Friday, April 25, 2008

This Week in Video: Arbor Day Edition

Time to resurrect an old favorite. (Let's not kid ourselves, this is a way for me to mail it in...)

Did you know Tane Mahuta loosly translated means retro furry porn? Me neither...

The Ruby Suns - "Tane Mahuta"

For you all who missed last night's SSLYBY show (and the fights outside caused by Tom Morello fans), here's a tasty morsel. F-ing girls, man.

Someone Still Love You Boris Yeltsin - "Think I Wanna Die"

Who walked away from Kyoto? I want to know his name, GD it! (See how I didn't curse there? Yeah, this is a family show.) Oh, and join the Rockists at the concert event of the year on May 11.

Radiohead - "House of Cards" on Conan

When I was in elementary school listening to R.E.M., I could never decipher the lyrics. (Turns out they were pretty much just gibberish anyway. "I wore my doormat face"? Wtf?) Now, this is no longer a problem.

R.E.M. - "Hollowman"

Rockist Revisits: Ugly Casanova

There was a time early in my college years where I listened almost exclusively to Modest Mouse and Built to Spill. That unfortunately coincided with a lull in each band's recorded work -- right after The Moon and Antarctica and Ancient Melodies of the Future, respectively -- so I exhausted their old stuff quickly and lit midnight vigils for new tour dates to magically appear in my area. Didn't happen, but somewhere in that period both Isaac Brock and Doug Martsch decided to put out solo/side project type stuff. I'll come back to Martsch's at a later date (it's pretty good), but the very great Captain's Dead blog just threw up an Ugly Casanova live show and, sampling a few tracks, I'm reminded how much I enjoyed their sole release, Sharpen Your Teeth.

It was really something of an indie rock dream team -- joining Brock were Tim Rutili (lead singer of Califone), Pall Jenkins (Black Heart Procession), John Orth from the underrated Holopaw, and Chicago producer Brian Deck. What they threw together was striking because it had a shambling, off-the-cuff feel that marks so many fun side projects, but it mixed this tossed-off vibe with some typically Brock-ish subject matter (see "Parasites": "God and Satan they gamble when you're dead / Beams of light, one Sprite, the other's bourbon instead"). It was none of the extended, desert freeway guitar anti-heroics of The Lonesome Crowded West; instead it was the frosted soundscapes of The Moon and Antarctica warmed by a folksy, campfire arrangements.

Most of all, there were spectacularly good songs, ones that wouldn't have worked on a pre-2004 Modest Mouse album. Brock shares songwriting credits on a few tunes, and, honestly, those are my favorites. Orth joins him on "Smoke Like Ribbons", a pretty country tune about God knows what, and on "Cat Faces" and fan favorite "Hotcha Girls". Jenkins actually teams up for the closer "So Long to the Holidays", a spacey dirge that, while kinda cool, is a little out of step with the rest of the album.

Anyway, they actually toured after Sharpen Your Teeth came out, and, from what I've read, it was a disaster (anybody actually see them?). Kind of a shame, but, in true Rockist fashion, I take comfort in appreciating this one-off for exactly what it was.

Ugly Casanova - "Barnacles"
Ugly Casanova - "Smoke Like Ribbons"
Ugly Casanova - "Diggin' Holes"

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ooooh...A Rockist C-C-C-Catfight!

In the past couple weeks, Pitchfork has covered the recent releases of two alt. country chanteuses, American Tift Merritt and Canadian Kathleen Edwards. It's like a border catfight, and Joni Mitchell and Bonnie Raitt are the officials. And is it just me, or does Canada seem to win a disproportionate number of these hypothetical singer-songwriter comparisons?
I sometimes feel we don't cover enough female artists on here, so this past week, I took some time to listen to both Merritt's Another Country and Edwards's Asking for Flowers. I now feel sufficiently qualified to compare the two and then accordingly dole out qualified, mitigated praise in one direction and halfhearted criticism in the other, keeping with established Rockist traditions. Here goes:
Asking for Flowers is the better album. In fact, it is the much better album. Yes, it drags and was just last week considered by my girlfriend (for whom the disc was purchased) to be "too slow". Edwards's voice would win a catfight with Merritt's voice, but Merritt's would win in a beauty contest. But if Rockist standards amounted to a beauty contest, we'd be blogging about Josh Groban instead of Craig Finn. Further, Another Country sounds like 45 minutes of the Delta Airlines singer-songwriter radio station. In fact, I'm willing to bet she's on rotation on at least one major airline in-flight channel right now. It's so smooth and gentle, it could -- and likely will -- put you to sleep before you can order a Diet Coke and inquire about snacks.

Maybe Kathleen Edwards is cooing in the ears of Delta passengers, too. If so, props to Delta, and good luck sleeping through "The Cheapest Key". Her voice also does this weird wailing thing at the end -- can I say it sounds like one of the girls in The Corrs without losing my TRS membership? -- and the lyrics are just off-beat enough to make it a touch unsettling. "Buffalo" is soft, sad, and pretty, "Sure as Shit" is pretty good, but "I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory" -- whose lyrics had me racking my brain to remember who Marty McSorley is -- has just the right proportion of quirk and catch.

G.L. would want me to note that, from P.R. photos alone, Tift Merritt appears to be the cuter of the two. And, being fair, I'd want to note that Tift's two Lost Highway releases (Bramble Rose and Tambourine) were both very enjoyable listens. The better-publicized half of "alt. country" has taken some hits recently, and Merritt's not immune to those. Edwards isn't exactly dealing in the revolutionary here either, but "alt. country" has always been and will always be about the songs, and Edwards has a hell of a lot more good ones this time around.

Kathleen Edwards - "The Cheapest Key"
Tift Merritt - "Keep You Happy"

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Okkervil River / New Pornographers @ 9:30 Club - UPDATE (Neko's 'Illness')

G.H.: 'Twas a gathering of the Rockists Monday night for G.L.'s birthday celebration. Rob and I had labored to arrange for Neko Case herself to blow G.L. a kiss from the stage, but alas she was ill and sat this one out. It was Carl Newman's birthday too, though -- some consolation -- and when the crowd half-heartedly sang to him, the female Rockist fans accompanying us sang loudly to G.L. and he seemed happy. As for the actual show, it was okay. Probably the first time I've had issues with the sound at 9:30 -- it was just too low. At rock shows in rock clubs, you ought to feel a buzz in your chest and it ought to be somewhat difficult to hear the person next to you talking. Both bands lacked this last night. I'll save the detailed stuff about Okkervil frontman Will Sheff for G.L. and Rob, but I didn't think his voice was very strong. Sorta took the melody away. Finally, while I love both the Wrens and "You Can't Hold the Hand of a Rock and Roll Man", Wrens' guitarist Charles Bissell (playing with Okkervil on tour) laid down a lifeless, sad version of the indie rock blues in his solo. But the New Pornographers were pretty good, played a very likeable set. For me, "Testament to Youth in Verse" really got things going with that audience singalong-breakdown "no no no no no". I also thought that ELO cover was pretty sweet -- they actually seemed loosest on that one. How about you all? G.L., how you feeling?

Rob: I think G.L. is still passed out. Can't blame him, though. That was some delicious corn whiskey. I have previously made it known that Okkervil River is not my first choice of bands, and the show solidified that opinion. Will seamlessly combined the whiny wailings of an emo frontman with the bangs of Danny Noriega. They did have a few gems towards the end when they decided to "rock." I especially liked "Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe," but that is to be expected. I was quite disappointed with the absence of Ms. Case, but keyboardist Kathryn Calder did an amazing job filling in, it's just too bad we could barely hear the music. The sound at the club was extremely muddled. For a band that thrives on harmonies, that was probably the worst problem to have (not to mention the lack of volume). The encores were the highlight of the show, namely the ELO cover and the final song, "The Jessica Numbers," which in Carl's eyes is the "proggiest song" that they have.

Well, looks like G.L. is still hurting, or can't remember the show, or is dead.

G.L.: Drunk, celebrating a (my) birth, and yet still able to gripe over a poor mix and an annoying front man - we're so going to Rockist Heaven. Well, I'm not dead, have for the most part recovered, and surprisingly enough - remember a good portion of the show. Ok, I still love Okkervil River a lot, I think Black Sheep Boy is a brilliant record and The Stage Names is frequently excellent, but they kinda pissed me off Monday night. Either recent success has gone to Will Sheff's head or he's just an immense douche, but holy crap were his emo-affected antics too much for me to handle. The way he would lean into the mic and sweep his hair out of his eyes was seriously killing me. Maybe I'm just old school or something. That said, I thought they played pretty well, despite the aforementioned sound problems. "Black" and "A Stone" were great, as was "Our Life is a Movie". New Pornos were also solid, I thought, though the poor mix hurt them more than Okkervil River. I liked the songs I knew I would like, basically everything they played off of Electric Version. And the ELO cover, natch.

Rob: It turns out Neko fell while she was here in DC and broke her ankle. She is now leaving the tour. Via email:
Hello friends,

We have some very unfortunate news to report. Neko had a really bad fall in Washington DC, which resulted in a fractured ankle, and will be leaving our tour today. She was really trying to be a trooper and stayed on as long as was possible through Richmond and Athens, but it has gotten to the point where she must return home and have her ankle taken care of and to recuperate. She's very upset about having to leave, it's been super fun having her on stage and around the bus.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

New Pornographers Setlist @ 9:30 Club

The New Pornographers - 9:30 Club - April 14, 2008
All The Things that Make Heaven and Earth / Use It / Electric Version / Jackie, Dressed in Cobras / All the Showstoppers / July Jones / My Rights Versus Yours / The Laws Have Changed / From Blown Speakers / Challengers / Testament to Youth in Verse / Unguided / Slow Descent into Alcoholism / Mystery Hours / Adventures in Solitude / Sing Me Spanish Techno / Bleeding Heart Show // Don't Bring Me Down (Electric Light Orchestra cover) / Mass Romantic /// Execution Day / The Jessica Numbers

pictures here.

More from the show here, stay tuned for a full Rockist review...

Friday, April 11, 2008

TRS Guide to Wolf Trap Summer Concert Series

You could call today the first real day of spring. It's warm enough to start sweating, there's a gentle breeze coming off the Potomac, my allergies are killing me. It's about this time each year I start to scope the area's various concert sheds for possible evening spent sitting in the grass staring at a large TV screen. Wolf Trap Filene Center's summer schedule just came out, and I thought some of the lineup worth discussing.

It could be said, from the schedule's first appearances, that Wolf Trap is where rock and roll legends go to die. Sure, James Taylor, Jethro Tull, Poco, Chicago, and Crosby, Stills, and Nash are all there and they're fine enough. They'll all perform their greatest hits compilation, while mixing in a few new songs that no one actually likes but that your boss or your uncle delude themselves into enjoying. There's nothing wrong with these tours, and Wolf Trap is good about keeping tickets at reasonable prices.

There is, however -- in this humble, but died-in-the-wool Rockist's opinion -- something quite wrong with trotting out a band of session men in royal blue zoot-suits, huddling them around the son of one of the original members, calling them The Four Tops, and asking us to shell out our hard-earned cash to see it. Of course, none of these travesties equals the crap Mike Love peddles around as The Beach Boys each summer. Remember, this is the Mike Love that outspokenly derided Pet Sounds as "Brian [Wilson]'s ego music", stating that they not "f*** with the formula". Pet Sounds! That's pure Rockist blasphemy. Anyway, of the original Beach Boys, only Love remains, and in the midst of sullying the legendary band's name with performances of "Kokomo" on Full House, he also continues to sue the hell out of his cousin Brian Wilson for more songwriting royalties. We here at Rockist would like to go on record and state that if you pay money to go see them play at Wolf Trap this summer, you are contributing to the legal attack fund that is Mike Love's Beach Boy Enterprises, Inc.

Somehow, someway, that is not even the worst crime against rock and roll's storied history being perpetuated this summer at Wolf Trap (which, as many of you know, is operated by our national park service). And frankly, it's not even close. On Saturday, August 23, we have this:

It Was Forty Years Ago Today
A Tribute to the Greatest Album in Rock & Roll History
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
performing all their hits, plus the album in its entirety

Instead of a rant here, why don't we just play a little game in the comments? It's called "Can You Name All the Rockist Indiscretions?" Have at it.
*Also, if anyone would like to try their hand and putting Taylor Hicks' face on John Lennon's body, circa 1967-68, please email it to us.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rockist Cliff's Notes: "Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts"

Saloon, presumably in the Old West, on hanging day.

Lily - a dancer at the saloon. Jim's mistress.
Big Jim - big-shot, diamond mine owner.
Rosemary - Jim's wife.
Jack of Hearts - bankrobber, in love with Lily.
The Hanging Judge - drunk town sheriff.

The story centers around a big show at the saloon. Lily's the star, and Jim goes to see his true love and mistress perform, his wife joining him. While the Jack of Hearts' accomplices break into the bank, Jack sneaks off and goes to see Lily, his old flame. She teases him about his criminal lifestyle, but there is truth to her goading. Eventually Jim gets wind of something going on, and he goes backstage to find out. As he pulls out his revolver and shoots, Rosemary stabs him in the back with a knife. Simultaneously, Jack's gang successfully robs the bank and leaves town, waiting for Jack in a riverbed. The scene then cuts to hanging day, where Rosemary is about to be executed for murdering her husband. The story ends with Lily daydreaming about Jack.

Matter-of-fact, allusive, omniscient.

1. Dylan never tells us whether or not Jack lives. In refusing to do so, what is he trying to say about the nature of modern story-telling?
2. Only a few, scant details hint that this story takes place in the Old West. Discuss the song in terms of the archetypes of the "Western". How is it similar? How is it different? Cite specific examples from this and other works.
3. One recurring theme in Dylan's work -- and particularly on the Blood on the Tracks LP -- is detachment or disillusionment between lovers. Discuss in the context of "Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts".

1. What kind of gun does Jim shoot? "cold revolver"
2. What does Lily have in her poker hand before she draws a Jack of Hearts? two queens
3. Where does Jim think he may have seen the Jack of Hearts before? Possible answers: "Mexico", "down in Mexico", "on somebody's shelf", "a picture on somebody's shelf".
4. What kind of knife does Rosemary use to kill Jim? Penknife

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Stuff Rockists Like

1. Lording their obscure knowledge and taste over others.

So as a recently reformed smoker (2 months sans cigarrettes, go me!), I've found myself with some extra cash lying around. And instead of, like, saving it, I've been blowing most of it on albums. Here's a rundown of some recent and notable purchases.

Nick Lowe Jesus of Cool - alternatively named Pure Pop for Now People for the more sensitive American public, this was Nick "Basher" Lowe's first solo outing after his stint producing most of Elvis Costello's best albums. It's not the most consistent thing ever, but the man sure mastered the art of the 3 minute pop song. "So it Goes"

Young Fresh Fellows Electric Bird Digest and, their ode to The Rockist Society (jk), The Men Who Loved Music - think equal parts Replacements and Big Star and you have an idea of what journeyman Scott McCaughey and company were going for - anthemic power pop that never met a canned beer it didn't like. Various songs

Roy Loney & The Longshots Drunkard in the Think Tank - as you'd expect, this sounds a lot like Loney's former band, The Flamin' Groovies, when he was still a member. It might be a hipper record than Flamingo or Teenage Head, but it's still loud-as-hell roadhouse blues played at breakneck speeds. Coincidentally, The Longshots feature members of the Young Fresh Fellows including McCaughey (see? Journeyman). "Evil Hearted Ada"

Pavement Slanted & Enchanged: Luxe & Reduxe - my roommate in college had this special/extended edition and we listened to it pretty much all the time senior year - I guess it stuck with me. Much better than the Crooked Rain Crooked Rain reissue in my opinion, mainly for the inclusion of the Watery, Domestic EP and the live set. "Frontwards (Live)"

*special thanks to Butter Team for the Pavement mp3

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Indie as F***: Part 3?

I can't remember how many times we've posted commercials and I bet you don't care.

It's been a good night. After spending 1 hour getting home from work (which is a 13 block trip), I sat down with my 4 best friends: Bombay Sapphire, one of Anna's cupcakes, and a DVR of the latest Rob & Big. I forgot to fast forward through the first of what seemed like 8 commercial breaks when I was sobered up by a, well, sobering sound.

See for yourself.*

PurePare? Damn, even condiments are cool.

*Don't mind the VH1 stuff. I could only find it one place on the intertubes.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Eames Era Is Over

I was doing some reading over at Noel Murray's Popless column on the AV Club today and read a little blurb he did on The Eames Era song "All of Seventeen" off their EP, The Second Eames Era (Murray goes on to make some nice insights about how so much good indie references these "off-canon" bands, which I think is a great term for it).

It's not even one of my favorite songs of theirs -- I thought Heroes and Sheroes was chock full of very good ones -- but it did remind me that I wanted to post some unfortunate developments. I'm a big fan, and for the past month I'd been trying to track down the band for an interview or something for this here blog. I finally got a reply from Grant Widmer bearing the (relatively) sad news:
That's right, The Eames Era are no more. Ashlin and Greg moved to Chicago in the
past few months and they are on to other things. Ted, Brian and I have also
moved to New Orleans and we are hard at work on a new album. As I said before,
Brian got married this week and his life has been very busy so it's still
unclear what kind of role he'll have in the new group. But Ted and I have been
traveling to record with Daniel Black, the producer of our last album, in D.C.
since January. We are about 1/3 finished and hope to be all done in May. Then it
will be time to tour for a while. So I'll keep you posted. We'll definitely be
spending time in D.C. so I'm sure we'll cross paths sometime.

It's a sad moment when one of your pet bands dies. Rob went through this with Field Music, G.L. and I both bore witness and tears at the demise of The Bigger Lovers. It makes sense, though. It's a competitive musical climate these days, no matter how catchy your delicate, Saturday-Looks-Good-To-Me-influenced indie pop records are. I applaud the bands that tough it out and stay together, but I empathize with those who don't. The bright side, however, is that often these things turn out for the better: Rob's big into School of Language these days, and the breakup of The Bigger Lovers just led me to check out their other projects, namely Mazarin and the Pernice Bros -- both Rockist staples.

So here's to you, The Eames Era, may we hear from your respective members' new projects soon.
The Eames Era - "Both Hands Full"
The Eames Era - "Last to Know"
The Eames Era - "Go to Sleep"