Saturday, July 31, 2010

Little Brown
Haired Girl

Frankie Rose
& the Outs,

Drummer Frankie
(Vivian Girls,
Dum Dum Girls)
steps out on her
own for this en-
chanting debut. I
was tempted to re-
fer to it as a solo
effort, except that isn't fair to band mates Margot Bianca, Kate
Ryan, and Caroline Yes! (the exclamation mark is intentional).

The appearance of this release on Slumberland (Henry's Dress,
Aisler's Set) gives some indication as to the contents, i.e. away
from her other groups, Rose chooses the quiet over the loud.

There's a little feedback here and there, but she appears to be
looking more to acts like Opal and Mazzy Star than the Shangri-
Las and Blondie for inspiration (her MySpace Page cites Julee
Cruise, Spacemen 3, the Cocteau Twins, and the Cramps).

If she couldn't sing, her efforts might be in vain, but Rose,
who prefers a whisper to a shout, can hold her own with
Kristin Gundred, aka Dee Dee (the Dum Dum Girls), and
the other vocalists with whom she's associated, and the
Outs back her up with heavenly, choir-like harmonies.

Naturally, her drumming propels the music forward, but per-
cussion takes a backseat to songcraft, resulting in a CD that
sounds good at first listen, but gets better with each spin.

"Must Be Nice," an instrumental, is downright transcendent
in the way that it seems to make time expand. Sometimes
pop is about catchy choruses, sometimes it's about a feeling
or a sensation. When an artist really feels what they're play-
ing, it's hard not to get swept up in that sonic embrace.

That's what's happening here, and it's also why I was disappointed
at first by the lack of obvious hooks. Rose opts for subtlety over
statement, which makes her album more of an experience--and a
pleasant one at that--than just another series of hummable songs.

Click here for "Little Brown Haired Girls" and here for "Candy."

Endnote: Click here for an interview with Frankie Rose in
The New York Press
(I had no idea she was in Grass Widow)
and here for a live cover of Arthur Russell's "You Can Make
Me Feel Bad." For more information
, head on over here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

a Tree

Ty Segall,

Live your
life like
a tree.

-- quote
from CD

You can't always--and shouldn't always--judge an artist (or anyone, really) by the company they keep. Some people, as talented and charismatic as they may be, have lousy taste in friends. Or they may see something in them the rest of us can't.

In the case of Ty Segall, an associate of San Francisco's venerable
Thee Oh Sees
, I feared his work might not measure up to that of
John Dwyer, etc., who've been on a roll for a few years now (they
put on a great show, too), but his third record holds its own.

Naturally, a couple of Thee Oh Sees drop by to land a hand.
That's Dwyer playing the flute on "Caesar" and Jigmae Baer
drumming on "Mrs.," but Segall's otherwise on his own.

Granted, he isn't doing anything radically different here; he's
just doing it exceptionally well. Melted rocks as hard as any
death-metal opus, except the tunes are catchy in a glam-bub-
blegum way and his ax-work prioritizes the distortion of VU
over the speed of Slayer. Plus, Segall has a classic garage-
pop croon (the Cookie Monster has nothing to fear).

A sure-fire contender for record of the year.

Click here for my review of Thee Oh
Sees' Help and here for Sucks Blood.

Eastern Conference Champions,
Santa Fe
, Rockhampton Records

Other writers have cited Radiohead and Band of Horses,
but this Bucks County, PA-to-Los Angeles, CA trio marks
one of many to trod in footsteps left by Wilco before them.

Granted, singer Joshua Ostrander isn't imitating Jeff Tweedy,
except possibly on the whispery "12345," and his band mates,
Greg Lyons and Melissa Dougherty, might not be trying to emu-
late the Bellville band, but that's who they bring to mind in their
blend of folk-pop and feedback (Ostrander sounds even less like
Thom Yorke and Ben Bridwell). Overall: solid alt-country stuff.

Click here for "Bloody Bells" (M. Zero remix).

Tucker Jameson & the Hot Mugs, Does
It Make You Feel Good?, self-released

She's a gift I never owned.
-- "Better Off Alone"

Though no one uses the phrase anymore, Tucker Jameson
& the Hot Mugs
serve up what used to be called pub rock. It's
basically a modern take on the bar band sound--a little crunch,
a little soul--like the Greg Kihn Band in their Beserkley days.

The music is fine, but the lyrics can be off-putting. In "Char-
lotte," Jameson asks the title character not to "be a bitch." In
"Will She Love Me?" he wonders, "Will she love or screw me like
the last one?" When will these ladies leave the poor guy alone?

Click here for my review of Or Something in Between...

National Rifle, Vanity Press, self-released [8/31/10]

One of four EPs to materialize in recent years, Vanity Press pre-
sents five songs of sprightly pop-rock with subtle funk touches.
The National Rifle
comes close to new new wave, but they
aren't quite quirky enough to qualify. Still, the songs exhibit
a certain 1980s-style buoyancy, even if band members
Hugh, Jeremiah, Lynna, and Buddy made their earth-
ly debut on the cusp of that dayglo decade.

Click here for "She's a Waste."

Endnote: For more information about Eastern Con-
ference Champions
, please click here or here; for
the National Rifle
, here. Image From SF Weekly.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

A Variety of

Sleigh Bells,
T r e a t s
M u s i c

One of my favorite
records of the year
is also one of the
most unlikely. Der-
ek Miller's big-ass
Billy Squier beats
meet Alexis Kraus-
s's kittenish 4AD vocals to form a unique mélange of indie pop, dance music, and stadium rock.

The pounding on Treats is so loud I feared it might give me a
headache, but the songs are too cleverly constructed for that. The
way the Brooklyn duo strikes a balance between the hard and the
soft keeps me returning for more, rather than wearing me down.

Further, they aren't exactly a
one-trick pony. Miller knows
how to dial things down, just
as Krauss can shout as ex-
pertly as she can coo (on "Ri-
ot Rhythm," the cheerleaders
from the cover appear to join
in). On a certain social media site, I wrote that I "keep expect-
ing some heavy metal guy to start wailing. A fun fake-out of an al-
bum." Fortunately, that never happens, though rivet-heads might
find themselves inexorably drawn to the same sort of hipster in-
die rock they normally disdain (and vice versa). Treats could
not rock harder than it does without turning into, well, rock.

They must surely be the first outfit to extract the most distinctive
elements of Motörhead and the Cocteau Twins only to recombine
them into something genuinely cohesive. What could've been an
awkward high-concept stunt registers more as a minor miracle.

Time will tell if future efforts will seem quite so inspired, but for
now they've succeeded where numerous others have failed, from
the jungle-rock of Toto Coelo ("I Eat Cannibals") to the junk-funk
of Whale ("Hobo Humpin' Slobo Babe"). One-hit wonders both,
while Miller and Krauss can lay claim to 11 winning tracks.

Mobile Wash Unit, Tent, Astraea Records [7/13/10]

With appealing melodies and versatile instrumentation,
New York's Mobile Wash Unit create sparkling pop in
a variety of permutations: sometimes power-pop ("Septem-
ber Was Winter"), sometimes dance-pop ("Second Glance").

At first, they come on like a less late-night jazz-oriented
Clientele (singer Andy Snyder recalls the always under-
stated Alastair Maclean), but Tent heads off into more
of a Cut Copy direction as these 13 numbers unfurl.

Click here for "Second Glance."

Woven Bones, In and Out and Back Again, Hozac Records

Loud, bratty, and buried beneath layers of reverb, Austin's Wo-
ven Bones
return to the dimly lit garages of the 1960s. On In
and Out and Back Again
, they don't recreate the sounds of a
bygone era so much as they bring back the techniques (rudimen-
tal) and the attitude (primal). That doesn't mean they're making
music for primitive people, but rather for those weary of gloss.

In other words, they're fol-
lowing a path blazed by the
Cramps, the Honeymoon Kil-
, and the Gories before
them, but without the R&B
and B-movie flourishes (and
since they hail from Texas,
a nod to Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators on-
ly seems appropriate). In that sense, the trio may also appeal to
fans of fellow travelers like Thee Oh Sees and Times New Viking.

What they do may seem simple, but it takes skill to pull it off. Like
a minimalist filmmaker who edits out anything unessential while
still getting their story across, Andrew Burr, Matthew Nichols,
Colin Ryan, and Chef Pittman stick to the basics, because it's
all they need. In and Out and Back Again is a handy
antidote to the over-polished commercial sphere.

Click here for "I've Gotta Get," A-side to their up-
coming single on Hardly Art (releases on 8/10).

Endnote: For more information about Sleigh Bells,
please click here; for
Mobile Wash Unit, here. Wo-
ven Bones
play Seattle's Wildrose with Idle Times on
8/14. I
mages from Rickshaw (photo credit: Will Deitz,
), BBC - Newsbeat, and Weekly Tape Deck.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

July Reviews

These are
the reviews
and other
pieces I'm
working on
this month.

Amazon DVDs: The Maid, The Only Son/There Was a Fa-
ther - Two Films by Yasujiro Ozu: Criterion Collection
, Mys-
tery Train - Criterion Collection
(Jim Jarmusch directs

Nagase, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Joe Strummer,
etc.), Rush - Beyond the Lighted Stage [two-disc set], and
Cougar Town - The Complete First Season [3-disc set].

Amazon Theatricals:
Christopher Nolan's Inception (with
Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Ellen Page)
and Alain Resnais' Wild Grass (with Andre Dussollier).

Still playing (or yet to open): Alice in Wonderland, Diary
of a Wimpy Kid
, Exit Through the Gift Shop,
Get Low, The Ghost
The Kids Are All Right, Oceans, and Please Give.

Siffblog: Lèon Morin, Priest (from the magnificent Melville).

Still playing: Daddy Longlegs.

Video Librarian: Blood on the Fast Track - The Rise of the
Rat City Rollergirls
, Chickenfoot - Get Your Buzz On: Live, Da-
Cross - Bigger and Blackerer, Fiesta Cubana - Live from the
icana: Omara Portuondo & Band, Anjelah Johnson - That's
We Do It, Phyllis and Harold, Rain,
Blacking Up, Blast! [two-
disc set]
, For the Generations - Native Story & Performance, The
Grange Fair - An American Tradition
, October Country, P-Star
Ten9Eight, Crazy - The Hank Garland Story, The Liv-
ing Wake, Meredith Monk - Inner Voice, My Year Without
Cougar Town - The Complete First Season [three-
disc set]
, My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?,
Rush - Beyond the Lighted Stage [two-disc set],
Shop 'Til You Drop - The
Crisis of Consum-
, and A Song for Ourselves .

Endnote: Image from