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Family: Valued After burying the hatchet with a founding member, Korn are stronger than ever by Gary Graff

The paradigm did indeed shift—in a big way— for headbangers Korn this year. The Paradigm Shift, the group’s 11th studio album, brought Brian “Head” Welch back into the band for the first time since 2005. The Kornheads certainly responded; the album debuted at No. 8 on the Billboard 200, and “Never Never” hit No. 3 at Mainstream Rock Radio, the group’s best showing since “Twisted Transistor,” which was also in 2005. Coincidence? We don’t think so. And neither does Head, who contends, “This is the way people want Korn to sound. “We wanted it to sound familiar, but like the future at the same time,” he continues. “We wanted it to go backwards and forwards, and so we accomplished exactly what our hearts wanted to do.” Head certainly brought back a style of guitar crunch that established Korn during the mid-’90s, but his return wasn’t easy. The departure was acrimonious, brought about, Head says, by a need for personal survival. “Ever since I’ve known these guys, we have been just getting into trouble, and then we got successful and got into trouble while we were making a great living and becoming rich and famous,” he says. “I couldn’t be around people killing themselves anymore. As far as people doing cocaine or just drinking themselves into a crazy alcoholic and watching people’s lives slip away, I can’t be around that. It was really dysfunctional and unhealthy, so I just needed to get away from that.” So, Head went off on his own, embracing Christianity and forming his own band, Love

and Death, which opened some shows for Korn this year. He ultimately reconciled with the other members of Korn during a guest appearance onstage in May 2012, and the response—from fans, family and even other bands—“was so strong that it was like, ‘This has got to be meant to be,’ and they asked me to do an album with them, and that was it. It’s cool to see these guys were working on their lives while I was away from the band, getting their stuff straight, too.” But, Head promises, he and his bandmates have not become fuddy-duddies, either. “We’re not these boring, old, 12-step program, ‘Hi, I’m this guy and I’m an alcoholic,’ ‘I’m a drug addict,’” Head says with a laugh. “We’re still crazy. We still are just funny, crazy, goofy dudes. We didn’t calm down; it’s only the destructive part we stopped. It seems like we’ve been given another chance to live and breathe and really appreciate and be so thankful for what we do. That said, there was still plenty of creative head-butting and horn-locking in making The Paradigm Shift. “I wanted to do a full-on rock record, like metal. I’m a metalhead,” Head asserts, as if we didn’t know already. “But then Jonathan and the producer [Don Gilmore] and the guys wanted to have a really fresh sound.” Namely a sound steeped in the electronics that Korn embraced on 2011’s The Path of Totality, which frontman Jonathan Davis has been exploring with his J Devil alter ego. “So, we were talking about doing it a little bit sprinkled with electronics and some really cool new sounds that make it sound 2013,”

Head continues. “We didn’t want to just go backwards and do an old Korn album. We wanted to make it fresh, and I think we accomplished exactly what our hearts wanted to do.” A good case in point, he adds, was “Never Never”—although Head recalls it wasn’t initially a slam-dunk to make the final cut. “When I heard it we were like, ‘Oh, that’s pretty cool, but I don’t know if it’s something we’re going for on this thing,’” Head says. “Even [Gilmore] was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t know if it’s gonna be a contender, but let’s see.’ Then, as we were packing up and getting ready to leave, Ray [Luzier] was like, ‘Shouldn’t we lay drums on that one song Jonathan did, just in case?’ and the producer’s like, ‘I don’t think we need to, but if you want to just to have it, we could.’ “So, they threw the drums down and Jonathan and Don Gilmore went to work on the vocals, and boom—when the vocals were there, it was like, ‘Oh, wow, this could be a really cool song’—and the first single.” Korn has followed “Never Never” with “Love & Meth,” and an accompanying video that depicts that band members as marionettes. The group has tour plans that stretch into 2014, and Head is confident we’ll be hearing him in the band for the foreseeable future—and, he hopes, forever. “Only time will tell,” he notes, “but everything’s going great right now, and it looks like we’re going to be working this [album] for another two years. And I can see it happening for the rest of our careers if all goes well, so here’s hopin’.”




They Live for the Applause Clap Your Hands Say Yeah concoct a departure of a fourth album for 2014 by Gary Graff


lap Your Hands Say Yeah will turn 10 this year. But founder and frontman Alec Ounsworth isn’t anticipating a gala celebration. ¶ “I guess the celebration of it might be that we’re going to bring out a new record, and being on the road and playing songs from all our records,” says Ounsworth, who formed the indie rock group at Connecticut College in New London before moving to Brooklyn (although Ounsworth resides in Philadelphia). “We may do something else, but I try not to look back too much—even though people constantly remind me of it.” Ounsworth and longtime cohort Sean Greenhalgh will certainly be able to look back at a decade of impressive achievement when the time comes, of course. CYHSY were one of the first bands to make their mark via the Internet before scoring a record deal, circulating music via social media and MP3 blogs, then really hitting the radar when Pitchfork Media gave the then-



fledgling group’s self-titled 2005 debut a Best New Music designation. David Bowie and David Byrne were among fans spotted at early shows. Not surprisingly, the labels came calling, and CHYSY inked with Britain’s Wichita Recordings, with the debut charting in the Top 30 in the U.K. and also in Japan. In 2007, Some Loud Thunder got Ounsworth and com-

pany onto the Billboard 200 (at No. 47), followed by an appearance in the film The Great Buck Howard. But a third studio album was delayed by a brief band hiatus, during which Ounsworth released a solo album—Mo Beauty in 2009—as well as starting a side band, Flashy Python. Greenhalgh began producing other bands, and CYHSY members Robbie Guertin and Tyler Sargent started a group

called Uninhabitable Mansions with Au Revoir Simone’s Annie Hart. Hysterical appeared in 2011, countering rumors that CYHSY had broken up, and Ounsworth and Greenhalgh put together a stopgap EP called Little Moments this year, which mixed B-sides with some new material—and new directions. “Sean and I were just messing around with a lot of electronic stuff he was getting into,” Ounsworth says. “I dug it. I thought it was cool, and I still do, but at the same time it was pretty clearly something we did so people would have a general idea of what we were up to, and to

keep people in the loop. It’s going to be one of those unusual artifacts that bands have, like Guided by Voices have a billion of.” CYHSY’s real investment, meanwhile, is their fourth album, which the group plans to release in 2014. It was recorded with Flaming Lips’ cohort and Mercury Rev co-founder Dave Fridmann in upstate New York, culled from nearly 30 songs Ounsworth brought into the sessions. And, he predicts, the results lean towards the eccentric. “Dave definitely plays to my more unusual instincts, which are not to give people precisely what they want at any given moment,”

Ounsworth acknowledges. “But I do think it’s a bit more of a balance. I think it sounds like a more unusual Clap Your Hands record, but I’m not really sure what I can compare it to. I don’t even know exactly what the influence for some of these songs might have been, but I recall writing them in a similar span of about two weeks—then writing them about 10 times so they all fit together. “So, yeah,” he adds with a laugh, “I’m not really sure what it sounds like. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it, to be honest.” But Ounsworth does cite some more recent listening that he feels affected his writing for the new set. “I’ve been listening to a lot of the bands Dave has been [producing], partly for preparation and also because I’m just genuinely interested,” Ounsworth says. “It’s stuff like Tame Impala and the new MGMT record. I guess I’m starting to gather more ideas from contemporaries than I did in the past, when I sort of drew from Eno’s catalog or something like that. “But, yeah, there’s Broken Social Scene, too... it’s often friends. I think it’s more convenient that way, ’cause I can ask them how they did something and then figure out how to use it for our purposes.” Ounsworth envisions another solo album in the future—“more of a pulled-back acoustic record with some friends,” he says—but CYHSY is the clear and present focus for the time being. “I’m pretty overwhelmed by this at the moment,” he admits. “I’m looking forward to finally putting these songs to rest and getting them out and then moving ahead—and probably moving on to something that’s just very different from it, which is the way I like to do things.”



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photo by LEAH NASH

Ich Bin Wiggy Berliner Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks’ new album is American-made and European-played

The latest Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks album,

Wig Out At Jagbags (Matador), may be one of the first great LPs of the new year. It doesn’t hurt that it’s among the first under consideration for the title. “It’s out seven days in, so we have a head start,” says Malkmus, freshly relocated to his Portland, Ore., home after a two-year stint living in Berlin. “It’s like holding your children back a year so they’re ahead of everybody—that’s what we were thinking. But by the end of 2014, they’ll have all this time to react and top it. That’s one of the dangers of setting the pace.” Malkmus quickly deflects any comments about Wig Out At Jagbags’ album-of-the-year status as strictly “tongue-in-cheek,” and then becomes philosophical. “It’s hard to tell what music means now, because of however it’s disseminated and interpreted,” he says wistfully. “We tend to think of the classic time of the Beatles or (the) fairly indie (era) like the Smiths as certain times when music was super important, walls were being broken down and it was part of this cultural dialogue. Now we think it’s all been done before, there’s so much, and it’s in one ear and out the other. You read Pitchfork or MAGNET, and it means everything, but that’s what they do.” Point taken. But it does not negate the fact that Malkmus and the Jicks (bassist Joanna Bolme, keyboardist Mike Clark, drummer Jake Morris) have invested Wig Out At Jagbags with a bristling intensity and freewheeling purpose that enhances the band’s well-established penchant for accessible indie-rock quirk and defines the album as a clear personal best, which should ultimately trigger a similar recognition across the new year’s musical vista of subsequent releases. Although Malkmus downplays any suggestion that living in Berlin had the same creative impact on him as it has on so many others (see sidebar), he admits the scenery change was at least rejuvenating. “I think our family—not counting our kids—were kind of burnt on the routines here, 10 years in Portland, 47 years in America,” he says. “We decided to do something like getting out of college, just go somewhere. We could afford to do it, although more because of our jobs, not because of the financial burden. We rented our house, and we basically broke even. Berlin’s not especially expensive. It’s like the world in general; if you want luxury goods, they cost the same everywhere. If you want organic food, you pay more. You can have a better life over there, because there are cheap rent options and food options and social services, and insurance is cheaper. It’s not like they’re somehow spiritually advanced; they’re in the same cruel capitalist ballpark with a little more respect for the losers and

the people who don’t make it. Here, you’re a little more sink-or-swim.” Many of Wig Out’s songs were demoed three years ago for the Mirror Traffic tour as a way to inject new material into the set list for then-new drummer Morris. A quick touring circuit before starting the record tightened up the songs on the eve of recording. “Overall, it was made in America in a way, but finished and recorded in Europe,” says Malkmus. “The fine craftsmanship was done in Europe, but the bare bones (were) done in the Third World.” In another slight shift, Malkmus didn’t write actual lyrics at the start, preferring to sing spontaneous scat vocals until he and the Jicks began recording. That process produced some of the best wordplay in Malkmus’ lyrical folio. “I tend to want to be one of the guys—this makes me sound like a twat now—and not pretentious,” says Malkmus. “Not that I’m being pretentious here, but I just decided to do whatever the fuck I wanted and have no apologies for sometimes being pretentious.” If fans are looking for connective tissue to Malkmus’ Pavement past on Wig Out, there are some strands. The album was recorded in the wake of Pavement’s 2010 mini-reunion (as was Mirror Traffic), and longtime Pavement soundman Remco Schouten served as producer. “He’d been asking, like, ‘Hey, I could record you guys good, I know your sound, I see you play all the time, I can work in the studio, too,’” says Malkmus. “That was a mini-leap of faith, and it turned out to be cool. It’s not too complicated with a band like us. And he came up with the idea of the studio we went to, La Chapelle in Belgium. So, he deserves some credit—or blame—for how it turned out.” The strangest connection might be the manner in which Malkmus added horn parts to “J Smoov” and “Chartjunk” on Wig Out. He worked up arrangements using a free internet sample library called Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra, and while he was laying down vocals, old pal Fran Healy (Travis frontman and Berlin resident since 2008) dropped in on the session. “I was like, ‘I’m hearing horns here,’ and I played him the roughs, and he’s like, ‘I can get those guys,’” says Malkmus. “They were friends of Fran who go to his school in Berlin. We went in one day, and they’d never heard it, but they’re professional. I’m not used to that. In two hours, they’d made up a solo on ‘J Smoov’ that was apathetic in a Pavement way and perfect. I don’t even know if they’d heard Pavement or the Jicks before, but they were like, ‘That’s cool, we can do this.’ That was a pretty fun day. It’s good when things come to fruition in the danger zone of horns.” —Brian Baker

Why Malkmus Creates From Pavement to solo work to the Jicks, Stephen Malkmus’ creative touchstones have become a constant source of curious speculation. MAGNET is pleased to allow him a forum to directly address the issues. Magma “They were the total outlier of weirdness. There will never be a band like Magma ever again, nothing close. And I even like the baroque postMagma stuff. I can get into the pretentious stuff.” The Grateful Dead “I like the Dead, and they meander and jam. There’s a little more once-in-alifetime feel to the Dead, because it’s about these five people and more of a group thing. I react more to groups, at least the dream/lie of four or five ne’er-do-wells coming up with something.” The Jicks “As far as music, I have the Jicks, and they don’t have kids. They just want to rock. The drummer is like, ‘Wow, another mid-tempo one … all right.’ I forget. When you’re at your house writing songs, you’re just strumming away, not thinking about a live setting or what might be enjoyable for variety, so it’s good to have them to knock dad around.”



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Still Reborn Recovering from emotional catharsis, Ari Picker reinvents Lost In The Trees Ari Picker felt exhausted and burned out by Lost

In The Trees’ A Church That Fits Our Needs. The 2012 album memorialized Picker’s mother, artist Karen Shelton who committed suicide in 2008, and it tested his composition skills, since he wanted to stretch the orchestral elements that had been part of the band’s previous album, All Alone In An Empty House, and include much of what he learned while earning his Berklee degree in film scoring and composition. The project was deeply personal and deeply ambitious. “I was just thinking about it so hard,” says Picker, “and trying to include all these different techniques that I had learned, but not making it sound forced; wanting it to have these jagged moments, but still for it to be beautiful. And then, you know, the whole narrative of the thing—it was exhausting. It’s a miracle that it got done.” But it did get done. It made many critics’ 2012 top-10 lists (including the top spot for the Wall Street Journal), and it led the North Carolina band to appear at New York’s Lincoln Center for the American Songbook Series. But the tour that preceded that show was fraught with challenges: Rock clubs weren’t the ideal venues for the band’s delicate dynamics and string arrangements for cellos and violins. After all that, Picker questioned his desire to make another album. But he has made another. Past Life (Anti-) jettisons many of Church’s identifying markers: It’s abstract and impressionistic rather than overtly personal, and it’s minimalist rather than maximalist. It relies more on electric guitars and synthesizers than on string sections, and when the strings are attached, they come more often in isolated lines than elaborate counterpoint and harmonies. And, aside from vocalist and keyboard player Emma Nadeau and bassist Mark Daumen, it’s a new band, with the three string players replaced by drummer Kyle Keegan and electric guitarist Joah Tunnell. All in all, it’s a step away from Church’s elaborate classical orchestrations. “I had taken that sound as far as I could with the last record,” says Picker. “It had evolved and then peaked with the last record. I needed to do something a little more simple and spontaneous, and just something not quite as heavy as the last two records had been. The heaviness of the whole project kind of wiped me out. I kind of rebounded from that by shaking up the rules or what my process was. Instead of writing a whole bunch of counterpoint and orchestral arrangements, I decided to play a synthesizer and see what happens. That’s kind of where it came from.” His new process began with creating little loops on a synthesizer and then working with fragments of lyrics and melodies to build a song. He calls the method liberating. “Those restrictions and those spaces allowed me to surprise myself a lot,” he says. “The process let me reach out and grab ideas, rather than chasing some feeling that I had inside me.” The album ranges from choral opener “Excos”



and the earthy electric guitar riffs of the title track to the shifting orchestration of the beautiful “Glass Harp,” the piano loops of “Wake” and the ghostly “Lady In White.” “Because there is less of it, then the things that are there can be bigger,” says Picker. “This music is more informed by going on tour and seeing other bands and listening to a little bit more current music, where the other albums are more isolated as far as their influences; or I was in a bubble, so to speak, either in music school or listening to a lot of ancient music, classical music or something like that. I listen to all sorts of different kinds of music, and I never meant Lost In The Trees to be one thing or the other; it just so happens that the last few records have had a sound, and now we’re shifting to another. I admire a lot of artists who kind of reinvent themselves as they go on. It’s boring to do the same thing over and over.” To that end, the new band road-tested the songs before recording them, and Picker brought in an outside producer for the first time for a Lost In The Trees album. Nicolas Vernhes, who has worked with Dirty Projectors, Animal Collective and Deerhunter, helped strip away elements (“Glass Harp,” one of the album’s most orchestrated songs, was even more so in earlier incarnations). Picker also wanted to step away from the center of the lyrics. Past Life avoids an overarching narrative, especially one fraught with autobiographical elements, although themes and motifs unify the album. “It’s definitely a romantic record—I wanted it to have some love in it,” he says. “It seems to me—and I discovered this as I was writing it—that the narrative became about two different souls or entities or things that were shaping each other through different lives in this adventurous, romantic way. It didn’t become much more concrete than that.” Picker hasn’t abandoned the interest in orchestral arrangements he’s had since falling in love with Pet Sounds and Smile as a youth. But for now he wants to keep that separate from Lost In The Trees. He’s writing a symphony and a chamber piece for a concert-hall performance. “It’s much different than showing up for band practice,” he says. “You’re thinking about harmony and voice leading and orchestration and the timbre and voices of different instruments. It’s like putting something under the microscope.” Still, fans of A Church That Fits Our Needs need not be wary of Past Life, unless they were just in it for the strings. The album still contains the subtle emotions and thoughtful atmosphere of past Lost In The Trees LPs, with Picker’s delicate tenor voice at the emotional center. But it allows for more space, clarity and immediacy. The changes are evolutionary rather than revolutionary, as Picker somewhat reluctantly admits. “It is funny,” he says. “You think you’re doing something really drastic and different, and you step back and it’s still me, I guess. It’s not as much of a change as I thought it was going to be.” —Steve Klinge

photo bY D.L. Anderson

Fitting His Needs Lost In The Trees’ Ari Picker unveils three major influences behind Past Life Museums And Modern Paintings “Most of the lyrics are inspired by paintings hanging at art museums in North Carolina. I would sit in front of a painting and write a little poem, then move on to another painting and write another poem. I then mixed all the poems up and searched for little connections and stories. It was abstract and distant and really beautiful. It felt right.” Rainer Maria Rilke’s Book Of Hours “I fell in love with this book while working on the record. Rilke’s style really resonates with me, and it helped affirm a lot of things I had felt and was writing about. Such an intense and humble man.” Music “I was listening to a lot of modern minimalism, like Philip Glass, Arvo Pärt and Gavin Bryars, as well as some great pop records like Peter Gabriel’s So, Let’s Dance by Bowie, the new Kanye. It’s funny—when we were doing the whole minimal thing, stripping things away and taking less sound and trying to push it farther, we were listening to the new Kanye West record, which I really love. That has a lot of that minimalism, in a much more extreme way, but it reinforced to me the kind of process that we were doing. I wouldn’t say he’s the best MC in the world, but how he curated that project really blows my mind. I love it.”



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Proletariat Rock Hard Working Americans bust out the jams for the blue-collar set

Say this about Todd Snider: You may have

to wait around for the guy, but once you have him cornered, he rarely disappoints. “It’s not like I’m a politician or something,” says Snider, punching in late to a conference call from his Nashville home after 15 minutes of struggling with the access code. “I can just be a minor pinprick in the ass of some jerks. I’m kind of a pothead—I never wrote the whole thing down.” It’s a feasible summation of Snider’s shoesoptional, gonzo troubadour career to date, whether he’s working up a contrarian lather with his own tunes, doing a job on early champion Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville” (from his 1994 debut, Songs For The Daily Planet) or probing the darkly emotive sweet spot in Gillian Welch’s “Wrecking Ball” on Hard Working Americans (Melvin/Thirty Tigers). Snider is the de facto leader of Hard Working Americans, a band that evolved out of his friendship with Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools. “Man, I hate labels,” says Schools, debunking the jam-band stigma



that’s been dogging Panic for more than 25 years. “When you label something, it limits its ability to evolve.” Quickly shifting the focus back to Hard Working Americans, Schools admits his integral role in the collective rarely felt like work at all. “I was the guy that had to keep the kittens herded, as it were,” says Schools, who helped Snider recruit guitarist Neal Casal (Chris Robinson Brotherhood), keyboardist Chad Staehly (Great American Taxi) and drummer Duane Trucks (of the famed Trucks lineage) to fill out the band. “It was definitely the most fun I’ve had producing a record, for sure.” HWA began as a collection of Snider’s favorite songs, many from past tourmates like country traditionalist Kieran Kane (“The Mountain Song”) and the Bottle Rockets’ Brian Henneman (“Welfare Music”). Two of the LP’s most memorable tracks (“Another Train” and “I Don’t Have A Gun”) are credited to Will Kimbrough, who played in Snider’s ’90s backup band, the Nervous Wrecks. “Every one of my friends seems to have a song that hits me really

hard,” says Snider. “So, it was really tunes that I’d memorized the words to on the first listen.” And while an adamant blue-collar attitude holds it all together, the level of interpretation varies. There are few-frills renderings of Randy Newman’s “Mr. President Have Pity On The Working Man” and Texas singer/songwriter Hayes Carll’s “Stomp And Holler,” the latter a tune that can really only be delivered one way—saucy and straight-up. Others take serious liberties with the arrangements while still embracing the downtrodden spirit of the originals. HWA’s bluesy, disquieting take on Kevn Kinney’s “Straight To Hell” is a prime example. “He was there when we mixed it,” says Snider. “He loved it. He teared up, I think.” Apparently, Kinney wasn’t the only one blubbering. “We met in the hall weeping,” says Schools of a particularly moving lead vocal from Snider on “Wrecking Ball.” “Man, it really hit home when he did that take.” “I didn’t even know that,” says Snider, slightly aghast over this revelation. “Shit, now I want to see the video.” —Hobart Rowland

photo by James photo Martin bY ?

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Before We Get Old Rave Tapes finds Mogwai at play in the fields the band helped cultivate They’re not the “Young Team” they once were—

they’re 17 years away from their debut single, and marriages and fatherhood have complicated their lives—but the Scottish noise-rockers in Mogwai have, by way of compensating for the loss of gnarly youth, matured and deepened like a good spirit. Their eighth full-length, Rave Tapes (Sub Pop), is the work of a band so adept and so familiar with its own strengths, it’s become a sort of gold standard for what contemporary instrumental rock can aspire to. Mogwai’s longevity might seem an unlikely story, since the group’s ambient, atmospheric songs wouldn’t at first seem like the easiest material to take to market. “And when we started up,” says multi-instrumentalist Barry Burns, who joined the group on 1999 sophomore release Come On Die Young, “it was pretty rare, to be an instrumental band. You didn’t hear it much. Now it’s totally fine, much more common. Rather like the Scottish accent,” he finishes cheekily. Truth is, the members of Mogwai have always maintained a sense of humor and perspective regarding their largely wordless aesthetic. It’s the sort of approach that might—and often does—seem precious in execution; somehow, though, even Mogwai’s earliest releases captured a band that sounded muscular and energetic, without requiring it to “perform” youthfulness in the way so many fledging bands need to. Even in its flaming youth, in other words, the band sounded much older, more rehearsed and more mature than its years. Without accompanying voices, and at first without much in the way of public faces—the band members credited themselves under pseudonyms for debut album Young Team—the music was left to speak, as it were, for itself. “I think that lack of marketability, being a mostly instrumental band, weirdly helped us a bit,” says founding guitarist (and sometime vocalist) Stuart Braithwaite. “Our former manager, he used to say he expected that people would still be wanting to hear us when we were in our 40s—which we’re now not that far away from, I guess. He said it didn’t matter what we looked like. By



which he probably meant we looked like shit.” There it is again, that self-deprecating humor that’s so much a part of the band’s persona, and even sneaks into the music itself. Consider “Repelish,” the midpoint on Rave Tapes: Over a simple, guitar-forward chord progression, a weirdly matter-offact voice delivers a leaden assessment of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven” as an immoral, lascivious, thoroughly satanic incantation. The nature of the diatribe will be instantly familiar to anyone who lived through the 1980s’ alarmist culture wars regarding hard rock and the corruption of innocent youth. In fact, the monologue itself comes from tape of an actual ’80s-era radio broadcast; it’s read by a mate of the band, otherwise unaffiliated with the group on any musical level, “just because his reading sounded funnier than the original,” says Braithwaite. Rave Tapes, like most of Mogwai’s releases, came together in pieces. Beginning in

photo By Steve photo Gullick by ?

Hardcore Must-See TV Will Never Die Mogwai lends its scoring talents to evocative, haunting cable series Les Revenants

March, Braithwaite, Burns, guitarist John Cummings, bassist Dominic Aitchison and percussionist Martin Bulloch began working out song ideas, demos and fragments more or less individually. A round of emails and file-sharing later, the songs began to take shape—and also change shape. “There may be finished pieces,” says Burns, “or maybe only bits and bobs, but always we have to relearn the music in rehearsal.” “Remurdered,” the album’s first single, grew from Burns’ at-home experiment in short-circuiting his writing brain. “I was listening to a lot of (orchestral composer) John Carpenter at the time, and working with an analog synthesizer,” he says. “For the second section of the song, I just played one chord and sort of banged my hand down on the keyboard, and got the on-board computer to quantize all the notes that didn’t fit. It’s a little mental, sure. But it’s about trying to surprise yourself.” And it’s about life intervening, of course. Two band members are now fathers, and

One of the more recent entries on Mogwai’s résumé is a strange project even by the band’s eclectic standards: the musical score for an international Emmy-winning television series that premiered in 2012 on France’s Canal+, Les Revenants (The Returned). Created by Fabrice Gobert and based on the 2004 film of the same title, Les Revenants is set in a secluded rural town in which several recently dead residents come back to life, and try to reintegrate themselves into the town’s rhythms and society. At least in its dramatic particulars, the series is a zombie story, but one that’s less interested in Walking Dead-style horror than the cold, quiet terror just beneath the surface of everyday life. The series’ creators approached the band even before filming had begun; after seeing Zidane, Gobert knew what sound he wanted for his series’ soundtrack. The first music was written on the basis of two unproduced scripts, with Mogwai and the show’s producers in constant contact as filming progressed. “It sounds challenging,” says Braithwaite, “but really, it wasn’t. It was a continuous dialogue throughout the process. That (scoring) mindset is different, really exciting, because you’re not just making your own music; you’re making music that’s meant to augment something else. You don’t want the songs to be the center of it, but you want them to be as strong as they can be for this other thing that’s the true focal point.” Mogwai’s Rock Action label released the band’s soundtrack to the series’ first season in 2013; the second season is set to air this year. —E.W.

Aitchison in fact missed some of the album’s mixing while his wife was having their newborn. “It’s good, that,” says Braithwaite. “It’s good that people are procreating, and getting on with their wives and so on. It’d be awful if we were only doing the same things as always, wouldn’t it?” True enough. For about half its life, in fact, Mogwai has scored music for film and art installations, a side of the group’s work that remains unfairly under the critical radar. In 2006, the band contributed soundtrack work for both Darren Aronofsky’s dramatic film The Fountain and Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, director Douglas Gordon’s biopic on French footballer Zinedine Zidane. “People sometimes ask, ‘Why don’t you do a side project?’” says Burns, “but there’s really nothing that you couldn’t give to the band. Nothing ever really feels outside the boundaries. I suppose it’s gotten more complicated with time, but it’s really nice to work with people like that.” “It’s amazing,” says Braithwaite. “We’ve been able to do some really interesting things.” But Burns can’t resist: “Most bands probably last about three to five years, it seems,” he says. “It’s always a surprise that people come out to see us. Actually, it’s a little terrifying to think what’d happen if it ended. None of us have any other skills.” —Eric Waggoner



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photo by Amy Dickerson photo by ?

Forward Progress Alt-country standout Laura Cantrell refuses to tremble at taking ownership of her career Laura Cantrell was born and raised

in Nashville, and even though she was surrounded by country music, she never thought about being a singer or songwriter when she was young. “My dad was from West Tennessee,” she says, “and every Saturday night his family would gather around the radio to listen to The Grand Ole Opry. (The show has been on WSM for 88 years, and features A-list performers from the world of country, bluegrass, folk and gospel music.) It was The Sopranos of his time. Everybody talked about it the next day. He exposed me to George Jones, the Louvin Brothers, and country from the ’30s and ’40s. My mom liked Joan Baez, James Taylor and Johnny Cash, more modern country. I used to see bluegrass bands playing on the street on the way to concerts by the Pretenders and R.E.M. I had Sunday school piano lessons for eight years, but not conservatory-style. I’d play once a year at the church basement recital.” Cantrell relocated to New York to attend Columbia University before the performing bug bit her. “I was a college-dorm strummer and doing acoustic gigs, mostly covers, before I started writing. I just loved playing. Then I saw Emmylou (Harris). She was a strong singer, not a songwriter, with an incredible band. She was the most popular female in the country for a while and made a big impression. I didn’t think I was an innately great musician, but I saw how she took songs and made them her

Spin Class Laura Cantrell’s curious years as a country DJ in NYC

own. She led me to Lucinda Williams, Guy Clark and other heavyweight writers. I realized I could find things I can sing that would hang together with my originals to make good records. She lit a fire under me and gave me the incentive to write better songs.” After graduation, Cantrell worked full-time at a bank, hosted a country radio show on WFMU in Jersey City (see sidebar), put together a band, kept writing songs and started making records. She used traditional country songs as a template for compositions of her own that stretched the boundaries of the music and won her a legion of loyal fans. BBC DJ John Peel called Not The Tremblin’ Kind, her 2000 debut, “my favorite record of the last 10 years, possibly my life.” Cantrell made two more albums in the 2000s, balancing wellchosen covers with her original material, but on her new album, No Way There From Here, she presents 11 originals with only one cover. “While I was promoting Humming By The Flowered Vine in 2005, I got pregnant with my daughter,” she says. “I knew it was going to take time before I could make another album. I did record Kitty Wells Dresses: Songs Of The Queen Of Country Music in the interim, but that was just for fun and almost effortless. I cut old songs I used to sing in my first bar gigs, when I was learning how to play in a band. I made it quickly in Nashville, with a bunch of session players. That got me thinking about the material I’d stockpiled over the past few

Laura Cantrell did it backward. The Nashville native moved to New York City to attend Columbia University before she started writing songs and delving into the history of country music. “I got to town just as college radio was becoming essential for a generation of music fans,” says Cantrell. “The campus station, WKCR, broadcasts to a New York audience, and approached roots music with the same scholarship they attach to their jazz and blues programs. Since I came from Nashville, I had a head start in exploring the history of country music for myself, as well as my audience.” Cantrell landed a college DJ gig and explored several formats, including a show that celebrated the honky-tonk hits of the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, before settling down on the wide-ranging country and Americana sounds she played on her Radio Thrift Shop program. She moved the

years while I was raising my daughter. What if I went to Nashville and brought in some pros and let them help flesh out the skeletons of the songs I had?” No Way There From Here was co-produced with Mark Nevers, who helmed Kitty Wells Dresses. “I got on the phone and talked with Mark about how we’d approach each tune,” says Cantrell. “The songs were a lot more ambitious than the things I’d written before, and I told him I was open to a lot of exploration. His studio is a comfortable, creative place to work. It’s in an old house with wood floors and plaster walls, and has a lovely, live sound, and he knows a lot of great musicians. We dabbled with different keyboard sounds and brought in some woodwinds and brass. Since he’s an engineer, he has a knack for turning the instrumental parts into real voices. It’s his specialty: finding ways to string disparate parts into satisfying arrangements.” Cantrell had full-band demos she’d made; with Nevers’ help, she used them as a roadmap for creating music that wandered through the world of pop and rock, while staying rooted in country. “The songs may not sound explicitly country to people who don’t listen to country music, but those elements are there,” she says. “We just let ourselves make it up as we went along. If we thought it would be cool to have a horn part, Mark picked up the phone, and half an hour later, we had a great horn player in the studio. It’s one of the best things about recording in Nashville. You can be spontaneous, and it allowed me to be more adventurous than I’d ever been before.” No Way There is out via Cantrell’s Thrift Shop imprint. “I have a ‘part-time’ job to help pay for my music career that actually takes up 50 hours a week,” she says. “I’m also raising my daughter and touring and promoting myself. I’m really stretched, but you can’t achieve anything if you don’t take risks. I’m optimistic and realistic. I’m not at the age where I can be the next Adele, but I think this is the best album I’ve ever made, and it’s exciting to be in control of the process. —j. poet

show to WFMU in Jersey City after graduating. “I was aware of a country scene in New York, and became part of that community because I had a radio show and a band,” she says. “Radio Thrift Shop was a chance to express what country could be without following the line that went from Loretta Lynn, to Reba (McEntire), to Trisha Yearwood. I wanted to follow Loretta to k.d. lang and the other directions the music was taking. I was hearing a lot of new artists that weren’t college rock or country, but an interesting hybrid of the two. You had Steve Earle, Dwight Yoakam and Uncle Tupelo using country for music that touched on traditional forms, but went far beyond it.” Cantrell’s program stayed on the air for 13 years, and she doesn’t discount the idea of returning someday, but for now she’s focused on promoting No Way There From Here and raising her daughter. —j.p.



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Good For The Soul Cancer survivor and soul goddess Sharon Jones is finally ready to take your requests “You can only stay down so long,” says Sharon Jones. “You’ve got to get back up and go.” Jones was down for most of last year, starting in May. Pancreatic cancer, stage two. Surgery that removed her gall bladder, the head of her pancreas, a foot and a half of small intestine and rebuilt her bile duct. Cancer discovered in her lymph nodes. Chemo that lasted through the end of the year. “I really thought I was going to die,” she admits, from upstate New York, near Cooperstown, where she received her chemotherapy treatments. The cancer was discovered just as Jones was gearing up to release Give The People What They Want, her fifth album of old-school soul music with her band, the Dap-Kings. But now, the 57-year-old Jones is planning to get back up and go. The album, originally slated for August, arrived in January, and she is just starting to begin touring, although with judiciously scheduled off-days. “I just figure everything is going to be all right,” says Jones, who’s back onstage even though she’s concerned about her white cell count and stamina. “I just have faith that God brought me this far and everything is in his plan. If I’m not all right, we’ll know. You’ve gotta reach for it, you’ve gotta go. No one is pushing me; I’m not pushing myself. I want to make sure I can do it. If I get out there, I want to keep going and not have to come back.” That’s good for all of us. Jones is a dynamite performer—a forceful singer, an energetic dancer, a commanding frontwoman—and with the new record, she has dynamite material to add to her repertoire. Brassy and gritty, swinging and soulful, it’s a smorgasbord of R&B, with hints of Philly soul, Detroit Motown and Southern funk, but without a labored sense of revivalism (although the colorful album artwork does look back to the early ’70s). Her longtime band the Dap-Kings— the band that Amy Winehouse borrowed for Back To Black—deserves credit, too. Lead by Gabriel Roth (a.k.a. Bosco Mann), the Dap-Kings also do the songwriting. Some of the tunes recorded in 2012 now take on new meanings, postcancer. “People Don’t Get What They Deserve” is one. The opening track, “Retreat,” is another, Jones says. “It’s so amazing how when I recorded that song, I was talking to this guy, telling him, ‘Get back, you don’t mess with me, you’re crazy!’” she says. “And now it’s the cancer, and I beat that. It’s telling the whole story.” Jones’ recording career started late, when she was in her 40s, and she feels fortunate to have discovered that people want the soulful music she and the Dap-Kings can give them. “God has blessed me with a gift,” she says. “I’m not a pop singer. I don’t have the look; I can’t compete with these things. But my time came along. God sent along stuff that I can do, and I can use what I have. We continue to do the type of music that’s in our heart—not changing it, not trying to go pop, not trying to be rap. We’re staying true to what we’re doing.” —Steve Klinge



Photo By paul mcgeiver

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Fan Fiction Jonathan Wilson conjures mid-’70s psych/folk with a little help from famous friends It’s another peaceful evening in Laurel

Canyon. Day is finally surrendering to night, which signals the onset of shooting the waltz scenes in the video for “Dear Friend,” the leadoff single from acclaimed producer and singer/songwriter Jonathan Wilson’s latest album, Fanfare. The location of the shoot is a patch of driveway at the end of a dirt road that snakes perilously through a warren of hillside hippie hobbit holes and dead-ends in front of Wilson’s manager’s hillside house. The dancers are dressed in turn-of-the-last-century period regalia—top hats and tails, taffeta ball gowns and silk gloves—that set the twilight reeling. When I left my hotel, it was the 21st century outside, but after a half hour wending through Laurel Canyon’s steeply perched roads, past any number of leafy homesteads that Graham Nash may well have been singing about in “Our House,” it’s beginning to feel a lot like 1969—only to arrive at the video shoot and find everyone is dressed like it’s 1869. It’s sort of like that scene in Inception where they induce a dream and, once inside, they induce another dream. Wilson is no stranger to the woozy cognitive dissonance of doing the time warp again. There is retro-hippie chic and then there’s Jonathan Wilson, who, by all sounds and appearances, seems to have emerged fully formed—bearded, bangled and bell-bottomed—from 1971 via a wormhole rendered incontinent by too many Quaaludes and Brandy Alexanders at the Troubadour. Gentle Spirit, Wilson’s critically acclaimed 2011 solo debut, sounded like Crosby, Stills,



Nash & Young getting high on The Dark Side Of The Moon. The new Fanfare sets the Wayback Machine for a slightly more recent vintage— roughly 1975, by my reckoning. The Sopwith Camel cover and occasional jazz flute filigree notwithstanding, Fanfare sounds like Crosby, Stills & Nash crashing the recording sessions for Wish You Were Here, only to find out that Steely Dan has already done all the blow. Tin soldiers and Nixon have come and gone. Jimmy Carter’s in the White House and Cecil Taylor is on the lawn. The CSN comparisons are only a slight exaggeration. Crosby and Nash lend their golden throats to Fanfare on a track called “Cecil Taylor,” which is easily the most interesting thing either have harmonized on since Déjà Vu. Various West Coast rock aristocrats who Wilson calls friends—people like Jackson Browne, Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench from Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers—also turn up on the album, along with Wilco’s Pat Sansone and songwriting assists from Brit folk legend Roy Harper. The participation of all the aforementioned star power is a direct result of each and every one being blown away by Gentle Spirit. However, the impressive pedigrees of Fanfare’s guest players—not to mention the prevailing sense of transgenerational cultural déjà vu their presence engenders— were checked at the studio door. Outside, they are, to varying degrees, legends; inside the studio, they are just friends who came by to jam.

photo by Magdalenaphoto Wosinska bY ?

“When I’m singing with Jackson or Crosby or Graham or something, that’s when it all really makes sense,” says Wilson, who looks like a hippie Christian Bale. “Like the differences in our age, the generational stuff, and who’s done what and when and where, that all vanishes in the song. That’s the attraction. That’s the basis of the friendship. I was talking today—I just did a tour with Bobby (Weir) from the Grateful Dead—and it’s the same exact thing. When we’re in the song, that’s what keeps it afloat: the friendship.” Wilson is a Southern man, having grown up in Spindale, N.C.—at the base of the Piedmont Mountains, just down the road from Earl Scruggs’ house—which everyone knows is nowhere. His uncle used to play with Bill Monroe. His dad was a shit-hot bluegrass picker and—as the fruit does not fall far from the tree—a pre-teen Jonathan Wilson, something of a multi-instrumental prodigy, would sit in on drums when the drummer took ill. Back in the early ’90s, he followed the lead of a friend whose father happened to be the owner of the Charlotte Hornets, loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly—Hills, that is. Swimming pools, movie stars. Cue the Earl Scruggs. He formed a band called Muscadine with songwriter Benji Hughes, who looks like the second coming of Gregg Allman (“He’s an incredible songwriter,” says Wilson), recorded a pair of albums for Sire that went nowhere, and the band soon followed suit. Wilson threw himself into producing other people’s

music—Glen Campbell, Will Oldham, Father John Misty, Dawes—all the while quietly piecing together a clutch of solo albums that have yet to see the light of day, and as such have become prized artifacts amongst Wilson completists. Frankie Ray, recorded in 2005, is currently going for $200 on eBay. “I couldn’t stop cutting tracks and doing my thing,” says Wilson. “But there was definitely a period … it was a dark age. I should have been doing exactly what I’m doing currently, which is putting out albums and then getting into the world and being out there with a band and performing the material. That’s what I should have been doing. But there was some sort of gestation that was sort of just happening, you know? And those were darker times, for fucking sure. During a lot of those times, I was in people’s bands, I was playing for them, I was producing them, I was helping them, and I was fucking showing what guitar amp to buy and what blah blah blah—it goes on and on and on. But my own fucking albums couldn’t find a home.” Wilson eventually wound up on Bella Union when Elvis Costello heard a CD-R of Gentle Spirit, fell in love with it and began championing the cause. Tom Petty was another early enabler, taking our hero on tour, as was Jackson Browne, whom Wilson met at a party in Laurel Canyon only to discover he was already a Gentle Spirit fan. “The first time that I met Jackson, he didn’t even really understand that I did that album” says Wilson. “But somehow someone said, ‘Yeah, this is the guy who did the Gentle Spirit album,’ and he was like, ‘Oh my god, that’s in my car; my kids know all the songs.’ So, that was kind of the birthing of that. Since then, he’s turned out to be one of my best hombres, for sure. He’s the shit. I just went to his fucking dentist. He just turns me onto shit left and right. He’s the best.” And then, as if things weren’t getting name-droppy enough, Lana Del Ray may or may not have shown up with boyfriend Barrie-James O’Neill, formerly of Kassidy. But alas, at this point, Wilson’s manager intercedes to say that we are now officially “off the record.” As such, what may or may not have happened after that remains a story for another time. —Jonathan Valania



on the record A C o n v e r sat i o n W i t h

Neil Finn

neil finn is a sniper. As a lyricist, he’s detailed and precise. As a melodist, he’s always on point. That’s what’s made his music—with Split Enz in the ’70s, Crowded House since the ’80s and his own solo-album catalog since the ’90s—a joy to behold. His is the sort of immediately hummable “pop” that legends like Cole Porter and Paul McCartney are made of. Finn’s newest album, Dizzy Heights (Lester/KLS), is no less pointed or catchy. It just happens to be filled with eerie sonic landscapes and purple production twists he’s created with the help of Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Tame Impala) that imbue the melodies Finn has penned with a murkiness that camouflages— but never hides—their snap, crackle and pop. —A.D. Amorosi Do you miss the theatricality of Split Enz and even the first Crowed House album? I think Split Enz’s theatricality was in its presentation and arrangement. Crowded House? I always thought of us as a straight-ahead pop band, but certainly one with drama. Hmmm … I never thought about such a question. Thinking out loud, the first two Crowded House albums were certainly more dramatic than the remaining few. I think a lot of that is in my DNA, to say nothing of the inspirations I had. Then again, I also grew up with a deep-abiding singer/songwriting gene, and people like Neil Young. And Bowie. So, I do have great feelings for pop music with heavy affectations. It’s a noble thing. I don’t ascribe to music that always has to have a narrative, or even be easily understandable. Plus, the music and the times of which Split Enz and early Crowded House existed lent themselves to theatricality. There were greater pathways for allowing accidents to happen. How do you get that extravagance out in the music, presently? Certainly it doesn’t just disappear. Would you say that to some degree Dizzy Heights answers that call, and bathes in that luxury? It’s not something of [which] I would have thought from the start. I was in concert with Dave Fridmann and his background—well, it’s not something you always know, but I could relate to his and he could relate to mine. He saw Crowded House play when he was in university. Amongst his records, there’s a lot I admired. There’s a certain boldness to what he does. People usually call it his “psychedelic touches,” but there’s a freak inside of him, as well as a family guy. We worked well together knowing that. I wanted an album that curbed any of my tendencies toward sensitivity. That’s something I feel less of as I get older. I might get a sense of tastefulness next time—I’m not ruling it out—but not on this one.



Is there a change in your life that led to this? What premeditated this mood? I think the songs that came along in my path. I began writing new songs that, at first, didn’t seem right for me. Like the title song, maybe “Impressions”—they had something at their core that was more soulful. I honestly didn’t think it was a place for me. Look, the same thing would be true if I write a reggae song: It just wouldn’t look good on me. The world is full of people who think they can do an imitation of what real soul is. When you get that wrong by a little bit, you get that wrong all the way. But in the hands of Dave, a song that paid homage to soul’s things and paid homage to the past ... You’re right in mentioning the extravagance of the arrangements. They helped me to see my way through the song, and strengths that I didn’t think I had. Part of it, too, is being cast in a mold not of my making and wanting to break free. Wait, so what mold is that? What sort of songwriter had you become as a soloist as apart from being in a band? Sometimes a band being limited by its personnel is a good thing. Having options taken away allows you to approach things in a very specific fashion. Nevertheless, you are bound to the personality of the band. Things gel quickly; they make something of your ideas. On my own, I circle ideas for much longer, with many more options, so it’s more kaleidoscopic in its fruition. That’s a freedom and a burden, with greater moments of selfdoubt. More often than not, now a lot of what I do is discovered during jams. The old days writing on a piano or acoustic guitar are limiting for me now. Jams help me see a fuller picture faster. Why don’t I see you as a jamming guy? Does this come with aging as a player, a composer? Not so long ago, I spoke to an artist whose way into the music-making process suddenly became jamming. The blank page is daunting. Both of my bands

actually started off as big jamming fans, especially Crowded House, whose bass player taped everything we did. Very occasionally, something came out of those tapes, but in trying to relearn the jam, the magic was gone. Now, with Pro Tools and better quality recorders, you can make those sounds part of the finished product. That’s skullduggery. I admire guys like Kanye West who piece things together in the studio. They’re jamming with technology. You also can’t beat the old way, just with a pen and paper, a verse and chorus. “Lights Of New York” seems to benefit from both worlds: the tasteful and sober, and the hugely experimental. Was that song easily birthed? Dave (Fridmann) really fought for that song to be on there. I knew there were strong parts. Just so much of it was conventional. The piano piece, for example, was straightahead, and fell into a predictable place until his arrangement came and Dave reinvented it. Also, there was a point where I thought, “Does the world really need another song about New York?” I counted 175 songs on Google. I know you have played with both of your sons, Elroy and Liam, and they with you. What do you think of Liam’s success? Does he look to you for advice, or is his experience in the 21st century radically removed from your staged upbringing, despite the fact that it’s not so long ago that you achieved success? I look to him for as advice as often as he does me, to tell you the truth. He’s very dedicated to his craft, always has been, and there are elements of what he does that I don’t understand. I think he’s steeped in the Finn family traditions to the point that he recognizes he’ll never lose us. Advice is a funny thing, though. It doesn’t often permeate. I’m probably the same way. I love the feeling of abandonment, working on something, then destroying something, and within that finding a new gem of something. I’m used to that. I don’t think I’m right, and that he’ll take that to heart. You have to give people proper distance. Do you recognize anything similar in them to the relationship between yourself and your brother, Tim, who’s performed in both of your bands? I think so, especially because all sibling relationships must have some similarity. I’m not a religious person, but the second oldest story in the Bible is the one about the brothers. Like Cain and Abel, Tim and I have a strong, strange bond, as does Elroy and Liam. I think my sons will always be close, just as I am with my brother, though I dare say that we have had our moments. We have had our challenges and our difficulties working together. The musical world in particular is filled with brotherly relationships gone bad. Sometimes they manage to make great music together, so it makes all the struggles OK.

photo by Jen Carey




A Very Good Engagement The garage-rocking girls of The Pack A.D. have their sights set on the penthouse by Karen Bliss




omething is brewing for Vancouver garagerock duo The Pack A.D. and as humble, edgy and hard on themselves as the girls are, they know it too. ¶ Nettwerk Records’ promo material hypes up their new album, Do Not Engage — their debut release on the prestigious indie label with its songs inspired by everything from Stephen King to The Lord of the Rings, anti-bullying to social media over-sharing — calling it “their finest work yet,” “its most confident and original calling card to date” and “that one record that finally puts it over the top.” Yes, record companies are supposed to say things like that, but singer-guitarist Becky Black and drummer Maya Miller are feeling it too.

Do Not Engage is now available from Nettwerk / Sony Music

“Yeah, I guess so,” Black tells Needle. “Anybody that makes art obviously would love to create whatever they want to create and make money off of it. That’s the ideal. And the fact that we have managed to get as far as we have with what we’ve done so far is kind of remarkable, so I feel lucky. If we can get further with this one, then it’s great. Who would turn down that?” “Sure, yeah, I mean, I do feel that way,” echoes Miller, answering a question that is likely uncomfortable for most artists, “but to be fair, I’ve felt that way at different points. Ah, I guess it is just a recent thing, yeah,” she reconsiders. “I do feel like it’s happening somewhere. But I’ve felt it in coming up with the music and I feel it the most on all the stuff that’s not in front of the public. “There are some bands that just start up and they have their huge hit and they take off from there. This is our fifth album so I guess it’s like, ‘Oh, we deserve this,’ but it’s not really. It’s such a weird thing the arts; you never really know. It’s such a gamble.” Black and Miller have been at it a long time. They started playing together in 2006 and wrote their entire debut album, Tintype, over 18 months before ever playing a live show. A week after their first gig, they recorded it. Now, in their eighth year, there has been another four albums, 2008’s Funeral Mixtape, 2010’s We Kill Computers, 2011’s Unpersons — which earned them a 2013 Juno Award nomination for Breakthrough Group of the Year — and now the new Do Not Engage. “Our genre has changed album to album,” says Black. “We started out fairly simple blues-rock because that seemed like the easiest thing to play and then we got better at our instruments and expanded from there.” The new album was produced by Detroit’s Jim Diamond (White Stripes, Elec-

tric Six, The Mooney Suzuki, Dirtbombs), the same guy who produced Unpersons. Black and Miller met him around the time of We Kill Computers when he came to one of their shows. “We sent [We Kill Computers] to him to get mastered and we’ve worked with him ever since. It has been a good little relationship,” says Black. In July of 2012, they recorded part of Do Not Engage in Detroit at Diamond’s live-in studio, a one-time chicken processing plant, and then finished it up with him in Vancouver in January of 2013 at The Hive. The whole album was recorded live to tape. “Our first album we did digitally because it was at a friend’s on computer, but it was a pretty lo-fi situation but since then we’ve gone, ‘Oh, we can record on tape? Why not? Cool,’” says Black. “You only have so many tracks to work with and it’s limiting and also freeing at the same time. You can’t have too many tracks. I feel with digital recording, you can go, ‘Oh, we can record this overdub,’ and it just becomes too much. We just keep it spare.” Both girls share in the songwriting, including the lyrics, which have always been cool, edgy with a bit of humour — and atypical. “We’re both interested in outer space,” Miller says, laughing. “The only thing I’ve ever mandated for myself — and Becky seems to agree with, except for one deviation for one album for one song — I will not write a song about any kind of ‘Oh I love you’ or ‘This guy broke my heart.’ I’m not going to write about love. I’m more interested in writing about undersea creatures and robots.” Do Not Engage is “along the same lines,” says Black. “I don’t know if there’s any rule against love songs, but we just agree that’s there’s enough of them out there. Who needs to write more love songs? We just go for something more abstract or some of the songs, lyric-wise, are based off of novels. We both happen to enjoy a lot of science fiction. Maybe that why the space thing happens a lot.” The grinding and raw blues-punk single, “Battering Ram,” Black says is “about somebody who gets bullied or is generally dissatisfied with life and then they take their rage out like a battering ram.”

“It’s our version of an anthem song,” says Miller, who views it as an anti-bullying song. The groovy garage-pop prick “Big Shot,” written by Miller, Black calls a “scathing song” but isn’t sure if it’s about a real person. Miller isn’t saying. “A bunch of people inspired that one. I’m going to leave it at that,” she says. The rumbling psychedelic buzz “The Water” Miller wrote “completely inspired” by The Lord of the Rings — “I try not to make any of my references that obvious, so you still have to be a pretty devout fan to pick it up” — and the cool dark “Creepin’ Jenny” after reading “a lot of Stephen King while we were doing the recording for this album.” As friends and creative partners Miller and Black rarely disagree, says Black. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a discussion about the direction we should be going in. Usually I’ll write songs, lyrics, and either it works or it doesn’t work. If neither of us like a song obviously it’s trashed; if one of us likes it, sometimes it works out. “We probably used to fight and argue a lot more and now we know when to not talk and we both enjoy soup,” she laughs. “Sorry, a reference to Best In Show,” she explains. “I don’t know, when you spend enough time with another person, you kind of become like Siamese twins, like push and pull. It’s mostly copacetic.” The Pack A.D. are on an extensive tour with dates in Canada and the U.S., booked well into April so far. With Nettwerk behind them and love for Do Not Engage from everyone from CBC Radio 3 to Filter magazine, Last Call with Carson Daily and MTV, this just might be the year their career will be pushed over the top. And if that happens, for Miller, she says, “I think what that means to me is just a feeling of assurance that what I’m doing is working in some way,” says Miller. “Sometimes as an artist you can flounder around and create things and throw them out and get positive reactions or get negative reactions, but you always kind of feel that you’re looking for an ultimate verification that what you’re doing is worthwhile. To be honest, even if it came through I probably wouldn’t believe it anyway, but that’s just the nature of creating things anyway.”




Disturbing Behavior

Trivium and David Draiman team up to craft a potent metal monster by Gary Graff



he members of the Florida heavy metal group Trivium knew they were getting a kindred spirit when they asked Disturbed/Device frontman David Draiman to produce their sixth album, Vengeance Falls. But frontman Matt Heafy says the quartet got even more than it expected.


Matt Hefy

Vengeance Falls available now

“He’s the most hands-on producer we ever had,” says Heafy. “He’s a singer and frontman and songwriter and live performer himself, so he knows how to develop vocals, songs, guitars, bass... everything. We’ve never had a producer that hands-on. He was an unbelievable vocal coach, which was no surprise, but he could also get an amazing drum sound and make everything else work. It was a great experience for us.” Heafy and company first met Draiman in 2005, and they’ve remained friends ever since; Draiman asked to produce their next album after complimenting Trivium’s growth on In Waves. Heafy calls Vengeance Falls—which Trivium recorded in Draiman’s current home of Austin, TX, and debuted at No. 15 on the Billboard 200 after its midOctober release—“an angry record” inspired by

personal, political and cultural concerns. He adds that Draiman was key in helping to make the album’s 10 songs (13 on the bonus edition) the best they could be. “He really helped me deliver the kind of message I was trying to deliver, lyrically,” Heafy explains. “If I had a song that didn’t have a fully realized lyrical vision, he would encourage me to rewrite a section—or the entire song—and insure that everything that was there lyrically was benefiting the message of the song. “We’ve never had a producer who could do that. Others maybe suggested we change a line here or there or substitute a cooler word, but no one’s ever really been right on top of really driving the point of what I was trying to say in a song. I think I’ll love these songs forever because of that.”




Pray For Rock ‘N’ Roll Progressive Beltway punks Priests make the political personal

“Sometimes knowing too much about

what is going on can be really intimidating,” says Priests singer Katie Greer. “You will find a million reasons to not do the thing you really want to do.” Fortunately, Greer and her friends were largely ignorant of Washington, D.C.’s local music scene when they formed a punk band there two years ago. Now, they’ve made such an impact that Don Giovanni Records—home of Screaming Females and Waxahatchee—will be releasing their upcoming album (due early this year). “Like, really, there was hardly anything good to do in D.C. that we knew about,” says Greer. “(A band) seemed like something that would be fun and entertaining and worthwhile for us, and perhaps for other people, too.” Inspired by the music of the Minutemen and Austin’s all-female Finally Punk, Priests recorded Tape 1 “in a basement in Maryland” in January 2012. Released on the band’s Sister Polygon label, the four songs follow riot grrrl’s



aesthetic blueprint to a T, expressing sentiments both political and personal. Tape 2, released in spring 2013, doubles down on intensity and focus, with songs like “Leave Me Alone” and “Say No.” Greer, drummer Daniele Daniele, bassist Taylor Mulitz and guitarist G.L. Jaguar blend zombiefied surf rock and blunt-edged post-punk into something dark, peculiar and buzzing with apprehension. And whether Greer is singing about screenwriting great Lillian Hellman or pop drone Lana Del Rey, her voice commands attention; she yells, yelps, screams and snarls, at times recalling 7 Year Bitch’s Selene Vigil. “I love being onstage and performing, but I’m often terrified by the experience and uncomfortable at the same time,” says Greer. “So, whatever I’m going to sing about, it better be something I really want to share with people.” One such topic is the bullshit notion of Americans’ inalienable rights. Speaking her lyrics on “USA (Incantations),” she tears the land of the free a new one: “Unless you are a

rich, land-owning, cisgendered, heterosexual white man-man-man through and through, things have always been bad for you here.” What’s most apparent is Priests’ newfound drive, a result of subsequently steeping themselves in D.C.’s creative scene. “The great thing about the people involved in DIY and punk stuff in D.C. is that they really, really want to be involved,” says Greer. “And you can tell, because it takes a lot of effort to be involved here, or in any expensive place.” A friend of hers from Boston recently remarked that people in D.C. take themselves very seriously—even in the music scene— perhaps “because they are surrounded by this incredible concentration of power, politics and stuff like that 24/7.” Greer agrees, but doesn’t necessarily see this as a detriment. “If you direct that energy the right way, mix it with a few other key components, like maybe a sense of humor, playfulness,” she says, “I think it can be the right answer in a lot of situations.” —Jeanne Fury

photo by amy breesman


Big Easy Embrace Hurray For The Riff Raff’s leading lady gives props to the city that changed her life Alynda Lee Segarra didn’t run away from

home—not exactly. There was no sneaking out in the night or any pre-exit blowout with her parents. The Bronx, N.Y., native was raised (quite capably, she notes) by her aunt and uncle. When asked about the arrangement, Hurray For The Riff Raff’s 26-year-old leader confides that her mom was a busy career woman and her dad had his hands full raising her brother. “It was one of those things,” she says matter-of-factly. High school wasn’t going well for the budding riot grrrl. So, she followed the example of the itinerant hipsters she’d befriended on the Lower East Side and hitchhiked to the West Coast, then North Carolina and New Orleans. “I was turning 17, and I knew that if I stayed in New York, I wasn’t going to cut it,” she says. “My aunt and uncle are still forgiving me. It’s one of those things that you can really only do at that age, when you’re fearless.” For someone whose life path had every

photo By josh shoemaker

opportunity to head in any number of unsavory directions, Segarra has been remarkably lucky. “I had a really great group of friends just like me, who were kind of wandering around,” she says. “We all really took care of each other.” But it has to be more than luck, or simply a matter of hanging out with the right people. With her compact frame, quirky-exotic beauty (think two parts Parks And Recreation’s Aubrey Plaza, one part Rosie Perez), and that timeless, heartbreakingly vulnerable voice that settles into the ears like a smoky whisper, Segarra is the undoubted fulcrum of Hurray For The Riff Raff. That much is evident from the press bio, which focuses almost solely on her. To be fair, it does mention fiddle player Yosi Perlstein, keyboardist Casey McAllister, guitarist Sam Doores and bassist Dan Cutler. And there’s Alabama Shakes producer Andrija Tokic, who engineered Small Town

Heroes, Hurray For The Riff Raff’s new album for Dave Matthews-founded indie imprint ATO. A modest victory of substance over style, its hauntingly intimate 12 tracks are the antithesis of the latest blustery spin on American roots music being perpetrated by Mumford & Sons, the Head And The Heart and others. Tracks like “St. Roch Blues” and “End Of The Line” are entwined in the tragic-comic allure of Segarra’s adopted hometown of New Orleans, which she alternately mourns and celebrates. “There is no music industry in New Orleans— it’s really nurturing there,” she says. It wasn’t long ago that Segarra was singing and strumming a banjo on Crescent City street corners. These days, she’s playing theaters with the likes of Amos Lee and Alabama Shakes. Does the busking vibe translate? “It really depends on the mindset of the audience and whether they want to connect on that level,” says Segarra. “A lot of times, we’ll just start the show with me out there. Most people really want to have that intensely personal connection with the artist. They want you to be vulnerable, because they feel vulnerable.” —Hobart Rowland




Implosions In The Sky For insular Boston indie vets My Own Worst Enemy, bass will never be the place My Own Worst Enemy wants you to know

that it is first and foremost a Boston band. Centered on the musical exploits of singer/ guitarists Steve Prygoda and Sue Minichiello, MOWE’s 15-year lifespan exceeds that of many similar coed institutions, despite the fact the outfit has seldom strayed from the Commonwealth. Fittingly, Prygoda’s side of the band’s latest seven-inch is called “Paul Revere” (Pristine Indigo), a typically treble-filled wind-up punctuated by shouts of, “Hey!” Does any song Prygoda writes not have the word “hey” in the lyrics (if not title)? An earlier opus on the band’s 2004 album No Guarantees was titled “Hey Hey Sunshine,” and had Prygoda rhapsodically waxing about his backyard Brighton idyll (a little touch of country right in the middle of Hipsterville), which is a good way to sum up MOWE’s twangy-prickly persona, like Sleater-Kinney if Emmylou Harris joined. Credit Minichiello for these rustic overtones, although she’s a girl-rocker at heart: “First and foremost, I’m influenced by powerful female performers,” she says. “Women who aren’t afraid to put their hearts on their



sleeves and who get their message across potently without any girly put-ons.” She knows her place in the pantheon—Patti Smith is another influence—and eviscerated that pretender to the throne, Courtney Love, on Treblemaker’s “Cry For Frances” (perhaps MOWE’s signature song), which captures expertly everything the band is about: the weepy twang well-suited for Minichiello’s sorghum-sweet pipes. With no bass player to speak of, drummer A.J. Aubrey holds down the bottom end. But being the proverbial “third wheel” in this “marriage”—musical as well as otherwise— comes with its share of drama. As Aubrey says: “These two fight incessantly … at every practice about every note of every song! But from my perspective, they both write great songs that are really fun to play.” As for the lack of bass—admittedly an anomaly in rock-band frolics—it only puts MOWE on a par with the Doors and the aforementioned Sleater-Kinney, among others. The S-K comparisons are no accident. According to Prygoda, “When we formed, Sue and I were both guitar players, and neither was interested in

switching to bass. Luckily, early on in our formation, we randomly stumbled upon SleaterKinney at the Crocodile Café in Seattle in the ’90s. They blew us away—all without bass— and it was very inspiring.” More than being members of any hipster clique, MOWE sees itself as firmly in the tradition of classic Boston garage-punk bands like the Real Kids and Lyres, a fact affirmed by a raucous live act that’s kept the band gigging steadily in numerous local watering holes. “Boston’s music story has it all—everything a music fan and songwriter needs,” says Minichiello. “The most memorable gigs are when we have a lot of people turn out: the crowd is into it, having fun and dancing, singing along and yelling out requests. And when that’s combined with people who don’t know us, but are willing to listen, open to the possibilities, and end up liking us and talking with us after the set, that’s all you can ask for.” —Joe S. Harrington

photo by Joshua Pickering


Feral Child Youth, young manhood, neorealism and impressionism inspire a vital Wild Cub remaster “For me, I pull a lot of the words from

photography and poetry, and this record especially is, like, 90 percent Philip Larkin poetry.” Nashville-based Keegan DeWitt, singer/ songwriter, film composer and frontman for Wild Cub, is discussing the recent remaster of the band’s debut album, Youth (Mom + Pop). Youth is ostensibly a dance-pop record, superficially light and breezy, but a scratch below the surface reveals there is greater emotional depth—a more profound resonance than you’ll find in your average synth affair. “My interpretation of (Larkin) was that he was deeply in the battle of trying to understand the contrast of youthful idealism with the very tangible realities of how to enter into adulthood in a very real and present way,” says DeWitt. “And being as present in the world as a younger person with that thirst and open eyes for everything—but in a way that’s thickened by your experiences.” Youth is coy, aloof, a montage of fleeting moments and impressionistic character sketches that creates a grand meditation on life and love, all draped in propulsive rhythms

photo by Allister Ann

and gorgeous textures. To describe Youth as a cinematic experience isn’t off-base—DeWitt’s film composition credits are extensive, including last year’s gripping progeria documentary Life According To Sam—but for him, writing pop music and writing film music are two very different disciplines. “I try to be militant about separating them, because for me it helps maintain the preciousness of each thing,” says DeWitt. “Film composing is so great that I can do just a single thing and it ripples really far and wide. Where with Wild Cub, I have to write the entire song, I have to write the words, I have to layer it out instrumentally. I have to figure how to get it mixed, I have to get it produced, and it’s got to be able to sell itself live, energy-wise.” But where the methodology may be different from his scoring efforts, DeWitt’s pop music still pulls from the cinema world—he cites Italian master Michelangelo Antonioni a number of times during our conversation, and his music evokes the broad strokes of the nouvelle vague and the neorealist movement. DeWitt’s storytelling is what sets it apart—his

ability to paint an emotional picture without obsessing over details or muddying the mise en scène with obvious clichés. “I realized early on that people’s interpretation of your music is way more interesting and complex and rewarding than me explicitly telling what’s happening,” says DeWitt. “So, what I try to do is set it up—to use a dumb writing analogy, it’s the Hemingway thing: There’s an iceberg and there’s a peak at the top and all this weight underneath that you’re not stating.” From the minimalist electro-funk of “Straight No Turns” to the swirling and ethereal intro of “Windows,” Youth feels mystically out of time, cosmically out of place. This is the liminal gray, the place where teenage exuberance and late20-something maturity lap at each others shores, feed and steal each other’s potency. There is sadness and joy, pain and happiness in these songs, giving the audience a broad interpretive berth. “I like having the people listening bring that weight to it,” says DeWitt. —Sean L. Maloney



Wheels Within Wheels Ignoring trends and fads, London’s Bombay Bicycle Club goes global on its fourth album. story by eric waggoner • photo by rosanna webster



nglish-born 19th-century photographer eadweard muybridge was the sort of artist every medium seems to produce now and then, one whose vision and technique lands so far outside standard practices that it changes the direction of the art form. Using unwieldy mechanics and frequently putting himself in physical danger to get the images he was after, Muybridge captured several now-classic landscape shots of the American West in which humans appeared like small toys, afterthoughts of creation dwarfed by the craggy vastness of the wild countryside. But today, as he was in his lifetime, Muybridge is best known for his innovative experiments in representing locomotion photographically, multiple series of still images recording human and animal movement designed to be viewed in the “zoopraxiscope,� a forerunner of the film projector, invented by Muybridge himself. [4]



Muybridge’s famous multi-image projects The Horse In Motion and Boys Playing Leapfrog—in addition to anticipating the technical processes of motion-picture projection—also advanced the science of human perception. His pieces offer some of the earliest manipulated illustrations of the phi phenomenon, the optical effect by which related images perceived in a sequence create the illusion of continuous movement. Muybridge fortuitously appeared at just the right moment to exploit a public and scientific craving for the study of movement: The “phenakistoscope,” a handheld device developed in the 1840s that created strobic motion effects with a disc, upon which was printed a sequence of still images, was especially well-suited to his work in early stop-motion technology. But one piece in particular, entitled “A Couple Waltzing,” offers a slight variation on the photographer’s usual single-figure or landscape studies. Here, in a simply but elegantly drawn pairing, are a well-dressed man and woman locked happily in a light embrace, forever dancing, as the wheel spins around and around—as indeed it must, for the illusion of movement to carry over and to bring us back, always, to where we began. In a career marked by brainy experi-



mentation, it’s a singularly human—and endearingly romantic—entry in Muybridge’s catalog. All of which may seem a very roundabout way to come to the point, which is—in case you’ve been wondering—Bombay Bicycle Club’s new album, So Long, See You Tomorrow (Vagrant). But the heart of the LP is just this—this cycle, the wheels that spin and carry us through time, through the world, through love, loss and love again, and set us back on top. It’s a big-sounding, wildly ambitious record, and one that will likely emerge, if we can hazard a prediction, as one of 2014’s most rewarding releases. The cover art is our first clue to content: a Muybridge-esque illustration by U.K. postmodern art-deco designers La Boca, depicting a man and a woman walking in opposite directions under a diurnal cycle of sun and moon. Following their own paths, they separate, but at the top and bottom of the sequence, they meet up again. And again, we assume. And again … and that is, as we’ve said, the heart of it: the separation and return. On paper, it looks like a lofty concept for a pop group. But Bombay Bicycle Club is a very unique—and uniquely complex—pop group. A series of three albums over as many years,

supplemented by a handful of singles and EPs, brought BBC a slow rumble of appreciation in its native England. But each one seemed the work of a band uninterested in developing a consistent aesthetic: 2009’s buzz-heavy I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose was a mostly straight-ahead indie-rock affair; follow-up Flaws was a surprisingly reserved, but gorgeous acoustic album; A Different Kind Of Fix, to date its bestreceived album popularly and critically, added beats and electronic rhythms to the guitar-led punch of its debut. By rights, the band’s fourth album ought to be the one that brings BBC the recognition that’s so far eluded it in the U.S., because So Long, See You Tomorrow is, even on first listen, an album that announces a sea change in a group’s approach, in the vein of Revolver or Pet Sounds. That’s high praise, but So Long is, among other things, the most sonically complex of all the band’s records, pulling in looped beats, Eastern melodic forms, processed sound and other materials that coalesce—gradually, and almost before you’ve realized it—into delicate pop structures. “I think that’s a fair way of putting it,” says frontman Jack Steadman, who composes and arranges the bulk of BBC’s work. “You want the

consistency of the song format. But how you get there doesn’t matter.” And it’s the “how” that really marks So Long as a step in a most ambitious direction. Over a series of weeks traveling in Turkey, India, Tokyo and continental Europe, Steadman collected sounds: rhythms, melodies, public music, film music, all the diverse soundtracks of popular culture in the spaces through which he rambled. When it came time to assemble the album, that motley collection of sounds became the loopand-sample basis not only for individual songs, but the structure and sequence of the record from start to finish. “I’m glad that comes through,” he says, warming to a topic he’ll talk about in depth. “I think when people hear (world) music, they often dismiss it. Like, let’s say, Bollywood soundtracks: A lot of people hear it and think, ‘Oh, that’s cheesy, it’s awful.’ But to me, some of that stuff is absolute genius. I’m always kind of on the search for those elements. It could be Bollywood, it could be Turkish music—could be anything, really. I’m always trying to find aspects of those pieces of music I can take something from.” So, here we have a young band that made its bones with cerebral indie rock, then stripped its music down to acoustic bones, now pulling in forms and models from world music in order to replenish the seed of its songwriting. Though it might sound like culture-mining, Steadman’s accretive approach to sampling and restructuring global music for this record actually makes it sound more a pastiche of forms than an appropriation of outside elements. The sound, in other words, remains the band’s own, only now using flourishes and formal experiments that expand the melodic range far beyond what it’s done previously. The Flaming Lips’ The Soft Bulletin is a fair comparison point both structurally and sonically, opening up as it did Wayne Coyne and Co.’s punk and experimental aesthetic to much more spacious and melodic forms, and changing the group’s character in the process. It’s a gamble—perhaps less so in the case of BBC, which hasn’t really stuck with one aesthetic for its previous releases and has less to lose as a result; but still, it’s a risk that might or might not pay off in the final product. “It’s tricky,” says Steadman. “You want to take what’s there, in the samples, and make it work differently, make it sound a bit cooler. Some of the samples are great, but, of course, some of them have a tendency to sound like something a band would play on a cruise ship, or something. The best of it, though, it’s like the people who made that music didn’t care about it sounding clean or perfect. They just wanted it to sound alive.” Beginning with the sparsest sets of lyrics, melodies and bass lines, BBC slowly built up the music on So Long by adding samples and loops

photo by jamie stoker

When people hear world music, they often dismiss it. Like, let’s say, Bollywood soundtracks: A lot of people hear it and think, ‘Oh, that’s cheesy, it’s awful.’ But to me, some of that stuff is absolute genius.” jack steadman

early enough in the process that the international character of the music was woven into the songs as they took shape. Instead of either element—pop form or sample—predominating, as on so much so-called “global” music, the resulting record sounds organically built, very much the product of careful construction. Assembled and recorded over a year and a half, in fact, So Long is the Bombay Bicycle Club album that took the longest to produce. Part of that length is due to the LP’s structural intricacy, but much of that deliberate approach grew from the fact that this is the first BBC album to be produced by the band members themselves, with Steadman at the boards for much of the process. “We definitely took our time with it,” he says. “You couldn’t force it. And we knew, whatever the result was, there was going to be no one to blame but us. It’s weird, but working with other producers, I’ve always had a tendency to hang back. I can almost get complacent in that situation; I think, ‘Well, this guy’s a great producer, and he knows what he’s doing. I can just sort of turn it over to him.’ We were 100 percent responsible for this album.” BBC’s most complicated record, in other words, is also the first record to be created and presented solely by the band proper. Guitarist Jamie MacColl (grandson of English folk legend

Ewan MacColl and American folk singer Peggy Seeger) observes that, in a strange way, this album is thus “probably the one that sounds most like Bombay Bicycle Club.” So Long, See You Tomorrow establishes its m.o. early, with the slow fade-in of “Overdone” establishing the melodic pattern, then pulling in a wash of reeds, strings, percussion and commanding chords quickly behind it. Steadman’s processed vocals and harmonics, forward in the mix, add a psychedelic flair to the lightly Eastern resonance of the instrumentation. As the songs swell, recede and crescendo into each other, you get the sense that So Long was mixed as a song suite; and though the album occasionally slows to a stately pace (as on the icy pianodriven “Eyes Off You”), most of the rhythm is mid-tempo-to-upbeat, resulting in a record that moves seamlessly and joyfully from cut to cut. What you won’t hear much of, interestingly, are the guitars BBC has relied on up to now to drive the music. For a band previously so steeped in guitars—and especially one with the live-show following BBC enjoys in England— that’s probably the riskiest move of all. “That was a little unnerving,” says MacColl. “I had to really let go of my ego a bit for that one. Most of what I’ve done in the band has been contributing the guitar lines, but for this one, we ended up basing the music around much different instrumentation.” “There was definitely a bit of panic when we first started putting the record together,” says Steadman. “It became pretty clear that (the music) was never going to sound like the record. So, eventually we had to decide that that was OK, that we didn’t have to be completely faithful to the record. I think when people come to see live shows, anyway, they want to hear something different. So much of what we’ve been doing, when we’ve been playing these songs live, is reworking some of them, trying to approach some of the sounds using guitar effects.” It’s fitting, in a way, that the group should be taking up guitars to move the songs onto the road, as it’s been doing for several weeks now. The theme of the album is cyclical, after all, and the idea of return is shot through it. When Steadman’s conversation traces back to the cover art, in fact, he makes that point quite forthrightly: “They split, the man and the woman, at the top of the record, and then they meet up again. It’s like any relationship, or any vice you might have: There are moments when you think, ‘All right, that’s it, that’s the end of it, no more.’ And then you find yourself coming back to where you’ve been.” Around the world and back is where Bombay Bicycle Club went to get the sound of So Long, See You Tomorrow. If the world—the wider world—takes notice of it, the band might find its own circles expanding. And that would be fine symmetry indeed. M



! S I H T R E V O C DIS w Albums You Need… Five Ne

Bastille All This BAd Blood BAsTille’s debut album BAd Blood has been exploding around the world with the singles ‘Pompeii,’ ‘laura Palmer,’ and ‘Things We lost in The Fire.’ All This BAd Blood is a 2 x cd set which includes the band’s debut album alongside a second disc which is divided into two parts. The first half, All This BAd Blood contains tracks old and new which the band recorded over the last few years. The second, oTher PeoPle’s heArTAche presents choice selections from the band’s two mix tapes - oTher PeoPle’s heArTAche PArTs 1 And 2, including the popular covers of ‘What Would You do,’ and ‘of The night’ while also incorporating two recently recorded new tracks.

available now

BomBay Bicycle cluB so lonG, see YoU ToMorroW

John Butler trio Flesh & Blood

Flesh & Blood is John BUTler Trio’s sixth studio album and the long-awaited BoMBAY BicYcle clUB follow up to the band’s intercontinue to blaze a trail as one of the UK’s most prolific nationally acclaimed 2010 and ambitious bands with the release APril UPrisinG. release of their fourth album The first single ‘only one,’ featured on Flesh & Blood, in five years, ‘so long, see presents a fresh take on You Tomorrow’ (on February 4th). Penned by multi-talented JBT’s signature sound with cascading acoustic riffs, frontman Jack steadman, sun-kissed steel drums who wrote the record while and an inspirational melody travelling through india, Turkey, europe and Tokyo, the that flows over the driving rhythms. album is audibly awash with references from each of these The crisp and beautifully cultures. he intended it from spare production of Flesh the outset to tell a story from & Blood accentuates the the first track through to its sense of limitless space: finale. Jack explains: “i think the drums kick with dub there is a romantic side to it, explosions, while the bass although i always try to leave goes on inspired transient the meaning side of a song walkabouts. Butler’s voice, and theme wide open.” free of the ‘anger’ that has dogged him for so long, now available soars with both melancholy February 4 and purity.

available February 4


John newman TriBUTe

less than 3 years after their first eP rocked inboxes and cloud storage accounts, === (crosses) have unveiled their debut album.

“What I’m trying to do is create something classic, in terms of the look and the sound and how it was made. Because if you really hit it on the head, hopefully it will be timeless.”

The self-titled set delivers on the promise laid down by the handful of ePs, remixes, festival appearances and a record store day collectible. The group’s viral, shareable rumblings steadily built an evocative mystique imbued with the same spirit of discovery found within the === (crosses) sound. Minimalist atmospherics, throbbing electronics, entrancing vocal melodies and oblique subject matter organically seep together in === (crosses), captivating fans of the darkly melodic, droning synths/ guitars and the whisper of ghosts in machines. ‘†he epilogue’ is already surging on Modern rock radio.

available February 11

“John Newman’s modern take on soul will be inescapable over the coming months” - Evening Standard “His sound echoes the lyrical outpouring and bleeding hearts of Otis Redding and Amy Winehouse…the neo-soul man is set to charm the world” - Q Magazine The debut album featuring the international smash hit single “love Me Again.”

available now



About A Girl Laura Jane Grace came from Naples, F.L.A. DIY’d her way across the U.S.A. Plucked her eyebrows on the way, shaved her legs, and then he was a she. NEEDLE talks Transgender Dysphoria Blues with Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace, formerly known as Tom Gabel.

story by jonathan valania photo by drew reynolds

in 2012, tom gabel, the then 31-year-old

frontman for Florida-based million-dollar majorlabel punk band Against Me!, announced to the world that he was transgender and had begun the process of transitioning into a woman. Tom Gabel was dead, long live Laura Jane Grace. Grace tells NEEDLE she knew, deep down, since the age of five, that she been had miscast in the role of heterosexual boy in the play of life. After years of drug-and-alcohol-abetted denial and crossdressing behind a cruel veil of secrecy and shame, Grace realized she could no longer deny her true nature, consequences be damned, and summoning a courage far beyond most mortal men (and women), she went public with her decision. This raised a host of difficult questions that are still being answered. How would her wife, daughter, mother and retired Army major father—not to mention her bandmates and Against Me!’s six-figure-sized audience—react to the news? Almost without exception (her father being the exception), everyone was understanding and supportive, but like her transition, it’s a work in progress. She documented her epic struggles with gender identity and the triumphs and travails of the transition process on Against Me!’s extraordinary self-released new album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues. needle


Against Me!

Let’s start at the beginning. You’re born in 1980 in Fort Benning, Ga. Your father was a West Point grad, and for the next 10 years you lived the nomadic life of an Army brat.

{Laura Jane Grace}: Yeah, after that I lived in Tobyhanna, Pa. My dad was a recruiter. Then my dad did a year in Korea, and I lived with my grandmother for that time in Cincinnati. We then moved to Fort Hood, Texas, and then we moved over to Naples, Italy, where there was a naval base. My dad worked at that for a while, and then moved to Fort Leonard Wood. Around then, my parents divorced, and I moved with my mom to Naples, Fla. When did you discover punk rock? Probably

when I was 12. At the time, I was really into bands like the Doors, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and a lot of the classic-rock bands. But that only lasted about a year, because I really started getting beat up a lot around that time, too. And then I discovered the Sex Pistols and the Clash and bands like that, and to us, it seemed like the message going with those bands was less of the hippie message of “take the beating” and more of a message of “at least throw some punches back and defend yourself.” So, that was really what was appealing about it at first. When did Against Me! start up? I played in

a bunch of Naples punk bands, but it just really wasn’t going anywhere. So, on a whim, I challenged myself to write 10 songs and record them with my acoustic guitar. I recorded on my acoustic guitar in my mom’s bedroom. I did that on Christmas day of 1996, and just dubbed copies and put them onto cassette tapes and stole photocopied inserts from Kinko’s and gave copies to my friends and set the single goal of playing one show. I had stage-fright issues at the time, and the idea of playing a show by myself was absolutely terrifying— like, there’s nothing more terrifying. So, I set that one goal and accomplished that. My good friend at the time, Kevin (Mahon), could kind of play drums, but he didn’t really have a drum set. So, we built this homemade drum set out of a snare drum and one floor tom and then a bunch of pickle buckets. So, we just started jamming like that, and recorded another 10-song demo tape like that. And we booked the tour that summer—one of those tours where it was like maybe a month

and a half long and we maybe ended up playing 12 shows. The majority of the tour we spent busking in rest stops for spare change. I was 18. So, why Gainesville? We were both involved

with the radical activist network that was happening in Florida. The hub of that in a lot of ways was Gainesville. I mean, Gainesville in general is the most liberal and youth-friendly city in Florida. There are bands, there are record labels, and there are venues. But in particular, there was an info shop called the Civic Media Center, and it’s a non-corporate press, volunteer-run library and info shop, and activist meeting place. So, that was a lot of the lure of moving there first. That scene was happening there, and there was better opportunity for music. And it was cheap; you could really survive on just $100 a month. I slept under the staircase of this big punk squat that was basically the house in Fight Club. I paid my rent by selling plasma at a plasma center. It was enough to pay the utilities and rent and still have some drinking money and cigarette money left over.

The first proper Against Me! album was called Against Me! Is Reinventing Axl Rose. Were you just fucking with Axl Rose? It was really a

tribute to him in a lot of ways. Growing up for me, when I was a kid, Guns N’ Roses was my favorite band—they were just it. There had been nothing more dangerous that I had ever heard than Appetite For Destruction. I remember hiding the tape from my parents. But then I joined the punk scene, and the radical activist scene, which was all about

So, where does the name Against Me! come from? I probably came up with the name Against

Me! when I was 16. Whatever, as cliché as it sounds, it was about feeling like the world was against me, you know? Right, you against the world—that makes sense. Eventually Against Me! evolves into a proper band. You get James Bowman, who you were friends with since growing back up in Naples, correct? Yeah, then went on tour,

and that was like our first pretty successful tour. It was awesome: We had our own van with a loft, and you could tell there was an excitement at the shows. People were really into it in certain places. The last show was in Bloomington, Ind. When we were driving back, we were just north of Atlanta, and a semi-truck hit us from behind as we were driving down the highway. It spun us to the side, and our two left side tires blew out, so we rolled four or five times and ended up upside down on the side of the road in a ditch. It was like, nobody was hurt, except Jordan (Kleeman), who had always been our tour manager and had always kind of been with the band. He tore his ACL. That was the extent of the injuries. But the band was fucked, all our gear was fucked. Everything, like that, was just gone.

“I don’t want to be an embarrassment to my daughter. I love being my daughter’s dad, and I don’t want that to be taken away from me just because I was born with something in my head that I have to fucking work out. I don’t want her friends to make fun of her. I don’t want her to be ashamed of me.”



photo by ryan russell

deconstructing the rock star, and like not seeing the stage as a pedestal, and kind of seeing that whole idea of music as full of shit. It was kind of taking those things that are still dear to you, and still mean a lot, and reclaiming them as your own and reinventing them. The funny thing is in 2009 we got offered some Guns N’ Roses shows, but we turned them down. The money wasn’t really all that great to make it work, and I didn’t want to have that be part of the memory. I just wanted my

memory of Guns N’ Roses to exist separately from what it is now. We did end up playing with them in Reading and Leeds a couple of years back, and I watched the set and wished I hadn’t. How does the signing to Sire Records come about? Well, it was a really long, drawn-out pro-

cess. After Reinventing Axl Rose, we did an album called As The Eternal Cowboy, and we signed to Fat Wreck Chords. After that, we really started getting

approached by a bunch of major labels. And we really started touring heavily once that came out and were just gone all the time. There was a lot of major-label interest that began to come about. We were starting to take meetings, and it got fucking ridiculous: being flown all over the place, the fancy dinners in fancy restaurants, getting to raid the CD cabinets at label headquarters and take whatever you want. It was just total debauchery. We were filming all of it, and we made this video of



Against Me!

“I’ve had these feelings my whole life. There’s been times when I’ve been able to turn those feelings off, whether that’s from extreme cocaine abuse or alcoholism, or I was on tour for 300 fucking days and I didn’t have time to think about anything else.”

us taking the piss out of them and put it out on DVD. And then we were like, “That’s the end of that. We’re never going to get another major-label deal after making fun of them.” But when all the offers came in, I just didn’t feel right about it. I didn’t want to do it at the time. So, we just turned it all down. We ended up doing another record with Fat, which was (2005’s) Searching For A Former Clarity, and the A&R reps came back with a vengeance. It was much more aggressive, and you’re again being flown halfway across the world, and they’re flying out to see you all across the world, and they’re taking you out to ridiculously fancy dinners, taking you to these parties at executive offices, hanging out with actors and actresses. Bill Paxton was probably one of the most notable. Bill Paxton can fucking hang. He’s a rad dude.

Tom Gabel, 2008

How many different labels were courting you?

At the time, we were getting offers from Sire, Universal, Virgin, Sony—like every single label made an offer. It was fucking a lot of money. We signed to Sire for a million dollars. Wow. Now, how did that work: You got a million dollars to make three records over a certain period of time, or what? No, we got a

million bucks to make one record. And then the next record—in a record deal it’s called “firm”—it was a “two firm” deal, meaning we had to make two records. We signed it, so they had to do the one record for a million, and the next record was a little over half a million. The recording process of (2007’s) New Wave for me was just one of the most magical periods of my life. Getting paired up with Butch Vig was the best thing that came out of the decision to sign with a major record label. Just that experience alone was fucking incredible. The recording process was rad, and then we did a co-headlining tour with Mastodon, which was the most debaucherous tour I’ve ever done in my 42


life and probably took five years off of my life, but it was really fun. Then it just kept going—we just kept touring. We toured for two years straight from the record. We drove ourselves into the ground. We burnt the band out in a lot of ways. How did the record do? By our standards, it did awesome. But we could tell … That was the thing kind of going into it: We knew that it was like, “OK, if this record doesn’t at least go gold or whatever, then we’re screwed.” They wouldn’t put that much interest in the second record. But for us, it was our highest-selling record. It sold more than any record we’ve ever put out before. We were stoked. I don’t know where it’s at now, but at the time, we sold like 100,000 records. We were like, “Whoa! This is mind-blowing!” But to them, we could tell it was small change and didn’t really mean that much. So, let’s jump ahead. You record a second

album for Sire in 2010, White Crosses, and you’re about to go on tour … Well, it was a weird

period of time. We did a U.S. tour with Ted Leo, and we were supposed to go to France for like maybe a two-week tour. But we had just fallen apart. We were just kind of done, you know? I feel bad about this. I feel this is a big thing that explains so much about the band that I’m never really able to talk about, but we got sued by a former manager. I can’t say anything about that. The whole lawsuit is public knowledge—like, you could look it up online and you can read the whole details of the case in the New York court system—but other than that, I can’t say anything about it. That’s part of the settlement? You had to sign a non-disclosure agreement? Yeah, I can’t say

anything detrimental or anything like that. I’m not sure if I can even say that, so how about you discover that on your own, because it’s online and anyone can read about it. We had all of these exterphoto by Christian Lantry

nal factors hanging over our heads, and we were just falling apart as a band, so we kind of went back to Florida and regroup. We had to pull it together as a band and make a record. So, White Crosses for us is really trying against all odds to make a record that was going to be commercially successful. Enough to save our band out of the situation we were in. Working with Butch was still an amazing experience, and I learned so much, and will forever be thankful to Butch. Out of anybody we met during that situation, he just stood by us and continually was there, while at the time most people were kind of giving us the “You got some stink on you. We’re going to step back from helping you out in any way. You’re on your own.” And then White Crosses leaked five or six months before it was supposed to come out. So, Warner panicked, and I don’t even remember what their stupid fucking plan was to release the record. So, they threw together this makeshift release plan and rushed to get the record out, and pulled out all this last-minute crap where they made us include some bonus songs on a version of the CD, and were just browbeating us about the artwork. It just got really bad. And then two weeks after the record came out, they fired Tom Whalley, who was the head at Warner Bros., Sire’s parent company, and they brought in Lyor Cohen, and he fired everyone we worked with. Like our whole team. Our A&R people were gone. Our marketing people were gone. Our publicist was gone. Radio department was gone. Just everyone. And we knew, “OK, well, we’re going to bring in the new team of people,” but it could take months before that happens. Our record was just dead in the water. We’re out on tour and we have no support. No one is pushing the record. We’re just screwed. I remember at the end of the tour … I call everyone into my room at the Beverly Hills Hotel in L.A. We were supposed to leave the next day to do an Australian tour and a U.K. tour after that. I was like, “We’re done. We’re so screwed. We’re fucked. So, let’s just break up the band.” So, we broke up the band and everyone flew home. Breaking up the band gave us our power back in a way. We’re done. Warner was cool enough to let us out of our contract, and they gave us White Crosses. They gave us ownership of the masters. No strings attached. Nothing. Whatever. So, we ended up re-releasing it ourselves, continuing the tour. They basically gave us a $500,000 record for free. Fast forward a bit. You regroup and start working on what would become Transgender Dysphoria Blues. When you started writing the album, you told the band that you were making a concept album about a transsexual prostitute. Is that what the record turned out to be, or is the record really more autobiographical? That was just me just trying to have

a front because I was uncomfortable with it obviously being an autobiographical record. And the transsexual part of that is obvious. The prostitute part is coming off the major-label experience and

kind of feeling like you whore yourself out. So, let’s talk about gender dysphoria. How old were you when it started? It’s not like you’re

aware of like, “Oh, I have gender dysphoria.” You’re just compelled to do things that you know won’t line up with the image of a male kid around you. Whether that’s like, “I want to play with Barbie dolls,” or, like, one of my earliest memories is seeing Madonna on TV in some kind of performance and feeling self-recognition. Like, “That is me. That is what I want to do. I want to be on a stage, entertain people, and that is me.” Maybe there was a certain bit of masculinity with her, too, that made that easier, because I remember my next memory was seeing Rosemary’s Baby around the same time, and when Mia Farrow has that pixie cut, feeling like it was exciting to me because it made it more real to me in a way, that that was a possibility. That that could be me. So, there’s all these things that kind of happened along the way that were building. A lot of it was like shame-inducing, and it eventually turned into something that you want to hide because it’s not normal. But back then, when I was like seven years old, six years old, eight years old, feeling compelled to dress in women’s clothing, I didn’t know the word “transsexual.” I didn’t know the word “transvestite.” I didn’t know any word like that. It was just this thing that I felt like, “This is what I want to do. I’m a girl. I need to express this part of me.” It was like this thing that would build to the point like you would get such anxiety until you had the chance to be alone behind a locked door and express that part of yourself. And that just kind of continued as I got older. Definitely getting into to middle school, kind of falling into drug culture, especially with smoking pot and doing acid, it was something that would make that dysphoria that much more real, because you could forget about the reality and completely detach and tune out and become her, for the lack of a better term. How old were you the first time that you actually cross-dressed? Four or five years old. I

remember building a blanket fort in my room, and my mom had a draw of nylons in it. I just hid under the blanket fort. Explain to me the difference between transvestitism and transsexuality? Well, I guess it’s

just about understanding that there are a whole array of gender variants out there, and people need to express gender in different ways. Like, I think the Harry Benjamin Standards Of Care, which is what governs, like, hormone replacement therapy and kind of sets the guidelines of how you can get sexual reassignment surgery or hormone replacement stuff: They have a spectrum of how trans you are, which is bullshit. It’s totally bullshit. But, that’s kind of where the title of the song “True Trans” (from Blues) is in reference to. Being like, “If you win the scale, you’re truly trans.”

But there are some people out there that, to them, expressing their gender variance is enough by occasionally expressing their femininity, and for some people it’s all the time. And the terms are, obviously, the majority of them are terms that give into gender variant people that want things to themselves gender variant. So, a lot of it is kind of gray area; like some people who are trans or gender variant will say that they’re fine with being addressed as a transsexual. Some will say they’re fine with being identified as a transvestite, while other people may say the word “transvestite” is extremely offensive, or the word “transsexual” is extremely offensive, and may prefer “transgender.” A lot of it is just asking people what they prefer and how they identify. You’ve been quoted as saying—and I’m paraphrasing—it’s not just that you feel like a woman trapped in a man’s body; it’s more complicated than that. Can you unpack that a bit? I think it’s important to remember that

there are transgender women who are totally fine with their genitalia, and are totally fine with being a woman with a penis, and do not want to have any kind of sexual reassignment surgery. And that doesn’t make them any less a woman. It just means they’re a woman with a penis. And the same for the reverse of that, with people that are male transgender people that don’t have penises and have vaginas, but that doesn’t make them any less male. So, a lot of it is just recognizing that it’s not necessarily about the genitalia; it’s a psychological thing in many ways. This is probably like a cliché, an example of it that’s been overused, but a soldier goes off to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, steps on a landmine, and it blows his fucking dick off. Right? Does that mean he’s no longer male? Does the lack of genitalia suddenly negate his manhood? No, because it’s in his brain. You know? That’s just something that he was born with that’s there. Same with a woman who’s had a hysterectomy or something like that. It’s not based on external genitalia. That has nothing to do with your gender identity. It’s a psychological thing. You’re born one way or another. Let me just take a moment here to express my admiration for the courage it must take to go through all this, and that my heart goes out to transgender people everywhere. I can’t think of a greater existential hell than feeling like you’re miscast in the play, as it were. Is it just the act of expressing yourself as a female—or cross-dressing—that makes you feel more at home in your own skin? Feeling like you are who you really are, that you’re being true to your nature? Well, for me, I was in

this place where I’ve had these feelings my whole life. There’s been times when I’ve been able to turn those feelings off, whether that’s from extreme cocaine abuse or alcoholism, or I was on tour for 300 fucking days and I didn’t have time to think about anything else. So, there’d be times needle


Against Me!

that I could just forget about it and fall into this extremely male role, but I would always come back to this same feeling. And you get to the point when you’re 29 years old, 30 years old, fucking 31, 32, 33, and these feelings aren’t going away. And more and more now, obviously, with the internet, you have access to hearing other people’s stories, learning and identifying with what those people are saying. For me, it was such a stress relief. I had the luxury of living my kind of double life, because I traveled all the time and I’d be in hotels by myself. But going through the pressures of a major-label system, fucking lawsuit hanging over your head, like all these things, I have the satisfaction of walking in the door of my hotel room and going, “Ah, I can now be me,” and I can turn this male role off. It was what I needed, in a weird way. It was just the only thing keeping me from fucking killing myself. And I think that there’s a difference between the person that I was—and maybe most trans people would agree with this, maybe they wouldn’t—but there’s a difference between the person I was pre-accepting it, vocalizing it, coming out, and the person I am now, and just realizing that how much the person you were was tied up in male privilege and male identity, and how much of that is shattered by coming out as trans, and how much now you’re in the position like, “What does that mean?” Like rebuilding your identity and your ego and rediscovering who you are in many ways. I spent that last 12 to 15 years on tours playing with bands, socialized in a very male environment, and so there’s moments where now in my life, the euphoria is even greater than it was before. Like standing onstage and singing a song that I wrote when I was 18 years old about being a young punk kid, and I’ll have these moments of lucidity where I can feel complete detachment from my body. And, I don’t know … a lot of it I’m still trying to navigate. I try to reiterate this, too, in interviews that I’m not an expert on it—I’m very much figuring it out day by day, what it all means, and trying to navigate my life going forward. And I’m a fucking wreck in a lot of ways. But at the same time, I’ve overcome something that was holding me back in so many ways, and I know that’s a very good thing. Can you walk me through the actual process of transitioning from a man to a woman? The first step is to get an endocrinologist to sign off on it ... Well, it’s different from state to state.

In Florida, where I started to transition, I had to go to six months of psychotherapy in order for a psychotherapist to sign a letter that’ll allow an endocrinologist to start me on hormone replacement therapy. I had one option for a psychotherapist and one option for an endocrinologist. I moved to Chicago in August. Chicago is just informed consent. You can walk into any doctor who does that type of thing, and it doesn’t even have to be an endocrinologist. Let’s say, in my case, I’m al44


ready on HRT (hormone replacement therapy), and I just tell them I want to continue HRT, give me access to what I want, and they’ll do it. So, it’s different from state to state, city to city. Reason number 7,631 to get the fuck out of Florida. Is it true that when you were living in Florida, there was a group of evangelicals that prayed over your wife at Chick-fil-A because they thought that she was a Satanist? Yeah.

There was a group of people in St. Augustine that did do that. I read somewhere that when you signed to Sire Records, you threw out all of your women’s clothing and you were going to be done with it because you were afraid that if you were found out, it would somehow hurt your career or the band. Is that true? Of course,

yeah. That’s just the fear all along growing up— that if you get caught, it’s going to be bad. That’s why it becomes a shameful thing that you hide, and there’s many moments along the way in life of the things that you’ve been purging because you suppress the feelings for so long that it gets to this breaking point where you indulge in the feeling. And after that happens, you have such strange feelings of guilt and shame that you swear off the behavior, pile everything away into a plastic bag and throw them away in an undisclosed dumpster, and make ridiculous promises to yourself like, “I’m never going to do this again. I’m a man. This is ridiculous behavior. I’m putting this behind me. I’m moving on.” But you did drop little hints here and there in your lyrics. And then you pretty much came right out and said it in “The Ocean” with the line that goes “If I could’ve chosen, I would’ve been born a woman/My mother once told me she would’ve named me Laura/I would grow up to be strong and beautiful like her/One day, I would find an honest man to make my husband.” I don’t think you can get any more explicit than that, and yet no one picked up on this. Right. And on the last song on Searching For A

Former Clarity has the lyric “Confessing childhood secrets/Of dressing up in women’s clothes/Compulsions you never knew the reasons to.” But no one. Nothing. Never. I think people just thought I was being experimental with lyric writing and trying new things. And fair enough. I would pass it off as that. I remember for “The Ocean” in particular, being in the studio with Butch Vig and the whole band, singing that line about how if I could have chosen I would have been born a woman, etc., and being like, “Is that weird? Does anybody think that’s weird? Should I change that line?” And everyone is just like, “No, no. It’s cool. Go with it.” I know it’s a very polarizing and divisive question as to which pronoun—he or she?—to use when referring to transgendered people back before they transitioned, but you don’t mind

when people use “he” to refer to you when you were Tom Gabel, that it’s perfectly fine to use male pronouns in those instances. Yeah.

And I think that may be a unpopular view with some of the people who I know in the trans community or whatever, but the problem is acknowledging my past or the person that I was—or that for a very long time, I was known as Tom Gabel, or that for a very long time most of my closest friends perceived me as male. I sell records every single night at shows. They’ll say “Tom Gabel: vocals/ guitar.” There’s a million pictures of me when I was Tom Gabel. At the same time, if up to a point my name becomes something that is continually fixated upon, it starts to become transphobic. And that’s a little weird. And there’s also many, many artists out there—not trans artists, but artists who have decided to perform under different names, be that Prince, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Axl Rose— whose first names or whatever are not the points of focus in interviews. And I get that right now. This is all really new; this is the first record we’ve done where this is part of it. So, I understand. But hopefully, that will be something that will pass. How did you summon up the courage to tell your wife? That must’ve been the hardest decision to make out of all of this. At the risk of getting too personal, why did it happen when it happened? Well, as I had said, I reached that

point where I’m going to take a year and I’m just not going to think about things, unless I feel the same way in a year, and I’m going to make a decision. And so, it had been a year. And I just—you know, it’s one of those things, that looking back on it, it’s really, really hard to get back to the exact headspace that I was in at the time. But there’s no real better phrase that I can sum it up with other than being at this point and being like, “Fuck it.” You know? Fuck it. This is what’s going to happen, and you just feel like that’s your fate, that is what you were born to be or this is what was meant to happen. I mean, this is you. You’re being true to yourself. There’s really no other way to put it. Because it’s so fucking terrifying, I just kind of flipped into survival mode in a lot of ways, and kinda came out of the other end of all that seven, eight months later like, “Whoa. I cannot believe that all just happened.” And the outcome, which is well known at this point, is that your wife was incredibly understanding, and that you guys are still together. And you told your band; they stood by you. And your mother was very supportive—well, that’s not a surprise. Your mother always loves you. If your mother is worth anything, even if you kill someone, she still loves you. It didn’t go so well with your father, and the last I’d heard was that basically there’s been no real communication between you guys after you initially disclosed to him. Is that correct?

Yeah. I haven’t spoken to him since. It’s interesting, you know? It was like the initial moment when

everyone found out, there was a moment of shock, but their first reaction is to be supportive. But then when the initial shock wears off and people have time to really process it is when you find out who your friends are. How about your daughter? How do you explain this to a three-year-old? Do you have therapists who are kind of guiding you through to deal with the transition and how that affects the various relationships in your life? Or are you just making it up as you go along? Yeah. A lot of it is making it up as you

go along, and a lot of it is absolutely terrifying, especially in regards to my daughter. I’m in a weird point in my transition where I think most people see me and they’re not necessarily sure of my gender. Like I can tell they are processing it for a second, and then they’re like “Oh, male,” or something like that. So, it’s like I go to pick her up at school, or I go in for open class or stuff like that, and I’m still at this point where, depending on what I wear—and I also have the advantage of looking like I play in a band, so there’s that certain amount of ambiguity that is afforded for being in a band, where people don’t necessarily know what’s going on yet. And I know that’s going to reach a point where that’s not the case, and it’s going to flip. And I get scared. I’m fucking terrified, you know? I don’t want to be an embarrassment to my daughter. I love being my daughter’s dad, and I don’t want that to be taken away from me just because I was born with something in my head that I have to fucking work out. I don’t feel like that is something that I have to sacrifice. And I know there will be points where she is like … I don’t know … I don’t want her friends to make fun of her. I don’t want her to be ashamed of me. A lot of it, for me, gives me this extra sense of drive when it comes to playing music. It’s like, I have to do that. I have to have that. I can’t not have that. Especially to show her that maybe there will be some instances where your friends are going to make fun of me and call me names and stuff like that, but sometimes I get up onstage and people clap. I hold onto that a lot, in a lot of ways. But it’s fucking terrifying to me. Are you planning to have sexual reassignment surgery? Eventually, yes. That would be

fucking great, but there are many obstacles, such as financial obstacles, and the amount of time for recovery. Trying to schedule that into being in a band and being a parent, I can’t live day-to-day thinking that way. I realized since doing a couple of interviews that I have to live in a place of, like, “Tomorrow, I am playing a show, and the next day I’m going to do such and such. And when I get home, maybe I’ll hope to have some time before the next tour to schedule another electrolysis appointment.” I’m just going to drive myself fucking insane if I don’t take baby steps. Does most medical insurance pay for sexual

reassignment surgery or the transitioning process? No. A lot of people end up going to plac-

es like Thailand and stuff like that, where there’s still just as talented doctors, but the surgery costs are considerably less. It’s definitely an expensive thing that most transgender people don’t have access to. Which is why I would rather not make it a focus of interviews. Gender is not about genitals, and to perpetuate that is a fucked up thing to do to all the people who will never have the financial means to have SRS or anything like that. To make SRS some kind of pie in the sky that they’re always searching for is just a fucked up thing to do to people. We need to have a world, have a society that just accepts gender variances, and accepts the fact that it doesn’t have to necessarily have to do with your genitals. One of the biggest points of issue, and it’s such a stupid fucking point of issue oftentimes, is the bathroom situation. Of being stuck being in the spot of, if you’re trans, and unless you’ve had full SRS surgery, what bathroom are you supposed to use? Unless it’s accepted that you’re a woman, even though you have a penis. Like, you’re in this weird no man’s land. Or what if you’re in prison? Like some of the transgender women who are women, who are full-on women, other than the fact that they have a penis, and you’re going to throw them in a male prison? That’s fucking murder. I have a daughter that says “she” and “her,” but then calls me daddy. So, when you’re in a women’s restroom and your daughter is calling you daddy, people’s heads turn. It’s obviously way more acceptable for females to express masculinity in how they dress—like shorts and a Tshirt, and stuff like that—than it is for males to express femininity. It’s just this weird thing where, for some reason, the idea that … I don’t know … again, I’ve talked about it with people. A friend of mine named Paris Lees has a theory that people need to feel like they can read you when they see you. Like it’s a subconscious thing; they inherently look for identifying marks quickly while walking down the street. Like, “That’s a male, that’s a female, that’s a male, that’s a female,” without even thinking about it. And to challenge that fucks with people. It makes them angry. But fuck them. Cognitive dissonance makes people uncomfortable. I think almost everybody walks down the street and says, “I’d fuck her. I wouldn’t fuck him.” I think people instantaneously categorize, even if it’s only subliminal. Totally. I

think that’s a lot of why there’s a lot of violence directed at female trans. It’s because most males are so fucking sexist, and that’s their agenda that they objectify women. The first thing they do when they see a woman is they look at her breasts, they look at her ass, and they have that mental process going on that of, “Is she fuckable or not?” And if there’s something that reads that, “Wait a second, that’s not a woman,” or something like that, then their action is anger.

Well, their action is anger because they feel like they’ve been drawn into being homosexual, and in their mind they are so clearly heterosexual-identified. Well, I think the thing

that people need to understand, though, is that just because you have sex with a transgender woman doesn’t mean you’re homosexual; it means you’re very much heterosexual. You’re still attracted to women. Do you still identify as heterosexual? I guess

not. I’m very much attracted to women still. So, I guess homosexual. I’m still very much attracted to women. We went through how most everyone reacted to this. The one constituency we haven’t talked about is your fan base and Against Me!’s audience. Tell me what the reaction has been to your experience so far? Over-

whelmingly positive. Not that I expected it not to be people being supportive, but I’ve definitely been humbled by how supportive people have been, and just how cool people have been. You know, I got a letter not too long ago from a transgender male who had been a fan of the band since 2003 or something like that, before they had transitioned, and they were just like, “I’ve always been a fan of the band, and I’ve always

“We signed to Sire for a million dollars. We got a million bucks to make one record. And the next record was a little over half a million.”

loved Against Me!, but to have this be something that we shared the whole time, and to come out around basically the same time, and for my favorite punk band to be trans-fronted means so much to me.” And just hearing something like that, where there’s people that were there all along who were identifying with those things … It’s like my friend January, who is someone who has been coming out to Against Me! shows for years and years. And for whatever reason or another, she was just someone who I recognized, and knew she had a distinct look or whatever. There was a point, probably in 2009-2010, where I saw her and realized, “Whoa. She’s transitioning. She’s trans. That’s not the punk kid I used to see at shows.” And feeling like this person looked up to me or whatever, liked my band, and came out—I don’t have the strength or the bravery to do what she’s doing? N needle


reviews |




BROKEN BELLS p. 48 Damien Jurado p. 50 dum dum girls p. 52 Guided By Voices p. 54 Superchunk p. 55

Now And Forever Uncle Tupelo’s slow-burning, influential debut gets a deluxe reworking


t was an arrival. Three young men from Belleville, Ill., had come together years

earlier, but in 1990, Uncle Tupelo released its first album. Jay Farrar, Jeff Tweedy and Mike Heidorn were a committed band then, and sounded like one, too. Having sprung from the Midwestern axis of Southern Illinois and St. Louis, Uncle Tupelo self-released a couple cassettes and made some demos with tenderfoot producer Matt Allison that helped get the band a record deal. The resulting album, No Depression, was released on indie Rockville Records and sold about 15,000 units. Although Uncle Tupelo wasn’t the first generation of bands to enrich its sound with older American music, the group’s audacious roots-recycling integrated with the indie-rock uprising of the ’80s. Indeed, the trio’s affection for Our Band Could Be Your Life perennials like the Minutemen and Dinosaur Jr had as much to do with its sound as the likes of Maybelle Carter or Woody Guthrie. Heading east to Fort Apache Studios in Boston, Uncle Tupelo reworked the material

photo Courtesy Of Jeff Tweedy Archives

from the Allison demos (known as Not Forever, Just For Now)—only this time with Paul Kolderie and Sean Slade, who’d produced Dinosaur Jr’s Bug. The band was looking for more edge, and Kolderie and Slade provided just that, even presenting Farrar with the guitar Mascis used on Bug to ensure a bigger, harder sound. Uncle Tupelo’s sonic hybrid crystallized, and No Depression became a milestone, influencing generations of alt-country rockers from Drive-By Truckers to Deer Tick.

Uncle Tupelo

No Depression: Legacy Edition S o n y L egac y

No Depression didn’t just display the young band’s rapprochement to a traditional sound with post-punk dimensions; it introduced the contrasting identities of two rising voices: Tweedy and Farrar. The trio’s manic twang, start/stop pummeling, acoustic balladry, elegant folk/country and raggedy pop tunes felt well-anchored, and the format showcased both men’s singing and their songs. Sadly, the album’s complimentary give-and-take with the blessed relief of two fascinating outlooks later turned into an irreconcilable schism. Farrar’s mournful voice and grungy guitar was dominant here, while Tweedy’s pugnacious introspections dogged him at every turn. Mostly, Tweedy and Heidorn churn things up while Farrar blazes an amplified trail with a jagged edge. The album opens with a killer one-two punch: Farrar’s “Graveyard Shift,” fol-



reviews lowed by Tweedy’s “That Year.” Singing new anthems like “Whiskey Bottle” and “Life Worth Livin’” as well as touchstones like “No Depression” and “John Hardy,” Farrar shows flair and dynamic skill, while Tweedy works the band’s rocking formula on “Train” and guilelessly narrates smalltown life with “Screen Door.” On this new Legacy Edition, the bonus track of “Sin City” illustrates the lineage to Gram Parsons, and completing the No Depression story, the label provides the Allison sessions and cassette recordings from the late 1980s. Remember, in 1995, somebody actually named a magazine after that iconic American expression: No Depression. So look it up. —Mitch Myers


Ghettoville Ninja Tune

A wooden performance

Abstruse, abstractly techno-oriented producer Darren Cunningham’s fourth full-length as Actress was preceded by an album announcement promising a “bleached out” work “no longer contain(ing) decipherable language,” and describing Cunningham as “slumped and reclined, devoid of any soul.” Credit the man for truth in advertising: Even by his usual forbiddingly cerebral, numbingly static standards, Ghettoville is doggedly impenetrable, bleak and inhospitable. The pain starts right off the bat with crushing, barely evolving sevenminute crawl “Forgiven,” soon echoed by the similarly leaden and unremitting “Contagious.” Things lighten up slightly later in the proceedings, particularly on the briefer tracks (the flickering, aberrantly musical “Birdcage” and “Our”), creating the illusion that, for instance, the burned-out pro-forma tech-house of “Gaze” and “Skyline” are of interest merely because they at least bear a discernible relationship to human physical movement. No. But hey—if you found the earlier Actress work far too stimulating and/or generally palatable, this joyless, meticulously crafted trudge may be just the ticket. —K. Ross Hoffman

This Ain’t No Shins Splint Broken Bells trades in fun sideproject levity for real-band gravity Broken Bells

After The Disco


he appeal of Broken Bells’ eponymous

2010 debut and its four-song 2011 follow-up, Meyrin Fields, was the novelty of pairing Brian “Danger Columbia Mouse” Burton’s accessible electronic experimentalism with Shins frontman James Mercer’s obtuse and darkly buoyant pop melodicism. The duo’s sophomore full-length, After The Disco, finds it more fully integrated as a creative entity and willing to explore within and beyond its established context, while still maintaining the unique sonic identities that Burton and Mercer each bring to the project. That unified purpose is exhibited on the album’s opener, “Perfect World,” a gloriously melancholy take on post-disco OMD/Depeche Mode electro-pop and a perfectly lilting mash-up of Broken Bells’ schizophonic principles. The title track co-opts ’70s dance music with Daft Punk bravado, replacing cartoonish histrionics with coolly detached intensity, while “Holding On For Life” taps into the core of Saturday Night Fever-era Bee Gees, complete with fluttering Barry Gibb falsetto, filtered through the Bells’ quirky pop sensibilities. There are points when Mercer and the Mouse acquiesce to each other’s strengths— the former riding point on the beautifully morose and typically Shins-ian pop balladry of “Lazy Wonderland,” the latter supplying the shimmering and sinewy synthetics to the loping mission statement of “The Remains Of Rock & Roll”—but even in these moments, they present the unmistakable sound of two artists pursuing the same goal with slightly different methodologies. Broken Bells’ initial salvos may have set their parameters, but After The Disco expands, transcends and redefines them. —Brian Baker

The Autumn Defense


Yep Roc

Someone else’s songs

Though they’re busiest as members of Wil-


needle photo by James Minchin

co, John Stirratt and Pat Sansone have been moonlighting as the Autumn Defense since the late ’90s. In contrast to Jeff Tweedy’s impressionistic take on Americana, Stirratt and Sansone conjure ghosts of singer/songwriters and country rockers of yore. Their latest is another reliably pleasant, if inconsequential offering. Ten years on from their best album, Circles, Stirratt and Sansone have mellowed to the point where their classic-rock reverence could be mistaken for a crutch. Echoes of Tom Petty (“Can’t Love Anyone Else”) and Alex Chilton (“Things On My Mind”) pass by, eager to be recognized. Nods to contemporary acts on “Why Don’t We” and opener “None Of This Will Matter” leave the duo sounding like a less-mysterious Calexico and a toothless Minus 5, respectively. As musicians, Stirratt and Sansone are among today’s best. As bandleaders, they could use a shot in the arm. —Eric Schuman

Big Head Todd & The Monsters

Black Beehive Shout! Factory

Singing the white-boy/alt-rock blues

My earliest Big Head Todd & The Monsters memory goes back to the early ’90s: listening to two “drive-time” DJs arguing about whether guitarist/vocalist Todd Park Mohr actually had a big head. Oversized cranial regions be damned, the Colorado natives (who originally met at Columbine High, pre-infamy) have not only sold warehouses full of records, but had everyone from NASA and Bernie Worrell to Hillary Clinton on their dicks over the past 27 years. Previous to Black Beehive, they experimented as the Big Head Blues Club, creating the 100 Years Of Robert Johnson celebration, and while album number 10 isn’t swampy blues, you can hear what rubbed off where. An alt/ radio-friendly side does exist, but they generally lean toward blues rock played with grit ‘n’ gravel. Even slicker moments like “Josephina” employ 12-bar shuffles/progressions, giving their poppier side a compelling edge. This probably won’t be playing at the crossroads, but it’s a lot more soulful and spirited than you’d expect of anyone this far into the game. —Kevin Stewart-Panko

The Caribbean

Moon Sickness Hometapes

Untapped explosives

The sixth long-player from the Caribbean finds the Washington, D.C., artpop outfit in a discomfiting comfort zone. Not to suggest there’s anything abrasive or jarring about Moon Sickness, but, as ever, the band gets its kicks by grafting together unseemly influences from prog rock to exotica, from electro-acoustic experiments to fragments of indie rock.

Coupled with frontman Michael Kentoff’s reserved vocals, these mosaic arrangements suggest a more upbeat Sparklehorse or Lambchop. But that attention to musical bric-à-brac tends to dilute the songs’ emotional intentions. Lead single “Jobsworth” is, ostensibly, an indictment of backstabbing co-workers. “I was angry with someone—a number of people, actually,” Kentoff said in an interview. In the song, though, that anger stews on a cold stove, avoiding any climactic confrontation for a circuitous—even passive-aggressive—melodic structure. Cooler heads prevail, we guess. The band’s musical ambition carries Moon Sickness far enough. —Bryan C. Reed

way of Radiohead’s “Idioteque,” the Stigmata soundtrack and Sneaker Pimps. The end result is adult electronic music that feels comfortable in its own slightly reptilian skin, the sonic equivalent to a glass of good red wine at the tail end of an especially trying day. There’s nothing doggedly hip to Davidge’s pop-artisan dirges— and that’s the point. —Raymond Cummings


It’s hard out there for sensitive female singer/ songwriters. The field is crowded, the industry doesn’t know how to market them, and there are only so many yogurt commercials and Grey’s Anatomy montages to deliver their stuff to a wide and willing audience. So, forgive Elizabeth Ziman for the frustration-venting, zeitgeist-busting track that opens Like It Never Happened. “Happy Pop” is not her best stuff. It’s a rather heavy-handed piano-pounder, kinda catchy and lush, but unable to transcend its bitter origins: Ziman wrote it right after her old label, Verve, kicked her to the curb. It’s nice to hear the classically trained pianist get all gruff, but she’s more fun when she’s getting a little bit weird. Take “Sugared Poison,” a wild, rambling carousel ride with breathy, Spektor-ish vocals, stompy piano and cacophonous flights of fancy. “More Than Enough,” meanwhile, is a sincere, acoustic string-snapping coffee shop head-bobber with its head in the fog. The album’s got its share of earnest torchers, but the upbeat “Salt Of The Earth” is the standout—spooky, yearning, bluesy, almost trip-hoppy and a little bit weird. —Patrick Rapa

Cheatahs Wichita

Honest goodness

It’s a shimmery, shiny, fuzzy affair on Cheatahs’ self-titled debut. The London quartet mines a quickly recognizable vein on first listen, all My Bloody Valentine atmospherics and Stone Roses harmonics and echoes of what sounds like the entire Sire label catalog, circa the early ’90s. But there’s more to Cheatahs than throwback sonics, though it takes a few listens to really catch the complex melodies and structures in the album’s strongest cuts. Of these, the hat trick of “Mission Creep,” “Get Tight” and “The Swan” will be enough to hook listeners who are paying attention, foregrounding each of the band’s operating modes—psychedelica, Daydream Nation-style punk/pop and punchy rock workouts—in unhurried turn. It’s actually that unhurried quality that marks Cheatahs as the work of a band that deserves to stick around for a while; after a few spins, you find the album revealing little touches, small grace notes of instrumentation or structure that weren’t apparent on the first go-round. That’s the sign of a band that put thought into the details, and also the sign of a band worth watching. —Eric Waggoner


Slo Light

The End/7Hz

Massively attacking mood swings

The world of Neil Davidge is a dark place, but it’s a compelling darkness, with enough variations in shading, tempo and timbre to make it worth spending time in. When Slo Light wants to pound pulses, it does so expertly, hurling dozens of synthesizer spears under Claire Tchaikowski’s sympathetically mentholated vocals or treadmilling sticky click-track beats for Cate Le Bon to stunt atop angelically. When Slo Light wants to drop your jaw, there’s nine-minute planetarium fantasia “Discovering The Universe” to waltz with. Elsewhere, “How Was Your Day” skews trip hop by

Elizabeth And Catapult


Like It Never Happened

Thirty Tigers

Launching a different offensive

Gem Club

In Roses

Hardly Art

The new shining

Gem Club does write songs—stately, glacial melodies that Christopher Barnes delivers in a fragile, achingly tender voice reminiscent of Sufjan Stevens at his gentlest. But they’re such slow-moving, delicate things, so lovingly enveloped in layers of soft, symphonic texture. And their cumulative effect on 2011’s Breakers—and even more so on the lusher, more expansive In Roses—is so cohesive and enveloping that they barely register as songs per se, or even discrete entities. Appearances aside, the Somerville, Mass., trio’s output feels less aligned with “chamber pop” or even indie than the so-called “modern classical” new-age music of Max Richter and Ólafur Arnalds; it’s a transportive, fluidly orchestrated moodscape of dappled piano figures, synthesizer washes and swelling




strings, horn and bell tones, with Barnes’ voice, often layered in harmony with itself, forming a hushed highlight of the placid, snow-blind panorama that doesn’t (and needn’t) completely resolve into a focal point. —K. Ross Hoffman

Mike Gent

The Rapid Shave Stomper

uplifting listen

Occasional downcast feel results in

The fourth solo LP from Mike Gent of the Figgs gives the impression the man might need a hug. A partial list of issues: lost youth and eventual incontinence (“Taking A Grass Bath“), a nightmare trip to the dentist (“Proper Opera”) and depressioninduced apathy (“Shutting Down”). (In fairness, the latter’s angst is that of Graham Parker, who gave Gent the song.) Things get especially hairy on “Feline Blue,” the tragic tale of a crazy cat lady and the friend who forgets to feed her hundreds-strong brood: “When the kitties ate all of their food, I’ll bet they knew/The first one to die would be eaten, too.” The tune’s closing, titular pun and stuff like the rollicking “Last Boat To Japan” and the sardonic, Pink Floyd-esque “Smoking Guru” prove, though, that Gent’s sense of humor is as intact as his songwriting chops. Gent should be happy with The Rapid Shave, a start-to-finish solid and often tremendous effort; it just wouldn’t be surprising if he has his doubts. —Matt Hickey

Guardian Alien

Spiritual Emergency Thrill Jockey

Discharging the soul

The observation that a record doesn’t sound like it was made by a drummer is usually meant as a compliment. Decoded, it means, “Hey, he wrote some tunes.” Spiritual Emergency is not that kind of drummer’s record. Greg Fox, the tub-thumper who leads Guardian Alien, puts the drums right up front. Sometimes they pummel with metal-trained brutality, other times they spin ephemeral patterns over the heads of the other players. Sparse guitar, brightly lit electronics and Alexandra Drewchin’s processed



Going Back To ’Qopa

Damien Jurado and Richard Swift step through another looking glass

Damien Jurado


eeing as it took Damien Jurado 17 years to

find Maraqopa, it should come as no surprise that he’s staying awhile. The Seattle singer/songwriter joined forces with studio shaman Richard Swift for 2010’s Secretly Canadian Saint Bartlett, but it was their 2012 follow-up on which Jurado passed through the back of the wardrobe, alighting on a fictional place both similar and different from his own: an underexposed photo of Washington where God’s light casts shadows and tin cans are strung to thunderstorms; a mystical, mysterious realm where all are welcome and everyone’s a star. He’s still there, and on Brothers And Sisters Of The Eternal Son, the museum of flight is retrofitted with afterburners, and the golden crown has amassed an army. “Out there is nowhere/But inside is endless,” Jurado sings on “Return To Maraqopa,” his wise words and tribal thump a secret song of victory. Despite the heavy sonic resemblance, this road map back lands Jurado and Swift someplace new, slightly more thematic and worlds more dramatic. Five of its nine other tracks are linked by the prefix “Silver,” yet little else; “Timothy” stands apart from the rest, strutting to hand-drum-and-bass space funk on side one, whereas sterlings “Donna” and “Katherine” are shooting and falling stars, respectively. On the latter, Jurado recalls Maraqopa again, his voice skipping stones over a placid guitar surface. “Metallic Cloud” has bigger stones to skip: “It’s a temporary Earth,” he reminds, “in case you don’t get out.” —Noah Bonaparte Pais Brothers And Sisters Of The Eternal Son

photo by Steve Gullick

voice poke out of the spaces in Fox’s elaborately shaped, rapidly shifting percussion constructions like hungry moray eels lunging out of coral. The effect is rather like post-Super æ Boredoms, which is a great sound to achieve, but they only nail it sporadically—and when they miss, it’s easy to think that you’d be better off just playing a Boredoms record. —Bill Meyer

Noah Gundersen


80 bpm/Dualtone

That’s him in the corner

Noah Gundersen’s live performances are so intense and beautiful that they seem at times like a religious experience. Which is appropriate, since Gundersen comes from a deeply religious family, growing up with only Christian-approved Bob Dylan albums, for example. So, religion plays a part in Ledges, though how much is up to your interpretation. The songs on Ledges deal with life, love, family and community. “I’ve got a lot of good friends/Keeping me distracted, keeping my sanity safe,” Gundersen sings on the title track. The Seattle music scene is really supportive, and Gundersen and his family have been darlings around the city forever. Though the album’s melodrama rubs a little thin toward the end of the LP, Gundersen opens Ledges with heart-swells of beautiful music that somehow manage to capture the magic of his live performances. Ledges seems effortless in its creation. —Devon Leger


Trouble Merge

Going solo

The difference in the Hospitality from 2012’s Hospitality and the troublemakers on Trouble is made plain in the respective albums’ guitar-picked icebreakers: Where the eponymous debut by the Brooklyn trio strums and thrums innocuously, this attentiongrabbing sophomore grower beckons with a wicked lick. Amber Papini’s post-collegiate charms dominate that first clique of rudderless cuties; here, despite the prevalence of interwoven synths and Papini developing her baby-doll drawl into a witchy, womanly delivery (fall prey to the weaponized, heat-seeking “Rockets And Jets” at your own risk), it’s the singer/guitarist’s instrumental mastery that rules the roost. Opener “Nightingale” and sick single “I Miss Your Bones” both get bowled over by acridly dissonant six-string strikes, the Breeders’ cannonballs fired at unguarded Shins kicks, while the last word on “Last Words” is a hypnotizing minute of Fender-bending frippery. “Liberal Arts” has borne a liberal artist. —Noah Bonaparte Pais




Still flashing V-for-victory

Bundled as a bonus CD with this reissue, Lambchop’s White Sessions 1998: How I Met Cat Power is a revelation. Separated from the lush backdrop of his full band, Kurt Wagner recorded these five tracks live and solo at Radio France two years before Nixon’s release. Nothing here should discredit the subtle idiosyncrasy of Nixon proper, of course. The album’s elegant arrangements cross seamlessly from countrypolitan glitz to soul groove and into symphonic pop grandiosity. But with his pinched falsetto and weary croon unaugmented by a cavalcade of sidemen, Wagner’s songs gain a new level of intimacy. When his voice cracks in the chorus of “The Distance From Her To There,” the words—“The lights outside tonight are far from home/And I’m out drinkin’ in the yard”—feel even more pointed without Nixon’s wispy trumpet and steel-guitar gloss. —Bryan C. Reed

Mark Lanegan

Has God Seen My Shadow? An Anthology 1989-2011 Light In The Attic

The butts that litter the ashtray

It’s really difficult to put your finger on Mark Lanegan. Is he a collaborator? Band dude? Solo artist? All of the above? More? The answer to everything is a hearty “yes.” On this collection of selections from six of his eight solo albums (including 12 unreleased tracks), however, a consistency shines through that’s rooted in dusty, downcast slowcore; sort of like Low and Codeine with Tom Waits fronting, and themes of Americana poking through smoky taverns, cirrhosis-addled livers and the tension created by memories of all the dumb shit one does to ruin good relationships. There are a few moments where Lanegan sounds eerily like his old pal Kurt Cobain (“Mockingbirds”), and overall, the mood is rich and heavy, but dark, and enough to have you thinking of nefarious self-harm with those razors you’ve been fondling the past couple hours. Ridiculous packaging and intensely personal liner notes make this a must-have for fans. —Kevin Stewart-Panko

Lanterns On The Lake

Until The Colours Run Bella Union

Slow sad songs of sorrow and distress

The music the Lanterns make has been called slowcore and chamber pop, but the combination of folky, politically implicit lyrics and electronic effects could just as well be dubbed

folktronica. The sound here veers between expansive rushes of multi-textured ambient distortion and quiet acoustic passages. The effect can be soothing, or grating, or irritating, depending on how loud you play it and how much attention you’re paying. Hazel Wilde holds the tracks together with her breathy vocals, whispering truths that most people would rather not face up to, although her voice is often buried in the mix. She also plays with her enunciation, drawing out syllables into disturbing moans that convey emotion more by their tone than explicit meaning. The songs are steeped in anguish and melancholy, distressing meditations on the loss and limitations that are coming to define life for many young people in these uncertain times. —j. poet

Pat Metheny Unity Group

Kin (←→) Nonesuch

Too legit to quit After winning the Grammy for best instrumental jazz album, Pat Metheny and Unity Group spent a year traveling around the world, playing 100 dates before deciding they weren’t ready to quit. So, Metheny recruited Giulio Carmassi, expanded the trio to a quartet and returned to the studio to record an album that’s better in every way—well, except for those damn arrows in the title. All that touring has made the original three—Chris Potter (saxophone, clarinet, flute), Antonio Sanchez (drums) and Ben Williams (bass)—much tighter, and better able to follow wherever Metheny leads them, writing carefully composed pieces that sound like bop improvisations, with Potter’s tenor as the dominant voice. But more important, by adding Carmassi (piano, trumpet, trombone, french horn, cello, vibes, clarinet, flute, recorder, alto sax, Wurlitzer, whistling and vocals), he’s broadened his palette, finding the muscle to push against his lightness, the long, legato breaths to anchor his 30-second notes, and the heart to say all the things he can’t say on his own. That’s leadership. —Kenny Berkowitz

Marissa Nadler


Sacred Bones/ Bella Union

It’s dark and hell is hot We’ve come to expect darkness from Boston vocalist Marissa Nadler. But not even her collaboration with Xasthur on black-metal epic Portal Of Sorrow prepares you for the depths of blasted desolation on July. Over 11 suffocatingly spare tracks built on acoustic and steel guitar, synths and strings, Nadler—her voice at turns soaring, damaged and desperate— recounts tales of love bad, failed, doomed and dead.



reviews On “Firecrackers,” about the summer when “we spilled all the blood,” she stretches the title out over 10 bewitching syllables before singing, “Baby, you’re a ghost and I have changed.” On “Holiday In”: “I called you when I was drunk all the time … laying on the floor, I knew you were never mine.” In Nadler’s world, July represents the heat of passion, the turn of season, a change of heart. That the feel throughout is cruel New England winter suggests July is one hell of a break-up record, an idea driven home by the closing track’s closing chorus: “Maybe it’s the weather, but I’ve got nothing in my heart.” —Brian G. Howard

Angel Olsen

Burn Your Fire For No Witness Jagjaguwar

Necessary evolution Chicago singer/songwriter Angel Olsen turned heads in 2012 with bewitching debut Half Way Home. It was an introverted and aching country/folk record painted in minimalist brushstrokes, mixing well with her rep as a gripping performer. That vibe doesn’t entirely continue on her new record, nor should it; Olsen’s sound had to grow, lest she remain in niche obscurity forever. Next step: full-band rock-ness, not unlike what Sharon Van Etten did on Tramp. But there are trade-offs. “Forgiven/Forgotten” is a hammering fuzztone number with a driving tempo. It’s easily Olsen’s catchiest, most traditionally enjoyable song to date, but buries her strongest asset: her voice. “Hi Five” fares better, riding a doo-wop groove, and her haunting early style crops up, too—consider the evocative lyric “I heard my mother thinking me right back into my birth” on the spectral “White Fire.” Ultimately, Olsen shows she can still be gripping, but with a much greater sense of presence. —John Vettese

The Pack A.D.

Do Not Engage Nettwerk

A big Pack attack

Over the course of seven years and four albums, the Pack A.D. has charted a course from raging lo-fi blues to howling indie garage rock, and all without a hint of musical cynicism, trendy bandwagoneering or hipster irony. Guitarist/vocalist Becky Black’s raggedly incendiary chops and warbly rasp are the Pack A.D.’s centerpiece, and drummer Maya Miller provides the runaway-mine-car pulse in the Vancouver duo’s context du jour. On Nettwerk debut Do Not Engage, the Pack A.D. hews closer to the grunge side of the equation, playing with the slow-boiling



Affirmation Action

Dum Dum Girls’ surf era concludes with an infectious new-wave breakout

Dum Dum Girls

Too True


hat an artist who started out making

lo-fi bedroom recordings might add some extra polish with each subsequent release doesn’t come as much of a surprise. But when we first heard Dum Dum Girls’ rough-hewn take on ’60s girl-group pop songs, we would have been hard-pressed to imagine it eventually leading to anything that sounds like Too True. On album three, Dum Dum Girls have sanded down their rougher edges and fast-forwarded a couple decades, shedding much of the sunnier ’60s-inspired hooks in favor of more brooding ’80s new wave and dream pop. Sure, all this means Dum Dum Girls have lost a little bite, but main Dummy Dee Dee Penny has let herself loose. The band’s first releases found her burying her voice in the mix and dressing it in distortion. Her singing still sometimes gets enveloped by the mix on Too True for effect, but she’s never sounded more evocative or confident. The songs themselves are melody-rich showcases of acute tunesmithery. Each track on Too True is immediately memorable, and you might find yourself singing along before the end of the first listen. But part of that is due to Dum Dum Girls playing out some very familiar moves—plenty of Jesus And Mary Chain-indebted moments like “Evil Blooms and “Rimbaud Eyes,” and album closer “Trouble Is My Name” sports some of the gauzy Mazzy Star-isms hinted at on 2012’s End Of Daze EP. Occasionally the record falls too hard into simple mimicry, with “In The Wake Of You” hurting for a John Hughes film soundtrack to sneak onto. Otherwise, once it works its way through your ears, Too True won’t leave your head anytime soon. —Matt Sullivan

Sub Pop

photo by James Orlando

fury of the geographical touchstones of the Pacific Northwest while never forgetting the history it’s forged. Whether blowing through the Foghat-meets-Runaways riffmongering of “Animal,” swinging away on the ’60sgirl-group/’70s-glam-punk melodicism of “Creepin’ Jenny” or swaggering through the tribal-rock ritual of “Staining Is Normal,” the Pack A.D. doesn’t operate with a scalpel’s surgical precision, but hacks away with the rough edge of a stone-sharpened machete. That’s how you show a wilderness who’s the boss. —Brian Baker


Innocence Thrill Jockey

Style, performance, surprising speed

Three brothers who live in the middle of nowhere (Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia) and crank out great heavy-rock album after great heavy-rock album like they were seasons. This is their seventh full-length for Thrill Jockey (ninth overall) since signing with one of the last venerable forward-thinking labels to survive into this era, and Innocence is exactly the mix of ’90s stoner doom metal, ’90s thick-and-real indie rock, Swiss retro-sludge-boogie (think Graveyard) and less psychedelia than the press usually applies to this band. For one thing, Pontiak gets right down to it with a bunch of three- and four-minute rumblers rather than epic jam space-fillers. But that wouldn’t matter—none of this would, actually—if this trio didn’t know how to make each one of these barn-burners qualify for serious repeat play. A keeper. —Andrew Earles

Amy Ray

Goodnight Tender Daemon

Small kindnesses

Amy Ray uses her solo albums outside of her work with Emily Saliers in Indigo Girls for genre exercises. At least, that’s the way it seems now that the country twang of Goodnight Tender has come along. Ray began her solo career with a pair of solid punk-rock records: 2001’s Stag and 2005’s Prom. Her interim releases were less sharply focused, but Goodnight Tender, her fifth, with its pedal-steel guitars, banjos and twangy harmonies, is pure roots music. The lyrics have a rural, Southern bent, too, as the titles suggest: “My Dog,” “Hunter’s Prayer,” “Duane Allman” (which features Susan Tedeschi on harmony vocals). With help from Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon (who appears on five of the 12 tracks), backing vocalist Kelly Hogan, Mt. Moriah’s Heather McEntire, as well as a band flexible in old-time country and bluegrass, it’s grittier and looser than most of her Indigo Girls work; the Knitters come to mind. Ray may be dabbling, but she does it well. —Steve Klinge

Andy Shernoff

On The First Day, Man Created God Yazoo Squelch Audio Society

The zombie Jew returns

You would think that, maybe, possibly, after three-and-a-half decades putting out records, Andy Shernoff might have run out of jokes. You’d think that in his golden years, the brains behind the Dictators (the most underappreciated of all the proto-punks) might be able to take something—anything—seriously. But then again, a humorless Shernoff would be no Shernoff at all. That said, On The First Day is fucking hilarious, skewering the state of American culture, politics and religion with deft wit and assured songwriting. The weird thing is that if Shernoff had dispensed with the yuks, he might have made a surefire Americana hit, the sort of record that makes NPR all wet in the crotch. But Americana is a humorless genre, which leaves no room for songs like “Get On Your Knees For Jesus” and “Are You Ready To Rapture?” —Sean L. Maloney

Sun Kil Moon


Caldo Verde

Birth, school, Kozelek, death

For years, Mark Kozelek has been releasing some of the loveliest music of the postmillennium, acoustically under his own name and plugged in as Sun Kil Moon. Let’s put this directly: Benji, a linked song cycle drawn from Kozelek’s childhood and family history, isn’t just Kozelek’s best album; it’s one of the best albums by anyone in the past decade. It’s comparable in rawness to John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band or Neil Young’s Tonight’s The Night, taking as its central conceit a deep examination of how we all grew up, how fucked up we all got and how we all got fucked up. Songs go by like a slideshow of American public life of the past 40 years: mass shootings, serial killers, sexual politics, sports, movies, 24-hour news, music and the rest of it. As with most intensely personal artistic statements, you’re going to hear some press jabber about how it’s self-indulgent and confessional. Ignore it. Benji isn’t for everyone—what great albums are?—but it’s a career-defining statement by a brilliant songwriter. —Eric Waggoner



Sub Pop

For us, buy us

The debut album by this London-based duo brings big-sounding and timely quirk pop to Sub Pop and, most likely,

a number of television commercials near you. Now that this is a sort of genre within a genre within a genre, it’s safe to say that Thumpers make the lesser of these three evils: totally forgettable conference-room created wallpaper indie; somewhat charming, but mostly forgettable conference-room created wallpaper indie; and real bands that luck into your mom’s living room three times an hour during a Law & Order marathon. Thumpers are the latter. It helps that the androgynous vocals carry a hook here and there, and whichever one of these dudes that sits behind the drum kit can really hit the shit out of that particular instrument. Otherwise, it’s hard to pull any other redeeming qualities out of Galore. —Andrew Earles


Emmaar Anti-

Heating and bonding

Tassili, the 2011 album from Tuareg desert-blues band Tinariwen, was a successful hybrid. Recorded in the Algerian desert with surprisingly seamless guest turns from Wilco’s Nels Cline, TV On The Radio’s Kyp Malone and Tunde Adebimpe, and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the LP focused on hypnotic and propulsive guitar interplay. True to the band’s nomadic roots (and in large part prompted by the political turmoil in Mali and the Islamist extremists’ suppressive regime), Emmaar was recorded in Joshua Tree, Calif. It also features a few Western musicians (Chavez’s Matt Sweeney, the Chili Peppers’ Josh Klinghoffer and others), and they, too, seem more interested in working within Tinariwen’s intricate triple-guitar arrangements than stepping to the forefront. Emmaar is more subtle and restrained than Tassili; the tempos are slightly slower, the tones more mournful. It’s a captivating album, full of gradually shifting textures, meditative chants and brilliant guitar playing. —Steve Klinge

Various Artists


Transgressive North

doing good

A (mostly) electronic compilation that’s

Here’s a good cause: The Everything Is New project aims to help the children of the Light Of Love Children’s Home in Tuni, India, who have grown up in extreme poverty, many of whom have also escaped child prostitution and bonded labor. To empower the kids, Scotland-based art collective Transgressive North has recorded the Light Of Love Children’s Choir and used the sessions to create the Sun Choir album, featuring pop-art group Marram, along with a bunch of other guests. As a companion, the BOATS compilation collects 29 tracks from different artists, mostly electronic, the only rule being they each must



reviews sample the choir recordings. It’s a very neat idea that breeds some interesting results. Califone’s “Those Mountains Are God’s Teeth” turns children voices into a druggy balloon ride. Dan Deacon and Four Tet go the atmospheric route, Sun Airway and Max Tundra make dance jams, while Ramona Falls and Taken By Trees turn in more poppy material. Regardless of the music’s quality, the cause is definitely worthwhile. —Bryan Bierman



Rough Trade

Dressed for excess

Though it seemed to follow the band almost before it even got started, L.A. psych-rock quartet Warpaint always seemed genuinely at odds with the numerous celebrity co-signs and loads of critical praise heaped on it from the getgo, opting instead to spend the better part of six years honing its hushed, haunted sound before releasing its acclaimed debut, The Fool, in 2010. The band reemerges from the California desert four years later with a self-titled sophomore effort that’s every bit as satisfying as its predecessor. Full to the brim on the sort of dreamy, understated jams that packed The Fool, Warpaint also rings with the long gestation period that seems to go into all of the band’s releases; each taut groove and shimmering guitar line rings with the impression of having been pored over endlessly. Album highlights “Drive” and spellbinding lead single “Love Is To Die” illustrate that Warpaint’s powers of hypnosis—perhaps the group’s strongest point—remain well intact. —Möhammad Choudhery

Lucinda Williams

Lucinda Williams Rough Trade

Simplicity in sophistication

Perfectionist singer/songwriters are only out to solve one specific Rubik’s Cube: the perfect album, every contour sharpened or dulled until every phrase or melodic turn forms a perpetual motion machine. While Lucinda Williams spent most of the ’90s tinkering with the deeper Car Wheels On A Gravel Road until it became that rare beast, her 1988 self-titled album was perfect in a much different way: It was effortless, easy, instantly memorable and (this is where Car Wheels fans are divided)



Bring On The Major Leagues Robert Pollard continues to vanquish nonexistent rivals on GBV’s latest Guided By Voices

Motivational Jumpsuit


obert Pollard recently referred to

“Littlest League Possible,” the unstoppably catchy lead track off Motivational Jumpsuit GBV, Inc. (Guided By Voices’ fifth post-revival LP), as an ode to not feeling any pressure to compete with other bands: “Gonna have a lot of fun/Gonna hit a home run/In the littlest league possible.” Pollard’s a funny guy, but this notion is categorically comical. Who exactly does he think he’s going up against? Who else continually fashions melodic nuggets like Jumpsuit’s “Littlest Little League,” “Planet Score” and “Vote For Me Dummy” that take care of business in about two minutes (give or take a few seconds), yet are permanently seared into your subconscious? No one, that’s who. (Pointless aside: A record full of only ditties like the aforementioned would absolutely kill.) It’s missing much of the quirkiness of its predecessors—and some fans will bemoan that fact—but Motivational Jumpsuit is the best, most consistent recent GBV effort. In addition to the previously noted moments, there are others, like the spare, chiming “Until Next Time” and the hard-rocking “Alex And The Omegas,” which could pass for a Boston Spaceships outtake. Pollard does cede the spotlight perhaps a bit too much to guitarist Tobin Sprout, who contributes five tracks. Still, Sprout remains an engaging tunesmith; the powerballady “Shine,” with its emotional ending solo, is downright beautiful. Half-assed speculation (oh, hi) had last year’s English Little League as possibly the final GBV record. Now we have Motivational Jumpsuit, with a follow-up, Cool Planet, due in May. Scoreboard. —Matt Hickey

photo By chris buck

Here’s Where The Strings Came In

Superchunk’s underrated transitional album gets a reissue


completely unchallenging. Songs like infinite breakup tall tale “Changed The Locks,” understated country “Price To Pay,” euphoric “I Just Wanted To See You So Bad,” jangle-pop “Passionate Kisses” and—best of all—the violin-spooked “Side Of The Road” are flawless in completely familiar ways, not at all shocking until you try and think of how few other artists have put together such an error-free showcase. The most trad of Williams’ trad-rock classics, as instantly recognizable as Sgt. Pepper. —Dan Weiss

Xiu Xiu

Angel Guts: Red Classroom riginally released in 1997, Indoor Living

was a turning point for Superchunk, the album where the band almost completely jettisoned its college-rock-era punk proclivities in favor of fleshed-out baSuperchunk roque pop, setting the tone for stellar follow-ups like 1999’s Indoor Living Come Pick Me Up and 2001’s Here’s To Shutting Up. Compared Merge to indie-punk essentials like No Pocky For Kitty and Foolish, Indoor Living is often overlooked in the Chunk cannon. As such, the band’s sixth album hosts a handful of its most underrated songs. Though the expanded palette isn’t without its faults (indie-rock torch ballad “Marquee,” perhaps the band’s most melodramatic offering to date, collapses under itself when the strings come in), album opener “Unbelievable Things” has the driving jangle of a lost, I.R.S.-era R.E.M. classic. Mournful Kiwi-pop-gone-hi-fi closer “Martinis On The Roof” tempers its yearning with almost girl-group-style background vocals, and a sparse chorus in which Mac McCaughan’s winding vocal plays call-and-response to a tiptoeing vibraphone melody. While “Burn Last Sunday” is as true a power-pop gem as any golden nugget on Tossing Seeds or Incidental Music, “Watery Hands” (Moog synthesizer lines, disco beats, Ringo fills and all) is simply one of the band’s finest career singles. Even with the for-better-or-worse flourishes of added instrumentation on Indoor Living, the band retains some of its signature revved-up guitar rock, turning up and turning in a healthy dose of it on hard-chargers like “The Popular Music” and shambolic punk slammer “Nu Bruises,” which is a Superchunk set-list staple to this day. This reissue package includes a remaster of the original LP, a 14-song 1997 live show and liner notes by engineer/producer John Plymale and bassist Laura Ballance. —Adam Gold

Bella Union/Polyvinyl

Scanning the underbelly, darkly

After a brave collection of Nina Simone covers, Jamie Stewart and Co. go to even darker places with their latest, named for a 1979 Japanese film about a porn star and her fan, and the blurred lines between fantasy and reality. As always, sex, alienation and death (especially suicide) feature prominently in Xiu Xiu’s work, a perfect mirror to a society that shames healthy sexuality and eroticizes violence. The dark underbelly of Los Angeles, Stewart’s new home, looms over Angel Guts in a big way, particularly on “Stupid In The Dark,” which captures a robbery at gunpoint the way it feels for a victim, as if it were in slow motion. Harrowing electronic soundscapes set the scene like a Cronenberg film with sputtering, stuttering drum machines, droning organs, witchy background coos and Stewart’s vocals, which can go from low goosebump whispers to sensual falsetto to desperate yelps like a ghost in the machine. —Sara Sherr

Michael Yonkers

Michael Lee Yonkers Drag City

Such a nice boy

Home-recording pioneer and private-press eccentric Michael Yonkers made a “country” record. He also told his publicist to put “country” in quotes, and we’re not going to argue with him, because, as you would expect, this is only country in the loosest sense. Yonkers’ off-kilter sense of humor and resistance to normative songwriting takes these songs into weird territory—think Blazing Saddles meets El Topo in your living room—and leaves the listener wondering what would have happened if Nashville’s water supply had been dosed with LSD in 1971. With songs like the weather-appropriate “Funboots” and murder-shuffle “Donald Wheeler,” which resemble Shel Silverstein poems more than Conway Twitty tunes, Yonkers could—maybe, possibly, sorta—have fit in with folks like Townes Van Zandt and Kris Kristofferson. Or not. Yonkers is entirely too weird, and that’s why we love him. —Sean L. Maloney




by Stan Michna

Ars Longa, Vita Brevis “True,” Jean-Luc Godard famously observed, “a film should have a beginning, a middle and an end—but not necessarily in that order.” (Mind you, one should always employ caution when citing someone who once characterized filmgoers as “larvae.”) Godard’s pensée isn’t so much a challenge to Aristotle’s classical unities of action, place and time—more honoured in the breach than the observance since the old egghead hung up his toga—as an observation on the notion of time. Monkeying with time—or nonlinear narrative—has been the technique du jour on the filmmakers’ menu ever since Quentin Tarantino cashed in with Reservoir Dogs (1992), and especially with Pulp Fiction two years later. Films incorporating flashbacks, flash forwards, parallel plots, recombinant narrative, dream/fantasy insertions and/or Russian-nesting-doll plotlines have become not just legion or viral, but almost obligatory. Beginning with recent releases like Blue Jasmine, Saving Mr. Banks, Man Of Steel and 12 Years A Slave, to (randomly) Adaptation to The Limey to 21 Grams to Usual Suspects and even unto Tarantino’s Kill Bills, the once-untrodden trail of innovation has been beaten hard, wide and flat. This isn’t to condemn, merely (like that Gallic egghead) to observe. And to observe further that Tarantino, Hollywood’s greatest synthesizer, is not the father of non-linear narrative. Everyone—not just Tarantino, as he likes to think—knows Reservoir Dogs is really Kubrick’s The Killing, Pulp Fiction Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly and Kill Bill Truffault’s The Bride Wore Black. If you want to pinpoint mainstream film’s non-linear narrative origins, it’s Preston Sturges’s landmark script for 1933’s nearly forgotten Power And The Glory, a tale told in flashback that Fox Studio advertised as “Narratage.” (It flopped, victimized by Production Code prissiness and, to audiences, its “complicated” structure; Orson Welles would resuscitate the concept, permanently, eight years later with Citizen Kane.) What’s startling is how sweetly naïve simple flashback sequences seem today, like the work of a film student after viewing Out Of The Past for the first time. But because so many contemporary films grab



anything and everything from the increasand forgers. And afterwards? Some voiceingly baffling post-narrative toolbox, there over, intermittently, but not synchronized are consequences to be borne. Being clever, with the timeline of the events portrayed. after all, isn’t always smart. Little wonder Past? Past perfect? Imperfect? Pluperfect? long-form cable television, with its chronoWho knows? logical storylines and emphasis on characPlanning to steal a copy of the apocryphal ter development—The Sopranos, The Wire, Gospel of St. James supposedly printed by Boardwalk Empire, Downton Gutenburg, then making multiAbbey, Breaking Bad, True Deple copies to sell to suckers, the tective, etc., etc.—has diverted gang is primed for a big score— vast swaths of audiences and except for two things: they’re spawned a second Golden Age mostly half-wits; and devious, double-crossing Nicky. of Television. Thus endeth the background If the plot sounds familiar— lesson, and therefrom leadeth audacious, fool-proof heist; to writer/director Jonathan a gang whose members don’t Sobol’s The Art Of The Steal. exactly trust each other; a law(Not to be confused with the enforcement agency sniffing 2009 documentary of the their movements—it’s because same name, about hijacking it’s almost a household brand name. Heist-gone-wrong is part Albert Barnes’s last will and testament and the $25 billion of film’s common gene pool. Available on art collection to which it was Funny-heist-gone-wrong, howDVD and Blu-ray appended.) ever, is not so common. February 18th from Starring Kurt Russell, Matt Ultimately, the laughs and Dillon, a dash of Terence Entertainment One yes, the charm—does anyone still use that word?—is what save The Art Of Stamp and a cornucopia of Canucks—Jay Baruchel, Kenneth Welsh, Jason Jones, even The Steal. Russell, since his juvenile years at an uncredited Stephen McHattie—The Art Disney, has always exuded a high likeability Of The Steal can best be described as falling quotient. Surrounded by a cast that includes into that infinitesimally tiny genre known a very amusing, schticky Jay Baruchel, and Kenneth Welsh with an Irish brogue Barry as Hoserism. (It’s hitched to Goin’ Down Fitzgerald would need a shillelagh to smash, The Road, Canadian Bacon and Strange Russell is in his element as the film’s charmBrew to form a kind of Four Hosers Of The Apocalypse.) ing bonding agent. (You sometimes get the Lest we waste all that fancy talk about feeling, though, that certain scenes were time, non-linear narrative, dead Greek polyshot simply to find an outlet for some of the maths and high-browed French know-it-alls, snappy one-liners larding the script.) No the answer is yes: the story line of The Art Of question, however, that the cast is enjoying The Steal bounces around like an old-school itself enormously. pinball on a battery of bumpers. Best of all? Matt Dillon’s oily, calculating Kurt Russell’s seedy Crunch Calhoun, an rascal. Older now, and no longer the broodover-the-hill motorcycle stunt driver does a ing bad boy, Dillon owns every scene he’s in— voice-over narration that begins seven years scenes are about the only thing his character earlier in a Polish(!) prison; cuts to how his doesn’t try to steal—and leaves you wonderscheming half-brother Nicky’s (Matt Diling where he’s been lately. lon) harebrained museum heist plan—“This Well, he’s here, in The Art Of The Steal. is Poland! We can do whatever the f-bomb And that’s enough for me. [fuck, for those who are unsure, the first of The immensely knowledgeable Stan Michna very, very many f- bombs] we want!”—landed Crunch a hard seven while netting Nicky 2 runs the DVD department at Sunrise Records, 1/2 for ratting; then jumps to the present to 336 Yonge Street in Toronto. Feel free to bring introduce his motley crew of thieves, cons your DVD quest downtown.

/ dvds/new_releases

FEBRUARY 4 10,000 B.C. 2 Jacks 20-Film Western Collection Volume 3 300 8-Film Family Pack Vol. 8 8-Movie Family Adventure Collection 8-Movies: Psychopaths Vol. 2 About Time AKB0048: The Complete First & Second Season Alexander American Experience: The Amish – Shunned American Experience: The Poisoner’s Handbook Android Cop Antique Bakery Collection Arrow: The Complete First Season Baggage Claim Banshee Chapter Beasts of Winter The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Sixth Season Blessing of the Campanella Blood Brother Braveheart The Broker’s Man: Series 1 Care Bears: The Care-A-Thon Games A Case of You Cat in the Hat; Fat Pack Chasing Shackleton City of Angels Clash of the Titans Code Red The Courtship of Eddie’s Father: The Third Season The Crash Reel Cutie and the Boxer Dallas Buyers Club Dark Desires Oniroku Dan Collection Dark Tourist Dave Brainerd: Missionary to the American Indians Death Wish: Anniversary Edition Dirty Teacher The Divorce Doctor Who: The Complete Sixth Series Don’t Be a Menace to South Central… The Ellen Show: The Complete Series Escape Plan



Feb 11 Ender’s Game

Earth is under attack in the late 21st century, and teens are recruited for a no-BS military academy to help protect the planet. Harrison Ford stars in this Orson Scott Card adaptation.

F6 Twister Fairy Tail: Part 8 Family Matters: The Complete Fourth Season Fibber McGee and Molly Double Feature Finding Faith Finding Normal Free Birds From Above Frontline: A Death in St. Augustine Fruit’s Basket: The Complete Classic Series Geronimo Stilton: Intrigue on the Rodent Express Gladiator Got the Facts on Milk? Gotham City Serials: Batman/ Batman & Robin Happily N’ever After Hawking House of Versace The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete The Inn of the Sixth Happiness Joanie Loves Chachi: The Complete Series Jules & Jim (Criterion Collection) Justice League: War Kirby Grant and the Chinook Adventure The Lady Vanishes Lalaloopsy: Friends Are Sew Special Las Luchadoras Contra La Momia Las Mujer Murcielago Laverne & Shirley : The Seventh Season Masterpiece Classic: Classic English Literature Collection V McConkey Midsomer Murders: Set 23 Million Dollar Baby: 10th

Anniversary Edition Mondo Manilla Moon Man Mother of George Murder 11 Napoleon Dynamite (10th Anniversary Edition) National Geographic: American Blackout Night of the Demons: Collector’s Edition Nova: Cold Case JFK Nuit #1 Off the Hook: Extreme Catches One Direction: Clevver’s Ultimate Fan Guide Patterns of Attraction Person of Interest: The Complete Second Season Pit Stop Pride & Perseverance: The Story of the Negro Leagues Revolution: The Complete First Season Romeo and Juliet Santo Blue Demon Contra El Dr. Frankenstein Santo Contra La Hija De Frankenstein Santo Contra Los Jinetes Del Terror Santo Y Blue Demon Contra Dracula Y El Hombre Scorned Shortest Way Home: C.S. Lewis & Mere Christianity Stop-Loss Tenkai Knights: Rise of the Knights Troy Two and a Half Men: Season 1-2 Two Week’s Notice The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Fourth Season Waterwalk The Wedding Pact The White Queen Wings Witchboard Wrath of the Titans

FEBRUARY 11 22 Bullets 4 Play The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box All Is Lost The Americans: The Complete First Season

And Then There Was You Anna Nicole The Armstrong Lie The Artist and the Model Austenland Bad Bunch The Best Man Holiday Capital Games Catching Dreams Chastity Bites Chicago Chuggington: Brewster Leads the Way The Counselor Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: Fifty by Four Dallas (2012): The Complete Second Season DC Super Heroes: The Filmation Adventures Vol. 1 Devo: The Complete Truth About De-Evolution Diana Doctor Who: The Moonbase Dr. Kildare Movie Collection Elmo’s World: All About Animals Eminem: The Marshall Plan Ender’s Game Escape From Sobibor Farscape: The Complete Season Two Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme (10th Anniversary Limited Edition) GBF Grace Unplugged Harry & His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs: Dino World Rescues Harry & His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs: Let’s Rock Harry & His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs: Play Make Believe Haunter Heart 411 Hefty Wainthropp Investigates: Complete Series 1-4 Hindenburg How I Live Now The Human Scale I Heart U Incomplete Jewtopia The Jimmy Stewart Show Jose Raymond: Boston, Mass The Jungle Book Kali: Advanced Techniques Kamisama Kiss: The Complete Series Kathy Smith: Power Step Workout

feb 18 Fantastic Mr. Fox

(Criterion Edition)

Wes Anderson’s adorable and heartfelt rendering of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s novel gets well-earned deluxe treatment, including director’s commentary, voice-acting featurettes and much more. Kevin English: King Khumba Killing Kennedy The Last Days of Pompeii Laugh & Tell: A Valentine’s Day Special League of Super Evil: Season 1 Vol. 1 League of Super Evil: Season 2 Vol. 2 The Legend of Fritton’s Gold Life of a King Looney Tunes Center Stage Vol. 1 Lost for Words Lou Reed: Tribute Mary Magdalene Masquerade Max & Ruby: Everybunny Loves Spring Max Milligan: Play Scotty Moore Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Minnie-Rella Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth The Mind of a Chef Season 2: April Bloomfield MM Complete Collection Monogram Cowboy Collection Vol. 7 Newhart: The Complete Second Season A Night in the Woods Pappyland Vol. 3 Pocoyo: Season Set Volume 1 Power Rangers Zeo Volume 2 Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer The Quiet American Reaching for the Moon Red Skelton: The Lost Episodes Reel Zombies The Returned: The Complete First Season The Rev Reverend

Riot Rocky: The Undisputed Collection Rubberneck/Red Flag Scooby-Doo Adventures: The Mystery Map SEAL Patrol Semi Colin Shattered Silence Shawn Rhoden:: Rise of Flexatron Sherlock Season Three Smokey & The Bushido Sorority Party Massacre Spies of Mississippi Spinning Plates Stitch Strike Witches Season 1 & 2 The Successive Sliding of Pleasure The Summit Swamp People Season 4 Trans-Europ-Express Unidentified Uphill Battle Wadjda We the People: From Crispus Attucks to Barack Obama Windmills of the Gods World Trade Center/Untold History of the United States Part 3 WWE: Shawn Michaels Wrestlemania Matches Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Seas Dragon Yukon Men FEBRUARY 18 16 Wishes/Radio Rebel 419: The Email Is Only the Beginning Afternoon Delight Akintunde: The Whole Truth All Wifed Out Alter Ego American Experience: 1964 American Experience: The Rise and Fall of Penn Station An American Tail 1 & 2 Angel Express Apocalypse Pompeii Asleep at the Wheel: Then & Now Austin High B-Boyz Babe: The Complete Adventures Bad Dreams/Visiting Hours Balls to the Wall Battle of the Damned Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Epic Series

Beware the Batman: Shadows of Gotham Black Plague The Boggy Creek Legacy Collection The Borrowers/The Return of the Borrowers Boys Behind Bars Bugs Bunny’s Easter Funnies Cannibal Doctor/Dinner for Two CB Hustlers The Cohasset Snuff Film Creating Freedom Episode One: The Lottery of Birth Darkman Dead Creatures Deliverance From Evil Don’t Pass Me By Dora the Explorer: Dora’s Easter Adventure Dora the Explorer: Egg Hunt Doubleheader Family Favorites Dove Approved Family Movies Collection Dracula Reborn Dragon Ball Z: Season 2 Drums in the Deep South Duke Easter 3-Pack Fun The Easter Bunny Is Comin’ to Town Elmo’s Rainbow & Other Springtime Stories Elmo’s World: Springtime Fun Fantastic Mr. Fox (Criterion Collection) The First East Rabbit Fists of Legend Food: Wanted for Treason Foreign Correspondent (Criterion Collection) Game of Thrones: The Complete Third Season The Ganzfeld Haunting Garfield Show: It’s Showtime Gentle Ben: Season Two Grindhouse Volume 1: God Told Me Not To… But I Did It Anyway Guess How Much I Love You: Friendship Adventures H.H. Holmes: America’s First Serial Killer Hanging Shadows: Perspectives on Italian Horror Cinema Hellbenders Here Comes Peter Cottontail Hidamari Sketch: The Complete Season 1 I, Zombie The Invoking

Jailbait Johnny English/Johnny English Reborn Jormungand: The Complete First Season Jormungand: The Complete Second Season Land Before Time 2 Vol. 4 Laughing to the Bank Mad in Italy Max & Ruby: Easter With Max & Ruby Memory of the Dead

Miquel: The New Wave of R&B The Military Might of the West More Sex, Lies & Depravity Mortal Enemies Mr. Bean’s Holiday/Bean Nanny McPhee/Nanny McPhee Returns Naruto Shippuden the Movie: Blood Prison Natural Rejection New World Nick Jr. Favorites: Celebrates Spring/All Star Sports Day Nurse Jackie: Season Five On the Job Otto the Rhino Peanuts: It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology Peter Rabbit Peter Rabbit: Spring Into Adventure Pompeii: The Doomed City Property Wars Railways of Belgium & Luxembourg Random Acts of Violence Robotics Notes Part One The Sex Guru Sick Birds die Easy Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming The Six Million Dollar Man: Season 5 Strawberry Shortcake: Berry Big Help Time Bokan Ova Royal Revival Tom & Jerry: Mouse Trouble Tyler Perry: Film Maker/Business Entrepreneur UFC 167 Vampire Films Watchtower The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss: Cat’s Colorful World The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss: Cat’s Play Pals Zaytoun











Band of Horses

Acoustic At The Ryman Available February 11th CD/LP


FEBRUARY 4 Nicole Atkins Slow Phaser Augustines Augustines Aztec Camera High Land, Hard Rain Burt Bacharach Together? Big Head Todd & The Monsters Black Beehive Scott H. Biram Nothin’ But Blood Mike Bloomfield From His Head to His Heart to His Hands (box set) Bombay Bicycle Club So Long, See You Tomorrow Toni Braxton & Babyface Love, Marriage & Divorce Broken Bells After the Disco Brotherhood Brotherhood: The Complete Recordings John Butler Trio Flesh & Blood Kim Carnes Barking at Airplanes Kim Carnes Lighthouse Ceo Wonderland The Chain Gang of 1974 Daydream Forever Diamond Youth Shake Dr. Hook Icon The Energy Commission Consistently Inconsistent For Today Fight the Silence Aretha Franklin The Queen of Soul (box set) The J. Geils Band Icon Grateful Dead Dick’s Picks Vol. 20: Capital Centre, Landover, MD Peter Hammill/Gary Lucas Other World The Hayden Triplets The Hayden Triplets Toby Keith Icon Stacey Kent The Changing Lights Patti LaBelle Icon Mary Lambert Welcome to the Age of My Body Little River Band Icon The Mamas & The Papas A Gathering of Flowers: The Anthology of the Mamas and the Papas Megadeth Icon Pat Metheny Unity Group Kin (<-->) Steve Miller Band Live at the Carousel Ballroom, San Francisco, April 28 1968



Band of Horses feb 11

Acoustic at the Ryman Ben Bridwell’s indie-folk crew took the stage at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium back in April 2013, and the gig is immortalized in this sterling 10-song collection, featuring “Older,” “The Funeral” and more.

Moonshine Bandits Calicountry Marissa Nadler July Orange Juice Orange Juice Orange Juice Rip It Up Orange Juice Texas Fever Orange Juice You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever Ozric Tentacles Vitamin Enhanced (box set) Eric Paslay Eric Paslay DirkPowell Walking Through Clay Public Enemy Icon Otis Redding The King of Soul (box set) Paul Rodgers The Royal Sessions The Small Faces Here Come the Nice: The Immediate Years 1967-1969 (box set) Smith A Group Called Smith/ Minus-Plus Ruben Studdard Unconditional Love Tomorrow We Sail For Those Who Caught the Sun in Flight Troika Troika Tanya Tucker Icon Tina Turner Love Songs Various Artists Now That’s What I Call Music! 49 Various Artists Sweetheart 2014 Various Artists This Is the Town: A Tribute to Nilsson Vol. 1 Various Artists Wow Gospel 2014 Juan Wauters N.A.P. North American Poetry Wild Moccasins 88 92 Xiu Xiu Angel Guts: Red Classroom

FEBRUARY 11 Sunshine & Whiskey Acoustic at the Ryman Young Heart Ain’t It Funky The Popcorn True Love Kills the Fairy Tale Eric Church The Outsiders Cibo Matto Hotel Valentine The Desert Rose Band The Best of the Desert Rose Band The Dominoes The Dominoes Collection 1951-59 Walter Egan Myth America Robert Ellis The Lights From the Chemical Plant Neil Finn Dizzy Heights The Glitch Mob Love Death Immortality Tim Halperin Heart Tells Your Head Hollow & Akimbo Hollow & Akimbo Steve Holy The Best of Steve Holy Jamestown Revival Utah Irene Kelley Pennsylvania Coal Greg Laswell I Was Going to Be an Astronaut Steve Lawrence When You Came Back to Me Again Plain White T’s American Nights Rainbow The Rainbow Singles Box Dianne Reeves Beautiful Life Sam Roberts Band Lo-Fantasy Diana Ross Ross The Runaways Live in Japan Solvent New Ways: Music From the Documentary I Dream of Wires Soundtrack The LEGO® Movie: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Soundtrack Vampire Academy Rod Stewart The Rod Stewart Album The Temptations All Directions Clay Walker The Best of Clay Walker Ace Young & Diana DeGarmo Samson & Delilah: A Love Story – 2014 Concept Recording Frankie Ballard Band of Horses Blondfire James Brown James Brown The Casket Girls

FEBRUARY 18 Soul & Swagger: The Complete “5” Royales 1951-1967 Yolanda Adams Original Album Classics The Afters I Wish We Could All Win Allman Brothers Band Boston Common 8-1771 Allman Brothers Band Play All Night: Live at the Beacon Theater 1992 Ashanti BraveHeart Bayside Cult Bear Hands Distraction Ionatha Brooke My Mother Has Four Noses Cheap Trick Original Album Classics Kenny Chesney Original Album Classics Perry Como The Best of the War Years Creative Source Creative Source Bob Dylan Original Album Classics Sara Evans Original Album Classics The Feeling Boy Cried Wolf William Fitzsimmons Lions Candice Glover Music Speaks Guided by Voices Motivational Jumpsuit Home Free Crazy Life Terry Huff & Special Delivery The Lonely One Garland Jeffreys True Confessions: The Epic Sessions Billy Joel Original Album Classics Talib Kweli Gravitas Lake Street Dive Bad Self Portraits Dawn Landes Bluebird Lydia Loveless Somewhere Else NO El Prado The O’Jays Original Album Classics Angel Olsen Burn Your Fire for No Witness Sean Paul Full Frequency The “5” Royales

Teddy Pendergrass Original Album Classics

Phantogram Matt Schofield

Voices Far as I Can See

Silversun Pickups feb 25

The Singles Collection It may seem a little premature for a best-of from the Silver Lake alt-rockers, who only have three full-lengths since 2006, but these songs are so explosive and evocative, we’ll happily forgive them.

There Is Nothing Like a Lox: The Lost Song Parodies of Allan Sherman Skindred Kill the Power Rick Springfield Original Album Classics Ralph Stanley & Ralph Stanley II Side by Side Cole Swindell Cole Swindell Benmonth Tench You Should Be so Lucky Various Artists Putumayo Presents Native America Suzanne Vega Tales From the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles We Are the In Crowd Weird Kids Allan Sherman

FEBRUARY 25 One Eighty To Live Alone in That Long Summer Beck Morning Phase Dierks Bentley Riser Neneh Cherry Blank Project Corrosion of Conformity Playlist: The Very Best of Corrosion of Conformity Brian Culbertson Another Long Night Out A Flock of Seagulls Playlist: The Very Best of A Flock of Seagulls The Fray Helios Go West Go West Live Mike Gordon Overstep Charlie Greene Charlie Greene Heart Fanatic Live From Caesar’s Colosseum Ambrosia Barzin

Michael Henderson Do It All (Expanded Edition) Michael Henderson Fickle (Expanded Edition) Michael Henderson Goin’ Places (Expanded Edition) Michael Henderson Solid (Expanded Edition) Michael Henderson Wide Receiver (Expanded Edition) Hopeless Youth Disgust House of Lords Precious Metal I Killed the Prom Queen Beloved John the Conqueror The Good Life King’s X Out of the Silent Planet Little Feat Rad Gumbo: The Complete Warner Bros. Years 1971 to 1991 (box set) Milagres Violent Light Morrissey Your Arsenal: Deluxe Edition (CD/DVD) Bob Mould Workbook 25th Anniversary New Madrid Sunswimmer Ratt Dancing Undercover Ratt Out of the Cellar Run River North Run River North ScHoolboy Q Oxymoron Silversun Pickups The Singles Collection Skaters Manhattan St. Vincent St. Vincent Twin Forks Twin Forks Vertical Scratchers Daughter of Everything We Were Promised Jetpacks E Rey Live in Philadelphia Johnny Winter True to the Blues: The Johnny Winter Story (box set) Thalia Zedek Six



February Needle  

February Needle