Tag Archives: frog eyes

Top 40 Albums of 2010 (40-26)

It would be an understatement to say 2010 was a great year for music.  Throughout the year I found myself listening to new album after new album and thinking, “This will definitely make my Top 20 Albums list.”  Which of course explains why I’ve doubled the list this year from 20 to 40.  While 2009 left me disappointed with many of my favorite artists releasing less than stellar albums, everyone showed up to play in 2010. Let the games begin.

Honorable Mention:

Blitzen Trapper “Destroyers of the Void”

Erykah Badu “New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh)”

Meursault “All Creatures Will Make Merry”

Sam Amidon “I See the Sign”

Shearwater “Golden Archipelago”

40. S. Carey

“All We Grow”

[Jagjaguwar; 2010]

While Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon was off exploring the world of hip-hop with his Kanye West affiliation, his band mate and disciple Sean Carey carried the Bon Iver flame in 2010 with his solo album “All We Grow”.  But while Vernon’s music is often barren and cold, Carey’s exudes the warmth of a winter’s fire.  The cover art of an aged childhood photo builds off this intimacy and helps stir the embers of memory within the listener.  Manned with simply a guitar, drums, and a piano, Carey build’s compositions that crescendo with emotional swells and soften for moments of contemplation.

39. Shining

“Black Jazz”

[Indie Recordings; 2010]

Back in July, I wrote of Shining’s “Black Jazz”: “On their latest release, “Blackjazz”, the doom-heads decided to try combining the two most devilish music forms from the past 100 years (jazz and black metal), resulting in an album of hellacious proportions.  Upon first listen, “Blackjazz” seems to be simply a polished black metal album, but beyond the familiar machine gun drums and crunching guitar riffs, this is more than simply black metal.  Shining rely heavily on synth, but instead of providing simply an ominous cloak, the keyboard is twinkled sporadically like a possessed Duke Ellington, venturing through scales and chord progressions more familiar to jazz night clubs than church burnings.  At times the album doesn’t even resemble music, rather a Jackson Pollock of sound, splattering up and down the malicious jazz scale in search of melody. The jazz meanderings are more obvious when Jørgen Munkeb picks up the saxophone and honks out notes like a line of tumbling dominos, notes rising and falling at will as the horn meshes with the chaos surrounding it.  These Norwegians have exorcised the true, dark spirit of jazz and unleashed it back into the world to wreak havoc.”

38. Perfume Genius


[Matador; 2010]

Perfume Genius’sMike Hadreas is a master storyteller, using his lo-fi, piano-motivated songs to reveal one heartbreaking tale after another.  With so many emotional stories of suicide, molestation, and drug abuse, you would think that Hadreas moonlights as a psychiatrist.  And maybe he should because beyond his captivating narratives, he also whispers one memorable melody after another, counteracting the depressing nature of the album.  His soothing melodies lift up the down-trodden characters, giving them a voice and in a strange way, giving them hope.

37. Grinderman

“Grinderman 2”

[Anti-; 2010]

On “Grinderman 2”, Nick Cave unleashes the sexual deviant within, throwing all of his 50 year old caution out the window and letting the women know that him and his “loch ness monster” have arrived with its “two great humps”.  Yes, this is 9-straight songs about Nick Cave’s penis (what I’m saying is this album pretty much dominates).  On “Grinderman 2” the band took a loose approach to their songwriting, taking a improvisational stance, and the songs thrive because of it.  Without restrictions, the album is free to be as dirty and untamed as it wants to be.

36. Caribou


[Merge; 2010]

Caribou’s Dan Snaith is such a show off.  On each album he’s produced a completely new sound, showing that there really is nothing he can’t do. We get it; you’re talented! On “Swim” Snaith takes the opportunity to show us all that he can make a great dance album.  Think of all those struggling other bands in the genre that have been trying to hone there sound, and then along comes Caribou and blows any progress they’ve made out of the water.  Not only does Snaith create some groovy dance beats, but he also provides a poppier sensibility to the world of club music.  And I guess that’s his secret – these aren’t dance songs at all, rather pop songs disguised in a dance beat garb. Where’s a glow stick when you need one?

35. Big Boi

“Sir Lucious Left Foot the Son of Chico Dusty”

[Def Jam; 2010]

“Sir Lucious Left Foot the Son of Chico Dusty” has the potential to be the best album of 2010, but a handful of less than stellar tracks hold it back (Jamie Fox…really?!).  Still, when this album is on, “it is on!”  The story of this album has become one of legends with the label not knowing what to do with it when Big Boi first presented it to them.  They asked, “but where’s the hit?”  Morons. The only explanation I can come up with is that with so many great songs they couldn’t tell which was the best.  The problem probably arose because what Big Boi brought to them sounded like nothing they’d ever heard before in the hip-hop world with it’s funky bass, 70s style chorus chants, and lyrics that require more than an urban dictionary to understand.  You dig home skillet?

34.Les Savy Fav


[Frenchkiss; 2010]

Everyone loves a come back story, so when Les Savy Fav returned in 2007 with their album “Let’s Stay Friends”, their first album in six years, it was cause for rejoice. But now, three years later, “Appetites” didn’t receive nearly as much love, which is a damn shame because the band is still as potent as ever with track after track of raucous art rock.  “Let’s Stay Friends” gave hints toward a more melodic approach and “Appetites” continues this tradition, expanding more upon this friendlier stance. I can’t lie, I will always prefer the earlier Les Savy Fav stuff that is completely reckless and insane, but I still can’t deny myself of a great song, especially with Tim Harrington’s lyrics as biting as ever.   The band is far from finished as shown when Tim shouts in the opener, “WE STILL GOT OUR APPETITE! WE STILL GOT OUR APPETITE! WE STILL GOT OUR APPETITE!” Let the feeding frenzy continue.

33. Four Tet

“There is Love in You”

[Domino; 2010]

I hate the term “background music” because it implies that the music isn’t worthy of your attention, yet I almost just typed that “There is Love in You” is a background album. This would be misleading.  Yes, it works perfectly as the soundtrack to your day, to your work, to your play, but to suggest it’s easy to ignore? Unwise. In fact, if the music of Four Tet’s 2010 release does anything, it intrudes your mind with a wide range of thoughts and ideas, and through its hypnotic beats you are capable of organizing your thought process.  The title “There is Love in You” implies that we all have love, but if you don’t (ahem…me) this album will nourish your heart with it’s upbeat rhythms and give you a great big hug.

32. The National

“High Violet”

[4AD; 2010]

In the latest issue of SPIN, comedian Patton Oswald was asked to listen to some of the top albums of the year, and I felt his take on The National needed to be repeated. “Is this guy lying on a couch about to fall asleep? ‘Dude, do you want to have a half-hour nap before we record? Because we have time. We don’t need to do this right now, you look really jet-lagged.” While this would seem like an insult, the lethargic, overly dramatic presentation is what makes The National’s music so spellbinding.  It would be easy to say that Matt Berninger’s voice is the source of all the syrupy sentimentality that makes “High Violet” such an absorbing listen, and I think that’s the band’s goal. But back behind Berninger’s vocals hides the Dessner brothers with their astute songwriting that lifts the emotions to a higher shade of violet.

31. Frog Eyes

“Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph”

[Dead Oceans; 2010]

I’ve seen Frog Eyes perform live a handful of times, and I’ve always enjoyed their wild live shows with singer Carey Mercer spastically shaking through each song. But for some reason, I pigeon holed the band as simply a great live band not thinking much about their music beyond the stage. Not only is “Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph” a (ahem) triumph, it’s one of the most ambitious albums to come out in 2010. The record is broken into four parts, all adding depth to the overall story of an escape from the constraints of life, the perils of war, and the mourning that comes with death. The guitars fight for space, battling for supremacy as General Mercer transfers his manic energy into a war cry that will chill you to the bone.  So much love is paid to Mercer’s friend Spencer Krug, but with “Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph”, it might be time to give Frog Eyes the respect that is due.

30. Tobacco

“Maniac Meat”

[Anti-Con; 2010]

I’ve never really gotten into Black Moth Super Rainbow, and prior to this year, I’d never heard of front man Tom Ferc and his side project Tobacco.  Then of course after a chance run-in with his remix of HEALTH’s “Die Slow”, I gave into the temptation and bought Tobacco on vinyl.  Now my addiction to its grimy sound is in full force: the affected vocals, the crunchy synth that seems to be run through a twisty straw, the basic drum tracks that call back to the age of old school hip-hop. When my friend Justin heard me listening to Tobacco he asked, “Is that an 80s band?”  While the lo-fi, 80s feel is in full effect, nothing like “Maniac Meat” ever existed in the age of Reagan.  A lot of artists take sounds from the 80s and recreate it for nostalgic purposes. Not Tobacco.  Ferc has taken the 808 drum beats of Run DMC and the synth sounds of the Eurhythmics and created something completely original.  This is what “Walk this Way” would have sounded like if Annie Lenox moved in next door to Run DMC (oh, and if Annie Lennox had throat cancer, God forbid).

29. How to Dress Well

“Love Remains”

[Lefse; 2010]

Imagine all of your childhood R&B tapes getting water damaged in your parent’s basement. Instead of throwing away all your PM Dawn, Bobby Brown, and Billy Ocean away, you decide to give them one more listen.  You locate your dusty Walkman and begin relistening to your old favorites, quickly realizing that the damage has altered these once crystal clear, overly produced 90s standards. Yet, instead of just stopping the tape, you continue to listen.  The mold and mildew have created a cacophonous atmosphere, muffled the once pristine beats, created a ghostly R&B world where love songs have turned sour with sorrow. Then you realize that you aren’t listening to your old tapes, that you aren’t in your parent’s basement, and that you don’t even own a Walkman anymore. You’re just listening to How to Dress Well’s “Love Remains” (no flood damage required).

28. Ty Segall


[Goner; 2010]

My friends who have kids try convincing me of the joy associated with fatherhood.  And despite what they may think, I get it.  As an obsessive music fan, I’ve watched someone like Ty Segall grow up.  On his first self-titled release the songs are ornery and fun, yet not fully developed with his barebone tambourine drums set-up (he started as a one-man band on the street corners of San Francisco).  On “Lemons” his songs grew up with a full piece band backing him, yet his songwriting seemed to be going through an awkward stage, not quite as self-assured and free as seen on his first release. But now, with “Melted”, Ty Segall is all grown up.  The songs are still youthful in spirit but more mature and confident in form.  For me, listening to “Melted” is like watching my son get his diploma (and I didn’t even have to change a diaper).

27. Kylesa

“Season of Mist”

[Spiral Shadow; 2010]

The double lead guitar has been a mainstay in metal for years, but what of the double drum lead?  Kylesa beg to answer this question with a double drum set assault that beefs up their psych metal assault. The two drummers Carl McGinley and Tyler Newberry create intricate rhythms that bounce off each other like atoms on the verge of explosion.  These pummeling beats back up a band that has created some striking metal riffs and melodic anthems for 2010.  The Devil went down to Georgia, not to find a soul to steal, but to keep metal alive within the likes of Kylesa, Baroness, and Mastodon. And based off the out-put of these bands in the last few years, the Devil did his job quite well.

26. Liars


[Mute; 2010]

The scariest album of 2010 is not by a black metal band; it’s by a little band that was labeled as “disco-punk” early in their career.  Since that label, the band has explored a wide range of sounds, venturing off into other territories musically.  On “Sisterworld”, Liars have taken a major journey away from their roots towards what I would describe as the auditory equivalent of the “Twilight Zone”.  The music is not of this world, rather an eerie environ where danger lurks around every corner.  Or maybe it’s not another land at all, rather similar to a trip to the Overlook Hotel where the mind takes its own jaunt to the dark side.  Whatever the case, this is Liars most complete album.  They are able to transport the listener to a nightmarish soundscape and keep them planted within the horror for the entire 42 minutes.   While past releases have shown the band’s versatility, on “Sisterworld” they remain locked in the “Sisterworld” where dissonance and death reign supreme. Disco is officially dead.


Filed under Top Albums Lists

SXSW 2007

“Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you’re too old to go to South by Southwest.  People back home in Midland think we are crazy because we once drove 400 miles to see Rod Stewart, but we absolutely adore his music.  If it’s something you love, don’t let anyone stop you from enjoying it.”

old lady at hotel in Waco talking to us over a continental breakfast of Fruity Pebbles

Using the same categories as last year and a few new ones, my best of SXSW list triumphantly returns! I also got all high tech and fancy, allowing you to click on the artists’ names to check out their music while reading this drivel.


Times New Viking

When I heard TNV’s CD I enjoyed the charming, low-fi pop punk sound but it didn’t go further beyond that.  This opinion changed once setting foot in the Exodus last Friday night, as the trio unrelentingly pounded their way through two minute songs as chaos broke out in the audience.  Before I knew it, Paul and I were amidst the insanity, bouncing through the throng of fans as the band passionately performed.  It may have been the day long free beer binge, or the free energy drink chugged down only an hour earlier, but Times New Viking brought the best out the both of us.  Amy Phillips, a blogger at Pitchforkmedia.com, even mentioned us dozen or so fans at the front of the stage saying: “Ohio’s Times New Viking recently signed to Matador, but they already have a committed fan base. There was quite a bit of slam-dancing and general hysteria in the first few rows of the crowd as the trio slammed out high-energy, melodic noise-punk, and keyboardist Beth Murphy pumping her fist in the air and showing off her luxurious armpit hair. By the time their Matador debut is out, that excitement will probably have spread far enough to fill up a room.” She even included this picture, that features Paul and I with our mouths gaping in excitement:

I understand the lo-fi recording style gives an album an authentic, recorded in a garage sound, but when your band sounds this much better live, aren’t you doing your music fans outside of Ohio a disservice?  Hopefully Matador can clean these kids up (they can shave her pits while they’re at it) and send them out to take over the world.



I wanted to like this band; I really did.  I talked to one of them while waiting for the restroom and he told me about how they moved from Venezuela to New York in hopes of making it big.  He told me all about them recently making connections, and when asked what they sounded like by another guy in line he responded, “It’s hard to describe, you’ll have to see it for yourself.” He was a friendly guy and peaked my interest with his band description.

As the band set up I became even more excited when Paul pointed out a cute blond girl with a keytar strapped around her neck.  A Venezuelan band with a keytar player: could they NOT be good?

Well, the answer is yes.  They were miserable. So bad that we had to leave due to Paul’s inability to stop laughing.  Think early 90s dance music minus any semblance of melody.  Poor kids.


Bill Callahan

As Saturday unfolded, I slowly became more and more sick with a chest cold. By six o’clock I was not in the mood to see anymore bands and took a nap in the car while Paul went off to see the Kill Rock Stars showcase.  Two hours later I awoke, slightly refreshed, and ventured back out onto the streets ofAustin alone.  A few blocks up the street I came upon a Presbyterian church where Smog front man Bill Callaghan was performing a solo gig.  As I entered the church he was just beginning his first song, with a violinist at his side and Joanna Newsome tucked behind the piano (you know I love!).  Since the church was completely filled, I squeezed into a space in the back pew and soon found myself absorbed by Bill’s croaking, baritone voice and vibrant guitar.  I’m not a big fan of the whole church thing, but this venue provided the most ambient, soothing sound of the week.  The guy next to me soon entered into some type of Zen like state, several people sped out during songs with their faces drench in tears, and a few left their pews and sat in the aisle up front.  I sat cursing the fact that Paul was missing possibly the best show of the week, when lo and behold, St. Paul appeared in the doorway.  Once the song was finished he motioned that he was going up front and I followed him as we sat at the feet of Bill like little Sunday School kids waiting for the weekly children’s message.  He even played “Cold Blooded Old Times”, a shared favorite by Paul and me.



This douche isn’t really worth discussing.  He pushed play on his computer and proceeded dancing around a la Napoleon Dynamite while singing karaoke style.  At first it was funny in a “He’s making an ass of himself” kind of way, but when the dancing act continued throughout the remainder of the show I had to side with Paul that he was just plain miserable.


Old Time Relijun

Paul played me their CD on the long drive south, and I enjoyed what I heard.  It was bluesy, howling, folk rock with a twang.  I agreed to go see them with Paul thinking of it as a nice littler filler before going to the big shows in the night ahead.  I completely underestimated what I was about to see, with the raucous band bounding about the stage fervently as singer Arrington de Dionyso  spit out lyrics in a voice resembling David Byrne.  Imagine a southern gospel blues band being possessed by demons hopped up on crack and Pop Rocks: it’s that good.


Marisa Nadler

Paul has recently been on a metal binge, gobbling up any new metal bands he can find.  I, not being so much the metal fan, found myself sitting at several less than stellar shows (Oxbow just scared me). One of said shows contained Zoroaster and Boris.  Sandwiched between these two acts was Marissa Nadler, a Massachusetts folk artist preoccupied with death.  Her voice matched her ghost-like appearance, performing like a spirit in an Edgar Allan Poe poem.  While Paul roamed to the other stage inside to see more metal, I sat cross-legged amidst drunken metal heads and listened to her tales of gloom.



I’ve been hearing about this band for a while now from several people but had yet to actually hear them.  Some say they are Japanese Metal, others Japanese Psychedelic Rock, while even others will claim they are a Japanese Jam Band.  I guess one thing they all agree on is that they are Japanese. Whatever the case, I anticipated what was about to be seen on stage as they set up a giant gong.  Once the waif of a guitar player, who Paul claimed was amazing, took the stage, Boris commenced playing a 45 minute set.  Within this set they played one song…one 45 minute song.  It was neither metal, nor psychedelic, nor even jam band for that matter: Boris was just boring.


The Walkmen

I’ve been digging on the new Walkmen album big time over the past few weeks but feared what they may sound like live.  On their albums singer Hamilton Leithauser’s voice sounds like a hybrid of Bob Dylan and Roger Daltry, a perfect combination.  I didn’t know how this would translate on the stage, but I soon found I was foolish for being a doubter.  He sounded BETTER than he does on album.  He’s also a true rockstar, spending a night in jail during the week at SXSW this year.



It has become a yearly tradition for us to see Frog Eyes perform at SXSW.  With only a day left of shows, we decided to try making it to Poke-E-Jo’s in time to catch our beloved Frog Eyes.

The paper said it was on 5th street, which meant it wasn’t very far away from 6th streeet, at least in our eyes.  What soon followed was a 20 block walk up 5th street with me bitching about not getting a bus the entire way.  When we finally found Poke-E-Jo’s, we felt like Indiana Jones finding the Holy Grail. The stage was set up at the end of a sand volleyball court with picnic tables dispersed throughout the area.  Since the show was free and located so far from the SXSW hub-bub of downtown, the majority in attendance were Austinites out looking for free happy hour beer and some good music.  This gave the show a more relaxed, down-home feel.  With free Shiner beer a flowing, we sat and enjoyed yet another great set by Frog Eyes.  They sounded better than ever, although singer Carey Mercer didn’t seem to be hopped up on speed like usual.  I guess it’s okay to sacrifice showmanship for sound quality.  When they were finished the Absolutely Kosher party was over, yet the bartenders continued filling our cups with Shiner.  Before we knew it, some friendly Austinites were loading us into their car and taking us to see Public Enemy, which leads me too…


Dew Music Festival Town Lake Stage

SXSW always caters to the locals, offering free shows for the entire family to come enjoy.  This is where the Town Lake Stage comes into play, an outdoor stadium-type stage at a park near downtown. When we arrived at Public Enemy we were surrounded by families pushing strollers and drunken frat boys screaming “Flava Flav!!!”  We quickly approached the stage, but soon found we couldn’t even get close to Chuck D and the gang.  We stayed for handful of songs, and finally left due to disappointment.  The whole point of SXSW is seeing great bands in smaller venues.  Seeing a band in a stadium or festival setting is just not satisfying anymore.  There’s no connection there; there’s no feeling that anything could happen next.  It’s so protected with guard rails and bouncers.  If I want to watch Flava Flav on a screen, I’ll flip to VH1 for one of their many “Flavor of Love” marathons.  Does that make me a snobby ass? So be it.


This is very random, but I thought the new guitarist for the Rosebuds looked like my JV basketball coach Jared Cecil, who I fondly remember making us run marathons everyday in practice.  Maybe I just have Cecil on the brain since he coached his girls’ basketball team to a State Title a week ago.


Frenchkiss Records Showcase

The show began with a guaranteed great performance by The Fatal Flying Guillotines.  At a show in an abandoned Mexican church a few years earlier, we saw them play wearing Girl Scout uniforms while spitting on and kicking audience members mercilessly.  By the end of the show a girl attacked one of the guitarists, beating him with her purse.  After the beat down he approached the mike saying, “I’m sorry we’re not Franz Ferdinand” and then spit at her friends as they broke into another song. As expected, they were chased out the back door of the church.

FFG didn’t disappoint this year, continuing their habit of spitting, jumping up on speakers, and leaning onto the crowd randomly in a psychological game of trust.  At various points one of the guys would attempt to walk on people’s shoulders and heads without warning, as if he was Christ walking on water.  As you’d expect, most people would cave under the pressure of a man walking upon their heads.  At various points, one of the members would just stop playing, and glare with piercing eyes at a random person in the audience. Then suddenly he would dive at said person and attempt to reach them as if he wanted blood.  Eventually he’d return to the stage and find someone else to glare at.  At one point one of the more timid guitar players said, “Come on now, you promised no fights tonight.”  I’m guessing what we saw at the Mexican church wasn’t a one time occurrence.  Believe me; everyone in the bar’s attention was fully upon the band, knowing if they lost focus they’d get a lugie or foot to the head.  I loved every tension filled minute of it.

Next up was Thunderbirds are Now!, a safer, poppier, more user friendly Les Savy Fav.  They put on a great show also, although lacking in the lugie department.  What made the show even more interesting was The Fatal Flying Guilloteens attempting to throw bottles at the band or trying to disconnect their equipment.  Thunderbirds played composed and seemed to find humor in the drunken Guillotines. They were finally forced to put up police tape in hopes of stopping the ruckus, which of course just heightened the violence.  The Thunderbirds were more than just a performance piece though; I will definitely be buying some of their music very soon.

The final act of the night was the most anticipated of the week, Les Savy Fav.  I’ve read about Harrington’s crazy behavior during shows, including a tryst with mud wrestlers and kissing random audience members, but had yet to see the crazed maniac in person.  Before starting, FrenchKiss Record’s head man, Seth Jabour, pointed out that it was next to impossible to one up The Fatal Flying Guillotines, but I felt he said this as a challenge to Harrington, who didn’t disappoint.

Harrington started the show in jeans and a pink polo shirt, undressed to completely nude, tucked his junk a la “Silence of the Lambs”, and finally put on a full body spandex jumper with Speedos over top. He then donned a pleather coat, shades, and a graduation cap.

By the end of the show he would be nude again at one point, and would finish the show wearing only red Speedos, a hilarious, cringe inducing sight considering he’s an overweight, red headed bald man with a mad scientist beard.

Other crazy antics: he crawled along the curtain rod on one side of the stage, almost ripping the curtain down.

Later he ran across the bar making one of the frat boy looking bartenders sing a song.

He spilled beer all over himself and then abducted a man from the crowd, rode him like a horse while singing a ditty.

And finally, in a move I’ve never seen before, he stuck the mic in his Speedos and thrust it in an adoring fans face who screamed the lyrics into his crotch.  (No pictures of this for obvious reasons)

My favorite part of all though had to be when he sat down on the monitor speaker and began caressing Paul’s beard, singing to him.  Classic.  Watch the shitty quality video in my heroes section that someone put up on YouTube.  About a minute and fifteen seconds he leans down out of the shot to feel Paul’s face.  A fat naked man petting Paul: most hilarious SXSW moment ever.

I could keep going on and on and on.  Most freaked out, shock inducing, laugh out loud, pump my fist concert experience ever.  Unfortunately, this was the first show we saw all week, making most of the remainder of the week a let down.  Anytime a singer jumped into the crowd I got douche chills knowing he wouldn’t commit and stick his balls in someone’s face. What a shame.

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Filed under South by Southwest

SXSW 2006


Animal Collective– It was pretty much in the cards for this show to be my favorite: it was St. Patrick’s Day, I was trashed, and I’ve been on an Animal Collective binge for about two months now. The first 10 minutes of the show were made up of 4 guys making as much noise as possible. Squealing, screaming, pounding, tweaking, it sounded like a grizzly bear vomiting Timothy Treadwell. I felt my buzz leaving me, and disappointment setting in. But just as I was feeling frustration, I felt my foot tapping.  Suddenly I was nodding my head instinctively to the primal beating and screeching.  Before I knew it, what started out sounding like a cannibalistic death march had slowly morphed into an ear pleasing symphony of clamor.  The howling and hammering came into sync, as the chanting and murmuring took shape into melody. This song did not quit for the next 40 minutes, with the Geologist meshing one song into another effortless with a twist of a few knobs on his sampler.  By the end of the set, I was hopping around, pumping my fist and joining in on the yodeling.  Even after the show, walking down 6th street amidst St. Patrick’s Day bedlam, the primordial music still ran through my head.

The Geologist and Panda Bear doing their thing.


Brightblack Morning Light– As you walked into the Matador Records showcase, you were handed what looked like 3-D glasses that had the name Brightblack Morning Light printed on the side of them. When worn, the glasses created a kaleidoscope effect, giving spotlights a rainbow appearance, and creating the illusion of threes in whatever you looked at (3 hands, 3 guitars, 3 beers).  So when the band took the stage, I excitedly threw on my glasses, thinking it would be a unique experience. It was pretty cool, for about ten minutes. Then I realized that the song was still going, and had not changed at all. Just the slow drone of an organ, and an occasional whisper from the hippie gown wearing singer.  Once the novelty had worn off, I removed the glasses and watched the rest of the set in a senseless stupor. Why does Matador sign bands like this? How do bands like Brightblack Morning Light and Early Man get placed alongside the likes of the New Pornographers and Cat Power?

Ignore the shitty music and stare and the pretty colors.


Charles Bissell–  Being a member of the Wrens, last year’s pick for best band, I knew I had to see Bissell and his solo act.  Since his night show was alongside artists I’ve never heard of, and coinciding with the Merge showcase, I decided to catch Bissell during a day show on Wednesday.  When he took the stage with an electric guitar, I was a little wary. I was expecting an acoustic set for some reason.  As he started into his first song, I noticed that what started as one guitar part, had multiplied into several riffs overlapping one another.  Bissell was using a couple looper pedals, one of them being the exact same pedal I bought a month ago!  Using simply his guitar and voice, he took a song and slowly built it up into a crescendo of melodies colliding.  Since I have this same type of pedal, I know how difficult it can be to get everything to loop perfectly and on time.  Over the past year I’ve had an idea in my head of using a looper pedal to create music via my banjo/guitar/voice/accordion/harmonica/djembe drum/etc/etc/etc.  Watching Bissell do his thing on the looper pedal was like an amateur Expressionist watching Pollock paint.

Charles Bissell messing with his pedal as some bald dude looks on.


Annie Hayden– This choice can be a bit deceiving. It wasn’t that Annie was horrible, it’s just that I didn’t see many solo shows this year, and she was the least enjoyable of the handful I saw.  She was easy to look at, but her music was pretty dull.  Since she was playing at the Merge showcase, you could see the likes of Robert Pollard, Mac McCaughan, and Laura Banance up in the V.I.P. room watching her and nodding their heads as if they were really digging the music. I would look up to them, then back to her, then back up to them. I decided Mac is smarter than me because I just don’t get it.


Tapes ‘n Tapes– Paul was ranting and raving all week that we had to see these guys. He said something along the lines of them being the best band to come out of the Twin Cities this past year.  When we noticed they were playing a day show on the other side of town, we quickly jumped onto a bus, hoping to make it in time. As we entered the show, located behind an art studio, we found Tapes ‘n Tapes just finishing their set.  Within three songs they were finished, and we were left wanting more. Fortunately, Paul bought one of their CDs, which we listened to on the 15 hour drive home on Sunday.  It’s sad to say I’m basing my best band discovered choice on only three live songs and a CD, but they’re that damn good.


New Pornographers– The New Pornographers played a flawless set, with hit after hit bursting forth upon the starving masses.  Neko Case’s stunning voice moved flawlessly alongside A.C. Newman’s clever lyrics. So why the let down you ask? Dan Bejar was not present. I’ve read articles saying he was playing with them on this tour, but for some reason he was a no show at SXSW. That’s like going to watch the Celtics of the 80s, with Bird and Parish starting, but Mchale sick at home. What made it worse was A.C. Newman singing one of Bejar’s songs; it just didn’t work for me.  Overall it was still a solid show, but Bejar would have made it unforgettable.

What's missing from this picture?


David Cross– Last year it was Dave Holmes, two years ago Matt Pinfield and this year…David Cross. I know what you’re thinking: David Cross isn’t an MTV VeeJay. Contraire mon frair! David Cross guest-hosted the MTV2 show Subterranian a month ago…okay, I know that’s cheating, but it was still pretty cool to see David Cross step out of the crowd at the end of the Superchunk set, and begin ranting about how they are the greatest band of the past 10 years.  After he left the stage I looked back up to the V.I.P. room and saw David sit down next to Bob Odenkirk.  Paul’s celebrity sighting of the week was actor Ethan Suplee, better known as Willam in “Mallrats”, Randy on “My Name is Earl”, or the fat sloppy guy in pretty much any movie made in the past 10 years. John John spotted comedian Brian Posehn walking out of IHOP (the “Comedians of Comedy” did a show at SXSW). So maybe I should change this category to famous people…although David Cross technically does count as a VJ!

"So go to sleep tonight children, with sweet dreams of Superchunk in your heads."


Frog Eyes– Frogs Eyes are headed by the neurotic, twitchy, squealing Carey Mercer, who seems on edge of having an acid flashback at any moment. This description, is the exact reason Frog Eyes are a must see.  His lyrics seem random, as his head sporadically shakes while a creepy little smile crawls across his face.  Playing their day show set at SXSW, some kid up front began singing along with Carey during a song. Suddenly, Carey and the band stopped on a dime, and he looked down at the kid in disgust. The audience broke out in laughter as the band jumped back into their freak out.  Then a couple songs later another kid up front attempted to talk to Carey between songs.  Carey looks down at the kid and says into the mike “Actually, we’re playing a show right now”. Again, uproarious laughter. Sure, he was being kind of a dick, but he was saying the things I always want bands to tell jackasses at the front of the stage who feel the need to be noticed by the artist they have a hard-on for.

"Actually, we're playing a show right now."


Criteria– There are various reasons Criteria have the worst crowd interaction, half their fault, and half the crowd.  After having John Vanderslice entertain us between tunes with his humorous stories, Criteria’s banter was like listening to a first grader giving a speech.  Talking to the crowd is not an easy skill, and after seeing the master Vanderslice, Criteria’s chatting deficiency became quickly apparent. The other part that made the interaction difficult was when some guy standing near me yelled out “Go back toNebraska!” At first I thought he was talking about me, but woke of from my egocentric mind and realized it was aimed at the band. I’m far from a Criteria fan, but I took offense to the guy. It’s kind of like when the guy you hate on your basketball team is fouled flagrantly, you still want to defend him.  I hate when crowd members feel the need to attack an artist, no matter how shitty they may be. I’ll make exceptions for Creed.


Mrs. Bea’s– Located in the barrio of Austin, I was a little apprehensive as we approached Mrs. Bea’s for a day show.  Once inside, the bar was exactly as expected: a little dirty, concrete walls and floors, with Spanish Budweiser neon signs hanging next to Tecate posters. The shows were in the backyard, with the stage located beneath a little tent. Something about the place felt homey. The bartenders and people serving food were gracious, and the venue seemed ideal for the size of the crowd.  It was the perfect place to sit back, drink some Tecate, eat a few sausage tortilla wraps, and soak in the New Zealand pop of The Bats, followed by some death metal for good measure.

Basking in the sounds of death metal in the Barrio over a Tecate and a sausage wrap.


Club DeVille– There was free beer and barbeque for this day show. The only problem was it was so packed in the stage area that we couldn’t come close to making headway. Oh well, we took advantage of the free beer for a few hours and could at least HEAR the bands.


Saddlecreek/Barsuk Showcase– Paul gave me so much crap for attending this show, since the Saddlecreek label is based out of Omaha. “You went to Austin to watch Omaha bands?” His logic makes sense, but this show was stellar from top to bottom (and only featured one band from Omaha!). John Vanderslice started the show off beautifully with his songs about a bluebird with a staring problem and a runaway rabbit. He was followed by the whiney Criteria, which gave me a chance to take a bathroom break and rekindle the buzz that died during my Vanderslice trance.  Next up was Two Gallants, playing some of their new frenetic folk/punk old-timey music. I saw these guys back in the fall, and the show they played in Austin was 10 times more energetic. I will of course be attending their show this Thursday at SoKol Underground.  They were followed by the Starlight Mints who played with mere perfection. It says a lot for a band to sound better live than on their CD.  After them the Mates of State and Nadasurf were to scheduled to play, who I’m sure would have been great, but I chose to leave in order to see The Islands at Emo’s. What I saw of the Saddlecreek show was magnificent, despite the ridicule of Paul.

Sure, the Saddlecreek Showcase was great, but i couldn't pass up seeing a band with both a banjo and a clarinet.

Overall, SXSW 2006 was another success. There was a lot of drama, not mentioned in this blog, but the music was what kept the week afloat amidst the flooding highways of Dallas.  Plus the two days off from work due to snow didn’t hurt.

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SXSW 2004 (Ten Lessons Learned)

Two and a half weeks. That’s all that remains until the South by Southwest Music Festival overtakes Austin, Texas once again.  This yearly highlight has created some lasting memories and led to my discovery of some amazing musicians. As a countdown to the festival, I decided I would be posting some old SXSW blogs over the next few weeks (plus, this page still needs a little archiving of my old blogs on a website that will remain nameless).

2004 would be my first venture into the magical, musical world of SXSW.  We didn’t have a clue what we were doing. We didn’t know about the free day shows, resulting in us hanging out at the campground everyday and only heading into Austin for the night shows. Over the years we’ve fine-tuned our approaching, maximizing our time in Austin, spending every waking moment either listening to great music, running through the streets of Austin to get to the next show, or getting our drink on with the endless supply of free booze.

I didn’t start blogging until 2005, but I do have a little memento of that first year experience and how it changed me forever.  After attending the festival, I emailed Paul a rambling diatribe about all that I learned while Austin that first year. Here is an excerpt of that email from 2004:

I’ve learned so much this past week that I can barely congeal it into one cohesive experience. The reason I’m writing is because this past week has taught me many lessons, that either I never knew, or had forgotten with age. The shows taught me things about songwriting and just appreciating music, basic, simple things that I had let slip my mind. In recent years I’ve lost my fire for music; this week rekindled it. In no specific order, here are the things I was able to take from the shows.

1. The Radar Brothers and Court and Spark reminded me that all bands or musicians should strive for their own sound; yet at the same time, it also showed why it’s so important to try to push the limits of that sound. They both just stuck to their formula, and it grew more boring as the minutes passed.

2. The Rosebuds not only surprised the shit out of me, but they taught me the opposite side of the spectrum; they have a distinct sound, yet every song was different and fresh. Not many artists can pull this off.

3. The keyboardist of the Rosebuds, CoCo Rosie, and the girls that flocked to the front of each show proved to me that there are hot women out there that are into good music. Now we just need to find them.

4. Portastatic reminded me the importance of lyrics. Sometimes I find my song’s lyrics to be simple and hokie; but Portastatic had some of the most vivid and gripping lyrics I’ve heard in a long time. I must look outside my simple lyrics to find a level of lyricism that is both poetic and primal. Destroyer made me realize I shouldn’t take lyrics so seriously. He just seems to have fun with wordplay and rhyme scheme, a truly Dylan technique.

5. Portastatic also taught me that MORE doesn’t always mean better. One guitar and one bass pulled off a way better show then The New Year with 4 guitars, one bass, and a drummer. Sometimes I think I need to add drums and loops to my songs, but good songwriting floats by itself: no whistles or flashing lights.

6. Destroyer, Frog Eyes, and The Wrens reminded me how great it is to WATCH live music. They may have had fuck-ups, they may have had technical difficulties, but they’re damn fun to watch. Up to this week I had lost the urge to attend live music, but now I’m revived with the yearning to see people performing with their souls and vitality out on the stage for everyone to see.

7. The Dead Science and CoCo Rosie taught me not to judge a band by first listen. Often I don’t give music a chance to grow on me. CoCo Rosie has grown on me like gonorrhea on a scrotum.

8. +/- and Calexico reminded me what a great band should do: not only perform an entertaining show, but play their music flawlessly and better than their recordings.

9. The Wrens let me see what being in a band is about. Guys who care about each other and their music, not what other people think, not record deals. Awesome stuff.

10.TV on the Radio and Destroyer also presented an aspect of live music that I had forgotten: how great it is to see bands play their songs in a different style that you will never hear on a recording.

All of this together has filled my heart with musical lust, and I feel the need to play my guitar, go catch a live show, or just lay back and listen to great music. Just because I’m growing up, doesn’t mean my passion needs to die like so many people let happen.

Hey hey, my my
Rock and Roll will never die
There’s more to the picture than meets the eye.
Hey hey, my my.

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