December 22, 2008

Today's Hotness: Arc In Round, Evening Magazine, Superchunk

Relay is now Arc In Round
>> This is our final post of the year. See you in 2009.

>> For those of you not monitoring our Twitter feed last week, Philly based shoegaze quartet Relay has been reborn as Arc In Round. The re-christened act will likely make a big splash with its new material during a brief jaunt around the country in January with the fiery Scottish four Frightened Rabbit. As if that supporting slot wasn't auspicious enough, Arc In Round will also play one of the planned Swirlies reunion dates in late February (we've posted all the Arc In Round dates below). As far as the new music goes, get thee over to the band's MySpace casa forthwith and stream "2" and "Sounder." We're pleased with the former in particular, as its bending guitar chords and generally ethereal awesomeness reminds us very much of Lorelei's shuddering "Mimesis" (from the groundbreaking Spin-Art comp ...One Last Kiss). Arc In Round recorded its new tracks at Strange Weather in Brooklyn, and we're hoping there is a new EP or full-length in the offing; Relay's last two releases were issued on Bubble Core (whose own comp The First Bubble Core Records Label Sampler is also quite good, incidentally). We featured Relay and its practice space in our occasion series Show Us Yours here in Aug. 2006; we reviewed the band's Feb. 2007 show at TT The Bear's right here.

01/16 -- Johnny Brenda’s -- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
01/19 -- Rock and Roll Hotel -- Washington, DC
01/20 -- Talking Head -- Baltimore, Maryland
01/22 -- Courtyard Cafe -- Urbana, Illinois
01/23 -- Maintenance Shop -- Ames, Iowa
01/24 -- Empty Bottle -- Chicago, Illinois
01/26 -- Carnegie Mellon University -- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
02/26 -- Johnny Brenda’s -- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

>> Nine-piece chamber pop upstarts Evening Magazine -- also out of Philadelphia -- are slated to issue a debut EP The Ride Across Lake Constance Jan. 27 on Ohso Records. The collective is helmed by former BC Camplight guitarist David Disbrow, who along with recording engineer Kevin Francis and others has created a multifaceted, widescreen and technicolor collection. The desperate tone of lead track "Apple Eye" is more reminiscent of Funeral-era Arcade Fire than most everything else that has been compared to the highly regarded Canadians in recent memory -- but it is slightly more delicate, too: the foundation is acoustic guitar and snare, but horns and burbling space synths provide surprising inflections. Evening Magazine is recording a full-length set in the same North Philadelphia shed in which the EP -- a very strong calling card, the totality of which can be streamed at the act's MySpace wigwam -- was crafted. We'll keep an eye out for release information on that.

Evening Magazine -- "Apple Eye" -- The Ride Across Lake Constance EP
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[stalk the band's MySpace to see when the EP goes on sale]

>> Rock Sellout here was the first to indicate to us that clicky clicky faves Superchunk will issue something called Sur La Bouch -- Live In Montreal on Jan. 13. The set -- the fourth volume in the band's Clambakes series -- contains a live bootleg of the band performing live on March 22 of that year, when the indie rockers were out supporting their amazing release On The Mouth. The performance was at the club Backstreet, and it was recorded by a chap named Howard Billerman, who apparently played drums on Arcade Fire's aforementioned Funeral and currently owns and engineers recordings at Hotel 2 Tango Studios in Montreal. On The Mouth was one of those records that spurred our ever-expanding interest in indie rock, so we're excited to hear a recording from this period. We saw Superchunk for the first time in the summer of '93 or '94, perhaps headlining over Velocity Girl and Sunny Day Real Estate. Or perhaps not -- sometimes our memories get all mixed up.

>> We just got turned on to the site Bandstand Busking via an email from New York dream pop duo Asobi Seksu, who recently were featured on the site here doing stripped-down bet very affecting versions of "Gliss," "Merry Christmas, I Don't Want To Fight Tonight" and "Walking On The Moon." The site currently features about a dozen other sessions from various bands recorded around the greater London area, but the ones you definitely need to look at are these three clips of Frightened Rabbit fronter Scott Hutchison doing acoustic versions of "My Backwards Walk," "Poke" and "I Feel Better" right here. Hot stuff.

December 15, 2008

Clicky Clicky's Top Albums Of 2008

Clicky Clicky's Top Albums Of 2008
It was a lot more work than we anticipated getting this list together, but fortunately we've been hammering away at it for about a month. Even so we didn't finalize our picks until Friday, which led to some extra writing, but so it goes. Along the way we deepened our relationship with and appreciation for these 10 records, which in our humble opinion represent the best that 2008 had to offer. We hope you'll find some things here that had escaped your attention heretofore, and that you derive as much enjoyment from listening to them as we do. For those who are curious, here are links to some of our prior annual lists [2007, 2006, 2005, 2002]. Thanks for reading Clicky Clicky in 2008.
1. Johnny Foreigner -- Waited Up Til It Was Light -- Best Before/Nettwerk

If you thought we were going to rave about Waited Up Til It Was Light all year and then not name it our favorite album, well, you were wrong. But if it makes you feel better, we were wrong, too. A year ago we declared that Johnny Foreigner's Arcs Across The City EP was the new gold standard in indie rock, and that choice now smacks of being obviously premature, as the band's monstrous full-length debut eclipses it on every level. It shudders with adolescent confusion and crackles with stumbling euphoria, one bottle of gin too many and guitars potted way, way up. There's feedback and in-jokes and sweat and disappointment. As we quipped in June, Waited Up Til It Was Light "is thronged with careening guitar anthems, its 13 tracks shot through with typewriter ribbon-lengths of lyrics that collectively present a contemporary mythology of the band's beloved city." The set will have spawned four singles by the time the double a-sided "DJs Get Doubts" b/w "Lea Room" streets Jan. 12 in the UK. Johnny Foreigner reportedly begin recording a follow-up, and we hope that at this time next year Alexei, Kelly and Junior Foreigner have us once again amending our assessment of what the gold standard is in indie rock. [review] [listen]

2. A Weather -- Cove -- Team Love

In a perfect world, A Weather's understated yet confident debut would launch a thousand indie rock vessels, each one charting a course to illuminate new, obscure and quiet frontiers of a slowcore revival. But as this record seems to have been the most slept-on of all our 2008 picks, this is quite unlikely. One of the revelations of Cove -- which we named the first big surprise of 2008 back in February -- is that the set is filled with love songs, but not necessarily heartache. Yet there is still remarkable tension and mystery that courses through the nine tracks. Quoting again from our review, "[t]he band's beautiful full-length debut has a persistent but slippery allure. Populated almost entirely with murmured bedroom ballads driven by brushed drums, guitar and electric piano, the set somehow succeeds in not repeating the same tricks over and over again." [review] [listen]

3. Frightened Rabbit -- The Midnight Organ Fight -- Fat Cat

Last spring we spoke briefly -- albeit loudly, above the rock club din -- with Frightened Rabbit fronter Scott Hutchison about the growing distance between the songs on this collection and the events they reflect. Certain of the songs on The Midnight Organ Fight were about five years old at the time and reflected events growing increasingly smaller in Frightened Rabbit's rearview. Which makes the tunes' emotional impact -- particularly when performed during one of the quartet's usually incendiary live sets -- all the more impressive. But the live spectacle aside, The Midnight Organ Fight is still a remarkable collection of songs, as lush and atmospheric as Sing The Greys was stark and in-your-face. We pegged the band's "Extrasupervery" as indicative of the potential for Disintegration-esque genius, so we are eager to hear what comes next from the lads. [review] [listen]

4. The Notwist -- The Devil, You + Me -- Domino

Germany's The Notwist had been absent so long prior to the release of The Devil, You + Me -- as we remarked here in our review of the wonderful DVD "The Notwist On|Off The Record" two years ago -- that we were afraid the indie rock world might not take them back, and even more afraid that the band might not want to come back. Finally The Notwist broke its (near) silence with the promo track "Good Lies." The song raised hopes for a stellar album and the band delivered with a set as subtle and beautifully orchestrated as Neon Golden. And while the material is exceptional, it is hard to ignore that The Notwist also gave a wholly stunning performance when it appeared at The Roxy in Boston in October. "The band was alternately mesmerizing and astonishing, depending on whether it was locking into a heavy, digitally augmented groove or blasting through a crescendo of guitars," to quote our review. Compared to Neon Golden, The Devil, You + Me is a more reserved affair, reflecting perhaps the changes of life (fatherhood and the like) that the members of The Notwist have experienced in recent years. Even so, their songwriting chops and imaginations have not subsided in the least, and we're hopeful that it won't be another five years before its next record. [live review] [listen]

5. Destroyer -- Trouble In Dreams -- Merge

We recall reading comments from Destroyer mastermind Dan Bejar sometime during the year in which he states that Trouble In Dreams was a difficult, meaning we think inscrutable, record for fans, particularly compared to the prior set, Destroyer's Rubies. For the record, we think both collections are stellar, and we question just how "difficult" the music is. Musically, things are fairly straightforward on every Destroyer record we've heard (which is damn near all of them -- Damon Che Mr. Bejar is not), so we have to presume Bejar is referring to his lyrics. These are often impressionistic, deeply layered, and, of course, when coming out of Bejar's mouth are often the true highlight of Destroyer's recordings. Trouble In Dreams is no exception, and with some of the year's most winning melodies, the record easily made our list. [listen]

6. Julie Ocean -- Long Gone And Nearly There -- Transit Of Venus

Long Gone And Nearly There now seems a prescient album title for this upbeat collection of irresistable indie pop confections from an already broken-up quartet fronted by the cable newser best known for having himself tasered on television. How could it not be among our favorite records of the year? The collection captures 10 tunes touting broad, bright melodies delivered with an irresistible guitar-jangle and fizz. From a historical standpoint, Long Gone And Nearly There is a distillation of several strands of the D.C. underground, the apparent mean value of Velocity Girl, Glo-Worm and Swiz. And while the band's demise seems to neatly underscore the ephemeral nature of perfect pop, the band's borrowing from '60s AM sounds limns Long Gone And Nearly There with a classic pop sense that makes it stand out among contemporary indie releases. [review] [listen]

Julie Ocean -- "Here Comes Danny" -- Long Gone And Nearly There
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[buy Long Gone And Nearly There from Transit Of Venus here]

7. The War On Drugs -- Wagonwheel Blues -- Secretly Canadian

A beguiling set that offers jaunty singles candidates ("Arms Like Boulders," "Taking The Farm"), lo-fi balladry ("Barrel Of Batteries") and kaleidoscopic drone ("Show Me The Coast") is a special record indeed. The more we listen to it, the more we are convinced that band fronter Adam Granduciel is at the cusp of the sort of acclaim that follows Destroyer's Dan Bejar. There is a frank poeticism in his nasal proclamations buried within stoned repetitions that accumulate like sediment into enticing songs that succeed wonderfully at going nowhere. Wagonwheel Blues will make converts of us all; this video of a live set drives home the greatness of the band. [listen]

8. Love Is All -- A Hundred Things Keep Me Up At Night -- What's Your Rupture?

This was a late-year surprise. Our old housemate Tony B championed the Gothenburg, Sweden-based quintet and its boxy recordings early on, which got us turned on to the single for "Make Out Fall Out Make Up." And while we've listened to the band's 2005 set 9 Times That Same Song maybe a dozen times, we were taken by surprise by how much more A Hundred Things Keep Me Up At Night resonated with us. The set -- shrouded like its precursor in almost obfuscating amounts of slap-back reverb -- contains a perfect, grooving blend of dancey rock that sounds like a bizarre marriage of The Cramps and Haircut 100 fronted by a roughly rendered facsimile of Cyndi Lauper. "Give It Back" is a relentless torrent of hooks and energy, and the rest of the set follows suit. [listen]

9. Superman Revenge Squad -- This Is My Own Personal Way Of Dealing With It All -- My Best Unbeaten Brother

Ben Parker, sole proprietor of the acoustic enterprise Superman Revenge Squad, was the subject of the only feature interview we did in 2008, a reflection of the esteem in which we hold this very gifted songwriter based in Croydon, England. From a lyrical standpoint no one can touch him, not only in terms of sheer volume (the man is loquacious in song) but also in his ability to express discontent in colorful ways (we love the line "the sun's too hot and there's nothing on the telly" from the digital single "Idiot Food"). His music -- whether it is harrowingly urgent, morose and emotional or tongue-in-cheek and geeky -- transmits as deeply personal, despite the fact that often when Parker sounds like he is baring his soul he is actually making an obscure pop culture reference. This Is My Own Way Of Dealing With It All is filled with escape fantasies, dark resignation and still darker humor. And it is brilliant. We're posting the lead track below. [interview] [listen]

Superman Revenge Squad -- "Idiot Food" -- This Is My Own Personal Way Of Dealing With It All
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[buy the record from Superman Revenge Squad right here]

10. The Swimmers -- Fighting Trees -- Mad Dragon

We suppose it is a toss-up as to whether this was more slept-on than the A Weather record, although the label Team Love has more brand recognition than the Drexel University-backed Mad Dragon imprint. Philadelphia's Swimmers had been treading water for quite a while as we waited for its debut to finally see release, but it finally delivered in a big way. Echoing first-wave Wilco and scene precursors The Bigger Lovers, Fighting Trees' rootsy, upbeat attack and hooks aplenty made this a constant go-to record for us this year. While "Pocket Full Of Gold" made our list of top songs of the year last week, the entire record is filled with eager winners, not the least of which is the piano-driven homage to Lancaster, PA "Heaven." Daytrotter recently posted a session featuring a few tracks from Fighting Trees from which we are posting a fantastic take on "St. Cecilia" below. [review] [listen]

The Swimmers -- "St. Cecilia" -- Daytrotter Session
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[download the whole session right here]
[buy Fighting Trees from Amazon here]

December 11, 2008

YouTube Rodeo: Rod Stewart's "Tonight I'm Yours"

While we continue drafting our year-end list of favorite albums, you watch Rod Stewart. We remember watching this clip as a wee lad and really not getting any of the sexy stuff. But we sure thought it was cool that one woman had a piano keyboard painted on her leg, and then that the piano player plays it. Ah, youth. Everyone on the Internerds seems very excited about the Faces reunion, but we gotta say, our fandom of Mr. Stewart begins and ends with his record Tonight, I'm Yours. We'll be back Monday with our top 10 records of 2008.

December 10, 2008

Today's Hotness: Big Science, Answering Machine, Video Nasties

Big Science
>> [UPDATED] Big Science, the Chicago-based indie rock quartet featuring three guys named Jason (two of whom were formerly in San Diego-based post-hardcore act The North Atlantic), will release its immaculate debut EP The Coast Of Nowhere Friday. We've been anticipating the collection since March, when the band first popped onto our radar with a handful of very impressive demos. The EP is already streaming at Big Science's MySpace dojo here, and we recommend checking in and listening you can download the whole thing for free at the band's web site here. The fully realized versions of "My Career As A Ghost" and "DNC" are even more wonderful than the demos. On the former track the sound is clearer, and there is a new countermelody in the chorus driven by clean, reverby guitar. The new "DNC" again is more potent than its precursor, with a rocked-up verse setting off the airy, surfy chorus. New (to us) tracks including the title track, the melodic, cascading strummer "Sun Sets Electric" and the stunning ballad "World Class AC" are equally as strong. We think upon listening you'll agree that Big Science is doing something that is fairly singular. Previously we cited Talking Heads and Big Country as salient referents, but now we're not so sure. There's High Life guitars and so much reverb and we don't even know what to call it, but it is great. The Coast Of Nowhere EP will be available for sale at a CD release show this Friday at Chicago's The Hideout.

>> Manchester, England-based indie pop savants The Answering Machine continue to let slip various bits of information about its debut full length Another City, Another Sorry, but the bigger news is how amazing the new tracks sound. The set is now slated for release in Summer 2009, and it will be preceded by a single in the spring. Freshly mastered tracks "​Obviously Cold"​,​"Cliffer" and "Oh, Christina"​ are already streaming at the band's MySpace hacienda right here. And we are immensely impressed, as the results are far better than we had even hoped for from the young foursome. "Obviously Cold" touts a very lyrical, Peter Hook-ish bass melody (and tone), the vocals are assured and Martin and Patrick's guitars crunch with a force that suggests the band has successfully grown beyond its Strokes worshipping into a dynamite rock act. Ditto for the rocker "Cliffer," which is perhaps the densest track the band has committed to tape. Readers will recall that we reported here in November that The Answering Machine has signed to the small indie Heist Or Hit Records. 2009 will be a huge year for the band, and we hope that U.S. tour dates are in the offing. To date The Answering Machine has issued three singles, "Lightbulbs," "Silent Hotels," and "Oklahoma." Let's have a listen to "Silent Hotels," shall we?

The Answering Machine -- "Silent Hotels" -- "Silent Hotels" b/w "It's Over! It's Over! It's Over" and "Information"
[right click and save as]
[buy The Answering Machine singles from EMusic right here]

>> London-based quintet Video Nasties' new Albatross EP has made its way to EMusic, and the act warns in a MySpace bulletin today that "the [forthcoming] album's coming sooner than you think." In addition to the slamming and slightly twisted title track, which we first wrote about here in October, Albatross contains "Hearts And Bones," "Break" and "Man." You can stream "Albatross" and "Hearts And Bones" at Video Nasties' MySpace wigwam right here. The latter track is an arresting ballad that hints more at Chamelons UK than at our old lazy critical shorthand for Video Nasties, The Yachts. Video Nasties have clearly metamorphosed into something new, and while we will always love its early synth pop gems, this new territory is truly exciting. The band launches a two-week tour of the UK Jan. 14.

December 9, 2008

Today's Hotness: Seb Roberts, Primitive Painters, War On Drugs

Seb Roberts
>> Welsh twee-core wunderkinds Los Campesinos! are not the only act to issue two records in 2008. The increasingly curious Seb Roberts has returned with a second release on SVC Records for the year, the EP Yeah, Well, Coué's Dead. Mr. Roberts, a Canadian-born and one-time Baltimore-based ex-pat who has spent many of his recent years in Germany and Japan, released his SVC debut Exit Strategy in March (he had previously previously issued another nine records elsewhere under various names). While the full-lengthed Exit Strategy seemed to draw from mid-period Ministry and Stewart Copeland's Klark Kent project, the new collection is a more composed amalgamation of hypnotic, Fripp-esque guitar textures and the bending chimpgaze swirl of the finer Swirlies recordings. Some of the mechanistic tone of Exit Strategy persists in the new collection (which features a remixed version of Exit Strategy's "US Out Of NY"), as the repeated guitar figure that draws "Roll Deep" to a close is somewhat robotic (in contrast to Robert Fripp's more flowing loops). "Roll Deep" is more intricately constructed than a first listen will reveal: lazery synths streak low in the mix, as do spectral vocal tracks. And where's the chorus? Roberts has cobbled together this fairly gripping video for the track that provocatively pairs footage of baggy scene legends, fireworks and riot police. More overt in its Fripp referencing is Roberts' gorgeous odd-metered instrumental "False Positive." Yeah, Well, Coué's Dead was issued digitally Dec. 2, and you can purchase it directly from SVC Records here. The EP will also be available through the usual digital storefronts imminently, if it is not already.

Seb Roberts -- "Roll Deep" -- Yeah, Well, Coué's Dead
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[buy the EP from SVC Records right here]

>> Attentive readers will recall we noted last month the release of reconstituted California quintet Primitive Painters' new full-length Say It 'Til You Mean It. In doing so we reported that the album references the more guitar-centric work of alt. luminaries New Order. No song more pointedly refers to the legacy of the now apparently defunct-for-good Mancunians than Primitive Painters' album closer "Throw Your Heart To The Wind," which quotes the chorus of New Order's chillingly good "All The Way," the second track from the surprise 1989 triumph Technique (here's a live clip of New Order performing the track at Reading in '89). On the heels of the band's well-received record release show in California over the weekend the band has given us the OK to post "Throw Your Heart To The Wind" below. There's a lot to like: great drumming, crystalline layers of guitar and Dennis Crupi's lyrical exhortations to greater things.

Primitive Painters -- "Throw Your Heart To The Wind" -- Say It 'Til You Mean It
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[buy the record from the band right here]

>> It is worth mentioning for the record that, although the septet will not be coming to New England, The War On Drugs neverthless launch a tour this evening in Pontiac, MI. Only yesterday we named the Philly-based act's gloriously droning "Show Me The Coast" one of the ten best songs of the year. We expect our bestowing such an honor will result in mob scenes at these upcoming dates, but even so you should brave the crowds to see The War On Drugs, whose Wagonwheel Blues is one of the more under-appreciated gems of 2008 (it will appear on our top albums list next week).

12/09 -- Pontiac, MI -- The Pike Room at The Crofoot
12/10 -- Rock Island, IL -- Huckleberry's Pizza Parlor
12/11 -- Chicago, IL -- Schuba's
12/12 -- Bloomington, IN -- Bear's Place
12/13 -- Pittsburgh, PA -- Brillobox
12/14 -- Brooklyn, NY -- Union Hall
12/15 -- New York, NY -- Mercury Lounge
12/18 -- Philadelphia, PA -- Johnny Brenda's

December 8, 2008

Clicky Clicky's Top Songs Of 2008

Clicky Clicky's Top Songs Of 2008
We humbly submit our list of 10 favorite tracks of the year. The typical caveats apply, mainly that an individual band could only chart once, no matter how awesome it may be. Meaning, for example, that despite three Johnny Foreigner songs being among our 10 most-listened-to tracks of 2008, only one is able to make the cut below. Of course, the tracks in question had to be released this year. And there's really not much else to it. We think these songs are the bee's knees, and we look forward to hearing much more from the bands who recorded them in the future. Our list of top albums of the year largely echoes this list of songs, but there are some notable differences, so be certain check in next Monday to read that one. Thanks for the rock.
1. Johnny Foreigner -- "Absolute Balance" -- Waited Up Til It Was Light
Stream it at Last.FM right here.

Bifurcated from the demo "Balance Comma Girl," expanded, stuffed with skyrocketing dynamics and draped with vapor trails of guitar feedback and delay, "Absolute Balance" puts the final (well, almost) exclamation point on Johnny Foreigner's stunning debut Waited Up 'Til It Was Light. The tail end reintroduces a familiar canned beat (it also drives the single "Salt, Peppa and Spinderella") and makes a miraculous ascent into a crescendo in which fronter Alexei Berrow unhinges his soul and lets fly a spine-tingling, entirely inscrutable 20-second rant. Watch the band perform "Absolute Balance" at the tail end of "Yr All Just Jealous Of My Von Dutch Hat" from T In The Park this past July right here at the YouTubes. The band will begin recording its second full length later this month, and intends to tour North America in 2009. We reviewed Waited Up Til It Was Light here in June.

2. A Weather -- "Shirley Road Shirley" -- Cove
Download "Shirley Road Shirley"
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The most intimate record of the year was released by the somewhat shadowy -- or at least reserved, perhaps press-shy -- group A Weather out of Portland, who somehow took the narcotic and stoney vibe of slowcore and imbued it with hopeful romance and mystery. Spurred by careful, boxy (and apparently no-footed) drumming and spare guitar, "Shirley Road Shirley" soars into its almost-chorus, the questionable vow "I won't try anything, I swear you won't even know I'm there." We reviewed A Weather's Cove right here in February. Thanks to the band for the permission to post this track.

3. Los Campesinos! -- "Death To Los Campesinos!" -- Hold On Now, Youngster...
Stream it at Last.FM right here.

Pepped up and ragged, shouted and layered, the lead track from the Cardiff, Wales septet's first release of 2008 is rife with sly lyrics and enthusiasm to spare. We actually think this song's mix flattens the dynamics a little too much, perhaps in order to make all the instruments audible. The following track, "Broken Heartbeats Sound Like Breakbeats," is much more explosive -- although it hurts our head to figure out why. But it is the dueling vocals and gang cheers that make "Death To Los Campesinos!" the gang's best track of the year. The fact that its video features a homicidal unicorn is just so much delicious icing on the technicolor cake.

4. The Notwist -- "Gloomy Planets" -- The Devil, You + Me
Watch the amazing video with Andromeda Express Orchestra at YouTube right here.

Fuzzier vocals and acoustic guitar would seem to herald a new, ever more reserved direction for the laconic German quartet The Notwist, best known for its 2002 electropop milestone Neon Golden. But halfway through "Gloomy Planets," as the song scales its sole chorus, looping tones overtake the mix, overlay the piano and guitars and build a crescendo that waxes on for almost two full, thrilling minutes. And suddenly, it is like the band's recent history has caught up with it. The Notwist's Oct. show at Boston's Roxy nightclub was among our favorites of the year. Hopefully it will not be another six years before The Notwist releases a new record.

5. Frightened Rabbit -- "Floating In The Forth" -- The Midnight Organ Fight
Stream it at Last.FM right here.

We had already considered Frightened Rabbit's Scott Hutchison a master of crafting the devastating lyric prior to the release of The Midnight Organ Fight, but when we reached the tail-end of the record and heard this track buzz up into its bottomlessly sorrowful first line our estimation was affirmed all over again. "So you just stepped out of the front of my house and I'll never see you again." A lot of bloggers have expended a lot of keystrokes talking about the emotional rawness of Frightened Rabbit's overdriven folk-rock, but this track is the only one for us that is almost unlistenable. While The Midnight Organ Fight's relatively glossy production is somewhat at odds with Frightened Rabbit's music -- particularly its high-octane live sets -- every song on the set is dynamite. "Floating In The Forth," with its lush sonic palette, harmonies and dreadful sense of finality, was the biggest surprise of the collection. The band returns to Boston's Great Scott next month. We reviewed The Midnight Organ Fight here in March.

6. The Raveonettes -- "Dead Sound" -- Lust, Lust, Lust
Stream it at Last.FM right here.

A wonderfully realized track that amalgamates spectral (and obviously Spector-al) harmonies, simple urgent programmed rhythm tracks, aggressive white-out guitar fuzz and reverby leads into an aural candy treat.

7. Destroyer -- "Foam Hands" -- Trouble In Dreams
Download "Foam Hands"
[right click and save as]

When you stop to think about it, the chorus to this track is ridiculous. But elsewhere band leader Dan Bejar's relatively simple yet typically impressionist lyrics are as evocative as ever. Mr. Bejar's singing is perhaps the most singular of this decade, as it is as convincing when coyly elongating and wearily over-enunciating syllables as it is when the narrator turns against his narrative, and occasionally the listener. Miraculously, "Foam Hands" does a whole lot with fairly little, including boring itself hopelessly deep into your brain, all the while providing Bejar ample opportunity to bend expectations just slightly into a gothic tale of estrangement.

8. The War On Drugs -- "Show Me The Coast" -- Wagonwheel Blues
This track isn't available to hear on the Internet for free.
Stream a short sample at EMusic here.

Ten minutes of kaleidoscopic, blissful drone could have easily felt like five minutes too many, but something about the arpeggiated swells and Petty-esque declamations spiraling out over an F# seemingly into forever is entrancing. It also inspires the cartoonish feeling that somehow, somewhere this song is always being performed, like the black-and-white footage of an oncoming steam train hidden behind the door in a Bugs Bunny short. The War On Drugs were the best of the many great things that broke out of Philadelphia this year.

9. The Hold Steady -- "Constructive Summer" -- Stay Positive
Stream it at Last.FM right here.

The most rocking track from the Brooklyn quintet's 2008 release, which was the only CD we kept in the car in late July. Big guitars. Harmonics. So much possibility. Nothing can go wrong. We have to believe that the lyric concerning water towers references the same found in the alternate versions of The Replacements' "Can't Hardly Wait" packaged with the reissues of Tim and Pleased To Meet Me this year.

10. The Swimmers -- "Pocket Full Of Gold" -- Fighting Trees
Download "Pocket Full Of Gold"
Recorded live at Chicago's Hideout, March 22, 2008
[right click and save as]

While "Heaven" continues to be the "hit" of the long-awaited debut from this Philadelphia act, at least in terms of the attention bestowed by the Internets (the band recently released this video for the track, as well), "Pocket Full Of Gold" is the most irresistable of the ten tunes on the band's Fighting Trees. Tweedy-esque vocal, the track would have been a good fit on the first Wilco record, before the Chicago act entered its baroque period. We reviewed Fighting Trees here in March.

December 5, 2008

Today's Hotness: Dirty On Purpose, Frightened Rabbit

Dirty On Purpose, Middle East, September 29, 2007>> We join the chorus of outlets expressing disappointment at the breakup of Brooklyn-based nu-gaze superlatives Dirty On Purpose, who disclosed their demise via presser this afternoon. The quartet, which formed in 2002, will play a final show on New Years Eve at Manhattan's Mercury Lounge, where it will open for the purportedly "loudest band in New York," noiseniks-in-arms A Place To Bury Strangers. According to the statement, the band returned from tour a month ago, discussed making another record, and ultimately decided that was something it didn't want to do. Dirty On Purpose is survived by its members' various extra-band endeavors, which include Neckbeard Telecaster, Coin Under Tongue, Joe And The Flying Spoons, Purse Snatchers and Black Acid. All of the members will continue to live in New York, and the band quipped that it reserves its right to reform. Which would make a bunch of us pretty happy. We reviewed Dirty On Purpose's Oct. 2007 Middle East show right here. We also reviewed its two full-lengths Sleep Late For A Better Tomorrow and Hallelujah Sirens here and here respectively. We leave you with the song that we think first turned us on to the band, the early track "Practice For Having Sex." Thanks for all the indie rock, guys.

Dirty On Purpose -- "Practice For Having Sex" -- Show-Only EP
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[buy Dirty On Purpose records from Newbury Comics right here]

>> Selkirk, Scotland-based indie rockers Frightened Rabbit will issue an updated version of its 2007 holiday single "It's Christmas So We'll Stop" Dec. 16, exactly 364 days after releasing the original version. The track has apparently been "reconstructed" by Oregon-based label mate David Karsten Daniels, who has adorned the spare ballad with a choir, horns, Fender Rhodes piano and strings. We wrote about version 1.0 of the single last November here. The new version has been dressed up with better cover art, which you can ogle here, and the b-side this go-round is not music but an etching by none other than band fronter Scott Hutchison. And there is even more FR news -- there is a brand new video for "I Feel Better," right here. Frightened Rabbit recently completed a European jaunt opening for Death Cab For Cutie (if you have read the band's recent tour diary for DIS regarding same here, you are missing out on some comedy gold). As we've alluded to previously, Frightened Rabbit return to the U.S. for a short stack of dates next month, which you can inspect below.

01/16 -- Philadelphia, PA -- Johnny Brenda's
01/17 -- New York, NY -- Bowery Ballroom
01/18 -- Allston, MA -- Great Scott
01/19 -- Washington, D.C. -- Rock and Roll Hotel
01/22 -- Urbana, IL -- Courtyard Café
01/23 -- Ames, IA -- Maintenance Shop
01/24 -- Chicago, IL -- Empty Bottle

December 3, 2008

Today's Hotness: Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Dananananaykroyd

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
>> [PHOTO CREDIT: Pavla Kopecna] Word from The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart is that the band's next single will apparently be for the song "Young Adult Friction," track three on the band's brilliant forthcoming self-titled debut full-length. The New York-based quartet plan to film a video for the song Dec. 15 in Cambridge, England during its current tour of the UK and Ireland, which launched last night in London. In fact, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart are looking for extras to appear in the clip, so if you want in on that, friend them up on the MySpace and check out their most recent bulletin (there is a casting on Dec. 7 in London, apparently). The video for the act's most recent single "Everything With You" has been burning up the Internerds of late, and you can watch it right here. Frankly, not a lot happens in the clip, but the song, also on the pending full-length, is brilliant. No word yet on when the single for "Young Adult Friction" will be released, but we expect it will precede by a brief period the planned Feb. 3 issuance of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. Although that would be a very short time frame, so perhaps the single will arrive after the record and in time to build hype for a full spring tour (the band just announced a handful of February dates). Slumberland put out the single for "Everything With You," and because the label is awesome, you can download the tune for nothing. Have at it below. We previously wrote about The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart here in October; the band plays Cambridge, Mass.'s Middle East Downstair Feb. 15 with the very, very good act Pants Yell! We'll be there.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart -- "Everything With You" -- "Everything With You" b/w "The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart"
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[buy "Everything With You" on blue vinyl from Slumberland here]

>> Dananananaykroyd's debut full-length is finished, and the band -- widely considered the best live act in the UK today -- has titled the collection Hey Everyone. Best Before Records will issue the set next year; a single, "Black Wax" arrives in March, which makes us think Hey Everyone will likely hit racks by April, if not in time for SXSW. Hey Everyone touts 12 tracks, including re-recorded versions of "1993," "Infinity Milk," "Some Dresses" and "The Greater Than Symbol And The Hash." These four three toe-tappers were all featured on the Glaswegian sextet's Sissy Hits EP, which Best Before released earlier this year. Dananananayroyd has finally posted the second part of its video diary filmed during the recording of Hey Everyone with The Machine in New Jersey earlier this fall, and it is really funny -- watch it here. The sextet has two live engagements booked for the remainder of year: one in Leeds Saturday and the second on New Year's Eve in Glasgow.

December 2, 2008

CC200: Counting Down To Haywood's "Crosswords"

Haywood, 1995
We still have no idea what the complete opening line to this track is ("I meant to take a cue from Bluto?" Like, from "Popeye?"). Even so, there are a few things that make this song, by the then-Philly-based quartet's original line-up, remarkable. Perhaps least apparent among these is the fact that "Crosswords," the lead track from Haywood's Great Cats Give Chase cassette issued in late 1996 or early '97, was recorded to a four-track tape machine in the attic of an antiques store. For all we know they were recorded off one by one like this. That the song -- and the three other tracks captured during the same sessions -- powerfully succeeds, and in places even explodes despite the humble production, is a testament to the skills of the quartet. The more obvious charms of "Crosswords" are the hooks and the immensely satisfying crunch of the choruses. Also remarkable is the vivid picture of a relationship coming apart that band fronter Ted Pauly paints with his at-times seemingly confessional lyrics ("...they say I'm looking for my mother...").

Great Cats Give Chase was our sole companion during a few frigid months of pre-dawn drives to an existentially harrowing temporary job we held at the onset of 1997, and not surprisingly its lead track ranks high in our list of most-listened-to songs (it'd probably rank higher if we could include all the times we listened on those early mornings). The cassette's four songs were later issued on Haywood's full-length debut, the collection of early recordings dubbed Model For A Monument. We previously wrote about "Crosswords" here in May 2004 and here a year ago. The song is No. 27 on the Clicky Clicky 200, and you can read all of our prior Clicky Clicky 200 entries right here.

Haywood -- "Crosswords" -- Model For A Monument
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[buy Haywood records from Insound right here]

December 1, 2008

Today's Hotness: Dinosaur Pile-Up, Matt Pond PA, Coco B's

Dinosaur Pile-Up
>> [PHOTO CREDIT: Liam Henry] Leeds-based power trio Dinosaur Pile-Up's debut single "My Rock N' Roll" will be released Dec. 8 in a limited edition of 500 by fledgling label Friends Vs. Records. Whoever wrote the promo blurb at Rough Trade is brilliantly funny -- observe: "[Dinosaur Pile-Up's] songs are proving very popular among people who like to go out to watch rock bands." The flipside of the planned single is the original demo for the percolating gem "Love Is A Boat And We're Sinking," which was floating around the Internerdzzz earlier this fall and reminds us very much of the incredibly under-rated and sadly defunct Michigan act Rain Is Wet. Anyhow, someone please tell us when a band forms and takes the name Dinosaur Pile-Up Jr., because the very idea makes us extremely happy. Pre-order "My Rock N' Roll" from Rough Trade right here. Stream it at the band's MySpace dojo right here, where you can also inspect the band's various live commitments through the end of January.

>> What with our holiday pause we're a day late and a dollar short on the Matt Pond PA news, which of course is that the revered, Philly-based chamber pop outfit has just release a free ep awesomely titled Freeep, which was apparently recorded in a cabin in Bearsville, NY, which surprisingly actually exists. The EP actually has a much longer title, according to the MPPA web site, which is The Dawn before the Dark Leaves or Water off a Black Dog’s Back or Amazing Life or Butterfly Mornings and Wildflower Afternoons or May we never go go mental, may we always stay stay gentle or The Fear of not Being Afraid or Erica Harris and her Ubiquitous Threads or The Warmth Within the Warren or Dreaming of Sleeping or Saying It to Keep It From Happening or This is not the Dark Leaves or Living for Liv Ullman or The Odds of a Sunrise or Whispering Pines or You’ll be the Rhythm and I’ll be the Beat and I’ll be the Rhythm and You’ll be the Beat or The Grass Harp or Goodbye Barcelona or Why is my copy of the Moviegoer Floating in a Puddle Beside the Car. You can download the whole shebang right here, and we're recommending that you do. Opener "Hearts And Minds" is uptempo and airy and unsurprisingly soars in places. Three beautiful numbered tracks, "#1," "#3" and "#5" also standout; "#3" in particular glistens with soft intensity, and the trio of songs remind us very much of J Mascis' untitled tracks from the Gas, Food, Lodging soundtrack. Matt Pond PA's numbered numbers are very fetching, so we're posting them below.

Matt Pond PA -- "#1" -- Freeep
Matt Pond PA -- "#3" -- Freeep
Matt Pond PA -- "#5" -- Freeep
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[download the entire Freep from Matt Pond PA's web site right here]

>> Earlier this month we expended a couple minutes confirming our belief that Coco B's self-titled debut was in fact released in 2007, because the band's superlative rocker "Give Up The Money (1982)" was in the running to be one of our top songs of the year for 2008 otherwise. Unfortunately, its 2007 release disqualifies it, but that doesn't mean the song is any less great. It also seems to have a long shelf life (not unlike Say Hi To Your Mom's "Let's Talk About Spaceships," now that we think about it). The latest twinkle of attention for the track comes courtesy of lifestyle brand and apparel maker Nike (hey Nike, how did that whole sweatshop thing shake out? We'll have to Google that). Nike has used the track in a video of some guys riding BMX bikes like it was, well, "like it was 1982." You can watch the video here -- gotta say, it's pretty bad-ass.