Thursday, August 31, 2006

R.I.P. Woxy.com 2004-2006

Indeed, this does suck, but it's not like we didn't see it coming. This is the moment all of us hoped would never come. After plugging away at this for the past two years, it’s become pretty clear that operating woxy.com as a stand-alone Internet "radio station" is not going to cut it...Barring something exceptional happening in the next two weeks, we will silence our broadcasts on Friday, September 15th.

Soulwax Preview

Belgium's #1 sibling DJ duo Soulwax (aka 2 Many DJs) are back with a brand new release, Nite Visions, and a full North American tour next month. The new record is said to be "interpolations and reinterpretations of tracks taken in most part from their highly acclaimed ‘Any Minute Now’ album– replayed and reworked, twisted to work on the dancefloor and a homage to the extended 12” format." The corresponding tour is said to bring about "as much debauchery that you can fit into one evening." Well, well, well...we shall see. The Nite Visions tour hits Double Door on September 17th. In the meantime, bump this preview track on your bangin' laptop speakers: Download: Soulwax - "Miserable Girl" (MP3)

Live Review: Gran Bel Fisher @ Park West 8/29/06

Some might want to lump Gran Bel Fisher into the pool of popular singer/songwriters on today's airwaves, but to do so would be a mistake. He has a unique voice and intelligent songwriting that sets him apart from the likes of a Daniel Powter or a James Blunt. Gran Bel Fisher, a rocker from Ohio writes reflective songs that soar, supported by a strong baritone voice, sweeping piano and twangy guitar. With the difficult task of opening for UK soul singer Corinne Bailey Rae, Gran Bel Fisher and his cohort Josh Krajcik on additional guitar delivered a well-suited set of songs off of his recent LP, Full Moon Cigarette. A great debut collection of well-written, thoughtful piano ballads as well as classic rock-driven tracks akin to The Doors and Led Zeppelin. Gran Bel Fisher spent the majority of the set behind the 88 keys, however he did step up next to Josh to perform a few songs on guitar. It definitely helps to have a talented guitarist like Josh Krajcik on your side, together they created a smooth clash of interwoven guitar, that came crashing together so perfectly on the song "Dazey Day". There was mellow, understated eloquence on "Bound by Love", where Fisher's vocals reveal glimpses of Jeff Buckley. Though, it was the closing song "Full Moon Cigarette" that really stuck a chord with me, further exploring his ethereal vocals and carefully plotted piano opening, it was easy to hear his vision come to fruition as the song progressed. This was a fine outing by a promising young songwriter, and one who has a maturity to his music well beyond his years. You can catch Gran Bel Fisher when he comes back to Chicago on September 24th @ Schuba's with Ari Hest. Setlist: Far Cry Moment Edible Crash and Burn In Dreams Bound By Love Dazey Day Full Moon Cigarette

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Live Pics: Corinne Bailey Rae @ Park West 8/29/06

Corinne Bailey Rae has an impeccable, soulful voice that separates her from the crowd. She has the performance intensity of Fiona Apple, in terms of the deep seeded emotion that she pours into her songs and that powers her gorgeous voice. She is fully committed on stage, shifting from the humble smile after an applause to a quiet seriousness as she embodies her songs. She has the beauty and the depth of Billie Holiday, and a variety of influences from Led Zeppelin (she even covered "Since I've Been Loving You") to Erykah Badu, that makes her such an amazingly well-rounded singer/songwriter. Such a beautiful show. You can preview her self-titled debut, Here .

Live Review: Eagle*Seagull @ Memories 8/25/06

I don’t usually talk about the venue of where a band plays, but indulge me on this one because I’d never heard of Memories in the five years I’ve been living in Chicago and steadily attending shows. It’s located on the NW side of the city around 4100 North Cicero and is, literally, a neighborhood bar. For every negative thing was an equally random positive thing. It’s regulars were the opposites of hipsters. Behind the bar (stocked with only a couple of selections of beer) was a list of people who were no longer allowed in the club, which included two previous bartenders. (It sort of begs the question, “What exactly does one have to do to get kicked out?”) There was no soap in the women’s bathroom but instead a giant framed film poster of Magnolia (which, of course, is one of the best films of all time). It’s smoke-inhalation-poor-light-atmosphere made the wait almost unbearable. Yet, the house music between band sets was perhaps the best mix of pivotal punk rock music I’ve heard in this city including songs from X, The Clash, The Ramones, The Germs, and more. Eagle*Seagull is a seven piece band hailing from Lincoln Nebraska. Although their self titled record was released on the Paper Garden Records label, they do share some similarities in terms of sound with other bands from the Nebraska area on Saddle Creek. I think in some ways it would be wrong to categorize their music as “emo,” but mainly because that genre has gotten a bad wrap as of late. (At one point, it may have meant more expressive and emotional but people now tend to dismiss it as whiny white boy music from my experience.) It would be accurate to say that the vocals of Eli Mardock are often pained and visually intense, with a strong resemblance to Robert Smith of The Cure. “Your beauty is a knife I turn on my throat” is one glaring example and their album is perhaps a touch more emotional than the average indie rock fare. Simultaneously, you sense a real layered sound, between the guitar and keyboards especially. In addition, Britt Hayes is an especially skilled drummer with a great sense of how to make even the quirkier rhythms work. Live, their forty minute set seemed to go by way too fast. Highlights included “Photograph,” “Your Beauty is a Knife I Turn On My Throat” and, at the very beginning of the set, “It’s So Sexy.” Many of the songs were sped up a bit and even the more emotional songs came off as catchy and dance music for those who like post- pop. The violin playing of Carrie Butler added a real special touch to the songs as well. As an additional treat, they played a brand new song that began with a dreamy opening and sped up with increasing momentum featuring the lovely female vocals of Carrie Butler. You can hear their songs by visiting their Myspace page. Also, check out the side project of guitarist and backup vocalist Austin Skiles called Bright Calm Blue if you’re looking for a harsher sound more reminiscent of Cursive or The Blood Brothers.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

RFC's Katrina Coverage: One Year Later

Since virtually every media outlet in the country is exploring "Katrina: One Year Later" stories this week, thought I'd jump on the bandwagon and dig out clips from RFC last year at this time. My analysis? Mike Myers looking insanely constapated while Kanye went on his rant about Bush is still 100x funnier than anything he ever did on SNL. Also, George W. Bush is still an idiot. Part of me thinks he really doesn't "hate black people" per se, it's more like he just doesn't care about poor people and (still) refuses to admit that the country has a huge poverty problem. Then again, if Katrina hit Texas and there were a bunch of good ol' boys drowning, the conspiracy theorist in me thinks the rescue efforts would have been one helluva lot swifter. Anyway...here's the clips we ran last year: ---- Kanye does Chicago proud once more If you missed it this weekend, Crooks and Liars has the video clip of Kanye West's teleprompter-defying speech at the live Concert for Hurricane relief. "I hate the way they portray us in the media. If you see a black family it says they are looting if you see a white family it says they are looking for food...George Bush doesn't care about black people." Apparently, NBC wasn't too pleased with Kanye's improv, Crooks and Liars reports that his remarks were edited out of the West Coast feed of the broadcast. ---- Kanye/Dubya Remix I generally don't use Wonkette as a source to find hot new Mp3's, but yesterday on the site I found this genius Kanye West "George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People" remix by The Legendary K.O. Check out the timely soundsystem banger set to Kanye's "Gold Digger" single here. You can also pick up a matching ironic faux-vintage t-shirt with the "George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People" slogan here. Hey, who said politics wasn't any fun?? ---- Yo, FEMA raps! Of course, we here at RFC strive to be fair and balanced in our reporting, so we'd be remised not to present this hot rap joint from the Fed's point of view. Click here to bump the "FEMA for Kidz Rap" as featured on the FEMA.gov website. In case you don't have any speakers close, here's a sampling of some of the rhymes that FEMA MC Scott J. Wolfson is spittin': People helping people is what we do And FEMA is there to help see you through When disaster strikes, we are at our best But we're ready all the time, 'cause disasters don't rest. Word.

New Releases Tuesday - 8/29

Beach Boys - Pet Sounds [40th Anniversary Super Deluxxxe Edition Gold Plated Audiophile CD/Dolby Digital 5.1 DVD/Hi-Res 96kHz/24-bit PCM stereo Laser Disc/Dolby HX Pro Stereo Cassette/Mono 8-track/4-Disc Quadraphonic 180-gram LP set in limited edition fuzzy package] (Capitol) First 1000 copies also include actual locks of Brian Wilson's hair. Check out Stereogum for exclusive preview bonus material. Bob Dylan - Modern Times (Sony) Sorry, no Hi-Res 96kHz/24-bit PCM stereo mixes available here. However, if you pay a few more bucks for the "bonus edition," you get also get a DVD with 4 videos. M. Ward - Post-War (Merge) Merge records sez: "The fifth M. Ward album and his most absorbing yet. Its songs unravel their world-wearied tales of life, love, and human kindness with an innate and special grace, helped in part by the very talented friends who join him on this record, such as Neko Case and Mike Mogis, as well as old "Monsters Of Folk" touring buddy Jim James (My Morning Jacket)." Hear the new material for yourself live next Friday (9/8) at Metro. The Roots - Game Theory The Roots' join the Def Jam roster and earn 4-star credentials from The Guardian, who say its their best work yet.

Monday, August 28, 2006

RFC Interview - The 1900s

One of the local bands that has received the most buzz this past year has been The 1900s. Baring a sound that's as classic as their name, this indie pop sextet (an octet if you count "the birdz") has garnered comparisons to such legends as The Zombies and Love. RFC recently caught up with lead singer Edward Anderson to find out more. When you write songs, is it a collective process or is there someone who usually ends up taking the lead? Are you careful to give everyone input or would that just get too challenging with such a large band? It depends on the song. Everyone steps up when needed. You've said in previous interviews that many of you in the band have similar music tastes and backgrounds, but has there ever been any great moments when someone puts on an album that no one else has ever heard before? A few months ago Charlie started playing the song "Roscoe" by Midlake in his car. I nearly lost my shit when I heard it. It sounded so fucking incredible I just couldn't believe it. A few days after becoming obsessed with "Roscoe" we learned that we were going to be opening for Midlake at the Mercury Lounge in NYC. That was a big moment. Another great moment was when we all first got together and we listened to the entire Belle & Sebastian catalog (but skipping "Chickfactor") and masturbated the whole time to it. You've said before that you chose than name the 1900s because of nostalgia for the century past. If you could change one thing about our present day what would it be? Nothing. Similarly, what are your feelings about the future of both the world and music in general? Is it something you look forward to? You have no choice but to move ahead unless you want to kill yourself or drink and do drugs until you lose all touch with reality... which is what some of our songs are about...which can be found in the future on our album…which is something to look forward to. What is one great thing about being a part of the Chicago music scene? My favorite thing about being part of the Chicago music scene is getting wasted and hanging out with all these crazy people who play music in this city. Just shooting the shit, talking a little business, and hearing about all the great stuff they're up to. Songwriters and musicians are not usually very stable or normal people, which always makes things interesting. I really get so excited when I hear that these bands are doing well, and I'm usually kicking down their doors for them to give me copies of their new records. On the practical side, we've been lucky enough to befriend very amazing and talented people who are willing to go out of their way to help us, which has ruled - and we haven't even had to give away too many bj's. Not too long ago, you toured for your EP Plume Delivery outside of Chicago and I was wondering how you found the experience of opening other cities up to your music? If a band plays in the forest, and no bloggers hear it, does it make a sound? On the other hand, New York was much more enthusiastic than I'd imagined. They liked us for the reason I thought they would hate us: we don't stand on stage looking bored and trying to seem cooler than we actually are. We just go for it, and I guess that was refreshing for them. Overall, this is an area we need to explore much more, the road is still green for us. "Patron Saint of the Mediocre" seems to be the real stand-out track on Plume Delivery. Was there anything special about the way this song was created or a special inspiration for it? That's certainly our most debated song so far, and it was something we wrote as a band. We've gotten tons of reviews saying that "Patron Saint" is the weakest on the Plume Delivery EP cuz of its length and wankery. For others it is the standout track. I'm in the middle; I think it probably could have been done a little better, but in the end its shambly-ness is kind of the point. Originally I sang the song, but pretty much on the last day of recording I had Jeanine give it a go - a great move because her voice has a base sensuality to it that kind of feels like an unholy seduction, which is prefect because the song is about holy seduction.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Touch & Go 25th Schedule Announced

Friday, September 8 9:00pm - !!! 8:00pm - Ted Leo + Pharmacists 7:00pm - Girls Against Boys 6:00pm - Supersystem 5:00pm - The Shipping News Saturday, September 9 9:00pm - Shellac 8:40pm - Big Black 7:45pm - Manor Astroman? 6:50pm - Scratch Acid 6:30pm - Sally Timms 6:00pm - Negative Approach 5:40pm - PW Long 4:55pm - Didjits 4:35pm - Jon & Kat (Mekons/The Ex) 3:50pm - Killdozer 2:55pm - The Ex 2:35pm - Tim & Andy (Silkworm) 1:50pm - Pegboy 12:55pm - Uzeda 12:00pm - The New Year Sunday, September 10 9:00pm - Calexico 8:00pm - Pinback 7:00pm - CocoRosie 6:05pm - The Black Heart Procession 5:45pm - Brick Layer Cake 5:00pm - Seam 4:40pm - Tara Jane ONeil 3:55pm - Three Mile Pilot 3:00pm - Enon 2:00pm - The Monorchid 1:00pm - Quasi 12:00pm - Arcwelder

Friday, August 25, 2006

Thax All Folks!

Time Out Chicago has an interesting short interview this week with our beloved local rock show poet laureate Thax Douglas, who will soon be officially leaving the Windy City for greener pastures in New York. Asked about the lack of support he felt he's received here Thax sez, "Yeah, that's basically why I'm moving. They're tolerant, but not supportive. Bands are - and most venues - but Chicago is under the stronghold of this "indie-stry" - type crowd." An "indie-stry" - type crowd? Good one, Thax! However, I wonder if he's referring to the crowds at the shows or just the local scene in general? Reading this interview kind of got me thinking...is Thax actually good at what he does or was he really just a nuisance all this time? I've seen him a million times, but probably only actually listened to his poems a handful of times. He's been such a ubiquitous figure at shows I think I just started just to tune him out after a while. It's like, "oh boy...here comes Thax again," and then I would either drift off or turn away and go back to talking with my friends. If anything, the local scene being "tolerant but not supportive" was probably just due to overexposure. However, I'd be curious to hear from actual poetry aficionados out there if they think we're truly losing an underappreciated local treasure or whether we should start warning venues in New York immediately. Thax's Chicago farewell tour started last night at the Sub-T and continues through September 4th. Check out www.myspace.com/thaxdouglas for the complete itinerary.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

New Sunny Day Real Estate!

Ok...not really, but we did just get in this great new track from Jeremy Enigk's (that's pronounced ee-nihk, by the way) new solo record, World Waits, which won't be hitting store shelves until October. Enjoy! Download: Jeremy Enigk - "Been Here Before" (MP3)

Live Review: World Party @ Park West 8/22/06

Some things are better left unseen. I'm a firm believer in this, especially when it comes to reunion tours. Going to see a band who hasn't played in years (or even decades) always seems like an exciting prospect, but the shows almost never live up to expectations. Inevitably, the band is not going to sound as good as you remembered (selective memory or not), and then there's the visual shock of seeing the heroes from your youth suddenly fat, gray and balding. It seems all these reunion shows ever do is shatter any sort of fan-boy mystique I've built up in mind about an artist. It's a sort of grown up equivalent to discovering that not only is Santa Claus not real, but the guy in the suit all those years was the creepy old guy from down the street that always smelled like cough syrup. Nonetheless, upon hearing that World Party was touring the States this summer and coming to Chicago, I couldn't resist. Essentially a one-man band consisting of music savant Karl Wallinger backed by various supporting members over the years, World Party has always been somewhat of an obscure favorite of mine ever since high school. Not so much obscure in the fact that the band was completely unknown and never sold more than 100 records at a time, but obscure on the level that I never really knew anyone else that was a fan. Occasionally I'd run into someone who had heard of Goodbye Jumbo (World Party/Wallinger's commercial and critical breakthrough), but I sure as hell have never been able to debate with anyone about what are the best tracks on Egyptology (World Party's major-label swan song from 1998). Not only has World Party been a cult favorite of mine for all of these years, I realized they were one of only a very select few of favorite bands that I had yet to see play live. Needless to say, I had to throw any reservations out the window and check out this performance. To be fair, this was hardly a "reunion." World Party was always just a performance moniker for Karl Wallinger, so it's like not the band ever broke up. However, this was Wallinger's first appearance in Chicago in about 8 years or something and World Party had literally dropped off the face of the Earth for the past 5. Unfortunately, it was not a planned vacation for Wallinger. In February of 2001, he suffered a massive aneurysm that put him out of commission for two years. As a fan, I really should just be happy that the man is still alive, let alone able to tour. However, I still couldn't get past how bad he looked at this show and how fat...err, I mean flat this performance was. I don't mean to mock the afflicted, but I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw Wallinger walk on stage. He literally has become a pudgy and gray old man. It may not have been so disconcerting (the guy is now 49 years old after all) if it weren't the fact that all of the press photos for this tour and the domestic release of his Dumbing Up record earlier this year still depicted a skinny and suave Wallinger who looked only slightly older than the man from the "Is it Like Today?" video. I probably could have got over my superficial hang up a lot easier if it weren't for the fact that the performance was every bit as disconcerting as Wallinger's physical appearance. There was just no spark; it felt like I was watching a World Party tribute band or something. The vocals sounded pretty much the same and the band essentially played everything note for note, but there was that emptiness you get when watching a dorky cover band happily bounce from hit song to hit song without any change of tone or emotion. As much as I'd like to put all the blame on this backing band that clearly was assembled only recently for the purpose of touring America, Karl certainly was not without blame himself. Overall, the energy and spirit wasn't there, and at one point he actually had to bust out a lyric sheet and performed a song ("Here Comes the Future") karaoke-style with a piece of paper right in front of his face. The one highlight of the night, though, seemed to be completely unscripted. At the beginning of the set there was a guy in the crowd who was shouting out requests for "Thank You World." Around the middle of the set, Wallinger actually obliged the request (I'm pretty sure I heard him mumble, "this next one's for...") and proceeded to play it solo acoustic-style. Judging by the somewhat awkward body language of most of the band members during the song, this wasn't just Wallinger dedicating something that was already in the planned set list. As it became apparent that he was, in fact, going to play the entire song and not just a short acoustic snippet, the band eventually started to lightly noodle along. Adding credence to my "the supporting band sucked" theory, this mostly solo performance was by far the most inspired moment of the night to me. There's no doubt Wallinger's serious ailment drastically affected both his physical and mental capabilities and more than likely he's still trying to recover from it. As much as it is a huge accomplishment for him to be back on the road, I still would almost rather he had followed the Brian Eno-school of recovery (i.e. don't tour anymore, dive even deeper into studio work) rather than playing out the rest of his days on the rock star senior circuit that could eventually reduce World Party to playing state fairs and casinos. That being said, I still wish Karl and Co. all the best and I still would highly recommend picking up the "new" record, Dumbing Up, which also includes a great bonus DVD containing the entire World Party video anthology. SET LIST: Put the Message in the Box Is It Like Today? What Does It Mean Now? When the Rainbow Comes Best Place I've Ever Been I Thought You Were A Spy She's the One Love Street Who Are You? Here Comes the Future Vanity Fair Thank You World Sweet Soul Dream Is It Too Late? Way Down Now (Encore) It Is Time Ship of Fools Click here for the complete photo set

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Live Review: Alog @ Empty Bottle 8/17/06

Alog is atmospheric and dreamy with minimalist music that has slowly added effects to it in order to create something complex as it is simplistic, which is to say that it’s something you have to listen to for awhile to understand why it works. It is, to be sure, music you have to be patient for. While it is rewarding, it is not easily accessible. I cringed at first when I saw band members Espen Sommer Eide and Dag-Are Haugan come out with laptops because there’s a certain aesthetic to watching people play an instrument vs. pressing a keyboard button (which I guess is why we don’t have rock shows inside offices). In addition, fellow Norwegian artist Kim Hiorthøy had unfortunately done just that when I saw him live a couple of years ago opening up for the lovely Mum. Even though I had enjoyed Hiorthøy’s music that night, I felt a little disappointed overall. Luckily, I was put at ease right before Alog’s set when two guitars were also brought out; both a regular guitar and one without a headstock were used. In addition, a Thndtrix (which is an instrument invented and hand built by Alog) was used which looked like a small box and sounded a little like a fuzzy electronic theramin to me. Another instrument that was used was a midi-based sax that controlled various samples on the laptop, which I found interesting both in theory and in practice. In one song, there was almost a heart beat-like sound and in another the guitar tunings were slowly tweeked during the song to remind one of a slowly adjusting camera whose image goes in and out of focus. At times, it was a surprisingly organic feeling electronic symphony. Check out the bizarre but captivating video to Alog’s "Secret Flash" by clicking in the center of their website. Check out their songs by visiting their Myspace page

RFC Interview: Earlimart

No conversation about the LA independent music scene would be complete without mention of Earlimart, one of the East Side's brightest and most influential mainstays. And beyond Earlimart's significance as a band, lead Aaron Espinoza is also known for his production and engineering work (The Breeders, Grandaddy, Irving) and helping start The Ship collective, a group of local bands who not only practice and record at the nautically-themed studio in Eagle Rock, but ... gasp, is this really the every-crumb-for-himself City of Angels?! ... help each other out. We recently spoke with Espinoza about all of these things. And more. Hi, Aaron. So, you just released a limited edition 7" on Suicide Squeeze Records with two songs off of your new album and an exclusive track for them. (And their new 10th anniversary two-disc cd comp has that extra track on it, too.) You’ve said in a previous interview that you when you're engineering you want the music to sound like the time you had while making them, whether you were drunk or sober or sad or happy or rich or poor. What were you during these three songs? Let's see... Pretty much drunk, happy and rich! How’s the rest of the album coming along? What was your experience creating and recording these songs? Well, it's pretty much finished… just a few more songs to mix. This record was pretty difficult. It's taken the longest to finish (write and record, etcetera). About 9 months officially. Kinda like a pregnancy. It definitely has been very up and down for us in the past year. Getting out of our deal with Palm, shopping for a new deal, getting two deals, losing two deals, huge writers block, losing band members, gaining band members, getting engaged!, getting beat up by the bouncers at El Cid. The list goes on and on. Good and bad. How are they different from your earlier albums? Would you still call it end-of-the-movie music? I dunno... Maybe more like between Act II and Act III music. A bit more pivotal? A turning point in the story. I don't know. It's been really great to get to the end of this thing. Through all the hard stuff the band endured, it's made us closer, creatively and personally. It's much more of a collaboration between Ariana, Joel and I than ever before. Pretty great. When’s it due out? Well, as these things go... We are still currently unsigned, so don't know the exact answer for that question. We’re hoping very early next year. The sooner, the better. How did The Ship collective come together? In the beginning (in 1998), it was a necessity for us. We needed a place to record, rehearse, and hang out. That's what The Ship studio basically was... Earlimart, Irving, Pine Marten, Silversun Pickups. Nobody was making records for us back then. And early on... not a lot of people came to the shows, so we became our own little support group. Recording, playing together, crying on each others shoulders. That sorta thing. Now I think The Ship has changed a bit. The bands and artists and friends associated with it have all gone on to do a bunch of great stuff outside of our little group. Silversun and Irving don't always record at the ship, The bands tour nationally and internationally, bunches of people come to the shows. Everybody has found some level of success within their own thing [and] I think that's great! I think that was the whole point of starting this in the first place. How do you balance out your time between your engineering work and your own music? I'm trying to do a bit more of the engineering/producing stuff lately. When Earlimart released Everyone Down Here and Treble, we toured constantly for three years. That kinda took me out of the studio for a while. Now we've got some down time before the next release, I'd like to record some other bands or have more bands working at the ship besides Earlimart. I guess I just try to find time between making Earlimart records and driving from California to New York over and over. What’s your favorite song that you’ve ever worked on? Why? That's tough... I really have a fond memory of working on this e.p. that was a Grandaddy/Earlimart collaboration. It was a lot of fun and not fun all rolled into one. It was really about working with people really close to me: the Grandaddies and the Earlimarts. Just a real big weird family. The idea was that the members of Earlimart would work on a couple of Jason Lytle's songs and vice versa. I think it was a total of five very long days at The Ship. A couple years ago now, maybe? But there was this one tune that Lytle had I Heart California, and it was so fucking good. Period. It was really really fun to watch/record Davey (Earlimart) playing drums on the song and Ariana (Earlimart) singing back ups in an Arnold Schwarzenegger-style voice, "I love California." It's seriously so so fucking good. I hope that e.p. comes out soon. But that's a whole other conversation. What’s next for you? The finish line. Last question: Who are some of your favorite bands in LA right now? Besides the obvious... I like Giant Drag, Tigers Can Bite You, and The Eagles. That's all. Thanks for your time, Aaron. Now, here's the title track off of the Answers & Questions 7" on Suicide Squeeze Records. Download: Earlimart - "Answers & Questions"

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

One More For the Road

Also released on this busy new releases Tuesday is an impressive live comp from Seattle's KEXP. Don't think it's available at any stores locally, but you can pick it up on KEXP.org. Here's the complete track listing: Live at KEXP Volume Two Lyrics Born - Callin’ Out Gang of Four - What We All Want Thievery Corporation - Warning Shots Tapes ‘n Tapes - Insistors Sleater-Kinney - Jumpers Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Walking to Do Death Cab For Cutie - Crooked Teath The Decemberists - We Both Go Down Together Zero 7 - Home Common Market - Connect For M.I.A. - Galang Band of Horses - The Funeral The Wedding Present - Ringway to SeaTac Editors - Munich Skullbot - Lookout Bright Eyes - At the Bottom of Everything Trashcan Sinatras - Weightlifting Aqualung - Brighter Than Sunshine Drive-By Truckers - World of Hurt Patti Smith (with Lenny Kaye) - People Have the Power

RIP Li'l Wally Jagiello

New Releases Tuesday - 8/22

Jason Molina - Let Me Go, Let Me Go, Let Me Go (Secretly Canadian) I wanted badly to revisit the type of songs I did on my more experimental albums The Pyramid, The Ghost, and Protection Spells. I put this project together in the last days before I began what was a long and harrowing move back to Chicago. I wrote these songs as well as the half dozen or so that did not make it over the course of 3 mornings in Bloomington, Indiana and recorded them one after the other in the order they were written. -Jason Molina Download: Jason Molina - "Get Out Get Out Get Out" (MP3) Mountain Goats - Get Lonely (4AD) While Get Lonely takes the mood (read: professionalism) of Sunset Tree as a starting point, it's a much less compelling record. Note the title's jokey take on Elvis Costello's Get Happy!!!; is Darnielle distancing himself from the sincerity of the autobiographical Sunset Tree? Sort of, but not really. Darnielle maintains his mastery of the mundane—can anyone else compare a choir of angels to "marbles being thrown against a mirror" quite so convincingly?—but the poetics are lost on some truly forgettable melodies...Get Lonely is by no means the disaster that Lou Reed's spin on Poe, The Raven, was, but it's similar in that both records' lackluster songs do disservice to the overt literary quality of the lyrics. -Slant Magazine Watch: The Mountain Goats - "Woke Up New" (YouTube) Primal Scream - Riot City Blues (Sony) Damn, the press push for this record just keeps getting worse (which I guess is appropriate for this one). With Riot City Blues getting its domestic release this week, I found this genius piece of promotion on MySpace yesterday. If you buy their album via Filter Magazine you get a free "Country Girl" wife beater!?! Who are the ad wizards who came up with this one? And what's up with that wacky band photo? Are they acting out a scene for improv or something? Ratatat - Classics (XL) Not really sure why these guys are getting so much buzz. That "Wildcat" song was kind of amusing the first time I heard it, but after like the 3rd listen it becomes annoying as fuck. I think I'm refusing to like this band because I'm just so tired of this brand of ironic new wave electro dance rock. It's just so overdone and uninspiring. Granted this music is supposed to be light-hearted and fun, but there just doesn't seem to be a shred of depth, originality, or real emotion here...to me it just seems fueled almost entirely on ironic posturing. For example, remember Daft Punk's "Celebrate?" That song was totally cheesy and very retro-tastic, but it actually did make you want to celebrate, you know? It was complete ear candy to the dance floor, but there was some real emotion and energy packed in that song that could even make a jaded music junkie like myself smile (at least for the first 100 some times I heard it). I don't get anything remotely close to that with Ratatat. All their music does is make me vaguely tap my finger on the can of PBR that I'm vaguely enjoying. New Releases Tuesday returns with a vengeance! Lots more new releases out this week... Eric Bachman - To The Races (Saddle Creek) Broadcast - Future Crayon [B-sides and rarities collection] (Warp) Crooked Still - Shaken By A Low (Signature Sounds) Cursive - Happy Hollow (Saddle Creek) J Dilla - The Shining (Stones Throw) Judah Johnson - Be Where I Be (Flameshovel) Electrelane - Singles, B-Sides & Live M. Ward - Post-War (Merge) Amy Millan - Honey From the Tombs (Arts & Crafts) Miss Derringer - Lullabies (Sympathy For The Record Industry) My Brightest Diamond - Bring Me The Workhorse (Asthmatic Kitty) Nouvelle Vague - Brande A Part [domestic release](Luaka Bop) Jennifer O'Connor - Over the Mountain, Across the Valley, and Back to the Stars (Matador) OutKast - Idlewild (Arista) Pajo - 1968 (Drag City) Razorlight - S/T [domestic release] (Universal) Snowden - Anti-Anti (Jade Tree) Starsailor - On The Outside [domestic release](EMI) The Thermals - The Body, The Blood, The Machine (Sub Pop) Uzeda - Stella (Touch and Go) Chad VanGaalen - Skelliconnection (Sub Pop)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Putting the "Radio" back in Radio Free Chicago

One of my main priorities in launching the forthcoming RadioFreeChicago.org v2.0 was to put the "radio" element back in Radio Free Chicago via podcasts, featured DJ sets, and streaming audio. In working to test out some platforms and build up a cache of material for the official launch, I've dug out some old tapes (OK..they're actually CD-Rs) from my days at WLUW and am editing and encoding them to MP3/podcast form: Free Form Set 9/1/03 powered by ODEO A college radio time warp to almost exactly 3 years ago, this is a set from September 2003 and features what were mostly (if not entirely) new releases at the time. In true free-form radio fashion the set varies from avant-rock ala David Byrne, Frank Blank and BRMC to more experimental/electronic sounds ala Eric Truffaz, Lonesome Organist and Kraftwerk. Set ends with an achingly beautiful track from the seriously underrated band, Firewater. Halcyon Nights 6/24/03 powered by ODEO I'm still debating exactly how and what I want to program on the new RFC podcast channel, but there's a very good chance I'll be resurrecting this show. This set features some prime IDM beats courtesy of King of Woolworths, Four Tet and Beneath the Autumn Sky. Look for brand new material and other sonic goodies in RFC's podcast section when RFC v2.0 launches next month, but in the meantime you can subscribe now and enjoy some summer re-run classics from the vaults. My Odeo Podcast

More with Matthew Herbert

I know y’all out there are avid Newcity readers, but just you case you didn’t pick one up this week, I’ve got a great interview in there with Matthew Herbert who’s in town this week promoting his latest sonic masterpiece, Scale. Don't get me wrong, it’s not that I think I’ve achieved journalistic greatness with this article, it’s just that Herbert was a really interesting interview. It was one of those rare occasions where the personality not only lived up to the mystique, but it actually lead me to appreciate the artistic output even more. Even if you’re not a fan of dance or electronic music, you’ve got to appreciate the amount of thought and effort this man puts into his craft. (and if you are a fan of this type of music, you've got to appreciate how he's able to make these amazingly complex sounds and politcal statements into a record that you can enjoy just as much while shitfaced on Sparks late night at Sonotheque) I probably ended up with enough material for two Newcity features, but as usual, their loss is RFC’s gain. Here’s some additional excerpts from my conversation with Matthew Herbert: The new album is a statement against the oil companies and our relentless pursuit of fossil fuels. It’s a timely subject, but then at the same time it’s one the world has been struggling with for a quite a while. What made you decide to pursue this topic at this particular moment? (continued) The problem is that our consumption of oil is going dramatically upwards, it’s not going down. And our discovery of new oil has fallen rapidly for years. And it’s whether that adjustment is going to be extremely dramatic, bumpy and terrifying or it’s going to be smooth…but I don’t seem to see much preparation for it politically unless it’s going on backstage or something. So consequently it’s quite a strange time to live through with that knowledge that we’re living through one of the most glorious moments of human civilization in terms of access to resources…and also it’s great failure as well. Tell us about your "Personal Contract for the Composition of Music" and why you decided to bend the rules a bit for Scale. The main part of the rules is basically to take as much responsibility for every sound and every decision on the record, not just rely on the technology. Basically one thing that we have a real problem with (well, another thing that we have a real problem with) is we are not taking responsibility for our actions. Music is the one place where I have that possibility...to organize my world according to my own rules. So rather than sample other people’s music, I do it myself. But because with this record I wanted to make a point about distance and scale…a distance between the things we consume and where they come from (and the consequences of that), I wanted a record to be made by somebody else. So basically every sound on the record was recorded by my assistant, Alexis Smith. At the same time, there was an answering machine that we set up and we had maybe 200 messages from people around the world leaving a sound, which I used on the record. The end result is that I can’t take full responsibility for every noise on this record. And that’s kind of a deliberately political action. But the spirit of it roughly remains the same in that I’m not sampling any other people’s music. (from the press release) "Scale also features live drums recorded in bizarrely diverse conditions: under the sea, in a hot air balloon, in a labyrinth of subterranean caves, and in a car travelling at 100 miles per hour. "I wanted to record them on fire as well," he says, "but we never got around to doing that..." So, how do you record drums in a hot air baloon?? There’s video of it at MatthewHerbert.com… We waited three months for the right weather. (it’s not often you wait for good weather when recording an album) We jumped in the balloon with as many drums as we could fit in (which was a very small number because it’s a small basket), just go up, record real quickly, and come back down again. Finally, tell us a bit about your "Country X." It’s a virtual country where you can immigrate to…anybody can join. You can immigrate because you believe what it stands for. Not because you were born somewhere, not because you were born into privilege… It’s a place where we have the opportunity to describe a new way of organizing ourselves. And a place where we can do so without risk of violence against us or physical danger or something. Consequently it ends up being two things…it’s a way to resist the way power is used by our governments and corporations and things like that. At the same time, it’s a place to kind of invent a new space, you know? A place to imagine the world differently. Matthew Herbert will be performing a live DJ set tonight at Metro as a part of Summerdance 2006. Admission is FREE...so no excuses for missing this one. Also, for you downtown cubicle dwellers, Herbert will be stopping by for a chat at the Borders on State today at 12:30. Download: Matthew Herbert - "Something Isn't Right" (MP3)

Friday, August 18, 2006

More Festival Hijinks This Weekend

Check it out this weekend at South Union Arts...Joe at Radio Free Silver Lake recommends Fred Thomas (Saturday Looks Good To Me) on Sunday night.

TV on the Radio: The Lost Interview

Like a sundial, the New York City subway system found purpose with the sun. The heat fell through sidewalks, collected in the rails and kindled the metropolitan train grid to an electric coil, simmering everything ground level to a walking fever. I flew in from Chicago for a wedding. This time, the airplane losing my bag was very helpful; in that week the summer of 2003, happily dislodged from my effects, I wore my friend’s coveted Nugent shirt all week and propelled wherever I could—a very merry almost-24-hours of it with TV On The Radio. With my recording device safe in my still unproduced luggage, I asked them over lunch to write mission statements on napkins and tried my memory with the adventures that ensued: more lunch, opening for Café Tacuba at the Bowery ballroom that night and the magic of Brooklyn for the lovely rest of it. The folks over at Under the Radar for whom I was writing the piece for, wanted more quotations. TV On The Radio was releasing their first EP, Young Liars on Touch and Go Records. Some of this interview appeared in the article, most did not. So here you go, fall in love. Subject: urgent: my editor wants more 'exact quotations' from you Date: Mon, 18 Aug 2003 21:14:46 -0700 (PDT) thank you thank you thank you for your mission statements. (damn kids, you done handed me poetry.) & i read your lyrics to a friend on the phone. she hadn't realized they weren't poems until i told her. she then says she wants to be friends with you. it's beautiful stuff, that. what's your writing process? that's incredibly nice of your friend to say, and she can prove her friendship by picking us up at the Port Authority if ever we are "in trouble". Most of EP, lyrically, was scribbled in notebooks and muttered into four-tracks and answering machines before they were real songs. I think it's a pretty typical process. It starts by getting incredibly frustrated by a situation, any situation, coming to an impasse with the real world and what you can do about it, and realizing that laying that frustration out in words and then setting it to music is ultimately more productive than taking a crowbar to someone's headlight or drinking or watching tv. It's not always frustration, though. It can be elation. Writing and playing, creating, its just a good outlet to be outofyourmind depressed, or inspired or happy or lecherous without bugging the hell out of your friends or courting a prison stay. any author/s you were thinking of while writing it? Rumi. Mystic poetry was really appealling to me when we were writing last time. Most of the poetry that I've read of his is about a longing for a connection with ...the infinite, or that nameless faceless thing, this oh of course oh eternal yess bliss, but yearning for that as you'd yearn for a lover, and getting it. Everyone should read some Rumi. I swear I'm NOT a hippie. He predates the hippies by a few centuries. It's great. Other authors? Raymond Pettibone, James Baldwin, Charles Schulz, E.E. Cummings and Banana Yoshimoto figure in there somehow, but most of the lyrics were scraped together from journals. I don't know. Sorry to talk about yearning like that, but these poems are REALLY good. I'm not a hippie. we talked about david's poetry compilation at lunch. how much are you influenced by words in your music, and in general? I love words. They've ruined everything. there's some speak mixed in your songs. it reminded me of walking down metropolitan ave. listening to the hispanic women in the street. what was the impetus? That was a recording of some people I used to know telling a joke that to this day I haven't been motivated enough to translate. I'm pretty sure that someone, possibly me ,was being ridiculed. It's something about a stunning dress and a cow that no one wants, and for some reason it goes with the song. creepy. come to think of it, all songs on the ep remind me of walking around brooklyn at night, like that night after your show when we were trying to decide where to go. did you have this in mind? We made a lot of it in Brooklyn at night, so that might be it. My friend Marc, who used to live in the loft we recorded in wrote me and said that the ep reminded him of the place in the dead of winter, streetlights shining in through taped up windows, unpainted dry walls, exposed wires, rough floorboards and lonliness. Then he said it was strangely uplifting at the same time, just like us not getting evicted the month after was strangely uplifting. I agree with both you. There's some brooklyn on it. adding to this, fact #4 is brooklyn, ny. would you care to explain? (or have you explained this enough already?) No, I don't think we've explained it at all, yet. Fact # 3 was that the night we finished the ep, our upstairs neighbor called the landlord and requested that Dave be kicked out of the building for being too loud, and the landlord went for it, so fact #3 was basically that David Andrew Sitek and TV on the Radio are too loud for the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, because as everyone knows, you move to Williamsburg for the wine shops, the tree lined streets and, of course, the eerie artless silence that pervades every overpriced air conditioned rentmare from sassy Bedford Ave to New Bushwick Lane. It's petty, but it's our petty and we're proud of it. i noticed TVOTR played a live soundtrack to a film showing in Brooklyn. what was the film, and how did you like it? has TVOTR done this before? will you do more? No, we played before a film festival at Rooftop Films, here in Brooklyn. However, we'd be down to play soundtracks during silent film screenings. So, yes we've never done it before, but we'd like to do more. any comments, questions? We will be touring all over this America in November. Our website will have the info soon. Also, "Magsaysay" is a name that everyone should learn at least twice. So cool. so, can i write about you needing a nutritionist? Please. A full page ad. "Wanted: Someone to monitor TV On The Radio's blood sugar/ fried food intake. " It needs to stop. The bad nutrition NEEDS TO STOP. Written by J.R. Magsaysay, who says, "thank you tunde adibimpe, you are god's green..."

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Live Review: The Birmingham Sound @ The Hideout 8/12/06

My friend John Ciba is amazing. In addition to giving me countless recommendations for different albums these past couple of years, he’s also done something that is more important than what most people do in their entire lifetimes. Traveling between Chicago and Birmingham, he’s been working to release the songs created through Neil Hemphill’s music studio. Hemphill has unfortunately passed away but the music is still a living testament to not only his work but the vitality of these amazing musicians and the music of Birmingham in and of itself. Bringing together such amazing soul singers such as Ralph ‘Soul’ Jackson and Roscoe Robinson made The Birmingham Sound an awe inspiring occasion that Chicagoans were lucky to experience. The evening began with Todd Hembrook and the Hemispheres who played classic soul songs discussing the topic of love complete with sax and keyboard to compliment the bass, guitar, drums and soulful singing. They prepared the audience with their covers of instantly recognizeable soul songs. Adam Fitz (above) took the stage and sang a couple of songs before bringing up Ralph ‘Soul’ Jackson (pictured at top) who then took over. The saxaphones stayed with him throughout his powerful delivery and you felt like you were witnessing something vital because, even if the songs weren’t as immediately recognizeable as classic soul songs, they should be. After hearing them, it was incredibly persuasive that these songs should be learned by heart and be made a part of your life. Ralph ‘Soul’ Jackson was a tour de force singing his heart out at a youthful intensity you might expect of someone in their 20s or 30s. He worked the audience and brought up women to sing with him as well, exhibiting quite a charisma. Roscoe Robinson (right) was also exciting to see and hear. He was joined by a couple of other great musicians at different times on stage including Otis Clay and Howard Scott. Between seeing so many of these great soul singers, you really felt like you were witnessing something special but it wasn’t just the music you were hearing. You were also experiencing a sense of community. If you weren’t able to pick up the newly released material at the show, you can find them at Dusty Groove. If you are in the Chicago area, you can also hear John Ciba and James Porter spin some amazing soul at The Hideout (which is a perfect place to have this in my opinion) through East of Edens Soul Express. Click here for the complete photoset from the night.

Live Review - Silversun Pickups @ Schubas 8/13/06

After the release of their unbelievably strong EP from last year titled Pikul, it seemed that Silversun Pickups were poised to become the next big indie rock hype. It maybe didn't happen quite as quickly as I thought it would, but now with their debut full-length under their belt and out in stores, I think it's a just a matter of time before this L.A.-based band truly hits the big time. This impression was only furthered by their live performance I witnessed at Schubas this past Sunday. Their songs are just too good and their live presentation is just too damn infectious for them not to become more popular. In fact, I would put good money on them returning to Chicago to play a much bigger venue next time around. At the very least, I know they wouldn't have any trouble filling a bigger space in terms of sound. One of the main reasons that I like championing the Silversun Pickups is because I like the fact that they're more from the punchy "alternative" school of rock ala Smashing Pumpkins and Pixies rather than the fey and whiny "indie" school of rock that has dominated the scene the past few years. Thus, I don’t really think Schubas was the best venue match for this band, as I think their sound was literally too “big” for the room. The quaint confines of Schubas pretty much just washed out leader Brian Aubert’s crunchy guitars and screamy vocals into a blur of noise. (although this problem was significantly corrected by wearing ear plugs) On the other hand, I think Silversun Pickups and Metro would be a match made in heaven. If it hasn’t been done yet, I would seriously recommend someone from the band’s label or management crew send over a press kit to Joe Shanahan ASAP. (guys…let me know how it goes, we’ll make it a “Radio Free Chicago presents…” show). In addition to the band’s big sound overall, I was also really impressed by Aubert’s stage presence. While his supporting cast seemed more than content to quietly rock out in the shadows, Aubert was the quintessential front man, charming the audience with funny quips in between songs and then stirring the masses into a frenzy with his passoined vocals and boundless energy on stage. He almost seemed to have a bit of a Jeff Buckley-thing going on…certainly in terms of charisma, and maybe even with a slight physical resemblance. SET LIST: Check out the full photo set from the night here Download: Silversun Pickups -"Well Thought Out Twinkles" (MP3) Watch: Silversun Pickups - "Kissing Families" (YouTube)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

RFC Interview: Helio Sequence

Portland’s Helio Sequence is a pop music army of two made up of Brandon Summers and Benjamin Weikel, a duo are well known for both their bombastic live performances and super sonic EP and albums (the last on Sub Pop). In the middle of work on their third CD, Brandon somehow found time to answer a volley of questions -- both enthusiastically and extensively. (Which is in a word? Rad.) Hey, Brandon. How’s Portland treating you? I love that town. The people are so damn nice. Yeah, Portland's great... Everyone knows everyone... So, correct me if I’m wrong in my facts here: You two began playing together in a makeshift recording studio at a music store you both worked at back in tenth grade. Benjamin and I both worked at a small independent music store in Beaverton, a suburb of Portland, called Beaverton Music. It's actually a musical instrument store, not a record store. Mostly band instruments and some guitars, basses, and drums. Our boss was a really cool guy and would let us have run of the shop after hours. It was a small store with two rooms. We'd clear the floor of one of the rooms and use it as our practice/studio space. We'd stay up literally all night and work on music...writing, practicing, recording, hanging out. A lot of times we'd work until seven or eight in the morning and just sleep at the store for a couple of hours before opening again at nine... or maybe go get coffee and just skip the whole sleep thing. It was always kind of a coffee-fueled marathon. Did you know each other before then? What made you start up the band? I actually met Benjamin through his younger brother Paul. Paul and I were good friends in middle school and still are to this day. He's a drummer as well and we played in bands together. Depending on how you look at it, it's kind of an endearing or embarrassing story about how the Helio Sequence came together... I was sixteen, this was in 96... I was asked to play at a family picnic and at that time the band that Paul and I were working on kind of fell apart. Benjamin had a keyboard project that he had been working on and really wanted to try some of the songs out in a live setting so we all sat down and worked out a couple of long "pieces" and wrote another for the show... I don't know if I'd even call them "songs" ... They were about 8 or nine minutes long and all instrumental... Paul and I played guitar, Benjy drums, and the keys were sequenced. Benjamin came up with the idea of live sequencing, which to us at that time seemed really novel and has really been the backbone of Helio Sequence since the beginning. It was really cool and inspiring and the Helio Sequence grew from there. (Actually we weren't even called "Helio Sequence" then...the original name was "Grendel".) Paul left the band to pursue drum corps and Benjamin and I carried on. He did play guitar on a song on Love and Distance ("So Stop") though. The amazing thing is that we have a video of our first performance! Someday we'll post it on our website!! The whole thing went down at a sort of ghetto amusement park/carnival called Oaks Park outside of Portland to give you an idea of the strangeness of the event. What music would you play there? Well, like I was saying, Beaverton Music wasn't a record store but we did have free reign to put whatever we wanted on the big PA that served as our stereo. If you walked into the store in those times you'd be bound to hear all of the stuff we were listening to and being influenced by then blasting through the PA: My Bloody Valentine, Mouse on Mars, Talking Heads, Miles Davis, The Beatles, The Who, Aphex Twin, Stereolab, Holst, Coltrane, Bowery Electric...too many to mention all of them. We're both music junkies and there's always something new we're listening to. Then, after you quit the store to tour, you moved your operations to various family basements and garages. Where do you work on your music now? It was pretty rough when we quit our jobs to start touring. In effect we lost our practice space, recording studio, and overall place of inspiration. Beaverton Music was really such an incubator for our band. When it came time to really sit down and begin working on what would be Love and Distance we were in a hard position. We'd been touring A LOT to make ends meet and support Young Effectuals and realized that here in Portland we had literally nowhere to practice or record. We were still able to write at home but tying it all together and getting it recorded was a different matter. And we actually do a lot of writing in the studio and playing live and fleshing ideas out and there was nowhere to do this. But events really fell together and Isaac Brock was very kind and lent us his practice space at the time. In about three weeks we recorded the basic tracks for most of the songs in Isaac's garage... most of the guitars, keys, drums. I took some of the songs home and worked out and recorded guitar ideas and vocals in my apartment. And Benjamin and I got together and finished the vocals and overdubs and all of the mixing in his parents basement in rural Washington. The album really came together in a lot of different settings and environments over a long period of time. Going into the recording of this new record we realized that we needed a place to call our own, a home base... something more stable and conducive to our meandering sense of creativity. In March, we set up our studio in the basement of an old dance studio we've leased and have been working on the new record there since. How do you feel like your sound evolved over the years? In the beginning of Helio Sequence, we were very focused on texture, sonic effect and "the sound" of music. Songs were basically written over and around sonic conceptions. As time goes on I've become more focused on writing songs from a more elemental place... something where if you played it on an acoustic guitar it would have the same power as a fully arranged song... a song where the power lies not only in the arrangement and sonic quality but at the root. I think as Helio Sequence has progressed we've become more song oriented. I've had a real awakening over the past few years listening to Bob Dylan. Music means something different to me now than before. There's just a new depth I feel. I think that both Benjamin and I are really set on bridging the idea of a big sonic sound with elemental songwriting... and although this sounds kind of paradoxical, Helio Sequence has always been about creating something from disparate sources... melding things... combining things.... skewing things... to create something kind of off kilter and hopefully new. I imagine you guys spend a lot of afternoons and nights hiding out in the studio, experimenting with new sounds and compositions. Is that an accurate assumption? Whats your recording process like? I know it sounds crazy, but we work every day of the week from 10-6 in the studio. And we both have home studio set-ups at home where we can work on things during the weekends, nights, and evenings. We'll take chunks of time off to work at home on songs and stuff like that during the week too. This is a new thing... We used to work more evenings and nights. This record has been a bit different than the others in the writing process so far as well. In the past Benjamin would have a pretty well-structured keyboard song and we'd work from there.... arranging and writing the "song" live and in the studio. For this record it's been more based on loops as far as keyboards go... a more simple repeating chord pattern/part that Benjamin will bring to the table. We'll jam on the loop in the studio until we both have an idea of what we're doing... a verse/chorus or structure idea or a couple of parts. Then, we'll make a rough recording of that loop. I'll take that file home and put it on my computer and essentially write a song from the loop. Lay down guitars, overdubs, and vocals and arrange the song and what not. Then we'll meet up at the studio together and discuss what's working and finish the song together. This way of writing seems to lend itself more to song writing becasue if the vocals and the structure are down first you can think about how to complement and offset them with the arrangement rather than competing with what is already in the mix when adding vocals as the last thing. Of course, this isn't the only way, but seems to be what's going on so far. There are songs that I've brought to the table fully written that we'll then work out together and the same for Benjamin. In the end, I'm sure there will be a bunch of different processes that we use to get this record done, just like in previous records. Which do you like more: playing live or in the studio? I don't like one more than the other. I just love music. I love listening, playing, writing, eating, breathing, living music... everything. What’s next for you? We're deep in the thick of recording a new record which will be coming out on Sub Pop in early 2007. Like all of our records, this one is shaping up to be different than the one before it... Any touring plans? Nothing definite right now, but we may go out do a few shows in fall? We're really concentrated on getting this record done first and foremost. I do know we're playing a show in Portland this September though for the MusicFest NW Festival. I'm really excited to share the stage with two people who I have A LOT of respect for and both of whose music I LOVE: Jeremy Enigk and Britt Daniel. Last question: What current bands are you listening to these days? Current bands... Do you mean "new" bands? Well, I'm always listening to new stuff and old stuff all at once really. I just went through a big Van Morrison kick and have been listening to Moondance, Astral Weeks, Veedon Fleece and Saint Dominic's Preview a lot. And Neko Case's new record Fox Confessor Brings the Flood is absolutely amazing. Benjamin and I went to see her when she came through Portland and she is the real deal. Also, a friend just gave me Johnny Cash's last record American Recordings V as a gift. I love his cover of Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind" and his cool version of "God's Gonna Cut You Down." And I picked up a copy of Lou Reed, John Cale, and Nico Le Bataclan '72, a live acoustic recording from Paris...really cool. Oh and Daniel Johnston, Rufus Wainwright, Os Mutantes and Talk Talk's Laughing Stock. And of course a lot of Helio Sequence as we sit in front of the monitor speakers and record the new record! That's it! Thanks for your time, Brandon. Download: Helio Sequence - "Everyone Knows Everyone" (MP3)

Live Review: Califone @ The Hideout 8/13/06

Califone played to a sold-out Hideout crowd Sunday night. The set featured some new tracks from the upcoming album Roots & Crowns, but focused on the tried-and-true blues-folk experimentalism that has made them one of the Chicago underground’s greatest darlings.

Tim Rutili, Califone’s mastermind, was an unassuming presence on the stage, unafraid of sharing the spotlight. Onstage he possessed a quiet charm and a concentrated but not overwhelming passion. He switched between his guitar and his keyboard and sang in his raspy, strong but subtle drawl, which is perhaps the greatest living rock voice in the city.

Midway into the set two members of The Bitter Tears lent their brass wizardry to the performance, turning an already solid sound into a wall of thick, chaotic ramblings, harnessed and shaped by the musicians into powerful folk tunes.

Thankfully, a violin for Califone does not mean what a violin in a folk band usually means. Jim Becker spent most of his time strumming and pounding and tapping his various guitars and banjo, but he picked up a violin for certain tracks, such as “Michigan Girls” and plucked away, leaving the fiddling in the barn.

The highlight of the show came at the midway point with the song “Horoscopic. Amputation. Honey.” The performance began innocently enough with Rutili singing softly at the keys and Becker, along with percussionists Joe Adamik and Ben Massarella, backing him modestly. Eventually the song built and The Bitter Tears joined in; each member of the group worked independently to make his own sound. Becker struck his guitar strings, producing hollow, resonant feedback. The trombonist and trumpeter blared random ringing brass notes. Rutili did various sounds on his keyboard and shouted into a pick-up. Adamik and Massarella played diverse, intricate rhythms on various percussion instruments, a sound which culminated in them coming together on a single, solid, pattern pounded simultaneously on two drum kits. What brings many people to Califone is its blend of traditional folk and modern experimentation. Perhaps the Hideout set could have been made more interesting and lively with a performance that favored the band’s more innovative side; however, concentrating on its blues roots did not make for a less successful show. It highlighted the simple and pure musicianship Califone owns, proving that to be a successful artist all you really need is a guitar and some talent, and perhaps a little honesty. Download: Califone - "Qtr Horses (live '04)" (MP3)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

KEXP coming to Chicago

After sponsoring local shows here for the last couple of years, the KEXP crew is finally making the flight to O'Hare themselves next month when they'll be hosting a three day stint of live broadcasts at Engine Music Studios in Bucktown. Here's the official lowdown from KEXP.org: Chicago was the big winner of our city-to-city challenge during the Fall 2005 Pledge Drive. As promised, John Richards and Cheryl Waters will be bringing the Morning Show and the Midday Show to the windy city, broadcasting live from Engine Music Studios, in Bucktown. Check back for details on a listener party. Signup to watch John and Cheryl broadcast live, feauturing live performances from bands each day. There will also be a listener party at The Darkroom in Chicago on Thursday September 7th....stay tuned for more details.

Lolla grosses $8 mil!

Live Review: Dirty Pretty Things @ Schubas 8/11/06

After The Libertines fell apart in 2004 amidst the torrid relationship between Carl Barat and Pete Doherty (Baby Shambles), both went on to cultivate their respective projects. From the ashes of the Libertines, Barat enlisted former band member Gary Powell as drummer, Doherty's replacement Anthony Rossomando on second guitar as well as Cooper Temple Clause bassist Didz Hammond, to create the Dirty Pretty Things. After a thoroughly enjoyable set by the quirky indie pop outfit Scissors For Lefty, who flirt with a fun mix of 80's new wave, Brit pop, and hints of Bowie, the Dirty Pretty Things rushed the stage. Due to a recent injury that Barat sustained to his collar bone, he was unable to play guitar for much of this US Tour, so with the help of The Paddingtons Josh Hubbard on guitar, they were complete to unleash a heavy dose of Clash-inspired rock-n-roll on the sold-out crowd at Schuba's. Thrashing through a setlist that consisted of songs off their new album Waterloo to Anywhere, they made my list of loudest live experiences, coming in a close second to The Dirtbombs. They started off the set with "Deadwood", a head bob inducing track that riffs on the classic Libertines' sound, which set the bar pretty high for the rest of the night. I must reiterate that the Dirty Pretty Things were really loud in a good way. I am trying to distinguish whether the few moments of aural discomfort were due to this damn wisdom tooth rupturing in my mouth or whether the impressive sound they projected was too large for Schuba's intimate space. Either way, this is as close as most people will come to seeing The Libertines again and the fact that it was such an intimate venue sweetened the deal. From the amusing rugby-like rock huddle before most of the songs to get everyone started on the right page (most likely for Josh's benefit), to the engaging stage presence and camaraderie they all shared, to Barat decked out in a make-shift sling fashioned from a Union Jack flag, they definitely came to put on one hell of a show. They were armed with an arsenal of great tracks, "Bang Bang You're Dead", "You Fucking Love It" and "Deadwood" were among the stand-outs. Other highlights of the night include the surprise treat of not one, but two Libertines' songs ("Death on the Stairs" and the closer "I Get Along"), and a very special performance of "France", where Barat removed his arm sling to play guitar for the only time during the set. A special thanks to the bartender for supplying me with cups of ice to numb the pain and allowed me to enjoy the show! Setlist: Deadwood Doctors & Dealers If You Love A Woman Wondering Gentry Cove Bloodthirsty Bastards You Fucking Love It Gin & Milk Death On The Stairs - (The Libertines) The Enemy Last Of The Small Town Playboys Bang Bang You're Dead Encore: France I Get Along - (The Libertines) Download: The Dirty Pretty Things - "Deadwood" (MP3)

New Releases Tuesday - 8/15

The new releases summer drought continues...this week nothing but Pete Yorn, Christine Aguilera and (muthafuckin) Snakes on a Plane: The Album. "If you think the movie looks awful, wait 'till you hear the soundtrack!!" In other new releases news, while desperately skimming Web sites for something of interest out today I found out that the Reckless on Milwaukee recently installed new carpeting for your shopping pleasure! I always go back and forth as far as which Reckless I think is better, but this totally puts the Milwaukee store over the top. Now instead of smelling like musty carpet and dirty hipster B.O., this location will now just smell like B.O.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Live Review: West Fest 8/12/06

Live Review: Bleu @ Elbo Room 8/10/06

Well, two years later and the fire is still hot. Bleu with his comrades The Everyday Visuals, stopped off to deliver the goods at the Elbo Room last night. After a quick set by The Everyday Visuals, who have a snappy pop rock sound that is very complimentary to Bleu, he launched a 12 song set that included songs off his two LPs Headroom and Redhead as well as some yet to be released material. The muppet of a man with large mutton chops kicked off the night with a new song, "Boy Meets Girl", a quirky Jack and Diane-esque track that displays a bit of his sense of humor, "its like Twisted Sister meets Mister Mister...its like Jesus Jones and The Rolling Stones in a game of twister." Followed up with one of my personal favorites "Watchin' You Sleep", this sweet urban lullaby makes stalking seem like a completely acceptable way to meet someone. Bleu's voice is truly remarkable, hovering in his upper register and sliding up to a beautiful falsetto wherever possible. One of the many songs that showcased his vocal abilities was the track "Go", which he co-wrote with Zac Hanson. "Go" is such a great song that can send shivers down your spine in all of it's pristine expansiveness. Though many have catergorized Bleu as powerpop, with influences and comparisons ranging from Elvis Costello to Jellyfish, he showed off a little bit of his soul side, with two new songs "I Won't Fuck You Over This Time", and "Kiss Me". Channeling James Brown, he literally jumped off the stage with mic in hand and sought out a few girls to serenade, as he belted out "kiss me, kiss me" and letting out Prince-like "ooo's" and "oh's" with amazing dexterity. One of the truly inspiring moments of the night, was when he requested utter silence for "The Penguin Song", a short ditty he penned for his girlfriend played on a mini acoustic guitar with no amplifier and sung with no mic, reminiscent of an early Beatles tune. The night ended with an unplanned encore of "Trust Me", still worn out after "Kiss Me", he got lost on the lyrics a couple times, and invited everyone up on stage to sing back up on the "na-na's", it was like a family reunion of sorts, or a make shift Get Up Choir. Overall, it was a pretty spectacular outing, seeing the new songs live definitely made the prospect of his new album A Watched Pot all the more enticing. Setlist: Boy Meets Girl Watchin' You Sleep 3's A Charm We'll Do It All Again Go I Won't Fuck You Over This Time I Won't Go Hollywood Penguin Song Somebody Else Get Up Kiss Me Encore: Trust Me Download: Bleu -"Save You From Yourself" (MP3)

Friday, August 11, 2006

SXSL (South By South Loop) this weekend

So maybe you thought the Pitchfork Fest was a bit too self-indulgent, Intonation had too much hip-hop and Lollapalooza was just too damn big and corporate. Well, have I got a festival for you: Cal's Fest - SXSL (South By South Loop) Easily Chicago's number one sleazy rock bar (rated 4 stars by sleazybars.com!), Cal's Liquors/Bar downtown at the corner of Wells and Van Buren is having their very own outdoor fest (in the alley) this weekend boasting two full days of music for the low, low price of 5 bucks a day (suggested donation). OK, so you might not recognize all of the names on the bill, but this fest is definitely guaranteed to rawwwk!