Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bands to Care About: Von Hayes

There’s two things you should know about Von Hayes, right away. First, no, Von Hayes the baseball player did not start making music, thank god! Second, Von Hayes the band is obsessed with Guided By Voices. How obsessed are they? Let’s see the check list. Collage style artwork? Check. 20 song album with song length averaging about a minute thirty each? Singers singing in flux British accents? Check? Todd Todis working on both their debut album Evident Eyelid and EP Quartered Lots for the Umbrella Soldier? Check. Yet, despite all the similarities, the band never feels like a parody or copy. Mainly because every song feels and sounds just as good as anything GBV did back in their mid 90’s heyday. Everything you loved about Bee Thousands or Alien Lanes is remade into a shiny new package to enjoy once again. With just the right balance of acoustic jangles like “Madison Arms” and over fuzzed guitar wailing tracks like “Karen Dreams in Hardcore”. “Life Kicks Ass” could easily be the original version of “Salty Salute”  They even have the balancing act of GBV, splitting the son writing between both guitar players, Peter Bothum and Andrew Zitelli. Yes, it does feel at times the band is putting themselves in a corner with their commitment to the Guided by Voices sound. However, even if they can never expand their sound, Von Hayes are making some of the best old school indie rock around, and I know will be sing along to “Prestige Replicas” for a long time 

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

New Best Coast

Bethany Cosentino, aka Best Coast, has released a new song on her myspace. It is called "Wish He Was You" and is another great, fuzzy, California stoner pop song. Please listen to it.

Album Review: Vivian Girls-Everything Goes Wrong

It’s safe to say the Vivian Girls were the most buzzed about band of last year with their debut getting mountains of praise from blogs everywhere. So now that there sophomore album has arrived, the blogs are doing what they do best; writing the album as just being more of the same and tearing down the band they helped build. This is a shame, because if anyone actually listened to it, they would find one of the better albums of the year.

Everything Goes Wrong opens with “Walking Alone at Night” “I Have no Fun” a quick one-two punch of everything that was loved from the first Vivian Girls Album. Two bratty, fuzzy, punk songs played over a mountain of distortion. Then things start to change. “Tension” is actually slowed down with effect infused drums and guitarsand loads of reverb. Then there’s the center track “When I’m Gone” which dissolves into Velvet Underground style noise and into the 4 minute range. The band does stretch out their sound on this album than just rehashing the quick two minute tracks from their self titled album.

The album is also darker than their last effort. Heartbreak and pain fill Cassie Ramones Lyrics, when you can make them out. The distortion feels thicker, less playful than last time. Then there is the album closer “Before I Start to Cry” which lays Cassie’s heart bare on a platter. But not everything is completely changed. Tracks like “I’m not Asleep” and “Can’t Get Over You” are still the 60’s girl band infused punk songs that made us fall in love with the band in the first place.

What could have easily been just a rehash of their debut or the band becoming to experiment for their own good, Everything Goes Wrong manages to find the right balance of new and old and it emerges as a pretty good follow up of their debut. Now if only other people would listen to it.

Vivian Girls-When I'm Gone

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sweet to the Core: An Interview with Kip Berman of Pains of Being Pure At Heart

When you name yourself something like The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, your kind of asking for trouble. Thankfully, the band members are nothing of the sort and lead singer Kip Berman was kind enough to do a quick phone interview with me, where we talk about there current tour, upcoming EP, how great Jay Reatard is, and what are his favorite romantic movies.

The Creative Intersection: First off, thanks for putting an Austin tour date in your tour. I know you played about 14 shows during South By Southwest and I’m glad your not sick off the city.

Kip Berman: Of course not. Austin is an amazing town and were actually glad to be able to come back kind of out of the context of South By Southwest because I realized there’s life outside of South By Southwest I’m sure.

TCI: Thanks. So in about a year, you’ve gone from being pretty unknown to being a huge buzz band. What is it like with the huge burst in popularity?

Kip: Well, to be honest everything’s been pretty gradual and natural and it doesn’t seem like anything’s been over night from our perspective. We’ve been a band for a few years and we’ve tried to tour as much as possible and we’ve just been very grateful and the experience has been past anything we could have expected or anticipated. It’s kind of the old fashion story of just touring a lot, hard work, and really enjoying the music that we play and we’ve been really grateful that people have responded so positively to it.

TCI: So how did the tour with Cymbals Eat Guitars come about?

Kip: Ah well, we’re on tour now with both Cymbals Eat Guitars and The Depreciation Guild and does are both two bands that we really love and we’re just grateful that Cymbals Eat Guitars was able to do the tour as was Depreciation Guild. We’re fans of both bands and I think it makes for a really good night of music, I hope.

TCI: A lot of the lyrics on the album come across as being sick of a party scene and the problems of being a teenager, teenage angst if you want to pigeon hole it. Were these written about general experience with being in the Brooklyn scene or something else?

Kip: No, I mean we live in Brooklyn and we’re genuine fans of the music that comes out of Brooklyn, but most of does songs are written about growing up in the suburbs and sort of the experiences of that. It’s the experience of growing up and not really having anything to do or not having a lot of friends. Kind of being bored and unsure of what you should do with your life. The songs are not really about cool parties, it’s sort of about the absence of any of that. It’s about being normal and wondering about stuff.

TCI: So is that why you moved to Brooklyn?

Kip: No, I mean I.... I don’t know why I moved to Brooklyn. My friend was moving to New York and I wanted to go to and I had lived in Portland, Oregon for awhile. I was so excited about living in a new place and I’m so glad I did because I met Peggy and Alex and Kurt and they’re my best friends now and we play music together and it’s really fun. It wasn’t like a reaction to anything for like... I don’t even now why I moved to New York, but I’m glad you did!

TCI: Do you ever feel like the lyrics get easily misinterpreted like how I just did? I mean, I hate to ask this because chances are you’ve been asked this a million times since the album came out, but is “This Love is Fucking Right” really about incest?

Kip: No, no it isn’t. I mean there is no right or wrong way to interpret our songs. We’re fine with people listening to them and thinking what they think about them. We want to be mean or tell people they are wrong about anything. I would say like I said probably a few times before that “This Love is Fucking Right” isn’t about incest, but we don’t get to bent out of shape with people thinking what they want to think. We just really enjoy playing the music we play and we’re really appetitive that anyone cares enough to listen to us and think about what the songs say.

TCI: So what is it about? When I listen to, this is just general, you can tell me if I’m wrong, but it’s about a relationship you’ve had with a girl for a long time and they wind up sleeping together and the aftermath is really awkward. Is it that?

Kip: We have songs about that, but I don’t think that songs about that. I think “This Love is Fucking Right” is more just about finding someone that’s like yourself and being really close to them and feeling really happy regardless about what over people think. It’s sort of this sense of no matter what other people say, or if your friends not cool with it or whatever, if it’s awkward, you’re happy together and you just want to be affirmative about that. I really think there’s a special closeness between two people incest or anything like that. The term “sister” is used as a special closeness, it represents something that transcends the simple being friends with someone. Your closer to that person, like it’s another part of yourself. You kind of complete each other, to quote Jerry Maguire. It’s like that other half of yourself.

TCI: Are you a big movie buff?

Kip: I don’t watch a lot of movies, but I enjoy them when I do. I like romantic comedies with Meg Ryan in them. I like the movie You’ve Got Mail. I saw that recently.

TCI: What did you think of 500 Days of Summer?

Kip: It wasn’t really my cup of tea. But after I saw that I saw You’ve Got Mail and I enjoyed that a lot. I would like to just be positive about You’ve Got Mail and that’s about it.

TCI: Your going to be releasing a brand new EP with brand new songs in just a couple of days. Why did you decide to go the EP route then just waiting to record a new album.

Kip: Well, we had these songs and we’ve been playing them live and we wanted to make them available to our fans. It’s probably going to be awhile before our next album comes out, but we’ve been playing songs like “Higher Than the Stars” and live for some time, especially on this tour. We just wanted them to be available to people and an EP was a great way to do that. It allowed us to release these songs and not worry they made sense in the context of an album or not. It’s just sort of four songs we really like and who cares if they really make sense next to each other, there songs we like to play and we thought it would be fun.

TCI: Ok! Now, Jay Reatard called your music boring and kind of insulted the whole Brooklyn scene. Does this mean anything to you?

Kip: We’re actually really big fans of Jay Reatard and we love his music a lot. I think Alex is literally in the Jay Reatard fan club, so I think Jay was just joking around and having some fun and he’s a great musician who’s been doing really, interesting, compelling, and passionate music for a long time. We really love what he does, and he’s a good guy I think he was just trying to rustle some feathers and sometimes the internet gets carried away. We’re big fans and I’ll definitely be buying his new album on Matador soon.

TCI: Oh, you definitely should! It’s awesome!

Kip: I know. I think Alex has it and I want to get it. I want to get a copy for myself. We’re out on tour and I want to buy it on vinyl, but I won’t be able to listen to it for awhile so... it might come with a download so I’ll buy it soon.

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, along with Depreciation Guild and Cymbals Eat Guitars, play the Mohawk here in Austin on 9/25. Buy tickets here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pavement To Reunite! Indie Rockers Everywhere Shit Their Pants and/or Scream Like Little Girls

I love Pavement. Period. They are one of the greatest bands of all time and it sucks for me that I never got to see them live. Since I got into them a little more than 2 years ago...

Now that has changed. As I’m sure everyone already heard yesterday, Pavement is getting back together!!! As reported by Brooklyn Vegan and quasi confirmed by Pitchfork yesterday, the band is set to play Rumsey Playfield in Central Park on 9/21/2010 (yes NEXT year), but presale tickets have already sold out. Here are the links to there next show two shows at the same place on 9/22 and 9/23. Along with the shows it was announced by MATADOR that the band plans to tour the world during 2010. No permanent reunion/no songs are confirmed so start speculating now. I! CAN'T! WAIT!

New Los Campesinos!-The Sea is a Good Place to Think About the Future (Video Too)

I know I have been on a Los Campesinos! binge for the past few days (with yet another post related to them coming soon). But this deserves to be talked about. The band's still untitled album is due early 2010, but in the mean time they have given us a brand new song from that album along with a simple yet great video to go along with it. It is much slower than their previous material, but still manages to be just as catchy and devastating as anything else they have written.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Album Review: Circulatory System-Signal Morning

From the opening notes of “Woodpecker Greeting Worker Ant” you know this will be different from the last Circulatory system album. Darker, rougher. Dealing with Multiple Sclerosis can do that to you. But through that pain and almost eight year gap, Signal Morning has emerged as a bright and shiny beacon of what can be done when your life seems to be going to hell.

First and foremost, this is a precious record. What could have easily been a huge compellation of the magnitude of sounds recorded for the album is instead trimmed so only the best moments remain. “Round Again” is the purest example of the band stretching their brand of poppyness into the weirdest of shapes. “Overjoyed” has a string arrangement that would make Andrew Bird jealous and some of the best lyrics Hart has ever written. The title track winds up being the center piece of the album (despite being the last track) with its ever hopeful lyrics, weird sound effects, and being horns, the song has an angle’s halo’s glow to it. Even simple tracks like “News from the Heavenly Loom” wind up having so much warmth to them and the experimental and odd songs like “Electric Diversion” and “I, You, We” feel more in place on this album than they have on others.

Complaints will be made at the lack of cohesiveness between tracks due to Hart’s different mind sets when recording different parts of the album. But cohesiveness is hardly the point of any Circulatory system album or anything Hart has worked on. It has always been to make the best songs from and every sound possible, and with that goal in mind, Signal Morning succeeds beyond anything. All we had to do was wait seven and a half years to hear it again.

(mp3) Circulatory System-Overjoyed (via Stereogum)

Circulatory System’s Myspace

Circulatory System’s Page on Cloud Recordings

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Album Review: Shonen Knife-Super Group

At some point during their career, a band receives a memo from the rulers of how bands must sound. In that memo, there are two rules listed. The first one says that you must change your sound album to album. The second rule says that if you don’t follow the first rule, we (the rulers of how bands must sound) will call you unoriginal and uncreative no matter how good you sound, and will banish you to realm of wherever Interpol and the Strokes now are. There is no exception to this.

Now the point of this story is that there is, well, an exception to this rule. Maybe it has to do with being separated from everyone by living in Japan, but Shonen Knife has been making their signature brand of punk pop (no I didn’t get that in the wrong order) for almost 30 years now. That is slightly scary. And now after almost a year since it was released in Japan, Super Group is finally being released in the states. And you know what? The rulers of how bands must sound were dead wrong. This is some of the catchiest songs of the year.

First things first, however. This is a Shonen Knife album. All the high-pitched Japanese vocals, blatant popness, and unintentional tweeness without trying to be twee are all still intact for this album. So if you didn’t like that on their previous albums, chances are slim that you are going to like it on Super Group any better. That said there are things being done differently here (I know, completely contradictory to the point of “how bands don’t need to change” I was making in the previous paragraph. Just deal with it). This is their first album were every song is sung entirely in English. So while to charm of hearing (bass or is it guitar players name) sing in her native tongue, the cuteness factor of here singing in English over rides this problem easily. Also, the rifts for the album are slightly, slightly, heavier on this album. It’s something that doesn’t really add or take away from the music, but is worth pointing out anyway. However, in the end, the center of any Shonen Knife album is whether the songs are catchy enough and hold up. And for Super Group they do. The catchiest/best track of the album actually winds up being the first and title track, with its thick bass line, distorted guitar, wonderful girl group harmonies during the chorus. Not to discredit the other tracks. What other band can make a song about feeding a deer (Deer Biscuits) or finding a bug (Slug) seem like the funest thing in the world. There’s even a Wings cover (Jet) thrown into the mix. Be warned, don’t not listen to this album on repeat, you risk a serious sugar rush attack.

Yes, so people will complain that this album, or any of their albums cannot reach the greatness of Shonen Knife’s albums from the 80’s. The thing is, Shonen Knife realizes this long ago. And while they may never be able to reach the height of those albums, they do give us albums like Super Group, and I am perfectly satisfied and happy with that.

Shonen Knife’s Website

North America Tour Dates:

10/16 New York, NY- Santos Party House
10/17 Ithaca, NY – Cornell University
10/18 Toronto, Canada – Horseshoe Tavern
10/19 Detroit, MI – Magic Stick
10/20 Chicago, IL – Bottom Lounge
10/21 Minneapolis, MN – 7th Street Entry
10/23 Missoula, MT – The Badlander
10/24 Seattle, WA – Tractor Tavern
10/25 Vancouver, Canada – Biltmore Cabaret
10/26 Bellingham, WA – The Nightlight
10/27 Portland, OR – Doug Fir Lounge
10/29 San Francisco, CA – Rickshaw Stop
10/30 San Jose, CA – Blank Club
10/31 Visalia, CA – The Cellar Door
11/1 Oakland, CA – Uptown
11/2 Los Angeles, CA – Echo
11/3 San Diego, CA – Casbah
11/4 Tucson, AZ – Plush
11/6 San Antonio, TX – Sam’s Burger Joint
11/7 Austin, TX – Fun Fun Fun Fest
11/8 Houston, TX – Numbers Night Club
11/10 Barton Rouge, LA – Spanish Moon
11/ 11 Memphis, TN – Hi Tone
11/ 13 Atlanta, GA – E.A.R.L.
11/ 14 Hoboken, NJ – Maxwells
11/15 Allston, MA – Great Scotts
11/16 Philadelphia, PA – Johnny Brenda’s
11/17 Brooklyn, NY – Brooklyn Bowl
11/18 Buffalo, MY – Mohawk Place

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Smith Westerns/Girls/Los Campesinos! Live @ Emo's 8/16/09

(Yes this is a horribly late post. But if You Ain't No Picasso can do this, so can I)

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. On one side, it was the middle of August on a hundred degree night, at an outside venue, and I saw all three hours of it right under the stage spotlights. On the other side, I was about to see Los Campesinos! for the second time on their last our with keyboardist Aleks along with two of the most buzzed about bands this side of the blogosphere. Pretty obviously, the latter one out on the mood for the night

Smith Westerns opened the set. Once again, I feel bad about talking down on such a buzzed band (see my take on Harlem). But the Smith Western set just wasn’t impressive. This is the sort of thing I should and do love; short, distortion heavy indie rock influenced garage rock. This could just be because they aren’t a live band yet, or weren’t good at this particular set, but nothing stood out. The set blurred into a mush of generic indie rock. Now there were moments of interest, but in the end, it wasn’t a memorable set.

The Girls set was a lot more interesting, however. Interesting being the key word here. To put into perspective what I’m talking about, the band came out onto stage looking like they either came from the worst hangover ever, or they were perpetually stoned always. Then, lead guitarist Christopher Owens proceeded to take off his boots and play the whole set of slow lo-fi indie rock in red high heels! When you look past all these “quirks”, the set was actually quite impressive. The band managed to live up to the hype with me of course being a sucker for lo-fi anything. With the album still being a few weeks away, it was hard to know any of the songs, but a definite highlight was the 7-minute “Hellhole Rat Race” evolving into a noise fest so loud that I think Sonic Youth might have even been jealous. If there was any real complaint, it wasn’t with the show, but with Girls being there. There was nothing wrong with the band, but a band that worked a that pace opening for the speed and intensity that is Los Campesinos!, they just felt a little out of place.

However, no of this mattered for in the end, for the night was owned once again by the greatness and wonder that is Los Campesinos! Yes, go ahead and roll your eyes again at another one of my gushy indie rock fanboy letters to Los Campesinos! I. Don’t. Care. Pop Tarts Suck Toasted has The Antlers; I have Los Campesinos! All the pain, emotion, and energy that exists in their albums translates directly to the stage. Gerath’s cries and screams of agony, Aleks brief inserts of sanity. She will be missed. It’s nice to see the band cares more about their fans than themselves. Despite giving an interview a few months back about how embarrassing songs were to them, they still played kick ass versions of “International Tweexcore Underground” and “You Throw Parties, We Throw Knifes”. The band also wound up playing two new tracks from their just finished new album. “Who Fell Asleep” is a slow building jam before fore erupting into pain which is apparently about molesting a nun (Gareth’s words, not mine) and “Rips”, a tight “All Your Keyfabe Friends” number. The rest of the set was a wonderful balance of Hold on Now Youngster and We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed tracks, with the band even pulling off a complete cover of Pavement’s “Box Elder” this time. The guitars shredded, Harriet’s violin was prime, and Olie was once again shirtless. It was just a great show best summed up with this exchange that happened near the end of the set

Fan: Don’t leave! Gareth please! Stop Aleks! Don’t let here leave us!

Gareth: Oh, I think that just did it. I think you just guaranteed her leaving.

Smith Westerns


Los Campesinos!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

7 Inch Singles Reviews: Superchunk-Crossed Wires and The Evaporators/Andrew W.K.-A Wild Pear

Ah Superchunk were have you been all this time? Oh, that’s right, on an eight year hiatus! Well no more. 2009 seems to be the year Superchunk comes back to indie rock and I couldn’t be happier. After giving us the great Leaves in the Gutter EP only a few months ago, they return with this single to tease us more until they finish the new album. And you know what, it’s a great tease. These two tracks are classic Superchunk in every sense. The guitars are still distorted to the max and Mac’s lyrics about alienation still hold up even with him being in his late 30’s. It’s nice to see that after all this time, Superchunk is still masters of the 7 inch format. Sure, they aren’t the most “innovative” tracks in the Superchunk library, but your getting two tracks by one of the best indie bands around for the first time in eight years and it’s on clear vinyl. Make the right choice

This is a fun single and that’s all there is to it. It’s not trying to be single of the year or the next big thing on Gorilla vs Bear. No it’s just a simple little single, and that is what makes it so great. The Evaporator’s (one of Nardwaur the Human Serviette’s many projects) is very well done. A brand new song plus a cover of an old forgotten 60’s Canadian band called Les Hou-Lous. However, I think it’s the Andrew W.K. side that steals the show. Sure, fell free to start taking your indie-rock shits all over him because he’s Andrew W.K., but trust me when I say this is a great single side. A cover of the (Canadian) Subhuman’s “Oh Canaduh” and the Leather Uppers’ “Don’t Sell Hot Dogs Tonight” add a nice punk sheen to this single. Plus a section of the Nardwaur’s interview with Andrew W.K. sandwiched between the two covers. Yes, the whole single is a bit dorky, but when it comes on white vinyl, has great cover art, and one of the best inserts ever that explains how every track came to be on the single plus how this almost impossible to imagine collaboration came to be, dorkyness should not be a factor.

(No mp3s posted due to respect of vinyl only releases)

Superchunk's Website

Buy the Superchunk single here

The Evaporators' Website

Andrew W.K.'s Website

Buy the split 7" here