Pick Up :: 09.25.07

Pick Up is IndieRocket's guide to what's awesome out of the week's new releases.

I know this is a bit late, but it's been a busy week over at casa de Indierocket. And after all, you still can (and should) pick up these new releases. First up is Meneguar's highly anticipated sophomore effort Strangers in Our House. Now, I've been known to show up at a certain bar and request for the bartender to play these guys by drunkenly yelling, 'MENEGUAR!' so I might be a little biased, but their new album definitely holds up. Razor's edge vocals, jangly guitars, and must-be-sung-along-to choruses are still the name of the game for these post-punkers, and I, for one, am thankful.

mp3: Meneguar Bury A Flower

Buy Strangers in Our House here.

Next on your buy list should be the self-titled release from Two Gallants. The SF duo with the dirty amalgam of Southern rock, folk, country, and blues hasn't made too many changes here. The self-loathing lyrics, caterwauling vocals, and bombastic drums still stand out. It's loud, mean, and tough, and what else would you expect from these guys? Certainly not a whining 'Don't tase me, bro!' (Sorry. Couldn't help it. Check here for an explanation.) Hearing this record takes me back to seeing them live last year and makes me look forward to hearing these new songs the next time they come around.

mp3: Two Gallants Despite What You've Been Told

Buy Two Gallants here.

Finally, we have the newest from Winnipeg's own The Weakerthans. The Propagandhi-turned-indie popsters are taking a bit more mellow approach on this album, and I think it really works for them. 2007 seems to be the year of the indie rock drummer, and Jason Tait keeps the trend rolling on this album, turning in a great performance. I'm a bit confused about the track I'm posting here. Are they trying to make some reference to REM's 'Night Swimming,' or are they just blatantly ripping it off? Or hell, maybe they never heard it before? I would hope it's some kind of homage/reference that I'm just too dumb to get. You tell me, gentle reader. In any case, it's a great song. Enjoy!

mp3: The Weakerthans Night Windows

Buy Reunion Tour here.

Scene :: Carolina Chocolate Drops :: Columbia Museum of Art [Columbia, S.C.; 09.27.07]


New Noise :: Bat for Lashes, "I'm on Fire" [Bruce Springsteen cover]

I generally and genuinely think that I am one of the only people in my generation — especially among my peer group — without any sort of love or reverence for several "critical" bands — i.e. Guns 'n' Roses, Nirvana, Led Zeppelin, etc. The most baffling to me, though, is Bruce Springsteen. His workmanlike, wholly American roots-rock has influenced so many bands I'm in to that it would see only appropriate — necessary, even — for me to have a certain degree of love for The Boss. You'd think that, but there's something about Bruce that I find absolutely repugnant. Indeed, I could never see it as William Ruhlmann of allmusic.com does: "When Bruce Springsteen finally broke through to national recognition in the fall of 1975 after a decade of trying, critics hailed him as the savior of rock & roll, the single artist who brought together all the exuberance of '50s rock and the thoughtfulness of '60s rock, molded into a '70s style. He rocked as hard as Jerry Lee Lewis, his lyrics were as complicated as Bob Dylan's, and his concerts were near-religious celebrations of all that was best in music." Perhaps those are even the precise reasons I don't like him — I find The Boss smug, jingoistic and too beat-you-over-the-head-and-cram-it-down-your-throat patriotic for my liking. As it stands, I find Born to Run boring, Born in the U.S.A terrible and Nebraska underwhelming. Odder still: My favorite Springsteen song — indeed, the only one I like (and yes, I know it's on Born in the U.S.A.) — is "I'm on Fire," not generally considered among the "Born to Run"s and "The Rising"s that comprise the best of The Boss' oeuvre. A desperate and harrowing obsessive-love song on par with The Police's "Every Breath You Take," "I'm on Fire" is criminally underrated.

So why is it that I don't like Bat for Lashes' cover? I think it's for the same reasons I didn't like Sun Kil Moon's Modest Mouse tribute piece, Tiny Cities. While I don't particularly have anything against artists taking liberties with cover songs — indeed, sometimes, as in the case of Pavement's cover of R.E.M.'s "Camera," it rewrites the song in an exemplary manner that enlightens and elucidates the listener to a radical interpretation of form and file — there comes a point where disregarding the source material is done at great disservice to performance. Again, I cite Mark Kozelek rewriting Isaac Brock — the former's velvety baritone and gentle picking aren't suited for the latter's jittery caterwaul and staccato fretwork. And so it goes with Bat for Lashes, who not only disregards "I'm on Fire"'s original tempo and ornamentation, slowing it to an ornate Victorian dirge, and The Boss' vocal cadence, but at times even changes the words. I'm not talking simple pronoun replacement — indeed, the song just fine from a female perspective; but the one thing I've always handed to Springsteen was his ability to cogently and masterfully string words together. To fuck with that is egregious. Pitchfork's Mark Richardson might say that "there's something to be said for a cover that transports the original song to another world," but maybe, just maybe, women from Venus shouldn't cover songs written by men from Mars.

Bat for Lashes — "I'm on Fire" [Bruce Springsteen cover] (via Pitchfork)


Get Out! :: Roller Derby Party @ Art Bar :: 09.22.07

All I should have to say to get you, gentle reader, to come to this show is mention that Columbia’s Quad Squad Roller Derby Girls will be in attendance. But if girls on skates don’t get your immediate attention — you weirdo — I could go on to mention that local gypsy-rock outfit Grey Egg will be playing along with premier surf-rock group Los Perdidos (guaranteed one of the best shows in town), who are working on a surf version of “The Godfather Theme.” And then there’s DJ Mike Jones, a self-described “cross between Max Headroom and the guy that emcees The Himalayan at the State Fair.”


Stay In! :: Bishop Allen + John Vanderslice on NPR :: 09.22.07

NPR's excellent live concert series features IndieRocket favorites Bishop Allen this Saturday as they open for John Vanderslice at DC's Rock and Roll Hotel. You can stream the concert live Saturday night or anytime after that. And it may be up for download in mp3 format the week after it premiers, if memory serves. Seeing as how NPR was one of the first times I heard Bishop Allen, this is altogether fitting. Just head over here to check it out. Other upcoming shows include Rilo Kiley, Animal Collective (!), Okkervil River (!!), Jose Gonzalez, Spoon (!!!), and The New Pornographers.

Speaking of NPR, did anyone else notice that along with various charitable institutes, big businesses, and centers of learning, they are being sponsored by none other than hipster-beer-of-choice PBR? And in an order to class the joint up a bit, what with their new charitable social position, PBR has just announced the winners of their PBR Art contest (which I still think would be better named 'PB-Art'). Check out the winners and other entries here.


New(ish) Noise :: 09.14.07

Allow me to indulge myself (and, hopefully, you, dear reader) by letting me tell you what's been rocking my world — in the parlance of our times — lately.

Firstly, we have the brilliant Scot-rock quartet The Twilight Sad. Very reminiscent of the early material of Scot-rockers Idlewild (particularly the fantastic 100 Broken Windows record), Fourteen Autmns, Fifteen Winters also owes a great deal to the swirling, effects-laden shoegaze of Ride and Slowdive, the epic loud-quiet dynamic of post-rockers Explosions in the Sky and the swank, suave indie-garage aesthetic of The Walkmen. Tug's jam is "Cold Days from the Birdhouse," but my money's on "And She Would Darken the Memory of Youth," where singer James Graham's Scottish brogue is in full display, veering from a gentle croon to full-on Hamilton Leithause screeching. And goddamn if Andy MacFarlane can't make enough racket by himself to account for twenty fucking axeslayers.

The Twilight Sad — "And She Would Darken the Memory of Youth"

Then we have Plastic Little. A friend of mine introduced me to the hilarious Baltimore rap group a few weeks ago, and I've been rocking that shit ever since. Now, don't get the wrong impression — Plastic Little is funny in the way that Spank Rock is funny or that De La Soul's Three Feet High and Rising is funny. Equally adept at spitting trash-mouth rhymes, utterly un-P.C. obnoxiousness and acute social and hip-hop commentary — often in the same song — Plastic Little is bringing the fun back into hip-hop that all those no-talent hack emcees (yes, I'm talking to you, 50 Cent, Master P, etc.) took out.

Plastic Little — "The Jump Off"
Bonus: YouTube videos? Them's the Jump Off!

Being a complete and utter guitar-gear nerd, I frequent several gearhead-oriented web sites. Occasionally, I'll check out the music of forum members, usually based on how cool I think his/her rig is. And that's how I stumbled across L.A. indie rock quintet Divisadero. (What can I say: Dudeman plays a Jazzmaster through a Deluxe Reverb. Mmm ... tone.) On its MySpace page, Divisadero says it sounds like "Driving through the desert at 4 a.m.," which is a super-astute observation — Divisadero's worn desert-indie-folk sounds like Neil Young (circa Everybody Knows This is Nowhere) filtered Spiritualized, Stereolab and Yo La Tengo. The result: Absolutely perfect gems such as "Black and Blue" and epic, stunning "I Dreamt of the Apocalypse." Gentlemen (and lady), I beseech thee: Come to the Palmetto State.



GoGoIndieCritic :: Animal Collective :: Strawberry Jam

I’ll begin by saying that I’ve never been a huge Animal Collective fan (shock! gasp!). While I definitely think that its past efforts have been well done and commendable, there was always something about its fondness for chirpy, chipmunk-pitched vocals that didn’t appeal to me. What good are psychedelic lyrics if you can’t even make out the words? Never a band to sit still, though, 2005’s Feels saw the band play with less freak-folk and more rock sensibility. Then earlier this year, Animal Collective member Panda Bear (aka Noah Lennox) released the incredible, Brian Wilson-infused Person Pitch, and I really had to reexamine the band’s past efforts through new eyes. While I’m still not sold on all its old material, Animal Collective’s newest effort, Strawberry Jam, is exactly the direction that I think I’ve been wanting from the band since first hearing it.

The psych-pop and freak-folk are still prevalent, but now lyrics are more distinguishable (even if their content is no less confusing). Much of the album’s lyrics are concerned with food. In the first track 'Peacebone,' Avey Tare (aka David Porter) twangs, 'You’re progressing letters / That you use to cook your broccoli / The other side of takeout is mildew on rice.' So maybe not the most sensible (or savory) of food-centric lyrics, but there are other subjects searched here — living in Brooklyn on the hodgepodge hymn 'For Reverend Green' and just wanting to get done with work so you can smoke some weed and take a walk by yourself on the Person Pitch-esque 'Chores.'

If you’ve ever seen strawberry jam made, you know that it involves a lot of sticky, bubbling mash, and that pretty much describes the almost sickly sweet psych-pop candy that Animal Collective has created on this, its finest record.

4.4 of 5

Yep. It's an Animal Collective record, all right.

6.4 of 10.


Get Out! :: 09.12.07

Get Out! is indierocket!'s guide to getting down in the Soda City.
Keefe Jackson's Fast Citizens :: The Whig :: 9 p.m.
For those of you who missed the Chicago avant-jazz sextet — and shame on those of you who did — now is the chance to redeem yourselves. Jackson's horn work is very reminiscent of fellow Chicago horner Ken Vandermark — both in tone and compositional approach — and has made him one of the foremost up-and-comers in the modern avant-jazz world. His accompanying players are equally badass: saxophonist Aram Shelton comes from Dragons 1976; bassist Anton Hatwich and drummer Frank Rosaly come from the Rempis Percussion Quartet; cornetist Josh Berman also comes fom Jackson side-project The Lucky 7s. The secret weapon, though, might be electric cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, who fleshes out the ensemble with virtuoso playing and walls of gnarly fuzz. The horns pipe about in unison only to collapse from within and devolve into dissonant skronk; Rosaly's drumming is equally volatile, at times tender on twinkling bells and tom fills, at times as chaotic and violent as an imploding building. Seriously — if you missed them the first time, don't make the same mistake again. (Should you need more incentive, we should remind you that it's $2-pint night at The Whig.)


Tube :: Battles :: Tonto

So the boys from Battles are back at it again with another amazing music video. While it may not be quite as stellar as the video for 'Atlas,' this one certainly doesn't disappoint. Who knows how much MTV2 Subterranean play it will get since it's almost eight minutes long, so you should definitely check it out right here.

The band also recently posted the lyrics for the ear-confounding 'Atlas' on their MySpace page, and I have to admit that they're much more relevant than I thought they'd be. Watch the video and sing along with your best chipmunk impression!



Scene + Tube :: The National

So in case you haven't noticed, The National is my favorite band currently. I loved their Bonnaroo set so much that I couldn't think of anything to write about them without sounding geeky and fanboy-ish. Well, I saw them again this past Saturday in Atlanta at the Variety Playhouse, and while I'm still not going to go into too much detail for fear of geeking out completely, I do have a couple thoughts to share.

First of all, back when I saw them at Bonnaroo, Boxer had only been out for a month or so, and while some people sang along, it was mostly during 'Abel' - the fist-pumping anthem from previous album Alligator. However, given a little extra time in the public consciousness, every track from Boxer was accompanied by most of the crowd quietly singing along. Standing right up front, it was beautiful hearing all that singing floating over my head from behind.

Also, how amazing is Matt Berninger? He was sick with that plague-like end-of-summer cold that's been going around, and he still screamed his lungs out when he needed to while spasming around the stage like Michael Stipe. God, him doing 'Mr. November' was awe-inspiring. The band was in immaculate form as well. While Bryan Devendorf's drums move and shape the album, it's perhaps more apparent in their live show. And the guitars! God, the guitars...

OK, I feel myself starting to geek out a little bit, so I'm going to stop there. But I'll leave you with 'Apartment Story,' the brand new video from The National. Like another of my favorite videos of the year, it ties into the album cover art pretty heavily.


New Noise :: Jens Lekman :: 'A Postcard To Nina'

So you may have missed Pitchfork flipping out about the new Jens Lekman record Night Falls Over Kortedala (out in Europe now, out here Oct. 9th). While I'm not sure that the record deserves the massive accolades the Pforkers are heaping on it, I've only had a day to process it, and I have to admit that it is pretty spectacular. The most anticipated track on the album for me is 'A Postcard To Nina,' which I had originally heard as a live mp3 from some festival date. On the live track, Jens tells the audience the story behind the song in between verses in one of the most charming 'behind the music' moments I've ever heard. Basically, Jens' friend Nina, instead of telling her German Catholic father that she's gay, tells him that her and Jens are engaged. Hysterically awkward moments ensue.

I thought I would miss the little explanatory monologue from the live track, but the song lyrics tell you everything you need to know (except for the horribly embarrassing part where Nina's father tells Jens that listening to his music is like the first time he heard Elvis). And since I've already told you that part, you can now listen to this sweet little diddy and get stoked about the whole album coming out next month.

Jens Lekman A Postcard To Nina

Pre-order Night Falls Over Kortedala here.


Tube :: Round-Up!

Here's just a few of the videos that have been on repeat here at IndieRocket this week. Enjoy!

First up is the video for 'The Gold We're Digging' by Parts and Labor. It's directed by Nicholas Chatfield-Taylor, the man behind the adorable Matt and Kim 'Yeah Yeah' video. It's got a very Michel Gondry feel to it that I can get behind.

Next up is 'Peace Bone' by Animal Collective. This repulsive, but beautiful video fits the song perfectly, so I wasn't surprised when I found out that it was directed by none other than Timothy Saccenti who previously directed my my favorite video of the year.

And finally, this is a video of The Replacements in 1986 on a certain sketch comedy show that comes on on Saturday evenings. Notice Paul Westerberg being a pottymouth on live television. I've been watching this because I've been trying to get into character. And that will end the shameless self-promotion portion of this blog post.


GoGoIndieCritic :: Okkervil River :: The Stage Names

We all want our lives to be like the movies. Overcome some terrible trials with a John Wayne swagger and a wry Bogart grin, kiss Lauren Bacall, and live happily ever after - or at least die a hero’s death trying. Reality is a much more tedious exercise in banality and frustration, which is why we’re so fascinated with films in the first place. On their fourth full-length, Okkervil River explores the disappointment with a life unglamorous in what is perhaps the best-written album of the year.

From the opening track 'Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe,' singer Will Sheff complains, 'It’s just a life story/ Where there’s no climax,' launching an album of indictments of forced mid-level success and the plight of the working class. It’s a familiar subject, covered even by fellow Austin-ites Spoon, but Sheff’s downright poetic lyrics single out this album as one of the best of its kind. The album ends with 'John Allyn Smith Sails,' a look at indie rock’s recent inspiration, poet John Berryman, that eventually steals/rewrites The Beach Boys’ 'Sloop John B,' turning it into a dark but hysterical joke about suicide. The line, 'Well, this is the worst trip I’ve ever been on,' takes on a whole new meaning. It’s something that only a brilliant songwriter like Sheff could pull off.

The band plays their part as well, creating a cinematic musical soundscape with the intimacy of early Elvis Costello and bombastic build and climaxes of Bruce Springsteen. A great deal of credit must go to Okkervil River drummer and founder Seth Warren who drives the album like a halfway broken-down tour van. The music carries such passion through its swells that Sheff can then sing with the conviction that his astoundingly personal lyrics deserve.

4.3 out of 5

Bonus: The new video for 'Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe.'