Monday, December 31, 2007

1967-2007: Wrapping Up 40 Years of Psychedelia

Inherent to the late 60s were influences contributing directly to the freedom of thought (translated in these cases to freedom of creation), to which psychedelia owes its birth: namely, to vastly changing mores and the introduction of psychotropics. But an influence oft overlooked is Joe Meek. He virtually single-handedly ushered in an era of intense sound experimentation – in itself an obvious precursor to the psychedelic sounds of the late 60s.

The mania that drove Meek’s creativity would eventually turn against him, however, and he took his own life in early 1967. The bits of brain blown through his head into space would inevitably emigrate to welcoming hosts: bodies of living musicians. For those who happened to be playing music in '67, this virus took hold and choked out what is perhaps the most prolific period of musical experimentation, in such a short amount of time, in all of music history.

1967 Need-to-Own Playlist

1. "Psychotic Reaction" - The Count Five. Okay, so I cheated. These first two songs are from late 1966. I sneer at mere technicalities, however. Both tracks are just too integral to the psych sound to pass up. And "Psychotic Reaction" is the best Chelsea-boot-stomper on this list, period.

2. "I Can Take You to the Sun" - The Misunderstood. The first classically psychedelic song? Yes, perhaps.

3. I'm A Man - The Spencer Davis Group. Perfect bluesy freak-beat. Just try to get this melody out of your head (not that you'll want to).

4. "I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)" - The Electric Prunes. Sweet intro, spastic energy.

5. "Care of Cell 44" - Zombies. Bizarre inmate love song in sunshineysummerday wrapping. In a word: brilliant.

6. "Desdemona" - John’s Children. Kooky track written by Mark Bolan and banned by the BBC.

7. "I Can See For Miles" - The Who. Interesting complexity.

8. "Shy Boy" - Kippington Lodge. Obscure gem from a band who would later morph into the slightly-more-well-known band Brinsley Schwartz.

9. "Revolution" - Tomorrow. Allegedly inspired Lennon’s “Revolution” a year later. I prefer the phased version.

10. "Wooden Spoon" - The Poets. Little-known outside Glasgow, this beat band put out a handful of quality singles in the three years they were together.

11. "Autumn Almanac" - The Kinks. Like an uber-British, children’s TV show theme song. Dig it.

12. "Slip Inside this Mind" - 13th Floor Elevators. Mind-bending warbles from homemade instruments. For eight minutes. Pristine tripping music.

13. "Bert's Apple Crumble" - The Quik. Can't leave out this beat-anthem.

14. "She Has Funny Cars" - Jefferson Airplane. Great vocals.

15. "I Can Hear the Grass Grow" - The Move. This grass sounds good.

16. "Mellow Yellow" - Donovan. Camp by now, yet still a gas.

17. "A Girl I Knew" - Steppenwolf. The first (and somewhat lost) single put out by Steppenwolf. Find it, and dig it:

18. "(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet" - The Blues Magoos. Organ-driven freak-beat bliss.

19. "We Don't Know" - The Attack. Satirical commentary backed by playful organs.

20. "Hip Hug-Her" - Booker T. & the MGs. Does anyone do cool rhythm and blues better than Booker T? It's hard to say with absolute certainty, but I'm leaning toward: No.

21. "Walk Away Renee" - The Left Banke. Chamber psychedelia at its best.

22. "Tales of Brave Ulysses" - Cream. Quite possibly the best composition/lyrics of the entire decade. Or, you know, ever.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

2007 Year-In-Review


2007 was a spiffing good year for British imports. Whilst returns to psychedelic rock and post-punk were most impressive, shoegaze and space rock were (are?) also on the rise. Here I've selected the top 10 albums and top 30 songs of the year. Neither the albums, nor songs were given rankings within their respective groups. It's largely irrelevant, since on any given day, any given mood might shift #30 to #1 and vice versa.

Year end lists will always be sketchy, if only for the fact that there is always something out there the compiler has yet to hear. Consumer-driven publications will dumb down their content enough to attempt to quantify an art form using rational standards, which actually does fill a niche, offering the easily digestible information which most people seem to crave.

For more serious music-devourers, who ingest compulsively, selectively, because it soothes, drives and haunts them: I offer my lists. Unlike most year-end lists, they are not meant to force feed information or spark some 15 second trend, but rather to share experiences, to spark ideas and feeling and, ultimately, to get you closer to God. Alright, maybe not the God thing, but then again you never know . . .

Top 10 Albums

The National: Boxer
- Subtly gorgeous orchestration, angsty idealist lyrics in Matt Berninger's seductive baritone. Oh yes, I'll have that.

Mystery Jets: Zootime - Nearly the same album released in the UK last year; this US release still makes the cut.

iLiKETRAiNS: Elegies to Lessons Learnt - You know that sound when noir and Expressionist films melt together and form into massive icebergs whose pieces crack thunderously and crumble in a rush of white foam into the frigid black sea? No? Well, this is that sound.

Beirut: The Flying Club Cup - The best Balkan minstrel rock you'll hear this year. But seriously, it brings to mind Tom Waits' Black Rider masterpiece, which, in my experience, is never a bad thing.

The Horrors: Strange House - Manic, spastic, grisly freak-beat to have an epileptic seizure to . . .

Okkervil River: The Stage Names - Just when you thought Will Sheff had nowhere to go but down . . .

Electricity in Our Homes: The Shareholder’s Meeting EP - Phenomenal debut EP from this stripped-down, stacattoed post-punk band out of southeast London's robust music scene.

Animal Collective: Strawberry Jam - Quirky noises and songs with funny names are usually transparent ruses musicians use to hide their horribly dull and cliched indie rock. This, however, is a smashing success.

Klaxons: Myths of the Near Future - Space Rock, Rave Pop -- who really cares when it's this good?

Dragons of Zynth: Coronation Thieves - Afro-Psych with intelligent lyrics and sounds ranging from delicate melodies to rocked-out fuzzy bliss.

Top 30 Songs

Hatcham Social - 'Til the Dawn

The National - Mistaken For Strangers

The Black Lips - Cold Hands

Patrick Wolf (feat. Marianne Faithfull) - Magpie

Ulrich Schnauss - Medusa

The Horrors - She Is the New Thing

Animal Collective - Peacebone

Battles - Atlas

Deerhunter - Cryptograms

Blood Red Shoes - I Wish I Were Someone Else

Editors - Bones

Maps - It Will Find You

Lightspeed Champion - Midnight Surprise

The Draytones - Keep Lovin’ Me

Dragons of Zynth - Breaker

Klaxons - Golden Skans

iLiKETRAiNS - The Deception

Interpol - Pioneer to the Falls

Bloc Party - Hunting for Witches

Neils Children - You Didn’t Care

Beirut - Nantes

Nervous Cabaret - Sleepwalkers

Sea Wolf - You’re a Wolf

Spider and the Flies - Metallurge

Sunset Rubdown - Up On Your Leopard, Upon the End of Your Feral Days

Andrew Bird - Imitosis

Electricity in Our Homes - We Don’t Need Honesty

SHITDISCO - Emanator

Artefacts for Space Travel - Recoop

Time.Space.Repeat - The End of the World

Monday, December 17, 2007

Arks Split, Mutations on the Horizon . . .

It is with infinite grief that I report the demise of Arks. One of the few genuinely talented nouveau post-punk bands, these Chicago boys were as exciting in life as they are eloquent in death:
We are of course saddened to depart from beneath a banner that's served us dutifully for these past five years, but we are simultaneously adrenalized by upcoming collaborations with each other and with the inimitable talents with whom we've been fortunate enough to acquaint ourselves over the band's lifespan. We realize, ultimately, that this is not a death: this is simply a necessary mutation. This is a branching out in the evolutionary tree.

And as this evolution is mutually recognized and accepted within the band, the group's soft disintegration is executed with no ill-will. We dissolve Arks as we ran it: as the best of friends. We wish only success toward one another in future projects. We will be the first ones in line at one another's shows. Just try and stop us.

Lead vocalist and guitarist Paul Hormshemeier and drummer Glenn Rischke continue a partnership with the ambient experiment Music Hall, while Mat Biscan (guitar) and Lanny Oswalt (bass) will work together on an as-yet-unnamed project with another as-yet-unveiled Chicago musician whose own band has too recently disintegrated.

So, farewell, Arks. Your jagged intensity will be missed, along with the arketypal key changes, stuttering beats, haunting guitars and visceral lyrics. Best of luck in your new and continuing mutations, and thanks for one hell of a last album.


Friday, November 30, 2007

New Song from Mystery Jets -- Free!

To: Jets fans and mp3 hounds worldwide.
From: Mystery Jets!

Merry Christmas, indeed. Mystery Jets have decided to release "Flakes," for a limited time during the holiday season. It's the first public release from their still-untitled album, expected to be released in the spring of 2008. The first proper single from the album is "Young Love," and will be released in March.

"Flakes" is likely one the earliest completed tracks from the new album. A quick search through YouTube yields live renditions of the song as far back as July. And, as some of you may remember, it was one of two new songs Mystery Jets played for the crowd at Joe's Pub.

In that review I described "Flakes" as nouveau 60s doo wop, which, considering the fact that it's fooking difficult to review a song heard only once and live, I think is a fairly apt description. Enjoy.

Mystery Jets' MySpace

Mystery Jets' Blog

Though not exactly a Christmas song, this video clip sort of, vaguely, ties the track to the winter season. Almost. In any case, it's good to see the band having fun and William recovering nicely from having the shit beat out of him:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Draytones Debut LP Ready Early Next Year?

According to sources from The Draytones' camp, the psych-rockers' debut album has been recorded and mixed, and is ready to penetrate the tympanic membranes of eager listeners worldwide. Well, ones in the UK, in any case.

No official word yet from 1965 Records, but I'll try to whittle down a more acute possible release date and perhaps even a track-listing.

In the meantime, use songs from Forever On (the band's EP) as an appetizer to soothe those quivering membranes. Listen here.

And check out the video for the epic "Keep Loving Me," below:


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Harmonise: New Video from Ipso Facto

Ipso Facto have released the video of their debut single, "Harmonise." Black and white and soaked in airy, indifferent coolness, check it out below:

Ipso Facto - Harmonise

Add to My Profile
| More Videos

Buy "Harmonise"

Ipso Facto's Myspace

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Midnight Surprise" is Genius, Oh Yes . . .

Mellow folk rock. That's one way to describe "Midnight Surprise," the second single from Lightspeed Champion, solo moniker of former Test Icicles member Dev Hynes. But to end the description there would be shortsighted.

While a catchy pop melody is most prominent, Hynes backs it with strings and piano, plays with the arrangement and sneaks in a few abnormal interludes all the while sounding wistfully regretful in his near-perfect folk lyrics. It clocks in at 9:54.

It's more than a song; it's a mood, a story, a time and place of its own. It's an excuse to curl up in a blanket with a latte and, for 10 minutes, immerse one's self in the music and in the emotions it conjures. Truly exquisite.

"Midnight Surprise" is available for purchase on Domino Records beginning tomorrow, Oct. 15th. B-sides include "No Surprise" and "Flesh Failures" ("Let the Sunshine In," of
Hair musical fame).


Click to
buy Midnight Surprise.


For more on Lightspeed Champion:
Official website/blog


"Midnight Surprise" video:

Monday, October 8, 2007

Need to Know: Dragons of Zynth

I don't know what Zynth is, but these guys are most definitely musical beasts: visceral, evokative, simultaneously melodic and distorted. It's musical alchemy: a clash of Earth and Fire elements at their most potent, and best when played very loud.

To categorize this sound would be futile. The labels thrust on them by magazines: art rock, psychedelic rock, avant-rock . . . all mediocre labeling at best. Here's what you need to know: the heart of the band is two twin brothers, Aku and Akwetey. As Cleveland-born, Brooklyn-based and West African-descended brothers, their geographical diversity is nearly as complex as their sound. Post-punk played through a psychedelic lens, jazz funk propelled by shoegaze rock -- whatever you call it, it is tinged with African rhythms and stylings.

Oh yeah, and the brothers also studied theory with legendary jazz-artist Yusef Lateef, incorporating his autophysiopsychic approach to creating music. That would be where the visceral evokations come into play, and it's also likely a source of the band's complex and mutating arrangements.

Dragons of Zynth's debut album, Coronation Thieves, was released on Oct. 2nd. They've a slew of concert dates coming up, and DOZ is notorious for their manic live performances.

Check the tour schedule for more info, and buy the album here.


Sample MP3:



Friday, October 5, 2007

Ipso Facto to Release First Ever Single

Ipso Facto, a new garage psych-rock band out of London, has announced that they will release their first single on October 22nd.

The all-female quartet combine stark post-punk guitars and rhythms with quirky 60s psychedelic organs for a sound uniquely their own. Don't let the straight-laced, secretarial dresses fool you. These chicks rock.

The single tracklist includes the A-side "Harmonise," and B-side "Balderdash." Both songs are currently streamable from the band's myspace profile.

"Harmonise" is a truly great song, and likely the safest option as their first single, though I admit to being partial toward "Little Puppet." Here's to hoping that exquisite song is the second single and not just a forgotten GarageBand manipulation.

The single is available only on a limited-edition 7" vinyl format through Disk.Error.Recordings. You can pre-order it here.


Sample MP3:
Little Puppet

Listen to "Harmonise":

Buy "Harmonise":

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mystery Jets Live in NYC: Reflections and an Interview

September 24, 2007

I’m in the lobby of Joe’s Pub, a trendy hideout in the St. Mark’s area of the East Village. And I truly do mean hideout, as its facade is little more than a narrow staircase set between two 20 foot tall privacy fences.

Damn that William Rees! They can’t find me on the guest list and I have to pay for my own ticket. I’d sent an email to the band and received an email back from one "William" who said that sure they could do an interview after the show. That was three weeks ago.

Alas, I had sort of expected this. I’m not exactly the New York Times, or even, god forbid, NME. And, technically, William hadn’t said anything about the guest list. Ah, well. I should have sent a confirmation email a few days before the show as a reminder. With a private laugh at myself, I fork over my credit card.

Truth is, this is my first band interview ever – my first concert since moving to NYC a month ago, in fact. So, figuring I’d screw up in one way or another at some point, I’d decided ahead of time to just go with the flow and not worry. It helps that for the last year Mystery Jets have been spinning in heavy rotation on my computer and iPod, quickly becoming a personal favorite.

The floor manager returns from backstage and assures me the band will still do the interview. With that thought tucked comfortably inside me, I slip into the dark of the concert room.

It takes awhile for my eyes to adjust. The ceiling is massively high and ornate in its tiering and designs. Dark red and black walls add to the opulence, but the intimate size of the room (any place in the room gets a view of the stage no more than about thirty feet away) combined with cushy couches and soft spot lighting make the room perfectly cozy.

At last, the crew is finished with sound checks and the lights dim even further. Kai emerges from the curtained door behind stage, followed by William, Kapil and Blaine. I wait . . . where’s Henry? . . . I wait a bit more . . .

Indeed, where is Henry? He doesn’t show up for the show at all, and the band makes no mention of his absence. Hmm. Well, I have my first question, at least.

Despite being somewhat perplexingly billed as an “acoustic show,” the set is not exclusively acoustic. But Joe’s Pub is a mellow kind of gin joint, and the Jets have toned down their set to fit the atmosphere. It’s an interesting set, a rare chance to hear live some of the slower songs from Making Dens and Zootime.

The band also plays two new songs, “First to Know,” and “Flakes” from the sophomore album they’ll be recording in the near future. “First to Know” sets a kooky organ and rather ominous bass to dancey percussion. “Flakes,” meanwhile, sounds like nouveau 60s doo wop. If these two songs are any indication, the future is a thrilling time for Mystery Jets and their fans.

Highlights of the evening and obvious crowd favorites are the energetic “Diamonds in the Dark,” and “Boy Who Ran Away.” Still, as the last notes of the show die and the band says their farewells, I’m crushed at the exclusion of “Zootime” and “Alas, Agnes.” I berate myself for not also attending the non-acoustic Brooklyn show two days earlier. Next time, I promise myself, for the new album tour . . .

Back in the alley behind Joe’s Pub, Blaine and William have managed to politely tear themselves from fans clamoring for autographs, photos or just conversation. The night air is thick with humidity and the quiet is a welcome change, the dulcet sounds of the building now but muted vibrations. Blaine sets down his crutches and rests on the ground smoking a “fag” he bummed from William. Alone with the two, a situation so unexpected yet strangely comfortable, it’s with near regret that I subdue the fan in me and start the interview:

LA: [To Blaine] So, where’s your father?

BH: He hasn’t been touring with us lately.

LA: Oh, I didn’t know that.

BH: Yeah. We’ve always toured as a five-piece, but it got to the point where we wanted to streamline things to a four-piece. We haven’t really explained it well to people . . . [Looks at William]. We might as well do that now. What you have to understand about Mystery Jets is that the band started with my dad when Will and I were eight. We’ve never really rebelled – most teenagers use music to rebel, and since my dad was always right there . . . This is our chance to do something alone. And he’s fine with it, he understands.

WR: Basically, in order to remain happy, we needed to go it alone, learn from our own experiences and mistakes.

LA: So will he still be recording the new album with you?

WR: Yeah, he’s still part of the band. This is just for tours.

LA: I read somewhere that he’s the primary lyricist. Is that true?

BH: It was for our first album. On the upcoming album everything is more collaborative.

LA: Okay. So, it’s your first U.S. tour, has anything stood out in particular about the U.S.? Anything unexpected or strange?

WR: England and the U.S. are fairly similar, but the attitude here seems different. People seem happier here, like they derive more joy from life maybe. Aside from that, the size of things, everything is bigger from portions of food to buildings . . . it’s like a magnified version of England.

LA: You’ve played how many shows on this tour so far? Four?

WR: This is the fifth.

LA: Have you had a favorite?

WR: Probably Toronto, Toronto was really good.

BH: Also Chicago.

LA: What about them stood out?

WR: In Toronto, the culture. People compare it to Europe, and apparently Montreal is supposed to be similar. But yeah, the people were very cool and into it, seemed to get a lot of the subtleties in our show.

BH: In Chicago, our friend Jamie T. was playing there too. He’s from Twickenham too. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Twickenham area, but we know him from way back.

LA: Is he one of the musicians who’d played with you at the big Eel Pie Island shows?

BH: Yeah.

LA: Ah okay, interesting. I can’t remember reading about this anywhere, but where did the name “Mystery Jets” come from?

WR: About fifteen years ago, on a bright summer day, Henry was sitting in his bedroom when a plastic toy airplane flew in the window. It was one of those World War II Comet models. And it was a remote controlled one, so he picked it up and went to the window to give it back to whoever was flying it, but no one was around. A mystery jet . . .

BH: In the tiny cockpit area, there was a message rolled up inside. He’s never shown the message to us or anyone else.

LA: So you don’t know what the message says?

BH: No. A mystery message in a mystery jet.

LA: Very cool story. Do you have a process you follow for writing songs?

BH: We have many different ones, actually.

WR: Sometimes it’ll come from one person’s brainstorming, and other times from jamming together. That’s why they’re enjoyable, I think. If only one person was writing it could get boring.

LA: Do you have a name for the new album yet?

BH: We don’t have a name yet. We’re hoping to release it early next year.

WR: And then the U.S. release will be a month or so later. Unlike our first album, which came out in England almost a year before the American one. We want to have a world-wide definitive release this time.

LA: Do you have a favorite song from Making Dens?

BH: We all have our personal favorites.

WR: I guess mine is “Zootime,” which was actually the first song we collaborated on. It’s so unlike our other stuff, like an alien piece of music come down to earth.

LA: Interesting that it was the first collaboration, yet it’s so different from your other stuff.

WR: [Musing] That is interesting, isn’t it . . .


Sample MP3s:
Diamonds in the Dark

Mystery Jets Myspace

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

At Long Last: North America, Meet The Films

Don’t Dance Rattlesnake

The Films

The Films’ universe is a mélange of derangement: manic, acerbic and often problematic, generally concerned with relationship problems and innocent outings gone horribly awry. As the album unfolds, this universe reveals itself to the listener behind driving guitars and cheeky but honest lyrics. It’s a staggering thought then, and a feeling not too far from betrayal, to realize Don't Dance Rattlesnake might never have been released in the U.S. because of one label’s incompetency and negligence.

Don’t Dance Rattlesnake has been available to buy in various countries around the world since February. When “Belt Loops,” the second single from the album, was released in the U.K. in June, there was still no date set for an American release. Fast forward to August and The Films, fed up with broken promises, break with their label, Warner Bros.

As badly as that might have gone, the result of the fissure is the North American self-release of Don’t Dance Rattlesnake and its companion album HORSEFORCE!, an acoustic re-working of the DDR lineup. And how we do appreciate such aggressive self-direction when the outcome is music like this!

The universe opens up in an excellent way with “Good Day,” gliding in on the sound of a contented lethargy one could listen to for hours whilst lounging on a hammock, drinking glass after glass of (Long Island) iced tea.

“Belt Loops,” of course, is a speed-induced trip through the fiery landscape of ramshackle romances. The biting lyrics will be particularly fun to sing if the listener has experienced a belt loops-type phenomenon. (Think of it as a quick route to healing.)

In contrast, “Jealousy” is wrenching, twangy alt-country to which Will Sheff would surely give his approval. It’s an interesting counter to “Belt Loops.” The pairing of the two songs shows The Films’ emotional range: touching on the same subject through provocativeness and introspection, respectively.

Searingly clever lyrics make “Talk, Talk” as smart as it is fun to rock out to, while “Tabletops” plays ode to youthful whimsy, unapologetic frankness and unyielding optimism. And with moves like firing their label, the song is oh-so-wonderfully honest.

“Black Shoes,” the first single from DDR, is still the best amalgamation of blatantly catchy riffs and cheeky lyrics wrapped in lead singer Michael Trent’s raw vocals. If the song doesn’t spur you to at least tap your foot, well, you may be in need of an I.V.

Last four songs of the album, in particular, seem to showcase The Films’ story-telling abilities. I prefer the HORSEFORCE! version of “Holliewould Getaway,” – I’m a sucker for piano rock, and it’s got a bit of a Tom Waitsian sound to it.

“Bodybag,” as the album’s last song, uses melancholic sounds and reflective lyrics and for a pleasant change of pace. It’s a fitting end to a mostly manic but obviously intelligent album, and perhaps a caveat to those who navigate The Films’ album, and universe, too unthinkingly.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Sample MP3s:

-- Jealousy
-- Black Shoes
-- Holliewould Getaway (HORSEFORCE! version)

If you like what you hear, you can buy DDR through The Films' store, or iTunes. The companion album, HORSEFORCE!, is only available by purchasing the Limited Edition release directly through The Films' store, however.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sept. 11 Releases: Hot Hot Heat Cooling Off? Also: Film School, Grand National

Happiness LTD

Hot Hot Heat
Sire Records

The third time ’round for Hot Hot Heat finds them with a bit more studio polish and, as you might have guessed from the title, a bit more depressed. Not unexpected, since lead singer and lyricist Steven Bays penned several of the songs after breaking up with a long term girlfriend. Still, two years on from Elevator, their commercially successful second album, Happiness LTD pushes Hot Hot Heat’s reach as a band further than they’ve yet been.

“Outta Heart,” most certainly one of Bay’s post-relationship writings, uses backing instrumentals and voices to produce an almost (Richard) Ashcroftian anthem about a relationship gone askew. “Harmonicas and Tambourines,” meanwhile, sounds like it could be on the Weird Science soundtrack and is one of the album's definite missteps.

Perhaps Hot Hot Heat should just stick to being Hot Hot Heat. The best songs on the album aren’t trying to forge a new sound and therefore don’t sound forced and/or generic. “5 times out of 100" captures the biting lyrics of previous albums, “My Best Friend” is pure frantically-paced, piano-laced brilliance, and “Conversation” draws on Bay’s intense voice and stutter-staccato rhythms to create near perfect dance pop. It's just too bad the rest of the album can’t keep up.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

-- Click to listen to "Conversation"

Also new this week:

Film School
Beggars Banquet

Film School have been indie rock staples since the beginning of this century. Hideout’s musical depth is most striking: the fuzz, layering, psychedelic undercurrents and lethargic sounding vocals. This is the sort of album you’ll have to listen to multiple times to truly appreciate – the good news is that you’ll want to.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

-- Click to listen to "Lectric"

A Drink and A Quick Decision

Grand National

Recall Records

Comparisons to the Police are inevitable for Grand National, and not only for the fact that members Rupert Lyddon and Lawrence Rudd once toured as a Police and Queen cover band. The duo’s synth pop is certainly catchy, and besides the Police, echoes of New Order and Depeche Mode are clear. Good album for dancing, driving and indulgent introspection.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

-- Click to listen to "By the Time I Get Home There Won't Be Much of a Place For Me"

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Video of the Week: Owen Pallett/Final Fantasy

Owen Pallett as the one-man-band Final Fantasy. This clip will give you a good idea as to how he performs songs at concerts: building songs on pieces of themselves with help of a looping machine. The stark beginnings and robust endings are quite interesting to observe.

Want to see it live? Owen starts a U.S. tour in October with friend and sometimes-collaborator Cadence Weapon. More info can be found at his (fan-operated)
myspace page.*

"Took You Two Years to Win My Heart" off his debut album,
Has A Good Home:

*The listed opening date for the tour (Oct. 11) is wrong; the tour will begin Oct. 12 in Chicago.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

News: Zeppelin, Klaxons, Patrick Wolf

Led Zeppelin Reunite for One-Off Gig

The rumors are true, dear god. Robert Plant confirmed the one-off engagement to NME earlier today whilst on his way to a meeting with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones to sort out the details. No other information was confirmed, though speculation is the gig will be charity-based and could happen as early as November.

Klaxons Revel in Surprise Win at Mercurys

A win at the Mercurys is certainly cause for celebration and inebriation, but perhaps Klaxons took it a bit too far. Scheduled as guests on a BBC News morning show, the band arrived blitz out of their minds and had to be replaced at the last minute.

More antics continued in the green room as bassist Jamie Reynolds reportedly repeatedly shouted "I've got $20k [the monetary award for winning the Mercury Prize] in my pocket!" and "There I am!" every time a clip of the band was shown on TV.

You know, on second thought, maybe Klaxons did the right thing. They're a rock and roll band. This will only add to the legend.

Patrick Wolf Announces North American Tour

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

The chameleonic troubadour will play the first gig in Philadelphia on September 30, and wind his way west for the last gig in Los Angeles on October 16. I wonder if his hair color will still be the same blazing shade of red when he opens the tour? Or, for that matter, if it will stay that way for the whole tour? Questions, questions . . .

Full Dates and Venues:

Sept. 30 - The Fillmore, Philadelphia
Oct. 1 - The Black Cat, Washington D.C.
Oct. 3 - Webster Hall, NYC
Oct. 4 - Paradise, Boston
Oct. 5 - Cabaret du Musée Juste Pour Rire, Montreal
Oct. 6 - Lee's Palace, Toronto
Oct. 8 - St. Andrew's Hall, Detroit
Oct. 9 - Metro, Chicago
Oct. 11 - Wonder Ballroom, Portland, OR
Oct. 12 - The Plaza, Vancouver
Oct. 13 - Neumo's, Seattle
Oct. 15 - Mezzanine, San Fransisco
Oct. 16 - El Rey, Los Angeles

Monday, September 3, 2007

Oasis Meets Pale Saints for Brazilians-turned-Londoners The Tamborines

Sally O'Gannon

The Tamborines
Planting Seed Records

Born in Brazil and living in London, The Tamborines do catchy fuzz rock as well as anyone at present. The trio’s debut EP is solid: nothing groundbreaking, but quite fun and elegant in its simplicity.

Title track “Sally O’Gannon" starts things off with an intense wall of sound that permeates throughout and ties in perfectly with a classic pop melody and interstellar synth effects. In contrast, “Be Around” is not nearly so instantly likeable, and even seems to end prematurely, though after a few spins it does start to grow on the listener.

“Come Together” is an absolute gem: dirty rock baptized in a haze of dissonance and made (almost) whole again. And finally, “Sally O’Gannon (demo version)” offers listeners a chance to compare the title track with an earlier, stripped-down version. The band wisely chose to rework the track for a fuller sound, and paired here with the official version, the demo is frankly only interesting insomuch as listeners will want to compare the two.

What appears to separate The Tamborines from most novice bands is that they aren’t trying to fit into a scene. This isn’t trendy dance rock, nor is it hyper jangly rock. The Tamborines are anything but trendy and hyper, in fact. Their sound exudes a nonchalant coolness that seems to stem from knowing who they are as a band and being comfortable with it.

Overall, Sally O'Gannon is a highly promising debut, though “Sally O’Gannon (demo version)” is disappointing as a fourth and final song. Using the demo as the fifth track, with an entirely new fourth track added to the album, would have been wiser. As it stands, however, an EP with just three different songs is flimsy and far too fleeting for such an obviously talented group. Still, with whispers of an LP in the near future and a potential 2008 U.S. tour, it's hard not to get excited about what could be . . .

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Sally O’Gannon will be released in the U.S. on Sept. 4, and is only available online through Darla Records here. Catch the “Sally O’Gannon” video below:

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Films Ditch Label, Debut America

The native South Carolinians will release their debut album Don't Dance Rattlesnake in the U.S. on September 25th. The album was released in the U.K. back in June, at which time there was no scheduled date for a U.S. release. Apparently it took ditching their label to do it.

The jangly indie-rock quartet aren't exactly a mainstream rock band. Still, Warner Bros. navigation of the band's career seems naive at best (and vastly asinine in all probability). The Films are radio-friendly, lyrically clever and, well, let's just say their looks aren't exactly holding them back, either. A three-month wait for a U.S. release, from a U.S. band, is absurd. Even apart from the U.K., Don't Dance Rattlesnake is also currently available in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Japan. So why no U.S. release?

Ostensibly, the band got tired of asking the same question, so they've split from Warner Bros. and are releasing the album on their own. Now, that is fooking impressive. When is the last time you've heard of a band telling a major label to shove it? Especially a band that at this point, and no doubt partly because of said label's mismanagement, is currently under-the-radar? That takes balls.

And so to their musical talents we add an old-school, punk rock sensibility -- not so much inyourface as it is enveloped in a southern gentility. What could have been publicized drama for other bands has instead become a simple by-product of The Films' musical goals. Their concern is the music, and releasing it, finally, in the U.S. It will be interesting to see how the album is received, by critics as well as the masses. Something to look for in the future . . .

You can listen to The Films at their Myspace page, and pre-purchase Don't Dance Rattlesnake here. The first 1000 orders will receive a limited-edition copy of the album, which includes companion album HORSEFORCE!, an acoustic reworking of ten of the songs from DDR, plus one bonus track. More about HORSEFORCE! straight from The Films' blog:
"the label" wanted us to go to a studio and make acoustic versions of all the songs on the record. since we are not big fans of "boring", we instead decided to rearrange the songs and make completely different versions of them embracing the theory that 'a good song is a good song no matter how you arrange it'. we sped up some of the slow ones, slowed down some of the fast ones, changed the instruments up, and basically did whatever we wanted to mess with the arrangements and still do justice to the songs.
Check out the video for "Black Shoes" below, and have a listen to "Belt Loops" in Aural Laurels in the side menu. Also, for a more in-depth analysis of The Films' sound, see my review of "Belt Loops," written for a Welsh music 'zine in early June.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Electricity in Our Homes EP Out Today

The limited-edition 7" EP, The Shareholder's Meeting, is the first release of any kind for the band. Only 200 copies were printed, so it's bound to prove worthy of its name: rising in value as the band gains popularity and acclaim. If cockney punk or post-punk lights your fire, then EIOH is highly recommended.

Track Listing:

1. More Minimal

2. Some Marvels
3. Are They Doing Something Nasty?

4. We Don't Need Honesty*

Go here and get one of the few remaining copies, or here to listen to the EP online.

*Stand out track

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Kevin Drew, Broken Social Scene to Play Next Myspace Secret Show

Musicians with actual talent selected for one of the Secret Shows! Go figure. The concert will commence BSS's fall tour, Broken Social Scene Performs Kevin Drew. Drew, one of the co-founders of the sixteen-member, musical soiree-turned-coterie, will release his "solo" album, Broken Social Scene Presents Kevin Drew, Spirit If . . . on Sept. 18.

According to Drew's website, Spirit If . . . will be the first in a series of Broken Social Scene Presents releases. Brendan Canning, BSS's other co-founder, is currently at work on his "solo" project, to be released next year as the second album in the series.

The widely-advertised-and-so-unsecret Secret Show will be played next Tuesday, Aug. 28th, in Boston. Lucky Bostonians. DC gets teeny-bop sensations Good Charlotte. Alas . . .

More details on the show are here. And watch a promo vid for "Backed Out On The . . ." right now:

Friday, August 24, 2007

Zoo Time! Finally: Mystery Jets Announce U.S. Tour

Excellent news from the Mystery Jets camp, indeed, after visa issues forced a cancellation of their U.S. tour earlier this summer. Even better: Klaxons join them for five of the shows, though almost exclusively on the west coast. According to their website, the set will combine the best from their debut LP (Zoo Time in the U.S./Making Dens in the U.K.), along with new material from an as yet unnamed follow-up album. How utterly thrilling! See you at the Joe's Pub show . . .

Full dates and venues:

September 18, 2007 - Abbey Pub, Chicago

September 19, 2007 - Magic Stick, Detroit

September 20, 2007 - El Mocambo Club, Toronto

September 22, 2007 - Music Hall Of Williamsburg, Brooklyn

September 23, 2007 - Paradise Rock Club, Boston (with Klaxons)

September 24, 2007 - Joe's Pub, NYC

September 25, 2007 - CineSpace, Los Angeles

September 26, 2007 - The Music Box @ Fonda Theatre, Los Angeles (with Klaxons)

September 28, 2007 - The Fillmore, San Francisco (with Klaxons)

September 30, 2007 - The Showbox, Seattle (with Klaxons)

October 1, 2007 - Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver (with Klaxons)

- L.A. Bryan

Friday, August 17, 2007

Intense Psych-Rock from Caribou, Other 8/21 Releases

City Slang

Immensely-talented Daniel Snaith looks rather like a Comic-Con attendee than a rock star. Imagining him queuing up for a Joss Whedon autograph is considerably easier than imagining him on stage leading Caribou (his solo project that uses three other musicians during live performances) in its brand of lush electro-rock. But in Andorra, he unites 60s organic psychedelia, electronica and seriously funky beats with entertaining results.

"Melody Day" starts the album off in a ripping, whirling psychedelic assault. "Sandy" picks up from there, mixing marching-band rhythms with opulent melodies, and "After Hours" evokes the sounds of 13th Floor Elevators with beats ripped right off The Who.

But the album's appeal begins to decline after that. Quite frankly, the intensity of Andorra's sugary 60s sounds can be wearying. The middle of the album sags beneath its own weight – the songs seem rehashed and become tedious. "Irene" and "Niobe" are primarily electronic, and serve as intelligent contrasts to the 60s immersion, but their placement at the end of the album is stupefying. Clearly, they are meant to be paired together, but placing them in the middle of the album would have cushioned the impact of Andorra rising from its own ashes one too many times.

Caribou could have put out a five-star EP with those five songs: "Melody Day," "Sandy," "After Hours," "Irene," and "Niobe." Still, Andorra is one of the year's most unique releases. Yes, it's throwback. But no one else is doing anything remotely similar at the moment. Think of it as a prescription for the tired sounds of paired-down, indie rock that currently dominate the musical landscape.


Other Releases this Week:

Planet of Ice

Minus the Bear
Suicide Squeeze

Minus the Bear's second album, Planet of Ice, is a contradiction of hits and misses. Think mellow Circa Survive with a hint of soul in the vocals. Hits seem to come toward the latter part of the album ("Dr. L'Ling," "Throwin' Shapes," "When We Escape") but, ultimately, Planet of Ice merely threatens to break the bonds of mediocrity without ever doing so.

Under the Black Lights
Rilo Kiley
Warner Bros.

Under the Black Lights, Rilo Kiley's fourth full-length release, showcases an assortment of astoundingly dull alt-country songs. Cliched? Check. Devoid of meaning? Check. Cloying country-fried vocals? Check. Seriously, this shit is fodder for people who buy their music from Starbucks and college kids who mindlessly absorb Spin Magazine's sentiments because it makes them oh-so-cool. But it also makes them stupid, particularly in this case. Cool and stupid is no way to go through life, dear readers. Avoid this musical travesty at all costs.

- L.A. Bryan

Monday, August 13, 2007

8/13 Releases . . .

Forget the manufactured vacuity of Eisley. These are the real releases you should be checking out this week:

8/13 - London is alight with talk of trio Hatcham Social. Rightly so, as their double A-side single "Til the Dawn/Penelope (Under My Hat)," serves up indie rock so mod it should be delivered on the back of a Vespa.

8/14 - Chicago's ARKS
release their latest album, The International. ARKS is perhaps best described as uniquely dark post-punk. The album is riddled with beat changes, key mutations and subtly brilliant drumming. Fans of Wire should love it.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Brits Mod Mania Short But Sweet

"Til the Dawn/Penelope (Under My Hat)"

Hatcham Social
WaKS Records

Little known yet already critically-acclaimed, London trio Hatcham Social serve up two delightfully quaint pop songs on their latest release, the double A-side single "Til the Dawn/Penelope (Under my Hat)." The trio, comprised of brothers Finnigan and Tobias Kidd and their friend Dave Javu, has blended the Left Banke and the Kinks for a sound straight out of Antonioni's Blow-Up. "Til the Dawn" is a kaleidoscopic menagerie of falsetto warbling and jangly guitars – just as catchy as it is psychedelic. Meanwhile, "Penelope (Under My Hat)" is a bizarre story wrapped inside mellow beats and whipped cream harmonies. Altogether, the release adds up to just under five minutes of music. Yes, the songs are short. But they're a gas, dig? Charlatans' frontman Tim Burgess produces his first songs with the release, and Faris Badwan – shy art student by day, maniacal Horror's lead singer by night – provides the cover art. The single debuts Monday (8/13) in the UK on 7" vinyl and digital formats.

- L.A. Bryan