Contemplating the Physics of Meaning

Let's face it, Chapel Hill's the Physics of Meaning is pretty radical. Their leader (Daniel Hart) is in John Vanderslice's band, St. Vincent, and contributes to the Polyphonic Spree. He plays classical violin and has quite the talent for arranging. He knows how to rock and also how to roll. He's got approachable indie rock down to a science (I hear the Grays, Deathcab, Aloha, Some by Sea), but between engaging uptempo songs he's quick to remind you and I of the beautiful sounds that come from strings and horns when played in unison. This 12-song LP is a really nice balance of moods, both light and heavy, sometimes in the same song. It's book-ended by two flowing instrumentals, punches guts in the middle, and just might put Mr. Hart and Co. onto the map as their own entity instead of talented mercenaries-for-hire. If that's not rad, I'm not sure what is.

Like White Blood Filling a Black Heart
Airplanes and Hurricanes
[from Snake Charmer and Destiny at the Stroke of Midnight|buy]


Listening Assignments 11.25.08

1. Ben Kweller - Somehow (Singlemalt Version) - Awww, little Ben is all growed up. This tour-only EP is an appetizer for his upcoming February long-player. And yes, it's apparently heavily country-influenced. Despite the acoustic and steel-guitars, this closer has a great melody you'd expect from Kweller while the first few songs just...don't. Fingers crossed for February. [from How ya lookin' Southbound? Come In... EP|buy]

2. Ohbijou - Darcy - Let's face it, I'd have no problem writing about the Acorn every week. Instead, I'll just write about one of my favorite songs by them, beautifully covered by another band. Two birds, one listening assignment. [from The Acorn/Ohbijou 12"|buy]

3. Kompis & Erlend Oye - Untitled - It's been over four years since Kings of Convenience dropped Riot on an Empty Street and I'm desperate for anything new I can find. This is coming from one half of that duo. It doesn't really go much of anywhere, but I'm not sure it needs to. That voice is all it needs to take me back. [from All Ears]

4. Nick "Pogo" Bertke - Alice - So this is what it feels like to descend into a bottomless rabbit hole. Made entirely from samples from Alice and Wonderland, "Alice" has dream-like flow, palpitating with trance-like regularity. Piecing together this unique melody is a feat in itself, and he does it in all four songs on this free EP. [from Wonderland|download]


Empire of the Cool

Empire of the Sun's Walking on a Dream is an easy sell. They make the '80s sound new again, despite the era being walked on by countless bands for the last 10 years. This is infinitely cooler than the Madonna-on-acid album the Killers just made. It's synthy without being annoying. The basslines are alive. They dress up like Michael Jackson and Snarf from Thundercats. The first five tracks are going to knock you on your ass. This will be the perfect road-trip record in 2050, when you're humming along the surface of the moon at 300mph, the windows cracked, driving scarf streaming in the wind.

Walking on a Dream vid:

Standing on the Shore
Half Mast
[from Walking on a Dream|buy]


The Book of Margot

As mentioned here before, releasing a double album is more often than not a bad idea. It either takes some serious stones or inflated ego to want to put so much of yourself out there for criticism when it could easily float awry. Well another linesthroughlines fave (Margot & the Nuclear So-and-So's) has slid their chips to the center of the table and are awaiting the flop with bated breath...

Animal!/Not Animal began as a mildly humorous, urban-myth-strewn idea with potential for greatness. Margot had significant buzz following 2006's long-playing The Dust of Retreat which got them signed to Epic Records. Ringleader Richard Edwards' prolific pen created a bigger problem than you'd think: the label liked one set of 12 songs, Edwards liked another. As rumor has it, Edwards flew to the label's headquarters with an ultimatum. If the label didn't let him release the songs he wanted, he was going to intentionally leak the album to the internet (gasp!). While I'm sure that would have gotten him sued penniless, it apparently worked. The compromise was Animal! (the band's choice, released on vinyl) and Not Animal (Epic's, on CD), which originally were slated to be released as two separate entities a week apart. At some point someone realized the folly of that idea and the two released simultaneously, though the records have 5 songs common between them. At this point, there could be no other way...

While Not Animal begins (and for the most part continues) on the right path with the moody "A Children's Crusade on Acid", Animal! begins with the 6-minute "At the Carnival", hinting at a more arduous journey ahead. Almost sadly, I think the "big-bad-record-label" got their half right. It flows and has legitimate commercial appeal (which I'm sure Epic is hoping for). Animal! is true to the band's desires and has similar moments of moxy (closing with "As Tall As Cliffs" was brilliant), but ends up being the snoozer of the two.

Unfortunately, the double-album concept ends up distracting each from the other. I find myself having to choose between one or the other, a move that effectively cuts my ears off from worthy tracks exclusive to only one of the albums ("O' What a Nightmare", "My Baby (Shoots Her Mouth Off)", "Papers Written On a Wall", and "Holy Cow!"). "As Tall As Cliffs" is one of the year's best songs and thankfully appears on both, as do solid tracks like "Hello Vagina" and "A Children's Crusade on Acid." There are some nice mood songs that flow seamlessly in context and sound odd on their own (The Dust of Retreat was chock-full of them). There are some definite misses.

Despite (and because of) all of the above, I highly recommend both of these records. I recommend ripping both and making your own 12-song album, in tribute of Richard Edwards' idea. There's something for everyone inside, even if it takes a little time to dig up. With a band this beautifully weird, it's a risk well worth taking.

**Check out the topical and fabulous video for "As Tall As Cliffs" here.

As Tall As Cliffs
[from Not Animal|buy]
There's Talk of Mine Shafts
[from Animal!|buy]


Listening Assignments 11.17.08

1. The Acorn - Glory (original version) - The Acorn has been one of my favorite bands since the moment I first heard the Tin Fist EP and the first impression has just strengthened over time. They have an uncanny sense of melody and balance emotion and dynamics so well it's scary. This song, about singer Rolf Klausener's grandmother, is the ultimate moving tribute. [from Heron Act|buy]

2. The Sea and Cake - New Schools - One of those bands I never dove into, but everything I heard was always enjoyable. This one is breathy and cool, shuffling like a straw broom over '80s linoleum. [from Car Alarm|buy]

3. Portastatic - I Wanna Know Girls - I like power-pop as much as the next fellow, but true power-pop fans are shameless and completely obsessed with bands like Superchunk, the breakthrough band helmed by Portastatic's Mac McCaughan. Under this other moniker, Mac is more free to follow the muse. This particular song is straight up late-'90s pop (one of my favorite eras) despite being released in 2005. And I have to nod in agreement when he's crooning statements like "I wanna know girls, they give me hope, they float by through the air." [from Bright Ideas|buy]

4. Joose Keskitalo - Saimaan Ranalla - Good luck finding any information on Joose in English. That's because he's like a Finnish Nick Drake. It's tough to use one guitar and one voice and remain beautiful and interesting, but this gentleman manages to do so with arresting aplomb. [from MAAILMANPALO|myspace/buy]



In case you were curious, my fantasy football players are a bunch of overrated, underperforming ninnies. I should just cut them all let them think about it for awhile. UNEMPLOYED!!!!

Also, we're heading up to DC for the day, putting assignments on hold. I've got the songs picked so hopefully I'll crank them out tonight when I get back.

One love.


Chilly Winterpills

Considering the season and the aforementioned weather, it seems the perfect time to mention Winterpills. They are an intriguing band out of Massachusetts who manage to stumble onto truly ascendant moments in two of every three songs rendering the curious decisions between these moments much more bearable, if not moot. There is adorable fragility below the surface, heightened by the occasionally lo-fi recording and the male/female interplay that always adds an extra layer. It's the best without the Bowie-esque vocal reverb ("Wire") and best when the mood is meloncholy and near-frigid ("What Makes Me Blind"). It's best with a steaming cup of cocoa and even better as a complete album runthrough where its flaws are smoothed by flow and overshadowed by the times where angels descended on shoulders and helped create a sound so true.

[from Central Chambers|buy]



No one sings about "pantaloons" and "marionettes" and "oligarchs" quite like The Decemberists' Colin Meloy, but this is commonly known. So with the 3rd and final (and best) installment of Always a Bridesmaid: A Singles Series, he takes on a more everyday subject: rain. This is particularly relevant because it's been ugly as a bruise outside of my apartment for a few days now. These two songs represent two different moods, both compelling and beautifully drab.

"Record Year" languishes along like an overflowing street drain sliding down the curb seeking the lowest point of the earth. Cello highlights the almost dissonant progression like low thunder in the distance, bellowing damnation. All the while, a bright banjo plays stuccato raindrops, keeping meter and tapping the windows insistently.

"Raincoat Song" is the B-side of both a rainstorm and this particular 12" record. This is the shower for contemplation on the balcony. This is like inspecting the leaves on the trees as they are pummeled by a hum of droplets, almost dancing. Like watching from above as the water hits the grass on the lawn below, moving like invisible feet waltzing lightly atop the blades. This is whimsical observation of the drone of tones from the tin rooves across the street, the smiling stabs of sun through far-off cloud cover, reminding you somehow of a love you can't quite begin to grasp.

Record Year
Raincoat Song
[from Always a Bridesmaid: Vol. III 12" (out 12.2)|pre-order]

Laying it on Thicke

*Whelp, I guess I'll stick to supporting acts that support my support of them instead of "big names" that kill my posts. I got numerous e-mails from people thanking me for introducing them to Robin Thicke, and in return his label asked Blogger to zap the whole post a la q-Tip's last week. My middle finger's getting a little worn out these days. oh well...

I know you ladies see Robin Thicke and feel the earth sway beneath your toes. I know the wind begins to caress your hips, pushing them left, then right, slow and sensual-like. I know you close your eyes because I close mine too. I swear his whispy Color-Me-Badd facial hair gives me nightmares.

Ok, the guy's made of silk. Ok, he's a poor-man's Justin Timberlake. Ok, you hated Growing Pains. Liar! That show rocked. Robin's making daddy proud, parting legs like the Red Sea, and bringing the soul like it's 1972. Daps to that, young'n.

The Sweetest Love*
Tie My Hands (feat. Lil Wayne)*
[from Something Else|buy]
*links removed at label's request


Are you from Tennessee?

Pickup Lines to Use
While Moving.


"Nice shoes. Wanna put them in that box over there?"

"Is that a mirror in your pocket? Because the movers are going to be here soon, so we should put it in bubble wrap."

"Your father must have been a thief, because I can't find the duct tape."

"The word of the day is 'tarp.' What do you say we go back to my place and spread the word?"

"Mind if I put my junk in your box?"

"If this bed's a-rockin' ... maybe it's not worth taking to the new place?"

More Lists



An Afternoon Attack

Just in case you're curious why the assignments didn't happen yesterday, it's because my neighbor got robbed at gunpoint in broad daylight about 200 feet from where my friend and I were sitting on my balcony. The actual robbery was just out of view because Lindsay and I thought they were just a couple arguing. Turns out he had a gun and he pistol whipped her in the head, splitting it open, took her purse/phone/keys. We caught a glimpse of him as he ran away, but dammit if I feel like we could have done more. We took the neighbor in and got her paper towels and called the police. When she went out to the ambulance, she accidentally left a gift bag she'd been carrying. Inside was a stuffed bear, presumably a gift for someone, but the outside of the bag and the top of the tissue paper inside was streaked with her blood, which faded bright red to dull black in a matter of hours. I find myself shaken.

I live in a little neighborhood in Norfolk called Ghent. It's about 1.5 square miles of old houses and cute little eateries and a restored movie theater, reminiscent of some of my favorite cities like Seattle and Portland. My street has a wide mall between the two one-way roads, and it's grassy and has great climbing trees. People walk everywhere around here, to the park down the street, to school, to their jobs on Colley Avenue. This woman was just walking home from work at a local salon, in the middle of a sunny November afternoon, and she could have been killed. What the hell, people? What. the hell.

We elect the first black president in our history one week and an innocent woman gets attacked in broad daylight the next week. I just don't understand how people like this can live with themselves. The bastard got away. I don't know if my neighbor (or myself, for that matter) will ever feel safe again.

Please be careful out there, people.


Listening Assignments 11.10.08

1. Pixies - Hey - You know a soundtrack is pretty cool when it's got Amity's favorite Pixies song in addition to one of my favorite songs by the Dears ("You and I Are A Gang of Losers") during the turning point. And the movie was pretty money as well. [from Zach and Miri Make a Porno OST|buy]

2. What Made Milwaukee Famous - Sweet Lady - This was the song that got me started on WMMF so it's only fitting to make a reprise in its live acoustic form. It's surprisingly lively. [from The Sugarhill Sessions EP|free @ barsuk]

3. The Mountain Goats & Kaki King - Roger Patterson Van - King is immediately noticeable on lead guitar, fingers strumming akimbo. It's unbelievably refreshing to hear Mr. Darnielle singing over something other than straight acoustic chords, something playful and dynamic. [from Black Pear Tree EP|best catch them on tour!]

4. Stateless - Down Here - This is large, reverberating darkness. It's addiction, withdrawal, redemption. [from Stateless|buy]


Ra Ra Rawsome

Hey I have no problem admitting that I've been thrown off the scent of many an amazing band by an odd choice in name. Grizzly Bear is probably the most regretful oversight, but this kind of thing happens when you have hundreds of new records a month flooding your inbox and the music world in general. I think the important part of this is admitting where I've made the wrong call. What's in a name anyway?

Ra Ra Riot, you deserve my humblest apologies. I would have put money on you being some kind of post-punk, possibly even synthcore, grouping of black-outfitted ruffians. I see now, two and half months after the release of your full length debut The Rhumb Line (Barsuk), how silly I was. Better late than never.

It'd be easy for violins to feel forced and contrived alongside the intelligent pop Ra Ra Riot is spinning. It'd be easy for a band to be swallowed up by expectations after being labeled as the next "it" band by Spin after their debut at CMJ in 2006. Instead, this fivesome from Syracuse makes it look easy. This record is simply cool. This is like being 17 when "Take On Me" came out. I feel like tossing on the stonewashed jeans, feathering my hair, and partying like its 1984. Not that The Rhumb Line is another tired '80s rehash. Nay, this record is hip enough for the hipsters, but fresher than a head of lettuce. This is a band unspoiled by lavishing blogs and music mags, young and full of rosy-cheeked optimism.

I took a chance on a band called Ra Ra Riot and I'm a happy man, indeed.

Too Too Fast
Run My Mouth
[from The Rhumb Line|buy]

Q-Tip the Deleted

*Yes, there used to be a pretty sweet post about Q-Tip in this space. His label didn't want you to know about or hear anything from the record without purchasing it for yourself. Sad, really.

here's what it said...

If you're cool, you know A Tribe Called Quest was the bees knees back in the day. But I won't blame you if you didn't know Tribe's frontman Q-Tip was set to drop a bomb on hip-hop the same day America elected its first black president. Q has been out of the public eye for almost 10 years, though he re-united Tribe in '06, but The Renaissance is notice served on a genre that loses more luster every year removed from the golden days of old-school. With Kanye pursuing his auto-tune dreams, Kamaal the Abstract (a.k.a. Q-Tip) is dropping piano hooks like they are steaming hot, laying beats like asphalt, and bringing the old-school back to the new-school. Class is now in session. There will be a test.

Gettin' Up*
Johnny is Dead*
[from The Renaissance|buy]
*links removed at label's request


Vote 08

"Today is the day to act like today is your day and you will be surprised that it is, that it is." - Apollo Sunshine

The way I see it, a change is going to come either way. I'm not about to get political on this music blog but I will say this: I truly believe both candidates desire the best for this country. That and I'm incredibly enthused to not have to listen to any more of this B.S. for another few months. I'm tired of slur campaigns, demonizing, subversive political organizations, and muckraking. Tired of age jokes and hunting jokes and black jokes. I'm glad it's all about to be over.

The Postal Service - Suddenly Everything Has Changed
[from The District Sleeps Alone Tonight EP|buy]
Number One Fan - Nothing Will Change
[from Compromises|buy]


Listening Assignments 11.3.08

1. School of Seven Bells - Conjurr - At the special request of one Jacob Bock, I've pursued the noteworthy bounty of SoSB for your listening pleasure. It's no wonder that Jake likes this, as they are the reason Ben Curtis left Secret Machines and, it turns out, a completely valid one. It's dreamier. Less Pink Floyd, more Willy Wonka. [from Alpinisms|buy]

2. Kanye West - Heartless - After this post, Kanye will be taking a hiatus from linesthroughlines. I support his artistic muse, his need to do what he needs to do. But 808s and Heartbreak, after hearing numerous tracks Kanye has put out there himself, is destined for my trash bin. I'm told West has a hip-hop record due early next year, a return to the Kanye we all know and love, that 808s is just an itch he had to scratch. Commercially, however, it just seems a transparent attempt to squeeze the last drops of public interest out of the whole "voice mod/autotune" movement. To strike when the iron is hot. One can only hope that this is "the iron's" swan song. [from 808s and Heartbreak (out 11.25)|buy]

3. Vetiver - Miles Apart - Andy Cabic's outfit is fond of covering artists they revere, as evidenced by Thing of the Past and its EP followup More of the Past, but it works especially well when no one knows the songs your covering. They end up sounding like really good originals and, some would argue, a better album than you were probably capable of on your own. Not that it's a bad thing. When you've got in-the-pocket folk chops like this, you could make Sloop John B sound pretty. [from More of the Past EP (out 11.11)|buy]

4. Ingrid Michaelson - Oh What a Day - Silky ukulele, sweet songbird soul, simplicity. [from Be OK|buy]