Monday, December 15, 2008

(Everything But) Top 10 Albums of 2008

So in neurotically compiling my favorite albums of the year, I came to realize just how many songs/albums/artists I was going to be leaving off my list in order to make the list a bit manageable. Therefore...I present to you, many other far less manageable lists. Top 10 albums to follow in a few days.

Top 5 songs of 2008 that are not represented in my top 10 albums:

Wale - The Opening Title Sequence (youtube)
Any hip-hop song that is built upon the premise of sampling the theme from Seinfeld is off to a good start in my book. When that's added to the ultra-skilled style of Wale, mentioned here earlier this year, you get an attention-grabbing song that hopefully is just the start for this dude.

BOAT - Topps (Mp3)
Love documented for this song back in July. Hopefully at this time in 2009, I'll be posting the next BOAT full-length as one of the year's best.

M83 - Graveyard Girl (youtube)
Although their last album, Before the Dawn Heals Us, was a favorite of mine several years back, I was somewhat skeptical that M83 would ever produce a song that I enjoyed as much as "Don't Save Us From the Flames;" not necessarily because I thought the act wasn't capable or talented enough, but rather because I liked the song so much. Roy over at Odd Lyric did a great write-up that looks a bit at M83's evolution that I highly recommend if you're interested in checking out more of their music.

Delta Spirit - Trashcan (youtube, live @ Club Downunder 10/18/08)
Last year at Club Downunder, we had Delta Spirit here opening for Dr. Dog, and I only caught a portion of their set, as I was unfamiliar with the majority of their music. After being impressed seeing them again this summer, I was pretty excited when we booked them again, this time for a headlining show, in the fall. This tune in particular is a great, upbeat example of the band's soulful live rock show. The video above (from the aforementioned fall show) is not great quality, but the sound comes across pretty well.

Okkervil River - Lost Coastlines
If you read my best of 2007 post way back last January, you saw that Okkervil River's last album, The Stage Names, was my favorite release of last year. Although I did enjoy this year's follow-up, The Stand-Ins, "Lost Coastlines" clearly stood out to me as a cut above the rest of the album. You can check it out, in video form, below.

Top 5 shows of 2008:

1) Beirut – Sasquatch! Festival, George, Washington (How come?)
2) M.I.A. – Sasquatch! Festival, George, Washington (How come?)
3) Alejandro Escovedo – Stubb’s, Austin, TX (How come?)
4) Of Montreal – The Moon, Tallahassee, FL (How come?)
5) Mittens on Strings – The Hideout, Austin, TX (How come?)

Album That Would Have Battled it Out for My #1 Had I Been Able to Justify it's 2008 Re-Release as an Actual Release Date:

Bowerbirds - Hymns for a Dark Horse
I've already gone on a bit about this album already, so I'll just present to you one of my favorite Take-Away Shows of 2008.

Best Random Live Video Featured on the Internets That Was Not on the Take-Away Shows:
Yeasayer - 2080 (On's Don't Look Down)

And finally, the albums that just missed my top 10 of 2008 (aka Honorable Mentions)

Noah and the Whale - Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down
Hand claps, intricate instrumental arrangements, whistling, and hooks everywhere. They even use a ukulele. I mean, how could you not like this band? More to come in 2009.

Dr. Dog - Fate
With a darker feel than it's predecessor, 2007's We All Belong, Fate was Dr. Dog continuing along it's harmonic path but taking a sidestep in a slightly new direction. Their music has always sounded rich and full, but this newest effort is even moreso, and placing it outside the top 10 was difficult.

Lambchop - OH (Ohio)
Few bands have a more pleasant sound than Lambchop. If I had to make them the middle point between two bands, they would fit halfway between Silver Jews and Iron & Wine. Sounds ridiculous, but check them out and it may make sense.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Missed Posts of '08: The Little Ones - Boracay

If asked to name the band best at writing pop hooks today, I'd probably have to say The Little Ones. I can't even attempt to surpass the eloquence of the following statement regarding their debut album, Morning Tide, by Funky Cold Sabrina, who says "Makes me want to eat skittles..."

Anyway, the song "Boracay" was first featured on the Terry Tales & Fallen Gates EP, which was released in April. The track is also included on Morning Tide, which was released later in the year. The song is a great example of the act's instant appeal. I'm going to pretty much leave it at that and encourage you to check out an interesting interview with the band over at STLMTM.

Mp3: The Little Ones - Boracay
Buy: The Little Ones - Morning Tide

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Light Footwork - The Art of Everyday Communication, Part 1

This video/song should've been huge.

Big hopes for the next album.

Also, please buy their Split EP with Tereu Tereu, it's completely great & worth it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Missed Posts of '08: R.E.M. - Supernatural Superserious

Between a busy schedule and wanting each post to stay up for at least a few days at the top, there's been a lot of songs this year that I've wanted to feature but haven't had the chance. Since we're nearing the end of 2008, I figured I'd try and highlight a few of my favorite tracks of the year that I previously missed. First up: R.E.M., whose lead single "Supernatural Superserious," off 2008's Accelerate took me a bit off guard (and emerged as my favorite since "Imitation of Life"). I've always considered myself a big fan of the band (who are now nearing the 30 year mark together), but I think I had instinctively lowered my expectations after 2004's disappointing Around the Sun. Accelerate is an overall return to form for the band, and this single was a great example of the fun, reinvigorated sound of their live show that I was lucky enough to catch twice over the course of just a few months.

Mp3: R.E.M. - Supernatural Superserious
Video: R.E.M. - Supernatural Superserious (features just about every version online)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Clues - Perfect Fit

What happens when you mix a member of The Unicorns with a member of Arcade Fire with several Montrealites that I don't know? Well, based on the first song from the mysterious new band Clues, the answer is that it sounds like about 70% Unicorns, 10% Arcade Fire, and 20% non-identified. Which is to say, big thumbs up so far. The band has their debut album coming out at some point in 2009, and it is being released on Constellation. Please listen ASAP thx.

Mp3: Clues - Perfect Fit (link courtesy of

Monday, October 27, 2008

Interview - The Octopus Project

Texas-based band The Octopus Project create the sort of music that intensifies and reveals more layers the more times you listen through. Their sound is heavy on the electronics but avoids the common pitfall of too much repetition. Currently known as one of Austin's best local bands, it seems to be a matter of time before they become a national fixture. They recently took the time to answer some questions from the road, which you can check out below.

What is the best description of your music that you’ve read (in a review/feature/etc)?

There’s a (now defunct) magazine called Resonance that wrote a pretty amazing article about us. It was literally the dream article that said all the things I’ve always wanted someone to say about us. They even put us on the cover. Unfortunately, the issue that featured us was the first issue to not be printed, and didn’t come out on newsstands. It was an amazing article though!

One of the things that The Octopus project is known for is as being a big part of the Austin music scene – How has the area affected your music, and would you say that there is an “Austin sound?”

I think living in
Austin is amazing. It’s my favorite town in the world. The general vibe around town is pretty relaxed, and incredibly friendly, so it’s possible that sneaks into our music somehow. I think we’re happy folks, and living in Austin makes us happy, so I suppose that might have something to do with the way we approach making music.

I don’t think there is one particular “
Austin sound,” but I do think we have a pretty amazing scene going on. There are a million bands in town, and the community is incredibly supportive of musicians. That environment seems to foster creativity and a general excitement about doing your own thing.

How do your songs begin? Do they start out from an electronic place, or does the songwriting process begin with a more stripped-down instrument and then evolve?

Every song we write is different, but most of them come from a sound or idea from one person, then things get passed around a bit between the rest of us for a while before we consider something to be complete. We tend to like to work on things by ourselves – sitting in front of the computer, or at the practice space. Also, if one person has specific ideas for a song, sometimes they’ll just write the majority of the song, and the rest of us will figure out how to play the parts/change things around a little bit to make them our own. Almost every song touches all of our hands at one point or another.

However, it’s pretty rare that we’ll write a song while we’re all in the room together. We tend not to jam a whole lot. It’s really fun, but I feel like most things we make up at practice have a tendency to sound like Stereolab – long and droney. Which is great, but I think we're going for a different thing. It often takes us a while to write new songs by passing them back and forth, but I feel like we work really well together that way.

What is your current favorite new or lesser-known band at the moment?

We’re all pretty into diverse things, so it’s hard to pinpoint one band. But, to name some: Ananda Shankar, Satyajit Ray, Alice Coltrane, Dead Science, Diagonals.

Are there any albums that are indispensable in the tour van rotation?

We tend to listen to a lot of quiet, minimal stuff in the van. Things that are really repetitive are pretty awesome to drive to. Right now, we play a bunch of stuff by Steve Reich, Johann Johannsen, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Popol Vuh.

If you could play a show alongside any artist or band, ala the Beck tour that had The Flaming Lips as his backing band, who would it be?

If I had to pick any band in history, the Beatles would be a pretty easy choice. But, as far as current bands go, I think Deerhoof, Sonic Youth or Flaming Lips would be pretty high up there.

What has been your proudest achievement as a band to date?

Hmm…. I’m pretty proud of the fact that we’ve been a band for a while now, and are still really excited about the things we do. I don’t feel like we’ve gotten burned out, and still feel like there’s so much we have left to explore.

What artists that you listened to growing up most influence the music you’re now making?

I was pretty obsessed with bands like Sonic Youth, Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, and Velvet Underground when I was in high school, and I know their musical ideas definitely creep into our music every once in a while. One of the things I liked most about those bands is that they were always more than just rock bands. All of those bands was/are first and foremost, excited about experimenting with sounds, but at the same time they know how to write amazingly beautiful songs. That’s a balance that we strive for as well.

How would you define success as a band?

I think bands are successful when they are making music that they are happy about. We were talking with a friend the other day, and he told us about a band that he knew who had been together for 20 years. They barely ever tour, and don’t really put out too many records, but have practiced every Tuesday night for the last 20 years. They just love what they’re doing, and love being together, and that’s really what it all boils down to. Making money and being recognized by your peers are great, but at the end of the day you have to be happy with what you are doing and whom you are doing it with. Those are the measures of success to me.

So, a tour ends, and you all head back to
Austin. What’s the first place you go? And, if it’s different, what is your favorite spot in Austin?

There are so many great things about
Austin. We all love swimming at Barton Springs, watching movies at the Alamo Drafthouse, and eating at our favorite restaurant, Uchi. Just being home is pretty amazing though!

If budget wasn’t an issue, what kinds of things (if anything at all) would you like to incorporate into your live show?

I don’t know what we’d do. We’ve always had an enormously tiny budget, so we’ve had to work around that. I think there’s so much more you can do when you have no money versus a huge budget. It forces you to think more creatively.

Mp3: The Octopus Project - I Saw the Bright Shinies
Video: The Octopus Project - I Saw the Bright Shinies

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Passion Pit - I've Got Your Number

Some of you may have read about Passion Pit lately due to the release of their new video for "Sleepyhead," off of their EP Chunk of Change. That track is promising, but to me it doesn't stand up terribly well over repeated listenings. Thankfully, Passion Pit brings the real jams elsewhere on their EP. One of my favorites is "I've Got Your Number," which you can find below. For those of you that think you might like your MGMT with a bit of a Postal Service filter, give this one a shot.

Myspace: Passion Pit
Stream: Passion Pit - I've Got Your Number
Ive Got Your Number - Passion Pit

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Deerhoof - Offend Maggie

I was trying to decide if I should post this song for the past few weeks, but as I can't get it out of my head, I think that's a sign that it's time. Maybe if I pass it along to others, we can share the "Ring ring, I hang up"'s. Try to think of it in a sharing candy kind of way, not in a videotape in The Ring kind of way.

Be sure to check out the 1:22-1:33 instrumental break in the song - it's a great little example of the attention to detail that the band shows at their best moments.

Mp3: Deerhoof - Offend Maggie

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Abrahamson & The Façade - Julie

I know nearly nothing about this artist, except that it is a solo project by Tyler Futrell, and that he's made a track worth sharing. The song starts off with a slow tempo and a guitar accompaniment, but takes a number of interesting turns as the full five minutes or so play out. Check it out for yourself below.

Mp3: Abrahamson & The Façade - Julie

Monday, September 29, 2008

Wale - W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E.

It's been awhile since I heard a hip-hop artist that stuck out as being head and shoulders above anything else out at the moment*. DC rapper Wale sounds like an artist that desperately wants to be the best at what he does, and after hearing just two of his albums, I'm convinced that he's already there. I'll just leave it at that, but please do yourself a favor and download both The Mixtape About Nothing (an entire album that uses Seinfeld clips/samples, oh yeah) and 100 Miles and Running for free at Wale's myspace. Also, below is Wale rapping over Justice's D.A.N.C.E. Re-adjust your favorite artist lists accordingly.

Mp3: Wale - W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E.
Video: Justice - D.A.N.C.E.

*Credit to the music master Willis for the heads-up on this one.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Matt and Kim - Good Ol' Fashion Nightmare

Matt and Kim, the Mates of State in reverse (or at least on reverse instruments), are on the verge of releasing a new album, Grand. The first single from the album, "Good Ol' Fashion Nightmare," features a decidedly less lo-fi sound for the duo, which works great on this track. When you just have a drum set and keyboard to work with, the sound is going to be pretty minimalistic, but the higher level of production here though fills out the sound in a positive way. You can find the track at the Matt & Kim-friendly site below.

Matt and Kim - Good Ol' Fashion Nightmare

Saturday, August 30, 2008


Sad day, as one of my favorite non-blog, sort-of music blog roundup websites, Paper Thin Walls, announced it is ending its run. Check out their "PTW's Almanack: The Greatest Hits" feature to see some of the best featured on the site over the years.

Friday, August 29, 2008

mr. Gnome - Night of the Crickets

So I just recently came across this band/song/video and though a bit odd, all are worth a look. The band's sound reminds me off the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, perhaps with a bit more of a mid-90s-alternative-nation-appeal to it. Keeping with that theme, the video is reminiscent of the kind of videos that you would stumble upon while watching late night MTV back when it was good and did things like play music videos. Oh, 120 Minutes, where have you gone?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bowerbirds - Olive Hearts

A track that I was mildly obsessed with last year was Bowerbirds' "In Our Talons," which led me to check out their great set at SXSW '08. This week I finally picked up the band's full length debut, Hymns for a Dark Horse, and now wish I had done so months ago.

Lead single "In Our Talons" is immediately catchy, due in part to a main refrain sung as a group effort, and an accordian hook (just go with it). The song on the album that took me off guard in terms of how much I liked it, though, was "Olive Hearts," which starts out a bit slower but builds as the song develops. As I was listening to the album through (particularly "Olive Hearts"), I realized that I really enjoyed how the vocals and instrumentation interact in Bowerbirds. The two entities are almost like an owner walking their dog, with the dog happily walking off the trail here and there, but never straying too far. It's a style that could go dramatically wrong (see: Dirty Projectors), but works perfectly for Bowerbirds. Streaming and video links below.

Stream: Bowerbirds - Olive Hearts
Video: Bowerbirds - In Our Talons

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Meeting (& Exceeding) the Hype: Fleet Foxes

Nowadays, so many bands are overhyped to the point of unattainable expectations. With blogs and media sites posting music recommendations that they get from one another, a band can be over saturated in the matter of a week or two. This new fishbowl environment makes it so much more gratifying to find a few notable bands that emerge as worthy of all that praise (Grizzly Bear & Arcade Fire to name a few that I'd put in this category, disagree as you see fit). The debut Fleet Foxes album has had all kinds of people heaping praise all over it (that dude over at Stereogum, for one, should probably take it down a notch), but the honest truth is that their album really is that good (and as someone who was lucky enough to see them live twice this year, the music translates great in concert). I mean damn, they even made their myspace page funny.

Folksy but not sleepy and spacey but focused, Fleet Foxes really is one of the best albums of 2008. Video above, Mp3 below. Enjoy.

Mp3: Fleet Foxes - He Doesn't Know Why

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Donkeys - Walk Through a Cloud

From the moment you hear the great opening guitar hook in The Donkeys' "Walk Through a Cloud," it's hard not to be won over immediately. It's a light, likable song from the San Diego band that serves as a fun preview of some new music headed our way this fall. Their next album, Living on the Other Side, is due out on September 9th, and I'd recommend staying posted here for more info. Until then, this song is destined to be on my next mixtape. Check it:

Mp3: The Donkeys - Walk Through a Cloud

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

White Hassle - Life is Still Sweet

I once read this quote from a musician in which they said that their favorite songs had upbeat music but dismal lyrics. While that pretty much defines a large part of indie rock these days, sometimes it's good to just listen to a song that's positive all around. New Yorkers White Hassle crafted one such song a few years back (which later inspired Isaac Brock to write "Float On," incidentally), "Life is Still Sweet." Although the band is now on hiatus, this track should live on in peoples' iPhones or whatever the kids have these days.

Mp3: White Hassle - Life is Still Sweet

Saturday, July 19, 2008

BOAT - Topps

Well, I said I'd post about them at some point, and with the arrival of a new EP, the day has arrived. BOAT's new song, "Topps," combines the worlds of baseball and indie pop as a select few have done before. If you've never heard BOAT before, their sound is both catchy and jumpy, and features a vocal style that evolves depending on what is called for by the backing music (Good examples of other songs to check out include "Elephant Ears" and "I'm a Donkey for Your Love," both on the band's myspace). Anyway, new track for your loving:

Mp3: BOAT - Topps
Buy: BOAT - Topps EP

Take Away Shows in Tallahassee

My new apartment has stairs. Therefore, this is how my mornings will be as I walk down them on my way to work. Happy Saturday,

Saturday, July 12, 2008

She & Him - Why do you Let Me Stay Here?

I hope to not make a habit of posting videos linking to MTV, since they barely even play music themselves anymore, but so be it for today. This one's for a favorite song of mine on She & Him's debut album, Volume One. After watching it, I felt like it came close to being half creepy and half endearing. However, I think the Zooey Deschanel presence tips it over into the endearing side. As they used to say at the end of "Making the Video" episodes, "AND NOW, THE WORLD PREMIERE (pause for effect) OF SHE & HIM'S "WHY DO YOU LET ME STAY HERE" ("whoosh" noise):

Saturday, July 05, 2008

New Beck - Modern Guilt

Beck Hanson, the Scientology-raised-part-time-semi-sensical-rapping-part-time-heartfelt-singing artist is back for 2008 with a brand new Danger Mouse-produced album, Modern Guilt.Though Guero may be looked at as a slight lull in Beck's career, his last album, The Information, was clearly underrated in my book. It tipped Beck's sound back into the likeable, lighter sounding side of his frenetic music that became almost directionless on Guero. From the sounds of the released tracks of Modern Guilt, it seems as though this go round will feature a sound that is genre-bending but clearly wears the imprint of both Beck and Danger Mouse. You can pick up a copy for yourself on 7/8/08.

Stream: Beck - Orphans/Gamma Ray/Chemtrails

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Greetings from...Sasquatch! 2008 (a little late, but still)

Oh, Sasquatch. Going in, this festival had a whole lot to live up to for me. I had previously only been to two festivals, but both had extremely impressive lineups. Add that to the fact that I was literally flying as far across the lower 48 states as is possible to get there and that I was passing up Bonnaroo in favor of this Pacific Northwestern alternative, and, well...let's just say it was going to take a lot.

Three days, dozens of bands, and one shower later, I can say with ease that this festival was not only worth going, but that I am already planning out my '09 trip. Much like my SXSW post, I'll try my best to sum it all up with a few highlights and mp3s from some of my favorite acts. Special bonus: grainy pictures from a disposable camera. Makes it more old-timey, I'd say.

Saturday Highlights:


If you've never listened to Beirut before, my suggestion is to listen to the Mp3 below and just imagine hearing it live in front of an expansive canyon. I can't think of anyone else that would have truly kicked off the festival any better. Beirut's international sound was the perfect soundtrack to our first glimpse of the Gorge Amphitheatre. I'm rather glad that I had never seen the act before, as it allows me to now have this perfect association in my head: the pairing of venue and sound.

Mp3: Beirut - Scenic World (Second Version)


I'm not sure how I could possibly do M.I.A.'s performance justice through words, but I will say that it was as good, if not better, than any other large-stage performance of the entire weekend. My friend Roy and I were saying that it felt as though we were at Glastonbury Festival, as the show had the entire crowd moving in unison, a surreal, video-game-esque stop motion video playing in time with her music, and featured several songs with a few hundred fans dancing up on stage. The entire set just blew me away. If you have the chance to check her out, do so.

[photo credit: jerkalertproductions]
Modest Mouse

Sasquatch! has presented some of my favorite performers throughout the festivals history, including Bjork, Arcade Fire, and Beck. This year, Modest Mouse was one such act, and although I had seen them twice already, they were one of my most anticipated sets of the weekend. The set started off a bit slow, and something seemed off. Probably about 1/4 of the way through their time on stage, though, things suddenly turned upwards, right around the time they absolutely ripped through "Trucker's Atlas." From that point forward, the band was 100% phenomenal. It was easily the tightest I have ever seen the band, and it was also the most dynamic performance I've ever seen them give (the addition of Johnny Marr was great to see for the first time, as well). "King Rat" was great to see, and the night's version of "Doin' the Cockroach" was one of the best single songs I've seen from any band of any song in recent memory.

Video - Modest Mouse - Doin' the Cockroach (Unofficial)

Sunday Highlights:

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks

The photo above: uneven, bad lighting, and perfectly depicts the fact that I was standing at the side of the stage for the Jicks' set. It helps to know powerful performers with extra backstage wristbands, it is true. Malkmus was one of the few acts that I consider to be absolutely an all-time favorite that I had never seen live before. Not only was I able to cross this one off the list, but I was able to watch from a distance of about 10 feet away. The set was a bit jam-heavy, but fulfilling nonetheless. Highlight: Malkmus' pavement joke: "This is the best weather I've ever seen at Sasquatch! I wasn't here yesterday, though. I hear yesterday it was raining sideways...Crooked. Crooked rain."

Flaming Lips Movie Premiere: Christmas on Mars

It was loud, very loud. It also reminded me of a really long nightmare. However, it was really about more than just the movie - it was an experience. Wayne Coyne came out to introduce the film, saying, in his usual quirky-endearing-fast-speak, something to the effect of, "Well, this isn't the first screening, the first screening was two hours ago. But this is the second ever screening of this film. And there will only be one second screening, ever." Good enough for me. We also got free popcorn in a limited edition "Eat Your Own Spaceship" container, and the drummer held the tent curtain open for the crowd as we exited.

Trailer - Flaming Lips' Christmas on Mars (frighteningly enough, very representative of the film)

Monday Highlights:

Thao with the Get Down, Stay Down

This was probably the 50th or so time that I've seen Thao play live, but I think it was also only the 3rd time that I've seen the band playing under their current moniker. As charming and clearly gifted a performer as Thao has always been as a solo performer, her music has never sounded better than it does now, within the confines of a full band. Whereas I used to describe the band as having a clear sound of a group of talented musicians, they now sound like a band that has been playing together for years. Their time spent recently on the road has clearly paid off, as their performance was easily the best, most cohesive second stage performance that I saw all weekend. The rest of the crowd seemed to agree, and the energy that went back and forth between the stage and audience was noteworthy.

Mp3: Thao with the Get Down, Stay Down - Yes, So On and So On

[photo credit: rfc]
Flight of the Conchords

Let me start off by saying that I've seen a total of 5 minutes of the HBO show that these guys star in, and I did not find it all that funny. In the lead-up to the festival, though, I heard a few of their songs, and actually did start to enjoy them more ("that's why they call them business socks?" I mean, come on, how can you deny that?). I ended up deciding on staying for their set to give them a shot and see how they were live. Despite the fact that they were playing to a crowd of probably around 8,000, the duo really held their own and were actually very funny. They were slotted at a great part of the day, as they played an early evening set that followed the guitar work of Rodrigo y Gabriela and was not right up against the Flaming Lips' UFO show. This led to a laid back and receptive crowd, which helped the guys to do a great job of interacting and involving the audience. All in all, it was a smart change of pace for the festival organizers to slip into the lineup.

See you next year, Sasquatch. You too, guitar-rocking-out bear sculpture.

Monday, June 02, 2008

New Video - Thao w/ The Get Down, Stay Down - Swimming Pools

I'm in the midst of playing catch-up at work these days, but I've got a full Sasquatch! 2008 wrap-up post on the way. In the mean time, I'd like to check in with my good friends in Thao with the Get Down, Stay Down. Currently in the midst of their tour in which Rilo Kiley is closing for them, the band has found time to release the third video from We Brave Bee Stings and All, "Swimming Pools." Check it out below, it is definitely my favorite of their videos thus far.

Friday, May 16, 2008

In Appreciation of the Cover Song

Arguments can be made for what makes a great cover song, but I would suggest that the best kind of cover is one in which a band steps outside of their comfort zone in the selection of the song and they subsequently make it their own. It really speaks to both the quality of the song and the versatility of the band taking on the challenge. Submitted for your approval in this category is "Heart it Races," originally by Australian band Architecture in Helsinki, and covered here by Dr. Dog.

The Architecture version is everything that you might expect from them: upbeat, full of dense instrumentation, and very poppy. Somehow, Dr. Dog, who are typically known for a 60's-ish, harmony-heavy, throwback sound, add their own elements to the song (while keeping most of the endearing qualities of the original record). I was lucky enough to catch both bands live last year, and I'd highly recommend checking them both out, and catching each unique take on this song. You can buy both versions and more on Architecture in Helsinki's Heart it Races EP, available right here.

Mp3: Dr. Dog - Heart it Races
Mp3: Architecture in Helsinki - Heart it Races
Video: Architecture in Helsinki - Heart it Races (you really must check this out)

Thursday, May 01, 2008

A Mini Road Trip Mix

So this weekend I'm out of town at a graduation and then at the Tampa Radiohead show, and it got me thinking that I'm in need of a new mix cd for traveling. Although I can't fit everything on my server, I can fit a mini version. While certainly not a full mix cd, I'm willing to go ahead and call it a mix EP. Below, four tracks from the "May 08: Dear Volvo, Please Do Not Break Down. Your Friend, Adam" mix EP, assembled by me.

Cross your fingers for me that I am able to gather myself enough to drive back after seeing my favorite band of all time from a mere 15 rows back.

...and since I'll be gone for about a week:
Mp3: George Costanza - Believe it or Not

Mix EP:

Mp3: Stephen Malkmus - Phantasies
Mp3: Little Ones - Lovers Who Uncover
Mp3: The White Stripes - I Think I Smell a Rat
Mp3: Pixies - Dig for Fire

Friday, April 25, 2008

New Mates of State on the Way

The two happiest live performers that I've ever seen, Jason and Kori of Mates of State, have a new album coming out on May 20, and the early signs are very positive. The first single, "Get Better," features the husband and wife duo sharing vocals as usual, and it has all the hallmarks of the best MoS songs: gradually building tempo, complementary keyboards and drums, and overall, it is as catchy as ever. The video features all of that plus scooters and animal masks. Check it below, along with the Mates of State song that sold me 100% on these guys, and solidified them as one of my favorite bands, "Fluke."

As a sidenote, the band also has an entertaining blog in which they document their experiences as both parents and a band. Also, it's called "Band on the Diaper Run," which I think is very funny. You probably should too, I mean really.

Mp3: Mates of State - Fluke
Stream: Mates of State - Get Better
Video: Mates of State - Get Better

1/2 of Mates of State + 1/2 of Mates of State's Kids + all of Mates of State's demeanor:

Thursday, April 17, 2008

New Weezer - Pork and Beans

Yes, it's that time again. Time for all the longtime Weezer fans to evaluate a new single and decide how it stacks up against the two classics, Weezer (Blue) and Pinkerton. The past 3 albums have been seen overall as disappointments, especially when compared with those first two, but we may finally have a winner. There was some hope shown in the Rivers Cuomo solo album, but here we see the band back again. The lyrics may be a bit nonsensical, but the instrumental sound (particularly the guitarwork) is undeniably reminiscent of classic Blue Album tracks like "My Name is "Jonas" and "The World Has Turned and Left Me Here." Agree? Disagree?

Stream: Weezer - Pork and Beans

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Ryan Adams has gone a little bit crazy: stuffed animals & new music


...but he remains more talented than everone else.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Summer Music: Belle & Sebastian

It's pretty easy to develop associations, both good and bad, with your favorite music. For myself, Belle & Sebastian is a band that I've long associated with summer. It was a summer in high school when I heard my first B&S album and a summer in college that I first saw the group play live. When it starts getting warm out and I can feel the season changing, I seem to revisit all their albums without fail. Below, two of my favorite B&S songs that I'll surely be listening to soon (or now, considering we've already hit 80 degree weather...).

Mp3: Belle & Sebastian - Seeing Other People
Mp3: Belle & Sebastian - Dirty Dream Number Two

Monday, March 17, 2008

SXSW 2008

[photo credit: Staciaann Photography]

The South by Southwest Music Conference/Festival truly is exactly as it sounds: Over 60 venues, over 1400 artists, all packed into downtown Austin, TX over one week. In reality, though, it is hard to imagine until you see it all first-hand. It is overwhelming, thrilling, and exhausting all at once. The mere task of trying to select which bands to see at any given moment is a huge undertaking, mainly because there are very few easy choices (with the notable exception of skipping a party hosted by Perez Hilton, sorry dude.). In the end, though, having to choose among so many great shows really is half the fun, and I quickly realized that it is important to take chances on a new band, rather than always going with the more established acts. Below, personal highlights from SXSW and some Mp3s from the bands that put on my favorite shows.

[photo credit: dontdothisathome]

Favorite Large Venue Show: Alejandro Escovedo @ Stubb's
The perfect example of stumbling upon a great, great artist. The reason that I even made the trek over to Stubb's to check out this set is that I heard a rumor that Lou Reed was going to be a surprise guest at this set, which made me immediately leave the show I was at and head right over. Midway through the first song of the set, I had already forgotten why I came over, because Escovedo and his band tore through their own music with passion and incredible skill. I have no idea why Escovedo isn't playing huge venues, or even why his music isn't all over the radio. It is catchy, accessible, and laced with pure high-level musicianship. In the end, the entire set went by without any guest appearances, but it didn't matter. As a big R.E.M. fan who saw said band perform a terrific set the night before on the same stage, I can say that Escovedo put on the superior performance. Next year, I only hope that the crowd doubles if he makes another appearance.

Mp3: Alejandro Escovedo - Castanets

Runner-Up for Favorite Large Venue Show: R.E.M. @ Stubb's

[photo credit: chasingfun]

Favorite Mid-Sized Venue Show
: Bodies of Water @ Mohawk Patio
Bodies of Water was one of the bands I was most looking forward to heading into SXSW. They also were one of the acts that had a handful of scheduled performances throughout the week. I'd like to think that I picked the best show of the bunch, because they put on a terrific performance. Bodies of Water's songs have a wonderful tendency to include changes of tempo throughout as well as vocals from all members. This can lead to a sound that is Polyphonic Spree-esque with some jumpy Mates of State or Architecture in Helsinki-type twists. The high point of the show had to be towards the end of the performance, when the group played one of my favorite singles of 2007, "These Are the Eyes." The fullness of the song completely came through in the live show, and the group's charisma only added to the performance.

Mp3: Bodies of Water - These Are the Eyes

Runner-Up for Favorite Mid-Sized Venue Show: The Most Serene Republic @ The Parish

Favorite Small Venue Show
: Mittens on Strings @ The Hideout
In many ways, this was my favorite overall show in terms of a true South by Southwest experience. Mittens on Strings is a band that I first read about after last year's SXSW, and I've since grown to be a big fan. Unfortunately, they only had one show scheduled this year, so I was forced to skip both Aloha and Land of Talk to see this show. Verdict: glad I took the chance. The Hideout was one of the stranger locations for a show, because after a week of seeing bands in bars, you quickly realize that this venue is actually located within a coffee shop. It isn't until you walk to the back of the shop that you see a side entrance that leads to a small theatre extension where bands performed. The journey was worth it, because everyone in the audience got to be a part of a special performance. While there are many bands nowadays that are producing contrived versions of mid-90s low-fi indie rock, there are significantly less acts that take the music of their predecessors and actually push it in a new and interesting direction. Mittens on Strings fall well within the latter category. After a 40 minute set, I left with the strong feeling that I had gotten the chance to see an act on their way up, which to me is the most exciting of all the opportunities at South by Southwest.

Mp3: Mittens on Strings - G.I. Dirt Races

Runner-Up for Favorite Small Venue Show: Bowerbirds @ Mohawk (inside)

Final tally of acts seen: 30
[In alphabetical order...Alejandro Escovedo, Basia Bulat, Bear in Heaven, Blitzen Trapper, Bodies of Water, Bon Iver, Bowerbirds, Dead Confederate, Destroyer, Evangelicals, Fleet Foxes, Islands, Jens Lekman, Johnathan Rice, Langhorne Slim, Le Loup, Mittens on Strings, N.E.R.D., Ola Podrida, Papercranes, Phosphorescent, R.E.M., Ra Ra Riot, Summerbirds in the Cellar, Tapes 'n Tapes, The Cribs, The Most Serene Republic, Tokyo Police Club, White Denim, White Rabbits]

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Daytrotter Highlight: Basia Bulat

I once again have the good folks over at Daytrotter to thank for introducing me to a great new artist (who will also be performing at South by Southwest this weekend to boot). Basia Bulat hails from Canada, home to all kinds of musical wonders, from MuchMusic to Neil Young. Her voice demands attention, and when combined with her band's very full instrumental sound, makes for some great music. Her originals are just as strong as her covers, but the two tracks that I most highly recommend are "Untitled," and the Sam Cooke cover, "The Hem of His Garment." You can check out the full set at the link below.

Basia Bulat - Daytrotter Session

Past Daytrotter Session Recommendations:
Thao Nguyen
Andrew Bird
Bishop Allen

Full Daytrotter Session Archive

Friday, March 07, 2008

Modest Mouse - Worms vs. Birds

As you may have guessed, the song below is where this site's name came from. I suppose the main reason I selected it is that Modest Mouse has long been a favorite band of mine, and this song is simple, short, and a great example of why I love the band. The guitar work in particular on this track is pure Modest Mouse. The song is off the 1994 album Sad Sappy Sucker, which can be had right here. I've actually seen it listed as both "Birds vs. Worms" and "Worms vs. Birds," but what the heck. Here it is:

Mp3: Modest Mouse - Worms vs. Birds

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Matt Pond PA - Fairlee

There are times when I'd describe rediscovering a band as being just as satisfying as hearing a band for the first time. I've recently gotten back into a band that I hadn't listened to much in the past few years, and haven't had the chance to even check out their new album. Thanks to an old mix cd on a road trip, however, I ran across a song that I used to love by Matt Pond PA and am welcoming it back into my life. It's off their 2002 Polyvinyl-released album, The Nature of Maps, available here. The bonus factor is that I'll be seeing them live in a matter of hours. Here's hoping they bust out this old one at the CDU.

Mp3: Matt Pond PA - Fairlee

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Into the Wild

Every year during January and February, I end up playing catch up on most of the best-of movies from the year before, and 2007/2008 has been no different. Recently I caught Into the Wild, a film I had meant to see when it was first released but never quite made it. Rather than going into specifics of the film, I'll just say that I thought it was one of my favorites from last year and that it is worth seeing. There are some great themes throughout and the ending is striking.

I will say that I wish I had seen the film earlier for one other reason- the soundtrack, which features Eddie Vedder, would most likely have been in my top 10 albums of 2007 had I heard it a few months back. It is terrific, and below is one of the highlights (which features Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney) - a cover of the song "Hard Sun." Although the album is only a bit over a half-hour long, it is worth the price of purchase. Check out the movie first, though, and the soundtrack will only sound better.

Mp3: Eddie Vedder - Hard Sun

and as a bonus, here is another Into the Wild track, in demo version [courtesy]:

Mp3: Eddie Vedder - No Ceiling (Demo)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

RickoLus - Dear Projectionist

Myspace Music: An Evaluation

-Introductions to great new artists that you've never heard of before. Immediate access to some of their music.

-Incessant friend requests from terrible bands. Pop-punk garbage piles have a tangible recording of their number of friends that can serve as a reminder of the unfairness of the music world.

With the way that information travels these days, it can be difficult to truly discover new music on your own - it seems much easier to be sick of hearing a band's name before you've even heard one of their songs. A little while back, I was looking for something new to listen to, and came across RickoLus' site through a local band's myspace page. It's great stuff, and most of it is available for free download on his website. If you like it, there is an area where you can donate to the cause of more music. Enjoy-

Mp3: RickoLus - Dear Projectionist

Monday, February 18, 2008

Tapes 'n Tapes - Hang Them All

Very excited to share this one. After 2005's great "The Loon," Tapes 'n Tapes had a lot to live up to for their next release. All things point towards awesome with this new single, which toes the ever-difficult line of pushing things forward while keeping a good thing together. Below is a high-quality Mp3 of the song, but for a super-high quality file, head over to the band's site. While you're at it, send the Minnesota-ens some dollars. "Walk it Off," the forthcoming record, is due April 8.

Mp3: Tapes 'n Tapes - Hang Them All

Monday, February 11, 2008

songs for puppies

So several of my friends (mainly just you, Jacqueline) have reminded me of their pumped-ness for the 2008 Westminster Dog Show (now underway). As such, I have selected two songs that I claim to be at least as cute as the puppy above, in a good way. Sorry for anyone looking for a nu-metal track. Not today.

Mp3: Simone White - Beep Beep Song

Mp3: Rosie Thomas ft. Sufjan Stevens - Say Hello

Thursday, January 31, 2008

sxsw band to look forward to: Mittens on Strings

As March gets closer, it's exciting to see the lineup that is gradually released for Austin's South by Southwest Festival (especially since it'll be my first). One band that I just noticed is set to play SXSW is a group that I actually heard about after last year's festival. I've liked them ever since, and haven't had a chance to check them out live just yet. If their shows are half as awesome as their band-designed one-of-a-kind shirts for sale on their website, then it should be a great time. If you've never heard them, I'd recommend starting with the song below.

Mp3: Mittens on Strings - La Cartel

Sunday, January 27, 2008

still good, one year later: Andrew Bird as Dr. Stringz

Just about one year ago to the date, Andrew Bird had a fantastic appearance on the children's show Jack's Big Music Show as stringed-instrument-fixer Dr. Stringz. Some songs fade with time, but how can this song (and guest spot as a whole) not be an instant classic? Let's take a trip back in history, all the way to January 2007.

Here is the video, in all its glory:

Thanks go out to CSVMIAD for the stellar Mp3 from the show. You can check that out below as well.

Mp3: Andrew Bird/Dr. Stringz - Dr. Stringz

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

live vs. studio: Ryan Adams - My Love for You is Real

I've heard the argument that Ryan Adams' problem is that he produces too much music, and as a result, he ends up having some sub-par releases. While I'd disagree with that assessment, my problem is that it is easy to miss a really high-quality song or two in the shuffle of all of Adams' albums. One of my favorite new discoveries is the song "My Love for You is Real," off of his latest EP, Follow the Lights. The song's first official studio release can be found there, although earlier live versions exist. The version below is actually from a show back in 2001, and it rivals the studio track in terms of likability. I think this song is a perfect example of a track for which a case can be made as being better live or better in-studio. The studio version has a much fuller, produced sound (with the aid of Adams' backing band The Cardinals), while the live version is bare bones but lets you have a truly authentic, sincere performance.

All said, the Follow the Lights EP is definitely worth picking up, which you can do right here.

Mp3: Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - My Love for You is Real
Mp3: Ryan Adams - My Love for You is Real (live)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Metric - The Twist

With the release of Metric's new live dvd imminent (pre-order on their website here), I've been revisiting the group's older albums, and rediscovered one of my favorite older tracks. For fans that have never heard Grow Up and Blow Away, the band's first full-length album, "The Twist" will probably seem to be a departure from their guitar-driven recent work. The track, though, is fairly representative of their early sound, with a slight bit of added edge.

Mp3: Metric - The Twist

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

a worthy remix: The Shins - Australia (Peter Bjorn & John Remix)


Pretty sure I'm a bit behind on this one, but hey, It's new to me. The marriage of The Shins and Peter Bjorn & John in some form seems fairly inevitable in hindsight, as both have risen to the top of indie pop bands in terms of critical acclaim and public recognition. You can hear Peter Bjorn & John's distinctive quality in this track; gone are the "la, la, la's" of the original, and the vocals are more isolated (along with more prominent echoing) in the remixed version. Thoughts?

Mp3: The Shins - Australia (Peter Bjorn & John Remix)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

New Stephen Malkmus(!) - Gardenia

Stephen Malkmus is my hero. There really is no other way to say it. From Pavement through Real Emotional Trash, the forthcoming SM & the Jicks album, the man can not miss. To paraphrase the "Bobs" from Office Space (when they were discussing their love for Michael Bolton), it doesn't get much better for me than when he sings "Jenny and the Ess-Dog." "Gardenia" should please most Malkmus-followers, as it falls within the more accessible end of his classic work.

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks - Gardenia [link removed]

Thursday, January 10, 2008

perfect soundtrack piece: The Chemical Brothers - Where Do I Begin

Regardless of your opinion of the movie Vanilla Sky, it's hard to deny the accompanying soundtrack. The entire film, in fact, is tied closely to its music. Many scenes focus heavily on a backing song, and there are even several direct music-related references, such as the shot above, which emulates one of Bob Dylan's classic album covers. Perhaps the most fitting song in Vanilla Sky is the song "Where Do I Begin" by The Chemical Brothers (featuring Beth Orton on vocals). It has a terrific, dream-like opening, and it devolves into a strange amalgam of criss-crossing beats and noises. If you've seen the movie, you may agree that for better or worse, the film parallels the song's strange path. Check it out and see for yourself:

Mp3: The Chemical Brothers - Where Do I Begin