Wednesday, October 3

Man Man Tours Your Skin Off

I know we usually don’t post tour updates but for a band like Man Man, I make an exception. I’ve seen them three times now, which is enough for me to confidently say that they’re the best live band I’ve ever seen—and keep in mind I got to a hell of a lot of shows. To each of the three shows I brought someone new who had never heard of Man Man and, each time, they left with the same opinion. They’re headlining throughout October and then meeting up with Modest Mouse in November—I recommend seeing them before they join Modest Mouse, because it’s definitely better to see Man Man play longer in a more intimate venue than to see them open for a band that kind of sucks live. This is the one show this fall you can’t afford to miss. And if you’re lucky enough to live near New York, you can see them play with Grizzly Bear! Should be amazing. Check the dates:

Headlining Tour:
10-04 Montreal, Quebec - La Sala Rossa
10-05 Northampton, MA - Pearl St.
10-06 Clinton, NY - Hamilton College Annex
10-08 Cleveland Heights, OH - Beachland Ballroom
10-09 Athens, OH - The Union
10-11 Newport, KY - Southgate House
10-12 Urbana, IL - Illini Union Courtyard Cafe
10-13 Lexington, KY - The Dame
10-14 Fulton County, GA - Bouckaert Farm
10-15 Memphis, TN - Hi-Tone
10-16 Birmingham, AL - Bottletree Cafe
10-17 New Orleans, LA - Republic
10-18 Houston, TX - Proletariat
10-19 Dallas, TX - The Loft at the Palladium
10-20 Austin, TX - Emo's
10-22 Phoenix, AZ - The Rhythm Room
10-23 Los Angeles, CA - Troubador
10-25 San Francisco, CA - Slim's
10-28 Portland, OR - Hawthorne Theatre
10-30 Seattle, WA - Neumos

With Modest Mouse:
10-31 Spokane, WA - Big Easy Concert House
11-01 Spokane, WA - Big Easy Concert House
11-02 Calgary, Alberta - MacEwan Ballroom
11-03 Edmonton, Alberta - Edmonton Events Centre
11-05 Regina, Saskatchewan - Conexus Arts Centre
11-06 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan - Oden Event Centre
11-07 Winnipeg, Manitoba - Burton Cummings Theater
11-09 Des Moines, IA - Val-Air Ballroom
11-10 Madison, WI - Orpheum Theatre
11-11 Milwaukee, WI - Eagles Ballroom
11-12 Indianapolis, IN - Murat Egyptian Room
11-14 St. Louis, MO - The Pageant

Man Man - Engrish Bwudd [mp3]
Man Man - Black Mission Goggles [mp3]

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Monday, October 1


With every other blog buzzing with news of the new Radiohead album and my own personal claim to be the biggest Radiohead fan ever, you don’t think I could leave this one untouched, did you? After all, I did spend almost two weeks this summer assembling a complete, four-disc collection of Radiohead b-sides, rare live tracks, and alternate versions.

Just when you think that musicians have finally settled into the whole our-album-will-inevitably-leak-so-let’s-just-accept-it-and-try-and-survive-regardless frame of mind, a band like Radiohead comes along, and, as usual, changes everything.

For those of you who haven’t yet heard (read: none of you, hopefully), Radiohead is indeed releasing LP7, entitled In Rainbows (kind of a lame name, but I can live with it), on October 10 and will be download-only (for which you only pay as much as you want!) for the time being. You can also pre-order the “discbox”, which will be shipped to you by December 3rd.

From the Radiohead website:
“The discbox consists of the new album, In Rainbows on CD and on 2 x 12 inch heavyweight vinyl records. A second, enhanced CD contains more new songs, along with digital photographs and artwork. It also includes artwork and lyric booklets. All are encased in a hardback book and slipcase. The album download automatically comes with this pack.”

Which is amazing, right? It may cost something like eighty dollars, but let’s be honest, it’s totally worth it. Here’s the tracklist:

In Rainbows:
1. 15 Step
2. Bodysnatchers
3. Nude
4. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
5. All I Need
6. Faust Arp
7. Reckoner
8. House of Cards
9. Jigsaw Falling Into Place
10. Videotape

Bonus CD:
1. MK 1
2. Down is the New Up
3. Go Slowly
4. MK 2
5. Last Flowers
6. Up on the Ladder
7. Bangers and Mash
8. 4 Minute Warning

It’s got a lot of songs we’ve already heard from the live demos of their last tour, but one can only assume they’ll sound much cooler/better/different from the studio. If you can’t already tell, I’m out of my mind with excitement. And you should be too.

Self-releasing the album, allowing you to pay as little (or, in some cases, as much) as you want, springing the news a mere ten days before its release date… how mind-blowing is this?

Radiohead - 15 Step (Live) [mp3]
Radiohead - Arpeggi (Live) [mp3]

For more info and to pre-order the album, click here.

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Thursday, September 27

Digging Up Treasure: Deer Tick

”Digging Up Treasure” is the name of a new segment that will allow me to bubble over with the joy of finding a relatively unknown and very exciting new band. The title of the segment becomes even more clever when you realize that it’s underground music I’m talking about. Digging? Underground? Treasure? Get it? Okay, that’s enough.

Hailing from Providence, Rhode Island, Deer Tick is the brainchild of singer/songwriter John McCauley, rounded out by drummer Dennis Ryan and bassist Chris Ryan. Their debut album, War Elephant came out a couple weeks ago, released on FEOW Records. In the three weeks since then, I’ve scarcely been able to go a day without spinning at least a track or two; theirs is the kind of music that’s difficult to get out of your head—and not in the “I have this song stuck in my head” sort of way. It’s the kind of immediate, intelligent music that makes you wonder, when compared to McCauley, how terribly inadequate you are at expressing yourself, and how damn alive you feel in his presence.

McCauley’s expressiveness is, after all, Deer Tick’s defining characteristic. Dude’s got a voice like sandpaper and he doesn’t hesitate for a moment before rubbing it all over your face. And with a presence that’s so very… well, present, lines like “I’m caught in a whirlwind / I’m going to heaven / I’m standing on trial / and it’s painted on canvas / an eternal testament to how we are so animalistic” adopt an emotional weight that’s impossible to ignore. McCauley’s tortured performance on the epic “Christ Jesus” is the alt-country aspiration to Jeff Mangum’s impossibly high In the Aeroplane standard.

The music on which this remarkable expression rests is strong, often embracing that unstoppable alt-county sense of movement that makes it perfect for long drives and deep thoughts while at the same time using that forward motion to keep it from overwhelming or stagnating. But, within these bounds, the music boasts quite a range, from the road-trip shuffle of “Art Isn’t Real (City of Sin)” to the Neil Young-infused “Standing at the Threshold” to the subtle reggae of “Baltimore Blues No. 1”.

The song’s closing track (“What Kind of Fool Am I?”) is the oddest of the bunch, a down-tempo fifties pop number that you could easily imagine reworked by Phil Spector. It witnesses McCauley’s apparent inability to fall in love, his desire to abandon all things cerebral and become the kind of fool that is capable of such an irrational sentiment. But it’s exactly that kind of thought and analysis that prevents him from becoming that fool and what, in the end, makes this album so interesting. What McCauley has painted is a picture of a world totally aware of its own foolishness and the conflict that arises when presented with the choice to remain blissfully ignorant or to face the truth, however harsh it may be.

Deer Tick - Standing at the Threshold [mp3]
Deer Tick - These Old Shoes [mp3]
Deer Tick - Christ Jesus [mp3]

War Elephant is available now from FEOW Records.

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Saturday, September 22

This is Japanese Pysch! Part II

Here it is, the second part of my intro to quality Japanese psych—the artists in this part are generally a little less eccentric than the previous, so if the first set was too much for you to handle, definitely give these a try. As always there are mp3s to download at the end of the post, so be sure to check those out. Also, if I missed an artist you think belongs on this list (which I’m sure I did, I’m no expert), shoot me an email or leave me a comment! There’s no reason there shouldn’t be a Part III. In fact, I want there to be! Anyway, enjoy the delicious psychedelic ear food from Japan.

Hisato Higuchi
Listening to Hisato Higuchi is like being young again, struggling to stay awake while you wait for your mom to tuck you in and kiss you goodnight. Higuchi was originally a puppeteer, and while the transition from puppeteer to musician doesn’t make total sense, the way his former profession appears in his music certainly does. He works his guitar strings with a delicacy normally reserved for marionettes and the result is a collection of songs almost entirely devoted to subtlety and the beautiful moments that can be born of a single note piercing the silence.

Best Starting Point: Dialogue (2006)

This is a short album—only 35 minutes long—comprised almost entirely of fragile guitar parts, all of them beautiful and quietly powerful. There are moments, however, when Higuchi’s crooning vocals or some alien feedback enter the mix and the resulting juxtaposition is phenomenal. Though this album certainly has a time and a place, when approached with the right mindset (mellow, pensive, observant, even spiritual) this is an enormously rewarding listen. Minimal and ethereal.

OOIOO is, of course, the all-female group founded by Yoshimi P-We, who is also a member of Boredoms. Over the past twelve years, the girls have released five full-length albums. Their sound is totally unique, characterized mainly by heavy percussion, shouting vocals (but not quite cheerleader-esque), and a foundation in repetition. They also incorporate elements of jazz, some experimental noises probably related to Boredoms, and at times world music beats. Due in large part to the percussion, the music of OOIOO has a lot of energy, always propelling itself forward and keeping the listener engaged.

Best Starting Point: Taiga (2006)

This is the group’s most recent album and arguably their best. Taiga witnesses OOIOO really hitting their stride, combining rich and interesting percussion with a multitude of creative ideas and dynamic styles. The album opens with “UMA”, a tour-de-force of shouts and heavy drum hits, and an hour later, has ventured into jazz, noise, Afrobeat, and dance rock territories. This album is like nothing you’ve ever heard, a collection of tracks from a group that has almost too many ideas for its own good.

Now, I realize that Boris isn’t a “psych” band and that they’ve spent much more of the last fifteen years in the noise rock and sludge rock arenas by comparison, but their ventures into psychedelic territory along with how damn good they are make them a band I can’t afford to overlook. Boris is a simple, three-piece band and, for a band with a static lineup, one of Japan’s most prolific groups. In the past they’ve worked with the likes of Keiji Haino, noise god Merzbow, and doom rockers Sunn O))). Their last two U.S. releases, Pink and Rainbow (with Ghost’s Michio Kurihara) have been their most accessible to date and the latter embraces that psych element I mentioned previously. Boris’ music is generally very well-crafted and beautifully layered; though prolific they may be, you can tell they put a lot of time and energy into their releases. Pink, which is more of a hardcore/shoegaze album, was the first of their albums to really catch the attention of the American indie crowd. Their earlier releases were a little more chaotic (and in some cases, borderline unlistenable) but Boris’ latest endeavors has the band constantly forging new and exciting paths.

Best Starting Point: Pink (2006)

I was sold on Pink by the end of the album’s title track, which is only the second on the album. It’s something like the aural equivalent of a city perishing in flame. The energy level is consistently high—even Wata’s guitar picking during quieter parts sound with the same joie-de-vivre as the album’s gnarliest riffs. The greater variety of songs and increased breathing room also allows Takeshi to deliver some of his finest and most soulful vocals to date. This is music like the sun is a lamp.

Rashinban is one of the many side-projects of ex-Boredoms member Yamamoto Seiichi, who is easily among the most prolific artists in Japan. According to Ghost’s Masaki Batoh, Rashinban is the only band in Japan other than Acid Mothers Temple he can really get behind. The group’s releases are extremely hard to find, however, as most (maybe none, I'm not sure) of their releases haven't made their way to the U.S. Rashinban’s music is slightly more conventional than many of the other bands I’ve been discussing, embracing a predominately sixties-pop style with sunny vocals and an emphasis on the organ. Their songs are seamless, the work of a group that knows the kind of music it wants to make and is damn good at making it.

Best Starting Point: Hajimari (2002)

I recommend this album because it’s the only one I could get my hands on, and thus the only one I can recommend with confidence. That said, it’s still great and I can only assume Rashinban's other releases are just as good. The first time I heard it I was driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco and I remember that the hour-long album went by in no time at all—not because it wasn’t memorable, but because its such a breeze of a listen. It’s light and fluffy, like pancakes of rock.

Yura Yura Teikoku
I actually discovered this band through Raven Sings the Blues, one of my new favorite blogs. Though they’ve been together since 1989, it wasn’t until 2005 that they played a show outside of Japan. This is a pretty good example of the limited exposure YYT has gotten in the U.S., and why so few have heard of them. Their sound is a combination of garage rock and psych rock, with a nice side of pop sensibilities and noise accents. Over the years they’ve eschewed their more chaotic tendencies and focused more on song craft, but the band’s past wildness is still present; the result is an extremely well-balanced and dynamic sound, as weird as it is fun.

Best Starting Point: Sweet Spot (2006)

This is YYT’s most recent release and, from what I’ve heard, one of its best. There’s a wide range of songs, from scatterbrained pop gems in the headspace of the Zutons to mellow psych that’s got a hint of Pink Floyd in its bones. Every track has a character of its own, each embracing a different style and tempo that keeps the whole album interesting. And while it may not be better than the sum of its parts, damn are its parts something.

Hisato Higuchi - Kizuato [mp3]
OOIOO - UMO [mp3]
Boris - Pink [mp3]
Rashinban - Fire Song [mp3]
Yura Yura Teikoku - ソフトに死んでいる [mp3]

- Dominick Duhamel -

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Tuesday, September 18

This is Japanese Pysch! Part I

As many of you probably know, at the moment I’m almost totally immersed in a Japanese psychedelic phase. In my experience, there are very few other scenes that have such a vitality and truth about their music; to be honest, the identity and creativity found in Japanese psych is a breath of fresh air when considering how many bands these days lack true originality. And, since the genre has so much to offer and so few people know about it, I thought I’d do a brief run-through of some of the more notable bands, along with recommended albums and free mp3s to download (which can be found at the bottom of the post). Part II should be coming within the next few days. I strongly encourage you to check all the following artists out; some of them have almost totally changed my perception of music—in a good way, of course.

This band is awesome for so many reasons. So many, in fact, that I think I’m just going to have to put them in list form:
1. One of their members is a Buddhist monk.
2. Though they’ve only released seven proper albums, they’ve been around since 1984.
3. They’ve refused to play in the U.S. until the Bush Administration is out of office.
4. Masaki Batoh, the band’s de facto leader, is concerned almost exclusively with the moment organic, improvised music is formed rather than recording or touring.
5. The mind-blowing guitar work of Michio Kurihara, who appeared on the most recent Boris album and used to be in White Heaven. This man is one of maybe five people I would consider guitar gods, and this is coming from a guitar player.
6. The sheer number of instruments the band plays, which includes the hurdy gurdy, flute, tabla, ryu, sitar, vacuum pipes, banjo, timpani, and the list goes on.
7. They live a largely nomadic lifestyle.
8. Their choice of venues is impeccable. In their earlier days they would play at random in subways and parks. Many of their shows have taken place in temples, which is absolutely gorgeous and moving to watch.
9. Their recently released live DVD, Metamorphosis. If that doesn’t inspire you to play music, there’s something wrong with you.

Best Starting Point: Lama Rabi Rabi (1996)

This album is among Ghost’s more tribal and psychedelic (which I believe to be their greatest incarnation) rather than folk or rock-based. It opens with an incredible one-two punch, the slowly evolving atmosphere of “Masttillah” followed by the ferocious “Rabirabi”. This is music that transports you, that can provide an out-of-body experience when approached with the right attitude. Also highly recommended is the album Temple Stone (1997). But to be honest the best starting point is probably their live DVD.

Acid Mothers Temple
The Acid Mothers “Soul Collective” really has no definite lineup and has performed and released albums under dozens of different names since it’s origin in 1997, the most famous being Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. and Acid Mothers Temple & The Cosmic Inferno. The Acid Mothers collective puts out anywhere from two to five albums a year, due mainly to their shifting lineup and the spirit of improvisation present on most of their albums. The collective’s most consistent member is Kawabata Makoto, who is one of the other very few musicians I would consider to be a guitar god. Thanks to his presence, many of their tracks are essentially lengthy guitar jams, but free of all the nasty connotations of jam-heavy songs. Makoto and his bandmates essentially believe it’s possible to communicate with the cosmos via their music, a sentiment that is quite present when listening. Like the music of Ghost, the music of AMT is meant to bring a musician or listener beyond the accepted limits of his or her soul or being. Some AMT albums are simply one hour-long song with several movements, but despite their tendency toward longer songs, there is never a moment that the music becomes stale or dull. The music of AMT is alive in the very truest sense.

Best Starting Point: Univers Zen ou de Zero à Zero (2002)

My first full listen to this album was one of the most eye-opening experiences I’ve had with music in the last few years. This album has it all—the insane guitar-based jams of “Electric Love Machine” and “Blues Pour Bible Noire”, the absolutely gorgeous ballad “Ange Mecanique de Saturne” and the odd but charming vocal manipulation track “God Bless AMT”. The veins of this album run thick with energy and light. This year’s Crystal Rainbow Pyramid Under the Stars is also very worth checking out.

Who can even approach Japanese psych or underground music without bringing up the Boredoms? The Boredoms, who first appeared in 1986, are a Japanese weird-rock institution and one well-worthy of its reputation. Yamantaka Eye is generally considered the band’s leader. Also frequently present is Yoshimi P-We, who plays drums, trumpet, and sings. The Boredoms’ style jumps distractedly from noise rock to electronica to minimalism to tribal psychedlia with barely an effort, and each incarnation is just as rewarding as the last. But these are all united by a single, cohesive Boredoms aesthetic; and while it’s difficult to put a finger on, it has a lot to do with a total disregard for the public’s expectations, a high level of invention and innovation, and a good deal of post-production. My friend Matt once said the most interesting thing about the Boredoms is that it seems like they don’t want you to listen to them, but that you do anyway, as if listening to the Boredoms is a sort of musical masochism. A beautiful, beautiful sort of musical masochism.

Best Starting Point: Super Ae (1998)

This album is a microcosm of the greater Boredoms aesthetic, and the release on which this aesthetic is most fully realized. Sludgy guitar interludes interrupt chant breakdowns, the whole tempo speeds and slows at random, voices growl from all directions, and synths chirp like songbirds at sunrise. The album remains accessible, however, and they avoid weirdness for the sake of being weird. It’s a painstaking effort disguised as a beautiful mess, and a hell of an aural journey.

Fushitsusha/Keiji Haino
Keiji Haino is an absolute monster of the Japanese psychedelic and avant-garde scene. Fushitusha was essentially Haino and whatever other musicians happened to be around. The band formed in 1978, though it wasn’t until 1989 that they released a full album. Most of their music characterized by Haino’s brilliant and tormented guitar playing, which is sometimes violent and impulsive, sometimes beautiful and submissive. His vocals share many of the same characteristics as his guitar playing, unafraid to embrace bare emotion and record it with the utmost honesty. Fushitsusha has been on hiatus since 2001, but Haino continues to be prolific in his own right, recently releasing several highly experiment albums like Kono Kehai Fujirareteru Hajimarini (2005), which consists of nine tracks of minimalist drumming, and Uchu Ni Karamitsuiteiru Waga Itami (2005), which consists of four tracks of Haino playing manipulated oscillator signals. Haino has also collaborated with artists such as Boris, Jim O’Rourke, and Peter Brotzmann.

Best Starting Point: A Death Never To Be Complete (1997)

This album is all about movement, from the quiet to the loud and aggressive and back again. Haino’s vocals on “Though It Went So Well?” are extremely raw and, as a result, extremely powerful. His guitar work on “That Which Is Becoming Me” is the reason he’s considered by many to be a virtuoso. A difficut listen at times, but this album is more than just music, it’s a series of moments that are at the same time discordant and cohesive. A strange and haunting listen, and an experience well worth having.

All you really have to know about this band is that they describe their music as “technicolor pogo punk” influenced primarily by Devo. Their songs are infused with an absolutely insatiable energy, driven by equally insatiable guitar and synth tracks. Think something along the lines of Parts & Labor in the eighties with cheerleaders. For a band that’s only ten years old, Polysics have a rather large catalogue of releases, including numerous compilation appearances and a handful of mini-albums.

Best Starting Point: National P (2003)

Listening to this is like being punched in the face with by an angry chipmunk painted all the colors of the rainbow. Many of the songs are punk in spirit, layered with nonsensical vocals, a plethora of weird noises, and given frequently to bubbly synth riffs. With fourteen songs clocking in at only 36 minutes, this album is short but sweet. Anyway, if it were any longer you may have a heart attack.

Ghost - Moungod Asleep [mp3]
Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. - You’re Still Now Near Me Every Time [mp3]
Boredoms - Super Are [mp3]
Fushitsusha - Though It Went So Well? [mp3]
Polysics - Peach Pie On The Beach [mp3]

- Dominick Duhamel -

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Saturday, September 15

Rethinking the New Feist

Someone once told me that an album being criticized for some reason or another doesn’t need to be defended. Rather, it needs to be praised independent of what existing conceptions of the album are. I’m not totally sure I agree with that. And since I’m the only one I know that really loves The Reminder, I thought I’d put that disagreement into play.

Why the new Feist album is better than you think:

1. The overall coherence of the album. My main problem with Let It Die was that it felt disjointed, probably due to the number of cover songs and the amount of genre-hopping involved. The Reminder, however, is anything but disjointed; it sounds exactly like it should, a set of songs written by the same person with a vision. It just so happens that her vision leans toward adult-contemporary. Even the punchier songs like “I Feel It All” and “My Moon My Man” share the same aesthetic as the rest of the album, embracing the same simple production and instrumentation. The same structuring is at work in both the rocking “Sea Lion Woman” and the subdued “Honey Honey”. This coherence actually makes this album feel like a Feist album. This look at Feist may not yield what some expected, but it’s a picture more complete than any we’ve seen yet.

2. The choir on “Intuition”. The first time you hear it, it sounds a bit awkward and out of time. But then you see the point: the choir is a multitude of voices expressing the same thing Feist is throughout the song. It’s the idea that regret and doubt is everywhere, that everyone struggles with those nagging what ifs. This is a prime example of a song extending beyond itself, a moment where the fact that you’re listening to music is almost forgotten in lieu of feeling at one with this choir, this microcosm of an imperfect and regretful population. It’s far from upbeat, but a sentiment that universal (and so beautifully expressed) doesn’t need to be.

3. “One Two Three Four”. So one of the best songs on the album isn’t actually written by Feist, but by the girl behind New Buffalo; I can understand why people have a problem with that. But then I heard the most recent New Buffalo album and, after a couple listens, realized how totally unmemorable it is. So either New Buffalo gave Feist her very best song, or Feist took something kind of boring and made it totally awesome. I doubt that it’s the former. She made “One Two Three Four” her own… in my mind, it doesn’t matter who wrote it, it’s Feist who made it the monster track that it is.

4. Feist’s acoustic tone. Does anyone else think the way her acoustic guitar sounds is totally awesome? It’s something I always notice when listening to the album.

5. Vocal improvisation.In a world where melodies seem to stagnate left and right, it seems like Feist has too many for her own good. It seems as if she’s not content to sing the same thing twice, almost always adding to or changing her parts. And it doesn’t sound like those carefully calculated key changes in pop music today—it sounds like she actually improvised the parts while recording them, and her tendency to do that same thing live affirms that. Some wonderful moments arise because of that; check out 1:56 through “So Sorry”, 3:00 through “I Feel It All”, or 1:04 through “Honey Honey”.

6. A sense of honesty. It’s clear from the lyrics of this album (as well as in the decision to make music the way she does) that Feist isn’t trying to hide anything. The songs are filled with regret, self-deprecation, and sad ruminations. Just look at the last few lines of “The Park” or the bittersweet breakdown of “One Two Three Four”. This is Feist more brutally honest than we’ve ever seen her and the nakedness of her soul on this album is pretty powerful.

Feist - Honey Honey [mp3]
Feist - Intuition [mp3]
Feist - One Two Three Four [mp3]

- Dominick Duhamel -

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Wednesday, September 12

Live: Acid Mothers Guru Guru 9/11/07

Even as I walked into the Troubadour, I had a feeling that it was going to be an unusual night. I was greeted at the merch table by the wave of a collapsible fan and a flurry of Japanese words among the band members. There you go. Shirts were pricey—$25—probably due to the weakness of the U.S. dollar at the moment. The first act, a band from Kentucky called The Phantom Family Halo, started off with a promising track of beautiful, atmospheric noise rock but the songs that followed failed to live up to the standard of the first. Still, not a bad opener, and one worth getting there early for.

Acid Mothers Guru Guru, which includes Mani Neumier of Guru Guru and Kawabata Makoto and Tsuyama Atsushi of Acid Mothers Temple, kicked it off exactly as I thought it would: with a couple lengthy, guitar-based psychedelic jams. They did change the pace throughout the night, however; a couple percussive tribal numbers and an odd but amazing chant-based song rounded out a stellar night of music, the latter of which gave Atsushi a chance to show the audience the astounding number of different noises he can make with his mouth. It’s also worth noting that Atsushi was wearing a fanny pack the entire evening. And that all three of them spoke very little English.

Anyway, here are some photos. Not all of them are the best quality, so bear with me. Also, if you notice that they are Makoto-centric, it’s because (a) that’s where I was standing and (b) he’s one of the few people I consider a guitar god and I wanted to bask in his glory.

FINGER TAPPING! But not in a lame way. Fuck off, Van Halen.

Mani Neumier who, according to Makoto, is 67 years old. That’s actually the only thing Makoto said in English all night. And he said it twice.

Mani Neumier, playing what appear to be tuned pans. Still not sure.

Makoto, playing his guitar with a mortar and pestel. So cool.

Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. - Electric Love Machine [mp3]
Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. - Bois-Tu De La Bière? [mp3]

- Dominick Duhamel -

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Thursday, August 2

Catching Up On 2007: Songs

September and October are shaping to be amazing months for live music in Los Angeles. Check out the concert section in the right-hand column for a selection of the best. I recommend seeing Acid Mothers Guru Guru (because they don’t come to the U.S. that often) and Boris with Michio Kurihara (because they probably won’t tour together again) above all else. This is also because I'm really into Japanese psychedelic music right now.

So here’s where I tell you about songs by artists that didn’t quite make it on the “Catching Up On 2007: Albums” post. That’s not to say any of these albums are bad—quite the opposite, many of them are good, even great (especially the Boris and Parson Red Heads albums)—but they all have songs that are particularly amazing, amazing enough to merit individual attention. As always, you can download a selection of the songs at the bottom of this post.

The Arcade Fire – “My Body Is A Cage”
I’m not a huge fan of the new Arcade Fire album, but I do love this song. The vocal melody is strong enough to hold up the entire time, and the suddenness with which they add volume and instruments to the song is epic and avoids the sloppiness that comes with that kind of movement. And come on: “I’m living in an age / that calls darkness light / though my language is dead / still the shapes fill my head”? That’s great stuff.

Battles – “Atlas”
Mirrored is too long and drawn-out of an album to be taken in as a whole, but in little bits it’s great, and “Atlas” is the best little bit of them all. It’s like chipmunks guitar dueling in space, which is probably the coolest description I’ve ever given anything.

Boris with Michio Kurihara – “Sweet No. 1”
This track, hands down, gets the award for gnarliest guitar work of 2007 and that’s not going to change in the next five months, I can guarantee it. Don’t talk to me about face-melting solos or innovative guitar playing until you’ve heard this song and been given a third-degree burn by Kurihara’s fretwork. Holy shit.

Dungen – “Familj”
Trippy, psychedelic magic. The recording and production of this song is amazing. The music sounds like its coming down from the sky, like it’s in the air and you’re breathing it in. The treble-boosted, slightly-feedbacking Rhodes is especially great. Whatever Dungen may lack in songwriting chops, they more than make up for it in atmosphere and aesthetic.

Menomena – “Wet and Rusting”
Boy, did I burn out on this album. Naturally, the albums you really like are the ones you think you won’t get tired of, but of course that’s not always true. “Wet and Rusting”, however, still sounds fresh and exciting, a song that scrapes the potential of Menomena’s particular brand of songwriting. In my opinion, Brent Knopf’s unique voice (with that “scared little boy” sort of feel) provides for a lot of Menomena’s best moments, and this is definitely one of them (for another, see “The Monkey’s Back”, the ridiculously amazing closing track of their first album).

The National – “Slow Show”
The National hasn’t won me over yet, no sir. Matt Beringer’s foot-in-the-mouth vocals annoy me more often that not and am I the only one that thinks “Mistaken For Strangers” sounds absurdly like an Interpol song? But this one is great, mostly because of the incredible minute-and-a-half ending. A piano and tom riff take over as Beringer sings “You know I dreamed about you / for twenty-nine years / before I saw you” and suddenly all is forgiven. Plus, this song sounds really great when you turn it up really loud.

Odawas – “Alleluia”
I can’t exactly explain why I like this song. It sounds like the soundtrack of an modern western movie if it was recorded in a cathedral with really high ceilings. The whistling riff followed by the piano riff provides quite a one-two punch (more like a one-two dramatic embrace, am I right?) and the synth work is just so heavy. Quite the surreal listen.

Of Montreal – “The Past Is A Grotesque Animal”
I burned out on the new Of Montreal pretty quickly, but this song sticks with me. It’s probably not the best song on the album, but I would argue that it’s the most important. “The Past Is A Grotesque Animal” is the soundtrack to the breakdown of Kevin Barnes, all desperate guitars and alien sounds. There’s no synth-pop bullshit or cute metaphor here, just a man letting the music take control. It kicks off with the hard-hitting “The past is a grotesque animal / and in its eyes you see / how completely wrong you can be,” and never slows down. The most devastatingly honest song of this year.

The Parson Red Heads – “Punctual As Usual”
This year the Parsons delivered a great album of sunny psychedelia in King Giraffe, but this song stands out above the others. The remarkable thing about “Punctual Usual” is how damn good it feels. Everything is in its right place—the guitar lick Sam plays over the second half of the verses, the phenomenal hand-clap breakdown, Brette Marie’s rim-click verse beat, the guitar-bass interplay, Erin’s simple organ runs, Evan’s honest and catchy vocals—it’s all there. In my mind, no other track this year sounds so natural, making this song an absolute breeze of a listen, a sublime collective effort that never gets old.

Sea Wolf – “The Garden That You Planted”
In “The Garden That You Planted”, my L.A. homies Sea Wolf deliver a monster of a track—at least by quiet, acoustic folk standards. Sensitive without being melodramatic, simple without being boring, honest without being trite, catchy without being poppy… Sea Wolf has a bright future ahead of them, and I sure hope it includes songs as gorgeous as this one.

Boris w/ Michio Kurihara - Sweet No. 1 [mp3]
Dungen - Familj [mp3]
Odawas - Alleluia [mp3]
The Parson Red Heads - Punctual As Usual [mp3]
Sea Wolf - The Garden That You Planted [mp3]

- Dominick Duhamel -

Friday, July 27

Catching Up On 2007: Albums

As you all have undoubtedly noticed, we’ve been slacking on the whole “being a real music blog” thing. To make up for the past couple months, I’m doing a run through of this year’s best releases so far (this means officially released, not just leaked). There’s been a few sizable disappointments (Wilco’s boring “Sky Blue Sky” and Modest Mouse’s exhausted “We Were Dead…”) and several albums receiving way more attention than they should (The National’s “Boxer”, The Arcade Fire’s “Neon Bible”), but on the whole 2007 has been a pretty great year for music. And, with incredible albums still to be released by Iron & Wine, Liars, Animal Collective, Wolf Parade, and Radiohead (cross yr fingers), it’s far from over. You can download songs from many of the following artists at the end of this post.

Andrew BirdArmchair Apocrypha
This album may get a bit sleepy halfway through, but even at its sleepiest, Andrew Bird handles the material so masterfully that it almost doesn’t matter. The contributions of Martin Dosh are stellar and Bird’s simplified songwriting works in his favor more often than not. Nobody can get into your head with whistles and violin plucks quite like this man.

Bodies of WaterEars Will Pop & Eyes Will Blink
Just a few days ago, my gospel-folk-indie-pop buddies Bodies of Water put out their first full-length, and it’s everything I hoped it would be. This band handles incredible harmonies with a confidence and earnestness unmatched in the indie world; their music and lyrics are ambitious and expressive without being heavy-handed. This album makes you wonder why bands like the Polyphonic Spree, with five times as many members, sound so much less huge. Bodies of Water is in a league of its own and, as a result, Ears Will Pop & Eyes Will Blink is a powerful breath of fresh air. “I Heard It Sound” and “I Guess I’ll Forget the Sound...” are especially moving.

DeerhoofFriend Opportunity
In my opinion, this album witnesses Deerhoof finally hitting its stride in terms of songwriting. The weirdness is still there, but they seem to have learned how to really channel it. Satomi’s melodies here are stronger than ever without losing their little-girl-fooling-around-in-a-recording-studio feel and Saunier’s drum beats are as manic as ever. “+81” and “Believe E.S.P.” are pure ear candy. Even the slow and spacey “The Galaxist” and “Whither the Invisible Birds?” are surprisingly strong and the cathartic twelve-minute closing jam “Look Away” proves they have all the bases covered.

Dr. DogWe All Belong
This album is just straight up fun to listen to, an aspect a lot of people forget to consider when reviewing this album. Every song has its own unique life and its own set of idiosyncrasies—just check out the ridiculously fuzzed out guitars of “The Girl” or the stutter-stepping finale of “The Way the Lazy Do” for evidence of that. “Die Die Die” is home to one of the most soulful vocal performances of this year and “Ain’t It Strange” (which appeared on last year’s Takers and Leavers EP) only gets better with time.

FeistThe Reminder
Critics call it slow-paced and a tad too adult-contemporary, but The Reminder is actually a very mature and well-crafted album whose only sin was to leave fans hoping for an energetic summer soundtrack less than fulfilled. Tracks like “I Feel It All” and “Sea Lion Woman” still prove that Feist can pack a punch, but in the subtleties of “Intuiton” and “The Park” (among others) are hidden her most beautiful moments. Lily Allen’s Alright, Still may have a place in the car, but The Reminder has a place in the heart.

GhostIn Stormy Nights
Ghost has been a favorite band of mine for a long time and I just realized I’ve never written about them, which is something I plan to change very soon. This album reaffirms that Ghost is making entirely singular music, ranging from gentle folk to long sessions of improvisation and experimentation. The album’s centerpiece, “Hemicyclic Anthelion”, is a half-hour journey of epic proportions, while “Caledonia” actually makes Celtic traditional music sound interesting.

IslajaUlual YYY
This album is just so wonderfully weird, full of songs that really don’t sound like songs at all. Islaja’s vocal performances are haunting and intimate (even in another language) and the music over which she sings is dense and unpredictable. No particular song stands out, but listening to this album is a sort of out-of-body experience, the soundtrack of a journey through a land you never thought could exist.

Lewis & ClarkeBlasts of Holy Birth
Blasts of Holy Birth is probably the best folk album released so far this year, gentle and beautiful. It’s nothing terribly inventive, but it doesn’t claim to be. The lengthy “Before It Breaks You” and the gorgeous “Black Doves” are breezy and spacious, conjuring up images of the rural countryside with startling clarity.

For a sparse instrumental album based primarily on droning and looping, Omns is remarkably captivating. Rob Lowe has an incredibly soft touch—in his hands, the hit of even a single piano key can develop its own persona. This is the kind of music to listen to when you want to sit with your eyes closed for a while; not an album made up of a select few beautiful moments, but a single beautiful moment stretched long and thin like a blanket. No other release this year has such a tangible and ethereal sense of atmosphere.

Panda BearPerson Pitch
This album is ridiculous—Noah Lennox lays melodies stronger than any we’ve heard this year over a backdrop of wonderfully experimental but still accessible music. In short, he’s doing everything right. Each song is masterfully arranged, full of hidden bits and pieces that emerge during repeated listens and never cease to charm. Lennox’s new life in Lisbon seems to be suiting him just fine and this album, above all things, perfectly captures that joy in its most genuine form.

The Shaky HandsThe Shaky Hands
If you were one of those people blaming Feist for the lack of a proper summer soundtrack, this is the album to turn to (after several months, it’s still in heavy rotation on my car stereo). The debut album of Portland’s Shaky Hands is home to thirteen tracks of sunny sixties joy, infectious melodies, and a refreshing vivacity. There’s not one bad song in the bunch, and “The Sleepless” and “Another World Pt. 2” are especially phenomenal. This is one of the most exciting young bands I’ve come across in a long time.

SpoonGa Ga Ga Ga Ga
Whatever, it’s a stupid title. I’ve never been able to get into Spoon, but this album has made me a believer. Britt Daniel spews character and charisma all over these tracks, which retain that signature Spoon minimalism without sounding boring (unlike previous albums). The guitar licks of “Finer Feelings”, the bridge of “Don’t Make Me A Target” and the sleeve-worn emotion of “Black Like Me” are career highlights for sure. This one’s gonna get some album of the year awards. Maybe not from me, but it will. And I’ll have no real reason to disagree.

Andrew Bird - Imitosis [mp3]
Bodies of Water - These Are the Eyes [mp3]
Dr. Dog - The Girl [mp3]
Ghost - Motherly Bluster [mp3]
Islaja - Laulu Jo Menneesta [mp3]
Lewis & Clarke - Black Doves [mp3]
Lichens - Faeries [mp3]
The Shaky Hands - The Sleepless [mp3]

- Dominick Duhamel -

Saturday, May 26

James Buchanan Art & Music Night

As you probably know, a few of our writers are in a band called Kazai Rex. Recently, we were given the opportunity to a host a night of art and music on UCLA campus and so we’ve spent the last few weeks putting together a stellar lineup of artists and musical acts. Here’s the info:

(For direction finding purposes, the De Neve Quad is located at 351 Charles E. Young Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90024. It’s also worth nothing that it’s free to attend.)

The event will kick off at six with a set of free jazz from Ryan York and Peter Hargreaves. Following the duo will be the San Fernando Valley-based band Big Moves, whose sound is somewhat reminiscent of Broken Social Scene. Up next is Love Pump, a cover-band led by the maniacal Blake Stokes, whose stage antics are, at the very least, edgy as fuck. The band we’re in, Kazai Rex will follow. Closing out the night will be one of our favorite Los Angeles bands and good friends of ours, Blue Like Water. It’s their final performance before the band’s members head their separate ways, and they’ve got a pretty incredible final show planned.

The night will also feature artwork by Jessica Ayala, Macon Bunn, Ryan Cox, Elliott Kaplan (who I’ve posed about before), Aidan McDermott, Emily-Jane Robinson, and Dagmar Weaver-Madsen (who directed our band’s very low-budget, retro music video).

We can guarantee that this will be the best possible place you can be in Los Angeles on June 1. We encourage everyone who reads this to attend, and to bring his/her friends. It will be a magical evening, and we'd like to share it with as many people as possible.

Big Moves / Myspace

Kazai Rex / Myspace / Website

Blue Like Water / Myspace

- Dominick Duhamel -

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Wednesday, May 23

Podcast: An Intro to Will Oldham

For those of you who didn’t already know, Will Oldham is one of my all-time favorite artists, coming in second only to the boys from Radiohead. Over the last fourteen years, he’s released ten proper full-lengths, two cover albums, three albums of b-sides and rarities, a live album, and countless EPs under the monikers of Palace Brothers, Palace Songs, Palace, Palace Music, Will Oldham, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, and Bonny Billy. He’s collaborated with Matt Sweeney, Johnny Cash, Dave Pajo, Dawn McCarthy, Tortoise, Alasdair Roberts, and Sage Francis and has also scored several independent films. “I See A Darkness”, his 1999 full-length under the name Bonnie “Prince” Billy, has sat comfortably as my third favorite album of all time and will likely remain there for some time to come.

Oldham is also an accomplished actor; he’s had leading roles in both Matewan (1987) and Old Joy (2006), both of which witness his quirky but phenomenal acting ability. The latter is one of my favorite films of the last few years. He also acts in some of his own music videos—below I posted the music video for Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s “I Gave You”, a somber one-shot piece that was easily one of the best music videos of 2005. The point of all this, of course, I have yet to see Oldham involved in anything I didn’t like (his collaboration with Tortoise was pretty sub-par, but that was mostly Tortoise’s fault).

Will Oldham’s work is best described as dark folk-rock with a detectable country influence. Above all things, Oldham’s vocals and lyrics are described as utterly human, capturing despair, the human condition, and little moments of joy magnificently. Look no further than “You Will Miss Me When I Burn” for proof of that. His work is not for those who look to music for escape, but rather for those who see and struggle with that same darkness. It is not music without joy, however; there is joy to be found in identification, as well as in the fleeting moments in which love or friendship can lift a soul above what Oldham considers to be the harsh reality of things.

This podcast is a sort of introduction to the works of Will Oldham, taking some of the best tracks off each of his proper full-lengths as well as his b-sides and rarities compilations. “Ohio River Boat Song” and “Madeleine-Mary” are two of my favorite songs ever and are absolutely necessary listening. What makes the latter even more amazing is that it’s comprised of only one chord, A minor. A faster and better-produced version of “Riding” appears later on “Lost Blues and Other Songs” and is probably better known, but the earlier version captures an unforgettable sense of brooding and incredible emotional strain. “Just To See My Holly Home” is one of his more upbeat songs and, along with “Barcelona”, is one of the Oldham tracks most suited to sing-alongs. “I Gave You” is the haunting closing track from Oldham’s 2005 collaboration with Matt Sweeney. The gorgeous backup vocals on “Strange Form of Life” are courtesy of Faun Fables’ Dawn McCarthy, who appears on the majority of Oldham’s most recent album, “The Letting Go” (for which I wrote a lengthy review).

Contents of the Podcast:
[0:00-4:26] “Riding” from There is No-One What Will Take Care of You (1993)
[4:26-7:44] “You Will Miss Me When I Burn” from Days in the Wake (1994)
[7:44-10:26] “The Brute Choir” from Viva Last Blues (1995)
[10:26-14:02] “Stablemate” from Arise, Therefore (1996)
[14:02-18:28] “Ohio River Boat Song” from Lost Blues and Other Songs (1997)
[18:28-22:12] “O Let It Be” from Joya (1997)
[22:12-24:44] “Madeleine-Mary” from I See A Darkness (1999)
[24:44-29:05] “Stable Will” from Guarapero/Lost Blues 2 (2000)
[29:05-32:48] “Just To See My Holly Home” from Ease Down the Road (2001)
[32:48-36:36] “Wolf Among Wolves” from Master and Everyone (2003)
[36:36-39:18] “I Gave You” from Superwolf (2005)
[39:18-44:50] “Barcelona” from Little Lost Blues (2006)
[44:50-48:44] “Strange Form of Life” from The Letting Go (2006)

Download Podcast: An Into to Will Oldham [mp3]

Music Video: “I Gave You”, directed by Mike Piscitelli

Note: If you want to download the podcast and the link has expired, shoot me an email and I’ll put it back up as soon as I can.

- Dominick Duhamel -

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Friday, May 18

"Are you free for dinner tonight?"

Yes. Yes! YES!

I’m pretty much overflowing with joy right now. It’s not very often that a television show can get me to care so genuinely about its characters, but Jim and Pam truly do represent the great romance of our generation. Plus, how awesome was it that Jim left Karen in New York? And that split-second look from Ryan that closed out the episode? Absolutely priceless.

I usually listen to sad-bastard music, but this calls for some love songs.

The Righteous Brothers - Unchained Melody [mp3]
Sibylle Baier - Tonight [mp3]
Neil Young - Harvest Moon [mp3]

- Dominick Duhamel -

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Wednesday, May 16

Little John's Picks, Rips, and Quips

As I write this I am listening to Ozma’s latest album, “Pasadena”, on their myspace. It’s being released this week, and I had been excited for it for the longest time. Sadly, I caught hold of a few tracks and was sadly disappointed, but still left with some hope. If you don’t know, Ozma is an LA-based powerpop band along the same vein as Weezer. In fact, they opened for them years ago during the “Maldroit” tour. It was good times.

And since then, they have made a couple albums, broke up, and got back together again. The only change since they’re previous outings is the acquisition of drummer Kenn Shane, but it’s starting to sound like a completely different band. The divide between principal songwriters Ryan Slegr and Daniel Brummel is growing, and it’s almost painfully obvious here. And I’m only a quarter of the way through the album.

I’ll bet that every song Slegr touches is lame, and anything Brummel writes will be somewhere decent and awesome. I’m not saying I don’t like Slegr’s songwriting, as I’ve enjoyed his work in the past. It’s just…what is up with these new songs? Take a peek at “Fight the Darkness,” and you’ll be laughing within the first 10 seconds guaranteed. Listen to it for yourself.

* * * * *

Also, over the weekend, I had the pleasure of running into a few sites that had Queens of the Stone Age’s newest single off their upcoming release, “Era Vulgaris”. The single is “Sick Sick Sick” and it is one interesting track. No real hooks, no catchy melodies, but it’s just a memorable song. There’s something about it, with all the clashing noises in the background, that sick guitar riff after the first chorus, and those pulsing drums that make me want to listen to it over and over again. And if you can find it off of hype machine or something of the sort, look for “3s and 7s”, it’s pretty awesome as well. Listen to it along with a funny little lightbulb guy on their myspace.

* * * * *

And last but certainly not least, the Mystery Jets released their debut U.S. album, “Zootime”, last week. It caught me a little off guard, as I wasn’t expecting it until June. But check it out, please, you won’t regret it. The majority of the songs were already recorded a year or so ago from their U.K. album, but this versions seems a little more polished/cleaner. The title track, for example, has been sped up and been giving a huge energy boost (something I previously thought was impossible as the song was already hugely impressive before). There are a couple of new additions as well, like the very cool “indie-reggae” (Danny’s words, not mine) track “Crosswords.” I like saying Ted Leo has one of the tightest rhythm sections in rock music today working with him, but this song makes me think twice about that statement (only think twice though, I don’t change my mind). Check out the Mystery Jets’ Myspace, with a few tracks off their latest album here.

Mystery Jets - You Can’t Fool Me Dennis [mp3]

- John Higgins -

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Tuesday, May 1

Music is a Cruel Lover II

Iron & Wine - Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car (Live) [mp3]
As if I wasn’t already excited about the new Iron & Wine album. I’d have trouble falling to sleep at night, thinking of the breathy and gorgeous melodies, the simple but flawless guitar plucking, and the moving lyrical stories. But then—damn you “Live at Pabst Theater” recordings, damn you—everything changed. There was no bathing, no attending classes, no responding to the people around me. There was only Sam Beam’s voice, rich and authoritative. I urge you: don’t listen to this track. It’s too incredible. Your shower will go unused, your bed unslept in, your mind unable to focus on anything than the fact that folk is the only kind of music that matters and that Iron & Wine is the only kind of folk that matters. I'm serious. Consider yourself warned.

Panda Bear - Bros (Terrestrial Tones Remix) [mp3]
The fact that bros are my least favorite type of annoying-jock-asshole only affirms my love for Panda Bear, because I love “Bros” despite its ugly connotations. Right now Panda Bear is fairly uncontested for my Album of the Year (only Feist [marry me!] comes close) and, “Bros” being my favorite song on the album (and thus my current Song of the Year), I thought I’d invest in the 12” single. I normally hate remixes, but this one was a rare success. High five! This track's kind of all over the place, but in the way that air is all over the place—that is, the best way. Sounds like there are some new samples in there, and even more reverb! Just when you thought Noah Lennox couldn’t sound more like he was in a giant, echo-y hall, you were proven wrong. Not that it sounds bad or anything.

Dodo Bird - Men [mp3]
My friend just came in and saw me writing this post and commented (semi-jokingly) that Dodo Bird should open for Panda Bear. To which I replied the environmental implications of that were terrible, and that Dodo Bird playing with someone like T. Rex would be much more appropriate, though obviously not from a business standpoint. We’re gonna save those giant pandas, mark my word. Dodo Bird sounds like Beirut with less Balkan and more DIY. Good, though. I think his whole rhythm section is one drum (plus that clickey thing, but that doesn’t count), which I respect because I always try and record tracks with one drum and usually they end up sounding like shit, mostly because I’m awful at tuning drums and the drum I use hasn’t been tuned since the late seventies. His real name is Meric Long, and he’s someone you should watch out for in coming years. Buy his album—you’ll thank me later. Later being when you’ve finished giving it a full listen. “Horny Hippies” is also a good song, although my reason for thinking so is a bit too personal to write on a blog, y’know? So I picked this one.

- Dominick Duhamel -

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Thursday, April 26

Music is a Cruel Lover I

Welcome to my new, totally spontaneous column action. Drink it up:

Leaving for Coachella tomorrow. Pretty excited. For some reason more excited about being back in ninety-something degree weather (the kind we had in San Diego last summer [and will hopefully have this summer]) than hearing the music in general. S-s-songs:

April March – Chick Habit [mp3]
For those of you who haven’t seen Grindhouse yet, get on it, and witness the incredible context from which this song emerges. Absolutely the catchiest song I’ve heard in a very long time—almost as can’t-get-it-out-of-your-fucking-head as “Lost” (yes, the TV show), which I’ve been addicted to for the last two weeks (and yes I know it’s pretty much old news by now). There’s something so horribly charming about an earnest girl with a playful, poppy voice singing about cutting people up in two.

Feist – Past in Present [mp3]
So the new Feist album is pretty fantastic right? Pretty life-changing, right? When “The Reminder” keeps me from listening to my other new music because I know the rest won’t compare, that’s gotta be a good sign. The whole way through—incredible, well-written, affecting, and utterly unforgettable. Leslie Feist, if you’re reading this, I have a proposition: if we’re both seventy and we’re both still single, will you marry me? Just for the hell of it?

Slint – Breadcrumb Trail [mp3]

Bonny Billy – Barcelona [mp3]
I’m pretty sure there’s a nest of spiders somewhere in this room, because I keep seeing them flit across the wall and disappear before I can nab them with a kleenex. But if I ever found it, I’d play this song as I flushed them down the toilet. I think it’s pretty safe to assume that spiders like Will Oldham as much as I do, if not more. (This is from the “Little Lost Blues” album, by the way, which is worth tracking down for sure).

- Dominick Duhamel -

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Tuesday, April 17

B-Side Bonanza: The Good, the Bad, and the Fucking Useless

Grinderman: “No Pussy Blues” Single
B-Side: “Chain of Flowers” [mp3] 7/10

If “No Pussy Blues” is Nick Cave’s snarling, pissed off, Mr. Grinder half, then “Chain of Flowers” is its slightly more vulnerable alter ego. The two couldn’t be more divergent, which is the epitome of B-Side goodness. No one wants to hear a retread of the flip side or another sub-par album outtake. A B-side, especially in the age of iTunes, is the prime spot for a band to flex its ability and do something different from what lays on the proper album. Where NPB throbs, Chain lilts, but both hold equal emotional weight. When all is said and done, both of these songs are about attempts at fornication. It is an interesting proposition to take on the same dilemma from conflicting points of view. The singer of NPB is pissed at his chastity while the Chain singer simply laments it and waits. It’s odd that Cave waited until this noisy project to hand over one of his most pensive and beautiful songs ever. Chain also proves that Cave can write a gorgeous song after switching to the guitar from his coveted piano. The entire band is in prime form, providing sugary background vocals, while drummer Jim Sclavunos seems to relish his role as the band’s sole drummer, riding the high hat like his life depends on it. Granted, Cave could sneak into my apartment and sleep with my little sister and I’d probably still rate the encounter as a seven or higher on this website. Luckily for everyone, he’s a certified mother-fucking genius and I don’t have a little sister.

The Good, The Bad & the Queen: “Kingdom of Doom” Single
B-Side: “Hallsands Waltz (Sketches of Devon)” [mp3] 3/10
B-Side: The Bunting Song (Live) 5/10

This, ladies and gentlepeople (did you know gentlepeople is actually registered as a word in spell check?) is exactly how not to do a single. With the average single ranging from 6 to 10 dollars nobody needs a lackluster instrumental jam like Hallsands Waltz (or see: The Herculean Single) or a random live track that is almost indistinguishable from the album cut added to the bands catalogue. At least they didn’t pull the final B-Side blunder and put a demo on there (that would be the Green Fields Single). It seems that Damon Albarn has implemented a no singing on non-album tracks policy that started on the Herculean single and continues onto this one. This wouldn’t be as egregious of an offense if the tracks were high-quality affairs. Unfortunately, Hallsands sounds like the kind of awkward reggae toss off that the band that wins the school talent show plays in their garage to warm up (with vastly improved drumming of course). The worst part is… nothing… happens. How can people as talented as the members of this superband obviously are write a three-minute song that feels four minutes too long?

A slight up-step, the Bunting Song falls into that weird category of live songs that doesn’t have enough outside noise to sound exciting, but is still recorded at a slightly worse for wear quality. While the song on album is very pleasing, both versions suffer from the fact that Tony Allen’s superb drumming is all but nonexistent until the song’s outset, which in this version is full of subtle feedback. Why employ such a character and then not utilize his skill? It is unclear just how a band could craft such a subdued and striking album and then continuously drop the ball regarding singles. Speaking of dropping the ball…

The Strokes: “You Only Live Once” Single
B-Side: “Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecologist) [Marvin Gaye Cover]” [mp3] 2/10

Of course, the Strokes had a far lower height from which to let said ball hit the ground, but this single is a colossal blunder in every way shape or form. It’s hard to imagine the conversation that preceded both Eddie Vedder and Josh Homme joining the band in the studio to concoct this epic mistake. In attempting to channel the master of soul, both Vedder and Julian Casablancas get their croon on and the results are as boring as you can imagine. You would think that somewhere during the recording at least one of the seven participants would hear what an awkward, mumbly, too-many-drummer-filled, awful piece of disingenuous shite cover of an amazing song they were generating and call it a day. Also, what is the point of bringing Homme into the studio and then sitting him behind the drum kit instead of utilizing either his voice or guitar work? If they were smart they would have just hid Eddie back there made sure he didn’t make any more noise with his mouth. Let Casablancas ruin it, keep some dignity Eddie, you all deserve better than this.

- Matt Lindsay -

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Saturday, April 7

A Letter from the Editor

Dear friends and readers,

Last summer, I started Paper Stereo with a group of people who all share a love for music. Nine months and 116 posts later, we are still going strong, working to gain repute in a sea of countless other mp3 blogs and doing our best to bring new, good music to you.

Unfortunately, I write today with bad news. Starting today, Paper Stereo will not operate as it has in the past. There was a time that we posted five times a week, until I found that the burden of writing fell on me, and that I could not keep up. We reduced our postings to three times a week, and that sufficed for a long while. Now I realize that I am not able to keep up this pace, and that Paper Stereo’s blogging will reduce drastically, if not completely.

My reasons for this decision are several. This blog is a truly labor of love and has brought me a great amount of joy as well as provided me an output for my endless thoughts about music. But lately the negative has outweighed the positive.

The main negative is my inability to keep up with the pace of blogging. My writers have written less and less frequently since the beginning of Paper Stereo, and I can no longer pick up the slack. I am busy with a great many other things, and I find that the constant thought of having to write a blog post not only takes time away from these other (and, as far as I’m concerned, more important) things but decreases my drive to do them. I have never operated well when constantly busy and, in the interest of my own mental health, I need to cut a few things out, one of the first of which is regular Paper Stereo posts.

Another reason for this change is that, in constantly searching for music to write about and spending a good deal of time analyzing albums and songs, I lose some of the joy inherent to the music. It becomes a chore to overthink every piece of music I come across, even if that overthinking is a simple jotting down of thoughts. The demand and strain that posting puts on me often keeps me from enjoying the music, making it more like a job than a hobby. That joy that comes from listening—simply sitting down and listening in its purest form—to music is something I’ve experienced less and less frequently since I’ve taken on the brunt of the blogging, and I do not consider this diminisihing joy worth it.

The final reason is that, despite my dedication and effort, we just don’t have the readership we’d like. After nine months of consistent blogging, I thought we’d have more recognition than we do, but with so many other mp3 blogs out there, many of which have been around fairly long and have secured their readership, I can see why a new blog on the block would have problems getting started. We were starting to get heads up from bands and PR people, but I just don’t feel like we’re reaching a sizeable enough audience for me to continue working myself this hard.

And so things must change. If any of my writers turns in a piece to me, I will still post it on the blog, but I will not make up for a lack of articles by writing them myself. As for me, I will be posting articles spontaneously and much less often. Though I’m not making any promises, I see myself posting a few brief track reviews maybe once a week, maybe once every two weeks. If the mood strikes, I’ll write more, but I’m leaving my schedule open to my whims and my needs.

So I guess Paper Stereo is going to be a part-time blog from now on. I have nothing but gratitude for anyone that has ever written anything for me: Sarah, Charlie, Felix, Ryan, Matt, Stacey, Austin, and especially John, who’s been so dependable and beautiful and devoted that I cannot thank him enough. Thanks to the bands that have taken interest in the blog—Delta Spirit, Bodies of Water, and The Parson Red Heads—you’ve given the world beautiful music and I feel that little post on the blog is the least I can do to repay you. I also want to thank anyone and everyone who reads the blog—you’re the reason we started this in the first place.

Thanks for reading all this trash and I hope you’ll continue to check back every now and then. I encourage you all to look for the beautiful music all around you and to share that beautiful music with anyone and everyone you meet.

- Dominick -

Wednesday, April 4

Album Review: The OhSees

Here’s another one I wrote awhile ago that I never got around to posting. If you like the OhSees they have a new album, “Sucks Blood”, out now, and it’s worth checking out.

“The Cool Death of Island Raiders”
Narnack; 2006

John Dwyer is the king of the underground. He is the king because he has always been and will always be the same rare, unappreciated visionary. He will never be famous, he will never be successful, and he will never be accessible. But, rest assured, he will always be behind the scenes, prolific, relentless, and dedicated. Dwyer’s been in more bands than you can count on two hands, contributing guitars, vocals, drums, and a variety of strange sounds to his project of the week before he runs across the country to work on another. He is the patriarch of a strange family; his offspring are the bastard children of the music world.

His latest album with the OhSees is no exception. “The Cool Death of Island Raiders”, released last year on Narnack Records, isn’t going to get much attention from anyone, save the small circles of Dwyer-worshippers across the country. Though the OhSees’ slow shift from Dwyer’s solo outlet to a full, four-member band would seem to make the album more listenable, there still exists a great chasm between the music and the average listener that, in most cases, is impossible to bridge.

This chasm exists largely due to Dave Sitek’s opaque, smothered production. The instruments sound as if they were immersed in swamp water while being recorded: guitar chords disintegrate as soon as they’re hit, obscuring whatever melody they’re meant to establish; the drums sound flat and hollow, robbing the tracks of rhythm and energy; the vocals are one-dimensional and mixed too low; even the experimental textures and musical saws residing in the background aren’t given enough room to breathe.

Somewhere beneath the muddy exterior, however, resides actual music. The album’s questionably titled opening track, “The Guilded Cunt”, is home to some terrific interplay between Dwyer’s cartoonish falsetto and bandmate Brigid Dawson’s simple harmonies. The verses of “The Dumb Drums” feature a tight guitar and drum groove that occasionally gives way to a bright, delayed guitar riff. “Cool Deaths” is a reworking of a classic folk chord progression, with a feedback-infused bridge that provides an interesting contrast to the song’s mellow verses.

But moments like these are rare, and around halfway through the thirty-six minute album the band seems to run out of ideas. The wails of the musical saw grow more and more contrived, the consistently sleepy tempo gets tiresome, and noise breakdowns become little more than uninspired placeholders for unborn melodies. And, as if we needed more proof that the OhSees were having trouble putting the “L” in LP, we’re given “Drone Number One” and “Drone Number Two”, the album’s two longest tracks that together make up almost a third of its play time and feature little more than a tone generator slowly alternating output frequencies.

It’s unclear if the production is meant to veil these shortcomings or simply satisfy Dwyer’s taste for the unconventional, but in either case the result is worse for it, making even the album’s best moments a chore to uncover. And, in the end, the payoff isn’t worth the work it takes to uncover.

“The Cool Death of Island Raiders” is nothing more than a few drops of water to satiate the inhabitants of Dwyer’s thirsty underground kingdom. For the faithful, it’s an assurance that Dwyer isn’t going anywhere, and that he’ll continue to rein in near-obscurity, adding dull and flawed gems to his crown for some time to come. For the rest of us, it’s an album that’s easy to hate and even easier to ignore.

The OhSees - The Guilded Cunt [mp3]
The OhSees - The Dumb Drums [mp3]
The OhSees - Cool Deaths [mp3]

- Dominick Duhamel -

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Monday, April 2

Art Review: Elliott Kaplan

So I bet you're asking why I'm writing about art. I'm not sure, to be honest, but I couldn't sleep the other night and I ended up writing the following. I'm hardly qualified to discuss anything like this, but still I felt like it was worth posting. Hope you enjoy it. If you are interested in seeing more from Elliott Kaplan, head on over to his website.


“Can of Soup” (which you can view here) is a five-part series of photographs by Elliott Kaplan and was recently displayed in an exhibition entitled “Individual”. Elliott had this to say in terms of its context:

“These portraits of soup cans, the infamous sign of mechanization courtesy of Warhol, serve to further examine this line between the uniform and the individual. Each can bleeds a different soup, showing the difference between interiors and exteriors. The soup, however, is not unique: millions of cans of that same soup exist. What makes each can different from the others is also what makes it the same as others.”

The perspective that this brings to his latest exhibition’s theme of “Individual” is both obvious and important—it sheds light on the tenuous relationship between individuality and conformity. But I believe that the significance of “Can of Soup” extends beyond the relationship of each individual soup can to all other soup cans, creating multiple levels of meaning whose depth and complexity serve only to reinforce the theme of individuality versus conformity that Kaplan sought to capture. What makes this possible is the can’s reflective surface, in which we see a glimpse of the photographer responsible for the photograph.

This reflective quality is significant first and foremost because art, by nature, is an expression of the individual. Art seeks to make a statement and, though there are many ways within many mediums in which to do so, it is ultimately the statement and/or meaning that makes a piece of art personal to its creator. The statement is the obvious extension of the creative individual; indeed, without individuals, any sort of statement whatsoever would be hardly worth making. In a (hypothetical) society ruled by conformity and an absolute lack of individualism, any statement that could be made would already exist in the mass consciousness, ingrained in each member as a byproduct of the society and culture experienced daily. Art only exists because individuals exist—thus, art is inherently individual and the creative output of an artist reflects his or her individuality.

The can’s reflectivity is no coincidence and relates directly to this claim of artistic individuality. Working as a symbol of mechanization and conformity, there exists a sort of irony in the fact that (within the photograph) the can reflects the artist, or the individual. On yet another level, the viewer of the photograph, while he/she is viewing, can only perceive the photographer as he is channeled by the can’s surface—that is, filtered by a symbol of conformity. This intrusion of the commercial into the realm of individuality itself raises questions concerning how trustworthy a human perspective on individuality really is and whether or not there exists in everyday life instances of conformity mirroring individuality.

And so we have a soup can, which, independent of the soup shown bleeding in the photographs, is clearly a symbol of commonality—but, in its reflective surface, we see the artist responsible for the photograph. In short: an artist (or an “individual) reflected by a symbol of conformity within a piece of his own art (or his individuality, whether it be whole or partial, made manifest).

What further blurs the line between individuality and conformity, however, is the distortion of the photographer on the can’s surface. While the figure is undeniably the photographer, he is blurred and rendered unrecognizable by the can’s bent and textured surface, warped by an object meant to represent conformity. The true paradoxical complexity of the photograph becomes clear at this point:

An individual expresses his individuality by taking a picture of a common object that he has altered to make an artistic statement, but at the same that common object has severely distorted the artist. This cycle—from artist to art to conformity to skewed perspective and back to artist—reveals the true hidden meaning of the “Can of Soup” series.

What this cycle actually represents is the complex web of individuality and conformity we experience in our everyday lives, in any culture or society. He who seeks to assert himself as an individual only ends up getting skewed by abounding forces conformity. The symbols of conformity themselves are malleable, but are still limited (if only by their physical state) in terms of their expressive potential. The creator creates but, in creating, is created. In “Can of Soup” there are two artists—the artist outside the photograph and the artist within, trapped in the reflection of the soup can. The irony of this duality as a result of individual expression only highlights the constant struggle between individuality and conformity expressed in these photographs.

What Kaplan has done, then, is present viewers not with a definitive statement on the status of individuality in contemporary society, but rather with a picture of a struggle, a microcosm of the forces at work in our lives every day. Capturing this struggle so expertly, however, is an artistic statement (and achievement) in itself, emphasizing the inevitability of this paradox while, at the same time, bringing its own process of creation (as well as its own meaning) into question. A powerful statement—even a frightening one (Kaplan himself admits that he was not expecting to discover such an ephemeral and interdependent relationship), when one considers how far this complex web truly stretches.

- Dominick Duhamel -

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Wednesday, March 21

On the Road with Kazai Rex

Hey everyone. John, Stacey, Austin and I are in a band called Kazai Rex with our good friend Danny and we’re leaving Friday to spend a few days and play a couple shows in Oregon and northern California. Needless to say, we won’t be posting while we’re gone, so nothing new is going to be up until April 2nd. To see if you’re going to be near any of our shows, go to our website or our myspace—we’d love to see you there. Also, we just self-released our debut EP, “Lester Bangs the Drum”, and if you're interested in getting a copy, you can find more info on either of those pages. As always, thanks for reading. While we’re gone, I’ve compiled some reading material to keep you satisfied.


Arthur Magazine may be dead and gone, but its final issue was home to one of the most incredible pieces of journalism I’ve ever read. It’s an epic 11,000 words on Joanna Newsom (and her latest album, “Ys”) and has esentially brought me back among the lovers of Newsom after several months of resistance. It may take an hour to read, but I promise you that it’s worth every second. Check it out here.

I dug this one up from the Cokemachine Glow feature archive: Clayton Purdum hating passionately on “My Humps” and giving it the shit-kicking it truly deserves.

Our good friend Dave (from The Rawking Refuses to Stop) spent some time last summer musing on illegal downloading in the digital age and came up with some good thoughts. Read it here.

A couple weeks ago, Paper Stereo’s Austin Bauer did an interview with Dr. Dog’s Scott McMicken for the Daily Bruin to preview their show at the Troubadour (which we posted pictures from on Monday).

The Thursday Night Payola Scam, one of UCLA’s better-known radio shows, compiled a brief list of Japanese bands you should be listening to on their occasionally-updated blog. I heard of half of these bands for the first time and so far have loved them all, so it’s definitely worth checking out. Do so here.

Malachi Ritscher, an American hero who self-immolated to protest the war in Iraq at the end of 2006, posted a sort of mission statement before his death, and it’s very worth reading.

- Dominick Duhamel -