Apr 30, 2007

via//chicago@random: Grizzly Bear - "Marla"

This is one of the most beautiful, haunting songs on an album filled to the brim with beautiful, haunting songs. A ghostly waltz slides out of a darkened parlor, into the early morning. Lethargic, drunken voices sing and sway along as they clutch to the remaining decadence in a valiant attempt to stave off morning and sobriety. The track oscillates slowly and obtusely, with different instruments and voices coming to the forefront at various points - piano here, horns there, percussion everywhere. In fact, its the scatter shot percussion work that just barely holds this thing all together. It isn't the easiest song to grasp, but a perfect example of the mood Grizzly Bear is capable of conjuring.

The song becomes all the more haunting and beautiful when one learns that the song combines Grizzly Bear's atmospherics with a manipulated copy of an old 78 produced by founding member Edward Droste's late aunt, herself once an aspiring musician.

Grizzly Bear - "Marla" (taken from Yellow House)

Apr 26, 2007

Throwback Thursday VII

Today we take a trip back in the not so distant past to dig into a couple gems from one of Maryland's favorites sons, Bill Callahan. This year's Woke On A Whaleheart (Drag City) may be the debut under his given name, but the guy has already released a boatload of wonderful albums under the Smog and (Smog) monikers. He's not an easy musician to pigeonhole, so I'll just describe him as a very engaging singer-songwriter with a lo-fi sensibility and a wicked black sense of humor. You won't go wrong picking up nearly any of his albums, but I'd suggest starting with either Knock Knock or Red Apple Falls for a nice entry point. In the meantime, check out the tracks below for a good feel.

Smog - "I Was A Stranger"
(taken from Red Apple Falls)
The nice and smooth piano into leads into a pleasant country shuffle complete with some excellent lap steel. Pretty, huh? Not quite. Bill tricks us into a semi-creepy ballad that vaguely alludes to some shady stuff he did before he came to this town a stranger. Which is one of the things I really love about Callahan, his lyrics oftentimes jolt you right out of the daze the music can lull you into.

Smog - "Dress Sexy At My Funeral"
(taken from Dongs of Sevotion)
Speaking of jolting lyrics. Just listen to this one for yourself. Not much subtlety in the lyrics, but I love the fuzzy bass that keeps this track grounded.

Apr 23, 2007

"Well, see you later innovator!"

Tomorrow marks the release of the sophomore album by UK indie darlings, the Arctic Monkeys. Coming less than a year on the heels of the much hyped (and mega-selling) debut, advance buzz indicates that Favourite Worst Nightmare is going to be well worth checking out. If the rest of it lives up to the promise of lead single "Brianstorm", I'm inclined to agree. Whet your appetite by watching the new-rave mocking "Brianstorm" video here, or checking out a couple recent B-sides below.

Arctic Monkeys f. Dizzee Rascal - "Temptation Greets You Like Your Naughty Friend" (taken from Brianstorm)
One of the more recent B-sides, this track features the excellent UK grime/rap sensation Dizzee Rascal dropping rhymes on a tale of wandering too close to that line that separates friends from lovers.

Arctic Monkeys - "Put Up Your Dukes, John"
(taken from Leave Before the Lights Come On)
A fine example of why this band's B-side output shouldn't be neglected.

Apr 18, 2007

"I Am Trying To Believe"

Fake "United States Bureau of Morality" warning stickers, hypercolor compact discs, hidden messages on t-shirts, and fake websites up the wazoo (hint: try highlighting the text to make a little sense out of some of the more jumbled sites). Trent Reznor has certainly invested a lot in the viral marketing and gimmickry of his just released concept album, Year Zero. Enough to send NIN and conspiracy theory geeks on a virtual frenzy over the past couple of months anyway. Here is a good resource to keep up with madness. As all this stuff started pouring onto the net, I got a little worried about the quality of the album itself. I mean, all this viral stuff seemed like a hell of a way to keep the attention off the music, right? Wrong. Year Zero is fantastic stuff and contains the best music he's released in over a decade, far better than the spotty With Teeth and more concise and hard-hitting than the unfocused Fragile. I've been a long time NIN fan, going back to the times I saw him on the Closer To God tour and when he shared the stage with a certain Mr. Bowie, but I haven't been this thrilled by his music in quite some time. But, as always, don't just take my word for it... listen for yourself.

Nine Inch Nails - "Vessel" (taken from Year Zero)
"Vessel" is one of the more noisy tracks off the album, devolving into all sorts of digital skips and scratches as the track winds down, but never losing the industrial beat at its core or the frantic sense of confusion it creates.

Nine Inch Nails - "Capital G" (taken from Year Zero)
"Capital G", meanwhile, is a little more accessible song with a strong, persistent beat. Even though the album is set in a not too distant fictional future, its hard to imagine some of these lyrics aiming at anything but the current American administration - this track especially.

Apr 17, 2007

via//chicago@random: Spoon - "I Didn't Come Here To Die"

Second in an ongoing series in which I pore ever so slowly through my digital collection at random.

I have to admit that, as big of a Spoon fan as I am, I'm not terribly familiar with this song and a quick listen reminds me why. This, taken from 2000's Love Ways EP, is little more than a tossed off experiment that finds the band slumming in the blues. A relatively simple riff and a strong, shuffling rhythm provide the backbone to this song, but there's nothing really exciting to be found. Even Britt Daniel's usually fantastic lyrics seem to be a little less than stellar on this outing and he seems to know it, burying them slightly in the mix and slight vocal effects. It's not bad for a tossed-off EP track, but it doesn't hold a candle to some of the band's brighter work. The nifty echoed spacey effects near the end seem to be the most memorable piece.

In more encouraging Spoon news... the band is getting ready to drop their sixth full-length on July 10th, titled Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.

Spoon - "I Didn't Come Here To Die" (taken from Love Ways EP)

Apr 15, 2007

"Just bought a Cadillac..."

"Throw Some D's" is quickly becoming one of 2007's most ubiquitous rap singles, popping up nearly all over the place since peaking at number 6 on the Billboard charts. I even heard a Sportscenter desk jockey making reference to a pitcher throwing "some D's on that pitch". Much like Mims' chart-topper from this year (which I still haven't warmed to), I was initially left cold by this but I've since come around to its simple charms. Over the weekend my brother tipped me off on the quality remix, which features some great verses from Andre 3000 (still so great to hear him rapping again) and The Game. It also features Jim Jones, Nelly, and Murphy Lee - but hey, they can't all be all-star jams. Anyway, check it out below:

Rich Boy f. Andre 3000, Jim Jones, Nelly, Murphy Lee, and The Game - "Throw Some D's (Remix)" (taken from Rich Boy)

Apr 12, 2007

Lollapalooza 2007

Create Your Own PaloozaHead - Visit Lollapalooza.com

So the line-up for this year's Lollapalooza was announced today... and I'd be lying if I didn't say I was a little disappointed at first. No Smashing Pumpkins, which really surprises me. I mean, their summer tour is entirely based on playing festivals and they are skipping the huge hometown fest that takes place less than a month after the new album drops? Doesn't make sense to me. I was also surprised at the lack of big name mega-stars. Pearl Jam and Daft Punk are awesome, but Ben Harper a headliner? Really? But the more I looked at the line-up, the more excited I got. There are some really great names on there, especially lower down on the list. Among others I'm stoked to see - The Hold Steady, Modest Mouse, Cold War Kids, The Stooges, Interpol, Kings of Leon, The Roots, Amy Winehouse, Lupe Fiasco, TV on the Radio, LCD Soundsystem, M.I.A.... it'll still be a great three days in the sun. And come on, Daft Punk!!!

Apr 11, 2007

"This car is 100% death proof..."

Just got back from checking out Grindhouse and I cannot recommend this film enough. It's a no-brainer if you are a fan of the work Tarantino or Rodriguez, but its worth checking out even if you aren't. I honestly can't remember the last time I had such a good time at the movies, everything was just the way I imagined it - cheesy, hilarious, bloody, violent, gory, just all around B-movie perfection. The fake trailers were wonderful too, I can't wait to see the full-length version of Machete.

Also worth checking out? The soundtrack to Death Proof, Tarantino's segment of the film. He's always managed to put together great collections of music for his films and this is no exception. It features a nice mix of classic garage rock, pop country gems, and instrumental mood music that fits the film so well. Below are a couple of my favorites, but the whole disc deserves to be heard.

Pacific Gas & Electric - "Staggolee" (taken from Death Proof)
Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick, & Tich - "Hold Tight" (taken from Death Proof)

Apr 10, 2007

Let's Talk About Podcasts

Podcasts can be a wonderful thing. Convenient, entertaining, and most of the time completely free of charge - how often do you get to the same about other forms of media? But as with any widespread internet phenomena, there's a lot of crap floating around out there. How do you sort out the wheat from the chaff? What podcasts do you listen to regularly? Here's some of my weekly must listens:

KEXP Live Performances / KEXP Music That Matters
It should come as no surprise to anyone that my favorite podcasts are music related. These two, provided by the wonderful folks over at KEXP, are the ones I look forward to the most. The Live Performances series features bands recorded live at the KEXP studios, both high profile and local up and comers. It's a great way to hear your favorite artists in a new light or to discover your next favorite band. Music That Matters is a weekly series that features the esteemed KEXP DJs throwing together a mix of their favorite tunes of the moment, often times set to a particular theme. Between these two podcasts I've discovered tons of bands that I now love - The Long Winters, Soul Position, Blue Scholars, West Indian Girl - just to name a few.

Sound Opinions
Billed as the world's only rock and roll talk show, this weekly series features Chicago area rock critics Jim DeRogatis (of the Chicago Sun-Times) and Greg Kot (of the Chicago Tribune). From new music reviews to revealing artist interviews to thought-provoking discussion to flat-out music nerdery, these guys are usually pretty entertaining to hear.

This is the weekly podcast of acclaimed director Kevin Smith and his longtime collaborator/producer Scott Mosier. The only good way to describe this is "two guys bullshitting about movies, comics, sex, relationships, and whatever pops into their heads". Which, depending on your opinion of Kevin Smith in general, can either be as entertaining or as dreadful as you might expect. Definitely not for those averse to four-letter words and graphic body fluid discussion.

KCRW's The Treatment
This is a relatively new find for me, but I'm really glad to have discovered it. Film critic Elvis Mitchell spends each half-hour episode talking with directors and filmmakers about their craft, their ideas, and their product. I've particularly enjoyed the recent episodes featuring Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez discussing their joint venture, Grindhouse.

The Dead Show on KOPN
Okay, I'll admit it. I'm a closet Deadhead... occasionally anyway. Each week John Henrikson digs deep into the Grateful Dead vaults and shares some of his favorite live shows spanning the band's entire legendary career. Next time you feel the need to let your inner hippie out for a spin in the grass, give this one a shot.

NPR's Wait... Wait Don't Tell Me / This American Life
I know that I'm officially old when I've started listening to NPR on my iPod... so be it. Wait... Wait Don't Tell Me is an entertaining quiz show that features writers and comedians working their way through the latest headlines. The humor is very often hit or miss, but it's a neat way to catch up on some of the stories you might have missed during the course of the week. What else can I really say about This American Life that hasn't already been said? Host Ira Glass is always a pleasure to listen to and rarely does an episode pass without a genuine chuckle or a thought-provoking comment being absorbed.

Those are the podcasts I subscribe to, how about you?

Apr 9, 2007

via//chicago@random: Between the Buried and Me - "Alaska"

The first in an ongoing series in which I cue up a song at random from my iTunes library and write a little bit about it, then post the track for you to evaluate for yourself.

Between the Buried and Me is one of the bands I discovered in last year in the midst of my re-introduction to the metal world that I had ignored for so long. I'd come across albums by these guys quite a bit over the past couple of years, but thanks to them being on Victory and constantly put on display next to bands like Hawthorne Heights and Aiden I'd always dismissed them as mediocre nu-emo for the mall set, weak metalcore for the Hot Topic set, or some dreadful combination of the two. Oh how wrong I can be. BtBaM has to be one of the more refreshing young metal bands working right now, pounding out a vicious strain of "math-metal" that combines the brutal with the intricate. Thanks to a tip from the always on point Adrien Begrand over at Basement Galaxy, I picked up this disc and was very glad I did. BtBaM tears through this tight set, mixing and matching nearly all types of heavy metal into an virtual sonic maelstrom.

"Alaksa" kicks off with an intricate riff that shimmies and shreds while drummer Blake Richardson pounds the hell out of his kit. Sound good? Then all hell breaks loose. The rhythm and guitars swirl into a demon possessed and Tommy Rogers' death metal vocals kick in full bore. The resulting mess beats you about the head and face with a thirty-pound hammer named "INTENSE" before stomping around in a primordial swamp while machine-gun bursts explode all around. The best moment comes about a minute and a half in when all the instruments suddenly drop out, a triangle is struck once, and hell explodes all over again. Give a listen for yourself, but for those of you unaccustomed to metal's aural assault - you might want to wait until after that first cup of coffee.

Between the Buried and Me - "Alaska" (taken from Alaksa)

Apr 8, 2007

"I'll take all of what you got to kill this goddamn lonely, goddamn lonely love."

Disappointing news today out of the Drive-By Truckers camp. It appears that one-third of the band's songwriting/guitar-slinging core, the insanely talented Jason Isbell, is no longer with them. According to the official DBT camp, this sounds like an amicable departure. Isbell's MySpace, however, makes things sound a little more terse. Sounds like it may have more than a little to do with Isbell's forthcoming solo album and the rumors that he has split with his wife (Shonna Tucker, still a DBT member). Regardless, best of luck to all parties involved. Hopefully Isbell with go on to great success doing his solo thing, while the DBTs will doubtless roll on with Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley holding down the fort.

In the meantime, enjoy a pair of my favorite Jason Isbell penned DBT songs:

Drive-By Truckers - "Goddamn Lonely Love" (taken from The Dirty South)
Drive-By Truckers - "Decoration Day" - (taken from Decoration Day)

Apr 7, 2007

via//chicago's best of 2007 - quarter one mix

It took me a bit longer than planned to get this mix put together, but here it is - some of my favorite songs of the first three months of 2007. Some are singles you might have heard a few times before, others are album tracks that are worthy of attention, and some are just solid tracks from bands that need to be heard from. It ended up being a little longer than will fit on a single disc, but everyone just tosses these things onto their mp3 player's anyway, right? Enjoy, let me know what you think.

The tracklist:
01. "The Birth And Death of the Day" - Explosions in the Sky
02. "Heretics" - Andrew Bird
03. "I'm Like A Lawyer With the Way I'm Always Trying To Get You Off" - Fall Out Boy
04. "Must Be the Moon" - !!!
05. "Make 'Em Mad" - B.G. & The Chopper City Boyz
06. "Get Buck" - Young Buck
07. "Golden Skans" - Klaxons
08. "Reformation!" - The Fall
09. "Brighteyes" - Jesu
10. "Forever Young" - Youth Group
11. "Australia" - The Shins
12. "A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger" - Of Montreal
13. "National Anthem of Nowhere" - Apostle of Hustle
14. "Boyscout'n" - Menomena
15. "7 Stars" - Apples in Stereo
16. "Lake Somerset" - Deerhunter
17. "I Still Remember" - Bloc Party
18. "Parting of the Sensory" - Modest Mouse
19. "Intervention" - The Arcade Fire
20. "New York I Love You" - LCD Soundsystem

Download it here.

Apr 5, 2007

Live Review: Snow Patrol, OK Go, Silversun Pickups @ The Aragon

One of the more interesting tour pairings I've seen in awhile (indie-grunge revivalists + power-pop + melodramatic teen drama anthems = huh?) made its Chicago stop this past Monday night and I was luckily enough to be standing waist-deep in teenagers and their chaperoning moms at the Aragon to witness it. I was most excited to see the Pickups and their set delivered pretty much what I was expecting, but I'm not sure that their noisy space-rock jams converted many of the Snow Patrol diehards. Oh well, I thought they sounded pretty good even though lead singer Brian Aubert was battling illness. I'm not sure what it is about bands with cute bass players and noisy guitar jams, but I certainly seem to love 'em.

Sorta hometown heroes OK Go were up next and I was surprised to see how many kids in the crowd suddenly sprung to life and reacted as if they were the headliners. They tore through a spirited set of spunky power-pop highlighted by the hits "Here It Goes Again" and "Get Over It". Damian Kulash made for a funny and engaging frontman, but sadly there were no treadmills in sight.

As for Snow Patrol? They were pretty decent, but I have a hard time calling their stage show anything more than solid. They worked the crowd well and played the songs people wanted to hear, but there wasn't anything really memorable or life-changing about the set. Maybe it was just that all of the mid-tempo songs tended to run together after awhile with very few standout moments. The highlight of the night had to be the crowd's rapturous reception of single "Hands Open" and particularly the "Put Sufjan Stevens on and we'll play your favorite song/"Chicago" bursts to life and your sweet smile remembers you" line. They certainly couldn't have ended on a better note.