Monthly Archives: July 2012

Henry Clay People – Twenty-Five for the Rest of Our Lives

January 01, 1970

(TBD Records)

 

www.tbdrecords.com

 

Finally on a proper label (LA’s TBD Records),
The Henry Clay People are clearly making up for lost time. Having already self-released
a few efforts as well as put out some songs on a smaller label, since signing
to TBD in 2010 they have already added three more records to their cannon. Twenty-five for the Rest of Our Lives,
their latest, is by far their best to date.

 

Falling somewhere in a category between punk
rock and indie pop, songs like the title track and Replacements-ish “Backseat
of a Cab”, showcase their knack for capturing
catchy-as-hell bratty choruses paired with frenetic bursts of distorted guitar.
And just when you think you have them figured out, they switch to a mellower
vibe on a song like “Friends Are Forgiving.” 

 

Twenty-Five for the Rest of Our Lives finds songwriting brothers Joey
and Andy Siara indulging gleefully in their influences, everyone from The
Descendents to The Pixies, and man is it a nice mix. The band has spent the past two years adding several zeros
to the van odometer on treks with Against Me!, Drive By Truckers and  Silver Sun Pick Ups, road -testing this
collection of songs. The result is a tight set that hasn’t lost any of the
energy.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Every
Band We Ever Love,” “Backseat of a Cab” and “Friends Are Forgiving ”  JOHN B. MOORE

 

Kim Baxter – The Tale of Me and You

January 01, 1970

(self released)

 

www.kimbaxtermusic.com

 

You might not
know the name Kim Baxter on her own but you might know her as one of the
vocalist/guitarists for Portland’s All Girl Summer Fun Band who have released
some terrific pop records on both the K and Magic Marker labels (their last
full-length, from last year, was self released). The other A.G.S.F.B. member,
Kathy Foster, is busy with her other band The Thermals while other A.G.S.F.B.
vocalist/guitarist, Jen Sbragia is busy with her other band, The Softies who
recently played some reunion gigs (and being a mother of twins). This left
Baxter with some free time on her hands and what better to do with free time
than record a solo record!

 

I was expecting
something folky (not sure why) but this is no folk record, in fact it has the
same charm, energy and pop hooks as any A.G.S.F.B. record. Along with producer
Chris Flanagan, who happens to be Baxter’s husband, the two of them played
nearly everything this on here and co-produced it as well. Things get started
with the gooey “Intelligent Lovers” then zips right into the terrific title
track (which has beats!). “Devil on My Side” is one of the best cuts on here as
is the piano pop of “Tallest Tourist.” Other chunky, buzzy pop cuts include
“Arc de Triomphe”, “The Greatest” and the spare, gentle album closer (not
chunky or buzzy), “Flame Ball for Hire.”

 

I’m happy to
report that Baxter has crafted a solo record that’s intelligent and catchy and
thankfully she hasn’t forgotten the importance of the song as this rousing
(solo) debut is a joy from start to finish.

 

DOWNLOAD:  “Intelligent
Lovers”, Arc de Triomphe”, “The
Greatest”, “Devil on My Side” TIM HINELY

 

 

 

Butterfly Boucher – Butterfly Boucher

January 01, 1970

(self-released)

 

www.butterflyboucher.com

 

If fate had been
kinder to Butterfly Boucher, she might have been born early enough to provide
formidable competition for Madonna back in the day, what with her strikingly
ethereal vocals and pulsating pop template. As it is, this native Aussie is
forced to compete in uncertain circumstance, caught up in the midst of her
hyper beat underpinnings.

 

Three albums on,
those kinetic, diva-esque designs remain somewhat unnerving, given her jittery
rhythms and a postured approach — on album anyway — that echoes that of Lady
Ga Ga and Florence and the Machine. She’s had her share of successes — a duet
with David Bowie singing “Changes” as part of the soundtrack for the film Shrek 2, a musical contribution to an episode of
“Grey’s Anatomy” and most recently, production duties on Missy Higgins’ latest,
The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle — so clearly she’s beginning to carve
out a prodigious career. Nevertheless, the icy impression conveyed with songs
like “5678!,” “Unashamed Desire” and “I Wanted To Be The Son” corals any
attempt to convey a legitimate rock regimen. Only when she sheds that aloof
veneer and gives way to more genuine emotion — as expressed in mostly subdued
songs such as “Warning Bell,” “Don’t Look Now” and “Take It Away” that Butterfly Boucher really takes flight.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Warning Bell,” “Don’t Look Now” LEE
ZIMMERMAN

 

 

Old Crow Medicine Show – Carry Me Back

January 01, 1970

(ATO)

 

www.atorecords.com

 

There has been a trend of late; bearded, knitted-capped,
blazer-wearing, sundress champions (if they have female band members) have
grabbed up old whiskey jugs, dulcimers and fiddles and turned to bluegrass
& folk music for inspiration.  These
bands choose the age-old music of the hills for a profession, in many cases
tweaking it to such a point that, in the end, it only vaguely resembles the genre
from which it sprang.  Bands like Mumford
and Sons, Avett Brothers, Split Lip Rayfield and Yonder Mountain String Band
have been leading the way in the semi-traditionalist charge with their varying
takes on what some may reflexively call “hillbilly music” but is probably more
accurately – and certainly more respectfully – referred to as music from the
southeastern end of the Appalachian mountains.
Those bands may be the most noticeable names, due to their buzzband statuses
(and they don’t all hail from the mountains, either; the Mumfords are based in
the UK);
but the true kings of this revival are Old Crow Medicine Show.

 

With their latest offering Carry Me Back, the banjos are ringin’, the mandolins are singing at
the speed of a hummingbird’s wings, the fiddles are sawed upon with vigor, and
the fog of the Tennessee
hills calls to all of us.  Since the
return of founding member Critter Fuqua earlier this year (following the
departure of Willie Watson), it sounds as though an explosion of energy and a
newfound love for the music has engulfed the band, translating brilliantly,
perfectly to Carry

 

With Carry Me Back, they
have succeeded in bringing a genre back to the world in its purest form.  Fiddles, mandolins, acoustic guitars and
standup bass intermingle to create a music that diehard roots music fans would
love and, at the same time, win over new converts.   It is the perfect time for an album like Carry Me Back, a time when the
mainstream has come around to them; it welcomes their tradition-minded approach
built around groundbreakers like Bill Monroe, The Stanley Brothers, Charley
Patton and Jimmie Rodgers.

 

The two tracks that open the record, “Carry Me Back to
Virginia” and “We Don’t Grow Tobacco” are the songs that blast the listener
back to a forgot time most of all.  If
you stuck them on a 78 acetate disc and cranked up the old Edison,
you’d swear they were recorded at the Bristol Sessions alongside the Carter
Family.  Singer/fiddler Ketch Secor has a
new found joy in the songs and it has made for possibly Old Crow Medicine
Show’s best record since 2006’s Big Iron
World.

 

There is a striking feeling and power woven throughout the
songs, whether its “Bootlegger’s Boy,” “Mississippi Saturday Night,” “Steppin’
Out” or “Sewanee Mountain Catfight.”  Old
Crow Medicine Show are ready for a new phase, poised to take their place among
the new wave of neo-traditionalists. 
Hell, with a record as flawless as Carry
Me Back
under their belts, they are in a position to take the lead and show
these kids how it is really done.  Earl
Scruggs, A.P. Carter, “Stringbean” Akeman and Roy Acuff would most definitely
be proud.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Bootlegger’s Boy,” “We Don’t Grow Tobacco” DANNY R.
PHILLIPS

 

 

Baroness – Yellow & Green

January 01, 1970

(Relapse)

 

www.relapse.com

 

Baroness has made a name for itself over the last decade as
one of the finest bands in the underground metal scene, playing with everyone
from High On Fire to Jane’s Addiction to Metallica. With the double record Yellow & Green, however, the Savannah foursome drops a
lot of the extreme metal trappings (like sludgy tempos and harsh vocals) for a
more expansive, melodic sound.

 

As with Baroness’ brother band Mastodon, there’s an emphasis
on progressive rock – “Mtns. (The Crown & Anchor),” “Cocainium” and “Psalms
Alive” flow through shifting moods and atmospheric textures beyond metal, while
“Back Where I Belong,” “Sea Lungs” and “Eula” form a psych/prog trilogy of sorts.
Elsewhere there’s the Queenesque majesty of “Green Theme,” the atmospheric pop
of “Collapse,” the instrumental acid folk of “Stretchmarker,” the groovy acid
rock of “Board Up the House” and the lilting coda “If I Forget Thee,
Lowcountry.” There’s also the straightaheadbanging of “The Line Between,” “March
to the Sea” and “Take My Bone Away” for the traditionalists.

 

If this sounds like the group is firing wildly in the hope
of hitting a target, fear not – through careful sequencing and the sonic consistency
of leader John Dyer Baizley’s voice and vision, the record never feels
scattershot. Yellow & Green documents the evolution of Baroness from great metal band to great band.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Back
Where I Belong,” “Psalms Alive,” “Take My Bones Away” MICHAEL TOLAND

 

El-P – Cancer4Cure

January 01, 1970

(Fat Possum)

 

www.fatpossum.com

 

If there’s one thing I’ve come to really respect and appreciate
about Brooklyn hip-hop visionary Jaime
“El-Producto” Meline in the 15-plus years I’ve been listening to him
beyond, of course, his uncanny skills on the mic and futuristic touch behind the
mixing board is his staunch ability to walk away without an ounce of regret.

 

It assisted him in the decision of pulling his group, ‘90s indie
rap icons Company Flow, out of a toxic, towering inferno of Rawkus Records as
the walls began to crumble from the retardedly bad business decisions of
founders Brian Brater and Jarret Myer, starting with jumping into bed with News
Corp. prodigal son James Murdoch.

 

It helped him to amicably close the book on the trio he founded in
1992 with DJ Mr. Len (and Bigg Jus, who joined the group a year later in ’93)
just as anticipation for the follow-up to their 1997 college/street masterpiece
Funcrusher Plus was reaching a fever pitch in order to focus on the
launch of his own influential imprint, Definitive Jux, where did everything
from answering phones to paying bills to signing acts.

 

With the help of NYC underground impresario Amaechi Uzoigwe, the label would carry the weight of El’s
maverick sensibilities well into the first decade of the 21st century,
releasing classic LPs from a posse of urban outlaws including Cannibal Ox, Mr.
Lif, Aesop Rock, Cage and RJD2 among others, not to mention his own solo
output, punctuated by the mesmerizing 2002 work Fantastic Damage.

 

But in 2011, amidst the wake of a music industry hobbled by
ravenous downloading, an economy in the basement and hip-hop’s seismic shift
from throwback purity to commercialized minstrelsy, El once again mustered up
the gumption to know when to walk
away and closed the doors on Def Jux after a solid 13 years of good service.
But not without dropping one last classic on our domes: King of Hearts, the
terribly underrated posthumous solo debut of Camu Tao, who passed away from
lung cancer just prior to the release of this strange and beautiful dystopian
mash-up of hip-hop, R&B, 8-bit and cold wave that will undoubtedly be
heralded in the years to come by future crate diggers.

 

Yet once again, like a muthalovin’ phoenix, El-P rises from the
smoldering ashes of what he previously left behind. And on his third vocal LP
and first for the vintage-blues-cum-all-mod-cons Mississippi imprint Fat Possum Records, the rapper achieves the totality
of the sound he was reaching for on 2007’s I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead and 2010’s instrumental one-off for !K7 We’reallgonnaburninhellmeggamixx3 and made him the toast of such non hip-hop related acts as Trent Reznor, Elvis
Costello and Radiohead.

 

The spirit of Camu indeed looms large over the course of C4C,
from the choice of album title to El’s heartfelt dedication to him on closing
track “$ Vic/FTL (Me and You)”. But his presence is pretty much the
primary semblance of the old Def Jux days prevalent across these dozen tracks
(unless, of course, you take exception
to the appearances of Yo La Tengo’s James McNew and Chavez guitarist Matt
Sweeney, who have been faithfully serving as the MC’s session men for a hot
minute now–and this time are joined by former Mars Volta keyboardist Ikey
Owens). While on the onset it is a little odd to think of El without his Jukies
by his side. But the absolution of their collective absence has helped the
evolution of El-P as an artist move forward in ways he hasn’t procured since Damage.

 

In the stead of Lif, Cage and Aesop, El surrounds himself with a
crew of the hottest national MCs currently rocking the subterranean level of
the rap game. Truth be told, it is a bit strange for the fan who’s been with
him since the Co-Flow days to see the guy fraternizing with the likes of Danny
Brown from Detroit and Atlanta rhyme champion Killer Mike. But the
way by which these men dive headfirst into the static field of El-P’s
production on tracks like “Oh Hail No” and “Tougher Colder
Killer”, you easily catch the feeling those cats know whose house they are
in. Especially Mike, who extrapolates upon their growing partnership sowed on
the Killer One’s outstanding comeback album R.A.P. Music that El
produced in its entirety and has been hailed as the best intra-cultural hip-hop
LP since Ice Cube and the Bomb Squad got together for AmeriKKKa’s Most
Wanted
.

 

Yet make no mistake: Cancer4Cure is very much a window
shattering Brooklyn rap record in every sense, evidenced in the appearance of
two of the borough’s brightest young lions, Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire and
Despot, the only proper living holdover from the Def days whose contribution to
“Tougher Colder Killer” gives him the shine he couldn’t properly
achieve while overshadowed by his more prolific compatriots at Jux. Shit, man,
El even manages to help hipster rock heavyweights Paul Banks of Interpol and
Islands’ Nick Diamonds grime it up in ways the little trust fund brats on
Bedford Ave. couldn’t dream of on the likes of “Works Every Time” and
“Stay Down” respectively.

 

But at the end of the day its Meline who owns his own work here,
busting loose some of the sharpest darts of his life on “The Full
Retard”, “Drones Over Bklyn” and “True Story”, where
he comes up with fire like “Pardon the fuzz I’m distorted, contorted,
pardon the hiss/Don’t let him Henson me, enter me and control me how I
twitch/They say the holiest shit until flames around them get lit/Then Costanza
the crowd of children… kick a baby to live.” Funny, I always took El as
more of a Kramer kind of guy.

 

And the best thing about it is that he did it on his own terms, as
if to reiterate the “Independent as Fuck” credo for those who might
have failed to fully understand it the first time around.

 

DOWNLOAD: “The
Full Retard”, “Drones Over Bklyn”, “Oh Hail No”,
“Tougher Colder Killer”, “True Story” RON HART

 

Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten

January 01, 1970

(Mercury Records)

 

www.islanddefjam.com

 

For those purists worried that the move from a punk rock
indie to a big bad major label (Mercury in this case) would ruin The Gaslight Anthem,
strong-arming them to fill their tattooed Springsteen anthems with manufactured
beats and soulless auto tune, worry no more. On their fourth outing, the band sounds
pretty much like… well, Gaslight Anthem. And as much as Brain Fallon and the
boys must bristle at all the Bruce comparisons at this point, that Garden State
Parkway vibe still runs all the way through Handwritten,
despite recording the album in Nashville.

 

The steady driving “Mulholland Drive” and the Roy
Orbison-worthy “Here Comes My Man” are among the band’s best and could have
easily come off their breakthrough 2008 release The ’59 Sound. You can take the boys out of Jersey,
but…

 

DOWNLOAD: “Mulholland Drive,”
“Here Comes My Man” JOHN B. MOORE

 

Slug Guts – Playin’ in Time With the Deadbeat

January 01, 1970

(Sacred Bones)

 

www.sacredbonesrecords.com

 

It’s no revelation that the specter of the Birthday Party
haunts half the bands in Australia. The BP’s innovative mix of gothic Americana,
flaming postpunk and meatgrinding skronk has influenced countless artists
around the world for the last three decades. That said, Nick Cave’s former
group seems to cast a particular spell on its countryfolk – pride of place, one
supposes. From the immediately successive blues crunge of Feedtime and King
Snake Roost to the quarter century late Stabs, the Birthday Party’s distinctive
sonic wave still crashes over Australia’s beaches.

 

Slug Guts is the latest combo to kick out the chaotic jams. On
its third LP Playin’ in Time With the
Deadbeat
, the Brisbane
quartet leans most heavily on the postpunk quotient of this particular witch’s
brew, with frigid guitar slashes and a nimble rhythm section fighting with the
barely-hinged vocals for prominence in the murky mix. There’s a surprising
amount of, dare it be said, grace in the smoky scree of “Black Sports,” “Moving
Heat” and “Old Black Sweats” – the thuggery is more Malcolm McDowell’s Alex
dancing around his victims than Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance hacking at the
door with an axe. “Glory Holes” boasts a melody one might almost call
accessible, while the title track adds just enough rootsy atmosphere to offset
the swaggering sneer. Not that the band’s lack of user-friendliness is a bad
thing – Playin’ in Time With the Deadbeat is the right kind of challenge, its knotty twists and cranky attitude adding to
the noisy, visceral thrills.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Moving
Heat,” “Glory Holes,” “Old Black Sweats” MICHAEL TOLAND

 

 

 

Antlers – Undersea

January 01, 1970

(Anti-)

 

www.anti.com

 

The Antlers’ new album, Undersea,
is actually an EP, which is the direction (at least one direction) that music
is moving these days – and I like it. Because (1) who listens to full albums
anymore; and (2) the EP lends itself to certain sonic experimentation which, in
the case of an ambient indie-rock act like the Brooklyn-based group, is ideal.

 

Undersea is not a
departure for the trio (Peter Silberman, Darby Cicci, Michael Lerner); more
like a continuation. The high warble and metallic percussion of 2011 track
“Parentheses” (with Silberman’s haunting high vocal almost begging comparisons
to Radiohead) led the way to the four songs of Undersea. After the drama and spacey rush of that earlier tune, the
cool, slowed “Zelda” of Undersea feels like a sigh. It sounds like the water world retort to the other’s light
speed flight through the cosmos. But still, here are the layered keys, the
vocals shot through with reverb, and the electronics that buoy the music rather
than submerge it.

 

The Antlers started streaming tracks from Undersea last month, starting with
“Drift Drive.” Electronic washes and swooning lap-steel are beachy, though not
cloyingly so. This is not the sun-bleached and white-sand expanse of current
dream-pop acts. Early on, the track nods at glitchy beats (these quickly melt
into watery, lapping pulses); horns rise from and then are again absorbed by
the dusky atmosphere. Silberman’s vocal is dusky, too, swelling to its upper
register here and there in the most graceful of gestures.

 

“Crest” gives more of a platform for the lyrics – these ebb
against the shimmery backdrop of horns and keys, rich and emotive. “Float on
your back,” Silberman sings at the climax, repeating, “take me closer to truth,
but much, much further.” Here, in the starfield and soundscape, the sentiment
is a plea to a personal deity; the vastness of the universe juxtaposed with the
smallness of the individual. And yet the song is huge, riding a tide away from
dry land.

 

“Endless Ladder,” the longest track at over eight minutes,
eases in on a series of sounds that could be the culled-from-nature domain of
new age music. But what could easily dissolve into crickets and wind chimes
wends its way, instead, into the percussive splash and sway of a song that
straddles worlds between slow-core-reinvented Bossa Nova and organic
experimental rock. The melody is deconstructed yet its aura is felt, a ghost
hand, still warm, steering the drift and ebb. The lyrics, distorted but for the
repeated line “climbing higher,” become another instrument in the waves of
sound and earthy beats.

 

Each of Undersea‘s
parts – unique and of different moods – are standouts, both for their spirit of
melodic experimentation and for the near-visual soundscapes they build and
sustain. But as a whole, the EP is a beautiful daydream, lush and peaceful, an
encapsulated moment where time seems to expand continuously toward a distant
horizon.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Crest,”
“Endless Ladder” ALLI MARSHALL

 

 

 

 

Langhorne Slim & The Law – The Way We Move

January 01, 1970

(Ramseur Records)

 

www.ramseurrecords.com

 

Though it’s not
obvious from the themes covered, The Way
We Move
is a road album. Thanks to the building popularity from his last
two efforts, Langhorne Slim and his band have spent the better part of the past
few years trekking the globe, playing small clubs and massive festival stages,
leaving little downtime away from van to write music. So many of ideas that
make it onto The Way We Move were
picked up in parking lots, back stage green rooms and long stretches of highway
over the past two years. The result is more satisfying than anything this
suburban Philly native has put on wax to date (and that takes into account how
great his last record was).

 

A bit more sober
and introspective than 2009’s Be Set Free,
Slim tackles the death of his grandfather in the moving “Song for Sid” and the
demise of a five-year relationship (popping up in several tracks on the album).
Though the record is not all heartbreak and mourning; The slow build “Found My
Heart,” for example, may just be the band’s first ever arena rocker and
“Someday,” clocking in at just over a minute, sounds like a great long lost Cat
Stevens track that was never recorded.    

 

Langhorne Slim and
the boys have clearly written a career-defining record. It’ll be interesting to
see how they manage to top this one the next time out.

 

DOWNLOAD: “The Way We Move,” “On the Attack” and “Past
Lives”  JOHN B. MOORE