Monday, November 30, 2009

Banging out this bad Larry before the big football game (uh, match?) between the home town team and an undefeated rival. This weekend was spent assembling my best-of discs, hopefully the few final touches will be applied tonight and shipping can commence in mid-December.

Algebra Is The Ultimate

Bad Lieutenant – I wonder if Werner Herzog paid a product placement fee to Sumner, Morris & crew to promote his new film? Well, the music sounds nothing like the amoral mayhem on the screen, and Bernard indulges in his lighter electronic side to make music for airport lounges and drugstores. Better than Pablo Cruise, I suppose.

Section 25 – Meanwhile in another abandoned part of the factory here’s some more 80’s electronic innovators gathering for a spin around the fountain. It tastes so much fresher, perhaps because we haven’t drank from this cup in a long while. The brainy subject matter alone gains it several points on the final exam.

Jookabox – Dropping the Grampall from the name suggested less barnyard influences and more stylized rock and electronics, and that’s basically what’s happened. Their former melding of hoedown and hellbound was far more urgent than this lethargic effort, which seems content to gaze at the blackness of its own navel.

The Black Drumset – I’m not one to turn down a date with a silent partner, especially if there’s a familiar mischievous look in the eye. A bit too fun for the coffeeshop but at the same time too unruly for hip car commercials, perhaps they’ll find some warm water in someone’s movie trailer.

Swimmers – These fine fellows are not merely treading water, but instead try to increase the turbulence by splashing as many keyboards and drumbeats in seriously syncopated fashion. No need to worry, there’s plenty of fun to be had as well.

Ad Frank and the Fast Easy Women – Yes, this is the same gent who honored the great Mark Eitzel with a song title reference on one of his previously bright but sarcastic efforts. This tune is all concept and execution, I’ve always had a thing for songs that give away the lyrics in the title but while it’s easy to envision it’s equally difficult to pull off.

Owen – A friend will not allow me to make any negative comments about anything Kinsella-related so I’ll just note that there’s always one super smooth song per release that goes down like tapioca pudding, and usually that song clocks in at 5+ minutes.

Dutchess and the Duke – This song was reserve purely for the reference to my astrological sign in the title, and it’s somewhat fitting in its own reserved and taciturn way. I just wish they were a bit meaner.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The zeal with which most people wanted to label my recent bout with sickness as H1N1 said much to me about the power of media to make a relatively mundane event become infused with fear. The warnings seem quite out of proportion with the actual threat, which is no less threatening than previous strains. We still have some extremely ominous Avian Flu public service announcements in rotation at the station, which now sound like either last year’s model or backing the wrong horse.

Bobby King Smile

Kerouac’s Big Sur – Any project that sets out to put the printed word to music and lyrics just seems doomed for failure to me. Adapting prose to the cadence and structure of music is not an easy task, even with the combined talents of Benjamin Gibbard and Jay Farrar I expected the results to be forced and listless. While there are no big victories to be found here, the fact that there are even small ones garners a bit of my respect.

Robert Francis – Quite a novel way to get signed to a major label record contract … work your way into a high-profile touring contract first. Never thought that would work, but I guess if you have friends in high place then perhaps some leverage may be found while opening for Wilco. Still seems like the cart is coming before the horse here.

Mark Kozelek - When the clever fun-loving independent music mavens I seem to hang around with run with glee towards and television show my immediate reaction is to turn the other way. So many times I’ve been severely disappointed … The Office, Flight of the Conchords, Venture Brothers. Therefore I won’t watch this supposedly subversive children’s show. Though hearing them mewl to the press about how they’re getting a raw deal from Nick because they won’t give up ownership of the show is tantamount to complaining about your major label record deal because they didn’t put enough into promo.

Kings of Convenience – More and more I’m impressed in how these tweedy youngsters can continue to mine material from the AM oldies radio station catalog. This album sounds like a string of programming on WJIB, complete with simple harmonies and delicate construction. And I didn’t even mention Simon & Garfunkel.

Lisa Germano – Every new creative effort that springs forth from Ms. Germano garners immediate respect in my camp, though that rarely translates into a purchase. Perhaps we just need our distance, or perhaps there’s just not enough friendly there for me to make a commitment. I’m never quite sure where the listener stands in her worldview, most likely likely because I doubt she is concerned with such details.

Simone White – Her first records was a lovely smash-up of a simple guitar style and wispy voiced lyrics, this one retains the charms and adds a few more instruments for good measure. Along with some very nice smelling cardboard enveloping the disc. So far she’s 2 for 2.

The Swell Season - Difficult not to cheer for this charming couple during their Oscar run, and I expected more of the same beguiling balance on this new musical entity. Instead why does it sound like an unfocused Frames record with an occasional female vocalist? They never do quite recapture even a portion of their previous magic.

The Lower 48 – Closing it out with a quick and simple ditty. Not much to say other than cute girls with glasses get special dispensation in these mixes.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Firmly rooted in the past, the slow season for new releases is quickly drying my pool of new fodder for these mixes. No fear, I can keep the dredging equipment busy for at least a few more weeks, though my prediction is you’ll start to notice with this effort.

Fractals of Earth

Piano Magic – Bringing in former members of Dead Can Dance to participate on your new album either means you’re going through an unfortunate nostalgic streak or your target market has shifted to 35+ year old ex-goths. Either way, anything bearing the Piano Magic name on it deserves attention, regardless of the methods or level of desperation.

The Mary Onettes – My absolute favorite Swedish retro new wave rockers wander into another memorable group of romantic tunes that will keep you checking their lineage for that telltale stamp of British citizenship.

Bear In Heaven – Well not everyone needs to use their blazing synths for galloping stomps to the dancefloor, there were plenty of moody mid-tempo moments in Moog history worthy of evocation as well.

The Ghost Is Dancing – Hopefully not a Simple Minds reference in the title, because quite frankly they can’t possibly live up to it. Everything here feels a tick off, from the faux-stomping to the nasal vocals. A decent producer could perhaps tighten up their belts.

Karl Blau – And Karl Blau is not just a (more than) decent producer, he’s also a swell musician as well. Why he decided to meander into the realm of 80’s inspired sludge I’m not sure, but this effort is somewhat south of his most memorable moments.

The Invisible Kid – OK, those who felt like the last three track were a side-trip to purgatory … at least this tune has a beat. A bit too bland to really inspire a trip to the dance floor, but at least you’ll get to hone those “sorry I’m turning you down” skills.

Lovelock – There’s only one authentic 80’s moment available for your inspection tonight, and this one is worthy of the weight.

To Kill A Petty Bourgeoisie – For those who desire life-support beats, a torpid pace and heavy reverb on the vocals do we have a mix closer for you!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Been down for the count the past three days with a small grouping of symptoms that a hypochondriac would call H1N1 but I call a cold brought on by breathing too much leaf-dust as I was mulching up my yard in another fine New England autumnal rite of passage. Either way, spending the last three days in the same clothes is slightly liberating, though my cats now see me as nothing more than a rather large heating pad for their mid-day naps.

Nature Makes Us All Compete

Flaming Lips – If I had only one criticism of the previous few Flaming Lips records it would be the seeming self-satisfaction they have with creating a conjured sense of whimsy while providing little else to dig into beyond an impenetrable layer of production. The elements of that criticism are still present, but at least we have the concentrated effort of creating a song or two on this release, instead of a soundtrack for dancing teddy bears.

El Perro Del Mar – All things Swedish do not necessarily get an automatic pass here, and while her previous efforts have had songs worthy of praise the nuggets are buried a bit deeper on this new release. Which isn’t to insinuate this particular example of 1985 style portending doom leaves me cold, just that it has the intended effect.

Javelin – Fans of the Yello Magic Orchestra or the credits to Buckaroo Banzai will pleasantly appreciate the multi-layered synths that blend an appropriate level of hope and melancholy without forcing you to face that nostalgia complex it’s taken you 25 years to so carefully cultivate.

Neon Indian – Progenitors of the addled attention deficit style of electronic music, these songs seem to barely begin or coalesce before they suddenly disappear into another bleating track, BMSR style. This is easily the most cohesive one of the bunch.

Mum – Delicate and ornate without forming any fears of accidental breakage, Mum continue to craft their energetic solutions to life’s moments of ennui in hopes that their earworms produce an equally intricate reaction.

The Amazing – Side project from the most authentic retro 60’s psych-rock outfit to date (Dungen for those still flipping through their scorebooks), as you’d expect it sounds like a long lost but now re-issued side project from another time, gentler in scope and no less compelling in execution. I was gonna namedrop Balloon, but who the hell remembers them anyways?

Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Has nothing to do with Kurt Vonnegurt, nor the inoffensive folk-rock duo that released failed major label records in the mid-90’s. Instead it’s just proof that a well-executed cryptic spoken word piece will eventually find its way to the floor regardless of the worthiness of the rest of the release.

Bird Names – Playing caboose on this mix is as accurate a rendition of Don Van Vliet cacophony as I’ve heard since the last Old Time Relijun record. Odd and unpredictable in it’s construction, it still somehow transmits the sense that they know where they’re going and just enough planning has been done to reach the final destination, even if the path was not picked.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Nothing mind-altering here, unless you disagree in which case I say enjoy the ride. There aren’t many dips but not too many rises either, just a solid entry into the post-collegiate pantheon of pop songs your boyfriend’s too distracted to care about.

Prettiest City

Lissy Trullie – She cuts quite a figure, but vocally there’s enough to make you question the gender for a syllable or four. Any song could really be lifted off this disc with a similar sonic result, the consistent pop-rock vibe it its hallmark and its curse.

Savoir Adore – When you run out things to say in a perfectly good pop song my recommendation is take a solo and return to the chorus. It worked countless times for the Raspberries. No Eric Carmen magic moments here but the dueling vocalists know when to take it up an octave.

Choo Choo La Rouge – Boston area band that specializes in no-nonsense catchy lo-fi tunes somewhere between Railroad Jerk and Bishop Allen. Recording these songs removes some of the live energy but at least provides something slake-worthy for those with a taste for the tonic.

Get Back Guinozzi – Worthy of inclusion on an early 80’s “unknown bands from Manchester” compilation even though they’re current-day and they’re not from Manchester. Still the bass guitar and reverb guitar solo with occasional synth splashes and yelping female vocals fit the template with eerie accuracy.

Headlights – Previous efforts provided commercial-worthy earworms that sadly never quite made it to ipod status though well justified their personal space requirements. This new release seems to find less in more layers as digging for nuggets costs enough calories to make you question the equation.

Two Hours Traffic – Canadian power-pop, need I say more? They don’t ache for Sloan level denim inspired rock flourish but keep it tempered and smooth like a shave with a new razor blade. If you prefer more stubble I can’t provide more direction beyond searching out songs of the producer.

The Drums – The coordinated attire and California beach setting on the cover of this EP suggest a Beach Boys fixation, but here it’s tempered by a strong helping of 80’s pop flavor. Perhaps it’s really Wham and Tommy Kirk beach flicks that really makes their spirits ache.

Why? – We’ll finish this off mix with an atypical track from a vague hip-hop artist doing the normal singing thing, though the litany of namedrops (from Jersey City to Matchbox cars to masturbating) give away the genesis of this artist’s true talents.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

It would be irresponsible (and slightly hypocritical) for me to not mention the upcoming fundraiser on behalf of my radio station WMBR ( The facility to donate will be available for a week starting on 11/5 and any donation directed to the Breakfast of Champions – Thursday will net a compilation courtesy of me. And now, back to the music.

Spot The Difference

Zero 7 – Recently I found myself hostage to an ardent Zero 7 fan nattering on about the 70’s prog-rock style storyline running through all of their albums. I silently nodded and wondered if I should counter with my theories on the subliminal lyrical thrust of “Wildfire.” Truthfully it would have been too much for a bloke excited about a four album cycle concerning a meet-up for a cup of coffee. That being said, this song dazzles.

Vitalic – For some all you have to do is combine the words “French” and “electro” and effusive praise will follow. Vitalic’s latest is far more normal than their previous release which intertwined a classical music jones with the dancefloor hits. Predictable and cynical, yet sometimes obvious trumps the more intricate plans and machinations.

Maps – ‘Bout time someone caught the peace train to the blissful mountaintop inhabited by M83’s mellifluous synths (and little else). Maps amps the energy by melding some beats with their beauty in hopes of cashing in for a glittering prize. If they could only trim some of the fat off their land …

Tegan and Sara – I’ve ignored these darlings of the college-age crowd as little more than indigo possessors of a few clunky synths but each subsequent album brings them closer to fine as they’ve motorvated from chick-flick soundtrack wannabes to palatable retro remainders.

Red Wire Black Wire - Don’t ask me which one to cut, my decision will likely grind this whole mix thing to a halt. So if I’m still a willing participant is the now dilapidated post-post punk revival who else is standing beside me – those who fondly remember the first wave or those still craving the halcyon days of early Interpol?

Schlachthofbronx – OK, it’s not exactly scatology on a Tittsworth level but instead an aural history of the rude gesture where perhaps the pictoral will do. Otherwise a passable and possible German or New York or both house (or, uh, grime?) track that delivers on its title promise with the basest of manners.

Silver Starling – If you don’t mind drinking from a muddy puddle this beverage could slake your thirst for a driving swath of controlled noise burbling below some liberally applied grating and grinding.

Rubik – Once again bringing up the rear is a tune I can’t justify reserving, so therefore we get this mélange of handclaps and prog rock tempo changes and faux-falsetto chorus and whatever other trend worth chasing which might bring a few glitter-faced girls to the show.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Well, we have ½ old school style and ½ new school hopes mixing like an uncomfortable middle school dance on this mix. I blame Stacey Andersen for dragging me out on the floor then ditching me with some dude named Jason to dance out the rest of that Pet Shop Boys tune. Perhaps it was my velour shirt which fostered her abandonment issues …

On The Floor (Like A Dog)

Asteroids Galaxy Tour – The electro-themed cover and retro-80’s band name did not prepare me for this northern soul blast that echoes the best of Noonday Underground’s resuscitation attempts. While the vocals can’t quite measure up the enthusiasm buys back those style points.

The Heavy – Speaking of retro, they proved their 70’s soul allegiance on their last go-round and are here to back it up in world record style. This reggae infused effort still doesn’t replace Sean Bones in my heart, but would bump up with him nicely in any ipod mix trying to fool the casual partygoers.

Lake – Karl Blau’s amazing production job polishes this band’s rather reedy sound into something befitting an Al Stewart showcase, complete with delicious guitar licks and cult-style chanting of incomprehensible lyrics.

Echo & The Bunnymen – Not conscious that Echo is still taking complaints from anarchists all around the world? Well this title track hopefully changes that perception, though it likely won’t replace The Cutter in your personal top 10 list of Bunnymen tracks. Heck, it won’t replace With A Hip …

Tim Williams – Trolling the sea of sycophants angling for a possible Phoenix opening spot is this well-produced effort that puts the smooth in pop while still bringing the punch, well if only in the bassline.

Stars of Track and Field – Usually the “I forget what they sound like” track is reserved for the caboose, but instead we’ve moved it up to P6 given the sonic similarity to the previous track as they both hope some innocuous financial services firm is looking for a catchy commercial bed.

Slaraffenland – Stepping somewhat more south towards the arty types who still hope their efforts are friendly enough for Mercury Prize consideration, here’s a band whose lineage knocks them out of consideration though I’m sure their chilly homeland has plenty of other meaningless awards to consider.

Liam Finn + Eliza Jane – Liam Finn deserves a break in my ledger, as his slightly rootsy but supremely catch compositions always seem like superstars on first spin, only to wander back into the land of Pleasantville and positive opinions without any actual money exchanging hands.