January 29, 2009

Playlist: Great Scott, Boston, Jan. 27 | Giveaway

This Car Up
Tuesday night was the big Stranded In Stereo event over at Great Scott in Boston, at which yours truly feigned being a club DJ (we prefer the term selector, since we don't beat match or possess a shiny shirt with zippers all over it). Below we recount for those of you not in attendance what exactly was blasted in your general direction via the sound system. But before we get to that we'd like to try to express how awesome we thought This Car Up was that night. We're relatively new to the Boston-based quintet, who are quirky, entertaining and write the most anthemic indie rock we've heard coming out of this city in years. We loved how the one singer and guitarist -- who lost his eyeglasses and guitar strap within moments of the set opening -- undulates kind of like, well, crap, we can't show you because NBC Universal is suing YouTube, or something. We wanted to point to that awesome video of DEVO playing "Satisfaction" on "Saturday Night Live." You know, the one where they're playing under a strobe light. If you don't know it, it is bonkers.

Anyway, the one guy wriggled like he was in DEVO and was dressed like Fonzie in that one episode where The Fonz pretends to be a nerd that collects snails, and then the other singer looked like that dude from Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start. And the bass player and keyboard player made with the funny stage banter. But mostly it was the songs. They played "Tarzan vs. Graham Chapman," they played "Shiny Objects" and they played "Dislocate," and it was huge. All of those tracks are from This Car Up's debut full-length Smile When You're Alone, which was released early last year and which very likely would have made our Best Of 2008 list had we known about it. The band plays in Worcester Feb. 20 and then it is back in Boston at O'Brien's on Sun. Feb. 22 for an early show which we very much want to see. Below is what we played at the Great Scott Tuesday. We prepared three mix CDs to make trebly certain that we'd have enough material to play, and we didn't even get to the end of the first disc. But that means we have three mix CDs that we have no need for, so the first person to email us (address in the sidebar at right) with the words "MIX ME" in the subject line will receive the discs in the mail. Good luck.


1. Weezer -- "Tired Of Sex" -- Pinkerton
2. Johnny Foreigner -- "The Houseparty Scene Is Killing You" -- B-side
3. Telekinesis -- "Coast Of Carolina" -- Telekinesis! [right click/save as]
4. The Small Screen Light Show -- "I'm Too In Love" -- Demo
5. The Hush Now -- "Sadie Hawkins Dance" -- The Hush Now [right click/save as]
6. The Pernice Brothers -- "One Foot In The Grave" -- Yours, Mine And Ours
7. Hot Club De Paris -- "I Wasn't Being Heartless When I Said Your Favorite Song Lacked Heart" -- Live At Dead Lake
8. Crooked Fingers -- "Your Control" -- Forfeit/Fortune

[Spectator performs]

9. Frightened Rabbit -- "Go-Go Girls" -- Sing The Greys
10. Vampire Weekend -- "Campus" -- Vampire Weekend
11. The Manhattan Love Suicides -- "Burning Wire" -- Burn Out Landscapes
12. Varsity Drag -- "Summertime" -- For Crying Out Loud
13. Lemonheads -- "The Year Of The Cat" -- Lovey
14. Eddyfink -- "Will I Get Through Today Without Being Kicked In The Knickers?" -- AQA 63336 Greatest Questions [right click/save as]
15. Johnny Foreigner -- "Rhapsidy/This Trapeze Ball Thought Out" -- Demo

[This Car Up performs]

16. Dinosaur Pile-Up -- "Let's Get Up" -- Demo
17. Dirty On Purpose -- "Audience In The Room" -- Like Bees EP
18. Ringo Deathstarr -- "Sweet Girl" -- Ringo Deathstarr EP [right click/save as]
19. Charlene -- "Ripoff" -- Charlene [right click/save as -- this is the radio edit, we played the longy]

[Black Diamond Bay performs]

January 27, 2009

Review: Exploration Team | We Are Birds, We Are Trees [MP3]

Exploration Team -- We Are Birds, We Are TreesNot long after embarking on our investigation of A Weather scene-mates Point Juncture, WA, we received an email from a bona fide A Weather side project, Exploration Team. The Portland, Ore.-based quintet is led by A Weather guitarist Aaron Krenkel (not to be confused with fronter Aaron Gerber -- apparently every third indie rocker in Portland is named Aaron). Mr. Krenkel's wife Alynn (we assume Alynn Nelson, also of the A Weather cohort) sings and plays keys on some if not all of the tracks on the act's recently self-released We Are Birds, We Are Trees, a fine collection that twinkles and rocks and whispers. The quintet trades in low-key and patient indie rock that carries a veneer of '70s AM pop: it's something in the easy, optimistic delivery of the lyrics and the pastoral sounds of acoustic guitar and chimes. Exploration Team may not rock as much as The Partridge Family, and it isn't as creepy as The Carpenters, but it is hard not to conjure thoughts of those combos when bopping along to "Basin And Range."

Elsewhere, Krenkel occasionally sounds like Belle & Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch. In fact, the throbbing album highlight "The Ocean Will Rise" begins with some rising guitar that echoes the opening of the Scottish act's "If You're Feeling Sinister." Krenkel reports that "The Ocean Will Rise" had been considered as an album opener, but ultimately it was deemed too long -- it's more than six minutes -- for an opening salvo. "Safe And Sound" soars to its conclusion before folding itself up into a quietly shuddering delay and guitar figure; the track is perhaps the most obvious single from the set, were one to be selected. The slightly darker "Just Beneath" more closely follows the A Weather template, but that doesn't diminish it in the least. There is a particularly remarkable degree of tension as the song passes the three-minute mark and leverages a quiet snare tattoo to mount a crescendo. The album ends particularly strongly, as the romantic thriller "Something To Lose" is perhaps the most dynamic track of the collection, but is tucked away in the penultimate slot. There is some discussion concerning Team Love digitally distributing We Are Birds, We Are Trees; we'll keep you posted. In the mean time you buy the collection by messaging the band at its MySpace domicile.

Exploration Team -- "The Ocean Will Rise" -- We Are Birds, We Are Trees
[right click and save as]
[buy We Are Birds, We Are Trees from Exploration Team right here]

Exploration Team: Internerds | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

January 26, 2009

Show Us Yours #10: Calories

Calories practice space, BirminghamOne of our resolutions for 2009 was to revive our old Show Us Yours feature, via which we pay virtual visits to the practice spaces of some of our favorite indie rock acts. You probably haven't even heard of the feature, because the last one we did was in July 2007. But now it's back, and we're excited to relaunch with a tenth episode featuring Birmingham, England-based indie trio Calories. Close readers of the blog will recall how we bemoaned here discovering the band Distophia after it had already folded. Well, fortunately some of the guys stayed together and forged the new act Calories. The trio plays aggressive but melodic indie rock, and they play it well. So well in fact that they have been picked up by the London-based label Small Town America, which will issue Calories' debut long-player Adventuring March 2. So we decided it was high time to check in with the act. We pitched our battery of questions to Calories guitarist John Biggs, and what we got back is posted below.

We're especially grateful to Calories because they have allowed us to offer a taste of the new record via the embedded Imeem player below. Attentive photo viewers may notice a clue or two as to which prominent indie act Calories shares its space with. The band plays in Oxford, England tomorrow night with Instruments, and you can inspect details regarding additional pending Calories live engagements here. Anyway, take it away Mr. Biggs.

Why do you use this space?

It was cheap, secure, damp-proof and made me think of Hell. Euronymous from Mayhem would have loved it here. We also needed a place store all of our equipment and write.

Explain why everyone stands where they stand, or why one spot in the space is the suckiest spot.

I like to stand so that I can see the lads and make sure they are safe from harm. If they start to slack off a bit I give them an evil eye.

You walk into your space. What's the first thing you smell? Why?

The smell of dark and the smell of fear. There are no lights on the first floor to the building so we use a torch to light the way. Once we are through the first gate we enter zone one which is next to the toilet. Surprisingly there are both a ladies and a gents toilet; I always use the ladies as it feels cleaner. A few strip lights illuminate zone one but they flicker like they might in an old horror film. The smell on this floor is the smell of dust and cold. We then enter door one to the 'Corridor of Shadows.' There is absolute silence in this corridor; sometimes the alarm might sound but not always. There is something not quite right about this place... something elusive... something slightly queer... ARRRH!!! Tom jumps out on us!! We laugh nervously and fumble for the key. We lock ourselves in away from the dark and away from the demons... for now...

There are suddenly four people in your photo at MySpace. Was one of you cloned?

The guy in the photo is Steven Ingram. He was in our 'lost' band Antlers. We wrote a collection of songs with dear old Steve. We recorded four together in a day at a London studio. We are releasing these on a bonus CD you can purchase from our label STA. Steve is also our art director.

I know you finished recording the forthcoming full-length Adventuring last year, which comes out in March. What else will the next six months bring for Calories?

We are planning to release the album Adventuring on STA which has a release date of 2nd March 2009. We are also going back into the studio sometime this year to record our next full length record and also our first in a collection of EPs called Installations. We want these to be exclusively limited on vinyl with some sexy artwork.

Calories: Internerds | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

Previous Show Us Yours episodes:
Shapes And Sizes | Dirty On Purpose | Relay
Mobius Band | Frightened Rabbit | Assembly Now
Meneguar | Okay Paddy | Charmparticles

January 24, 2009

REMINDER: We're DJing The Rumble Tuesday @ Great Scott

Dany Sloan from ExitFare has asked us to DJ ahead of and between sets on Tuesday the 27th at his debut monthly The Rumble event at Great Scott, Boston, which we're pleased to do. You can expect to hear new sounds from Boston, Philly and the U.K., as well as a few classics, because we're the kind of blog that will force you to confront the greatness of things like Lemonheads' "Year Of The Cat" or The Trouble With Sweeney's "The Snitch." We don't plan on spinning actual vinyl, so we'll have plenty of time to sit and drink beer with you if you show up. The live bill looks very good, and includes Spectator, This Car Up and Black Diamond Bay (ex-The Dears). We're especially excited to see This Car Up, as we've just discovered their 2008 set and are becoming big fans. Doors at 9. Five American dollars. 1222 Commonwealth Ave, Allston Rock City. Be there. Wear pants.

January 22, 2009

YouTube Rodeo: Built To Spill's "You Were Right"

[Uploader: CoolLikeMiles] Shaky camera work, annihilatingly great track. We logged a lot of hours in a cubicle in early '99 listening to Built To Spill's fourth set Keep It Like A Secret. And while the kids all swooned then for "Carry The Zero" and "Time Trap," it was this immensely bitter anthem -- which appropriates memorable lyrics from Dylan, Hendrix, The Stones and others -- that fueled our actually-pretty-contented-in-retrospect general discontent for many months that year prior to our move to Boston. In late September of 2008 we benefitted from KoomDogg's misfortune and were able to avail ourselves of his second-row, center seat for Built To Spill, Dinosaur Jr. and Meat Puppets [review here]. "You Were Right," sadly, was not performed. The video above was shot at Lancaster, PA's Chameleon Club on July 3, 2007, and is well worth looking at.

January 21, 2009

Review: Point Juncture, WA | Heart To Elk [MP3]

It's no surprise to anybody minding indie rock in recent years that things are happening in Portland, Ore. What's notable is that for the second year running our first big surprise of the year has sprung from that city. In 2008 it was slow-core dreamers A Weather, and in 2009 it is A Weather scene peers and sometime tourmates Point Juncture, WA. The five-year-old, self-described quartet (which curiously boasts five players in the splash photo at its web site) self-released its third record, Heart To Elk, last fall, but Seattle-based indie label Mt. Fuji will give the set wider release next month.

Point Juncture, WA's music uses many of the same tools as A Weather's, but generally these are more forcefully and energetically applied. The sum total calls to mind Stereolab or My Brightest Diamond -- or, more accurately, a hybrid of same. "Melon Bird" boasts the former act's motorik beat, while the chamber pop opener "Rocks And Sand" channels the latter with appointments of horn, some droning, woodwind-ish low-end, synth and tasteful, coctail set drumming. "The Easy Winners" proffers something like a quiet bossa nova re-imagining of Joy Division's "Transmission" (which we suppose makes it more like Low's stirring rendering of the track). Co-fronter Victor Nash's vocals on "New Machine" are as detached and serene as those of The Notwist's Micha Acher, and the song's noisy, feedback-filled dénouement suggests certain older work by that Bavarian foursome. The Amanda Spring-sung "Biathalon" is an almost-fierce rocker, but it is the uplifting, uptempo head-nodder "Sick On Sugar" -- also sung by Ms. Spring, posted for download below, great video here -- that may be the biggest song on the record. Heart To Elk will be released on CD and vinyl Feb. 19; Point Juncture, WA previously issued the Juxtapony EP in 2004 and the full-length Mama Auto Boss in 2005.

Point Juncture, WA -- "Sick On Sugar" -- Return To Elk
[right click and save as]
[pre-order Return To Elk from Mt. Fuji right here]

Point Juncture, WA: Internerds | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

02/13 2009 -- Aladdin Theater -- Portland, Oregon

January 20, 2009

Today's Hotness: Johnny Foreigner, The Answering Machine

Johnny Foreigner
>> And so here's your big Johnny Foreigner second album recording news. The band has wedged about three weeks of free-ish time between two tours in March, during which the Birmingham, England-based trio will begin recording its sophomore full-length with former Fudge Tunnel dude and British ex-pat Alex Newport, presumably in Brooklyn. Mr. Newport is known for producing or mixing music by Death Cab For Cutie, Rival Schools, Knapsack (hey, remember Knapsack?), At The Drive-In, Piebald, The Melvins and Coco B's (his whole C.V. is right here). Newport opened the Brooklyn-based studio Future Shock in 2007 after apparently being based on the West Coast of the U.S. Prior to the recording sessions, Johnny Foreigner embark on a 10-day strand of European tour dates with the hotly tipped Sky Larkin. After the recording stint the trio does another 10 days on the road in the U.K. with A Hundred Reasons. As we ran out the Twitter feed last week, certain web sites keeping track of such things have recently posted that Johnny Foreigner are confirmed to appear at the annual U.S. music confab SXSW, which is right in the middle of the band's stint in the States. So it would seem March will be a big month for the band. In the meantime, why not relive the greatness that is Knapsack's 1998 set This Conversation Is Ending Starting Right Now courtesy of Lala.com.

>> Manchester, England-based indie rockers The Answering Machine will issue a single "Cliffer" March 9; the quartet embarks on a brief U.K. tour the same day. The Answering Machine are plotting a music video to promote the track, for which there has been no official b-side disclosed. Devoted readers will recall we offered here in early December a brief overview of certain newly mastered and very impressive Answering Machine tracks that were posted to the band's MySpace wigwam. The Answering Machine will release in May its debut full-length Another City, Another Sorry on Heist Or Hit in the U.K.

>> Simon Says No!'s Ahoi De Angst EP finally has a release date, which is Feb. 2. The collecton will come out on Spoon Train Audio in Norway; Ahoi De Angst will also be available globally through various digital music storefronts including that Apple one what just announced it is going DRM free. Simon Says No! are confirmed for SXSW; you may recall that we surveyed the promising young Norwegian nu-gaze combo here in November.

January 19, 2009

That Was The Show That Was: Frightened Rabbit, Pants Yell!!

Frightened Rabbit, Great Scott, January 19, 2009
They sold out the nightclub days in advance. They played "Floating In The Forth" for the first time in Boston. They covered Neutral Milk Hotel's "Song Against Sex." They enthralled the collegiate co-eds: lovers embraced each other and swung to the rhythm, tousle-haired outcasts opened their throats to the low ceiling in time with their words, and it appeared that the band's stealth campaign -- delivered largely over the television airwaves in the background of prime time programming in recent months -- was reaping big dividends. They are Frightened Rabbit, and they are the biggest thing since commercialized bottled water. You probably won't see them in a club the size of Great Scott, Boston again until they reunite for a club tour in the year 2029.

After somewhat under-performing during its last gig in Boston, the Selkirk, Scotland-based foursome last night professionally delivered a characteristically heart-felt set of striking tunes. And although its live performances have become increasingly measured over the years, resulting in slightly less fire but a greater connection with fans, Frightened Rabbit played like returning heroes to the packed house on a snowy Saturday night. We had been hoping to be treated to a new song or at least a rarity (we were thinking "Last Tango In Brooklyn"), but even so it is hard to complain about a show that opens with one of the best songs of the decade ("The Modern Leper") from one of the best records of 2008 [review], and closes with the familiar assault of the medley of "The Greys" -- last night with a new, introverted arrangement -- and the incendiary "Square 9" (which never fails to thrill with its final moments of unhinged thrash courtesy of drummer Grant Hutchison).

Fronter Scott Hutchison dazzled the crowd with his unamplified acoustic ballad "Poke," and very graciously thanked the crowd, saying it was a rare occasion for the band to sell out a club. Frightened Rabbit delivered the hits, which in addition to the cuts mentioned supra included "Be Less Rude," "Good Arms vs. Bad Arms," "Head Rolls Off," "I Feel Better." The set marked picked up in intensity after a rousing rendition of the piano-led stomper "The Twist," and another big highlight was the latest arrangement of the ballad "My Backwards Walk."

While we've seen Frightened Rabbit so many times that there are few things that surprise us, we were very taken with openers Pants Yell!! If our memory serves we were first alerted to the band by BrighAAAAm about five years ago, and although it took a while for us to fully embrace the charms of the band (some live performance clips from New York's Cake Shop finally sealed the deal), we've become very big proponents of the cardiganed three. So we were very pleased to see the scritchy indie pop trio from right here in Cambridge deliver a charming set that led with one of our favorite tracks, "Reject, Reject." We were equally jazzed to hear "Tried To Be Good" late in the set, which was strong despite the missing backing horn tracks. We look forward to seeing Pants Yell!! many more times in the future.

Frightened Rabbit -- "My Backwards Walk" -- Daytrotter Session
[right click and save as]
[buy Frightened Rabbit records from Newbury Comics right here]

Pants Yell!! -- "Tried To Be Good" -- Alison Statton
[right click and save as]
[buy Pants Yell!! records from Soft Abuse right here]

Frightened Rabbit: Internets | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

Selected Prior Frightened Rabbit coverage:
FR Live at the Middle East, October 2008
FR Live at TT The Bear's, July 2008
FR Live at the Middle East, March 2008
Review: Frightened Rabbit | The Midnight Organ Fight
FR Live at Great Scott, November 2007

January 16, 2009

Today's Hotness: Johnny Foreigner, Gentle Friendly, Venice Is Sinking

Johnny Foreigner attacks
>> [IMAGE CREDIT: Lewes Herriot] We've acquired more information about those early Johnny Foreigner recordings we posted about here last week, straight from singer/guitarist Alexei Berrow and drummer Junior Laidley. The two emailed in details about founding bandmate Dan and the collection Weallleftyousleepingandgonenow, which is not imaginary as we had speculated. In fact, Weallleftyousleepingandgonenow contained 14 tracks and was released in a hyper-limited edition of 40 handmade copies sleeved in pictures of buildings from Johnny Foreigner's beloved hometown Birmingham, England folded together to form some sort of house. The collection was self-recorded and the songs have since been lost to the band due to hardware failures of one sort or another. All of which means that if you own one of these 40 physical copies of Weallleftyousleepingandgonenow, we know a guy in Boston who really wants to talk to you.

But anyway, back to Dan, whose last name we could not determine, but who is described by the Johnny Foreigner chaps as "ridiculously talented." Since leaving Johnny Foreigner -- to which he contributed keyboards, samples and guitar work -- Dan has been playing in the London-based bands Gentle Friendly and Buttonhead. If the name Gentle Friendly sounds familiar to you, it's because the Casio-and-samples-and-loops wielding duo -- which also includes a chap named David -- had a couple songs featured on the vowel-hating RCRDLBL music site last year. Gentle Friendly plan a full-length release this spring, and previously issued the EP Night Tape in November and a cassette titled Esses Together/Blast Debris (Debris From Blasts Had 1968 - 2008), which certainly sounds like an early Pavement title, doesn't it? The band has a handful of live appearances forthcoming with acts including Ponytail and Spectrum that you can review at its MySpace dojo here. Buttonhead is more guitar-based and structured, but equally eccentric; we'll try to devote some time to the quintet in the near future. Johnny Foreigner -- the current model, featuring Kelly Southern on bass -- for its part released the single "Lea Room" b/w "DJs Get Doubts" earlier this week in the UK on Best Before Records. We're working on an interview with the band, in which we hope to delve further into its plans to begin working on a new record in March.

Gentle Friendly -- "Five Girl Night" -- Night Tape EP
[right click and save as]
[buy Gentle Friendly recordings from the band here]

>> Georgia-based Venice Is Sinking will release its forthcoming sophomore set AZAR March 31. As we wrote here last August, the five-year-old chamber-pop quintet began recording the collection in May 2007 and, after all was said and done, it ended up recording two separate long-players in different studios in Georgia and North Carolina. The second, non-AZAR set has yet to earn a title or release date, but do not forget that the band has it in its back pocket when it needs it. Venice Is Sinking issued its debut Sorry About The Flowers in 2006. In the meantime, the band is offering for free track two from the 11-song AZAR, "Ryan's Song," for free to the denizens of the Internet. The tune is bubbles with Duran Duran synth work but is kept suspended by cautious bass work and murmured vocals. It's quite a track. Here it is.

Venice Is Sinking -- "Ryan's Song" -- AZAR
[right click and save as]
[watch the band's web site for pre-order details]

>> Mobius Band sent a brief missive with some live dates and a vague promise of "heading up to a completely empty house in the middle of nowhere this weekend to do some top secret recording." We're eager to hear more from these guys, whose 2007 release Heaven was one of our favorites of that year. The band plays D.C. tonight and New York's Bowery Ballroom Jan. 27. All of which reminds us that we saw something about Editors recently saying their new record will be a balance of guitars and synths, which sounds to us like a bit of touring with Mobius Band rubbing off on them. We'll see. Well, more likely, we'll hear. Hopefully it'll sound a bit like this:

Mobius Band -- "A Hint Of Blood" -- Heaven
[right click and save as]
[buy Mobius Band records from Newbury Comics right here]

January 14, 2009

Today's Hotness: The Beatings, Video Nasties, Morrissey

The Beatings, Live, July 2007
>> Boston-slash-New York based noise rock titans The Beatings will begin recording a new record at the end of this month at Liberty And Union Recording Co. in beautiful Taunton, Mass. The new set, expected to be released this fall, is the first since the quartet's 2006 collection Holding On To Hand Grenades, which we raved about here, among other places. The Beatings make a rare live appearance Feb. 21 with labelmates The Spanish Armada at Beachcomber in Quincy, Mass. While fall seems a long way off, most of The Beatings' various associated projects -- all released through its bi-city label enterprise Midriff Records -- will be busy in the coming months. Beatings guitarist and singer Eldridge Rodriquez, a/k/a E.R., will issue his second full-length solo effort, You Are Released, May 26. Sometimes Rodriguez sidemen Greg Lyon and L. Tiburon Pacifico's Spanish Armada will release a record of its own March 9. If you are not hip to The Beatings or the rest of the band's under the Midriff shingle, next month is an ideal time to get familiar: Feb. 3 Midriff will launch (re-launch?) its ecommerce enterprise. So dig it. And while you're digging that, let's throw out some free Beatings rock and roll, namely our favorite track off of Holding On To Hand Grenades. We're too busy to re-rip or transcode for you, so you're getting an M4A file.

The Beatings -- "Villains" -- Holding On To Hand Grenades
[right click and save as]
[buy Beatings records from Midriff right here]

>> Here are some new facts to add to the file you are building on up-and-coming London quintet Video Nasties. On the heels of the November release of the band's very good and surprising Albatross EP, Video Nasties have disclosed that its forthcoming full-length debut is titled On All Fours. Three tracks from the set, whose mastering was only just completed, are now streaming at the band's MySpace cabin right here. "HNB" continues to mine the new rough-and-ready rock sound the band began exploring with "Albatross," and touts raw, throaty vocals, thundering, dense production and some discordant guitar stabs in the chorus. "Jellybean" is more of the same while being more melodic and more discordant at the same time, and we expect if the lyrics weren't so obscured by the mix we might harbor a little grumble at there not being much there. "Old Flowers" is a promising anthem that we think we'll be listening to a lot in the coming days. The band launches a two-week tour of the UK tonight, and you can inspect all of the tour dates at the aforementioned MySpace.

>> This is exciting: the flip-side of the vinyl version of Morrissey's forthcoming single "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris" is a live version of the late-period Smiths classic "The Death Of A Disco Dancer," according to the NME. The single will be out Feb. 9 in the U.K. It will also be released as a double CD single with two other b-sides, "Because Of My Poor Education" and "Shame Is The Name." Clearly, Moz wants all your pocket money. The latter cut features vocal contributions from The Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde. Morrissey's next full-length Years Of Refusal will be issued in the U.S. on Lost Highway Feb. 7. We've heard it, and it is awesome.

January 12, 2009

Review: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart | Self-titled [MP3s]

In our estimation the classic Slumberland sound is a product of just the right proportions of melody and distortion, dreampop and shoegaze. Certainly, there are exceptions and outliers: the first period of work from the amazing, phenomenal, superlative (and so forth) act Rocketship hardly relied on distortion at all, while in places on its self-titled EP Henry's Dress buries melody almost completely under a narcotic, face-melting sonic (c)rumble. As we stated previously here, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart's music bears the hallmarks of the classic Slumberland sound, and so it is appropriate that the venerable label will issue the New York-based quartet's self-titled full-length Feb. 3. Guitarist and singer Kip Berman's not unpleasantly nasal voice comes across like Dean Wareham's, particularly on the single "Kurt Cobain's Cardigan," but like the complementary guitars and synths that characterize The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart's music, it is when Berman's singing is combined with the angelic soprano of keyboardist and vocalist Peggy Wang that the band's songs really take flight.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart contains an embarrasment of noise pop riches including the now relatively familiar uptempo gems "This Love Is Fucking Right," "Everything With You" and "Come Saturday." But the amazing thing about the collection is that every song could be a single; there is nothing that could be dismissed as just "an album cut." "A Teenager In Love" boasts that Bowie-esque "Modern Love" double bounce, a Motown-ish vibe and is the most minimal-sounding production on the set. "Gentle Sons" is a dense, throbbing anthem with majestic streams of feedback spangling its closing section. "Hey Paul" feeds back over thundering bass not unlike songs of the aforementioned Henry's Dress. And so everything points to 2009 being a break-out year for The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. The band's "Everything With You" single, released in December, sold out in about two months; it previously issued a self-titled EP in 2007 and the sublime "Kurt Cobain's Cardigan" single in 2008. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart embarks on a one-week tour of the Northeastern U.S. (plus two Canadian dates) Feb. 7, and we've posted all of the pending tour dates below two MP3s, including one for "Everything With You." We plan to cover that Feb. 15 Boston show, so check back around then for more coverage of the band.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart -- "Everything With You" -- Self-titled
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart -- "Kurt Cobain's Cardigan"
[right click and save as]
[pre-order The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart from Insound here]

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart: Internerds | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

02/07 -- Mercury Lounge -- New York, NY
02/08 -- Kung Fu Necktie -- Philadelphia, PA
02/09 -- Black Cat Backstage -- Washington, DC
02/10 -- Garfield Artworks -- Pittsburgh, PA
02/11 -- Schubas -- Chicago, IL
02/12 -- Neutral -- Toronto, ON
02/13 -- Il Motore -- Montreal, PQ
02/14 -- The Monkey House -- Winooski, VT
02/15 -- Middle East -- Boston, MA
03/13 -- Bell House -- Brooklyn, NY
03/14 -- Talking Head Club -- Baltimore, MD
03/15 -- Local 506 -- Chapel Hill, NC
03/16 -- The Earl -- Atlanta, GA
03/18 -- SXSW - Red 7 -- Austin, TX

January 8, 2009

Today's Hotness: Meneguar, Feelies, Ron Asheton R.I.P.

>> We openly admit that we were largely stymied by Meneguar's most recent release The In Hour, which cast the band's raw indie punk jams in a strange light via uncertain, folksy production (a hilarious comment at the band's MySpace drive-thru reads "I would like to offer to do your next recordings with my cellphone. I guess the sound will be a lot better then [sic] on your current record."). That said, the Brooklyn-based quartet is forever one of our favorites based on the strength of its two prior records, I Was Born At Night and Strangers In Our House. Watching the well-realized performance video embedded above of The In Hour's "We Own We Sell" provided us with some new insight. Watching the guys rock it out into the extended jam and overdubs at the end made us realize "We Own We Sell" is the sound of Meneguar being influenced by a lot of '70s krautrock and acid rock. That doesn't seem like such a bad thing. The video clip apparently was recorded at a studio in Portland, Oregon, but it is unclear as to when. We can only hope a new record is coming. We got a couple search hits to this blog recently for "Meneguar break up" which made us frown. Strangers In Our House was our pick for top album of 2007; here is it's excellent lead track "Table 2."

Meneguar -- "Table 2" -- Strangers In Our House
[right click and save as]
[buy Meneguar records from Troubleman Unlimited and Woodsist/FIT]

>> Holy cow! The Feelies are playing Johnny Brenda's in Philly March 13. This bodes well for future activity from the legendary act, as well as for the social lives of Philadelphians who like to see legendary indie acts play relatively small nightclubs (actually, we've never been there, but it looks smallish in all the videos we've watched). Get your tickets here. We saw The Feelies play Boston's Roxy in October and it was awesome; here's our review.

>> The best memorial you are going to read about deceased Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton is likely this one from a guy whose name we don't even know but whose blog we've read for a year or two because he roadies/guitar techs/(sometimes literally) holds shit down for luminaries including J Mascis, Broken Social Scene and Girl Talk. Said guy, whose name might be David, describes meeting Mr. Asheton while just beginning as Mascis' guitar tech, despite having no skills in that area. Lots of cool little anecdotes packed into a sincere, heartfelt blog post. Asheton's body was discovered in his Ann Arbor, MI home Tuesday morning; he was 60. Billboard has the complete story about Asheton's passing here

January 7, 2009

Today's Hotness: Johnny Foreigner, Junior Jaguar

>> Whilst the clued-in hipnoscenti eagerly rub their hands together against the cold and in anticipation of the forthcoming single "DJs Get Doubts" b/w "Lea Room," our man Mr. C -- one of the world's pre-eminent Johnny Foreigner experts -- has miraculously turned up some of the Birmingham, England noise-pop trio's earliest recordings. Two tracks, "Candles And Cults" and "Caution Vampires," were discovered streaming away at this MySpace outpost which the band -- then going as the single word JohnnyForeigner -- apparently abandoned at the end of 2005, 10 months before Laundrette Recording Co. released its first single. It is notable that at that time the band did not yet include bassist Kelly Southern; instead, a third player (along with fronter and guitarist Alexei Berrow and drummer Junior Laidley) is listed only as Dan. We can only speculate as to the identity of this mysterious Dan.

"Caution Vampires" (attributed to the likely imaginary album Weallleftyousleepingandgonenow) is not dissimilar to many of the lesser known tracks populating the very rewarding demos collection I Like You Mostly Late At Never, with spirals of arpeggiated guitar, buried noise and spoken-word samples and even a bit of synth cropping up throughout underneath Mr. Berrow's now-familiar rant and croon. "Candles And Cults" (attributed to the collection Unalbumed) seems completely unrelated to the cut "Candles" found on I Like You Mostly Late At Never, is more compact and manic, and has a pretty wonderful chorus section with ethereal oohs that makes the song a must-have for fans. The production values are reminiscent of that of the demos "Kickkickick" and "Say It When Your Sober." Finally, we wonder whether Berrow had the forethought to consider the abandoned page an Easter Egg of sorts for future fans, as the URL is Myspace.com/imflatteredyouremembered. Best Before Records releases Johnny Foreigner's "DJs Get Doubts" b/w "Lea Room" Jan. 12 in the U.K.; the double a-sided release is the fourth single from the band's full-length Waited Up Til It Was Light, which was our pick for top record of 2008.

Johnny Foreigner -- "Caution Vampires" [MySpace]
Johnny Foreigner -- "Candles And Cults" [MySpace]
Johnny Foreigner -- "Candles" -- I Like You Mostly Late At Never
[right click and save as]
[buy Johnny Foreigner music from EMusic right here]

>> We've been sorting through a handful of recordings from Junior Jaguar, which is the nom de indie rock of Xxxxx Xxxxxx [name removed at the behest of this now markedly more mysterious songwriter]. One in particular, "Divine," stands out among the group because of its 7/4 verse, some jazzy chord changes in the chorus and because when Mr. Xxxxx pushes his voice he starts to sound a bit like J. Geils Band fronter Peter Wolf. This is a good thing. The track is very fuzzed up, but this adds a substantial live feel to a tune that -- like the rest of Xxxxx's work -- was likely laid down in an apartment somewhere in D.C. Junior Jaguar plans a debut release of some sort in the next few months. Xxxxx was kind enough to let us post "Divine," so check out the MP3 below. A second track, "Morning," is streaming at the Junior Jaguar MySpace casa right here.

Junior Jaguar -- "Divine"
[right click and save as]
[Stream more tracks at the Junior Jaguar MySpace casa]

January 5, 2009

Today's Hotness: Collection Agency, Montag, Dananananaykroyd

Collection Agency
>> Timothy Bracy's Collection Agency, the vehicle of the eponymous former Mendoza Line co-fronter, now apparently goes by the more succinct moniker Collection Agency. The outfit tends a MySpace dojo right here, where you can stream one folksy, rough demo titled "Doug Yule" along with a cross-section of various standout Mendoza Line cuts. Collection Agency purports to count among its number various of the Mendoza Line cohort including Clint Newman, John Troutman, Elizabeth Nelson and mustachioed fan-favorite Paul Deppler, as well as the heretofore unknown-to-us Beth Wawerna -- who fronts the very good Bird Of Youth, which features Mssrs. Bracy and Newman in supporting roles -- and Federico Bortoletto (sadly, no Clark Wallace). The aforementioned MySpace outpost promises a Collection Agency record will surface in 2009, which is welcome news. A Bird Of Youth record produced by Okkervil River's Will Sheff is also apparently in the offing, and about which we are now very excited. Speaking of Mendoza Line, only last summer did we finally get our hands on the excellent and out-of-print collection I Like You When You're Not Around. Pay just about any price necessary to obtain this. Here's one of several standout tracks.

Mendoza Line -- "(We'll Never Make) The Final Reel" -- I Like You When You're Not Around
[right click and save as]
[buy in-print Mendoza Line titles from Newbury Comics here]

>> Another holdover from the late, great 2008: electronic music purveyor Montag -- also known as the newly Montreal-based Antoine Bedard -- has just released the EP Hibernation, which features six instrumental, somnolent head-nodders and one track ("La Symetrie Du Coeur") sung in French. The icy and pulsing "Labrador (Encore)" sounds like the soundtrack to a solitary walk in the snow. The physical manifestation of Hibernation is available in a limited edition of 150 handmade discs (presumably it is the packaging and label that are handmade). Carpark previously released Montag's full-length Going Places in 2007, which included the very catchy bleepers "Best Boy Electric" and the title track. Bedard hopes to release a new long-player before the year is out. Recently he has kept busy remixing tunes for indie acts Au Revoir Simone, M83, I'm From Barcelona and others.

Montag -- "Labrador (Encore)" -- Hibernation EP
[right click and save as]
[purchase Hibernation at The Blue House right here]

>> Although its hotly tipped full-length debut Hey Everybody! won't be in U.K. stores for months (the band says the new record "makes Sissy Hits sound like really boring crap or Keane"), Glaswegian fight-pop septet Dananananaykroyd is already pondering a follow-up. According to the band's 2008 recap at its blog here, the groop claims (half-claims?) to have begun writing new material for a set tentatively titled Creep. It reads like a joke, so perhaps it is. But either way, it is bracing to see that Los Campesinos!' two-fer in 2008 might be a harbinger of more bands breaking away from a no-more-than-one-album-a-year pace. Yeah. Dananananaykroyd embark on a month-long tour of the U.K. and Europe with Kaiser Chiefs Jan. 19.

January 2, 2009

Today's Hotness: Built By Snow, Burning Hearts, It Hugs Back

Built By Snow
>> [PHOTO CREDIT: Alison Narro] Austin, Texas regularly surprises us with upstart indie acts. Recently it was turning out impressive shoegaze bands (the mighty Ringo Deathstarr, She, Sir), but its manic quartet Built By Snow trades in synth pop. The aesthetic is not unlike scene antecedents Belaire (whose self-titled 2005 EP continues to make us smile). But Built By Snow, which formed in early 2006, embraces a more overtly rock sound encompassing the bracing '80s pop of, oh, let's say The Tubes, as well as a thousand forgotten acts, as evidenced by the upbeat, hand-clapping anthem "All The Weird Kids Know." Built By Snow counts among its influences Devo and The Cars, but we think that assessment ignores several obvious contempories; Built By Snow's "Something In 3D" sounds a lot like New Pornographers. "A-Beta" touts sparer -- but no less punchy -- verses that the foursome leverages into dense pre-choruses/non-choruses packed with squalling guitars. Built By Snow self-release its new album Mega Jan. 20; an earlier EP, Noise, was issued in 2007. The band will be quite busy beginning tonight, when it plays the first of a half-dozen local engagements. We've posted Built By Snow's itinerary below.

Built By Snow -- "A-Beta" -- Mega
[right click and save as]
[buy Mega from Built By Snow right here]

01/02 -- Mohawk -- Austin, TX
01/06 -- Beauty Bar -- Austin, TX
01/08 -- Beauty Bar -- Austin, TX
01/18 -- KVRX radio session -- Austin, TX
01/24 -- Club DeVille -- Austin, TX
02/25 -- Emos -- Austin, TX

>> Pushing an even more synth-heavy musical agenda is the Finnish duo Burning Hearts, whose icy music largely foregoes real drums and rocking electric guitars in favor of programmed beats and analog(-sounding) keys. The act is comprised of Cats On Fire drummer and multi-instrumentalist Henry Ojala, and Le Futur Pompiste singer Jessika Rapo, who met while those two outfits toured Sweden in tandem in 2004. Burning Hearts' debut Aboa Sleeping will be released by Shelflife Feb. 10. The set is filled with gently glistening and airy compositions anchored by Rapo's rich and affecting alto, and the combination of the singing and synths will likely spur some knee-jerk comparisons to Stereolab. The likeness, however, is merely superficial, and we can't imagine anyone mistaking Burning Hearts' mid-tempo brooder "Sea Birds" with a Stereolab jam. The former's "A Peasant's Dream," well, maybe.

>> A left-over item from before the holiday: Kent, England-based It Hugs Back's full-length debut is -- somewhat improbably -- titled Inside Your Guitar. The set will be issued by the venerable enterprise 4AD, and likely not before April, although the quartet hopes to be selling the collection at gigs early from early in 2009. Inside Your Guitar will be preceded by at least one and perhaps two singles. Readers will recall we were ga-ga for the band's most recent commercial offering, the single "Work Day," which will also feature on the full-length. In late December It Hugs Back was offering a gift in the form of two tracks, NRBQ's "Christmas Wish" b/w "Sometimes The Snow," wrapped up in a .zip file. We're not crazy about the former track, but "Sometimes The Snow" is an interesting pastiche of spacey studio rumination built on reversed tracks, cymbal drone and guitar and bass snippets that went very nicely with the snow that fell on Boston the Sunday before Christmas. If you rush over here right now perhaps you can still download it.