lost vinyl gem: david bazan “the poison makes”

July 21st, 2009

david bazan David Bazan by Adrian Bischoff

I don’t think I was the only Pedro the Lion fan that was a bit disappointed with Achilles Heel. There are some good songs on it (“Start Without Me” for instance), but it just didn’t seem to fit together right to me.

And then there was the problem with “The Posion”. The album version is fine, but it’s just a song. On the otherhand, I’d heard the 7″ version that Bazan had put out on Ben Gibbard’s Bedside Recordings label. To make a bold claim, that version was not just a song. For a man that makes his name writing depressing songs, this may be among the best: a heart-wrenching song of a woman leaving the narrator because of his problems with alcohol.

David Bazan – the Poison Makes (mp3)

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The Bedside Recordings 7″ sold out long ago, so I don’t think it’s available anywhere, but if you know, leave a link in the comments.

lost gem: P:ano’s When It’s Dark and It’s Summer

May 26th, 2009

Even if your tastes match really well, the hit rate for a friend’s ‘hey, check out this band/ mp3′ is never particularly good; it may be ‘yeah, that’s pretty good.’ And the ‘holy crap, this is incredible!’ hits are even rarer.

When my friend introduced me to P:ano via a Salon article[1], the latter was certainly my reaction. Out of Vancouver, BC, P:ano was two bedroom recordists, Nick Krgovich and Larissa Loyva, playing all manner of instruments to make up a delicate, beautifully orchestrated chamber pop sound.

“All of November, Most of October” was the song that my friend introduced me to. From the ringing sounds and bells at the beginning, one doesn’t immediately know what to make of it, but once the lilting fingerpicked guitar and voice come in, I, at least, was pretty sold. The beautiful cello and violin later in the song just heighten the experience.

For a second song to highlight, I didn’t know what pick. They’re all so good. There’s the sprawling, seven and a half minute “Billions and Billions” that almost approaches post-rock. There’s the slowly developing rainy-summer-night-in-a-song of “Be Flat”. There’s the simple and great piano+drums of “Tut Tut” that oddly but brilliantly borrows from Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back”.

But in the end, I wanted to pick the song that made me thing of posting about this band: “C’est Hi”. Glacially slow, it feels like sitting in a rocking chair and chatting with a friend while cars rush past in the distance. You feel like it could be faster, but you don’t really car–I like this speed.

P:ano – All of November, Most of October (mp3)

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P:ano – C’est Hi (mp3)

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I’ve listened to P:ano’s subsequent releases and while there’s some good stuff on them, none of them approach the consistent and brilliant debut. When It’s Dark And It’s Summer is available from Amazon.

[1] This was written, incidentally, by someone who later was a fellow DJ at KZSU. Small world.

and…you’re welcome: pennsylvania dutch stand up comedy (lost vinyl gem)

April 20th, 2009

The other day my friend sent me an email that made my day. It was an mp3 he’d ripped from a 7″ in the collection of his grandfather, who had lived in SE Pennsylvania. It was Pennsylvania Dutch stand up comedy. It was so weird and wonderful that I had a grin for hours.

Here it is. Like I said, you’re welcome.

Prof. (Herman E.) Schnitzel – Schussel Along with Schnitzel (mp3)

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This blog has more about Prof. Schnitzel. Believe it or not, Schussel along with Schnitzel is available for purchase.

lost vinyl gem (christmas time edition): Pedro the Lion’s “Long Way Around the Sea” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”

December 18th, 2008


David Bazan at Jovita’s during SxSW 2008

Do you have any Christmas/ holiday traditions? We have a number in my house, perhaps the oddest of which is singing Christmas carols around the tree or by the fireplace. This in itself isn’t all that odd, but while my brother can approximately carry a tune, my parents can’t…at all. I love ‘em but one of their skills is not singing. Not even close. I mean, if the melody goes up, they’ll probably sing higher, but by what interval may as well be determined by a random number generator. For a year or two there, I had some issues with this, but I’ve since come to peace with it. So in a week someone standing outside our window may hear a cacophony masquerading as “Silent Night” and I guess I’ll be alright with that.

David Bazan (and previously, Pedro the Lion) has a tradition of releasing a Christmas 7″. I think my two favorite songs from these are his cover of Low’s “Long Way the Sea” from the 2003 edition and his version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” from the 2005 edition.

“The Long Way Around the Sea” is a gorgeous, if slightly faster, version of Low’s already beautiful song. His voice works really well with it. I really like when the song switches to major key briefly there near the end. It gives the dark song a bit of hope.

His version of the traditional carol God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is transformed by his added lyrics about doubt and family history from a song that retells Christmas to a more personal narrative. The result is a gorgeous version.

Pedro the Lion – the Long Way Around the Sea (mp3)

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Pedro the Lion – God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (mp3)

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I believe Suicide Squeeze is long since sold out of both of these. Please leave a comment if you know where to get them.

Like with many of these lost vinyl gems, thanks to my friend Andy for nice rips of the songs.

lost vinyl gem: Mates of State “These Days”

August 3rd, 2008

Lost vinyl gems is an irregular column where I feature weird and wonderful songs that can only be found on vinyl records

[Note: this track is not technically vinyl only, but: 1) the CD it's on is even more obscure than the vinyl it's on and 2) I just couldn't resist.]

The Mates of State are great live and they toured a ton. I was hooked on their live show. I saw them, by my count, five times between 2001 and 2003, so you’ll excuse me if I don’t remember the first time I heard them play this song. I remember telling a friend later that they had this great new song where Kori played keyboard and Jason stood and sang, taking a break from the drums. I didn’t know at the time that it was originally a Jackson Browne song.

The next time I saw them play it is clearer: it was at TT the Bear’s in Cambridge, MA. I gawked from the front row. They were, as usual, adorable and staring at each other the whole song. When I finally found the 7″ split with Dear Nora and realized that the song was on it, I bought it. When I managed to break it, I bought it again. It’s a fantastic version of a fantastic song.

Mates of State – These Days (buy vinyl or tour EP)

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I should also quickly note that the other side of the split is Dear Nora’s version of Bob Dylan’s “Girl from North Country”. It was the first time I’d heard that song (which I count among my favorite Dylan songs) and it’s still possibly my favorite version of it.

lost vinyl gem: Damien Jurado “The Killer”

July 2nd, 2008

Lost vinyl gems is an irregular column where I feature weird and wonderful songs that can only be found on vinyl records

Four Songs by Damien Jurado, BTV039

March 2002 or March 2003. There were only two instances when I’ve done a radio show with my good friend Andy, once at his college radio station and once at my first college station. I’m pretty sure it was during the second that he introduced this song to me.

The first time I heard it was as he was playing it over the radio and I was astounded then as I am now. Damien Jurado’s always been great at those songs that explore the dark side of life and this is one of the best of those. The instrumentation (mostly the slide guitar) works so well with his simple strummed guitar and lonesome vocals.

The key line for me is “You call off the guns/ I’ll call off the dogs”. It’s haunting in context.

This is a “lost vinyl gem” but it could also be a vintage song obsession. When my friend played me this song it immediately stuck in my head and I had it going around in circles for weeks. Even after I forgot how the song actually went I remembered that I loved this song.

Damien Jurado – the Killer (mp3)

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You can still buy Four Songs on which this song appears is still available from Burnt Toast Vinyl.

Update: Coincidentally, Stereogum’s newsletter has Damien Jurado covering Low’s similarly themed “Murderer”. It’s pretty dang good as well.

lost vinyl gem: Magnetic Fields – “Rats in the Garbage of the Western World”

June 24th, 2008

[This is possibly the first of a series of 'vinyl gems', songs that are weird or wonderful and can only be found on vinyl records.]

This is a total gem from the station’s music library. It’s from the b-side of “All the Umbrellas in London”, one of the best Magnetic Fields songs out there.

This song is just crazy and weird. It’s a bit strange if you know Magnetic Fields songs from that (Get Lost) era, but if all you know is the current Magnetic Fields stuff, you might be a little surprised. (Well, I suppose Distortion has come back around to more of this sort of sound.)

I’ll give one reason to take a listen to this and it’s the only reason you’re going to need: the chorus is “We are the rats in the garbage of the Western world…so let’s dance!“.

Magnetic Fields – Rats in the Garbage of the Western World (mp3)

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the mommyheads are back?!

June 18th, 2008

I wrote about SF indie / power pop band the Mommyheads as a “lost gem” about a year ago. In the late 90s I listened to their self-titled final album so many times it was ridiculous. I’d sing along to it in the car and made mixtapes with songs from it on them.

I initially found out about them–like many bands that I liked at that time–about a week before they dissolved, so I never got to see them live and all new (to me) material was just their older albums.

Well according to their myspace, they’re are back! Wow!

After a 10 year hiatus, the Mommyheads are working on a new record which is slated to be out later this year. We’re back with the same lineup – Adam, Mike, Jeff, and Dan – and plan to play a few shows in early September. The album will include many previously unreleased tracks, a couple of new (and, we think, better) versions of songs from our Geffen Record, one or two remixed singles, and – yes – some new material.

the Mommyheads – Jaded (mp3)

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the Mommyheads – I Started Breathing (mp3s)

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They even have a gig scheduled at Cafe du Nord:

9/3 the Mommyheads @ Cafe du Nord, 9:30pm, $12, 21+

Snap up those tickets.

(Thanks to Burt for the tip.)

10 years later: the benefits of ingorant stabs in the dark and the Apples in stereo’s Tone Soul Evolution

July 8th, 2007

The other day, listening to the Apples in stereo’s Tone Soul Evolution for the first time in a while, I realized two things: a) the album is about 10 years old now and b) my music discovery and buying habits have chaned an enormous amount since in those 10 years. Okay, three things: c) Tone Souk Evolution is very nearly a perfect pop record.

For me there were two predecessors to Tone Soul Evolution. I got into Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Airplane Over the Sea in the early part of 1998. Shortly thereafter I searched around the (pre-Napster, pre-music blog) internet and found there were a set of bands related to NMH, the Elephant 6 Collective. Through a more or less ignorant stab in the dark, I decided to get an Apples in stereo album and through a similarly ignorant stab, purchased Science Faire. It took me a while but I got into it and eventually made another (this time slightly less) uninformed purchase with Tone Soul Evolution.

I don’t make ignorant stabs in the dark these days with my music purchases. With myspace, access to hundreds of new CDs a week at KZSU, friends, music blogs, etc., I buy CDs with songs I like or I might even know that I like whole albums. I very occasionally buy CDs where I haven’t heard any of the tracks before, but I think the last time I did that was about two years ago—you just don’t have to do that any more; I just wouldn’t even think to buy an album I didn’t know I’d probably like. I don’t think I was the only one that was buying music “ignorantly” either. This, as has been noted in part elsewhere, is a fundamental shift in how music is being purchased.

Tone Soul Evolution itself is great. It’s a good album in that the whole is greater than the parts, but it’s made up of a lot of great parts as well. Robert Schneider really hit his stride here in both production and songwriting.

“Silvery Light of a Dream, Pt. 2″ has long been one of my favorites. It’s a great tune all along, but, for me, it’s the end that makes it great, the various separate parts that come back and all overlap and work really wonderfully together.

the Apples in stereo – Silvery Light of a Dream, Pt. 2 (mp3)

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You can buy Tone Soul from insound.

lost between the cracks: Emily Sparks

July 7th, 2007

Probably named after the Richard Buckner song is Emily Sparks, a female-fronted indie band from Austin.

Through a round-about set of circumstances I started listening to their myspace songs a few weeks ago and finally got their album, What Could Not Be Buried, over the weekend. It’s fragile-voiced acoustic indie singer songwriter stuff. Pretty simple and pretty great.

“I, Aquarius” is a nice finger-picked guitar song. The lead singer’s (Jet) voice is almost a whisper here. It’s got really nice space to the instrumentation while the vocals feel really intimate.

Emily Sparks – I, Aquarius (mp3)

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“Let It Show” is a similar song in instrumentation and general overall feel. It’s still really lovely. The whole album doesn’t stick to this same feel, but I decided to put up my two favorite tracks rather than making sure I showed the range of the album.

Emily Sparks – Let It Show (mp3)

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You can buy the album at amazon.