Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Walkmen: Dapper little bastards, they are.

Righty-o, then!

Admittedly, I can't stand going to shows with high female populations. This might be a problem as well as hypocritical when you're female, yes? But when you're squished between a giant purse and a pair of girls reassuring each other that their tits extend farther than their stomachs, you start realizing that listening to a record in the comfort of your own home isn't so boring after all. On the other hand, when you're surrounded by said purse and pair, also stuck behind a man's protruding rear end as he leans at a 45 degree angle, people generally begin to look a bit unappealing regardless of their sex. Never mind me, girls.

This isn't just an untimely rant – it's rather timely, actually, and describes my place on the floor at this evening's concert at the Showbox in Seattle. I finally had a chance to check out the Walkmen (as well as respective opener and headliner the Little Ones and Kaiser Chiefs). What I learned – other than the fact that you're healthy if your stomach is flatter than your chest – is that, for one, girls love Britpop. Secondly, a surprising number of people are indifferent to the Walkmen. Most relevant in my eyes is this second fact; I've thought every Walkmen album absolutely beautiful, save for their update on Pussy Cats and despite what most critics thought of A Hundred Miles Off.

Musically, the Walkmen were as spot on as they are on record. There was no real emphasis on any single album, in terms of songs played, and much of the crowd (mostly young and apparently strict Kaiser Chiefs fans) looked blankly and stiffly, save for a performance of “The Rat,” gotten over with early on. One of my personal favorites off A Hundred Miles Off, “All Hands and the Cook,” sounded surprisingly full and punked up – Paul Maroon typically plays a beautiful lead guitar, but with Leithauser adding another layer of guitar to the mix and straining his already-strained vocals, there was a certain roughness to the song that really gave it a bit of added darkness and depth. Nice stuff, as was the taste we got of “Red River,” set for release on the Spider-Man 3 soundtrack. They also brought on additional musicians to take care of trumpet and trombone bits, handy for a most accurate performance of “Louisiana” in particular, which would have been incomplete without the brass addition.

Now, I don't know what you, reader, may have heard about the personalities of members of the Walkmen. I've heard from several people - in such other people's words - that they're a bunch of arrogant pricks. They definitely look the part, nary a smile intact, little crowd interaction, and while front man Hamilton Leithauser is polite and says thank you quite frequently, he performs with a face that appears to hide a lot of pent-up aggression. Could have been his recent arrest on the brain, but without the appropriate mood, even his stylish velvet suit couldn't keep him looking as dapper as he might have been this evening. It may very well be that the group is interested in simply getting down to business and playing without a fuss, but watching them play, I couldn't determine whether they play for themselves or their audience, as they appeared enthusiastic about pleasing neither of the two. A shame, and I hope this is only my inability to read faces, as they've consistently got quite a lot going for them. Now, if Leithauser had learned to get his tall frame well-postured and walk across a bar counter like Ricky Wilson of the Kaiser Chiefs, maybe his band, the Walkmen, would have snagged the headlining spot this time 'round. Next time, next time.

(Preview and purchase Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

My head's in a cloud!

Well, golly. This is my first post from ol' grey Seattle, Washington this week, and already I've got some interesting things to tell. First, the items unrelated to music:

1. When visiting the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon, you may run across a drug store called Hiron's. It's got so much colorful, discounted crap running through it that it's impossible to collect a sense of focus and look at all the junk there in any particular order. Like Rite-Aid for the traditional grandmother. Good god.

2. Market of Choice is a yuppy grocery store chain in Oregon. They've got dreadful cannolis but lovely faux sushi and cupcakes. Also, yuppy grocery stores are abundant in the Pacific Northwest.

3. Youth hostels are less exciting than they sound, particularly when you're sharing a room with an older lady who clears her throat for an entire night and gets up to arrange the next day's outfit at 3:00 AM.

And of course, the musical note (allow me this single pun, as I am too tired at the moment to have any regard for coolness and wit).

1. During a visit to the Capitol Hill branch of Everyday Music, one of my very favorite record stores, I snagged several goodies, said goodies being this, this, this, this, and this. Coincidentally, I now recommend all of them and will post MP3s when I'm not feeling so sluggish (damn you, grey clouds!).

2. Upon a visit to my old college radio station today, I discovered that a former DJ from last year has finally put out a full-length album. Not only is he a talented lad, and not only does he have very nice manners for someone below 20 years of age, but his record features a bit of work by Sufjan Stevens himself and is being promoted by Pirate!, a fabulous radio distribution company in Boston. Said well-mannered lad is Will Lulofs, soon to be known as Will Stratton, and he is certainly worth supporting.

3. Due to my inability to navigate Seattle, I was not in attendance, but as it turned out, The Vicious performed a show at all-ages venue the Vera Project this evening. The Vicious is a new project of Sara Almgren, former keyboardist and sole source of estrogen for The (International) Noise Conspiracy. However, T(I)NC is now estrogen-free (a rhyme!), and Sara is now a guitarist for "that other band from Sweden." It can now be said that The Vicious has performed in the US, regardless of how poorly shows are advertised in Seattle. Their remaining tour dates, as follows.

4/26/07 - The Know - Portland, OR
4/27/07 - Balazo (2183 Mission) - San Francisco, CA
4/28/07 - The Clinic - Los Angeles, CA
4/29/07 - Munoz Gym - Bakersfield, CA

4. Finally, Degenerate Art Ensemble, Seattle's ever-evolving performance artists/musicians, are also on a west coast tour in the next month, and dates are as follows.

5/11/07 - Vera Project - Seattle, WA
5/19/07 - Someday Lounge - Portland, OR
5/24/07 - Holland - Reno, NV
5/25/07 - Fais Do Do - Los Angeles, CA
5/26/07 - 21 Grand - Oakland, CA (tentative)
5/27/07 - Amnesia - San Francisco, CA

Will Stratton - Sunol (Purchase What the Night Said)

Degenerate Art Ensemble - Oni Goroshi (Preview and purchase The Bastress)

The Vicious - Blinded (More audio samples here)

Syd Barrett - Bob Dylan Blues (Not on The Madcap Laughs, but a grand time nonetheless)

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Oh Sees - Sucks Blood

Sucks Blood (released 3.19.07 via Castle Face Records)

John Dwyer is as close to a goddamned hippie as a rock and roll musician can get. Always eager to collaborate on a project, he's best known for minimalist noise and garage groups like Pink and Brown and Coachwhips, also having performed earlier with Landed and Krang. Once a solo experiment in the mid-1990s, Dwyer later led Orinoka Crash Suite (OCS) as a journey between himself and Patrick Mullins, OCS being somewhat of a side project for their respective bands, Coachwhips and Burmese. After splitting with their bands and releasing OCS double album 3&4, a collaboration between the pair that strictly involved acoustic guitar, a bit of drum, Dwyer's lazy vocals and a few knobs here and there, OCS soon became the Oh Sees, a more dedicated project with the addition of a few people that would make the Oh Sees a bona fide band.

One of the best aspects of OCS/The Oh Sees is that though there's not a great deal of variety among their albums (though the project did begin as more of a folky noise outfit and is now somewhat more noisy folk), their recordings are consistent with their live performances. When OCS was a simple pair, you might have caught Dwyer swaying from side to side in any venue's cheap chair while singing lazily and strumming his guitar with tattooed arm and punk might, as a bespectacled Mullins relaxed to the beat of his snare brushes. With the group now doubled, you'd catch much of the same action, only with Mullins drawing a bit of eerie comedy on his singing saw, and Dwyer perfectly harmonizing his falsetto with new female vocal addition Brigid Dawson. Dawson and Dwyer, offering a sweet greeting: “Hey there, waterfall...” Dawson and Dwyer, both supplementing songs in 2/2 time with sung melody but also emphasizing it. Dawson and Dwyer, trying not to laugh when Mullins pulls out the saw and instantly reminds the audience that he's using an object that any generic cartoon might have played during the appearance of a ghost.

New Oh Sees record Sucks Blood, the Kelley Stoltz-produced record that rests between two albums produced by TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek (yes, one is planned for the future), is hardly unlike the group's last record and retains a lot of those lazy, sweet tones. But the band's certainly changed since it was just a duo – here, you won't find the group covering blues songstress Elisabeth Cotten, but you will get an even bigger taste of that singing saw, moaning throughout “Golden Phones” and the album's title track, which sounds exactly as it appears in a live setting. This meaning that Dawson and Dwyer are harmonizing falsettos, she likely standing quietly, he likely swaying to each side without a care in the world, not even letting the quick, hard, irregularly occurring, dissonant strums of the song break his flow.

And like the other OCS and Oh Sees records, Sucks Blood isn't mind-blowing, but there are so many details that make it accidentally funny, though one can never tell in the case of Dwyer whether the comedy really is accidental. When he and Dawson sing the line “roll upside down,” they literally roll their “r” with not a second's hesitation. “Ship” is a happy-go-lucky bounce with what sounds to be church bells faintly ringing behind it, and Untitled Drones #1 and #2 are just what they suggest, as were the two untitled drones on the last Oh Sees record; here, however, Untitled Drone #2 isn't so much a drone as the waves of the sea, over the squeak of a seagull and gusts of wind. In an interview with Art Noise in 2005, Dwyer said he was “constantly searching for something that feels good,” and that “music sort of fills that hole a lot of the time.” OCS was a project meant to give him more of a songwriting outlet than his raunchy garage bands had provided, and there's certainly more of him projected in this music than the instruments themselves, as was the case with former bands. But what really makes OCS/The Oh Sees stick out from his past work, aside from the blatant difference in pacing, is that you can really hear him giving into his age and needing to settle down with something that simply feels good.

On another note, Sucks Blood makes the case for why one should buy a physical, rather than digital, album – homemade album art in this case reveals a drawing of a hand making a peace sign. Only the hand is made of logs and somehow resembles Floory of Pee Wee's Playhouse.

The Oh Sees - It Killed Mom
The Oh Sees - Sucks Blood

Video for "Broken Stems" (off The Cool Death of Island Raiders)

Purchase a copy of Sucks Blood

I'm just the messenger.

DIESEL:U:MUSIC Online Submissions are now open at

DIESEL:U:MUSIC Is Looking For The Best UNSIGNED Rock Acts, UNSIGNED Hip Hop Acts, and UNSIGNED Electronic Acts From All Over The World

Take Note. Spread The Word. They’ve Gone International. It’s Not About Boundaries. It’s About Finding, Helping And Showcasing Unsigned Bands That Deserve To Be Heard....a call to unsigned bands...

If, after years of convincing your mom that the band is gonna make it, you feel you’re finally ready to prove yourself...if you’ve written the songs, honed your sound, perfected that mic-stand flippy thing...then send your best to DIESEL:U:MUSIC, and let them help make music your career. From now until May 13, upload your music at

Unsigned Artists will be heard by our PANEL OF JUDGES (consisting of artists, producers, writers, label reps, bloggers – influential tastemakers all) who will vote on what music they think is best. Music and information on 30 semi-finalists from all over the world will be posted at on May 23. After the 30 semi-finalists are posted, an online PUBLIC VOTE will be held that welcomes everyone to act as a critic and vote for their favorite artist. The winner of the Public Vote will be guaranteed a spot at the Diesel:U:Music Final Awards Ceremony in London.

If you’re chosen as one of the 9 finalists by the international DIESEL:U:MUSIC Panel or win The Public Vote award, you and your band will be flown to the DIESEL:U:MUSIC Awards in London in October. At this red carpet event, a packed house consisting of past winners, members of the media and the glitterati of the international music scene will honor your work and help bring your music to a wider audience. The event will be televised on national telly (as they say) Channel 4, and will be covered extensively by NME. With strong connections to the music industry, past winners of recent editions have received record contract offers from DIESEL:U:MUSIC partners, radio play, recording studio time, opportunities to play local events, as well as PR support from Diesel’s worldwide communications teams. Your mom will never doubt you again.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I'd hate to be the person scanning pages for a living.


Got to see Aereogramme, The Twilight Sad and A Northern Chorus last night at the Knitting Factory. That venue's got terrible sound, being that too many speakers plus lots of wood equals too much echo. Not only that, but with simultaneous shows in the main room, AlterKnit Lounge and Front Bar, every time someone opened the door to the main room and walked in, the show in the Front Bar could be heard - Aereogramme had quite a time fighting off that problem.

Anyhow, terrible sound meant that during the Twilight Sad's set, drums and bass were too loud and guitar too soft, at least from in front of the stage, and while I love it when a drummer rides his snare and cymbal so that they overpower everyone else on stage, the Twilight Sad's post-rock quality meant that they were a rare band that should have had the guitar up louder than anything else. Nonetheless, they were wonderful to watch; singer James Graham practically makes love to his microphone - grips the thing with both hands, keeps his eyes closed and mouth attached to the mic, holds the stand very close to him and keeps a hold of it when he's done singing his share of a song. He appears to have terrible social skills and stage presence, but he's incredibly beautiful

Aereogramme was excellent all around, as well as 80% bearded; vocalist/guitarist Craig B. was humble and played up the underdog quality of the band.

Sample dialogue between Craig and audience, as follows:

Craig: We're going to play some new songs now.
Audience: (silence)
Craig: That's where you say "woo."
Audience: Wooo!

Granted, the audience wasn't even at half capacity, and a good chunk of us were either drunk or tired. But once they played "Indiscretion #243," some response finally gathered up, particularly from one guy in front, who essentially bent forward at a 90 degree angle every time he nodded his head to a beat. A Northern Chorus, though performing to no more than 20 or 30 people, did a lovely opening set complete with plucked cello and violin strings, and were also quite humble, not to mention Canadian-accented.

Aereogramme - Living Backwards
(Purchase My Heart Has a Wish that You Would Not Go here)
The Twilight Sad - That Summer, At Home I Had Become the Invisible Boy
(Purchase Fourteen Autumns Fifteen Winters here)
A Northern Chorus - The Millions Too Many

(Purchase The Millions Too Many here)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A piss to miss!

Next week I'll be writing from somewhere on the west coast; likely Seattle, perhaps San Francisco or Ashland. There'll be word of Paul Simonon, abundant rain, and the most perfect cannoli on the coast. What you won't get word of is the show advertised above, as I'm an idiot who scheduled my trip too late to show up to it. I recommend that you give Hell's Kitchen a visit if you're in Tacoma on Friday and enjoy $5 garage rock. Sadly, I won't be there.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Lessons from the floor.

Fran Healy of Travis. Aw, shucks.

I learned a few things whilst concert-going last week, whether being dragged or going at my own will. A few tidbits, if you'll allow.

1. A Killers concert at the Staples Center in Los Angeles is exactly what you would expect from a Killers concert at the Staples Center - glitter all about, a terrible echo bursting up the walls so that no sound is clear, and an audience full of KIIS FM listeners antsy enough to do The Wave while waiting for the show to begin. No band-to-crowd interaction. Too many lights. The crowd stopped moving when the band played a Joy Division cover but started up again right after. Essentially a giant, hellish disco between several thousand and the dirt on Brandon Flowers' lip.

2. Hella, with its current lineup, appears to be John Belushi and two singing tomatoes in front of a cluster of melted up cymbals (in fact, both backing microphones were fitted with tomato masks - and beautiful they were, complete with eyelashes!).

3. The KCRW fest last Saturday at the Gibson Ampitheatre, aside from serving as proof that radio DJs are not amusing hosts, was actually extremely on all night. Lily Allen - as should be expected - is an ironically cutesy lush. James Mercer of the Shins appears to be the saddest frontman in the world. Rodrigo y Gabriela are beyond amazing and will put your hands to shame. And KCRW listeners are quite nice people, it turns out, until they're sitting in front of you at a concert, making out and smelling like beer and fruit roll-ups.

Also, much to my delight, Travis turned out to be the surprise guest at Saturday's KCRW concert. Of all the admittedly lame, '90s appropriate, adult contemporary bands I love, Travis is probably one of my top two or three favorites. Fran Healy is also quite a charmer, and mentioned that he was excited once he found out he'd become a dad because it meant that he wasn't yet "throwing blanks." How nice for him and Mrs. Healy. I was particularly excited to see them at this show because I'd seen them headline the Ampitheatre seven years ago, when they were touring for The Man Who and Fran had just announced his new engagement. To see your favorite musicians grow up to be real men is such a sweet, sweet thing.

Travis - The Weight

Travis - Where is the Love

The newest Travis album, The Boy with No Name, will be available May 8.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Carl and Petey share a jig!

Photo by Andrew Kendall

Well, this is potentially exciting! The Hackney Empire in London played host to An Evening with Pete Doherty last night (sounds rather Paul Anka of Pete, doesn't it?). After half a set with guests like Bert Jansch and, of course, solo performances, Carl Barat joined ol' Pete on stage and played a whole crop of Libertines songs with him. I didn't care much for that last Babyshambles EP nor do I see Dirty Pretty Things lasting much longer than one more album - the first album's already in the clearance bin at Amoeba - so I've got the fingers crossed that this is the sign of a Libertines reunion to come.

Also, not to promote the NME over and over again (though I find it more amusing than anything, so why the hell not?):

Article on Pete's gig last night is here.

NME blog, complete with photos of hugs and a clip of Carl tap dancing to "Dream a Little Dream of Me," is here.

And speaking of the Libertines, Dead Flowers re-posted an interview with their original 50-year old drummer as well as a few early Libertines songs. Interesting stuff.

The Libertines - Horrorshow (live, Jan 2003)

Preview and purchase Up the Bracket if you haven't already got it, which you should!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

What the hell do I know?

The interesting thing about Pennsylvanian pop group Illinois is that though they're not wildly inventive and recall plenty of peer groups at once, they do manage to make each song vastly different from the last. I found myself sitting through each song on What the Hell Do I Know? with a careful ear, asking nobody, “Who does this sound like?” And while I absolutely hate having to name-drop comparisons, it's virtually impossible to avoid in the case of a band like Illinois, which embraces that tricky genre of "indie pop" with arms wide open. The verses of “Headphones” bring Howard Hello to mind, while “Screendoor” brings out the ambiguously male vocals of Chris Archibald, making sense of possible references to Cold War Kids or Silversun Pickups. I can't help but think of the Strokes' “Under Control” when I hear opener “Alone Again” start up – yes, I know the Strokes have been generously used as a reference point in perhaps 50% of music reviews written over the last five years, but it's the reference point that sticks out in my mind on this particular occasion. Maybe it's the pacing of the song, or the fact that it's a ballad disguised as a pop song, but I pick up on the softer side of Julian Casablancas here. And of course, with the popularity of Sufjan Stevens came the popularity of the banjo in pop music, found here in “Nosebleed” over a fairly bland dance track.

So, yes, the EP's dull and redundant points could be summed up in a bullet-point, nutshell form. But there are a few things about it that are sort of cool, actually. Like how the track carrying the bass drum on “Bad Day” is up loudly enough that you get a layer of fuzz over the giant, overpowering double-boom that trails off and contrasts the muted story being told (which is rather trivial and perfectly maintained in its state of background noise). “What Can I Do For You” is quite nice because you can hear the parts played by each band member, coming together at once so that the sound's nice and full, the band utilizing each other and making every piece relevant.

And much as I gripe about all things unoriginal (ironic words to write in a blog, no less – this is where I'd normally toss in a What the Hell Do I Know? pun and let things go), “Alone Again” and “Screendoor” are actually the most memorable tracks Illinois has to offer. Respectively, the background vocals comprising each “bum-bum” chorus mesh with hand claps to assist a strong albeit pleasant rhythm section that, this time, does not overpower the lovely melodies offered. “Screendoor” is just plain feel-good, what with its ooh-ing and hoo-hoo-ing, literally buzzing bass/guitar intertwining, and simple danceable quality.

No, there's nothing original, fresh, (insert synonym for “original”) about Illinois. But they're very safe, and safe will win Illinois a steady fan base. Well, that and the fact that they're opening for the sold-out Kooks tour in the US this spring. But the band makes solid, reliable pop, and sometimes, a scoop of vanilla ice cream is all you've been craving.

Illinois on MySpace (contains tour dates with and without the Kooks, plus one song not on the EP)

Monday, April 9, 2007

A rare update on Midnite Snake.

If anyone had bothered following Midnite Snake around - they being the token cock-out stoner rock band on Birdman Records, whatever the title of "stoner rock" suggests - you'd notice that they haven't released much or cared to make a name for themselves. All they've got is a live album (Live at Gooski's, from 2005) and a self-titled studio album from the year prior. Well then! The group's got another child in the oven, called Shaving the Angel. It's named for the song that appears on Live at Gooski's and is set for a May 21 release, also on Birdman. Additionally, Midnite Snake plans to have a festive release party on May 25, which they say will take place in the woods in the valley between Oakland and Bloomfield (around Pittsburgh, for you Pennsylvanians). They also say there'll be bonfires. Hey!

If you're a fan of Oneida or generic sloppy metal, Midnite Snake just might be for you.

Midnite Snake - Oral Sex Part 1 (Preview and purchase Midnite Snake)

Tour dates and audio samples at MySpace

Because you like hanging out with activists and you've got five bucks.

Friday, April 6, 2007

The Carrots!

Here's a pretty fantastic find o' the day. The Carrots, in their own words, sound like "The spirit of God coursing through the veins of a virginal teen on the cusp of womanhood." I find that they're a pretty decent hybrid of perhaps the Pipettes and the All Girl Summer Fun Band, fairly full-on with a pure, retro image and '60s-style harmonies. Nothing like a bunch of girls oohing and aahing behind their flat-voiced leader, right? Hell, if the Supremes could do it, so can the Carrots. Only major difference is that since sometime last year, the Carrots have been offering their demo CD fo' free, and you can find it here.

Of course, you can also snag their individual tracks or check them out first.

The Carrots - I Tried to Call You
The Carrots - Kissing and Telling
The Carrots - Beverly

Why, it's a birthday party!

Today, April 6, marks the collective birthday of these fine individuals:

Zach Braff
Candace Cameron
Bob Marley
Elizabeth Barrett-Browning
Butch Cassidy
George Reeves
Jason Hervey (who was far more memorable in Pee Wee's Big Adventure than on The Wonder Years)

Happy Birthday and Good Friday to all!

Bob Marley - Redemption Song
Stiff Little Fingers - Johnny Was
Donovan - Sunshine Superman
The Shins - New Slang

Thursday, April 5, 2007

...more amazing bands reunite...

God damn. It seems every group cited as an influence on contemporary rock bands have reunited at one time or another in the last couple of years. Of course, the list wouldn't be complete with the most recent reunions of Simply Saucer and the Only Ones, two incredibly fabulous bands of the '70s.

The Only Ones will be setting up a brief UK tour this June and will have their back catalogue "expanded, remastered and reissued," says Uncut. Their first gig prior to the June UK tour will be at All Tomorrow's Parties on April 27. All this excitement despite front man Peter Perrett's less than stellar health.

Meanwhile, Simply Saucer, who reunited last December, will be holding two performances April 13 and 14 at Toronto's Ciao Edie. More to come? We'll see, eh?

Get your own widget and share anywhere!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Semi-fresh meat to poke at.

So, when you've got a lot of free time to dig around My Space and the internet in general, you wind up discovering some interesting music. I, however, tend to ignore the interesting and instead seek out garage rock or pop. These are pretty worthwhile finds, a couple of them unsigned. You, too, should waste a little time on them!

White Rabbits
Based in: New York
Label: Say Hey
*Doing a show with Harlem Shakes on Apr. 7 and touring with Richard Swift in late April. Their vocalist, in fact, sounds a bit like Richard Swift. Tour schedule can be found here.
*The band's official website contains this video flyer from last autumn. Generally, it will either make you nauseated, aroused, or a bit nervous. I'm still undecided.

The Marked Men
Based in: Denton, Texas
Label: Rip Off, Dirtnap, Shit Sanwich, Swami
*Essentially sounds like every garage rock band on Dirtnap Records. A lazier way to recommend is to note that Black Lips fans will probably be satisfied.

The Ape-Shits
Based in: Austin, Texas
Label: Unsigned!
*They sound like a harder version of the Time Flys (who sound like a Germs/Unicorns hybrid).
*They've got a 7" split from last year, released with the Gash on Big Action Records.

Bootleg Poets
Based in: Coventry, UK
Label: Unsigned!
*Shit sound quality, shit level of originality, but hard and fun, sounds quite young (no poem intended, by the way).
Happy Birthday, Robert Downey, Jr.!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Voices of boys were by the river-side. Sleep mothered them; and left the twilight sad.

Occasionally, a band will explain its likeness to a peer or recent predecessor by noting similar influences, that the two bands made records with their heads in similar places – how many bands, after all, were influenced by the Beatles, Sex Pistols, or (as of the last few years) Gang of Four? But there’s also the infrequent group that doesn’t bother with any of that “skipping the middle man” nonsense, and rather than “draw influence” from music of thirty years ago, it shamelessly borrows whatever it likes from a more recent incarnation of an earlier sound. With their debut EP of late 2006, Glasgow’s Twilight Sad did just that, letting alone a would-be influence in U2’s The Joshua Tree, instead directly using what the Walkmen left them over the last five years.

Formed in Glasgow in late 2003, the Twilight Sad members would have had a year to absorb Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone before hitting a revelatory “god damn” and forming a band. You can’t hate them for it, either – of all the bands being emulated right now, not enough people are stealing from the Walkmen. They’re the musical equivalent of Christmas, absolutely brilliant with complex layers of piano and guitar, and though their albums are far more consistent than most could boast, their 2006 record, A Hundred Miles Off, received mixed reviews. So for this new group, the Twilight Sad, to enter in where the Walkmen left off was a perfectly timed move.

Signed to Fat Cat, the Twilight Sad just released a full-length record today and are touring in the US this spring as a continuation of the east coast shows they worked in last fall. That initial EP, a gorgeous collection of five songs, the last being a nine-minute round-up, greatly recalled the Walkmen’s blend of rhythmic post-punk, emotional Brit-style pop, and driving shoegaze. The likeness was particularly apparent when third track “Last Year’s Rain Didn’t Fall Quite So Hard,” all build and no release, transitioned into the humming ring of “And She Would Darken the Memory of Youth” – the latter of which was much to the effect of “No Christmas While I’m Talking” on 2004’s Bows and Arrows. Opener “But When She Left, Gone was the Glow” set the tone with accordion gloom and carried a deep drone into “That Summer, At Home I Had Become the Invisible Boy,” which heavily used bass and tom drums to bear a tiny bit of the Joshua Tree essence without sounding as dated.

But the Twilight Sad's EP wasn't a direct imitation, solid a job as they'd done, because they were set apart through James Graham’s thick Scottish accent, which gave the music an unpretentious, natural emotional state to slowly enjoy. And while they did grasp the bells and rings that the Walkmen used in albums past, they took them and played up the shoegaze factor until there was an impenetrable wall of guitar completely surrounding them. I'd labeled the self-titled debut one of 2006's most beautiful releases, and felt that the music world would be cold to leave the band’s first LP off its radar in the months to come.

As it stands, those upcoming months are now present and the LP's been on quite a few radars (and how, what with all those internet leaks). Fourteen Autumns, Fifteen Winters is gorgeous as expected, an expanded version of the EP that came out last year. With sixty percent of the EP carried over onto the LP, though, there's a second chance to pick up on details I'd not previously noticed, like how the songs are predictable enough (yet satisfyingly so) that you can follow along the linear path of each track. Two and a half minutes into “And She Would Darken the Memory,” James Graham follows up a casual, matter-of-fact “head up, dear/you're shallow and blind” with a roughly shouted “head up, dear” as the rest of the band slowly builds up alongside him. He returns to a softer tone that's more in line with the song's initial vocal style, if not of a more confident volume and clarity in the song's second half, and in turn prompts the initial shoegaze mood of the song to burst into a confident post-rock wall that pushes ahead of him, shifting the song's lead from drums to voice to a battle of each instrument struggling to drown out the others in a fair, hard fight.

“Last Year's Rain Didn't Fall Quite So Hard” makes a solid selling point for stereo in the “stereo versus mono” argument, with its steady rhythms of guitar and drum competing in different tracks, thick Scottish voices traveling in layers both above and below. The sound's so clear that you can hear each drum being approached by hand and foot at once. And the accordion of “That Summer” does wonders for adding a frankly European feel to a song that any generic American post-rock band could otherwise attempt with some success.

But the songs not previously released, however fluid in their placement on this record, have a different sort of quality from the older ones. What I'd considered quite magical about the Twilight Sad was how they bury you deeply enough that if you forget to listen for each instrument, you'll forget that what you're listening to is created by instruments, that the songs don't simply exist on their own. One might blame the effect of the Twilight Sad's genre, but outside of this wall-of-sound approach and garnering the same effect in my mind has always been “London Calling,” a song that's rough and sharp but seems to exist outside of a world containing common guitars and basses. And that's it – I don't think of the Twilight Sad's tunneling songs as common, even if there's nothing entirely original about them. But these new songs have a slightly different quality, one that shows a more stable rock background and use of real guitars, real bass, real drums. The sound quality's a bit more hollow so that you can hear an echo wherever the band's recording, especially in “Mapped By What Surrounded Them,” where there's much less clarity in Graham's voice. And the guitars on “I Am Taking the Train Home” don't sound like ambiguous bells or guitars being rung so much as simple, live guitars, while the closing title track is enveloped in what may be a stir of cymbals, or the distortion of less than capable speakers, or hell, even wind (why not, aye?). But god damn, it's all gorgeous and fits together so well.

For once, an album's out in the US before the UK.
Listen to the songs, read more about the band, and purchase the album through Fat Cat Records.
They're also on a North American tour with Aereogramme and/or the Northern Chorus right now.

The Twilight Sad - And She Would Darken the Memory

Billy 'n Holly!

They've finally arrived!

Sample each on MySpace: Billy, Holly

Monday, April 2, 2007

The Wombats plus mo'

No one else has made this joke before.

Yes, I'm aware that every blogger who attended SXSW has already gushed, and even more aware that I'm unfairly biased in favor of bands who embrace Britspeak. But this may very well be the MOST ADORABLE BAND EVER. They're from Liverpool, further proof that Liverpudlian music is the only kind of pop to bother with (though there's always that underground West Covina scene, hey!). The Wombats are touring all over Europe with a massive UK focus this spring and summer, and sadly, it'll be at least several months before they make it to this side of the Atlantic pond, save for that Austin stint. Someone e-mail this Matt Bates fellow at to book a show in America, will ya?

Simple and overly cutesy, sure, but I'm a sucker for this one:

The Wombats - Little Miss Pipe Dream

New single "Backfire at the Disco" arrives quickly, oh so quickly...


Go see Black Fiction this week while they tour up the west coast with Antelope, 'cause they're far more interesting live than on record, and they've got a wicked percussion section.

Antelope - The Flock

Black Fiction - Magic Hands


...and because Passover finds me digging around the internet for "Ca Plane Pour Moi" by Plastic Bertrand, here it is, in addition to the original version ("Jet Boy Jet Girl") from Elton Motello, which you can conveniently find on the delicious compilation A Date With John Waters. Many thanks to The Rich Girls Are Weeping for posting these last summer - who knew that someone would be needing their efforts on this very day?

Plastic Bertrand - Ca Plane Pour Moi

Elton Motello - Jet Boy Jet Girl

Almost enough excitement to fill an Easter basket.

Some things, in lazy-man bullet form.

*From the FDA, regarding the pet food recall: "Dogs or cats who have consumed the suspect feed and show signs of kidney failure (such as loss of appetite, lethargy and vomiting) should consult with their veterinarian."

*As published in the April 9 edition of Business Week, NBC Universal and News Corp. plan to rival YouTube by creating a similar site that will also make full-length movies available to run on MSN, MySpace, AOL, and Yahoo! This news arriving a week after Viacom sued Google for $1 billion over YouTube's copyright infringement (handy for the creators of YouTube that Google bought the thing, eh?). Does nobody come up with entirely original site ideas anymore, or is every website just meant to be an improvement of one that already exists? C'est la vie.

*As of today, word has it that motor vehicles emit something called "air pollutants."

And of course, the music-related stuff:

*Spin did a feature on the 25 Greatest Team-Ups this month, and as a spin-off of the feature did an inset on the Top 10 One-Off Team-Ups of All Time. They actually mentioned "Fairytale of New York" by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl. How nice.

*For token Sub Pop followers - batty Italians Jennifer Gentle have a new album out on June 19 and Band of Horses will be opening for the Decemberists at the HollywoodFuckingBowl on July 7. Then again, Bright Eyes and Oakley Hall have already got a sold-out show set for the Walt Disney Concert Hall (May 6), so it's safe to say that anything can happen when you're a softie with a guitar.

*As we began our slow transition into Hell this spring (a tsunami, Hilary Duff calling the world "mean"), the Ohsees - formerly OCS - quietly came out with a new album. It was apparently produced by Kelley Stoltz as a healthy, green album and is the first of two Ohsees albums to be released this year; the second will be recorded next month by...Dave Sitek? John Dwyer and Co. have some solid friends on their side. The current record, Suck Blood, appears only to be available here, under the rather unfortunate catalog number of CDOHSEESUCK.

Kelley Stoltz - The Sun Comes Through (Sample and purchase Below the Branches)
OCS/The Ohsees - Second Date (Sample and purchase 3&4)
OCS/The Ohsees on MySpace (New songs! A tour!)
Jennifer Gentle - Mad House (Purchase the record from Sillyboy Entertainment through the band's Italian website, or settle for Valende at a much cheaper US price)