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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Top EPs of 2009

Well, I tried to stretch this list to at least five, but being the lazy fellow that I am, I think I'll stick with the four I've got.

4. The Mountain Goats & John Vanderslice - Moon Colony Bloodbath
How could these two get together and not produce something excellent?


3. Britney's Spear - Britney's Spear
In the interest of integrity and full disclosure, I am friends with these guys, and even the guy who recorded them. But I promise that I'm mentioning them here because this EP is honestly really really good.

"Burning Billboards"
"Dream Big"

2. Cory Branan & Jon Snodgrass - S/T
Cory Branan's boys can indeed break a heart. Mr. Snodgrass ain't so bad himself.

"Alone & Distanced"
"Walk Around"

1. John K. Samson - City Route 85
In lieu of there being any new Weakerthans material, I rushed to grab this when it came out. And now the vinyl's on the way (with two t-shirts). John K. Samson wins at lyrics, 'nuff said.

"Heart of the Continent"
"Cruise Night"

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Top 10 Albums of 2009

¡Merry Christmas!

10a. Rock Plaza Central - the moment of our most needing
God these guys are weird. And pretty good too. Keebler Elves FTW.

"Oh I Can"
"(Don't You Believe the Words of) Handsome Men"
10b. Chuck Ragan - Gold Country
"Glory" sounds an awful lot like "California Burritos," but I'll allow it. Solid neo-folk from a seasoned veteran. Gruff-arse voice.

"For Goodness Sake"
"Ole Diesel"
9. The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You
It feels like a regression from the older material, but that's still good enough to make the list. Plus, in the words of NPR, they are "a world-beating colossus" live.

"I and Love and You"
"Laundry Room"
8. Andrew Jackson Jihad - Can't Maintain
Not even electrified guitar can stop the AJJ train.

"Self Esteem"
"We Didn't Come Here to Rock"
7. The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. But if you have the time, this is an treat.

"Isn't It a Lovely Night"
"The Rake's Song"
6. The Swell Season - Strict Joy
Glen Hansard's just GOT IT. The debut was better, but this is pretty darn good.

"In These Arms"
"Low Rising"
5. Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
Now this is someone with real vocal range. And probably the strongest collection of songs she's put together. My friends Joe and Fardeen love this. And I have to admit that I have a soft spot for it too.

"This Tornado Loves You"
"Middle Cyclone"
4. The Thermals - Now We Can See
If The Body, The Blood, The Machine was the midst of a war, Now We Can See is the fatalities making small talk. And do they ever talk.

"Now We Can See"
"At the Bottom of the Sea"
3. William Elliot Whitmore - Animals in the Dark
He's declaring a mutiny on this ship, ya hear?

"Old Devils"
"Hell Or High Water"
2. The Mountain Goats - The Life of the World to Come
John Darnielle has to do me great injury to not make a year end list (or two) of mine. No great injury done here. An awfully reserved, and yet awfully powerful record.

"Psalms 40:2"
"Isaiah 45:23"
1. Lucero - 1372 Overton Park
Ben Nichols and company do it again. Better than everyone else? I'll bite.

"Hey Darlin' Do You Gamble"

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

William Elliott Whitmore - Animals in the Dark

William Elliott Whitmore, purveyor of a fine sort of backcountry Midwestern blues-folk, is mad as hell and he's not going to take it anymore.

From the call and response of the opener "Mutiny" to the closing bars of "A Good Day to Die," there's 37 minutes of one pissed off man spouting about issues of the corruption and evil that surround us in life, of the need to stop dwelling on questions of salvation, and the virtues of hard work. Don't trust the cop ("Johnny Law"), don't trust the politician ("Old Devils," "Who Stole the Soul"), and most certainly don't trust the preacher. Life is a bitter struggle ("Hard Times"), and it's difficult to navigate the way, but it's well worth carrying on and even celebrating the journey ("Hell or High Water").

This is an album autobiographical and incendiary, rustic and timely. Favorite record of the year? Maybe. I'm gonna wrestle with that question for the next few days before I put up a year-end post. So be sure to check back.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lucero - 1372 Overton Park

A while back, I named 1372 Overton Park as one of the albums coming out this fall that I was most excited to hear. Especially given the strength of the lead single "Hey Darlin' Do You Gamble," I came into this album with high hopes for excellence. On the other hand, I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop with Ben Nichols' voice for years now, and I was afraid that one day he'd trash it and it just wouldn't come back (his backing vocals on "Constructive Summer" on The Hold Steady's 2008 excellent Stay Positive gave me pause). Those fears, thankfully, while certainly not obliterated, have been dulled for the time being, much like the senses and higher brain functions of the band members on any given night they're out on tour (see "Can't Feel a Thing").

The first song, "Smoke," is notable for the inclusion of some Hold Steady-esque piano in the first minute or so. A change of pace for sure, but not all that surprising I suppose given Nichols' work with Craig Finn and company. "Mom" is another standout, just a fantastic ballad and a fine closer for the album. And I would be remiss if I failed to mention "What Are You Willing to Lose?," a sort of call to live life on your own terms, understanding that your path probably isn't going to be easy.

As for the addition of the horns, I don't think their inclusion is a negative. Expanding the sound a 'lil bit, nothing wrong with that. As for moving to a major, this effort doesn't feel overproduced or sterile, so those concerns were allayed. It's just really, really good Southern punk-tinged rock'n'roll. After seven albums, ten years and well over a thousand shows, the boys of Lucero may just now be hitting their stride.

(Also, they're on Twitter. Gotta love that.)

(And this article on Ben Nichols is a pretty good read.)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Serj Tankian, Eat Your Heart Out

(Via Cracked)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Off-Topic: Red Sox Hot Stove Rant

I can see how today's apparent Red Sox deals don't work out (Lackey's injury history, Cameron's advanced age), but I can also see how they do. If they were to sign Adrian Beltre, they'd have much improved defense at 3B, SS, and LF from the averages at those positions a year ago. The improved run prevention should cancel out the loss of offense firepower (and let's not forget Victor Martinez is the starting C now).

Maybe this is just fantasy, but from here (assuming the Lowell trade goes through), they could send Buchholz and a couple prospects (please not Casey Kelly or Jose Iglesias) to San Diego for Adrian Gonzalez and then shift Youkilis over to 3B. Such a move would have a marginally negative impact on defense in comparison to signing Beltre (Gonzalez is a Gold Glover, after all, plus Youkilis would still be an upgrade over Mike Lowell v. 2009), and would weaken the rotation and farm system a little bit, but the added offense could very well be worth it. Plus Beltre is a Boras client (aka will get grossly overpaid for his services), was hurt last year, and is probably few years older than his listed age, so as good as he is defensively, I'm not a huge fan. Gonzalez is a top-tier slugger in his prime who is still reasonably cheap for now (though his payday is coming soon).

Let me just project the pop the resulting lineup would have:

Ellsbury (5-10 HR)
Pedroia (10-15 HR)
V. Mart (20-25 HR)
Gonzalez (40-45 HR)
Youkilis (25-30 HR)
Ortiz (25-30 HR)
Drew (15-20 HR)
Cameron (20-25 HR)
Scutaro (5-10 HR)

If everyone hits the midpoints of those estimates, the starting lineup hits 188 HR in 2010. Not too shabby. That's an incomplete measure of overall offensive prowess, obviously, but it's still certainly indicative of a team that can hit the ball a little bit. Plus, in 2012 the four old guys at the bottom could be gone and replaced with younger players (Ortiz contract expires after 2010; Drew, Cameron, and Scutaro after 2011).

And this isn't a bad rotation either, even with the loss of Buchholz:

Wakefield/best of the rest (Bonser, Bowden, Tazawa)

So, even without making a move for Holliday/Bay, I think the Sox still are capable of winning around 95 games in this "bridge" year and winning the wild card, whether or not they go on to trade for Adrian Gonzalez. Or everything could blow up in their faces and they finish in 3rd place in the AL East. But that's why they play the games.

Finals Got You Down?

Not after you take a gander at this slice of awesome.

Didn't do the trick? Then you may have bigger troubles. Good luck to all who've got essays and finals due, and therefore lots and lots of problems.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Albums That Shaped My Youth, Part 1: The Rolling Stones - Exile On Main St. (1972)

If memory serves, I happened upon this album somewhere in 2000-2001, probably by perusing on my dial-up connection. I was immediately drawn to it by the collage of odd photos that make up the cover art. I happened upon this album back when I was going through a phase where I pretty much would refuse to listen to something if it were recorded after 1977. At the time, I had no grasp of the independent music scene and neither did my friends. In the sticks, there was just what was force-fed to you on the radio and TV. It was a dark, dark time.

If I have a particular memory of this album, it's of listening to it on my iRiver mp3-CD player (SO AWESOME AT THE TIME) over and over again whilst mowing the lawn the summer between 9th and 10th Grade. It was during one of these mowing sessions that I was inspired to start an after-school music appreciation club at my high school. I think it achieved a maximum attendance of something like five or six people. Clearly, had I not started this group, I would not have gotten into the Ivy League second-tier school I attend today.

Having a better background in no other album, I proceeded to write a ten-page paper on why it could be considered a concept album from the popped-collar comforts of my fraternity house for my American Popular Music class a couple of years ago. My music taste has expanded and shifted drastically, and yet this album continues to stick with me. I can't say it's timeless, and I can't say it's made up of one gem after another, but "Tumbling Dice," "Rocks Off," "Happy," and "Let it Loose" are all classics in my book ("Let it Loose" is also prominently featured in The Departed, thanks to Scorsese's heavy tendency towards using songs back from his joints weren't so creaky). The album has this delightfully unpolished sound, and loads of horns, if you're into that sort of thing. It clashed with so much of what I heard in pop music when I first discovered it, and I reveled in this difference. Out of the music I had on heavy rotation when I was in junior-high/high school, this is one of the few albums that has endured. Hell, in ten years if I'm for some strange reason into post-Afro-pop/dance-hall, you had better believe that this album will still be stored in the chip behind my ear.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Here's some Mangum to chew on...

...because the chances of you listening to a new Neutral Milk Hotel album anytime soon are about as big as the dot between these brackets: [ ] Yup, that big.

Love the live footage. Ten-year-old me probably wouldn't have known what to make of this.

(Via Pitchfork)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Each Morning New, Each Day Shot Through: The Mountain Goats at The Wilbur Theatre, 11/29/09

I showed up about twenty or thirty minutes into the opener Final Fantasy's (Owen Pallett's) set. From what I did see, it was a truly virtuosic, impressive performance by essentially a one-man-band. That said it was not really my jam, but I would still rate him over previous tMG openers I've seen such as The Moaners, Kaki King, or Larkin Grimm. The crowd was pretty supportive of his efforts, even if half of them were occasionally checking the time, desperately anticipating the emergence of John Darnielle and company.

[Owen Pallett: truly one of the good Canadian musicians. On the John K. Samson side of the line and not the Justin Bieber one, AMIRITE? Trust me, I'm right. Don't even try to convince me otherwise.]

So, the opening set wrapped up to polite applause and I got up from my fairly decent Mezzanine seat to have a conference with my dear friends from whom I had been so tragically separated by the truly draconian seating practices of the establishment. Taking advantage of the chaos of intermission, we stole away to the floor, working our way quickly past security and getting within a few rows of the stage, awfully close to where the ever-sharply dressed Peter Hughes would soon be damaging ears with the raw power of his thunderingly godlike bass guitar (with an assist from the poor acoustics of the venue). Though we hit a brief snag, Dana (remember Dana?) was able to convince the soft-looking, pliable, and thoroughly nice fellow who asked to see our floor wristbands that it was of the utmost importance that we three should be allowed to remain together. Our close proximity at Mountain Goats shows was a time-honored tradition that simply could not be denied, she said in so many words. Understanding the paramount importance of our continued union on the floor, he acquiesced, throwing his hands up in resignation and shooing us away. Safely on the floor, we eagerly awaited the moment that was sure to come. And then it happened.

The Goats took the stage and there was much rejoicing. Right from the get-go, there was a heavy emphasis placed on material from the new album, and given that they're touring in its support, that's hardly surprising. To echo the sentiments of another reviewer, this meant that things dragged a bit for a while as quiet new song after quiet new song was played. It was certainly different to see John at the piano, however, and it was all the more rewarding later in the set when he dug back into the archives to play some old favorites and some obscurities. I love me some "Quito," so that song's always a highlight. I got about as into it as some tired dude with a shaved head and a winter jacket draped over one arm can get, and John seemed to notice, so that was nice. If a show's going well the band gives off palpable energy and the crowd gives it right back. Everyone's psyched and in that moment nothing can be wrong. You had best believe that the room got to that point and stayed there for some time.

"Going to Bristol" with Owen Pallett plucking away on the violin was pretty darn awesome. I will admit my previous ignorance of "From TG&Y" but I'll be damned if that didn't immediately resonate with me (and before those of you in the know about this song ask, no, I don't go around huffing spray paint--shame on you for even considering that). John gave one hell of a monologue before "Song For Dennis Brown," which injected some candor into the evening that had been somewhat lacking to that point. "This Year" was fantastic as always, and that was when my throat gave out. The encore's inclusion of "No Children" was a fitting and crowd-pleasing closer if ever there was one.

The absence of a second encore was for once something I couldn't get upset about, considering that we had a train back to Worcester to catch and needed to hightail it out of there by 10:30. All in all, it was a great show as I have come to expect. Any bones I had to pick are trivial and bringing them up again is just going to make me sound whiny.

Here's the thrown-together-at-the-last-minute setlist, painstakingly culled from The Mountain Goats forums because I couldn't find it on yet:

1 Samuel 15:23
Old College Try
Psalms 40:2
Isaiah 45:23
Deuteronomy 2:10
Enoch 18:14
Genesis 30:3
From TG&Y (solo)
Blueberry Frost (solo)
Mole (solo)
Dance Music (solo)
(Owen comes out)
Going to Bristol
(everyone else comes back)
Hebrews 11:14
(Owen leaves)
Song For Dennis Brown
Genesis 3:23
This Year

Ezekiel 7 and the Permanent Efficacy of Grace
Romans 10:9
No Children (w/ Owen on piano)

I'm hopeful that someone present that evening taped the show, and I greatly look forward to hearing it so I can reminisce for years to come, a practice that I have been so lucky to follow with the two preceding Mountain Goats shows I have attended. Thanks in advance to whoever you may be.

All Hail The Mountain Goats, a band named after a creature with suicidal pride.

Someone shot some spectacular video of a couple songs at the show, here's the inimitable "This Year":

Friday, November 27, 2009

New Thermals Album Coming Sooner Rather Than Later -- Sign Me Up

In a follow-up to my review of Now We Can See a few weeks back, The Thermals apparently are already heading back to the studio and will have a new album out in September 2010.

AWESOME. I has high hopes for this.

(via Punknews)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The War of Northern Aggression, Part 5: In Which Gen.'s John McClane and Robert E. Lee Have a Chat

After an 11-month hiatus in my educational series about the War Between the States through song, I have returned with yet another installment of ole-timey goodness. Beats book larnin', right?

Get your muskets cleaned and check yo hardtack for maggots, we got some fightin' to do!

Ready? Good. Let's do this.

(Note: the following may contain a few anachronisms.)

Hey Bobby Lee, I got somethin' for you.

I would hope that it is your declaration of surrender, good sir. How quaint of you to deliver it personally and not send a messenger!

No motherf***er! It's a goddamn Emancipation Proclamation. All your slaves are free now. They're on our side. You might as well give up now, graybeard, you're f***ed.

[scribbles something on piece of parchment]

You got something to say?

[holding up the note] Ah yes, I have just received this "Emancipation Unproclamation," the contents of which may interest you.

But YOU wrote that. Just now. I saw you, dumba**.

I'm afraid that you must be mistaken sir, it was delivered on horseback a moment ago.

I was right here the whole time, a**hole. I saw you with the pen and paper. You're not fooling anyone, you old piece of s***!

Well, perhaps you would like to read it.

[snatches paper out of Lee's hand, begins to read]

***The White House, Feb. 1, 1863

My dearest Confederate Army and Gov't,
r badd, all ur slavez r belong 2u. wuz kiddn b4

With the kindest of regards,
Abraham Lincoln

P.S. McClane, guess where your mother was last night.***

It seems that we're at a bit of an impasse, General McClane...

That does it. Yippee-ki-yay motherf***er! [coldcocks Lee, grabs rapier that's resting against the side of the tent and runs Lee through. McClane then pulls a loaded machine gun out of a chest and proceeds to mow down the entire Army of Northern Virginia.]

To be continued...

Hot Water Music - The End of the Line (From The New What Next)
Neutral Milk Hotel - Marching Theme (From On Avery Island)
The National - Start a War (From Boxer)

Buy 'em up:
Beggar's Banquet

Sunday, November 22, 2009

JFK Is the Reason

Forty-six years ago today, JFK was shot to death in Dallas, Texas, presumably by Lee Harvey Oswald. Unless of course you believe Oliver Stone, or your sketchy retired neighbor who has told you in confidence on several occasions that he was in fact the gunman on the grassy knoll.

Texas Is the Reason's 1996 magnum opus Do You Know Who You Are? (yes, I'm fully aware that their discography is rather limited) dwells on the conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy's death, if only in that there are song titles like "The Magic Bullet Theory" and "Back and to the Left." Beyond these allusions, there's a lot of fantastic second wave emo to revel in. I mean, of records from this era, I like Mineral's The Power of Failing better, and I'm gonna let it finish, but "Back and to the Left" is one of the best songs OF ALL TIME. Kicks like an angry horse that had its hay soaked in pepper sauce, drank a couple cases' worth of energy beverage out of its trough, and oh yeah, the barn's on fire.

I think that's PETA on the line. I should probably go now. But I mean, if they can go after Barack over a fly, I should be able to get away with a metaphorical statement that happens to involve a horse to describe a song, right? Right? [If you need me, I'll be in hiding]

Texas Is the Reason - Back and to the Left

Buy 'em up:

(I figured that posting a Dead Kennedys song would have been a super cop-out. I mean, if I wanted to go down that road, I could have posted Franz Nicolay's "Jeff Penalty," a song about the band named after JFK and RFK. But that would have been a bit of a stretch.)


That's news to me, Sunday edition:
----------------------------------------------------------- And a random video for good measure:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"It's [Only] Hoedown Techno!", a remix of NIN's "Only"

Weird things happen at 5 am on the day an assignment is due, like taking "Only" out back, shooting it, then dragging the carcass to a country get-together. I've gotten enough limited positive response (one person liking it will suffice) that I'm gonna go ahead and post this. Thanks for open sourcing this song, Trent; without your charitable donation to the electronic music community this remix would not be possible. Cheers.

Pious Rascals - It's [Only] Hoedown Techno!

The Magic of Auto-Tune

The downfall of Western Civilization? You decide.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Now I don't like to hate here, but I have to make an exception in this case, because this looks an awful lot like Aaron Carter version 2009. Plus he's got the Canadian X-Factor, which means that his reign on the pop charts is likely to be especially long-lasting and damaging, like Bryan Adams or Avril Lavigne.

As for the ethics violations present in this video, our prepubescent hero is chasing a woman around practically old enough to be his mother. It's like the music video version of The Graduate, but cleaned up enough so that it's safe for tween digestion.

(I've got one word for you, Justin: Plastics.)

God help us all.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Thermals - Now We Can See

Now We Can See is the document of a band that's grown up a bit. They moved from Sub Pop to Kill Rock Stars, which I'd imagine is part of the reason why they went three years between releases. The band has gradually mellowed from the ferocious, lo-fi attack of their infancy back in the early 2000's, a development especially evidenced on this record. That said, maturity hasn't yet gotten the best of Hutch & Kathy and company. While my first impressions of this album were less stellar, it's a grower. Repeated spins have been beneficial.

2006's The Body, The Blood, The Machine took on organized religion, grabbing you early and refusing to let go for the duration. Now We Can See lacks the same kind of amped-up power chord glory that its predecessors have reveled in. Maybe the more relaxed tone of this record is meant to reflect the greater calm of death; if The Body, The Blood, The Machine was the midst of a war, Now We Can See is the fatalities making small talk.

The lead single (and title track) is nothing short of infectious. If you don't "oh ey oh oh woah oh" during that song at least once you either a) don't have a soul or b) don't have a pulse.

Not everything is here is so instantly catchy. The first couple of times I listed to "At the Bottom of the Sea," I wasn't a fan of the plodding first half of the song, but eventually grew to appreciate it for the epic build that occurs thereafter. Now it's one of my favorites here.

Overall, this album fails to match the same level of passion and immediate reward of TBTBTM, but multiple listens reveal an album that while perhaps not quite as good, is not dwelling too far below the high water mark. After a band puts out a great album, it is unrealistic to expect them to follow it up with a release that is equally as good. Given this rule of tempered expectations that I have adopted, I will gladly accept Now We Can See as a more-than-satisfactory offering of awesome.

The Thermals - Now We Can See

Buy 'em up:
Kill Rock Stars

Sunday, November 15, 2009

(Video) William Elliott Whitmore - That Train That Carried Away My Girl

This guy has a awesomely deep, gruff voice and lives in a cabin on a farm in the woods, somewhere in Lee County, Iowa. Just a fascinating individual. Do yourself a favor and check out this Daytrotter session. (Also, watching this really, really makes me want to get a banjo/banjitar.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009


A couple days back I was giving myself one of my regular every 4-6 week DIY haircuts with my mulitpurpose trimmer. It was going well for the first few minutes, but then after cleaning the trimmer out to keep it from overheating and such, I neglected to reset the length guide. So, instead of shortening a strip of hair on the left side of my head, I postively annihilated it. There was now a sizable chunk of hair that had been cut just about down to the scalp. There would no rebounding from this error. Everything had to go. I had to start fresh. So, after a few more minutes of reluctantly shearing my head, I arrived at the finished, alien product. I've had a lot of bad haircuts in my life, but I've never had no hair whatsoever, so this is really uncharted territory for me. It being November in New England, the timing could have been significantly better for such an event to occur, but with the passage of time and the aid of my limited hat supply, I should be able to carry on my everyday life without catching a death o' cold. On the plus side, getting a close look down to the roots, it would seem that at least for the time being I can safely debunk the fear-mongering of some that I was destined to be superbald (that won't stop me from still knocking on wood, though).

I left some semblance of beard behind, so now (depending on who you ask) I sorta look like a cross between Common and Edward Norton's character in American History X. There are worse fates I suppose.

Do I have a relevant song/songs related to my predicament? Why yes, yes I do.

Camper Van Beethoven - Take the Skinheads Bowling (From Telephone Free Landslide Victory) [Thanks Keegan]

Piebald - Look, I Just Don't Like Your Hair (From We Are the Only Friends We Have) ["It doesn't look good to me"]

Buy 'em up: (Independent Projects is rather defunct these days)
Side One Dummy

Friday, November 13, 2009

Paul Baribeau and Ginger Alford - Darkness On The Edge Of Your Town (2006)

First off, credit goes to Dana for notifying me of this album's existence. Without her, this post would not have been possible.

In short, this is a fantastic album of Springsteen covers. I mean, the songs are already classics and really good anyhow, but there is something about a frantically strummed acoustic guitar and imperfect, often straining, emotional vocals that lends a new urgency and infectiousness to these tunes. It's really hard to pick out a favorite because it's all so enjoyable. Alford's sweet voice complements Baribeau's rougher-edged singing quite nicely. I remarked to my friend Adam as a first impression that it sounded like it could have been a recording of an impromptu open mic performance (save for the occasionally present xylophone). I think I'll largely stick to that assessment, though these recordings lack the same sort of epic Brian Fallon-esque vocal reverb that Freud's Open Mic performers revel in at the Clark University Bistro on Thursday nights at 10 pm...

I had been marginally aware of Baribeau's existence before I listened to this album; "Ten Things" quickly became a favorite of mine a while back but for some reason I never got around to getting much else of his recordings. Also, I saw a Pink Couch session with him earlier this year, and some slightly unhinged fellow who wandered into my dorm room back during sophomore year was also apparently a big fan. After listening to Darkness On The Edge Of Your Town, I feel as though I have been missing out and will have to remedy this immediately. Plus, the dude's beard is ridiculous, a characteristic for which I always have great respect and admiration.

Paul Baribeau and Ginger Alford - Born to Run

I couldn't really find a buy link for this album, but you can check out the tour MySpace HERE.

The legendary Plan-It-X is Baribeau's label.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

the post that presumably will kill any shread of indie cred this blog possesses. just keepin' it real folks.

Say what you will about "Weird Al" Yankovic, but he has endured for more than 30 years, only recently finding his greatest chart success. He has even branched out into internet videos like this one which I happened upon randomly earlier today:

A lot of entertainers have burned brighter, but many of them have burned out quickly. Yankovic has slowly built a following and taken full advantage of the internet to broaden that fanbase still further. It seems as if only now at this advanced point in his lengthy career has he reached his peak. There are a lot of uncool people in this world, and he appeals to those people as one of their own, as an average-nerd-made-good who has risen above the fray to moderate amounts of fame and fortune, all the while remaining a good guy. And that, my friends, is something to admire.

I mean, when the guy's parents died from carbon monoxide poisoning a few years ago, he could easily have canceled a run of shows, but instead he carried on and performed anyway. How much dedication to your fans and craft does that show? How many other artists would do that? (certainly not Moz)

In middle school, being an offbeat kid, you could say that I was fan. In 5th grade, my teacher, who had gotten wind of my fandom and who also happened to be a fan, taped a live special he had on VH1 so I could watch it. A nice gesture in the days before YouTube and broadband, for sure. Hell, to this day I don't know the real words to "Lump," but you better believe I have a pretty good grasp of the lyrics to "Gump." I couldn't give you much of "American Pie," but I remember the vast majority of "The Saga Begins." "Pretty Fly For a White Guy"? More like "Pretty Fly For a Rabbi." I know I'm not isolated case here. If you experience the same symptoms of childhood Weird Al fanism, fess up in the comments, s'il vous plait.

I don't listen to much of Al anymore (I just looked it up and says I have 38 plays over the last two and a half years), and a lot of the stuff I thought was brilliant in my youth hasn't aged particularly well, but what do you expect from a man whose career has been built largely on songs about food and television? That said, "All About the Pentiums" is especially hilarious given the last several years I've spent working in collegiate IT.

So kids, heed the words of Al and don't go making phony calls.

Or refuse to eat sauerkraut, for that matter.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

John K. Samson - City Route 85

John K. Samson is notorious for his slow output, averaging three to four years between albums since The Weakerthans formed in 1997. Of course, many would argue that such waits have been well worth it for what has ended each of them, and I would certainly be inclined to agree.

Thus, it unsurprisingly has been more than two years since the last release of a new song from him, be it solo or with The Weakerthans. Now the time has come, with last Tuesday's release of City Route 85, the first in what is to be a series of EPs exploring the roads around Winnipeg, Manitoba. It is the first solo release from Samson since the 2006 re-release of 1995's Little Pictures. Listening to the two EPs back-to-back strikingly displays the leaps and bounds of musical and lyrical maturation that have occurred over that time. City Route 85 is over almost before it starts, comprised of just three songs totaling just under ten minutes. But the brevity of this EP is made up for by the quality of the material contained therein.

Samson is man whose art is as intertwined with the city he calls home more than anyone else who I can think of. Over the years he has time and again explored the bleak city not too far north of the U.S. border, and yet clearly has not tired of mining it for material. What is impressive about all of this is that for significant percentage of his discography spent dwelling on Winnipeg in one manner or another (for example, even the "Virtute" series is in reference to the city's civic motto, "Unum cum virtute multorum," which more or less means "one with the strength of many"), he might be dealing with the same specific geographic region, but that does not mean he has been writing the same song over and over from the same point of view. On City Route 85, his ability to craft characters who exist within the confines of the city, and who define their lives in some small way by it, is in excellent form.

The production is very stripped down, consisting mostly of just Samson and his acoustic guitar. For a man whose material is so much about the lyrics, he unsurprisingly delivers under these quiet conditions where words are apt to find closer scrutiny.

"Heart of the Continent" is a fantastic little track which reminded me a bit of "One Great City!" if only for the fingerpicking. This is from the point of view of a much more limited narrator than that song, however, as opposed to some omniscient being. Further research confirmed my suspicion that both song titles referred to official slogans that Winnipeg has had.

"Grace General" explores the bleakness of winter on a dilapidated block nearby the hospital where one of the narrator's loved ones (my guess would be his wife) has recently passed on, and the helplessness and hopelessness that the narrator feels with the void left in his life.

"Cruise Night," the catchiest (and shortest) of the three songs, dwells with that common practice of young people of driving around with the music on for the sake of it, symptomatic of the lack of other things to do in town, and also a demonstration of freedom within a confined space--you may be chained to your parents and to your city by your youth and and your means, but you have enough wiggle room within your cage to buy yourself music and drive around your hometown, even if it's not even in your car. There is a great feeling of freedom and being in complete control that comes with operating a vehicle, and this song epitomizes that feeling.

So, you should most definitely pick this up. Especially on seven inch, because vinyl is awesome, ya know?

<a href="">Heart Of The Continent by John K. Samson</a>

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Not a Review.

(I apologize in advance for overtly dour nature of this post. It just happens sometimes. I feel a need to post something and I just happen to be in an off mood. To be fair, I did just finish watching Five Easy Pieces, so there's that.)

For a lot of people, Wednesday's the most difficult day to get through. Yet for me, as relatively hectic and swamped as I have found this semester, Wednesday's the eye of the storm for me. Yes, I have four hours of work, but at this point work is a respite from academics. Sometimes I question why I'm even bothering sticking around to get a master's. Will I even use the degree? I guess it's because I typically have a hard time committing to anything without first giving it tons and tons of neurotic thought which even probably won't deposit me off at some solid conclusion. I've gotten to the point where in many people's judging eyes it's entirely not OK that I haven't figured out what I'm going to do with my life. I have to deflect the questions or name some random occupation that I likely have very little interest in. I mean, it's not like I don't try to settle on something. It just doesn't happen. Even if people are just trying to make small talk (and trust me, it happens all the time, whether at work or with the person behind me in checkout at the supermarket), I probably get overly defensive about it.

So, I'm putting in the extra work so I can stick around college one more year. Buy myself some more time, hold off on leaving what's left of my academic island for good. Every year the bubble gets smaller and I feel like more and more of an outsider even though I'm still very much here. Living off campus has very much changed the dynamic of my experience at school, and in particular working on campus during the summer when there's hardly any students around, when it's just the old buildings and dust and cobwebs, out with the old and in with the new, get the repairs done so the rooms are ready for the wide-eyed freshmen when they arrive the last week of August. Watch the days shorten further and further still, the leaves drop, the air chill. All the changes of the seasons aren't going to make the illusion of scholastic grandeur quite so real to me ever again. The bloom is off the rose and it isn't growing back. And yet I still find this a feasible alternative for the time being. It's like standing on a sinking ship and refusing to get on a little lifeboat because the seas are rough and you might capsize, but who knows, that ocean liner is sinking so slow maybe help will arrive before I'm submerged, right? And if help doesn't show up, when that boat's about to sink I'll grab onto a piece of driftwood. That's just how I've always gotten by.

I guess college is just the Wednesday in my life, then. There's been a lot of work leading up to and through it, and once I leave it, there's a lot more work to do before the weekend gets around.

The Weakerthans - Wellington's Wednesdays (From Fallow)
Willy Mason - Oxygen (From Where the Humans Eat)

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Cinder Block
Team Love

Friday, November 6, 2009

I'm Back Again, It's Friday

I must begin this post with an explanation of my absence. On Wednesday night my band Kid Omega (yes, that obscure Worcester indie-punk band with an all but defunct blog) was playing a show at Tammany Hall with the ever excellent Sister City and the incomparable Britney's Spear. Three acts. Three styles. Three hours. A couple of spilled beverages, one of which was especially entertaining. The house band never showed up. Epic fail. Oh and the Yankees won the World Series. Don't want to talk about it.

On Thursday it was my good friend Beckie's birthday, and so there was a lengthy dinner out at a nearby restaurant with all the trappings. And then I was writing a paper, which carried over into this afternoon.

But now it's the weekend. Life is good, we are young, and the beer is cheap. Real world, I'll catch you Sunday. Until then, I'm making good on my opportunities. In my estimation, the blog doesn't count as the real world so I'll probably post something tomorrow.

Sunny Day Real Estate - Friday (From LP2)
Ted Leo & the Pharmacists - The High Party (From Hearts of Oak)

[I will refrain from inserting the entire Andrew WK discography here, although I was mighty tempted]

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Sub Pop

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Swell Season - Strict Joy

I was one of the masses won over to this band by the film Once a couple years back, and it's really hard for me not to get behind them. They're just such likable folks, ya know? 2006's The Swell Season had some fantastic tunes with good energy. With a largely acoustic act, one expects things to tend to the more low-key side of things, but on their debut they were able to sprinkle in enough cathartic moments to keep things interesting.

This time around, things seem just a bit more even-keeled, with Glen Hansard not letting loose nearly as often. That's not exactly a harsh indictment of the album; it's as well crafted and heartfelt as its predecessor, and is a better than solid sophomore effort from the group. Perhaps with a few more spins I'll grow to love it instead of just like it. The first track "Low Rising" is a nice soulful song (and a pretty fair choice for the lead single), and "In These Arms" is another highlight, just a straight-up good song (and probably the quietest song in which I've ever heard the word "asshole" used).

If you liked their last album, and you can deal with a little less of Glen shouting and a few more strings, there's no reason why you shouldn't enjoy this.
The Swell Season - Low Rising
The Swell Season - In These Arms

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

All Hallow's Eve

John Carpenter.
Toilet paper and eggs.
Mickey Rourke.

Yup, it's that time of year again. Used to be about costumes and candy, now its about costumes and beer. Costumes being the constant, obviously. Candy and beer are both unhealthy, so I suppose not all that much has changed. And the UNICEF trick or treaters will always make you feel guilty.

In 8th Grade I really went to town on Cabbage Night. That's all I'm gonna say. But it was fun.

In the spirit of the day, I will leave you with some Rocket From the Crypt, who broke up four years ago today. These are some mp3s from their last show. Enjoy.

Rocket From the Crypt - I'm Not Invisible
Rocket From the Crypt - Ditch Digger

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Merch Lackey

Thursday, October 29, 2009

If you wanna write like me...stop. Trust me, you don't wanna write like me.

Procrastination is in my life blood. I'm at my best when the conditions I have to work under are at their worst, when the clock over my shoulder is rapidly ticking away the precious minutes I have left to complete the mid-term, response paper, or analytical essay with several charts and graphs imported from Excel, that bear of a program I'll probably never get a full handle on how to use effectively. Heart racing from the overcaffeination (a certain type of energy drink preferred, but in pandering to my punker, DIY readers I will abstain from naming said life-giving beverage). And the stress. Oh, the stress. My GPA hanging in the balance. Eyes occasionally losing focus. Imagining things in my peripherals that aren't there at all. Sleepless nights. Tremulous limbs. Chills. Dry, twitchy eyes. Bad for my health? Probably. Bad for my sanity? Probably. Am I capable of working any other way? When I figure it out, I'll let you know.

In these trying times which I to some [great] extent bring upon myself, the one constant that gets me through is my music collection. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I can be anywhere with an internet connection and a headphone jack and be plugged into practically my entire heap of tuneage [thanks Lala]. Right now I'm wasting precious campus bandwidth in the library to rock out to some "Holy Diver" from my fifth-floor perch in the library whilst laboring on part one of my two-part take home Urban Politics mid-term. You can just see the devil horns, can't you? Brutal Legend be damned, I need no video game to tell me how to think and feel about music. I have my own discerning ear for that purpose, thank you.

You may be asking yourself right about now, assuming that you've stuck around this long in the post, when in God's name I'm going to get around to attaching a link to an mp3 or embed a video or something, anything musical. Hasn't this piece of web real estate been re-zoned a second time for discussion of chord changes, melodies, lyrical content, the corny, the outdated, the up-and-coming, rock, indie power-pop, punk, folk, metalcore and thrash? Well, yes. And I'll get around to it, just hold up a second.

I will finish this paper...come hell or high water.

This guy's got a fantastic voice, and a sobering back-story. Worth listening to.

William Elliott Whitmore - Hell or High Water (From Animals in the Dark)

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

New Ted Leo Song!?

I've counted myself as a solid Ted Leo fan since he came to Clark University back during the first semester of Freshman year. He had a pretty rough cold and one of his fingers was bleeding but he rocked ever so hard in spite of his varied maladies. Living With the Living was a fine record and although his label Touch and Go had to make some painful cuts earlier this year, he recently signed with Matador, and it appears he's been getting his write on and will have a new album out hopefully sometime in the Spring of 2010. Also, did I mention that he has a Twitter? Being one of Ted Leo's tweeps is a rewarding experience, I promise.

Somewhere under that hat dwells the most awesome Mohawk you'll never see. Cheers.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

And Tomorrow We'll Take Aim / Just Like a Storm Waiting For a Calm.

It's weird how you can associate a song with stuff that has nothing to do with the lyrical content of the song itself, say what song came after it on a mix CD your friend burned for you in high school, or what was happening in your life when you first heard this song.

I can't say I'm a particularly big fan of their current incarnation, but old-school Against Me! was a beautiful thing. For me, this song is Spring break 2007 (Dirrty Jerz edition) encapsulated. Not coincidentally, I saw them at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville that same trip (here's a decent write-up). Bruce Springsteen was at the bar, no joke. Of course I had an X on each hand at that juncture. The crowd was nuts and my tiny friend Dana got sucked into the pit of despair and yet somehow emerged a few minutes later unharmed. The rascals would not get their gnome trophy that night.

Through the magic of Google, I tracked down a short clip of the encore, "We Laugh At Danger and Break All the Rules":

After 2007's subpar New Wave (which was still good enough for Spin magazine to name it album of the year [take that as you will]), I hold little hope for White Crosses. Prove me wrong, Tom Gabel. Prove me wrong.

Against Me! - Untitled (From The Acoustic EP)

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Sabot Productions

Monday, October 26, 2009

(Part Two)

Please don't get the idea that this is rapidly devolving into some glorified Mountain Goats fan blog (as near and dear to me as the band may be). This post simply serves as an addendum to yesterday's entry on The Life of the World to Come, which if I had been thinking clearly enough at the time, would surely have gotten tacked onto the end of that post. Better late than never I suppose, and thus I present to you now (in the event that you have not already viewed it) The Mountain Goats' performance on The Colbert Report from about three weeks back. There was an interview of John prior to the performance, which you can find here. After all, I wouldn't want to overwhelm the page with multimedia and so crash the machines of those brave few out of my legions of followers who are still running Windows 3.1, right?

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Mountain Goats - Psalms 40:2
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMichael Moore

(Via Pitchfork)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Mountain Goats - The Life of the World to Come

I'll admit it. I had a few misgivings about this record before it came out. As much as John Darnielle protested on The Mountain Goats website that he had not experienced some religious revival and was still as much of a lapsed Catholic as ever, and that the new record would not be some uber-religious screed, I had my doubts ["I come from Chino where the asphalt sprouts"].

Should I have feared? No. After all, Darnielle has been seasoning his music with varying degrees of religion for his entire career, be it "Trans-Jordanian Blues" (from On Juhu Beach), "Blues in Dallas" (from All Hail West Texas), "Genesis 19 1-2" (from Devil in the Shortwave), or "I Corinthians 13 8-10" (from Nothing For Juice). Of course, the fan favorite "Golden Boy" deals heavily with themes of the afterlife, cynically portraying heaven as a place as bleakly overrun by commercialization as this mortal coil we know so well. There are other examples in the catalogue I could point to, but by now I'd like to think I've made my point that he has dealt with religious themes frequently throughout his career and always come out the other side without seeming overbearing.

So onto the album. The release of "Genesis 3:23" for download on the 4AD website during the summer worried me. I was afraid that QC had slipped, because to be honest it felt sorta like a rehash of BNL's "The Old Apartment," and given the very close proximity of Darnielle and BNL on the Ships & Dip V cruise this past February, I thought that maybe he'd been tainted by the troubled and fading Canadian band who so owned the late 90s. If this was indeed the case (and in retrospect I don't really think that it is), it's only really apparent on that one song. And yes, Darnielle is allowed to delve into subject matter that other people have tackled before in his own way; if musicians were required to come up with a completely original topic to write a song on every time, that would just be unmanageable.

On the whole, it's a very quiet, spare work, reminiscent of 2006's Get Lonely. To be honest, I much prefer the more "boisterous" Goats songs, and if you're craving that, you're not going to find much of it here. However, "Psalms 40:2" is a real barn-burner that will appease those folks who tend to shy away from much of the quieter stuff. The vast majority of the album embodies a sort of understated desperate darkness, dealing with some heavy material such as the death of his mother-in-law in "Matthew 25:21," which is absolutely devastating.

Did I like Heretic Pride better? Most definitely.

Is this a good album in its own right? Yes. Comparing the two is apples and oranges.

Just don't eat the forbidden fruit.

The Mountain Goats - Psalms 40:2
The Mountain Goats - Matthew 25:21

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Motion Portrait: A Messed Up Little Website

This is both cool and creepy at the same time. So basically what happens is that you upload a picture of yourself and in less than a minute it renders your head into a 3D-model that moves around a bit and takes on different mildly-realistic expressions. It definitely weirded me out, so I thought I'd pass along the bizarreness. Sort of reminded me of the androids in that awful, awful film Artificial Intelligence: AI, except it doesn't drag on for two and a half hours and suck out your soul.

It's websites like this that make me fear for the weirdness of future generations. In olden days people did strange stuff mostly because science hadn't really been invented yet, so they had some pretty crazy beliefs and superstitions because they were ignorant and didn't know any better, so at least they had an excuse. But now there's a wealth of readily-available information and it just seems like with the staggeringly rapid improvement of technology, for every new breakthrough there's another bizarre implementation of it for people to experience (note how I didn't say enjoy). I shudder to think of what is to come. Will our children be so crippled by their own strangeness that they become sensory-overloaded creatures that fear sunlight so we have to fortify all their food with Vitamin D (or "D" if you are familiar with him) so that they don't catch the Rickets? [That was for you, Keegan]. We will still love them because they are our children, but will they even be human in the contemporary sense any longer? I mean, humanity's been devolving physically for thousands of years according to a recent book, so wouldn't the mind be next, so that we as a species end up like those blobular folk in WALL-E?

But on the other hand, did I mention that you can change your dashing, animated visage into anything ranging from a "Little Red Riding Hood" to a "Green Ogre"?

Check it out at your own risk:
Motion Portrait