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Media Dump - NO GUITARS!

A) Imagine, if you will, Feist singing of longing and loss and prone to low-budget surrealism. In an instant, you will have Bat For LashesCollapse )

B) Forget that she's a nut who's likely to bottom out at any moment. Hell, forget "Rehab," even if it is a touch prophetic. Amy Winehouse has some real talent, and is firing soulful R&B that rivals anything that more traditional artists are pushing. She's worth a second (or even first) look. Back to Black was my hook.Collapse )

C) I've already drawn flak for even having them in a playlist, but I'm growing increasingly impressed with the music of Beirut. Gulag Orkestar was the end result of a New Mexico high school dropout's trek to study the culture and music of the Balkans. It's lovely indie folk pop that pulls you through melancholy and joy effortlessly. This is Elephant Gun.Collapse )
komos's recent playlist points out a direction my own musical tastes have been taking the past few years, which in many ways blends my long-term interest in the more interesting sorts of manic folk music (going back well into my teens) and the sinister sensibilities of the goth and punk I've been belatedly discovering since my 20s (although it was all well available in my teens, and even newer and fresher then). This blends well into the sort of malevolent circus Americana that Tom Waits has been doing for a few centuries. Add rockabilly, punk vaudeville, gypsy punk, ska, klezmer, Celto-Balkan fusion, accordion-driven French bar music, and stir.

five somewhat representative selectionsCollapse )
Said of this recent playlist/mix: "Man, there's some really eff-ed up music in there..."

Citizens of TomorrowCollapse )

Jul. 6th, 2007

This week's explorations led me to The Raveonettes, a Danish outfit that began with American 1950/60's retro-cool pop and have since begun to push that envelope in order to save their sanity. Notable are their Everly Brothers style close vocal harmonies set to raucous garage-surf music.

That Great Love Sound
Attack of the Ghost Riders
Love in a Trashcan

If you look hard enough, they've got a cover of "My Boyfriend's Back," which is just good, silly fun.

Stars (a quickie)

have been around a while and developed a good sized following but I've only recently gotten hooked up with them myself and I absolutely adore their music.  They have a really distinctive sound even though they exhibit a solid range as far as pop bands go.  On the track Your Ex-Lover is Dead they sound like an even mix between The Dears and The Decemberists, while the next track on the same album is more in the vein of a Stephin Merritt production.  Co-singer Amy Millan covers the softer ranges from Norah Jones to Juliana Hatfield with a bit of Regina Spektor thrown in for good measure, and the overall presentation of the group is slick, slick, slick.

Very few indy pop bands, in my opinion, manage to get their act together as well as Stars do in terms of polish, range and impact, and they honestly give The Magnetic Fields a run for their money in all of those departments, falling short only because they're not quite as quirky.  Where the Fields give us ironic distance, the Stars offer up an earnest treat for the senses, a six-person symphony on every track, even when they're starting to channel Sonic Youth (which happens on occasion, like on the seemingly rough-edged "Ageless Beauty").

The video linked above is the first from Set Yourself on Fire (2005), called "Your Ex-Lover is Dead".

Other excellent tracks from the same album, if you like the above, are the title track and "Celebration Guns".

Deerhoof/THS Double Feature

Deerhoof and The Hold Steady are two bands I've recently started keeping on fairly heavy rotation in my music lists, and though they both have a solid catalog behind them I'm going to focus on the newest album from each since they tend to be the most accessible to new listeners.

To get yourself into the mood for Deerhoof, imagine Stereolab performing a mellow but (for them) fairly guitar-heavy set.  Then, strip away the vocals and add Yoko Ono.  If you were to play their new LP, Friend Opportunity, at a party it would be the sort of music no one would really notice at first--but then when they did they'd probably end up somewhat flipped out, either completely turned off or helplessly engrossed by it.  They've been compared to Yes for the sheer art-rock quality of their work and the fact that it doesn't drift too far into the muddy area that borders on electronic music, but honestly what they do is so original that it's hard to put a label on it.  When the newest release starts you really expect something grating that you'll have to force yourself to enjoy almost cerebrally before you could ever just feel it, but the opposite is the case.  It doesn't quite groove, it doesn't quite rock, but it doesn't quite do all those things extremely well, and so subtly that it actually takes time to figure out that what they're doing is something cool and quirky and thoroughly brilliant.

The Hold Steady lie almost on the other end of the spectrum.  They've been relegated to indie rocker status not because of their musical style, which is and has always been quite accessible, but because of the emotional tenor of it and the themes with which they deal.  Once upon a time, a rock band singing about drug habits, excessive partying and drinking and irresponsible social behavior would have topped the charts easily (c.f. Appetite for Destruction), but these days your only commercial chance with a menu like that is to record rap or hip-hop.  THS's songs are gritty, relentlessly honest about the behavior of the larger part of the Youth of America, and complex enough to be both sympathetic and savagely critical of that behavior.  On the new release, Boys and Girls in America, it's really more of the same, but a bit more polished and somehow presented in broader terms than on previous recordings.  The style is classic-rock influenced arena power-chord tripping all the way from beginning to end, but it never manages to quite smother the subtlety of the songs, though they often seem simple-minded at first listen.  Probably the two peaks of the album are the opening track, and the one from which the LP takes its name (the original reference directly revealed in the opening line, "Sometimes I think Sal Paradise was right when he said 'Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together"), "Stuck Between Stations", a kind of elegy to suicidal and alcoholic (and Pulitzer-winning) American poet John Berryman, and "You Can Make Him Like You", which on first listen sounds like just another "girl-meets-guy, girl-gets-tired-of-guy, girl-finds-new-guy" kind of story but is slowly revealed to be an inner monologue of a young woman slipping further into the clutches of a life-destroying heroin addiction.  Oddly enough, the upbeat quality that initially provides such a misleading impression of the song's theme keeps it from being thoroughly depressing once the central story reveals itself, and it's the peppy, raw energy of the music that allows the naivete of the characters to survive the withering attack of irony that frontman Craig Finn levels at them throughout.

Brain dump

Since y'all are reading my journal already, you've come across at least one piece by the Bastard Fairies. The Fairies are an augmented duo primarily consisting of the displaced Brit Robin Fuckin' Davey and Yankton Sioux Yellow Thunder Woman who have put out a quirky DIY album that is mostly available free on their website. Keeping with my quirky tastes, I've found the sound they've created using thrift-store instruments and unlikely things like toy pianos incredibly satisfying. It doesn't hurt that Yellow Thunder Woman is smoking hot, or that I found them because of their YouTube stunt where they filmed an 8 y.o. basting Bill O'Reilly.

I've also been listening to Vermillion Lies. Sisters Zoe and Kim Boekbinder make good use of found objects to supplement more traditional instruments, killer vocals, and a wicked sense of humor to offer something a little unique to the whole folk/cabaret/circus movement. My favorite so far is "No Good" (available at their myspace page), where a vintage typewriter keeps time for jazzy vocals reminiscent of Katherine Whalen of Squirrel Nut Zippers fame.

Speaking of the Zippers' erstwhile chanteuse, Whalen released a solo album in mid-2006 which stretches genres even more than SNZs managed and keeps the focus squarely on her deeply satisfying, sultry voice. Check "The Funnest Game" for best effect.

Fujiya & Miyagi

Despite its name, Fujiya & Miyagi isn't Japanese, nor is it a duo. A British trio named for a record player and a character in The Karate Kid, the group plays danceable electronica with a distinct pop sensibility. After releasing the 2003 album Electro Karaoke in the Negative Style, Fujiya & Miyagi built a name on the European club scene, performing frequently and cranking out remixes and 10" club tracks.

You can hear a few complete songs and an interview via npr: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=10580833

If the link doesn't work for some reason, check it out through your favorite music checking out place. Good stuff.

Blonde Redhead

I'm a little late to this party, and I noticed this morning that I got scooped by The Metro, much to my shame. Still, the trio of Italian twins and Japanese vocalist are well worth checking out. I can't speak for anything older than Misery is a Butterfly, but that and their newly-released 23 manage catchy and haunting melodies that have been making it into my rotation with alarming regularity.

23Collapse )