Mar 28, 2010

Moving to!

The great Blogocide of 2010 has struck too many great folks out there to ignore the Sword of Damocles swinging ominously above my head. I don't blame Blogger; they have to protect their own interests against (frivolous) DMCA complaints. Once the (frivolous) complaints started mounting against my site, I decided to move. It is an act of pure self-preservation: I like doing this and I want to continue writing about music. I have spent the past week figuring out how to make Wordpress bend to my will. I have tried on more themes and configurations than I care to recount. But I'm happy with the design. The shark on fire is gone, but his spirit lives on.

No Genre Music's new home is now at

Please update your bookmarks accordingly.

Additionally, I have set up a new email account for submissions. If you want me to listen to anything of yours, please send it to

Mar 25, 2010

NEW Wolf Parade LP

Exclaim is reporting that a new Wolf Parade should expected on June 29 on Sub Pop. What's even more exciting is that the band recorded 15 songs and over 80 minutes of music. Dan Boeckner is on record as saying that the band would consider an LP plus EP set of releases or . . . wait for it . . . a double album. The album was recorded live (with "zero" overdubs) and consists of "a few songs that are really, really intensely keyboard-heavy" and some songs that are "heavy '80s coke rock." Considering that the band promised a prog-rock spectacle with At Mount Zoomer, we should probably take his word for it on this one. The band also expects to release a 7'' single ahead of the new album. And if you needed more good news from the camp, Boeckner also said that he and wife Alexei Perry are going to be writing songs for the next Handsome Furs record tentatively planned for next spring.

Check out a defining performance of "I'll Believe in Anything" from CMJ in 2005:

Mar 24, 2010

Swimming in Strawberry Yogurt

Blithe Field "Ghost Riding the Whip"
Blithe Field "Bible School"

Some albums are musical Advil to me. Literally. I listen to them when I feel a headache brewing behind my eyes. The best headache defense albums are ones that push a fair amount of repetition but introduce enough modulation to keep things interesting. The repetition helps me relax, while the modulation gives me something to focus on. My two go-to albums are Brightblack Morning Light's eponymous debut and The Books' The Lemon of Pink. Blithe Field's latest album, Beautiful Wave '74, is now among that rarefied bunch, an album that relaxes and focuses me enough to fend off a gray after-work headache.

Blithe Field is Ohio's own Spencer Radcliffe, who, incidentally, is friends with the one-man show behind Foxes in Fiction. Spencer's latest album, Beautiful Wave '74, employs a simple formula: buttress a simple organic melody with spoken word samples and found sounds. The album is simple without being childlike, reserved without being restrained. The two songs I've posted here ("Bible School" and "Ghost Riding the Whip") give you a glance of the range on the album. The cool beat that drives "Bible School" is belied by mid-song monologue about rectangles and straight lines by a British guy (who sounds remarkably like Martin Amis). Meanwhile, the gorgeously hypnotic "Ghost Riding the Whip" never sounds as busy as all the blips and tocks that actually make up the song.

I'm kind of excited to leave a frustrating workday of meetings and bureaucracy with a headache bubbling in my gray matter. Blithe Field's Beautiful Wave '74 is going to be right there with the antidote.

You can check out Blithe Field here and here, where you can purchase a copy of the new album.

Mar 23, 2010

Teenage Fanclub

Here's a fact that few are willing to remember or acknowledge: back in 1991, when Spin was a reputable publication, the magazine named Teenage Fanclub's Bandwagonesque the best album of the year. It's important to remember that 1991 also saw Nevermind and Out of Time and Efil4zaggin and Gish and De La Soul is Dead and Ten and and Trompe Le Monde and The Low End Theory and Girlfriend and 2Pacalypse Now. All in all, a year that inexplicably saw Teenage Fanclub come out on top. Then again, you'd have to be one stingy bastard to deny that "Ain't That Enough" is a thoroughly charming song.

I'd always figured that they stopped releasing albums after the wonderful Songs from Northern Britain. But on June 8th, Merge will be releasing a new album, Shadows, by the band. On the heels of Alex Chilton's death, it's nice to see some Big Star acolytes carrying the torch.

Check out the first single here.

Forced to Love // All to All

I apologize for the absence. My real job has been monopolizing my time and energy and general life will for the past week. Also, I've been working on some BIG changes for No Genre Music. I'll announce them, you know, whenever.

In the meantime, scope out a pair of excellent new tracks from Broken Social Scene's forthcoming Forgiveness Rock Record. First up is your standard issue Kevin Drew love song, "Forced to Love." It's loud and brash and passionate. It's just another really good BSS song. But then there's "All to All," a lovely tune helmed by Lisa Lobsinger of Reverie Sound Reverie. The song is an engaging disco-flecked number that lilts and postures in ways that we haven't heard in a very long time from BSS. Stream/Download (for a fee) both right here.

Mar 15, 2010

Aepreantly Knauwt

mp3: RXRY "Aepreantly Knauwt"

With "Aepreantly Knauwt," the latest RXRY track, the balance between the organic thump of the bass and the metallic shivers of a machine is so tenuous that you're afraid to listen too closely. The whispy threads of song linger in that liminal state between consciousness and unconsciousness; it's careful only to reveal as much as it needs to for you to register its presence.

Mar 13, 2010


mp3: Pill Wonder "Gone to the Market"

Jungle/Surf, the new album from Pill Wonder, clocks in at a little over 18 minutes. While the record has the running time of an EP, it certainly has the arc of a conventional length album. The record is anchored by the deeply catchy "Gone to the Market" and "Wishing Whale." These are the most conventionally structured songs with (more or less) proper verses and choruses, but that doesn't prevent Will Murdoch, the man behind Pill Wonder, from toying around with lo-fi production tricks that give the album a rough but warm feeling. Throughout the album, the band weaves in ambient sounds: the cacophony of a jungle opens "What We Know," the clatter and hum of a grocery store appropriately closes out the wonderful "Gone to the Market." The record, then, is more jungle than surf. Thickets of fuzzy sound vine their way around the album. The wonderfully dense "Family Vacation" manages to not choke out all the sun from the song, which is a trick repeated throughout the record.

Jungle/Surf is out now from Underwater Peoples. Buy it here or here.

Rating: 7/10

Mar 12, 2010


Cults "Go Outside"

I tried to ignore Cults. Their charmingly lo-fi jpeg of a couple spastically dancing has been popping up everywhere for the last week or two. In my ignorance, I gave "Go Outside" 30 seconds of my time, dismissed them, and then moved onto something else. But this morning I gave up and listened to their free EP closely. A friend of mine called it "tidy," and that's really a perfect descriptor: the three songs are about as neat and unfussy as Ikea furniture. Snap a copy here.

Shake Some Action

A bunch of great blogs (i.e. Weekly Tape Deck, Transparent Blog, Indie Verse, Yours Truly, Friendship Bracelet, and Underwater Peoples) are pooling their resources to bring some lucky folks at SXSW a ridiculous slew of terrific bands over the course of 3 days. To celebrate (promote) the event, they're collectively giving away an excellent two volume mixtape that features all the acts and their most representative work. Many of bands have received some form of attention right here at No Genre, including RXRY, Pill Wonder, Coasting, Truman Peyote, Twin Sister, and His Clancyness. There are also some folks that I've been meaning to write about for some time: Pure Ecstasy, Million Young, Eternal Summers.

The most exciting aspect of all of this is that Thursday will mark the public premiere of RXRY, the mysterious artist who has been soundtracking the slow winter thaw around here.

Scope out some mp3 highlights:

mp3: Mantles "Trust"
mp3: Truman Peyote "Magentadoor II"
mp3: Eternal Summers "Safe at Home"
mp3: Pure Ecstasy "Easy"

Grab Vol 1 and Vol 2 here and here, respectively.

Mar 11, 2010

Kissing the Beehive

In a rather surprising move, Wolf Parade's epic prog-rock exercise "Kissing the Beehive" finally gets the video treatment. Treatment is the operative word here: the video features only a few actual minutes of music from the 11 minute monolith. Instead, we get a frustrated Carey Mercer, the lunatic/frontman of the Frog Eyes, moping on a beach surfboard in hand. When the music finally arrives, we watch a man in a wetsuit whip the ocean until the scene abruptly cuts to night. A coven of prawn people congregate on the beach, kidnap Carey Mercer, and, presumably, sacrifice him, his blood squirting dramatically across his surfboard. Seriously:

The video was directed by Matt Moroz and Tracy Maurice, the pair behind both the modestly tragic "Shine a Light" and the operatically tragic "I'll Believe in Anything."

There are rumors swirling that Wolf Parade will be announcing a new album sometime soon. This seems likely because a) the band have a short European tour starting in May and b) Spencer Krug has gone over a month now without releasing anything.


In a world were hype can anoint kings and queens over the course of an afternoon, it was nice to see some restraint from the blogs over Here We Go Magic. Most everyone seemed to understand that Luke Temple's newest project was still in its nascent state. Last year's self-titled debut wasn't a great album, but it had plenty of terrific moments, particularly "Tunnelvision" and "Fangela." Here's hoping, thought, that they deliver on the promises of their debut with their new album, Pigeons, which sees its release on Secretly Canadian on June 8th. You can grab a free mp3 in exchange for your email. Barter here.

Mar 10, 2010

Fo Yo Sorrow

Normally when an artist records a video for a song from an unreleased album, that's a clear signal that said unreleased album is actually being, you know, released. While the song leaked sometime last September, the fact that a video now exists has got to mean something, right?

Along with the excellent "Shine Blockas" and the superb "Royal Flush," "Fo Yo Sorrow" is just another brick in the assuredly mighty wall that will be Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty.

Suburban Dogs posted a video of New Jersey's Real Estate playing the sad "Suburban Dogs" in a New Jersey real estate office. The footage is cut with nostalgic, hazy 35mm footage of suburban life. Check it out below:

Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain

Pavement's Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain has my favorite opening to any album: a bass and a lead guitar argue while a drum kit tries to mediate. After the three have hashed it out, they start to work together to introduce what is probably my favorite song in Pavement's catalog, "Silence Kit." By the time Stephen Malkmus enters the mix, exactly one minute into the album, the song has exploded like a wild cannon shot. What follows is an anthemic take on Buddy Holly's "Everday" that ends with Malkmus jerking off backstage after a show. In a sliver over three minutes, Pavement make an open and shut case for themselves as one of the most inventive rock bands of the 90s (second only maybe to Radiohead).

From the pathologically catchy "Cut Your Hair" to the heart-on-sleeve earnestness of "Gold Soundz" to the brazen choices of "Filmore Jive," the next 39 minutes after "Silence Kit" offer the best of the band. The album is frequently talked about as if it was Pavement's conscious attempt to gain fame. Whether or not Pavement were this calculated when writing and recording the album, I'm not sure I care to speculate. What I do care about is how this album fits into Pavement's career. Crooked Rain is the most quintessentially Pavement album they ever made. They sound like a bunch of confidently intelligent, relaxed products of suburban California. They sound like themselves.

Like Slanted and Enchanted, Crooked Rain is boatloads of fun. "Unfair" is an ecstatic tour of California via its water rights issues. Malkmus doesn't pull punches: "You film hack, I don't use your pay." "5-4 = Unity" is a playful send-up of David Brubeck's seminal "Take Five." But unlike their full length debut, the band wasn't afraid to scrape the distortion off their guitars to make some direct statements. The spiritual center of the album is "Range Life." The song is a surprisingly personal take on band life and indie cred: "After the glow, the scene, the stage, the set/Talk becomes slow but there's one thing I'll never forget/Hey, you gotta pay your dues before you pay the rent." At this point in their careers, Pavement shouldn't have had to worry about paying their dues, but they clearly understood the fickle nature of the beast. And Malkmus sounds a little bitter about it: "If I could settle down, then I would settle down." But instead of bitching and moaning about being in a great band, he turns song's attention elsewhere. He's a teenager again, winding his way through the empty suburban streets on his skateboard. The lyrics are the most genuinely poetic thing Malkmus has ever written: "Out on my skateboard, the night is just hummin'/The gum smacks are the pulse I'll follow if my Walkman fades/But I've got absolutely no one, no one but myself to blame." Lines as poignant as that lose their luster under the microscope of interpretation.

When I got my turntable a while back, I started to make a list of albums that I wanted to own on vinyl (and to keep me on track in my local record stores). The only criteria for inclusion on the list was that the record had to be an album that I usually listened to from front to back. Crooked Rain was one of the first two or three records that made it on the list.

Plastic Beach

Do you realize how fucking great a Gorillaz greatest hits record would be? The thing would be practically unstoppable: "Clint Eastwood," "DARE," "Feel Good Inc," "Dirty Harry," "Slow Country," "Tomorrow Comes Today," "19-2000," among about a dozen others. Gorillaz has always been more of a great singles band than album-oriented outfit. That being said, Plastic Beach is their most consistent album that will, nonetheless, add quite a few more highlights to this imagined greatest hits package.

Each Gorillaz album has a dual highlight: the funky go-getter dressed in flashy t-shirt and neon kicks and the sad-sack downer wearing yesterday's pajamas. On their self-titled debut, this couple was "Clint Eastwood" and "Slow Country," respectively. The pair is readily identifiable on Plastic Beach: "Superfast Jellyfish" is the album's best rave-up, while the exquisite "Rhinestone Cowboys" plays to the surprising strength of Albarn's deadpan 2-D act.

As a whole the album balances these exuberant highs and the slouching lows. After a surprisingly slow start (two introductions to the album plus a prelude to the third song!), the album takes off with "White Flag" when MCs Kano and Bashy trade rhymes over a funky flute driven beat provided by the Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music. The one-two punch of "Stylo" and "Superfast Jellyfish" employ surprising guests (Bobby Womack, De La Soul, Gruff Rhys) to great effect. On the softer side, Little Dragon gives Albarn a hand with "Empire Ants" and "To Binge" to create a pair of watery dreams. Later, Lou Reed lends his trademark talk-singing to the terrific "Some Kind of Nature," a song that sounds more upbeat than the lyrics suggest. Albarn assumes solo control over "On Melancholy Hill" and "Broken," the former of which is one of the strongest tracks on the album. Late on Plastic Beach, Bobby Womack returns for the forlorn "Cloud of Unknowing." The song finds him standing on the beach at night, staring at the lonely satellites swinging in their orbits.

While the album is a near perfect 50/50 split between the upbeat and the ponderous numbers, the sequencing is a bit off. The band has stacked the deck in favor of the first half of the album; the second half lags a bit due to the number of soggy down-tempo songs. Taken on their own, however, some of these moments (particularly "Cloud of Unknowing" and "To Binge") reward patient listeners.

Thematically, the album concerns the degeneration of the environment. For Gorillaz, though, the ruthless exploitation of our planet isn't just an inconvenient truth; it's a terrific metaphor for postmodern artistry. The way that far-flung detritus ends up on a beach in the middle of the ocean is evidence of chaos theory's cruel logic. The metaphor suggests that culture is really just an ocean of unmoored trash, washing up on far shores, waiting to be reused and recycled. And from the beginning, hasn't this been Gorillaz's modus operandi?

Rating: 7.5/10

Mar 9, 2010

Wallys and Pringles

mp3: Raekwon "Wallys and Pringles"

Raekwon's newest freestyle bonanza, the terrifically titled "Wallys and Pringles," is over almost before it begins. A frantic bongo beat (courtesy of The Alchemist) keeps the Chef on his toes, but he isn't fazed at all. He's in great form, bragging about how he's got two machetes in his mouth. Rae's right: he is fresher than Ron O'Neal.

Raekwon's latest project, a collaboration with Ghostface Killah and Method Man, Wu Massacre, is scheduled to arrive on March 30. I have it on good authority that this thing is fucking dope.

Zola Jesus

mp3: Zola Jesus "Night"

All happy goth girls resemble one another; every unhappy goth girl is unhappy in her own way.

The spunky goth girls are really in it for the fashion or the attention or the drugs. At some point, usually before moving off to college, they let their brown roots reclaim their matte black dye jobs. But the genuinely sullen goth girls are uniquely upset because they spend their time at home listening to The Swans or Diamanda Galas. They each have a distinct reason why Kate Bush or Ian Curtis or, if they're really scary, Boyd Rice has spoken to them.

For Madison's Zola Jesus, 19-year-old Nika Roza Danilova, it had everything to do with doubt and anxiety. She had to give up opera training because of her crippling misgivings about herself. Thankfully she's found another outlet because Zola Jesus' newest EP, Stridulum, is a jet black diamond of a record. Opener "Night" is a thumping piece of dark romance: "The night when I can be with you." It's clear after "Night" that Danilova has shed the noisy goth of her previous album, The Spoils. Stridulum is as polished as obsidian: the thwak of the drum machines is cold and brutal, the chilly synth tones sound like a bitter wind. The EP reaches its highlight with "Manifest Destiny." It's only here that Danilova really shows off her incredible pipes. Amid grating noise and controlled feedback, she worries that since she doesn't have a reason to go home she has to be with her lover. When the chorus breaks free of the gloomy industrial thrum of the verses, Danilova's husky voice soars. As the stunning conclusion to Stridulum, "Manifest Destiny" hopefully points the way out of the cheerless nagging of personal doubt for Danilova.

Stridulum is available now on Sacred Bones Records.


According to the press release accompanying Liars' Sisterworld, the album creates "a space [...] somewhere remote from the false promises and discarded dreams amassed in LA. In it Liars explore the underground support systems created to deal with loss of self to society."

Sound familiar? That's basically the plot of David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, which tells the story (I think) of a woman who willfully creates a supplemental persona to deal with the guilt and frustration that dictates the remains of her shattered life. I don't know that Sisterworld has as neat of a narrative structure. Then again, Liars are no strangers to narratives conceits: They Were Wrong, So We Drowned was about witches on Walpurgisnacht, and Drum's Not Dead was about negotiating the twin monsters of fear (Mt Heart Attack) and confidence (Drum).

I bring up Lynch because I approach both artists in much the same way. My investment in their work is not conditional: I don't need to be able to account for every image or sound to feel engaged and involved and, ultimately, moved. Honestly, I'm usually more interested in figuring out what, exactly, it is in their art that elicits reactions that range, literally, from anxiety to nausea.

As with Lynch, the atmospherics do most of the heavy lifting. The white noise and industrial drone that accompanies much of their music (at least everything since They Threw Us...) carve out a cavernous space that accommodates any spooky sound they can imagine. Liars is a band that understands the power of frequencies. Their albums sound so monolithic because the bass is deeply palpable and Angus Andrew's falsetto is convincingly strong. And the mid-range stuff that bridges these two extremes isn't just filler: these are the tones and textures that are the public face of Liars' superabundant weirdness. The range of sounds that they can create as a band is stunning: from the brutal "Plaster Casts of Everything" to the hellscape of "Let's Not Wrestle, Mt. Heart Attack," from the urgent punk flare of "Mr. You're On Fire Mr." to the unabashedly beautiful "The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack." And it's these sounds that provide a soundtrack to Andrew's interest in things that are truly terrifying: malevolent spirits, lost identity, unmotivated violence, crippling fear, uncontrollable ego, forests at night, post-industrial Los Angeles, claustrophobia, agoraphobia.

Sisterworld, the band's fifth album, continues the tradition of radical reinvention that has dictated the band's narrative for a decade now. The album isn't as exhilarating as They Threw Us, nor as abrasive as Drum's Not Dead. Sisterworld sheds a lot of the biker rock posturing that dominated their eponymous forth album in favor of a creepier, more expansive aesthetic. The record requires a fair amount of a patience to get through the first couple of times. Frankly, it's lugubrious in places, but those moments are a necessary antithesis to the towering infernos of hysteric noise that rise up suddenly in almost every song. The self-released "Scissor" opens the album and sets the basic template for most of the album: a ponderous murder ballad accompanied by the gentle piano and strings cracks open to reveal a molten core of caveman rage.

Thematically, Sisterworld draws heavily from the mood of They Were Wrong. Both albums are concerned with hysteria, and there's plenty unaccountable panic seething below the surface of the album. And when that panic breaks the surface tension of the song, Liars are capable of evoking profound violence. On 'Scarecrow On a Killer Slant," a gale force guitar riff blows in after a frightening bridge: "We should take the creeps out at night/Drag them incomplete by their ears/We should nail their thoughts to the wall/Stand them in the street with a gun/And then kill them all!" The violence of the music when coupled with the brutish lyrics makes for a potent combination that threatens to peel the paint off your walls. Liars unleashes similar musical firestorms throughout the record. The martial pomp of "Goodnight Everything" sounds like nothing less than the horn flourishes that will greet the ascent of the Antichrist. And the closing minutes of "I Still Can See an Outside World" rage with the intensity of an industrial fire. And while you wait for even more explosive crescendo, they suddenly pull back, which is more unnerving than watching the band burn down the whole structure of their composition. But this what makes Liars such an effective band: they overwhelm you with noisy pyrotechnics before abandoning you, alone, anxiously awaiting the next strike.

A couple of years ago, I heard "It Fit When I was a Kid" at a party. It was wrong. When the context of the song is removed (especially its preceding downer "Drum Gets a Glimpse"), a lot of its power is drained; it just sounds like weird noise. Liars make music that refuses to be relegated to the background. Their albums demand your attention. Sisterworld is no exception. This is 42 minutes of punishing, demanding music that gets deeper and weirder with each listen. Listening to the album endlessly for a few days has been pretty taxing. I don't think music this creepy, this brutal is meant to be lived with in that way. I won't always be in the mood to listen to it, but I'm not always in the mood to watch David Lynch either. That shouldn't detract from the raw power of the album because the best records are the ones that almost force you to stare unblinking into their depths.

Rating: 8/10

Buy it here or here.

Mar 8, 2010


mp3: Sambassadeur "Days"

Eighteen seconds before the song is scheduled to end, the soulful drum rolls and piano lines fall away, leaving only the strings of a chamber pop orchestra. Anna Perrson sings in English with her lilting Swedish accent: "I don't care how it happened/Always have time for an old friend/I just have to know that you're coming back again." It's a surprising coda to a song that has been building to the big finish for the previous two minutes. Traditionally, this thing should end with a massive swell of strings and cymbals crashes and drum rolls. Instead, we left hanging in a moment that is, surprisingly, not unsatisfying. All those geniuses in Gothenburg are just running up the score on our meager indie pop scene.

"Stick to My Side" Remix

mp3: Pantha du Prince "Stick to My Side" (Four Tet Remix)

In advance of the 12'' single for Pantha du Prince's collaboration with Noah Lennox, "Stick to My Side," (out March 23rd) Rough Trade is now offering the b-side Four Tet's remix of the song. The re-imagining doesn't radically transform the song, but it does replace the chiming rhythm of the original with some full synth lines and a four-on-the-floor bass line. I think this version works a little better for Lennox's voice than the original, although that one has started to grow on me a little more.

Slanted & Enchanted

By January 1992, Nirvana's Nevermind had replaced Michael Jackson's Dangerous on top of the Billboard charts. We marveled earlier this year when Vampire Weekend's Contra topped the charts. With all due respect to VW's accomplishment, their showing is not a surprise at all. Contra is a great record full of songs that dote on you like an eager puppy, but Nevermind, on the other hand, is full of drop-tuned guitars and post-adolescent belly-aching. Yes, at the heart of Nevermind beats the heart of a pop record, but that heart is floating in piss and vinegar. In 1992, a huge segment of the record buying public decided that they wanted to own Nevermind, enough people to oust Michael Fucking Jackson!

With that in mind, it's easy to say that Pavement's debut, Slanted & Enchanted, was born into a friendly world of credibility-hungry fans. Of course, that's not the case at all: S & E has sold all of about 150,000 copies compared to Nevermind's obscene 25 million plus copies. But the Nirvana/Pavement dichotomy is essential to understanding American rock in the 90s. Nirvana proved that a punk band could sell-out and still maintain their credibility. Kurt Cobain was being pathologically modest when he called Nirvana a 90s version of Cheap Trick or The Knack, but its worth remembering that DGC was David Geffen's personal record label. But Pavement proved that building indie cred didn't have to be such a humorless process. You could be punk without having to subscribe to the scene's absurd rules about authenticity. And now, almost two decades (!) after the fact, Nevermind sounds more like a cultural document while S & E still sounds like a radical musical document.

From the magnificent "Summer Babe" to the crusty "No Life Singed Her" to the quietly thoughtful "Here," S & E is an album made by a few college boys who weren't principled enough to be punks. They seemed to prefer weed to speed, talking sports to talking shop. And these guys weren't afraid to make a record that sounded like hanging out with your friends. The album sounds like this because it was made by guys hanging out together in a studio. And more than Nevermind or any other seminal rock record of the 90s, S & E is a lot of fun to listen to because it was probably a lot of fun to make. Malkmus laughs at his own lyrics in "Summer Babe" just as he's setting up the epic and glorious finale. The explosion of goblin gibberish at the end of "Chesley's Little Wrists" is still hilarious. And it's amazing to me that Malkmus holds it together when he sings about "crotch mavens" on the stately and beautiful "Here."

While Malkmus and Co. are careful not to be too self-serious about their music, they frequently transcend the goofiness of the lyrics or the rust of the production to make something grand that feels both intensely personal and sweepingly universal. Take "Loretta's Scars," for example. The song begins modestly enough, but soon the bass chords come barreling in and the rest of the music just rockets out of the studio, gaining thrust and momentum until the song is a few miles high. Likewise, the masterful "In the Mouth a Desert" see-saws back and forth between the bassy verses and the shimmering choruses, and Malkmus' voice gets more passionate as the song proceeds.

I don't think it's insignificant that I still listen to S & E on a regular basis. I don't put it on to take a trip down memory lane; it's just a part of my normal listening habits. "Conduit for Sale!" still raises my blood-pressure, and "Two States" still makes me smile. Despite the fact that I've probably listened to it hundreds of times, "Summer Babe" still feels as liberating and anthemic as it did when I first heard it 15 or 16 years ago.

Matador has reissued Pavement's studio catalog on vinyl for the low low price of $10, which you can purchase right here.

Tomorrow, I will look at Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain as part of Pavement Week here at No Genre.

Mar 7, 2010

Quarantine the Past

Unfortunately, it's only a matter of time before the word slacker gets rediscovered. The word was a inspired bit of armchair sociology that was ultimately undermined by its own weaknesses as a classification. Slacker was never a convincing condemnation because slack was a virtue, a quasi-political statement of intent. Slack was never about work ethic; it was always about motivation. A slacker was an underachiever only in the sense that achieving had been defined by such narrow parameters. Superchunk got it right the first time: "I'm working, but I'm not working for you, slack motherfucker!" And Pavement were the quintessential slack motherfuckers.

This year sees the unlikely reunion of Pavement, which prompted Matador to release something of a greatest hits package, Quarantine the Past, for the band. This begs the question: who is the greatest hits album for these days? Who needs to be introduced to a band's career by means of such an antiquated method? The internet has made the quaint greatest hits package superfluous: you can download a band's entire catalog in minutes. I have a hard time imagining that this record will introduce that many kids to Pavement. I mean, most kids have cooler/dorkier older brothers or access to the internet (which is essentially the same thing). But if it does, then I think Quarantine the Past is a nearly perfect Cliff's Notes to Pavement. You get the most immediate classics in their catalog: "Summer Babe," Gold Soundz," "Shady Lane," "Cut Your Hair." But the album throws some nice curveballs your way: the noisy racket of "Mellow Jazz Docent," the punk workout of "Debris Slide." Every era of Pavement's career is covered and documented, from their bratty, smart-alecky early days ("Two States") to the elegant and earnest late years ("Spit on a Stranger").

The center of the 23-song retrospective is a three song set that define Pavement's core sound: "Grounded," "Summer Babe (Winter Version)," and "Range Life." "Grounded" showcases a band who have made layers of distorted guitars sound elegant and sophisticated. But whereas "Grounded" is tight and controlled (mainly due to West's whip-cracking drum work), "Range Life" is a shaggy dog story with a great hook. The song is most famous for its final verse in which Malkmus cracks on the Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots (a joke that has not aged well), but it's the impressionistic middle verse that holds all the song's charm. But the exact center of the record is "Summer Babe," the song that better than any other one encapsulates what Pavement could do with a couple of guitars, a bass, and a drum kit. The song is a towering masterpiece: every element of Pavement's sound for the next decade was present on "Summer Babe": the rusty guitars, the clever bass, Malkmus' nasal voice moving between lazy and impassioned at the drop of a hat.

When you're dealing with a band of this caliber, it's difficult not to demand a more nuanced look back. For the life of me, I can't figure out why "Silence Kit" or "Major Leagues" or "Kennel District" or "Strings of Nashville" or their awesome cover of Echo and the Bunnymen's "The Killing Moon" were left off. I could lose a few songs on the record: "Fight this Generation," "Embassy Row," or "Heaven is a Truck." Matador plays is relatively safe with Quarantine the Past, but anyone intrigued by the record will be shocked at the amount of material uncovered by the excellent deluxe reissues of the past decade. It's hard to fault Matador for the tracklist because it wasn't designed with the obsessive fan in mind. This is an entry-level record for entry-level fans.

When the tracklist for Quarantine the Past was revealed back in January, I could have reviewed it right then and there. These songs are that ingrained into me, that essential to my musical development. And if pressed, I would be inclined to say that Pavement is my favorite band of all time. They aren't the most talented band, nor as they the most important band. But with maybe two or three exceptions, there just isn't another band that I listen to as much now as I did when I was 15 years old, back I when I was a slack little motherfucker myself.

You can purchase Quarantine the Past here or here.

Rating: 10/10

The Splendour

The generous guys over at Weekly Tape Deck hooked me up with Pantha du Prince's newest 12'' single, The Splendour. The song, like most of them on the excellent Black Noise, is an icy sheet of minimal techno. The song features Tyler Pope, the bassist for !!! and LCD Soundsystem. The b-sides, "Water Falls" and "Sach Mal Baum," could have fit nicely on Black Noise. "Water Falls" relies on a crisp 2-step beat and low bass tones to cast its spell. And "Sach Mal Baum" trades in asymmetrical clinks of cubed glass to give the song character.

You can purchase the 12'' single here at Insound. Or, take a listen before forfeiting your 8 dollars:

Mar 6, 2010


mp3: Lingering Last Drops "Light"

The unfortunate reality is that Trent Reznor's legacy will not be built on the bands that he inspired. Far too often, bands equate NIN with brutality of warring machines and forget the quiet dread that Reznor can conjure in his quietest moments. But imagine if a band out there learned the right lesson. Imagine if they learned how create atmospheric music that was both unnervingly rhythmic and unsettingly intimate.

Lingering Last Drops from Sao Paulo have clearly taken some cues from NIN while refusing to employ the machinery of Reznor's solipsistic rage. On a digital 7'' out now on Ampeater, LLD create some deeply menacing music without raising a single voice above a whisper. "Love Shadow Syndrome" sounds like the putrefaction that accompanies disease and death. The woozy synths swell like a fever, and the guitar riffs sound like they're decaying in your ears. But it's "Light" that shows off the best of the band. A lone snare drum snaps as if played by a quiet maniac. The voice, again, is nothing but a whisper. It sounds shell-shocked, fragmented, drifting as if it has lost its center. The final minutes are incredibly unnerving: a piano falls down a flight of stairs one step at a time while a cloud of digital insects swarm the mix. The intimate horror of "Light" rounds out a nightmarish release from someone who has been listening very closely.

You can download LLD's 2009 self-titled debut from the netlabel Sinewave.

Foxes in Fiction

mp3: "Jimi Beachball"
mp3: "Please Note"

Back in my day, kids were lazy. I was lazy, my friends were lazy, all my cousins by the dozens were lazy. We didn't do shit. We have few accomplishments to our name: we memorized nearly every line of dialogue from The Simpsons' first ten or twelve seasons, we made both the Boomers and Gen Yers hate us, we got obscenely educated at the cost of near life-long debt.

But, goddam, these kids these days record albums in their bedrooms, throw them up for free on the internet, and then develop a small following over the course of a single weekend. Both Hooray! and Spirit Spine have released work this year good enough to guilt me severely about my wasted youth. Warren Hildebrand, the man behind Foxes in Fiction, is another in a line of them this year that have been flooding my inbox with their admirable work. Foxes in Fiction have released a 19 song album for free (grab it here). The album is filled with dreamy songs that barely coalesce enough to call them songs. The albums borrows heavily from Atlas Sound. But instead of simply aping Bradford Cox's sound, FiF use found sound and cut-up methods a la The Books. The combination is striking and original. Cop the poppy "Jimi Beachball" and the fragmented dream of "Please Note" above.

Mar 4, 2010

The Drums - "Best Friend" video

The Drums' Summertime was my favorite extended play of 2009, and "Best Friend" was my favorite song on the record. The song's directness is arresting: "You we're my best friend but then you died." At first I thought it was a joke, but the earnest chorus of grievous moans and wails dispels any snickering. Evidently, this is the first single from an upcoming album that I cannot wait for.

[mp3] Give Up the Ghost

Snag a copy of the mp3 for Thom Yorke's newest beauty, "Give Up the Ghost." Thanks to these hard working folks here.

mp3: Thom Yorke "Give Up the Ghost"

Mar 3, 2010

Mr. By & By

mp3: How to Dress Well "Mr. By & By"

The awesome Brooklyn/Köln duo that make up How to Dress Well emailed me a new song this morning. "Mr. By & By" is the first song from what is presumably a (great) forthcoming EP. The song is much more structured than a lot of the fuzzed-out R&B that we've seen from the band. But listening to How to Dress Well is still like listening to Jodeci from the bottom of a swimming pool.

If you're new to the How to Dress Well situation, check out just one of their many miniature masterpieces:

mp3: How to Dress Well "My Body"

Mar 2, 2010

Golden Age

mp3: Beat Radio "Golden Age"

Beat Radio claim to be influenced by Buffalo Tom's appearance on My So Called Life. This is more accurate than anything I could possibly come up with on my own. They sound as painfully earnest as Buffalo Tom. Or My So Called Life for that matter. Brian Sendrowitz, leader of Beat Radio, has said that "Golden Age" is a song about ambition: "This song is about laying it all on the line and expecting everything in return." This kind of bracing honesty can be a little awkward in the age of multidimensional irony, but when you write a song as moving as "Golden Age" you've earned something of a pass. The song is part of a larger singles project by the band. I hope that the band's ambitions pay dividends for Sendrowitz and company.

You can download their newest 4 track album at their bandcamp site.

Special thanks to Jheri, whose taste is terrifyingly consistent, over at Get Off the Coast for the heads up.


mp3: Hooray! "Daydreamm"

Ben Wagner is Hooray!, although he appears to be thinking about becoming Daydreamm. At this point, I don't care what he calls himself because I can't get enough of his musical amuse-bouche. A couple of days ago, he was kind enough to send "Daydreamm," the lead song from a promised EP. The song seems to be over even before it begins properly. But it is practically epic by compared with Hooray!'s work on previous EPs (Winter Break and I'm Only Human). In spite of its length, the song is packed with great ideas: the watery sample, the somber drum beat, the plinking synth line, Wagner's heavily treated voice barely registering in the mix. I'm really excited to see where this guy goes next.

Please go show this guy some love at his myspace, where you can hear a narco-cover of Modest Mouse's "World at Large."