Moroccan Role: May 2007

Moroccan Role

A Totally Kiler Music/MP3 Blog.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Arcade Fire - Recent 7" vinyl B-sides

On May 5th, Merge Records released the Arcade Fire's "Keep the Car Running" 7" vinyl single here in the US-- which came backed by B-side, "Broken Window". The 7" for the band's second single, "Intervention", was released in the UK on May 21st and comes out here on July 10th. This second single also includes Calexico's cover of Neon Bible tune, "Ocean of Noise". I'm sure most readers of this website are well acquainted with the tunes on the Arcade Fire's excellent sophomore album and the first two singles from it, but I thought there would be more than a few individuals interested in hearing the tunes backing the singles. Accordingly, they are posted in all their streaming glory below.

"Broken Window" is more restrained than we are used to hearing these guys and though the tension ebbs and flows throughout the tune, it never quite reaches the type of catharsis or climax showcased on their best material. The song builds slowly but surely until right around the 3:20 mark, when the tune feels right on the verge of a huge, anthemic crescendo, but then unexpectedly retreats back into "quiet mode". This is fine, but when you're listening to a band capable of producing soaring epics like "Wake Up", it is inevitably a bit disappointing. Afterward, the tension begins building again, but after the initial anticlimactic moment, one never quite expects it to completely turn the corner. This tune is decent (we're talking about Arcade Fire here people), but has a definite B-side feel and is not as fully realized as their album cuts.

Calexico's take on "Oceans of Noise" is quite cool and is exactly the type of B-side treat fans truly appreciate. The band's Martin Wenk and Jacob Valenezuela played the horns on the Arcade Fire's version of the cut, so it makes sense the entire band would eventually cover the track. Live recordings of the tune were posted around the net in early April, but the studio version is (not surprisingly) a superior sounding take on the song. Though Calexico is pretty much completely faithful to the original, the Arcade Fire version is far more dramatic and theatrical than Calexico's understated cover-- precisely what one would expect from these bands. The accents of harp provide an excellent touch and the trumpets are given more room to breathe in the mix than on the original. Hell, after listening to Calexico's version, one might even start to find Arcade Fire's rendition a bit over-the-top. But, alas, their tendency to be highly dramatic is an integral part of the Arcade Fire's charm.

Stream the tunes:

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The National - "Blank Slate" vs. "Keep it Upstairs"

As anyone who reads this blog with any regularity knows, I am a huge fan of almost all things The National. On April 30th (nearly a month prior to the street date of the new album), the band released a limited edition single for Boxer standout, "Mistaken for Strangers". The UK CD single featured two B-sides: "Blank Slate" and "Santa Clara". Since the new full-length was already widely available prior to the release of the single, I just recently got around to listening to these B-sides. Featuring the more traditional National sound, "Santa Clara" is stylistically closer to Boxer and would be a better fit on either of the band's last two albums than would be "Blank Slate". However, "Blank Slate" is the more interesting of the two and, in terms of quality, rivals nearly anything appearing on the new album. The song features a straightforward, driving backing beat and some of the most playful/whimsical lyrics I've heard from singer Matt Berninger. He speaks of finding love by kidnapping someone famous, fending off armies with tennis rackets, and tackling young girls off bicycles. More typical of Berninger, he also states his head is like a "buzzing three star hotel" and that he keeps all his puzzling urges at bay, i.e., "upstairs for the grand finale".

After hearing this tune a couple of times, I felt it was somehow strangely familiar. I realized soon after that "Blank Slate" is a reworking of an earlier National tune, "Keep it Upstairs"-- a B-side from the 2005 "Abel" single. While they share most of the same lyrics, the songs could not be more different. On the most basic level, it appears that someone other than Berninger is singing on "Keep it Upstairs". At the very least, he is employing a falsetto that renders him virtually unrecognizable. His distinctive baritone is unmistakable after all. "Blank Slate" is also much more upbeat than the deliberate, slow churning pop stylings of "Keep it Upstairs". While "Keep it Upstairs" is intriguing because-- for someone unfamiliar with the tune-- it is difficult to detect that is even The National, I nevertheless prefer the re-working. It would have never quite worked on Boxer, but this is one of my favorite tunes from these dudes this year.

Stream the tunes:


Recent highlights from around the blogs:

This week, nearly every music blog in existence posted this first MP3 from The New Pornographers upcoming full length, Challengers, due 8/12-->
MP3: The New Pornographers - "My Rights Versus Yours"

While their 2005 album, Black Sheep Boy, was among the top tier albums released that year, I nearly forgot about this cool tune from Okkervil River's forthcoming LP, Stage Names, due 8/07-->
MP3: Okkervil River - "Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe"

Here's a video of Sufjan Stevens performing "The Lakes of Canada" (the Innocence Mission cover) on the roof of Cincinnati's Memorial Hall, the day of the MusicNOW Festival:

Finally, Mental Floss posted this neat little album cover art quiz. The quiz features the 15 biggest-selling albums in music history and asks if the album covers have been altered in any way. I got 12/15...

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Modest Mouse - "King Rat"

This track first appeared exclusively on a 7" vinyl promo opposite "Fire it Up" from Modest Mouse's newest album, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. The promo was given to individuals who pre-ordered the new album through online retailers. It now also appears on the UK version of the "Dashboard" CD single, released yesterday. In an April interview, MM frontman Isaac Brock explained the tune will eventually be included on an upcoming EP featuring songs that did not make it onto the new album. If that doesn't satiate your desire for info about this song, Brock also stated that actor Heath Ledger has signed up to create a video for the tune with Monty Python animator Terry Gilliam. A vinyl rip of "King Rat" was posted on a few blogs in late March, right around the release date of We Were Dead, but the CD conversion of the song sounds quite a bit cleaner and is available for your streaming pleasure below.

The song sounds closer to the band's Good News... material than the newest album, largely due to the drunken horn parts which introduce the tune and reappear intermittently. A simple, catchy banjo lick shapes the intro but gives way to a similar-sounding guitar part during the verses. "King Rat" revisits the new album's nautical theme-- most explicitly with the ominous repeating of "deep water, deep water" during the song's darker second half. While the quality of this B-side is surprisingly strong, it was probably still wise to keep this one off the already (in many ways) overstuffed We Were Dead. As the album is 14 tracks and an hour long, another five-and-a-half minute tune would have certainly been excessive. This song would truly shine in the live setting, as the second half seems tailor-made for one of Isaac's near psychotic freak-outs. Let's hope the other material from the forthcoming EP all sounds this good.



Monday, May 28, 2007

The Clientele - God Save the Clientele

UK dream-popsters The Clientele released their third album, God Save the Clientele, May 8th on Merge Records. The album features more of the mellow, atmospheric indie pop tunes that the Clientele have made their name on. Their 2005 sophomore record, Strange Geometry, was a sleeper hit among the indie set and was among my top 20 of that year. The new album is not as initially catchy as its immediate predecessor, but is another fine set of tunes that blossom nicely after a few listens. Opener "Here Comes the Phantom" is a breezy summertime head-bobber and definite album highlight. When frontman Alasdair MacLean sings, "My heart is playing like a violin" in his honest and breathy voice overtop tasteful string figures, it is a near perfect pop moment. Upbeat lead single, "Bookshop Casanova" is another highlight that also benefits from Louis Philippe's masterful string arrangements. Two of the best songs here are incredibly lush and beautifully produced ballads: "The Queen of Seville" features gentle acoustic guitar plucking, piano twinkles, and brilliant pedal steel work while "Isn't Life Strange" employs swirling, delicate strings and one of the album's best vocal melodies. This album just sounds great-- it is elaborately orchestrated but never comes across as busy or too ornate.

The Clientele craft mood music, in the best possible sense of the term. Their music evokes visions of rainy days, early summer romances, and lazy weekends. A number of tunes here are great mix CD fodder, but the entire album is consistently strong and is a undeniably cohesive piece of music. These songs have a sort of understated charm that is unique to this band. You can put on a Clientele album and just chill out and relax without interacting with it substantially, or you can listen intently to uncover the subtle intricacies. Basically, whatever level of effort you wanna put into the band's music will yield a corresponding reward. At this point, I still prefer Strange Geometry by a touch, but this new one has really started growing on me and has provided the perfect soundtrack for my recovery from this long weekend.

MP3: The Clientele - "Here Comes the Phantom"
MP3: The Clientele - "Bookshop Casanova" (link via Toolshed Media)

Stream the entire album here.

Buy the album here.

Bonus: Here's a highlight from their 2005 album, Strange Geometry, and one of favorite songs of that year-->
MP3: The Clientele - "(I Can't Seem to) Make You Mine"


Friday, May 25, 2007

From the Vault:: Paul Westerberg - Suicaine Gratification

Suicaine Gratification was released in 1999 and is the third solo album from former Replacements frontman and songwriter Paul Westerberg. The Replacements were a highly influential 80s post-punk band hailing from the Twin Cities. They had highly devoted following and released a couple of near classic albums, including 1984's Let it Be and 85's Tim. While the band had a string of minor hits, they seemed content to remain relegated to, even relish, their perennial underdog status. The 'Mats always appeared on the cusp of a major commercial breakthrough, but the band had an endearing, yet severely handicapping self-destructive streak. A prime example of which occurred when the band showed up wasted to a Saturday Night Live taping and Paul dropped the "F" bomb on the air, incurring the wrath of SNL main man Lorne Michaels.

After The Replacements fizzled out, Paul's solo career officially began in 1992 with two songs ("Waiting for Somebody" & "Dyslexic Heart") on Cameron Crowe's Singles soundtrack. His first two solo albums, 93's 14 Songs and 96's Eventually, were released to critical acclaim, but sales were modest. Paul signed to Capital Records and released Suicaine Gratification in 1999, but as the label was undergoing massive reorganization, they did not extensively promote the album and it was a commercial disappointment.

Suicaine Gratification was initially fairly well received by critics, but the album is not generally remembered too fondly these days. For example, in a 2002 Pitchfork review of his Stereo solo album, they implored whether SG came as a result of an aneurysm. The truth is, this album was a bit of a departure for Westerberg and many of his piano and voice explorations here fell upon deaf ears. This record came shortly after the birth of a son and is probably the most personal of his career. In retrospect, the album feels like Paul was finally putting his past to bed and looking towards the future.

Excellent opener "It's a Wonderful Lie" is a quiet and minimal acoustic lament with a number excellent lyrical lines-- see, e.g., "So don't pin your hopes, don't pin your dreams/to misanthropes, guys like me". "Best Thing that Never Happened" is a mid-tempo garage pop-rock tune that vaguely references the 'Mats lost opportunities of widespread commercial success. "Final Hurrah" also seems self-aware and here Westerberg appears to equate this record to his "latest last chance" at an elusive breakthrough album. The album's lead single "Lookin' Out Forever" sounds the closest to his Replacements glory days and is a strong upbeat rocker with one of the album's most memorable vocal hooks. Despite its wanky lead guitar work towards the end, my favorite track here is "Fugitive Kind". The song starts as a somber, introspective piano ballad and transitions into a driving pop-rock anthem. When Paul shouts simple lines like, "Is this where I belong?", he strikes a nerve and taps into a rock and roll spirit that many other singer-songwriters are unable to reach their entire career. Later on, when Paul proclaims, "I'm a bad idea whose time has come" near the very top of his range, it is especially powerful knowing the man's history.

While the piano and vocal tunes ("Self Defense" & "Sunrise Always Listens") are a bit self-indulgent and do not play to Westerberg's songwriting strengths, the album is almost uniformly strong. Other album highlights include the romantic "Born for Me" and the sweet "Tears Rolling Up Our Sleeves". I have kept this CD in my vehicle since originally buying it 8 years ago and still pull it out fairly regularly. Admittedly, it is a bit of a grower and probably not even one of Westerberg's best solo albums, but it is just one of those albums that clicked with me. I suspect every music nerd has a handful of albums that they personally love without regard to their critical merit or appeal to others. For one reason or another, the record just works for you. For me, Suicaine Gratification is exactly that type of album.

MP3: Paul Westerberg - "Fugitive Kind"
MP3: Paul Westerberg - "Lookin' Out Forever"

Buy the album (cheap) here.

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Ryan Adams - Easy Tiger Update

Yesterday, Lost Highway Records released a few tracks from the upcoming Ryan Adams album, Easy Tiger. All of these already short tunes are curiously faded out around the 2 minute mark, so I suppose they are intended to be good quality teasers. They provide a feel for the tone of the upcoming album regardless. Although I wrote about a couple tracks from the album last Tuesday, I felt compelled to share these songs. Besides, with Cold Roses-type guitar noodling and a fine vocal melody, "Everybody Knows" is a marked improvement on "Halloween Head" and "Two" is starting to grow on me.

MP3: Ryan Adams - "Two" (feat. Sheryl Crow)
MP3: Ryan Adams - "Everybody Knows"
MP3: Ryan Adams - "Halloween Head"

**all tracks are two minute snippets**

Easy Tiger is due June 26th on Lost Highway.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Patrick Wolf - "The Marriage" & "The Magic Position"

With his tune "The Marriage" making the rounds on the internet yesterday, I figured this was an excellent opportunity to discuss an album that I really enjoy but never got around to posting about. Patrick Wolf is an extremely talented 23-year-old singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. His third album, The Magic Position, hit stores here in the U.S. on May 1st, but the indie world had been buzzing about this album even prior to its original February 26th UK release date. The album is an inventive and ambitious slice of fully realized, tasteful pop songcraft. A good portion of which provides some of the most listenable indie pop tunes of this year. First single "The Magic Position" is a joyous, unabashed pop ode to "major key" revelry. Wolf employs a dance-y rhythm and sunny electro instrumentation to guise the song title's thinly-veiled sexual innuendo. "The Marriage" is a B-side appearing on his "The Magic Position" single and while it is in line with the overall feel of The Magic Position, the backing music feels a little too glitchy and busy. For this reason, it was wisely relegated to B-side status.

This album was in heavy rotation here at Moroccan Role headquarters (my apartment) for a solid month and is probably among my top 10 or so of this year. Aside from the title track, other album highlights include the strutting electro pop gem "Accident & Emergency", the stunning "Bluebells", and the haunting piano ballad "Magpie" which features vocals from Marianne Faithfull. Wolf's voice is powerful and stately, showcasing maturity far beyond his years. This album is, by nearly all accounts, the best of his young career and has been compared to classics such as David Bowie's Hunky Dory and Beck's Odelay. While the album runs out of steam a little towards the end, I would contend that these generous comparisons aren't terribly far off.

MP3: Patrick Wolf - "The Magic Position" (link via Pitchfork)
MP3: Patrick Wolf - "Accident & Emergency"


Buy the album here.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Interpol - "The Heinrich Maneuver"

Dapper NYC rockers Interpol will return with their long-awaited third album, Our Love to Admire, July 10th. The album marks the group's major label debut and will be released on Capital Records. First single "The Heinrich Maneuver" has been making the rounds on the internet for a few weeks now and the song suggests the boys are hesitant to depart from the formula that worked so well on their two Matador-released albums. Our Love to Admire will come nearly three years after their sophomore record and one might expect the lead single from a band's "difficult" third album to be a bit more controversial or challenging. The track finds the band sticking to the well-established formula of their first two albums and would not sound a bit out of place on Antics. "The Heinrich Maneuver" features the familiar spiky (mostly single note) guitar lines, insistent drumming, and fluid bass work one has become accustomed to hearing from these guys. Singer Paul Banks's lyrics and vocal melody are the most interesting elements here and this tune is thematically more direct than usual. Interpol's songs have tended to be brooding and ambiguous, but lines like "How are things on the West Coast?" and "Today my heart swings" almost certainly allude to a break up while coming across as uncharacteristically upbeat.

While "The Heinrich Maneuver" is a good tune, it unfortunately leaves this listener longing for something more. With their upcoming album, Interpol has the opportunity to challenge both their fan base and the potential new converts a major label album offers. But, based on this song, it appears they are content to play it a bit safe. Hopefully on Our Love to Admire they tweak and expand their sound more than this single would suggest. Their incredible 2002 debut Turn on the Bright Lights sounded fresh and unlike anything else at the time and remains one of the strongest albums of the 2000s so far. Antics was also great and played to their strengths, providing a fine follow-up. However, five years after their first album, it is probably time the band took a few chances and shook things up to keep their sound moving forward. Let's hope the album cuts provide a greater sense of progression and evolution than does this first single.

Stream the tune:

If you are seeking a MP3, the track is available via iTunes or try here.

Check out Interpol's summer tour dates.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The White Stripes - "Icky Thump"

The White Stripes will release their sixth album Icky Thump via Warner Bros. on June 19th. Most of you have probably heard the first single/title track from the album by now, but I still feel compelled to share my thoughts about the tune. "Icky Thump" made its way onto the internet and radio about a month ago and initially came across as much weirder than it really is. The "weirdness" is mostly due to the awesomely eerie late 60s/early 70s heavy metal synth-organ howls permeating the track and the intermittent stop/start feel. Jack and Meg are playing heavier on this track than we have yet to hear them. Yes, this means crunchy garage metal riffage and deliberate, crashing drums. Jack yelps come across like a possessed Robert Plant (see, i.e., the "la la la las" at the end of the second verse) and his lead guitar licks are reminiscent of an early Stripes classic, "Hello Operator". The third verse has the best lyrics and the overtly political ("White Americans, what nothing better to do/Why don't you kick yourself out/You're an immigrant too") is washed down with the downright witty ("You can't be a pimp and a prostitute too"). Jack White knows he's a rock star and not some sort of political figurehead, as such he's too smart to ever come across as preachy or pretentious. The tune strikes an impressive balance between the classic White Stripes sound and just the right amount of experimental flare, making “Icky Thump” an anthem that will appeal to long-times fans as well as mainstream radio audiences.

The Stripes last album, Get Behind Me Satan, saw the band expanding their sound while maintaining a firm grasp on what made them great in the first place. Some of the chances the band took fared better than others, but GBMS was still an impressive work. Upon listening to "Icky Thump", it appears their progression is not losing steam and is leading the band to even bigger and more interesting places. Jack White is arguably the best rock star in modern music, not to mention one of the most talented and prolific. Shortly after wrapping the recording sessions for Icky Thump, he entered the studio with his fellow Raconteurs in the hopes of hammering out their sophomore record before the White Stripes went out on tour. Even though he rarely (if ever) stops to catch his breath, it often appears the man can simply do no wrong.

Stream the tune:

If you are seeking a MP3, the track is available via iTunes or try here.


Notable Album Releases This Week: 5/22

Today is a big release date in the indie world and this post is dedicated to offering a bit of info about the records I recommend you check out. This may very well become a weekly Tuesday feature here at Moroccan Role. Enjoy!

The National - Boxer

The National's much-anticipated and blog-loved Boxer finally arrives in stores today. Click here to read my post on their first single "Mistaken for Strangers". Unsurprisingly, the album has been receiving rave reviews from critics. This is another strong and cohesive album from these Brooklyn-based Cincinnati transplants.

MP3: The National - "Mistaken for Strangers"
MP3: The National - "Fake Empire"

Buy the album here.

Handsome Furs - Plague Park

Wolf Parade co-vocalist/guitarist Dan Boeckner and his fiancé release their Handsome Furs debut today via Sub Pop. Click here to read my thoughts on the album. Basically, I believe it is the best Wolf Parade spin-off yet and Plague Park is one of my favorite albums of the past couple of months.

MP3: Handsome Furs - "Cannot Get Started"
MP3: Handsome Furs - "Handsome Furs Hate This City"

Buy the album here.

Battles - Mirrored

So-called "math rockers" Battles follow a couple of EPs with their debut album, which adds vocals to the mix for the first time. I've just started giving this one some serious spins, but it is proving to be an excellent and completely original listen. Click here to see what the critics are saying. If any mostly electronic-based music can ever be accurately described as "muscular", Battles are more deserving of that descriptor than any band I've yet to hear.

MP3: Battles - "Atlas"
MP3: Battles - "Ddiamondd"

Buy the album here.

Shapes and Sizes - Split Lips, Winning Hips, A Shiner

Last, but not least, Canadian experimental indie-popsters Shapes and Sizes released their sophomore album today via Sufjan Stevens' label Asthmatic Kitty. The band received much blog love over the past couple of months, but I've finally just stumbled upon their new album. This record may be overlooked due to today's other more high profile releases, but this blurb should serve as a reminder you may wanna pick this album up if you enjoy the tunes below.

MP3: Shapes and Sizes - "Alone/Alive"
MP3: Shapes and Sizes - "Head Movin'"

Buy the album here.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Smashing Pumpkins - "Tarantula"

As anyone who really cares already knows, the Smashing Pumpkins will return with their first album of new material in nearly seven years upon the July 10th release of Zeitgeist. The band's line-up has been a topic of much speculation and as of this writing, the only two members confirmed for the upcoming reunion are head Pumpkin Billy Corgan and his steadfast drummer Jimmy Chamberlin. However, we do know that former Pumpkins guitarist James Iha did not participate in the reunion album nor will he involved with the upcoming tour. While Iha's presence would have made this reunion feel more like the Pumpkins, his absence will not likely affect the sound of the band to a large degree. Let's be honest-- aside from helping define the band's look and feel, Iha's most memorable contributions to the band were his co-writing credit on Siamese Dream standout and 90s anthem "Mayonnaise", his tune "Blew Away" from Pisces Iscariot, and perhaps the most memorably, his donning a dress and playing a disenchanted, androgenous hitchhiker in the "Today" video. The Pumpkins were always primarily Billy and Jimmy and despite the fact we'd all love to see all four original members (although I doubt few swear allegiance to D'Arcy Wretzky on the level many do Iha) involved in the reunion, the creative forces behind the band are on-board and ready to go. Let's see how they fared on the first single from the upcoming album shall we?

On Friday, the first single from Zeitgeist, "Tarantula", was played on the radio in its entirety for the first time and was leaked onto the internet shortly thereafter. Corganites and casual fans the world over let out a collective sigh of relief upon hearing the tune and realizing that is was actually good. I, for one, was incredibly anxious to hear the new tune as it potentially could offer significant insight into the sound of the upcoming album. Any reunion album brings with it the possibility of tarnishing a band's reputation, not to mention the overall strength of their discography.

"Tarantula" is a (mostly) no-frills rock song with heavily distorted guitars and pounding drums. The guitar sound is ripping and there are a few sweet solos scattered throughout. Billy still sounds like Billy and Jimmy's drumming is powerful and showcases his characteristic virtuosity. Whoever is filling in for James and D'Arcy do their part to keep the tune propelling forward. The verses have a more straight ahead rock feel and the choruses veer into more pop/rock terrain. About 3/4 of the way through, there is a brief bridge which is quieter and more contemplative than the rest of the tune. In other words, this has the feel of a classic Pumpkins rock song.

The Pumpkins were my favorite band in high school and Mellon Collie was released on my 15th birthday. I learned every Siamese Dream song on guitar and saw them live about 10 times. Obviously, this band is very special to me. While Billy let many of us down with his ill-fated Zwan project and an utterly forgettable solo album, I have high hopes for this upcoming album. There is no way that Zeitgeist will be another Siamese Dream or even Mellon Collie, but judging by this first single, it has the potential to be a fine addition to their catalog. If nothing else, Pumpkins fans can look forward to hearing all of their classic tunes live once again when the band heads out on tour.

Stream the tune:

If you are seeking a MP3, the song is available for download on iTunes starting today or try here.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Animal Collective Live @ Southgate House, Newport KY 5/15

Animal Collective (Avey Tare)
The fine folks of the greater Cincinnati area were blessed with two great shows at the Southgate House this week. On Monday, The Hold Steady brought the rock to a crowd around 10x's the size of the one they had at the very same venue less than two years ago. This was obviously great to see. The show was (at least for this guy) exactly the kind of beer-drenched good time one would expect when attending one of their concerts. Animal Collective played the next night and, although the shows couldn't have been any different, they were probably even better.

As this was my first Animal Collective show, I did not know quite what to expect from the band in the live context. Let's just say the band more than lived up to my expectations. I assumed that the Collective played nearly all, if not the entirety, of their upcoming album Strawberry Jam along with a some of their of older tunes (Doggy, Who Could Win a Rabbit, Loch Raven, Leaf House). But, I was informed by a courteous and well-informed reader that the new songs were actually tunes from another new album that may surface sometime after Strawberry Jam. So basically, the band is apparently two albums ahead. The crowd responded well to the new material and was virtually transfixed while Avey Tare, Panda Bear, and Geologist tore through their set using only a small drum kit, keyboards, and samplers. The boys had a problem with the power supply during the fourth or fifth tune, which had to be aborted. After shaking off the technical difficulties, the rest of the set went according to plan and was incredible. The new stuff was unfamiliar to the crowd, but no one seemed to mind being treated to the electronics-heavy unreleased tunes.

While a good portion of the new material appears to showcase the Collective in "song-mode", the studio versions of the new songs are likely going to be a departure from their 2005 masterpiece Feels. Feels was the band's most straightforward and accessible album, due in large part to the traditional rock band feel of many of the tracks-- although Animal Collective's version of a "traditional rock band" is obviously going to be far from the ordinary. Based on Tuesday's show, the new material is going to be more ambient and rely more on electronic elements than did Feels. The new stuff felt sonically closer to Panda Bear's Person Pitch-- albeit darker in tone and theme-- than previous Animal Collective efforts. The band has been constantly improving with each studio album and, although topping Feels is going to be nearly impossible feat, I'm eagerly anticipating the release of both Strawberry Jam and studio versions of these tunes.

Animal Collective (Panda Bear)
Animal Collective (Crowd)
Animal Collective (Geologist)

Here's a highlight from their 2005 album Feels-->
MP3: Animal Collective - "Grass" (link via Spin)

Download some live versions of tunes slated to appear on Strawberry Jam: Here & Here.

Watch a video of the band performing "Cuckoo Cuckoo": Here.

Check out Animal Collective's upcoming tour dates: Here.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Art Brut - "Post Soothing Out"

British art-punkers Art Brut will release their sophomore album, It's a Bit Complicated, on June 26th. Their debut was critically acclaimed and much loved by many indie rock fans. The band began streaming a trio of tunes from the upcoming album on their MySpace page about a month ago and the full album leaked recently. Like the debut, the forthcoming record features singer Eddie Argos' signature self-effacing wit delivered in his sing-speak cadence with heavy accent intact. "Post Soothing Out" is the most melodically evolved tune these guys have produced. The song features an infectious and hooky guitar lick along with some uncharacteristically pretty vocal harmonies. The climax comes during the outro/bridge shortly after Argos employs a vocal melody that mimics the recurring guitar figure-- at the 2:34 point, a wall of guitars kick in and Argos briefly sounds more genuine and emotional than we've ever heard him. The last minute of this track alone make it a jump-start contender for my favorite Art Brut song yet.

While I've only heard this album a couple of times through, I feel it improves on the debut in nearly every way. Bang Bang Rock & Roll demonstrated these guys were on a unique tip and contained some insanely fun and memorable tunes. (Personal favs: "Emily Kane" & "My Little Brother") It's a Bit Complicated sounds better produced and tunes themselves are better put-together. "People in Love" is the new album's answer to "Emily Kane" and is an ode to break-ups on which Argos explains his need for change through the clever line, "People in love lie around and get fat, I didn't want us to end up like that". Lead single "Nag Nag Nag Nag" is a catchy upbeat punk tune with some lyrics ("A record collection, reduced to a mixtape/headphones on, I've made my escape") that will surely be appreciated by music nerds (read: music bloggers) the world over. Other highlights include the opening combo of "Pump Up the Volume" & "Direct Hit". Argos's voice is potentially polarizing, but if enjoy the tune below, you should definitely get your hands on It's a Bit Complicated.

MP3: Art Brut - "Post Soothing Out"

Pre-order the album here.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Spoon - "You Got Yr Cherry Bomb" & "The Ghost of You Lingers"

Indie favs Spoon will return with their sixth album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga on July 10th. This record will come a little over two years after their excellent and popular Gimme Fiction. Bits of the upcoming album began appearing this week, followed shortly by a full-blown leak. "You Got Yr Cherry Bomb" is exactly the kind of upbeat indie pop tune that we have come to expect from these guys. Further, this song serves as a reminder that Spoon always seems to deliver each time out. Straightforward and catchy, the tune is anchored by Rob Pope's pulsating bass line and features well-used synthetic saxophone snorts. Drummer Jim Eno solidifies the groove and Britt Daniel employs his falsetto in the right places. A couple of days ago, the band "leaked" the second song from the album, "The Ghost of You Lingers". This track is a somewhat befuddling choice for an introduction to the album and with choppy electric piano pounds and Daniel's reverb-drenched vocals, it sounds different than anything we've yet to hear from these guys. As the track's name suggests, the tune has a haunting, would-be eerie (for Spoon anyway) tone. It's a bit of a change to hear a Spoon track without drums, bass, or guitar, but the track begins to seep under your skin after a couple of listens.

While I've only listened to Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga one time in its entirety so far, it appears to be less of a "rock" album than was Gimme Fiction. The new album is more groove-orientated and less guitar-driven than its immediate predecessor. Opener "Don't Make Me a Target" sounds closer to their 2005 album than anything else here, although "The Underdog" sounds similar to "I Summon You". From my cursory listen, it appears this album is not as initially catchy as Gimme Fiction and has a number of tunes that will likely be growers that take a few listens to totally click. I'm sure the indie world will be abuzz with talk about this album in the coming months, over which time I plan to give it a multitude of listens.


MP3:Spoon - "The Ghost of You Lingers"

Pre-order the album here.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ryan Adams - "Two" & "Halloween Head"

Ryan Adams's upcoming album Easy Tiger is due June 26th. A couple of days ago, two tracks from the album made their way onto the intertubes. These tracks were featured on an exclusive promo only CD alongside a "mini-greatest hits" collection of older Ryan Adams tracks. While "Two" fares much better than the more rockish "Halloween Head", I have to say that I am less than overwhelmed by these tunes. "Two" is a mid-tempo alt-country number with nice lyrics ("Well my money's no good, when I'm up to no good") and features tasteful backing vocals from Sheryl Crow. There is a undercurrent of resignation throughout the song and Ryan is letting a lover know that he is willing to sacrifice, as "it takes two when it used to take one". The song is mostly true to the live versions, but feels a bit short at 2 minutes 38 seconds. "Halloween Head" sounds like a Rock n Roll B-side and suffers from the tossed-off feel and lazy-ass lyrics that plagued tunes like "Wish You Were Here" from that album. Here are two examples of the offending lyrical atrocities: "It's all the same old shit again, I've got a Halloween Head" and "What the fuck's wrong with me, God I'm a Halloween Head". Seriously? He even shouts "guitar solo!" before the simple, effect pedal-heavy "guitar" lead, for christsakes. Why? When many of your critics are quick to point out that your version of rock and roll is sometimes cartoonish (denim jackets, American flags, etc.) and prone to posturing, why even bait them with this type of shit. With that said, Ryan's vocal performance is actually pretty excellent if you can get over the crap that comes with it.

While I'm disappointed with "Halloween Head" and a bit indifferent towards "Two", I still have a feeling that Easy Tiger will be strong. This is based on the strength of live versions of the material and the early reviews of the album. Filter Magazine gave Easy Tiger an 86%, calling the album "focused and fortified", "the real deal", and said it would "likely be adored by many". In an album "preview" that pretty much reads as a review, Rollingstone similarly gushed about the album. But, they also referred to "Halloween Head" as a "great track", so that doesn't bode incredibly well. Still, I've been a fan of Ryan for years and get excited about every release. It's just unfortunate I had to hear a clunker like "Halloween Head" before the presumably numerous better tracks on the album.

Stream the tunes:

Here's a previously recorded version of a good tune (from the Suicide Handbook sessions) that will appear on Easy Tiger-->
MP3:Ryan Adams - "Off Broadway"

Download/listen to live versions of many of the tracks on Easy Tiger: Here.

Watch a sweet video of Ryan and the Cardinals performing the excellent tune which will be the opener on Easy Tiger, "Goodnight Rose": Here.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

The Twilight Sad - "Cold Days from the Birdhouse"

The debut full-length from this Glasgow band, Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters, was released on April 3rd has deservedly garnered excellent reviews. Singer James Graham's thick Scottish accent is the first thing a listener will notice upon their initial exposure to the Twilight Sad and his vocals go a long way towards defining the band's sound. "Cold Days from the Birdhouse" is the opening track on their debut LP and is a definite builder. This song serves as a fine introduction to the album and sets the stage perfectly for the second, and probably strongest track, "That Summer, at Home I Had Become the Invisible Boy". This band has been likened to a Scottish Arcade Fire and while this is an obvious touchstone in a post-Funeral indie atmosphere, it is also a somewhat accurate, albeit lazy comparison. Though the two bands sound virtually nothing alike, these Scots have a knack for nailing a similar brand of anthemic, emotional and dramatic indie-rock as the one that helped make the Arcade Fire a favorite among the indie set. This track creeps in slowly with distant piano twinkles and tasteful touches of slide guitar before Graham begins crooning in his unmistakable accent. Eventually the song crescendos with wall of distorted electric guitar, pounding drums, and Graham's impassioned wail. There are similar moments of high drama throughout Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters, as this album has no shortage of mini-epics.

After spending about a month and half with this album, I keep coming back to that damn accent. It almost gives this band an unfair advantage. I'm a huge sucker for rock songs by foreign bands who sing in their native tongue without trying to guise their regional dialect. And I'm sure I'm not alone in this. Bands like these guys and the Futureheads, for example, have an added exotic flare for us Yanks because of their respective singers' thick accents. It's interesting how in the past singers desperately tried (or would be otherwise persuaded) to sound "American" in an effort to cross over and appeal to our ears and how we have now basically come full-circle-- many of us find an "un-American" accent one of the most compelling attributes a band can have.

MP3: The Twilight Sad - "Cold Days from the Birdhouse"

Buy the album here.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Arctic Monkeys Contest: Win "Brianstorm" 12" Vinyl!

That's right, I'm giving away a copy of the Monkeys' new "Brianstorm" 12" vinyl single. The single also contains three tracks that do not appear on their new album Favourite Worst Nightmare. To enter just leave a comment below (be sure to provide an email address so I can contact you) or send me an email [(hammmd (at) gmail (dot) com) with the subject header "arctic monkeys contest"] outlining your favo(u)rite Arctic Monkeys song from their debut album and your favorite from the new one. You have until Monday 5/14 at 5PM EST to respond and a winner will be chosen at random.

"Brianstorm" Tracklist:
1. If you found this it's probably too late
2. Brianstorm
3. Temptation greets you like your naughty friend
4. What if you were right the first time?

Here's a personal highlight from Favourite Worst Nightmare:
MP3: Arctic Monkeys - "Flourescent Adolescent"

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Queens of the Stone Age - "3's and 7's" & "Sick Sick Sick"

Queens of the Stone Age will release their sixth album Era Vulgaris June 12 on Interscope. These two tracks mark my first taste of the forthcoming record and have me itching to hear the album in its entirety. "3's and 7's" is the better of the two and features a nice riff-heavy rock groove and some of Queens frontman Josh Homme's signature slippery guitar squeals. The refrains briefly shift the tune into more poppy territory and provide a nice contrast to the more straightforward rock verses. Perhaps the most interesting element is the slightly dissonant bridge, which is well structured and perfectly transitions the tune into the outro guitar solo. "Sick Sick Sick" is more aggressive and features some sludgy (perhaps de-tuned) guitars and distorted bass. Homme is in top form here and his vocal performance and occasional guitar runs make the tune. Towards the end, Homme shares vocal duties with the Strokes' Julian Casablancas who offers a few lines in his trademark slur. As his role is limited, Casablancas offers little to the tune aside from a conversation piece and (thankfully) does not distract or detract from the overall product. On the basis of these two songs, it appears Queens are likely gonna add another strong album to their discography.

This band is operating in a genre (commercially viable hard rock) that, for the most part, is bereft of anything exciting or even marginally original. Besides these guys and the White Stripes, I'm having trouble thinking of a single other band that gets much mainstream rock radio play that I would bother listening to. Queens's success is a testament to the fact that hard rock can still be profitable AND fresh sounding. But, make no mistake, this is an exceedingly difficult feat to pull off. Though there is a definite market for music with potential cross-over appeal to indie kids, metal heads, and mainstream rock radio fans, it's much easier and more safe to stick to formulas (i.e., grunge retreads) with known success. It's a shame record companies don't give consumers enough credit to tackle more adventurous music and that more hard rock bands haven't stepped up to the challenge of creating it.

MP3: Queens of the Stone Age - "3's and 7's"
MP3: Queens of the Stone Age - "Sick Sick Sick"

Pre-order the album here

Queens of the Stone Age tour dates


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The National - "Mistaken for Strangers"

When Boxer first started trickling out, it seemed people were divided into two camps: those who instantly fell hard for the new album and those who were a bit let down by the lack of "rockers" present. "Mistaken for Strangers" is the closest the upcoming album comes to an "Abel" or a "Mr. November" and, while it is both up-tempo and energetic, it still lacks some of the intensity heard on those tunes. Forgoing the (nearly) reckless abandon of the above-mentioned Alligator highlights in favor of something a little more refined, "Mistaken for Strangers" is no less passionate and showcases many of The National's best qualities. Singer Matt Berninger's distinct baritone provides much of the color in the band's sound and sets them apart from countless other indie bands, but another element crucial in shaping the band's sound is often overlooked-- the drumming. While drummer Bryan Devendorf nearly destroys Boxer opener "Fake Empire" with his overly busy playing (from the 1:45 point to when the vocals exit), he and Berninger bring their A-game on the majority of the new album and on "Mistaken for Strangers", in particular. Instead of competing for the spotlight, they compliment each other perfectly on this track. There is something truly electric that happens when the band is plugging away at their instruments and Berninger is busy narrating his street smart tales filled with broken, stream-of-consciousness imagery. When The National hit their stride, the band is nearly impossible to deny.

Other Boxer highlights include the simple, yet gorgeous "Start a War" and "Apartment Story". There will be inevitable comparisons between Alligator and Boxer, but this is a mostly fruitless endeavor, as nearly all fans of the band will greatly enjoy both albums. However, if I had to choose one album over the other, I still have to go with Alligator. This was one of my very favorite albums of 2005 and, for me, the songs are just a bit stronger.

MP3: The National - "Mistaken for Strangers"

Buy the album here