August 26, 2007

Portland’s Jona Bechtolt is a renaissance man for the internet age: he was formerly the rhythm half of The Blow, now officially split to perform as YACHT (all-caps and said with great emphasis, I suppose, or Young American Challenging High Technology), a sometimes punk rock drummer, and creator of The Ultimate Blogger and the Urban Honking Blogger Collective.

His most recent album, I Believe In You, Your Magic Is Real, has the best album name I’ve heard in a while, and the music’s a fun mix of electronic laptop dance (sounds dirty!) with a healthy respect for the indie rock ethos. Check out the video for “See a Penny” on YouTube as exhibit A.

While the comparison to James Murphy and the LCD Soundsystem is tempting (they did tour together after all, and it’s just about the only dance music the indie kids will admit to like), apart from a shared genre and ethnic profile, the bands dance to the beat of different drums (albeit, they are still dancing). Make no mistake, YACHT is electronic dance music, and not an indie rock band playing in the mode of electronic dance music. It’s like Simian Mobile Disco with a singer… or something along those lines, you get the idea.

So please forgive Jona for leaving The Blow, and shake your ass in the new electronic era.

“Healthy Student”

Listen: “Platinum” (feat. Bobby Birdman) and “See A Penny (Pick It Up)” from I Believe In You, Your Magic Is Real, available on Marriage Records, and “The Summer Song” (feat. Claire L. Evans).




August 25, 2007

Things one might like about Iceland include: The language’s frequent and interesting usage of consonants and accented vowels. The use of geothermal power and geysers. The Sugarcubes and of course, Björk

So now here’s one more thing to add to the rapidly expanding list: Seabear.

What started out as a solo project for 24-year-old Sindri Már Sigfússon is now a seven member band. (Obviously not an economics major.) Despite that Seabear may not yet be the topic of dinner conversations across America, like the infamous Guðmundsdóttir swan dress incident was for that one night in 2001, the band is a likely candidate as major player in the Icelandic export industry (right behind fish and well, Björk).

My guess is if Seabear (the band) were actually an animal, it would be a timid vegetarian beast. Sort of cute and playful like that polar bear cub, Knut (though admittedly, polar bears do not grow up to be timid vegetarians). The band happens to sound vaguely like another popular septet, this one from Glasgow, though minus the echoes of Nick Drake. File under shy boy indie folk, a kinder gentler Bright Eyes from a nation where nearly everyone is employed. Currently, the band has scheduled dates in Denmark and Iceland.

Seabear – Hands Remember

Listen: “I Sing I Swim” from The Ghost That Carried Us Away, available from Morr Music on September 9, in the US. You can download the entire self-released debut, Singing Arc EP, here.


Photo by Danielle St. Laurent

Indie songstress Ms. Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn has joined forces with Lori Goldston and Kyle Hanson of Spectratone International (and formerly of the Black Cat Orchestra) to write an album about none other than the creepy crawly vectors of disease we call bugs.

Commissioned by the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, these songs are to be part of a multi-media performance that also features short stop-motion films by Britta Johnson. Together, these performance pieces are to be presented to children at the Seattle International Children’s Festival. (We are hoping for the more adorable type of insects, like those featured in Pixar films, rather than those from the Temple of Doom fame.)

But whatever your age, a new Mirah record is always a welcomed addition to playlists of any generation. (Come on, you know that Bubby and Zaide love “Light the Match.”) Even if this record is primarily about bugs. Unless you suffer from entomophobia. In that case you should steer clear. But everyone else should check it out.

Music by Mirah and Spectratone International, Film by Britta Johnson – Credo Cigalia

Listen: “Credo Cigalia” and “Community” from Share This Place: Stories and Observations, available on K Records.
Share This Place: Stories and Observations was released yesterday.



August 7, 2007

Photo by Mark Dawursk, 2007.

In the Maritime world, there’s an ex-band overboard.

Ever since Eric Axelson (formerly of The Dismemberment Plan) left, the latest and greatest incarnation of the famed ex-indie/emo legends The Promise Ring and The Dismemberment Plan are left with being merely an ex-Promise Ring band. For those not old enough to recall The Promise Ring’s off-pitch tight white T-shirt emo brilliance (which is now past its artistic and marketing peak), don’t panic – there is little to worry about.

Maritime’s third album, Heresy and the Hotel Choir, is their first to be recorded without the D-Plan’s influence. But not to worry. While Axelson’s probably one of the most valuable indie rock bass players to lose, Maritime made more sense as a destination for Davey von Bohlen, particularly following the surprising final Promise Ring album, Wood/Water. (The band after all was ruled by a 2:1 Promise Ring majority.) Axelson made things interesting for sure (“Parade of Punk Rock T-Shirts,” anyone?), but as von Bohlen’s singing/songwriting navigated away from The Promise Ring, Maritime’s star was on the rise.

While there will be those who mourn the loss of the Axelson-era Maritime (emo boys, it’s really not dramatic as all that), the two tracks from the new record featured below indicate that the Maritime indie-pop is still buoyant as ever. But as We, The Vehicles moved one step further from their former legacy, it sounds as if Davey and Dan (Didier) are considering a move back to shore.

Tearing Up The Oxygen – We, The Vehicles

Listen: “Guns of Navarone” and “For Science Fiction” from the forthcoming record Heresy and the Hotel Choir, available on Flameshovel Records. Out on October 16, 2007.

Ask Me About My Invisible Friends – Maritime (previously in November 2006).

Invisible Songs vol. 7

August 6, 2007

Iron & Wine

Super Furry Animals – Run Away

Iron & Wine – Boy With A Coin

Bat For Lashes – Horses And I

New Erections – We Have Reached An Official Verdict: Nobody Gives A Shit

Throw Me A Statue – Lolita

The Mae Shi – Run To Your Grave

Architecture In Helsinki – Heart It Races

Travis Morrison Hellfighters – As We Proceed

Doveman – Honey

Bad Brains – Give Thanks And Praises

If you recall, Pitchfork didn’t like Travis Morrison’s last album, Travistan. This was Mr. Morrison’s first solo album since his band, The Dismemberment Plan, had gone their separate ways. It got no love and even fewer points, scoring 0.0 out of 10. Ouch.

The one and only way to positively look at the brutality decreed by the high court of indie cred was that things could only get better. For example, if Morrison’s new album is 100 times better than the previous one, well then Pitchfork would rate it… well, 100 x 0.0 is still 0. But at least it seems Pitchfork may have forgiven Morrison’s previous sins by providing the forthcoming record with some publicity.

The first mp3 track to hit the internet is “As We Proceed,” a fairly Dismemberment-esque tune. Based on this track alone, Travis and his Hellfighters should score significantly higher than their previous record. The rest of the album streams from the band’s website and sounds pretty damn good.

That said, it’s still unclear whether Travis Morrison will be a successful solo artist. The album is certainly a step in the right direction, but feels at its best when it recalls everything you ever liked about the Dismemberment Plan. When it strays too far (rapping?), it falters. There are some nice surprises here (“East Side of the River” and “Saturday Night”), but with all of the excitement surrounding the Dismemberment Plan reunion to benefit little Callum Robbins, one has to wonder if Morrison will ever step out of his former band’s shadow (or if he should even be trying).

All Y’all is out on August 21.

Listen: As We Proceed, from All Y’all available from Barsuk Records. And just for fun: The Dismemberment Plan – Superpowers, from Change available from DeSoto Records.

Ask Me About My Invisible Friends – Dismemberment Plan