May 31, 2007

Today's Hotness: Answering Machine, Frightened Rabbit, Jesus Lizard

The Answering Machine>> Turns out we're back already. Check us out.

>> You know, Pitchfork is right: this tune "Silent Hotels" from UK-based indie popsters The Answering Machine is awesome. Great melodies, delicious guitar tone, snappy production. Pure gold, particularly when the call and response lyrics "And I drink till I'm sick / you're sick!" kick in. The track is the A side of a single that will be released June 18 on High Voltage. We've re-posted Pitchfork's stream of the tune in one of those Imeem doo-hickeys below. Pfork ventures that this track sounds akin to the music of Los Campesinos, who we wrote about previously here, but we'd argue that Mancunian trio The Answering Machine has a tougher sound more reminiscent of our favorite Birmingham, UK-based noise pop trio. Anyway, if you live in the UK make certain to hit the link to High Voltage, where you will see the band is playing out darn near every single night in June. There are also three more tracks at the band's MySpace dojo, including the B side to the "Silent Hotels" single. Here's a question: does this band really have no drummer? A better question: where can we buy this single digitally when it is released?

>> There was all manner of interesting industry news in the last couple days. Perhaps the trad music industry types feel the need to make a splash before their fiscal second quarter ends and takes another chunk of its business model down the toilet with it. Anyway, most interesting of all was news that the new DRM-free files sold through Apple's unimaginately monikered ITunes Plus have your name hidden in the metadata, meaning The Man can totally take you to task if you decided to put the files into the P2P hive. There's coverage of that little bit of happiness here, here and here. To Apple's credit, they also announced a deal by which you will be able to access YouTube content such as this The Answering Machine video for "Silent Hotels" via the Apple TV non-set-top home-networking and content-holding lightbox apparatus. The newest Apple TV box is outfitted with a 160GB hard drive that allegedly holds some 200 hours of video or 36,000 songs or 25,000 photos. This new model costs $400, but we don't know why we would ever buy one.

>>The courtship is over and music-oriented social networking service Last.FM has finally been snapped up, as we first speculated here in February. The successful suitor was CBS Corp., who paid $280 million for the UK-based company. This is significantly less than the $450M figure we mentioned here a while back. Last.FM has 15 million users, meaning CBS Corp. paid a little less than $20 per user. We like Last.FM, although we don't hardly take advantage of all of its features, which apparently includes calendaring and show listings and the like in addition to your run-of-the-mill "scrobbling." Here's our Last.FM profile, and here is a link to a Reuters piece about the deal.

>> The other CBS says here that Glaswegian indie pop savants Frightened Rabbit were considering deals with Domino and Fat Cat. Interesting.

>> These candles remind us of the cover of The Sundays' excellent sophomore set Blind.

>> And a final local note: we've been far too busy to crack open our promo copy yet (perhaps Sunday), but for folks less lazy than us, get out and see a screening of the new Jesus Lizard DVD "The Jesus Lizard -- Live" next week at The Middle East (Downstairs) in Central Square, Cambridge. The screening starts at 7PM and is followed by a set from by legendary punkers Gang Green. Do you think they'll put chairs down there? We'll definitely just watch it at home. Look for a review by the end of June.

May 30, 2007

From The Admin Cubicle: Service Interruption

Aloha. Sorry for the whole boat-load of nothing lately. We've been travelling weekends and working nights on a few back-to-back work commitments. As such we're left with nothing in the hopper. We're hopeful that your :: clicky clicky :: service will be restored to its almost daily frequency next week. In the meantime, why don't you go listen to that Arcade Fire set at The 'Nac? -- The Management.

May 28, 2007

Today's Hotness: A-Sides, The Sea And Cake, Pop Narcotic

>> This is probably a first: VBS visits Philadelphia's Fishtown section to interview the indie rock up-and-comers The A-Sides and capture them performing slices of hot new numbers. The quintet recently disclosed it had signed to Vagrant. It has had a teaser cut from its long awaited sophomore set Silver Storms floating around since last year, so it is nice the record finally found a home. Anybody with any inside baseball on the deal the band had fall through before the Vagrant deal should shoot us an email; we like stuff like that. Anyway, the new A-Sides material sounds like it has taken cues from the stellar closer "Here or There" from the band's excellent debut Hello, Hello (released on Prison Jazz in 2005). Haven't heard "Cinematic" from Silver Storms yet? Here's a link to the MP3; the record is out Aug. 28.

The A-Sides -- "Cinematic" -- Silver Storms
[right click and save as]

>> News to us: In addition to releasing its very sharp seventh studio record this month, veteran indie quartet The Sea And Cake is selling a digital-only EP entitled Anybody. It is only available via ITunes and includes the three tracks "All In Throws" (which sounds like a bit of a throwback to the One Bedroom record), "Breathless" and "Mis." The Sea And Cake released its most recent full-length Everybody May 8; we reviewed it here. Buy Anybody from ITunes here.

>> Interesting feature here in the Boston Globe about the founder of '90s indie label Pop Narcotic, a Boston-based label that issued a number of important releases including the first Helium single and the excellent double 10" Why Do You Think They Call It Pop? Nowadays Pop Narcotic's Bill Peregoy runs a yoga studio, which recently launched a new class that eschews the more stereotypical yoga class soundtrack music in favor of indie rock. If this happened in our neighborhood we'd definitely check it out -- since we already listen to music all day we might as well try yoga while doing some listening.

>> A well-written if run-of-the-mill overview of the current state of the traditional music industry in the New York Times here. Nicely assimilates a lot of news pegs (releases from Paul McCartney and that 50 Cent fellow, mergers and acquisitions amongst major labels and music publishers). Not a crucial read, but if this is the sort of thing you don't follow day-to-day, it links a lot of occurrences together to give a decent picture of the state of things. Likewise, you should probably read this interview of HypeMachine's Anthony Volodkin over at Wired. It might not make a lot of sense if you don't know what HypeMachine is, but if you do it is pretty interesting. The most fascinating thing to us is that Mr. Volodkin is so darn young. We wish we were half as clever when we were his age... in 1995.

>> The Ian Curtis biopic "Control" won best European film at the Cannes Film Festival. NME has the details. Pitchfork recently posted the trailer, which got us a little excited and a little disappointed at the same time. Watch it at YouTube here.

May 25, 2007

That Was The Show That Was: The Mendoza Line | Lizard Lounge

The Mendoza Line, Lizard Lounge, Cambridge, MAIt may be a coincidence that -- only weeks after disclosing that his marriage to and musical partnership with a longtime bandmate had folded -- The Mendoza Line's Tim Bracy decided to open Thursday night's show with "Catch A Collapsing Star." Or it may not.

Historically, The Mendoza Line has touted as many as three singer-songwriters. Smooth-voiced and melodically gifted founding member Peter Hoffman left the fold a couple albums back after contributing his share of great tunes. Singer-songwriter Shannon McArdle joined the band several years after it formed and it was recently disclosed that she and Mr. Bracy have split, a dramatic departure that leaves the future of this pile of rock 'n' roll things called The Mendoza Line in question.

The metaphor of a collapsing star seems apt for pretty much the whole of the existence of the now defiantly traditional band, as tales of intra-band tumult, departures and serial lineup changes have proved to be a constant product of the band just existing. Miraculously, the rag-tag bunch of indie rockers has created a formidable and ample catalog over the last decade. That catalog will expand by one or two more titles in August, depending on how you count, when Bracy & Co. issue the mini-album 30 Year Low and an attendant collection of outtakes and rarities. Not that The Mendoza Line needs a reason, but it's unclear to us why all of a sudden it scheduled four dates to tease a release three months off. But we'll take it, especially given how surprisingly vital the performance was.

While we've seen an uneven Mendoza Line show or two over the years, last night's set was rock solid, as Bracy hollered and drawled his way through nine feverish rockers with the assistance of his able supporting players. In the wake of the news of McArdle's exit from the band, we wondered who would actually be in The Mendoza Line when the act hit town last night. Presumably Mr. Bracy would show, and he obliged. With him were recognizable, amiable and able guitarists Clint Newman and John Troutman, a fellow named Adam Gold on drums and a young woman on keys named Beth Nelson. And of course there was a bassist -- we'll get to him in a moment.

Prior to the show it might have seemed counterintuitive, given the flux of things Mendoza Line, to predict that the set would be the best Mendoza Line show of the handful we've seen. And yet Bracy and his henchpersons make for a no-nonsense and hale live unit. It is just like the Mendoza Line to snatch triumph from the jaws of farce (or vice versa) and turn in a vivid and tight show just when you thought you were going to get a scratchy train wreck on kinescope.

The set opened with a smoldering take on the aforementioned "Catch A Collapsing Star," and then chugged through many highlights of the last half-decade or so of Bracy's tunes. It was a bit jarring to hear Bracy sing parts previously sung by Ms. McArdle, particularly on the new track "Aspect of An Old Maid," which features traded lines of tightly packed lyrics about a relationship that is taking on water, fast. Mr. Newman's articulate guitar playing proved a dynamic foil to Bracy's chord-crushing acoustic guitar strumming, and Mr. Troutman's slippery licks at the pedal steel infused tunes with substantial color. This was particularly the case with the new (we think) number "Now/Never/Later," during which the slow tremolo of Troutman's pedal steel caused the whole of the understated and beautiful song to throb in the basement nightclub [EDIT: Eagle-eared Mendoza Line fan The Good Doctor tells us this track is actually from the sole Slow Dazzle record, The View From The Floor. Our bad]. We were particularly gratified that the band played "Road To Insolvency," a favorite of ours.

And now an extended aside: A big surprise for us came as we approached the band's van behind the club before the set to discover that our old friend Clark Wallace was playing bass on this current slate of dates. This blew our mind, and it remains somewhat blown today. Imagine going out to see one of your favorite bands and discovering that your old friend is playing with the band that night. Wild, right. Mr. Wallace, a multi-instrumentalist and fine songwriter in his own right, acquitted himself very nicely while filling the shoes of longtime Mendoza Line bassist (and mustachioed crowd favorite) Paul Deppler.

The four-date Mendoza Line tour closes out this evening in Providence, Rhode Island. 30 Year Low and its companion piece Final Remarks Of The Legendary Malcontent will be released Aug. 21. We look forward to more live shows then. We shot some pictures last night, and you can have a look at them at this link. And below are MP3s of two cuts the band played last night (alas, there was no "Name Names" or "Rat's Alley"... oh well).

The Mendoza Line -- "Catch A Collapsing Star" -- Full Of Light And Full Of Fire
The Mendoza Line -- "Aspect Of An Old Maid (Alt. Version)" -- 30 Year Low
[right click and save as]

The Mendoza Line: InterWeb | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

Here is the set list as it was to have been performed. We noticed that "Settle Down, Zelda" was moved up in the order, and Clark told us that one of the tracks -- we're not certain which -- was dropped from the set on the fly.

Catch A Collapsing Star
Fellow Travelers
Aspect Of An Old Maid
Love On Parole
I Lost My Taste
It's A Long Line (But It Moves Quickly)
Settle Down, Zelda
Road To Insolvency
Now Or Never Or Later

May 23, 2007

Review: Karl Hendricks Rock Band | The World Says

Karl Hendricks Rock Band -- The World SaysKarl Hendricks' latest collection is remarkable for its looseness. Although Mr. Hendricks has always displayed a sense of humor on the records of his eponymous trio, relaxed is not the first adjective that likely comes to mind for those of us who came of age listening to his tales of those broken by love. However, there has been a perceptible change in attitude on Hendricks' recordings since the late '90s. With a new combo christened The Karl Hendricks Rock Band and with the release of The World Says, our hero's outlook still seems resigned but also almost content -- and downright sunny in comparison to feel-bad numbers from his back catalog such as "Your Damned Impertinence."

And so, miraculously, Hendricks has transformed from a guy making visceral break-up songs into a reliable purveyor of summery (albeit still occasionally melancholy) rock jams. Along the way he shed most if not all of the anger that featured in his mid-'90s catalog, but none of his musical ability to land an emotional punch. What is left on The World Says -- Hendricks' eleventh full-length if you count a few cassettes we're not familiar with -- is fortified with unobfuscated charm and world-weary humor ("I'm Not Crying Karl," "The Last Uncompromising Hardcore Band").

As opposed to the tightly composed downer-ballads and sonic assaults of Hendricks' bygone days, The World Says showcases loose, crunching rockers packing plenty of big guitars. Behold the twisting, fuzzy and Television-like riffs in the denoument of the aforementioned "I'm Not Crying Karl." The rocker "Irony Fails Me" recalls "Nogales By Tuesday" from the excellent 1996 set For A While, It Was Funny (a record that memorably opens with the lyric "Are you naked and high on drugs?"). And even these days, after almost two decades recording indie rock records, the stuff of relationships remains on Hendricks' mind, as evidenced by the yearning album highlight "Banned For Life."

The tone of the new record, recorded in the band's practice space, is noticeably influenced by the lyrical playing of new second guitarist Alexei Plotnicov, to whom Hendricks ascribes adjectives including "Allman-esque" -- surprisingly, in a number of places that characterization is very on point. Plotnicov adds significant weight and riffage to "Mediocre Advice," a number that wouldn't sound out of place on one of those mid-'90s, Dinosaur Jr. records. Of course, a Karl Hendricks record would not be a Karl Hendricks record without an epic-length track or two, such as the aforementioned "Your Damned Impertinence" from 1995's A Gesture of Kindness or the amazing "The Summer Of Warm Beer" from 2003's The Jerks Win Again [which we reviewed here for Junkmedia]. On The World Says, Hendricks obliges with the mind-numbingly good, Neil Young and Crazy Horse-tinged rockathon "California In October."

According to Hendricks, there are no current plans to tour to support the release of The World Says. The album was issued April 30 on Surplus Anxiety, and you can buy it right here from Midheaven Mailorder. As a bit of inducement, here are a couple streams.

Karl Hendricks Rock Band: InterWeb | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

May 22, 2007

Today's Hotness: Mendoza Line, A-Sides, Spoon, Fields

The Mendoza Line's Tim Bracy>> The biggest surprise of the day was news that indie rock journeypersons The Mendoza Line are playing several shows this week; we've posted all four of the dates below. Needless to say we'll be seeing the show. But given the recent tumult within the band [which we noted here], we're not sure who we'll be seeing besides guitarist and singer Tim Bracy. We are excited to see a set of all Bracy compositions -- his songs have always been our favorites of those penned by three songwriters (although Peter Hoffman's "Baby, I Know What You're Thinking" is also a favorite). What's left of the Mendoza Line in the wake of Bracy's split with singer-songwriter Shannon McArdle will release Aug. 21 the mini-album 30 Year Low along with a companion disc The Final Remarks Of The Legendary Malcontent. In all there's 26 tracks of new tunes, covers and alternative takes. We're excited to hear it. Here are those tour dates:

05.22 -- Philadelphia PA -- World Cafe Live
05.23 -- Hoboken NJ -- Maxwell's
05.24 -- Boston MA -- Lizard Lounge
05.25 -- Providence RI -- AS220

>> Well, they hinted about it early in the day here, and then Philebrity broke the news here at the end of the day. All of which means that the A-Sides have finally disclosed that they have signed to Vagrant, which we first posted here in January after seeing the news at HerJazz. Anyway, the band has several shows booked in the near future, and its long-awaited sophomore set Silver Storms will be released Aug. 28.

06.20 –- Dark Horse Tavern -- State College, PA
06.22 –- Schuba’s Tavern -- Chicago, IL
06.23 –- Continental Block Party -- Chicago, IL
07.20 –- Xponential Music Festival -- Camden, NJ

>> That piano riff in the recently available-ized and awesome Spoon tune "The Ghost Of You Lingers" really reminds us of that Billy Joel hit "Pressure." Just sayin'. So obviously the Spoon record leaked -- so why can't we pre-order it? We'd buy this record five times -- it is our favorite Spoon record of them all. There's something about the skeletal tunes made bombastic with rich Motown-ish production that makes every song a victory. In all the glorious melodicism we even hear shades of E.L.O., who we've been talking about much too much lately. And the tune "The Underdog" sounds a bit like Thin Lizzy, no?

>> Notable Western Mass-based indie trio The Mitchells are on tour. We caught their show at the end of March and reviewed it here, and we reviewed their latest record Slow Gears here. Definitely worth checking out.

05.22 -- The Cake Shop -- New York, NY
05.23 -- The Brighton Bar -- Long Branch, NJ
05.24 -- The Reservoir -- Carrboro, North Carolina
05.26 -- Valentines -- Albany, NY
05.27 -- Great Scott -- Allston, MA
06.01 -- The Elevens -- Northampton, MA
06.29 -- Paper City Brewery -- Holyoke, MA

>> There's something about the animated figures in Fields new animated video for the revamped version of "Song For The Fields" that makes us think of the animated dood in the videos for Judas Priest's "Locked In" and "Turbo Lover." Check 'em out.

>> Our new favorite podcast? Keep Hope Inside. We like how the host explains where towns are situated in the UK when referring to them, because our knowledge of the geography over there is virtually non-existent. Here's the Keep Hope Inside blog where there's information to get all set up with the podcast.

May 20, 2007

That Was The Show That Was: E.R. | TT The Bear's 5.17.2007

E.R. Set List May 17 2007As the hurriedly scribbled notes (well, arrows, exclamation points and one star) we appended to the set list at left attest, we were pretty jazzed by the E.R. And The New Jerseys set during last week's Midriff Records showcase at TT's. One of the reasons we were so won over was that the performance surpassed our expectations. We had seen E.R. only six weeks earlier, and thought they played a strong set [read our review here]. And yet Thursday's performance was remarkably better; it honestly gave us pause as we left the club and made us wonder why some bands have nights that are good, and some that are sublime.

Certainly the sound at TT's is superior to the more ad hoc sound system over at PA's Lounge. But that's only part of the story. The quartet's energy level was high, and while E.R.'s supporting players The New Jerseys (a/k/a The Spanish Armada) are typically somewhat reserved, the three delivered particularly fervent performances themselves. Drummer Dan Parlin systematically brutalized his drum kit, rarely looking up from the, ahem, beatings he administered to its various components; bassist Bill Scales was tapped into a serious Entwhistle vibe -- maybe its just the beard? -- and knocked out melodic bass parts with counter-melodies we don't recall hearing on the band's recent debut This Conspiracy Against Us; guitarist Greg Lyons effortlessly coaxed spot-on feedback, slicing leads and gripping backing vocals.

The biggest surprise of the night was E.R.'s encore. What is noted neutrally at left as simply "Ministry" was actually a Ministry cover, namely the band's popular industrial screamer "Stigmata." Needless to say, this was insane. Kehoe man-handled the track's merciless beat, with its tell-tale stuttering rhythm giving away what was about to happen for those of us who weathered a de rigeur industrial phase at the turn of the '90s. And Mr. Rodriguez's usual bassy howl didn't need much embellishment to push it into Al Jourgensen's range.

Despite that surprise, based on the star (and of course the exclamation points) we jotted on the set list, you can see we thought the tune "Why I Fear The Ocean" was the short set's emotional apex (we expect the title on the set list "hydro" is short for hydrophobia). On This Conspiracy Against Us the track is a study in texture and production techniques. Stripped of the swirling guitar tracks, damaged angel backing vocals and violins, the track is a barn burner when performed live.

E.R.'s This Conspiracy Against Us was issued Feb. 27 on Midriff; we reviewed it here. Here's the video for Ministry's "Stigmata," posted over at YouTube. And since we've sort of opened the door on Ministry news with this item, we should note that the storied industrial act will release in July a new set entitled Rio Grande Dub, which we think is remixes of the band's 2006 set Rio Grande Blood. Anyway, here are some E.R. tracks:

E.R. -- "Stillborn In New Jersey" -- This Conspiracy Against Us
E.R. -- "You Get What You Want" -- This Conspiracy Against Us
[right click and save as]
[buy This Conspiracy Against Us from Midriff here]

May 17, 2007

Nota Bene: E.R.

We just got back from seeing E.R. totally destroy at T.T. The Bear's Place. Well, actually, we just got back from walking our dog. But before that we witnessed one of those shows where the band is totally on, and it is a good night, and it makes their previous other "good nights" look merely adequate by comparison. We're sorry we had to duck out of the show early before headliners The Beatings came on. We'll see them some day. More about E.R.'s set tomorrow.

May 16, 2007

Various Good Reasons To Write About Johnny Foreigner Yet Again

Johnny Foreigner[UPDATED] If we lived in the UK we would have seen earlier tonight (likely in person, because the band had scads of guest passes) criminally underknown Birmingham-based noise pop heavyweights Johnny Foreigner performing for the Channel 4 teevee cameras at London's Carling Academy Islington. The appearance was part of the band's bid for a slot at this summer's V Festival. At this point, because of the time change, the TV appearance has already transpired, but we're not seeing anything on the YouTubes yet [there was just a MySpace bulletin from the band, which surely must never sleep at night, as it is basically the middle of the night in the UK right now. Anyway, word is their performance doesn't actually air until June 20. Oh well]. For now we wait. Anyway, it did actually take us burning all of our Johnny Foreigner tracks to a CD and playing them incessantly in the car (as recommended in a sidelong way by the band in a MySpace bulletin last month) to unlock the secrets of the band's most recent tracks (which we first raved about here).

The obvious charms are, as always, the manic, holler-along verses and choruses and disheveled, melodic slam of the tunes. But after a bunch of listens the tricky stuff announces itself. "Our Bipolar Friends" opens with bassist Kelly's intro invoking the stealth of a ninja before stumbling into a hot rock song. A little twist jumped out at us as we sat in Mother's Day traffic -- the tune has an asymmetrical bridge. It is comprised of two four-beat chunks sandwiched by a five-beat chunk and a three-beat chunk. Even cooler, perhaps, is the breakdown in "Suicide Pact Yeh." At about 1:00 in singer and guitarist Alexei goes a capella and the drums get all squashy, as if the engineer closed down all the mics on the drum kit save for a distant room mic. In a broom closet. Down the hall. It is a very cool effect. Anyway, we've raved about the tracks before, but we didn't post to them then. Tonight, we're posting them. And a note for those in the U.K. -- on May 21 Laundrette Recording Co. will issue Johnny Foreigner's second release, a split single with Sunset Cinema Club (details here at the excellent Index 7 site and also here). You can already stream the typically exuberant track at JoFo's MySpace dojo here.

Johnny Foreigner -- "Our Bipolar Friends" -- MySpace download
Johnny Foreigner -- "Suicide Pact Yeh" -- MySpace download

Johnny Foreigner: InterWeb | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

May 15, 2007

That Which Is Good: Adam Franklin's "Seize The Day" [MP3]

Adam FranklinSwervedriver was one of the those bands that we learned about picking up Villanova University's college radio station while in high school in the early '90s, along with RIDE and Drop Nineteens and a little act called Nirvana among others. We never dropped the money to get the Swervedriver records because our hombre WPRS did. But we know the big tracks and can recognize the band when it pops up on college radio, as it still does now and again even these days. So, while not a student of Swervedriver or the more contemporary goings-on of former band fronter Adam Franklin (despite coverage -- 1, 2 -- of Mr. Franklin's recent work over at The 'Nac), we can say without reservation that the lead-off track from his forthcoming set is a hot one. We've linked to an MP3 of "Seize The Day" below, which opens Bolts Of Melody, which is slated for release June 26. Bolts Of Melody is Franklin's seventh post-Swervedriver release since the band broke up in 1999 and the first album issued under his own name. If you like what you hear you can get several more downloads at Franklin's InterNet Home Page right here [click "downloads"].

Adam Franklin -- "Seize The Day" -- Bolts Of Melody
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Adam Franklin: InterWeb | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

May 14, 2007

Today's Hotness: Up Up Down Down, The Mendoza Line, Ben Gibbard

>> The most awkwardly/awesomely named band in indie rock is about release a second full-length, and if the preview tracks at MySpace are any indication, the set is going to be superlative. Jersey-based post-emo superheroes Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start are taking pre-orders for the forthcoming set Worst Band Name Ever at a web site of the same name right here. New track "The Red Loop" in particular is hair-standing-up-on-the-back-of-your-neck good, a serene yearner that pairs pounding toms, acoustic guitar and murmured vocals to create a track that reminds us of the best American Football tunes, if not the best UUDDLRLRBAS tunes. Posted atop this item is the Gap ad-ish video for the upbeat but stilted popper "I'll Thank You Later," which you can also stream at the band's MySpace wigwam. The band expects the new CDs back from the pressing plant in the first week of June and will ship out pre-orders immediately thereafter. Folks who pre-order will also receive a copy of the band's simply stunning Girls Names EP, which has never been commercially released. In addition, Worst Band Name Ever is an enhanced CD that offers access to bonus material when you put it in a CD-ROM drive. Bonus material includes guitar tabs for the 10 cuts, and 18-song mixtape of the band's favorite indie acts, and the video for "I'll Thank You Later" in Hi-Res widescreen. Incidentally, Girls Names was one of our favorite records of 2006; you can read our other picks right here. Below we've posted a hot jam from the band's first full length recorded in late 2001 and 2002; the set is titled And Nothing Is #1 and it is out of print (but available at EMusic). You can check out the band's whole discography here, which is long on some very darn good EPs.

UUDDLRLRBAS -- "By Surprise" -- And Nothing Is #1
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>> And so we've finally listened to the new Mendoza Line cut. It's dramatic, kind of show-tuney, has a nice loose bounce and features typically great lyrics presumably from Tim Bracy. The cut is called "Aspect Of An old Maid," and it's an alternate take. The version that will appear on the band's (if you can call it a band anymore, considering the tumult described in the band's bio at the Glurp site we just found after reading the comments to the Chromewaves post we noted the other day) forthcoming set 30 Year Low, a double album which will be released on Glurp in August, features vocals from Okkervil River's Will Sheff. The second disc carries its own title, the equally bitter-sounding Final Remarks Of The Legendary Malcontent. The second disc features covers of cuts by Cole Porter, Dylan and Springsteen as well as live tracks (two actually from the Mendoza Line side project Slow Dazzle) and other stuff. We can't wait to hear the whole thing, although we find it takes a bit more effort for us to love the Mendoza Line's more countrified stuff, which makes up a large portion of its catalog since about 2000 or so. Our favorite Mendoza Line record is still the first one we received via The Good Doctor, the eclectic and adventurous We're All In This Alone. Here's that new track:

The Mendoza Line -- "Aspect Of An Old Maid (Alt. Take)" -- outtake from 30 Year Low
[right click and save as]

>> Touch And Go will reissue two The For Carnation EPs as a single disc July 10. The band's first two Matador EPs Marshmallows (which was released in 1996 and features the excellent cuts "On The Swing" and "Winter Lair") and Fight Songs (released the prior year) will be combined into Promised Works. We'd say there are more details here, but really all there is is the album art. Still, we've always felt Marshmallows was a crucial EP (as was Stereolab's The Noise Of Carpet, which was released about the same time and which we recorded onto the same cassette tape way back when -- along with Versus' awesome Deep Red EP, no less), so get your hands on it if you haven't already.

>> The 'Nac has Death Cab For Cutie helmer Ben Gibbard's recent solo performance at the Somerville Theater posted. The set looks really solid, and if we can stop listening to UUDDLRLRBAS we'll stream it via The 'Nac Hype Machine feed this evening. Read the whole Almanac post right here.

May 13, 2007

Sleeping In The Aviary And The Perfect "Pop Song" [MP3s]

Sleeping In The Aviary -- Oh, This Old Thing?When you title a song "Pop Song" you'd best know what you are doing. Fortunately, we can think of three examples where bands surpass the expectations set by being cheeky. Certainly R.E.M. succeeded swimmingly with "Pop Song '89," a tune far less generic than its tongue-in-cheek name evokes. And Tullycraft's "Pop Songs Your New Boyfriend's Too Stupid To Know About" takes R.E.M.'s meta-queries on interpersonal relations and fashions them into twee means for defeating a romantic rival. Even so, while the cut is long on cleverness, it doesn't rock. This is not a problem with Sleeping In The Aviary's "Pop Song." The 83-second blast of verses, choruses and yeahs is second for second the best power-pop jam of 2007 to date.

The four-year-old trio based out of Madison, Wisconsin has brevity on the brain, as its recently released Oh, This Old Thing? clocks in at a lean 20 minutes. A second winner from the set is "Another Girl," an MP3 of which we've posted below along with "Pop Song." Sleeping In The Aviary just completed a tour in support of the record, which included a local date at the Abbey Lounge in Cambridge a couple weeks back we missed because we had to work late. Those with a yen to see the band make the rock sounds in person have a few opportunities later in the spring and summer. We've posted the few currently confirmed dates below. Oh, This Old Thing? was released Feb. 6 on Science Of Sound. We're also posting a link to an album stream that we recommend.

Sleeping In the Aviary -- "Pop Song" -- Oh, This Old Thing?
Sleeping In The Aviary -- "Another Girl" -- Oh, ThiS Old Thing?
[right click and save as; full album stream here]
[buy Oh, This Old Thing? from Science Of Sound here]

Sleeping In The Aviary: InterWeb | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

06.07 -- Rancho Relaxo -- Toronto, ON
06.29 -- King Club -- Madison, WI
07.14 -- Mad Planet -- Milwaukee, WI

May 12, 2007

That Was The Show That Was: Fields | Blonde Redhead

Fields -- Paradise Rock Club May 9 2007The story goes that in the early '80s fans turned their backs on superlative Birmingham, England-based pop band Electric Light Orchestra after feeling betrayed because much of the E.L.O.'s live show was produced by pre-recorded tapes. Or at least we think that's how it goes. Fast forward a quarter century or so. We recently read somewhere that indie rock stalwarts Blonde Redhead were using lots of backing tracks on their current tour. When we saw the band headlining a bill over English upstarts Fields (coincidentally also hailing in part from Birmingham) Wednesday night we felt it was only necessary to see three songs of what was too close to Blonde Redhead karaoke before looking for the door. We do enjoy the band's latest set 23, but we didn't feel like seeing the music performed as it appeared the trio intended to was going to inspire us much. And, of course, "LOST" was about to come on...

Fortunately for us, it was Fields that we were primarily interested in. The band formed only last year, were the subject of an allegedly heated bidding war among certain labels, and ultimately signed to Warner. This was the quintet's first North American tour, and to hear the band tell it (and play it), their performances in New York and Boston were plagued by sound problems. We can certainly attest to the problems Wednesday at Boston's Paradise Rock Club. More problematic than Þórunn Antonía's keyboard's rising and falling through the mix in the first few songs was the fact that lead guitarist Jamie Putnam's amplifier flat-out died. Eventually charismatic fronter Nick Peill requested a DI box, and by the middle of Fields' too-short set the band had rebounded, but it was hard not to feel like the band had missed an opportunity to win some new fans.

From our preferred Paradise perch in the balcony we observed an audience standing still as the band struggled to hit a groove. Finally, once Mr. Putnam's sound issues were addressed, there was discernible movement among the potential converts. As Fields began a woman asked us who the opening act was. This was a bit surprising to us, not because we expected there to be a lot of Fields fans in Boston, but because we expected there might be *some*. After all, the show was sold out, and, well, we just find it hard to believe that Blonde Redhead is selling out the Paradise on a Wednesday. Sure, their catalog is impressive. But we don't think many of the fans at the show that night were familiar with highlights of the band's catalog such as "Jetstar" or the incredible 1995 album La Mia Vita Violenta. Anyway, kudos to the trio, because clearly the club was packed because of them.

Time was Blonde Redhead rocked like rock was going out of style. We saw the band two or three times when they were supporting La Mia Vita Violenta and the shows were spine-tingling, with twins Simone and Amedeo Pace and bassist Maki Takahashi (who has long since left the band) laying down hypnotic grooves and jagged guitar lines while singer as guitarist Kazu Makino dropped jaws with electrifying vocal performances. We felt no tingle Wednesday, although the rest of the audience gazed on enrapt.

Anyway, back to Fields. The (surprisingly diminutive, save for Mr. Putnam) band tried to open strong with its two biggest numbers. "If You Fail, We All Fail" from the new records impressively sequed into the older cut "Brittlesticks," but the band's sound issues took much of the sonic wind from its figurative sails initially. However, once the problems were sorted the band caught fire, leading up to a paint-peeling version of "Song For The Fields." Perhaps the band rocked so hard because they felt they had to overcome earlier setbacks, but we'll take it. After streaming Fields' debut full length Everything Last Winter (stream below), and after watching the band's video for "If You Fail, We All Fail," we became concerned that the band had lost a lot of the darkness and grit that was present on their excellent 7 From The Village EP (reviewed here) in favor of sonic gloss and sharp dress. Our fears were put to rest as the band stormed to the conclusion of its program. Fields has a week's worth of dates remaining on its visit to the continent, and we've posted the balance of them at the bottom of this item. In the meantime, check out an MP3 of "If You Fail..." and a full stream of the band's debut below. We took a handful of very bad photos of Fields' performance -- check them out here.

Fields -- "If You Fail, We All Fail" -- Everything Last Winter
[right click and save as; stream selections from the record at Rhapsody here]

Fields: InterWeb | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr
Blonde Redhead: Interweb | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

05.12 -- Club Soda -- Montreal, Quebec
05.14 -- Drake Underground -- Toronto, Ontario
05.15 -- Lager House -- Detroit, Michigan
05.16 -- Empty Bottle -- Chicago, Illinois
05.18 -- Union Hall -- Brooklyn, New York
05.19 -- Mercury Lounge -- New York City, New York

May 11, 2007

Today's Hotness: Mendoza Line, Smashing Pumpkins, Built To Spill

The Mendoza Line>> And we're back. We're so far behind that we're not sure where to begin. Let's just set 'em up and knock 'em down shall we? In addition to this round-up, keep your eyes peeled in the coming days for track reviews for The Mendoza Line (in the meantime, check out the mother lode of information about the tumultuous state of the band -- yikes! -- in the comments to Frank's Chromewaves post today) and Sleeping In The Aviary as well as our show review of the Fields/Blonde Redhead gig Wednesday night.

>> NME reports here that Smashing Pumpkins 3.0 (or is it 4.0? There was someone before Auf Der Mar but after D'Arcy, wasn't there? The '90s all start to blend together after a while) will include bassist Ginger Reyes and guitarist Jeff Schroeder. We don't know either of them by name, but Schroeder plays with Lassie Foundation, who we've heard good things about from our guy at Rhapsody. Anyway, NME cites reports in the Chicago Trib and MTV News while also reporting that nothing is confirmed by anybody. Smashing Pumpkins will release the (attempted comeback) record Zeitgeist July 7. And if it is anywhere near as good as Gish we'll eat one of our many hats.

>> Pantsfork reports here that three Built To Spill records will get reissued on vinyl in limited editions of 2,000. Unfortunately, none of these records is the band's high water mark and sophomore set There's Nothing Wrong With Love. Instead, Built To Spill's major label releases Perfect From Now On, Keep It Like A Secret and You In Reverse get the nod. The trio will be released by Warner Brothers as double LPs. The band will play at Boston's Avalon nightclub, assuming that the club isn't shut down for the renovation and remodeling of the property described in this Boston Globe article.

>> Quick ones: Ride's not reforming; our senior year we had Sun Ra Arkestra and Cub; Qui, the trio newly expanded to include David Yow, actually signed to Ipecac; the Operation Ivy reissue we've mentioned here and here previously is delayed again, this time until an unspecified date in the fall; the forthcoming Photon Band release has also been delayed [scroll down to comments], unfortunately for an indefinite period of time; Last.FM is adding videos to its music and social networking service; a preview of the forthcoming Dinosaur Jr. DVD and clips of J Mascis playing live at VPRO in Holland.

May 8, 2007

Today's Hotness: Hockey Night, The Cure, Mission Of Burma

Hockey Night -- Live>> Late word here this afternoon from More Cowbell is that Minneapolis-based indie rockers Hockey Night have broken up. Citing a post at Daytrotter, the blog reports that two members, guitar players Paul Sprangers and Scott Wells will continue working together on a new project that has already been signed to an imprint operated by those DFA Records/LCD Sound System fellows. There's more information at the link above. Hopefully, you've already heard Hockey Night's irresistable rocker "For Guys Eyes Only;" if not you can stream it over at the erstwhile band's MySpace hut here. The band also recorded a Daytrotter session including the song that you can check out right here.

>> We find it inconceivable that some may not read Boing Boing daily, nay, hourly, but in case you don't, or in case you didn't read today, the venerable web outlet posted here links to vintage videos of punk legends, including Boston-based luminaries, performing live. The quality of the clips we viewed is excellent. Definitely check out this clip of The Cure performing "Secrets" (as a quartet) at The Underground in 1980; Mission Of Burma performs "Peking Spring" at The Space in 1979 here. The Burma clip was included at least in part in the recent Burma documentary "Not A Photograph" (which we reviewed here in December). Anyway, click around, there's also a bunch of other videos not filmed in Boston by bands including Buzzcocks, Siouxsie And The Banshees, The Clash and The Specials. [UPDATE: we heard from proprietor JC and it turns out that Buzzcocks clip was filmed in Boston, at the Bradford Hotel in 1980. La Peste opened the show and JC directed the shoot himself.]

>> Why don't we just turn this into a TV party tonight? Freakscene here today pointed to two vintage Dinosaur Jr. clips recorded in 1988 at Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ, "back before the 'jr' was tacked on," as the poster quips. Here's a link to "Kracked," and here's a link to "Does It Float?" The sound quality is great and Murph has tons of hair. So wild.

>> Some programming notes: we'll be at the Fields/Blonde Redhead show tomorrow, and then Thursday we see the documentary "Zidane," which is soundtracked by Scottish post-rock dynamos Mogwai. We'll be back early in the weekend with a review of the Fields/Blonde Redhead joint -- since we pleaded with them to come to Boston in our review of their 7 From The Village EP, we feel a bit duty bound to show up. And you can stream all of Fields' forthcoming record Everything Last Winter here -- we're hoping hearing its track performed live will get us more excited about the record than we are since streaming it yesterday ourselves. Incidentally, we did see Ted Leo And The Pharmacists last Friday, but we took the show off from a journalism perspective. We hit the show with KoomDogg, however, and he briefly runs down the wildly entertaining proceedings in this blog post.

May 7, 2007

Today's Hotness: Maps & Atlases, Bottomless Pit, Hurl

Maps & Atlases>> Our man Stengelero now and again turns us onto a hot rock 'n' roll act, and recently he emphasized to us that noodly post-rockers Maps & Atlases were the real deal. So we got our hands on the Chicago-based quartet's 2006 self-recorded and self-released record Trees, Swallows, Houses a couple months back. We've been smitten ever since with its maelstrom of melody and guitar spasms that somehow bridges the space between freak-folk and hardcore. In the '90s when we didn't know any better we'd probably refer to this as jazz-core; here we'll just say that if you've yearned for a band that seemingly gives equal credence to its love of Fugazi and Bob Wills And His Texas Playboys, stop your yearning. We were surprised to get an email this evening that Trees, Swallows, Houses is already getting reissued; Sargent House will release the set Aug. 7. Wanna stream the whole record for nada, gratis, free-like? Here it is below inside one of those funky fresh Imeem players. And here above the player is a link to an MP3 of the stunning album opener "Every Place Is A House."

Maps & Atlases -- "Every Place Is A House" -- Trees, Swallows, Houses
[right click and save as]

>> The 'Nac reports here that Bottomless Pit, the act featuring the surviving members of late-lamented indie rock stars Silkworm, will soon issue an impressive debut. Hammer Of The Gods will be issued as a double album; the razzmatazz is that the records are 45 RPM discs and all four sides contain two songs each. Pretty darn cool. Bottomless Pit features Silworm's Tim Midgett and Andy Cohen along with Seam drummer Chris Manfrin and 27's Brian Orchard on bass. Silkworm drummer Michael Dahlquist was senselessly killed in 2005 by a mentally disturbed vehicle operator. There is no release date yet for Hammer Of The Gods; for educated guesses on its track listing, hit the link to The 'Nac in the first sentence. Finally, let's not forget that IODA's Promonet has a classic Silkwork cut ripe for the downloading. Here's "Punch Drunk Five," from the excellent 1994 set In The West.

Download "Punch Drunk Five" (mp3)
from "In The West"
by Silkworm

>> Built On A Weak Spot here continues a hot streak today with a short survey of erstwhile Pittsburgh math rockers Hurl. Make certain you download the excellent track "Dual Showmen," which features a lyric that always use to get us right in the gut: "and I wouldn't have talked myself to sleep, for good..." We saw Hurl live a couple times around 1995 and they were a hot ticket. We also seem to recall that one of the fellows from Hurl was quoted in an MTV News story about one of the Lollapaloozas saying that Guided By Voices possessed "the ancient Chinese secret to indie rock." Or maybe we dreamed that. Sometimes we have trouble differentiating our real memories from our fake ones. Anyway, Hurl was a stupendous band who did the LOUDquietLOUD thing as well as anyone in the mid-'90s. So make certain to check out all the MP3s at BOAWS.

May 3, 2007

Today's Hotness: Colleen, Pernice Brothers, The Cure, Cat-A-Tac

Colleen -- Les Ondes Silencieuses>> How many Colleen releases will just sneak up on us? We think this is the second one in a row -- we had much more luck getting promos from her (well, Colleen proprietress Cecille Schott's) label Leaf when we were still with Junkmedia. A couple years back we reviewed Colleen's sophomore set The Golden Morning Breaks here and named it one of our favorite releases of 2005 here. Anyway, tucked into this review at Mapadaisical of a live Colleen performance is news that Schott's third proper (and sorta fifth improper) record Les Ondes Silencieuses will be released in the UK May 21; the U.S. release is slated for July 10. As with her previous album, the music on Les Ondes Silencieuses is coaxed from obscure instruments such as the viola da gamba (a seven-stringed "ancestor" of the cello) and spinet, which is apparently a small harpsichord. Mapadaisical also points us to this MP3 from the new record -- check it out.

Colleen -- "Blue Sands" -- Les Ondes Silencieuses
[right click and save as]

>> We don't think we've seen this posted anywhere else just yet, even though the announcement was in an email from a week ago. Joe Pernice of the Pernice Brothers is about to embark on a new recording project. Whether the sessions will yield a Pernice Brothers record or something under a different moniker is not yet determined. Apparently the sessions will happen at the Ashmont Records world HQ south of Boston. Ashmont honcho Joyce claims she's been asked to rent Morphine's drum kit for the sessions. If that is true and not some inside joke, it makes us wonder why they don't just jam at Hi-N-Dry Studios in Cambridge, which we visited recently. Good times. Anyway, with the announcement today that "Gilmore Girls" is getting canceled, Pernice's marketing team must be in a tailspin trying to figure out the next-best means of reaching the youth of today. In case you've forgotten, you can stream a whole arm-load of Pernice Brothers jams at the band's site here.

>> At this point there are few acceptable reasons for not having heard The Cure's epic-lengthed mood piece "Carnage Visors," especially as it has been made widely available for The Digital Age via the recent (and most excellent) Cure album reissues. But anyway, if you haven't heard it, today's Ear Farm's post is for you.

> We discovered the band Cat-A-Tac today via a quasi-legal podcast of our favorite local college radio show this morning. We expect you are going to hear a lot more about the Denver-based quartet soon, at least from us. We went over to CD Baby to buy its just released debut Past Lives And Former Lives from CD Baby and -- at least today -- they were selling them 2-for-1 stylee. The track we heard that inspired us to instantly buy was the title track, and we are eagerly awaiting the discs' arrival in the mail. In the meantime, we can all stream the cut and two others at Cat-A-Tac's MySpace wigwam here. There you will also encounter some tour dates, including two for the east coast of the U.S. No Boston show... yet.

>> We're hearing from people who know stuff that Dinosaur Jr. will be taping a couple TeeVee appearances next week. So if you missed them on Letterman last week, you'll have some more chances. Hey, let's check to see if the Letterman site has posted the performance from Monday yet... Well, whatta ya know! Here it is! You've got to sit through a short soap commercial, but it is well, well worth it. Oh, we just noticed that according to Freakscene it is also on YouTube now. So much for the lawsuit we guess. Here it is:

May 2, 2007

YouTube Rodeo: Archers Of Loaf Defeat Rock And Roll

With the Dinosaur Jr. reunion and others now bearing fruit, we've started to fantasize about other bands we want back from the '90s. While we weren't crazy about their final record, Archers Of Loaf pretty much tops the list (especially since we are ambivalent about the Crooked Fingers full-lengths). We saw their last tour at The Trocadero in Philadelphia, but we saw it from the balcony as best as we can remember (time was they didn't serve beer on the floor of The Troc, so all the big kids were sequestered to upstairs or to the back of the floor, and we think we opted for upstairs). Anyway, this clip captures Archers Of Loaf at the top of their game and not too long before they broke up. The clip is one of 13 that YouTube user Alphakub has uploaded of an Archers show in Iowa City.

The video and sound is very good at times, and it is shot at an excitingly close range so that the band members veer in and out of the frame. We've selected this clip of the band's encore from the show in particular because of the performance of "Audiowhore," from the band's absolutely perfect 1994 EP The Archers Of Loaf Vs. The Greatest Of All Time. We saw the band open a show in Charlottesville, VA with this number in 1996 and the small basement club almost blew apart. By the end of the song there were literally people hanging off the walls and hanging from the ceiling. Nuttiness. Anyway, this Iowa City performance ain't too shabby either. And so it was that on Oct. 22, 1998, The Archers Of Loaf defeated rock and roll. The band apparently broke up a month later.

Make sure to check out the Archers Of Loaf MySpace drive-thru linked below. It is offering downloads of live versions of "Harnessed In Slums" and "Audiowhore" from the Vitus Tinnitus release, among others.

Archers Of Loaf: InterWeb | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

May 1, 2007

Today's Hotness: Dinosaur Jr., Mobius Band, Joy Division

Dinosaur Jr.>> Happy Dinosaur Jr. release day. Haven't heard Beyond yet? The record is streaming at the legendary indie rawkers' MySpace cave here. In other news, Dinosaur Jr.'s Hand It Over and Without A Sound, two Lou-less (and perhaps Murph-less, we don't feel like digging them out and inspecting the liner notes right now) albums from the mid- and late-'90s, are now for sale at ITunes for the first time. If you're of a certain age you'll remember the single "Feel The Pain" from Without A Sound, and we seem to remember the first line to the tune coincidentally appearing in or just being lifted from Kurt Cobain's suicide note. But anyway, our point is there are actually several hot tunes on the record, "Grab It" being our favorite. You can stream the cut for free at Rhapsody right here. And did you see the band on Letterman last night? Awesome. They played the new record's lead cut "Almost Ready." We just so happen to have the MP3 from the album right here:

Dinosaur Jr. -- "Almost Ready" -- Beyond
[right click and save as]

>> Speaking of rock originating from Western Massachusetts, word from futuristic rockers Mobius Band is that the band finished mixing a forthcoming new record Sunday night. The trio plans to master the record next week. No word on a title, release date or label, but we'll try to contact the chaps and extract some information from them sometime soon. After releasing several EPs, Mobius Band issued its debut full-length The Loving Sounds Of Static on Ghostly International in 2005. Prior to that the band issued the City Vs. Country EP on Ghostly. The band released a version of the EP's title track through its site or MySpace that is slightly different from the one that ended up on the official release. The tune has a few of those classic world-weary Mobius Band lyrics, and it has been the highlight of more than one of the many shows we've seen the band play. Check it out:

Mobius Band -- "City Vs. Country" -- Website Download
[right click and save as]

>> Pun Canoes reports here that the reissue of ska-core heroes Operation Ivy's Energy we reported about here last month has been delayed. The set was to have been issued today on Rancid Records; the new release date is July 10. As one commenter at PunkNews quipped, "chicks who carried lunchboxes as purses and wore babydoll dresses with doc martens in the early 90s, and who are now mid-30s bored housewives are stoked." Well, we're stoked, too, since this gives us a reason to actually buy a proper version of the CD for the first time.

>> Pitchfork reported here yesterday that the Ian Curtis bio-pic "Control" will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival May 17. Can't wait to see this one -- the book upon which it was based, Deborah Curtis' "Touching From A Distance," was really very interesting. Not surprisingly, Joy Division Central -- which is pretty much the end-all, be-all on the Internet as far as the band is concerned -- has more information. The site states that the film will likely be released in the U.K. in September. OK, that wasn't a lot more information. But it's something.

>> Three Imaginary Girls reports here that the sophomore full-length from Canadian indie luminaries Wolf Parade won't be released until the first half of 2008. The information is attributed to Sub Pop, so we imagine they'll be releasing the record as they did the debut.

>> Here's a hot news tip that just slid under the wire: the new Karl Hendricks Trio record we mentioned here last August? It's finally out. We're tracking down more information and hope to get a review copy in the near future. Watch this space. Well, not this space, but a space that will look a lot like this one.