Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Suuns Drop New EP

Given our ecstatic love for SUUNS first full length Zeroes QC, we have to say expectations for their next effort were running painfully high.  Luckily for us, the band must have anticipated the potential for backlash, as their new 12" EP Bambi/Red Song (cover above) is nothing but totally killer new material.

SUUNS at Shea Stadium from the HAD Archive

Comprised of only two tracks and clocking in at just under 13 minutes, the EP is significantly more minimalist than the band's debut. While still embracing an texturally exploratory aesthetic, the record is also extremely careful in it's arrangement.  It leaves each tracked instrument the space to be explored on its own in the context of the greater whole.  The guitars are singled out and less layered, the beats are given space to grow, and in many cases take on the role of lead instrument.

Without question, the record plays on the band's strengths, and perhaps could do a little more to push in new directions.  That being said, an EP is a great context in which to explore, and this record does exactly that.  Taking the foundations of the first record and exploring their most stark nooks and crannies is a worthwhile effort, and leaves us eagerly anticipating where the band will go next.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Plants And Animals Played The Rock Shop - Pictures, Review, Setlist

Last night we braved the late-fall rain to stop in at Brooklyn's Rock Shop for a set from Montreal's Plants and Animals.  The band, who recently announced their third full length's arrival in February, decided to play a couple of one-offs before they go on tour next spring.  The show saw the arrival of a new bassist to the band's lineup, and a handful of songs off the new record.  And, as per usual, these HAD faves delivered an absolutely killer live set.

Over the course of an hour and twenty minutes, the band traversed both of their previous full length records, as well as delivering three tunes from The End Of That, which drops on February 28th.  The new material (which included the already released "Lightshow") was surprisingly straight-ahead in it's delivery, and was at times reminiscent of Jonathan Richman, or Dylan at his most melodic. It's unquestionably a new sound for the band, but one that worked extremely well, and left us hankering to hear the rest of the record.

The older material also took on a new life.  The addition of a full time basis allowed the band to explore more nooks and crannies of the tunes, and also gave way to some more fleshed out lead guitar. The closest thing the band has had to a hit, "Bye Bye Bye", was radically reworked in a manner that removed a fair degree of its grandiosity, and replaced it with a garage-y feel that placed the emphasis on the melody, rather than the arrangement.

Despite clocking in at over an hour, the set still felt incredibly quick.  This is a band who is positively riveting on stage, and gives it their all every time we see them. Moreover, their intricate, syncopated arrangements never seem to get old, and breathe new life into the tunes time and time again.  The End Of That is unquestionably one of our most anticipated records of 2012, and last night's show served to remind us of why. If you decided to stay in last night because of the weather, well, we're sorry to say you missed out.

More photos at the HAD Archive

Faerie Dance
Game Shows
Mama Papa
Good Friend
The End Of That
Undone Melody
Bye Bye Bye
New Song (Holy Matrimony)
New Kind Of Love

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lissy Trullie - "Madeline"

Lissy Trullie at the DeYoung, from the HAD Archive

It's been a while since we'd heard from Lissy Trullie, so we were delighted when we discovered that she has a new record on tap for 2012.  The self titled album, which drops on March 6th, has yet to grace our ears or our inboxes. However, If the lead single "Madeline" (mp3 below) is any indication, it's gonna be a damned good one.

The track manages to channel the spirit of Nico, and set it adrift in layers upon layers of synth textures and  loping beats.  Combine that with the fact that Trullie's vocals are actually a fair bit better than the Velvet's chanteuse, and the fact that the tune has a nice unconventional composition, and well, we're sold.

The sound is a fair bit more mature than Trullie's debut: Gone are the jangly, garagey guitars, and in their place is a far more crafted and well produced record.  The effort is just as polished, but it has more individualism and clarity, and manages to shed a fair degree of the derivative moments of its predecessor. In short, exactly what you'd hope for from a second record.

mp3: Lissy Trullie - Madeline

Monday, December 5, 2011

Talking Heads Set To Drop Live Video Compilation

When we first saw the Talking Heads' video compilation announcement appear from David Byrne in our inbox, we were interested, but not riveted.  After all, most of the band's fantastic videos are available on YouTube, and we've got a good feel for what's out there.  Well, in retrospect, we stand corrected:  a closer read reveals something much more interesting.

In short Talking Heads Chronology is a high quality compilation of the band's live performances, from their very earliest days up until their Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame induction in 2002.  In Byrne's estimation, they were "very much a live band", and as such, this review is a good estimation of their prowess. We never saw them live in concert, but needless to say, we would have loved to, and if this is the closest we get, well, so be it.

Talking Heads Chronology is available now.

Friday, December 2, 2011

John Cale - Extra Playful

John Cale entered into the new decade on the high of two critically acclaimed records, Black Acetate and Hobosapiens, that saw him giving a nod to his poppier guitar based rock instincts, and blending them with some delightfully experimental use of electronics and synthesizer.  As such, it should come as no surprise that 2011 finds Cale continuing on the same path, to similarly great success.

Compared to the records mentioned above, Cale's latest, Extra Playful, is perhaps the most accessible of all.  Where the others ebbed and flowed between poppy goodness and difficult sonics, Extra Playful is straight ahead pop, through and through. The instrumentation is Cale at his most accessible, firmly rooted in guitars and playful pianos. When electronics are brought into the mix, it's only to provide modest backing beats or synth textures.

Which isn't to say that the record is without depth.  The strong moments are some of the best songwriting of his career, and calls to mind his creative heyday of the mid seventies. There are weaker points (we could do without the backup singers on "Hey Ray", for one), but overall the EP holds together remarkably well as a straight forward rock and roll record.

Extra Playful is apparently the precursor to another full length from Cale in 2012, and that's great news.  His output as of late has been nothing if not a consistently rewarding treat.  For now, we'll be giving this record more than a few spins, and eagerly awaiting the delivery of the next chapter.

mp3: John Cale - Perfection

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Plants And Animals Set To Deliver The End Of That In February

Well, color us damned excited.  Out of nowhere, notice arrived in our mailbox this morning that HAD faves Plants & Animals are set to release their third full length this coming February.  In the meantime, they've delivered the first tune from the disc ("Lightshow", below), and it doesn't even remotely disappoint. Loaded with the band's signature rhythmic interplay, the track really calls attention to the strengths that make them such an awesome live act.

Frankly, we've had the song on repeat since we got it, and it's among their best.  We couldn't be more excited for this new disc.  What's more, the band has a December 7th show at The Rock Shop - you can bet your ass we'll see you out there.  In the meantime, enjoy the new track.

mp3: Plants And Animals - Lightshow

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

M83 - Hurry Up We're Dreaming

We always like to spend holiday weekends with a new record.  It gives us a chance to really dig into the meat of the record, and moreover, it gives us a really clear sense of space and time for that first listen.  So it was that we pulled out M83's latest Hurry Up, We're Dreaming. last night and gave it a spin.  Suffice it to say, we were not disappointed.

The two disc opus, which was recommended by HAD friend Nabocough, dropped back in October, and had largely evaded our view.  Well, we stand corrected.  The disc is a perfect blend of pop, dance, and straight ahead rock, that manages to simultaneously be nostalgic and completely new all at once.  It's like discovering a great lost record, from a band you never knew you liked in the first place.

Now, we're sure the M83 faithful will be scoffing at this, saying they knew it all along, etc. etc., and that's just fine.  The fact of the matter is that this record is going to be far more important to those who aren't already worshipping at the altar of these Frenchmen.  They've no doubt (judging by reviews) been making killer records for years, and that's fantastic.  But Hurry Up, We're Dreaming features such a diverse palette of textures and melodies, it's more than likely to take M83 into the mainstream.

We're not saying you have to like the disc, but we are saying it's a damned well-crafted piece of pop, and we're loving every minute of it.  There are worse ways to spend your holiday weekend listening hours, but why bother?

M83 are in New York tonight and tomorrow.

mp3: M83 - New Map

Friday, November 18, 2011

Cull.tv Brings Back Video Watching As It Should Be

Amongst the children of the 80's and 90's, there is almost always one universal lament when the topic comes to music videos:  the demise of MTV.  The television network popularized the medium, and managed to do so while seeming mainstream and edgy at the same time.  They managed this balance for the better part of 15 years, before pop culture got the best of them.  Once that happened, they headed for a downward spiral of reality shows, and barely any of the thing that had made them great: music videos.

With the arrival of the internet, and real streaming video, there was a feeling that this didn't matter as much, because people could choose their own content.  Any video you wanted, any time you wanted.  But the fact of the matter is, that didn't help, because much of MTV's influence was curatorial.  What most people really want is to sit down and watch music videos they haven't seen before, and be exposed to something new and exciting. In short, the internet really only solved half the problem.

Enter cull.tv:  the new site is an attempt to harness the power of "any video, any time", and wrap it in the feeling of good curatorial sense.  The site takes on a fantastic full-screen experience and a minimalist interface to create an immersive, sit back and relax vibe.  The user can search cull.tv's library of videos for new content, but really that's still the same old thing with a new wrapper.  The real fun comes when channels are used.

Channels are predefined by curators, or users, and consist of what are essentially video playlists.  However, as one watches videos, you can "love" them, resulting in a body of user metadata relating to video preference.  Then it's just one click to a checkbox, and cull.tv starts "auto-DJ"ing for you. This is where it really starts to feel like the MTV experience:  new music that you've never heard, but with shared genre and influences.

Granted, there are still kinks to work out.  Video quality varies, ads sometimes randomly appear, and HD has to be toggled by the user.  But, for the most part, cull.tv has nailed a new user experience (or rather, recreated an old one) in the online world. We've just started curating our own channel, and from there, the sky's the limit!  You'll be saying "I want my cull.tv!" in no time.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Jim O'Rourke - The Visitor

We first picked up Jim O'Rourke's 2009 record The Visitor for largely ancillary reasons to the music itself. First, we admired his work with Wilco so readily, we figured there had to be something rewarding in his own output.  Second, the record is somewhat unusual in that it was never released in mp3, by O'Rourke's choice.  It was only released on CD and vinyl, and required (gasp) actual physical interaction.

The result was that two years ago, we picked up a thick slab of vinyl with a bit of excitement and a heavy dose of curiosity. However, things being what they are, the disc languished in its cellophane.  First, we didn't have a turntable hooked up.  Then we were moving and there were boxes to unpack.  Until, finally, last week we opened the record.  We've been spinning it ever since.  It's as novel as it is exceptional.  Which is to say, in both cases, extremely.

O'Rourke entreats the listener to "Please listen on speakers, loud." in the record's jacket.  And yet, this Ziggy-esque request is not (presumably) for quite the same reasons.  O'Rourke's record is not a rock album, per se, and it is certainly not glam.  Rather, one can assume that the high volume request is firmly seated in the desire of a mixologist's wish that his music be delivered in the same form he created it.  In O'Rourke's case, this means the delivery of a dynamic, lush, and modern form of chamber music.

That description may seem a bit vague, but once you hear the record, it feels startlingly accurate.  All of the instruments on the record are close miked, and this intimacy extends across the entirety. It gives the songs character and warmth akin to a jazz record. The interplay gives the impression of a group of tightly knit musicians making music in the privacy of bedrooms or dens, away from the prying eyes of the public.

The Visitor serves to solidify O'Rourke's place as a character unto himself, truly owning the word unique.  This music is neither easily defined nor categorized.  Instead it is a brand all it's own, enjoyable to listen to a hundred times over, and full of nuance and subtlety.  It is a treasure waiting to be discovered in the shelves of record shops, and a reenforcement that maybe it's time that you put down your iPod for an hour or two, and give the old turntable a spin.

mp3: You didn't read the first paragraph, did you?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Beatles and Jackie Lomax - "Sour Milk Sea"

Last week as we were scouring Beatles bootlegs on youtube, which we are wont to do from time to time, we stumbled across a gem we had never heard before.  "Sour Milk Sea" was written by George Harrison and demoed during The White Album sessions.  Bearing a strong resemblance to melodically to "Savoy Truffle", the song never made the final cut.

It was, however, handed off to another Apple Records artist, Jackie Lomax.  Not only that, but one better:  three of the four Beatles (Lennon was absent) joined Lomax in the studio for the recording session along with Eric Clapton.  The supergroup nailed it, and created the original version of the song.

However (and this is where it gets good), they also released a vocal-free mix that featured just the instrumentals.  Through the wonder of the internet and modern technology, a kind soul has generated an "outfake" that is as good as the original in quality, but features Harrison's demo vocals.  Essentially a new Beatles studio track, a la "Free As A Bird" or "Real Love".  Happy humpday!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

New Music - Churches, "Save Me"

It's no secret that around these parts we love Caleb Nichols.  In fact, we love him so much, we've released two records by his band Grand Lake over the past two years on our own record label!  So when we got word from Caleb that he had started a new recording project called Churches, we got more than a little stoked.

After having spend the last 6 months on the road with the likes of WATERS and Release The Songbird, Caleb returned to the west coast with newfound inspiration and headed into the studio with some of his tourmates to get the new material committed to tape.  The result is two incarnations of the track "Save Me", one the "original" and one the "remix".

From the first moment the track is unmistakably Nichols, with his well hones vocals diving into a strong vocal over a twangy guitar.  However, the chorus is where things really get mixed up a bit.  Clearly the time on the road has been feeding some of Caleb's love of balls to the wall rock, and it shows.  The chorus is an epic cacophony of distortion and crashing symbols, while at the same time staying true to the song's melodic potential.  We likey.

The remix, by stark contrast, is almost unrecognizable as the original.  Drenched in sped up vocals and looped beats, it's exactly what a remix should be:  awesome in its own way, and begging to be listened to just as much (if not more) than its seed.  Combine that with a vibe that is simultaneously 80's retro and futuristic in one breath, and well, we're sold.

On top of all the musical goodness, Nichols has taken a unique perspective on releasing the track: in addition to falling under the "name your price" model, half of all Churches proceeds will go directly to 826 Seattle, the Pacific Northwest version of Dave Eggers' awesomely lovable tutoring charity.  We've posted the track below, because we think you need to hear it, but if you find yourself, we highly recommend ponying up a bug or two for such a worthwhile cause.  Not to mention some damn awesome tunage.

mp3: Churches - Save Me

Monday, November 14, 2011

Kurt Vile - "My Best Friends" Live At Webster Hall, Video

This weekend our good pal Gretchen Robinette made her way to Webster Hall and caught Kurt Vile's Friday night set.  We were bummed we couldn't make it from the get-go, but we were even more bummed when we caught wind of what had transpired.

Vile dug out the fantastic "My Best Friends" and delivered a killer full length version of the tune on solo acoustic guitar.  Luckily for us (and you), Gretchen managed to capture the whole thing in epic HD goodness, and you can check it out above.  Super awesome.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Sea And Cake Played Bowery Ballroom - Pictures, Review

Last night at Bowery Ballroom, The Sea and Cake delivered a lengthy set, complete with two encores, to a crowd of devoted fans. The show was part of their most recent North American tour, and was devoid of all pomp and circumstance. The band was traveling with no merch, and had a stage show that (as per usual) consisted of no more than four dudes playing their songs on stage.  The caveat was thus: those dudes can play their music very, very well.

To say that The Sea and Cake can deliver a bulletproof set is an understatement.  They are a well honed band to the nth degree, and their live show is akin to a more visceral version of their recorded takes. All the parts are there, and the arrangements are rock solid, but with just a touch more spice than one finds on the stereo.  In particular, John McEntire's drumming takes on a whole new character in the live environ.  When paired with Eric Claridge's unrelenting bass, it serves as an underpinning for the band as a whole.

However, by the end of the set, the well oiled machine had upped the pace to a frenetic hum, and the band began to, for lack of a better term, rock out.  It was probably the most high-energy we've ever seen this bunch, and they seemed to be truly enjoying themselves.  Hearing Archer Prewitt start to really tear into his guitar, one got the feeling that you were looking in on the more raw side of the band, the side that might bear its teeth at rehearsal space's or writing sessions behind the privacy of closed doors.

One thing remained true for the duration of the show:  these are a group of musicians who are more than able to deliver on the promise of their craft.  For the whole of the set (which consisted largely of newer material, with the occasional dip into the back catalog),  tune after tune  emerged in tip-top shape, and fell readily upon the ears of a crowd of highly enthusiastic fans.  There was no trick, no illusion, no attempt to create something that wasn't actually there.  Instead, it was completely heart-on-sleeve rendition of songs that were carefully crafted amongst the talents of the four men on stage. And therein lies the beauty of a Sea and Cake show:  it's all about the music.

More pictures in the HAD Archive

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Features Played Mercury Lounge - Pictures, Review

Last night we stopped in at the Mercury Lounge and caught an early set from Nashville indie rockers The Features.  The band delivered an evening of music that definitely left a satisfied audience, and kicked and screamed its way through the breadth of their catalog.  Through a mix of frenetic drumming, loping bass lines, and good old fashioned rock and roll, the unrelenting output emphasized the fact that they have the musical chops to truly deliver. 

Unquestionably, The Features are a rock solid unit.  The songs' parts are tightly integrated, and the band clearly have had enough time on the road that comfort on stage isn't even remotely an issue.  This comfort also allows the band to expand their palette as they play, and dabble with the sonic textures that make up their distinctive sound.  The result was a set that managed to do the dual-duty of emulating the records' highly recognizable arrangements, and at the same time expanding on them in the best way possible.

While singer Matt Pelham definitely has the vocal and guitar chops to run a stage show all by his lonesome, the rhythm section was the contingent of the band that really won us over.  Over the course of the set, the bass and drums came together in a way that simply isn't present on the band's records, and it served the overall sound very well. While their records are certainly fueled by driving rhythms, the live environment allowed the band to cut loose, and really emphasized just how rollicking this band has the potential to be.

Interestingly, the crowd was still most closely tied to the tracks from the band's first full length.  While the other material was rock solid, and had crowd support, it was the earlier singles that really made the deepest impact.  It certainly was no fault of the band's, and many of the newer tunes had arrangements that were more inspired than their earlier counterparts.  The gap in audience recognition brought to mind the latest challenge for this Nashville quartet:  They've proven their a rock band to be reckoned with, now they just need their fans to realize that's just one piece of the puzzle.

More pictures at the HAD Archive

Monday, November 7, 2011

Crooked Fingers Played Mercury Lounge - Pictures, Review

Before we say anything else, there is this:  You must see Crooked Fingers on this tour.  Over the past ten years we've seen a number of shows from Eric Bachmann's band, and never before have they been as on top of their game as they are now.  Not only is the new record is fantastic, but the band is rock solid, and Bachmann is delivering balls-to-the-wall performances that are as endearing as they are jarring, as fiery as they are touching, and as lucid as they are blurry.  In short, on Friday night at Mercury Lounge we saw one of the most dynamic performances in recent memory, and perhaps the best ever from Bachmann.  And yes, we realize that's saying a lot.

The show began with a stirring rendition of Bachmann's solo piece "Man O' War" on solo acoustic guitar.  The band sang backup, with the exception of a momentary guitar solo to replace the piano from the original track.  The gentleness of the delivery was underscored by the clarity of the lyric, and the unquestionable perfection of Bachmann's voice.  When the song finished, the immediate yelp from the crowd was a stark contrast to the quiet during the delivery, and it was clear that it was going to be a good night.

Over the next two hours, Bachmann hammered through Crooked Finger's catalog, dipping way back for "Crowned In Chrome" and "New Drink For The Old Drunk", and delivering brand-new barnstormers like "Bad Blood" and "Went To The City".  Interestingly, the performances were so well constructed, and the band so tight, that the highly loyalist crowd was just as engaged by the classics as they were by the new material.   It was a night of fantastic music, plain and simple, and Bachmann was clearly as delighted with the music as his audience.

Following the wrap of the regular set, Bachmann returned to the stage with guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Liz Durrett, and the two did an off-mic duet of "Your Control" that simply took our breath away.  The soul that was squeezed into that three minutes of music was palatable, and would have been worth the ticket price alone.  Luckily, it was nowhere near alone, and the band returned to the stage for a stirring, massive rendition of "Typhoon" before they left the stage for good.

The fact is that there are good musicians, and there are great musicians, and Eric Bachmann is quite obviously the latter.  For over twenty years he has been delivering songwriting that is as quirky as it is comforting, and he's always done so to the beat of his own drummer.  On Friday night he proved that not only has the undertaking proved worthwhile, but that he is at the cusp of a new era of greatness that may see his labor of love be at its best yet.  And, like we said, that's saying a lot.

Crooked Fingers are currently on a US tour.

More pictures at the HAD Archive

Friday, November 4, 2011

Atlas Sound - Parallax

Deerhunter's Bradford Cox has been banging around his side project Atlas Sound for a long time.  And for the most part, it's always felt like that: a side project.  Whether it be the stark arrangements, excessive use of electronic drum kits, or the constant giveaways/ep's/home recordings, it's always felt like the product of an at-home pursuit.  Not that this was always a bad thing:  the recordings gave insight to Cox's songwriting, and delivered a different perspective on Deerhunter's sound.  It's just that there was always a feeling (much like a Keith or Mick solo record), that you were hearing a piece of a whole that would be much more enjoyable once reunited with its compadres.  Always, until now:  with Parallax everything changes.

From the first moments of Atlas Sound's latest, it's clear that Bradford Cox has put more effort and care into this release than any of the previous records.  Or at least it feels that way:  the disc is expertly produced with tracks that feature layer upon layer of carefully orchestrated sounds that give each track a distinctive character and lilt.  Instrumentation has been stepped up to a degree that indicates either Cox has gotten much better at overdubbing, or additional musicians were brought in to lend a hand.  The presence of a real-life drum kit on the record is a welcome addition, and along with the pristine recordings of the other analog elements, really serves to help the sound emerge from the realm of "bedroom musings".

It's not just the recordings that make the record, however.  On Parallax Cox's songwriting may be in the strongest form we've seen it.  On the record he manages to pull in the stark ambience of his Atlas Sound writing, and mix it with both sides of Deerhunter: the rock and roll band that can nail a beat to a wall, and the tripped-out psych-rock giants who are masters of the wall of sound.  The result is a record that generates a Pet Sounds-esque lever of stylistic variation, where over time it becomes unclear what style or genre of music is being heard.  Rather, it's a style all its own.

In short, Parallax is not only the best record from Atlas Sound thus far, it's also Bradford Cox's most unified project to date.  It oozes vision and perspective, and demands more than a simple one or two listens to truly appreciate.  There's no question that Cox has been responsible for much of the sound that has emerged from his two bands.  Yet this record brings that awareness to a new level, and begs the question of whether there's any end to the depth of offerings the musician can cull from his bag of tricks.  If things continue in this way, the answer will be a definitive "no" for the foreseeable future.

Parallax drops November 8th on 4AD

mp3: Deerhunter - Terra Incognita

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Crooked Fingers - New Record, Fall Tour

It's been three years since Crooked Fingers last delivered a record to the world, so we were delighted when we got the news that a new one was on the way.  Breaks In The Armor marks Eric Bachmann's first post-Archers-reunion output, as well as his return to Merge Records, and we have to say:  the time away certainly hasn't done his songwriting any harm.

From the first notes of "Typoon", it is clear that with this latest record, Bachmann is at the top of his game.  The starkness and folky vibe that has defined Crooked Fingers from the get-go is still firmly in tact, but with a renewed edge and vigor.  More importantly, the beat-centric arrangments that have always been a Bachmann hallmark are all over the record:  songs are defined by their percussives as much as they are by their melody.

And then there's the melody:  this is where it gets really good.  We don't know if it's a result of the Archers' reunion, or simply the result of time away from music, but the result is palatably different from the last few Crooked Fingers discs.  The experimental Eric Bachmann has reemerged, and there is a fierce variation of vocal and guitar styles all over the record.  Which isn't to say there isn't a "classic" Crooked Fingers vibe as well: "The Counterfeiter" throws back to the band's more familiar material.  And yet, the combination of all of these parts serve to underscore the urgency and immediacy of these new recordings.

A good studio record is all well and good, but what really makes it really great is a solid live show; at least that's the way we roll around here.  That's why we were so excited to learn that Crooked Fingers is on tour this fall, and will hit just about every part of the country you can imagine.  From past experience, we can already tell you their live show is killer, and with this new material, well, we're very excited.

Crooked Fingers plays Maxwell's tonight, and Mercury Lounge tomorrow.

mp3: Crooked Fingers - Bad Blood

Crooked Fingers Tour, Fall 2010
Thurs, Nov 3--Hoboken, NJ--Maxwell's
Fri, Nov 4--New York, NY--Mercury Lounge
Sat, Nov 5--Brooklyn, NY--Cameo Gallery
Sun, Nov 6--Cambridge, MA--TT the Bear's
Mon, Nov 7--Montreal, QC--Casa Del Popolo
Tues, Nov 8--Toronto, ON--The Drake Hotel
Wed, Nov 9--Detroit, MI--Magic Stick
Thurs, Nov 10--Cincinnati, OH--MOTR Pub
Fri, Nov 11--Chicago, IL--Schuba's
Sat, Nov 12--Milwaukee, WI--Cactus Club
Sun, Nov 13--Minneapolis, MN--Triple Rock Social Club
Mon, Nov 14--Omaha, NE--Waiting Room
Tues, Nov 15--Denver, CO--Larimer Lounge
Sat, Nov 19--Portland, OR--Mississippi Studios
Sun, Nov 20--Seattle, WA--The Crocodile
Tues, Nov 22--Santa Cruz, CA--The Crepe Place
Wed, Nov 23--San Francisco, CA--Bottom of the Hill
Fri, Nov 25--Los Angeles, CA--The Echo
Sat, Nov 26--San Diego, CA--Casbah
Mon, Nov 28--Tempe, AZ--Club Red
Thurs, Dec 1--Austin, TX--Mohawk
Fri, Dec 2--Houston, TX--Fitzgerald's
Sat, Dec 3--New Orleans, LA--One Eyed Jacks
Sun, Dec 4--Atlanta, GA--The Earl

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

John Wesley Harding's Cabinet Of Wonders Came To City Winery - Pictures, Review

Last Saturday night, we stopped in at City Winery for the second installment of John Wesley Harding's Cabinet Of Wonders residency. If it's to be believed, the lineup was even more star studded than the last time, and as such the crowd was (or at least felt like) twice as packed like sardines. Harding was in top form, both with his comedic intros, and with his own tunes.  It felt like (although we didn't keep count) that he and his band spent slightly less time in the spotlight than at the last show.

After a few tunes from Harding, the stage opened to Emma Straub, who recounted a tale of traveling with the Magnetic Fields to Montreal.  As the merch-transport team with her husband, the pair encountered any number of difficulties as they attempted to cross the border to our northern neighbors.  The story was a light, if not a tad self-effacing, look into the real world of rock and roll.

Straub was followed by our biggest surprise of the night: The Hold Steady's Craig Finn.  Finn was debuting material from his forthcoming solo work, and it blew us away.  We've never been able to latch on to the hold steady, and felt it lacked something in the musical depth department.  Finn's set was the complete opposite, reminiscent of Springsteen or Dylan, and completely captivating.  It didn't exactly hurt things that he closed with a Jagger solo track, "Evening Gown", and completely ruled every second of it.

Finn was briefly followed by Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Harding, whose vivid and gripping reading provided a stark contrast to the whimsy of Straub's piece.  Unquestionably, Harding is gunning for the "serious" author vibe, and succeeding more than a little bit.

Serious readings beget serious rock and roll, and Hamilton Leithauser was up next, delivering an all-covers set in the absence of his band, The Walkmen.  His Beach House and Kinks covers were rock solid, but our fave had to be the touching and gentle rendition of Sinatra's "When The Wind Was Green". It was a simple and beautiful arrangement, and highlighted to a T the awesomeness of Leithauser's voice.

Up next was a 1-2-3 punch of John Hodgman, John Darnielle, and Eugene Mirman.  Hodgman led off with a satirical list of ghosts to watch out for this halloween.  While not a knock out success, it was quirky and enjoyable, and reminded us that this guy is worth far more to the world of comedy than just being a commercial celebrity.

Darnielle's set followed, and as always, was energetic and loaded with rock solid musicianship.  The Mountain Goats have never been to our taste exactly, but the crowd was clearly delighted, and it can't really be argued that Darnielle is not a force to be reckoned with.  The stage is clearly his home, and always will be as long as he has any say in the matter.

Eugene Mirman's set was, as always, laugh out loud funny.  It was an epic throwback (complete with props) to Mirman's high school days, and it was an utter success.  Just ten minutes of Mirman was enough to make us realize why Harding has chosen him as a Cabinet of Wonders regular, and left us eagerly awaiting more.

The evening closed with an unannounced act, as Roseanne Cash took the stage.  While she didn't have as devoted a following in the audience as some of the announced acts, she was unquestionably revered, simply for her presence and undeniable street cred.  Her set was, as might be expected, an especially straight-ahead country affair, that left us walking away from the evening more than satisfied.

All this fun was followed by an announcement earlier this week that Harding intends to once more take the Cabinet on the road, and we have to say: go, go, go!  It's like no other rock show out there, and truly is a throwback to the variety shows of yore.  It will be unexpected, you will be delighted, and it will be more than worth your time.

Many more photos at the HAD Archive

Thursday, October 27, 2011

John Cale - Fear

Lately, we've been listening to a lot more John Cale. A LOT more. Maybe it's the recent announcement of his new EP Extra Playful, or maybe it's just the fact that obsessions happen when they do, and this one is happening now. Regardless: it's time to share.

Cale is best known as a multi-instrumentalist and co-writer for the original lineup of the Velvet Underground, and no doubt, that's an incredible body of work. But even more incredible, frankly, is his run as a solo artist.  During the past 40 years, Cale has released a treasure trove of records that are some of the most rewarding experimental pop around. Some of his best known works (Paris 1919, for one) are somewhat part of the mainstream, but many of his most fantastic records (for some unknown reason) remain relegated to the worlds of collectors and enthusiasts. Case in point: 1974's Fear.

In one sense, Fear is pure, classic John Cale:  dark melancholy, experimental riffs, pop sensibility, and thorough experimentation all rolled into one. But somehow, it's also something more. Compared to his other records, Fear has a rawness and originality that is less trite and produced, but at the same time offers up a melancholy that is touching without going over the edge into the darkness. In short, the record is an expert balancing act of Cale's many artistic qualities.

To further add to the awesomeness, Fear is backed by an all-star band culled from Cale's peers. In addition to Cale's own masterful instrumentation (which is far reaching and diverse), he is joined by Eno, Phil Manzanera, and Richard Thompson to name a few. The band serves to further flesh out Cale's arrangements, and offers up a rock and roll record that still manages to be full of relevance and emotional honesty, coupled with a full dose of sonic experimentation.

John Cale can undoubtedly be difficult at times, and a large degree of this has to do with the fact that he is a man who operates in extremes.  At times, he can't always manage to reign in his experiments and impulses enough to make them accessible, and at others he is so poppy it becomes saccharine.  Granted, once they are breached, these records are well worth while, but getting there can be a long journey. Fear, by contrast, gives a tangible example of what happens when Cale manages to keep everything under close watch:  all of his strengths merge together, and create a record of undeniable greatness.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

An Horse Played Highline Ballroom - Pictures, Review

On Saturday we stopped into the Highline Ballroom for what would be our sole foray into the madness that is CMJ.  While there, we caught a stunning set from Australian duo An Horse.  The pair were on tour supporting their latest (fantastic) release Walls, and delivering a brand of rock and roll goodness that is truly unique.

It must be said from the start, that An Horse can make noise.  Just a drum kit, two vocalists, and a single guitar.  And yet, much like The White Stripes, they manage to flesh out the sound expertly and take on many roles at once.  Part of this is sourced in the intricate beats and meaty guitar hooks, but even more is sourced in the band's vocals.

While Kate Cooper takes on the lead vocals, it's difficult to necessarily call them "lead", as they are so often intersected with those of drummer Damon Cox.  The interplay, harmonies, and rhythm of their vocal delivery is fantastic, and serves to underpin their fantastic instrumentation and technical skills.  It also manages to illustrate just how close the two musicians have become.

If it's possible, An Horse made an even better impression this time around than they did on the tour for their first record Rearrange Beds.  On that tour, they delivered a unique and magical version of their own songs, fresh from the studio.  This time, things were just as fresh, but also instilled with a confidence and swagger that made the performance more gripping, and the music more vivid.  It was evidenced not only in our assessment, but also in the vested crowd who assembled, that An Horse are a band on the upswing.

More pictures at the HAD Archive

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ryan Adams - "Petal In A Rainstorm"

Last week Ryan Adams dropped his much-anticipated record Ashes And Fire, and like many, we were more than a little excited.  So excited, in fact, that we went all-in and bought the super-deluxe edition of the record.  Not only were we amped to support Adams in his latest venture with PaxAm records, but the record also came with a cool flexi-disc featuring "Petal In A Rainstorm".

The flexi-disc is a "technology" that was invented in the heyday of the vinyl era, intended to allow delivery of music, minus the heft of a giant vinyl disc.  Sound quality is certainly questionable, but the low-fi vibe and the history of the format as one typical to fan club "exclusives" made it all the more attractive to us.  Put differently: we can't ignore a good nostalgia trip.

But, to the point: the track is outstanding.  Amidst the gentle hum of the flexi-disc's static, the song is Adams at his very best: simple, yet perfectly melodic, and all over a gently loping beat.  The arrangement is slowly built up over a bass, drum kit, and organ, until it ends almost as quickly as it has begun.

The flexi-disc is a terribly fragile technology, which wears out after only a handful of playbacks.  Thankfully, there's digital recording to the rescue, and our copy can remain (relatively) unscathed, despite our love of the song. So have a listen, and don't be afraid to play it a second time, or a third.  For once, digital is your friend.

mp3: Ryan Adams - Petal In A Rainstorm

Friday, October 21, 2011

Jay-Z - "Reminder"

We know it's Friday, we know you need a good weekend jam, and we're here to help. Helping alongside is none other than your friend and ours, Jay-Z.  "The Reminder" is culled from 2009's The Blueprint 3, and starts out as what seems like a straight ego piece. Bragging and swagger, Jay seems to be wasting our time over a thin beat. But Jay hits his stride in the second verse, the beat starts to flesh itself out against his flow, and Shawn Carter fully delivers the goods.  Happy Weekend.

mp3: Jay-Z - Reminder

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Beach Boys - Surf's Up (Demo)

The upcoming release of The Beach Boys' SMiLE sessions has us digging through our archives like maniacs, catching up on all the material that we've collected over the years in regard to the notorious "lost" album.  Ranging from demos, to session tapes, to fan-compiled versions of the album, there's more than any rational human would like to dig through.  However, in that dreck there are also gems, and the demo for "Surf's Up" is among our very favorites.

The track itself is no stranger to Beach Boys fans:  it would surface later on an album of the same name.  However, that version was produced and manicured:  a bizarre combination of simplicity attempting to seem complex.  By comparison this demo, recorded by Brian Wilson solo at the piano, reveals the very fundamental reason the song is so amazing.  Rhythms, melodies, transitions: all of them combine to make this version the very best it can be.

The demo first surfaced on a 1960's TV show (click through for video - embedding was disabled) previewing the never-to-be album, and for a long time that unmastered outtake was all that fans would have.  However, with the release of the Good Vibrations box set, a full mastered version was released in all it's simplistic goodness.  And it is so, so, worth it.  So sit back, relax, and have a listen.  Surf's Up!

mp3: The Beach Boys - Surf's Up (Demo)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New John Cale On Tap For November, New Year - mp3, Video

John Cale is one of those slow-grow pleasures.  At first seemingly inaccessible, and at times overly droll, once you've gotten hooked, he is an undeniable addiction.  Cale has been steadily delivering albums for the past 40 years; There have been duds and there have been winners, but one thing is for sure: it's always interesting.

That interest is exactly the reason that we were so stoked to discover that Cale has a new EP on tap for the day after Thanksgiving, entitled Extra Playful (cover above).  What's more, details of a forthcoming full length album are apparently on their way, adding all the more excitement to the announcement!

While we have yet to hear the full EP, we can tell you from two tracks we've heard ("Catastrofuk" above, "Perfection" below) that Cale is in some seriously poppy form.  Oddly, for a man who has some real street cred as an experimental composer, Cale is one of the best writers of old fashioned rock and roll out there.

On these two tracks, granted, there are moments of Cale's expanded musical palette, but the overall vibe is one of dead-solid songwriting.  "Catastrofuk"offers up some crunchy guitars and an easy going chorus, while "perfection" offers something of a slow-groove lounge vibe.  Check them out for yourself, and we're pretty sure you'll be just as excited for this record as we are.

mp3: John Cale - Perfection

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New Music - Motopony

With the breadth of folkie indie pop that's floating around out there, it's easy to dismiss any artist who falls into the genre as being not worth your time.  It's easy, and it's a mistake, a case which is easily proved by one listen to Motopony's self-titled full length debut.

At first listen the disc has the potential to fall into every pitfall of the recent indie-folk trend: too sweet melodies, gentle acoustic guitars, and delicate percussives.  However, the cliché quickly falls away as one is presented with arrangements of growing complexity, and progressively more ragged textures. As the record continues, the percussives take on an electronic feel despite their analog origins, and the fuzzed out bass adds grit to the record's sweetness.  

And yet, none of this robs the record of its folkie foundation.  In fact, it serves to strengthen it as being a record that has all the insights and possibilities of classic tradition, but encapsulates them in modernity.  Motopony have already had a fair bit of attention in their native Seattle, and we can understand why.  After one listen, we were ready to play again.

Motopony are at Bowery Ballroom tomorrow night, Wednesday October 19th.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Stephen Malkmus Drops Video For "Senator"

Stephen Malkmus' Mirror Traffic has been available for almost two months, yet it's only today that its lead single, "Senator", has gotten a proper video.  And proper it is:  the vid is a hilarious send up on the song's title character, a corrupt politician played by none other than Jack Black.

The video, as might be expected, is pretty damned over the top.  It features such notable moments as Black doing lines of coke, shocking himself in the groin with a cattle prod, and humping the floor at a hipster party.  On top of that, the videos conclusion is...well...just watch it for yourself.  Happy Friday.

mp3: Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - "Senator"

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Brian Eno Live In 1974

Brian Eno's early 70's work after he departed Roxy Music is some of his most beloved.  During those years, he created a number of seminal records that served to inform glam, the avant garde, and the experimental for years to come.  Two of those records in particular, Here Come The Warm Jets and Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy, yielded rock opuses the likes of which Eno has never achieved again.

Studio masterpieces of colliding textures and stylistic juxtapositions, the records offer not only some of the most creative rock music of all time, but also one of the masterful realizations of "studio as instrument".  With the help of overdubs, synthesizers, and other custom devices, Eno created records that are seemingly unachievable in a real world environ.

This made it all the more surprising, then, when we discovered that in 1974 Eno created a band called The Winkies, and took some of the tracks from Here Come The Warm Jets on to a live stage.  Interestingly, the live show works perfectly:  the carefully-crafted synth guitar interplay is replaced by a more crunchy blues guitar lead, odd solos are even odder in a live capacity, and Eno's vocals are dead-on at every turn.  In short, it's totally killer.

We managed to turn up a compilation of seven live tracks (one below) through various online sources, and we imagine you can do the same.  We guess that you'll come to the same conclusion we did.  Namely:  Why didn't Eno do this sort of thing more often?

mp3: Brian Eno - The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch (Live 1974)