Thursday, December 31, 2009

Animal Collective - Not What You Think

I'm not going to sit here and blab on about the brilliance of Animal Collective's 2009 masterpiece, Merriweather Post Pavilion. Does it deserve top ten lists? Yes. Is it a transformation from AC's obscure alien sounds into funky electronic pop glory? Yes. Is "My Girls" one of the best songs of the year? Yes. And even though the album didn't make my top 10, it still probably makes my top 20.

But what I'm here to rave about is an old AC gem (and by old, I mean, like, 2007 or 2008... sooooo old in blog years).

"Fireworks" is a companion to creepy late night running. I put this song on last night, and I was transported South four hours, back in time a couple years, and into the supreme happiness you feel when you rediscover something that really resonated with you before that you've since forgotten.

What I really enjoy about Strawberry Jam is the way the creepy noises throughout make you feel like aliens are constantly flogging you. You are getting burped at. There is shouting and lewd, uncouth gargling. You feel slightly claustrophobic, worried that any moment something bizarre and inexplicable will jump out from the song and freakin' weird you out. And for some reason, there's something so comforting about how uncomfortable the music makes you feel.

"Fireworks" does all that and more. At almost 7 minutes, it packs in a lot of strange oddities, but also maintains a rather tuneful chorus and this kind of constant chugging rhythm that beautifully frames the tribal, otherworldly feel. When in need of a distraction (and I often am, while running on my treadmill in the dead of winter), this song will provide it. Spastic "woo woo" vocals, asymmetrical rhythms perfectly conducive to finger tapping, lyrics that bizarrely speak of warm cereal and ugly pores - it all culminates into an epic adventure into an alternate universe. For 7 minutes, I don't quite feel human. And sometimes - let's face it - life's just better when you don't feel human.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

#1 Album of 2009

Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Phoenix deserves the recent Grammy nomination and the worldwide recognition it’s getting for crafting 40 minutes of near-perfect ear candy for the synth-loving generation. On Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, the Parisians reveal how to transform ‘80s cheese into an album of spunky pop effervescence and experimental wonder.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Japandroids – Post-Nothing

My love for this album is as vapid and shallow as its lyrics, which are passionate odes to lust and reckless young behavior. The loud, lo-fi debut, a messy mastery by two dudes from Vancouver, is ferociously alive with rollicking drum fills, biting guitar licks, and unison shouting.

Monday, December 21, 2009


St. Vincent – Actor

On Annie Clark’s second album under the St. Vincent moniker, her angelic voice haunts and her cinematic orchestra recalls romantic French cinema. Then she pulverizes all that beauty with ferociously angry synths and irregular chord progressions, twisting Actor into one of the most thrilling, startling rides of the year.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest

Songs on Veckatimest build on 2006’s critically acclaimed Yellow House, adding a fourth dimension with layered vocals, hints of dreamlike ambient guitar, and swelling choruses. “Two Weeks” finds the four-member band at its best; frontman Ed Droste’s voice floats over bright, sparkling piano like a honey-sweet Jens Lekman.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You

Seriously: how often do you find a band that writes utterly sincere music, masters the spirit of Appalachian punk and folky balladry, and gets Rick Rubin to produce an absolutely flawless tribute to love? Once. Get your hands on this album.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Dan Auerbach – Keep it Hid

He’s no Barry White, but The Black Keys’ guitarist takes sexy to a new level on a solo album full of blues-ridden rock and soulful crooning, where the slow churning ballads are as hot as the barnburners.

WAIT, pause.

Not to be a shameless hipster jerk or anything... but I just finally put some headphones on my ears and blasted some Dirty Projectors on my iPod, and let's just say it was magical. I have been trying to avoid this conclusion for several months now, but it's inevitable. I'm a prick, and I enjoy really stereotypically indie bands.

I have known this for about 4 months now, though:

"Knotty Pine" by David Byrne + Dirty Projectors is my favorite song of the year.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Metric – Fantasies
Metric Music International

Emily Haines continues her rein as hottest frontwoman of the decade. As she wails atop skittering drums and hooky electronics, your legs are prone to cramping from all the uncontrollable dancing you’ll be doing.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


White Rabbits – It’s Frightening

If the members of Spoon had a musical baby, it would sound a lot like White Rabbits. Boasting tribal dual drumming, spastic keyboard plunking, and scratchy, indier-than-though vocal stylings, It’s Frightening is a blast of hipster greatness.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Bowerbirds – Upper Air
Dead Oceans

Months of my summer were devoted to Upper Air. I woke up to the delicate piano of “Northern Lights”, fell asleep to the harp-like finger picking on “Crooked Lust,” and spent countless hours in between telling all my friends about the spacious, natural beauty this North Carolina duo captured.

Monday, December 14, 2009


M. Ward – Hold Time

Embarrassing secret: I was so stuck on the timeless energy of M. Ward’s latest masterpiece that, while listening to his Buddy Holly cover, it took me five listens before I realized he was not crooning “when you say I love you, I say Ray Vaughn.” It was “Rave On.” (Though I think a tribute to Vaughn would have been quite nice, as well.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ten Days of Top Albums

It's like the 12 days of Christmas, but better! It's the ten days in which I count down my ten favorite albums of 2009. The list will be featured in its entirety in the Cleveland Scene, but I wanted to... you know... give you guys some suspense, and uh, blog candy for the next week or so.

I'll just give you a two sentence summary of each album, unless I feel like getting extravagant. But I'm feeling extra short and snippy lately, so relish in the fact that you can be lazy and only need to read small amounts to learn about the greatest music of all time (of this year, at least).

Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

P.S. Can you tell from my picture that I cannot contain my excitement?!
P.P.S. Can you tell from my picture that I cannot contain my hair?!
P.P.P.S. Can you tell from my picture that I have not re-decorated my room since the 5th grade?! Butterflies, thrilling!!

Rooney @ the Beachland Ballroom: 12/10

The guys in Rooney must have had guilty consciences while writing most the songs off their 2003 self-titled debut album. Titles like “I’m a Terrible Person” and proclamations like “sorry for making your life a living hell” lead us to believe that the five-piece crew wasn’t all that innocent. But all that bumming around never kept Rooney from playing hooky, danceable pop songs.

Today, they’re still feeding off the same energy. And the same songs. With a set list fueled mostly by hits from their first album (and a few others from 2007’s Calling the World and a new EP), last night’s crowd stepped back five years in time.

Lead vocalist Robert Schwartzman and guitarist Taylor Locke perfected the cocky mic stand straddle, ripping bombastic guitar trills that sounded a lot grimier than the candy-coated production heard on their albums. Fan favorites like “Daisy Duke” and “Sorry Sorry” had girls drunkenly flailing their arms in the air like dying seals trying to reach land. Shout-along choruses and a big, anthemic resonance rippled through the ballroom as Rooney embraced the joy of simplistic pop songs.

Yet if you looked a bit closer, red flags went up. Bassist Matthew Winter was already sleeping from the moment he stonily walked onstage. Schwartzman didn’t even pretend to put an ounce of effort into his performance. Locke was smiling at other members of the band, telling some kind of secrets that the audience wasn’t allowed to get. Hell, half the band could have been playing from sidestage, and nobody would have noticed.

You could say that the structure of a Rooney song is comparable to going through the motions. Short verse, repetitive chorus, guitar solo, repetitive chorus. But at least the songs have some heart. And last night, that’s exactly what Rooney was missing.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Holiday Bears/Thai Restaurants 12/23

Comedian Eugene Mirman jokes on his latest album that Detroit has become so desolate that bears are invading the city, inhabiting warehouses and opening Thai restaurants. The last thing our town needs is another misfortune to be teased about – we’ve already got the Browns. So Cleveland’s Bears instead make sunny pop music. In the spirit of the season, the retro 60s band plans to throw its upbeat harmonies and effervescent keyboard plunking into a few non-traditional Christmas songs to mix up their set for this year’s Yulesville Pre-Holiday Bash. The warm tones that radiate from Bears’ swoon-worthy vocals and subtle handclaps help you forget that they’re singing about, oh yeah, December in Cleveland. It’s almost guaranteed that all their talk about dolphins and sweet, sweet love will feel like the start of Christmas vacation. (That is, if you expect to be spending your days off in California.) The Beachland is opening the ballroom and the tavern to make the most of the merry music-making occasion, which will feature other local faves like Modern Electric, Mystery of Two, and Unsparing Sea. The show starts at 9 pm at the Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124). Tickets: $7.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

All the Girlies Say

The Offspring: you made it REALLY, REALLY cool for us to make fun of white guys. And I will forever be thankful for that. And probably more thankful to Weird Al for creating “Pretty Fly For a Rabbi.” I don’t know if you have to be Jewish to understand this song fully. I’m gonna guess: no.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Getting Nerdy with Pharrell

Earlier this year, I went on a rampage where I listened to a song by N.E.R.D. about 15 times a day. I took a dance class, my teacher played it during warm-ups a few times, and I was soon hooked beyond belief. I've always though Pharrell Williams was something of a genius. But this song ultimately proves it. “She Wants to Move.”

He incorporates sick, wiry bass into the background. He includes dogs barking. The lyrics are perverted and really embarrassing, like a stale pick-up line. The lyrics are that guy in the bar who is too drunk, and talking an inch away from your face when you are still sickly sober. You know, the one who is so drunk that he has to ask you your name and where you’re from twice before you get the idea that now is the right time to walk away and NEVER turn back.

It’s also the kind of song that makes you shake your hips like there is no tomorrow. You are the only girl/guy fly enough to satisfy everyone’s wildest dreams. Because, for some reason, this song transforms you into the hottest thing since Michelle Obama on her wedding day. (Not that I’ve seen pictures, or want to imagine the president of my country having sex.)

The rest of NERD’s songs are eh, kinda slow, pretty good, decent, whatever. This song owns them. This song owns most other songs in the world. I’m talking to you, Adam Lambert. I don’t care how many girls’ crotches you grab on live TV. I don’t care how many dudes you coerce into making out with you on stage. This song is better than you, and Williams doesn’t even need eyeliner.

NERD - She Wants to Move

Monday, November 30, 2009

Casually Encountering a Feature

I'm writing a feature on this local Cleveland band. And they rock.

Casual Encounters, folks. You heard it here first.

Gaga For Crazy Future Cat Ladies

Another thing: I don't claim to like Lady Gaga. But I'm into this song, and totally loving that she stole the Alexander McQueen alien shoes and incorporated them into her freakish circus show.


It's Me, Miley.

Back to popular music.

There are things in popular media today that I have found deep interest in. Well, let's not call it deep. But Miley Cyrus' "Party in the U.S.A." is awesomely bad and I want that 16-year-old girl's legs. Ok? Maybe I'll just go to Wal-Mart and buy some of her clothes and look young and stupid again. This song is the best thing I've heard by a girl who doesn't write her own music in a long time. She sounds like she's 20. I don't know how to compliment her because I don't think she's particularly talented. I guess I'll give the credit to the writers: Lukasz Gottwald, Claude Kelly and Jessica Cornish.

Miley Cyrus - Party in the U.S.A.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Never Be as Cool as You

The Thermals: You make it cool to be reckless. When I listen to you, I want to drink so much I pass out. Nobody has ever made getting high sound so damn fun. And your attitude is just plain badass. You know why? You aren’t trying to be all “hello, we are the representation of punk rock and we are badass kids.” You’re just, “hey dudes, let’s be young and drunk and stupid, and let’s have a hell of a time in the process.”

“We were high, we were alive, we were sick.” Some of my favorite dumb lyrics ever. It reminds me of all the kids at ACRN that I used to look up to. I never really could be that reckless or cool, but I know for a fact that you were. You would spend your last $10 on PBR, even if the only other thing in your fridge was ketchup. I SAW THAT HAPPEN, people. I felt cool by association. I was eating fresh fruit, and these kids were sweet enough to survive on alcoholism!

I never quite got the whole alcoholism thing down.

Beside the whole image/we don’t give a shit attitude thing, The Thermals make good music. (Wouldn’t it be funny if I didn’t elaborate and just called the music, “good”?) There are excellent punk riffs, half-yelled/half-sung lyrics, and really clever, basic chord progressions that sound simple enough for a drunken asshole to play. The feedback on “When We Were Alive” is so extreme at :52 that I used to think I was about to get hit by a car. It’s at the weirdest frequency. Did you know this when you recorded it?

“Yeah we were fools. But I still had my friends.” Damn straight.

And there’s the whole thing about how their albums are “concept albums.” I never really saw them for their depth and “concept usage,” but apparently this is the case as well.

All I know is that I love it to death, and I want to be young forever.


This post is a few days late due to bad internet connection. But I'm doing this thing where I try to embrace music I wouldn't normally allow into my eardrums.

Now, Christmas music... I don't think I'll ever get to a point where any form of merry seasonal music will pass into my body without giving me violent urges and inducing mad eye rolling. I'm sorry, ok? I'M SORRY. I'M A GRINCH. A SCROOGE.

But that's really beside the point. What this post represents is a general curiosity with all things foreign to my interest. Today, for example. My little, "gangster-thug/Top 40/whiny-boy-band/diva" loving sister (that is how I dub her, and she will never be able to reject that label because she doesn't read my fantabulous indie-rific blog, ha! nor does my cousin know about this side of me. tonight, she told me that whenever she and her roommate saw hipsters on the Upper East Side (yes, folks, that's Gossip Girl NYC territory we're talking about) she chuckles 'why don't they just go back to Brooklyn?'. ahem. i am friends with brooklyn people. at least i'd like to be. especially langhorne slim. and eugene mirman.)

Anyway, my sister. She likes horrifyingly embarrassing music. T-Pain regularly makes it onto her playlist. She enjoys, I dunno, Kelly Clarkson. She listens to songs where hoarse men croak about the cocaine. It's, frankly, an embarrassment to the family. I mean, who wants a sister who self-admittedly embraces the life of a down-and-out bling-wearing rapper who brags about his magnificent life in the ghetto? (Note to all: We are spoiled white girls who grew up in a suburb where the racial make-up was 3/4 white (usually Italian and Russian) and 1/4 Asian. Perhaps I exaggerate about the Asians. I had/have a LOT of awesome Asian friends.)

Ok, back to my sister. We were cooking all afternoon with my mother on this lovely Thanksgiving. Nicole saw fit to blast some blatantly inappropriate music. Cooking with mom is a good time for some CSN. Maybe Fleet Foxes. Paul Simon if you're feeling extra dangerous. She gets utterly stressed out when the volume goes above 5. Seriously. She had a slight panic attack about the sweet potatoes, until I pointed out that she was only freaking out about the obscenely loud Lil' Wayne song my sister was blasting. She nodded and chuckled. I turned down the music, and the sweet potatoes lived to a good ripe age. Until we ate them all.

I do, however, try my best to learn about popular music when my sister is home. I say, 'Nicole, educate me.' Yet, the funny thing is (and I don't know if this applies to all young children with questionable taste in Top 40 music or just her) she never really knows artists' names. I did manage, however, to extract tiny particles of information today. We were listening to Beyonce's "Diva."

ADMITTEDLY, that is a great song. Nicole, I give it up to you.

The next several posts will be dedications to embracing music I would normally brush aside.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009

May 27, 2007

An entry I just found from my old blog, which was mostly personal. But even then, music seeped in:

so let me just talk about regina spektor for a second. she makes these crazy sounds out of her mouth like she's an angel one moment and then she can just scream things and they sound just as cool. when i see her this summer, i might have to get on my knees while witnessing her incredibleness. she is just too cool. i want to be a regina spektor. i will just be regina for a day and i will walk around and just sing to people on the street and walk around and whip out a keyboard and start banging on it. and then i will dance up a storm because i'm just so awesome. and the world will be so good just then.

"people are just people like you"

that's true. i think sometimes we lose sight of that. like me, for instance. i'm losing sight of the fact that regina is just a person, just like me. she's just a person who is damn good at making music.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Atlas Sound - Logos

I dedicate this blog post to my good friend Evan, who opened my eyes to Atlas Sound. I do not think I would have spent one second of my time listening to this project, which is an insanely good one by Bradford Cox of Deerhunter. Cox loves music, and he is all over the spectrum, making it with gusto. Noise, dreamy atmospherics, clean 60s pop, and the list goes on.

I don't think I'm really qualified to give a full review of the album, considering I've never heard other Atlas Sound recordings, and I don't even own a full Deerhunter album. (Which one should I get, guys?) I will, however, rant about the things about Logos that I love.

The first time I heard this album was on a bike ride near my grandmother's house. I nearly fell off my bike when I heard "Walkabout." You see, I recognized the song he loops in the background. It's by the Dovers, an unknown band from the 60s that should NEVER have been unknown. I put this band on the level of the Byrds and the Beach Boys and every other 60s surf/psychedelic/pop group that I love. (Read a hostile fan's rant about why they should have been famous on their fake myspace.) Anyway, the Dover's song, "What Am I Gonna Do" is pure sunshine and golden retrievers. Cox makes it into a dreamlike utopia of perfect harmony. I could cry when I hear it with all it's strange electronic blips that make it weirder and alien-like. When I say I could cry, I should specify. I mean a good cry, like the kind you have after you have a dream that you are madly in love with someone. You can't see their face. And then you wake up alone. But, I mean, it's a happy/sad cry!

Another song that almost kills me is "Sheila," and I'm not saying that just because the lyrics entail some sort of "marriage-proposal/suicide-pact" (according to Rolling Stone mag). It is just a fine ass pop song. If I was still a DJ, I might subject my listeners to a half hour of this song on repeat. Just because it's that good! You hear this hooky three-chord beginning with simple vocals and guitars and lyrics like "we will grow old/and when we die we'll bury ourselves." Then the bridge comes - "cuz no one wants to die alone." And it gets all spooky, in a totally non-Halloween way. In a tragic love story kind of way. I want to dance, I want to curl up in the fetal position, I want to shout the lyrics from the top of my house, I want to hug my dog. This song makes me want to do something, I just don't know what it is. The conflicting message and the amazing musical structure confuse me, in such a good way.

And the rest of the album floats together in a way that strangely connects all the oddities and specialness into a bundle of marshmallow. Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier and Panda Bear both add vocals. There are creepy things going on throughout. "My halo burned a hold in the sky. My halo burned a hole in the ground." What do those lyrics mean? I have no idea, but I dig them. I like the echoey reverb throughout, and the alien-ified vocals on "Kid Klimax." I like how sometimes it sounds like the album is raining, and sometimes you feel the sun shining through. I just can't describe the many things you feel when you listen to Logos because it's too much. And too much analyzing would ruin the beauty I think.

What do you guys think about this album?

Atlas Sound - Sheila

Buy the album here.

Half Price Shopping

Apparently the Half Price Book Store near my house also sells Half Price records. This was recently brought to my attention.

Two days ago, I had what I would like to call a VERY SUCCESSFUL shopping spree.

Mint condition pressings of Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run and Fleetwood Mac's Rumours.
Greatest hits collections of The Byrds, The Four Tops, and (fine, I admit this purchase) Cat Stevens.

$22. Unbeatable?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Blakroc - S/T

Let’s be honest: when the Black Keys echo through a big set of speakers, hip-hop is the farthest thing from your mind. Their soulful rock has helped defined the sound of the modern blues. Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach capitalize on the framework of rock and roll. Their fierce rhythms and wildly unrestrained, rip-roaring guitars are timeless. That’s because the Keys stick with what works, whether it be straight whisky or a solid blues chord. The new collaboration between the Akron duo and 11 hip-hop and R&B artists – called BlakRoc – may come as a surprise to casual listeners. Yet Carney says he and Auerbach have been huge hip-hop fans since they started making music. For 11 days, the two shared a studio with some of their heroes – RZA, Mos Def, Q-Tip, Ludacris, Nicole Wray, and Raekwon, among others. Instead of taking the driver’s seat, they let the MCs front the show. The eerie reverb of the Keys’ blues creeps through the spaces between Wray’s lamenting howls and Raekwon’s smart prose. It’s fun to hear Ludacris and ‘Ol Dirty Bastard rap about what they know best on “Coochie,” especially when fuzzy guitar and exploding horns resonate behind them. This is the rap-rock record Lil’ Wayne has been promising us for a year, but it sounds like this crew had a lot more fun.

BlakRoc - Stay Off the F%^&$# Flowers (ft. Raekwon)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009

Teach Me Your Ways

Yeah, a private guitar lesson with Aaron Dessner of The National sounds like a pretty rad idea.

Q TV also has lessons with Vampire Weekend, Tegan & Sara, and Sondre Lerche here. But Dessner's definitely the coolest.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Matthew Perryman Jones, Ingrid Michaelson - Live Review

Singer-songwriters tend to be the bane of any rock critic’s existence. We are bored of hearing about their petty little romance problems. We cannot bear another note of simple, unoriginal guitar strumming. And we hate, let’s emphasize hate, getting stuck behind mushy couples making out all over the place. It’s pretty much the least cool way to spend a Saturday night.

But there are always exceptions, and if Bob Dylan isn’t coming to the local venue and Elliott Smith (RIP) isn’t coming back to life, we just have to hope that some true talent still exists. Matthew Perryman Jones and Ingrid Michaelson proved that it does to a sold-out show at the Beachland Ballroom on Halloween Eve. Fans didn’t want to miss a great show – or holiday – so they came dressed up and ready to hear some deeply meditative songs.

A few songs into his set, Jones pointed to the crowd, asking a fan “Are you Waldo?” “Yes,” the guy responded, to which Jones replied, “Found you! Dude, you are being way too obvious.” What wasn’t so clear is Jones’ style. The Nashville-based artist has said that he loves melodramatic love songs, but his voice doesn’t come off as overly sentimental. He balanced his tenor somewhere between rugged and smooth, between strong and overbearing, and between pop and country. Instead of sticking with one genre, Jones fills in the holes that link several together.

Fans screamed when he covered Patty Griffin’s “Top of the World,” and cracked up when he stopped a song in the middle to help the rhythmically-challenged crowd clap along with “When It Falls Apart.”

The fun didn’t end when Jones left the stage. Michaelson integrated candy throwing, singing contests (one half of the crowd was dubbed “stallions” and the other “hairy mammoths”), audience choreography, and sarcastic storytelling into her set of bouncy love/ex-love songs. Accompanied by a 5-piece band, the spitfire sang her heart out, her voice dipping and twisting at all the right times during songs like “The Hat” and “Be Ok.”

She improvised a new song on her keyboard, playing with one of the tootsie rolls she hadn’t yet thrown into the crowd. It was moments like this, the utterly spontaneous and spunky, that set Michaelson apart from some of her dull singer-songwriter counterparts.

While group sing-a-longs brought a piece of childhood into her live show, Michaelson also joked about four year olds smoking pot and got the girls in her band together to chant a ladies anthem under the moniker “Vag Force.”

We may be too old for trick-or-treating, but rock critics and fans alike are never too old for some good old-fashioned fun.

New Beach House

I need to listen to the whole thing. I am doing that as I type this. But I'm just going to throw this out there:


Holy crap, I'm so excited about this. Creaky organs, analog recording, ghostly harmonies, warming sensibilities... Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand have done it again! They are geniuses! I bow at their feet.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Standard Email

This is a normal Wednesday afternoon email, now.

I want to invite you to check out ...


[insert band information here]

Let me know if you'd like to go.

[insert publicist name and company here]

Cleveland, you would be cool if you had young people who liked music who were my friends. Thankyoubye.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Read It and Weep

Wow. I mean, WOW. I'm loving the comment section on the following article, although I don't know how I feel about someone calling all indie music dull. DOOD, listen to Japandroids. There's a kickdrum and an amp for you, alright.

Check this out, folks.

Sure, I'll Name Drop

Need sleep, but quick post on: my ignorance.

I listen to a lot of music, like, all the time, and I still cannot get to everything I want to spend time with. It's kind of sad. Information overload! Death of privacy! We are in the future!

I never really found time to go through the "pioneers of indie rock." Or whatever. You know, those bands that everyone loves, but I just brush off daily. Pavement? Eh, just noise. Yo La Tengo? Too busy for me. But a friend finally made me a great, fantastic mix of those bands and more. (Yes, I'll name drop - New Order, Slowdive, The Chameleons.) And all I can say is that I'm regretting being an ignorant person. It's like waking up one morning and realizing you've never even tried Cheerios.

I mean, Cheerios are like the basic building blocks of cereals! And Sonic Youth and The Replacements are like the founders of college rock! I vow to repent for my sins and make up for my bad deeds by listening to music that I've missed. (I got the classic rock thing from my dad, and I got the indie rock of today, now I just have to work on the stuff in the middle. Care to help me? What do I NEED to hear?)

The Replacements - Left of the Dial

Drummer - Live Review

In Jancee Dunn’s memoir, But Enough About Me, the Rolling Stone writer gives all kinds of advice on interviewing celebrities. When bands are acting too cool to answer her questions, she usually pays attention to the one member of the band who is often overlooked — the drummer.

Dunn explains: “[H]is other bandmates, particularly the heretofore-mute sunglasses-wearing lead singer, will at first be confused, then annoyed. Finally, their competitive spirit will take over, and they will enthusiastically jockey for attention, offering amusing anecdotes about groupies and telling off-color jokes.”

So what happens when you put together a band with dudes who have all spent time behind the kit? That was an experiment Patrick Carney wanted to try out when his Black Keys bandmate, Dan Auerbach, reserved some time to tour behind his solo album.

Steve Clements of Houseguest and Six Parts Seven, Ghostman & Sandman’s Greg Boyd, and Jon Finley and Jamie Stillman from Party of Helicopters (all local bands, by the way) joined Carney onstage at the Beachland Ballroom Saturday night. And all the guys were ready to march to the beat of a different, um, drummer.

Boyd stuck with percussion duties, while Clements played keys/synths, Stillman took his turn on guitar and Carney kept it steady on the bass. Finley had a blast playing “frontman,” chatting up the audience about his love for Cleveland sports and his positive hopes for (ugh) the next day’s Browns game. The set stopped for five minutes after the first song, after Clements realized he was missing a cable. Stillman filled the silence with his rendition of Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.,” while Finley poked fun.

When the music started back up, it was underwhelming. “Good Golly” was as good as it got. Most of the tunes were as forgettable as a Matthew McConaughey flick. For all the supposed drumming cred, you’d expect some sick drum solos or team drumming. Yet the rhythm was as dull as the generic songwriting. If nothing else, it was a nice chance for talented Ohio musicians to team up. And it probably beats a band of “mute sunglasses-wearing” lead singers, right?

Drummer - Feel Good Together

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Heaven Forgotten

I heard a song earlier this year that really caught my attention through its quiet, creeping ability. I listened to it obsessively, and then left it alone until I saw that NPR just recorded a Patrick Watson concert and posted it on its blog.

I always get disappointed when people talk about Patrick Wolf. I get briefly excited, thinking, Oh! maybe that's the Patrick W. guy that I love! But I don't think anyone knows about Patrick Watson. They should.

He reminds me of my friend Adam Torres, the way his voice is so delicate and pensive and the way he picks at his guitar ever-so-sweetly. That said, you should all be fans of Adam Torres. His first (and only, so far) album, Nostra Nova, is one of my favorites ever. More about Adam later.

Listen to Patrick Watson. Just close your eyes, and put on a pair of headphones, and listen deeply. Isn't there a special quality there?

Patrick Watson - Man Like You

Friday, October 23, 2009

Chris Isaak - Wicked Game

There are times when songs chase you. They find a way to hauntingly come into your life, and pursue your brain. Sometimes this is the case with a song that you heard many, many years ago, but you never gave a second thought.

I was listening to the local college station, WJCU, (where I DJed this summer) the other day. A song came on, and I knew I had heard it before, long ago. I had a feeling it was played at a pivotal moment in The Family Man, one of my all time favorite movies. What this movie lacks in creativity and originality, it makes up for in heart. And the way this song is placed in a heartbreaking scene, smack dab in the middle of the movie, it is significant and makes a special mark.

I watched the movie last night, by myself, utterly alone. And as always, I cried. I always cry when I see it. I dare you not to cry.

After the movie was over, I looked up the song, found it, and played it on repeat for the rest of the night. It haunts, and it's so depressingly romantic, and the noodling guitar has this western feel that I don't think would be out of place in a movie like Natural Born Killers, where the plotting murderers travel the country with some kind of sexy, weirdo attitude.

Chris Isaak - Wicked Game

Today, I was picking up a prescription, and SURPRISE, "Wicked Game" played through the quiet speakers of CVS. Reminding me that the song might not be a special, unknown treasure, but that it probably haunts many others as well. It has an odd way of infiltrating the ears, and leaves a special feeling of emptiness.

My dad says it's a sexy song. I guess. All I know is I've probably heard it 25 times in two days, and I'm not even close to sick of it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

St. Vincent - Live Review

If Annie Clark of St. Vincent applied the same philosophy she uses for songwriting to painting, she would be splattering blood and guts on a Monet. Last night’s set at the Beachland Ballroom began with “The Strangers,” the same track that opens her latest record, Actor. Her ethereal voice echoed through the ballroom, and meandering flute and violin set the scene with a calm beauty. But sure enough, Clark covered that beauty with grime, attacking her guitar with a viciousness that felt exhilaratingly wrong, especially when you consider the context.

Daniel Hart warmed the room up with his violin, Evan Smith alternated between flute, keys, and sax, Anthony LeMarca sped things up on the drums, and William Flynn held the show together on bass. All eyes were on Clark (and everyone was taking a million pictures; she’s a knockout), but the solid musicianship of these four backing members is essential.

Clark remarked that last time they were in Cleveland, they played to ten people in the connecting tavern. Since then, Actor has (rightfully) fueled a great deal of success. On “Save Me From What I Want,” the Brooklynite experimented with jazzy, bouncy guitar, and mixed lyrics like “I think I love you, I think I’m mad” with delightfully messy distortion on “Actor Out of Work.”

The crowd was completely silent between cheers and applause. Jaws were dropping. And you could practically hear the sound of 100 men’s hearts beating as Clark crooned “Marry Me,” one of the night’s vocal-centric songs. When she sang the line “Oh John, let’s do what Mary and Joseph did… without the kid,” the crowd erupted into applause, and she politely responded, “Thank you for getting the joke” before finishing the song.

St. Vincent is proof that music probably shouldn’t follow a formula. Sometimes spooky and sweet are best when combined. Sometimes calm waves require grimy dirt to keep things interesting. If this is true, Annie Clark is the queen of juxtaposition.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Swell Season - Strict Joy

What was quite possibly the best music movie of 2008 blew our minds with a great storyline and better tunes. (And, no, we’re not talking about Mamma Mia.) Once transformed the Frames frontman Glen Hansard and little-known Czech singer and pianist Markéta Irglová into a power duo capable of capturing the purest kind of raw emotion. After winning the Oscar for Best Original Song for their striking duet, “Falling Slowly,” they had some big shoes to fill. Both musicians continue to contribute their contrasting styles to the latest album, Strict Joy, with help from five longtime collaborators. The airy vulnerability of Irglová’s performance nicely complements the intense catharsis of Hansard’s ragged wail. While “Fantasy Man” gently glides by with entrancing melodies and lilting violin, “Feeling the Pull” showcases Hansard’s more aggressive side. Sadly, nothing has as much bite as scorchers on the Once soundtrack like, “When Your Mind’s Made Up,” which could make you shake from the visceral passion. Strict Joy tries to make up for this with gorgeous ballads. It’s just a shame it doesn’t have an entrancing movie to accompany the recording process this time around.


I am experiencing music overload.

I discovered Jolie Holland. She has one beauty of a voice. Her concert at Stuart's made me cry for 3 songs straight.

I rediscovered Radiohead's In Rainbows. Perfect for reminiscing about my rapid rate of music consumption in Athens, Ohio that escapes me in Cleveland, Ohio.

I still cannot move past Dan Auerbach. He just gets it.

And Japandroids still make me feel alive.

I will go more in depth later. My life is spiraling past control, and tomorrow will be occupied by swooning over St. Vincent at the Beachland and Wednesday will be occupied by swooning over Langhorne Slim at the Grog. I will continue on nights of 4 hours of sleep, and barely function during the day and live for the night.

I can't stay awake, but I don't remember how to sleep.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Take One for the Team

Sometimes songs get stuck in your head, and you loathe yourself for it. I no longer listen to much radio with music anymore (what a sad condition when all FM signals suck, but NPR, FTW!), so I can't say I have the Black-Eyed Peas in my head or Lady Gaga in my head. Cuz let's face it. That would be an utter lie. I have, however, been hearing a lot of Eddie Vedder in my head lately. (Serious sidenote: "The Fixer" slays me, and don't deny that it has the same effect on you. IT DOES.)

But sometimes, when songs get stuck in your head, you want them to be there. Like, over and over. Sometimes, when a particular song strikes the right chord with me (no pun intended), I keep hitting the back button on my iPod to hear it over and over and over. My count gets all messed up, and I have some kind of infectious disease that causes interdependence to a certain 3 minutes of music.

It happened to me accidentally this summer. The problem this time, though, extends longer than one season. I have found a song that I enjoy so much that it keeps re-appearing in my life. It's like a bad friend that keeps ditching me for cooler friends, but then finds it absolutely necessary to call and redeem his/herself every few weeks - JUST so I don't think he/she/it is a bad person.

OK OK! I forgive you for being a crappy friend, or an infectious song, or.... ughhh I don't know. I've lost sight of what I'm talking about.

One For the Team - Best Supporting Actress

This band comes from Minneapolis, and the lead singer has an awesome blog that found its way into my google reader. They took seemingly simple chords and structures, and then exploded them with a ton of sugar. You will learn all the words by heart because a) they are easy, and b) you feel like you can relate to them, even if they have nothing to do with you. The electric guitar seems to jump out of the song. It's not just ordinary electric guitar; they make it sound like a nice electric guitar. It is offstandish and non-confrontational and quite pretty, instead of implying violence or power or evil male domination. And the innocence of the vocal harmonies has the same effect; one of pure, alluring aptitude.

Summary: download this song, check out this band, and revel in the whole song-stuck-in-your-head-for-months thing. I challenge you to find me a better song right now. Can you?


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Best of the Worst, Gag Me.

"It’s actually probably in the best, most cohesive shape it’s been in in 10 years."

-Sean Ross, radio consultant for Edison Research, commenting on Top 40 radio

Best? Cohesive? Really?

Should those be the descriptors of a format that makes me want to puke up the past 22 years of my life? Should those be the descriptors of a format so bad that even people who listen to it think it's awful? Should those be the descriptors of a format so terrible that it makes me embarrassed to claim that I like listening to music?

Check out this facinating article on Top 40 music.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Left home alone for an entire day, I thought of nothing better than to escape the house on my bicycle. I have to ride through all this suburban traffic muck before I get to a good park with a bike path, so I braved the bad drivers trying to run me over, uneven sidewalks the city can't afford to fix, and unruly cold air that flew right up my sweatpants that I had to cuff to prevent them from snagging on my bike gears.

I listened to Matthew Perryman Jones for the majority of the ride, and his mix of hopeful, beautiful, and expansive songs made the ride quite peaceful. It was like getting a full dose of older U2, with Explosions in the Sky as the opening act. Really, it accompanied my journey through the changing leaves exquisitely well.

As usual, I made an idiot of myself. I rode for an hour before realizing - huh, it might be a good idea to turn back and go home now. I always manage to go downhill on the way there. So, yeah, I was freezing, deathly tired, and riding uphill against the wind home. Sorry MPJ, you do not cut it in dire situations where I need serious motivations to make it home alive. I wanted something cutting, to the bone. Something that I could listen to with a grimace on my face on the long and ridiculously dumb journey home.

THE WRENS. "Faster Gun."

That song could kill a lion and still have enough ammo left to get me home. So, ladies and gents, I made it back alive. And I decided to post my very first MIXTAPE on this here blog.

It is a dedication to the bloody, the wounded, and the violent. Because sometimes you just need a (theoretical) gun or two (or knife, blade, or sword) to get you home.

I present you with: Blood, Gore & Guns.

Find your new favorite mix cd here.

p.s. any suggestions on how to get mediafire to let me allow you to download this as a full album, rather than individual songs? i am open to ideas! and new at this!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Japandroids - Live Review

When you see a group of twenty-somethings walking around together in hoodies and hearing aids, it’s a tip off. They probably spent the night watching Japandroids’ brand of vicious, loud garage rock. Amps bigger than human bodies took up more of the majority of the stage, backing Vancouver’s tightest new rock band.

Though Japandroids only has two members – guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse – it still blew the crowd away with a raw, unrelentless energy. Prowse was the Energizer bunny, and King had no trouble keeping up. The two musicians move like one well-oiled machine, intimately sensitive to each other's every move. With a small nod from King, Prowse picked up his sticks, moving between time signatures with ease.

A seamless transition between “Crazy/Forever” and “Sovereignty” showed the crowd that the pair could bring their debut album, Post-Nothing, to life with the same sense of immediacy as the recording. As King spastically whipped his head around and ripped away on his bright red guitar, it took serious control keep from convulsively jerking your own body back and forth.

The band played a majority of the songs off Post-Nothing, including crowd favorites “Young Hearts Spark Fire” and “Heart Sweats,” a propulsive song about a girl whose “heart is cold as ice… I should know I’ve been to the North Pole.” But King explained a few songs into the set that they were incorporating new songs to keep the show interesting. “Don’t worry,” he assured the crowd, “our lyrics are really fucking easy. You can sing along after 30 seconds.”

Japandroids are smart, despite vapid lyrics and the occasional shallow desire. They combine melodic, movable guitar lines with heavy drums full of cymbals and sudden blasts. The vocals always repeat, not only the same words, but the same notes. Read as: great for shouting along, even if you can't sing. And boy did the crowd shout.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Love, On the Rocks

Listening to Jens Lekman is like taking a placebo for love. You are submerged into this bubbly world where every kiss is remembered like your first and you would "never kiss anyone that doesn't burn [you] like the sun." It's like popping a hit of romantic into your cd player; the notes come out colored like roses.

I don't remember ever listening intently to Jens while being in a happy relationship, and maybe that's how it should be. He serves as a nice replacement for the late night walks you won't be having, the sweet kisses you won't be sharing, and the kind words you'll go without hearing. The music wraps itself around you, wooing you with it's melodic perfection and lyrical odes to love (goshdarnit, even the breakup songs are called "I'm Leaving You Because I Don't Love You.")

Sitting here with my dog cuddled next to me and and my Jens on my iPod is keeping me perfectly satisfied. Well, almost.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Langhorne Slim, You Control Me

Sean Scolnick always had dreams of moving to New York City to become a famous singer, and he figured a good nickname was the first step. The Langhorne, PA native adopted the name of his hometown to set himself apart from all the other John Smiths at open mic nights in the big city. And the label stuck, even though he now plays and tours with a band. With Malachi DeLorenzo on drums, Jeff Ratner on bass, and the band’s newest addition, David Moore, on keyboard, Langhorne Slim is a full-fledged folk rock band. The four of them are ready to introduce the fierce folk rock of Slim’s latest album to live crowds. Be Set Free is littered with Scolnick’s deeply personal lyrics and usual lush soundscape of intricate finger picking and ass-shaking country jigs. But what he’s really excited about is the big picture. “These guys are really badass players onto themselves, and they bring in their own style. Their parts make the songs our own through each one of us making it individually our own. It becomes a collective thing.”

Monday, October 5, 2009

Preview of What's to Come...

I spoke with Sean Scolnick, i.e. Langhorne Slim, tonight. Podcast will be up in a while...

For now: he recommended a comedy album. I haven't purchased the album, but I checked out the myspace, and this is a MUST-HEAR prank call.

Click here and listen to "Ditchweed." Be prepared to laugh so hard that people come downstairs and ask you what's going on. It just happened to me.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Ten out of Tenn - Live Review

So I promised I'd give some feedback on this show I saw Friday night. Let's start by stating this fact:

1. I am a NERD. I brought my parents to this concert with me.

Which is justified by this second fact:

2. This music is SO UNIVERSALLY GOOD that I like it, my fifty-something parents like it, and I think my 6-month-old cousin would like it. (Ok, disclaimer: I don't know if my little cousin has good taste in music yet. I hope they fed it Led Zeppelin in the womb or something.)

Back to the show. If you read my preview (the previous post), you will get some background on these people. They are super talented, really down to earth, and - let's face it - I couldn't wipe that stupid grin off my face Friday night. How sweet is it that 10 people can continually rotate instruments and vocals to create a comprehensive performance full of rock, folk, country, electronica, and psychedelia?


a) When we found out that Jedd Hughes has been touring with Keith Urban, and then he ripped into the hardest rock 'n roll guitar solo I've heard in years. That man can shred, and I think it's a redeeming quality that he's not just Keith Urban's bitch. Thank goodness for that.

b) When Kyle Andrews played "Sushi," the most kickass song of the night and my hips couldn't keep from shakin' to the synths. Oh, and the rest of the band kept screaming out "Whooooooo!!" at intervals which made me feel like someone was finishing a marathon or something.

c) When the band came into the audience for an encore, and Joy Williams handed me a tambourine to shake around. I don't know if I'm really a pro percussionist, but I think I did alright. And they sang "Everything's Gonna Be Alright." (Is that Bob Marley's or Al Green's originally? Anyone know?) It was one of those grassroots feeling shows where you are completely and utterly absorbed in the performance and the music. LOVE that.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ten out of Tenn - The Best Nashvillians!

The last time the Ten Out of Tenn tour stopped in Cleveland, it wasn't pretty.

"We came through in the wintertime," says singer-songwriter K.S. Rhoads. "We weren't playing, but we just stopped for the day. One of the water mains broke downtown. We got to the hotel, and they didn't even tell us that there was no water anywhere downtown. The restaurants couldn't serve food because there wasn't any water. It was pretty crazy. So we just sat in the hotel room, got giant bottles of Maker's Mark and big ol' bottles of wine and played Mafia."

If it sounds like a PG-13 version of a family vacation, that's because Ten out of Tenn is just that — a summer camp for musicians, a traveling band, a family of Nashville artists sharing a tour bus and months of their lives.

Read the rest here at the Cleveland Scene.

(p.s. I saw their Cleveland show last night. BLEW MY MIND. More about that later...)

Perfect Description

Daytrotter pins the very essence of Langhorne Slim, back in 2006.

"The band brings themselves to you in a continual state of sousing - with beer, sweat, the kind of body odor that women are still drawn to, cigarette smoke, adulation and a healthy cut of the heavy stuff that's rubbed deep into their fiber. They seem to come from where nights have no expiration and the moon provides the lamplight for mischief and smoldering heart and mind situations."

October 21st cannot come soon enough. I've waited too long to see them.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Radio Passion

My wildest dreams include working in public radio. (I know, sounds glamorous, eh?) Listening to Terry Gross' Fresh Air, I had a moment. Her guest of the day, a fascinating author, just began crying on air before reading an excerpt from one of his writings. To bring out that much feeling and so much REAL life in an interview amazes me. Oh goodness. These are my dreams, people.

Two Things I Love

Paste Magazine and the Avett Brothers:

"Having conquered every Saturday night music hall and holler between Asheville and Portland, they have made a record that is not just a stab at the mainstream—it’s a harpoon through its sternum. This is not at all a bad thing." -Bart Blasengame's take on the new Avett Brothers for Paste

Air - Love 2

Never has a band’s name fit its sound better than Air, the French electro-pop duo whose music floats effortlessly with sparse arrangements and breathy vocals. Jean-Benoit Dunckel and Nicolas Godin recorded Love 2 in their brand new studio with intentions of capturing more energy and on-the-go composition than ever before. And jump to life it does, with the psychedelic, sparkling chimes of “Sing Sang Sung,” and the wiggling guitar lines of “African Velvet.” The most daring tune, “Be a Bee,” transforms Air into a new beast entirely, with upbeat drum patterns, smart riffage, and croaking robot vocals. Not satisfied with an album of background music, the duo experiments with bumblebee-like walls of sound, chug-a-chug drums, and smatterings of analog keyboards. Most of the album is a sweet ode to women, as the title alludes. “So Light is Her Footfall” claims “she is an angel,” while “Tropical Disease” lets climbing piano scales and glockenspiel work as their very own professions of love. Fans of Air will embrace Love 2 as a great record of soaring love tunes, just in time for the fall breeze. New listeners will have a nice introduction to an evolving band with an always-soothing sound.

Loney Dear/Asobi Seksu, 10/11

In his personal blog, Emil Svanängen compares his relationship with music to others’ relationships with god. The multi-instrumentalist and mastermind of Loney Dear is a self-depricating Swede who says music makes him feel small whenever he thinks about its infinite possibilities. For a guy who made his first few albums in his parents’ basement or other home recording set-ups, his “smallness” has taken him far. Sub Pop released Loney, Noir in 2007, Polyvinyl released Dear John in January, and Svanängen has been touring stateside and abroad for several years with his four band members. His layered pop is packaged into sweet melodies, with chiming bells, sprightly synths, and tender vocals. Loney Dear shares the bill with Asobi Seksu and Anna Ternheim, a beautiful smoky-voiced chanteuse who recently won the Swedish equivalent of a Grammy for Best Newcomer. Asobi Seksu (colloquial Japanese for "casual sex”) will take the show to a wilder level with it’s self-described “psychedelic trance pop.” Vocalist Yuki Chikudate sings in a mix of Japanese and English with crashing cymbals and shoegaze guitars backing her wild yelps. The show starts at 10 p.m. at the Grog Shop.

Comment Nation

I really enjoy reading people's comments on bands, albums, and life in general. People make darn fools out of themselves all day long and I can't help but enjoy laughing at their ridiculousness. I think I'll start collecting some good ones.

Today, comments a new psychedelic band featured on called Amazing Baby.

I totally love this band, they’re sort of like the new backstreet boys for me. I used to like pop, but now i only listen to underground music by true artists. -Scott

Its people like Scott who used to like boybands and now like amazing baby that ruin indie music, its clear amazing baby is just another band that relies on their look to sell, that labels are cramming down our throats. THEY ARE TERRIBLE! -Jeff

I would say that the assertion that these guys are somehow rich kids who got a big record deal or that they are riding the coat tails of MGMT is false. Don’t pay any attention to that noise. That may go down in other places, but not in Brooklyn. Weak lamb get devoured by the lion in the concrete jungle the strong stand and rumble the weak fold and crumble, it’s the land of trouble. They’re just talented musicians making interesting, tripped out acid rock and you haters are jealous. -Cast

Hearty laughs.

Monday, September 28, 2009

MUTEMATH - Live Review

There comes a day for any music fan when shitty little clubs and small acoustic shows get a little redundant, no matter how great the bands. Sure, there’s great intensity in a good local rock show, and probably at least a handful of captivating tunes. But given the choice, a performance by U2 or Springsteen is probably going to trump whatever indie band is hitting the circuit that week.

MUTEMATH aspires to be one of those huge bands, despite its short 6-year tenure. When they stepped on to the stage of the House of Blues shortly after 9 Saturday night, yelps and whoops from the crowd signaled an understanding: this was going to be a show to remember. The band set the stage ablaze when it launched into “The Nerve,” one of the newest tunes off Armistice. Strobe lights pulsed with each drum hit as lead vocalist Paul Meany bounced around stage repeatedly crooning, “set it on fire,” keytar in hand. The Raconteurs came to mind when the simple-but-catchy guitar riff of “Backfire” rushed into a squealing solo, only to return to the same catchy-as-hell rip.

The real show really got underway, though, when drummer Darren King put himself in the limelight. Halfway through the set, he set up a cluster of four light-censored drum pads. With each lightening-fast move, King illuminated a piece of its upside-down U shape. Surprisingly, not everything was as fully planned out in advance. On songs like “Burden,” the band broke down into serious jams, integrating jazz, prog rock, a cappella, and even metal into long-stretching songs. The New Orleans band went straight from instrumental mayhem into “Typical,” a souring anthem and fan favorite that has U2 written all over it.

During the encore, King had fans hold up his bass drum so he could stand on top of the crowd Wayne Coyne-style during “Reset,” an experimental juggernaut of a song where Meany did handstands on the keyboard. King ended up ripping the top of one of his drums to shreds, only to feed it to a lucky fan before trotting offstage. However great the ending, MUTEMATH played every song like it was their last. Give this band a million-dollar tour budget and a recording session with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, and you might just hit jackpot.

Photo: Jerry Ray

Friday, September 25, 2009

I wasn't too far off...

when I suggested in the post below that Sufjan's new songs sound like a return to Enjoy Your Rabbit.

Lookie here.

Sufjan Stevens - Live Review

Flash-forward to the encore of Sufjan Steven’s sold out show at the Beachland Ballroom last night. Oddball trombone and trumpet solos, haunted house-style synths, and Steven’s ethereal, echoed vocals twisted together in a new concoction that Miles Davis might have thought up, were he zapped 100 years into the future in the midst of an apocalypse. It was wild stuff, and that’s saying something for an artist who gives his songs names like “A Conjunction of Drones Simulating the Way in Which Sufjan Stevens Has an Existential Crisis in the Great Godfrey Maze” and puts together 36-piece multimedia orchestras (his latest project, BQE).

A few songs into the Detroit native’s set, he explained that he would be playing new material “at [the crowd’s] expense” because he was rusty on the old stuff. Backed by a full band (backup vocalist Nedelle Torrisi of opening band Cryptacize, a drummer, bassist, trombone player, and French horn/keyboardist), Stevens launched through an hour-long set that included a handful of songs from Illinois, Michigan, and Seven Swans, as well as four new tunes.

Older numbers like “Jacksonville” and “Casimir Pulaski Day” were sweetly acoustic. Stevens alternated between his banjo and acoustic guitar while Torrisi’s crystal clear harmonies melded with the rich horn section. When fans weren’t busy mouthing the words or screaming proclamations of love for Sufjan, they clasped their hands together over their hearts with joy. The multi-instrumentalist writes songs that are an eclectic mix of everything he’s has ever heard, somehow filtering it all into arrangements so cohesive and glimmeringly beautiful that one wonders why nobody thought of them sooner.

Stevens’ ability to combine genres was spotlighted in his new material. “The Age of Odds” sounded like aliens invading Earth speaking broken English. Noise and distortion clouded the beginning, and it evolved into an experimental masterpiece. Along with much of his newer material, it seemed reminiscent of 2001’s Enjoy Your Rabbit, his abstract instrumental sophomore album (but with vocals and melodies intact). The odder-than-ever-before sounds weren’t crazy enough to scare off the crowd. Beachland employees had to turn on the house lights and point toward the doors after fans spent 10 minutes waiting for a second encore. Who ever said weird wasn’t good?

New Book

I have a great internship. I saw the new Nick Hornby book on my boss' desk. He was like, "read it. we might do an interview with him."


It's called Juliet, Naked. Two chapters in, this is my feedback:

It's great for music lovers worldwide. Read it kids.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Honesty on the Internet

I'm not afraid to be honest about the things I enjoy, however embarrassing they may be. (Except for the fact that I really loved Sailor Moon and her theme music growing up..err.. wait..) I'm gonna fess up to being a fan of Twilight. Awful, I know!

The books are terrifyingly cliched, Mormon, whatever whatever. You can dis them all you want, and I will agree. But my brain still tells me that I have a special place for trashy romance novels. Isn't that what they are? Trashy romance novels with fake blood and "abstinence"?

The first Twilight movie was probably the worst thing I saw all year. Yet I loved it! I don't care if everyone in the cast was a horrible actor, nor do I care that it changed the book and left out most of the "flesh" of the plot (pun intended - wow, I am feeling really freakin cheesy today, huh? must be because i stayed up til 3:00 writing my White Rabbits concert review (see below)).

Aaaaaaaaaaanyways, my point is, I love Twilight and everything about it for no apparent reason at all. It figures that I listened to "Bella's Lullabye" by Carter Burwell and "Spotlight" by Mutemath like 100 times continuously after seeing the film. Again, NONSENSICAL. Me, WEIRD.

So, what I'm getting to is this:

1. Death Cab For Cutie – “Meet Me On The Equinox”
2. Band Of Skulls – “Friends”
3. Thom Yorke – “Hearing Damage”
4. Lykke Li – “Possibility”
5. The Killers – “A White Demon Love Song”
6. Anya Marina – “Satellite Heart”
7. Muse – “I Belong To You (New Moon)”
8. Bon Iver and St. Vincent – “Roslyn”
9. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – “Done All Wrong”
10. Hurricane Bells – “Monsters”
11. Sea Wolf – “The Violet Hour”
12. OK Go – “Shooting The Moon”
13. Grizzly Bear – “Slow Life”
14. Editors – “No Sound But The Wind”
15. Alexandre Desplat – “New Moon (The Meadow)”

Track list for New Moon (part two of the saga, for all you haters out there). Now that's a ridiculously rad soundtrack. You cannot deny it! Bon Iver + St. Vincent, together? I die! More Grizzly Bear? I'm already dead! Some moody Death Cab? Put me in my grave already!

This is rave-worthy, don't ya think?

White Rabbits - Live Review

It’s not every day of the week (a Wednesday at midnight, specifically) that you see two drummers sharing a stage and one hell of a percussion set up. After the guitar fuzz cleared, White Rabbits’ dual drummers punched up the first song of the night, their sticks first hitting in unison and then splitting into separate rhythms.

The NYC-by-way-of-Missouri band calls their music “honky tonky calypso,” drawing influences from reggae, ska, and big pop hooks. Perhaps that’s an appropriate categorization, but it’s hard to draw any kind of box around this dramatically unique sextet. When they took the stage at the Grog Shop last night, eyes flickered from one band member to the next in hopes of catching all the action. The problem? Too much to see, not enough eyeballs.

When members of the crowd weren’t “drumming” on their thighs to “The Plot,” off the band’s debut, Fort Nightly, they were nodding in rhythm with the bass on “They Done Wrong/We Done Wrong,” one of the band’s many Spoon-like songs. (That should not come as a huge surprise; Spoon’s Britt Daniel produced It’s Frightening, their latest album, earlier this year after the two bands toured together.) The twinkle of the piano and softly distorted guitars bring the rock to the music, a mix of melodic sweetness and jutting edginess.

What holds everything together throughout, though, is the beat. White Rabbits ended the set with “Percussion Gun,” their very aptly-named single. Alternating bursts of spastic and punchy drumming always sounded incredibly catchy on the album, but feeling and seeing the intensity in person brought the music to life.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

POST 100

In honor of my 100th post to No Mistake in Mixtape, I invite you to join me.

In the next month or so, I will be at all of these shows, in Cleveland.

white rabbits.
ten out of tenn.
langhorne slim.
st. vincent.
loney, dear.
matthew perryman jones.
nicole atkins.
dan auerbach/justin townes earle.

Celebrate with me! See a good show!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Weezer, An Epic Story

While it seems impossible, and improbable at best, Weezer has accomplished it. It is what we call irrelevance. In a manner.

Today is my birthday. I knew I needed a freaking great album for my drive to work today, something that would temporarily subvert the mundane qualities of my everyday life. And today, I looked down at my very limited CD collection (let's face it, I probably need an iPod converter for my car), and AHA! I saw Weezer's Blue Album.

I had just rediscovered that I physically own this album while scoping out my little sister's room for a belt. I found no belt, but I did find some of our joint CD collection. She had them in her room! And she doesn't even live in our house anymore! These babies were abandoned! I promptly snatched Weezer, Rooney, City of Angels, No Doubt, and one more, I forget now. What a Discovery (and I don't mean that duo by Vampire Weekend dude and Ra Ra Riot dude, however awesome it is)!

As I rolled my windows down just slightly, and turned my car speakers up more than slightly, a smile rolled across my face. The smile was simultaneously matched by a ping of guilt. Guilt for my realization that Weezer's discography has taken a serious pitfall in the recent years. So much so, I think, that it might, and I stress might, imply that the older the Weezer record, the better the quality.

Blue is the absolute tops, though. The way the band manages to be slightly rough around the edges but still accomplish that perfect sparkling pop sound. The heavy guitars and the melodic vocals. It sparkles, it shines. It takes no prisoners. It was a relevation. One in which I realized, my ears were pointing me to something right back in middle and high school. It felt good.

Gone are the days of Blue, though, and here to stay are the "Ratitude" years. Collaborations with Max Martin? Collaborations with Outcast? Bejeezus freaking jesuchristo, what is Rivers Cuomo coming to? I never said I wanted uberpolished throwaway pop, guys! Even if it is a little catchy!

In ninth grade (or was it eighth?) I met a girl named Marie. I always said it back then. She was too cool for school. That girl knew music while the rest of us were still grooving to Incubus' "Drive." (But, dude, that song is great.) She loved Weezer. She later introduced me to Wilco, Elliott Smith, Metric. But, point here: she loved Weezer. She had a secret crush on a boy we dubbed "Weezer Boy." (I know! We were creative kids back then.) Yeah. They both loved Weezer. It started as a secret crush, and then a long term relationship involving love of Weezer. These kids were the coolest. What's my point? The cool kids, who were cool before we even knew what cool was, listened to Weezer back then. And now, everyone listens to Weezer. F. My dad listens to Weezer. He calls them Tweezer.

Let's go back in time. Let's live the Blue life again.

Grand Archives - Keep in Mind Frankenstein

Calling a band’s record a sleeper could be a compliment or a backhanded slap. Either it contains a set of songs perfectly poised for sleeping accommodation or it’s a series of seriously boring tunes. Keep in Mind Frankenstein falls into the former category. Mellow acoustic picking and the slow blossom of pedal steel serve as gentle backing for Mat Brooke’s comforting crooning. The Seattle-based band’s sophomore album includes some dark tunes inspired by haunted houses near their recording studio in Index, Washington. “Silent Echo Valley” is one of them. Grand Archives split the song into two parts, and while one is purely instrumental, the other stays true to its title with plenty of reverb. Not to worry, though; a few minor chord progressions wont be enough to turn dreams into nightmares. While keeping pace with the rest of the album, one song that might disrupt sleep patterns is “Left For All the Strays,” with its infusion of tuneful harmonica and egg shakers. Its gorgeous effect is proof that the four members Grand Archives could benefit from a little more spring in their step. For now, sweet dreams.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Owen, Two Years Ago

Notes I took at a Kevin Devine concert two years ago. Opening acts were Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra and Owen.

Here are my notes about Owen.

I hate him. He’s wearing the same shirt as the last time I saw him a year ago. “I don’t care how you do or don’t your hair. You’re ugly on the inside.” 5th grade? He talked about Dennis Kucinich. But I cannot deny that he has talent and his confidence does him good there. The picking was more well-refined than Hull and his voice seemed more natural and had more flow. As much as I think he’s a cocky, immature little bastard, his show was significantly better than the last time I saw him. I felt at points like I was getting a lecture from my 1st grade teacher about important qualities to look for in friends, how to deal with hurt. It’s like Toy Story with a solid acoustic soundtrack. Guitar was layered like a harp at points. He might be really good in Rent or some musical where you have to tell a story. Jonathan Larson? School of Rock. His lyrics are targeted to 1st graders who drink beer and have sex. Harp-like sessions – could meander through the forest or prance through meadows.

Yup, my notes are not cohesive. And yup, as much as it disappoints my friends, I'm not exactly an Owen fan. Sorry dude. I still admire you... or somethin'.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Quote

"The latest BMSR album is like a well-thought classy record for my standards, and I don’t think of myself as quite that classy."
- Tobacco

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Twilight Sad - Forget the Night Ahead

While recording their second album, Forget the Night Ahead, The Twilight Sad used everything from distortion pedals to the smacking of fire distinguishers to cloak the record in haze. If you cut through all that fuzz and distortion, you start hearing really dark messages. Themes of guilty consciences, the sad realities of prostitution, and the tragedy of losing loved ones infiltrate the album, a twisted storybook of frontman James Graham’s experiences. What it really comes to, though, is the music to which the lyrics are cast. “Ultimately we wanted to make a record that is big, and noisy as fuck,” explained Graham. The Kilsyth, Scotland band succeeded, piecing together eleven songs that are as tuneful as they are loud. Though “Scissors” is an evolving wall of noise, the majority of Forget evokes the feel of The Cure and other late ‘70s goth rock. “Reflection of the Television” bounces with rubbery bass, echoed drum hits, and Graham’s deep, controlled vocals. The mostly instrumental “Floorboards Under the Bed” would be Chris Martin’s wet dream if he could tame the cacophonous electric guitar that shrouds creepy minor-key piano clunking. Most of us keep a fire distinguisher handy to put out flames; The Twilight Sad uses theirs to keep ‘em burning.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sufjan Stevens to Wow Cleveland

Tickets for Sufjan Stevens’ Beachland Ballroom show went on sale about a month ago. Three days and hundreds of fans later, a banner appeared on the venue’s website. SOLD OUT! Who are we to be surprised? Possibly the most interesting and musically talented man in the acoustic indie genre today, Stevens is known for putting on an amazing show. Strapped into butterfly wings and letterman sweaters, the handsome, light-eyed multi-instrumentalist reinterprets orchestrated masterpieces from a string of albums that range from his electronica debut, Enjoy Your Rabbit, to the banjo twang of songs on Illinois. Some of his more legendary gigs have paired the Michigan native with legends (the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra) and large ensembles (his recent multimedia BQE project included a small band, a wind and brass ensemble, strings, horns, and hula hoopers – 36 performers in all). This year, the dude’s cooling off a little on a tour through smaller clubs through the East Coast and Midwest. Fans will relish the twisted beauty of “John Wayne Gacy, Jr,” a soft piano/guitar ballad about the serial killer, and sing along with the joyous horn-laden “Chicago.”