A Peek at Beirut

There's always something cinematic in the music of Zach Condon's creation Beirut. He's singing in English, but somehow, it just ends up sounding European, specifically French or Italian. First it's a gondola ride, next it's an aerial tour of the bordeaux region -- wine country. His tunes germinate like wine as well, slowly converting the sugar into something more intoxicating, something ultimately much more rewarding than the grape juice everyone else is furiously making.

Condon, only 21, has again created a musical masterpiece, even surpassing 2006's modern classic Gulag Orkestar. Though nothing here is quite the level of January's "Elephant Gun", numerous tracks come close and a full-length LP will beat an EP 9 times out of 10. I do think that song should have appeared here. Pre-order this puppy.

The Penalty
In the Mausoleum
[from The Flying Club Cup (out 10.9)|pre-order]
Elephant Gun (linesthroughlines fave)
[from Lon Gisland EP|buy]


Like a Rogue Wave

Rogue Wave is one of my favorite bands, traditionally capable of the perfect mix CD track offering. 2005's Descending Like Vultures is an indie gem, catching the band at their absolute hook-laden apex, a lesson in creativity and subtle restraint. The California foursome is set to release their highly-anticipated follow-up on Sept. 18th.

As a fan, it's always hard to separate what we want an album to be like and what the artist ultimately presents. With every new creation, a band's sound and songwriting ebb and flow, sometimes dramatically, and we are left to decide where it all fits in the hierarchy of our musical taste. Case in point, Asleep at Heaven's Gate is by no means a bad album. It is, in fact, a very good album. The quieter moments are especially strong, weaving reverb-filled soundscapes akin to Elliott Smith. There's just not one song that makes my jaw drop like it did when I first heard "Eyes", "Bird on a Wire", "Catform", "Love's Lost Guarantee", "You", "Kicking the Heart Out", or "California." "Lake Michigan" and "Like I Needed" do come close, but do you see what I'm getting at? Solid, solid record. But should I be disappointed that most of the hooks are all but left by the wayside? I think half of me has to be, but the other half can just tell the first half to take a long walk off a short ledge, if you know what I'm saying.

Lake Michigan
[from Asleep at Heaven's Gate (out 9.18)|pre-order]


The Nature of Jose Gonzalez

Jose Gonzalez' previous LP Veneer is still entrenched in my top 5 from 2005, led by the boisterous single "Crosses". If these two songs and the above cover are any indication, the next album might even be an improvement. "Down the Line" picks up where "Crosses" left off, a highly percussive gallop of a song. Jose's sound is like a modern antiquity, not unlike a Ray LaMontagne. They're almost trapped in the wrong time, old-fashioned sound, but more passionate. Gonzalez' heavy fingerpicking and layered vocals are signature, his melodies addicting. The sound just dissolves over your ears like eroding sand and seeps into those little cracks. You can't get him out of your head after that.

Down the Line
Killing for Love
[from In Our Nature (out 9.25)|pre-order]


Listening Assignments 8.27.07

1. The Jealous Sound - Hope for Us - This is one of the tracks that got me into indie music. Immediately catchy, melodic and modern, but the chorus is straight 2002/2003...which was in turn channeling Sunny Day Real Estate/Pixies circa 1995. [from Kill Them With Kindness|buy]

2. The Weakerthans - Night Windows - It smacks of a mid-tempo Ben Gibbard-penned tune, but in the best way possible. Just a really great, beautiful, solid song. Really looking forward to this album. [from Reunion Tour (out 9.25)|pre-order]

3. Pedro the Lion - When They Really Get To Know You, They Will Run - If this isn't straight up Matt Pond PA (minus the upright bass), then my name's not Orville Redenbacher! Too bad this originally came out in 1998. Advantage: Mr. Bazan. [from It's Hard to Find a Friend|buy]

4. The Cay - The Company Store - With tempo changes, saloon piano, subtle horn-sounding guitars and group vocals, the Cay paint a pretty park picnic picture complete with birds, bees, fresh cut grass, cloud-shapes, and butterflies fluttering by. More vivid with repeat visits. "It's been a long hard day, but I can see the end..." [from Don't Go Out Tonight|myspace]


Fionn's Reinstatement

I wouldn't call it breaking the rules - the rules themselves, mine in the first place, are all relative - but I'm going to count Fionn Regan's The End of History in this year's end-of lists. Sure, it came out overseas in the summer of 2006, in time for me to fall in immediate love with the first song I ever heard from it ("Black Water Child", my 2006 song of the year). But I didn't hold it in my hands or hear its entire contents until a week ago, the stateside release not coming until July 10th of this year. Publications like Paste and Spin are hailing it as a current release; indie and mainstream radio alike are picking it up all over. Therefore, I'm liberally interpreting my guidelines. Because I can, but mostly because this record is so good that I'm going to mention it whenever reasonably possible. In two weeks ago's assignments, today, and again in December.

This record is so good it's criminal. Fionn is Damien Rice, Badly Drawn Boy, Jose Gonzalez, Ryan Adams, and Glen Hansard (of the Frames) spliced into one film, projected on your windowpane, colored by the rain and sun. The soundtrack of that film is performed as a duet between your heart and God and it's different every time. Each time, a new chill down your spine. If you buy 10 records this year, this had better be one of them.

Hunter's Map
The End of History
[from The End of History|buy]



I got locked out of my apt for what amounts to a full day, but I've got some awesome stuff in the pipes for you, both this weekend and in Monday's assignments. Rogue Wave, Fionn Regan, The Jealous Sound, some movie stuff, lots of goodness. Stay tuned...


Rewind: The Mercury Program

I was a sophomore in college when I first heard this record. It was the opening drone of the lead track, Tequesta...full of reverberating vibraphones, drifting synth, and a smart little drum beat, eventually joined by a chilling Rhodes Piano. I bought the album on the spot and have carried it with me since, but forgotten about it mostly until now. Mistake #1.

A Data Learn the Language is fitting background for a few important things: Chilling, Reading, Showering, and Making Sweet Love. Its mellow, jazzy post-rock that will blend your brain into a tasty smoothie. Have a friend bring a straw.

Riyl: Minus the Bear, Lymbyc Systym, Mogwai, Aloha.

Gently Turn on Your Head
To/From Iceland
[from A Data Learn the Language|buy]

*there is no mistake #2. I'm infallible.
**Seriously, buy this record. Amazon Marketplace has it on sale starting at $5.79!


Listening Assignments 8.20.07

1. As Tall As Lions - Stab City - This smartly-dressed quintet from Long Island all but stole the show from Mae last Thursday, flaunting flawless five-part harmonies, energetic and intelligent rhythms, and soaring falsetto melodies. I'm glad momentum is finally picking up for this supremely talented band. [from As Tall As Lions|buy]

2. Jeremy Enigk - Tatseo Show - Just got my signed copy of this "LP", a day before the release. I'm positive I'm not alone when I complain that this record is practically pointless. It consists of 4 new tracks (all good) and 5 live versions of songs from the last album, played almost exactly as they appeared on last year's World Waits. That album also contained only 9 songs, which is especially lame because these "new" recordings are apparently b-sides from that initial recording session, meaning two (if not all four) could have been included in that collection. At the very least, the live songs could have been totally acoustic or solo or something. Note to Jeremy: You're an indie rock god, ok? We don't expect an album from you annually. Take your time and write a record, even if it takes another 10 years. love, Drew. [from The Missing Link|buy]

3. The Sheds - All the Right Things - This guy has a little John Darnielle (The Mountain Goats) in his voice, a little Eef Barzelay (Clem Snide) and a little Ryan Adams. It's only 1:40 long, a concentrated and entirely pleasing jog around a park. "May this music draw you out, you've been too much in your room, soon your angels will forget you and your friends will follow suit." [from You've Got a Light|free downloads]

4. Boats! - Scenic Gorges - Just in case you ever wondered what it would sound like if So Many Dynamos, Of Montreal, and Bishop Allen had a huge orgy, Caligula style. It's fun. [from Intercontinental Champion|buy]


Josh Ritter, Historical Conqueror

It's been over a year since the intoxicating voice of Josh Ritter first got my inner ear and outer brain drunk on sound. Now the bastard is back for seconds. He's got his colt cocked. He's got a degree in American History through Narrative Folk Music (!).

Josh has this ornery-sounding voice, at first listen even plain. There aren't a lot of technical acrobatics to speak of, not a lot of flair. But the voice itself is, like the man behind it, a very important thing: true. He deals in yarns. Threads of stories and characters in love and desperation woven into a colorful little wall-hanging. The edges are slightly frayed, as authentic and antique threads are prone to doing, but you can't help but know that wherever you go, wherever you take it, you'll be taking a bit of home with you. His voice is, many times, the same voice you hear in your head when you remember your great grandmother, long since passed. This sounds like the indie rock of the western frontier, pre-1810. This music is stained in sepia-tones, faded and crinkled, but full of life. Dusty, sweaty life.

Mind's Eye
Wait for Love
[from The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter|buy]



Great Wolf was amazing. Working @ 5 tonight. New Josh Ritter tomorrow.


Great Wolf Lodge

Tonight, I'll be staying here with my family: Be Jealous!


Mae-jor Label Debut

My dad has been in radio since before I was born so I've been actively listening to music my entire life. The roots of all the music I've come to appreciate spring from that early development listening to Jellyfish, Dada, James Taylor, Del Amitri, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Jeffrey Gaines, and Thrillcat in the car as we drove back and forth between Salem, Eugene, and Portland, OR. Wherever he was living in relation to wherever I was living with my mom and they'd meet in the middle every second week. From all those glimpses of great music, my musical brain has been molded. They were all distant snapshots though, no matter how many spins we gave those records. Just sounds through speakers, into ears, out of mouths.

Mae is one of my favorite bands, but I'm probably biased. They're the only band I've watched grow from a studio project to a major label release with my own eyes. The only band who's taught their new guitarist how to play new song in my friend's living room the day before a show. The only band who's lead singer has publicly humiliated me on their message board for no reason that I could diagnose. The only band who have a member married to an ex-girlfriend of mine. The only band I've seen in 5 states and one District of Columbia.

It's been bittersweet, but I wouldn't change a thing. It's been a privilege to watch them grow and stretch over these years. And now they're here, in Norfolk tonight, pushing their Capitol debut. It's probably a moment they've been waiting for since the very first day they decided to make a go of this whole "band" thing. I know I have been.

Singularity is different, and after listening to it a lot, I can say with confidence that it's a good kind of different. Howard Benson (My Chemical Romance, Saosin, All-American Rejects, but also Daughtry, Papa Roach, and Crazy Town) was brought in to produce, resulting in guitars that sound positively epic and drums that kick like a mule. Vocalist/Guitarist Dave Elkins evokes more emotion than ever, taking his voice places even he probably didn't know he could go. Lyrically, Singularity is stripped down to the core of what makes us human. The mistakes, the rebounds, the relapses, the questions we all ask ourselves to find meaning. It's simultaneously deep and simple and ultimately more cutting than anything found on the Everglow. And while I don't fully agree with the single choice (the highly decent "Sometimes I Can't Make It Alone"), I hope it gets played enough to make way for a second single (hopefully "Brink of Disaster" or "Crazy 8s"). Request it on your home rock station. Ours is 96x.

I'm out. Mae is playing with As Tall As Lions and Dear and the Headlights tonight @ the Norva. 8pm. See you there...

Crazy 8's
[from Singularity|buy]
This is the Countdown
[from The Everglow|buy]
All Deliberate Speed
[from Destination: Beautiful|buy]


New Pornographers are Coming

The New Pornographers are filthy good at what they do. They are a Canadian orgy organized by the one and only A.C. Newman and including the incomparable Neko Case. They've been doing it for over 10 years now. And every time they do it, everyone wants to watch and turn it up really loud. It makes everyone close their eyes and get their hips into it like pendulums. There may or may not be lip-biting involved. The Pornographers like to have a good time and they want you to have a good time too.

But enough of the innuendo, A.C. Newman and crew never fail to deliver the feel-good power-pop summer jams, old-school style, and next week's Challengers is no exception. From the fantastic opener in "My Right Versus Yours", through a number of three and four-star tracks, they maintain an almost antique picture of how pop should be. A healthy amount of reverb on the guitars, playful melodies between Newman, Case, and Dan Bejar, and extensively intelligent lyrics define this record. Their catalog is becoming downright dirty good. This is the definition of aural sex. (There's that innuendo again.)

Entering White Cecilia
Adventures in Solitude
[from Challengers (out 8.21)|buy]
Use It (one of the 5 best songs of 2005)
[from Twin Cinema|buy]


New Music out Today

Mae - Singularity [buy] (get an amazing bonus track if you buy through iTunes)
Jeremy Enigk - The Missing Link [on iTunes. hard copy out next tues]
Matt Nathanson - Some Mad Hope [buy]

Listening Assignments 8.13.07

1. Fionn Regan - Be Good or Be Gone - It's been a little over a year since I first heard Fionn's addictive croon and with this amazing record finally available in the states, I think it's time to remind you about it. [from The End of History|buy]

2. Beat Radio - What I Love the Most - One of my favorite pick-me-ups is a jogging banjo line. This is reminiscent of an upbeat Rogue Wave (who have a new CD out this fall!) track. [from The Great Big Sea LP + Miracle Flag EP|buy]

3. Sleeping States - The Next Step - This guy's voice is like nyquil. I feel drowsy and hypnotized. I dream of whimsy and muted raindrops on my opened umbrella. Love it. [from There are Open Spaces (out 9.18)|info]

4. Menomena - Let's Unite! - It's sparse and weird in the Menomena tradition, with some really nice plinky Fender Rhodes-ish keys dancing alongside. This is a slow builder and a rewarding one. [b-side]


Ari Breaks In

Apparently I'm on an approachable pop swing. I'll be back to my indie ways in no time. The New Pornographers' new record is fast-approaching so keep your eyes peeled for my thoughts on that. Until then, Mr. Ari Hest will easily fill the void. I finally got my mitts on a hard copy of his major label debut The Break-In.

I've been listening to Ari since midway through college, about the time I found out about John Mayer. At the time, both were on a similar trajectory, playing well-crafted but safe acoustic rock that could be heard reverberating through dorm halls across campus. John is ultimately more skilled and has matured exponentially faster, obviously catapulting him to the tip of pop culture's tongue. Ari, however, has paid his dues like most earthly musicians are required. He's played the college circuit many times over, small clubs, opening gigs, selling CD's mostly on the road, building a loyal grassroots fanbase along the way. Meanwhile, his music has matured as well. This record is infinitely more focused than previous offerings I own and has a lot of character and heart.

I have no idea how this album is selling or if it's getting much, if any, airplay. The Break-In may end up being his only major label shot, but if it is, it's a very good one. His smoky voice is entirely unique and only emboldened by his confident and silky falsetto. His guitar work is full of thoughtfully formed chording even on the usually cliche progressions, occasionally dipping into something more angular and syncopated. It's a well-rounded LP with beautiful album art. Keep buying music, people.

When and If
Bird Never Flies
[from The Break-In|buy]
Terms and Conditions
[from Come Home|buy]


Some Matt Hope

I'll start by saying that Matt Nathanson was a complete douche when I met him in 2004.

I'd booked him on Virginia Tech's annual Soundfest alongside Cave In, Copeland, and Q and not U. He was the most expensive act on the bill by a lot because he was a "major label artist" and "full of himself", but wasn't the headliner. Being an outdoor festival, we obviously had time constraints including rigid set lengths and changeover times to stay on schedule. He had 30 mins and I told him I'd let him know when he had time for one more song. When that time came, he'd only played 5 songs because he thinks he's hilarious on stage and was talking for at least 10 minutes. I gave him the "one song left" signal, he nodded, and then played three more songs and came off stage like an entitled rockstar. I had to cut Q and not U and Cave In's sets to 25 and 20 minutes to compensate for the setback.

The fairly unfortunate thing about Matt being a bag of douche is that he makes some pretty slick music and is finally making good on the investment taken out on him. He's now on Vanguard Records for the release of next week's Some Mad Hope, a consistent offering of acoustic pop. His voice is the centerpiece as it should be. His douchebaggery is very very low in the mix.

Sooner Surrender
Bulletproof Weeks
[from Some Mad Hope (out 8.14)|buy]

(big thanks to whoever re-posted my mp3 links again. If you'd like to pay for my hosting, feel free. Until then, a little respect would be nice.)


Sara Bareilles' Little Voice

Sara Bareilles is on Epic Records and it's okay. In fact, it's more than okay. This is the stuff that deserves payola, promoters, and publicists. Maybe not the only stuff, but if we're going to get female popsinger/songwriters either way, I'd prefer the authenticity and immediacy of this unassuming NoCal-via-LA lass any day.

Comparisons are too easy and ultimately fall short. Bareilles (pronounced Bar-rell-is) brings the sass of Alana Davis, the sharp tongue of Fiona Apple, the mass appeal of Sheryl Crow, the hip-swaying of Maroon 5, and control and range rivaling Kelly Clarkson. But she's got her own soul and it shines throughout her stellar record Little Voice. Her voice is anything but. I hope she does well, if only to restore hope in the American recording dream: from the coffee shop to the auditorium. There's a triumphant innocence preserved here, untainted by an addiction to flashbulbs popping, full of eagerness and ever-thankful for the opportunity to put these songs to tape.

"I...have an affinity for the playful and intelligent-pop of people like Elton John and Ben Folds. And although I don't necessarily write like them, Radiohead, the Police and Bjork changed my musical consciousness. Ben Gibbard writes better lyrics than I can even imagine up. Etta James and Sam Cooke make me wish I lived 50 years ago. Counting Crows recorded an album that I consider to be perfect, and Bob Marley created music that makes me want to be a better human being." -SB

Love Song (the single, as far as I know)
Come Round Soon (immediately Fiona, eventually strays. Check out 2:20-)
[from Little Voice|buy]

It was Inevitable

No I haven't seen it yet.
Yes I'd like to.


Assignments 8.6.07 part 2

4. Christians & Lions - Skinny Fists - A little Dylan-esque, a little of the current folk-heavy incarnation of Bright Eyes (or any other from the modernoldschoolindiefolk genre), pitter-pattering drums, a jogging guitar picking progression. [from More Songs for Dreamsleepers & the Very Awake|buy]

Listening Assignments 8.6.07

1. Atmosphere - Sunshine - Sun is a double-edged sword. While tanning is nice and warmth is usually welcomed, when it's 100 degrees and moist, the last place you want to be is in the direct path of a colossal ball of flaming gas. I'm not down for changing shirts twice a day, sweaty foreheads, or slippery flip-flops. And I want to at least have the option of wearing a dark colored shirt! But even in this oppressive summer heat, I like to lounge in my AC-filled apartment and see the diffused sunlight spilling into my living room. If anything, the sun helps me appreciate how comfortable my apartment is. And when swimming is involved, oh man the sun is one awesome gaseous orb, isn't it! This song is loosely about all these things. Very loosely. In a hip-hop kind of way. [from Sad Clown Bad Summer 9|buy]

2. Crystal Skulls - Cosmic Door - This Seattle band's previous record Blocked Numbers (2005) is probably one of my top 30 records ever. That's what I call lofty expectations for Outgoing Behavior (2006). And I was, of course, disappointed. But it's still solid enough, with oozing summer jams like this one. The Skulls produce one of the more flawless '70s sound updates in indie rock today. [from Outgoing Behavior|buy]

3. Flight of the Conchords - If You're Into It - By now you should know the name, though you may be behind in the series. It's the best comedy in TV right now, so if you like to laugh and you like music, you'll probably not hate this. You'll probably anti-hate it. There are plenty of dry and awkward moments, a la the office, but more R-rated things like this little love song that evolves into "play" with food and a possible threesome with Brett's girlfriend's possibly (but probably not) gay roommate? Great episode! [from Flight of the Conchords ep 4/The Distant Future EP|buy]

4. There is no four. Nothing is working on the internet today! I can't upload the final song. God this is frustrating.


I'd like to thank my usually trusty server Fileden for SUCKING over the last week, suffering horrifically slow upload speeds and usually not allowing me to do ANYTHING. I started writing this week's listening assignments over 5 hours ago and I still can't upload mp3s.

Once again, Fileden, you rock. Not.

(assignments will be up as soon as humanely possible)


The Shins Reloaded

It'd be pretty hard to improve much of The Shins' Wincing the Night Away, especially my two favorite tracks in "Sleeping Lessons" and "Australia". The jury is still deliberating on these two particular re-mixes, mostly because they are actually very good and make it seem like I'm hearing these again for the first time. The differences are subtle, which is generally how I like my re-mixes. In "Sleeping Lessons", a little less bubblydreamy, a little more raw acoustic beauty followed by a tight little drum machine in the outro. "Australia" still has its main beat and bassline, but Peter Bjorn & John have added a layer of guitar that works with the existing melody while pulling it in a different, almost dissonant direction. Almost. Maybe they aren't better than the originals, but maybe you'll hear them with fresh ears. With songs as good as this, I'll take that as often as I can.

Sleeping Lessons (The RAC Remix)
Australia (Peter Bjorn & John Remix)
[buy Wincing the Night Away]


Wesafari, OId and New

Seattle's famous unknown Wesafari is back from a lengthy hiatus following their incredible 2005 LP Alaska with the new Moss Green EP, released just last week. The space-tundra sound is still intact, frolicking with flawless atmospheric pop sensibility. Though he has since departed the band, Andy Wright's signature drumming appears throughout the EP, continuing to glue the rampant creativity and experimentation together with tasty fills and unorthodox rhythms. There are even guest vocals from Jen Wood, another of the city's musical soldiers. You might have heard her singing on the Postal Service LP Give Up, the song "Nothing Better" in particular. She helped that record go platinum and open many of the doors independent music has on the radio today. Maybe the magic touch will spread to this insanely deserving band. A linesthroughlines favorite.

[from Moss Green EP|download]
[from Ball of Wax V1]
Wading Schematic
[from Ball of Wax V4]
more info and downloads, go to ballofwax.org


Tragedy and Bottom of the Hudson

Bottom of the Hudson was formed in 1998 in Charlottesville, VA, a 3 hour drive from my living room. Not that I noticed. They moved to Philadelphia in 2003 and had released numerous EPs, though never an LP, all without my awareness or acknowledgement. I hadn't heard of this band until last week when I read a Chromewaves post on their first full-length, almost 9 years in the making, during my weekly blogroll. "Beehives" stuck in my head immediately and I dedicated a mental post-it to check out more from them in the next week or so. Two days after Bottom of the Hudson was introduced to my ears, their van blew a tire just outside of Clinton, NC and flipped numerous times, taking the life of bassist Trevor Butler and fracturing the skull of drummer Greg Lytle.

I heard about it first on one of my all-time favorite blogs Said the Gramophone. The site's founder Sean Michaels, who puts words together in a way I can only stand in awe of, wrote an incredibly poignant eulogy of sorts and I can't help but re-post a portion of it here.

"It seems tasteless to write a eulogy to a person you never knew. An obituary - okay. Just the facts. But a eulogy? Who am I to light a candle in a stranger's memory? A man whose eyes I've never seen?

At moments like this it feels so clear that music is a touch. If nothing else it is a hand placed on yours. How can I call this a band of strangers, they whose hands I've felt on mine? The men whose voices, whose fingers on strings & keys I've brought into my room after dark? They have given me these songs and I have heard them with my heart held wide open..." [read more]

My friends So Many Dynamos were in a hauntingly similar accident a week before this tragedy and were spared a similar fate, all miraculously surviving with a few scrapes and bruises. It's moments like these where we can see life in one hand, death in the other, and see how closely related they are. Moments where we can be thankful for each breath, every touch from the music and musicians we love, and cherish them always.

Rusty Zippers
[from Fantastic Hawk|buy/donate]


Terrible 'Toos

and finally, Mr. Cool Ice.


Matt Pond Pee Ayy

I'm realizing I've never given Matt Pond PA his/their own post here and I'm realizing the reason is that Several Arrows Later came out two years ago, before the birth of the wondrously indulgent soapbox that is this blog. That record opened my eyes to Matt Pond after a few years of hearing all the wrong songs and knowing the right ones were out there. (If you're in a similar predicament, give a spin to "Lily Two", "Measure 3", or "Closer" and listen to your brain slowdance with glee.) Needless to say, Arrows was one of my favorite albums of '05 and has had tremendous staying power in the ol' iTunes playlist.

Now, thanks to Dodge over at MOKB, I got my first morsely taste of the upcoming LP Last Light. Ummmmm here are some words: giddy, wow, awe, schoolgirlesque. I just made up a new word for how this track makes me feel. This is definitely the most rocking tune I've ever heard come out of Mr. Pond's amplifier, but easily retains its signature melodic nature. He's hitting on all cylinders here (as well as on "Honestly", honestly). Chad, if you're out there, this one's for you.

and here's a fun acoustic video of another album track:

People Have a Way
[from Last Light|info]