Sunday, December 30, 2012

Preview: My Gold Mask - "Leave me Midnight"

Although Warpaint have fallen out of the spotlight since their 2010 release "The Fool", they have proven that the world is ready for more dark, female-fronted rock bands. After all, the buzz earned them considerable attention from critics and actual air time on MTV: a network that almost never plays rock videos anymore (let alone videos at all). That has to count for something.

My Gold Mask's front-woman is drawing from the same dark pool of inspiration as Warpaint's Emily Kokal and even The Raveonette's Sharin Foo. Cavernous drumming is paired with the echoing, pitch-shifted guitar which ends up sounding like calypso drums being played inside an airplane hangar. The music sounds larger than life. It also sounds amazingly tribal and primitive. The echoing vocals are evocative of a group of monks belting out plainsong inside a giant cathedral. 

The full album will drop in February. If the timing proves to be good, and the music is dispersed in just the right way,  My Gold Mask could definitely make a big splash. Their sound is sombre and mysterious enough to stick out in a sea of new releases this year but close enough to a paradigm we know has worked in the past.

"Nightfalls" has the album's strongest introduction. Feeling much like Patti Smith's "Because the Night", it demonstrates real hook-writing. "I, Animal" also has an amazing intro hook that makes it immediately distinct. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Taco Leg - Taco Leg

[These chaps are from Australia and, as far as I'm concerned, they pretty much came out of thin air. The only buzz that led me to the band was a short Pitchfork review. I avoided the band for days because of how terrible the name is but then I caved to curiosity. I won't waste any time quipping about how stupid the band name is. It is a stupid band name. Haha. I'm so clever for recognizing what is manifestly true. Ok, so I got that out of the way. Now, let's go to the review.]

Taco Leg's music could have come straight out of the 80s. Gritty production, gritty instrumentation, combined with gritty, bored, pissed off, working-man's-blues-type-lyrics all point to real authenticity. Many bands struggle for years to pull off that kind of hard-to-fake credibility. The only downside to being so true to life is the fact that, naturally, the product isn't all that glamorous.

While the lyrics are good, and there is a delicious, toe-tappingly simple punk beat, Taco Leg's songs sound like kind of trudge for the people actually playing the music. There is always an irascibility and a sneering to punk but in this case, they sound like they really don't want to be recording, at all. They sound like they would rather be smoking pot, sleeping, or as the front man complains in "Shut it Down", "I wished I'd stayed home and watched TV." 

This is definitely a valid expression of the "fuck you, world" punk ethic and they are certainly not the first to do it, but when combined with the lackadaisical vocals, it might lead some reviewers and critics to actually believe that Taco Leg really don't give a fuck at all, musically. While the band probably does care deeply about what they're doing, some reviewers are inevitably going to feel like they're being fucked with and are going to crap all over Taco Leg's efforts. In a commercial sense, this is going to be a constant frustration for them but in a punk sense: it's pure gold. Something in Taco Leg is stirring up strong feelings, especially in their detractors [if I were an illiterate idiot I would have said "haters" here].

But back to the actual judgment of their debut: while it is good fun, an amazing record it is not. It feels really good to listen to and is full of energy but the stripped-down production and stuttery guitar playing will make lots of people turn it off. This doesn't mean Taco Leg won't succeed by the power of pure determination [and I really hope they do] but this is not Wire 2.0 [as much as I want it to be]. But as debuts go, and many go much worse than this, it is a promising start. [TRANSLATION: Taco Leg, PLEASE keep making more music, just don't get comfy yet]

1. Shut it Down 
2. Kid Legs
3. Hide 

Friday, December 21, 2012

2012 year-end: albums I missed

I am turning over a new leaf here. I would say that I am recovering from a case of acute musical Attention Deficit Disorder. I used to try pretty hard to keep up with the newest releases and roll out blog entries to address them. Yet, this year, I've strayed a lot. I start listening to new music from labels I like, from artists I admire, with the intent to review, but I never do. If you go back in time on the blog's Facebook fan page, you'll see more than one apology for spottiness and consistency issues.

Two weeks ago, I started my first full-time job at World Oil magazine, and it's given a structure to my life that I've lacked since I left college last May. So now I plan to return to regular entries for good, mostly capitalizing on my lunch breaks and a quiet, new, working environment where I can actually write in peace.

Here are a few albums I discovered at the tail end of 2012. When I say discovered, I mean that I finally sat down and listened to them in full. Most of these, with the exception of Metz, I've know about for a long time.

Hopefully, next year, I will have a much shorter, top 10 blog post of albums that I've already reviewed. Since I've already quit smoking this year, maybe being more committed to this blog can be my resolution. See you in 2013.

Frank Ocean - channel ORANGE

I picked this up, quite literally, just 15 minutes ago, and I am in love. I love R&B in general but to a large extent, it's been pushed out of the top 40 by hip-hop. Soul and R&B used to be the predominate forms of popular black musical expression before rap and even though today hip-hop still contains shreds of soul still, I feel like, in general, that's becoming less and less true. This is not a dig at hip-hop, I just happen to be far more a fan of R&B/soul. So naturally, I was extremely surprised when I discovered just how soul-oriented channel ORANGE actually is. 

Normally, Beyonce is the closest the mainstream gets to picking up good R&B (well, we also had the fantastic "Alabama Shakes" explode this year too, I guess) and I think Beyonce is vastly overrated and she annoys the hell out of me. She's soul-lite. You've got Usher too, who actually doesn't particularly bother me, but his songwriting is so modern and radio-oriented that it's hard to enjoy his fabulous voice. Frank Ocean, however, is the real deal. Although the album is experimental and by no means a work of pure R&B, Ocean's voice shines through the mix and is the centerpiece of the music. That is a hallmark of work normally from the golden age of soul: magnificent vocals are king and everything else is either accompaniment or just plain ancillary. No throbbing synth tones or the now ever-present utz utz utz to poppify things.

I won't go into specifics since basically everyone else has already listened to this album, I just wanted to make it clear that it goes on my list.

Tame Impala - Lonerism

Chillwave died off (or at least went into a kind of extended coma) around the same time Cut Copy's "Zonoscope" debuted, two summers ago. The mellow psych revival has now been out of the spotlight for some time and 2012's biggest moments, if you ask the critics, were largely Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean. However, the success and overall positive reception of Tame Impala's Lonerism has allowed a bit of the old (Zonoscope seems like such a long time ago now), familiar, chillwave warmth to seep back into many magazines'/websites'/blogs' year-end lists

Building on a very obviously Beatles-esque aesthetic framework, Tame Impala's music has mellowed out considerably from their sometimes hard-rocking debut. It's almost like going from The Who's Live at Leeds to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. There are still the flawless, 60s rock, vocal harmonies but they are rarely disturbed by loud guitar or modern-sounding lead melodies. Instead the guitar is delicately poured on, along with phased out synths, and even a little grand piano. 

"Elephant" is the only time the volume ever goes up with its chugging, palm-muted chorus but even that turns, with the help of a warbling organ, into a colorful psychedelic romp. There's even a riff that sounds like it was lifted right out of "Money" but if it was, it was definitely more homage than hubris.

The bridge in "Sun's Coming Up" and all of the heart-breaking "Why won't they talk to me?" are the album's highlights.

Mac Demarco - 2

Demarco has restored my faith in "indie-rock". For the past few years, I've steered pretty clear of any up-and-coming "indie" band who exhibited too much levity and playfulness because in my experience, lately that's become a clever disguise for having shite songwriting or technical abilities.

WARNING: the next graph is a diatribe and has nothing to do with the album review. Read at your own risk.

[Best Coast is probably the clearest example. It's as if their music was written to project: "oh yeah, we're minimal because that's just who we are and somehow you're supposed to gather from this that we're very stylized and original when really there's almost nothing complex or compelling going on in our songs". You can see that stupid crap in action right here. They manage to take a mysterious, moody, tension-filled, song and dumb it down to such horrifying vapidity that it sounds like it was written, on a sunny day, inside an Urban Outfitters, specifically for an Apple commercial. They would call that juxtaposition of a dark-ish song and peppy music "ironic" (secretly of course, not publicly) but I would call that offensive and bad. To avoid this problem, I've stuck largely to heavi-er, weirder, darker music. There are poseurs here too, but somehow when I encounter them, it's less annoying to me.]

The lighter side of rock, what some people would call twee pop, has plenty of valid music, I just get easily irritated by cliches, and I tend to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Anyway, Mac Demarco appeals to all of the things I like in competently written "indie" music: first, a sufficient complexity to suggest that it's not meant to be ironic and that actual effort went into it and at least a dash of seriousness at points to show that there is some real emotion invested in it. Mac has both of these things in addition to a voice, that when combined with the music, reminds me of sadcore visionary Mark Kozelek of the Red House Painters. Some of the lyrics are iffy at points but the entire experience is so enjoyable, I find it pretty easy to forgive him. The typical palette on the album is drums, bass, Mac's sleepy vocals, and his shimmering chorus-bathed guitar playing. Mac is a very decent musician, producing, on "2", more than a few stellar licks. 

"Cooking up Something good" and "Freaking out the Neighborhood" are the best examples of universally appealing Demarco songs from this album.

Metz - METZ

For a year with very few moments of musical excitement, Metz gave us something special.
Actually, the kind of exhilaration I got from their debut is similar to my feelings on Ceremony's 2012 release, Zoo. Yet the theme of this post is going to be great music that passed me by throughout the year so I won't talk about Zoo, I actually reviewed that one.

Metz are similar to Ceremony given their post-hardcore genre and penchant for passionately noisy rock with a punk energy. Metz are definitely more noisy than Ceremony. If Ceremony is evocative of post-punk legends Wire, Metz would be more like Pussy Galore but with more yelling and doom. Notably, Metz is very fond of using (and perhaps abusing, depending on who you ask) feedback and amplifier chatter as texture. Lyrics are hard-to-make-out but are not screamed.

Overall the record is a little repetitive but it's so enthusiastically executed that that matters little, which I guess you could say of punk, in general. The dissonant vamping in "sad pricks" is the album's highlight and a good overall summary of Metz energy. I expect Metz, along with younger bands like Iceage, to be instrumental in coming years.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Jandek - Atlanta Saturday

It is always an occasion when Houston's mysterious, bearded bard releases a new album. There's never any notice and absolutely no promotion. I only find out when my inbox is filled with a deluge of chain emails from the Jandek mailing list about first impressions and song meanings. People have a tendency to hit "reply all" in the fan club so it is literally impossible to ignore the emails when something like that occurs in the world of Jandek. 

Atlanta Saturday was recorded in Georgia in 2007 and is a surprisingly serene and harmonic addition to the Jandek discography. Instead of playing his electric guitar, as is customary, Sterling sits down at the piano. The representative is accompanied by bells, strings, and what sounds like an oboe. Much of the performance is a quiet but lively modern classical style, pregnant with such pomp and gravitas that even its seeming joviality is loaded with precarious emotion: a sound that brings Philip Glass to mind. Sterling and his vocals seem more invested in the performance than usual. What typically sounds aloof and neurotic about his voice instead this time sounds vulnerable, sincere, and ready to share some unnamed grief or burden. 

He plunks steadily and rather harmoiously on the piano until "Part 6" which devolves into a chaotic whirlwind of simultaneous, seemingly unrelated melodies coming from each instrument and ramming forcefully into each other. But somehow there is still a sense of sharing and collaboration. Around minute 8 of this longest and most interesting track, Sterling comes unhinged again and descends into the old, familiar, depression and turmoil, "I just got so tired of it all. I'd rather stare at the bland oasis, the barren track of silence ambles the pictures passing by." Final tracks, 7 and 8, leave the listener with more beautiful, safe, classical improvisation and Sterling crooning once again in a more subdued manner.

It's a great treat for die-hard fans like me and wouldn't be a horrific place for Jandek newbies to get their feet wet. Getting ones' self used to the subtleties and strange beauty of Jandek is like boiling a frog alive: it must be done gradually or the subject will inevitably jump out and away.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Brian Eno - Lux

"Lux" is a far more quiet and subdued album than 2010's "Small Craft on a Silk Sea". The latter seemed hastily assembled and lacking in cohesion. Manic glitch instrumentals were mixed in with quiet ones, trip-hop mingled with ambiance but there was no common thread to tie them together, it seemed. "Lux" is far more faithful to Eno's past and abilities. 

While it's not as depressive as albums like "Low" (on which Eno collaborated with Bowie) it does have the same ring of kraut-rock spaciness and certainly conjures up the moody gravitas of instrumentals like "Warszawa". Pianos, strings,
quiet synth pads, meld together to create a delicate melancholy Johnny Greenwood only wishes he could.
[DISCLAIMER: I really do like Johnny Greenwood a lot.]

There is no aimless screwing around with new technology on "Lux". While it would have sounded a little different because of the technology available, this album could have been made back in Eno's golden years (no Bowie pun intended). The music sounds timeless rather than timely and the former is definitely a stronger quality.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Pledge just 10 dollars for some truly rare tracks

Yesterday, Helios Creed of Chrome set up a PledgeMusic page to collect contributions for the release of a dozen or so previously vaulted Chrome songs. A 10 dollar pledge buys you a copy of "Half Machine from the Sun" when it is released and access to exclusive news on all progress.

In addition to the minimum 10 dollar pledge, there are some pretty cool bonuses if you have the money to spend. Some of these kickers include a Skype chat with Helios, original artwork, signed merch and more. For anyone picks bonus options the 10 minimum will be waived.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Free Chrome download

I got a message via Facebook this morning from Helios Creed of legendary San Francisco noise-rock band Chrome telling me and other fans about a free download. 

The simple but satisfying "Something Rhythmic" includes the rare vocal combination of both Helios and the late Damon Edge. The mix is rough and sounds fresh off the cutting room floor. It's truly a treat. 

Here's the link.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Who - Live at Hull

Live at Hull contains long-out-of-print live material recorded shortly after the legendary Live at Leeds gig. The original Live at Leeds track list is comprised of early standards and covers but no Tommy material. Hull, recorded a day after, included some then-favorites (like "Happy Jack") and a complete performance of Tommy. 

However, because of recording issues and (according to Wikipedia) a troubling lack of bass, Hull never saw an official release until some of it (not all) was included exclusive special edition release of . .Leeds. The problem with John Entwistle's bass track on some songs was later fixed using a bold production technique first dubbed "xenochrony", by the late Frank Zappa. The neologism combines the Greek words for different (xenos) and time (kronos). Bass tracks from certain performances at Leeds were overdubbed onto their corresponding counterpart songs on Hull. This is done so seamlessly that it gives the illusion of a second shot at recording the bass tracks again in real time.

So this is the ultimate completionist's dream and aside from "Live at Isle of Wight" it's the only golden-age, live, recordings of Tommy available to the masses.


[NOTE: despite my predilections for post-punk, The Who will ALWAYS remain my favorite band of all time.] 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

News from My Bloody Valentine

When did "Loveless" even come out? I had to check. It feels like decades since Irish noise band My Bloody Valentine has released anything. "Loveless" came out in 91? So it has been decades. Anyway, Kevin Shields, MBV's main creative force said today that the follow-up to "Loveless" will be out by the end of the year. What a complete shock. Given how even shitty start-up bands promote even their most minor accomplishments to death these days this is practically no early notice whatsoever, especially from such an influential musician.

Although it's not really related to the most recent news, I do want to add one more thing. It seems to me that other than The Smiths, MBV is the band most frequently name-checked by young musicians (and audiophiles) grasping for straws to demonstrate credibility, whether it be to interviewers or yelled loudly and drunkenly to their stupid, poser friends at loud, crowded, bars and clubs. And this is a shame because MBV created something truly unique to be cheapened by such shallow behavior but I guess when you do something good, everyone wants a piece of
your glory. Well, a new album means more people will jump on the bandwagon but it also means a generation of new listeners.

Keep an eye out for torrents or leaks and let me know if you find anything. Email is on the sidebar.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Spanish Donkey - XYX

I've recently discovered a wonderful resource for experimental music called "Signal to Noise": a bi-annual magazine devoted strictly to unusual music ranging from free-jazz to harsh, tonality barren music from people like Merzbow. 

The Spanish Donkey is a band I came across for the first time because of this lovely niche publication. Almost no bio is available on the project and as of 2012 there is only one album available, "XYX". A cursory Google search informs me that the band shares a name with a medieval torture device (read here for all the delightful details).

First track, "Mid-Evil", starts off with spastic but not entirely un-musical electric guitar noodling over a warbling waveform drone. The guitar's initial tonality provides the piece with an ambiguous position between the poles of light and dark but it inevitably takes a turn for that darker pole.After sixty or so seconds of tangled duet between guitar and synth a skilled but frenetic drummer makes himself known, providing fills that like the guitar dance between structure and chaos. In the last ten minutes there arrives the at-first sinister but essentially light-bearing, jazzy, tones of an organ.

"XYX" sees the synth become far more prominent and loud, in an oddly normal way, making use of measured-sounding whole notes and surprisingly traditional tonality. The guitar becomes more jazzy but no less weird. Drumming on this track builds from quiet accompaniment to rolling
thunder: a very obvious 20+ minute crescendo.
"XYX" succeeds beautifully because it provides open minded listeners with interesting sonic experimentation held together by the glue of intermittent bursts of tonal sense and structure. The whole thing comes across as very moody without being terribly deliberate. This is definitely on the more accessible end of experimental music without being too predictable.



1 "Mid-Evil" 37:36
2 "XYX" 22:18

Northern Spy, 2011

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Killers - Battle Born

"Day and Age" had an intensely modern and electronic feel. "Human" is probably the song which best evokes that feeling: galloping, swooshing, gated synths with guitar as mere accent to a Dolbyesque sound-scape for tomorrow. Battle Born sees the guitar return with a vengeance. 

Moments like the title track show that The Killers have not completely thrown out rootsier tones in favor of pure synth-pop. There is a strong arena-rock feel woven throughout the album, even at the points where guitar is absent. Shades of Eagles, shades of Bob Seger, and
add that to the underlying fact that Brandon Flowers already has a hint of Roy Orbison to him when he's really belting it out. "From here on Out" even makes The Killers sound like Springsteen, momentarily. 

There was no guarantee that The Killers would age so gracefully. "Day and Age" made it sound dangerously likely that they might end up alienating fans with the next album.
Change can be good but fans are fickle. "Battle Born" offers something that will wow the fan-base and demonstrate to skeptics that The Killers have a firm grasp on rock and
are not flash-in-the-pan posers whose musical act has collapsed under the weight of its own glam, glitter.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The XX's next move

The XX were a paradigm shift for sure. When their music hit the streets it was the aesthetic equivalent of being hit in the face with an ice cold bucket of water. The stark sound-scapes and simple, economical beats created a new benchmark for minimalism in contemporary rock music. Given the dazzle of modern production, it's always obvious when an artist eschews it. There's a sonic
hole left.

Their latest album is available to be streamed and I'm still digesting its contents. It's clear that it's at least as good as their debut but still I'm waiting to be blown away. I love it for all the same reasons I love the debut. The quiet beauty, the blase attitude, the calm. 

A wider palette of sound is used on this one, incorporating piano, more percussion, and even synth. This is a good sign. I was a little worried that whatever they did next would be built on the premise of having to remain as sparse as their debut, to the point of gimmickry. My favorite track is "Reunion" with its bright calypso against the song's otherwise pitch black background.

Here's the URL. Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Antony and the Johnsons - Cut the World

Antony Hegarty's band has always been self-described as baroque-pop. Normally that label is pretentious and meaningless but with them it fits pretty well. Baroque, when applied properly, signifies Phil Spector-ian walls of sound but of course less mo-town and more orchestral. Strings, oboes, trumpets etc. but this is normally combined with rock.

"Cut the World" takes the Johnsons from pop-rock with a generous amount of baroque flourish to full-blown opera. Every second of the album pulsates with crescendo and decrescendo, drama, and a complete abandon for the cool, detached, restraint that modern music normally employs. The weighty lyrics/themes hit listeners over the head in the same way; plenty of LGBT alienation and suffering, lamentation over gender roles, and an outright monologue about being persecuted ("Future Feminism").

It is beautiful and majestic but almost too saturated with sorrow and melancholy to listen to all in one sitting. Antony Hegarty takes himself very seriously here and if I were able to tell him that at times it sounds pretty sappy, he would probably come swinging. More than anything, it's the monologue that does it and the fact that all the previous albums have been equally depressive while saying all of the exact same things. 

"The Cripple and Starfish" is another example. "I'm very very happy, so please hurt me"? Too much, Mr. Hegarty. It would have been more satisfying to hear more of Antony the Triumphant instead of always Antony the Conquered. Enjoy this one in bite-sized pieces for full effect.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Purity Ring - Shrines

When I saw Gobble Gobble open for Baths last year I thought they were going places. Home-made  electronic percussion, day-glo synth-pop, and intensely interactive shows, how could you not draw positive attention even in this age of increasingly histrionic musicians? Well, I've heard little from Gobble Gobble since then but two of its members are making music headlines with their gothic trip-hop side-project: Purity Ring. 

I'd heard about their music from friends who'd seen them open for Neon Indian but after being unable to find any of their songs online I just kind of forgot about them. Well, their debut "Shrines" only came out on the 24th of July and it's receiving 9s and 10s from critics everywhere (and an 8 from Pitchfork which is almost better than a 9 or a 10 anywhere else).

I was nearly as enthusiastic when I first blasted "Crawlersout" through the speakers of my car (windows up). Throbbing bass, break-beat down tempos, castanet-timbered hi-hat rhythms over saccharine-sweet female lyricists; add bassy chopped and screwed backup vocals. However, as the album drew on it became clear to me that this had already been done before, stylistically anyway. It's called SALEM. And this is not as much of a dig as it sounds like. 

I really enjoy the music but since I know about the witch-house (invoking that pseudo-genre with tongue firmly planted in cheek) darlings SALEM, it doesn't pose as much of a paradigm-shift. Zola Jesus and Picture-Plane have also already charted this territory. Although, the sweet almost bubble-gum delivery of the vocals does bring something to the table that none of Purity Ring's predecessors have. Good stuff, just not as earth-shatteringly clever as some people might think. I definitely will try my hardest to attend a show the next opportunity I get.

Entry points: "Crawlersout", "Shuck", "Amenamy", "Fineshrine"

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Place to Bury Strangers - Worship

This album hasn't received the greatest reviews and I can't understand why. I think that most critics (even the ones who beat up on APTBS as of late) will agree that "Worship" is far-better executed than "Onwards to the Wall".  Maybe people are upset that on this album there are still no follow-ups to "In the Shadow of your Heart" or the super-accessible "Exploding Head" but as far as an offering in goth or noise-rock genres, I don't see how you could be too disappointed with this album. 

The Pitchfork review had a quote of something to the effect that the band doesn't know their way around a pop song but newsflash, this isn't fucking pop music. With indie and twee and electro-pop being as important as they are right now in rock there seems to be an over-enshrining of rock based on pop structures of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Pop song-writing shouldn't be the standard by which EVERY artist's work is judged.

The is album is everything that people expect from the band: driving bass-lines, a constant presence of ambient darkness, and foggy, blurry, vocals at the back of the mix. Noise-rock is anti-pop. It shatters conventional musical organization and has no real chart-toppers to give it that mooring to pop.

Best songs are "Alone", the unusually quiet and controlled "Fear", and "Worship" which reminds me very much of Joy Division's "Dead Souls" and makes me want head-bang just as hard.

Friday, August 3, 2012

FoolsFest: donate by August 13th!

I got an email in my inbox a few weeks ago about something called FoolsFest and honestly,
 my first response was, “great, another Texas festival”. I love music and consequently music
 festivals but these days it seems like everyone wants to start their own and there are plenty
 of casualties: festivals you hear about one year and then never again. 
But unlike a lot of others,  Mark's event puts an unusually strong emphasis on community and a 
unified festival experience. And as an added bonus, it barely has no ties to imperious corporate
sponsors; if it works, it will be one of the world's first crowd-sourced festivals.

What exactly is it about those European festivals you attended that you
think created such a sense of community?

European & British style music festivals have at their core an amazing sense
of history behind them; Glastonbury (the largest greenfield festival in the
world) began in 1970, Roskilde (the largest fest in northern Europe) in
1971, Reading (officially) in 1971, and Rockwerchter in 1975; just 4
examples. What this has created is a shared history of music festivals. You
have so many music festivals that have existed for such a long time that
people have grown up with them and when you attend one of these events you
get to commune with people who have been going for years or decades.
The other huge piece of community is that 90% of the time you're camping at
these festivals. Most festivals are not in major cities and therefore your
fellow campers are your're creating a village of music
lovers. Very few festival attendees stay in cities outside the festival; in
my opinion this is because of the ease of camping (many festivals offer free
transport and all that I know of offer free camping and parking) and the
friendliness of your fellow campers.
For instance...I went to the V festival just east of Northern Wales...I was
there by myself and set up my tent near a couple who looked nice enough,
shortly after a pair of girls set up their tent next to us. After we set
everything up we introduced ourselves and chatted about who we were
interested in seeing and discussed specific artists that we'd seen before
and what festivals we'd attended. Of the 5 of us, none of us had been to V
but all but 1 had been to a major music festival before. We related with
each other because we were all there camping for 4 nights. Being neighbors
we shared our experiences.
The 5 of us ended up spending most of the weekend together, adding
additional friends here-and-there during different times and separating from
the group when we wanted to experience something that the rest didn't. This
wasn't a onetime occurrence, every festival in the UK & Europe I've attended
I met people from different walks of life, whether I initially came alone or
with a group.

Festivals have been popping up all over the place for the past few years.
Some have come and gone (Houston's GhoulFest for example). What makes
FoolsFest something special enough to outlast other new festivals?

There are alot of events out there, and certainly in the past 3 years it has
become quite a challenge to keep track of them all. In my mind there are a
few really amazing music festivals in the US that are similar to the
European events, but there certainly aren't enough when you look at the
number of people in the country.
FoolsFest is not only an event but is an escape from every day life, the
mundane. The scene is set in the beauty of Texas ranch land in the spring.
It's a place where the only rule is to obey the laws of the land and leave
all judgments at the door. The sense of community, size and plethora of
unique entertainment sets FoolsFest apart.
FoolsFest is set in the country to allow for not only community but space.
The festival is built upon three times the amount of acreage that a typical
festival facilitating 80,000 people per day would hold. It is about movement
and freely being able to enjoy the environment and what interests each
individual attendee.
FoolsFest will have 6+ music stages with a wide variety and caliber of
artists. It's about showcasing some of the most popular bands of the time,
showcasing bands you have always wanted to see and never had the opportunity
and introducing you to new bands that have amazing talent, just haven't
found their place.
FoolsFest is equally about introducing the attendees to new forms of
entertainment & art. It is about having surprises and unique things around
every corner. Imagine walking to see one of your favorite bands and finding
a poi dancer or leaving the main stage to go to your tent at night and
seeing the sky filled with sky lanterns floating overhead.
The end goal of FoolsFest is to have people leave saying "I am so tired, I
can't wait to come back next year." I want to create an experience for
people where they're so exhausted from fun that they cannot wait to come
back. I've gotten to experience amazing festivals because I've made the
journey to the UK, for some people that isn't feasible.

This is a gigantic undertaking. How long ago did you start the
nuts-and-bolts planning of this event?
I've been working on FoolsFest for just over 5 years, however it has been a
lifelong journey with a career working behind the scenes in the
entertainment industry and fully understanding what turns an event into an
experience. It certainly is a gigantic undertaking, but I know it is worth
The amount of money that a festival like this costs is massive. Most people
cannot imagine how much some of their favorite bands cost...and when you get
10-20 major touring artists plus 75-100 smaller artists you're looking at
enormous expenses. The cost to put Foolsfest together is not only in the
artists, it is also in setting up an infrastructure and creating a whimsical
environment. To achieve such a feat does not come at a small price.
Have you encountered any haters yet?

Most people I've spoken to or have posted about FoolsFest have been positive
about the event and excited to have something of this magnitude come to
Texas. People have been shocked with the amount of money that I'm attempting
to raise (and that's the only negative that I've gotten). Lots of people
don't think it's possible. It definitely is a challenge and I'm aware that
the odds are against me, however I am passionate that FoolsFest is something
that is needed in the US. My passion is about giving people the European
festival experience close to home.
If you don't reach your goal on Kickstarter will the show still go on, at
least in some capacity?
I cannot say that I'll be creating a smaller version of FoolsFest if the
Kickstarter campaign doesn't reach it's goal. Part of the reason that I
decided to use Kickstarter to raise the funds for FoolsFest is because I
felt that if the festival was funded by people who were truly passionate
about music and having a unique experience that I would begin to create the
community feel that is so essential to FoolsFest. The attendees would be
able to come to the festival and say, "I helped to create this." These
people would begin the FoolsFest legacy and be essential to creating a
festival like those in Europe that stand the test of time.
In order for the true vision of FoolsFest to remain it needs to be created
on a grand scale. If the Kickstarter goal is not reached I still plan to
work towards finding the funding to create the vision and bring FoolsFest to

How can people donate to help make this festival a possibility?
For those who are not familiar with Kickstarter, it is a crowdfunding
website. The great thing about it is that people make pledges and in return
receive unique perks that are not available once the festival is funded. The
pledges don't turn into contributions until the festival reaches its funding
goal. So, no one who pledges will be charged until August 20th and they are
only charged if we reach our goal. Pledges range anywhere from $1 to
$10,000. People can go to and search FoolsFest to view the
One final thing I wanted to point out, is that we've gotten a great response
from one of our Kickstarter rewards. For a $50 pledge, the backer has the
opportunity to buy 1 FoolsFest ticket per year for only $100 (this is a
LIFETIME rate). These backers get their ticket reserved for them at $100
each festival year.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Flaming Lips - Heady Fwends

This is not your average collaboration album. From beginning to end it sounds like The Flaming Lips. The album's narrative doesn't get hi-jacked by each of the collaborating forces. 

Normally collaboration-themed albums fractures the style of the principle artist. Blunders like DJ Shadow's 2006 collaboration effort "The Outsider" come to mind. It was a full-on sonic war, the collaborators fought viciously and no one really emerged as the winner. The is similar to Yankee's Law, which I named for the catastrophic super-group failure Damn Yankees. When one combines the creative forces of 2 or more commercially and or artistically successful entities there is a division or subtraction of talent rather than an addition or multiplication. Some high-profile collaboration efforts buck that trend but normally that's a surprise, not the rule. 

The real reason this album succeeds is that at no point do the Flaming Lips succumb to the temptation to do silly cross-over numbers that no one wants to hear.

Collaborations on here are done largely with fellow rock artists who have their own stylized way of doing things (sorry Kings of Leon). I was bracing myself for a catastrophic hip-hop breakdown but that never came. Best collaborations include Prefuse 73, Plastic Ono Band, Bon Iver (who normally puts me to sleep), and lastly the electrifying Nick Cave. 

The only track that sounds a little ridiculous at first is the opener "2012" which is the product of working alongside Ke$ha. Now I have no beef with Ke$ha. She is super hot in my opinion and has the stage presence and musical sensibilities to write/perform some truly high energy pop. She's no Brian Wilson but still, as far as radio fare, she does a better-than-average job. But the track gets marred firstly because of the corny repetition of the dystopian "you must be upgraded". Then the song starts into this strange space-rock cabaret led by Ke$ha. It was the only track I hated the first time I listened but it gets better as it unfolds. The intro still remains questionable to me though upon further listening.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mission of Burma - Unsound

Before MoB released Unsound last month, I had no idea that they'd done any studio albums since they reunited in 02. Roger Miller's hearing has been in tatters since the mid 80s so I figured it was safe to just continue on with the assumption. Well, apparently this is their 4th since coming back together and it is heavy. 

To get a feel for the post-reunion albums I compared Unsound to 2009's "The Sound, The Speed, The Light" and the former is far heavier, rather than tending toward more harmonic, radio-friendliness as MoB can at some moments. If there's any song on here that sounds uncompromisingly like golden era Mission of Burma it's "Second Television"with it's over-the-top punk energy but clean guitars.

Other gems on here include "Fell-->H20" with chugging guitars, galloping bass lines, and doom-ridden lyrics. "What They tell Me" features something I never thought I would hear on a Mission of Burma album: horns. Somehow it works out pretty well and adds to the track's the power, however MoB, don't try this again. It surely can't work out this well a second time. "7's" also manages to conjure up a good classic MoB sound. 

Random closing thought, it's very pleasing to hear that MoB is still able to do those almost Who-like oohs and ahhs on certain tracks. What other punk or post-punk band does that? There's plenty of ohhhs but ooohs, now that's rare! It's part of the band's soul. Fantastic record and I cannot wait to see them play at Fitzgerald's in September.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

An open invitation to all my readers

Since late May, I've been working to get Houston's most famous outsider artist, Jandek, to play another Houston date this summer. Luckily, my friend Jonathan and I have been planning monthly music showcases and we already had one set up for July 12. On that date the representative from Corwood and an ensemble of two punk musicians will join together and make beautiful music

The event will be hosted at Mango's Cafe (403 Westheimer Road) and will be 7 dollars at the door. There will be no advance tickets. Lineup order is kind of up in the air with exception of the Jandek performance which will start at 8 o clock SHARP according to the representative. Come out and show your support for local Houston music and for the city's coolest enigma: Jandek!

RSVP to the Facebook event here.

The Presets finally showing signs of life again

I've always enjoyed The Presets. Even the overly-dramatic, machismo sophomore album "Apocalypso" had me bebopping. Although at points it got SO utterly priapic and silly-sounding that I was wondering if they were going to lose their coolness. However, flash forward four years to last Friday when their latest single "Youth in Trouble" was released. It's got a catchy, minimalist beat, (and thankfully no gimmicky appeals to mindless dubstep latecomers) but most importantly it sounds modern and dark, like their 2005 debut "Beams".

Watch the music video if you want; it's mostly a mish-mash of lo-fi psychedelia that I could take or leave. The song though, it's pretty good. It's off their third full-length "Pacifica" which will hit the streets in September.

And just as a general observation to provide more goth/post-punk context for my blog's overall theme (not that I always will) Julian Hamilton's vocals are totally Gothy sounding, now and previously.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

PiL - This is PiL

It surprised the hell out of me the other day, when I was working my shift in the Barnes and Noble music section, to discover a newly released Public Image Ltd. album in one of the boxes I was unpacking. The artwork was garishly bright and seemed like an odd choice but as soon as I got off work I looked it up on Rhapsody and discovered that despite having some strangely incongruous album art, PiL had some good new material. 

Now, my favorite PiL album is "Metal Box" and this is no metal box but overall, I enjoyed it. Starting out with some general comments, Lydon's voice does sound a bit more strained but it's been 20 years so I can certainly forgive him. As I've said, it's not as dark and experimental as some PiL material. He keeps it relatively light. The difference in sound is probably due to time and personnel changes. It's still very much PiL though, even though Jah Wobble still hasn't returned.
Title track, "This is PiL", bugged the hell out of me at first. It sounded like a naively headstrong hip-hop artist trying to pimp his crew and act cool. Lots of posturing. But then I realized after listening more that it's very true to Lydon's character. It's very manic sounding, like a crazy homeless guy screaming his lungs out at passersby at dirty, dilapidated bus-stop he's managed to take over. This is not a slight at Lydon. He has this ability explode with an uncontainable energy that will look loony to some people who don't dig PiL or post-punk; however, to me and many others, it's something to be admired.

"Human" is also a resounding success. Lydon waxes poetic about England and how he misses the way things used to be. That's kind of a brave thing for a punk to do, especially the punk who started out his career singing "Anarchy in the UK". Some of the best lyrics in the song:

It's like looking across the great divide
Trapped in a class system
It's pushed you all aside
All to the left, all to the right 

So Lydon manages to get nostalgic while acknowledging the past's problems at the very same time. Not to gush TOO much but who else can do that? Not a whole lot of people. 

There is one song that is awful, terrible, garbage though. It was a song that would not play for the longest time on my Rhapsody account. I had to find it on YouTube to make my experience complete and I almost wish I hadn't. "Lollipop Opera" goes a little too far for me into "non-rapper trying to rap" territory (think Anthony Kiedis). Maybe it will grow on me but it's hard to think it will with a title that sounds like it was chosen by Jeffree Star.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

More Jandek pt. 2

Now that Summer Fest is over I am officially back on my Jandek kick. I am doing another Jandek review medley for you today that should be helpful for anyone who is overwhelmed by his gigantic discography.

Glasgow Sunday
Many of the albums I'll be reviewing today are live ones. This, if I'm not mistaken, is Jandek's first recorded live performance and it is probably his first ever live public performance. It gets a little confusing because there also happens to be a "Glasgow Monday" as well as "Glasgow Friday" and it's not clear to me if Monday and Friday are in the same, next, or previous week. Anyway, on this one Jandek is joined by a bassist and drummer while he sings and plays a jangling discordant electric guitar. Like all of the live guitar albums that will follow, the listener will notice that the vocals are now far lower and far more guttural than the soft, high, pitches of early classics "Six and Six", or "Ready for the House". Highlights of the album are "Blue Blue World" and "Real Wild". This set up will define many of the live albums.

Glasgow Friday
Similar to Sunday. Possibly all the same musicians. Full of great songs. "These Kokomos" is probably the coolest track on here. Jandek takes a relatively stable drum and bass beat and spackles the spaces with a thin, wiry, funk. Rhythmically, it turns into something you could almost dance to. The real fun starts with the lyrics, however. "They shake me up, theeeeeeese Kokomooooooos! I explode! OOOOOOH! [. . .] I'm wallllking on Maynarrrd Street but these Kokomos didn't understand!" It sounds a bit more soulful than I'm accustomed to hearing and if I were there I definitely would be doing some serious head-banging. What are Kokomos, you ask? Fuck if I know. It's all part of some sort of vaguely discernible narrative though.

Maze of the Phantom
This one was released in 2012 and it is way different than anything I've ever heard. If I had to compare it to something else in the discog I might say it reminds me of "Where do you go from here" in the sense that it is very calm compared to "classic" Jandek but it still retains that extremely mysterious aura. 

The instrumentation seems to be cello, harp, synth, and operatic female vocals sung in an Eastern scale. I assume Jandek is probably playing the synth but it's hard to know more than that. If you're expecting Khartoum or guitar-hero Jandek then you'll find it anti-climactic but if you listen closely and relax you'll be able to appreciate its sombre beauty. And for once, the title of the album somehow seems to fit.