Bad Brains “Build a Nation”

Bad Brains‘ first studio record in over a decade drops next month with Build a Nation, produced by long time fan and Beastie Boys MC Adam Yauch. The album will come fresh on the heels of the band’s successful recent performance at this year’s Sasquatch Festival. Brooklyn Vegan recently documented a few reactions to the set including, “Bad Brains played an inspired set on the main stage, sailing from sultry dub reggae into raging hardcore as if the two were meant for each other.”

The album hits in similar fashion, bouncing about from hardcore to reggae in a single leap in expected Bad Brains style. A few samples were unveiled on the band’s MySpace page recently but it’s undeniably hard to get a feel for the album with a few scattered clips. Here, “Build a Nation” and “Roll On” present the album for what the band has always been - a contradiction of opposites uniquely presented as a whole. Speaking as someone who wasn’t of age when the band released its last album it’s nonetheless good to have Bad Brains back as a whole. Build a Nation drops June 26th.

“Screaming Masterpiece” DVD Review

There are two defining pieces of history that have helped me understand what Icelanders are indeed capable of. The first was my introduction to Björk roughly a decade ago, introducing me to a different classification of music and one that I still stubbornly associate with the country. The second, which at the time had a far greater impact on my life, was through the movie D2: The Mighty Ducks in which the protagonists were matched against the seemingly insurmountable odds of facing Team Iceland in the finals. So for years, in all honesty, I really only knew of Iceland for its ridiculously diverse music and its Herculean athletes. I suppose not much has changed between then and now, with the exception of a blossoming interest in Icelandic geography, but in order to help guide my outlook is Screaming Masterpiece, a documentary capturing the country’s musical terrain.

The film delves into the heart of the country and the artists that have arisen from the its surrounding tundra (though I learned this, as well, from D2, “Greenland is ice, but Iceland is nice). Its moments offer both brilliance and familiarity as much of the music feels of home and could pass for native in many parts of the world. Such a band is Nilfisk, who are documented as playing their first public show opening for the Foo Fighters a few years back. A traditional garage band set on a national scene before even ripening, sounds familiar does it not?

The brilliance, however, comes through footage of bands such as Sigur Rós, a group near the top of my need to see live before I die list. The sheer eloquence that oozes from their stage performances is amazing and through a number of pieces of footage this documentary captures those sentiments perfectly. There is an overwhelming sense of calm when listening to the band of this nature and, despite the film capturing a wide spectrum of musical talent, I still associate much of the country’s charm to such a feeling even after watching the documentary. Knowing that there is nothing out there except the ability to create something beautiful is a thought both challenging and eerie at the same time. The film provides means and proof, however, by which Iceland is captured as a place where such creativity can and does exist.

Raising The Dead: Yeasayer

2007 has thus far provided no shortage of foot stomping, hand clapping songs akin to that of how you might imagine a tribal gather sounding. The realm of this intense urgency is beautifully captured by Frog Eyes on their recent Tears of the Valedictorian. Similar to form, Brooklyn’s Yeasayer proved an unexpectedly commanding force during their first ever visit to the Twin Cities last night. Set opener “Sunrise” reminded me of Animal Collective, sleek in its movement through samples, chants and visual conjuring sound scapes. An excellent performance made flawless when the vibrancy of Chris Keating’s vocals were met with parallel liveliness from fellow members. The boys were solid throughout, providing a colorful preview of songs from their forthcoming full length. It’s undeniable fact - Yeasayer will resurrect the dead and challenge the lifeless. Yes, it’s that serious.

Age of Electric, Limblifter and The New Pornographers’ “My Right vs. Yours”

I can’t help but wonder about the different ways people love The New Pornographers. Sure, the band is brilliant and with its forthcoming album Challengers it will probably claim the airwaves (including but not exclusive to all college radio stations across America). But do I love the band for its musical merit alone? I think not. Rather, when first introduced to the Canadiana supergroup I started picking apart its pieces only to find that I this was far from a new group to me. Long before I had ever heard 2000′s Mass Romantic (which I’m listening to as I write this – and it’s still a fantastic with its matured power pop allure) I knew a band called Age of Electric and I knew another called Limblifter. Going out on a limb, but I’m fairly sure that MTV wasn’t too liberal in its motions concerning the inclusion of post-grunge bands from Saskatchewan in the early 1990′s, but I could be wrong. For those who don’t know, if in fact I am correct, The New Pornographers drummer Kurt Dahle began there, and despite his relative obscurity in the United States he was for years an integral piece of one of Canada’s most popular rock bands of the ’90s – Age of Electric.

Kurt was in Age of Electric with his brother Ryan Dahle, as well as another set of brothers Todd and John Kerns. The group struck gold with its single “Ugly” which was initially released on the band’s 1993 independently released EP of the same name. Later releasing a full blown debut in 1995, the group plateaued in 1996 with its album Make a Pest a Pet.

While Age of Electric was still together Kurt and Ryan chose to take some time with their side project, releasing an album under the name of Limblifter. Also included in band’s original lineup was Todd Fancey, now The New Pornographer’s guitarist. Limblifter reached a moderate level of popularity with the release and once Age of Electric had officially broken up the brothers Dahle began using the band as their chief musical vehicle. Following the band’s initial 1996 self titled release Limblifter would go on to put out two more albums, 2000′s Bellaclava and 2004′s I/O. That being said, after Bellaclava‘s release Kurt decided that it would be best to invest more of his time in his blossoming new band, The New Pornographers.

But what is one to think of the first track from Challengers, “My Right vs. Yours”? It’s almost confrontational in that it refuses to follow some of the upbeatedness of tracks such as 2000′s “The Slow Descent into Alcoholism” but it’s progressively driven and is a winding beauty all the same. I think I’m going to have to stop enjoying the band because of its timeline and rather for that musical merit I spoke about earlier – Challengers should be killer.

Common Feat. DJ Premier “The Game” Video



One of the highest profile hip hop releases of the year is Common’s forthcoming Finding Forever which is slated for release in late July. I can’t help but recognize Common’s attempts to market the longevity of his career, but after six solid albums shouldn’t he be allowed to do so? After rapping for The Gap he comes strong with lines like “Raise my game ain’t phased by fame,” and in the process (though hawking corporate clothing is a crime punishable by death to some) I think he reminds us of who Common is.

On the same note I cannot help but love his line aimed at MTV’s reality show Sweet Sixteen which documents the sixteenth birthday of some of our country’s wealthiest and most privileged teenagers, “They don’t know in life you gotta go the distance.” That line applies to everyone though, and I love the universality of it - I hope that I can go the distance in whatever I do…life is hard, but Common is making it work on his terms and I have to respect that.

The Envy of The Clever Girls: Pelle Carlberg

Following an extended stint with the Swedish six piece Edson, Pelle Carlberg continues to branch out with his own lively pop ballads. While much of his upcoming album In A Nutshell focuses on bit of dreary wit, tracks such as “Clever Girls” and “I Love You, You Imbicile” insert a playful theme that gives it a feeling of flow and bounce.

When first listening to “Clever Girls” I couldn’t help but recall the first time I had heard Belle & Sebastian. The group had such a fun, whimsical way of addressing its talents and used them fittingly. So too does Carlberg in this track, his voice and the acoustic guitar underscore the horn and handclaps - giving the song its wit and charm.

Carlberg will be playing a few select shows in American during the next week or so - I can’t imagine heading out and not having a good time.

Post Punk Logistics: Twinkranes

Forming in 2004 the trio of Twinkranes (aka T. Krane, The Rooster and Dr. Raymond Crane) spent its first two years together establishing the band’s musical focus and creating a number of visual pieces which would later accompany the group’s live performances in the form of an electronic slide show. After playing a list of scattered dates across both America and Europe the band recently released its “Being Kong” single which sounds much like a whispered commentary on updated post-punk logistics. The track’s guitar brings about indie delusions of what The Edge could have been if he hadn’t joined U2or stuck with that silly name (though he would have probably ended up that way no matter which path he followed). The b-side, “Witch Hunt,” delivers a synthly blessed track based with the vocals hinting at a muted Ian Brown (though my ears could be way off base with that one).

Band of Brothers: Brothers Quetico

Minneapolis’ Brothers Quetico find old soul in quid bro quo, their debut full length that somehow slipped under the radar fall of last year. In true punk tradition, the Brothers cover 9 songs in 25 minutes, traversing a grizzly terrain of grandly intelligible progressions and sentimental vocal harmonies that recalls a similar restless simplicity Radiohead captured on The Bends. Here exists a genuine passion that many local bands of current leave to be desired. Look for a new release by Brothers Quetico before the year is over.

Kanye West “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” Video



“Can’t Tell Me Nothing” furthers Kanye West’s ongoing public introspection surrounding integrating his celebrity into his life, all the while attempting to figure out how to live freely in spite of it. How can you follow your religion when it asks for humility, live like you once did with your family and friends and most importantly prevent your mind from acting foolish and getting out of hand when you are financially set for life? “Life is a, uh, depending how you dress her. So if the devil wear Prada, Adam Eve wear Nada, I’m in between, but way more fresher.” Prada is Prada, but since when has Kanye been scrubbin’? Graduation will drop in September and is set to include “Homecoming” (Feat. Coldplay’s Chris Martin) and “Bittersweet” (Feat. John Mayer) which comes from the sessions for Kanye’s last record Late Registration.

Manic Street Preachers “Your Love is Not Enough” Video



There’s a sense of spectacle when you unknowingly stumble into a piece of music that catches you entirely off guard. Even despite its kitschy pop sentimentalism, such is the case with the first single from the Manic Street Preacher’s latest Send Away the Tigers entitled “Your Love is Not Enough.” The Cardigans‘ Nina Persson adds a fantastic charm to the song, playing the part of empathizer to lead singer James Dean Bradfield’s pleas (or vice versa). Though having maintained a prevalent presence in the UK and Canada after hearing the track I can’t help but think I’ve missed something since first hearing “You Stole the Sun From My Heart” and “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next.”

The song is such a fun way of looking at what is ultimately a depressing situation. You have the love of someone, but without the support and care that should accompany it love is ultimately useless. Persson & Bradfield’s breakdown towards the end of the song is beautiful, “I could have seen for miles and miles, I could have made you feel alive, I could have placed us in exile, I could have written all your lines, I could have shown you how too cry.” It’s in hearing lyrics such as those that you realize you’re either in love or have made a terrible mistake.

Je Suis la Musique: Je Suis France

Je Suis France takes surrounds itself with as much myth and humor as the acts many might suggest it sounds like. The group’s off kilter experimentalist Ween-ish melodies roll hand in hand with its peculiar history. With the group’s Mind Zappa release it attempted to construct renditions of Frank Zappa songs that the band had never before heard using only tabs. The band’s members jokingly call each other names straight out of The Big Book of Bad Norwegian Death Metal Names like Iceberg, The Darkness and Crogers. There’s roughly ten years of this stuff and a solid discussion would cover the ins and outs of the entire history but the music might then be overlooked; a shame as it’s as entertaining and charming as the group’s history.

“That Don’t Work Well For Us” and “Whalebone” come from the band’s upcoming Afrikan Majik release and ring true to any introduction laid forth by the spaciest of Flaming Lips songs. They’re gentle, warm and funny all at the same time. “Je Suis France is Playing at My House” is a fantastic drunken parody of the LCD Soundsystem hit, it’s sloppy, falls in and out of time and is simply hilarious. Je Suis France is music.

Queens of the Stone Age “Turnin’ on the Screw”

As we progress closer to the release date of Era Vulgaris the releases become more exciting and fresh with every listen. Today I was graced with an advanced listen to another new track entitled “Turnin’ on the Screw.” It’s a little bit slower than the album’s other advanced releases with a tone similar to the b-side with Trent Reznor “Era Vulgaris,” but fantastic all the same. “3’s and 7’s” is still probably the best thing to come out thus far but it will be exciting to hear how the album sounds as a solid unit.

The Love is in The Interpretation: Rick Whispers

It’s been a couple years since the stigmatic shadow that trails Eminem’s legacy was once relevant and white MCs are still creating some of the most interesting and undeniably talented lyrical webs in the game. It’s not the color, but the introduction to the art that is what’s important however and in the case of Rick Whispers his starting point was skateboarding. I believe it’s fitting that skateboard culture continues to embrace such an art form as through its history it has generally embraced both punk and hip hop wholeheartedly, genres that tended to lift the nature of its song’s subjects from the streets.

In a 2005 interview with Urban Smarts Whispers explained this introduction, “Kids I know skateboarded so that’s what I got into eventually. Skateboarding in Albany brought me to the monument in Washington Park a lot and there were always kids freestyling there in the summer, especially during the festivals that they have there every year. After going there and watching long enough I just started getting into ciphers and battling.”

It’s that nature of one’s introduction and how one controls their influences that defines where they end up. Take for instance Whisper’s use of Black Sabbath’s “The Wizard” in his politically fueled “Vermillions.” The sample helps set a stage for which Whispers’ foundation has been built while his rhymes represent the modern interpretation of his environment, “The revolution will not be televised unless NBC’s got you all petrified.” It’s a strange allusion, but one sharply evident with situations such as the heated argument between candidates Rudy Giuliani and Ron Paul during last week’s Republican debates. Before Paul’s words regarding terrorism could be identified and interpreted Giuliani blasted his criticisms and tried regaining ground by silencing the counterarguments with his inappropriate and overabundant anger. And the networks followed suit as Paul was bashed and called un-American and callous.

Fortunately, after people stopped to think about what was happening and rebuked the statements of the media, it was proven that people are not petrified, nor silenced; a fantastic change of pace considering the current administration and its monopoly on silence. That is hip hop, and whether or not that’s what Whispers meant part of the beauty is in that interpretation. Rick Whispers’ latest albums, Awed by the Backdrop and The Letters can be purchased or downloaded from his MySpace site.

Satan Rides The Media: A Varg Vikernes Documentary



This 1998 documentary does little to expand on what is now commonly known to black metal fans familiar with Varg Vikernes, Øystein Aarsethand the Norwegian church burnings of the early to mid 1990s however it does provide a lot of footage that adds weight to the story. Along those lines, the film takes time to elaborate on why black metal truly has little to do with Satanism and why the genre is far from the quasi-religion that came to a head in the 1960s. I also implore you to go back and take a look at the documentary that Peter Beste did for VBS as it offers a different side to the music, one that isn’t often explored.

The Black Keys “The Live EP”

Big thanks to Bill (voted Cleveland’s most handsome man two years running) over at I Rock Cleveland for the heads up on a special internet exclusive EP released yesterday by his fine city’s The Black Keys. For those who are already familiar with the band I imagine you’re not even reading this and have simply moved on to the downloads, but for those who don’t know who they are: The Black Keys are modern blues rock personified. I once said that if The White Stripes hadn’t come along The Black Keys could have easily taken their place and I think those sentiments still hold true to some degree.

What Would You Do For Love?: Amy LaVere

There’s some strange romanticism I have with strong female leads and in the Amy LeVere story “Killing Him” I find myself helplessly falling for the passionate murderer. “Killing him didn’t make the love go away.” Can I say that I’ve never felt anything similar? Not really, in times gone by I’ve wondered what would happen if someone would disappear from life despite my immense love towards them, but her tale is that of a true story. Written as a reaction to an evening news story about a woman, who hysterically kept yelling the chorus during her arrest, the tale is as sad as it is romantic. “She’d have to kill him to make him stay;” it depicts an overt dedication to what you think in your head is right and the only way, and while it’s an absolutely bizarre way of proving one’s love, I suppose in some weird way I can see how it could make sense.

“Pointless Drinking.” It’s a place I’ve been many times, you start with one but slowly you’re drinking to forget absolutely nothing, drinking till collapse for reasons you can’t remember, drinking because you’re drunk. “I’d keep going but let’s pause for the cause.” It’s right then, when you have what should be your last sip of the night, that you realize that while it’s an entirely useless way of facing whatever it is that haunts…and you have another. That’s the charm of this Louisiana native, her stories aren’t entirely a celebration of the traditional romantic but they speak volumes to the souls of those in need.

Dawn Landes feat. WST “Young Folks”



I’ve never been one to shy away from banjos, so after becoming informed of Dawn Landes‘ cover of Peter, Bjorn & John’s “Young Folks” I was rightly impressed. Though not something typically covered on this site, that being bluegrass, to this day I find it to be a thorn in the side of music that it takes something like O Brother Where Art Thou to revive a scene…but if it weren’t for the movie there would be far less people caring about this segment of Americana. Please take a listen and check out this ridiculously amazing bluegrass version of “Young Folks.”

Convenient Distortion: The Early Years

“Rats” is such a lowly song for the better part of its running time, slowly chiming in with lyrics that further exasperating its already ready to burst tempo, “You’ve got me on my knees again.” The song comes to a head with an unusual psychedelic mixed bag of wavy distortion and feedback treats that seem to unfold from the slow-to-melt guitar solo. It’s something that entirely sustains the breadth of the title track on the group’s So Far Gone 7″. The song is almost comical in that The Early Years seemed to kick start the My Bloody Valentine button, located conveniently next to their distortion peddles, and from there they begin the song. I don’t mean that in a negative way, the song simply celebrates shoegaze to no end.

Queens of the Stone Age: “Sick Sick Sick” Video



When I first heard the single I was a little taken back. While it's overtly hard sounding I couldn’t get around the slow, almost dullness to the chops. Take a few weeks, a few dozen listens and it starts making sense. While it’s still not the better than, nor as easy a choice for a first single, “3s & 7s” “Sick Sick Sick” wears on you and has a great riff that digs it out of the murky tone. If nothing else it out-shocks Marilyn Manson’s latest video, so…they’ve got that going for them.

Air “Mer du Japon” Video



There have been some fantastic music video releases this past month but it is this, “Mer du Japon,” by Air and Fujiya & Miyagi’s “Ankle Injuries”that I think explain why modern television has got nothing on the internet. Are these things even still played on TV anywhere? I don’t know…but what I do know is that this video is essentially a collective of my three favorite things in life. 1 - Interpretive Dance: which I literally cannot live without. 2 - 3-D Japanese Dragons: an honest to god necessity for any video after 1988. 3 - French: In general it’s a lovely language, I’m honestly not being sarcastic with that last statement - sorry if you take it that way. For serious though, this video is fascinating.

An Atypical Traditionalist: Andra Suchy

There’s a rule of thumb that isn’t necessarily always true, but for those who have official biographies is often true: if said biography begins with a key to the pronunciation of your name you’ve probably lived a fairly interesting life. Like I said, not always but often true, and in the case of Andra Suchy (ann-drah soo-key) one can presume that statement to be fairly true. Furthering her journey through this world were her parents who traveled as folk musicians all throughout her adolescents which has to give my previous suggestion at least a hint of truth. Having outgrown her hometown of Mandan, North Dakota she moved to Minneapolis at the age of nineteen and she now carries on the performing tradition set forth for her. It’s amazing to hear someone take command of a room without hardly splitting their lips, but having seen Andra live I can attest to that very statement. The best part is that she seemingly does so without an overbearing aspiration to follow either her parent’s path or that of the typical modern female folk singer (which can be many things to many people, but in my life it has been Tegan & Sara before they added a band and, of course, Ani DiFranco).

Jack Peñate “Second, Minute or Hour” Review

Jack Peñate plays with a careless party-like energy that made the masses love ska; not to fret though as Peñate lacks the trumpet-funk combination that lead to the downfall of ska and its three revivals. His songs, while easily grasped, and are written with such an innocence. “Got My Favourite…” is simply about his favorite things. His conclusion though: his favorite trousers, dog tags, coat aren’t necessarily just there to get him through his day but they’re there to help life live through him. See what I mean, a pure innocence; my stuff isn’t important, but damned if it doesn’t help me get through the day (except the H2, that’s strictly for flossin’). That’s merely the b-side to his Second, Minute or Hour 7″ though, the title track is every bit as energetic and clearly spelled lyrics. “I lost my head, when I found my heart, but now with neither I’ve fallen all apart.” Can’t beat one liners like that, absolutely unsubtle in their approach but it wouldn’t feel right to hide them. Such is Jack Peñate.

What Are Your Top Five, All Time, Favorite Jimi Hendrix Songs?

When faced with such a dilemma as to having to define your favorite song by one of the most amazing musicians in history I figured it best to justify the top choice with a few alternate picks that also mean a lot to me. As such, when a good friend told me yesterday that her favorite Jimi Hendrixsong was hands down, “Manic Depression,” I felt compelled to dispute that claim. And though “Manic Depression” is absolutely one of my favorite songs, this inquiry proved that it is indeed not my favorite. These, my friends, are my top five all time Jimi Hendrix songs.

“Like a Rolling Stone (Bob Dylan cover)”

I once had a record that had bits of Otis Redding’s performance on one side and Jimi Hendrix’s on the other - taken from the Monterey Pop Festival. This has to be one of the most enlightening performances I had ever heard, and I was really young and it just blew my mind. I mean young - like junior high, and I didn’t know what I had with the album - or so many others that I no longer have today and it just crushes me that I don’t have this piece of history (even though it was a cheap reissue)…I found the performance online here and it is every bit as beautiful and creative now as it was for me then…plus that introduced me to Otis Redding…not a bad deal…and it made me look up some cat name Bobby Zimmerman too.

“Ezy Rider”

The track is so crushing and gives me a complete idea what a later stage Hendrix would have sounded like had he been around to live through the success of so many ‘classic rock’ bands. People mourn Elvis‘ death, partially because they are curious as to what could have been. I mourn Jimi’s because of that reason too and Jimi could have been far more than “Ezy Rider.”

“Castles Made of Sand"

It’s so entirely funky yet soft, and I think it’s the closest Jimi came to rapping - though at the time I imagine it would have been referred to as toasting. But his lyrics are such a subtle way of saying that ‘my friends, let’s do the best we can while we can because some day babies, some day we’re not going to be around to enjoy what we’ve got here.’

“Manic Depression”

Its beat is furious for its time and would make anyone who once thought Jimi’s blues influence to be crucial look the other way and scoff. Then, at about a minute and a half his acid kicks in and for the next few seconds he becomes the sole member of The Experience. The rhythm section is absolutely amazing though, I really hope I didn’t downplay that with the last statement - like I said - furious.

“Are You Experienced?”

This is the Hendrix song that defines the man for me. The lyrics are so brutally insightful as to what he was going through with all his drugs and blossoming talent. He talks of a smaller world that you must elevate yourself from and in the process you must go through to redefine what it is you truly are. I can understand that though I still find my mind clinging to the things that don’t matter, as depression entirely makes its presence known from time to time. Musically, it is one of the most inventive songs of all time, the backwards reverb looping - entirely underscoring Jimi’s perfect & simple riff which he seems to be playing without even touching the instrument. “Not necessarily stoned, but…beautiful” - this is my favorite Hendrix song.

And if you wanted to change your life, stop listening to goth (there’s nothing wrong with listening to goth, sorry) learn to love and for the love of god (not that god) and go outside and breathe some freshness into your soul. Get some fresh air, a fresh perspective and remember what kinda jams you should be listening to. I never gave props to The Grateful Dead, but I should have - you should too. There’s a great podcast over at Fader right now, dig it. - Chris

Jarvis’ “Running The World” Video



Jarvis Cocker is the type of artist that I’ve long since built respect for but without entirely basing that respect in omnipresent fandom. I L U V loved “Common People” when it came out and at the time I believe I purchased the album through the bottomless pit known as Columbia House(random side note). Since then however there have only been a few moments when Pulp has blatantly registered on my radar. 1998’s This is Hardcore, for example, made me take notice as it hit my adolescent eyes with its tastefully insightful (pornographic) album cover. But after that, I had heard only scattered bits here and there of new material, or rather, new material worth listening to.

It wasn’t until January, with a friend’s unusual ire towards a record shop for selling an import of Jarvis’ latest that I again took notice. Follow that scenario with absolutely wonderful contributions to both Air and Charlotte Gainsbourg and I have again taken deep notice. So if nothing else, listen to “Running the World” and if you like it, tell a friend. Though, if you really like it, I encourage you to run to your local record outlet and request it by name, Jarvis!

Fujiya & Miyagi: “Ankle Injuries” Video



In one way, this Fujiya & Miyagi video is entirely unique and reflects a building thought that I have which suggests that we are all worse off for not having a television station dedicated to playing music videos. In another, The White Stripes kind of did it first. Legos or dice, it still kind of looks the same. But I know it’s not - instead it is a fantastic visual exploration that is narrated by one of the most enjoyable-repetitive songs of the past year.

Beastie Boys: More From “The Mix-Up”

Thought I’d take a second peak back at the Beastie Boys‘ site for the day and low and behold everything in the world has changed; well, not everything - but there’s a fresh video of the band in studio recording “Off The Grid.” It is Caucasi-funk at its peak: a guitar that sticks its head out of the car door while doing about 65 mph down the highway leaving it just inches from shred (a funky shred, but a shred nonetheless), organ that sounds more organic than a bagel from that hippie bistro down the street from your aunt’s place called “Che Organique,” and a rhythm that simply drops for days. This is why I am amped in anticipation for The Mix-Up, what’s your excuse?

Wilco’s “Impossible Germany”

Listening to music, just having it there simply as a supporting cast member in the scenes of your life is something entirely enjoyable and fulfilling all unto itself. Yet many times in life it unknowingly attaches itself to bits and pieces of your life, but until now I’ve had no Wilcostories. Today my Wilco story arrived, and as a matter of fact it’s still settling in. Wilco, as a group, is one that the people who write the sites I read love (cough, cough), the people I respect love, yet a band I have never really paid any time to. Something has changed.

I’m finding it hard to get older, not old necessarily, just older. I want nothing more in life right now than to find one thing that makes sense and ride it until exhaustion, but I think in many ways every party of my life is already exhausted. I tried something today that wasn’t tired though, I tried listening to Wilco’s new album and something inside of me changed in the process. I’m not thee Wilco fan many of my friends are, nor would I necessarily feel confident attending a show, but right now the band makes a whole lot of sense to me.

Impossible Germany
Unlikely Japan
Wherever you go
Wherever you land
I’ll say what this means to me
I’ll do what I can
Impossible Germany
Unlikely Japan
Fundamental problem
All need to face
This is important
But I know you’re not listening
No I know you’re not listening

This was still new to me
I wouldn’t understand
Impossible Germany
Unlikely Japan
This is what love is for
To be out of place
Gorgeous and alone
Face to face
With no larger problems
That need to be erased
Nothing more important
Than to know someone’s listening
Now I know you’ll be listening

What’s hilarious to me (though hilarious really isn’t what I mean with that word) is that this Wilco isn’t the Wilco that historical fans of the band love. Yes they are! No…the physical make up isn’t Wilco by the definition that most would give. I would hate for my favorite band to have two remaining original members; not in the sense that I wouldn’t still love whatever music came as a result of their creation, but that it’s just not entirely complete. That being said, and despite recently having watched I Am Trying To Break My Heart, this band is Wilco to me and will probably be Wilco to me for some time to come.

I cannot speak with full confidence when I make this suggestion as I know a sparse record of the band’s musical history, but I’ve always been fairly certain that Wilco wasn’t a jam band (they aren’t, are they?). Last year I gave up my overwhelming distaste for festival bands (not all of them are jam) that have come to represent what the hippy of yesteryear once did (with less emphasis on revolution and more emphasis on hacky sack). If one had to describe Wilco by “Impossible Germany” alone, having just months ago developed a keen appreciation for My Morning Jacket, one might attempt to label them as jam; after all half of the song is strictly low-key meandering. And I heard that meandering, the slow wavy duality, while the song was playing in the background and all at once I understood why people had but their good faith in the band for so many years.

Then I heard the lyrics.

“This is what love is for, to be out of place. Gorgeous and alone, face to face.” In one single swipe Jeff Tweedy answered what I now know to be far from a rhetorical statement as he broke my heart. This is by far one of the most timely lyrics that has ever had confront me, yet at the same time a large part of me began listening to the album in search for exactly what I found. I have been in love so many times that it no longer pays to keep track.

Many times I see and talk to someone (female) and I look to their traits for both friendship or something far greater, and from time to time my mind justifies fantasizing a future, or at least spending a sound period of my life with them. The problem is I can’t keep those relationships because they’re not real. The thoughts in my head aren’t about real people, but rather about someone I want those people to be. Typically I find someone, go through the same set of motions, only to find that they care about me very little, and honestly my feelings aren’t far off theirs (read: I’m confused). Something is different in my life now and I’m probably experiencing what love is - that feeling of being out of place and not knowing what in the world I’m doing. Not knowing whether there is a future or whether I should be thinking about it, but knowing rather that this is an experience all unto itself. There are no motions. Putting it all out there and meaning it. And knowing you mean it, and being frightened because there is honestly something on the line if you say too much or too little. I have a feeling that I’m going to ride this till exhaustion.
So that’s why Wilco’s so damn popular, right?

Beastie Boys: New Music From “The Mix-Up”

The first time I had heard any of the new instrumental material was yesterday when the ol’ Stereogum unleashed “The Rat Cage.” I can understand why some fans might not be entirely receptive as, up until now, the entire album is expected to represent merely a niche of the group’s sound. Fortunately for me however this sect of the group’s music has always been something that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. Never having seen the Beastie Boys live in concert I can only go off of the experience that television and DVD have provided me. In every situation that I’ve seen live footage though, the most enjoyable parts of the band’s performance have been just that - the performance of the band. Not to put down anything they’ve ever done, but the sound and feel to “The Rat Cage” may very well be far truer to that of the Boys’ beginnings than anything on To the 5 Boroughs.

Sometimes You’ve Got to Go Back Home: Copperpot

In all fairness - who hasn’t had KRS One lay down lyrics for a few songs for their largely unknown album? Hands? Psalm One? Not so much? I it would be fair to say that Chicago-based producer Copperpot might have very well pulled a coup with his sophomore release WYLA? in that it looks just good enough on paper to get people interested enough to actually listen to it. Once given the opportunity, as there is no greater an example than “Come Back Home,” Pot takes full advantage of his opportunity and lays down one of the most fitting beats KRS has approached in years. Look out for WYLA? when it hits stores this August.

R. Kelly: New Album, New Single…Still Not in Jail

There’s little argument against R. Kelly’s talent - it’s there and no one is disputing that. The man is a baller and is always associating himself with a fine lineup of talent. Just look at the upcoming lineup for his upcoming release Double Up: Swizz Beats, Snoop Dogg, Chamillionaire, Nelly, T.I., Ludacris…and Kid Rock?…well, he’s never been batting a thousand. The new album hits stores on May 29 and when asked to explain it Kelly was quoted as “Everything I did in the past, I’m about to double up on it.” So, what’s the spread on how long it’ll take Kelly to get arrested?

Noisettes “What’s the Time Mr. Wolf” Review

In April of last year when tracks were starting to roll out in anticipation of What’s the Time Mr. Wolf it seemed as though the Noisettes were attempting to maintain whatever positive publicity the band had incurred during its first years together. The group had released its Three Moods of The Noisettes EP to a global (but mostly UK) audience roughly a year before, and in doing do garnered accolades from hype machines, critics and bands alike. But in America, the slow game of telephone being played across the Atlantic had reduced the initial “vibrant, deep seeded blues-based rock trio” to a mere “just another Yeah Yeah Yeahs.”

As the new songs kept rolling out the band’s sound began distancing itself from the early rock roots showcased on the EP that it had so viciously strived. “Ime,” “Don’t Give Up” and “Scratch Your Name” all began sounding as though they were playing to rather than against the band’s critics. Months crept by, release dates were pushed back and the fire under the band continued to cool; the recording ethos that was to help the band though this digital era of exposure now seemed a distant thought.

Roughly a year after the first track broke What’s the Time Mr. Wolfdropped with an unexpected sense of timing. The album allows those who had heard the band when NME first called them “One of rock n’ roll’s best kept secrets” a bit of familiar reprieve while also allowing new listeners distance from the critical fingerwagging which once condemned The Noisettes for simply sounding like other good bands.

To a fresh listener, one which may have possibly purchased the album for its vibrant cover the album will sound fresh; but rather than sounding like nothing you’ve heard before, it will sound like everything you’ve heard before, just all at once. But to someone listening to the album knowing fully well the history, the British media’s push and The United States’ cynical reaction, the album overshadows the music; which is a shame because the music is quite good despite its change in direction.

Its direct approach on “Sister Rosetta” helps to expel the band’s previous musical focus, replacing the group’s toned down, slow method with that of a modern suburban pop punk….but you know, with soul. “Scratch your name into the fabric of this world before you go” is a lyric you can half drunkenly discuss with friends for hours, knowing that by the end of the conversation one of you is going to be crying and the others will be embracing one another with the “us against the world” conclusions you’ve all drawn. And that in itself is rock and roll. The album is rock and roll on a modern level. It plays to those who love The Rolling Stones cockiness and The Hives unabashedness alike. Possibly in spite of its top-heavy lyrics, breakout potential, its (at times) stunning musical ability and otherwise over-hyped attributes the Noisettes might yet make a career and name for itself outside of the world NME has created for it. And if they given the opportunity, America might pay attention.

Far From Fallen Apart: Jack Peñate

Jack Peñate plays with a careless party-like energy that made the masses love ska, not to fret though as Peñate lacks the trumpet-funk combination that lead to the downfall of ska and its three revivals. His songs, while easily grasped, and are written with such an innocence. “Got My Favourite…” is simply about his favorite things. His conclusion though - his favorite trousers, dog tags, coat aren’t necessarily just there to get him through his day but they’re there to help life live through him. See what I mean, a pure innocence - my stuff isn’t important, but damned if it doesn’t help me get through the day (except the H2 - that’s strictly for flossin’). That’s merely the b-side to his Second, Minute or Hour 7″ though, the title track is every bit as energetic and clearly spelled lyrics. “I lost my head, when I found my heart, but now with neither I’ve fallen all apart.” Can’t beat one liners like that, absolutely unsubtle in their approach but it wouldn’t feel right to hide them. Such is Jack Peñate.

Got a Lot of Light: The Trimmed Hedges

Local Minneapolis quartet The Trimmed Hedges attempt to capture a number of genres throughout the band’s first full length release The Seas Elected, released locally through The Missing Stamp Collective. While the release has a general compliance towards diversity (see: banjo & slap bass) the band finds its strongest moments through the use of synth-forward indie rock. By basing its sound closer to that of a gentler, pop-heavy rock than many indie rock acts the band distances its experimentalism from the term itself, realizing more of a grounded accessibility than that of Animal Collective or any like act in the process.

Dave Fischoff Interview

While Dave Fischoff is just one of many talented artists on the recently released SC100, his leanings further into the electronic in recent years allow him to stand apart from the others on Secretly Canadian’s landmark hundredth album. Current roster-mates such as Songs:Ohia, Danielson and Jens Lekman join Fischoff to celebrate the label’s accomplishment with a varied selection of covers, all from SC artists covering one another.

With The Crawl, Fischoff’s 2006 album, it seemed as though something unique and entirely untraditional had seen release through what the strong indie rock label. The album is sample-based, but not in the traditional Paul’s Boutique sense of the term; the album was created over the course of five years and is compiled entirely from thousands of samples that Fischoff found or recorded himself during that time. During this interview he discusses how the label supported his turn towards such a project, what it means to have a label such as Secretly Canadian in today’s marketplace and just what it’s like to maintain his jobs at various Chicago-based libraries.

Well, rather than vaguely asking what Secretly Canadian has meant to you and your career and expecting a long detailed response I’ll rather ask what Damien Jurado, the artist you cover on SC100, has meant to you (still expecting the long, detailed response).

Dave Fischoff: Damien and I have actually been friends for awhile - we first got to know each other back in 1999, when we spent about a month touring around the US together. We had great time playing shows and basically ended up having one long music-nerd conversation from Minneapolis to San Diego to Athens, GA to NYC. We were seriously constantly talking about music. And ever since then, whenever we see each other, it’s always, “Hey, what are you listening to?…Have you heard this yet?…Oh, you’ve gotta hear this….” We did two more tours together after that first one, one more in 1999 and another in 2003. That means that I’ve officially seen more Damien Jurado shows than any other artist on the planet and Damien has seen more Dave Fischoff shows than any other person on the planet. And all those shared bills inevitably had an effect on us - I know that my song “Blemish and a Bowl of Oranges” (from The Ox and the Rainbow) was partly inspired by an old folk song Damien used to play a lot back then called “The Butcher’s Boy.” And he told me once that listening to my album Winston Park had an impact on the way he made his album The Ghost of David.

Oh, and we also had a wrestling match once and he totally kicked my ass. That photo hidden under the tray of the SC100 CD was taken right before we went at it.

Were you able to choose the song and artist you wanted to cover and if so was Jurado’s “Abilene” your first pick?

Dave Fischoff: Secretly Canadian actually used a names-in-the-hat method to figure out who would be covering whom. So no, I didn’t get to pick Damien, but I was totally excited when I found out he was the one I’d been assigned to cover. At that point, Damien only had one album on Secretly Canadian (the SC100 project has been in the works for awhile), so I didn’t have that many songs to choose from. But yeah, I picked “Abilene” because I thought it was a great song, and because I thought I might be able to do something with it musically that was totally different from the original, but hopefully still interesting and enjoyable to listen to. That was back in 2003, when I was really starting to get into using the computer as an instrument and making entire songs with it. So what you hear with “Abilene” is one of my first computer-based song experiments - ideas that I’d refine and develop more fully by the time I started recording The Crawl.

Are there any other songs that come to mind as those which you wanted an honest attempt at?

Dave Fischoff: The label did ask us to hand in two covers for the project, so I gave them “Abilene” and a song called “Dance Hall Places,” which was Damien’s contribution to Secretly Canadian’s The Unaccompanied Voice album, which was a compilation of a bunch of artists doing a cappella songs. “Abilene” ended up being the stronger of the two, though, so that’s the one we went with.

Changing focus somewhat, in today’s music marketplace, what does it mean to have Secretly Canadian successfully release its 100th album?

Dave Fischoff: It means that they’re incredibly smart, they have very good taste, and they treat their artists really well.

I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time when they first started in Bloomington - I was still going to school at Indiana University and just starting to make my first recordings when they asked if I’d like to put out a record with them. And I think it’s quite possible that if that hadn’t happened, I might not be putting out records now. But yeah, since I’ve been with them from pretty much from the beginning, I’ve been able to watch them grow from a tiny living-room operation to the world wide indie presence that they are today. They’ve definitely had a stumble or two along the way and maybe tried out some ideas that didn’t really pan out. But they’ve always been attentive learners and are willing to switch things up and try new approaches when old methods don’t seem to be working out. And that, of course, is extremely important in the music industry today, when so many things are up in the air - new technologies, new ways of releasing music, etc. The fact that they have very good ears for picking out talent that no one else has noticed yet (Antony (Hegarty) and Jens Lekman, for example) is a huge part of it, too, of course. And the fact that they’re completely straight forward, fair and honest with all of their artists means that they’re able to keep people on board. Artists want to stick with them, and new people want to join the team.

Does a label such as Secretly Canadian hold more or less weight in today’s musical landscape than, say, 2001 when The Ox & The Rainbow was released?

Dave Fischoff: I don’t think there’s any question that the label holds more weight today than it did back in 2001. And actually, there’s a conversation I’ve been having regularly for several years now that I think does a good job of illustrating this. The first part of the conversation is usually the same: I meet someone at a party or at a bar or whatever and they ask, “Hey, so what do you do?” and I answer, “I’m a musician.” Then they ask what kind of music I make and I try to explain it to them, and then they ask if I have any CDs or anything and I say yes, and then they ask “Oh, did you put them out yourself?” And that’s when I explain that, no, I’m actually working with an indie label called Secretly Canadian. Now, back in the early days of me having this conversation, the response was usually a bit of blank stare, a polite “Oh,” or something along the lines of “That’s a funny name for a label.” But starting a couple of years ago (probably right around the time the Antony record came out), the response I’ve started getting more and more is something along the lines of “Wow, that’s awesome!” or “I love that label!” So yeah, based on my own not-quite-scientific data gathering, I’d have to say yes, being on Secretly Canadian is definitely a bigger deal now than it was several years back.

How did the label support you through the lengthy recording process of your latest album The Crawl?

Dave Fischoff: Well, like I mentioned before, Secretly Canadian has always been really artist friendly, and I think that’s totally exemplified by how they treated me when I was working on this latest album. Basically, they hooked me up with a small recording budget and then turned me loose. I’m a musician who likes to figure things out for myself and I don’t usually like to share works in progress, because I need to feel that I can trust my instincts and my judgments of what’s good or not. The label knows I like to work this way, and they totally respected it. I’d give them little updates from time to time, letting them know how I thought everything was going and what new ideas and sounds I was working with. But not a single person, including the label, heard a single note of the album until I was almost completely finished with it. They trusted me, and that’s hugely important for a good artist-label relationship.

What do you feel of Danielson covering a song from your previous effort?

Dave Fischoff: I think it’s great! I’ve been a Danielson fan for a long time, even before they were on the label, and it was a lot of fun to hear how someone else, especially Daniel Smith, would re-interpret one of my songs. His version definitely sounds more like a Danielson song than a Dave Fischoff song, and I think that’s the mark of a well-done cover.

Of the other current artists on the roster which do you look forward to working with in the future?

Dave Fischoff: I’d love to work with some of the other artists on the roster, whether it’s in the context of touring together, or even working together in a more studio-based situation. If Richard Swift wanted me to program a beat for a song he was working on, or Antony wanted me to do a remix for him, I’d definitely be into it. And I think Jens and I definitely need to get together to co-DJ a dance party sometime.

I must ask, since recording the latest album, have you kept your day job?

Dave Fischoff: Yep, I’m still working in a few different libraries in downtown Chicago throughout the week to help pay the bills. The jobs are fairly low-key, so I’m usually not too exhausted at the end of the day and I can come home and be productive with music. They’re also jobs that allow me to take time off when I need to record or tour, which is obviously essential for a musician.

How do those you work and interact with on a daily basis interpret what you do?

DF: I’ve been accused of having a bit of a perfectionist streak when it comes to my music, and I suppose I’ll admit to it. But I think that’s a good thing! Within reason, of course. I mean, I completely recognize that perfection is something that can never be achieved, but I think as an artist it’s important to set your standards as high as possible, because you’ll inevitably achieve more that way.

You haven’t had had a live show since January, what are your plans in the coming months?

Dave Fischoff: I’ve actually played a few local shows here in Chicago in past month or so, the first ones ever with a backing band. These new songs have way more sound going on than I can pull off on my own on stage, so I’ve been seeking out other musicians to perform with for the first time since I started making records. And it’s great! I’ve enlisted a bassist and a drummer so far, and hopefully I’ll be able to continue to expand the live band as resources will allow. I’d love to one day be able to perform with a string section, and maybe even add a second drummer at some point. I’d definitely like to get some touring in as well. I’m currently without a booking agent in the US, but hopefully something will come along, an opening slot on another band’s tour or something, and I’ll get to play more often with Dave Fischoff - The Band.

Is anything planned as far as a special concert, or a tour, surrounding the release of SC100?

Dave Fischoff: Unfortunately, I haven’t heard of anything like this being planned, but it’s a good idea!

Is it too early to think about your next release and if it’s not, what concepts are brewing?

Dave Fischoff: I don’t think it’s ever to early to start thinking about that! And yeah, there are definitely some ideas brewing, though who knows which direction it’ll actually end up taking. One thing I’ve been thinking about is maybe doing something that’s even more beat-oriented than The Crawl…maybe even something that’s danceable? Well see. I’ve also thought about taking a more streamlined approach to the production than I did on The Crawl. I mean, the songs on that record are sonically really dense, and I really like that, that’s what I was trying to do, but now that I’ve done that, I’m wondering if it might be interesting to streamline things a bit. Maybe focus in on a few sounds to create the songs rather than the heavily layered approach I took on The Crawl. I don’t see myself going back to the sparseness of, say, Winston Park, but it might be interesting to try to do more with less. And, now that I’ve started working with other people for the live shows, the thought has also crossed my mind to work more collaboratively on the next album as well. Maybe adding more live instrumentation to the songs, as opposed to being just computer-based. I’d also really like to try some collaborations with other people’s material - like I mentioned before, programming beats or doing remixes for other artists, or helping to produce tracks for other peoples songs. An indie rock Timbaland? We’ll see what happens…

Hypothetical situation: Secretly Canadian goes under, Jeb Bush is elected President and as a further sign of the impending Apocalypse you lose taking pleasure in music. With that being said you decide to play one last show in which you are able to share the stage with two other acts. Who would they be?

Dave Fischoff: Okay, how about this - I’m magically able to coax Jeff Mangum out of retirement for a Neutral Milk Hotel reunion and, seeing how the end is near, the evening closes with an apocalyptic dance party courtesy of Diplo.