New Artists

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Alan Wilkis

By some happy chance I got a copy of Alan Wilkis’s album “Pink and Purple” and faithful reader, it is fan-frigging-tastic. It was like being transported back to my teen years, only better (to be fair, anything would be better than that). The whole record is chock-full of 80s vibe, but it’s not derivative at all. Like Doe Deere, it has upped synth and beat to the next level, creating something as modern as it is retrospective. It’s a slim six songs long, so you don’t get bored, and I dare you not to at least chair-dance.

If they’d played this at my school dances back in the day, I might have gotten out there and danced to swank tracks like “N.I.C.E.” and “Gotta Get You Back.” “Snuggle Up To Nail Down” is my favorite track, with its wry summary of pretty much every relationship: Sometimes it’s like we’re doing double-dutch. Just don’t get tangled in the ropes … oops, too late.

Alan Wilkis — Site | Myspace

Alan Wilkis — N.I.C.E.

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Blind Pilot

[ed. note — Hey, whut whut, has it really been three months since my last update? Probably the 4,500,000 points I have in Bejeweled Twist were responsible. If you asked for a song from me during this time, and you didn’t get one, write in again. I just sent a few out to people who commented last month. Check your inbox! And your spam box, ha ha.]

Today’s music is actually the music of last year, but I’d never heard of Blind Pilot until my brother-in-law pointed me toward their 2008 album “3 Rounds and A Sound.” This is not unusual, given how much mail & RSS I sift through every day, but what a criminal oversight. Blind Pilot is what you’d charitably call GWG music (Guy With Guitar) — even though there is a rest of the band — so if you don’t like that, bail now. But I do! I love it! Especially if it comes from Portland, where they grow it all organic-like.

Oddly, the songs from “3 Rounds” remind me forcibly of the Format, not because there are handclaps (there aren’t) but because there’s a joyfulness in the music that just says, these people are having fun with their music. It’s not SRS BZNS, and if you danced to it, that might be okay, indie princess. And that’s pretty much it — I just like this music, I like songs that say till Kingdom Come / you’re the one I want. Oh, sweet devotion.

Blind Pilot — Site | Myspace
Blind Pilot — Daytrotter Session

Blind Pilot — 3 Rounds and A Sound
Blind Pilot — One Red Thread

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Desert Noises

I have to give love to my former place of residence, Provo UT, where I spent seven years acquiring a degree at Parentally Approved Religious University. There was a fun band scene going on back then (not all of it related to PARU, just in general) & I’m sure it hasn’t changed. So, yes, there is music here and not just maudlin memories — the band is called Desert Noises.

Listening to it reminded me strongly of Ill Lit and some of the stuff off of “Tom Cruise” — there’s even some electronica mixed in — but with a little more zip & harmony. Songs like “New Man” and “Blue Skies” are charming and well put together for a group of youngsters, that’s right I said youngsters, now all you kids get off my lawn. If you like Ill Lit, the Damnwells, perhaps even the Band of Annuals, this is music for you.

Desert Noises has a s/t EP available on iTunes, and if you happen to be hanging in the intermountain west, they may head to a city near you. From what I read, their live show is very good and worth catching. Makes me wish I could pop over to Velour and catch it — I used to live not so far from there. Eeeeanyway. The music, you should hear it.

Desert Noises — Myspace | Label (Northplatte)

Desert Noises — New Man
New Man video at Speed of Dark

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Gráinne Duffy

My little three-year-old, he loves traditional Irish music, and by that, I mean the Clancy Brothers. Give him a chorus of “the Gypsy Rover” or “John Kanaka” and he’s on cloud nine. And perhaps you might be tempted to think of Ireland as the land of a) the Clancy Brothers (or their punk derivatives); b) U2; and c) soulful balladeers, like Damien Rice or Gary Lightbody or Lisa Hannigan. (Exceptions: persons actually living in Ireland, who are probably laughing right now). But no! I learn something new every day, and the something new I learned about Ireland is Gráinne Duffy.

Ms Duffy makes music in my personal favorite genre, blues rock. Is blues rock really big in Ireland? If so, I’m totally moving there. The songs on Duffy’s album, “Out of the Dark,” are gorgeous. The complex, speaking guitar work on “Rather Go Blind” is wildly reminiscent of Stevie Ray Vaughn, and on other songs she sounds like Clapton in his blues phase (did he ever come out of that phase? heh). It’s a pure pleasure to listen to, and I simply can’t believe she’s unsigned. What the hell are these companies thinking to sign idiots like K. Perry or those awful, off-key Jonas Brothers to their labels when there are geniuses out there like Duffy? It’s just shameful (and you kids, get off my lawn).

“Out of the Dark” was released in 2007. Duffy’s site has previews of all the songs (in the store section). Thanks to Muruch for noticing first (she said almost exactly what I said, only better).

Gráinne Duffy — Site | Myspace

Gráinne Duffy — Rather Go Blind

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Uh Huh Her

You know a band’s from LA when the first thing the press kit mentions is how many reality shows that the two members of Uh Huh Her have starred in. Like somehow that has value. And by the way, press kit writers, name-dropping Katy Perry is also valueless (that awful song is to music what “Twilight” is to literature). How about talking about the band name instead? PJ Harvey? Album released in ’04? Ring any bells?

And now having gotten that off my chest, these two make pretty good listening. I say this without knowing what kind of televised hijinx they have embarked on — I am one of probably three people living in LA who finds reality TV exquisitely distasteful. So whether they are just eye candy or, like, have real personalities and stuff, Grey and Hailey have lovely voices and manage to carry the music without sounding mopey or plaintive. “Not A Love Song” has punk sensibility and a sweet bassline — Auf der Maur lite. “Explode” tones it down a bit and adds some of the Sexy and the Glam, doing it up Hollywood style.

Their 2008 release, entitled “Common Reaction,” is set to come out next month. I was not able to get ahold of the entire album, but two songs are a fair indicator of quality (even if one is recycled from an earlier EP). And now you, devoted reader, go make up your own mind. “Explode” is available for download below, but I was much more into “Not A Love Song,” which you can stream at the myspace.

Uh Huh Her — Site | Myspace | Label (Nettwerk)

Uh Huh Her — Explode

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You know the drill. It comes in my inbox, and sometimes I even write about it.

01. Oceansea — This Daniel Catarino guy gets around. He has two bands and Oceansea is his solo project (apparently he thinks he’s Stars, ha ha). The guitar work on “Breathing” made me happy because it put me in mind of the New Ams and my secret punk rock boyfriend (Matt Pryor) but leaving aside my peccadilloes, Catarino has a very nice voice and a pretty turn of phrase. The low-key guitar does sound a lot like the ocean on a good day, breaking and falling gently.

Catarino has made “Songs from the Bedroom Floor” available in its entirety through Creative Commons, so go to the myspace to download the whole dang thing (click on the giant adorable owl). If you listen & like it, consider donating a couple bucks (or Euros) to his three-band cause.

Oceansea — Myspace

02. Half Moon Tuesday — Two acoustic guys out of Costa Mesa — shout out to the OC from LA county :D. The songs are something I would have liked 10 years ago but it’s not complex enough for me now. They sound like they would have played at the Bronze back when I was getting my Buffy fix — I like the nice harmony in “Fade” with the guitar answering back.

Half Moon Tuesday — Myspace

03. Bambi Get Over It — Six piece band from Norwich, UK. Oddly, “Ginger” sounds like early live Rilo Kiley (and I’m not sure what it is with the British and redheads. Seriously, people). Add a little more stomp and a Detroit Cobras vibe and you get “Bad Man” and “Sounds of Her City.” I like that the songs are mandolin-heavy, I have a soft spot for the mandolin.

Bambi Get Over It — Myspace

04. Young Coyotes — Some howling going on here … this is more boy-indie than I like, with the whole shaky-voice ooh-ooh-ooh thing going on, but songs like “Momentary Drowning” does put one in mind of Bishop Allen or the Format (handclaps and all).

Young Coyotes — Myspace

Young Coyotes — Momentary Drowning

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Electric Touch

[ed note — Before I start, let me just say that if you have a good connection but you’re not watching Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, you’re missing something extraordinary. So go watch it. Then you can come back and read this.]

Apparently if you put the UK and Texas in a blender and add some hipster all-black attitude and a wayback machine, you come up with Electric Touch. Don’t get me wrong. I’m totally sold on a band that lists Bukowski and Muddy Waters as influences; not to mention that the music is action-packed but retains some pop sensibilities at the same time, kind of a lot like Aerosmith or Cheap Trick.

Electric Touch utilizes that big rock sound beautifully — at the end of “Who Put the Fire Out” there is a gorgeous guitar riff which makes me totally picture the guitarist standing on top of a big desert rock while the camera circles slowly around him (helicopter shot!) … you know what I mean (not Creed; think more like Bon Jovi or Guns N Roses). It’s a sound that is difficult to capture without sounding cheesy or overblown (now you can think about Creed). And though the lyrics I hear are more Morrison than Bukowski, the sound is good. Really, really listenable: their debut album will be released August 26th. Just please, guys, do not start wrapping scarves around the microphone. I beg you.

Electric Touch — Site | Myspace | Label (Justice)

Electric Touch — Who Put the Fire Out

Electric Touch — Love In Our Hearts

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Ghost Bees

Lately I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night for no reason and just lying there kind of 3/4ths of the way asleep. Maybe an hour later I finally fall asleep. This is wreaking havoc with my gym-going as you can imagine (I go at 5am) but it does lead to some weird half-asleep thoughts. Sometimes I even think I’m awake but later I will realize I wasn’t really. Perhaps sometimes I will find myself standing on top of the Hollywood sign in my pajamas.

Ghost Bees is the music you would hear if you were half-awake, convinced that along with the breeze through the window, someone is singing a translation of “Der Erlkoenig,” a poem by Goethe. The poem goes like this: a father and son are riding through a forest. The father is trying to keep his son snug and safe; but the son keeps saying, “Can’t you see the Erlkoenig (the Elf-king) following us?” At the end, the Erlkoenig has his way and the mortals suffer for it. It’s the perfect poem to complement Ghost Bees’s experimental folk sound, which I would classify as Eisley meets Alela Diane meets sonic dissonance. Long story short, I like it even in the light of day, and you will too.

Ghost Bees — Myspace | Label (Youth Club)

Ghost Bees — Vampires Of the West Coast

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AA Bondy

You ever get the feeling that everyone’s at a party somewhere and they didn’t invite you? And you’re kicking your heels at home while they’re all out enjoying themselves? Well, I spent the whole of year 2007 reading blogs obsessively, and not once did AA Bondy fly by my radar (I won’t admit that I never read about him, because I probably did. But no one shoved it in my face like they should’ve!). I come to find out that even Daytrotter was in on the secret, and he recorded a great session there.

Bondy falls into the genre of alt-country — or, if you think that genre is played out, which I don’t, you might call it folk or blues — but it’s totally six of one unless you’re a snob. Heavy on the harmonicas and call & response; bluesy, sweet and bitter by turns, the 2007 release was called “American Hearts,” and I can’t believe I missed it because it would have made my top 10. Man, I love that stuff, I can’t get enough of it, and “American Hearts” is a classic example of genre, though it gets political in places (“American Hearts” is, if I hear it right, a gentler companion to “American Idiot.”). If you’re going out to see Bon Iver this fall, you’ll get an extra treat: Bon Iver and AA Bondy, folk country overload. What a party.

AA Bondy — Myspace | Label (Fat Possum)

[ed note — tracks removed. contact me for a copy.]

AA Bondy — Killed Myself When I Was Young

AA Bondy — American Hearts

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Random stuff keeping me occupied:

[ed note: tracks removed. pls contact me for a copy.]

01. Immuzikation — Sweet Young Angel (Feist vs burial vs Jens Lekman)
      [Myspace — warning, this is the ugliest myspace ever]
02. Gangstagrass — On the Run
      [Site]
03. The Polyamorous Affair — Merry Go Round
      [Myspace]
04. Camera Obscura — Your Sister’s Social Agony
      [Underachievers Please Try Harder, 2004]
05. ABBA — Take A Chance On Me
      [The Album, 1977]

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Doe Deere

*cues up “I Love the 80s” theme song*

If you want to know what’s happening on the electro front, the best place to go is Electroqueer. And EQ is where I found adorable, antler-wearing, 80s reviving Doe Deere. From her fabulous synthesizer to your speakers, she’s created a guaranteed chair-dancing experience.

She’s Russian, currently living in New York City, and cute as a button, but her songs aren’t all sugar. What I like best of all is that the tunes are spicy high-heel stompers — dance songs for a strong girl getting out there on the floor and going for her boy of choice. Songs like “What U Like” or “Supernatural” don’t say, hang back and shake your booty in case there’s a guy in the VIP section watching you (à la Mr Timberlake) — they say, I’m a hurricane / when it comes to boys, or I’m not your average, ordinary girl. I can’t say how much I love that kind of rhetoric.

For five measly bucks you can buy a digital version of her “Supernatural” EP — just make sure you have a gmail account that can handle the 19G download — or, if you’re broke, she kindly says that she’ll email you the whole dang thing for free. How much sweeter can she be? I bought it last night late and it’s been rocking my jukebox ever since.

I’m including an mp3, because that’s how I find so many good bands, but people, this is what I’m talking about — you need to support artists like this who have no major label, no method of distribution except to be awesome and collect your five bucks whenever they can. If you like this, go give her some love! You can’t get something for nothing forever; what you’re going to end up with is … nothing. Be responsible! Save the wildlife! :D

Doe Deere — Myspace | Site

[ed note — track removed. buy the whole EP from Doe, for crying out loud.]

Doe Deere — One Touch

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Lykke Li

Browsing around this morning, I read a funny article by Joshua Allen of the Morning News. It’s not safe for delicate eyes, but it posits that the perfect length for a pop song is 2:42. Allen’s ephiphany descends when he digs up “There She Goes” by the La’s:

I listened to it and said, in my rich and sonorous timbre, in my typically concise and absolutely-nailing-it fashion: “Here is a song that has everything I need and nothing I don’t.”

2:43? Please don’t bother. 2:41? Allen mocks those short ditties:

Then over here we have “Good Morning Good Morning,” rightfully discarded by the masses as a throwaway. Why? Two minutes, 41 seconds. Hey, Beatles, maybe next time think about tacking on an extra second to give a song the grandeur and majesty it deserves.

So, if pop perfection is just a matter of time, it comes as no surprise at all that Lykke Li’s song “Let It Fall” is exactly 2:42. While I’m chair-dancing to tracks from her new album “Youth Novels,” I get the feeling that she knows exactly what I need, and has cut out everything I don’t. And the rest of the songs ain’t bad either (understatement); my absolute favorite is “I’m Good. I’m Gone.” when she sings about getting butter for her piece of bun. Mmmmm…buttered bun.

The videos are great too; she’s in a bathroom, she’s in a high school, she’s in a train station but she can’t stop moving, twitching, skipping, shimmying. It’s not to be expected that a listener could keep from it either.

Lykke Li — Site | Myspace
[ed note — tracks removed. contact me for a copy.]

Lykke Li — I’m Good. I’m Gone.
Lykke Li — Everybody But Me (Christoffer remix)

video — Lykke Li — Little Bit
video — Lykke Li — I’m Good. I’m Gone. (bathroom)
video — Lykke Li — I’m Good. I’m Gone. (official)
video — Lykke Li — Dance Dance Dance

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Daniel Ahearn

[The astute may notice that I have changed layouts a smidge — Benevolence wasn’t widget-friendly and when I updated to WP 2.5, it had to go. I miss its turquoise self very much and I’ll have to visit Song, By Toad once in awhile to see it again. But this new layout is actually easier to frak around with than Benevolence, so hello to Tarski!]

The bleepity blooping shick-a-shick that characterized Ill Lit got me right on board with their 2006 album “Tom Cruise.” It’s electronic alt-country, perfect for LA, where the man behind the music does his work. He is Daniel Ahearn, and he recently released an EP called “Pray For Me By Name.” The email I was sent notes that the muted sound on the EP is deliberate:

Late in 2007, Daniel was robbed. His electronics, his boom box, keyboards, and pedals—all stolen. All the songs on his new EP, Pray For Me By Name, were written to be songs that Daniel felt like he could play with just an acoustic guitar and his singing.

It sucks beyond belief that someone would steal all that equipment (though it happened to a lot of folks last year). But Ahearn didn’t let it stop him, and there is still some nice electronical buzzing in “Down For the Count” (and a violin too). The EP is fairly standard soft country, well lyricked and easy to listen to — plus, the man knows who Anne Carson is, so he’s obviously a superior being [sorry, poetry geek moment]. If you liked Ill Lit, consider buying “Pray,” and hopefully Daniel won’t stay down for the count for long.

Daniel Ahearn — Site | Myspace

[ed note — tracks removed. pls contact me for a copy.]

Daniel Ahearn — Down For the Count

Ill Lit — The Homewrecking Ball

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Well, personal concerns have kept me away from the internet for awhile (gasp) but ye olde show must go on. Ryan from Burly Time sent me some bright, beautiful instrumental pieces by a Detroit guitarist named Nick Schillace. Very laid back, exceptional listening for the stressful time I have had the last couple weeks. Of course today I was listening again and my brain said, “‘1976’ … wait, isn’t there a song called ‘1974’?” Which of course caused a mad scramble through my CDs, and this post.

[ed note — tracks removed. contact me for a copy.]

01. Nick Schillace — 1976
02. Ryan Adams — 1974
03. Cake On Cake — 1981
04. Travis — 1922
05. Ox — 1913

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Science For Girls (again)

Mr. Solomon sent me a new track to post for you guys, but I gotta ask: did you not heed me last time and get yourself some Science For Girls already? Do not pass go! Do not collect $200! Do not brave my wrath any longer!

I guess there are some folks out there who don’t like trip-hop or electronica, and to them, I say, you must be the ones at the concerts who stand stock still and never move no matter how affecting the song is. You just stare straight ahead, right? Digified and stoic, that’s you. But behind you, there’s some girl who can’t move real well, because she’s hemmed in, but she’s dancing by inches. That’s me, and I’m trying real hard not to smack you in the back, but could you just move up a couple inches, cause you’re spoiling my fun.

Because SFG jumps around between a lot of different sounds, you can first check them out on their myspace or their site, and then head over to Amazon to pick the kind you like. Perhaps “Australia,” which could pass for indie with its sly humor and melancholy sound? Or the wibbly wobbly “You’ll Never Know,” a candidate for Audio Surf if I’ve ever heard one? Or “14 Days,” which might even be a lost Postmarks track? “Peace Heart” has a bomp-ba-bomp beat and “Violets” is just plain gorgeous. Come on, there’s something for everyone here, even you, indie kid whose feet are glued to the floor. Pick ’em up just an inch, put ’em down again. Your knees won’t break.

Science For Girls — Site | Myspace

[ed note — track removed. contact me for a copy.]

Science For Girls — Northern Lights

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For all you skinny jeans wearing folks out there — you know who you are, but you’re probably over at Catbirdseat right now — Threadless has reprinted your shirt. I know, true coolness doesn’t advertise, but if you don’t apprise the hoi polloi, no one will be able to figure it out. Xref the Simpsons:

Marge: Am I cool, kids?
Bart & Lisa: No.
Marge: Good. I’m glad. And that’s what makes me cool, not caring, right?
Bart & Lisa: No.
Marge: Well, how the hell do you be cool? I feel like we’ve tried everything here.
Homer: Wait, Marge. Maybe if you’re truly cool, you don’t need to be told you’re cool.
Bart: Well, sure you do.
Lisa: How else would you know?
[Homerpalooza]

————————————-

Being pretty hoi in the polloi myself, I’m gonna just talk about some things I like.

01. According to La Onda Tropical, my faithful reference for what’s cool on the Latin front, the new hot beat is called New Cumbia (aka Kumbia), and it’s based on Colombian folk dance. Me, I was still grooving to reggaeton, but I like the cumbia too; faithful readers will know I’m a sucker for anything with a good beat. You can preview the nueva cumbia at La Onda or check out some stuff I snagged off the Hype Machine:

MIA — Paper Planes (Sonido Martines Guacharaca remix)
El Trip Selector — Cumbiancherita
Oro 11 — Que Calor (Pibes Chorros vs DJ Unh)

02. Gvs.B had a link to this Swedish dude who emanates a serious folk sound á la Donovan or similar — The Tallest Man On Earth. I can’t vouch for the veracity of his tallness, but the music is a major throwback to a certain time when American music was in thrall to a certain kinky-haired folk poet whose name shall go unmentioned. With a nice Swedish twist. Me likey.

The Tallest Man On Earth — I Won’t Be Found

03. Did I mention there was this disc out called “Heretic Pride”? I must have mentioned it. Ahaha. Well, so, yes. I like it very much, although what’s coming out later this year is stiff competition for best album. I am truly amazed by the jewelboxes of stories that Darnielle weaves — you open them up and look inside and it’s this itty bitty story with these amazing facets. One of the best and most detailed is the song “So Desperate,” which contains the best couplet on the whole album: We were parked near some trees; and the moonlight soaked the branches in ever-deepening degrees.

Not to mention (as many have already, so let me be brief) the song “Autoclave,” which presents love in a whole new scientifically toxic way. An autoclave is a sterilizing pressurizing unit, and Darnielle manages to put an entirely new twist on an age-old genre by simply saying, “My heart is an autoclave.” Talk about defeating anxiety of influence, folks. The song is kind of a love song (Darnielle said so at the gig I attended) but it’s also about being so toxic that no one can get near you: direct your attention, if you please, to the final stanza of the song.

I dreamt that I was perched atop a throne of human skulls
on a cliff above the ocean; howling wind and shrieking seagulls.
And the dream went on forever, one single static frame —
sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.

Gorgeous use of a pop culture phrase to mean its exact opposite. In “Cheers,” they meant that you go to where your friends are. This guy in this song, though, he goes to notoriety a whole different way. If you’re sitting on a throne made of human skulls, you can be sure that everyone knows your name.

I shan’t go on. Suffice to say, I’m in love all over again.

The Mountain Goats — Autoclave

04. New Old 97s album coming out in May! I have such a girly crush on these guys and their sound — proof that alt-country is still kicking its heels up somewhere in Texas, so ha ha, Aquarium Drunkard, take that. And the new song sounds great; I’m really excited to hear the rest.

The Old 97s — Dance With Me

05. Another great record that will be out in 8 short days is DeVotchKa’s “A Mad & Faithful Telling.” It continues DeVotchKa’s gypsy rock folk tradition; and though I can’t say that I’m their biggest fan, in small doses I really love the brass-and-dance sound. DeVotchKa is also going on tour in Europe and the US.

DeVotchKa — Comrade Z

06. And something I’ve forgotten to mention for a month, but it’s still awesome: The Rich Girls Are Weeping has returned to us. Frabjuous day! Calloo callay! (I’m chortling in my joy, all right? Geez.)

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Poppy like the Lucksmiths but with lonely, drug-laced undertones like Headstones; hailing from Chicago and having nothing to do with Scotland Yard. No gospel in sight. A mass of contradictions, but one fact rises out of the murk: it’s excellent music. Chicago music for me is kind of barren territory (exception: Canasta) but I’m loving the wry lyrics and beat-heavy melodies. Not many indie kids out there have enough chutzpah to sing a song called “I Never Thought I Could Feel This Way For A Boy.” I’m Sandro Boticelli, he sings, torn between the old and new. The theme continues in “Aspidistra,” where the singer ruminates on his wasted time buying drugs — and if you asked me now I’d say / I’m not sorry but I wouldn’t do it now.

Score one for Bloodshot, who snagged them and released their self-titled album last year; and score one for you, the listener, because your ears will not be sorry.

Scotland Yard Gospel Choir — Myspace | Label (Bloodshot)

Scotland Yard Gospel Choir — Aspidistra

Scotland Yard Gospel Choir — I Never Thought I Could Feel This Way For A Boy

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Slump city

This time of year, I’m not really into Ye New Music. I’m gearing up for “Heretic Pride,” but mostly I’m just noodling around the internets finding fun stuff to listen to. Daddy Yankee … the Ronettes … crazy mashups from A+D … Sinead O’Connor … I’ll take it all.

01. Can You See the Sunset …, in between ministering to his poor sick daughter, has posted a bunch of 90s flashbacks, the latest including Salt N Pepa’s “Whatta Man,” which I used to listen to a lot in high school. Lately I’ve been realizing that high school was kind of a long time ago. :P Now I sit around ministering to my own sick kids.

02. The fabulous Alison Goldfrapp is putting out “Seventh Tree” at the end of Feb. I’m sure it will be as interesting and layered as all her music is. Offhand I did not hear any standouts like “Ooh La La” or “Strict Machine,” but I’m sure the clubs will live without her and we can all enjoy it anyway.

Goldfrapp — Site | Myspace |

03. Although I’m not the biggest fan of Scandinavian music, I’m liking the Interpol-esque sounds of The Bell. These Swedish guys have a bangin’ sound and really great videos (they put me in mind of a lot of time spent in front of MTV watching Peter Gabriel. I wanna be! Your sledgehamma!). Anyway, look them up — their album is called “Make Some Quiet.”

The Bell — Site | Myspace | the Sledgehammer video. You’re thinking of that dancing turkey anyway. (And Digging In the Dirt, which I must have watched a thousand times. Don’t talk back! Just drive the car!)

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Excellent stuff

My kid and I have a cold; you know one of those where you feel like you got hit by a truck? Yeah, that’s me, dragging around the house with a box of Kleenex. Here are some things that cheer me up as much as I can be chee — hee — ha CHOO. Yeah, just stay back about ten feet.

01. Culture Bully has a really really excellent post about the best mashups of 2007. I am a huge fan of mashups, and Chris D. shows you where to get some great ones.

02. Dengue Fever! Has a new album! And it’s called “Venus On Earth”! People, without using more exclamation points I cannot stress enough how cool a Cambodian electronica pop dance band is (at least, this one. Not too many out there for comparison). Have a listen to the new single, “Sober Driver.” Top ten material!

Dengue Fever — Myspace

03. I didn’t write too much over the holidays, but I liked the following music:

A) Skittish — I had a fun time listening to these folky, spare tunes from Minneapolis. This guy can seriously fit a scutload of words into one little line (so it’s not for everyone, I think). Reminds me of Bright Eyes in a way, but not employing Oberst’s more annoying characteristics. I’m very fond of “Pass the Punch,” with its whanging noises and Thick-As-A-Brick-ian call to arms: my cutters, my burners, my lovers, my sinners, my strays; let’s march on the gates and set fire to these edict estates. ’cause we are stronger in numbers, no longer ashamed — not quiet, not going away.

Skittish — Myspace | Site

B) Science For Girls — Mmmmm…sweet sweet electronic goodness (which is the best I can come up with today). It’s a debut album, but it slips down smooth as swallowed silk; check out “Fourteen Days,” featuring Bronwyn Exeter, with its jazzy bridge and clear as a bell vocals. Or if you like your distortions a la Cher, you can check out the excellently rhythmic “You’ll Never Know.”

Science For Girls — Myspace | Site

Science For Girls — You’ll Never Know (at the Music Slut, since my FTP client is being bastardous at the moment)

C) Mountain Goats … newwww album sooooon, precious … I will wait and buy it all legal-like because I want John Darnielle to stay locked in my closet and write songs forever live happily ever after and write many more albums. You may enjoy a free track, “Sax Rohmer #1,” at Chromewaves.

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Dengue Fever!

Wow, it’s only December tenth and I’m sick to death of Christmas music. Actually, the first time I heard “Jingle Bell Rock” at the Ralph’s the day after Thanksgiving, I was sick of it. Anyhoo. If you’re loathing on the holiday cheer too, please do yourself a favor and go check out the new Dengue Fever single, “Seeing Hands.” Dengue Fever is a Cambodian funk fusion band, I guess you would call it, based in LA and fronted by the fabulous Ch’hom Nimol, and they are releasing their third album on January 8, 2008. It’s called “Venus On Earth.” I predict much awesomeness.

Dengue Fever — Myspace

Dengue Fever — Escape From the Dragon House

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LoveLikeFire

You know how I say, us music bloggers, we’re all out there crawling the web, searching for something? We’re all panting after that feeling of yes, that feeling of that’s it, I love that. Problem is, what we love is constantly changing — human nature being what it is. But we know it when we hear it, right? That’s why we’re always snatching more music out of the air.

So, it’s apropos that the new EP from San Francisco quartet LoveLikeFire is called, “An Ocean In the Air.” This music is so ridiculously good that if it was a full-length, it would make my top five best of the year. It’s strong music; it punches you right in the face instead of dancing around you wearing wings or whatever. I love it so much that I can’t believe I never heard it before. Vocals sung by Ann Yu, with appropriate mysterious lyrics; instrumentals played richly and distinctly by misters Parker, Farrell, and Kissinger, respectively.

LoveLikeFire — Myspace | Site

[ed note — tracks removed. please contact me for a copy.]

LoveLikeFire — From A Tower

LoveLikeFire — Unlighted Shadow

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I’ve invented a new genre: lounge lizard country. Imagine a guy just this side of greasy, wearing a suit with sweat stains where stains shouldn’t be. His tie’s askew. He’s gripping the microphone when he’s not making chords on the ukelele, and he meets your eyes frantically (but his bandmates never look up). The dark red velvet of the half-empty hotel room reflects very badly on his skin. After the set, you buy him a drink and he confides that his wife left him and he’s living in his car.

This is no aspersion on Melvern Taylor, who wrote me a really nice email (note: flattery will get you everywhere). He calls his music “ukelele noir,” happy songs about sad people. And I’m sure in person that he and his band are not greasy at all. His sound — heavy on the 50s influence, heavy on the uke (of course), and heavy on the standard lyric (“i won’t mind it if you break my stupid heart / because I’ve got no place else to go”) — is an intriguing gestalt. These elements combined make up a music with more variety than should be there; it both is, and isn’t, a type of music I hear every day. An interesting conundrum (and perhaps completely unintended by the band. Oh well. Heh.)! I shall have to listen further; though there are vague plans hinted at on the website, the band’s latest album is 2006’s “Fabuloso.” Please cogitate along with me and let me know what you think.

Melvern Taylor and His Fabulous Meltones — Site | Myspace

[ ed note — tracks removed. contact me for a copy.]

Melvern Taylor and His Fabulous Meltones — Angel On My Shoulder

Melvern Taylor and His Fabulous Meltones — Sad And Blue

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Catchup time

Time to find out what some bands from last year are doing now!

Before I start, some of you may have watched “Friday Night Lights” last Friday … you did, right? Right? When Street throws himself off the boat into the water, the song you’re listening to is “To Build A Home,” by the Cinematic Orchestra. You can listen to the song (and others) at their Myspace, and it is SO worth it.

Klee — Klee has a new album out, called “Zwischen Himmel und Erde” (trans: Between Sky and Earth, or Heaven & Earth if you’re feeling religious). Sadly it appears to be only out in Deutschland. While you wait for Minty Fresh to get their act together, you can preview tracks (in German) at the site.

Band of Annuals — the awesome hometown crew released their album in May. It’s called, “Let Me Live.”

Justin Rutledge — from my cursory look, I don’t know if the Junction Forty are still around, but Justin released an album earlier this year as well, entitled “The Devil On A Bench In Stanley Park.” Buy the album at Amazon or preview some tracks at his site. I’m really loving “This Is War.”

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If you ever went to a church or school dance in the late 80s or early 90s, you may click on this link to be rocketed back to your uncomfortable teen years, when the girls stood on this side of the big room, and the boys stood on that side, and only a few brave souls got out there and did the Electric Slide or the MC Hammer dance. Of course if you could’ve nerved yourself up to dance with your friends, you might have even had some fun (I never did).

This video went gold in Denmark; apparently it’s the biggest thing since the Little Mermaid; so check out My Secret Lover, first offering from Private. Also, if you’re in the right demographic, I dare you not to like it, down deep in your secret heart of hearts. Don’t worry, I won’t laugh at you. I still have the first CD I ever owned (“I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got,” for those keeping score at home).

Private – Myspace

[ed note — tracks removed. contact me for a copy.]

Private — My Secret Lover

Private — Waiting For Tonight

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The 1900s

Dear major record companies:

I know that sucking ridiculous amounts of money from poor people is where you get your jollies, but take a second out from your busy litigation schedule and listen up. This is how it goes: I’m hanging around on Brooklyn Vegan. I see a post called “the 1900s versus the 1990s.” On a whim, I click on it. On a whim, I decide to download the 1900s mp3 that BV made available*.

I listen to the mp3. It’s called “Bring the Good Boys Home.” I am immediately interested, because of the excellent instrumentals, but even more so because of the lead singer, who has a beautiful voice. The music is fun and poptastic and definitely has a 70s throwback vibe (the myspace calls it “psychadelic.” Groovy!). I decide to head to their site to check it out. And oh look, new album came out on Oct. 2nd — it’s called “Cold & Kind.” So I do the media check:

1) Streaming the album — yes, you can stream the entire thing at Parasol or the 1900s site. Woot!
2) Snocap — nope.
3) Amazon — nope
4) iTunes — has the older EP
5) Emusic — yep! (Alas for my lapsed subscription.)
6) Physical CD from the site — yep!
7) CD on sale at the record label — why, yes.

You see how it works? These days, we pull music down from the sky. If it weren’t for that whim and that mp3 from Brooklyn Vegan, Parasol Records wouldn’t be getting my $9. It ain’t rocket science. So quit spending your dwindling income on suing people and buy a clue instead**. Sincerely, Zara.

The 1900s – Site | Myspace | Label (Parasol)

[ed. note — tracks removed. pls contact me for a copy.]

The 1900s — Bring The Good Boys Home

The 1900s — When I Say Go

*I also downloaded the 1990s song, but it suffered in comparison.
** I’m not pretending I’m doing a public service, exactly, but let’s be reasonable, word of mouth works … MTV is dead and so is the radio, where are people supposed to get their information these days?

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Corinne Bailey Rae

Yeah, so sometimes, because I opted out of the mainstream music scene, I miss something good. Hello, Corinne Bailey Rae, from England. Who was nominated for some Grammys this year (little though that means anymore). Who has a beautiful, warm sound like a cross between Norah Jones, Alicia Keys, and Us3. It’s fun music; it doesn’t bash you over the head with the seeeeeriousness of liiiiving; it seems very joyful instead, and you all know how I like joyful music. My favorite so far is her bluesy cover of Zeppelin’s “Since I Been Loving You”; I think Robert Plant would approve, since he started out as a blues singer himself. Plus, Ms. Rae used to front a grrl band way back in the day! And she wanted to sound like L7! Which is completely and totally awesome.

Corinne Bailey Rae – Site | Myspace | Label (Capitol)

[ed. note – tracks removed. please contact me for a copy.]

Corinne Bailey Rae – Put Your Records On
Corinne Bailey Rae – Since I’ve Been Loving You (Led Zep)

Video – “Put Your Records On”
Video – “I’d Like To”

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Eisley

Teenage bands, and the whole So So Indie scene, it’s not really my thing. If you stretch it, I’m old enough to be some of their moms. So go put on some boy’s jeans, you boys, and you girls, let me remind you that argyle does not work on all occasions! Especially with stripes!

Nah, I’m just kidding. Go ahead and mix your patterns. What I mean is, I find a lot of Teen Indie music to be more exterior pretense and less talent. Kids … their opinions are so strongly felt and yet they really mean so little in the grand scheme of things. I like my weary singers to be truly tired because of experience, not just all full of ennui. Maybe I’m just jealous because I never had patent leather shoes, but I don’t feel that there’s a lot of genuine, grownup talent behind the retro-glam Look and the carefully precious opinions on Music and Art and Corporations and Politics. Not to mention that a lot of ’em think they can sing when they really ought … not.

So what to make of a band like Eisley, whose members — all family — are young enough to make Hanson jokes about? What to make of the effortless harmonies punctuating songs that, even in 2005, were enough to catch Reprise records’ attention? Why can’t I stop listening to their new record, “Combinations”? It starts out with a punch — the track “Many Funerals” sounds semi-medieval (result, I imagine, of playing “Her Majesty the Decemberists” more than they ought, but still!) and then it segues into this sweet noisy rock, and over all of that, the harmonies simply fly.

I was listening to “Eyes Will Pop…” by Bodies of Water last week, and my biggest complaint was with the soprano. When she goes into the high registers, it makes my eyes water and I get sad, cause she’s not singing, she’s screaming, and it ruins the song. But the two DuPree girls that lead out Eisley are fantastic, and they aren’t trying to make a world statement, just delivering solid rock & roll, like when they hit the high notes in “Invasion” — you, you, you would take the breath from my throat / and you, you, you would take the cherished people that I love. I dunno if that song is about vampires or what, and the video is tres creepy, but that’s part of the fun — the lyrics have layers of meaning, once again belying the age thing (although one would assume a ‘cherished person’ would be someone that you love. Hi. English teacher here). With the exception of some slowish songs, the album is extremely appealing.

The lesson to all of you is: don’t ever judge a band by its matching Converse. And also, go listen to Eisley. Right now.

Eisley – Site | Myspace | Label (Reprise)

Creepy “Invasion” video

[note: tracks removed. contact me for a copy.]

Eisley — One Day I Slowly Floated Away

Eisley — Many Funerals

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Viva Voce

I just saw a shirt somewhere that says, “I listen to bands that haven’t even been invented yet.” Those of you who subscribe to that theory (perhaps you worship at the altar of the Catbirdseat) will wish to exit the theater now. The rest of us can then feel free to cast our minds way, way back. I’m talking about the ancient year of … 2006. In that year, I missed Viva Voce’s release, “Get Yr Blood Sucked Out.”

Perhaps I was too focussed on Barsuk labelmate, the toe-tapping Mr. Votolato, and most likely I was put off by the free mp3 offered by most blogs (entitled, “We Do Not Fuck Around,” it suffered the same fate as most other songs with the F word in them. I have a six-year-old and I play a lot of songs in the car. What can I say). Anyway, I must tender an apology to Kevin and Anita Robinson.

The album is chock full of fun-loving, mildly retro, snarky songs like “The Devil Himself” (“you were sent from the devil himself to me / and I’ll see you in hell before we’re through / cause I got nothing to prove to you”). Ms. Robinson’s voice is dreamily on-key, sounding often like Liz Phair or Paula Cole, that 90s in-your-face grrlishness that’s cute but cuts your throat when you’re not looking. In a nice bit of fairplay, Anita does the vox on the first half of the album and then Kevin takes his turn. Though I think she is stronger than he is vocally, my favorite song is the clever “Never Be Like Yesterday.” And then add in the strong, clear instrumentals that are all bluesy and rocktastic and, in short, I was wrong. I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!

Viva Voce – Site | Myspace | Label (Barsuk)

[Note: tracks removed. Contact me for a copy.]

Viva Voce – From the Devil Himself

Viva Voce – When Planets Collide

Get Yr Blood Sucked Out video (you can also stream the whole album)

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Songs by Email, part three

I got some great responses from my last post, and thanks to all the ladies who dropped by and gave me more names for my list. We only need one more site and we’d be at fifty, so if you’re out there, give us your name, precioussss. I was just glad to get so many more blogs for my RSS … I have trouble keeping up as it is, but so what? I’ll drown happy.

And now onto songs by email, part three. You know the drill.

Ali Marcus

Ms. Marcus is mentioned below in conjunction with female bloggers, but she is also a musician and her music sounds like something you’d hear on old timey radio, sitting with your ear pressed up against a vacuum tube. Very Dar Williams, using her voice and lyrics as instruments.

She has kindly made much of her 2007 album, “Miles and Miles and Miles,” available on her site. Can’t beat that. I’m really liking “A Pearl Is Just A Pearl.”

Ali Marcus – Site | Myspace | Label (Turtle Rock)

The Cinematic Orchestra

Recently released record entitled “Ma Fleur” is “the soundtrack to a specially commissioned screenplay for an imagined film (which may or may not yet be made).” Which is so frakking cool! It could be the soundtrack to your life, people! You just don’t know it.

The music is extra jazzy, sometimes sounding Bjorkian, like a song off of “Debut,” and sometimes just like what you said to your girlfriend last night on the phone before you hung up and cried. Yeah, admit it … the soundtrack already knows you did.

The Cinematic Orchestra – Site | Myspace

TCO — To Build A Home (edit)

TCO — Child Song (US 7″ b-side)

Kosovo

I appreciate the backwards-paddling mindset that it takes to compose blippity electronica, because often it’s not the kind of thing that makes the hoi polloi sit up and take notice. Kosovo decided that the rock they were churning out was ‘pretty generic’ (I quote their Myspace), so they tried something different, and bless them for trying.

It’s experimental and very laid-back, not something I could listen to all the time, but it would make excellent background for a Karazhan raid (gratuitous WoW reference). Your raid leader could give orders over it, and they’d fit right in.

Kosovo – Myspace

Robert Francis

Prettily played and sung, Ryan Adams crossed with Chris Isaak; thinks a bit much of itself. From the presskit bio:

Unlike most teenagers, Robert is not seduced by the decadent lifestyles of today’s pop stars and has only disdain for the over produced empty songs on the radio. Writing and producing all his own material, he injects one hundred percent truth and emotion into each of his songs.

Awww, teenage disdain and sincerity, you gotta love it. Album entitled “One by One” is coming out on Aeronaut records in August.

Robert Francis — Myspace | Label (Aeronaut)

Robert Francis — One By One
Robert Francis — Little Girl

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[Ed. note — with the release of “Marry Me” tomorrow, this post will be partially invalidated. But I wrote it, so I’m gonna post it. Nyah.]

Catching up with my RSS, I’ve been noticing the half-year summary posts popping up. Sadly I’ve also noticed that many of those lists feature no female bands, no albums from the ladies’ side. I won’t single anyone out, because taste is taste, and there are many great male bands that of course should be noticed as well. I’ll just do my little part to remedy the sitchyation.

“But Zara,” you’ll say, “what female releases were there this year? Gosh, I can only think of ‘The Reminder,’ and Feist is all anyone talked about for three months, and we’re boooooored of hearing ‘1,2,3,4’.” To you I say, you tried ‘Sea-Lion Woman,’ right? But also, I found that the first half of 2007 was chock full of female acts. In fact, if I had a top ten, probably 7 of them would be female. Cassadaga? Boring. Neon Bible? Meh. Hissing Fauna? Don’t get me started. Here are some albums that you might have overlooked in your zeal to rush out and buy “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.” *

01. The Postmarks – The Postmarks | Myspace

All right, I’m fudging this one because it’s female fronted — I swear this band ought to be called the Postcards, because it reminds me of how you feel when you get a postcard from Hawaii. No, I don’t mean envious. I mean, you close your eyes and for a second you’re standing on the beach and palm trees are rustling and a hammock sways slightly in the breeze and the ocean is impossibly blue.

02. Essie Jain – We Made This Ourselves | Myspace

Sometimes the songs on this album start to blur together, but the harmonies alone keep Jain soaring. I could listen to her all day, and I do, since she’s what’s playing in my car. If you need a comparison, think Dido without the beats.

03. Kristin Hersh – Learn To Sing Like A Star | Myspace

For many a long year I have listened to Ms. Hersh — she’s a songwriting powerhouse, not just a pretty voice who has two other bands. The new album is her first (solo) in four years, and it’s just ridiculously good. Ridiculously!

04. Cake On Cake – I Guess I Was Daydreaming | Myspace

This Swedish band is basically Helena Sundin, and yeah, it’s about as sweet as it sounds (extra!). But I’m really fond of the harmonies, the languid melodies, the simple phrasing. Who wouldn’t want to turn on “The One I Say Goodnight To” right before bed — You are the one I say goodnight to / Goodnight, my love. In the absence of my mother tucking me in, I’ll take Cake On Cake.

05. Sara Bareilles – Little Voice | Myspace

Think “Little Voice” in the same sense that Robin Hood said “Little John.” Bareilles sings pop-friendly tunes with strong piano backing, and she’s sassy. I like sassy — plus she’s a local girl, so yay for that. I have not heard all the album but there’s enough music available on her site to get a good sense of whether you’d like it or not (and I do).

06. Charlotte Gainsbourg – 5:55 | Myspace

I guess I can apply the term “chanteuse” to Gainsbourg, since she’s French, right? OK good, seriously, because she is so beautiful, and is also one of those rare actors who can actually sing, and she’s even featured on “Pocket Symphony.” My favorite song, “5:55,” sounds very Air-esque (because they wrote the music) but could that possibly be a bad thing? No, no it couldn’t.

07. Au Revoir Simone – The Bird of Music | Myspace

Even when they’re singing something called “Sad Song,” these three don’t sound very sad. “The Bird of Music” alternates poppy electronica and more gentle ballads. Sometimes it drags but overall it’s accessible and fun.

Other albums released that I’ve already written about —

08. Angelique Kidjo – Djin Djin
09. The Detroit Cobras – Tied & True
10. Amy Winehouse – Back To Black

Please give these albums a try! If I missed someone, you know where the comments button is.

*Or any other male-fronted band. Don’t get your boxers in a twist.

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I’ve decided I love songs by email, mostly because I don’t have to host anything on my own space (unless it’s worth it). Thanks, promoters, for saving my bandwidth!

Cheyenne — So quintessentially indie — a guy who can’t sing, some pretty good lyrics, etc., etc. Perks up a bit in “Write It Down In Red,” with addition of female vocalist and harmonica, but mostly does nothing for me. However, I can see hordes of fanboys slavering over their new EP, “The Land Rush.”

Cheyenne – Myspace | Site

Rose Kemp – This gal is old school, from a long tradition of proud girl rockers who don’t give quarter. It’s not my style of music anymore, but when I was eighteen I would have listened to it at full volume on my little basement-bedroom stereo. I’m glad there’s still music like this to be heard! You girls out there choking on your surfeit of Fergie and Kelly Clarkson, you give Rose here a try.

Rose Kemp – Myspace

Rose Kemp – Violence (fades out at the end, but it’s enough to sample.)

Vivek Shraya — Reading through his website, I’m tickled by his sense of humor. As for the music: for electropop, it seems thin — rather one dimensional — but I do like it, especially “Fevered,” with those hot minor key changes. It bounces. I don’t know if this would fly in a club, but I’d dance to it in my living room. New album is called, “If We’re Not Talking.”

Vivek Shraya – Myspace | Site

Vivek Shraya – Fevered [track removed]

Stars — Superfab reader James notes that Stars has a new song called “The Night Starts Here,” a precursor to new album “In Our Bedroom After the War.” Recommended to those people who … you know … like Stars. Is there anyone who doesn’t?

Stars – The Night Starts Here

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[ed. note — Realizing how remiss I have been — oh yes, you were all scorning me — I watched the video for Love Will Tear Us Apart. Man, I would have liked that song a lot when I was fifteen. Makes me want to dig out my copy of “Seventeen Seconds.” If, y’know, it weren’t on tape.]

I get a lot of music emailed to me these days and not much time to listen to it, but I don’t want it to build up too long. I’ve gone and dug through a few of my emails, and so far it’s been a 50/50 prospect. I’ll feature them by fours anyway, the ones I liked and the ones I thought were meh (anything I really hated or found offensive got a delete button). Please excuse the prose, it is not as polished as usual, ha ha. In alphabetical order, because I’m a nerd like that:


the Good Luck Joes
— Nice funky pop, think Travis’s rock sound crossed with the Format’s cheeky lyricism. Lots of preview music available on their site. Album released last year called “What Do You Think Of That Noise?” Why, I think it’s just fine. Turn it up.

The Good Luck Joes – Site | Myspace

Motocade — Nice email from Motocade’s bass player — music is kind of young for me. Yes good bass (grats to Scott), kind of whiny vox. Lyrics can be very snappy, esp in “My Friends” — ‘you won’t go blind if you watch my back.’ Zing! Also props for a pretty Myspace, which you don’t see every day.

Motocade – Myspace

Papertrigger – Self-described as “rock juggernauts.” Er … I guess … but I’m just not getting it. Complimentarily, I suppose, I can’t find anything to compare this music with … perhaps the patriotic anthem of Borogravia? (Gratuitous Terry Pratchett reference ahead –) I can see the soldiers marching with their pictures of the Duchess and singing, “We Are Nations Now.” The lyrics make even less sense than a Band Of Horses song. Eek.

Papertrigger – Site

Pearlene — O deary me, I’m hooked from the first chord. Sort of a laid back Scott Biram vibe, very very blues rock. Recommended for those people (like me) who thought “Magic Potion” was one of the best albums of 2006. Newly released record is called, “For Western Violence and Brief Sensuality.” Hot damn, me likey. *plays air guitar*

Pearlene – Site | Myspace

Pearlene – Watch the Way

Pearlene – Hosannah

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I remember in a sunday school class many years ago, my teacher (who eventually became my mother-in-law, for the record) was trying to teach her recalcitrant students that music could reach your soul and create a feeling of awe, even if it wasn’t “church sanctioned” music, i.e. hymns. I can’t remember what all she played, except I think there was a Led Zeppelin tune in there. It was a radical idea to all of us hymn-singers when put so baldly, but as a devoted listener I knew it already somehow, because like most teenagers, I got a feeling-fix out of music.

If you don’t believe that you have a soul, then pick another more physical organ. Heart? Brain? I believe in a soul, and part of the reason I believe is how I respond to music. Not just church music — you listeners know what I’m talking about. I felt almost spiritual one time in a Tori Amos concert when she was singing “iieee.” Don’t tell anyone at church — except my mother-in-law. She understands.

So in that spirit (pun!) I present Bodies of Water. A combination of enthusiastic, “Hair”-style singing (i.e., “This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius”), gospel, and indie rock, it’s enough to delight anyone looking for an uplift. Of course I don’t mean that Bodies of Water is just touchy-feely, love-you-love-me music. The music’s purpose, such as it is, can be summed up by a quote on their myspace:

Bodies of Water aren’t providing a soundtrack for catharsis, surrounding the listener with “good feelings” or “bad feelings.” They only hope to give encouragement in the lone struggle against adversity, to proffer up a thing to be internalized (and evolve therein) or die.

Perhaps then, Bodies of Water does not provide outward spirituality, but a conduit to your inner thoughts so you can find your own; and no more joyful noise than this could accompany that journey. July 24th sees the debut of their new album, “Ears Will Pop & Eyes Will Blink” (and then we’ll all presumably confess that Bodies of Water rocks).

Bodies of Water – Site | Myspace |

[Note: tracks have been removed. Please contact me for a copy.]

Bodies of Water — These Are the Eyes
Bodies of Water — I Guess I’ll Forget the Sound, I Guess, I Guess

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Webhost eats Boy Eats Drum Machine

Ya know, I was just looking at the site going … “but where’s my post on Boy Eats Drum Machine?”. My webhost had a weird glitch over the weekend and had to move to different servers. I guess the post got lost in the shuffle — well, that’s what I get for trying to write seriously. Or not backing up my journal more often. Grrrrr.

Here is the BEDM information again:

Boy Eats Drum Machine — Site | Myspace

[Tracks removed. Please contact me for a copy.]

Boy Eats Drum Machine – Let’s Get Lost Sometime

Boy Eats Drum Machine – Introduction A

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Thanks to Matthew, who pointed out another running song, (which came out in 2001 to Shannon Worrell’s 2000 – see below for ‘Long Distance Runner,’) so enjoy Belle & Sebastian — The Loneliness Of A Middle Distance Runner. Look ma! My first B&S song. I’m sure Matthew knew it was only a matter of time.

Well, lately all that’s been on my musical frontiers are “Scarlet’s Walk” (in the car) and Sea Wolf’s “Get To the River Before It Runs Too Low” (on the itunes). But I was sent the link to the Flies three times, and each time I listened to them and thought, “I really need to write about these guys.” So I’m buckling down! Since I haven’t had time to read my RSS, I hope you haven’t been reading millions of articles about the Flies already. If so … move along, nothing to see here, not the mp3s you’re looking for.

The most apt descriptor of this band, which has a name so impossible to google that you end up with page after page of William Golding1 (or Alice In Chains2), is: smooth with a capital Smoo. There’s sort of a retro-glam 70s feel of slicketyness wrapped around Sean Cook’s vox, all in some kind of upscale package like a box of Godivas. You can hardly imagine these guys grinding it out in some club with sweat running down their faces — Cook is almost torch-singing sometimes, and “Walking On the Sand” sounds like he ought to be slithering across a piano. Songs like “All Too Human” amp it up a bit, in a langorous sort of way, but I could listen to Cook sing all day, cause he actually sounds really hot. Not a lot of guy torch-singers these days — most of them try to cover up their crummy voices with faux-intelligent indie lyrics.

But the Flies seem to have smart lyrics, from what I’ve heard, so no complaints there. The one complaint I have is with their website, which I’m not going to link to — it’s weird and picturesque, but it doesn’t actually seem to lead to any information. I don’t like purely gimmicky websites — I need some info with my ‘tainment. But honestly, if any music from these folks comes across the pond that can be bought in easy format (i.e., I don’t have to register for another service), I’ll be all over it.

The Flies — Myspace | Label (No Carbon)

[note: files have been removed. contact me for a copy.]

The Flies – I Have No Shame

The Flies – Walking On the Sand

1 Lord of the Flies — poor Ralphie. Poor, poor Ralphie.
2 “Jar of Flies” — which contains my favorite AIC song, “Don’t Follow.” 1994, you were a good year.

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Here are some bands or albums I have had a chance to listen to. Most of them, I haven’t liked. Some of them, I’m pretty lukewarm on. And some, I did like. As always, you can make up your own mind.

[Note: All tracks removed. Contact me for a copy.]

Tori Amos – American Girl Posse.

Amos has transformed herself from naughty maiden to mother, and I’m not all that fond of the move. “Yo George” is ridiculous and “Big Wheel” is … well, we all know someone that’s old trying to be cool and using terminology that just tries too hard. I’m old and uncool, but even I know that “MILF” is practically antique, in slang years. And then there are all the new “girls.” These personalities of hers were weird but bearable on “Strange Little Girls,” but now they’re just overwrought. I know Amos has multiple personalities, and that’s cool and artistic, but I don’t want to be exposed to their blogs and their stockings over the shower door, so to speak.

I long for the days of “Pele,” when the songs were jagged and you cut yourself on them. Now they’re smooth and “Scarlet’s Walk”ish, but without the cohesion and interest that Scarlet’s journey across America engendered. There are some chipper numbers like “Secret Spell” and “Code Red,” and a couple returns to the early days, most interestingly in the short but pithy “Fat Slut.” I can see the girl from “Icicle,” finally driven to a point, yelling all the epithets she can at the people that hurt her. I don’t wish Tori would return to the grrrl-feminist days of yore, but this song, as well as the sly “Programmable Soda,” reminded me for a few short minutes why I used to idolize Tori.

Tori Amos
Tori Amos – Secret Spell
Tori Amos – Programmable Soda

Rufus Wainwright, Release the Stars.

In spite of the ravishing beauty of “Going To A Town” (and you should see the video, my friends, because it is Hot with a capital Haw), the songs on “Release” all blend into themselves sort of blandly. There’s only one other standout number (see below), unlike “Poses,” which was full of ’em. The weirdest thing to me is the song “Tiergarten” — Wainwright’s conceit is that he pronounces it like “tear garden,” and uses it that way, but I haven’t forgotten all my German, and a Tiergarten is, well, a zoo. So it just doesn’t work when he invites his beloved to “walk [him] through the Tiergarten.” Unless they’re going to be looking at some zebras or something.

Notable exception to this is “Between My Legs,” which is as risqué as it sounds, but is also a commentary (as I read it) of the narrator’s willingness to take a chance on love even when he knows it will probably blow up in his face. I love the piano backup too, mixed with the odd spoken word guy at the end, and even a little showtunes in the form of … well, you’ll see if you listen to it. It’s rather wonderful.

Rufus Wainwright
Rufus Wainwright – Between My Legs

The Antlers, In the Attic of the Universe.

The very cool thing about this album is that you can download and listen to it for free, so you have absolutely nothing to lose. This is another album that I felt like I was supposed to like, but didn’t. In retrospect it seems completely passionless. I think in a genre where you aren’t even supposed to move at a concert, just sort of stand there and look dopey, it’s easy to make passionless music (or damp your passion to where the listener is barely aware of it). But it doesn’t appeal to me much.

The Antlers (site and download)

Young Galaxy, Young Galaxy

This one I go back and forth on. In spite of the strong start of “Swing Your Heartache,” I just didn’t like this album as much as I thought I would. If you like other Arts&Crafts type music, of course you will probably love this. And I do love some songs, like the sibilant, sweetly sung “The Alchemy Between Us” and the semi-gospel “Embers”. But inbetween there are clunkers like “Lazy Religion,” which is weird and goes on forever (or maybe there was some kind of timewarp, I don’t know). What do you think, oh faithful reader? Should I give them some more chances or what?

Young Galaxy
Young Galaxy – The Alchemy Between Us (video)
Young Galaxy – Embers

The Detroit Cobras, Tied and True.

Oh man, is this ever gonna be an awesome album. It continues the fantastic faux-motown-punk tradition of “Baby,” and though I have not heard all of it, it promises to be just as good. If you like Nagy’s wailing remixes of r&b classics, then please go to Bloodshot Records site and pre-order the tunes! You can download “As Long As I Have You,” a Garnet Mimms cover, while you’re at it. Or holler along to the Beatles’ “Leave My Kitten Alone.” Meow!

The Detroit Cobras
The Detroit Cobras – Leave My Kitten Alone

Amadou et Mariam, Dimanche A Bamako

Racing faster and further than the rest of the African pop pack, this Malian dynamic duo make music that you cannot, I mean cannot, stop listening to. I received “Sénégal Fast Food” on a mixtape from a stranger, but I wish I could find her and bake her some brownies. “Dimanche A Bamako,” released in 2005, is danceable and fun, and if you speak French you might even be able to know what they’re talking about. Of course that might spoil it, because it might be all serious and stuff underneath (like I suspect “M’bifé Blues” and “Politic Amagni” might be). I prefer just to chair-dance to it — I get crappy political songs stuffed in my ears all day. Let me have some fun, okay? And I pass the sparkly happy fun baton to you — please. Enjoy.

Amadou et Mariam
Amadou et Mariam РS̩n̩gal Fast Food
Amadou et Mariam РLa Realit̩

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Lara St John

Today we venture into heretofore uncharted territory … classical music. Since I’m such a heavily lyric person, classical music is hard for me to pay attention to. Often it recedes into the background, something that I listen to with half an ear while wondering what the next song will be (exception: Yo-Yo Ma, because he makes everything wonderful). And so kudos to TRGAW once again, for linking to a Lara St John song. As with everything TRGAW writes, I thought to myself, “I need to give this a try.”

From what I can tell, St John is like the Shania Twain of classical music. She’s very good at what she does, but is discounted because she’s pretty and likes to show it off. In her earlier days as a performer, she tarted up the violin incrementally — view a video, if you like — but let’s be honest, compared to Britney in a schoolgirl’s uniform, it’s barely a discussion point. What has remained throughout is the beauty of her playing and the joyous, interesting turns she takes with her music.

The album I bought (off iTunes, so I can’t share it with you, though there are lots of samples at her site) was “Re: Bach” (put out in 2003). It’s a postmodern li’l collection where classical pieces are intertwined with Asian and Indian influences, electronica, Irish traditional, and more things that I probably am too classical-retarded to understand, to create a sound that says, “put me on your ipod, right now and dance down the street to me like those ridiculous commericals you always mocked.”

If you don’t believe me and don’t like samples, you can view a video of “Goldberg2” at Cnet. The video is a little dorky, but there’s breakdancing and freaky hair going all over the place. Then buy the CD!

Lara St John – Site (audio section)

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Essie Jain

So how often do I hear a song from a random download and then go and get the whole album off of emusic without any second thoughts? Never, that’s how often. So it was a blogworthy day when I snagged “Glory” by Essie Jain from somewhere (I think perhaps G vs. B and I actually agreed on something for once).

Basically the internet fails me on Jain’s personal info — couple interviews and a scant bio (she’s British; last name of Wilkinson. Not that I want to know much more, I guess). However, the music speaks for itself. Think of stripped-down Portishead, mixed with a bit of Joni Mitchell and Dido, and adding in some fantastic harmonies. The music can’t be put in a genre category, which makes it truly indie, I suppose. It is slow and ambient, and will put some readers off with its easy pace; but I encourage everyone to give it a try, and you might just find yourself over at Emusic like me, buying a copy of “We Made This Ourselves.”

Essie Jain – Site | Myspace | Label (Ba Da Bing!)

Essie Jain – Loaded

Essie Jain – Disgrace

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As you notice, posting has shrunk quite a bit. I have lost most of the time I had to search through my huge rss list and try songs out; so I haven’t had much to write about lately. Plus it seems like everything I hear is kind of meh these days. And I haven’t listened to ‘Neon Bible’ because I’m afraid of it. The hype is so big and the expectations so high — call it the anxiety of confluence (that’s a lit theory joke, ba dum ching), but I just can’t bring myself to see if it’s as good as it’s supposed to be.

Here are some musics that I found to be quite good:

01. Au Revoir Simone — fun, catchy, and interesting. Whoever you were, Simone, thanks for leaving. New album forthcoming in May — look for it. You can download their song “Through the Backyards” at their site.

02. LA locals The Broken West were getting a lot of buzz just before I lost all my reading time — their album “I Can’t Go On I’ll Go On” starts out pretty average but when it reaches “Down In the Valley,” it becomes very fun in a way that reminds me of The Format. And I’d rather my bands were fun like The Format than serious and white-rock like, oh, Nickelback or something. *shudder* You can hear “Down In the Valley” at their Myspace.

03. Eric James & the New Century — Do I just like Eric James because he’s cute? Mayyyyybe. It surely doesn’t hurt. The band’s kind of like the Killers, you know, if they were good, and really wrote songs like Springsteen. And played the piano all pretty-like, and now that I think about it, it’s not really like the Killers. It’s much much better. Plus the drummer is from Cake. Check out the song “Daylight” at his site, along with a ton of other songs.

If you asked for a song in comments, please check your email (and your junk mail box :D) — I sent out some songs today.

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Clogs

Clogs isn’t a really aesthetic band name. You end up either thinking of clompy wooden shoes or (in my case) some giant hairball that backs up your shower drain. Which is sad and ironic, because if there was a dictionary for sounds and you looked up aesthetic, I’m pretty sure there would be a picture of these four people playing their viola, bassoon, guitar, and percussion. That’s all it takes — four instruments that burrow into your soul somewhere and set up house.

I’m the first to admit that I have overlooked the instrumental genre. If it doesn’t have words attached, it’s not as accessible to me and therefore I criminally neglect it. But this music from Clogs almost seems to be words — the instruments are telling me secrets — oh, how do I explain. Possibly most of you are smiling pityingly at me right now. “We know,” you say. “Just get to the mp3s already.”

Clogs – Site | Myspace | Label (Brassland)

Clogs – Tides of Washington Bridge

Clogs – “Kapsburger” and “5/4” medley from Brassland.org

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Canasta

I appreciate bands that seem friendly, that give you enough music that you can make up your mind about them. The CD rule I’ve had since 9th grade is, if I don’t like four songs on the CD, I’m not buying it. Even $9.99 for a CD is a lot when you are a music junkie, so I have to know before I buy.

Chicago band Canasta is a great example. Their band webpage is easy to get around, and they have a radio player that streams all the songs from their 2005 release “We Were Set Up.” And in the “audio” section, you can download five songs from their 2003 EP “Find the Time.” And a fun live cover of “Tom’s Diner.” They just seem like a good group, having fun, doing their thing. And I really really like their song “Chicago Slow Down,” which has this big showtune chorus, complete with keyboards and (I assume) can-can dancers.

So, good job Canasta! I feel like we’re friends. :D I’ll be on the lookout for your new stuff, hopefully coming out this year.

Canasta – Site | Myspace

Canasta Audio page, where you can download a ton of pop-indie deliciousness.

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Well! My computer imploded over the weekend … first the video card, then the power supply, then the motherboard. It was the Great Computer Implosion of 07. So my dear husband went out and bought a new one, and also saved my old hard drive, which meant he saved all my music. It took me awhile to resort back through it and figure everything out, but I’m back.

Also, I had to take all files down that were hosted on Filelodge … they have been “down for maintenance” for like a month. The problem with these places is that people don’t just put up sweet l’il music files … they put up some terribly nasty crap. But I’m serious when I say that you can contact me for any tracks that have been taken down. I’m happy to attach them to an email or put them up on YSI. Filexoom remains, though my bandwidth is almost up … and then likely I will have to go with something else, probably something like YSI. Which is why I repeat my previous offer. Ask me; I won’t say no. How could I?

Also also, Largehearted Boy is holding a contest for its fifth birthday — all you have to do is go here and drop a comment and you could win 50 cds. Little work! Lotta possible payoff! Go forth!

And now on to Ms. Winehouse. A friend of mine sent me the single “Rehab,” from her album entitled “Back to Black,” and I was instantly attracted to her Motown-fusion style. Winehouse obviously has a solid knowledge of jazz, classic r&b, and motown sound. Her voice is beautiful (it doesn’t sound like it belongs with her body, a comment she probably hears often, and if you see the video for “Rehab” you may well say to yourself, as I did, “Is she … lip-synching?”). But the real swingers on “Rehab” are the sax and the piano; the lyrics are kind of inane but they just rock when you pair up Winehouse’s torch singing with those fine instruments.

Winehouse is old enough to know about drinking and broken hearts and waking up alone; and she gives a nod to Billy Paul with her song “Me and Mr Jones (Fuckery).” But the album on the whole is one-note; it’s unhappy and it self-medicates and sometimes I just don’t want to be around it. Perhaps Winehouse is too young to realize that the same tradition that brought us the St Louis Blues also brought us Louis Armstrong, and his enduring tune about it sometimes being a pretty wonderful world. Nevertheless, this album is enormously popular over the pond, and they know what they’re about over there. Give it a try.

Amy Winehouse – Site | Myspace | Label (Island)

Amy Winehouse – You Know I’m No Good
Amy Winehouse – Love Is A Losing Game

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The Pity Party

Heard this one via the omniscient Jax of The Rock Insider. It’s LA local band The Pity Party, who make two people sound like at least five. They’re weirdly modulated, but I like their calculated dissonance. That’s right, I said calculated — have a listen to that creepy “Lullaby” they have on their Myspace and don’t look around for someone behind you. I dare ya. They’re right: you can never be too sure.

According to Jax, their lead vox, named Heisenflei, plays drums and keyboard and sings at the same time. Which means that if you’re local and you want a good time, I believe you should mosey on over to the Silverlake Lounge on Mondays this month and watch the show. Perhaps she has three pairs of hands or something.

The Pity Party – Myspace

The Pity Party – The War Between Eight And Four

The Pity Party – WMD

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The Postmarks

I predict more hype on the Postmarks’ new self-titled album very soon, as it will be released next month, so let me ride the wave while I can. This is music made for a film; perhaps we’ll see it on an episode of Veronica Mars? It’s just dripping with atmosphere, thanks in most part to the vocals by Tim Yehezkely, who sounds 98.5% like Karen Peris (down to the oddly foreign intonation). In fact, this reminds me of the Innocence Mission with a little bit more … I don’t know, verve? A little more angst, a bucketful of clever lyrics and allusions to the outdoors. Sweet and sour, sweet and sour, turns out he loves me not, Yehezkely sings, while behind her, all the instruments begin to rain.

The Postmarks – Site | Myspace | Label (Unfiltered)

The Postmarks – Let Go
The Postmarks – Weather the Weather

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Charlotte Hatherley

If this year was in fact 1997, Charlotte Hatherley would be called (admiringly) a “grrrl.” She’s a rocker in the Joan Jett style, loud and brash and fun, and though I have not heard anything from her previous band (Ash) or her previous album, she’s really got her hooks in me for her upcoming record (entitled “Deep Blue”). Between the legally released single “Behave” and a radio rip of “I Want You To Know,” acquired from Chromewaves, I’m thinking this record will fly off the shelves. Lady Sov was making the Brits look bad, in my opinion, but Ms. Hatherley is here to save the day.

Charlotte Hatherley – Site | Myspace

Charlotte Hatherley – I Want You To Know (radio rip from Chromewaves)
Charlotte Hatherley – Behave

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The Ballet

I don’t think I could introduce the Ballet with more panache than their own biography:

They hope for casual queer elegance in every element of their work — from homemade CD’s in silk-screened envelopes to live shows, which have the touch & feel of hanging out with friends on a rooftop or in the kitchen and putting on some favorite songs for an impromptu dance party over whisky and lemonade.

I don’t have a rooftop, and I’m straight, but I can totally get down with casual queer elegance, especially when it’s wrapped up in enough pop to send my blood sugar through the roof. These guys sound like a more upbeat Lucksmiths, because they’re dealing with deeper issues even as they’re going “whoa – oh – whoa – oh.” There’s “I Hate the War,” and “Murder at the Disco,” and “Cheating On Your Boyfriend,” all very clever, so rest assured that it’s not just saccharine. Plus, the lead singer sounds veddy sexy and instrumentals are equally hot. What’s not to like? Their debut album, “Mattachine!”, was released last August, and it’s on iTunes.

The Ballet: Site | Myspace

The Ballet – In My Head
The Ballet – I Hate the War

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Immoor

One of my favorite things to do is download a bucketload of songs from my 100+ rss subscriptions — I mean really just fill up my desktop. Then I just click on stuff randomly and discard what I don’t like, which is about half of it. And the rest … the rest! Via the fabulous Come Pick Me Up, which I am just a pale shadow of, I happened on Immoor, who is the nominal equivalent of Luce (they both use their last names as their bandnames. Immoor’s first name is, dissonantly, Casey). The album, released in November, is called “The Thievery Of Your Own Things.”

Immoor is dreamy rock combined with electronica, and it’s majorly danceable — so danceable, in fact, that a reviewer at Headphones Turned On offered readers $10 (Canadian) if they didn’t dance to it — heh. But the album doesn’t just rely on the beat and the swoopy ambient noise– Immoor’s lyrics are really smart, which is such a plus with electronica. I am extremely fond of “Unit 371,” with its line, it’s an obvious sign of complacent despair. I need to use that line more often in real life.

Immoor – Site | Myspace

Immoor – Collapsible Construction

Immoor – Underside Up

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The Little Ones

Well, the holiday excitement is mostly over (some of you will still be celebrating Twelfth Night, and the Chinese still have the New Year to look forward to) … the new Gregorian year is here, and it’s looking interminable. So, to boost spirits for all those who are gong back to work today, a little pop. Get it — little? Ba dum ching.

The Little Ones came onto my radar and fell off it again back in September. But somehow last week their song “Cha Cha Cha,” a chipper little number, earwormed into my brain. I couldn’t remember what song it was, only that the chorus went “la la la …,” which is a very bad sign if you want to find an anonymous song. So yesterday I was sitting at my computer and “The Little Ones!” I said to myself. The Little Ones are a local LA band, and they have released an EP called “Sing Song.” Their artwork is cute, their blog is even cuter, and the music is catchy — like, evil catchy. It reminds me very much of the fun, handclappy, viral pop from The Format.

If you’re sitting at your desk wondering why the snow won’t stop — it was romantic at first, but geez — and why your inbox is so full of stuff that other people could do, well I can’t solve that problem for you. And I can’t fix the fax machine, but I can pep you up a bit. C’mon! Pop was made for January.

The Little Ones: Site | Myspace | Blog

The Little Ones – Cha Cha Cha
The Little Ones – High On A Hill

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[ed. note — Thanks to Juliette for telling me that she was not tired of hearing me talk. Party of one, party of one, your table is ready.]

Once again, Daytrotter is the win with their lengthily titled article on William Elliott Whitmore. You might imagine a skinny white boy from Iowa when you hear a name like that, and you’d be right. But if you heard the music without a name attached to it, you’d think of an old bluesman, voice torn from use, sitting on a porch in Alabama somewhere. And you’d be right too. Using a banjo, a bit of foot-tapping percussion, and himself, Whitmore sings the scratchy, mean gospel of the old South. It’s that simple. You can imagine this sound coming out of a radio that still used vacuum tubes. Baby, I’m in love.

William Elliott Whitmore – Site | Label (Southern)

[This track has been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]

William Elliott Whitmore – Lee County Flood

(Get more at Daytrotter because they are the win!)

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Stoll Vaughan

[ed. note: my spam comments have just broken 1,000. none of you real folks out there ever drop a line, but if I need to know where to gamble illegally, buy fake real estate, or have raunchy cybersex with a man who’s really a woman (or vice versa!), I know where to go. yay Akismet!]

Some days I think I ought to make the switch to country music and just get it over with. Who’m I kidding? Obviously not the folks at Lotos Nile, who saw right through my indie veneer and sent me a copy of Stoll Vaughan’s September release, “Love Like A Mule.” (Along with a press release! Very official. I know I should act all jaded, but dude, a free CD. Is really cool.)

Seems like the popular thing is to compare Vaughan to Ryan Adams, but since Ryan and I are on the outs, I shan’t. Let’s see, who can I bring to the table … Vaughan has a sweet turn of phrase like Jeffrey Foucault, and he has the same heartfelt passion as Rhett Miller. It’s good and solid, with blues and a bit of rock mixed in, made like a Ford by a guy in jeans and a sturdy pair of work boots. Call it Americana, if you don’t like the label “country.” Same difference.

Even though Vaughan does hit a lot of the country cliches, he also has some standout tracks like “Savior,” a slow-dancer with the refrain yeah, you’re your own savior now. A country song that tells you to help yourself? Shocking! He just throws in these little phrases, like in “Seen Moments” where he says, I’ve been broken to follow, so that’s what I do; the weary workhorse going where he’s told to. It’s good stuff. It’s comfort food — it won’t let you down. You all know what I’m talking about.

Stoll Vaughan – Site | Myspace

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]

Stoll Vaughan – Love Like A Mule
Stoll Vaughan – Savior
Stoll Vaughan – Seen Moments

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The Harlem Shakes

Attitude counts for a lot in music. Musicians aren’t just the sum of their instruments — they have to transcend it all somehow to create a saleable, interesting persona and then maintain it more or less through the years as they continue to sell records. Ever wonder why so few rock bands are truly viable for twenty-five years? Most humans aren’t built like that. Anyway, I got off topic a bit there, but I’ve been liking the Harlem Shakes lately and mostly because of the attitude of it.

The Harlem shakes are New Yorkers, and they bring a brash “I’m here, deal with me” vibe to their music. They sound young, to be sure, and bits of the music are amateurish; but instead of warbling into the mic about their troubles, they pound it out. I like the vox and I like the on-key backup, and I like the bells and whistles and the drum & bass behind. I even like the name of the new EP, “Burning Birthdays.” I don’t know what they meant by it, but as someone heading full speed into their 30s, I feel like I’m burning birthdays at an incredible rate.

These guys are unsigned and their site is down, but there’s enough on the Myspace and the Hype Machine for everyone.

The Harlem Shakes – Myspace

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]

The Harlem Shakes – Sickos.mp3
The Harlem Shakes – A Night.mp3
The Harlem Shakes – Eighteen.mp3

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Rinôçérôse

Need someone to start your week off with a bang? France has got a remedy for anyone with a case of the Mondays, and it ain’t french toast. Rinôçérôse is a combination of everything good: dance beats, howling vocals, and guitar guaranteed to perk up the office. Sometimes they sound like the Black Keys and sometimes they sound like Fine Young Cannibals. Can that be bad? I don’t think so.

Rinôçérôse is the brainchild of Patrice Carrié and Jean-Phillipe Freu; their album “Schizophonia” was released last year; and if you think “Cubicle” sounds familiar, it’s because an iTunes commercial got there before me. But I catch up! Slowly, slowly, I crawl along [with the help of reader J.McG., of course].

Rinôçérôse – Site | Myspace | Label (V2 US)

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]

Rinôçérôse – Cubicle
Rinôçérôse – Get Ready Now (David Amo and Julio Navas Remix)
Rinôçérôse – My Demons

The Tennessee Boltsmokers

It should be no surprise to anyone that I am a huge sucker for bluegrass. HUGE. It’s country music’s chipper sibling, what with all the banjos and mandolins and whatnot. And usually no one sings about how their wife left them. In fact, if you listen to “Hydro Radio,” the Tennessee Boltsmokers’ new album, there’s a song on there about wanting to get married. Sure, it’s called “Shotgun Wedding,” but still, no one’s taking anyone else’s pickup truck and flipping it “right off the interstate” (a lá Lurleen Lumpkin).

And I don’t mind saying that Mark McKinney, vox and guitar, has a very sexy voice. I expect I could listen to him read the phone book, which is a bonus when I spend a lot of time listening to guys who can’t stay on pitch to save their lives. And the rest of the band just shine — I love the guitar solo and the sweet banjo in the back of “Smoking Gun.” It’s nobody’s cutting edge; but then again, it’s often much more worthwhile to hear the well-crafted familiar. If you like bluegrass, I guarantee satisfaction. Just don’t ask me what a boltsmoker is.

The Tennessee Boltsmokers – Site | Label (Madjack)

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]

The Tennessee Boltsmokers – Nickel & Dime Blues
The Tennessee Boltsmokers – Shotgun Wedding
The Tennessee Boltsmokers – Smoking Gun

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Fembots

In the era of post-punk, is it conceivable that we’ve entered the time of post-folk? Or in the era of post-postmodernism, perhaps we’re onto post-post-folk. We’re so ironic that we’re not ironic anymore, which seems to be the case of the Fembots (or sometimes, FemBots). They’re billed in their presskit as “post-industrial folk,” which is a way to excuse, I suppose, their use of percussion. No need for excuses, in my opinion — though the vocals are very folky, they mesh well with the brash rock underpinnings of their 2005 release, “The City.”

Their back catalog seems to be a lot more folky or country — “Small Town Murder Scene,” the title song of their 2004 release, features handclaps and what sounds like spoons or cowbell for percussion (something metal, anyway). It’s got a post-lo-fi (ha) vibe to it; other songs have spoken word, church bells, sirens … given my preferences, I like it very much. But in case you’re not into the whole alt-country scene, “The City” has kept much of the the rustic cowbellish sound but added rock (or post-industrial, if you like) to create an aurally pleasing mix. And if you go to the Paper Bag Records site, you can stream the albums yourself and write your own insightful post-review review.

The Fembots – Site | Label (Paper Bag)

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]

The Fembots – Count Down Our Days
The Fembots – Hell
The Fembots – Small Town Murder Scene

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This site’s file-hosting problems have not been solved, but I have a band-aid over the wound for the moment. My ISP only gives 800GB of bandwidth a month, and I’m afraid you all will suck it away in minutes, so I’m still searching for something as gullible useful as EZarchive. If you download the song below, let me know how it went! Too slow? Didn’t work? Anything.

So I have high hopes for Young Galaxy’s new album, set for release in spring 2007. This is about as advance as I ever get; Young Galaxy just signed with Arts & Crafts, and they don’t have even a prior album (but they’re Canadian! Which means they’re fabu). Coming from someone who won’t buy a CD unless she loves at least three songs on it, this doesn’t mean a whole lot, but I can’t stop listening to “Swing Your Heartache.” I’m not sure exactly what swinging one’s heartache would entail, but I interpret as dancing in the face of unhappiness. I like the sheer brashness of it: “we believe in time that you will see / the frontier is misery.”

Young Galaxy – Site & Label (Arts & Crafts) | Myspace

[This track has been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]

Young Galaxy – Swing Your Heartache

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Can Joann

Ryan Benjamin, guitarist from Can Joann, has sent me three emails so far. He says he’d be happy for any feedback on the band. Gosh, I sure hate to disappoint him, since he’s so persistent. So … can Joann? In my opinion, not really.

Can Joann is a band from Chapel Hill, a place which has cachet out the wazoo. It’s one of those places from whence springs the eternal well of indieness, or something. Anyway. C.J. needs to splash around more in the eternal well — they have a good underpinning, not too original but definitely listeneable, until the vox starts. Long story short, the guy isn’t going to be next year’s American Idol, and he really really needs a couple years of voice lessons, or failing that, an auto-tuner. I can’t stand more than 30 seconds of him. Of course, this comes from someone who has listened to many years of Matt Pryor singing off-key, so likely it’s not a deal-breaker for your ardent fans. The problem as I see it is, a band that has a middle-of-the-indie-road sound needs good vox to help separate itself from the pack.

Since Bon Ton isn’t a review site, I’ll let you readers decide for yourself. My advice to Can Joann (*cough* for what it’s worth, which is very little, but you asked) — get a new lead, but the rest of you keep on keepin’ on. Maybe you’ll be the new Annuals one of these days and then you’ll get all the blogger buzz you’d ever want.

Can Joann – Site | Myspace

Can Joann – After the Seizure’s Gone
Can Joann – Indecision’s Way
Can Joann – Lady Luck

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Hannah Fury

Happy Hallowe’en, faithful readers! I’ve got a treat for you … something I’ve saved up just for today. As a rule, I’m not into Goth music: it’s too self-aware. I try to steer away from music that screams in your face, “I’m Just So [insert genre here]!” (uh .. unless it’s alt-country, in which case I start slavering). But the other week I made a foray into the world of Goth music and came out unscathed, clutching some Hannah Fury triumphantly.

Ms. Fury writes and produces her own music. She has a lovely voice and backs herself up with the piano (I’ve read comparisons to Tori Amos but she doesn’t sound much like Tori to me). On “Scars,” she sounds more like Joni Mitchell … reminiscent, wistful. But if you want your real Hallowe’en party music, check out “The Necklace of Marie Antoinette” or “Carnival Justice,” on which she swaggers up to you in black leather boots outside the haunted house and cracks her whip in your face. It’s good stuff, and much of it is available for free download (even better!).

Hannah Fury – Site and label (Mellow Traumatic) | Myspace

Hannah Fury – Carnival Justice (The Gloves Are Off) Part II
Hannah Fury – The Necklace of Marie Antoinette
Hannah Fury – Scars

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First, the ticky technical things:

1) My old links still seem to be working, but for how long, I can’t say. EZarchive is still in flux and they aren’t supposed to be battened down until the end of the week.
2) It isn’t possible to upload anything but image files … or zip files … but I’m not gonna zip everything up. Plus apparently, new bandwidth restrictions are in place. Therefore … new hosting must be found … somewhere, somehow … and there went the money I paid EZarchive, down the drain. Will they refund? Who knows.

And so, onwards … for now we’ll go the honest route, since there’s still yummy music to be had. Once in awhile I get an interesting email from Bloodshot Records, my favorite purveyor of grimy alt-country-rock. The Detroit Cobras, the Old 97s, Scott Biram, the Deadstring Brothers, Neko Case … the list goes on. Bloodshot is like donuts, according to Homer — is there anything they can’t do?

The Old Town School Of Folk Music Songbook (hurts my fingers typing all that) is a replay of those old traditional folk & gospel songs. They survive on their own merits, of course — “Amazing Grace,” “Down In the Valley,” “Wabash Cannonball,” and such are all in the Americana canon — but they’re redone beautifully. If you like the old-timey stuff, you’re good to go with this compilation. And if you’re in Chicago, you could even sign yourself up for classes at the Old Town School Of Folk Music — how cool is that?

Old Town School Of Folk Music Songbook (Vol 1) – Site (at Bloodshot Records)

Colby Maddox – Shady Grove (the mp3 file says “Shady Groove” for some reason)
Janet Bean – Deep Water Blues

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Peter Bjorn and John

Peter Bjorn and John is a blogger buzz band. Certifiable. And a lot of times I don’t jump on the bandwagon because there’s enough hype about certain bands already (Swan Lake, I’m looking at you). But I’m gonna pitch PB&J (heh) to you anyway for two reasons. 1) I didn’t hear about them from a blog — a reliable friend recommended them. And 2) they rock!

This is music to put in your car stereo. It’s music to clean your house to. It’s crazy Swedish synthy, drummy, lyricky, infectious music. PB&J do what Scandinavian pop is known for — they make the kind of music that when it hits, it hits so hard that you’re singing it for weeks afterward, over and over, wondering why you don’t hate it yet. The latest record, “Writer’s Block,” was released on the Wichita label (home to such blogger buzz bands as Clap Your Hands… and My Morning Jacket). Nice work, Wichita! Let the Swedish invasion commence.

Peter Bjorn and John – Site | Myspace | Label (Wichita)

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]

Peter Bjorn and John – Amsterdam (highly recommended!!)
Peter Bjorn and John – Young Folks (feat. Victoria Bergsman)
Peter Bjorn and John – Objects of My Affection

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A Silver Mt. Zion

[Post brought to you by reader J., expert on Canadian music (and other kinds too), and photographer extraordinaire. You can see some of his lovely photos at Jumps & Cuts.]

Profoundly sad, inspired and visceral, A Silver Mount Zion’s He Has Left Us Alone But Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corners of Our Rooms (2000) is a rare thing in music, an album that captures almost perfectly a singular emotional experience. At times lonely and claustrophobic, its haunting themes of inconceivable sadness ring unfortunately too true. There are little hints of light here and there, little openings in the songs where a bit of sunshine peeks through, like fond remembrances. That’s what I find so amazing about the work, the completeness; the totality of the emotion of the subject matter, the sadness, the happy memories, the grief, its all well-blended together; wonderfully distilled into eight tracks.

“Broken Chord Can Sing A Little” is maybe the saddest track, mainly because it’s so surprising in its depth of feeling and utter stillness at times. It feels uncomfortable, like watching someone cry or when you happen to drive past a funeral procession. It’s that shock and discomfort that I think lets you know how close you are to the pain; it’s genuine. “Sit In the Middle of Three Galloping Dogs” is intense, almost angry and focused and “Stumble Then Rise On Some Awkward Morning” is also intense, but in a more grand, less angry way.

I like the strange intro harmony on “13 Angels Standing Guard ‘Round the Side of Your Bed”, its an ambient sadness that feels like a heavily overcast rainy day that is occasionally pierced by sunlight; its the sitting around laughing at all the funny things they used to do part. You laugh, but it’s still sad. The last track “For Wanda,” whose death from cancer is the subject of the album, is a wonderful dirge of a song worthy of any great hero, even if that hero is a beloved dog. It ends beautifully with a more upbeat theme apropos for entering the hereafter. This is a fantastic, sublime album.

“this whole record is for Wanda…”

Another perspective: My 23-month old son, who doesn’t understand the sadness part, keeps requesting that the album be replayed, “Again, again, more, more…”

For: People who have lost a pet. Fans of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Do Make Say Think.

A Silver Mount Zion – Site | Label (Constellation)

[Sorry! These files have been removed.]

A Silver Mt Zion – 13 Angels Standing Guard Round the Side Of Your Bed
A Silver Mt Zion – Sit In the Middle Of Three Galloping Dogs

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A Hawk and A Hacksaw

One thing that really interests me about the postmodern age is the equalizing of information. In the Victorian and Modernist eras, information was classified and labeled and privileged; Latin was better than English and civilized folks were better than natives. But now we have the Internet, which is the most equalizing of all tools. Information is laid out linearly with barely any privilege at all. [eta: I wrote “in a linearly,” for which mangled phrase I expect the English Teachers Ass’n to come for me with cats-o-nine-tails] No one fact has a God-given right to be better than another fact. It’s amazing.

Of course while we have no discernable qualifiication of information, we do have to deal with the quantity of it. When Ryan from Muzzle of Bees interviewed Will Sheff, Sheff made the point that the sheer quantity of recent music (and music-related items, such as crappy concert videos) creates a state of overload: “after awhile,” he says, “all information kind of starts to feel equally valueless.” It’s an insightful point; when the designation of “a great band” includes everything, then it also includes nothing — it has become a meaningless term.

But there’s hope for us all. The upside of postmodernism is the ability to buck canon and create our own personal privileged information. The internet then becomes our greatest facilitator — we can elevate the most obscure facts to the highest status, leaving behind anything we don’t consider interesting or worthy. Oh, sure, it’s selfish, and critics warn that it will leave us all alone one day in a dark room, staring at the flickering screen and typing feverishly to the three other people in the world who like, say, orange plastic Snoopy lunchboxes from 1983. But maybe that isn’t such a terrible thing, if it makes those four people happy.

By listening to A Hawk and A Handsaw, you are privileging the very interesting music of Romania. I grew up in Europe, but never did get a chance to visit the Balkans, so it’s all new to me. Romanian music seems to be quite the thing lately, thanks to Zach Condon of Beirut, but A Hawk has actually been around longer than he has. Condon contributes his horn-playing to the latest album, “The Way the Wind Blows,” and the Roma band Fanfara Ciocârlia also backs up with their rockin’ tuba on songs like “Gadje Sirba.”

If you like Beirut — or if you like the underpinnings of Beirut but not Condon’s singing — you will be interested in A Hawk; I have not heard all their songs, but all the ones I have heard are completely instrumental (which makes it very hard to understand why iTunes has labeled them as “explicit.” I’d ignore that). If you like contintental European music or the tuba, you will be interested in A Hawk (or in Fanfara Ciocârlia; they are award-winning artists). If you don’t choose to privilege this information, why, no loss: there’s always more out there to choose from.

A Hawk and A Hacksaw: Site | Myspace | Label (the Leaf Label)

Fanfara Ciocârlia: Site

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]

A Hawk and A Hacksaw – Gadje Sirba
A Hawk and A Hacksaw – A Black & White Rainbow
A Hawk and A Hacksaw – God Bless the Ottoman Empire

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Page France

Listening to Page France reminded me of something I could not put my finger on for a whole day. When it came to me, I was delighted — Michael Nau sounds like Donovan. That’s right, I said Donovan (I know my sister will at least get that reference). I’m talking about the Donovan of “Catch the Wind” and “Mellow Yellow,” for the rest of you. I used to groove to “Mellow Yellow” down in my parents’ basement, lo these many years ago.

That isn’t to say that Page France is particularly derivative — there’s just something about the repetetive upbeat choruses that strikes me. I’d give a lot of money (ok, maybe about $10) to hear Mr. Nau do a rendition of “To Sing For You.” But back to topic! Page France did a set for the Daytrotter Sessions on Oct. 1st. Usually I download the Daytrotter songs, go, “eh,” and delete them, but I found myself forgoing the “eh” this time.

I will also forgo the Christian-slant interpretation of Nau’s lyrics, because he seems to want people to so much. Methinks he doth protest too much; he spends a lot of time talking about devils and haloes and trumpets and gates and Christ and blood and whatnot. However! I’ll resist the impulse and just skip lyrical interpretation entirely (I know! What is this world coming to?). The music is chipper and engaging, and the songs, though sort of mysterious, recall the psychadelic imagery of 60s music (Nau wants to be compared to Dylan; sorry dude, but Donovan is pretty cool).

I’m making like Everybody Cares today and only pointing you toward legal music; I feel so virtuous. You can download “The Ruby Ring Man,” “Chariot,” “Dogs,” and “Antarctica” at the Daytrotter sessions and “Junkyard” and “Bush” at the Suicide Squeeze page.

Page France: Site | Myspace| Label (Suicide Squeeze)

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Luce

I actually think it’s supposed to be written “LUCE,” but I’m not sure, and I hate typing a band-name in all caps, so I’ll just fudge that part. I found Luce by reading “I Am Fuel, You Are Friends,” which any self-respecting music blogger ought to do anyway, because Heather has great taste. Luce is a slick little band fronted by Tom Luce, who lists his one influence on Myspace as “the Beatles.”

Oddly though, the band doesn’t sound like the Beatles. It does sound familiar, and I had a hard time placing it until I read that some tracks on their 2005 release “Never Ending” had Charlie Colin, from Train, as guest bassist/guitarist. So to be honest, I hate Train. The lyrics are so overwrought; whenever I hear them on the mall radio or at the grocery store, my teeth start to grind. But I can’t deny that underneath the faux-poetic drama that is a song like “Meet Virginia,” there is a really sweet, solid musical base. And Luce has that familiar musical base — without the goo smeared on top. Hurrah!

It would be just nice, well-put-together pop, but there’re also a couple more little details — the brass and beat behind “Sweetest Smile,” or the great guitar harmonics in “Interlude One” — that make the songs worth listening to. Luce’s self-released albums are available on iTunes or Emusic.

Luce (or LUCE, if you prefer): Site | Myspace

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]

Luce – Interlude One

Luce – Sweetest Smile

Luce – Wanna Be

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Angela Desveaux

Welcome to Twangsville! Today’s special: Angela Desveaux, whose name I keep misspelling because I seem to have severe French-typing disability. As the trend of fabulous Canadian country singers continues, Ms. Desveaux, who hails from Montreal, has released her first album on the Thrill Jockey label, entitled “Wandering Eyes.”

So here’s the thing. If you like Haley Bonar, you’ll like Angela Desveaux. If you liked Justin Rutledge, Amy Millan, or any of the other fabulous Canadian country singers, you’ll like Angela Desveaux. Like Rutledge, Desveaux walks the line of being almost too country, but still manages (in my opinion) to stay in the alt-country pastures and not jump the fence into full-on Faith Hill territory. It’s a good solid sound — not new by any means, but if you’re like me and you have a guilty pleasure and that pleasure is alt-country, then just have a listen and then pop over to iTunes or Emusic and go crazy.

Angela Desveaux – Site | Myspace | Label (Thrill Jockey)

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]

Angela Desveaux – Heartbeat
Angela Desveaux – If Only

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Roman Candle

I have meant to write about Roman Candle for two months, ever since I acquired a copy of “The Wee Hours Revue,” but with one thing or another … well, anyway. This is the Roman Candle which hails from Chapel Hill, and not the Roman Candles which are apparently out of Alaska. Funny how those Chapel Hill band names are so popular (we had this problem with the Annuals too. Very confusing).

It’s a pretty well-thought-of disc. Pitchfork liked it; Paste magazine liked it; Rolling Stone calls them up-and-comers. And there are a lot of good, solid things about it. The adjective to throw around seems to be “well-crafted” or “polished.” On the one hand, there’s nothing to hate about it. And on the other … it’s beautiful. It’s truly well-put-together. It has all the right components, and yet, it makes no impression at all.

So here’s an experiment: if I like something at first listen, and I write a big gooey blog entry, how will I feel about it in two months? The first time I heard “The Wee Hours Revue,” I said, these boys have something — I really like it. But two months later, I’m kind of just listening to it with one ear while I wonder whether the bathroom sink needs a scrub. It doesn’t hold me.

So here we meet the crisis of the Indie Blogger. If you don’t get your writing out on time (or, preferably, months before a disc’s release), you’re not cutting edge and therefore, your indieness decreases markedly. Perhaps people stop reading. (Of course, this presupposes two things: one, you have readers at all, and two, you have some kind of indieness.)

However, what kind of recommender are you if you tell people to listen to something they may hate in two months? Do you really want that kind of responsibility? And aren’t you just arrogant if you want to only recommend things that people will like in a year, two years, ten years? Is indie music like Carrie Bradshaw’s shoes? Do you always want to be seen in this year’s shoes (or next year’s), but never in last year’s? Is your musical taste transitory, and if it is, do you still love music, or do you just love talking about it? Is this too much for a Saturday morning?

Perhaps that can be my new blog gimmick; writing way, way after the fact. I’ll get back to you in another two months. Meanwhile: Roman Candle. Like Lenny says, “Meh, he’s all right, but he’s no bowl of Special K!” Ezarchive is having a freakout, so I’m not going to feature any tracks. I recommend that you visit the myspace and have a listen for yourself.

Roman Candle: Site | Myspace | Label (v2)

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The Black Keys

Side note: I won a Rock Kills Kid CD in the fun contest that Chris is having over at Culture Bully. It’s still going on — it goes till the end of September — so if you like that wacky indie music, you can go join in.

We now return to our regular broadcast.

The Black Keys’ve somehow created a stadium sound in my headphones, and if you add in the bluesy vocals and the bangin’ drums, you have music that hearkens back to the days when music was more than just how many people could be in the band and whether bandmembers are wearing wings or singing about the Napoleonic era. This music is strong and black, like coffee you could stand a spoon in.

They’re part Lenny Kravitz, part Stevie Ray Vaughn, part Black Crowes, and all rock spectacle — when I hear the sweet fuzzy guitar on “Your Touch,” I start thinking that Dan Auerbach is gonna belt out, “are you gonna go my way???” (Though he could likely not match the visual hotness of La Kravitz.) It’s music you could describe as “righteous,” or “awesome,” or maybe by doing that air guitar á la “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”

“Magic Potion” is the new album, and they’re touring the East coast, so check it out. Highly recommended.

The Black Keys – Site | Myspace

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]

The Black Keys – Your Touch
The Black Keys – 10 AM Automatic
The Black Keys – Strange Desire

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Math and Physics Club

What an intimidating name for an English major to take on. But maybe if I ever met the Math and Physics Club, they’d be really nice, like my stepbrother who’s getting a masters in theoretical math. I prefer to think of it that way, instead of them making really obscure black hole jokes and then laughing at my puzzled expression.

Nah, I’m just kidding, because M&PC seems more focussed on the math & physics of relationships, and that’s familiar territory. I’ll make the inevitable Lucksmiths comparison – in “Weekends Away,” they really do sound like the Lucksmiths’ Seattle counterparts. But therein lies the goodness — it’s fun, sweet, easy music. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to get it (fortunately). They say that there will be a new CD out in October, so keep a lookout.

Math and Physics Club – Site | Myspace | Label (Matinee)

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]

Math and Physics Club – Darling, Please Come Home
Math and Physics Club – Weekends Away
Math and Physics Club – Everybody Lies

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San Ilya

The theme for the next Contrast Podcast is, “Entrance Music For A Film.” Like if you were making a film … what would the entrance music be? I know that entrance music can set the mood for the entire film. Romantic comedies get upbeat, jazzy music. Dramas get moody violins. Horror films get … moody violins? Well, they get to branch out a little, depending on the film. Animated features have the most fun, I think, you get things like the theme to “My Neighbor Totoro.” And … I’m rambling.

So anyway! This is a roundabout way to say that I’ve found my entrance music. Because my film would be set in Italy, and this music by San Ilya makes me think of sitting in the sun in Venice, and the eerie silence that happens when you sit in a city without cars. I don’t know what my film would be about — maybe just walking, and hearing the crunch of feet on gravel, the slap of water against a pier, the floating low song of a woman who is washing the dishes. “Without you, dear, I am nothing,” she’ll sing, “and there’s nowhere I belong.”

San Ilya – Site | Myspace |

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]

San Ilya – They Died For Beauty
San Ilya – Soleil Soleil
San Ilya – Bellissimo

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Today’s featured band actually formed in 1989, and of course I missed them by a mile, so I’m remedying the error. Great music is great music, be it two years old or twenty, so have a listen to The Innocence Mission. Formed by four folks who met at Catholic school, it’s music out of Pennsylvania that sounds like it ought to be out of Iceland. Crazy, no? Oh yes, crazy like a fox.

Karen Peris, the lead, sounds like a cross between Bjork and Dido … a good cross. She adds an odd, foreign inflection to her lovely soprano, giving the songs an especially otherworldly touch. The Innocence Mission’s 2004 album, entitled “Now the Day is Over,” covers some old standards like “What A Wonderful World,” but deftly, doing something that no one on American Idol ever can — remaking them to sound almost original. And the original music, well, it’s resoundingly original. If there’s such a thing as music for the soul, and I believe there is, maybe it’s the mission of Innocence Mission to let their music live in the cathedral of our bodies, singing chorals to our better being.

The Innocence Mission – Site | Myspace | Label (Badman)

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]

The Innocence Mission – Bright As Yellow
The Innocence Mission – Tomorrow On the Runway
The Innocence Mission – What A Wonderful World (L. Armstrong)

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Justin Rutledge

I wasn’t going to write about Justin, because he’s almost too country even for me, and this blog isn’t here to introduce you to more countryesque artists. But I just can’t help it. Some people are into shoegaze, and some people are into electronica, and then there’s me, and I’m such a sucker for boys singing sad songs with their lonely guitars. I like what I like, and I like it a lot.

So here goes — once again, Canada proves that it can drink, sing, and cry just as well as any of our sniveling country singers with their tears in their beers. Rutledge, with all the wisdom of his 26 years, put together a note-perfect lineup of songs in his 2004 album, “No Never Alone.” There’s talk (has been for quite awhile) of a new album, but I don’t see anything stirring except tour dates and an amusing sing-along rendition of a song called, “Don’t Be So Mean, Jellybean,” which you can stream on his Myspace.

(Of course, every time he says, “My beauty queen,” I go off and sing, “I’m gasoline, I’m burning clean” (so it can drive you nuts too, that’s REM’s “Electrolite.”) Hey! Someone mash those two up. Hee hee.)

At any rate! Now I’m completely off track. The songs from “No Never Alone” are well worth a listen, and I also highly recommend “Alberta Breeze,” which you can stream on the Myspace. It showcases Rutledge’s lovely turns of phrase: Alberta’s never sounded so appealingly depressing. Makes me want to visit, to see if I can bring a sad singing cowboy home with me.

…yeah, I know. Everyone say it along with me:

Justin Rutledge: Site (note the lovely photo of him by Tanja-Tizania Burdi) | Myspace | Label (Six Shooter)

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]

Justin Rutledge – Too Sober To Sleep
Justin Rutledge – Special
Bonus: Singalong version of Don’t Be So Mean, Jellybean

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Gliss

First let me say how jealous I am of the people going to the Bookeaters Tour show tonight. I really wanted to go, but the cheapest tickets were $50, and no one told my car about the show, so it decided to bust its brakes and front axle. Thanks, car! I hope I’ll be reading about how great Darnielle’s set was from some of you.

Next, Gliss. Maybe I’m reviewing this band because I’m just a parrot of Come Pick Me Up, and maybe just because I like saying “gliss.” It’s all good.

Gliss is what would happen if you took an indie rock band and fronted it with Jim Morrison. I mean that in three ways. One, it seems pretty full of itself; its bio says coyly that “The press describes us as dark, sexy, psychadelic, and fierce.” Two, the lyrics often sound just like a book of Morrison’s poetry that I read once (I say “poetry” in the Jewel sense of the word). And three, the band is psychadelic and fierce, but more in that retro, sweaty lead singer with leather pants, long hair shaking, peyote ingesting way. And the lead singer always sounds completely out of breath, like he’s singing during a marathon.

Still, I’ve listened to “Kissing the Blvd.” about a hundred times, so there’s something to this whole fierce psychadelic thing. Gliss has a solid quality to its songs in spite of all the breathlessness. I’ll say this: this is a band with potential, and I expect to see it become more popular in the US as time goes on (they are quite popular already in the UK, and touring there currently).

Gliss: Site | Myspace

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]

Gliss – Blue Sky
Gliss – Kick In Your Head

I also recommend “Kissing the Blvd,” which you can stream at the myspace.

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Amy Millan

(Thanks to BT reader J.M., my Canadian musical consultant, for pointing me in the direction of this artist.)

I don’t feature enough female singers. I have a straight woman’s bias towards my indie rock — I like to hear those pretty boys wailing away about lost love and whatnot. So let me remedy here by mentioning Amy Millan.

Ms. Millan is a Canadian darling, of course, what with those other little bands she happens to be part of (Broken Social Scene and Stars). Those crazy kids, what will they think of next? Well, the new trend seems to be releasing a solo album … blah blah blah Jenny Lewis blah blah blah. Let’s get our inevitable comparisons out of the way.

I didn’t like “Rabbit Fur Coat” for two reasons — the first is, Lewis’s voice sounded so thin that I spent most of every song wondering if it was gonna crack. The second reason was, outside of “Handle With Care,” all the songs blended into each other in an orgy of perfect sameness. I found it excessively boring, like she just stripped all the good Rilo Kileyness away and then we were left with … Rilo Lite.

“Honey From the Tombs” is much more solid. Millan’s voice has a real bluesy tinge to it, and she had the smarts to add a wonderful bluegrass band as backup. The music also doesn’t sound like Stars or BSS, which is a bonus, because a solo ought to be a solo … something different from what you did in your band, right? Or what’s the point?

Millan has a great turn of phrase; the guitar pickin’ is pretty fantastic; and there’s a, dare I say non-Canadian, sense of ambience. One can definitely imagine her singing these songs in a Texas country bar, backed by fuzzy red light, while a burly guy with “Lucinda” tattooed on his arm sobs manfully into his pint of Miller. Or maybe it is Canadian, and it’s a bar in Toronto, and the burly guy is drinking Labatt’s. He’s still sobbing, believe me.

Amy Millan Site/Label (Arts & Crafts) | Myspace

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]

Amy Millan – Skinny Boy
Amy Millan – Ruby II
Amy Millan – Losin’ You

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The Damnwells

Mmmm… the gritty sound of the Damnwells. I can just eat it up like my sister-in-law’s Jell-O salad. Oh yes, let me expound on that analogy. Her Jell-O salad is just different somehow — it’s got all the same old stuff every other Jell-O salad is made of, but for some reason it tastes so good that I can’t stay away from it.

So what’s all that stuff the Damnwells has? Great harmonies, sweet songs with a country flavor, intelligent (if slightly overdone) lyrics, well-played instrumentals. What’s not to like? I don’t know … I just get the feeling that somewhere, somehow, I’ve heard it all before. But please add the Damnwells to your alt-country collection — you have one, right? Or you wouldn’t be hanging around here.

The Damnwells are touring (they will not be in Utah, alas, but they hit the Knitting Factory LA on Sept 25th). Their new CD, “Air Stereo,” was released Aug. 15th, and it’s very nice, with that driven guitar and countryesque titles like “I Am A Leaver.” Just hand me a spoon already.

The Damnwells: Site | Myspace | Label (Rounder)

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]

The Damnwells – She’s the NYC Skyline
The Damnwells – You Don’t Have To Like Me To Love Me

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The Victorian English Gentlemen’s Club

In the world according to Zara, a good bass line can make up for many deficiencies. It’s one of my guilty little secrets. It’s the reason I always groove along to the Veronica Mars themesong, when I know perfectly well that the Dandy Warhols are soooo overplayed. Give me a good bassline and a lot of times I’m lulled into happiness.

This isn’t to say that the Victorian English Gentlemen’s Club has a lot to cover up. Their name irritates, since “Victorian” as an adjective basically implies “English.” Perhaps the only other country that could claim that nomenclature is India, since it was British-colonial during the Victorian period. And maybe some Brit-colonized African countries that I can’t think of right now. But I’ll stuff my inner nerd back into my head now.

VEGC is out of Cardiff, which as I recall is in Wales (though I could be wrong). They make solid, poppy music, with a fantastic bassline, played by a girl of course :D. It’s music to rock out to, with a lot of punk in it and shouting back and forth and whatnot. I’m not always following the lyrics, but I’m content to kind of groove along and ignore the lyrics for once in my life. Crazy! I know! What’re you gonna do.

VEGC will be releasing a self-titled album on Aug.28th.

The Victorian English Gentlemen’s Club: Site | Myspace | Label (Fantastic Plastic)

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]

VEGC – Impossible Sightings Over Sheldon
VEGC – A Hundred Years Of the Street

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Candy

This is how I feel about Candy — it’s not my kind of music. No, not at all. I’m not into “wall of sound” or shoegaze bands, and breathy lyrics kind of creep me out. And yet I could not stop listening to it. Is that good or bad? At least it’s worth writing about.
Here’s what I think of when I listen to “Last Night”:

The girl is walking through the woods, wearing a nightgown (imagine your own lingerie). It is snowing gently, but she does not seem cold. Her bare feet leave slight tracks in the brush and snow that covers the ground. She pushes a branch aside and peers into a clearing. A man is sitting there, looking into a fire. As she approaches, he looks at her, and then his wings unfurl, as white and cold as the snow. He stands up and, still watching her, holds out a hand. She takes his hand, steps up to him, and puts her arms around his neck. He takes off into the sky, driving upwards until they are just another glittering speck, as cold as the stars.

Disturbingly like a Meatloaf video, no? Anyway. Listen for yourself.

Candy – Site at Stolen Recordings (NSFW, oddly enough)

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]
Candy – Last Night
Candy – A Breath
Candy – Charlie May

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The Band of Annuals

As if I needed another reason to want to move back to Utah — I happened to snag an mp3 from The Band of Annuals (not to be confused with The Annuals, from North Carolina), whose homebase is Salt Lake City. Yay! A chance to promote a cool alt-country band from SLC!

Now, the band is young, their Myspace has awful misspellings, and they don’t seem so great at self-promotion. They also annoyed yours truly with the song “Constant Stride,” where Jay Henderson snipes nastily at the people who go to church every Sunday. (See, the thing is, if you choose to live in Utah and cry about people going to church, you have two choices: 1) quit crying and live with it, or 2) move somewhere else. It’s like choosing to live on Rodeo Drive and then crying because people shop all the time.)

So, there are obstacles, but they all seem like they’d be smoothed out with time and experience. It’s all forgiveable, especially when Jay Henderson sounds as sweet as Ryan Adams on “Gold” when he sings “Lord Have Mercy.” See? I’m easy. Add in the lovely harmony, violin, and mandolin played by Jeremi Hanson, and I’m not only forgetting, I’m writing it all up on my blog. They’re a talented bunch, and I hope to see a solid couple of albums out of them, maybe even a label … where’re all those dang labels when you need one?

The Band of Annuals: Myspace (album available there for purchase)

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]
The Band of Annuals – The Devil Said, RSVP (highly recommended!)
The Band of Annuals – Lord Have Mercy
The Band of Annuals – San Francisco Take Me Back

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White Whale

This blog can’t claim to be first-wave. Or even, really, second-wave. Bon Ton is like a scavenger … I go through after a storm has hit the first-wave blogs, and I pick up the driftwood that’s left behind on the beach. Then I write pithy stuff about it. Which is where the metaphor ends. But speaking of the sea, here’s what Merge’s bio says about White Whale:

Amassing the power of the Big Star with the fury of the Sabbath (Black) and the mesmerizing wiles of the Badfinger the gentlemen of White (F-in’) Whale are not afraid to ask the musical question “What’s an Ocean For?” Beware ye Decemberists and those who would set the Arcade (a)Fire, the Okkervil River can not contain the enormity of White Whale.

Clever, eh? Of course White Whale has to face the anxiety of influence that the Decemberists exert, because who could follow a record like “Her Majesty” and hope to measure up? Luckily, White Whale doesn’t try to measure up. They aren’t the Decemberists, they aren’t the Arcade Fire, and they don’t have to be. It’s an inevitable comparison, I suppose, because their music has a historical flavor, and they do sound a bit Arcade Fire-y in the middle of their most popular track, but calling them a Decemberists-type band or an AF-type band does them a disservice.

Their biggest failing in my opinion is a tendency to cram too many lyrics into one line. Can you even call that a failing, when so many bands are completely the opposite? Yeah, I’m gonna call it a failing, because it detracts from the music, and it’s hard to follow. And the grammar is sort of odd, as you’ll see below. But maybe that’s just for weird grammar nerds like me to angst over.

I’m not going to full-on analyze the lyrics for “The Admiral,” because who likes to read that kind of thing besides yours truly, but I found them really interesting (this is my deciphered attempt; actual lyrics may vary slightly). It’s a chronicle of the breakdown of The Admiral, a man who “came in without his ship,” who is depressed and unsuccessful. He goes to a party anyway to try to get over his troubles:

And who throws parties like these anymore? Did they not go out of fashion before the war?
And while the cocktails were being mixed, the partygoers’ eyes were fixed on the Admiral, who had wrestled the host to the floor.

And the chairs and the tables about the room — you decided upon yourself it was time to prove
to the first somebody that you saw you were fit enough to break the law. So you broke it and broke it and broke it till she didn’t move.

And then comes the inevitable slide into insanity, as the Admiral sits and remembers his crime and “her eyes, her eyes!” Rather chilling and quite effectual. At least on me. White Whale’s first album, “WWI,” will be released July 25th. You can stream it at the Merge site.

White Whale: Myspace | Label (Merge)

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]
White Whale – The Admiral
White Whale – We’re Just Temporary, Ma’am

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Ill Lit

When I was an Army brat teenager, I finally found the radio, thanks to my younger sister. Back before then, I’d been content to listen to my dad’s Beatles & Beach Boys collection, but then my sister turned on AFN (Armed Forces Network) and we were all, “Woah! Music!.” My sister listened to … whatever it was … I can’t remember (sorry J). But me? I turned the dial straight to country music.

When I was thirteen, my favorite band was Alabama. What did I find in those country tunes that was so comforting? Did I like that it sounded like Hank Williams, who was also in my dad’s collection? Was I attracted to those themes of loss and longing? Did I want to go down in the river three times, like Hank, but only come up twice? I have no idea — probably, I wasn’t thinking that hard. And then in ninth grade I won a copy of “Out of Time” in a contest and that was it. Wham! I was smack into rock & roll (although, you’ll note, “Texarkana” and “Country Feedback” put me on solid ground).

Since then I’ve gone pretty far away from those down-home boys in Alabama, and very seldom do I listen to straight-up country music. But I am absolutely susceptible to country and rock’s bastard child, alt-country. The first time I heard Ryan Adams, I knew I was home. In fact, I think alt-country is probably my favorite genre. The Old 97s, Whiskeytown, Haley Bonar, Tarkio, The Roy Owens Jr. — they all make me a happy happy girl. Of course, what is alt-country, you ask? It’s just a tag to help people classify the crush of music that surrounds them. Country and rock are enormous influences on each other, but it’s not too often that you get a great blend of both. When the blend is just right, you call it alt-country.

All this is to say — Ill Lit. They’re out of LA, of all places, but I guess that’s ok, because this is still the West, right? They have an “Old 97s Lite” sound — lacking Rhett Miller’s frenetic pace, but with the same kind of solid writing. And interestingly, they mix the country sound with some great electronica sampling. I wouldn’t call it fall-over-and-die music, like when you hear Heartbreaker, but it’s good, and it’s getting better, and that’s all I can ask for. They have a new album (self-released on their Myspace) called “Tom Cruise.” I hope the man himself doesn’t sue.

Ill Lit: Site | Myspace

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]

Ill Lit – Freeway
Ill Lit – Diner Girls
Ill Lit – Los Angeles

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I’m not good at comparisons. Sometimes Panda & Angel sounds a lot like Azure Ray, but then it turns around and doesn’t, so how valid is that comparison? Well, anyway, ignore the attempt, and know that if you give P&A a try, you’ll hear:

A fantastic alto lead (Carrie Murphy, of Touchdown Eagle … how do these people find time to have two bands?).

Well-crafted lyrics: “Ohio December 24th” starts out being about Christmas eve, but ends up not being about it at all (which of course, is the heart of poetry). And “Dangerous” is very listenable, with the simple (yet true) lyric, “It’s a dangerous place to be / wanting something you can’t have.”

A great rhythm section — not just drums. Claps, too, and guitar rhythm. And some kind of synthesizer thing in “Disco Song.” What is that? I love it! Yay!

P&A has an EP coming out that you can pre-order on the Jade Tree website. I recommend it! And since Ms. Murphy has two bands, you might even get a bonus out of checking out Touchdown Eagle (I keep wanting to write “Comfort Eagle.” Bad zara! Bad!)
Panda & Angel: Myspace | Label: Jade Tree
[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]
Panda & Angel – Ohio December 24th
Panda & Angel – Dangerous
Panda & Angel – The Disco Song

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Wail Away

The Wailin’ Jennys: Site | MySpace | Label (Red House)

Sometimes I have to roam the Interwebs far and wide to find good music, and sometimes, it just falls in my lap. Yesterday I was just checking out my livejournal and I read a post in all-caps from Jesemie’s Evil Twin. She’s trying to tell us something, folks! It’s a music emergency!

Well, she was right. It’s the Wailin’ Jennys, and Canada once again can do no wrong (musically. They still have to account for poutine). These three lovely ladies from Winnipeg have captured that classic sound of old-time country. This group is for fans of Gillian Welch, O Brother Where Art Thou, and the way the Dixie Chicks used to be, back before they got politics in their soul. AND, between the three of them, they play mandolin, bodhran, harmonica, banjo, violin, guitar, and accordion. It’s MUSIC, people, not self-obsessed wailing by people whose famous girlfriends dumped them. Hallelujah!

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]

The Wailin’ Jennys – The Devil’s Paintbrush Road
The Wailin’ Jennys – Arlington
The Wailin’ Jennys – One Voice

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