Friday, June 17, 2011

Upcoming concerts: R Stevie Moore, Milk Music, and Mind Cure Records anniversary sale

There are some interesting shows going on tomorrow night, as well as a fantastic music appreciation event going on during the day. I'm still trying to decide where to go in the evening, but for sure during the day you'll find me scouring the racks at Mind Cure Records in Polish Hill. This little gem on the third floor of a building on Dobson Street has been around for just about one whole year, and they've decided to celebrate that occasion by putting out a ton of used vinyl that usually wouldn't be for sale AND knocking 15% off all prices. Hot dog!

Mind Cure has really been expanding their new releases section over the months, their used selection is far larger than Paul's CDs and way more eclectic than Jerry's, and I've made some great finds in their 7" section in the past. I've got a few new releases in mind I'm hoping to pick up (The Coathangers, The Rosebuds, Woods, etc.) and I'm sure I'll stumble on something else that I'll just have to buy. If you've never been there, this would be the day to do it (15% off!) and if you have been, well, just go again anyway. Stop by Lili Coffee shop on the first floor, too, for some delicious caffeinated beverages and homemade quiche. And follow Mind Cure's blog to keep up with special announcements like this one. This Facebook event has more info. They'll be open 12-8pm.

I was woefully unaware of R. Stevie Moore until last week when I got a promo email about his show in Pittsburgh tomorrow night. He is "known in some circles as the Godfather of Home Recording" and is going on his first tour ever. He's 59 and looks like a crazy Santa, in a good way. His back story is nothing short of fascinating—grew up in Tennessee, moved to NJ, moved back to Tennessee, along the way recorded about 400 (!) full-length albums of songs all by himself—and the list of musicians he has apparently influenced and/or inspired—Robert Schneider of Apples In Stereo (that got me interested, they're one of my faves), Ariel Pink, MGMT, and more—is impressive and noteworthy. In addition to having such a prolific career in his bedroom (not a sex joke), the styles of songs he has written and recorded run the gamut from weirdo indie rock to pop/punk to folk to Beatles-esque pop and back again. It's fucking impressive. He also has a bunch of self-recorded music videos and they're all over YouTube (see one for "I Like To Stay Home" below). The tour he's embarked upon came about earlier this year via a Kickstarter project, a documentary film about him in the works, and a fortuitous introduction to the fellows in Tropical Ooze, his backing band for the tour (he usually plays all of the instruments on his recordings). The Pgh City Paper ran an excellent interview feature on him earlier this week, so definitely check that out here for more information. The show is at ModernFormations Gallery, starts at 8:00, $12 at the door (or $10 in advance if you can find tickets somewhere around town, maybe at Calibans Books?) Also playing are Pgh's own Weird Paul (who no doubt was inspired by R. Stevie Moore himself and embodies a similar tendency for a prolific output of weirdo catchy rock tunes) and Hot Dog Forest (silly name!). This will be an interesting show, for sure.

R. Stevie Moore on the web: Website / Tour Blog / Wikipedia
Weird Paul on the web: Website / Facebook / Bandcamp

Gooski's in Polish Hill will be the perfect spot for four noisy fuzz-rock bands to play on a Saturday night. I'm interested in seeing Milk Music after reading a brief blurb in the City Paper yesterday. Andy writes, "Expect lots of screaming guitars and probably some screaming people tonight at Gooski's when Olympia's early-Dino Jr.-worshipping Milk Music plays." Sounds awesome to me. I had some serious trouble finding any information about the band online (no website, Facebook, not even Myspace; how punk!) and stumbled upon at least two other bands with very similar names that sounded nothing like fuzzy garage rock. But eventually I found this interview with singer/guitarist Alex Coxen, and this blog post about their only official release, a 6-song, 21-minute LP entitled Beyond Living (download link in the post, shhh!). Also playing are Ohioans Puffy Areolas (beloved by Reading Rainbow, apparently!) who rocked the fuck out at Hozac Records' Blackout Fest just a few weeks ago, Brain Killer from MA, and locals Slices. I don't know much about any of these bands except that it will be a raucous and noisy night. Better bring my earplugs. Show is at 10:00, only $5.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Upcoming concert: Son of the Sun / Wednesday June 15 @ Smiling Moose

It's no secret that I dig garage rock and psychedelia and all that good 60s stuff. I can't seem to get enough of it, and plenty of bands are giving those genres a go (tell me you accidentally read that as "gone-ruhs" so it's alliterative, like I did after writing it), so I like to catch any new stuff that fits that style, but somehow I missed seeing Son of the Sun in my inbox until just now. And they're playing in town at the Smiling Moose on the South Side tomorrow (Wednesday) night, June 15. So if you got locked out of that sold out Cults show, are in the mood for some genuinely soulful psych rock, are just looking for a place to hang out and catch some tunes, or some combination of all of the above, look no further. Doors are at 9:00 and show at 9:30, only $5.

Son of the Sun are from Buffalo, by way of a California/New York cross-country internet collaboration between two members back in 2007 that evolved into a full quintet in upstate New York, an EP in early 2008, an LP in mid 2010, and another EP set to be released next month. I gave a listen to a few tracks from each album and was pleasantly surprised by a number of things: the production quality, the atmospheres, the development from record to record, and the incorporation of heartfelt soul elements and lyrics into some genuine rockers. Their Before the After EP sounds kinda lethargic and languid, but that's probably because I listened to their more recent stuff first. "Big Record Breaker" is hazy and synth/drum machine-driven and comes across almost like an Atlas Sound song, while "Listen Darkly" incorporates some more traditional rock instruments and arrangements but maintains that fuzzy ambience. The Happy Loss is full of guitars, bass and "real" drums, but sustains singer/guitarist Zak Ward's soulful vocals and lyrics. "How Can It Be?" is a rather lovely example of those stylings, "Get Together" kicks off with a rockin' riff and keeps on rollin', and "Stay the Same" has some awesome drums and sounds like an early Kinks tune in a really good way. They've only released one song from the newest album, the Almost Not There EP, entitled "My Best Mistake", and if it is a mistake, then it's a pretty durn good one. I hear some elements of early hits by The Byrds in the percussion and rollicking bass lines, but the songwriting and singing is decidedly more modern, almost like Wilco meets The Killers, if that makes any sense. Just give it a listen:

Two Pittsburgh bands are playing at the show, as well: Psychic Boots and Yours Truly, both new to me. I jammed a few Psychic Boots tunes on their Bandcamp page ("name your own price" for the EP!) and they've got a similarly solid garage rock/psychedelia blend going on, but definitely a little heavier on the garage, a little rougher around the edges, but in a fun and sloppy-for-the-hell-of-it kind of way. That page has a little synopsis at the bottom that I'd like to quote and politely disagree with, but really only to support the implied tone that they'd like to do something about the claim contained therein:

Rock n' Roll is your dad's music. All its original practictioners are now old, uncool, or dead. Rock n' roll is no longer a vehicle for teenage rebellion, it's now beat music for the geriatric set. Its original intentions are gone, the youthful and sexual connotations are gone!

The tags on Yours Truly's Bandcamp page are "crunk-hop crunkcore indie pop progressive rock progressive rock". Interesting, and the songs bear that out. They're ebullient with punk/pop energy and harmonized vocals, but also feature some ska-esque brass and indie-emo-rock guitar/bass lines. Intriguing mix. Also, don't confuse them with the San Francisco-based music/film/art collective of the same name.

Son of the Sun on the web: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Bandcamp

Psychic Boots on the web: Facebook / Bandcamp

Yours Truly on the web: Facebook / Twitter / Bandcamp / YouTube / Feature/interview with Pgh Music Report, July 2010

Monday, June 13, 2011

Jam of the day, and a rhetorical contemplation on music journalism: Yuck / "The Wall"

I present this jam, up front, sans debate or even really commentary, save for the title of the Daytrotter session wherein I discovered this tune: All The Old Is All The New.

So what did you think? Somehow, I had put off listening to Yuck for a while after they kinda "broke" in the blog world. (Blogosphere is not a word.) I didn't dislike the description of their sound, nor was I put off by the early and effusive press coverage. I just didn't care whether I heard their songs or not. There are only so many bands I can listen to and keep up with and ... that's that, really. About a month ago, though, I listened to their Daytrotter session ... on my phone! Because Daytrotter released an Android app. It's great, that app. Yuck were one of the "most played" sessions, so I gave them a listen. And I liked it. "The Wall", in particular, kinda stuck in my head. I listened to that session on my bike, riding around town, and it was catchy and hummable and singable and kept my mind buzzing and active and my head bobbing and my foot tapping and everything else that a good song should do. Did I think about the recycling of 90s indie rock sounds? No. Did I think about the complexity of lyrics, or lack thereof? No. Did I think about the ages of the band members, or their maturity, or musical history knowledge? No. It was a good song, and it really caught my ears for awhile, and still does. I like listening to it.

So can someone please explain for me this album review here, from The Quietus? This review says nothing about their music beyond how it's "retrogressive" and embodies "laziness". It's written by someone who admits that they "hated this kind of Lemonheads-lite, floral-dressed, clompety-booted, neurotic ninny inanity the first time round" and proceeds to dislike how it has come up in time and space again, and that admission was made in the first paragraph (including the teaser sentence along with that), so why should I lend any reasonable credence to the ensuing words? After rhetorically asking whether it even matters that this music is so "obviously" an uninspired rehashing of prior trends, the author responds with an emphatic, "yes": "It matters because there's absolutely no way this music could say anything to anyone about their lives in 2011. Try playing this album over news footage of the student riots and it will seems as appropriate as Mungo Jerry's 'In The Summertime'." Oh my god, or lack thereof. This music isn't saying something outlandishly weighty and everyone-join-handsy and meaningful for everyone at this current moment in time? Holy fuck, we shouldn't bother listening at all, because that's exactly what music should do, all the time, and anything falling short is not worth the shameful waste of atoms it represents.

The weird thing is, I'm not even a huge fan of this album, I just don't understand this review. Do people like to read complete thrashings of things that are "popular" out of some morbid fascination? I don't get that. Say something meaningful in your review, please. I spent the time reading it, and it shouldn't leave me feeling about it like the author felt about the album defamed therein. Why bother writing about it, if that's how you feel?

You should enjoy another song & video and forget about what you just read:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Jam of the day: Ultimate Spinach / "Ballad Of The Hip Death Goddess"

Psychedelia epitomized, that is the name of the game for Ultimate Spinach. This Boston band put out three LPs in the late 1960s, full of awesome psychedelic rock gems. You might hear a few strains of their songs and write them off as too "typical" or something; they really do make in-your-face druggy jams, which isn't exactly inventive, but these jams are such perfect examples of this style, and who are we to not give them credit and laudation for epitomizing an epic style of rock music? Ultimate Spinach songs are generally languid yet mind-expanding instrumental adventures, with some female/male vocals peppered in, and they are endlessly listenable. They make you want to turn on the lava lamp, slouch into the couch, and drop out, and this is strongly encouraged, but not necessary. They have some poppier psych-rockers, like "Funny Freak Parade" and "Dove In Hawk's Clothing", but Ultimate Spinach should be recognized for their powerfully evocative jams. This song, "Ballad Of The Hip Death Goddess", is the example I've chosen, but don't let that stop you from exploring their catalog.

The reason I bring this song up now is because of a couple of random occurrences related to this song from a couple weeks ago. I just had to share. First off, though, I should say that I found this band also randomly, on the internet (via eMusic, I believe) and really dug the two albums of theirs I heard, Ultimate Spinach and Behold & See. I listened to those mp3s quite frequently for a while, and when I saw a used vinyl copy of Behold & See at Red Onion Records in D.C. over New Year's this year, I had to buy it. I spun it a number of times right after buying it, but kinda forgot about it until recently. Comedian Andy Kindler tweeted some random hashtag stuff about #BadCoffeeShopNames, which morphed somehow into #badbandnames and #comedianbands and #confusingbandnames and #badcomedyclubnames and so on. Silly stuff, but that's the Twitter-verse for ya! Anyhow, Andy sent out this tweet that mentioned Ultimate Spinach as a #badbandname and I "politely disagreed while not really disagreeing but merely qualifiying the claim" by saying this back to him, and he deemed it worthy of a retweet. Huzzah! And it was about this jam I'm featuring now, in particular. Double huzzah huzzah! Thus far in my short Twitter life, I've been retweeted by Todd Barry and Andy Kindler, both funny comedians and Home Movies voice actors! Now I just gotta track down Brendon Small, Ron Lynch, Jon Benjamin, Laura Silverman, Mitch Hedberg, . . . uh oh.

Anyway, the other coincidence with this song involves a compilation album I just bought (on eMusic, even, whaddyaknow?) last week. I had been looking through the Dungen catalog (trying to research/listen to write a New Classic on Ta Det Lugnt) and saw they had an instrumental version of "Satt Att Se" on a compilaton album, called A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Exploding In Your Mind. I saw this album had a gigantic amount of music for a cheap price, and was intrigued by ... well, the title. I downloaded the whole thing and listened through most of it in one inspired and lethargic sitting. It was great for that mood. And somewhere in the middle, I heard Ultimate Spinach come on! How could I mistake those opening chiming bells, so melancholy yet enticing, for anything else? In a way, the tune is kinda formulaic—repetitive bass groove, reverby vochals, ethereal lyrical themes, tinges of feedback on the lengthy guitar solo—but this song is so much more than the sum of its constituent parts. It's about a mood, a sense of existence, and powerful emotions. It's evocative, it's scary, it's groovy, it's psychedlic, baby. Check it out.

See the glazed eyes
Touch the dead skin
Feel the cold lips
And know the warmth of the hip death goddess

On an only slightly related note, the guy who put the compilation together (and whose band, the Amorphous Androgynous, also has a couple songs on the compilation, strangely enough) seems to be really ... interesting. While reading about the band I stumbled on this video of his featuring a crazy religious lady at Speakers' Corner in London. If you've never been there, and you're in London, you have to see it. Somehow, the northeast corner of Hyde Park has been designated as the spot where anyone can just show up and start shouting at the world. It's weirdly fascinating.