Archive for the ‘Indie’ Category

I like but don’t love Chuck Prophet. He’s one of many deep-voiced guitar-playing singer-songwriters with obvious talent, and I like many of his songs, but I haven’t found his albums captivating the whole way through. But this latest project, a cover of an entire Waylon Jennings album, I was incredibly curious. There’s a long tradition of rockers covering country tunes, and at least one hip hop superstar covered a country tune and then never turned back (Kid Rock, of course), and most of these covers don’t work. The artists seem reluctant or unable to insert anything new into the song. There are many exceptions to this rule, of course. And Prophet, who cut the album in just 48 hours, is one of them.

His take on “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” turns the straight-ahead country rocker into a six-plus-minute swirling epic, a truly novel reading of the tune. He adds funk to “Waymore’s Blues;” a Counting Crows alt-country feel to “The Cowboys (Sing
the Blues)” (lead vox by Stephanie Finch); and electronica(!) to “The Door Is Open.”

The album was a limited release, but it looks like the CD is now available on Amazon and emusic. Or, if you don’t wanna support the artist, Chuck’s giving the damn thing away! Here’s each track:

1. Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way
2. Waymore’s Blues
3. I Recall a Gypsy Woman
4. High Time (You Quit Your Low Down Ways)
5. I’ve Been a Long Time Leaving (I’ll Be a Long Time Gone)
6. Let’s All Help The Cowboys (Sing The Blues)
7. The Door Is Always Open
8. Let’s Turn Back The Years
9. She’s Looking Good
10. Dreaming My Dreams With You
11. Bob Wills Is Still The King

“Thank the Lord for heroin, and thank him for your soul.” How did an album with a lyric like that get by me? And it’s not like that’s the only drug poetry on Spider Bags’ “A Celebration of Hunger,” a 2007 release from Birdman Records. Just about every tune is a tribute to excess. To wit: “Wakin’ up drunk makes me happy. Lately, you just bring me down.” And to a woman who wants to save the soul of a drunk: “I’ll gladly take your offer, now that I’m not so sick.” I could go on quoting this record for days.

A North Carolina six-piece punk country band, the Spider Bags are ostensibly Americana, but it’s the kind of reeling-in-sickness music you’d expect from Neil Young, Gram Parsons, Meat Puppets, or down-tempo Counting Crows. Every song is able to find beauty in pain and darkness, with lyrics (“She’s got a crooked face when she smiles”) that are as thoughtful as the music behind them. I’m gonna go so far as to call this album brilliant. That’s right, brilliant. There’s not a bad track on the entire record, and it’s a goddamn shame I didn’t hear about this album when it came out, because it easily would have made my top 10 for the year.

I hope to hell someone keeps me updated on their doings–and I hope even more that they don’t all die in a collective overdose before they record another album. As for this one, you can find it on emusic, and it’s well worth your time.

Blood for You

Waking Up Drunk

JOELL ORTIZ-“Brick: The Bodega Chronicles”

Posted: February 6, 2008 by dillion in Hip Hop, Indie

Last year, Joell Ortiz dropped his debut album, “The Brick: Bodega Chronicles.” It landed like, well, a brick. Nobody I know picked up on it, and that’s too bad because the album is dope. To be a good MC, you have to have the lyrical ability to constantly surprise, and you need quality production. But above all, you must have flow: There must be something about your delivery that’s unique, that makes people want to listen to you. Otherwise, rap is just words spat quick or slow. Ortiz, from Brooklyn, is a well-rounded guy, and it shows in his style. He scored 1400 on his SATs (or so he’s claimed), he was offered a basketball scholarship, and he has been signed by Dr. Dre to Aftermath (although I read a rumor recently that that deal has already gone south), and he’s recorded with Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap, so he’s starting to get heat. It’s time for you to catch the man whose been drawing comparisons to Big Pun (and, even better, not Fat Joe). He has plenty of street rhymes, like “Caught Up;” war stories like “Night In My P’s;” a shout-out cut (“Hip Hop”); and philosophizes politically on “Modern Day Slavery.” If that sounds like he’s trying to be all things to all people, there definitely is a little bit of a man-trying-to-find-his-voice feel to the album, but it’s a tight, solid release that shows tons of potential.

The real hot tracks here are the 125 grams songs. The cuts are the running theme of the Brick album.

I”m going to offer you a cut off of Brick, but a few other cuts, too, to show off his skills.

125 Part 4-Joell Ortiz (off Brick: The Bodega Chronicles)

Ups & Downs-Joell Ortiz. I copped this off of spine magazine. Great hook. Produced by Statik Selektah.

Warfare Joe Budden with Joell Ortiz. This track, produced by The Klasix, is off Joe Budden’s instant classic Mood Music 3.5. This year looks like the year we’ll finally get a second Joe B album. Of course, last year looked like that, too. And so did the year before that . . .

Ghetto-Big Noyd and Joell Ortiz. From Noyd’s upcoming album, Illustrious. I think Joell blows him out here.

It Could Be Anything-Lumidee with Jugganot & Joell Ortiz. I’m not a big Lumidee fan, but Scott Storch made a hot beat here, and Joell kills it.

In the Clip-Nino Bless Featuring Styles P, Kool G Rap, Joel Ortiz. A pass-the-mic mixtape track. The weakest cut up here, for sure, but Styles P and Joell have good verses.

Hip Hop (remix feat. jadakiss and saigon). If you just download one track, make it this one.

EVANGELICALS-“The Evening Descends”

Posted: January 26, 2008 by dillion in Indie

The Evening Descends in the first track on the unclassifiable recent release from Evangelicals, on the Dead Oceans label. From the title track, which starts off as shoegazer, stumbles awkwardly through a calliope of carnival hiccups, and ends with a spot of twee, the record throws you up against a phonic wall and never lets you go. Channeling all the best genres rock has ever offered—a diverse pastiche including goth, psychedelia, indie, glam, prog, and emo, recalling The Flaming Lips, The Darkness, The Cure, Arcade Fire, Modest Mouse, and countless others–Evangelicals seem ready to take the throne for the most inventive band of 2008.

“Skeleton Man,” which ends in a cymbal-crashing, repeated scream, “Someone loves you very much! Someone loves you very much!”, is my favorite cut on the album. And that’s saying a lot, because there’s many winners here. The aptly titled “Stoned Again” features distant, foggy vocals under a Doors-like keyboard riff and a swirling mass of unidentifiable texture. Every track is full of ambition, and there’s no filler whatsoever.

Overall, “The Evening Descends” is one of my favorite releases of the year so far. I know it’s early in the year, but the intricate guitar work, excellent vocals, and flawless compositions just about guarantee this band a place on my end-of-the-year list.

Skeleton Man

Midnight Vignette

And from an earlier release:

Here Comes Trouble [from the So Gone LP]

Catch ’em on tour!

02/15/08 Columbia, MO – Mojo’s w/ Headlights
02/16/08 Lexington, KY – The Icehouse w/ Headlights
02/17/08 Nashville, TN – The End w/ Headlights
02/18/08 Athens, GA – The Caledonia Lounge w/ Headlights
02/19/08 Mt. Pleasant, SC – Village Tavern w/ Headlights
02/20/08 Norfolk, VA – The Boot w/ Headlights
02/21/08 Arlington, VA – Iota w/ Headlights
02/24/08 New York, NY – Mercury Lounge w/ Headlights
02/25/08 Philadelphia, PA – Johnny Brenda’s w/ Headlights
02/26/08 Hamden, CT – The Space w/ Headlights
02/27/08 Cambridge, MA – Middle East w/ Headlights
02/28/08 Princeton, NJ – Terrace Club w/ Headlights
02/29/08 Brooklyn, NY – Union Hall w/ Headlights
03/01/08 Buffalo, NY – Mohawk Place w/ Headlights
03/02/08 Toronto, ON – El Mocambo w/ Headlights
03/03/08 Cleveland, OH – Beachland w/ Headlights
03/04/08 Bloomington, IN – Waldron Arts Center w/ Headlights
03/06/08 Urbana, IL – Canopy Club w/ Headlights
03/07/08 Chicao, IL – Schuba’s w/ Headlights
03/08/08 St. Louis, MO – Bilken Club w/ Headlights
03/09/08 Springfield, MO – Randy Beacon Gallery w/ Headlights
03/10/08 Norman, OK – Opolis w/ Headlights
03/11/08 Dallas, TX – The Cavern w/ Headlights
03/12/08 Austin, TX – SXSW
03/13/08 Austin, TX – SXSW
03/14/08 Austin, TX – SXSW
03/15/08 Austin, TX – SXSW
03/17/08 Tucson, AZ – Plush w/ Headlights
03/19/08 Los Angeles, CA – Silver Lake Lounge w/ Headlights
03/20/08 Visalia, CA – Howie & Sons w/ Headlights
03/21/08 San Francisco, CA – Hemlock Tavern w/ Headlights
03/23/08 Seattle, WA – Nectar Lounge w/ Headlights
03/24/08 Missoula, MT – Badlander w/ Headlights
03/26/08 Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court w/ Headlights
03/27/08 Denver, CO – Hi Dive w/ Headlights
03/28/08 Omaha, NE – Waiting Room w/ Headlights
03/29/08 Minneapolis, MN – Nomad w/ Headlights
03/30/08 Milwaukee, WI – Cactus Club w/ Headlights
04/01/08 Dekalb, IL – House Cafe w/ Headlights
04/02/08 Madison, WI – Club 770 w/ Headlights
04/03/08 Iowa City, IA – The Mill w/ Headlights
04/04/08 Lake Forest, IL – The Chapel w/ Headlights
04/05/08 Beloit, WI – Beloit College w/ Headlights

BRITISH SEA POWER-“Do You Like Rock Music?”

Posted: January 8, 2008 by dillion in Indie

British Sea Power already have a rabid cult following, and if you’re part of that collection, stop reading now. There’s nothing I can write that will satisfy you. If you’re less familiar with the band, their new record, “Do You Like Rock Music,” is a pretty good place to start. It lacks the more experimental and untried elements in some of their earlier work, instead providing exclusively arena-style soaring rock.

This is their third album, and it finds the band tight and ready to take over the world. The urgency and passion is evident, for example, in “All In It,” a rousing, come-and-put-your-lighters-up song. Occasionally, the album begins to feel like bombast, though. “A Trip Out” and “Down on the Ground” are consecutive tracks that begin with exactly the same riff, but at different pitches, and I can’t say that they really go to different places with it, either. The latter is somewhat more soaring, but that’s not enough to distinguish between the two tracks.

Fortunately, there’s enough songs like “Canvey Island,” a sort of U2/Oasis hybrid—a shoegazer stadium anthem that builds over the lines, “I Can’t Believe It’s Happening” into an exploding chorus. The disc is heavy on Bono-style drama throughout, on the somewhat
patriotic protests of “Waving Flags,” the references to the Hitler Youth in “No Lucifer,” and so on. Not that it’s a bad thing to be so influenced by a highly successful mainstream band.

On this record, British Sea Power sound important and ambitious. The only question is whether there’s room for rock like this in the days of lagging sales. There’s actually not a lot I hear these days that have this early 90s arena sound. Last night I saw a documentary on John Lennon’s World Peace concert, and I was reminded of how astonishingly powerful and influential one musician can be. Is there anyone like that today? One might make the argument that U2 is capable of moving minds and hearts, but Bono is . . . Old. There’s no one new, no one young, and no one fresh, with the same power. Clearly, British Sea Power seek to fill that void. More power to them.

Canvey Island

The Great Skua

THE FEMINISTS-“Can’t Scream Loud Enough”

Posted: January 6, 2008 by dillion in Indie

I’d never heard, or even heard about, The Feminists before they sent me their third full-length album, “Can’t Scream Loud Enough.” And that’s a shame. The Feminists are cool. Really cool.

The album opener, “The Beginning of the World,” begins as a synth-driven ‘80s rocker and then makes a fascinating right turn into a quieter, acoustic piano ballad. The album continues to surprise on every track. The single, “21st Century Ghost,” is another ‘80s keyboard romp, but the drumming by Mike Zobac is extraordinary, quietly laying back until the opportunity is there to be seized, when Mr. Zobac will suddenly burst out and snatch the spotlight. But only for a moment, and then he seems content to fade into
the ensemble once again. Vocally, there’s some nice harmonies between keyboardist Allyson Mara and lead singer/guitarist
Keith Grief, but Mr. Grief is clearly the star. What he lacks in technical skill he makes up for in passion and unusual choices of pitch and melody, sometimes stepping on a beat a little too late—as if he’s following the music rather than leading it, and often singing slightly above-key. The best example of this is “How to Kill a Country,” the most interesting track on the album and the most unusual pop song I’ve heard in quite some time. It wavers somewhere between Warren Zevon and the kind of 90s alt-jam rock made popular by bands like Jellyfish and School of Fish.

And then there’s “Because Why.” For the life of me, I can’t understand why this wasn’t the single. It’s amazing. It deserves extensive radio play. And your money.

Check it out.

How to Kill a Country

Because Why

THE SHONDES-“The Red Sea”

Posted: January 3, 2008 by dillion in Indie, MP3, Music

The Shondes totally knocked my socks off from the jump. Shondes (Yiddish) means “outrage,” and it summarizes their pro-gay, antiauthoritarian, self-proclaimed “queercore” punk. But unlike grrrritty bands before them, The Shondes add strings and soaring melodies to their sound, adding substance and bottom beyond a simple, thumping bass. But what about the riffs, you ask? The fucking riffs? No punk song is worth a damn without a solid hook, and The Shondes deliver on this count as well. Check out the chorus on Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (not a 50s girl group cover), and see for yourself. Other songs, like Winter, go through complex speed and chord changes that make it virtually impossible to tap your toes to . . . Or ignore. Then there’s the call-and-response “Let’s Go,” which as far as I’m concerned should start the set at their live shows. I could go on and on. I can’t express to you how much I’m loving this record. It gets this corner’s highest recommendation.

For fans of: Anything from Fugazi to Hole, passing through Sleater Kinney and old Breeders, and making pit stops at dive bars and S&M dungeons.

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow

Winter