Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Oh Night Divine

This has been my favorite traditional Christmas song since I was small. I don't like Christmas music, traditional or otherwise. I especially have a dislike or modern takes on old standards. Whether by higher design or sheer luck of the draw or, perhaps, a genuine understanding and respect for the original, this version, by a band unfortunately named Seven Day Jesus, hits it out of the park.

I have a tendency to be repulsed by the nature of the lyrics in carols, as well in the way the are sung; heavy and dripping with lament. Many traditional carols seem to invent a manger scene, or some far-reaching ideal that doesn't quite ring true. Songs like "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and "We Three Kings" use grand language and regal imagery, perhaps a result of the time they were written, to paint a picture that betrays the humble nature in which the Christ-child supposedly came into the world.

This song's lyrics touch on some common themes of other popular Christmas carols, such as the Savior coming to earth to redeem mankind. However, this song strips down the redemption to its lowest common denominator, as well as cutting through all of the august ideas of Jesus. "His law is love and His gospel is peace" is a strong challenge to much of the teachings of American Christianity.

Exposition aside, I can't listen to this song, almost any version I have heard, without getting chills down my spine when the line "Fall on your knees/hear the angel voices/Oh night divine..." is sung.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I Hate Christmas Parties

There is so many things to love/hate about this song. It's catchy, it's delightfully melodramatic, it's irritatingly close to home. Originally released on a Happy Christmas compilation as Matt Thiessen and the Earthquakes, it's actually a bullshit pop/punk band called Relient K in disguise.

For some reason, I've thought about this song specifically this time of year since I was in high school. I wish I didn't, especially this year, but facts are facts and this is one of them

And also, I found this song accompanied with video from "The Office" so, no matter what, there is something to like.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Love is an Abandoned Backyard

If Derrick Brown can do wrong, artistically speaking, I haven't seen it yet. Even rough and unfinished demos carry more weight than a lot of slick polished work. His words on paper are dynamic, organic, violent and original. His voice only makes them come alive long enough to break your heart. The premise is preposterous, but the execution is spot on. Who hasn't felt like the baserunner who doesn't understanding the signal? If I could identify anymore with this, I'd be the one in the video.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Worst Band of 2010

Screw this band and their Hyundai holiday commercial. Fuck them.

I'm sure they're nice people, but I don't care.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Why I Shouldn't Listen To Pop Music These Days

SF59: "I only see what I want to see 'cause I only hear what I want to hear. Because I'm right most of the time. That's the way I would self-describe...Call it what you want, it's automatic."

Eric&Magill: "I'm stranded."

Wild Nothing: "It just doesn't feel right when you're not here"

From now on, I'm restricting myself to a strict diet of Mono and Unwed Sailor. Words are slicing up my inside parts.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Audiophiles vs. Audio Files

I'm supposed to be giving a presentation in an hour involving the differences between analog and digital recording. Originally, I thought that this would be fun because I'm genuinely interested in the topic. But the more I learned, the more confusing it became. Also, I'm entirely unprepared for my presentation.

Up front, the differences are plain. Analog recordings, usually committed to magnetic tape, contain actual waves on them that are ANALOGUES of actual compressions in the air, which we hear as sound. Analog sounds, such as real sounds, are continuous frequencies through time. This means their graph will have a smooth curve over time. Digital recordings capture sound and convert the frequencies into numbers, called samples. Because no more than one number can be assigned at any given moment in time, the graph of the wave is not smooth, but boxy. See the graphs below.

Audiophiles argue that this makes a dramatic differences in how the sound is reproduced and is inferior to analog. A common CD, however, contains 44,100 samples every second. If we think of these samples as film, which is a collection of still pictures moving so quickly that the images themselves appear to be moving, we can begin to understand that a rapid rate of sampling would be heard just as well as an analog recording.

There are plenty of factors that serve to determine the quality of recordings such as sample rate, quality of equipment used to record and the quality of the equipment used for playback. So it's no easy task to definitively say which is better or higher quality or anything. They are two different processes that produce similar results. It is up to the user to determine which method they prefer to use for their purposes.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Music For Nothing

Here is an interesting article from the Onion A.V. Club/Milwaukee where they discuss the seemingly large amount of Milwaukee bands that are giving away their albums free of charge. Ryan Weber from Decibully and Eric & Magill has a nice quote in there.


I'm really intrigued by their reasoning. I've certainly already decided that I'll be giving away my album for free if/when it is ever written, recorded and given access to the internet. But that has more to do with my determination to prove that I can, in fact, despite what people have told me, give my music (that doesn't yet exist) away.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Eric & Magill: All Those I Know

From "Should We All Wake Up":
"Should we all wake up with nothing but our love, that should be enough".

It's a simple sentence that belies the complexity of its implication, which does a better job of describing what the record sounds like better than I ever could.

It may be an unfair comparison, but it's
the only one I can come up with: Eric & Magill's "All Those I Know" sounds like a Bon Iver record without the bullshit auto-tuned layers of falsetto self-indulgence. Actually, to compare the two at all is kind of weak. My first impression was "this sounds like a good Bon Iver record", but, really, it's far beyond that.
Eric Osterman and Decibully's Ryan Weber have crafted a dizzyingly coherent and tightly expansive record. Listening, it reminds me of early Vanderslice records, of mad scientists in t
heir lab. Not experimenting with tried and true pop sensibilities, but with the process of recording, they have crafted a unique sounding record.

There are influences from all over the place here: Irish folk and, maybe the most glaring Bon Iver comparison on "Vegetable Gardeners"; vocals pushed back in the mix a la early shoegaze; melodies that would make Brian Wilson proud, probably a lot of stuff I don't even know about.

Additionally, the songs are strong. If you were to strip away the layers and effects down to just a voice and guitar, they would be as interesting as their final product. The production of the album isn't used to make up for weak songwriting, but instead creates an environment that these songs live in, allowing the listener to explore and find new treasures with each play.

Download it for free from their bandcamp site:


Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Most everyone that watched a little television in the past seven years are probably familiar with at least one Big Star song. Maybe not familiar with the actual band, per se, but their song "In the Street" was re-recorded for the theme song of that one show about all those stoners not doing anything in the 70's. It ended up sounding like KISS recorded it.

I've been thinking about this band for a while now. My friend Jeremy has their first two albums and had mentioned to me that I should get them. We were driving from Minneapolis to Des Moines one year, maybe for Christmas or Thanksgiving, when he first played Big Star for me. Somewhere along the way, I picked up their album "Radio City". Since then, I've always wanted to explore the band more, but never manage to keep them in the forefront of my mind.

I asked Jeremy a couple of weeks ago if I could borrow the albums that he owns, but he said he was driving to Des Moines for the weekend and likes to have them on hand during road trips. Until then, I'll have to amuse myself with "Radio City". From what I can tell, their first album, "#1 Record" is a little more nostalgic compared to "Radio City", which is a little darker.

I got thinking about about this band again recently after seeing Wayne Everett preform this song on the Lightbulb Mouth Radio Hour.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Called as Paul

When you think about how many people cite the Beatles as influential, it's largely considered a good thing. I always point to Millie Vanilli as one of my earliest musical influences but it is wholly as a negative as they shattered my innocent ignorance regarding corporate music. I think I was 8 or 9 when I refused to watch an episode of the Super Mario Bros. cartoon because Milli Vanilli made a (unwelcomed) guest appearance.

Even after the Beatles broke up, John and Paul continued to have a monopoly on where popular music was going. Just take a look at how Paul and Wings were completely ripped off in this Ratt video.

Granted that there were some other, less obvious and contemporary influences in Ratt's look and sound. But it's hard to deny that, a dozen years after he sang "Maybe I'm Amazed" at that concert, Paul's influence was all over Ratt like Aquanet on, well, Ratt.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Assembling Pumpkins

The Smashing Pumpkins were a band that I was really into for a while there. Then they broke up. Then they came back, zombie style, and Billy Corgan tried to convince the world that it was still the same band (it wasn't). Then Jeff Schroeder, a founding member of the Lassie Foundation joined the band, piquing my curiosity, if not making me a little worried about the future of one of my favorite bands (hint: not the Smashing Pumpkins).

TSP still haven't done anything to reclaim that Mellon Collie glory, but they've recently embarked on a 44-song project douchely titled TEARGARDEN BY KALEIDYSCOPE, that sounds better than anything Billy has done post-Machina. I'd like to think that Mr. Schroeder had something to do with it(the music, not the title). What do you think?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Road Trip Diary.

We took a drive to Stillwater, a town on the St. Croix. The last stop before Wisconsin.

Laura Veirs played on the muffled car stereo as we drove into town under a brown sky and found a parking spot right on Main Street.

After a day of seeing and doing, we turned down a road we had never been down, played the Stars as we drove through the countryside. Home was only a vague destination.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Hospice" by The Antlers

I'm always hesitant of new music, especially from new bands. Even more especially when someone tells me I'll love it. Most of the time, it doesn't work out for me so much. This is why I wasn't too broken up about missing the Antlers open for The National a couple of months ago. I had never heard them, so I didn't know what I was missing. But most telling was that a bunch of people told me I'd probably like them.

To be fair, I already didn't like their name, which is a stupid reason to not listen to someone. The Antlers calls to mind a deer and with that a whole slew of bands with "deer" in their name: Deertick, Deerhoof, Deerhunter, Deermolester, etc. One shouldn't judge a band by their name. See: Radiohead, Starflyer 59, and Totally Wrecked (ok, maybe not that last one).

I went out west and my friend Peter was playing The Antler's "Hospice" record, which immediately made me want to know who it was. Peter and I share some musical tastes, but also butt heads on many things. I never really fell in love with Pavement, he thinks that Belle and Sebastian's "Life Pursuit" record blows.

When I came home, I bought the record. It's one that you want to listen to all the way through every time you play it, but also contains strong enough songs to stand alone (although they shouldn't). This is a concept record in the most literal sense. Not only does the album tell a cohesive story through out, but the music plays like a classical piece with themes and variations. The harrowing story tells of a narrator who becomes attached to a dying child as his relationship with his girlfriend falls apart. The imagery is stark and the metaphors are ruthlessly strong (I seriously can't pick one because they're all so good).

Now I'm all bummed that I didn't see them perform these songs live when I had the chance.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bail Out

This happened to me in high school when I first heard the Pixies. There is this period of uncontainable excitement at discovering something that moves you and, knowing, somehow, that it will continue to move you long after the initial excitement wears off. But then, and this is what I'm talking about, you learn that the band isn't even a band. Not anymore. It's like the death of a loved one you never had the chance to know; a grandparent that only exists in photographs.

In the case of Iceland's Parachutes, they left you a little trust fund to remember them by; as they have made their two albums and e.p. available for free download. God bless them as we keep them in our ears.

One can always hope, though. Even the Pixies resurrected for a reunion tour.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

MBV joke.

-"Loveless" is such a brilliant record.

-Yes, but isn't anything?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Northwest Territory

I went on a trip to the Northwest part of the continental United States last week. My friend, Peter, was gracious enough to treat me to just about everything while I was out there including half my airfare and a ticket to see Seattle's Damien Jurado play at Mississippi Studios in Portland, which I assume is one of the city's finer venues.

Jurado has been throwing down killer songs of double crossing lovers, haunted memories, and ponies for more than a long time. While his subject matter doesn't always stray very far from the road set out before him, he never seems content to record the same set of songs wrapped in a different package with each new release.

One album might be recorded on a peasant's budget and sound similar to an early Mountain Goat's album, the next might have a full rock band, the next a stripped down, backwoods Mississippi jug-and fiddle accompaniment. Reworking his sound, rather than reinventing himself.

Portland's Dolorean was one of the three openers. They are a pretty solid Americana outfit. Think good parts of Wilco without the obnoxious ego or that extra something that sets them apart from the rest of the herd.

I missed the third opener's name, but he was a Bob Dylan-esque folkie complete with this crazy voice that I can only best describe as a sounding like a slide whistle. My only comment is that he played much longer than anyone else, including Jurado. Perhaps twice as long. Additional note to aspiring musicians/singer/songwriters: If you're going to have the gall to do an encore when you're an opener, please don't make it a 9-minute-plus folk opus about everything.

Literally, EVERYTHING.

When it was over, Peter said that he thought Damien Jurado was like a more literary version of Will Oldham. I agree. So if you like Bonnie "Prince" Billy, you might want to look into some Jurado.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

We're Guards!

Yesterday afternoon I got to wondering when Starflyer 59 might be putting out a new record. I try to check in at the band website regularly but it hasn't changed in the past 2 years (an announcement that Dial M is coming out October 28, 2008). One Tuesday I just happened to go to the bands myspace page, which appears to be updated more frequently than their website, to be greeted by the announcement that the new album, Changing of the Guard, will be released today.

Upon first listen, it is a strong album. It sounds akin to Dial M, but darker and more haunted. Even the more peppy sounding songs are juxtaposed with very dark lyrics. J. Martin's vocals also seemed to be pushed back in the mix much more than the past few releases, calling to mind 1980's Brit-pop. Indeed, songs such as "I had a Song for the Ages" sounds like it could be a latter day Smiths song (sans the Morrisey vocals).

Friday, July 30, 2010

Neon Horse

the first page of this review pretty much sums up my conclusions on "christian" music. I found it interesting and articulate in a way that I'm too jaded to express.

You will recognize some of the bands mentioned in this review. I don't know if you have any interest, but I would recommend checking this band out; even if it's just for the novelty factor.

Hi. I'll see you in a couple of weeks, yeah?

NEON HORSE Review; Myspace

Fine China's Three Strikes

Arizona is the last place you'd expect to find an band that worships 80's europop with the fervor that Michael Bay fans do explosions. Much less so than in 1997 when Fine China signed to Velvet Blue Music and released their "No One Knows" ep, a collection of songs that prompted a young me and friend David to take notice, become interested and expand our, then limited, musical landscape.

The following is a weak baseball analogy of their three albums:

Strike One: "When the World Sings" was their first of Fine China's three albums and continued the collaboration between the band and Ronnie Martin (of Joy Electric) that started with the bands second ep "Rialto Bridge". This album features some very strong songwriting and construction for a band that, at the time, was basically a novelty. The songs were, however, completely drowned out by Ronnie Martin's overdone, synth-heavy, production. Upon listening, it would appear that Martin ran wild and seemed to make Fine China his side project rather than producing the band and letting their instruments shine through. The only reason I'm able to still listen to the record is because I was able to see the band while turing for this album. They left the synth at home and recreated much of the annoying sounds on the record with real instruments; highlighting the songwriting and a surprisingly tight and original band.

Strike Two: "You Make Me Hate Music" was the band's second (and most awesomely named) album in which they left Ronnie Martin's production in favor of his brother Jason (of Starflyer 59). The new Martin left a subtle, yet unmistakeable, mark on this record. Where Ronnie used heavy synth and technoesque beats, Jason added a little more reverb and the songs on this record seem to be played at 20bpm slower than they should be. While it was a relief to have the band out from the synth grip, it was disappointing that the songwriting was so melancholy. The best way to describe the album is "a downer", because of both material and expectations. However, listening with fresh ears after years on the shelf (or hard drive) the album doesn't sound as much like the let down I remember it being, but the songs are also much more depressing than I realized in 2002. I'd be interested in hearing Jason Martin produce this band today as he has grown leaps in bounds as a producer over the past few years.

Strike Three (or: A Hit!) So we'll say the strike is on me for not having a physical copy of "The Jaws of Life" on hand. I can't tell you who produced it or much about the record because I didn't even know it existed until 8 months ago. Whatever the process was, everything seemed to fall into place. The songwriting is as solid as ever; the music ever euro. But it all works to the advantage of the record. Keep in mind that this album was the only one released in a time where anyone know about bands like Interpol. The europop revival wasn't "hip" for most of Fine China's existence. Perhaps it was the success of bands like Interpol that made 2005 a fertile year for Fine China to become the next big thing. But for whatever reason, they didn't and subsequently broke up.

(this is from "Jaws of Life" but for whatever reason the picture is of the cover from "You Make Me Hate Music")

It's always a shame when the world loses a great pop band that nobody has heard of.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wild Nothing: Gemini

If the Smiths ever recorded a song that was engineered by Kevin Shields that had a love child with Starflyer 59, the resulting eraserheadmutant-childsong would be "Chinatown" by Wild Nothing. I've really liked everything I've heard from this record so far. Thanks to Chris M. Short for bringing something worth hearing to my attention.

I especially how the songs are moody and spacey with plenty of reverb to go around, without sacrificing strong songwriting.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Consider This

Rainer Maria was the best woman-fronted rock and roll band since EVER; yes, even better than the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. A comparison: Caithlin De Marrais is a much stronger singer than Karen O, and never had to dress like a $5 hooker trying to pick up a $10 John to prove it. Karen O might have more stage charisma, but stage antics don't really come through on the record. And if you do want to go there, Kyle Fischer had more than enough charisma for one band, let alone one member of a band; he played everything Nick Zinner does all while jumping around like he had ants in his pants and was also on fire. Brain Chase and William Kuehn have surprisingly similar playing styles as well as blank facial expressions and, as far as drummers go, I'd be happy to see them mud wrestle to the death. Kuehn, however will have a little glint in his eye and a barely-there curl at the corners of his mouth.

This turned out to be Rainer Maria's swan song single. They never did make very good videos, but one can assume this was largely due to budget restraints. Which begs the question as to why this band never took off to the level the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have. Notice that you can still recognize the instrumentation as derived from actual instruments.

I was completely blown away with "Maps" especially that it came from a band such as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who didn't really have another song that would have prepared me for how gut-wrenchingly awesome "Maps" was. I never really got into them until last year when Amber played me this song. I like to think of it as "Maps: The Sequel". Notice the awesome (and low-budget) effect when the band appears in the alley although the sounds that you hear, aren't the sounds the instruments they're playing would make in that particular setting.

Let's be fair. Both of these videos suck more than a neutron star, but were used to illustrate the mannerisms of the individuals and the wildly different budgets the bands have worked with.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I Dream of Dessa

For all of the crappy music the Current plays on a regular basis, they still manage to knock a few out of the park. Lately, the Minnesota Public Radio "alternative" "rock" station seems content to feed us a diet mostly consisting of Hold Steady-esque semi-sonic bullshit or refrigerator buzzing, auto-tuned club music intent to rival the local top 40 Clear Channel station, KDWB.

Before I wage my war on the Current to demand that they stop caving to advertiser demands and start playing more of what the public demands, I thought I would point out that there is good to be had. I'm not all that familiar with Dessa, but everything I have heard (including her read an open letter to Dave Eggers) has blown me out of the water.

One of my biggest complaints about the Minneapolis music scene is that style seems to prevail over substance, almost without exception. The Current's playlist only seems to perpetuate this attitude in the worst kind of way. It is encouraging to see and hear videos and performances like this one, but they are too few and far between. It is my wish that this kind of thing would be the norm, rather than the exception.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Skinny Ankles and Long Pants

Chris Davies writes a music blog called Skinny Ankles that is head and shoulders better than this one. A while ago he posted video of Decibully (yeah, I know. This isn't a Decibully fanblog, but I can't seem to stop writing about them) preforming three stripped down versions of unreleased songs.

In bands that do a lot sonically, whether it's with layered effects or more-than-usual instrumentation, it can be interesting to hear their music stripped down to its lowest common denominator. Decibully does this wonderfully as witnessed by the video. There is one, but perfect example in the video for "Band Bang" when drummer Aaron Vold is keeping time on the bass drum and tambourine and then comes in with the jingle bells right at the end. It completely changes the feel of the song without distracting or taking away from the rest of the players. The ability to add without taking away from the rest of the band is one of the ingredients that make Decibully stand out to me as one of the American greats.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Decibully Sings in America

Here is an unreleased Decibully song that helps one through bad days. The quality of the sound is noticeably improved by watching in hi-definition.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Born Again Drops (and Sucks)

As promised (or threatened...?) the Newsboys released their new album "Born Again" on Tuesday. While fans might find comfort in the band not heading in a drastically new direction, I'll submit that release is yet another exercise in sterile, polished noise; offering nothing new or interesting to the world (even if the "world" is limited to CCM).

I'm not trying to pick on the Newsboys and perhaps I'm wrong for using them as a template for everything I think is wrong with music. They brought it upon themselves, though. Breaking out with a cover of Degarmo and Key's "Boycott Hell", calling out "Christian" bands to step up and stop settling for being cheap imitations of popular secular music only to turn around and make a too-long career by doing just that.

I'm reminded of the U2 song "Even Better Than The Real Thing" as they articulate the copycat nature of popular culture:

"give me one last chance
and I'm going to make you sing
give me half a chance
to ride the waves that you bring"

While there is, of course, comfort in the familiar, people shouldn't be content to remain unchallenged. The "Real Thing", as U2 puts it, doesn't have to remained confined as this God-thing that alienates twice as many people as those that can identify with. Instead, the "real thing" can be found in the everyday and mundane. Just as struggles help to sharpen and grow, so does stripping away the layers of everyday life to find what makes life so good.

We'll find that the "real thing" isn't going to remain good if it's repackaged and sold over and over. It will spoil.

To answer Barry's rhetorical question, it is better to burn out. In a blaze of glory.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Newsboys are Night Zombies!

Are you surprised that the Newsboys are still releasing albums? Seriously, they’re like the poppy Christian version of Pete Doherty. Only, you know, a band. Tuesday will mark their first release without an original member, calling into question the validity of calling themselves the Newsboys at all. Do you know who is signing for them now? Former DC Talk-er Mike Tait. Do you know what a bad replacement he will make? Where their previous vocalists for the band both shared not only Australian accents, but this nasally buzz saw quality that, granted, might not have been appealing to everyone, but made the Newsboys sound like the Newsboys. Having Tait front the band would be on par with getting John Legend to front the Smashing Pumpkins.

Here is an example of the Newsboys ripping off the Cure in 1994 with original vocalist John James.

Here is a video with choreographed dancing the Newsboys released long after I thought anybody cared anymore in 1999. Note the use of heavy eye makeup on new vocalist Peter Furler.

And here is a crappy modern rock song featuring their new singer Michael Tait.

I understand the importance of legacy, but as Barry asks in "High Fidelity", is it better to burn out than fade away? This literally isn't the same band anymore and I'm going to preemptively question whether or not this group would sell any records if it weren't for the inherited moniker. I get that they're a "Christian" band, but that doesn't excuse the lack of integrity displayed.

For good or bad, some bands just won't go away. However, a band should consist of an original nucleus that holds the group together. Once the nucleus disappears, so should the entity that was the band lest all credibility vanishes in its place. The "Newsboys" have lost the plot.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Getting Funky

I went to Rock the Garden on Saturday with Amber and her brother. The line up wasn't that exciting (Retribution Gospel Choir, OK Go, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, MGMT) until I heard Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings on the radio a couple of weeks before the show. I like RGC, but an outdoor festival playing to thousands doesn't do their music justice.

Words will not do Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings justice, either. To say that they are a throwback to James Brown-esque soul cheapens them, because they are authentic, straight out of 1968. I can't recommend them enough; if you get a chance to see them, plan on a spiritual experience. I haven't listened to any of their albums yet, but was encouraged that all four are available on vinyl.

Retribution Gospel Choir is worth checking out too. Fronted by Alan Sparhawk of Low fame, they are the heavy, doomsday preachers that you'd expect to be the project Sparhawk fronted in college, rather than after 18 years of grandfathering the slowcore movement (is that a fair summation of Low?). His strong, yet broken voice brings all the harrowing themes you've come to know and love from Low. Oddly, it fits in well with the dive bomb riffs and hypnotic sludge of RGC. It would have been nice if they played later in the day to cleanse the palate of all the high gloss and tightness the other bands brought to the stage.

Note: Picture of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings courtesy of Jason Albus (if he ever finds out that I used it).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

This Sound is Broken

Broken Social Scene performed "Texico Bitches" last night on Jimmy Fallon. The new record is solid and, for their part, so was the performance. However, the opportunity was hampered by a shoddy mixing job by the sound engineer. Obviously, reproducing the sounds from a record is never easy, but I wonder if the sound guy even bothered to listen to the record, or, if he had, if he bothered to listen to what the final mix sounded like. It reminds me of listening to an album meant to be listened to in stereo with only one speaker. What is a full, rich sounding song in principle, came off sounding thin and, honestly, rather amateurish as if every sound was attempted to be recreated through an old Casio keyboard.

On the plus side, singer Kevin Drew's vocals are pushed forward both on this record and on Late Night. It was ballsy to have the vocals pushed so far back in the mix on their self-titled release, but Drew's voice is very capable, and it's a relief to know that the decision was a conscious one and designed to mask an inability to sing.

Still no word on where fans can purchase their official BSS tutu...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Duck and Cover

Dear Miss Lucia,
Iron and Wine, Mates of State, Nada Surf, The Bird and the Bee, and The Flaming Lips are just a few band that have recently released, or plan on releasing entire albums of cover songs. It is disheartening to see some of indie rock's heavy hitters reduced to cover bands. I have always looked to "indie" music as a beacon of creativity compared to more mainstream music and, perhaps foolishly, held higher standards for their output. While cover songs are wonderful in the arena of live music for their spontaneity and homage to influences, releasing an entire albums worth of over material is nothing but a two-bit vanity project designed to do nothing more than make some quick money without putting in the time to actually write the songs. Not only does this erode the integrity of the recording artist, as well as the original song writers, but selling an album of cover songs grossly panders to a gimmicky capitalism that completely negates idea of "independent" music.

Even if we are to believe that the intent of the recording artist is to, as suggested by the Mates of State website, expose their fans to music that they, the recording artists, like, there is no reason why these artists can't just compile a mix "tape" of the original recordings and post them on their websites.

The question also arises as to how a band is supposed to tour in support of such albums and how, apart from perhaps a larger budget for laser lights, are they going to be any different that the cover band that just played at my cousin's wedding?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

eskimo hunter

I finally gave Eskimo Hunter a listen. It's a shame I didn't do it earlier, but to be honest I was turned off by the name. I don't know which came first, the sound or Jason71, but Eskimo Hunter does sound a whole bunch like Pacifico era Lassie Foundation in all the right ways; dreamy, jangley shoegaze pop. Sure, the songs could use a little more dynamic, but that would defeat the spaciousness of the songs.

The ladies will like them too because Jason71 has played bass with Ryan Gosling's band Dead Man's Bones. What lady doesn't love "The Notebook"?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

She Does That Thing.

If there's no music, we can't dance.
And we can't meet girls unless we dance.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Prom Night 2010

My friend Jeff has been talking about what a huge year 2010 was going to be for music since this time last year. Actually, I remember him mentioning that The National was going to be releasing a new one at Christian's birthday party in early March. There has been many a heated discussion as to what the best album of the year is so far. Yes, I realize that it's barely May and yes, I realize that it's rather childish to be so passionate about what, in fact is, the best album so far this year, that you throw your drink into Jeff's face and tell him that he should have been a blow job, but we aren't hear to discuss manners, I'm just telling you what happened.

Anyway, The National, Broken Social Scene, The New Pornographers, Stars, Arcade Fire, and others all have albums dropping this year. Surely one of these established heavy-hitters has got to top the lists at the end of the year. So far, both Jeff and I have been underwhelmed with the typical highly anticipated releases. Broken Social Scene's "Forgiveness Rock Record" is solid, and my girlfriend is in love with the National and hasn't be disappointed with their offering. Jeff is holding out that Stars will explode and crush him with their ultrahigh gravity songs.

It's too early to say anything so far. In fact, I'm a big fan of making best of lists after a 365 day cooling off period. So if it wasn't for the excitement of something new, I'd be writing about the best of 2008 right now. However, Aloha's "Home Acres" has really been doing it for me. They are such a great band, lying somewhere between prog and thoughtful pop. "Home Acres" really trims the fat as there isn't much, or any, filler. The dynamic of the record is thought full and "Ruins" ends the record on one of those epically high notes that makes you want to turn the record over and immediately listen to the record again. I wish they would come to Minneapolis sometime.

Do you like to dance?

The good people at Aloha's record label, Polyvinyl, also released a Norwegian band called Casiokids this week. The album isn't just a dance record, although it does have those hip beats that the young kids really go for. The record is also considerate enough to play like a regular pop album complete with reach-out-and-grab-you-singles, more intimate hip swayers, and songs that reveal their greatness with multiple listens.

Here is a little taste of Casiokids and Aloha:


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Kiss Me.

If I were to compose a list titled "Best Bands That Only Released One Album" the John Wilkes Kissing Booth would almost certainly top the list. If I were to make a list of best songs that were never properly released on an album, "Black Market Malaysia" would similarly be high about most. While not the best quality, this video is much better than I'd expect it to be and excessively demonstrates how epically rock and roll this band is. From "Are you pussies ready for this?" to "Skah-douche!" this video oozes awesome. I'm glad this exists

I was lucky enough to see JWKB preform in a class room at the Des Moines Botanical Center to a crowd of, maybe, ten.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Secret Panels "Divider" Review

Maybe halfway through, it hits you that what you've been listening to isn't a rock record. Sure, it's guitars and drums and voice, but the album is something else entirely. At first, the words seem to represent various religious sects. Islamic zealots are easily identified on songs like "Last Morning" and "Rush Hour Bus", and as you listen, other cults like Heaven's Gate are represented on songs like "The Comet". But the revelations do not end as it is here that the purpose of the album begins to become visible.

The epic is disguised by it's six songs; yet it's length rivals the last Radiohead record. Half of the tracks are mini Who-like rock operas. Think "A Quick One While He's Away" only menacing. Nearly every song has "Peter and the Wolf" like instrumental representation with several apocalyptic breakdowns in the manner of Wagner.

The lyrics are simple enough, but like a doomsday Hemmingway, they tell a devastating tale of violence and ideology. The war cries of Jihads and Crusades are the same words sung in Christian churches every Sunday morning. Indeed, the songs are structured after Muslim prayers, Psalms and Sunday morning praise songs.

The album may suffer from some production short comings, but it only serves to make Secret Panels helmsman Jeremy Grace come off as an Old Testament Prophet, using what he can to preach his message; not for fame or glory, but to save the people from themselves.

This is not a rock record, but listen and hear one of the most ambitious and important musical recordings of the past five years. You'll be blown away like a suicide bomber on a rush hour bus.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


There is something about the phrase "dance music" that makes me throw my defenses up quicker than a corporate CEO caught red-handed orchestrating a Ponzi scheme. See, despite knowing better, I still associate "dance music" with trashy clubs downtown with V.I.P. areas that amount to nothing more than a velveteen rope around a semi-circle booth where you pay for overpriced, watered-down drinks. It's not just the club, the patrons or the proprietors of clubs that make them trashy in my mind. It's the music. Loud, thumping quarter notes, unimaginatively arranged or remixed (barf.) and blasted threw subwoofers to the point that one would literally have to suffering from a terrible case of rigamortis not to hypnotically bob their head up and down.

There's nothing wrong with dancing, liking to dance or even going to a club to dance. The sin is that the music is Lady Gaga at best and some flavor-of-the-week rapster wanna be at worse. Actually, it could get really ugly if the DJ played "Who Let the Dogs Out", but we won't count your cousin's wedding reception here.

Why do I not associate dance music with New Order or even, more recently, MGMT? Both groups make perfectly acceptable songs to listen to, and most of them have beats funky enough to get even the most rigid of us to swing a hip or two.

Even if dancing is the activity and listening to the music is secondary, I would still think it imperative to the conscientious listener not to pollute themselves with noise that amounts to the music equivalent of empty calories.

Lady and maybe a Gentleman: I give you Norway's Casiokids. From what I understand, their forthcoming album will be the first Norwegian language record released in the US. That's right, you won't be able to understand what they are singing. However, from what I've heard, it won't matter one bit.

This is music that dares you not to throw a party.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Second Hand News

When I first heard the song, I thought it was obscure single from Kindercore band Masters of the Hemisphere, released only as a 7-inch Singles Club A side. If you were a member of the club, Kindercore would send you a different 7-inch every month featuring a song from two different Kindercore artists. Subpop would do this too, which is where I first heard bands like The Mountain Goats and John Vanderslice. Unfortunately, more often than not, the fun was in the artifact of having a collection of a dozen or so 7-inch records than finding a new band to fall in love with.

The glaring exception was Masters of the Hemisphere. From the first time I put the record on, I was in love with the song. It had a great acoustic guitar chug and a melody that soared. For years-years!-I would fish threw my small stack of 7-inch records and pull out this Singles Club release to listen to this one song; usually three or four times in a row.

When I began to mature a little and became more open to music released by bands that were older than I was, I went on a mission to find some great classic rock that would inspire my fledging indie rock sensibilities. One such record that was continuously recommended to me was Fleetwood Mac's "Rumors", so when I saw a used copy for $1 at Des Moines' Zzz Records, it wasn't a difficult purchase to make.

I sat on the record for a couple of days, maybe, before I blocked out enough time to give the whole thing a listen. Listen: The vinyl sliding out of the paper sleeve, the crackle of the needle on vinyl, the chug of an acoustic guitar. My jaw hitting the floor.

Yes, I was, and still am, largely sheltered from classic rock and roll that many people view as staples of a well balanced music diet. I was also surprised to find out that I was semi-familiar with many of the other songs on "Rumors", but this was largely due to my familiarity with car commercials and the like.

So this Masters of the Hemisphere song that I loved was only a cover song. I was overwhelmed, I almost felt betrayed. I gradually came to accept the release as a well done cover, true to the original.

But now that I'm familiar with it, the cover is not as good as the original.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Top of the Pops

I tried to select one album that I obsessed over per year since I was in high school, but some years there were more than one.

The List:

1998-16 years old. Radiohead "Ok Computer"; Starflyer 59 "The Fashion Focus"

1999-17 years old. The Lassie Foundation "Pacifico"

2000-18 years old. Pedro the Lion "Winners Never Quit"; The Flaming Lips "The Soft Bulletin"

2001-19 years old. Starflyer 59 "Leave Here a Stranger"; John Wilkes Kissing Booth "A Threat to the Broadcast"; Death Cab for Cutie "The Photo Album"

2002-20 years old. John Vanderslice "Life and Death of an American Four Tracker"; Mates of State "Our Constant Concern"; The Flaming Lips "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots"; Wilco "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot"

2003-21 years old. Death Cab for Cutie "Transatlanticism" Unwed Sailor "The Marionette and the Music Box"

2004-22 years old. Sufjan Stevens "Seven Swans"; The Envy Corps "Soviet Reunion"; Arcade Fire "Funeral"

2005-23 years old. Decibully "Sing Out, America"

2006-24 years old. Belle and Sebastian "The Life Pursuit"

2007-25 years old. The Arcade Fire "Neon Bible"; TV on the Radio "Return to Cookie Mountain"

2008-26 years old. Starflyer 59 "Dial M"

2009-27 years old. Decibully "World Travels Fast"

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Weekend Travels Fast

Amber surprised me with a trip to Milwaukee to see one of my favorites, Decibully, play at the Cactus Club with Minneapolis hipster darlings, Lookbook. Amber is the awesomest.

Decibully embodies everything I love about music and their set Saturday night did not disappoint. I found myself helplessly grinning at merely being in the room under the circumstances I was in. They opened with a new song that Aaron tells me is going on a split 7" with another, as yet unknown, Milwaukee band. At first I thought the new song might be a Bengals cover, but I guess it was original material. I was even reduced to audience participation durning Megan & Magill, clapping my hands like it was my job. And I'd like to think that, for that night, it was. Other highlights included the wall of beautiful sound that was Live By the Lake, and the R&B groove during Weakest Kind of Heart. However, the best was seeing Aaron play drums on this song, also an apparent new one.

Lookbook is always a source of contention with me. I like their music and they put on a fun show, but something about them puts me on edge. I don't know what it is and I'm confident that it is a feeling exclusive to my own self. If anyone reads this and gets the chance, check them out on myspace and catch them if they play in your town.
In short: I'll be your boyfriend for a chance to see Decibully.