One of my personal fave labels, Secretly Canadian, recently signed Philadelphia’s The War On Drugs, and they’re offering an EP, “Barrel Of Batteries,” for free as a zip file. Picture Byrdsy jangle and a delivery somewhere between Bob Dylan and Warren Zevon (and, on “Pushing Corn,” a little Arcade Fire crawl) and you’ll get the general idea. It’s a really great EP—my big complaint is that with only three proper songs (and two toss-off atmospheric instrumentals clocking in at less than 2 minutes each), you don’t really get to know the band before it’s over. That’s too bad, because I definitely want to know more. The good news: I understand a proper LP will drop this year.
Archive for March, 2008
It’s a little late for me to rave about Last Town Chorus‘ 2006 album, Wire Waltz, so instead I’ll tell you about their new single, Loud and Clear, featuring Megan Hickey’s wonderful voice and steel guitar. Listen for yourself–it’s easily as good as any Cowboy Junkies or Edie Brickell single.
And check out a few covers she’s done, as well:
Loud and Clear
Do You Really Want to Hurt Me (Culture Club cover)
Modern Love (David Bowie cover)
I’ll tell you what, next to The Clash, my favorite group of all time just might be The Kinks. Not because every album (or every song on most albums) is a gem, because the band has sure had their clunkers. But because those albums and songs that did hit, stayed with me.
The first cassette I ever owned was “Misfits.” It was a birthday present, and at the time, “Low Budget” was a mash hit, and that was the one I’d asked for. So I was sad to see Ray Davies’ warped face on the cover, instead of the high-heeled painted-toenail of a lady’s foot. But I gave it a chance. From the opening notes of the album, the wistful rain of guitar notes before the drums kick in on the title track, I was hooked. I played it until I could hear the other side through the tape. Then I bought the CD. Then the import version came available, and I bought that.
With so much product on the market these days, it’s tough for albums to have shelf-life. But for me, there are many Kinks albums that I still listen to, end-to-end, on a regular basis. I even prefer the records from their more commercial phase, in the late ‘70s to the mid ‘80s, to some of their more “classic,” earlier albums. But there’s so many great ones. Their first, eponymous record, Village Green Preservation Society, Schoolboys in Disgrace, Low Budget, Give the People What They Want . . . Even their relatively recent double album, To The Bone, is great. So, the Kinks need a post.
1. Tired of Waiting-Of Montreal and Days-Of Montreal
2. Act Nice And Gentle-The Black Keys
3. Waterloo Sunset-Islands
4. Better Thinks-Dar Williams
5. Situation Vacant-Spoon
6. Victoria-Sonic Youth
7. Nothin’ In the World Can Stop Me From Thinkin’ About That Girl-Feist
8. This is Where I Belong-Ron Sexsmith
9. Dead End Street-Elliot Smith
10. Set Me Free-Britt Daniel (of Spoon)
I don’t think I’ve had the opportunity to write much about Chicago’s Big Buildings since I arrived at wordpress, but on my old site I interviewed them and found them to be genuine, funny guys (I also found Michael Wood to be a bit of a wiseass). The last time I talked with them, I told them they should name their next album, “Dark Side of the Moon.”
They didn’t take my suggestion.
If you don’t know, Big Buildings released their first EP, This Is The Bricks, in 2002 on the Stars/No Stars label (which they still belong to). It was a rough collection of songs that they followed in 2004 with their debut full-length, Hang Together For All Time (available on eMusic), a fantastic collection of gritty, lo-fi rock. I discovered the band in ’06, when they released one of the best records of that year: “Water Everywhere.” It still gets regular spins from me.
On their new release, the band has swelled to a quintet, and their sound has expanded, too. The first song, The Nipper, is the sort of intro track you’d expect from a more pretentious band—featuring produced swirl and psychelic tambourine-quite a surprise from a band that in past has consistently walked the line between punk and alt-country. The second song, North To Alaska, is almost beautiful, with wonderful harmonies and crying guitars. Can it be that Big Buildings has grown up? No, wait. The third song, Questiontown, is a rootsy rocker. As the album proceeds, it becomes clear they haven’t changed. They’ve just gained more control over their instruments. The difference between Wampum and 2004’s Hang Together For All Time is like the difference between “Hootenanny” and “All Shook Down.” Big Buildings is still playing the same great music, only they seem to have come closer to playing it like it must sound in their heads.
The Wampum LP is now available at Permanent Records, but it is vinyl only (order includes an MP3 download). I asked them why no CD, and they said their last CD barely moved physical copies (while their first did pretty well), which they are chalking up to the fact that nobody buys CDs anymore. Interesting approach to distribution, and perhaps another way that labels can save money.
Home From Alaska
I am a huuuuuuge fan of Love & Squalor, even if the band did sign with Virgin for it. It’s a fantastic album–nonstop fun and thrills.
As for Brain Thrust Mastery . . . Eh. Not so much. It’s got a few good tunes, but it’s a little too slick. They’ve lost their indie sound completely, and just sound like corporate alternative rock.
Live, though, they still kick ass.
Rockstar (Nickleback cover)-We Are Scientists
You Don’t Know My Name (Alicia Keyes cover)-We Are Scientists
MIDNIGHT MOVIES-“Vinyl Nights” (EP)
The L.A. indie pop foursome Midnight Movies has released a digital EP featuring a cover of the Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin” and original material remixed by James Iha (Smashing Pumpkings) and Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs). It also includes Nights sung in French!
Nights in White Satin (Moody Blues cover)-Midnight Movies
KENSINGTON PRAIRIE-“Captured in Still Life”
A solid country/folk record by a band fronted by Rebecca Rowan of Maplewood Lane (actually, it’s virtually all Ms. Rowan, with help from producer producer Jonathan Anderson). Beautiful vocals, rich and lush music, even if this isn’t a style of music I tend to listen to.
Time On Our Side
QUICK HITS: THE DEXATEENS-“ Lost and Found” (FREE ALBUM DOWNLOAD!)
The Dexateens and Skybucket Records present Lost and Found, free and
legal (F-you, Web Sherrif), a solid, if a little unspectacular, Americana record that skews to the pop side. There
are several catchy tunes here, but the band sounds a little to fresh-faced to pull off the blues. It’s best when it’s bright and upbeat, and there’s plenty of that here.
Go here to git it!