Monthly Archives: February 2010


What do you get when you cross indie sensibility with a bunch of band members who were obviously Tricky listeners in his early years? Phantogram.

Mixing their indie sensibility with an eye towards electronica, Phantogram has produced its first full-length album under this moniker, Eyelid Movies. And just like eyelid movies, this album is dark in places, light in others–a polyphonic surprise.

The first few songs have an energy reminiscent of Metric and you’ll even hear a Stereolab influence on “Let Me Go.” There’s a lot to like here. Definitely the most exciting album of the week, one I scalped from my Lala friend Lake Superior, whom you should connect to on Lala if you haven’t already. He’s from Madison, too, and though I don’t know who he is, I’m impressed by the expanse of his musical interests and taste.

Phantogram, “Mouthful of Diamonds”

Posted in Random Noise | 7 Comments

Under Construction: Facebook/Google Login

There’s an issue with the Facebook login.  If you’re logged in, you’re fine.  But if you log out, you won’t be able to get back in.  I’m working on it.  Will delete this post when it’s fixed.

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New Music Tuesday (another ode to Lala)

So it’s (late) Wednesday, and I realized only yesterday that Noise Narcs needs some sort of New Music Tuesday posts.

Every Tuesday, we who lust after music flock to sites like to listen to new releases. Sure, real music lusters have heard most or all of many new releases far before their release dates, but since Lala has made it so easy to listen to music without cheating, I like to honor musicians and bands by waiting (in most cases) until their official release dates to listen to full albums. The beauty of Lala, also, is that it posts new releases by category, making it absurdly easy to glide through a genre, listening to a dozen or more new albums during a workday.

Here are just a few of the albums I listened to on 2.23.10:

A-Trak: Infinity + 1
K-os: Yes!
Holly Miranda: The Magician’s Private Library
Bomb the Bass: Boy Girl
Johnny Cash: American VI: Ain’t No Grave

(There’s also Steve Reich’s Phases, which I am embarrassed to say I forgot to listen to in my K-os and A-Trak excitement.)

Not all of which were good, mind you. In fact, coming down from New Music Tuesday is often like sliding off a sugar or coffee high. First, you are frantically firing all synapses trying to find the time to listen to everything in the electronica and indie rock categories, but by the end of the day, you are left with a few good tracks or—if you are lucky—one great album.

This week, Holly Miranda’s The Magician’s Private Library stands out for what it could have been had Miranda not overly channeled Chan Marshall (one of my favorite songwriters, but a woman who should never, ever, be allowed on stage in front of an audience who has paid to hear her play live): a gorgeous, ethereal, lyrically-driven album. Unfortunately, the Catpower influence is so strong that it distracts more than charms.

K-os’ album Yes! is another decent entry into the mindful hip-hop genre.

Bomb the Bass’ “Boy Girl (FM Radio Gods Remix)” is a moody entry into the electro deep, and I’m not posting it here lest I get punished by David for its length.

I think it’s A-Trak’s Infinity + 1 that is the heavy hitter this week, although it is a mix album and only contains two remixes of A-Trak’s own (coincidentally not my favorite on the album). A-Trak was a turntable superstar by the age of 18 (an influence you can hear in the turntablism you can hear on his tracks), but he’s perhaps better known for being Kanye West’s touring dj. He’s put together a bouncy little number here (I’m having visions of David and his purse hopping like a kangaroo–um, I mean, dancing gracefully–around the dance floor, or perhaps that is David holding the purse I’ve made him hold for me while I use the powder room).

So here’s a track from Infinity + 1, a song I’ve been digging for a while, Little Boots’ “Stuck on Repeat (Fake Blood Remix).”

A-Trak, “Stuck on Repeat (Fake Blood remix)”

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I said of laughter, It is mad; and of mirth, What doeth it?

The album cover is a reference to Tarkovsky's 1966 masterpiece, Andrei Rublev.

Though the days are growing longer, we are not done with winter yet.  Around this time of year, some among us get restless, they pace and cry out for violent spring like wild things when they’re bound.  Not me.  At least not recently.  Instead, my seasonally-affected mind starts thinking gentle, apocalyptic thoughts.  Not like a zombie apocalypse or a global flood (well…occasionally like a zombie apocalypse), but like the slow, inevitable quietus of universal entropy.

The album that lately has been suiting my late-winter mood is Midlake’s recently released The Courage of Others.  If the book of Ecclesiastes had a soundtrack, this would be it.

I’d never heard of these guys until about a month ago (unlike Jason Lee, who apparently took such a shine to them that he directed this weird video starring his baby’s mama, Beth Reisgraf, for a song from their second album) but the five former jazz students from the University of North Texas that form Midlake have already gone through several musical phases: from Herbie Hancock-inspired fusion to something like a less rocking, less experimental version of the Flaming Lips, to finally what they are on this album.  It’s undoubtedly my favorite incarnation, a sort of 1970s-sounding folk-psych that reminds me of The Byrds but way better.

They’ll be making a stop in Philadelphia to play a show at the TLA on April 10 before heading to Europe. But by then it will be Spring.

Midlake, “Acts of Man”

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Wild Beasts, Thurs, 2/25, Philly

Wild Beasts, 2/25, Johnny Brenda's, Philadelphia, PA

What to drink:
Victory Hop Devil (on cask)

Since I got a little purchase happy the last time I purchased R5 tickets, I’ve got a lot of shows I’m slated to go to in the next few months*. And since I love talking about the cool nerdy things I do, everyone would enjoy people wouldn’t hate if I wrote about them, if for no other reason than to revisit non-new music and brag about how great, cheap, and full of tasty beers Philly’s show scene is.

I know I’ve blabbered to people about Wild Beasts before, I’ve ranked it my favorite album of 2009, and that some of you can’t stand them, but I’m going to keep flogging this dead beast until it pulls a load.

Wild Beasts are from Kendall, England, and produce a sound that’s hard to explain: Disco-ish loops? Indie guitar rock? Theatrical vocals? For the top ten list, I described it as “Queer-forward rawk with mesmerizing live loop-like guitar and singing that flips from sweet to hard, constantly whispering bitterness and beauty.” These descriptions aren’t adequate, and I love how tongue tied I am. This is music bursting at its seams. I know many of you are put off by the countertenor, but fight through it, this is music worth letting grow on you. Like dancing barnacles.

“All The King’s Men” is from their sophomoric Two Dancers.

Wild Beasts, “All The Kings Men”

And for the already convinced, a bonus video of “Sylvia, A Melodrama,” a B-side from 2007: (after the jump)

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They Found a Cure for Pain

If only Mark Sandman had lived* to see the most recent advancements in neuroscience:

Prof. Zhou-Feng Chen and his colleagues here at Washington University have engineered mice so that they lack the gene for a peptide associated with the anterior cingulate gyrus. Like the animals given brain lesions, these mice are normally sensitive to heat and mechanical pain, but they do not avoid situations where they experience such pain.

Given the similarity among all mammals’ neural systems, it is likely that scientists could genetically engineer pigs and cows in the same way. Because the sensory dimension of the animals’ pain would be preserved, they would still be able to recognize and avoid, when possible, situations where they might be bruised or otherwise injured.

[Adam Shriver, “Not Grass-Fed, but at Least Pain-Free”, New York Times, 2/18/2010]

Jesus. Enough to make me want to ramp up my BS weekday flexitarianism into something more meaningful. But if factory farming is here to stay (it is), would ignoring this be any better than denying a pained animal opiates? Ugh. Not time to throw the drugs away quite yet, so here’s some Morphine for palliation:

Morphine, “Cure for Pain”

*Apparently, his heart attack may have been related to his being stabbed in the heart while working as a cabbie twenty years before his death. Who knew?

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Minute Music: Rox

Just had to share this song, no description, no bio, no nonsense. Just pure neo-soul radness. Amy Winehouse who?

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Vile Dog: Philly Rock from East and West

A great dual headline show just popped up on the Philly radar: Kurt Vile and Dr. Dog, 3/2, Rotunda. Penn students only, but I’m hoping to duck in on the heels of the one I’m shacked up with.

Kurt Vile has been a mainstay of Philly’s freakfolk/noise scene for a Philly minute. Although I’m most in love with his work as guitarist in The War on Drugs (who, despite having one of the worst names outside of Dramatic Oil Company, had one of my favorite albums of 2008 in Wagonwheel Blues), his solo tracks are pretty fantastic. His sound is very much attached to the whole northeastern Port Fishington neighborhoods: lots of distortion and PBR, a new Philadelphia fitfully emerging from one of its historically troubled but proud spots. “Space Forklift” is from his 2008 (pre-Matador signing) Constant Hitmaker. He worked a forklift for Philly Brewing Company, so next time you’re drinking a Kenzinger, think how much better it’d be if it had been brewed in space.

Kurt Vile, “Space Forklift”

Dr. Dog are about to release their sixth album of Beatles-esque pop. And they couldn’t be more West Philly: rough city meets Penn, anarchy meets boho, and everybody hanging out on Victorian porches. “Shadow People” dropped via Stereogum last week, and even though I’m a little iffy on the track, Shame, Shame is still one of my most anticipated albums of 2010. Plus, their guitarist taught me how to open beer bottles with blunt instruments, so Matt and Cyd, we’d’ve been screwed at Miller Park without them. And to please those of you who don’t hate Australians, I’m also including their fantastic cover of Architecture in Helsinki’s “Heart It Races.”

Dr. Dog, “Shadow People”
Dr. Dog, “Heart It Races” (Architecture in Helsinki cover)

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Close to the city/And far from its clamor

Two months ago, Slate‘s Fred Kaplan released his “Best Jazz Albums of 2009,” and number three on the list was Jim Hall and Bill Frisell’s 2008 release, Hemispheres.  It’s two discs worth of thought-provoking yet non-disruptive jazz by two of the genre’s most innovating guitarists.  The second disc features a rhythm section consisting of Joey Baron on drums and Scott Colley on bass, but the first disc puts the legendary Hall and his former student Frisell alone in a room together.  The result is ten highly improvisatory tracks that run the gamut from “safe at home” to “lost in e-space.”  Each bears repeat listening and close attention but also functions well as background music for performing thinking tasks.

Listen, if you please, to the way Hall and Frisell transform Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” into something that does not protest, that reminds me less of Dylan’s angry, vengeful lyrics (And I hope that you die/And your death’ll come soon/I will follow your casket/In the pale afternoon) than of the stoic verses of “The Chess Players” by Ricardo Reis:

Houses were burning, walls were torn down
And coffers plundered;
Women were raped and propped against
The crumbling walls;
Children, pierced by spears, were so much
Blood in the streets…
But the two chess players stayed where they were
Close to the city
And far from its clamor, and kept on playing
Their game of chess.

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Ice Cold – Groovy!

In honor of Snowpacalypse/Snowmageddon/Snowapalooza, here are two drastically different songs about blizzards.

Nada Surf – Blizzard of ’77
Trini Lopez – The Blizzard Song

Posted in Random Noise | 8 Comments