With a vocal prowess and songwriting chops that belie her young age, Lydia Loveless is already a seasoned veteran. In some ways like a harder edged contemporary iteration of Stiff Records ingenue, and fellow Ohio native, Rachel Sweet, her music is equally fit for a Nashville honky-tonk or Columbus, Ohio’s D.I.Y. dives. All I know is, I never fully understood the term “country punk” until I spent a few hours with a Lydia Loveless record.
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So it took me a while to get on top of this one, but from what I gather, Japanese art punk trio TsuShiMaMiRe released what I take to be a “best of” collection – Mamire – last week (though, given the usual limitations of Google Translate and the fact that my Japanese is limited to a few dozen kanji, I could be wrong about all of this), touching on much of the band’s 15 years together.
Within the one new track included on Mamire – “Speedy Wonder” – verses fall somewhere on the spectrum between late 1960s Midwestern garage and “Fell In Love With A Girl” era White Stripes while the chorus flirts seductively with what can only be described as punk rock monody, all of which is tied together with a whole-tone (nearly palindromic) under-chorus. Put it all together, especially with the video, and the package feels a little like a Coathangers track (who, by the way, will have a new record out next month). (Don’t for one second think I mean to imply anything by that. After all, TsuShiMaMiRe have been wielding these skills for ages. This comparison is intended for educational purposes only.)
With a sound that recalls the rock and soul of the early ’60s built on a solid foundation of ’50s R&B, a Nick Tolford & Company show feels more like a party with a few hundred of your closest friends than a rock ‘n’ roll show (which is just how a rock ‘n’ roll show should feel). “Every Day” comes from the band’s second LP, Just a Kiss, released in January.
File Under: BEST NEWS EVER
It’s been nearly seven years since Nickel Creek embarked on their Farewell For Now tour — eight and a half years since the release of their last (and, I think, perfect) album, Why Should The Fire Die? – and I don’t think I am the only one who had just about given up hope of ever hearing anything else from our favorite progressive bluegrass trio. But it seems, for once, an indefinite hiatus has proved to be just that, a hiatus.
Monday afternoon, in the matter of a few tweets and a Facebook post, Nickel Creek released the first track, “Destination” [below], off a promised new album and announced that they would be getting the band back together, beginning with a pair of shows at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, where the band played their last shows in 2007. Presale for the first batch of concert dates begins on Tuesday. Check the website for dates.
I realize this post has been rather matter-of-fact and somewhat out of character for me. Honestly, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this. It’s not every day your favorite band gets back together.
“Disco will never be over. It will always live in our minds and hearts.” So begins Matt Keeslar’s final speech in Whit Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco. While the death of their club and the dawn of the Eighties spelled the beginning of the end for the Doomed Bourgeois In Love, disco’s fate, it seems, was far from sealed. Enter Fitness Forever with their second album for Elefant Records, Cosmos.
After their first album left frontman Carlos Valderrama empty, as he describes it, the band were left with ample room for stylistic exploration. In time it seems, the band took to mining a vast depository of ’70s music for inspiration. The result is an album that has more than one foot (let’s say one and a half feet) firmly planted in the disco era. But John Travolta, this is not. Cosmos, while a disco record in spirit, is more stylized in practice, marked as much (or more) by the metered cool of bossa nova as the licentious revelry of Studio 54.
While Cosmos is an album very much at home in the musical landscape, it’s not the sort of record to settle down in one place for very long. While numbers like “Disco Quiz” and the title track may be the most reminiscent of the last days of disco (well, I say “reminiscent,” but then, I’m not really chronologically qualified to reminisce about such things), tracks like “L’amore Annegato” play it closer to the ghost of Getz/Gilberto that haunts the whole of Cosmos. One would even be forgiven for comparing songs like “Hotel Flamingo” or “Le Intenzione Del Re” to latter-day Belle & Sebastian.
At its heart, Cosmos is driven by a loving embrace of an amalgam of influences: lush instrumental textures straight from late ’70s radio, shuffling rhythms and intricate jazz progressions, and bossa nova inflection. It’s enough to send Ted Boynton awkwardly cavorting his way across the dancefloors of Barcelona in pursuit of plain-looking girls.
At the end of that speech from The Last Days of Disco, Matt Keeslar’s character Josh declares, “Disco was too great and too much fun to be gone forever. It’s got to come back someday.” Whether that’s a part of his impassioned speech that Josh “actually believes” is irrelevant, because, if Fitness Forever’s latest is anything to go by, that day is here.
Late last week, Jena Malone sent out (via Tumblr and Twitter) a link to a new song by The Shoe (her band with co-collaborator and improvisor Lem Jay Ignacio). The song, “Dead Rabbit Hopes” is a first look at the band’s new EP, coming out in late spring. And, upon listening, it seems to represent a pretty significant development for the band.
We’ve been following The Shoe for years. The Shoe has never been a celebrity vanity project (though you wouldn’t know that from the lazy print review I read in a magazine five years ago). The Shoe is a violon d’Ingres. The Shoe is a band. A band that had, up until now, always seemed to be built around the principles of portability and improvisation. (Perhaps you remember the song they sent us for Christmas a few years ago?) But “Dead Rabbit Hopes”, if it is any indication of what’s to come, is the work of a band taking a more measured approach. The result is still lo-fi, the lyrics still tinted with a touch of the surreal, but this is the work of a band who put their blood, sweat, and tears into their music (which, to be fair, is exactly what the tweet says). As opposed to their earlier EP, this is more reminiscent of Rose Dougall‘s earliest recordings post-Pipettes, or that first Parlours song I fell in love with all those years ago.
The new EP, apparently self-titled, will be released in the spring. No word yet on the format, or whether it will be released through Jena’s own label, There Was An Old Woman, which has handled almost everything up until now (The Bloodstains once had a 7-inch on another label), but I’ll be sure to find out as soon as I can.
About a month ago, I read a blog post from one of my favorite bands. Well, to be honest, I read an awkwardly worded Google translation of a post from the Zoobombs website. If I understood it right, the band have decided, after roughly two decades, to put an end to the Zoobombs legacy. With the departure of two key band members, the remaining Zoobombs have decided that it is best to bring this chapter to a close and to begin anew.
I think I agree with them.
It’s never fun to say goodbye to your favorite bands, especially the ones you never had a chance to see in person. But in most cases, it is inevitable, we all know that. (Thankfully, I finally did get to see Zoobombs — about a year ago, here in Columbus — after missing their apparently phenomenal set at Canadian Music Week in 2011. And while the local turnout was, honestly, pathetic, it was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.) We want to wish all of those Zoobombs the best of luck with their future projects. I have all the confidence in the world that they will be every bit as good as the epic garage-psych freakouts that made Zoobombs’ shows the stuff of legend.
All of which brings me to a second point. This is something I don’t often do, but I am issuing what, in the academic world might be called “A Call for Submissions”. Of course, we’ve always encouraged all bands to send us their music, and we get dozens of submissions every week. But those submissions, not surprisingly, skew toward Europe and North America. And while that leaves us with plenty of good material to work with, I also know the world is a big place and there’s much more out there and I don’t want this blog to remain US/Euro-centric if it doesn’t have to.
I know there’s a burgeoning punk/DIY scene in China (I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about Hedgehog here before) and I know there’s more to Korean music than K-Pop and “Gangnam Style” (remember all my gushing about Vidulgi OoyoO?) and of course I’ve just done a whole thing about Japanese psychedelia. And, for that matter, Tuareg and African blues bands have been experiencing a surge in popularity here in Columbus recently. The point is, I know you all are out there, and I would love to hear from you.
There are a few Korean and Chinese blogs and YouTube channels I catch up with when I can, but it’s difficult to even do that more than once every few months. So, please, email us at email@example.com. We’re dying to expand our horizons.
P.S. Don’t worry about any language barrier. As long as I can hear the music, that is all I need. Google Translate and I will do the best we can with the rest. BUT, when you email, please at least try to include words like “band”, “music”, or “press release” in English in the subject line, just in case they get sent to the spam folder. That way, I will know to rescue them. God only knows how many submissions and press releases I have lost because they were written in an alphabet or character set I do not understand.
We can’t wait to hear from you. (Europe, North America, we still love hearing from you. Keep up the good work. South America, Australia, Oceania, we hear from you on occasion, but we wouldn’t mind hearing more.)
Who says video killed the radio star anyway? We think radio is just as vibrant as ever, especially thanks to all the fantastic stations available on internet radio stations. In fact, you can now hear Possimiste’s Wanderer featured on Simon Raymonde’s Iceland special from November 4 on Amazing Radio. Take a look here and enjoy not just Possimiste but a whole playlist of other great artists including One Little Indian, Lay Low, Dead Skeletons and more. But if you really only want to listen to Possimiste, then you might like to know that it plays right around the 1:02:00 mark. Except, don’t do that, because there really is a lot of good stuff on that program.
So a huge thank you to the great Simon Raymonde for supporting one of our favorite artists. An artist we believe in so much that we released the record. How’s that for a vote of confidence? Which reminds me, we still have some copies of the Possimiste record left. You can buy one here.
If you’re a long time reader of The Indie Handbook, then you are, no doubt, familiar with Matinée Recordings. Strawberry Whiplash, a Matinée band, was one of the first artists we ever covered here, way back in the spring of 2009. (I can’t believe I’ve been doing this that long.) Since then, they have continued to release so many great records, that I haven’t been able to cover them all. After all, I can’t let this turn into a Matinée only blog, as easy and consistently good as that would be.
But Matinée reaches a particularly important milestone this month. In November of 2013, Matinée Recordings turns 15! Now that I’ve had some experience running a record label, I can tell you firsthand what a huge accomplishment that is. This business is hard, and to produce a constant stream of high quality records the way Jimmy and the folks at Matinée have over the last 15 years is a big deal (and quite an undertaking). I could learn a lot from them.
Need a refresher? Some of the Matinée bands we’ve covered here in the past include: Strawberry Whiplash, Cats On Fire, Math and Physics Club, and September Girls. You may remember how much I loved Math and Physics Club’s I Shouldn’t Look as Good as I Do and that I am in love with just about everything Strawberry Whiplash have done. But I don’t think I ever mentioned how I fell head over heels for Northern Portrait, just like any good Smiths fan would. It’s an oversight I still regret to this day, three years after I received that first Northern Portrait promo.
Thankfully, hope is not lost. I have been given a chance to redeem myself. In celebration of their 15th anniversary, Matinée Recordings are releasing A Sunday Matinée, a compilation of unreleased tracks, rarities, and exclusives from many of the bands that have helped make Matinée the breeding ground for top class indie pop that it is today. Included on A Sunday Matinée are bands like Strawberry Whiplash, September Girls, Math and Physics Club, Bubblegum Lemonade, my beloved Northern Portrait, and Matinée legends The Lucksmiths and, of course, many more.
Normally, this is the point where I would provide you with a tracklist for the album. But, in this case, we’ve been provided with a Soundcloud playlist and, if I’m reading this email correctly, I have permission to share the whole playlist with you and, let’s be honest, that’s far more useful than a list of band names. I will say, I am particularly enamored of the Northern Portrait and Math and Physics Club tracks, though my Strawberry Whiplash Law of Unconditional Love does hold up through their contribution to this album.
The album is to be officially released on November 12, but it is available now through the Matinée website. So, after you have a listen, pop over to the website, and pick up a copy of the CD so you can pop it in your car stereo like I will, and spend the next four months pretending it’s summer.
OK, fine. I’ll give you a tracklist anyway.
A Sunday Matinée – Various Artists
1. Bart and Friends – There’s No Place
2. Northern Portrait – The Young And Hopefuls
3. Bubblegum Lemonade – You Can’t Be Sad All The Time
4. September Girls – Danny Wood
5. Simpático – The Rays
6. Would-Be-Goods – No More Tearstained Makeup
7. Charlie Big Time – One Step Closer To Enemies
8. The Lucksmiths – When I’m Walking
9. The Electric Pop Group – Parliament Square
10. Strawberry Whiplash – September Saturday
11. Math And Physics Club – I Know It’s Over
12. The Steinbecks – Through The Curtain
13. Pale Sunday – In The Hardest Moment
14. Clay Hips – Someone Who Wanders
15. Melodie Group – Only Forever
Earlier this year, I interviewed jazz guitar legend Bill Frisell about a memorial concert he was curating in memorial of his longtime friend and collaborator Paul Motian. That concert has long since come and gone, but I’m not sure I ever shared the full transcript of the interview with you. At the time, I remember, I just wanted to play the recording of our conversation for everyone I knew, simply because it was so surreal. The man has been in business for a long time. The stories he can–and does–tell are remarkable. He’s played an integral role in the last 30 years of jazz. There’s no downplaying his experiences or their importance in the oral history of an American art form. And as I sat in my car, engine off, tape running, fingers freezing, praying my notoriously spotty cell phone reception wouldn’t suddenly drop the most interesting phone call of my life, I had to constantly remind myself that this was for real.
Of course, it wasn’t practical at the time, to give you all the full interview. But I think the things he says, especially about his introduction to jazz and that very first session with Paul Motian are just too important to keep to myself. But now, with the news that Bill will bring his Big Sur Quintet to the Wexner Center in Columbus this December, I think this is a good time to bring you the rest of my interview with Bill Frisell.
From an interview conducted in March 2013.
TIH: Yeah. I mean, I read in one interview you gave a few years ago, you described getting that call to play with Paul as being sort of a BAM moment for you…
BF: Oh yeah. It was really huge and not for anything…it wasn’t about…at the beginning, we didn’t even have any gigs, really. It wasn’t about making any money or anything like that, but it was this opportunity for me to really be myself in the music. He was calling me to be—it wasn’t like just another guitar player he was looking for, it was more like a personality I guess he was looking for. And I felt like doing his music, I was able to find my own music somehow.
TIH: What were those first sessions like for you?
BF: Well, the very first time I went to play with him was in 1981, like January of 1981, and you know, I’d never met him, but the phone rang and it was him and I couldn’t believe it. (laughing) And he said “Hi. This is Paul Motian. Do you want to come over to my house…or, my apartment…and play?” And I was like, “What?!” I could not believe it. So, I go over there and it’s me and Paul and Marc Johnson was there who I’d never met either at that point. And Marc was the last bass player to play with Bill Evans—you know Paul’s history with Bill Evans—and I came in there and they were talking about…Bill had just passed away recently, so they were talking about that. So I was just feeling like, what am I doing here, this electric guitar player, you know? They were trying to figure out what tune to play. And they said, well, let’s play ‘My Man’s Gone Now’, which is this George Gershwin tune that I really associated with Bill Evans.
BF: It was another one of these kind of heavy moments when I found myself drawn into this sort of unreal, dreamlike..you know, playing that tune with those guys. And playing electric guitar? How am I fitting in with this, you know? I don’t know. He thought it was ok, I guess. We kept on playing and he kept calling me back and I’d go over there every week or every few days even. And sometimes different people, first with Marc Johnson, and then Joe came over and eventually led to what was—the first gig we did was a quartet. It wasn’t until about nine months later that we did our first gig. And a little while after that a European tour and that’s when we recorded. That was the first time I recorded with Paul, as a quintet.