Monday, November 30, 2009

Take It From Me -- Track #15 -- Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson

“Woodfriend” by
from Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson

June 2008

In this day & age, can there still possibly be anything of interest to be wrung out of the whole singer/songwriter schtick? Why, yes, it turns out that there sort of perhaps can!

I understand Mister Robinson to be a fairly young (mid-20s) guy who’s been kicking around Brooklyn for awhile now. The songs here succeed largely on the sheer iconoclasm of his artistic Voice. I wouldn't have thought that could still really happen any more nowadays, but there you have it. This song is more raucous than most of the album, but it’s all quite good.

He now has a new 2nd album out, that I have not heard yet. I understand that he made kind of a splash at South by Southwest this year. Q: When am I going to finally go to South by Southwest? A: Shit, I still don’t actually know.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Take It From Me -- Track #14 -- Of Montreal

“Women’s Studies Victim”
by Of Montreal
from Skeletal Lamping
October 2008

& then maybe we can use a little comic relief, yeah?

Ok so, wow, where the hell was I while this band called Of Montreal was putting out an album almost every year since 1997? In the dark, me!

This is what we used to call a “concept album.” i.e., all the songs are organized (very) loosely around some sort of a story/character/theme. I’m not really actually following the story/character/theme all that well in this instance, but hey: Everything on this album is rich, charming, hilarious, full of wit, & (bonus!) gratuitously filthy. This song is a great example of all of the above.

& yes, you heard that lyric correctly.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Take It From Me -- Track #13 -- The Antlers

“Two” by the Antlers
from Hospice
August 2009

I don’t actually know much about this band.

The album is an extended narrative about taking care of a loved one with a terminal illness. It’s really very good but, you know, not so uplifting. Insert appropriate emoticon here.

I rather like the slow dynamic buildup over the course of this longish song, the lyric is very strong throughout, & then that long, ethereal moaning whoosh for a full minute at the end is a very satisfying coda.

Take It From Me -- Track #12 -- the Kills

“Tape Song” by the Kills
from Midnight Boom
March 2008

Time ain’t gonna cure you honey
Time don’t give a shit
Time ain’t gonna cure you honey
Time’s just gonna hit
On you, you got to
[thump! thump-thump!] Go straight ahead…

If you don’t like this, you just hate rock & roll. The Kills fucking rock.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Take It From Me -- Track #11 -- Atlas Sound

by Atlas Sound
Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel

February 2008

Yes, I am again pulling from the 2008 album (see track 3 on this mix).

The signature sound here is that popping, wet reverb on the vocal consonants –it makes my skin tingle!

As discussed elsewhere here, I was fortunate enough to see Bradford & co, on November 3, & this song was a highlight.

Take It From Me -- Track #10 -- Deerhunter

by Deerhunter
from Weird Era Contd.
October 2008

Well. Not for the 1st time, I’m in love with a band with a kind of stoopid name. This album was released simultaneously with Microcastle, they’ve got a couple of albums earlier than those & also some later stuff, & plus Bradford’s solo band has at least two albums out + some EPs, so, yes, these are some very prolific boys. I could easily have filled this whole CD with their excellent & variegated songs. & yeah, I thought about it.

Anyway, I love love love the way this song ostensibly ends, only to reprise itself & then quickly disintegrate into a distorted auto-reflection before wrapping up for real. Hot!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Take it From Me -- Track #9 -- Thurston Moore

“Off Work”
by Thurston Moore
from Trees Outside the Academy
September 2007

This is the oldest selection on the mix, I promise!

From Thurston’s last solo album. I like the juxtaposition between his Sonic Youth guitar & the electric violin that’s featured throughout. It’s noisy, it’s pretty, it see-saws back & forth. The combination sometimes works in a very satisfying way, as on this track. Here, I also enjoy how that weird hissing, vaguely-industrial sound insinuates itself into the middle of the song, practically taking over the whole show only to abruptly disappear, leaving the chord structure sort of inverted in its wake. Not everyone in my house appreciates that, but I think it’s nice.

btw, a chronically-underappreciated treasure is Thurston’s 1995 solo album, Psychic Hearts, which improves with age & is almost uniformly brilliant from start to finish. Seriously. Although, you may want to debate me on that. If so, buy it, listen to it one hundred times, & then I will buy you a drink. Or, you know, one hundred.

Take It From Me -- Track #8 -- Grizzly Bear

“Dory” by Grizzly Bear
from Veckatimest
May 2009.

Well, here’s a switch.

Grizzly Bear is now a band that makes pure, unadulterated capital-P Pop Music. I can’t help but hear the Beatles all over this album (see also, In Ear Park by side project Department of Eagles), e.g. especially, the single “Two Weeks,” which you might have heard a lot of last summer.

What’s curious to me is how little this resembles their earlier music (e.g., Horn of Plenty –noisy, electronic, often interesting, not always listenable). A curious evolution, & my general preference is for a little less sugar w/the medicine.

I do like this song though; it’s a kind of a suite, & I find the lyric genuinely poetic (“wo-wo wo-wo-wildly cohering in a watery deep,” etc.), which is rare let’s face it.

My usual music hosting site has let me down on this one; this album is inexplicably unlicensed there. You can still check it out here, or here, or wherev. Also, here is video of them performing the song live in an orchestral setting, which is kind of cool.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Take It From Me -- Track #7 -- Sonic Youth

“Malibu Gas Station”
by Sonic Youth
from The Eternal
June 2009

I won’t try to explain here all the reasons why Sonic Youth still occupy such a warm & special place in my heart. But it’s not difficult to get me started on the topic over beers, just FYI! I saw SY at the Fox this year, but I missed the “secret” show at the Independent (tickets sold out online in two minutes flat).

Kim’s vocals (can’t always call them “singing”) are not typically my favorite ingredient of SY music. I like Thurston’s crisp & precise rhythm playing on this song (e.g., at ~2:00). It's not virtuosic or anything, but just a tasty little surprise, an indicator that this band is still reaching, still growing. The obligatory degeneration into noisy feedback is obviously their stock in trade, & handled particularly well on this track, I think.

Take It From Me -- Track #6 -- Rain Machine

“Give Blood”
by Rain Machine
from Rain Machine
October 2009

This is Kyp Malone’s solo project (&, here again, the band’s name doesn’t do anything for me. Just saying.).

Not all of the songs on this album compare favorably to TVOTR, but there’s some very good & interesting stuff going on here. I do like the way Kyp’s singing just seems to drift in & out of falsetto, often more for dramatic than strictly musical effect. On this song, it’s the click-click-click percussion & the throbbing, raunchy fuzz-tone guitar that I find very tasty.

btw, I had a ticket to see Kyp’s new Machine play the Independent in October, but had to miss it when I couldn’t shake a pounding headache. I’m still mad about that.

Then Kyp & Co. opened for the Pixies at the Fox. Which I skipped. bc as much as I love me some Pixies, I just wasn’t going to pay out 65 bucks+ for ye olde reunion tour (see my snarky comments elsewhere here re nostalgia events masquerading as rock concerts). But I digress.

Kyp is a smart guy making smart music. Here, hear:

Take It From Me -- Track #5 -- Dirty Projectors

“Useful Chamber”
by Dirty Projectors
from Bitte Orca
June 2009

OK, back in the current year.

I had never heard of this band before seeing them open for TVOTR this year. I just have to say first: Dirty Projectors is a crappy band name, evocative of nothing, clumsy to say, & just really nothing much other than dumb.

So there’s that.

Still, it took me all of 15 minutes to fall irrevocably in love with the music. Dirty Projectors have evidently been on extended tour all year, & they keep passing their way through SF, so I’ve now seen them live three times, as discussed elsewhere here.

David Longstreth is the main guy in the band. From what I can tell, he is young, probably pretty pretentious, & is maybe even full of himself. I’m actually cool with that, since he’s a genuinely brilliant composer & a fascinating guitar player. I have heard comparisons between this band & prog-rock excesses of yore, & that is maybe fair, but only to a point. What I love most here is the arch sense of musical humor that permeates these ambitious & very quirky songs.

Take It From Me -- Track #4 -- TV on the Radio

“DLZ” by
TV on the Radio
from Dear Science
September 2008

I have to admit I was a little slow to catch on to this group, & I really have no excuse since they have THE BEST band name since, like, Talking Heads.

That alone should have clued me in, right?

Happily, I saw TVOTR play at the Fox in Oakland this summer, & the show left me very excited, very interested. Their music is not exactly rock, or jazz, or funk, or hip-hop, or techno, or doo-wop, or high-concept performance art, or etc. But it seems to me to connote all of those things & more. Oh, & it’s overtly & aggressively political, too. There’s just a lot going on inside of there, & all of it is (most importantly) very fun, danceable, & yeah, sexy.

I understand the band is now on a 1-year hiatus while Kyp Malone pursues his solo project, but I’m expecting a long & fascinating career ahead from these guys. In the meantime, I can recommend this album without reservation, as well as Return to Cookie Mountain (admittedly weird title), from 2006.

Take It From Me -- Track #3 -- Atlas Sound

“Ativan” by Atlas Sound
from Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel
February 2008

Like I said, I’m still working my way through last year. This year’s Logos is also excellent, & may well appear on next year’s mix. So.

Anyway, usually the 1st thing that hooks me into any bit of recorded music is some flavor or texture in the way the thing is produced. e.g., I most certainly do love the swirling, sonic smear of Atlas Sound, solo project of Bradford Cox (of Deerhunter). Often, a song’s lyrics are the last thing to get my attention, but the opening lines here (“I slept til I threw up.”) are, um, kind of arresting yeah?

That said, I really just love the big, lush reverb that pervades this album. This music has direct antecedents in My Bloody Valentine, Jesus & Mary Chain, Velvet Underground (in reverse chronological order), all of which I will almost certainly address in future postings here.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Take It From Me -- Tracks #1 & #2 -- Flaming Lips

“Aquarius Sabotage” &
“See the Leaves” by the Flaming Lips
from Embryonic
October 2009

Hold on to your hat, right? Our compilation kicks off loudly, with a frenetic blast of free-jazz-ish electronica. The distortion is intentional, no need to adjust your equipment. Also, don’t panic as the chaos lasts only for approximately 1:05 before plunging into a bucket of feathers, a cloudful of sighs, a melancholy idyll. & that’s only the 1st track! From there, we segue into a throbbing march, dark & portentous. Are you getting chills? I’m getting chills.

This music is evocative, challenging, surprising. As you likely know, the Flaming Lips have been around since 1983. As far as I can tell, no band that’s been working it for over 25 years has any business at all putting out something this unexpectedly good. I think I listened to the whole album about ten times right after I bought it. I was stuck home with the flu that day, & this boisterous, baroque gem was a very medicinal tonic indeed.

Take It From Me -- The Scoop

OK, full disclosure: My ostensible year-end compilation CD, entitled Take it From Me Mix, contains 18 tracks, only half of which were actually from 2009. The rest were from 2008. Um, except for that one from 2007. I will cheerfully cop to having omitted many fine selections that actually were released in 2009, in favor of pieces I included for no better reason than I like them & I listened to them a lot this year, & plus 80 minutes is a finite number.

Distribution of these discs is & has been pursuant to the friends & family discount, terms of which are set forth as follows: I give you the CD & you, in turn, flatter my great taste in music. Win-win! For those not lucky enough to score a disc, links to the operative tracks will appear here over the next several days, along with my brief commentary on each.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


It's a lucky privilege indeed to live in a city where every single band on tour can be depended upon to stop by sooner or later. Yes, it is.

On the other hand, that's a whole lot of hubbub, & it does get difficult to keep track of it all. I'm just not that in the know, much as I'd like to be (Action items: 1. Quit job. 2. Get fake IDs for the children. 3. Never miss another show.). But don't you just hate it when you get all clued in to some "new" band, only to discover that they came through town already like, last freaking year? That is the thing that I hate.

So anyway, Ponytail. Don't answer out loud OK, but have you already seen Ponytail? Shit. I'm hunting online & I see an old tour schedule where it looks like they played Bottom of the Hill last May. Did you see that show? Shit, don't even tell me bc I'm just now getting hip to Ponytail & I want to see them SO. BAD. & as far as I can tell right now they're touring Australia and New Fucking Zealand. & that is very far away indeed from here.


Ponytail is one of those bands where you hear the record & you just immediately know the concert would be so much better. Like, the recording is just so plainly a mere shadow of what you think & dare to hope the band is really all about.

I don't even know how to convey the thrill I'm getting from this music. The band is fast & very, very tight. On first listen, it reminded me a little of Battles. But this is different. It's just more dirty & more sweaty. Nimble, but not even remotely subtle. Bright & hard, but not shiny. Is any of this helping? No, right? Here, hear:

I think I'm hearing two guitars & no bass, at least some of the time. The vocalist is Molly Siegel. I'm not calling her a singer. I mean, if Molly wants to call herself a singer I'm not going to object or anything, & I have nothing but admiration for what she does. I just think at the end of the day it's too damn reductive to call it singing. Molly yelps, Molly yowls, Molly hollers. She howls.

I just want to be in the room with this band doing its thing. I want to eat some of that euphoria. I want to hear it in my bones.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Atlas Sound

Great American Music Hall
San Francisco, CA
November 3, 2009

Bradford Cox is playing hooky from his day job with Deerhunter.

I definitely think of Deerhunter as a quote-unquote experimental rock band because they do question & expand the usual boundaries of the form. It's just that they often do so in stealthy ways, loading relatively conventional songs chock full of Trojan-horse surprises.

But that's another day's discussion. Tonight, Mr. Cox is engaged in his *other* project, Atlas Sound. I've spent a lot of time with the "Let the Blind Lead..." album, where the "experimentation" is overt & obvious. There, the "band" does not produce "songs," so much as aural tableaux vivants. Dream-ish snapshots, half-obscured, evocative & lush. The new album, "Logos," is somewhat less insistent on its own iconoclasm, but still: Altas Sound is processed sound, distorted & manipulated beyond easy recognition, repeatedly confounding of the listener's expectations. Delicious. Hell, it's magically delicious.

In Atlas Sound, Mr. Cox wields the fact of recording & production itself as his primary musical instrument. There's a lengthy tradition for this sort of thing, & he has described this project as a venue for ideas ill-suited to the usual rock band format.

Well, OK fair enough. But I'd been wondering: now that he's touring Atlas Sound as a rock band, how does its essence translate back to a live performance context? Based on tonight's show, the short answer is: It thankfully doesn't. My concern had been that this concert would be all self-serious, & that the band would execute wan imitations of those rich & complex recordings.

But No. First of all, Bradford was jovial & warm from the start. I was completely thrown off as he cracked jokes, flirted brazenly, recruited an audience member to play tambourine, & cetera. So by the time he started playing acoustic guitar & a fucking harmonica, well, I had already been so utterly disarmed & seduced that I was ready to follow wherever he & Atlas Sound were planning to go. (To be fair, he did allay fears by promising to play "some really weird shit" later in the set.)

This was a thrilling show because, while everybody knew to expect "experimental" or Experimental or whatever, this band played nothing that fit easily into any such pigeonhole. Instead, we got ~80 minutes of veering madly from one modus to another, never settling anywhere comfortably, & all of it was just damn fun! Mr. Cox has a lot of electronics on the floor, including some fancy-ass sampling machines. So, e.g., the acoustic guitar could morph into a hammer dulcimer on crystal meth, the harmonica could transmogrify via god's own echo-box. Or, just as often, not. Because playing it clean & straight is just one more color in this artist's very big wheel. & just to not leave the stone unturned: Bradford Cox is a fucking bad-ass electric guitar player exclamation point.

One favorite moment among several: tonight's version of "Quarantined." Stripped of its popping reverb & (deliberately, ironically) cheesy sequencer, the song was suddenly driven by Bradford's surprisingly passionate & ultimately poignant vocal performance. A complete reinvention of a song I have well-known & well-loved. Outstanding.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

DP update

Dirty Projectors at Bimbo’s 365 Club

San Francisco, CA

November 1, 2009

The bass player has grown a porn ‘stache. Or maybe it was just a fake one, left over from Halloween yesterday. Either way, it was a good omen: in direct contravention to my last post, Dirty Projectors clearly joined in the fun tonight. Dave & Amber were actually rocking out, bouncing around, jamming together. The drummer got so worked up he stripped off his shirt mid-set. Shit, even Angel was looking happy & cracking jokes! Dirty Projectors have been on the road for a good long time, now. & they no longer play like they’re Dave Longstreth’s hired crew. No. Finally, now, they’re a fucking band. The ensemble playing is tight, tighter than ever. But there’s an evident ease & fluidity to what these six individuals are doing together onstage now. They nailed it tonight. I’ll bet they’re doing that a lot lately.

I kept pretty good track of the set list, but I didn’t recognize the 1st song. It was just Dave alone; his guitar playing had a guttural quality I don't think I'd heard before, so I'm guessing it's an old song dug out from the trunk. Or maybe it's a new one, pointing to changes afoot. Apart from that gap, my notes have the set as follows:


Ascending Melody

No Intention

Temecula Sunrise

Two Doves

Spray Paint (the Walls)

The Bride

Cannibal Resource

Remade Horizon

Stillness is the Move

Useful Chamber

When the World Comes to an End

Knotty Pine (encore)