Ol'VW/Beard Fires/Helen Keller

This is my friend Vaughn. He's the kind of guy who sets his beard on fire and writes love songs about famous blind women. As you might imagine, he's one of my favorite people and I wish I could keep him in that little coin pocket of my jeans no one ever uses and make him play his guitar for me when I'm feeling down. Seriously if a picture of Ol' VW setting his beard on fire doesn't make you curious as to what he sounds like, you're just plain crazy. Smile, everyone.

Helen Keller
A Song about a Trapeze Net
The Red Ants
[add him on myspace]


Voxtrot s/t

photo by Jason Dell
Seriously, I wanted to write about the indie community's disdain for the new Voxtrot record, but then Faronheit wrote this first paragraph and I let out a riotous AMEN!!! I'm posting the same two songs because frankly, they're my favorites. I'm personally glad they went this route because I consistently like this LP a lot more than the previous EP's, which had nice highs and a bunch of songs I couldn't get into. I like the modern indie pop sound with the happy piano and the sizzling hi-hats. I like the strings, or at least the feeling of strings, layered behind the soothing vocals. This feels like Stars, but I also find myself wishing it were more like Sparrow House. It's not mindblowing, but listening to this record makes me think that the next full-length could be epic. They've got a great mood and sound and if they add a few more hooks and ladders, I'll gladly climb them.

[from Voxtrot (out 5.22)|info]


Eef and Ben

I've been in Blacksburg, VA for the last day or two to see Eef Barzelay and Ben Folds play a sold out Burruss Hall at Virginia Tech...

Eef was stunning, decked out in his all-white suit, playing left-handed guitar, dancing around quirkily. I'm pretty sure no more than 5 people in the 2,000+ crowd (including myself) had ever heard of this strangely-named performer before last night. But for the most part, he won them over. His voice was pitch-perfect, his pedal-powered acoustic-guitarwork excellent. I have a mancrush on Eef Barzelay. You can hear a sweet cover he did of "Big Country" on my myspace profile.

Ben was a different story. He's one of my musical Gods and this was to be my first time ever seeing him in person. I was in the orchestra pit, literally 5 feet from him! There were certainly some highlights: "Narcolepsy", "Not The Same", "Fred Jones Pt 2"...but there were some absences as well, the biggest of which was only playing two songs from Whatever and Ever Amen ("One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces" and "Kate") when I would have killed to see "Smoke", "Evaporated", "Selfless Cold and Composed", or "Song for the Dumped". Mid-set, his band mates left the stage for the "intimate" section of the show, which only ended up being two songs. The second, "Gracie", was intensely awkward because he refused to play the song if any noise was made, so about 8 times he restarted the song with an air of annoyance when someone would whistle or yell in the middle of the song. So that took about 14 minutes to play that 2:30 length song. I honestly felt like I could cut the tension with a knife. It really broke up the momentum of the show. That and the strange setlist and set order really added up to a strange show overall. Definitely memorable, and definitely great, but probably not as incredible as I'd expected from the amazing DVD's I've seen. Like this one.

So all in all, I'm really glad I came. I'm here til tomorrow, just trying to keep the blog updated. I've got new Voxtrot and a few surprises in the next few days. Thanks for reading, everyone.



The Proposition

I just bought this movie last night (Blockbuster has a 4 for $20 deal going on right now), though I'd never heard of it before. Holy lord, it was amazing. Seriously one of the best westerns I've ever seen, it's dirty and beautiful and Nick Cave wrote both the script and the soundtrack. Here's the trailer and some songs from the film...

The Proposition #3
Gun Thing
[by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis from The Proposition Sdtk|buy]

...and perhaps the most powerful song from the film is a traditional Irish song called "Peggy Gordon" beautifully sung by one of the supporting actors Tom Budge as Guy Pearce's brother is brutally flogged in the background. It's not on the official soundtrack so I recorded it with a mic up to the speaker. It's definitely not easy to listen to, but if you're interested, here it is. [Peggy Gordon]

Listening Assignments 3.26.07

1. American Analog Set - Choir Vandals - If this were a 2007 release instead of 2001, I'd have sworn it was a collaboration between Sufjan Stevens and Pinback. It's delicate and breathy, a really nice clean electric guitar riff played over plodding brushed snare hits. [from Know By Heart|buy]

2. Field Music - You're So Pretty... - The chorus in this one brings to mind a lot of really great stuff and is catchy as hell. Maybe if the Beatles and The Beach Boys formed an indie side-project, Field Music could have opened for them on tour and fit in perfectly. [from Field Music|buy]

3. Jeremy Warmsley - Dirty Blue Jeans - Immediate comparisons to Final Fantasy because of the violins, this is a playful, rollicking good time. Little stabs of jazz, even some reverse hip-hop sounding blips here and there. It bounces back and forth with the greatest of ease and ends up somewhere in the realm of another one of my favorites, Sondre Lerche. [from The Art of Fiction|buy]

4. Rosie Thomas (w/ Sufjan Stevens) - Much Farther to Go - This song is so beautiful it hurts. Hints of Shawn Colvin and Sufjan (obviously), and I'm pretty sure there are actual angels playing the strings. [from These Friends of Mine|buy]


Nick Drake's River Man

Nick Drake released this song on Island Records in 1969 when he was 21, having written it even before that. He died at the age of 26 from an overdose of anti-depressants, having finished three incredible records, none of which sold more than 5,000 copies in their first issue. Your heart just goes out to this guy, you know? This song especially sounds like it would be playing behind a hazy dream-sequence in his biopic, recalling his childhood years. Canoeing with friends in short shorts, a tire swing, his first kiss, his first family vacation... His melancholy voice is bittersweet and smooth as velvet. I wish I could have given Nick a hug and told him he was incredible. *sigh*

Some amazing arrangements in both of these versions...

Nick Drake - River Man
Till Bronner - River Man

[buy Five Leaves Left]


Rob Crow's Other Men

Everytime I turn around, Rob Crow has a new project. This dude is just insanely prolific and writes amazingly unique and melodic songs. Pinback is the most pretty, and definitely the most well known, but then he's also a solo artist. Then there are Goblin Cock (deathcore?) and The Ladies. Not to mention Thingy and Heavy Vegetable. And now comes Other Men, an odd title to be sure, but a worthy musical cousin to the other projects. Despite the genre at hand, Rob Crow unceasingly brings something intensely complicated and uniquely melodic to the table. Other Men rides a nice fence between two green pastures: On one side, the grassy knolls of Pinback and his recent solo material; on the other side, the flowing fields of Jawbox and Hey Mercedes. It's a little spastic, a little math-rocky, and a lot of awesome.

False Positives
Indiscriminate Proposals of Little Marcy
[from Wake Up Swimming|buy]


The National Boxer

Naming your band "The National" means it's going to be pretty hard for anyone to find you on google, what with all the other things with "the national" in the title, and doubly so when your website is americanmary.com. But if you do manage to find anything on this talented New York 5-piece, you'll probably be pleased with their quirky heartfelt Americana-tinged sound. The fluctuating rhythms of "Fake Empire" (which opens the new record Boxer) were enough to draw me in and I stuck around to hear an inspiring melodic crescendo. "Wasp Nest" is a mood piece that ends up being one of those "daydream out the window" kind of songs. And finally, if looks is all you care about, there is the pair of creepily identical twins to consider.

Wasp Nest
[from Cherry Tree|buy]
Fake Empire
[from Boxer|info]


Thilver Lakth

Thank God it's Thursday, right? I like them. I also like when bands start playing shows one month, get featured in Paste Magazine in the next, and play SxSw in the next. When you sound like Silver Lakes, it's a lot easier, I'd imagine. Lush melodies and pop hooks that sound fresh and squeaky clean will jumpstart a career more often than not. This Atlanta band has a lot of heart. It might make your heart feel good, too.

Be Here Now
Great Pretenders
[from the Great Pretenders|buy]


A Day of Gotye

We'll see what I end up posting later today, but if there ever were videos worthy of posting, here they be. Gotye (pronounced Go-tee-yay like the French Gautier) was one of my most exciting finds of the last year, a 20-something Australian songsmith with serious chops. "Learnalilgivinanlovin" ended up #5 on my top 50 songs of 2006 list, and "Heart's a Mess" could easily have been top 10 material if I wasn't trying my damnedest to limit each artist to one song in the top 50 (Midlake being the only exception). The former a rousing lesson in modern soul, oozing with playful optimism, the latter a beautiful example of restraint and timely climax, set at a hauntingly sauntering pace. Elsewhere on Like Drawing Blood, you'll find samples and horn blasts and everything else short of the proverbial kitchen sink. It all works. It's all good. These vids will blow your mind...

Out Here in the Cold [from Boardface|buy]


If I had a hammock...

It's a lazy Tuesday, it's breezy outside, and I wish I had both a hammock and someone who smells like home to share it with. These songs are the manifestation of those things.

Sarah Harmer - Go To Sleep
[from All of Our Names|buy]
Maria Taylor - Lost Time
[from Lynn Teeter Flower|buy]

Buoys 'n Barnacles!

I went back to the piano yesterday, took some more shots. You can see all these and more at my flickr site if you're curious. Music update will come around 4:30pm EST.


Colorful Listening Assignments 3.19

1. The Juliana Theory - White Days - This band has always gotten a ton of flack from "the scene" for being "too poppy", "selling out" to Epic Records with this 2003 album Love. And yes, their lead singer is a complete douchebag, which I can confirm because I was the stage manager at a show they headlined. Good Lord, what a d*ckhole. Regardless, I loved this album (ok ok, pun intended) and it's basically what would have occurred if U2 and Journey had managed to procreate. [from Love|buy]

2. Shearwater - Red Sea, Black Sea - Shearwater is the missing link between Jefferson Airplane and the new Arcade Fire record. Trust me, this is a good thing. [from Palo Santo|buy]

3. Wheat - Little White Dove - If you've been paying attention, you might have noticed that I like Wheat. I can now announce that this song has been cleared for download by those suffering from Celiac desease. I love their sound, his voice, the grain in general... [from That's Exactly What I Wanted...Exactly That|buy]

4. Jaymay - Gray or Blue - This was a late addition, but Skye Zentz rec'd it and it had colors in the title (the theme of this week's assignments obviously), and it's really grand. A pleasant strumming acoustic track with shaker and cooing background vox. [from Sea Green, See Blue|buy]


Old Thiery Milwaukee

I got stuck waiting on the world's slowest train yesterday, attempted to go around it, and found this godsend of a weather-battered pedal-powered piano. It made my day and I've been giddy ever since. Click thumbnails to enlarge.


A Tribute to Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell is definitely one of those timeless favorites of mine and many others, so when I heard about this tribute album coming out with a lot of other favorite artists, I was pretty curious. Most tribute/re-mix/etc albums are mostly forgettable, but when you're dealing with artists like Bjork, Elvis Costello, James Taylor, Sufjan Stevens, Emmylou Harris, Brad Mehldau, Prince, Sarah McLachlan, K.D. Lang, and Annie Lennox, I'm pretty sure it's can't-miss. This album rules. Seriously. I bet Sufjan feels like a badass to be included in that lot.

Bjork - The Boho Dance
Sufjan Stevens - Free Man in Paris
[from A Tribute to Joni Mitchell (out 4.24)|buy]


Tom Brosseau

The circumstances surrounding the show where I finally saw Tom Brosseau live last year are disorienting. This is because it was two shows combined, the first of which was quite reputable, a touring package consisting of the lovely Alela Diane and Tom. Mellow and introspective folk that drew me in and made me want to hold my breath to preserve the still air that suspended the notes around my head. As I told my friends afterward, something about those two, Tom in particular, captivated me. I was riveted. Unfortunately, there were to be 4 bands following Alela and Tom so they didn't play exceptionally long sets and the next band was seriously the loudest band I've ever heard. Not the heaviest or most distorted, simply the loudest band I've ever seen. Which succeded quite obviously in destroying the still air I've already mentioned. Still, Tom Brosseau's warbling melodies often bounce around the inside of my head and coat all the surfaces in there with soft velvet. It's a good feeling.

West of Town
[from What I Mean to Say Is Goodbye|buy]
Here Comes the Water Now
[from Grand Forks|buy]



I ordered stickers last night, so I'm pretty pumped. This is what they look like!

Ferraby (the) Lionheart(ed)

I do find it a bit strange that Farraby Lionheart's two biggest influences (Elliott Smith and Jeff Buckley) are both tragically deceased, but I suppose if you were going to be influenced by someone, two incredibly talented and gone-too-soon songwriters would be the place to start. He doesn't need to be a copycat because he's got the skills to back up a totally sweet name. And he doesn't really sound much like either of them, just in whispers and traces, just enough to warm the outer edges of my heart and to feel the first pangs of sadness that their pens will never stroke a fresh sheet of notebook paper again. But hey, I don't want to describe Ferraby by comparison alone, these two songs should simply be in your playlist and your head for the next few days. Easy enough?

Tickets to Crickets
Won't Be Long
[from s/t EP|buy]


Tally Ho'

It's amazing what a well-crafted melody and harmony can do for your mood and today Tally Hall is starting me off on cloud 9. Through all the layers this is just classic pop, melody-driven to the core. It calls to mind a few groups I'm a huge fan of, namely Margot and the Nuclear So-and-Sos with a few different twists. "Be Born" has a plucky banjo-laden country feel, "The Whole World and You" is a circus soundtrack, while "Good Day" won the John Lennon Songwriting Contest and has a ridiculous arrangement full of oooh, ahhhs and other whimsical nonsense.

Be Born
The Whole World and You
Good Day
[from Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum|buy]


New Music: Quick and Dirty

It's that simple really.

Dntel - Rock My Boat (ft Mia Doi Todd) [from Dumb Luck (out 4.24)
Fountains of Wayne - Michael and Heather at the Baggage Claim [from Traffic and Weather (out 4.3)]
The Sea and Cake - Lightning [from Everybody (out 5.7)]
Feist - The Limit to Your Love [from The Reminder (out 5.1)]

A list of things

1. Go see 300. It's no Sin City, but holy mother is it stunning.

2. Don't knock it til you've tried it: The new Cherry Coke Zero tastes like heaven.

3. March Madness is upon us (or me, anyway). Here's a bracket you can print. Both of my teams, Virginia Tech and Old Dominion made the dance. I'm a happy camper.

4. New(ish) in stores: Lovedrug, The Frames, Arcade Fire, Bright Eyes EP, Field Music, Des Ark/Ben Lee, Lymbyc System...

5. In a few hours, a quickie preview post of upcoming music (The Sea and Cake, more Dntel, Feist, Fountains of Wayne, Margot and the Nuclear So-and Sos). Stay tuned...


Listening Assignments 3.12.07

1. Illinois - Alone Again - This shifty little number is right at home with a lot of the best indie rock of recent memory. Catchy, hooky, punchy, bumpbumpbumpy. [from What the Hell Do I Know?|buy]

2. Ghoststories - Secret Life of the Union, Pt 1 - I like how this one builds from whispery spidery webs to a nice little snare-driven crescendo. It reminds me of the new Cloud Cult record, but slightly less weird. Cool album art, too. [from Quixoticism|buy]

3. Jon Brion - Here We Go - This song will always be inextricable from Punch Drunk Love for me so maybe there's a lot of added emotional baggage along for the ride, but it always rings as a profound statement on the search for love in this crazy world. "You've gotta hope that there's someone for you...strange as you are." [from Punch Drunk Love Sdtk|buy]

4. Elizabeth Mitchell - Three Little Birds - Right to the point: If you listen to this song and are not instantly cheered up, seek help. I'm not kidding. [from You Are My Little Bird|buy]


Nice Shoes, Wanna Funk? Pt. 2

I got a few e-mails about Citizen Cope after referencing him in the Fink post two weeks ago, so I thought he should get his own post. He's got a lot of the same vibe. Lazy-sounding hip-hop soul, battered in creamy church organ, and fried in funkaliciousness. It moves, grooves and oozes with cool. I personally prefer 2004's Clarence Greenwood Recordings, but last year's Every Waking Moment is slowly burning through my prejudice. People like Fink and Citizen Cope allow me to believe there is still hope for this genre and that it's not all just a watered-down reggae-dropout wannabe's club.

Nite Becomes Day
[from The Clarence Greenwood Recordings|buy]
107 Degrees
[from Every Waking Moment|buy]


Dntel / Secret Mommy

For the unseasoned readers, Dntel is Jimmy Tamborello, otherwise known as 1/2 of the Postal Service. It's been six years since his last full album Life is Full of Possibilities, and is finally set to drop a new one in April on Subpop Records. The guest appearances are staggering, most notably Conor Oberst, Ed Droste (of Grizzly Bear!), and Jenny Lewis and if the lead track is any indication, holy guacamole, this record is going to be a stunner. It definitely has Jimmy's glitchy creative sampling and programming, but a lot more live instruments and really sounds like a fantastic band I would want to hear.

Dntel - Dumb Luck
[from Dumb Luck (out 4.24)|pre-order]

This other track is just amazingly interesting to me, and brings me great joy. It sounds like something I'd expect on the Dntel record, sans vocals. It's the free-form jazz of the future, a band made up of robots and bees and severed hands snapping the beat. This guy was a part of The Red Light Sting, a synth-punk band I booked about 3.5 years ago, so it's pretty exciting to see how far he's come. Secret Mommy might not be a secret for much longer with efforts like this.

Secret Mommy - Deciduism
[from Plays|buy]


Des Ark

If you have a pulse, you probably enjoyed Des Ark in the assignments 2.19 ("Lord of the Rings..."). She's got a PJ Harvey meets Bjork vibe, like a dark veil lined with white diamonds. Her acoustic offerings smack of Ryan Adams' plaintive and candid songwriting and others meander into waters Tori Amos might take a dip in. Oh yeah and weird song titles...

If by "Gay" You Mean "Totally Freaking Awesome", Then Yeah I Guess It's Pretty Gay
[from Battle of the Beard|buy]


I Love Yer Radical Face

I first mentioned Ben Cooper's Electric President almost 2 months ago, highlighting "Good Morning, Hypocrite" for the 1.14.07 Assignments. Another EP track, "Insomnia" actually made it onto The O.C. Anyhoo, Mr. Cooper is a super-talented busybody and has another side-project album coming out March 2oth under the moniker of Radical Face. I actually like it a lot more than the Electric President stuff overall, though both stand on their own. Radical Face is much less electronic experimentation and much more an experiment of acoustic delicacy and melody with some really pleasant guest instruments (accordion and tack-hammered piano, to mention two). Maybe if Ben Gibbard and Rob Crow of Pinback made an acoustic side project, they might call themselves Radical Face, but I think Ben Cooper would give them a run for their money.

Wrapped in Piano Strings
Welcome Home, Son
[from Ghost (out 3.20)|buy]

Pink Nasty Burns Usher

I first wrote about Pink Nasty back in October of last year. In essence, all I really told you was that she was weird...good weird, but weird. And "BTK Blues" still sticks with me, now more than ever. It's just a beautiful track with freakishly interesting subject matter. And I just stumbled on this little gem a few days ago: Nasty covering Usher's "Burn", a great song in its own right, but just a really cool and unexpected thing to hear out of this girl's mouth. I can only find two blogs that have covered it in the last year and it's even studio-produced...or at least not live. Curious? Let it burn...

Burn (Usher Cover)
BTK Blues
[from Mold the Gold|buy]


The Arcade Fire

I'll start off by saying I'm was never a huge Arcade Fire fan. That's not to discredit them, I think they deserve a lot more play than many of the over-hyped blog bands out there (Cold War Kids, for instance). There's just always been something that's rubbed me strangely about them. Could be the low, Bruce Springsteeny vocals, the usually lacking (IMO) lyrical content, or maybe just the fact that so many a-hole hipsters are obsessed about them. The last point you could probably make about 100 really amazing bands, but there's just something about a few bands where their obsessed fans are especially douche-tastic. I usually refer to it as "The Pitchfork Sneer". That being said, there are a few songs I definitely get into. Many aspects of The Arcade Fire end up being dark and haunting ("Cold Wind"), while a few of the new tracks are jovial and infectiously catchy ("Keep the Car Running"). In fact, on the whole, the new record is strong and (mostly) cohesive. I don't think it's going to change the world and I don't think it should be worshipped like it has been since it leaked months ago, but it's probably somewhere in my top 20 at the end of the year. So take that for what it's worth.

Keep the Car Running
[from Neon Bible|buy]
Cold Wind
[from Six Feet Under Vol. 2: Everything Ends|buy]


A Cloud is not a Cult

This'll be a followup to "Chemicals Collide" from 2.29.07. Why, you ask? Because Cloud Cult's The Meaning of 8 is really a stellar record and it's pretty important to me that you know it. It's still quirky and beautiful (kind of like Maggie Gyllenhaal) and still reminds me of the menomena record, but it's definitely more sober. The vocals are a delicate gossamer spread over a sturdy framework of acoustic guitars and balsa wood. I'm pretty sure if these songs weren't tied to the ground, they might just fly off into the trees like wishing dandelions do.

Pretty Voice
The Deaf Girl's Song
[from The Meaning of 8|buy]


Listening Assignments 3.5.07

1. Feist - My Man, My Moon - Bumpbumpbumpbump, la la la la la. Leslie Feist happens to have the voice of an angel and this first single is the showcase for its sexiness. It's a song for driving, dancing, cleaning the kitchen, making out, and air guitar. [from The Reminder (out 5.1)|info]

2. The Acorn - Brokered Heart - I love this band, I love this record, and I love this song. It's intimate and emotional, acoustic-led with a nice rhythm section solidifying the bottom end. Hand claps and group vocals make this fun, profound lyrics make it hit harder. "You signed and sealed it, my brokered heart believed it." [from Tin Fist|info]

3. Pallino - Watch Your Eyes - Wow, I haven't heard this song in awhile. Chances are, since this is a little known-DC band that's been broken up for at least 2 years, you haven't either. It's immediately likable, a kind of Coldplay-meets-Gomez brit-pop sound. Some really nice falsettos and an addictive chorus, too. [from Didn't Know How to Swim|buy]

4. Britta Persson - Winter Tour - This folky number grew on me pretty fast. It's mostly unassuming and innocent but definitely fragments into darker sounds with the introduction of a distorted electric guitar, then back to the mellow tones. It's a really nice dynamic. Oh and she's Swedish. [from Top Quality Bones and a Little Terrorist|myspace (good luck finding a site to buy the record that is in English. Damn, that was frustrating.)]