Saturday, January 31, 2009
Enjoy the weekend. Do the Super Bowl shuffle if you feel so inclined. Perhaps Apple will do something to commemorate the 25th anniversary of this advertising classic:
Friday, January 30, 2009
The Feel Good Songs of Dent May and his Magnificent Ukulele
links: Dent May - paw tracks
The bow-tied tux on the front cover doesn't help dissuade the inevitable imagery of singer Dent May shuffling around on a tiny round stage in the corner of some jazz-age juke-joint, crooning away to some doe-eyed flappers, (see "Meet Me In The Garden").
The debut album from this Oxford, Miss-bred singer/songwriter seems to always have that unimposing lounge-y cuteness flavor dabbed into its edges. Assuredly, that Magnificient Ukulele indicated in the title brazenly strums its way along ("Oh Paris!") with brass booms and cheery marches that facilitate an almost McCartney-an pop shuffle. Later on, the pedal-steel struts its twangy whine ("Howard") over this classic-country slow dancer that finds Mays syrupy vocals recalling the relatable whirr of Billy Bragg.
The two potential factors working against his winning over the designer-glasses/doc-martin college crowd is his undoubtedly endearing-yet-possibly-over-the-top cuteness; he unabashedly embraces the kitchy "magnificient" and "good feeling" in his titling of this debut and singing mod-for-the-moment witty wisdoms in the give-up-and-dim-the-party-lights jangle "You Can't Force a Dance Party"). Secondly, for some, this may ring a bit too closely to 69 Love Songs-era Magnetic Fields, in both its ukulele-dominated swing-revivalism and May's similar vocals to antecedent indie/crooner Stephen Merritt. He throws in his own distinct style of narrative and charming sense of humor – but these quirks and sweet string accoutrements then start to inevitably recall a bit of Jens Lekman dark-comic pop.
Ah well – a band comes out with nothing yet on the score sheets for the writers and readers to qualify him…and you can't avoid these quick one-liners: Magnetic Fields meets Jens Lekman…with hints of Serge Gainsborough and Lee Hazelwood-style country. Of course, as a debut, this is highly impressive. May was sort of discovered by Animal Collective last year, and the experimental space-folksters released this album on their label, Paw Tracks. If May keeps his collar straight and continues working and singing his way through the dim lounges of our hearts over the next couple albums – then he should be well on his way to a fine career. He's opened a lot of doors to a very intriguing rooms of style and sensibility on this record – let's inhabit them more fully on the next twirl around. And we can all catch that "Dent May-nia" that those gin-ed up juke-jointin' College Town Boys keep yapping about…
Loney Dear – Dear John
links: Loney, Dear - polyvinyl
It starts in a hurry. It hits…like much of Loney, Dear's synthy-stringy-fuzzy-folk…softly, but it still feels urgent. A rolling bass line blurts right out of the gate and slides under this stifled-crashing dance-beat that pulses like some over-caffeinated businessman at midnight, wielding his way into the loading zone of these "Airport Surroundings" in Dear, John's opener. Perky but histrionic strings pizzicato out and around like flapping papers in the wind while twinkling synths flutter upon the rushing, softly-piercing nasal na-na-naas of singer Emil Svanängen. It's full of cinematic wonder, but it feels blunted and blurry – like you can feel its potential to coax you up and around the room, you can see all sorts of starstruck city skylines at night for this would-be ideal nighttime driving music.
Second track "Everything Turns To You" starts in a similarly jolting fashion – like your falling into something already in progress, or what feels like the picking-up-the-action after a chapter-break (or a film soundtrack); as the first word of the first lyric is "…and…" …everything turns to you. What needs to be emphasized with this track (as should be with his 05 release Loney Noir and its pique track "I Am John") is that Svanängen has a knack for wordless wispy melodies that are highly catchy and form a soothing ambience.
Svanängen comes from the same chamber-pop loving sensibility as Belle & Sebastian, (picture the aspiring singer/songwriter in his parent's basement in the early 00's, at the edge of his bed with a guitar and a nearby drum machine) who caught a break, similar to his more faux-lounge-crooning pop weaving compatriot Jens Lekman, when someone at Sub Pop found his humble but inviting demos. He loves the flush of synthesized strings throwing fuzzy flashback effects upon his movie screen millieu’s sunny projection. His shy stumbly pop songs are often striking and moody, sliding quite comfortably between this heartfelt syrupy-meets-meloncholy folk that Cat Stevens or Paul Simon brought, but also undeniably touched by the orchestral cocktail party sway of smooth Burt Bacharach-style pop – then tumble it around with the new march of indie-theatrical styler's like Arcade Fire and you'll find yourself in the steady flight-n-fancy of Loney Dear…
/ DC /
Thursday, January 29, 2009
While The Golden Filter are poised to drop plenty of nuggets in 2009, there are a couple bands dipped in that Ag alloy that could get your chemistry professor busting a move. Okay, moving on from the Periodic Table...
Detroit music fans should be familiar with Silverghost by now. But fer ya goddamn furrners and those living under a rock: Do you like The B-52's? Well add that with ex-Von Bondie Marcie Bolen looking ultra cool while splattering some fuzzy chords and her equally adorable boyfriend, Deleano Acevedo, singing along and making neato buzzes with his synthesizer. Detroit's Sonny & Cher are releasing a new 4-track EP, The Equine Lips (horse lips) on February 4. It's tremendously catchy and crafty and sure to be a front runner for favorite EP of the year. You can listen to the whole thing here and download "Electric Shapes."
Bonus cut - "Whatever happened to the Gentlemen"
Next up is Silverclub, a Manchester trio who might as well been manufactured by Tony Wilson's Factory. Sounding like New Order playing The Haçienda in 1992, they pump out a thumping dose of neon glazed euphoria on "Crash This Car." While they prop themselves up with those ubiquitous Peter Hook riffs, the native Silverclub comes off a bit more authentic than Australian tourists like Cut Copy and The Midnight Juggernauts. Plus, they got a thin film of grit on their grooves à la The Kills. Their EP, Crash This Car, is available now.
Listen to "Answers"
The Republicans gather the witless lap dogs of the media, with their bright lights and cameras, and they stand in front of marbled railings and velvet curtains and they trash-talk our newly elected president...
They march smugly into House chambers and vote along party lines. Not one House Republican supported the recent bill brought before them for the Economic Stimulus Package fostered by the Obama Administration. Not. One.
No, in the end that didn't matter becuase, yes, it passed the house. - Here - (Components of Stimulus Vary in Speed and Efficiency)
You can read about how much it's going to help struggling state economies and how much its going to boost education and the lighter taxes being taken from your check and about how your friends and parents who have all been laid off recently can get extended unemployment benefits...You can also read about the potential (and, with congress, inevitable) pork that gets attached.
But none of that matters. It's still just red and just blue. No purple - no way. Here we are, we finally get the inept-one-day/tyrannical-the-next stylings of Governor Bush out of the White House only to have your Progress and your Change bear-trapped deep into the fleshy calf by the childish buffoonery of partisanship.
The argument from the grousing right - the tax cuts aren't big enough (which...might hold some water...but why talk trash in front of "news" cameras when you could be sitting down to hammer these things out with Obama). The other gibberish they've heaved to defend their opposition (in hopes of stalling the bill) is some variation on "making sure they get it right...
What, lately, have you gotten right?
Fine. The more you keep fucking around over there like 3rd graders sticking crayons into electric pencil sharpeners...the more we, especially here in Michigan, keep losing our jobs. Keep up the good work. Here's to democracy.
The crisis in global capitalism demands a revolution in spirit -- " (alternet.org)
New York's The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's self-titled debut is out 2/3.
by Thomas Matich
The studio big wigs are remaking Friday The 13th. Rob Zombie did a hack job on Halloween. And now, just in time for that romantic candlelight dinners, bouquet of roses and heart shaped chocolates holiday, there is My Bloody Valentine 3D. A remake of the 1981 cult slasher flick, MBV 3D is being released in an era when the band My Bloody Valentine (whose name was inspired by the original film) have reunited and countless modern bands, from Deerhunter to The Raveonettes to The Magnetic Fields have found inspiration in Kevin Shield's room-spinning, crunchy riffs and other Big '80s distortion drenched pioneers such as Dinosaur Jr., The Jesus and Mary Chain and Cocteau Twins.
It seemed that this trend peaked last year when acts such as No Age, A Place to Bury Strangers and Times New Viking pummeled the pedals with enough haze and overloaded the amps to the smoking point. But here comes The Pains of Being Pure at Heart from the Big Apple. With a M.O. as formulaic as an '80s horror movie, this cutesy quartet appeals to the Urban Outfitters romantic with Loveless lullabies flavored with Breakfast Club pop.
This year's "Kim & Jessie," "Come Saturday" is a sunny summer afternoon anthem for when love is blooming in the air. The track kicks off with some screeching feedback before a rumble of drums catapults it onto the dance floor. "Another sunny day and you're 80 miles away, Tuesday/ but come Saturday/ you'll come to stay/ you'll come to sway in my arms/ who cares if there's a party somewhere/ we'll probably stay in," sings guitarist/vocalist Kip. The boy's crush is away at band camp, so he's probably pumping this in his Walkman while biking to The Sandlot.
What The Pains lack in originality, they make up for with spunk. These are tree house jams that celebrate juice boxes and Cupid's arrow with lyrics that highlight the silly drama of young adults. It's the sexual awakenings while still on a learner's permit, the cafeteria food fights and the pep rallies before the homecoming dance where you might get lucky afterward. Take for instance the album's first single, "Everything With You," and its blushing Brenda Walsh journal entries: "Strange teenager, waiting for death at 19/ are you with me?/ I’m with you and there's nothing left to do/ Tell me it's true." The band shot a music video for the song on Super 8 video, as the camera follows keyboardist/vocalist Peggy and some girlfriend, suggesting that their companionship may have a romantic element.
Mysterious fragments like those is what keep The Pains from drifting into Saw IV territory and doing the My Bloody Valentine shtick to death. Because let's face it, after Friday The 13th: Jason Takes Manhattan, rehashes can get really old after a while. The Pixy Stix strumming on "Young Adult Friction," leads into a splendid story of horny teenagers getting it on at the local library. Young Adult Friction, get it? The lyrics read straight out of a synopsis of an episode of MTV's Undressed: "I never thought I would come of age/ let alone on a moldy page/ you put your back to the spines." That's steamier than you Aunt's romance novels. Plus, one can't help but appreciate the charming wit on the last bridge: "Don't check me out!" In all seriousness, libraries/book stores have the potential to make sparks fly, and I'm just as much of a fan of this song as My Morning Jacket's "The Librarian."
While Bradford Cox might have revamped reverb for today's American Apparel elitists, The Pains exercise a Vampire Weekend catchy-ness and tongue-n-cheek approach ("The Tenure Itch" is about... you guessed it, boning the teacher), cocooning rubbery drums, radiating riffs and gooey gushes into ten sweet songs. The band's bustling energy comes across on the record and the live videos floating around the internet showcase a capable touring act with the chops and passion to pull these tunes off. While The Pains are likely to have most of their comparisons drawn to My Bloody Valentine, the bands lists Nirvana as an influence and I'd throw Wish-era The Cure in there as well - but with both Kurt Cobain and Robert Smith on sugar highs.
The Pains might be riding a rusty bandwagon, but they've brought along plenty of polish. It can't get anymore Beverly Hills, 90210 with song titles such as "A Teenager In Love," and "This Love is Fucking Right." And these tracks will sweep you away faster than Dylan McKay. Just like those Hollywood masterminds who convince audiences to cram into the cinema for the latest blood and guts "revision," these New Yorkers are pros when it comes to making what's old seem new again. //DC//
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart on MySpace.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Common Cloud Records
(download NOW - for FREE at: http://www.blessedbeyourstrulyinspiritandsoul.com/
(words: jeff milo)
On Prussia's newest, Blessed Be, Yours Truly, In Sprit and Soul, the Detroit quintet get dark.
The opener unearths ominous bass-fiddle growls and possessing harmonics humming like ghostly wails over the misty moonlit horizon – this music inhabits the foggy edges of the haunted-house's front lawn, right at the entrance of some sinister swamp sloping down the hill of some fog-swathed precipice.
And that's just the first 45 seconds…wait till that gloomy violin comes in…
They'd already demonstrated that their heads were all spinning off into different skies when their first full-length, Dear Emily, Best Wishes, Molly spilled out gritty reggae balladry mixed with waltzy doo-wop inverted through the pounded marches of tribal futurism pop – but now they, rather quickly, throw out a gutsy follow-up that, by confident whimsy style alone, sounds more like their 4th or 5th release. They've gone from the relatively warm sunny pop of Dear Emily straight to essentially tracking the score to their own imaginary horror movie – That jarring but highly attracting transition – (what took Tom Waits 12 years of organic murk-emergence from the chalky piano troubadour playing out last call to the creepy-coaxing shaman of goth-blues )– has taken the four shrugging, unassuming lads of Prussia a matter of months.
Inspired by Italian horror movies and (as always for these boys,) the grooves of Motown) this is a merging of soul and spook: music made for eerie traipses down dark dusty-floored hallways led by candle-light, where the hook of the sweet solemn violin saw serves as the nightgown-laden heroin's fidgety glance behind her to make sure no knife-wielding miscreant's hot on her trail. And yes, it is just about this dark – there's songs about incest and cannibalism and insanity and God and witchcraft – but, call me crazy – it's never alienating. In fact, almost possessing… It may be a dreadful mansion but you still can't make yourself leave. Some of it, assuredly, is warm and has a hinted flavor of pop-serenity...
Opener, "Though Super-Violent, We Chewed With Our Mouths Shut" is a chilling dirge that lumbers along with sparse but intricate accompaniment; we're led by an almost meek, but dreamy guitar line that ferries you through the darkness and into the rewarding whirling hooks where the bass lurches and slides as airy echoed vocals heave out as though it's the last (melody-conscious) breaths of your singer – (still maintaining that classic raspy Drifter's doo-wop style). Doubling-up singer Ryan Spencer's vocals on "So I Born a Murderer, Don't Pray For Me My Love" (sung-spoken cannibalistic threats with a croaking monotone backing vocal) over minimalist-but-dance-able percussion, beckons a capricious herky-jerky violin plucking and beautifully wafting 2nd violin swings and drifts, eventually mutating into scraping cat-cries over the chorus.
"To a Southern Drawl, I Sing a Lullaby" opens with a whirlpool-winding organ under Spencer's softly endearing "la-da-da-daaah" wanderings and bassist Brenton Bober's expressive basslines that lead you on in an intimate slow-dance in the corner. Track 5 (the longest title yet, "We Would Need a Place to Hide, Wouldn't We? Men Who'd Seen Miracles Did") may be the most distinct – certainly the most striking in terms of its elaborate percussion with the unique bob and bounce of tablas intertwined with a traditional march on for the rare appearance of a drum kit (with Drew Spencer).
Single "The Witch was a Preemie. God Bless her evil soul" grows with shuffling bass and percussion taps as Spencer's most inventive and sinewy vocal melody yet starts snake-charming its way over a surf-toned guitar.
Only on closer "The Creator Ravages" do we drift back into the zest of dreamy fifties-pop jangle and waltzy moon-gazing rounds characteristic to Dear Emily. The vibe, the tones, the sparse-stumbling skeletal song is soaked with sun-baked fuzz and head-swimming haze. That's the signature of Blessed Be, forming a captivating (and soulful) groove with as few connected-dots as possible…as though your leaping from lily-pad-bass-grooves and reaching your way up guitar-riffed-branches, jump, climb, stumble, and land. The other component is that this record not only sounds completely distinct to their last release – but it will end up sounding completely distinct from the live interpretations – "Creator" particularly, though soft and dreary on record, can wind up being a very fiery, visceral pounder often reserved for explosive set-closings.
Basically, this is a creepy, invigorating, record – and you're still not going to come any closer to pinning this band down…In fact, it's only getting harder with each new song…
Monday, January 26, 2009
The Rock Star
Everything's getting shuffled in this art for art's sake world we're now living in, thanks to the nebulous shrieking invisible universe of our glowing-box consortium (...internet...)
Radiohead, NIN, Girl Talk - they all released albums for free - but they're all rich...comparatively speaking, while I'm here saving quarters to buy the next box of kleenex from FoodMart... And, the baffling thing is - bands at the local level (numerous around here and around Detroit) are doing the same thing... We're a state that's experiencing our own personal Depression - so while it's striking that our local artists would give up the ghost of chasing the rock star dream and offer their work for free - it's understandable considering we...the fans...are all broke anyway.
We'll still come to your shows though
anyhow...on to Prussia - the now-quintet of diligent genre-splicers whom I caught up with recently in a cramped Coney in Rochester...to discuss the release of their upcoming EP Blessed Be, Yours Truly in Spirt and Soul - which is available for FREE - TOMORROW - from Common Cloud records at http://www.blessedbeyourstrulyinspiritandsoul.com/
Who's The Band of Today? or "No Charge"
A discussion on free music online: featuring Prussia
photos: Jacob Yeung
An Interview with Prussia
We’re sardine’d together in a cramped corner booth of a Coney Island talking about the future of the music industry. Passing styrofoam cups of Mountain Dew and dabbing ketchup onto the last soggy fry, me and Brenton and Ryan and Andrew...just rambling together on this random winter's night..., we realize that, as “the biz” crumbles and the free digital release trend continues - for bands and the albums they release - there could be a fine-line between an artist’s paradise and a potentially chaotic niche-directed dystopia.
Arched up together with the five boys of Prussia, (bassist/keyboardist Brenton Bober, drummer/bassist Andrew Remdonek, singer/guitarist Ryan Spencer, his brother Drew who plays drums, and the newest member, Jake Brusokas, coming in on second drums) the batch of early 20-somethings modestly (soberly?) shrug off their own existence as “a band that’s not big” and therefore smart to release their upcoming album for free on the internet.
It’s not so much self-effacing as it is uncertainty – we get dizzy trying to dissect how an artist, a band, a journalist, even charts oneself in this swirling new-rules-every-day-yet-no-rules-on-some-days structure of music and commerce…it’s release, it’s sale, how people find it, how people listen to it…what people even think about it…
“I think the music industry needs to thrive on, as strangely as it sounds, other things than music,” says Bober. “If you really like a band then you’ll support them…”
Last year, as a writing/recording trio (Bober, Remdonek, Spencer) released their debut full-length Dear Emily, Best Wishes, Molly, an admittedly sunnier, 60’s-pop dominated, almost-introductory-feeling tour of their eclectic tastes – ranging from Motown to reggae as bent and twisted through art-punk tubes and indie-noise-pop gutters.
This week, (for free – I’ll remind you,) they’re releasing their latest, (continuing the letter-writing-sign-off theme) Blessed Be, Yours Truly, In Spirit and Soul: “It’s not so 60’s” said Remdonek, who recorded and mixed it, “it’s still really soul-influenced but it’s a different kind of soul. The last one was more of an upbeat kind of Motown-thing, this one’s more…what’s going on is a little darker…”
Indeed, the writing for it began in late winter 07, while Bober was getting heavily into vivid quasi-hallucinogenic Italian horror films, like Susperia by Dario Argento. Bober said, “Most horror movies are meant to be done in an everything-needs-to-be-dark/everything-needs-to-be-spooky way, but when you see [Susperia], all the colors are so saturated, everything is so bright – it’s the exact polar opposite of what a horror movie should be – yet it pulls it off better than any one I’ve seen…”
Spencer throws in, dead-panned, “[Susperia]…scared the shit out of me…” And, thank you Spencer, because some of Blessed Be’s atmospherics can potentially scare the shit out of you, too! So far, I’ve been calling it Prussia’s potential soundtrack to their own imaginary horror film, with slight doo-wop dressings and surf-guitar inflections warming the chilly corners.
“It’s very cinematic sounding to me,” said Remdonek, who revealed that Pan’s Labyrinth and “a lot of Star Wars” played on televisions in the background while he was mixing, potentially spurring some of his own intricate additions. [In fact, much of the album was formed in back and forth construction; Like “hey, I added this part in, what do you think?—Oh, cool, I added this part yesterday, let’s put it together” sort of day-to-day reformations].
“We’re starting to move into the direction where a lot of bands aren’t going…” said Bober. “Like, with Dan Deacon and all that kind of music – with what’s going on right now, should we really be this fucking happy?”
“There’s songs about incest and about witchcraft,” said Spencer, “and obviously there’s a religious aspect like the last one, but…I think there’s a distance growing between us and a Christian fan base…oh, and cannibals, there’s a song about cannibals.”
“Ryan got help writing his lyrics from Ozzy Osbourne,” says Remdonek. “But,” Spencer jumps back, “you wouldn’t know it because it’s still kinda poppy and hooky. Brenton wrote 3 of the songs and it reminded me of a horror movie so I tired to write the lyrics based on that.” Remdonek nods and then qualifies that, “We always just want to do something different. I never want to make the same song again.”
And so here we are – a working class band with broken equipment, a four-track, moveable studio, less-than-glamorous day jobs (some of which lost in the wake of Michigan’s own personal depression) and they’re releasing their work, their art, for free!
Free Music Online:
Over the last year and a half, “bigger” festival-hopping jetsetter bands like Radiohead, Girl Talk, Nine Inch Nails released their albums either for free, or for pay-what-you-want deals, online. Kanye West streamed new material for free, and the Flaming Lips released a special 8-song album as a digital download.
Conventional wisdom holds that bands make their money on touring and merchandise sales…and since the Record Industry seems to be evolving into the 21st century as slowly and ineptly as the Auto Industry – the artists it ludicrously attempts to wrangle down with contracts are starting to puncture wrecking-ball-sized holes into their flawed and ever-more archaic framework. October 10, 2007, the day Radiohead released In Rainbows for pay-what-you-want prices online - seems more and more to be a day which will live in revolutionary renown (for artists) and disestablishmentarian infamy (for the industry). It should be noted that Radiohead sold 3 million copies of In Rainbows as both a digital download or physical CD (box-set, etc).
The sales experiment was a success – for all the cheap-or-free downloading, it still did not hurt physical sales when the CD was officially released months later. (That, some of you will point out, is probably because Radiohead is such a band that their fans would be duly dedicated…and might not work with other bands).
Girl Talk’s 06 release Night Ripper was not sold on iTunes initially because DJ Gregg Gillis had not obtained permission for the countless songs he’d sampled throughout the album. With 08’s Feed The Animals he was able to cut out that pesky middleman, and let you go straight to his site to type in your price. If you paid $10 – you got the physical album mailed to you. We’re not babies, we can figure this all out on our own – we don’t need fat cats with cigars and corner offices and complimentary Grammys anymore… The Rock Star is dead. Gillis and Thom Yorke and Trent Reznor…though rich beyond our means, comparatively speaking, our lowering the alienating stage and coming down to hand us their work, on their terms – terms we can afford.
Another thing we need to consider is piracy. It’s not going anywhere. These bands can have pay-what-you-want systems, but BitTorrent downloading will still persist. Momentarily, there’s no other better solution.
In a recent interview with the Von Bondie's Jason Stollsteimer - when asked of the subject of free music online, he shot back quickly, without batting an eye, that all local bands should release their music for free.
It should be stressed that Yorke, Reznor and West, et al can afford this…they’ll all be playing Coachellas and Bonaroos and Spain and Japan and Jupiter’s fifth moon festivals for the next few years – hence a hefty (guaranteed) cash flow beyond the almost-irrelevant-after-the-fact matter of record sales.
So…what about local bands? Bands here, in Detroit…working shit jobs just so that they have the money to replace their tuners and their 4-tracks, sacrificing gas money and beer money so that they can replace their strings…I mean, not to completely romanticize the imagery of our own army of basement DIY-ers but…comparatively speaking, these bigger touring bands can afford it… It then starts to really say something about the state of music, as an art form, when money or fame is clearly being ameliorated, in terms of a musician’s inspiration.
I spoke to a few other bands on the subject – Detroit’s fractured-folk experimental singer/songwriter Alan Scheurman, (who released his Old Patterns album for free online,); pop-songwriting-whiz and manager of local label Suburban Sprawl, Zach Curd (who recently put out an album and compilation for free) and local 60’s-pop/hard-rock visionary Jesse Shepherd-Bates (who plans a free EP this winter).
Scheurmann releasing Old Patterns for free was “an extension of my personal world view,” a belief in the power of community and that we don’t own anything.
Scheurmann: “I think about a time when entertainment, storytelling, and music was shared freely, often ceremonial, with the whole community benefiting from the shared experience. Our reality is evolving at an increasingly rapid pace. I think that as some of us begin to move into a free society we project some of those attributes in our actions. I think it’s safe to say that other artists who share their work freely have similar intentions. We aren't interested in a 20th century capitalist model. I think that the music business, as with most of what we think of as "business", (i.e. corporate/sweatshop models) is naturally going to struggle as people in the society demand accountability and the right to live with the principals of mutual aid. Sure, there's no short term profit, which is why the business isn't giving anything away, but healthy communities that freely share information and resources are the only way we can have sustainable "profits".
If there's a line that is being crossed here, its the line separating old and new, slavery and freedom, extinction model vs. evolution model. That's what is happening with wikipedia, online social networks, urban gardening, free art, and the reemergence of psychedelics. We are creating the world that we'd rather live in. Whether or not we can hold it together long enough to get to the promised land depends on how quickly we decide to move away from old belief systems and into a more holistic consciousness.”
Curd: “There are cases where it works really well for artists (Radiohead, Girl Talk, the success of Vampire Weekend's demos) but everyone seems to make the jump that since it worked for a few large acts, it will work for everyone. How many free online albums are being released this week alone on the internet? There are probably hundreds, if not thousands. So, I think there has to be a motive behind why something should be released for free. With the Sea of Japan record we released for free, those guys weren't a real band, but made a great record. So far that release it was an idyllic "let's share this awesome music with people!" motive. With the holiday compilations, we look at those releases as first a "thank you" to the people who support SubSprawl throughout the year, and secondly as a good way to let people know about our label. Also, if we had charged for the holiday comp it would have been a nightmare from an accounting standpoint, because there are so many made-up bands and non-SubSprawl bands on the holiday comp each year.
I don't think the "slippery slope" of free downloads is dangerously slippery, but I do think it benefits artists and labels to think about the value of their releases and the potential impact of their releases if they want to function with sustainability in mind. With Prussia, their free release will definitely alert some new people to their band. In the short-term, that release won't facilitate them being musicians full-time, but it might in the long term? See? Murky!”
Bates: “I think 'the biz' has crossed a line, but not necessarily a bad one. The business side of music is going to suffer regardless, due to the ease of acquiring free music whether it's legal or not, and it's time to go back to viewing music as an art form. Part of the reason I'm keen on releasing music for free is I think it should be accessible to anyone who'll lend an ear. I put everything I've got into any recording I deem good enough to release, and it's easier to get a stranger to listen to something for free than for any amount of money. Looking at bigger names such as Radiohead or Nine Inch Nails, I've seen/heard many people chide them for setting a bad example for artists in my shoes, but personally I think it's great. It should be noted that both groups cashed in huge by giving the option of a pay-what-you-want download. You have to start small to get to that point, and I think Prussia's got the right state of mind by going the free route.
Releasing music for free (be it a digital album, a FreeP, whatever) is actually a great business scheme, as well as a great means for scoring points for artistic expression. If more people give the album a chance that wouldn't have listened to it under pressure of payment, that translates to a bigger fan base. The only people that want to pay for your material are the ones that already dig what you're doing. Win the masses over with presents now, and hopefully they'll be glad to pay you to keep doing it if you're good enough down the road. It's a Field of Dreams thing really.”
Spencer (Prussia), concluded non profit album's are the future. especially when we are talking about local bands that have not yet made a splash into the national scene. i think that there will always be some people (i am included) that will purchase compact discs, cassette tapes, etc.... but the demand for these items is horribly outnumbered by the enormous supply of, and i hate to say this, but music with nothing going for it besides a little bit of hype.
therefore, if a band would like to be heard, because it has indeed gotten to the point where you're doing someone a favor, by listening to their band, they will have to release music for free. and if it starts to get buzz, fuckin' press that shit to wax, don't waste time on yesterdays rags(compact discs) everybody's got an ipod!(i truly believe ipods sound like shit, and even i own one).
think about what artists are offering these days:
of montreal pretty much launched a line of toys, apparel, and house-decor for their latest album.
the girl from the knife-free
clipse-free mix tapes
we have the internet.
l.p.'s (and i'm talking long player albums 35+ minutes)
are next to go.
people don't have the attention span to dedicate 35 minutes to just one band, not when 14 other bands just came and went in that same amount of time.
who's the band of today? vampire weekend? clap your hands and say yea?”
All definitions and preconceptions are crumbling – “Band of Today,” “Rock Star,” “Platinum sales…” It’s all getting wound back down…to pure passion.
HEAR It Is…
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Silver Jews End
"...don't believe in people who say it's all been done
They have time to talk because their race is run..."
"No one should have two lives,
now you know my middle names are wrong and right..."
you can believe me not believe me
I'm just a bird upon the sill
and these words just pour right through me
like water through a mill
"Strange Victory, Strange Defeat"
Saturday, January 24, 2009
They say everything is bigger in Texas. I guess whoever coined that phrase wasn't talking about The Wax Museums from Denton. They are the anti-big. "Short, fast and stupid." That's the premise of each song the band writes. Just in the same vein of punk forefathers like Angry Samoans, GG Allin (Pre-Poo) and The Ramones, the WMs play punk rock the way it was meant to be. Yet, the guys aren't really stupid. It's just more fun to bop around to stupid jams with your stupid friends and drink some stupid beers than it is to pay attention to art rock. With that being said without further ado....Meet The Wax Museums....
Who is all in the Wax Museums and how did the band come about?
Paul sings, Daniel guitar, Payton bass, and Jason drums. The band started out when I wrote some songs with a drum machine and guitar on my computer and sent them to Paul, who lived 3 hours away, and he recorded vocals over them. When we decided to do a full band we asked Payton and Jason to play.
What was the band like when it first started and how has it changed since that? How did you arrive at the sound you are currently jamming right now?
All the songs during the drum machine era were usually written during the first take. Once Payton and Jason joined the songs got a little more complex, but obviously not very much. We now take about a minute to write a song, instead of the previous 30 seconds.
It's easy for "journalists" like myself to say what they think a band sounds like but I like to hear what groups think they sound like. Who do you think you take after and what are your primary influences?
Probably the Ramones and Devo. We typically play more straightforward punk, but with a bit of a weirder/dumber take on it. We get a lot of Urinals and Black Randy comparisons, and some geezer said we sound like Wire.
What are the complications or restraints that come from playing primitave songs? What is best thing about playing that way?
There aren't many restraints, its just easier to write catchy songs when its really simple and short. Also, we're not smart enough to remember a lot of parts, and we get really bored with long songs.
What other stuff do you guys want to do? You obviously have the recording side down pat and this big tour is coming up but what future plans do you have?
Write a lot of songs until we run out of ideas.
The Wax Museums on Myspace.com
Buy the record from Douchemaster Records
Wrestling and rock 'n' roll are simply genres in the canon of pop culture. Nostalgia welcomes resurgences of repeated history.
by Thomas Matich
Can we leave it all to chance? If we take big risks and fail, do we deserve another shot? Everyone seems to love an underdog, a people’s champ to root for; even when they might be sabotaging themselves. Or, maybe they just got a raw deal from the start?
Mickey Rourke was never a pretty boy. But he had a Bruce Willis tough guy attractiveness to him in the good old days when he made 9 ½ Weeks. After I watched The Wrestler, I was shocked that Rourke looked like Randy “The Ram” Robinson ⎯a strange crossbreed of Axel Rose and The Ultimate Warrior ⎯ in real life. “It must’ve been a good make-up artist,” I thought while watching the film. Oh, no, it’s not. More like the train wreck of plastic surgery gone wrong (a Google image search of Rourke brings up a split-shot comparison to Nick Nolte’s infamous wildman mug shot).
The Wrestler is gripping and gritty, to the cocaine line “The Ram” sniffs off a bathroom counter in a bar before banging some broad over the sink. During his heart attack in the locker room after a staple gun infused brawl, you grasp your own chest in pain.
Although he's shredded some rough riffs and looks good in black shades, Jason Stollsteimer never struck me as a tough guy. But on The Von Bondie’s new album, Love, Hate, And Then There’s You, Stollsteimer plants a brass-knuckled uppercut to the naysayers that knocks ‘em over the ropes. He plays the role of rugged rock star just as well as Rourke embodies a legendary pro wrestler. The album opens with the clamoring, kinetic drums of Don Blum, as if they turbo charged the clanking glass bottles from The Warrior.
It’s brow raising, The Von Bondies want your attention and they don’t let go of it until the end. “This Is Our Perfect Crime” centers on the sparks from the underground, as if The Von Bondies are reignited as underdogs. They hope to be as spiked and tough as the barbwire “The Ram” pummels his opponents into.
“Perfect Crime” excites as it bursts with Red Bull powered riffs as Stollsteimer carries his notes with enough chiseled grit that transform him into an urban cowboy, twirling his six-shooter as he walks from out the saloon at high noon, ready to meet his maker. If The Strokes were performing inside of a dream sequence from A Nightmare on Elm Street, it would be this riveting jam. As an ambassador of the alternative, Stollsteimer exclaims: “We are the spark, we are the great/ we keep our cities loud and proud/ we keep their ears glued to the streets/ we are the underground.” It’s the first of many theme songs that are packed into Love, Hate as Stollsteimer embodies the soul of a man down for the count and about to be pinned when suddenly his arm raises up and begins to shake in the spirit of Hulk Hogan.
A clear step-up from previous works such as Pawn Shoppe Heart, Stollsteimer’s voice has never sounded better. He’s putting his pipes to work, adjusting on each track. His vocals are clear, tough, soaring and dripping with machismo. On “Only To Haunt You,” he woos and ohs along this alt-country meets '90s Brit-rock ditty that rightfully found itself included on the soundtrack to the Lost Boys sequel.
While Stollsteimer sounds tough, he’s not Mickey Rourke-tough. If I were to compare him to a pro wrestler, it would be Shawn Michaels, the Heartbreak Kid ⎯with much better hair of course. Both are pretty boy chatterboxes with finesse and they can land a pretty mean kick in the face (write a great rock song). Michaels was an especially great trash talker and in his glory days he was landing flying body slams off the tops of ladders. Stollsteimer's hooks soar just as high and his interviews are intense.
The last time the Von Bondies were in the spotlight, they crafted the killer hit “C’mon C’mon” with a signature opening riff more potent than Brett Hart’s sharpshooter. A tune so genius that it found an everlasting life as the theme song to the Denis Leary FX drama Rescue Me. But the band’s triumphs were often unjustly overshadowed by a pay-per-view like clash of the titans – the Jack White sucker punch heard around the world. One emcee once rhymed that “rap is like wrestling,” and rock ‘n’ roll often doesn’t fall far from that tree either.
In The Wrestler, Randy is set to square off in a rematch of his great bout with The Ayatollah on the 20th Anniversary of the legendary fight. But, "The Ram" suffers a heart attack after a no holds barred, barb wire, table and chairs brawl and is forced to reevaluate his life. He attempts to make amends with his estranged daughter, tries his hand at working the deli at a grocery store and looks to sweep a stripper with a heart of gold off her feet. He fails miserably and then decides to fight the Ayatollah anyway, because the ring is all he’s got.
After parting ways with the major label, Sire, The Von Bondies have reemerged with a different line-up and a record deal with the independent Majordomo. When I interviewed Stollsteimer last summer in his hometown of Plymouth, we made a short pit stop to his apartment complex. Although it’s nowhere near a trailer park like The Ram's home, it’s neither a sprawling rock star mansion either. As "The Ram" climbs back in the ring to do the only thing he knows, the Von Bondies pick up their instruments.
With “Shut Your Mouth,” Stollsteimer sets the tone of this comeback, rumbling like Randy Savage: “go to sleep little baby/ and shut yer mouth… can you say a good word about us, can you say a good thing, a good thing?” The song is a bottle rocket of pent-up aggression, with gasoline growling guitars thundering in the hurricane ravaged background, with Stollsteimer pimp-slapping all those haters, like when Ric Flair use to smack his opponents square on the chest so hard you could feel the sting from your television screen. As an eye-popping second song, it really should be the follow-up single to “Pale Bride.” People can relate to adversity.
Although I’d suspect that Stollsteimer would argue that many of these songs might have to do with his ex-wife and that marriage, I can’t help but think that the spouse personifies the band’s relationship with the music industry and Detroit’s rock scene. Even more blunt is “She’s Dead To Me,” a 90 second firecracker that opens with Stollsteimer shrieking “you been talking all this shiiiiiiit/ you been talking all this shiiiiit/ I think it’s time for you to quit!” It’s like pouring more kerosene on a four-alarm blaze, with two femme fatales banging out great backing vocals. But it’s Stollsteimer's rugged drawling out of “you’re not the apple of my eyyyyyyyyeeeee” that really sticks with me.
This Von Bondies record took 5 years to surface. Guns 'n Roses needed some 15 years to make Chinese Democracy a reality. While Randy “The Ram” might revel in ‘80s hair metal, resemble a modern day Axel Rose (that beach blond mop!), and make his ring entrance to “Sweet Child 'o Mine,” he’s got more in common with the humbling roughneck of Detroit garage rock than Sunset Strip glitz. Rose and Stollsteimer strike me as perfectionists; with a talent for making their surroundings explode around them, with both positive and negative results. While Chinese Democracy turned out to be a disastrous cluster fuck of bloated pretense, Love, Hate is a paramount example of swift skill, blistering energy and simple yet effective execution. Also, Axel’s 6 or so ballads can’t match Stollsteimer’s epic swan song (“Modern Saints”).
“The Ram” lives in a rundown trailer park and the scenes where he’s at home, playing with his own 8-bit character on an old Nintendo wrestling game, recall the film 8 Mile. The city where "The Ram" resides mirrors the automotive apocalypse of Detroit. Could it be that "The Ram," Detroit and The Von Bondies are all on their last leg, trying to recapture old glory?
“Pale Bride” is the finest song Stollsteimer has written to date. If Axel blew his load with “Welcome To The Jungle” and "The Ram" peaked in the '80s, Stollsteimer has caught a second wind tantamount to when Hunter Hearst Helmsley reemerged as Triple H. Therefore, “Pale Bride" is “C’mon, C’mon” on steroids, with another dazzling opening riff that sizzles into a galloping juggernaut that operates as a pop number with a sharp blade ⎯an angst filled love song that could get you a dance with your ex.
Released last year on the We Are Kamikazes EP, I’ve been enjoying “Pale Bride” for more than a year and it’s just as riveting now and murderous live. The equaling enthralling EP cuts, “21st Birthday” and “I Don’t Wanna” also make the album’s track list. But, Stollsteimer didn’t apex on Kamikazes, he’s got a couple secret weapons left to launch.
There’s a scene in The Wrestler where "The Ram" and Miresa Tomei’s character share a beer at the local watering hole. When the classic Ratt hit "Round and Round" comes over the speakers, they bask in some nostalgia, with "The Ram" saying “The '90s fucking sucked!” "The Ram" yearns to be with Tomei, wishing that she’d take a chance on him. Love, Hate tunes such as “Chancer” and “Accidents Will Happen” could be the soundtrack to those romantic moments in Ram’s life (if they weren’t so ‘90s!). While "The Ram" spends his spare time in a strip club, the latter Von Bondies track conjures up Happy Days, with a groovin’ go-go beat and more stellar vocals from Stollsteimer.
"The Ram" is a man that is larger than life, faded like John Rambo yet as animated as Homer Simpson. The Wrestler has been compared to films like Rocky, Raging Bull, On The Waterfront and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He’s a lovable loser that gets a brief moment to relive his glory days. We all know people like "The Ram," good guys that can’t help but fuck-up their lives. And as The Ram’s second chance at restoring his personal life quickly slips from his mammoth, weathered fingers, it hits him as hard as the thundering chords on “Earthquake.”
“This is no earthquake honey, you just got sober… this is no earthquake, honey/ you just get older/ older and older,” Stollsteimer harmonizes on a track that meshes a little bit of Interpol and recent Morrissey. As The Ram’s fall from grace is sobering, The Von Bondies steam back by examining failure. “Earthquake” is a rumbling track, but it’s not so much about being caught up in the chaos, it’s more reeling from the effects, standing in a mound of pulverized structures and being humbled and ready to rebuild and begin anew, thankful to be alive for a second chance.
I was on the edge of my seat in the movie theatre as "The Ram" perched himself atop the turnbuckle, preparing to squash The Ayatollah with his "Ram Jam" finishing move. Considering that "The Ram" gripped his chest as his heart struggled during the bout, one could only think that death would be certain upon landing if "The Ram" flew into the air. With a tinge of The Joshua Tree and The Killers on it’s majestical intro, Love, Hate’s “Modern Saints” fits The Wrestler’s last sequence beautifully, as "The Ram" raises his arms in triumph as he’s once again the king of the ring.
In a digital era where pop culture icons and heroes have been reduced to megabytes, Stollsteimer’s chanting of “modern saints for modern hopefuls” is bittersweet. But regardless of historic era, what makes a saint? "The Ram" was no angel, but he was a hero to some. The Von Bondies will never be rock stars, those days are long gone. But, with Love, Hate, this band has gotten a second chance "The Ram" hoped for. As Stollsteimer sings his heart out one last time, with the guitars and drums erupting underneath him as he stands at the lava gushing precipice, he goes: “so the days/ turn to nights/ ripping my life away/ what’s in store?”
The comeback of a lifetime. //DC//
Watch the music video for "Pale Bride"
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Thursday: Marco Polio & The New Vaccines, The Electric Fire Babies & The Hotwalls, tonight in the Garden Bowl lounge, below the Magic Stick - FREE
Saturday: Terrible Twos, Awesome Color, Bad Indians - at The Mansion, in Ann Arbor. Map
"Make of [This] What You Will..."
Canadian pop singer/songwriter A.C. Newman's second album, Get Guilty, is packed with warm, buzzy janglers, tailor-made for naïve grins, melodramatic turnabouts and cathartic sidewalk stomping strides in the sunshine. Damn this crusty January lull – with this record it can't be summer soon enough!
There's a unique airiness to Newman's voice, seeming to be wispy and fey similar to the deceptive softness of a passing blur of trees outside your speeding car window, or the faded delicacy of foggy hills off at the horizon; soft at a distance but the closer you get – it starts to hit you…
Instrumentation can range all around the poppiest-sounding moments of rock archives, be it the playful, theatrical shuffling of Bowie ("Get Guilty"). Or the pounding piano-and-drum combo of rousing fuzz shimmying ala T.Rex or something close (see "Prophets" or "Submarines of Stockholm"). But often, tracks are marked by his characteristic pull-back with a flickering breath-catching chorus. Then later on "Young Atlantis" he'll waltz you around with string-heavy chamber pop recalling Belle & Sebastian.
Get Guilty is the second solo-LP from the, (practically), leader of the unabashed pop pros The New Pornographers. Allan Carl Newman leads an always sly-and-subtle almost-danceable indie pop with a voice (and penchants for tone) as warm and invigorating as that first deep-huffed cast off of coats-come-springtime. One would suppose Newman studies and experiments with finding the perfect hook with equal meticulousness as Grandmaster Flash excavating the breakbeat or Phil Spector forming the wall-of-sound. Maybe that's an exaggeration in a post-Vampire Weekend world, but now that the mouse clicking indie community has a taste for pure-brazen-pop – then it's high-time they spun a dude whose been at it for 10 years.
The strength and cohesion of Get Guilty makes the previous (04's The Slow Wonder) feel thinly spread by comparison. So then, depending on your own pop-preference or your Newman's-other-band-preference (Pornographers) the good news (?) and bad news (?) is that Get Guilty can often sound like New Pornographers b-sides (…inevitably, perhaps?) (See: the punchy strum and pirouette vocal melodies of "Like a Hitman, Like a Dancer.") But, there's a few distinct shining examples of new-angled grooves like the dreamy "The Heartbreak Rides" or the sparse melody-leading "Thunderbolts."
Or, dig this other stand-out track:
"Submarines of Stockholm"
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
by Thomas Matich
I like the new Animal Collective album and perhaps it truly is the Best Album of 2009 as many critics have already crowned it. But, I find myself gravitating more towards the vocally vibrant The Crying Light, the latest release from Antony Hegarty. Either way, both records are magnificent and watersheds in their careers. Animal Collective just announced a May 20 show at the Royal Oak Music Hall. Antony might not make it closer than Chicago. Boo.
Anyway, I'm posting my slightly "uncutz" review of The Crying Light that hit newsstands today in Real Detroit in order to get a little practice publishing on Blogger until we switch up the scenery.
Antony & The Johnsons
The Crying Light
It’s all about the voice. Looks have something to do with it, too. What comes out of their mouth should be interesting. It’s the reason why we hang-up posters of certain musicians instead of others.
Watching David Letterman some years ago was when I first saw and heard Antony Hegarty sing. Hunched over a grand piano, pale-faced, bobbing his leather jacket bound body as he bubbled the poignant “You Are My Sister,” I thought to myself “Boy George has really let himself go…” (Boy George did in fact sing backing vocals). The song came from Antony & The Johnson’s critically acclaimed, Mercury Prize winning sophomore set, I Am a Bird Now.
The breakout recording saw Hegarty paired with queer legends like Lou Reed, Rufus Wainwright, Boy George and fellow freaks such as Devendra Banhart. But it’s Hegarty’s voice - OH that distinct coo - which stays burned in your brain. A fluttering reverb of Bryan Ferry cloaked in the furry whimper of a mysterious midnight owl with the grandeur of an opera singer and a physique ranging from bloated Tegan and Sara to Leigh Bowery.
I could see myself sleeping with Hegarty - if only cuddling up inside his warm Teddy Ruxpin frame as he rippled soft sound waves into my ears. The songs on The Crying Light have the beauty of lullabies, the luxury of sleeping atop heaven’s peaceful clouds, while having an aerial view of devils roaming the world below (see the acoustic plucking on the title track with Hegarty’s haunting, damaged purr).
In the last year, Hegarty has arguably become the premier, or at least most compelling, vocalist in modern music. He joined the disco diva ranks of Grace Jones, Sylvester and Gloria Gaynor with his divine sparkle on “Blind,” the dance-floor smash from Hercules & Love Affair’s riveting debut. The New York collective saw Hegarty lending his luminous vocal chops to several killer cuts that demonstrated his infinite range - funk, house, techno - he’s got the clubs covered!
Brilliant those collaborations may be, it was the EP that preceded Crying Light, Another World, which made me a believer. The standout, “Shake That Devil,” is one of the vocal performances of the decade. Hegarty delivers the musical equivalent to “The Raven,” with a chilly, hair-raising build-up that typhoons into a hoedown that could only take place in Warhol’s Factory.
Crying Light is a testament to Hegarty’s talent, proving that he can take on any vocalist - from Morrissey to Josh Groban. Hip gay composer Nico Muhly masterfully orchestrates these highly nuanced arrangements, bountiful with chimes, sitar and woodwinds, from the misty “Dust and Lake” which sounds like it was recorded at an underground lake to “Kiss My Name,” a hip-hop tinged ballad that beckons Kanye West. Hegarty basks in a lost lexicon (lyrical references to “turtledoves”) and the enigma of Old Hollywood, as his songs conjure castles, dark shadows and Hitchcock B&W's.
Two stellar tracks “Another World” (which finds hope in abandonment) and “Epilepsy is dancing” (humorous irony from a newly crowned disco diva), highlight the rich melody that begins with Hegarty’s voice, as he blends within his musical setting like a chameleon, or better yet Marlon Brando. The Crying Light leaves one with an everlasting glow. Hegarty is our generation's greatest singer - that is, if you care for his voice.