Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sun Kil Moon - Admiral Fell Promises

You'll have to forgive me for the very unspecific, lofty review for this album. It came from a rather organic place within me... I feel a bizarre out-of-body experience with Sun Kil Moon.

When Nick Hornby details fictitious accounts of untouchable musicians and the enigma of very special musical experiences, you can’t help but think his inspiration comes from artists like Mark Kozelek. The frontman of Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon steeps listeners within his songs, provoking a deeply personal connection. Admiral Fell Promises is a spare album in which Kozelek sings wearily about daily occurrences, travels, and muses with one of the loneliest tones in music today. Through it all, he is accompanied solely by his nylon string guitar, which seems like a symbolic fit for the type of music he’s making—the sort of beautifully ornate craftwork to be appreciated by people who find comfort in solace and reflection. The notes come in quick succession, embellished with finger-picked flourishes and the subtle sound of his fingers sliding up and down the strings. On the title track, he sings to a butterfly, “Let me lock you in my room and keep you for a while.” Anywhere else, the line would be creepy and even a bit dangerous. Here, like everything else on Admiral Fell Promises, it takes on the weight and significance of the condition of Kozelek’s world.

Sun Kil Moon - Australian Winter

Monday, June 28, 2010


So, my Mates of State review is on the front page of Under the Radar's website today.


Wavves - Post-Acid

Don't really care how much I hate Wavves or what a big freakshow he is.

I love this song.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mates of State - Crushes: The Covers Mixtape

In Greek mythology, Midas is known for his ability to turn everything he touches into gold. Mates of State are his modern-day equivalent, instead transforming every song they cover into a melodic pop gem. Warm tones swirl through Crushes: The Covers Mixtape, the husband-wife duo’s first attempt at recording and producing their own album.

Like 2008’s Re-Arrange Us and the four albums that came before it, Crushes finds Kori Gardner playfully attacking organs, pianos, and keyboards while Jason Hammel keeps the time signatures peppy with drums and synthesizers. Sometimes they stay fairly true to the originals—Belle & Sebastian’s “Sleep Around the Clock” remains a sprightly tune for a crisp spring morning. Yet they also experiment with genres and styles that are less obvious. When they take on The Mars Volta’s epic, sprawling “Son et Lumiere,” they replace guitars with pianos, transforming it into a sweeping ballad.

Mates of State channel The Flaming Lips on their cover of Tom Waits’ “Long Way Home.” Swollen stadium sonics and a chorus of “yeah yeah yeah’s” heighten the energy to kids-at-a-playground levels. Asian-flavored keyboard plinking adds sparkle to Nick Cave’s traditional piano ballad, “Love Letter.” They go over the top on Fleetwood Mac’s “Second Hand News,” the bubbly chorus bringing to mind a Pringles jingle.

The one constant here is the tug-of-war that Gardner and Hammel play with complex vocal harmonies. They weave up and down, alternating who takes on the higher notes, producing lush renderings of everything from Girls and Nick Cave to Fleetwood Mac. At their mercy, even the sad songs ooze with hope and optimism.

It’s a comfort to hear how the duo can make all ten of these cover songs special in a very specific way. Hammel and Gardner say they chose the songs for various reasons—nostalgia, to get more people to listen to the originals, or to shed a different light on their favorites. Whatever the case, they have put together a satisfying collection of covers that will last beyond the summer months. Not everything here is gold, but most of the poppy goodness sparkles like diamonds.

(Download "Laura," the Girls cover, and "True Love Will Find You in the End," by Daniel Johnston on www.matesofstate.com)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cellars and Records in Cleveland

I know I've been back in Cleveland for about a year now, but I still feel almost completely confused and overwhelmed by the music scene here. I need some sort of guide. You'd think writing for the Scene would help. Or that just going to as many shows as I do would help. But maybe I just need to be friends with more people in the local music scene. Whatever the case, I'll get there eventually.

In the meantime, in the past few weeks, I have happened upon a wonderful discovery, an inspiration, and a general "thing that makes me happy" in a locally-owned record label. I just think that people who can just follow their dreams and follow through on them are the bee's knees. So without further ado, I introduce you to an interview I did with Justin Markert, one of the founders of Cellar Door Records.

* How did you form Cellar Door Records?

In 2002, my buddy Rick Fike and I opened a coffee shop in Madison, Ohio, called Cellar Door Coffee. We wanted to serve as a catalyst for the arts. We had local artist’s paintings on our walls, an open mic night, and on the weekends we booked bands and musicians creating their own art. Not some dime-a-dozen 90's cover bands. It was a truly incredible experience. We sold out our 135 capacity space every weekend. There was so much creativity brewing around us so we decided to launch a record label to run alongside the coffee shop. Cellar Door Records was born.

Our first release was a compilation disc called Cellar Door Records Volume I. It was handmade. I still remember cutting out and assembling tray cards and jewel cases deep in to the early hours of the morning before our CD release show. We sold the Coffee Shop. In 2007, we regrouped with Adam Butcher and relaunched Cellar Door Records.

* What does it take to upstart and maintain a local label?

Energy, time and realistic expectations. We know we aren’t going to get rich. We love music. There are a ton of great bands out there and we’re just trying to get them heard by more people.

* Is the Cleveland music scene conducive to this kind of venture?

It depends on what you want to get out of it, really. Not counting the first release, we’ve put out a total of three albums. After this summer, it will be 5. That’s not bad for three years. We’ve held a number of Cellar Door Records shows at the Beachland and Grog and consistently pulled in upwards of 150 people.

There are a lot of pockets in the Cleveland scene - some truly great people doing great things for music in this city. Davenport Collective, Collectible Escalators, Cleveland Tapes, Exit Stencil, and Tom and Melanie at Music Saves are all good people that I admire.

* What kind of music is Cellar Door releasing or promoting?

The short answer is rock. Not Stone Temple Pilots/Nickeback rock. More indie-pop-rock. Cellar Door Records Vol. II was a mix bag of genres. The Slow Blade is more of a stoner rock band, and the Frozen Hellsicles sound like the Replacements with Iggy Pop as a front man. Rachel Bruening is a ridiculously captivating singer-songwriter that silences a room the moment she starts singing. Look through a friends ipod ya know.

It’s not genre specific. The National and Local Natives on the same playlist with Talib Kweli and Janelle Monae. Jay-Z is name dropping Grizzly Bear. I don’t think we need to focus too sharply on one genre.

* What are some of your favorite music memories from the past few years?

At our first CD release show in 2007 at the Beachland Ballroom, it felt great to fill that room with people and then fill it with good music for those people to hear. That was one of the first times that it felt like we were actually doing something real.

The first non-Cellar-Door-related moment I can think of: Last year David Bazan (from Pedro the Lion) played a solo house show in my apartment in Cleveland Heights. It was surreal. One of my favorite lyricists, standing right there singing without a mic in my living room to 45 people sitting on the floor.

* What is new and exciting in the world of Cellar Door?

This will be our biggest year yet. On Saturday, June 26, we will be simultaneously releasing two albums at the Grog Shop. The second solo album from Keith Vance, entitled “Go Forward,” and my EP, entitled “Anonymous Disaster.” June 26th at the Grog Shop. 9pm. $10 gets you admission and a copy of each CD. Keith Vance will be playing with a band. I’ll be playing with a band. Diamonds & Pears and The Mason Corduroy band will also perform. We’re very excited.

In the fall we plan on releasing two more. Something on vinyl from post-rock band Monolith at Tycho and something from singer-songwriter Doug Ivancic.

Take a listen...
Justin Markert - No Turning Back
Justin Markert - Open Your Eyes

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

You've Gotta Be Kidding Me

or not...

Remember this pretentious band I wrote about a couple weeks ago?

Go figure, Pitchfork just collected an in-depth interview with them. Not that I’m surprised. Not that I’m intentionally trying to stereotype too much here. But the clues just add up. Generic psych-pop music, weird costuming, intentionally odd religious beliefs + the ringing endorsement of today’s most hollow reviewing website… it’s just too good to be true! A match made in heaven (or whatever those Hare Krishna’s believe in).

By the way, I’m not really a Pitchfork hater. I admire those folks a ton. But they do have a propensity to support musicians and projects that probably aren’t of much interest to most people I know. (And I’m not even talking about Top 40 lovers here – I have lots of friends who value individualistic music that takes some extra time to digest and enjoy, and isn’t created by robot people who use technology in the “let’s make a hit” sense.)

Anyways, I could go on and on about my music views and bore you all to death. I think the point of this entry was to say “I told you so.”

I hate to be that girl, but, you know, sometimes you have to be. Right?

P.S. I just remembered that my editor told me never to compare anything to Pitchfork reviews because nobody who is reading your work cares about what Pitchfork has to say - they are reading your work, after all. So are you all really annoyed with this post? Seriously. I wanna know.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Chillwave's Unemployment Status

"on the song Blessa by Toro Y Moi, Chaz sings, “i got a job, i do it fine / not what i want, but still i try” — we are a generation taught not to settle for a job we don’t want, taught that anything was possible for us, and a lot of us still believe that (read the new york times magazine piece about it from like two weeks ago, it’s one of the The Way We Live Now columns, it’s called The Why Worry Generation). Chaz’s excitement about getting a job he doesn’t like contains an admission of defeat, or at least of recognition of diminished possibilities. that’s chillwave."

Guess I'm going to have to start listening to Chillwave if this is the case. Fascinating observation from Pitchfork Reviews Reviews. Very relevant stuff (for me and generation suck-it, i.e. everyone who graduated in the past year or so/is graduating now).

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mixtape of the Week - 6.20.10

Super chill week in mixtape-land. I listened to about 20 albums for WJCU, and the only ones I seemed to enjoy were low key (notice I didn't say lo-fi... some are hi-fi). There was a lot of crap, but a few gems. I was totally right about some of the album covers, and COMPLETELY wrong about others. The biggest surprise was Gayngs, which is unexpectedly eclectic and bizarre and enjoyable.

Click to download on Mediafire.
Mixtape of the Week - 6.20.10

1. The National - Lemonworld
Um, duh. The National are practically my favorite, this song could very well be played on repeat for weeks stranded on a desert island (although I'd be wishing it was a dessert island), and I'm so entranced every time I hear it.
2. Everest - Let Go
Travel back in time ten years, grab Coldplay and David Gray, and bring them to the present day to make polished pop music. This is what you get. It makes me do the whole "Walk Like An Egyptian" head jerk when I hear it.
3. CocoColumbo - Deflated Heart
I cannot say anything about Will Schulz, the mastermind behind CocoColumbo, without being completely biased. This is the first finished song I ever heard by him. Madly anticipating his debut album, as should you.
4. Peter Wolf Crier - Down Down Down
This is the ultimate week for Bon Iver comparisons (in my brain, at least), so let's instead try to explain that this is acoustic folk brimming with more heat and emotion than anything I've heard in months. Possibly my newest obsession. (Sorry Avi Buffalo.)
5. Bon Iver - Flume
'Nuff said.
6. Gayngs - Cry
When I first heard this song, and this album (called Relayted), I nearly freaked. I was all like, "oh my gosh, this is what it would sound like if Bon Iver had more jazzy, reggae, soul music, and hip hop influences!" And lo and behold, it was Justin Vernon! And the dudes from Megafaun! And Solid Gold! I may be overexaggerating with all the exclamation points, but this album is pretty freaking sweet, and I didn't even need to know who the all-star cast was to figure that out.
7. Beach House - Gila
If you read my concert review for BH at the Beachland Ballroom, you can get more insight into why this band stole my heart and ran away with it, never to return again. Thursday night made me realize that "Gila" might just have the best guitar line of all Beach House songs. Scally was killing me.
8. Dan Auerbach - The Prowl
Let's just go with this: this is the ANTHEM TO MY SUMMER. (Except I'm not a man, and I'm not stuck on obsessing over a girl.)
9. The Byrds - Eight Miles High
Thank you to my friend Nick for putting this song on a mix for me, and making me remember that I've always had minor bouts of depression over the fact that I was not a teenager in the 60s. When I put this album on my record player and close my eyes, I can almost pretend I am.
10. Caribou - Melody Day
And thank you, Daniel Snaith, for reminding me of the wonders that modern technology can do for music. At least we got something right in the future.

P.S. Listen to the percussion on the intros to songs 6, 7, and 8. Whoa, did not even mean to do that!

Put Some Punch in Your Step

Happy Dad's Day. Here's some power, from some elves. It's pretty chill.

Elf Power - Stranger in the Window

By the way, I LOVE ELEPHANT 6.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Beach House - Live Review - Beachland Ballroom

Beach House makes the kind of dreamy pop music that accommodates napping, babymaking, and quietly bobbing one’s head. Yet last night, frontwoman Victoria Legrand proved that one more activity fits the list – head banging.

You wouldn’t think such harsh movements could be associated with atmospheric organ playing or shimmering slide guitar, but the Beachland Ballroom’s sold out crowd watched in fascination as Legrand took control of the performance with some rash head thrashing and vocals that came straight from the gut and emerged as pure airy perfection.

Alex Scally, the other half of Baltimore’s Beach House, bobbed along peacefully, alternating between finger picking and using a slide on his electric guitar. His playing was pure, unencumbered beauty, each note a droplet of water that sizzled the minute it blended with Legrand’s warm crooning and the antique sound of her organ.

The two were joined by a live drummer who fleshed out the songs of Teen Dream, their third and most recent album, with a pulsing fever. The heat spread through the ballroom, literally.

“I don’t know about you guys,” remarked Legrand between songs, “but I’m feeling like a rotisserie chicken.”

Teen Dream songs like “Walk in the Park,” “Used to Be,” and “Lover of Mine” started the night on an entrancing note, which continued as Beach House played “Gila” and “Master of None,” two tracks from their first two albums.

Five huge metallic prisms rotated behind the band, giving off the same kind of hypnosis as the music. At the start of “Take Care,” Legrand pointed in the air, simultaneously triggering the Beachland to start up their disco ball. The mood was fitting – but the band didn’t keep things too heavy.

At one point Scally joked, “This is the part of the set where we play Celine Dion covers,” before launching into “Zebra.”

Beach House’s encore included the intimate, almost pained “Real Love,” and the richly textured “10 Mile Stereo,” where the Scally’s guitar wrapped languorously around the reverb-drenched organ chords.

By the end of the night, members of the crowd seemed eager to close their eyes and absorb the throb and ebb of the beat. After a long day, nothing seemed more fitting than sharing a relaxing evening with fiercely talented musicians and a crowd full of the most laid back folks in Cleveland. Next time, maybe we’ll get the guts to join in on the head banging.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Excuse my obnoxious internet screaming, but I'M SO STOKED TO SEE BEACH HOUSE TONIGHT.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Landmark Day

Today I can celebrate the biggest invitation I've had yet... an invitation to a concert that even people outside my indie territory might have heard of. Hell, maybe my dad has even heard of this band.

Hello Danielle~

I hope you've been well!

The SMASHING PUMPKINS will be performing Tuesday, July 6th at the House of Blues in Cleveland, OH.

I wanted to check in and see if you would like to attend or have any coverage in the works for the show.

You know, this is kind of cool. But it is on a Tuesday night, and I would have to drive downtown (see how I'm already making excuses for my stupid corporate job life?), and I'm not even sure I know more than 3 Smashing Pumpkins songs, which would not really qualify me to "review" this sort of thing.

I guess the point in this entry is this: I can write and write and write, and never find a journalism job. Yet as a little tiny writer for an alternative paper and a small blog, I can get some pretty cool places.

This is the future we are living in - a future where bloggers and freelancers rule and actual paid journalists are clutching to their jobs with every ounce of strength they have left. (It can't be a lot, if they've been in the game for a while. Who can deal with threats of salary cuts and layoffs and endless furloughs for so long and stay positive?)

Cool, yes. Depressing, MAJOR YES. ("Ground control to Major Tom" also just popped into my head.)

In reality, I want to live in an age where this kind of work can make for a solid career and not some side-hobby that you have to balance of your shoulders along with 7,000 other side hobbies in hopes that it will one day pay off and materialize into something so much greater. It's easy to get jaded. And it's easy to get jaded very quickly.

Especially in Cleveland. I promote this city to everyone I talk to. But much of the time, I sit here and wonder how much longer I can exist with a soul intact in this town. (To be fair, I live in a moderate suburb of Cleveland with a bunch of old people and babies... so it's not exactly the "hip" part of town. And I spend 45 hours a week in a grey cubicle with artificial lights.)

Let's leave this post on a "Danielle's not going to go off and slit her wrists" kind of note.

Two songs to stay on top of the world with.

Nada Surf - Blankest Year
Janelle Monae - Tightrope

Oh, and this:

Smashing Pumpkins - 1979 (Live)

I had to. Hell to the yes for middle school nostalgia and my first mp3 player, which only held 10 songs at a time. This was one of them. Thanks Uncle Mike, for my lame mp3 player and the excellent variety of music you gave me on my first (very first!) data CD!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Judging an Album by it's Cover

Just watch me go.

Surfing on Nada - Cheese Post

Sometimes we have to forego the new, and just seek the old.

It’s like comfort food. Does really greasy grilled cheese ever lose its appeal? I didn’t think so. Neither does Nada Surf.

Nada Surf is the kind of band that you’re all like “oh yeah!” every time it comes on shuffle. When looking for running music for my lunch hour, I usually end up with a few of the same choices: M.I.A., Japandroids, Nada Surf. All very different. All very the same.

They are comfort music in every sense of the word because I know exactly what I’m going to get. I know the order the songs will play in, and I know which ones are going to make me sprint. I know that I’ll have to skip Nada Surf’s “Comes a Time” when it plays right after “The Blankest Year” because nobody wants to hear that buzzkill of a song after they just heard a song where the main lyric/focal point is: “Oh F&*% it, I’m gonna have a party!”

Let’s get back to why Nada Surf is such a consistent joy in my life.
The lyrics are corny. I’m not saying lyrics have to be corny for me to like them, but you know what? In this case, it works for me.

“Always love/hate will get you every time”

“To find someone you love/you’ve gotta be someone you love”

These cornball lyrics are ACTUALLY GOOD ADVICE. And the simplicity in it all makes me happier. Like, maybe, yeah…I am gonna have a party. And maybe, yeah… I’m gonna be someone I love! They are simple blanket statements that we can pretend we’re doing just by changing our outlook. Sometimes we need the extra push from some little pop band to get us in the mood.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get sick of The Weight is a Gift, i.e. the best Nada Surf album of this lifetime. It’s the grilled cheese of pop music. It’s the butter for my bread. It’s the red popsicle for the hottest day of summer. It’s the reeses cup of my chocolate craving. Embrace the old! Enjoy it as it swishes around your ears once again. And be someone you love! (Unless, that is, you don’t want to find someone you love. Then go ahead and stay a scrooge forever. Whatever. Like I care.)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mixtape of the Week - 6.13.10

Good news folks! I'm back to my life as a longtime college radio worker. At least for the summer. I'll be pitching in at the wonderful WJCU as the music director. Why should you care? Well, uh, because that means it's my job to review records... like dozens of records a week. And you'll be catching the long end of the stick because I'll be sharing all the good stuff with YOU.

I'll try to keep the bad stuff to myself, but honest question: would anyone like me to do a weekly post on the worst album in college rock today? It could get pretty lewd/crazy/out of control.

Anyway, I spent today and yesterday listening to 25 albums, and I'm going to give you a mix with 10 of the best songs.

Click to download from mediafire.
Mixtape of the Week - 6.13.10

1. Broken Social Scene - Texico Bitches - Forgiveness Rock Record

Another brilliantly layered art-rock album by our favorite Canadians. It's all varied and interesting, bringing together a mash-up of male/female vocals and tempo changes.
2. Careful - Scrappy - Oh, Light
A low-maintenance and less-worldly version of Iron & Wine, with spare guitars and psych-folk harmonies.
3. Coliseum - Blind in One Eye - House With a Curse
Exactly what the album cover (a collage of decaying skulls) would lead you to believe: vicious metal with thundering drums, vengeful guitars, and gravely scream-singing.
4. Faded Paper Figures - Invent It All Again - New Medium
Instantly likable twee-ful, upbeat indie pop with squabbling electronic blips and synthesizers galore. Like Mates of State or The Postal Service.
5. Illimanjaro - New Joint - Boiling Point
Very liberal rap out of Queens, NY with guitar/drums. It's not your everday fare (I.e. no sampling, hell yes instrumental breaks), but that makes it more interesting.
6. Spouse - What You're Feeling - Confidence
Spouse has been making college radio waves since '99 with poppy, experimental tunes that jump from the speakers.
7. Sugar Army - Tongues in Cheeks - The Parallels Amongst Ourselves
Hard rock from Australia with awesomely complex (and distorted) drumming and hooky guitar riffs. You could compare it to Muse or Editors, but it's rocks harder.
8. The Black Rabbits - Hypno Switch - S/T EP
Bombastic power pop that would go well paired with Apples in Stereo or Sloan and some ice cream.
9. The Dead Weather - Blue Blood Blues - Sea of Cowards
The second album for Jack White's new "side" project doesn't really surprise - his growling guitar licks are still lethal, and the mood is ominous and dark, but grooves through and through.
10. The Titans of Industry - These Cold Hands - LMNOEP
Not only do I love the name of this EP, but it's really catchy guitar-driven indie rock. It sounds like a less beachy Dr. Dog with more electric guitar squeeling. Every song is really different.

Friday, June 11, 2010

She & Him - Live Review - House of Blues

Somebody must have told She & Him they were boring on stage, because they rushed through their concert at House of Blues last night, playing several songs at three times their normal tempo. Making their way through about 25 songs in less than two hours, the duo took the life out of tunes that usually breeze through the air like a warm wave of sunshine.

She — singer-songwriter and actress Zooey Deschanel — enchanted the sold-out House of Blues with her deep, rich pipes, while Him — songwriter and guitar maestro M. Ward — alternated between acoustic, electric, and slide guitar.

It sounds like a recipe for greatness, and if executed properly, it might have been. But Ward hid himself in the corner of the stage for most the night, while Deschanel took advantage of the spotlight by blandly hitting a tambourine as she stood squarely in front of the mic.

Backed by a full band, She & Him based most the set on their recently released second album, Volume Two, with a few tunes sprinkled in from 2008’s Volume One. Swaying ballads like “Thieves” and “Change Is Hard” were bland and uninspired, even with the flourish of keyboards, on-spot backup singers, and a skilled drummer, bassist, and guitarist.

In a welcome change of pace, Ward and Deschanel played a set of songs on their own. They put precious spins on Joni Mitchell’s “You Turn Me on I’m a Radio” and Motown oldie “You've Really Got a Hold on Me.”.

But it wasn’t until the end of the set that they actually started engaging the audience. Deschanel jumped up and down enthusiastically during “Ridin’ in My Car” and asked the audience to sing along to “In the Sun,” a fun '60s-inspired pop song with chugging guitars and a bright melody.

“She” sounded great, and “Him” drew his fair share of whoops from the crowd. Yet neither smiled much or even seemed to enjoy themselves. Their songs detail stories of falling in love and riding off into the sunset, but none of these emotions translated live. By the end of the night, we were all equally spiritless.

(Better pictures coming...)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - Live Review - HOB Cleveland

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros frontman Alex Ebert often claims he’s trying to evoke his inner child in his music. And last night, the raucous audience at House of Blues felt the kiddie vibes, jumping around like a bunch of toddlers on a sugar high.

Sneaking joints instead of candy, the crowd of twentysomethings danced around with abandon, not noticing when mops of hair scratched their neighbors and certainly not hesitating to gyrate right in front of one another to get to the middle of the action.

The ten-member band started the set with “Up From Below,” the title track of their 2009 debut album, and continued with “Janglin.” Jade Castrinos, who shares lead vocal duties with Ebert, serenaded a woman and her baby on stage, explaining it was a song for kids.

Throughout the night, Edward Sharpe played most of Up From Below, plus a couple of new tunes. One of them sounded like a warmer, free-spirited Sigur Ros, reeling with primal percussion and repetitive vocals that recalled a tribal chant.

“Desert Song,” a number that sounds eerie and ominous on record, breathed with vibrancy in the live setting. Ebert jumped around while his nine bandmates pumped seemingly endless energy into their instruments.

When the L.A.-based band closed with “Home,” the crowd exploded with joy, jumping up, clapping manically, and shouting with glee as Stewart Cole blasted a trumpet solo worthy of a king’s entrance.

But last night there was no king. There was a village, and ten very talented song leaders.

For the last song, Jade brought the baby back on stage, holding her on her hip as she crooned “Home is wherever I’m with you.” And in that moment, that’s where we all were. We were home.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros @ HOB Tonight

Getting a handle on Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros isn't easy. The Los Angeles band's bio doesn't mention the names of any members or any serious facts about its formation. Instead, it focuses on a story about the fictional Edward Sharpe, a child who went from deafness to "hearing too much." The group's debut album, Up From Below, takes a similarly bizarre approach.

SALVO!, a new 12-part music video, attempts to tie the CD's songs into one continuous and trippy narrative. It all begins with the swampy "Desert Song," a sneaky tune with tribal, thumping beats and the ominous twinkling of bells and chimes. New orchestrated tracks fill the gaps between the album songs — appropriate since much of Up From Below is actually a jumble of different sounds and influences balled together. The result is more like random bursts of joy or hurt than songs.

The music's sporadic nature stems from the huge cast of musicians and friends frontman Alex Ebert gathered after writing the demos that form the basis of Up From Below. In concert, the group changes in size, depending on the day and where they're playing. The touring band is usually made up of ten musicians, though that number occasionally jumps to 13. "We have a lot of different friends around the country," explains drummer Josh Collazo, "so whenever they wanna play with us, they can just join in and come onstage."

Read the rest at the Cleveland Scene.

She & Him Tomorrow @ HOB

What do you get when you mix a Hollywood starlet with a powerful singing voice and one of the most valuable folk songwriters of his generation? A band of pronouns. She & Him is a clever way of disguising the duo’s real names – Zooey Deschanel, of Elf fame, and M. Ward, the famed guitarist who most recently hit record store shelves with Jim James and Conor Oberst under the Monsters of Folk moniker. The pairing gives Deschanel a chance to showcase her songwriting skills, while Ward demonstrates his ability to adapt his production skills and guitar-playing to everything from blues to folk to Brill Building pop. She & Him have come under fire by music critics for “repackaging” retro into today’s new alternative, but fans don’t seem to mind their digging up of 60s AM Gold. On Volume Two, their sophomore record, they cover Skeeter Davis’ “Gonna Get Along Without You Now,” and bring Diana Ross to mind on the Supremes-flavored “Over It Over Again.” The Chapin Sisters, a band of three female sibs with killer harmonies, opens at 8:00 pm at the House of Blues (308 Euclid Avenue, 216.523.2583). Tickets: $22, advance; $24, day of show.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Blast from the Past

I found a document on my old computer with my complete review of Lollapalooza 2007, which I wrote up for a now-defunct British website called RealBuzz. It's fun going through old reviews, not only because I really sucked as a writer but because I actually can feel the energy of the festival like I'm there all over again.

I enjoyed this memory:

The Polyphonic Spree - 1:45 P.M. - Bud Light Stage

More a spectacle than a concert, The Polyphonic Spree were this year's equivalent to last year's The Flaming Lips. Complete with a three-woman choir, every entrancing instrument imaginable, and quite a stage show, they sounded like a chipper version of a Sufjan Stevens album. They had members of the audience singing echoes, craning their necks to see over the colassal crowd, and dancing interpretively. Horns blasted, trombones sounded, a keyboard clanged, a harp rang, a cello resounded, a flute fluttered, and the glockenspiel reverberated. Mid-performance, half the band began tap dancing. I felt like I was an actor in a really great alien movie, perhaps with the music as the theme song to my abduction. (Immediately after I wrote the previous sentence, frontman Tim DeLaughter belted, "When we're human, we're always guessing," leading me to believe I might not have been that far off on the whole outer space theme they had going.) They closed with the most gleeful version of Nirvana's "Lithium" I've ever heard - if you didn't listen to the lyrics, it might as well have been sung by The Monkees.

Get Yr Hipster Fx

Wow guys! You can totes flip over this completely kewl concept!

(Alright, note my sarcasm.)

Apparently you can now wear your favorite "album art" and your favorite "track listings" on the front and back of your very own t-shirt! Plus, when you buy the shirt, you get a digital download of the music! How totally hip and fashionable!

(But seriously, why would you want a track list on your back? Tour dates are one thing. But do I really need to know the name of the 11th song on one of Devendra Banhart's obscure albums? As Borat would say... 'not so much.')

Let's get to work on some better models of making money for musicians. And let's make sure they're a little less... "fan-girl/fan-boy," if you will.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mixtape of the Week - 6.6.10

This time, I can blame Blogger for my mix being a day late. But this one's a goodie, oldies and newbies combined to create a super-mix. The theme is Back to College.

Click to download from mediafire:
Mixtape of the Week - 6.6.10

1. M.I.A. – World Town
I hopped around like a maniac with my feet on fire when this song came on at Dance or Die this weekend. And I loved EVERY MINUTE OF IT. Freakin’ can’t wait for the new album, even if Maya is bat*&^* crazy.
2. Mates of State – Fraud in the ‘80s
This song always pumps me up, and they’re coming back to Cleveland soon! With Free Energy, and comedians, and jugglers.
3. Blitzen Trapper – Below the Hurricane
On their stellar new album, Destroyer of the Void, Blitzen Trapper have put together a set of multi-part songs that reminds me of some cryptic Decemberists-like medieval adventure as much as it does folk, classic Petty, and the best parts of classic rock rolled into one. The guitar here rolls over itself like waves, and the chord progressions are Zeppelin-like, in such a brilliant way.
4. Dan Auerbach – Goin’ Home
Played this song on my way from Athens to Cleveland today, and didn’t really know which one was home. These lyrics absolutely get me: “I want the sun to hit my face/Through oak trees in the open lot/Forget about the things you want/Be thankful for what all you got.”
5. Sun Kil Moon – Floating
If I met Mark Kozelek, I would shower him with roses (pricks removed, of course), shake his hand, and buy him a drink. Then I would bow for precisely three hours.
6. Pearly Gate Music – Big Escape
Why you will like Pearly Gate Music’s self-titled album: 1. Again, it’s a combination of Bright Eyes and Okkervil River. 2. This album is a great simile for life. Some of the songs (days) are great, and some songs (days) fall flat. But the flat ones remind us how good the good ones are. It’s realistic. 3. I taste summer in the air when I listen to this. And in Cleveland, I think we can agree that summer trumps everything.
7. Phantogram – When I’m Small
If anybody in the big, wide world can teach me how to play the bass part in this song, I will grant you three wishes. Seriously. The hotness of this bass line will turn me into a genie.
8. Beach House – Norway
I have a wrestling ring full of songs competing for Best Song of 2010. So far, this one is standing on the ropes, ready to face plant the others.
9. Stars – My Favourite Book
I’m seeing Stars tomorrow. This song makes me melt like a baby at the state fair.
10. Rick Ross – Hustlin’
This song defines my life. (Not regarding drugs. I’m not that cool.)

Does anyone have suggestions for a theme for one of my future mixes?

Friday, June 4, 2010

It's Funny How Music is Cyclical

Almost exactly a year ago, I was feeling rotten. I was about to graduate from Ohio University, and with that significant moment in my life, I was leaving behind people I loved, a town I loved, goals and challenges I loved, and a lifestyle… yeah, I loved. I was sappy, miserable, and listening to a lot of music that I thought was helping me through my situation, but was probably actually making it worse.

That music can be summed up very easily. The only thing I listened to for a month straight was Sun Kil Moon’s Ghosts of the Great Highway.

I listened to that album on repeat, walking to the last classes of my undergrad career. I looped it on long rides through the trees of the bike path, which had become one of my most treasured places in Athens. I played Sun Kil Moon as I lay in bed, when I woke up in the morning, while I wrote sad, regretful letters that I never delivered, while I cried big, splotchy tears. They smeared the paper.

There were great, happy moments in that last month, many of them building up to the huge come-downs that typically took place Sunday night, in my bed, when it kept dawning on me – this was all ending. Everyone else seemed excited for something new. But I’ve never been good with change, and the future scared me more than anything. I didn’t know if I could find people like I found in Athens and achieve things like I did in college. It’s horribly pessimistic thinking, I acknowledge, but I was so unsure.

I clung to Mark Kozelek’s guitar, and his songs about boxers, which had no relevance whatsoever to what I was experiencing. It was a blanket for me; it was the words I needed to hear when real words couldn’t coax me. I was at the end of an era, and this was the album that marked it.

I requested to review the new Sun Kil Moon album months ago, and received my digital copy yesterday. I put it on today, and when I hear this familiar voice and the sweet plucking of those nylon strings, I just kinda froze. The truth is, I haven’t had the courage to play Sun Kil Moon since I left Athens, for fear of what kind of emotions it would dredge up.

I struggled terribly in my first few months home from school. I missed everything and everyone with such a vengeance. I blasted Japandroids because I was angry, and I wanted to be young, and I was living in the goddamn suburbs. With my parents. And I wasn’t really finding what I hoped to find out there in the big, real world. As I adjusted, I grew to appreciate the things I have today. I found a steady job, and you know what? Everything is ok. Just ok. And sometimes, well maybe half the times, I actually remember that life is good.

Today I return to Athens for the weekend, to visit some of my closest friends before they also graduate. Each time I go back to visit, the place seems stranger, more foreign - a wobblier memory of four years of my life. This is the last time that Ohio University will feel remotely familiar to me.

So I find it funny that today, of all days, I subconsciously, or maybe consciously, began to listen to Sun Kil Moon’s Admiral Fell Promises. It feels so right, and it feels like home. Emotions are rushing back, and the memories of the past flood my mind. But the newness of the album also reminds me that we can hold onto the past, and still embrace the future. Ghosts of the Great Highway may have been a crucial album that came into my life at a crucial time, but one year later, I have Admiral Fell Promises. I haven’t lost anything, but look what I’ve gained.

Photo credit: Robert Caplin from 45701.

Yeah, So, No Offense, But...

Apparently Animal Collective's Paw Tracks label just signed a new band called Prince Rama.

Look at this pretentious press photo.

And really... could the press release have describe a more generic "hi we are intentionally weird and ironic but try to pretend we are different and special than every other Animal Collective/MGMT-carbon copy psych-pop band producing music today."

See this quote... which describes everything, without describing anything:

"Their new album Shadow Temple is an epic shrine of swirling synths, pulsing guitars, and thunder drums."

Um, cool. That describes just about every band making music today.

I hate to be a Negative Nancy (is that even the right name? is it negative nelly? whatever), but this kind of stuff just makes me realize how much junk we have to dig through nowadays to find the gems. Then again, WAIT. I am judging them before I even hear their music. I could be so so wrong. But let's pretend I'm right.

And speaking of gems, let's talk about the new Blitzen Trapper! (See my next post, in which I am about to write glowing reviews of an album I've only heard a few times, but already feels like it encompasses my entire past and future.)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Publicists Don't Always Lie

In honor of the over-achieving publicists flooding my inbox with music news, I have dug up some songs that are actually good.

Deer Tick - Sun Street (Katrina and the Waves cover)
News: Deer Tick's new album, The Black Dirt Sessions, will be released June 8th on Partisan Records. Plus, they're playing the Rock Hall right here in CLEVELAND for free, August 11th at 7pm. That's right, FREE. CLEVELAND. Prepare yourself with this. (This cover comes from Brooklyn Vegan, by the way. Thanks Brooklyn Vegan!)

Fol Chen - In Ruins
News: For its second album, which will be released June 22nd, Highland Park sextet Fol Chen presents Part II: The New December, songs of malaise and miscommunication set to dark pop and glitch-riddled chamber funk.

Kathryn Calder (of the New Pornographers) - Slip Away

News: Some things are worth waiting for (until August 10th, to be specific), and this couldn't be more true of Kathryn Calder's debut solo album Are You My Mother? - a recording jam-packed with contributions from her amazing friends Neko Case, Kurt Dahle and Todd Fancey of The New Pornographers and members of Ladyhawk and Frog Eyes.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mixtape of the Week - 5.30.10

LET'S GET PUMPED! It's time for mixtape of the week.

This week I'm feeling positive, on top of the world, and summery sunny. I don't know precisely why, but I feel good things coming. Thus, a mix to reflect optimism. (Don't get used to the positive vibes, though. I tend to be a grumpy 22 year old.)

Click to download on mediafire:
Mixtape of the Week - 5.30.10

1. Langhorne Slim - Restless
Self-explanatory. Best song of every summer.
2. LCD Soundsystem - Drunk Girls
Duh. I'm not a drunk girl, but my friends are pretty damn fun when they are.
3. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - Janglin
Wrote a feature on Edward Sharpe and you'll be seeing that soon.
4. Pearly Gate Music - Oh, What a Time!
Remind me to tell you more about Pearly Gate Music - it's totally the second coming of Okkervil River/Bright Eyes!
5. Melpo Mene - Dream About Me
Love the feel of this song. It's absolutely perfect pillow music.
6. MGMT - Brian Eno
I hate this song so much that I like it. Plus, I associate Eno with U2, and brilliance.
7. Japandroids - To Hell with Good Intentions
They closed with this song, a Mclusky cover, when they played the Grog Shop. I dig the line, "my love is bigger than your love."
8. Best Coast - When I'm With You
The recipe for a raw summer. "When I'm with you, I have fun." So simple.
9. The Tallest Man on Earth - I Won't Be Found (Daytrotter Session)
I knew I couldn't keep this whole mix happy. But music this gorgeous is impossible to hide for sadder days. The Tallest Man on Earth is becoming something of a hero in his genre.
10. The Juliana Theory - We're at the Top of the World
Aaaaaand we're back in high school. The happiest song I know.


Langhorne Slim Interview

I'm only half a year late on this one, guys. I interviewed Langhorne Slim (real name: Sean Scolnick) back in October about his latest album, Be Set Free, and other things. If you right-click the title of this post, it'll take you to the podcast.

And check out some of my other interviews - Kevin Devine, The Weakerthans, Bears, etc. - right here.

Yeehawww cowboys.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Mynabirds @ Beachland Tonight

Laura Burhenn may be best known for her stint in the short-lived jangle-pop duo, Georgie James, but she has been putting out solo albums since ’99. Her latest effort, under the Mynabirds moniker, is a far cry from Georgie James’ uptempo blasts of energy. Where much of her older material centered around punk sensibilities and political messages, the new material focuses on more personal messages about rebuilding and recovery. It’s based more on changes of perception than it is altering ideals. Gospel and soul seep through the slow-churning songs as Burhenn’s smoky vocals curl around rich pedal steel and the warm echoes of an organ. She moved from DC to Omaha, Nebraska, at the end of 2008 after Georgie James split, and has been working with local musicians to achieve a fuller sound. AJ Mogis and Richard Swift produced her the Mynabirds debut, What We Lose In the Fire We Gain in the Flood, and Bright Eyes’ Nate Walcott arranged the horns. At times, the Mynabirds sounds like Cat Power or Burhenn’s Motown influences. When she plays the tonight, Cowboy and Indian open with a CD release celebration. Check it out at 8:30 pm at the Beachland Tavern (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124). Tickets: $10.