Monthly Archives: March 2010

Danger Mouse.

Danger Mouse stinks. Really, why are we still talking about this talentless chump?  Early on he had promise with the ingenuity displayed on “The Grey Album”, combining The Beatle’s “White Album” with Jay-Z’s “Black Album”.  But what has he done since? Gnarls Barkley is over-rated dreck as far as I’m concerned, and every project he’s overseen as “producer” has turned out drab and disappointing (Gorillaz, Beck, The Good, the Bad, and the Queen, etc). He is the musical equivalent of M. Night Shyamalann. M. Night’s first couple movies were great, but I dare you to argue that anything since “Unbreakable” has been watchable (I refuse to listen to Zoey Deschanel’s She & Him simply because of her association with “The Happening”; the same goes for Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch).

With the recent release of Broken Bells self-titled album, a collaboration between The Shin’s James Mercer and Danger Mouse, I decided to pronounce this as “Bob Dylan Hates Danger Mouse Week” here at BDWPS.com. Over the next few days I will be reviewing his destruction of artists throughout the past decade. Like Ebenezer Scrooge, I’m going to take you through Danger Mouse’s career, starting with a look back at his first album, “The Grey Album”, and how it was way too over-hyped at the time. I’ll then move to the present, discussing how he has somehow taken the pristine voice of James Mercer and buried it beneath production. And finally, I look at what life after Danger Mouse looks like.

I’m done with the hoopla that surrounds this guy. It’s undeserving. We must stop this sickly rodent from roaming the streets of the music world, infecting talented musicians with his bland, predictable production style that paralyzes creativity.

Where's the Orkin Man when you need him?

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Top 100 Albums of 2000 (100-81)

Finally the countdown begins.  Get in touch with us if you want to know where to get ahold of the album legally.  Again, an asterisk next to the album’s title signifies Android50’s approval.  – Songssuck

2000: the year I really began paying attention to music not heard every day on the radio.  This should be fun.  – Ho Chi Unser Jr.


100.  Badly Drawn Boy – The Hour of the Bewilderbeast *

I checked out this album because of Damon Gough’s soundtrack to the movie, About A Boy. Whether you like this album as well as the music to that movie depends on your tolerance for eccentric self-indulgence and experimentally laced White Album length pop album. – Kid Kilowatt

99.  Death Cab for Cutie – We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes

The first band on this list I checked out because of Built to Spill comparisons.  Even though they are probably now the biggest/most popular of the Pacific Northwest bands, they have never gotten that many plays at my crib, they’re usually too mopey and depressing.  But this is their best album, it has some great songs and if you’re in the mood it hits the spot. – Songssuck

98.  Go-Betweens – The Friends of Rachel Worth

I’m not that cool, so this was the first Go-Betweens album I heard.  I had read about how great their 80’s output was, but had never dived in to find out for myself.  Actually, it was hearing that Elliot Smith, Sam Coomes and the ladies from Sleater-Kinney were the backing band that made me check it out.  I was at first disappointed as it was only on 3 songs I could tell S-K was involved, the riffs on “The Clock” and “German Farmhouse” were clearly S-K’s doing, and Corin Tucker sings on “Going Blind” even though she is so subdued one cannot tell it is her.  It was the Australian duo’s first album after disbanding in 1989, so it should have been a disaster, but these two clearly know their way around a pop song. — Pthestudp

97.  Burmese – Monkeys Tear Man to Shreds, Man Never Forgives Ape, Man Destroys Environment

Literally probably the aural equivalent of the album’s title.  Two basses, no guitar create some intense noise with lots of low end crushing with spastic drumming. – Dr. Anonymous

96.  Grandaddy – The Sophtware Slump *

I remember buying this album based solely on comparisons to the Flaming Lips and Radiohead.  I could never hear the Radiohead, but listening to it now it does remind me of the Lips a bit. – Kid Kilowatt

95. Eels – Daisies of the Galaxy *

The Eels’ Daisies of the Galaxy is an album you put on to lay back, chill and drink an ice cold beer.  This album has attitude, despite being the Eels’ softest album.  The attitude can be summed up with the chorus of the closing track: “Goddamn right, it’s a beautiful day.”  Mark E’s vocals and overall simplistic style make this album worthy of any music lover’s collection. Mondo Topless

94.  Mouse on Mars – Niun Niggung

Oftentimes when an artist releases an album that has a lighter, happier feel than their previous works, it is dismissed as a lesser or somehow trivial work.  (I’ve often said that Radiohead only need to release a “party” album to get horrible reviews).  For some reason, playful and fun albums are seldom considered as significant; when is the last time one heard one described as “timeless?”  So even though Niun Niggung probably isn’t as good as Iaora Tahiti or Idiology it is not because of its bouncy playfulness and it is worthy to sit along side them in the Mouse on Mars canon. – Suzy Cream Cheese

93.  Two Lone Swordsmen – Tiny Reminders

Small aide memoires?  More like bitch slaps to the face (delivered via fucked up electro, call it techno if you must). – Songssuck

92.  Sonic Youth – NYC Ghosts & Flowers

NYCG&F’s tribute to beat poetry, bohemian New York, and avant-garde noise was recorded shortly after all of Sonic Youth’s inimitable, custom-tweaked & tuned guitars were stolen.  Pretty much the redheaded stepchild of the SY discography (it was given an unwarranted ‘0.0” by Pitchfork). – Dr. Anonymous

91.  Idlewild – 100 Broken Windows *

Really these songs could be on any alternative/modern rock station.  But I keep coming back to it after all these years and I wasn’t even expecting to like this anymore when I listened to this again for this list.  But I did.  I’ve heard them compared to Nirvana and R.E.M. a lot, though I don’t hear it.  But something about it makes it impossible for me to describe so I’ll go with it.  It’s like Nickelback + Green Day with awesomer guitars and a better vocalists.  No one is going to want to hear it after that comparison. – Pthestudp

90.  Cave In – Jupiter

In high school all one had to say was “Slayer” to get my attention.3 So when I heard about this band who equaled an addition of Radiohead + Slayer (even though I am pretty sure all I knew about Radiohead was that “Creep” song) I had to check it out.  I fucken loved Until Your Heart Stops, and couldn’t wait for their next album.  What I got next was a shit sandwich: it was obvious to me that Jupiter was a full-scale sellout.  Soaring falsetto vocals, ornate poppy melodies fit for arenas, this shit was an obvious attempt to get on MTV (and I do believe I was right, after this they signed to a major label).  Revisiting it years later I began to like it, and now; 10 years later I can appreciate what they were trying to do (it’s called making money.  I cannot appreciate it as much as I appreciate their metal albums though). – Songssuck

89.  Zion I – Mind Over Matter

Old school loops and beats, but totally off kilter, smooth but hiccupping and rapid fire. But frankly, at 21 songs and almost 75 minutes this is a bit too much of a good thing, even if most of it is catchy and funky.  – Dr. Anonymous

88.  Damien Jurado – Ghost of David *

Sometime in 2003 I burnt Android50 a bunch of cd-rs.  He reviewed a lot of them.  Here is what he had to say about Ghost of David: “The first time I listened to this CD I almost cried… literally.  It was a rainy afternoon, had a rough day at school, and stuck this in on the way home.  Not bad… sniffle sniffle… pretty good stuff… sniffle sniffle… You’re SO right Damien!  His lyrics are great; they tell a story yet they still have that emotional edge that is sometimes lost in the narrative song.”  That’s Android50’s ’03 take and to that I would add, “it’s pretty folky and there are some really good songs.”  — Songssuck

87.  Giant Sand – Chore of Enchantment

Convertino and Burns of Calexico fame join Howe Gelb for his 10th or so album as Giant Sand.  The desert always attracts a certain type of person, and that explains where this music comes from.  It will be interesting to see where Songssuck ranks this one with Calexico’s offering from this year, but for my money I’ll take Chore of Enchantment. Add even more drugs to Neil Young’s more deserty albums or Meat Puppets’ II and one can begin to put their ears around this one.  Like tequila, an aquired taste. – Suzy Creamcheese

86.  Six Organs of Admittance – Dust and Chimes

Sunny and druggy, ragga influenced, vocal chants coming from some hallucinogenic otherworlderness.  John Fahey, Robbie Basho and early Tyrannosaurus Rex are all good reference points.  Ben Chasny is an amazing guitarist who also plays with Comets on Fire.  Should check it out if you are a fan of the acoustic guitar. – Willie Rambo Strider

85.  Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker*

Android50 and Suzy Creamcheese are the Ryan Adams fans of the BDWPS writers and the only Whiskeytown I own is a cd-r he gave me.  But I’d say this is his most country album and is overrated in my opinion.  Having said that, it has two of my all time favorite songs on it: “To Be Young (is to be sad, is to be high)” and “Come Pick Me Up.”  I could talk shit on Ryan all day long (and used to) but it would be worthless when he is capable of writing two songs like that (in fact that is why I picked up this album, after finding out that song on the movie Old School was on this album).  I listened to “Come Pick Me Up” four times in a row first time I listened to this album and once more after the record was spinning. – Dr. Anonymous

84.  Eternal Elysium – Spiritualized D

Japanese doom band carrying the torch of earlier Japanese heavy psych bands, like Flower Travellin’ Band, Blues Creation, Speed Glue & Shinki, and Flied Egg.  – Ho Chi Unser Jr.

83.  Yo La Tengo – And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out

Everyone who knows knows that YLT is one of my all time faves.  But I must say this album still throws me for a loop.  You see, this album is completely devoid (except for the excellent “Cherry Chapstick”) of distortion, noise and hard rocking anthems.  It is what I call their ‘wussy’ album.  I mean the songs are great, but they are all gentle lullabies.  We have heard songs like these before from these guys, but where is the diversity YLT are known for?  I realize that they were going for something else on this album, but it just doesn’t do it for me.  Still, a good album (and a critic’s favorite by the way), but I have a feeling it is one of the maybe three on this list my mother might like. – Songssuck

82.  Frogs – Racially Yours

Supposedly this album was finished in ’93, but no one would release it due to the controversial cover and lyrics.  If you are not familiar with the Frogs, they are two brothers from Milwaukee who had previously written It’s Only Right and Natural an album about being gay (by two straights).  Racially Yours is sung from different first person perspectives: a slave, a slave owner, a racist, a revolutionary minded black man, a slave trader, and other various characters.  The controversy over this album is overstated, it is an indictment of racism, anyone who cannot figure that out has their head way too far up their ass.  I understand if one thinks this album is too irreverent, offensive or absurd, but it is hard to actually listen and find it actually racist.  Whether this is insulting or thought provoking depends on one’s viewpoint.  The actual music is wonderful (although out of 25 songs there are some duds), real lo-fi, glammy, melodic, lush and fun.  The lyrics are not as funny as on past releases.  Pearl Jam, Kurt Cobain, Kim Deal, and The Smashing Pumpkins are all bands I remember championing them back in the day.  – Dr. Anonymous

81.  Boredoms – Vision Creation Newsun

How much you like this album will depend upon whether you like chaotic, spastic noise punk anthems Boredoms or cosmic hippie psychedelic trance Boredoms, Vision Creation Newsun being one of the latter.  Everyone choose sides. –Wille Rambo Strider

Boredoms?! Better than At the Drive-In “Relationship of Command”!? What a disgrace. – Android50


3 Some things never change.

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Video Clip of the Week: Duchess and the Duke “Back to Me”

Here’s a video I filmed last week at SXSW of The Duchess and the Duke performing “Back to Me”.  They put on a great show, although I wish her guitar and vocals had been a little louder. I like how they are performing this calming song while you can see the bedlam on Sixth Street in the windows behind them.

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Moonface “Dreamland EP: marimba and shit-drums”

Moonface
“Dreamland EP: marimba and shit-drums”
[Jagjaguwar]

Rating: 8.5

There is only one song on Moonface’s EP “Dreamland” and it is called “marimba and shit-drums”.  It’s straight to the point because, in fact, the song is comprised of just that: a marimba and shit-drums.  Of course, you also hear Spencer Krug’s voice, but otherwise it is simply a marimba and shit-drums; nothing more, nothing less. With the added fact that the song runs for 20 minutes, you might think this is a throw-away album, a joke, an example of self-indulgence. And you may be right. Maybe.

Afterall, Spencer Krug has spread his talents pretty thin in the past few years, working in his multitude of projects: Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown, Swan Lake, and Fifths of Seven (not to mention the work his done with Frog Eyes).  How could this album be any good when you think about it? A 20 minute song consisting of a marimba and shit-drums, performed by a guy who’s involved in half a dozen other projects? Why did he even release this to the public?

I’ll tell you why: because it fucking rules.  The constant pulse of the marimba gives the album an imminence, a feeling that the echo of the wooden bars being struck by a mallet is building towards something, racing toward a culmination.  Then, of course, the shit-drums kick in and it’s on.  The crackling of the harsh rhythm plays as the perfect antithesis to the happy-go-lucky marimba.  I don’t know if anyone has ever used the marimba in this fashion. Usually you hear the instrument in tropical fare, but Spencer has taken the joyful sounds of the African instrument and somehow given it tension, made it angrier, made it sound more, dare I say, hardcore.

The lyrics are just as peculiar and captivating. The words are filled with a plethora of imagery. The theme of the album is, once again, quite blatantly about a “dreamland”. Krug talks of chameleons, towers, and mountains, all told through an ocean motif. The Moonface website that coincides with this album (http://moonface.ca/) features an interactive look at Krug’s dream journal where much of the storyline arises from, and it even offers a “dream forum” for fans to go share their dreams (is there anything more uninteresting than hearing other people’s dreams?)

Through a minimalist lens, Spencer Krug shows us that he doesn’t need a full-piece band to produce amazing music.  With only two simple instruments he can create music that is just as dramatic and heartfelt as anything by Explosions in the Sky.  Creating explosions with only two instruments?  In essence, Krug is the MacGyver of the music world.

MacGyver's "dreamland" consists of paper clips and chewing gum.

(If you didn’t notice, the entire song is in stream form at the top. If you’d like to purchase the album, he’s selling it for donations or you can buy the LP which comes with a free download)



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SXSW 2010

South By Southwest 2010 turned out to be one of the strangest yet in my seven years of attending the music festival.  There were some disappointments (both GZA and The Title Tracks were no shows), some major changes (Todd P and his legendary day shows decided to pack up and head to Mexico), and there was, at least in my perspective, an unexpected Canadian take-over of Austin (it will make sense later).  We also began our first real promotion for BDWPS.com, plastering homemade stickers all over the city of Austin.  I even handed out a few business cards, which is just plain silly when you think about it.

Bob Dylan looking over a stranger’s shoulder at the Liar’s show.

But one thing that had the biggest impact on our experience this year was the absence of my long-time SXSW comrade SongsSuck (as he would like to be referred to now).  He did make the trip to Austin but was gone by 6 a.m. on Thursday, opting to forego the remainder of the festival in order to fulfill what he refered to as “a life-time dream” by watching a kid he coached in high school compete at the College Wrestling Nationals (I think he should change his name from “SongsSuck” to “LittleBoysInSingletsRule”). Nonetheless, Johnny Good Year and I still had another great week at SXSW, despite all the changes taking place.

Best Band Discovered- Pivot

One of the best parts of SXSW is coming home with a list of new bands I need to check out.  Unfortunately, this year I didn’t have many of those “Holy crap, this band is amazing!” moments. This is probably due to SongsSucks not being around, the ying to my yang when it comes to going to shows.  60% of the shows he takes us to are hardly tolerable, but those other 40% have the potential to give a jolt to your musical senses.  Without SongsSuck, we went primarily to shows with bands I wanted to see.  This worked out great because I enjoyed almost everything we attended, yet that discovery element was almost nonexistent.

One of the few moments of the week where I found myself mesmerized by an unfamiliar band occurred at The Phoenix.  Johnny Good Year and myself were at the swanky bar to check out the Born Ruffians and caught the last few songs in Pivot’s set. They are a psychedelic/electronic outfit from the UK who approach dance music from an epic stand-point.  Although I don’t have a clip of them playing, I did find a video of the song that first caught my attention, “O Soundtrack My Heart”.

Worst Venue- The Phoenix

Although both Pivot and the Born Ruffians put on excellent sets, the setting for the show left a bad taste in my mouth. On first impression, The Phoenix overwhelmed me with a dramatic decor of velvet walls, elegant chandeliers, and wall sized paintings of Victorian imagery that seemed to be moving like the haunted painting in “Ghost Busters II”.

Vigo? Are you in there?

I thought the environment of the bar was cool, like something out of “Interview With a Vampire” (back when vampires were still cool).  After Pivot finished up, Johnny went to buy drinks and returned to tell me that it cost him 18 dollars for two drinks. SXSW beer prices are usually hiked up, but this was ridiculous. Then we noticed on the table in front of us there laid a silver bucket and a note that read: Do not sit here unless you paid for a bottle to be brought to your table.  “This must be one of those uppity bars on most nights,” I commented to Johnny, thinking that the bottle deal didn’t apply during SXSW since the room was jam-packed with sweaty, hairy, music fans rather than the high-class clientele I imagined usually enjoyed the velvet womb. When Johnny left to hit the restroom, a waitress approached me with a large group and informed me that they paid to sit on this couch.  I guess I was wrong. These people were douches year round, regardless of SXSW.

Despite my irked mood, Born Ruffians still put on a great set, including the following clip I filmed of a new song that will be on their upcoming album (you can see the glow of the blue chandelier on singer Luke LaLonde’s face):

Best Venue- Lovejoy’s

You would think after seven years of attending SXSW and six years of living an hour away from Austin that there wouldn’t be any venues left that I haven’t set foot in, yet every year, I find myself entering strange new environs.  This year I made my first stop at The Phoenix, The Long Branch Inn, and the Trailer Space Record Store.

My favorite venue of the week though was actually one I’d been to before. Lovejoy’s, a hole in the wall bar located on a side street right off 6th Street, is both a brewery and a brewhaus featuring a couple dozen beers on tap.  In the past the little watering hole seemed quaint and unassuming with its walls covered in beautiful murals and intricate artwork spreading across the rotting ceiling tiles and beams.

What made the brewery stand out so much this year was the fact that each day they held a day party, each serving free beer. Oh sure, tons of day parties offer free beer and liquor but not of the quality of Lovejoy’s! Whether it be Flying Dog’s “Raging Bitch” or Ska Brewing’s “Mopus Hoperandi”, Lovejoy’s opted to serve free cups of hoppy goodness all week. These beers, packed with flavor, were a huge step up from the Miller High Life and Lonestar of most day shin-digs. We visited Lovejoy’s so much during the week that by Saturday’s DC Show, the bartenders were handing us fresh glasses of free Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA before our cups were even empty. Free Dogfish Head? Yes, a free glass of beer made with Sam Calgione’s love and filled with joy.

Lovejoy's: an unofficial sponsor of BDWPS.com!

Best Day Party- Rachael Ray’s Feedback Festival

If you’re not an avid reader of BDWPS.com, then you might not know my love of Rachael Ray and her recipes (I’m probably the only straight male in his 30s who subscribes to her magazine). For the past several years, Rachael has hosted a day show at SXSW, featuring free drinks (mojitos, margaritas, etc), free gourmet appetizers, and an array of great bands (the fact that she had Holy Fuck at her 2008 show proves Rachael is no prude). Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to get into one of her shows. In the early years she had an RSVP. Last year would be her first show open to the public, but the line wrapped around Maggie Mae’s way before the party’s noon start time. This year I went so far as to email Rachael’s talk show, thinking I could be one of those people who wins a prize, in this case a backstage pass, and then screams into the phone over tears for 10 minutes. Of course, those tears never got the chance to shine.

What did happen was a cold spell hitting Austin late Friday night. The frigid temperature and the unforgiving wind both caused problems for any day party set outdoors on Saturday. This included Rachael’s party that took place at Stubb’s BBQ. By the time Johnny and I stumbled by the party, there was no line and still tables stacked with mounds of classy hor dourves. Soon the two of us were stuffing our gullets while She & Him performed on stage. Our menu consisted of Tex-Mex sliders, pulled pork tortillas, quesadilla suiza stacks, and albondigas subs along with a couple strawberry margaritas that were heavily spiked for good measure. After a week of eating cold cut sandwiches in a parking garage and inhaling late night slices of pizzas, Rachael’s fine dining hit the spot.

Worst Band- Voivod

On SongsSuck’s only day of SXSW festivities, he wanted to see the classic Canadian speed-metal group Voivod at the Austin Music Hall. Since he didn’t have a wristband, SongsSuck dished out $15 dollars to see the band, a sign to me that the aging rockers would put on a top-notch show. Boy was I wrong. The decrepit cast of characters moved about the stage slowly and stumbled their way through the music like a band of zombie gypsies. After the first song, SongsSuck turned to me in disgust. “Sorry dude…these guys used to be metal giants.” Now they are simply Metal geriatrics.

I tried to shake the camera to make it look like they were lively.

Best Band- Lullabye Arkestra

I’ve had Lullabye Arkestra’s 2009 album “Threats/Worship” for five months now, and overall, I’m a big fan of the married couple’s approach to hardcore. As much as I enjoy their music, I always felt that the Canadian duo’s album was a bit tongue in cheek. With Justin Small’s main musical project Do Make Say Think, I saw Lullabye Arkestra just being something he did as a favor to his bass-toting wife. Their performance on Friday at the Red7 would prove the sexist in me wrong.  Small, a guitar player for his other band, tore his way through one raucous song after another on his lit up drum kit while Kat Taylor’s fingers plucked up and down the neck of her bass spastically.  Like a modern-day Death From Above (think Canada), the two love birds showed that being married doesn’t mean you have to be boring.

Although the sound quality stinks on this one, you get just a glimpse of their raw power:

Worst Crowd Interaction Moment- Japandroids

Once again my bald head made Pitchfork's SXSW coverage (can you spot me?). This is during "Young Hearts Spark Fire" when the audience still cared.

Another Canadian duo to swoop onto the indie rock musical scene last year were the Japandroids.  I saw them this summer at a small bar in Boise, Idaho with a crowd of a dozen people, so I looked forward to catching them at Emo’s during a day show on Friday with what would be a crammed house.  At first I stood back, watching their performance, but quickly the music took over and I made my way for the heart of the crowd – I needed to dance.  Once out amongst the throng of on-lookers I joined in on the fist pumping and po-going through the band’s biggest hit from last year, “Young Hearts Spark Fire”. When the song came to a close, the crowd settled down faster than an anchor.  Despite my efforts to keep the energy up, all the young hipsters looked at the crazy bald man, me,  with annoyance. I felt a bit like Pierce on “Community”.  Despite my eagerness to enjoy an energetic punk rock show, I still felt these kids had some learning to do. Heck, even the 12 Boise natives at the show this summer could produce a better pit than this sad, slew of Twittering introverts.

With the crowd so dead, it was easy to film a steady shot of their show, although the beers seemed to be trying to keep my bouncy cam alive (take note of how their drummer looks like Hedo Turkoglu):

Best Interaction- The Very Best

When we arrived to the Beauty Bar for The Very Best’s closing show of the night, I could tell something crazy was going to happen. It was packed. I don’t know if a show has been that overcapacitated since the last Great White show.   We could barely manuever through the throng of people as Shout Out Out Out Out finished their set.  Johnny couldn’t hack the sardine like surroundings and chose to leave, while I decided to stick it out to see the band perform. I use the word “band” loosely, knowing that The Very Best consist of a couple DJs and Esau Mwamwaya singing his African inspired melodies.

The stage set-up consisted of a table with a DJ kit, and two inflatable palm trees. A DJ came out and basically pushed play, making the performance as close to karaoke as it gets. Yet, somehow, when Esau Mwamwaya came out onto the stage with a pair of African dancers, all negative thoughts subsided and soon I joined in with the other 100 white people in the room, dancing to the tribal music.  Near the end of the set, the guest rapper (I never caught his name) asked a girl up front onto the stage. Bad idea. Soon the entire audience poured onto the performance area like they had just beaten Kansas in the NCAA tournament. By the song’s end the crowd surfing palm trees were deflating fast  and the performers were forced to climb the speakers in order to escape the bedlam.

His climb above the crowd reminded me of Bilbo emerging from the tree-tops of Mirkwood Forest...yes, I'm a nerd.

Best Solo Artist – Ty Segall

For some reason I didn’t attend any “real” solo shows this year. I’m not really sure why. I’m still a folky at heart, but it just didn’t happen. Due to this lack of singer/songwriters in my pool of artists viewed, I’m going to use this category as an excuse to promote Ty Segall some more (even though he technically has a band). Regardless, the accolades for Ty are definitely earned.  Once again Ty Segall put on a stellar show at SXSW, this time in an eclectic bar on the southside of town called the Longbranch Inn.  While the lame-o’s at the Japandroids show stood in what Isaac Brock would call a “cross-armed stance”, the handful of lo-fi fanatics at the Longbranch were up and po-going away throughout Ty’s set.  With the unfortunate passing of Jay Reatard, I’d like to believe that Ty Segall can keep that retro-pop-punk sound alive and well.

Even when videotaping Ty I couldn’t resist hopping up and down. I would make a horrible camera man:

Best Look-Alike- Jack Black

In the early years of SXSW, we used to always enjoy spotting “celebrities” on the streets (although my celebrity spottings were almost always former MTV VJs).  In recent years these spottings have become less and less, although when the Florida metal band Torche took the stage, I swore that lead singer Steve Brooks was actually Jack Black.  He looked just like Jack, had the body of Jack, and even made the facial expressions of Jack. In fact, I’m beginning to think Jack Black may have went the Hanna Montana route and used his Steve Brooks alter-ego to pursue a real life career in the metal world (no matter how great their music, Tenacious D will always be considered a comedy band).

"No one can destroy the metal! The metal will strike you down with a mighty blow!"

Biggest Surprise- Local Natives

I’ve heard a lot of hype about the band Local Natives in the past month or so, and I gave them a chance, downloading their latest release “Gorilla Manor”.  After a couple listens, the music neither annoyed me nor did it excite me. It was just there – a milk/toast sound that reminded me a bit of The Cold War Kids, another band I gave up on simply because they left me in a blank stare stupor.  “Gorilla Manor” does have  its moments, specifically the cover of the Talking Head’s “Warning Signs” but overall it just didn’t enthrall me.

After a recommendation from a friend, a week or so ago, I decided to give them another shot. She seems to have good taste in music, plus they were playing the Frenchkiss Records show.  The Frenchkiss show I attended at SXSW four years earlier would go down in infamy, so I had plans to give this year’s Les Savy Fav headlined set another go-around.  Local Natives came out to a packed house, and I stood in back with my arms folded, awaiting disappointment.  When the band began strumming their guitars for the introduction to “Wide Eyes” my eyes actually got wider.  Not only did the song have me nodding my head and watching in awe, but it sounded so much better than I remembered it on the album. In fact, every song they played sounded better: the bass more plodding, the drums more frenetic, the harmonious vocals resembling a new age Fleet Foxes. I have since given “Gorilla Manor” another shot, but once again was left in disappointment. Not because it bored me as before, but because I knew it could be so much better.

You know it had to be a good show when this was my viewpoint, and I still loved it.

Best Showcase-Arts & Crafts.

As much as I enjoyed Local Natives, I didn’t enjoy the large crowd.  I know a lot has changed with Frenchkiss Records in the past few years with both the sound of their bands and their association with a major label that will remain un-named, but I still would like to believe that at its core, it’s still the Frenchkiss I knew and loved from their showcase four years ago.  Unfortunately, the show felt sterile. There wasn’t any of the camaraderie I remembered from a few years prior when members of all the bands sat by the stage drinking and pulling pranks.  Where were the Fatal Flying Guilloteens when you need them?

With the community vibe gone, I made the tough decision to miss Les Savy Fav for this year and head over to The Parish to catch the Arts & Crafts Showcase featuring the headliner Broken Social Scene.  Once I climbed the creaky stairs leading up to the bar, I could feel that warmth that seemed absent from Frenchkiss. As I entered the door I was greeted by the guy selling CDs and t-shirts. Walking up to the bar several folks nodded and smiled.  These people weren’t industry insiders…they were Canadians! After USA’s devastating loss to Canada in Olympic hockey I wanted to hate our northern neighbors, but these damn Arts & Crafts Canadians wanted to ruin it all by being nice.

That same cozy feeling would spread throughout the bar and all the way to the stage where all the bands hung out in the wings supporting their fellow Canucks as they took to the stage.  The first band we caught was Zeus, a classic rock band filled with multi-talented musicians who could switch instruments on a dime and all sing like choir boys.  At one point I thought in my head, “They’re like a Canadian Beatles” and moments later Johnny Good Year leaned over and said, “They remind me a bit of the Beatles.” Yes, that’s two for two on The Beatles comparison; par for the course as far as I’m concerned.

Next up was Jason Collett a guy I loved before this week and hated after it. Despite my adoration of his album “Here’s to Being Here”, he came off as an arrogant prick in both performances I caught during the week.  Plus, his once folk stylings have been replaced with a disco-dancey pop blend.  He’s our generations Rod Stewart, moving from “Maggie May” to “Do You Think I’m Sexy”.  The only saving grace of his set was his back-up band, comprised by none other than Zeus. You could tell that Arts & Crafts were a family of musicians (Jason Collett would be the step-cousin no one likes but tolerates).

Finally, Broken Social Scene took the stage and Zeus stood aside to take in it all in.  For the first 30 minutes of the show the band enveloped the crowd with their soothing tones, jumping from classics to new material effortlessly as Kevin Drew had the audience hanging on every word.  Finally, the medley of songs came to a close, giving the crowd the sense that the band was finishing. Then Drew stepped to the microphone and mumbled, “Okay. That was the start of our set.”  Of course, the audience went crazy.

A little later Drew asked the audience not to take anymore pictures or videos claiming, “the internet is destroying our memories.” It sounded a bit pretentious, but the entire audience respected his request (including me).  He followed it up saying, “This is our moment” and then broke into another new song.  Throughout the show Drew seemed to be trying to create something different for all of us, at one point even asking for the house lights to be on so he could see the crowd’s faces. Strange, yes, but I had to respect his efforts to connect with the audience.

By the night’s end, the Broken Social Scene’s set would be a two and a half hour marathon of music.  The band’s cast of characters changed from one song to the next with guests jumping on stage to join in on the Canadian three-ring circus. At 1:50 A.M., when everyone was suspecting that the show was finished, Kevin Drew informed us that he had another surprise up his sleeve. “Every Sunday I go to the same bar back home to see The Beauties, so I decided you guys should hear them too.” He turned to the side of the stage and shouted, “Come on up guys! Play us a couple songs.” Right before our eyes, another band jumped up and grabbed the guitars, breaking into a great punk song.  Kevin Drew hopped down into the crowd and stood a couple feet from me taking in the show as if he was one of us. And really, he was. Tonight wasn’t about Broken Social Scene, Jason Collett, or even The Beautys.  It was about the music, regardless of who played it.  We were all a part of this show, this moment, this family.  No photograph or video could truly capture what happened that night in The Parish. Thankfully, it will remain intertwined in my memory for years to come.

I don’t have any pictures or videos due to Drew’s request, but here’s a link to their website where you can hear some of their new songs:

http://www.brokensocialscene.ca/

Biggest Let-Down- Man Man

Let me start off my saying Man Man put on an incredible show. Amazing. I’ve seen the band countless times and this performance ranks up there with the best of them.  Honus Honus was brilliant as he pranced around spitting water and beating the living crap out of his organ.  The band sounded as boisterous and jumpy as ever. There wasn’t a disappointed person in the house…well, that is, except for me.

Something was missing, and I couldn’t quite place it.  I scanned over the cast of characters and noticed a big hole in the scene to the left of the stage…but what was it?  I flipped through my Rolodex of memory, trying to place the missing piece…The cooky guy! With the tiny biker’s cap that played the metal drum! The guy with the great falsetto! Where was the guy with the falsetto?!  Throughout my many Man Man experiences, one of my favorite performers, other than Honus, was Marlette Seveir.  While many in the band seemed to be putting on a performance, Marlette always came across as truly insane. Maybe that’s why he had been kicked out of the band, unbeknownst to me.

In an instant, my mind flipped back to when I saw the band at the SoKol Underground in Omaha, Nebraska almost five years ago.  A morose Seveir sat on the stage by himself pre-show, staring blankly at the floor.  With SongsSuck and I standing stage side, we decided to talk to the lonely looking fella. When asked how he was doing, Marlette replied, “Not so good. The band’s fighting.”  At the time I saw it as a little band spat, but now, watching the band minus their joker, I couldn’t help but wonder if that was the beginning of the end for Marlette.

The remainder of the show my eyes kept being pulled toward the empty spot on the stage. No matter how great the performance, I couldn’t help but notice that the falsetto singing wasn’t quite as strong, that the banging upon the metal can didn’t have the same ring, that the stage theatrics didn’t seem quite as chaotic or authentic. And then I realized one other major piece was missing: my good old friend SongsSuck. I’d never seen the band without my partner in crime, and I’d never been to SXSW without him by my side.

Sure, Man Man sounded great without Marlette and SXSW 2010 was a blast even without my friend, but in both instances, it just wasn’t the same without that ornery, unpredictable character keeping things interesting.

A clip of the Marlette-less Man Man:

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Yeasayer “Odd Blood”/Ruby Suns “Fight Softly

Last weekend The Dude finally got his due.  Jeff Bridges, who has been submitting stellar performance after stellar performance throughout his career, received his first Oscar for Best Actor.  What makes it all the more redeeming is the fact that Bridges didn’t have to pull the classic “turn toward an Oscar nod” by gaining weight or playing a retard. No, Bridges won it on his own terms.
An example of patronizing the Academy occurred in 2004 when the comely Charlize Theron won Best Actress for her portrayal of Aileen Wuornos in “Monster”.  I’m sure she put on a riveting performance and all that James Lipton-y crap, but let’s get real: she won because she, amidst all her beauty, was able to play a homely woman with mental issues.  While reviewers described “Monster” as her “most gripping work”, I would choose to watch a movie featuring the beautiful version of Charlize over ugly Charlize anytime (yes, that includes “Reindeer Games”).
In the past few weeks, I’ve seen a couple of my favorite artists following the “Oscar” formula, attempting to gain more acceptance from the mainstream. Back in 2008, both Yeasayer and Ruby Suns came onto the scene with a sound that tetered between freak-folk and world music, with natural, organic sounds ebbing and flowing together in an experimental stream of melody. In 2010, a lot has changed in both bands’ sounds – for one band the change kind of works while the other seems completely lost without their tribal instrumentation.

Yeasayer
“Odd Blood”
Secretly Canadian

Rating: 7

I must confess: I had high expectations for Yeasayer.  I loved the band’s 2008 release “All Hours Cymbals” due to it’s pastoral, spacious approach, featuring a sound that is both vast and sparse at the same time.  The new album, “Odd Blood”, is highly produced, and the once barren landscape is replaced with a processed, shiny sound that seems constrained by production value.  If “All Hours Cymbals” is whole milk, “Odd Blood” is soy. But you know what? I kind of like soy milk (at least on cereal), and despite my urges to burp it back up, I kind of like Yeasayer’s new sound.  I don’t see myself listening to “Odd Blood” as endlessly as I have with “All Hours Cymbals”, but I can’t deny that, amidst its glossy over-extensions, “Odd Blood” is a collection of great 80s inspired synth pop.

At time’s the band’s retro reaching seem like almost a novelty.  “I Remember” conjures up images of Judd Nelson and Molly Ringwald kissing in a high school parking lot. Fortunately, the band’s signature rumbling drums make an occasional appearance, providing a quick reminder that this album wasn’t recorded 30 years ago in the age of the skinny tie.  I can’t deny that “Odd Blood” is loaded with a barrage of catchy tunes; I suppose I should admit that “The Dude abides.” Yet I still yearn for the band’s former sound.  Doesn’t the world already have enough pop bands?

Although The Dude hates soy; half and half for life.

The Ruby Suns
“Fight Softly”
Sub-Pop

Rating: 6

“Fight Softly” is a fitting name for The Ruby Sun’s follow up to their highly lauded “Sea Lion”. On “Sea Lion” the band seemed to be entrenched in a battle with the musical Gods, testing the limits of Vahalla, and questioning every concrete rule set by the music sages of old.  They combined psychedelia, mariachi, and ambience, resulting in an awakening of a burning, melodious spirit. It seemed that they were winning the war on mediocrity.  But just as I was ready to raise my “Mission Accomplished” banner, The Ruby Suns retreated to a bland territory on “Fight Softly”, wallowing in a mix of synths, blaise melodies, and a ho-hum drum machine. Where had the congas gone? The djembe? The mirracas?!  Gone! They dropped their weapons and accepted defeat when they once sat on the precipice breaking through front line.  They surrendered and aimed their sights on the mainstream, dropping any semblance of their former selves, aiming for acceptance from the mainstream.  Or, in “Tropic Thunder” terms, they went “full retard”.

Simple Ruby Suns

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