Friday, February 10, 2012
And here are a couple of really good live acoustic versions of album cuts "Mickey Mantle":
And "Take Me Out to the Coast", which I think is my favorite track on the record:
WATERS is Van Pierzalowski, and he's currently touring Europe, sharing a bill with Nada Surf. Then he'll be on tour in the US with Delta Spirit later this spring, including an appearance at SXSW. More info available at ThisIsWaters.com.
Brooklyn's Royal Baths emerged from the San Francisco noise/garage scene that has given us Thee Oh Sees, White Fence and other great bands, but they are following a very different muse than their California peers on their second full length, Better Luck Next Life. The more prominent influences for Royal Baths appear to be the Velvet Underground (both musically and lyrically), and maybe Link Wray.
Here is the video for "Faster, Harder", the album's third track --
Royal Baths are focused on the seamy side of life, where drugs, degradation, death and lots of sex are day to day concerns. There is humor, too, but even then the lean is to the darker side. The music matches the lyrics with an enveloping, almost suffocating presence. The guitars are up front in the mix, alternating between a roots twang, old delta blues and almost discordant psychedelic intensity. The drums pound menacingly in the background. The vocal duties are handled the band's founding members, Jeremy Cox and Jigmae Baer. The track names reveal their themes: 1. Darling Divine 2. Burned 3. Faster, Harder 4. Be Afraid of Me 5. Nightmare Voodoo 6. Contempt 7. Black Sheep 8. Map of Heaven 9. Someone New.
The opening track, "Darling Devine" --
Better Luck Next Life was released this week by Kanine Records. In addition to Cox and Baer, the band includes John Rau and Turner Halsey.
The band will be at SXSW next month.
Take a walk on the dark side of the street with Royal Baths; it is a rewarding trip.
Thursday, February 9, 2012
One of my favorite places in the world is Southport, NC, a small fishing village at the mouth of the Cape Fear River. It’s still a working seaport, but during my lifetime it has become known more for catering to tourists. In fact, Southport became so successful that the rest of Brunswick County got jealous, and fifteen or so years ago they stripped it of its county seat status. Now the county seat is a town of about 150 people called Bolivia, which I think was named by Mike Tyson.
Southport has a lot to brag about, including a great 4th of July festival, shrimp burgers and coldbeers on the dock at the Provision Company, and, pertinent to this post, being home to a very fine rock and roll band called Museum Mouth. Drummer-vocalist Karl Kuehn and bandmates Kory Urban and Graham High will make you think of No Age with a little more pop and a little less dissonance (which, by the way, does not mean less loud). Their new album, Sexy But Not Happy, is one of my early favorites of 2012. Check out the title track below and see if you don’t want to play it about 15 times in a row:
Pretty cool, and I'm definitely looking forward to hearing the rest of this thing...
Pre-order, or check out tour dates for March and April at Margot's Website.
Today's exploration of a recent 7" recording focuses on an enthralling twist on the shoegaze and dreampop genres, so it probably is fitting that it comes from a place where you wouldn't expect to look for this kind of music. On Sleazy Dreams, West Palm Beach's The Band In Heaven delivers a sludgy, droning, psychedelic soundtrack topped by deadpan vocals. Here is the title track, "Sleazy Dreams" --
The Band In Heaven is Ates Isildak, Lauren Dwyer, Jay Tillman, and Ryan Burk. Musically, the band may remind the listener of Austin psychedelic outfit Black Angels, but lyrically they are in their own place of dark dreams infused with some less than complimentary views on organized religion. The 7" consists of four songs. "Sleazy Dreams", with its big, relentless beat, and "Summer Bummer are the most uptempo. "Sludgy Dreams", a video for which is below, is a hazy take on Aleister Crowley's Book of Lies.
Sleazy Dreams is released on Chicago's HoZac Records. The above track and the album closer, below, give you a good feel for the album, so if you decide to take the plunge, you can be comfortable about what you're getting. However, you can stream all four tracks at the end of this post. In case you didn't focus on it when you waded into this review, the cover art features dogs costumed for Halloween, and is one of my favorite album covers in a long time.
The Band In Heaven will be playing at SXSW next month.
You can stream the entire 7" here:
Twitter ( @thebandinHeaven )
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Scott recently featured this Swedish duo on his Midnight World Pop Scout, and since their new album is creating quite a buzz, we thought perhaps a full review/feature might be in order.
A bit of backstory, or perhaps you already know the backstory. No? Well, apparently these two sisters filmed a video of themselves performing blues standards in the forest, and thousands of YouTube hits later, they were international sensations. The legend grew - when they were playing a show at a small club in Nashville, word was sent to them that Jack White wanted to meet them and would like to record a song or two at his Third Man Studios. If you haven't heard it, here is the song "It Hurts Me, Too" - an old favorite and a nice recording:
What people are responding to in First Aid Kit, aside of course from their strong, clear voices, are reverence for and love of traditional folk music that seem to be universal. In the US, of course, we call it "country music" and we've done it every which way: down home with an acoustic guitar and a stark song of murder and betrayal, and uptown with horns and lush string sections backing crying songs of heartbreak and unrequited love - and everything in between.
So, these girls have apparently listened to all that, and along with producer Mike Mogis, who has produced some delightfully "throwback" records with M Ward, decided to throw a bit of all of it into their second album.
Here's the title track:
The thing I find most interesting about their journey to where they currently reside is that they came to Nashville and put together a truly rocking version of an old blues standard, then went to Omaha to make a record that, in a lot of ways, pays homage to the old Nashville "countrypolitan" sound.
But, in the end, it's the voices. They know that, as did White and as does Mogis. Listen to the yodel, the cry and the harmonies in "Emmylou". This is the single:
If you're looking for good country music and you don't mind it coming from another country, you'll find it here.
First Aid Kit Website
Garage pop mixed with psychedelia and a bit of shoegaze is a cocktail of choice around the Rocksteady74 household (those readers who keep track of misspellings might argue that there is more than one cocktail of choice, but I digress). And there is no group on the scene that delivers that cocktail right now like Chicago's Radar Eyes. Their self-titled LP, out today on HoZac Records, delivers the buzz, power, feedback, jangle, hooks, harmonies and pace that we crave. Test their psychedelic side with "Summer Chills" --
Formed in 2007, the band has been gigging and releasing 7", while honing their sound and going through a few roster changes. The roster currently is listed as Anthony (guitar/vocals), Shelley (drums), Lucas (bass), and Russ (guitar). Although founding member Nathan is not listed as a current member, I believe he wrote, sang and played on this record.
For a taste of the band's delightful pop sensibility on album track "Miracle", which also was released in 2011 on a 7". It was the first Radar Eyes song I heard, and started me on my path of learning more about the band.
The songwriting on this album is excellent. While the tracks all have similarities, they display an impressive command of several styles. As noted above, "Summer Chills" and "Miracle" display a mastery of psychedelic and garage pop modes, respectively. As noted by a few other writers, "Accident" sounds like a drugged out brother-from-another-mother version of the Yardbirds' "For Your Love". "Disconnection" is a the shoegaze cousin with more aggressive rhythm section. "In Love" is furious post-punk, and "Prairie Puppies 2" is strikes me as a bit Britpop. But it all has a gritty garage feel to it. Another thing I'll note about the songs is that the instruments seem to rumble louder, and the rock gets a bit harder, as the album unspools--just as you'd expect and want it in a live performance.
For my money, Radar Eyes is going to be one of the sleeper surprises of the year, an album that in December will be on a lot of lists with the comment "...I don't know how I missed this one when it came out..." Don't be that guy. You can get it on limited edition vinyl or CD now, and enjoy it all year.
For fun, here is a short session the band filmed for Coach House Sounds in 2010:
Twitter ( @RadarEyesChicag )
HoZac Records -- Page for Radar Eyes
Monday, February 6, 2012
The Twilight Sad have earned a devoted following predicated on their big guitar sound, solid rhythm foundation, James Graham's expressive, commanding vocals, and titles and lyrics that suggested dark secrets and horrible circumstances. So the band didn't need to make a shift in their sound for commercial reasons. But rather than deliver another well-conceived effort in the same vein, the band took the risk of altering the template. Happily, the result on No One Can Ever Know is The Twilight Sad's most consistent, and most consistently excellent, album to date.
What is the shift? While the sound remains large, the band pared down the contribution of the guitars and added analog synths. The synths provide a chillier, often moody sound which perfectly compliments the ominous lyrics and darkly expressive vocals. And those vocals--for me, Graham is one of the more captivating vocalists in rock. It is a richly accented moan that ably thrusts home the intensity of the music. Multi-instrumentalist Andy MacFarlane again provides the music for the stories, adjusting his palate to add knobs and keys to strings and pics. While the result is spare compared to the last two albums, it nevertheless provides a full and lively texture. Mark Devine is the member of the band responsible for drums and programming, providing a somewhat militant backdrop to the tracks. (The band's long-time bassist, Craig Orzel, left before this album war recorded, and the band will flesh out its live sound with to additional musicians.)
Here is the first official single, "Sick". It is a powerful song, despite the band dialing the usual thunder down a notch.
The Twilight Sad is not about hooks and melody, or in many cases even about verse/chorus structures. Their songs rely on the increasing tension jointly built on the driving music and emotional vocals. It seems to me that I feel The Twilight Sad as much as I hear them. All nine tracks on this album are strong. The three tracks released so far ("Sick" and "Another Bed" officially and "Kill it in the Morning" "leaked") certainly are among the best. But personally I rank "Nil" the second best track on the album, just behind "Sick" and just ahead of the scorching "Kill it in the Morning". Surprisingly, while this album sounds great from the first listen, it actually grows on you; on each successive play you discover nuances and layers you missed earlier. A standing ovation for the The Twilight Sad.
"Another Bed", with a somewhat disturbing video:
And the album closer is "Kill it in the Morning", which builds to a white hot finish over its nearly six minute run time.
The album is released today, February 6, on FatCat Records.
Lyrics - James Alexander Graham
Music - Andy MacFarlane
Drums/Programming - Mark Devine
Produced by Andrew Weatherall
Engineering, Mix & Additional Production: Jim Anderson
Twitter ( @thetwilightsad )
UK tour dates (all in February):
9 Thu GLASGOW Grand Ole Opry
10 Fri MANCHESTER Ruby Lounge
11 Sat SHEFFIELD Queens Social Club
12 Sun BIRMINGHAM Hare and Hounds
13 Mon BRISTOL Fleece
14 Tue LONDON Cargo
15 Wed NOTTINGHAM Stealth
16 Thu LEEDS Brudenell Social Club
US tour dates, starting in late February and ending at SXSW in Austin. I have the Seattle date circled on my calendar.
Feb 23 Washington DC – Rock and Roll Hotel
Feb 24 Philadelphia PA – Johnny Brenda’s
Feb 25 Brooklyn NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg
Feb 26 Allston MA – Brighton Music Hall
Feb 28 Montreal QC – Il Motore
Feb 29 Toronto ON – Lee’s Palace
Mar 01 Grand Rapids MI – Pyramid Scheme
Mar 02 Chicago IL – Empty Bottle
Mar 03 Minneapolis MN - 7th Street Entry
Mar 05 San Diego CA – Casbah
Mar 06 Los Angeles CA – The Echo
Mar 07 San Jose CA – The Blank Club
Mar 08 San Francisco CA – The Independent
Mar 10 Seattle WA – Tractor Tavern
Mar 11 Portland OR – Doug Fir Lounge
Mar 14-18 Austin - SXSW
Sunday, February 5, 2012
I feel somewhat embarrassed suggesting that you get to know Plateaus, as I don't know much either. I have discovered that they are from San Diego, and the group's members are listed as Kevin Gist, Chris Rosi, Jon Greene, Elliot Moeller. Their music is a bit garage, a bit surf, and a bit punk. HoZac Records will release their song "Do It For You", soon. Have a listen:
"Beach Coma" was a release on the Art Fag label in 2011:
As was "Suzy":