Author Archives: Kevin J Elliott

SXSW Recommendation: Bon Iver


At my first SXSW, ’round the turn of the century, before iphones, bit torrents, and blogs, my posse seemed stalked by Matt Suggs of Butterglory. Every year since there’s always one band that tends to follow me through my Austin adventure, at every day party, getting pizza at Hoek’s, in the hotel lobby at 3 AM. Last year it was Deerhunter, and while I’m still a big fan of the music, seeing their live shtick a handful of times, over four days, it got old. Looking over the schedule this year, I’m tempted to predict Bon Iver will become a constant. Difference is I’m welcoming Justin Vernon’s intimate crystal creeper folk. There’s rarely a moment on the majestic-as-fuck For Emma, Forever Ago that would ever elicit a yawn. Even if you eliminate his coveted slot at the Jagjaguwar/Secretly Canadian/Dead Oceans showcase Thursday night, you’re unlikely to miss him, since appears to be playing in every time slot — you can almost control the environment in which you get to see this. I’m hoping for dusk, outdoors.

Read a full review of For Emma, Forever Ago on World of Wumme.

Throw Me the Statue – Moonbeams


MP3: “About to Walk”

The fact that most of the indie online community spent the bulk of last week waxing nostalgic about Neutral Milk Hotel’s opus and (so far…) swan song In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, is a testament to that album’s endearing resonance and effortless grandiosity, so much so that a decade removed, anything even slightly resembling Jeff Mangum’s tortured croon and baroque arrangements (i.e. Decemberists, Beirut) is showered with accolades even if it’s incapable of eclipsing this generation’s Sgt. Pepper’s.

Moonbeams, the debut from Seattle’s Throw Me the Statue is not exactly the second coming of Aeroplane but it is an imagined carnival of synths, bubbling tropical brass and sundrenched melody – worthy of giddy enthusiasm and multiple studied listens. Here Scott Reitherman (with a little help from some friends) forges a sound too ramshackle and carefree to carry such a torch. If anything Moonbeams embodies Mangum’s (and the entire Elephant Six Collective’s) inner-child, and that spirit is let loose to express itself within a bedroom full of eclectic musical toys and oddball love lyrics.

“Lolita” and lead single “About to Walk” are the bright buoyant gems that define his pop ambition. The latter, the most immediate, a cut-and-paste of cloudy distortion, acoustic strums, answering machine messages, and boundless melody. The songs on Moonbeams are catchy to the point of being almost too saccharine (“This is How We Kiss” bringing to mind first contact with Fountains of Wayne), the twee addition of xylophones and hand-claps don’t help to diminish the sugar rush.

Reitherman though does not lead us through the circus without humbling the us with bread. The album’s second half projects a mood of heart-on-sleeve emotion to balance the initial blast of whimsy. The title track in particular owes artistic gratitude to the Oldhams and Callahans of the folk world, sung in fragile quivers but still sounding hopeful, triumphant, even if it could all tumble with the wrong utterance from his lover.

While the album’s status as a “classic” may only come in flashes throughout, the rest of the time Moonbeams is irresistible fun without being overly cheeky. For that it’s hard not to recommend, especially with spring around the corner.


Louis Vuitton and Reggaeton: The World of Vampire Weekend

MP3: “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”

I’ll take wisdom from David Byre at any time. His glowing endorsement and the buzzy blog bits about a 4-song blue CDR by Williamsburg’s Vampire Weekend was a compelling subplot in last year’s indie rock universe. Their ascent almost mimicked the Strokes meteoric rise, nonchalantly stinking of privilege, with talking points that highlight the bands’ worldliness and educations — only that first EP tossed off by Vampire Weekend was The Modern Age recorded on a sailboat, filled with trinkets and baubles found on exotic travel, progressive and hopeful instead of grubby and indifferent. The gifted kids hit an ephemeral pocket of ecstatic pop bliss.

Their self-titled debut doesn’t add much, but what it does add shows the band is without gimmick. Ezra Koenig’s love of African guitar motifs and polyrhythms is far from waspy musical colonialism. He may have studied a myriad of ethno-musics at Columbia, but it never sounds like he’s stealing or even dependent on global blueprints. It’s telling Koenig is a huge fan of hip-hop, while the Paul Simon (and consequently Talking Heads) comparisons are granted, here, in widescreen, placed upon sparkling yet sterile backdrop, his organic pastiche of sound is engaging, refreshing, and constructed from many sources to build something completely new.

Sonically this record is even cleaner than their demo — the antithesis to 2008’s other important record (so far) Rip it Off — and on addition “M79” they add Victorian waltz through strings and harpsichord, their nerd-punk now gilded in regal sweeps. The same goes for “I Stand Corrected,” more in line with the halcyon lite-psych of the Zombies than their modern counterparts (Shins, Spoon, the National). Through good vibrations and breezy minimalism Vampire Weekend take chances those aforementioned bands never dare to touch, it’s an effortless combination of preppie formalism and cultural adventure that hopefully continues to flourish.

The Flukes release Nocturnal Emissions Tuesday Night

The recent resurrection of the once indispensable Datapanik Records seemed a tad unnecessary given our current equivalents. The somewhat stale sounds of the Secret Admirers re-launch added salt to the wound. Fortunately the label’s new guide into the 21st century, Nick Schuld (founder of the Rackets/part-time drummer for just about every band in Columbus that’s mattered in the last 15 years), stumbled upon the Flukes while running sound at the High-Five one random night. The result is the release of Nocturnal Emissions, an album that’s either a welcomed local debut or a final shedding of the nine-year-old band’s teenage kicks. See, the Medina quartet is changing names (they’re soon to be the Guile) once this final tour is in the can.

In an odd twist of fate, Nocturnal Emissions fits right in with the Datapanik catalogue of old. It would have been a crime for Schuld not to share it. The record’s constant velocity might warrant some mall-punk comparisons, further listens though reveal the band’s charming ramshackle dynamic and gifted hooks. Laced with sugary melodies and amphetamine solos, “Nightwatch” falls somewhere in the pantheon of power pop, right between the Exploding Hearts punk bubblegum and Superdrag’s soaring exuberance. “Shooting Blanks” and “Neat Lightning” are equally concentrated head rushes likely to induce air drumming and frequent humming. Nocturnal Emissions is surprisingly not by the book – there’s plenty of snotty doo-wop, lovesick harmonies, and Midwestern casio-tones (plus some strange, oft-repeated, Oldfield-esque electronic theme music) to break any monotony.

The Flukes will be releasing Nocturnal Emissions at the Carabar on Tuesday night, with promises of free limited edition copies for everyone in attendance. The Rackets and Nick Tolford and Company are opening. Staff Favorites of 2007: Kevin J. Elliott

15. Maximo Park – Our Earthly Pleasures (Warp)

The best of the Brits.
Video: “Books From Boxes”

14. No Age – Weirdo Rippers (Fat Cat)

I recently re-discovered this album in the band’s intended format — split into 5 equally intriguing vinyl chunks. Psych-infused metaphysical skate punk. My review in June.
Live: “Everybody’s Down”

13. Besnard Lakes – …Are the Dark Horse (Jagjaguwar)

Fits, fuzzes, and floats between Fleetwood Mac and Floyd. This Canadian husband and wife like staying up late carving endless canyons of heavy guitar sagas that echo from a bygone era — namely 70’s rock radio. Recommended on vinyl only.
Video: “For Agent 13”

12. Bonde do Role – With Lasers (Domino)

Sure half the entertainment is the zany, hyper live show but With Lasers is also a major evolution musically. Not just party jams mocking baile funk — now they’ve learned how to inject their separate personalities into smart electronic bangers. Anyone with a passing understanding of Portuguese and Afrika Bambaattaa should be changed by this.

Video: “Solta o Frango”

11. Marmoset – Florist Fired (Jagjaguwar)

Lazy Sunday Rainy Record. Naptown cult-hermits return like zombie Beatles.

MP3: “Missing Man”

10. Psychedelic Horseshit – Magic Flowers Droned (Siltbreeze)

Should be required listening by now. My review in October.

Live: Chaos last weekend in NYC

9. Gui Boratto – Chromophobia (Kompakt)

The title suggests that this Brazilian composer has a fear of color — within these cold and calculated structures that may be true — but Boratto reveals human error, a human hand that allows cracks through which vibrancy flows. Of all the brilliant minimalist releases this year, Chromophobia sounds the most organic, a prism through which all forms of melody are welcome even when traditionally shunned.

Video: “Shebangs”

8. Liars – Liars (Mute)

Fitting that a band that was becoming too art-rock for their own good (i.e. letting Berlin get the best of them) would surprise the world by removing art from the equation. Still this record is as dark and engaging as the band’s most puzzling work, just twice as catchy and twice as heavy.

Video: “Plaster Casts of Everything”

7. Skeletons and the King of All Cities – Lucas (Ghostly International)

Perhaps I need to take a few months off to research Sun Ra? Here’s my review from April.

Video: “What They Said”

6. Radiohead – In Rainbows (ATO)

In Rainbows came late one night, for free (but that’s beside the point) and without warning. I’m pretty sure that the band knew they had a monster on their hands or else it all wouldn’t have happened this way, it ebbs and flows with the finest releases of this year.

Live: “Jigsaw Falling Into Place”

5. Times New Viking – Present the Paisley Reich (Siltbreeze)

I pledge allegiance. Jump aboard the Shitpop Revolution before it’s too late.

Live: “Thing With a Hook”

4. Justice – (Ed Banger)
Hard to find a party starter as solid as Justice (but we’ll get to that). The only reason this doesn’t eclipse Mr. James Murphy’s LCD is experience. While the debut by the Ed Banger Illuminati is exhilarating and above all else a fun trip, it lacks in songwriting. As a ephemeral piece of 2007 though nothing will top it.

Video: “Dance”

3. LCD Soundsytem – Sound of Silver (DFA/EMI)

Here James Murphy has concentrated all forms of electronica, dance, disco and standard rock, into one overwhelming force. Try and not move, shake your head, or mouth his easy to comprehend/understand lyrics. In LCD land every night is a party at the center of Manhattan, whether you want it or not.

Video: “All My Friends”

2. M.I.A. – Kala (XL/Interscope)

This one’s kinda like Psychedelic Horseshit in that there’s not much more that I can say. I’ve tried many times to describe what I feel whilst listening to Kala but nothing comes close. A colleague of mine called it “omni-pop” and that’s really the closest conclusion I can come to.

Video:: “Bird Flu”

1. Panda Bear – Person Pitch (Paw Tracks)

Glorious existential bliss. Person Pitch could be looped for days and I would never tire of Noah’s endless harmonizing, endless waves of melody, and endless summer inside the machine. The hallmark of a timeless album. A new wave hippie that has persevered.

Video: “Comfy in Nautica”

Bonus: You can find an unabridged version of my top ten here.

Mad Decent’s Devro Does Skully’s

My Best Friend’s Party is responsible for bringing Kid Sister, Titsworth, and other eccentric dance extravaganzas to Skully’s in the past year, but tonight marks their most high profile show to date (even if you’ve never heard of the guy). What’s the next best thing to getting Diplo to spin for hours on end? Call up his right-hand man Paul Devro to prime us for the inevitable bowing to the Mad Decent empire. From M.I.A.’s humble beginnings to Aboriginal kid-hop from the bush and all booty genres in between, the Mad Decent crew work more like musical anthropologists than actual DJs. Devro seems to be the one logging the most miles this year, check out the label’s premier MP3 blog for proof, hipping readers to the Cumbia revolution in Argentina and the continual rise of Baile Funk in Brazil. Lovers of Ed Banger-esque dance-rock and the Dirrty South will find a home here too, as well as the wide world of plunderphonics.

Kudos to Complexity for all the grunt work bringing these star-studded nights to town. The indie in me should be painstakingly reviewing the new Southeast Engine (you’ll have to wait till next week), but I’m far more intrigued by what will go down tonight. The only thing that might make it better is a venue change — perhaps Skate Zone 71 with cachaca in the parking lot? More info can be found here.

Gil Mantera’s Party Dream (Finally) Release DVD

“Finally,” not because the Youngstown duo of Gil Mantera and brother Ultimate Donny are sitting on their thumbs and losing their edge (they’re sharper than ever), but “finally” because a video document of the band has been warranted since their humble beginnings. Who wouldn’t want their first Party Dream experience on tape? How I’d love to own “Bernie’s 2002,” it’d be an artifact I’d watch over and over. The live show has always been a 3-D package, something that might be lost on a kid who bought Bloodsongs in Nebraska. Here that kid can take the entire show home with him.

Gil Mantera’s Party Dream: Live Video Archive (Volume 1) contains two shows that give a nice presentation of the duo’s evolution on stage; the first from 2004 at Chicago’s Fireside Bowl and the second from 2006 at the Empty Bottle. The later is a tighter, more musically focused performance, with Donny more prone to shredding out a reverb drenched solo than swilling PBR from ass crack. There’s a public access quality to the video work with smoke machines, split-screens, slo-mo shots, and soft rock uniforms, an aesthetic captured perfectly in the video for “Elmo’s Wish” included in the extras. Here’s a current snapshot of the duo concentrating on their mutation of proggy-synth-metal-roller-skate-pop, instead of unruly behavior.

The former show contains a bit more banter and theatrics, not to mention it’s surreal locale in a bowling alley. This scruffier, shorter version of the Party Dream is the quick fix, the portion of the DVD you’ll likely play loud and drunk.

Both shows are essential viewing, as are the videos. Especially the one for “Chalklit Pyhe II.”

Album Review: The Black Swans, “Change!”

MP3: Shake

The Black Swans’ Jerry DeCicca is never hesitant to divulge his inspirations – Leonard Cohen, Townes Van Zandt, Bert Jansch – hell the guy’s writing a book on Dylan. But as far as songwriters go he’s much more concerned with carving his own slice into the American experience, much more concerned with creating his own classic American enigma like Blood on the Tracks through tireless dedication to craft and execution, rather than learning how to do so through stoned replays of his favorite records. His seclusion from modernity and wholly original voice are what sets him apart. It might just take decades to decode such a puzzle.

With Change! DeCicca no longer walks in darkness, it’s not exactly a blinding beacon of light but it could be the first rays of sun peering in between the curtains of an apartment that contained a long night of wallowing. Change! is achingly beautiful in every way, wounded but resilient. There is still longing and desperation (and still some sex on the brain – see “Slide on Down”), but hope slowly boils in the fold.
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Deadsea: Rising

MP3: Killing Faith by Deadsea

I’ve been known for saying that Deadsea are the world’s greatest metal trio and even if sophomore album Rising is a slight disappointment, I’ll stand by that proclamation. The hesher subculture has become increasingly fragmented over the years – there are so many genres of metal it’s hard to keep track. Somehow Deadsea gobble up all of it and use it to fuel their dark aural empire. It was that fusion of extremes that made Desiderata a punishing and transcendent maze.

Here things sound a bit frantic, as Rising has a heightened awareness of thrash. “Killing Faith (Crying Death)” in particular could be Sepultura on a meth binge as guitarist Adam Smith plays with unmatched speed leaving dizzying trails in his wake. The same agility propels “Assault,” another relentless sprint that manages to tap the spinal fluid of hardcore punk. Few bands keep their melodic leanings intact among such tenacity, but Deadsea seem to thrive in the midst of technical challenges.

My only hesitation with Rising, and this is really nitpicking, comes with song choice. The first two tracks, “Northwitch” and “Coming Home,” are longtime live staples and “Frozen Rivers” a tale told many times from the stage. I’m assuming though that Smith didn’t want these masterstrokes to remain buried and in the context of Rising, the newly recorded “Frozen Rivers” is a perfect fit as the album’s penultimate epic. Regardless of my qualms, connecting with Deadsea is a spiritual link. What Rising may lack in maledict adventure it easily makes up for in sheer power. It’s an altogether different mass.

Deadsea, 333, and Nightsoil are all releasing albums tonight at Ruby Tuesday’s in Columbus OH. Click here for more information.

Oakley Hall – I’ll Follow You


MP3: “No Dreams”

I was introduced to Brooklyn’s Oakley Hall via Oneida’s curio-rock label Brah. Gypsum Strings, was slightly more “no depression” than I was hoping for, but it still stung with a weird streak akin to the group’s benefactors; city dwellers stuck in folk genre. Oakley Hall is sophisticated urban country unshielded from whatever freak feathers and mystic resin that might stick.

I’ll Follow You is a Merge release and the album is buffed-up and spit-shined accordingly. The Appalachian color and/or Greenpoint dive bar charm is toned down in exchange for Nashville’s bright lights. Fortunately that gives way to a few giant, raucous jams of spiraling guitars, banjos, and strings. “All the Way Down” is a perfect antidote to the lack of a My Morning Jacket epic this year. And the title track — a gloomy smolder, likely penned by Neil Young and Will Oldham, by campfire, during the height of Rumours.

Throughout it’s the back porch harmonies of Rachel Cox and Patrick Sullivan that give validity, and emotional weight, to the group’s mix and match acid country. Imagine Butterglory doing the Byrds. There are a handful of faceless duds here — “Marine Life” and “Rue the Blues” might suffer from being a bit too vanilla, a bit adult contempo even, but those are minor qualms for an album that provides a rich slice of rural wanderlust for these complicated modern times.