From Brazil to Beck: Eliane Elias

Native Brazillian, Eliane Elias takes a curiously formulated stumble through bossa nova influenced jazz numbers and ivory reggae classics, seemingly for fun, while having solidified a solid reputation on the traditional jazz scene. Bearing down for 14 shows over 5 nights at the high profile series “Jazz at Lincoln Center” shows the tremendous passion she has for her music, as does her latest recording Around the City, her 18th full length release. While covering Beck & Bob Marley Elias avoids any thought of similarity to the countless number of artists who have tried their artistic hand at finding a mainstream outlet for jazz’s counterculture. She simply the music her own.

21st Century Industrialization: The Gilded Age

Lead by the stripped down, honky-tonkless Jimmy Dale Gilmore vocals of Evan Dvorsak The Gilded Age sound straight out of a retrospective time capsule film on the deep south round the turn of the century. There are so many individual pieces of sound that seem handpicked to suit their individual place in the larger picture, and when asked, multi-instrumentalist Travis Evan described the band’s sound, “there’s definitely elements of cosmic country (Gram Parsons, The Byrds, Beachwood Sparks, etc.) but there’s also some honky-tonk and country that most people just kind of shy away from nowadays.” Having all grown up listening to a wide array of genres seems to have had its effect on each of the band’s five members, whose musicianship ranges from pedal-steel guitar, to the ukulele, to the good ol’ cowbell. Evan continued by comparing Neil Young’s influence to a variety of modern bands including the Fruit bats, Golden Shoulders and Nobody & The Sadies, “mix that together with some Zombies and Big Star and you’ve basically got us.”

The Morning Benders

Berkeley’s The Morning Benders take time to stress the simple sounding bands that laid the groundwork for its sound, showing that even the simplest sounding songs are indeed far from unstructured. Singer/guitarist Chris Chu effortlessly acts as a guiding light as the Benders encompass a genre somewhere in between alt-country and folk-core (that’s right, I just said folk-core). Taking a cue from an easy going subculture that diffuses modern rock, the band seems to find incentive in keeping a slower pace without ever crossing the lines into mildly aggressive sounding music. Though at the same time, throughout listening to the band’s music, it never once seems absurd that it would be heard on modern radio.

Listen to the Music With No Fear: Teddybears

Jocke, one half of Stockholm’s Teddybears, explains the effect of the band’s formative years on its current sound, “Nowadays, there’s not a lot of punk in our music anymore I guess. We get some outlet for that kind of frustration in other areas of our lives, like painting, skateboarding and Nietzsche-reading.” Though it may not sound punk-heavy, in a time when punk has been reduced to a pop-culture term of endearment, having Iggy Pop voice “Well, I’m a punk-rocker, yes I am” over a Moog heavy pop track comes off as far more punk than what can be found in the pages of Alternative Press.

Funky Nashville "Hitch a Ride" Review

Funky Nashville. The name alone screams “DON’T LISTEN TO ME!” This coming from the perspective of someone who has listened to countless “funky” country bands in America’s Midwest, all dripping of country-fried arrogance, all finding it troublesome to muster any real sense of musical identity. What if, just what if, this band was an ironic take on pop country that has seemingly swept the heartland? I had to explore.

While in university, a professor once made comment on a friend of hers who had started up a country-western themed bar in Germany. It was one of the most popular places in the city and reeked of stereotypical Western-themed American representations. John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, 10, 15 and 20 gallon hats, six-shooters, lassos and more line-dancing than even Gretchen Wilson could handle. And some 4500 miles away from Ms. Wilson’s Pocahontas, Illinois beginnings lived some real redneck women, and they eat, sleep and drink this bizarre country lifestyle.

Reforming as Funky Nashville, members of a previously successful Danish band Weatherbeat, Sverre Stein Nelson, Mads Mazanti and Thomas Engelhardt took a similar picture of country western that they can collected throughout their travels and ran with it all the way to the recording studio.

As the album progresses it becomes refreshing to hear smooth vocals wrestling the steel guitar & dobro, pop-like beats staring down a Fist Full of Dollars and all without a hint of irony. There is a distinction that must be made between this Denmark country-inspired band and American pop-inspired country. Funky Nashville is seemingly authentic in its approach; the band takes its pop history and adjusts their sound based on the outlaw history they’ve researched, compared to any number of bands with little historical knowledge and questionable musical intentions. I’m looking at you Rascal Flatts.

At times however the band sounds like the Pilgrim-era Eric Clapton. They do in the sense that Clapton collaborated with pop-darling Babyface for reasons of musical expansion when it was completely unnecessary. In doing so, the album resonates as being shallow and out of place. Hitch a Ride sounds at times like it doesn’t belong, no matter what the context. But sit back and remember what exactly it is you’re listening to, and recognize that this music is coming from another universe where country music isn’t a way of life. There are no “seriously, I’m from the South” over the top accents in this universe. Cowboy Troy isn’t a central character in the country music scene in this universe. Big & Rich aren’t heroes to hundreds of thousands of working class music fans in this universe.

I believe that there are many here, in America who truly enjoy a strong country song, even a pop-country song, but are deluded due to the demonizing influence that Clear Channel and other corporate influences have had on the genre. And for those people, Funky Nashville will sound like a true domestic slice of Americana, despite in reality being far from it.

The Majestic Twelve “Trapped Underwater” Video

Directed by Thomas Lien and Joachim Solum and shot on 35mm film in Norway The Majestic Twelve’s new video for “Trapped Underwater” comes as somewhat of a surprise release from an album that holds so many possible singles. The video gives an amazing literal accompaniment to the songs lyrics, proving a harsh beauty beneath the surface.

Edwin “Better Days”

What the deuce, Edwin has a new album? While I’ve been living outside of Canada for the last half-decade I haven’t been updated all that frequently with Canadian semi-celebs such as this rocker. With history smacking me in the face, however, the news that he is releasing a new album came as somewhat of a shock. And for those that don’t have any clue what I’m talking about, allow me to bring you up to speed.

Edwin joined the brothers Tanna in what would become the popular Canadian alt-rock group I Mother Earth in the early 90s. After experiencing varied success at home and abroad (mostly abroad as the band was adopted by its Canadian fan-base, winning the 1994 Juno for Best Hard Rock album) the band released its most popular album in 1996, Scenery & Fish. It was openly greeted by a vast list of media outlets and the band’s new success garnered platinum sales for both of its albums.

Following the release it was made clear that Edwin would no longer be apart of the band, and would be replaced as he was only a disposable singer and was responsible for little to none of the songwriting and musical credits on past works. With that the band took on a new vocalist and Edwin went solo.

With the release of 1999’s Another Spin Around The Sun, his career looked to just be starting as it was a commercially accepted multi-single, platinum selling hit. But then, what happened? With a creative fall-out with his label, Edwin left Sony following the 2002 release of Edwin & The Pressure and fell into obscurity.

It was right around the time of Scenery & Fish that I started my appreciation for the band. Its 1993 release, Dig, was a true hard rock album in a time when mainstream metal was gasping for air and grunge was exploding and was released as something fresh. I was a little put off at the time by Scenery’s first single “One More Astronaut” as its sharp contrasts played down the smooth rhythms of tracks such as “Used to Be Alright.” When Edwin released his solo album I was entirely not a fan. “Alive” was a track that went against the harder edge that I Mother Earth had built and seemed to be catering to an entirely different core. As such it was accepted by pop radio and was my beliefs were proven true.

But over time, the Canadiana aspect of it grew on me, and I accepted his new work. Having not ever heard of the album featuring new backing band The Pressure I was taken back when discovering how poorly it did, selling a mere few thousand copies. Though he seems to have continued his faux-Hollywood look (not a fan) the new tracks take me back to a time when things were easier and I wasn’t always trying to cynically look at the music for what it might truly be. It was, and is, just good mainstream rock, and was good enough for me.

The Flaming Lips and Sonic Youth at the Minnesota State Fair (St. Paul, MN)

It was the opening day of the State Fair and the weather was atrocious. Months we had waited, my sister and I, and up to this point the summer had been one of the hottest and driest in history. But today was one of those days that balanced the averages as nature leveled the score with summer’s blistering hot temperatures and expelled a strain of harmful weather conditions onto most of the state. Much of Southern Minnesota saw tornadoes and baseball sized hail and most everywhere was entirely shrouded in thunder storm warnings. Our journey, originally scheduled for an 11:00am kick-off, was delayed until roughly 3:30pm as hail and torrential rains hit even the most northern of The Twin Cities’ suburbs. But deciding that it was worth the venture into the beastly conditions, my sister and I took off as the weather took a break from punishing the earth.

It was my first State Fair experience and the entire time it was shrouded by a distant feeling of the supernatural as a series of events seemed to shape the day into something close to perfect. We had made it to the bus stop mere seconds before it departed for the fair, something far from the norm for us. We seemed to find shelter each and every time that the showers returned while walking the fair grounds, something many unforntunate people did not find. And we ran into a number of friends, including a few traveling from far out of the cities, whom we had not even remotely expected to see. As time became scarce we found ourselves waiting in a growing mob outside of the Grandstand roughly an hour before The Magic Numbers were set to take the stage. Coincidentally it was right about this time when the severe downpours returned. We took shelter in the Grandstand only to find ourselves now worried as it looked as though we wouldn’t have the opportunity to experience the concert that we had both waited months to see.

Seconds before its scheduled start time of 7:30pm the rain subsided and the clouds opened up, allowing the sun its first full visit of the day. It was euphoric, the storm had settled just when we were at the breaking point of whether or not the show would actually go on as planned. I was talking to a girl standing next to me and mentioned something to the effect of “all of our collective prayers blowing the clouds out of sight.” Thankfully the high winds that were in fact blowing the storm clouds out of sight were a few hours behind, and waited until after the show had ended before continuing with the rain.

We were two teenagers rioting for a spot to see the show that over 8000 concert goers eventually showed up for. Waiting by the stage, we caught a number of glimpses of Wayne Coyne, The Flaming Lips’ 45 year old lead singer, helping the stage crew dry the setting and assemble for the party that was to come. And we waited. And Coyne excited the crowd, helping the sea of bodies forget the damp conditions. And we waited some more.

Then an official took the stage, announcing that The Magic Numbers’ gear was saturated and the band couldn’t perform, leaving the show openers out of the loop as the crowd’s growing anticipation mounted. A variety of tracks ranging by artists from The Germs to The Rolling Stones wafting through the air and with Sonic Youth’s revised start time of 8:00pm far behind us the lights went dark and the band entered in typical, no frills, fashion.

Though the crowd was utterly saturated before the first chord was heard, time stood still for a few hours as my sister, myself and the rest of attendees to the Minnesota State Fair experienced a miraculous cease fire with nature. Sonic Youth banged the set’s opener, and personal favorite, “Teenage Riot,” as the crowd slowly worked itself out of its depressed state and into a mood suitable for rocking. Following the first song, guitarist Lee Ranaldo grinded his guitar on the ground, creating a pentagon like parameter with which his guitar summoned the utmost uncontrolled feedback demons.

As the entire band joined in on the reverb frenzy, frontman Thurston Moore and Ranaldo crossed axes as a finale to the brooding noise parade. Shortly after Sonic Youth took a dreamier pace with the Kim Gordon-lead song from its latest album, Rather Ripped, “Reena.” Gordon forced her petite gasps while taking brief breaks to go-go and spin around the stage. While focusing on the band’s ever-present experimentalism it became clear that its set, which was far too short for good taste, would prove a psychedelic introduction for what would come. After teasing an after-show appearance at a local diner the band closed with a song that had previously broken down, “Do You Believe In Rapture?” I couldn’t help but feel like the band would be retaking the stage momentarily as they were Sonic Youth and, by god, deserved more stage time. The band had released some 22 albums and played for a countless number of fans over its 25 year history and couldn’t possibly be content with playing for roughly an hour. But like it or not, the band’s performance of “Eric’s Trip,” “Sleeping’ Around” and “Incinerate” among others would have to suffice, as on this night, the stage would belong to The Flaming Lips.

Another long wait as the crew struggled against the winds to raise the screen that would eventually provide the night’s visually stunning accompaniment to the Lips’ active on-stage explosion. Right before the band took the stage for its performance my sister mentioned that she hoped the Santas would show up and a guy standing behind her told her that it was a little out of season for that, “Don’t ya think?” As the lights lowered we found ourselves close enough to the stage to see what was happening in the darkness, and we saw first hand Coyne penetrate the now inflated bubble and take to the crowd as the lights boomed with the set’s welcoming song of introduction, “Race For The Prize”.

My sister’s visual rebuttal to the overzealous Santa disbeliever’s comments joined the stage along with the usual go-go dancing alien babes as the ever present confetti and streamers helped the set shift into the hard driving “Free Radicals.” After thoroughly pumping the crowd into its enchanted state Coyne took his place at the camera-enhanced microphone to announce that he had spoken to the concert’s promoter and he was told that it would be alright if the band played a little past schedule. With that he handed the stage, dancing Santas and aliens intact, over to London’s The Magic Numbers who proceeded to deliver a wonderful acoustic-guitar driven mini-set (sorry, no pictures).

It was Coyne’s genuine appreciativeness for the stage crew’s hard work, the crowd’s patience and for the fact that his band was sharing the stage with Sonic Youth and The Magic Numbers that served as a perfect display of what makes The Flaming Lips as crowd friendly as it is. Drummer Kliph Scurlock took a stance near the edge of the stage greeting fans before the performance and assisted with the raising of the mammoth screen. Children and wives were on the side of the stage, and the band never for a second gave the audience anything less than the experience of a lifetime as it ripped through “The W.A.N.D.,” “Yoshimi… Parts 1 & 2,” “My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion” and the mainstream favorite “Do You Realize?” As the band’s members proved themselves to be real, the band itself further provoked thoughts that somehow that strange supernatural feeling I had had previously in the day was taking form.

Leaving the stage briefly only to return moments later, giant hands galore, to play Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” confirmed a glorious end to a day that took most everyone in attendance through a wave of emotions. We were attacked by oversized balloons and streamers while galloping Santas and go-go dancing aliens helped celebrate one of the finest music performances that the The Minnesota State Fair, and the entire state of Minnesota for that matter, had ever seen.

Who is this, Sufjan Sweden?: Tobias Fröberg

Tobias Fröberg’s delightful press release, which presented the quote in the title, shows the light-sounding Fröberg as an absolutely charming, delicious taste of Scandinavia. “Tobias Fröberg is from Sweden. We should all be so lucky. It’s only the world capital of love and smiling and perfect indie pop. It’s also the place where Tobias Fröberg (aka Jose Gonzalez’s best friend, for real, no big deal) has been perfecting the sounds and songs that, after two or three chin scratching listens, may just take over your life.” I suggest that you risk the threat of having your life taken over, especially by the bongo-blazing, progressive indie sounds of “When The Night Turns Cold;” which seems to have transplanted The Beach Boys in as back-up singers and truly questions, “Who is this, Sufjan Sweden?”

Massive Attack “Live With Me” Video

This beautiful video catches attention as it draws you in further and further through the characters downward spiral which eventually bottoms out, causing what we are to hope is a rebirth. The spirit of the video is enhanced with the slow, brooding, everything-Moby’s-Play-should-have-been type electronica. While I enjoy what has unduly been labeled the trip-hop stage of the group, I find myself growing stronger to the softer, emotional synth tracks on its later-stage albums; “Live With Me” being one of them.


How much does coincidence and “luck” go into the discovery, acknowledgement and popularity of art? In the Annuals’ case it would seem that a lot of chance played a part in the band’s discovery, despite seemingly having had the whole “music thing” already taken care of. Ace Fu Records discovered the band purely by chance while scanning and haven’t looked back since. The North Carolina band, fronted by 19 year old Adam Baker, continues the most welcomed of trends, combining ever-transitional rock elements without becoming progressive while finding that all can be merged together on some sort of Spector-less lo-fi wall of sound. Having quite the opposite of a bleary eyed reaction, the music finds vitality in its youth and its occasional Animal Collective-like idiosyncrasies.

Pet Sounds 40th Anniversary

I fall into a different type of category in terms of Beach Boys listener, I’m a second generation semi-fan. My mom enjoys the band, casually, but my dad hates The Beach Boys with a passion. In some respect, I did too for the longest period of time while my tastes were maturing, horizons broadening, roots growing, and so on and so forth.

It is an interesting note that Brian Wilson’s commentary, in the supplemental DVD included in the upcoming release of the 40th Anniversary edition of Pet Sounds, likens the album to Sgt. Pepper’s, and more importantly Rubber Soul. When hearing Rubber Soul, he immediately went to his piano and began writing, attempting to recreate The Beatles’ forward thinking musical visualization and in doing so, he created Pet Sounds. For me those comments pertain to the closeness that I felt the band’s relationship for so many years, which ultimately lead me to staying as far away as possible from both The Beach Boys and The Beatles.

As previously touched on, my generation is the generation that knows the band through our parents and the media alone. One of my first memories of the band was the watered down touring company formerly known as The Beach Boys which played “Kokomo” with Uncle Jesse on Full House. It wasn’t until reading endless accounts of how amazing the band once was, how world shattering Pet Sounds was and how, in reality, “Kokomo” wasn’t a perfect image of the band’s music that I took the time to listen to The Beach Boys. It was only after hearing all these wonderful sentiments that I even bothered listening to Pet Sounds, after all, it was old and couldn’t possibly be timeless. But again, The Beatles were there.

I fell in love, watching A Hard Days Night and feeling the energy and simplicity that the band captured with its music. And Pet Sounds immediately seemed a distant memory.

But now, a few years later, I am given the opportunity to revisit the band, a band that I may have never truly met. I come into this experience knowing but a few things about the band, “Kokomo” sucks, Pet Sounds was inspired by Rubber Soul, Brian Wilson’s follow-up SMiLE was released to critical acclaim some 37 years late and my father hates the band. What do you know about the band? Are you willing to experience Pet Sounds for possibly the 30th time, or maybe honestly for the first?

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” is a unique experience when understanding its beauty, especially so after countless times hearing it only within the context of classic pop radio. Taking into account the critical aspect of this round’s listening session, the lyrics to the song, no matter how many “oldies” stations it may occupy at any given time, stand as an outlaw love song when taking them into the context of my own life; “wouldn’t it be nice to live together in the kind of world where we belong?” The song’s sugary sweet overtones mask a theme revolving around two lost lovers, who have been completely blinded to the world outside of their, now shared, existence. Brother, I’ve been there.

“The more we talk about it, it only makes it worse to live without it.” When you’re trapped in that paralleled existence, however you may wish to accept the term trapped, so much time is spent dreaming and memorizing thoughts of a time that has yet to come, and that time seems absolutely perfect in your mind. If we could all live the life we dream of in our minds, wouldn’t that be nice?

It was mentioned during the podcast that before Pet Sounds was released in the UK, McCartney and Lennon heard the album and that its impact can be heard throughout The Beatles’ masterpiece Revolver; further acknowledging both the artistic influence and competitiveness that the two groups had during this period. That to me is something special in itself. Which bands are there today that lead the pack, so to speak, and work almost in spite of each other to create brilliant music? Now I’m not naming names (yes I am) but The Killers aren’t exactly challenging Pete Doherty to make better music, are they? It’s probably the harmonies and contrast throughout the song are what I find strangest, and possibly most influential, especially in the terms of how they’ve aged and what the song has become associated with for me over time.

There’s a scene in one of the Naked Gun movies where Leslie Nielsen and Precilla Presley run through a falling-in-love montage, backed by Hermans Hermits “I’m Into Something Good.” A similar scene is what I envision when I hear this song due to it’s overly background vocals, accordion base and dueling guitar harmonies all run amongst Wilson’s airy vocals. But I must say that I had never taken the time to understand the lyrics, and when learning that Wilson was close to my age during the production of the album I now have a feeling of camaraderie with whomever it was that Wilson was at the time.

“You Still Believe Me” is a track that understands the dream that was at the heart of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” though the dream has evolved into some disappointing reality. As things turn out far different than planned in the reality of Wilson’s character, it becomes crushing to know the concluding reality that the lovers will never be able to lie themselves into a false idea of things being perfect again. But there is the thought of forgiveness and the statement that every time we wake up the day is new, and all is supposedly forgotten, but what a let down, the ultimate contrast to the easy going sounds of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” Oh, and the break at 2:10, right before the song kicks back in guiding the strangely perfect bicycle horn is brilliant. Just saying.

What is beautiful about Pet Sounds becomes absolutely evident as “That’s Not Me” passes by and gives way to two of the most amazing songs on the album, “Sloop John B” and “God Only Knows.”

Pitchfork’s Dominique Leone recently celebrated “God Only Knows” as the greatest song of the 1960s, topping the list of 200 as something that cannot really be understood. The podcast supports this thought as no one within the band can really attest to the inspiration for the song. It just sort of happened. There are mystical overtones to it but what is beautiful lies within its intricacies. Leone notes “‘God Only Knows’ is so ideally conceptualized and realized, critics can’t help but support it. Somehow, even that can’t turn it into an art exhibit; its humanity resists the attempt.”

It is art, but somewhere in the midst of something higher, more powerful than what can be conceived by you nor I, is the point that it was composed by a group of young surfers. Your neighbors’ kids next door just made the greatest album in the history of American popular music. Like the songs that precede it, “God Only Knows” is a complete departure from “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” in that it begins to question the realities of life, through tone and lyric. When asked, even Brian Wilson can’t explain where the song came from, and even if he could I’m not sure it would make sense to any of us anyways.

Jodi Jett "Revelations" Review

When talking with friends that are in bands, does it ever bother you that their taste in music lacks any key influence? Not to discount a friend of mine, who is a skilled guitar player, but he swears by post-nü metal bands that typically dominate much of today’s mainstream rock radio’s playlists. Even though it wouldn’t be out of place to imagine that many musicians take little pride in performing truly rooted music, how can one aspire to have a deep, penetrating sound without taking the time to experiment with those that have come before you?

One might then wonder how Jodi Jett plays with such a deep bluesy, 50’s biker-chick allure without, herself, having taken the time to examine her predecessors. After breaking into the scene in her local Kansas City, before moving to New York City, she was ultimately compared to Liz Phair and labeled the female Lou Reed; thing is, at the time, she had never heard of either of them. Hell, until a few years ago, Jett didn’t even know how to play the guitar. So the question is, where did all of this brilliance come from?

The move out of Kansas City brought on some change, and helped Jett share her album with a skilled level of musician; those helping Jett with the album have also done so with Joan Baez, Norah Jones and The Holy Ghost. Possibly this album was a reaction to her surroundings, or those who she has now befriended, but there still seems as though something other causing this inspiration. Her songs ache with purity, “I wanted love, I got you instead;” they come across as a reminiscent of a scenic setting from a far away unfamiliar metropolis. These emotions are clear in tracks such as her “No Place Like Home” which aches “Kansas, you’re on my mind, like a fine red wine…I feel so alone, my mind I disown.”

However, it is “80s Girl” that disarms any sense of a rural sound with its sheik stylish uninterrupted shout-out to 80s themes, figureheads and icons. It enables Jett to shed any former self, before she found her voice, before she found herself being compared to unknown legends, before she found her other half. And with that comes what could possibly serve as this awakening, she is a new person. Perhaps she does take on a bit of Lou Reed, but that comparison shouldn’t go too far. Jett’s release of Revelations takes on a bit of everything, unknowingly consuming every influence she never knew had touched her, and in the process, this cosmopolitan Midwesterner is born.

Deftones "Hole in the Earth" Video

After releasing a brief preview of “Beware The Water” from the band’s upcoming Saturday Night Wrist album the boys in Deftones decided to let out a full-blown look at what is to come with this track, “Hole in the Earth.” The band has long since departed from its sound on the 1995 release Adrenaline, but by insisting on a more melodic brand of metal the band has survived. Coal Chamber’s not still around, are they?

Spencer Dickinson “The Man Who Lives For Love”

My boy, Jon Spencer, tag-teamed with some guys, Luther & Cody Dickinson, and rocked out on a collaborative effort which will see its domestic release, like…tomorrow. Spencer Dickinson looks to rump shake it into high gear with a generous amount of Spencer’s high potency vocal juju, but in all fairness, though I shy away from using any press releases for the most part to describe a band’s sound, I found YepRock’s fairly accurate, “Jon Spencer, heart-attack front man of the Blues Explosion and shudder-and-shake specialist of rockabilly wildmen Heavy Trash, takes on Luther and Cody Dickinson, masterminds of the North Mississippi All-Stars, in a no-holds-barred Mississippi Mud Fight, and the result is a rock’n'roll rumble and a darker side of soul!!!”

Isis “The Absense of Truth”

Featured on the upcoming album The Absence of Truth is this track that completely surprises titled “Dulcinea.” Proving itself as a complete change of pace for the band, it plays at a radio-friendly length of 3:20 and abuses pitch enhancers to give the track a pornographic look at what should never have been. OK, you got me. This track is a blurry, guitar-based, 7+ minute song in the played exclusively in the key of I(sis).

Neil Young “After The Garden” Video

I sat down with a friend of mine when Neil Young began streaming his latest album, Living With War, and critically listened to it. We must have listened to it a half dozen times that night. It is such an emotionally motivating mirror of the status that both our nation and our world is falling to that one can’t help but at least internalize your own feelings and become skeptical of this nation’s current state. One of the most powerful tracks on the album, “After The Garden,” questions much of the human action, myself included, when considering the abuse of global assets while we have no clue as to what the long term ramifications of doing so will be.

The earth does go through cycles, which include inclines and decreases in global temperature, but it boggles me as to how scientific fact does not then help sway decision as to the clarity of our global situation. There is a war at home, and there is a war within ourselves as a global community. That war is fighting over the decisions that will not only serve to address the long-term survival of an ecosystem and atmosphere that is capable of sustaining life, but the short-term survival of many nations which are affected by the will and ego of a few.

Mew "Mew And The Glass Handed Kites" Review

When comparing Mew to its contemporaries, the Danish quartet findx little similarity within the given realm of modern rock music. Mew And the Glass Handed Kites serves as somewhat of a rock opera in which its characters appear then vanish quickly, only to reappear in its later stages in an entirely different form. It’s main roles played by Jonas Bjerre, Bo Madsen, Johan Wohlert and Silas Utke Graae Jorgensen formulate a set of strange electronic ballads that morph into high intensity, guitar-fluttering masterpieces. The striking point that sticks out when analyzing this tale is its lyrics; which, while maintaining a slight semblance of individual structure, prove harmful when evaluating the entire album as a whole, completely crushes any running theme that could suit for the rock opera basis. Nonetheless, the album is structured so amazingly beautifully with each song effortlessly phases into the next. No rock opera, but the show must go on.

In terms of modern prog rock, the album goes past anything that has really found mainstream acceptance in recent years. Somewhere along the way The Mars Volta lost relevance and Dream Theater fell far too deep into a loop of repetitiveness, releasing material for a die-hard fan base that alienated any new listeners. Somehow, Mew seem to avoid any similarity to prog while fitting in perfectly, proving that an album can be released without falling into a repetitive groove during production.

Gracefully including synth in just about every song fully syncs with the Bjerre’s effervescent vocals, Mew And The Glass Handed Kites finds a high point, which is briefly revisited in “An Envoy To The Open Fields,” during “Why Are You Looking Grave?” Revisiting your musical idols is something that can be tricky. How does one imitate, while maintaining a flattering profile and remaining individualistic? Why, you request that your idol join you in the recording process, of course. As the band was changing from little Mews to the Mew of today, My Bloody Valentine and Dinosaur Jr. played key roles in defining the sound that the band currently identifies itself with.

Then it should be no surprise that J. Mascis appears on two tracks within the album, offering his voice as an disconnected counterpart to Bjerre’s. The band must have told Mascis to go out back and swallow a handful of gravel before recording as he sounds in his prime on this album, which raises questions as to what was possibly missing from his latest solo material. Inevitably Mew And The Glass Handed Kites harkens back to the rock opera comparison in its later stages as its ambient overwhelms and rock harvests a bountiful crop of reverb. And it does so as any good prog album should, proving itself as a point of envy and desire for all those Dream Theater fans who have over the years grown tired of having to listen to album after album that tries to sound like A Change of Seasons.

Nikki Sudden “The Truth Doesn’t Matter”

Do you ever feel like you missed out on something good while you had the chance, but if only you had dug a little deeper… After hearing the Nikki Sudden’s “Seven Miles” I was left with that simple feeling. Beginning his career as the lead singer of Swells Maps, Nikki went on a musical adventure, lasting twenty-some years and just about as many bands. The Truth Doesn’t Mattercomes as the swan song to his career, continuing his T-Rex inspired rock n’ roll, right where it began.

Favourite Sons

Rising from the ashes of Rollerskate Skinny and Philadelphia’s Aspera comes Favourite Sons, a remarkable New York-based garage hipster five-piece. Though the band came together in the late months of 2004 it seems to have a adhesion, in which the band wades between tracks looming back and forth between over the top fashion and underdeveloped ballads. Check the band out on tour through California this next month before returning home to Brooklyn.

The Colour "Devil’s Got A Holda Me" EP Review

Rather than a slow brooding rock monster, what seems to be at the core of The Color is a bit of a paranoid, caffeine induced garage-blues. The LA-based band has a funny way about associating its modern sound with traditional rock, especially within the confines of the EP’s lead track “The Devil’s Gotta Holda Me.” It seems to lyrically borrow tag lines from non-existent classic songs throughout its entire run. Just the title itself “The Devil’s Gotta Holda Me” sounds like a Stones title, doesn’t it? In hindsight, he entire EP has a way of sounding like an original, while being far from it.

There’s a funkyness within the music that inspires a continued movement within its listener that is of obvious note. It almost makes you want to dance. That cute dance Axl Rose made famous in the late 80’s, the one where he sways from side to side, while not taking his toes off the floor, yeah, that kind of dance. Might even inspire a Mick Jaggeresque bop to the choppy rhythm section in “Until We’re High.” Either way, there’s something there that isn’t to be missed.

“The glut of bands in the LA music scene has a Darwinian effect: if you make it out alive, you’re primed for glory.” I strongly disagree with this statement from the band’s press release, but nonetheless there’s a strong chance that with the band’s full-album follow up to this EP, they could very well prove part of that statement correct. The Colour are primed for glory.

Philip Patrick (of the American Black Lung) Interview

Tucson post-hardcore band The American Black Lung combine gritty vocals with a guitar that cuts through any and all nonessential filler. Forming in 2001, the band recently found themselves staring down the sun during its month-long stint at this summers Warped Tour. Recently finishing the band’s latest album …And They Rode Their Weapons Into War, vocalist Philip Patrick took some time to answer a few questions regarding the band’s beginnings, religion’s place in punk rock and the swing of Tucson-based acts since the breakthrough of The Bled.

How did the band first get together?

Philip Patrick: One of our guitarists, Johnny and I have been playing in bands together since we were 12. We finally got a lineup that truly worked a couple of years ago.

What is the significance behind the band’s name?

Philip Patrick: The ABL is our ode to the working class. Rock n’ roll for the unsung individual! We hope our name represents that.

How does The American Black Lung fit into the modern punk landscape?

Philip Patrick: Well, we borrow elements from different genres and generations musical stylings. From classic rock & roll to current punk rock. We feel obligated to stay true to the DIY punk rock ethics as well as the sound. This is a culture I have been submerged in since I was 11.

The American Black Lung web site signs off on the history page with “God Bless.” Does religion assume a role in the group’s songwriting process? With situations such as Underoath recently quitting The Warped Tour do to statements made by NOFX, does religion have a place in modern punk?

Philip Patrick: Religion in no way, shape or form plays a part in our songwriting. Being spiritual, however, is a key element to the band. I think that addressing the ills of religion has always played an integral part in punk rock. One of my favorite records is Fuck Armageddon This is Hell (Bad Religion) and some of my favorite bands criticize the fundamentals of religion. Religion has no place in punk rock. At the risk of sounding hypocritical, I think the inclusion of spirituality in modern punk rock is very relevant.

What has been the biggest learning experience that the current tour has offered the band?

Philip Patrick: We have seen the best and the worst of each other on this tour. Warped is a little different than other tours. The days are long, the food is sparse, and the drives are killer. Every city is scorching. But at the same time it’s the most fun we have ever had. This has definitely made us a tighter family.

How did the band’s start in Tucson affect its current sound? Are there any other Tucson-based bands that have helped you along your way?

Philip Patrick: If anything Tucson has so many “carbon copy” bands. When The Bled broke from Tucson we all of the sudden had 15 bands playing locally trying to attempt to sound just like them. If anything it has helped us try to stand-out and be unique.

If the band had one final show to play, who would you most like to share the stage with?

Philip Patrick: Hands down, Converge.

Kaki King “Yellowcake” Video

Kaki King has been a beautiful musical obsession of mine for the past few months and upon release of her latest album I was delighted to find out that she experimented with her own voice on the recording. That’s right kids, she sings too! Here’s her wonderful new video that combines a unique marionette theme with Kaki’s multi-tiered guitars.

The Majestic Twelve Interview

One of my favorite albums this year has been the Majestic Twelve’s Schizophrenology. It touches on an absolute select feeling which embraces change in contrast to a voice angrily minimizing those endorsing opposing views. The album inspires through amazing musical experiences with actual feelings of love at the lyrics' core, coinciding with political rants fueled by blind bipartisanship. Also, if Accordion-Steady is your thing, Schizophrenology has you covered. As an unexpected correspondence of emails developed into a lengthy dispelling of haters, our online conversation eventually gave way a few formal questions to dispel negative criticism, question modern independent music and most importantly, give the band's frontman Kenyata Sullivan a place to rant. And rant he did.

Who are the Majestic Twelve and what does the band’s name mean?

Kenyata Sullivan: Sshhhhhhhhh, the Majestic Twelve don’t exist! We are a top secret organization formed during the Truman administration in order to evaluate alien technology for potential military use. Eventually we became the people who broker the deals between the aliens and the government.

Say, for example, that the aliens need 17 more abductees for their experiments. They contact us, and we contact the Pentagon. The Pentagon say, “OK, but you can only take them from rural Iowa, and we want the Mister Master Monster Mixer in return. Deal?” And we go back and forth between the two parties, until everyone is satisfied with an equitable exchange.

That is, that’s what we’d do if we existed. Which of course, we don’t.

As a cover story, we pretend to be a rock band from Wilmington, NC, who have a nasty habit of drinking lots of beer and getting into trouble.

What was the band’s purpose when getting together in 2002 and how have the members grown since its inception?

Kenyata Sullivan: We started out as a hobby, hell, I’ve been trying to quit all this music crap for years! We didn’t think anyone but our friends would ever hear us. The first disc Searching for the Elvis Knob was written by me, Alex, and Joey in my living room on acoustic guitars. People kept buying it, so Mike D and Anthony joined. We got a band room and powered up so we could play some shows here and there. And people still kept buying it, so my friend Brian Rainey made a video last year for one of the songs, and it got added to MTV’s Overdrive, and played on Much Music. That’s when we finally gave up and decided we were doomed to be a real band. So now we’re making records, and making videos, and nice folks like yourself allow me to babble on and on about it all.

How does the band’s voice fit within the modern musical landscape now as compared to the time of the release of Searching for the Elvis Knob?

Kenyata Sullivan: I think the new record is a bit more current. Since we wrote the first one in kind of a campfire setting, the older songs feel more folksy to me, and more intentionally melodic. When you’re writing with electric instruments, you have a lot more sound to work with. It can be freeing in a way. You can build something off a repeating bassline, or a drum riff, or a guitar effect, and it changes the process somewhat. Plus, the first record was an intentional rejection of the “indie rock” sound in some ways. After years of doing all kinds of things – low-fi singer-songwriter stuff, alt rock, experimental noise, etc, often concurrently – I really wanted to get back to basics, and write some good old fashioned structured pop songs. And after I got that out of my system, I felt OK embracing some things from indie rock again with Schizophrenology, though for now we’re still holding on to some pretty structured kinds of arrangements. We plan to continue playing with all kinds of sounds and formats as we move forward, there’s just so much that we’re interested in musically.

How is “Thank God Everything On TV Is A Lie” a response to blind, adversarial bipartisan aggression?

Kenyata Sullivan: We’re all really tired of partisan politics, and actively reject the “red state vs. blue state” thing. People have stopped thinking for themselves on both sides. Instead of listening to each other, or even trying to make rational arguments, so many people are just picking a side and whacking away at each other. It’s become more about winning the argument than actually solving real world problems, and that makes the argument itself more important than the people who are directly being affected by its outcome. This is horrifically dangerous. We wanted to point out how this kind of “debate” is a bad thing, and instead of preaching about it, we let the opposite sides preach for themselves (admittedly, at their most didactic), and then call bullshit. Instead of trying to tell people what to think, we’re trying to get them to think for themselves, and this seemed like a more earnest and entertaining way to do that.

Chelsea Beyer’s recent review for Up & Coming Magazine noted of “Condoleezza, Check My Posse” that “Some parts of the song are humorous, but its sarcasm could also be mistaken for Sullivan’s being narrow and a supremacist.” What is the meaning behind this song and how do statements such as Beyer’s contribute to its meaning?

Kenyata Sullivan: “Condoleezza, Check My Posse” is a sarcastic look at the arrogance of a political majority. And you know what? If the Democrats had been in office, if they had made these kinds of mistakes post 9/11, and then refused to even acknowledge those mistakes, let alone not make any attempt to actually fix them, we’d be going after them just as hard. So ultimately, this song isn’t even anti-Republican, the Republicans just happen to be the guilty party at the moment. I have a really hard time with people – especially people in public office – who refuse to recognize when they’ve made mistakes. If you can’t see where you’ve failed, then you have zero ability to adjust your decision making process in the future, and you’ll continue to fail again and again. When real people’s lives are at stake, this is inexcusable.

As far as the Beyer commentary, (lol) am I supposed to take that seriously? She even took us to task for calling ourselves “The Majestic Twelve” with only five people in the band, we’re still giggling about that review. I’m sure she loses sleep every night with the fear that people might suppose that Jello Biafra really wants to kill the poor, and that Jonathan Swift may have been genuinely advocating that the Irish eat their own children. Sleep well, my dear Chelsea. We wish you all the best.

To me “Cry” speaks volumes about the discomforting association between love and hate, what was the basis for the track when writing it?

Kenyata Sullivan: It’s tough to write a good love song, because so few of them deal with genuine emotions. Like most things, love is really complex, intense emotions are complex. So with “Cry” we wanted to try and tap into that complexity. The real heartbreaking thing about it is that they can’t get it together, they’ve crossed the line with each other, and they’ll never be able to make it back. They’ll miss each other for the rest of their lives, but they just couldn’t find a way to stop hurting each other, so it had to end. That’s always stunningly hard to go through. We’re working on a love song for the next disc that’s about that moment in the relationship where you feel completely safe and forgiven, and that one’s proving even tougher to write. It’s just really hard to write love songs that feel true, so here’s the trick – can we write a sappy love song that isn’t just complete bullshit, and actually makes smart people feel something?

I’m a big fan of puzzles, and like the idea of writing songs that are more complex than they seem, especially lyrically. Anyone can write something that works highbrow or lowbrow, but can you write something that works highbrow and lowbrow? Now that’s a challenge. It’s more fun to strive for that, too. There are times when I’ll intentionally try to pull off a hokey lyric just to see if I can make it fly in context, I love multiple layers of meaning, symbolism versus the actual story, stuff like that. But the most important thing is that even if you don’t get any of the additional meanings, that should be ok – I’m not trying to force a listener to try and find all the little inside stuff, the song should work whether you’re looking for that kind of thing or not. And ultimately we’re just trying to keep ourselves entertained, and make music we like to listen to ourselves, so (lol) that answer is probably ridiculously over-thought.

I love the humor that is implicit throughout the album, especially the barking resentment of “Are you gonna stand up like Patrick Henry, or just get baked watching Patrick The Starfish?” in “Are You Ready?” How has this helped the band get its point across and will such illustrations roll over to the band’s next album?

Kenyata Sullivan: I think the humor is just a reflection of who we are; we refuse to take ourselves too seriously, ya know? Though we do find that using humor makes some people a bit more receptive to the things we want to say politically. No offense meant towards anyone, but we’re a bit tired of hearing folks singing sad weepy folk songs about how much Bush is a dick. It seems like the only genres addressing protest politics are sad folk singers and angry hardcore folks, which makes sense, because those genres are traditionally political in nature, but why not a funny political disco song? Instead of sad protest music, why not write protest music that jumps? In a lot of ways I think that the left wing in particular have kind of stereotyped themselves as sad bastards who are victims, and that’s just not us. We’re happy bastards who want to actually get things done, and try and fix stuff. So we’re often upbeat and optimistic, even though we have no illusions about the dire nature of some of the issues we’re talking about.

We’re still working on the next disc, and the lyrics haven’t been fully written yet, so I’m not sure how it’s gonna come out! There’s no telling, it just depends. There’s a family friend who was a painter named Claude Howell, and he used to talk about having a “conversation with the canvas,” and I like that idea. You may start out painting a picture of a rose, but at some point, you have to let go of that, and let the canvas tell you what to do next, wherever that leads you. I think our songwriting works a lot like that: we’ll work on something for a while, and then all of a sudden, as cheesy as it sounds, it’s like the song just tells you what it’s supposed to be about, and where it needs to go next. We’ll see how she travels.

Tentatively titled We Are An Army Waving Pillowcase Flags, what themes are starting to develop on the band’s next album? How does it compare to Schizophrenology?

Kenyata Sullivan: The next disc is turning out weird! Right now it’s centered more around concepts than specific events, but it’s changing constantly. I can say though, that the title track is pretty locked down as a celebration of DIY. I love the image of the pillowcase flag as a symbol for an independent arts movement. A pillowcase flag can’t be mass produced, each one has to be handmade so each one is inherently unique. You don’t need any money to make one, or any specific kind of training, just an idea you believe in and the energy to create it. And I love that it’s the kind of thing a child would make as a toy, just for fun. So for me, a group of people who are very different from each other are well represented by the idea. Waving a pillowcase flag doesn’t presuppose any political belief other than the belief that if we all express ourselves individually, that’s a good thing, and I really just like the concept of that.

What have been the most beneficial and rewarding aspects of releasing your music through your Pandora’s Legacy label?

Kenyata Sullivan: Because we’re on our own label in the very early stages of our development, there are honestly many more liabilities than benefits right now – we have to either do every job ourselves, or earn the money to outsource those jobs. There’s very little sleep, and a whole lot of Top Ramen! But we’re learning an awful lot about all kinds of things, and every day we get a little better grasp of how much needs to be done to put a successful infrastructure in place. But that’s the price you pay for your freedom, you know? If you want to control your lives, take control of your lives. It’s a lot harder, but it’s worth the effort.

And despite my longstanding DIY ethic – I said “no” to my first major label A&R guy back in 1992, and have never looked back – sometimes I get a little frustrated with the tried and true “indie vs major label” debate, because I think it’s a bit outdated. I think that as musicians, we need to shift the topic – in a lot of ways, that debate has become a smokescreen. When the true history of indie labels began – and I’m talking about the early 80′s, with labels like SST, Alternative Tentacles, Dischord, Bomp, etc. — though there were jazz labels before that that probably would qualify – back then, indie labels were founded out of a real sense of community. People started founding their own labels because the majors wouldn’t support the kinds of music they wanted to hear. And they weren’t just putting out their own records, they were also putting out records by their friends, and entire scenes evolved around their rosters. This is when the first indie vs. major ethic started to evolve, and it was very much a clear cut “us vs them” situation.

Then Nirvana broke, and everything started to shift. One of the worst changes that happened is that people started creating indie labels for some pretty non-indie reasons. These labels were not founded for the community by members of the community. These labels were founded by businessmen who are accumulating intellectual property, with the hopes of one day becoming acquired by a major label. To be perfectly frank, it’s fucked. They use their “indie” status as a badge of honor, pretending that they’re fighting the good fight for the little guy, when the truth is they’re screwing the little guy so that one day they can sell that little guy out to the industry machine.

This is really a very simplistic account of a very complicated thing, but the bottom line is “indie” means absolutely nothing anymore, other than a marketing concept. It’s a dead term, and we need to find a new concept. I recently witnessed an argument as to whether Death Cab were still indie after signing to a major. One person said that was stupid and it was impossible to be indie on a major, and another person said that because they had retained control over their money and their creative careers that they were still “indie at heart” and that that was good enough.

I personally think it doesn’t matter one whit, hoot, or holler whether Death Cab are still “indie,” but we can use them to shift the focus to something that’s infinitely more complex, but so much more important – good contracts vs. bad contracts. Fair compensation vs. unfair compensation. A more equal balance of power between artist and administrator. Labels need bands, and good bands need good supportive labels, so suits and musicians are stuck with each other – our main focus, is to try and help create a new standard that doesn’t have the A&R guy staying at the Ritz-Carlton on a young band’s tab, while the musicians in that band are sleeping in the van and scrounging for gas money. A standard that treats signed bands as employees instead of labor for hire, so they can get the same insurance benefits that the guy who works their radio has. A standard that allows for the songwriters in the band to receive publishing royalties long after their active careers are over, instead of that money going to a retired executive who’s wiling his days away on the golf course.

It doesn’t make for a good snappy slogan, but the details that build or destroy the real careers of real artists aren’t easily condensed into soundbites. So forget indie vs. major. There are good and bad people on every side of the ball, and our goal now shouldn’t be to decide which is which – our goal should be to try and create a new standard that is inherently more fair for everyone.

That being said, I plan on staying genuinely DIY for as long as humanly possible, because I don’t trust any of the bastards.

What is the ultimate goal of the band’s music?

Kenyata Sullivan: To make at least one record we’re really proud of a year. Year after year after year, until we die, leaving behind us a full body of work that might mean something to somebody who isn’t us. We just want to keep going, all the while doing our level best, and trying hard not to suck.

If you could play one last show, who would you want to share the stage with?

Kenyata Sullivan: What a great question! The Smiths circa 1987, followed by Led Zeppelin circa 1974, followed by Louis Prima and Keely Smith circa 1957. We would open of course, ’cause there’s no way in hell we’re going onstage after that.

The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players “Off & On Broadway” DVD Review

Hi, this is Jason Trachtenburg, he’s the dad in the band. He sings, plays keyboard, plays guitar and writes the songs. Hi, this is Tina Pina Trachtenburg, she’s the mom in the band. She sings, projects the slides, and keeps the family glued together. Hi, this is Rachel Trachtenburg. She is the daughter and the drummer for The Trachtenburg Slideshow Family Players. The band is an ensemble that manipulates a slideshow, giving the completely bland visuals a revived context in the expanded live setting, inducing a humorous tone from both Jason’s lyrics and the slides’ new meanings.

Regina Spektor, Nelly McKay, David Cross and Eugene Mirman portray the band as something genuine and real, which, by the end of the DVD is realized as a wholehearted truth. The Trachtenburgs, a family of outspoken republicans who are essentially an informed, modern version of The Partridge Family, family values in check, spin whimsical tails about tourists in Japan as well as corporate shadowing using both the group’s music and visuals for added effect. In using the corporate slide projections, Jason Trachtenburg mentions that he feels the family attempts to “dissect hidden meanings of business and consumerism in this country.”

“One of the things that appeal to me right away about the Trachtenburg family in general is to have an American New York family singing about McDonalds executives from the 70s with an 8 year old drumming, I mean that in contemporary life is as political as you can get,” mentions Time Out Magazine’s Jeff Ruttenberg.

Wading between cabaret ballads and up-tempo rock polkas, Jason daughter Rachel excite and drive a spectacular brand of live action found art into something that, unfortunately, the vast majority might not appreciate. The eccentric Jason Trachtenburg ends the DVD by mentioning that at the end of each performance he stresses the possible harms of cell-phone use. The long term effects, he notes, have not been tested and we, as a civilization are freely experimenting with one of the biggest unknown resources in human history. Likewise, the Slideshow Players are too, an experiment that should not be mistreated or misunderstood. Not for fear for humanity’s sake, but rather, because if you don’t investigate and observe The Trachtenburgs, guaranteed you’ll miss out on a fantastic, socially relevant, performance.

Blackpool Lights “This Town’s Disaster” Review

Blackpool Lights lead by Jim Suptic, formerly the frontman of the now expired Kansas City pop-punkers The Get Up Kids, started as far more of a new beginning for its members than a continuation of old musical habits. For Suptic, This Town’s Disaster will be released on his Curb Appeal Records, and suits itself as a transition into something that attempts to further himself from the band that played such a large part in his life for roughly eleven years. For drummer Billy Brimblecom, the time of the album’s production was a dark place in which he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma and was forced to save his life by living through the amputation of his leg. And as the transition rolls on.

The spiritual and mental change that has come through this album ineffectively translates in terms of a noticeable musical difference between past bands and the present, however. The band’s first single “Blue Skies” was actually written as a track for The Get Up Kids, showing that there is still one foot firmly planted in the past. Further along as This Town’s Disaster begins to slow down, tracks such as “Crash Sounds” drag the already powerless progression of the album even further. There is a part of the album that aches to become enjoyable, but by the time it reaches its finale there is little left to reminisce about.

The band doesn’t perform a terrible set, by any means, but a dated set by most standards. Despite the fact that the album was written while an assortment of traumatic events were occurring, it still stood as an opportunity for a group of musicians to lyrically and musically move away from a time and a sound that had passed. The band could have put together a truly emotional piece of work that offered a dissimilar output than its members’ traditional pieces. But instead, that opportunity has seemingly passed the group by.

Viva Voce

Noticing that a band is co-headlining a tour with another that has recently released one of the better rock albums of the year really sticks out as being impressive. Not so much Mötley Crüe and Aerosmith here, but a whole lot of Silversun Pickups and Viva Voce. This duo, Kevin and Anita Robinson, confirms that 2006 is in fact the year of the married bands, following releases from the likes of The Submarines. Viva Voce have a way about their simplistic songs, finding that they are completely intent on sticking with a few chords that suit them so. The band’s recent video for “From The Devil Himself” visually flirts with peaceful protest theme while exuding slightly washed vocals and hand clap glamour. As previously mentioned you can check the duo out on tour (here).

Priestess "I Am The Night, Colour Me Black" Video

This video captures the feeling of one of the craziest live settings around, a Priestess show. I mean, or what I’d imagine a Priestess show to be like, since I’ve never seen the band live. But anyways, you get the picture. The video is pretty cool as it actually captures the songs insane energy.

Primal Scream "Riot City Blues" Review

Primal Scream, a band with a history that precedes it…or does it? In a situation such as this, I find myself just outside of having a mainstream appreciation for the band as I haven’t been following Primal Scream since the groundbreaking days of Screamadelica. Essentially piecing together a timeline that grew out of The Jesus and Mary Chain through till now is difficult, when you simply just weren’t there. Not knowing lead singer Bobby Gillespie’s drug fueled history and his Gallagher-like holier than-thou-view of the band might help one to view the album in less of a jaded manner, allowing the listener to avoid any baggage associated with the band’s past. It’s hard to relate Riot City Blues to the rest of the band’s catalogue when the only Primal Scream that’s crossed your path is 1991’s advertising-darling “Come Together.” But just as some fifteen years have passed since its release, Primal Scream has too started something new, and it might very well take birth with Riot City Blues.

With that being said, there have, however, been various pieces of historical evidence that surround the band, jading an objective viewpoint. The thing is, a few songs into the album, when “Suicide Sally and Johnny Guitar” builds steam and rips through a whirlwind of rock n’ roll basics, most of which is forgotten, and what was never known becomes dead weight.

There is a historical presence with the album that lends itself to a grand feeling after listening to Riot City Blues. Experiencing it over again is almost a necessity, because lingering is a feeling that what you heard just wasn’t right, somehow. A feeling not unlike when first hearing your favorite album, being oddly turned off by its parts, but affectionately intrigued by it as a whole.

“99th Floor” plays around with harmonica and bottlenecking just enough to persuade critics to forget previous negative associations to the band’s previously overanalyzed similarities to The Rolling Stones. But we’re not even taking the band’s past into account, remember? And in doing so, this song and tracks like “Dolls” make you think that Primal Scream are a modern day third, or fourth, fifth or sixth wave blues revivalist band.

With tracks such as “Hell’s Comin’ Down” and “Sometimes I Feel So Lonely” you might want to once again start thinking about how Gillespie has made a trade out of bastardizing credible genres, and how he’s turned them into an almost irrevocable joke. However, you shouldn’t. Because as much as the band turns into an off-Broadway version of Bruce Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions Players, there’s still a hint of magic. A very small hint, but it’s there nonetheless.

Through ups and downs, the album comes off as a strong performance. And if you can put the band’s history aside, and you don’t mind that most of the songs feel like they could be on either the soundtrack to Road Trip or a detrimental color-washed independent film surveying modern relevance of The Taming of the Shrew, then Riot City Blues might just be your thing.

Swan Lake “Beast Moans”

Swan Lake, on paper alone, is a blessed band. Dan Bejar (Destroyer/New Pornographers), Carey Mercer (Frog Eyes) and Spencer Krug (Wolf Parade/Sunset Rubdown) comprise the holy trinity of indie. Some people will undoubtedly hate them, “OK, buddy, uh, I was just tryin’ to cheer us up so go ahead. Put on some old sad bastard music, see if I care.” Some people will love them, “I don’t wanna hear old sad bastard music, Chris, I just want something I can ignore.” Well, if ignoring music is your thing, Swan Lake is for you (I’m not funny, sorry). Seriously folks, the band seems pretty damn talented, and here they are with their hit, “All Fires,” let’s give it up for Swan Lake:

G. Love: “Lemonade”

Lemonade comes as the latest release from post-Sublime hippie funkster G. Love (sans Special Sauce…for the most part). Jack Johnson, who also appears on this album, might not be near the star without G. Love…or is it vice-versa…either way the man is damn near unlistenable to these days due to the overexposure of “Bubbletoes” a few years back… Anyhow, with its gracious harmonica and as-per-the-norm well rounded rhymes, the Blackalicious collaboration is definitely worth the time. If you’re feeling rooty, don’t forget the Ben Harper collabo(ration) as well.

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals "Nothing But the Water" Review

Obsessively accepted as one of their own by the jam band scene, Southern-sounding Vermont natives Grace Potter and the Nocturnals accept said similarities and influence, combining lengthy waves of song with their brand of gospel based rock. And all is lead by the phenomenal 22 year old singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Grace Potter. Nothing But The Water lends itself a number of critical associations ranging from Big Brother & The Holding Company to Bonnie Raitt while weaving in and out of a Southern baptism, bathed in organ and rhythmic power.

“Ragged Company” is the blues. It is a self-questioning, demoralizing song that identifies a frame of mind suitable for depression… i.e.: the blues. Something that is strange accompanies the album, however, that I cannot identify as either a trait of traditional gospel, blues or Southern rock music. Potter’s songs translate restless love affairs gone wrong in one setting, a mucky summer’s day. A day where the sun beats as hard as the thought of being without the one you love. A day where the humidity is muted by the passion that burns between a pair who love one another just enough that they forget how much they hate.

Or maybe it’s The Norcturnals and their sun-bleached rhythms that lead the listener into and endless state of lazy afternoon enjoyment. Either way, Nothing But The Water finds its roots in a state of mind rather than a set of arbitrary musical influences, too obvious to take serious.

It is however, the simplicity to much of the album in which the album finds its neglect towards disparity. Though an excellent band of musicians, Potter and her Nocturnals influence and repetition fall prey to the fallacy of the jam band. That being that the whimsical looping ventures of musical bliss are something heavenly accepted when often they fall into rock and roll grey area. Not to say that Potter’s amazing voice and skill aren’t well represented, but it isn’t completely uncovered from the blues overcast that holds it back. The simple rhythms, bends and bottlenecks that are so beautiful, hold the band back from finding something truly experimental. Something, the rare jam band might be looking for.

Possibly, however, “Nothing But The Water (II)” is what this band was ultimately looking for. It’s organs drive, and Potter’s voice sounds stronger and fuller than ever before. An actual guitar solo intertwines itself with the bouncing ranges of the lively keys as the track comes full circle and winds itself to its boundaries before exiting quietly with a gospel march. And just as the sun sets on Nothing The Water it becomes almost funny to imagine a couple of restless lovers calmed and quieted, rocking on the front porch watching the day come to an end. And if Potter ever sees that day truly end, it might just take the burning ache her music possesses with her.

The Raconteurs at First Avenue (Minneapolis, MN)

I was in, I made it. A show, entirely sold out, and I was inside the building. Initial what if scenarios plagued me on the ride to downtown Minneapolis’ First Avenue left proverbial butterflies in my stomach and the arrival to the venue was met with a siege of queasiness. The Raconteurs were to play, and I was to watch. As much as I was fed rhetoric concerning The Raconteurs being a collective effort while waiting in line I couldn’t help but find myself fascinated with an imaginary interview I was having with Jack. At last, we (my sister was kind enough to accompany me on this venture) were at the door, IDs checked and one last stop, will call. More waiting. More time for thoughts of disappointment to linger and build steam. And all at once in a single sentence, we are granted access to what will surely be known as one of the most breathtaking performances we will ever see.

We were going to see The Raconteurs.

Opener Kelly Stoltz played a fair set, but without sounding overly negative towards him and his band, I couldn’t help but constantly check the clock on the stage (since when are there clocks on the stage?). After all, he was cutting into my time with The Raconteurs, and if he wasn’t on the stage, I’d definitely be seeing twice as much Brandon Benson. Maybe not, but I still glanced at the clock a lot. Then the thought came to me, Stoltz’s set was like eating peas.

Bear with me.

Eating peas is pretty cool if you think about it. Peas are pretty damn good and they make you feel good after you eat them. On their own, peas can be absorbed in a number of different forms, raw or cooked, whatevs…and they still rock; kind of like Kelly Stoltz. But peas completely suck and make you feel like they’re wasting your time when you know full well that there are Godiva chocolates waiting for you, with your name on them. And you really like Godiva chocolates.

After finishing his oh-so-artier-than-thou set, we were left to anticipate, once again, and sweat.

The band is coming! No its not. Why did that guy say that when he knew full we…Now it’s for real and they’re going to play! Why do they keep teasing like that? Immediately, without warning all of our faces are blow off and the crowd becomes one giant swarm of sweaty ageless drones. Jack White puts his hand in the air, we put our hands in the air. Jack White claps, we clap. Jack White coos, we coo. Suddenly it makes sense. Rolling Stone’s 17th greatest guitar player of all time is in front of me (us). And I’m…here (there) with everyone else, and I can’t believe it.

The bass drums glowed in unison with the backdrop, White’s copper glazed guitar blinded as he sawed people’s faces off (taking an amp out as well) and Patrick Keeler’s rock star drum rolls were felt by everyone throughout the club. Along the way the band might even have played a few songs, and as White mentioned, he hoped that we would forgive them for the luxury.

Just in case you’re wondering, the band worked its way through the tracks on Broken Boy Soldiers, including the title track, which was performed as an elongated, morphed organ duet before slamming into an unforgettable break down in the middle of the song. Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” and Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” were just two of the unforgettable covers which accompanied the already startling set.

In between forgetting lyrics that were clear to me mere hours earlier and being entirely star-struck I found peace in knowing that I had just seen one of the most electrifying performances that I will witness. As “Hands” quit playing as the band’s final track of the evening, reverb intact, the group stood at the edge of the stage and Jack White wished the audience adieu, “God Bless,” I turned to my sister and we were both smiling. In fact our faces were locked in such an uncomfortable Cheshire-cat-like grin that it defies logic to even attempt to stretch my face to that extreme again. We were happy, because we had scene – The Raconteurs. And, yes, The Raconteurs are good.

Soul Asylum "The Silver Lining" Review

Soul Asylum releasing new music is a strange thing. It sparks thoughts about a friend you had all but forgotten about a decade ago. You’ve both moved on and neither had since taken the initiative to check in periodically, both content with your current state of living without any burning curiosity as to how the other was doing. Then it comes as a rush, your old friend Soul Asylum is back. There’s been a death in the family and new relationships have been made, but your friend Soul Asylum is still the same as when you two separated.

With initial hesitance your old friend sounds very similar, and despite new words based on new experiences, your friend doesn’t sound as though they have changed all that much. And that bothers you, even if only a little.

When talking to Bill Maher about the band’s new album, the track “Success is Not So Sweet” came up in discussion. There was a surrounding feeling within the band’s members that they needed to leave the scene for a while, which explains the eight year gap between albums, and find a way to make their lives work outside of music. And since the last album’s release the band lost their drummer, who left to play with David Bowie, and their bassist, who died from cancer in 2005. Soul Asylum’s original members continued by suggesting that the music was fun again and that they were performing as bassist Karl Mueller would have wanted. Throughout the brief interview there was a sense that the band is genuinely speaking from the heart when explaining the fresh new album.

Tracks such as “Oxygen” shock as pure examples of what made the band so popular during its prime in the early to mid 90s. That track in particular succeeds an anthem that can be sung along with, finding itself immediately rememberable. But of course, there is the album’s single and guiding light, “Stand Up and Be Strong.” Its lyrics are quite fitting for a band that has seemingly survived against critical failure and a dwindling fan-base.

After the refamiliarization between old friends gets going, it starts to feel like you never forgot about each other; you’ve always been there for each other and you’ve both, surprisingly, grown in the same direction. Initial hesitation aside, you find it gratifying to hear your old friend’s opinions on war, fame and Jesus. At times you might not understand what in the hell your friend is talking about, but that’s always part of Soul Asylum’s charm, at least for me.

Gary Numan Interview

Gary Numan is an icon within the realm of synth pop and industrial music. Generally considered an originator for his work in the late ’70s, Numan now takes his minimalist creationism to a new heights within the realm of dreamy, moody electronic based industrial. With his latest release, Jagged, Numan futher proves that his star hasn’t fallen. In this interview he discusses the development of his latest sound, his influences in the last twenty years and playing with T-Rex’s Marc Bolan.

Some of your latest songs are very robust as far as industrial is generally considered. The sounds bear a weight deeper than a lot of more commercially successful industrial, which tends to be based on much more of an electronica base. What do you attribute your band’s sound to?

Gary Numan: I’m not sure but I would guess it has something to do with this. I am constantly looking for new sounds and, in so doing, will often stretch the technology but I’m sure others do the same so that’s not the complete answer. I hate the very idea of doing the same thing twice and so I’m always looking at where to go next, rather than revisiting where I’ve been, musically speaking. That may have something to do with it. I think in a ‘live’ frame of mind when I’m working on new songs in that I try to imagine how a song will sound live, rather than just the studio version, and if it isn’t huge I tend to abandon the song. I like songs that are multiple layered, songs that take many, many listens to hear all that is going on. The first time, the main melodies need to hit home, after that an increasing amount of lesser but vitally important layers of production should become more obvious to the listener. I like big or strangely haunting sounds. Little or thin doesn’t interest me at all. Finally, I try to make each album sound bigger and more powerful than the one before so it’s a very focused direction in terms of sound creation.

In your recent interview with The Times Online you mentioned that an album needs to be a body of work and that the sounds on an album need to sound like they belong together. As your career has progressed, how have you grown better at making the album’s sounds become more fitting to each other?

It actually gets harder as time goes by because the amount of sound generators available these days is incredible. The degree of manipulation that you can then bring to bear on those original sounds is staggering. That enormous variety needs to be controlled if the album is going to sound like a body of connected work throughout the length of the album.

It was easier when I started as the equipment was much more basic and had a much smaller amount of usable sounds. Having said that I’m sure that a small army of people would disagree but that’s the way I see it. One of the reasons that the new Jagged album took so long to make was for that very reason. I had already recorded more than half of the album when I changed producers and started to work with Ade Fenton. The sound of the album that we came up with was so different to what I had done before I felt that we had to redo every thing that had been done up to that point or else it was going to sound like a collection of songs by different people from different times. It didn’t hang together at all. Once all the songs had been reworked with me and Ade working as a team the sound became more consistent. All the songs on Jagged sound as if they belong to that album and no other.

Within the terms of modern rock, you are an originator. One of the most commercially successful, and in my opinion, better, covers of your classic “Cars,” by Fear Factory, and other like it have helped reintroduce your work to a new generation. I’m curious as to what you think of modern interpretations of your music and how they have helped your career?

I’ve enjoyed listening to all of them. New ones are coming in all the time in fact so it’s an ongoing thing. Some I’ve liked a little more than others but it is such an honor, as a songwriter, to have other artists cover or sample your songs, I find it a very enjoyable experience. I’m very flattered that it has happened so often and by so many high caliber bands and I think they have helped my career considerably. Firstly they would have raised my profile to people who may not have heard of me. Secondly, the respect that it gives me as an artist and songwriter has the secondary effect of encouraging many people, including perhaps some in the media, to rethink how they see me and my contribution and, for some, to see it in a more complimentary and positive way. I’m very grateful that not only am I covered and sampled on a regular basis but that so many comments about my influence are made by artists that are themselves very influential. It makes me very proud but a little nervous that, with each new album I make, I will fail to live up to it.

Which modern acts or artists that you are a fan of are currently close to breaking out and finding a new audience in the way that The Pleasure Principle did for your career in the late '70s?

None that I’m aware of. My career was actually built around a single in the UK called “Are Friends Electric,” which was number one here for four weeks. That song got into the charts because of two major pieces of luck, and who can predict luck? I see very little in the charts that has the depth or the power to interest me. So much of today’s chart music is based on looking backwards for ideas rather than forwards and I hate that. It’s too light weight, too wimpy. The heavier, more interesting things struggle to get heard so it never seems likely that they are just about to break and find a bigger audience. Still, it happens from time to time so perseverance obviously has a lot to do with it. My other problem is that I drift in and out of following music; depending on how busy I am, so I often don’t know if something is new or old. I like Combi Christ, Velvet Acid Christ, and others but I don’t know how long they’ve been around.

Touching back on a comment you made to The Times, you mentioned that there is a lot more stability of sorts when writing songs as a team compared to writing alone. How did this outlook lend itself to the new album?

I don’t write as a team, I produce as a team. The song writing itself is still a very insular process. The problem with writing on your own is that it’s very easy to get into a downward spiral of self doubt. It’s easy to lose perspective and therefore your confidence. Sometimes you need someone to say ‘that’s good’ to make you believe it isn’t the useless piece of shit you’ve come to think it is. I’m terrible for loving something in the morning and hating it by the evening. It can make song writing a tortuous process at best. I’ve learnt now that, in those darker moments, erasing everything is a mistake. Keep it, go back to it a day, or a month, later and thing again, with a different mood, and see how I feel about it then. Quite often I love it again. Being able to move away from something without getting deeply depressed at your own incompetence is a very useful trick to learn.

Considering how artists’ songs and styles age as they grow older what has directed your style to where it is at this point in time? Who has influenced you in the last twenty years?

So many people but key would be Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode in the early '90s and virtually no one since then. A song here, a song there, but no one band that blows me away completely. A lot of people have great things to offer though so I’m not saying I work in a void but I can’t think of anyone that I can rely on to consistently put out albums overflowing with genius. I doubt many people could though, I know I can’t, so that’s probably an unrealistic thing to look for. I get bits and pieces from all over the place. I listen to anything that I consider useful, anyone that is doing things I wish I had done or that I could learn from but, as I say, it’s bits and pieces, no one band in particular.

If you knew that there was one final tour and one final show and you could choose any band to play with you on your last billing, which band or artist would that be?

Difficult to answer. Would I choose someone so great they would blow me off the stage or someone so shit they would make me look good? I always loved and wanted to meet Marc Bolan from T-Rex. He died before I had any success so it never happened. Yes, I would choose Marc Bolan. And he would blow me off the stage.

The Majestic Twelve "Schizophrenology" Review

The Majestic Twelve are one of the only bands that will make you rethink the music you're currently listen to and question why you’re not only not listening to more of the Majestic Twelve, but why you hadn’t listened to them sooner. (That is unless you have heard of the band, in that case the previous statement doesn’t apply to you.) Nonetheless, the band epitomizes, for me at least, the purest sense of the term indie rock 'n roll. What is that, you might ask? Indie rock (in its purest form, mind you) is something that should be, by nature of the term, independently released, without any form of major distribution or promotion. (Duh.) The rest is all opinion, and as opinion has it, indie rock should be refreshing, and reflect the world around you, whatever world that may be. It should be free of many guiding restraints, musically or otherwise, and come out of nowhere, stabbing you with its majestic beauty. And without a doubt, the key to it is that it shouldn’t take itself too seriously. Schizophrenology helps even the most jaded of listener rediscover music through a seemingly effortless attack on modern rock intellect. How much more indie can you get?

Sorry about all that hipper-than-thou rhetoric, but it often seems like a band can’t fully be accepted unless it meets certain unspoken requirements within certain realms and segmented music communities. The point being, if there was ever a band that I can stand behind — without knowing its full history, but simply on its musical and lyrical merit alone — the Majestic Twelve is that band.

To say that the band’s music is overtly political at times is a slight understatement. “Condoleezza, Check My Posse” name checks friends and ideals from a (stereotypical) right wing conservative viewpoint before breaking down with an a cappella harmonization gracefully overlapping “Ann Coulter… Rush Limbaugh… Sean Hannity… Tucker Carlson… Paul Wolfowitz…” The song finds solace in the simplistics of an upbeat neo-art rock beat while carrying on, and uniquely identifies a way to build lyrical momentum without losing the listener.

The brilliance is that the band doesn’t stick to pointing fingers at any one side or belief, but rather, tries to understand both sides of an argument through “Thank God Everything on TV is a Lie.” “We’ve got to win the war on drugs for the sake of our society / Our future as a global force depends on our sobriety / Pornography corrupts us, it makes us less than pure / And if everyone found Jesus, all those fags would have a cure,” balances a later verse, “There’s no justice in America / Democracy’s a fraud / And you really must be stupid if you think that there’s a God / If you’re straight and white and male you are the lord of the dominion / You were born as an oppressor with no right to an opinion.” The band makes an actual point out of this confrontational lyrical quarrel, which sets it apart from any musical contemporaries, should they exist, “I’m inquisitive and questioning, I’m thinking and I’m free, I’m not one of you, or one of them, I’m one of me, I’m not in either party, Both sides are illegit, I’ve figured out that all of you are completely full of…”

Does the band stand on higher ground with ill contempt for those who disagree or see things differently? Not really. Just as a love song bases love from one’s given perspective on emotion, this album bases many thoughts from the perspective of a political minority, simply stating without blatantly negating other’s beliefs. There are love songs too, though, in case you were wondering.

“Cry” casts an explosive, manic spell in which its characters find themselves in such dire need for each other that they both leave, explaining real emotions and not simply superficial standards. “All the things that she said, I’m so stupid, she’s right, No, I’m right, she’s a bitch, no she’s not, no she isn’t, (I’m still here waiting for you), All the things that she said, I’m so stupid, I want her, I want to destroy her, He breaks down and cries.” The point is how they come to terms with all of this, knowing full well that there is a reciprocal emotion between them, without either being able to say a word.

What’s that, you say? Lyrics based on vibrant emotion colliding with music that truly graces a new age of rock doesn’t intrigue you? Well, the band is funny too — how about that? “Pandora’s Legacy. Marketed by The Majestic Twelve with the help of several trailer parks full of bottle throwing children," reads the album notes. "Said children are a subsidiary of The Majestic Twelve Corporation.” See what I mean?

Back to that original statement, the band is indie, man… in its purest form. Still don’t believe me? Here's what the group offers as limitation for sharing the album: “Feel free to burn, upload, iPod, broadcast, bit torrent, download, seed, KaZaa, post, blog, distribute, Limewire and/or pimp this disc.” So, really, there's no reason not to introduce yourself to the band that you will be shocked to know that you didn’t already love: The Majestic Twelve.