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New track – “Dead Rabbit Hopes” by The Shoe

The Shoe

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.

RIP Zoobombs and a call to bands from the rest of the world

(c) 2012, Eric Robertson

Zoobombs at Ace of Cups, 2012

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 the.indie.handbook@gmail.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.)

Reason #86 Why we Love Amazing Radio


circular disc with gray border containing the text: played on amazingradio

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.

Happy Birthday, Matinée Recordings

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

Bill Frisell on playing with Paul Motian: the rest of the interview

Bill Frisell

Bill Frisell

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.

TIH: Yeah…

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.

Much more can be found here.

Wintergatan

Toy piano, accordion, glockenspiel, theremin, traktofon, synths and more synths… These are the things dreams are made of, my friends.

If you’ve been following The Indie Handbook over the past few years, you know that often, my role here ends up being the Swedish ambassador of sorts. It’s not that I think we don’t cover Sweden enough, it’s just that there is so much great music coming out of Scandinavia right now.  And when I talk about Sweden, it usually is somehow related to this guy, Martin Molin.

MartinYou may know Martin as part of the brilliant band Detektivbyrån, that I covered way back in 2010, or you may know him from that lovely remix of Those Dancing Days that I mentioned last year. At any rate, you can’t have missed him and his signature tinny toy piano, theremin, and glockenspiel sounds, or my undying devotion for it all. Blame it all on my weakness for a good accordion part if you like, though you must admit that it is a tragically underrated instrument. Or blame my obsession with his particular alt chamber sounds, mixing low-fi percussion instruments (scissors and typewriters anyone?) with auto-tuned theremin and old-school style game music melody lines. But either way, you do have to admit that it’s fascinating, fresh, and always perfect.

So, when I received an email from Martin a few months ago talking about a new project he was starting up with a few fellow musicians, alternative instrument devotees and electronic instrument geeks, I could hardly contain my excitement. Actually, to be honest, I did not contain my excitement at all. Not even a little. I just danced it out for a while and then played back through my entire Detektivbyrån collection to prepare myself.

His new project is called Wintergatan and they have just released their first full-length album, full of accordion, scissor snaps, dreamy waltzes, magical synth melodies, and a lot of new sounds as well. Four space-suited musicians choreograph pieces with more instruments than you can imagine, creating both an aural masterpiece and a visually fascinating performance.

WintergatanPerformanceThe album is nine tracks long, all available to stream for free on their media page, and a truly rewarding listen. If you know Martin’s previous work, you will definitely hear a lot of familiar sounds. There are the waltzes, the accordion hum, and the theremin, but there are a lot of new things as well. Tracks like “All is Well” bring in a much more dance sound, albeit played out primarily on bells, and “Västenberg” features a harp melody and much more dreamy, atmospheric opening than I have heard before, though it leads straight into a driving accordion and vibes section, reminiscent of “Honky tonk of Wermland” from Detektivbyrån’s Wermland album. However, the most surprising track is the last, a 14 minute long kaleidoscopic piece called “Paradis.” It ends the album on a perfect note, and marks a clear contrast from Martin’s previous work with Detektivbyrån. Hammered dulcimer and harp weave together into a unique mix over a synthesized bass as the originally pentatonic melody morphs into a full, complex mix of sounds – piano, synths, dulcimer, drum kit, and so much more. It’s more aurally complex, more mature, and even more delightful.

As you can probably tell by this point, this album is not really like anything else. Though I compare it a bit to Detektivbyrån, in truth, I only do that because it’s the closest relative I can find. If you are looking for something approachable on the surface, but complex enough to listen to again and again, this is it. The instrument combinations alone can keep a person occupied for days. But don’t just take my word for it. Take a look at these two music videos they have posted. You’ll even get small behind the scenes peaks at their instruments and recording techniques at the end of each.

Sommarfaågel:

Starmachine 2000:

And if you haven’t yet, head over to their website where you can stream the entire album and let Wintergatan take you for the space ride of your life.

This is Independent, 2013

(c) Eric Robertson, 2013

Independents’ Day 2013, rain delay at Pearl and Broad

I’ve often written in the past about how my particular hometown of Columbus, Ohio is fiercely supportive of our local musicians (even sometimes to our detriment, if I’m being brutally honest). You may even recall a post from a few years titled something like “Columbus Loves Independent Musicians (and I’ve got the scars to prove it)” in which I covered a couple of local music festivals including Independents’ Day. I don’t believe I’ve covered Independents’ Day since that initial post, but I’ve continued to attend every year and this year saw the festival expand to three days (at least in theory, a rain delay led to the cancellation of most of Day One).

I’m not going to try to cover everything I saw at Independents’ Day this year. I saw 20 bands in twelve hours and no one wants to read about all of them. Nor do I want to write about all of them. But a few did leave their mark on me.

(c) Eric Robertson, 2013

Nervosas at Independents’ Day 2013

I think among those few, the one that most surprised me is Nervosas. It’s not that I expect anything more than a top notch performance from Nervosas every time out, especially given the veteran musicians involved in the band. I’ve been following Nervosas from the beginning. In fact, if you follow our YouTube channel, you may even remember this video I shot at Bernie’s way back in 2011 when Nervosas were Witches of Kelso, the night they bolted immediately following their set opening for Wavves to play a show with our old friends The Cell Phones. No, I expect nothing less than the best from Nervosas every time out. What gets me is that they constantly exceed my expectations. They just seem to get better every time I see them. Every set is tighter than the last one and Independents’ Day 2013 was the best I’ve seen. They have been touring around this part of the country a fair bit lately, and if they continue to improve at this rate, who knows if they’ll even be available to play this fest next September.

(c) Eric Robertson, 2013

Cliffs at Independents’ Day 2013

Speaking of improvements, as I left Nervosas, I turned the corner at Gay St. to catch what was left of Cliffs‘ set. I’ll be honest, it took me a while to come around to Cliffs. Mostly, because I’ve known the band members since they were in middle school and I don’t want to look like I’m showing favoritism, but also because I wasn’t blown away by the early demos they sent me. But I eventually caught up with the rest of Columbus about a year ago when Cliffs played an opening slot for Chicago garage punk juggernaut White Mystery. But Independents’ Day 2013 was the first chance I had to see the band play in front of an audience of any significant size. I have to hand it to them, these guys know how to have a good time with their audience. And I must commend drummer Adam Hardy for playing this show with a broken hip. I swear, I never would have known. Word from the band is, the test pressings for their first LP have come back and everything sounds great. Look for that to be out some time around November.

(c) Eric Robertson, 2013

Connections at Independents’ Day 2013

And while we’re on the subject of getting caught up with everyone else, I should say, even I am surprised that it took me as long as it did to see Connections. Granted, I actually saw Connections for the first time a few days before this show, but for all intents and purposes this week has been my first Connections experience, despite the fact that the band (featuring former members of past Columbus bands, including the late great Times New Viking) have been making waves around town for about a year. And here is why I love events like Independents’ Day. Yeah, going to shows in clubs is fun and intimate (at least when you go to the kinds of shows I do) but in a festival setting you really get a chance to see how the concert going public really reacts to them. Not everyone goes to every Connections show, but every Connections fan goes to Independents’ Day. I even paparazzied Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman at the Connections show. I guess even politicians like good solid indie rock.

(c) Eric Robertson, 2013

Lydia Loveless at Independents’ Day 2013

One final thing that’s long overdue, and those of you who remember that first Independents’ Day post from a few years ago may know where I’m going with this. Way back in 2010, I wrote about how I’d heard countless good things about Lydia Loveless, but just barely missed her Independents’ Day set. (Lydia even emailed me later to assure me that satisfaction was guaranteed.) No worries, I did finally see Lydia perform not long after that near miss, and several times since then (some of you may even remember a photo set from a couple of Record Store Days ago). But I finally made up for missing her 2010 set this year, planting myself front and center this year for a set consisting almost entirely of new material. Which has left me very excited for her pending releases.

In my mind, Lydia has long since taken her place in my mind as the best act in Columbus. And I’m only slightly saddened by the fact that her contract with Bloodshot Records takes her away from us and out on the road as often as it does. Though, I must say, I do enjoy the messages I receive from friends around the country after Lydia plays their hometown, telling me how lucky I am to live in Columbus. I didn’t always agree with that sentiment, but I’m starting to come around to that idea, too.

 

Good thing I like cats, then

The Happy Maladies

I don’t know how many of you listened to my occasional bits Bethan Elfyn’s Amazing Radio show last year, but those of you who did may recall the one and only time I featured two tracks by the same band, The Happy Maladies. Now, I’ve featured the Happy Maladies here before, several years ago, after seeing them at a house show here in Columbus. The band reinvented themselves since then, the lineup has changed, and they’ve re-emerged with all new material that focuses much more on jazz harmonies and contemporary chamber music through a filter of traditionally folk instruments.

I know that sounds like a far cry from the progressive bluegrass description I saddled them with way back in the early days. And, to an extent, it is. But you can’t pin these guys down and hold them to one genre. They’re in a constant state of evolution (like all the great bands are) and are some of the most adventurous musicians I know. To that end, they have launched a call for compositions under the moniker Must Love Cats.

To put it simply, the band are looking for composers to write something for them. In the end, five compositions will be selected to be recorded, receive their premiere in Cincinnati, and then toured. (And, yes, the winning composers will receive a share of the profits.) Further details (including instrumentation options) can be found on the Happy Maladies’ website, but I will say, it looks like a very exciting competition. It’s too bad I was never much of a composer, because, I’ll tell you, these guys can read! And they want to be challenged. And what composer doesn’t love that in a musician? If you’re a composer and you’ve ever wanted to try some crazy stuff with folk instruments, this is a golden opportunity. The deadline is January 1, 2014.

So, while I may not be a composer, you can bet I’ll be at the premiere next spring.

Here’s the band to tell you more.

P.S. Let me know if any of you guys enter.

Loops and Variations

lesley_flanigan_white2bFinally. I’m finally going to see Lesley Flanigan perform. I’m headed to Chicago next week to see her perform as part of the Loops and Variations series at Millennium Park on a bill that also includes champions of modern music eighth blackbird (did I ever tell you about the time I saw them play Philip Glass with Philip Glass?) and Wilco drummer (and Delta faucet virtuoso) Glenn Kotche.

It’s not really clear what the program will consist of, but I have to assume, where there’s eighth blackbird, there’s a world premiere. And that’s great. But for me, the real excitement lies in finally seeing Lesley Flanigan perform her feedback compositions live. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while: not a life long dream by any stretch, but certainly something I’ve been trying to arrange ever since I interviewed her a couple of years ago.

In case you weren’t with us then, here’s a link to the article and the interview. It’s still one of the most interesting conversations I’ve had with a musician. And, in case you need a refresher, here’s a video of a performance of my favorite track from her album Amplifications. Of course, if you’re in Chicago on the 28th, you should definitely come down Millennium Park at 6:30 and catch the FREE show. But Columbus folks will also have a chance to see Lesley in person come March 2014.

I love the dusty shelves of forgotten books you find in the darkest corners of musty libraries and those crates of “worthless” old 45s you find in every junk shop. I can’t help it. There must be dust in my blood. I even worked in a music archive for a year after university (it’s still the best job I’ve ever had). I guess that makes me some kind of amateur cultural archaeologist.

Of course, you and I know those neglected 45s are far from worthless. There are so many great songs languishing in those cardboard dumping grounds. And sometimes, of course, I’ll find something that I really wish I could share with people only to discover that even the seemingly infinite YouTubes occasionally come up short. So, I’ve taken it upon myself recently to fill some of those gaps. And since, these are obviously the sorts of things I wish other people could hear, I’m going to start posting about them here from time to time—one of those times being right now.

Given that her early records were released on Chess, it’s surprising to me that Jan Bradley’s recordings are so difficult to find online. YouTube only has a few of them (Spotify only turned up one). As the story goes (read: according to Wikipedia) Bradley was discovered at a high school talent show. A while later, after auditioning for Curtis Mayfield, she would go on to have a regional hit with “We Girls” and nationally with “Mama Didn’t Lie” (both written by Mayfield).

The current track “The Brush Off”, appeared on the flip side of “I’m Over You”, a minor hit (#25 on the R&B chart) from early 1965. Both feature that unmistakable Chicago soul sound, and though there are a couple of videos floating around for “I’m Over You”, I was unable to find anything for “The Brush Off”, which is a shame, because it’s a smooth and easy bit of Northern Soul that deserves to be heard. So, I made one.

Here it is. And, apparently, Ms. Bradley (I don’t know her married name) still lives somewhere in the South Suburbs. So, if you happen to encounter her singing with her church choir, please, pass on to her my sincerest appreciation for her all-too-brief career.

(Here’s the Billboard review of the single from January 2, 1965. Also, this guy has some good info on Jan Bradley.)

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