Friday, October 24, 2008

The Sads - Pregnancy Scare (2008)

Pregnancy Scare is the long awaited debut release from Prague's local favorite band. The Sads have undoubtedly been a driving force behind much of the music scene in the Golden City. With several band members playing in different Prague based bands, the influence of these musicians on Prague's local music scene is inarguable. The Sads have been likened to the Silver Jews, a kind of folky-sad-wit-rock??, and even The Velvet Underground during their live sets. The band is forceful and emotive, downtempo and humorous. This record is like an 8 pound large-mouth trophy bass that never gets eaten- it goes on the wall, cause the taste doesn't have posterity like the plaque. In all seriousness, Steven Rusling's voice is the first thing that hits you when you hear the record. There is a wise fragility in his tone. Upon first listen the album plays up to the band's name. The record is pensive and remorseful, though without the burden of personal narrative. Rusling's ability to convey the struggle of loss and love and aging without the depressive weight of despondency is admirable. Rusling has a distinct gift with wit and words. (eg. Your hands are honey bees, mine are Willow trees; Love is not not heart-attack; You are like a pregnancy scare...), the list goes on. He is able to paint anxiety riddled experience with a wry smile. It lends an immediate familiarity to the listener that is magnetic and amiable. It is analogous to sitting in a cold vinyl chair shirtless. The first reaction is a quick inhalation of breath and surprise. Shortly after the initial surprise, the chair is a cocoon of comfort. Another standout feature of the record is Matt Ford's Cello. It is a bellowing companion to the ethereal density of the aging ballrooms where it seems the record was recorded. Cobwebs and old oil lamps paint the scene, while Ford's Cello lends a sense of intimacy and nostalgia to the echoing room. There is a track of guitarist Marc Cram political ideas: "If you get too punk, you become Republican..." The drumming is airy and often reminiscent of 18th century war marches. Expect to hear more from this band in the future. Standout tracks include Oh Bethlehem, Let It Go Right Through You, Cowboy Shirt, Poplar Tree, and Phoebe Cates. Dig it.


Bobby Five was also fortunate enough to have an exclusive interview with Steven Rusling. It should shed some insight into the band and Rusling's distinct persona. Check it.

Q: How does your recording process fit into your creative world? Until now The Sads have been primarily a live act. Do you think that that live performances are more fitting of your artistic expression, or does the ability to sit down with your material and edit, master, and so forth, allow you to tailor what you want to give to your audience?

A: I try to record songs soon after they’re written to make the process more like getting something on its feet and less like tedious reconstruction. What works that way isn’t necessarily what works live. Half of the songs on this record no one has ever heard before, which is fine with me.

Q: On Upcoming events. There is a scheduled cd release show on October 16th at one of the Golden City’s mainstay venues (The Akropolis). Do you consider this a “coming of-age” event for the band? Is this the Sads’ Bar Mitzvah? Is this the debutant ball for Steven Rusling?

A: The Sads had her Bat Mitzvah a year ago. She’s a woman now.

I’m happy to have booked Akropolis, but mostly it will be a barely detectable slow crackling of anxiety, ending when we start playing that night.

Q: On The Album Art… the cover photo is an unknown lady – appearing to be topless by the camera angle, though she’s unlikely to be topless. Who is this and was she the pregnancy scare?

A: That is my girlfriend’s little sister. That photo has sat in my living room for a long time now. People who come by seem to comment on it. I enjoy the quality of her stare. I believe it is appropriate for any album titled ‘Pregnancy Scare’ to have a woman staring out at you from it. She is no pregnancy scare of mine, or if she were I wouldn’t go into it.

Q: Walk us through your creative process. Do you schedule time to write songs, or is it more or an impulsive process? Both? Expand.

Three kinds of songs.

-Songs that take longer to play than to write. (ie: Cowboy Shirt)

2) Sacrificial lamb songs, big complex one I write into the ground until they die.

3) The rest, written at medium pace as respite from sacrificial lamb songs.

Q: On Fans… Have you noticed an increase in ‘The Sads’ fan base in the past couple years of playing in the Czech Republic? Do you think non native English speakers get what you sing about? Do you have an audience in mind when writing?

A: I suppose more people know us. A good non-native speaker could, I imagine, understand everything I was saying, and hey, when they didn’t they would probably blame themselves instead of me. Fingers crossed.

Q: Who are The Sads’ major influences? Musical, literature, political, television?

A: I like the Velvet Underground, Leonard Cohen, Silver Jews, Smog, Raymond Carver, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Hemingway.

Q: Various members of The Sads play in other Prague Bands, and a few musicians on the record are no longer a part of the line-up. How has The Sads sound changed in the time passed from recording until now?

A: We’re louder. A bit more energetic? If you see us live you’ll see more done with twin cello and saxophone. It sounds gross, but it isn’t.

Q: I saw you from across the room. What’s your sign?

A: Scorpio. I mean… stop.
Q: Are you my Philip Glass?

A: I’m your fill-up glass.

Q: But, to be serious, ‘Pregnancy Scare’ seems like it comes from a real place – was any of this record composed during an actual Pregnancy Scare?

A: While we were rehearsing the song Pregnancy Scare, I mean the first day I brought it to practice, we ran through it a few times and the guys were commenting on it. The drummer had this funny look on his face, his mouth was a haphazard squiggily line and his eyebrows were going bezerk. It turns out his girlfriend had told him that morning that she was probably pregnant. Two months later he was married, in his own country, and later the father of a beautiful daughter. So, in answer to your question, that’s what I like to think of when I think of that particular song.

Q: Many fans have been waiting for a Sads record for a long time (The Sads have only been accessible in live venues). Does this record appease any anxiety you had concerning this much anticipated release?

A: It didn’t occur to me to feel anxious. It took a long time. I’m happy it’s done.

Q: Most shows The Sads have played have been in their home town, Prague. Do you plan to reach a broader audience through touring now that you’re backed with a record? Are T-shirts on the horizon?

A: God, how I hate to travel. I know it wouldn’t kill me to at least go to Germany or something, But still.

Q: Who is Phoebe Cates?

A: I’ve wondered how many people get that reference. She is an actress. She was a compelling young compelling woman who did things that benefited men and some women.

Q: As of today, September 25th, this record has only band distribution. Do you have plans to sign with a label? Any specifically?

A: I haven’t been very excited about the couple of labels that have expressed interest so far.

Q: What is currently playing on your ipod?

A: Animal Collective, the “American Primitive” cds, Gillian Welch, Lou Reed’s bad 80’s albums. That’s what I put on there this morning.

Q: Who is Steven Kenneth Rusling?

A: Answering these questions it very tempting to descend into non-sense. That would amuse to me but certainly be useful to no one. But this particular question is so far from anything that exists out in nature that I have no idea how to answer it. So: Steven Kenneth Rusling is a deaf Italian boy being raised in Palermo in the 1850s.

September 29 at 12:20pm

Q: “When listening to Pregnancy Scare one can't help but feel saddened, or at least somewhat nostalgic about passed sad times. From the band title to the cello and vocals, melancholy runs through this band and record. Upon closer inspection a listener is introduced to the irony and witticisms of Mr. Rusling. Do you think your lyrics offer some solace from the weary sound that is portrayed on Pregnancy Scare? I hope I'm not going too far with this one, but is it your intent to hedge the sadness in your sound with humor and nuance in your lyrics?”

A: When the group was just me and one other fellow we used to play under another name. Sometimes people would comment that the songs sounded sad. It wasn’t intentional, but after we changed our name we were then able to cite our band name, which would make people go ‘Okay”. So at least we do what it says on the tin.

I’ve never tried to write a happy or sad song, they just come out as they come out. That’s not true, actually, I have in the past tried to un-melancholy a song here and there.

Q: Would listeners of the album have expectations for a live show that are unreasonable? I don't mean to say that the Sads are a metal band live, but do you feel that the record is a more muted aspect of the Sads' rockability? If so, is it a deliberate choice to publish the more intimate side of the Sads as the first release? Will this open the doors for a rock-out live EP in the future?

A: It was not a deliberate choice to make a quieter record, but it was a choice to use production techniques that would lend itself to that. Most of it was done at five am, which probably plays into it as much as anything else. When I listen to the record mostly I think about the sun just starting to come up.

Q: Several songs that the Sads play live are not on the record. Were those omissions based in personal preference? How many songs are in the band's repertoire?

I recorded probably four times too many songs for this record. What went on was what I felt were the stronger tracks, not the better songs, though past a certain point they do seem to go hand in hand. I’ll revisit my favourites among the outcasts later. As for our repertoire we could probably play for three hours if everyone was comfortable with the last third being increasingly worse and worse.

Q: Some of your most quotable lyrics...

"I was living with a topless ghost, a topless ghost does not appeal to me"

Who is this topless ghost?

A: That’s the appeal of being secretly mean, you know. Like, you’re being mean, and no one knows to who. If I showed you a photo I'd probably just look like an asshole.

Q: "I'm sorry but in '98 I gave my heart away, I gave my heart away to Phoebe Cates circa '83. It was a rough landing, it was a very rough landing, but any landing from which you walk away, is a good landing..."

It seems to give your heart away is injury or sacrifice. Is that true?

A: Good question. I don’t know. I just like the finality in that line, like you gave your heart away, a long time ago, and now it’s gone. As if the heart were a couch.

Incidentally, it was actually circa '81, but that didn't sound very good.

Q: "Love is not not Heart-Attack"

I can say it again. Is love a necessary evil?

A: Evil? Not as evil as evil things I could mention. I’m beginning to feel a bit like Tom Jones.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Toadies - Rubberneck (1995)

Are you gonna save me?

Can you save me?

You gonna make me happy?

You gonna make me smile?

Tell me Mister Love!

Aggressive, head pounding alt rock with energy enough for thrashing your nightmares. The showcase is Todd Lewis' rowdy vocals etched in mid nineties rock weltanscuung. There are a few outstanding tracks on this album, one of which gained Toadies a very brief spotlight (Possum Kingdom). This is highly listenable for those who feel that sentimentality is a catalyst for brooding or aggressive celebration. This record is angsty. Dig it.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Silver Jews - Dime Map of the Reef (1992)

Here is something for the hard listening fans of our favorite band. I normally don't post noisy lo-fi records, because I generally don't have the patience to sift through the feedback to discover the sedimentary layers of of quality. Since this is an offering that is out of print and hard to purchase, I will offer it up for those who are interested to hear the evolution from early Berman/Malkmus efforts to the highly produced and veteran styles they've established. For any Jews or Pavement fan, this will be a great educational listen. The lyrical brilliance is there, but it is clouded in the dank of a juvenile basement party laiden with shitty beer and a handheld tape recorder. It is the kind of party that an elderly neighbor may curse because of the confusion it causes. You can almost hear the utterly stupefied grumblings of disbelief: "What happened to the world?" or "When I was young...", "Damn kids these days...". Though, to a fan "Dime Map..." emotes a longing to be part of that moment; to wish that upon emerging from that basement your shoes would make the sticky sound as you walked across the kitchen linoleum to back door and out into the cool mosquito world of summer Virginia 1992, and then, home to fall asleep on your pillow- filthy, beat and satisfied. Dig it.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Atmosphere - When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold (2008)

This is real American Hip Hop. The Midwest has neurosis and they aren't granted the traditional suppression that allows so many to live in denial. The themes display Slug's (Atmosphere MC) conscious observations of an increasingly polarizing culture; one which has lost confidence in its own goals and meaning. Slug is a notorious storyteller. The emotive and passionate delivery mixed with compelling intellect and rhyme scheme requires the listener be involved immediately. It is true Slug wears his emotion on the sleeve, though "When Life Gives You Lemons..." (Atmosphere's fifth LP) is less aggressively delivered than on other releases. The lyrics are more prescriptive and investigative rather than attacking. The beats are well constructed, and we even hear a guitar ballad? on one track- "Guarantee". The stories told on the record are analytical and telling of a culture lost trying to discover its own identity. Educate and relate.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Electrelane - No Shouts, No Calls (2007)

When it's dreary, or when it seems that the morning isn't leading to a bright-sunshining-day, I put this rock record on and start to dance in my undies. The neighbors don't mind that Electrelane is rattling the 9:00am walls, because the grooves are sexy and the vocals have that British aristocracy. These ladies have been posted before on BobbyFive, and it is no coincidence that they've made another showing. Electrelane makes albums that are full antique rock sounds (showcasing a vintage organ) smoothed out by modern production. The result is dusty delight that gets you moving while never ceasing to brighten your day. Good Morning Rock.


Saturday, May 31, 2008

Devo - Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! (1978)

Q: Are We Not Men? is the Brian Eno produced debut release from one of the most original bands in American rock history: Devo. The name is a reference to the "de-evolution" or regression of humanity seen by its founding members Mark Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale. This record is a criticism of the ever present latency seen in modern society, and, as the cover art and track list suggest, is full of mockery and quells against humanity. Expect absurdist critiques of the world and jerky punk/new wave rhythms submerged in a mindspace with an IQ higher than five church steeples stacked end to end.

Many songs shine here, though the first listen will certainly reveal "Gut Feeling", "Mongoloid" and the Rolling Stones cover: "I Can't Get No Satisfaction". This is a late night drunken party favorite.

Harness this beast.


Mongoloid Live in France 1978

Jocko Homo

Thursday, May 29, 2008

J Dilla - Donuts (2006)

J Dilla (Jay Dee) has been referred to as "Your favorite producer's favorite producer." This is his last album. It was released on his 32nd birthday, just three days before his untimely death from a rare blood disease. Parts of this album were made from Jay Dee's hospital bed, yet it is fiercely positive.

Donuts is a collection of 31 short tracks. The result is an album that thumps, bumps, grooves, gnashes, flares, and most of all, excites. If you can keep your pants on while this beat feast is served, hats are off. There is joy in this album throughout, and one can't help but feel that J Dilla loved life. Shouts to J Dilla wherever his soul is shining.

This album is a must have for any fan of music.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Berlin Silver Jews Show Review

The long pause in posts has its reasons. As an ambassador to a foreign culture, things can get hectic. Bobby's back and he's got some news.

Last Wednesday night was a landmark. Silver Jews made a visit to Berlin.

We arrived by train to Berlin. As we walked to the Venue, I noticed a fellow I'd met weeks earlier at a show in Prague. He was a Czech, though when I had heard him sing (he was the opening act for the band I'd come to see), I was certain he was North American. It took me a moment to place his face. I made the connection and started to approach him to voice my excitement on what was to come and the circumstance of our coexistence. He was there with three others including his eight-month-pregnant lady. I introduced myself and reminded him of our brief encounter a few weeks earlier. He recalled the meeting and the group of us soon sharing our hopes and expectations from this increasingly surreal moment. I asked the group if they thought we would get a chance to meet Berman (something I was determined to do), where it soon became evident that Ken- one of the friends of my acquaintance- was Berman and Malkmus' roommate at UVA twenty years earlier. My heart palpitated while I coolly repressed my childlike mania and the adrenal surge that was flooding my being. An eternity of time passed in the seconds between Ken's telling and my recognition of all that it meant to be there befriending a distant friend of an even more distant hero. Ideas of sugar plum fairies danced in my head- They waltzed with Bob Nastanovich and David Berman, while I looked on from the corner of the imaginary ballroom. I believe it was the palace of Versailles... A barrage of questions about his seasoned wisdom soon rolled out of my mouth, and, as expediently as I'd repressed my initial surprise, my heart went loose. With a mind searching for something to pass the time, Berman's presence grew to spectacular proportions while my daydreams flirted with a reality to soon be. There we stood in front of the Columbia Club waiting for signs that the show would begin. The crowd gathered in front was modest to say the least- a hundred or so. We soon saw Jew's/Pavement drummer Bob Nastanovich emerge to smoke a cigarette with the guitarist from the opening act Monotix, an Isrealian trio. The anxiety mounted. When we entered the venue, I grabbed a beer for myself and a water for my lady and made my way over to the souvenir station. I ended up with a rad shirt; sold to my by Bob Nastanovich himself. The dominoes were falling. As Bob gave me the shirt I'd requested, the opening act came out. Bob then said, "This is going to be loud."

The first riffs were struck and the bashing of drums began while Monotix, led by an actual caveman posing as the lead singer, began to run around the club and create a scene of mayhem unseen in my concert experiences. From feeding the drummer a banana from the trash can poured over his head moments before, to pouring beers from the audience's hands down his pants and blowing snot rockets, he proved that gall was indeed enough to be a star. Berman emerged during the set and watched from the audience as Monotix made the Germans rethink their commitment to social order. It was more egregious and punk than most Silver Jews fans could expect from an opening act. But that may have been Berman's plan.
Soon after the Monotix mania was over, the Jews took the stage. I had secured my spot in the front easily, given the venue and location of the show (Germans dig the Jews, but aren't too savvy to the importance of such an event). Berman wasn't playing guitar due to a sprained thumb as he told me later. He manned the mic and began his welcome. He admitted that he expected a lot of "between song patter" from himself. Then he introduced "Dallas" as the opener. The sound was perfect and he was unexpectedly on key. Sharp. The Jews played a total of twenty songs from the entire discography. A few times Berman had trouble reading the setlist he'd written for himself because of his bad vision. This caused three mistakes that gave the concert a more intimate feel. He would introduce the wrong song and soon be corrected by his bandmates. There was even one instance where he began to explain the next song and the meaning of it to himself. Then the others spoke up and, again, corrected him. Bob Nastanovich, said "Just let him play what he wants and we'll come back to the others." It seemed like Berman was at times a child in their care. He was in jovial disbelief that he miscalled the song again. It caused more discussion and conversations with the audience, who at this point, would have followed him into oncoming traffic if he'd of led. To see him play was to be part of his world, and he to be part of yours. There was an intimacy and vulnerability that was evident from the onset. The complete lack of egotism coming from a cult hero was more of a surprise than anything to me. He was a normal guy, worried, thankful, and happy to have the opportunity to be there with us. His presence on stage was gracious. The fact he'd injured his hand lent him to the audience without a guitar. This was a somehow a blessing. Many artists use the guitar as shield or conduit to the audience. He stood awkwardly adjusting his mic stand throughout the concert. He was without any guise or armor from the scrupulous crowd. Another highlight was Berman singing several songs to Cassie. He stood there and watched her- even going so far as to rest his chin on her shoulder during a song.

Several songs from Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea were played, including: San Francisco, D.C.; Candy Jail; My Pillow is the Threshold; Aloyisius, Bluegrass Drumer; Strange Victory, Strange Defeat; and We Could Be Looking for the Same Thing. Perhaps more... Some of the old Favorites played were: Smith and Jones Forever (Which rocked hard); The Wild Kindness; Pet Politics; K-Hole; I'm Getting Back into Getting Back into You; Horseleg Swastikas, and the two songs played as an encore, Tennessee and Punks in the Beer light.

Needless to Say, the volume of songs played and the proximity of the club gave us the experience of a lifetime. If it wasn't enough, I hung around after the show and relocated Ken and my friends from Prague to see if getting back stage was a possibility. Before I could do so, D.C. Berman emerged and began talking to the few people left at the club. I grabbed my copy of Actual Air and made my way over to him. We were soon talking. The brief conversation consisted of "Great Shows, and Thank Yous", but I was at least able to make reference to being from KY and we spoke about Tennessee and KY. He signed my book. It was all I'd hoped for in the preceding months, and I'd like to say it was enough to meet him, but the intimacy felt with his work can't be satiated with five minutes of distracted conversation. It was truly a landmark, and yet, a hollowness set in while walking back to the pension where I was staying. It was a realization that one is rarely able to freeze time and communicate all that is racing through his mind, especially while being in a state of excitement that made it hard to know where to begin. I wished to have time to really meet him. I felt like a kid next to him. Maybe because he's wise, or maybe 'cause he's so tall... Regardless, he was genuine and kind. His appreciation was equal to that of the crowd's. That was the greatest thing, and perhaps, the most telling of his personality. He felt like we did. It was a mutual experience. I realized that I was somehow opened then and there. The emotional intensity did it. Now things move forward, because for so long they were waiting for that moment. It is like a future has been realized. Thanks D.C. Berman.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Califone - Roots and Crowns (2006)

Califone is a Chicago based blues/folk/antique?/rock/alt-country band formed from the collapse of Chicago mainstay Red Red Meat. This is the latest offering from '06. One could feel some older Wilco likeness if he/she so chose. There are certain themes that resemble Wilco. However, the folk undertones and alt-country style of the blues/jazz instrumentals have a distinct quality coming from Califone. The production on Roots and Crowns reflects the veteran musicians' talent and experience. There are many instruments on the album, giving it an exceptional timelessness and freshness, yet at the same time, the banjos, violins, horns and stripped down folkiness lend an ear to another time. This record, like the previous post: Built to Spill, validates America's place in rock. Additionally, the record never bores due to its varied song structure and shifting instrumentals. Dig it.


Saturday, May 3, 2008

Built to Spill - You in Reverse (2006)

"When I was a kid I saw a light
floating high above the trees one night
thought it was an alien
turned out to be just god."

The force which propels the listener on this record is ignited from the first guitar riff on the opener, "Going Against Your Mind". The nine minute beast gets you shaking. The instrumentals have inertia from the onset and remain captivating through all the peaks and troughs of the record. The five year pause in recording was clearly spent constructing a silo to launch all the emotional stock and creative surplus gathered during the time off. Both the terrestrial grit and the oceanic isolation of Built to Spill's You in Reverse make one feel at home and familiar throughout the record. Expectations of a five year hiatus can be difficult to meet, especially in a rapidly changing musical world (internet sharing), but that was apparently no factor in the return of these Idahoans. Nothing is ever feigned: It's real. Bands like Built to Spill separate America's rock from the rest of the world. Dig it.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Madlib - The Other Side: Los Angeles (2007)

Madlib again. This time he surveys with the aid of DJ Peanut Butter Wolf. This album was promo-ed in a tourism guide which featured these two's favorite spots to hit in L.A. Madlib and DJ Peanut Butter Wolf also wanted to promote the pair's label Stones Throw. It is a mixture of some of Madlib's side projects and his associates/colleagues. The result is booty shaking and topical album that is sure to keep attention and impress. Madlib has a vision and it is one of a kind. From "Shades of Blue" to "Madvillain", (Both posted here on the site), it seems he can never strike out. This is prepackaged fun, thoughtfulness and excellence ready for your party needs. Keep a look out for J Dilla's "Donuts" coming soon. J Dilla is also featured on this jewel. Spring is here. Let's celebrate.


Friday, April 25, 2008

The D0d0$ - Vi$iter (2008)

Wow, When two guys can create the sound of a full band, and keep it rocking through 14 tracks, you gotta give props. This duo is a Frisco based band with the intent to rock hard. But, don't be intimidated, because the primary instruments are an acoustic guitar and a thundering drum kit- which is similar to a normal kit, but it hit a turbo pack somewhere along the way- wink wink Stepan Troflimovich Verkohvensky.

This is my favorite album of '08 so far. It is easy to love, immediately magnetic, and sincere the whole way. The lyrics are meaningful, the vocals shared and boyishly innocent; and gravity never had to work so hard to keep these guys from blasting-off to outer space. It is as exciting as a game of "Hot Potatoes". Really, if you've ever played, you know; It's really exciting. Hold on as long as you can...

Link Part 1
Link Part 2

Fugees - The Score (1996)

The birth of conscious rap to mainstream America...

And, as my Czech B-Girls said last night, "To je stare, ale to je klasik."

Yes, it is old, but it is a classic.

For those souls who haven't listened to this record:
Expect strong lyrics, a call for consciousness in African American society and melodic loops and hooks. Ignore your perception of Wyclef, which is undoubtedly a myopia of "Gone till November". Instead, appreciate his foreign Haitian struggles which are ironically cozy in contemporary America. Let Lauryn Hill fascinate you with her poised quips and didactic wisdom, and let Pras' street smarts lend a hand to your naivety.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Paavoharju - Yha Hamaraa (2005)

Ambient Finnish music that could have been made in the stretches of uncharted milky ways, but was composed in the darkness of a Finnish winter. The lyrics are indecipherable unless you're a Finnophone, though the proximity is intimate throughout. Upon first listen you can't place the geographic origins of this collective. I thought it was Indian based on the howling archaic soul sung throughout the album and the unfamiliar text of the title. This is easy to feel and get close to. I found myself putting the album on repeat after the first listen. It makes you want to transcend space and time- well, time not space...


Monday, April 14, 2008

Rage Against the Machine - Evil Empire (1996)

This album is why I read Ralph Ellison, Franz Fanon, and George Jackson's Prison Letters.

You may have listened to this. You may have scoffed at the alternative, funny haired, rebellious kids who aggrandize RATM. But did you really listen? Did you hear the message beyond the angst and furious instrumentals? The intellectual force and searing pleas for political, economic and cultural awareness couldn't be more important than in 2008. I doubt this album could have been released post 9/11 in the US. Consumers were warned of the dangers of US criticism. A nation who has lost respect for its leaders (money holders) is bound to fall. Shut up and assume it is all for the best. You can still lease a Hummer.

"Fuck the G-Ride, I want the machines that are making them" -Zach de la Rocha


Flip this capital eclipse
Tha vocal tone has got 'em sweatin' their own apocalypse
Yes, rebel of tha grains stand masterless
Tha masked ones cap one
NAFTA comin' with tha new disaster
And yes we in wit tha wind an tha plan de Ayala kin
Are comin' back around again
Tha slave driver saliva, one night power turns
Them devils mouths dry, now Mexico burns
So here they come one by one them killers of the new frontier
Occupy, causin' fear, come on
Wit the wind

We in wit the wind below
Wit the wind

Flip this capital eclipse
Them bury life wit IMF shifts, and poison lips
Yo they talk it, while slicin' our veins yo so mark it
From the FINCAS overseers, to them vultures playin' markets
She ain't got nothin' but weapon and shawl
She is Chol, Tzotzil, Tojolobal, Tzeltal
The tools are her tools, Ejidos and ovaries
She once suffocated, now through a barrel she breathes
She is the wind below
The wind
She is the wind below

And all the shareholders gonna flex, and try ta annex the truth
While the new trust is gonna flex, and cast their image in you
Yeah all the shareholders gonna flex, and try ta annex the truth
And while the new trust tries ta flex, and cast their image in you
And GE is gonna flex and try and annex the truth
And NBC is gonna flex and cast their image in you
And Disney bought the fantasies and piles of eyes
And ABC's new thrill rides of trials and lies
And while the gut eaters strain to pull the mud from their mouths
They force our ears to go deaf to the screams in the south
But we in wit the wind below!
But we in wit the wind below!
But we in wit the wind below!

For more lyrics click here.

Evil Empire is here.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Dr. Dog - Easy Beat (2005)

The Philadelphia rock outfit Dr. Dog are an infectious mixture of coolness and certainty. This is the first album released officially allowing it to be described as "debut". The songs are varied in style except for the universal character of being recorded at home on an 8track. This gives the album a sense of antiquity, and nodding to the obvious influence of 60's/70's rock in sound and instrumentals, one must also appreciate the contemporary fix of disorganization and playfulness that satisfies our need for deconstruction. No Shit.

This album is highly recommended.


DJ Muggs vs GZA - Grandmasters (2005)

Muggs provides an ominous time and space for none other than the GZA to lay down his intellect on this record. The title speaks not only of the pairs commitment to remaining 'above' the competition intellectually, but in strategy. The repetitious references to chess made by the GZA throughout his career are a signifier to his intellectual commitment and his timelessness. Like chess, which has been played for two thousand years, the GZA will continue to influence hip-hop immeasurably into the future. This album educates. However, despite the GZA's omnipresent intellect, Muggs remains present in this record. His beats remind one of the determination a good DJ has. Without his production skills, the record wouldn't elicit the anxiety that is felt on Grandmasters. It is an anxiety of having something incomprehensible in scope- one isn't sure of all the consequences from learning the truth in this cultural artifact. Heads bob.


Monday, March 24, 2008

The National - Cherry Tree (2004)

With the blistering success of Boxxer last year, the National have finally gained substantial notoriety. In this indie rock world of "less fame is more fame" it is a tragedy to many, but a relief to a band who has been grinding it out for years. This is an early EP with a few republished tracks seen on their LP's. It also features an awesome version of "Murder Me Rachel". Dig it.


Friday, March 21, 2008

Menomena - Friend and Foe (2007)

This album has gained some acclaim since its release last year. However, acclaim is not enough. There are few albums that punch you in the gut repeatedly and fill your steps with adrenaline. This is a push through all obstacles in your path; a sensation that you have a purpose greater than your environment. Unique indeed. The thundering drums and shifting instrumentals on Friend and Foe encourage you to keep moving. Yet, the instrumentals are not the only force on this record. The lyrics speak of conflict, interpersonal frustrations, and our innate inability to communicate with our fellow men. The lyrics have unique certainty and a tangible depth that can be read as metaphor or literal reference. Heavy, but not demanding. It is not the kind of album that requires concentration to enjoy. It will paint the walls of an empty room while your idle day struggles to drag the hands of the clock. Though it has the ability to combat boredom without the listener's effort, it is an album that has been intricately layered and organized to allow complete immersion if the listener so desires. There is something uncanny about the amount of energy stored in this album. It is a jolt to your core. Incredibly empowering. This all may seem like exaggerated flattery, but my intent is to translate my love for this record. It is definitely my favorite of 2007, easily overshadowing so many 'big' releases we saw last year. Turn off the lights, put on your headphones and let this grand recital control you mind for 12 well composed cuts.


Check the music video for the song "Evil Bee" featured on this record. It is tres chic.

Music Video

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Madvillain - Madvillainy (2004)

You may have listened to one of the previous posts: Madlib - Shades of Blue. If you liked his style, get this. Madlib cooperates with MF DOOM on this album. To mix these talents is unfair to all other hip hop artists. In fact, it is more than that. It is criminal. If you have never listened to MF DOOM rap, show haste and get this album now. His style is one of a kind. This is where buttery beats and the Mask's prophecy meet your hungry ears.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Clutch - Elephant Riders (1998)

When I feel like drinking whiskey and getting rowdy (once every 50 days), I bring out this album, dust it off, try to scream in that particular Neil Fallon way, and headbutt anyone or anything in my immediate vicinity.

I have seen Clutch a few times in small clubs and it was one of the best live shows I can remember. One particular show, John-Paul Gaster gave me one of his drumsticks. I was so intoxicated from the offering that I felt superhuman. If someone were to have challenged me for that drumstick, I believe I would have beheaded them right there on the spot. I had fought for the front row, and spent the entire show headbanging. I then spent two following days with a sore neck from said headbanging. It was a ride. Point being, this album fucking jams. If you want to jam, look no further.

Neil Fallon has an awesome voice, the lyrics require encyclopedias and the instrumentals are jam funk jazz metal. Neil Fallon probably has more children than Genghiss Khan from speech alone. His voice penetrates anything where it can be heard. At a live show he stands there with only a mic in hand, like some wizard or the grand inquisitor- sans the scary judgement, but 'holy' nonetheless. He commands all in reach to pay attention and be humbled by the spirit of his beastness, yet he manages to do it in a fraternal way. He is like the guy in school who can beat anyone up, and happened to take a liking to your scrawny ass- You are relieved that he likes you and have a strange sort of pride from the whole mess. If you've liked the previous posts, get this. It is on my top shelf.


Friday, March 14, 2008

Grant Green - Alive (1970)

Grant Green is a legendary Jazz guitarist. This Blue Note release is a personal favorite in a thorough repertoire from Grant Green. It is a live show in gritty Newark city at the Cliche Lounge. Green and the band are inarguably on their game this particular evening. The funk and R&B captured here on Alive provided the framework for the evolution of instrumentals in early Hip-Hop albums. This is the pinnacle of Green's funk style. Dig it.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Smog - A River Ain't Too Much to Love

I waited to put this album up on the site due to the lack of views in the first weeks. Dongs of Sevotion was posted first. If you failed to get it, do so now.

I am curious how many lives this album has saved. I am equally curious how many deaths to which it has contributed. Like a strong medication or poison, the potency should be measured according to the patient. Songs on A River Ain't Too Much to Love are catchier than other Smog albums. All stands true for this album as did for the description of Songs of Devotion in the earlier post. However, this album will attract a wider audience. It is more accessible.

"With the grace of a corpse in a riptide; I let go." -B. Callahan


Monday, March 10, 2008

Derroll Adams - Feelin Fine (1972)

Read Derroll Adams' biography here.


Gillian Welch - Hell Among the Yearlings (1998)

When the sun is shining and you think it may hold out for more than a few hours, and you get that longing for home... There is a road all souls must take to heaven. I believe it passes through Kentucky. Though Welch herself is no native of Kentucky, she reproduces the folk and bluegrass that has bled in Kentucky for the last 200+ years. Her voice is charming and forsaking at the same time. This album is Welch's second release. It holds well to her talent, despite the exaggerated follow-up expectations to her Grammy nominated debut: Revival.


Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Velvet Underground - Gymnasium (Live 1967)

These guys need no introduction. Recently discovered bootleg.
-Never heard before, and a 'new' song as well.

Dig It.

1. I'm Not A Young Man Anymore (previously unheard VU song)
2. Guess I'm Falling In Love
3. I'm Waiting For The Man
4. Run Run Run
5. Sister Ray (debut live performance)

Thanks to Stepan Trofimovich Verkhovensky.


Goran Bregovic - Le Temps de Gitans (1989)

Sarejevo's finest. Bregovic has a robust career as a composer. He embodies the Balkan Stylo. Dig It.


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Sun Kil Moon - Tiny Cities (2005)

This is a truly special album. Mark Kozelek decided to play Modest Mouse songs on his sophomore effort with Sun Kil Moon. The result is a presentation of older MM favorites which is relieving for fans. However, more relief comes in Kozelek's scope of MM's material. His ability to take Isaac Brock's talent with the pun, and all other things English, and present them in a more intimate way than MM, deserves gratitude. This is an acoustic record. It plays like a requiem and less like an angsty loose garage rock album; ie... Modest Mouse's The Moon and Antarctica, and The Lonesome Crowded West.
Despite Tiny Cities being an acoustic album, the force of Kozelek's voice and the passion in Brock's lyrical world view encourage some rocking and fist pumping. Buckle up.


Monday, March 3, 2008

Electrelane - The Power Out (2004)

Electrelane is four women who have a rock fantasy and want you in it. The Power Out was the first release on the British Too Pure label. Steve Albini produced it (think: Pixies, Nirvana, The Stooges, Cheap Trick). If that doesn't say enough, farewell. Electrelane, is a rooty alternative rock band with the creative tendencies of bands like Sonic Youth, but sans the mess. They keep it tidy.
This, like the Os Mutantes from an earlier post, has enough rockability to fuse a room of disconnected neurotransmitters. In other words, it is a great album for social gatherings and rug cuttings. I highly recommend this album.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Soulsavers - It's Not How Far You Fall, It's the Way You Land

Soulsavers has released two albums to date. "It's Not How Far...." is the most recent of these offerings. Soulsavers is normally an electronica duo featuring the work of Ian Glover and Rich Machin. This album, however, plays more like a dark gospel album. The vocals are handled by Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees) and one slot with Will Oldham (Self and Bonnie Prince Billy). The former is the highlight of this album. Lanegan's voice is emotive and certain.
When I first tried to put the sound into words, I thought Revival, which is the first track title. The album now plays more like an exorcism; an exorcism of painful pasts and failures. The religious overtones force sentimentality. It is as if you have stumbled upon a stranger singing his blues in order to repair his broken soul, and you sit there- captivated- listening secretly. At times during the record you get the sense you are growing younger; like you are being cleansed. "It Is Not How Far You Fall, It Is the Way You Land" is a bandage for your broken will. It can turn the staunchest atheist to salvation. Lanegan has a holy voice. Inspiring, indeed.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Caribou - The Milk of Human Kindness

In honor of the upcoming visit here in the "Golden City": Caribou. With all these bands naming themselves after animals it is hard to keep track. I think mammals have the lead in the race right now. I'm not sure if a Caribou could beat up a Panda, or Grizzly Bear, but it is charming nonetheless. Being a human at the top of the food chain, I have to say that Caribou is a tender meat and easily digestible. It still has just enough gameyness to be "exotic" and therefore can satisfy both the connoisseur and rugged hunter alike. Bon Appetit.


Girl Talk - Night Ripper (2006)

I normally don't get into dance/techno music, but this album has that je n'sais quoi. Greg Gillis is the brains behind Girl Talk. He has a savvy ear for mixing the unthinkable together. This album is in constant contradiction. He mixes Journey with Three Six Mafia, or Phil Collins with Master P- I don't know. You get the picture. Night Ripper is one of the most entertaining records I have ever listened to. Gillis, as far as I know, doesn't actually write any "new" music on this album. It is a smorgasbord of modern pop, dirty south gangsta rap, classic rock and 80's pop/new wave. He borrows melodies from Nirvana, the Pixies, the Breeders, the Beatles and on and on and on- crams them together with exceptional dexterity and forms a cohesive groove. The result is a listening experience that will have your attention span for the entire record- just waiting to hear where he will take each track next. This is a personal favorite for city walking and aimless wanderings. You will not be disappointed, regardless of any aversions to dance or electronica. This is a creative stew of pop chart favorites and underground classics. It's an album that listeners of all genres can appreciate, well, minus the Pete Seeger fans.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Dr. Octagon - Dr. Octagonecologyst (1996)

This is one of my favorite albums of all time. It is a disc that can be played hundreds of times and never lose its force. The dimensions are so large, and you soon get lost in the eerie web of a Gynecologist's malpractice of sex, murder and mutilation. Kool Keith adapts his most infamous alter-ego Dr. Octagon to speak through here. The beats are handled by the prodigy from the previous post: Dan the Automator, aka. Nathaniel Merriweather. This was the album that opened the gates for the Automator. Dr. Octagonecologyst plays like a psychedelic nightsweat in outer-space. Keith will keep you guessing. At first listen you can be overwhelmed by the sheer absurdity of his lyrics, yet rightfully respecting his style. Not long after you make this conclusion a seeping realization comes to you: The man is either genius or mad- maybe both- and you've been trapped in his psychotic world. As so often happens when dealing with insanity, the effects are contagious. You will soon be hypnotized by his rhythm and omnipresent ego. Keith is special in this way: Many artists become characters, but Keith has alter egos. There is a difference: He's a schizophrenic.
The sampling is lush with spooky 18th century symphonic horror and 1930's fear mongering government propaganda. Contrary to most modern hip-hop, we see few guests on this album. Leave yourself clues to help emerge from this labyrinth. Enjoy.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Lovage - Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By.

Dan the Automator is, like Madlib from the previous post, a multi-talented and highly active DJ who has impacted hip hop immeasurably- think Deltron 3030 & Dr. Octagon. This radioactive sample is, as the title suggests, music for the bedroom. If he alone wasn't enough, Dan decided to bring in one of the most talented vocalists of our time: Mike Patton (Faith No More & Fantomas, among others). With Patton singing contra Jennifer Charles (Elysian Fields) a scene of the steamiest fornication is imagined and encouraged in our private bedrooms. The sampling is comically entertaining as always with The Automator, but it doesn't interfere with his primary goal: to get you laid. There are two instrumentals on this album, each of which get your body rocking. The scenes move from petty crime (To Catch a Thief) to frightening necrophilia (Flowers From the Grave). This album is well balanced in the darkness and lightness that looms over our sexual conscious and subconscious minds. It may seem heavy in description but fear not , because Dan balances these fantastic worlds with his innate sense of yin and yang. Enjoy.


Smog - Dongs of Sevotion (2000)

Bill Callahan is like a cool uncle. He's smarter than your Dad and he knows everything that is cool to you, including the names of all your favorite action figures. All his knowledge is a priori. He never comes across as condescending. Basically if you don't have this album, consider yourself to have been swindled by God at birth and now just fortunate enough to have met the devil who thinks that no one should be denied anything this good regardless of sin or consequence. Smog's earlier experimental stuff is really "out there". This is a more settled Callahan. You'd think he was a hundred and four by the wisdom he's accumulated and, thankfully, shared in this album. Expect great song writing, admirable word play and unexpected song transformation (ie. Bloodflow). This record is plutonium, which is way more expensive and suave than platinum, gold and gems combined. Even "shit gems".


Friday, February 22, 2008

Madlib - Shades of Blue

Otis Jackson Jr. is Madlib. He has compiled and cooperated dozens of times with a multitude of talented MC's and DJ's alike. Madvillain - "Madvillainy" was most notably his claim to fame. There he cooperated with the illustrious MF Doom. If you know it, you know the beats are soo butter.

The legendary Blue Note jazz label had the confidence and trust to give Madlib the keys to the vault and let him mix. The result is "Shades of Blue". He wanted to explore the roots of hip-hop and create a sort of survey of the beats and melodies that have shaped the specifically American musical genre. This album is a gem. To say he was successful is an understatement. This album showcases his vision. Enjoy.


Devotchka - A Mad and Faithful Healing (2008)

When it rains, it pours. Devotchka started as a backing band for a Burlesque Show. The name is a part of the colloquial language used by the Alex and his Droogs in "A Clockwork Orange" by Anthony Burgess. It means "young girl" in Russian. I'm not sure if it's a positive or negative diminutive, but it's there. The haunting nature of Alex in the book is reproduced in style by Nick Urata's voice. This is their newest offering. Leave a little light on if you're listening alone.

Password: KEY

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Os Mutantes - Mutantes

This Brazilian Psychedelic rock outfit released "Mutantes" in 1969. It is 2008 and this record rocks the core of your being. Get a bunch of plastic cups and several gallons of shitty red table wine and throw a party. If this is your soundtrack, be assured that your guests will soon be naked-dancing and swinging their hair. This is a rock record. This record will turn a green light on in an infrared room.


Silver Jews - American Water

In honor of the blog title, the first post is....

Silver Jews:

Stephen Malkmus and David Berman are the heads of this musical chimera. It will breathe fire and you will cower. Remain steadfast and the monster's blazing breath will transform into a hammock of jello and sex fantasy.

On a serious note, If you don't have this record, it is one of the pillars supporting the pedestal we esteem modern rock to rest upon. Listen to it fifty times. Berman is a remarkable poet and satirist. He redefines the traditional song writing approach to include his boisterous irony and laughable wit. "I met a puppy who walked from Kentucky. He made it to East Virginia by dawn..."