Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Review of the Debut Album from Sweden's Holograms

Some clanging, cacophonous noise! What a racket!

Sweden's Holograms are set to drop their self-titled debut on Captured Tracks on 10 July (9 July in Europe) and it's a rocking record.

"ABC City", with its Sham 69-meets-O.M.D. unrealness, kicks things off in fine fashion. Throbby and shouty, the cut percolates and thumps with abandon.

"Monolith" is the sound of a football hooligan ruining Elastica's record collection, a buzzsaw going over the Joy Division singles with the Killing Joke ones next.

On the marvelous "Chasing My Mind" the band uses a warm keyboard line over their unique Buzzcocks-style of punk rock to create something that's oddly dance-y. In what weird past would this have been a hit?

The Joy Division-isms get heavier on "Memories of Sweat" where Holograms come on like Editors with an axe to grind.

"Apostate" with its Christian Death-style title is closer to The Birthday Party with a crunchy riff dominating proceedings.

"Stress", with its crazy-ass keyboard ring, pounds its way into a listener's head in a rapid fashion.

No more going one-by-one. Just buy the album and you'll see what I mean. If the cuts start to blend into each other -- there's not a lot of variety there -- that's okay as this record kicks and rocks. Fans of the first flourishing of postpunk would be wise to find this record and play it often.

Holograms by Holograms is out on 09/10 July on Captured Tracks depending on your region.

Follow the band on their Facebook page here.

Comet Gain Cover New Order: Play It Here

What a nice surprise!

London's Comet Gain cover the classic "Love Vigilantes" from New Order.

For more Comet Gain, remember that I reviewed their latest album Howl of the Lonely Crowd back in September. I certainly hope that those of you who enjoy cerebral British rock picked up the record.

Monday, June 25, 2012

New Music From cleen (Aileen Alonzo)

I've blogged about Aileen Alonzo's music before but that was the stuff that was vaguely folk-y. Now Aileen is back with cleen, a project with Claudio Canzonetta. The genre they use to describe their music is acoustic glitch and that's a nice description.

What's here is processed but acoustic, real instruments dueling with sampled bits. The whole reminds me of the first Fiona Apple album, which makes Claudio the Jon Brion to Ms. Alonzo's Ms. Apple, I guess.

For now, follow the band on Soundcloud:

Or on Facebook:

And check out the video for "Little Pieces of Revenge" below:

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Major Tom In Hong Kong

David Bowie's "Space Oddity" is one of the very first things that I ever remember liking that my parents didn't like.

I say "things" and not "records" because my memory comes from such an early place in my life.

It's doubtful that I remember the song on its first release in 1969 -- it wasn't a huge hit in the U.S. then anyway -- so it's most likely the 1973 re-release that I remember so vividly.

As we rode around Marlow Heights, the song came on the radio and my parents moved to change the dial on the car radio.

I piped up from the backseat of the car: "I like that. I want to hear that."

My parents relented and they didn't switch the station to another set of AM Top 40 tunes.

I listened to the story of Major Tom and his different looking stars and felt myself out there in space with the Maj, a gazillion miles away from my mom and dad in the front seat of the monster blue Chevy.

Tonight I sat in the back seat on the ferry home from Central to Lamma. The song came up on my iPod Shuffle and I drifted off again.

I am always tired here.

And, like Major Tom, I can see my destination even as I drift further and further away from it.

My family is in America.

My closest friends are in America.

My girlfriend is in Macau.

And I don't speak the language here.

Every day I'm exhausted as I switch on like a robot and drift back to the ferry, to the MTR, to the streets.

Yes, my job is pretty great sometimes but the enormous pay cut I'm living with to live here is starting to take its toll.

And success at my job here, as the only non-Chinese person in the office, will cause me to feel a sort of psychic alienation as some of my coworkers will probably end up resenting me, or shunning me.

When do things get easier here?

When do I land?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Silver Jews: Early Times Out Now And Here's A Review!

There's lo-fi and then there's lo-fi and this record is lower than a limbo pole at Billy Barty's house.

This bad boy sounds like it was recored in a rec room in Cleveland in 1979.

However, that's part of the charm.

As you wade through this stuff -- the early work of David Berman and Pavement's Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastonovich -- you find little gems that are essential tunes from these artists.

Early Times, out 19 June on Drag City, is a fun collection of old recordings from these guys.

Tracks like "Canada" make this collection such a keeper. It's a messy set of messy tunes -- no fancy production here -- but I liked that. I felt like I had found this tape by the side of the road, or something, and discovered a lost, great band.

The first 5 tunes on Early Times come from the 1992 7-inch "Dime Map of the Reef" release on Drag City. The clear highlight here is "Canada" with its shouty, scratchy exuberance and Malkmus (?) vocals making it seem like a lost Pavement jam.

Stuff like "September 1999" is abrasive at best. Sure, there are moments of melody here but the joy really comes from listening to things fall apart.

The short "The Unchained Melody" shows a hint of the Fall-love that Pavement would incorporate into their own work. Malkmus barks the lyrics with a hint of menace -- Mark E. Smith as a Yank?

The rest of Early Times features 1993's The Arizona Record release.

"Secret Knowledge of Back Roads" is a seeming precursor to Pavement's own "Range Life", all long guitar lines and vaguely blues-y slow wails. Languid and downright lazy, the song still charms a listener.

"I Love The Rights" is choppy, punky, and insistent.

"Jackson Nightz" is all Slanted and Enchanted hooks spliced into a messy-but-catchy tune. Malkmus (?) croons like Peter Brady with his voice cracking. There are harmonies but none to be proud of. Lo-fi genius on this one!

Like most of Early Times, this tune is a jumble of ideas and half-baked noodlings thrown into song-shape.

Still, I don't mean those things in a bad way.

No, Silver Jews, thanks to the presence of those guys from Pavement, had some appeal. These were ramshackle tunes at best but they work still. It's a set of reminders of a more interesting era in US indie. These are reminders of a time when risk-takers could still crack out of the underground.

Think of Early Times as the slow-witted -- but charming -- cousin of Slanted and Enchanted.

For all its abrasiveness, it's a fun and essential record for any fan of Malkmus and David Berman.

Early Times will be released on 19 June 2012 on Drag City.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Blues Control Drops Valley Tangents: A Review Of The New Album

Who would have ever believed that the heirs to the Portishead legacy would come out of Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania?

Blues Control are from my neck of the woods -- sure, they are miles aways from D.C. but the distance between Pa. and D.C. doesn't seem as great when I'm writing this from Hong Kong! -- and they create music that sometimes seems European, for lack of a better adjective.

The tunes on Valley Tangents, out 19 June on Drag City, echo that trippy stuff from Portishead and Broadcast, but also the kind of tunes you'd hear in an old Radley Metzger film.

Hence the label European.

The 6 tunes on Valley Tangents are all different, yet the sound of this group is distinctive. These are, quite simply, tunes for an imaginary soundtrack, to paraphrase some title I saw once.

"Love's A Rondo" starts off wearing its Barry Adamson influence on its sleeve. It's crime show piano all the way here. Then some decidedly hard fuzz guitar comes in -- think early SFA -- and things unroll, the guitar and piano gently duelling over light brush-work on the skins.

"Iron Pigs", despite referencing 2 Black Sabbath titles in its title, is more African Head Charge, Massive Attack, and that sort of thing. Sure, the guitar wails like Knopfler in his youth, and there's a hint of Zappa in the keyboard buzz, but it's more blues-y menace stretched out and explored.

Quite simply, it sounds like this was recorded live in the studio and that is an enormous compliment. Hard to believe that this is just 2 people!

"Opium Den/Fade To Blue" starts with a disco-era run on the jazz flute -- cue Ron Burgundy! -- but then turns into a shuffling instrumental with the sort of psuedo-Middle Eastern vibe Zep cultivated so well on Led Zeppelin III.

"Walking Robin" is a short guitar-led riffer with drums (?) like footsteps -- boot-thumps -- in the background. Add in some atmospherics, a harpsichord (?), and a hint of a Mick Karn bass-line, and it's another charmer on this record.

"Open Air" takes things to another level. Vaguely reminiscent of both Tomita doing Debussy and an old David Sylvian record, the keyboard figure positively aches as the song unfurls. What sounds like found music -- or something heard in the distance from an open window -- has the power to affect. And while the cut is not direct, it's moving and emotional in a strange way. There's nothing obvious here but the mix of pieces -- piano, noises, and melody -- creates a mood that lingers after these few minutes have passed.

"Gypsum" glides in on a funk groove -- think Booker T. mixed with some Horace Silver or Herbie Hancock -- then it chugs along on that ominous tuba-like bass-figure. A few piano notes, a skip up the keyboard, and an insistent riff and the tune kicks like the simple drum pattern that anchors the cut.

Blues Control sound unlike anyone else today. I name-checked Portishead but that's due to the attitude and not the same sort of sound. Same goes with that nod to Broadcast.

The truth is that Blues Control owe a big debt to Barry Adamson's soundtrack work but Russ and Lea of Blues Control sound like a real band. This isn't simply a collection of atmospherics here.

While the songs have a lot of menace and nuance, they're more than just background noise, or noodlings. What genre is this?

How to describe Blues Control?

I can't very well and that's a good thing.

Sometimes music shouldn't be a bunch of genre-references strung together, shouldn't be posturing that points to an earlier, better era in indie-rock.

Sometimes music should transcend any easy category and just exist.

This is that sort of music. Buy this record, put on your headphones, and explore the world and live out your own movie.

For the movie in your head, let Valley Tangents be the strange and oddly affecting soundtrack.

Follow Blues Control on their Facebook page:

Or on their label:
Drag City

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Play New Remix From The Penelopes Here

With a hint of mid-1980s New Order, The Penelopes are here to bring us a new tune: "Summer Life" -- the Gigamesh remix is below.

This reminds me a tiny bit of The Human League, and there are traces of Electronic and Doves as well.

The band's debut album Never Live Another Yesterday will be released on 23 July.

For now, follow the band here:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Another Magnificent Laetitia Sadier MP3

This single is magnificent!

With a title echoing those of Stereolab precursor McCarthy, and a sound like the 'Labs' sound in the mid-1990s, here's another fantastic and spacious and soaring MP3 from Laetitia Sadier.

Two years on from her last solo album Steroelab's Laetitia Sadier is back with a new record, Silencio, out on 24 July on Drag City Records.

You can download new MP3 "There Is A Price To Pay For Freedom (And It Isn't Security)" below:

"There Is A Price To Pay For Freedom (And It Isn't Security)"

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Play New Tunes From Standard Fare Here!

I love this band!

Coming on like Ooberman trying their hand at "Town Called Malice", here's Sheffield's Standard Fare with "At The Lake" and a few other new tunes.

The tunes were recorded for the WIAIWYA label -- look it up. "At The Lake" bounces along with a good deal of indiepop joy, plus there's a new version of "Girlfriend" here, and another cut -- "Keeps Me Going" -- that charms as well.

For those of you who've not done so yet, please pick up the band's latest record Out of Sight, Out of Town, out now on Melodic.

And follow the band on their website:

Or on their Facebook page:

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Mr. Haines Gets A Film

I saw The Auteurs in 1994 in D.C. at the old 9:30 Club, then again in January of 1996 at the "new" 9:30 Club. That gig was the one described in Haines' book Bad Vibes. Haines and his cellist showed up in the midst of a snowstorm to play for about 10 appreciative concert-goers. Remove my best friend and I from that number, and we're down to 8.

Still, this guy was never gonna be Jason Mraz, was he?

And, when I look back to a brief "Hello" to Mr. Haines in 1999, I'm happy that he wasn't too gregarious.

The same best friend and I had scheduled our first visit to England to coincide with a few concerts, notably a Black Box Recorder gig in London in April 1999. As I approached Mr. Haines after the gig, mumbling something about travelling all the way from America to see him, he was polite but not effusive or bubbly.

Has he ever been?

Now that dark charm, wit, and lyrical rage will be chronicled in a new film Art Will Save The World (2012). The film will premiere at the East End Film Festival in London in July. Here's a link to the event. Haines will perform afterwards.

And here's the trailer for Art Will Save The World: A Film About Luke Haines (2012) and a big tip of the hat to fine musician Adam Leonard for posting about this film.

Like most of Mr. Haines' recent work, it might have slipped through the cracks if not for a few devoted acolytes.

The Shadows of Future Happiness

Despite some indications to the contrary, including this recent blog post, maybe I can be wistful again.

I spent 2 hours last night waiting at the Lamma ferry pier in Central. My girlfriend was arriving from Macau and we were going to catch the 2:30 ferry home to Lamma.

Her employer is a decent sort compared to some horror stories I've heard about employers here. And the fact that she gets to stay out overnight on her day off is proof of that.

When she arrived, carrying a bundle of curtains she had purchased for my place, I felt so unbelievably lucky. I was hot and sweaty and tired so maybe I didn't seem too giddy to her but I was so...relieved.

Relieved that my life has taken this turn and that now I'm in the most normal relationship of my life and it's wonderful.

Living on Lamma means that my life is dependent on that ferry schedule. If I want to meet her late on a Saturday night, there's no sense going home from the city only to ride back in; besides, the last ferry from Lamma to Central is now 11:30 -- a bit earlier than in the past, I think.

So I killed some time having a Tetley's at Old China Hand in Wan Chai. I felt so out-of-place. Not much of a drinker, and with an eye on future domesticity of some sort, I really don't belong there anymore.

Here we are, two lost souls in a sometimes unfriendly city, carrying a bag of curtains home at 3 AM, the banana tree plants swaying near the path, the water lap-lap-lapping in the distance.

I thought of the worlds of difference between us and all of the drama that had colored our separate lives prior to this moment.

Sometimes the mix here seems magical: I work for a Chinese company in Hong Kong and I spent my Saturday having Pakistani and Indonesian curry dishes with an English friend before waiting for my Filipino girlfriend to visit me from the once Portuguese colony of Macau.

And yet, in that multicultural mix of elements -- and the city is surprisingly more multicultural than any of you Bruce Lee fans could possibly imagine -- I found the best relationship of my life.

Who would have ever believed that I'd be able to trade that hell of the Beltway for a commute on a ferry? Or loneliness for love?

And I stopped, at 3 AM in the "jungle" of Lamma to snap a pick of our happy shadows entwined together on the pavement, entering the future a few seconds ahead of us.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Play New Levek Track Here!

Levek is the name for the "band" fronted by David Levesque.

Sounding like a more propulsive Olivia Tremor Control, with a hint of High Llamas rolling underneath, here's "Black Mold Grow" from upcoming album Look A Little Closer. That record will drop on 25 September on Lefse Records.

For now, play this cut and follow Levek on his Facebook page.

I Want To Touch You Again: The Jet Age Live on KEXP

Jet Age frontman Eric Tischler produced the debut album from Dot Dash and those guys are playing D.C. this weekend but here's a chance to see some video of the equally rockin' The Jet Age in action.

The guys -- Eric Tischler, bassist Greg Bennett, and drummer Pete Nuwayser -- performed these 4 songs back in February on KEXP, back around the time of their tour with The Wedding Present, I think.

The songs are all from the band's most recent album, Domestic Disturbances, out now on the band's own Sonic Boomerang Records.

I have it on good authority that these guys are working on new material. However, for now, enjoy the Gedge-like strumming of Tischler, the "Funk Pop A Roll"-inspired bass throb of Bennett's work, and the Moon-craze of drummer Nuwayser on "I Want To Touch You Again" below.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Free Tunes from radioblue's Mark Helm

Mark Helm from radioblue is on You can sign up and get free tunes so do that now...even if that site is a bit confusing.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

More Blues Control Goodness: A Video and Some Tunage

Blues Control are doing it for me again. I listen to their old tracks -- like "Good Morning" below -- and get more psyched for their 19 June drop on Drag City Records, Valley Tangents.

You can watch the video for "Love's a Rondo" below and then check out the tune.

Follow Blues Control on Facebook:

Childhood: Blue Velvet. Play and Enjoy and Share.

I've only heard a few tracks from this Nottingham/London-based band but I've loved each one.

Parts of this sound like A.R. Kane, and parts sound like Galaxie 500 by way of a Carl Barat cover (if the former Libs man ever decided to cover G500). I love this tune and I love this band.

Enjoy "Blue Velvet" by Childhood below.

Free MP3 From Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier

It's hard to believe that it's been almost two years since her first solo album, but time flies. Now Steroelab's Laetitia Sadier is back with a new record, Silencio, out on 24 July on Drag City Records.

You can download new MP3 "Find Me the Pulse of the Universe" below:

"Find Me the Pulse of the Universe"

Friday, June 1, 2012

Download Early Silver Jews Track Here!

Silver Jews was not a Pavement spin-off. The David Berman-led band just featured some contributions from psuedo-members (?) Stephen Malkmus and Bob Natasnovich.

On June 19, Drag City Records is putting out the Early Times album by Silver Jews and I urge all fans -- Silver Jews fans and Pavement fans -- to check out this seminal US indie rock collection.

For now, download the tune below:

"Secret Knowledge of Back Roads"

Be sure to check out Drag City Records for more details on this record.

Play New Little Boots Track Here!

She never stops does she?

Little Boots is back -- she never left! -- with a Todd Edwards remix of new track "Headphones" and you can play it below.

After that, follow Little Boots on her Facebook page: