Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Peace out, 2008. SS chucks deuce.

Ok, so I did a big yee-haw 2008 round up, but f*ck that. Here are a handful of records I want to give a little personal tickle to:

BLOOMSBURY by Princeton

This little four song EP was the most exciting thing for me this year. The reason is a combination of how great the music is and how unknown the guys from Princeton still seem to be. Vampire Weekendy some say. Sonic Youthy. I don't know about that, but you know how music industry people are: they rely on the epic list more than Homer.
"The Waves" by Princeton Download mp3 (with permission)


IN EAR PARK by Department of Eagles

Two dudes in college at NYU started this duo and they came to nothing, never playing a gig. Of course they were extremely popular among NYU students. My GF played me their first CD a few years ago in the car upstate. Then one of them joined Grizzly Bear and of course, everyone raised an eyebrow to the old "side project." 2008 had their second album and their first gig! (I could be wrong about that) Getting tickets for it was impossible. In Ear Park is set for super-fame.

SEA LION by The Ruby Suns

Yeah. So they are on a Microsoft commercial. What of it? If they only knew that Gates killed their beloved Apple "Lisa", they might have refused to let "Oh, Mojave" be on TV. At least they were compensated. Did Microsoft name the fake product (Vista) after the song? I am pretty sure they did. Sea Lion is so freakin' good, and live, the dude plays a guitar and the drums at the same time (see pic - this is all during the same song).



HIAWATHA TALKING MACHINE EP by Phonograph

I love this record. I am a sucker for bands with no keyboards live that can still get a great prog rock sound when they want to. Sort of like Ambulance LTD (bassist John Davis actually produced several Ambulance tracks). In this case, mixed with some of he most authentic classic rock sound around. I like this EP even more than the band's first record (S/T).
"Somewhere Between" by Phonograph Download mp3 (with permission)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

SUSU and $3.00 Records!

brooklyn band SUSU
photo: Brooke Weeber

A couple of months ago, on a Monday, with no theater and an itch for some live music, my companion and I sauntered over to the Mercury Lounge. No line really. Punky but sweet girl at the door. "Who are you here to see?" I glanced at the list, trying quickly to process and speak the name of one of the opening bands with no tally marks. Instead I noticed that the headliner Day for Night had relatively few scratches in comparison to the group SUSU, on immediately before them. Odd. "Day for Night" I said, feeling a little sting as the opportunity to do some good seemed to have flitted away.

ASIDE for non-NYC readers - clubs in Manhattan are anal about headcounts, and a band's "draw." They can be extremely brutal if a band doesn't meet their expected quota; sometimes they won't have them back! Ridiculous. What ever happened to a built-in audience? What ever happened to taste-making? There are only a few places left that you can just wander into without having to declare exactly what brought you in. When you say, "I'm here to see all the bands," they look at you like you're clueless or insane.

Brooklyn band SUSU, despite recently having been named emusic.com's blah-blah number one download pick for upcoming whatever, were completely unknown to me at the time. I was one of those members of the crowd "waiting to be impressed," as drummer Oliver puts it.1 Now my not knowing a band, as we all know, doesn't mean jack. SUSU have been around for years, kicking around Brooklyn and Manhattan, playing strip shows and mud wrestling contests etc., all by accident, mostly.1 When I heard them start the first song, I was excited. When they started the second, I was nodding enthusiastically to those around me. By the time Day for Night came on, I was more concerned with getting a copy of SUSU's CD than I was anything else.


After Day for Night's set (which was also great), we headed out to the bar, where Andrea Havis was selling records .. .. for $3.00! Now, I happen to know how much it costs to press some vinyl, and I was blown away. When I told the barmaid about it, she went and bought one. And why not? One can either buy a half pint of lager or a 3-song record! The band isn't losing money (since it's not on a label) and they are selling cheap to a group of potential fans who have just seen them rock out! Granted, the same strategy doesn't work on the internet, but I would imagine that like me, most of the people who bought the record listened to it at some later date. Perhaps when the memory of the live show had faded slightly, reduced to a sort of "thumbs-up" without any real supporting detail. For example, I put the record on last week, as my turntable was broken for a good while, and now I am right back in SUSU's pocket. Hence this blog. Hence my going on and on. Here is what I heard the second time:

The call and answer / male and female vocals are such a great tool for any band, adding a dynamic that really can't be done the same any other way. Add to that shredding and often rythmically defiant guitar parts played with a sort-of loving and delicate touch, drums that separate your membranes from their respective internal organs, and each song's mantra delivered concurrently with an encompassing group of lyrics, rather than a transcription or otherwise-on-the-nose browbeating. It really is a fun record to listen to. I find myself smiling and taken to imaginative places of my own, like a good read almost. Strange, I know, but that's what it does for me. I wouldn't be surprised if everyone else who left with a record that night has experienced something completely different. Great progressive records will do that. Here's a track from the WIN EP.
"Part Bloodhound" by SUSU Download mp3 (with permission)

Buy SUSU's Records!

When I read that guitarist Andrea Havis doesn't read or feel particularly fond of blogs, I laughed. I sort of feel the same way. From the emusic interview:

Andrea: Yeah, I don't read blogs. My boyfriend does — he's obsessed. I just can't handle it. Music that I like has always found its way to me.

The first person to comment on this blog will WIN a free WIN EP 12 inch record. Just include or email your mailing address.

B&W photos: Ibru Yildiz
1. interview from emusic.com, read it here

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Come and Gone: The Letter 3

The Letter 3
A Retrospective: I was going through a stack of demo CDs the other day, and I stumbled upon a two song demo from an indie funk band called "The Letter 3." These guys were friends of mine back at university, and the band (in the iteration of this demo) was around from 2002-03. Not long, but they quickly created a rabid following. Anyway, a wave of nostalgia washed over, and I thought I would post the tracks for the handful of TL3 fans still out there who miss it.

maskuliniSubsequently, the amazing bass player, Thorsten moved back to Berlin and revived the band with two new members, which lasted until earlier this year, I believe. Not to worry, his new band, Maskulini (left) is full throttle funk-rock, in German! The other guys: Russell Huie is playing solo in Texas; he just released a new EP called "Cheer The Bombs On". As for the drummer, Eric Blews, I haven't found any mention of him. Anyone seen Eric?

"Tomorrow Never Lives" by The Letter 3 Download mp3 (with permission)

"Bloody Hands" by The Letter 3 Download mp3 (with permission)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry XMAS

Inner DOG DEMOS and Lovetheonlyway
What did I get for Xmas? Well, I indian-gifted a couple of great records to my girlfriend: ACID TONGUE by Jenny Lewis, NEW ENGLISH by Ambulance Ltd, and MOMOFUKU by Elvis Costello. But I actually didn't receive a single record myself *sighs*. I suppose I am hard to buy for in that respect. Knowing this would happen, I did buy myself two records: DOG DEMOS EP and LOVETHEONLYWAY, both by Inner, who are a recent discovery of mine. For those of you who don't know, Inner is an early 2000's band, fronted by Jen Turner (now in Joseph Arthur's band, The Lonely Astronauts). She started Inner after leaving a band called Furslide in 2000 ish. Other than that, all you need to know is that Inner is f*ckin great. If you are already a fan, and you have been bummed and empty since 2002, as a result of no more Inner records, I happen to know that you will have something to look forward to very soon. More on that later.

"Marry Me" by Inner - Download mp3 (with permission)

Truly, the most interesting thing about Xmas is what you give to other people. The Hieronymus Bosch cover of the Fleet Foxes album, combined with the fact that the music is so great made that a perfect gift for my GF's father (along with a copy of LIE DOWN IN THE LIGHT by Bonnie "Prince" Billy). He has such great taste, I try only to get him the best stuff of the year. I also bought MY father a copy of ACID TONGUE, as his taste is very traditional classic folk-rock. He'll love Jenny Lewis. Strangest other gift: A copy of Mark Oliver Everett's new book, Things Grandchildren Should Know. He's the guy from the Eels, and apparently growing up with a mad genius scientist father is a trip.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Best Music 2008 Round Up. Yee Haw.


For the best music released in 2008, I used the poll of a small group, wedged firmly and wetly in the rear-central part of Texas, called "MSC Town Hall". Don't look them up, they aren't much to look at. I will tell you that they are a student organization at Texas A&M University, whose members spread after graduation, like butt-cheeks, all over the country. ** That last bit could be a CAKE lyric ** Each year at Christmas they relay their favorite albums into the abyss that is the former member listserv. Egos flare up and older members sweat over how uncool they have become since graduation in 1996 - all for naught most of the time, as listserv messages are channeled directly into most members' trash folders. A dozen or so still take the time, though, and this year at least one person read every entry. The Results:

Top 5:

Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
Department of Eagles – In Ear Park
Bon Iver - for emma, forever ago
Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson - Self Titled
Dr. Dog – Fate

Honorable Mention:

The Walkmen – You and Me
The Dodos - Visitor
Mates of State – Re-Arrange Us
black keys - attack & release
Bonnie Prince Billy - Lie Down in the Light
Ruby Suns - Sea Lion
Okkervil River - The Stand Ins
MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
Verse - Aggression

The Rest (in alphabetical order by artist)

Adam Arcuragi - Soldiers for Feet EP
Beach House – Devotion
The Bellfuries - Palmyra
The Black Angels - Directions To See A Ghost
Black Mountain - In the Future
The Briggs - Come All You Madmen
crystal castles - s/t
Delta Spirit – Ode to Sunshine
El Guincho - Alegranza
Energy - Invasions of the Mind
Brian Eno & David Byrne - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
Fucked Up - the chemistry of common life
The Gaslight Anthem - The 59 Sound
Ghostland Observatory - Robotique Majestique
H20 - Nothing to Prove
Have Heart - Songs to Scream At the Sun
Russell Huie - Cheer The Bombs On EP
M83 - Saturdays = Youth
Man Man – Rabbit Habits
Mogwai - The Hawk is Howling
The Naked and Famous - No Light EP
New Found Glory - Tip of the Iceberg
No Age - Nouns
nomo - ghost rock
Passion Pit - Chunk of Change EP
Phonograph - Hiawatha Talking Machine EP
Princeton - Bloomsbury EP
q-tip - the renaissance
"Quote" - The Pace of Our Feet
The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely
Santogold – Santogold
Ron Sexsmith - Exit Strategy of the Soul
She & Him - Volume One
Richard Swift - Ground Trouble Jaw

SUSU - Win EP
Sybris - into the trees
Syd Matters - Ghost Days EP
Titus Andronicus - The Airing of Grievances
tv on the radio - dear science
Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
Vetiver - Thing of the Past
Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer

The Boy Bathing @ Rockwood Music Hall

video

David Hurwitz, front man of The Boy Bathing - all solo and shit - played a show Friday night to debut some new material and tinkle on the keys a little bit amidst the hummin' and strummin' of his normal format. This - "Hey, I know I've been locked away writing, and I haven't been playing very much lately, so I'll let you in a little bit on what I've been up to." - sort-of-a-show was a real treat for me and the other TBB fans in the crowd.

The band's debut album "A Fire To Make Preparations" was released independently this year, but we didn't hear anything from that record, which was the underlying material of two 2008 tours. Instead we got to see where the band is going. Anyone familiar with AFTMP would have noticed a change in Hurwitz's song-writing. Choruses!! WTF!!

That's right, some songs with choruses. But I don't want to make a big deal out of it. There was a lot of the sound we know and love also, and I would implore the reader not to confuse choruses with "pop" or anything like that. I am simply delighted to see a song-writer exploring, and in this case, finding something worthwhile in the process. Check out the video of "House Song."