Archive for March, 2010

I’m From Barcelona

March 17, 2010

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Let Me Introduce My Friends

Mute

Let Me Introduce My Friends hits the ground running, not walking, with its twenty-eight members daring to chew bubblegum at the same time. While I’m From Barcelona cheer me up with every beat of each tune, I picture Barcelona leader Emanuel Lundgren leading his band of merry friends across the countryside putting a smile on everyone’s face along the way.  “Oversleeping” starts things off bubbling with xylophone, computer beeps, and a slinky guitar line that leads into a narrative on the challenges of running late while the drums do their best to drive our hero to work swiftly.  “Jenny” opens with a whimsical 70’s folk trumpet line and continues with Lundgren singing to us about a trip he’s taking us on.  We become Jenny in this play between songwriter and listener and Lundgren sure does win us over.   “Chicken Pox” makes a cute metaphor between heartbreak and childhood diseases reassuring that “You can’t have it once you’ve had it.”  The album continues with a the true chamer, “This Boy.” It refrains “All the voices in my head and the people I meet, they’re all trying so hard to make a man out of me.”  It continues out of the chorus, “But there’s always gonna be this little boy inside of me.”  It’s these sentiments that put the charm and depth inside these infectious melodies that could easily take the path of mere unadulterated fun. This record brims with good vibes, tuneful hooks, spirited chants, rich instrumentation, and enough heart and mind to convince us that their adventure is well worth our while.  I’ve been meaning to go to Barcelona for some time now.  I hope I have as much fun as I do listening to Let Me Introduce My Friends.

Originally published in Impose Magazine.

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Man In Gray Re-Union Hall

March 17, 2010

Man In Gray blew the ass off Union Hall in Park Slope recently. They reunited for Bryan Bruchman’s Birthday after a long hiatus. Reunion’s are fun. Now if we can only convince The Smiths of that.

Calvin Johnson & The Sons Of The Soil

March 17, 2010

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S/T
K

Calvin Johnson has always been a huge proponent of community ideals. With K Records, he’s supported and incubated many talented groups in and around his geographical haunt of Olympia, Washington. He’s best known for his staunchly independent ideals, but it’s his fostering and enabling of all that cross his path, that make his influence expand beyond his own music. This pro-community vibe has never seemed more present than it does in his current outing with The Sons Of Soil that is comprised of a K all-star list. Jason Anderson, Kyle Field of Little Wings, and Adam Forkner of Yume Bitsu fill out the Sons line-up. He’s not only part of the music scene he’s had such an impact on, that music scene is now represented in his band. The idea behind this record came from Jason Anderson and Khaela Maricich of The Blow. They wondered what it would be like to assemble a group to play Calvin’s best songs from over the years. The result doesn’t sound like a greatest hits record but more like a collection of old friends knocking around some off-center standards after a night around the campfire. The S.O.S. deftly morph from the jukebox go-go of “Lies Goodbye,” to the café spoken word of “Cattle Call Pt. 1”, from the raw attack of “Tummy Hop,” to the light folk-rock of “Love Travels Faster,” and the indie-funk of “Banana Meltdown.” The Sons Of The Soil version of “Sand” is the most enjoyable re-working of classic Calvin. All these tracks offer something new that make lack that special quality in the character of the originals, but the vibe of friends playing music together comes through in ways that haven’t been present since the days of Beat Happening.

Originally published in Impose Magazine.

James Of The Woods

March 17, 2010

James Of The Woods is the band Brother Jim Wood is using to get his songwriting gems out there these days.  I caught the full-band debut of this project recently and was uber-impressed.  Jim’s just a damn good songwriter.  We joke about how Jim writes about 1 song every 10 years, but each one is so great.  Find him on www.myspace.com/jamesofthewoods and try to make him play more shows!

Dinosaur Jr.

March 16, 2010

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Beyond

Fat Possum

Gosh darnit are Dinosaur Jr. back.  Do these guys still have it?  They sure do.  “Almost Ready” charges out of the gate.  With J’s masterful guitar blistering over the power surge of Lou and Murph.  “We’re Not Alone” offers the mostly lightly poppy tone on the album.  J takes break from ripping you a new one with his guitar work in favor of a style that reminds of classic Johnny Marr picking.  Mascis’ increasing talent in recording at home is evident in the quality and delivery throughout Beyond.   The power and edge of this trio’s original offerings is unquestionably intact but with an extra layer warmth and fullness that lacked in the early days.   Like barbecue sauce on ribs, the effect hits you in the guts and sticks.   The songwriting has that critical self-awareness as it weaves through stories with J questioning his ways and theirs in each situation.  He sings of finding his way unashamed and accepting of any fumbles in his stepping. The surging sound of Massachuset’s finest turns these insecurities into anthems.   They show us all how hard you can rock even if you are kinda sensitive.  The songs are great.  The band rocks.  Like Will Ferrel’s play on James Lipton, I’m forced to invent a word to describe the greatness of this album as there isn’t one in the English language that can do it justice. This album is awesomonstratocious!

Originally published in Impose Magazine.

Tall Firs

March 16, 2010

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Too Old To Die Young

Ecstatic Peace!

The influence of 90’s is still going strong with the Tall Firs.  These guys make me think of the last few Pavement records if Malkmus stuck with only guitar and let his friend Thurston take over the vocal duties. The Tall Firs are indie-rock fans and as you’ll notice at most indie rock shows, those kinds of people are mellow and well behaved to the point of being boring.  This is the big difference between the Tall Firs and their influences; those particular indie forefathers were brash, adventurous, ridiculous, nonsensical, and irreverent both lyrically and sonically.   The Tall Firs don’t sound happy, sad, pissed off, elated, excited, suspicious, confused, or anything else.  They’re singing about stuff.  It just doesn’t sound that important to them.  A lot of “cool” musicians feign apathy but these guys really seem to feel it.  Even when they swell the music and raise the intensity, I feel so politely rocked.  It’s an oxy-moronic experience and I’m thus left in the middle pretty unaffected.  I guess there’s logic to all this being a group of guys spawned from Generation X in the romanticized sense: a group of random lost souls that don’t know what to rebel against.

Originally published in Impose Magazine.

Dub Trio

March 16, 2010

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Another Sound Is Dying

Ipecac Recordings

Dub Trio is primarily an instrumental metal group and yet their name might suggest otherwise.  Their connection with the classic Jamaican idiom has more to do with their studio manipulations than any style crossovers.  Drummer Joe Tomino, bassist Stu Brooks, and guitarist D.P. Holmes write and record their music and then bring it to producer/engineer/honorary fourth member Joel Hamilton.  At this point, they reconfigure the recorded material in the studio like true dub artists.  Although their brand of dub is essentially in their post-production approach, they successfully try their hand at summoning Jah in “Mortar Dub.”  It could fit naturally into a set of Mad Professor and Lee Perry numbers.  After Dub Trio takes you on this slight diversion, they return to ripping you a new one with “Regression Line.”  This openness to 180-degree turns is just as present within the songs that frequently turn on a dime.  A group of seasoned session musicians, Dub Trio can dazzle with their instrumental prowess or tone it down slightly for a power groove.  This mastery of musicianship combined with their familiarity and experimentations within multiple genres brings fresh and powerful interpretation back to metal, which is clearly their genre of choice.  At times I’m curious to hear what they’d be like if they had a lead singer, but I’m simultaneously relieved they haven’t watered down their trudging power with a wailing falsetto.   The one rare appearance of vocals comes from the owner of their record label, Mike Patton.  Patton is a kindred spirit, embracing and pulling off more genre bends than perhaps any other artist.  His performance on “No Flag” is no exception where he takes you from a haunting whisper to an all out vocal shredder.   The title, Another Sound Is Dying, is a reference to the classic Tenor Saw dub track, “Ring The Alarm.”  This inspiration perhaps best explains Dub Trio’s intentions.  Brooks explains, “If you really think about the idea in that song, when you’re creating this thing that’s out there just destroying speakers, it’s actually pretty dark and aggressive.  We loved that idea….” With Another Sound Is Dying, Dub Trio has taken on the noble task of destroying your speakers and opening your mind in the process.

Originally published in Impose Magazine.

Ilya E. Monosov

March 16, 2010

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Seven Lucky Plays, Or How To Fix Songs For A Broken Heart

Language Of Stone

Seven Lucky Plays sounds like a collection of poems. The words are whispered with little to no melody and dangle gently amidst the foundation of a finger plucked acoustic guitar.  Other instrumentation like cello, harp, Fender Rhodes, and synthesizers creep in the background and occasionally swell up to the surface but never take full focus.  These musical whisper-poems meditate on a broken heart and are sequenced to emphasize the emotional journey.  “I Open My Arms” commences the album using the embrace as the act of emotional initiation. “The beauty that you are” finds Monosov sinking into his own black hole yet still enamored by what got him there.  The words couldn’t be more stark, and the title simultaneously has both literally and ironic meanings. “I’ll Live My Life Without Pain” closes the album with Monosov moving on even if he’s still in love.  He’s forced to make a choice that wasn’t his and he’s trying to live with it.  He’s telling himself stories and revisiting memories. Seven Lucky Plays captures the obsessed yearning and melancholy overload that comes from missing a recently estranged lover.  He frequently describes his muse as a deity and this couldn’t be more appropriate in this emotional context.  Such power over his feelings and his life couldn’t be more god-like and religious; and like religion, Monosov’s belief is so strong he’s finding it impossible to convert.  Seven Lucky Plays is heavy, somber, sad, depressed, full of love, and rich with feeling.  More importantly, we’ve all been there.   The tricky part about listening to this album is that it might take you back to a place that hurts to even remember.  It’s a place that was really hard to leave but once you left, you could never picture going back.   Monosov sounds like he’s still in love even if it would be better to move on.  It’s this enduring quality of his emotions that makes this love seem worth all the pain.


Originally published in Impose Magazine.