Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Cotton Jones Basket Ride - [Maryland] - opening for John Vanderslice this Sunday at Mercury Lounge NYC, the curiously named act was "Born on a ship during the 1984 Baseball World Series between the San Diego Padres [Tony Gwynn rules forever) and the Detroit Tigers." Cotton's front porch psyche-folk goes down best during the line "black is the color of the heart they gave me" in "I was Stoned by the Choir," a knitting of Dylan, Marley and acoustic blues-style Spiritualized. -Kenyon

Astral: Sleepwalker (Vibraphone)
release: March 25, 2008
style: lo-fi ethereal post-post-punk
similar: Experimental Aircraft, the Autumns
[rating: *1/2] With one hand in lo-fi dark post-punk and the other in dream pop/shoegaze, Astral offers an odd idenity crisis. The tinny drums are forgivable, but the vox often sound strangely off. Here and there they do find their footing: "A Lullaby from Amsterdam" and "Winters in May" ease into washy delay-enhanced guitar effects and spaced-out vocals, achieving average dream pop. When Astral takes on post-punk, the ghost of Bauhaus is screaming to be released. Screaming in agony. -Kenyon

Son Lux - [NYC] - the latest from the challenging Anticon records is this manically unpredictable overcasting art experiment from paid composer Ryan Lott. Think Joseph Arthur's approach to dealing with multi-tracks, though more avant-garde. Son Lux has had the honor of sharing a stage with Sufjan Stevens. At War with Walls and Mazes released March 11. -Kenyon

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

you down with DOP? yea YOU know ME!

Dirty on Purpose
interview by Kenyon Hopkin

For the last few years, Dirty on Purpose has been a consistent presence in New York City indie rock circles. They took it to the next level at a show in February 2008 opening for Band of Horses. Two EPs (North Street Records, January 2008, and a digital-only free EP) followed a lovable full-length. Though some critics have used the band's name in the same sentence as "dream pop" or "shoegaze", they're actually more of an indie rock band that has been given the vocal guidance of the Pale Saints. Dirty on Purpose--Doug Marvin (drums, vocals), Joe Jurewicz (guitar, vocals), George Wilson (guitar, vocals) and DJ Boudreau (bass)-- is at Mercury Lounge with Mahogany and other bands on April 4, 2008. [Kenyon knows how to write a feature story but doesn't have that kind of time. So here is the ever-popular Q & A].


Advance Copy: What's your experience been like with Siren Schmest at Coney Island?
Joe Jurewicz: It was great. We were treated well and it was probably the biggest crowd we've ever played for. No complaints other than I never got to finish mini golf next door. I still have a raincheck slip from them.

Advance Copy: One of your songs is so good that it's too good to play on my college radio show. I'm afraid of it falling into the wrong hands. What do you think of that?
JJ: I don't even know what that means. Play it, the kids need to know.

AC: You covered "Send Me an Angel" by Real Life. Why did you choose that particular new wave song and what would be your next choice of new wave song to cover?
JJ: I didn't want to do that song at all because it was fun for like five minutes, then it was like ok, it's not funny anymore. We're going to end up playing this stupid song at every show if we record it. I was out-voted. I don't want to record anymore 80s songs unless they are by Waylon Jennings.

AC: If there was no such thing as Brooklyn, where would you be living?
JJ: No clue, but hopefully Erie, PA.

AC: You probably hear this a lot, but, from where is the band name derived?
JJ: It's from an ancient Hopi Indian curse that when placed on someone, their drinking water would become cloudy and they would lament and die after three days. In other words, yes, we hear that a lot and we have a new answer every time.

AC: How super was it to play with Band of Horseys? Were your friends all jealous?
JJ: We played with them in Denton, Texas one time for about five people. This was right before their first record I think. They are nice guys and we already knew them a bit, so it wasn't a big deal. We didn't fan out or anything. I don't think there was supposed to be an opener and they wanted one last minute and we were probably the only band from New York whose name they could remember. It was fun though, Jelly NYC is awesome, those guys are putting on good shows.

AC: Dream pop is very serious for many people, especially for the old school style from the early 1990s. The "No Radio" video, for example, appears lighthearted with people jumping around and stuff. Would you rather stay away from typical swirling colors in videos? Or is it the creativeness in brooklyn that inspires you to try different approaches?
JJ: "Dream pop is very serious for many people" is one of the funniest sentences I have heard in a while. We never set out to be a "dream pop" band. Or a shoegaze band. Or anything else. We just wanted to play songs together. What we sound like and what we think we sound like are two very different things I guess. We never say "oh this song has a very serious tone, we should make a very dark video." That one came about when DJ got drunk and wrote "jazzercize" on a piece of paper while we were making the record.

AC: In the video for "Car No Driver" a device to destroy a piano is created. Is there a story behind this? Why wreck a piano?
JJ: We got a treatment sent to us from Andrew Zuchero, the director, and we basically agreed to it to see if it could be done. And he did it. Itwas amazing how efficient him and his crew were. When we all watched that thing launch into the air, we knew it was going to be a prettygood video. We had nothing to do with the storyline of it. It was a dream he had apparently.

AC: Do any of you still have day jobs? Or are you doing this full-time now.
JJ: We all still work, it's pretty impossible to do music full-time. But we were contemplating becoming a wedding band to make some money. Lookout Total Soul, we're coming for you.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Phenomenauts: For All Mankind
(Silver Sprocket)
release: April 8, 2008
style: campy sci-fi punk pop rock punkabilly
similar: Go Robot Go!, Man or Astroman?, the Aquabats!
[rating: **] This West coast act wears outfits from a Star Trek spoof and headgear that must have been manufactured in their kitchens. For All Mankind's sci-fi electricity is powered with stand-up bass, arena rock riffs and futurama synth. It's obviously meant to be campy, and a little too much so, leading to second hand gimmicking and shout-alongs. Once those issues are set aside, the entertainment value of their live show can at least be appreciated. -Kenyon

Friday, March 21, 2008

After last year's strangely disappointing full band effort Let's Just Be, Joseph Arthur's latest EP Could We Survive (March 18, 2008) is back on track. "Rages of Babylon" is yet more quality songwriting, so we hardly need to worry about Arthur losing artistic focus. A release party show is going down tonite at his own gallery - Museum of Modern Arthur at 25 Jay St in Dumbo, Brooklyn. 8pm 40 dollars. Photo Cred: Danny Clinch. Oh damn this blurb looks very mainstream weekly and daily newspaper.

"Rages of Babylon" MP3

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Dichotomies + Dreamland (aloft)
release: March 11, 2008
style: shoegaze, dream pop, ambient pop
similar: All Natural Lemon and Lime Flavors, Mahogany, Swallow, Stereolab
[rating: ***1/2] The second album from Soundpool--perfect name for its, well, sound--bubbles up from the foundation of ethereal pop laid forth by the Cocteau Twins, tweaking it and adding keyboard and electronics. The lead female vocalist resembles Slowdive's Rachael Goswell in appearance with nearly the voice to match. There's all sorts of wild guitar effects and shimmering textures that will keep you guessing as to what they are using. This enables them to be one step ahead of the average peer. The dance beats are taken out of the manual for mbv's "Soon," updating it for 2008. -Kenyon

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Witch: Paralyzed (Tee Pee)
release: March 18, 2008
style: thrashy metal noise-punk
similar: Motorhead's "Ace of Spades," Warlocks with the pedal to the metal
[rating: ***1/2]
More straight-forward-arrow-shooting than Ancestors, less psychedelic than Graveyard (two others from Tee Pee recently reviewed here), Witch at first appears to be some young kids resisting its world in the late 1970s. Actually it's J Mascis (yes, THAT J Mascis, on DRUMS, no less), friend Dave Sweetapple (bass) and Kyle Thomas (vox/guitar and of avant-folk band Feathers). The simple guitar-bass-drums are put into super-overdrive on Paralyzed, Witch's sophomore effort. Cuts such as "Disappear" and "1000 MPH" are a collison of traditional metal and dangerous punk from the fast lane. "Psychotic Rock" lives up to its name, threatening to go over the edge. The band claims they don't practice or play live much--they are touring this spring--but this sounds rather tight, even if it's a jumble of noise. -Kenyon

Sunday, March 16, 2008

classic vintage video.
the Outfield- "Since You've Been Gone" (1986)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Ancestors: Neptune With Fire
(North Atlantic Sound)
release: February 19, 2008
style: psychedelic sludge hard rock
similar: Danava, The Gersch, Graveyard
[rating: ?????] One of the best names ever for a band of this nature, Ancestors' two quests here are a journey into a mystical place and time. Neptune is actually a conceptual outing for this L.A. band, about somebody going through a "psychological ordeal of war, celebration, remorse and reveleation". The first track is mainly a jam session of spooky guitar voodoo and some lyrics about the earth and soul or something. Following pipe organ on the second track (21 minutes!) is ultra sludge guitar riffs processed through the atmosphere of another planet. This does go on for a while and becomes repetitive, though of course at the same time tripped out. -Kenyon

Wildbirds & Peacedrums: Heartcore (the Leaf Label)
release: May 6, 2008
style: experimental, minimalism, post-post percussive folk
similar: Joanna Newsom, Sinead O'Connor
[rating: **] This Swedish duo is for a specific audience, its skeleton system consisting of only singer Mariam Wallentin and percussionist Andreas Werliin. That said, Heartcore is more miss than hit, depending on Wallentin's moods. "Bird" is like an impromptu beatnik poetry performance that feels way too pretentious, "The Way Things Go" is something that the educated hipster would feel proud to show off. "I Can't Tell in His Eyes" is the most accessible and pretty, aided by a few twinkling non-percussive sounds and Wallentin's heartfelt words. "The Ones that Should Save Me Get Me Down" recalls vintage blues. Wildbirds & Peacedrums' mission to rebel against what they heard at the Academy of Music and Drama has been accomplished. -Kenyon

Monday, March 10, 2008

Auburn Lull
Begin Civil Twilight (Darla)
release: April 8, 2008
style: ambient dream space
[rating: ****] Auburn Lull is like Nine Inch Nails. Not musically of course! God no! The Michigan band's three albums have been about five years apart, that's why. Harnessing the power of Slowdive, Begin Civil Twilight is the group's best piece of work since its debut. That was so cliche! And there was only one other album! For serious though, the Lull--it's like calling Iron Maiden "Maiden" -- paints infinite peaceful imagery in its flowing space rock, sending their guitars through mad washes of effects. It's obvious there was a lot of care and attention put into these pieces, which almost always feature the lightest percussion and ethereal vocals. Since 1999's Alone I Admire, the band has shown skill and patience in allowing the songs to practically take on their own form. Their influence from technology-era OMD makes subtle appearances, as the group manipulates outside technology-driven sources. Like its construction, Begin Civil Twilight requires outstanding care and attention from the ears. Yes, this is pure "headphone" music. God gave us ears so that in 2008 we could hear this. --Kenyon

Saturday, March 08, 2008

swervedriver. 2008.

May 31- Los Angeles
June 11- New York City
June 12- Brooklyn

the cure + the verve + swervedriver = 2008 looking pretty good.

Friday, March 07, 2008

just one more thing...or...uh oh hello!
Kevin McAdams
of Elefant.
interview by Kenyon Hopkin

The very cool Kevin McAdams plays the drums at the back of the stage with Elefant. That you may know. You may, however, be completely floored to hear that he also does his very own music. And it's GOOD! This is rare. He's a regular Ringo Starr. Elefant's third album is in the works, while McAdams' own material--which is only a few slices away from the romantic rock of Elefant--has kept him busy until the band gets real busy again. His second solo album is soon to be completed with help from Elefant guitarist Mod. [Kenyon knows how to write a feature story but doesn't have that kind of time. So here's the ever-popular Q & A.]

So the first obvious question is, what's going on with Elefant? It's been almost two years since Black Magic Show. Which is okay, i'm not complaining. What's the status of the next record? Will it again be issued through Kemado and/or Hollywood records?

Right now, we are starting to reconvene and reconfigure. Meeting up again as people and making a plan as to how we want to proceed. There is plenty of material there, so we're in the process of fleshing things out for a possible next record that will be released through a new label.

You've mentioned that you prefer not to have a publicist. Do you have time to handle all that stuff yourself? Does that mean the whole band doesn't have a publicist or just you for your solo efforts? What has been the positive outcome of not having one? Any drawbacks?

Actually, having a publicist is great, especially the right publicist. In general, it really comes down to working with people you relate to and who understand your music. In this sense, a publicist should help to magnify the message of an artist, not distort it. In addition, I think artists should have direct communication with their fans, which is why blogs and networking sites are great. If all communication is filtered and presented through official bios (which often read as over-hyped junk) and statements, there's an undeniable disconnect, which defeats the whole point of music in the first place.

When you played Webster Hall in New York, i noticed you didn't have roadies and guitar techs getting your gear ready. I think everyone but Diego [Garcia, vocalist] had stepped on stage before actually starting the gig. Is this another example of you guys doing things on your own? Or did you not have the money yet for that?

A few years back I saw the Flaming Lips getting ready to play a show, and who was out there setting up the stage, but Wayne Coyne himself, which immediately put a smile on my face because it showed how personally vested he was in every detail of the performance, which of course ties into being a bit of a control freak, but I relate. Anyway, I guess it depends on the artist. Personally, I am into the ridiculous drama of a rock show, because it should be fun, but not the elitism. So, this definitely ties into the idea of doing things on your own. Who should better represent you than yourself? It's just what I'm comfortable with, I guess.

Being on myspace, have you found it hella easier and better to communicate with fans or is it annoying? What did you do before there were networking sites?

Myspace and other sites have been great. We don't even have a website anymore, because there just isn't any point. The networking sites are much more reliable and interactive. The only annoying aspect has been too much spam, but even that has gotten better in the past year. Before, it was about e-mail lists and websites and before that postal mailing lists and post cards.


elefant. the band.

Are a lot of people that don't know you well stunned that, as a drummer, you compose and sing on your own?

Yeah, especially my bandmates and myself to some degree. I wrote songs as a kid, but eventually sort of stopped because I became more immersed in my role as a drummer over the years. I had written fragments of songs for years, but until recently, hadn't had a chance to finish them. Another great aspect of the process was finding my singing voice. It's given me a whole fresh outlook and confidence on music in general and has validated a lot of my original ideas. It just goes to show that you should never be afraid to try anything in life. Just when people think they have you figured out, it's always nice to throw them a curve ball every so often. Keep 'em on their heels, I say.

So you like Columbo [detective show starring Peter Falk]. Rad. What do you love about Columbo, what is your favorite episode and why?

You know, Columbo understates himself and welcomes being underestimated, which creates a false sense of comfort, especially for those suspects with overblown egos dependant on constant validation and the illusion of superiority. Columbo can put himself in this position because he has a genuine confidence and comfort in his own skin and ill-fitted trench coat. In line with understating himself lies his silent tenacity and attention to detail. Peter Falk's embodiment of this character is a thing of beauty. As far as my favorite episode, that is extremely tough. All in all, I guess my favorite would be the very first pilot episode titled "Prescription: Murder". The camera shots are extremely psychedelic, which really add to the mood. The killer is extremely tough to deal with and Columbo has to use an array of tactics to get his man. His character wasn't fully formed yet so he's a bit more aggressive. "Ransom for a Dead Man" is great too. You really can't go wrong with the first season.

Are my questions as good as Columbo's?

They're not too shabby. You may want to end by saying, "...oh, just one more thing.."

Does Diego get all the girls?

Ha ha. What do you think? It definitely makes my time on stage much more enjoyable. Seeing waves of girls singing along to these little pop tunes is a far cry from where I began playing shows in my teens. I cut my teeth as a drummer playing in underground thrash metal bands. I'd be out on school nights playing the dirtiest backwoods dives to some of the meanest and ugliest looking dudes you've ever seen. On a sidenote, there's a certain beauty in playing music your parents hate or don't understand, especially when you're a kid. Like any form of art, you should never be afraid to push some buttons or piss people off.

How's life in New York City? You love it? Anything you hate about it? Do you reside in Brooklyn or elsewhere?

I have a love/hate relationship with this city. It's very much a what have you done for me lately type of place. It feeds off of young energy, which is great, but it also forces you to live like a perpetual child, which starts to wear thin the more you want to enjoy life as an adult, if that makes any sense. It's still my favorite city, though.

What are the best bars/clubs/venues in Brooklyn and/or in Manhattan?

Ha! I'm probably the wrong person to ask since I'm a virtual hermit. I like a good dive bar and there are a few left if you know where to look. As far as venues, there are more now than I can ever remember. Back then, you had The Spiral, Coney Island High, Arlene's, Brownies and The Mercury Lounge. I still like seeing a show at The Mercury Lounge every so often. There's always plenty of things to do, but I definitely recommend going out early in the week and avoiding weekends, if possible.

further reading and listening:

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Flat Duo Jets: Two Headed Cow
(Chicken Ranch)
release: February 12, 2008
style: genuine raw rockabilly
[rating: ****] Although Flat Duo Jets themselves obviously borrow from big names of the 1950s and 60s, they have served as an eye-opener for White Stripes and Reverend Horton Heat to name a few. With the slick rockabilly acts and their fans today attempting to revive the 1950s, Two Headed Cow--unreleased gritty recordings from 1986 that accompany a 2006 documentary focusing on singer/guitarist Dexter Romweber--is highly respectable considering when it was recorded and the band's lack of stand-up bass, or ANY bass for that matter. It's hard to accept that a doc on this guy could be very exciting, so for those dedicated to roots rock and the like, Two Headed Cow (THC?hmm) is essential catching-up material. -Kenyon

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

classic vintage video.
Rush - "Subdivisions" (1982)

Saturday, March 01, 2008

into. the. future.

Switches - [U.K] - Gosh damn. These guys were really easy to hate. Look at them! Lucky for Switches, they blend their influences into a form of friendly pop, spiked early David Bowie and Queen-esque vocals in "Killer Karma" (not two Radiohead songs combined, no). In a few winks of the eye they go to "Emily Don't," which, after knowing they heart Brian Wilson, is a straight-forward update of the Beach Boys. Covering these particular grounds leads to a minor identity crisis, and the ultra-hipster look of the band suggests ultra-trendiness, but the songs are indeed here for the girls to melt over. And for that, we can hate them. [US debut record Lay Down the Law out March 18, 2008 on Interscope]. -Kenyon. Photo Cred: Autumn de Wilde
My Raining Stars
From St Saviour to Quickwell (self-release)
This French act celebrates the timeless pop of each decade, from the Zombies to the Shins. On this easy-going outing, characterized by boyish lead, girl back-up voices and ringing distortioned guitar, the apples of MRS don't fall far from the tree. Some are still attached to the tree. While it's pure joy to hear the spirit of C86 indie pop, MRS perhaps plays it too safe, staying close to home with what it feels completely comfortable. -Kenyon