Stranded In Stereo: October 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

New Amanda Palmer Video for "Oasis" + Interview with Melissa Mahoney

All week long, I've been mightily obsessed with "Oasis," the latest single from Who Killed Amanda Palmer? The album finds Dresden Doll Amanda Palmer showcasing her solo material along with the help of Mr. Ben Folds who took the reins as producer.

What I'm even more obsessed with is the video and it's, dare I say, tongue-in-cheek performance from its cast of characters. Specifically, I'm talking about one Melissa Mahoney, ie, Amanda's "best friend" in the clip. We were lucky enough to chat with Melissa herself this week to discuss the video and the word on the street that she's a tough cookie to work with.

SIS: Who is the real Melissa Mahoney and why is she so unusual?

MM: I am the real Melissa Mahoney. I am so unusual either from listening to She's So Unusual too many times as a child, or because of my in-depth knowledge of abortion clinics.

SIS: Did you have to fight with Amanda to play yourself in the video? I mean the song does talk about you quite a bit.

MM: No, she was looking for me to be in it. I can be hard to track down, but she found me outside a bar in Brooklyn and before I knew it, the cameras were rolling.

SIS: Do you think of yourself as a celebrity now? Do you think this will be the open door to your successful acting and/or singing career?

MM: Well, I haven't been recognized on the street yet... we'll see. If anyone else drags me out of a bar, I guess I'd go along with it. For a video, that is. my only plan for right now is to try to get an autographed photo of Blur to one-up Amanda.

SIS: There were rumors circulating that you are very difficult to work with and have had run-in's with other musicians and celebs who shall remain nameless. What would you like to say to clear you name?

MM: I may or may not be going head-to-head with Elizabeth Hasselbeck on The View to clear up all of these rumors. Don't pay attention to everything you read in Us Weekly.

SIS: What do you think is the message Amanda is trying to convey to her listeners with the song? And does she really like Oasis that much?

MM: I think it's really about what a good friend I am, helping her out with her abortion like that. Even though I did tell everyone at school that she was a crackwhore. It was all in good fun. And who doesn't love them some Britpop!?

See the video for yourself, thank you Pitchfork:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Nada Surf Go Vinyl

Eight hours and a couple hundred of miles away awaits for me my late grandfather's hi-fi stereo system. Included with it's towering speakers and barely used Pioneer six-disc CD changer is a phonograph player. Outside of the stereo my parents owned as a child, I never had my own player of things at 78 speed, but lately it seems that the hipster thing to do is to buy vinyl and vinyl only.

So out comes the news that an all-time favorite and pivotal band in the inclusion of My Formative Years,
Nada Surf, has decided to release their entire catalog on the vinyl format. Limited to 1000 copies and coming in a nice box with a booklet of lyrics and what have you, their current label will unleash the set unto the world on November 25th. It is available for pre-order now, and those who pre-order will also get a link almost immediately to download a set of 16 "rare to find" tracks or something, though I have all of them myself. So, if you're a hard core fan like me, you too will have them, but at least you can have every album on vinyl and their first ever 7" single replicated for you, too.

"Bonus Download Jams I Have Already That You May / May Not Have"

1. End Credits
2. From the Rooftop Down
3. Black and White
4. Spooky
5. Fools
6. Au Fond Du Reve Dore
7. I Wanna Take You Home
8. Everyone's On Tour
9. Meow Meow Lullaby
10. No Quick Fix
11. Silver Lining
12. Where Is My Mind?
13. Born Curious
14. Blue Moon
15. L'Aventurier
16. La Petite Bill Elle Est Malade

Buy: Nada Surf LP Box [here]

Bang! Bang! Eche! at R-Bar 10-22-08

I parked in Hoboken out of habit. It’s something I’d live to regret around 3:00am. It smelled better than I remembered, the Hudson River almost drinkable and that was probably pure nostalgia. China-town still overflows into the Bowery, Little Italy is still gentrifying and that end of the Bowery by the R-Bar is still peppered with kitchen and industrial supply stores. It’s just a few blocks from Joey Ramone Place… right where it belongs. I arrived at the Big Noyes Showcase while Bang! Bang! Eche! tuned up.

The R in R-bar stands for Red. Red is describes a set of colors evoked by light in the wavelength range of roughly 625–740 nm , a frequency of about 480-405 THz. Color perception varies across cultural lines, They always begin with perceptions of darkness and light, but Red is always the first color; and that is enough to see the inside of R-Bar. The lamps and ceiling fixtures cast a thick red light on everything. The stripper poles glowed slightly pink where the chrome gleamed. The pleather padded walls further glowed crimson looking more and more like an asylum as the room filled.

Charlie was already grinding his crotch on the one pole while eating a slice of Lombardi’s Pizza. He would repeat the maneuver later in the evening while playing guitar. Mary-Elizabeth from the Underground Management introduced me to T'Nealle Worsley. “This is Jose. He called you a slut.” They both looked at me. I was probably guilty. Worsley just shrugged and finished a last bite of pizza crust.

Zach was jumping around warming up. His tight black pants squeaked as they crushed his testicles. The sound guy said something unintelligible to the crowd, but audible in the stage monitors. Zach grabbed the mic and said something that sounded like “We are Bang! Bang! Eche! and we gotta play this one fast.” With that they tore into the first song. The operative word here is “tore” as in to pull apart and to destroy, to rend asunder. Josh Burgess stepped back as Zach flung himself across the stage wrapping his throat in mic cord.

They never let off the pressure. The stage was narrow constraining but not stopping Zach. He ran back and forth like a caged dingo tangling mic cord around drum mics, mic stands, tuning pegs and Charlie’s legs. There was no escape. Band members had to untie themselves to trade instruments.

I’ve had their EP for months now but seeing Worsley’s fingers crawling like a spider up and down the neck of her bass reminded me of great basslines of yore: White Zombie- Black Sunshine, Stone Roses - She bangs the drum, Bjork -Army Of Me, Muse- Hysteria. The idea crawled into my head that she already plays like this and she’s only 18 years old. And goddamn doesn’t that make us all feel old and unaccomplished.

They played a couple new songs I’d never head before, then ended with “Finger in the Till.” Josh said “You can turn it up now.” He might have said it to Charlie or to the sound guy or to himself, but then the low end of the synthesizer started vibrating the cartilage in my sternum. My neoprene earplugs were squeaking in my ears. It was an intense sensation, like they were testing the durability of my prostate in a quest for the brown note.

Now, days later, the most striking and enduring detail about Bang! Bang! Eche! is that after that burning 45 minute set, they broke down their amps, wound up their cables, folded their guitar stands, packed up their guitars and carried them across the street to another club, Crash Mansion. They walked onto that stage still glistening with sweat from the last one, and played another set that was if anything; harder, faster and louder than the last. Maybe a dozen of us crossed the street with them, and that second time we just stood in dumb-faced in awe.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Alexis Taylor Rubbed Out

At the beginning of the year, I was all balls to the wall excited for Made In The Dark, the latest album from Hot Chip. And then I kind of forgot about it as quickly as it came. And then, the other week Alexis Taylor of the above mentioned band surprised the world with a solo album. And then I heard it. And then I was assuaged of all fears and my universe was back to where it belongs.

Rubbed Out is for the hardcore HC fan like myself. Rather than focus on the upbeat dance grooves captured live and on singles "Over And Over" and "One Pure Thought", Taylor brings a more melancholy tone that goes back to Hot Chip's rare Mexico EP. The 15 songs sound as hollow as its surroundings - the album was tracked by Taylor in hotels and airports, apparently. "Collector's Item" has a familiar melody buried on an acoustic guitar underneath echo-y vocals, while the instrumental "Fireworks" dissipates like real 4th of July firecrackers. "I'm Juan" finds Taylor delivering his passage overtop tones that sound like he's following the patterns of his Simon game.

But the centerpiece amongst it all is Taylor's rendition of the Paul McCartney classic "Coming Up". Doing a better job than Mark Kozelek at times, Taylor takes McCartney's upbeat pop song from 1980 and turns it in to such a miserable reading that, though the lyrics are still optimistic the song certainly doesn't sound it.

Download Taylor's version below. But before you go there, here's the original:

: "Coming Up" [mp3] // [Buy Here]

The Stranded Q & A: Black ELement

In what’s probably a first for Stranded in Stereo in a while, I bring you an MC. And the man’s not just any basement rapper; he’s steadily gaining all the tools to become a mainstay on the national scene.

I’m talking about Boston-area resident Black ELement.

Black ELement is a part of this first wave of the next generation of rappers to hit the scene. How are these MCs different? Well, the internet and bloggers are almost the sole means of hype-building and promotion.

Accordingly, Black ELement has secured some of the top hip-hop tastemakers' approval. Recently, he was featured on OkayPlayer, a well-respect online hip-hop community that endorsed rappers like Kanye West and Talib Kweli in their earlier days. EL has also been featured on top hip-hop blogs like Nah Right?, 2dopeboyz, and illRoots.

If that wasn’t enough, Black ELement released his debut LP last week, A Major Minority, for free digital download. You can grab that here. (I definitely urge you to download it, as it’s free… and one of the most solid hip-hop albums to land in 2008).

For the hip-hop newcomers or those trying to pinpoint the man’s sound, check it if you’re into the Mos Def/Talib Kweli sound with a 2008 flavor.

But before you do anything, why not chill and read EL’s answers to our weekly five?

Hailing from Boston makes me better than any non-Boston MC because:

My Celtics just won the championship, did yours?

Name at least three bands/MCs that are still around and touring that you'd love to be on a bill with, and think it would fit well:

Mos Def, Talib Kweli and N.E.R.D

Your favorite Boston venue to play is:

Harpers Ferry.

Are there any genres that influence your music conceptually, rather than sonically? (In that you can't hear from simply listening to the music, but from getting into the structure or mathematics of the song-writing, etc.)

I'm very influenced by electro, ambient, and rock just to name a few. I'm very big on songwriting and those forms of music usually bring a lot more to the table then your traditional Hip Hop track. Stickup Kid from the album is a prime example of me and [producer Ryan] Durkin just taking the bounds of Hip Hop, and straight meshing it with electro. I always take influences from other genres, because if you just are stuck listening to the same repetitve stuff their is no room for growth.

Your favorite local bar or club to hit up when not doing the whole band deal is:

The Middle East.

For all our Boston readers, Check Black ELement at Harper's Ferry on November 11 @ 8 PM.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

New Release Tuesday: Crystal Stilts

They played CMJ several times - possibly more than Passion Pit did - yet I didn't get to see Crystal Stilts once. The one time I was in place to see them they didn't go on until well past 4 in the morning, and after sitting through Gang Gang Dance for a third begrudgingly time, I couldn't bare to sit through Ponytail for the second time within five hours.

Phew, now that I got that off of my chest.

Ever since a co-worker mentioned I should check them out, their theme song, "Crystal Stilts," has been taking the lead in my self-poll for best song of this year. But now that
Alight of Night is out this week and been in my possession long enough, I've found other songs that stick out: Brad Hargett's warbled vocal is very reminiscent of some Thurston Moore character we're all familiar with. The difference here is that rather than snarl over difficult to comprehend walls of feedback and catastrophic drums and other non-sense, it's all catchy melodies. "Stilts" the song has this surfer vibe to it, complete with requisite farifsa organ. The closing number, "The City In The Sea," just pulsates over a delicate guitar as Townsend sings of the sea swallowing things whole, tying together a song that could rival "NYC" on so many levels.

They're another band from New York, they're another one amuck in all the buzz, and hopefully they'll be around long enough to make an impact with their future releases.

Download: "Crystal Stilts" [mp3] // [Buy Here]

Monday, October 27, 2008

Band of the Week: The Hundred Days

As if San Francisco hasn’t already contributed some of the world’s best rock bands, we now have The Hundred Days, an indie-alternative group that is starting to blow up around the States. Owl Mag wrote, "Rarely is new rock this sonically arresting,” while Zero Magazine claims that, “The Hundred Days are only beginning what is promising to be a long career.” So, if you appreciate luring harmonies, haunting vocals, and intriguing arrangements, catch The Hundred Days before they start filling up the large stadiums. Their melodies captivate the ear with a certain comforting sadness, while the instruments uplift the listener, creating a blend that you can’t help but be drawn to.

Download: "Fire" [mp3]

Monday Morning Newsletter (10-27-08)

CMJ Wrap up 2008: Rusty, Dany and José have returned to the bosom of the Stranded in Stereo offices. All are alive and in possession of their original number of fingers and toes. The hangovers have worn off, bruises are fading and everything should be at least limping in the right direction this morning. José has the energy to slander, and that makes it all ok.

José found it well-timed this week that Guns n’ Roses drummer Steven Adler, was shaking and sobbing this week on the TV program Celebrity Rehab. Apparently Slash didn’t invite him to play on his upcoming solo LP. Is it real or is it a ploy to help Chinese Democracy?

Rock n’ Roll continued to favor Obama this week. Obama campaign offices in both Richmond and Charlottesville are now selling tickets to Dave Matthews Band and Jay-Z benefits. The Jigga series culminates October 29th in Cleveland, OH.
On a related note, Rolling Stone was kind enough to make a complete list of the artists that have resorted to legal action to stop the McClain Campaign from using their music.
José continues to be wildly amused.

U2’s vocalist Bono will be contributing to the New York Times Op-Ed section in 2009. The Times Editor Andrew Rosenthal recently said the Irish rocker will write at least six pieces for the newspaper uh... Pro bono. José never works pro bono.

It was lost now it’s been found. A life-size wax model of Paul McCartney's head was left on a London-to-Reading train last Thursday. The owner of the head, Joby Carter announced a $4,000 reward on BBC News the following day. By Friday the head was recovered in a dumpster. The head is was originally made in the 1960s and had been in a Beatles display at the Louis Tussauds museum.

Another member of the Grateful Dead is dead. Keyboardist Merl Saunders died Friday at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco of a stroke. He was 74. Durring his career, the jazz and rock keyboardist collaborated with an incredible array of acts including Miles Davis. His most recent release Blues from the Rainforest was in1990, a collaboration with former bandmate Jerry Garcia.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Starfucker at Cakeshop 10-22-08

The prospect of rock before sundown is a strange jubrous expenditure of time indeed. It was Wednesday at Cakeshop. I had a CMJ badge, and I walked it down to the lower east side. For the uninitiate, the L.E.S. is the area South of Houston St., East of China town, and West of Allen St. It's Southern border is unclear.. petering out around East Broadway where no one cares.

Coming up the block I passed a block of Frighteningprospect posters, wheat-pasted to a plywood sidewalk enclosure. There was graffitti on the walls, filth on the pavement and trash on the sidewalk... goddamn I miss this city. On the way up Ludlow St. I passed the crowd outside Pianos. I made a mental note that I need to return for The King Left.

What fine club Cakeshop is. where else can you see some nice refined rock n' roll show and eat tasty snacks? I arrived mid-set. Starfucker was laying down the lo fi keyboard pop and had packed a dark basement out of the reach of the sun. Poughkeepsie station
WVKR had wallpapered the downstairs urinals with their bumper stickers somewhat missing the purpose of sticker placement. I'll award some consolation points for enthusiasm.

Starfucker was my "surprise" band for CMJ. I hadn't really intended to catch them, but they surprised me in their gravitas and their energy. All too often lo-fi also means low-impact, low fiber, and low-milage. Starfucker attacked the crowd, distributing nerd-glasses and their strange brand of man-boy love. Their shameless affection was devoured and rows of ironic ballcaps bobbed bounced and gyrated while new fans gripped fresh copies of Starfuckers
Burning Up pink 7-inch in their sweaty hands. They are undoubtedly the best band ever to be named after an obscure censored Rolling Stones song.

I retreated upstairs to find Stranded in Stereo's assistant editor Rusty Roberts again swarmed in women: leggy blondes, diminutive brunetts with bob haircuts, and a Palinesque milf sporting a naughty-librarian outfit. It's hard to get at his ear for even a moment, there might be a band on stage there might not, but understandably his attention is elsewhere. I had to abandon him there on my way to the next show as we all must. At CMJ, this non-stop week-long festival drives us to move, move, move, stopping only to eat and drink supporting the most minimal needs of our frail physical bodies, and for Rusty, to scrawl yet another phone number on the back of his hand.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Formative Years: Teenbeaters

Some names are redacted to protect the guilty...

I feel inexorably linked to the Teenbeaters; they punctuate the events of my career, my mix tapes, and social life. I look back and they were fucking everywhere connected to me every which way. So when they finally imploded the void was something I felt deeply. So connected, that I’m unable to tell you about them, without telling you about me. I write myself into record reviews often, but I also lie. This time I can’t. So strap in.
Teenbeaters - No One Knows (live) [MP3]

They began in the disintegration of a band name Ours. They were signed to Dreamworks records on the strength of a demo tape named Sour. But their singer, a promising little goth waif named Jimmy Gnecco couldn’t seem to get his record out of limbo and two members Dave Milone and Zam started their own band: Teenbeaters.

My first record internship was at _________ working for Viki _____. Some lady I never met named Lulu was on maternity leave which meant I got her desk. I threw out Lulu’s collection of ketchup packets and met my neighbor Joe ______. Joe was a radio promoter, and a walking pharmacy of OTC drugs for allergies colds and flu. He didn’t sleep and was sick every day. He played the Teenbeaters on the stereo that sat between us. It was their first 4-song EP. One day I sang along and Joe perked up. It validated his own opinion. The Teenbeaters were the shit. I played the song “Two Hits”, on my radio show. I later insisted it be included on the next EP My Sky, My World as well.
Teenbeaters - Up Tonight [MP3]

I went on to work at record labels, and promo companies in New York. I saw the Teenbeaters dozens of times at the Continental, at Brownies, Maxwells, Mercury Lounge, The Knitting Factory… I can’t remember all the places, some were packed some were empty. It was the beginning, but already the songs had become about drugs, whores, and emptiness.

I got hired at The ___________as a radio promoter and was hired to work
My Sky, My World. I booked them a few shows at colleges and at festivals. Jimmy Ascuitto and Kevin McAdams their new guitarist and drummer were spectacular and they’d found their writing stride. But things were also falling apart. They were coming to gigs all bruised and drunk. It was very rock n’ roll but it went bad so quickly. Zam punched Dave in the face at the Knitting Factory, one of the last shows I saw. I asked what that was about. Zam just said “I told him to stop touching me.”
Teenbeaters - I'll See You [MP3]
Teenbeaters - Whores with Disease [MP3]

The new demos were nothing short of brilliant, but no one would get to hear them. After that tour with J. Mascis and Mike Watt it was over. I didn’t see that last fist fight, the big gut-wrenching end-of-everything fight. But I imagine it like that last fight with the girlfriend, the one where you say things that you can’t ever take back, and somebody has to walk home.

Years later, Zam gave me a rehearsal tape he’d been keeping in his car. It had some stuff they’d never released, maybe not even finished. I like to think sometimes that they’re not finished, that time reconciles everything. But, that’s naïve. We accumulate memories like blood stains and are thus marked and burdened forever. Everything new supports the emotional weight of everything that precedes it. Nothing can be new again. The damage is done. The useless ugly truth is that you can never go back.


So the lack of internet at my hotel has really put a damper on me getting to let you all in on what I've seen so far at this year's CMJ Festival.

Tuesday night had easily the highlight and low light between Passion Pit and Jens Lekman. The Pit were on top of their game, best performance yet, delighting the sold out crowd at the Music Hall of Williamsburg at the Brooklyn Vegan party. But afterwards, "Singing DJ" Jens Lekman came out and did the most bizarre DJ set, where he sang along to songs that were not his own. Sadly, I left unimpressed and marched out and on to the Stereogum party where I saw Gang Gang Dance and Ponytail for the third and second times, respectively.

Last night was Wednesday, and Hot Lava tore up a late night 1AM set at the Delancey, showcasing material from their recent Bar None debut, Lavalogy. Before that I was able to catch GBV guitarist Doug Gillard at the Alphabet Lounge, previewing material from his upcoming solo album, Call From Restricted.

Tonight there's Koufax, and there's also Janelle Monae (guilty pleasure? Yeah, sure.)

Oh, and were you at the SIS party last night? Do let us know if you were and if you took and pics or would care to give us an awesome quote or four for an upcoming blog post.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

CMJ 2008!

I was there, where the hell are you?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Band of the Week: Borko

Borko is one of those off the wall musicians that gain fans one by one, either from an incendiary gig or from an excited fan telling their best friends. It's these building blocks that are the keystone to a fervent fanbase, which is why he is already an Icelandic sensation. He mixes electronic loops and primordial bongo beats with more traditional sounds to make music that is wholly unique. Look for this records on German label Morr Music.

Download: "Shoo Ba Ba" [mp3]

Monday Morning Newsletter (10/20/08)

We are almost up to a full Mixtapes-worth of artists who have asked the McCain campaign not to dirty their songs with his wrinkly, formaldehyde stinking touch. This week Jon Bon Jovi demanded that Sarah Palin, to cease the use of his song “Who Says You Can’t Go Home.” Caribou Barbie had no comment.

I aired the rumor weeks ago but now we have confirmation. The Guns N’ Roses album Chinese Democracy will hit stores on Sunday, November 23rd The album will be sold exclusively in Best Buy and iTunes. Axl plans to tour with a band of hired monkeys in support of the album beginning in 2009. José predicts another 10-year delay.

It was a sad day in Motown this week. Levi Stubbs, one of the original members of The Four Tops, died this week. He was 72. Stubbs had stopped performing in 2000 due to his declining health. The Four Tops had a massive, 45 hit singles in their career. Please adjust your death pools, Abdul "Duke" Fakir, the only living original member of the Tops.

My Morning Jacket
has been forced to cancel their upcoming European tour after vocalist Jim James fell offstage last week. In Iowa City, about 30 minutes into their set the intoxicated Mr. James performed a center stage face plant. He was hospitalized and released a day later.

Madonna is back on the market, hide the teenage boys. After seven years of marriage a spokesperson announced that she is calling it quits on Guy Ritchie. The pair is currently negotiating the division of their combined $525 million. José says it’s easier to divide up stocks and bonds than adopted children.

Don Cornelius
, the former host of the TV show "Soul Train," was busted this week. After a neighbor reported a domestic dispute, police were called to his Hollywood Hills home. The 72-year-old producer was arrested on suspicion of felony domestic violence. He was released on $50,000 bail and ordered to appear in court next month.

We had a spectacular on-stage blooper this week on the MTV Latin American Music Awards. Fauxmosexual Katy Perry did a belly flop onto a giant oink multi-tier cake, but had underestimated the slipperiness of frosting. She proceeded to fall on her ass and face repeatedly and eventually crawled off stage on all fours. This all of course distracts from the question: Why is she on the Latin Music awards?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Chinese Democracy is Set

I could really care less, really, but if this involves me getting a Dr. Pepper (why can't it be Mr. Pibb? Tell me you have Mr. Pibb!!?) then I guess it's alright with me.

Best Buy is releasing the oft-delayed, oft-discussed, nay-thought it was actually done
Chinese Democracy by Guns 'n Roses on November 25th, pushed back a whopping two days from the original Sunday, November 23rd bombast. Either way, families can rejoice in this - it will be available just in time to be the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving dinner discussion since it's after the election and all.

This album was started, in theory, in 1994 when I was 10. I am now closing in on a quarter of a century. It's taken Axl Rose three-quarters of my life to make this album. It's going to probably be the biggest let down to a lot of people, but you know what, I'll listen to it just because. I wonder what song will be better, "Riad 'n The Bedovins" or "Prostitute". Decisions, decisions.

Chinese Democracy:
01 Chinese Democracy
02 Scraped
03 Shackler's Revenge
04 Street of Dreams
05 If the World
06 Better
07 This I Love
08 There Was a Time
09 Riad N' the Bedovins
10 Sorry
11 I.R.S.
12 Catcher
13 Madagascar
14 Prostitute

CMJ 2k8 Preview: Pale Young Gentlemen

A band with a distinct indie-rock meets Baroque sound, Pale Young Gentlemen write songs that are pleasant to listen to but contain an underlying, unidentifiable haunting tone. Beauty has hardly been put into a rock song better than through their tunes, which use cellos, violins, harp, guitar and even xylophone. The Yellow Stereo calls them “one of the best indie bands around, and one that definitely deserves more attention.” Their smart orchestrations and clever lyrics have been compared to the likes of Coldplay and Andrew Bird, yet their sound remains uniquely their own. The cinematic quality of the music will keep you listening for more, and as Ear Farm states, “Black Forest is an album that gets stronger as it progresses and with repeated listens.”

Download: "The Crook of My Good Arm" [mp3]

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

New Passion Pit Video: "Sleepyhead"

Passion Pit released their debut EP, Chunk of Change, I find myself listening to it constantly. And every time I put it on, I find a new favorite song, a new number to just play on repeat for days. First it was "Better Things," then it was "I've Got Your Number," and now it's "Sleepyhead". Adding to this ever lasting repeat playing is the band's first ever music video for said "Sleepyhead," which is way more mechanically advanced than I am. And then you get Michael Angelakos' hands and feet and head trapped in cubes spinning around. It's more like dizzyhead rather than sleepyhead by the time it's over, and I am fine with that.

Catch the P-Pit as I like to call them next week at CMJ if you are going to be in New York:
10.21 New York, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg (Brooklyn Vegan)
10.23 New York, NY @ Fader Lounge
10.23 New York, NY @ Annex (Club NME)
10.24 New York, NY @ Piano's (Planetary Skewer)
10.25 New York, NY @ The Yard

Download: "Sleepyhead" [mp3] // [Buy Here]

The Stranded Q & A : Three Day Threshold

I may have said it a few times by now, but bands sure are resourceful these days. They know how to get by doing more than the traditional “band things.”

That’s how Three Day Threshold does it. The band is well established in not only New England, but also overseas. This December, the band is heading to Europe for their sixth European tour. The tour will take them to Belgium and The Netherlands, where they’ll be playing an “inmates only date” at a prison in Mechelen, Belgium.

They've also been selected in the past to tour US military bases abroad to entertain the troops.

The band gets love in the US too, especially on TV. The band has had songs featured on shows on MTV, FOX, Spike TV, ESPN, The Oxygen Network, and Lifetime.

And… they’ve got plans for a new CD soon titled, Lost in Belgium, featuring live songs from their tours overseas.

They sure stay busy.

So if you want to learn the keys to being a successful band, have fun, and make good music, check out the five questions with Three Day Threshold's Kier Byrnes.

Hailing from Boston makes us better than all those non-Boston bands because:

We can parallel park the “tour van” in spots that out-of-towners wouldn’t even dream of attempting. This is a skill that one can only master by participating in repeated searches for that ever elusive parking spot while cruising up and down the roadways of Allston and Somerville at three thirty in the morning.

Name at least three bands that are still around and touring that you’d love to be on a bill with, and think it fits well:

Nationally: Cake, Reverend Horton Heat and Modest Mouse.
Locally: Hayride!, Cassavettes and Autumn Hollow

Your favorite Boston venue to perform in is:

The Paradise (main room)
Atwood’s Tavern
Matt Murphy’s.

Are there any genres that influence your music conceptually, rather than sonically? (In that you can’t hear from simply listening to the music, but from getting into the structure or mathematics of the song-writing, etc.)

I was heavily influenced by Led Zeppelin and Cream. I wanted to replicate what they did; taking elements of old blues songs and rewriting them to make them rock. That’s what I hope to do with old folk, country and Celtic tunes in my music.

Your favorite local bar to hit up when not doing the whole band deal is:

Plough and Stars (they got the best Cuban sandwiches in town!)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


After a string of US dates earlier this year in support of their solid debut Wicked Man's Rest, /PASSENGER are returning to the states next week for a handful of shows on the east coast. This includes a number of dates in NYC around some CMJ fest that you know I'll be at. Outside of their two CMJ shows, the UK hitmakers will be playing with David Ford to round out this trip. I know I'll be sure to see them, so maybe you should, too?

Catch them if you can:
10.22 New York, NY @ Crash Mansion [BMI Showcase/CMJ]
10.23 New York, NY @ Webster Hall [Bring on the Brits/CMJ]
10.24 Atlanta, GA @ Vinyl
10.26 Philadelphia, PA @ World Cafe Live
10.27 Annapolis, MD @ Ram's Head Live
10.28 New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
10.29 New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
10.30 Boston, MA @ Middle East

Download: "Do What You Like" [mp3] // [Buy Here]

Monday, October 13, 2008

Band of the Week: Hjaltalín

Hjaltalin are Iceland's newest about-to-be export, a band that has already been nominated for five Icelandic Music Awards, going on to win "Best Songwriter" and "Brightest Hope." Pretty awesome for a young band, eh? They are made up of eight members, playing the traditional guitar, bass and drums as well as piano, accordion, clarinet, cello, bassoon and violin the compliment the vocals. Their debut album, Sleepdrunk Seasons, came out last December in their native country and just hit the rest of Europe this week.

Download: "Traffic Music" [mp3]

Monday Morning Newsletter (10/13/08)

Politics continue to figure prominently on the music stage. Art Alexakis of Everclear has been performing the song “Jesus Was A Democrat” at recent shows. The song is now available as a free download at the band’s site.

After a whole three weeks of not offending musicians, another band is complaining about John McCain's use of their music. This time, it's the Foo Fighters. The rockers sent out a missive telling the GOP presidential candidate to stop using the song "My Hero." Dave Grohl was quoted as saying "To have it appropriated without our knowledge and used in a manner that perverts the original sentiment of the lyric just tarnishes the song."

The Supersuckers are scheduled to play a 20th anniversary show on November 29th. Members
of Pearl Jam, Green River and Mudhoney, will join the Supersuckers at the Showbox Theater in Seattle. To mark the occasion Supersuckers are also releasing a new album, titled Get It Together.

Under the name, Hot Little Pony, emo pioneers Far have lined up two LA shows and a handful of UK shows. to boot. Today the highly influential rock group released a video contest and a steamy new single that covers mid-90s R&B sensation, Ginuwine.

Lil' Kim is being been again. Brookland Media, a label that claims the Rapper did not fulfill their recording contract. The suit is asking for $2.5 million, owing to the labels previous expenditure of over 100,000 dollars the uncompleted project. Jose says any label that spends money on an imaginary album deserves to lose money.

At the Detroit Red Wings game, Def Leppard's Joe Elliott committed the highest faux pas in hockey. At the end of a performance at the Fox Theater in Detroit, Elliot marched across the stage holding the Stanley Cup aloft, then deposited it on it’s pedestal upside down. The Motor City recoiled in horror.

Alton Ellis died this week at the age of 70. The reggae legend has been iconic for generations of rocksteady fans for his classic material in the 1960s and 1970s. his first band The Flames had several hits in the 1950s, but in recent years a revival of the genre in Europe has had him performing again. His kids Noel and Christopher Ellis continue to make their own way as much less iconic reggae singers.

Readers in the UK may have seen Meat Loaf at the Q Awards last week wobbly and staggering around the podium. Jose assumed he was drunk. The Loaf spent 3 days in the hospital for "testing and evaluation" for an undisclosed ailment. He went directly to the ER after experiencing vertigo at the Q Awards. More information as the story unfolds. You rocked in Fight Club dude.

Friday, October 10, 2008

SIS at CMJ 2008!

It's finally here. The bands and the venue have been confirmed. The stage has been set. Most importantly, I will be there. All the more reason for you to attend SIS @ CMJ 2K8 style! Eight bands will rock your ass off for six hours on Wednesday, October 22nd beginning at 8PM at Rehab. Yes, it's where we have our usual monthly club night, but this isn't just our monthly club night, it's the end all be all of nights. And the best line-up we have ever through together. You don't believe me? Here is the line up, see for yourself and see you there!

The Real Ones [8:00 PM]
Five childhood friends from Bergen, Norway have banded up to create the Real Ones. Using different vocals, guitars, drums, a mandolin, banjo, violin and sitar, they create a sound that is recognizably psychedelic with some inspiration from African, Indian, and Chinese folk music. Three-way harmonies provide cute narration for stories about seasons.

The Boat People [8:45 PM]
Described in their hometown of Brisbane, Australia as the masters of perfectly unconventional pop bands, The Boat People have shared the stage with The Shins, David Byrne, Midlake and Idlewild. Aus legends Crowded House are where most comparisons are drawn, but The Boat People stand out with their intellectual pop of smart lyrics and sophisticated musicianship. Chandeliers, their sophomore album, was released in Australia this summer and the band releases the album abroad this fall.

Emmy The Great [9:30 PM]
Just how close can a floundering relationship come to unplanned permanence, and what is the last dice role in its interminable power struggle? We Almost Had A Baby is the delicately beguiling new single from Emmy The Great, the collaborative work of Emma-Lee Moss and Euan Hinshelwood of the band Younghusband. Baby It also proves indicative of the savage observations and stark admissions that comprise their forthcoming debut album. Cloaked in arrangements of disarming simplicity, Emmy The Great’s First Love is set for release in January.

Pale Young Gentlemen [10:15 PM]
Pale Young Gentlemen includes four young gents and a lady. The pop-rock sound is carried by melodies on the piano, cello, and harp. Although guitars and drums are also used, their songs are only based on basic rock elements--they experiment and play with those standards to create a fresh sound with energetic vocals.

Bamboo Shoots [11:00 PM]
Bamboo Shoots is a dance-rock band described as being "earthy" and unlike other bands of the genre. An explanation for the kind of warmth you might get from listening to them is their inspiration from South Asian/Indian music. Their music isn't the kind of cheesy music you have to dance to in clubs--it's assertive, energetic, and hard to get out of your head.

Go! Motion [11:45 PM]
Nebraska isn't known as a great producer of dance-rock bands, but Go! Motion is looking to change that reputation. Its self-released debut CD, 'Kill the Love,' owes an obvious debt to the '80s guitar-driven dance music from bands like Duran Duran and Oingo Boingo, putting the group in the company of modern artists Interpol and Franz Ferdinand.

Simon Says No! [12:30 AM]
While Norway may not be ground zero for many music scenes, there seems to be something pretty special going on there, which is apparent with the emergence of Simon Says No! This is a band that knows their strengths, things which they know how to get the most out of. Their raw sound recalls the glory days of Seattle grunge and the spirit of '77 in London, but the band is nuanced enough to flesh things out with a fuzziness that wouldn't seem out of place at a Slowdive or My Bloody Valentine gig.

The Hundred Days [1:15 AM]
The Hundred Days are only beginning what is shaping up to be a long career, so this could be your chance to see them live before you’re waiting in line having to buy over priced tickets from a scalper. The Owl Mag claims that it’s rare that new rock is so sonically arresting, while Performer states “"The bottom line is The Hundred Days write great songs and leave you wanting more."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Waves on Waves are Making Waves

How a queer-led retro band can work ... with two straight dudes
by Chris Azzopardi
Originally printed 10/2/2008 (Issue 1640 - Between The Lines News)

Kevin Thornton makes a mad dash across Mack Avenue, through some drizzle, to a pub across the street from the dinky hole-in-the-wall bar he and his band will jam at. Save for what he dug up in the band's cooler - some snacks and sandwiches - he's a hungry fellow. Which makes it hard to believe that when he reaches a corner pub, he's scarfing down two salads. And he's not even a vegetarian.

Thornton, the gay lead singer of retro Nashville-based band Waves on Waves (which also includes drummer Enoch Porch and bassist Luke Aaron Jones), hurriedly downs a glass of wine, chatting in between bites. His voice competes with the blues music overhead as he says, "I guess I'm giving kind of boring answers. You want me to spice it up a little bit?"

Add more "cock" talk, he insists. But who needs that with juice this yummy: "Enoch is a very physical person. He has no problem with jumping on top of you and pretending like he's fucking the shit out of you."

And he's hetero?

"They usually think I'm the straight one," says Thornton, who's 35, doesn't look it and, when he's told that, grabs the recorder sitting on the table, holds it to his mouth and mimics: "He wouldn't have guessed that."

Even though he dons a pink drag-queeny hat made of feathers on the cover of their self-titled album, we can see how people could get confused: Porch is an ueber-friendly straight guy that some might call bi-curious (and, later, he doesn't deny dry-humping his bandmates) and Jones, who rolls his own cigs after sound check, often leans to the side with his hand on his hip. Both of them have been known to stick their penises out the window. Which isn't so gay - but good to know.

Thornton likes to tack "man" to the end of his tres chill statements ("That's all an act; I do drag on the weekends," he jokes). And though gay stereotypes sometimes lead to misjudgment, the Madonna muscle shirt he's wearing during their 40-minute set at The Village Idiot in Detroit is like watching a rainbow come to fruition.

"I like HGTV," he 'fesses. "I love that sorta thing. But I mean, I dunno - I know this is probably an overly-said thing, but my sexuality doesn't define me in any way. It shouldn't for anyone. I mean, I know my mannerisms aren't stereotypical. I don't know. I just like not being stereotypical in everything. With that being said, if someone fits every stereotype, that's fine, too, I guess. Like, whatever. I don't care. But that's just not me."

Not a 'gay' band

Thornton's head is tilted back, a euphoric look paints his face - he's singing with his emotive, elastic-y voice and playing the keyboard on "We Want 2," which boasts a chorus as catchy as gum to the bottom of a shoe. Passersby trickle in. Which surely elates them - but the band is humble whether they're playing for hundreds or one: "Hello Detroit! Are you ready to rock?" Thornton shouted in front of just a few fans before they launched their gig, which is part of a whirlwind tour that'll take them back to Michigan for several upcoming shows.

He moves around on his stool, bringing his leg into his chest and grinding against the seat. But however Thornton positions himself, he looks comfy, like he's been doing this for longer than you'd think. And he has been.

Waves on Waves formed 10 years ago, when the guys used to have house-jams while all attending school in Northern Indiana. To focus on the group, Thornton quit his dinner theater job - "a big cheesefest" - where he made a living as an actor. But it wasn't until 2004, with gay-undertone-heavy "Had a Sword," that the trio received some underground recognition. Now they've got a publicist, a label agreement that gives them creative control - and, still, enough flamboyancy to make Boy George jealous.

"We're not a gay band," Thornton says. And to classify them as such would be like saying that Fall Out Boy is a gay band because they're not the macho dudes of, say, Rolling Stones. Even with a queer lead singer, their retro music doesn't cater specifically to any audience - though "We Want 2" was written with the gay movement in mind - and the lyrics are written to appeal to everyone, and their grandmas.

"I write from a really subconscious place, a lot of times. I don't even know what I'm talking about right away," he says. "I like to speak in universal language. I think, especially with the kind of music we're playing, the more universal I feel like, the better job I'm doing - that people can hear it and kind of apply their own meaning to it, opposed to, 'When I was 10 in Tennessee ...'"

"Had a Sword" addressed growing up in a conservative Christian household and how it clashed with him being gay. But the new wave songs on their chill-out latest exhibit a fond adoration for rock visionaries of the mid-'80s, like Tears for Fears and Morrissey - and, to honor Prince, an obsession with the number "2."

But as much as Thornton can't let go of the '80s, he's still got fond memories of the last decade, when he says he was most boy crazy: "For me, in the '90s, I was like coming of age and figuring out who I was and going to gay bars. All of that music in that time period that I heard, that's not necessarily music that I would like," he admits, breaking into La Bouche's 1995 single "Be My Lover." "But because it was such a part of that time of my life, I like it, because it reminds me of a time in my life when I was figuring it out."

WTF: Animal Collective Name New LP Merriweather Post Pavilion

You know, one would think that I'd be stoked or something when a band names their album after a venue I frequented quite a few times in my teen years. Approximately 70 minutes from my hometown, outside of our nation's capital lies the city of Columbia, MD. It's known for one thing and one thing only, I believe: the Merriweather Post Pavilion. I've seen four shows there since high school (Metallica, 1999; Pearl Jam, 2000; Weezer, 2002; Radiohead, 2003) and to be honest, it's not my favorite place to see bands though I have had some memorable times there.

I like your traditional outdoor sheds and amplitheatres, but let me tell you this: if you are at a sold out show and in the lawn, like I was on Labor Day 2000 for my first ever Pearl Jam show, you can't see shit. If you're down too far on the grassy hill, you can't see over anyone who are under the pavilion to see anyone on stage. There is one screen out there, and that's on top of said pavilion as well so it sucks. I have had some good moments there: it was the last time I saw Weezer and it was during the great Enlightenment Tour where Rivers Cuomo had a set list generator and that night in question found them playing almost the entirety of Pinkerton. It was the first time I saw Radiohead, and will never forget the bass cutting through me when they opened with "The Gloaming," or when Stephen Malkmus, who opened up for the 'head, played "Old Jerry" at my request (or at least I'd like to think it was because 19 year old me kept yelling for it between every song. I did yell thank you after it was over.) And maybe more importantly, it was that summer between freshmen and sophomore year when the camera man at the Metallica show focused in on some girl who would flash the entire crowd. It was not awkward being with my best friend and my parents, no not at all.

So, a few days ago I heard reports that Animal Collective, of nearby Baltimore, Maryland, have a new album coming out in January. It apparently is going to be called, you guessed it, Merriweather Post Pavilion. Why? I do not know. The real question is, why am I so bothered by it? Maybe it's beacuse I've never really gotten in to, or given in to all the hype and overrated talk of Avery Tare and whoever else is in the band. Yes, Panda Bear's Person Pitch made my Top 30 albums list last year on the basis that "Bros" was an immaculate 12 minute jam. Does this mean I should like Animal Collective? No. When I frequent message boards and Pitchfork reviews and other blogs, and they talk about the opus that is Strawberry Jam, I just don't get it. I don't get the craze, I don't understand it at all. What is so good about them? Most importantly, the Pavilion is not a place you'll really be able to rave out and dance around like their fans probably do. It's a nice secluded wooded area off of Route 29, y'know? To me, they're like The Smiths or Morrissey in how people fawn over them. Ask my best friend from college about my Morrissey impression, and how I sing such droll bullshit to the tune of "Panic."

So, yeah. Dear Animal Collective: don't ruin my childhood. Don't take your Alpha Hipster Status and apply it to a place my Dad saw James Taylor at and I would've seen Lollapalooza at in 2004 if they didn't cancel the whole tour due to poor ticket sales. I want to remember it for those few good moments in my life, seeing someone wearing a Kids in the Hall shirt and seeing three-quarters of Sonic Youth for the first time. Let me give you another name for your next record: how about Big Fucking Deal because everyone thinks you are one, and I say "Animal Collective? Big fucking deal!" and mean it as in "Oh, the show is sold out and I can't get a ticket? Big fucking deal, I'll survive." It's not like it's a live album, or they've played there, or they ever will. I guess I shouldn't complain so much, it could be a lot worse. They could've called it 9:30 Club or The Ottobar.

At any rate, I leave you with this. If one of my favorite bands, say The Dandy Warhols, use their word play and ended up naming their next album The Dandy Warhols Invade Merriweather Post Pavilion, I still wouldn't like it. It's like the separation of church and state, there needs to be a distinction between band and venue on studio albums. If it's a live record, sure, I'll accept it for what it is as some contract-fulfilling money pit. But if you're making a studio album, let's be more creative shall we?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Minus the Bear go Acoustic on .... Acoustics

It was just about a year ago that the BFF and I were on the way back from that They Might Be Giants show at the 9:30 Club and he put on Planet of Ice. For years, friends of mine in college were all about Minus The Bear and I just looked them over, obsessing more over Pollard and Pixies reunions when everyone was playing Menos el Oso. Immediately, my ears are locked on to his speakers as we jaunt across streets named for states and interstates that bring about stories and tales of speeding tickets and impending traffic court meetings. The music is brilliant and like nothing I had heard in awhile. From the programmed loops of "Knights" to the epic finale "Lotus", which is the greatest Pink Floyd song ever, I was finally being converted to a fan. And here I was obsessing over a man who could drink himself under the table.

Off the heels of last year's
Ice, the band is turning to the internets and their upcoming tour to sell the upcoming EP, Acoustics. Of the seven songs, one is new ("Guns & Ammo") and the other six are takes on MTB classics. "Knights" takes a six string in place of that catchy loop and adds in licks of piano underneath for good measure while "We Are Not A Football Team" becomes 70s AM Gold that your parents would love.

The Bear is currently on the road, and
Acoustics is out now.

Download: "Guns & Ammo" [mp3] // [Buy Here]

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Can't Stop Spinning: Hercules and Love Affair by Hercules and Love Affair

Mike Archibald checks in with the record he finds himself having on repeat lately...

Hercules and Love Affair made a call to polyester this past March with the release of their new self-titled album. The album is crammed full of tracks destined to make you move your body. Hercules and Love Affair is led by DJ Andy Butler, who tries to bring his own flair for disco to the modern electronic world.

This album is comprised of many classic disco techniques that are the root of much of the electronic scene today. One song in particular, “Hercules Theme” screams South Beach; the track very well could have been placed in club scenes of Scarface. The beat is a tandem of drums and electronic bass that walks its way through the song, carried by a woozy female vocalist and a simple string arrangement that is reminiscent of Saturday Night Fever. It also features a flurry of horns paired with synth.

The opening cut off the album, “Time Will,” is very passionate and refined disco. Where “Hercules Theme” may be fun and lively, but “Time Will” is relaxing and more subdued. The track has lots of synth and an electronic foundation, but it is controlled by a very soulful vocalist. It might also be the catchiest song on the album, because of the track’s simple lyrics and its whispery melody. The beat still trots on this track as well, making it another example of how infectiously dancey this album is.

The album’s best track might be “You Belong,” with a beat that’s busy with bells and buzzing warps which keep a listener occupied and thoroughly entertained. The female vocalist on the song tames the beat with her gentle voice but still keeps the song alive and vibrant with style. This song is a must play on all upcoming DJ and party gigs you might be having in the coming months.

The album starts off with a ravaging bang but as time wends its way through, the listener’s interest slowly fizzles out. Perhaps it was too much disco for me to handle in one 52 minute block of music, but Hercules and Love Affair certainly felt top heavy. I felt the album was overall exceptionally fun and enjoyable, but the later cuts on the album just didn’t withstand the test of attention. Listening to tracks on Hercules and Love Affair as singles rather than as a whole album makes it more enjoyable. This album also has spectacular Byzantine-style artwork that made me want to purchase it in vinyl purely for a piece of domestic aesthetic.

I wouldn’t consider myself by any means a real disco fan but the Hercules and Love Affair was a fun flashback. This album has the ability to be influential for electronic artists as an example of new genres to sample from. Hercules and Love Affair is a very accurate replication of standard disco, new techniques are used to create those classic sounds for an album that may not reinvent the wheel, but one that is still enjoyable nonetheless.

Buy: Hercules and Love Affair [Here]

Monday, October 6, 2008

Band of the Week: Shrag

Brighton is slowly gaining on Leeds as the best place for new music in England. The band Shrag takes the early '90s DIY punk thing and updates it for the future. They might be all too familiar to some, but it's the unique personality of the band that makes them stand out. If you've ever wondered what Bis would sound like if they were all riot-grrl and hailed from Seattle, this may very well be it. The band's debut album will be out on January 18th, so make sure you check it out as I'm sure it will be one of the first great albums 2009 has to offer.

Download: "Hopelessly Wasted" [mp3]