Mikal Cronin – Change

Strangely enough, it’s not that often that I leave the Pitchfork Festival with a new act that I really want to explore. It either usually takes a while to go back and check something out (Art Brut and The Thermals are good examples of this), or I’ve done my homework beforehand and I head to the festival with new favorite acts that I really want to see, like Foxygen and Parquet Courts this year. But there wasn’t a whole lot going on Friday, and we stuck around the Blue stage to see Mikal Cronin, and his set was really good.

For some reason I’m turned off by one name acts (as in, just the dude’s name, and not a band name), with some exceptions. It sounds too singer songwriter-y to me, and I have this aversion to singer songwriters (again, with exceptions). This is true even though I know that most “bands” are basically one person and whoever that person can get to tour with them. But whatever category Mikal Cronin falls into, the music is pretty good, and the album is worth checking out.

The The – Uncertain Smile

For the longest time I would get this song in my head and not know who it was that sung it. This may have been in the primitive days of the internet, but I seem to finally remember getting this song in my head at work one day and doing a search on the lyrics and finding out it was a band I already liked. Pretty sure I owned ‘Dusk’ by that point, because I always loved Dogs of Lust, and I was pretty happy when I found out this was a The The song. I think I always thought it was Lloyd Cole for some reason, though in my defense, Matt Johnson’s vocal style isn’t all that different from Lloyd Cole.

Anyway, that day I picked up their singles collection, which is really good and recommended if you want to get into some classic The The. Unfortunately, the version of this song on that collection is not that version, and they have some flute parts in place of the staircase guitars following the chorus, which you’ll hear at about the 1:30 part. I can’t hear this song without hearing that guitar part in my head, and it always vexes me a bit when I hear the other version. A rare somewhat favorite band that I’ve never seen live.

Melody’s Echo Chamber – Crystallized

Melody’s Echo Chamber is the project of Frenchwoman Melody Prochet. She was in a band called My Bee’s Garden, which opened for Tame Impala somewhere along the line. She got together with Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, who helped her rework her own sound and produced her first album. The first four tracks on the album are really the winners, and this is my favorite of the bunch.

I hear a lot of different things going on here. Stereolab/Ivy are obvious comps because of her French accent, and of course it’s easy to say that this is Tame Impala with a female singer, but I don’t think that’s all that accurate or fair (admittedly, the bass line here kind of seems lifted from Tame Impala’s Runway Houses City Clouds). There’s a bit of Krauty/Motorik feel in parts of the album, and there’s sort of a 60’s pastiche that’s reminiscent of Broadcast, though I realize it’s not all that surprising that an act that gets compared to Stereolab would also get compared to Broadcast. There’s also a bit a shoegaze feel to much of the album, and quite frankly I don’t know that I’d associate Broadcast with shoegaze, but your mileage may vary. Anyway, I think this was probably one of my favorite songs of 2012.

No Age-C’mon Stimmung

This is a very Zombie Rotten Mac song. Can’t link so I will e-mail him about it. The simple directness of this, along with the driving hookiness, that it isn’t too trebly, that it comes across as an amazing song by some random high school band, or maybe the opening band on a 5 band bill that you have no expectations for are what make me love it the best. Many people do have a lot of expectations for the new No Age, and these guys definitely have it, or at least I think they do, and I am not trying to belittle them with how this post comes across. This is a song that has a lot of stylistic antecedents, but comes across as completely fresh and effectless. Super good.

Cayucas – Cayucos

Coming Attractions yet again. These guys will be playing at Schuba’s tomorrow night, which is essentially a flip wedge (golf term) from my apartment.

This is basically a synthesis of every California surf pop/rock act of the last forty years, but dang if it’s not catchy. Formerly called Oregon Bike Trails, this band is the brainchiled of Zach Yudin. His twin brother plays bass. The album is out on Secretly Canadian, which also used to put out Foreign Born albums when they existed, and man, am I bummed that they’re not really a band anymore, but I digress.

If you like this song, or find it sufficiently non-threatening, you’ll probably like the rest of the album. Biggest interesting data point tomorrow will be the set length. The album is about 30 minutes long, and I don’t know what else they have aside from the 10 or so album tracks, so it may be an early night.

Ultra Vivid Scene – Special One

For some reason I had always thought this song came out when I was in college, but I’m seeing an album release date of 1989, with the single released in 1990. It got to #14 on the U.S. modern rock charts. This song disappeared from me for a long time until I finally ran across the album ‘Joy: 1967-1990’ at a used record store somewhere, probably Lou’s Records on Pacific Coast Highway in Encinitas.

Ultra Vivid Scene was basically Kurt Ralske, and from his Wikipedia page, I get the impression that he was more an artist who dabbled in a number of things, including music. The background vocals you hear are indeed Kim Deal, formerly of the Pixies, and probably futurely of the Pixies as well.

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Stick Figures in Love

Somehow I missed the bus on Pavement. Cut Your Hair was a big hit, which is to say it got played on Alternative Nation all the time when I was in college, but for some reason I never really got into Pavement even though I loved that song. I can only assume it was a combination of irregular airplay on KROQ, limited financial resources, and the lack of the technology to download or listen to stuff for free (aside from the radio), so I had to pick and choose what I actually wanted to listen to, and they never made the cut. Now they strike as one of those bands that I’ll have to work my way into slowly. This always happens when a band has a big back catalog. It’s too much to do at once. I’m working through that process with Superchunk right now.

Somehow about a year ago Range Life got stuck in my head, so I started listening to some Pavement, which made me want to check out Malkmus’ solo material (or whatever you call his stuff with the Jicks), and as it turns out, I really like the last album, Mirror Traffic. It’s got four or five really good songs, including the first two singles, Tigers and Senator. This one is my favorite, and while I think the studio version has a better mix for the lead guitar, I like that the KCRW version is sped up a little bit. The guy has a definite knack for hooks, and it’s always that third, sometimes fourth hook in the combination that really gets me, and this songs kicks them off right from the get go.

Spoon – Black Like Me

First, a quick congratulations to PP on post #400 last week.

So last week’s “Week of Shows” culminated in a festival set from Divine Fits at the Taste of Randolph Festival on Friday night, which actually sounded really good. Briefly ran into Britt Daniel roaming the festival area about a half hour before the show. But now that the “Week of Shows” has come to end, with only little in the way of coming attractions to preview, I’ll open this week with a discussion question: Can we all just agree that this is Spoon’s best song? Feel free to discuss in the comments.

Savages-She Will

Second in my post about Master’s Theses of indie rock influence and sound amalgamation. I don’t want to knock critical fave Savages, because they clearly have a tuneful yet ferocious approach, but no matter how excellent the song (and this live take on “She Will” is definitely compelling), it has a “created in a lab” feel that I just can’t shake. Peter Hook bass (but also early U2), New Order beat shuffled through dance punk, driving chiming guitars- Chameleons UK, Felt, and I am sure a bunch of others. Vocals are Siouxsie Sioux with a dash of Sinead and slight affectation like Sonya from Echobelly, and Karen Finley if anyone remembers the remix of Sinead’s “Jump in the River”. Drums are almost “Hollywood Nights” by Bob Seger when the drummer is just riding it in the beginning, and then she starts killing them. I love all of these sounds but only when the song is at its most driving does all the seams melt away and then I can just go with it. I love a lot of retro sounds, but I’m on the fence here because it can come across as prefabricated.

Smith Westerns-Varsity

I am going to begin a series here that was inspired by Seitz’s link to Parquet Court’s “Stoned and Starving” in his post on their songs “Master of My Craft” and “Borrowed Time”. The theme is great songs that have more than a whiff of indie rock Master’s Thesis about them. Songs whose sound is more than a little derivative and possibly extremely derivative or otherwise a very obvious Frankenstein of influences. This song is the most subtle about its influences in the series, and I think that this song most transcends the amalgamation of sounds. This is a laconic, loping track that I would easily put in the ear noodle category. It is hard to say where the hook is and the first few times you listen, the song is elusive in that it goes about its way without being obvious about its twists and turns. It is a romantic, wistful tune that has a sort of opaque delivery. Something about the pace says OMD to me, but not nearly as overtly emotional as that, and instead almost a barbiturate-laced Elephant 6 vocal, some Cure guitar at points, but it flits and flutters away. Seitz has posted about Smith Westerns previously, and I think this song is phenomenal, so it is unanimous around here about these guys.

Japandroids – Younger Us

So I’m a day late with this one. Japandroids played the Metro last night, and as you’d probably expect, they’re a really good live band. They sort of remind me of Titus Andronicus in that there are a lot of call and response points and “oh-oh-ohs” in songs that really get the crowd into it. I also get the sense that if you want to see these guys with just the two person set-up, you should probably do it soon. More popularity and more resources will probably lead to them wanting a fuller sound and they’ll go the Black Keys route and add a bass and rhythm guitar at some point, but that’s just a guess.

If you’ve listened to any indie rock on the last year, you’ve almost certainly heard the House that Heaven Built and the Nights of Wine and Roses (if you haven’t, you should do so now), so I’m posting the track that is my friend’s favorite song from the album, and over time has become one of my favorites as well. They opened for the Walkmen a couple years ago, which was a rare miss for me, but I already had tickets for Guided By Voices that night, and I hadn’t seen them before. Life is full of tough choices.

Veronica Falls-If You Still Want Me

Indie of an older school charm in many ways, a girl/guy pairing (think Delgados, earlier Camera Obscura, but give it a more insistent tempo) to tug on your teenage or otherwise thoughts tangling with words that make you wonder if you should feel bad. For some the question might be a luxury “if you could have me, would you still want me” but for others they might accept such a bad bargain. “If You Still Want Me” is from Veronica Falls second full length Waiting for Something to Happen. This is a very Slumberland Records sound, and I am not pigeonholing this sound or this label, but the quality and feel remind me of a number of bands on this label, but the feeling most of all is for The Pains of Being Pure at Heart self-titled album, in that I like almost all the songs, it has a driving, ringing, melodic feel, and is directly emotional in a wistful, youthful way, but that is also musically nostalgic. Definitely recommend the entire album.

CHVRCHES – The Mother We Share

Tonight begins the week+ of shows, where I have a concert to go to pretty much every night but Sunday. So yep, another Coming Attractions post. CHVRCHES will be playing sold out shows at Lincoln Hall on Monday and Tuesday. I’ll be at the Monday show.

CHVRCHES are a synthpop band from Glasgow that apparently generated quite a buzz at SXSW this year (or last year, or whenthehellever it was). Enough that this song was played fairly repeatedly on XMU at roughly the time I was home in California for about two months (where my parents’ cars had satellite radio), which meant I heard this song until it was seared in my brain and I couldn’t get it out. They’ve only got a few singles, b-sides, other releases, etc. (including a live cover of Prince’s I Would Die For You, which they’ll probably play next week). Still, despite not having an album, they’ll be playing in front a lot of sold out crowds in the coming weeks.

I don’t really have much to say about this song other than that I like it a lot, and as the blog proprietor knows, I’m a sucker for bands with cute female lead singers. This isn’t the type of show I would normally go see, but it’s at a great venue, and I get the sense that with this amount of buzz, they won’t be playing venues the size of Lincoln Hall very long. Kind of like when I got dragged to a Mumford and Sons show at LH a few years ago, a couple months before they’d be playing the Riviera, which is 5x the size of LH. So, notch on the belt, I guess.

Eleanor Friedberger – Stare at the Sun and When I Knew (live)

Yesterday was one of my most anticipated days of the year, as it marked the release of the new Eleanor Friedberger album, Personal Record. Her first album, Last Summer, was one of my favorite albums of 2011, and in her live shows supporting that album, she previewed some of the material that would make up the new one, including the two songs posted today. This is, yet again, a coming attractions post. Eleanor will be at the Empty Bottle this Friday, June 7th.

Eleanor’s solo work is irresistibly catchy. It’s basically the poppy songs that the Fiery Furnaces used to produce without all of the weird Matthew Friedberger stuff. She co-wrote most of this album with John Wesley Harding. These are probably the two catchiest songs on the album.

I’ve liked the Fiery Furnaces for a long time, but I went totally into the tank for Eleanor when I saw them in June of 2010 at the Empty Bottle. My brother had flown in that morning from Anchorage for the Angels series at Wrigley Field, and he came to the show with me that night. The Fiery Furnaces hit the stage and played for an hour straight. And I mean straight, as in no breaks, not to say thank you, not to retune, not for applause. It was an hour long medley of about 25 different FF songs, with all of the crazy key and time signature changes that entails, and they didn’t miss a note. It was incredibly impressive. After playing a three song encore, the crowd began clearing out. By the time we made it to the door (which couldn’t have been more than 30 or 45 seconds) Eleanor was already sitting at the merch table. She was really sweet to talk to, and she complimented me on my Super Furry Animals t-shirt. It’s nice to listen to someone make really good music and also know that she’s a really cool person.

Below is the song that was my favorite “new” song from her live shows last year, When I Knew.

Crocodiles – Sleep Forever

I was pretty excited to learn that these guys are opening for Japandroids a week from tomorrow, as I already have a ticket for that show, and I love when the opener turns out to be a band I like more than the headliner (not that I don’t like Japandroids). I’ve seen Crocodiles a couple times and their live shows are pretty good. Brandon Welchez seems like a good guy as well. We chatted over a couple beers the last time they played Schuba’s.

Crocodiles fall into the current genre of bands that basically devoured every Spacemen 3, Jesus and Mary Chain, Ride, etc. album from the ’80s and ’90s. Despite taking their name from what is probably Echo and the Bunnymen’s second best album, their sound is pretty unmistakably shoegaze, but with pretty straightforward melodies, and tracks that don’t make you wait too long for the payoff. This song is the title track to their second album. They released their third, Endless Flowers, last year and a fourth is reportedly on the way in the next couple months.

Their first album, Summer of Hate, ends with a song that could have come right off a number of different Spacemen 3 collections. It actually sounds quite a bit like Take Me To the Other Side (probably my favorite Spacemen 3 song). I actually find that kind of great, since I once saw Brandon’s wife’s old band, the unfortunately named Grand Ole Party, open for Spiritualized. He’s married to Dee Dee of Dum Dum Girls, so she’s found a little more success since then.

Randy Newman – I Love L.A.

You will have to forgive me this (probably) one time indulgence. I was born in Southern California. I lived there for 25 years. Despite spending the most recent third of my life in the Midwest, the blood coursing through my veins is that of an Angeleno. Nearly 12 years in Chicago has done nothing to change that. This became all the more relevant on Wednesday night, when the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Detroit Red Wings, setting up a Western Conference Finals between the local Blackhawks (for whom my feelings vary between loathe and indifferent), and my Los Angeles Kings, a team I have loved since I was old enough to remember going to hockey games. The series begins tomorrow. Gonna be a fun two weeks!

The Kings play a snippet of this song after every goal, which is why I’ve chosen it. I still remember when this song came out. It was in the lead-up to the 1984 Olypmics in Los Angeles, and everyone was convinced that L.A. needed an official song, so Quincy Jones and some other people wrote a song for Frank Sinatra that would sound like New York, New York, or Chicago, My Kind of Town, or whatever. It really fell flat and no one liked it (at least that’s how I choose to remember it). But Randy Newman’s song, warts and all, really captured the L.A. aesthetic at the time, and resonated with the local populace. It was the like the music version of the era’s Showtime Lakers. It’s been a staple (no pun intended) at Kings and Lakers games ever since. It’s cheesy, but somehow this song always makes me feel connected to Los Angeles.

Go Kings!

War On Drugs-Baby Missiles

Slacker.fm has been loading these guys up on one of my stations, and every time they come on pop out of my office cave and check the spacelab computer that is blaring music for who the artist is, and it has been War On Drugs for three different tracks. This is just a driving driving driving song. A little bit of a Bruce feel without sounding like the Boss, and it is funny there is a slight Kurt Vile here, and this is his band, except he’s not on this album because he’s been doing his solo stuff for awhile. These guys are hard to explain- Tom Petty sound collage with reverb or psychedelic freeway rock pop. This is from their last album, 2011’s Slave Ambient. Live versions brings out the Dylan-isms (also the harmonica). Focus on the sound of the band and if he’s too much live, the vocals are better balanced

Bad Veins – Gold and Warm

This would be another in the Coming Attractions series, as I just completed a purchase of tickets to see them on June 20th at a small venue down the street from me called Beat Kitchen. I’ve seen them once before when they opened for the Joy Formidable at a larger venue, and I just missed them one other time when they opened for the now defunct The Subjects a couple years ago. In my own defense, I missed them because the Angels were playing the Red Sox in the playoffs and I wanted to see as much of the Angels game as possible before leaving.

I was encouraged to get into these guys by the music writer for Chicagoist, Jim “Tankboy” Kopeny, with whose brother I attended law school. Their hook, aside from catchy melodies, is the third member of their band, Irene, a large reel to reel player. Lead singer Benjamin Davis also will occasionally sing into an old telephone, which produces a really cool sound in a live setting.

This song is from their self titled first album, which was released in 2009. They subsequently released an EP (Outliers). Their follow up album, The Mess We’ve Made, was released last year. It’s a little more slickly produced than the first album, maybe a little more poppy, but still shows the songwriting craft they displayed on the debut. Gold and Warm is my favorite song off of the first album.

TEEN – Better

TEEN is the project of Kristina Lieberson who was in Here We Go Magic, a band on my radar forever. I think I even have an album of theirs, but was never really able to buy in, but that’s probably my own fault. TEEN is opening for Eleanor Friedberger on her upcoming tour, and she’s one of those artists for whom I have so much respect that I’ll check out the opener because I can’t imagine her choosing a band I wouldn’t want to listen to.

I like this album a fair amount, and I really like this song, but I have to agree with the Pitchfork review to a certain extent. This is an album filled with a bunch of really great three minute songs. The problem is that they’re all five to six minutes long. Some better production and editing on that end could have made a big difference.

They have a new EP out called Carolina, which you can stream at Stereogum probably for a few more days before it’s a officially released. I haven’t been able to spend much time with it yet, but the first song (the title track) is really great, and I think it’s got a real Cocteau Twins sound to it.

Parquet Courts – Master of My Craft & Borrowed Time

These two songs flow into one another so well, that I really didn’t feel like I could post only one. Like Foxygen, this is a band I’d heard a lot of about, but didn’t bother to listen to until they were listed on what appeared to be a lackluster Pitchfork Festival lineup. I’ve been listening to this album about three times a day for the last couple weeks.

I hear Television, Jonathan Richman, Art Brut, Guided By Voices, and hell, probably a few other things on this album as well. As other reviewers have noted, they bring a stoner aesthetic, but you can tell that these guys actually really do care about about what they’re committing to a recording. I’d suggest checking out what is probably their most buzz-worthy track, Stoned and Starving. It’s five minutes of genius on an album where it seems like half the songs fail to break the two minute mark. Really can’t wait to see these guys live.