Monday, May 30, 2005

No Hits 5.30.05

Train From Kansas City (mp3) – The Shangri-Las

I came across a
Shangri-Las collection (for the can’t-pass-up price of $6.99 at Laurie's Planet of Sound—home of the nicest record store employees in Chicago) this weekend and just had to highlight a single from this fabulous 60s girl group. A quick synopsis from Allmusic:

Along with the Shirelles and the Ronettes, the Shangri-Las were the greatest girl group; if judged solely on the basis of attitude, they were the greatest of them all. They combined an innocent adolescent charm with more than a hint of darkness, singing about dead bikers, teenage runaways, and doomed love affairs as well as ebullient high-school crushes. These could be delivered with either infectious, handclapping harmonies or melodramatic, almost operatic recitatives that were contrived but utterly effective. Tying it all together in the studio was
Shadow Morton, a mad genius of a producer who may have been second in eccentric imagination only to Phil Spector in the mid-'60s.

Train From Kansas City was composed by powerhouse songwriting team
Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich—also responsible for the Shangri-Las biggest hit, Leader of the Pack, the Dixie Cups’ Chapel of Love, The Ronettes’ Be My Baby, The Crystals' Then He Kissed Me and River Deep, Mountain High performed by Ike and Tina Turner.

As you can imagine, the song's been covered several times. For your downloading pleasure, I’ve got Neko Case’s 2004 version and a pop-punk rendition from Superchunk.

Train From Kansas City (mp3) – Neko Case

Train From Kansas City (mp3) – Superchunk

The Tigers Have Spoken and Tossing Seeds (Singles 89-91).

Friday, May 27, 2005

Outlaws Among Us

Friend and colleague, Daniel Padgett sings and plays guitar for Chicago-based Outlaw Family Band. They've recently released their first full-length album CD. Given their regular appearances at local clubs like Schubas Tavern, Metro, and Double Door, I admit I wondered how their well-honed live act would translate to the studio. But with ex-Wilco impresario Jay Bennett at the board, they've wisely chosen to highlight the intimate side of their musical and lyrical talents rather than chase their roadshow vibe. That's not to say the record lacks energy; it rocks just fine thank you very much.

Admitting bias, the high point for me is Light Of My Backdoor, penned and sung by Dan. Unfortunately, this gem is not available for download from the
Outlaw Family Band website, but they do offer the opener Queen of Desire and instrumental Ravenswood Getaway (pt 1), both solid compositions in their own right. If you like what you hear, I encourage you to buy the CD from Slackjaw Records.

It's been great watching this band come together over the years and see their music mature (yeah, I know). With this record as a major milestone in their careers, I can't wait to hear where they go next.

Stuff to kill a slow Friday afternoon

Andrew Earles is a rock critic who writes, among other things, a hilarious column for Magnet, livening up what might otherwise be a pretty dull mag. What separates him from a lot of music scribes is that he's both discriminating (definitely not a fanboy and in fact refers to himself as a "hater") and passionate about what he loves. By that I mean he doesn't resort to irony and general snarkiness as emotional distancing devices. Earles has a blog, where he recently posted something that should make those of us who've worked both sides of the writer/editor fence cringe in horror and recognition. Also see Earles' surprisingly poignant love letter to Dinosaur Jr's You're Living All Over Me at Perfect Sound Forever.

If you're obsessed with self-evaluation (and who isn't?) check out the BBC Web site for a
whole psychological battery, including a morals, disgust and personality test. I find it fascinating how I always get the same personality assessment--and usually pretty accurate--no matter what the test and how much I try to fudge my answers. Here's some "Big Thinker" characteristics (those who know me personally will love this): This chatty group enjoys a good debate and asserting their opinions. Sometimes others may find the way they express their ideas too abrupt or challenging. In situations where they can't use their talents or are unappreciated, Big Thinkers may be rude, critical of others or rebellious.

Chicago's still trying to live down the ignominy of being named
U.S. Murder Capital a couple years ago (not simply per-capita, mind you, but absolutely). Finally, we can enjoy some good news. Wag your tail in civic pride!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Summer approved listening

A start-of-the-summer mix with a little new, a little old, a little in-between.

Boyskout-miniMost neo-new wave bands these days are plundering the vaults of the Buzzcocks, Gang of Four and New Order. But San Francisco’s Boyskout has clearly got an affinity for West Coast new wavers like Missing Persons and Romeo Void. Back to Bed takes me back to my twelve-year-old self, vacationing in L.A., begging my parents to turn up KROQ on the car stereo . . .

Back to Bed (mp3)

Jesse James Remix (mp3)

Apollo Sunshine
SpinART has long indulged bands with sweet tooths (teeth? the grammar's too confusing here). Power pop, retro pop, psychedelic pop, twee pop, whatever—it’s perfect summer music. Apollo Sunshine (the name says it all) is a relatively new, very melodic band from Boston. Apples in Stereo, of course, is one of the label’s oldest, biggest names and responsible for Glowworm--a tune that easily makes my top 10 of all time. Merry Go Round comes from a 1998 spinART compilation. The band’s called The Lemmings and apparently they’re from Tampa—maybe someone out there knows more.

I Was On The Moon (mp3)

Glowworm (mp3)

Merry Go Round (mp3)

Tony Dekker/Great Lakes Swimmers
For mellower moods, Nyles Lannon's (also, n.Lannon) Hollow Heart is what you want to hear as you row a boat across a quiet lake at dusk. And speaking of lakes, Toronto’s Great Lake Swimmers have a gorgeous campfire singalong in I Will Never See the Sun. It’s the most rockin’ tune on their self-titled album (if you can believe it), which singer/songwriter Tony Dekker recorded with a few friends in an abandoned grain silo.
Listen carefully to Great Lake Swimmers (the song) for chirping crickets in the background.

Hollow Heart (mp3)

I Will Never See The Sun (mp3)

Great Lake Swimmers (mp3)

Finally, a couple real obvious ones. First from The Bravery, which everyone either loves or is working on the front lines of an intense backlash against. The other from The Faraway Places, an L.A. band that likes to call its sound “California Krautrock.” Sure, okay.

Swollen Summer (mp3)

Summertime (mp3)

If you like, buy:
School of Etiquette – Boyskout
Katonah – Apollo Sunshine
Science Faire – Apples in Stereo
LemonLime Vol. 2 – Various
Chemical Friends – Nyles Lannon
Great Lake Swimmers – Great Lake Swimmers
The Bravery – The Bravery
Unfocus On It – The Faraway Places

Monday, May 23, 2005

No Hits 5.23.05

It's All In My Mind (mp3) – Teenage Fanclub

This week’s No Hits selection was entirely too easy. This is practically the only thing I’ve been listening to for the last five days—over and over and over again.

Teenage Fanclub’s been around for a while—16 years according to the year-by-year history on
it’s Web site. I’m sure they’ve done better in Britain (the guys hail from Glasgow), but they never really hit it big in the U.S. Maybe it’s just taken Teenage Fanclub a long time to find their sound. For me, their early work too slavishly imitated Big Star (I like Big Star just fine, just don’t appreciate slavish imitation). With the exception of power pop anthem Star Sign, the band’s 1991 breakout Bandwagonesque was disconcertingly derivative.

But if It’s All In My Mind (from the forthcoming
Man-Made) is any indication, they’re doing amazing things these days. Achingly beautiful close harmonies, moody backing keyboards and faint hints of noisy guitar squall are held neatly in place by tight, propulsive drums. If there’s any justice in this world, this perfect pop song will get extensive radio play. But we all know there isn’t.

From Bandwagonesque:

Star Sign (mp3)

Update: You can
stream Man-Made--it sounds gorgeous! (Tip from The Catbirdseat.)

Friday, May 20, 2005

Indie yuppie update

The New York Post ran a story yesterday (picked up by Yahoo News) on the whole indie yuppie thing. I particularly love the quote from the self-identifier gushing "Oh my God! That's me!" Honey, you're a marketer's wet dream. And no doubt you're a yuppie. But clearly you were in the fitting room at Urban Outfitters when someone explained the aesthetic and ideological underpinnings of "indie rock culture"--whatever the fuck that is anyway.

You have to subscribe to the Post to read the accompanying quiz, but Tale of Two Cities has kindly
put it up. It's pretty lame--the Stereogum stuff is still scads better.

Yeah okay, I scored an 8. But in my defense, I have no money to speak of and I would never, ever buy a Death Cab for Cutie album. And Garden State great? Please.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

One album I won't be buying on Tuesday

Stephen Malkmus

Dear Stephen,

So you have a
new album coming out next Tuesday. Do I care? I do not.

Like any indie rock freak over 30, I spent years worshipping you—paying to see half-assed Pavement shows, penning pathetic, adoring love letters (you never got em cuz I never sent em), asking “what would Malkmus do?” whenever a situation called for ironic detachment and calculated ambivalence. Naturally I had (have) all the Pavement albums and a lot of the singles, and after you guys called it quits, I faithfully bought your solo records. I even tried to like those Jicks.

But you know what? Solo Malkmus kinda sucks. I never listen to
Pig Lib or the self-titled one. (Do you? Be honest.) And except for a handful of songs (Phantasies, 1% of One, Ramp of Death, possibly a few others), those albums are simply lazy, self-referential pastiches of your admirable record collection (no one could ever assail your ability to loudly and clearly telegraph your influences). But we both know you’re capable of so much more. And from the new leaked material I've heard, you’re simply not living up to your potential.

This is my long-winded way of saying we’re through. I’m not buying the new one. Not that you care—you’ve probably got plenty of
indie yuppies lined up around the block to preorder the thing. Meanwhile, Matador’s working hard to drum up publicity of the righteous indignation variety because safe, bland little Paste Magazine didn’t want to run your ad. What’d you expect?

I'm sorry. I just can't do it anymore . . .

Your (former) biggest fan,
Face The Truth
Anyway kiddos, here’s the single from Face The Truth, which you've probably already heard. A catchy enough tune, and as far as I can tell, the best thing on the album.

Baby C’mon (mp3)

And some Pavement rarities you might not have (from Rattled By La Rush & Shady Lane) :

Easily Fooled (mp3)

Wanna Mess You Around (mp3)

Oh, and as a bonus,
SM's Amazon list of music you should hear. The Kaiser Chiefs/Blur thing is a little surprising, though he does qualify it as a guilty pleasure. (As soon as I finish reading Britpop, I'll explain why it's funny.) But I don't need a disclaimer--I Predict A Riot and Every Day I Love You Less and Less are two of the best singles so far in 2005.

Finally, Happy Birthday Dave!

Monday, May 16, 2005

No Hits - your weekly fix

No Hits is a new weekly item here at Shake Your Fist. Named after our first selection, No Hits will feature a song that's on heavy iPod rotation.

No Hits (mp3) - Black Mountain

From the debut album Black Mountain on Jagjaguwar Records.

Black Mountain is, for the most part, a throwback to the 70s--making psychedelic stoner rock with heavy input from the usual suspects (Stones, Zeppelin, Floyd, Sabbath). Normally, this wouldn't be my bag, but this Stephen McBean-led rock collective (yeah, I know) from Vancouver has at least one interesting trick up its sleeve: Some of Black Mountain's songs have a beat you can dance to. With its mechanistic thump, thump, snaky synthesizers and bracing hand claps, No Hits betrays the band's Can influence. And once the droning, hashpipe vocals cut in, you'll be reminded of kitchen sink artists extraordinaire, The Beta Band. This genre-hopping track can be offputting at first, but as you slip into the infectious groove, you'll probably agree it's a pretty great little slice of techno prog.

Interesting fact: Four out of the five Black Mountain members are mental health workers toiling on the front lines of Vancouver's drug epidemic. In case you don't know, Vancouver is North America's biggest port of entry for Asian heroin, which has proved a magnet for addicts across Canada and the U.S. A few years ago, the city implemented a European-style initiative to reduce the devastating crime and drug-related deaths in its Downtown Eastside neighborhood. This harm-reduction program includes supervised injection sites where addicts are provided with needles and a safe place to inject. Like any controversial new policy initiative, it has generated some debate. But it sure beats the hypocrisy and hysteria that greets pragmatic alternatives to the "war on drugs" this side of the border.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Rosebud Was a Joystick

The next generation of video game consoles (to be released in 2005 and 2006) are so powerful that the cost of writing code that takes proper advantage (spray of blood particle physics engines; 17 million polygon cleavage wireframes; photo-realistic zombie entrail rendering) is skyrocketing. Math isn't just hard, kids, it's also expensive. As a result, the only titles getting greenlighted are sequels of successful games or licenses of popular films. Sequels, licensing and special effects... somehow, George Lucas must be to blame for this. And there's no Tom Stoppard re-write on the horizon.

It would be bad enough if the studios were content to base games on B-movies like The Matrix and Chronicles of Riddick. Unfortunately, it appears that there's no franchise more lucrative than legendary, Academy Award winning films. Which is why you'll soon be treated to first person shooter and Grand Theft Auto inspired versions of Scarface and The Godfather (I wouldn't mind so much if it were Godfather III. I'd be willing to plunk down $39.99 to wack Sophia.). And don't forget upcoming video game rendition of Taxi Driver, in which Travis Bickle, Luigi and Mario rescue the teen hooker from the clutches of Bowser, her fireball tossing dragon pimp.

At this rate, we ought to see a Sims-like version of Schindler's List sometime next year.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Forty miles from Atlanta, this is nowhere

You Ain't No Picasso has found the holy grail, or something close. That fine blog's got two video clips of Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel) performing in Athens, GA in 1997 and 1998. I saw NMH play Lounge Ax (RIP) in the spring of 1998 and it practically changed my life. We're talking transcendent, religious conversion powerful. So if you never got it before, here's your chance. (Disclaimer: I understand this is the kind of talk that sent Mangum into early retirement. I regret employing loaded rhetoric like "religious conversion." But I can't help myself.)

Pitchfork's got a cool
interview with Tommy Ramone, the sole remnant (!) of the original crew. And in case you missed it, a scathing assessment of Weezer's latest. No surprise there. And a relatively lukewarm review of Gimme Fiction. Let the indie-cred backlash begin!

Finally, Sasha Frere-Jones wrote a piece on John Darnielle of
The Mountain Goats in this week's New Yorker. I always find SFJ's attempts to explain underground rock to NY readers (yeah, technically I am a NY reader, I know) fascinating and disorienting. It's like overhearing a stranger talk about your mother. I'm no Slint fan, but the review of the band's reunion show in NYC was total twilight zone.

In honor of The Mountain Goats, and Darnielle's
excellent blog, here's a few great tunes--early, mid and later career:

Going to Georgia (mp3)

West Country Dream (mp3)

Palmcorder Yajna (mp3)

From Zopilote Machine, Full Force Galesburg and We Shall All Be Healed, respectively.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Ah, the Mysterious East

Ask and you shall receive, Amy.

All you
eproctophilics bored with Planet Hollywood should start saving your frequent flier miles for a trip to Taipei. Josh Rubin's excellent Cool Hunting has photos of the latest in Taiwanese "concept" dining: the toilet-themed restaurant. No, really. It apparently sports "...toilet chairs, urinal sconces, and even commode shaped serving pieces." Hey, what smells like kimchi?

Monday, May 09, 2005

One Perfect Green Blanket

Less than a week in and this blog is in serious jeopardy of becoming Amy's Mp3 Blog. Come on teammates!

Anyway, I was browsing Amazon the other day and was disappointed to see Barbara Manning's
One Perfect Green Blanket is now out of print. If you don't know her (and you should), Manning is a San Francisco musician/songwriter who belonged to 28 Days and World of Pooh in the late 80s and in the 90s recorded both under her own name and with a collection of Bay Area musicians as S.F. Seals. I haven't followed her career since about 2000, but apparently she now plays with a pair of German/Italian brothers as the Go-Luckys.

Given her talent, Manning has probably never gotten the attention she deserves. Several S.F. Seals and solo albums were released by Matador--arguably the most prestigious independent label of the 90s--but Manning always got overshadowed by showier female singer/songwriter labelmates, Liz Phair and Chan Marshall (Cat Power).

Used copies of One Perfect Green Blanket are worth seeking out. It's up there as one of the best indie pop records of the 90s. Also very good are S.F. Seals'
Truth Walks in Sleepy Shadows and the solo 1212, which includes a creepy four-song cycle about a child arsonist (I'll post something from it around Halloween if I remember).

From One Perfect Green Blanket:

Straw Man (mp3)

Talk All Night (mp3)

Bonus. In 1995, Manning contributed vocals to Stephin Merritt's (Magnetic Fields) The 6ths project. This is by leaps and bounds the best, most buoyant song off Wasps' Nest (and God knows Merritt can write a great tune):

San Diego Zoo (mp3)

Spoon update: Received Gimme Fiction with bonus disc today. Amazing, of course. I'd heard most of it when it leaked several months ago (just so you know I'm not making a snap judgment). But I'm so biased, Spoon could release an album with Britt Daniel humming to elevator music while Jim Eno tapped a pencil against his teeth and I'd buy it. I've posted a review on Amazon if you're interested (5/10/05, alg99, "More brilliance from America's best rock band).

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Okkervil River

I know better than to follow a good comic with a joke, so . . .

when I say the best album so far this year (at least until Tuesday, when Spoon's Gimme Fiction drops) is Okkervil River's Black Sheep Boy, I'm not kidding. This is the Austin-based band's fourth full-length and--from what I've heard of its previous alt-countryish efforts--most interesting and ambitious by far.
More astute critics than I are giving it lots of love, so I'll try to be brief.

A concept album that's loosely based on 60s folky Tim Hardin's "Black Sheep Boy," this amazing record lurks and confronts, sprawls and rocks. The Puck-like character of the black sheep boy slips in and out of the 11 tracks, alternately playing master of dark revenge fantasies in songs like "For Real" (a tune that makes the all-too-familiar loud/soft dynamic done to death by everyone from The Pixies to Fugazi to their more-dubious offspring sound fresh again) and patient, beseeching lover in the epic slow-burner "So Come Back, I Am Waiting."

"Black" is, on the surface, the album's catchiest, most upbeat number, with a sprightly, instantly hummable keyboard line. Upbeat until you read the lyrics and unearth a story of modern gothic proportions. The narrator, unable to reach a girlfriend haunted by her father's sexual abuse, imagines a confrontation:

And if I could tear his throat, spill his blood between my jaws, and erase his name for good, don't you know that I would? Don't you realize that I wouldn't pause, that I could have somehow never let that happen? Or I'd call, some black midnight, fuck up his new life where they don't know what he did, tell his brand-new wife and his second kid.

Stunning as it is, this verbosity can very occasionally get in the way of the music. Particularly when Will Sheff's scruffy, warbling voice takes on the stilted phrasing favored by similarly intense and wordy songwriters (paging Mr. Oberst, Mr. Conor Oberst). But indie kids who were paying attention in class will also be reminded of another godhead artist. While Neutral Milk Hotel's
In The Aeroplane Over The Sea benefits from a more complex mythology and sonic palette, Black Sheep Boy's themes of loss and redemption, not to mention its unexpected orchestral pop moves, is well within that tradition. That's no mean feat and no accident. Besides being a talented musician/songwriter, Sheff's a rock critic who has penned one of the best tributes to Jeff Mangum's magnum opus I've ever read.

Sample mp3s from Black Sheep Boy (but seriously, go
buy the album):


A Stone

Also, Okkervil River has a rep as a ferocious live act. They play
Schubas in Chicago May 12th and 13th.

Briefly getting back to Spoon, if you pre-order their latest masterpiece
from Merge by midnight May 10, that fine label will enter you in a drawing to win a Britt Daniel-signed 7" of "I Turn My Camera On."

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Meine Damen und Herren, der Mann in Schwarz

Ever wonder what Johnny Cash sounds like in the language of das Vaterland? Man probably does did his own stunts too. Apparently, Wo ist Zuhause, Mama (mp3) was also released stateside, but in English of all things. I think they called it Five Feet High and Risin'. Or Ring of Fire. One of those. Thanks, Josh McHugh.

Is this thing on?

lda #
ldy #>text
jsr $ab1e ; ROM message out routine
text .text "HELLO WORLD!"
.byte $0d,$00

Welcome to Shake Your Fist. You look like a great crowd. We'll be here all week.