Wednesday, December 31, 2008

not a top ten

is there a problem with top-ten lists? nope. artforum does 'em every month and their end-of-the-ear issue is almost exclusively t-10s. some buck-toothed dood on teevee does 'em too. they can be funny. evry music mag and blogger does 'em too. so why should i?

my friend hatedeverysong sent out a best-of and a worst-of list this year (on the myspace) and that was cool, except he is an indie fanatic (especially when it gets west-coast), and i can only gawk/be jealous at the amount of shows and records he seems to absorm per annum.
which is a little disingenuous, heh.
i bought more records this year than i ever have (in a one-year period). i didn't really pay much attention though to what year they were released in, though, so a "best of '08" seems a little dishonest. it also seems a bit silly: i mean, john-effing-darnielle released three records this year; sorta tilts the field, y'know?
the clean and the bats, new zealand legends, put out new albums this year, and so did plenty of other bands, but i spent most of my money stuff by bands i had just come across/focussed on for the first time, and whom i was eager to absorb into my crammed conciousness.
i can't believe that i hadn't heard of some of this stuff before, so i'll sacrifice any snobbery so i can say "wow" about this stuff.
i get really excited about new stuff! give me a little leeway!
oh, right. i didn't say what i was doing...

so instead of a "best-of" list, i'm just going to do a list of bands/performers i didn't know about until sometime in 2008 (an who i am happy to have found, natch). it'll be in "top ten" format, but please don't ascribe any major significance to the actual order. that wouldn't be really fair since my memory is terrible and i'm just going to try to remember what i want to remember!
okay. here goes:

1) phil elvrum, aka: microphones/mt eerie/d+* (really the whole anacortes scene, as well...)
2) woelv/ôpaon
3) dirty projectors
4) the blow (yeah, yeah, everyone's been telling me about this for a while--i get easily distracted, ok?)
5) simon joyner
6) peter jefferies
7) the cannanes (how did i live without this band?)
8) the mad scene (this is 1/3 of the clean, so is it fair? the answer is yes: i didn't know about hamish's other band before)
9) elf power**
10) mark szabo (how did i live without this either?)

*when i say d+, i should point out that i'm really getting into this band of former beat happening-er bret lunsford, and also band-member karl blau's stuff as well. just sayin'.
**this is dishonest. i knew elf power before because i've had a couple of their records for three years, but i never was obsessed with them until this year, when i became obsessed with them. sooooo good.

of course there's the pile of stuff i got from 555/red square (ie jen+stew) that i am still working through, and honorable mention goes to fly ashtray, who i just got psyched about via douglas wolk's singles club. i will obsess more soon...


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Shut the f*ck up

this is just a quick note, but it regards a long-time problem that has been on my mind of late: the incessant talking at shows. i have been listening to a shit-ton of boots lately (mostly mountain goats and mount eerie--woo!), and people just won't fucking shut up. why is this people? i mean, i usually don't go to shows alone, and between songs i am likely to be overheard saying something along the lines of "oh, holy shit, i can't believe he played neon orange glimmer song" but in that particular case, i also am paying attention to the onstage intro/banter/what-not, and will keep my own commentary to a minimum.
but you people, o you bastards, who prate and snigger while the songs are being played, seriously, why are you [t]here?
if you want to have discourse, a fellow like myself would position himself far from discouraging it, but there are inappropriate times for it, like when they are putting your mother into the cold hard ground, or when colin meloy is singing red right ankle.
it's aggravating in person, but reaches a sublimely new level of inanity when it's preserved for posterity on a bootleg. an example: a fellow asking a particularly chatty girl to please be quiet during the songs, her saying what? what? me? ohsuresorry. then immediately slagging him off with her chums and using the sad justification that she paid to get in [too].
i have apparently been fortunate to have found myself in a life where i have not needed to pay a cover charge to have a conversation, so obviously my heart goes out to these deprived kids. poor dears.
another example: phil elverum politely pointing out at a show that the venue has a front room where conversationalists might be able to hear each other better, where they won't be distracted by the music he's playing.
thank you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The drone of eight-bit choirs

so I was following the threads of a forum, and came across a site with archives of mountain goats shows. omg. i have spent the last twelve hours rabidly going through them. ain't even done yet. more tomorrow. oh holy shit, you guys, have i told you how much i love the variation and subtle nuance of live shows? fuck, it's all so cool. i'm peeing my pants in all the right ways right now.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

oh! hey! more lucksmiths:

you can get the first frost easily. i am a liar and a bastard.

go to

they also have tali white's new guild league record, which i am buying RIGHT NOW in another window...

if i'm babbling, please forgive me

for the longest time, i would mention one of my favortie bands, and people would say who? luck-whats? i would go to their rare shows at small sardine-packed clubs full of twee kids from portland and vancouver who'd come the distance to hear melbourne's finest LUCKSMITHS play a little set for them. these were fans who knew all the words, and jumped around (danced! in seattle!--if you don't know why this is strange, DO NOT move here). finally, people are slowly coming around, and apparently the boys are enjoying some well-earned love back home in 'oz, but they are still a long ways from belle & sebastian levels. which is far from coldplay levels. which is far from rolling stone levels. and, urm, all of that is good for me, i'd say... selfish bastard, me.

so the lucksmiths started out back in 199(3?) when one of them was the age i was then, one was a year younger, and one a year older. they're of my generation, is what i'm sayin, and back then i was not savvy enough to have my own band, thank you. nor was i savvy enought to pick up vinyl from an obscure australian trio on a label that you couldn't get over here.
in '98 i heard a track on seattle's kexp (was it still kcmu then? i don't remember...), but it sounded great--chamber-pop, twee, whatever you wanted to call it. and then when 'why that doesn't surprise me' came out in 2001, i was onboard for the haul. in short order, i hooked up with their indie label (the late candle records, run by chris crouch, was home to a host of massively talented antipodean acts, like darren hanlon, the girls from the clouds, richard easton, ruck rover (now fred astereo) and a bunch of others-it was one of those watershed labels that opens up a whole genre for an entire scene *sigh* i miss them) and ordered the back catalogue, and quickly became very expert on them (interviewing main writer marty donald several years ago for now-defunct 'rivet magazine'), and bugging all but three of my friends about them. the three in question became fans as well.

anyways, the lucksmiths are a blend of jonathan richman-esque self-deprecating humour, smart, clever and touching lyrics, and twangy jangly guitars, set up by frontman tali white's stand-up drumkit and velvety falsetto. mark monnone sets the bass down and all three have written songs for the duration, though donald has written the lion's share. mid state orange's louis richter joined the band for the tour supporting 2005's 'warmer corners' and he has become, after more than a decade member number four. his first song for the band leads off the newest release, 'FIRST FROST,' which just came out last month. the boys went down to a rickety little cabin in tasmania, were tormented by local mice, failed to see a thylacine, and made a beautiful little record which their new label (owned in part by monnone, by the way) describes as being a record for those who "think the lucksmiths sound too much like the lucksmiths." i don't actually get that. 'first frost' sounds EXACTLY like the lucksmiths, and i do mean that as a good thing. the lyrics have the same gentle humour and sweetness, and the quality of the music is as high as ever. it's a little fuller with a fourth guitarist, especially one so good at embroidering hooks and driving riffs through donald's kinks-y jangle, but that hasn't been new for more than three years. whatever. if that gets the punters in the door, then well done. monnone has some real gems in there, and donald's tone is pitch-perfect in sweetly articulated numbers like "good light" and "california in poular song." donald and monnone rarely, if ever, sing lead vocals, and i consider a rare gift for a band to have such synergy between a dynamic singer and other writing band members--with tali white, the lucksmiths have carried it off with aplomb for years. every song sounds naturally organic and well-fitted to its components. my only complaint is that white, who is capable of some great emotionally cutting songs like "sunlight in a jar," here only contributes a track ("up with the sun"). hopefully this means he's been writing for his other project, the guild league. never a prolific contributor to the lucksmiths, white has a slightly different tone to his writing (whereas monnone and donald, while slightly discernable to the connoisseur, are fairly complimentary) and i always want to hear what's rattling around in his brain. espaecially since he's singing...

if well-crafted little love songs are your cup of tea (i ain't talking angsty emo here, by the way--just real good aussie indie-pop), check out the lucksmiths. you may have a little trouble right now getting ahold of 'first frost' (unless you order from their label, lost and lonesome, in 'oz), but it'll come (hopefully the band will be back through again soon--last time they were here they played the croc' and it was a little sparse; i mean granted, it was a cold wintery monday, but I WAS THERE, and i almost never go out). in the meantime, catch up. then come dance with me.

oh for fuck's sake.

so, yeah, i don't have firefox, or whatever, so no more cute formatting.


*vows revenge*

i dug my heels in for the winter

so i spent about an hour or so, earlier in the week, writing this really long, drawn-out post about the mountain goatsand kaki king12" black pear tree e.p. oh man, i worked on that for a wahile, checking all fucking sorts of facts and shit, and sticking in this and that hyperlink, and would you know it? this fucking platform screwed me over on it, and i seriously considered smashing the shit out of my screen, but thankfully i did not, i cannot afford to spend another 2K right now, thank you. but now, i'm logging on the write this new post and the stupid shit has changed the formatting tool selection, SO, is this in the font i prefer? who knows! is it in italics? bold-face? zapf-dingbats? how the hell would i know?
pretty damned irritating.
so, i meant to write this stuff earlier. i was all poetic before, but fuck it at this point. get on the mac train, blogger. i mean seriously. i only know two people who use PCs. one of them is very attractive. one of them, not so pretty, works for microsoft. but he runs vista on his macbook pro.
john darnielle of the mountain goats uses a mac.
and he also works with people like scott solter who "committed" bpt to tape in north carolina this summer. those who visit mr darnielle's flickr page have ben tormented with the existence of this record because of one tantalizing, teasing picture. i am not going to hyperlink to it. look it up if you want to. i am feeling nasty tonight, sorry.
so the mountain goats used to put out shitloads of stuff in small tasty packages, like eps and singles and splits and comps and all this shit. sometimes, things like jack and faye wouldn't even be released, but dammit, you knew they were out there somewhere (like online). sometimes they would ave etchings by nikki mcclure, like new asian cinema and sometimes they would be in elaborate little sacks, like on juhu beach. and then, of course, sometimes there are only 666 of them, like the ep mentioned below. black pear tree is not quite so elaborately manufactured. it has a simple, classy cover. there were some pretty swirly vinyl copies (200) distributed randomly amongst the edition, but the music is the same, and the selection of who got the swirlies was random, as i say, so it was fair. the only thing that freaked me the fuck out, was that, like satanic messiah, bpt was a tour-only type deal. fortunately, john gave some copies to various distributors, and peole like me were able to get copies (i couldn't make it to the last show here, because i am a mess--it is a long story, we ain't going there). so thank you (again) three beads of sweat. and also for the other stuff i will mention another time *cough-cough*.
oh, wait, there's music in this ep. i should mention that, right? so, it's good, i think i mentioned that already. i was not before, and am not intimately now, familiar with kaki king's oeuvre, but i checked out a video of her on letterman doing ridiculous things with (to?) a guitar, and it's fairly obvious why on the liner noted to bpt she's credited with "greater guitars," whereas jd is credited, somewhat self-dis-servingly, i will say, with "lesser guitars." king is also credited with music credits for tracks 2 and 5 (mosquito repellent and roger patterson van respectively), but the overall tone of the album is far from broken by any disparity. it sounds like king and darnielle have been a band for yonks, although, as the story goes, jd's been a fan for a while, but kk was unaware of who tmg was. lol. anyway, king does vocal service on the opening title track to darnielle's lyrics (he wrote 'em all, goats fans) and sings them as if they were her own. so if anyone ever ascribed a gender bias to tmg's lyrics that conceit could easily be overturned in this one song.
the record is pretty spare, going the opposite direction from the rockiness superchunk drummer jon wurster has lately brought to the band (king does percussion, and it's subtle and rasping)--much like the sm ep. it would maybe be ineffective, stylistically over the length of an lp, but in this form, the atitude, the sounds and the words all come together beautifully to form a very authentic and organic whole.
special shout out to supergenesis, the first track on side b. it's a miltonian tale of failure in the diabolical vein, and of the rueful lust for retribution. analogic and quietly vicious, it slides comfortably into the ranks of jd's great pissed-off-and-gonna-cut-yer-nuts-off songs. which is one of the reasons we're all here, i suppose.

i've been thinking a lot about the vinyl situation lately, by the way. especially as i've been buying a lot of vinyl. i read something recently by damon krukowski about victrolas and old wax, and it seems like that's all anyone's talking about on the mg forum, and i have mentioned its merits myself in relation to boyracer and k records and stuff. but (and this will be the focus of its own post soonish) i keep thinking, well, if you can hear the music and the music's goo, does it REALLY matter what format it's in? i mean, it's nice, and i would not part with my special records--or any album art or notes or whatever, but it seems like this schism between the vinyl-fetishists' totems on one side, and the vapid itunes download on the other, and a wide gulch between that threatens to engulf other options. that's the part that worries me. opinions on this welcome. i'll be writing more about it later.

so to sum up: black pear tree=so good. jd assures the people (many of whom are highly anxious wanting this record) that it is not meant to be unattainable, and that somehow people will be able to get hold of it. maybe not on vinyl (lol). probably not on tape thought, thank goodness (hold on, carlos! i got no hate for the cassette, but my deck ain't worked for about eleven years, and i want those damned daniel johnson tapes (not to mention tmg stuff!!!)--i just want options, alright?).
in the meantime, go download satanic messiah. don't be a baby, it sounds just fine. of course, it may sound amazing on vinyl. i wouldn't know...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Not about the music.

I am sitting here on my couch watching the election results. There are tears rolling down my cheeks, and I am an unsentimental man. The war is finally over. It's time for a change, and to quote the catalyst: 

Yes we can.

What a birthday present...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

update pending / relief

after drunkenly raving about tenuous nick cave/john darnielle connections last time, i finished typing (out of a sense that i needed to just stop more than anything else), and quickly became relieved that i had not followed the thread i was originally going to write about. which was, that while it was cool to be able to download (in a cool way) satanic messiah, i was angry that it was going to be nearly impossible to score the other tour only mountain goats record, the 12" six-song black pear tree e.p., by tmg and kaki king. i hadn't any tickets for the forthcoming show (the one a week ago, now) and i was all "shit, it's great to be able to download thank you mario, but our princess is in another castle, but i am an addict, and i need every goddamned bootleg version and alt-take and un-released tracks, thank you very much, and i can't have it and i wants it (sob, sob).

but then while i was getting ready to go in that direction, i hyperlinked the address for three beads of sweat and when i did that, i noticed that a.) they were still in business; and b.) they had copies of the bpt ep!!! i ordered one immediately, and, i was later to discover, none too soon. so i was one of the really lucky people to have been able to get an ep from that avenue, and i now have it in my little hands, and know two things:
1. it's really good.
2. i will blog more about it soon (as soon as i finish the illustration, probably)

so, i thought i'd mention it. also thought i'd mention what's on deck in the next month or so.
-the long-promised anacortes special (elvrum, woelv, d+, etc.)
-elf power
-david kilgour
-the lucksmiths

see you soon

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

a howl like screeching tires

so i woke up this morning. sadly, i am not on kawara, so the event in itself wasn't so notable, but i did wake up with the seeds of this post germinating in my loamy little brain. that's pretty unusual, me hosting cognitive activities first thing in the ay-em. usually i think the following (in order): poop; clothes; coffee (there's a whole subset of making sure i have the money for the coffee and the keys to my little kingdom so i don't get locked out, but that's hardly here nor there).
so, anyway, i had this fairly well-formed thought stream about how the recent mountain goats stuff--or rather the transition john darnielle seems to be making, resulting in new mountain goats stuff--has a remarkable similarity to the arc of nick cave (and the bad seeds, but specifically, nick cave). 
oh, sorry, i should probably go into detail. actually, i should be specific that there's no way the folkish yelping of john darnielle could be mistaken for the gravedigger's baritone of nick cave, they look totally different (especially since nick grew the stache), but there is a strand here to follow, honest. to wit:
i should probably start with a little background for those without a working knowledge of either protagonist. 
•nick cave started out with seminal aussie punk band the birthday party, and with heroin. his raw rough lyrics and grinding music helped define a certain "eurotrash" sort of sensibility that tapped into latent post-war anger and frustrations, particularly in west germany (with die haut), but also with the post-punk transition in england and eventually, especially with the formation of long-time partners in crime, the bad seeds, an influence on more esoteric american artists, and also claimed a kinship with this country's native genres, particularily blues, particularily delta blues (especially in the case of 1985's the firstborn is dead). themes of death, god, redemption, hell, sex and violence were packed heavily into cave's output for over a decade, up until the rollickingly morbid murder ballads of 1996, a record that was funny and disturbing, and a blistering meld of traditional and folk flavors with cave's own particular black sensibilities. a mere year later, however, cave released the boatman's call, easily one of the most beautiful albums i've ever listened to. the hysteria of the past few years evaporates, and the most tender love songs fill the void, every cranny of it. somewhere between the release of boatman and its successor, no more shall we part, i saw cave perform a 'solo' set (he had a few backing musicians, but not the bad seeds, and they were very subtle), with many of the songs featuring just nick and a piano. incidentally neko case opened that show (at seattle's paramount theatre, if you care), and the combination of the two made for an indelibly potent evening. anyway, the point i thought about making *ahem* was that after a fairly straight trajectory, nick cave opened the door to this far-more melodic strain of musicianship, crooning and emoting. however, he continued to make more blistering hell-and-brimstone rock'n'roll as well, and as evidenced by his other project, grinderman, that aspect was strengthened by the divergence.
well, that seems to be the process that john darnielle (of) the mountain goats is going through as well these days. 
•the mountain goats, as many must surely have heard by now, is the brainchild, little baby, deranged child, awkward teen and crazy young man of singer/songwriter (sorry, i know that's a terribly abused term) john darnielle. for many years of tmg's existence, jd has been the sole member, but the band has also held to its bosom: bassist rachel ware zooi; maniac genius franklin bruno; superchunk drummer jon worster; producers-du-luxe john vanderslice and scott solter; and of course longtime enabler peter peter hughes, who has been a mainstay of tmg's live shows and recording sessions for years. tmg began with john making home recordings and selling tapes at shows and puting ou compilations and little splits and eps. he carved out a place with brutally good lyrics and a manic yelp paced by the standard of american music: the acoustic guitar. it should be mentioned it was many years before he bought a strap.
(a shit-ton of that early stuff can be found on the compilations protein source of the future...NOW!, bitter melon farm and ghana, all put out on the entirely worthy chicago label three beads of sweat. they are an excellent primer for anyone wanting to gain an encyclopedic knowledge of american lo-fi history; i am not exaggerating).
at a near-fever pace, darnielle has pumped song after song out for years, with a deep lyrical sense of the debauched poverty and rusting ecstacy of the soul of america that is on a par with jack kerouac and tom waits, among others. 
gradually though, the minimalist scratching of sweden and zopilote machine gave way to a tighter "band" aesthetic which broke through, as they say, with 2002's tallahassee, tmg's first "major label" (4AD) release, and which, for better or worse, gave the world track seven, no children, which would get my vote for most-requested-song-ever song. tallahassee was followed up by the amazing full-lengths we shall all be healed and the sunset tree, the latter of which was the first to explicitly tap into john's own past for subject matter. there was, notably, still a bit of yelpin' going on.
on 2006's get lonely, however, the typical mountain goats "sound" gave way to an emotionally charged, but sensitive and subdued suite of quiet songs which departed starkly from people accustomed to best ever death metal band in denton, going to cleveland, and especially no children. if you can track down a bootleg of jd playing the songs (some for the first time in public) at easy street in seattle (it's worth the trouble), you can hear the real raw feelings they open up, and when you combine them with the babylon springs ep, a slicker, more produced pop album that, wierdly, isn't included on a bunch of discographies, there is a similar sense of a related convergence, like nick cave's (ah-ha! you thought i'd maybe strayed too far into my own mind!). the next full-length release, this year's heretic pride, featured an integration of the recent piano-heavy work (like tianchi lake) and more "mountain-goaty" numbers like autoclave and lovecraft in brooklyn. it was, for some i know, a relief (as some freaked out about the "over-production" on babylon and the "pussification" of get lonely (neither opinions shared by me)) that the hard edge hadn't been dulled. the trend (of "growing up" maybe?) seems to be continuing, as jd's work becomes more (and here i cringe) "competent" and more diverse in their production values. 
of particular relevence is 1) the performance john gave at sxsw (in 2007) where he played three non-album songs (that i know of), pinklon, ethiopians and the traditional cowboy song red river valley. (incidentally, this is one of the love-hate factors of being a mountain goats fan: john writes songs all the time and not all of them survive more than a week or so, or even a day; once on kexp i heard him play a song called the mummy's hand that he had written the lyrics to on the plane into seattle, and the chords to in the hotel that morning; it was gorgeous, and i've never heard it anywhere else. ever. he does this shit all the time, playing stuff i would KILL to have on my ipod. i mean, there's this song, tulsa imperative, that jd was annoyed with so never kept working on, but pph recorded it with his band diskothiQ and it's great!). anyway, 2) is the brand-spanking new ep, satanic messiah, four piano songs of great narrative power which were released on a ridiculously limited edition of 666 copies (apparently #666 will not be on the market, being reserved for it's earthly creator) on vinyl. thankfull, john loves you and wants you to hear the music and has set up this site:, so you can download the album, for free if you wish, in multiple digital formats. you may also make a donation of your chosen denomination (because, as jd says, "jah knows it wasn't free to make"). your humble host donated $6.66. less commercial than rainbows, this enterprise is a little more interesting considering the considerable depth of the artist, and john's long-standing endorsement of music sharing, legal and otherwise. i found it a warm gesture. i still really want that vinyl (it's being sold only at the merch booth at tmg shows; i have little chance i fear).
what was i saying? 
oh yeah, the interesting similarity between the career trajectory of nick cave vs. the mountain goats.
if you can't apply what i've been going on about to your own experience, you should go out and listen to these two mammothly influencial entities' outputs. i assure you, it will be well-worth the time.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

everyone's heart should be broken

i am aware i am segueing from my promised post yet again. sue me.

i just received an historic package in the post (well, not "just," it was more like five hours ago, but i had things to do, and i just now am sitting down to bloggify (that's like testify, only less religious malarcky, and more indie crap)).
"what, what, matt, what historic package was this," i hear you say (because i hear things).
well. let me just tell you.
i have mentioned boyracer here several times already, and here i go again. the england-to-arizona twee punk legend(s) have put out their final record, and are calling it a day. as boyracer anyway. stewart anderson has said it's time to focus on new baby and herd of cattle (hopefully in that order), and the pipe dream of being a rock star is currently untenable. he has since said there will be a new project from him and jen turrell (featuring a violin!), but after its incredibly long run, it's time to put boyracer to bed. 
to commemorate the occasion, stew and jen have released a brilliant lp on vinyl in a limited edition of 100 copies. they sold out in about a week or something.
pretty damn good. they record is too. 
or rather, it kicks you in the balls, then when you've crumpled to the ground, it cracks your skull with steel-toed doc martins, and as the brain and blood oozes out, it puts out its cigarette in the waste. in a good way, that is. exellent fucking record. punk rock in all it's speedy-drummy-squeally-grindy-guitar-attention-deficit-disorder-basslines-andspitspitspitoutthemlyrics-delivery-glory. stewart's rapid-fire whine wheedles you into thinking it's 1995 again, and jen shrieking in the background is vintage riot grrrrl.
side two starts off with a drone of some outrageously bureaucratic flavour, which yields seconds later into a grinding guitar riff which opens up one of my favorite songs on the lp, "northshire coastline", followed by the likewise excellent "a sober truth." the riot of drums and maelstrom of feedback provide a gorgeous trapeze-artist's net for anderson's high-pitched voice, and it's hard to think of any young bands today who can deliver the clashing favours of disaffection and lusty joy of what punk has to offer--certainly not the crop of teen-rebel idols. i don't watch american idol, but i've seen glimpses of it, and i have to tell you, i genuinly feel sorry for the insipid little shits who think that's what music is. maybe i'm just getting old, thinking how much better "we" had it (actually, it sucked. the music was just really good). i really don't see bands like mudhoney, seaweed, boyracer, galaxie 500, the violent femmes, the vaselines, or a hundred other bands relegated to the dustbin of indie-history (oh, you never sold a million records? mariah carey and whitney houston are obviously better artists).
it makes me want to puke. 
so does the whiskey i drank on a troubled tummy...

i could rant aimlessly, drifting from one fragment of thought to another, surfing the conciousness stream, but i want to mention the coda to the lp, and to boyracer itself, the last song on the record, "the last word."
it jells everything that brought me to boyracer in the first place (a lucksmiths cover of "i've got it (and it's not worth having"). enough punk to take the piss out of the geezers, enough melody and sentiment and smart lyrics to enamour the indie cognoscenti, beautiful guitars and clamouring drums. it's an unabashed "goodbye," an autobiographical paen to what's behind stewart, a "my way" without frank's misogynistic psychopathy, with a final flourish that could have been treacly if it wasn't so whole-heartedly good: a cameo from jen & stewart's baby tallulah, who gurgles with delight and closes this chapter on a truly great little band.
i feel really lucky to be one of the one hundred...

oh yeah, the lp was called sunlight is the best antisptic, featuring a slice of corrugated cardboard with a horse in the desert silkscreened planly in black. the track listing, record sleeve, lyrics, all are just tucked into a plastic cover with the cardboard; a simple, in-your-face d.i.y ride into the sun. and did i mention it's all sold out? what a way to go.

also, i just have to mention that jen also made the most gorgeous hand-decorated t-shirts. the best band shirts ever. 

Monday, October 6, 2008

on the devil's tail

i seem to have a problem with my resolution. i say i'm going to write about something (and usually i get around to it) but then i write about another thing instead. like eel. 
don't worry, i'm not writing about eel again (for now).
i was going to write about the anacortes vinyl, but i haven't really processed any of it yet (although i listened to 2/3 of the microphones, and the watery graves of portland and genevieve, and they're really good).
today though (a monday) i have been lurching through one unfinished chore to another. my hot water's off and i want to take a shower, and i'm waiting for the man to fix the pipes. i'm greasy from work yesterday, and irritable, and my mind keeps wandering (small wonder, since i've only fed it coffee today). i've been playing all sorts of stuff as i scuttle around my apartment, with the constant rainfall serving as interlude between the discs. i've already listened to the microphones (as i said), pet politics (the swedish band, not the silver jews song, or the mountain goats cover of the silver jews song), shonen knife (in english), shonen knife (in japanese), and finally a buttload of john vanderslice. about halfway through suddenly it all went dark (a limited-edition cd from barsuk feauring j.v. in a chicken coop in california with a two-track and the songs from trance manual) and i saw the postman out the window trudging wetly away from the house. 
there's very little i enjoy as much as the anticipation of what the mail will bring, and there are many pending parcels somewhere in the world heading my way, so i walked down the stairs to check the box. apart from the new issue of dwell, there was also a new cd-r sent from a young guitarist in ireland called cian nugent.
his first solo disc, a recording of his fourth-ever live performance, childhood, christian lies & slaughter, is a quietly strong instrumental set filledwith stunning meanderings through cian's original songs. sounding much less than "trad," traditional irish music, and far more like american blues married to spanish classical, nugent's able fingerwork and slightly unholy sensibilities make for the perfect accompaniment to the grey tedium of early october seattle. listening to it i think also of the eerily cheerful score to the wicker man (1973) by paul giovanni. there's an appalachian twang in some of the phrases and a timelessness as well, and the overall effect is compelling and slightly ominous (hence the affinity with the wicker man--actually, it also sounds a little like the creepier work by the decemberists, like the tain and some of the songs on the crane wife). and then of course, there's the fine, suggestively flawed character of the album's title. nice one.
i should also mention, as an aside, the reason i came across cian nugent in the first place. i was surfing around the myspace music world (on midday veil's page, if i'm not mistaken) and i saw one of those "ad-comments" labels/bands/venues/whatever tend to pop onto the space. the ad was from the flemish label audiomer, and it had this gorgeous image of a bloodred medieval landscape with a massive, po-faced donkey (or something) hauling in its mouth the prone body of a man (these in black ink rather than crimson). the whole scene was super-creepy, and gorgeously drawn, by belgian designer/audiomer-honcho wouter smeraldina-rima, to resemble germanic woodcut engravings of the sixteenth century. the image also reminded me strongly of the illustrations for the arturo pérez-reverte novel el club dumas (which was adapted (sloppily, but engrossingly) for the screen by roman polanski as the ninth gate) the woodcuts in that story, executed by lucifer himself, lead a wolfish book dealer named corso (johnny depp, very well-cast, in the film) on the path to ultimate seduction by the devil.
while the recording is far less diabolical than the path of associations that led me to it, the seduction of nugent's strings is evident, as is his clear talent.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!

oh, holy shit, i just received the pile of vinyl i ordered from p.w. elverum & sun (source of wind). shit, shit, shit, it's amazingly gorgeous and i haven't even listened to it yet... as soon as i wipe the drool from my self i'll lie down on the floor and absorb it. omnibus blog coming soon...

Friday, September 26, 2008


i'm a'gonna come right out with it.

"hi. i'm matt, and i spend too much money on records."
and you say,
"hi, matt."

no really. i'm bartending. i'm (pathetically) single. i have several guitars and a stack of "to-read" books this high, and my fridge is well-stocked with beers (thank you) and i have a bottle of whiskey. and i can't think of anything else that needs my liquid assets more than new fucking records. *sighs(dishonestly)* i suppose i could buy stocks... 
or i eard there was this bridge in brooklyn...

but it really is a little disconcerting when i look up at my paypal account and go all "shit!!!!--where the hell my money at?"
(well, right now it's being funnelled northward to the little community of anacortes, washington, and their fine, fine independent diy records industry. i am waiting for this pile of stuff to arrive--you'll be the first)

but in the meantime, as i wait (less than patiently, it must be said) for the GODDAMNPATHETICKNUCKLEDRAGGINGINDOLENTAPATHETIC"RAINSLEETSNOW"MYASSPOSTALSERVICE to bring me my fine, fine white vinyl, i have been goulishly haunting the good people at daytrotter. for the ign'ant, pay heed: the daytrotter is a bastion of pseudo-bootleg material for the pathetically completist indie-nutjob (present). so many sessions of good hard-workin' bands swinging by these humble studios to put down several (usually four) tracks live which are then posted on the site and d-o-w-n-l-o-a-d-a-b-l-e-f-o-r-f-r-e-e. of course. OF COURSE, you should support their sponsors. and then you should buy tickets for the bands as they continue their tours. and you shold totally buy those cds, people. but you should also chec out his site and get a butt-load of good stuff that really isn;t coming out anywhere else.

yes they have deathcabforcutie, kirsten dunst. your indie-cred will be safe. yes, sadly over-indulgent, overly tattooed baby-dyke, ani is there. yes rabid horde of speed freaks and SO SO SO earnest folkies, the mountain goats has graced DT with their gentle presence twice.
for my sins, i own up to digging out auckland band the brunettes (oh, so twee), southern wonders someone still loves you boris yeltsin (no, really), and dischordant geniuseseses dirty projectors, who i discovered completely by accident while sifting throught the googleage for information on julie doucet (OMG), and found in a related D&Q blog, where i saw pix of this band rocking out something cute, with a very stylish man and woman center stage, replete with upside-down geetar (ie left-handed). i downloaded the seven challenging and meandering tracks of slightly aboriginal seasoning (hello paul simon, hello ezra koenig), but in a way that rapes africa a little less and fucks hipsters maybe (hopefully?) a little more.
i'll certainly be looking for a little more.
having segued into montreal, if you are at daytrotter you must also check out the lovely, dark and moody stylings of canada's young galaxy. seeing the name i sustained a hope that they were following in the footsteps of krukowski, yang and wareham. they were not. but they are damned good.

to sum up: free is good. just don't be a douchebag (ie buy things too). ain't no reason you can;t do both, people.
and speaking of phil elvrum, and the digital world, and how sometimes it's great and sometimes not, i urge all of you who cherish the snailier mail to check out this brilliant plea.

brief note.

i have in the past mentioned the ridiculously good label dark beloved cloud. it is headed by pop-polymath douglas wolk. i wholly grant douglas' knowledge of arcane antipodean pop-punk could be considered superior to mine. that would be fair. the man has actually released a clean single. on vinyl. which is a gorgeous anarchic bullshit session committed to posterity by three of my own personal heroes. oh, how i envy douglas his profound connections across the disparate but ultimately fulfilling nerd-overses of independent labels and the might comic book. oh to be in über-trendy pdx rather than in sad-bastard seattle. etcetera. whatever. i have just this little flicker of pride at my disposal: that i blogged about the clean's uncompromisingly sweet live album mashed before douglas did. it ain't a competition. he'd win. i'm just officially ahead of the curve for a change. it's nice.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Blow me!

yeah, yeah.

i was supposed to be writing about woelv, but i 'haven't absorbed that one yet.' i mean, fuck, it's really good, but it's darkly beautiful and subtle, and i just had some coffee and my leg's all twitchity and my mood is less inclined to over-analize quietude. so i'm writing about the blow instead. 

subtle too, the blow (currently, and relevant to this blog, comprised of khaela maricich (constant) and jona bechtolt (current side-man) is anything but quiet and subdued. at least on the only record* i have so far, 2006's 'paper television' (k records). kicking off with a jaunty drum sample, 'pt' is a distinctively pop-informed album, with more samples, staccato synthesizer tones, overdubs and a general sense that if one were in a sweaty club, with sexy kids writhing in drug-induced agonies, the record would feel just as natural as it did to me, sitting in my otherwise quiet studio, where i stymied my attempts to work with the record on by playing it. it grabs the attention unrelentingy with smart and deeply (and ambivalently) sensual lyrics, and in the urgency with which they are expressed. the songs struggle with the balance of sexy-cool assertiveness and a raw, heart-rending vulnerability, all the while keeping a beat that races on unrelentingly. i had to listen to it three times in a row at first. usually i only do that when john darnielle puts something new out.

musically, it's interesting to look at how the blow relates to the 'other' northwest music culture (contrasted with the macho-pathetic-druggie-flannel era of the early nineties), the more diy-informed strain that, with olympia's beat happening, among others, predated, ran concurrent to, survived and thrived past the notorious 'grunge' moment that launched an ill-prepared seattle onto the world stage (an attention that was partially responsible for a socio-econimic influx that decimated our infrastructure and anticipated the increasingly national trend towards a dissolving economic diversity). the oly' bands were loud in  a more dischordant way than the more academically punk-metal combine of bands like nirvana and mudhoney, whose thrasher heritage was evident in their long haired head-banging and rough, heroin-chic. the bands a little to the south tended to be more akin to east coast icons like the velvet underground, with minimalist tendencies and performances, but more importantly, with a focus on politics that flew in the face of their contemporaries, especially with regard to gender and sexuality. olympia was the cradle, if not the birthplace, of the riot grrrl bands, and homegrown label k records, founded by calvin johnson in 1982, tapped into the international underground tendency of bands and micro labels who were trying to truly do it themselves, and opened the door for west coast artists less interested in sales and mastering and stereo, and more focussed on their individualistic outputs. when i was in school in upstate new york in the mid-nineties, i heard more stuff from olympia than i had when i was going to high school in the early part of the decade in seattle itself. funny how that stuff happens.

khaela maricich is from seattle (queen anne, specifically) and moved around from seattle to olympia and portland, and her locality both informs the blow and is defied by it. the play between girlish rasp and the assertiveness female strength are contrasts that are characteristic of bands like sleater-kinney, bikini kill, le tigre and others. there are also echoes of miranda july, specifically the type of fluidly quotidian aesthetic she espouses in her multi-media works (it should be mentioned that maricich is also a multi-media artist), most clearly in her film 'me and you and everyone we know' (2005). maricich's lyrics are confident and desperate, with a certain gender neutrality that is also echoed in her androgynous physical appearance. 

i'm droning on.
khaela maricich makes juicy-sexy-poppy-scary-goddamniwannacry-goddamniwannafuck-jump!-jump!-lie-in-a-ball-on-the-floor love songs. sometimes they are in french.
i'm totally crushing on this record.


*when i say record, i do mean it. i've been getting on a selective vinyl kick lately (yeah, yeah, the hipsters have been espousing vinyl for decades (see: 'high fidelity' (the movie, not the book)), but i'm talking about something simpler, i suppose, that when i can, i prefer some bands on the medium of a scratchy vinyl record. everyone knows that vinyl carries a certain tonal richness that is difficult to reproduce on digital media (especially my least favorite, the mp3 format), but i would like to just say i'm not a snob about it. i just prefer the copy of 'strangeways here we come' that i bought with my newspaper route money (no fucking joke) in 1991 to the copy of it i have on cd. i always listened to side 2 first when i listened to that record (which was a lot), and it always sounds wrong to hear it right! then of course there's bands that i've written here about like the cannanes and boyracer and all that, whose output just sounds better when it's fucked up (i don't actually own a decent turntable--just a shitty record/tape stereo from the mid-eighties--and the tape deck hasn't worked since 1997).  recently got some beat happening on vinyl from k records, and listened to it for the first time on its natural environment, and that was kind of cool, kind of comforting (remember, not so much cd sales for indie acts in the eighties). anyway, to sum up: not a snob, but certainly appreciative of the options available...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Back in action

hi, i'm back.

it has come to my attention that there are people who read this, so to they, the gentle bodhisattvas of diy-indie rock, i humbly apologise for my extended absence. i have been working too hard. if you want to know what i've been working on you can check it out here, and buy it here.
i know, i know. it's trés gauche for me to promote my own machinations on a blog purported to celebrate the music of others. i clearly am a selfish cad. buy my fucking record though, please.

i have really been dumping a lot of hours into that ep, but i've also been buying stuff in massive shit-piles, so as i work it deeper into my head, i'll regurgitate here. soon. really, i promise. first up will likely be the 'gris' ep from geneviéve castrée's 'woelv'  persona. more soon.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

No blind spots on a leopard's eye: WIRE

I've been meaning to write something about Wire for awhile now, and the points have converged. I may be either revealing or dating myself here, but when I explain that I was a mere two years of age when Wire recorded their groundbreaking album Pink Flag at London's Advision Studios, I expect to be forgiven for not being a life-long fan. 
I am a fervent admirer now, I should add.
I thought that the first time I heard Wire was on the beautiful little Luna 7" Outdoor Miner, 1996, on Radiation. The track (oh, sorry, that would be "Outdoor Miner," track 10 from 1978's Chairs Missing) was re-released on the awesome download-only album Lunafied, a magnificent collection of covers by Wareham et al over the years, and it is a gorgeous version of the song: rolling along groovily in that distinct Luna way, with Dean Wareham's plaintive wail doing the cover better (in my mind) than the sublime original (it's always something special when an musician paying tribute to another manages to better the song). Anyway, I loved the Luna "Outdoor Miner" so much I started hunting down the original, which proved harder than I had hoped, but since the original LPs had been out of print for more than a decade, I was very lucky indeed to find them recently re-issued on CD by Revolver USA. 
After tracking down several albums, I realized the remarkable permeation Wire's work had worked into my subconcious mind over the years. Their general influence over most every (rock and punk) band I've ever liked was crystal-clear, and surprisingly (there was a time when I was much more lax about reading liner notes, credits, or even *gasp* titles), I discovered that the REM track "Strange," on 1987's Document was, in fact, a straight cover from Pink Flag, and that Elastica had ripped off wholesale the guitar riff from the same record's "Three Day Rhumba."
As I made my way through repetitive listenings to the records I felt a sense of welcome, that this music had been out there waiting, in a sense, for me to make my way to it. The lyrics were paranoid and disjointed, and the jagged, often robotic, sonic barrages (particularly on the then-startling Pink Flag) were fraught with the potential to turn-off or overload, but they felt so right, so fitting. I was sinking backwards through the strata of 1990s post-punk, down through the feedback to one of the original sources. 

So I was thrilled when my friend Rodney told me the other day that Wire had a new record out. A new studio record, not some unearthed collective of unfresh vintage. And so i got my hands on the nine songs that make up the thoroughly excellent Object 47.
The first track, "One of Us," makes clear from the first beat, a lone, stark snare strike, that Wire has lost none of their potency or freshness, and just in case it was too subtle, the first note is followed by an intense, grinding bass that leads into a quietly growling rhythm guitar melody and then the slightly louder growling of Colin Newman's vocals. The beat is pulsing and rapid, with all the best nostalgic feel of Joy Division or, indeed, Wire itself back in the seventies and eighties. The repetitive crescendo builds up, with high whingeing tones aching like sirens, "Declining... dividing... / One of us will live to rue the day we met each other."
As the album progresses, a history of punk/post-punk as filtered by the British exponents, slightly more conceptual, definitely artier (in bad- and not-bad-interpretations) is laid out for the educated listener--certainly anyone coming across Object 47 without prior knowledge of Wire will come away with the impression that the band is actually retro, unaware that they actually pioneered the sound. It really does sound fantastic, though less similar to Pink Flag than to the band's subsequent efforts, which makes some sense when one notes that the first three Wire records, Pink Flag, Chairs Missing, and 1979's 154, which were all released within one frigging year of another on EMI's Prog-rock division Harvest Records, boldly diverged from a distinct formula, each breaking new ground, as it were. Object 47, on the other hand, benefits greatly from 20/20 hindsight, and one can trace strands of the nine tracks back to references, sensibilities and sound from the collected back catalogue. One listen down. I can't imagine this will be leaving my CD player any time soon...

Monday, August 4, 2008


So this is the post where I break my mandate to talk about music.

BUT I just had the most awesome dinner. After trying a lot of amazing food from all over the place (second place, andouillette in Paris with mustard sauce and frites; third, Armandino Batali's ridiculously good pasta with pork cheeks and tomato paste--i could have died--actually it could have killed me...), but my favorite isn't a specific dish, but a type of food: godDAMN i love me some eel.

Just ate a bowl of Japanese eggplant, carrots, broccoli and huge, yummy chunks of braised eel. With rice and saké.
Fuck off, it was good.

It occurs to me that my actual favorite food is the sandwich, a creation capable of the sublime as readily as the mundane, but sandwiches are so ubiquitous, we'll just give them their own place and let the unagi rule the rest.

OH WAIT: hey, I finally got around to listening to the eponymous album from Vampire Weekend that my friend Steven gave me. It's good, and I knew it was going to be good because I saw this months ago, but every fucking person i know has been flinging their poo around the room for this band, and dude, i'm not that down on bandwagons. I mean, I must be the only indie-musician in Seattle who doesn't read 'Pitchfork' (you can check my browser--ain't never been there). Anyway, I give, their pretty kick-ass. But I''ve got the disc-changer stocked with the new Clean, the Magick Heads, Ladybird and The Cannanes too, so...

Thursday, July 31, 2008


I don't have a (like, one) favorite band, and on of my guiding philosophies in life (along with "Rightists are always wrong" and "mmm... bread is good") is that people who have A SINGLE FAVORITE BAND are 
a. not paying enough attention to the world, and
b. not spending enough (time or money) on records, and
c. are ig'nant.

If I did have a favorite band, it would be the result of a bloody fracas between several totally legitimate contenders, knuckle-bruised veterans of my stereo who have witnessed the rise and fall of my fickle affections, one of whom would have broken bones and emerged bloodied and torn-of-tee-shirt, wiping someone else's effluvia from his jeans, and would say, "IT IS I."

That could conceivably be The Clean.

Seriously, those guys have the chops to mince the competition. True, they're not that prolific as The Clean, but between that trio's output and the sum of their parts, they pretty much could knock Prince out of the water, and could probably draw up neck and neck with John Darnielle. 
And then there's the wealth of bootleg material...

Today, however, we shall briefly discuss the disc that's in my machine right now, which is the brand-spanking-new Clean record, Mashed.
This is the first of two (TWO! I just peed myself...) records expected this year from The Clean, the later one is the long-awaited new studio album (it's been seven years since Getaway), and Mashed is a live album from the New Zealand leg of the "Bangers and Mash" tour. Shamefully I had to order this from an online store in New Zealand because it's not (yet?) available in the US. That makes me hurt. Merge should have been all over that puppy, or Matador, or whoever, right? I think the studio album will be coming out on Merge, based on something Bob Scott said in an interview, but to my knowledge they haven't (yet) picked this up--maybe they'll do a two-for-one.
It's actually really hard to get anything out of the antipodes these days, and one can only hope that when Scott's other band, The Bats, releases their upcoming studio album later this year (peed again) it'll have a US distro deal (I mean, I'll probably order it directly from the band, but everybody should be lining up at their record stores for anything from either of these bands). Fortunately for the human race (particularly me), David Kilgour's gorgeous recent release (The Far Now, 1997) was released (as well as other DK stuff) by Merge, as have several of Hamish Kilgour's Mad Scene records. Incidently, I just got DK's  brilliant second solo album Sugar Mouth, from 1994, and while it's very different from The Clean (less irreverent, less punk, more indie-rock-progenitor), it's worth tracking down, if nothing else than for "No, no, no" the opening track.

Returning to Mashed, though, the recording is (appropriately) crisp and clean, and the idiosyncracies of the band's shambling, improvisational sound is allowed full reign. Always impressive sonically, considering that there's only ever three guys (when playing live), The Clean barrels through a edgy but necessarily minimal selection of their back-catalogue, with 1981's "Anything Can Happen" from Boodle Boodle Boodle (incidently, you need to see the video), Robert Scott's lovely lead on "I Wait Around" from 1990's Vehicle, "Safe in the Rain" from Modern Rock, 1994, and a kick-ass version of Lou Reed's "I Can't Stand It" (the opening of Reed's eponymous solo debut from 1972--a totally underappreciated classic, it's much harder than the glam-flavored and more-known Transformer), a really nice choice of cover for The Clean, as Reed/the Velvets were clearly a deep influence on Scott and the Kilgours, breaking out as musicians in late-seventies Dunedin.

The record totally rocks. One listen down, countless more to follow.
Can't wait for new studio, the appetite is well and truly whetted.

Also, for anyone deeply interested in this band, check out the snippets of them in a breathtakingly stripped-down show at a New York record shop. I wished (in vain) that some of this would be on Mashed, and if anyone out there has a copy of the show itself, PLEASEPLEASEPLEASE send me a copy. I would be eternally grateful.