Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Mini-Album Reviews: Gomez, The Fcked Five, & Doveman

Gomez - How We Operate (Red Int/Red Ink)
Once again, Gomez delivers an incredibly strong set of perfectly crafted pop/rock tunes. In an era saturated with an ethic of "Retro-Imitation-As-Flattery," it’s sure refreshing to hear a band that's just concerned with being the best version of themselves. – Gabriel Burger

The Fcked Five – 22 (Self-release)
Loose, raw, and garagey like an Iggy & The Stooges funneled through drowsy surf rock, 60s spoken word, and god only knows what else... Sometimes almost too rare for taste, but often surprisingly easy on the ears. – Joe Fielder

DovemanThe Acrobat (Swim Slowly)
Like a sparser, slower, more whispery version of acts like Iron & Wine or Tom Waits, Doveman’s The Acrobat has several songs that feel perfect to listen to either just as dawn breaks or with the lights completely off in your apartment late at night. – Joe Fielder

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

New Releases Tuesday - 5/30

Not surprisingly, not much going on this New Releases Tuesday following the long holiday weekend. However, there are a couple of albums you may want to check out:

Boards of Canada - Trans Canada Highway [EP] (Warp)
As if there wasn't enough misconception about these guys being from the Great White North (they're actually Scottish), they've now named their latest release after a major highway there.
However, according to AllMusic, this is a "mini-concept LP" inspired by an actual trip by the Scottish brother duo in which they travelled from St. John's, Newfoundland to Victoria, B.C.
This six song EP includes the previously released album track "Dayvan Cowboy" plus four new tracks and a Dayvan remix.

Peeping Tom - S/T (Ipecac)
Yet another new project from Mike Patton (Faith No More, Tomahawk, Mr. Bungle, etc.), this album is reported to be have been six years in the making. Featuring collaborations from Amon Tobin, Bebel Gilberto, Massive Attack, Kool Keith and even Norah Jones, word on the street is that this is Patton's most accessible work since Faith No More.

Also this week...

Les Claypool - Of Whales and Woe (Prawn Song)
Herbert - Scale (K7)
Mikaela's Fiend - We Can Driving Machine (Strictly Amateur)
Modern Machines - Take It From Somebody (Dirtnap Records)

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Monday Show Low Down (Or "Are You There, Sauron? It's Me, Margaret.")

Man, be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home. I just got back from a week-long trip out to the east coast and it was practically like my girlfriend Christianne and I were on tour. Philly, Jersey, DC, NYC, and back within seven days? Whew...

I’d like to thank Josh (Pop Matters) Berquist, Brad (Radio Free Chicago) Knutson, and raconteur extraordinaire Gabriel Burger for posting on the site while I was gone. If you noticed a shocking surge in quality here on RFSL recently, it was because of the three of them.

So, regarding show updates... This Tuesday, Lavender Diamond and Let’s Go Sailing will open up for Bedroom Walls at the cd release party at The Troubadour, while across town at The Echo, the myth, the wonder, the legend that are Gil Mantera’s Party Dream will perform at Spaceland. This is the sort of decision that will haunt you forever. Extremely beautiful pop or... Well, you can just watch this video of Gil and co. in action and weigh the consequences for yourself.

Beyond that, Ship Collective bands Great Northern and Tigers Can Bite You have been added to the 6/23 show with Space Mtn and Climber at Spaceland. And Division Day has joined Austin’s Sound Team and Missouri’s Someone Still Loves You, Boris Yeltsin at The Troubadour on Thursday, June 15.

The following artists have also recently announced new dates for LA: The Raconteurs, Dengue Fever, Juana Molina, The Watson Twins, Matt Costa, Sleepy Jackson, The Bird and The Bee (Inara George and Greg Kurstin), Jose Gonzalez, Darker My Love, 8 Bit, Pop Levi, Eagle & Talon, Fairmona, Bunky (S.D.), The Fucked Five, Hawksley Workman, Nire, Gliss, Hella, The Advantage, Mike Viola, Death To Anders, Gran Ronde, Gliss, Anonymous, Mark Eitzel, Soul Asylum, and The Lovemakers.

Friday, May 26, 2006

See Eels with no strings attached

Tonight is the second night of Eels "warm up shows" at The Roxy before they hit the road for another tour of the globe. Oddly enough, they don't have a new album to promote and this will actually be the second world tour supporting 2005's Blinking Lights and Other Revelations. However, Eels ringleader and Silver Lake resident E notes, "Blinking Lights is a big album (33 tracks to be exact) and it deserves at least two world tours in its honor."

While last time around E brought a full string section to back him up on stage, this latest tour will feature a more conventional rock band line-up. "[Eels with Strings]was a great tour for us, but that was SO 2005," says E. We're into something a little different now." If you've never seen Eels before, make a point to go check out this show tonight. It seems like E is always touring in a different configuration of the band every time he takes Eels out on the road, yet he always seems to outdo himself from the time before.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Band of the Week: Tapes n Tapes

Sure. To a lot of people it might seem pretty late in the game to add my voice to the throng of folks heaping praise onto Minneapolis' Tapes N Tapes, but I had several friends from San Francisco visit me recently who'd never heard them, so I thought it was still worth talking them up a bit more.

I'll say it very plainly and inelegantly: If you haven't picked up their album The Loon, you should go do so right now.

It's one of the cds I've found myself coming back to most often this year. Some tracks on it are showers, others growers. Several songs like Insistor, Omaha, and Cowbell are immediately likeable, but ones like The Illiad and Jakov's Suite will likely come to nudge out the others as your favorites later on. And the songs on The Loon sound different enough from one another that it almost feels like you're listening to a mix cd sometimes.

I mean, take an album like Wolf Parade's Apologies to the Queen Mary and it's fantastic, but many of the tracks have a similar feel to them, so if you overplay one, you'll probably need to take a break on the whole shebang for awhile.

But with The Loon, there's enough variety that it holds up much longer. Some are reminiscent of The Pixies, the aforementioned Wolf Parade, and Broken Social Scene -- which is basically rarified air since you're talking about both one of the greatest indie rock bands ever and two acts responsible for some of the best albums of the last few years -- and others like no one else you can think of.

Originally a self-release, The Loon has been picked up by XL Records and should be easy to find both locally or online. So stop being so monocle-twirlingly contrary about "hyped bands" and snag it, so you have time to properly appreciate it before the band tours through here again in a few months.

Tapes N Tapes are playing on Friday, June 16 at The Echo with local heroes Cold War Kids. Tickets are $12, doors open at 8:30, and The Echo is found in the Echo Park neighborhood of LA at 1822 Sunset Blvd.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Quickie Album Reviews - The Twilight Singers, The Walkmen, & Cold War Kids

The Twilight Singers - Powder Burns
Within 50 seconds it becomes quite obvious that this is not your average album from The Twilight Singers. Infused with a sense of joy throughout, it becomes much less an indulgent postcard from the brilliant Greg Dulli’s post-Afghan wanderings, and much more a celebration of a real honest-to-goodness complete record. While no new musical ground may be broken, it doesn’t matter, this is probably his best work since Gentlemen and that’s worth every penny. - Gabriel Burger

The Walkmen - A Hundred Miles Off
Not seeming so anxious to impress, The Walkmen ease into an album that finally delivers on all the off-kilter promise of their debut. Making mood music for the internally conflicted, their fractured take on deconstructed rock proves as kinetic as it is considered. Defined by its woozy warble with a couple of outright sprints, A Hundred Miles Off is The Walkmen at their most confident, assured, and adventurous. - Josh Berquist

Cold War Kids - Up In Rags & With Our Wallets Full
Whittier, CA’s Cold War Kids serve up a damn tasty stew of pop/rock, flavored with seasonings ranging from the likes of Television, The Velvet Underground, classic French pop to full-blown gospel and dust-bowl folk. Very intelligent without pretension, it retains an emotional core that makes it much more approachable than a lot of other bands in their esoteric wake. With some of the smartest packaging I have seen in a long time, my advice is get on the bandwagon before the whole world finds out. - Gabriel Burger

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

New Releases Tuesday - 5/22

The Walkmen - Hundred Miles Off (Record Collection)
Album number three from the NYC indie rockers. Nothing here as powerful as "The Rat" or as catchy as "We've Been Had," but lead single "Louisiana"(recorded pre-Katrina) should give them another run at the top of the college rock charts this year.

Mission of Burma - The Obliterati (Matador)
The second studio album since their reunion in 2004 (and only third of full-length of their career), these 80's post-punk cult heroes have now produced as much material in the new millenium as they did in their original heyday.

Scott Walker - The Drift (4AD)
First record in 9 years from the legendary enigmatic avant-pop crooner.

Also this week...

Murder By Death - In Boca Al Lupo (Tent Show)
Don Peris Go When The Morning Shineth (Badman)
Ocrilim Anoint (I & Ear)
Osaka Popstar - Osaka Popstar and The American Legends of Punk (Rykodisc)
Phoenix It's Never Been Like That (Astralwerks)
Tilly & the Wall - Bottoms of Barrels (Team Love)
Vetiver - To Find Me Gone Dicristina (Stair Builders)

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Monday Show Low Down (Or "Can We High Five to That?")

With the summer show schedule still shaping up, autumn is already advancing tantalizing prospects. Long-term planners currently can commit to Do Make Say Think at The Troubadour on November 29th. Even more exciting is that The Pogues will make a rare appearance at The Wiltern on October 18th. Tickets for that sure-to-sell-out show go on sale this Wednesday.

A more immediate payoff awaits at The Greek Theatre on August 13th when indie idols Death Cab For Cutie team with Spoon and Mates of State. Alt-country icons Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams, and Neko Case are also joining forces for a show at The Hollywood Bowl on September 10th. For those that couldn't score tickets for their appearance at The Henry Fonda, Jack White and his Raconteurs return to Los Angeles for two nights at The Wiltern on July 20th and 21st.

On the smaller scale, The Futureheads and French Kicks will join for an alliterative evening at The Fonda on June 19th. Tilly & The Wall will tap their way into The Troubadour on July 6th while Scottish darlings Camera Obscura take that same stage on July 19th. Over at The El Rey, The Walkmen will unleash songs from their uncontrollably awesome new record on June 15th.

As relentless as it seems, that's just the out-of-towners. Local artists Great Northern are promising an evening at The Echo with The Brokedown on July 6th. Coming up even quicker is Division Day with The Southland and Peter Walker at Spaceland on June 1st.

As for this week, Monday means more brews with The Bronx for another night of their Spaceland residency. Then The Fall is scheduled to stumble back into The Knitting Factory for a second night of shambling brilliance this Tuesday. The Eels start up a two night stand at The Roxy on Thursday, while Petra Haden does her a cappella thing with America's Funnyman, Neil Hamburger at The Troubadour. Friday night wraps up the week with Elefant at The Wiltern bolstered by up-and-comers Voxtrot and Silversun Pickups.

The following artists have also announced dates for LA: Tom Verlaine, The Rentals, She Wants Revenge, Dashboard Confessional, Panic! at the Disco, and Keane. (See the right-hand column for venues and dates.)

Friday, May 19, 2006

Mini-Interview: The Index

I usually run quick Q & As each weekend, but the interviews I was arranging with a few bands didn’t quite coalesce in time this week, so it seems like the perfect time to provide links to some of the earlier pieces I’ve done, in case you missed one of them.

Sea Wolf – Meet the other band with Alex Church from Irving. They’re playing The Troubadour on the 23rd and it’s a show shouldn’t be missed.

The Green and Yellow TV – Few groups, local or otherwise, put the pop in indie pop quite like these guys.

Division Day – "One of indie rock’s most shockingly unsigned bands."

The Lights From Here – This act nails instrumental post rock... and without the noodley jazz influence that’s crept into a lot of other semi-similar acts.

Film School – These San Francisco’s ghost rockers made one of my most listened-to albums this year.

Irving – What can you say about LA’s premiere indie pop band that hasn’t been said before? (They’re playing tonight at The Echo with SF’s Kelley Stoltz and at Saturday’s Benefit for Fyn Stec at El Cid.)

Great Northern – Another Ship Collective act makes good. Music. (They’re also part of the Benefit for Fyn Stec at El Cid on Saturday night.)

Army Navy – If you can think of a LA-based indie pop band that works harder than Army Navy, I’d be surprised.

The Little Ones – These guys are like the Mary Tyler Moore: They turn the world on with their smiles and take a nothing day and suddenly make it worthwhile. (They’re also appearing with Irving and Kelley Stoltz at The Echo tonight.)

Foreign Born – One of the most original-sounding rock bands in Los Angeles today.

The Movies – I wrote a full feature article around these indie legends, I like them so much.

That's it. Nearly a dozen interviews in all. (If you didn't realize that the band names link to the articles, you should really try clicking on one of them...)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Band of the Week: Rademacher

"All the best songs are love songs," sings Rademacher’s lead Malcolm Sosa in They Are Always Into That, “I don’t think you can argue that, no, I don’t think you can argue that..."

And we can’t, cool kids and square kids, too. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to argue with Rademacher about anything, as their songs often begin in ridiculous lyrical fiddle-faddle but twist and turn with a carnival barker’s logic towards their inexorable choral conclusion, one usually couched in some kind of undisputable point about love or death or whatevahs.

"If you wanna talk shop lets talk shop if you wanna drink let’s drink til we drop let’s get all there is to be got all there is to be had no we won’t live forever but that’s not really so bad," Sosa sings in Playing for Fun, all while the sort of mad organ that you'd think only Tom Waits -- all crooked smiles and broken halos -- could get away with builds in the background. "If you ask me for reals I will tell you for true that this isn’t a game it is just what we do and it’s not about who is on top because there’s always that drop yes there’s always that drop and if you ask me that’s no reason no reason to stop."

The band has three EPs worth of goodness to its credit at this point, with the latest of them just coming out a week or so back. Each one has enough great songs on it for you to put it into heavy rotation in your cd player, and what with all three now going around at once, you'll probably start jonesing to see them live right away, like me.

Rademacher are currently on tour across the country and don’t have an LA performance announced yet among the dozen or so dates they've talked about so far, but it's expected soon.

And wherever it is? I'll be there.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Quickie Album Reviews - Grandaddy, Division Day, & The Electric Soft Parade

Grandaddy - Just Like The Fambly Cat (V2 Ada)
Grandaddy’s swan song is as good a farewell gift as any band can give. Instead of phoning it in, as many bands in the midst of breaking up might do, they chose to record what might be their best work yet. At turns soft, sunny and playful, others frenzied, frantic and desperate, it’s an album packed with more ideas than most bands have in an entire career; a rich aural experience that rewards repeated listens. – Gabe Burger

Division DayBeartrap Island (Self-release)
Lines like "A dirty kid with insects all in your mouth," "I want your blood inside my head," and "Are you a murder friend?" represent the sort of lyrical absurdity you can expect from Division Day’s first full-length album, but try to dislodge them from your mind and you’ll find them all steadfastly in place. Catchy, varied, and original, Beartrap Island is a must-have release from one of indie rock’s most shockingly unsigned bands. – Joe Fielder

The Electric Soft Parade - The Human Body EP (Better Looking Records)
ESP has assembled a strong batch of well-produced, well-studied pop/rock tunes in The Human Body EP. A band that wears its ambition, and its influences, on its sleeve, their sound makes it no secret they want to be BIG. Originally released in the U.K. last year, the U.S. release gets an extra psychedelic workout, The Captain. Standouts include Cold Word, the epic Everybody Wants, and Kick In The Teeth (which has a riff that must’ve been raided from Josh Homme’s footlocker). – Gabe Burger

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

New Releases Tuesday - 5/16

Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers (Third Man/V2)
"...Whether it’s the middle-eastern flavored title track, the glammed-up Store Bought Bones, or the glorious pop/rock of Together, from start to finish, Broken Boy Soldiers doesn’t disappoint." Also, if you're bored, crank up Joe Jackson's "Is She Really Going Out With Him" to hear the inspiration for the riff in the hit single from this record, "Steady As She Goes."

Twilight Singers - Powder Burns One (Little Indian) sez..."Possibly his best effort yet, Greg Dulli returns under the Twilight Singers moniker with a record that more closely resembles his Afghan Whigs material than any of his previous solo outings. A wide range of guests include Joseph Arthur, Ani DiFranco, and ex-Whig John Curley."

Also this week...

Boris - Pink (Southern Lord)
Controlling The Famous - Automatic City (The Militia Group)
Dinosaur Jr. - Green Mind [Reissue] (Rhino)
Dinosaur Jr. - Where You Been [Reissue] (Rhino)
Espers - Espers II (Drag City)
Home & Garden - History and Geography (Exit Stencil Recordings)
Mae Shi - Terrorbird (Strictly Amateur)
Radio 4 - Enemies Like This (Astralwerks)
Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope (Sire)
Russian Circles - Enter (Flameshovel)
Thievery Corp. - Versions (18th St. Lounge)
Whirlwind Heat - Types of Wood (Brille)

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Monday Show Low Down (Or "My Bowling Ball Weighs a Ton")

So, hi. Yeah. Quite a few remarkable shows have been announced in the last week. Like what? Oh, well, let me tell you...

On the last Tuesday of the month, the Bedroom Walls cd release party at The Troubadour will also play home to the songs-so-pretty-you-could-die Lavender Diamond and pop supercharmers Let’s Go Sailing.

Vancouver's stoner rock stars The Pink Mountaintops are coming back to LA at the end of June, this time appearing the other side of town at The Troubadour.

For people who like to dance, Bloc Party has just announced an August 3rd date at The Greek. And Montreal's Broken Social Scene will also be there with them, for people who like to jump up and down.

And you may have heard that Massive Attack will play the Hollywood Bowl at the end of September ... and possibly even bought two tickets as good boyfriend duty before you made the happy discovery that TV On The Radio were opening up that night, too.

What are this week’s most interesting shows? Well, twin local indie pop darlings Irving and The Little Ones are opening up for San Francisco’s Kelley Stoltz at The Echo on Friday night.

Then, there’s the Ship Collective Benefit for Fyn Stec & LA Children’s Hospital on Sunday at El Cid. Besides being for a good cause, the night boasts performances by Great Northern, Kennedy, Tigers Can Bite You, Aaron & Ariana from Earlimart, and "surprise special guests."

In other news:
- Alex Church from local favorite Sea Wolf has announced that the band will self-releasing an EP "sometime in July" but will have homemade three song demo cds for sale at their show at The Troubadour on June 23rd. For folks who have been waiting a year or so to take this act’s amazing material home, this is really good news...
- The following bands have also announced shows for LA: Space Mtn, Radio 4, Jonathan Wilson, Pink Mochi, Jucifer, Magic Christian, Cocorosie, The Vacation, Priestess, Boy Kill Boy, and Climber. (See the right-hand column for venues and dates.)

Friday, May 12, 2006

Mini-Interview: The Movies

LA's The Movies are the stuff of local indie rock legend. Some say lead singer Timothy James is the product of a secret Soviet super soldier program from a dark corner of the early 70s, while others point out that keyboardist Brian Cleary was first spotted on camera in the remote northern woods more than a decade ago, leaving behind footprints more than twice the size of a normal man’s. Chatter on certain key restricted channels even seems to imply that drummer Stevie Triechel and bassist Jessica Gelt both killed a man once, just for snoring too loud. Each.

But personal mythologies aside, when it comes down to it, the members of The Movies put on their pants in the morning the same as anyone else: one leg at a time. They just go out and make extremely entertaining records after that, like 2003’s In One Era, Out The Other and 2005’s American Oil, both of which were recorded before the band’s move to LA.

A few weekends ago, I caught up with several members of the band in their new recording studio as they worked on The Monumental Life, the first track of their as-of-yet untitled next album. The song is one they’ve played out at shows over the last year, but were laboring over perfecting on tape that night.

"This song is hard on us, Joe," Tim says. "Not necessarily in a bad way, but I think the levy is going to fucking blow once we get past it. It’s going to be great, but right now we’re trying to get over a hump here. We took on a hard song. We can get away with it live. I can bullshit my way through lyrics, scream and yell and do all that shit."

Tim and Brian begin going back and forth about which elements from which take sounds best. They play one for me and it sounds great. It clearly has the potential to rival my favorite Movies tracks, Timothy James and Rock in the Slingshot. Eventually, talk comes around to the song’s origins.

"It’s about... No one can live the monumental life," Tim says. "Not even John Lennon or Jesus Christ. All these people are great, godly people but I bet if you were hanging out in their minds, if you were them for a millisecond, they didn’t think they were living the monumental life. So that’s what it’s about. It’s about, you know, you’re trying to live the monumental life, but you can’t. No matter how great you are. That’s what we’re working on. Brian wrote the music. Jess and I... We’re all kind of working on the lyrics in this case. I wrote a chunk of it but we’ve been changing it back and forth a bit over the last few days."

At one point, Tim asks me plainly what makes great music and it’s like that moment in the movie Conan the Barbarian when the Mongol warlord asks Conan what’s best in life. (His answer was of course, "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!" Because, you know, he’s mother-fucking Conan.)

I say that I think it’s that moment when you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world right but listening right then. That that’s what I like about live music and I guess that recorded music is getting that on tape.

"It’s people coming together trying to capture some fuckin’ magic," Tim adds later. "That’s why you like bands. That’s why you write about bands, because they’re capturing something. People want to be recognized, they have to make art to do that. How else am I going to be recognized? Maybe do some stand-up comedy... Maybe be a place-kicker in the NFL... But no, I’ve decided that I’m going to try to live up to some of these great recordings of the past."

During cigarette and Icehouse beer breaks, we talk more about the new album. "We’ve been working on it off and on for about a month now," Tim says. "We’ve got ten songs: The Monumental Life, When I Was in Nam, If I Had the Cash, Get Your Macho Out, Limousine, Jacaranda..."

"A bunch of songs we haven’t named yet," Brian adds. "We’ve had a lot of new ideas over the last year and now we have to space to work them out. We’re really just getting started."

"It took us awhile to find this place," Tim says, "but it was worth the wait."

And Chermak Studios is a nice space. It’s in Burbank above a place that rents out old cars, ambulances, and the like to movie productions, and right next door to the hangar where Jay Leno houses his fleet of cars and motorcycles. It’s got good acoustics, a few fresh coats of paint that The Movies recently set down, a Spuds MacKenzie lamp, and a strangely homey feel to it. My girlfriend has said before that many places in LA feel haunted and if that’s true, this is the opposite of that, an anti-haunted, like nothing bad could ever happen there. Tim has been using it to produce recordings for local bands recently and plays one of their songs for me, before we start the interview rolling again.

The first two albums you recorded in just three or four days, I say.

"Yeah, theoretically," Tim says. "Our first record we did in three or four days. We’d practiced really hard. The second record? We don’t even talk about..."

They share a knowing laugh about this and I ask how the new album is different from the first two.

"Is it different?" Tim asks. "Yeah, I guess. A little bit. Really not much. It’s still us."

And Marcos adds, "We’ve got the studio now. We can take our time with it."

I ask how they all met in the first place and Brian begins telling the story about how Tim had rented a place in Boston when Tim interrupts him, saying "No... We met in my underwear. Brian moved into the apartment up in the loft in the top of the stairs above my house and apparently he says that I came up in my underwear and wanted to know what he was playing. He has this amazing collection of … everything that you could think of."

"We started having jam sessions in the basement and taking it a little more seriously," Brian adds. "Then he got us a show."

"Jess played bass," Tim says. "We didn’t have a drummer, just the three of us played."

"We played the show," Brian continues, "then they moved to DC and recorded the first album there with Stevie."

"We just can’t seem to shake each other," Tim says.

"Yeah, I was out in Boston until a year ago," Brian remarks. "I was touring and recording with these guys while they were out here. But now we’re all here."

I ask about The Silversun Pickups, who cover the song Creation Lake off The Movies’ first album.

"It’s very flattering, Tim says. "We love The Silversun Pickups. They were our first show in LA. We were practicing in our living room for a show at Spaceland opening up for we didn’t know who and... we met so many people that night. Those were the good old days. We got a couple shows. We were just having fun. I mean, are we taking it seriously now? We’re taking it seriously, but we’re not taking it seriously. We’re just fuckin’ having fun."

"Now we’ve got Brian out here and we’ve got the studio," Tim continues, "and we can hopefully start writing some songs, getting our older songs recorded, and get back to Spain... Get some jet-skis. I need some jet-skis and a shrimp cocktail. And like an older XJ6 for my mom."

"Nothing fancy," he says. "I’m not talking about buying houses or nothing. We’re talking about an XJ6. That’s probably worth about five… eight thousand dollars."

"We just want to buy nice cars for our moms," Brian tells me. "That’s pretty much why we’re doing this. That’s our inspiration."

I ask, like a nice car or a hot rod?

"Ahh, whatever they want," he says.

Later, Tim comes back from a bathroom break wearing a hat and sunglasses and goes in to try another vocal take. I have to leave before they get the final one down, which sucks because it’s sounding better and better every time. I can hear them honing in on it and it’s pretty amazing to be there for, but there’s simply no getting around me having to go.

A week or so later, Jessica -- who was home sick that night -- tells me that they’ve moved on to mixing the track and promises to send a copy. Needless to say, I can’t fucking wait for that to arrive.

The Movies have plans to play at The Derby in Los Feliz later this summer. Stay tuned for more details.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Band of the Week: The Western States Motel

There are at least several songs on The Western States Motel’s demo cd that I’d want on a soundtrack for driving out in the middle of the desert at night in an old convertible with the top down. Out of all the new music I’ve been listening to recently -- and, christ, you could devote a full-time job to keeping up on everything coming out right now and still fall behind -- I swear I keep coming back to the lazy, strolling tracks on the TWSM demo the most.

But it’s not really like I’ve had any choice in the matter... I mean, the song Western Planez is the kind of tune that gets stuck in your head so completely that repeated listenings just cause it to find a better purchase there, rather than exorcising it away.

"One of these days and it won’t be long," sings Carl Jordan, the one-man band behind The Western States Motel, "look for me baby and I’ll be gone..." And maybe it’s the words or the way he sings them or both, but they make you want to empathize, to wish you were dating a no-good lady just so you could run out on her. (Much like how when you heard Husker Du’s Standing in the Rain back in high school, you immediately wanted someone to break up with you in the middle of a rainstorm.)

The Western States Motel has several dates planned between SF and LA in support of the upcoming self-titled album, culminating in a cd release party at Tangiers here in town on July 16th. Since that’s a ways out, I recommend heading over to the TWSM myspace page where you can download a few tracks off the demo in the meantime ... and find out if you have the same addictive reaction to them that a steadily growing number of my friends and I have.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Quickie Album Reviews: The Black Keys, Jeniferever, & The Mates of State

The Black KeysChulahoma: The Songs Of Junior Kimbrough (Fat Possum)
Part gift for the fans, part sacred duty for lead singer, Dan Auerbach, Chulahoma is an EP of six covers of the late and under appreciated bluesman, Junior Kimbrough. A dark, moody set that has an eerie calmness not found on previous releases. Complete with a phone-message stamp of approval from Kimbrough’s widow, this should keep the people happy until January’s expected full-length. – Gabe Burger

JenifereverChoose A Bright Morning (Drowned in Sound)
Sometimes an act or movie or tv show comes along that’s so good that its subsequent releases end up really only competing against itself... like how the third season of The Sopranos wasn’t as good as the second, but still outclassed everything else on television. And actually Jeniferever’s first full-length album is a lot like a later season of The Sopranos: It may not be quite as captivating as the band's earlier work (which seemed to have a Mogwai/EITS post-rock influence), but it has moments of originality and brilliance that clearly distinguish it from the rest of the pack. - Joe Fielder

Mates Of StateBring It Back (Barsuk)
With Bring It Back, Mates Of State stop being a kitschy-cute curiosity and become a major force in the happenings of NOW. A gloriously huge, staggering juggernaut of a pop record, they have never sounded so fleshed-out, focused... perfect. A must-have for the electro-pop set, or any set for that matter. And the last song, Running Out, will leave you breathless. – Gabe Burger

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

New Releases Tuesday - 5/9

Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere (Downtown)There's no doubt that Cee-Lo Green is indeed a soul machine; and when paired with the hottest indie producer in the game, the end result is a brilliant new project with massive underground cred, yet loaded with mainstream appeal. Case in point, lead single "Crazy" just strolled into its 6th straight week at the top of the UK singles charts. If for some reason you haven't heard what will likely be the single of 2006, get your ass over to the Gnarls MySpace page and crank that shit up! For everyone else who hasn't lived under a rock the last few weeks, check out this great performance on Top of the Pops where the Gnarls airline crew slows things down a bit and cranks up the soul. As much as I wanted to declare St. Elsewhere my top album of year without hearing anything else coming out in the next seven months, turns out Gnarls Barkley are mere mortals as not every track here reaches the brilliance of "Crazy." That being said, this is still a shoe-in for my end of year top 10 list and they've already got my vote for "best new artist" of 2006.

Grandaddy - Just Like The Fambly Cat (V2)
Jason Lytle is packing up and moving to Montana, but he left us with one final Grandaddy album to enjoy while he reevaluates his life and contemplates his next musical direction.

World Party - Dumbing Up (Seaview)
Karl Wallinger's 5th World Party album finally sees the light of day in America a mere 5 and a half years(!) after its original UK release. Unfortunately, things have been a bit rough for this Welsh pop genius since the last time we've heard from him. Not satisfied with the handling of his '97 release Egyptology, he terminated his major label deal with Chrysalis/EMI. Not long after, his manager died of cancer. Then, in 2001, a few months after the original release of Dumbing Up, he suffered a serious aneurysm which put him out of commission for two years. Luckily, things are finally getting back together for Wallinger. He's started his own label, is re-releasing his entire back catalog and even played a gig at this year's SXSW. Even for hardcore fans who already own the import, this domestic version is worth picking up for its inclusion of two new tracks and a bonus DVD that includes a complete World Party video anthology.

Neil Young - Living with War (Reprise)
"Let's Impeach the President"...couldn't have said it better myself, Neil.

Also this week...

Ane Brun - A Temporary Drive (V2)
Beirut - Gulag Orkestar (Bada Bing)
Black Heart Procession - The Spell (Touch & Go)
Camera Obscura - Lloyd, I'm Ready To Heartbroken EP (Merge)
Danielson - Ships (Secretly Canadian)
Eighteenth Day of May - S/T (Hannibal)
Electric Soft Parade - The Human Body EP (Better Looking)
Everyothers - Pink Sticky Lies (Kill Rock Stars)
Jolie Holland - Springtime Can Kill You (Anti)
Lansing-Dreiden - Dividing Island (Kemado)
Like Young - Last Secrets (Polyvinyl)
Matmos - The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast (Matador)
Model/Actress - S/T (Thick Records)
Old Haunts - Fuel On Fire (Kill Rock Stars)
Plain White T's - Hey There Delilah (Fearless)
Pony Up - Make Love To The Judges With Your Eyes (Dim Mak)
Red Red Meat - S/T [Re-Issue] (Thrill Jockey)
Shearwater - Palo Santo (Misra)
Snow Patrol - Eyes Open (Interscope)
Stills - Without Feathers (VICE)
Test Icicles - Dig Your Own Grave EP (Domino)
Wooden Wand - Harem Of The Sundrum And The Witness Figg (5RC)

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Monday Show Low Down (Or "All Your Nerd Belong to Us")

It’s the week of E3 in LA, the time every year when all the major video game companies announce all their new wares for the year and where a virtual nerd bomb gets dropped on the downtown convention center. (And I know, because one of those nerds is me...)

On the show front, Destroyer and Blood on the Wall’s Tuesday show at Spaceland is sold-out online, but tickets are available at the door and possibly at Sea Level Records, which will be hosting the Ariel Pink record release party that night.

Fans of Brazilian music will probably want to note that Bebel Gilberto has two shows at The Conga Room at the end of the week, while Portland’s Helio Sequence will play at Spaceland and SF’s John Vanderslice and Laura Veirs appear at The Echo on Thursday, local singer/songwriter Tom Brousseau has an album release party at Tangiers on Friday, and (the legends of) The Fall will be at The Knitting Factory on Saturday.

But what’s got me really interested is news that The Silversun Pickups, who are basically the best band in LA right now, have been added to the June 9th show at Spaceland with SF’s ghost rockers Film School. And The Ship Collective, which SSPU are a part of, have announced a benefit show for Fyn Stec & LA Children’s Hospital at El Cid on Saturday, May 20th with Great Northern, members of Earlimart, and many more.

Here are other bands that have recently announced dates for LA: Radiohead, Calexico, Black Heart Procession, Oneida, Birdmonster, Magnolia Electric Co, Mike Watt, Eagles of Death Metal, Wolf Mother, Jose Gonzalez, Neko Case, Indian Jewelry, Gogogo Airheart, Gil Mantera’s Party Dream, Languis, Hella, Diplo, Comets on Fire, Silver Mt. Zion, and The Aquabats. (See the right-hand column in a few minutes for dates and venues.)

Friday, May 05, 2006

Mini-Interview: Foreign Born

Too often when a friend asks you what a group sounds like, you end up using other bands to describe them. "They’re a bit of Wolf Parade and The Pixies mixed together." "They’re like Public Image Ltd meets Explosions in the Sky." "You remember GWAR? They’re like that, but with less blood and phalluses..."

But try doing that with local indie rock act Foreign Born and you’ll come up short, because their mix of haunting vocals, plaintive guitar, full bass, and heavy beat sound fairly unique among bands both past and present.

So, we asked Foreign Born’s bass player Ariel Rechtshaid about the origins of the band’s distinct sound, how they formed, and what’s next for them. We had questions, he had answers.

You just got back in the US. How did the UK tour go? Was this your first time abroad with the band?

The tour was great. This was our first legitimate time abroad. We had been flown out once for a couple of club nights but nothing like this.

We had two tours back-to-back, the first opening for We Are Scientists and the second supporting Giant Drag. At first we weren't sure if we were making much of an impact because the W.A.S. shows were so huge (average of 2,500) and everyone was clearly there to see them, but luckily we returned to a lot of the same cities with Giant Drag and were greated by many repeat customers. The Giant Drag shows were much more intimate and it was great to meet all the kids that were really loving our music. The tours proved very effective and great fun.

So you guys finished up some recordings recently with the intention of creating a full album, right? How’s that progressing? When can we expect that out?

The final stage of finessing was cut off by these recent tours but now that we're back it should be completed and mixed in the next couple of weeks. As for a release date, it's hard to say at this point. We're hoping for late summer/early fall.

Is that going to have any material from your EPs or all new songs?

Mostly new songs although a couple songs from our EPs may surface.

How long have you guys been together as a group? What brought you together?

We've been together for about two years now. Lewis (guitar) and Matt (vocals) met in University of San Francisco and started writing songs together. Lewis, who had been a good friend of mine since high school, asked me if I would record some of these songs. When I heard the material, I was floored and quickly invited myself and friend Garrett (drums) into the band. They moved down to LA to join Garrett and I after graduation and we've been playing together ever since.

It’s pretty tough to figure out your influences because you don’t really sound similar to any other bands. Who would you say they are, either directly or indirectly?

It's a very large pool of influences we draw from. On any given day you can catch us listening to the likes of Chameleons, Echo and the Bunnymen, Townes Van Zandt, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, Konono, Willie Nelson, The Fall, Harry Nilsson, Fleetwood Mac, Kate Bush, and The Happy Mondays. The list goes on and on.

When's your next show here in Los Angeles? Any residencies planned?

Nothing planned right now. Our focus is to complete the record. We might pop up in some club night trying out some of the new material. Who knows? (Check our web-site and myspace page for updates.)

And last question: Who are some of your favorite bands in LA right now?

The Blood Arm, Cass Mccombs, In Waves. There are probably some others but I can't think right now.

That's it. Thanks for your time, Ariel.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Band of the Week: Band of Horses

It’s funny how sometimes having the right in to a band can change everything, like how I somehow didn’t get into Chicago’s post rock giants Tortoise until I heard them in the fantastically lazy soundtrack to artist Thomas Campbell’s long board surfing movie, The Seedling.

It was much the same for me recently with Seattle’s Band of Horses. A few months ago, I started hearing friends whose musical taste I really respect talking about them. They’d just played in town and my buddy Jay was basically swooning about how good they were. So, I tracked down their album Everything All The Time and ... it didn’t click for me at first. I think it was a week when I’d gotten a few new cds that I’d been looking forward to for some time, and I probably wrote off the album quickly and didn’t come back to it for awhile.

Then a bit later, I heard the track The Funeral separately from the rest and everything just clicked into place. From the song's lonesome first few chords to lead Ben Bridwell singing about his fear of the phone ringing during his father’s losing fight with cancer – not necessarily sadly, but just thoughtfully and somewhat melancholy – I was hooked. After that, I started listening to the rest of the album and began really appreciating how substantive everything on it is. And yeah, I haven’t been able to stop playing it since.

Worrying that I’d miss them play now that my interest has been piqued, I snagged tickets for their upcoming June show a few weeks back. And my fears seem to be well-merited since Ticketweb is now pointing people to Sea Level Records for tickets at this point. So, I'd recommend stopping by to check if they have any left at your earliest possible convenience.

Like today.

Band of Horses will play on June 30th at The Echo, which is in the Echo Park neighborhood of LA at 1822 Sunset Blvd. Doors open at 8:30 and Mt Egypt is opening up.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Quickie Album Reviews: Sunset Rubdown, The Raconteurs, & Caspian

Sunset RubdownShut Up I Am Dreaming (Absolutely Kosher)
Certain songs haunt whereas others are haunted. Seething with shuttering spirits, Shut Up I Am Dreaming is an album inhabited entirely by songs of that latter nature. All at once raucous and ethereal, it’s what one should expect from Spencer Krug, Wolf Parade co-marshal, Frog Eyes sideman, and emerging songwriter of increasing skill, promise, and prominence. – Josh Berquist

The RaconteursBroken Boy Soldiers (V2 Records/Third Man)
Although most “supergroups” tend to come and go like bad relationships, let’s hope The Raconteurs’ honeymoon period lasts a little longer, since The White Stripes' Jack White, solo-artist Brendan Benson, and the rhythm-section of Cincinnati’s excellent Greenhornes have simply captured lightning in a bottle here. Whether it’s the middle-eastern flavored title track, the glammed-up Store Bought Bones, or the glorious pop/rock of Together, from start to finish, Broken Boy Soldiers doesn’t disappoint. – Gabe Burger

CaspianYou are the Conductor (Dopamine Records)
Somewhere in the unmapped musical terrain between the wintry-pretty instrumental work of Austin’s Explosions in the Sky and SF’s power chord laden Fucking Champs lays Massachusetts’ Caspian. With their debut album You are the Conductor, they put the rock in post rock, then drop it in some deep, dark river to drown you in sound. – Joe Fielder

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

New Releases Tuesday - 5/2

Ellen Allien and Apparat - Orchestra of Bubbles (BPitch Control) Combine the smooth dance groove of BPitch Control founder Ellen Allien with the darker moodiness of Shitkatapult co-head Apparat and you get the best electronic record of the year so far. Of course, it helps to have a penchant for Berlin techno, but I'd still recommend this to anyone with a vague interest in DJ culture.

The Charlatans - Simpatico (Sanctuary)
It's been over 15 years since they first hit the charts with their Deep Purple-robbing single "The Only One I Know" and about 12 years since all their Madchester peers fizzled out, but amazingly the Charlatans are still at it.

Jon Auer - Songs From The Year of Our Demise (Pattern 25)
Another flashback from the early 90s, the co-founder of Seattle popsters The Posies returns with his first full-length solo effort.

Also this week...

Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror (Backporch)
Baby Dayliner - Critics Pass Away (Brassland)
Black Keys - Chulahoma: The Songs of Junior Kimbrough [EP] (Fat Possum)
Brandtson - Hello, Control. (Militia Group)
Court and Spark - Hearts (Absolutely Kosher)
DeVotchka - Curse Your Little Heart EP (Ace Fu)
Gomez - How We Operate (ATO)
Human Television - Look At Who You're Talking To (Gigantic)
Love of Everything - Superior Mold and Die (Record Label)
Sunset Rubdown - S/T (Absolutely Kosher)
Wolfmother - S/T (Interscope)

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Monday Show Low Down (Or "Free to a Very Bad Home")

It’s going to be a full week worth of interesting and/or free shows in LA this week… Tonight, there’s Sunset Rubdown (with Wolf Parade’s Spencer Krug) at The Echo and the last free Monday night residency show by Army Navy at Spaceland. On Tuesday, Wolfmother and Secret Machines have free in-store performances at Tower Records and Amoeba Music, respectively, and The Colour will play for free at Virgin Megastore on Wednesday. Then while Daniel Johnston’s Thursday show at Spaceland is sold-out except for tickets at the door, he’s playing a free in-store at Amoeba earlier that night. And ex-Unicorns The Islands are at The El Rey on Friday, while Eagle & Talon are playing for free that night at Mr. T’s Bowl. Then Saturday, The Antarcticans and Sabrosa Purr will appear at The Knitting Factory and finally Irving, Essex Green, and The Minor Canon will all be at Spaceland on Sunday.

Here are some of the other bands that have recently announced LA show dates: Caleixico, Radiohead, Herbert, Tmonium, The Frausdots, Soul Position (featuring RJD2 & Blueprint), Bebel Gilberto, The Fever, The Beat Junkies, DJ Shadow, Money Mark, Jurassic 5, Howlin' Rain (members of Comets on Fire and Sunburned Hand of the Man), The Twilight Singers, Damien Rice, Fiona Apple, and some guy called Roger Waters. (See right-hand column for dates and locations.)