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St Vincent
Marry Me
Beggars Banquet

The way Annie Clark handles an electric guitar is sheer magic. The first time I heard “Paris Is Burning,” a couple years ago, I said, I have to have more of this music. Finally, Clark came through for me and the result is excellent, layered rock and roll, bursting with sound and image: They gave me a medal for my valor / Leaden trumpets spit the soot of power.

When this album is on, it’s on in a big way; but some songs drag, and I get bored listening to the whole thing (which, I probably don’t need to mention, makes me sad. I wish every song were as good as “Paris.”). But between her physical beauty and presence, and the smart music, she lives up to the hype that surrounded the album and declared her a certified Indie Goddess.

Bodies of Water
Ears Will Pop & Eyes Will Blink

Our Friends Appear Like The Dawn

Everyone talks about Bodies of Water with a little awe; the sheer vocal power harnessed in this record simply makes war on your ears. And when the vocals pair up with the gospelesque lyrics, the result can be sheer beautiful bliss, as in “Doves Circled the Sky.” Even the most hardened blogger might unironically recommend music with such power, turning a blind eye to lyrics like Oh please do not forsake me / where is Your finger upon my lips / and though I sleep in the dirt and the leaves, please touch
my heart with Your tongue
. We’re talking religion like an 1820s tent revival here.

When the music goes wrong, it goes really really wrong. There are promises in songs on this album (one of the few that I bought in physical format) that the vocals simply cannot fulfill — the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak and can’t get to those high notes. So while listeners sometimes might find themselves screwing up their faces like they were eating lemons, the powerful songs like “These Are The Eyes” and “I Turned My Face” outweigh the lesser concerns of which tracks deserve the fast-forward.

The Cinematic Orchestra
Ma Fleur
As The Stars Fall

Billed as the soundtrack to a movie that may never be made, “Ma Fleur” sets the imagination free to roam. It is a very sensual album, and it just builds up beautiful pictures in the listener’s mind. In places where Swinscoe sings, he just adds to the general ambience instead of trying to drown it out. And he’s got ambience in spades.

The music swoops from the melancholy “To Build A Home” to the jazzy stylings of “Child Song” and the old-timey sound of “Breathe.” “Prelude” really sounds like something that would play over opening credits, and as it zooms in from the crane shot, the viewer can see … your house. Or mine. Or someone you know. What are they doing as we look in the window? Only the
viewer knows for sure.

Cake On Cake
I Guess I Was Daydreaming
You Make My Heart Say Yes

Man, I do not care what anyone says about this album. I played it about a thousand times in my car, and it was perfect for LA. See, the thing about LA traffic is, people cut you off all the time for no reason. And so after a few years of it, you start thinking that everyone driving in the next lane is going to cut you off. You stare suspiciously at them, grinding your teeth. “GO AHEAD!” you yell, shaking your fist. “JUST GET IT OVER WITH!”

All this is to say that the pure simplicity of Cake On Cake soothed my road rage. If the song is called “Come On Rainbow,” that’s what the words say: come on, come on (x3) / come on, rainbow. For the entire song. Nothing more, nothing less, but with the sugar-sweet addition of Sundin’s instrumentals. Maybe it would make some people’s teeth ache, but screw ’em. We want to be happy.

Come Clean

I already wrote paeans to Eisley earlier in the year, so this feels like overkill. OK, in case you weren’t listening before — beautiful pop, better than anything you can find on the radio, put out by a quartet of young’uns in Texas. Did I miss anything? Maybe just that the harmonies are spectacular with a capital Spec.

It’s outsize music; the whole eclipses the sum of its parts. I can listen all day to the soaring, effortless “you / you / you” on “Invasion” and, well, the effortless harmonies punctuating almost every other song. Other standouts: “Come Clean” and “Combinations,” with its wistful country music chorus: I went for so long and I was so wrong / and then I met you and
now I can’t live without you / and I don’t want to; I’ve done that all my life up till now.

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Video hookup

Before we get to the videos, other misc:

Ten back-to-school songs for your adorable tykes, approved by the Lovely Mrs. Davis. My little guy goes to first grade in two weeks. Sniffle.

– Maria from Her Jazz took a photo of something that’s probably been there since the 70s — someone getting their Led on.

– Brian from Moistworks contemplates throwing the artistic and musical gates wide open. Though in theory I agree, artists have to eat just like engineers. If we could just figure out a way to have both.

And now to the videos!

– A new video by Wisely, “Through Any Window”, stars the beautiful Jenna Fischer. The song ain’t that bad either :D

– Stereogum shares the new Stars video, “Take Me To the Riot”. The A plot is kind of meh, but I love the scenes with the band in them.

– From Achtung Baby!, video of Eisley live, just to prove that those harmonies aren’t faked.

Andrew Bird’s video for “Imitosis” at the Music Slut. Nerd rock leaves me so cold, but I love the little jeweled bugs.

– Also via the Music Slut, Madonna’s faux-French performance of “Vogue” at the 1990 VMAs. Could there be anything bad about men in gold hotpants? No, no there could not.

– And also also via the Music Slut, you may see how Youtube can be used to resurrect the Charleston. 23 skidoo!

– I am very fond of Jefito’s “Chartburn” posts, especially this one featuring Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence” and this one with “Down Under” by Men At Work. Ah, memories.

– Old news, but G. vs. B. has video for MIA’s “Jimmy.”

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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