Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Death Threats in Spanish

These Brooklyn indie-popsters had some buzz behind them for a while, but I don't think it ever came to anything major. At least not yet. I hear that they have been featured on TV's Laguna Beach so victory seems to be around the corner. This is taken from their first EP, which was mostly handed out for free at shows. It's got a nice, ramshackle, early 90's swing to it and some great hooks.

Dirty On Purpose - Practice For Having Sex

Monday, November 28, 2005

Waste not fresh Tears over old griefs

The Durham/Chapel Hill North Carolina troupe The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers make unassuming, literate acoustic-y music that hits an achey-breaky sweet spot, somewhere in the territory mined by the Mountain Goats, Matt Pond PA, Great Lake Swimmers, etc. But there's something very quiet and modest about the way they do it that makes it spezial.

The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers - Concerning Lessons Learned from the Aliens

Buy their latest, "The Mother of Love Emulates the Shapes of Cynthia," here.

Maybe strike the earlier remark about modesty--the band clearly employ a certain magniloquent m.o. that hints at big dreams.

Efterklang & Grizzly Bear

These guys are currently on tour together in Scandanavia. The Copenhagen 10 piece Efterklang makes some of the prettiest orchestral-glitch that I've heard in a while. I guess it just helps being farther north...

Efterklang - Chapter Six

PS: Efterklang has also been featured on the TV. Their poppiest tune, "Step Aside," was on The O.C. Who says the world isn't getting better every day.

Grizzly Bear is a stripped down indie-folk group from Brooklyn, but I am more partial to the all-remix version of their album Horn Of Plenty. This is a jumpy and eccentric number taken from that album, remixed by Simon Bookish.

Grizzly Bear - Eavesdropping (Simon Bookish Remix)

Sunday, November 27, 2005

In and Out, No One Gets Hurt

I'm just posting a quick link here to add the blog to Odeo - This is a a great track from NYC's Cassettes Won't Listen. Pop!

Thanks to pop77 for turning me on to this.

Cassettes Won't Listen - Breakfast For Lunch

please ignore:
My Odeo Channel (odeo/a4fbdc05f063119b)

Cuts Like A...

Swedish duo The Knife spin a delicious electro-pop confection, topped with some very Cyndi Lauper-esque vocals. They've won a Grammy in their home country and and are fervent futurists: "Electronic music is absolutely the music of the future. Machine music is good." If you can resist this track, you are a stronger man than I.

The Knife - Heartbeats

Fellow Swede Jose Gonzalez comes from quite a different direction. This is spartan acoustic music, in the mode of Nick Drake but touched by some welcome latin and indie flourishes. Compare his cover of "Heartbeats" with the original above; he really brings out the brooding darkness in the song.

Jose Gonzalez - Heartbeats

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The more you Sweat, the luckier you get.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Today was the anniversary of Kennedy's assassination, a fact that barely registered above the maelstrom of craziness as the congress and some of the mainstream press finally get hip to the incompetence and corruption that half of us have been shouting about for years.

Just a couple of tracks here. One a violin blues reaction to Kennedy's death from a great record called "Can't Keep From Cryin: Topical Blues on the Death of President Kennedy," which came out on Testament/Hightone. And, on an entirely different note (and very tangentially related, in spite of its title), a little electro-punk song that has something vaguely to do with Jackie O., but is really just a good song. Forgive the casual thrown-togetherness, I'm tired. But I didn't want to let the day pass without marking it in some way, graceful, or not-graceful.

Jimmy Brown - He Was Loved by All the People
A Faulty Chromosome - Jackie-O (demo)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Where is the Line?

Inspired by the previous post, I've decided to lay bare one of my own most Adult Contemporary guilty pleasures-- that of The Blue Nile. Paul Buchanan's songs, still buoyed by washy, late-eighties-era synths, tread dangerously close to the line that separates the Leonard Cohens and Bryan Ferrys from the Stings and Simply Reds of the world. (Incidentally, the Leonard Cohens demolished the Stings, 70-12, and the Bryan Ferrys barely edged out the Simply Reds in overtime, 14-13). It is a blurry, fine line indeed.

I guess you could say The Blue Nile fall into the same UK Post-New Wave Adult Album-Oriented Contemporary Alternative niche that bands like Everything But the Girl or Prefab Sprout fall into. Like those bands, they seem to have taken an appreciation of american soul music and twisted it into a cool, British-ified thing that is not like soul at all, though soulful nonetheless. Buchanan's lyrics evoke both the stark, lonely urban nightscapes of an Edward Hopper painting and the bird's-eye controlled chaos of a midperiod Mondrian; his delivery occasionally stretches out like Sinatra's; his compositions, musically onomotopoeic as they are, occasionally remind me of "Rhapsody in Blue."

Have I pulled this all, fresh and steamy, from my lunar end? Perhaps. But here, I offer bookends, from TBN's first and last records. I'll let you be the judge. Scrumtrillescent!
The Blue Nile - Walk Across the Rooftops
The Blue Nile - Broken Loves

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I'm a Sucker for Soft Rock

And I don't care who knows it.

The 1970's were, of course, the golden age of Soft Rock (and Hard Rock too, I suppose.) That great decade also saw the flowering of American Avant Garde cinema and the death of the old studio system, creating an amazing string of bold new film masterpieces. It was the era of the hairy chest - Redford was a god, but really it was best to be a Jew (Spielberg, Hoffman, Allen, Gould, etc.) The Italians did alright as well.

These tracks are not from the best films nor are they the very best songs. But, in my mind at least, they call up the era so clearly that I always enjoy. Plus, as I said before, I'm a sucker for the Soft Rock.

Johnny Mandel - Suicide Is Painless

Robert Altman's blacker than black Korean War spoof features a beautiful but disturbing ditty about the merits of suicide.

Keith Carradine - I'm Easy
Also directed by Altman, Nashville (in part) was an expose of the madness of the commercial country music industry. This tune (which won the best song Oscar for Keith Carradine in 1975) is, on the surface, a sweet and giving love song. Within the context of the film, we see how phony the singer is...the heart on the sleeve routine is just another ploy by a notoriously selfish bastard. This always makes me think of guys like James Taylor, who sang so mellow while he were jacked on heroin and beating the shit out of his wife...

The Spy Who Loved Me:
Carly Simon - Nobody Does It Better
Speaking of James Taylor's wife, Carly Simon is surely one of the queens of the Soft Rock. This song is all sugar, even if the Roger Moore Bond movie it is pulled from is pretty average.

Play Misty for Me:
Roberta Flack - The First Time Ever I saw Your Face
Clint Eastwood's directorial debut is a stylish and scary thriller, but this tune by Roberta Flack pops up in a strange running-through-the fields love montage, complete with waving grass, rugged beaches and lens flares. It's an unforgettable bit, due to its strange placement in the film and the intense power of the song. This made Flack into a star.

The Eyes Of Laura Mars:
Barbara Streisand - Prisoner: Eyes Of Laura Mars
No actress starred in more great films in Hollywood in the 70's than Faye Dunaway: Chinatown, Bonnie & Clyde, Three Days of The Condor, Little Big Man, Network. Laura Mars should have been amazing; directed by Irvin Kershner (Empire Strikes Back,) written by John Carpenter, it tells the story of a controversial fashion photographer who is having psychic visions of murders and using her visions as inspiration for her bloody and artsy photo shoots. Of course, the public eats it up. All set in late 70's high fashion, coke-happy NYC. Sounds good right? Eh. Not really. But what a drama bomb of a tune from Babs!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Beat Planet Mix Tape

As we await fastbacker's massive music and culture dump, I've decided to offer something short and sweet of my own. As a subset or offshoot of the "Philly Style" postings, i've decided to painstakingly recreate an old mix tape of songs I first heard on WXPN's overnight alterna-show Beat Planet, most often courtesy of the DJ named Kirby. For me, this show held nightly morsels of delight, and I would tape it even when I fell asleep. I did not get out much. To be clear, most of the bands were not Philly bands. Cut one from that mixtape comes courtesy of Ric Menck and Paul Chastain, who briefly played under the name Choo Choo Train, before becoming the more widely known Velvet Crush. It appears that the CCT album "Briar High (Singles 1988)" has been rereleased as something called "Hey Wimpus," available here. Sure, it's wimpy-sounding jangly power pop, but does the album really need to be called that? I mean, it sounds so self-consciously self-conscious. Anyway, I love this song.

Choo Choo Train - My Best Friend

I Like Rock

I wasn't kidding in my comments below and I will prove it with this track. I must sleep, so a no frills post tonight. I have a mega-post brewing in the Drafts section anyhow...

Kill Creek - Gett On

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A Place Called 1993

The year was 1993. A foxy young Arkansas Governor had just been sworn in as Prez, and was gearing up to finally overhaul our damnably inequitable, unsustainable healthcare system. The Unabomber was on the loose. John Wayne Bobbitt's member went missing. The Kuwaitis uncovered a plot by Iraqis to kill George W. Bush's daddy, which may or may not have set current events into motion. Gary Coleman won a 1.25 million dollar lawsuit against his parents. And "Indie Rock" was red hot, thanks in part to Caroline, which was making a play to become the majorest of indies by snatching up all up-and-comers within earshot. To wit, the label comp "Stuck On Caroline."

The comp, which I just came across and dumbly threw in, includes bands that I didn't care about then (Jamming James, Hot Rods), bands that I didn't care about then, but a lot of people care about now (David Gray), bands that I sort of cared about then (Action Swingers, Walt Mink, The Auteurs), bands that I really cared about then that currently reside in the "oh well" category (Fudge, St. Johnny), and Idaho, who I loved then and still love now, although I haven't picked up the new record yet. I present tonight two selections from this sampler, one an early masterpiece (possibly their first single?) from sadmospheric soundtrack genius Jeff Martin's Idaho, and the other a really fist-pumping indie-cum-alt rock anthem from Hartford, CT's St. Johnny. Close your eyes and drift back to the previous golden age of indie, just as the wave was cresting, about to crash across the 120 Minutes set, engulfing Kendall or Largent or Pinfield, or whoever was standing there at the time.

Idaho - Skyscrape
St.Johnny - Go To Sleep

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Philly Style #4

Buried Beds (from Philadelphia) played at Pianos here in New York last Friday and they slayed. Warm, sensuous and playful, they showed a real mastery of the classic pop form. They also had an amazing violin and viola section with them, drenching the tunes in harmonies and webs of contrapuntal melody. Extremely sophisticated.

This is a track from their EP; although excellent, does not quite live up to their current sound. Look for a new full length from them in December.

Buried Beds - Camellia

Friday, November 11, 2005

My Heart Was Screaming At My Bones

Assuming there must have been a Tiny hysteria when the Swedish trio stopped in NYC for a show earlier this year, I missed it. And this song is just about two years old by now, but I missed it, I just did. Maybe you did too. Something about the way the staccato piano and simple strings mix with Ellikari Larson's voice is goosebump-inducing. For me.

Their website is a few months out of date, but I hope, for the world's sake, that The Tiny will continue to make the music.

Their US home is Eyeball records.

The Tiny - Closer

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Liquor and the Damage Done

Two of the greatest themes in Country music are surely religion and liquor. Love and Hate, the Virgin and the Whore, and that great and satisfying pair, Sin and Forgiveness, all are interwoven with God and the Bottle. These two tracks offer some different views on booze, via very personal images of heaven.

The Louvin Brothers were one of the great close-harmony duos of the 1950s and a big influence on the Everly Brothers and (in their country-rock period) The Byrds. They took a tough stand against sin and sinners, documented in a pretty straight forward manner in such songs as "The Family That Prays (Never Shall Fall)," "(I Like) The Christian Life" and "Satan Is Real." My favorite set of lines:

Some people say they gamble now and then for pleasure

And drink a little whiskey just to please a friend

They say it's really nothing, you've got to be broadminded

That word in my Bible is spelled "s-i-n"

That word broadminded is spelled "s-i-n"

Satan was definitely real for boozehound Ira Louvin; shortly after the group's breakup, he and his third wife got into a nasty drunken brawl that ended in a shooting that almost killed him. He survived to marry again and he and his fourth wife were killed in a drunk driving accident in Virginia a few years later.

Louvin Brothers - The Kneeling Drunkard's Plea

70's hitmaker on Capitol (and rare African-American Country artist) Stoney Edwards had a decidedly different vision of heaven than the Louvins. Apparently it's always happy hour beyond the pearly gates. Save me a stool, Stoney!

Stoney Edwards - Honky Tonk Heaven

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Inherit the Wind II : I.D. Boogaloo

I thought I might post some topical songs tonight, in light of recent news in the evolution vs. intelligent design (creationism's trojan horse) debate. The Kansas Board of Ed seems to have taken one big step away from science in the direction of something else. The residents of Dover, PA, however, threw out the whole lot of creationists from the school board. The court case is still pending.

I can't say with certainty which way our readership leans-- I'm still awaiting the research. But I can tell you that the great Gene McDaniels would seem to lean heavily toward the ID camp. (Actually, both were the work of songwriter Bob Elgin.)

Gene McDaniels - A Hundred Pounds of Clay

The golden-piped McDaniels grew up the son of a preacher in the Church of God and Christ, which is a pretty straightforward name for a church. He considered himself a jazz singer, and was well-versed in gospel and blues, but it was the big, syrupy-stringed pop gems (McDaniels considered them too "Mickey Mouse") that brought him the most commercial success. Go figure.

Gene McDaniels - Master Puppeteer

While there's an eerie similarity, both musically and lyrically speaking, to these two songs, a thorough collection of singles and rarities can be had thanks to the really excellent folks at Collectables Records, who have made a point of reissuing thousands of great old records that would've otherwise languished on someone's shelf.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Leave My Funk Alone...(!)

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Another in a fine tradition of poor quality jpegs. I'm proud to say this is a photo of a photo from an ebay listing.

I always felt like APB got lost in the pin-the-influences-on-the-donkey game that once surrounded Franz Ferdinand. APB were a scrappy Scottish struggle-funk new wave band hailing from Aberdeen. Although neither as political, nor as virtuosic as, say, Gang of Four, I still think they deserve to be touring again if at all possible. Even if they can't fill Bowery Ballroom, I will be there, dancing as if I were several hundred people.

APB enjoyed some US college radio airplay in the first half of the decade known to the kids today as "The Eighties." This would be the first link in the chain of circumstance that led me to own a poor cassette copy of their work thanks to the Thompson brothers and Repo Records. Sadly, I came into possession of said tape several years after Iain Slater and Co. called it quits.

"Shoot You Down" was originally released on Aberdeen's Oily Records in 1981. Oily was also home to the Squibs and the President's Men, neither of whom I've heard. Most of APB's work is collected on the Link Records comp "Something To Believe In," which can be had for a nice price at various web merchants, if one is inclined to spend a bit of time en googlé.

APB - Shoot You Down

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Dark Currents

John Dowland (1563-1626) was one of the most prominent English composers of the Elizabethan era, specializing in the elegant melancholy that was the flavor of the day. This is taken from an album of his solo-voice ayres (songs meant for a single voice and usually a lute) recorded in 1999 entitled "In Darkness Let Me Dwell." Tenor John Potter of the Hilliard Ensemble provides vocals and is accompanied by Barry Guy and Maya Homburger. The arrangements are not "authentic" to the time and seem to have offended some early music purists, but I think that the richness of the instrumentation really adds to the mournful mood.

John Dowland - Flow My Tears

Between The Wars

I'm not real big on show tunes, but when I watched the film version of Cabaret a few years ago, I was instantly drawn to this song. The voices are so sweet and pure and the arrangement just keeps building and changing keys - you can't help but raise your beer stein and be caught up in all the irresistible motion. In the film, the song is actually sung at an impromptu Nazi rally, which adds a sickly dark hue to the sentimental lyrics...

Cabaret Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - Tomorrow Belongs To Me

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Philly Style #2 & #3

Speaking of Schooly-D, his producer, Joe "The Butcher" Nicolo was at the helm for this 1989 slab of early Philly alt-rock. Electric Love Muffin was one of the first "local" bands I heard that sounded for real; they also fit right into my Dinosaur/Husker Du/Replacements aesthetic of the day. This is taken from the album "Rassafranna" and I tell you straight mister - this whole record is a gem.

Electric Love Muffin - Late Nights, Early Mornings

This is a track from the never released "Girl's High" album by The Joey Sweeney. I played drums on this album and this tune, if I recall correctly, was a favorite of Kurtis of Rambis Manor. Recorded in 1996 by Adam Lasus (who just did Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!) at Philly's Cycle Sound, this was a big, sprawling over-produced album stuffed with great songs. This is a soulful one featuring some sadly out of tune horns. Weed is evil, kids!

The Joey Sweeney - Danny

Philly Style #1

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Okay. In some circles, "Philly Style" is used to describe a genre of music involving the presence of at least two lead vocalists-- both of whom might, at times, blend hip-hop, ragga, and sensitive heavy roc vocalisms-- fronting a band whose music tended to do the same, with some awesome off-the-rack fx thrown in.

But on 2.5 lbs. du Bacoin, I decree that it shall henceforth instead be used as a title for any and all posts bringing to light the actual great talents born of the city of loverly broth, past, present, and future. And so, I begin with this, from Philly natives Be Careful Little Hands, who came to my attention on some mp3 blog somewhere when their debut EP debuted in '03. There was great promise there-- quietly building dramatic, moody pop songs centered around simple fender rhodes-y melodies. I'm not sure when this song went up, but I didn't find it 'til today, and suffice it to say, this song raises the already high bar quite a bit higher. So much so that if BCLH actually tended this bar, one might have to ask for an absurdly tall stool. That's how good this song is.

Be Careful Little Hands - Torch

Future installments of Philly Style will hopefully leave no dusty corner of my (and presumably my blogging teammate's) record library untouched, although I have to admit I'm fairly short on Schoolly D joints.