December 20, 2007

2007 Final Hotness: Elevator Drops, Ted Pauly, Frightened Rabbit

The Elevator Drops>> It's a Christmas miracle! Mere days after we bemoaned here the clear lack of a new Elevator Drops record in 2007, the band issued a MySpace bulletin announcing that OK Commuter is now available via all your favorite digital music storefronts. We recommend taking the cheap way out and getting it from EMusic here, especially since it is 13 tracks long. Unfortunately for us we've got to wait for our account to roll over Dec. 28 before we can grab it ourselves. Dang. But on the upside we've already purchased the single and compulsively horded the tracks posted to the band's MySpace wigwam earlier in the year.

>> Keeping with the Christmas theme: every band and their brother has issued a Christmas song this year, and some seem solely intended to ingratiate the bands with the blogosphere. Sure, there have been notable songs, such as the Evangelicals jam we posted here, the Frightened Rabbit jam we noted here, and also the very nice seasonal cut from Philadelphia's own The Swimmers, which we expect you can grab here. But the tune that takes the cake has just been posted here by :: clicky clicky :: favorite troubador Ted Pauly. The new jam is called "Christmas Eve, Molly Pitcher," and not only does it concern itself with a Jersey rest stop but it also describes various of our hometown landmarks. Fun fact: we and Mr. Pauly grew up on opposing edges of the same neighborhood. So when he name drops churches and fast food joints in "Christmas Eve, Molly Pitcher," we're -- as the kids say -- feeling it. More importantly, the track captures crisply those mixed feelings people of a certain age have about going home. Check it out.

Ted Pauly -- "Christmas Eve, Molly Pitcher" -- Bits, Bobs
[right click and save as]

>> According to this interview at Drowned In Sound, Glaswegian powerfolk trio Frightened Rabbit's sophomore set will be released in the U.S. in March, two weeks before the band appears at the annual South X Southwest music conference in Texas. The release will be preceded by another two weeks by a single for the track "Head Rolls Off," a -- gasp -- danceable track we've been loving for months, in demo version. It is going to be the highlight of the forthcoming record, we promise you that. Well, along with "Fast Blood" and all the other tracks. Hot indie rock coming.

>> We're taking the rest of 2007 off to celebrate with friends and family and to rest our wrists, which are back to bothering us again. We'll see you back here in the New Year. Thanks for reading.

December 18, 2007

Clicky Clicky Music Blog: Favorite Tracks of 2007 [Imeem Playlist]

Meneguar, Live In Medford, MA, 2007
If you're like us, you can't be arsed to read all of those year-end lists. We don't even like to read our own. But we think the whole list thing can be greatly improved with the addition of some on-demand audio streams. Lo and behold, music social networking play Imeem has stepped into the breach -- and allowed us to use all these hackneyed phrases -- by soliciting lists from various and sundry bloggerati, present company included. And so we present below our favorite tracks of 2007. As with our albums list, inclusion in the list was based solely on amount of plays each track earned in our ITunes. Only one track per band was allowed, which is one of the reasons there are some tracks here not from our best records list. There are others, but they are not interesting. Two final notes: you can check out Imeem's amalgamation of a whole mess of lists right here, and we can't believe the Dntel's "Breakfast In Bed" featuring vocals by Conor Oberst is not in this list. That's a hell of a track. But ITunes doesn't lie.

December 17, 2007

Today's Hotness: Johnny Foreigner, My Psychoanalyst, E.R., Lilys

>> News about the forthcoming Los Campesinos! full-length and attendant touring has circumnavigated the Internets numerous times at this point, and we don't have much to add regarding the Feb. 18 release of Hold On Now, Youngster... save for the fact that Birmingham, England-based indie superheroes Johnny Foreigner will support some if not all of the recenty posted February tour dates. Speaking of Johnny Foreigner, the band just posted a map of its Birmingham digs annotated with commentary about the places noted in various song lyrics. You may recall Brooklyn bar-rock luminaries The Hold Steady did something similar. What is notable about Johnny Foreigner's so-called psychogeography is that there are places identified as being mentioned in songs that we have not yet heard. This means said songs -- if in fact they are songs -- have a chance to show up on the forthcoming full-length from the band, which is expected to be released spring 2008. Ignoring for now things that seem too odd to be song titles, possible new songs include:

"DJs Get Doubts"
"Hennings Favorite"
"I Heard, He Ties Up Cats"

>> One more note related to Johnny Foreigner. The band expressed some excitement lately about a date they are playing Tuesday with an act called My Psychoanalyst, and after downloading the Derby, UK-based trio's excellent single "We Disagree" b/w "Panophobia" from EMusic we can understand why. Big, atmospheric and textured sounds from a just a trio. Very impressive. It looks like My Psychoanalyst and Johnny Foreigner share a manager or some such, so we suppose the fact the acts are on a bill together is not much of a surprise. Either way, the video for "We Disagree" is pretty great; make sure to watch until the song hits its gigantic, epic payoff. Check it out at the top of this item, if you haven't done so already.

>> Boston indie rock power hitters E.R. and the -- well, we can't remember what the backing band is billed as now, although we thought The New Jerseys was a great name -- recently recorded tracks for Band In Boston's Flophouse Sessions podcast. The five-song set includes standout tunes from this year's E.R. long-player This Conspiracy Against Us, namely the bitter ballad "Lexington, KY" and the record's title track. The former song is notable for the awesome lyric "everyone's got a plan and everyone's plan sucks." The version of "Lexington, KY" here is sans the piano that anchored the album rendition, but that creates a lot room for some tasteful strumming and minimal drumming. Also remarkable about this E.R. performance is the approaching-sublime cover of Eddie Grant's "Romancing The Stone." You can download or stream the whole thing right here. E.R.'s most recent release, the digital-only EP ...And The Storm King, was released by Midriff Sept. 25. Here's the album version of "Lexington, KY" we mentioned supra for you to enjoy.

E.R. -- "Lexington, KY" -- This Conspiracy Against Us
[right click and save as]
[buy E.R. records from Midriff here]

>> Woah. Legendary indie rock chameleons Lilys emerge from hiatus for a two-night stand headlining L.A.'s Club Spaceland this week. Wild. The shows are Dec. 20 and 21. Notable support includes dream pop act Mezzanine Owls the first night. If we lived in L.A., we'd be in line for this now.

December 16, 2007

Clicky Clicky's 2007 Regrets: Caribou, Maritime, People Press Play...

2007 was a very busy year for both :: clicky clicky :: and our non-blog-related doings, and truth be told 2008 is expected to be worse as far as overwhelming day-job commitments are concerned. If current schedules hold, your :: clicky clicky :: service will be largely dark in September and October, unless we line up some fill-in writers. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Today we'd like to acknowledge at least briefly records that we would have liked to have listened to more and reviewed during the year. We'll give them all a sentence or two in the next paragraphs, but if you are impatient, the list is at the bottom along with whatever promo MP3s we could dig up. You know the drill: right click and save as.

Rising Philadelphia quintet The A-Sides, after a long wait, expanded on the sophisticated harmonies and jaunty rock of the band's excellent 2005 debut and delivered the lush, atmospheric and detailed collection Silver Storms with memorable tracks including "We're The Trees" and "Sinking With The Ship." Dan Snaith's transformation from Manitoba to Caribou is nowhere near as remarkable as his music's evolution from kaleidoscopic electronic grooves to stunning and organic '60s psych-influenced nuggets including the phenomenal tune "Eli;" Caribou's Andorra was a huge sleeper record for us in 2007. We were skeptical of The Forms' mathpop because of the hype surrounding its self-titled release -- particularly a widely recycled message board endorsement from engineer Steve Albini. However, the easy tempos, big melodies and Mr. Albini's superlative drum production made for a clever and immensely listenable concoction, so hats off to The Forms. Les Savy Fav's brawling return via Let's Stay Friends provided one of the most potent spine-tinglers of the year -- the shouted, mildly uncomfortable extended amorous metaphor "The Equestrian" -- as part of a bracing collection that brought the semi-legendary live act back to the fore of indiedom; if we weren't old and crotchety we would go see these guys play New Year's Eve in Manhattan.

Former Promise Ring fronter Davey Von Bohlen extended his winning streak of excellent indie pop records on the strength of endlessly hummable songs like "Guns Of Navarone," "Hours That You Keep" and "Pearl" released on the very under-rated Maritime set Heresy And The Hotel Choir. The Morr Music release of the year was definitely Danish dreamers People Press Play's self-titled collection, whose songs precipitated our glancing at our IPod to see who was so awesome every time they came up on shuffle; we felt like we did a particularly bad job of covering Morr in 2007, and we are reminded of this whenever we hear the blissed-out "Stop" or the wholly arresting vocals of the New Order-ish cut "Always Wrong" from People Press Play. Do we really need to say anything about Radiohead's In Rainbows? We usually don't take the time to note what bands at the top of the music ecosystem are doing, but we were astonished at how gorgeous the In Rainbows discbox was when we received it, and that astonishment was only heightened by our growing belief that the collection's best music -- "Last Flowers To The Hospital" and "Down Is The New Up" specifically -- mostly resides on the bonus disc. Finally: broken-hearted ex-pat Josh Rouse, whose 2006 set Subtitulo firmly took us in despite our general disdain for folksy singer-songwriter work. Mr. Rouse's latest release Country Mouse, City House may be even better and includes yearning songs with undeniable choruses such as "Sweetie" and the upbeat "Nice To Fit In."

The A-Sides -- Silver Storms -- Vagrant [BUY / Download "We're The Trees"]
Caribou -- Andorra -- Merge [BUY / Download "Melody Day"]
The Forms -- The Forms -- Self-released [BUY]
Les Savy Fav -- Let's Stay Friends -- French Kiss [BUY / Download "The Equestrian"]
Maritime -- Heresy And The Hotel Choir -- Flameshovel [BUY / Download "Guns Of Navarone"]
People Press Play -- People Press Play -- Morr Music [BUY]
Radiohead -- In Rainbows, Disc Two -- Self-Released [BUY]
Josh Rouse -- Country Mouse, City House -- Nettwerk [BUY]

December 13, 2007

Clicky Clicky Music Blog: The Best Records Of 2007

In the past we've cast our annually anointed selections as "records you should have heard," which served a two-fold purpose. The designation reiterated our focus on relatively unsung releases and differentiated us (we hope) from the lockstep feel of many music blogs' lists of year-end favorites. You can read our 2006 list here, 2005 here (albums | songs), and we expect if you look around the Interweb a little you can find lists for other years. While we harbor hopes that our list stands out, as in the past our method of choosing the top records comes down to a very simple tabulation of the number of plays each album has garnered in our ITunes in the given year. So there's really no magic to it: our favorite records are the ones we listened to most.

We report with great satisfaction that one of our top picks for 2007, the recently issued EP Arcs Across The City, came from an act that was unknown to us prior to February of this year. Johnny Foreigner's then-manager emailed on an odd Saturday, said he thought we'd like the band, and gave us some links to MP3s. Our fandom was instant. The larger message here is that, beyond all the bullshit of press hype, actual Hype and awkward MySpace solicitations, this music blogging thing continues to be rewarding. On a one-to-one level, some cat from another country can see that you love Meneguar, email you some files, and bang: dumb joy. We look forward to many similar experiences in 2008, although we recognize how fleetingly rare such experiences are. Our picks for favorite songs of the year will be along later. For now, we welcome you to consider what we believe to be the best records of 2007.

1. Meneguar -- Strangers In Our House -- Troubleman Unlimited [BUY]

Meneguar -- Strangers In Our HouseThe lyric "you get what you want when you don't want it anymore" somehow one-ups and explodes John Lydon's anarchistic boast "don't know what I want but I know how to get it." But for the most part we don't know what singer Jarvis Taverniere is on about for much of this record. All the same, when he shouts "you could never do what distance does" or even "at the bottom of my heart there is a ledge" we are suitably moved. Strangers In Our House is a blockbuster collection of sophisticated indie rock anthems, with the emphasis on rock. We already proclaimed it the rock record of the year when we reviewed the set here in September. Prior to Strangers In Our House being released we saw Meneguar explode in a basement up at Tufts University. While we weren't familiar with much of the new material at that point, the set was astounding, and we were able to stand close enough to the action to get jostled by the band rocking out. Read our review of the show here. Meneguar will be touring the east coast of the United State in February, and in the meantime the quartet is working on a new record that will be released through Woodsist.

2. Johnny Foreigner -- Arcs Across The City -- Best Before Records [BUY]

After anticipating this release and subsisting off of MySpace rips of songs from Arcs Across The City for months, Johnny Foreigner's finished product surpasses our expectations. Although the appealing grit and rough edges of the successive demos are partially scrubbed away, the Birmingham, England trio's characteristic, irresistible energy remains and is augmented by additional guitars, vocal parts and production flourishes. With a first full-length basically in the can and poised for a spring release, it will be interesting to see whether working with a noted emo and hard rock producer burnishes or dims the band's aural charms. Arcs Across The City is a formidable debut, packed with compelling narratives, fractured arrangements, big guitars and miles and miles of anthemic lyrics. It is a compelling declaration from a trio that went from nowhere to everywhere in our esteem over the course of 2007. We reviewed the record here last week.

3. Dinosaur Jr. -- Beyond -- Fat Possum [BUY]

Dinosaur Jr. -- BeyondWe reviewed this record here. Beyond is a gift that keeps on giving... although we're starting to wonder whether they'll be making another gift anytime soon? The Dinosaur Jr. tour has gone just about everywhere this year (we've got one of their roadie's blogs in our RSS reader), and it even made a stop at the local clothing store Urban Outfitters in June. We reviewed the awesome show here. But the record is just superlative, melding the potency of vintage '80s Dinosaur with the compact brilliance displayed on Mascis' astonishingly strong solo release More Light. This record succeeds because it doesn't try to overthink anything: there are great songs augmented with ample and sublime shredding throughout. Mascis is as cryptically charismatic as ever. And it helps that Murph beats the hell out of the drums. Dinosaur Jr. just played two dates at Boston's Paradise Rock Club before Thanksgiving, and unfortunately our travel plans made it impossible for us to attend. But we are looking forward to whatever comes next from J, Lou and Murph.

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

4. Spoon -- Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga -- Merge [BUY]

Spoon -- Ga Ga Ga Ga GaWe listened to this record over and over and over: in the car; in the office; in the kitchen. It's exceptional. Taut, glistening pop-rock, touches of spacey, warts-and-all production, and hooks galore. The songs all flow with an ease, an internal logic that is so finite that each tune seems representative of what indie rock is, at its core. If (when?) space aliens come to the United States asking about indie rock, perhaps the most obvious example to hand them is Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. We reviewed the Texas-based quartet's October show at the Roxy here.

Spoon -- "The Underdog" -- Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
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5. Frightened Rabbit -- Sing The Greys [US release] -- Fat Cat [BUY]

Frightened Rabbit -- Sing The GreysThis record was issued at the tail end of a stint this year during which we worked 40-something days in a row at the day job, a time when we were suffering with tendonitis in both wrists from all the hours. On the first Friday in October we decided we'd had enough so we took the day off and went to the oldest fair in America. On the way we stopped at a satellite branch of trusty Newbury Comics and we bought Sing The Greys. And then we got in the car, cranked it up, rolled the windows down, and had a perfect fall day. We'll always remember that. Oh yeah, the record is great. While we never wrote a proper review of this rough-hewn indie gem, we otherwise offered microscopic coverage of the stellar Glaswegian trio in 2007, up to its Nov. 11 show at Boston's Great Scott nightclub, which we reviewed here. Sing The Greys is packed with hits, and we recommend listening to it often.

6. The Mendoza Line -- 30 Year Low -- Glurp [BUY]

Mendoza Line -- 30 Year Low30 Year Low, a slightly odd double-disc collection, was released almost in tandem with the announcement that the band's two principal songwriters, married for a short time, were divorcing and going their separate ways. And so the discs ache and throb in places, or at least some of the compositions lend themselves to having the songwriters' travails projected onto them. But elsewhere on the set there is a bit of glee, a touch of drunken hijinks. Whether feel-good or feel-bad, the music feels immediate and real, like you've caught a strange wild animal in your hands, and now you can't believe you've caught it and don't know what to do. Just listen. We reviewed 30 Year Low here, and a triumphant show in May by the now-truncated band here.

The Mendoza Line -- "30 Year Low" -- 30 Year Low
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7. Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start -- Worst Band Name Ever -- Gradwell House [BUY]

Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start -- Worst Band Name EverAs we said in this review in July: "Worst band name ever? Does it matter if your band is among the best American indie rock bands currently working?" The latest addition to a rock-solid catalog packed with trebly reverie and cacaphonous crescendoes, Worst Band Name Ever presents Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start in its most refined state. The band has always championed brevity, melody and nostalgic romance. On Worst Band Name Ever the music is more laid back than ever before, with acoustic guitars setting the scene for a lot numbers. Even with a somewhat more reserved approach UUDDLRLRBAS still succeeds in imbuing tracks with dynamic changes, and no other band this year has created a record with more subtlety.

UUDDLRLRBAS -- "The Red Loop" -- Worst Band Name Ever
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8. Mobius Band -- Heaven -- Misra Ghostly [BUY]

Mobius Band -- HeavenThe fact that a young woman writing for a popular online publication just trashed this record in a ridiculous manner makes us love Heaven even more. And while we don't feel it is worth the time to refute her outlandish assertions, we do feel like it is worth noting that she is simply wrong. We can tie this to one example: somewhere in the review she makes some comment that conveys the idea that the music on Heaven is more conventional than the music on its predecessor, 2005's The Loving Sounds Of Static. This is simply untrue. The compositions on Heaven are markedly more sophisticated and make nods here and there to the more complicated music of Mobius Band's self-released series of EPs, which are well worth seeking out. On top of that is a melancholy that is manifested in fairly sublime ways throughout the record. Weathering life's disappointments offers a great well of experience for artists to leverage and/or exorcise in their work, and of our year-end selections Heaven is the set that does this most openly, and very intelligently. But it is hard not to circle back to the way Heaven *sounds*. Mobius Band's dense, gritty electronic production is remarkable, and we expect that the trio will begin to be in demand as much for production chops as for their records before this decade is over.

Mobius Band -- "Hallie" -- Heaven
Mobius Band -- "Friends Like These" -- Heaven
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9. Ringo Deathstarr -- Ringo Deathstarr EP -- SVC Records [BUY]

Ringo Deathstarr -- Ringo Deathstarr EPWe breathlessly exhorted you to check out Ringo Deathstarr as soon as we heard a promo MP3 posted by its label SVC Records. The Austin, Texas-based quartet's sturdy rendering of the most captivating aspects of Jesus And Mary Chain ("Some Kind Of Sad") and My Bloody Valentine ("Swirly") -- that would be airy vocals and guitars, chunky bass and keys -- is irresistible. At just five tracks in length, the Ringo Deathstarr EP is easy to listen to so often you just hear it in your head all the time. Not bad for a band with a shifting line-up (albeit one consistently led by Elliot Frazier) and -- reportedly -- no ready source of transportation to gigs. Well the transportation thing must be sorted out, because we are told that Ringo Deathstarr will be touring in February, and at least one of the planned dates is in the Boston area. Hopefully a full-length record isn't too far off either, because the EP is dynamite.

Ringo Deathstarr -- "Sweet Girl" -- Ringo Deathstarr EP
[right click and save as]

10. The Good, The Bad & The Queen -- The Good, The Bad & The Queen -- EMI [BUY]

The Good, The Bad & The QueenYeah, a major label record -- we're as surprised as you are. But something about The Good, The Bad & The Queen really fire our imaginations, over and over. It is an immensely deep and massively patient collection of songs from one of the pillars of '90s Britpop; a sideman from one of the greatest bands of all time who by many accounts is responsible for bringing ska and reggae into the punk consciousness; an Afrobeat drummer; and a fourth player whose identity we can't even recall without walking across the room and consulting the liner notes (this is still our first instinct, even though Google is two clicks away). And yet Damon Albarn's quartet The Good, The Bad & The Queen made what is perhaps this year's most engrossing record. And, as we are in the middle of reading the book "Britpop!" we must reiterate what we think we saw written elsewhere earlier this year: With The Good, The Bad & The Queen, Albarn has finally succeeded in making the quintessential British record.

December 11, 2007

Clicky Clicky's 2007 "Dude, Where's Your Record?" Award Goes To...

The Elevator Drops -- OK Commuter
...The Elevator Drops. The once-and-future Boston indie rock trio's long-awaited resurrection was to have occurred with the Feb. 14, 2007 release of the band's fourth full-length recording OK Commuter. The set was to have been issued by San Francisco-based digital label On/Off Records, and we've been anticipating its release since this post from November 2006. Needless to say, we're still anticipating, because this record is nowhere to be found. There were some signs of life earlier this year when On/Off quietly issued the digital single "Party Song" b/w "Catastrophe." And while it was exciting to finally see new Elevator Drops material released, those tracks do not equal the cataclysmic pop confections the band had already posted for free download at its MySpace yert earlier this year, "Jules" and "Shake It." Which of course made the fact that OK Commuter has yet to see the light of day all the more disappointing.

A July MySpace message from The Elevator Drops attributes the delay to "production issues with the label," and there has been no update since then. The band of prankster-pop geniuses -- aptly described by On/Off as "subversive, and inexplicably often-doomed" -- imploded in the late '90s while touring in support of the release of their sophomore set People Mover, if memory serves. The act is probably best known for the transcendant indie pop classic "Be A Lemonhead," the amazing video for which you can watch here. Elevator Drops singer David Goolkasian's other project The Texas Governor is on extended hiatus right now, and Elevator Drops guitarist Garvey J is poised to issue a solo record, so we wonder if at this point Mr. J's record is the priority and OK Commuter will have to wait while that album cycle plays out. We'll see. In the meantime, here is a taste of what we've all been missing.

The Elevator Drops -- "Jules" -- MySpace Download Alleged To Come From OK Commuter
[right click and save as]
[buy Elevator Drops records from here]

The Elevator Drops: Interweb | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

December 9, 2007

Today's Hotness: The Answering Machine, Adrian Crowley,Ted Pauly

The Answering Machine
>> Manchester, England-based indie pop quartet The Answering Machine report here that it has been in the studio overnights recently demoing new material. No word on how and when we might be able to get our mitts on it, but with three singles under its belt, we expect the act is poised to release an EP or even full-length recording in 2008. The Answering Machine's third single, "Lightbulbs," was issued in the UK Nov. 5 on Regal. The first two singles, 2006's "Oklahoma" and the transcendent "Silent Hotels," are available for download at EMusic here. We expect it is only a matter of time before the digital music storefront will be offering "Lightsbulbs," as one of the editors over there is a huge fan of the band.

>> This Drowned In Sound item about Adrian Crowley caught our eye because five years ago almost to the day we reviewed the reissue of the Dubliner's debut A Strange Kind for SplendidEZine. We've never followed Mr. Crowley's career closely but one track from A Strange Kind has consistently beguiled us each time we listen to it. It is an ethereal, piano-anchored instrumental called "Trilogy," and we're posting an MP3 of it below. Crowley released his fourth record Long Distance Swimmer Nov. 15 on Tin Angel; his prior records -- including the sophomore set When You Are Here You Are Family recorded with Steve Albini at Electrical Audio in Chicago -- were released on Ba Da Bing! and are available via EMusic here.

Adrian Crowley -- "Trilogy" -- A Strange Kind
[right click and save as]
[buy Adrian Crowley records from Newbury Comics here]

>> Former Haywood fronter and current bedroom multitracker Ted Pauly has posted two new downloads to his Last.FM page here. The first is a new 76-second track called "Tomorrow I'm Starting Over," a basic acoustic guitar and vocal number with a bit of a twist: there are two, hard-panned vocal tracks that offer competing strategies for the new beginning. The narratives complement and occasionally overlap. It's clever. The second download is the "Laki F Megamix" of the previously posted (and issued in different form on the allegedly final final Haywood record) track "I'm All About Democracy." The gag here is that the "megamix" sounds like it is just the most-stripped version of the tune, with Mr. Pauly and acoustic guitar getting the job done with quiet determination. You can download both tracks at this link. Here's "Tomorrow I'm Starting Over."

Ted Pauly -- "Tomorrow I'm Starting Over" -- Bits, Bobs
[right click and save as]
[MySpace dojo / Last.FM hangar]

>> Glaswegian indie rock trio Frightened Rabbit's holiday single "It's Christmas, So We'll Stop" is available for download at EMusic here, so make sure to grab it before you start burning those indie rock Christmas CDs for your mates.

December 7, 2007

Review: Johnny Foreigner | Arcs Across The City EP

Johnny Foreigner -- Arcs Across The City EPArcs Across The City -- which could have just as easily been titled Six Clattering Explosions And One Soft One -- is the new gold standard in indie rock. After more than a decade of our comparing the merits of new recordings to monumental releases including Archers Of Loaf's Vs. The Greatest Of All Time EP; Lilys' A Brief History Of Amazing Letdowns EP; Haywood's Men Called Him Mister; The Lemonheads' Lovey; Camper Van Beethoven's Key Lime Pie; et cetera; Johnny Foreigner's mini-album sets a bar for this decade and -- based on our proclivity to peg our affections to certain albums for inordinate lengths of time -- perhaps some of the next.

The band professes a love for Kinsella-spawned music and generally anything "Chicago in 1997," although it isn't much of a stretch to peg the trio of Alexei, Junior and Kelly as simply less wacky than Minus The Bear but more damaged than Treepeople, either. Despite a reverence for bygone records, Johnny Foreigner's songs convulse with a markedly contemporary and granular dissection of the lives and failed romances of wage slaves and hangers-on. Miles and miles of self-aware lyrics proffer incisive commentary on young scenemakers, their decaying scenes and the desperate longing that more often than not combusts therein. After months of rocking out to MySpace rips of much of the record, we are freshly blown away by the fully realized productions -- with clean layers of slashing guitars, airy keys, thundering bass and chanted "doo doohs" -- contained on the proper release.

Johnny Foreigner's roots in England's second-largest city, the hyper-industrial and (when viewed on Google Maps) amazingly grey Birmingham, contextualize each song on their first two singles and Arcs Across The City in a drunken underdog's fighting stance: backed into a corner, probably in the wrong and with nothing to lose. The corollary to this is that we don't believe Johnny Foreigner could have come from London, or Los Angeles, or even New York, because an outside-looking-in perspective is both present in and inextricable from the band's music.

No matter the geography, the band's captivating amalgamation of scrambling tempos, breakneck changes, big melodies and clashing vocal lines earns Arcs Across The City critical raves. But more important than the copious kudos is Johnny Foreigner's rescue of British indie music from a contrived necessity to cater to dance-floor denizens. From this American's perspective, British indie music has been hamstrung and flattened by an oft-referenced proscription in UK blogs that new music must move people on the dance floor. We chalk this zealous viewpoint up to the broad success of bands like Arctic Monkeys and Scotland's Franz Ferdinand. The fits and starts in the verse of "The End And Everything After," by contrast, angularly proclaim Johnny Foreigner's independence from many UK bands' 4/4 fixation, while acknowledging great indie rock's innate need to pogo.

Arcs Across The City was released Nov. 26 on Best Before Records, the label arm of a London-based live entertainment and artist management concern. As we suspected, the set has made a sidelong entrance into the U.S. market via EMusic's digital storefront. Unless you just don't like music you should hit the link below and run over to EMusic and download the EP forthwith. As we noted as part of last week's review of the band's U.S. debut [review here], Johnny Foreigner expects to issue its first full-length recording in mid-spring. In the meantime, here is an MP3 of the second and quasi-title track of the EP.

Johnny Foreigner -- "The End And Everything After" -- Arcs Across The City EP
[right click and save as]
[buy Arcs Across The City from EMusic right here]

Johnny Foreigner: Interweb | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

December 6, 2007

Today's Hotness: SSM, Dirty On Purpose, Morrissey

SSM -- Break Your Arm For Evolution>> The guitar chord you are about to hear is from the video clip for Morrissey's "The First Of The Gang To Die" posted below. Go down and hit pause now so as not to get startled.

>> This very brief item at Pun Canoes about a forthcoming tour from Detroit garage rockers The Von Bondies reminded us of SSM, as the latter act is supporting the former on a slate of dates next month. SSM's self-titled 2006 set had a couple very strong tracks, and every time "The Seer" or "The Fourth" rises to the top during a shuffle of the IPod we always look up with a raised eyebrow to wonder, hey, who's that rocking us so steadfastly? The latter track is particularly bracing, a real scritchy screamer with a Leslie cabinet effect on the vocal. We've posted an MP3 below.

A quick trip to the SSM web hutch reveals that the organ/guitar/drums trio, whose component members' first letters of their last names provide the initials by which the band is known, is about to release its sophomore full length, Break Your Arm For Evolution. The same site is hosting a preview MP3 for the tune "Start Dancing", whose ID3 tag indicates the track is actually titled "Don't Stop Dancing." An odd coincidence, as you may recall the Bob Mould track we wrote about on Tuesday was also mislabeled -- get on the stick, content people! Anyway, the new SSM tune is an altogether odd, key-jumping track that doesn't necessarily "garage" or "rock" -- instead we get drum machines, synths and organ laying down a mid-tempo groove before the guitar and chorus arrive and try to smash through the door all at once like The Three Stooges. It's actually a really great song, so we're also posting that link below. And suddenly we're excited to hear Break Your Arm For Evolution, which arrives on Alive Records next month. We reviewed SSM's self-titled set here last year. The tour with The Von Bondies is next month, and you can check out all the dates here. SSM plays Great Scott in Boston Jan. 22.

SSM -- "Don't Stop Dancing" -- Break Your Arm For Evolution
SSM -- "The Fourth" -- SSM
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[buy SSM records from Newbury Comics here]

>> This irritatingly upper-cased RCRD LBL thing is really taking off. Or at least they seem to have announcements everyday about exclusives with one band or another. And finally they've announced one with a band we like. Yesterday Brooklyn-based nu-gazers Dirty On Purpose disclosed they would issue for free download Dec. 11 via the single "Leaving." The quartet said it would release an additional three singles through the site. In other Dirty On Purpose news, the band will issue its long awaited Like Bees EP Jan. 15, and the digital version will come with bonus tracks. If one takes all of this news in sum, it sort of makes one wonder why -- if the band had all this material -- they didn't issue a full-length record. We reviewed Dirty On Purpose's most recent Cambridge show at the Middle East Rock Club here in October.

>> Alt-music icon Morrissey is pretty high up on our list of performers we've never seen that we'd like to see before we get too old to want to see anything. The fact that he plays venues that are substantially larger than the kind of rinky-dink rooms we prefer doesn't help our cause. But this video clip below that was Forkcasted recently just reminded us that we should probably pay attention to those 2008 Morrissey dates. Here it is below, Moz belting out "The First Of The Gang To Die."

[The fact that we couldn't stop that Morrissey clip from autoplaying everytime the page loaded was driving us crazy, so we deleted it. You can watch the clip at this link]

December 4, 2007

Today's Hotness: Evangelicals, Bob Mould, Destroyer

Evangelicals -- The Evening Descends>> Oklahoma's finest psych rockers Evangelicals -- honestly, do you *really* think Flaming Lips still rock? -- have been making news faster than we could get to it in the past week. Word arrived last week that the trio (actually the band is a foursome in its latest press photos), led by songwriter and guitarist Josh Jones, will release its sophomore record The Evening Descends Jan. 22 on fledgling label concern Dead Oceans. The set will include 11 tracks, including two numbers you may already be familiar with. The melodic thumper "Skeleton Man" was recorded for a Daytrotter Session earlier this year, and a demo version of "Snowflakes" was circulated in February when the formation of Dead Oceans was announced with Evangelicals as one of its initial signings.

Speaking of new music, Mr. Jones has decided to parley his success with the 2006 Halloween blogosphere hit "Halloween Song" into a bit of a cottage industry, as today the band is distributing a second seasonal jam, "The Last Christmas On Earth." Snag the MP3 below, as well as the MP3 of the demo of "Snowflakes." A seasonal two-fer for you from Mr. Jones, as it were. Longtime readers will recall we rhapsodized about Evangelicals smoke machine-augmented and altogether dark and Hendrixian live date at TT The Bear's in Nov. 2006. You can read the review here.

Evangelicals -- "The Last Christmas On Earth" -- A Verry SeXXXy XXXmas
Evangelicals -- "Snowflakes (Demo)" -- Extremely Dark Nights
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[buy Evangelicals records from Newbury Comics here]

>> Spinner has an exclusive on the first preview MP3 from Bob Mould's forthcoming solo set The District Line. The track is called "The Distance Between Us." Actually, the ID3 tag says "The Silence Between Us" and a cursory listen suggests the ID3 tag is correct. It also suggests the tune is not that dissimilar from Mr. Mould's later Husker Du or early solo material, as "The Silence Between Us" touts a lighter acoustic guitar-driven verse. And a great bridge section. On the whole it's a very nice track that we expect we'll be listening to a lot. Grab it here. We reviewed Mr. Mould's DVD "Circle Of Friends" here in October. The District Line will be released on Anti- in February.

>> That new Destroyer tune "Foam Hands" is the jam, albeit a patient one with fewer lyrics to pore over and decipher than we would have hoped. And there's a fair amount of strumming that consumes the last 72 seconds on the short track, which will be released -- likely to great fanfare, although Destroyer's Rubies will be hard to top -- by Merge as part of the forthcoming set Trouble In Dreams March 18. Catbird Seat has the MP3 here. Dig away.

>> An administrative note: so we had to bail on the Mobius Band show because of some work emergencies that piled up while we were in Manhattan Friday for the amazing Los Campesinos!/Spinto Band/Johnny Foreigner show. As such, we can't deliver the promised live review of the show, although we did get a brief recap from Mr. Bitter via IM last night. Here's hoping the band is back again soon.

December 1, 2007

That Was The Show That Was: Johnny Foreigner | Bowery Ballroom

Alexei of Johnny Foreigner
While one of the more memorable lines in its song "Sofacore" suggests otherwise, rising indie rock dynamos Johnny Foreigner always sound like they are falling down. Or at least as if the Birmingham, England-based trio is in mid-careen as it slams out indie anthems for the underground. The band members themselves are so disarmingly charming and self-deprecating in person that it is almost hard to believe that they are responsible for the jagged and desperate sounds found in Johnny Foreigner's recordings. That awkward charisma and a lot of kickass indie rock cohered into a winning opening set at Bowery Ballroom last night that visibly made believers out of the assembled hipsterati who steadily filled the house over the course of the performance. Not bad for a band that has yet to a release a single song in the United States, let alone one that had colds coming on and had been putting in 14-hour days in a recording studio for the previous two weeks.

Johnny Foreigner's opening salvo was a blistering version of "Champagne Girls I Have Known," the tune that ignites the EP Arcs Across The City, which was released in the UK Monday on Best Before (suck it up and buy the import here). The rest of the half-hour's proceedings, padded by amusing commentary from guitarist Alexei, featured frantic renditions of "Yes, You Talk Too Fast!," the anti-gentrification anthem (well, they're all anthems, aren't they?) "Cranes And Cranes And Cranes," and an annihilating version of "The End And Everything After." Alexei provided interesting context for the relatively new track "Eyes Wide Terrified," namely that it was inspired by a lover's surprise choice of bringing a third party into bed. The relatively gentle track crests with the blunt kiss-off chorus, "you're life is a song, but not this one." Incidentally the tune is the first we're aware of that includes a prominent backing vocal by able and affable drummer Junior.

Before and after the set we were able to drink some beer and eat some carrots with the band and members of Los Campesinos!, during which time we learned a bit about the marathon recording sessions Johnny Foreigner were to complete today in producer The Machine's Hoboken, New Jersey studio. The trio reports that it surpassed its goal of recording twelve song by two tracks. And the label is eying a mid-spring release for a full-length record. One question we posed was whether the tilted currency exchange rate, which favors British Pounds over the US Dollar at a ratio of roughly 2:1, influenced Johnny Foreigner's decision to make the record in America. It was surprising to hear that the answer was no, and that the band was more than a little surprised at the buying power the pound has afforded them during their stay in and around Manhattan. Anyway, here is a Flickr slideshow of our shots from last night's show. Yes, we know we need to clean our camera lens.

While Johnny Foreigner's live US debut was nothing short of a success, the remaining two acts on the bill also showed up to play. Delaware-based septet Spinto Band turned in a spirited and professional performance punctuated by its two biggest jams to date, "Crack The Whip" and "Oh Mandy." After seeing the mandolin get strapped on and put through its paces we couldn't help but be nagged by a question we presume must similarly nag Spinto Band. After you've written one of the decade's few true towering pop achievements, the perky band's aforementioned and undeniable thriller "Oh Mandy," how do you do it again? Our posse last night decided that one of the band's key assets for its live performance is rock foot (alas, we were so blown away by rock foot, we only captured the ensuing partial rock foot linked).

Perhaps the act will take inspiration from last night's hotly tipped top-liners, Cardiff, Wales' twee sensations Los Campesinos! The ensemble's arsenal of singles and the recently issued Sticking Fingers Into Sockets EP provided ample fodder for a set abounding with hits. The crowd happily sang along to "The International TweeXcore Underground," "You Throw Parties, We Throw Knives," the Pavement classic "Frontwards," "You! Me! Dancing!" and on and on and on. Interestingly, seeing Los Campesinos! arrayed across the parcemium triggered a memory of a performance by the since-forgotten '90s Montreal indie pop phenoms Pest 5000. The latter act's record Interabang (?!), released on Derivative in 1996, should provide a pleasant listen to Los Campesinos! fans who seek it out. Here's the excellent Pest 5000 track "Too Skinny" to get you started.

Pest 5000 -- "Too Skinny" -- Interabang (?!)
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[buy Pest 5000 records from Amazon here]

Johnny Foreigner: Interwebz | MySpace | YouTube | Flickr

Selected Prior Johnny Foreigner coverage:
Today's Hotness: Johnny Foreigner, Lilys, Dirty On Purpose
Johnny Foreigner: The Beginning of The End and Everything
Johnny Foreigner's 13 Point Plan To Destroy Etc. And So On
Various Good Reasons To Write About Johnny Foreigner Yet Again
Clicky Clicky Parade Of MySpace Stars vol. 2