March 29, 2008

Today's Hotness: Johnny Foreigner, RunRunner

Johnny Foreigner
>> Hi everyone. We have no idea why you are all here today. Our best guess is that everyone just realized 1) the new Johnny Foreigner record is on its way and 2) that we can't help but track the band's every move, and additionally there must have been some news having to do with '70s rockers Foreigner at the same time. Or maybe Google started hitting us in new and interesting ways today? Cards on the table, we usually get about 200 people a day here reading this stuff. It's 6:30 and we've already had that many while not really posting anything substantive today. Unusual.

>> Speaking of Johnny Foreigner, we cracked open our Technics SL-4 direct drive turntable today to spin the band's single that we received earlier this week in less than satisfactory condition, and we found the vinyl disc was pretty well warped on top of the jacket being messed up. HMV, you rock. Fortunately there was no audible problem, but it is easy to notice the edge of the single undulating as "Our Bipolar Friends" and then b-side "The Houseparty Scene Is Killing You" unwind under the tone arm. Hot on the heels of selling out that single pretty much before it was even released March 10, the indie rock superheroes have posted their planned next single to its MySpace shack. The song is "Eyes Wide Terrified," and you may recall that the band had posted a stream of a radio session version of the track late last year. The studio version is a dramatic improvement (although we're still on the fence about the gang vocals at the breakdown at the end, the rest of the song is a real rocker), as guitars crash and bass pops in pleasing ways that were more muted in the radio performance. "Eyes Wide Terrified" will have two b-sides, the surprisingly still unknown to us (save for references on the psychogeographical map thingy) cuts "Ties Up Cats" and "Kandy Cane." The single will be issued as a limited release 7" -- some signed, and you can bet we're not ordering ours from the dolts at HMV again -- and digital download. No release date has been disclosed, but we do know that guitarist Alexei Berrow believes Johnny Foreigner's full-length debut will hit racks in June, so perhaps the single will come in May? Just speculating. Another interesting thing about June -- the band has no shows booked that month, according to MySpazz. That's odd, considering they have spent most of the year on the road and they are booked pretty solidly through the end of May, and then festival dates pick up in July. We can only guess that the band is going to spend the month doing press and relaxing. Or perhaps they'll do some international touring? Say to a large, largely English-speaking country with an incredibly unpopular president? We can only hope.

>> You know what we've been loving today, besides our new wireless router (which hasn't quite fixed our computing problems, so either Dell or Comcast are next on our sh** list)? Philadelphia power-pop trio RunRunner's new video for "Bad Timing," a highlight from the band's self-titled, self-released set that came out in 2006 or 2007, depending on where you looked for it. The clip below gives the band some concrete context for us. We thought RunRunner exhibited clear '80s power-pop influences (Plimsouls, etc.), but the somewhat drab colors and earnest performances in the video for "Bad Timing" seem particularly contemporary. We're hopeful that the clip draws a lot of new fans for the band, because we fear that the band will be yet another Philly act unable to break free of the city's invisible tractor beam. Check out the clip below, and read our review of the band's record here, which we posted almost exactly a year ago. And while we're at it, what the hell, here is the MP3 of "Bad Timing."

RunRunner -- "Bad Timing" -- RunRunner
[right click and save as]
[buy RunRunner from the EMusic here]

These Were Our Jams, When We Were 10 Or So

We weren't always an indie rocker. It didn't really kick in until 1990 or so. Above are selections that randomly float in our heads when we're not thinking of anything in particular, and most of them are a result of obsessive MTV viewing and FM radio listening in the early 1980s. The above little doohickey was created at, where you can go and create your very own time capsule.

March 27, 2008

Today's Hotness: Seb Roberts, The Anwering Machine, Spinto Band

Seb Roberts
>> Heretofore you probably had little idea what you would be doing April 14. Frankly neither did we, until we received an email this evening from Spoilt Victorian Child Records. You may recall the label issued the stunning debut EP from Texas-shoegaze behemoth Ringo Deathstarr last year. Well on the aforementioned date the rising label will issue Seb Roberts' Exit Strategy. Mr. Roberts was born in Canada, has apparently lived and rocked in Baltimore, and now splits time between Hamburg, Germany and Japan. Along the way he's released nine records under almost as many different monikers, which we suppose makes Exit Strategy his 10th? The two songs we've heard from the set (posted below) are sinewy, spare and fragmented rock numbers that slap together spoken word, feedback, forthright grooves and profanity into a strangely arresting product that would have played very well at the goth/industrial all-ages dance night we frequented in our youth. We hear similarities to Wall Of Voodoo, Police drummer Stewart Copeland's Klark Kent side project, and "Jesus Built My Hotrod"-era Ministry. There's a palpable Fall thing going on as well. Seriously. Seb Roberts' Exit Strategy will be issued digitally and on CD in the UK and Europe, and North Americans should be able to find the record via ITunes and Amazon. As an added inducement, both the digital and tangible releases come with full artwork and a link to download an additional album of improvised instrumentals called NO Sense, NO Feeling performed by Roberts and Tokyo-based psych unit NO.

Seb Roberts -- "U.S. Out Of N.Y." -- Exit Strategy
Seb Roberts -- "Man-Whore, Fashion Hag, and Former Neighbor" -- Exit Strategy
[right click and save as]
[watch this page for your chance to buy this record]

>> Streaming radio outfit WOXY has finally posted here the March 13 live session recorded with indie pop upstarts The Answering Machine. Perhaps because the band has yet to release a full-length, the Manchester-based quartet still seems very much like a little secret. But The Answering Machine sounds huge in this WOXY session. They tear through a version of the superlative single "Silent Hotels" and the guitars sound bigger than on the recording, and the drums doubly so. The second track, "Your Father's Books" is new to us and very promising, particularly in the breakdown section. Suddenly this band is outgrowing it's lockstep dance rhythms a bit, and it is exciting to hear. Download the whole session at the link below.

The Answering Machine -- WOXY Lounge Act Session 3/13/2008
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>> We remember reading about the making of Spinto Band's new video "Summer Grof" [link] at some point, perhaps when we were researching the goings-on of the band in the fall around the time we saw them play Bowery Ballroom with Los Campesinos! and Johnny Foreigner. Anyway, on paper the concept seemed a little flat, but the clip is actually really fun, appealing as it does to the universal joys of the water balloon fight and food fight. And the clip's black and white rendering dovetails nicely with the nostalgic vibe that permeates Spinto Band's music like smoke in an old carpet. The Delaware-based septet play T.T. The Bear's in Cambridge, Mass. Friday, April 4, and if we can fit it in after an earlier commitment (meaning if we can keep awake) we hope to see the set. As we reported here about six weeks ago, Spinto Band is poised to release its eighth full-length, Moonwink, later this year.

March 26, 2008

Today's Hotness: Johnny Foreigner, The Raveonettes, The Notwist

Johnny Foreigner live in New York
>> The blog Death To Music delivers a nice interview with Johnny Foreigner frontman Alexei Berrow that conveys a lot of useful information for rabid fans of the band (present company included). Most notably, Mr. Berrow believes the brilliant indie trio's full-length debut Waited Up Till It Was Light will be out in June. And he confirms that the next single will be for the song "Eyes Wide Terrified," something an associate of the band had mentioned to us some weeks ago. The funniest line in the piece is when Alexei responds to a question about the importance of the band's hometown -- Birmingham, England -- in its music by explaining he writes about what he knows. And then he delivers the punchline: "By this logic our next album will obv[iously] be about living in a van and playing gigs and only be bought by members of Los Campesinos!" Read the whole thing here. Speaking of the band's singles, we'll post a rant later this week about the how we won't be buying any imports from HMV in the future, as our copy of the new Johnny Foreigner single "Our Bipolar Friends" b/w "The Houseparty Scene Is Killing You" arrived all dinged up and with a sticker permanently affixed to the front of the sleeve. What the hell, HMV? Why could the tiny (and awesome) indie Laundrette get a Johnny Foreigner single to us quickly and in pristine condition, but you can not? Well, we guess we just ranted there, so no need to come back to it.

>> We're excited about the prospect of MTV celebrating the 20th anniversary of the program "Yo! MTV Raps," because we watched it religiously during high school. During the summers when we weren't working (the good summers) we watched "Yo!" at 10 and 10 again, just like hosts Dre and Ed Lover advised. With the release of Public Enemy's amazing Fear Of A Black Planet we lost the thread on hip-hop, but there was a time when we actually considered ourselves knowledgeable. Anyway, more about the celebration of this fine cultural touchstone can be read here at Idolator.

>> Also found at Idolator is this news about a Feelies reunion. Longtime readers will recall we were clamoring for just such a reunion here 370 days ago.

>> The Notwist-Ultras blog is reporting here that German electropop geniuses The Notwist will definitely tour North American in the fall. This is great news. Additionally, Notwist-Ultras here links to what seems like a pretty great video blog. However, the hosts are speaking German, so there is only so much we are able to follow. Still, if you click the video and forward it to about 2:00 you can hear an excerpt from a song on the Weilheim-based quartet's forthcoming new record The Devil, You + Me. It sounds great, and we are increasingly excited for the record's release in June.

>> You have to wait a couple minutes for the payoff, but once New York-by-way-of-Denmark duo The Raveonettes take the gloves off and rock out, the clip below from a recent performance on "The Late Show With David Letterman" is spine-tingling. We were a bit disappointed that they employ so many pre-recorded backing tracks -- we hate that, as folks who read our review of a Blonde Redhead show last year will recall -- but even so, any band that delivers a nice solid section of white noise on a national TV broadcast deserves props aplenty. The Raveonettes played Boston Monday night, and had it not been for :: clicky clicky :: faves Frightened Rabbit playing the same night we would have liked to go check them out. Or maybe not, if they are performing with all those backing tracks recorded, we're not interested. That said, the recently issued Lust, Lust, Lust is one of our favorite records right now. Here's the opener, "Aly, Walk With Me."

The Raveonettes -- "Aly, Walk With Me" -- Lust, Lust, Lust
[right click and save as]
[buy Raveonettes records from Vice right here]

>> Speaking of Frightened Rabbit, Pop Cop has a great interview with the band's songwriter Scott Hutchison. Mr. Hutchison addresses a few of the questions we would have put to him Monday night had things not been loud and had we not already monopolized a bunch of his time. Definitely a good read, so check it out here.

>> Finally, we've been meaning to pimp our friends at Echo Nest's new time-waster, It's fairly addictive. Kiss the next 20 minutes goodbye.

March 25, 2008

That Was The Show The Was: Frightened Rabbit | Middle East

Frightened Rabbit, Live at the Middle East, May 24, 2008
It would be a tall order finding as passionate a performer in indie rock as Frightened Rabbit fronter Scott Hutchison if his brother Grant wasn't spectacularly smacking the hell out of a drum kit and singing along only a few yards away. Sweating like they were in a spinning class, caterwauling about rotting love with steadfast conviction, the brothers' performed Monday night with the intensity of priests performing an exorcism. The solemn, reassuring presence of Billy Kennedy and newcomer Andy Monaghan on second and third guitars, keys and even bass guitar provided some levity to the proceedings. But even so the Glasgow-based quartet's set -- not unlike its show at Great Scott in November that we reviewed here -- largely conveyed the same desperation that Scott sings about in "The Modern Leper," a song in which the protagonist's body is in danger of completely coming apart due to decay.

The set -- which preceded and in our opinion completely overshadowed performances from Bodies Of Water and Sons And Daughters -- opened with "Fast Blood," and we recall that "The Modern Leper" was performed third. Frightened Rabbit closed out their commitment with blistering renditions of "The Greys" and "Square 9" from the debut Sing The Greys, which was released in the U.S. last year. In between Frightened Rabbit also played the recent single "Head Rolls Off" (after an amusing anecdote about the video shoot), "Old Old Fashioned," "Keep Yourself Warm," a very soulful "My Backwards Walk," and some others. No performance of "The Twist," which after the set Scott chalked up to the midi keyboard the band uses when touring sounding like crap.

We learned a lot during the course of the evening chatting with the guys. Most importantly, we learned our review of the band's forthcoming set The Midnight Organ Fight [link] contained an inaccuracy. We attributed the sheen and remarkable development of the interstitial tracks on the new record to the production work of Peter Katis (Interpol, Mobius Band), but it turns out that those tracks were solely the creation of Mr. Hutchison (as is the album art packaging the new record, incidentally). Despite being wrong, we were pleased to learn this, because it adds strength to our belief that Frightened Rabbit's music is growing in very exciting directions. Hutchison reports that with the release of The Midnight Organ Fight, he has cleared out almost all of his backlog of songs. Because of this the band's third record will not follow so fast on the heels of the second as the second did on the first. Hutchison reports having about a half-dozen songs that he is currently working on, and he expects to do a lot of writing in his future (he doesn't write everyday, but locks himself away and does it all at once).

The bulk of that writing will have to wait a little, as Frightened Rabbit will return to the United States to support the release of the new record in May and June. We'll post those dates when we receive them. The current short slate of dates -- which began at the South By Southwest music confab and closes out tonight in New York at Union Pool -- ended up not timing out well with the release of The Midnight Organ Fight, which was pushed back to its current date of April 15. This release date shuffling led to the band selling pre-orders at the show last night with some sort of air mail scheme that promised willing fans a copy of the record via mail a week ahead of the proper release date. We learned that a vinyl release of the record will only be available as an import in the U.S., so start digging through your couch for change. In the meantime, you can view our photos from last night here, and below are the same two MP3s we posted with our review.

Frightened Rabbit -- "The Modern Leper" -- The Midnight Organ Fight
Frightened Rabbit -- "Head Rolls off" -- The Midnight Organ Fight
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[more on this album]

Frightened Rabbit: Internets | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

March 23, 2008

Today's Hotness: Ringo Deathstarr, New Radiant Storm King

Ringo Deathstarr
>> Texas-based shoegaze quartet Ringo Deathstarr plans to spend at least part of its late spring and summer recording new music, according to a MySpace bulletin from the band. This is very good news, as the band's sadly small body of recorded work is excellent, but, well, sadly small. The Deathstarr also plans another East Coast tour at the end of the summer, which makes us happy, as we were sick when the band played Boston earlier this year. We'll try to take vitamins between now and the band's return to ensure our attendance. In the meantime Ringo Deathstarr heads west in the first week of April to convert the unwitting. No word yet on who will release the planned Ringo Deathstarr recordings.

>> Legendary Western Massachusetts rockers New Radiant Storm King have been working on a ninth record, which will be released by Darla in the fall. The band will showcase new songs during two performances in early April, including a show at PA's Lounge Sunday April 6. New Radiant Storm King plays The Brass Cat in Easthampton the previous evening. Both dates also feature sets from Dr. Powerful, a band that counts among its number former members of even more legendary angular North Carolina rockers Polvo. No title has been announced yet for the next New Radiant Storm King record, its first since the release of The Steady Hand two years ago. We reviewed that latter set for Junkmedia right here.

>> We're pretty sure we read a MySpace bulletin from exemplary Philadelphia-based rockers The Swimmers last week reporting that they would have a Daytrotter session posted at the venerable music site Friday. We just checked and found nothing. Maybe The Swimmers were simply recording the session that day -- this seems likely, as the band is on tour in that general area of the country. The band's recently issued Fighting Trees has been getting a lot of play around :: clicky clicky :: HQ and we reviewed it here.

>> Fans of London-based indie rock act Fields who missed last week's MySpace blog post about the goings-on of fronter Nick Peill, drummer Henry Spenner and plastic dinosaur Godzuki certainly missed alot. Amusing photos and travelogue here. Notable items include the fact that, among other equipment, the studio Fields is using for final tracking and mixing of its planned sophomore full-length contains a piano owned by Phillip Glass and drum gear of The Walkmen. Wild and wildly amusing.

>> We're still hoping that someone out there has ripped their copy of Retriever's "Q-tip" single, which was released in 1995 or so and which we first requested here. In the meantime, however, we finally thought to search for Retriever stuff on EMusic and lo and behold the site is selling one track by the band. The song "Evil K" is the lead track on Zum #10 A CD Compilation. It scorches. You should download it from EMusic here. It is also notable on that comp includes tracks from Boyracer, June Of 44, The Raymond Brake and Vehicle Flips, although only the Vehicle Flips and Retriever tracks rise to the level of remarkable. Not that you asked, but the best June Of 44 release is the 1997 Anatomy Of Sharks EP, and one of the band's best numbers is the harrowing lead track from said EP, "Sharks And Sailors." Here it is.

June Of 44 -- "Sharks And Sailors" -- The Anatomy Of Sharks
[right click and save as]
[buy June Of 44 records from Newbury Comics right here]
[we just noticed the copy of The Anatomy Of Sharks we bought used is autographed by two members of the band; how cool are we?]

March 19, 2008

Clicky Clicky Hardcorner: Before They Were Indie Rockers

Turning Point -- It's Always Darkest Before The Dawn
The impending release of Julie Ocean's shiny debut Long Gone And Nearly There, as well as the hardcore-referencing Philly sports blog Choketown that our friend TymMac has started contributing to, has gotten us thinking about writing some posts about indie rockers and the hardcore bands from whence they came. You may recall that one of Julie Ocean's members formerly served time in the stunning D.C. hardcore act Swiz, whose No Punches Pulled release is as forthright and powerful a hardcore record as they come. Along the same lines, we recall years ago being amazed to learn that one of the fellows from (erstwhile?) Philly indie band-about-town Lenola once played guitar in one of New Jersey's finest straightedge bands, Turning Point. We once traded several Van Halen and Judas Priest vinyl albums for about as many hardcore records. And while we likely came out on the short end of the deal, our copy of Turning Point's It's Always Darkest Before The Dawn pressed to clear vinyl is a cherished possession. We were too lazy to rip the album, but EMusic did the heavy lifting for us by selling the band's Discography. There are a couple choice tunes below from Swiz and Turning Point. Look for our review of the Julie Ocean record in a couple weeks.

Swiz -- "Ghost" -- No Punches Pulled
Swiz -- "Toon" -- No Punches Pulled
[right click and save as]
[buy No Punches Pulled from Jade Tree here]

Turning Point -- "Shadow Of Lies" -- Discography
Turning Point -- "Guidance" -- Discography
[right click and save as]
[buy Turning Point's Discography from Jade Tree here]

March 18, 2008

Today's Hotness: Big Science, The Sundays, Archers Of Loaf

Big Science
>> San Diego-based post-hardcore trio The North Atlantic is no longer, but according to a recent MySpace bulletin the band has split into two different acts. One of these is the quartet Big Science based out of Chicago, and we are digging heavily the demos the band has posted at its MySpace dojo here. In particular we are grooving to the layered vocals and insistent rhythm of the track "DNC." We're not certain how to describe Big Science's music. There's a looseness of the arrangements -- particularly on "My Career As A Ghost" -- that kind of reminds us of the more radio friendly Talking Heads stuff, although we also hear some British New Wave influence. It becomes less and less of a surprise the more you listen that the first influence Big Science namechecks at MySpace is Big Country. Honestly, were it not for some flat drum production we'd say these demos are worthy of release right now. You're definitely going to hear a lot about Big Science in the future. We reviewed The North Atlantic's Wires In The Walls here in July 2006.

>> If we had it all to do over again, one thing we would have done more of is hang out with the guy who bought an ice cream truck and sold ice cream around the campus of the second small liberal arts college we attended. The guy was into The Church Of The Subgenius and liked Brit indie pop sensations The Sundays and had me out to his place to shoot pool one night. Anyway, here's to you ice cream dude, whose name we know but aren't mentioning because, hey, he's a private citizen. Here is The Sundays performing "Here's Where The Story Ends" live on French radio, December 15, 1992. Incidentally, years later Sundays bassist Paul Brindley freelanced for the dot-com we worked at back at the turn of the century and we had a chance to chat several times on the phone. Small world.

The Sundays -- "Here's Where The Story Ends" -- France Inter FM Radio Black Session, 12/15/1992
[right click and save as]
[buy The Sundays records from Insound here]
[Insound is selling The Sundays' three records for $9.45 each -- that's a steal]

>> If you are too young or just hopelessly uncool, you might not be familiar with the superlative, defunct, legendary indie rock quartet Archers Of Loaf. Fortunately for you, the blog Old Fart At Play runs down the facts and posts some music here. Definitely grab that "Harnessed In Slums" single, if only to save yourself the trouble of ripping your own vinyl.

>> Turns out Glaswegian indie rock quartet Frightened Rabbit are opening next Monday's Sons And Daughters show at the Middle East Rock Club in Cambridge. We don't know how we missed that, but fear not: we intend to be there and will provide our usual coverage. Scroll down for our review of FR's forthcoming sophomore set The Midnight Organ Fight.

March 17, 2008

Today's Hotness: Look See Proof, J. Mascis, Lilys

Look See Proof -- Do You Think It's Right?>> AngryApe posts information here about a forthcoming fifth single from dynamite Hertfordshire, England foursome Look See Proof, whose music we gulped down from various blogs in recent months and thoroughly enjoyed. We're surprised we haven't mentioned them previously, frankly, but our archives have little incentive to lie. The quartet's spiky, upbeat indie rock recalls the best Bloc Party singles, so we have been keeping an eye out for a full-length. Look See Proof's new single "Do You Think It's Right?" b/w "Don't Say A Word" will have to do for now. The CD version of the single contains a third cut, "Casualty (Os Darkroom Remix)," that we're eager to hear as the original version of the single (released last August) is a peppy rocker with great harmonies. North London's year-and-a-half old Weekender Records releases "Do You Think It's Right?" March 24 in the UK, and it can be pre-ordered from 7Digital right here. It is interesting to note that Weekender will issue Shout Out Louds' "Tonight I Have To Leave It" single and Our Ill Wills album in the UK. Anyhoo, here's what we believe to be Look See Proof's first single for your enjoyment. You should hit the link to EMusic below and get all four of the singles they have there, particularly 2007's "Casualty."

Look See Proof -- "Tell Me Tell Me Tell Me" -- "Tell Me Tell Me Tell Me" b/w "Start Again"
[right click and save as]
[buy Look See Proof singles from EMusic here]

>> We found a used import of a 2003 J. Mascis set The John Peel Sessions at Newbury Comics Sunday that we had never heard of before, and we enjoyed listening to it. The piece of Pavement's "Range Life" tucked in the medley that opens the set performed with The Fog (a/k/a Mike Watt and George Berz) was what grabbed our attention when we picked up the disc, but that is actually pretty forgettable. Although when Watt takes the vocal for the piece that is "In A Rut," that rocks pretty hard. The first five tracks were mixed by Kevin Shields, which is interesting, and we love the warbly treatment on the backing vocals of "Same Day," which is the best J. Mascis and The Fog jam hands down, in our opinion. The Peel Sessions version lacks the dense curtains of guitars that makes the More Light track so awesome, but the extra space yields Watt's bass playing more of the spotlight, which is nice. Despite the lack of guitar crunch, there is a lot of really nice soloing on these Peel tracks, particularly when Mascis deploys what we think is a whammy pedal to wondrous effect.

>> Lilys are selling t-shirts. We love the Lilys. So buy their shirts. The end.

March 16, 2008

Review: The Diggs | Ctrl-Alt-Del [MP3s]

The Diggs -- Ctrl Alt DelWhat else is left to say about The Diggs' sophomore set that we didn't say already? First, there is the matter of fronter Timothy Lannen's earnest vocal delivery. We sort of bullet-pointed his style as akin to that of Sunny Day Real Estate's Jeremy Enigk and Mineral's Chris Simpson here last month, but that was admittedly a bit lazy. While Messrs. Enigk and Simpson's singing to us conveys a vertiginous desperation, Lannen can communicate calm and confidence (the songs "Careen" and "Brigante" come to mind) that the latter singers were many times (this must be past-tense, as their styles have since evolved) too unstrung to attain. Of course, in other places -- including "You Really Used To Light Up The Room" and the title track to Ctrl-Alt-Del -- Mr. Lannen approaches commensurate levels of unhingedness as the aforementioned gentlemen, but we wouldn't call it his hallmark.

The defining characteristics of The Diggs' music are big dense melodies and measured dynamics. Rich bass anchors layers of guitars that we expect are difficult for the trio to duplicate live (we regularly call this "the Kitchens Of Distinction conundrum" during some of our nerdier music nerd conversations over pints) and propulsive drumming (with some really pleasing shell resonance on the snare) drives the compositions. It's not a new formula, as our belabored comparisons above attest, but The Diggs imbue their songs with ample energy and raw emotion that render formula sort of irrelevant. Sugarspun released Ctrl-Alt-Del March 11. The band performs two dates later this month in Brooklyn, including a record release show March 28. Both dates are detailed below.

[Nagging questions: How is it that there is no video of the Sunny Day Real Estate heartstopper "Sometimes" on YouTube? How is it that right now if you search YouTube the only recognizable band covering Sunny Day is Paramore? Oh yeah, here is the awesome.]

The Diggs -- "Careen" -- Ctrl-Alt-Del
The Diggs -- "Recovery Forever" -- Ctrl-Alt-Del
[right click and save as]
[buy Ctrl-Alt-Del from Amazon here]

The Diggs: Internets | Myspace | YouTube | Flickr

03.21 -- Soundfix -- Brooklyn, NY
03.28 -- Union Hall -- Brooklyn, NY

March 15, 2008

Today's Hotness: The Same Bands We're Always On About

>> So without intending to, we took a week off. We suppose the South By Southwest music confab resulted in a lack of activity that interested us. Which is probably why the most interesting coverage of the conference to us was these Flickr photo sets [1, 2] posted by Internet radio streamer, for whom Glasgow's finest Frightened Rabbit and Manchester, England-based indie pop foursome The Answering Machine recorded live sessions.

>> As we expected, you can get the new Johnny Foreigner single "Our Bipolar Friends" b/w "The Houseparty Scene Is Killing You" at EMusic [linky, linky]. Which we expect is pretty much the only way you can get it in the U.S. at this point, as the vinyls were so close to sold out even prior to the single's release that we expect you won't see any in shoppes here. Our vinyl copy is still making its way across the ocean, but we received an email from HMV claiming that it should arrive in the middle of next week. All of which raises the question: when will the Birmingham, England-based indie trio's hotly anticipated full-length debut Waited Up 'Til It Was Light get released? That information seems conspicuously absent. No clues in Alexei Foreigner's latest monthly round-up for Drowned In Sound, which you can read here. The entry, incidentally, describes a bit of the process that went into creating Johnny Foreigner's first official (or at least biggish-budgeted, we expect) video shoot. As for current events, this afternoon is Johnny Foreigner's final SXSW appearance for this year. We're a little disappointed that the band garnered no visible press or blog coverage, although we haven't really read much of the coverage at all -- so maybe they did, but their performances didn't make any headlines in our RSS reader. Johnny Foreigner resumes its breakneck UK and European touring schedule with an appearance Tuesday in London. These t-shirts don't fold themselves... Incidentally, the recently posted-to-MySpace tune "Henning's Favorite" has definitely grown on us -- we think we are put off a little by all the reverb and gratuitous panning, but under all that is a barnburner. Anyway, we've posted the track "All Mosely Gardens" many times, but we're doing it again, as it suits a rainy Saturday morning with a cup of coffee in Cambridge particularly well.

Johnny Foreigner -- "All Mosely Gardens" -- Undated Demo
[right click and save as]
[Buy Johnny Foreigner MP3s at EMusic here]

>> London-based indie rockers Fields have posted three new demos to its MySpace domicile here for tracks that are slated to appear on the band's planned sophomore full-length. We'd describe the tunes, "Sun In Your Eyes," "The Worst Love" and "Carry The Fire" as adequate, but perhaps a little lifeless in demo form. We look forward to hearing what the proper recordings sound like, with the belief that some big guitars, proper drumming and more vibrant vocal performances could improve upon the demos immensely. After releasing the major-label debut Everything Last Winter last spring (confusing, right?), the band executed the requisite touring and quickly dropped off the radar. As we wrote here last month, the band recently resurfaced with news about line-up changes and the new record.

March 10, 2008

Review: Frightened Rabbit | The Midnight Organ Fight [MP3s]

Frightened Rabbit -- The Midnight Organ FightGlaswegian indie rock foursome Frightened Rabbit has slowly revealed more and more of itself (in approximate proportion to the almost humorous multiplication of its membership) since unceremoniously shuffling into the consciousness of the American indiescenti in 2006. While the five-year-old band's principals remain cagey about using their last name (for the record: Hutchison, Hutchison, Kennedy; a new third guitarist is named Andy Monaghan, according to Wikipedia), the gradual revelation is audibly manifested in the steady scrubbing away of noise and clamor of Frightened Rabbit's recordings. This cleansing culminates with the release of the trio's spectacular sophomore full-length, The Midnight Organ Fight. The set was recorded by Peter Katis (Interpol in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Mobius Band), and, indeed, his production renders the tracks nearly crystalline.

Not that The Midnight Organ Fight is a pop recording, although founder and fronter Scott Hutchison's tunes fully realized in the studio are stamped with new and sometimes pop-accessible tonality and dynamics -- particularly the excellent mid-tempo thumper "The Twist." We will likely continue to prefer the grittier demo and live version of certain tracks, such as the cataclysmically self-negating "The Modern Leper." Even so, the song's Reznorian lyrics communicate a black desperation -- seriously, have you heard this song live? -- that even Katis' illumination can't brighten. Simply the inclusion of "The Modern Leper" makes The Midnight Organ Fight a remarkable record, although the stark sincerity of Scott's vocals (notably in "Head Rolls Off," when he proclaims "I believe in a house in the clouds," or at the opening of and throughout the standout "My Backwards Walk") gives every Frightened Rabbit number an arresting charm. Disease, inebriation and dysfunction is not new subject matter for the musical underground, although some -- we're looking at you, Mr. Dulli -- tell the story better than others. So it is Mr. Hutchison's confessional earnestness that is perhaps his music's most singular characteristic.

While we were skeptical at first of the clean, crisp sound on this new set, The Midnight Organ Fight is a landmark recording for the band. Where Katis's production really shines is on interstitial compositions such as "Extrasupervery" (which was crafted from the fizzing backing tracks of the aforementioned "The Twist"). Sing The Greys included similar short pieces, but Katis' production transforms the new sketches into potent cinematic moments that harness the band's burgeoning interest in orchestration -- loyal readers may recall the choral flip-side to FR's holiday single "It's Christmas So We'll Stop" -- and steers it toward spine-tingling territory. Such fertile new directions may produce the most stunning Frightened Rabbit work in the future. As unlikely as it sounds, "Extrasupervery" hints at Disintegration-caliber genius. Fatcat releases The Midnight Organ Fight in North America April 15.

Frightened Rabbit -- "The Modern Leper" -- The Midnight Organ Fight
Frightened Rabbit -- "Head Rolls off" -- The Midnight Organ Fight
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Frightened Rabbit: Internets | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

Previous Frightened Rabbit coverage:

Today's Hotness: Frightened Rabbit, Distophia, Mobius Band
That Was The Show That Was: Frightened Rabbit | Great Scott
Greys Over America: Frightened Rabbit Prep Next U.S. Onslaught
Frightened Rabbit Releases Sings The Greys In US Oct. 2
Saturday Night's Alright For Frightened: New FR Live Set
Show Us Yours #5: Frightened Rabbit [MP3s]

March 9, 2008

Today's Hotness: Los Campesinos, Frightened Rabbit

>> Sheer and utter brilliance above from Cardiff, Wales-repping tweesters Los Campesinos! in the form of a video for their tune "Death To Los Campesinos!", which we've only just watched. You never expect the killer unicorn, do you?

>> So it turns out Johnny Foreigner's limited edition single, "Our Bipolar Friends" b/w "The Houseparty Scene Is Killing You," is even more limited. The Birmingham, England-based indie rock superheroes' platter -- slated for release Tuesday -- was intended to be issued in an edition of 1,000. However, apparently more than 200 copies have gone missing. So good luck getting your hands on one, particularly if you are based outside the UK. What with all the pre-sales, there are only about 100 copies left to be had. Fortunately, we pre-ordered in January. For those of you going to South By Southwest, you've got three chances to catch the act, errr... in the act. For those of you with no chance in hell of getting to Austin or getting your hands on the new single, there is still some consolation: Johnny Foreigner has just posted a new track from the forthcoming full-length Waited Up 'Til It Was Light at its MySpace dojo here. The new number is "Henning's Favorite," it touts some gratuitous panning and a simple arrangement, and it is the first track from the band that hasn't blown our minds. We've only listened to it once, so we expect it will be a grower. Finally, we've got some idea of what the band's first official video for a song from the album will be. We won't share just yet, but if you've been paying attention it's a song you already know. So there.

>> Pretty great video blog over at the Frightened Rabbit MySpace hizzy right here. Points of interest: we're always blown away when we are reminded that for whatever reason indie rockers look alike the world over. Also interesting to note that, at least for this date, the Glaswegian indie rock trio has expanded to include a third guitarist, which we expect makes the band's brawling live attack that much more brawling and attackish. DrownedInSound reviewed the same FR show featured in the clip here, for those wanting additional editorial filtration. Frightened Rabbit are also making a beeline to SXSW, and you should see them by any means necessary if you are planning to attend. We're still sitting on our review of the band's forthcoming sophomore set The Midnight Organ Fight, which streets April 15, but we expect we'll get it online this coming week.

>> Indie rockers The Dandy Warhols take their stand against The Man by forming their own label in partnerhip with artist management and label services firm World's Fair Group. While we've never kept a close eye on the band's career, we were wowed when we heard a track from its 2005 set Odditorium Or Warlords Of Mars somewhere, so we picked it up and were favorably impressed. You can read more about the band being dropped from Capitol and its motivation for starting the new label, Beat The World, in this Billboard article. It's interesting to note the The Dandies' licensing revenue was far surpassing its sales revenue at a certain point in its career (we expect having their song used as the theme for the popular television program "Veronica Mars" helped a lot). On a similar note, a Wall Street Journal preview here of the South By Southwest music conference that was published today reports that the nature of the A&R work this year will be firmly tilted toward folks looking to license music for television and et cetera, as opposed to folks looking to sign bands to record contracts.

>> Have you seen the EPK Quicktime clip promoting the Mission Of Burma reissues we mentioned earlier this week? It makes us more and more excited for March 18. You can watch it here; note that it will take a while for the clip to load, but it's worth it.

>> Potentially important news for the Boston live music fan: Berklee College of Music is opening an all ages venue at 939 Boylston. We're almost twice the age of majority, so we don't view this as providing a service particularly germane to us. But we expect we'll see more bands with younger audiences come to Boston as a result of the new venue. Also, maybe Fugazi will reform and play there. Well, probably not -- but maybe The Evens, yeh? But it is hard to see next month's opening of the new venue, called Cafe 939, as anything but a positive for the Boston scene. Now books some shows we want to see. More details at On The Download here.

March 6, 2008

Today's Hotness: Silversun Pickups, The Radishes, The Clash

Silversun Pickups
>> For reasons we have difficulty articulating we've never been completely on board with L.A.-based indie rock foursome Silversun Pickups -- maybe it's that we think they sound a little too commercial in places, maybe it's that we can't put our finger on what if anything makes the band unique. We certainly like singer Brian Aubert's Lindsey Buckhingham-esque singing voice, and the songs can rock and even have a dreamy Smashing Pumpkins quality at times. Anyway, that said, we've loved the two videos of theirs we've seen, including the most recent Joaquin Phoenix-directed clip for "Little Lover's So Polite," which right now you can only view at the Dangerbird Records web site here. Interestingly (well, to us), both videos feature unexpected/unexplained occurrences of people flying. We dig that. The other video was for the track "Kissing Families" and you can watch it at the YouTube right here. Silversun Pickups released its debut Carnavas in 2006.

>> Remember The Radishes? We wrote about their song "Hook Me Up" here in November. That wasn't so long ago, right? Anyway, the band is about to issue an EP called Strychnine April 15. More exciting is that this is the first Radishes release to include the playing of former Ministry/Scratch Acid/Rapeman drummer Rey Washam and former Ministry/Revolting Cocks bassist Paul Barker. To top it off, the legendary MC-5's Wayne Kramer makes an appearance as well. That's a lot of rock. And it sounds like a downloadable version of Strychnine will be given away for free even prior to that date. We'll keep you posted. Also keep your eyes peeled for a new video for "Hook Me Up," which we described variously in our review linked supra as a fist-banger, hip-shaker, et cetera. Here's the title track from Good Machine.

The Radishes -- "Good Machine" -- Good Machine
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[buy Good Machine from CDBaby right here]

>> Last night PBS stations around the U.S.A. premiered the forthcoming The Clash DVD "The Clash: Revolution Rock." The disc will be in stores April 15 and you can already pre-order it from here. As the owner of several previously issued Clash DVDs we put the question to our local SonyBMG press fellow: Any idea how this stacks up compared to "The Essential Clash," "Westway To The World" and "The Last Testament," some of which were also directed by Don Letts, who has directed "The Clash: Revolution Rock"? Well, the word is that the DVD includes a lot of never-before-seen bootleg footage. So if you insist you've already spent all your going to spend on Clash DVDs in your lifetime, you will be missing out somewhat. That said, PBS has got your back, although the version it is airing is edited, plus it is airing as part of a pledge drive, which means every 15 minutes or so someone will be coming on the telly and laying on the guilt. So maybe pre-ordering from Amazon isn't such a bad idea after all? For full listings of when your PBS affiliate will be airing "The Clash: Revolution Rock," hit this link. And to view a trailer for the film, this link will reveal it to you.

March 5, 2008

Today's Hotness: The Notwist, Mission Of Burma, Yah Mos Def

The Notwist
>> We knew the day would finally come when definitive news about German electropop geniuses The Notwist's new and seventh record would break. But we're never quite prepared for that tingle when you've first received the news and you hear the awesome and you're all "yeah!" So anyway, today is that day. The news is that The Notwist's long, long awaited follow-up to 2002's masterwork Neon Golden is titled The Devil, You + Me, and the set will be issued in North America by Domino in early June. Which according to our calendar means either June 3 or June 10. The Devil, You + Me took almost two years to record (there is a new clip posted at today that shows more of the recording sessions); the sessions also included contributions from a small orchestra called the Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra, which we surmise is the name of the group of players we noted when we wrote about the recent bubbling-up of Notwist goings-on here. The new set touts eleven new tracks, and the lead-off cut "Good Lies" is already available for free download. "Good Lies" is very similar to the material on Neon Golden, although perhaps it is slightly more guitar-oriented and dense. The electronic flourishes and clicks remain, although they are muted on this track. In fact, there are places where the song almost rocks, in the Bavarian trio's (you'll recall that we reported here that founding drummer Martin Messerschmidt has left the band) typically understated manner. European and UK-based fans will have a number of chances to see the act when it tours in the last week of April and subsequently in small clutches of dates through the end of June. No U.S. tour dates have been disclosed yet.

The Notwist -- "Good Lies" -- The Devil, You + Me
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[watch the Slang Store here for pre-order info on the import]

>> Have you been watching the Matablog YouTube clips about the mastering of the reissues of the Mission of Burma catalogue? Shizz is fascinating. We guess if you don't believe that the conversion of sound waves to grooves of varying widths in vinyl using archaic analog machines is magic, then perhaps these clips aren't for you. But this is the sort of gearhead stuff we know too little about yet have an insatiable curiosity about. Clip one concerns vinyl mastering; clip two concerns physically cutting the master. If gearhead stuff is not up your alley, why not check out this newly posted video clip of Mission Of Burma performing "Eyes Of Men" in 1979 or 1980 over at KinoDV? Incidentally, it's really amazing how similar young Clint Conley and young, short-haired Robert Smith look. Anyway, the reissues of Signals, Calls & Marches, Vs. and The Horrible Truth About Burma will be released by Matador March 18; you can pre-order the whole lot for $33 from the label right here. We just did, and it felt good.

>> The Swimmers' release isn't the only news out of Philadelphia these days. Post-hardcore rhymers The Yah Mos Def have finally issued their full-length debut Excuse Me, This Is The Yah Mos Def. New Jersey's own My Pal God Records issued the platter Feb. 12, and you can get it from the label here or you can get the radio-ready clean version from EMusic here. We're listening to the seven-song set right now, and it is entirely bananas. It seems like the band has taken to calling itself The YMD, likely for the same reasons that its MySpace page used to keep getting deleted. So folks searching for Excuse Me at EMusic need to search for "The YMD." Exuse Me contains a new version of the simply amazing song "The Beat That Makes The Native Nod;" we've posted a demo version of the track before, and it is so stirring we are posting it again. The version on the album is a little slicker and one of the rappers' delivery has gone pretty heavily in an Adrock direction, which is not entirely unwelcome.

Yah Mos Def -- "The Beat That Makes The Natives Nod" -- 2005 Demo
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[buy Excuse Me, This Is The Yah Mos Def from My Pal God here]

>> Speaking of EMusic, did you know you could download Welsh twee terrorists Los Campesinos!'s Hold On Now, Youngster... over there already, despite the fact the record doesn't street until April 1? Speaking of, totally has the hook-up on this record, which is why we just pre-ordered it from them. The online music store is selling for $17 an exclusive double-CD version of Hold On Now, Youngster... that includes on the second disc the The International Tweexcore Underound! EP. And as icing on the cake you'll get an 11x17 poster and some stickers. There are limited quantities of the double-disc version, but Insound isn't saying how limited, so take that for what it is worth. If you hit this link and enter the coupon code "loscampblog10" you'll get the set for 10% off. That 10% doesn't cover more than about half of the shipping charge, but hey, you love Los Campesinos!, right? Fortunately for you the band plays Boston's Paradise Rock Club May 21; tickets go on sale this Saturday at noon.

March 3, 2008

Review: The Swimmers | Fighting Trees [MP3]

The Swimmers -- Fighting TreesThe Swimmers first popped onto our radar two years ago when we first heard their catchy homage to Lancaster, PA, "Heaven." And ever since then it has been a waiting game (punctuated by various small steps forward) for the release of the band's long-awaited full-length debut Fighting Trees. The Philadelphia-based quartet's set finally graces new release bins Tuesday carrying the imprint of Drexel University's student-run Mad Dragon label (although the set actually was released locally in Philadelphia in October), which signed a national distribution deal with Ryko/Warner in 2005 according to Wikipedia. All of which means that after waiting a couple years, this record will be everywhere this week.

And for good reason: Fighting Trees is a drum-tight collection of a dozen winning tracks constructed with economical instrumentation and satisfying Beatles-ish melodies. Folks who buy the set via ITunes will receive three bonus tracks as part of the bargain: the Fighting Trees outtakes "Tonight The Lights" and "The Ocean Lifts Her Dress" (which was previously made available on a limited edition EP the band was selling at shows) along with a cover of Philly pop/soul sensations Hall & Oates' "Rich Girl." That said, the standard issue set is no slouch either, kicking off with the Spoon-esque stomper "It's Time They Knew" before diving headlong into the aforementioned strummer "Heaven." The tracks "We Love To Build" and "Miles From Our Fears" wouldn't sound too out of place on the second Wilco record. Those comparisons not withstanding, The Swimmers do have their own rootsy flavor, and Fighting Trees at long last is a remarkable debut for the band. The Swimmers began a three-week tour supporting the record Friday, and the remaining dates are posted at the foot of this item.

The Swimmers -- "Heaven" -- Fighting Trees
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[buy Fighting Trees from Newbury Comics here]

The Swimmers: Internets | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

03.05 -- State College, PA -- Bar Bleu
03.06 -- Pittsburgh, PA -- Garfield Artworks
03.07 -- Chapel Hill, NC -- Schoolkids Records 6pm
03.08 -- Chapel Hill, NC -- Nightlight
03.10 -- Houston, TX -- Cactus Music 6pm
03.10 -- Houston, TX -- Super Happy Fun Land
03.11 -- Denton, TX -- Andy's Bar
03.13 -- Austin, TX -- POPPED! party
03.14 -- Austin, TX -- Irie Bean
03.17 -- Newton, KS -- Bethel College
03.18 -- Lincoln, NE -- Box Awesome
03.19 -- Minneapolis, MN -- Stasiu's Place
03.20 -- Madison, WI -- Cafe Montmarte
03.21 -- Davenport, IA -- Daytrotter session & show
03.22 -- Chicago, IL -- Hideout

March 2, 2008

Today's Hotness: Kurt Cobain, A Weather, Mobius Band

>> So we went 0-for-3 seeing shows this past week. We had intended to get out to see Seattle electropop act Say Hi at Great Scott last night after viewing the newly released DVD Kurt Cobain: About A Son. However, the film is so subdued, nearly static -- as well as somewhat repetitive of Michael Azerrad's very good Cobain biography "Come As You Are" -- that we were lulled into a state of not wanting to drive across the river come show time. So we didn't. Further comments on the film: The colors -- particularly the greens -- are stunning. Is that the work of a particular color filter, or digital processing, or was the footage just captured during those perfect spring days where the greens are so green? Also notable is the pleasantly diaphanous soundtrack written by Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard and producer Steve Fisk. Ultimately Kurt Cobain: About A Son is a somewhat unusual blend of video travelogue and intimate audio interview that succeeds most of the time, although we think viewers without any knowledge that the film is actually Azerrad's semi-legendary interviews set to pretty pictures may find the proceedings somewhat unsatisfactory. For those interested in seeing the film in tiny chunks, it appears this YouTube user has put the whole film online. We've posted the trailer for the film atop this item. Here's some free Death Cab For Cutie courtesy of the band's web site.

Death Cab For Cutie -- "Company Calls Epilogue (Alternate)" -- Forbidden Love EP
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[Buy Death Cab For Cutie and Nirvana records from Newbury Comics here and here]

>> It is worth reminding you that Portland, Ore.-based quintet A Weather's exceptional full-length debut Cove will be released by Team Love Tuesday. We've returned to this record over and over again during the last 90 days and it is a good bet that the set will be included among our favorite records of 2008. We reviewed Cove here. Gang Of Four's Dave Allen recently interviewed the band for a recent Pampelmoose podcast you can download right here. And if you are fan of the band's stirring brooder "Oh My Stars" we highly recommended listening in, because the podcast includes a live or alternate version of the track -- it's never explicitly stated whether the band is actually performing live or not. The Pampelmoose version (for lack of a better descriptor) features some perfect slide guitar, which fits so nicely we wonder why it wasn't included in the studio recording. Also somewhat different in the Pampelmoose rendition: some clanking percussion; a different vocal arrangement at the climax of the song. Whatever the source of this version, we're hoping the track is eventually offered as a standalone MP3. For now, here's the studio version of "Oh My Stars."

A Weather -- "Oh My Stars" -- Cove
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[buy Cove from Saddle Creek right here]

>> There's no surer sign of spring than the waves of spring tours that kriss-kross the land like so many sets of youngsters wearing pants backwards. Clicky Clicky faves Mobius Band -- after returning from its current successful European tour next month -- sets its sights on America (with Cut Copy and hype-hamstrung blog darlings Black Kids in tow) with the aim of further evangelizing the October release of the sophomore set Heaven. Here are the your Mobius Band 2008 U.S. tour dates below. While we're on the subject, exemplary rockers Minus The Bear and Cardiff, Wales-based indie pop sensations Los Campesinos! will also circumnavigate the states this spring. Both acts will come to entertain in Boston, and Pantsfork has tour dates for each here and here respectively.


04.28 -- Doug Fir Lounge -- Portland, Oregon
04.29 -- Richard’s On Richards -- Vancouver, British Columbia
04.30 -- Neumos -- Seattle, Washington
05.02 -- Urban Lounge -- Salt Lake City, Utah
05.03 -- Larimer Lounge -- Denver, Colorado
05.05 -- Waiting Room -- Omaha, Nebraska
05.06 -- 7th Street Entry -- Minneapolis, Minnesota
05.07 -- Abbey Pub -- Chicago, Illinois
05.08 -- Magic Stick -- Detroit, Michigan
05.09 -- Lee’s Palace -- Toronto, Ontario
05.10 -- Cabaret Music Hall -- Montreal, Quebec
05.12 -- Paradise -- Boston, Massachusetts
05.14 -- Bowery Ballroom -- New York, New York
05.15 -- Black Cat -- Washington, D.C.
05.16 -- Pure -- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

>> We've been spending some time with Scottish post-rock behemoth Mogwai's Come On Die Young as of late. And we'd like to show just how dense we can be sometimes. Despite the record coming out in 1999 and our listening to it for months on end upon its release, it occurred to us only just yesterday that the song title "Cody" is an acronym for the album title. Sometimes stuff just goes over our head.