Monday, February 22, 2010

String Cheese Incident

Originally a bunch of bluegrass-lovin' folk who stuck to playing at ski resorts and private events in their home state of Colorado, the String Cheese Incident have evolved since their formation in 1993 to something more than just a bunch of guys playing rootsy rock at your local pub; from reggae to trip-hop to jazz and psychedelia, there isn't anything these blokes are afraid to sink their claws into whether on a stage or in the studio.

Still, it wasn't until this 4th studio outing, 2003's Untying The Not, where their characterisic live show excellence and the eclectic eccentricity of studio experimentation came together into a full and satisfying whole. From the jangly alt-rock tinged opener "Wake Up" to the spacious, trip-hopping "Mountain Girl" to the Beatlesque "Who Am I?", you will most certainly be amazed at the journey this record offers.

Basically, a fantastic genre-jumping bluegrass album for adventurous listeners and the ideal introduction to SCI's body of work. Listen to "Mountain Girl" below if you need convincing!

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Warpaint is a female four piece LA band that is made up of a collection of the cities' typical arty type actresses and musicians. In fact, Shannon Sossamon (the 'A Knights Tale' babe) was the groups original drummer. That probably explains at least partly how they became fashionable among LA scenesters like Heath Ledger and, the one that prompted me to give them a listen, John Frusciante. In fact, he mixed their 2009 debut EP 'Exquisite Corpse' (which you can find below) and the result sounds not unlike an Ataxia session with Cat Power crooning over top. The songs are pretty but have muscle, droggy and yet grounded. The centerpiece of the release is a reinterpretation of the 1964 Robinson penned hit "My Guy", but when Warpaint sings "nothing you can say can take me away from my guy.." it sounds a lot more like they are enticing you to try than practicing true devotion. The result is a seductive, psychedelic jam to get lost in. Even if the whole outing isn't quite as memorable, there is a lot on the disc worth hearing. If nothing else, it sure makes me look forward to the LP dropping soon in 2010.

"Elephants", 2009

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Kevin Gilbert

One of the more interesting short-lived musicians from the 90's, Kevin Gilbert was a multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter and producer who collaborated with everyone from Michael Jackson to Madonna to his then-girlfriend Sheryl Crow. His real love, however, lied in creating theatrical yet attractive sounding music that blended his own American pop sensibilities with mid 70's Genesis, a combination of approaches which is rendered perfectly on his 1995 album Thud, a testament that would prove to be the only solo album he would ever do before his death in May of 1996 from autoerotic asphyxia at the age of 29. Sadder still, his body was discovered on the day he was scheduled to have an audition that could have landed him the position of becoming lead vocalist of Genesis, as Phil Collins quit the band earlier than year.

In any case, the music here covers a lot of ground, from the angular bluesy rock of 'Goodness Gracious' to the dusky jazz of 'Joytown' to the punk-opera-prog. centerpiece 'Shadow Self' without so much as a single snag or note out of place. Wry lyrical content and a unique, distinctive delivery also do Gilbert a lot more credit than he ever got during his life, and its a shame that we'll never know just how far he could have gone. If this work was of any indication, the sky certainly would have been no limit.

Links to buy and try are below, as well as a 'Shadow Self' stream to appetize the skeptical and impatient alike. Enjoy!

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Local Natives

Southern California's Local Natives debuted with 'Gorilla Manor' back in November of 2009, but interestingly enough only in the UK. The album won't drop in the US until February, almost four months later. It's my prediction that by the end of 2010 this will cause one of those fussy Rural Alberta Advantage-esque "do I put it on my best of the year list or not" type squabbles for many, but the fact remains that it will probably belong. Granted, the album is far from perfect, but for me its major flaw lies in often being too pleasant. The group liberally drowns many of their tunes in lush Fleet Foxes style vocal harmony, and occasionally it seems a cover for what may be a weak melody. Another complaint with the record and the group would have to be the percussion however. Often lingering in the back of the mix, that same drab beat graces most of the tracks here. Which is unfortunate only because the group plays some pretty uptempo indie rock songs. I mean, imagine what Justin Peroff (BSS) could have done here and you'll see what I mean.

What is truly great here however is to hear the lush harmony discussed above in practice over a straight ahead rocker, like "Sun Hands", and it is these moments that make the record one to treasure. Probably a great live act too. Check out 'Camera Talk', and the download link below.

'Camera Talk', 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

Giraffes? Giraffes!

Anyone who hold fascination with the intricately dizzying yet intellectually compelling compositions of Omar Rodriquez Lopez will find new a whole new cause for celebration in Giraffes? Giraffes! The band consists of Joseph Andreoli on guitar, and Kenneth Topham, who I will argue despite the groups anonymity to be one of the best damn percussionists in rock music today. This is math rock at its finest, where the only constant is that the time signature won't be. At times it feels as if these songs must have arose from glorious accidents, with each musician seemingly adrift within the piece despite the constant resolution. While many math rock bands step into the pitfall of being too smart however, GG shrug this off effortlessly with an endearing playfulness that invites you to get lost in their musical insanity. From their band name, to hilarious and epic song titles like "I Am S/H(im)e[r] As You Are Me And We Am I And I Are All Our Together: Our Collective Consciousness' Psychogenic Fugue", it's obvious how they feel about the overly pretentious.

The duo released their debut in '05 an extremely lo-fi affair that one would probably describe as "showing promise". Two years later 2007 brought us 'More Skin With Milk Mouth'. At 28 minutes it is a short, but extremely compelling listen. The energy never lets up, and the hooks and ideas just keep on firing. Check out the band site here, download links below, and check out the closer streaming.

"A Quick One While She's Away", 2007

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Friday, January 15, 2010


A little known bunch from Quebec who generally play at small venues and occasionally spacious clubs, Sense are a band that fall squarely into the progressive rock genre, but with a very high emphasis on vocal harmony (they sing in English) and crafting gorgeous, catchy arrangements that soar just as deliciously as your favorite Sigur Ros or Mew album.

This particular record,
Going Home, was released back in 2007 and has five tracks, three of which edge slightly past the 10 minute mark. To summarize, there's a lot of flute and insanely fluid guitar work eased in between a swamplike pounding bass that works even better when the synths come stabbing in like knives. Whether being aggressive or pastoral, these songs are simply fantastic!

Should appeal to fans of any kind of music really, even if prog. isn't your bag. Listen to 'Stone In The Sky' below, where the links to Amazon and mediafire are also. Enjoy!

Download Here.
Buy It Here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


There are lots of indie rock bands named after deer and wolves. And there are also a lot of folk bands named after wood (Woods) and birds (Bowerbirds, Andrew Bird). Some folk bands just do both, like Wooden Birds (who had a strong 2009 debut) and Woodpigeon. Woodpigeon is a Canadian group who debuted in 2008 with 'Songbook', and followed up in '09 with 'Treasury Library Canada'. The two albums were both reviewed well (by those who bothered too), but generated fairly little hype, surprisingly so.

You may remember back to 2001, when "New Slang" had everybody who had ever seen 'Garden State' describing every indie band regardless as "Kind of sounding like the Shins". I'm pretty sure someone even told me Modest Mouse kind of sounded like the Shins once. That said many of the comparisions were relevant, as 'Oh, Inverted World' spawned as many imitators as any album I can remember in recent history. What is interesting about Woodpigeon is how they deliver on everything all of those bands ever aspired to be. Simply put, poppy, softly sung, acoustic based chamber pop. 'Songbook' honestly sounds like the best album the Shins never made, and yet instead of jumping for joy, we seem to be pushing it to the side. Why? Possibly because Woodpigeon just make it sound so effortless. The melodies are so natural, the progressions all so plainly pleasantly simple, that maybe were just embarrassed that all of our afore-championed imitators managed to somehow fall flat.

'Treasury Library Canada' is also a strong outing, but below you'll find 'Songbook', I'd argue the better of the two. Admittedly, this album is not without its pitfalls; song titles like "Death By Ninja (a Love Song)" are cause for rolling eyes. But that said, if you like pretty, folky, chamber pop like the song below, this is some of the best being made. Check it out.

"Take The Hint Kid", 2008

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cat Power Record Rumors

So I recently saw the movie 'Powder Blue'. You know, the one where Jessica Biel plays the stripper.. Well, aside from that, the one truly redeeming quality about this movie is the use of a track from Cat Power's 2003 album 'You Are Free'. I implore you, turn down the lights, sip on an alcoholic beverage, close your eyes, and let "Werewolf" wash over you. (Listening to it soundtrack Jessica Biel stripping isn't bad either). There is nothing else in music quite like this, and its signature make-your-skin-crawl kind of bare bones subtlety is what has solidified 'You Are Free' as something of a modern classic. This is what makes rumors of a return to form Cat Power album in 2010 so exciting. After all, Chan Marshall hasn't played guitar on a record in 7 years, and I for one yearn for the post rock style pained atmospherics of her pre-adult contemporary musings.

As good as 'You Are Free' is, when digging into the Cat Power catalogue for me it all comes back to 1998's 'Moon Pix'. This was her first truly realized record, and was recorded with members of the Dirty Three on drums and bass. This in combination with Marshall's pained guitar notes makes for what souds like a post rock album with her soulful moaning gracing the affair. Indie myth claims she wrote the whole thing in one night amidst a fit of insomnia. Oh yes, and she's drop dead gorgeous. Check out "Werewolf", and download links for 'Moon Pix' below.

"Werewolf", 2003

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(Due to the soundtrack theme and the inclusion of a song title 'Werewolf', I can't help but bring up that the 'Twilight New Moon' soundtrack is actually rather good. The old favorites all pitch decent tracks, and a couple of the lesser knowns will surprise you. Worth checking out.)