Thursday, December 31, 2009

For the New Year...

CD reviews
Artist interviews
General jubilation

Egg Nog
"Can't do" attitude

Just to let you guys know, we're waiting on a few to come in for the New Year; unfortunately publicists are sitting out the holidays (not like us!) so we'll probably be out another week. Kick back with your friends and family, and just enjoy the New Year.
(And don't get caught driving in Boston, by all means.)

"Shape" needs more vocal form

Suz - "Shape of Fear and Bravery"
No.Mad Records
-out now

While we're kicking off the end of the year with this Italian electronica/ Trip Hop band, let's cut to the chase so you can resume your festivities: try out "The Gathering" and "Fear" for their flavor, but leave the rest behind. The main weakness of this album lies not with the backing sound effects and rhythm section (which is often strong), but rather in the somewhat monotone range of singer Susanna's vocals here: as the central focus of this album, the vocals need some more tension and modulation. Many of the tracks don't diverge enough vocally, while the backing music takes giant, somewhat successful strides in changing the sound. As a result, tracks such as "Unconditional" and "Little by Little" languish despite having strong performances from the rest of the band. The album has some good ideas, but unfortunately is not where it should be; take a pass.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Holidays alls!

Wow, so that's it for this year. We're going off to Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya...
Actually, it snowed a ton. Key Largo is looking mighty fine right now, but we'll end the year with one quick album for review, and get started on the next lineup of stuff. Thanks for staying tuned, and we'll see you in a couple weeks,

Friday, December 18, 2009

Top CDs of 2009: Friday

Top CDs of 2009: Our Big One!

This is it. Animal Collective have outdone themselves when it comes to complex, interweaving sound structures, Beach Boy-like harmonies, double choruses, and pure, distilled sonic bliss. Fair warning: "Merriweather Post Pavilion" is not necessarily for everyone, unlike Grizzly Bear's, which is more pop-oriented. But here, if you have a bit of time to give to the Collective, you'll easily find this one of the most rewarding listens in your collection. Their dense electronic pop somehow maintains both a nostalgic and modern feel to it (we're still trying to figure out how!), but enough description: listen to "My Girls," their clear single, the springy mouth harp on "Lion in a Coma," and "Brother Sport," an infectious little coda to the album. Crack this one open like a bottle of Champagne: let it bubble and froth, dizzy and warm you all at the same time. Utterly gorgeous, deep, and highly recommended.

Listen to "My Girls" (if you haven't already):, Top CDs of 2009 playlist

Top CDs of 2009: Friday

Top CDs of 2009: Part V

As we're nearing the end, we find ourselves repeating what several other magazines must already have repeated: Grizzly Bear's album is a must-have. But so what if everyone on the indie scene is still talking about it? We're not afraid to jump on board and throw laurels at "Veckatimest," their third studio album. Quite frankly, it's chock-a-block with harmonies and flavor, and making their structured pop a top pick of this or any year. Among the several highlights are "Two Weeks," with an utterly Animal-Collective chorus, and "While You Wait for the Others," which crashes into you like a tidal wave. We reviewed this one on the old blog, and looking back, two lines wasn't quite enough. Unless those lines are these: buy it. Highly recommended.

Listen to "While You Wait for the Others":, Top CDs of 2009 playlist

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Top CDs of 2009: Thursday

Top CDs of 2009, Part IV (con't)

Boom. Chack. Boom. Chack. From the opening synth of the Yeah Yeah Yeah's third full-length to the last strike of the drum, there is no doubt that Karen O is trying to get you up and dancing. The pure glissful disco-rock of "It's Blitz!" is engrossing, infectious, and glorious: there is little doubt that these ten electro-shock tracks are some of our favorites of the year (with "Zero," "Hysteric" and "Dull Life" the favorites of our favorites). It's simple, really: good performances, good lyrics, and crazy energy drive this album through and through, and if you're the kind of person who thinks only serious albums merit your time, then you deserve a crimson-fingerpolish slap. What keeps us coming back is the depth of the lyrics in these songs ("Shake it like a ladder to the sun" sure beats OutKast's "polaroid picture" remark), that and the fact the YYYs hold nothing back instrumentally and vocally. It'll keep you dancing all year long, and if not, you'll at least pretend like you can. Highly recommended.

Listen to "Zero":, Top CDs of 2009 playlist

Top CDs of 2009: Thursday

Top CDs of 2009, Part IV

Breaking off from his homebase of the Felice Bros., Simone Felice took something of a gamble on this duo effort with Robert Burke. Naming their collaboration after a pair of river-bound rapscallions in Twain's Huckleberry Finn, the folk/pop work here is as gorgeous and flowing as the Mississippi, starting with the plaintive opener "If You Ever Get Famous." There are too many highlights here to piece them out, but let's say one of our favorite songs is still the spacer "Lose My Self;" it breaks the gorgeous pace set here, and is fantastic in and of itself. Throughout this album are some of the most delicate and emotional melodies sung this year, with fantastic lyrics, far surpassing his work with the Felice Bros. If this first album "Nothing Gold Can Stay" is a sign of things to come, then we'll have plenty of gold from him for time to come. (And feel free to read our earlier review over there to the left.) Highly recommended.

Listen to "If You Ever Get Famous":, Top CDs of 2009 playlist

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Top CDs of 2009: Wednesday

Top CDs of 2009: Part III (con't)

We here at RMMM hate the 80s. Despise it. In fact, if there were one decade that was in need of a complete cultural retooling at the hands of superior cackling hens, that would be the one. Why, then, is the worst of our pop culture the best of this year? One answer: "Mallory." We're still digging the disco beat that permeates this long-player, and even if you're not a fan of retro-pop/rock, you have to appreciate that "Ancient Lover" is pure saccharine glee. There isn't a wrong note here, not a single "yawn" moment, and yet, for how polished this pop is, it's still incredibly engrossing, very danceable, and incredibly long-lasting. It's the kind of pick-me-up that you used to get out of Presidents of the United States, back when you ate can after can of peaches. We've got an earlier review of this one, too, so scroll over and check it out. Strong performance from a band that will only get better in the coming years; highly recommended.

Listen to "Mallory":, Top CDs of 2009 playlist

Top CDs of 2009: Wednesday

Top CDs of 2009: Day III

It's strange, it's un- conventional, and it's a CD that certainly grows on you. Only St. Vincent's second solo LP, "Actor" uses atypical orchestration and gets a vicious, angular sound, especially in the opener "The Strangers." Strings, clicks and blaps, and breathy, gossamer vocals all in the name of... yes, pop. But it's deep pop, and if it doesn't keep spinning in your player for a while, then we feel truly sorry for you. We're still digging into smoother sound of "The Party," which gorgeously mimics the awkward swagger of feeling misplaced, and "The Bed," which has to do with kids, monsters, and a Smith and Wesson. We've got a more in-depth review on the site here, so feel free to go over and click on the left over there. Definitely worthy of your attention; highly recommended.

Listen to "The Strangers":, Top CDs of 2009 playlist

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Top CDs of 2009: Tuesday

Top CDs, Part II

It's all about the Neko. Her third album since 2002's breakout "Blacklisted," "Middle Cyclone" is one of those rare CDs that, on paper, just doesn't work. Twisting, seemingly random song structure, strange, obscure lyrics, a killer whale as one of the narrators, all in all, it doesn't seem to add up as the top album of an artist's career. But it does work, and it's no fluke: marking 11th on's top albums of this year, we feel, is due to these unusual and poppy songs and Ms. Case's fantastic country-ish vocals (maybe the red hair, too). While it can easily top any list, we at the RMMM blog feel that, while popular, "Middle Cyclone" is still a little below "Blacklisted" and 2006's short but brilliant "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood," earning her slightly less than top honors. Still, any way you cut it (with a knife or a sword), this album should be in your collection. Highly recommended.

Listen to "People Got a Lotta Nerve":

Monday, December 14, 2009

Top CDs of 2009: Monday

Top CDs of 2009: Part I

So. First pick, it's going to be a bit more mainstream than most indie rockers are used to, but let's face it: you're out clubbing, it's late at night, and you still haven't found a better CD for it than Franz Ferdinand's. We understand. Having released in January, this album still keeps it's disco-funk beat, it's flashy, catchy hooks, and Kaparanos' swaggering vocals well into the next year. Even if you're not a big fan of Mr. Ferdinand, especially after 2005' "You Could Have it So Much Better" (a somewhat ironic title), this is the CD to get you back into your tight pants/shiny dress and hit the town. While "No You Girls" is already a top single on, our personal favorite is "Lucid Dreams," with opener "Ulysses" and "Bite Hard" rocking right behind. Find it, steal it, buy it if need be; just be sure to finagle this one into your collection. Highly recommended.

Listen to "No You Girls" -, "Top CDs of 2009" playlist

Friday, December 11, 2009

Plans for next week

...are as such:
Wow, so it's been a year already...?
Anyway, we're going to recap the top albums of this year, and you'll hopefully get an idea what to get the music-lover on your list. Not sure how big the list is yet, but it's going to be only the best of the best, the creme de la creme, the Tiger Woods of... okay, maybe we'll skip that last one.
Things you will not find on this list:
-CDs not reviewed on this blog, or on my MySpace blog (Phoenix, Monsters of Folk, few others)
-Movies, video games, or other things not "music"
-A sense of decency and/or restraint.

It's going to be a fantastic list, stuff that we've been listening to the whole year (so you know it's good). And I'll be taking the week after that off... whew, need some time with/away from the family. See you next week,

Sainthood's suprisingly upbeat

Tegan and Sara - "Sainthood"
-out now
4 / 5

Almost the perfect bookend to Phoenix's "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix," Tegan and Sara churn up a beat-oriented popfest in their sixth full-length. While this album isn't quite up to par with Phoenix's there is still plenty here to recommend it: driving music, great melodies and choruses, and simple, sugary fun. Out of the thirteen presented here, "Arrow," "The Cure," and "Alligator" are the sure bets, with the best choruses out of the bunch, but that's not to say there is a weak track in the mix. Rather, the biggest complaint is that, like Phoenix, these songs are fairly similar to each other, both in structure and mood, and even in tempo. There are no ballads here, nor slower songs to break the status quo, unlike the Yeah Yeah Yeahs "It's Blitz." While this is a fairly big drawback, "Sainthood" is still good if you're in the mood for a boost. Recommended.

Listen to "The Cure":

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Wild Things are crazy good

Karen O and the Kids - "Where the Wild Things Are" (Soundtrack)
Interscope Records
-out now
4 / 5

With a fuller version of her excitable Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Karen O would seem like the exact opposite of the person you'd want to make a soundtrack for a famous children's book adaptation. But here she plays dead on, with playful, organic music that both adults and children will enjoy. Her second album released this year, she loses no steam in conducting a fuller orchestra, bringing an incredible innocence by utilizing a children's chorus, fingersnaps and claps, and acoustic instruments. Performances on the simple and somber "Worried Shoe" and on "Hideaway," which is a personal favorite (next to "All is Love"), are all spot-on, capturing the simplicity of childhood as well as capturing the listener, who cannot help but to identify with Karen O's music, regardless of age. Providing all the songs on this soundtrack, Karen O's music on "Wild Things" plays almost as well as the original book, and many parents will find themselves likewise wanting to share this music with their young cubs. A treat, a fun gem, and definitely recommended.

Listen to "Hideaway":

Monday, December 7, 2009

Vanderslice's latest doesn't cut it

John Vanderslice - Romanian Names
Dead Oceans
-out now

While there is much to enjoy, including the opener, "Tremble and Tear," John Vanderslice's seventh studio album just doesn't quite cut it. Throughout the album, there is simply a feeling of sparseness, a sort of desertification of sound, and while that plays rustic and well for some, it leaves "Romanian Names" feeling unfortunately plain instead. "Carina Constellation" suffers especially from this, repeating the chorus a few too many times, and "D.I.A.L.O." also falls victim, with only vocals, synth and percussion. In addition, the somewhat unpleasant chorus to "Fetal Horses" doesn't help, either, but the main culprit is a lack of fullness in Vanderslice's sound. This works in the closer, "Hard Times," but even that has a satisfying completeness to its sound. Much of this album, unfortunately, doesn't.

Listen to "Hard Times":

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Antlers' trophy album

The Antlers - "Hospice"
-out now
4.5 / 5

The Antlers have taken a giant gamble on this ambitious concept album, and in many ways, it has paid off. Their fourth album is replete with synthesized sounds, hushed Grizzly Bear vocals, electronic buzz, and perplexingly, an achingly slow pace. But this all serves to the Antlers' advantage, as they pull off several strong tracks: "Sylvia," which burns slow and soft until the brash chorus; the strange opening lullaby of "Bear;" and the plaintive pulse to "Two." In general, you're likely to run into a good track on "Hospice," but it still has its few detractors: extremely soft vocals against loud guitars makes it difficult to distinguish the lyrics in several parts; "Prologue" and parts of "Thirteen" spend too much valuable empty space; and despite the 50 minutes, the album could use a bit more content, probably in slightly more complex song structures and layering. Despite all this, "Hospice" is still likely to make a home in many music collections for a long while, especially for those fans who don't mind having to sit down for repeat listens. Certainly not a CD you'd keep in the car, but that's a good thing here; recommended.

Listen to "Sylvia":

Friday, November 27, 2009

Felice Brothers just short of felicity

The Felice Brothers - "Yonder is the Clock"
Team Love Records
-out now

Another in our yearly recap is the Felice Brothers, from whom Simone Felice broke off. While their albums don't necessarily merit comparison, there is little doubt that Simone's "Duke and the King" duo took the greater part of the talent in the transaction. To be sure, "Yonder" will please the Felice Brothers fanbase, but does little to reach beyond. While tracks such as "Run Chicken Run" and "All When We Were Young" display the range of their talent, with the former's Louisiana swing propelling it, and the latter's slow rag-time piano, the album on the whole is filled with decent, but not exceptional tracks. The opener, "The Big Surprise," demonstrates exaggerated Dylan-esque vocals, which are, at best, an acquired taste, and worse, somewhat detracting from the song; the energy of the live "Memphis Flu" is impressive, but the track is cluttered and not impressive compared to their contemporaries. Not a poor album for the folk revivalist, but one can construct a list of other folk artists (Sam Beam, Levon Helm, M Ward) who do better to push the boundaries and take you out of your expectations.

Listen to "Buried in Ice":

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hey Mama, this is good stuff

Hey Mama - "Hey Mama"
-out Dec 11
4 / 5

Formerly Avi and Celia, "Hey Mama" officially marks Mr. Salloway's and Ms. Woodsmith's first release under their new name and band. While the songs of their previous release "Let it Rise" sometimes eclipse some of the songs here, "Hey Mama" still gives a heady rock and roll, with fantastic bluesy vocals from Woodsmith. For those who are unfamiliar with the young prodigy, she smacks of old jazz singers, blue smoke-filled bars, and importantly, displays impressive range and technique. The backing band, whether it be guitarist Salloway with rhythm section Ben Kogan and Jared Seabrook, or if it's Boston's Tecumseh Strings, find themselves comfortable all over the board, which the vocals demand. Strike towards the fantastic Americana "Mountain Bones," featuring the Tecumseh Strings, the blues of "Driving Nails," or the slow-paced, misty "Whiskey Bayou." The only weakness on these tracks is the uncharacteristic choice of "Dred Scott," but the other songs here make up for it. Recommended.

Listen to "Mountain Bones":

Monday, November 23, 2009

Twitter reminder

For those of you who don't know, I'm on Twitter!! Woot! That way you'll get all the random updates on CD reviews and whatnot when I post them. Not a bad way to keep up with me.
Been looking through a ton of CDs to put up. Haven't decided which ones yet, which is probably a bad sign, considering I still have to get one ready for tomorrow. Hmmm... I think I'll put them to an online Survivor vote...

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Chimeric" lacking substance

Radian - "Chimeric"
Thrill Jockey
-out now

The first few industrial notes of ambient "Chimeric" are miserably slow, and it's sad to say, but Radian here doesn't offer much more. The songs are incredibly sparse, lacking the depth and layering of more noise-oriented artists (Merzbow), and don't display song arcs or give the listener much footing in which to orient themselves (Aphex Twin, The Flaming Lips most recently). While sonic experimentation isn't necessarily a bad thing, it is when other aspects, such as song construction and meaning, are being experimented upon. And that is how the listener feels: experimented upon. To be sure, there are a few interesting parts here, but those brief snippets only serve to make the album feel like shards of partial songs at best. Except for the extremely unusual and super-iconoclastic, "Chimeric" offers little more than a somewhat intriguing first listen; dodge it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's time to take the "BQE"

Sufjan Stevens - "The BQE"
Asthmatic Kitty
-out now

An ambitious project on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, "The BQE" is clearly marked as Sufjan Steven's magnum opus. A classical suite in a foreboding thirteen parts, "BQE" is anything but: it is grand, magnificent, and patient. Commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music and performed on November of 2007, fans of Steven's much-awaited suite are treated to audio, an intimate video, and even a 40-page booklet. Those same fans will note immediately that this piece, unlike "Illinois" or "Michigan,"
is far less personal, and lacks the vocals and intimate stories, as well as stand-out tracks of the previous two. The casual Stevens listener will still find his sense of playfulness and instrumental intricacy intact, albeit in a less familiar genre. To place Stevens amongst Copland and other classical American masters is tempting, but unfortunately not warranted here; while "BQE" is layered and lush, it still lacks a certain distinctness, memory, and overall arc that would otherwise place Stevens in that echelon. Nonetheless, this music is gorgeous, fantastic, and exciting for casual classical listeners or long-time listeners of "Illinois." Recommended.

Monday, November 16, 2009

And for my first order of business, I declare:

So, it's been two weeks. This is the part of the music season that lags a bit, and the vacation was very welcome and productive (thanks for asking), but now it's time to get back to business. We've got an album dedicated to a roadway coming up, as well as a few others, so check back tomorrow for that and Friday for another. I just haven't decided which to run at the end of the week.
So how was last week? Hope it was every bit as restful as mine... *yawn*...

Monday, November 2, 2009

A welcome stay-cation

So y'all,
It's that time of the year to take a break, kick back from what ails ya, and just relax. No, not you, I meant me: I'm going to take a blog-cation from CD reviews this week and the next. It's been pretty taxing and all hunting down CDs, and getting them out to you on time... no, cake isn't necessary for me, but I'll take it all the same...
Your assignment: keep on keeping on. See you on the 16th!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Vincent's "Actor" saintly

St. Vincent - "Actor"
4ad Records
-out now
4 / 5

Surprising song arrangements make Annie Clark's second solo album a deep, complex treat. Clark, aka St. Vincent, has a penchant for constructing songs that demand multiple listens; after the initial shock of "The Strangers" and its bizarre instrumentation (Clark's whispery voice supported by keyboard and a basic beat), the album fills in with several songs of warmth and worth. One such song is the gorgeously personal "The Party," whose simple cadence and contemplative vocals highlight an awkward moment together. The lyrics here ("my pockets hang out/Like two surrendered flags") capture the beauty of the moment and speak it truthfully, which is, of course, the two things any artist should strive for. Expect an album replete with such moments ("Black Rainbow" and "Laughing with a Mouthful of Blood" provide as well), though don't expect an easy listen-through or two. Recommended.

Listen to "The Strangers":

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fun. certainly has a lot of it

Fun. - "Aim and Ignite"
-out now
4 / 5

Replete with caliope, trombone, and cello, these playful arrangements by the sugary pop band Fun. bubble with excitement and poppy youth. The sheer brightness of the songs here would assume superficial treatment of the somewhat light material, but the biggest pleasure is the care taken for the crafting of the songs; each twists about creatively, playing with the listener, and each new segment unfolds into the next unexpected part. Yes, these songs feel a bit airy and colorful like a carousel, but that still doesn't detract from the pure fun on the cheeky and cheesy "I Wanna Be the One." When Fun. hits their strongest tracks in "All the Pretty Girls" and "At Least I'm Not As Sad (As I Used to Be)," it's easy to find yourself dancing about with the goofs, which is certainly not a bad thing. The trio knows their territory inside and out, and while they don't have the most somber take out there, they show pride and care in their inventive and topsy-turvy songs. All the carnival sweetness without the tooth rot; recommended.

Listen to "All the Pretty Girls":

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A little bit ticked - Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel, 10-23-09

Zeus hurls lightning bolts thundering through a crowd of various ages. Floorboards rumbled, viscera shook and teeth chattered with each thunderous note. This, the Holy Suns noted, is what a bass should sound like. Unfortunately for the audience, it was a less than pleasant experience.
As the opener for Providence-based Americana band Deer Tick at Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel in Providence, Holy Suns did everything a good opener band is supposed to do: make you wait for the headliner. Dolorean, who performed next, was untouched by the need to crank the low end of their speakers, and their Jeff Tweedy vibe and balance contributed to a gorgeous set. Dolorean was a welcome musical oasis from the bands it followed and preceded, as Christopher Denny argued (in poor taste) with the sound engineer and managed an even louder and more unbalanced bass. As the saying goes, God helps those who help the sound engineer.
With Christopher Denny gone, the anticipation only grew amongst the 'Tickers, as the hour grew closer to midnight. When John Joseph McCauley III and his band took the stage, it was to introduce yet another act, Nashvillian Jonny Corndawg, who performed country-tinged songs backed by Deer Tick. As the fourth song wore on, an a capella piece, something extraordinary gave way and McCauley's voice rung out familiar lyrics.
Scraggly, squeezed vocals formed an a capella version of "Dirty Dishes," with the crowd following along. As they jammed into a cover of Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love," Deer Tick wasn't on their perfect game that Friday night. They seemed a bit rushed, gassing through their first four songs in little more than ten minutes, and McCauley certainly seemed a bit more raucous on the stage than his counterparts. Still, at $3 a band, it was a fair deal, even if just for Deer Tick and Dolorean. Though less might've been more.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"Embryonic" experiment

The Flaming Lips - "Embryonic"
WEA/ Reprise Records
-out now

The much-anticipated double-album from the nigh-underground indie outerspace rocker trio (whew!) is out. The Flaming Lips test the bounds with a dark, spacy concept album that seems to take its inspiration from the ending to Kubrik's "2001: A Space Odyssey"; that is to say, don't expect the tight, orchestral twinkle of "The Soft Bulletin," or the brilliant playfulness of "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots." Those crowds may be fairly disappointed, but those who will find themselves tickled are the early listeners to the Lips: these tracks play homage to their original outsider, discordant sound, and show the more fearless and exploratory side of the much-lauded band. The main drawback on this release is the lack of a real sonic anchor, singles, or much of anything that you'd want to hum to. On the other hand, the instrumental tracks are truly gorgeous ("Aquarius Sabotage" and "Gemini Syringes"), and the album is deserving of the multiple listens it needs. "Embryonic" plays far more to an experimental ear than the Lips' previous material; an acquired, though not perfect taste, but still recommended.

Listen to "Silver Trembling Hands":

Monday, October 19, 2009

A busy weekend

Hello night-time blogophiles,
Just got back from a crazy weekend including turtles and possibly a European country. To summate: Trampled by Turtles did a fantastic set, had the crowd cheering for them, and I bid them many welcomes and farewells and good lucks. Some incredible bluegrass stuff going on there; even got a signed t-shirt! Portugal. The Man had a great opening act (really nice dance tunes), and though I didn't much care for the outer-space jams of Drug Rug, P.TM definitely pulled the night through with some fantastic tunes. My only complaint is that I lost a good percentage of my hearing.
So, this week: going to recap a few CDs that I feel like I've missed. I'm already starting to think about my end of the year list, so I want to get my hands on a few right away. Thanks, peace out, and enjoy,

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Portugal: The man behind Portugal. The Man.

The band with a penchant for punctuation are back with a fourth album. In case you haven't heard, the Wasila, AK-born quartet have been making waves with '60s pop-inspired "The Satanic Satanist," released in July of this year. I got to stake out a few minutes with this busy band to talk merch before their upcoming concert at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston (10-18-09 at 8:15p, $15 Bassist Zachary Scott Carothers reveals what it's like to be psychedelic in a recent phone interview. (Photo, L to R: Ryan Neighbors - keys, percussion, Jason Sechrist - drums & percussion, John Baldwin Gourley - guitar & lead vocals, Zachary Scott Carothers - bass)

MK: You probably get this question all the time: why the punctuation?
ZSC: I guess it's just to state that "Portugal" is the name of the character that we kind of created, and then just stating that he is "the man." It was supposed to be to clarify things a little bit, but I think it just ended up making things more confusing, to tell you the truth.

MK: This guy you've created, how would you describe him? Would he be the spirit behind your music?
ZSC: Yeah, definitely. It was kind of in the vein of Ziggy Stardust or Sgt. Pepper, just creating a fictional character that would perform our music, and we were going to be the backing band for this fake man. I guess it's hard to describe him physically, I don't know. I don't know if I've ever really thought about that. [Jokes]I guess maybe a mix of like Hercules and Jesus, or something like that...?

MK: So super-awesome feats, and Kevin Sorbo's hair. Would he look anything like your album cover? - which, I love the colors on it, but it kind of freaks me out.
ZSC: Yeah, it's pretty crazy. John (Gourley) and our buddy Austin Sellers worked really hard on that, and I'm really happy with what they came out. That thing just turned out awesome; we were all super-pleased with it. We've gotten really good reviews as far as the artwork goes.

MK: In addition to your psychedelic album cover, your opener, "People Say," is also inspired in part by Vietnam.
ZSC: We felt like a good-ole protest song, you know. There's not a whole lot of those going around these days. Oddly enough, you think that there would be.

MK: Now that you're in Portland, Oregon, is there anything you miss about Alaska?
ZSC: Definitely. My family, I guess first of all... I guess just the environment (too). It's really beautiful up there. And it's a really great place to grow up, especially being a kid up there, we just had so many woods and rivers and you get to do a lot of fun outdoors things growing up there.

MK: And your band is very technologically connected. According to your Twitter account, you're just getting into the Kinks?
ZSC: Yeah. Kind of a random thing to just be just getting into.

MK: Might I suggest listening to "The Village Green Preservation Society" and "Arthur"?
ZSC: We'll have to check that out. A couple of the other guys in the band have listened to them, but John (Gourley) basically had just been listening to them for the last couple days, mostly the song "Strangers." He's been probably listening to it about three times a day already.

MK: Where did you get some of your influences for "The Satanic Satanist?"
ZSC: A lot of it had to do with the stuff that we grew up to listening. Kind of oldies radio in Alaska, and there's a lot of old Motown and soul. We also took a lot of influence randomly from mix CDs that our producers had sent us. Before we went into the studio, we were emailing back and forth and talking about different sounds, and so we'd be emailing different songs; "we really like this drum tone right here," you know, this bass tone. They would send us these random soul mixes and Motown mixes of bands that we had never heard of, just little tiny bands from the 60s that were just absolutely amazing. We definitely got a lot of inspiration from that, and also just the gear in the studios. It was our first time ever being in a real studio that wasn't just run by one of our friends. [The gear] spanned all the generations [of music] that we've been listening to. We tried to do '50s and '60s structuring... we had equipment from the '60s and '70s, ... '90s production. It spans basically everything we know about contemporary music.

MK: Going with the psychedelic theme, what other merchandise might you offer? Are lava lamps in store?
ZSC: [Laughs] You know, we've been thinking about different merchandise. We've had a lot of ideas, but it never really comes through with anything in particular. We're still keeping it pretty basic. But we definitely want to get in to some of the weirder merch.

MK: Could you do those weird white suits on your "Do You" video?
ZSC: Our friend made them, actually. John, our singer, designed them, and then we took them to a friend who just kind of sews as a hobby, and she made them for us. We made some spyrograph screens and screen printed on them. They ended up coming out really really cool. Those things are definitely awesome. It's very tight. [laughs]

MK: I was hoping you'd have them on your website.
ZSC: I don't know if anyone would buy them. But it would be an interesting thing to find out.

MK: You've been doing one album a year; do you have your next one lined up?
ZSC: We have one that's done, pretty much done, I guess it's still got to be mastered. We're not sure if it's going to be a full album - it's ten songs - but we're thinking about weirder ways to release it. It might be something inbetween this ("The Satanic Satanist") and the next record that we do. We're scheduled to go back into the studio... sometime in January or February, and do another one. (The songs are) a lot more different, (have) a lot more drum loops and synthesizers, even more than on the last record.

MK: Any idea what it might be called?
ZSC: Not quite yet. Or, we've got some ideas, but I don't technically know if we're allowed to say them yet. Those things change pretty often for us.

Check out The Man's super feats at:

Trampled by Turtles races them instead

Minnesota's all-string quintet make an especially hirsute stop in Fall River's Narrows Center for the Arts this Friday (7 p doors, 8p show; $15 adv., $17 day of; needless to say, if you're a fan of frenetic banjoing and bluegrass mandolin, you might just fit in. Coming off their fifth album, last year's hometown-inspired "Duluth," singer-songwriter-guitarist Dave Simonett found some time on the road to wax nostalgic about racing turtles in a recent phone interview. (Photo, L to R: Erik Berry (mandolin), Ryan Young (fiddle), Dave Carroll (banjo), Dave Simonett (guitar/lead vocals), Tim Saxhaug (bass))

MK: Where did your name come from?
DS: Our mandolin player actually made it up as kind of a joke. We had some shows booked when we started, and we didn't have a name yet. But we couldn't come up with anything that we liked, and I don't know where he really came up with it, but he just kind of threw it out there as a joke. We didn't hate it, so we went with it at the time. You know, this band actually started as just a side project of a couple other bands. We kind of started not taking it seriously, anyway, so I think it's a little bit of a product of that.

MK: What were the other bands you guys played in?
DS: I guess you could call them all just kind of garage rock bands. Actually, the band that I was in before this one was my first band, so it was terrible, and it was kind of loud rock and roll. That's about the same for everybody.

MK: Who are some of your influences?
DS: I listen to a lot of songwriters. Some of my favorites would be Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Jeff Tweedy, and their respective bands; Neil Young. But I also like to listen to hip hop and some punk rock.

MK: Yeah, the punk rock definitely comes through in your music.
DS: Yeah, good, thanks. I kind of went through a pretty big punk phase when I was in high school, actually. All the first shows I saw were like basement punk rock shows. I'd like to think that a lot of that energy stuck with [me]. I really just dig that part of it: just the raw - not technically perfect music playing, but just the energy that drives it. I like that part of punk still.

MK: You didn't dress with studs in your black clothing and not talk to anybody in high school, right?
DS: [Laughs] Yeah... I did go through a look a bit like that. It passed, though.

MK: "Duluth's" tracks have a lot of frantic energy on them, but then midway you hit "Methodism in Middle America," which is sad and sparse and plaintive. It makes it a pain to characterize you guys.
DS: Good. [Laughs] You know, most people tend to focus on the faster side of our band, even though it's probably pretty equally distributed. But when people come out and see us live, depending on the room, it usually ends up being a more high-energy show. When we're playing live, man, it's just in the moment, it's kind of whatever's happening there. I do feel a little good to be hard to categorize. I think that's a good thing for a band. Sorry for you guys [as critics].

MK: What were some of your more unusual live experiences? You've recently been traveling to new places...
DS: Yeah, for sure, man. "Unusual live experiences," that's a good question. Well, there's been several instances of crowd nudity, some pretty rowdy... [pauses]. As far as crowd interactions go, there's been weird ones, but probably not weird in respect to being in a band. We haven't really had anything, off the top of my head, that really stands out. It might be because, when we're playing, I guess probably most of the stuff happening in the room goes right over our heads. So like nobody's trying to shoot us or anything onstage, other than a little bit of underwear flying up onstage and people stage diving once in a while.

MK: Basically, you're saying "anything goes."
DS: Yeah, I hope so. But that again depends on the scene, on the crowd, on the room. There are times that we will play kind of a formal setting... and the show will be different because of that. And as far as playing in a bar, or late-night club, if it's a crowd that's really into it and they're partying or whatever, yeah, "anything goes." I think it's a real fun atmosphere like that.

MK: I'll probably try to keep my underwear on, though.
DS: [Laughs] I appreciate that.

MK: Let's start wrapping this up: have you ever caught a turtle?
DS: Yes, actually, I have caught one. My grandparents' cabin in northern Minnesota, the little town that's the closest to their cabin I used to go to as a kid quite a bit, and they actually had turtle races. And I competed in one of those when I was like, seven years old. And I didn't win.

MK: Oh.
DS: Everybody had to get their little turtle, set it up at the starting line, and then they're supposed to walk across the parking lot, or whatever, in fifteen minutes. Mine, I don't remember what happened, but I didn't win.

Get your inner reptilian on at:

Interviews this week...!

Hello adoring and adorable fans,
Scheduled to post today was an interview with Trampled by Turtles, but it looks like it might have to push back to later in the week (which means Portugal. The Man will post later, too). Somehow, I'm going to have to fit in The Flaming Lips' review ("Embryonic" comes out today!) at some point. Ugh! I wish things would work out a bit better! Oh well, c'est la vie...
Hang tight! I'll stay up all night if I have to get you something!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

80s lovin' on "Ancient Lover"

Tigercity - "Ancient Lover"
-due out Oct. 20
4 / 5

Tight shiny pants and large golden rings prevail on Tiger City's latest release. "Fake Gold" opens up and sets the tone: classic rock guitar, male falsetto, synth, and a sultry swagger. From the decade that brought us faux wood station wagons and Cling-ons, Tiger City has infused their nostalgia with a modern temperament and straight groove. That's a good thing here, as their effort yields several strong tracks, including the title track, which feels will take you back to your high school close dance memories, and "Quicksand," which might have come off the pop radio decades ago. For all their flavor, Tiger City also displays a slight reservation in their structure, eschewing the more frivolous aspects of their influences, and paring down to the parts that we all enjoy: beat, sway, and simple fun. Fantastic for fans of Depeche Mode et al., but surprisingly still damn fun even for the naysayers. Recommended.

Listen to "Mallory":

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I'm a travellin' man

Hello fellow music-abusers,
Just going to warn you that I'm going to move into concert reviews as well; unfortunately, they'll be restricted to my immediate range of motion (and how much gas I can put in my car). Expect to hear from Deer Tick and hopefully others soon.

Benefits from such a policy:
You'll get an idea if the band's that good in person. If you were unaware, there is a huge difference between a live band and a studio band; think the difference between eating oranges and orange jello.
(The jello will also be shaped like oranges).
Negatives: It'll obviously be after the fact. You'll have to catch them on their next date, so keep up soon and often!
Also - you might be able to triangulate my exact address based on the concerts I attend. If you come bearing gifts (especially of music and assorted teas) then, by all means, come. If you come bearing an ax to grind and, quite possibly, an ax, then I'm out for the day.

Hope this comes as a pleasant surprise!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Glass Ghost doesn't give musical chills

Glass Ghost - "Idol Omen"
Western Vinyl
-due out Oct. 27

With vocals and a sensibility akin to Blonde Redhead, Glass Ghost creates sparse, vaporous songs on their debut. The tracks are, indeed, ghostly with a touch of haunting vocals, but what holds the band back is the same sparseness of the tracks; Ghost has no difficulty in creating a mood, but find trouble with fleshing it out. "The Same" suffers from this, feeling emotionally empty even with several electronic effects. "Time Saving Trick" and "Like a Diamond" succeed best on this album, both because they are filled with more traditional instruments, and also because of their better pace. But even these tracks don't wrap themselves around their listener like they should, and they just don't completely satisfy; also, considering "Idol Omen" is just over 31 minutes, all the tracks here could be of far better quality. There's not enough good material here to recommend it. A brief and slight disappointment.

Listen to "Like a Diamond":

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Warning: may have "fits" over Denim's latest

White Denim - "Fits"
-due out Oct. 20
4 / 5

Crashing, thrashing rough punk prevails on White Denim's second release. It's thick, viscous music that gets stuck in your throat; the opening tracks are full, well-executed twisting streams of sound that glut and flow, replete with guitar and drums. Any band that sets themselves to it can craft songs of these quality, but what sets Denim apart is their ability to change over to a calmer, more melodic and controlled M. Ward versing starting on "Paint Yourself," which goes acoustic against the Strokes-ish feel of "I Start to Run." The unpolished edge they cut into their music is surprisingly honed, and their sound opens up magnificently when they clean up and shave a bit on those last third of tracks. All in all, plenty for both the punker and the overall music enthusiast; recommended.

Listen to "I Start to Run":

Monday, September 28, 2009

OOIOO! My head hurts...!

OOIOO - "Armonico Hewa"
Thrill Jockey
-due out Oct. 20

In case you're wondering where Yoshimi P-we disappeared to after guest voicing on the Flaming Lips' "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots," then here's your answer: forming a once-fictional electronic band. Displayed here is an array of the unusual, a Japanese electronic experiment consisting of drums, discordant electronics, and varying vocal effects. To say the music here is different is an understatement: "Uda Hah"s pastiche of guitars and vocals that creates a incredibly non-traditional view of modern music. But while "Uda Hah" and the playfulness of "Polacca" may be passable, several of the other tracks opt instead for pure experimentalism: the first half of "Ulda" relies so heavily on synth, that the vocals just barely lift the song, and the percussion-heavy "Irorun" simply runs out of steam. The sum of the album is less than the parts, as it feels as if several musical pieces are jutted and conjoined in almost nonsensical and not entirely pleasing ways. It is simply an experiment, and one that could have used more time incubating; take a pass.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It might as well be spri- errr...fall

Hello ones and all,
So, can you smell it? Here in NE territory, it's starting to smell something like Fall; which means, to the undiscerning music listener, fall CD releases. Right now I'm thinking of the Flaming Lips' new one, due Oct 13th. Just crossing my fingers to see if that one gets through.
Sorry for the seeming drought of CD reviews, for some reason I've been not getting a whole lot back. Come Oct., just looking ahead, there should be a dearth of albums, piling on my doorsteps. Can't wait, can't wait...
In most important music news, I was somewhat disappointed by Zooey Deschanel in "500 Days of Summer." Just didn't strike me as I'd wanted it to; the male lead was soooo finicky. I guess it's still okay to have a guy-crush or girl-crush on Zooey, if you're the opposite gender...
Come along now, follow this blog; you shan't be disappointed next month. You shan't.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

"Homemade Ship" carries a long way

Rose Melberg - "Homemade Ship"
K Records
-due out Sept. 22

Melberg's third solo record is a slight bit of gentle enchantment. It's a modest little record, composed mostly of acoustic guitar, her vocals and harmonies, and rather simple songs. But these songs are pleasant, enjoyable, and quiet in a deep and somewhat meditative way; "Things that We Do" in someone else's hands may come off too saccharine, but the simplicity and lack of embellishment is refreshing and enjoyable. "Old Days" is a more somber and fulfilling course in supporting guitar and gorgeous harmonies. At times, it is difficult to pin down exactly what makes this album a pleasure; it is not "exciting," yet the melodies enthrall; it doesn't sway, but it moves softly. This album won't get you up on the dance floor, nor may it get you up and moving, but if you find yourself locked in on a rainy day, there is little better way than to spend it with Melberg's peaceable voice; it is a rare album and a rare gem. Recommended.

Listen to "Things that We Do":

Sunday, September 6, 2009

"Frankenstein" not "Grand" enough

Grand Archives - "Keep in Mind Frankenstein"
Sub pop Records
-Due out Sept. 15

With a bit of acoustic Band of Horses flavor (guitarist Mat Brooke was on their debut), the Seattle quartet offers a second album of calm, quietly rocking tracks. With the likes of the plaintive "Oslo Novelist" and crisp dance of "Left for all the Strays," "Frankenstein" has strong tracks for fans of Mat Brooke and calmer, restrained pop. But the tradeoff here is that these tracks don't immediately grip you; the best of them require room and time for them to grow, whereas the worst simply fade from memory. One of the weaker tracks, the weird shuffling boogie of "Dig that Crazy Grave," break the spell the album quietly weaves. Though there are good songs here, ultimately, there isn't enough material to recommend the whole, and unlike the mad doctor, "Frankenstein," for the most part, tends towards being forgettable. Try a couple tracks and let them grab you (or not) before you dig into "Frankenstein."
Listen to "Oslo Novelist":

Friday, September 4, 2009

Next Week...!

This week has been a bit slow, mostly due to a contract dispute ("I get nothing?") with an online mag (think "sliced ____ meats"), but I assure you, each and every one of you, that you'll still receive the same quality reviews, health care, and general warmth/abuse you've come to expect. Or maybe you expect nothing. Anyway, here goes:
1. I decree there will be an exciting new album by a Sub Pop band next week. And lo, we shall see if it rocks.
2. No more of this "work for free" communist propaganda stuff. Simplify: everything belongs to me.
3. I'm starting up palm reading. Scan your hand and a check to find out if Tony will marry you.
Okay, now back to the music. I suppose a number 4 would be: more band interviews, as requested by you, the readers. Enjoy!
-The Mgmt.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Matador's finest kills it

Yo La Tengo - "Popular Songs"
Matador Records
-due out Sept. 8
4.5 / 5

On their 16th album, Hoboken trio Yo La Tengo crack open with strings, layering as complex and listenable as Beck, and their own dreary/dreamy vocals in "Here to Fall," the opener track. Download this track; it is as exciting and groovy as any you're bound to find in the vein of Depeche Mode (and there's strings, to boot). "Popular Songs" is chock-a-block with similarly poppy tracks, and for a moment, the album seems to have more focus and enjoyability than their typical spacious space jams. But even here they supply, as the last three tracks are 7+ minutes each, so as to not disappoint the longtime Yo La Tengo listener. These tracks are good, but the nine that precede them are what you come for: an eclectic and distinctly indie take on pop from a band that has spent 25 years defying it. Also take home the incredibly awkward "Periodically Double or Triple," and 70s styled "If It's True." A strong indie-flavored album that's surprisingly fun and enjoyable. Recommended.

Listen to "Periodically Double or Triple":

Back to the good-ole

Hey y'all,
So hope you had fun with Jazz Week. Coming up next will be more indie bands, including one from Matador today (hint hint). It's always a good idea to go out and check out different genres of music, so hopefully you got your feet wet in America's great musical tradition.
That would be jazz. Not complaining about royalties. (Or purchasing mansions.)
Okay, so that's maybe the top 1% of bands. Regardless: go forth, young people, and indulge in music.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tyner's "Solo" full of warmth and depth

McCoy Tyner - "Solo; Live from San Fransicsco"
Half Note Records
-out today
4.5 / 5

With a legendary career like pianist McCoy Tyner's, there is always the nagging comparison between his latest release and his classic '60s and '70s albums. To clarify: yes, he is in his 70s, and yes, this album may not be as classic as "The Real McCoy." But is it worthwhile? Yes. Here's why: even in his advanced years, and even with a slightly lacking a bit of touch on his fingers, the solo work here is marvelous, deep, complex, intimate. It is as easy for a person inexperienced in jazz to get into as it is for an afficionado of his other work to enjoy. And that is the key word here, "enjoy." There is maturity and depth, but there is also a profound understated joy in his playing, whether it be in dense retake of Coltrane's famous "Lazy Bird," the lush "African Village", or his delicate "Naima," also a standard of Coltrane's. A worthy work in a worthy career. Recommended.

Monday, August 24, 2009

"Heaven" is not quite...

James Carter - Heaven on Earth (Live)
Half Note Records
-due out Tomorrow

Not to editorialize, but the musicians here are fantastic: John Medeski of Martin, Medeski and Wood, Christian McBride with his own burgeoning solo career, and James Carter, a passionate and wild soloist in a live setting. Then what we have with "Heaven on Earth," I desperately want to say is a fantastic, must-get album: it displays musicianship, ability, and technical powers well beyond most musicians. But it lacks an ear, and what we get is half a fantastic album, restrained and gorgeous as on the bluesy "Street of Dreams," or thrashing and wandering as on the opener "Diminishing" and "Slam's Mishap." To be fair, Carter is know for his exploratory, often "un-melodic" improvisational style, but it bleeds into the set, and leaves the album too often without focus. A musician may not mind not having a "pay-off," but it would be remiss for the casual listener to sit down and try the often fruitless jams here. Try out Carter's down-tempo swagger on "Blue Leo," as well as the funky-fresh organ solo on the title track. Otherwise, save your cash for the more consistent "Live at Baker's."

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Book it to Glasper's "Double Booked"

Robert Glasper - "Double Booked"
Blue Note Records
- due out Aug 25
4 / 5

His third album on Blue Note Records has Glasper doubling his band; the first segment is his acoustic jazz trio, followed by his more electric and hip-hop group the Robert Glasper Experiment. Of the first six tracks, there is little wasted space, as the loping, upbeat strides of "I'm Country (And That's Okay)" and the dense and melodic treatment of Monk's "Think of One" proves themselves the highlights of the first half. A couple of phone calls segues Glasper for the second half, which, while not quite as exciting as the first, still comes as a fresh and welcoming set. Bilal's vocals on "Butterfly" is unexpected on a typical jazz album, but "typical" isn't why this is good music; check it out for a musician capable of hip-hop, and very talented in jazz. Recommended.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Interview with a Guitar Fiend

This week, I'm all in favor of Catie Curtis, who not only has a new album out, but has taken it upon herself to start Aspire to Inspire, a program that gives guitars to kids who can't afford them. Props to that, Catie; here's the recent phone interview:

Did you do the cover art for "Hello, Stranger"?
No, I didn't. The woman who drew it is a good friend of mine who's also a best-selling author. She wrote and illustrated the book, "All I Needed to Know I Learned from my Cat." She's the real deal. We asked her to make up something for the cover and she did.

Is that you in the glasses and fake mustache?
No... it's sort of like the whole idea of putting on a disguise, for me, like trying on a new identity. I think that's what she was getting at.

And not that, literally, you go around like that.
No, I don't. (Laughs)

Who do you listen to right now?
I've been listening to Feist quite a bit. I love the melodies and the playfulness. The music that I always fall back on... is Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris, a group called the Weepies. There's a new artist in the Boston area named Lindsay Mac, who I think is really outstanding. When I'm driving, I love public radio. I love hearing discussions about politics and that's the kind of thing that keeps me awake more than music, which relaxes me too much to drive to.

You're focused on more than music; can you tell us about "Aspire to Inspire"?
It's a really small, kind of personal endeavor that started with just me, but it's grown into a nearly $10,000 endowment. It's not huge, but it means that in the coming year, I'll be able to give away a handful of guitars (about 5-10). I'm allowed to... give a handful of guitars to kids who are affiliated with the Fresh Air camps in New York State. So kids who don't have the means to buy guitars, but are passionate about music, (can get one). I know how much it changed my life as one person being given a guitar. One thing I would really liked to do is solicit used instruments from people that don't play the instrument anymore.

Do you remember the guitar you were given?
It was a Yamaya, like, SG 30, something like that. SG something.

Do you still have it?
No, sadly. I traded up at some point.

Hay's "Sunshine" doesn't quite shine

Colin Hay - "American Sunshine"
Compass Records
-due out Aug 18

The opener to Hay's tenth solo album is a placid, someone stagnant celebration of his home state in his adopted country. "California," like other pieces in this album, just seems to lack a real excitement, and don't evince that necessary freshness that art is supposed to bring to its subject. The following "Prison Time" is a well-crafted, somewhat sunshiny feel-good track, and this is how this album stumbles, with one good, and one limp leg. Hay's laid-back, home-country groove seems to be either on or off, making for an uneven album. Hay's fans should find enough calmness and serenity in the instrumentation to enjoy this album, but the casual listener might not be as willing to forgive such tracks as "No Time," which comes off too poppy and bland and shallow. Try "Prison Time" and "There's Water Over Here," are a couple of the deeper of his tracks; otherwise, give "Sunshine" a pass.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Blanchard makes good "Choices"

Terence Blanchard - "Choices"
Concord Jazz
-due out Aug 18

If you're unfamiliar with Blanchard's work, simply sit back and enjoy the unexpected twists and snakes of "Byus," the first track to his latest album. "Choices" is interspersed with spoken vocals by Dr. Cornel West about the choices people make in life: whether to go to school, whether to be a musician, whether to be good or not. This conversational tone to the album spices it up a bit and gives it a second voice; one that it can use, because it doesn't quite have the sweetness and light of his 2003 "Bounce," or the thunder of 2007 "A Tale of God's Will." But here are still excellent performances, especially in the extended acoustic set "Winding Roads," and the more fusion-funk of "A New World (Created Inside the Walls of Imagination)." These tracks showcase the depth of Blanchard's talents as a composer, and where he's lacking is in the general focus of this record; also, don't take this to mean his performances throughout aren't up to par. Not quite his greatest, but still an achievement. Recommended.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"Stranger" feels too familiar

Catie Curtis - "Hello Stranger"
Compass Records
-out now

Ms. Curtis' authenticity as a country voice is difficult to question in her tenth album. The Boston-based singer and guitarist has an excellent bluesgrass instrumentation in the backing banjo, fiddle and dobro; the musicians here create a pleasant and enjoyable country ambience throughout the album, especially in the opener, "100 Miles," and the Cat Stevens cover "Tuesday's Dead." The latter is upbeat and excellent, and a John Martyn cover "Don't Want to Know (No Evil)" performes well also, seemingly creeping upon the listener. The album overall, however, is a different story, and much of "Hello, Stranger" feels a bit flat (not pitch-wise), and not enough sticks out memorably; perhaps much of this can be remedied with more powerful vocals. Overall, the album doesn't receive a pass, though the songs listed here are certainly recommended.
Don't forget to check out the interview with Curtis coming out this week...

The Maine Drag

Hello viewers,
Apologies for the lateness, but I recently found myself bound and gagged on a flight to Maine. It was fun, there were steamers and lobsters galore, and I would recommend it for anyone who's a fan of five-hour car drives. I know I said "flight," but I also took a meticulous calculation of how long it would take via SUV.
As for the blog, expect more cutting-edge music. I know I've got more an indie thing going here, but this week and next should (hopefully) have a few fantastic jazz musicians up, as well as an interview that I have yet to transcribe. Also, if you sign up now, you can receive:
-A free hat
-A clap on the back *
-A julienne fry dicer

It slices, it dices, it even makes... is that reference too old? I hope not; it slips into casual conversation with me sometimes. Later,

*"A clap" may or may not constitute the heinous disease

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hard to believe Castro's this good

Tommy Castro - "Hard Believer"
Alligator Records
-due out Aug. 11

My title means no offense to Mr. Castro, but in defense of it, a title's got to be nimble, catchy, and good to grab your attention. While I purport to none of these, Castro's eleventh album is all of these and more: his soulful album here does credit to blues jam with hard-knock vocals and lush big-band orchestration. Try out the well-paced opener, "Definition of Insanity," and his cover of Dylan, "Gotta Serve Somebody"; if you don't see yourself sipping Southern Comfort at a worn barstool under the spell of the band onstage, then just enjoy "Gotta Serve's" bass funk and soul-styled chorus. And if those don't float your boat, the keyboard boogie to "Monkey's Paradise" ought to; if not, then maybe you weren't meant to get the blues. Strong enough for the fan or curious listener; recommended.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Bottle Rockets don't quite rock-it

The Bottle Rockets - "Lean Forward"
Bloodshot Records
-due out Aug. 11

There is a lot to like on the Bottle Rockets' ninth studio album: the straight southern-rock songwriting, the instrumentals, solid hooks. But there's equally as much that pulls down this album, including the toneless quality of the vocals, and how straightforward these songs play. The slight southern swagger just isn't enough to blanket over these imperfections, nor is it enough to hook in casual listeners, though for fans of the band or just general rockers, this album should suffice. With just a few memorable moments on the album (try out "Give Me Room" and "Slip Away"), "Lean Forward" just barely ekes itself out of a passing grade. On this one, you might want to wait on the Rockets' next release.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Newport Folk Fest's Fifty: Celebrating the newcomers

Tift Merritt takes to the stage, wrapped in a light, summery flesh-colored dress. She sits at the piano with a harmonica neck-rack, and the fiftieth anniversary of the Newport Folk Festival begins with her original "I Know What I'm Looking for Now." Dreamy-eyed and diffuse, she comments on a plane swirling in the sky.
Across three stages and two days at Fort Adams in Newport are several of the latest folk, country and indie acts. Saturday brought a particularly strong line-up, including indie/folk phenomenon Iron and Wine, and Britain's veteran punk Billy Bragg. Whether it was Gillian Welsh asking for extra reverb for Jefferson Airplane's classic "White Rabbit" ("I want to be in the batcave," she told the sound engineer) or the Decemberist's rendition of Dylan going electric (including an innocent, woodland squirrel), the most exciting about George Wein's festivals are the new discoveries, bands that have only hit the national stage for a year or less, such as the Low Anthem (June of this year) and Fleet Foxes (June 2008). Surprisingly, these two acts drew large and devoted crowds to their respective stages.
As soon as the Fleet Foxes came onto the main stage, the largest standing crowd waited impatiently through two announcers; the ground was alight with expectation for their set. Starting with their album's opener, "Sun it Rises," the Seattle-based band shook the festival goers, with both their gorgeous layered harmonies and unfortunately loud low-end bass. With only the one self-titled album to their credit, several audience members mouthed the complex lyrics to their radio-played "White Winter Hymnal." Following Gillian Welsh's fantastic set, the Foxes kept a strong momentum, carried by the Decemberists, making these three performances one of the highlights of the day.
Off on the smaller Waterfront Stage, Providence's the Low Anthem prepared their clarinet, baritone, and pump organ for several soulful off their first national release, "Oh My God, Charlie Darwin," as well as some new songs added to the repertoire. The tent was packed, second only to the throng which surrounded Sam Beam's at the Harbor Stage, and overflowed with avid listeners to their alternatingly soft and harsh vocals. After the opening of "Charlie Darwin," the crowd was silent, but the feeling of true roots was palpable. Passing from electric jam to haunted melody, the Anthem's performance was a hidden, though thankfully not unobserved, jem.
In its semi-centennial, this festival still brings a mix of the old and the new together, meshing different styles and ideas under its ever-widening definition of "folk." And for those unable to attend, don't forget to check out NPR's coverage on the anniversary at: Enjoy!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Let Ocean Eyes sail by

Owl City - "Ocean Eyes"
-Out now

It has all the elements necessary for it to succeed: plenty of echo, saccharine hooks, auto-pitched vocals and a catchy pop beat. But what "Ocean Eyes" seems to lack is the element of sui generis that it needs to distinguish its upbeat songs from other pop acts, such as Motion City Soundtrack and the more electronic PlayRadioPlay! Here you'll find pleasant enough songs, almost nauseatingly so, that stick the first few plays. However, there is little depth in songwriting, which seems solely intent on utilizing the "in crowd" of musical effects (see above), and likewise little depth in lyric writing (Umbrella Beach - "I'll spread out my wings/ And fly"). Overall, there is little new territory tread here that isn't already sufficiently tread by others; take a pass.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Duke and the King reign

The Duke and the King - "Nothing Gold Can Stay"
Ramseur Records
-due out July 4th
4.5 / 5

The opener to this debut album is nothing short of magnificent, calm, composed, and serenely honest. The duo, Simone Felice and Robert Burke, take their stage name from two of Mark Twain's rapscallions, but here is no trickery or deception; just simple, bare songs. Felice's vocals are soothing and understated: on "The Morning I Get to Hell," he demonstrates a soft-spoken passion and wonder, questioning "Where is all my fire,/ My missionary zeal?" "Lose My Self" and "Summer Morning Rain" are both winners as well, with the former's dreamy instrumental haze just as palpable as the latter's almost John-Denver pop serenity. This album is not perfect, with "Still Remember Love" coming off a bit harsh and electronic, but overall, "Nothing Gold Can Stay" is a quiet album and too easy to pass over this summer. "Gold" is worth your coppers; recommended.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Furnaces: Don't go away!

The Fiery Furnaces - "I'm Going Away"
Thrill Jockey
- Out now

The Furnaces, brother and sister combo Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger, have been known to frustrate typical music aesthetics, as well as the occasional listener, throughout their impressively fruitful six-year career. Their eighth album hearkens to their tradition of bizarre song construction and melody with the two opening tracks, the aggressively avant-garde title track and lull "Drive to Dallas." While these tracks are more abrasive than amusing, the rest of "I'm Going Away" is filled with strangely satisfying songs, such as the uplifting lilt of "Even in the Rain" and feel-good pop of "Lost at Sea." While there's a chance you might not catch on to the slightly off-kilter style of their melodies and some of their sudden changes, it's still worth the shot to listen to the Furnaces' fresh take on pop and rock. Recommended.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

It's alright, "Baby Darling," it's alright...

Band of Skulls - "Baby Darling Doll Face Honey"
Artist First
-due out July 28

We've come to expect a lot from the Brits: funny accents, crooked teeth, and their famous cultural restraint. Band of Skulls is a bit more reminiscent of White Stripes in their harder indie-stylings, and they yield some results: "I Know What I Am," which almost has a classic-rock straightforward grind, and "Honest," which diverges from the rest of the album with a beautiful acoustic solemnity.
Yet, in their music, there is some restraint keeping them from out-and-out jam and instrumental breakouts, which seems appropriate at several points throughout the album (the otherwise solid "Impossible" comes to mind). The songs here are still good, but without a bit of wildness, they don't quite surprise enough, don't bring a sense of awe and wonder that music is about, that this band seems capable of. Definitely check out the two tracks above and "Blood," with a good space-instrumental and solo; if you still need your curiosity satisfied, try for the rest of it. Otherwise, not enough highs for the dollar (or pound, as it may be). Beautiful cover, though.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

If you're in the Newport area...

Just a reminder: The 3rd Annual Molly Finn Battle of the Bands takes place at Ballard Park in Newport this Saturday, July 18th (around 2 pm-ish). And if you're not in Newport, don't forget to stick your neck out for the little guy: remember, without local bands, we wouldn't have Fleet Foxes, crazy mosh pits, and the Fifth Amendment. Rock on!

Portugal. The Man is the man

Portugal. The Man - The Satanic Satanist
Equal Vision Records
-due July 21
4.5 / 5

Portugal. The Man. Despite the bizarre name and punctuation, and the strange Zombies-era Cream-inspired psychedelic cover, it's fair to say this album is good. I've never heard this much falsetto since I bought an Earth Wind and Fire greatest hits, but still it comes off groovy and with a bit of funk to it; the songs are inspired a bit by the era portrayed here, but this is solid modern rock with a great pop slant. These songs are very listenable, with great lyrics and choruses ("We may make it through the war/ If we make it through the night" from the opener), and excellent construction. But what really pays off here are the first three songs, "People Say" which comes off thematically anti-war like Dispatch's "The General," and just as catchy; through the hip-hop beat to the infectious "Work all Day;" to the heavily layered electronica of "Lovers in Love." The album tones down a bit from this fantastic opening, but overall, Portugal is worth the exploration. Recommended.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Welcome all! Again!

Hello faithful and generally bored blog viewers! Back from a recent vacay in the Kokomo, I'm ready to start heading into the fore again! It may take a little while to spin back into things, but I'm sure you'll find the same brief, and incise, musical commentary that you've come to expect from this blog. And also random ramblings, as well, though I figure there's no better place to grandstand about the parking ticket I got (is there really parking in DT Newport?) and how my toes hurt. Actually, it's the spot just above my toes, on my foot...

So welcome again! I'll be hunting down CDs to get you the lowdown and dirty on what's worth your dollar. Thanks for faithful support, as always.
-The Mgmt

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bi-Weekly Update, 6-7 to 6-20

First order of business:

Taking a break from music reviewing. You see, it costs money.

Second order of business:

Still plan on rambling on my blog. Oh so many of you enjoy it oh so much.

Third order of business:

Since it's been half a year of futzing with music, I might as well give you my recommendations for these six months worth:

-Animal Collective, "Merriweather Post Pavilion": Named after an actual venue (where AC played), this hyper-electronic pop mix-up is great fun on the senses. Sure, it takes a little while to get used to the sonic mish-mash here, but the effort definitely pays off; listen to "My Girls" and "Brother Sport."

-The Decembrists, "The Hazards of Love": It has a great, ultra-rock-opera intro. Good cast of characters. The only thing holding this album back is that it's been almost three months and I still can't figure exactly what's going on with the plot, but ignoring that, check out "Won't Want for Love" and "The Wanting Comes in Waves."

-Grizzly Bear, "Veckatimest": There's not much to make sense of when it comes to the title, but this collection of post-Animal Collective pop/alternative songs does it right from the get-go. It's enchanting, different, exciting, and strange enough to enjoy; all this and it still spins up fresh and pretty each time. Try out the fantastic deep-guitar opener, "Southern Point," as well as its follow-up, kind of goofy "Two Weeks."Gorgeous.

-Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "It's Blitz": Dance time, people. Karen O knocks this one out with crazy-catchy tunes and a deep electric buzz that sinks into your spine. If you're not grooving to "Hysteric" or "Dull Life," get a doctor.

Keep in mind, there are other great albums out there, so keep your ears perked. Peace out.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Weekly Update, 5-31 to 6-06

Paolo Nutini, "Sunny Side Up" - To listen to him, you wouldn't think the kid's barely in his 20s; au contraire, you'd guess from his voice he's at least 50. But aside from an old voice, and aside from the freaky-looking cover, it's a fairly passable and laid-back album that uses reggae and olde-tyme swing in the form of harmonicas, walking basslines, and muted horns. There isn't a whole lot that pokes itself out here in the opening tracks, that is to say, there isn't much in the acoustic setup that surprises there, and these tracks ("Candy" and "Coming Up Easy") play straight-through and thankfully open up musically at the end. "Worried Man"'s blues (with a country chorus) deserves the downloading, as does this respectably solid album, but only if you're looking for something fairly calm and straightforward.

The Sound, "Crossing the Rubicon" - It's high-pop-alt with simple guitar riffs and a lady-singer. They're not musically nuanced, but that's not to say they have no merit; it's good for fans of Motion City Soundtrack and other up-beat bands. "4 Songs & A Fight" is worth your shot if you want to try this album, and on the whole, they're good enough to leave in the car for a trip or two. It's catchy and fun, but because they're fairly basic on their instruments, you'll put them away for good when you tire of their songs.

It surprises me that, generally speaking, youth is celebrated so openly in our culture (think: Aber + Fitch, Calvin Klein ads). Yet, when you hear someone like Paolo Nutini, you respect the fact that he sounds so much older; kind of the ideal is to be young and feel old.
And when we're old, we want to feel young. Go figure.
But age aside, probably the only thing that matters is not being your age. "Act your age," comes off like an admonition; old and tired is as frustrating as young and immature is annoying. I wonder if there's an ideal somewhere in the between: something along the lines of a twenty-year old doing twenty-year-old things, elderly acting just like elderly. Yet if I see another commercial with a young-ish guy doing x-treme stunts, I think I'm going to smack the nearest Gen-Xer. Or whatever generation we're at now.
In short, do without expectations. Stop watching TV and go out and do something. Or, if you're like me, abandon human society in favor of the perfect and unflawed company of cyborgs. I've got my Nintendo Powergloves andVirtual Boy goggles coming in the mail as I write this.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bi-Weekly Update, 5-17 to 5-30

Lucky you, two weeks at once. Just remember to chew before swallowing:

Iron & Wine - "Around the Well"

A collection of songs spanning I&W's three LPs, folk ranging from soft acoustic to slightly electric. Some of the early stuff ranges from listenable to not fully there ("Friends they are Jewels" falls here, still a bit sonically vacant), and much of the best material are the acoustic inbetweens, which tend to have better developed 2nd choruses; "Swans and the Swimming" sounds like it should finish "The Creek Drank the Cradle," and much of the second album, including the gorgeous "Sinning Hands," makes this worth the price. The only other weakness here is the odd choice of "Waitin' for a Superman," which doesn't match up to the Flaming Lip's original ("Love Vigilantes" hits the mark, though). For the price and collection here, it is an excellent deal, even if you were hoping for another full-length. Recommended.

Tori Amos - "Abnormally Attracted to Sin"

A slimmer, more seductive album that spins about in the later hours of the night. It has a lighter instrumentation, all the electric organ effects you could want, and focuses especially on Amos' vocals; wherein lies the problem, because she's not terribly powerful or subtle here. Generally, the whole doesn't have a strong feeling to it, almost like you read a newspaper and discover it's made of tissue paper. But there are some excellent standout tracks: "Not Dying Today" and "Fast Horse" both utilize her ability to craft and create good, layered pop songs. Otherwise, she doesn't really carry the show in these mostly slower and more eletric-ballad type songs, and the album feels a bit more naked than she should feel comfortable with.

Grizzly Bear - "Vekatimest"

A truly exciting album characterized with as many twists and turns as a good park ride. It's incredibly full, with string orchestration and a guitar bassline supporting almost Moody Blues style vocals (maybe more than just vocals, given the slightly fuller orchestration). It's surprising and fun: goofy in bass-heavy "Two Weeks," enthralling in the epic "Fine for Now"; think of Animal Collective's electronic smorgasbord, but cleaner and poppier. The end result is something a bit easier to listen to and make sense of (though that's not to detract from AC's fantastic "Merriweather".) Other than the unusual title, this album begs the one question: what have you to lose? Absolutely fantastic. Listen to "While you Wait for the Others."

Sunn - "Monoliths and Dimensions"

A five-minute intro means that 1/10th of the album is spent on about 10 held notes; 10 minutes of distorted bass and creepy-like vocals later, I'm not too sure the album has even started. Overglorfied crypt-rock, with more than emo attitude than musical ability; like huffing glue, not something you try unless you're into it. Overdone, melodramatic and not particularly thrilling. Suggested if: you're a teenage daughter trying to tick off father with studded neck braces and black eyeliner. On second thought, just stick to the homedone piercings and backalley tattoos: it'll hurt less.

Gravest apologies for being late again. It's probably a good thing for me that this blog doesn't have a real deadline or anything, though bad for you at the same time.
Most things we find ourselves grateful for were forced on a deadline: Apollo 13, commuting buses and trains, daily Dilbert strips (though Doonesbury outshines of late). I find most things awful without the rigidity of a fixed schedule, this blog included.
Meat better make it to the market, or I'll be without delicious home-cooked burgers.
If trees shed their leaves willy-nilly, they'd be stuck freezing in the winter.
You can't pass transportation-funding legislation without timetables, duh.
Next time you catch yourself moaning about "Jeez, I've got this project due next week," or "I still have to write up that blasted report," just consider where we'd all be without deadlines. Chaos. The world before it was born. My rambling, pathetic blog. And no House episodes every week (kind of like now, considering they finished their season). I guess I'm getting to the fact that summer syndication is pretty awful; thank god for Burn Notice and endless days of sunshine.
(Apologies also to those in the southern hemisphere: you've got encroaching winter, backwards-flushing toilets, and no Hugh Laurie.)