Blinded by the Stars (Hollow)

From the Pernice Brothers‘ mailing list:

Joe Pernice will make his episodic television debut in an upcoming Gilmore Girls.  He will play one of several Stars Hollow troubadour-wannabes that descend on the town after the regular troubadour, Grant Lee Phillips, is discovered by Neil Young and whisked off on a tour.  Joe will sing a yet-to-be-determined song.  No word yet on who the other troubadours are, but knowing the excellent musical instincts of the Gilmore gang, it will undoubtedly be good.  I do not yet know the air date, but will post as soon as I do.  Joe heads out to Burbank next week to tape.  I know I have a proclivity toward making things up, but this is true.  I swear to God.

Let’s just hope a fist fight doesn’t break out between Joe and Joel Gion. In other Pernice Brothers news, the band has wrapped — or nearly wrapped — recording their fifth album, Ascending/Maintaining, due later this year. It will mark a return to the lush, string-laden territory of 2001’s World Won’t End, as opposed to the new-wavey direction of 2003’s Yours, Mine and Ours and last year’s Discover a Lovelier You.

The Gilmore Girls has been on hiatus for what seems like ever, but returns next week with a new episode, "I’m OK, You’re OK" where Rory may or may not forgive Logan for his indiscretions while they were "on a break"; and Zach asks Mrs. Kim for permission to marry Lane. In the meantime, tonight’s a repeat of this season’s instant classic, "Friday’s All Right for Fighting." Don’t miss the last ten minutes!

You Too Can Have “The Worst Taste in Music”

Radiodept_coverSo here’s the first single from The Radio Dept.‘s much-anticipated new album, Pet Grief. A little more synthy, perhaps, but it could have only been made by these Swedes. After five or so listens, I’m not sure what I think, but the Radio Dept. have never been the kind of group that hit you over the head on the first listen. They’re more like a vapor that sneaks in under the door and, once inside, won’t leave. Am I bad at metaphors or what? Anyway…

The Radio Dept. – "The Worst Taste in Music"

I’m Always Touched by Their Presence

New York hearts Canadian bands. We especially heart Montreal (though Toronto is pretty kick-ass too).

Unless your band is The Dears, then New York doesn’t care — just like the Interpol song doesn’t go. It’s not like the band is being slammed and dissed every week in blogs or magazines. They’re just ignored…and I think I know why. They’ve never seen them live. (The Siren Festival doesn’t count.) The production on the Dears’ last album, 2004’s No Cities Left was a little flat, the arrangements a little too fey, and singer Murray Lightburn‘s faux-Brit accent more than a little overplayed. I was unimpressed when I heard it. But at a friend’s urging, I went to see them live (Mercury Lounge, October 2004, opening for the Brian Jonestown Massacre) and was awestruck by how good they were. What a totally charismatic frontman Lightburn was. How much The Dears flat-out rocked and the songs came alive. How much he doesn’t sing like that live.

At that point, No Cities Left clicked for me. I went to see them four more times in the next 12 months. They began playing a couple new songs. One of them — "Gang of Losers" — was so good (is so good), so perfect, you could just imagine hearing it all over the radio once they got around to recording it. If they knocked the studio recording out of the park, that is.

It was also around that time that it was obvious Dears keyboardist/singer Natalia Yanchak was preggers. Murray’s the poppa. (The pair married this summer.) The band was to enter the studio around the same time Natalia was due. The baby (Neptune Rosita Ursula Yanchak Lightburn!) dropped in September. The new album, meanwhile, had yet to begin.

Now that I’ve totally buried the lead, I can report that The Dears’ new, yet-untitled album is most likely in the can. The band produced it themselves, trucking in a load of analog equipment into Murray and Natalia’s house, and recording for the better part of December, January and February.

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Hot Chip Will Break Your Legs

What a difference a year makes. Hot Chip‘s debut, Coming on Strong, is not very good. There are good ideas on it but the songs are half-assed, the production tinny and the band coasts on it’s founding joke (white British dudes playing Prince-style funk) for the entire length of the record. But live, there was something there. Despite being five nerdy looking British dudes hunched over keyboards, Hot Chip were never less than entertaining and the songs came alive. At Rothko last March, the band seemed to impress people more than headliners Maximo Park. And when I saw them at Hiro Ballroom during Resfest’s closing night party in September, they had improved tenfold.

What a happy surprise that their new album, The Warning, is a bit of a revelation. Production credits for the album are sketchy right now, but something happened between the two albums as Hot Chip have taken the promise that was always there, brought all their good qualities to the forefront, polished it and added a fat bottom end. Every song (and they are songs this time) is good, borderline great. The synths sound amazing, like they raided Arthur Baker and New Order’s keyboard warehouse circa 1985 ("Shellshock" comes to mind). But it’s melded with thumb pianos, acoustic guitars, real drums and other real instruments for a deceptively full sound. And the lyrics are less jokey.

Will they be able to pull of the new songs in concert? Hot Chip play Bowery Ballroom on March 11 — I can’t wait to find out. The Warning drops in May. Until then…

Hot Chip – "Boy From School"

Hot Chip – "The Warning"

Watch the video for new single "Over and Over"

Me and Your Granny on Bongos

Markesmith_bysprioYear for year, album for album, The Fall are probably the best band of the last three decades. The only constant in in those 30 years is frontman Mark E. Smith, he of the scabrous wit, unintelligible accent and proclivity for firing band members for the slightest infraction. He has said most famously that The Fall will never break up and that even "If it’s me and your granny on bongos, it’s still The Fall"

But where are all those cast-aside ex-Fall members now? Guardian writer and Fall fan Dave Simpson took it upon himself to try and contact all 40 of them (by his count) and the results of his month-long quest can be read here. Says Steven Hanley, who lasted nearly 17 years, ""Mark’s had all these talented people in the band, but not many have done anything without him. He must have something."

I wish the article had a sidebar listing all 40 members with a short rundown of where they are and what they’re doing, but it is nonetheless a fascinating read on one of the most volatile, import bands ever.

Extra: Have a listen to "Me and Yer Granny on Bongos"
by The Armitage Shanks. "No choice but to sack the band!"

Picture of M.E.S. swiped from photographer Gino Sprio’s website.

Swede Relief

I was watching Grey’s Anatomy last night, which I have grown to somewhat unashamedly like despite the introspective 30-Something vibe it has. The show’s music supervisor is Alex Patsavas, who also handles the tune selection on The OC, and on both shows she has surprised me on a couple occasions with somewhat obscure choices. (Trivia: the title of every episode is named after a song. Last night’s was "Owner of a Lonely Heart.") Last night’s closing five minutes was set to the Moonbabies "War on Sound." I am a huge Swedish music fan, and a Moonbabies fan in particular — their The Orange Billboard is one of my favorites of the last two years, definitely one of the great unheard albums of 2004. (Though it was available to buy in December 2003 through awesome mail-order store Parasol Records. I remain confused as to the actual worldwide release date.)

Hailing from Malmö, Moonbabies are Ola Frick (Vocalist/Muliti-instrumentalist) and Carina Johansson (Vocalist/Piano/Keyboards) and have been recording in one form or another since the late ’90s. Their sound is not that far from the Notwist or My Bloody Valentine (minus the tremolo bar), but a bit more folky and poppy. Seriously, go buy The Orange Billboard right now. It’s so good. As almost no one in the US seems to know who they are, it was nice hearing a song on Grey’s Anatomy. Here are a couple MP3s:

"War on Sound"

"Sun A.M."

I’ve been on a real Swedish tear recently. A customer at my video store turned out to not only be Swedish (The Knife was playing on the stereo) but also a pastry chef (I’d had a Thanksgiving ice cream misfortune involving chestnut honey; she talked me through creme anglaise fears, though that wasn’t the problem with the ice cream). We ended up talking about music for a while and she turned me onto a bunch of new music I’d never heard. Here’s some new-to-me Swedish music I really like:

Håkan Hellström – "Känn Ingen Sorg För Mig Göteborg"
Broder Daniel – "Dark Heart"

[ingenting] – "En Bättre Dag"

The staff of Parasol Records’ great in-house label, Hidden Agenda,is almost an underground railroad for Swedish music. (Perhaps someone there actually is Swedish.) In addition to the Moonbabies, they also brought José González stateside, they originally released Soundtrack of Our LivesBehind the Music, The Wannadies‘ great, mostly-unheard 2003 album Before & After, and their roster also includes Thirdimension, Peter Bjorn and John, AK-Momo and quite a few more.

Sweden isn’t just known for it’s great pop music, you know. They also make some fine food. Sure, most of it contains herring, but it is delicious. And the best way to sample Swedish cuisine is via Smorgåsbord. And guess what? It just happens to be Smorgåsbord season! Yes! New York Magazine reports on two places where you can eat like a kung.


Brooklyn Band Most Likely to Have Song in an Episode of Grey’s Anatomy

WINNER: Au Revoir Simone

Aurevoirsimone_1 I kid, I kid… but you just know it’s going to happen, with their minimal, skittery beats, bloopy bleeps, catchy melodies, and charming girl vocals, Au Revoir Simone are perfect for ABC’s hit medical drama. The song will likely be "Back in Time" and used during some scene where Meredith is sitting around alone in her big house, forlorn, wondering why it didn’t work out between her and Dr. McDreamy.


Or perhaps she’ll be remembering better times, before her mother developed Alzheimer’s. She may or may not be eating ice cream during this scene. During the instrumental break, there will be voice over: "Dylan said don’t look back… but sometimes memories are all you have." Fade to credits.

Au Revoir Simone‘s debut, Verses of Comfort, Assurance and Salvation, is actually quite the lovely record. Won’t you buy a copy…stat?

The Darkness’ Awesome Album Art

The cover art to The Darkness‘ new album One Way Ticket to Hell…and Back — a gatefold sleeve, no less — is a thing of over-the-top beauty. Click on the image to admire the detail in its full-size glory. I really like how the doves morph into bats…

The album is out November 29, with the title cut single hitting stores November 15.

Where the Girls Are

GirlgroupsoundsEverybody loves girl groups, right? Though I have a soft spot for more modern ones like  Banarama, Girls Aloud and even, yes, Tatu, I’m talking classic girl groups. The kind that sing about falling in love with boys —  even the bad ones that end up cheating on them and getting them pregnant and not treating them very well in general. In the ’60s, girl groups tackled taboo issues that couldn’t be talked about on TV. The Shirelles‘ "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" dealt not-so-subtly with going all the way; and The Crystals — the best girl group ever — dealt with physical abuse in their infamous "He Hit Me (and it Felt Like a Kiss)." (Both were written by the Brill Building workhorse team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King.)

But there was a lot more to girl groups than the big hits you hear ad naseum on Oldies Radio. For proof, look no further than One Kiss Can Lead to Another – Girl Groups Sounds Lost and Found, an amazing new box set from the good folks at Rhino. What makes it so awesome is that Rhino has eschewed the hits — and most of the hitmakers — of the genre, focusing instead on groups and singles that should have received more attention. Included are rare early singles by singers who would soon be famous (Cher, Dolly Parton, uh, Toni Basil), songs that would be hits for other people ("He Was Really Saying Something," "You’re No Good"), lesser-known singles from big names (The Supremes, The Ronettes) and a whole lot of stuff you probably never knew existed. In fact, chances are most of the 120 tracks on here will be new to you.

My favorites are some of the crazier songs, like The Fabulettes‘ diet solution "Try the Worryin’ Way"; The Starlettes‘ frank and funny "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman"; The Hollywood Jills‘ call-and-response "He Makes Me So Mad"; and some of the attempts at jump-starting a dance craze like The Goodies‘ "Sophisticated Boom Boom" and Marsha Gee‘s "Peanut Duck" (strangely, not about Thai food). There are also some songs that border on garage rock (Luv’d Ones "Up Down Sue" and The What Four‘s "I’m Gonna Destroy That Boy") and  a couple lightbulb moments, like Dusty Springfield‘s "I Can’t Wait Until I See My Baby’s Face" (there are a number of Northern Soul songs on here) which I’d never heard but instantly recognized, as whole chunks of the song formed the basis of Saint Etienne‘s great early single "Nothing Can Stop Us."

My favorite song on the whole thing, though, is The Exciters‘ somewhat manic "He’s Got the Power." The Exciters’ only big hit was "Tell Him" and this song was obviously cut from the same mold — the musical resemblance is immediate — but lead vocalist Brenda Reid’s performance is so unrestrained it catapults the song to greater heights.

Rhino really outdid themselves on the packaging — the set comes in a hatbox, and each of the CD cases are made like compacts (complete with mirrors), and the booklet has the story behind each and every song with lots of cool, rare photos. One Kiss Can Lead to Another – Girl Groups Sounds Lost and Found is very likely to be Sound Bites Box Set of the Year.

You can buy it from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or Rhino’s website. Here are a couple of select MP3s from the set:

The Hollywood Jills – "He Makes Me So Mad"

The Luv’d Ones – "Up Down Sue"

The Exciters – "He’s Got the Power"


It’s John Peel Day

Peel1October 13 is National John Peel Day in England, marking the one-year anniversary of the last broadcast from legendary BBC 1 DJ who died on October 25, 2004. BBC 1 is airing a Peel tribute from 7PM – 1AM BST (British Summer Time) which translates to 2PM – 8PM EST. You can read about the details here, but will included recollections from various musicians and friends, as well as highlights from last nights John Peel Tribute concert at Royal Albert Hall that included performances from Super Furry Animals, The Fall (perhaps Peelie’s favorite band) and New Order, and more. According to the NME, New Order’s entire set was Joy Division songs, including  "Shadowplay" and "Warsaw," which hadn’t been performed since Ian Curtis’ suicide 25 years ago (and probably even longer for "Warsaw"). The BBC has some great pictures from the event.

Over on BBC 6 Music, the whole day is Peel related, including some of the thousands of classic Peel Session recorded over the years exclusively for his influential show. Their also airing select bits from his archived radio shows, including the entirety of his first ever broadcast for BBC 1.

Meanwhile, basically every gig happening in the British Isles tonight is dedicated to John Peel, with bands performing covers of Peel favorites. Very cool.

For more on John Peel, check out the most excellent Spoilt Victorian Child, that has been posting Peel Session mp3s all week long.