March 31, 2009

More WeLeftYouSleeping: "His Floor Is My Ashtray" +1

So where were we? Oh right, running down the tracks from Johnny Foreigner's unreleased first full-length WeLeftYouSleepingAndGoneNow, recorded by the nascent trio in 2005, prior to bassist Kelly Southern's tenure in the band. To date we've shared with you the first four and the final songs of WeLeftYouSleepingAndGoneNow, which puts us squarely in the middle of the track listing. So today let's talk about "His Floor Is My Ashtray" and "I'm Leaving... Soon," tracks five and six respectively. We already referenced the former as a highlight of the "lost" record in our initial assessment here three weeks ago. Citing the record's "carefree and expansive experimentalism," we offered as an example "the wild tumult and the ensuing, surprisingly quiet close of 'His Floor Is My Ashtray.' The tune quietly nestles into a reverie built on a reversed drum track, plucking on the guitar strings behind the bridge and band fronter Alexei Berrow murmuring 'he just calls it like he sees it' over and over again into the fade.'" Sounds pretty good, yeh?

"I'm Leaving... Soon" is notable for the prescient guitar lick that drives the composition. Mr. Berrow is an avowed Craig Finn/Hold Steady fan, so it is sort of an amazing coincidence that the opening guitar business of "I'm Leaving... Soon" would fit well (with a little wiggling, of course) within "One For The Cutters," track three on The Hold Steady's very good 2008 Stay Positive. The Johnny Foreigner track is substantially more forlorn, and Berrow's murmured vocals alternates spaces with some spacey synths that pulse and pan across a stereo field perforated with clacking drum machine. The last 40 seconds are surprisingly overdriven, as live drums enter the mix and Berrow takes to the rafters to scream away his disappointment -- it's quite affecting.

Johnny Foreigner -- "His Floor Is My Ashtray" -- WeLeftYouSleepingAndGoneNow
Johnny Foreigner -- "I'm Leaving... Soon" -- WeLeftYouSleepingAndGoneNow
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[buy in-print Johnny Foreigner music here and here]

March 30, 2009

Review: The Answering Machine | Another City, Another Sorry

The soaring debut full-length from rising Manchester, England-based indie pop phenoms The Answering Machine is as big as we've been speculating it would be for months. And while we meant that metaphorically, we are surprised at how big it actually sounds in some places. Fortunately, it works, but it can be startling at first to hear certain tunes of the formerly scritchy-sounding, Strokes-influenced foursome clad in arena-scale production. Even so, the over-arching bombast and energy of the music and performances are more than enough to keep The Answering Machine from sounding like they are swimming in the sonic equivalent of David Byrne's too-big suit from the fantastic concert film "Stop Making Sense." Instead, the production and performance hint at an increased professionalism and confidence that is exciting to see in the band, which has spent several years leading up to the release of Another City, Another Sorry becoming an increasingly formidable rock outfit.

The sonic development is no more pronounced than on the very orchestrated re-imagining of the b-side "It's Over! It's Over! It's Over!" The track was originally released as the flip to the triumphant "Silent Hotels" single in 2007. The single version now sounds almost comically undersized in comparison to the electrifying rendering on Another City, Another Sorry, which touts crashing guitars, vast reverbs, metallic clangs and angelic, choral "aaaaahs." As with "It's Over! It's Over! It's Over!," much of Another City, Another Sorry is populated with new versions of tunes released as singles over the last few years. We are most excited by the material that was new to us, including the blistering title track, which surprisingly was not selected as either the first or second single from the new set. The undeniable first single, "Cliffer," was released March 9 and is obviously a winner. According to this recent post at The Answering Machine's blog, the next single from the full-length will be "Obviously Cold" -- a hot number for sure, and it has a wonderfully Peter Hook-esque bass line in the verse. That said, we have to believe it was a hard decision to choose between it and the barn-storming title track, and we wonder if the free availability of the song "Another City, Another Sorry" to bloggers rendered it ineligible by management for the vinyl 7" treatment. Other new tracks that rate high marks are the roller-disco-ready soul clapper "Emergency" and the uptempo romantic downer that closes the album with a proverbial bang, "You Should Have Called."

There is as yet no release date for the "Obviously Cold" single [here's a recent live performance], but the quartet is filming a video for it in Los Angeles during its short jaunt to the U.S. this week. The Answering Machine has numerous appearances lined up in L.A. over the span of three days, and then the act flies east to New York for a one-off at Mercury Lounge. Full details are posted at the band's MySpace hacienda right here. Heist Or Hit issues Another City, Another Sorry in the U.K. on May 25.

The Answering Machine -- "Another City, Another Sorry" -- Another City, Another Sorry
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[pre-order Another City, Another Sorry from right here]

The Answering Machine: Internets | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

March 29, 2009

That Was The Show That Was: Varsity Drag | Cantab Lounge

Varsity Drag, Cantab Lounge, March 28, 2009
While the sleeping habits of our local rock luminaries are truly none of your business, we think if there is a teaching point to be drawn from last night's air-tight, rock-steady performance by Cambridge-based indie-punk trio Varsity Drag, it is that if your drummer wants to nap before the show, go ahead and let him. Recently ensconced Varsity Drag timekeeper Josh Pickering apparently did just that last night, and when the band took the stage at midnight he set things off with incendiary, sometimes punishing drum work and a firm command of the backing vocal harmonies. We don't break out the phrase "two-fisted pummelation" often -- at least not outside the context of Grant Hutchison -- but we feel like what we saw last night from the drum stool qualifies as just that. Mr. Pickering's energy fueled the evening and locked down the guitar and bass, and the proceedings punched along and turned on a dime with precision. The band, fronted by guitarist Ben Deily and abetted by bassist Lisa Marie Deily, ran through highlights of its 2005 set For Crying Out Loud, selections from Mr. Deily's wonderful contributions to the Lemonheads oeuvre, two new tunes and apparently a Soft Boys cover.

The evening commenced with the infectious anthem "Summertime" and closed with the Lemonheads classic "2nd Chance." The set was filled out with fan favorites "Billy Ruane," "Miles Of Ocean," "Two Weeks In Another Town" and "7 Powers." It was the heaviest of several performances we've seen by the band, and we believe the band wears it very well. With Pickering now ably executing harmonies, we're hoping "Hello It's Me" works its way into the band's live set, as we can't recall whether we've seen that rocker performed live. The new number "Animal" stood out for its strong dynamics; it seemed the song was as much about the music itself as opposed to the music being simply a jaunty bed for lyrics, in a way we don't recall seeing from the trio previously.

Varsity Drag, as readers know from this post Thursday, are prepping the release of the live set Rock & Roll Is Such A Hassle this July, as well as a digital-only EP of new material to tease a full-length that could be completed by year's end. Fans will be pleased to learn the Drag has taken delivery of a new pressing of the For Crying Out Loud 10" and new t-shirts from its European label Boss Tunage, and we recommend getting your mitts on at least the former as soon as possible. We don't see any pending shows listed at Varsity Drag's MySpace outpost right now, but we may have heard and promptly forgotten some relevant banter about forthcoming shows last night. As is our wont, we snapped some digital photos last night and you can watch a slide show of the stuff that passed muster right here. As far as other goodies go, we've got the live recording of the band's minor Boston radio hit "Billy Ruane" that will be offered as part of Rock & Roll Is Such A Hassle when the set is released. So check it out.

Varsity Drag -- "Billy Ruane (Live)" -- Rock & Roll Is Such A Hassle
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[buy in-print Varsity Drag rock and roll music right here]

Varsity Drag: Internerds | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

March 27, 2009

Projekt A-ko Is Awesome And This Is A Post About Them

Projekt A-ko
We suppose we should start at the beginning of the story, which is this: when we were music director at the radio station of our small liberal arts college in Connecticut in 1996 we took delivery of copious excellent records. And in those days, pre- ubiquitous Interhoozle and MySpazzz and all that, one reliable indicator of whether the indie rock you were about to hear was any good was what label it was released on. So when we saw a new CD EP come through the door that spring from the very respectable Che Records, we took notice. The disc was Urusei Yatsura's Plastic Ashtray EP [video], and like all good things in 1996, we almost immediately took it into the auxiliary studio and copied it to cassette tape, the now quaint storage media. We played that tape to death, and always maintained an interest in Urusei Yatsura while not actually hearing any of the ensuing recordings. Along the way some legal friction with a Japanese comics outfit or some such forced the band to drop the "Urusei" from its name for releases in certain markets, but otherwise the Glaswegian foursome continued to make and release records until 2001, during which we moved around a lot, played some cards, had a few jobs and largely forgot about the band. That is, until about a week ago, when Parisian blogstress and Johnny Foreigner fan Veee sent us a message asking if we were hip to the band. Almost the same day we received an email from a fellow in England saying something about a few bands and mixed in there was the name Urusei Yatsura, who we had only a week or so before seen used as an RIYL for the rising British band Wet Paint. So we thought, hey, that's weird, everybody's talking about Urusei Yatsura nowadays, and then we doot-doot-dooed like Homer Simpson for about a week before going back to the email mentioned all the way back in the previous sentence.

Upon further review, we learned that said email was indicating that three former members of Urusei Yatsura had formed several years ago the new combo Projekt A-ko. The new trio -- Fergus Lawrie on guitar and vocals, Elaine Graham on bass and vocals, and Ian Graham on drums -- will release the full-length Yoyodyne April 20 on its own Milk Pie Records, and we've heard a few tracks from it, and they are amazingstunningawesome. There are a couple non-album MP3's at the Yoyodyne microsite, and even those are awesome. Yoyodyne took three years to write and record, and the tracks "Here Comes New Challenger!" and "Nothing Works Twice" have been selected as singles from the 13 cuts, although it is unclear whether that means they are, you know, actual singles coming out on vinyl and whatnot, or just the band saying "hey! radio programmers! play these tracks!" It's a little confusing because these tunes have already been issued: Filthy Little Angel records released a Projekt A-ko/Horowitz split EP in February 2008 in an edition of 200 vinyl copies which contained the tracks "Nothing Works Twice" and "Goodbye Sunlight" on it. We will spend most of the weekend thinking of ways to justify spending six pounds sterling for that. Then in March 2008 Broken Tail Records issued a four-band EP Four By Four More, which contains that cracking Projekt A-ko track "Here Comes New Challenger!" We love this tune so much we are offering it for download below along with one of the non-album tracks we turned up at the band's site. Yoyodyne is already available for pre-order, and its 10 pounds sterling price includes worldwide shipping, which means we'll have a second import expense to torture ourselves over all weekend. Oh well. Expect to see a lot more about Projekt A-ko here at :: clicky clicky ::, as we're quite taken with them.

Projekt A-ko -- "Here Comes New Challenger!" -- Yoyodyne
Projekt A-ko -- "Our Teenagers Need Healthy Touch"
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[pre-order Yoyodyne from the band right here]

Projekt A-ko: Internerds | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

March 26, 2009

Exclusive: Varsity Drag Live Set, New Album Coming

Varsity Drag -- Rock & Roll Is Such A Hassle
Stellar news, inconvenienced but loyal rock fans: not only is Varsity Drag, the delightful indie-punk vehicle of Lemonheads co-founder Ben Deily, playing the Cantab Lounge basement in Cambridge, Mass. this Saturday night, but also we can report that the trio will release later this year a live record titled Rock & Roll Is Such A Hassle. The set, recorded at The Weekender in Innsbruck, Austria in 2007, will be issued by the Cambridge, Mass.-based act's European label Boss Tunage through all the usual digital storefronts and in a limited CD run. We heard it is "surprisingly ass-kicking," and after sampling several preview tracks we can confirm that. That giant graphic above very well might be the art that goes with the record, and since we've gotten it exclusively, and since we know the vision of certain readers isn't what it used to be, we made it all big. Fans will recognize the title of the live album as the name attached to Varsity Drag's 2007 tour, a poster for which you can puzzle over here at

Rock & Roll Is Such A Hassle, itself of unknown release date, precedes by an indeterminate length of time a planned sophomore set from Varsity Drag. The new set could be released by year's end if all goes as planned; Deily and his rotating crew of merry men and women released its first record For Crying Out Loud in 2005. An advance EP of certain new material -- probably a digital-only release -- will be issued sooner rather than later to incite sizzle for the new full-length. Said new recording will likely feature the drumming of Deily cohort Josh Pickering, who previously beat the skins manned the four-string thunderstick in Mr. Deily's '90s vehicle PODS and who manned the kit for the trio at the most recent Drag gig we took in, namely the Pat Leonard tribute late last year. We have an unconfirmed track list for Rock & Roll Is Such A Hassle, which we paste below for your reference. Note that a couple of those tracks are hyperlinked -- these are MP3s, made available to us through the kindness of Deily himself. Which of course, makes rock & roll slightly less of a hassle. And that much more awesome. Varsity Drag appears at Cantab Lounge this Saturday with Mr. Sister, The Motion Sick Broken River Prophet and St. Helena.

1. Skinny Ties
2. Summertime [right click and save as]
3. Uhhh (Lemonheads)
4. Billy Ruane
5. Starfish
6. Miles Of Ocean
7. Burying Ground/2 Weeks In Another Town (Lemonheads)
8. Falling (Lemonheads)
9. Blackout [right click and save as]
10. 7 Powers (Lemonheads)
11. Ever (Lemonheads)
12. Postcard (Lemonheads)
13. Powerless
14. New Strings
15. Second Chance (Lemonheads)

[buy Varsity Drag, PODS and other Ben Deily-related recordings right here]

Previous Varsity Drag Coverage:
Varsity Drag @ O'Brien's, August 2008
Varsity Drag @ Cantab Lounge, February 2008
Free Range Music: Varsity Drag, May 2006

March 25, 2009

More WeLeftYouSleeping: "Caution! Vampires!" and "An Apology"

Johnny Foreigner
[Originally posted here Monday. -- Ed.] We thought today we'd bring you two tracks from Johnny Foreigner's WeLeftYouSleepingAndGoneNow, as you've already heard one if you've followed our sage advice and logged on to hear the tracks streaming at this ghosted MySpace outpost. So "Caution! Vampires!" will not be new to you, but we expect the track that follows it on the Birmingham, England-based noise pop titans' "lost" first album -- that is, "An Apology" -- will be. We described the former track here as "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." The tune opens with a noise loop before tumbling into a swaying verse. The production on the drums is distant, but otherwise the track is recorded well and boasts a gripping arrangement of guitars and airy backing vocals.

At a minute-forty-five seconds in band fronter Alexei Berrow amplifies the tone of the song with an aggressive guitar figure that ultimately transforms into a dense crescendo of driven by cymbals to the brink. "Caution! Vampires!" closes with some drunken(-sounding) ranting that lays the groundwork for a neat seque into the quiet, solemn opening of the terrifically affecting "An Apology." Berrow's barrage of lyrics here is buried within a mix laden with high, spacey synths, acoustic guitar and a curtain of what sounds like accordion. Drumming at the end of the third minute lifts the entire proceedings to another plane entirely from elegy to strident head-bobber. Again, the production is imaginative and clever, but falls short of clear, making "An Apology" among the first tracks from WeLeftYouSleepingAndGoneNow that we'd beg Johnny Foreigner to re-record in a proper studio. Both "Caution! Vampires!" and "An Apology" are posted below. We'll continue exploring WeLeftYouSleepingAndGoneNow in future blog posts, so keep reading.

Johnny Foreigner -- "Caution! Vampires!" -- WeLeftYouSleepingAndGoneNow
Johnny Foreigner -- "An Apology" -- WeLeftYouSleepingAndGoneNow
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[buy in-print Johnny Foreigner music here and here]

March 24, 2009

Today's Hotness: Favours For Sailors, Los Campesinos!

>> [EDIT: sorry for the typo in the header all day. Weak brain last night. -- Ed.] After tips from the sadly defunct Beatcast and Exitfare we downloaded from EMusic Favours For Sailors' terrific EP Furious Sons. The set was released earlier this month and it totally delivers. Folks are bandying about Pavement comparisons, but we think the London-based foursome hews more closely to the quirky pop sound of Weezer and The Cars. The video above is from Favours For Sailors' triumphant November 2008 set at New Slang in Kingston, England, and it features what will likely be the act's breakout song, "I Dreamt That I Dreamt That You Loved Me In Your Dreams." That said, we've come to the startling realization that the tune is not even the best cut on Furious Sons. That accolade goes to the "Erode My Empire," a track that has apparently been kicking around for a couple years (and back when the band was apparently a trio?). Needless to say, we think you'll be hearing a lot more from Favours For Sailors in the coming weeks and months. Sadly, folded earlier this month, so you can no longer check out the fabulous full set it was streaming in glorious full-screen video. But hit up YouTube for more video-y goodness.

>> Hey, did you know Welsh indie-pop superlatives Los Campesinos! are currently in Stamford, Connecticut, USA, in a recording studio working on their Nth album, where N equals the total number of records the band has recorded, plus or minus the exceptional 2008 set We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed that the band was unwilling to deem an "album?" It's true, according to the band's rejuvenated blog. As of Thursday, at which point the band was 10 days into the first extended session, Gareth Campesinos! reports, there are "7 songs in various states of completion. Four or five completely done bar vocals and violin, which knowing myself and Harriet, we’ll leave until the very last moment. One song is very nearly complete at least though, and is pretty exciting I think. It’s called "Straight In At Number 101." There’s a bit where I thought I sounded like Harriet’s Jonas Brothers impression, but apparently it wasn’t anything to worry about. The Welsh septet is working with producer John Goodmanson and recording its new set in the same studio where Pixies' earth-shaking Doolittle was tracked. The band has two recording sessions planned in North America, and plans to have the record mixed by the end of June. Fans may recall that Goodmanson helmed the sessions for the aforementioned We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, which gives us high hopes that its successor will be equally excellent. Los Campesinos! resume their American tour this weekend, and you can peruse all of their pending engagements at their MySpace yert here.

>> These true facts in from noise pop superheroes Johnny Foreigner: the band's sophomore set "is pretty much done," save for what sounds like some rough mixing to be done by Alex Newport. Mr. Newport and the band have been tracking the as-yet-untitled record for the last few weeks in Brooklyn; we expect there will be a third-party that will do the final mixing, but we are entirely speculating. Let's revisit Mr. Newport's CV and see what mixing credits he has, shall we? Well, we stand corrected -- we see now that Newport has mixing credits out the wazoo, and so it wouldn't be unusual for him to do the final mix as well. So there, people. What else can we tell you? Well, there are apparently guest vocals on the new set from Justin Meneguar, which is awesome, because Meneguar is super top-serious awesome band. Other guest vocalists include members of the inimitable Dananananaykroyd, as well as folks from Fight Like Apes and Sky Larkin. This seems like as good an excuse as any to post this awesome fist-banger:

Meneguar -- "The Temp" -- I Was Born At Night
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[buy Meneguar records from the band right here]

>> So you can now pre-order Dinosaur Pile-Up's forthcoming second single "Traynor" from various places on the Interwhatsitz now like Rough Trade. We're not crazy about the track, frankly, as it is remarkably cock-rocky -- the band's love for Foo Fighters is very apparent. We are far more enamored with the demos we've heard for quieter, more subtle tracks like the blissful, sublime "Let's Get Up," the hypnotic "Love Is A Boat And We're Sinking" and others. So we're hoping the band hasn't lost its affinity for that sort of material, because if it is all going to sound like "Traynor" from here on out, we're not sure if it is our cup of tea. You can stream the track at the U.K.-based trio's MySpace dojo right here. Dinosaur Pile-Up's debut single "My Rock & Roll" was released December 8; it contained the original demo of "Our Live A Boat And We're Sinking" on the flip.

March 23, 2009

Review: "Metal Machine Music -- Nine Inch Nails And The Industrial..."

Let's get the amusing part out of the way, because -- really -- there is little amusing to be said about the powerfully negative and defiantly humorless music of Trent Reznor's Nine Inch Nails. So: it is funny that in the archival interview footage in "Metal Machine Music: Nine Inch Nails And The Industrial Uprising" depicting Mr. Reznor at the turn of the 1990s, the visionary artist looks and speaks a lot like the character "Jess" from the now defunct, wordy tele-dramedy "Gilmore Girls."

Metal Machine Music, of course, is the title of Lou Reed's experimental noise record from 1973 that this new documentary pegs as the genesis of what would shortly thereafter -- through no small effort by Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire and Einsturzende Neubaten among others -- become Industrial music. But we have to fast-forward about 17 years from then to the time when we were just of driving age in the U.S., and when acts including Nine Inch Nails and Ministry were splashing huge into the underground (and to a lesser extent into the mainstream on the back of the miraculous Lollapalooza festival masterminded by Jane's Addiction's Perry Farrel and a nice fellow named Marc Geiger), before the movement began to have impact outside of its insular scene.

Between 1988 and 1990 things were happening in the American underground, and many of these things -- electro, hardcore, house, goth, techno and even hip-hop to a certain extent -- started to assume collective sonic signifiers. As a result, we can attest to the fact that at the time youthful and disaffected East Coast suburbanites patrolled the four-lanes in cars booming Doo Doo Brown (!!!!), Revolting Cocks, Lords Of Acid, Public Enemy and so forth. Nowadays Industrial music has finite connotations of canned beats and metal guitars, a perception firmed up by the success of Nine Inch Nails and Ministry and the albums that made them famous. But, as we stated above, at the dawn of the '90s there seemed to be a shared aesthetic forming around certain disparate sounds and scenes. The tag "Industrial" became something of a catch-all to describe the lot of this, just as previously "hardcore" seemed the most easy way to explain the underground to people who didn't know The Cure from Stormtroopers Of Death. And so, roughly between the September 1989 release of the debut Nine Inch Nails single "Down In It" and the 1991 release of Ministry's earth-shaking and triumphant single "Jesus Built My Hotrod," it seemed like the future of music was absolutely Industrial.

Of course, things didn't exactly turn out that way. The story is tired, so we won't detail how the release of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and Nevermind re-calibrated reality. But needless to say, all of sudden instead of talking about the Chicago scene and Wax Trax, everyone began talking about Seattle and Sub Pop. And while Nine Inch Nails and Ministry rode the wave of the newly christened Alternative scene and benefitted from the temporary enthusiastic embrace of the underground by the overground, Industrial music did not transform popular music wholesale. "Metal Machine Music" curiously chooses to begin at what, at the time, seemed like the end of the story: Nine Inch Nails' mud-encrusted performance at the cynically commercialized re-hashing of Woodstock in 1994 (too predictably, NME reported late yesterday/early today that a 40th anniversary cash-grab is a possibility). The narrator of "Metal Machine Music" states that it is here that Industrial was thrust into the mainstream. In our opinion this performance is a eulogy for the style. While the Woodstock '94 appearance may or may not be the zenith of Nine Inch Nails' popularity with mainstream music fans -- this is questionable in light of the renaissance Reznor has been experiencing creatively since 2005, not to mention Reznor's consistent ability to top album charts (The Downward Spiral debuted at No. 2; The Fragile at No. 1 -- even so it seems appropriate to insert here the narrator's summarizing, DVD-ending quote: "In many ways, Nine Inch Nails represent the end of Industrial music." Critic Tom Udo agrees: "By the mid-'90s, Industrial was more or less washed up."

"Metal Machine Music" at first seems overly reliant on the musings of music critics including the always likable Ned Raggett. But the video succeeds in providing a watchable and thorough investigation of Nine Inch Nails and Reznor without actually providing us with Reznor himself (except via a smattering of archival interviews) to opine on the proceedings. Fortunately, there is extensive interview footage with longtime Reznor collaborator Chris Vrenna, who offers enough in the way of details and insight to make the DVD more credible than a bull session among the various critics assembled. Indeed, Mr. Vrenna is a very useful and informative proxy that is able to relay his impressions of Reznor's mindset at certain times. Reznor's influences and early history as a new waver, epic struggles with TVT Records and personal demons are all given ample airing as the narrator, critics, Vrenna and a small number of additional scene peers walk viewers through a single by single by EP by album history of Nine Inch Nails.

With Reznor's recent announcement of a possible end to Nine Inch Nails after a summer tour with Jane's Addiction, "Metal Machine Music" offers a tidy assessment of Reznor's band and his importance to contemporary popular music. Nine Inch Nails' Ghosts I-IV, released last April to the Internet and through special promotions directly to fans, is perhaps Reznor's most intriguing work to date, and his likely post-Nine Inch Nails output is sure to be exciting. Shedding the Nine Inch Nails name may signal that Reznor's greatest experimentation has yet to be realized and recorded. MVD Video Distribution releases "Metal Machine Music" April 7, and you can pre-order the DVD right here.

Nine Inch Nails -- "1,000,000" -- The Slip
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[download all of The Slip from right here]
[by commercially available Nine Inch Nails releases from Newbury Comics right here]

March 20, 2009

More Of WeLeftYouSleepingAndGoneNow: "Less, We Remember"

[So our plan to cross-post at KeepingSomeDarkSecrets and Clicky Clicky at roughly the same time got thrown off this week by some other posts in the Clicky Clicky pipeline and serial, hair-greying work emergencies. In case you are not a reader yet, KeepingSomeDarkSecrets posted this item Monday. -- Ed.]

People are excited about WeLeftYouSleepingAndGoneNow, and for good reason. The "lost" first Johnny Foreigner record is a very solid, incredibly rare collection of expansive, textured tunes recorded by one of the earliest iterations of the band. And so on the heels of our review last week, to which we appended MP3s for "Looking Up Is Not Enough" and "A Slow Song For The End," we're launching a one-song-a-post run-down of the remaining nine tracks of the collection, beginning with the ones you're least likely to have heard. Readers should recall that KeepingSomeDarkSecrets first uncovered WeLeftYouSleepingAndGoneNow in early January, and in that post we pointed you here to a ghost ship of a MySpace presence where the relatively ancient tracks "Caution Vampires" and "Candles And Cults" were found streaming away. The former track is on WeLeftYouSleepingAndGoneNow but the latter is not. And so, if you've been paying attention, you've heard tracks two, three and eleven from WeLeftYouSleepingAndGoneNow. Let's tackle the remaining numbers in order then, shall we? The record commences with the slow, elegiac, acoustic guitar-and-'verbed-out piano ballad "Less, We Remember." It is pretty, it is somewhat mournful, and it certainly seems prescient in that the words (taxis, festivals) and themes (being left behind by people moving on or moving away; reflections on home and relationships) band fronter Alexei Berrow employs have continued to appear in Johnny Foreigner songs even now, some four years later. The song is cold and wintry, so you'd best have a listen before spring really kicks in and brightens the place up.

Johnny Foreigner -- "Less, We Remember" -- WeLeftYouSleepingAndGoneNow
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[buy in-print Johnny Foreigner music here and here]

March 17, 2009

That Was The Show That Was: The Spanish Armada | PA's Lounge

The Spanish Armada, PA's Lounge, March 14, 2009
If you've been attuned to the Boston-based portion of the Midriff Records cohort for the last few years, you've likely heard more talk about the band The Spanish Armada than you've actually heard music. The band's debut long-player, prior to its release last week, sat in the can ready to go for quite a while. And then at some point the core duo of Greg Lyon and L. Tiburon Pacifico augmented the collection with a battery of overdubs. The finished product being celebrated with a record-release show Saturday is a mysterious, atmospheric mix of the crystalline and the noisy, and is filled with compositions whose aural topography is remarkably disparate. There is a lot of space, and there is a lot of stuff, and all of it is artfully arranged around Mr. Lyon's murmured, pointedly feel-bad vocals.

And so the biggest question Saturday night was how will The Spanish Armada -- now a quintet with a three-guitar attack, a bass player like Dee Dee Ramone, and an impressively fluid new drummer -- translate all the work in the studio to the stage performance. We spoke briefly with Mr. Pacifico prior to showtime and he said the band had worked hard on re-wiring its dynamic after drummer Dan Parlin moved to guitar and David Kaplan was brought in to command the drum kit. The effort seemed to pay off, as each of the three guitar players (wielding perhaps four times as many noise-shaping guitar pedals) during the six-song set worked in his own space and left no sludge in the palpable wake. Even so, Lyon's dour whispers and mumbles -- clearly presented on The Spanish Armada -- struggled to get atop the room mix, despite occasional support from bassist Logan Hodson.

But on the whole The Spanish Armada's set, which opened with the brilliantly titled new track "Sinking Off The Coast Of Spain," succeeded in charting a Mogwai-ish bearing throughout about 40 minutes. While the songs can get very heavy and occasionally aggressive on the self-titled record, it is interesting that the live unit cast the tracks as some golden mean between Sonic Youth and Neil Young. Perhaps it was just Lyon's flannel shirt. But we think it was more the flavor that this iteration of The Spanish Armada brings to the material. It's little surprise that the highlight of the set was the one-two punch of the strongest songs on The Spanish Armada, "Captain's Gone" and "Start Writing Up The Truce." The live airing of the former didn't include the cool piano denoument of the studio recording, but the swathes of guitar noise in its place were very cool. The act currently has no other live dates booked, but we expect to see more of them on area stages as the promotion for the new set heats up. In the meantime, have a listen to the album opener "On The Giving And Receiving" below.

The Spanish Armada -- "On The Giving And Receiving" -- The Spanish Armada
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[buy The Spanish Armada from Midriff Records right here]

The Spanish Armada: Internerds | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

March 16, 2009

Review: Cinemasophia | Fits & Cycles [MP3]

2009, here is your headphones-required record. After what seems like years of preparation, Richmond, VA-based dreampop quintet Cinemasophia returns next month with its third long-player. Fits & Cycles, as its name somewhat suggests, is a feverish collection of mid-tempo rockers appointed with dizzying compositional and production flourishes. To steal a line from Radiohead, Fits & Cycles talks in math, buzzes like a fridge, and is -- on occasion -- like a detuned radio. It is the most sonically sculpted set we've heard this year, and repeated listens reveal greater and greater dimension in the production and recording.

Forthright opener "Detailed Night" cycles through -- we think -- 3/8, 3/4 and 5/4 time while lazery synths dart across the mix, a mix that occasionally makes room for xylophone and big reverbs. A surprising amount of this record is not in traditional rock 4/4, although the proceedings are more fluid than angular despite syncopation that is mortared in like bricks at seemingly every turn. The biggest number on the set is "Failed Drum Circle," a track with traded -- and Unrest-esque -- girl/guy vocals that meanders and percolates for just over two minutes before blossoming into a dense, lush, melodic crescendo that will give you chills. The section only lasts about 30 seconds, but it is perhaps the biggest 30 seconds of the records. A close second is the syncopated rocker "Neutral Burst," which is decidedly non-linear but houses in its midst a throbbing, distorted bridge that underpins an ethereal female vocal section. The tune reminds us very much of the stuff on the bootleg Lilys demos collection Early Demos. The delightful, heavily tremeloed "Pet Enemies" mashes spectral funk and pop meanderings.

Fits & Cycles -- leaks of which we started encountering all around the Internet last week without even looking -- was recorded by Richmond engineering mainstay John Morand at Sound Of Music and mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side. Cinemasophia has been soliciting remixes from various corners to be packaged with the digital release of Fits & Cycles, most notably from Lilys mastermind Kurt Heasley, who is apparently currently calling Central Virginia home. Little Black Cloud releases Fits & Cycles April 7 digitally and on CD; according to the label the vinyl release is still a few months off. As we noted in our first post about Cinemasophia here, the band also plans to record tracks for a new single and EP later this year, making 2009 perhaps the band's most productive year of its five-year history.

Cinemasophia -- "Failed Drum Circle" -- Fits & Cycles
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[pre-order from Little Black Cloud here]

03/26 -- Johnny Brenda’s -- Philadephia, PA
03/27 -- The Czar -- Richmond, VA
03/28 -- The Laundromat -- Charlottesville, VA
04/03 -- Album Release Party @ Sound of Music -- Richmond, VA
04/04 -- MACRoCK -- Harrisonburg, VA
04/28 -- Cameo -- Brooklyn, New York

Cinemosophia: Internerds | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

March 13, 2009

Today's Hotness: Faunts, Superchunk, Favours For Sailors

>> It took us a while to actually focus on them, but it has recently come to our attention that we love the promo tracks from the latest Faunts record. The Edmonton-based electropop quintet, which we first wrote about here in November, released Feb. 17 its sophomore set Feel.Love.Thinking.Of. on Friendly Fire Recordings. The label has been offering the title track and the tune "It Hurts Me All The Time" as free downloads for weeks -- if not longer -- and the tracks have finally made their way to the top of the running ITunes playlist we use to keep track of our latest finds. We're particularly enamored with the latter track, a mid-tempo strummer with a lead synth line that could have made its way on to The Cure's 17 Seconds. The track is driven by blippy percussion in the verse, but it is the chorus, with its prominent acoustic guitar and punchy twee bass playing, that completely draws us in. It reminds us of -- well, it sort of reminds us of late, great Philly/Brooklyn act Haywood's devastating "Come On Tell The Truth" a bit, now that we think of it. We're posting both tracks below. And then we're eagerly waiting for our EMusic subscription to refresh so we can get the rest of the Faunts record, because "It Hurts Me All The Time" is pure gold. Faunts previously issued Faunts Remixed in November; its first longplayer High Expectations/Low Results came out in 2005.

Faunts -- "It Hurts Me All The Time" -- Feel.Love.Thinking.Of.
Haywood -- "Come On Tell The Truth" -- We Are Amateurs, You And I
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[buy Faunts records from Newbury Comics here]
[buy Haywood records from Insound here]

>> Our Philadelphia-based operative Deano pointed out to us that the forthcoming Superchunk EP Leaves In The Gutter is streaming at Merge Records' web site. And so we're streaming it. And true to Deano's word, it is fill with some hot rockers. That fast 1-2-3-4 that leads the guitar riffing of opener "Learned To Surf" reminds us of Spent's exceptional tune "Landscaper" from that ersatz act's tremendous 1995 collection Songs Of Drinking And Rebellion -- which, of course, was released on Merge. You see what we did there? Tied it all together, yeh? The quasi-title track of Leaves In The Gutter, "Misfits & Mistakes," is a bracing number as well, with some loose, strandy guitar solos that we dig a lot; the track was previously available last year on vinyl only. And the tremeloed guitar on the unabashedly melodic and occasionally jaunty "Screw It Up" is wholly arresting. Those are three tracks that could stand alone as singles, all issued on this one special little EP next month. Leaves In The Gutter will be released April 7, and you're gonna want that. Pre-order the set here. Superchunk's last collection of new material to see release was Here's To Shutting Up in 2001.

>> Favours For Sailors. They are from England. They are awesome. You should go buy their EP Furious Sons immediately, if you like indie rock. More on them another time.

March 10, 2009

Today's Hotness: And The Moneynotes, Wet Paint

And The Moneynotes
>> Eagle-eyed surveyors of our Clicky Clicky Club Picks column may have raised an eyebrow late last week when we updated our list of recommended shows to include a date for Scranton, PA-based, rootsy indie rockers And The Moneynotes to the line-up. The septet, which includes two former members of the fabulously gifted but sadly defunct indie geniuses Okay Paddy and whose music recalls the bluegrass-ier Camper Van Beethoven stuff, released last year its debut full-length New Cornucopia!, which we reviewed here. And The Moneynotes will not rest on its laurels in 2009, however. Instead, it will release later this spring a 7" EP called On The Town, On The Vine, and a chap from the label dropped an MP3 from the mini-set in our inbox late last week that has gotten us excited about the band once again. The new jam, "On The Town," is an upbeat tub-thumper that is, at the same time, compositionally impressive. There are none of the big guitars that typically get a lot of play here at Clicky Clicky, but if you've got a jug of liquor and aim to do some hootin' and hollerin,' this is the track for you. We're also throwing in "My Kid Smokin'" from New Cornucopia!, because that is a hot number. Full And The Moneynotes spring tour dates are below.

And The Moneynotes -- "On The Town" -- On The Town, On The Vine EP
And The Moneynotes -- "My Kid Smokin'" -- New Cornucopia!
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[buy And The Moneynotes music from Prairie Queen Records right here]

03/13 -- Northern Light -- Scranton, PA
03/14 -- The Bog -- Scranton, PA
03/22 -- The Headhunters Club [SXSW] -- Austin, TX
03/25 -- Star Bar -- Atlanta, GA
03/26 -- JJ’s Bohemia -- Chattanooga, TN
03/27 -- Green Street Club -- Greensboro, NC
03/28 -- Machiavelli’s -- Bristol, TN
04/02 -- The Space -- Hamden, CT
04/03 -- Pianos -- New York, NY
04/04 -- All Asia -- Cambridge, MA
04/05 -- The Bell House -- Brooklyn, NY
04/23 -- Velvet Lounge -- Washington, DC
04/25 -- The M Room -- Philadelphia, PA
05/06 -- Bar Bleu -- State College, PA
05/09 -- Brass Rail -- Ft. Wayne, IN
05/14 -- JJ’s Bohemia -- Chattanooga, TN
05/15 -- Snug Harbor -- Charlotte, NC

>> We read with interest this recent gig review at Drowned In Sound for a Manhattan Love Suicides show. While we are big fans of the aforementioned, noisy Leeds four-piece, DIS's description of billmates Wet Paint as wielding "Dinosaur Jr.-meets-Urusei Yatsura fuzz racket" -- because that sounds awesome, no? -- inspired in us great interest. We spent some time over the weekend at Wet Paint's MySpace outpost and enjoyed what we heard. Wet Paint features members (former members? we don't know) of Absentee and Economy Wolf. The rising, London-based quartet's full-length debut, It Rots, was released by Trial & Error Recordings Jan. 26; Wet Paint has also released two singles, "Hug It Out" backed with a remix of same crafted by Bloc Party's Matt Tong was issued last June, and "Save The Whale" backed with a cover of same by Lightspeed Champion. Wet Paint is currently touring the U.K. in support of Rumble Strips, and next month it has three live dates in London, two of which are in support of the aforementioned Bloc Party. For a very good primer on Wet Paint, which seems to have fairly rocketed out of obscurity in the last year, click here and watch the three video clips at the ConverseMusic site.

March 9, 2009

Review: Johnny Foreigner | WeLeftYouSleepingAndGoneNow

WeLeftYouSleepingAndGoneNow, the "lost" first Johnny Foreigner record, was recorded in the band's practice space and issued in 2005 in an edition of 40 copies packaged in handmade sleeves bearing photos of its beloved hometown of Birmingham, England. The surprise of the collection, recently unearthed through some persistent research conducted by our KeepingSomeDarkSecrets colleague Luke Cotton, is that it is remarkably detailed and textured for a band that is now better known for an irresistible, high-energy, bash 'n' pop sound. It's not that contemporary Johnny Foreigner music isn't sophisticated, but the band's commercial releases to date have drawn from a decidedly narrower palette than the tracks on WeLeftYouSleepingAndGoneNow. The tracks on that set, 11 in all spread across forty minutes and daisy-chained in places via some very accomplished segues, more often combine guitars, ethereal synths and ambient room sound than the lacerating electric guitar, bass and drum kit that provide the foundation for Johnny Foreigner in 2009. This week the band is in Brooklyn to record its sophomore set for Best Before Records with Alex Newport; it released the triumph Waited Up Til It Was Light in June 2008.

WeLeftYouSleepingAndGone suggests that the aural difference between proto-Johnny Foreigner and contemporary Johnny Foreigner may be as much the product of personnel changes -- namely the departure of founding member and multi-instrumentalist/synth aficionado Daniel Boyle and the installation of current bassist and singer Kelly Southern -- as it is a barometer of the growth of guitarist Alexei Berrow as the act's primary songwriter. Speculation, to be sure, but also a convenient answer to a question perhaps even the band hasn't considered. Stylistically, there are fewer hammer-ons, fewer lyrics even, as well as less distortion, less drumming. In their places are acoustic guitars, accordions, synths, snippets of conversation and general ranting tucked away in corners of the mix. There is a carefree and expansive experimentalism that is bracing.

Take for example the wild tumult and the ensuing, surprisingly quiet close of "His Floor Is My Ashtray": the tune quietly nestles into a reverie built on a reversed drum track, plucking on the guitar strings behind the bridge and band fronter Alexei Berrow murmuring "he just calls it like he sees it" over and over again into the fade. And the clarinet in "A Slow Song For The End" is wholly sublime. And "Sword Buried" is largely built around an Aphex Twin/mid '90s electro-trance beat. This sort of experimentalism isn't completely absent from the recordings of "modern day" Johnny Foreigner, but it seems to have been compartmentalized into seques and sections. Fans of the band's recent singles will note that the spoken-word section in the middle of "My Interest In Saving You Is More Than Idle Curiosity" -- a song that fades into a gorgeous collage of radio static and synth that pans around the stereo field like light from a lighthouse beacon -- is a definite precursor to Mr. Berrow's rant that ignites the coda of "Salt, Peppa And Spinderella." WeLeftYouSleepingAndGoneNow, as we stated supra, is a hyper-limited edition item, but fans of the band should make certain to get it in their collections somehow. To get you started, below are MP3s of two tracks from the set.

Johnny Foreigner -- "Looking Up Is Not Enough" -- WeLeftYouSleepingAndGoneNow
Johnny Foreigner -- "A Slow Song For The End" -- WeLeftYouSleepingAndGoneNow
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[buy in-print Johnny Foreigner music here, here and here]

March 5, 2009

Today's Hotness: Dananananaykroyd, Video Nasties, Jesus Lizard

>> We had completely forgotten how much we were anticipating the release of the full-length debut from Dananananaykroyd until the band posted the video above for the exceptional new single "Black Wax." The track, whose b-side is the non-album track "No Wage," is taken from the sure-to-be-gigante long-player Hey Everyone!, which will be released by London-based Best Before Records April 6. Get ready to embrace your Glaswegian fight pop overlords by pre-ordering the set from BanquetRecords right here. The "Black Wax" single streets March 23 in the U.K., and it is also being vended by BanquetRecords; pre-order it here. If you are all amped up to hear "No Wage" now, the band soundchecked it in Hamburg last month and someone captured it to video. Check it out here.

>> It's been more than a month since we checked in on London indie fivesome Video Nasties. The latest is that the band's next single will be for the track "Jellybean," about which we offered some remarks here in January. The track is already receiving hype from prominent BBC DJ Steve Lamacq, and it will be issued March 23 in the U.K. and will also be available digitally via ITunes and perhaps other digital music storefronts. Video Nasties' full-length debut On All Fours will be issued April 13. It's unclear, to us anyway, what label will release the single and full-length. The band's 2007 EP Karl Blau was issued by Way Out West, and last fall's Albatross EP, well, we don't know who put that out.

>> To celebrate Record Store Day, that's April 18 in the U.S., Touch and Go is releasing a box set of Jesus Lizard vinyl singles that sounds very compelling. It is titled Inch and it will be available on that day and date only, apparently. All the tracks were remastered by Bob Weston of recording-stuff fame and the Shellac Of North America cohort. Highlights of the collection include "Puss," which was the Jesus Lizard side of the noted split single with a little rock trio called Nirvana, and "Gladiator," which was only offered at a 1992 Brixton Academy show in London. Every one of these singles has been out of print for more than six years. There's 17 tracks in all, which is weird, but perhaps the flip of the "Puss" single is blank or etched or something? For those of you not up on your Jesus Lizard in contemporary America, the original line-up has reformed and will play dates in 2009 including ATP: The Fans Strike Back and London's The Forum; both gigs are in May. The entire Jesus Lizard catalog is also being reissued this year by Touch and Go. We reviewed the DVD "The Jesus Lizard -- Live" here in June 2007; European correspondent Lars Ro filed a review of a Qui show here earlier in the same year. So how about some rock music? Here's the brutal rocker "Boilermaker," courtesy of the label.

The Jesus Lizard -- "Boilermaker" -- Inch
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[more info at Touch and Go here]

>> British electro-twee duo Psapp will release to ITunes April 6 a compilation of early and previously unavailable tracks called Early Cats And Tracks Vol. 2. As the title suggests, this is the second such collection. The band also reports that it will not come support its recent full-length The Camel's Back with a tour of America, although Psapp embarked on a short European tour Wednesday. There are still the singles, right? The second single from The Camel's Back is for the track "I Want That," a video for which the band has recently released to the Internerds.

March 3, 2009

Kam Fong | The Ardmore Sessions [1996]

When the snow piles up, and The Man keeps us down, we do the following: break glass and deploy The Fong. We often solemnly reference erstwhile, Wayne, PA-based post-hardcore trio Kam Fong here at the blog (even once here at that blog), but only rarely do we offer exposition. Let's quote ourselves: "What the record will show is that Kam Fong created punishing music with insane chops and often remarkably powerful lyrics. The full package boasted equal parts Black Flag, Frank Zappa and Kiss and had near-analogs in contemporary work by Don Caballero and June of 44." Usually we'll reach for the band's unreleased 1997 album, which has more blue-collar bile and driving rhythms than the artier noise here.

But after a few Fong-related emails in recent weeks we're posting something we've never posted in its entirety -- Kam Fong's The Ardmore Sessions. What makes this recording -- captured to tape at Chill Factor in the eponymous Philadelphia suburb -- special is that it is the only session the band did with alternate bassist and singer The Postman, a/k/a noted photographer Ryan Widger. While the recordings -- at least as represented by these files ripped from an overplayed cassette -- are generally muddier, there are specific moments here that were never bested by successive efforts, chief among them the terrifying final 12 seconds of "AFC." Other notable elements of these recordings which differentiate them from future efforts: 1) in the 10-beat rest following the anthemic pummeling at the tail end of "Vulcan Death Grip" one can hear Jones murmuring into his guitar pick-ups "I'm gonna get you -- I'm gonna get you!" 2) the slap-suck sequencing between "AFC" and "Harry Dean Stanton" -- it's perfection; 3) guitarist and singer Casey Jones's hollered direction at the close of "Eleven," "one more for John Lee!" 4) Widger's Bon Scott- and David Yow- channeling vocals parlay seriously demented lyrics, different enough from those of tenured bassist Chuck Madden to give The Ardmore Sessions their own considerable charms.

The quality of the tape these MP3s were sourced from several years ago was bad, so you will need to turn up the volume. You may also want to situate yourself away from anything smashable before you press play, as listening to Fong is known to incite smashing of stuff. And with that, here is the rock music. Enjoy.

Kam Fong -- "AFC" -- Ardmore 1996
Kam Fong -- "Harry Dean Stanton" -- Ardmore 1996
Kam Fong -- "Vulcan Death Grip" -- Ardmore 1996
Kam Fong -- "Eleven" -- Ardmore 1996
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March 2, 2009

Today's Hotness: Swirlies, Johnny Foreigner

>> [PHOTO CREDIT: Brad Searles] So the big sold-out, Swirlies not-reunion show at the Middle East Upstairs Saturday was incredibly satisfying, although we were almost too tired to derive enjoyment from it. Clicky Clicky has been in Swirlies overload of late, and we didn't shoot any decent pictures Saturday night (well, early Sunday morning), so we are going to dispense with a proper review and simply say that we welcome the idea of a resuscitated Swirlies with open arms. Like Steve Perry. Anyhoo, our old-guyness aside, the band -- playing as a quintet for most of the evening -- was well rehearsed and easily made up for the aborted mid-'90s sets we witnessed with a whopping 90-minute marathon. The evening closed out with a ridiculous, crowd- and Kudgel-assisted version of Flipper's "Sex Bomb." At that point it was 1:30 in the morning. It was bonkers. Swirlies played many of our favorites, including -- in no particular order -- "Park The Car By The Side Of The Road," "Jeremy Parker" and "San Cristobal De Las Casas." While we were psyched by The Swirlies, we were also very jazzed by Bullpen Catcher, a trio featuring erstwhile Kudgel fronter Mark Erdody on guitar. The band offered a bracing mix of early Unwound and Superchunk sounds, and we're looking forward to learning more about the act. FatCat-signed acoustic songstress Gregory And The Hawk opened the show and we dug it slightly more than we dug their record, but even so we're not big fans -- although we enjoyed when Swirlies drummer/Mice Parade dood Adam Pierce came on stage for the last several numbers.

>> If you haven't checked in at KeepingSomeDarkSecrets since our announcement last week, you've missed a bit of news about possible new Johnny Foreigner songs. Our colleague Mr. Cotton here noted some new activity at the band's Google Maps-based psychogeography, and upon investigating turned up some 11 new locations added to the map in late January. Certain of these locations reference what we already know to be new (and in the case of "The Coast Was Always Clear," mind-blowingly excellent) songs from the Birmingham, England-based three piece. Still other locations reference what must be new compositions, still unheard by even the crack staff of KeepingSomeDarkSecrets. These include "Custom Scenes And The Parties That Make Them," "More Heart, Less Tongue" and "Temp. Promenade." Johnny Foreigner is only days away from commencing the recording of its sophomore full-length in Brooklyn, so we are hopeful that we'll be hearing these songs sooner rather than later. The band completes a European tour supporting Sky Larkin this week; the tour hits Zurich, Switzerland tonight.