Sunday, December 19, 2010

Best of 2010 // The Albums

[via nevada moonrise]

Our look back at the year that was concludes with Waterloo Sunset’s personal favorite long-players from the past twelve months. Of course this is just a snapshot of the music that caught WS’s attention, but these records made a particular impression. More so than in recent memory, most of the albums were growers, but the time invested was well worth it, and they’re all worth your time as well.

Like I said last year, I’m still drawn to long-players because they elevate the art form to something of a transcendent, personal, memorable level. It’s particularly intoxicating to throw these on the stereo, turn off the computer, and experience them individually, free from outside concerns--antiquated, yes, but essential in this day and age. Words/songs after the jump (in no particular order); send along your faves in the comments as well.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Under The Covers: Best Album Art//2010

Your mother admonished you, "never judge a book by its cover." But when it comes to music, a record's cover can set the general tone and aesthetic like the first welcoming steps into a deeper ocean. With the digitization of everything, album art seems to be going by the wayside, but there will always be the select few that know how important it is to catch an eye in order to catch an ear.

Below are some of the best album covers of the year, not limited to any one genre or theme but picked based on typography, photography, and overall graphic design. If you think of any we missed, let us know in the comments. We're always up for a good look.

Field Music--Measure

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark--History of Modern

*More covers after the jump below:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Episode 26: Best of 2010

[via strange eyes]

The calendar's turned to December, and it's time to howl out WS's favorites. Here are some of the best songs of 2010, packed into an extra-sized mixtape for your listening pleasure. Sit back, relax, and enjoy; further 2010 thoughts on the way in the coming weeks. Tracklist below:

Side A

The Besnard Lakes--"Albatross"
Soft Healer--"Movie Light"
Twin Sister--"Lady Daydream"
Spoon--"Who Makes Your Money"
Beach House--"Silver Soul"
Pure Ecstasy--"Alexandria"
The Morning Benders--"Excuses"

Side B

Cut Copy--"Where I'm Going"
The Walkmen--"Angela Surf City"
Department of Eagles--"Brightest Minds"
Phosphorescent--"Nothing Was Stolen (Love Me Foolishly)"
The Rolling Stones--"Plundered My Soul"
Lower Dens--"Hospice Gates"
Arcade Fire--"Sprawl II Mountains Beyond Mountains"
Sharon Van Etten--"Love More"

Waterloo Sunset Episode 26: Best of 2010 by artblevy

Friday, November 12, 2010

Episode 25

[via alexandra in the forest]

I don't want to fuss, and I don't want to fight, but we've got a great WS episode for y'all this week. Blasts of '60's garage-psych, soul, and even a little down-home cooking from Dylan and The Band. Turn this one up--it'll get the party started. Tracklist below:

The Zombies--"Sometimes"
The Velvet Underground--"I Can't Stand It"
Sugar Pie DeSanto--"I Don't Want To Fuss"
Man Man--"I'd Rather Go Blind" (Etta James cover)
Thee Oh Sees--"Fake Song"
Bob Dylan & The Band--"Nothing Was Delivered"
The Band--"King Harvest (Has Surely Come)"
The Moondoggies--"It's A Shame, It's A Pity"
Woods--"Rain On Radio"
Los Datsun's--"Who'll Stop The Rain" (Creedence Clearwater Revival cover)
Townes Van Zandt--"Fare Thee Well, Miss Carousel"

Total running time: 37:46

Waterloo Sunset Podcast #25

Saturday, October 30, 2010

All Hallow's Eve

[via a journey round my skull]

No trick: here's a listening treat for your Halloween. It's a reposted podcast from last year, with a few updates. As always, track listing and download below:

Jad and David Fair--"Frankenstein"
Link Wray & His Raymen--"The Shadow Knows"
Screamin' Jay Hawkins--"I Put A Spell On You"
The Spooks--"The Spook Walks"
Man Man--"Top Drawer"
Jerry Bryan--"Vampire Daddy"-->"Twilight Zone Theme"
October Country--My Girlfriend Is A Witch"
Crazy World of Arthur Brown--"Fire"
Blind Willie Johnson--"Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground"
Basil Rathbone reading "The Raven" + Ennio Morricone's "Death Rattle"
Dead Man's Bones--"My Body's A Zombie For You"

Total running time: 29:50

WS Halloween 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sharon Van Etten--Epic

Our review of Sharon Van Etten's stunning sophomore album, Epic. Read at Prefix or check it out below.

With a voice like Sharon Van Etten’s, it’s easy to overlook any weaknesses. That seemed to be the case with last year’s debut, Because I Was In Love, wherein her raw vocal power carried much of the album despite its monochromatic tone. On her sophomore effort, Epic, Van Etten wisely expands her instrumentation and songwriting. The results might be mixed, but it offers a few glimpses to where her future musical path might take her.

At seven songs and just over half an hour, Epic might seem unworthy of its name at first glimpse, but Van Etten packs a lot into these songs. Love was almost entirely an acoustic affair, but it featured that arresting voice: Weathered, sympathetic, emotive, and dynamic, it carries most of her songs, even her lesser ones. And in the case of Epic, Van Etten jumps further out of the singer-songwriter pack by trying on new hats with the help of a solid cast of musicians. Cat Martino, Jessica Larrabee, and Meg Baird and Greg Weeks of the folk band Espers offer backing vocals and extra instrumentation. Producer Brian McTear deserves a nod, as well; he retains Van Etten’s poignancy amid all the additional voices, drums, and distorted electric guitars.

Disappointingly, though, the record takes a little while to open up. Both “A Crime” and “Peace Sign” sound a few ideas away from being truly finished. As they stand, they’re both awkward sketches to start out the album. In fact, the pacing and order of Epic is odd. That shouldn’t matter in our digital era, but when listening all the way through, the album becomes distracting.

Yet these hiccups are forgotten in the excitement of hearing Van Etten stretch her songwriting capabilities. The barroom balladeering of “Save Yourself” fits her smoky voice perfectly, as if she’s been a straight-up country singer all this time. McTear gets another production nod for keeping the between-take banter intact and loosening up the proceedings. Van Etten sounds confident and comfortable, even slyly intoning, “Try and make me feel/ Like I’m your number one, every other one/ Well, shit, get real.” Her darkness is still very much intact, but it’s filtered through melodic, almost-pop songs like “Don’t Do It” that demonstrate her ability to inhabit these various styles and make them her own.

Oddly enough, Epic shines brightest on the two songs that are the most similar to each other and Van Etten’s folk past. Both “DsharpG” and “Love More” feature a foot-pumped organ called a harmonium as the centerpiece. The resultant drones in each of the songs are chilly but earthy, and she does wonders with the skeletal framework, recalling her past work while carving a new musical path. However, “Love More” builds to such a climax that it emotionally obliterates the preceding six songs. And therein lies a final problem: Van Etten doesn’t realize what an astounding grand slam she has with “Love More,” so the surrounding music pales in comparison when listened all together. She needs, ironically enough, more epic songs to match its intensity. As it stands, it’s one genius scene tacked onto the end of a pretty good film.

As an album, Epic is disjointed in places, but as a collection of songs it’s strong enough. Ultimately, this sounds like something of a holding pattern for the Van Etten. She has all of these divergent ideas swimming around, but there is little doubt that she will be able to harness these in the near future and create that lasting masterpiece she has lurking in her fingertips.

Sharon Van Etten--Love More
Sharon Van Etten--Don't Do It

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Episode 24

[via a journey round my skull]

A long respite away from bloggery has recharged the batteries, so to speak. So now we offer up a return to form: WS Podcast #24, Victoria to Vittoria, with stops in between for Caribou (playing La Zona Rosa on Thursday), George Harrison's Indian excursion for the Wonderwall soundtrack (the first proper Beatles solo release, technically), and Marmalakes, the latest local band to take the Austin scene by storm. And you can take it by storm below, with more goodness to come in a more timely manner in the future.

The Kinks--"Victoria"
Department of Eagles--"Practice Room Sketch 3"
Lower Dens--"Two Cocks"
Caribou--"Leave House"
George Harrison--"Guru Vandana"
The Walkmen--"Stranded"
Beto Villa Y Su Orquesta--"Angelina"
Jaime Alem--"Passara"

Total time: 35:19

Waterloo Sunset Podcast #24

Monday, September 13, 2010

Episode 23: Lazy Days

[via mystic lady]

Summer's detritus on our stereo this week, as it still feels like summer round here. It's unusually eclectic, but that's the way we like it at WS HQ. Be sure to pay special attention to that Julian Casablancas cut--it's a demo version of my fave Strokes song, which follows it. Tracklist follows...

The Flying Burrito Brothers--"Lazy Days"
America--"Ventura Highway"
Woods--"Blood Dries Darker"
Jurassic 5--"Concrete Schoolyard"
Bibio--"Jealous of Roses"
Julian Casablancas--"I'll Try Anything Once"
The Strokes--"You Only Live Once"
The War On Drugs--"Comin' Through"
Cotton Jones--"The Radio Slugger (Live at KUT 90.5 FM)
Bob Dylan--"I'll Be Your Baby Tonight"

Total running time:

Waterloo Sunset Podcast #23

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Budos Band--The Budos Band III

Our review of The Budos Band III, the new record by Daptone's resident funk experts The Budos Band. Read at Prefix or below.

“Egos suck,” says the Budos Band’s bassist Dan Foder. “That’s why bands don’t last more than two records.” And with upwards of 12 egos to contend with at one time, it’s a wonder the group gets anything done. But on their third album, The Budos Band III, and certainly throughout their career, The Budos Band have displayed a remarkable commitment to an aesthetic that feels more like a tight-knit family than a band.

The group characterizes itself as “Staten Island instrumental afro-soul,” and perhaps the most potent of those qualifiers is their hometown. There’s a certain grittiness to their sound that only New York City can provide. Sure, they play soul music like the rest of the Daptone Records roster, but their brand is far darker than the bright pop of Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings. The members of The Budos Band are all avowed metalheads; their Black Sabbath LPs rub shoulders with those of Mulatu Astatke and James Brown. Consequently, III reflects this diversity, melding dark guitar riffs with funky breakbeats and punchy, Eastern-tinged horns.

From the stark album cover down to the production, the band commits to a vibe built on noir and mystery. “Rite Of The Ancients” is an album opener worthy of the big screen. Its locked-in groove and brass splashes wouldn’t sound out of place on a Tarantino soundtrack sandwiched between scratchy ‘70s soul or Afro-Cuban jazz. The congas on “Ancients” are a sublime touch on a record full of them: The heavily reverbed horns on the stumbling “Nature’s Wrath are as intriguing as the decision to cover “Day Tripper” as a minor-key, half-time funk workout (“Reppirt Yad”). The band is tight and focused, having spent the better part of the past two years on the road working and reworking these songs. Reportedly the album was recorded in just 48 hours, and this creative energy is apparent on songs like “Unbroken, Unshaven” or “Crimson Skies,” the former a fiery explosion while the latter gradually unfolds.

With so many instruments at work, the players have to be precise in their playing. The haunted-house organ blasts of “Black Venom” lend a perfectly creepy air to the song’s insistent cumbia beat, creating such a realized world you’d guess the band storyboarded the idea ahead of time. Yet with this precision come few individual surprises. The horns stick to staccato unison, with an occasional solo that fits the mood but hardly ever transcends it. The bass can get lost in the mix as well beneath all the moving parts. With the kinds of rhythms The Budos Band lay down, you need the bass up front and center.

These qualms are minor compared with the overall delight the album conveys. The close-knit brotherhood that bassist Dan Foder talks about jumps off the record on its first spin, and the band uses each other as springboards to explore some pretty heady rhythms and melodies. But don’t let this instrumental complexity scare you: These smoky, unrelenting jams don’t require anything but open ears and a pair of feet.


The Budos Band--Rite of the Ancients
The Budos Band--Black Venom

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Episode 22: Summer Jams, Pt. 2

[via ryan tatar]

Labor Day is fast approaching, so we bid adieu to the summer season with a fond farewell podcast, augmented by some beach-y found sounds between the tunes. The temperature continues to rise here in ATX, but those days of waves have passed us by until next year. Tracklist/download below:

The Barracudas--Summer Fun
The Budos Band--Rite of the Ancients
Honey & The Bees Band--Sisi Mbon
Music Convention--Big Green
Henry Mancini--Lujon
Cut Copy--Where I'm Going
Beach Fossils--Youth
Evan Voytas--I Took A Trip On A Plane
Floating Action--So Vapor
The Avalanches--Since I Left You
Caetano Veloso--Tudo Tudo Tudo
Ganglians--To June
Buffalo Springfield--Kahuna Sunset

Total time: 40:55

Summer Jams, Pt. 2

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Instruments of Science & Technology--Library Catalog Music Series: Music For Paradise Armor

Our review of the new avant-garde electronica album from California pop tunesmith Richard Swift. Take it in below or at Prefix.


Is it better to hone a consistent sound or branch off onto different paths? For Richard Swift, it’s overwhelmingly the latter. His stylistic forays are almost schizophrenic in their incongruence. He started his solo career creating Tin Pan Alley pastiches before moving on to Randy Newman-like piano pop and synth-heavy new wave, but recent years have found him mining scratchy garage and soul with a reel-to-reel recorder. He’s an adept producer, as well, adding clever touches to both his own work and others’, like the recent debut album from the Mynabirds. Aside from music, Swift creates his own music videos and short films and has a pretty extensive photography collection. And if all that wasn’t enough, he finds time for an experimental electronica side project called Instruments of Science & Technology. It’s this last endeavor that’s so eyebrow-raising, but IS&T allows Swift to try on yet another hat, fully integrating his work as both a producer and a musician.

Music For Paradise Armor
is one album in a lengthy series dubbed Library Catalog Music. Started by Asthmatic Kitty Records, the series is a commission of instrumental albums for possible use in film, television, relaxation, or as background sounds, and Armor fits almost all of these categories. The songs are uniformly glitchy, utilizing both computer beeps and vinyl hiss as the rhythmic base. Swift seems to relish the blank canvas, creating tiny, minimalist environments for exploration. The album is undoubtedly meant to be listened to on headphones; the sounds are paved over through conventional speakers, but they pop and fizz when they’re directly in your ear. Songs like “Nuux” and “Station Number Set” are busy without being overbearing, and Swift’s choice of analog recording prevents the textures from becoming too cold or mechanical. His pop sensibilities occasionally bubble to the surface -- he ends the record with a short solo pump organ melody -- but they’re usually swallowed up by the restless electronics. He even explores atonal sounds on “Mt. Mountain” with samples of a randomly plucked guitar and a sped-up drum loop. Suffice to say, it’s a dizzying stretch from the simple piano ballads he’s known for.

Despite the joy to be found in the experimentation itself, all of these moving parts and ideas are a bit exhausting to closely follow. They may be minimal in ingredients, but the songs make quite a racket, pulling your attention to every skittering sample and computerized note. As background music, it’s too complex to just simply ignore. The result is overwhelming at times; by not providing enough terra firma, the listener is stranded in a bizarre, glitchy sea. It’s certainly a playground for Swift as a producer, as he gets to be the mad architect of these nebulous compositions. The melding of the organic and the technological is equally intriguing and unsettled, but the restless Richard Swift wouldn’t have it any other way.


Instruments of Science & Technology--Nuux
Instruments of Science & Technology--Mt. Mountain

Friday, August 13, 2010

Taken Away

Unbelievable take-away shows from Sharon Van Etten and La Blogotheque. Watch Van Etten work her magic (with accompaniment by a harmonium) below.

Take Away Show #109 _ SHARON VAN ETTEN (part 1) from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.

Take Away Show #109 _ SHARON VAN ETTEN (part 2) from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.

Sharon Van Etten comes to the Mohawk November 18 as the support for Junip. Her new album, Epic, drops October 5.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dungen: "Skit I Allt" Video

We gave you a tantalizing taste from Dungen's new album, Skit I Allt, a few weeks back. Here's another preview, this time in the form of a video for the album's title track. Skit I Allt drops September 14 via Mexican Summer.

Dungen - Skit I Allt from Mexican Summer on Vimeo.

Monday, August 9, 2010

V/A--Welcome Home/Diggin' The Universe

Our review for the new Woodsist Records compilation, Welcome Home/Diggin' The Universe. Check it out below or at Prefix.

Woodsist Records prides itself on doing things the old-fashioned way. It’s a time warp of a record label, choosing to cultivate a particular sound through limited-run cassettes, 7-inch singles, and vinyl LPs. This approach attempts to hark back to the days when labels had specific aesthetics, relative to their regions and the management’s tastes. And through this new compilation, Woodsist largely succeeds: The label is at the forefront of lo-fi psychedelia, a niche of a niche that doesn’t require a declarative statement so much as a snapshot of a time.

Woodsist is helmed by Jeremy Earl, frontman for the band Woods, and he has his own personal stamp on the proceedings. Woods kicks off the comp with the bright campfire ditty “I’m Not Gone” as a way to ease into the distortion that follows. The comp feels like a personalized mixtape from Earl himself, featuring relatively bigger names like Skygreen Leopards and Real Estate offshoots Alex Bleeker and Ducktails alongside a bevy of newcomers.

The sounds are fairly varied, a welcome surprise considering the pigeonhole the sub-genre tends to put itself into: tape recording plus distortion plus mumbled lyrics equals a blog-able song. Here, there’s standard ‘60s fetishism, like the Fresh & Onlys’ “Heel. Toe.,” but the song is well-composed and an absolute earworm. The Mantles unveil the surf-rock inspired “Bad Movies” to great effect, and both Cause Co-Motion! and Nodzzz break out short, sunny blasts of jangly pop, indebted to ‘60s forbears but still fun and refreshing all the same. Elsewhere, the cheekily named Run DMT impresses with “Richard,” a song so tape-damaged it feels like it will fall apart at any time. While this recording technique could be used as a mask, here it’s used as an instrument in its own right. White Fence’s abrasive organ droning follows on “The Love Between,” a dark antithesis to much of the comp’s feel-good vibes.

And sometimes these feel-good vibes get the best of the comp. Both Alex Bleeker and his Real Estate bandmate Matt Mondanile (here as Ducktails) offer up limp songs that barely register, while Moon Duo overstays its welcome with a six-and-a-half-minute dub jam. City Center’s “Box of Rain” (a Grateful Dead cover) is offensive in its amateurism and certainly one of a handful that should’ve been left in the garage.

The scattershot sounds and subtle experimentation act as the modus operandi for Woodsist. They’re not out to change the world like Nuggets did, the patron saint of compilations and an obvious touchstone here. Rather, this serves as an interesting word-of-mouth among friends, showing what a bunch of underground freaks can do with distortion and home recording, for better or for worse.

Woods--I'm Not Gone
The Fresh & Onlys--Heel. Toe.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Episode 21

[via nevada moonrise]

So many colors pouring out of our stereo this week, on Episode 21 of the Waterloo Sunset Podcast. We have brand-new music from those cut-and-pasters The Books and a fantastic pop gem from Deerhunter. Plus, Sagas provides a massive Scottish-inspired drone before Castanets casts an eerie gloom over the proceedings (Sufjan Stevens' cover led me to the original). The second half cracks open the door for a bit of country-fried sunshine--alongside Fruit Bats, their Optigan, and their Band-ish breeze--before Junip, the newly-revived project from Swedish folk singer José Gonzalez, takes us home. Full track list below:

The Books--Beautiful People
Secos e Molhados--Amor
Voice Of The Seven Thunders--Out of the Smoke
Sagas--Murdstone Road
Castanets--You Are The Blood
The Carter Family--Foggy Mountain Top
The Byrds--Time Between
My Morning Jacket--Lowdown
Fruit Bats--Flamingo

Total running time: 35:15

Waterloo Sunset Podcast #21

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lower Dens--Twin-Hand Movement

Our review of Twin-Hand Movement, the debut album from Jana Hunter's new band, Lower Dens. Read below or at Prefix.

An artist like Jana Hunter can be at an immense disadvantage. Upon Devendra Banhart “discovering” her in 2005, the Baltimore-by-way-of-Houston musician was lumped into the ultra-hyped freak-folk movement. She released two albums of spare, offbeat folk tunes, and then the freak-folk bubble burst. Acoustic folk musicians all too often paint themselves into corners, releasing album after album of the same gently strummed background music. But Hunter is well aware of this. With the absence of any associated scene, she’s traded in her acoustic for an electric guitar, leading a full band called Lower Dens in an exploration of ragged psychedelic rock.

Projects like these are a great way for an artist to regroup and refresh, and there’s little doubt Hunter could have felt saddled by that earlier genre tag. Here she doesn’t so much let loose as expand on her folk tendencies. Like much of Hunter’s stripped-down discography, Lower Dens’ songs are patient, slowly morphing with the aid of careful guitar squall. Most of the record can trace its roots to the kinds of droning interstitials she included on 2007’s There’s No Home, but here they’re fleshed out with a solid backing band. First single “I Get Nervous” starts tenuously before giving way to a firm backbeat and Hunter’s raspy voice, displaying a cinematic sense of unease that repeatedly pops up. The record is bookended by “Blue & Silver” and “Two Cocks,” two songs that get by with a Krautrock-like intensity. There’s little in the way of comfort, as Hunter’s voice and guitar, both bathed in reverb, trade in claustrophobia rather than expansiveness.

While Hunter’s wall-of-sound guitars are certainly hard to miss, what gives the album edge is the muscular rhythm section. The unfortunately named “A Dog’s Dick” uses a guitar melody that’s so simple it allows for a snaking bass line and minimal drums to carry the song forward to the cathartic conclusion. “Holy Water” immediately follows, offering a nice instrumental cleanser of distorted bass and a propulsive rhythm for the careening guitars. Elsewhere Lower Dens rely too much on the mood-over-melody technique. “Plastic & Powder” wears out its welcome long before it reaches its final six and a half minutes, despite another memorable drumbeat. Likewise, “Tea Lights” kills all the momentum of the album opener. A dark bass line is the only real highlight, as Hunter’s tired melody replays endlessly.

But these missteps are few and far between and obvious aberrations compared with the sublime brilliance of “Hospice Gates,” a late-record standout and Hunter’s best song in her still-young career. “Gates” rides yet another stellar rhythm to great effect, using the dark groove to dissipate the sleepiness of the album’s later minutes. Guitar feedback is corralled to offer color to Hunter’s weary bellow, but she strays from the comfort of her lower register into some truly stunning high notes that perfectly match the song’s rising tension. The song is perfectly timed and executed, and it gives hope for even better things to come.

Hunter is wholly comfortable as the frontwoman for a rock band, but you’d never guess that given her past. She’s been pigeonholed as a strictly folk talent; thankfully she’s decided to defy this categorization. Twin-Hand Movement is the sound of an artist breaking free, putting her formerly good skills to great use.

Lower Dens--Truss Me
Lower Dens--Hospice Gates

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Episode 20

This week's podcast was informed by the westernmost reaches of our state, where weeks of rain have turned the desert into a blooming oasis. Mountain Man gets us on the road, and their debut drops on Tuesday, a week that sees a number of great releases and a highly-anticipated local show from Phosphorescent (Thursday at ND). The stuttering rockabilly of Hasil Adkins two-steps with the sunny remembrances of the Kinks and there's a double shot of Department of Eagles waiting on the other side (both pulled from their recent Archive 2003-2006, which we reviewed here). Charles Mingus offers up some epic free jazz noir before the melancholic psych-folk of Amen Dunes (new EP out July 27) closes up the trip. Dig it below:


Mountain Man--How I'm Doin'
Phosphorescent--Nothing Was Delivered (Love Me Foolishly)
Hasil Adkins--Chicken Walk
The Kinks--Picture Book
Dungen--Marken Låg Stilla
Buffalo Springfield--Rock And Roll Woman
Department of Eagles--Practice Room Sketch 2
Yma Sumac--Ataypura (High Andes)
Charles Mingus--Track A-Solo Dancer: Stop! Look! And Listen, Sinner Jim Whitney!
Department of Eagles--Golden Apple
Amen Dunes--Murder Dull Mind

Total time: 35:26


Waterloo Sunset Podcast #20

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Department of Eagles--Archive 2003-2006

Our review of Archive 2003-2006, the new odds-and-ends collection from WS favorites Department of Eagles. Read below or at Prefix.

Department of Eagles’ two principals -- Daniel Rossen (also of Grizzly Bear) and Fred Nicolaus -- met in the early part of last decade while attending NYU. They traded demos and decided to record together, resulting in a handful of 7-inch singles and a debut album that sounded exactly like what it was: a couple of college students with too much time, too many inside jokes, some pirated recording software, and a love of every genre under the sun. Yet in 2008, the duo released In Ear Park, one of the year’s best records and a nice appetizer for Grizzly Bear’s breakout 2009. How did Department of Eagles go from dorm-room jokesters to chamber-pop maestros seemingly overnight? This odds-and-ends collection seeks to connect the dots, rounding up early sound collages by Daniel Rossen as well as the duo’s first attempts at serious songwriting.

Archive 2003-2006
serves as a neat window into the past, right at the moment that Rossen’s compositional quirks began to form. His songs for both of his bands have always had a slight jazz angle to them, and the five piano “sketches” included on this album sound like warped, slow-motion Tin Pan Alley instrumentals. The sketches are studies in layering and building sound collages, with walls of vocal harmonies complementing the unfolding piano chords. “Sketch 1” is of particular interest to Grizzly Bear fans, as the cascading notes would go on to form the basis for “Easier,” the lead-off track from Yellow House. These experiments are quick and simple, but the melodies are still superb, if somewhat undercooked.

On the fully written songs, Department of Eagles are a bit hit and miss. “Deadly Disclosure” and “Grand Army Plaza” meander, packed with interesting sounds but not enough hooks, and it’s obvious that these two songs were probably earlier in the band’s chronology. Rossen’s idiosyncratic style is apparent on “While We’re Young,” a shuffling choral exploration that’s both ghostly and deceptively catchy. Rossen’s quavering voice lends itself well to the classic-sounding melody of “Golden Apple,” the band’s first dip into the type of experimental orchestration that it would perfect on In Ear Park. Yet the “a ha” moment arrives with “Brightest Minds.” It’s a propulsive and dark folk tune full of the kinds of twists and turns that Rossen excels at, constantly leaving the listener guessing as to where the song will end up next. The duo’s array of talents is wrapped up in the “Minds,” the stellar missing link in a somewhat beguiling but fascinating discography.

Music critics love to analyze the connection between Points A and C in an artist’s career; analysis puts the music into an easy-to-understand perspective. Archive acts as this brief glimpse into the evolution of a celebrated songwriter and a band, yet with the quality and the high level of music geekery required, it’s obvious that this one’s intended for the superfans.

Department of Eagles--Brightest Minds
Department of Eagles--Practice Room Sketch 3

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Dungen

One of my favorite concerts in recent memory was Dungen (with Woods opening) last summer. And thankfully, the Swedish psych-jazz outfit is set to release a new album on September 14 called Skit I Allt, which roughly translates to "Fuck All." Plus, they're swinging back through the ATX on September 18, revisiting the Mohawk. Download the first single below, the piano ballad "Marken Låg Stilla," which closes the new record.

Dungen--Marken Låg Stilla

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Episode 19: Fireworks And Hot Dogs

[via cosmic dust]

What could be better than a good showing from the U.S. soccer team for July 4th? A Waterloo Sunset podcast, of course. And Episode 19 is sure to please at barbecues and pool parties. After a little soulful patriotism from Ray Charles, we get down to the real cause for celebration: Beer, beer, and more beer, and The Sandals certainly agree. New music from Richard Swift and notes from the American underbelly courtesy of Michael Yonkers paves the way for Lower Dens, the new Jana Hunter project that pries the acoustic guitar from her able hands and allows her to indulge in some red, white, and blue psychedelia. The '70s should-have-been folk sensation (and Cherokee descendant) Karen Dalton lays down some world-weary wisdom before giving ground to Warren Zevon and his slice of dark (but cheery) Americana. Light the fuse below.

Ray Charles--"America The Beautiful"
The Sandals--"6-Pak"
Richard Swift--"Drakula (Hey Man!)
The Cotton Jones Basket Ride--"Chewing Gum"
Michael Yonkers Band--"Sold America"
Lower Dens--"Hospice Gates"
Jana Hunter--"Palms"
Karen Dalton--"Something On Your Mind"
Wilco--"In A Future Age"
Warren Zevon--"Carmelita (1974 Demo)"

Total time: 31:08

Waterloo Sunset Podcast, July 4th Edition

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Roots

Each week, Spin This profiles the week's notable album releases via KUT's Texas Music Matters. This week: fresh off their stellar gig as the best late night talk show band in history, The Roots return with an album full of left-turns and high-profile guests. Also, the invigorating Nina Nastasia continues to break the boundaries of what a singer-songwriter should sound like, with the help of the irascible Steve Albini. All that and much, much more in our weekly rundown of notable music releases, available right here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Blitzen Trapper--Destroyer Of The Void

Our review of Destroyer Of The Void, the new album by Blitzen Trapper. Read below or at Prefix.

Since their self-titled debut in 2003, the members of Portland’s Blitzen Trapper have veered wildly with every new release. Those expecting Destroyer of the Void to be Furr, Part Two -- Furr being their dusty, Americana-flecked 2008 breakout -- don’t know this band. They are one of the more stylistically adventurous groups working today; alt-country, folk, glam, prog, funk, and indie pop all figure into their sound. Void almost works as a career summation of their genre-roulette tendencies, but it suffers under its own weight and too often becomes a game of “spot the influence.”

Nowhere is this more apparent than the album’s opening cut, “Destroyer of the Void.” It’s the obvious elephant in the room: six minutes of rock-opera bombast, combining complex multipart harmonies with soft piano codas before the song opens up into full-on guitar shredding. It’s certainly eyebrow-raising, but a memorable hook would have been nice. For all its bluster, it’s pretty forgettable.

All of the band’s knottiest songwriting tendencies are on immediate display for much of Void’s first half, inducing a kind of aural whiplash. Yet album midpoint “Heaven And Earth” signals a welcome shift into the strong later tracks. With lead singer Eric Earley alone on piano save for an expert string section, “Heaven” is not just the album’s obvious gem but a career standout. Oftentimes piano ballads can be throwaway excuses for a solo spotlight, but Earley makes it feel essential, sounding like the wounded counterpoint to Furr’s “Not Your Lover.”

Following this heaviness is the slow-burning “Dragon’s Lair,” an exercise in smoky psych-rock that’s perfectly sequenced to play off the melancholy of “Heaven.” Blitzen Trapper are at their best on countrified head-nodders like “Evening Star” and “Sadie,” two songs that allow Earley to weave his novelistic stories around driving backbeats that mimic his laconic delivery. Nowhere is this storytelling more fully realized than on the classic-sounding folk strummer “The Tree,” a duet featuring fellow Portlander Alela Diane.

Despite these late highlights, Void still overly employs Blitzen Trapper’s biggest negative: inconsistency. They have a great album lurking somewhere in them, but for now they’re settling for a couple of good songs mixed in with their 1970s fetishism. Destroyer of the Void’s unbridled creativity certainly has something for everyone, but it’s not quite a substantial enough offering.

Blitzen Trapper--Heaven And Earth
Blitzen Trapper--Evening Star

Friday, June 11, 2010

Lower Dens

Jana Hunter
is usually known for her ghostly, lo-fi folk music, the kind where you can actually hear her fingers strumming the strings. Which makes Lower Dens all the more surprising: a full-band psychedelic rock effort, with Hunter front and center. She brings the same care, skewed artistry, and attention to detail to Lower Dens' haunting tunes; suffice to say, this ain't some throwaway jam session. Their debut album, Twin-Hand Movement, drops July 20th via Gnomonsong. In the meantime, psych yerself up with "Hospice Gates" below.

Lower Dens--Hospice Gates

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Curve

Commission for The Curve at London's Barbican by French artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot. Excerpt from Ariane Michel's film, Les Oiseaux de Céleste.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Episode 18: Summer Jams, Pt. 1

[via ryan tatar]

It's already 100+ in ATX. Time to melt with the summer sun. Your soundtrack: Episode 18 of the WS podcast, Summer Jams, Pt. 1, with more installments as the season continues to grind on. This first tide features sun-kissed ska from Prince Charles & His Royal Cats; off-kilter tropicalia from one of many Strokes' side-projects, Little Joy; the woozy dance-pop of Twin Sister; a sleepy track from the perfectly named Austin band Pure Ecstasy; gnarly new psychedelia from Australia's Tame Impala; and a not-too-subtle comedown courtesy of the warm folk stylings of Ted Lucas. Enjoy, and wear some sunscreen. Tracklist and download below:

Dick Dale & His Del-Tones--"Let's Go Tripping"
Prince Charles & His Royal Cats--"Give Me The Right"
Karl Blau--"Apology To Pollinateurs"
Little Joy--"No One's Better Sake"
Twin Sister--"Lady Daydream"
Pure Ecstasy--"Alexandria"
Washed Out--"Get Up"
Los Amaya--"Zapatero Remendon"
Tame Impala--"It Is Not Meant To Be"
Kurt Vile--"Beach On The Moon (Recycled Lyrics)"
Ronnie Prophet--"The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise"
Ted Lucas--"It Is So Nice To Get Stoned"

Total time: 40:50

Summer Jams, Pt. 1

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pure Ecstasy

Big thanks to David for the tip: In a discussion about the Austin music scene, the topic of our current favorites came up, and he mentioned Pure Ecstasy. There's very little information about them, but they already have three 7"s to their name (two of which are sold out) and a split 7", cassette, and LP are forthcoming. Currently they only have one show scheduled this summer in L.A., but let's hope they play sometime in the ATX. "Alexandria" is the b-side of their Voices 7", and judging from the smoky, minimalist psych, we could have a real band-to-watch on our hands. Check it below:


Pure Ecstasy--Alexandria

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Kurt Vile

Each week, Spin This profiles the week's notable album releases via KUT's Texas Music Matters. This week: the unbridled creativity of Kurt Vile, timeless folk music from the teenagers in Sweden's First Aid Kit, and much, much more in our weekly rundown and podcast, available right here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Episode 17

[via mystic lady]

We're back to the odds-and-ends. This week, we've got previously unreleased Rolling Stones (as part of their recent deluxe edition of Exile On Main Street), and smoky psychedelic soul courtesy of Austin's Soft Healer. Plus, a new song taken from Department of Eagles' Archive, fiddle music recorded a decade ago at KVRX 91.7 FM, and another traditional folk song sung by Fleet Foxes' Robin Pecknold (as White Antelope). Check out the madness below:

Bob Dylan & the Band--"Odds And Ends"
The Rolling Stones--"Plundered My Soul"
April March--"Chick Habit"
Soft Healer--"Movie Light"
Department of Eagles--"Brightest Minds"
Serge Gainsbourg--"Melody"
Karen Dalton--"Same Old Man"
Possessed By Paul James--"Fiddle Shage (Live at KVRX)"
White Antelope--"Wild Mountain Thyme"

Total time: 36:45

Waterloo Sunset Podcast Episode 17

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Spin This: May 18

The Black Keys

Each week, Spin This profiles the week's notable album releases via KUT's Texas Music Matters. This week: the grooviest album yet by the Black Keys, more intelligent dance rock courtesy of LCD Soundsystem, and much, much more in our weekly rundown and podcast, available right here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Woods--At Echo Lake

Our review of At Echo Lake, the stunning new album by Woods. Read below or at Prefix.

It took Woods several years and a befuddling number of vinyl releases, tour-only cassettes, and proper albums before knocking it out of the park with last year’s Songs of Shame. Their third album was a streamlined collection of psych-rock, moving away from lonely, tape-distorted sketches toward a full-band sound, albeit one still wrapped in a lo-fi haze. At Echo Lake, out on lead singer Jeremy Earl’s Woodsist imprint, continues the natural evolution in craftsmanship. This record is the band’s most cogent collection of songs to date, acting as the folk-rock complement to Shame’s fried guitar jams.

First and foremost, Jeremy Earl is a songwriter. Granted, his compositions tend to be buried beneath plenty of fuzz, but enough hooks peak through the hiss to keep the songs firmly planted in your mind long after the record is finished. On Shame, dueling electric guitars provided a noisy backdrop, but Lake features Earl’s lonesome warble front and center over skewed campfire folk. He’s a gifted lyricist, often tackling big-picture themes like death and time with a deft turn of phrase: “Death rattles in torn-up shoes/ Love lies in the cut-up roots” (“Death Rattles”). The dark folk fits the subject matter well, and the band incorporates tape loops, noise, and left-field sound effects on top of spare acoustic guitar and reverb-drenched drums.

The experimentation can’t hide the inherent sweetness of album standout “Time Fading Lines,” where golden harmonies share space with a din of psychedelic clatter. Likewise, songs like “Get Back” and “Mornin’ Time” play fast and loose with soulful country-rock, a style Woods only hinted at on Shame. It’s an extension of the band’s natural raggedness, and the demo-like quality adds to the breezy charm.

But Woods aren’t slaves to the “spot-the-influence” game. Their originality is apparent on the album’s lead-off track. “Blood Dries Darker” serves as a bridge between their past and present: It’s noisy but spartan, and this is what distinguishes Woods from their lo-fi peers. “Darker” is propelled by both distortion and an easygoing rhythm, with guitar squall diving in and out of the infectious melody. It sets the table for the rest of the album: While the low fidelity might initially suggest a tossed-off weekend jam session amongst friends, Lake reveals itself to be weighty, measured, and brimming with creativity.

At Echo Lake and its predecessor, Songs of Shame, act as a mighty one-two punch in Woods’s discography. They’ve built an intriguing sound that dips into the past but is firmly grounded in the present, a perfect balance between old and new, weird and accessible. Woods aren’t just kings of the current lo-fi craze: Their timeless music is built to last.


Woods--Blood Dries Darker
Woods--Time Fading Lines

Friday, May 14, 2010


Another great video, this time courtesy of Here We Go Magic. "Collector" has already been getting some serious spins around these parts; the driving rhythm and weird, buoyant harmonies sound great paired with the warmer weather. This video was directed by Nat Livingston Johnson, and "Collector" comes from Magic's sophomore release, Pigeons, out June 8. Watch and download below:

Here We Go Magic--Collector

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Let's Write A Book

Insane new video of Field Music's "Let's Write A Book," directed by Oliver Murray. Field Music's ambitious, prog-pop double-album Field Music (Measure) has been out a few months; repeated spins might make this a sleeper Best of the Year candidate.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Spin This: May 11

Each week, Spin This profiles the week's notable album releases via KUT's Texas Music Matters. This week: Willie-inspired country-rock courtesy of Phosphorescent, another excellent release from the consistently-great the National, and much, much more in our weekly rundown and podcast, available right here.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Episode 16: Mom's Day

[via the swinging sixties]

It's a special Mother's Day edition of the WS podcast. She was a big part of my own musical education--leaving that cassette of Neil Young in the car (one of my first posts), taking me to see The Band's The Last Waltz when it was re-released in theaters when I was in high school, and teaching me the classics--and I like to think I've paid it back with introductions to the Old 97's, Spoon, and the New Pornographers over the years. Thanks, mom.


Neil Young--"Tell Me Why"
The Band--"Up On Cripple Creek (Live)"
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings--"Nobody's Baby"
The Rolling Stones--"Mother's Little Helper"
Spoon--"Something To Look Forward To"
The Beach Boys--"God Only Knows (1967 Rehearsal)"
The Old 97's--"Mama Tried"
David Bowie--"Changes"
The New Pornographers--"Testament To Youth In Verse"
Beck--"Where It's At"
Rod Stewart--"You Wear It Well"

Total time: 37:50

Waterloo Sunset Podcast, Mom's Edition

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Spin This: May 4

Each week, Spin This profiles the week's notable album releases via KUT's Texas Music Matters. This week: a double-dose of power pop courtesy of the New Pornographers and Free Energy and much, much more in our weekly rundown and podcast, available right here.

Monday, May 3, 2010

R.I.P. Floyd Dakil, 1945-2010

[via garage hangover. floyd dakil is 2nd from left, in the snappy suit]

Rock and roll hits hardest when you're a teenager. For me (and many, many, many others) it offered an escape from a sometimes difficult period of life. Yet it could still feel intangible, music created by weird others a million miles away for your community, life, and livelihood.

And this is what makes a hometown musical hero so special. Floyd Dakil is probably the best known musician from my alma mater, a high school more known for churning out future business majors and lawyers than raving rock and rollers. Even though a forty-year gulf separated me from his music, it still hit extra hard because of his ties to the very streets I once roamed.

Floyd Dakil formed the Floyd Dakil Combo in Dallas in 1963 and produced a handful of singles on a few tiny, regional labels. Besides some generous local airplay, they never received too much notoriety outside of North Texas, but the songs add to the general garage rock tapestry. As any frequent reader of this blog can tell, garage rock is my favorite genre: it's wild, fun, and uniquely American (albeit with a little help from our British cousins). For Dallas teenagers in the 1960s, the Floyd Dakil Combo were bonafide rock stars, heroes to a microcosm of a microcosm. Just a momentary flash, but big enough to warrant thoughtful words and strong memories half a century later.

The Combo's big 45 was "Dance, Franny, Dance" b/w "Look What You've Gone And Done," released in '64. It was recorded live at the Pit Club in Oak Cliff, and drummer Geoff West, later reminiscing on "Dance," remarked how long it took to get "several hundred teenagers to clap together!" The two songs are rocket-fueled rock and roll, no doubt earning just as much disapproving parental scorn as teenage adulation in their day. Close listeners of my radio show on KVRX probably recognize these; whenever I needed a mid-set pick-me-up, I'd spin some hometown pride.

Floyd Dakil later went on to play with his idol, Louis Prima, and he had a bit of a solo career, but like many of that era, he faded into the footnotes of rock history. Hopefully he'll provide another dash of local excitement to some future Dallas teenager as he did for me.

I got much of my supplementary info on the Floyd Dakil Combo from this write-up at Garage Hangover, the Smithsonian of all things garage rock. Also, a small obituary is located here. Big thanks to big sis for alerting me to the sad news.

Floyd Dakil Combo--Dance, Franny, Dance
Floyd Dakil Combo--Look What You've Gone and Done

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wye Oak--My Neighbor/My Creator

A review of My Neighbor/My Creator, the new EP from Baltimore duo (and WS favorite) Wye Oak. Read below or at Prefix.

EPs are always such a joy: they offer a space for bands to blow off steam, experiment, or throw together outtakes from a successful writing period, all in a bite-sized chunk. For a listener, EPs can be exhilarating documents of a band’s creative process. The Baltimore duo Wye Oak take an all-of-the-above approach for their new EP, My Neighbor/My Creator; it serves as an introduction to where they’ve been and possibly where they might be heading.

On last year’s The Knot, Wye Oak further developed their own signature sound, combining the noisier elements of post-rock with folk in a gauzy sheen, courtesy of drummer and producer Andy Stack. My Neighbor finds the band still enamored with big, widescreen sounds, but with a few tweaks. “My Neighbor” kicks the EP off on a buoyant note—musically at least; Wasner’s lyrics tend to be pretty dour. An avalanche of guitar notes nearly turns the song upside down, but Stack’s polyrhythmic drumming keeps things grounded. “Emmylou” and “My Creator” serve as divergent musical paths. The former is a sugar-rushed storm of words and guitars that deviates strikingly from most of Wye Oak’s slow-motion catalog; the latter is another slice of their particular brand of fingerpicked shoegaze that could have easily fit into The Knot.

Wye Oak’s most impressive element has always been Wasner’s voice: it’s strong and confident (two qualities that are sorely lacking in most indie music these days), especially on “My Neighbor.” Wasner begins “I Hope You Die” absolutely wounded, but her vocals grow in strength with each ascendant chorus. Once again, Stack provides a head-nodding backbeat that’s complex but, oddly enough, almost danceable. The subtle hip-hop and electronic influences spread throughout the EP (and Wye Oak’s entire catalog) come into focus on the “Mickey Free” remix of this Knot standout “That I Do.” Mickey Freeland (working with his brother Chris, also a producer) takes the original’s ferocious, dirge-like quality and makes it positively apocalyptic and club-ready: sirens and all sorts of electronic detritus wail in the background, and Freeland even provides a dark verse of his own.

The left-field influences make this EP (and Wye Oak) so interesting; you can actually see the band taking giant strides forward instead of staying static and churning out staid guitar rock. However, with the new sounds comes a loss of dynamics. This is the first time the band has used an outside producer, and as a result the songs are much denser, scrapping the sparseness that made The Knot enjoyable. If Wye Oak can head down these new musical roads on their own terms, a real masterpiece could be lurking on the horizon.

Wye Oak--My Neighbor

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Spin This: April 27

Each week, Spin This profiles the week's notable album releases via KUT's Texas Music Matters. This week: The Mynabirds' Neil Young-meets-Motown sound and Balkan Beat Box's global-hopping dance party. All that, plus a rundown of more notable releases and podcast right here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Episode 15: 40 Years Ago

[via alexandra in the forest]

We don't need no holiday to tell us to get out and enjoy our wondrous Earth, but consider this week's mix a swift kick in the pants. Assorted weirdo folk music from the past century, including a handful of field recordings done by John and Alan Lomax, new music from the incomparable Sharon Van Etten, Bonnie "Prince" Billy covering John Denver, Pink Floyd's psychedelic trip into Grantchester Meadows (one of my favorite places on Earth), south of their home town of Cambridge, and a pagan dance party courtesy of Akron/Family to bring it all back home. It's the 40th anniversary of Earth Day: get back to where you once belonged. Take a gander yonder:

Michael Lewis & Group--"I Feel The Spirit Moving"
Califone--"Giving Away the Bride"
Sharon Van Etten--"Love More"
Woody Guthrie--"Pastures of Plenty"
Tim Eriksen--"Am I Born To Die?"
John Fahey--"Night Train of Valhalla"
Kurt Vile--"My Sympathy"
Bonnie "Prince" Billy--"The Eagle And The Hawk" (John Denver cover)
Pink Floyd--"Grantchester Meadows"
Woods--"End To End"
Akron/Family--"Ed Is A Portal"
Will Starks--"The Fox Hunter's Song"

Waterloo Sunset Episode 15: Weirdo Folk
Total running time: 41:48

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Spin This: April 20

Each week, Spin This profiles the week's notable album releases over at KUT's Texas Music Matters. This week: Doves' new best-of shows why they consistently top charts in their native Britain, and Roky Erickson, Austin's psychedelic grandfather, teams with fellow Austinites Okkervil River on his first album in over a decade. All that, plus a rundown of more releases and a podcast, right here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

When I'm With You

Video for one of my favorite songs last year, Best Coast's "When I'm With You." Debut album is due later this year. Makes me want some In 'N' Out...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spin This

Spin This, my weekly rundown/podcast of notable music releases, is now under the umbrella of the Violet Crown Review*, Texas Music Matters' music bloggery department. This week I profile new releases by The Stooges, The Tallest Man On Earth, and many, many more right here.

*Note: O. Henry famously described Austin, TX as the "Violet Crown" in his story Tictocq: The Great French Detective In Austin, first published in 1894. The more you know...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Episode 14

[via alexandra in the forest]

Dive into the good weather, my friends (well, those of us Texans anyway). Here's your soundtrack, the Waterloo Sunset Podcast, Episode 14. We've got sunny, lo-fi pop courtesy of Austin's Harlem, who's new album Hippies drops this week; a driving, Krautrock-inspired track from Here We Go Magic's June 8 release Pigeons; ancient folk music from White Antelope, a.k.a. Robin Pecknold, lead singer of Fleet Foxes; plus a trio of tracks to close out the podcast, all united by the singers' referential love of classic rock (R.I.P. Alex Chilton). Tracklist below:

Harlem--"Friendly Ghost"
King Tuff--"Sun Medallion"
Damon--"Don't You Feel Me"
Here We Go Magic--"Collector"
White Antelope--"Silver Dagger (Trad.)"
The Weakerthans--"Sun In An Empty Room"
Webb Pierce--"Slowly"
Built To Spill--"You Were Right"
Big Star--"Thirteen"
Jeff Tweedy--"Radio King"

Waterloo Sunset Episode #14

Spin This: April 6

Here's a heads-up for my weekly blog/podcast over at Texas Music Matters, the music journalism unit for KUT 90.5 FM here in Austin. Spin This is a nice, compact rundown of notable music releases on a weekly basis. This week: new releases from Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Hacienda, and many, many more right here.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wilco Taken Away

A well-bearded Wilco pops up on Vincent Moon's excellent La Blogotheque, a French blog dedicated to "Take Away Shows" in random public places like an alley or a park. Wilco performs "Country Disappeared" off of last year's lukewarm Wilco (the Album), but its slo-mo country-soul is making me want to go back and reassess that record. Check it below:

Wilco - Country Disappeared - A Take Away Show from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

Episode 13: SXSW Edition

[via cosmic dust]

The clouds have parted and the sun is a-shining in the ATX. We're done wandering and pondering through winter's desert, and we have finally arrived at that most hallowed week: South By Southwest. Here's a special WS podcast, featuring ten acts I most excited to see at SXSW. This one's a mixtape, free from my usual chatter. Check SXSW for official showcases, and Showlist Austin for unofficial (read: free, fun, and boozed up) day shows. Tracklist (and download/stream) below:

Thee Oh Sees--"The River Rushes (To Screw MD Over)"
Happy Birthday--"Girls FM"
Califone--"Spider's House"
The Morning Benders--"Excuses"
Death--"Keep On Knocking"
Real Estate--"Snow Days"
Mountain Man--"Mouthwings"
Julianna Barwick--"Bode"
Washed Out--"Feel It All Around"
Sharon Van Etten--"It's Not Like"

Waterloo Sunset Podcast #13: SXSW Edition

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Neil Young--Trunk Show

Neil Young has been on quite a tear lately: His performance on Conan's last night a few weeks ago was remarkable (and not just for the fact that ol' Neil looked like Jimmy Buffet), performing the late '70s standout "Long May You Run." He did the same a few nights ago at the closing ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympics; suffice to say, the man is never outta mind. Any fan of this space knows I am a HUGE Neil fan, and the same goes for director Jonathan Demme: he's put Neil's songs in a number of his movies, including Rachel Getting Married, where TV On The Radio's Tunde Adebimpe sang "Unknown Legend," and he also directed the Neil concert doc Heart of Gold a few years back. Demme's showing the love once again with another concert doc of contemporary Neil getting his Crazy Horse out during shows at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania during his 2007 tour. The film is called Neil Young Trunk Show, it looks like a nice, electrical complement to the aforementioned acoustic Heart of Gold doc. Trunk Show will be in a limited number of theaters for one week only starting March 19, and then it will be coming to DVD later in the year. Neil's one of the few old timers who can still bring it; I'm seriously pining for a chance to catch him live.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Strange Boys--Be Brave

My review of Be Brave by Austin's The Strange Boys for Prefix Magazine. Read it below or here.

On last year’s …And Girls Club, The Strange Boys showed a knack for high-energy, strung-out rock 'n' roll that earned the Austin group well-deserved praise. Despite obvious musical touchstones (blues, soul, Mod-era rock), the foursome tweaked the ingredients just enough to create something new and weird. In the mid-'60s, Bob Dylan searched for “that wild, mercurial sound,” and The Strange Boys seemingly perfected it.

Yet Be Brave, their second LP for In The Red, finds the Boys moving away from that nervy jangle. If Girls Club was the sound of Saturday night (albeit a paranoid one), Be Brave is the hazy Sunday morning. Changes abound on the record. For starters, the Boys have added a girl to the club: Jenna Thornhill, formerly of Mika Miko. Thornhill was known for her demented sax solos in her previous band, and she doesn’t disappoint here. The album’s titular first single makes room for some free-jazz bleating that works well amidst the song’s party-ready R&B stomp.

The band has also added a bit of Blonde On Blonde-style folk rock to the mix. “Friday In Paris” coasts on a breezy beat while organ bubbles underneath, softening Ryan Sambol’s strangled yelp. Slow-motion soul (“Between Us”) and bluesy pop (“I See,” with xylophone complementing the harmonica) are used to add tremendous depth that they only hinted at on their previous record. Most of the record stays locked into a laconic groove (“A Walk On The Beach,” “Da Da”) with occasional forays into searing rave-ups (“Night Might”). What’s most surprising is the amount of time given to country-blues ballads, with four popping up in the back half. “Dare I Say” bops along as much as the rest of the record, but “The Unsent Letter” finds Sambol punch-drunk at the piano, banging out chords to his soulful pleadings. “All You Can Hide Inside” and “You Can’t Only Love When You Want To” are acoustic sketches highlighting Sambol’s scratchy voice. He sounds more comfortable with an entire band behind him, but these stripped-down songs lend a raw emotionality that’s interesting for a group that tries to play it so cool.

On album opener “I See,” Sambol declares “Tonight’s dinner will be tomorrow’s shit.” It’s a hell of a statement, and one that the band has taken to heart. Despite numerous accolades, fans and journalists alike are a fickle bunch, and opinion can turn in the blink of an eye. With Be Brave, The Strange Boys have made an album that expands their sound and opens up new roads for them to follow in the future. They could have retread the same musical territory, but instead they deliver a record that’s remarkable in its maturity and — most of all — its ability to be replayed again and again.

The Strange Boys--Night Might
The Strange Boys--Between Us