Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Unbearably Prolific -- It's Great Western Plain!



Almost exactly one year ago, I wrote of Dead Trend, a group out of Maine that channeled Black Flag and initially served to promote a book in a very meta sort of way. It was a novelty project, albeit one that was very well done.

As it turns out, members of the group have a second/primary band, Great Western Plain. The trio's fourth release in two years, Elastic Smile, is more "Teenage Riot" than "TV Party," hopelessly Gen X, and though also dripping with nostalgia, is authentic and modern enough to fit the roster of, say, Merge, whether twenty years ago or today. It's genuinely enjoyable for its freakouts, temperate vocals, and guitar enthusiasm.

In fact, Elastic Smile is so modern that it's been released on a limited cassette pressing. They're pretty with it in the context of music trends, I'd say.



Have a listen, and then visit their 2013 release, Lure and Kitsch/Flutter and Slack.

Tee Hee (Snicker, Snicker)

Well, it's been a long hiatus, hasn't it? A return should be thrilling after three weeks of silence 'round these parts, so here's a bit of a thrill.

Remember when this happened? If R&B is quietly popular among the experimental crowd -- it not-so-quietly already made its way into the greater indie rock world, hence why Solange was a no-brainer at FYF last year -- then it's in a good position for its dirtiest past to be updated with unlikely instrumentation and ambiguous irony. Jon Pfeffer, onetime brain behind Capillary Action, is now a solo act, and this new bit from him is wacky, intelligent, elegant, and exciting all at once. Give it a go.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pissin' Streams with Thomas Maguire.




New York-based singer-songwriter Thomas Patrick Maguire is celebrating the 10th anniversary (good lord, 2004) of his album Pissing Streams, for which his voice and outlook have drawn genuine comparison to Elliott Smith and Kurt Cobain, and surprisingly, these aren't contexts that I would consider out of his league. On Pissing Streams, his voice had the same dreary murmur that Cobain once mumbled, and while his follow-up albums don't necessarily have the same special grunginess or rawness that Pissing Streams had, I surprised myself by hearing a bit of Smith's "Speed Trials" right off the bat on 2012's No Suppression, Gentleman Drunk, though certainly much moreso in Maguire's guitar style than his singing, which has softened over the last ten years.

Maguire just put out a short documentary about the recording and release of Pissing Streams, and while I was first tempted to lump him in with outcast anti-folk artists like Jeffrey Lewis, I'm surprised to see Maguire and learn that he's got a slight New York accent and looks something like a friendly son of Ray Liotta, clean cut, boyish, looking nothing like the cynical mess I'd have expected. Pissing Streams is enjoyable and holds up well, but it's meant to be listened to while alone.

Anyway, here's that documentary:



Monday, March 24, 2014

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Well, this is...adorable.

Finally Meeting This is the Kit.



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

Something "fresh" and "innovative" from Marika Hackman.



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.

Come Meet Tom Brosseau: One, Two, Three Times



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
Doors: 7:00pm
https://www.facebook.com/events/720925441273936/

Sat., March 8: House Concert, Lompoc, CA
213 North Street
Doors: 8:00pm
Dinner Show
https://www.facebook.com/events/767501866611885/

Mon., March 10: Bootleg Theater, Los Angeles, CA
2220 Beverly Blvd.
Doors: 8:00pm

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!)

Brief Candles, repping Wisconsin.



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.