Saturday, August 21, 2010

Warpaint takes on Bowie

One of my favorite up and coming bands, Warpaint, recently released a cover on iTunes of David Bowie's classic 1980's single "Ashes to Ashes" and it is phenomenal. While the cover definitely resembles the original, Warpaint shines in their ability to turn the glam-laden track into something they themselves could have written. It's a bit slower and much more mysterious and haunting. The proceeds of the sales will be donated to the War Child charity which fights to prevent and spread awareness about the enlistment of child soldiers in third world nations.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Save KTRU!

Rice University's sometimes weird and always wonderful KTRU college radio station was purchased by mega-university U of H earlier this week and I sincerely hope that KTRU's excellent programming is affected by the acquisition. This Sunday there will be a demonstration on the Rice campus to protest this awful decision. For details, log onto Facebook and click here. U of H's station is filled with unimpressive, overly-corporate, programming that threatens to obscure the greatness of KTRU. If you happen to be in town on Sunday, please show up at Rice, in a civil and orderly, to oppose this action.

New Miami Horror track feat. Neon Indian

One of my coworkers showed me this today and it is excellent:

Haling from Australia, just like other electro outfits Cut Copy and The Presets, the Miami Horrors employ a catchy throwback style of electropop that I don't understand how anyone could dislike. The guy doing vocals on this track is from Texas "chillwave" band Neon Indian. For the entire summer I've been listening Neon Indian's latest album, Psychic Chasms, which consists of distorted, flanged, and phased disco beats alongside trance-like vocals. Neon Indian will be playing here in H Town in October. I hope this collaboration is only the first of many.

Monday, August 16, 2010

See Takers and I promise you won't feel robbed

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to see a press screening of gangster film Takers and though I must be tight-lipped about the fine details, I can safely assure readers that it was unequivocally awesome. To be on the safe side, all I'll reveal about the plot is that it involves a bank heist executed in a refreshingly unorthodox manner. Being a project of rap superstar T.I. I must confess I was a little skeptical before the screening. These days it seems like every actor thinks they can make music and every musician thinks they can act but after seeing Takers, it's obvious to me that T.I. can do both unusually well.

Luckily, last Friday, I also was able to attend a roundtable interview with T.I. at the lavish St. Regis Hotel. who was still in Houston after the red carpet screening of Takers the previous night. He told us that he was originally only offered an acting role in Takers but upon giving his two cents about the script to producers he was also given some creative control and his credit as producer. The film is the first of a three movie deal with Sony cinema subsidiary Screen Gems in which T.I. will get to both produce and act. He hinted to us that the next movie will be some kind of romantic comedy involving the music industry, an image which is surprisingly tender for the King of the South. In addition to his cinematic projects, his upcoming album King Uncaged, and his new partnership with Rémy Martin cognac, T.I. is also managing his A.K.O.O. clothing line which was launched in 2008 and it is, according to him, doing very well even during the current recession.

A strong, no nonsense, gangster flick, that doesn't pretend to be anything else, make sure not to skip out on Takers. It comes out the 27th of August and the conclusion is anything but the standard, predictable Hollywood fare.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Behold Houston! Ghoulfest!

Free Press Summer Fest in June was a smash hit bringing acts like the Flaming Lips and Girl Talk to the Bayou City but on October 30th we have the good fortune of another excellent music festival by the name of Ghoulfest. Headlining acts include eccentric Texas legend Daniel Johnston, reggae punk legends Bad Brains, Fischerspooner, Hot Chip and many more high profile performers. Up until Monday I'd heard absolutely nothing about the festival but stumbled upon it while combing Houston Press. It doesn't look like the event has an official website beyond myspace but with a lineup like this I'm sure it's only a matter of time. I'll keep tabs on it. I am extremely excited. What I do know, at this juncture, is that tickets will cost 35 dollars and that the show will be at Tom Bass Park. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Talking marine biology and fruit sacrifice with Darwin's Finches

Last week I talked to Justin, front man of Galveston/Houston, garage rock band, Darwin's Finches for a whopping three hours at Agora and had a great time in the process. I won't bother to transcribe the two hours of audio I got before I cut it off but what I thought would be a straight forward, run-of-the-mill, half hour interview turned out to be something much more interesting.

Coming from a very musical family but not having a lot of serious musical training himself, Justin, comparing himself to his pianist brother chuckled, "yeah, my brother actually knows what he's doing". Essentially teaching himself, he related to me the band's beginnings in Galveston and his frustration with playing in a city that was overly fond of cover bands. Being a native of Houston, Justin ventured down to Galveston when he was younger and told me about the interesting characters, many being vagabonds and eccentrics that he met while on the coast. Going back and forth between Houston and Galveston, ever since Ike, Justin's youth has been an eventful one consisting of art, couch surfing, and odd jobs. For someone not even thirty years old, Justin has had one of the most interesting lives I've come across. Being raised by his grandparents, Justin explained that the album's title came from a funny "grandpa-ism" wherein his grandfather would tell him stories using the name Old Skatillivich for characters "I don't think old Skatillivich was ever just one person," Justin explained " he'd say 'One time me and Old Skatillivich were. . .' when he was telling me stories".

Later, Justin told me about their CD release a few weeks ago (that I missed, regrettably) for their official debut album Old Skatillivich and something he described as fruit sacrifice, "Me and the drummer collected a bunch of fun fruits from Asia and the guy from Walter's was like 'next time don't bring so much stinky fruit'. I just had it sitting on a table was encouraging people to try things like mangosteens. The whole fruit thing started one time in league city near this little community theater and i used to get these huge watermelons at this gas station nearby and we'd draw faces on them and stab them with our instruments and smash them." We then talked about how important it was to be a little weird as a band and how much it could add to the music when people were willing to depart from the normal, just a bit.

The other thing Justin told me was about his passion for animals, particularly birds and sea creatures. Having held different jobs working with animals, even at Moody Gardens, he told me different stories about the exhibits and how much he enjoyed working alongside them. Lately, Justin works at the restaurant in the downtown aquarium, cleaning out the tanks and swimming with the fish.

Darwin's Finches latest album can be purchased at Domy Books next to Cafe Brasil, off of Westheimer. I've had the album in my car CD player for a month now and it doesn't look like it's going anywhere. It's the Cramps meets the White Stripes only better.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Go get lost in some Woods

Folk doesn't necessarily evoke feelings of excitement for most people which is understandable given the rootsy, no-nonsense yet lo-fi characteristics of most folk artists. There's a plethora of excellent folk out there but it doesn't always grab you in the same way a really crazy, out-there, indie band has the power to do. However, the other day I stumbled upon a band that I would definitely call folksy (and at times lo-fi) that is really different. Combine acoustic guitars, strangely high vocals, the occasional electric guitar solo, and some interesting tape effects you'll get freak folk band Woods. The near falsetto singing reminds me almost of the fantastic, freaky-deek, Philadelphia, indie band Man Man yet a bit more accessible.
Songs of Shame is the name of the 2009 LP that first exposed me to this excellent band but I hear they also have a new LP out as well. I'll have to find that sometime soon. If you're interested in the band I'd direct you to the songs "September with Pete" which is a groovy psych jam with lots of lush reverb and the close to as psychedelic but catchier "The Hold".