Wednesday, December 16, 2009

KCRW Playlist from 12/13

I'll keep this brief, but boy does it feel good to be writing here again. It's not been for lack of great pop songs, that I've been so silent lately. There have been many times within the past few months where I have wanted to share my thoughts on some incredible piece of music that I've recently encountered, or an old favorite that's found it's way to the forefront of my mind. It's just that every time I've thought of something to write about lately I've been inconveniently nowhere near a computer, and when I am near a computer again the words seem to have disappeared. I figured the best way to get back into the swing of things would be to begin posting my playlist from each radio show. My favorite thing about putting these shows together is always when my first set reveals itself to me. I usually have a song or two in mind for each of my nine sets during any given show, and then I build from there. Once I know what my entire first set will be, I feel like the rest of the show just sort of falls into place. This week I knew that I wanted to play Belle & Sebastian's "Your Cover's Blown," and that I wanted to play something from Jonathan Richman at some point during the show since I saw him put on a totally characteristically awesome show at the Mint last week. Regardless of the fact that I missed this show, I knew that he opened for Belle & Sebastian in 2001. "I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar" has been a major highlight for me both of the times I've seen a Johnathan Richman show so presto, "I Was Dancing in a Lesbian Bar" into "Your Cover's Blown," and then somehow that just set the tone for everything else in the show. I hope that moment where everything falls into place is never even a shred less exciting than it is now. I suppose that's all just to say that I really like the way this one turned out, and if you have a moment to check it out, I do hope that you'll feel the same way. And as a friendly reminder I'm on every other weekend for now, Sunday mornings from 3 A.M. until 6 A.M. Pacific Standard time. It's 89.9 on your radio dial, or The schedule will be a bit off course for the next few weeks, but excitingly enough my next time on the air will be Saturday December 26th from 2 P.M. to 5 P.M.! I'll be filling in for Anne Litt who is something of a personal hero to me.

There is a link to listen to the show below this paragraph, and the playlist is posted below that. But I'll leave you with this thought since I did broach the subject. Is there any performer around today that is as uniquely engaging as Johnathan Richman? I was awestruck the first time I saw him live, and I the exact same way this time around. I just can't get past his songwriting style wherein which he explores subject matter that most people might not give a second thought to in a way that is thoughtful, and well expressed in an often hilarious yet somehow always poignant manner. Plus the man just knows how to put on a SHOW. Given that his band consists only of himself and drummer Tommy Larkins, the level of showmanship that he accomplishes is no small feat. If you've never seen him live I strongly, strongly recommend that you do just that the next time you have a chance.

Alright, on to the radio show link. You can listen to the it in the archives here. It will be up through Sunday December 20th.

... And here's the playlist:

Leaving Mornington Crescent - Seventeen

The Magnetic Fields - Everything Is One Big Christmas Tree

Jonathan Richman - I Was Dancing In The Lesbian Bar

Belle & Sebastian - Your Cover's Blown

Nouvelle Vague - Ca Plane Pour Moi

Kisses - People Can Do The Most Amazing Things

Bricolage - Footsteps

Comet Gain - Movies

Atlas Sound - Shelia

Annie - Bad Times

Quadron - Slippin

Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds - I Found A Peanut

Ray Davies - Village Green Preservation Society

The Clean - Tensile

The Pop Group - She Is Beyond Good & Evil

The Slits - Pay Rent

The 24-Carat Black - I'll Never Let You Go

Mos Def - Auditorium

The Smiths - How Soon Is Now?

Oh No - Carnival

John Boswell - We Are All Connected (Triobelisk Remix)

Coconut Records - West Coast

Inara George - Bottlecaps

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists - Even Heroes Have To Die

Best Coast - When I'm With You

Felt - All The People I Like Are Those That Are Dead

Girls - Headache

Laura Veirs - Silo Song

Sister Vanilla - Delicat

The Pastels/Tenniscoats - About You

Devendra Banhart - Goin Back

T. Rex - Cosmic Dancer

Daniel Merriweather - Impossible

The Monkees - Forget That Girl

The Clientele - Never Anyone But You

Yo La Tengo - And The Glitter Is Gone

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Listening Too Long to One Song: The Pastels/Tenniscoats "Vivid Youth"

I like the summer. I like long days, a seemingly endless supply of outdoor activities to engage in, and those rare occasions when it is warm enough in Southern California to swim in the ocean. And those are just to name a few of the things that I enjoy so much about the season. However there isn't much that I enjoy more than feeling the summer end, those precious weeks where the heat seems to silently retreat usually in a far more subtle manner than the one in which it appeared. When the days are noticeably shorter, but not so short as to become depressing.

The song "Vivid Youth" from the Pastels/Tenniscoats collaboration record Two Sunsets is, to my mind, a perfect sonic representation of that end of summer feeling. I'm not sure if this was their intent, but the video certainly helps to enhance that image. The song itself though, with it's relaxed jazz informed chords, and minimal accents do everything to create the feeling of a warm late summer afternoon, probably just around dusk. This song also has even further cemented Katrina Mitchell's place as one of my favorite female vocalists.

Two Sunsets will be released here in the States via the Domino record label on September 22.

I've posted the video below, and I challenge anyone to watch it without letting a nice, lazy grin completely overtake your face.

And then tell me about some of your favorite songs that bring a certain season to mind.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

New Music from A Sunny Day in Glasgow

A Sunny Day in Glasgow's second full length Ashes Grammar is set to be released by the label Mis Ojos Discos on September 15th. You can pre-order the ultra-limited, colored vinyl, double LP (or the CD ) here. I strongly recommend that you do.

I've been in something of a holding pattern with this record since it came in to my possession a few weeks ago. Most of my time these days is spent between searching for songs new and old that satisfy my addiction to catchy/straightforward pop, and re-learning how to have a genuine appreciation for certain types of straightforward rock and roll. A deepening love for soul sounds from various points scattered around the globe, and continuing to learn how to have a genuine appreciation for reggae take up most of the rest of my listening time. Still, there is a lot to be said for artists who are able to bypass those things completely (perhaps by slyly using certain elements of all of them), and create something of an alternate sonic universe that has the ability to pull a listener into it's fold, and keep that listener there until it's conclusion has been reached. This is exactly what A Sunny Day in Glasgow have done with Ashes Grammar. The songs have been expertly constructed to ensure that each one unfolds from or into each song that it follows or proceeds. Expert mixing further contributes to the likelihood that one might find oneself rather lost (in a good way) within the confines of this dreamy aural landscape. Most of the lyrics are somewhat inconsequential, instead the voices, and the words or sounds that they sing seem to be more another element in a larger overall construction of sound.

And true to the the records ability to draw you in so completely, coming out of the record is like gradually waking up after a very deep sleep. The type of waking up that tends to take until some time late in the morning (or even the afternoon) to fully occur. And yet, there are several songs on the record that can just as easily be taken out of context, and blended into another song belonging to almost any genre.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Drums

I love the composite sketches of songs that stay with me after a radio show. When my mind runs the "Boy girl revolutionaries... YOU AND ME!" segment from "Her Jazz" over and over on a loop until it suddenly somewhat (but somewhat not) inexplicably fades into the chorus of the Magic Bullets song "The Upstairs Flight," and then the whistled intro to the Drums "Let's Go Surfing."

Oh the Drums.

I saw them play at NYC Popfest. I didn't have the best view as Cake Shop is not configured to offer the best view to those not immediately in front. The sound was quite good though, and from what I heard I knew that the Drums were something special. It's just that... they played late Sunday afternoon. I'm fairly certain it was before I went to find my first meal of the day, and I'm also fairly certain that I was still anxiously wondering whether or not someone that I used to know a lot better than I do now was going to walk through the door at any minute. I did not give the Drums the level of my attention that they deserved. This sub par level of attention was in fact so severe that despite several friends referring to them as a highlight over the next few days, somewhere in the ensuing haze that took over my memories of both New York and San Francisco Popfests the Drums were lost completely. It wasn't until checking my Radio Free Silver Lake email account last week that they were rightfully pushed into the front of my mind. There were plenty of quotes in this email from various blogs citing them as a major Popfest highlight of course, and the memories started flooding back. However, it was a different quote in the email, this one from the band itself that really grabbed my attention:

"We just wanted to start a band that sounded like The Wake." say The Drums, "We heard their song 'Pale Spectre' and went crazy! Maybe our music didn't turn out sounding too much like The Wake but we're really just like everybody else, chasing that perfect pop song. And that's not so bad right?"

I think I stopped just short of smacking myself on the forehead with the palm of my hand like people do in sitcoms. Brian told me about this band a few Hungry Beat!'s ago, only he thought that the Wake song they were inspired by was "Crush the Flowers." I do remember really wanting to hear any band that formed because they wanted to sound like the Wake. Their influence is definitely apparent, but that influence does somehow filter out into a sound that sounds rather current and exciting. They are releasing their Summertime E.P. on September 15th through the New York based Twenty Seven Records label, but you can pre-order it from Insound. Insound says the release date is August 4th so I suppose that if it shows up sometime that week, it's just an added bonus. Not too mention a whole extra month of the summer to enjoy an E.P. with the title of Summertime.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

St. Christopher

I can't remember if they played "All of a Tremble," at either St. Christopher show that I experienced this past weekend. It's the song that I've been most consumed by since purchasing the CD collection of all of the singles from the Sarah years at the show, but I just can't remember if we heard it at either show. I feel like we must have, but I just can't be sure. I know that we heard "You Deserve More Than a Maybe," at both shows. Yvonne was finally able to encourage a small group of us to dance to that one in the awkward (and curiously underpopulated room) in Ventura, and we danced again at the reassuringly fuller Echo the next night. I stood still during "Say Yes to Everything" in Ventura, even though that single is the only St. Christopher single that I've ever owned, and one of my absolute favorite songs to soundtrack any dance party. The stillness was made up for the next night at the Echo when I apologized to Mary for the spoiler, but continued on in telling her that the next song was going to be "Say Yes to Everything," and that we were going to have to dance. We did, and were eventually able to draft Yvonne, and perhaps even John and Eric into dancing with us as well.

This is all presented as a way to examine the idea of what it really is that constitutes a great show. Does one have to recognize every song? Because I didn't, I vaguely recognized more than I thought that I would, but I did thoroughly enjoy pretty much every song that I heard nonetheless. And must each song have to contain every element from the recorded version? This is a particularly important point to address it seems, when you are dealing with songs that have meant so much to so many over the years. As it turns out, the songs can still sound pretty great with simply drums, bass, guitar, and vocals. Glenn's voice was in top form, and his excellent lyrics did come across. The lack of timpani in "Say Yes to Everything" was jarring, sure, as was the absence of the intricate keyboard on "Antoinette." That last one was according to Yvonne, of course, although having heard the song now I know what she means. Still hearing it played live at all was so lovely, and the way they bled it into it's B-side "Salvation" was just cool. Watching Brian having what looked to be amazing fun with these bass lines that he'd only learned a week before, and only had the occasion to practice with the band for seven hours on the previous Friday was undeniably cool as well. And Jesse's comment that in Ventura it looked like Michael Jackson was playing bass for St. Christopher because of Brian's small white hand cast that was the last remainder of a recent bike injury just added another level of surreality to the whole thing. And St. Christopher will now perpetually remain in my mind, "The band that played two of my favorite shows during one of the most fun weekends of my life."

You can (and should) pick up a copy of the St. Christopher compilation Lost at Sea: The Sarah Recordings right here.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sky Saxon

He died Thursday as well, as I'm sure that most of you who are reading this already know. I've never heard any of his solo material, and I'm not exorbitantly familiar with the Seeds save for a few songs. I haven't listened to the Seeds in at least a year and a half. Still, the news of his death made me a bit sad. He was a very talented Los Angeles based artist, and I had really hoped to see a live performance from the Seeds one of these days. Anyway, I really don't much to offer in the way of a comment. I just thought that it deserved a mention. I heard "Pushing Too Hard" twice this weekend at dance nights, and it was greeted with a mild response of gratitude. Hearing Michael Jackson on Friday night garnered serious cheering. Although, when a DJ played "Rock With You" on Saturday night one of our friends came up with an impromtu "Sky Jaxon" mash-up by singing "Pushing Too Hard" over the Michael Jackson song. It seems that the entire group of friends I was with determined this to be an extraordinary display of splitting the difference.

Oh, and Sky Saxon was also name checked in the classic Pooh Sticks song, "On Tape." You really can't get much cooler than that, now can you?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Listening Too Long to One Song: Pocketbooks "Footsteps"

How is it that certain songs can be so sincere, and so convincing that they not only change your general mood, but almost make you believe that whatever is detailed within the song is absolutely possible no matter how implausible the concept? I've had to stop myself several times to give this some serious thought. Do I believe that there is anyone out there whose footsteps I could imagine in perfect sync with mine, forever? Absolutely not. Do I believe that it's possible when the Pocketbooks sing about it? Absolutely.

The song is like a perfectly crafted miniature film in that regard. The type whereupon going in you know that suspension of disbelief will be inevitable, but you just don't care because the story unfolds in such a way that you're simply thrilled to escape into it for it's entire duration. Surely you can imagine how that precise concept just gets better when compressed into a perfect, three and a half minute, "feel good hit of the summer" ready pop song. The cheery keyboard line, and tambourine punctuate this sweet love story flawlessly. The melodica solo that emerges halfway through to play over the aforementioned through line is a pleasant surprise until you realize that of course this song would be somewhat incomplete without such a thing. It would be no less good without it, but it's the little details like that one that elevate this single from great song, to amazing song.

The single is available as a free download from the band's Myspace page, but I would also strongly urge you to pick up a copy of the full length, Flight Paths, to which it belongs. The CD will not be officially released until July 13, but the How Does it Feel to be Loved Record Label is selling advance copies here. I've had mine for about a week now, and it's already shaping up to be the official soundtrack to a good portion of my summer.

Monday, June 8, 2009

With the Clip of an I.V. Drip

I've had the most recent EP from Swedish band Suburban Kids With Biblical Names in my posession for just under a week and a half now. I'm fairly certain that within that relatively short time span I've listened to the for songs contained on that EP more than I've listened to anything else all year. There is even a pretty good chance that I've listened to each one of these songs more times than probably half of the songs that were on my top twenty list from last year.

While I was driving to work the other day (listening to #4 for what was probably the 75th time) my mind began to wander, and it was to my horror that I could no longer remember any of the words to the song that Suburban Kids With Biblical Names took their band name from. The song is "People," and the band that wrote that song is Silver Jews, and when I discovered SKWBN I was probably most inclined to listen to them based on that title. I'm pretty certain that the obsession with American Water (the album that contains that song) that I was coincidentally so deep into at the time of the American release of the SKWBN record that put them on my radar was actually due to repeat listens to "People," and then letting the brilliance of the rest of the record inevitably unfold around me. Needless to say, I used to know every word of that song. When I tried to remember this past Friday I could not get any further than "Moments can be monuments to you." I've pieced together most of the song from memory (which was way more fun than reading the lyrics online), and once I have my computer back then I will likely be spending a few days with American Water, and absolutely nothing else on my headphones. In the meantime, it's given me a nice topic to explore for my next "Not Quite Punk" column on Web in Front.

I'll also be typing many more glowing words of praise about Suburban Kids With Biblical Names when I finally publish my top ten highlights from New York and San Francisco Popfests. They were my number one highlight at both festivals. For now though, I really just wanted an excuse to share this video for one of the songs on the new EP, "Europa." I do greatly wish that there was a video for "1999" which in my mind is THE dance party single for the summer of 2009. Whether or not the rest of the world catches on sadly remains to be seen. "Europa" is quite interesting though. It's probably the most melodic, and reflective song on the EP, and it contains one of my favorite examples of word play to date: "You said that you wanted some more bass and drum machine in your mon-i-tor (No money, no tour...)" And it's lines like that make me realize that while sonically they are in quite a different part of the pop music spectrum than the space within that spectrum that's inhabitted by Silver Jews, David Berman's dry wit has likely had more of an influence on this band than merely their name.

It appears that you can (and should) purchase the #4 EP as an MP3 download here.

You'd also be smart to pick up a copy of the band's sole full length #3 if you don't already own that record. You can do that here

Suburban Kids With Biblical Names - Europa from Bo Mikael Hall on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Nothing to Do So I Thought About You

I'm just re-reading the Vaselines show review that I stayed up all of the Tuesday night before I left for New York attempting to complete. I still feel like it's just on the verge of being an acceptable representation of my thoughts on the show, but instead it's just reading pointless rambling. The most frustrating part about the whole thing is that I feel like I am only a sentence or two off from the review being an acceptable, and perhaps even borderline compelling read.

Oh well, I have to hope that once all of the Popfest anticipation/afterglow has worn off (one down one to go) I'll be better able to sort my thoughts about other live music related things. Speaking of Popfests, I'm in the process of jotting down my thoughts about the New York fest so that I can compose some proper reviews (of both New York and San Francisco Popfests) upon my arrival home next week...

While composing the aforementioned thoughts I've been watching some video highlights from New York. You can watch a great deal of videos from the weekend here:

For now though, I will leave you only with this video of the Tartans performing "Cats of Camerford." I was quite taken with their sound as a five piece. Several days of touring served them very well as they sounded tighter, and more confident than I had ever heard them sound before. Brian Young's presence was a very welcome one, especially on any song to which he added a saxophone part.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

And My Favorite Song's Entitled Boredom

"Young people have a biological right to be excited about the times in which they're living. If you're very lucky, that hormonal urgency is matched by the insurgency of the era - your innate adolescent need for amazement and belief coincides with a period of objective abundance."
Simon Reynolds, Rip it Up and Start Again

Friday, April 17th. Approximately 8:40 P.M. I sit hunched over a tiny container of cheap fast food chow mein that would serve no nutritional purpose whatsoever other than to line my stomach with something that might keep me from fainting. I listen to a teenage girl a few tables over singing along to some terrible sounding radio hit in a questionable American Idol styled voice. Herr friends seem to encourage this behavior. I choke down what is left of my "dinner," and I reach the conclusion of the Simon Reynolds penned book Rip it Up and Start Again. Approximately ten seconds after I reach the conclusion of this book, I begin to wonder if it will come to be referred to as my favorite book, not necessarily just my favorite music book. My favorite book. Period.

Since there are still so many books that I have yet to read (music related and otherwise) I'll simply say that Rip It Up... was a very satisfying read. Due to the manner in which the book is composed, I was not entirely aware of how satisfying of a read that this would turn out to be until I reached the end. Reaching the end of the book immediately called to mind the beginning of the book, and I immediately realized that if the moment I completed that book on Friday April 17th was not the moment that I determined it to be my favorite book, then it was certainly the moment that I will refer to from now on as "the first time I read Rip it Up and Start Again."

The full title of the book is Rip it Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978 - 1984. The title explains what you will find contained within the chapters of the book, but again it's the composition of the book that makes it even more compelling than it would have already been given the fact that it discusses bands like P.I.L, the Fall, Joy Division, Orange Juice, and Josef K in great length. If you're like me, you'll also learn more than you might not have been aware that you wanted to learn about Throbbing Gristle, the Human League, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and Malcolm McLarren's involvement with Bow Bow Wow.

I must admit that finding the book's website in 2007 was my introduction to the writing of Simon Reynolds. I cannot properly explain why it took me so long to get from discovering the website for Rip it Up and Start Again, to actually reading the book. In fact, I read the book that Simon Reynolds co - authored with his wife, Joy Press, entitled; The Sex Revolts: Gender, Rebellion, and Rock 'N' Roll before I got around to reading this one. I spent a decent part of my morning reading an old fanzine that was lent to me by a friend on the basis that it seemed like something I might enjoy. In this 'zine, was an interview with Simon Reynolds. Everything that was mentioned in the introduction to this interview said a lot about why Rip it Up... was such an enjoyable read for me. The blend of relevant academic references with music fan enthusiasm, feminist theories, and all manner of stylistic choices that add up to an intellectually stimulating, yet very accessible read.

You can buy the insanely affordable American issue of the book here. This is the one that I just completeted, and am currently raving about. However, I was also recently lent the U.K. edition by the same friend who was generous enough to supply me with the fanzine. Based on the few pages that I have read so far of the U.K. edition, I can say that it is absolutely worth your money to spring for that copy based upon the additional (essential) content that it contains. The blog that accompanies the book is essential reading as well even for the footnotes alone, which expound further upon the already quite thorough information found in the book.

In an extra twist of interesting coincidence, the week after I completed the American version of Rip it Up..., and also my first radio show for KCRW, Henry Rollins devoted his entire radio to a postpunk tribute using Rip it Up and Start Again as something of a guide. In the show that I had put together the weekend before that I played "I Feel Love" by Donna Summer based on the fact that it was cited in the book as a highly influential single on certain aspects of the sound of postpunk, and also based upon the fact that I love really good disco. I followed that song with Chic knowing even before I read this book that the lads from Orange Juice were big fans (and you know that thing about loving good disco), but reading the Postcard chapter in the book brought that to the forefront of my mind so I pretty much have to give the book credit for the fact that I made that Chic into Orange Juice segue that I had vowed to make (though promptly forgotten) a long time ago. To carry the odd coincidence further, I was already intending to play "Rip it Up," on what will be the second installment of my radio show this weekend. Interesting how these things work out, isn't it?

Anyway, needless to say, I highly recommend listening to Henry Rollins' postpunk tribute. Please do so here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

We Just Want to Play (Yeah!)

D.I.Y. It's a term that you've probably seen throughout your life applied to various ventures from home improvement, to film making, to music. In fact, you've probably seen the term applied to music quite a bit in recent times. This is with good reason of course, as there is quite an impressive crop of bands employing lo-fi recording techniques, fuzzy guitars, effects pedals, and all manner of other wonderful things that help create interesting pop songs.

Puppy Dog play no electric instruments. They play stand up drums, glockenspiel, and tambourine. They shriek lyrics about mythical beings. I'm fairly certain that they don't have a single song that reaches the two minute mark. They are a breath of fresh air.

I have a soft spot for watching bands in the process of developing their sound, and the way that Puppy Dog seem to be going about it is pretty charming. For instance, they added the glockenspiel to their repertoire after watching the Tartans use the instrument in their songs. They also enlisted the help of Tartans' drummer Lon to mic their instruments, and record their songs - So, o.k., not entirely D.I.Y., but certainly D.I.Y. in spirit - I'm quite intrigued to see what shape Puppy Dog's music will take in the future. Perhaps they will flesh out their songs with a bit more structure, melody, and length. Perhaps they will continue to create the ultra breif, and beautifully odd song sketches that they are offering now. Either way, I think this is a band to keep an eye on...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Listening too Long to One Song: The Chesterf!elds "Ask Johnny Dee"

"So what did happen to Johnny Dee?" asked Peter. I must have had a very puzzled look on my face, because whatever he said next was the thing that clarified for me that Johnny Dee was a real person. We were listening to the Chesterf!elds, of course, and this news was something of a revelation to me at the time. Everything about this song (which I had heard too many times before this conversation took place to count) suggested that it's title character must be fictional. This was not only suggested by the lyrics, but the dreamy sort of elongated tone of the guitar riff that opens the track, as well as the crisp drumbeat, and sharp yet very minimal bass line that combine with the nicely intricate guitar work that is being displayed at this point. The result of all of this is a terribly gorgeous sonic shimmer. But surely it is the lyrics that mostly do the trick of suggesting that Johnny Dee must be larger than life, and therefore could not possibly exist. The way the lines are delivered adds to this exponentially. "Well if you'd like to know what pop stars have for tea, ask Johnny Deeeee. With the name Johnny Dee sung in a manner that most resembles a sigh. I have to imagine that the Johnny Dee of reality was slightly embellished in this song. Though I have to imagine that any embellishment was very slight, as everyone I've spoken to who who has ever encountered Johnny Dee remembers those encounters with great fondness. Apparently he promoted shows, which may explain a band like the Chesterf!elds giving him such a glowing tribute in song form. According to my sources, he was present at quite a large number of shows. However, it seems that he is most well known as a writer who produced fanzines, and eventually went on to contribute to the NME.

I have to assume that the link that I am about to direct you to regards the same Johnny Dee, if so, then catch up with the current goings on of this somewhat prolific music journalist here. If anyone could confirm for me that this is in fact the Same Johnny Dee, I would be most appreciative!

There are several Chesterf!elds songs available for your listening pleasure here. While you're there be sure to give "Completely and Utterly," a proverbial spin as well. That's shaping up to be the next song to occupy a borderline unhealthy amount of my time.

Also, if you are looking set up a Chesterf!elds collection of your very own, this is a very nice (and inexpensive) place to start. Even though, sadly, this comp does not appear to include their seriously impressive cover of the Vic Godard song, "Holiday Hymn."

Monday, April 6, 2009

I Remember What it Was to Feel

Before anything else is discussed in this post, please check the comments for the post that proceeds this one. I think I always want to believe that Forever Breathes the Lonely Word was Lawrence/Deebank era Felt, but it is not. I honestly think that somewhere along the way I learned that, and just for whatever reason let my mental Felt time-line slip away from accuracy. Also, in my sleep deprived state I did not do my proper research for that post. Sigh, my sincere apologies, but since this truly inexcusable error was corrected by Mr. Fire Escape Talking there is a wealth of information in his comment that you should all be sure to check out. Thus my suspicion that I should really know better than to think I am informed enough at this point to offer an opinion on anything Felt, or Felt related has been confirmed. I can assure you it won't happen again. Though the idea that I might one day sequester myself away from society with nothing but Felt records, and printed information about the band in order to fully absorb it all is never out of the question for me...

I am currently in the process of composing a review of the most recent Thermals album, Now We Can See for Radio Free Silver Lake. Oddly, this has just been one thing (musically anyway) in a not short line of things that have brought me back me back to those days where I listened to music, and I felt things. Uncomfortable things, embarrassing things, real things overall... I suppose... I don't know, it's an odd thing to discuss.

But this blog is supposed to be my free space, where I can discuss things that I would not prefer to discuss otherwise. I knew that before I got into the knew Thermals record, I would have to listen to a few of the songs on Fucking A that made me pay attention to that band in the first place. Particularly the song, "A Stare Like Yours." I can't remember the last time that I had actual romantic feelings for someone until I listen to this song. Enough time has passed for me not to feel those things anymore, but hearing the song is enough to remind me that I was once capable of such things. Strange. I close my eyes when I'm listening to that song, and it makes me feel dizzy, like the sheer force of it might knock me over at any moment. I think thisk this has more to do with the song itself than it does with the memory, but to be completely honest I really have no idea.

On Monday I was taking part in my normal volunteer shift at KCRW. As is so often the case when I'm at the station for the program Morning Becomes Eclectic there was live music in the third hour of the show. I've seen some really good performances during my time there, but every now and then an artist will come along i find myself terribly excited about. Such was the case this past Monday when Raphael Saadiq came through the studio. He did release one of my favorite songs last year after all. His set was remarkably stripped down, featuring only himself on vocals and guitar, and Rob Bacon on second guitar. I was initially kind of bummed not to hear "Seven," but I did figure that it would probably lose a bit of it's impact without the drums so not hearing it was likely for the best. I'll simply have to hope that I get to hear that one when he plays with a full band at the Hollywood Bowl this summer. Back to the acoustic set though, I could not believe how lost I found myself in the songs that were being presented right in front of me. The setting is almost disturbingly intimate for songs with so much soul. You find yourself separated from the performers by a not terribly thick pane of glass, and not too much distance at all. I thought that must look insane. I wondered if anyone was noticing how idiotic I looked. "Oh God," I thought at one point, "Am I keeping correct rhythm?" Because there was no way that I was going to be able to stop myself from tapping along. Then I remembered that none of this really mattered. No one in the studio that day was paying attention to my reactions, and even if they were, this is how people often react to music! People don't just have abstract feelings about pop songs as I so often do, they take them in, and react to them personally. Now why had it taken me so long to remember that? Why did it take two such vastly different facets of pop music that happened to be on my mind during the same week to remind me?

Heightened emotions perhaps? The same radio station is letting me take control of their airwaves for a few late night/early morning hours in about a week. I've just been informed that my official KCRW DJ bio (!) is now online. I haven't mentioned it here yet because it just hasn't quite seemed real. Linking to that bio makes it seem slightly more real. However, I don't think that it will actually feel real until sometime in the hour between 3 and 4 A.M. (Pacific time) on April 19th when it finally hits me that I am playing songs, and people are hearing them in their cars!

If you are o.k. with listening to a radio show from the girl who can't keep her Felt line-ups straight, then you can do so by going here, and where it prompts you to select a channel to listen online, chose the option that says "Live." As I mentioned this will take place from 3 A.M. to 6 A.M. on April 19th here in California. It will be archived as well. The time slot is unofficially referred to as the Lab, so you can look up archived shows that way. I will be sharing the time with two other DJs so after that first show I'll be on every three weeks or so. Any requests?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

We're Gonna Sing Along, to a Brand New Denim Song, About the Summer

I'm keeping the oddest hours these days, so forgive me if this post seems a bit pointless, and without focus. Sometimes though when faced with the instance of having about an hour to kill before reasonably cleaning her way out of the place where she has been house-sitting, with the laundry already going, and most of the dishes drying, a girl is left with no choice but to write something about the all around marvel that is Denim.

I heard Denim for the first time on July 4th of last year. We were driving back from lunch in Yvonne's car and this song came on that sounded like pure, sonic sunshine. This probably had a lot to with the fact that the song we were listening to was called "Sun's Out." Even so far as the opening lines are, "The sun's out. In the sky. The sun's out, everyone's happy cause the sun's out, children are smiling cause the suuun's in the sky, oh it shines for you and I." It sounded like the most exuberant, cheesy, fabulous, synth and drum machine driven Euro-pop ever. Of course, based on the vocals, and many of the lyrics it was clear that the song was of English origin. Since I must have been clearly expressing my enjoyment of the song (smiling is involuntary when it's on, and usually there is involuntary dancing as well) Brian turned to ask me if I knew what it was. When I said that I didn't, but that it sounded great, Brian giddily exclaimed, "This is Denim, Lawrence's band after Felt!" I was pretty surprised as I had never hear anything from the Felt vault that sounded like it would lead to what we were listening to at that moment. Of course, having heard more from Felt, and from Denim subsequently it all makes perfect sense as a testament to Lawrence's odd genius. Any one of Lawrence's projects had the potential to thrive beyond the highly regarded cult status they achieved, and it does seem as though they all came so close. Why Forever Breathes the Lonely Word wasn't the thing that (at one point or another) made people utter "Lawrence/Deebank," in a similar manner to the way in which they utter, "Morrissey/Marr" is beyond me. Why the single "Primitive Painters" didn't make them a wildly successful pop band also boggles my mind. And, of course, in a world with more justice in it "Sun's Out" would have been precisely what the A-side of the single it shared described, a "Summer Smash." Actually that song itself should have been a giant hit as well. Allegedly EMI shelved it due to the fact that it's release would have coincided in poor taste with the somber air that was permeating Britain around the death of Princess Diana... due to a car crash... that happened late in the summer of 1997.

Pretty sad really, as this song along with pretty much every other Denim song that I have managed to hear qualifies as giddy pop perfection. Every Denim song that I own is currently creating the perfect soundtrack to morning of tidying up as I have finally begun to anticipate the arrival of summer. Now if only my anticipated bedtime set for about noon (seriously) would arrive just a bit sooner.

Once again, allow me to direct your attention to a post on Fire Escape Talking where you can download "Summer Smash" (The link for "Sun's Out" doesn't appear to be working at the moment), and also read a much fuller (and more sharply written) version of the story behind the single.

Here's a video for Denim's song "Middle of the Road" Enjoy!

Thursday, April 2, 2009


"Do you want to hear the best Pastels song now?" Yvonne asked as were winding down the Hungry Beat! clean up last week. She might have been asking this to Mabern, but she was probably asking it rhetorically to no one in particular since she was already in the process of cuing the record. I knew which song she was going to play since she had already played it earlier causing me to run into the room almost in complete disbelief over the fact that I would finally learn the name of this song.

You see, a few months ago a friend gave me a CD that contained a Pastels demo, and a Peel session. The Peel session sounded great of course,, so did the second song on that demo. However, that first song on the demo just really stopped me in my tracks. It sounded like the Pastels paying more of an homage to the Television Personalities than I'd ever heard in any of their other songs, even though I had certainly often heard an undercurrent of TVPs appreciation in their music. This song though opens with a bass line that would have been right at home on And Don't the Kids Just Love It, and there is a really interesting echo effect on the vocals. I listened to it over and over again wishing that I knew what this song was called. Then about a week ago, I heard that familiar intro drift into Pehrspace's entry way. I immediately ran into the main room to finally learn the name of this song. The friend that had given me the demo in the first place beat me to the inquiry, and was already holding the record sleeve. "What is the name of this song?" I asked eagerly. Yvonne told me that it was called "Oh! Happy Place." She also said that she thought that it was one of their best songs and wished that it was one of the ones that they eventually brought back to the studio to clean up a bit as the recording quality of "Oh! Happy Place" does leave a bit to be desired. I agree with her wholeheartedly on both counts. Production value aside, you really should hear "Oh! Happy Place." It's magnetic, you won't be able to tear yourself away until you've listened to it so very many times.

Research to attempt to track down the song online led me to this post on the incomparable blog Fire Escape Talking. His post includes a good deal of valuable information about both the demo, and the Peel Session including the line-up of the band for the Peel Session. Interestingly that line-up included Joe Foster who was also in the line-up of the Television Personalities that existed at that time. I can only hope that the link to download both of these recordings is still active because you really will want to own them. I don't have my external drive with me at the moment, so I can't test it for you. I was, however, able to listen to the songs by following the link so at least you have that if nothing else.

Also, for a bit of additional fun since we were chatting about the Pastels and the Television Personalities anyway...

Here is link to an interview that Stephen Pastel conducted with Dan Treacy for his and Aggi's former 'zine Juniper Beri-Beri.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Are You Scared to Get Sad?

I am aware that so many of my posts have been dublab related lately. That has much to do with the fact that dublab has been occupying a great deal of my time, and thought lately. There have been other things as well, but more on them later...

Dublab has a "Give Up," season wherein which two of the dublab founders Mark "Frosty" McNeil, and Jimmy Tamborello put on sad, slowdance nights. The season was shortened this year, but that did not detract from it's impact. Team Hungry Beat! had a blast a few Sundays ago reliving our teenage years, or for others, creating the teenage years that we only wish we could have experienced.

I was asked to contribute a set to a live "Give Up" Tuesday Transmission during the month of February. As it happens, I put more thought into this particular session than I ever have to any other DJ set that I have ever composed. Oddly enough, composing this set of sad songs was really fun.

It was my initial plan to bring together the most devastating, heart-breaking downers that I could find, but then this article on the Tangents archive made me slightly re-think that plan. I'd heard the Peggy Lee song that came in at number ten maybe once before seeing it on that list. "Oh that would be perfect!" I thought. I found a copy of the record of the same name, Is That All There Is?, at Record Surplus the very next day. Thus my new plan for the set was in motion. The characters in this set bemoan apathy, and ponder the state they are in. They watch trains go down the tracks wishing they were somewhere else, and they watch the tide roll away as they are wasting time. They contemplate similarly minded friends who "sit alone for hours, thinking only of flowers." Relationships are dreamed of, but never attained. They struggle to put together in their minds what exactly it is that people do all day, and surely everyone of them has at some point asked the question, "Is that all there is?"

And of course if it is, then we should all most definitely keep dancing.

You can download the session, and view the tracklisting here.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

First the Bad News, Then the Better News...

Anyone who is in the L.A. area, and was planning to venture out to the Echo to see the Tartans on Sunday night should still plan to do so, as Sea Lions are still playing, and the Part Time Punks will still be spinning some of the best 7"s ever pressed, but the Tartans are now unable to appear. It seems that on Wednesday night as drummer Lon was biking home, he was hit by a car. They were initially planning to have him released yesterday, but it turns out that assessment came too quickly. He is having surgery today to reconnect some muscles, and apparently there are broken bones as well. Hopefully this will all be a distant memory by the time their planned April and May shows roll around, but turning around to play a show two days after surgery would be next to impossible.

In far more positive Tartans news, have you been to their Myspace page lately? Many silent prayers have been answered, and finally a recorded version of "West of La Brea," exists for our collective listening pleasure. I haven't been able to stop humming that one, though it's becoming increasingly clear that the stand out recording of their next 7" will most certainly be "Tarmac." I've always enjoyed the song live, but on the recording all of the various elements that make it an interesting song seem far more apparent. That's just an internet recording too, I can't imagine how lovely it will sound on vinyl.

Also, very briefly, I've been ask to join the staff for the updated version of this website. Right now the link will still take you to the blogspot page, but hopefully by next week the shift to a more customized website will have been made. My role so far in these proceedings will be to search for new bands to recommend, and to organize a more expansive CD/single review section. Right now the site is mainly focused on L.A. music, but hopefully with the additional staff the coverage will become a bit more international. Naturally, I will also try to post as many indiepop reviews here as I am able to in hopes that some very deserving bands will have a chance to reach a wider audience. It's all an experiment at this point, but it's an exciting challenge to be sure. Plus, I finally feel genuinely productive for the first time so far this year! Which is nice.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I've Got Falling and Laughing (Falling and Laughing, Falling and Laughing...)

As I've mentioned before, I contribute regularly to an online Radio Station called I've also mentioned that I am in the process of putting together an indiepop related themestream for the station. Two sessions have just been added to the dublab archive that will eventually be added to that very themestream.

The idea was brought about somewhat by a comment that was left on Hungry Beat's Myspace page (before we had even held our first night) by our friend Krister who used to put on a similar night in Malmo, Sweden. He noticed that we were on the same night each month, and that we should look into doing virtual guest DJ sets. I mentioned this on Hungry Beat! night one to dublab Ale, and he brought up the idea of the themestream. At the rate that I am going in terms of actually compiling these things, this theme will likely be in place by early 2015. I'm kidding, of course, I hope to have it all worked out over the course of this year. So far I've been thrilled by the diversity of ideas that I've been presented with as I've been reaching out to people, and putting this all together.

So far (fairly appropriately I think) my favorite session has come from the person whose comment set this idea into motion. I don't know how many people when approached about creating an indiepop session would automatically think to create a history of noisy guitar music that traces the threads from James Chance to the Pains of Being Pure at Heart. This is precisely what Kris has done for us though, and it sounds fantastic. I made the possible mistake of listening to it for the first time while walking around my neighborhood. I had to remind myself (more than once) that mouthing along the words to a Go Sailor song while taking such a walk is not quite appropriate, and probably made me appear to be mentally ill. Still a set good enough to make me momentarily forget societal norms surely must be good for making an hour of work pass by more quickly. You can (and should) listen to that set here.

Also new to the archive is a set that I contributed with my friend Allan Kingdom who was the guitarist for this band. If you don't currently own that Siddeleys retrospective that was my not so subtle way of hinting that you should. Naturally I asked Allan to put together a set for the pop themestream that I was working on, and it was his idea that it would be more fun to turn that into an installment of my show (Not Quite Punk) and carry on a conversation in tribute to Orange Juice. What it turned out to be is Allan filling us in on a lot of obscure Orange Juice history that I wouldn't even know where to begin to search for otherwise, and demonstrating connections to other bands and songs that influenced them. My role as it turns out was to come across as a silly fangirl, and say, "Wow..." a lot. Anyway, excluding my contributions, the set is very informative, and contains several live performances, and radio sessions that you are not too likely to find to easily anywhere else. Listen to that set here.

There is talk of extending this set into an overall Postcard Records of Scotland tribute, with a Josef K/Aztec Camera session next, and then a Go-Betweens set to round things out. There are several other label tributes that I am attempting to organize, I will naturally do my best to keep you posted as these take shape.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Listening Too Long To One Song: Scars "All About You"

I haven't been obsessed with a song to the point where I simply had to write something about it for far too long. I usually have these impulses surrounding the dance party night that I take part in (Hungry Beat!) which occurred this past Saturday. However I haven't really been able to expound upon them as I have apparently been without any intelligent thought for the past month or so. Of course it's debatable if anything that I've ever typed around these parts could honestly be described as "intelligent" at all, but it's just so lovely to geek out about records you know?

On that note, I spent the greater part of my day yesterday listening to this song "All About You." I woke up far too early considering that we weren't finished cleaning the venue until 4 A.M. Of course I stayed in bed until the exact second that my need to put food in my stomach surpassed my desire to fall back asleep. I got up and made toast, and figured that I would go ahead and transcribe the playlist. When I saw the name Scars on the list, I immediately thought that I had to hear the song again at that moment, and listening to it over and over again yesterday while typing up the playlist was some of the most fun I've had in a long time. This may also have something to do with the fact that Brian played "Ceiling to the Floor" by Mighty Mighty, but he wrote it as Mighty to the second power, or Mighty squared depending upon how you look at it. I still can't figure out whether or not multiplying Mighty by Mighty would actually result in Mighty Mighty, but seeing that small 2 next to the word Mighty when I had completely forgotten that he wrote it that way made me laugh out loud.

Scars were on my radar long before I ever heard their music. I'm sure that I came across their name when I was searching the internet for any information to do with the bands most commonly associated with the "Sound of Young Scotland" label (Orange Juice, Josef K, etc.) I have no idea where I read it, but someone somewhere mentioned Scars, and how great and influential they were. I did a quick search for any vinyl that might have been for sale somewhere, found nothing, and kind of let the band's name reside in the back of my mind for awhile. Then about a month ago I purchased an iphone, began a seemingly endless revelry in the fact that I can now listen to lastfm while I am driving, and had this song played for me through a Josef K (one of my other current obsessions) station. I had such a strong reaction to this song when I first heard it, and since I was driving it took me a minute to look down to see what was playing. When I finally did look down I began to mentally kick myself for not persuing this band more fervently when I first read about them. Granted, when I read about Scars I was not expecting such a blast of exciting straightforward pop. It makes sense upon further research that this was their most recognizable single at the time, and it came about later on in their career when they were beginning to move into a more melodic direction with their sound. I was able to procure a copy of this 7" whose b-side Author! Author! has more of the arty post punk sound that I was expecting from this band though it still showcases a far poppier sound than any of the earlier singles that I've managed to hear. That side of Scars is genius as well, but there really is just nothing like that rush of pure pop that is "All About You." Both songs appeared on the band's only LP (also titled Author! Author!) which has been subsequently re-issued as a CD. It doesn't seem to be too widely available, but it's not extremely difficult to find, or terribly expensive either. A quick Google search should provide you with favorable results if that's something that interests you. In the meantime, I found a fantastic performance of "All About You" on a 1981 episode of The Old Grey Whistle Test. There are also plenty of videos up that feature earlier Scars tracks, and those are very well worth checking out while you are on the page. You can read more about Scars on their Wikipedia Page.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dance With Me, Beneath the Circuitry

I haven't written for weeks. Not a thing, not here, nor anywhere else. I would be lying if I said that it wasn't beginning to slowly drain my spirit.

Does that sound over dramatic? It sounds that way because it is, in fact, very over dramatic. How can something that you do part time, supposedly for fun, cause so much stress in the times where no ideas are present to be typed?

I decided to take my career as a waitress seriously for the first time this year. After attempting an office job for which I was a terrible fit, I was officially re-hired at a restaurant that I've held ties to for what is coming up on three years now. The biggest part of this has been to stop dreading, and/or complaining about making espresso drinks. My first job was at a Coffee Bean, I later worked at Starbucks, then I worked at an Italian restaurant, and now at a small cafe/bakery whose main draw is breakfast. I've been making cappuccinos for the past eight years. Until the beginning of this year, I hated making cappuccinos, now making a perfect cappuccino, or soy latte is my biggest source of professional pride. This is all to say, that there are certain areas where I have creative satisfaction in my professional life. However, if I haven't written for a while I just feel stagnant.

This morning though, I woke up thinking about what is always my go-to when I haven't been able to write: Clare Wadd's rant in the fanzine titled Sarah Four. She details having partially completed pages of fanzines, and journals before expressing her dis-satisfaction in them by writing "FUCK" repeatedly across those unfinished attempts at creativity. Oddly this almost never fails to help me feel creative again. She also talks of how there is so much to do, but being in a warm kitchen with a cozy cat makes this extraordinarily difficult. I have a very cozy cat on my lap at this very moment, but there is a film that I've been researching all morning, and am now dying to go out to see.

The trailer for this film has been stuck in my mind since this past Saturday's Independent Spirit Awards. It's called, "Medicine for Melancholy," and it looks endlessly intriguing with it's "desaturated" style. Essentially this is a soft black and white with only subtle splashes of color here and there. This apparently also works as a metaphor for the film's storyline...

Hopefully I'll have more to say about the film itself once I've actually seen it, but naturally as I respond more deeply to music than to film itself, the thing that most piqued my interest about this trailer was it's use of one of the best Saturday Looks Good to Me songs: "Meet Me by the Water." I've become wary of pop songs in films lately. This has nothing to do with some sort of self righteous need to protect songs that I love from being wrongfully interpreted by mass audiences (o.k. maybe a little to do with that) but that is the price that people like me have to pay for devoting an unhealthy portion of our lives to obscure pop music. Anyway, my biggest problem with the use of "indie," or even outright popular music in films is that it almost never seems to be woven in correctly. It more often than not seems to be placed solely to add to a film's hipness. This usually makes the song (whether it's one you enjoy or not) more of a distraction from rather than an enhancement to the scene that it is accompanying.

However, when a pop song is woven into a film's action well, it almost becomes another character. I have to be optimistic, and imagine that this is what most filmmakers who employ pop songs are trying to do. Yet few are actually able to pull this off, which I suppose is a big part of what makes the experience all the more exciting when it is done correctly. If every person who supplied the music for films possessed this skill, and you didn't have all of the times in the past where you rolled your eyes at the glaring distraction that a song was providing at any given moment to compare with the sheer excitement of a song you love blending perfectly in with the action, well then that sheer excitement could be taken for granted. Hmmm, on second thought, maybe that would be better. Nevertheless, it is what it is. I love they way that "Meet Me by the Water" was integrated into the trailer for "Medicine for Melancholy." The way words are spelled out to the song's unique drum intro, and the way it's beautifully edited so that even though the song's beginning and end are the only parts featured if you didn't know the song you probably wouldn't immediately pick up on that. It fades nicely into the background here as well, which is also I think due to the spot on editing, as it's a song that could easily over shadow the action were it not used properly. Finally the song just matches the film's muted color, and images of San Francisco, and those intriguing characters so beautifully, and so subtly that I can't wait to see how it all plays out. Which is (sorry cat) exactly what I'm off to do right now.

Watch the trailer here:

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Listening to Long to One Song: The Wake "Talk About the Past"

"Have you heard the good news? Everybody is a star/Have you heard the good news? Everybody works so hard..."

Tell me if this has ever happened to you before. You find yourself at a dance club, or listening to the radio. Someone plays a song that you have had in your record collection for ages, but that you listen to quite infrequently. They play this song at just the right moment, at just the right volume. You wonder how you have made it so far in your life without noticing that this is surely one of the greatest songs in existence.

Every time in my life that I have listened to the Wake, I think to myself, "When will I ever be able correct the severely questionable level of judgment that I must posses in order to have made it this far in my life having only ever heard three songs from the Wake?" The Wake just happen to be one in a long inexplicable series of bands that I was lazy about searching for for far too long. I looked for the LTM CD reissues of all of their albums and surrounding singles about seventy percent of the time when I went to any given record store. I sporadically go through fervent bouts of searching for their vinyl on ebay, but then go through far more extensive periods of neglecting to search for anything on ebay, let alone the Wake. This last move is likely far more due to subconscious self-preservation of my bank account than laziness really, but you know...

"Talk About the Past" was one of the three Wake songs that I had heard prior to this week. I own the 12", and have always loved it, but it's also one that I would fail to pull out and listen to often enough. Then I heard it at a club, at club volume, while dancing. Everything fell into place right there I suppose. I walked home listening to "Carbrain," (the only other Wake song that I owned at the time) and the next day I pulled out my 12" copy of "Talk About the Past." I lifted the needle over and over again trying to figure what it was about this song that now had me so entranced. I've always marveled over the speed of this song. It's really fast, but it's very well measured at the same time. Every now and then it feels as if the speed will pick up and spiral out of control, but it never does. It doesn't leave you feeling out of breath by the end of the song, just perfectly, properly exhilarated. Vini Reilly of the Durutti Column (another band whose shape creates a giant hole in my record collection) punctuates the piece nicely with outstanding flurries of piano. Caesar's vocals are dreamy, and well, it's very exciting to read on the band's Wikipedia page that this was something of a hit with the "indie" contingent when it was released in 1984. It's combined elements are kind of awe-inspiring upon first listen, and it seems to improve with every subsequent listen. Not that this is something that usually constitutes a hit at all, but if you really think about it wouldn't it be nice if it were? I tend to find that most songs become less exciting the more I listen to them, take them apart, and try to figure them out. The more I listen to this song, the more complex it seems to become. I'm so intrigued by that.

So I suppose that my inconclusive musings on this subject serve as very little more than a testament to the idea of getting out of the house so that you might hear something new, or hear something familiar in a new way. It's something that I so often need to be reminded of, and this was a nice way for that to happen. Since hearing "Talk About the Past," a little over a week ago I came to my senses and purchased the LTM compilation Here Comes Everybody + Singles, as well as another LTM collection Assembly, from This still has me scratching my head over why I didn't think to do it sooner. I also found affordable vinyl copies of both their first full length Harmony, and their first full length for Sarah Records Make it Loud on Ebay. That was just extraordinary luck on my part. I've listened almost exclusively to the Wake within that time period, and I couldn't be happier about that fact.

And of course - once I realized that my casual need to repeatedly hear one particular song had moved into a full blown obsession with this band that by all logical reasoning I should have become obsessed with ages ago - I knew that my research would have to start within the Tangents Archive. I knew that there would be at least one insightful, and well written personal encounter of discovering the music of the Wake to be found there. I was right, and there were two. The first is a review of LTM's Harmony + Singles collection written by Kevin Pearce who once wrote a 'zine called Hungry Beat that was so well written, and well regarded that my clever friend Yvonne determined we should name our club night after it. You can read that review here. The second is a review of Here Comes Everybody + Singles written by Alistair Fitchett who may very well be my favorite pop music writer. This particular review should be able to offer some proof as to why that is. You can read it here.

Purchase Here Comes Everybody + Singles.

Purchase Harmony + Singles.

Purchase Assembly. This includes several live tracks, and both of the Sarah singles.

Purchase Holy Heads. This includes both Sarah full lengths Tidal Wave of Hype, and Make it Loud.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Can I Interfere in Your Crisis?

I work at a small breakfast lunch place in the relatively small community of Woodland Hills. One of the nicest things about the restaurant is the fact that any of us work there have the capability to connect our ipods to the stereo, and listen to pretty much anything that we want to listen to. I'm usually a bit nervous whenever I decide to plug my own ipod in. Will someone, someday listen past the shimmering guitar, and determine that Lawrence singing, "All the people I like are those that are dead..." might not be the best soundtrack for housewives, consultants, and car salesmen munching away on turkey sandwiches?

However, once I am outside of work I tend to find that most of my social dealings occur with people who know way more about obscure music than I do. Sometimes I bring this mentality into work with me, and I figure that everyone else around me thinks of "Mind Your Own Business" by Delta 5 as a dance party classic, and completely appropriate for Saturday brunch. It took one teenage girl's pointed exclamation of "What IS this?" to her friend to help me realize that my judgment may have been slightly off on that one.

Even though I admittedly attempt a certain level of envelope pushing with my song choices at work, I would never give so much as a second thought to the idea of listening to Pens while I was there. I think that if I ever were to try the majority of the people who dine/work at the Baker would veto them immediately. Pens tear into their songs, shambling, and clattering all the way to the end of each one. They fall apart, and put themselves back together again in about one hundred split second increments, and this is usually done within the time span of a minute and a half. They are one of the most exciting bands that I have heard in a really long time. I would even go so far as to say that the songs contained on Pens' Myspace page are more exciting than maybe eighty three percent of the live music that I saw last year. I'm kind of not so secretly hoping that they eventually make it out this way. Ideally this would involve them touring with my favorite live show discovery of last year, and fellow girl shamblers Finally Punk. From the looks of their Myspace page though, Finally Punk will be making it to the U.K. before Pens make their way over here. If you (like me) don't live in the U.K., but still want to hear more you can purchase records from them. All of the information is on their myspace page, which I linked to earlier in the paragraph. I really think that the four way split that they have coming out with Dum Dum Girls, Crocodiles, and Best Fwends has the potential to be on of the best singles of 2009.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Few Thoughts on Some Songs That I Loved Last Year... Part Two...

11. Love is All - "Last Choice" - A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night (What's Your Rupture)

Buy the CD here.

Buy the record here.

Listen to the song here.

Out of all the mostly excellent bands that played this past year's (very well executed) Part Time Punks fest, Love is All put forth the only set that made me forget how sick I was for the proceedings. I was too busy dancing, jumping up and down, and just generally feeling happy that I was there witnessing something so ... life affirming? Yes, I suppose that's the only way to put it. That's the effect that Love is All had on seemingly everyone who was present. Recorded the effect is almost as immediate. I listened to this album non-stop during a recent marathon apartment cleaning session, pausing from my work only to turn the record over. After several listens to the record in it's entirety, this is the song that had me lifting the needle over, and over again. I can't quite figure out exactly why it's this particular song that grabbed me more than any other. Most of their songs (sometimes even the more quiet ones) tend to have a lot going on, but it always manages to work. Synthetic hand claps, glockenspiel, and one of the liveliest keyboard melodies that I've heard in some time are present in this track alone. It's more than kind of a disco track. Not exactly in the post punk tradition of no wave/no disco, but not really in the mainstream disco hit manner either. It's kind of a hybrid of both styles mixed with an element of non-irritating epic-ness that is purely Love is All. If that makes sense. Lyrically it details a type of purely validation seeking/drunken one night stand in a refreshingly self effacing, honest, and quite funny manner. The girl telling the story leaves a party with her, well last choice because it seems a better alternative than leaving alone. While the music around the story remains exciting and upbeat the band chants: "I'm not your kind and your not mine, but for tonight you'll have to do." The last words you hear are these: "I have since long lost my poise, I'm walking home with my last choice." Then there are a few last keyboard trills, and a single incredibly satisfying ding! to bring the song to it's necessarily abrupt ending.

12. The Tartans - "My Baby Doesn't Care for You" - My Baby Doesn't Care for You 7" (Cloudberry)

Buy the record, and listen to the song here.

This one was a tough decision. My favorite local band (who for the sake of full disclosure became close friends as well last year) released two singles within weeks of each other on two of my favorite existing labels. Since this was to be a single disc compilation, I knew that I could only pick one of their songs. "My Baby..." wasn't always my favorite Tartans song, in fact that title used to belong to the B-side of this single, "What About You." Still over the course of this year I began to notice just how strong of a single this song is. I would get it stuck in my head at work, I would play it from time to time when I was DJ-ing, and it fit in flawlessly, and it soon became a highlight of their live set often bringing more people out to the dance floor than there had been previously. The other day I noticed that this song also has the potential to become a classic brush off song in the tradition of "Our Love is Heavenly." The two songs share the similar casually bouncy pace, and tossed aside lyrics that kind of require girls as cool as Amelia Fletcher or Yvonne Sone to sing them in order to have their full effect. The cheery glockenspiel line is a perfect touch to add insult to injury to the poor hypothetical girl on the receiving end of Yvonne's skillful navigation of Brian Cunningham's exceedingly clever rhyming scheme. My personal favorite, "What's there to misconstrue? My baby doesn't care for you." This song is deceptively simple upon the first listen or two which is why perhaps more blogger's favor went to the (more than equally deserving) Cats of Camerford 7" which you can (and should) purchase here. Still, I couldn't shake just how much this grew into a favorite song of mine over this past year. I'm sure that I'll have plenty to say about a Tartans YAY! single next year when "West of La Brea" finally makes it's way to the 7" format...

13. Vivian Girls - "Where Do You Run To?" - Vivian Girls (In the Red)

Buy the CD here.

Buy the record here.

Listen to the song here.

This choice has more to do with my biography of 2008 more so than any sort of wow factor from Vivian Girls. As I've alluded to on this site before, I'm not really sure that wow factor is the point of this band. They were perfectly enjoyable, yet kind of non-descript live which is precisely what I imagined they would be. They released a perfectly enjoyable record that I only felt compelled to listen to a few times, and yet I can't think of any other contemporary band that I spent more time discussing in 2008. Trying to pin point why exactly it was good, and how it was that a considerably large contingent of people were now into this particular girl group filtered through post punk sound. It's interesting too, to see how it's already unfolding to receive even more attention in 2009 with bands like Dum Dum Girls, The Splinters, and Pens (more on all of them soon) offering even more new variations on that endlessly pleasing formula. The song that I picked for this list does happen to be one of the album's highlight in my opinion. I think it perfectly showcases their nonchalant harmonies, and how they are just skillful enough on their instruments to garner attention and acceptance from the more mainstream press, yet enough lack of skill to sound refreshing and charming to those same people. It's that sort of charming lack of skill that holds their appeal for me, and I suppose why this particular song made my list.

14. Liechtenstein - "Security by Design" - Apathy 7" (Fraction Discs)

Buy the single here.

Liechtenstein follow the girl group filtered through post punk pattern as well, but their charm is not due to any lack of skill. In fact, repeated listens to "Security by Design" reveal quite the opposite to be true. An unnerving, human heartbeat-esque, solo drum pattern sets the tone. Everything that follows in terms of the musical structure of the song serves to heighten the sense of paranoia that the lyrics entail. Even the Spaghetti Western inspired guest trumpet work from Kristin Lidell manages to feel vaguely threatening while also adding to the razor sharp wit that the song maintains. I'm not a musician myself, but I just can't imagine that this is an easy thing to pull off. "All of them are sharp," is the description that the song's narrator offers flatly, and dead seriously about her kitchen knives before she bounces right back into the chorus of, "I'm so happy here," over that same trumpet. Funny, I could offer the same description of every single Liechtenstein song that I've heard so far. Allegedly they will release a full length in 2009. Also allegedly, this will be 2009's best record.

15. Crystal Stilts - "Departure" - Alight of Night

Buy the album, or the CD here.

This is another one that is more to do with biography than the actual song. Crystal Stilts contributed to two of my favorite live shows this year. The first was in Oxnard incidentally the same show where I witnessed my favorite performance from Catwalk thus far,) and the second was two days later at Part Time Punks. The show that they presented in Oxnard was shockingly engaging. I liked their recordings, but I was fully expecting observe their show in an almost reverent manner. Instead, I found myself dancing in a small crowd while others sashayed across a wooden plank over a bonfire in the background. Needless to say, the experience was slightly magical. This was even regardless of the fact that they were operating with a very newly borrowed drummer, Jock from Cause Co-Motion! Cause Co-Motion! were also great fun live, yet I regretfully didn't spend enough time listening to their recordings this year to include them on this list. I should offer in their regard, that they saved one of my mornings a few months ago as I was getting ready for work, and my roommate was going through a surprisingly loud period of obsession with Ray Lamontagne... Back to Crystal Stilts. Their show at Part Time Punks was absolutely dreamy with full time drummer Frankie Rose (formerly of Vivian Girls) providing backing vocals. The lead singer Brad Hargett seemed to be in a completely different world throughout both sets that I witnessed. This felt precisely correct for the murky pop songs that Crystal Stilts create. The fact that they manage to be ultra-engaging at the same time, is still something of great mystery to me. I suppose it's a similar effect to the one that the Airfields manage with their echo drenched production. The distance hold commands your attention, as you can't help but long to be closer. After their set that Sunday night we danced with them well into the very early part of a Monday morning. They threw flowers out to various attendees, and slowly but surely we began to throw these flowers around as we danced to things as disparate as Brian Eno's "Needle in the Camel's Eye," to Fire Engines' "Get Up and Use Me." We all sang all of the lyrics to "Part Time Punks," at 2 A.M. We did this at the top of our lungs. Perhaps upon further review, this was actually my favorite show of the year. So I guess for this list I tried to pick the song that I felt best represented the feeling of that live show.

16. Wake the President - "You Can't Change That Boy" - Split 7 w/the Kingfishers (Aufgeladen & Bereit)

Buy the single here.

Listen to the song here.

Read the description that Alistair Fitchett offers about this song in the post that I have linked to above. I have nothing else to add.

17. Catwalk - "Past Afar" - Past Afar 7" (YAY!)

Buy the single here.

Listen to the song here.

If only there were such a succinct, and completely accurate way to describe Catwalk as there is for Wake the President. Catwalk delivered some of my favorite performances in 2008, and I've been continually wowed by how cohesive they have become as a band. Their Halloween cover of the Stooges' "No Fun," for example was a one of my biggest highlights this year because it absolutely shattered all of my expectations. It would have shattered any expectations really of what you might think this band should always sound like. I suppose that's why I always feel like there is no succinct way to sum them up. While every band member adds something essential to this project, the more I listen to this single the less I am able to shake the feeling that Nick Hessler will be a name that future generations (especially musicians) will revere on some level. He certainly has that sort of pop songwriting sensibility that could easily yield songs that will be appreciated by a good portion of the general public, and obsessive music fans alike.

18. Beach House - "You Came to Me" - Devotion (Carpark)

Buy the CD here.

I fell in love with their first, self titled record, a bit late. It took a trip to Seattle, a chilly fall day, and a three hour walk for the album to have it's full effect on me. Based upon that, Devotion was one of my most anticipated releases of last year. Victoria Legrand, and Alex Scally were already easily categorized as one of the most compelling two piece bands in contemporary music with the minimal instrumentation and production on the first album. This album, however takes their sound to a different level altogether. For me personally, this song was the best example of that. It begins in a haunting minor key with the expected minimalism, then the sound of the timpani appears which should cause your jaw to fall to the floor due to the sheer magnitude of the sound that it produces, but even after all of that the song changes course entirely with the dreamy lalalas that eventually usher in the phrase that the song's title was taken from. The fact that they were able to pull this off at all is nothing short of amazing. The fact that they were able to pull it off so seamlessly is a perfect testament to why they are a band well worth paying close attention to for years to come.

Robert Forster - "Did She Overtake You?" - The Evangelist (Yep Roc)

Buy the CD here.

Listen to the song here.

I strongly feel that I still have a long way to go before I fully grasp the genius of the Go-Betweens. That being said, I spent a large part of my year listening to their music, and wishing that Grant McLennan were still around. This record from the other half of the brilliant Go-Betweens singer/songwriter team, while extraordinarily bittersweet, was also one of the most lovely accomplishments of last year. To pull off a song like the one I've listed here that is heartbreaking, and thought provoking, yet ultimately catchy and enjoyable surely cannot be easy. It's a good thing that Robert Forster mastered that tricky combination ages ago. A song like this comes across as effortless because to someone like him, it surely is.

20. Northern Portrait - "Our Lambrusco Days" - Napoleon Sweetheart EP (Matinee)

Buy the CD here.

This song closes the EP that it appears on, and it truly feels like an album closer. I usually try to avoid closing a mix with a song that feels like an obvious closer, however this one I felt just couldn't be helped. I didn't really listen to this EP until the very last week of 2008, but for that week it was really all that I wanted to hear. I think that I always subconsciously search for a good, well paced waltz in a pop song because my mom used to teach ballroom dancing to top 40 songs, and she always claimed that a waltz at proper teaching speed was the hardest thing to find. Perhaps this one would have been a bit too fast for teaching, but it certainly deserves to be danced to nonetheless. It really is that elegant.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Few Thoughts on Some Songs That I Loved Last Year

As I mentioned in my previous post, I decided to pick twenty songs that really stood out to me this year, and make a one disc compilation out of them. I feel like I missed so much in 2008, but so many of the things that I heard I fell in love with. A few of the songs are associated with live shows, and a few are here for the sake of cohesiveness. I'll comment a bit on the songs that made this list, and try to figure out why these were the ones that made it over so many other great choices. I'm not great about constructing zip drives. If you would like to have a CD copy of this mix, please get in touch with me, and I would be more than happy to mail one to you! I will also post links for you to listen to as many of the songs that I can track down somewhere online. So on that note, here are some thoughts about some of the pop music that was released last year...

1. The Magnetic Fields - "Please Stop Dancing" - Distortion (Nonesuch):

Buy the CD here.

Buy the record here.

Listen to the song here.

Much was made at the beginning of 2008 about Stephin Merritt proclaiming Psychocandy to be the last record to showcase, "startling new production." According to an article in New York Press, Merritt had this to say about the creation of Distortion “I wanted to do something new, and being a postmodernist, I don’t believe in that,” Merritt says. “So, new for me means the latest new thing, rather than something that hasn’t been done before.” I listened to this record non-stop for something like a solid month, and while there were songs on it that were far more clever, this was the one that immediately stood out to me. Perhaps because of it's (relative) simplicity. I say relative simplicity because each listen reveals a layer to this lovely pop song that I had not yet noticed. Everything about this song (and the record as a whole) is unassumingly smart. This is one of the many things that reveal it's mastermind (Stephin Merritt) to be something of a genius. I also very much liked the idea of opening my comp with shards of feedback...

2. A Sunny Day in Glasgow - "Sometimes I Think About You" - Searching for the Now Vol. 3 (Slumberland):

Buy the single, and listen to the song here.

Slumberland introduced a brilliant split 7" series last year with a different band to each side of one record. This song was on one of those 7"s and there was no possible way that it wouldn't make my list of favorites. Scribble Mural Comic Journal, the full length that A Sunny Day in Glasgow released last year was my favorite record of 2007, and "Sometimes I Think About You" is a Pastels cover. I quite like what they did with it. Bass, percussion, and ASDIG's always fantastically executed female vocals take center stage. For example, wordless voices appear in certain places here where guitars did in the original. In a move that I feel strongly adds to the song's intrigue, the lead vocal has been slightly buried underneath all of this. Similar to the Magnetic Fields song, this is one with many layers, and one that gives you something new upon each successive listen.

3. The Bridal Shop - "Violation" - In Violtaion 7" (Cloudberry):

Buy the single, and listen to the song here.

Hands down my favorite song of 2008. One of these days I will catch up on other releases from The Bridal Shop, and this will likely begin when their new EP In Fragments is released this year on Plastilina Records. For now though, I kind of like the fact that all I know of this band are the two perfect songs on this 7". I wrote about the song earlier this year for Squaregirls. A few people seemed to like what I said then, so I will repeat it here. "... It really is everything that a good indiepop dance track should be from the echo-y, atmospheric sound that kicks into a blast of drum machine and synths at the beginning, to the distant Morrisey-esque vocals, to the dramatic center where everything becomes almost still, to the part where it all kicks back in at full blast to level off neatly albeit abruptly at the end. Kind of like the soundtrack to a film that doesn't exist about dance clubs that don't exist where you perpetually expect to see someone grab their secret crush and kiss them in a highly dramatic fashion as a vivid technicolor light show explodes behind them. Yes, the track is that good."

4. The Airfields - "Icing Sugar" - Up All Night (Humblebee)

Buy the CD here.

Listen to the song here.

I purchased this record several months ago during a period where work was going well, and I had some extra cash. It didn't grab me immediately perhaps because my expectations for it were too high. Nonetheless, this was probably the full album that I listened to more than any other. There was a time when I would take a long walk every night simply to listen to this record, and that has much to do with this song. Once I picked out the lyric "Your headphones and songs how they pushed you along the sidewalk at night, I suppose they give you all you'll ever need to know," as I was walking alone at night listening to this song on my headphones the entire album clicked into place for me. This track was haunting, beautiful, and produced with a sense of distance. As if it were intentionally keeping the listener just out of reach, so that the listener will keep coming back for more.

5. Twig - "Wentworth" - Ciao Ciao Bomb 7" (Cloudberry)

Buy the single, and listen to the song here.

Yet another band that has more material that I need to purchase. In fact they actually released a full length for Plastilina in 2008 that I am fully intending to order this week. Also as in the case of the Bridal Shop though I like having only two fantastic songs on either side of a 7" be my only knowledge of a band. I bought the Bridal Shop single first, and mentioned that to a friend. "Yeah," he said, "But what about that Twig single?" I immediately purchased the Twig single. My love for this song really set in after hearing the A-side "Ciao Ciao Bomb" played at Part Time Punks. It sounded so good, and blended in so well with Felt, or whatever had been played before it that it took me a moment to place what it was. When I figured it out I was dancing, jumping up and down, and singing along with a small group of friends. I decided to give the single a few more listens after that night. The B-side "Wentworth" quickly became one of my favorite songs altogether. It's dark, vibrant, pretty, and vaguely threatening all at once. In a different conversation, at a different Part Time Punks, I discussed this song with the same friend. "What's that line, something about your tear stained face?" he asked, and we both tried to remember. The line is "I touched your tear washed face." Possibly the most exquisite imagery that I found myself presented with all year.

6. The Lodger - "The Good Old Days" - Life is Sweet (Slumberland):

Buy the album, and listen to the song here.

From dark, yet vibrant to just plain vibrant. This was certainly one of my most listened to songs over the year, and every time that I heard it, my spirits were instantly lifted. Everything about this song from the production, to the musicianship, to the lyrics was the height of brightness and crispness. All of the songs on this record were great, but this was a truly standout single. I honestly can't believe that this didn't become a moderate hit. Perhaps their next release will yield that for them? It's really only a matter of time.

7. Bearsuit - "More Soul Than Wigan Casino" - OH:IO (Happy Happy Birthday to Me):

Buy the CD here

This was another album full of great songs, but again this single was the clear standout for me. I put this song on a mix CD for a non-indiepop inclined co-worker, and eventually he was singing it randomly at work. This led me to wonder why this song wasn't something of a hit as well, it's certainly a bit more challenging than the Lodger track, but it is perhaps even more catchy and infectious. The giddy pace of the chorus, the exuberant sounds of the trumpet work, the shout along ending, the relentless (in a good way) pounding of the drums, all of these things contributed to making this one of the most exciting songs that I've heard in some time. Oh, and the cheeky title is pretty great as well.

8. Raphael Saadiq - "Seven" - The Way I See It (FYE Version) (Columbia)

Buy the version of the CD that includes this track here.

Listen to the song here.

Volunteering for KCRW keeps me more in touch with the outside world than I would be under other circumstances. I remember walking in to the station one day, and hearing something from this record. I asked Anne Litt (who was on the air at the time) who it was. She told me that it was Raphael Saadiq, and that I should really think about including one of his songs on the demo that I was working on. I found this song via a fortuitous trip to the Soul Sides blog. The above link where I directed you to listen is Oliver Wang's post about the song, and of course everything that he says about it is spot on. I would have never picked up on those influences as I know very little about what distinguishes early seventies era Motown. I do know that this song definitely does have the feeling of a classic soul track. It's little touches like the muted horns that really get me, and that pure simple "Ooooooh" that closes the song out is flat out stunning. This track easily wins my vote for favorite vocal delivery of the year.

9. The Lucksmiths - "California in Popular Song" - First Frost (Matinee):

Buy the CD here.

Listen to the song here.

I'm a big fan of artists who do interesting things with phrasing, and Marty Donald has crafted some of the most creative phrasing here that I've heard in a long time. The lyrics are lovely as well, bittersweet, and simple. This is a very straightforward story song. The narrator is saying goodbye to a great love, and offering the classic advice that a change of location won't make all of your problems disappear. But who ever believes that? The line that absolutely floored me in this song was this one: "Though you promised not to cry when you said goodbye your - eyes are bright with wine, and oh, so are mine." Everything about the music that backs the words exists simply to propel the song forward. The melody is just catchy enough, and the gentle presence of strings give it the touch of wistfulness that is needed. One of the most cleverly arranged songs that I heard all year to be certain.

10. The School - "I Don't Believe in Love" - Let it Slip EP (Elefant)

Buy the CD here.

This song adheres to a pop tradition that I adore, but that I don't find too often. It's action takes place within the course of a single dance. The fact that this is a duet makes it even better. I honestly don't know what else to say about this song other than to state the fact that it is dreamy, Wall of Sound encased, pop perfection. And that I would highly recommend that you hear it immediately.

... That's all that I have time to post right now. Check back within the next day or two if you care to see which songs round out the remainder of my list.