, it’s not worth it. I imagine it’s the same for everything. I have to fight against that.” She’s throwing one determined punch at a time, hoping to knock some sense into herself. “Before the (IRM) tour, I took singing lessons,” she says. “I was so scared about having a sore throat; I stopped smoking … all that good intentions to try and be this good pupil. And I’m fed up with trying too much. Trying too hard is not a good thing, I find. Because I’ll never be like (Maria) Callas.” She laughs. “I’ll never have a wonderful voice, so I’m just who I am. Maybe it was good to have those lessons and to warm up my voice, but you can also do without it.” —Jeanne Fury



static s tat i c



The Uncanny Valley Exploring the end of wit and the risk of humor with Cass McCombs and Ritchie Valens Walt Wilkey’s Mannequin Gallery lies on

a flat barren stretch of road in Pacoima, Calif., an impoverished factory town on the northern slope of the San Fernando Valley. Here, in a 4,200-square-foot showroom warehouse, several hundred lifelike-yet-lifeless figures stand, sit and lounge around, facial expressions frozen, their appendages fixed in midgesture: curvaceous clothing displays, crashtest dummies, CPR training buddies, even miniatures of kids and dogs. It’s a nightmarish setting for an acute sufferer of pediophobia, the odd but all-too-real fear of dolls (hello, Chucky)—or, more broadly, any faked representation of a sentient being, i.e., models, robots (hello, Asimov) and, yes, mannequins. It’s the ideal locale for an examination of the uncanny valley effect, however, a psychological theory posited in 1970 by Japanese robotics professor Masahiro Mori. For modern minstrel Cass McCombs, who came to Pacoima chasing Ritchie Valens’ ghost and took with him an eerie song—“Meet Me At The Mannequin Gallery,” off the new Humor Risk (Domino)—the Valley is both uncanny muse and metaphor. Based on writings by Sigmund Freud and Ernst Jentsch, Mori’s effect describes a rift in the charted positive response of humans in the presence of an almost-flawless replica, firing up temporary but intense feelings of revulsion. The 34-year-old McCombs has a near-zero bullshit tolerance (a fact known to anyone who’s ever tried to interview him), but among recurring references to the failings of faith, memory and physical and mental health in his cryptic six-album catalog, the dodgy notions of fidelity, veracity and sincerity—or the lack thereof—rank high on his list. Humor Risk is the second impressive LP McCombs issued in 2011. It follows six months after its predecessor, the aptly named Wit’s End, a trudging album of stark, unrelenting elegiac beauty with a now-trademark marriage of florid lyrical formalism and quietly disturbing imagery. “Stinking corpse, I smell but cannot see, you hateful neighbor,” he sings in hushed tones on the latter’s “Buried Alive,” hitching it to an impossible couplet: “Pride, monomania, everything from Earth, topaz vapor/High-chloridized polyethylene resin-lacquered newspaper.” With quicker tempos and less ornate instrumentation, Humor Risk feels like cathartic relief—until its words come into focus. The

plodding guitar-and-drums thump of “Mannequin Gallery” relates a sneakily metered exchange with an employee there, replete with queasy detail of its “fiberglass aroma,” on the problems inherent in forging a model’s model: “‘You see, she had no features, her face was smooth and clear/So, it was difficult to sculpt an accurate result/But that is why we think some people have beauty,’ said the secretary/ At least, this is my theory.” It was in 2008, while working on their initial collaboration, Catacombs, that McCombs and producer Ariel Rechtshaid made the 30-minute drive from Glassell Park—where they had set up studio shop in an old house outfitted with analog gear—to the San Fernando Valley and Pacoima. “The unofficial patron saint of our recording was Ritchie Valens, because we were recording it in various parts of Los Angeles, out in the Valley,” says McCombs. “Of course, Ritchie’s from San Fernando and Pacoima. So, one day we made a pilgrimage to his high school, his home. Places like that, where he walked and lived.” Trading the swooping, Pro-Tooled sound of 2005’s PREfection and 2007’s Dropping The Writ for the ground-level, stripped-down production style of Catacombs, McCombs and Rechtshaid purchased a vintage eighttrack, one-inch tape recorder. The machine provided unnecessary practical backing for the road trip: The closest servicer was in nearby Sunland. “We’re both big fans of old rock ‘n’ roll and Ritchie Valens, and that kind of represented L.A.,” says Rechtshaid. “Cass saw the virtue in that. He’s a fan of those records that were made that way. It wasn’t that we talked about stripping it down as much as we just decided how we were going to do it: live in the room, no headphones. I knew if we were doing it with an eight-track, there’s not going to be any room for anything, really. You’re going to get 100 percent Cass. It’s going to be about him.” Wit’s End and Humor Risk, though wholly dissimilar in mood, are products of the same process. With McCombs out on tour and Rechtshaid stationed in L.A., the records came together like patchwork quilts, each piece captured in a new place, with new people: in New York City, with high-profile pals like engineer Chris Coady, multi-instrumentalist Robbie Lee and Peter Morén (of Peter Bjorn And John); and in Chicago, one of McCombs’ many

homes-away-from-home, with random friends playing random instruments. “Everything about Cass’ music is about the people that he knows, and the stories about them,” says Rechtshaid. “That’s really what it is: a narrative. It fits right in, because a lot of those people are musicians as well. I just ran into Peter last night randomly at a bar in L.A. He was like, ‘I think, one drunken night, I played on Cass’ record.’ I said, ‘You did—it was ‘A Knock Upon The Door.’ (“We were all drinking,” says McCombs, laughing. “I don’t really remember it myself.”) He picks people to play on his records more for their personalities than their musical ability, I would say.” “The recordings are based on where I am and what I can pull together, and who wants to contribute,” says McCombs. “There’s not a lot of forethought put into it. It’s very fly-by-night. These records, they’re about trying to make it as human as possible. I want you to hear the blemishes. It’s not about perfection. In fact, we don’t do a whole lot of editing. We just kind of do it, and do it quickly. Sounds good.” McCombs stakes no claim to the exotic voicing on Wit’s End. “That’s not part of my composition,” he says. “I write the songs on a guitar or a piano, and I’m done with it. But in the studio, friends come by. In this case, Robbie brought a whole collection of his medieval and eclectic world instruments, flutes and portative organ. He’s a virtuosic musician. So, we just let him. Try to keep the recording environment as free as possible. Anyone who wants to play whatever they want to play— free your soul. That’s what it’s about. Music is freedom.” Executioner, comedian, parishioner, heathen, mannequin: They’re all costumes, a cast designed to act out the everyday tragedies and banalities McCombs witnessed as a custodian, a projectionist, a construction worker, a soda jerk, a songwriter. “It may sound like some heavy shit, but we’re actually having a gas,” he says. “If you could see our faces, you would know that we’re actors, and we’re engaged. We’re stimulated by the music.” “I run into people often who are confused or mystified by Cass,” says Rechtshaid. “I don’t have the same experience with him at all. It’s this very straightforward, very clear individual. He’s not necessarily easy to understand. But I do think he speaks for a lot of people. He talks about the pain, really. And it’s honest.” —Noah Bonaparte Pais



static s tat i c

Friendly Neighborhood Riffs The Tarot Classics EP envisions even more success for Palm Beach upstarts Surfer Blood Surfer Blood signed to Warner Bros. due to

the label’s long-running partnerships with the Flaming Lips and Built To Spill. According to frontman John Paul Pitts, it’s as simple as that. “They haven’t really gone anywhere,” Pitts says. “Free to record at whatever studio or with whatever producer they want to work with, what bands they want to have open for them. All you can ask from any label is that sort of freedom.” Freedom’s a key engine for the Floridian four-piece, which garnered wide-ranging comparisons from Weezer to Vampire Weekend to AC/DC on last year’s debut album, Astro Coast, recorded entirely in a college dorm. Or, as Pitts calls it, the band’s “collective bedroom.” Surfer Blood even twists shape from thick surf reverb to lunkheaded power chords to choppy highlife, all within breakthrough single “Swim.” But even with impressive touches like the orchestral flourish at the end of “Floating Vibes” or chiming glockenspiel on “Fast Jabroni,” song titles like “Harmonix” and “Neighbor Riffs” betrayed one definite



common thread: guitar obsession. “A riff could be anything, or a hook could be anything,” says Pitts. “It could be any instrument. But I’m not really that good with electronic equipment, honestly. I get really frustrated trying to set up a cable onstage—I don’t know what I’d do if I had a MIDI rig. Arranging the guitar just comes kind of naturally to us.” But like his favorite band, Yo La Tengo, people tend not to excavate Pitts’ intriguing lyrics (“Catholic Pagans”) from beneath the group’s remarkably thick, detailed sound. “I think lyrics are really important,” he says. “I lose sleep over them, you know?” Perhaps the new Tarot Classics EP, Surfer Blood’s final release for Kanine Records before its major-label debut in 2012, will shed light on that. “I think lyrically it’s a little bit more directed, but then again it’s only four songs,” says Pitts. “On Astro Coast, colorful ideas were more pieced together, and lyrics sounded good with the songs. And these are a little more

traditional, or at least something resembling an A-B part. And they’re about relationships that are starting or ending. A lot more content and less frills maybe.” Classics, so named because Pitts’ sister was presenting the band with tarot-card and stained-glass-like artwork, has a meaty, Pixies-esque feel, especially “Miranda,” which particularly plays like an homage to “Allison” on Bossanova. Pitts mostly agrees. “I’ve always been a huge sucker for song titles with the name of a girl,” he says. “I wouldn’t call it an homage, but it sure has a lot of elements that Pixies would use.” When asked about the transition to a major label, Pitts admits it wasn’t the band’s initial idea. “Our A&R guy was a good sport because we totally fucked with him for the first three months he was trying to talk to us,” he says. “We’d all send him dozens of text messages at once. I’m sure there’s some people at Warner Bros. who still think we’re a bunch of dicks.” —Dan Weiss

photo by dan monick





The Joy Formidable

Gym Class Heroes





The Maine


Arctic Monkeys




Free fl e with p xi disc u while rchase suppli es last

tho Free li hase urc p h it w es suppli while st la


The Kills



static s tat i c

Pig Love? Swining and dining with Matthew Herbert, who sharpens his sampling chops on One Pig



photo by socrates mitsios

In retrospect, it’s not so surprising that People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) got its knickers in a twist over Matthew Herbert’s new record. The artist himself refers quite casually to having made an album out of a pig. But to be clear, One Pig (Accidental) is not some sort of high-concept, pressed-on-pigskin art project; rather, it’s a high-concept, squeal-sampling sonic art project. Herbert’s a DJ/producer who’s made a career of stitching together found sounds, ambient noise and recording glitches1 into dance music that’s varying degrees of danceable. For One Pig, he followed, recorder in hand, a single pig from birth to abattoir to plate; then he chopped, sliced, processed and cured the resulting sounds into nine tracks of rhythmic, guttural mayhem that’s at turns touching, disturbing, dystopic and even sentimental. Yes, an animal was indeed harmed in the making of this record. But had PETA bothered to have a chat with the Kent, U.K.-based Herbert before knee-jerking him around (claiming he “thinks cruelty is entertainment”), they’d likely have learned that Herbert’s values are not antithetical to their own. “I think it’s a huge problem where we see animals as products and that they’re just there for our use,” says Herbert. “I think I would be hard-pressed to say that eating meat is fundamentally wrong, since it’s something that we’ve done since humans first came on the planet. But I certainly wouldn’t be comfortable saying we had a right to eat meat.” What he seems to be saying with this record is less slogan-ready than “meat is murder.” It’s more like: Meat, as it’s presently processed and consumed, is thoughtless and highly disrespectful. Heady stuff, especially for a “pop” record. Which is likely why PETA assumed the worst—that Herbert was recording, essentially, the soundtrack to an Animal Planet snuff film. But don’t think he doesn’t appreciate the dustup’s deeper implications. “It made me very excited, apart from being annoyed,” says Herbert. “I love that it was the idea of music that got them upset; they hadn’t heard it yet, because I hadn’t written it yet. I love the idea that a piece of music was threatening somehow to their beliefs.” The picture One Pig2 paints of the life of an animal raised for slaughter (even one, as here, raised on a humane farm) is—to whip out some Hobbes—nasty, brutish and short. Save for the hopeful squeals of opening track “August 2009” and the melodic postscript lament of closing track “May 2011,” much of the album is marked by grunts and rooting growls, slamming gates, monstrous moans and staccato oinking. All this despite the fact that Herbert was not allowed to record the pig’s actual death—not at the abattoir’s refusal, but at that of a veterinarian working with the project. “The only other time I’ve been told I can’t record was in the Houses of Parliament,” says Herbert, “where they said they were worried about bringing the House into disrepute. Every journalist and musician I’ve talked to has long ago abandoned the idea that a piece of music could challenge the government … Getting that reaction both from PETA3 and the government was a kind of thumbs up that I was on the right track.” (He is, however, distraught that One Pig has generated more controversy than, say, “Nonsound” from

his Matthew Herbert Big Band4 record, There’s Me And There’s You, which sampled “international protesters being shot against the wall in Ramallah and tanks crushing buildings. I thought I’d get all sorts of shit for that, but it went by unnoticed.”) It’s also been revelatory—though Herbert can’t yet verbalize fully how—for him as a mammalian resident of planet Earth. After discussing musical palettes and “vocabulary,” I ask if he feels like he began to understand One Pig’s “soloist.” He pauses, inhales sharply, then answers: “I think that’s a very interesting question, and I don’t think I’m ready to answer it yet … The music business sells music as a product, but actually it’s a process. A good example would be the fact that all the while I was making this record, I ate pork, including bits of this pig. I wasn’t intending to, but it ended up being cooked by some very great chefs.5 And so I ate it, and I don’t feel happy about it. But the day that I stopped making [the record], I stopped. It’s one of those things where you learn by the doing it and living with the consequences of that action, rather than reaching some kind of instant moment of enlightenment. So, to answer your question, I think that there’s absolutely some key phrases in the language of the pig, but it was [alive] for 24 weeks and I spent in total probably 24 hours with it. The whole record just me left feeling pretty humbled. And feeling a sense of respect for this animal, who much didn’t understand, but who was a fellow animal, a mammal.” After slaughter, the meat was frozen and cured to be used in the August 2010 feast track. But the ninth song, “May 2011,” recorded just a couple of months before the album was completed, is jarring in its melodicism, a lament in guitar and voice, Herbert’s own, celebrating the joys of a simple, pastoral life. His plan was to record this remembrance in the pig’s now-empty sty. Except it was occupied by a sow who’d given birth to about 10 piglets the night before. “They were all asleep snuggled up against her,” says Herbert, reverently. “I went in and stood, literally, just a foot or two feet away from them, and sang this song. For the second half of the song we moved up to a second sty [with] about 40 pigs in it. You hear one take a piss at the end, just after I finished singing, which, for me, was like the pig’s response to my heartfelt rendition. It’s sort of like the perfect ‘fuck you.’ And it beat everything PETA could say to me, really.” —Brian Howard

1 Herbert adheres to what he calls P.C.C.O.M. (Personal Contract for the Composition of Music [Incorporating the Manifesto of Mistakes]), which states among its 11 tenets that “what are commonly known as accidents” are not only encouraged, but should “have equal rights within the composition as deliberate, conscious or premeditated compositional actions or decisions.” ( manifesto) 2 One Pig is the third in a trilogy of single-source recordings Herbert’s released over the last two years. The first was One One, composed entirely of sounds made by Herbert himself. The second was One Club, made of sounds recorded during one night at Frankfurt’s Robert Johnson nightclub 3 Herbert pronounces PETA with a short “e” sound: peh’ tah. 4 Herbert assembled a big band—which he then sampled—for two albums: 2003’s Goodbye Swingtime and 2008’s There’s Me And There’s You 5 One Pig’s eighth track, “August 2010,” was recorded at a meal prepared from One Pig’s star and includes sounds made by a “pig’s blood instrument” crafted by experimental instrument maker Henry Dagg, who made the “sharpsichord” featured on Björk’s Biophilia. “He built a series of tubes with plungers,” says Herbert. “You push the plungers down and the blood gurgles up through it and through these tuned reeds. It makes quite a sort of disturbing noise.”



static s tat i c

The Madcap Laughs Last Five-disc Beach Boys boxed set The SMiLE Sessions pulls back the curtain on the trippy mystery of the greatest album never made



photo courtesy capitol photo archives

Teenage symphonies to God. That’s the

phrase Beach Boys auteur Brian Wilson used to describe the heartbreaking works of staggering genius he was creating in the mid-’60s, when his compositional powers were achieving miraculous states of beauty and innovation even as his fevered faculties skirted the fringes of madness. With the 1966 release of Pet Sounds, the Beach Boys’ orchestral-pop opus of oceanblue melancholia, Wilson clinched his status as teen America’s Mozart-on-the-beach in the cosmology of modern pop music. Less than a year later, he would fall off the edge of his mind, abandoning his ambitious LSDinspired follow-up, an album with the working title Dumb Angel—later changed to SMiLE— which many who were privy to the recording sessions claimed would change the course of music history. The Beatles would, as the history books tell us, assume the mantle of culture-shifting visionaries with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, released just a few months after Wilson pulled the plug on SMiLE. Meanwhile, Wilson sank into a decadeslong downward spiral of darkness, exiling himself to a bedroom hermitage of terrifying hallucinations, debilitating paranoia, Herculean drug abuse and morbid obesity. While he would later recover some measure of his sanity, he would never again craft a work of such overarching majesty. In the wake of all the breathless hype for an album that was never finished, SMiLE took on mythical status, and a cult of Wilsonian acolytes sprang up as fellow musicians and super-fans tried to connect the dots into constellations and piece together a completed album from the bootlegs of recording session outtakes that have leaked out over the years. For decades, Wilson maintained a Sphinx-like silence, unwilling or unable to talk

about the project, which only amped up the mystery surrounding it. But given its central role in his precipitous downfall, it’s no wonder Wilson refused to even discuss SMiLE in interviews, let alone entertain repeated entreaties to finish and release it. Furthermore, he no longer had the Beach Boys’ golden throats to carry his tunes—brothers Carl and Dennis are deceased, and his relationship with cousin Mike Love has devolved into acrimony and six-figure litigation. Meanwhile, even with Wilson’s protracted absence from the music scene, the dark legend of SMiLE was passed down via oral tradition and backroom-traded bootlegs to succeeding generations of pop obsessives, scholars and composers, and hailed by many as the enigmatic “Rosebud” of popular music. Selected tracks from the SMiLE sessions— spectral, spooky, ineffably beautiful—released with 1994’s Good Vibrations boxed set only fanned the flames of obsession and lurid speculation. Like the mysterious leopard found frozen to death near the summit of the mountain in Hemingway’s The Snows Of Kilimanjaro, everyone wanted to know how Wilson got that high and what exactly he was looking for up there. Aided by the radical interventions of psychiatrists and a cornucopia of mood-altering and anti-psychotic medications—not to mention an empathetic support network of friends, family and business associates— Wilson has staged an impressive comeback despite the fact that he remains a very damaged soul. For the last decade, he has delivered moving concert performances with an exceptionally fluent 10-piece band of new-school L.A. scenesters that is capable of replicating the sunbeam glories of those Beach Boys harmonies and recreating the orchestral pop glories of Pet Sounds down to the last ornate sonic detail. Then, in 2004, Wilson shocked the music world with the announcement that he had finally completed his lost masterpiece with the aid of this crack touring band, re-recording the vocals and backing tracks and completing, with the help of his SMiLE-era lyricist Van Dyke Parks, the project’s half-finished songs. As welcome as news of this development was to SMiLE buffs, the end result was somehow less than completely satisfying, like visiting a replica of an historic artifact in a museum. (Not the actual bed that George Washington slept in, but an incredible facsimile!) The critical response was fawning, but smacked of the over-praise usually reserved for Special Olympians, and as such ultimately fleeting. Which is why new five-CD boxed set The SMiLE Sessions (Capitol) will be the final word on SMiLE, separating once and for all rumor from fact, solving old mysteries, cracking the riddles of incompletion and providing closure for those who

have pondered and puzzled over SMiLE’s tragicomic legend for the last 44 years. Relying on cutting-edge digital technology to assemble, assess and edit together the best and brightest moments buried in the more than 30 hours of SMiLE work tapes—which was a fool’s errand in the razor-and-Scotchtape analog era—and using the 2004 re-do as a guide for song selection and sequence, engineers Mark Linnett and Alan Boyd have assembled the closest we will ever come to a completed SMiLE on disc one. Discs two, three and four assemble rehearsal work tapes, embryonic early takes and alternate versions of the songs on disc one. These outtakes are fascinating for the range of experimentation and innovation attempted here, as well the telling snippets of dialogue (“Are you guys feeling the acid yet?” Wilson asks during an early run through the Gregorian chant of “Our Prayer”). Disc five contains 24 versions of “Good Vibrations,” enabling the listener to hear its evolution from quasi-R&B stomper to the trippy pocket-sized symphony that plays in perpetuity on oldies radio. Recorded over the course of nine months in three studios at a cost of $40,000, the song was at the time the most expensive single ever made. Serving as a bridge between Pet Sounds and SMiLE, “Good Vibrations” marks the beginning of Wilson’s use of the modular composition technique that made the song both a deathless classic and an intimation of SMiLE’s impending doom. Instead of tracking songs from beginning to end, as he did on Pet Sounds, Wilson recorded and re-recorded an endless series of interchangeable sonic segments that would be jigsawed together at the end. This technique would prove doable but daunting in the digital era—where point-andclick technology enabled the engineers to time travel back and forth across hours and hours of recording sessions in mere seconds and edit together otherwise incongruent musical passages with relative ease—but epic, laborious and, quite literally, crazy-making in the low-tech analog era of the late ‘60s. In that sense, SMiLE was way ahead of its time, as Wilson and his acolytes always claimed, if only because the technology needed to complete it simply didn’t exist in 1967. But a few listens to the songs on disc one would cause any neutral observer with a functioning pair of ears to conclude that this music was way ahead its time sonically and thematically—a cinematic travelogue narrated by a psychedelic barbershop quartet fronting a cosmic Salvation Army Band, mapping the birth of a nation, the westward expansion of manifest destiny from Plymouth Rock to blue Hawaii, evoking all the weirdness and whimsy, the laughter and the tears, the triumph and tragedy in-between—because it still sounds thoroughly modern, and for that matter altogether mind-blowing, 44 years after its stillborn inception. —Jonathan Valania



static s tat i c

Arresting Developments Deer Tick’s latest is unexpectedly young and restless “We got a new record,” says Deer Tick

frontman John McCaley. “It’s almost a Nashville record, except that it includes us.” It’s Saturday night in Nashville, just days before the band’s new album, Divine Providence (Partisan), hits record stores. The Providence, R.I., quintet has just entered the stage to a hero’s welcome, the packed house at the Mercy Lounge chuckling hardily at McCauley’s self-effacement. In the four years since its Music City debut—for an audience of about 70, mind you—the band has made a lot of friends here, a lot of fans in one of the most jaded music towns on earth. McCauley and Co.’s constant touring has brought them here time and again, to the point where many of the locals consider them Nashvillians-byassociation. That their new record would be even partially created in Davidson County is a surprise to no one. That it’s such a rocking record? Maybe. Divine Providence—recorded in Rhode Island, mixed and mastered in Nashville—is a rough-and-tumble record, the product of too many late nights and long drives to count. It’s a departure from Deer Tick’s previous efforts, surly, drunken and fuzzed-out where they



used to be folky and introspective, filled with Oi! chants and wailing saxophone solos where understated country influences used to live. While there are moments of bleary-eyed tenderness, Divine Providence is defined by its most explosive moments of goonish behavior. When the band screams, “We’re full-grown men, but we act like kids” on album opener “The Bump,” it’s not just a catchy, clever observation, but a statement of purpose. It’s a dedication to immaturity and un-professionalism in career-level musicians, a dedication much needed in the world of contemporary rock ‘n’ roll. In a city like Nashville, which is all business almost all of the time, it’s a welcome relief. But this crowd isn’t all business either, or at least all music business. There’s a surprisingly large military contingent, down from Fort Campbell in Kentucky; there are as many sleeve-tatted punks as there are polo-shirted office types, as many plaid-clad beardos as folks in pleated slacks and designer dresses. And at least one wedding party, complete with satin gowns, tuxedos and all. The one common bond among them is that they’re all wasted. And they can hold their liquor. The

crowd is rambunctious—never quite rowdy enough to be pegged as troublemakers, but certainly not the folks that will be sitting in the front row at church the next morning. As the band, decked out in matching suits and looking like five parallel-dimension Paul Westerbergs, launches into a particularly raucous rendition of “The Bump,” the whole crowd— punks and preps, dudes and dudettes— chants in unison, “We’re full-grown men! But we act like kids!” “Volcano.” “The Squeeze.” “Scent Of A Woman.” It’s Saturday afternoon, and the band is lounging around the green room with tourmate Virgin Forest. For about 15 minutes, the members of Deer Tick have been going back and forth naming movies “that could be about taking a shit.” It’s juvenile, for sure, but it’s entertaining, a game that keeps the boredom of road life at bay while they wait to soundcheck. McCauley is texting with the band Dawes, who are touring in the opposite direction, hitting many of the same clubs. It seems that singer Taylor Goldsmith found the present Deer Tick left for them at a club in North Carolina, and the three-day-old poop in a Tupperware con-

photo by scott alario

tainer has induced vomiting. There’s a hearty chuckle from the gang in the green before attentions are turned back to debating how you’re supposed to dip those tiny tomatoes on the veggie platter without getting dip on your fingers. And beer; everyone is wondering where the beer from their rider is—it’s time to start drinking. While most bands that have spent extended amounts of time on the road ease off just a bit, limiting themselves to one or two beers before a show, saving the livers and their performances from the ravages of alcohol, the Deer Tick dudes aren’t sweating it. “It’s a lot more hectic now, but it’s a lot easier to tour,” says McCauley. “Making a considerable amount more money means we can have a tour manager and a sound tech and a guitar tech, so we don’t have all that stuff to worry about except not getting too drunk before the show. Actually, we don’t worry about that … We’ve had some pretty, um, rambunctious shows, but I think we’re getting better at playing shows.” “Yeah, we’re not getting more responsible,” says drummer Dennis Ryan. “We’re just getting way better at playing wasted.”

“I make sure when I’m home to have at least six beers,” says keyboardist Rob Crowell. “To stay in shape.” “Having less than 12 beers in a day for me just really sucks,” says McCauley. “Twelve is the minimum. The maximum? There is no maximum.” “I think I have to watch myself to make sure I don’t get lazy, because we’ve got all these nice people working for us,” says guitarist Ian O’Neil. “It’s so easy when you’re up all night to sleep all day not doing anything. As much as it’s a nice convenient thing to have people working for you, I don’t want to be doing nothing.” As the house lights go up at the Mercy Lounge and the final chorus of Divine Providence’s “Let’s All Go To The Bar”—quite possibly the best drinking song in a generation—rings in our ears, there’s no question of whether Deer Tick is pulling its own weight. After an hour and a half of sweat-drenched rock ‘n’ roll, which featured McCauley staring down a potential fight until it dissipated and a bartender pig-pile during a cover of Hank Williams’ “Move It On Over,” in addition to hundreds—maybe even thousands—of beer

cans crushed and bottles emptied, the boys in Deer Tick are backstage, completely exhausted, but cordial and welcoming of every friend and fan who’s looking for a moment of face time. All the poop-filled Tupperware in the world can’t negate the fact that this is a professional outfit, dedicated to the things that matter (making great records, treating their fans well) and not the thing that doesn’t (say, sobriety). As indie rock has become an increasingly viable career path, more of a business model than an aesthetic reaction to the overwhelmingly bland world of popular music, it’s comforting to see a band that’s still willing to keep things crazy, to keep things unpredictable, to keep things punk rock despite increasing success. It’s a lost art, frankly, with the members of Deer Tick some of the last practitioners. In a city like Nashville, with so much of its debauched history overwritten by the calls for polish and predictability from squares in suits who listen to spreadsheets rather than songs, it’s a godsend. You might even say it’s divine providence. —Sean Maloney



static s tat i c

Sweet Surrender Rainer Maria’s in the rearview, but Caithlin De Marrais still wants to be heard “God damn it/I’m not talking about my

heart like it’s something you could break.” Those were the first words most of us heard come out of Caithlin De Marrais’ mouth, singshouted over what would become Rainer Maria’s signature cacophonic spree. Now here we are, a decade and a half later, and De Marrais is a solo artist, suddenly singing with the lush lofty voice of some one-cig-aday robin, and her heart remains the hot topic. And damn it, it’s still intense. “Red coats surround our fortress/Our town is falling,” she coos over lush synths and a nigh trip-hoppy robo beat. “Let it fall.” So goes the title track off De Marrais’ second album, Red Coats, just released on End Up Records (the label she co-runs with her old bandmate Kyle Fischer and a few other Brooklyn musicians). It’s a song about the little Connecticut town she grew up in, a place that still bears Revolutionary scars from when the Brits rode in with torches. It’s also a song about love, she says, about letting yourself be invaded and burned. It’s about giving in. “I also happen to be married to an Englishman,” she laughs. Starting with its nerve-rattling Kickstarter fund drive, Red Coats did require willing acts of submission. After laying down meticu-



lously layered demos in GarageBand, Logic and Reason for months on end, De Marrais walked into Saltmines Studios—an oft-lauded hive of indie industry in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn—and threw herself into the hands of producers Steve Salett and Josh Kaufman. “I love writing on my own, but when it comes time to record, I love people that want to take risks with me,” she says. When a track suddenly required a cello, say, they’d go knocking on doors around the studio. For De Marrais, it is now and ever shall be about the words. That’s why she used to blow out her voice with Rainer Maria, and why as a solo artist every word hovers above the minimal music with crisp clarity. She wants to be heard. “The films that I enjoy and the books that I read—I don’t go for the romantic comedies,” she says when prodded about a career-long lyrical rap sheet when it comes to mysteries of the heart. “Life is so bittersweet. Love is never one thing. It’s much easier for me to sit down at a piano and have my cathartic moment that way.” As with her Rainer days, De Marrais often runs the risk of getting branded as too artsy, or too brainy, though Red Coats’ breathy, soul-

ful delivery should nip some of that. Those old knocks bring to mind the anti-intellectual, think-with-your-gut vibe that ruled the George Bush dark ages. It makes De Marrais think of the Cleopatra bio she’s in the middle of right now. “Alexandria was this city that was incredibly artistic and painting everywhere and just totally luxurious,” she says. “And Rome, on the other hand, was very spartan.” It’s obvious which city she’d choose. “The criticism of someone who’s being extravagant with words is—maybe it’s coming from a place where that person doesn’t think that makes life better,” she says. “But for me it does.” The conversation spirals toward the curious state of the music industry, specifically the indie underworld she’s called home all these years. “Now everybody wants to be a musician,” she says. “Which is great, but it’s not sustainable. There’s a big identity crisis with a lot of professions. Not just music. Do it. I definitely would not discourage anyone. But if it’s something that you really want to do, go to school for it. Like really study. Really commit your life to it. The work that will stay is the work that is meaningful, I think.” —Patrick Rapa

photo by spencer heyfron

TEGAN AND SARA • GET ALONG CD/DVD combo featuring a live set of songs covering their 15 years as a band, and a DVD of three separate films: States by Danny O’Malley about the origins of Tegan and Sara; India by Elinor Svoboda, about their firstever tour of India; and For The Most Part by Salazar, a recording of an intimate live show, shot over two days in Vancouver.

BELLFLOWER “Enjoyably badass, with a plot that’s like one long, drunken dare.” -Noel Murray The Onion AV Club

“Hallucinatory. Practically jumps off the screen.” – Peter Travers Rolling Stone

BELLFLOWER © 2011 Bellflowerthemovie, LLC


Available NOVEMBER ��th

ADELE 21 The stunning studio album has sold over 10 million copies worldwide. Features the hit singles “Rolling in the Deep” and “Someone Like You.”

Live at The Royal Albert Hall Contains a 90-minute, 17-song concert performance, a behind-the-scenes documentary, and a 75-minute live CD.



static s tat i c

It Was Written Be it pseudonym or birth name, John Wesley Harding still belongs above the title John Wesley Harding has a reputation

for being one cool customer. Cambridgeeducated, he’s urbane and intelligent with a razor-sharp, often self-deprecating sense of humor. But today, the words are tumbling out in random sequence like runaway ping-pong balls bouncing down a granite staircase. All I had to do was tell him, in all honesty, that his new album, The Sound Of His Own Voice (Yep Roc), was the best thing he’d ever done. Once he regained his composure, he began to explain, before he was asked, how he created a masterpiece at age 46, 18 albums into a musical career that started almost 25 years ago in his native England. One thing has become clear to Harding. Since he published his first novel, the critically acclaimed Misfortune, in 2005, followed by two more successful books (with a fourth in the works), songwriting has become much easier. “Writing is a muscle and you need to exercise it,” he says. “When you don’t do it a lot, it’s like a tap that becomes rusted-over. You can turn it and water will come out. But you might have to get a wrench.” The Sound Of His Own Voice is semi-autobiographical, something Harding terms “unheard-of behavior” for him. “There’s actually a verse in ‘Sing Your Own Song’ about my daughter, Tilda,” he says. One of the album’s centerpieces, “There’s A Starbucks Where The Starbucks Used To Be,” breathes the same rarified air as Ray Davies’ “Village Green Preservation Society.” People ask him if it’s an anti-Starbucks song. “That’s beside the point,” he insists. “It’s about progress and gentrification. And it was inspired by an Onion article where a Starbucks opened in the bathroom of another Starbucks.” His life has been radically altered by one of life’s milestones. He’s been married for six years, has two kids and is living in the outskirts of Philadelphia. What caused this former skirtchaser to settle down? Was his biological clock ticking? “I had just broken up with someone I’d moved to New York with, and I met this very nice girl,” he says. “Life’s all about timing. Who would have thought I’d find myself in this beautiful house, bordered by the state park on three sides? You walk down to the Wissahickon River, and you’re in one of the loveliest places in the world.”



It’s also an easy commute to New York for his Cabinet Of Wonders shows. Harding has been cherry-picking eclectic lineups since 2009 for the Cabinet Of Wonders, a combination of the best elements of British music hall and cabaret, with a dash of American vaudeville. He’s even brought singer Rosanne Cash onboard. “That was a standout event,” he says. “Rosanne is one of the wittiest women I know. She’s totally going to deliver.” A deal was recently struck to air Cabinet Of Wonders shows on NPR. Wherever he’s hung his hat, in San Francisco, Seattle, Brooklyn or Philadelphia, Harding’s had a real knack for connecting and collaborating with the best local musicians. Whether it’s R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey, formerly of Seattle and now in Portland, the Fiery Furnaces and the Hold Steady in New York or the Movie Stars in San Francisco, there was always a fertile talent pool available to play on JWH’s records and shows. “What you have an absolute right to do as a songwriter is to hijack bands you really love,” he says. “I’ve never wanted to have the same kind of players around me all the time. My regular band, the English U.K., play all the Cabinet Of Wonders shows. And I would have been delighted to use them on the new album.” What he did instead was to employ the Decemberists as his backing band and cut the album in their hometown of Portland with McCaughey producing. Harding first met Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy when they sang “Wild Mountain Thyme” together on a Portland radio show called Live Wire. “We really got on,” says Harding. “It was funny—he knew the Robyn Hitchcock version, and I knew the Bob Dylan version.” Sometime later, Meloy asked Harding to emcee a Decemberists show at New York’s Terminal 5. “They did this lottery-type thing, writing the name of their songs on enormous balls to choose a set list,” says Harding. “They sent me a bottle of 25-year-old Pappy Van Winkle whiskey as a thank you. It was all very propitious.” That paved the way for Harding to ask the band to back him on The Sound Of His Own Voice. “It was almost a case of very politely asking a father if I could have his daughter’s hand in marriage,” says Harding. “Colin told me, ‘Ask them. They’re all individuals.’” With

McCaughey producing and Buck on guitar, it was a good time for all. Harding pauses to reflect when asked if his career might have unfolded differently if he’d used his real name, Wesley Stace, instead of borrowing a stage name from the Texas gunfighter used by Bob Dylan for a 1967 album title—after it was misspelled by Dylan. “I always say, ‘I’m named after the Dylan album, not the cowboy,” says Harding. “I don’t know whether the name negatively impinged on my career. In 1988, I was offered a gig with Hothouse Flowers, and I knew I didn’t want it under my real name in case it went horribly wrong. ‘Just call me John Wesley Harding,’ I told them. By the end of that tour, I had a tiny record deal with Demon Records as John Wesley Harding.” If he’d known his career would last this long, he’s certain he would have used his birth name from the beginning. Publishing fiction as Wesley Stace has reaped benefits, he admits. “Rather than having my work belittled as the novel of a musician, it was nice to know I wasn’t just trading on the John Wesley Harding name,” he says. “Not that it’s exactly a household name.” Although it took him time to warm up to the music, Harding’s father now boasts of this late-blooming fiction career of his son. “He tells the neighbors I’m finally flying under my true colors,” says Harding. “The last thing my dad saw at the cinema was Bonnie And Clyde. He never really got the Beatles. But he’s come to understand more about my music, over the years.” A month after our interview, the John Wesley Harding circus is in town. Backed by a versatile sextet dubbed the King Charles Trio that includes McCaughey and Buck along with Jenny Conlee-Drizos, Chris Funk, John Moen and Nate Query of the Decemberists, Harding unveils the new album at San Francisco’s tiny Red Devil Lounge. To make the band members think they’re still in Portland, it’s been raining hard all day. Harding has a cold, and he’s swilling DayQuil like it’s a five-hour energy drink. After sound check, he explains what’s up with his band’s puzzling moniker. “I’d written ‘sing chorus twice’ on the bottom of a chord sheet, but it got cut off on the photocopy,” he says. “It looked like ‘King Charles Three.’ And you must be aware, that’s the name of the future monarch of England.” —Jud Cost

photo by allison michael orenstein



Keep up with NEW MUSIC. FREE SAMPLER and SALE PRICES on these titles ALL MONTH LONG!

FREE CD SAMPLER while supplies last at participating stores





Angels and Airwaves

Love Album Parts One and Two

The Black Keys

Florence and the Machine

El Camino






Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds 24


Childish Gambino Camp


The Path of Totality IN STORES 12/6



Lady Gaga


Born This Way The Remix

Welcome Reality


Here and Now




Rise Against

Tender Mercies


Tender Mercies

Warren Haynes Presents: The Benefit Concert Volume 4 Various Artists IN STORES 12/6



Amy Winehouse

Lioness: Hidden Treasure IN STORES 12/6




on the record

a conversation with

david lynch Despite having worked on music with composer Angelo Badalamenti for cuts on his films such as Blue Velvet, Wild At Heart and Mulholland Drive, as well as eerie pop albums such as Julee Cruise’s Floating Into The Night; despite having paired with jazz guitarist David Jaurequi for Fox Bat Strategy and sound engineer John Neff for BlueBob; despite having worked with Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous on Dark Night Of The Soul, David Lynch is finally getting around to recording his own full album, Crazy Clown Time, on the small Sunday Best label. It features the director on vocals and all instruments with a big assist from his studio operator Big Dean Hurley, a name that sounds like a character Lynch made up so to stalk the back woods of Twin Peaks. That the LP sounds dreamily crepuscular and oddly haunting is expected. That it has great delicious hints of decidedly rural bluesy and folk in its mix is not so readily expected. Lynch explains. What was the first instrument you ever played, and what was it that made you take up its cause? I picked up the trumpet when I was a small boy. I’m not sure what made me want to pick it up in the first place. Even as I wanted a trumpet I knew in my heart-of-hearts that it was an instrument whose time had kind of gone by. I should’ve picked up the guitar. How does Angelo Badalamenti figure into what it is you’ve done as a musician? Your new record doesn’t sound like anything he’s done for you, or that you two have done together. Angelo is, like, in my life, a huge inspiration. Knowing him has really been a blessing because he brought me into the world of music. He allowed me to think in that world. I never thought that world would be one I could go into. Angelo changed that. He liked my lyrics, encouraged me. That’s how it started, writing those. Trying to make them work. And we found this magic in working together. That was huge. Hang on. You don’t think, despite having done so much previous soundtrack work and having had interactions with the likes of Paul McCartney and David Bowie, that you could have existed in the musical



world? I’m not trying to lead the conversation, but I find that interesting with those ties, to say nothing of the potency of your imagery, you’d feel better about it. I suppose I thought those things that you show us cinematically might be as easily conveyed by you in musical terms. Yeah, I know what you’re talking about, but it’s true—I didn’t feel comfortable making that leap. I felt as if that world was unwelcoming. It was like being in a big building with many, many rooms that I was comfortable in. Yet there was just one room where I was completely uncomfortable. Other than Angelo’s considerable inspiration, was there any other moment on your own where the confidence was there, where you knew you could do this on your own? Nope. It still isn’t there. I still feel as if in any moment somebody could come in—a butler type, very proper—speak very quietly to me while leaning in and say in my ear, “Sir, we’d like to ask you to leave this room.” There is, strangely enough, a true rural sensibility to what sounds like modern blues and folk in this record. Is that something in your background, what with having lived in the South and the Northwest in particular?

I lived on the East Coast as well, but I think living as I did in Virginia, I did get a little tiny breeze of that coming from the piney woods and those mountains. A certain kind of character emerged with those sounds. I caught him. I think I know where you’re going with this, but who is this character? I’d describe him as a character in his, um, late 20s. Pretty thin. Bad teeth. Likes to drink moonshine—white lightning. Drives a pickup truck that’s very old and knows how to work on an engine so to keep the truck running. Has a few friends. Doesn’t do much. Has a job. Probably a trucker. But he is a deep, deep romantic. And you see him as the physical manifestation of the new album? Noooooo. Just some things in it. OK, what particular tracks do you see this fellow inhabiting? I can see him emerging quite vividly throughout “Speed Roadster.” You see him come out in “Football Game.” A little bit in “These Are My Friends.” And then there’s another side of him in “Stones Gone Up.” I enjoy hearing your voice on the record. Oh boy. Do you feel like on occasion you’re singing through this character you see? Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah … I know this character. It’s him singing. Not me. How would you describe Karen O being here? Hers is a strange presence here, and that’s saying something. What character is Karen playing? Before she did her track, what set of directives did you give her, what objective? She plays a character that knows and loves Pinky. I gave her the lyrics and she sat by herself, like seven feet away from me, and we played the track for her over and over. And at a certain point she decided that she wanted to step into a recording booth and go for it. She nailed it in seven takes. Maybe five.

photo by chris saunders

What new music inspires you? What have you had on your playlist as of late? I listen to a Brooklyn band called Au Revoir Simone. Lissie. Lykke Li. The Kills. Neil Young’s Le Noise. Love that record—love it. I got turned on to Gary Clark Jr. I love his blues. You should see his videos. That’s a great sound that he has coming out of him. Very powerful. Who is this Big Dean guy? What is he to this record? I thought that he too was a made-up character. No. Big Dean is real, a huge part of all this. I couldn’t have done it without him. So much of music is a result of combos, two people or more. That group will conjure a certain thing that couldn’t happen alone or with even another person. Say if Billy went with Sam or Dan, they’ll do a certain thing and it will sound a certain way. Then Billy will go over to Mike and Paul, and it would be and sound completely different. Combos realize certain things. Dean is the musician and engineer, and we jam. The jamming leads to what you heard. Sorry, sir, but the very idea of you jamming—wow. Is there any thinking about something live? The answer is nooooo. [Laughs] Why so quick to go there? We’re a studio band. [Giggles] Personally, I couldn’t pull it off on a live thing. I would be totally … I have too much respect for musicians who can do this and do it right night after night. My last question. I wouldn’t normally ask this sort of thing, but what is the significance of the title? I don’t want to read too much into it. I love this title. It says something about the nature of the world that we live in at this time. So, then, you think the planet at this point is both insane and clowny? [Laughs] You nailed it. —A.D. Amorosi




R O O T S the

Betty Wright joins forces with The Roots for the release of her latest studio recording, which serves up 14 earthy, funk-drenched soul anthems, all co-written by Wright and co-produced by Wright, Ahimir “Questlove” Thompson of The Roots, and Angelo Morris. The album features guest performances by Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg, Joss Stone, and more.

R O O T S the



the new studio album


includes the hit single,

“Make My” feat. Big K.R.I.T.













/ / /

in stor es now




/ / /








TM & © 2011 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Used Under Authorization. Star Wars and all characters, names and related indicia are trademarks of and © Lucasfilm Ltd. TM





TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX, FOX, and associated logos are trademarks of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and its related entities. ® STAR WARS ®: EPISODE I — THE PHANTOM MENACE TM STAR WARS ®: EPISODE I — THE PHANTOM MENACE TM

/ / / / / /



/ / /



/ / /


available for




TM & © 2011 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Used Under Authorization. Star Wars

TM &and © 2011 Lucasfilm Ltd.names All Rights Reserved. Used Underare Authorization. Star of Wars characters, names related indicia are trademarks of and © Lucasfilm Ltd. allTMcharacters, and indicia andand ©allWars Lucasfi Ltd. and names & © 2011 Lucasfi lm Ltd. Allrelated Rights Reserved. Usedtrademarks Under Authorization. Star and lm all characters, and related indicia are trademarks of and © Lucasfilm Ltd.

TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX, FOX, and associated logos are trademarks of Twentieth TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX, FOX, and associated logos are trademarks of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and its related entities. CenturyCENTURY Fox FilmFOX, Corporation and itslogos related entities. of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and its related entities. TWENTIETH FOX, and associated are trademarks




TM & © 2011 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserv

TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX, FOX, and associated logos are

While we’re loving Amy and Adele, let us not forget this British Queen of Soul.

dusty springfield Ultimate Collection

The Very Best of Dusty Springfield

The music of the original

$9.99 or less *Titles and prices vary by store. More music from Soul Queens and Kings $9.99 or less every day at record stores.


Fun Times in Cleveland Today Floyd fanboys Mr. Gnome affirm that the weather outside is frightful

On Madness In Miniature (El Marko),

Cleveland-based duo Mr. Gnome evokes the sound of Queens Of The Stone Age, Belly and the entire 4AD catalog. The pair’s third fulllength is a seemingly incongruous mix of aggressively grungy guitars (a nod to singer/ guitarist Nicole Barile’s hesher roots) and sugary-sweet melodies (which drummer Sam Meister apparently prefers), tied together by a mutual love affair with Pink Floyd. According to Barile, Live At Pompeii is the secret to the pair’s happy marriage: Meister initially wooed her with repeat viewings of the Dark Side Of The Moon-era concert film. “I was really into stoner music like Kyuss when I was a teenager,” says Barile. “I like heavy music, but it has to have a more mellow vibe for me to really connect with it. Sam got into Björk and Portishead a little earlier than I did. When we started Mr. Gnome in 2005, there was definitely that feeling-out process where we were trying to find some common ground. Sam has always been really into classic rock, especially Pink Floyd. We started watching Live At Pompeii together and getting into the spacier parts. When I first saw it, it



was like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s what I want to do.’” According to Barile, Madness In Miniature was written in fits and spurts over the course of nine months while she watched a harsh Ohio winter blanket the city in dirty snow, then an equally punishing summer erase signs of rebirth with torrential downpours. Tracks like “Winter” and “Watching The City Sail Away” neatly encapsulate Barile’s seasonal affective disorder. “With this album, I think it’s obvious that all of the songs were written at different times,” she says. “Some of them are a little happier, and some of them are dramatically less so. But have you ever experienced an Ohio winter, man? They’re hopelessly depressing and dark, and it exerts a powerful influence on how we write music, too. There’s a feeling that things could all fall apart at any moment.” Last fall, the pair drove across the country to California and spent seven days tracking guitars and drums at Josh Homme’s Pink Duck Studios, where Mr. Gnome also recorded 2009’s Heave Yer Skeleton. Longtime engineer Beau Sorenson followed Barile and Meister back to Cleveland to track vocals, some additional loops and piano elements in the ru-

dimentary home studio they began to put together a couple of years ago, but they walked away feeling like they hadn’t amassed a full album’s worth of material. So, Barile started toying around in GarageBand and came up with three powerful little pop songs—all less than a minute long—that serve as segues between the album’s more expansive tracks. That’s where the “miniature” in Madness In Miniature comes into play. The “madness” part stems from the pair’s shared DIY ethic and steadfast refusal to compromise any aspect of Mr. Gnome’s sound or presentation. A third business partner maintains the day-to-day operations of the band’s label, freeing Barile and Meister to take a very hands-on approach to art, merchandise design and making videos. “Control is the most awesome aspect of having your own label,” says Barile. “You have the latitude to make decisions without people telling you that you can’t do what you want to do or that your music is too weird. While other labels are crumbling and bands get churned through the mill, it’s not only a smart move— it’s the only move.” —Nick Green


Exercising Demons With its third platter of heart-burned synth pop, Future Islands is still working it out

Future Islands’ current tour van, the

band’s third in five years, looks like a keeper. It’s an old Chevy Astro approaching 200,000 on the odometer. There is one aspect of the reliable ride that’s going to waste, however: the cartoonish cat-and-dog logo of Hugs And Kisses Grooming Palace. For a quarter of those miles, over the past 18 months, the Baltimorebased keyboard-brooders have been a rolling national advertisement for Newport, N.C.’s number-one pet salon. Don Draper’s asleep at the wheel; they could have been getting paid. “It’s funny how many people stop me on the street,” says singer Samuel Herring, laughing. “It’s pretty much Dumb & Dumber when we’re on the road.” Maybe it isn’t the Billboard most bands are chasing. But charting the trio’s artistic trajectory, from East Carolina art-school confidentiality (spiky punkers Art Lord & The Self Portraits) to the potent emotional turmoil roiling just beneath the surface of On The Water (Thrill Jockey), Future Islands’ second stellar LP in as many years, is easy. All you have to do is listen.

photo by mike vorassi

Bearing similar features—William Cashion’s rib-caged bass, Gerrit Welmers’ inhale/exhale synths and acupunctured drum patterns, Herring’s baritonal, lump-throated snarls— but volumes of newfound perspective, the album plays big brother to 2010’s In Evening Air, wrapping its arm around those inconsolable breakup tales and sharing some stories of its own. “You can clean around the wound,” growls Herring, lips curled, on eighth track “Balance,” his British-thespian line readings in Lord Olivier form. “But if you want it to heal/ It just takes time.” Herring’s wounds leak Future Islands’ lifeblood. In Evening Air is his masochistic postmortem of an ill-fated relationship, bookended by two particularly gorgeous and gory autopsies (“Walking Through That Door,” “As I Fall”). Recorded in seclusion using field recordings from its Carolina shoreline setting, On The Water finds him after the wake, sifting through faded letters and photos, searching for meaning at the scenes of the crime. The process began in January, Herring says, on what he calls “my solo Southern vision quest.”

Says Herring, “I was revisiting a lot of the old haunts that In Evening Air deals with: the place we first met, the first time I held your hand and walked you to a car. That’s what ‘Where I Found You’ is about. ‘Tybee Island’ is the beach in Savannah (Ga.) where we first kissed. I had these hang-ups, these old ghosts, and it bothered me to be there. I realized I need to go on this quest to chase those fears and make new memories, my own memories, so that it wasn’t so linked to that past. Not to beat the past, but to understand it and feel stronger about it.” What results is a push/pull meditation on looking back while moving forward, well-suited for lovelorn purgatory—or midlevel-band perseverance. Whereas Herring had the first verse of hoarse-whisperer “Tybee Island” in his head for six years, the band composed album backbone “Where I Found You,” “Give Us The Wind” and “Balance” during recording. “We try to make it as punk as possible,” says Cashion of Future Islands’ songwriting vérité. But also trying to knot the heartstrings, he adds. “It’s OK to cry. That’s our whole vibe.” —Noah Bonaparte Pais




Intelligent Trunk Music Ohio-born MC Stalley’s all about elevation

In early 2011, Stalley was maxing in his New

York City apartment when his cell phone rang. “Yo!” an unknown voice exclaimed. “It’s Rick Ross.” The next day, the young MC was on a plane to Dallas, and by April, Stalley had signed to rapper Ross’ Maybach Music Group. Born and raised in blue-collar Massillon, Ohio, Stalley was a high-school basketball star whose prowess on the court earned him the nickname “Stallion,” as well as a scholarship to University of Michigan. But after an early, career-ending foot injury, he was forced to drop out and head back to Massillon. It was only a temporary setback, though—he quickly regrouped and relocated to New York to pursue a hip-hop career. He dropped a few promising mixtapes—like 2009’s MadStalley: The Autobiography—but it wasn’t until 2011’s Lincoln Way Nights (Intelligent Trunk Music) that Stalley fully captured the music booming in his head. “When I created this sound—the genre I call ‘intelligent trunk music’—it had to be sonically, conceptually and lyrically intelligent,” he says. “I wanted to prove that you can make harder songs, but still be intelligent ... I wanted people to get stuck in the hooks and beats, but also be like, ‘Wow, he’s really saying something!’” On standout cut “Pound,” the production’s unlike any other dish on today’s hip-hop menu. It’s still rhythmic, but beat-less and minimal, pummeling with menacing, battlefield-horn punches that create a meaty, muscular scaffolding. “I love to create on empty space,” he



says. “It’s like an empty canvas ... I keep it to open so I can pinpoint certain flows.” Stalley’s flow is precise, fierce and sagacious. On “Pound,” and appearing throughout Lincoln Way Nights, is his hydra-headed concept of “elevators.” “No floor should be the same,” he says. “It’s about elevating the game and always rising up. But sometimes the structure falls ... It crumbles fast. Sometimes that elevator shaft can snap and you go right back down. But I’m always stepping up, up, up!” The metaphors lacing Stalley’s lyrics are often dense, but he’s not afraid to go straight for the kill. His aim? The lyrical and political vacuity of the contemporary hip-hop scene, especially its obsession with wealth and violence. “It’s like listening to their checkbooks the whole time,” he says about Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch The Throne. “Hip hop gets caught up in the glitz and artists forgot about where they come from. I’m more like a self-made, mom-and-pop business.” These are strange words coming from a rapper who just signed with Maybach, where label founder Ross seems to be hell-bent on Benzes, bitches and vengeance. But Stalley’s no fool—his cunning on the court has evolved into a strategic attack on the rap game. “It might take people a while to get here,” he says. “But I’m trying to elevate past all that and hopefully everybody can do it with me ... The movement’s growing. I wanna be the voice for them.” —Elliott Sharp

photo by kyle dean reinford


New Kinds Of Kicks San Francisco’s Thee Oh Sees get leaner and meaner on umpteenth full-length Carrion Crawler/The Dream

It’s hard to be a rookie Oh Sees fan. The

recently released Carrion Crawler/The Dream (In The Red) is Thee Oh Sees’ second fulllength release of 2011, excluding double-wide compilation Singles Vol. 1 And 2. It was almost the second and third. But instead, two EPs became one LP—the latest in an expansive catalog stuffed with so many releases, labeled under so many variant names (OCS, Ohsees, etc.) and so frequently issued in limited quantity that it’s hard to get an exact count of the band’s discography. “We’re putting out several things a year,” says frontman John Dwyer. “If I split it down the middle again, it’s a burden on the consumer. I always recommend that people get one soft one and one hard one. Probably Sucks Blood and The Master’s Bedroom (Is Worth Spending A Night In) would be a good place to start.” But one needn’t go back to 2007 and 2008, respectively, to get a sense of Thee Oh Sees’ polarity. Castlemania, released in June, is a jaunty pop album, soaked in reverb and played with a sense of carefree whimsy—Thee Oh Sees’ “soft” side incarnate. It was largely the product of Dwyer working tirelessly at home, with the help of some collaborators, includ-

photo by kelly o.

ing Ty Segall and Oh Sees keyboardist Brigid Dawson. Like Sucks Blood, it feels playful and spontaneous, despite having been assembled piece by piece. Castlemania might also be the last of its ilk; the apartment at 608 C Haight Street in San Francisco, where Dwyer recorded the album’s bulk and which he called home for more than a decade, was bought, and he and his neighbors—including a couple who’d lived downstairs for 22 years—were evicted with almost no notice. “It’s fairly typical asshole behavior for people who can actually afford to buy a home here,” says Dwyer. Carrion Crawler/The Dream could hardly be more different from its immediate predecessor. It’s the leanest, most forceful Oh Sees record to date. The band recorded it live in the Sacramento studio of producer Chris Woodhouse, as Castlemania reached record stores. Woodhouse gives the record a cleaner, drier sound, less reliant on gauzy noise and reverb, and more complementary to the direction the band has started to take. Dwyer says the group, which includes guitarist Petey Dammit, drummer Mike Shoun and new second drummer/multi-instrumentalist

Lars Finberg, in addition to Dawson and Dwyer, “seems like it’s a little more well-oiled than some of our previous stuff.” His mechanical analogy seems especially fitting on Carrion Crawler, as well. Coupling the sometimes manic psych garage Thee Oh Sees have long since mastered with heavy rhythmic throb indebted to the likes of Suicide and Neu!, Carrion Crawler is a driving, insistent album with unwavering momentum, delivered with a Cramps-like sense of chaos. Adding Finberg, letting the band develop and digging into Dwyer’s long-gestating krautrock influences (“It only took me 36 years to turn that influence into an actuality,” he laughs) are only part of the continual evolution of Thee Oh Sees. But it’s a direction in which Dwyer is particularly happy to be headed. “My life hasn’t been peppered with good moves, so it’s nice to feel like we’re doing something right and doing it in a really organic way,” he says. And for new Oh Sees fans looking for an entry point, the new album marks a new chapter, and a new opportunity to dive in. —Bryan C. Reed





in stores now










Year in



20 best albums 10 hidden treasures 10 Top-10 genre lists:

MAGNET picks the 20 best albums of the year and 10 essential records you probably missed out on, lists all the other musthear music from 2011 and interviews Yuck, the young British band responsible for the year’s best album.



electronic hard rock hip hop indie roots jazz noise punk/hardcore reissues singer/songwriter world music



1 Aérea Negrot

Arabxilla (B-Pitch)

2 Thundercat

The Golden Age Of Apocalypse (Brainfeeder)

3 Machinedrum


(Planet µ)

4 Dog Leather Greezy Man And Stinky Man Meets Smutty Ranks On Tarantula Hill (Ehse)

5 Washed Out

Within And Without (Sub Pop)


6 Hudson Mohawke

Satin Panthers (Warp)

7 Panda Bear

James Blake James Blake

Universal Republic

From March 2010, when Hessle

Audio issued his debut EP, to February 2011, when Universal Republic released this debut LP, James Blake didn’t go more than 17 weeks without giving techno-phobic, lock-jawed rockists something new to chew on. Stepped-on dubstep became a brunoise of R&B delicacies, arranged with tweezers on a filigreed platter. Absorbing those mutable updates now—all at once, preferably through headphones—is akin to watching an embryo grow under a microscope in the cockpit of a rocket ship. Blake’s namesake may be the boldest major-label move of the year: a claustrophobic remorse code of muted broken signals, intermittent transmissions from a satellite heart spinning out of orbit and the cold sweats that kick in when the rockets fail and the parabola bends. His itchy productions were born with an innate sense of agitated drama, the tension that lies in the shadows of a pregnant pause or fermata rest. Once Blake started actually singing, in a cut-up confessional between Antony Hegarty’s pearly

gatekeeper and the sweet-andlow rumble of Brown Sugar-era D’Angelo, they had no equal. —Noah Bonaparte Pais

19 Panda Bear Tomboy

Paw Tracks

Forgive Noah Lennox for all

the seasick hacks with a fourtrack, for the clamps on your garbage can during that year of “Bear” bands (we think it was 2005), for the indignity of seeing the word “chillwave” serifed in the New York Times. Forgive him for Animal Collective breaking up, even though that hasn’t happened yet—for when it eventually does, it will be because the most melodically charged experimental “rock” band in America over the last decade lost both its melodic muscle and its experimental engine. Tomboy, Lennox’s third outing as Panda Bear, is that kind of album: a massive, crushing thing, not so much in literal size (six ticks short of 50 minutes,

though looped ad infinitum) as in perceived weight (180 grams of Element 118, for all you Robert Schneiders out there). It’s an antithetical record of substances and substance, surfers and Scheherazades; a record of pedals and petals, its sound waves rippling between electrical pulse and human impulse. Lennox could have simply purged the Dramamineprescribed beach ploys of 2007’s Person Pitch, and everybody would have forgiven him. Instead, we can thank him for taking pop music further into the ether than anybody thought possible. —Noah Bonaparte Pais

18 Thurston Moore

Demolished Thoughts Matador

Lightness of touch is a tricky

proposition in rock music. So, the breathy, pillowy Demolished Thoughts—a gossamer, almost incorporeal sigh of an LP from an underground iconoclast whose collected noise dispatches could


(Paw Tracks)



(Young Turks)

9 SebastiAn


(Ed Banger) 10

James Blake James Blake

(Universal Republic)

fill several moldy milk crates— might be considered, among other things, an exercise in risk. Thurston Moore’s rough edges— vocally, and in terms of guitar tone—are here sanded and polished to an incandescent shine, hemorrhaging string sweetness and harp honey, accompanying swathes of strategically layered distortion contextualized as something beautifully alien. Even when its players’ angelic drift gets caught on a briar patch—see the vaguely punkrock beginning of “Circulation”— Thoughts is never anything less than ethereal. There’s an unavoidable sense that the whole thing could collapse at any time, that Moore—who at times seems like a ghost haunting his own album— might discorporate and dissolve; he never quite does, of course, and emerges clutching a sonic document of sadness, wonder and loss. —Raymond Cummings



HARD ROCK by MAtt ryan


1 Black Cobra



(Southern Lord)

2 Black Tusk

Eleanor Friedberger

Set The Dial (Relapse)

3 Wolves Like Us

Late Love

Last Summer



4 Mastodon

The Hunter (Reprise)

Seeing Eleanor Friedberger live

twice in 2011—once in a tiny room with an electric guitar turned way down, and again in a huge hall with her almost-noisy threepiece backing band—gives a wellrounded picture of her emerging brilliance. It’s something that threatens to eclipse her work with brother Matthew in Fiery Furnaces. Sure, there’s some serious Chrissie Hynde/Pretenders yearning, melodic action going on with Friedberger’s new group, but she also has that thermometerbusting Patti Smith drone that gets into your bloodstream. NYC references sprinkled throughout Last Summer might make you nostalgic for Woody Allen’s cinematic love notes to his hometown, but there’s also a real feel for Tom Verlaine’s grainy (nonexistent) diary entries on “One-Month Marathon.” “I Won’t Fall Apart On You Tonight” may be the most exciting single track of the year. If she builds on that, Friedberger could become a star, if that’s even what she wants. “I Imagine Governor’s Island As Shutter Island” is as precise as vintage Kenneth Patchen. The more you listen, the less certain you are of anything about Friedberger’s fractured art. The first lines of this piece are already fading away as if written in disappearing ink. Better read fast. —Jud Cost



5 Machine Head

Unto The Locust (Roadrunner)

6 Saviours Death’s Procession (Kemado)

7 Motörhead The World Is Yours (UDR)

8 Crowbar Sever

The Wicked Hand (eOne)

9 Rwake


(Relapse) 10 Cave In White Silence

(Hydra Head)

The Kills Blood Pressures Domino

The sullen, bluesy tracks on

Blood Pressures are an instantaneous, shivery thrill, in part because they deliver Alison Mosshart’s strongest, most dynamic vocals yet. The combination of greasy, smoky sex and cold, brittle emptiness on “Future Starts Slow,” “Heart Is A Beating Drum” and “Baby Says” make for one of the most physically satisfying listens of the year. But how do you determine if the album passed the time-lapse test of 2011? Ask yourself a question, boys and girls: If I put Blood

15 Wilco

The Whole Love dBpm

The Whole Love is the first Wil-

co album since the Jay Bennett years that sounds driven less by an overriding concept than by the needs of the songs themselves. That might not make it better than Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Bennett’s swansong) or A Ghost Is Born, but it does make it better than Sky Blue Sky and Wilco (The Album). This is a deliberately, gloriously messy record, firing off in different directions arbitrarily, and the

Pressures on right now this very minute, will it make me want to get naked? Specifically, does it make me want to slowly peel off my clothes like I was raised by a harem of seedy, luckless strippers? Does it make me attempt to move my hips in ways previously unattempted, which will more than likely throw me off balance and send me to the floor with the least amount of grace and dignity possible? Will I still feel sexy even after I fall on my ass? Might I feel even sexier on the floor? The an-

swer to all of these questions is a resounding yes, so we have ourselves a winner. —Jeanne Fury

sequencing seems designed to announce that devil-may-care attitude. Opener “Art Of Almost” furthers the motorik, Can-inspired explorations of latter-day songs such as “Spiders (Kidsmoke),” and it builds to a frenetic climax thanks to Nels Cline’s screeching guitar solo. But then comes “I Might,” a bit of bright, perky pop not far from Being There, followed by “Sunloathe,” a woozy piano ballad. It’s as if Jeff Tweedy and Co. are showing off: “We can do this! And we can still do this!” There’s a loping country song called “Open Mind,” for those old Uncle Tupelo fans, and some new twists, such as Randy Newmanlike toe-tapper “Capitol City.” The current Wilco lineup is the most stable of Tweedy’s career, and that stability has bred a complete, easy confidence in his band’s ability to be brilliant at whatever it dabbles in. —Steve Klinge


14 tUnE-yArDs

Bon Iver



Obviously, Merrill Garbus has

Of all the artists in conten-

a unique approach to capitalization and spacing. That ain’t the half of it. At times, it sounds like Garbus has created her own musical genre—one filled with her husky vocals, ukulele riffs and ping-ponging samples and loops. On sophomore release w h o k i l l, it coalesces into a giddily hypnotic kind of avant pop, all the while making room for additional musicians playing bass, saxophone and more. She evokes Afropop on “My Country,” devises an R&B slow jam with “Powa” and nails the heartstopping melodies of “Doorstep” and “Wooly Wooly Gong.” Garbus’ songs have their own interior logic, even when they shoot off into noisy, dissonant or just plain strange territory. Lyrically, these tracks boldly explore conflicted emotions, whether it’s rebuking state-of-the-union “My Country” or her fantasy of making love to the policeman who arrested her brother on “Riotriot.” It’s heartening that there’s room in this crowded, disjointed music world for someone like Garbus to emerge. tUnE-yArDs is informed by these confusing, frustrating times, while still conveying the pure physical joy of creating such music. And, BTW, it’s a joy to listen to as well. —Michael Pelusi

tion for 2011’s album of the year, it’s Justin Vernon who split both fans and critics down the middle. Largely, it seems, because he didn’t take the easy option and simply repeat the formula and myth that made his previous album, For Emma, Forever Ago, such a huge hit among the world’s bedsit romantics. The heartbroken, hirsute backwoodspoet shtick and his stark, spartan backdrops were largely discarded. Instead, it was a big hello to multi-tracked, Auto-Tuned vocals, lush instrumentation and a crack backing band. The result? A polished, buffed, almost over-produced thing of rare beauty. An album that’s dense, lyrically opaque, near impenetrable. What can be made out often borders on gibberish (or borderline genius; it’s hard to tell), but Bon Iver seems more than anything to be about being completely lost in music, surrendering to a sense of joyous melancholy, in search of transcendence. It manages to be both sweeping and widescreen, yet intimate and inviting (thanks largely to Vernon’s bruised falsetto), and it’s an almighty flip of the middle finger to an obsessive audience’s expectations. A gem of a record. That said, the nausea-inducing


Bon Iver

Bruce Hornsby-lite “tribute” slapped on at the end really is an atrocity, and goes way beyond the realms of human decency. Someone should have taken Vernon to one side and given him a good slap for that. —Neil Ferguson



1 Curren$y Weekend At Burnie’s (Warner Bros.)

2 Stalley Lincoln Way Nights (Intelligent Trunk Music) (SMC)

3 Jay-Z + Kanye West


Watch The Throne (Def Jam)

4 Shabazz Palaces

Black Up (Sub Pop)


5 Main Attrakionz

808s & Dark Grapes II (self-released)

The King Of Limbs

6 Big K.R.I.T. Return Of 4Eva



The strange mime-meets-ep-

ilepsy dance that bowler-topped Thom Yorke does in the video for “Lotus Flower” exemplifies the oblique dichotomies that King Of Limbs occupies: the twilight zone between funny and serious, between form and shape, between hue and color, between agony and ecstasy. Like so much of the music Radiohead has created in the 21st century, it sounds like it was made by paranoid androids: one part chimerical electronica, one part rock noir, one part accident and one part invention. The twitchy, inscrutable swirl of sonics is rife with anxiety and phantom menace—like we’ve rigged the Nostromo to self-destruct in five minutes and we’re racing for the escape pod amidst the steam and sirens, knowing fully well it will take us six minutes to get there—and offset by the minimalist operatics of Yorke’s

7 Rick Ross God Forgives, I Don’t (Maybach)

8 Evidence

Cats & Dogs


9 Tyler, The Creator

Goblin (XL)


Action Bronson Dr. Lecter

(Fine Fabric Delegates)

vocals, which have the same effect as horses at a riot. It’s his unique brand of genius that he can make every song sound like an accusation and an elegy all at once. What exactly he’s on about remains open to debate, and the particulars are probably best left to the obsessive narratives and counter-narratives of messageboard exposition, but suffice it to say King Of Limbs’ eight songs are ghost stories from inside the machine. —Jonathan Valania




1 Gillian Welch

The Harrow & The Harvest (Acony)

2 The Decemberists

The King Is Dead (Capitol)

3 Bryan John Appleby

Fire On The Vine (self-released)

4 Matt Bauer

The Jessamine County Book Of Living (Crossbill)

5 Zoe Muth & The

Lost High Rollers Starlight Hotel (Signature Sounds)

6 Alela Diane

Alela Diane & Wild Divine


(Rough Trade)

7 Joy Kills Sorrow

Fucked Up David Comes To Life Matador

rewarding in small, short blasts instead of the long-haul listen. A brutal epic that somehow transcends all its idiosyncrasies and too-clever conceits, David Comes To Life is a classic case of failing upward. —Matthew Fritch

If you enjoy having concept al-

bums screamed at you, life has been a disappointing slog since 2005: the year the Hold Steady released Separation Sunday. With David Comes To Life, however, Toronto’s Fucked Up created its own punk-rock salvation opera and delivered it with an astonishing lack of both pretense and noise control. Damian Abraham’s grizzly-bear roar narrates the boy-meets-girl moment of the album with all the subtlety of Tarzan courting Jane: “Hello, my name is David, your name is Veronica/Let’s be together, let’s fall in love.” Whatever else happens over the course of these 18 songs and nearly 80 minutes of endless riffage is not your problem, as even the members of Fucked Up themselves can’t explain the plot of the album. It is, somehow, nonsensical in all directions: David contains the band’s most concise songs, but it sprawls over four vinyl sides; the songwriting becomes more sweetly melodic while Abraham remains as gruff as ever; and the record is most



10 Bill Callahan Apocalypse Drag City

Forget everything you know

about Bill Callahan, his solo work and his sometime experimental project Smog. Live now, in the presence of Apocalypse. It’s the album of this time and place— the Dude of albums. Callahan evokes the U.S. on the verge of its demise or transformation with love and freedom in the Whitmanian sense. He sets the theme on “Drover” with the image of a cowboy, singing on the range with his lone guitar and the wind: “One thing about this wild, wild country/It takes a strong, strong/Breaks a strong, strong mind.” The drover is a ready-made

symbol for America, but Callahan’s leaves open space for Native American symbols on “Universal Applicant” (“I found the bees nest in the buffalo’s chest”) as well as Buddhist meditation on “Riding For The Feeling” (“Riding for the feeling/Is the fastest way to reach the shore”). The march -like “America” is our anti-hero’s anthem: “Afghanistan/Vietnam/ Iran/Native America/America/ Well, everyone’s allowed a past/ They don’t care to mention.” And Apocalypse ends with Callahan dropping the reins on “One Fine

This Unknown Science (Signature Sounds)

8 Ben Sollee


(Thirty Tigers)

9 The Builders &

The Butchers Dead Reckoning (Badman)

James Vincent McMorrow Early In The Morning 10


Morning,” speaking to himself as much as the rest of his cowboy nation: “No more drovering.” —Matthew Irwin



1 Christina Kubisch

Magnetic Flights (Important)

2 Telecult Powers

Zion Traveler (Baked Tapes)

3 Peter J. Woods

Songs For Nothing (After Music)

4 Skin Graft

Dystrophy (Hanson)

5 Yellow Tears

The Cult Of Yellow Tears (Hospital)

6 Pete Swanson

I Don’t Rock At All


7 Blood Stereo

Tape Hiss For Brainwash (Feeding Tube)

8 White Suns

Waking In The Reservoir (ugEXPLODE)

9 C. Spencer Yeh


(Intransitive) 10 Sightings Future Accidents

(Our Mouth)

5 Ken Vandermark



Strade d’Acqua/ Roads Of Water



6 Keith Rowe

Concentration Of The Stare 1 Matt Bauder

Day In Pictures (Clean Feed)

2 Rempis Percussion

Quartet Montreal Parade (482 Music)

(Bottrop Boy)

7 The Spanish Donkey


(Northern Spy)

8 Amir ElSaffar Two Rivers Ensemble Inana (Pi)

3 Matthew Shipp

Art Of The Improviser

(Thirsty Ear)

4 Acid Birds

Acid Birds III

(Blackest Rainbow)

9 David S. Ware


(Aum Fidelity) 10

Bill Dixon Envoi (Victo)

Bird Of Youth Defender


First Beth Wawerna aston-

ished her musician friends with her secret cache of sharply observed, artfully written songs, then she enlisted those friends to make one of the most deeply affecting debut albums in ages. Recording as Bird Of Youth,

Brooklynite Wawerna takes us on a (mis-)guided tour of the heart and mind of a smart young woman looking back on the (mis-)adventures of her 20s. Regret, joy, hard-won wisdom and wry humor permeate the 10 songs on Defender. But it takes more than clever lyrics and catchy melodies for music to sink in the way this does. Producer Will Sheff combines Wawerna’s warm voice and performances by members of Nada Surf, the Wrens, the National, the Mendoza Line and Sheff’s own Okkervil River, creating enough moments of sonic bliss to embed these songs permanently into your grayest matter. If you’ve ever wondered what that cute, smart quiet girl over in the corner was thinking, Wawerna lays it out in “The Great Defender,” “Right On Red,” “The Sound Of One Name Dropping” and others. “Bombs away,” Wawerna sings of a woman scorned, “she is here to stay.” Let’s hope so. —Phil Sheridan



07 Bright Eyes The People’s Key Saddle Creek

Gray-haired reunions galore,

08 Wye Oak Civilian Merge

Civilian makes us feel like

spongy fanboys—like Christian Bale as Arthur Stuart in Velvet Goldmine—running up to our rooms to, um … well, the point is the album conjures active and powerful emotions through the barrage of lo-fi, intellectual and ’80s-knock-off LPs that came out in 2011. On the title track, one-man rhythm section Andy Stack drives tension with keys and a muted drum while guitarist Jenn Wasner lays down brutally self-reflective lyrics about needing a dude. Her

vocals exist within her mouth, spilling out as necessary, still hesitant. She does all the real emotional work with her guitar—metallic, patient, dissonant; all that good shoegaze material. Even on tunes like “Dog’s Eyes,” when she sets us up with playful, bouncy notes, she still shake us down in distortion. And the opening lyrics to “Doubt” are some of the most powerful we’ve heard: “If you should doubt my heart/Remember this/That I would lie to you if I believed it was right to do.” Shivers, man. Civilian leaves a distinct sensation of melancholy reserved for those of us with an abiding sense of aloneness. It’s for the disappointed idealists, and if you pity either state of being, you just don’t get us. —Matthew Irwin


1 The Men Leave Home

6 Mob Rules

(Sacred Bones)

(Sorry State)

2 Iceage New Brigade

7 Night Birds

(What’s Your Rupture?)

3 Cola Freaks

Cola Freaks

The Donor

The Other Side Of Darkness (Grave Mistake)

8 Condominium

Warm Home



4 Brain F≠

Sleep Rough

(Sorry State/ Grave Mistake)

5 Wiccans Skullduggery (Katorga Works)



9 Sokea Piste

Ajatus Karkaa

(Kämäset Levyt) 10

Night Fever New Blood (Tankcrimes)

scads of classic record reruns (both in deluxe packaging and on the stage) and Jeff Tweedy defending “dad-rock” to Men’s Journal. In music, nothing middles quite like middle-age, and in 2011, we had plenty to remind us. But for Bright Eyes, frontman Conor Oberst’s transition into functional adulthood has helped him make one of the best records of his career. Oberst’s fascinating-yetfraught development over the

years has orphaned plenty of half-there concepts and aimless segues, but at last, The People’s Key brings it all home. The sci-fi ramblings of Denny, a friendly conspiracy theorist from El Paso, don’t just glue the songs together, but inspire fine poetry in their lyrics. And musically, Oberst has never mustered such a consistently satisfying set. “Triple Spiral” is a pop/rock double rainbow, Oberst’s dubious ambition to make reggae-inspired music that doesn’t sound Rasta comes to effervescent life on “One For You, One For Me,” and “Approximate Sunlight” haunts and skulks among his very best. The People’s Key may lack much of the raw thrills and larynxscathing emotion of Oberst’s early stuff, true. But it’s the fully formed thought he’s been threatening to make since he was a teenager. —Jakob Dorof




1 Various Artists

Boddie Recording Company: Cleveland, Ohio (Numero)

2 Nick Lowe

Labour Of Lust


Collapse Into Now Warner Bros.

(Yep Roc)

3 U2 Achtung Baby (20th Anniversary Edition) (ISLAND)

If you listen to R.E.M.’s last al-

bum for signs of a band hanging it up after 31 years, you’ll compile a long list of gotcha moments: the passing-the-torch lyrics of “All The Best”; the stunned-soul realization of “Walk It Back”; the way “Blue” builds up with layers of Peter Buck’s guitar feedback, Michael Stipe’s litany of desire and a benediction from Patti Smith, then dissolves into a triumphant reprise of “Discoverer,” Collapse Into Now’s first track. But if you listen for signs of a band on its last legs, you’ll come up empty. Whether you think R.E.M.’s best songs were stadium-sized rockers or more intimate acoustic pieces, there’s something to satisfy: The group keeps up with Peaches on “Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter” and speeds through “That Someone Is You,” while “Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando And I” and “ÜBerlin” are two of the most tender moments in a career full of them, due in no small part to Mike Mills’ backing vocals. The record

4 Archers Of Loaf

Icky Mettle (Merge)

5 Leonard Cohen

The Complete Columbia Albums Collection (Legacy)

6 Ride Nowhere 20th Anniversary (Rhino Handmade)

7 The Beach Boys

The SMiLE Sessions (Capitol)

8 Nick Cave &

The Bad Seeds Let Love In (Mute)

9 Sugar Minott

Hard Time Pressure (VP)

The Flaming Lips Heady Nuggs 1992-2002 10

(Warner Bros.)

speaks for itself, but track down the videos of R.E.M.’s spirited live-in-studio performances of several Collapse Into Now songs, and you’ll see a band still giving its all even when no one seemed to be watching. —M.J. Fine

05 PJ Harvey

Let England Shake Vagrant

It’s nearly impossible to place

Let England Shake within the context of PJ Harvey’s other output. Its best analogue may be 1996’s Murder Ballads, by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, which he recorded while in a torrid romance with the English singer/ songwriter (and features a duet with Harvey herself). Like the similarly expansive Murder Ballads, Harvey’s 10th studio album presents familiar arrangements in a startling new context—interpolations of “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” and “Summertime Blues”— favors naked production and places a premium on vivid lyrics

and unique phrasings over melody. Cave’s bugaboo was crimes of passion; Harvey zeroes in on World War I-era atrocities in England. It’s certainly fertile ground: Harvey borrows a page from Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” to describe trees decorated with disembodied limbs on lead single “The Words That Maketh Murder,” then twists the metaphor to portray advancing soldiers at the edge of a forest on “Bitter Branches.” Longtime collaborators John Parrish and Mick Harvey create a subdued, swinging soundtrack, while PJ Harvey—employing her upper-register—narrates from above like an Angel of Death. Let England Shake is easily Harvey’s most accessible record since 2000’s Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea and, conceptually, one of her best. —Nick Green






1 Ryan Adams

Ashes And Fire


2 Iron & Wine

Kiss Each Other Clean (Warner Bros.)

3 Liam Finn

Stephen Malkmus AND THE JICKS Mirror Traffic



4 Lindsey Buckingham Seeds We Sow

That Mirror Traffic is argu-

(Yep Roc)

(Mind Kit)

5 Joan As Police

Woman The Deep Field

(Play It Again Sam)

6 A.A. Bondy


(Fat Possum)

7 Richard

Buckner Our Blood (Merge)

8 Matthew

Sweet Modern Art

(Missing Piece)

9 Stephin Merritt

Obscurities (Merge)


Bill Callahan Apocalypse (Drag City)



ably the most-feted-to-date effort in Stephen Malkmus’ solo catalogue isn’t a surprise, and it’s hardly a mystery why. There’s an organic, teasingly intoxicating simplicity to the album that overshadows its compositional complexities and the archness of its rhetorical feints. Congratulations are due to Malkmus, drummer Janet Weiss, keyboardist Mike Clark and bassist Joanna Bolme for exercising a judicious restraint missing before, for forcing themselves to answer some important questions. Why go headband/headbang hard when you can seduce the audience with sinewy softness? Why go eight ways of weird—“Kindling For The Mas-

ter,” we’re looking at you—if you can skew pastorally gnarly? Why flog out a knotted prog jam for eight minutes when two or three will do in a pinch? Traffic feels invitingly relaxed, cozy and slept in thrice, as if the Jicks invited us into their practice space for a live run-through record preview, then decided to replace the LP with the preview. That casual, offhand air makes all the difference in the world in emphasizing that this band’s less a post-alt-rawk retirement project than 21st-century Monster of Indie Rock in its own right. What Pavement reunion? —Raymond Cummings

03 Wild Flag Wild Flag Merge

Listening to Wild Flag’s self-

titled debut is like riding the Coney Island Cyclone: thrilling and disorienting, with sudden spins,

unexpected slowdowns and jerky stops. It makes you feel dizzy, woozy and brave. And given the chance to stay on and take the ride all over again, how can you say no? There wasn’t a song more stubborn than “Racehorse” in 2011; even if you saw Wild Flag play it live months before you could listen to the album version, Carrie Brownstein and Mary Timony’s weaving guitar lines—all classic-rock crunch and raggedglory swagger—lodged the tune deep in your head. Janet Weiss and Rebecca Cole pulled off a similar trick with the urgent “Future Crimes.” Weiss’ drums hammer your skull, making way for Cole’s melodic keyboard to burrow into your brain. But a strong case could be made for “Romance” and “Glass Tambourine,” and even deep tracks such as “Something Came Over Me” and “Short Version” cut deeply once you succumb to their synthesis of psychedelic note-bending, R&B groove and girl-group harmonies. Wild Flag’s got everything under control, so let its sonic rollercoaster pull you up and hurl you around the track until you can’t stand up straight. —M.J. Fine

02 N o.

Tom Waits Bad As Me Anti-

When Tom Waits shouts “all

aboard” at the top of his 17th studio album, he is, of course, prodding listeners to board his mystery train of clotted rock ‘n’ roll, sloppy tango, Depression glassy blues, wistful accordion-pumped sea shanties and angled oddly Beefheart-ish punk. You want a bumpy ride. You get it.

The 61-year-old Waits has been doing this kind-of murky mess for a minute, turning to bent blues (1980’s Heartattack And Vine) and cranky cabaret (1983’s Swordfishtrombones) after dropping the drunk-y L.A. hotel-lounge bit he cultivated in the ’70s. Now, it’s not that he reinvents the wheel every time

out. He’s not preciously intellectual. Rather, Waits is a hands-on technician; he rips the tires off the car and burns the rubber down. That’s what the customer wants, after all. What makes each Waits recording more innovative than the last is how the howler and wife Kathleen Brennan—his

compositional co-creator and co-producer—find the wretched and the romantic in the deepest recessed nuances: of slippery melodies made powerfully blunt in their brevity and of audacious lyrics filled with darkly battered characters seeking sunlight. The customer is always right. —A.D. Amorosi



01 N o.

Yuck photos by Shane McCauley



Yuck Fat Possum


xactly 20 years after the year punk broke, Thurston

and Kim broke up, a few big-in-the-’90s bands broke out their old lineups for reunion tours, and four twentysomethings from London tried to break it all over again for the love of whatever. With the fog of alt-rock revivalism accompanying its debut album thicker than the cloud of pot smoke around Fishbone at Lollapalooza ’91, it may seem as if Yuck sifted through the wreckage of old Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr records, looking for shards to smash, Dirty thoughts on its Green Mind. But it would be 21st-century grotesque if the 12 songs on Yuck were a mere nostalgia trip. The more believable explanation is that two of Yuck’s members—Daniel Blumberg and Max Bloom—tried to distance themselves from the teenage Britpop of former band Cajun Dance Party and are now making rock ‘n’ roll in the most powerful way they know how. “I’ve had enough of being young and free,” sings Blumberg on one of the album’s rare articulate moments. It’s the tug-of-war between brute guitar force and vulnerable-sounding vocals that makes Yuck so compelling. The album’s ability to veer from pouty acoustic strums to scorched-earth eruptions makes it a rare example of a recording that’s perfectly hard and melodic, boy and girl, bitter and sweet from beginning to end. The Pixies did it in 1989, Yo La Tengo in 1997, the Comas in 2004. If it only happens once a decade, we got this one early, and there’s no looking back now. —Matthew Fritch

Yuck Q&A

by Hobart Rowland

All the hype that’s enveloped Yuck’s self-titled debut can mean one of two things: that the relative youngsters in this multinational, coed quintet have a long and fruitful career ahead of them, or that they’re destined to collapse in a sorry heap of deflated expectations. In naming Yuck 2011’s best album, MAGNET’s critics are banking on the former. The band’s London-born co-leaders, singer/ guitarists Daniel Blumberg and Max Bloom, display an affable self-confidence (as opposed to unwarranted arrogance), and their white-knuckle grasp of spine-tingling volume and dynamics belies their 20-odd years. They’ve chewed up and spit out all that’s wasteful and tired about the shoegaze and Fort Apache bands they so obviously cherish, saving the rest for Yuck, a prodigious hunk of fuzzed-out, pedalhappy guitar bliss that’s catchy

as hell and hardly feels like a definitive statement. Which is a good thing. MAGNET caught up with Blumberg during the group’s recent European tour. So, how does it feel to be picked as MAGNET’s number-one album of 2011? It’s very nice, unexpected and strange. We put a lot of energy and love into making it, but there’ve been a lot of good albums released this year: Bill Callahan’s Apocalypse, Pure X’s Pleasure, Unknown Mortal Orchestra [selftitled], Grouper’s Dream Loss and Alien Observer, Kurt Vile’s Smoke Ring For My Halo. The accolades have come fast and furious for you guys. How do you not let it get to your heads? For me, it feels like we just started, and I’m in awe of a lot of other artists around at the moment, so I don’t really get too emotionally involved with all the accolades.

My guess is that if you hear one more My Bloody Valentine or Dinosaur Jr comparison, it’ll be one too many. Does all the name-dropping ever get old? You can’t really control what people will say about your music, but a lot of the bands that we’re compared to we really like, so it’s fine. It’s difficult to describe music, so it makes sense that people reference other bands. Are there influences on Yuck that critics and fans have totally missed? A band called Video Nasties was very influential for me. They were a band in London that no one really cared for, but they’re one of my favorites—especially around the time we formed Yuck. Nobody really mentions Lambchop, either.

music on the album translates to the stage? It’s different. We have a soundman, Lewis Lovely, who makes the drums sound nice. There’s much more space, and it’s just generally bigger and more powerful. We recorded Yuck on a very basic digital eight-track. On some of the songs, Max was playing these very cheap electric drum pads, so there was a lot of potential for opening up the sound. Also, my sister Ilana doesn’t tour with us, and she sings on a lot of the songs on the album. Given the remarkable reception Yuck has received, are you feeling any pressure to come back with something even better? If we write a “good” record, then people will like it. If we write a “bad” record, then people will listen to something else. I don’t really feel pressure. We’ll just do something that we like.

Yuck has a rather unique international makeup. How did that come about? (Bassist) Mariko (Doi) is from JaYou can’t really control pan, but Max and I what people will say met her in London. about your music, but a (Drummer) Jonny (Rogoff) is from New lot of the bands that Jersey; I met him in we’re compared to we Israel on a kibbutz really like, so it’s a few months befine. It’s difficult to fore we started the band. We talked for describe music, so it about an hour. A few makes sense that people months later, when reference other bands. Max and I had recorded some songs, we sent them to him and asked Or perhaps the idea is to come him to live with us and make muup with something completely sic. He dropped out of university different. and came to London. We kept the first album pretty loose and natural when we were Does the band have a legitimate writing, so I don’t really know. home base at this point? We’ll see. Maybe … maybe. We’ve been touring the whole year, so we haven’t been back much, but So, who’s the resident guitar London is where we’re based. god—you or Max? A thousand percent Max. Have What’s your take on how the you heard him shred?



HiddenTreasures Campfire OK Strange Like We Are Ana-Them

If you haven’t been paying at-

tention to Seattle’s indie-roots music scene, then now’s the time. With the Head And The Heart blowing up, the city is moving back into the spotlight, carried on a wave of neo-folk musicians. For an example of this sound, you can’t do better than Campfire OK, a collective of musicians led by Mychal Goodweather. The band has the perfect formula: sweet, tremulous vocals, lush harmonies as dense as a Northwest forest, brilliant horn blasts, bombastic chord progressions and just the right amount of tambourine. This is a new-school tent revival; it’s music to lift the human spirit. —Devon Leger

Creepoid Horse Heaven Ian

Like good ’90s music nostal-

gics, Creepoid understands the importance of balance and dynamics—the loud/quiet/loud factor. But why draw boundaries? The Philadelphia quartet’s impressive debut transcends typical motifs—drifting verses cutting to skyrocketing



refrains—and discovers true interplay. Bassist Anna Troxell delivers an enchanting, Patti Smith-esque vocal on “Spirit Birds,” while her husband Pat pummels his drums. Sean Miller’s languid acoustic strums mix with delicate chamber strings (“Horse Heaven”) and guitarist Pete Urban’s wall of noise (“Graveblanket”). Lyrics broadly address addiction, innocence lost, ennui, depression, hope and love. It’s aggressive, introspective and a strong opening statement from an exciting band. —John Vettese

Eleven Twenty-Nine Eleven Twenty-Nine Northern Spy

Pairing Tom Carter, axe-

man for Texas psych stalwarts Charalambides, with Marc Orleans, the ace-in-the-hole steel guitarist for acts including (but hardly limited to) D. Charles Speer & The Helix, Steve Gunn, Sunburned Hand Of The Man, Meg Baird and Chris Forsyth, is as surprising as a sunrise, and as striking. Their debut under the Eleven Twenty-Nine handle meets the psych/blues expectations of its players’ résumés, but it’s no side-project footnote. The guitar duo’s electrified trip wanders through loping postJack Rose blues, noisy space rock, humid drone and pensive post-rock. Deep blues roots keep this celestial psych planted in spaces between corporeal groove and ethereal meditation. —Bryan C. Reed

Filthybird Songs For Other People

Holidays For Quince

This hard-to-pigeonhole

band—Ambient Americana? Country and Brazilian? Folk jazz?—is anchored by singer Renee Mendoza and guitarist Brian Haran, a refugee of several NYC noise-rock groups. The tunes here, however, are anything but noisy. Contemplative would be a closer description. Like a choir, every instrument has a distinct voice that blends into a harmonious whole. “Last Night” is a folky samba marked by Mendoza’s airy vocals; the dark, dreamy meditation of “Mostly Of Waves” is full of surrealistic parental advice; “Now, I Know Better” considers the questions you never ask a lover until the relationship is over. —j. poet

Gold-Bears Are You Falling In Love? Slumberland

Slumberland Records spe-

cializes in new bands that sound like they’re from 1986, that apotheosis year of crashing, headlong guitar pop. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart were best in show back in 2009, but this year

it’s Atlanta’s Gold-Bears, who do a better job of capturing that thrill of early Wedding Present than David Gedge and his current bandmates. Are You Falling In Love? is an album for record geeks who like cult bands. (Boyracer fans, take note!) It leads off with a 100-mph love song called “Record Store,” all buzzsaw guitars and emphatically declaimed vocals, and the pace and the thrills don’t let up for next halfhour. —Steve Klinge

Jerusalem And The Starbaskets Dost

De Stijl

There are two key facts about

Jeremy Freeze that you should be aware of. First, his guitar tone is such that you would assume said guitar spent a decade or two immersed in re-re-recycled cooking oil; second, you will probably never feel more irreversibly hangdog than Freeze sounds in Dost’s darkest moments. What we have here is a loose, raggedy string of exultations, ragers, torch songs and laments built from the essentials—rock-solid melodies, dynamite road-worn chops, vocals that will have your heart in a vise, all of it brokendown countrified and folk-amplified—which are then drenched in effects-pedal psychedelics and production alchemy that makes it sound like the music is on fire before the band somehow swoops in and rescues it, shoving forth in defiant, never-say-die triumph. —Raymond Cummings

Sean McCann The Capital Aguirre

symphonies, Elysian scenery and pure, tangible shimmer somewhat eludes description, but its effect as soul balm couldn’t be more immediate. It’s an album that boldly advertises things as fantastic as an “Aerial Sapphire Show” and “Vanilla Maiden” on its tracklist. And it’s an album that delivers. —Jakob Dorof

Sean McCann doesn’t regis-

ter on most folks’ radars, and it’s not hard to understand why. In the past two years alone, he’s released 10 albums of material, and as they run the gamut from the free-jazz freakouts and bit-crunched noise of Open Resolve to the gorgeous sleepscapes of Prelusion, it can be hard to know where to enter. His most magnificent opus, The Capital, probably won’t do you wrong. This halfhour blooming of ambrosial


1 Tiken Jah Fakoly

African Revolution


2 Hossam Ramzy

Rock The Tabla (ARC)

3 Kambar Kalendrav

& Kutman Sultanbekov JAW (Cantalope)

4 Dwight Lamb,

Jensen & Bugge Live In Denmark 2010

(Missouri Valley Music)

5 Hunn Huur Tu

Ancestors Call

Oscar + Martin For You

Two Bright Lakes

Melbourne twentysomethings Oscar Slorach-Thorn and Martin King lost obscure moniker Psuche and locked on to their sound, a soft rush of wobbly electric pianos and lilied drum pads, glassine vocals splashed out of clip-clopped puddles and oblong structures forever on the verge of toppling over. (The cardiovascular track meet also contains postmodern devotional “Chaine Maile,” reason enough for making this list.) If 2011 was the year R&B and indie pop renewed their vows, consider this the officiant: Junior Boys and Everything But The Girl in a Dirty Projectors slideshow, Bacharach and David for the single-parent generation. —Noah Bonaparte Pais

(World Village)

6 Genticorum

Nagez Rameurs (Mad River)

7 Youssu N’Dour

Dakar - Kingston (Emarcy)

8 Femi Kuti

Africa For Africa

(Knitting Factory)

9 Dengue Fever Cannibal Courtship (Fantasy)

Delhi 2 Dublin Planet Electronic

Raw Milk Tired Giant

Tired Giant came out of no-

where. Under the name Raw

“…spectral and intoxicating Americana…” —new york times

“Their musical connection is seriously joyful; it carries them out of themselves and into a space that glows.” —los angeles times

“Recommended for fugitives, sinners, and whiskey drinkers.” —wnyc



Ward White



on sale now

Done With The Talking Cure

Plenty of today’s singer/

songwriters take cues from the past. Not enough of them manage to sound unique when doing so. Done With The Talking Cure finds this New York artist channeling Scott Walker’s scope with Paul McCartney’s playfulness, all while creating something singular and compelling. Ward White’s clever words bemoan the pitfalls of humanity. Melodies soar and turn corners unexpectedly while his angelic voice portrays hope, despite his dark lyrics. Were it the 1970s, Done With The Talking Cure might be an AM-radio staple. In 2011, it’s simply miles above the limp indie fare that gets sold through commercials. —Jill LaBrack




Milk, multi-instrumentalist Ben Hilt self-released the album from his home in Columbus, Ohio, describing his sound as “electro-acoustic anti-folk.” But it’s so much more. “The Ostrich” begins with a hard-working acoustic guitar and Hilt’s deep, reverby, lo-fi vocal timbre. He works the low end of a piano into a pounding rhythm, punctuated by sparse organ and trashcan-slamming cymbals; psych guitar walks the bridge. After hearing “The Ostrich” at a community radio station, we naturally googled Raw Milk, only to find social networking pages, as well as testimonies on raw milk. —Matthew Irwin

For more year-inmusic coverage, go to





back issues for sale • $7 each 82 GUIDED BY VOICES, M83, Ben Lee, Kimya Dawson, Crooked Fingers, John Doe, Ivy, Rachael Yamagata, Modeseletor, Social Climbers, Kathryn Calder, Dan Mangan

73 SHINS, Smiths, Hold Steady, Sparklehorse, Feist, My Morning Jacket, Jeremy Enigk, Comets On Fire, Long Winters, Gin Blossoms, Lemonheads, M. Ward

62 ECCENTRICS AND DREAMERS (Robyn Hitchcock, Brian Wilson, Roky Erickson, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Love and more), Year In Music, Elliott Smith, Joe Strummer, Paul Weller

81 WILCO, Beirut, Neon Indian, Debbie Harry, Tommy Keene, Das Racist, Spank Rock, Mac McCaughan, Wooden Shjips, Wild Flag, Thundercat, My Brightest Diamond

72 BELLE AND SEBASTIAN, TV On The Radio, Pearl Jam, Scott Walker, Walkmen, Homestead Records, Elf Power, Mojave 3, Built To Spill, Sonic Youth, Okkervil River

59 PETE YORN, Grandaddy, Evan Dando, Yo La Tengo, Blur, Idlewild, Liz Phair, New Shoegaze (Stratford 4, Nate Ruth and more), Thorns, Wrens, Pinback, Mendoza Line

80 NICK CAVE, 15th Anniversary Photo Issue (Tom Waits, Elliott Smith, Cat Power, Guided By Voices, Pavement, Flaming Lips, Joe Strummer, Sleater-Kinney and more)

71 GRANDADDY, Mates Of State, Elbow, Calexico, Mogwai, Robert Pollard, Tommy Keene, Rhett Miller, Liars, Flaming Lips, New Metal (Sword, Early Man and more)

58 INTERPOL, Lou Barlow, New Pornographers, Cat Power, ’70s Cleveland (Pere Ubu, Mirrors and more), Massive Attack, Notwist, Lucinda Williams, Go-Betweens

79 RAY DAVIES, Mudhoney, Raveonettes, Whigs, Spiritualized, Kills, Adam Green, Wire, Jellyfish, Decemberists, Petra Haden, Breeders, Duke Spirit, Times New Viking

70 ANTONY AND THE JOHNSONS, Year In Music (Top 20 LPs Of ’05, Sleater-Kinney, Spoon, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and more), Decemberists, Sinéad O’Connor

57 TOM PETTY, Year In Music (Top 20 LPs Of ’02 and more), Pearl Jam, Norway Scene (Kings Of Convenience, Sondre Lerche and more), Johnny Marr, Black Heart Procession

77 MY MORNING JACKET, Battles, Animal Collective, Robert Pollard, Fiery Furnaces, Ween, Weakerthans, Siouxsie Sioux, Shout Out Louds, Mendoza Line, Thurston Moore

67 SLEATER-KINNEY, Arcade Fire, Jesse Sykes, Moby, Mercury Rev, Michael Gira, Wedding Present, John Davis, Stars, Jesu, Mando Diao, Cass McCombs, Joy Zipper

54 WILCO, Pete Yorn, Promise Ring, Buzzcocks, Bob Mould, Breeders, New PostPunk (Liars, Ex Models, and more), Neil Finn

40 TOM WAITS, Atari Teenage Riot, Beta Band, Penelope Houston, Mogwai, Chamber Strings, Os Mutantes

76 SPOON, Elliott Smith, Against Me!, Rufus Wainwright, Avett Brothers, Wheat, Mitch Easter, Bad Brains, Bryan Ferry, Meat Puppets, Kramer, Unsane, Tom Morello

65 TOM WAITS, Political Section (Steve Earle, Bright Eyes, David Cross, SleaterKinney, Jello Biafra and more), Interpol, John Cale, Badly Drawn Boy, Albert Ayler, Sparta

51 NICK CAVE, Radiohead, White Stripes, Strokes, Unwound, Ben Folds, Idlewild, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Steve Wynn

35 GIRLS AGAINST BOYS, Bill Laswell, Cows, Paul Schütze, Caustic Resin, Ui, Witch Hazel Sound, Flaming Lips

75 BRIGHT EYES, 75 Lost Classics (Neutral Milk Hotel, Mazzy Star, Chavez and more), Nick Cave, Dinosaur Jr, Ted Leo, El-P, Idlewild, National, Henry Rollins, Stooges, Jarvis Cocker

64 QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, Polyphonic Spree, Fall, PJ Harvey, Decemberists, Sebadoh, Ween, Sloan, Killers, Clinic, Los Lobos, Veils, Jim Jarmusch, MC5, Marah

50 AIR, 50th Issue Special, Spoon, Pernice Brothers, Paisley Underground (Dream Syndicate, Three O’Clock and more)

30 TSUNAMI, Jim O’Rourke, Scott McCaughey, Texas Psych (Charalambides, Mazinga Phaser and more), Shellac

74 CAT POWER, Year In Music (Top 20 LPs Of ’06 and more), My Bloody Valentine, Ornette Coleman, Slint, Apples In Stereo, Melvins, Dean & Britta, Mick Jones

63 STROKES, Modest Mouse, Lambchop, Iron & Wine, Walkmen, Jolie Holland, Magnetic Fields, Franz Ferdinand, Tortoise, Blonde Redhead, Pedro The Lion

47 STEVE EARLE, Go-Betweens, Jets To Brazil, Damon &Naomi, Tobin Sprout, At The Drive-In, Ken Vandermark

29 JON SPENCER, Bevis Frond, Daft Punk, Echo & The Bunnymen, That Dog, Barbara Manning, Ken Vandermark

45 FLAMING LIPS, Lou Reed, Giant Sand, Steve Earle, Mary Timony, Handsome Family, Elf Power, Kingsbury Manx, Swag

28 SHUDDER TO THINK, Bowery Electric, Ladybug Transistor, Jeff Kelly, Swell, Chuck Prophet, Tower Recordings











I have enclosed my check/money order for: ____________

42 SUPERCHUNK, Velvet Crush, Melvins, Ronnie Spector, Matmos, Bright Eyes, Handsome Boy Modeling School

Send me these back issues at $7 each (circle choices)



43 WILCO, Year In Music (Magnetic Fields, Flaming Lips, Guided By Voices, Tom Waits, Top 20 LPs Of ’99 and more)

($7 per issue)

Make check/money order payable to MAGNET Magazine or pay with your Visa, Mastercard, Discover or Amex. Order online with a credit card at

































Mail completed order form and payment to: MAGNET Back Issues 1032 Arch St, 3rd Floor Philadelphia PA 19107

83 reviews ryan adams p. 52


kate bush p. 56


bill orcutt p. 58


supreme dicks p. 60

Dog Day Afternoon



kurt vile p. 61

Tom Waits delivers his best album since 1985’s Rain Dogs

creepers and the weepers, the keepers (Bone Machine, of cool—either you know it or you don’t, and after 20 Mule Variations) minus the sleepers (Alice, Black Rider). albums, if you still have to ask, you’ll most likely never We start off on a runaway know. Me? I’m a lifer. True story: Back in college I borrowed 1985’s downtown train, careening through the slaughterhouses Rain Dogs from the public library and got so lost in its lurid tales and gin joints of “Chicago.” of the depraved, the derelict and the dispossessed camping on the Then we’re wading through Tom Waits wrong side of the tracks in Reagan’s Morning In America that I the fevered, hoodoo swamps of “Raised Right Man.” On “Evdidn’t return it for a year and a half. erybody’s Talking At The Same When I finally brought it back, I was banned Time,” we’re tooling down the before—the-piano’s-beenAnt ifor life. All told, it was worth it. I mention all lost highway of some forgotdrinkin’ drollery of the Asythis because Bad As Me sounds like a wellum years and the cinematic ten David Lynch movie in a come echo of Rain Dogs’ spellbinding urban sweep and lump-in-yourvintage convertible with tail magic realism. Both albums are fulcrums throat sentimentalism of the Coppola sound- fins and Laura Dern and Nicolas Cage fucktrack years—with all that comes after: the ing in the backseat. “Get Lost” sounds like effortlessly balancing all that has come

om Waits has become the secret handshake

Bad As Me

photo by jesse dylan




the theme song for some X-rated Elvis movie Jim Jarmusch should’ve directed, some AnnMargret required. “Kiss Me” is easily the greatest non-silly love song since Barry met White. The warped, wild-eyed tango of the title track— powered by Rain Dogs alum Marc Ribot’s switchblade guitar—sounds like the greatest song Screamin’ Jay Hawkins never recorded. There’s a bitter, sideways-marching post-war G.I. blues called “Hell Broke Luce” that manages the neat trick of supporting the troops while savaging the war pigs who pay them to kill and be killed. Every song feels like it’s happening at the stroke of midnight, which is pretty much how it ends. It’s “New Year’s Eve.” The streets are streaked with dirty rain and neon, and steam’s coming out of the ground like the whole goddamn town is about to blow. There’s gunfire and then sirens. We duck into a bar where nobody brings anything bigger than a fiver and run into the same crowd we met “In The Neighborhood” midway through Swordfishtrombones. It’s good to see the old gang again. It’s been a long time, and we’re all just a little bit older and a little bit colder. By now, everybody figured out the dice were loaded and everybody knows the good guys lost. But at least we still have each other, until death do us part. Not that we have much choice. Thirty years after Reagan, it’s midnight in America and we’re all beautiful losers now. —Jonathan Valania


Biophilia Nonesuch

Blinding you with science

Biophilia is Björk’s nerdy musical interpretation of the mind-boggling occurrences that happen every day in the natural world. Her eighth album was created as a series of iPad apps, and Wired called it “a music format that will smash industry conventions.” Well, I don’t have an iPad or an iPhone; all I received were the songs. At the end of the day, if Biophilia is crap, it wouldn’t matter if Björk made the album on the moon. Good news: It’s not crap. It’s a slab of minimal arrangements with silvery tinkling and harp plucking, ethereal harmonies and brief Post-era electro swatches. By and large, Biophilia is a quiet album; the moments of drumand-bass breakbeats feel like acts of manslaughter. Björk’s not yelping and screaming like she used to, but she still amazes with the way she enunciates and transforms words into fluttery patterns. At times, Biophilia can feel a bit like watching moss grow on a rock. But that comparison would probably make Björk oh so happy. —Jeanne Fury



Spiritual Warfare Mature, focused, sober and steady, Ryan Adams drops the best record of his career


yan Adams is one of those love-him-or-hate-

him artists. I go back and forth. Sure, he’s an inveterate attention whore, a piss-poor editor of Ryan Adams his own creativity and a drama queen man-child too in love Ashes & Fire with his own legend. But when the planets do align, and The PAX-AM/Capitol Fates allow it, he is also a top-shelf singer/songwriter in the grand tradition of the great denim bards of Laurel Canyon. Ashes & Fire is one of those occasions. It is not, as the growing consensus would have it, as good as 2000’s Heartbreaker, his previous high-water mark—it’s better. Much better. Reportedly clean and sober and happily married to Mandy Moore, Adams seems to have finally grown the fuck up. There is a master-class precision to the writing and execution of these songs—an exacting attention to subtlety and nuance, a perfectly calibrated modulation of mood and dynamics—that simply cannot be faked. Some credit must go to producer Glyn Johns, who has a long track record of catching lightning in a bottle. But also to Benmont Tench and his magic Hammond B3, as well as Norah Jones, who plays a mean piano throughout and harmonizes rather angelically on a few songs with Adams’ wife—who, I’d wager, actually deserves the lion’s share of the credit for Ashes & Fire’s becalmed gravitas. Because, unlikely as it might seem on so many levels, it would appear that Mandy Moore (yes, that Mandy Moore) has succeeded where so many have failed, and finally made an honest man out of Ryan Adams. —Jonathan Valania

photo by david black

Chris Connelly

Artificial Madness Relapse

Admissions, not concessions

As his old peers spend the 21st awash in torpor and/or redundancy, Chris Connelly keeps working like a one-man bee colony. The Scottish-born Chicagoan’s 15th solo album offers little musical evidence of his tenure in Ministry, Revolting Cocks and the dozen or so other industrial bands and projects he’s been a part of. Instead, he rocks, in manner even more straightforward than on 2010’s Turning Lead Into Gold With The High Confessions THC guitarist Dallas Thomas acts as copilot, gracing Connelly’s considered marriage of punk, post-punk and glam tropes with his well-tempered squall. Drummer Noah Leger and bassist Will Lindsay—both hand-picked by producer Sanford Parker (Nachtmystium, Pelican, THC)—pursue their supporting roles with precision and glee. Connelly’s aptitude for mixing the smooth with the rough adds depth and color to his lyrical explorations of presentday dystopia, while suggesting that his best work lurks in the future. —Rod Smith

The Devil Makes Three

Stomp And Smash: Live At The Mystic Theatre Milan

We prefer the bottle, but either one works

Live albums are always a gamble. Bands that sound amazing in the studio can fall flat playing live, or vice versa. But a good live album can sweep you along with the kind of energy that you only get in front of a raging audience lovefest. Alt-string band the Devil Makes Three’s Stomp And Smash is an example of how to do a live album right. Recorded in front of a sold-out crowd over two straight nights at the Mystic Theatre in Petaluma, Calif., the LP feels like a celebration of the band’s oeuvre. While it may be a bit redundant if you have all its albums already, the enraptured audience (shouting, cheering, singing along) makes this a helluva lot of fun. And if you’re new to the Devil Makes Three’s blend of Tom Waits cabaret-folk and aggro-bluegrass/drunken-jug-band sounds, this is a great introduction. —Devon Leger


Life Is Full Of Possibilities Sub Pop

Original Dntel plan, new benefits

In 2001, weeks after September 11’s unthinkable reality, Jimmy Tamborello’s full-length debut as Dntel, Life Is Full Of Possibilities, was hailed as an evocatively beautiful electronic dreamscape with an underlying menace. Although excellent in totality, “(This Is) The

Dream Of Evan And Chan,” a collaboration with Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, was praised consistently, and directly resulted in the semianointed Postal Service, largely leaving Dntel out of subsequent conversations. Sub Pop restores the album’s ambient pop luster with this deluxe 10th anniversary reissue, featuring an appropriately quirky remastering and an added disc of remixes/rarities. Possibilities remains a compelling example of indie ambience, like Fripp/Eno’s No Pussyfooting circuit-jammed by laptop electropunks, and “Evan And Chan” completely justifies the hype of the Postal Service’s birth (and Owl City’s by influential proxy). The second disc offers multiple worthwhile spins on “Evan And Chan,” and a smattering of unreleased or marginally distributed tracks—the blippy “This Is How It Will All Be Over,” the glitchy electrojazz of “Footprints,” the textural underwater hymnal of “Sorry”—that would have solidly impressed a decade ago. —Brian Baker

Thomas Dolby

A Map Of The Floating City Lost Toy People

The wireless age of gold

The easy joke—that Thomas Dolby is blinded with cataracts rather than science these days—is tempered by the fact that his ’80s work helped set the stage for the current crop of synthetic dance yobs. Twenty years ago, Dolby abandoned music for the high-tech world, releasing two live albums in the interim, but he’s finally answered the studio’s siren call with the conceptual A Map Of The Floating City. A semi-autobiographical tale in three suites—Urbanoia, Amerikana and Oceanea— Floating City showcases Dolby’s estimable strengths: synth-pop pioneer (“Nothing New Under The Sun”), jazz-pop swinger (“Road To Reno”), roots crooner (“17 Hills”), ambient-pop balladeer (“Oceanea”), epic pop/rock dreamweaver (“To The Lifeboats”), with supporting brilliance from Mark Knopfler, Regina Spektor, Imogen Heap and Bruce Woolley. Floating City resembles 1992’s mature Astronauts & Heretics, where Dolby sanded the novelty edges off his synth-pop reputation, but even fans of his early work will find treasure in the mad sonic scientist’s new Map. —Brian Baker

Dub Trio



They lost the combination

Metal plus dub? It sounds like a risky proposition from the out, but it’s been on the minds of a bold few for some time now. Back in the ’80s, Bad Brains and Blind Idiot God both proved that drippy Jamaican “riddims” could make a swell respite from the dense assaults of hardcore punk and proto-math rock. Brooklyn’s Dub Trio is just the first to actually try








Brian Eno

Panic Of Looking Warp

Poems for spaced-out academics

welding the metal and ital halves of their wax collection together. It’s a trick the band has been practicing for several albums and tours now, but IV shows that maybe it just can’t be done. Reconciling double-kick drums and wall-thick guitars with reggae’s spatially deconstructed sibling is the challenge at hand, but this record remains a claustrophobic affair that finds the brawnier genre smothering the other. “Noise” and “Patient Zero” are mediocre cuts of instrumental metal with only the most timid of gestures toward dub, while the echoic drum patterns of “En Passant” mostly call to mind a bored engineer having fun with the mixing console. —Jakob Dorof

This EP presents six outtakes from Brian Eno’s last album, Drums Between The Bells, a collaboration with poet Rick Holland. Holland supplies the lyrics—or, more properly, words—as the “songs” are spoken, not sung. Holland’s poems share the characteristics of Eno’s music: Like the thoughts that pass through the mind just as you’re falling asleep, the words bob through the mix in random patterns, at once meaningless and rife with poignancy. Musically, the sounds drift pleasantly from new-age washes of mellow synthesizer to minimal keyboard textures, with measured notes hanging in the air to produce waves of overtones and spacey harmonies. The title track sounds like an early Eno pop experiment, but

Map Quest

Bradford Cox’s long-running side exploration errs on the side of delicacy Atlas Sound



t’s always been a bit of a paradox that Bradford Cox’s

day gig, Deerhunter, doesn’t at all approximate the darkness and brutality of its filmic namesake. On the other hand, despite this project’s moniker being a type of tape player Cox once used to capture his solo and side-project work, Atlas Sound implies a certain amount of spatial calm or order amid chaos (those of you who can decipher complex maps and atlases know what we’re talking 4ad



most of these miniatures are cryptic combinations of words and music: sparse, mysterious and open to myriad interpretations. How much you like them will depend on how much patience you have for Eno’s high-concept approach to music making. —j. poet

Florence + The Machine

Ceremonials Universal

Bland ambition Since 2009’s breakthrough Lungs, Florence Welch has had more in common with Sarah McLachlan than kookier, pluckier predecessors Annie Lennox and Tori Amos. But the vanillaness is permissible when the music is as well executed as the Arthurian Ceremonials. Rich with orchestral rock that’s equal parts shadows and light, it perfects what has become the band’s calling card—murmurs of

about), and is quite an appropriate moniker for the dreamy, ambient pop he’s pried from his brain over the course of three albums and three years. With Parallax, Cox has created a collection of music possessing the feeling that it may collapse at any time. Whether it’s because of the fragility present in his voice and the shaky instrumentation that permits inordinate amounts of space to exist in spots where the listener craves depth and action, there’s a sense it could all come tumbling down. Gently, of course. “Mona Lisa” and “My Angel Is Broken” (on which the twangy guitar borrows from “Stand By Me”) are good examples of how to balance that delicacy with some relatively upbeat instrumentation, catchy chord progressions and memorable bouts of vocal phrasing. On the other hand, “Terra Incognita” and “The Shakes” fall apart at the behest of melodic non-sequiturs and vocals that play hide-and-seek more than they drive the song. Pace is sacrificed for space too often on Parallax, making for a lukewarm experience. —Kevin Stewart-Panko

photo by mick rock

uncertainty and trepidation getting slugged in the gut with ringing, jubilant swells. There’s a marked ’80s quality to the production that invigorates the music and nudges it into a meatier realm (check the funky undertones of “Lover To Lover” and the tribal rhythms of “Spectrum”). To Welch’s detriment, her lyrics tend to be dulled with clichés (“It’s always darkest before the dawn”—come on, Flo, you’re better than that), but Ceremonials has the ability to shake listeners from the haze of cartoonish bunk on MTV and make them demand more from their pop stars. —Jeanne Fury

Peter Gabriel

New Blood EMI

Transfused and infused

An aging rock icon redoes his old songs with an orchestra? Sounds like a sure recipe for pretentious disaster. But going back to his costumed performances in Genesis 40-odd years ago, Peter Gabriel has trod the line between prog-rock excess and self-aware wit, and on New Blood he reinvigorates and recreates—rather than retreads—selections from throughout his solo career. Instead of simply adding an orchestra to a rock-band core or using the arrangements to mimic the originals, Gabriel—with arranger John Metcalfe and conductor Ben Foster—reimagines these songs. The 46-piece orchestra becomes a colorful, dynamic force—it’s not a sledgehammer (nor does the album include “Sledgehammer”). Inevitably, some songs can’t bear the weight of the bombast, but the best— “Rhythm Of The Heat,” “In Your Eyes,” “Don’t Give Up” (with Ane Brun), “Solsbury Hill”—are propelled and buoyed by the masses of strings, tympani and voices. —Steve Klinge

Mayer Hawthorne

How Do You Do

Universal Republic

We still have an arrangement

When your out-of-nowhere debut was a stonecold modern classic that managed to be both an uncannily convincing recreation of prime ’60s soul and Motown, and also perhaps the most distinctive, freshest-sounding soul platter to emerge in ages, what do you do for an encore? No need to reintroduce himself: Mayer Hawthorne’s wholly worthy sophomore set keeps things grooving with plenty more of the same—typically tasty, apparently effortless fun (if occasionally underwritten) fare like “Hooked,” strutting single “The Walk,” the irresistibly buoyant “You Called Me” and the Tempts-ish “Stick Around”—while also dipping a big toe into the sultry, string-laden ’70s (and plying his best Barry White come-ons) with plush Philly slow-burn “Get To Know You” and gaudy, bawdy Snoop duet “Can’t Stop.” If covering Jon Brion and ELO on this summer’s Impressions EP tipped his pure-pop-

loving hand, similarly blue-eyed influences come to the fore here with trace levels of the Doobies and Steely Dan (particularly on the Rhodes-aided “Finally Falling” and “A Long Time,” a dynamite, heartfelt tribute to his Detroit roots) and an emphasis on tight, bright, crisply poppy arrangements throughout. —K. Ross Hoffman

Hurricane Bells

Tides And Tales

Invisible Brigades

For whom the Bella tolls

By the looks of it, Hurricane Bells’ sole member Steve Schlitz quit his day job, the one where he was the singer/guitarist of New York City indie-rock band Longwave, whose last album came out in ’08. He can afford to say adios amigos, literally and figuratively, ever since his track “Monsters” landed on 2009’s Twilight: New Moon soundtrack. Hurricane Bells was just a side project up until that fortuitous moment; Schlitz is now on his second album under that moniker, and Tides And Tales is full of earnest, charming love songs conceived after dark. Schlitz relies more on his laptop than his guitar, but offers a variety of styles and textures. “The Ghost Of Her” sounds like Peter, Paul & Mary doing a Beatles cover; “Possibilities” has a gothic bent that shimmers, bursts and builds into sprawling caterwauling riffs. His benign voice flattens the momentum, but it’s exactly that kind of passivity that made the vampire Edward so irresistible to Bella. —Jeanne Fury

The Juan Maclean

Everybody Get Close






Or, actually, back away slowly

The Juan Maclean has been known to churn out a couple good dance jams every now and then, and the band’s remixers have proven at least as capable with their flips thereof. But both disappoint on Everybody Get Close, a new and rather pointless collection of old and rather pointless (aimless?) outtakes. The synths squiggle and syncopate aplenty, the processed beats are sliced and spiced with an organic garnish of shaker and tambourine, and everything’s glossed in that LCD-shiny production style that has been the DFA team’s signature for a decade now. But this is a salvage mission with little to merit the effort, and most of what’s here, in fact, grates: gratuitous vocoder, Aspergerly insistent hooks from Maclean and Nancy Whang, and the outsourcing of credit and creativity to the group’s electronic music peers all do little to mask the dearth of redeemable content at this scrap heap’s core, Cut Copy’s remix of “Happy House” disappointing in particular. Everybody could only be recommended for DFA completists, but even they needn’t bother—there’s nothing new here but the catalogue number. —Jakob Dorof

25% of proceeds go to Little Kids Rock, Silverlake Conservatory and other organizations benefitting children’s music education



reviews Lateef The Truthspeaker


Quannum Projects

Midlife crisis

Like most aging indie b-boys, Lateef Daumont realizes that there’s only so much he can attempt at this stage in the game. He can’t pull off some supermacho Bricksquad-traphouse screwface pose, nor does it make sense for him to attempt some Odd Future-style shock-and-awe tactics. No, he’s far too ma-tyoor for that these days, you see, so FireWire is instead his mid-career bid to mold himself into a sort of Cee-Lo Green for the college kids and Gen-X heads raising their kids to appreciate the “real.” Nothing wrong with that, though this steers things in a decidedly MOR direction. Moreover, Lateef’s vocals, when he’s crooning on tracks like “Sara,” uncomfortably resemble John Mayer’s velveeta tenor, and the generic backing doesn’t help much. DJ Shadow shows up to add a taste of ’60s-era go-go swagger to “Say What You Want,” providing the album’s high point, so there is that. —Justin Hampton

The Loom



They’ve got bite

John Fanning, frontman for Brooklyn quintet the Loom, sings a bit like Bill Callahan and a bit more like Arbouretum’s Dave Heumann. That sort of low, resonant deadpan makes for great ballast amid the band’s turbulent arrangements. “Helen” is a prize example of the Loom’s ability to spawn chaos from restraint, building from a loping acoustic-guitar phrase, adding genteel horns and banjo and ex-member Sydney Price’s backing refrain, “Let’s hold on tight,” until the song winds itself into a whirlpool. Jon Alvarez’s off-kilter drumming ensures “In Your Doldrums” sounds like anything but. Even mostly calm cuts like “A Song Of Faint Praise” can’t help but cast spurts of electric guitar and smacks of brass as vibrant punctuations on a stately background. That the band so ably balances calm, sophisticated chamber folk with impulsive passages that jut like sharp twigs is Teeth’s most compelling attribute—and a sure sign of an auspicious debut. —Bryan C. Reed

Los Campesinos!

Hello Sadness

Arts & Crafts

Dour times

Sometimes we all need to indulge our inner teenagers—outsized emo-



Just Chill

Welcome to Kate Bush’s inspired/ demented winter wonderland


ay what you will about Kate Bush, but she’s

nothing if not original, an uncompromising individual who blithely disregards all notions of preconceived “cool” and frequently veers between the sublime and Kate Bush supremely batshit mental (often within the same song). 50 Words For Snow Thus, it’s business as (un)usual then, with this, her latest much-anticipated album, insofar as it’s completely divorced antifrom what constitutes conventional contemporary rock and pop. 50 Words For Snow is (wait for it), a wide-eyed song cycle revolving around, yes, snow, a hushed, fragile, lyrical soundscape, understated for the most part and oddly low-key, songs underpinned mostly by piano and occasional string flourishes. Her voice, though, remains a thing of wonder, alternating between banshee-like swoops and hushed, sultry intimacy. As for the subject matter—well, let’s just say even some of her more wayward protégés (say, Goldfrapp or Björk) might find it a little out there. We’re talking tales of the Yeti, a snowflake’s view of the world and a night of dreamlike passion with (and we’re not making this up, we swear) a snowman. Throughout, she treads a thin line (a ridiculously thin line) between childish wonder and some of the most unhinged, self-indulgent nonsense this side of the worst excesses of ’70s prog rock in all its imperial pomp. It is—like much of her work—at once beguiling, and utterly, utterly baffling. And, you rather suspect, that’s the whole point. —Neil Ferguson

photo by john cardner bush

tions, angst and brash, rambunctious sounds. Los Campesinos!, a seven-member mélange from Cardiff, Wales, has mastered that variety of quirky, melodramatic rock, while still managing to make it smart enough for grownups. The band’s latest, Hello, Sadness (see, feelings!), is no exception. There’s a lot of enthusiasm and a plethora of peppy beats perfectly designed for head-nodding. Dynamic opener “By Your Hand” is a standout; the swelling, shout-y chorus and tender harmonies on the bridge are both downright irresistible. Meanwhile, the title track builds to a propulsive, dissonant apex of drums and angular guitars. Frontman Gareth Campesinos! has a wonderful, distinctive snarl, especially when delivering lines like, “We were kissing for hours with her hands in my trousers.” —Lee Stabert

tremendous levels of self-indulgent pretension. Instrumentation is an afterthought here, mostly consisting of a seemingly endless sea of wordless choral coos and the occasional anchoring bass line. Where Medulla, Björk’s divisive nearly a cappella record, found a compelling midpoint between her famed experimental edge and knack for penning a good tune, Orca flounders unspectacularly as it goes through the motions of an ill-advised exercise in minimalism, while attempting some sort of nature parable, with little regard for any but the most deafly enthusiastic of either act’s supporters. All others may find consolation in that Orca is but a oneoff collaboration. —Möhammad Choudhery

Meshell Ndegeocello



Things.yes Monotreme

This is their red period

Never let it be said that Michele Ducci and Alessandro Degli don’t know how to throw bang-up Ativan shindigs. Things.yes, the Italian duo’s debut as M+A, is nothing less than ambitiously all-inclusive in scope, an embarrassment of phosphorescent house jams, glitch jigsaw puzzles, hopped-up bossa-nova workouts and trippy, polyphonic pitch-shifting. The tunes mill and mingle amiably, sandpaper-strobe escalator “Blå” coexisting with the disjointed synth-clop of “Adidas” and the endorphic “Yes.pop,” a wonder of hiccupping bells and backmasked exultation that finds the pair moonwalking underneath the rings of Saturn. The governing aesthetic at work here—an almost lightness of being, eminent likeability, incoherence as profundity—falls somewhere in between dressed-up twee and K-hole special. But M+A sells its vision of dream-fi beautifully; Things.yes will have you believing that you’re living in an alternate reality where oldies radio is lousy with Aphex Twin bangers, and shops routinely sell out of albums like Chemical Brothers’ Come With Us and Aoki Takamasa + Tujiko Noriko’s 28 before you can queue up for them. —Raymond Cummings

Mount Wittenberg Orca

Mount Wittenberg Orca Domino

Bloated and beached A collaboration between Björk and Brooklyn indie-art kids the Dirty Projectors sounds like a great idea on paper. Both parties have a knack for weaving their notably eccentric musical bents into crafty, memorable song. The EP in question, though, is anything but. A shapeless, plodding mess of a song cycle (one inspired by an inadvertent run-in with a family of whales, no less), Mount Wittenberg Orca’s disarray is outdone perhaps only by its







Forecast is bright

You know what they say about the weather: It’s always changing. The same’s true of Meshell Ndegeocello’s latest release: Weather is calm one minute and stormy the next. Among its many moods are a gorgeous piano ballad (“Oysters”), spacey funk-pop (“Dirty World”) and acoustic textures that bear producer Joe Henry’s fingerprints (“Feeling For The Wall”). But whether Ndegeocello’s affecting a husky growl or a taking on a lighter timbre, vulnerability is never far from the surface. For all the guitars and synths that season the songs, her voice is what brings a flush to your cheeks or chills to your neck. It’s hard not to notice that the emotional highlights are a pair of exquisite covers, Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel” and the Soul Children’s “Don’t Take My Kindness For Weakness.” Ndegeocello’s been known to turn a wicked phrase, but this time it’s her whisper that lingers in the wind. —M.J. Fine

Mike Patton

Music From The Film And Inspired By The Book The Solitude Of Prime Numbers Ipecac


Mike Patton has always been an advocate for good taste: He brought a perverse spirit to Faith No More and Mr. Bungle, curated an entire label (Ipecac) based on his own eclectic tastes and was way ahead of the curve in hating on Wolfmother. High concept proves to be a bit of an albatross on his latest effort, an ambient soundtrack to 2010 film The Solitude Of Prime Numbers. The elegant packaging hints at the movie’s mysterious thrust, and the sequencing of the tracks—arranged by successive prime numbers—showcases a keen attention to detail. But the minimalist compositions are abstracted to a Terry Riley sort of level. It’s the diametric opposite of Patton’s similarly inclined, but far more dynamic work with Fantômas on The


© 2011 Broadway Video Entertainment, Inc. distributed by Broadway Video Enterprises. All rights reserved

reviews Director’s Cut. Longer tracks like “Radius Of Convergence” and “Weight Of Consequences” play to Patton’s strengths by interrupting lush melodies with jarring transitions, but the rest withers without context. —Nick Green




Electropop buildup never pays off

Berlin’s Janine Rostron couldn’t have picked a better handle for her one-woman electropop project. It’s as if to say she’s just planning to rock, you know? She’ll get there eventually, but

go ahead and start without her. On Planningtorock’s second full-length (and first for DFA), Rostron layers instrumental and percussive loops so repetitively, it’s numbing. “The Breaks” begins on three reverberant bass notes, pretty much the principal notes of the song. Doubled by plunking keyboards, then sax, then cello working in the same gossamer harmonic territory, the music crawls while midtempo rhythms are added on. For a moment it feels like maybe, once the recurring layers are in place, the song will launch off into something big and Björk—but nope. Rostron just rides the middle, all the way down to her overly simplistic lyric: “We break too easily, put on the breaks,” ad infinitum. But hey, at least that number has a beat. (And, worth noting, “I’m Yr Man” has a pretty solid pop hook.) Most of the album, however,


Never tell Bill Orcutt he’ll never play this town again


here are certain descriptors you generally ascribe to solo, acoustic-guitar work: warm, calming, plaintive. None of those applies to Bill Orcutt’s How The Thing Sings. Seven tracks recorded in one take with a singleBill Orcutt room mic, these 30-plus minutes are more jarring or bracing How The Thing Sings than relaxing, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t pleasurable. Editions Mego It helps if you know what you’re getting into, though. Orcutt was one-third of ‘90s noise crew Harry Pussy. The atonal barbs the guitarist unleashed in that group aren’t unlike the ones offered here, though there’s maybe more nuance to the tracks the older family man is laying down now. That said,



can easily be reduced, like “The One,” to eightsecond snippets of sound stretched into fourminute pieces of interminable buildup, with no payoff. —John Vettese


TKOL RMX 1234567 TBD

Synecdoche, New Yorke

The remix came into the world kicking and screaming in 1982, a Kraftwerk hook housebroken by Afrika Bambaataa. Three decades of creative and technological inflation later, those roles are filled by Radiohead and Everybody On Earth. That’s roughly the pool of people who have (or could have) remade the band in their image: Thousands of amateur fans (and not-so-amateurs Diplo and Flying Lotus)

it’s nice to know he hasn’t lost any of his old band’s danger. Songs like “The Visible Bloom” contain something approaching blues licks, but they come in stop-andstart fits. Clustered flurries rise and fall into sparse noodling, occasionally accompanied by maniacal moaning. The way it’s all recorded is nearly as important as the performances themselves. There’s a bedroom-artist immediacy at work that lends credence to the idea of these bursts sounding like they were recorded inside Orcutt’s head. The plucked strings sound less like the work of two hands than synapses firing. There’s an abstract musicality gasping for air under the din, but Orcutt still isn’t interested in making any of this easy. On the title track, the dead space weighs as much as the busy metallic blasts, and none of it seems to have come easily for him either. —Matt Sullivan

photo by Hans van der Linden

bastardized In Rainbows primaries “Nude” and “Reckoner” via a lab-like official website (www., and this release has 18 electronic producers slaloming The King Of Limbs’ eight opaque, self-remixed originals. Among the better-known quantities (Four Tet, Jamie xx), only Caribou’s echoing, deskknocking opener “Little By Little” delivers; Harmonic 313 places “Bloom” in a submersible loaded with depth charges, and Pearson Sound sets the motorik “Morning Mr. Magpie” loose in a breakbeat playground. Somewhere in the South Bronx, proud-papa Bambaataa is beaming. —Noah Bonaparte Pais


Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage, 1982-2011 Warner Bros.

The end as we know it

We sometimes have a hard time explaining to our young friends the place R.E.M. holds in our hearts, let alone the position the Georgia foursome has staked in rock history. Maybe that’s because we also cataloged R.E.M. for nostalgic listening in the mid-’90s, when the band seemed to be taking too many notes from grunge—Kurt Cobain had begun working with Michael Stipe on a softer sound—and, later, from the very indie music acts it had inspired. The members of R.E.M. had forgotten that they were the bastions of pleasurably danceable, post-punk, rebel-rock anthems. Not until 2011’s Collapse Into Now did we again recognize the band that saved us from glam rock. But we have found Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage useful in explaining to those young friends why they’re so ignorant and in reminding ourselves to stay loyal to our heroes. It’s a well-rounded and fitting end. —Matthew Irwin

The Rolling Stones

Some Girls Universal

Could and Wood

For the uninitiated, Some Girls remains the sound of the Stones emerging from the creative torpor and overwhelming fug of smack-induced dissolution that had enveloped them in the mid-’70s. It’s the sound of the band’s creative spark and musical engine, Keith Richards, waking up, rejuvenated by the introduction of Ronnie Wood and given a proverbial kick up the arse by punk. It’s tight, focused, lean and mean, from the incomparable bruised machismo of “Beast Of Burden” to the ever-wondrous “Miss You,” surely the most joyfully louche four-on-thefloor camp tomfoolery ever recorded by a bunch of skinny white English blokes. Like 2010’s Exile On Main Street rerelease, it’s been pimped up, both in sound and with the addition of an album’s worth of outtakes and oddities. With the exception of a sublime cry-in-your-beer take on Waylon Jennings’

“We Had It All,” these are largely of interest to the Stones completist with more money than sense. The rest remains a punchy reminder of a time when—on vinyl, at least—the Stones were still heavyweight contenders. —Neil Ferguson

She & Him

A Very She & Him Christmas Merge

(500) days of Christmas Before she added Indie Pop Star to her resume, Zooey Deschanel warbled a Christmas tune or two to Will Ferrell in Elf. So, perhaps it was inevitable that she and M. Ward would offer up A Very She & Him Christmas. It’s a 32-minute set of mostly acoustic, round-the-fireplace tunes, all familiar, secular classics. They’re done casually and without much embellishment aside from judicious reverb and some backing choruses, so the focus stays on Ward’s sensitive guitar playing and Deschanel’s easygoing voice. The light and chipper songs are the most charming—“Sleigh Ride,” “Christmas Day,” the Ward-sung “Christmas Wish,” the ukulele-andvoices “Little Saint Nick.” Deschanel can’t rock like Brenda Lee on “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree,” nor can she and Ward generate the soulful friction of Ray Charles and Betty Carter on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” but A Very She & Him Christmas is a useful record. Put it on at the holidays: Grandma won’t mind, and neither will you. —Steve Klinge

65daysofstatic We Were Exploding Anyway Polinski

Labyrinths Monotreme

Skynet, it’s all your fucking fault!

Upon We Were Exploding Anyway’s original overseas release earlier this year, the complaint was that 65daysofstatic was incorporating more synth and electronica, moving further from its math-rock roots. An odd whine considering its first album was called The Fall Of Math. The Sheffield, England, quartet may cross Trans Am, Daft Punk and Aphex Twin, but oddball rhythms and beats remain its backbone, as the electronic layers slathered over staccato guitars give tracks like “Dance Dance Dance” and “Weak 4” a grandiose, dance-floor feel while remaining angular and experimental. Which camp this appeals to more remains to be seen, though the album’s confounding nature is its most endearing quality. If you really want to dance without having to think about it, 65days’ Paul Wolinski offers Labyrinths, a more traditional rhythmic beast with a sound akin to the hollow warmth of Gary Numan’s ’80s output, Air and the training scenes from the Rocky movies. —Kevin Stewart-Panko

R.E.M.’s First-Ever Definitive Greatest Hits Album 2-discs. 40-songs.

Includes Tracks From Both the IRS and Warner Years Plus Three Brand-New Songs. in stores now

reviews 200 Years

200 Years

Drag City

Crystalline softener

Say the word “mellow,” and the name Elisa Ambrogio does not come to mind. If you’ve caught her band Magik Markers, you might think “brutal abandon.” And if you’ve seen her adding guitar to husband Ben Chasny’s Six Organs Of Admittance, the magic words are “wild card.” Or just plain wild. But here she and Chasny are, strumming pensive songs about existence and longing. Sure, there are other sounds in the mix, such as the distant train-whistle feedback on “Thread” and a slow, curling organ line on “Solar System,” but it’s the duo’s acoustic guitars and Ambrogio’s decidedly sober-sided singing that dominate the sound field. Turns out she still has a way to go before she’ll be as compelling singing quietly as she can be in full cry, so consider this a traditional effort on the way to something better. —Bill Meyer



Ghostly International

High-rent building blocks

Scott Hansen’s gimmick is so sly that, at first, you may not even realize it’s a gimmick. As Tycho, he devises an atmospheric, instrumental electropop where beats take a backseat. His songs aren’t drumless, mind you. But he conceives warped-projector synth fantasias where rhythms are neither absent nor the main attraction. It’s just as well. You’re more likely to drive than dance to the excellent Dive anyway, with the particularly smashing “Hours” set aside for intergalactic road trips and the sandpaper-y “Daydream” set adrift toward memory bliss. Two-year-old single “Coastal Brake” sits comfortably next to the eight-minutes-unfolding title track. Up against the low-rent chillwave competition, Hansen’s grooves are more legible; he’ll apply acoustic guitar or undistorted human voices as necessary. And with his rock-like motorik beat, he’s one of the least static performers you could term “Balearic.” Just what you always wanted but were too cool to ask for: a Boards Of Canada pop album. —Dan Weiss


Achtung Baby (2oth Anniversary Edition) Island

real thing

Just as good as the

If The Joshua Tree showed that Bono and Co. could seat rock’s royal throne, Achtung Baby



Bag Of Dicks

Breathing And Not Breathing is a stellar compendium of Amherst’s unsung noise-pop heroes


f aggressively unique bands, people often

say “there was never anything like them.” That isn’t quite true of Amherst, Mass., trio Supreme Dicks, Supreme Dicks who released only three albums, an EP and two singles (one Breathing And a split seven-inch) between 1993 and 1996. But it’s probably Not Breathing true that no other band in the early indie-rock scene was as jagjaguwar eclectic, which this outstanding four-disc set demonstrates in spades. A historically underrated band even by indie-rock standards, Supreme Dicks danced easily between weird, accessible pop—as on the shimmering “Jack-O-Lantern,” from debut The Unexamined Life—and melodic noise-editing experiments like “Night At The Opera,” from sophomore release Working Man’s Dick. Comprising the group’s first two albums, gorgeous swan song The Emotional Plague and an expanded version of the This Is Not A Dick EP, Breathing And Not Breathing doesn’t chart a band’s development so much as it reveals song by song just how accomplished an outfit Supreme Dicks were, even from the outset. The band could get noisy like Dinosaur Jr, obscure and cryptic like Jandek and playful like Daniel Johnston, but the Dicks didn’t stick with a single format. They were often excellent, and even when they weren’t, they were never less than exceptional. Such extensive experimentation might have made another band’s output sound uneven, but 15 years later, SD’s records retain every ounce of their power to hypnotize. —Eric Waggoner

showed that they could hold court. On Achtung, Ireland’s most earnest export this side of Joyce shed its Americana-obsessed ’80s prosthelytizing and crashed the ’90s recast as a sexy, sleek and cynical synthesis of playful falsettos, Euro-trash dance grooves, grinding guitar tones torn from the amps of KMFDM and a hopeless/heartbroken worldview ripped from the chest of Leonard Cohen. Recorded in Berlin as dust from the city’s demolished Wall was still settling, the whole barbed-wire mesh sounded like a pirate-radio

broadcast announcing a new Europe through a coffee tin on a leather string. Yielding such top-40 staples as “One,” “Mysterious Ways” and “Even Better Than The Real Thing”—and fan-favorites like “Ultraviolet,” “Until The End Of The World” and “The Fly”—the LP stands as one of rock’s most commercially successful and artistically confident reinvention records. And one deserving of a sprawling reissue boxed set of DVDs and discs brimming with documentary footage, b-sides and famously bootlegged studio outtakes. —Adam Gold

Various Artists

Phil Spector Presents The Philles Album Collection Sony Legacy

Staying golden Beyond the wigs, shootings and scandalous behavior, Phil Spector was modern pop’s first mastermind whirlwind, the wizard/true star that Todd Rundgren would later allude to with his album of the same name. The thundering orchestral drums, the sweeping string sections, the rush of guitars—this was the wall of sound behind the sizzling nasal girl groups he’d discovered.

There was might behind the melodies that Spector dreamt up with composers such as Carole King and Barry Greenwich. But more than anything else noticeable from the Philles label collection of mono albums in mini-vinyl replica sleeves (love that Zip A Dee Doo Dah) from the likes of the Crystals and the Ronettes is how much bleed and grit is there in the supposedly silken instrumentation that pores from these swooning sullen love songs and street operas. Brilliantly raw and ebullient, the collection’s clarity and bristle allows a new way of thinking of such timeworn AM oldies-butgreats. —A.D. Amorosi

On A Downbound Train, Again

r h ol i d a yourve a li ys tt se le e d


The many faces of Kurt Vile return on new outtakes EP

Kurt Vile


n his fourth full-length, Smoke Ring For My Halo,

Kurt Vile seemed to have settled down easy. The roadwandering wildness of “Freeway Mind,” the leather-clad, switchblade attitude of “Freak Train” and the lovelessness of “My Matador Sympathy” were replaced by the sound of a man more comfortable with the simplicity of everyday life. He sounded happily stationary— more peaceful. Previously running from something, on Halo Vile found solace in the warmth of his “Baby’s Arms.” Good for him! So Outta Reach—available separately and as disc two of a Halo reissue—collects five unreleased songs from those sessions and a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Downbound Train.” Vile’s signature AM-acoustic breeze blows, especially on “The Creature,” where a fingerpicked phrase kaleidoscopes into a slippery string-bend and a glowing orchestral drone. The Kafkaesque moments of self-loathing are more pronounced here than on Halo: “You call me a dirty creature ... always dropping dirt on something I don’t care about.” And, that old bullheaded, snarky charm of Constant Hitmaker and Childish Prodigy’s also back. “I wanna be a boy/Don’t wanna be a man,” he declares on “Life’s A Beach,” where he also name-drops the EP title: “I’m so outta reach/Yeah, life’s a beach.” Vile’s songwriting remains unpredictable. Will we get the rock ‘n’ roller or the folkie, the homebody or the hobo, the man or the creature? On “Downbound Train,” with its growling electric guitars and quasi-motorik beats, we get the rocker, the hobo and the man. Great combination! What’s next? —Elliott Sharp So Outta Reach




reviews musicdvds Cabaret Voltaire

Johnny YesNo Redux Mute

The Golden Filter


Perfectly Isolated

In cinema, electronic music plays a very specific role. It squirms in fits of nervy paranoia and patters in vast existential quandaries; it races down sinister paths to eruptive climaxes. Dating half a century back to Forbidden Planet and its cybernetic score by Louis and Bebe Barron, and continuing today with Clint Mansell’s heart-racing glitchy beds for Darren Aronofsky pictures, it handily complements the darker side of the film world: sci-fi, suspense, magical realism, noir. But it doesn’t always stand alone. Two recent film-and-music packages show differing degrees of success when viewed as component parts. As its 30th anniversary approaches, director Peter Care and industrial pioneers Cabaret Voltaire revisit their cult 1982 short, Johnny YesNo, released as a CD/DVD set with music, outtakes and a present-day remake. In the original film, Voltaire’s groaning analog synthesizers set the same tone of disconnection and ennui as Taxi Driver’s back-alley jazz. We watch helplessly as the title character, played by still-unknown actor Jack Elliott, stumbles into a world of murderous pimps, intravenous drugs and hostages while courting a prostitute he’s enamored of. But recasting the film in a contemporary light sells it short. Redux transports the story from seedy Sheffield to the dusty Mojave desert, strips it of its “happy ending” and sets it to Richard H. Kirk’s overly urgent trance remixes of Voltaire’s score. Combined with visual enhancements, where the quick-cut style of the original film is amplified to disorienting strobe levels, it’s like watching a nightclub outing gone bad. In a final letdown, the two discs of score focus on Kirk’s bombastic remixes more so than Voltaire’s alluring originals. The latest effort from the New York chillwave mystics in the Golden Filter hits closer to the mark. A collaboration with Norwegian director Kristoffer Borgli, short film S Y N D R O M E S is a vignette of telekinetic young girl whose powers are used to heal the ailing—but leave



her in anguish. The band’s airy keyboard glissandos and spectral soundscapes fit the story: eerie, uncomfortable, but ultimately sympathetic. The soundtrack also works as a handy EP, since the pulsing meter of “Syn” and the melancholic whispers of “Kill Me” hold up against anything on the Golden Filter’s 2010 full-length, Voluspa. But it’s almost too standalone for its own good: This companion DVD is less of a short film than a glorified music video. —John Vettese

Mott The Hoople

The Ballad Of Mott The Hoople

Start Productions

In 1972, Hereford, England’s Mott The Hoople was in line to be one of rock’s most compelling hard-luck stories, on the verge of disbanding and frustrated that its wildly popular live shows (in Britain, at least) hadn’t translated to chart success. A year prior, the band had released Brain Capers, a primal slab of brilliantly devolved bar rock that’s now hailed by many as an early blueprint for punk. It sold miserably. But Mott had friends in the right places, and when David Bowie heard about the group’s imminent demise, he “rescued” it with sexually ambiguous anthem “All The Young Dudes,” a seeming castoff from his Ziggy repertoire that finally gave frontman Ian Hunter, lead guitarist Mick Ralphs (later of Bad Company) and the rest of this scruffy but amiable bunch the chart success they craved, and an unlikely free pass into the glam movement. The Ballad Of Mott The Hoople documents all of the above—and the flurry of ups and downs that came later— with a mix of grainy archival footage and photographs, sometimes equally murky present-day recollections from the band members themselves, and heartfelt testimonials from roadies, music execs, friends and fans, including some great stuff from the Clash’s Mick Jones. Though hardly a big-budget project, the film was assembled with enough flair to earn it spots in the both the London and New York film festivals. Bonus material includes footage of a rather underwhelming 2009 reunion show and a 12-page booklet with an essay on the band by Morrissey. —Hobart Rowland








Reggae’s Gone Country Stars of reggae and country get together for country classics with a beat

Daughtry Break The Spell

Chevelle Hats Off To The Bull

“The best anti-Christmas Christmas movie since BAD SANTA!” —Village Voice

Available 12/6 “Words barely capture just how perfectly realized and tonally twisted RARE EXPORTS is.” —Ain’t It Cool News RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE © Cinet, Pomor Film, Love Streams agnès b. Productions, Davaj Film



the back page

by phil sheridan

Looking Back At 2012 O

ne of the real tragedies of magnet ’ s little vacation from the scene was the loss of

this annual exercise in foreseeing the year to come. There was, sadly, no one willing to publish my uncannily accurate visions of the future. So you’ll have to take my word that I correctly predicted Will Ferrell’s Oscar turn in The Stephen Hawking Story, Nick Lachey’s collaboration with Steve Albini and the Detroit Lions’ back-to-back Super Bowl championships. Nailed it all. Ask my dog. Now that MAGNET is back, so, for better or worse, is this self-indulgent exercise in cheap gags and faux-wisdom. The only thing I’m really sure about is that, no matter how bad it is, it won’t be as bad as the real 2012. January 4 The Occupy Park

Slope movement disbands after the nearest Starbucks runs out of skim milk and the protestors wander off. 4 Martin Scorsese follows his documentaries about the Stones and George Harrison with a five-part, 13-hour look at the life and times of original Kinks bassist Pete Quaife. The films focus on Quaife’s favorite fish-and-chips stand in Brighton, his lifelong fascination with Presbyterianism, his unheralded contribution to the backing vocals on “Wonderboy” and his inability to get any of his songs on Kinks records because of Ray Davies’ domineering attitude and because Quaife never actually wrote any songs.

February 4 In what is per-

ceived as a publicity stunt, the Winnipeg Jets hire Weakerthans frontman John K. Samson as GM/player/coach. But Samson stuns the hockey world by trading himself for Alex Ovechkin. “The Guess Who still suck,” Samson croons at the press conference. 4 Stephen Malkmus announces a Jicks reunion tour. He admits to Rolling Stone that the Jicks never broke up, but that the word “reunion” translates to 150 percent higher ticket prices.

March 4 Dozens of music

critics resign from their jobs in shame upon the release of the new Mazzy Star album. “What in the hell are we supposed to compare them to?” Pitchfork writer Culer N. Yew says. “I stared at my screen for four hours, sobbing. This is the end of music criticism.” 4 At a Wilco show in Brussels, guitarist Nels Cline plays a solo on “Kidsmoke” that lasts for 37 hours. By the time he is forced



to stop because of a broken B string, the rest of the band is playing “Jesus Etc.” In Paris. April 4 Liam Gallagher releases a solo album called Much Higher Fucking Birds, Mate, Much Higher. 4 Robert Pollard announces a new tour by a band comprising himself, Kosher Dill, Sweet Gherkin and Spanish Olive. “It’s not exactly what the kids expect from Guided By Voices,” Pollard would tell Option magazine if there still was an Option magazine. “I think of it as our Vlasic lineup.” May 4 In a post on its website,

R.E.M. says it is still broken up and, frankly, a little bit chapped that people weren’t more upset at the original news. “We were really good,” the note reads. 4 Lindsay Lohan is back in the news, because the news is a fucking travesty, too. 4 Neko Case’s next project is a supergroup featuring herself and members of Destroyer, Limblifter, Immaculate Machine, A.C. Newman and the Evaporators. Working name for the project: the New Pornographers. June 4 Apple releases the

iSteve 2, which looks exactly

like Steve Jobs but has a larger processor and less sensitive touchscreen. 4 The Winnipeg Jets win the Stanley Cup. The Guess Who still suck. 4 Daniel Blumberg, the 12-yearold songwriter guy from Yuck, gets a Clash record for his birthday. His head explodes. July 4 There is no July this

year. Turns out that was all the Mayans were trying to tell us about 2012. Not that the world would end, but that we’d run out of Julys.

August 4 The Rolling Stones

play “Start Me Up” at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics. Despite millions of dollars in high-tech security, Keith Richards manages to reach the stage with a machete hanging from his belt and a pistol stuffed down his pants. 4 In a post on its website, R.E.M. announces that U2 is breaking up. “Nobody seemed that interested when we broke up last year,” the message reads. “We were a little hurt by that. So we figured we’d try breaking somebody else up.”

September 4 Rebellious singer/songwriter Kurt Vile performs

for a large Occupy Wall Street crowd until someone recognizes his song “Baby Arms” from a Bank Of America commercial. “Hey!” Vile is heard shouting, as the crowd turns into a mob, in a video posted on YouTube. “Get your filthy hands off—hey! No ATM fees in over 20,000 locations! Arrrggh!” 4 In the committed-actor tradition of Robert De Niro, who gained weight for Raging Bull, and Daniel Day-Lewis, who learned to paint and eat with his toes for My Left Foot, Zach Galifianakis shaves his beard for the lead role in The Wayne Newton Story. An Oscar appears inevitable. October 4 Okkervil River’s Will Sheff and Leslie Feist release an album of dreamy pop songs with narcotized guitars and hushed vocals. New MAGNET senior writer Culer N. Yew calls it a “Mazzy Star-ish instant classic,” then shoots himself. 4 With the election approaching and Osama Bin Laden and Muammar Gaddafi already long dead, the Obama administration/ campaign desperately seeks a boost in the polls by ordering a drone strike on the Kardashian compound. It works, as the family is wiped out, a scourge on America is eliminated, and Obama’s approval rating soars to 96 percent. November 4 Barack Obama

becomes the first U.S. president to be reelected by running unopposed after the Republican Party fails to find a candidate with measurable brainwave activity. The Republicans still carry Texas, Florida, Alabama and both Carolinas. 4 Cass McCombs loses over half of the “Likes” on Facebook when word gets around that Cass McCombs is a man.

December 4 It gets really cold and snows and stuff. 4 It’s New Year’s Rocking Eve! Three minutes before the ball drops on 2013, Dick Clark tears his mask off, revealing himself to be a 4,000-year-old Mayan warlord who belches a fireball that consumes the entire Earth. Fortunately, ABC is on a commercial break and no one notices.

illustration by gluekit

indie record stores in your own backyard

Here’s where to find a local retailer that carries the MonitorThis! Sampler and even more treats!

Silver Platters Seattl e

BK Music

Gallery of Sound

r i c h m ond, va


Sunrise Records

Bull Moose


Toronto, On tario

Maine, N e w H a mpsh ire

Salt Lak e City

CD Warehouse Ot tawa , O n tar io

Independent Records Col orado

The Sound Garden Syracuse & baltimore

Dimple Records

Monster Music & Video

Sac r amento

Ch arl eston , SC

The Exclusive Company

Rasputin Music

Zia Record Exchange

San F rancisco & berk el ey

Ariz ona & Las Vegas, NV

wi s c o nsin

Vintage Vinyl fords, nj

For a complete locations list, special offers and more, visit


ROLLING STONES SOME GIRLS 2 CD Deluxe Edition Both a time capsule and a timeless listen. Newly remastered package includes new tracks from the Some Girls sessions, unearthed from the Rolling Stones vaults.


HOT ROCKS 1964-1971




2 CD Deluxe Edition

2 CD Remastered




Filmed at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, Texas, on July 18th, 1978 on 16mm film, this show is undeniably the Rolling Stones at the peak of their form.

Magnet #83  

Real Music Alternatives, featuring the Year in Music: Tom Waits, Radiohead, Wilco, Wild Flag, PJ Harvey, Bon Iver, Bright Eyes, Wye Oak, R.E...

Magnet #83  

Real Music Alternatives, featuring the Year in Music: Tom Waits, Radiohead, Wilco, Wild Flag, PJ Harvey, Bon Iver, Bright Eyes, Wye Oak, R.E...