Child Ballads

November 29, 2007

Photo: Piper Ferguson

It’s been nearly ten years since Stuart Lupton and the other members of Jonathan Fire*Eater released the miraculous Wolf Songs For Lambs, a feat so awesome it could only be betrayed by their subsequent implosion and fall from Dreamworks.

While the rest of the Fire*Eaters re-emerged with a newly furbished studio called Mercata, and a band called The Walkmen, (you may have heard of them) rumors of Lupton’s musical activity began to circulate about folksy watering holes. The original version of “Cheekbone Hollows” (or “White Chocolate Tea”) was a catchy acoustic-style sing-along with former member, Betsey Wright, and marked a significant departure from the dark, carnivalesque characters who inhabited the likes of Jonathan Fire*Eater’s Tremble Under Boom Lights.

The Child Ballads’ EP was released in the UK over a year ago on Loog Records, but only made it to the US in the form of random blog posts. During the past year, the band has completely changed members, with the exception of Lupton, of course. The tone of the current line up is slightly different, (see the “Cheekbone Hollows” video for comparison) and Wright’s presence is definitely missed.

Still, Stuart Lupton is one handsome devil. (And the songs remain excellent.) See for yourself. Child Ballads play Luna Lounge on December 7, in Brooklyn.

“Cheekbone Hollows”

Listen: “Cheekbone Hollows” and “Laughter From the Rafters” from their forthcoming EP, available from Gypsy Eyes Records.

See the previous Ask Me About My Invisible Friends’ Child Ballads post here.



November 28, 2007

It’s been a full decade since the last Polvo record, Shapes, came out, and that just makes me feel awful and old. Luckily for you and me, Polvo have decided to defy time and space, and are heading to the mid-nineties to re-unify for the All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival on May 16-18, 2008.

While that date is well on its way, unfortunately the space involved is not near New York City, or even in the US for that matter. So not only will you have to score tickets to the event, but tickets for trans-Altantic travel to Minehead, England, will also be required. There are currently no other shows planned.

In the meantime, take a stroll down Chapel Hill’s memory lane, and revisit the dissonant noisy mad-genius of our high school math rock years. Call it Sonic Youth meets Unwound in Asia, or call it what you will, Polvo was as much their own band as any in that era. So get the family ready for vacation in Minehead, and steady yourself for the return of the (old) new dark age.


Listen: “Everything In Flames!” from Shapes, available on Touch and Go Records, and “Tragic Carpet Ride” from Celebrate the New Dark Age, available on Merge Records.

Half of Polvo can be found here:
One quarter here:
and here:


November 26, 2007

There’s just no easy way to do this, so let’s just get this over with.

Statehood, the new DC band featuring former Dismemberment Plan and Maritime members Eric Axelson and Joe Easley, will be opening for Axelson’s former band at The Mercury Lounge in New York. (Awkward!) This continues a trend of ex-band related performances, as Statehood has also been seen opening for the other ex-Dismemberment Plan band, the Travis Morrison Hellfighters. We’ll have to assume all of these relationships ended amicably and cite mutual creative differences as the reason for the former split ups. (No, it’s not you, it’s me…)

Meanwhile, Statehood has recently released their debut record, Lies and Rhetoric, which includes a fair amount of good old fashioned DC-style post-hardcore. (The rumbling complexities of driving basslines, the angular treble of single note guitar parts and octaves, dub-influence plus dissonance, and the politics of leftist angry emotive white men.) This said, however, the record more than anything recalls El Paso’s late great At The Drive-In and their opus, Relationship of Command.

But wait, it’s true: Statehood may be the best young band to emerge from DC since the break up of Q And Not U. (And by young, I mean, men in their thirties who are lawyers and teachers by day.) While the “elder statesman” of the DC scene (read: The Evens, Channels, Joe Lally) have recently put forth great records, it’s the energy and urgency driving Statehood’s music that sets it apart. So NB: You can put the DC back in post-harDCore.

Listen: Statehood:End The Moderation” (four songs stream on MySpace)

The Dismemberment Plan: “Superpowers
The Promise Ring: “A Picture Postcard” and “E. Texas Ave
Maritime: “Parade of Punk Rock T-Shirts” and “Calm
Travis Morrisson Hellfighters: “As We Proceed

Lies and Rhetoric is available now.

Invisible Songs vol. 12

November 25, 2007

Chris Walla (in Death Cab for Cutie)

1. Hello, Blue Roses – “Shadow Falls

2. The Warlocks – “So Paranoid

3. Chris Walla – “Sing Again

4. Bright Eyes – “Coat Check Dream Song (Live)” from the Waxploitation Darfur Charity Album.

5. Johan Hedberg – “Var Dig Sjalv

6. Populous – “Breathes the Best

7. Miss Derringer – “Unchained Melody

8. Choir Practice – “Red Fox

9. The Ravonettes – “Dead Sound

10. Six Organs of Admittance – “Jade Like Wine


November 12, 2007

Not just another Brooklyn band (actually, not a band from Brooklyn at all), Celebration are often mistakenly geographically categorized with the likes of TV On the Radio, the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s and the Liars. The misclassification is an understandable error considering the company Celebration is known to keep (in particular, TVOTR’s Dave Sitek who produced their two albums). But in truth, Celebration hail from Baltimore.

Their music is often described as a marriage between the two aforementioned bands (TVOTR and YYY’s), which is fair enough, but gives the band less credit than they deserve. Sure, the composition of the band reflects that of the Karen O/Zinner/Chase paradigm, and Katrina Ford is a dynamic, albeit less abrasive, charismatic frontwoman. But Ford’s deep voice is more theatrical than punk, and falls somewhere between Ms. O, Joan Wasser (Joan as Policewoman) and Siouxsie Sioux.

Celebration’s music likewise is a bit hard to classify, which is probably their one similarity with TVOTR. It’s true that almost every member (if not every member) of TVOTR acutally appears on The Modern Tribe, but just as Sitek’s band has a distinct sound all its own, so does Celebration; it’s difficult (and unfair) to call the two the same. “Heartbreak” is the closest the two bands collide in this regard, but for the most part, Celebration’s heavy reliance on Sean Antanaitis’ keyboards and bass pedaling place the band as the musical accompaniment in some otherworldly psychedelic mass at a David Lynch-ian carnival-cabaret.

Listen: “Evergreen” from The Modern Tribe, available on 4AD. Also check out “Hands Off My Gold (Simian Mobile Disco Remix).” Most of their new album is streaming from their MySpace page.

“War” – from their self-titled debut, 2005

Celebration is currently on tour. They play the Bowery Ballroom on November 28.

Joe Lally

November 6, 2007

The first ten seconds of Fugazi’s “Waiting Room” is all Joe Lally. So in the minds of many, the man can do no wrong.

Primarily known for his work in that seminal band, Joe Lally was one half of Fugazi’s rhythmic backbone, responsible for propelling the band’s improvised sonic experiments forward against massive dueling feedback odds. With Ian MacKaye’s focused political tension in the spotlight, countered by Guy Picciotto’s fluidly rolled R’s flailing on the floor, Lally was oftentimes Fugazi’s refined center.

The opening performance of “Shut the Door” in Jem Cohen’s film, Instrument, is typical Fugazi: Lally is nearly invisible, but his bass playing defines the song. When “Shut the Door” is deconstructed into drums and bell clangs flanked by piercing single notes, it isn’t until Lally resumes playing that the song emerges again as recognizable.

So with Fugazi on a continued indefinite hiatus, Joe Lally returns with his second solo record, Nothing is Underrated (Dischord No. 158). Like his first album, this record again features an amalgam of guest artists, including some of his former band members. It will be released by Dischord Records on November 19, 2007.

Though his arrival on center stage was perhaps less likely than MacKaye’s return with Amy Farina as The Evens, it wasn’t wholly unprecedented. Lally emerged as Fugazi’s third vocalist on their late great album, Red Medicine, and the trend continued on subsequent recordings. During live performances, Lally would re-position between MacKaye and Picciotto for his vocal duties and then quietly recede back to his more familiar position by drummer Brendan Canty.

Lally’s solo music is a more minimalist affair than Fugazi, but it is by no means sparse. It falls closer to the tone of Fugazi’s “The Kill” rather than “By You,” (both which were sung by Lally) but is really something altogether different. Like The Evens, there are certainly elements of Fugazi at work, but after over a decade of work at maximal decibels there is an attempt here to claim newfound power in something more subtle.

Performing in the shadow of Fugazi is no doubt challenging work, but Lally up to the task. “Skin and Bones” sounds as promising as anything from the first record, and at a time when we need activist-artists like Fugazi most, it’s reassuring to have Joe Lally back in play.

Listen: “Day Is Born” from Nothing Is Underrated, and “Lidia’s Song” from There To Here, both available on Dischord Records. You can also hear “Skin and Bones” from Nothing Is Underrated streaming from Dischord.

Invisible Songs vol. 11

November 3, 2007

You Say Party! We Say Die!

1. Celebration – “Evergreen

2. Minipop – “Like I Do

3. Saturday Looks Good To Me – “Make A Plan

4. British Sea Power – “Atom

5. Thao with the Get Down Stay Down – “Beat

6. You Say Party! We Say Die! – “Nightswimming” (R.E.M. Cover)

7. Demander – “GMT

8. No Kids – “For Halloween

9. Holy Fuck – “Lovely Allen

10. Shannon Wright – “Everybody’s Got Their Own Part To Play