Archive for January, 2009


National Skyline Return in ’09…

In the world of email, not much can beat a random, where the hell did that come from message. I’d say for the most part, my personal email is predictable though. But today, I received an email about the what I thought was a defunct band: National Skyline(they were one of the first bands I posted about on this blog) The email dropped some intriguing news – like the Bliss & Death LP will be released 2/17 via major online retailers.  According to the band’s main engineer, this record seeps of, “A bold, yet personal album about loneliness, doubt, and wonder.” Yea, I had no idea Garber was even still toying with layers of guitars, synths going all which ways, and vocals run through filters and filters.  But, I’m glad they are.  We’ve seen a resurgence in a way of bands from this era – most recently Hum.

Hop on over to National Skyline’s MySpace for a preview of two tracks from Bliss & Death.  This album could be a very unexpected, yet pleasant surprise.  The video for “Revenge” lurks below…


From North America to South America, kid…

If music sites are a daily view, chances are you’ve seen the above picture.  And if not, it’s the six year project of Spike Jonze‘s brother, Squeak E. Clean – a producer who’s done a thing or two, and DJ Zegnon – who is outta São Paulo, Brazil.  They call themselves N.A.S.A. (North America/South America)  So, right?  Well, this could be the collaboration project of collaboration projects.  An international Gorillaz like project, perhaps.  It’s not a question of who’s on their upcoming LP The Spirit of Apollo, but more like, who isn’t on this potential success story – or train wreck ready to happen.  Squeak E’s idea was, “…the craziest combination of people and put them together on one track.”  The madness begins after the jump…

Continue reading ‘From North America to South America, kid…’


Das Pop!


I’m sitting on something rather catchy here – to be more specific, it’s infectious, really.  Das Pop, out of Ghent, Belgium have concocted an assortment of party jams; tracks to spin before you’re about to step out on a Saturday evening.  It’s a nice mix of elements we enjoy: guitar driven dance rhythms, driving bass lines, and a sprinkle of Soulwax here and there.   If the Das Pop’s name sounds slightly familiar, it might be.  Justice has prominently incorporated them in their mixes – especially “Underground”.  Upon first listen, “Underground” is the perfect combination of pop tricks to get you thinking you’ve heard this song many times over.  But no, it’s not 10 years old; it’s from 2007.  This group of Belgium composers understand how to seep contagious tracks into your head.

And the real kicker, this quartet’s debut LP was produced by the Dewaele brothers – A.K.A. Soulwax. (New mix on their MySpace)  If you’re familiar with daytime Soulwax , when they’re not remixing themselves, you’ll find lighter elements of Any Minute Now interspersed throughout. Das Pop toy with springier garage rock, too.  But they aren’t just another band who write dance songs with guitars and hand claps; Das Pop can compose light-hearted numbers with subtle piano hits, light strings, and delicate plucking, too.  With upbeat party tracks, a soulful ballad or two, Das Pop have put together a record earning repeat spins today and most likely throughout all of 2009.  Highly recommended…

Das Pop :: Saturday Night Part 1

Das Pop :: Never Get Enough


Scotland Invaded the Bottle!


This past weekend initialized my 2009 season of shows.  There isn’t much on the horizon yet for live gigs, but if Friday and Saturday’s live performances were any indication, this might be the year of quality over quantity.  The two other contributors to this blog live and die by that creed.  On Friday, I witnessed the Chicago supergroup Prairie Cartel who kick out intelligent, catchy electro-rock with style at the recently re-located Bottom LoungeCheck PC’s “Homicyde” track here.

And then, Saturday brought the Scottish quartet Frightened Rabbit to the cozy and hipster infested Empty Bottle.  We know music outta this area is no joke.  The Bottle has been home to countless shows that will forever set the standard for how a live gig should be – I’ve seen some of my most dynamic and unique shows at this dark, waiting to be destroyed by instruments venue.  No, this isn’t where my post is headed, but Frightened Rabbit electrified the audience enough –and captivated everyone’s attention – to mention how this venue can bring artists alive.  Maybe Frightened Rabbit were a timid group at one point – but Saturday’s lively set exuded the complete opposite.  The Midnight Organ Fight, from 2008, was a pleasant surprise for me and when placed in front of an audience, the Rabbits’ guitars seem to churn a lot quicker, the drums clash at a more rapid pace, and one begins to appreciate the wit and sincerity of Scott’s lyrics as the jangle roars underneath.  Unfortunately, the boys’ U.S. tour is quickly coming to a close, although I’d be damn surprised if they aren’t at one of the big, local summer festivals.  Highly recommended on record or face-to-face.

For the encore, the unaccompanied Scott Hutchison walked upon the stage packing only his acoustic guitar.   A quick wave of silence instantly hit the sold-out Empty Bottle, while the front man kept us mesmerized with his carefree lyricism and tuneful Scottish delivery.

Frightened Rabbit :: Poke

Appropriately, they closed this monumental set with…

Frightened Rabbit :: Keep Yourself Warm




Says Brooklyn’s (Oh, no!) two-piece Bishop Allen, or are they a four-piece?  Maybe you recently caught them in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist – maybe even on this blog.   Regardless, these simple, quirky at times popsters are about to unleash their third full length LP entitled Grrr. (And I thought Spoon’s last title was stupid) Don’t be deterred by the lack of a title, because the songs are capable of enlivening you with their playfulness.  If John Vanderslice‘s music had an exuberant personality, some cute sounding ladies who can sprinkle songs with sweet sounding “ahh”s & “ooh”s,  and JV’s band was well versed in upbeat diddies, one might have a slight idea of what a Bishop Allen composition is capable of.  Two ’09 samples below…

Bishop Allen :: Oklahoma

Bishop Allen :: The Ancient Commonsense of Things


Nobody Does It Like Norway Does…

What Happens When You Cross Interpol/Editors with Scandanavian Pop?

That was the subject of a thread over on Sound Opinions recently.  I bit. It delivered.  Interpol’s Turn on the Bright Lights from 2002 still gets occasional rotation; Editors’ have had some greatness, too.  And if ’07 was any indication, I become weak at the knees at the thought of Scandinavian Pop.  Yes, weak at the knees.  Remember Private? Monomen, outta Oslo, Norway are guilty of the above description – and it’s a fairly accurate one.   What are you waiting for….

Monomen :: Drum of Glass


Why Did You Play Me This Way?

Let’s take it back to the 90’s; the pop fan in you won’t mind.  Hopefully though, White Town‘s “Your Woman” isn’t a thing of the past but makes frequent appearances on your musical device of choice.  Jyoti Prakash Mishra, a one man jam, out of the U.K., is the mastermind of this single from 1997.  White Town took inspiration for this bouncy number from Bing Crosby’s “My Woman” and works heavily off a trumpet sample.  This modern take is infused with energy – the hip-hop heavy beats  and bubbling synths create a wave Jyoti’s lyrics effortlessly sway over  – all from the woman’s point of view.  And then that breakdown after the three-minute mark!

This classic is simply on my iPod.  I don’t seek it out.  Nor is it in a playlist or anywhere else it would consistently come up.  But, every time it hits, I smile, think to myself how fuckin’ great of a song this is, and realize a man we all know and love could have composed this number.  This song permeates with a Matt Mahaffey/sElf vibe.

I just made your day…

White Town :: Your Woman

A fitting video as well…


Wait, Australia Can Do Folky Pop, Too?

My listening habits have given me the notion that only hard-hitting electro rock (or Silverchair) comes outta the land down under.  But, brother and sister duo Angus and Julia Stone are here to enlighten me to the wonderful compositions that don’t have to be electronically beat driven and geared for the club kid in you.  Instead, the siblings put together folky arrangements with elements of chamber pop and a subtle country twang, too. At least on “Just a Boy” they do.  This single stems from 2008’s Just a Boy EP.  On first listen, their sound was a more approachable Earlimart. Maybe it’s the light vocals; or the minimalistic approach; maybe the uplifting melody does it, but regardless, “Just a Boy” colors the gray skies light blue around here.  Recommended.

And I apologize if this is already in rotation by you – I feel late to this party…


Siftin’ Through Mediocrity…

That’s a harsh title, I suppose; but the glitchy, Spanish, hip-hop artist Prefuse 73 never fully delivered – at least to my ears.  Back in early 2003, the internet was a blaze with nothing but kind words about Scott Herren and his ability to splice, dice, and experiment with beats and rhymes. The heavily textured beats had a techno vibe, but he wasn’t writing for the club kids; Prefuse related more to the backpacker crowd than anything else.  I was intrigued by descriptions being thrown around, and I couldn’t get my fix soon enough…

There was a time when I resided in a major city and Virgin was the name of a mega record store, too – yes, this was some years ago.  My place of residence afforded me the luxury of being walking distance from this album mecca.  For those of you who were in the know – or maybe lucky enough to frequent this overpriced resource – this was a reputable store, even when looking for independent releases.  I remember walking downstairs to the hip-hop section and picking up the headphones attached to One Word Extinguiser, the latest offering from Prefuse 73.   And anxiously hit play.  Like any hip-hop oriented record, it kicked off with an intro of sorts – a chime or two; an echo; an eerie howl; and an orchestral like cacophony.  It was track two where I realized maybe the hype was legitimate – hard hitting beats, vocals ran through a high speed blender, and a buildup near the end with something big on the verge .  I didn’t need to hear more; this was practically already purchased.  But then, before I could shed the cans on my ears, the explosion kicked in:  Squeaky staccato beats under rapid-fire vocals care of Chicagoan rhyme-spitter Diverse.  Fuckin’ sold, son!

To this day, there hasn’t been a better transition between two tracks than what’s offered below.  Back when I used to make mix CDs, to set the tone a blaze, there wasn’t a better two song intro.

Prefuse 73 :: The End of Biters-International (track 2)

Prefuse 73 :: Plastic featuring Diverse (track 3)

Unfortunately, nothing else grabbed me on this record.  It was almost too experimental for me; and was too instrumental heavy for my liking.

He shines when an MC is enlisted.  From 2005’s Surrounded by Silence

Prefuse 73 :: Morale Crusher featuring Beans


A Year of Change: 2008 in Rewind (Part A)

In the last two weeks, we’ve had further evidence of the sea change that continues in popular music. First, it was announced that overall music sales in 2008 hit a new record with 1.5 billion units sold, thanks to digital sales. Then, in the past week alone, we’ve seen Sony poised to announce a 1.1 billion loss, Apple go DRM-free with price increases, and the announced closing of the highest-volume music store in the U.S.—the Virgin Megastore in Times Square.

My music collection, much like the music industry, continues to digitize. I acquired 63 albums and singles released in 2008, an admittedly much higher volume than I anticipated. No doubt, it helped that I purchased quite a handful in 256 kbps DRM-free MP3 from, which makes purchasing music much too easy for this dissertation-writing procrastinator. My listening has completely gone digital too, thanks to Logitech and aTunes, with each track being tracked by the panoptic bits and bytes of That said though, it’s not as if 2008 didn’t look too good to be true from the outset—new albums were planned from James, R.E.M., Counting Crows, The Bats, Paul Weller, The Verve, The Features, Alejandro Escovedo, dEUS, and The Hold Steady meaning many of my all-time and most recent favorites were on tap. Despite the familiar and dependable favorites, I have to recognize  it was the newcomers to me who at times stole the show, including The Felice Brothers, Fleet Foxes, Liam Finn, The Grand Archives, Lightspeed Champion, Martyn Joseph, and Glasvegas.

I also must admit, as perhaps my posting frequency has indicated, it was not music but politics that often took me to other places this past year and provided the real change. As the election season faded though, I was left with plenty of good tunes on many albums. So, let’s narrow that field down to my top ten.

Continue reading ‘A Year of Change: 2008 in Rewind (Part A)’

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January 2009