Before I spoke in riddles, I was worried someone would hear me

If you’ve ever lived next door to a neighbour who plays loud music through the night, these distraught lines will probably make you prick up your ears:

Hey buddy hey,
Hey buddy please,
Would you quiet down?
You kill me,
It’s 2AM,
I’m trying to sleep

Thee More Shallows

Not very rock’n’roll, I know, but something in the tone, combined with the unsettling toy piano riff, grabbed my attention. Thee More Shallows are from San Francisco and seem to specialise in tense, whispered vocals over a taught, edgy backdrop of sound. What I like about “2AM” though is that having started with this fairly paranoid, anguished narrative, they take it off somewhere else, and do something completely different with it.

You start to wonder who’s making that noise if I’m up here all alone…

Thee More Shallows are another in a growing line of bands that are new to me, but which have been around for a good while. They already have a fair old following online, including a Wikipedia entry, which you can read now to get up to speed. (I probably should do the same…).

They have had spells with two labels I’ve been haunting for a while (Turn recordings and Monotreme), and are now signed to Anticon, with a third album out this year, Book of Bad Breaks. Singer and band leader Dee Kesler delivers his anxious, thoughtful vocals in little more than a murmur at times and I have a feeling the line I’ve lifted from “Freshman Thesis” for the headline here continues to be relevant to all his songs.

A further trawl round the Monotreme site reveals that TMS also appear on an album by label mate Ral Partha Vogelbacher, some of the tracks of which you can listen to here. I don’t think they’re quite as good, but still worth a listen once you’ve snagged the ones here.

All in all there are a few tracks available online, including a pretty cool version of the Temptations “Can’t Get Next to You”, but I’ve gone for the two tracks that hooked me most, plus “Knight at the Night School” from this year’s album.

2am

Freshman Thesis

Knight at the Night School

btw the Anticon, Turn and Monotreme sites are both worth visiting for other downloads and some interesting bands. I’ll probably be paying another visit…

Can you hear my heart beat?

I’ve decided not to try to do an end of year review, to be honest Sit-Up-and-Notice-Me albums have been a little thin on the ground this year. But, also who needs another old guy raving about the Burial album, eh? (That’s not to say I won’t be avidly checking others’ lists over the Christmas period. I will…)

Anyway, as it’s the season of good will and ill-advised binge drinking, I’ve got a post here which seems somehow appropriate.

The Dipsomaniacs

Have a guess how many bands there are calling themselves the Dipsomaniacs at the moment…

If you guessed “three”, you’re being a little too cute and you’ve spoiled it for yourself really, haven’t you? It’s “two”, there are two bands currently calling themselves the Dipsomaniacs.

The first band I came across are from New Jersey, “play melodic, hook-driven, sloppy, but spirited rock n roll. “ and are big Who fans. You can download a number of tracks from them here, including a festive “More Eggnog” which is kind of fun.

The Dipsomaniacs I’m more interested in, however, are another Camera Obscura band who hail from Trondheim, Norway and play fragile, quivery sixties pop songs. Camera Obscura, as ever, have two tracks available for download and a couple of albums to purchase.

The first song, Stethoscopic Notion, is driven by a Rolf Harris-style monotone organ sound and is one of those clever-clogs pieces that doesn’t really have a chorus – it’s all one big hook. I really like the way the vocals, rhythm guitar and keyboards all mesh together without any of them getting on top. The second track is not quite as strong but is still catchy and is propelled by its delicate, fine guitar work.

Singer, Ǿyvind Holm, appears to have left the band and released his own album, My Vanishing Act, and you can also download “Salt-Mutated Summer Dream” from that record at Camera Obscura, and see a video of it at his Myspace. The same page also includes this video of the Dipsomaniacs which is pretty poor quality but still very watchable

Stethoscopic Notion

Caught by this Feeling

Drink responsibly folks! (And have a good one…)

And now it’s time to forgive, it’s time to leave and let live, I’ve had enough of breaking down, it’s finally time for me to round the bend.

(Actually that might be “live and let live”, but I like the sound of it as it is…)

Named after an obscure Dylan song, Abandoned Love is an American label based first in San Francisco, then Austin and lately in Seatle. They’ve got quite an interesting roster of bands, including a few that are well worth investigating further – Virgin of the Birds, Parker Street Cinema and Nire all sound interesting on listening to the mp3s available at the site.

But I thought the pick of Abandoned Love’s bands was this one.

Grumpy Bear

There seem to be a few Bears around at the moment – I’m aware of a Grizzly Bear, some Art Bears and a Panda Bear off the top of my head – and I haven’t really managed to distinguish between them all. What’s a punter supposed to do?

Well, you could start off by listening to “Luis Bunuel”, a fascinating multi-phased effort from the Abandoned Love bears. Grumpy Bear are Tyler Blake and Lattney B. and are based in Arizona releasing carefully-put-together and somewhat melancholic pop songs that are based around regret and atmospheric synths.

One release came from their collaboration with Abandoned Love, 2006’s Songs from the Abattoir EP, but their Myspace page mentions other releases on other labels, which based on the songs I’ve heard, should be well worth tracking down.

I rather like the Grumpy Bear Myspace page, firstly because it’s one of the few still offering free downloads (three altogether, scholars and gentlemen, I say…), and secondly because it offers these words of wisdom on the band:

“Grumpy Bear has never been accused of “wearing a shit-eating grin,” but has been called a “horse’s ass,” which makes little sense.
Grumpy Bear is not a preferred day-care provider.
Grumpy Bear has never rallied ’round a flag
Grumpy Bear will not be “breaking out” anytime soon
Grumpy Bear was not singing softly outside your window last night. But I was.”

I’m posting a couple of tracks, one from the Abandoned Love site, “Luis Bunuel”; and the second from their Myspace page, the beautiful “Round the Bend”, with vocals from Swedish singer Anna Järvinen – another name to research, I reckon…

Kissing you, tell me I belong.

Not sure if any of you notice this sort of thing, but, Bloggers everywhere are, to a man, going, well, feral about the new Burial album, Untrue.

It’s a great record, mind.

I’m far too old for all this dubstep thing, really, but now I’m beginning to get a bit of context, I’m getting something of a taste for it. Untrue is certainly a cracking release, full of distorted vocals, pops and fizzles, and at times an almost overwhelming gloom. I lived in South London throughout my twenties and the harsh landscape it manages to summon up is not a million miles away from my experiences. It’s very powerful.

There’s frankly no point in me posting any tracks from it, it’s all over the Internet already (a quick search on Hype Machine should do the trick – I recommend “Archangel” or “Etched Headplate” as good tracks to come in on) but I really do recommend reading this interview from The Wire magazine. The feller behind Burial doesn’t do photographs, gigs or … really anything apart from make music, so it’s worth reading it for that alone. But on top of that, I found what he has to say about MR James a good way in to the record; and his assertion that ghosts of ideas linger is itself an idea that has stuck with me this week…

“I love it out there, because when it’s dark, it’s totally dark, there’s none of this ambient light London thing. We used to have to walk back and hold hands and use a lighter. See the light, see where you were and then you’d walk on, and the image of where you’ve just were would still be on your retina.”

Put on your best dress, girl and let us have some fun

In the absence of any new stuff, here’s some new old stuff. I’m talking about…

Lucky Seven (3)

Kung Fu Meets the Dragon – Lee Perry
Put On Your Best Dress – Monty Morris
I’ll Be On The Water – Akron/Family
Gimme Shelter – Merry Clayton
Ballade de Melodie Nelson – Serge Gainsbourg
Oh What A World – Rufus Wainwright
Can’t Stand Me Now – Libertines

The usual mixed bag of stuff that I’ve been listening to in the last few days, something for everone?

Here’s to valiant indiscretion!

I’ve got some more songs here that feel like they belong with the last post, although I’m not aware of any actual link between the two…

Hands up, who’s heard of Let’s Active? Didn’t think so. Me neither. Well, do a quick bit of catch up here, and come back in a minute (It’s OK, we’ll wait, we’re not going anywhere…)

Mitch Easter

If you played along with that little device, you’ll now be aware that Mitch Easter was the main drive behind the legendary North Carolina trio – that’s “legendary” in the “I know I should’ve heard of them” sense of the word – and apparently produced a number of REM albums, the latter being a pretty impressive line on anyone’s cv. Mitch’s is a name I kind of think I’ve heard a number of times before but it’s not really stuck – his Wikipedia entry mentions production credits for a good few other well known artists, including Pavement.

Well, anyway. Mitch has just recently (well six months ago) gone onto record his first actual, in his own name record, Dynamico, the name taken from a flyer he saw advertising Cuban dance lessons.

It’s an album released by 125 records in this country and they’ve made two tracks available from it on their site, both of which are pretty catchy chunks of seventies-influenced power pop. As I’ve said they seem to follow on rather neatly from those Joel Gion records, being of the same ilk if not actually conceived in the same decade. Easter’s got a voice that reminds me of Wreckless Eric, and his songs have that same hey-ho feel as the Stiff man, if not as much out-there quirkiness.

I’m including here the two tracks on 125, and also Easter’s own words about both songs, which is the sort of thing I always find fascinating:

Sudden Crown Drop

“This was inspired by an NPR piece on “sudden crown drop,” which is the non-scientific name for an actual disease of palm trees. There’s no outward sign anything’s going on but the tree is rotting, it becomes weak, and the whole crown falls off all at once. I thought, “This is the best disease name possible, and it’s a wonderful metaphor for everything.” So every verse is about the world going to hell in a hand basket with the last line being “sudden crown drop.” It’s like, what do you expect? I mean, this is what’s going on. A lot of these songs have a quasi-political theme to them, and my assessment of politics is always negative. So if the top’s falling off, which is the kind of the case, the rest isn’t far behind.”

Time Warping

“The song goes from A to Em—a classic Major I to Minor V chord change. It is such a great change that anytime I can find a place to use it, I will. “Time Warping” is a slightly naughty space-age love song. It’s about being bad and running off with a new person. That’s what the line “It starts like that when you’re a rat” is all about. I like rats, they’re such successful animals. The idea is, we wanna move forward; the past is where people are mad at us, so we want to blast out of there and they can think what they will.”

There’s not enough space-age love songs around these days…

Here comes the tambourine and you know what I mean!

As you’ll have worked out by now, I’m a pretty easy bloke to please. Bit of music, bit of rugby, a few beers. It’s not rocket science.

But to make me ridiculously happy you have to be running your own small Indie label or a member of a band giving me unsolicited freebies, and generally pandering to one or other of my hopelessly out of control obsessions. Fortunately for everyone, this is exactly what Charles at Happy Parts Recordings has done.

It does help, also, if the music I’m being sent is pretty good, and lo and behold the Dilettantes record that Charles sent me is indeed pretty good. A bit of a snorter, in fact.

The Dilettantes

The Dilettantes are from California, and are the vehicle of Joel Gion, who played the tambourine in the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and is, I gather, a bit of a cult figure. It seems to me that the BJM have not really travelled that well, being largely under-appreciated this side of the water (and, I’ll furtively raise my own hand at this point.

Anyway, time to make a gesture towards righting this wrong. Have a look at this, it’s one side of the Dilettantes single, “Ready to go”.

I can think of friends of mine who will hate this! But I rather like the posturing of Gion, it makes me smile – it takes a certain something to carry off sideburns quite like that… I guess it’s all pretty standard sixties freak beat, not a lot new there, but, as we’ve established I’m an easy sort to please.

Charles at Happy Parts, has sent me the whole “101 Tambourines”album, which is a lot of fun, and I’m posting a couple of tracks from it.

Like Crazy

What Were You Thinking?

But I reckon you should get hold of the “Ready To Go/Subterranean Bazaar” single, too – it’s pretty heady stuff!