Menomena

November 30, 2006

Menomena“Welcome to the world,” says Portland’s Menomena. (See left.)

Menomena’s debut album, I Am The Fun Blame Monster (can you say anagram?), featured a flip-book as an integral part of its album artwork. (I mean, how do you beat that?). In the words of Dyanu, “It would have been enough.” But beyond masterful packaging feats, Menomena put forth a flip-book with the accompaniment of an entire album-worth of indie-pop piano-bass-drums coolness. 

Sure the second album was only three tracks long and instrumental, but hey, when you’re described as an experiemental rock trio, why not do whatever the fuck you feel like? The band has now jumped labels and signed on with Barsuk Records, home of rock and roll favorites, Death Cab for Cutie. The new record, which is a return to non-instrumental pop-form is due out in January 2007, and is called Friend and Foe.

Listen: E is Stable from I Am the Fun Blame Monster, available on FILMguerrerro. Wet and Rusting from Friend and Foe, available on Barsuk Records in early 2007. 

Joanna Newsom

November 29, 2006

 

Joanna Newsom is an unlikely pop star: for one, she plays the harp. At times, her voice sounds childish, elfin (though not Lord of the Rings elfin – think Bjork in Appalachia elfin), or even helium-tinged, yet according to many (read: Pitchfork), she has produced one of the best (if not the best) record of 2006.

I admit, I found the harp bit intriguing; it’s why I picked up her debut record, The Milk-Eyed Mender. I played Ms. Newsom’s record over and over, largely because my ex could not stand the sound of her voice. This made me like it all the more. Her voice, I think, is a bit like the smell of gasoline: either you really like it or you really don’t, and there’s probably something genetic about it. I also found the song, “Sadie” to be the saddest song I had ever heard. (Which may be a testament to my emotional state at the time, since I believe the song is about a dog.) 

So it wasn’t surprising to me when an early review of Ms. Newsom’s second album, Ys, largely hated it. I guess Rolling Stone doesn’t dig harps (not that there’s anything wrong with harps). More unlikely, however, were the other reviews, which seemingly came from everywhere else. And sorry Rolling Stone, but it looks like 99% of people dig harps.

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Channels

November 28, 2006

Channels

After several trips around the world (sometimes with the Stone Temple Pilots) and movements from label to label (sometimes big and sometimes small), band to band (sometimes Jawbox and sometimes Burning Airlines) and now in holy matrimony, J. Robbins has finally returned to Dischord Records. Channels, which also includes Janet Morgan (Robbins’ wife) and Derek Zentek (previously of Kerosene 454), have released their first album, Waiting for the Next End of the World, on the veteran DC label. 

Back at the time of Robbins’ departure from Dischord, Robbins’ former band Jawbox were a part of the post-Nirvana wave of next-big-thing artists. Like label-mates Shudder to Think, the band was given the opportunity to play music full time with the muscle of a major label (Atlantic Records), and so the story goes…. At the height of their musical powers, on For Your Own Special Sweetheart, the band offered their take on a single, “Savory,” which even included an MTV video that you might have been able to catch on 120 Minutes, but never quite made it into the “Buzz Bin.”

Enter Channels. Over a decade later and a world removed, the new band stays true to signature Robbins. Longtime fans will recognize strong reverberations of his previous work in Jawbox and Burning Airlines: a tightly wound rhythm section is countered by angulated guitar work, though Robbins’ distinctive vocals are now balanced by Morgan, who quite capably shares vocal duties.

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Voxtrot

November 27, 2006

 

Just in case you hadn’t noticed, Voxtrot is preparing to take over the world. The Austin band has released EP after EP over the last year or so, and has captured a significant amount of media spotlight with their smart, sweet indie-pop that recalls what you love best about Belle and Sebastian and the Smiths.   

The debut album is slated for release sometime in early 2007 on Playloudrecordings / Beggars Group USA, but until then we hope Srivastava et al keep throwing these short musical gems our way.  

Listen: Trouble from Your Biggest Fan, Mothers, Sisters, Daughters and Wivesfrom the EP of the same name, The Start of Something from Raised By Wolves, all available through http://www.voxtrot.net/. Also check out Love Vigilantes (New Order cover) while you still can.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 23, 2006

“Thanksgiving would be the perfect holiday… well, if it weren’t for the conquering.” (Or so says one of my colleagues at work.)

So grab yourself some stuffing, put on Fugazi’s “Smallpox Champion” on repeat, and reflect upon all of the many reasons you are thankful for reservation casinos and gambling.

Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving from your invisible friends.

Sarah McLachlan & Cinder Calhoun (Ana Gasteyer) – “Basted in Blood,” from Saturday Night Live.

Chavez

November 22, 2006

 

The men of Chavez are back, and they’re not fucking around. The Matador release of their retrospective, Better Days Will Haunt You, includes every song the band has ever recorded. In addition, some live material on DVD is also included, but fans won’t need to exclusively rely on old concert footage as their only Chavez fix. The men of Chavez will also be playing several live shows around the country, including one at Warsaw in Brooklyn on December 16th. So Happy Chanukah, Greenpoint.

For those of you who may have missed it (and it was only for a short three years and two albums) Chavez was an often overlooked and under-appreciated band from the second half of the nineties, that, to put it simply and directly, rocked. The band emerged from the same musical landscape as Lollapalooza and Alternative Nation (right… with Kennedy), but never achieved the household-name status that many lesser guitar-based rock bands of those days seemed to wield.

It is only fitting then, that Chavez reappear to take back what is rightfully theirs, apparently by force. (Matt Sweeney broke his hand, forcing two early reunion dates to be cancelled… fisticuffs with former Zwan band-mate and Smashing Pumpkins front, Billy Corgan?… no that’s a blatant lie, but who knows what could have happened?)      

Listen: The Guard Attacks/Unreal Is Here and You Faded from Better Days Will Haunt You, available  on Matador Records and eMusic.

http://www.menofchavez.com/

Texas is the Reason

November 21, 2006

 

In honor of the ten-year anniversary of the release of their only album, Do You Know Who You Are?, Texas is the Reason will be playing two very special (and very sold out… it took all of thirty-five minutes) shows at New York’s Irving Plaza over the Thanksgiving weekend. So now you’ve got to ask yourself, how much are you willing to pay to see Texas-via-craigslist?

Texas is the Reason in all fairness only released 2 split 7″ (one with the Promise Ring, and one with Samuel), an excellent 3-song EP, and the celebrated album above, now a decade old. The band played a style of melodic post-hardcore (did we call it emo back then?) common in the mid-to-late nineties, (flashback to Quicksand, Falling Forward, Lifetime, Sunny Day Real Estate, Sensefield…). And they were very good at it, though in retrospect, I’m not sure how much better than everyone else on that list.

That being said, it seems that many (myself included) are nostalgic for Garrett, Norm, Chris and Scott as Texas as the Reason. While the post-Texas bands Jets to Brazil, New End Original, the New Rising Sons, and Solea, have made some solid records, none of them come close to matching the infectious energy and heart-ache of Texas. (After all, none have pulled off, “Well I hate you all, and that’s for free, and that’s what makes it easy for me.” Have they?)

NB: the band will not be reuniting (except for these two shows). And they are not going on tour (unless you consider two shows at Irving Plaza a tour). So says the band on their webpage: http://texasisthereason.org/.

So go ahead, make your bid on eBay. It will be worth it. Texas is the Reason.

Listen: If It’s Here When We Get Back It’s Ours from their self-titled EP, Back and to the Left from Do You Know Who You Are?, Blue Boy from the Promise Ring/Texas is the Reason split 7″.