December 31, 2010

Michael Piantigini's Top 10s of 2010 | We Have Assumed Control

[Chart toppers Superchunk live at Royale, Boston, MA. 9/21/2010. Photo by Michael Piantigini. More here.]

Here it is, New Year's Eve, and I'm finally turning in my year-end list. TO MYSELF! As you may have read, El Jefe Jay Breitling will be on hiatus for a few months tending to undercover work for his secret, non-blogging identity and I'll be attempting keep up with the entire universe of music (or at least some subset thereof) for the duration. I appreciate Jay's trust that I won't turn this into some weirdo NFL coach-spouse fetish site (I won't).

Anywhos, my top 10 (Jay's is here). This has been a hell of a year for those of us who came of musical age in the 90's. My list is dominated by some great new albums by 90's heavyweights, many of whom happen to be on the Merge label. And it was hard not to be nostalgic when you find yourself standing up against the stage hanging on every "NOOOOOOO!" of "Slack Motherfucker" once again.

So here's my TOP 10 ALBUMS:
1. Superchunk - Majesty Shredding (Merge)
This album was an incredible gift. They never actually broke up, but the longer that gap between albums was, the more we got frighteningly used to a world without Superchunk. So, yeah, it's mere existence made it a contender. That it contained songs like the opening pair, "Digging For Something," and "My Gap Feels Weird," that would become instant Superchunk classics brought tears to the eyes and a spring in one's step.

2. Bettie Serveert - Pharmacy of Love (Second Motion)
As I said back in March, Pharmacy of Love rivals the Betties' 1992 debut Palomine for best of catalog honors. Driven by some especially energetic drumming, it's focused, direct, and rocking - and doesn't wander off on some of the tangents of their recent work.

3. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Brutalist Bricks (Matador)
Speaking of energetic - speaking of focused - speaking of rocking... The Brutalist Bricks IS Ted Leo and the Pharmacists finest front-to-back album yet. And let's all watch the great Tom Scharpling-directed video for "Bottled In Cork" again, shall we?

4. Versus - On The Ones And Threes (Merge)

In the near decade since Versus guitarist/vocalist Richard Baluyut disbanded the band and left New York for the San Francisco he only produced a single album (on Blackball in 2006, with his band Whysall Lane), as did bassist/vocalist Fontaine Toups (in 2004 on Teenbeat). Both have their moments, for sure, but On The Ones and Threes makes clear that the sum is greater than the parts (and near-original lineup drummer Ed Baluyut returns for good measure as well). And it's all here: the Richard/Fontaine harmonies, the the proto-indie chiming jangle, and distortion for miles. Soul-nourishing distortion.

5. Ty Segall - Melted (Goner)

I know nothing of how this San Fran garage-rocker makes records, but they certainly feel like they must just fall together. They're casual and comfortable, like slipping into your loafers or something (can we please make this a new hipster trend? OK, fine: let's say it's like throwing on your favorite hoodie). Melted is poppy 60's garage pop with one foot squarely on the distortion pedal that's as good at first listen as it is after 100.

6. Teenage Fanclub - Shadows (Merge)
It is all too easy to pine for the distortion (there's that word again) saturation of Bandwagonesque, but that was the grunge era, and hey, we've all grown in the 18 years since, right? Shadows has more than a couple of tracks that that future compilers will need to make room for on the next best-of, at least one of which ("When I Still Have Thee") is one of those inspirational Teenage Fanclub songs (like, say, "Ain't That Enough") that should have been a #1 hit on some fictional chart that mattered. These Scotsmen are multi-continental now (Norman Blake married and moved to Canada), so the recently long stretches between albums seem likely to slow even further, so treasure them while we can.

7. Bobby Bare, Jr. - A Storm - A Tree - My Mother's Head (Thirty Tigers)
Country scion Bobby Bare, Jr. has professed as much love for (and has covered) the Pixies and The Smiths as for any of the country music that underpins his style. His roots give him more heft than much of the alt-country pigeonhole he gets lumped in with - he pulls off riffing guitar orgies like "Swollen But Not The Same" equally as well as he does the old-fashioned murder ballad "One Of Us Has Got To Go." The latter co-written with his father and begins with a regretful sigh and ends with a mouthed gunshot that tips Bare's sense of humor. His last album, 2006's The Longest Meow, was recorded live in the studio (as his website puts it, "1 day 11 songs 11 people 11 hours"), but A Storm... feels a bit more studio crafted - many of the songs incorporating more synths, including for the bass parts (as in recent tours), but it seems to work more naturally for Bare than it did, say, for that last Steve Earle album.

8. The Parting Gifts - Strychnine Dandelions (In The Red)

The announcement for this collaboration with the The Ettes' Coco Hames (with Raconteur Patrick Keeler on drums) came as we were still anticipating Greg Cartwright's visit to Cambridge with his Reigning Sound, now we're hoping for a visit by the Parting Gifts too. This doesn't stray very far from either band's wheelhouse, but it's yet more great songwriting from Cartwright with performances by people who love music. Simple as that, really.

9. New Pornographers - Together (Merge)

There's a certain tightness to New Pornographer's songs that feels a little stiff to me when it isn't hitting right, but Together doesn't seem to have this problem. It still has the meticulous arrangements, of course, but also there's also a warmth and inspired vibe emanating from this one. (And it's soon to have its own Scharpling-directed video too).

10. Robert Plant - Band of Joy (Rounder)
Now here's an album that addresses something I've been complaining about. Why do yesteryear's mega-rock bands insist on having to have everything they do be so huge? Every Stones tour, for example, has to be a massive stadium production extravaganza or they just won't bother, ditto Roger Waters and/or Pink Floyd, etc., etc. The music isn't nearly as satisfying as the paycheck or the ego stroking that apparently comes with it. (I'm going to grant Paul McCartney an exemption to this complaint). The pressure was on Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant to jump into a massive tour after their successful 2007 one-off reunion, but he declined. Instead of trying to sing like he did 35 years ago, he's singing songs he's more interested in now (TWO Low covers?) like he sings now. It's more musically satisfying and a modest acceptance of the limitations and the judicious use of his voice.

1. Superchunk with Versus, 9/21/10, at Royale, Boston, MA
See above. The audience couldn't have been more ready for this show. We NEEDED it. In an interview somewhere earlier this year, one of the band said that it seemed like people were really rooting for them on this tour. It really felt that way, and they responded in kind. (My earlier coverage).

2. Yo La Tengo with Mission of Burma, 12/5/10, at Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ
My New Year's resolution: try to spend every Hanukkah with Yo La Tengo in their home base. (My earlier coverage).

3. John Roderick, 8/20/10, at Montague Books, Montague, MA
Such a cool night in a cool setting in the middle of nowhere. With artisanal pencil sharpening. (My earlier coverage).

4. Bettie Serveert, 11/2/10, at TT the Bear's Place, Cambridge, MA
Finally, after an immigration delay, Bettie Serveert blew the roof off of TT's. (My earlier coverage).

5. Grant Hart, 1/11/10, at the Middle East, Cambridge, MA

Grant Hart returned to Cambridge in the beginning of the year with an excellent new album and an upbeat show! (My earlier coverage).

6. Come, 9/26/10 at TT the Bear's Place, Cambridge, MA

Original lineup tune up for the Matador 21 Vegas fest sounded like they never left. Mesmerizing. (My earlier coverage).

7. Reigning Sound, 6/18/10 at TT the Bear's Place, Cambridge, MA

Classic 50's and 60's rock and roll/soul/R&B songcraft without an ounce of bullshit: a Gretsch, plugged straight in, some great melodies, and one of those great rock voices. Three minute gems delivered with punk rock efficiency.

8. Feelies 3/19/10, at the Middle East, Cambridge, MA
Epic two-set night from the Feelies, who previewed tons of great stuff from their upcoming album.

9. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists with Obits and Screaming Females, 4/10/10 at the Paradise, Boston, MA
Ted Leo and the always explosive Pharmacists brought the punk rock spirit back to the Paradise. Can't not leave his shows with an adrenaline high. (My earlier coverage).

10. Wrens, 1/16/10, at the Middle East, Cambridge, MA
Still managing to ride the wave of of a seven year-old album. Their chaotic live shows have been good enough to carry them for this long, but it might be about time to get moving on that new record fellas. (My earlier coverage).

Happy New Year! See you in '11.
-Michael Piantigini

December 25, 2010

Jay Is Now On Hiatus Until Summer. Michael Is In Charge Like Baio. Send Him Rock Music.

So long and thanks for all the fish, for now
So we've mentioned it previously, but we have now arrived in the murky future and it's time to say goodbye for a while. The part of the "royal we" that is "Jay" has a day job that requires him to be traveling for business for the next five-seven months, basically off-line the entire time. Getting unplugged from the music, the scene and the blogosphere for so long is going to be very hard. But this too shall pass, and Jay will be back come summer. In the meantime, Michael is in charge and calling the shots. He's got complete autonomy, which hopefully means when we get back Clicky Clicky will not have been turned into a blog about... uhhhh... urban gardening? Tattooed librarians? Actually, both of those would actually be pretty awesome. Whatevs. We'll miss the blog, we'll miss you. While we're gone please go out and buy records and attend shows, so that there is some sort of music economy for Jay to return to. Don't forget the struggle. Don't forget the streets. Don't sell out.



December 11, 2010

Clicky Clicky's Top Albums Of 2010: Jay Edition

Clicky Clicky Music -- Jay's Top 10 Albums of 2010
What an amazing time for indie rock. Each year we take issue with proclamations that any given set of 365 days was better or worse than any other set of 365 days, but we were very excited by what we heard this year, and what we think we'll be hearing next year. Musical trends ignore the calendar, of course, but we feel like in 2011 a lot of music is going to be informed by sounds characteristic of our favorite bands of the early '90s. Just a hunch, and this isn't the place to make that argument, but we feel it. We're excited. For now, we'd like to celebrate the 10 best records of 2010, by our humble estimation.

Long-time readers will be familiar with our ground rules from lists in prior years; here it is in a nut shell. We look at our ITunes play counts, we see what was played most, and those are our picks. Simple. Some related comments: Arcade Fire does not make it into our list, and probably should, or at least would have come close. We didn't connect with Neon Bible, and as bracing as Funeral was, we felt like it was over-wrought in places. But The Suburbs, released (as we are sure you know) in 2010, really spoke to us; we connected with the themes of adulthood, distance and alienation. But we listened to the disc a lot in our car, and plays in the car aren't captured in our rankings. Sorry Arcade Fire. Other records that certainly should be heard include Bettie Serveert's Pharmacy Of Love, Joie De Vivre's The North End and Tears Run Rings' Distance, just to name a few. So what did make the proverbial grade? Read below, and avail yourself of the many streams scraped from Soundcloud.

1. Los Campesinos! -- Romance Is Boring -- Wichita/Arts+Crafts

Heavier, denser, and more focused than all prior efforts, Romance Is Boring -- to use a hackneyed phrase we hate -- finds Los Campesinos! at the peak of its powers. We've grappled with how to articulate the strengths of the Cardiff-based octet's record all year. It doesn't necessarily have Los Camp!'s catchiest jams -- indeed there are things that drive us crazy about the record (what is that grinding sound laced through the mix in the verses of "In Medias Res?" Why is it there? It reminds us of how a song on A Ghost Is Born was supposed to represent Tweedy's migraines). But the songwriting, composition and production is fully realized, impervious and whole. We really wonder where the band can go from Romance Is Boring, because the record is flawless. The musicianship of the players has wrongly taken a critical back seat to fronter Gareth Campesinos!'s personality and (at times comical, at times harrowing) lyrics; that is understandable, but if you mentally strip the words out of this set it is still gripping. That said, Gareth's performances here are amazing, and none more so than the cataclysmic album closer "Coda: A Burn Scar In The Shape Of The Sooner State," where the devastating and searing final lyric "I can't believe I chose the mountains every time you chose the sea" makes for the most crushing moments in recorded music in 2010.


Romance Is Boring by Los Campesinos!

2. Walter Schreifels -- An Open Letter To The Scene -- Dine Alone/Big Scary Monsters

As we quipped in a recent episode of CompCon, if you told us in 1990 that Walter Schreifels would release our favorite record of 2010, and that it would be a largely acoustic pop affair, we'd have thought you were crazy. But, of course, it is true. Mr. Schreifels has crafted what is perhaps the most listenable, catchy collection of the year. The fact that he is working in a sonic vernacular that to us seemed very unlikely (since we haven't really followed Schreifels' career closely since Quicksand) underscores the amazing songwriting and performance chops at his command. In fact, the more unlikely the scenario, it seems, the more convincingly Schreifels succeeds. A song about pop rapper Lil' Kim? Called "The Ballad Of Lil' Kim?" Ridiculous, right? Wrong -- somehow our hero turns out a scrappy, yearning and wistful pop classic. A song eulogizing hardcore like it was a person, called "An Open Letter To The Scene," with lyrics including "at the hardcore funeral I cried and cried?" Ridiculous, right? Wrong. This song is awesome. As is the rest of An Open Letter To The Scene. Schreifels returns with a new Rival Schools record in 2011, and the first single is great, to be sure. But it will be a very tall order for it to be as good as An Open Letter To The Scene, which is, in a word, superlative.


07 Arthur Lee's Lullaby by Dine Alone Records

3. Everyone Everywhere -- Everyone Everywhere -- Tiny Engines

We know what you're thinking. "Really? This unassuming, straightforward and sometimes a bit silly collection of pop-tinged hardcore?" To which our response is this: do not to make the mistake of underestimating the self-titled debut full-length from this Philly-based foursome. Everyone Everywhere is sneaky, just understated enough to not attract much attention, but the collection is perfectly paced, packed with hooks and Hoovers up all the right influences (The Promise Ring, Superchunk). In a way it's like those drinks that were just banned in the US that had booze and tons of caffeine. Everyone Everywhere wins with glorious guitars and big vocal melodies, which power both soaring choruses like that of "Raw Bar OBX 2002" and the dream-like reverie of "Obama House, Fukui Prefecture." It all adds up to something surprisingly irresistible.


Blown Up Grown Up by beartrappr

4. Calories -- Basic Nature -- Tough Love

Calories' hotly anticipated, but delayed sophomore set was certainly worth the wait. The perennially under-rated Birmingham, England-based power trio here delivers characteristically hooky, brawling post-punk anthems while expanding its sound to include additional textures and temperaments. "The Brink" clocks in at nearly seven minutes in length, challenging Calories' reputation for bluntness and brevity, and deconstructs into a motorik jam. Two pleasantly disorienting set pieces, "Basic Nature 1" and "Basic Nature 2," set off sections of Basic Nature and offer evidence that the trio can thrive outside its winning format for fist-banging shouters. Even so, the record's finest moments are not the singles or odd appendages, but rather the desperate quasi opener "You Could Be Honest" and the upbeat album cut "Even Stephens," which touts melody to spare, bludgeoning drumming and a brilliant sinewy lead guitar in the chorus. Basic Nature is all of your favorite things, only better.


Basic Nature by Calories

5. Johnny Foreigner -- You Thought You Saw A Shooting Star But Yr Eyes Were Blurred With Tears And That Lighthouse Can Be Pretty Deceiving With The Sky So Clear And Sea So Calm -- Alcopop!

While we predictably loved this EP from our first listen, the more we listen the more we feel like we under-estimated You Thought You Saw A Shooting Star But Yr Eyes Were Blurred With Tears And That Lighthouse Can Be Pretty Deceiving With The Sky So Clear And Sea So Calm. The more we listen, the more we hear the themes, the hurt and the desperation. Opener "The Wind And The Weathervanes" ends serenading, its final 90 seconds a stirring and beautiful coda of feedback and strings that almost makes you forget the stinging admission that the narrator's ex-lover was probably right. The coda butts against the thrashing opening of "Who Needs Comment Boxes When You've Got Knives," which at first seems like a ham-fisted bit of sequencing until one realizes the discord is entirely the point. Indeed, the achievement of You Thought You Saw... is how well it conveys the discomfort of being in one's own skin, stewing in one's own thoughts ("this is how he'll spend forever with you...," "I wish I had a part in this...") when the world seems to be moving on without you. There is solace in the goofy, beat-driven and D Plan-referencing half of "Elegy For Post Teenage Living (Parts 1 and 2)," and even deliverance in the cymbal crash and guitar crash of the verses and conclusion of the song's front half. Whether considered in parts or as a whole, the EP is further evidence that Johnny Foreigner is among the best bands working today.


6. The Henry Clay People -- Somewhere On The Golden Coast -- TBD

Ah, the thrill of the perfect pure rock record. Time was you could count on The Hold Steady to deliver the sort of goods delivered here, but while that act has begun experimenting out of its comfort zone (actually quite successfully: Heaven Is Whenever is a sleeper record full of charm), The Henry Clay People have stuck with its son-of-the-son-of-The Replacements sound and attitude. Somewhere On The Golden Coast is chock-a-block with rootsy, narrative shouters, melodic and self-deprecating odes to slackerdom. As we said in our review (link below), the People spread their wings a little wider here, going beyond the bar room for atmospheric, textures and feedback on the standout "A Temporary Fix." Of course, there are still plenty of rockers, including the driving winner "Your Famous Friends." You need this record, and having a back-up copy ain't a bad idea, either.


Somewhere on the Golden Coast by C3 Artist mgmt

7. Spoon -- Transference -- Merge

While the early warning was that this was a difficult record that the band created for its own satisfaction, the fact is Transference is characteristically strong. Perhaps, as we speculated on CompCon, the message was supposed to convey that Spoon's newest collection wasn't likely to win over news fans, wasn't likely to cross over into the more broadly embraced radio formats. At any rate, Spoon fans bought the record and have probably reached the same conclusion we have -- Transference is a taut, economical and flawless record of minimalist indie rock. Fronter Britt Daniel's lyrics are a bit more impressionistic, and there are some entrancing production flourishes (mostly just expertly applied delays and reverbs), but there are no missteps here, just great songs you can dance to or drink beer along with. Win.


Spoon -- "Out Go The Lights (Demo)" -- Bonus download.

8. Titus Andronicus -- The Monitor -- XL

We didn't review this record from Glen Rock, New Jersey's finest indie punk quintet. Frankly, we saw no reason to draft anything after reading our friend and former bandmate Jim's review (link below). So while we haven't spent much time thinking critically about this record, doing so would have missed the point. Titus Andronicus' music is visceral, pounding with a desperate energy and exalted angst. The fact that there is a U.S. Civil War theme draped around the collection, the fact that fronter Patrick Stickles coopts and spins Springsteen lyrics to his own ends, doesn't dispel the immediacy of the driving guitars or hollered vocals, or the emotional punch of a Boston/Jersey long-distance relationship collapsing -- one Fung Wah bus ride at a time -- like so many arranged dominoes. While chronicling a crippling break-up, The Monitor never broods, but instead revels in the anguish and pain, celebrates the strife, and all the while rocks right along the precipice of forcefully strummed, bluntly chorded chaos.


TITUS ANDRONICUS // A More Perfect Union

9. Distractions -- Distractions -- Plus Tapes/Infinite Best

This selection for the year-end list reminds us of that snarky t-shirt that proclaims "I Listen To Bands That Don't Even Exist Yet." That's because, as it turns out, our number nine selection is kinda sorta not out yet. The collection is a self-titled cassette put out by a Chicago-based outfit called Distractions. Said cassette version was serviced digitally to bloggers at the beginning of the summer to build hype for a pending reissue from Infinite Best. However, due to other stuff coming up, Distractions, remixed and remastered by Dev from Twin Sister and now titled Dark Green Sea, is not due for release until Jan. 18, 2011. We find it hard to believe that the cassette version can be improved upon, as it is perhaps the most specifically evocative set among the 10 we list here. Distractions just sounds like it was made by a Zombies-influenced pop band that has worked the same subterranean bar room in a seaside town for a decade. The tunes -- often awash in reverb, organ-led and paired with a deep baritone lead vocal -- just sound murky, even with the sunshiney melodies. Even if the lead track "All Night" was the only song on there, the record would be worth whatever anybody would charge for it. And that "anyone" at this point is Midheaven, the price is $13 for the LP, and you should just buy the thing now, because it is awesome. Pre-order Dark Green Sea at the link below.


10. Screaming Maldini -- And The Kookaburra EP -- Alcopop!

Note to indie labels that are not Alcopop!: keep an eye on Alcopop!, because the small label has two entries on our year-end list, which means it is doing something right, and you are probably doing something wrong. Screaming Maldini's And The Kookaburra, in case you didn't know, is the best pure pop record of 2010 -- well, EP, anyway, as the collection touts only five songs. Imagine, if you will, that Spandau Ballet was cryogenically frozen at the height of its popularity and then reborn today as a prog-pop entity with embarrassingly excellent songwriting skills: this is Screaming Maldini. And The Kookaburra's first three songs are brilliant, but the gentle, wistful penultimate track "I Know That You Know That I Would Wipe Away That Snowflake From Your Eye" is the winner of the lot, covering lover's rock territory with its spine-tingling chorus and then -- in typical Maldini fashion -- going widescreen and panoramic and diorama and maparium into a dizzying crescendo of horns and distorted guitar. It's the song that all pop will be measured against going forward. Screaming Maldini will release a new EP Dec. 18, and the act has also completed a new video that we wrote about here Saturday.


Screaming Maldini - The Albatross by fadedglamourblog

YouTube Rodeo: Screaming Maldini's "Restless Hearts And Silent Pioneers"

Sheffield-based Screaming Maldini continues to blow us away with their nearly unrivaled talent for songcraft. And the sextet -- here abetted by director Jimmy Guy -- makes clever videos to boot. Enjoy their latest holiday offering, embedded supra. "Restless Hearts And Silent Pioneers" is the title track to an EP the Maldini will release 18 December via one of our favorite labels these days, U.K.-based Alcopop! Records. Pre-order the physical article from Alcopop! right here; the collection will also be available through the usual digital music storefronts.

December 10, 2010

Footage: Johnny Foreigner's "Santa F*cking Claus"

santa fucking claus by johnny foreigner
Why not toss a pound the band's way for hosting fees for the track? You can PayPal to Johnny Foreigner's Hotmail account,

December 9, 2010

Rock Over Boston Over Hoboken: Yo La Tengo Hanukkah Residency

Peter Prescott at the 2010 Yo La Tengo Hanukkah Residency
[Peter Prescott sings the Volcano Suns' "Cover" at the night 5 of Yo La Tengo's 2010 Hannukah residency at Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ 12/5/2010. Photo by Michael Piantigini. More here.]

It's sort of like when Boston sold out nine nights at the Centrum in the 80's, except Yo La Tengo does it every year (when they're not on tour, at least).

Every 25th of Kislev (I looked that up), they bogart the schedule of Maxwell's - their legendary Hoboken hometown home base club - to celebrate Hanukkah with an 8 night stand. The only Hanukkah actually visible is the old-school electric menorah sitting on bassist James McNew's formidable amplifier, but these shows are their own sort of revival. Over the years, they've developed their own tradition: the openers are always a surprise - never announced in advance (at least until the first person with a Twitter account arrives at the club), there's a comedian, a mix CD by one of the band or someone close, and the money goes to charity. Sounds good to me.

Watching the coverage of the shows leading up to our night (5) was excruciating - M Ward? Parting Gifts? Jeff Tweedy? SYL JOHNSON? How could they possibly top those?

Mission of Burma has been laying low of late, and they've apparently been writing songs. After opening with "Nu Disco," they tore through a half-dozen or so great new ones before settling into fun cover times: Cream's "NSU," Brian Eno's "7 Deadly Finns," Buzzcocks' "I Don't Mind," an amazing Wipers' "Youth of America," closing it out with a raging run through the Dils' "Class War." The dark, low-ceilinged Maxwell's recalled the smaller clubs that Burma haven't really had to play in their second life. Man does it work for them: Peter Prescott's now-mandatory sound baffle barely contained him, and the now leonine Roger Miller was animated and nearly wild, slashing through impossible chords.

There's not really any info on when we might hear that new Burma album, but I am now officially anticipating it eagerly.

How very clever of Yo La Tengo to provide a comedic palate cleanser, because Burma was hard to follow. It was even tougher for comedian Wyatt Cenac, I'd imagine. How do you get a crowd energized by punk rock and anticipating the headliner to pay attention to your talking? Luckily, the crowd was friendly and jubilant and Cenac mostly connected for his brief set.

I'll try not to gush too much about our hosts, but it ain't easy. Yo La Tengo have proven to be so versatile and reliable over the years and though it would be natural to worry how a band can maintain momentum through an 8 night stand, one needn't.

Yo La Tengo makes a point of keeping things interesting for themselves, as well as their fans; sometimes they're on the road telling stories and playing acoustic, sometimes they're live-soundtracking old undersea nature films, and sometimes they're just making noise (and, in the new year, they're apparently doing all that, plus acting and more). Sunday night's opening set demonstrated that versatility: after easing into things with landmark album I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One's gentle instrumental "Green Arrow," they wound up the buzz with "Evanescent Psychic Pez Drop" from a 1996 split single with Stereolab, leading to guitarist Ira Kaplan working up his first guitar freak-out of the night in "Flying Lesson (Hot Chicken #1)." Turning on a dime, the band instantly hushed the-now frenzied crowd with And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out's confessional "The Crying of Lot G." The mood swing was breathtaking.

The rest of the set was just as varied, with the old and the new; the quiet ("Pablo and Andrea"), the poppy ("Sugarcube"), and the frenzied ("Mushroom Cloud of Hiss"). The band showed no signs of flagging energy, playing with as much intensity as I've ever seen them.

The night's Boston-based undercurrent continued at the top of the encore when the high bidder of an auction benefiting WFMU turned in a more than credible take on Jonathan Richman's "Astral Plane" with a Roger Miller-abetted Yo La Tengo's backing. How cool must that have been?

Swapping out one Burma for a pair, Bob Weston (who had been sitting in with Yo La Tengo all night doing the live sound collage-ing he does with Burma) strapped on a bass while Peter Prescott led his partial Volcano Suns lineup/Yo La Tengo mash-up through a version of the Suns' "Cover" that left me itching to see another full Suns reunion or maybe a reunion of the Prescott-fronted Kustomized.

The rest of Burma joined in for the last trio of covers capped off by Burma-associates Dredd Foole and the Din's "So Tough."

Yes, yet even more Boston. It was super nice of those Mets fans to be so welcoming of us Sox fans.

-Michael Piantigini

Don't miss Ira Kaplan's Hanukkah Diary.

Yo La Tengo: Internets | MySpace | Facebook | Twitter
Mission of Burma: Internets | MySpace
Wyatt Cenac: Internets | IMDB

December 4, 2010

Be Prepared: Yuck | Self-titled | 15 February

Yuck -- Yuck
You already know this is coming: we've been telling you for weeks and weeks. But, jeepers, our hopes are high. That's because Yuck, more so than just about any band since Johnny Foreigner, is musically about all the things that we are musically about. Which basically means they make flawless -- if somewhat anachronistic -- music, music that sounds like the best things the early '90s had to offer. Like Johnny Foreigner, Yuck has yet to make a musical mis-step -- not bad for a quartet (five, if you count guest vocalist/"part-time member" Llana Blumberg, sister of Daniel) that has been around fewer than two years. Yuck the album will be released in the U.S. by Fat Possum on Feb. 15, according to a recent email. Other new news? Yuck the band will return to America for a tour on the heels of a series of UK dates in February, which tour will lead up to a performance at the 2011 edition of the annual music confab SXSW in March. So if you were disappointed when the foursome cancelled its short strand of planned October 2010 dates, there is a chance to make up for lost time come spring, yeh? Here's the track list to Yuck, as well as some familiar Soundcloud embeds:

1. Get Away
2. The Wall
3. Shook Down
4. Holing Out
5. Suicide Policeman
6. Georgia
7. Suck
8. Stutter
9. Operation
10. Sunday
11. Rose Gives a Lily
12. Rubber

Suicide Policeman by Yuck

Rubber by Yuck

November 29, 2010

Today's Hotness: The Hush Now, Sir Yes Sir, Shores

The Hush Now -- On Holiday
>> We saw The Hush Now's final show of the year Wednesday night and the quintet continues to be among the most formidable of Boston bands. We've been holding onto the fivesome's latest holiday jam "On Holiday" because, well, we're trying to hold the line against holiday creep. But now that Thanksgiving is over and done, it is time to confront the sounds of the season. The Hush Now's aforementioned, bossa nova romp approaches irresistible, and we've had the one-song CD-R on repeat in the car for days. "On Holiday" is an uptempo confection that eschews the band's now characteristic wall of guitars in favor of a horn-driven, jingle bell-appointed chorus. We've got to hand it to the boys: anybody can write a holiday jam, but few acts write ones you want to hear over and over. Catch the stream below (and cheers to the RSL Blog for the initial upload). The Hush Now is off for the rest of the year, but we've heard whispers about new music for the new year. So be good for goodness' sake.

The Hush Now - On Holiday by

>> Tip the 40, if you will, for Sir Yes Sir: the London-based noise pop upstarts announced earlier this month that they are breaking up. However, fret not: it sounds like what is really being done -- after five years, one tape, one CD and one CD-R -- is that Sir Yes Sir is scrapping its name and contemplating reconfiguring a little. When we last wrote about the trio in May they were poised to release their debut full-length Reigning Over Silence, which you can stream right here. We had short correspondence with Daniel from SYS after the break-up announcement, and were told the band is considering adding a new member and perhaps changing who plays what instrument. This all sounds like a good thing to us, and as long as the new entity can continue to churn out delightfully tuneful sludge like "Not Excited," which we wrote about here in January, we'll be more than happy.

>> Fans of hardcore and pop-punk know No Idea, the Gainesville, Fl.-based label responsible for superb releases from acts including Armalite, Lifetime and J Church (RIP Lance). The label's aesthetic is well-established, but one new No Idea release from Michigan-based and un-Google-able slowcore duo Shores challenges it, and suggests that No Idea is now about more than, well, all that stuff we mentioned above. Take, for example, the track "Meanwhile" from Shores' debut Coup De Grace, issued by No Idea Oct. 31 in a limited first-run of colored vinyl with a screen-printed cover and download code. It's measured, meditative, melodic and dynamic, and it hits a strident crescendo two-thirds of a way through that recalls certain fine moments from T.W. Walsh and Codeine. No Idea has posted "Meanwhile" as a free download, and it is ripe and ready for your winter playlists. Have at it.

Shores -- "Meanwhile" -- Coup De Grace
[right click and save as]
[buy Coup De Grace from No Idea right here]

November 28, 2010

Greg Lyon with Soccermom | PA's Lounge, Somerville | 4 December

Greg Lyons record release w/ Soccer Mom, December 4, 2010
We speculated here earlier this month that Greg Lyon's debut solo set Nowhere Near Poughkeepsie was going to get lost in the end of the year shuffle. But after spending a lot of time with the record, we're of the belief that the late-year release date perfectly poises the set to settle into your conscience at a very appropriate time: during frozen, still winter days. The pervasive mood of one is wholly appropriate for the other; these are not hot summer party jams, but rather a series of reckonings approached in solitude, teeth about to chatter, hands chilled to the bone as you light your cigarette and set out walking. Even the relatively upbeat title track or the jaunty "Industrial Park"'s sunny dispositions are anchored by wintry piano. Nowhere Near Poughkeepsie will be released by Midriff, but is available now at Bandcamp (hence the stream embed below), so you've got plenty of options to score what is rapidly becoming our go-to record for this, the winter of our discontent.

November 26, 2010

YouTube Rodeo: Ringo Deathstarr's "So High"

The first single from contemporary shoegaze behemoth Ringo Deathstarr's hotly anticipated, long-awaited full length debut. "So High" will be released by Club AC30 in the UK and is due out on vinyl 7" and via digital storefronts Jan. 31. The tune is perhaps the most overtly, delightfully MBV-influenced number the Texas quartet has issued to date. If the rest of the full-length -- titled Colour Trip and slated to hit the new release bin in February -- is nearly as good it will be a formidable record indeed. The Deathstarr is currently in the UK touring, and you should get out to see them now before they are the hottest thing since sliced bread over there and it is a hassle getting into their shows. Full dates are at MySpace here. [via Sonic Masala].

November 25, 2010

Today's Hotness: New Years Evil, Misra Lemonheads, Annabel

New Years Evil / The Black Tambourines split art
>> Some things just sound classic. A forthcoming split single from Plymouth and Portsmouth, England-based Art Is Hard Records touts music that could just have easily have been produced by indie acts in 1992 as 2010, right down to production values, big guitars and general attitude (confusion, disappointment, heartache). This is a good thing. The A-side of the single features Exeter, England trio New Years Evil's squalling and enchanted anthem to disaffection "Shame," and the flip touts Falmouth, England's The Black Tambourines' decidedly surfy, definitely Slumberland-y "Tommy." Certainly The Black Tambourines must be aware of the seminal D.C. indie shoegaze pop act Black Tambourine, as "Tommy" is awash in the latter band's reverb, distortion and pep. "Shame" b/w "Tommy" will be released by Art Is Hard Nov. 29 on 7" vinyl. The single comes packaged with a 5-track digital EP, 'zine and photo print. The digital EP contains the aforementioned tracks as well as The Black Tambourines' "Youth" and "Let You Down (Reworked)" as well as New Years Evil's "Echo Canyon (home demo)." We don't imagine they are making a ton of these, so you'd best pre-order right here. The stream of New Years Evil's "Shame" awaits your attention below.

New Years Evil's "Shame"

>> [EDIT 2: Hold on, don't get too excited -- it seems the email in question may not have meant what we thought it meant. -- Ed.] The recently resuscitated Misra Records will release a compilation of old material next year, which old material will be selected by certain bands, including Lemonheads, which we presume to mean Evan Dando. The end. Since we rarely write about the band outside of the context of our beloved Varsity Drag, you probably aren't aware that Lemonheads are among our top 10 favorite bands, all time. We don't follow what the modern day Lemonheads and Mr. Dando do that closely, but we were very excited by an email we received today that states Lemonheads will cover a Mendoza Line song for a forthcoming compilation entitled, somewhat clunkily, Misra Records Presents: An Artist-Curated Misra Legacy Compilation. The Mendoza Line are another top Clicky Clicky fave, so the prospect of the defunct indie rock concern's music being recorded by another revered artist is most welcome. We have no idea which song Dando takes on, but here are five Mendoza Line tunes we'd love to hear him record:
1. "I Hope That You Remember To Forget"
2. "Road To Insolvency"
3. "Rats Alley"
4. "Dollars To Donuts"
5. "We'll Never Make The Final Reel"
The compilation is slotted to hit sales racks just prior to an early March release by recently resuscitated Misra's Southeast Engine. Curiously, among other cover combinations that will apparently appear on the comp is one in which one-hit-wonders Black Kids cover supremely under-appreciated and now-defunct Mobius Band. Wild, man, wild

>> The more we listen to Annabel's "The Forgetting Of Names And Faces," the more we can't get enough. The tune is the lead track of the Kent, Ohio quartet's forthcoming 7" EP Here We Are Tomorrow. The EP is packed with hook-filled, sing-along-able lo-fi indie punk. It will be released Dec. 14 by Tiny Engines -- the label responsible for Everyone Everywhere's self-titled, best-of-2010 emo tour de force -- in a limited edition of 500 (300 on blue vinyl and 200 on maroon vinyl packed with hand-screened and hand-numbered inserts). Pre-order Here We Are Tomorrow right here. It's the right move. Speaking of Everyone Everywhere, the band and Annabel play a show in Philadelphia Friday night at ZAK House. We don't know where that is, but we bet you could figure it out in the event you need to be rocked tomorrow.

Annabel by Ben Hendricks

November 20, 2010

Weekend | Young Prism | Young Adults | O'Brien's | Nov. 22

Weekend with Young Prism, Young Adults
This will be a barn-burner. And barring any unforeseen circumstances we'll be there, finally seeing Young Adults for the first time. Very excited. This will sell out. Buy tickets here.

YouTube Rodeo: Johnny Foreigner's "The Coast Was Always Clear"

Still epic. In fact, perhaps more epic than ever. Live at Plug n' Play, Reading, Nov. 18, 2010.

November 18, 2010

Essay: The Club Is Open

Guided By Voices
[Mitch Mitchell of Guided by Voices at The Paradise, Boston, MA, 11/5/2010. Photo by Michael Piantigini. More here. || We are pleased to welcome to these digital pages the writing of friend Cathy Piantigini, whose last name should look very familiar to regular readers. We've been dying to have Ms. Piantigini write for the publication since we read this terrific essay about seeing Bill Janovitz at Toad in Cambridge, Mass. We look forward to more well-ordered words from her. -- Ed. ]

Buzzards and dreadful crows
A necessary evil, I suppose
There’s something in this deal for everyone
Did you really think that you were the only one?

-Bob Pollard


My husband closes the door on the residuals of our Friday night dinner at home: dishes drying on the rack, spent bottle of wine in the recycle bin, homemade walnut basil pesto with sausage lingering in the kitchen.

Weighed down by a week spent catching busses, buying bananas and toilet paper, running miles on wet sidewalks made slick with falling leaves, and putting a combined 70 hours of our lives toward pensions, we lumber to our Civic. Not even out of our driveway, we're already hoping Commonwealth Avenue will take pity on two aging indie rock fans and offer up a parking spot so that we don't spend twenty minutes looking for one.

We're going to see Guided By Voices on their Classic Lineup Reunion Tour, which means everyone present will be a little older, a littler grayer, a little wistful. The show is at the beloved Paradise Rock Club, recently renovated, much to the dismay of my husband and I, and we duly note each other's complaints as we grumble our way to the bar.

The last song of the opening band sounds slick and boring, and is immediately followed with chants of GBV! GBV! GBV! when it ends. At the bar, we start catching up with friends we’ve grown accustom to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with these past two decades. They, too left creature comforts -- children, sofas, DVRs -– reckoning the value gained in getting lost in sound.

We spend the time between bands talking about buying and refinancing homes, the not-so-impossibility of running marathons, budget cuts, and some random shows we were luckily just old enough to get into at The Channel, may it rest in peace.

The club is as packed as it ever will be for a show.

I take the earplugs my husband hands me, not that I have a choice; he has a habit of checking to make sure they're in and will pinch me repeatedly if I'm caught without. A friend will see this, lean in and say something like, “Yeah, it's a good to...these days...hearing...,” but I can't hear him that well because I’m wearing earplugs.

"He's relentless," I shout, thumbing at my husband, and we look over to watch him, oblivious of our exchange, talking to another friend and sipping his beer.

Finally the band’s signature neon sign hanging on the stage comes to life: The Club is Open. The band takes the stage and instantly beer bottles are thrust skyward, along with fists. The moment of collective love and escape has arrived. The people pressed around me, jittery and anxious only moments before, suddenly seem to melt into each other as they slap one another on the back, clinking bottles and such. Someone, somewhere, is smoking pot. A pal from college comes up behind me, slings her arm over my shoulder, and I remember the quarter barrels ushered into her dorm room that I, the slack resident assistant, chose to ignore.

By the second song my earplugs are out and I am falling for the guitar player, Mitch Mitchell. Doused in cigarette smoke and tattoos, he makes me swoon with every windmill he strums off a guitar that is truly an extension of his body. He smokes through the night, this creased, leathery strip of a man, jumping up and down with an agility that ignores his paunch; cigarette dangling from his lips the entire time, it was occasionally necessary to put it back in his mouth by a guy whose only job seemed to be having the next cigarette lit and at the ready.

At some point Mr. Mitchell acknowledges, “the fine looking pussy in the audience.” All 8 out of 840 of us. I feel my cheeks flush, and can't even pretend to be offended, even when he goes on to tell us all where he wants that pussy. I watch him having the time of his life, glad to be back on a stage he hasn't stood on in 14 years, leaving the band that long ago.

Fanning myself, I turn to my husband, fortunately not beside me, as he notices my lack of earplugs, and I mouth to him, “Can you believe this?!?” and turn back to my highlight of the week, while he shakes his head, bemused. Later I grab his shoulder and exclaim, “Michael, I'm dying!” forever grateful for his tolerance of my stage crushes.

The night is like an express train I was relieved to already be aboard because it is nonstop. Passengers are driven through 39 anthems, most barely two minutes in length, and the conductor pauses just long enough to take a swig of beer before introducing the title of the next song. At times veering on wrecking, it makes the ride even more thrilling.

Near the end of the night, the singer, Bob Pollard, tells us he just turned 53 and, “So fucking what.”


He is drunk and telling us that it was Guided By Voices who single handedly saved rock and roll from the shoe-gazing bands of the 90s, and there isn't a single person in the audience who will argue with him, rabid My Bloody Valentine fans, like myself, included.

I think about Pollard and my swoon-worthy guitar player and how these shows are probably the only times they are given free reign. After the tour, I imagine they go back home to significant others who keep close eyes on how many drained bottles of beer sit atop kitchen counters. Maybe no one's keeping count and they're drinking alone.

The next day my husband gets a text from another friend at the show who I remember looking over at a few times during the night, as he stood there stoically, like a gargoyle protecting his patch of floor, and wondering if he was having a good time:
Man, how fucking awesome was that show? If we had to go to war against other countries using only rock shows as the weapon, I'd make GBV the main show in our arsenal. So glad I went.
It has been four years since Bob Pollard decided to put Guided By Voices to pasture. We had been missing him and his band for four years and they had been missing us: the audience in every city that welcomes their vices. He calls us kids, and as my husband pointed out, he's like our drunk uncle, if that drunk uncle is in a band that has really amazing songs. -- Cathy Piantigini

November 16, 2010

Today's Hotness: The Low Anthem | Parting Gifts | Apple on Apple |

The Low Anthem[The Low Anthem at the Paradise, Boston, MA 4/20/10. Photo by Michael Piantigini.]

BE PREPARED: Rhode Island's soul-piercing, magic-conjuring, Americana (in the purest sense) purveyors The Low Anthem have just announced Smart Flesh, the follow up to the widely acclaimed Oh My God Charlie Darwin, which topped my 2009 favorites list. Recorded in what appears to be a cavernous, haunting (if not haunted) space in an old pasta sauce factory, the handful of tracks that the band has played live or teased online (see below) hint at further exploration the quieter parts of the landscape.

Smart Flesh
is out February 22nd on Nonesuch, there's no single just yet, but "Ghost Woman" is a strong contender. And there's lots more fun in-the studio stuff here, here, here, here, and here.

The Low Anthem: Intertubes | Facebook | Twitter

THE PARTING GIFTS are the the latest project from Oblivian and Reigning Sound frontman Greg Cartwright, this time in collaboration with the Ettes' Coco Hames along with Raconteur Patrick Keeler, Black Key Dan Auerbach. The result is their cool new LP Strychnine Dandelion (In The Red) that doesn't stray so far out of their comfort zone, and ours: these are just great strummy garage poppers (along with a few rockers) that are worthy of both of their main gigs.

Parting Gifts: Facebook
Reigning Sound: MySpace
The Ettes: Intertubes | MySpace | Facebook | Twitter

HOT APPLE-ON-APPLE ACTION: The sort-of big music news of the day was that The Beatles are finally on iTunes. Big whoop, right? There was a lot of backlash on my social networking platforms - and it's true that it's hard to believe that anyone who wanted Beatle music was seriously waiting around for this to happen. But, it had to happen eventually, especially since we seem to be in the waning days of physical media (resurgent vinyl notwithstanding). Hard to blame Apple (both of them) for trumpeting the news. Now, with the complete catalog "Box Set" going for $150 on iTunes, I feel a little bad for people who shelled out $280 for this, since they've essentially paid $130 for a plastic apple. On the other hand, both the stereo and mono box sets are going for $129 on a major online retailer, so why wouldn't you do that? Those box sets are pretty sweet.

Anyway, the big Apple news by my reckoning, though, was the reissuing of a chunk of Apple Records' non-Beatles catalog. Which has been out of print and pretty scarce since their last early 90's reissue. Remastered by the same team that did all The Beatles campaign, the handful of Badfinger and Billy Preston titles I've heard all sound as great as those of their label bosses'. The easy must-gets: Badfinger's pop classic Straight Up and Billy Preston's soulful Encouraging Words. The label-wide compilation Come And Get It: The Best of Apple Records, is a great primer and an interesting peek into what was going on in that universe at the time.

Apple Records has a slick new website too.

In other Beatle news, while I'm at it:
Paul McCartney's new reissue campaign (on his new coffee-fueled label) kicked off with multiple configurations of Band On The Run. The album sounds as great as ever, again remastered by the above team, but the DVD's inclusion of a period TV special One Hand Clapping with it's live-in-the-studio performances was the big draw for me.

The post-Thanksgiving "Black Friday" holiday shopping kickoff is a little less soul crushing this year thanks to the full on deluxe vinyl replica reissue of George Harrison's masterpiece All Things Must Pass on the 40th anniversary (minus a day!) of it's original issue. The original 3-LP boxed set isn't too terribly difficult to find used, though they're usually a bit beat up. So, mastered from the original analog master tapes, getting a clean copy of this sounds like a good 'un to me.

-Michael Piantigini

YouTube Rodeo: Big Deal's "Homework"

This autumn, millions of teens will fall in love. Let's say 5% of those kids are indie rockers. And let's say 1% are plugged into the newest sounds coming out of London. "Homework" -- which the gorgeous video above was released to the Internerds to hype Monday -- will be their song. Decades from now, they'll hear it, the debut single from rising indie duo Big Deal, and think back on that lost love. "Homework" is a beautiful, yearning, delicate composition that will transport you to the most vulnerable points of your various adolescent love affairs for two minutes and thirty-eight seconds. "Homework" b/w "Thirteen" (yes, the ubiquitously covered Big Star jam) was released yesterday on Records Records Records Records in a hand-titled, hand-numbered edition; buy the single right here. A second single featuring tracks unknown will be released by an as-yet-undecided label early next year, and we imagine a full-length must be coming at some point before 2011 has worn itself out. As we wrote here last month, Big Deal are apparently recording new material with Gordon Raphael, who aging hipsters may recollect was the producer of the early Strokes material. We can't wait to hear it. In the meantime, stream all the currently known Big Deal tracks below.

Big Deal preview by Tim Chester NME

November 15, 2010

Today's Hotness: LoveLikeFire, The Answering Machine

>> In the context of this publication, anyway, LoveLikeFire has wanted for attention. This is in large part due to our deep affinity for the San Francisco dream-pop quartet's labelmates, the ace British indie pop outfit The Answering Machine. In our minds LoveLikeFire has to date existed as "The Band That Is Not The Answering Machine On Heist Or Hit." To be sure, that wouldn't be the case had we connected with LoveLikeFire's first record, 2009's Tear Ourselves Away, which we did not for some reason. Things have changed, however, as we've been streaming a lot LoveLikeFire's forthcoming sophomore set Dust and it is tops: a wonderful, reverby record of guitar pop with strong female vocals out front that in places owes as great a debt to mid '80s Cure as it does to its scene contemporaries. In between the first and second record there were some major personnel changes for the band, and a new approach to recording (the new collection was produced by drummer David Farrell), and LoveLikeFire's updated approach is substantially more appealing to us. You can stream the entire collection below, and we recommend that you do just that. Dust was released digitally in the U.S. Oct. 26; it wil be released in the UK Nov. 22.

Dust by LoveLikeFire by HeistOrHit

>> Since we've already name-dropped The Answering Machine twice above, let's just go there. The Manchester, England-based foursome (five, if you count new "touring member" Luke Bellis) has posted to its web site a terrific, electropop remix of its recent single "Animals." The production is very mid-oughts Morr Music: chiming tones, delicate but occasionally busy rhythms. The synth-led, '80s roller rink pop-referencing original version of "Animals" is compelling, but we missed the guitars, and the remix -- posted below -- goes to the logical solution, namely that "if we're not going to give you guitars, let's just go to the complete opposite end of the spectrum." With thrilling results, in our opinion. The remix also is in a different key and touts re-recorded vocals, and the overall effect emphasizes a pronounced feeling of regret not nearly as palpable in the original. Have a listen below, and check out a video Gemma Answering Machine put together right here. The Answering Machine's sophomore full-length will be released in a number of territories (the phrase we've seen is "worldwide," but really, is the record going to be available in Myanmar? Ghana?) in early 2011, and it is called Lifeline.

The Answering Machine - Animals (The Answering Machine Remix)