Thursday, July 29, 2010

Free MP3 download: Woven Bones "I've Gotta Get"

Hey! I like the Black Lips! Do you guys like the Black Lips?! If so, you'll like Woven Bones! enthusiasm! garage rock!
But in all seriousnous I do like this single, from their new 7-inch EP:

Woven Bones "I've Gotta Get"
(Right click to download, left click to stream)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Free MP3 downloads: Avi Buffalo "Remember Last Time" and "What's In It For?"

I haven't heard the rest of this highly-buzzed self-titled debut, but I was instantly sold by the second-half guitar spaz-out that would have felt at home on Wilco's "A Ghost is Born." These kids are like 18. I lose.

Avi Buffalo "Remember Last Time"
(Right click to download, left click to stream)

Avi Buffalo "What's In It For?"
(Right click to download, left click to stream)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Last year is always better

I've been going back to some of 2009's freshest music, and man, does last year make this year look weak as hell.

2010 = Weak (by their standards) followups by established acts (Spoon, the Hold Steady, Band of Horses), and very few complete, fully-realized debuts (the exception being Surfer Blood, and maybe Tame Impala), and some disappointing to mildly good sophomore efforts [Vampire Weekend, (second half of) Yeasayer's album], with the exception being Titus Andronicus's "The Monitor." Some good, but not career-highlight albums by LCD Soundsystem and Black Keys, fill out my best-of the year list only because of lack of competition.

Beach House's superb "Teen Dream" doesn't fit in any of these categories. It's still really good, though. And my initial distaste and resistance for Ariel Pink is wearing off.

2009 = Several breakout sophomore (or later) albums (St. Vincent, Phoenix, Animal Collective, YACHT, White Rabbits, etc), several incredible debuts by bands with terrible names (Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Girls, Japandroids, The XX, Neon Indian) and plenty of good workman-like records from M. Ward, Dinosaur Jr., Yo La Tengo, The Thermals, Black Lips, The Decemberists and The Flaming Lips, among others.
In retrospect, Wilco's self titled record still stands as a disappointment, outside of a few tracks.

2010 may yet be redeemed by Deerhunter. The first single and B-side from "Halcyon Digest," available in an older posting, point towards great things.

MP3 download: Male Bonding "Year's Not Long"

"Nothing Hurts" was out several months ago, and if you haven't checked it out, it's worth it: Shoegaze-punk that powers through on 2-3 minute songs, with correspondingly fast rhythms and guitar.

Male Bonding "Year's Not Long"
(left click to stream, right click to save)

Friday, July 23, 2010

New Deerhunter song: Free Mp3 download

Deerhunter created a game: if you go here and enter a password, you get to download the new single "Revival" (and the B-side!) from their upcoming "Halcyon Digest." I did some googling and found the password, it's "tapereel." Enjoy. Once the page loads, click on the tape recorder.

 "Revival" has a fairly clean (outside of the shoegaze-y vocals and a fuzz guitar lurking in the background) and poppy '60s vibe, not unlike Atlas Sound's standout 2009 track "Walkabout."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Summer reading (some beach books, some not)

Philip K. Dick "A Scanner Darkly"
Everyone should read this book. Funny, scary, compassionate, depressing and mind-bending, it's easily the best depiction of users and their circuitous conversations, paranoia and earnest foolishness I've ever seen/read. Having been friends with some real-life versions of characters in this book, the shit hit close to home. And, the plot, my god, the plot: Bob Archer is a Substance D addict. Bob Archer is also Fred, a undercover narcotics officer. When Fred reports to his superiors, he wears a holographic suit that disguises his appearance. Fred is assigned to report on Bob Archer's "suspicious" activities. As Archer/Fred becomes more dependent on Substance D, a drug the splits the brain's left and right hemisphere, he begins to compartmentalize his two identities until they are separate people. Is Fred, Bob, or is Bob, Fred? — all kinds of themes of identity are at play here, and "A Scanner Darkly" is easily some of PKD's best work. [My favorite PKD book is likely "Ubik," but I would also highly recommend "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" (the basis for "Blade Runner") as well as "The Man in the High Castle."] A

Stieg Larsson "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"
This one falls more into the beach reading category, despite the occasionally dense paragraph detailing some financial scandal. Apparently everyone in America is reading this Swede's book, so why should I be any different? I couldn't put it down, and it definitely had its hooks in me — and why wouldn't it, with a journo as the main character, an the other being a hacker-punk chick who rides a motorcycle? I loved it, despite some questionable journalistic ethics in the final 100 pages, and an uneven writing style that occasionally jeers into an editorial voice. But, the book weaves a tale of corporate corruption, journalism, a family murder plot and buried secrets into a thriller that, you know, thrills. (Larsson was a magazine editor who wrote three books in this series before dieing in 2004. I have not yet read the other two, but this one could have used a bit more editing, me thinks. They were posthumously published.) B+

Dave Eggers "What is the What"
"What is the What" is tagged as fiction only because it tells the odyssey of Valentino Achak Deng who fled genocide in Sudan in the '80s for the United States, and Eggers had to recreate dialogue and some details to fill in Deng's memory. The story at large is purely non-fiction. Eggers frames the story from the present, as Deng is taken hostage during a sloppy robbery in his Atlanta apartment, and tells his story of escape from Sudan in the first person to his new, American captors, oddly addressing them directly. I didn't finish this, because I was reading it on vacation and then lost momentum when I got home and had shit to do. But it was engrossing for several hundred pages before becoming a bit repetitive. Deng went through several levels of hell — machetes, machine guns, fire, starvation, dehydration, disease, lions and then American robbery. Former 7' 7" NBA center Manute Bol hailed from the same tribe as Deng and fled the same atrocities. The book added new meaning and gravity to the memory of Bol, for me, who is often regarded as not much more than a circus act. Bol gave away most his NBA millions to Sudan relief efforts and died this summer 47. B+

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pitchfork Music Festival 2010

Seeing Titus Andronicus live on Saturday just cemented "The Monitor" as my album of the year thus far.

They win.

Oh and Pavement was good (sloppy), too.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

MP3 Download: High Life "F Kenya Rip"

A slice of Afro pop, from High Life's EP "best bless."

Left click to stream, right click to download, via Gorilla Vs Bear

High Life "F Kenya Rip"

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

MP3 Download: Sonny & the Sunsets

Thanks to the blog Beach Tapes for introducing me to Sonny & the Sunsets, just in time too. Apparently they will be appearing at the Pitchfork Music Festival this weekend. I'll have to add them to my schedule. Their California Americana should be a nice change of pace from Neon Indian and the lot.

Right click to download, left click to stream:
Sonny & the Sunsets "Too Young to Burn"

Sonny & the Sunsets "Death Cream"

Sonny & the Sunsets "The Hypnotist"

MP3 Download: Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti "Round and "Round"

The rest of this album is highly over-rated. But this song, this song, is amazing. Like a combination of '70s pop, an early Michael Jackson bassline and a lost '80s British smash, the thing just floats. Great summer jam, with hooks to spare.

Right click here to download (or left click to stream)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

MP3 Download: Perfume Genius "Mr. Peterson"

Mike Hadreas, aka Perfume Genius, has a haunted melancholy to his voice not unlike Sufjan Stevens. I haven't heard the rest of "Learning" yet to know if this is a one-off brilliant moment or a collection of great songs.

Right click to download Perfume Genius "Mr. Peterson."
(Or left click to listen to a stream.)

"Learning" is out now on Matador.

MP3 Download: Stornoway "Zorbing"

Oxford, England's Stornoway will release their debut "Beachcomber's Windowsill" on 4AD on August 10.
It sounds like a Glee-club Fleet Foxes. Perhaps a little prim and proper for my tastes, but it's pretty for sure, and shows a little unexpected life with horns near the 2 minute mark.

Right click here to save "Zorbing."

MP3 download: Mystery Jets

Thanks to for reminding me about Mystery Jets' new album "Serotonin".

I've heard a couple tracks and it's quite good. Right click to download an MP3 of "Flash a Hungry Smile":

"Serotonin" is out today on Rough Trade.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Wasted Postage: Reports from the Netflix Theater

Cache (2005)
Michael Haneke occasionally makes great films, despite himself — even with his occasional disdain for his audience (sometimes that's the entire point). But, if one of his films can stand on their own as a piece of entertainment, it's gotta be Cache.
Stripped of its social commentary of Hollywood's blood-thirsty schadenfreude, Haneke's best known film Funny Games still works as a horror film, albeit an unconventional one.
Stripped of its political commentary and meditations on guilt, Cache ("Hidden" in English) largely works as a suspense thriller. For the first two acts, Cache slowly unnerves its audience, as a middle-aged couple receives VHS tapes in the mail showing the outside of their home, occasionally accompanied by a childlike drawing. Theories about who might be sending the threatening postage tear at the fabric of their marriage, their relationship with their son, and eventually bring to light a secret from the husband's childhood. The secret functions as a metaphor for a 1970s massacre of Algerian civilians in Paris that has largely been swept under the rug in history books. Though by the final act, Haneke lets his thematic convictions take hold, and he disregards the conventional plot arc, leaving viewers waiting for an eventually unrealized conclusion. Because, as Haneke says in the DVD extras, the who-done-it plot, in the end, doesn't make a yarn of difference to the ultimate meaning of his film.

As a conversation starter and brain igniter, Haneke always wins. His ending is more than open-ended, it's not a predictably "unHollywood ending," where things happen just in the exact opposite way they would here. It's a purposeful statement about national and personal guilt, wrapped in a "suspense" package (though by American standards a very slow and deliberate one). But, the greatest role Haneke has yet to play is that of fully-formed story teller and point-maker at the same time. Note: The White Ribbon, Haneke's lastest, sits on my desk, and I'll be watching that soon, so we'll see if he's changed at all. A-
eXistenZ (1999)
I watched this after the's "Scenic Routes" feature focused on the film's "gristle gun" scene. Jude Law is a body guard assigned to escort virtual-reality-game designer Jennifer Jason Leigh into one of her own creations to track down a virus — planted by a rival corporation — designed to infecting and kill her invention from the inside. This is a David Cronenberg film, so the video game consoles are organic in nature, not plastic, are disgusting as hell and require a little body mutilation to communicate/integrate with, via an umbilical chord-like connection. In said Gristle-Gun scene, Law and Leigh are in an Asian restaurant (inside the game). Law orders the special, which is a plate of disgusting sea creatures unlike anything we'd ever eat. He begins methodically eating the mess, slowly discovering that the bones and gristle fits together into a gun that shoots teeth. It's an amazing scene. But like the rest of the film, it's only momentarily brilliant — one amazing idea tied to the next via laborious pseudo-techno jargon and stilted exposition. Philip K. Dick-worthy reality mind-fucks in the film's final act nearly redeem a ramshackle story. Oh yeah, throughout the film Cronenberg uses various characters as mouth pieces to espouse his various ham-fisted rants against video gaming and their reality-eschewing properties. No matter how prescient  Cronenberg often is, it's almost always clunky here. C+

Shutter Island (2010)
Some of the most enjoyable entertainment occurs when a "serious" artist has some fun and jumps in the genre mud pits. Marten Scorcese does exactly that here with Shutter Island, taking his Oscar-worthy chops and creating a pitch-perfect thriller. Shutter Island is Marty's first foray into pulpy genre film-making since Cape Fear, and he knocks the fucker out of the park. In turns suspenseful, tragic, terrifying, but most of all entertaining, he even manages to maneuver the twist that you don't want to be the twist, and makes it work. In a lessor director's hands, this could have been a cliched mess. A

Crazy Heart (2009)
Like the The Wrestler in 2008, Crazy Heart jumps in at the rock-bottom moment most overwrought biopics crawl to at about the two-hour mark, this is the part shortly after Johnny Cash falls down on stage and everyone writes him off, or when Jake Lamotta is fat and telling bad one liners at dive bars. Jeff bridges brings us in at the vortex of the downward spiral, and accomplishes the essential trick: making us care about a heartless bastard and his hopeful redemption. Lots of good original music and performances, too. B+

On the stereo this week: Tame Impala "Inner Speaker"

Innerspeaker is one of those records that quietly nags for you to return, it burrows in, re-arranges a few synapses, tells the right and left side of your brain to get along, and then waits for you to revisit. Tame Impala are a bunch of Australians who make far-out psychedelia, as much indebted to the Beatles and other late '60s guitar bands as they are shoegaze's swirling guitars. Here's hoping the album lives beyond the initial narco-blanket warmth and has some actual staying power.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Altered Zones
For anyone that thought Pitchfork wasn't adequately pretentious, everyone's favorite fickle review site has created, a blog collective aimed at readers who want to pretend they're the only people who have discovered blog bands. As with any other Pitchfork project, I'm guessing there will be lots of good music as long as you're patient enough to sort through navel-gazing posts and piles of over-hyped bedroom recording artists, which is the exact type of outsider musicians Pitchfork says it will cover at Altered States.

I will say that the site's design is very cool, utilizing images from the kind of retro-futurism seen on the covers of pulpy, mid-century sci-fi novels. Though the general aesthetic is very similar to's Polaroid kitsch (the GvB blog is one of the contributors to alteredzones, so I guess it's allowed some borrowing.)

The half-year in music (with videos!)

(Ahem. As you can see there are few actual videos, it's mostly only youtube songs with static images)

Best Albums
Surfer Blood "Astro Coast" A-

Titus Andronicus "The Monitor" A-

Beach House "Teen Dream" A-

LCD Soundsystem "This is Happening" B

Black Keys "Brothers" B+

Spoon "Transference" B
The Hold Steady "Heaven is Whenever" B-
Tame Impala "Innerspeaker" B+
Yeasayer "Ambling Alp" (the first half, at least) B-
Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings "I Learned the Hard Way" B-
Sleigh Bells "Treats" B
Jaill -"This is How We Burn" B
Male Bonding "Nothing Hurts" B
Dr. Dog "Shame Shame" B-

She & Him "Vol. 2" C-
Everything M. Ward does deserves a listen. At a certain point, though, even if I recognize something as quality work (mostly the production and instrumentation) doesn't mean I have to like it, or force myself to listen to it on the reg. I just don't see the point of She & Him. Zooey doesn't write quite good enough songs, they are pleasant enough, but I'd rather just go dig up some old records.

The Morning Benders "Big Echo" B-
The Brooklyn via San Fran group led off its second album with perhaps the song of the year, "Excuses," a glorious amalgamation of glee-club harmonies, bluesy strings and soaring melodies, but then let Chris Taylor's (Grizzly Bear) production drag the following nine tracks through the tasteful, reverbed sludge that makes Taylor's outfit so damn boring. Only the occasionally fuzzed-out guitar struts through the languid, hung-over drapery, heard on the second track on the top-loaded record.

Foals - Total Life Forever C

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti "Before Today"
Robyn "Body Talk Pt. 1"
Robyn is terrible and I'm tired of all these hipsters saying otherwise.
Janelle Monae "The ArchAndroid"

Vampire Weekend "Contra" C
I think yr a contra. NO! yr a contra ...
Wolf Parade "Expo 86" C
Broken Bells "Broken Bells" C-

Haven't had time for more than one listen
Gorillaz "Plastic Beach"
Dum Dum Girls "I Will Be"
Broken Social Scene "Forgiveness Rock Record"
Harlem "Hippies"
The National "High Violet"

Did not hear
New Pornographers "Together"
Band of Horses "Infinite Arms"
MGMT "Congratulations"
Joanna Newsom "Have One on Me"
... and thousands more


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Good on paper (new edit/addition 7-02)

There are those certain artists, who in album reviews, feature articles and interviews sound as if they could be your new favorite band. So with unbridled optimism and excitement, you spin the CD (also known as Compact Disk, an antiquated form of music storage that provided hi-fi audio quality when played with an optical drive) ... and ... plop. Nothing. For reasons abstract and absolute, it just doesn't do it for you. Tastes are tricky. Who are some of your "good on paper" acts? The most recent examples for me are as follows:

Janelle Monae
She is a talented performer, no doubt, just check out her fancy footwork at the recent BET awards. Not to mention anyone combining two of my favorite things — her new record is a quasi-concept album mashing Metropolis-era Fritz Lang with classic soul — should be my favorite new singer. It's garnering best of the year reviews from critics I respect. But then I hear the songs ... and ... nothing. I think it might be her voice, when she hits the high notes, something feels strained, thin, flat even. I don't feel like she can capture the saxophone-complex timbre of a real soul shouter, or that her songs really have that much soul in the first place. Perhaps it's the production, as metallic as the art-deco silver city in Metropolis. Speaking of science fiction, how can soul music be about the future? What about the here and now, what about her apartment, her boyfriend and her city?

Perhaps the real problem is the dissonance between the image and the sound — she wears a giant pompadour haircut, and retro threads, writers constantly refer to her in a throw-back fashion — but when it comes down to it, her sound is far more contemporary R 'n' B than classic, a sound that allows for a much smaller voice and colder production.

The Gaslight Anthem
To borrow Holden Caulfield's favorite word, they sound phony. Springsteen comparisons be damned, the guitars sound more like sanitized Warped Tour mallpunk, and the maudlin choruses are more suited to a Brian Adams hit than for anyone convincingly wearing a leather jacket.

The Gaslight Anthem suck in the same way as any band whose distortion isn't nearly as loud as their tattoos suck. Also, it's not 1959, you are not your grandpa and you did not live through the great depression. They suffer from the age old problem of not sounding nearly as hard, alternative or interesting as they look, a disease I would prescribe to just about everyone on the pop charts.