Category Archives: Blog posts

Kitty Pryde, Gunpowder Temple, and what it means to “make it”

[Originally posted July 12, 2012 on my Orlando Music News blog at OrlandoWeekly.com.]

After I posted that item yesterday asking whether Gunpowder Temple was “one of the best bands in Orlando,” the response that it got was what I expected, but not quite what I had hoped for. I mean, of courseGunpowder Temple isn’t “one of the best bands in Orlando.” They’re just a bunch of kids who are trying to play music and trying to make it work – just like every other local band everywhere. Even though the whole “modern rock” style they’ve chosen to pursue is uninspired (and uninspiring), the fact remains that they’ve made the decision to navigate the treacherous waters of club promoters, media, and whatever weird thing “the music business” is today in the hopes that they’ll get a chance to rock out in front of a crowd of appreciative fans. Which means that, unlike about the 90% of the world that exists as passive consumers, the kids in Gunpowder Temple have decided to be active creators. And that’s a good thing.

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Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da, baby boomers please just die.

Wow. For a minute there, I was pretty excited about the big iTunes announcement that’s coming up in a couple of hours. With all the tech/media irons that Apple’s got in the fire with the iPad, AppleTV, the new iOS 4.2, and a big, cloud-ready data center ready to go in North Carolina, I naturally assumed that the announcement would have something to do with, you know, computers or something that would help drive the conversation about modern media consumption in a brand new direction.

Instead, according to the New York TimesWall Street Journal,Billboard, and pretty much everyone else on the Internet, the big reveal is gonna be that the Beatles are gonna be on iTunes. Which is, of course, the exact opposite of a brand new direction. It’s also the exact opposite of a big deal. With Mog, Rdio, Pandora, Rhapsody, Last.fm, Netflix, Hulu, GoogleTV and the Boxee Box breathing down Apple’s neck, and dozens of unfulfilled content deals flapping in the breeze (witness the anemic selection of books in the iBookstore and the paltry few television shows available for 99-cent rental on the AppleTV), it’s astounding that the company has focused its famed PR firepower on the fact that a dozen four-decade-old albums are gonna suddenly be available for purchase.

The obvious gripe here is that, if you want the Beatles in your iTunes library, you’ve already got them there, whether by ripping your own CDs or stealing them; the Surviving Two and the Widows of the Good Ones have kept this material from digital marketplaces for so long that longtime fans have had to resort to Whatever Means Necessary to have the music. It’s the same tactic that the record industry has taken to digital availability in general (witness: those dozens of unfulfilled content deals!), and it’s the very approach that’s bitten them in the ass. The only people who are excited about being able to FINALLY one-click-purchase the Beatles catalog are people who are Very Very Old. The Baby Boomers. The same people who have kept a stranglehold on our popular culture for … oh, just about four decades. The same people who have kept a new (old) Bruce Springsteen album in the media for weeks. The same people who continue to talk about Bob Dylan as if there are still people who need convincing. The same people who gave Neil Young a pass for that horrendous piece of shit album he just released.

News flash: The Baby Boomers are on the cusp of being in retirement homes; they all already qualify for AARP membership. THEY ARE OLD, and they should not be allowed to define the culture. They had their chance; it’s someone else’s turn. (Really Boomers, can you imagine if, in 1969, Rolling Stone – when it was good – yammered on and on about some Paul Whiteman Orchestra reissues? THIS IS THE SAME THING.) Yet, just like crazed right-wingers who whinge about the “liberal media” that just happens to be 85% owned by pro-Republican corporations, these oldsters bang their drum about how contemporary media ignores them even when their culture is just so great and classic and awesome, but yet Keith Richards’ new book is inescapable and the digital availability of the Beatles’ albums is front-page news.

Really, just shut up already. You are old, and while you easily embrace one part of what that means (“Back in the day, things were better”), you don’t accept the other part (“Time for me to get out of the way because I don’t have any new ideas”). This backward-thinking, this nostalgia for some nonexistent halcyon era is warm and comforting, yes (I know, because … GO ’80s!!!!), but Boomers have an outsized representation in the culture industry, and all this backward-looking is literally destroying that industry. The Beatles on iTunes are a tiny, tiny example, but illustrative of how this group is attempting to apply old models to a new paradigm and it just does not work. Record companies and movie studios and television networks can no longer squeeze every last dime of revenue out of the material they’ve helped to produce because once it’s out in the world, it’s out in the world. Yet they think they can, so they play hardball at every last opportunity, stifling innovation at every turn and ultimately turning a good chunk of the people who are potentially their best customers into the very people who wind up “stealing” from them the most.

So instead of “iTunes in the cloud” (which, technically, I’m still holding out hope for in today’s announcement), a development that would not only be awesome – all your music, movies, and TV shows available on any device at any time – but also encourage a lot of people to spend a lot of money on “content,” we’re gonna get a dozen four-decade-old albums on iTunes. Yawn. Wake me when the Early Bird Special is over.

(Oh, and that post title? I don’t actually want anyone to die; my parents are Baby Boomers, so that would be an awful thing to say.)

Originally appeared at OrlandoWeekly.com.

Fresh Wax :: 10.13.09 (Seattle Weekly)

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​There’s not much in the way of new vinyl releases this week, although you’ll definitely want to take note of Found Songs by Ólafur Arnalds (pictured on the left), the Amazon-exclusive vinyl version of the Monsters of Folk album and two great slabs of wax from Kill Rock Stars – a vinyl-only reissue of the Raincoats’ self-titled album and the folksy awesomeness of the new set from San Francisco’s Thao and the Get Down Stay Down.

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Although there’s not a lot of new stuff, I did want to mention that I got my hands on the deluxe vinyl version of Porcupine Tree’s new album, The Incident. The regular version is nice and all, but the stylish packaging of the Tonefloat-produced deluxe set is an incredible complement to the prog-rock tunes within. Too often, high-end limited vinyl packaging gets a little too full of itself, but the elegant simplicity of The Incident is well worth the price of admission. There were only 2000 pressed up, and Porcupine Tree fans are notably completist, but if you happen to spot one in a local shop and you’re into what the band does, do yourself a favor and go ahead and splurge.

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BYO Records box set

Speaking of deluxe packages, the double-vinyl box set version of Let Them Know: The Story of Youth Brigade and BYO Records is a must-purchase for fans of contemporary, mid-stream American punk. The music – NOFX, Dropkick Murphys, Lagwagon, Pennywise, Leatherface, 7 Seconds, and, duh, Youth Brigade – is obviously integral, but the 100-page, coffee-table book and DVD documentary that round out the package really seal the deal. Again, it’s pricey, but well worth it.

New Releases:

Ólafur Arnalds: Found Songs

Every Time I Die: New Junk Aesthetic

Ghostface Killah: Wizard of Poetry (green vinyl)

Jay-Z: The Blueprint

Lightning Bolt: Earthly Delights

Nellie McKay: Normal as Blueberry Pie: A Tribute to Doris Day

Monsters of Folk: Monsters of Folk (Amazon.com exclusive)

Grant Lee Phillips: Little Moon

Piano Magic: Ovations

Thao with the Get Down Stay Down: Know Better Learn Faster (Kill Rock Stars)

Wax Tailor: In the Mood for Life

Various Artists: Tumbélé: Biguine, Afro and Latin Sounds from the French Caribbean, 1964-1974

Reissues:

The Raincoats: The Raincoats (vinyl-only reissue)

First appeared Oct. 14, 2009 at SeattleWeekly.com.

What You’re Buying This Week :: 10.13.09 (Orlando Weekly)

It’s Tuesday! New music! Go buy some! I’ve run down some of this week’s new releases that I think are particularly noteworthy and that, maybe, you hadn’t been inundated with coverage on already. (I know, Baroness lacking for press? Whatever, it’s a great record.)

Also, local bands: let us know when you’ve got new music. Email us atlocalmusic@orlandoweekly.com.

Metalheads rejoice! The new Baroness album is out! If you freaked out over the Red Album – and many people did – the Blue Record will probably cause you to have an aneurysm. Tight, pummeling compositions and massive – nay, EPIC – production work here provides a surprisingly strong complement to the sludgy brew this Savannah crew cooks up.

If Baroness is too … I don’t know, awesome for you to handle, then good lord, please do yourself a favor and don’t check out The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist by Junius. You’ll probably pull a muscle or something trying to cope with its heavy, post-Cave In awesomeness. (Also available in a damned impressive vinyl package!)

The new project from Xian Hawkins (of the legendary Silver Apples) is calledBell Horses and it’s a collaboration between him and singer-songwriters Jenny Owen Youngs and Alexander Hawkins. On This Loves Last Time, the three tap into the vein of glitch-folk that’s proven so interesting over the past few years, but instead of another Morr Music soundalike, Bell Horses are a little weirder. The songs written by Youngs and Hawkins are beautiful and well-crafted, but Hawkins splits the difference between the oscillating freakouts of the Silver Apples and the robotic swirl of Sybarite to craft backing tracks that are bracing and steeped in retro-futurism.

Need your electronic music to be a little more mellow? Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds is releasing Found Songs today. The music was the result of a project Arnalds indulged in earlier this year where he composed a track every day for one week straight, releasing them immediately via the web … for free. Well, now he wants to get paid for the work and you should definitely indulge him; the pieces here are well within Arnalds’ typical milieu of challenging, atmospheric electronica, but considerably more visceral and engaging, which shouldn’t be surprising, considering their genesis.

Portland-based MarchFourth Marching Band releases their second studio album today. Rise Up takes the band’s kinetic brass-band style and applies it – appropriately enough – to an invigorating set of songs that evoke the pride and strength of New Orleans, without getting trapped in the treacly homage that’s marked many post-Katrina musical efforts regarding the Big Easy. And, seriously, marching band music? Awesome.

And, finally, the fine folks at Soundway continue to chronicle the underappreciated greatness of the sounds of the African Diaspora in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. While most crate-diggers head straight for the Motherland (if they can get past the funk, soul, and r&b that was being made here in the U.S.), Soundway manages to draw bright lines between the States, the many diverse scenes on the African continent and – most importantly – the far-flung colonial outposts that proved to be just as vibrant and unique in their approach to music. Tumbele! Biguine, Afro & Latin Sounds from the French Caribbean is a rollicking set that provides plenty of accessible points of entry (I recommend heading straight for “Jojo” by the aptly named “Ensemble La Perfecta”), and a wide variety of sounds, but also a surprising consistency.

Oh yeah, the Raincoats‘ first album is being reissued today. But only on vinyl! Hahaha. Suck on that.

More stuff you’re buying:

  • Air: Love 2
  • Bad Lieutenant (Bernard Sumner’s new band): Never Cry Another Tear
  • Bear In Heaven: Beast Rest Forth Mouth
  • Roseanne Cash: The List
  • Dead By Sunrise (Chester Bennington of Linkin Park): Out of Ashes
  • Downpilot: They Kind of Shine
  • Dukelbunt: Raindrops & Elephants
  • The Flaming Lips: Embryonic (see my review here)
  • Erin McKeown: Hundreds of Lions
  • Nellie McKay: Normal As Blueberry Pie (A Tribute to Doris Day)
  • Grant Lee Phillips: Little Moon
  • Skeletonwitch: Breathing the Fire (see my review here)
  • Skyfire: Esoteric
  • Thao with the Get Down Stay Down: Know Better Learn Faster
  • Vandana Vishwas: Meera: The Lover
  • Kristeen Young: Music For Strippers

First appeared Oct. 13, 2009 on OrlandoWeekly.com

What You’re Buying This Week :: 10.6.09 (Orlando Weekly)

Hey, so it’s autumn. Which means it’s that time of the year when new releases are coming out fast and furious, and most of them are good. Record  store shelves are packed to the gills, and they’d really appreciate it if you acknowledged their hard work by showing up to buy some things. Consider“What You’re Buying This Week” to be your study guide. I’m going to try to do this on a weekly basis, and in addition to giving you a (very long, if not comprehensive) list of the week’s new releases, I’m going to point out a couple of things that I think are particularly noteworthy that may or may not get the attention they deserve elsewhere.

And, of course, I want to make sure to let everyone know when a local bandhas a new release out; so, if you’ve got something going up on iTunes/eMusic, CDBaby or something hitting the racks at a local shop … or even if you’re just gonna sell it at shows, let me know. Email me at music@orlandoweekly.comand try to put something like “New Local CD release” in the subject line so it stands a better chance of making it past the spam filters.

First up: go buy the new CD by Mike Dunn & the Kings of New England. It’s called Sundowner (that’s it up top) and it’s about a perfect representation of what American roots rock sounds like when filtered through a Central Florida haze.

As a rule, I generally avoid too-smart-for-its-own-good indie-pop, as I find it often trips over itself attempting to be clever and ambitious, when its makers are usually neither. In the case of the Clientele, I make a huge exception. The band is British to the bone, with melancholy string arrangements, thick reverb and ridiculously pretentious lyrics … and I totally love them. Their new record, Bonfires on the Heath, is their first new work since 2007’s God Save the Clientele, and actually manages to surpass that disc’s excellence.


Let the Night Roar is the new set from dubstep genius King Cannibal, and since it’s on NinjaTune, it’s not likely to be missed by its core audience. However, for those wanting to dip a toe into the murky and expansive waters of this genre, it’s a great jumping-off point. On one hand, Cannibal’s approach is extreme and adventurous, with atmospheres that would be considered doomy and oppressive even by dubstep standards; but he also manages to deftly weave in the more accessible and invigorating aspects of bass-booming, ragga-flecked hip-hop, so novice listeners have plenty to grab on to.



The new release from irony-drenched hard-rockers Steel Panther is, of course, called Feel the Steel. It’s not as funny as you want it to be, but it’s always nice to see a band willing to not just make fun of a style of music, but also completely master it in the process. In other words, the record’s pretty great if you don’t listen to the lyrics … which means it’s pretty accurate.



The Black Heart Procession releases its sixth album today. It’s called Six.Which wins them a point or two. It’s been a few years since the indie rockers last blasted their way into your conscience, and Six shows a good bit of growth on their part.



Hey, did you hear they were reissuing all the (good) Jesus Lizard albums with lots of bonus tracks? Yeah, me too! You know that Albini and Weston remastered them? Me too! You have any clue what they could have done to make them sound better? Me neither. Worth noting: CD reissues are fine on this one, but there are also some beautiful packaged vinyl versions too that you should buy. Because if you don’t, Steve Albini will kill a kitten and David Yow will eat it.



Hey, did you hear they were reissuing all the Kraftwerk albums? Yeah, me too! You know there was a box set? Yeah, me too. You know there’s gonna be vinyl, too? Yeah! Seriously! But not for another few weeks.




Billy Manes probably already told you about this – or at least you heard him squealing about it when it was announced – but in an act of perfect timing,Duran Duran’s Rio is being reissued as a super-fat double-CD set; first disc is the original UK mix (which is far superior to the US mix if you like hearing how proggy and nerdy of a bass player John Taylor is) with a few of the US mixes thrown in for good measure and the second has demos (!!!) and remixes. However, the big news part of this reissue is the fact that it’s being accompanied in stores by CD/DVD release of the band’s 1982 performance at the Hammersmith. Yes, 90 minutes of sweaty, young Simon LeBon, singing to you. Dig it.



The long-awaited reissue of the 1976 collaboration between Brian Eno andHarmonia, Tracks & Traces comes out today and even though it’s a bit of an odds-and-sods kinda thing, the monstrous 16 minutes of “Sometimes In Autumn” makes it worth the price of admission.



Also filed under “long-awaited reissue”: the out-of-print industrial/doom masterpieces from Godflesh – Pure, Slavestate, and Cold World – have been remastered and packaged up by Earache as a three-CD set that is super-cheap and ultra-essential.



Oh, and don’t forget to pick up your vinyl! Lots of this week’s releases are on wax, but a few are only on wax. To wit: the 180-gram reissues of the New Order catalogue [Brotherhood, Low Life, Movement, Power, Corruption & Lies, Technique] on Rhino and the new EP from No AgeLosing Feeling (which, technically, is also available digitally, but NO CDs!)


More things you’re going to buy:

Air: Love 2

Arch Enemy: Root of All Evil

Lou Barlow: Goodnight Unknown

Basement Jaxx: Scars

Bellini: Precious Prize of Gravity

Anouar Brahem: Astounding Eyes of Rita

brakesbrakesbrakes: Rock Is Dodelijk (live)

Built To Spill: There Is No Enemy (bonus litho@ Park Ave)

Califone: All My Friends Are Funeral Singers

Roseanne Cash: The List

The Duchess & the Duke: Sunset/Sunrise

Orenda Fink: Ask the Night

Gossip: Music for Men

Horse the Band: Desperate Living

Jackson 5: Dancing Machine, Get it Together, and other reissues

Morphine: At Your Service (2CDs of rarities)

The Mountain Goats: The Life of the World

Noah & the Whale: First Days of Spring

Jemina Pearl: Break It Up

A Place to Bury Strangers: Exploding Head (bonus 7-inch at Park Ave.)

Raveonettes: In and Out of Control

Sparklehorse/Fennesz: In the Fishtank

Sufjan Stevens/Osso: Run Rabbit Run

Strike Anywhere: Iron Front

Willowz: Everyone

The XX: XX

First appeared Oct. 6, 2009 at OrlandoWeekly.com

Fresh Wax :: 10.6.09 (Seattle Weekly)

There are some great new releases out on vinyl this week. And holy cow, there are a lot of great new releases on vinyl this week. But despite the quantity and quality of the new stuff, I’ve gotta admit I’m pretty excited about one item on the reissue slate: the Jesus Lizard catalog. Remastered by Steve Albini and Bob Weston (who, really, probably just took a check so the reissues could say “remastered by Steve Albini and Bob Weston” because these albums sounded pretty goddamned perfect in the first place) and packed up in deluxe gatefold sleeves with copious new liner notes… ahhhh, it’s just really nice to have Jesus Lizard records available on vinyl again.

On the new release tip, though, there’s a great new No Age EP out this week and it’s only available as a download or on vinyl… that’s right no CD from the fine folks at Sub Pop on this one.
New Releases:
A Place to Bury Strangers: Exploding Head
Lou Barlow: Goodnight Unknown
The Big Pink: A History of Love
Black Dahlia Murder: Deflorate
Blitzen Trapper: Black River Killer
Built to Spill: There is No Enemy (2LP + CD)
The Clientele: Bonfires on the Heath
Mike Doughty: Sad Man Happy Man
The Dutchess & the Duke: Sunset/Sunrise
Lucero: 1372 Overton Park (w/download)
The Mountain Goats: Life of the World to Come
Meshell Ndgeocello: Devil’s Halo
No Age: Losing Feeling (Sub Pop, vinyl/digital-only release)
Raveonettes: In & Out of Control
Shudder to Think: Live From Home
Langhorne Slim: Be Set Free
Sufjan Stevens & Osso: Run Rabbit Run (2LP)
Strike Anywhere: Iron Front
Three Mile Pilot: Planets/Grey Clouds EP
XX: XX

Reissues:
The Jesus Lizard: Pure, Head, Liar, Goat, Down (remastered, with bonus tracks, download codes)
Willie Nelson: Shotgun Willie (Rhino, 180g)
New Order: Technique, Power Corruption & Lies, Low-Life, Brotherhood (Rhino 180g)

First appeared Oct. 6, 2009 at SeattleWeekly.com.

Fresh Wax :: 9-30-09 (Seattle Weekly)

​Wow. There’s a ton of great music hitting the racks of wax this week. The anticipated new set from Alice In Chains is going to be available on vinyl, as well as two great new releases on Kill Rock Stars by Panther and Shaky Hands, a beautiful limited edition live set from Damon & Naomi that comes with a DVD and a calendar, the debut set from No Friends (featuring Tony Foresta of Municipal Waste and 3/4 of the excellent Florida hardcore outfit New Mexican Disaster Squad) and Digital Leather‘s   new one, Warm Brother. As if that weren’t enough, there are also some excellent reissues, including another 4AD/Vinyl 180 Dead Can Dancereissue (The Serpent’s Egg) and Amon Duul‘s totally killer Phallus Dei.

But, despite all the great new vinyl coming out this week, there’s much bigger news to discuss. In fact, there are two pieces of much bigger news.

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​1) A massive reissue campaign of all – yes,all – of Fela Kuti‘s albums is getting underway, via the Knitting Factory label. Every single one of them will be available on vinyl. Yes, all 45 of them. For those who picked up the superlative Fela box sets of years gone by, and figured that between those, some cheap Celluloid cutouts and a handful of expensive, beat-to-shit original versions you had seen all the Fela vinyl you ever would, you were wrong. And now you will be destitute. The reissue series gets underway later in October with a best-of compilation (The Best of the Black President) and documentary to remind people of Fela’s greatness. As if. The whole reissue campaign is expected to take around 18 months.

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​2) Speaking of massive: the entire recorded output of South Florida metallians Floor is going to be compiled into a jaw-droppingly awesome box set by the folks at Robotic Empire. Below and Beyond will, according to Robotic Empire, consist of “ten 12″ LPs, one 7″ EP, eight CDs and a (roughly) 32-page booklet of writings, photos, lyrics, artwork (and more) are all to be housed in separate jackets contained within a custom cloth-bound box. Each record comes on a different color of vinyl to match to the corresponding artwork, and two etchings accompany recordings that didn’t have appropriate flipsides.” Holy shit you guys. It’s not cheap – $249 – and is going to be super-limited to just 305 copies (because, you know, they’re from the 305/Miami area code).

2.1) Also announced this week, but not quite as exciting: both Neutral Milk Hotelalbums are going to be reissued next month on vinyl. Yes, these two albums are noise-pop classics and they are indeed great; but they never went out of print on vinyl. However, these new versions are slated to be on 180g vinyl (Remastered? Don’t know.) so, you know, all that fuzziness and distortion can sound, uh, pristine.

New Releases:
Alice In Chains: Black Gives Way to Blue
Brand New: Daisy (180g w/download)
Tyondai Braxton: Central Market
Breakestra: Dusk Til Dawn
Brandi Carlile: Give Up the Ghost (180g)
Cymbals Eat Guitars: Why There Are Mountains
Damon & Naomi: 1001 Nights (LP + DVD)
Digital Leather: Warm Brother
Drivin N Cryin: Great American Bubble Factory (w/CD)
Frank Fairfield: Frank Fairfield
Karen O & the Kids: Where the Wild Things Are
Mark Knopfler: Get Lucky (Warner Bros, 180g 2LP)
Kowloon Walled City: Gambling on the Richter Scale (ltd. to 500, w/CD)
Kris Kristofferson: Closer to the Bone (New West, 180g)
No Friends: No Friends
Om: God Is Good
Panther: Entropy (Kill Rock Stars)
Phish: Joy (ATO, 180g 2LP)
Shaky Hands: Let It Die (Kill Rock Stars)
Teenage Bottlerocket: They Came from the Shadows
Thank You: Pathetic Magic 12-inch (Thrill Jockey)
Thorr’s Hammer: Dommedagsnatt
Yonder Mountain String Band: The Show

Reissues:
Amon Duul II: Phallus Dei
Dead Can Dance: Serpent’s Egg (180g)
Herbie Mann: At the Village Gate (Audio Fidelity, 180g)
The Octopus Project: Identification Parade, One Ten Hundred Thousand Million(Peek-A-Boo)
Simon & Garfunkel: Bridge Over Troubled Water (Sundazed, 180g)
Wilco: A.M. (180g w/CD)

First appeared at SeattleWeekly.com on Sep. 30, 2009.