Monday, December 21, 2009

Pylon - Chomp More

This re-release comes in time for cross-promotion with the October release of Vanessa Briscoe Hay’s more recent project, the release Waves by Supercluster [note: she still has a punkish, girly snarl, even at 54]. And, perhaps not so timely, less than a year after the death of Pylon’s guitarist Randy Bewley.

Just as DFA released a remastered version of Pylon’s 1980 record, Gyrate [Gyrate Plus] we’re now given a remastered take on their follow-up, 1983’s Chomp. The angular bass, jangly guitar and minimal, post-punk style drumming still hold up in the way that perhaps Delta 5 (arguably one of their English counterparts) holds up, in the sense that they don’t sound dated because they truly wrote cleaner, better songs than most of those who’ve attempted to imitate them in recent years.


There are also four bonus tracks, including a version of “Yo-Yo” that’s got the pitch of Briscoe’s vocals shifted down to the territory of man, and the almost-industrial sounding “Four Minutes,” which has the rhythm of “Beep” but, erm, also brought down in pitch.


Pylon – Altitude
Pylon – Crazy (single version)
Purchase Chomp More

Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's Chanukah!


While this is a forum for promoting music, a few words should be said about this “health care reform” that's attempting to make its way through the Senate at present. Thus far, the Senate has dropped the option of a government-run health plan, scrapped the proposed option to allow 55-64-year olds to buy into Medicare (thanks, Lieberman), and the House and Senate can't agree on whether public funds ought to be used to subsidize abortion. So where's the reform? Creating an insurance mandate without capping the cost of private insurance or preventing rescission will only put more money in the pockets of private insurers. If we can afford to buy said insurance, anyway. And subsidizing coverage for those who can't afford the full cost seems a waste when subsidies would cover amounts up to 88% for individuals making up to $43,320 a year – this would amount to quite a few people receiving assistance, when said subsidies could instead be pooled into, yes, a public health fund. According to this side-by-side comparison, the Senate bill would allow individuals without coverage to be fined $750 in 2016 for not purchasing coverage, while the House bill would end CHIP and instead create new subsidies for kids to receive private insurance. Really, now – is this reform bill even worth passing?

Mark Fox - Diary of an Unborn Child
(This ought to teach those "pro-abortion" bastards in the Senate!)

Another goodie from Mark Fox, just because.

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In happier, music-related news, Gang of Four is releasing a new record and touring the world next year!

Gang of Four - Return the Gift

And Amy Winehouse's 13-year old goddaughter is pretty damn decent.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Oh my jesus

+

=

YESSSS!!


I'm breaking out of this monthlong blogging rut to say that the Strange Boys will be touring with (the very grand, chatty, Ian Svenonius-fronted) Chain and the Gang in early 2010. Woohoo! And if you are lucky enough to live in San Francisco, you get them, and them, and Ty Segall, too! Lucky bastards.

-----------------------------------------------------------

Fri, Feb 19th - Austin @ Emo's
Sun, Feb 21 - Marfa TX @ Padre's
Tues, Feb 23 - Phoenix, AZ @ Trunk Space
Wed, Feb 24 - San Diego, CA @ Casbah
Thurs, Feb 25 - Isla Vista, CA @ Biko Garage
Fri, Feb 26 - Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo
Sat, Fat 27 - San Francisco CA @ Elbo Room
Sun, Feb 28 - Reno, Nevada @ Rainshadow Community Charter High School
Tues, March 2 - Salem, OR @ The Space
Wed, March 3 - Olympia, WA @ Northern
Thurs, March 4 - Seattle WA @ Comet Tavern
Fri, March 5 - Vancouver BC @ Media Club
Sat, March 6 - Portland OR @ East End

Monday, November 16, 2009

Will Stratton - No Wonder

The world is not in want of another singer-songwriter. It's with an odd bout of confidence, then, that I admit a certain tenderness toward these songs, some of which were written by the time Will Stratton was 18 and have since transformed beautifully, completely.

At 22, he is highly literate, as articulate as one ought to be when recently shaped by university discussions on literature and liberal politics, and sings with a sleepy delivery that never overpowers his proficient finger-picking. But his style was determined prior to those university courses – as demonstrated in 2007's What the Night Said, first recorded just after high school – and his vocal method is not at all bland, but soothing, and evocative of his naturally soft-spoken manner.

Where Stratton goes wrong – and really, such a term stretches his faults here – is when he attempts to go electric, on “Nineteen,” perhaps his attempt at emulating Big Star, and “If Only,” which is electric in the vein of Conor Oberst rocking out. His type isn't really meant to rock out. But “Robin and Marian,” a song he's been mulling over for some time, has a retro quality like that of the Pretty in Black-era Raveonettes, plugged in and high on treble, Phil Spector-lite, with a character spin that could only be written by a genuine dreamer.

One of the album's best, opener “Who Will,” like a fair portion of this record, falls somewhere between Mazzy Star and early Elliott Smith, and this comparison point is meant in the most complimentary way. The arrangement of brass, guitars electric and acoustic, and backing vocals comes together beautifully, and perhaps the only track more flawless is that rounding out the record, “New Jersey,” a piano ballad on which the tape can be heard rolling, and Stratton declares, with love of his home state, “after we all have left again, I'll walk and I'll walk and I'll come back, you'll see.” Consider me smitten.


Will Stratton - Who Will
Will Stratton - New Jersey
Purchase No Wonder

Friday, November 13, 2009

It's about time for another annual Greg Ashley gushfest.

Dear friends, the deal is this:

This past Wednesday evening, Greg Ashley took a seat onstage at Spaceland, in what was - I do believe - his first return to Los Angeles since F Yeah Fest 2007. He was there to support the Dutchess and the Duke, which was fine and all, and he even did a fine job acting as their token percussionist/stage wino, which was also fine. Fine. So, during his set, he picks up a nice nylon string and plays a few old songs. But "Song from Limestone County" isn't enough to shut up the noisy bastards all around the bar, so he picks up the Dutchess' electric and plays a couple of instrumentals from his new record, which is apparently due in early 2010 - they're like these elegantly played, solo classical compositions, except he's clearly angry that no one's listening to him play, so he's playing these nice classical compositions with a look of spite on his face and saying, in his own polite way, "Goddamn it, listen to me." He's a gentleman, see, and one who plays damn well at that. After a couple rounds of electric instrumentals, he plugs his nylon back in and plays versions of "Sailing with Bobby" and "Fisher King" that sound far nicer than they had on Painted Garden, among a few others, and then politely but perhaps passive-aggressively requests to unplug his guitar when the time comes to leave the stage. Greg Ashley is my hero.

All that said, he is continuing to tour with the Dutchess and the Duke through next month, and you should see him play, because he deserves better treatment than he's been given in L.A. Also, you should buy his records.

The Mirrors - The Trip
The Gris Gris - Ecks Em Eye
The Gris Gris - Everytime
Greg Ashley - I said, "These are lonely days"
Greg Ashley - Won't Be Long
Buy every single record with which he's affiliated here.
Go see him play with the Dutchess and the Duke (tour dates and more record purchase options here.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Kings of Convenience - Declaration of Dependence

Five years after their last full release, the Norwegian folk duo that is Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambæk Bøe have this record that is so cleanly played, so crisply recorded – partially in an Italian studio and partially at Øye’s home – and it is perhaps this trait that makes them stand out which also acts as their greatest fault, that they walk the line between dull and elegant, fallling onto either side from song to song.

On one hand, there is no lack of bossa nova with forgettable lyrics of a presumptuous former love, and until Øye passively attacks her cold façade, it seems almost unthinkable that Norwegians would use terms like “fronting,” which seems sort of displaced.

There’s also some decent Django Reinhardt influence (“Boat Behind”), and the collaboration of steel and nylon, each man taking his turn, is pure grace. But the vocal harmonization of Øye backing Bøe is a bit bland, and the pair is at their best when Bøe stands alone, particularly on “My Ship Isn’t Pretty,” where his use of nylon guitar is almost as understated as the bass that merely boosts it, his voice finally front and center in an otherwise empty room of a song. Perfect.


Kings of Convenience - My Ship Isn't Pretty
Purchase Declaration of Dependence

Sweet Jesus, Yessssss.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ray Davies and the Crouch End Festival Chorus - The Kinks Choral Collection

The trouble with this collection is that, as a recording, it hasn't got the impact that it ought in a live setting – perhaps this is why Ray Davies is touring in the company of various choirs this season.

The concept of decades-old Kinks songs being backed by the 65-piece Crouch End Festival Chorus doesn't seem so much an instance of 65-year old Davies milking his career highlights when you're watching the lot of them do a phenomenal job of “Shangri-La” on Electric Proms, as was the case in 2007. On record, though, the effect isn't mind-blowing, but watered-down, with “Celluloid Heroes” sounding more and more like a dated cliché about fame, and “Do You Remember Walter?” trotting along like a piece from a Henry Mancini record that could be caught in any vinyl clearance bin.

Davies pays special attention to The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society, the real masterpiece here being “Village Green,” the only track on the album other than “See My Friends” to really showcase the choir, bringing Davies' nostalgic lyrics under a spotlight in a way that they hadn't been in 1968.


Nothing could screw up the beautiful “Waterloo Sunset,” though it would have been strengthened if given the same treatment as “Village Green,” all choir save for his acoustic guitar – the greater issue being that the backing band is what slows down and, ultimately, dates the songs in an unflattering way, attempting to modernize with drums and a dreadful guitar/piano combination at too high a volume in the studio.

At times, Davies sounds like a bored narrator (see: “Big Sky”), or rushes through as though he's as embarrassed to be revisiting as the listener ought to be in receiving (see: “All Day and All of the Night”). The biggest shame of all, though, is that this project could have seen a great reworking of “Phenomenal Cat” but omitted it in favor of excessive nostalgia, which seems somehow fitting. Or even "The Way Love Used to Be," which would have been stunning if arranged with the choir in place of strings. If this experiment isn't meant to be a sort of preparation for a Kinks reunion, perhaps there'll be room for a part two in the near future.


Ray Davies - Shangri-La
Ray Davies - Village Green
Purchase The Kinks Choral Collection

Monday, November 2, 2009

Meursault and Jesus H. Foxx...not coming to a town near you!


There's nothing more enjoyable than promoting a live show by a band that'll never come to your own part of town, so I'd like to take this moment to inform of this launch party business that's taking place this coming Saturday for those who happen to live somewhere in the vicinity of Edinburgh, Scotland.

See, this Matthew fellow, who's been maintaining Song, By Toad for what seems ages, has got a record label up and running, and it's actually got a decent little roster these days. And if you've yet to visit the Toad's site, he's been
championing Meursault since they released Pissing on Bonfires/Kissing with Tongues prior to joining his Song, by Toad label (and, in fact, before there was such a label – so dedicated a fan, he is).

Earlier this year, then, Meursault (now the apparent core of Song, by Toad Records) released the Nothing Broke EP, which I actually found to be even better than Pissing on Bonfires, as it's a simple, acoustic EP free of any electronic distractions, and every song reminds of the Waterboys' cover of Van Morrison's “Sweet Thing,” which is really about as divine as anything. So I suppose this makes Nothing Broke rather divine by association – similar to the live Toad sessions from Pissing on Bonfires that were made some time ago. Probably due to the un-ironic use of ukelele, I think.

Anyway, all that said, this launch party is for a cluster of new singles by Meursault, a couple of which can be found on last year's Pissing with Bonfires and a couple of which are alternate versions of songs found on Nothing Broke. Also playing are Jesus H. Foxx, who're also on the Song, by Toad label and – hey! – released an EP earlier this fall. Have a good listen to Matter, with its wayward vocals (I like to think of them as a lazy eye, but sung, and not uncomfortable), unconventional, doubled-up percussion and math-light guitars. Matthew describes them as “guitary” but this really isn't so. He does like all things soft, I guess. But his bands are awfully decent. So have a listen, support the records, and if you live near the Bowery at 2 Roxburgh Place, wherever that is, have a live go!
(Nov. 7 at 7:30pm)

Meursault - Nothing Broke
Jesus H. Foxx - Elegy For the Good Times
Buy every applicable record here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Langhorne Slim - Be Set Free

If the record's cover art isn't telling, then perhaps its guest list is. When Langhorne Slim first made the switch to Kemado Records last year with his second full-length, the effort came out sounding solid but somewhat lacking in the energy of his live set, a feat that's only been accomplished thus far with his muddy Electric Love Letter EP of 2004. He's stayed loyal to Malachi DeLorenzo (also his drummer) in the recording process from day one, but his newest album, produced as a ridiculously layered piece of pop by Decemberist Chris Funk, is miles from his live show, which – while appealing to the tamer indie set – really hurts him, given what he's capable of.

The point that's impossible to dodge is that Langhorne Slim is at his best when he's on his own. He's a true punk spirit, and can singlehandedly fill a stage with his nasal wail; it certainly wouldn't hurt if this demonstration were set to tape for the space of an LP. The War Eagles, DeLorenzo and upright bass player Paul DeFiglia, actually kept up with him quite well on stage, building upon his energy rather than being left to the roles of backing musicians, qualifying the trio as a great team, though the greater strength remained on stage and not necessarily on record.

Now, on Be Set Free, Slim's unfortunately hurt by all the would-be enhancements that completely bury his energy. Sam Kassirer, who (alongside DeLorenzo) played a heavy role in the recording process of Slim's previous record, is now the band's pianist, adding a painful dream sequence quality to the already-sappy “I Love You, But Goodbye.” “Say Yes” almost comes off as something the Decemberists might have recorded, were it not for the lack of a historical geek-out, and “For a Little While” is a really dull, semi-sultry rock ballad that just doesn't belong. “Yer Wrong” completely snatches – wait for it – “I Can See Clearly Now,” and “Blown Your Mind” relies on a piano melody fit more for Regina Spektor than a less-than-believable Slim.

As for those other guests, Slim's duet with Heartless Bastards frontlady Erika Wennerstrom on “Leaving My Love” does work well, though the production process has upped the cheese factor by giving too much volume to DeLorenzo's drumming – he's fantastic but his part is a bore here – and experimenting with strings in a way that worked for Jon Brion and Fiona Apple but competes with and overpowers Slim. “Land of Dreams” is pleasant enough but a waste of Laura Veirs, and DeFiglia's replacement on bass, Jeff Ratner, is literally impossible to spot anywhere on the record. Really, the best songs here, the title track and “Back to the Wild,” are those that would have fit perfectly on previous Langhorne Slim records; it's unfortunate that this album, which will likely launch him, while much deserved, is less representative of the artist than the producer.


Taste that potential!

Langhorne Slim - Be Set Free
Langhorne Slim - Yer Wrong (yes, but you simply won't understand, otherwise)
Purchase Be Set Free
Or see him on tour RIGHT NOW.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Elvis Perkins in Dearland - The Doomsday EP

Elvis Perkins has never quite had another “While You Were Sleeping,” but his willingness to experiment is admirable, and here, on the Doomsday EP, he dips into everything from classic electric blues and rock ‘n’ roll (the somewhat generic “Stop Drop Rock and Roll”) to retro rhythm and blues (“Stay Zombie Stay,” which is just begging for a recurring “rollin’” from Ike Turner) to call and response (“Weeping Mary,” originally written in 1859 by J.P. Reese).

Doomsday is a bit lackluster on the whole, sort of done in good fun, perhaps compiled for kicks in spare time. But the musicianship of Perkins and his band is at its best when a little eerie, the EP opening and closing with “Doomsday” and six-minute counterpart “Slow Doomsday,” one influenced by polka and Dixieland jazz, its dreary end (the original version) like a tragic, drunken tale out of New Orleans. And on “Gypsy Davy,” where all sorts of minor details are best heard through headphones, those creaks and howls, Perkins’ James Taylor-meets-Jeff Mangum voice takes on a touch of a Judy Garland quiver from a slight distance. A little charming, a little tragic.


Elvis Perkins in Dearland - Slow Doomsday
Elvis Perkins in Dearland - Weeping Mary
Pre-order the Doomsday EP

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Mission of Burma - The Sound the Speed the Light

Now on their third studio album since the close of their long hiatus, Mission of Burma have aged scarily well, and with The Sound the Speed the Light they are, in their early 50s, as perfectly sloppy and punk rock as they were in the 1980s.

“1, 2, 3, Partyy!” [sic] is among the group’s best “pop” songs, excessively listenable, Roger Miller’s guitar skipping all over the place. “One Day We Will Live There,” choppy with testosterone, would actually work quite well on 2006’s The Obliterati, and “Forget Yourself” and “Comes Undone” remind quite a bit, in their noodling guitar and dramatic buildup, of …Trail of Dead’s Source Tags and Codes (though the order of any coincidental similarity or influence should be apparent).

Vocals, taken from each member, are alternately playful and booming, with a confidence that only occurs with age, indicating that there was actually some enjoyment in recording. Whereas the fantastic but top-heavy The Obliterati found Peter Prescott’s drumming a new (albeit welcome) focal point, The Sound is heavy on guitar, more consistent, and much closer to some of the band’s best work from its early career.


Mission of Burma - Forget Yourself
Preview and purchase The Sound the Speed the Light

Friday, October 9, 2009

Orenda Fink - Ask the Night

I imagine Orenda Fink to be the timid, polite, perhaps humorless type, one who sits in her basement recording space among friends and says, after experimenting with a few minor chords, Oh, that riff is sort of weird – let’s see what we can do with it. Maybe she even uses the word neat. But she writes a good folk song, and while the Southern Gothic thing is getting a bit tired, it’s been a pleasure to hear her quirks and watch her blossom since Azure Ray.

Ask the Night is sort of a concept album which first asks, “Why is the night sad?” and rounds itself out when the moon answers this question to the beat of a setting sun at album’s conclusion. The record’s not perfect – Isaac Brock’s angry lisp makes for an awkward backing vocal track on “High Ground,” and “The Garden” smacks of the Indigo Girls (“Love and peace will fill your heart?” Really, now.). But there are some really lovely bluegrass touches, and the recordings themselves feel rather intimate, particularly when Fink is alone with her guitar.


Orenda Fink - High Ground
Orenda Fink - Wind
Purchase Ask the Night

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Twilight Sad at the Knitting Factory. September 20, 2009. Los Angeles, CA.

Sandwiched as the meat in a marvelous all-Scottish lineup consisting also of headliner Frightened Rabbit and opener We Were Promised Jetpacks (who, like the Twilight Sad, easily could have headlined to success), the Twilight Sad recently held their second supporting slot at the Knitting Factory since 2007. Two years prior, the venue's poor sound had interfered a touch with an otherwise fantastic set, and vocalist James Graham, like an unsocialized child, had sat and huddled with his beer to skip out on the instrumental parts of songs that didn't require his talent. At 25, he's a more confident performer, still primarily facing stage right when he sings, but when not needed, standing upright and staring down his audience with piercing eyes and an almost frighteningly-confrontational spirit.

Graham's vocals were strong, his performance of “Cold Days From the Birdhouse” matching those of the alternate version that appears on the Here it Never Snowed. Afterwards it Did. EP, his beautiful brogue allowing for thickly rolled arrrs all over “I Am Taking the Train Home.” All the while, Andy MacFarlane played his gorgeous cream Jaguar almost fully with his tremolo bar, as a poker-faced Craig Orzel, donning two differently striped socks sans shoes, strummed his bass, the pair creating a dense wall of ringing noise from opener “Reflection of the Television” forward. They seem a touch happier these days, somehow, and even with the fifth member they've added, Martin Doherty (formerly) of Aereogramme, all members are so incredibly necessary, each adding his own beautiful noise.





And the lurvely We Were Promised Jetpacks:


(I will champion this band over perhaps any other in the present, and so I strongly urge you to pick up the brand spankin' new Forget the Night Ahead, as well as all other releases, EP or otherwise.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A slight detour...

Oh, Christ...


Awoke one morn a dog
saw his face on a blog
thought, "Why does this man hate me so?"
But this man compiled a book
and boy, does it cook!
So come to his signing with a pen in tow.


The details, swiped from elsewhere:


Fred Segal
8118 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
September 12, 2009
1pm

(And if you're not a supporter of bunny-bashing,
I'll put in a recommendation for
this one.)

Monday, September 7, 2009

FYF (The Fest Formerly Known As Fuck Yeah!) 2009. September 5, 2009. Los Angeles, CA.

Things that were lame about this year's FYF:
1. Resorting to hot dogs and $3 bottled water due to a lack of options.
2. The ridiculous supply of ironic sunglasses.
3. Breathing in air from downtown LA's not-quite-blue sky and kicking up dust clouds.

Things that were not lame about this year's FYF:
1. Realizing around 7pm that you were absolutely starving and that this kosher piece of meat was the best fucking hot dog you've ever eaten.
2. The cover of Dead Moon's "Walking on My Grave" coming from the Redwood Stage right around hot dog time.
3. All the nice people who were surprisingly polite while wearing said ironic sunglasses.
4. Seeing Black Lips watch the Carbonas' set from the audience.
5. Finally having a full day's worth of garage rock to bounce along to. FYF = NOT LAME!


Carbonas:






Crystal Antlers:





Lucero:


Mika Miko:





The Thermals (including new hipster-beautiful drummer Westin Glass)




Torche:

Woods: