Sunday, December 17, 2006

Smack Dab - Right Smack Dab

No, this isn't a novelty song. All of Smack Dab's songs sound like this. Short, catchy, and a little bit silly. Ahh, but I love it! Smack Dab's charm can surely be pinned on the inimitable voice of the eternally childlike Linda Hagood, who sounds like a primitive, purer version of Joanna Newsom. (Guess Hagood should have learned to play the harp.)

Trouser Press has an informative write-up on the trio here, but I have a story of my own. I first heard the band when their second album, Majestic Root, was originally released in 1994 (containing the above song), but forgot about them a few years later. Fast forward to 2001; I'm living in San Francisco and one night I go to a bar in the mission with a friend. I sit down at the bar and the female bartender says--in a squeaky, cute voice-- "What can I get for you?" I nearly fell off the stool. "You used to be in Smack Dab, didn't you?!" I asked. Strangely, she didn't even seem that surprised. She was more surprised that I didn't recognize her from the Double U, a San Francisco based-band she was in at the time.

The above photo is a recent image of Hagood. I couldn't find any cool vintage photos. See, Google Images doesn't have everything.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Palm Fabric Orchestra - The Garden


In 1988, Poi Dog Pondering quickly built a reputation as a lovable troupe of scruffy kids from Texas who often had trouble fitting on the stage, literally and figuratively. Orbiting around lead singer Frank Orral was a constellation of eight or ten folk journeymen and musical stragglers who played exotic instruments like the ukelele and accordion (what, you thought Beirut invented that?). And with their debut single and college radio hit "Living with the Dreamy Body," Poi Dog had the perfect song to launch a legend. Introduced with a tin whistle and Scottish drum rolls, "Dreamy Body" sounded like nothing else on college radio, and yet, with its nasal vocals and silly lyrics, was not so far removed from other alternative bands of the time.

And then everything went to shit. The band signed to Columbia and released a really embarrassing album of crunchy granola folk that was too bland even for the '89 Earth Day festival. After that, Poi Dog went electric and tried rap and Smiths soundalikes. With one chord from Kurt Cobain, Poi Dog was rendered both obsolete and uncool. In 1992, Orral dissolved the band temporarily to record a new, one-off album under the name of Palm Fabric Orchestra.

Thankfully, Orral didn't attempt to stay current by going grunge. Instead, he retreated into that strange boomer netherworld, New Age, and believe it or not, the album he recorded (with a bunch of other Poi Doggers) is actually a classic of the genre. Released on Carrot Top in 1994, Palm Fabric Orchestra's sole album Vague Gropings in the Slip Stream has held up better than anything in the Poi Dog catalog (except that first EP). Of course, it is New Age, so an open mind is most definitely required.

After releasing the Palm Fabric Orchestra album, Orral kicked Poi Dog Pondering back into gear and continued to release albums. They are still recording and playing as of 2006.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Chapterhouse - Pearl

Almost anyone who loved music and grew up in Jacksonville went to Einsteins at some point. It was an underage club so they didn't serve alcohol. Kids went there mainly to dance and to be seen on the scene. The uniform for girls was jeans or skirt, doc martens, and a white or blank tank top. People who visited from out of town were always mystified by the fact that people all faced in the same direction while they danced. People also tended to dance right in front of the speaker and air-guitar...a lot.

Anyway, this pic is from Einstein's early days, before the monodirectional craze kicked in. But I swear it's true! I was there pretty much every Saturday night.

One of my all-time favorites from the Einsteins playlist was Chapterhouse's "Pearl." It wasn't obscure at the time, but I bet most people under 22 have never heard the song. Download it now and imagine yourself dancing in front of the speaker, air-guitaring the night away, and it's like you're there.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Folky Goodness

Raven Sings the Blues is a nice little blog that profiles new and old music. In August, the site posted some mp3's from two amazing femme folkies, Linda Perhacs and the newly discovered Sibylle Baier. Click here to download some truly beautiful (and slightly weird) tracks.

Also, the brilliant Waxidermy blog posted on Mossy Davidson a while back. Mossy, who recorded this album in Alaska, is actually related to Jewel! She put out one double album of lonely folk tunes sometime in the '70s and it's definitely worth hearing. Click here for an mp3.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Azitis - Who's to Blame

Released in 1970, the sole album by Azitis (pronounced "as it is") is regarded by some folks (mostly the band themselves) as the first Christian rock album. Certainly, the themes are apparent enough from the overtly religious album cover and song titles like "Judgment Day," but this claim is dubious. Most Christian rockers consider the first Christian rock album to be Larry Norman's Upon This Rock. Nevertheless, Azitis' record is certainly the first overtly Christian psych album, if that counts for anything.

The band started out as a fourpiece in Sacramento, calling themselves the very unchristian sounding Cambridge Coroners. The key members were Don Lower and Steve Nelson; other members came and went.

Somehow the band got signed to Capitol and drove down to LA to record Help, an album presumably concerned with more important issues than what John Lennon had on his mind when he wrote a song of that name. According to the band, the cover was a symbol "chosen to represent Christianity, piercing the earth. It was the theme for our earlier work. The invention of christian faith was overshadowing the other philosophies of mankind. Our message was, all religions give us hope and faith in our fellow man. The only solution for a crowded planet."

Draw your own conclusions about the band's philosophy, but the music is indeed an intriguing mix of Floyd-style space rock and LA-styled folk rock.

The band has a website that badly needs updating, but does contain some useful information and plenty of period pics.

In the past year a large number of psych/folk blogs have been appearing. Most of them post entire albums and the quality is generally amazing. I advise everyone to head over to Joy of a Toy, a new blog, and download Mellow Candle's brilliant Swaddling Songs.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Mosquitoes - Special Powers

Sometime around 2001 I started up a record label to release a 7" by my then-favorite local band, Mates of State. After that single quickly sold out,it was apparent that Mates of State had outgrown the confines of little indie labels like mine. So without any artists to promote, I began attending shows in San Francisco looking for cool new bands.

I think I saw the Mosquitoes at the Edinburgh Castle, a Scottish pub in San Francisco that hosted big-screen soccer parties and shambling indie shows. I was drunk and tired when I saw the Mosquitoes, but their show captivated me nonetheless. They reminded me of the Bartlebees and the Television Personalities, indie pop bands with great songs and shoddy instrumentation. I talked to the Mosquitoes singer afterwards and he gave me an untitled, handmade CD with the songtitles written on a little card inside.

Last month I looked up the band and found out some real details. The band is largely the work of Drew Cramer, a San Francisco free-spirit who has worked as a gardener and dessert chef to pay the rent. He is a firm believer in DIY and does almost nothing to promote the band beyond playing the occasional show.

The band is bigger in Australia, where the Lost and Lonesome label has issued an official CD. Check the website here for more info and an interview with Cramer.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

New post coming soon. In the meantime, there are two new fantastic blogs out there catering to the psych crowd. I highly recommend you check these out:

Acid Dazed
It's Psych

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Bully Pulpit - You Flatter Me

Bully Pulpit was a truly strange band from LaGrange, IL. Their only CD Beyond Elysium... was released on the interesting '90s label Lotuspool. It was hard for me to find information on the band at first since all the bandmembers used pseudonyms. Luckily, Lotuspool co-founder Chris Garibaldi finally helped me get my facts straight.

According to Garibaldi, "the album was recorded in LaGrange and at a barn in Kansas from 1992 to 1994. Most tracks were laid in the loft of a large dairy barn with electricity coming from a single extension chord, which stretched from a Jerry-rigged light socket in the milking facility, just one building away from the barn. The recording was moved to the farm house when the owners of the property discovered the recording and the many highly flammable situations it fostered."

Garibaldi's notes also include a cryptic reference to the band's relationship with William S. Burroughs. Apparently, they all used to shoot various weapons together at the barn.

Beyond Elysium, a demented amalgam of country, avant-garde rock and psych, got some notices at a few CMJ stations and from John Peel, but failed to generate much interest nationally. The band was clearly influenced by the San Francisco music scene of the '90s, especially the skronky experimentalism of the Thinking Fellers. Unfortunately, Bully Pulpit's songwriting rarely reached the same heights as their innovative impulses, and the album is a patchwork affair that is listenable only in spurts (or with the aid of drugs.) Album opener "You Flatter Me" effectively summarizes the band's interests, and remains an intriguing and original artifact of the era.

Bully Pulpit recorded a second album Jockeys in 1995 which was never released, but was available online at one point. I can't find it now. It's supposed to be more cohesive and accessible.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Great Lakes - Storming

Pitchfork's recent feature about the best songs of the '60s was definitely an impressive achievement. To me, it was a coming-of-age moment for the site. Still, I was a little surprised to see the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" listed as the best song of the '60s. Sure, the song is gorgeously produced and arranged, evoking that melancholy nostaglia that Brian Wilson perfected. But I thought all the hipsters had moved on to psych-folk now (or some other hip new thing) and they'd pick a Fairport Convention track as the song of the decade.

See, in the mid-to-late '90s, the whole Beach Boys obsession got really out of hand. Every band in Magnet and Spin was clamoring to cite Pet Sounds as an influence when two days before they thought it was junk. It was a weird shift to live through, because in the '80s and early '90s the Beach Boys were reviled by the indie scene. In 1993, a couple friends and I gave the album a listen and couldn't hear what all the Rolling Stone hype was about. "Isn't this the band that did Kokomo?" we asked. Well, something in the air changed because two years later, in 1995, everyone I knew suddenly realized what a monster Pet Sounds was.

I know this is true because of all the bands that emerged with thinly veiled knock-offs of Pet Sounds at that time. The mother of all these is of course Hawaii by the High Llamas, a record that isn't so much a tribute as it is the sound of an obsessive music fan stalking Brian Wilson's legacy in a very creepy way. By the time Athens band the Great Lakes joined the Beach Boys bandwagon, most of the others had already moved on. Too bad, though, because this is a wanna-be record of the highest order. Opener "Storming" not only matches Wilson's melodic grace but it makes the most of a makeshift orchestra of friends and acquaintences that probably wondered in the room after a bong hit. The rest of the album splits the difference between late '90s twee pop and orchestral flourish and for the most part, it works.

In 2006, the Great Lakes came out with a third album called Diamond Times. Check here for info.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Tiny Idols, Vol. 2 is out today!

In case you didn't know, this site is an extension of a compilation series of the same name. Tiny Idols, Vol. 2, subtitled "Transmissions from the Indie Underground, 1995-1999" is a survey of the best obscure and out-of-print tracks from this fertile decade. Go on over to my website for some mp3's and info on how to buy.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Madder Rose - Madder Rose

English people are always great at repackaging American music and selling it back to us. Perhaps you have heard of the Beatles? Well, in 1993, the British did it again.

Inspired by the influx of American indie-pop singles, influential British label Rough Trade decided to put out a compilation of the best emerging talent. Titled Unnecessary Niceness, the compilation begins with one of Madder Rose's finest compositions, "Madder Rose," and proceeds to offer up nine more equally great tracks by bands like the Spinanes, Helium, Lois, and all-time indie comp fave Lorelei. That many of these bands are now considered staples of the genre testifies to Rough Trade's amazing ability to spot talent. Either that or this compilation made these bands.

Madder Rose's career got started around the same time this compilation came out, and at first they seemed destined for stardom. This New York quartet had all the right influences (Velvet Underground, Jonathan Richman) and a great frontwoman in guitarist/vocalist Mary Lorson. The band's songs were simple, catchy, and a little lethargic in that late-night kinda way that Galaxie 500 tried so hard to perfect.

Lorson made it look easy. Madder Rose's chord progressions and melodies were often deceptively simple, hiding oblique, sometimes cynical lyrics that concealed more than they revealed. While Madder Rose's intellectual spin on indie pop solidified their status as the archetypical New York band of the '90s, it also may help explain the group's lack of album sales. What I don't understand is why Luna was able to mold a similar sound and have a more successful and lasting career.

Madder Rose's first two albums still stand as fine examples of smart, sleepy-eyed indie pop and have not aged a bit.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Mary's Danish - These Are All the Shapes Nevada Could Have Been

In 1985 two college friends went to see X play a show in Los Angeles. It was a night that would dramatically alter the course of their lives. Inspired by X's off-kilter harmonies, Gretchen Seager and Julie Ritter decided to form a band that would ultimately become Mary's Danish. Ten years later, the band would break up after signing to a hopelessly mismanaged indie label that burned through loads of money before burning out themselves.

But in 1989, everything looked rosy for Mary's Danish. The band's first album, There Goes the Wondertruck introduced Mary's Danish's formula -- countrified vocal harmonies atop slippery swaths of funk and headlong rock. It was a quite successful sound at the time, and it yielded a huge college radio hit, Don't Crash the Car Tonight. But it is a sound which has not aged well. Slap-pop bass, wha-wha guitar solos, and blaring saxophones are to the '90s what big hair and shoulder pads were to the late '80s: trends that even the most retro hipsters are doubtful to imitate.

Circa, Mary's Danish' follow-up, casts an even wider net than the debut, tacking on instrumental mood pieces, a Jimi Hendrix cover, heavy metal guitar moves, social protest songs, and a horn section. Although there are plenty of embarrasing moments, the album remains a highly enjoyable, if admittedly patchwork affair. "These Are All the Shapes Nevada Could Have Been" finds the band adding disco to their to-do list, and it comes up sounding great, to these ears anyway. (Most of my friends ridicule the band.) Another standout track, "Hoof," displays Seager and Ritter's sensitive side with a ballad that fits their twangy vocals perfectly. Unfortunately for Morgan Creek, the label that put a great deal of money into releasing the album, Circa's sales did not measure up to the debut despite solid critical support.

After a hastily recorded follow-up that sanded down the band's splintered edges, Mary's Danish, and their label, called it quits.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Dharma Bums - Haywire

Contrary to popular belief, few '90s bands actually sounded like Pavement or Sebadoh. Sure, many recorded under the assumption that a recording budget had no correlation to -- and was perhaps even detrimental to -- good music, but the true source of all '90s bands was in fact R.E.M. This truth is obscured by the fact that R.E.M. had entered the '90s as something of an embarrassment, a reminder of alt-rockers' tree-hugging days spent thinking that maybe 10,000 Maniacs actually could solve the homeless problem with a hit song. Worse still, on their 1994 misfire Monsters, R.E.M. offered proof of their own irrelevancy by plagiarizing the genre that supplanted them, three long years after Nirvana and the Smashing Pumpkins heralded the new sound of a more angry, disillusioned generation.

But in 1988, R.E.M was still king. The Dharma Bums, although legendary in their hometown of Portland, Oregon, possessed neither the charm or media savvy that R.E.M. so effortlessly mutated into commercial stardom. That didn't stop the Bums from releasing two decent albums of what critics were then accurately calling "college rock" -- accurate, because absolutely no one else was listening to it. Still, the Dharma Bums' debut did produce one great song. The effortlessly brilliant "Haywire" stands as one of the most appealing R.E.M. ripoffs of the late '80s, an era that hardly had a shortage of them. The chiming guitar arpeggios and no-nonsense drumming is an easy enough feat to replicate, but what amazes still is the way in which Bums' singer Jeremy Wilson captures Stipe's ability to mix mumbled, vaguely poetic lyrics into a beguiling confection that pulls the listener in like a beautiful girl whispering at you across the table.

R.E.M. was influential in many ways, but Stipe's lyrical equivocacy was ultimately the band's most important innovation. The cryptic song titles and lyrics of both Pavement and Guided by Voices is undoubtably a testament to R.E.M.'s lingering fingerprints, even if neither was quick to admit it. In fact, when Pavement did finally acknowledge R.E.M.'s influence, my friends and I must have breathed a sigh of relief. "Okay," we thought, "I guess it's okay that I know every word of 'It's the End of the World as We Know It' after all." In 1988, the Dharma Bums wouldn't have been embarrased though. They'd ingested the R.E.M. formula so well that they could regurgitate it into an accidental masterpiece, a song from an era before R.E.M. could do no wrong.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Kurt Vile - Song for John in D

If Kurt Vile is as obscure and unknown as he seems, why is it that everyone I meet has heard of him? Of course people like Ariel Pink, curator of the absurd, and his outsider art teacher R. Stevie Moore know who he is. But at a recent Lilys and Human Television show, both bands made comments about him to me backstage. "He's a great guitarist," one bandmember said. "He's spotty, but he's got some good songs too," another musician said. And a quick google search reveals that this kid, who only releases handmade CD-R's and plays rarely, actually has an fan site. (Vile's own site has been "coming soon" for months.)

Okay, what is this? Some kind of conspiracy or a vast coincidence? I'm not sure, but it's true what they say: Vile can play the guitar. Like a bedroom version of John Fahey, Vile picks out delicate tunes on an acoustic guitar and decorates the scenery with fractured electronics and his pretty, fragile voice bouncing off the walls in the distance.

Last year, Vile sent me 6 CD-R's in the mail, all with scrappy, black-and-white artwork collages adorning the covers. I found that the music within was a bit spotty but Vile's lonely voice and nuanced guitar playing intrigued me. I attempted to wade through his dense catalog several times and every time I did, I kept coming back to "Song for John in D," a beautifully played song that gets more eerie every time I hear it.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Whorl -- Maybe It's Better / Christmas -- Slumberland DRYL 11, 1992Whorl -- Maybe It's Better / Christmas -- Slumberland DRYL 11, 1992Hi everyone, it's Jay from :: clicky clicky music blog :: filling in a bit for Mr. Griffey while he is off contemplating the finer things in life like Steve Winwood. Anyway, as a rabid fan of the '90s indie rock Mr. Griffey so often concerns himself with, there are several things I feel compelled to share with you, but we'll start small.

At the heart of the knot of threads that lead back from so many great indie bands is the D.C. scene and acts such as Black Tambourine and Whorl, the latter of which we'll concern ourselves with today. Specifically I'd like to publicly declare my love for a song that close aquaintances know well is one of my favorites. "Maybe It's Better" is the A-side to the "Maybe It's Better"/"Christmas" single released on Slumberland in February 1992 as DRYL-11 (it was the single directly following the tactical nuclear strike that was DRYL-10, Velocity Girl's triumphant and unequalled "My Forgotten Favorite" [MP3 posted here with a ton of other Slumberland cuts). This was before Slumberland [new Epitonic page, Tweenet page] moved out west, when it was still based in Silver Spring, Maryland. Says so right on the label. Anyway, according to the insert that came with the single the song was recorded at Inner Ear studios in June 1991, and the lineup was Brian, Dan, Rob and Mike. You may recall that in the early '90s nobody had last names. The Mike in the lineup, if memory serves, is Michael Schulman, also a member of Black Tambourine [MySpace] and one of the principle owners of Slumberland. So there you go. Whorl, so far as we can tell, only ever issued five songs -- two singles and a compilation cut. But we haven't really exhaustively researched their output.

We were drawn to the this single at first because we had transferred to a new small liberal arts college in Connecticut and were confronted with an entire new library of music at their radio station to get through. As a big fan of the first two Lilys CDs, our first instinct was to plow through the available Slumberland and Spin-Art releases for gold. One of the biggest finds of course is "Maybe It's Better," which we've posted below. The song is the sound of a man broken by love, bobbing in the ebb of reverbed, jangly guitars and clattering drums, drowsy with drink, mumbling and slurring his heartache right into your ears:

"I know there's something wrong /
think it's kind of funny we lost our charm /
maybe I stayed too long."

And on and on. The song is brutally poignant, and if you've ever felt completely ill-equipped for success in a romantic relationship, it is also weirdly familiar. This song file is ripped from a tape recording of the vinyl single at WESU Middletown. As such there's a little extra crunching and popping, but just think of that as more evidence of Whorl's bottomless heartache.

Whorl -- "Maybe It's Better" -- DRYL-11, 1992, Slumberland Records

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Subset - Cabin Fever

Just after moving to Austin in 2000, I saw a TV news story about a young kid who decided to start his own record label, which he called Post-Parlo records. "This is newsworthy because...why?" I asked myself. Nevertheless, I checked out the label's website and heard the above track by Subset and made a mental note of it. Six years later, I'm wondering what ever happened to Subset.

Turns out that little information is available on the band beyond what can be found on the Post-Parlo website, which hasn't been updated since 2004. According to the site, the band was formed by Lindsey Simon (guitar, vocals) and Nathan Fish (bass, vocals) in 1999. After releasing a 7", they added Silver Scooter drummer Tom Hudson and recorded their debut CD, Overpass. After garnering some local radio play, the band dissappeared and have not been heard from since.

I recently picked up Overpass in a CD bargain bin and got to hear it for the first time in six years. Although "Cabin Fever" stands out, the remainder of the CD is clogged with mediocre, guitar-based indie rock that splits the difference between Death Cab for Cutie and REM. Patient listening yields a few rewards, like the almost rootsy "Strained" and the outdated charm of, uh, "Outdated," but some of the emo moves become grating quickly. Anybody know anything about Subset's whereabouts?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Starlight Conspiracy - Silver Holler

Starlight Conspiracy were a part of the Burlington, Vermont music scene in the '90s. With the exception of Guppyboy's homespun folk, most Vermont bands preferred the muddier turf of grunge and punk. Looking back, it would seem Starlight Conspiracy were smack in the middle of these two extremes. Instrumentally, Starlight Conspiracy honed their guitars into a fuzzy assault, while vocalist Jen Tofferi floated above the din like an enchanted pixie. This concept has become standard now (see Evanescense), but back then it was original enough to confuse critics into misfiling the band under shoegaze.

Starlight Conspiracy formed in 1994 when guitarist Denny Donovan met drummer Brad Searles while working at an indie record store. After recruiting bassist Shawn Flanigan, the trio auditioned a parade of vocalists, only to eventually opt for Tofferi, a friend of Searles. Searles, who writes the enjoyably informative blog, Bradley's Almanac, still thinks highly of Tofferi, even though the band broke up in 1998 after recording only one album. "I'd loved her voice since the time I'd played with her in my first band, Hover. I wish she was still singing with someone, I'd blog the hell outta that band."

Still, Searles depature from Vermont eventually led to the band's breakup. "We
tried to make it work," Searles said, "even with the multi-hour commute I'd make once a month, but that just wasn't enough practices to keep it going, or to keep everyone interested. Eventually Shawn moved out west, Jan headed to southern Vermont, and Denny came down to Boston, where we eventually started up the Also-Rans together."

Searles is the gatekeeper for the Starlight Conspiracy estate, and you can check out his lovingly curated site here for more mp3's, photos, and more.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

V/A - Thrasher Skate Rock Vol. 5

The Stupids - Born to Built to Grind
Naked Lady Wrestlers - Scrapin'

Around the time this album came out, I was a twelve-year old skate rat with all four walls of my bedroom covered in pictures from Thrasher magazine. All I did was think about skating. If I was doodling at school, I was probably drawing a skate ramp or a guy on a skateboard. If I was swimming, I had the board with me underwater. If I had a girl over (which happenned for the first time in 7th grade), we mostly talked about skateboarding. Thus, picking up this cassette when it came out was a no-brainer for me.

This was the only volume of Skate Rock I bought, but I certainly listened to it a lot. some of the songs scared me, and they still kind of do. I have never had a taste for hardcore, and can really only listen to punk stuff like this: simple, dumb, and catchy. But it was a great soundtrack for being 13 years old. By the time I was 14, I moved on to more sophisitcated fare - goth rock, the Meat Puppets, the Velvet Underground. Suddenly a song about being "born to skate" seemed pretty stupid. I filed this tape away and forgot about it - until now.

When I decided to post these songs, I looked around for some info on the bands that made them. The Stupids, it turns out, actually have a Best-of CD on a British label and a small cult following. I had no idea that "Born to Built to Grind" was a Bruce Springsteen rip-off/cover as a kid, but in hindsight this can be read as an early indicator of my more mainstream leanings, at least when it came to pop song structure. The Naked Lady Wresters, according to this website, were from Northern California and only appeared on this Thrasher comp and an Alternative Tentacles comp released by IRS records. Anybody got the dirt on them? Their contribution is actually something of a nugget. Dig that speed metal guitar solo!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Treewave - May Banners

Most reviews of Treewave's 2004 EP, Cabana+ mention's the band's unusual tools for making music. Whenever a group does such things, they are doomed to read about it for the rest of their lives. (Perhaps this would explain why the singer of Pianosaurus, a band who used all toy instruments, went insane and dissappeared after the release of his group's debut.) Thus, I will let the image above give you a hint, and leave it there. What I like about Treewave isn't necessarily a product of their methodology anyway; I just like the way it sounds.

Before I go, I feel that I must mention the fact that Treewave is from Dallas. For some reason, this city consistently produces quality psychedelic bands. It must be the heat. That and the insanity that surely comes from being land-locked in a place as conservative and dull as Dallas. Either way, the list is as long as the state is wide: 13th Floor Elevators, Golden Dawn, the Moving Sidewalks, Butthole Surfers, Lithium X-Mas, Tripping Daisy. Anybody got any more?

Check out Treewave's fast-loading website here and buy their CD.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Wide Boy Awake - Slang Teacher

If you go to hip parties in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, chances are you've danced to music played by the Crazy Rhythms DJ's, Dan Selzer and Mike Simonetti. The duo cover a wide range of styles, but their core set is drawn from disco, post-punk, and new wave. Selzer, who runs the email list NY Happenings, as well as the reissue label Acute, is a big proponent of Italo-disco, and has been instrumental in bringing this hip subgenre to hipster prominence. Simonetti isn't exactly sitting on his ass either. In 1994, Simonetti started Troubleman Records, a diverse and prolific label best known for unleashing Erase Errata on the world.

On a recently released mix CD, Rvng Prsnts MX4, Selzer and Simonetti show off their DJ skills by assembling a compilation of some of their staples ("Slang Teacher" being one of them), as well as their coveted Italo-disco obscurities ("Massimo Barsotti's "Whole Lotta Love"). After starting off with some low-key disco moves, the DJ team gradually quickens the pulse to a monotonous house thump, only to settle back down to classic disco tracks and some post-punk dance workouts.

As for Wide Boy Awake, little information is available on them. According to Trouser Press, they were formed by Ex-Adam and the Ants bassist Kevin Mooney in the early '80s. "Slang Teacher" was released as a 7" single, and also appeared on a five song EP released by RCA in 1983. The band dissappeared not long after.

Click here to order.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Academy - Magic

Everyone I've played this song for thinks that it's an '80s song, and that they've heard it before. The truth is that it was actually recorded last year by a group of dudes from Bloomington, Indiana who used to be in a low-fi indie rock band called Smart Milk. I don't know exactly who to compare it to, but my fingers itch to type names like Mr. Mister, Christopher Cross, or maybe even that guy who sang "Walking in Memphis." Cringe all you want, but there's no ignoring the fact that this ultra-slick lullabye is put together with enough melody and finesse to convince you, if only for a few minutes, that making music this sanitized is actually justified.

The song "Magic" comes from an album with the same name, that has yet to be released on CD. The rest of the album flirts with similiar ideas, but doesn't quite match the melodic insistance of this track. A short bio and more songs can be found here. The band's website, which offers almost no information about the band's motive or history, is here.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Kelley Stoltz - Memory Collector

It's taken me a long time to figure this out, but I think I'm getting it. In mainstream pop, and to some degree rock, familiarity is the ticket to record sales and success. Elvis took black R&B and put a white face on it, and wha-la, instant fame and recognition. Other examples spring to mind: Vanilla Ice bleached the ghetto out of rap; Billy Idol made spiked hair and a sneer a Top 40 commodity; the Stone Temple Pilots took Nirvana's angst to the bank.

And yet, the same does not hold true with indie rock -- originality is prized over all else. Bands like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Beirut, and Fiery Furnaces seem to have little in common on the surface, yet a closer look reveals bands with a stubbornly original identity. This comes as no surprise in a genre that thrives on unsettling the mainstream and must therefore take a contradictory stance. And yet, it leaves much great music undetected and underappreciated on what I feel are flimsy ideals. It is a world where the next big thing is only cherished before it is big. Indie rock, it would seem, lives cautiously in the future, with one eye fixated on an ever-shifting past.

In other words, if Stotlz had released this pastiche of Beach Boys harmonies and ELO tunesmithery in 1990, perhaps he'd be declared a genius. At the time, power-pop bands like Teenage Fanclub and the Replacements actually had a chance. Sixteen years later, merely mentioning the Beatles in a review puts the reader to sleep. This attitude, while probably inevitable, is detrimental to well-crafted music because it emphasizes context over content, fashion over form.

Don't get me wrong, Stoltz is no genius. A talented songwriter, yes, but certainly not a visionary of any kind. Songs jump from one touchstone to the next, as if Stoltz were playing the listener records from his collection. And yet, that same informal, derivative quality lends the album a levity that makes it easy to enjoy. It expects little of you, and you expect little of it. Why, after all, do many psych and garage fans prefer the imitators of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles to the actual legends themselves? Well, duh. It's because the copy cats were ten times more fun, and in their own way, more listenable.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Powerdresser - Split Fingered Fastball

San Diego's indie explosion of the early '90s included Heavy Vegetable, Truman's Water, and Rocket From the Crypt. Powerdresser, while neither the most popular nor influential band of the scene, is probably the most tragic. Lead singer and guitarist Denver Lucas drowned under mysterious circumstances in 1994, just before the band was scheduled to record new material. He was 22. Drummer Lee Chapman had recently left the band, leaving its future unclear. Denver's death ended it.

The band's tricky time signatures owed a debt to prog, but the short run-times, mumbled vocals and dry guitar sound made the sound startlingly unique, if a bit obtuse. The band's only official releases were a split single with Heavy Vegetable and "Split Fingered Fastball," which appears on Ask for Disorder, a San Diego compilation.

Last time I checked, Powerdresser's entire recorded output could be downloaded for free here.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Black Moth Super Rainbow - Lost, Picking Flowers in the Woods, Excerpt

Although their name suggests a Japanese noise band, Black Moth Super Rainbow is actually from Pittsburgh, PA. The band's affinity for skewed word play isn't just limited to the band's name either; Black Moth Super Rainbow counts Maux Boyle, Seth Ciotti, Donna Kyler, and one Power Pill Fist in its ranks.

The band slithered onto the scene with 2004's Start a People, a record that smashed proggy electronics, lo-fi soundscapes, and fractured noise into a surprisingly attractive package. The band continued to tweak those same elements on their next release, Lost, Picking Flowers in the Woods, which sounds like Air attempting to cover Dark Side of the Moon, with phased moog solos and ambient electronics effectively conjuring up images of a forest, albeit a dark, twisted one. The excerpt here is the first track off that album, and like the other tracks, is untitled.

Click here for the band's My Space profile.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Heron - Big A

A few weeks ago I heard this song at a party and literally charged over to the stereo. After the song was over, I hit repeat and looked around the room to see if anyone noticed. They didn't. Six listens later, they still didn't notice. That pretty much tells you the story of Heron right there. If we could just get people to listen to the damn band, they'd probably be converted too.

Heron's story begins in 1967 at the Dolphin Folk club in Maidenhead, England. It was there that songwriters Roy Apps, Tony Pook and Gerald T. Moore met and played together in free-form sessions. In less than a year they united to form Heron. The only addition was keyboardist Steve Jones, who joined just after the band secured a record deal with Dawn records.

In 1970, Dawn released Heron's self-titled debut. Although featuring worthy contributions from all members, the album is most notable for the fact that all the music was recorded outdoors and for the inclusion of "Yellow Roses," an unquestionably brilliant song on par with Heron's idol Bob Dylan.

Jones asserts that their debut was a "runaway failure" on his website, but Dawn still allowed Heron to release a double album, Twice as Nice and Half the Price, as the follow-up in 1972. It has been said that the album's length is unwarranted and I have to agree. A few songs, such as covers of "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" and "This Old Heart of Mine" are enjoyable, but fluff nonetheless. The remainder of this album however is nothing short of genius. Anyone into freak-folk vegetation like the Espers, Feathers, or Devendra Banhart would find much to chew on here, from the meditative "Winter Harlequin" to the rousing chorus of "Big A." Although recorded over 30 years ago, Heron's music remains vital and fresh, a feat that most of the "known" bands from that era have failed to duplicate.

Buy the album here.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Blog Roundup
The Best of February and March

Crystal Skulls - Cosmic Door

Crystal Skulls are my new favorite band. I've been annoying all my co-workers by repeatedly playing tracks from their new album, which is due in May on Suicide Squeeze records. For more downloads, check here.

Self - Donating to Science

Hey, I didn't find this one on a blog, but whatev. Self keeps releasing well-crafted, tuneful albums that absoluely no one buys. Well, some people. He did have a major label deal in the '90s and a minor hit. But can someone explain why his new album hasn't found a label? Half the shit is brilliant and it was released a year ago. Guess that's the whole point of this site.

Track a Tiger - Glad to be Scattered

This Iowa group began as a solo project of Jim Vallet and slowly evolved into a real band. "Glad to be Scattered" is the more upbeat and catchy of the songs the band has available from their website, but all the tracks are great, nodding in the direction of Fleetwood Mac or maybe just nodding off. Beautiful harmonies, sad lyrics, it's got that Gene Clark spark.

Electric Soft Parade - Cold World

Clever Titles are So Last Summer offhandedly posted this mp3 recently as part of a story on some dude who is making mixtapes for charity or some other harebrained scheme. Either way, download this now. Electric Soft Parade is a great, underrated band from England who were supposed to be hot way back in 2002 but ended up drifting into the same no-man's land populated by the likes of Gay Dad and Starsailor. Like all good underdogs though, ESP is bouncing back with a new album to be released in May on Better Looking Records.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Mac and Katie Kissoon - Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep

Mac and Katie were just two of eight siblings from the Kissoon family who moved to England from Trinidad in 1962. Both singers had solo projects before they realized maybe they should try a Brady Bunch/Cowsills kinda thing and sing together. "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep," an ode to baby birds, was barreling into the Top 40 in England in 1971 when it was suddenly overtaken by a cover version by another band, appropriately named Middle of the Road.

The Kissoons kept at it and later found bigger success in the mid-'70s. For me, though, this track is their defining moment: simple, silly, bubblegum pop at its most deliriously infectious.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Deaths - Birmingham

I meant to write about The Deaths a while ago. Like some other bloggers, I downloaded tons of mp3's from the SXSW web site in hopes of finding the next small thing. What I found was a distressing level of mediocrity. This track by the Deaths caught my ear though. A little research turned up the following info:

The Deaths are a four-piece from Minneapolis. Probably even played a show with good ol' Tapes n' Tapes. In 2005 they self-released Choir Invisible which is going to be re-released this year. The band has yet to mention who exactly is releasing it though. This year the Austin Chronicle called the Deaths a SXSW sleeper (I won't delve into the irony here) and boy were they right. Pretty much nobody outside of Chuck Klosterman has written about these guys. And that was way back when Klosterman actually worked for Spin. If the Deaths are lucky, Klosty might mention them in his next memoir about Death and generate a little more buzz.

My take on the band? They sound a bit like the Charlatans, the original old-timey drug sailors from San Francisco who scored big with a rustic cover of "Codine" that essentially jump-started the psychedelic revolution. Civil War pop -- with lovebeads.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Bobb Trimble - Premonitions Fantasy


With outspoken fans like Ariel Pink, Thurston Moore, and Devendra Banhart, you'd think maybe Bobb Trimble would finally be getting his due after toiling in obscurity for 26 years. But no, this woefully out-of-time genius is still just as unknown now as he was in 1980 when he self-released his debut album, Iron Curtain Innocence. The album drew heavily on California psych and showed Trimble to be an astonishingly gifted songwriter and vocalist. The album was barely distributed outside Trimble's home state of Massachusetts and sank without a trace. However, psych collectors eventually stumbled on the album and collectively shit their pants. Originals now trade hands on ebay for about $1,000.

Trimble followed up his debut with the even better Harvest of Dreams which was recently bootlegged by UK label Radioactive Records. Trimble, who is hip enough to actually have a myspace profile and a website, eventually found out and was not happy about it. According to his website, Trimble is in talks with a few labels right now to legitimately resissue his first two albums using the original mastertapes.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

NDolphin - Birthday Song

Whatever you are listening to at the age of 14 will forever have a place in your heart. When I was 14, a friend of mine went up to Gainesville, Florida, the nearest hip college town, and came back with a mix of college bands that blew my mind. Aleka's Attic, River Phoenix's band was on there. Henrietta's Lovers, an artsy funk band with a singer who played trumpet, was on there. Ndolphin, a neo-hippie band with male and female singers was on there. I devoured it all without discretion. The big regional trend in Gainesville at the time was percussion, and all three bands had bongos on their songs. I thought it was the coolest thing I'd ever heard.

Ndolphin was a short-lived, though popular Gainesville band; they released two EP's between 1989 and 1991 and then broke up. The main songwriters were Ane Diaz and Jack Mason; both sang. After Ndolphin split, Diaz sang with a succession of bands including Sumac and the Causey Way. She now plays in an intriguing duo called Producto. Mason also played in Sumac, but eventually left the music business entirely, as far as I can tell from my research. Another notable band member is Josh McKay, who played bass on the band's first EP but left soon after. McKay later achieved minor success with the Athens, GA band Macha. Although it is rumored that McKay would rather forget about his past bands, two NDolphin mp3's turned up on a website last year and McKay was the last one seen with the master tapes.

The band's first EP, which is pictured above, is pretty solid, containing four gems and one clunker which is a rap song about hating George Bush. Too bad every word of it still rings true today. The band's second EP, called Wail, is less developed than its predecessor, but still has moments of brilliance, especially the opening three songs. Good luck finding either of these tapes. They were released in tiny editions and are virtually impossible to find. Thank god some mystery person uploaded this mp3.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Blog Roundup
The Best of December and January

The following are a few songs that I downloaded in the last two months and enjoyed for one reason or another:

Attorneys - The Way I Want to Love
This to me sounds far more new wave and '80s than the bands that get credit for reviving this era (Killers, Bravery, etc.). My roommate complained that the vocals were too wussy, but that's exactly the point. And the muscular guitar riff more than makes up for the frailty of the Journey-esque vocals.

Band of Horses - the Funeral
There are some songs that you listen to twenty times in a row and then never listen to again. "The Funeral" is far too dense with yearning and emotion to encourage compulsive listening. However, it will creep up in your subconscious with a little time. My only complaint is the band name which is one of the most forgettable monikers in years.

Greg Ashley - Apple Pie and Genocide
Buddyhead's blog posted this one. If you like wacked-out cult-rockers like Syd Barrett and Skip Spence, get this in your ears now. Also recommended in this genre: Deadly Snakes

Clean Prophets - Tambourine Crown
Now here's a piece of indie rock that is actually danceable without trying too hard. It's a little bit sterile, like so much indie music these days, but it's still memorable. Chalk that up to the head-bobbing disco guitar part. This band is from LA.

The A-Sides - The Sidewalk Chalk
This is another enjoyable slice of indie dance pop. Kind of a Motown thing -- upbeat, sunny, persistent.

Sparrow House - When I'm Gone
A solo project from a guy in Voxtrot. Overexposed on the blogs, but amazing nonetheless.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Karl Blau
Into the Nada

"I, Karl Blau, am a recording artist from Anacortes, WA. My debut K record Beneath Waves should be available in January of 2006. You may have heard my flute, sax, or drums on various K records. I've recorded with Mirah, Wolf Colonel, the Microphones, Little Wings, and I'm one third of the band D+(with Phil Elverum and Bret Lunsford). And more recently I've been touring & recording with the fabulous Laura Veirs." -- Karl Blau

Is it just me or are the music blogs totally ignoring K records? I just visited the site and found this excellent mp3 from Karl Blau. To my ears, this song updates the Canterbury sound of Gong and Caravan for the mp3 era. Lovely.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Still Flyin'
Mystery Tent

To all those who wondered what would happen if the Polyphonic Spree played reggae, listen up. This combination ain't nearly as bad as it sounds; in fact, Still Flyin' pretty much rules. This San Francisco band turned a lot of heads last year as the opening act for Architecture in Helsinki, due in part to their outrageous stage show (20+ members!), but also for their odd mix of indie sensibilities and stoned-out dub beats. Sean Rawls, Still Flyin's primary singer, is no stranger to indie rock it turns out. Rawls used to be in Masters of the Hemisphere, an Athens band who recorded a couple of albums for the now-defunct Kindercore label. (Where for art thou Kindercore?)

Saturday, January 07, 2006

I Love my Recorder

The song title says it all.  In the sweetly addictive "I Love My Recorder," Julie Margat's vocals ride a hip hop beat with all the sensuality of Brigitte Bardot in her prime.  No surprise then that Margat hails from Paris, France, where she currently records her self-released records under the Lispector moniker.  To my ears Margat clearly wants to fuck her four-track, but Margat herself compares the song to Virginia Woolf's A Room of Your Own.

Margat swiped the Lispector name from a Ukranian-born author.  Although Margat had not read Lispector's books at the time, she eventually grew to be a fan.  Margat has never toured, but she has released two full-length albums and appeared on a few compilations.  "I Love my Recorder" is from her first full-length, Human Problems and How to Solve Them.  Her new album is out now and can be downloaded for free at her website here.