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Monday, November 30, 2009

Video Monday: Welcome to Ashley



My apartment no longer smells like turkey. That makes me smile—almost as much as I smiled while watching Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox Saturday night at the Forum 8. Animals in natty threads always cheer me up, along with a sparkly soundtrack—in this case, a pairing of original compositions by Alexandre Desplat with tracks from Burl Ives, the Beach Boys, the Bobby Fuller Four, and others. As with most Wes Anderson films, the soundtrack dusts off obscure songs from old record collections and repurposes them. And so Burl Ives proves he's more than the sum of his holly jolly parts. "Hotbox!"

While I was busy biking around town this weekend, checking out random crafts at the Beaux Arts Bizarre, and watching Mr. Fox, August from NoVo Arts, Inc. sent me some Thanksgiving cheer in the form of a Welcome to Ashley video for "Wild Blue Yonder." It was created by U.K. video artist Sue Wibble, a.k.a. "Sundae Girl." Chicagoans Welcome to Ashley played a show at The Blue Fugue in October and are no strangers to Columbia. Check it out...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Album of the Week, 11/26/09--"A Brief History of Love" by The Big Pink






Let's hope you're all doing whatever it is you enjoy doing on Thanksgiving. I'm taking a holiday break from blogging, but I leave you with some juicy beats from The Big Pink.

The London duo of multi-instrumentalists Robbie Furze and Milo Napoleon Cordell-Lavarack formed in 2007, naming themselves after The Band's first album, despite having a very non-roots-rock sound. In fact, their music bears closer resemblance to the droning dance beats of late 80s and early 90s bands like SpiritualizedThe Stone Roses, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and SlowdiveA Brief History of Love (September 14, 2009) is The Big Pink's debut album and a tribute to love—the good, the bad, the wicked, the splendid. 

"Dominos"

Download

"Velvet"

Download

"Too Young to Love"

Download

A.A. Bondy: Better Than Leftover Turkey

If you have some free time this holiday weekend and want to impress your guests, take them to see A.A. Bondy at Mojo's Saturday night.

"I Can See the Pines Are Dancing"


Check out A.A. Bondy with Malone at Mojo's, Saturday, November 28. Doors open at 8:30.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Turkey Seconds on Mars



Those of us wedded to our cubicles are one day removed from the holiday break. I will be cooking my first turkey this year and likely trashing my apartment's oven, burning off my patience, and serving up a side dish of bitchery. The holidays chafe me rawer than Tegan and Sara's voices.

However, I am thankful for THIS GUY:



He keeps the egosphere inflated so the rest of us don't have to take ourselves too seriously. Is my turkey overcooked? Who cares? Jared Leto can do it better and make it C-O-O-L with black eyeliner.

As if he weren't awesome enough, Leto has a band, 30 Seconds to Mars—a.k.a. his own personal platform for self-worship. Sucking inspiration from Bono's ego jet stream, Leto has just released an homage to cycling culture and his own black-rimmed baby blues with 30 Seconds to Mars' video for "Kings and Queens."



Note how Leto's inflated head looms in front of the setting sun. Cue edgy bikers! (I don't even want to point out the annoying tall mutant cyclist because he's just pedaling for attention, but there's no way I can avoid him.) If we juxtapose the hungry, misunderstood cycle-punks with Leto reaching off to the burnished horizon, oversinging "Into the night..." we get pure Bono gold.

Does this schlock-fest really need to be eight minutes long with credits? Is the gratuitous bike showboating necessary? (Look! I can spin my front wheel while riding!) Apparently, with a hands-on co-director like this, it's all par for the course...


 
At the four-minute mark it all comes to a fantastically awful climax when a square lawyer dude takes out a cyclist with his luxury vehicle, cuing a dream sequence complete with slow-motion white horse. Could it be the soul of the cyclist?! We haven't seen imagery this shoddy since Legends of the Fall

Perhaps Leto has been cycling too much of late:



He seems to be spinning the flesh and years right off his bones and morphing into Peter O'Toole:



That could explain the drama.

Unfortunately, hipsters everywhere will be ditching their bikes after watching Leto's video. Gas-guzzlers will become the new fixed gears in protest... "Diesel is so retro!" Gossip Girl, however, is already plotting an entire episode around this video.

Consequences aside, thanks, Jared Leto, for helping us all accept our mediocrity this holiday season. (Dammit, why did your stupid song have to get stuck in my head?!)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ten Best Soundtracks of the 00s


With only one month to go in the current decade, top 10 lists are popping up like swine flu mutations... Top 10 Songs from Schmaltz-Lacquered TV Shows, Top 10 Tunes to Tweet Like a Twit About, Top 10 Concerts for Naked Crowd Surfing, Top 10 Songs to Listen to While Recycling Tofu Cartons, Top 10 Bands to Mail Body Fluids To, etc.... Everyone loves a list: they're neat, they're concise, they're scannable. They are also, for those of us in a time crunch this holiday week, easy to post about.

And so...

Paste Magazine has compiled its list of 10 Best Movie Soundtracks of the Last Decade. You can listen to each soundtrack in its entirety on the Paste website. The list is as follows:

  1. The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009)
  2. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
  3. Vanilla Sky (2001)
  4. High Fidelity (2000)
  5. Juno (2007)
  6. Almost Famous (2007)
  7. Garden State (2004)
  8. I'm Not There (2007)
  9. Once (2007)
  10. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2001)

Obviously, there are some omissions here, including Into the Wild, Royal Tenenbaums, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I haven't had a chance to listen to I'm Not There, but I have owned and cranked copies of High Fidelity and Garden State, and my mom can vouch for O Brother, Where Art Thou? I've also heard good things about the oft-overlooked Vanilla Sky. Once and Juno are both sort of  givens, although The Life Aquatic, which benefited from the bossa nova cool of Seu Jorge, is still a bit of a surprise.



Reader comments on Paste's posting include venomous responses to Twilight's inclusion, as well as calls for I Heart Huckabees, The Whackness, Slumdog Millionaire, The Proposition, (500) Days of Summer, Thumbsucker, and Dan in Real Life. One sex-deprived individual even reminds everyone that, technically, the decade is from 2001–2010, so we are all jumping the gun.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Album of the Week, 11/20/09--"Upper Air" by Bowerbirds



Seems hard to believe now, but just a few months ago we were watching the first stars bleed through twilight's indigo fabric at almost nine each night. These days most of us are lucky to catch a tamped-down sunset before heading home to our dark living rooms. So let's return to July... In the middle of all the summer gloriousness and long before I started this blog, Bowerbirds released their second album, Upper Air (July 7). True, Upper Air isn't necessarily new, but it happens to be splendid and warm and lush, and I want to feature it as Album of the Week, despite the fact that autumn has steeped the air in wet leaves.

Last week I embedded a La Blogotheque Take-Away Show clip of Bowerbirds in a candy store in New York City. This got me thinking about the band and the hill country from whence they sprang—I had a feeling it wasn't the hills of Queens. In this case, members Phil Moore (vocals, guitar, tambourine), Beth Tacular (vocals, accordion, bass drum), and Matt Damron (drums, violin) hail from the misty mountains of Raleigh, North Carolina, where they've been baptized in gospel and nature.

An undercurrent of anti-materialism runs through the album, as in "House of Diamonds," when Moore sings, "You are free from the greed of your culture/ you are free from the lust for the luster." The tracks themselves, with their simple guitar-and-accordion arrangements, may seem short on luster at first, but they do shine up with subsequent listens. There are many subtleties at work—rising instrumental crescendos, perfectly timed lyrical pauses, well-integrated choruses. It would be a mistake to dismiss Bowerbirds' rustic sound before noticing how they open the door to higher spiritual plains through natural imagery and their earnest belief in the interconnectedness of life. It may sound hokey but somehow isn't.

"Northern Lights"


"Teeth"


"Beneath Your Tree"


"Chimes"

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Burning Off Steam with the Fiery Furnaces



In my cello lesson Tuesday night, I noticed my A string was near the breaking point, bringing on a bunch of warped jokes between my instructor and I about broken strings and snapped-out eyes. The more I thought about it, though, I realized how much we're all under constant pressure, chafing against the bridge every day, in danger of snapping and altering our vision irreparably. I'm often frustrated by the time-suck known as my job—which is about as much fun as a cello string in the eye—and wish I could devote more time to writing and getting paid for it. Fortunately, I'm lucky in love, music, art, health, and everything else, which takes the edge off the daily eight-hour clock watch.

For the Friedbergers, also known as the Fiery Furnaces, rewriting and rewriting and rewriting songs is their snapped-string escape. Earlier this month the brother/sister duo of Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger released Take Me Round Again, a collection of reworked tracks that's being described as "the Friedbergers cover the Friedbergers." The siblings chose six songs from their eighth album, I'm Going Away (July 21, 2009), and each rewrote the tracks separately—Matthew in Michigan, and Eleanor in New York—before compiling them as a sort of covers record. The only remaining identifiable elements of each track are its lyrics.


(album art for Take Me Round Again)


"Keep Me in the Dark" (Eleanor's version)


The Friedbergers have been rewriting songs live since they first started touring together in 2003. Some of their previous albums have a gimmicky concept behind them, and their recent plans to release a Silent Album, which will consist of sheet music they'll ask fans to play for them at shows, is no exception. Whatever. As long as they don't go busting any strings.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mason Jennings at The Blue Note, 11/18



On Sunday my friend and I took a walk in the rain at Gans Creek with his wild and woolly border collie—wind and mud and cold be damned. Standing on Coyote Bluff looking at the stripped trees massed in the fog, we breathed in wet-earth life, and it was good. Listening to Mason Jennings is a similar experience. Jennings just wants to play good music on his guitar, and his sound is solid as a sycamore tree.

Jennings will be showcasing his good-earth talents at The Blue Note Wednesday night, along with Nathaniel Rateliff and The Wheel. Lest you expect quiet folk, however, let me shed some light on Jennings' latest release, Blood of Man (September 15)... While it's his eighth studio album, it's also his first electric one, and as such, it rocks out a bit more. With raw simplicity Jennings takes on darker subjects, inspired by a new need to be honest and please himself first, releasing intense feelings in the process. He's resisted attempts to clean up the tracks and take the rough edges off.

"The Field" (from Blood of Man)


In the video below, Jennings talks a bit about the new album and what he's been up to lately.

"The Field" (acoustic version... sounding like Jack Johnson's brother)


I've been meaning to spend more time getting to know Mason Jennings; unfortunately, it won't happen at Wednesday night's show, but I need to do more unearthing in the future.

Check out Mason Jennings with Nathaniel Rateliff and The Wheel at The Blue Note, Wednesday, November 18. Doors open at 7:30.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ezra Furman and the Harpoons at Mojo's, 11/17



Save the whales! Ezra Furman and the Harpoons are sailing into Columbia with Peasant to play Mojo's Tuesday night. Some have compared them to the Violent Femmes and termed their music "unhinged" or "exuberant." Equal parts boyish and equal parts snarky, EF and the Harpoons haven't quite grown up and perhaps never will.

Furman and his harpooning band formed in 2006 at Tufts University and now call Boston home. The 23-year-old Furman recently launched a daunting undertaking—recording personal songs for every fan who buys his band's latest album, Moon Face: Bootlegs and Road Recordings 2006–2009, available at ezrafurman.bigcartel.com. (You can read more about the project at the Chicago Tribune.) Basically, Furman has promised to send each paying customer a copy of his new 10-track cd, plus a personalized song. Most people, he says, have mailed him personal details along with their album requests, asking him to record tracks for ex-girlfriends, weddings, new babies, etc. Furman admits he may not be able to keep up with demand but is willing to give it his best shot for the sake of redefining the artist-fan experience.

So far Ezra Furman and his band have released two traditional albums (sans made-to-order tracks): 2007's Banging Down the Doors and 2008's Inside the Human Body. Their biggest hit to date is probably "Take Off Your Sunglasses," from the second album.

"Take Off Your Sunglasses"


Opening for Furman et al. is Peasant, also known as Damien Nicholas DeRose from Doylestown, Pennsylvania, who plays guitar, piano, and drums and sings like an angel.


Check out Ezra Furman and the Harpoons with Peasant at Mojo's, Tuesday, November 17. Doors open at 7:00.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Tour de Arthritis Benefit


(Floyd Landis at Orr Street Gallery)

Saturday night was a bit of a dream come true for me—handling the music for the Comparative Orthopaedic Lab's Arthritis Benefit at Orr Street Gallery featuring former Tour de France winner Floyd Landis. Floyd spoke about his total hip replacement and the challenges of the 2006 Tour. While Floyd gamely met with fans, the rest of us milled about in a cocktail herd driven by a whipped-together mix of classic jazz, acid jazz, and ambient jazz. I have a pretty extensive and geeky jazz collection so it was pure bliss to compile the six-hour playlist. Most people were more impressed with Floyd's cuddliness than my background mix, but I had a ridiculously self-gratifying time making it anyway.

Eating dinner with Floyd Landis wasn't such a bad deal, either: he may be one of the most endearing people I've ever met. While I wasn't able to add  Kraftwerk's classic 1980s cycling homage "Tour de France" to the benefit playlist, I think Floyd would have approved.

As a special tribute to Floyd, here's "Tour de France," as used in the 1984 film Breakin'.  This song was hotter than the head spin; I saw Breakin' in the theater with my brother when it came out, and for weeks afterward, he cranked this song on his ghetto blaster with the dedication of a breaker trying to perfect his windmill or backspin.



Unfortunately, the Breakin' video cuts out all the cool French vocals, so you might want to check out the 1983 video below for the full Tour effect.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Album of the Week, 11/13/09--"Belly of the Lion" by Ola Podrida


Wave #1: Rotten Wave

I did no work to uncover this week's Album of the Week. It's entirely a support staff pick—although the current "staff" consists of me and my partner in music crime, who always tosses excellent recommendations my way or forwards on random indie tidbits or happens to be with me when we uncover something blog-worthy.

This week we stumbled upon two wave-related items: Ola Podrida's second album, Belly of the Lion (released November 10), and a documentary about Rogue Wave's ailing drummer. In case you're wondering how the wave connection comes into play, ola podrida means "rotten wave" in Spanish. So this week we're awash in rotten waves and rogue waves. Neither sounds pleasant... but they both somehow are.

(For the sake of argument, I saw on one site that "olla podrida"—note the extra "l"—means "rotten stew.")

Ola Podrida is David Wingo, who spends lots of time crafting soundtracks to off-beat or obscure films like Gentlemen Broncos, Snow Angels, and Great World of Sound. He describes Belly of the Lion as "a guitar record for sure. I've been having fun plugging in effects pedals again" (courtesy of Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands). See what you think... Wingo's is a quiet, introspective sound on the modest folk side.

"Your Father's Basement"


"Roomful of Sparrows"


"The Closest We Will Ever Be"



Wave #2: Rogue Wave and the "D Tour"



On Tuesday night my friend and I were lucky to catch  Independent Lens on KMOS, which featured "D Tour," a documentary about Rogue Wave drummer Pat Spurgeon's quest to find a new kidney. The camera follows Pat on tour as he deals with daily dialysis and dietary restrictions, all the while searching for a living-donor match. If you get a chance to see this, you should check it out. Spoiler alert: Pat now has a kidney, so your dreams of literally being part of Rogue Wave are over.

You can watch the documentary online until November 17 on the Independent Lens website.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Get Elevated with Nonreturner's "The Nonreturner"



Yards and Gods recently announced the release party for its second can't-miss compilation, set for December 12 at Mojo's. To remind you just how great the bands on the Y and G label are, I've posted Nonreturner's entire album The Nonreturner below (with Zach and Michael's permission, of course).



I spent a good deal of time this past weekend listening to the album while riding my little-Schwinn-that-could to Rocheport to score a bottle of wine on wheels and enjoy fall's last powwow with indian summer. Nonreturner was a blissful opiate disguising the ache in my wimpy cycling legs and lifting me to a state of pedaling zen.

Who are these atmospheric mavens of melancholia? Nonreturner is Zach Biri and Michael Hopkins (the aforementioned "Zach and Michael" above), Logan Epps, and John-Paul McFarland. (Original member Zach Scott left both band and country to pursue a career in environmental law.)



If you're at all interested in Buddhism, you might know that a nonreturner is a partially enlightened soul one step from an arahant ("one who achieves full enlightenment"); a nonreturner is never reborn into this world but instead enters a state of nirvana in one of the "pure abodes." That's probably more Buddhist background than you care to know, but it does provide some insight into both band name and sound: Nonreturner's otherworldly music elevates you to an enlightened plain.

The Nonreturner opens with the moody "Awash," a drifting, ominous track with Radiohead waves lingering in its atmosphere. It paves the way for the fuzzy electronic OM of "The Horse and Buggy Days" and the meditative drone of "Black Clouds." The introspection breaks apart with "Sock Hops" and "Ex-Parte Til You Puke," two tracks suggestive of a Built to Spill reincarnation. "Agoraphobia" is a pulsating, menacing heartbeat breathing life into the following two tracks, "Wake Up Underwater" and "Mysterious Occurrence at the Ice Cream Social," which distort and swirl like the messy thoughts of My Bloody Valentine.  The album ends in a state of blissful nirvana with "Oh My My" and its ambient hidden track, achieving overall transcendence with a mindful awareness of pure sound. Without fully fleshing itself into a specific form or genre—it's a little bit ambient, a little bit shoegaze, a little bit indie-pop—, The Nonreturner reaches a sort of oneness with all music.

The Nonreturner:

1. "Awash"


2. "The Horse and Buggy Days"


3. "Black Clouds"


4. "Sockhops"


5. "Ex-Parte Til You Puke"


6. "Agoraphobia"


7. "Wake Up Underwater"


8. "A Mysterious Occurrence at the Ice Cream Social"


9. "Oh My My" (with hidden track?)


Meet the partially enlightened Nonreturner at the Yards and Gods second-compilation release party December 12 at Mojo's.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Rock the Wrench with KCOU



Hear them before they're legends! Discover Columbia's embyronic talent when KCOU hosts its student music competition Rock the Wrench next Tuesday at 7:00 in Jesse Auditorium. You can preview the thirteen contenders on KCOU's website. Skim band profiles and listen to tracks before you vote for your favorites. You can vote as many times and for as many groups as you'd like before 4 p.m. on Friday, November 13. The top five bands will move ahead to compete in the final smackdown at Jesse on November 17—when the audience chooses the ultimate rocking champion. Winners take home $500 and a happy little trophy.

You're likely to hear everything from a cappella glee clubbery to Ben Gibbard impersonation. Even if you don't attend the actual Rock the Wrench finale, check out the website for some free entertainment. Vote with abandon!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

La Blogotheque's Take-Away Shows



A week or two ago a friend of a friend sent me a link for La Blogotheque (all French, all the time) so I could check out their list of Take-Away Shows. The Take-Away Shows feature impromptu performances by indie artists in bars, parks, alleys, elevators, lobbies, etc. Any bizarre, random events that transpire during filming remain, including confrontations with angry landlords or police, interludes with wacky pedestrians, hugs from enthusiastic onlookers, or instrument malfunctions. Think of it as cinéma vérité for a YouTube world. Since the project's inception in 2006, other directors from around the world have joined The Take-Away Shows' founders, Chryde and Vincent Moon, to capture spontaneous footage of artists jamming about town.

For those loyal to former Columbians the White Rabbits, La Blogotheque has three separate performances by the band in Venice Beach.

In the video below, director Vincent Moon hits the sweet spot, giving us the Bowerbirds in a New York City candy shop with an accordion, a huge drum, and some bemused (and nonplussed) onlookers. ("What do you call yourselves? The Bowery Birds??")


Some of the artists on the site are obscure, French, or both, while others are pretty familiar to most dead-blooded Americans. (Jason Mraz, anyone?) The video quality varies by director, with some clips being exceptionally blurry and so full of movement as to distract from the entire concept. But, overall, seeing artists you love (or don't know yet) singing in the streets of random cities is a voyeuristic way to discover whether they're charming, whether they're assholes, or whether they actually have any talent at all.

Monday, November 9, 2009

New Music Fiesta



Sitting in El Maguey this past Saturday night polishing off an enorme pitcher of frozen strawberry margaritas with my brother and his wife, I realized how much I miss summer already. Later, as I watched E. and D. leave the restaurant on their now-weaving tandem, I had a sudden buzzed urge for heat, warmth, and new music. For me, music alleviates fall's color void. Perhaps that's why I spent a few hours earlier that afternoon cleaning my apartment to Orchestra Baobab's Pirates Choice (always puts me in a summery mood). (Cuban-infused rhythms from Senegal = Bliss)



Once the leaves are gone and things get gray, I head inside to find warmth and life in sound. So this weekend I scrounged around a bit for some new music to be the strawberry red in my margarita.


Sam Means


Sam Means was once half of the beloved Arizona duo The Format. These days he's on his own and just recorded the soundtrack to The Sinking of Santa Isabel (September 29), an independent comedy about one man's quest to recapture the magic of childhood by living in a treehouse all summer.

"Love and Pain" (from The Sinking of Santa Isabel)


"Yeah Yeah" (from The Sinking of Santa Isabel)



Lovísa Elísabet Sigrúnardóttir, a.k.a. Lay Low





Lay Low is Iceland's Bjork-in-training, minus the robotic edge and futuristic flourish. In fact, on her latest album Farewell Good Night's Sleep, Lay Low sounds more Nashville than Reykjavik, although there's still a frosty Icelandic sheen in the vocals.

"Last Time Around" (from Farewell Good Night's Sleep)



Solander




Solander is the solo project of Fredrik's Fredrik Karlsson. In "Looking for Gold" from Since We Are Pigeons (October 14), the Swedish group spins hypnotic vocals around a warm orchestral heart beating with off-beat guitar and a subtle electronic pulse.

"Looking for Gold" (from Since We Are Pigeons)



Old Canes



(The beard trend continues to grow...)

Old Canes is Chris Crisci, one-half of Lawrence, Kansas' The Appleseed Cast, who recorded Feral Harmonic (October 20) almost entirely alone in his basement. It's a raw ruckus of an album with lots of grungy, foot-stomping movement.

"Trust" (from Feral Harmonic)


"Little Bird Courage" (from Feral Harmonic)



Bibio




For those who love Air: Bibio breathes out ambient experimental noise perfect for cloud gazing. Bibio is Stephen Wilkinson, a Brit who released his second full-length album, Ambivalence Avenue on June 22. It features a little bit of everything: 70s wah wah, looping flute, falsetto voices, hip hop, folk guitar, lounge beats...

"Ambivalence Avenue" (from Ambivalence Avenue)


"Lovers' Carvings" (from Ambivalence Avenue)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Album of the Week, 11/6/09--"Declaration of Dependence" by Kings of Convenience



A good friend of mine is working in Italy this week, which has me thinking of travel and foreign places...so we're heading overseas to the land of fjords and lingonberries for the Album of the Week. I'd like to declare my dependence on Kings of Convenience's third release, Declaration of Dependence (October 19).

Kings of Convenience is Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe—two names more difficult to pronounce than cooking edible lutefisk. But names aside, these lads from Bergen, Norway, craft extremely accessible music. From the cool bossa nova on "Mrs. Cold," to the Simon and Garfunkel harmonies of "24–25," Declaration is a beautiful, listenable album with an undercurrent more Rio than Oslo. A bittersweet violin melody pulls "Boat Behind" along until it floats on its own hummable chorus of "I could never belong to you," accepting with a shrug the inevitability of life's ups and downs.

There's a reason the album has that laid-back, sand-in-the-shoes-at-sunset sound. Listen closely for drums... and you won't find any. Kings of Convenience simplifies things with two voices, two guitars, occasional cello or viola, and some piano. The result is one of the breeziest, likable albums this year.

These songs make me crave sunlight.

"24–25"


"Mrs. Cold"


"Peacetime Resistance"


"Renegade"


"My Ship Isn't Pretty"


Watch Kings of Convenience get towed in a boat behind a carload of cuties they pick up along the way in the video for "Boat Behind":


Fun fact: Erlend Øye is one-quarter of the band The Whitest Boy Alive and provides the vocals for Röyksopp's "Remind Me," which GEICO dragged through the prehistoric mud several years ago.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Foundry Field Recordings and Richard the Lionhearted at Mojo's, 11/7/09



One of the best things about blogging is learning random bits of information every day. Much of my "research" is admittedly surface level, but I do manage to save and process some bytes of knowledge that all add up to one scary hard drive. Today, while doing some research for an upcoming show recommended by comoprozac earlier this week, I stumbled across another Columbia music label, Emergency Umbrella Records. I know this blog can be like watching a two-year-old learn how to flush, but bear with me.

This Saturday you can check out one of the artists on the label (and a founding band of the Emergency Umbrella Collective), when Columbia's own The Foundry Field Recordings plays Mojo's with Richard the Lionhearted.


(The FFR)

The Foundry Field Recordings has been indie rocking and gazing at shoes since 2002 when singer/songwriter Billy Schuh started playing with a revolving cast of musicians he called Billy Schuh and the Foundry. By 2005, the current moniker was in place, along with a solid reputation and a busy touring schedule.

The FFR's first full-length album, Prompts/Miscues, was released in 2006. Although it took the band three years to produce, their debut effort reflects the obvious love and care it received. Billy Schuh paints his lovely voice all over the atmospheric canvas of hazy guitars and found sounds on such tracks as "Assembled Haphazardly" and "Battle Brigades, Pt. 2." Gloomy lyricism abounds on the acoustic gem  "Broken Strings," but it's the best sort of gloominess. Really, I'm impressed with what I've heard. Has anyone seen these guys live?

The video for "Holding the Pilots/Holding the Facts" from Prompts/Miscues (2006):


The FFR is currently working on their sophomore album, expected to be released this winter.

Check out The Foundry Field Recordings with Richard the Lionhearted at Mojo's, Saturday, November 7. Doors open at 8:30.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Son Volt at The Blue Note, 11/5



The year I graduated high school Son Volt was just starting to collect a cult of alt-country followers as rabid as the fan bases of either Pavement or Sebadoh. Jay Farrar formed the band in 1994 from the dismantled Uncle Tupelo, going one way with Son Volt, while former bandmate Jeff Tweedy went the other with Wilco.

Parent band Uncle Tupelo was huge in my tiny town, in part because of Hillsboro's proximity to St. Louis—half of eventual Son Volt members were rooted in St. Louis (the other half in Minneapolis). I was never a Son Volt junkie myself, thanks to a characteristically teenage lack of motivation to dig deeper and see what they were all about. At the time, if a band didn't grab me at first listen, I often didn't give them another chance. (I'm still bad about this, but age has slowed my rashness a bit. On the other hand, sometimes I'm quick to love a sub-par band. I guess I'm all over the map.) Son Volt has apparently run into similar ambivalence: they've never been a commercial success but are generally loved by critics.

Son Volt has been compared to everything from Bob Dylan to Neil Young to the Jayhawks to REM, but they keep on doing their own classic American alt-rock thing. Having survived many ups and downs and changing lineups, the band released an album earlier this year, American Central Dust. It contains the song "Cocaine and Ashes," which you can hear Jay Farrar sing with Mark Spencer (formerly of the Blood Oranges and now part of Son Volt) in the clip below. Jay Farrar's voice is nice and warm like flannel.



Once again, I'm going to have to pass on Son Volt. I have a feeling it will be a good show, but I'm suffering from stubborn teenage indifference. Please share details if you go.


Peter Bruntnell


Opening for Son Volt is Peter Bruntnell, a British singer/songwriter with a gentle voice who now spends his time living on the West Coast, surfing, and raising a family. Gentle indeed.



Check out Son Volt with Peter Bruntnell at The Blue Note, Thursday, November 5. Doors open at 7:30.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Volcano Choir "Unmap"



It's not cold out this week, but it soon will be. Wisconsinites understand the true meaning of the bone-chilling brrrrrrrrrr, so who better to warm you this season than Volcano Choir, a band of Wisconsin natives, including Justin Vernon of Bon Iverian fame and members of Collections of Colonies of Bees? The former touring buddies have been collaborating together for some time: a few of the songs on Unmap (September 22) were written as far back as 2005. Lyrics are few and far between, with the emphasis mostly on shimmering ambience. This is an album you can play in the background while you're holed up in the house doing pseudo-constructive things.

"Husks and Shells"


"Seeplymouth"


"Island, IS"



KCOU Makes the Top 5 List




Thanks to all who voted, KCOU has made the list of Top 5 College Radio Stations in contention for a Woodie Award. Click here to vote for Columbia's own before November 9. Wood jokes abound...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Lost Daylight and the MidMO BRR Aftermath



Welcome, Standard Time. We've squandered saved daylight, leaving behind dark days as appealing as leftover candy wrappers in a plastic pumpkin. To chase away the gloom, here's a handful of songs I happen to like. They make me happy. They're the extra hour of sleep in my dark season.

Joshua Novak: "Tidal Wave"


Rogue Wave: "Lake Michigan"


Bishop Allen: "Butterfly Nets"


Iron and Wine: "Belated Promise Ring"


The Zutons: "Valerie"

Fionn Regan: "Put a Penny in the Slot"

Caribou: "Crayon" (also used in a Nike ad):


Time to eat Halloween chocolate...


MidMO BRR Aftermath 

Dressed as a woolly mammal, I pedaled my dignity away with the miles Saturday during the MidMO BRR. My camera died soon after reaching Katfish Katy's on the trail—really no loss, considering my lack o' skills as a photographer, but it is a shame I missed getting shots of all the best costumes. Check the Off Track Events website this week to see more pics once they're posted. The Columbia Missouri Cycling Cooperative should also have some up in the next week or two.

(One of the best "costumes" I saw was two wretchedly hungover sorority girls who came to pick up their car at 9:00 in the morning in the lot next to Flatbranch Park where the ride kicked off. I'm angry I didn't get that picture.)

Gathering at Flatbranch Park:







Mike Denehy, Off Track Events coordinator, with the "kindling-head guy" (?):



Random blues band at Katfish Katy's:



The early, tame crowd milling about at Katfish Katy's:
(All the cool kids were at the back of the ride with the KLUNK/Flatbranch beer bike—a bar on wheels!—and the Shakespeare's Bat Mobile pedi-cab.)



This guy made his own lederhosen:



I stuck around for the costume contest in Rocheport, but the shenanigans ended there for this worn-out sheep.