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Tuesday, October 31, 2006
  The Shins have a new album. well - in three months.

a little like i did over the last weekend,

The Shins disappeared.

there are bands that are destined to get big (Death Cab), play in arenas, major festivals, and tour relentlessly to increasingly bigger and bigger audiences. there are bands that skip this part (Panic? at the Disco) - they fly right to fame, made by chance, filling an image for which the people are already hungry. and then there are bands that are never meant to reach fame at all. and this is The Shins.

for instance: why is it that you can't talk about them without mentioning Natalie Portman - or, perhaps more relevantly - Zach Braff? why is it that most kids go to shows mouthing the words to New Slang, but then glancing awkwardly at their friends, garbling syllables to pretend they know anything else? why is it James Mercer stands so frightfully off to side-stage, leaving the rest to gawk at the audience and make off-hand comments?

this little Sub Pop signing never knew what was coming to them.

now, with only two full albums and almost six years of a Sub-Poppian contract (here's the disappearance part), they're soon to release their third LP, Wincing The Night Away, after almost four years of relative silence (yet their name has become so deafening, hasn't it?). and i do have it. i refuse to post anything, however; first of all, a million RIAA freaks would be after me and they'd shut down the search for Toaster's noise, and i know you would all be devastated. but mostly it has to do with loyalty. the Albuquerque (stare at that word for a minute, will you?) band means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, and i don't pretend to be the only independent music geek with a fierce love for the back-to-basics, definitively "indie rock" Oh, Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow. i also don't pretend to be alone in that testimonial that their first release ('02 ish, for me) helped start my quest for unknown, unheard bands (you might say that it was actually the Lips, but that's a whole other story) - thus leading to the creation of this blog.

but this new album is... oh, guys! it's so totally less-than. it is painfully, heart-wrenchingly mediocre. so much so that i had to write an entire rambling and aimless post about it. my hopes were dashed, my perception of reality and my love for music ripped away from me - no no, that's not true at all, theatrics my friends, theatrics. but it's just not what i wanted to hear. IT IS SO PRODUCED. oh my GOD. i don't know if Mercer's voice can really handle the big-band rock sound of some of these tracks. like "Turn On Me." wow. and it is so, SO one track long. the variation is gone. the tymph is there, the occassional outbreaking Mercer wail, the poppy jangle and about four times as many New Slangs - yeah, it's there. but the other thing that looms large is the (increasingly more obvious) sultan of "alternative" - you guessed it, kids. you flippin' guessed it. who else but Thom Yorke, standing silhouetted and off to the side, the Big Brother figure of all today's music. the subtle but evident electronic elements, especially in (gasp!) voice distortion - the tone, the cloudiness, everything. and what's this, strings on "Red Rabbits?" mind you: this report is brought to you following the first tracks, Chutes-outtakeish "Australia." but listen to "Pam Berry" and "Black Wave" and you tell me you don't hear Radiohead. i dare you.

even when Weezer put out Make Believe, i walked around saying - bands change, genius does strange things to people (to Rivers), we have to be able to accept the capacity for a band to grow blah blah blah. and then i heard the album (ha). this isn't another case of Rivers holing up in a black room and then doing weed with Rick Rubin, only to dry-heave a bunch of airy bullshit into a microphone and call it music (cough, sputter). but this is a case of a band changing. this is a case of: can they handle this success? were they really meant to get this big. The Shins are certainly departing. to put a label on it this early in the game is ludicrous - sure, i've called it mediocre, but that's sort of a cop-out, isn't it? - and i refuse to give up so easily on a band that was so much to me. these questions just need to be asked. so, rest assured, you'll hear from me again, and i'll just continue to fruitlessly pique your interest until you get the chance to acquire it for yourself.

for now, lovelies, check out their newly refurbished website (little floating boat!) here. they're much much much more interactive with their News string, so keep up to date! and don't spam their myspace, apparently. that's bad, friends. spam is bad.

alright. actual mp3age later, i promise. just wait until you see the goodies i have lined up for you.

and HAPPY HALLOWEEN. if you have kids, you should get dressed up too, otherwise the walking dead will recognize you and invade your souls. what, you don't know your All Hallow's Eve history? pfft. go ask Wiki.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
  Review: Jeremy Enigk

Jeremy Enigk - World Waits
(incredibly beautiful website - a highly recommended visit)

there is nothing in the whole world like a revelation in the middle of the muddle, the muffled meddling mess of many things to do, a mind plagued with muck. quietly it stews. there is sits, waiting to be done, the piles like a laughing taunting game of Jenga, disorganized and incomplete and swiss cheese in nature. oh, it's impossible to ever be entirely happy, to do anything at all without thinking: i need to do so many other things. it's impossible to just live. like bags of sand it all drapes bulkily over the shoulders and to try and get out from under is futile - the weight will be there in the morning. sleeping in a sandbox, for pete's sake.

and there is this music which, unsettlingly, refuses to be left alone - there is a soft, sweet calling, a taunt like the sirens of the world have blown to pieces and scattered like mediocre translations of the Odyssey, ducking into innocent people's homes and ravaging their stereos and ipods. the temptation of the song will not be ignored, regardless of sandbags or the neverending Jenga tower that is the week month year's planner. the song says -

well. it doesn't need to say anything at all.

this is the power of Jeremy Enigk's World Waits. it is no exaggeration to say that i haven't heard anything quite like his intro song A New Beginning in so long that when i first heard it, i was shocked into a sort of quiet reverence. it breaks through the crusted layer of dullness, the blurred edges of the day-to-day - it eases you away from the wobbly tower (you can come back to it later...) and then opens a window. Been Here Before, taking the cue, is then the light. streaming in from the outside, i blink feverishly, surprised at my own susceptibility to mere music, embarrassed even. the album continues in this vein, exploring corners of his vocal capability, various eighties and nineties influences, flickering from dark to light back to dark, bending in the sunlight. nevermind the seeping, creeping, curving and flying instruments and synths - his voice is haunting. it breaks the drone of my own thoughts like little else i've found since this summer.

::::and how refreshing.
Jeremy Enigk - A New Beginning
Jeremy Enigk - City Tonight

buy this album.
i invite you to go to the hype where they are overloaded with terrific tracks, including the wonderful single. go visit his myspace, say hello to the Sub Pop artist page (because i love them)

and be happy. let him take it off your shoulders for a few minutes.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
  Review: Tiga - Sexor
i think every blogger has an album-reviewing ritual. well, probably a lot of bloggers. alright! this one does. i am a blogger, a creature of habit, an OCD mofo. ohhh i said it.

Tiga totally defied my plan to review him. i pop in his album - always the first step - and i check my email and do other things while i listen to the tracks. if something jumps out at me, i expand on it with some weird connection in annoying elboration and give you guys your free music and head on my way (don't think i don't know, kids). but Tiga totally shocked me. he picked me up, spun me around, said "it's probably a little early in the morning for you to be listening to this?" but took me on his sexy dance-craze joyride nonetheless, and now i will be late for my day. or will i be early for tonight? i can't tell.

one thing that i could tell without any reading was the influence of Scissor Sisters on his music. this came out especially on You Gonna Want Me. the addition of Jake Shears's (what is the grammatical possessive protocol there?) vocals on this track adds this extremely dynamic element and - though at the first listen, i thought i just wanted to laugh - made me take him seriously as a music artist and a man with a mission. Tiga is dirty. Sexor is a rubbing, grating, groping album when listened to all at once, a dance party with slippery foreign folk that just won't stop. and you can't help but like it. you can't help but get into it, at least for a little while. lights down, beat on, anything can happen - flying colors, sexy atmosphere, everyone does things differently when they're far away from home (like buying Italian leather jackets that cost way too much? mm, go a step further, follow that beat). like any crazy dance party, after a while it's time to duck out of the fray and -

uh, get dressed for your day? what time is it again? i thought for sure it was later than this. or do i mean earlier? what time does the dancy delusion set in? for Tiga - ah. it never stops.

highlights are at the beginning of the album. the songs give you a little more breathing room than just straight-up disco techno, and have quite the catchy melodies. take, for instance, the single -

::::Tiga - (Far From) Home

his androgyny is never tacky - always just lingering within the border of delightfully scandalous. i love the pink tracksuit, i'm sorry. i could have chosen the mussed-up tie, the "come hither" look - but i wanted to choose Tiga-plays-dress-up-in-girl's-skater-clothing. that shit is priceless.

alright, kids. off to work/school/discotheque. ready set go.
Monday, October 23, 2006
  The Whitest Boy Alive - Dreams

a few months back i was drawn in by a band name that sparked an internal struggle to realize whether it was the best or absolute worst i'd ever heard. today i still haven't quite figured it out, but i have grown to like them quite a bit - to the point that it's finally time for me to recommend them to you.

The Whitest Boy Alive is one of the many projects of Kings of Convenience's frontman Erlend Øye (html, yay). his voice is unmistakable but suits the very different instrumentals so well that at first, i couldn't be sure it was him - i spent some time merely relating the vocals to KoC and leaving it at that, saying, "ah yes, this vocalist has quite the similar talent, whaddayaknow." well, it's him, so i can't do that anymore.

The Whitest Boy Alive concentrates their efforts in Europe. this sounds like a funny thing to mention but it makes up some of their appeal to me; with audiences and fans concentrated mostly overseas, myspace messages in a plethora of languages and broken-up english, suddenly Øye and his three compadres Marcin Oz, Sebastian Maschat and Daniel Nentwig are even more comfortably foreign than their names suggested (which is astonishing). and there's a certain amount of glamour behind foreign things, European products and imports, those people that don't originate in the fifty states. there's a broader perspective, a world outside of our own boring and self-important one. there is the feeling of cozy secrecy, somewhat of an assurance that this isn't the next Lily Allen - i won't walk into a clothing store one day and groan at hearing music i've already known about and had the chance to overplay.

it's also rainy day, cloudy music. i swim in chemical particles of guitar - happy, poppy, unassuming, deliriously flip-flopping between twee and dance and a deep, emotional guitar. as the only thing they tend to mention about themselves, it used to be an electronic band, and slowly they replaced everything with real instruments, but they maintain a very electronic beat and simplicity that is compelling with the organic drums, bass, etc.

this is essentially a repost. but i love this - and it's so good for walking around in the fall - and i highly recommend the entire album.

::::these are my favorite tracks.
The Whitest Boy Alive - Inflation
WBA - Borders
- man. i love his voice.

visit the hype for the sort of continuous buzz about all of this loveliness. also visit their myspace and say hullooo.

something new and exciting to come, no doubt.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
  new Sufjan Stevens - Songs For Christmas - mp3s

yes. that's right. it is far too gorgeous outside for me to be posting this.

but obviously, i have no choice.

you've read it before...

Forget the 50 States. Christmas is a bigger concept. As some of you may or may not know, for the past few years, as a holiday tradition, Sufjan has embarked on an extraordinary experiment to record an annual Christmas EP. It started in 2001, the year of Epiphanies, and continued onward (skipping only 2004), culminating into an odd and idiosyncratic catalog of music that has only existed in the Asthmatic Kitty archives (and on a number of file sharing sites). The recording process took place every December, for one week, usually at home, provoking collaborations with friends, roommates, and musical peers. Armed with a Reader’s Digest Christmas Songbook (and a mug of hot cider) Sufjan & friends concocted a musical fruit cake year after year, implementing every musical instrument they could find lying around the house: banjo, oboe, Casiotone, wood flute, a buzzy guitar, hand claps, sleigh bells, Hammond organ, and some tree tinsel. Did we mention sleigh bells?

...Recording traditional favorites alongside unique originals, Sufjan has, over the course of five years, constructed an odd, impressive, and compelling collection of Christmas hits (and some misses) that will either warm your heart or make you throw up eggnog all over the bath mat (depending on your constitution). Asthmatic Kitty Records is preparing to release ALL of the material (newly mixed and mastered) in one generous box set, due in stores November 21, just in time for the holiday shopping craze.

[read the rest here, in case you don't remember or didn't know.]

***PREORDER NOW, yo! you would be SO LAME not to buy this.***
i never star things. this is urgent.

::::here's a lovely little mid-October sampling of the season of Sufjan:
Sufjan Stevens - Get Behind Me, Santa!
- single material. enough said. also: Get Behind Me Satan? weird coincidence? nope. definitely not. kudos, Jack.
Sufjan Stevens - Christmas In July - this track is poppy, hoppy, barely a christmas song at all. i've listened to it about 6 times, and it's neither Christmas OR July. so there. (2:30 in... mm mm... love that)
Sufjan Stevens - Jupiter Winter - light. strings and bells. like a snowflake. (yes, i said it)

Bonus - because we love you, and you love him. we know.
Sufjan Stevens - That Was The Worst Christmas Ever
- i've had a few of these. this is wonderfully written and i love everything he ever does with a euk.
Sufjan Stevens - Lo! How A Rose E'er Blooming - beautiful. sad. like only he can.

Edit: Please head on over to Asthmatic Kitty, where they're streaming the whole thing for you. that is far more worthy of your time, because the whole damn point is for you to buy this for yourself and everyone you love this christmas, and have a happier holiday for it. trrrrrrrust me.

buying this will so be worth the money. get it for everyone you know. it will make your holiday ten times better, i absolutely promise. this and Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas - you know, this one. sigh.

and it's not even halloween yet, my god.
  Damien Rice - 9 (sampler)
the manner by which these songs have been slowly permeating the blogosphere seems so typical for the artist. it has been slow. not slow-slow, not jumpy, not neglected or forgotten or rejected. but they're taking their time. they're moving at their own pace. and... on... it... goes...

what i have come in the last few days to affectionately call The Nine Sampler (just called "9") is a step ladder: it goes up from the music Damien Rice produces that I find very difficult (unless i have or want a razor to my wrists) - to the kind of music that makes me bother writing about DR in the first place. 9 Crimes the track, which you can get just by sifting through the hype there, is an example of the former songs. it's why O is such a problematic album for me, and it's also why i've been told i have no appreciation for emotional music. this may be true, but hear me out. though the track builds very well (classic DR), it only fizzles back out to disappointment, so a lovely progression of intensely gorgeous music ends up trying to get you somewhere - trying - rising - leaning - struggling - ah - - - no. slide back down the slope. and the violin (the violin!) plays on. it rips me apart, man. it's god damn too emotional (note: not, NOT emo).

but! you want to talk about fantastic, amazing, incredible Damien Rice music? keep listening to the sampler:

::::Damien Rice - Elephant
in the beginning i was positive that i was only going to throw this sampler in among the land of O, beautiful (gorgeous, brilliant) liner notes wasted on music that can't reach me (for fear of actually causing depression). but as the track progressed, i recognized an element from the B-Sides - which i loved (most of). i heard the potential. i heard the build. i waited - you bet i waited - it's worth it, when it's DR. and he floats with that guitar. the voice hands you along, every word passing your attention onto the next, riveting you to the energy, aware of a climax coming, you're just sure it'll come this time, on - and on - and on -
...the end. the end is worth the wait. if anything, the slow movement, the passing along - it does the end more justice. it fucking explodes.

::::Damien Rice - Me, My Yoke, And I
AH. and then, you climb to the next wrung of this poorly-used metaphorical step ladder, and you get to my absolute favorite brand of Damien Rice. it is so fucking insane that i have to swear about it. when it's worth it for a ripping, balls-out performance, he's the best. there are few people better, really. this man can translate emotion (see? i get it) into music like no one out there right now. he is on a playing field sparse with artists that either i don't know (blues/jazz) or that have been there for so long (screw it, you know them) that they're unmentionable. they are now underwear - unmentionables. oh, man, this music gets SO good that it renders me inarticulate, nonsensical. sweet.

ah, enjoy. let them seep through the internet, let them seep under your skin, let me know how you feel. i recommend taking one dose of 9 crimes, two of Elephant, and please - over and over, My Yoke.

again, hit up the hype, because those fuckers know what they're talking about.
....see? Damien Rice makes me so profane. you know what i'm talking about if you know the B-Sides.

pre-order 9, the actual ten-track album, due out November 14th.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
  new Voxtrot: Your Biggest Fan
mmmm... fresh baked singles.

a classic beginning serves a jingly-jangly (my favorite word lately) beat - love the tambourine - and the sweet, sweet tune of indie rock, rock piano and never overdone steel come together for a really great track. i highly recommend checking it out.

::::Voxtrot - Your Biggest Fan

BONUS: Voxtrot - Sway
- strings, beautiful strings, quiet piano and a perfect uprising, a lovely harmony. i'm telling you, these are real gems.

Edit: mp3s have been removed, per request of the management.

if the hype can help you further, then by all means.
go tell voxtrot's space how much you love them, and preorder this EP.
  Tom Waits - Orphans
i can't take the words away from this guy.
Orphans contains songs for all occasions. Some of the songs were written in turmoil and recorded at night in a moving car, others were written in hotel rooms and recorded in Hollywood during big conflamas. That’s when conflict weds drama. At any rate these are the ones that survived the flood and were rescued from the branches of trees after the water’s retreat.

Gathering all this material together was like rounding up chickens at the beach. It’s not like you go into vault and check out what you need. Most of it was lost or buried under the house. Some of the tapes I had to pay ransom for to a plumber in Russia. You fall into the vat. We started to write just to climb out of the vat. Then you start listening and sorting and start writing in response to what you hear. And more recording. And then you get bit by a spider, go down the gopher hole, and make a whole different record. That was the process pretty much the last three years.

please read the rest here - it's his work, he deserves to be read.

ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Tom Waits with Orphans.

::::mp3s are only up for a few days:
Tom Waits - 2:19
Tom Waits - Ain't Goin Down To The Well
Tom Waits - Bottom Of The World

Tom Waits - Little Drop Of Poison
Tom Waits - Goodnight Irene

Tom Waits - First Kiss
Tom Waits - Army Ants

Edit: mp3s have been removed, per request of the management.

visit the hype if for some reason you're still unsatisfied. more to come (i can't get enough).
  Polyvinyl Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin [clever post title. i know. it's a gift.]
i've always had this frustrated relationship with Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - and not because i have to acronym (verb) their name everytime i refer to them. it's because they sound so much like someone else. i've spent unreasonably long periods of time driving or walking or painting or standing on my head literally figuring out every little nook and cranny of these songs in terms of everyone else's music. i know! i know. totally unfair. but i know you want to know what i've come up with.

basically, SSLYBY is a lumpy, jangly lovechild. it starts with Ben Kweller. he and the members of The Shins - i guess more Flake Music, if we're going to be precise - decide to jump in a time machine and go back to the days of Weezer's blue album. there they meet up with Rivers and decide to have a naked party - some kind of Bacchanal thing, i don't know what those crazy musicians do - and they get visits throughout the night from Rogue Wave, Neil Finn (yep), Sufjan Stevens drops by with only enough time for a piano number, and others, little things everywhere. in the morning, they have Boris Yeltsin. and they stand there, confused. today, we assure Boris that at least someone still wants him, needs him, loves him. Someone Still Loves You. we promise, ol' Yelts.

the adopted parents - Polyvinyl - are now releasing their debut LP Broom with remastered tracks, WAY better sound (baby's got some brand new toys), and i'll bet the cover art is prettier too. just shine that thing up...

the thing is, once you listen to this enough times, it's just plain amazing music. it's so comfortably familiar to begin with that your attachment creeps up on you, but with each passing listen it's evident that they're just a great band with the same inspirations that drive us to this independent music scene, too. and they morph from that lumpy lovechild to a mold of their own. they begin, flowering, to sound just like themselves.

::::some of my favorites, now remastered:
SSLYBY - What'll We Do
SSLYBY - Oregon Girl
SSLYBY - Yr Broom

all highly recommended. this band has been one of my absolute favorites this year.

check out the hype on these guys, and visit their space. get their Polyvinyl release next Tuesday, or right now. love them. need them. so someone still does.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
  Silversun Pickups & Viva Voce @ BU Central, 10.14

this past weekend i scooted (scoot?) my butt down to BU Central to catch Viva Voce and Silversun Pickups in their natural habitat: on a stage and surrounded by barely college-aged kids.

both bands had a number of things going against them. first of all, BU Central sucks. most of the Boston University educated peoples are not versed in their good independent music, and also usually have different priorities (for instance! Friday was the thirteenth. there are thematic excuses for such an occurrence, especially in the month of october). so despite the gorgeous fliers that were glazing all the bulletin boards, VV & SSPU still did not get their fair audience (they did, however, the next night at the Middle East... hooray for the good ol' Mid East, yo, that's all i can say. the giant panther gets to say more, though). secondly, the sound is freaking awful. it might look all cool, with those windows and the couches that they turn upside down for such events and the ping pong tables and pool - but i'm here to tell you that the place wasn't built to hold sound. all of it flattens, condenses into this grizzly mess and the vocals sail over all the heads like a bird chirping in a hurricane. also, the Silversun Pickups leadman was pretty wasted.

despite the fact that i'm setting up this review to sound like they sucked, they didn't. they brought their dramatic poppy jumble of reverb and highschool-social-scene sugar coatedness and dumped it all on the floor in front of us, and left everyone that had never heard them to guess what it all was, the mystery that was their slightly recognizable melodies and their powerful presence. you have to give bands credit for totally ripping it in front of about twenty people (i exaggerate). i give them all the more credit for it, as bands and as people.

basically, i love everything.

this post was brought to you by Filter Tour Zine and the letter cue. because that is what "Q" is spelled like.
Friday, October 13, 2006
  The Positions - "Bliss"
the music strikes up and the song brings out its dancing shoes. its laughing and talking with its friends, the din of chatting groups and couples coy with each other in corners - it's settling its skirt around its legs while it ties the last lace. then it jumps up, bouncing, knees slightly slack for the moment as it tests out the tap, the jig, the spin, twist twist twist -

lights down, a hush -

it has the center of the floor. everyone stares with envy and admiration while it dips, hooks, curves, jumps in and out and back again, positively grooving. gradually - now picking up speed - everyone joins in, every group, the couples even take a break from each other's eyes, no one can stand not to be out on the dancefloor with the song of the night, the center of the party, the sunshiney new love feeling of Bliss.

::::a party in itself:The Positions - Bliss

can't miss this track, kids. luscious indie pop duo The Positions have gone and done it right - Camera Obscura meets Saturday Looks Good To Me, rainbow-sprinkled.

don't resist baby, just admit to bliss.

(don't worry. they say that in the song.)
Thursday, October 12, 2006
  The Panda Band's The Vital Chapter

i couldn't have been older than ten years old when my cousin, a mere twenty months older than i, signed up for a travel program (People to People?) to go visit Australia. astonishing, i had thought. Australia is at least on the other side of the universe. it's at least 47 hours away by plane. it's at least near the center of the earth. and Aussies! their accent! why, they're all from take-a-left-at MARS!

sometimes, when i listen to The Panda Band, i am ten years old again. (ah, to be always freshly-turned two digits.) while they should sound no different than your garden variety indie rock, Beatles influences galore, wonderfully clever integration of electronic sounds and keyboard/synth play - this group of Aussies is bringing something so pure, so refreshing, so clean and admirably pleasurable that i must be so young again. i hear hooky opening notes, my foot starts tapping, layers of incredibly thoughtful and complex pop elements, and then the vocals chime in and i am flopping about like a Peanuts character, oh play more Linus! uh, i mean George Harri -- er, Beatles cover band? wait no. Neil Finn? Badly Drawn Boy? Lips? jello? they must be from another galaxy. i do not understand. no comprendo. it matters not at all, because i love everything i hear. they have the potential to be the biggest indie rock group that we've seen from Australia in quite a long time. because we haven't had anything from Australia in quite a long time. space rays and satellites, i'm telling you.

get a load of these guys! (they're blue, after all. Australians are blue.)

::::please don't let their indie pop rock potential pass you by:
The Panda Band - Sleepy Little Deathtoll Town
- rec'mended. delightful unnecessary apostrophes.
The Panda Band - Spanish Band - take the forty seconds or so to get to the guitar work. quite good, i think.
The Panda Band - Musical Chairs - get. this. one. pop masterpiece! yes, i mean it.

go run to the hype machine and they will get you the single, Eyelashes, which everyone else has. we're just not everyone else. sniff.

by the way, Panda Band can be shortened to PB, and i really love peanut butter.
(i am so ten years old again.)
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
  Cold War Kids' new LP and old EPs: compare, contrast, love
as a proficient, relevant blogger it is my duty to not only tell you about what's going on everywhere else - what everyone else might be raving about - but also with what i happen to currently be obsessed. why is this important? because it's delightfully cathartic for me and allows me to really embrace my self-absorbed tendencies. i mean, to be honest. also, however, it reveals to you the kind of human i am, where i'm coming from, the kind of thing that - with this positively breakneck speed of acquiring independent music - really grabs me, and stays. those things that are not ephemeral. (ah, fragment!)

COLD WAR KIDS. this band has been circling through my ipod and ears and brain and body and my paintings, for pete's sake (poor pete). i eat and breathe their songs, sit for good chunks of time delaying real work and pondering over each individual click and noise. thankfully the band has recently (technically yesterday) given me an excuse to do this - to go over those songs i already know so well - by releasing their debut LP. after three EPs, they were ready. ready with the same exact songs. rerecorded and polished. "respectably" produced.

here, now, as the fruits of my relentless listening and paying attention and obsessing and loving - here are three "single-worthy" songs (alright, a few bonus too) that i compare, EP to LP, Up In Rags to Robbers and Cowards. (ah! longest intro to the purpose of a post ever)

::::EP:CWK - Hospital Beds
"Hospital Beds" was my introduction to the band. it was, like most truly great songs, not an instantly impressive experience; i was wary of the style: "there's nothing to do here, so i'll just whine and complain, in bed at the hospital." i could go on for hours about their narrative lyrics (which, if you know literature, is technically oxymoronic - hence why it's so different and refreshing), but the special thing about the story in this song is that it reminds me so well of those really incredible war novels like Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried and of course Heller's Catch 22. there is an ironic and insane quality to the words, a trapped desperation that those novels and consequently these lyrics convey in a darkly humorous manner. i realize there isn't much to be said for direct humor in CWK's words, but there is if you follow that same vein of bizzare... almost Vonnegut humor. remember that i fell in love with this track on the EP. i feel like the rawness compliments what i'm talking about. there is not, however, much of a difference on the LP - it's just a little cleaner, with tighter and louder drums. the voice is remarkably similar. sometimes a little more melodic than on the EP ("put out the fire on us"). piano is still highlighted just as much as it should be. considering this is a favorite, i have little to complain about - in fact, the new track sounds better on headphones, to tell you the truth.
::::LP:CWK - Hospital Beds

::::EP:CWK - We Used To Vacation
i don't have quite as much to drone on about with this track, because i have a confession to make: i like the LP version better. everything i had to complain about in the original is fixed. what did i have to complain about? the voice, mostly - it felt at times as if he weren't sure of himself, questioning the listener: do you understand what i'm singing? i know it's not the truth, they're so completely passionate about their music, but it frustrated me nonetheless to hear such a great song be somewhat ruined by the sloping upwards of each line, the turning-up of the words to create a tense, insecure tone. the LP works more with the emotion that they give live (opinion!) and brings it to light here, finishing the end of each line, asserting their lyrics, drawing out the potential to a song that i've listened to about forty-five times in the last week. or something. they speed it up as well, throughout the entire song but especially come the "chorus" (whatever).
::::LP:CWK - We Used To Vacation

::::EP:CWK - Saint John
i will spare you my raving about the literal poetic quality of these lyrics - sort of. it's an honest poem! listen! half of the amazing thing about this song is the singing and the execution of the words going with the storyline. the tone, the accent, the slip and slide of the lips, the constantly changing speed, the "messy," skippy drums, the calling voices, the clanking, the bass line (love that), rattling (tambourine), the stop and the go, the blues... it's all to compliment the narrative. have you listened? did you hear the story? do you know why he's on death row? listen to this shit, yo. it gave me chills the first time it dawned on me. this is actually where the two different versions separate. on the EP, they keep so much more of the flair that i described above - using the music and the speed and the vocals to express the idea in the lyrics. it's an audible piece of art. the LP version, however, is infinitely cleaner and it's easier (in some places, now it's possible) to hear what he's actually saying and get the story. in this way, they're almost like two different altogether, not to be considered under the same title, one a newer version than the other. no. they are bot necessary to really get the brilliance of "Saint John."
::::LP:CWK - Saint John

now, because i made you go through all of that, you can have the two bonus tracks. they're new songs, not found on any of the EPs, and they're both amazing. i hope it's a sign of their next record (because, come on, they need actual new stuff soon).
::::BONUS:CWK - Passing The Hat
BONUS x2: CWK - God, Make Up Your Mind

go to the hype machine and you will find an everlasting supply of Cold War Kids love.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
  Q&A with Apollo Sunshine's Jesse Gallagher

ah, here i am again, impressing upon you the insanely good band Apollo Sunshine. i retain that they're the best band to come out of Boston in an impressively long time. really truly.

i got the opportunity to run a few quick questions by Jesse Gallagher (center), about whom i've posted before (go search yourselves, bitches). he's a smart dude. i agree with a lot of his answers (if you haven't seen it, Waking Life is an important movie to watch, i mean it) but by far the best answer is the last. it essentially defines the Jesse/Apollo Sunshine mentality.

do check out these guys. i will grow hoarse soon with my insisting.

here's the man now:

1. About what book or movie would you feel comfortable judging somebody based on their appreciation of it?
If someone really dug that movie "Waking Life" or the book "The Power of Myth" I could probably judge that they had traveled a course that has opened their mind in a good way..

2. What is your favorite word? Also, what is your favorite swear?
i like the word "LOVE" cause it sorta skips past your brain and seeps right into your stomach and heart...

swear?.. I like "FUCK", cause the fuck is where we all came from...

3. What city would you live in (any time period) and why?
i would have loved to have lived with the Dogon tribes in Africa...

4. What do you think are the obligations of an artist (if any) to his/her viewer/audience?
To entertain... and to be honest....

5. Do you believe that, as Nietsche says, "Laughter is the death of an emotion?"
hmm... maybe..
laughter is also the best emotion....

6. What other profession could you see yourself having?
baseball player.

7. Say there is actually a heaven. What would you like the higher being to say when you reach "the gates?"
Hey Jesse!!
"woo hoo!, your here!... here's your solid gold turntables.... could you kindly start up the dance party?"
Saturday, October 07, 2006
  Regina Spektor @ Avalon: an alternative live review.
last night was the first time i've ever really attended a show by myself. it's different when you're alone, isn't it? sure, you can go with someone and maybe become so absorbed in the performance that you grow oblivious to their presence. but when there's no presence to ignore, it's different. you become more observant - not just of your purse or your back pocket. you notice the way the couple in front of you is only fifteen, and every forty-five seconds their physical separation of seven inches gets too much to bear and they must hug it away. you notice the mom just as girlishly excited as the daughter. you notice the heavy-eyelinered pair who's more interested in their sighting amanda from Dresden Dolls ("shriek!") than, if you can believe it, Your Honor. you notice...

and then it dawns on you you're not the only one alone. oh, Reg! how alone she is on stage! it's just her, isn't it? it's a big stage - it's a big venue, and sold out, damn - and there she is, a glittering and happy curly-haired Russian girl, and that voice that renders everyone silent. no one sings during her songs. you notice that, too - did you notice that? sometimes. who can't sing to Better or (oh, i love) The Hotel Song? and who can't try their best to follow a live On The Radio? and FIdelity? (unless, of course, you're standing next to the only raucously drunk guy in the place that happens to know every word to every song. i'm also positive he was also the only drunk guy to ever try and start a fight at a Regina Spektor concert.) oh, Begin To Hope. but Soviet Kitsch, too. and that one song from 11:11 -

a piano, and a voice. for half the show, there she is, commanding an entire full-capacity audience, old to young, boy to girl, drunk to sober. entirely alone. suddenly it made sense to me that i would go to see Regina Spektor alone; she is also alone, and everything is okay. that's how she is. she sings of loneliness and heartbreak and some of the most beautiful imagery i've ever found in contemporary lyrics and yet - she represents it all by herself, clearly capable of ditching the "fucking rad" band that slips behind and joins her halfway through (Poor Little Rich Boy, drumming with her foot and a tapping stick on the amp beside her). she is so happy, and she is so sweet, but she's so strong too - Madonna. Elliott Smith. do you see where that could be going? no. it's okay. she is Regina, she is positively beautiful, and the sound of her singing is like nothing else.

if you can catch the last of her tour, please.

i have no photographs. i am between cameras. i was late. i was off to the side. the drunks and i shared the view by the bar, craning our necks, watching over the deliciously indie/scene crowd with acute interest and quietly enraptured the moment she took the stage. or maybe that was just me, i don't know. i was alone.

reg on myspace
on the hype
Friday, October 06, 2006
  KT Tunstall covers Radiohead's Fake Plastic Trees. beautifully.
certain sounds can legitimize artists for me. for instance, good melancholy. there's nothing like it, no? i mean, that spine-tingling good stuff, the quiet snow of thoughtfulness and... ah, forget it. you've heard me spout off on that.

for KT Tunstall, it's a live cover. i'm going to honest, here: i'm not a live-version fan. i'm not! if i wasn't there, then i don't know why the crowd roars at two minutes in, i don't get the organic appeal of the waivering voice, the raw sounds escape me. i need to be standing right there to get it. unless, of course, it doesn't even sound live, which means two things: the artist is good enough to pull something off just as well on stage as they would in the studio (which should be the point, huh?) and i'm tricked into liking the song as just another song. yes! KT Tunstall achieved this effect! can you believe it? well see lookee here:

::::KT Tunstall - Fake Plastic Trees

the second amazing thing here should now be instantly apparent (if for some reason you missed the bright orange title of this post). she's covering Radiohead, yo. that would be Thom she's channeling. but that would be fluttering piano worthy of a concerto. those would be vocals that rival Feist and Amy Millan. she has lungs - think "if i could just turn and run." think the build-up. think asking Regina Spektor for advice on vocal timing and then belting it out, as gutteral and melodiously raspy, as dark and soothing as her addictive poppy Eye To The Telescope. this translation of the eerie, almost frighteningly powerful song (i get shit for it being - possibly - my favorite by Radiohead) is genius. it's refreshing. i'm not very easy on covers for songs that i love and know so well, and yet i was just impressed as hell when i heard this.

bravo, KT. sweet single cover, by the way. ain't she cute?

you can find this cover on the Another Place To Fall single (or right here). head to her 'space in case you aren't acquainted with the "i have chinese blood but i channel classic rock and country greats" beaut. she's really actually quite gorgeous, too, in case you missed that.
still not satisfied (never!) - the hype will help. take two at each meal.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
  The Little Ones -getting their record dealios on.
i'm really sorry for the sparse posts, guys. there just isn't enough time in the day. you have absolutely no idea.

but! i have cool news! one of the very first bands we posted on here at Noise for Toaster was lovely San Francisco-natives The Little Ones. to this day they've been one of my very favorite finds, especially for how little they've actually recorded or even toured. i'm positive you'll remember them if you venture on over to their myspace and have a little listening-refresher. mmm, minty.

well! i am so pleased to have been a part of all that hype about their first Sing Song EP because it's garnered them quite a bit of attention, and they're doing extremely well. case in point: they just signed to indie label Astralwerks, home to freaking awesome artists like Hot Chip, Sondre Lerche, Sparklehorse.. plus UK sensation The Kooks. decent line-up there. or "dees," as the kids say, the spelling of which can be argued.

this is also sort of a "let's hold hands" deal between Astralwerks and UK's Heavenly Records, seriously one of the bigger indie labels in Europe.

speaking of Europe (i'm so slick) - that's where they're headed next. so if you're across the pond from us, go check them out starting in January - if for no other reason than to see them supporting Boy Least Likely To (gasp, squeal, exclamation point!! god, i love them).

let's not meet like this. i miss you too much.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
  All the Hype: The Decemberists, The Killers, Jet, Beck
tuesday, october 3rd. the big day. the major mentionables include new releases from the Decemberists, the Killers, Jet, and Beck. for the amount of hype that these four albums alone have received, for all the premature praise and excitement and preordered copies and leaked tracks and everything else, does the actual music stand up on its own? is there specific and outstanding merit in these four works that is deserving of the attention given to them? we here at NfT are going to give you our opinion and a small preview with this stipulation: we want to know what you think, too. leave a comment, send us an email, subscribe the the feed, do the thing, do anything to let us know what you think of these albums because, well, we aren't pitchfork, and we're not going to tell you what you're supposed to think - you tell us.

The Decemberists - The Crane Wife

i got this a few weeks ago and immediately forgot that i had it. i never listened to it, never really allowed it to register, never had the realization that it was being pushed to the bottom in a stack of much bigger (in name) releases. when it was finally brought to my attention a few days ago, i was stunned and a little disappointed in myself. this album is beautiful. let me admit that i learned of the Decemberists when FNX started playing Sixteen Military Wives off of Picaresque. it grabbed me instantly, and the album got a pretty high amount of play from me in a time when my musical tastes were beginning to change. i wasn't sure what to expect of The Crane Wife, so my bias is limited in this respect. the entire album is well thought out and well written; they picked a definite theme and stuck to it to tell their story. the mingling of gently cascading guitars with a versatile organ, the harmonies displaying the individual and unique beauties of male and female voice as one. with two songs over eleven minutes, one would expect to be bored by the experience, but the result is quite contrary: the songs contain multiple parts, multiple stories, in one, delivered with a rise and fall of emotion and mood. i don't think i could say enough about the writing and energy that went into this album and its subtleties - so you tell me something i left out.
::::listen, children, as we weave this tale
The Decemberists - Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)
The Decemberists - Sons And Daughters

The Killers - Sam's Town

let me start off by saying: this is not Hot Fuss. this is more grown up, less metrosexual, more rock, less of what spawned forty-two billion sound-alikes. they've been saying it the entire time, too, that they were reaching back to that big 80s rock sound. well, they've washed off the makeup and put on some leather jackets and grown some facial hair and delivered. there are influences of Springsteen and U2 and Queen and Bowie; a beefier sound and a hell of a lot more production. but personally, i'm not all that impressed. Hot Fuss was everyone's guilty pleasure after it exploded. you couldn't claim to have known the Killers first because nobody cared to hear it. instead, you sat in your room by yourself or blasted it in your car. this is different. it's been talked up since about march, by Brandon Flowers himself or by the radio stations or the online publications or your friends or mothers even. i have to question whether When You Were Young would be as big and noticed had it come out on its own, sans Hot Fuss. i'm not convinced that Brandon has the voice for the vocally demanding things that are asked of him on this album. i also think this 80s arena rock sound is nothing special, but it's been produced by the guys who worked with U2 so it'll sound good, but i think it's just another big mainstream rock album to me for now.
::::but you can decide for yourself
The Killers - Uncle Johnny
The Killers - Exitlude

Jet - Shine On

i can't claim that Jet has ever held anything special to me. they got overplayed and used in video game soundtracks, screaming to people who didn't even know the name of their band. where the Killers had five huge singles off of their debut, Jet came away with three, the last of which really turned me off to them. they've refined their sound now, though, and are taking another stab at this thing. as their pictures will tell you, they've struck a vein of 70s classic rock and they'll be mining that for the majority of what you're going to hear from them. strategic use of cowbell and falsetto with the basic piano plunking that's gotten popular will add some variety, but most of it is pretty vanilla in flavoring. having had a big enough debut to warrant them a significantly larger budget this time 'round, the sound is clearly bigger and even better thought out for the most part, but what gets me is this nagging thought: they're trying so hard to be some sort of modern permutation of the Beatles. now you can go on claiming that no one can truly get away from the Beatles influence in all modern pop and rock, but when it's as direct as you're hearing from Shine On, the question of originality and creativity comes up. at least there's a good variety of ballads and rock numbers to mix it up, but it's still pretty standard, as catchy as it can be. listen to the whole thing on their myspace, and get back to us.
::::have a taste
Jet - Holiday
Jet - All You Have To Do

Beck - The Information

you caught me - i already made a full post about The Information (including three tracks), but i can't get enough. it gets better every time, as many experiences with Beck tend to. he puts so much of himself into his work, so many of his personality quirks that shape and mold the album, the subtle flicks and dips that go primarily unnoticed until the fourteenth or twenty-second time through. the overall feel is still dark and heavy, but that only makes the contrasting highs and uptempo pops that much more effective. i could probably keep talking, going through the album again and again and noting the things that make it great to me - that chord change, that triangle ting, that cymbal crash, the use of synth there, heavier bass there, but that can only get so much across. get it yourself, and give me the information that you discover.

::::two of my favorites, from me to you
Beck - Soldier Jane
Beck - Inside Out
[bonus track]

i really do expect some feedback on this you know; one voice on the internet out of millions shouldn't be taken as the authority. where i personally feel that the Killers and Jet are a bit of a let down, someone else might think the album of the year is in there somewhere. maybe i'll even find that later. for now, i'll be content to keep spinning the Decemberists and Beck, depending on my mood.

all the artists' myspaces are linked in the band names of their sections, and the albums to preorder from amazon from the album title. on the subject of hype, i can tell you that you might be able to find nearly full albums for some of these on the Hype Machine, so check their individual pages immediately here: The Decemberists, The Killers, Jet, Beck. enjoy now, but don't forget to purchase the albums you like on tuesday.

NOTE: as much as toaster loves free music, he'd like to encourage you to buy the cds of the artists you enjoy. he'd also like to remind you that any music hosted by or linked to from this page is property of its respective owners, so if that's you and you'd like it to not be here, just let us know.

READ ME: if files are not working properly upon opening or saving [ex: unknown file type], make sure that there is a .mp3 at the end of the filename, and all will be well.

also: all files posted will only remain available for two to three weeks. if you find something in an old post that you'd really like to hear, tell us.

be our god damn myspace friend. damn it.