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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>

Buy 'em up:

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)

Buy 'em up:
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]

Buy 'em up:
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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