Saturday, March 8, 2014
I was somewhat late in finding about This is the Kit, a folk project of Kate Stables, originally from Bristol and now based in Paris. We have so little exposure to British folk in the U.S., particularly on the west coast, as European artists are more likely to visit New York than, say, California, and it's really only possible from our end because the internet and sites like Bandcamp exist. Which is a shame, as I'm learning more and more often that England has a lot of fantastic folk artists to offer.
Stables' project has a giant appeal for anyone who might be into artists like Vashti Bunyan or David Thomas Broughton, and her own interviews have led me to artists within her own collective, Rozi Plain and Rachel Dadd. A new sampler EP has been released prior to the start of her little European tour, and this is it:
Thursday, March 6, 2014
One year ago, I mentioned an EP of covers by Marika Hackman, who's still so incredibly young, and has now got a new EP called Deaf Heat set for release on April 14. Lead single "Deep Green" is much more inventive than what typically comes out of singer-songwriters as of late, and is something of a mish-mash of Warpaint, Lana Del Rey, and Celebration, but then, of course, is none of those.
Only British tour dates, for now.
Close to a decade ago, I was working at my university’s radio station and got to host a small in-studio set with Tom Brosseau. Tom turned out to be one of the most pleasant musicians I’d ever meet; in our half hour together, I’d discover that he prefers coffee over tea, that he would kindly agree to photos as long as he wasn’t photographed alone, and that we shared a love of Camus. It also turned out that he speaks as softly and elegantly as he sings: an effeminate pitch with quiet delivery, old-fashioned and simple, no fake twang to match the “old time” quality of his persona. (More giddy details of that interaction here.) He's originally from North Dakota but has been based in Los Angeles for a while, and he's made his way here and there, particularly on the west side, most recently as part of John C. Reilly's troupe. This weekend he ventures to that great, isolated town in the north, Lompoc, as one of the earliest performances in a string of brief tours.
Brosseau was recently interviewed for a piece by Randall Roberts, and he nails a few ideas quite well; what makes a writer really good is the ability to appropriate words to feelings, and this in context, Brosseau is a really good writer. I write fiction in my spare time, and have never quite grasped why it is that it takes me four or five years to write a novel. But Brosseau gets it right off the bat: "It's not that I have a hard time coming up with lyrics or melodies. It's just this very special and sacred thing to me to be able to have my ears pricked by something that somebody says in humanity. And then for me to sit down and contemplate that takes a long time."
Back in 2007, I fell particularly in love with Brosseau's record Grand Forks, a concept album revolving around the 1997 Red River flood of his hometown. "Blue Part of the Windshield" had a waltz that got buried under Brosseau’s voice, praying quietly for the blue part of the windshield to "save me ‘til the day you’re through," until the drowning narrator witnessed the flood's drastic effects, two tracks later, punctuated by the slide guitar and deep bass of "Here Comes the Water Now." And then there was "Plaid-Lined Jacket," the story of a narrator lacking dignity, whose loneliness and ratty appearance were conveyed through simple recurring riffs in the song’s first verse, dirty comb and shoes held with silver tape, making way for a confident chorus, and then Brosseau announcing with renewed poise that despite his otherwise grimy appearance, "I keep my plaid-lined jacket clean." He not only applies language appropriately to emotion, but music to events and experience. He really is a fantastic writer. Now that that's been said, go have a listen at one of his shows, and be sure to say hello.
Fri., March 7: The Sanctuary, Santa Monica, CA
235 Hill St
Sat., March 8: House Concert, Lompoc, CA
213 North Street
Mon., March 10: Bootleg Theater, Los Angeles, CA
2220 Beverly Blvd.
Additional dates, including those for SXSW and Europe, can be found on his site. Go purchase his newest record, Grass Punks.
"Today is a Bright New Day" (thanks, NPR!)
Last fall I received notice of the newest EP by Brief Candles, a Milwaukee-based group on Guilt Ridden Pop (making them label mates with one of my favorites, Is/Is). Brief Candles included the following dedication on the press release for the Newhouse EP, stating:
...it's dedicated to our friend, Mike Newhouse, who we lost last fall. He was a great friend who I hope is skating some cosmic half pipe whilst trying to pick up women with the line “I can play 'The Sight of You' by the Pale Saints on guitar.”
And funnily enough, this dedication sums up the sound of Newhouse, lush and dreamy, bits of Pale Saints and Ride and My Bloody Valentine, all that good, swirling, guitar-driven stuff that could've been released twenty-two years ago or today. They also stated that, regarding the video posted above, the visual effect is the result of wearing LED lights and bracelets while playing live, creating a "painting of the music."
The band has been releasing music for a decade, and there are three releases on their Bandcamp page, but Newhouse really is the pinnacle of their output thus far, and it's exactly where they should have aspired to arrived.
Sunday, March 2, 2014
Diane Cluck's seventh album, Boneset, comes out on Tuesday, and it's a simple folk record, at times a hark back to the method of traditional singer-songwriter accompanied by piano (and occasional cello), while at others, a smidge of Topanga Canyon hippie culture can be heard. Cluck's vocal style here is a matter-of-fact, almost conversational delivery, but she's also earthy and teetering on arty, and carries herself with the confidence of a songwriter who's been spreading her words for years.
Cluck is also on tour! Dates here. Sneak in a listen of Boneset at NPR.
This Boogarins video, by Steven Mertens, is pretty fantastic, and "Erre" reminds very much of a Ratatat-Dungen hybrid. Boogarins are out of Brazil, and they're also part of a roster that demonstrates how much of a roll Burger Records seems to be on.
Plantas Que Curam was released Sept. 30 of last year, and Boogarins are currently touring! They'll be in Santa Ana on March 22 as part of Burgerama.
Monday, February 24, 2014
For Record Store Day this year -- yes, it should be every Saturday, but this year it'll officially be April 19 -- the Twilight Sad are re-issuing their debut record, Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters. This was one of the first records I felt compelled to review for this blog, just as The Wrong Car was one of the first reviews I submitted to Your Flesh in 2010. The Twilight Sad is the type of band you simultaneously hope is your secret and want to shout about to everyone you know. I felt this way in 2007 and continue to feel this way now. Give this record a chance if you never have; it is undoubtedly one of the most gorgeous records of all time and can easily compete with favorites from decades past. The Jaguar will become your new favorite guitar.
This said, the reissue of Fourteen Autumns will feature demos not released on the original album (see "Untitled #4," above, for one). A full track listing, as well as European tour dates, during which the album will be played in full, can be found on Fat Cat's site.
Additionally, a free download of their recent performance with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra can be found here.
Fat Cat just put together a podcast of bands from Brighton (two extra points for including Huggy Bear!)
1. Royal Blood - Out of the Black
2. Esben And The Witch - When That Head Splits
3. Fickle Friends - Swim
4. Fear of Men - Seer
5. Theo Verney - Dead N Bones
6. Skirts - Lovers
7. Huggy Bear - Her Jazz
8. The Eighties Matchbox B-line Disaster - Celebrate Your Mother
9. TOY - Lose My Way
10. Regal Safari - Closer
11. British Sea Power - K Hole
12. Blood Red Shoes - Cold
Thursday, February 20, 2014
The Dead Science was a favorite of mine while I was living in Washington about ten years ago; they were based in Seattle, rooted in a strange marriage of influences spanning black metal, free jazz, Shudder to Think, and comic book villains, and there was no one quite like them. Eventually, they split off and spun off -- singer/guitarist Sam Mickens moved off to Brooklyn and became a goddamn performer, drummer Nick Tamburro started playing with Ava Mendoza around the San Francisco area, and bassist Jherek Bischoff assembled an orchestral masterpiece (no beating around the bush, there).
Mickens just put out a new, crowd-funded record, Kayfabe: Laamb of G.O.D. While it's a natural follow-up to 2011's Slay & Slake, this record is, truly, his Ziggy Stardust moment. It's an ambitious, 15-track album to which every detail has obviously been attended, and it is the type of art that one can only aspire to make and then carry out after struggle, desperation, and drive have kicked in. If Mickens has ever had a Party at Kitty and Stud's moment, then Kayfabe is his Rocky.
I have mixed feelings about the decadence of it, and perhaps this stems from the fact that Mickens is not only into Batman and Anthony Braxton, but also dirty '90s R&B, and to say the least, shit gets weird real fast. Like, Luther Vandross weird. Kayfabe is glamorous and gaudy and bizarre, and nothing about it is accidental. Mickens is an excellent singer and guitarist, and his record is fabulously produced. But he's also fulfilled what I imagine is an aspiration of sorts, to be in an is he or isn't he for real? league with the likes of Prince. The biggest and most accurate way to describe him is to label him a true original, which he is, and leave the interpretation and appreciation of the word original up to whomever will have him.
Purchase Kayfabe: Laamb of G.O.D.
Shit gets real: