Archive for January, 2010

White Denim: “I Start to Run”

January 21, 2010

If you didn’t know better, you might peg Austin trio White Denim (Joshua Block, James Petralli, and Steve Terebecki) as a British band. There is evidence, of course, but it’s circumstantial. Not only did they release their third full-length album, Fits, in Europe on June 22 (which is, coincidentally, my birthday), four months before it was released in the US, but they filmed the video for single “Shake Shake Shake” (off of Workout Holiday) in a junkyard in South London. And that same video, directed by Tom Haines, features an androgynous boy with a blond mullet. Where can you even find a mullet these days? England, obviously.

But that’s where it ends. This groovy group formed in February of 2006 when Lucas Anderson, the fourth member of Parque Torch, the offspring of a two-outfit merger, moved to Russia, and then they were three. White Denim pulls from so many genres that it’s almost a sin to classify them—if classify you must—as simply a rock band with a blues/punk/psychedelic edge. Most songs on their latest effort seem to careen through the musical atmosphere, embodied in such a in a freewheeling, schizophrenic, bursting-at-the-seams kind of meteor that’s burning up (as meteors are wont to do) as it approaches earth that I fear the band might spontaneously combust when performing them live. Find out tonight at The Independent.

White Denim – I Start to Run

Who: White Denim

What: Fits

When: 10.20.2009

Where: Austin, Texas

Why: “Somebody’s listening! / “I feel like someone’s listening! / To the song in my head!”

How: Downtown Records


Owen Pallett: “Lewis Takes Action”

January 19, 2010

I am all for role playing, but I prefer the kind that occurs behind closed doors to the Dungeons & Dragons variety, and would advise against naming your music project after such a pastime. It can get confusing. Formerly known as Final Fantasy, Owen Pallett recently dropped the geeky moniker he shared with the videogame—out of love and veneration—for his third album, Heartland, which came out under his own name via Domino a week ago today. With the vocals and violin of Andrew Bird, the whimsy of Joanna Newsom, and the occasional drama of Moulin Rouge, this ambitious, eclectic, and often eerie record is an orchestral flight of the imagination, a post-modern fairytale featuring a beautiful but violent farmer named Lewis and Pallett himself, who tries to win the farmer’s affection.

If the album at times recalls a Neon Bible aesthetic, it’s no accident. Pallett has provided string arrangements for the Quebecois group in the past, and Arcade Fire drummer Jeremy Gara contributed his percussive talents to Pallett’s latest. As a concept album (not unlike The Decemberists’ Hazards of Love in spirit) you really should listen to the album as whole for the optimal experience, but each song is rewarding in its own right. If you missed the Canadian composer’s sold-out show at Bottom of the Hill last week, lament. He really makes me regret rendering all those years of violin lessons useless at age 12.

Owen Pallett – Lewis Takes Action

Who: Owen Pallett

What: Heartland

When: 1.12.2010

Where: Toronto, Ontario

Why: “I got a message for the acolytes / I am your man in a bloody fight / I got a thirst for liquid gold / I’ll bludgeon ’til the body’s cold.”

How: Domino

Lissie: “Little Lovin'”

January 14, 2010

Any girl that can channel all the energy she ever spent nursing broken hearts and put it into songs that her cigarette-smoked and whiskey-soaked vocal chords secrete with all the pain of getting over someone—without getting under a new one—and still come off sounding sometimes optimistic, like in “Little Lovin’,” is my hero. As is any girl that can cover a Hank Williams tune with style and soul, delivering the simple yet tragic lyrics (and if that ain’t country, I don’t know what is) as if they were her own fate written on some unchangeable, prophetic tablet in the stars, sounding much older, wiser, and road-weary than her 27 years. And got kicked out of high school. And likes cheeseburgers. And that girl is Lissie Maurus.

Hailing from Rock Island, Illinois, she now lives in a farmhouse with her dog in Ojai, California by way of LA, where she moved two years ago. There, she met Lenny Kravitz and joined him on tour, and got exposure through her work on DJ Morgan Page’s “The Longest Road,” for which she not only contributes vocals but also stars in the music video, which doesn’t surprise me. Have you seen her? Despite her natural good looks and blond locks, however, Lissie doesn’t take herself too seriously as a bombshell, showing up to a shoot sans makeup and donning 1970s/modern-day molestor-worthy glasses. Her first full-length record is due out this year. Until then, catch her at The Fillmore on Friday, January 22.

Lissie – Little Lovin’

Who: Lissie

What: Why You Runnin’

When: 11.10.09

Where: Rock Island, Illinois

Why: “I gotta lotta love in / I gotta lotta love in / I gotta lotta love in my heart / I’m gonna get to heaven / I’m gonna get to heaven / I’m gonna get to heaven alright.”

How: Fat Possum

David Bowie: “Oh! You Pretty Things”

January 9, 2010

I like David Bowie for a variety of reasons, not least of all because his fourth studio album, Hunky Dory, is often playing at one my favorite coffee shops, Four Barrel, as I wait for whatever hot hipster barista is working that day to make me hands-down the best latte I’ve had in this city. And I think to myself: “Oh! You pretty things: don’t you know you’re driving me and everyone else here insane?”

But really. Who couldn’t love a record that had been described by Allmusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine as having “a kaleidoscopic array of pop styles, tied together only by Bowie’s sense of vision: a sweeping, cinematic mélange of high and low art, ambiguous sexuality, kitsch, and class?” Happy birthday, Bowie.

David Bowie – Oh! You Pretty Things

Who: David Bowie

What: Hunky Dory

When: 12.17.1971

Where: London, England

Why: “Oh! You pretty things / Don’t you know you’re driving your mamas and papas insane?”

How: RCA

The Mountain Goats: “This Year”

January 5, 2010

Often touted as one of the best modern-day lyricists, The Mountain Goats’ founder and frontman, John Darnielle, has a way with words—and, as it happens, a way with melody as well. On the surface, “This Year” from 2005’s The Sunset Tree tells a story about getting through a singularly insufferable period of time, to which all of us could probably relate. Take a fine-tooth comb to the language, however, and you’ll find the freedom he’s found in the beginning will not go unpunished, as he’ll have to face his abusive stepfather when he returns. Why am I telling you this? Why did I choose this song and this band above all others to begin 2010? Not just for the oft-syncopated, infectious piano chords, and not to depress the shit out of you (although I admit I’m pretty good at that). Or to tell you to become a vegetarian, which Darnielle has been since 1996.

No. I want this song to serve as inspiration. All of us have pasts and none of them are perfect, nor can we change them now. What we can change is the future. As hordes of hoi polloi make their absurdly unattainable New Year’s resolutions, most focus on hitting the gym a little more and the bottle a little less, all while losing sight of the bigger picture. With that in mind, I ask that we not be myrmidons, slaves to whatever job it is that 55 percent of us are not satisfied at, complacently accepting the status quo and the feeling that this is as good as it gets. Instead, let us all break free on a Saturday morning, put the pedal to the floor, head north on Mills Avenue, and listen to the engine roar.

The Mountain Goats – This Year

Who: The Mountain Goats

What: The Sunset Tree

When: 4.26.2005

Where: Durham, North Carolina

Why: “I am gonna make it through this year if it kills me.”

How: 4AD