The Poison Dart

the poison dart
Aw, I like this band, the Poison Dart. I like their name a lot ...
The [...] Poison Dart frog is one of the most poisonous animals on earth. From tiny pores in its skin, the frog secretes a defensive toxin that makes it unpalatable to curious predators and which could easily kill if injected into a human or other animal. Some Native South American tribes use the secretion as a topping on their blowdarts for hunting small monkeys and other game.
It seems to be a fitting name. It's more shocking to realize that a little cute frog killed you than a big huge killer shark (for the killer shark would be more expected ... of course it kills!)
The band has a really, really nice sound. The vocals remind me a lot of the Tilly and the Wall vocals, in that they both have a yearning quality to them. Like they want you to sing along too, or something. And that makes sense, I guess, since the band has worked extensively with the Microphones, a band which is known for its intimate, "camp fire" sound.
Listen to Lay Low, Mark Of A Man, and I Will Bend My Will.

Next up (for those of you have gotten this far), we've got Harry Potter! Woo! Perfect for Halloween, eh? Okay -- let me explain this one. Jonny Greenwood and Phil Selway (yes -- that's right, of Radiohead fame), assisted in the creation of the new Harry Potter soundtrack. They contributed three songs for the movie, and you can listen to one, "This Is the Night," right here. Wait about 30 seconds for the true song to kick in. Pretty rad, I'd say.
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On The Japanese Side Of Things ...

I'm not even going to pretend like I comprehend the Japanese music scene. I am more baffled by it than any other music scene around. And I don't mean J-Pop ... that's too easy ... J-Pop is one of the most planned and thought-out musical "genres" in the world ... every musician and band, it seems, is carefully created and promoted, so as to push as many CDs and singles as possible. There's a system to it unlike any mainstream pop industry in the world.
When I say the "Japanese music scene," I am mostly referring to the independently released stuff that comes from, predominantly, Tokyo. I know that countless individuals and organizations alike have tried to figure out the Shibuya-kei scene that seems to have died off, but I am more interested in the aftermath of that style, as it is much more unpredictable and harder to classify.
Whereas American independent music tends to be more on the band side of things, and still focused around guitar, bass, and drums, Japanese independent music leans more to the electronic side of music. That is, artists work hard to chose what their sound will be and most of the action occurs in the studio. There aren't too many $5 shows in Tokyo where bands experiment with their new material. Instead, they like to work out of their audience's eye and release new, "perfect" material every couple of years.
I'll point you all in the direction of some of my favorite artists now. First off we've got Yukari Fresh, one of Escalator Records' most important artist. She, like many other Tokyo musicians, fiddles around with cute synthesizer sounds and lounge-era samples. Her music sounds like a combination of jazz, old [French] pop, and easy listening. My favorite album of her's is Erik ... listen to Long Sabotage to get some idea of what she's like. I love her.
Next we've got Vroom Sound, a label that runs in a similar vein to Escalator. I think of Vroom as Japan's original hip-hop label. They seamlessly integrate various types of music into an original and cohesive blend of ... um ... well, you get the idea. If hip-hop was a remixing of funk and soul and R&B, whatever Vroom (and Escalator etc.) are doing is a remixing of the jazz of the 60s, the lounge of a Europe long gone, and the easy listening of the France that Bridget Bardot called home. Vroom is home to Plus-Tech Squeezebox and a new group that I like called Refely (still not sure where these names come from, though).
The weird thing about this Tokyo music scene is that the music tends to be defined by the record label's style. Like, you can sort of predict what new signings will sound like according to which label they're with. abcdefg* Records, for example, has a totally different style. Their bands tend to be like the Japanese equivalent of Sarah Records' bands (i.e. the Sea Urchins). All the groups (or singer/songwriters) cite Orange Juice and Aztec Camera as influences of theirs. The groups all do a good job of dragging out the life of twee pop, so I suppose that's a commendable thing. I dunno (I'm not particularly fond of the label, as you may have noticed). I do sort of like Strawberry Machine, though: a master of twee bedroom pop. I also just discovered that abcdefg* now does podcasts which look interesting.

My hope with writing this post was that I would get at least one person interested in Japan's bizarre music scene. I love just digging deeper and deeper into it as it continues to baffle me. If nothing else, I hope you all have started to love Yukari Fresh because she is great.
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Weekly: Halloween

no orchestra
Before I get to the actual post here, I will explain my latest posting strategy.
I want this blog to be a tad more cohesive, so I am going to make an effort to start "theme posting" as I have dubbed it. So, I will have one post ("Weekly") dedicated to MP3s that I've come across that share some common link or sound. I hope to branch out from there ... maybe I will start a post (perhaps "The Word") that will be focused on my reading and news, and then I will have another post centered on trends. Or something like that. I'm sure all you smarties out there get the idea.
Okay -- so the post. This week's Weekly is about the 6th biggest holiday in the USA: Halloween. None of these songs were recorded for Halloween, but they all have a dark quality to them ... demonic in some cases.
First off, we've got everyone's favorite, Clap You Hands Say Yeah! The group performed several new songs in Atlanta, and I like them a lot ... listen to four of them here. I especially liked Satan Said Dance, which I think is the most appropriate Halloween song.
No Orchestra, makes perfect Halloween music. The music is from the backwoods of Canada (Southern Ontario) and is plenty creepy ... atmospheric warbles, high-hat heavy, and chilling sing along vocals. I especially like their song Saskatoon, but I haven't listened to everything on their music page, so maybe there are more gems buried within. The thing that's so cool about this band is that each of them members seems to come from a different vein of the musical world. The drummer is a pseudo-jazz guy, the guitarist/vocalist likes to play around with unique chord progressions that remind me of old country songs, and the bass player plays these really interesting walking bass lines (which you don't hear much anymore). It's cool to hear how they all work together so well.
Punk music is a good thing to put on your Halloween mix. It's just what you need to wake up those ghosts and demons on the 31st. The Sorayas are a pretty cute powerpunk trio from Gothenburg. I usually don't listen to girl bands (sorry). They tend to (in my opinion) be a little too playful and cheery, or else the mere fact that they're a "girl band" makes me decide, before listening to their music, that they have to be playful and cheery. But then again, pop music is dominated by males, so I suppose I should give the girls that attempt to compete more of a chance. Anyway, listen to Easy Tune, and get in a cheery Halloween mood!
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An Assortment

mono taxi
Agh, this Japanese internet connection is bumming me out! It's becoming increasingly difficult to connect and just ... ah! frustration!
Anyway -- I was able to listen to a few bands on the internet during this period of limited connectivity, so I will report on them now.
I like Mono Taxi because (a) they have a really good, sexy vocalist and (b) they play a very nice, calming shoegaze kind of music. Their breed of shoegaze, however, is very crisp and guitar-pop oriented, making for a little bit of a twist on the aging style.
What else do I like now? Well, I like this guy named Kent Lambert who records music under the name Roommate. He does this cool bedroom space-pop/folk sort of thing that, I'll admit, I get tired of after a while, but is worth a listen every now and then. I like listening to "bedroom music" because it reminds me of Twee stuff and the Unicorns, my favorite band like, ever. Listen to Tuesday and Fresh Boys.
Last on my plate is Think About Life, a neato Montreal(?)-based dance music group. I like their combination of annoying Casios and distorted vocoders ... it's good Halloween music, or something. Childish sounding, but thought-out, and therefore ... um ... good (sorry -- temporary brain failure).
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The Pizazz

the pizazz
I'm not going to deny the fact that I get some pleasure (okay, a lot of pleasure) in knowing that I know a lot of bands. Perhaps I am not the most knowledgeable when it comes to naming/classifying genres, and I have a hard time remembering album names and song titles, but I do indeed know many groups. And I've listened to them, too!
I kind of wish the present was like the past, in that regard. Okay -- let me explain that. I love the internet and the constant flow of information that I receive on a daily basis because of the magical invention, but the internet does take away a bit of the fun of "discovering" bands. It's too easy to get a bootleg of the Next Big Thing's first concert, and it's too easy to stumble upon a jem of a group, when stumbling requires less effort than it ever did before. Saying, "yeah -- I was there" doesn't get you the same amount of cred that it used to. There are no more tomes that carefully document and record every band and all of their recordings ... there is no reference point ... no mark that us listeners can set our sights on. We must blindly search deeper and deeper into the torrent of music that surrounds us, and hopefully, by digging as deep as we can, we will find fulfillment.
Okay -- enough rambling. On to the Pizazz, a Detroit-based group that I'm currently listening to. I like them because they are unlike many Detroit garage bands that are popping up all over the place these days. They sound more influenced by the Cramps than old Blues musicians, which is refreshing and unique. Although their first full-length record, They Live is just a really short collection of 4-track tunes, it's good and hints at a bright future for the band. Listen to Plan B and Kaysie. I like them, and I hope they like me.
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We Are Soldiers We Have Guns

we are soldiers we have guns
I know, from the sounds of it, the band We Are Soldiers We Have Guns should be very aggressive. But they are the complete opposite ...
The group is a Swedish lo-fi indie-rock band, comprised of Malin Dahlberg and friends. They remind me a bit of the Cardigans or some minimalistic, yet tight, lovesick indie group. Easily paired with other Scandinavian pop artists such as Sambassadeur.
The band released a new, self-titled EP this month ... listen to Damn Those TV Shows, Damn Them Straight To Hell to get an idea of their current sound. I like the loose harmonies at the end. Also check out some of their older pieces ... Tourists In Our Hometown and Jodi's Noise. I like how their songs tend to just sort of die off. End.
Lastly, they've got a MySpace site. Nice.
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I first heard this UK band, Envelopes, in the Escalator Records shop of all places. I asked the clerk what he was playing, since I couldn't quite place it. The song that was played, Isabelle and Leonard, sounded like Stephen Malkmus. But there is something clearner about this group. The combination of lo-fi pop, Mark Mothersburg soundtrack-esque arrangements, and Pavement-like chill guitar strumming make for an interesting sound for sure. Original in that it sounds like everything good all at once.
I've been listening to an album, Demon, that the group recorded. Buy it. I love it.
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The Organ Bar, Shibuya

I'm going to skip doing an overall update on my trip to Tokyo this week. I will tell you all the highlight of the trip, though. And boy was this a highlight.
As you all probably know, Tokyo has one of the most difficult address systems in the world. There are few streets grids, and endless districts and wards. Not only are there sub-divisions of each area of the city (i.e. Shibuya or Shinjuku), but not all of these sub-divisions are seperately named. So there are, for example, 5 Jingumaes.
Anyway, although it took me a really long time to find the Organ Bar, I felt so fulfilled when I actually found the sign.
I read about a DJ party that was happening at the bar on the 19th. The headlining DJ was ... Konishi Yasuharu. That's right ... the guy who formed Pizzicato Five 21 years ago. The group is now borken up, but I am still absolutely fascinated by the man's work, dedication to his style of music (which can loosely be described as light dance jazz and easy listening), and his amazing ability to replicate that style which, unfortunately, died many years ago. I had to go.
I got to the place at about 9, not knowing if it would fill up fast or not get going until later. In total, about 20 people showed up. They all knew each other and they were all friends. Really cool to be in the closely knit group of friends.
Konishi showed up at about 10. His "protege" and friend had been DJing until his arrival (a mix of 60s Latin jazz and big band stuff), and I was having a great time anyway.
The man walked in and one of my friends said, "Ah -- there's Yasuharu-san," as though it was totally normal to see him. And it was, apparently. I greeted him and we discussed Nomiya Maki's new album, jazz, Pizzicato Five, and various music-related topics for quite some time over the course of the 8-hour event. Wow. I cannot believe that I met - and had a great discussion with - one of my childhood heroes. I wanted to go to a Pizzicato Five concert so bad when I was a kid. Just say "hi" to the duo and then leave ... fulfilled and proud. I got so much more. One of the coolest atmospheres I've ever experienced in a club, and certainly the most meaningful encounter I've ever had in such a place.
I just cannot believe that I stumbled across the one bar in Tokyo that still upholds the Shibuya-kei tradition. The one bar that had Konishi Yasuharu in it that night. The one bar that ... that ...
My knowledge of Shibuya-kei, jazz, and music in general really helped me break the ice and I had a great time. I am still re-living the experience. Just can't believe it. Wow ...

On a related note, one of the girls that I met at the club told me that her brother-in-law is in Guitar Wolf. Of all the millions of people in Tokyo ... wow. The world is much smaller than I ever thought it to be.
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A Cricket In Times Square, !!!

a cricket in times square
I was looking through some older music that I have on my hard drive, and came across two unreleated bands that I haven't listened to for a while.
First off is the under-rated A Cricket In Times Square, a Seattle group that had to have been named after the book. Anyways, cool stuff ... lots of distortion and kind of noise-rock in style, but with plenty of space-rock melody, too. The group is on par with their modern musical peers - drawing from similar influences (Echo, Galaxie 500, Dinosaur Jr., etc.) - but absolutely unique. Listen to 5 1/2-Minute Hallway, one of my favs from their self-titled EP.
Next we've got the over-exposed !!!. But I decided to pull one of their oldest songs (before the group was over-exposed) for this post: "The Funky Branca." Like a Branca song, !!! utilized a guitar orchestra, and like a Branca song, !!! used plenty of guitar loops and layers, but unlike a Branaca song (and like all !!! songs), !!! added in plenty of funk. Bass, drums, synths ... plenty of !!! funkiness lies within this piece. The Funky Branca.
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The Year Zero

the year zero
Oh boy am I happy that I stumbled across this new band, the Year Zero. If I was feeling really lazy right now, I'd just write them off as shoegaze. But they're much more than that. They use distorted guitar washes, like My Bloody Valentine, to create a distant and eerie atmospheric sound. But their drummer is harsher and always on the beat, making the dissonace and chaos more precise and cohesive. And I cannot say how much I love the vocals. Absolutely beautiful, they swim effortless through each song, as though they were an actual instrument, and someone had a lot of fun playing around with it behind the console. I love Strange ... perfectly balanced and excellently produced. It reminds me a bit of Broadcast, if Brian Eno was that band's producer. But Moon Viewing is also fantastic. A sputtering spacey loop accompanies those mystifying vocals, truly enchanting me. Also, The Truth About Stars -- listen to that one.
I love this band because they're so organic. Everything they do seems as though it was meant to be ... it had to be. Totally natural and effortless they seem, but on second listen, there is so much more there.
The band will release their debut album through Skipping Stones Records sometime next year. I want it. Also, check out their official website here. What a fantastic group.
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Missed it by a bit, but BiBaBiDi has been around for one year (and 4 days now)! I'm proud of myself for keeping it up for a year. Please -- if anyone has questions or comments, post them. I want to improve the blog, but I just don't know where to start (or I think I do, but you, the reader, is more important than me ... I post for my own pleasure ... I need to convince you all that my I am worthy of this).
Also -- just discovered that this post happens to be my 400th! Wow -- double anniversary ... or something.
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The Beautiful New Born Children

the beautiful new born children
I would not normally like this band, The Beautiful New Born Children. They cannot be described as anything but an old-school punk group, and I tend to think that, since the genre is dead (and has been for like 20 years -- get over it, people!), there is no room for new punk bands, because they only taint the style's once grand image. Utilizing an authentic punk sound and using authentic punk gear is only part of it ... you have to rock the safety pins because you have to ... not because you want to.
But I'm giving the Beautiful New Born Children a chance. I see them as an overlooked classic that just wound up in the wrong decade. So I'll disregard the fact that they started making punk music 30 years after it was created.
They're good. They play with the ruthlessness of the Sex Pistols, but write within the poppy style (and time constrains) of the Buzzcocks. Listen to Hey Heart Breaker and Paper Mill, and perhaps you too will set aside your biases.
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The Eskimo Disco Voxtrot

Ahhh ... "the Eskimo Disco Voxtrot" ... sounds like some bizarre new club dance. But it ain't.
Not quite as exciting as it sounds -- sorry.
Eskimo Disco is a relatively new band that is ... okay. They absolutely have a disco-inspired sound, but the deadpan vocals and punkier edge make for a more modern style than their name implies. If nothing else, the group has shown that they make good videos, having just released a very cool one for Picture Perfect. If you don't want to download the whole .mov file, just listen to the mp3 here, and get a broader sense of their sound by listening to Hello and What Is Woman. Something in them reminds me of the Scissor Sisters.
Voxtrot I like more. They're from Austin, TX, but their name sounds to me like they should be Canadian for some reason. They've got a pretty light and poppy 60s sound, but filter it though an 80s new wave lense. Crisp guitars, jazzy and precise drums, and a very clean voice make for a sound that could be heard in either decade, but has not shown up until now. Listen to a bunch of their stuff at Myspace, or just download The Start of Something. Lastly, buy their EP here.
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Beat Is Murder

Not sure why we don't see this sort of thing more often these days ... a web-based record company, like Beat Is Murder. The label only has three bands so far, but they're all rather good, and they each have their own sound. Liger is my favorite. They sound sort of like the Unicorns in a "I recorded this in my bedroom" sort of way, but more folky and spacey (I'm using that word a lot these days). I especially like their song, Not In My Palace, but you can download their entire album here. The album comes fully equiped with album art, too! Cool indeed.
I also dig their electronic group, Yeah Pretty Boy. The group sounds like they should be on Darla's roster, but unfortunately didn't quite make the cut (or something), and are now stuck making no money because they're signed to an internet-only label. Oh well ... maybe one day. Listen to This Is A Love Song (Shalala) ... NOT! to get an idea of what they're like. If you like what you hear, you can also download their Good One Go EP in its entirety.
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Oh, Canada (Part 2)

Since my last "Oh, Canada" post, I have been looking deeper into the scene up there, trying to prove myself wrong about the area. Indeed, I am still correct (!) ... Montreal and Toronto have plenty of stuff worthy of spreading to the US soon, so I don't see that scene becoming reclusive in the near future.
Took me a long time to figure out that Ohbijou was one word, but when I typed the single word as opposed to "oh bijou," in to Google, a whole new world of information opened up to me.
Casey Mecija is the singer/songwriter who started the group, but it's still really "her" band ... the rest of the musicians seem to come and go as she sees fit. Their music is sort of bedroom pop, but way, way more ... you really need to listen to it to get a better of idea of their sound ... here's a sample from the first album, Misty Eyes.
I also came across the Acorn while looking up Ohbijou stuff. Great band ... very ... Canadian (that is is a style in my book now). I love their abrupt start-and-stop approach to making music. Reminds me a little bit of the Unicorns in that way, but tighter, and more ornate. Listen to The Pink Ghosts, Darcy, and Do You Not Yearn, At All?!
Get their album, The Pink Ghosts at Kelp Records. What's up with Canadians and ghosts?
Lastly (for now), I am enjoying the Silent Film Soundtrack's music. Again, lots of stop-and-start stuff going on here, but spacier and harder at points. Also, I like the use of organ and time changes ... pretty cool indie-rock stuff. They've got a New Music Canada
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Oh, Canada

pawa up firstYou would think that Canada's music boom would have blown over by now. The place has been torn apart with hype ... but it has been about three years now since the Unicorns, Broken Social Scene, Metric, and all those "wolves" bands started to get play. So I don't think that Canada is just a temporary American fixation. Indeed, there are still plenty of new Canadian bands popping up, so I can't imagine how the place will ever be looked over again, even if the hype does die down. Pawa Up First has hooked me, and I just can't seem to find enough of their music. They're a quintet from Montreal whose style can most accurately be desribed as, um ... jazz mixed with dub mixed with indie-rock and movie scores. All of their stuff is instrumental, but it's trully fascinating to listen to as their instrumental rerepertoire is always expanding. Their debut CD, the Scenario, was released last year, but it's really rare, and I can't find any mp3s of it. Bummer. Their website has music and videos, though.
code pie
Next up we've got Code Pie which is like a jazzier Broken Social Scene. For some reason I thought Squirrel Nut Zippers when I first hear them, but that's not a very accurate comparison. Listen to Cement Truck, A Round For the Boys, and Gala.
kiss me deadlyLastly, we've got a band which has been receiving some hype as of late, Alien8's newest entry, Kiss Me Deadly, whose style I can't seem to be able to place (as usual). Kind of proggy and math-rocky, but also rather dance-inspired too. They've got a beat, but the vocals and atmospheric style of their playing make for a very unusal breed of "dance." Listen to Dance 1. It'd be nice if you all bought their new CD, Misty Medley, too ...
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Mike Allred, the creator of the Madman, the Atomics, and X-Statix comics, just completed work on issue 7 of DC's new title, Solo. I have yet to read any of the available seven issues (with #8 out soon), but it looks good. The series features a different artist/writer (with previous issues being drawn and written by the likes of Paul Pope, Neil Gaiman, and Brian Azzarello) and story each issue. Allred's issue is about Batman (duh) and his exploits in a bizarre and psychedelic world. The Teen Titans are in it, Jack Kirby's 4th Dimension is featured, and Hour Man is the villain of the month.
It's weird to me, how many super hero comics these days sort of mock the wackiness and corniness of their older incarnations. The mainstream comics of today take themselves seriously, but know that their medium is sort of backwash and crummy to begin with. So I like how they've gotten over the whole "comics are for kids" thing, and instead of trying to make Chris Ware imitations, big companies have gone the opposite way and dedicated themselves to poking fun at the wackiness of their profession. Tre cool indeed.
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British Lo-Fi

the teenbeat
The UK music scene, as portrayed by the NME and other related publications, consists of plenty of bands who love the "good old days" of British music - particularly the days of punk and post-punk - and want to relive those days. Gone is the Brit-pop era. However, there is a tremendous amount of UK lo-fi music that is way under the radar right now, and I think that is unfortunate. So here are a few groups and musicians that all you lo-fi fans should check out because they're good.
Santa Dog is a female-fronted group from Bristol. Now, I am by no means an expert on shoegaze, but this band seems to be obsessed with the shoegaze music of Velocity Girl. A little heavier, but not by much. Fantastic vocals, great guitar washes, and plenty of hi-hat. Listen to Delicate, a song that appeared on their first 4 track EP.
I'm also digging Viva Stereo right now. Maybe they're not too lo-fi, though ...
The vocals sound, to me, reminiscent of Mark E. Smith of the Fall. But the production is less frivolous, making for a semi-lo-fi feel. Listen to Jesus Son, a mastered live track.
When I first saw the name, the Teenbeat, I immediately thought of the record label, Teenbeat. However, the Teenbeat was formed in Birkenhead about 10 years ago, and they have neither changed nor gotten any more press since they day they were created. Ashame, really, but maybe it's best that these guys stay timeless. They are most definitely lo-fi, but I find their vocalist to be the most intriguing aspect of the group. He sounds like Nick Diamonds of the Unicorns and Islands combined with Stephin Merritt of Magnetic Fields. Pretty interesting, I think ... listen to Round Yours For Tea.
Lastly, we have Mutt Ramon, an electronic artist. Nothing too special, but very pleasant. His music sounds like it was written for a normal band, but then translated to casio and computer. Plenty of NES sounds, too ... very cute and fun. Listen to Physically Corrupted.
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Music Backlog

Got plenty to write up about here, so get pumped.
abderdeenIs it just me or does it seem increasingly rare for a band to come from the Boston area? Back in the day, the Modern Lovers, Mission of Burma, They Might Be Giants (right?) all were Boston-lads, but the city doesn't seem to be producing big name indie bands anymore. Aberdeen City is a pretty good Boston-based band, though, for all of you who were gtting depressed about the city's lack of output.
They've got a new album, The Freezing Atlantic, out ... listen to God Is Going to Get Sick of Me and In Combat to get a dose of their serious (just read their bio!) thinking man's post-punk style. Get the record at Amazon.

ponies in the surfSo I am really loving this band, Ponies In the Surf. The sister duo crafts beautiful folksongs that aren't freaky at all, and that's a welcome change for me. Romantic folk, art folk, dream folk ... those are all good two-word style descriptions. Listen to See You Happy, Ventricle, Government Brand, and Little Lost Boy. Buy a bit of their stuff at Asaurus Records.

Woo! Some new Best Fwends stuff. This somewhere-in-the-UK-based duo is goofy beyond all belief. Sort of like if Junior Senior was comprised of two men who had the intelligence of a 4th grader. Sorry - that was harsh. I do like Best Fwends' music. Listen to Untitled for a good idea of their style. They are also featured on a comp, Music For Joggers, on Zurich's Micromusic label. They also have released a 7" split through Moshi Moshi Records.

sound teamGoing now to a completely different part of the world: Austin. I cannot seem to get into Texas-based bands. They all seem too professional and serious for me. Their music is some sort of bizarre freak of nature, as it is not expected for Texans to usually produce bands of intelligence. They are supposed to produce the next Ashlee Simpsons. Sorry -- I'm being a big stereotyper here. Anyway, the SOUND Team is a very good six-piece Austin band. They're rather experimental, using tons of instruments, effects, and unique orchestration techniques, but they're pretty accesible, too. Liten to Don't Turn Away and It's Obvious What's Happening Here.

Lastly, I have been listening to plenty of old groups, but I find the Dentists to be one of the more intriguing. They were a British band, active from 1984 - 1995. Their sound was loosely based off of post-punk legends such as Echo and Joy Division, but the group sought to create a poppier sound from these roots, and so their music ended up sounding like some bizarre post-punk/Orange Juice/Velvet Underground hybrid. Very good, however. The band is re-releasing Some People Are on the Pitch They Think, but you can also listen to a bit of their music here.
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I Hope You Are All Happy Now

i hope you are all happy now
This is more of a reminder to myself than anything else. Nick Zinner is becoming a kind of modern Loud Reed. He's a man of few words, like Reed, yet he seems to always be on demand and is certainly very talented. He keeps a low profile, but is always there ... always expected to be working on something. Also like Reed, Zinner has recently been pursuing photography as a hobby. He released a book of photography, Slept In Beds, two years ago and has contributed to several publications since, but I Hope You Are All Happy Now is his newest and most ambitious book. It is 224 pages long and features essays by Jim Jarmusch and David Cross. This book, like his last one, also has tons of photos of the hotel rooms that his group (it's now "his group" as opposed to the group that Karen O. sings in), the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, slept in. It's kind of a cool idea, I think, because he brings an artistic and creative element to a seemingly spontaneous and unorderly way of life: being in a rock band. Although the rooms are a total mess, the concerts full of pubescent teenages and college students, and the after parties some of the wildest around, the photos are tame. They are indeed vibrant, but they were all consciously taken, making them seem worthwhile and more interesting to look back upond than some amateur shots of the events.
Way cool. I want it. Twenty bucks for almost 230 pages of Nick Zinner material? Too cool.
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Updates Updates Updates!

rapture and supersystem
I really wish two things for this blog. After something like 10 months writing here, I feel like I'm finally finding some sort of focal point. I love digging as deep as I can into the musical world. Analyzing, discovering, learning ... anything. And I think that's what I want to share with all of you.
So here's some new stuff:
Bloc Party have made another song, The Present. They say that this will be the last of them for a while ... they're "disappearing" until 2006. Well, at least they were frank about it.
As I said earlier, the Rapture are [maybe] starting to come back. This remix of Supersystem's "Miracle" is the first we've seen of them in - depending on how you're counting time - one or two years. Listen to it here. It's pretty good, I think ... it sounds like a Rapture song, which is cool. Strong remix.
Also, the Flaming Lips are soon to release a new album (At War With The Mystics), but they have made a cover (!) of "If I Only Had A Brain" that you can all hear before the next LP hits stores.
Lastly, a few Gang of Four remixes have been made. And they suck. Download them here, but be warned ... they're bad. Especially the Hot Hot Heat one. It's one of the worst remixes I've ever heard. A total bastardization of the original. Re-worked in ways that Gang of Four never imagined, and for a damn good reason, too.
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Interpol, "5"

fukd id 3
The main purpose of posting this rather old Interpol song, "5," is to try out my Streamload hosting service. I use the service to send movies and music to my friends and family, but I recently discovered that you can also host stuff as well. So here's "5," a song which appeared on Interpol's Fuckd ID 3 EP that was released shortly before Turn On the Bright Lights. I like it ... it has a dirtier and brasher sound than their newer stuff. Also, it sounds more rooted in old post-punk ... like a more conscious attempt at trying to be the next Joy Division.
Listen to it here.

Woo! I get to finally say it! Don't link to the song because I only have 1 GB of bandwidth/month ...
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Overlooked #8

call of the west
I've realized that's it's rather difficult to classify things as "overlooked." It's a rather broad categorization, and it is different for everyone. Sure, the Angry Samoans would be considered overlooked by someone who is real heavily into the original Souther Californian punk scene, but I am trying to dig up "overlooked" bands that are not overlooked for the genre that they fit in to, but for the fact that they were ahead of their time or something made them unique in their own era. Klaus Nomi doesn't count ... novelty acts don't count. Bizarre doesn't get you points in my "overlooked" rubric.
That being said, I think that Wall of Voodoo classifies as an overlooked band because they played in a style that no one else played in during their time together, and no one since has really copied them. Unfortunately ...
The band, although it is often compared to DEVO, was actually quite a bit different. They drew influences from cinema and film scores. So their sound is stylized like DEVO's, but it has a narrative feel to it ... it changes according to some plot that only the band members saw.
They obviously dug the great soundtrack composers (Morricone etc.), but also seemed to really like the post-punk bands of the time as their musical structure was definitely pop-based. Their Western-style guitar and ornate arrangements combined with cold drum machine beats and bizarre vocals to make for a much more artistic interpretation of the new wave music of the day. I like Dark Continent most of all their albums, but many people say that their follow-up LP, Call of the West was the best for its "Mexican Radio" single. Regardless, both albums are great.
Listen to Back In Flesh to get a good idea of their sound.
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gold and green
Possibly Japan's most accomplished and well-respected band of the 90s was the Boredoms. They weren't a novelty group like Guitar Wolf or Melf-Banana (I don't care what you have to say ... I can't take a group that makes feature-film-length music videos with robots and Godzilla-look-alikes seriously), and they actually got quite a bit of buzz over in America. Their most recent drummer, Yoshimi P-We, started her own band, OOIOO, soon after she appeared in a photo shoot with three of her girlfriends for a fictitious band. They took the photo-shoot seriously, I guess, and released a damn good avant garde record, Feather Float.
The band's sound is sort of hit-or-miss, however. And isn't all avant garde music like that? Avant garde music is never really a trend because that is contradictory to its avant garde status ...
Anyway, they combine a bizarre tribal, organic drumming technique to a post-rock/punk style, making for some potnetially interesting rhytms, if nothing else. Their new album (although it was released in Japan in 2000), Gold & Green, is their most accesible, as it seems to have more structure to it. Yoshimi actually tries to be a songwriter on this record ... she doesn't just shoot for the spontaneous.
Also, the record features Seiichi Yamamoto (also from the Boredoms) and ... (gasp) Yuka Honda, the less public half of now defunct Cibo Matto.
I really enjoy the album, and recommend buying it or downloading it or something ...
You can hear some samples here.
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Where Are They?

There tend to be two kind of bands. Make that two and a half. There are those that release album after album, or an album followed by various EPs, live albums, compilations, etc. and then there are bands that release an album and then ... disappear. The "half" kind is the type of band that releases an album and then disbands ... just stops.
Groups like the Flaming Lips and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have not released a new album in a while, but stay in the public's eyes by discussing plans and touring. Groups like the Strokes and Franz Ferdinand have discographies that slowly, but consistenly grow. And groups like Interpol at least tour and do interviews and that sort of thing.
But I am very frustrated by groups that don't say that they've broken up. Groups that will briefly mention plans for a future albm, but then don't discuss it further until the bomb is dropped and the album is a month away from release.
For example, where the heck have the Liars gone? And Pretty Girls Make Graves? The Rapture? The Walkmen? Who knows?
Well, there has actually been a small amount of info released on some of those groups, and I am getting excited, although their speaking in vague terms only makes me more frustrated.
The Rapture recently said that a new album was sort of kind of in the works. They didn't flat out say they were working on one, though. However, the group did just do a remix for Supersystem's "Miracle" (check it out here). So maybe they will begin to seep back into the music scene.
Pretty Girls say that they've recorded a new album, but that was back in June ... when are we gonna get more of this?
And thankfully, the Walkmen just released a press statement saying that new songs are in the works ... album out in mid-2006, fingers crossed.
But the Liars ... hmmm. They are living in ... Berlin ... and working on some terribly ambitious follow-up to the experimental, They Were Wrong So We Drowned. I was surprised to hear that the Liars are in Berlin, but when I thought about it a little more, it actually made sense. When I was in the city this summer, I saw an astounding number of Liars concert posters. Why would they have so many concerts in Berlin? Well, now I know.
That's a really cool idea, though ... go to another country, live there ... no one will know what's up next! I like it! Very much in the style Hemmingway and Fitzgerald.
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La Laque

la laque
The lacquer? That's what "La Laque" means, right? It is indeed a weird name, but La Laque is as bizarre a band as you would expect with a name like that. The name (and the fact that their lyrics are in French) would lead you to believe that the group is ... well, French. But they ain't. Indeed, they're from indie-rock-central: NYC. Not that that's disuaded them from pulling the expected image off flawlessly. They obviously draw their sound and style from that whole 60s French new wave movement. They even wear the right clothes! But unlike Stereolab, who professes to draw inspiration from the same roots, La Laque completes the sound with sexy, Brigitte Bardot-esque high-pitched vocals, lush orchestrations, and a thick cloud of beats and confident bass. Opposites definitely do attract in this band, and the dynamic that exists between the members makes for a very mystical and eerie sound. Listen to their music here or check out my personal favorite, Secret, the song that is featured on their split 7" with Pas/Cal.
I think the bass player looks a lot like Metric's bass player.

They're too sexy ... too cool (in the classic sense of the word) for me. I want more.
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Music Roundup

Some weeks seem to be incredibly busy in the music world, while other are more laid back. This week is one of those crazy weeks, for me and for everyone ... we're being bombarded by pretty big releases, or at least leaks, and tons of news to whet our appetite for the future.

arctic monkeysThe Arctic Monkeys will release their first single, I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor, on the 17th, but the album has already been leaked, and you can see the live video for the single here. The group is really great, by the way. Equal parts Franz Ferdinand and the Strokes, they combine tense songcraft with slick guitar hooks and precise drumming, sometimes with a bit of garage on top.

black moth super rainbowA bit late here, sorry, but it's news to me ... Black Moth Super Rainbow released a new EP (called Lost Picking Flowers In the Woods) two weeks ago, and I am very impressed with the release. Think Boards of Canada, if they used some 70s TV shows and more trip hop as influences. A sort of docile, child-like quality about their synths and samples, but still very poppy. Listen to some of their stuff on their MP3 page.

Supergrass has released an album sampler here to promote their recently released album, Road to Rouen. Also, you can watch them on Leno here.

castanetsFirst Light's Freeze is the newest LP from Castanets. It's due out on the 24th, but as usual, the record has been leaked. Really a great album ... not necessarily darker or more ornate, but fuller in some very spooky way ...

Plenty of Strokes buzz out there right now ...
You can hear the [newly leaked] song, "You Only Live Once," here, and "Juicebox" has also been leaked, but I can't seem to find it again!

Stream the whole Franz Ferdinand album, You Could Have It So Much Better, at MTV. I like it a lot, although it has become increasingly clear to me that the group is truly a singles band.

live it outMetric's new album, Live It Out is out, and you can see the video for "Monster Hospital" here (and also please read my review of the album at Exploding Plastic).

broken social sceneLastly, Broken Social Scene's new s/t album is out. Another winner, although maybe less inspired than their second record. Once groups like BSS get into their nitche, they continue to create good music, but it always seems to be lacking that initial spark that made them so bloody good. Buy the album because it comes with a 7-track EP!
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Overlooked #7

no new york
These "overlooked" posts are harder than I thought they'd be to write, and I don't even know if anyone really cares about them. Whatever ... they're helping me sort musical stuff out which is probably a good thing for me to do.
So, James Chance (sometimes known as James White of James White and the Blacks) was overlooked back in the late 70s and early 80s for one two-fold reason. James Chance sort of started the no wave/free funk style. This genre has been altered by many other bands and musicians (i.e. Sonic Youth, the Birthday Party, the Residents, Liquid Liquid, ESG, and Blonde Redhead, to name a few), however, Chance was the pioneer, and his style was the most free ... the most abstract. And frankly, no wave music gets old fast ... unfortunately, Chance got old just as quickly as his style.
But he should still be considered a great innovator. He was one of the few musicians in NYC in the late 70s who was interested in jazz and more avant-garde music. The music he created with the Contortions was very brash, absolutely, but its roots were from a different genre that many musicians were overlooking at the time ... not experimenting with. The super-producer, Brian Eno, recognized Chance's foresight in the pop music world, and got him to record four songs for the spectacular No New York compilation. After its release, Chance and his band quickly faded away. He did, however, create the even more puzzling outfit, James White and the Blacks, but that group died quickly as well. Chance recorded a few more records under the James White moniker, but eventually quit the biz in the mid-80s. There have been several re-releases of Chances' work, but none of them lasted too long. Even after Chance began playing live again in 2003, the once-great sax player has not been met with much enthusiasm or critical acclaim.
Another unfortunate story ... ah ...
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Overlooked #5 and #6

metro music
Not a whole lot of bands come from Ohio, and not many bands were well-known and respected that hailed from Canada until recently. But the Waitresses were a fantstic example of an overlooked Ohio band, and Martha and the Muffins was a damn good Toronto-based group, before that was the place to be.
It's expected that bands will usually live in or around NYC or LA. Critics and writers don't seem to be too interested in any other locations ... the "mid-west" seems to be description enough for any group that isn't from one of the above listed hot spots. In fact, it's sort of a novelty to be from the "mid-west" (think Saddle Creek here, folks) ... plus, the "mid-west" sounds oh so much better than like, Fargo, right?
Anyways, there was only enough room for approximately three Ohio-based bands in the 70s and 80s, and those lucky three were the Pretenders, Pere Ubu, and DEVO. The Waitresses were a close number three, but didn't quite make it for some reason. Formed in 1981, the group was one of the first "one-hit-wonder" bands, with "I Know What Boys Like" [almost] hitting the Top 40. The band was unique and ahead of its time in that they used their lack of talent in certain areas to their advantage. There was no singer, really ... instead, Patty Donahue perfected her dry, cheeky voice and made it blend perfectly with her group's pop nuggets (and utilized her sex appeal in an attempt to become more popular). The songs were tailored to fit Donahue's attitude, and that made them all the more interesting. Chris Butler was the obvious balls of the operation - writing and recording "I Know What Boys Like" and other early Waitresses songs back in the late 70s - however, and the band soon split (in 1983 or so) because of intra-band tensions.
Martha and the Muffins, on the other hand, was a more group-oriented effort. The band debuted with Metro Music, which featured their hit, "Echo Beach." They were an early light-hearted and fun new wave group before the style was dominated by Duran Duran and other lame "period bands" to put it nicely. Simple, yet dancey, Martha and the Muffins set themselves apart by also adding in a sax to many of their tunes. Really well done stuff ... much more timeless and classic than other 80s pop groups.
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Overlooked #4

love zombies
Another great band that is often, for some reason, forgotten: the Monochrome Set. I think that this is partially due to the fact that the band was born from the same group as Adam and the Ants, the B-Sides. When the B-Sides changed their name to Adam and the Ants, Lester Square and Big stepped out to form their own group ... the Monochrome Set. Their style is quite different from the Ants', though ... I like to think of them as the first nerd-rock band ... these guys were playing clean, witty pop songs before the Weezer kids were in even high school students.
Their first album, Strange Boutique, was a post-punk record before post-punk became awash with irony and archness ... slightly condescending, but all in good humor. Love Zombies, their second LP, was more accomplished ... crisper guitar and bass work, better songcraft, more confident vocals. Wry ballads with an alt-rumba vibe ... and more witty song (i.e., "In Love, Cancer?") ...
After Love Zombies, the group descended into a long period mediocre releases before fizzling out in the early 90s. A true shame indeed that these guys were never recognized for their awesome talent.

Here is an excellent Monochrome Set fan page ...
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Overlooked #3

pinky blue
I am still trying to totally justify the "overlooked" classification of the Scottish quartet, Altered Images. But I think it fits, and if nothing else, the group is definitely worth the time required to listen to their music.
Formed in 1979, the band comprised of a few teenagers. Clare Grogan on vocals became the most well-known of the bunch as she acted in the UK hit movie, Gregory's Girl (1980), and this, combined with a brief tour circuit with Siouxsie and the Banshees, helped them become pretty popular for a short period of time.
The band began their career cutting a demo for the Banshees. Steve Severin, guitarist for the Banshees, took Altered Images under his wing and helped in the production of their first album, Happy Birthday. Their lead single for that record, "Happy Birthday," was a damn good pop song because it combined post-punk atmospheric production with poppy instrumentation and energy. But it was after listening to their follow-up LP, Pinky Blue, that I started to absolutely love Altered Images. The second record featured "I Could Be Happy," also produced by Severin, and it is an absolutely fantastic tune. Awesome, crisp, clear post-punk-inspired guitar work, detached, precise post-punk drumming, and that enchanting voice of Grogan.
I don't know why more band haven't followed a similar path. The Rasberries are the closest that I can think of. But no other group has truly combined a post-punk aesthetic with power-pop technique.
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Overlooked #2

sleep convention
I cannot think of any other musician hailing from San Deigo aside from Trees, AKA the one man synth genius, Dane Conover. Way, way ahead of his time. Conover used pretty low-tech technology compared to our modern standard (but keep in mind that his album, Sleep Convention, was released in 1982), but fleshed out his sound with plenty of standard rock gear, making him a unique musician. The whole electronic/acoustic sound has become popular now, but he was doing it 23 years ago.
I don't know the exact number records that he actually sold, but I believe that it was only 3 digits long. For such an original and stunning debut, I think it's awful that no one bought the thing! No fair ...

The only photo of the album I could find on the web was the one I took of it ... goes to show how little play the thing got.
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Overlooked #1

fig. 15
Boston's Human Sexual Response was pegged as the New Wave era's next big thing, but they fell quite short of that, creating only two albums over a four-year existence. But the group was damn good and I think it should be indie-geeks' next big thing to look back on. People said the Strokes were like the Cars and it seems like every other "the" band drew influences from New Wave gods like Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen, and the Cure. They were equal parts Art-Rock (like the Talking Heads) and ballad-based New Wave pop, with some of the most striking and bizarre lyrics ever to be penned by a band that was supposed to become "big" (just listen to "What Does Sex Mean To Me" for a good example of what I mean lyrics-wise).
Their fierce instrumentation and tightly harmonized vocals blended into some of the most unique pop I've ever heard. They were, at times, noisey and distorded before Mission of Burma, My Bloody Valentine, or Sonic Youth hit the scene, yet were a classic Boston-based post punk band that obviously dug Blondie.
Today, with people digging deeper and deeper into the music of the late 70s and early 80s, I can't see why HSR shouldn't be an excellent name to drop in a conversation to gain indie-cred (or something). So this is a suggestion for all of you readers out there ... next time you go to a concert, tell people about HSR. Maybe the next uber-hip, thinking man's band will draw from the Boston classic!

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OK Fred #6

ok fred
As I am in Japan now, I think it is best for me to get more interested in some Japanese pop culture something. I've always been a reader of OK Fred, so I think that is a good place to start re-developing my interest in Japan and things that Japanese people and people living in Japan find interesting (that was a long sentence!) The newest issue of OK Fred is out on the 6th and I'm going out on a limb here (sarcastic grin), but I have this crazy hunch that it'll be a damn good issue.
I'll have to pick it up in Tokyo where they actually have like, good bookstores and stuff ...

And speaking of OK Fred, I know this is sort of old news, but they have a new-ish radio program out which you can listen to here. You sort of have to be into stupid Japanese music, but I guess the show is well done (sorry -- I don't dig Japanese music much anymore ... people seem to be too into twee crap or hyper-active pop here ... all the good guys left the scene or are leaving it as I write this).
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