Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Jamie Lidell - A Little Bit More (Luke Vibert Mix) is from Multiply Additions, a selection of remixes of songs from last year's Multiply album. It was all about blue eyed soul meeting Warp-tronics and jazz funk and I was surprised at how much I liked it all. One of the fave tunes at my house was A Little Bit More, with it's funky shuffle and the repetition of the title - the kids loved it. This is a Luke Vibert remix, and it adds all of his trademark spaced out-ness - video game sounds, funked out keys and a funky drummer breakbeat and odd vocal snippets. It sounds fantastic to my ears. The rest of the set is pretty diverse and interesting, with mixes from Herbert, Gonzales, Freeform 5, Mocky and Four Tet. Good stuff.

I got the promo for the new Mike Patton (Faith No More/Mr.Bungle/Lovage) record this week. The "band" and the album are called Peeping Tom and it is a set of collaborations with a fairly broad range of indie electronic artists and hip hoppers. There are the usual suspects - Dan The Automator and Kool Keith are both on it. Also present are Bay area homies Jel, Dose One and Odd Nosdam from anticon, as well as Kid Koala and Amon Tobin. Then you have the tunes with Bebel Gilberto and Norah Jones, who turns in a particularly saucy vocal. It's an interesting set of matchups, some of which work better than others. Overall I like the vibe, although there are a few too many "heavy" moments, when the old Faith No More rocker vibe creeps in. I would have preferred to hear a more straight up r'n'b/hiphop record than this - more like the Lovage record. One of the most intriguing collabs is the one with everybody's fave moody Brit hoppers, Massive Attack. They provide the music on Kill The DJ (Featuring Massive Attack), and it is fairly typical of their sound, with big crunky beats and lots of electronics buzzing. Interesting...

Friday, May 26, 2006

Funky Friday Don't Want No Scrubs

It is a rather random selection of songs today. The only unifying theme is that they all made it onto the soundtrack of my day...

Pet Shop Boys have a new album out in Europe. Called Fundamental, it is produced by Trevor Horn. PSB + Trevor = great. Thanks to Chas I have a copy of the single disc. It is also available as a 2 disc set - the second disc is called Fundamentalism and is remixes. (The Rock'n'Roll Star has a couple for you to sample.). It is being widely touted as "a return to form". It is a smashing set of electro pop, as evidenced by Minimal. Back when West End Girls came out I never would have guessed that I'd still be listening to them some 20 years later. Both editions get a US release on June 27th. Make mine the double please.

Hot Chip are about to release their second album The Warning on June 13th. Scruffy DIY electro-pop-funk is the order of the day and Over And Over is a nice, singy-songy bit of fuzzed out disco with a great catchy chorus. The joy of repetition.

King Britt's Sylk 130 have released two albums of music, each inspired by a different decade. 2001's Re-Members Only took it's cue from the '80s (the previous one, When the Funk Hits The Fan, was '70s). It features funk, electro and hip hop jams and has guest vocals from De La Soul, ABC's Martin Fry and Alison Moyet. Rising is a killer electro jam that has Kathy Sledge (sans Sisters) singing a positive, "put your hands in that air" joint that puts me in the mind of Shannon's Let The Music Play, only slicker and with strings. Love the music in this - it get's it so right.

One of my co-workers and I were talking TLC yesterday and so today I pulled out 1999's Fanmail. If you don't already know No Scrubs you need to, straight up.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Handful Of Covers

Here are some tasty little cover tunes. I don't have time to write today so here's the music - maybe more words later!

Candi Staton does Merle Haggard's You Don't Have Far To Go on her new LP His Hands. The album is produced by Lambchop's Mark Nevers, and is a great set of bittersweet, soulful tunes that sees Candi make a strong return to secular music. Highly recommended.

The Magic Numbers do The Smiths' There Is A Light That Never Goes Out from Q Magazine's Best Of 86/06. A fantastic version of this most miserable of miserable Morissey/Marr tunes. Because of the sweetness of the vocal harmonising and the gentleness of the arrangement it doesn't sound quite as bleak as the original.

Gotan Project do Ry Cooder's Paris, Texas on their new album Lunatico. A nice bit of moody soundtrack music from these Argentinian tango revisionists.

Steve Wynn does Ray Davies' This Strange Effect, from Mojo Magazine's The Modern Genius Of Ray Davies. This is just a flat out rocking version from the former Dream Syndicate guy.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Silver Lining

Soul Asylum are long time veterans of the Minneapolis music scene. Formed in 1981 from the ashes of Loud Fast Rules, Dave Pirner, Dan Murphy, Karl Mueller and Grant Young rose quickly to local prominence. They were part of a vibrant scene - their peers were Hüsker Dü and The Replacements and The Suburbs and Prince and The Time and you get the idea. The music started out as garage-y indie rock mixed with the occasional punk riff and evolved into kinder, gentler alternative rock with a touch of that Midwest heartland flavor. They rose to national prominence in 1992 with the album Grave Dancers Union and it's hit singles Black Gold and Runaway Train. I was never much of a fan. I liked a few songs here and there, and often saw the guys around town a lot at different shows and bars.

Then I started dating this chick who was a huge fan. She had the records, went to the shows, had a crush on Dave Pirner, the whole thing. Grave Dancers Union came out early on in our relationship and she had the album poster on the wall of her room. I'm sure you can guess that I quickly developed a better appreciation for the band. She is still my partner, married 12 years now. Her rabid fan days have faded, but she still likes 'em.

Time was not so kind to Soul Asylum. The follow up album had some minor success, but sales got progressively lower over the years. There were line up changes - mostly new drummers - and label changes, and then last year while recording their new album bassist Karl Mueller sadly passed away after fighting throat cancer for two years. This year has seen the core duo of Dave and Dan regroup with a new rhythm session, and to me this is where the story gets interesting. The new drummer is Michael Bland, a local legend who best known for his 7 year stint in Prince's New Power Generation. He's also done drum sessions for the Dixie Chicks, Mandy Moore and Backstreet Boys (!). He is a great drummer. Their new bassist is Tommy Stinson. Yes, the former Replacement and Guns'n'Roses axe-for-hire has hooked up with his old high school buddies. It is a great rock'n'roll story, even if you are like me - not a huge fan. The guys do sound reinvigorated, and the record is a tribute to the memory of Karl - the last thing he recorded. It will be released in the US on July 11th on Legacy Records. The first single is titled, appropriately enough, Stand Up And be Strong. You can listen to more songs (and watch video) from the LP at their myspace page as well as at A classic rock story of rise and fall, of reinvigoration and redemption.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Indie Rock Four Play

Here are songs from records that have been getting blogged about quite a bit over the last few months and now it's my turn. They all traffic in quirky, leftfield indie rock and pop that is "off the beaten path".

Guillemots - Made Up Love Song #43
This Brit 4 piece, named after a sea cliff dwelling bird, are all over the map stylistically. Here it's a woozy, over the top song with creaky keys and orchestral samples that devolves into psychedelic sea shanty. From the great little EP From The Cliffs.

Field Music - Pieces
These lads are from Sunderland in the UK and are friends of The Futureheads and Maximo Park. They are a more pastoral version of those bands. Let me use an XTC analogy - Futureheads and Maximo are the XTC of Drums And Wires and Black Sea, where these guys are the XTC of English Settlement & Skylarking - earthier and organic, less new wave more English folk. This is from their self titled debut, which is full of lovely, low key pop songs like this.

Islands - Don't Call Me Whitney, Bobby
From the ashes of The Unicorns come Islands. What you got with the Unicorns is what you get here - psych pop, rap, folk and tweepop all fit in somewhere. I love this title and it is a cool little shuffle of a song.

Pretty Girls Make Graves - Domino
Post-punkers lose a guitarist and gain a keyboardist. Their new songs are reinvigorated and fuller sounding, with more diversity. And they rock just as hard as before. I was very pleasantly surprised by the band's latest LP Elan Vital, and it has slowly been creeping into a more regular rotation. I dig it.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Funky Friday Fluff

Today is a music swap special. My friend Greg and I were talking and he mentioned that he had an mp3 of Meco's Star Wars Theme, a fab-oo disco treatment from 1977 that is all that is good and bad about disco. It incorporates several of the themes from the original film - I love the cantina band tootling bit - over disco beats with big strings and a wailing geetar solo. It's a memorable bit of fluff from my youth, sent via e-mail in exchange for...

White Town's quirky one hit wonder from 1997, Your Woman. This song came out of nowhere and was everywhere, ultra catchy, with some lo-fi samples, a funky vibe and oddball lyrics. I love the little blippy beat in the break and the melancholy mood the song evokes.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Promo Swag And Booty

I get music in my e-mail all the time, so today is an attempt to clean out the inbox and pass on items of interest. Let the corporate whoring begin!

"The band is Priestess and AceFu is putting out their record Hello Master on vinyl on June 13th. It is straight-up hard rock without a hint of irony, in the vein of Queens of the Stone Age, Wolfmother, Motorhead, Black Sabbath etc. Monster riffs. Drummer Vince Nudo sings Blood and lead singer Mikey Heppner is on No Real Pain." The QOTSA comparison got me, and turns out it is valid one to make. RAWK!!!


Chicago indie label (and purveyor of underground electronica and hip hop) Hefty Records has an almost 40 minute hip-hop mixtape by LA's DJ edIT up for grabs. It's a mash-up mix that blends instrumentals from the Hefty catalog with familiar hiphop cuts, so you get things like Mike Jones vs. Savath & Savalas, Missy Elliot vs. John Hughes, E-40 vs. Eliot Lipp, T-Pain vs. Telefon Tel Aviv and Busta Rhymes vs. Some Water And Sun. Good stuff.

> DJ edIT's Flossed Out Mix <

Conner are indie rockers from Lawrence, Kansas. They've opened for Arcade Fire, The Walkmen, The Kills, and toured with The Killers. Their new LP, out on June 6th, is called Hello Graphic Missile. You can get tracks on their label page at Sonic Boom Recordings or at the band's obligatory myspace page. It is a dose of groovy, melodic indie rock.

Whirlwind Heat have an album out called Types Of Wood. It's full of dirty bass riffs, Moog spazzouts and punk attitude. and covers some intersting lyrical ground (see Gene Pool Style). It's pretty amusing. Hear songs, see videos and more at these fine urls... - -


*Chris Price has a groovin' new electro pop song up for grabs. And She Was sees the spirit of the Pet Shop Boys live on...*

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

See You On The Moon

I have kids. Two of them. This means that at some point or other I will be forced to endure music for children. At it's worst it's The (creepy) Wiggles or Disney princess music. At it's best? Well, I'm not sure if that is possible. But some people are trying pretty hard to make it a bit more fun for us grown ups, and if the results are as interesting as See You On The Moon - Songs For Kids Of All Ages, then I say keep it up. It is a compilation put out by Paper Bag Records, and it is pretty neat. Here's some bio -

See You On The Moon! is our offering to kids all over the world. We noticed that most of the time kids are far more intelligent than the adults surrounding them. We can only hope this peace offering of eclectic, new and exclusive tracks will do the trick!
Our friends Alan Sparhawk (of Low), Apostle of Hustle, Broken Social Scene, Detective Kalita, FemBots, Glissandro 70 (of Polmo Polpo), Great Lake Swimmers, Hot Chip, Junior Boys, Kid Koala (with special guest Lederhosen Lucil), Mark Kozalek (of Sun Kil Moon/Red House Painters), Montag, Rosie Thomas and Sufjan Stevens all made very special tracks just for this project. Throwing condescension out the window and understanding the concept of fun without it being mindless or moronic - all the tracks will appeal to kids and grown ups alike.

Alan Sparhawk's Be Nice To People With Lice is very amusing. Broken Social turn in a nice and moody version of Puff The Magic Dragon. There are several 20 to 30 second interludes by Montag that are dreamy little lullaby snippets. Sure, some of it borders on twee, but overall I'd give this set a thumbs up. And more importantly, I think my kids like it too. Here are a couple of my favorites...

Great Lake Swimmers - See You On The Moon is some nice strummy indie rock that is catchy and has some good lyrics too.
Apostle Of Hustle featuring The Huskys - 24 Robbers is on the playground chant tip with hiphop beats and jumprope ryhmes.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Enemies Like These

This week marks the return of Radio 4. Their new album Enemies Like These hits stores today. I am a huge fan of 2002's Gotham!, where the band's tough, political disco punk was helmed by the then up and coming DFA. It rocked and was pretty funktastic. They followed it up with 2004's Stealing Of A Nation where they decided to focus on the dance element of their sound. This meant a glossed out production sheen, lots of electronics, and very little of their tough-as-nails edge. I had high hopes and ended up pretty disappointed. Then about a month ago I heard about a new record coming, and that it was produced by Jagz Kooner. This had me psyched - dude was a Sabre Of Paradise! In the Aloof! Produced Primal Scream! Well, I've played the new record twice, and am happy to report that it sounds like a return to form. That is to say, it is a return to the harder edge of Gotham! with only a few softer moments. I like what I'm hearing. Here's As Far As The Eye Can See - pumping disco beat, great percussion, fab bassline, lots of scratchy guitars and not too much gloss. Jagz gets the balance right.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Bang Bang Rock & Roll

British rock combo Art Brut released their debut LP Bang Bang Rock & Roll in the UK in May of 2005. As usual, it only just got a US release (on Downtown Records, which makes them labelmates to the hotly hyped Gnarls Barkley and Josh Hommes' the Eagles Of Death Metal). I cracked and bought the import in February, unwilling to wait any longer, and a week later I found out about the US release date. Typical. It was worth it, though. They are your quintessentially British band - singer Eddie Argos talk-sings in a way (I'd say it's a bit Mark E. Smith) that puts the lyrics front and center, and they are hysterical. Over a gloriously sharp collection of post-punk, punk and indie rock tunes Eddie tells great, witty stories. Formed A Band is about how they're going to "write the song that makes Israel and Palestine get along" and "play it 8 weeks in a row on Top Of The Pops". I haven'tbeen so amused by lyrical content in a long time. The music is pretty fab too, sharp and crisp and full of memorable hooks. Emily Kane is a hysterically funny love song to an old girlfriend who he never got over - "Every girl I've seen since looks just like you when I squint." It gets funnier and funnier by the verse. Fight! is another amusing tune - "some people like things left unspoken, I prefer to have it out in the open, come on, come on let's have a fight!" - all set to a series of classic punky riffs. Brilliant stuff that's guaranteed to make you smile.
> Listen to more Art Brut @ the Hype Machine <

Friday, May 12, 2006

Funky Friday Fourpack

Here are four tracks from four albums that have come out in the last four weeks.

Matmos - Steam And Sequins For Larry Levan - from the duo's brand spanking new The Rose Has Teeth In The Mouth Of A Beast, this is a great piece of quirky, leftfield disco. Beautifully packaged with a set of postcards (one for each track on the album), it is a typically crazed set of experimental electronica that can test one's patience but is ultimately rewarding and often flat out beauteous.

Rinôçérôse - Le Rock Summer is taken from the self titled greatest hits set that came out this week and is atypical Rinôçérôse - fab disco beats and lots of big '70s rock guitar collide with strings to equal dancefloor deliciousness.

Roisin Murphy - If We're In Love is a groovin' bit of midtempo soul from the Moloko singer's debut solo album Ruby Blue. This album came out in June of last year but only just got a US release. Produced by ultra hipster Matthew Herbert, it is a sonically cool set of oddball funk and ballads filled made of found sounds and layered vocals. A much slept on record that deserves a wider audience.

Gnarls Barkley - The Last Time - a track from the most talked about record of the year so far. The hype might be a wee bit much on this, but by and large St. Elsewhere is as good as it gets. DJ Danger Mouse, fresh off of the success of Gorillaz and DangerDoom, teams up with one of my fave soul singers, Cee-Lo Green. The record is a briskly paced look at insanity with music that is experimental yet commercially accessible. Extra points for the weird-yet-remarkably-faithful cover of Violent Femmes' Gone Daddy Gone. Going crazy has never sounded like so much fun!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Dividing Island

Imagine a psychedelic rock band from the late '60s - acid rock guitars clash with dreamy harmonies that are all wrapped up in trippy soundscapes. They are recording an album with Phil Spector, looking for the wall of sound. Imagine that a rift in the space time continuum opens up and sucks them all into it. They zap ahead to 1980. They are spit up into the studio of Martin Hannett, where they begin to record again. Phil and Martin do not get along and sparks fly causing the time rift to re-open. This time it sucks up just the band (with a quick stop at Sarm Studios to pick up Trevor Horn) and spits them out in Florida in the year 2000. They get sage words of production (and packaging) advice from Trevor but FL is just too hot and sunny for the bespectacled producer and he flees back to England. They are fried by all the time travel, so they take a break from music and turn to art for a while. They issue their manifesto;

Lansing-Dreiden is a multi-media company founded in Miami, FL and is currently based in New York. Its output includes artwork in the form of drawings, collages, sculpture and video, as well as the production of music recordings and Death Notice, a free newspaper containing fictional stories and images. All Lansing-Dreiden projects are fragmentary, mere stones in a path whose end lies in a space where the very definition of "path" paths.

The band finally release their first album in 2003, The Incomplete Triangle. It is re-released in 2004. My very first blogspot post features a song from it. The band release a new album, The Dividing Island on May 9th,2006. It is full of all of the influences of the years - sunny harmonies, garage rock guitars, the ZTT art (of) noises, and '80s synthpop all collide into one memorable package that is presented in memorable packaging. Wow. You never know what is coming next...

A Line You Can Cross
Part Of The Promise

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

First Thought Best Thought

Arthur Russell was a kid from Iowa who played the cello and traveled around the US eventually winding up in NYC in the late '70s. He began to associate with a lot of the post-punk luminaries of the era, and began to record as Dinosaur, Dinosaur L and Loose Joints. The music was leftfield disco with some serious art school attitude. It is great stuff that has groove and creativity and sensitivity all rolled up. There have been several key reissues over the last few years (click on the link above for a discography), the latest of which is First Thought Best Thought. A 2 disc set, it is made up of instrumental modern classical music as played by orchestra and semi rock band. Disc 1 is music composed to accompany color slides of Arthur's Buddhist teacher, and is selected bits of what was meant to be 48 hours of continuous music. Disc 2 is the composition Tower Of Meaning, previously available in a run of only 320 LPs in 1983, and Sketch For The Face Of Helen which is previously unreleased. The music is very different from his disco stuff, and is lovely and plaintive. It is deceptively simple - it took a few listens for the complexities to appear. Initially I didn't think I would like it but I've found it to be a grower with some pretty melodies. Here is a nice example for you...

Arthur Russell - Instrumentals 1974 Volume 1 Track 1

Monday, May 08, 2006

Sacred Songs

Back in March I did a piece on Robert Fripp's Exposure album from 1979 (which gets reissued tomorrow as a single CD and as a special edition double CD set). I posted a couple of songs that featured Daryl Hall on vocals. Yes, that one, from Hall & Oates. I then went and picked up Mr. Hall's 1980 solo LP Sacred Songs. Also produced by Robert Fripp, it was actually recorded in 1977. The liner notes refer to it as "a record motivated purely by musical and personal concerns, making no concessions to the demands of the marketplace." This is a pretty admirable attempt considering that at this time Hall & Oates were one of the big names in music, having had a bunch of big chart hits. This record has elements of Hall & Oates, but Fripp and his array of guitars and effects render the sound very differently. It is a harder rocking affair, combining prog and funk and art rock filtered through blue eyed lenses. I dig it. There are a few instrumentals, some ballads, and both of the tunes from the aforementioned Fripp LP are also tacked onto this reissue. Something In 4/4 Time is the album's mission statement personified. It's a sharp dig at his "day job" with one hell of a glorious break in the middle where Fripp let's his guitars do the talking. Blue eyed prog. NYCNY is flavored by that city's then burgeoning post-punk scene and is an uptempo, skronked out riff driven rocker with Daryl shouting and screaming at ya. I like. Blue eyed post-prog.

A Related Item

Ambulance LTD. put out a little EP back in March called New English EP. I am still listening to it at least once a week. It features a couple of new songs, a few demos and alternate takes of songs from their debut LP, and a fantastic cover of Pink Floyd's Fearless. On Arbuckle's Swan Song they let their inner Hall & Oates fly with a song that to me is totally reminiscent of some of that duo's best moments - a mellow soulful groove with some Spandau Ballet True guitar riffs and sweet, soulful vocals. Very nice.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Living With War

I'm kicking this week off with a little bit of controversy. Neil Young releases a new album on Tuesday. Called Living With War, it is classic Neil-in-foot-stompin-rocker mode. It is also a protest record, topical and critical of the men who run the USA today. Song titles tell the story - Shock And Awe, Lookin' For A Leader, The Restless Consumer all topped off with a gospelly choir (100 voices strong) rendition of America The Beautiful. This next one is the song that is likely to garner some real attention...

Let's Impeach The President

Let's impeach the President for lyin'
And misleading our country into war
Abusing the powers that we gave him
And shipping all our money out the door

Who's the man who hired all the criminals
The White House shadows who hide behind closed doors
They bend the facts to fit with their new story
Of why we had to send our men to war

Let's impeach the President for spyin'
On citizens inside their own homes
Breaking every law in the country
Tapping our computers and telephones

What if Al-Qaeda blew up the levees
Would New Orleans have been safer that way
Sheltered by our government's protection
Or was someone just not home that day

Flip... Flop (x8)

Let's impeach the President for highjacking
Our religion and using it to get elected
Dividing our country into colors
And still leaving black people neglected

Thank God he's cracking down on steroids
Since he sold his old baseball team
There's lots of people looking at big trouble
But of course our President is clean

Thank God

Friday, May 05, 2006

Funky Friday Is Dedicated To Disco

Tom Moulton is a pioneer in dance music. A legend of the disco era, he is widely credited with the invention of the 12" remix in the early '70s. This was quite a task at the time - no computers or sequencers, so it was all physical cuts of the tape looped and tweaked to extend breaks and orchestral passages, all in service of that perfect dancefloor moment. The ever excellent Brit archival label Soul Jazz has put together a double CD (or quadruple vinyl) set of Tom Moulton mixes entitled A Tom Moulton Mix. The title refers to the phrase that appeared on all the labels of the mixes he did, and they are numerous and brilliant. The majority of the mixes on offer are promo only or previously unreleased acetates, and the list of artists is impressive; BT Express, Andrea True Connection's More More More, Issac Hayes, Grace Jones' La Vie En Rose, MFSB, Detroit Emeralds and Eddie Kendricks' Keep On Truckin' are all included, some tracks extended into nine or ten minutes of blissed out disco greatness. This is a must have for fans of disco (and dance) music. Here are a couple of my current faves...

Patti Jo - Make Me Believe In You (1975) This is a Curtis Mayfield song from disc 1 that features a smoking riff, very reminiscent of the groove from Shaft, with tick-tock beats, piano vamps and flute riffage, a great vocal performance and gradually increasing string arrangements. Fantastically soulful and grooving.

Orlando Riva Sound - Moonboots (1977) A super instrumental (except for the disco lollies singing "moooooooonboots") filled with all manner of crusty, early '70s synthesizer goodness. Sci-fi disco, baby.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Just Like The Fambly Cat

Grandaddy release their final LP Just Like The Fambly Cat next week. After several years and albums together they have decided to disband. I will miss them, but I'm sure singer/songwriter Jason Lytle will continue to write and record. He will also be making some solo, acoustic appearances to promote the new album. I am a big fan of their lo-fi synth-rock songs about national parks and sad robots, but they never quite parlayed it into mainstream success. You get the sense that if they were ever going to "make it" it would have been a couple of years ago with the release of 2003's Sumday. So now the end is nigh. I've heard some of the new tracks and it sounds like classic Grandaddy to me - some slow, sad stuff and some loud and raucous rockers, all drenched in that glorious electronic sheen that their records always have. It's Neil Young versus Pink Floyd as played by a bunch of scruffy punk rockers. Here's the new single Jeez Louise, which fits into the loud and raucous category, and here is a video for another LP track, Where I'm Anymore, which is one of the slow sad songs.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

New Promo Wednesday

Juana Molina
Wistful folktronica mixed with flora and fauna - intimate and lush music from this Argentinian comic turned neo-folkie's 3rd LP.

The Invisible Clock Factory
Somewhere Beyond The Blue-Cheese Moon
Psychedelic indie pop rocks from Canada. Quirky, hooky goodness.
Penelope Rose
The Quantum Particles Rock And Roll Song

Bonus Promo Action
Here's Destroyer from the forthcoming Stills album Without Feathers - out next week...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Uh Oh Hello

Elefant's 2003 debut Sunlight Makes Me Paranoid was one of my favorite albums of that year. A set of sharp, new wavish guitar pop, it was filled to overflow with hooks - I seriously listened to it every day for months. I still go back and play it today. Last month finally brought the follow up, The Black Magic Show. It picks up where they left off - a tight as hell band cranking out sharp new, wavish guitar pop and a singer with a great, sexy crooning voice. The label has given them a bigger studio budget this time around, and they hired producer Don Gilmore to tart things up. It is refreshing to hear it put to good use - songs sound cleaner and crisper instead of overblown, and there are some nice little keyboard bits. Since I held their debut in such high esteem I have to admit that I was a little unsure about how this album was going to turn out. It's taken a few listens but it has now got me firmly hooked. It doesn't really differ too much from their debut as far as the music goes. An instant fave is Uh Oh Hello - a prime candidate for a single. Opening with shimmery key arpeggios, it cruises from jangly, Johnny Marr riffs to the handclaps and "uh-oh's" of The Cars. I really like the dynamics here - twangy jangle in the verse to the tight, clipped rawk riffage of the chorus. Very nice.


A Post-Punk "Where Are They Now?" Answered
If you live in the US you probably know about the illegal immigration debates and rallies that have been happening over the last month or two. Yesterday was a big "boycott work" day across the US. I was watching CNN last night (and surfing the web - media junkie that I am) when they did a story about a related "outrage". A group of Latino singers and Wyclef Jean have recorded a version of the US national anthem in Spanish. The man behind the concept was then interviewed. Adam Kidron is his name. I looked up from the laptop and my jaw hit the floor. Adam freaking Kidron? This is the guy who produced the early Orange Juice records. Who else? How about the crucial early recordings of The Slits, The Raincoats, Scritti Politti's The 'Sweetest Girl' and Red Crayola. Then there are the Nina Hagen records, and the Lizzy Mercier Descloux records, and those by the Virgin Prunes, Ian Dury and Pere Ubu. In other words, a pretty seminal figure in the sound and shape of post-punk. Oh, and he was also the son of a millionaire Socialist publisher, Michael Kidron. I found this out when I then googled him. I also found out he has been living in the US for 16 years. He has been involved in the hip hop music biz, as well as running a reggaeton label. He's gone from being a, and working with, leftist rabble rousers of 25 years ago to doing pretty much the same thing today with a different set of people and ideals.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Kicking The National Habit

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Grand National are a British duo whose debut LP Kicking The National Habit was released in the UK and Europe in August of 2004. It's only taken two years, but it finally came out here in the US in March. I first heard them a few years ago on an old Jockey Slut compilation - Playing In The Distance was the song. It's killer bass riff and tight drums make it club friendly, but it's lyrics and ultra catchy hooks make it a great pop tune. For whatever reason I never bought an import copy of the album, so when it finally came out I picked it up. It has been expanded for the US with 7 extra tracks - 4 new songs and 3 remixes. After spending a month with it I have to say that it is rapidly ascending my personal charts and could be a contender for the year end top ten list. I like it a lot. It is quirky and literate, full of memorable pop hooks and glorious dancefloor embellishments - a perfect mashup of club music and indie rock and guitar pop.

Here's a bit of a mashup of the duo's bio from - Rupert Lyddon and Lawrence 'La' Rudd were members of a band performing cover versions of Police and Queen songs in pubs and bars around West London and Brighton. They combine the angular guitars, pounding basslines and heady euphoria of New Order and the Mondays with the metropolitan nouse and witty introspection of bands like Blur. After getting a bit of free studio time courtesy of Primal Scream, the Grand National sound came together. As for Grand National's music, they argue that it has an ambiguous quality: "There's a duality to it. It's half-light. Melancholic. British people do that well." But it can get confusing, as La explains. "Bands like The Smiths weren't depressing, that's bollocks - they were uplifting. New Order, too - that's celebratory music."

I've taken a few namechecks from the bio that pretty acurately sum up this album's vibe - "It's a cross between New Order's 'Regret' and The Flaming Lips' 'Race For The Prize"." "Choppy rhythm guitar that is pure Bernard Sumner via Nile Rodgers of Chic." "'Roxanne' meets 'Born Slippy' with Alan Rankine of Associates on keyboards." It's also got the best trumpet solo on a pop record since Teardrop Expodes' "Reward" . "Neo-ska that betrays a love of The Police, The Specials and The Beat," "Dream meeting between Dr Dre and Joy Division." "Imagine AR Kane and Talk Talk jamming in pop heaven, all shimmering guitars and aching chord changes."

I don't usually do such extended write ups on bands but as I mentioned before (and you've probably figured out by now) I really like this record a lot. Trying to pick a tune to share is very hard because they are all worth hearing. That being said, here a couple of my favorites this week...

Cherry Tree - the chorus is glammy '70s disco with steel drums and big diva vocals, and the verse a pretty, melancholic indie guitar rock song. Seems like a mismatch, but these guys make it work.

Rabbit Facts is one of the bonus tracks, and it is spine shivering-ly good. The opening piano melody slays me as it drifts into a moody, lush pop song that is reminiscent of '70s blue eyed soul - 10cc, Hall & Oates. It's fantastic - just listen to all of those dreamy guitars drifting in and out.

You can sample a few more tunes here . Then you should really go and pick it up for yourself so you can hear all the rest of it's tasty goodness.