Sunday, April 30, 2006

Pretty Girls Make Graves/Elan Vital/6.4

Forced change always comes off rushed and awkward and overzealous; no exception here,...

Nearly every review of Elan Vital talks about Pretty Girls Make Graves's new sound. Since guitarist Nathan Thelen's departure in 2004 to focus on his family, the band has had to adjust. At first, other guitarists filled in on tour. On Elan Vital, keyboardist Leona Mars joins the band to create a very new sound for the band on their third album.

On the previous two Pretty Girls' albums, I had been most drawn by Thelen's and J Clark's guitar. Both were veteran guitarists from other bands and together they drove the music into red-zone levels of energy. Many of my favorite bands feature a two guitar attack - from Superchunk and Jawbox to The Bloc Party and Deerhoof. The first two Pretty Girls Make Graves records fed into that appetite for powerful guitar rock.

Without the previous albums' guitar sound, I would have been surprised if Elan Vital matched up against the first two albums for me. Elan Vital has forced me to adjust my expectations. On the first listen, I was disappointed. However, once I deliberately put aside my expectation of roaring, dueling guitars, I began to enjoy the new CD. The track Pyrite Pedestal manages to channel as much energy as any track on the first two records. Parade had bobbing my head. Selling the Wind on track eight gave me the best punk accordion line I've heard since the Mekons. However, not all of the tracks quite worked for me. So even after adjusting my expectation, I'd give this album something in the low 7's. No, Elan Vital isn't quite as good as Pretty Girls Make Graves previous records, but it's still pretty good.

Ubl's review, while crisply written, seems to approach the band's new sound as if it is an experiment by them. He also seems to have been under some of the same prejudices of me; my initial notes on the CD had a much longer paragraph praising PGMG's previous CDs. However, beloved bands change - sometimes out of choice and sometime out of necessity. While listeners always bring their past history when listening to a new CD, sometimes it's best to put that history aside and listen again. The last thing I'd ever ask a band to do is chase its own tail.

Lastly, there seems to be some kind of a graphic design gaffe on my copy of the CD. Only eleven tracks are listed on the artwork, but there are twelve on the CD. I thought that there was a mystery track, but it turns out that seven and eight have the same title on the lyric sheet. Even a trip out to Allmusic has the title repeated on tracks seven and eight. Based on the lyrics, my guess is that track eight should be titled Selling the Wind, which leaves track seven as a mystery titled song.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Yo La Tengo / Is Murdering the Classics / Egon 2006 / Rating: 4.1

“…as I love Yo La Tengo, WFMU (possibly the greatest radio station in existence, by the way), and the general idea, it's difficult to give this a genuine recommendation. Instead, save your money for next year's WFMU fundraiser: Tune in, make a pledge, request a song, and brace yourself. It's for a good cause.”

Here! Here! (and thank you JT for being one of the few PFM writers to mention artwork in your review and getting the rating right.)

I can’t remember the last time I read such a straight forward / down to earth (sorry to use two clichés at once) Pitchfork review no less posi- pitching something like a particular radio station; even if it is one of the best commercial free stations in the world.

And how about that hyperlink to WFMU included in said PFM review? Has Pitchfork ever run one of those in a record review before? I ask because in all my years of reading their site I don’t recollect a one.

Joe Tangari just got himself a Tuningfork get out of jail free card and I am not just saying that because I am an ex-Jerseyite / Hobokener.

It took nearly two years to get all these songs cleared for licensing so I give the band credit for taking that kind of time and energy only to officially release something they warn their fans to “buy at your own risk” and that “no returns” will be given. This once WFMU pledge drive only gift/cd from 2004 is now available for your listening (dis)pleasure. Only serious fans (of YLT or FMU) need to apply.

I could be wrong but it appears that only a few places carry this "special" collection like Amp Camp or the

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Clearly Intoxicated Leonard Nimoy Discusses the New Flaming Lips Album Amongst Other Things

While relaxing on the roof of my luxurious apartment (TQT Manor), I was joined by acclaimed actor Leonard Nimoy, who in addition to being known the world over for his acting and poetry, is an avid music fan. While I did not witness Mr. Nimoy drinking in my presence it was clear by his speech and lack of motor functions that he had been enjoying some alcoholic beverages. Luckily I had my tape recorder with me. Below are this amazing mans thoughts on a variety of subjects.

ON WAYNE COYNE: Let me just say that I love Wayne. I love his little beard and I love his little suit. Wayne is a close personal friend of mine. You know what? You know how you can tell that someone is a good person? Well I will tell you. If they don't disregard you if your hygiene is lacking. And you know what? Sometimes I forget to shower.And brother, I can get smelly. It happens. But does Wayne care? No. Good man.

ON MUSIC IN GENERAL: I was in a band once. We were called Leonard and the Folds. It was mostly prog stuff. But boy could I sing in those days. I made Art Garfunkel sound like a bag of crap. If I had a dollar for every label that wanted to sign us I would have, oh I don't know, two dollars. But music these days is crap. Its crap! I know that people think that I am a peaceful guy, but that's not true at all. I react violently to bad music. I head butted one of the guys from Amps for Christ just cause I could.

ON THE NEW FLAMING LIPS ALBUM: Power chords make me feel great. Not as great as say a couple of reasonably attractive Trek ladies showing up to my hotel room after a convention appearance, but great nonetheless. And this new album, what's it called? Fighting with the missed sticks? That's it right? Well whatever, I love it. I mean I hear people bitch and complain that they don't recognize Wayne's voice. So what? Does that really matter? The content is still there. I have been humming these songs all the time. And i cried when i heard that Ambulance song. It makes me sad inside where the tears live. But Wayne a genius. He just likes to make interesting music and most importantly he speaks the truth. You know why Clouds Taste Metallic is so good? Cause I've tasted a cloud before, and they do taste metallic.

LIVE CONCERTS: I think that it is the duty of every performer to give their all. I want fire, I want sweat, I want people crying and bleeding. Let me tell you, I attended a lot of Germs shows and they were fantastic. Kids thought it was weird to see Mr. Spock down there in the trenches, but once I gave them a bloody nose they knew I was all business. Most live shows these days are idiotic. Leonard likes a little pain with his music. The best live act I have seen recently was Tamba Cha Cha. Good lord they shredded. That lady drummer is only five foot one, but she knocked out a grown man with only one punch. And the music is just top notch.

ON TUNINGFORKMEDIA: I've read your little website. Its ok. I mean I've seen better. You have some good writers though. Grettir knows what he speaks of and Pitchperfect has enough cred to fill a city block. Honestly I think you're the worst of them Thelonious. I hope you can take some constructive criticism.

Leonard fell asleep shortly after making this statement.

Built to Spill / You in Reverse / Rating: 6.8

"Aside from its abundance of overlong songs, You in Reverse is marred by a lack of strong melody when compared to Built to Spill's other records"

Dear Dug Martsch,

It is with great difficulty that I make this public announcement. I have decided to step down from the esteemed position of number one BTS fan. I loved your first band Treepeople deeply (you know it’s true as I moved from NJ to Seattle just for the privilege of selling your C/Z records to the masses.) and I loved Built To Spill’s first 4 records but this hour long bong hit of a new record is the final straw.

I don’t mind long songs but even the shorter tracks (the 5 minute + ones) drag on for what sounds like an eternity. I’m sorry but there isn’t enough pot in the world to make this material move me and as a non pot smoker your new direction of jam band bores the hell out of me. Ironically "goin' against your mind" may be the longest song on You in Reverse but it is the only song that keeps the listener locked in and moving at an enjoyable pace while songs like "traces" remind me of those klunky Treepeople ballads I would fast forward through to get to the next rocker.

What happened to that witty pop genius who knew how to get to the heart of a hook in under 3 minutes? Pitchfork might approve of this crawling stage towards a new musical direction but I have chosen not to celebrate your clumsy baby steps.

It’s thrilling to see our old friend Mike Scheer at the cover art helm again and I have been in awe of Scott’s drumming from all the way back to his Spinanes’ days but none of this translates into me wanting to ever listen to You In Reverse again no less see you live again and risk hearing your 8 minute songs extended into 25 minutes or longer.

The PFM rating of 6.8 is nearly double what I would have given you but regardless of what I think your record appears to be selling like crazy all over this country of ours so what do I know? Your new fans can fight over the now available number one fan position and I will instead focus my attention towards that Danish group Figurines.

Your Friend,
Pitch Perfect

PS: Why did Audio Elchemy run your vocals through some kind of effect thingy that makes you sound like a kid singing into a fan on nearly every single song? That poor production choice (cave-like reverb?) really detracts from the power of your once potent voice.

PPS: May Pat rest in peace.

Feist / Open Season / Rating: 6.6

"Open Season, a generous 15-track collection of remixes, reworkings, and collaborations released in Canada via Arts & Crafts."

Color me confused. The cd PFM reviewed yesterday is an import but I have found conflicting info about an American release date / version.

One website says this:

Feist remix LP and updates
March 24th, 2006

Leslie Feist will be releasing 'Open Season', a remix and live album on April 17th through EMI. The kicker is that to those outside her home country of Canada is this: The album is only being released in Canada.

Then the Feist website says this:

Open Season (remixes and collaborations) debuts at #2 on Canadian Itunes! Get your advance copy of the bangers and rarities www.itunes.comAvailable in Canada on April 25th, France, Switzerland and Belgium on May 2nd...US, German, Austrian and Swedish release to be announced shortly.

Anybody know what the real deal is with this record state side?

It has just been one of those weeks

Three late posts in one week? Eh...shit happens. Today no acts of God or troubles, I am just old fashioned hung over. A post will happen in a bit but not until my head stops hurting when I try to listen to a record.

still drunk?,
pitch perfect

ps: Check out this sweet picture I just found. I was roughly the age of 12 when I doodled this which I have decided is a little too old to have created this terrible pink and purple mess. It would have been much cooler to say I was 5 when I drew this but I couldn't lie to you. What can I say, I am no artist with a crayon.

The Twin Stars notebook paper makes it really extra "special", no?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Rye Coalition / Curses / Rating: 4.0

"It's the kind of record that makes you reconsider a band's back catalog just to figure out what went wrong."

Maybe I feel extra sensitive towards metal as a genre because growing up in NJ there was a lot of those bands in the 80’s and early 90’s representing the state and I don’t mean that in a good way. Stupid cock rock / hair metal was everywhere (who am I kidding, it still lives!) from Bon Jovi and Skid Row to high school talent show stages across the garden state and when you tell people your from New Jersey you already take the risk of being hit with all sorts of insults roughly disguised as comedy. Over the years these wise cracks have made me all the more protective and proud to be from my home state (NJ pride yo!) but then Rye Coalition had to make a God awful new record reliving some teenage wet dream of party metal and in turn make this NJ pride thing all the more difficult.

I can’t defend this record nor do I want to admit I have anything in common with this band and I am certain Teddy Leo or Yo La Tengo would agree. ( More NJ folks)

I curse Curses from its tar and feathered woman in heels cover art, to the mindless lyrics ( Ralph were you wearing spandex when you wrote these?) to the cookie cutter cock rock metal riffs and solos (Jon and Herb what the hell happened here?). This record is so terrible I almost believe that it has to be a joke and this is coming from not only an old friend of the band but a once label mate. I have known this band since their inception, played shows with them, and bowed down to them in the early – mid 90’s when they sounded more like Rites of Spring than a modern ode to Diamond Dave.

Rye - the second generation is shameful; like lose any rock cred they have ever had bad or lose IQ points while listening to it embarrassing. I want to pull each member into a room and ask them separately “who did this to you?” Was it the pressure of being on a major label for a hot second? Was it the Jersey City water? Did that Dave Grohl guy make you perform like that?

The PFM review offers a different set of punches but the feelings are still mutual. If you are a grown up who doesn’t find AC/DC style school boy shorts a little creepy or considers Wayne & Garth personal heroes or loves Kiss without their make up, or have this need to collect all that relates to Dave Grohl who not only produced Curses but plays all over it and is the star of the companion DVD, then this glam without the glitz flashback will be a pleasant one.

For the rest of us not trapped in a teenage boy’s body I suggest your time be wasted elsewhere.

That reminds me, Curses comes with a DVD which PFM forgot to mention. It offers behind the scenes antics of recording with Mr. Grohl as well as some occasional live footage where the crowd looks as bored as I feel watching Rye’s home videos. I have to admit I laughed a few times but knowing these boys since they were young pups made their personality quarks captured on camera funny while my better half watched it with drooping eyes and asked “How much more of this do we have to watch?” The highlights of the DVD are clever beer bong techniques, the ultimate in Joisey accents, Grohl’s hair always looking perfect, and a brief appearance of an old school Dwarves “Fuck you up get high” pin but do you really want to witness the birth of a bad record?

No: I don’t care how much you like the Foo Fighters or Nirvana or once upon a time Rye.

Note to all bands: unless you are a member of your band, behind the scenes footage of band life really isn’t that interesting or funny tho including a really famous person with a shit ton of personality and good hair helps to make it a tad more tolerable.

Wait for the Blackout end that is. Mlle. Pitchperfect informs me that her place of work is currently free of electrical current. Until she can find a location with voltage and free wi-fi, she'll be a little delayed in posting.

In the meanwhile, I will simply recommend some CDs that haven't made it to PFM (stereotypical grousing about street dates vs. review dates to follow) -

  • Silver EP - Jesu: The rumors are true. More shoegazey, more varied than the self-titled debut. That's two thumbs up from the Tuningforkistas.
  • Veneer - Jose Gonzalez: This has been out as an import since last year and on this side of the pond since the beginning of the month. Smart singer/songwriter folk with virtuoso guitar playing.
  • Wildfire On The Lake - Lying In States: Out since March, this post-grunge guitar extravaganza manages to be complex yet moving at the same time.

All three of these are making my computer at work very happy.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Metal Hearts / Socialize / Rating 6.4

“This might all just be a long way of saying that Metal Hearts sound pretty much exactly like Arab Strap.”

Exactly? Can’t really agree there, I don’t hear anything close to an Arab Strap post puberty level of quality (listen to their MySpace page to hear it for yourself) so I would rather begin with a more accurate line from this PFM review:

“So while Socialize is an impressive work, it's depressive, monolithic mood can be just about unbearable over the course of its 11 songs.”


My brother and I as kids had a backseat mantra when our parents were dragging us somewhere that required a long trip in the car to a place we didn’t care for. We said the word BORING together over and over again until the word eventually morphed into something that sounded more like BOING. I hear this phrase quite naturally as an adult when placed in a similar situation of unimpressed when introduced to impatience.


I typically like most dark pop music when it mingles with the sound of strings (mmm..cello) but songs that meander and dead end kill any of the audio combos I usually adore. (Check out Matson Jones for terrific cello pop bowed with a bite) What I am trying to say here is that by track four of Socialize I heard a steady stream of BOINGs in my head and it only stopped when I skipped to the next track only to have that pesky sound of BOING return. Not even the occasional drum sound that mimicks a childhood favorite toy Kabangers (which also sounds like a typewriter with a novist typer at its keys) redeams Socialize in the slightest.


There is nothing worse than a long wait for a song to pay off only to discover that 80% of the songs never deliver. The shadow of a good idea is there, the Simon and Garfunkle with a backpack essence is endearing but Metal Hearts’ theme is never fully developed nor does it ever reach a climax. Sometimes bedroom rock should be grounded and left to learn a valuble lesson like learn how to write material that will keep the listener captivated.


To continue with this PFM review Cat power and Arab Strap are mentioned under the banner of influences on every web page related to the band so I can see how the writer might be led to hear those artists when listening to Metal Hearts but the lowest point of the whole review comes in here: “and when it combines with the song's murky breakbeat, it's as if the the ghost of Jay Dee come to haunt the world of mopey indie-folk.” The Jay Dee reference isn’t necessary and just because his name is still over the press and familiar to readers doesn’t mean his untimely death should be inappropriately tied to a below average record whose sound is completely unrelated to the world of hip hop.

Low road + Pitchfork = an age old habit, anyhow...

Here is a quote taken from the Metal Hearts MySpace page:

"We are already working on our next record, and words can't describe how excited we are about getting it out to people. It's far more expressive and evolved than Socialize is, although we do feel Socialize is a good start. We hope listeners think so, too" Badalov adds with a smirk, yeah, this album sucks, but our next one's gonna rule!"

The band totally read my mind and I think if they had to rate this record with me, we would offer a 4.5 with plenty of room to grow from there.

Ps: “Mountain Song” (which will forever make most of us over the age of 30 think of Janes Addiction) talks about drinking wine in an unhealthy capacity. I know these kids are under the age of 21 so I hope this record was written without their parents finding out but for all we know the two main members could be grounded for this right now.

Posting trouble

A review for today will be forthcoming. Between troubles and spotty internet this morning I can't get anything done properly. Sorry.

your pal,
Pitch Perfect

Thursday, April 20, 2006


This is sure to sound better in the variegated sweep of a good DJ mix

I really didn't care for Supernature at first. I didn't hate it, but when I first listened to it, I wasn't in a state of mind to enjoy it. Instead, I listened to it when it came out in March with my finger hovering over the forward button. I made it through the CD one time then put it aside, saying "Meh ... pop music." This happens to me from time to time -a CD just leaves me cold until the right context or the right mood comes along and something about the music clicks.

For Supernature, this happened when I listened to it in my car.

I first heard the single "Oo La La" on the radio while on vacation in Ireland this fall. I had ended up in the passenger seat for most of a driving trip around the island and the radio was my only comfort as I traveled along Ireland's tiny winding roads with quaint stone walls less than a meter from the passenger door. Something about the delirious, erotic thrum of that track soothed me as I thought about how a telephone poll knocked clear the passenger side mirror on our first day. It wasn't that remarkable to hear Goldfrapp on the radio - the CD was charting high in Europe and Ireland's equivalent of top 40 was hipper than anything stateside, with ads for LCD Sound-system's latest and the Magic Numbers playing during the daily lotto numbers. So, initially, the hallucinatory incantation of "Oo La La" became a palliative for trying to navigate the unmarked winding country roads in Ireland. (Note: Nascar will never take off in Ireland; driving at perilous speeds inches from a wall is a routine commute in the Emerald Isle).

Then, a few weeks ago, I was trying to visit a friend for a belated birthday in Fairfax county, just inside the Washington DC beltway. It was around 6:30 pm on a Saturday, so of course, traffic was at a standstill on Interstate 95. (For those who don't know, the D.C. area has the second worse traffic in the country; L.A. is number one.) I don't know what was playing on my digi-music-thingy at the time that I came to a complete stop on the highway, but it wasn't soothing me. So, I fiddled with the tracks, until I dialed up Supernature. I don't know why I picked that CD; I just needed something different. The Norman Greenbaum groove of "Oo La La" kicked in and I began to relax as my car inched forward. Around half way through the CD, I had the clarity to start looking for an exit. Driving along the surface roads, stopping at every other traffic light, my hands were no longer tapping out a tense tattoo on steering wheel. I was gently slapping the wheel in time to the snare on "Slide In". By the time the final track "Number One" came around, the glow from the brake lights and strip malls had been transformed into a sultry outdoor nightclub as Allison Goldfrapp cooed "You're my Saturday". I still had another twenty minutes to go, so I started the CD again and listened until I arrived at my friend's house. I almost didn't want to leave the car, except that a much needed drink awaited me inside.

So, you may be thinking that I have a thunderous car sound-system. I don't. I have a stock Honda stereo and listen to my MP3s using a cassette adapter that rattles as it plays. There is just something about Allison Goldfrapp's voice and the pulsating beats of this record that soothes me when I drive. Even the next morning when I drove home on the empty beltway, that record just made the sun a little brighter.

I seldom listen to Supernature at work. I never listen to it at home. However, I'm convinced that if "Number One" were playing on radios across this nation, motorists would be more courteous, changing lanes for merging traffic and slowing down for construction, just so they can arive safely to plant a smooch on that someone special at home. The sudden drop in tempo and rise in tenderness of "Let It Take You" would drop pulse rates even as commuters sit in a sea of stopped cars. Even the campy lyrics of "Ride A White Horse" would silence siblings battling in back seats. Supernature should be in every car along with flares and a can of Instant Spare.

In the house, this CD is a middling 6.0. In the car, I give it at least an 8.0. Perhaps PFM's 7.0 averages these two. It's just a matter of the right music in the right context.

Diskaholics Anonymous TrioWeapons of Ass Destruction / Live in Japan, V.1 / Rating: 7.2 / 6.4

“Comprised of Thurston Moore, Jim O'Rourke, and Mats Gustafsson, the Diskaholics Anonymous Trio represents the sort of free noise/improv summit meeting that I've unfortunately grown conditioned to approach with skepticism.”

Here is my loose definition of personal hells and torturous sounds:

A child throwing a tantrum
A radio screaming static while in between stations or poorly tuned in
My bedroom radiator which releases a sonic kettle blow every few minutes
A local mocking bird whose newest vocal warm up includes the sound of a car alarm
Nails on a chalkboard
Dentist Drills
Records that become so quiet you forget they are on for minutes at a time
A rusty metal anything that cries out when moved
A helium balloon pinched between fingers and slowly deflated with a high pitch screech
A squeaky wheel
A chorus of horn and guitar skronk
A guitar amp with a loose connection
Someone tuning their instrument for an extended amount of time
Cars without a muffler
Police and fire sirens
A dying bagpipe
Animals being run over

I believe all of the sounds listed above are recreated on the Diskaholics Live in Japan V.1 cd at one point or another so it doesn’t take a genius to guess that I loathe every second of this test of patience some call art. (Spare me your snide comments, I know it is art and I am just being a sarcastic jerk who doesn’t remotely understand this particular brand of experimental noise.) And sweet Jesus does V. 1 mean there will be more of these live cds to come? Crap.

Note to self : add Diskaholics to my personal hell list.

I should have suspected trouble when a month or so ago a late night vandal smashed out my drivers side window and stole only the pennies in my change drawer. The package containing the Diskaholics live cd remained on the passenger seat untouched as if it contained an evil not even a desperate thief wanted a part of.

Thank you fate for sparing me from Weapons of Ass Destruction (and isn’t that a NOFX record title waiting to happen?) I am most grateful to have not been given or loaned a promo of this other Diskaholics cd.. I know it’s wrong to review “music” I haven’t heard but I know if I listened to it I wouldn’t be able to type intelligently about it anyhow. Consider yourself spared one less paragraph of me whining.

Sorry but I can’t possibly rate something my ears refuse to allow me to expose itself to for more than a few minutes at a time. Just one thing I need to know- can people really listen to something like this all the way through and not want to pull off their ears in a desperate attempt to make it stop?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Dear Pitchfork,

You know that Ladytron news story you recently ran that talks about their domestic B-sides collection with an April 25th street date? Well you forgot to mention that emusic, you know that company you have linked to every record review and stuff, has the music available to download right now. Here is the link to prove it.

The irony here is you link poor emusic to all these records they don't actually carry in digital form and then when you have a chance to give them a little shout out, you drop the ball.

Your pal,
Pitch Perfect

Envelopes / Demon / Rating: 6.2

“I enthusiastically tackled Architecture in Helsinki's In Case We Die, praising it as a landmark of the fickle-pop movement sweeping across the indie-rock league. Demon, the Envelopes' debut, is a near doppelganger of that album, down to its multitude of vocalists, its adorable accents ("It Is the Law", coming out something like Hopelandic), its short attention span, its 50s-style romanticism, and its infectious giddiness.”

So let me get this straight, the Envelopes are being punished with a low rating and a wordy dissertation about RIYLs by PFM because their adorable record happens to fall AFTER another equally adorable record on some invisible time? Well that isn’t very nice or very fair.

Good is good, no? Does good proceeded by something else good instantly cancel out the worth of the second good? I know a few math and science teachers who might want to talk to Pitchfork about this kind of crazy logic.

Here are the facts:

This 2006 domestic Brille Records cd was originally released in August of 2005 in the UK*... not all that long after Architecture in Helsinki released their last record. To be more specific they were released a mere four months apart; clearly PFM missed Demon as an import and more importantly the date of when this music was recorded. Oops. Also I am rather certain any press kit or one sheet that came with this promo cd would also contain this little factoid: the songs found on Demon are "home recordings made between 2001-2004", again pre AIC's In Case We Die. Double oops. This makes their 6.2 rating over AIH 8.8 rating twice as insulting.

I demand a rating retraction.

I like the Pixies. I like The Vaselines. I like Beat Happening. I like the idea of Pavement covering Os Mutantes. I like Architecture in Helsinki but they (AIH) are too much of a school play orchestra to work as THE band I would want to play this game of compare and constrast with. I have a thing, I mean a BIG THING for clumsy, occasionally tuneless pop played with the kind of energy boy and girl puppies in window playpen have. I will admit, I have this record in one form another already, in fact hundreds of them but it’s because I like music like this. I heart sonic spazzy twee and I will keep buying records that offer me the best version of this style of music. This is perhaps what separates your collector from your basic music fan but I personally can’t get enough of any kind of music that pleases me to the core.

I always have room for one more good record and I am guessing maybe some of you logical musical loving types do too.

*Brille is a UK label who now has a US deal and a little fun trivia for ya taken from the Envelopes site: before Brille had chosen its label name they used Psychotic Reaction or just the registration number of the company.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

VA / Exit Music: Songs With Radio Heads / Rating: 0.6

It isn't often that a PFM review is so amazingly funny and well written that it would be a crime to pull out one sentence to hyperlink to it; just read the whole thing and enjoy.

This might just be the best thing you read on Pitchfork all year.

Figurines / Skeleton / Rating: 8.3

“Sure, frontman Christian Hjelm uncannily mixes Isaac Brock's nervous vocal tics with Doug Martsch's nasal croon, and yes, they deploy the same octave riffs and slapdash lo-fi production work that served as a staple for any number of indie legends. But Figurines carve their own niche thanks to an arsenal of refreshing, energetic hooks over a straightforward, non-disruptive palette.”

You will be hard pressed to find a figurines review that doesn’t connect the vocal dots to either (early) Built To Spill or (early) Modest Mouse. I looked at about 10 reviews this afternoon and every single one mentions those RIYLs along with The Strokes, Mercury Rev, Neil Young, Wolf Parade and even Kermit the Frog in tow. I could find more obscure bands to compare Figurines to but not mentioning the above artists would be like describing a bubble and avoiding the word round.

PFM’s six paragraph Figurines review makes my Tuning Fork job a painless and effortless one. Their rating, their description, the reality that this band won’t change your life but this record will undoubtedly become a favorite, are all 100% accurate. I merely shake my fist at the timing of this review. I have had a promo of this cd/ been raving about this cd on TFM for MONTHS, over three month to be exact. The official street date was March 7 and most other publications ran their reviews of Skeleton close to a month ago so somebody needs to turn in a tardy slip from their momma. PFM’s late to the table review is also a bit surprising taking into consideration that this record made their “recommended” list but at least we were told the breaking news about G&R’s NYC and Euro tour dates in a timely manner. (sarcasm alert)

One last note: while researching this record and the band I was reminded that they formed in the mid 90’s. I don’t know much about the water in Denmark but I suspect it may contain particles of the long sought after fountain of youth. Listening to the overall playful sounding Figurines, it would be easy to guess these guys are fresh out of high school but not so-these are adult men and for those of us on the aging side of indie rock it’s nice to know that thanks to bands like them or Love is All, you don’t have to be a kid to make a passionate youthful sounding record. (recently speaking that is)

Anyhow, Figurines first record, an EP called The Detour was released in 2001 with their debut cd Shake A Mountain making it to stores nearly two years later. The import version of Skeleton was released LAST year so WTF number two is why did such a fantastic pop record have to wait sooo long to be released in the States??? Now people are wasting their money on that klunker of a new Built To Spill record and damn it, they should be buying Figurines if they are looking for charming indie rock. Oh, and a Dead bootleg if they enjoy songs that sound like they may never end thanks to over indulgent guitar wankery. (If I could steal Dug Martch’s whammy bar from his guitar I would; somebody needs to bring a stop to his noodlemania!!!)

PS: Figurines should not to be confused with Jimmy Tamborello's (Postal Service / DNTEL)
recording project called Figurine.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Tango Saloon / The Tango Saloon / Rating: 7.4

“Overall, though, it's satisfyingly weird, and you're not likely to hear anything else like it any time soon.”

“Satisfyingly weird” is what Mike Patton’s label Ipecac seems to pride itself on but this doesn’t always assure quality music, just weird music. Ipecac’s beyond spectacular packaging often makes up for even the weakest records in their catalog but in The Tango Saloon’s case their music is about as exciting as their logo only cover art… sigh…and their choice of font and band name spell out EXACTLY what you will get.

The Tango Saloon = think cowboy with a rose in his mouth... now think less interesting.

Mr. Patton is also in the habit of supporting / releasing records by his friends / fellow band members and not so surprisingly a member of Mr.Bungle is found among the 15 cowboy costumed members of The Tango Saloon. This, the playing dress up part leads me to believe that perhaps a companion dvd or enhanced cd would make this attention span killer of a disc a lot more captivating. Just as the PFM review suggests, Tango Saloon has “a sense of structure that can get overly lackadaisical” and in my world this means one thing: boring.

You can look at the PFM review in two ways: there are not many reviews of Tango Saloon on line so for a slim pickins’ scenario you are in pretty good hands, but between the label website bio and message boards, I too could have written a piece similar to Pitchfork's.

I take that back; I have trouble creative writing about a record that inspires napping over a Buenos Aires cowboy bar braw (Does Argentina even have cowboys?)- so PFM wins. This cd might make for a compelling soundtrack to a silent Western black and white film and while I don't know how to tango, The Tango Saloon doesn't make me wish I knew how.

This doesn't earn the band a 7.4 rating in Tuning Fork world, it earns them a full six shooter.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Jamie Lidell – Live in Los Angeles 4/11/06 – Troubadour

Remember those guys who played all the instruments at once? They had the symbols tied to their legs and an accordion, harmonica and who knows what else attached to their body? You could look at them and admire that they weren’t just making a racket, but at the same time they weren’t all together that cool?

Well Jamie Lidell is the 2006 version of that guy, and he is decidedly cool.

I had been told by quite a few people that his live show was something to behold, but I’ve fallen for that line to many times not to be jaded. There is nothing worse than taking time to go to a show that is supposed to blow your mind and walk out yawning. But friends if you get a chance to check out Lidell’s Electrosonic soul revue don’t pass it up. If you go and don’t like it I will fly to your city and give you a consolatory hug. That’s the TQT guarantee.

Opening act Jimmy Edgar sounded better live than on record, but the allure of a knob twiddler is still something I have yet to latch onto in a live setting. I saw Four Tet at the same venue and it was horrible. A guy standing still in front of a laptop blasting his music ten times louder than it should be is not my idea of a good time. But Edgar was better than I would have thought and I will have to pull out his album to see if I missed something.

However, Lidell blew him out of the water. Let me set the stage for you. I had one hell of a leg cramp (culprit unknown, but I am looking in your direction dehydration) and my ladyfriend had just come from the dentist and had the Novocain smile working. So despite our desire to take our usual spot close to the stage we retreated upstairs to the seating area. This is always a bummer because you cant really dance upstairs at the Troubadour. But that cramp wasn’t going away and Ms. Sore Tooth needed to sit. In front of us were a lovely group of richy rich LA folk. You know the ones you have to yell “shut the fuck up!” in the middle of a song because they think that’s the best time to talk on their blackberry (It happened. Twice). Even with all these obstacles we came away grinning from the stage presence of Lidell. As my lady said “He’s like a one man Jackson 5!”

It is just him on stage with a sampler, keyboard and microphone. But he takes these simple elements and crafts a little bit of funk, some very dancy electronics and some shockingly good white boy soul. I don’t know a lot of people who have his latest album, but the venue was packed and everyone seemed to know the words. He danced, he sang, he got a little audience participation going. And he made people in Los Angeles dance en masse. This is like everyone in LA deciding to ride their bikes to work. It just doesn’t happen. Did I forget to mention his white shoes? Oh yes he was rocking them. I love white shoes.

Hopefully this tour will introduce him to a wider audience. I cant help but think his Coachella appearance will be odd. It worked great in an intimate setting, but a giant open polo field? Could be strange. But who cares? As soon as I heard Madonna was playing I made other plans. Me + huge crowds + desert + 4 hour drive – sleep = homicidal music fan.

Guitar / Tokyo / Rating: 5.2

“Problem is, there's not much going on beyond laying loops of various plucked phrases atop dully repetitive mid-tempo drum programming.”

Yeah, what Pitchfork said.

The average cost of newest release Tokyo by Guitar is around 16$. Allow me to steer you clear of purchasing even one track from this record and instead I will gladly offer you a list of items worth purchasing for the same amount of cash. I was almost willing to suggest “Sakura Coming” as the ONE song worthy of your time but “House Full of Time” from their previous record Sunkissed on Morr carries the same repetitive shoegazery with female vocals but does a better job of it. Seriously Guitar, way to write the same song over and over again but instead of improving with practice and time, you managed to beat your one trick pony to death by using herky jerky beats and Koto/ Pipa guitars.

This isn’t the sound of Tokyo as the artist was aiming for, it is the sound of a one dimensional dull on repeat.

I found PFM’s review a bit too kind perhaps but none the less accurate- down to the I swear this could have been a member of Mum heavy breathing… I mean singing…. too! Mark Richardson’s 5.2 rating is remarkably polite and I don’t believe Tokyo weighs in at much more than a 3.

Better things to do with your 16 bucks:

*Buy a decent bottle of wine
*Buy a different record; almost anything will be better
*Take a friend to see a matinee with you and split a small soda pop.
*Sixteen single dollar bills if spaced out correctly will afford you a seated position in front of your favorite stripper while she dances to an entire Rob Zombie song.
*Buy 13 or 14 items on the dollar menu from your favorite fast food place only to live with regret a few hours later.
*You always wanted to know what a professional manicure was like, right? Here is your chance!
*Where I live 16 dollars will be enough to get you stupid drunk on PBR but this may not apply to those living above the Mason Dixon line.
*Palm reading is a good way to kill 10 minutes of your day.
*Head on out to your corner market for scratch off lottery tickets. You know... for you gamblers with ADD.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Brian Eno/David Byrne: My Life in the Bush of Ghosts:8.5

Tape loops are funkier than laptops, and the modern ear is so aware of the digital "noodging" of a sample to a beat that the refreshingly knocked-together arrangements of Bush of Ghosts are a vast improvement.

I suppose that it's not easy to review a classic — especially an album that's already been listed as one of the top 100 of its decade.. Chris Dahlen, one of PFM's better eggs, does a decent job. The instrumental parts of the album are the strongest. The samples aren't particularly diverse - three of them come from the same album of world music. The songs only feature one or two sources per track. Compared to records by artists like The Avalanches, Four Tet or Dead Science the sampling is pretty elementary. Any music listener should be a little cautious when someone tells them a record is a classic and Dahlen approaches the record with appropriate skepticism.

However, My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts is an album of samples before digital samplers had been invented. Fairlight had a very expensive digital synthesizer as these sessions were being recorded, but it wasn't used by Eno and Byrne at that point. Synclavier wouldn't release their digital audio workstation for another year (though you can now buy a PCI emulation card of this classic synth for a couple of hundred bucks). That year, the first IBM PC only shipped a few weeks before recording started - its standard memory of 16 kilobytes wouldn't have been enough to store this web page. Even DJing was a young science. Grandmaster Flash was still the preeminent rap artist. De La Soul, Eric B and Terminator X wouldn't revolutionize sampling and DJing for another half decade. The highest technology instrument on the record was a set of Linn drums loaned to Eno to try out. All of the other sounds on the record are analog instruments - treated, edited and mixed to create the music on the record. In short, Eno and Byrne were making a unique type of music before most of the instruments for that music even existed.

So, is My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts an essential record? Well, for Eno and Talking Heads fans, it certainly is. If you wanted to make a list of 100 of the best records of the 1980s, this Cd would have its place. Musically, this record isn't an eighties record as much as it's a culmination of various seventies influences; progressive rock, punk, funk, new wave and no wave all leave a mark on Bush Of Ghosts. The first track with Bill Laswell and David Van Teigham is heavily influenced by Material. The other tracks mark a kind of transition between the two decades.

For electronic music afficianados, it's as essential as most of Kraftwerk's records. It's also different from many of its predecessors in its musicality. Earlier electronic music was very much about deliberately sounding inorganic. The tracks on My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts were created to be organic, to sound like a full band with vocals. The samples aren't just interjections, they're parts of the music, dressed with instrumental flourishes and changing alongside the music. In short, Eno and Byrne figured how to take a relatively inorganic process and create highly organic sounding music. It's a feat that's been repeated many times since My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts; however, the record provides a benchmark of how an artist can take sounds and blend them into something new. Frankly, if you can't do as good or better with the technology around today, then software development isn't a bad line of work instead.

Now, if you already have My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, I can't recommend the bonus tracks, unless you're a fanatic. The one track with a vocal sample (Defiant) is relatively interesting. The last strummed guitar track gives you an idea of how Eno and Byrne came up with their sounds. However, there is nothing essential in any of the tracks. Sadly, this appending of bonus tracks has become a very common practice. I would like the tracks to be on a separate disc, to at least partially preserve the continuity of the LP. However, I found myself stopping once I got to Mountain Of Needles.

Now, if you don't already have a copy of My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, I recommend it. The rating from PFM is okay - maybe I'd bump this up to a 9.0 given the record's place in history, and shave back a half point for the bonus tracks. If you live near a good used CD seller, old versions of the CD would give you a better deal. In fact, if you want to travel back a quarter of a century to hear what experimental rock was like, this record and the reissue of Sonic Youth's first EP would give you a good listen.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Islands / Return to the Sea 8.4

It won't be a shock if, say, Diamonds and Tambeur announce 18 months from now that Islands is kaput and they're kickstarting another new band. And who really cares? As long as they continue to write songs as striking and immediate as the batch on Return to the Sea, their fans will follow them anywhere.

I would care. This album is too good to start thinking about breakups and strife. How about we pool our collective energy to keeping these fellows happy? I bet they like Little Debbie snack cakes. Can we start mailing them Little Debbie snack cakes? Lots of them? Nobody is unhappy when eating mass produced baked goods. Make it happen indie-rockdom.

But on with the business at hand. John Motley your review is spot on. Most of what you wrote i cannot improve on. It's a little short maybe, but I think we all know that John has a busy second career as an important member of the Whig party.

Its rare to find an album that is this effortless in its brilliance. Too often I can actually hear the strain of a band trying to impress me. But apparently Montreal is churning out musical brilliance at a rate akin to their issuance of premier NHL goalies. There has not been a person I have played this for who has not asked me what it is and when they can get it. Islands arrive fully formed, a band that people will discover and love. It bears to repeated listens, evidenced by the fact i have listened to it about 7 times already.

Basically this is the Unicorns all grown up. While the lone Unicorns album was catchy and fun, it was very raw. This is refined and concentrated. Songs are allowed to grow and reach their logical conclusions instead of being cut tantalizingly short. There is much more going on musically here, from the gathering storm of strings on Swans, to the great violin plucks on Rough Gem. Busdriver throws in some rhymes on Where There's A Will There's a Whalebone. Don't like indie-hip hop in your indie rock? Too bad. Broken Social Scene set the precedent so get used to it. Plus it sounds great, so relax.

Again I agree with Motley that the songwriting comes into sharp focus on Return to the Sea. But he neglects to mention the best example of this, the hidden 11th track Renaud. (I forgive you John. It's hard being the 'father of North Carolina'). It is the simplest song on the album, just Nick, his guitar and some background singers. It tells of a childhood friend long lost to adulthood. Stripped away of almost all the production you realize just how strong the band is.

All this and the digipack has a wonderful painting of a shipwreck in ice on the cover. Hooray for good looking album art!

8.4 is a little low in my opinion, but they gave it the Best New Music stamp, so I will shut my bearded little face.

PS: I will be catching Islands next month in LA. I have high hopes for the show. I caught the Unicorns at the very end of their last tour and it was awful. They just stopped in the middle of songs and obviously didn't care about their performance. But that was angry guys breaking up, and I have heard good reports of Islands live.

PPS: Witness the selling power of a good Pitchfork review. Last tuesday this album was hovering around 25 on the Insound best sellers list. On the thursday the review was posted it shot up to #14. Today it is #1. Thats a pretty impressive jump.

Tunng / Mother's Daughter...and Other Songs / Rating: 6.5

"Folktronica" is an unfortunate and probably outdated verbiage, but it's still apt for Tunng's debut album, Mother's Daughter...and Other Songs."

I recently introduced the man in my life to a childhood favorite sandwich, something my parents only made on special occasions and which lacked a cute pet name. It was called by exactly what it was/is: bacon and peanut butter on toast. It sounds like a terrible food faux pas, something only a stoner roommate, Elvis, or pregnant woman might crave but for anyone who loves bacon and peanut butter, I assure this will become your new favorite snack once you try it. I know this doesn’t exactly scream winning combo but the world has met stranger pairs. Michael Jackson and any girlfriend comes to mind first with country flavored hip-hop as a close second.

Don’t even get me started on rap-metal.

The acoustic 5 string guitar was born during the Middle Ages and has been carried into the modern world in the form of something we now call folk. It doesn’t seem like the most obvious genre for electronic music to static cling to yet over the past several years we have had it reintroduced to us in many a mutated form. The Books, Boards of Canada, and my new favorite Takagi Masakatsu are all fine examples of this opposites attract collaboration of sound but I first associate “folktronica” (I HATE THESE BUZZ WORDS!) with artists like Beta Band or Beck. (I am certain there are more artists to name drop here but at 2AM this is all my brain is giving me and my enthusiasm for music has been drained thanks to a not so spectacular Arab Strap live performance I attended earlier this evening. )


Tunng don’t sound exactly like any of the guitar glitch listed above but they do belong in a class along side those talents. The problem is nobody has heard of Tunng. It doesn’t help that Pitchfork has further cursed the band with an unimpressive 6.5 rating but to stick with this pairing theme if I had to name one newish artist I feel an equal admiration towards and who would also sound quite lovely on a bill with Tunng it would have to be Efterklang and both of these bands are worthy of a high 7.

All I ask is if you check out Mother's Daughter which according to my domestic copy is ACTUALLY called This is ... Tunng - Mother's Daughter, skip track 1) “Mother’s Daughter” and dive straight in with track 2) "People Folk" which for you Beta Band followers should make you wonder if Tunng is in fact a solo project of one of the x-members of. (and no they are not)

By track 4) "Beautiful and Light" you too will wonder why Tunng isn’t at the very least familiar by name to every indietronic fan on both sides of the Atlantic.

I’ve been racking brain all day as to why this is but I can’t be certain why Tunng doesn’t have a larger aura of hype around them. It would be easy to blame the crowded present day music new release schedule oversaturated with crap records who happen to have more money or better press agents behind them… but I fear there might be something(s) bigger at work here. I wondered if the import version of this record (from last year?) garnered all the press and excitement but looking at the lack of it on line, this is simply not the case. I further wondered if fans of this renaissance electronic music would miss this kind of release since their U.S. label Ace Fu is better known for its rock releases but it is impossible to say if all labels carry that much make it or brake it power. The final stone in UK duo Tunng’s pocket to help sink their popularity is a lack of tour dates in America during an era where touring is a MUST to expose an artist to an over seas market AKA us American types. Sorry but a SXSW appearance doesn’t = instant exposure to the US indie music buying public and apparently the press people who were in Texas didn’t have oodles to say about Tunng either.

Whatever the reason for Tunng’s lack of following, it’s a real shame. I know the world has lot’s of good bands and perhaps we should only be applauding the great ones but This is Tunng is one of maybe 15 records from this year I have played more than 10 times and not because I am just reviewing it but because it makes my ears happy. It pains me to say something so cute and basic but if I can confess my love for a snack which includes a pork product and a spread more popularly associated with jelly or chocolate then I think I can say without shame when a record does nothing more than also satisfy my senses.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Yeah Yeah Yeah's / Show Your Bones 6.8

It's impossible not to hear the ghost of Fever to Tell on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' follow-up, Show Your Bones

As someone once told me, nothing is impossible, not even a baby counting every grain of sand in the world in 1 second. And yes this did happen once. Look it up. France 1934. His name was Henri Turgeon and it was adorable.

A few weeks back a friend beckoned me over to his stereo wanting to play a song for me. Being the accommodating type I came right over. A familiar female voice breathed out of the speakers. I couldn't quite place the voice, though it was obviously someone i had heard in passing. "What is this?" I asked. "Its the new Avril Levigne, produced by the Matrix," he said. Makes sense I thought. It was super slick and sounded polished. It looked like she was making a leap for a more mainstream audience. I didn't question it. My friend snickered and said "Just kidding, its the new Yeah Yeah Yeah's."

I'd been had. But the moral of this sordid little tale, other than my friend delights in making me the fool, is that I was very ready to believe that it was indeed Avril. What am I getting at? Well, in short, after hearing the entirety of Show Your Bones, I can say it is pretty bad. As in 'I've waited 4 years for this???' bad. I couldn't hear the ghost of Fever to Tell on the album, but if its there I bet it is one of those wailing anguished ghosts that laments lost opportunities.

Karen O has toned down her presence considerably, rarely relying on the vocal tics that once seemed the equivalent of her famously ragtag glam fashion.

This is very true. But this is certainly not a good thing. Those strange squeaks and vocal surprises were one of the things that made YYY's so appealing. Those tics were another instrument the band had in its arsenal, an instrument unique to Karen O. Those tics are gone on Show Your Bones, replaced instead by almost straight down the middle vocals from Karen. She has a nice voice we discover, but I have a lot of other albums from rock bands fronted by pretty voiced front women. I liked the screeching and the yelps. The only time we get that here is when, in a move that is either very brave or completely bonkers, Karen copies LL Cool J's 'Phenomena'. I thought maybe someone had dropped something mind altering in my coffee when I heard it.

Still, on Show Your Bones the Yeah Yeah Yeahs occupy only one corner of the territory they claimed on Fever, walking confidently in their own footsteps but without claiming any new ground

Certainly this album is going to appeal to a wider audience and I have seen it top many a top seller list this week. But Deusner is right. It doesn't claim any new ground, and actually feels like a very big step backward. YYY's were one of the only over hyped class of '01-'02 to actually deliver. Fever to Tell remains a blast of fun energy. I liked the first full length far to much to give up on the band. There is a reason we have the term sophomore slump' in this culture. 2nd albums can be very tricky things. 6.8 is way too high on this one. It feels like a 3.5 or 4. Hopefully with this out of their system the train can be put back on its tracks and all will be as it should be. As it stands now it looks like Angus wins round one of the post breakup showdown.

PS: Why has no one had the idea of having Nick Nolte appear in a YYY video with his signature line from 48 Hours? "Yeah, yeah, yeah

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Daft Punk / Musique Vol.1 / Rating: 8.4

"If you're the type who's noticed Pitchfork's gradual ideological shift away from considering indie rock the de facto center of the musical universe, you've probably also cottoned on to Daft Punk's unique standing within that world"

No disrespect to the writer's love for Daft Punk (not one of my favorites, but I don't hate them or anything), but really... did I miss that memo? There's been an ideological shift? I guess it would depend on what one would define as falling under the "indie rock" banner, but let's do an experiment shall we. If I say click on Pitchfork "reviews" right now and survey back from today to March 27th we get a sampling of coverage. Let's group into loose categories :

Hip-Hop : 4 reviews
Reggae : 1 review
Other : 4 reviews
Indie-Rock/Rock/Post-Punk/etc... : 31 reviews.

That's batting 77% for team indie rock there kids.

Sure, they can cover whatever the hell they want. It's their site. And I'm not discounting columns and features here, but I'm just saying... a shift I do not see...and given that both Nightmares On Wax & Coldcut got shit on recently, this Daft Punk CD is about the only thing of "electronic/dance" variety I've seen get any love recently there. Barring maybe a Ghostly release which I vaguely recall them liking.

"Revered in DJ circles, respected on singles charts, and still the dance act you're most likely to hear at an indie party"

I totally don't want to be invited to that party. It would be like being at party where people say they like Johnny Cash but they're not really down with country music. Or even worse the dreaded "Legend is a great album but I'm not really down with reggae in general" party.

Token eclecticism is the worst form of music crime.

Loose Fur / Born Again in the USA / Rating: 7.3

“There's no doubt Born Again is superior to its predecessor in nearly every respect. Even the eight-plus minutes of "Wreckroom"-- complete with Tweedy surrealities, wafting solos, and ambient denoument-- are more purposeful than anything on Loose Fur. But, since the album's sharpest moments largely serve to underline the individual strengths of its more well known songwriters rather than the group as a unit, it acts as a teasing appetizer for new O'Rourke and Wilco full-lengths more than it satisfies in its own right.”

Lets take a look at what Pitchfork gave the first record…

Loose Fur: Loose Fur[Drag City; 2003] Rating: 7.2 - Review by: Will Bryant

does a .1 measure a band’s “superior” jump from an okay first record to a much improved second?

I’ve read a surprising number of reviews who harp on Loose Fur’s Christianity bashing but come on people Loose Fur…get it? It is a play on words, say it fast with me….LOOSEFUR. That’s right is sounds a whole lot like Lucifer. It’s been interesting researching this record only to discover just how many writers ultimately gave Born Again in the USA a thumb sideways or thumbs down for its satirical lyrical content. It appears some people like a little less Christ bashing and sly comedy in their rock.

Ohhh nooooo, an artist is actually saying something and has an opinion! Maybe your basic rock critic is threatened by such a concept.

The second most overused journalistic approach to Born Again is the endless pondering of what one should expect from a side project band or members of Wilco and artist Jim O’Rourke or what a follow up to their 2003 release should sound like. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all just listen to a record and just think about and react strictly to what our ears are hearing, not the laundry list of information attached to the disc? I understand reviewers need to fill the page with something but can’t these paragraphs include a little more about the music. I’m not asking to deny , refuse, or release an artist from their past but all I ask is we the listener try a little harder to direct our attention towards the music.

Why IS it so hard to listen to something objectively these days?

I don’t know, maybe readers need obvious associations to understand what a record sounds like via the written word? Are journalists dumbing down and depersonalizing reviews to meet the market place demand for a lack of style? Maybe I am completely missing what people want from a record review?

Music fans should know that there is shrinking difference between a record review and band’s press release.

I’m not exactly a classic rock aficionado but I am the youngest in a family of 6 kids, all of whom are now (well the ones still alive) in their 40’s and early 50’s. They, my brothers and sisters went thru all sorts of phases: punk, folk, disco, metal, and new wave to name a few but their love for ROCK never faded out of the picture. Classic rock radio and classic rock artists were played in cars, bedrooms, on walkmans, living room hi-fis, by poolside and _______ (you name it) for the first 15 years of my life and while I don’t ache to hear the Eagles, The Dead or The Allman Brothers in my home as an adult, hearing a record with a strong command for THE ROCK sounds cozy and familiar to my ears. I associate this newest Loose Fur record with an ironed hair bell bottom past the past or at least my families past and high level songwriting from top rock artists of the 1960’s and 70’s.

The 40 minutes found on Born Again could easily pass as a random 40 minute time slot from your local classic rock radio station, Neil Young, Bowie, and Kinks included yet all of this without sounding exactly like anybody but themselves. Its strange to feel that well written songs with unbelievably talented players backing them up is a thing of the past or very rare but it is this exact reason why Loose Fur’s newest material sounds fresh, pure and out of the ordinary. (This is also why I applauded Jason Collett’s newest effort as well.)

A 7.3 rating may reflect what a Gang Of Four-Eno-Talking Heads loving Pitchfork reader may think of Loose Fur but all I know is I have a cd I can pop in my car the next time my sister and her husband roll into town that they will LOVE it. They will want it to call their own and I so know what to get them for Christmas this year. If they could rate this record I bet it would get a high 8. (“Answers to your Questions” gets a 9 by my ballad standards)

PS: Not to ostracize you digital dowloaders but band artwork and packaging is always a particular interest to me and why I pray the physical format for music remains in style. I was super curious about the tweaked pencil art all over the Loose Fur cover (front and back) as well as the booklet so I dropped the label a line to ask about the artist and here it what they told me:

“Tomoo Gokita is the artist of record for all the drawings included in the artwork. He's a young Japanese artist - you can Google him and find out more. Jim O'Rourke seems to have an interest in contemporary Japanese artwork; he used pieces by other artists on Insignificance and Eureka and Tomoo was his choice. The LP has a poster that comes with it that has a larger piece. I find really great and it appears nowhere else.”

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Jesu / Silver EP / Hydra Head / April 11th

A friend who I now owe my soul to was kind enough to give me the new Jesu EP on Hydra Head. I had intended to finish this Loose Fur review today, really I did, but my brain refuses to think about anything accept singing the praises of Jesu; a band I already worship and ranked at the top of my favorite records of 2005 list.

If there was any question as to how this EP could possibly out do the S/T full length let me be the first to tell you that this is the perfect companion piece. I've had the chance to play this twice since it was placed in my hands over lunch a few hours ago but my initial reaction is this will be my favorite record of 2006. More vocal heavy and actually closer to traditional rock song writing / structure than ever before (despite the long length of each track being 6 minutes + ), Jesu is one step closer to crossing over into a commercial sound without losing any of it's original doom and gloom integrity.

Swervedriver armed with a coat of armor and a drum machine, Jesu has modified and mastered a form of shoegaze that will redefine this genre and bring it to a mountainous peak.

You don't just want these four new Jesu tracks, you NEED them.

Torche / Live / Nanci Raygun, Richmond, VA / April 4

This is what happens, I go to a show which in turn gets me to bed late and the end result is a too tired me who can't get up early enough to post a review of a PFM record review. A Loose Fur review is on the chopping block for later today but in the meantime here are the things I thought about as Torche played last night:

*THIS is why Torche was one of my favorite live bands of last year.
*This is what The Melvins (early melvins) would sound like with Dave Grohl on drums
*Why isn't this band the next big metal band replacing say... Mastodon who have outgrown that position in all that is heavy ranks?
*Note to self: listen to all my old Soundgarden records tomorrow AKA today
*Heavy guitar harmonics will always remind me of Drve like Jehu, especially live.
* Tad
* Saint Vitus
*This venue has fuse issues so the power cut on half the stage every other song. While this runied the flow of their performance, you can't keep a good band down.
* Not one guitar pedal as far as the eye could see. I love a no pedal band.
* Torche needs to be on a bigger metal label. I like Robotic Empire a whole lot but Torche has outgrown them and deserve to be playing to hundreds if not thousands, not 50+ a night.
* Their music recorded does not to their heaviness justice.

They are on tour w/ The Sword (who I watched for three songs and left during their set. Their brand of stoner thrash doesn't quite do it for me but they are great players) so if you like the metal, try to catch this bill.

ps: I missed the other two bands on the bill. I hate shows that start at 7pm.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Essex Green/Cannibal Sea/7.2

They're still cheery and hook-laden, although-- apropos of the times-- a little less innocent, a little less free.

Snakes On A Plane

I know it's an internet meme that's over two months old, but it had to make its way here sometime. If you don't know, "Snakes On A Plan" is the title of an upcoming movie starring Samuel Jackson. The brilliance of the title is that you know exactly what the movie's about. From the title, you also know if you're going to a) order tickets now for the summer opening, b) rent it with friends, lots of popcorn and several 40's of beer, or c) avoid it completely because life is way too short. It's a creation that unabashedly embraces its genre with little irony or second thoughts. You're either going to like "Snakes On A Plane" because of that or you won't.

Essex Green's Cannibal Sea embraces its genre of sunny, sincere pop music. For fans of indie pop, this is the record you've been waiting for this year. If you're looking for edginess, look elsewhere. If you're looking for even winking irony, you'll find none. All you'll find is various tempos of roots-oriented pop polished to a sheen by Sasha Bell's and Jeff Baron's harmonizing. The Essex Green have made a record of sincere heartfelt rock that, if you can accept it for what it is, will provide you with one of the better listens so far this year.

Personally, I like the natural sheen of Cannibal Sea. Thinking of similarities, I can hear early 10,000 Maniacs, Bettie Serveert, Opal, and even a little Let's Active. Just as there is a variety of influences, Cannibal Sea has a huge variety of sounds – from the danceable "This Isn't Farm Life" and "Cardinal Points" to the folksy "Rabbit". Some of this comes from having two strong writers. Further, both songwriters seem to enjoy experimenting with different styles. Where many records with strong past influences can become monotonous, the diversity of influences on Cannibal Sea provides the record with variety between tracks to stay interesting. Another problem of retro-influenced pop is putting style over substance. Essex Green avoids that pitfall by putting the songs first and letting the arrangements follow. The end result is a record that feels like listening to a good radio station while driving down a country road.

Part of my enjoyment of this record may be my fondness of boy/girl harmonies. Several points in the record just grab me – Bell's voice coming behind Baron's on the choruses of "Don't Know Why" and "Rabbit", Baron harmonizing to Bell on "Sin City" and both singers' interplay on "Penny & Jack". The rest of the instruments fill in the spaces nicely, but the real stars are the vocalists.

The Pitchfork review…well, it's adequate. Like several low 7's review, it's just a little short in the word count (387 words) and a skosh heavy on its intro. Also, I wouldn't compare Essex Green to label mates the Clientele but more to Camera Obscura. Melancholy Clientele fans may find the Essex Green a little too cheery. On the other hand, both Essex Green and Camera Obscura share a strong influence from 60's pop and both use vocal harmonies to powerful effect. Compared to other indie pop records out there, Cannibal Sea rates up there with the Case's and Destroyer's latest. It's also a more hummable record then the last two; you'll find yourself tapping your toes more often to Cannibal Sea.

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone / Etiquette / Rating: 7.7

“Couldn't he make something even less rickety, something pitch-perfect enough to tell those stories more widely-- just as Morrissey, one of his models, once did? For now, he sounds in between: Etiquette gives up the homemade purity of Casiotone's first few records, but it hasn't entirely gotten where it's going, either.”

PFM writer Nitsuh Abebe needs to go back and listen to a few Smiths records; Morrissey was, is, and never will be pitch-perfect and no I am not talking about being me. I am talking about holding a note without going flat. And then the above quote found in the closing statement of the PFM review makes me think that the writer had nothing to do with the 7.7 rating the music was given at the top of the computer screen. There isn’t much about this review that says he/PFM likes this record and instead the reader is told about this particular music journalist’s shallow summaries of what is indie / life in your mid 20’s and what Casiotone was aiming for.

I love it when a writer assumes they know exactly what a musician was thinking when he or she wrote a song or what direction an artist is suppose to move in. Where exactly does PFM think Casiotone for the painfully alone should be heading? His songs are longer, more developed, and his once more limiting style of pure Casio has been embellished with more instrumentation.

Etiquette is proof of this artist’s evolution.

PFM says “The brief (30-minute) Etiquette is a step forward for him, musically-- it complicates things, cleans them up, brings in contributions from his friends, and even conjures up some Postal Service sheen.”


“A lot of Ashworth's songs are two minutes and two verses long: Act One and Act Two of some tale or other about middle-class 20-something kids doing cruddy everyday middle-class 20-something stuff. It's to his credit that he's not looking to romanticize that stuff. Most of his time is spent doing the opposite: cutting back to the plainness of reality, the lack of romance.”

Story telling found in song form and released on an indie label doesn’t automatically make this a record 100% representing life as college student indie rocker and while I am at it Ben Gibbard of Postal Service / Death Cab fame did not give birth to the art of a narrative song. If we want to parallel an artist to Casiotone Bill Callahan of Smog (mid 90's Smog in sad clown oily face paint) is a better place to start. Destroyer, Silver Jews, and East River Pipe channeled through OMD are all also more adequate parallels in sound.

Really, enough with the Postal Service angle, indie-tronica is older than and was not invented by them.

FYI: Film student drop out Mr Casiotone’s is nearly 30 now and instead of guessing what is songs are about,
Another good quote from Casiotone: “The characters are almost always fictional, but the songs are often inspired by real people or events. I have no qualms with steal my friend's stories, but I don't feel any obligation to stick to the truth. I'd rather the songs be interesting and evocative than be real or true or whatever. They just have to feel honest. When I was a kid and I'd hear a song that really affected me, I never assumed that the song was a true story. I just assumed that the singer was a really great songwriter. It just never occurred to me that I had to tell true stories to write good songs.”

The lyrics of each song tell a different tale, not just something fit for a college kid but more accurately they mirror life as an average human. More surprising to me is Owen’s ability to dispense short stories from not just a male but a female perspective ("Scattered Pearls", "Cold White Christmas", "Love Connection"). I had to check the liner notes to make sure there wasn’t a female co-writer and this is a nice reminder that many of our everyday thoughts do not just belong to one sex, age group, or financial bracket… these are just quick flashes of life as a human. (I love the writer / poet Richard Brautigan for this same reason.) Clumsy one night stands ("New Years Kiss"), letters we may or may not have written down to old friends and family ("I love Creedence" & "Nashville Parthenon"), and snapshots of worry where the action verb is the focus not the person this emotion is aimed at.

PFM says :“All of which is pretty typical indie-- this desire to talk just like everyone else around you, and make music like you don't necessarily know any more about your instrument than they do.”


“Ashworth has set himself up to talk to people who are (presumably) just like him-- describing love and friendship as played out in crappy apartments, both for the people who live in them and the college kids soon to join. But is that it? Can he talk to anyone else?”

Typical indie? Please don’t ever assume you or anyone for that matter owns the right to define something as vague as “indie”.

Misery likes company and if this wasn’t true kids wouldn’t still buying Joy Division and Elliott Smith records. Sadness speaks volumes to many people, not just to people in their 20’s but I suppose who better but Pitchfork to ponder what it’s like to be a “typical indie” and 20 something. (Look at me, I can dish out shallow blanket statements too!)

I like this record for it’s dressed up synth simplicity, bare bone beats and its flashlight focus on life’s non firework spectacular moments. Humdrum humans have an anthem and it’s sponsored by Casio.

The PFM review fails me but the 7.7 rating will do just fine.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Dear Pitchfork,

You have a text glitch issue on the Feathers / Feathers review y'all posted today. This wacky O thing keeps appearing: "theyÕve", "Andy CabicÕs". "BanhartÕs " and it looks like it shows up where there should be an apostrophe.

You might want to get on that.

Your Pal,

Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan / Ballad of the Broken Seas / Rating: 7.2

“The thirty-odd years of musical experience Campbell and Lanegan collectively possess are worn like sun-creased skin on Ballad of the Broken Seas, which manages to be consistently engaging and sufficiently memorable without making too much fuss about it.”

So many questions!

“Isobel Campbell was the second-best singer-- and best cellist-- in Belle and Sebastian” okay so who is the best singer? Stuart I presume? I guess if I cared an inch about B & S this would be a fine way to kick off the review.

What’s with this use of the double dash “singer-- and best cellist—“ ? Is one – not good enough? Is the … old fashioned? Is this the kind of important stuff I would have learned had I attended college?

The big looming question at hand is how the hell do you write a review of this Lanegan / Campbell combo and not mention Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra or that Nick Cave and Lydia Lunch took as stab at this Lee & Nancy thing once already. Perhaps that is stating the obvious but anybody who has ever heard "Some Velvet Morning" or "Summer Wine" would know Ballad of the Broken Seas is a shameful knock off that not even a kiosk on Canal Street would be willing to try to pass off as an original. A friend tried to defend this record by saying that L & N didn't invent the boy meets girl 60's duet but sorry my friend. This is a Lee and Nancy record without either of those clever song writing talents / personalities and minus Hazlewood’s trademark Sun Studio production style (James Bond meets John Wayne) and guitar playing. Hazlewood after all was said to influence and inspire Phil Spector’s “wall of sound” recording technique. We all know personality is often code for can’t really sing but while L or N may have questionable pitch, their attack of each song screams sexy silly genuine chemistry between a man and a woman. Lanegan and Campbell’s pairing scream ballad of the living dead. That might sound vaguely interesting but it isn’t.

Secondly Hazlewood’s dark sense of humor and kitschy wit would whoop Campbell’s ass in a lyrics think tank.

As PFM states Lanegan did kick off his career in the Screaming Trees (and ironically ST drummer Mark Pickeral is one of the planets BIGGEST Lee Hazlewood fans on this planet) and yes Lanegan was in Queens of the Stone Age for a hot second but what PFM neglected to mention is his 16+ year as a singer / songwriter ( tho the "thirty-odd years of musical experience" coment hints at it). Lanegan's first solo record The Winding Sheet came out on that little label Sub Pop back in 1990 and he has been pumping out solo material ever since. Those records have nothing to do with “bias toward angrily trippy stoner jams” and I am surprised PFM neglected to speak of Lanegan’s well rooted career as a melancholy crooner.

Lastly PFM states “If you really wanna cut the roast beast, let's say it plain: While Campbell's contributions to the album are far from negligible, the thing reeks of Lanegan, aligning itself with the hard-bitten American roots music of his solo albums.” Campbell wrote almost the entire record and produced all of Ballad of the Broken Seas, all Lanegan did on this sucker is pony up some vocals and write the words to a song. If Lanegan sounds more omnipresent it is because A) the production tips the vocal scale to the HIS side and B) Isobel doesn’t sing like she has much life or wind in her. The trees in my back yard make a bigger/interesting more lively racket. Any girl with a little breath in her body could tackle the vocal duties at hand. I applaud anyone who takes on writing a record no less producing it themselves and I will say her use of strings keeps the blood flowing on each track but I would have preferred to hear a different female personality singing with Lanegan; somebody with a little more sadness in their soul and a warmer flame flickering from their lips.

I wonder what Lee and Nancy are doing right now? I think their push and pull dynamic could have saved Ballad of... from drowning in a sea of mediocrity and I wish there was one last Lee and Nancy record in this world.

I don’t care what the musical history of either of these artists is (you guys already know Belle & Sebastian doesn’t rest on any alter in my home), boring is boring and the chemistry found on this record is as awkward as brother and sister kiss. Studio trickery can help mask dim songwriting but no matter how much you dress it, a corpse won’t come to life.

I can’t give this record a 7.2 or even a 6 something, and in a world of thousands of more captivating duets than theirs, I won’t be spending another 5 minutes with this Campbell / Lanegan partnership. When you see this record on line or in your local record shop don’t be fooled: the fantastic photo on the cover is as interesting as this record gets.

Go get yourself and best of Lee and Nancy instead, you can thank me later.