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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Stars: The Five Ghosts


By now you've likely heard Stars' newest single "Fixed." If you haven't, check out the video below. Like most Stars songs, it shines bright with listener-friendly energy and clarity. And in case you want a whole album's-worth of new Stars material, their latest, The Five Ghosts, was released in June, with reviewers describing it as a darker album, less sing-songy and trite.

As long as Amy Millan's voice keeps streaking high across the galaxy, the exhilaration of Stars will never wear off.

Listening to Millan reminds me of the awe my twelve-year-old self felt the first time I heard the Sundays' Harriet Wheeler sing "Here's Where the Story Ends" in 1989. Some girls listened to Tiffany and some girls listened to Debbie Gibson, but I was a Sundays' girl from that moment on. (Um... I also had a strange obsession with '40s band leader Glenn Miller, so it's no surprise I was a walking target in 7th grade.)

The Sundays' song is timeless. I still love it, which I can't say about most music I listened to then. (I'm not really "In the Mood" these days.)


There's just something about a crystal clear voice that could break glass... If I could be reincarnated as a singer, I'd want to be Amy Millan.

Here's the video for "Fixed":


But "The Aspidistra Files" is still my favorite Stars song:


Stunning.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

9th Street Summerfest Wednesday

 (The Carolina Chocolate Drops)

Don't forget Wednesday night's 9th Street Summerfest concert featuring the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Big Smith, and The Hatrick. Like most people, I love freebies. My sister-in-law has already invited me to meet up with her and my brother to check out what's sure to be a high-energy show. She and I went to see Big Smith last spring, and I have never seen a more riled-up crowd. Big Smith fans like to dance. A LOT. I've also heard really good things about the Carolina Chocolate Drops since they played the Roots 'n' Blues Fest last year.

The Blue Note's doors open at 6:00 p.m.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Get Localized: Y&G and CAT tv

Columbia loves its music. We even have our own music co-op, Yards and Gods, which is always coming up with fresh ideas to promote its bands and give you music for free—yes, for FREE. At the end of July, Michael from Y & G sent me a new Nonreturner video for "Sockhops" off 2008's The Nonreturner. Slacker that I am, I'm just now posting it, but needless to say, it is here and it is creative and it involves sock puppets. Watch the sock puppets play miniature instruments on stage in front of a small crowd of sock puppet groupies. The best part about this video is the sock puppets' mastery of shoegaze. Playing in a forest of snowy trees, the sock puppets take this amazing song to a whole new level of introspective bliss. It's a fun way to introduce yourself to Nonreturner if you haven't heard them yet.


You can also listen to two tracks from Arthurian Honey's latest single on the Yards and Gods site. The Austin, Texans bring you "Honey, You're My Friend" and "Loose Lips Sink Ships"—two tracks that both ripple like sunshine on water.


The Arthurian Honey single is just the first of many Yards and Gods Singles Club releases to come. Visit the Y&G site each week for a free digital single-of-the-week.


Be sure you check out the second Y&G Singles Club single from Conceal and Carry, as it features former Columbian Carrie Wade (who writes darn good album reviews on her site Colossal Youth) along with Zach Biri from Nonreturner (who also has his own site Black Block Faxes). Both tracks, "Space Walk" and "Solar Flares," feature layers of chilly ambience perfect for down-tempo moments. I gave them a listen Wednesday night and was transfixed. If you appreciate understated beauty, you'll love these hypnotic gems.


Also earlier this summer, Trevor from Kansas City tipped me off to CAT tv's Notes from Underground. Our local cable access channel features live bands each Saturday afternoon. Check out the schedule to see which local bands are playing when. I haven't seen any of these recordings yet, but the idea of watching god-knows-who perform appeals to something in my voyeuristic side.

(The FFR)

And finally, don't forget to support our other local favorites The Foundry Field Recordings when they play Mojo's this Friday night. Doors open at 9:00 and tickets are a low $5.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bike Commuting and Ray LaMontagne

This is how my day started:


That's me on the right. (Thank you to my significant other for snapping this photo with his iPhone while towing his border collie behind us in the Tail Wagon.)

The only thing that could make this day better would be (a) getting back on my bike and riding away from work and (b) checking out Ray LaMontagne's new album, God Willin' and the Creek Don't Rise, which he recorded with new band the Pariah Dogs. It just came out yesterday.

Judging from the name of the new album and the look of the cover, I would expect nothing less than southern-fried roots rock and jug band bliss. But the best part of any LaMontagne album is the man's voice.

I owe another thank you to my partner in musical crime for telling me about this yesterday.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ending the Summer with First Aid Kit's "Hard Believer"

It's the last week before the university's fall semester begins. It's the last week I will be able to park on the street directly in front of my office building. It's also the last quiet week we'll have around here for a while.

If you are a student, I mean no offense. Your very existence is my bread and butter. However, you and your kind sure do muck up traffic and shake up our sleepy town.


Of course, as a precursor to the returning student mob next week, sorority girls have been congregating in the area around Rollins and parading up the street in matching clothes. Is this rush week? I don't get the greek thing, so I don't know how it works. But I am creeped out. Yesterday I had to cross the street in front of about 60 new recruits in matching shorts and t-shirts led by three girls with inflatable electric guitars and Elton John sunglasses. Oh, and they sing sometimes, too.

But let's talk about actual singing and guitar playing.

I drove to work this morning listening to First Aid Kit's "Hard Believer" on KCOU, which always makes me sing along like a drunken, lovesick cowgirl. Even when I'm spaced out and thinking about other things, I find myself singing along. I don't know if I really even like this song, but it does make me yodel—quietly when I'm distracted and loudly when I'm feeling joyous.


It would be beyond creepy if there were 100 girls walking around on Rollins looking like the little fairy princesses from First Aid Kit.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Micmacs

One of my birthday treats this year was going to a Ragtag film, Micmacs, directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the same guy behind one of my favorite films, Amelie. Micmacs is no Amelie, but it did feature whimsy and color and creativity and a plot involving arms dealing and underground misfits.

Here's the trailer:



I also opened a big FedEx package of more freelance work the day before my birthday, which is why this post is short, short, short. This week looks to be a busy one, but I'll do my best to check in as much as I can.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me

It's my birthday.

I put this song on my significant other's birthday mix last summer, and I sort of like it myself.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Searching for Shooting Stars

 (Dammit, this is what I want to see!)

Last night I looked for meteors in the eastern sky but saw only one brief streak through all the light pollution in town. The same thing happened last year: I stared out the window for an hour and saw one meteor instead of a deluge. Granted, I know nothing about meteor showers; I do know I'm supposed to go out in the country in the middle of the night and be patient, but I always sort of remember the shower at the last minute and still somehow hope to catch parts of it anyway. Are my expectations too high? Did anyone see the Perseids meteor "shower" Thursday night?

Sometimes I feel this way when I'm looking for new music: there's a whole lotta searching and only one shooting star in the bunch. I read Paste when I see it laying around, and I check out iTunes, and I listen to KCOU, and I sometimes remember to stream Pandora, and I read other people's music blogs, but I don't have as much time to sit and be patient these days.

A coworker recently asked me what I listen to. He's an older guy in his late forties, and he explained that the last artist he really liked was Natalie Merchant.


He loved Tiger Lily, but since then, all bands have sounded like Coldplay imitators to him. Oh, and he likes Eminem.


Okay, so where do I go with this? We have a pretty broad spectrum of possibilities between Natalie Merchant and Eminem, with the dead zone of Coldplay somewhere in the middle. I recommended KCOU to him, but I realize in retrospect that this was pretty lazy and weak. I suspect he got in his car that night, turned on KCOU, caught five seconds of Deerhoof, and no longer trusts my opinion.


To make up for this, I thought I could make him a cd and put safe stuff on it like Hem and Neko Case and Damien Rice and anything else acoustic. Maybe one of the most interesting things about making a mixed tape for someone else is realizing along the way how you think of them. My coworker is open to new things, but he also has a talking Yoda on his desk, and on Wednesday nights he goes home and destresses with his own made-up version of tai chi.

 (This is not my coworker, but I imagine this is what he looks like doing his rogue tai chi.)

I don't think we'll be exchanging Surfer Blood cds anytime soon. But the challenge remains to share some new music with him and see what he thinks. More likely, my shooting stars will be his light pollution.

I face a similar challenge in the Mix CD Smackdown when I try to introduce our friends to some new music and make a better cd than my partner in musical crime. I don't have to play it safe like I do with my coworker, but I still have to try to cater to the tastes of others and also win the contest.

Filtering for others' likes and dislikes makes it hard to spot new music for a specific project. One person's Bonnie Raitt is another person's Susan Tedeschi. For example, we all got into a discussion the other night about Pink Floyd versus Led Zeppelin versus the Grateful Dead versus the Who. (The general consensus is that Led Zeppelin rocks, but we were equally divided on our love and hatred for the other three bands.)


As for my coworker, perhaps I should suggest 30 Seconds to Mars? "Kings and Queens" is used in everything these days—movie previews, sports coverage, commercials, muzak, American Idol, Glee, weddings, bar mitzvahs, porn, etc. Curse you, Jared Leto for finding a way to actually get paid for that.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Love Language Shares Its "Libraries"

(The Love Language)

A few weeks ago my partner in musical crime and I heard a track on KCOU that we both liked. We took advantage of KCOU's new whatwasthat.kcou.fm to identify the song before we forgot about it. (By the way, KCOU, it's about time you gave us a site like this. My biggest gripe has always been your smug withholding of song/artist identification.) And so we discovered that The Love Language has a new album, Libraries (released July 13), blending '60s croon-and-swoon with easy/breezy handclaps and guitar.

The song we heard, "Summer Dust," is perfect for weather like ours that makes you feel like you've been baked into summer dust; it makes its lilting way across the space between your ears and demands nothing from you but a willingness to chill out and daydream about young love and summer and hummingbirds.


The more popular "Heart to Tell" shakes things up to a sweat-inducing level. It's the bratty kid sister of 2009's raucous "Lalita." (Actually, I think I'm partial to the distortion and angst of the earlier track; this one is much more lighthearted.)

"Heart to Tell" by The Love Language

[Download]

I'm still kicking myself for missing The Love Language when they were in Columbia earlier this year. But not to worry: They're playing The Blue Note with Local Natives on October 3. It should be a can't-miss show.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A.A. Bondy and JBM at Mojo's Tuesday

 (A.A. Bondy)

Escape from the heat tonight ... or pack yourself into Mojo's with a bunch of other sweaty music lovers and catch A.A. Bondy with opening act JBM. (I saw JBM at Mojo's in April and instantly loved his voice.)

Doors open at 8:00, and tickets will only set you back $8. Come on, it's a steal!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Seizing the Day Half-Assedly

 The Carpe Diem Beginner String Ensemble

Where the heck have I been? Sorry about that. June and July were busy here at A Ravenous Horde headquarters. I developed some nasty blogging habits—like not updating my monthly concert calendar and...well, not posting.

Two good things: I got an A in my class. I got paid for my first freelance job.

I did not do those two things half-assedly.

And Wednesday night we wrapped up the summer session of the beginner string orchestra at Carpe Diem (see above). My noisome sextet performed for a group of kind friends and even a sweaty cable repair man, who decided he needed to check out Carpe Diem's cable in the middle of the recital, which involved entering and exiting mid-performance and bending over to show his crack. He did stay for our final number, "Chariots of Fire," but declined to partake of the refreshments. Vangelis would have been proud.


The performance reminded me of when I was a kid and used to write plays and perform them in the garage for those neighbors who were indulgent enough to come watch. Perhaps this is the theme of my life? I'm good at half-assing things for the amusement of acquaintances?

I suppose that's a trend that continues in this blog, except I'm half-assing things for friends and a bunch of blogospherians.

Right now I'm getting psyched up for a mixed cd contest with my musical partner in crime. Our two friends will be judging the cds and voting on their favorite, so the pressure is on to find some new music and win the Cd Mixoff. This means I'll probably have lots of new stuff to share with you in the coming weeks.