Kupek is Canadian cartoonist Bryan Lee O'Malley, creator of Scott Pilgrim, one of my favorite comic series of all time. (It should be yours as well. Check it out.) O'Malley's music combines lo-fi indie rock and some heart-on-his-sleeve lyrics that occasionally break out of his usual theme of adolescent angst to delve into a good old-fashioned love song. Maybe that description makes it sound more emo than it is. The truth is that O'Malley is really adept at getting to the core of what it's like to be in love, lose love, experience unrequited love, etc. 'The Way We Were' is a great example of that with lines like 'My pain is extra complicated./It's not just some general malaise.' It's a demo he recorded this year, and I found over at fellow comic writer Warren Ellis's blog. The song is simple, to the point, and something that everyone has felt at one point in their life or another.
Kupek The Way We Were (Demo)
O'Malley also just released a collection of old Kupek recordings, demos, covers, and such. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that he offers his albums as free downloads on his website RadioMaru? The new oddities collection B is for Bupek: Miscellany by Kupek contains this little beauty of a cover. According to O' Malley, he recorded the Prince-scribed, made-famous-by-Sinead O'Conner song 'when I was feeling exactly like the song says, so there is no irony in my delivery of it.' He's not kidding either.
Kupek Nothing Compares 2 U
Sorry for the delay in updating. Life, work, and such has been quite busy as of late. We will strive to do better.
OK, OK, so this is one of those songs that, given a few months, you may be sick of, depending on if it's as big a hit here as it has been in the UK thusfar. With that said, I spent two days obsessed with it earlier this week, and the charm hasn't quite yet worn off. (I'm posting about it after all.) It seems like everyone and their brother has written about it or posted the video. But just in case you haven't seen it, dear Rocketeer, we've got you covered. The song is a terrific hipster manifesto over some highly dance-able music, and the video is smartly put together (although it makes me think of 'The Chronic-what-cles of Narnia' video). The song will be released for digital download on April 2nd courtesy of Lex Records with a limited edition 7" on the 16th (although that's probably a UK-only date). Check out their myspace page for more great (if not as immediately viral) tracks. Also for your enjoyment is a live version of the song from X-FM. Unfortunately, it's edited for radio, but it does have a nice extra bit added at the end.
Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip Thou Shalt Always Kill (Live on X-FM)
And don't forget to watch the video!
I’ll go ahead and out myself here on the blogosphere. I haven’t always been a Spoon fan. I know, I know. Stupid, right? Well, have no fear. Over the past couple years, I’ve turned my opinion of the Austin band right around and am now a huge fan. Funny story - in one of my less impressive moments, I saw Spoon play local venue Headliners and kept drunkenly yelling out ‘VERONICA!’ in between songs because I had seen singer Britt Daniel in a cameo appearance on Veronica Mars where he sang the Elvis Costello classic in the karaoke coffee bar where the titular character worked. Daniels finally acknowledged my annoying cries after a while. ‘Are you saying “Metallica?”’ he asked. ‘No! “Veronica!”’ I yelled back. ‘Oh, the band doesn’t know that song,’ he explained nicely. Thankfully, a much more sober me ran into him at another bar later in the evening and apologized profusely for being such a dope.
Anyway, a few weeks ago, I got this live recording of a new Spoon track that will appear on their new album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, and I’ve probably listened to it close to forty times since then. First of all, for a bootleg, it’s a really great recording, and my hat goes off to whomever did it. Secondly, it has quickly become one of my favorite Spoon songs ever. It captures Daniel’s unforgettable voice perfectly as he goes from slightly nasally crooning to rock howl The guitars groove and hook, and the keyboards provide a head-bobbing melody, hearkening back to Spoon’s earlier work which was much more Elvis Costello-influenced than some of their recent material. (See? I knew I could work that story into the post somehow. Huzzah!) Everything about the song dares you not to dance, even down to Daniel’s incredible lyrics - ‘Come get there./Come be there./Come dance your socks right down to your shoes.' I’m just going to shut up now, and let you listen for yourself.
Spoon Rhthm and Soul
Buy Spoon music here.
I don’t know that I’ve ever written a show review before, so please bear with me, and we’ll get through it together. I wasn’t taking notes or anything (something I might have to start doing in the future) so it’s very likely that I don’t remember the songs in the exact order that they were played or even the exact titles (but with a band who occasionally name songs things like ‘Tras,’ ‘Tras 2,’ and ‘Tras 3,’ you can see where that would get difficult anyway). Also, let’s see if I can try and keep the gushing to a minimum.
I drove up to Chapel Hill on Saturday with some friends for the Battles show at Local 506. It was my first time back to Chapel Hill in a good while, and my first time seeing a show at Local 506, which I found to be a fun little dive venue. As I’ve mentioned before, I saw Battles a year or so ago in Columbia (a show that I’ve since heard referred to as ‘legendary’ by both people who were there and people who just heard about it through the grapevine). I’ve also been listening to an advanced copy of the upcoming Battles full-length debut Mirrored at an almost obsessive level for about a month. So to say that this was a highly anticipated show for me would be a grand understatement. Luckily, it actually exceeded my expectations.
The stage set-up was almost exactly as I remembered it from before. Keyboards, guitars, a winding, countless tangle of wires, Mac laptops (two this time!), and that drum kit with the one cymbal propped high above the stage so that drummer John Stainer has to nearly stand every time he hits it.
The band opened with ‘Tij,’ one of my favorites off the new album. ‘Singer’/guitarist/keyboardist Tyondai Braxton breathed oddly into his mic, looping it to create a bass beat for the other guitarists Ian Williams and Dave Konopka to build off of. From there, the band went on to do quite a few songs from the upcoming album including amazing album-opener ‘Race In,’ featuring some of the tightest drumming I’ve seen in my life, ‘Tonto,’ ‘Rainbow,’ and a blisteringly rocking version of the album’s first single ‘Atlas,’ which the crowd went wild over. I’m assuming that maybe only half the people in the audience had heard the track since it hasn’t been released and has only been available as a YouTube video and track streamed on Pitchfork and this humble blog. The crowd’s reaction solidified my opinion that ‘Atlas’ is an undeniably amazing track, perhaps the best (and certainly most accessible) song Battles has ever recorded.
The band closed with a slightly reworked version of either ‘Tras 2’ or ‘Tras 3’ (my vinyl copies of the B and C EPs are currently still packed up ‘cause I’m a procrastinator) that caused spontaneous dancing to erupt throughout the crowd. All in all, it was an incredible show, and I wonder if Battles are simply incapable of playing a show that’s not ‘legendary.’
Battles Atlas (Video Mix)
Buy Battles music here and check out the band’s MySpace page to see their upcoming tour dates so you can check them out for yourself.
I’ll update this entry with my crappy pictures of the show once I get them uploaded to my computer and try to make them look better.
This happens every year. January comes and I churn out a list of my top ten (or twenty-one, as the case might be) records of the year, knowing full well that I'll discover something in the first months of the new year that, had I heard it, would've made it on the list.
Well, Athens' Cinemechanica wouldn't just have made the list — they would've placed very highly. I've always said that what betrays a band most is its selection of cover songs. Well, I came across Cinemechanica — and its 2006 relase The Martial Arts — upon hearing the quintet covered the soundtrack to Contra in its entirety at the Georgia Theatre in Athens. For those of you unfamiliar with the score to the eight-bit NES classic, it's an impressive feat, and one that requires massive chops to pull off successfully.
So it goes without saying, then, that Cinemechanica can flat out play. Categorically speaking, it's easy to lump Cinemechanica into the math rock genre with Drive Like Jehu, but applying the term here just doesn't do the band justice. Cinemechanica eschews the masturbatory forays into self-indulgent guitar wankery that bogs down so many math rock bands, opting instead to keep the odometer pinned with post-hardcore urgency. (Think a more metal Fugazi or Celebrate the New Dark Age-era Polvo on cheap trucker speed.) The influence is most notable in the twisting, frantic dual-guitar outbursts of Bryant Williamson and Andy Pruett, which rip through monster riffs and snaky post-punk leads. The twitchy rhythms of the two-headed drum monster of Mike Albanese and Jeremy Fountain — yes, that's two drummers — recall the best licks of Brendan Canty and provide a perfectly solid and tasty backbeat for the unbridled fury of jams like "Braintarp" and "I'm Tired of Paul McCartney."
Critics have compared the band to Dischord's finest, and that's an apt comparison. There's a definite Fugazi and Q and Not U influence here, but Cinemechanica's much too razor-sharp to be defined by band comparisons.
The video for "I'm Tired of Paul McCartney."
I've posted a video from La Blogotheque before, and I'm about to do it again. I really enjoy the way that they take the bands and their songs out of a normal atmosphere, and while the idea of using glasses and silverware as instruments is nothing new, it's done so well here that I can't help but post it. It doesn't hurt that the band under La Blogotheque's lens this time around is The National - one of my favorite groups of the past couple years - and the song is a new one off their upcoming album Boxer, which I'm having problems waiting for.
Gorilla vs Bear has just posted the first track off Boxer. It's pretty damn great. You should check it out.
I've recently become re-interested (not a word) with the Britpop that made my high school world go around. This is mostly due to the excellent comic book series Phonogram of which I'll be posting a review of once the series finishes and the trade comes out. One of the songs that I've been coming back to again and again in my re-exploration is Pulp's 'My Legendary Girlfriend' from their slightly pre-Britpop album Separations. With Jarvis Cocker's sexy whispers leading into an appropriately amazing chorus, it's a perfect example of why I love the band so much.
Pulp My Legendary Girlfriend
Buy Pulp music here.
Posted by tug at 11:03 PM
With Idlewild dropping the proverbial ball, what Scots can we look to now for good music? Who from the land of scholars and great drinkers is capable of carrying the banner? Well, I'd put my money on The Twilight Sad. Of all the bands I'm missing by not going to SXSW, I'm most upset about not getting to see these guys. With their debut full-length Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters
set to drop on Apr. 18th out now from the sure-do-know-what-they're-doing FatCat Records and lots of U.S. dates, these Glaswegians are poised to do big things.
The Twilight Sad create huge, post-rock anthems that all generally tend to start off slow and sparse, letting singer James Graham's thickly-accented vocals take center stage. His voice and words are one of the band's strongsuits. As a frontman, Graham is comprable to The National's Matt Berninger, singing with the conviction of a poet. After the smoky intros, the songs tend to kick in proper - cymbals crash down like debris, and guitars drone loudly like a million bees overhead. It's a noisy and imperfect affair, and that's what makes it special. It never comes off as over-produced or too clean, and when you can actually hear Graham backing off the mike occasionally, then the music feels real. Enjoy the track.
The Twilight Sad Cold Days From The Birdhouse
Head to the band's myspace page to stream some other terrific songs from the album, and buy their music here.
Life is hard for a wunderkind musician. Think about it. You're 18 to 20 years old, and people are already praising your work left and right when really you're just a narcissistic kid working through the self-possessed horror that was your adolescence. It would be very easy to deny your own maturity and stay stuck in that attention-garnering position for years (just look at Ben Kweller or Ben Lee). Irish pop wunderkind Patrick Wolf faced a similar problem but with his latest release The Magic Position, he embraces his post-pubescence and comes out all the better for it.
At 23 and with two brilliant but angst-ridden and somewhat dour records under his belt, Wolf has taken his usual Brit-folk and chamber pop music and turned it into a triumphant anthem that is occasionally pure joy in musical form while still acknowledging his darker past. He put it best himself in one of his recent blog posts: 'I have toured my albums before and communicated darkness and mysteries and have left feeling empty but now after communicating my loves I feel full and still hungry for more.' These newfound loves are no more apparent than in the title track, which is one of those incredible love songs where while it could be about a lover (especially with the slightly suggestive title), it is just as easily applied to friends or family who inspire and care for you.
This new lyrical approach has also had an effect on Wolf's already impressive songcrafting. His violins, pianos, and interesting inclusion of electronic bleeps and beats still come across like The Divine Comedy meets Final Fantasy (the band, not the video game) but now have a bouncy, jovial quality that is undeniable, giving even the most crepuscular moments of the album (like Augustine, below) a light of hope.
Patrick Wolf The Magic Position
Patrick Wolf Augustine
Buy The Magic Position and Patrick Wolf's other albums here.
Dearest Tug has already extolled the virtues of hot-shit Barsuk act Menomena before. The Portland trio's video for "Wet and Rusting" (quite possibly the finest cut from the very fine Friend and Foe album) recently debuted on MTV's Subterranean Blog, and it's about everything you'd expect to see from a band that cheekily named it's first record I am the Fun Blame Monster! (Double bonus points if you get why that's cheeky without looking it up on Wikipedia.) The Lance Bangs-directed video finds Death busting up Menomena practice and granting the group their last wishes. See it here. (Yes, MTV is fully aware that its website-producing interns got the title wrong.)
In other fun Menomena-related items, if you search for Menomena on YouTube, this is the first hit:
The fun blame monster, indeed!
So I didn't know about this neat little feature on iTunes where if you're on a shared network with other computers, you can see and listen to other users' libraries. I discovered this while sitting at a local coffee shop this evening. A shared library popped up on my iTunes, and I scrolled through. It was full of stuff that every girl I ever dated in high school listened to. Tori Amos, Indigo Girls, and every damn thing that Ani Difranco ever recorded - including bootlegs of live shows. Since I was sitting at a college coffee house, I looked around the room at all the hipster girls, but none of them had a laptop. I forgot about the whole thing until this guy sitting across from me closed his laptop and, instantly, the shared library disappeared. I was highly amused.
So I don't want to harp on about Battles too much, but I just got to listen to their upcoming album Mirrored, and it's one of the best albums I've heard in years. It's brilliantly composed, taking a very classical approach to experimental art-rock. I'm dying to see how it works live, and I have a feeling this album will be on many of those end-of-the-year lists that we blogger/music geeks are so fond of. Warp Records just officially released the video for the first single 'Atlas,' which has been floating the around the Intarwub for a few weeks now. The band apparently built the set for the video themselves, and it ties into the album artwork as well ('mirrored', get it?). You must watch.
As a bonus, I'm reposting the video mix of 'Atlas,' which is much shorter than the album version, and I may even like it better. I can't decide.
Battles - Atlas (Video Mix)
Pat and I both being big fans of workday procrastination had a long talk about the new Arcade Fire album (out tomorrow) on Friday and decided that instead of each of us reviewing it, we would just post the conversation. So please enjoy our banter, musical snobbery, and us trying to guess what Pitchfork would give them album. (We were both wrong. And why don't you listen to some of the new Arcade Fire while you read?
Arcade Fire Black Mirror
tug: Dude. This new Arcade Fire is a little disappointing.
pat: how so?
tug: I don't know. Can't put my finger on it. The string arrangements aren't as good as when Owen Pallet was doing them. And I've heard live versions of most of these songs, and the album versions just sound completely different than what I expected from the live recordings.
pat: fair enough.
tug: Are you digging it?
tug: I mean, ‘No Cars Go’ comes the closest to what I wanted it to be, but it's still not quite there.
pat: honestly, i don't enjoy it as much as i did Funerals.
tug: OK, I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one who thought that.
pat: but i still think it's good.
pat: i think there are some remarkable moments on Black Mirror and while i was married to the sound of "no cars go" from a bootleg i heard, i'm very pleased with how it sounds now.
pat: i think if people are expecting Funerals, part two, they'll be monumentally disappointed.
tug: Yeah, it's definitely missing something from Funerals. Do you think it's just because Pallet's gone? There's got to be more to it than that.
pat: production-wise, it seems a lot more clamored.
tug: Yeah. Not as 'we did this in our house!'
pat: as much as there was going on in Funerals, there seems to be twice as much going on now.
tug: Yeah, they've added all these new musicians, and while I bet it makes the live shows incredible, it just sounds like the guy who mixed it had no idea what to do with it all.
pat: i think that's definitely part of it. the old saying is, "too many cooks spoil the broth." i think what's working in the arcade fire's favor, though, is that they're trying to grow. there are a lot of darker songs here.
tug: Really dark stuff. But yet, it's kind of a really good time.
pat: it is. it's a strange kind of good time, like the one you get from getting really high and watching a spaced-out science fiction movie.
tug: Yeah, like when I used to relish in the wallowing darkness of an Elliot Smith album.
pat: i can't help but wonder if there's not going to be a little bit of a backlash with this record, though. and, moreover, i wonder how they'll approach the next album.
tug: Of course. Ooh. Let's do our own Pitchfork predictions.
pat: man. that's a tough one.
tug: I'm thinking they give it a 7.9.
pat: they're either really going to love it or really going to hate it.
tug: I wonder what they gave Funerals.
tug: Wow. Your google is faster than my google. I bow to your google.
pat: it's interesting, because as much as they jizzed over Funerals, they didn't like the self-titled ep.
tug: Yeah. Which is not very different from Funerals.
pat: i wonder if pitchfork will be able to evaluate it as an entirely different entity. because it is. it's totally different than Funerals. it's ironically sparser, yet more calamitously orchestrated. it's darker, but somehow more hopeful.
tug: And those organs are crazy!
pat: i think pitchfork will stick it in the low-to-mid sevens. i'm guessing 7.3.
tug: Really, I don't know if it's any more or less hopeful.
pat: there's a sense that i get about it that it is.
tug: The chance for backlash is pretty huge here, though. Think about it. These guys sold out five shows in NYC in something like five minutes. They are now huge.
pat: they are. and indie kids hate anything huge.
tug: Yep. I mean, I'm kicking myself for not seeing them earlier 'cause now I don't want to see them even though I'm sure it's amazing, but I would be worried that a bunch of frat boys would be in the audience or something. "Hey, man! Play 'Crown of Love!' WHOOOO!"
pat: i think your average vaguely indie-minded asshole will really only like "black mirror" and "the well and the lighthouse," which is the most Funerals-esque song among the lot.
tug: 'Intervention' is a lot like the first album too.
pat: i'm a big fan of the spookiness of the quieter songs like "windowsill" and "my body is a cage" for the production.
tug: 'Keep the Car Running' may work the best for my money.
pat: i like the instrumentation on "keep the car running."
tug: Yeah. It switches gears a couple times, which is one of my favorite things that Arcade Fire does.
pat: well then i guess i'd think you'd like it more than i think you do. because the whole record's one gearshift after another.
tug: That's true. I dunno. I'm listening to it now, and I'm enjoying it more than all the previous listens.
pat: maybe it's one of those records that just needs to grow on people.
pat: ultimately, those are the most rewarding albums. Funerals had a quality that instantly jumped out at you. i don't think neon bible shares that.
tug: Definitely, the opposite you get is, for instance, Arctic Monkeys. Love the first listen, like it less and less until hate forms.
tug: Yeah, I remember listening to Funerals for the first time. I had a little flip out about it.
pat: right. and i don't think neon bible isn't as visceral. it's a little slow-burning. almost like a dour, more experimental Nebraska.
tug: Sophomore albums are hard, man. Do you stick to what made the first one a hit, or do you push forward? And I think they found a nice mix of both here.
pat: i'm much more inclined to fault a band that retreads its debut. which is why i ultimately can't fault the arcade fire here.
tug: Nah, it's definitely different. 'Black Wave Bad Vibrations' sounds nothing like the first album. It hardly sounds like Arcade Fire. It's all new wave-y.
pat: exactly. and while it might not be as likable as Funerals — and i don't think it is — it demands to be appreciated for what it is.
tug: Sure. I think it's a step forward for them, and it's given them lots of great stuff for their live shows especially.
tug: I dig it. I am not immediately falling in love with it like Funerals, and I doubt I'll ever love it as much as Funerals. But it stands on it's own as a really good album.
pat: and that's my point to a t.
tug: Glad to see we agree.
Since Kevin already covered this show's headliner, the excellent local band Sunshone Still, I thought I would give a shout out to the other bands on the bill. I think this will be my third time seeing Raleigh's American Aquarium, and each time gets better and better. Here's what I thought about them about a year or so ago when I wrote about them in the Free Times.
Also hailing from Raleigh, the Whiskeytown comparison is immediate with American Aquarium, but upon further listening, singer BJ Barham's Jay Farrar-like snarl comes out over a wave of smoky viola and organ, creating something apart from the hometown heroes. Solid songwriting and an eclectic array of instruments could help American Aquarium carve out its own corner of the alt-country kingdom.
The band is touring now after spending some time in the studio where I heard they cut a track or two with former Whiskeytown songstress Caitlin Cary. I'll have a review of that as soon as I can get my hands on a copy, and I'll probably be doing a show review of their upcoming hometown gig on Mar. 16th with Cory Branan, which should be amazing. Put it this way, the only bands that I'm 'friends' with on myspace are bands where I actually know and like the people on a personal level, and both American Aquarium and Cory Branan are on my friends list. Anyhow, check out this track from American Aquarium, recorded live in Charleston, SC, which I once called 'a music blogger's dream- an engaging tune that manages to espouse everything that makes that particular genre great.' No lie.
American Aquarium Lover Too Late
Magnetic Flowers will also be playing the show, and long-time IndieRocketeers will remember how I feel about them. Now that I think about it, I think the first time I saw Magnetic Flowers or American Aquarium live was at the same show. I may be wrong about that, but I'm certainly looking forward to seeing how they've both grown over time.
Magnetic Flowers When Night Comes
Buy American Aquarium music here.
File this under "If You Haven't Heard It, It's New to You": Gamenight's long-player, Simple Starts in the Mind, came out in August 2006 on The New Beat Records (based in the group's hometown of Knoxville), and we IndieRocketeers discovered it (OK, maybe just me) when the post-emo quartet was slated to play New Brookland Tavern in December. The show was cancelled, but "Cookies for Brains" and "Progression" still live on in our iPods. (Again, maybe just mine.) Gamenight deftly straddles the line between indie rock and emo, owing as much to the guitar wizardry of post-hardcore acts like Drive Like Jehu and Bear Vs. Shark and it does the straight-forward, heart-obtusely-on-sleeve style of Braid and Hey Mercedes. The secret weapon here might be drummer Brandon Manis — Manis' solid, inventive drumming creates a perfect dynamic tension that meshes perfectly with the angular twin-guitar assault of Robby Kerr and brother Josh Manis. (Bassist Matt Presley is no slouch, either.) "Cookies for Brains" is the more accessible of the two songs here — catchy verses and choruses with a driving, Stretch Arm Strong-esque breakdown at the end. To call it fist-pumpable isn't egregious. But "Progression" might ultimately be the more rewarding listen. Starting off with a perfect post-hardcore riff that's equally dissonant and melodic, "Progression" meanders through broken jazz chords and plenty of assertive guitar licks before melting into a coda with guitar swells that echo Don Henley's "Boys of Summer" in the absolute best way possible. Perfect end-of-summer-sunset-driving tune.
Gamenight will be at the Map Room in Charleston on June 5 with fellow Knoxvillains Mouth Movements — enterprising youngsters who are interested in bringing this band to Columbia should check out gamenightmusic.com.
Cookies for Brains