Ever wonder what DEVO would sound like if Mike Mothersbaugh had hung out at CBGB on bop pills instead of fashioning kitchenware headgear with David Bowie and Brian Eno? Yeah me neither. But I think it would sound a lot like The Phenomenauts, a scifi punkabilly/surf band from Oakland that's coming to 31st St Pub on August 18th.
I found these guys by accident browsing the 31st St schedule (how could I pass up checking out a band with a name like the Phenomenauts?), so I don't know a ton about them, but I like what I've seen so far. They dress up as robots, sing about rocket ships and alien babes, and list TMBG among their influences on MySpace; win-win-win. They also seem to have quite a cult following, which usually means they're a lot of fun live.
I was inspired to check out Death's myspace page after reading this article about them in the Times. To summarize, they're a forgotten protopunk band from Detroit that was active in the late 70s. Their frontman's son recently found their demo in the attic and got it released, 10 years after his dad died. It's pretty impressive. These guys are basically Bad Brains 5 years before Bad Brains picked up guitars.
Check it out, and their album's only $7 on iTunes (and DRM free), so if you like it, buy it. The usual, "I will support the artist by seeing live shows and buying merch" argument doesn't really work here.
The new Decemberists album is out March 24. I've seen it described various places as both a rock opera and a concept album. Neither of those descriptors are necessarily pejorative (The Thermals - The Body the Blood the Machine comes to mind as an example of a sublime concept album), but they do raise a few red flags.
I've listened to The Hazards of Love, this newest Decemberists album, a couple times today and I wanted to be so much more impressed than I am. For an album about a girl being impregnated by a shapeshifting denizen of the woods (no joke) it is surprisingly inaccessible. I probably just haven't given it the time it deserves to appreciate the recurrent musical themes, lyrical subleties and literary flourishes. Like a Modenese balsamic, I'm sure this album needs some time to age and let its flavor mature. But so far it's no Crane Wife, which was no Picaresque.
That's not to say it's a bad album, or even a meh album. Lavender Diamond's Becky Stark and My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden contribute some beautiful vocals to the album and they both oppose Meloy very nicely. True, it has no standout singles but that's because it really is a cohesive whole more than 17 individual tracks. In this regard, it's similar to their stellar, 2004 effort, The Tain EP, a 5 song cycle based on a Scottish myth. The Hazards of Love is just not the magniloquent, yet captivating, whimsy-pop we'd come to love from the Decemberists.For that, you're better off listening to last year's Always the Bridesmaid EP which showcases five excellent little numbers (and a cloying Moldy Peaches cover best skipped) from the Decemberists of yore, before they went prog.
I don't like doing this, but I will admit that I was wrong, so very wrong, about this album. After spending the last 3 days listening to it over and over, I have been enthralled. I think going into this I was expecting a regular album full of singles and encapsulated songs that stand on their own. This album is certainly not that; in that way it is no Picaresque. I stand by my previous assertion that none of these songs, with the possible exception of The Rake's Song is all that catchy or impressive in isolation. But treated as one piece, The Hazards of Love is something very special.
This is the kind of record that makes me wish I knew more about music (theory, composition, etc.), because I currently find myself at a loss to explain exactly why it's so enjoyable to sit back in your chair for an hour and get lost in the soundscape. It's not the lyrics or the story. They're standard Meloy fare, full of deliciously obscure words and dated turns of phrase, but they lack much meat or emotional punch. I don't particularly care about what happens to Margaret, William and the queen. And it's not Meloy's crooning, which struck me as more nasal and, well, obnoxious than any of his previous recordings. Shara Worden and Becky Stark (especially Shara) both give beautiful performances, but even they don't account for the magnificence of the work. I guess I should stop trying to explain something I don't understand. I was never good at that. Anyway, hats off to The Decemberists for having the balls to do something so different, and pulling it off incredibly.
The Decemberists are taking the show on the road soon, playing a first set of The Hazards of Love in its entirety followed by a second set of older tunes. If you can't wait, they just played the album live at SXSW for NPR. You can stream the show here.
Once upon a time M. Ward got Zooey Deschanel to sing him her songs and they made a band. I think she broke his heart when she accepted Ben Gibbard's proposal, but M.'s still big enough to let her sing backup vocals on his newest CD, which as far as I can tell is quite good. I might have time to post a more articulate opinion in the future, but I doubt it. Enjoy nonetheless.
Hi everyone, upcoming shows:
3/17 Morissey at Carnegie Music Hall
3/28 AC Newman at the Warhol
3/29 Gaslight Anthem at Mr Small's
3/29 Josh Ritter at Diesel <-- I won't be in town, but go see this!
4/7 Andrew Bird at Carnegie Music Hall
4/7 Mt St Helens Vietnam Band at Brillo
4/11 Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin at Brillo
4/12 Cloud Cult and Margot and the Nuclear So Sos at Mr. Small's
4/16 Diplo at Diesel
4/19 Headlights at Brillo
4/29 Dr. Dog at Mr. Small's <-- I've seen these guys a few times. Highly recommended.
5/11 TV on the Radio at Mr. Small's <-- Get your tickets meow.
It's about time: the new Neko Case album drops on March 3, but thanks to the wonders of the internet, here it is a couple weeks early.
Interestingly, the sample track I've included here, People Got a Lotta Nerve, is one of the latest downloadable songs on Rock Band.
I know this is a month late, I've been too busy to throw together something like this until now. Maybe I'll manage to get album art up after the Super Bowl.
Album of the year:
TV on the Radio - Dear Science
Far and away the best album of 08. My infatuation with it rivals Jason's with lesbian bartenders.
Los Campesinos - Hold On Now, Youngster
This one wins Rookie of the Year, but We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, also released this year, is a classic Sophomore Slump
Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
Amazing, amazing album, but loses points for hippies.
Deerhunter - Microcastle
This is the only song on the album I like.
The Coldplay Award (previously Radiohead, U2), for mediocre music that otherwise intelligent people go crazy over:
Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
This was catchy the first 2 or 3 times I heard it. It doesn't hold up, and its non-stop play everywhere isn't doing it any favors.
Most disappointing album of the year:
Of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping
This showed up in the top 10, 5, 1 of lists of many people I respect. I'm not sure why; it's the worst thing Kevin Barnes has ever done. I'm going to chalk this one up to Blooming Onion Narcosis and pretend they never released it.
Decent Albums that I wanted to like so much more:
She and Him - Volume One
This is actually a pretty ok record. But I want to love it so much more because, well... Zooey Deschanel. It's just not there.
Islands - Arm's Way
This is a good record to be sure, but it's no Return to the Sea. It must have been tough to follow up the best album of '06 after losing half the band.
Dr. Dog - Fate
Not as good as previous efforts, but if you're looking for records the Beatles never made, look here.
Why? - Alopecia
Maybe #4 on my list.