Chris "the Snake" Bathgate

Despite the titles of today's featured tracks, I assure you Chris Bathgate isn't overly obsessed with serpents. Those assurances would be purely guesswork on my part, but I'm 60% sure I'm right. Maybe 55%. In any case, Mr. Bathgate is somewhat of a mystery. Ann Arbor, MI isn't one of the places I'd expect a songwriter like this to call home, but alas, expectations with this gentleman are silly. His voice warbles like an ancient gospel singer, melody and lyrics snaking around unexpected instrumentation. A splash of cymbals here, a searing tear of distorted guitar there, sudden and gone again, like being teased with a silk kerchief while blindfolded. The lyrics, as stated here before, are often profound. "we burnt down the whole damn block, with a wink, and just one match." I know the feeling Chris.

Cold Fusion (Snakes)
[from A Cork Wake Talebuy]


Weakerthans Back, Strongerthan Ever

Somehow I keep reading reviews on the Weakerthans describing them as a punk band. Am I missing something? It's indie folk, if anything, filled with beautiful prose and narratives. It's chilly and not surprisingly so. Recorded in Canada above a closed factory in the dead of winter, the frosty feeling seeped under the doors and onto the album. Never is it colder than a touching homage to a hockey goalie called "Elegy for Gump Worsely", but Reunion Tour also has many warmer moments to melt the edge of the ice. "Night Windows" (a linesthroughlines fave) channels Deathcab while "Sun In an Empty Room" recalls the best of Some by Sea. Overall, however, the sound is entirely Weakerthans, pop-tinged and sprawling, lyrically enriched and inspiring. I can't believe I've slept on this band for this long. Don't let it happen to you.

"I wish I were a toothbrush or a solder gun. Make me something someone can use."

Relative Surplus Value
Sun In an Empty Room
[from Reunion Tourbuy]


iTouch Myself

This is a test post from my new iPod touch!! I'm at world famous Powells Books on Burnside in Portland. Technology rules! Stay tuned...


Listening Assignments 9.24.07

1. Two Gallants - The Hand that Held Me Down - I've gotta say that if you don't love the harmonica from :23 - 1:00 (and another 30 seconds at 3:00), you've got nuts and bolts loose in your brain. What a sweet instrument. What follows is somewhat expected, trembly-voiced and almost wailed, smacking of old Whiskeytown and maybe some Bright Eyes. [from Two Gallantsbuy]

2. Red Fox, Grey Fox - Up with Mittens, Down with Gloves - Not enough people know about Vedera so this comparison might miss the mark, but this sounds a lot like Vedera/Broken Social Scene. It's almost withdrawn and loping alongside a car in the mountains, where inside you're squinting back tears at whatever you're running away from in the city. That's what it feels like anyway. [from From the Land of Bears, Ice, and Rockbuy]

3. Cary Brothers - Honestly - Sure, it's melodramatic to the point of cheddar, but I think in the context of the movie, I'd have a little lump in my throat. Of course I'd never admit that in person. Breakup songs are all like that, but we all relate to them anyway. [from Feast of Love Sdtkbuy]

4. Ris Paul Ric - Purple Blaze - This is 2005 material from the former frontman for Q and not U. It's relevant again with his former drummer releasing the amazing Georgie James record this year, and it could be argued that the Q is doing more exciting things these days than they were before the band broke up. Purple Blaze is a trippy, loop-filled musical poem. [from Purple Blazebuy]


Iron & Wine is Sublime

Sam Beam and his beard can do no wrong. Especially now, after the years of anticipation since Our Endless Numbered Days, the post-Garden State commercialization, the m&m's ads, and the inclusion of Iron &Wine shirts at Hot Topic. This album leaked months ago (an abnormally lengthy head start even for this industry) giving many bloggers, music critics, and slobbering fans ample time to make up their minds about it, and despite it being a textural departure from his previous work, they still love it. The recent issue of Paste features Beam's fuzzy face on the cover with the headline "Sam Beam is America's next great folksinger." The praise is almost spiritual and based on more than just his neo-Jesus appearance. One listen to "Carousel" and you'll understand why. If this isn't blasting over the speakers in heaven right now, I'm calling the man in charge.

Boy with a Coin
[from The Shepherd's Dog (out 9.25)buy]


I'm in Oregon til the 1st of October, but I've got some sweet music in store. I planned ahead, people! New Iron & Wine (later today), Shapiro, Listening Assignments, and AA Hardy. The Blankets Project is also done and uploaded, so I'm thinking Tuesday for it. I'm seeing Midlake next Saturday! Be Jealous and stay tuned...


It's not actually a Band of Horses

With a Band of Horses, you'd think their hooves would prevent them from solidly playing chords and fingerpicking strings of a guitar. One would imagine it'd be difficult for a horse to carry a tune as well, but maybe assumptions are overrated. This sublime group of equine buck a lot of stereotypes in the same way. It's unpretentious indie-rock, melodic and echoey, driving and diverse. The Shins + Cold War Kids + Secret Machines. I saw them open for Iron and Wine three years ago and they blew me away, but their tour EP disappointed. After last year's blog-fave Everything All the Time, they follow up with an even stronger effort on Sub Pop Records. It glitters and rocks. Like a glittery rock.

Is there a Ghost
Lamb of the Lam (In The City)
[from Cease to Begin (out 10.9)|pre-order]


Tigercity, the new Go West?

Let it be known that I spent an extra 30 mins on the assignments yesterday because I decided Tigercity deserved their own post and I had to find a replacement. This EP, while longer than most (6 tracks), is not nearly long enough. It makes me giddy. It's like I felt when I first heard Maritime and Crystal Skulls in 2005, only instead of '70s pop, these guys are oozing Miami Vice-era Go West/WHAM/Hall & Oates. Yes, you read that right. Tigercity is spouting synth and hi-hat-heavy dance karate like it's 1986. I feel like I'm 4 years old again!

Somehow this band is unsigned and therefore this EP is an iTunes-only release. Best $5.95 I've spent in recent memory. Listen to 4 of the songs @ their myspace, if you aren't convinced, you're taking crazy pills.

Other Girls
Are You Sensation?
[from Pretend Not to Love|buy]


Listening Assignments 9.17.07

1. Matt Pond PA - It's Not So Bad at All - In my opinion, you can't go wrong with Matt Pond. His entire catalog is killer, the most recent being no exception. This is a slow-building, pitter-pattering little number that just sounds good. Female accompanying vocals, liberal Wurlitzer and steady kick drum are key. [from Last Light (out 9.25)|pre-order]

2. Kate Nash - Merry Happy - Umm, female British accents are hot. Hotter when they come out of the mouths of 20-year-olds who list Regina Spektor as their #1 influence. This is much less sparkly than Lily Allen, but more enjoyable I think. [from Made of Bricks|buy]

3. Cody Chesnutt - Boils - This song literally trembles from the amount of soul heaped on its horn-filled, group-sung, unorthodox back. It's definitely one of the weirder songs I've heard recently but I love it. Thom Yorke loves it too. Seriously. [from Plague Songs|buy]

4. Sandro Perri - Double Suicide - Sandro is another sure thing; his songs are always beautiful and full of life. Subtle and dreamlike. Plenty of interesting things going on if you listen for them. [from Tiny Mirrors (out in US 10.9)|pre-order]


1 2 3 4

Somehow I've avoided writing about this amazing song until now, without really realizing it. Leslie Feist's petite little voice has captured much of the world this year, thanks in part to the new iPod commercials which have a funny knack for breaking bubble bands to the bigtime. More and more on-the-cusp indie performers are being asked to play primetime late-night shows and enlisting the help of a bevy of other fantastic bands to help make the biggest impression possible. For this performance on Letterman, the crowd behind her has members of the National, New Pornographers, Grizzly Bear, and Broken Social Scene. So good.

1 2 3 4 [from the Reminder|buy]


Sing Her Name

It's another linesthroughlines original mix! Check out Oh, It Is Love and The Heartbreak List if you missed them previously. This one is all girls' names, a common thread that leaves much room for diversity and previously unseen combinations. It was a blast to make. Let me know about any songs you love that have a girl's name in them; I'll be working on volume 2.

1. Rachel's - Frida Kahlo
2. The Acorn - Darcy [mp3]
3. Josh Ritter - Kathleen
4. Travis - Selfish Jean
5. The Spinto Band - Oh Mandy
6. The National - Ada
7. Matt Pond PA - Lily Two
8. Pinback - Penelope
9. Deathcab for Cutie - Song for Kelly Huckaby
10. Sky's the Limit - A Song for Kate
11. Arms and Legs - Alice [mp3]
12. Chris Merritt - Caroline
13. Julian Velard - Joni
14. The Damnwells - Sweet Marie
15. Elliott Smith - Sweet Adeline
16. Ray LaMontagne - Jolene
17. Stephen Fretwell - Emily [mp3]
18. Jake Troth - Caroline
19. Des Ark - Eloise

[Download here] (.zip)



Balearic Sabbath Mix

Who doesn't appreciate a killer mixtape?

Mike Simonetti, head of Troubleman Unlimited Records (Chromatics, Glass Candy), has put together this golden blend of nostalgia and dark horses that is shockingly good. Kicked off by the amazing and available-on-vinyl-only "Frozen Love" by pre-Fleetwood Mac duo Buckingham Nicks, spinning into some cool Curtis Mayfield, the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, and more, this mix is all good.

Download Balearic Sabbath (59:41)
thanks allez-allez!


Listening Assignments 9.10.07

1. William Fitzsimmons - It's Not True - This breathy ballad easily recalls Ari Hest, but brings in a nicely placed electronic element that doesn't sound out of place with intertwining acoustic guitars. Sounds like rain, lazy gray clouds, and missing something. [from Goodnight|buy]

2. The Shaky Hands - Summer Life - I love bands from the Pacific NW; the soul of music up there is just staggeringly alive. This track is understandably bright and knee-slapping, an ode to the end of the fertile sunkissed warmth that is summer. [from Shaky Hands|buy]

3. Rosie Thomas - Why Waste More Time? - The beginning of this song and Rosie's little voice is impossibly cute. After that, it's impossibly beautiful. Shivers, people. [from These Friends of Mine|buy]

4. Marla Hansen - A Friend Indeed - Another angel-voiced songstress accompanied by Sufjan Stevens' lively ukulele. She's amazing in her own right, but also performs or records with My Brightest Diamond, Inlets, and The National. When you play viola, you get asked to do a lot of awesome things. [from Wedding Day EP|buy]

Invitation Songs by The Cave Singers

Seattle's The Cave Singers are more suited to mountaintops than the dark, lonely recesses of a cavern. An echoey canyon would be even better, somewhere the sounds could bounce around like birthday balloons. An open valley filled with buzzing insects and rustling branches might provide a proper backdrop to this magnetic and modern American folk. Anywhere but a cave. Anywhere things with ears are present.

Pete Quirk's voice is expectedly odd and not annoyingly nasal, occupied with little slips and yelps, tripping innocently around meandering guitars and shuffled percussion. It's a cute little dance, highly smile-inducing, and would be right at home over the credits of your favorite feel-good art film.

Seeds of the Night
Elephant Clouds
[from Invitation Songs (out 9.25)|pre-order]


Things and Things

People my people,

Sorry the blog has been relatively spotty recently. My brother was in town the last week and we were out doing things like canoeing, picnicking, shopping, and rocking. Also, I have so much musically on my plate that it's harder to decide what I want to write about. I go back and forth so much that I just end up listening to more and more and instead of forcing a post, I just enjoy myself. The Blankets Project (a covers compilation) is nearing completion, the first volume of which should be up this week, and I've got a lot of new things to review: KT Tunstall, Band of Horses, The Cave Singers, The Weakerthans, etc. The Listening Assignments tomorrow will be my favorite of the last while so you should check them out, of suffer an impossibly bland Monday afternoon.

Other than that, the posts have been pretty solid music, no? My top 20 for 2007 is totally a wreck now. Here are some random tidbits I've found otherwise...

1. The Music Man - an interesting interview/article with super-producer Rick Rubin who, in May, became the co-head of Columbia Records. If anything else, his beard is totally legendary.

2. Strokes of Genius - Phil Hansen - one of the most intriguing and amazing artists I can think of at the moment. w/ video goodness that will undoubtedly lead you in a search for more.

3. I want this shirt like whoa.

4. For Eli - Andrea Gibson - I get shivers when I hear this spoken word performance, seriously. If you agree or not, this is staggeringly poignant.

5. Music later today!


More Travis Morrison

Travis Morrison always makes me want to do the robot. That, and stick out my bottom lip in protest at whatever Pitchfork has to say about it. Apparently if you front a highly successful indie rock band but leave to graze in different pastures on your own, you should still do your best to sound as similar as possible to what everyone wants to remember you for. The Dismemberment Plan was incredible; there's no denying that fact. It was hip, hooky, and deep, while being totally different from anything you'd ever heard before. It was weird sometimes, and sometimes it could even make you feel uncomfortable and want to skip the song, but then, at the last moment, a melody would come soaring down from the clouds and save it and you'd smile and think "wow, that was pretty cool." And they broke up because that's what bands do. I think we need to get over it.

So Travis has moved on. His first solo offering, 2004's Travistan, was definitely a departure, probably more than necessary...just to serve notice that this man was not going to fit our mold, even if it meant breaking out trippy acoustic semi-political pop and standing on a soap-box. It got a 0.0 in Pitchfork, in the now-infamous review by Chris Dahlen. I'll be the first to say the album wasn't all that glitters, but zero? If anything, it speaks volumes to how expectations and pretension can blind. I don't care what Chris says, "People Die" is a mixtape favorite and still one of my favorite 5 songs from that year.

So now, we're here at All Y'all, on the heels of another P'forking (4.5/10). Two times through and I haven't skipped a track. I've heard a few tracks a few times and I'm thinking this record very well might rule. Just listen to the "Timebomb"-esque "I'm Not Supposed to Like You (But)", a simple but effectively engaging opener dubbed by the almighty music reviewer as "banal high school sentiment." Did he hear the obscenely cool orgy of trumpets at 1:25? There are so many beautiful moments on this record, it's led me to an understanding on why I could never write for Pitchfork: I'd much rather look at the best parts of music I can love than the parts I just can't get over. I suggest you all make the same choice as well. Travis, this blog's for you.

I'm Not Supposed to Like You (But)
Just Didn't Turn Me On
[from All Y'all|buy]
People Die
[from Travistan|buy]


Pinback is (almost) back

I'd like to thank Pinback for being one of my biggest influences in indie rock since I first heard "Penelope" back in 2001. They and their singer Rob Crow are no strangers to this blog, for myriad reasons. Melody, creativity, novelty, chivalry, nudity, harmony, and metallurgy. A few of those I made up, but they may also apply. It sounds like Ben Gibbard fronting the Police while ice skating. This new record (out next Tuesday) is an amazing lesson in consistency and pacing. In a time where 80% of the musicians we love put out albums we're ultimately disappointed in, Pinback continues to release potent and unique soundscapes and further plop down bricks to solidify their residence atop the hill of awesome independent music.

Blue Harvest
Devil You Know
From Nothing to Nowhere
[from Autumn of the Seraphs (out 9.11)|buy]


Listening Assignments for Labor Day (9.3.07)

1. Cave In - Woodwork - Jupiter, the Tides of Tomorrow EP, and the following major-label release Antenna captured Cave In at their most memorable, IMO. The guitar tones are downright incredible, both in weight and character, and Stephen Brodsky's vocals were as potent and melodic as ever. [from Antenna|buy]

2. Julian Velard - Yeah Yeah Yeah (Work to Do) - First off, if you don't know this man, it's time to take the plunge. Piano, horns, violins, and jazzy funky happy vocals from Julian always equal a hell yes. This recording is live. Damn. [from Nitetime|buy]

3. The Verve - The Drugs Don't Work - As far as somber drug songs go, this one is up there. Drugs are bad, m'kay? This song is good, m'kay? [from Urban Hymns|buy]

4. Songs: Ohia - Love & Work - Jason Molina's voice always has haunted me in a way. It's so normal on many fronts, but also capable of conveying the emotion of a song so well. Kind of drawly, but also folky in the vein of John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats. This isn't the best example of his work, but the Labor Day theme wins out. [from Axxess & Ace|buy]


Jeremy Warmsley Warms Me

I've been sitting on this for awhile now, trying to somehow track down a physical or downloadable copy of this record, mostly so I could post the mp3 to the song from the video above. Alas, I might have to cave and buy import. I've written about Jeremy Warmsley before, but his fantastic sound has grown on me even more in the meantime.

One word I'd easily use is endearing. Mellow horns draw you in, playful and honest lyrics make you stay. But as you could observe from the video below, he's got spunk and passion that runneth over. And he looks far too young to be making this kind of music. This record desperately needs a US or iTunes release. In the meantime, spread the word.

I Promise
Dirty Blue Jeans
[from Art of Fiction|buy]

"Dirty Blue Jeans" A Takeaway Show