It was 1988 when Mudhoney put their super fuzz and big muff pedals together for first single 'Touch Me I'm Sick'…a cocky, snotty finger to the man, casting the band as full-time, half-cut losers just in it for the rock n roll. 25 years and 8 albums later, who would have guessed that they would be one of the last survivors in an industry more disposable than ever?
Since 2002 they've been back on Sub Pop, where it all began, and Vanishing Point keeps the finger raised and flag flying for noisy distortion and punk rock riffs. Drummer Dan Peters kicks off opener Slipping Away, with a reminder as to why he once kept Nirvana's drum stool warm for Dave Grohl. His pounding rolls are soon joined by Steve Turner's drunken lead and the unmistakable whine of Mark Arm. A sound perfected in '88 and not tweaked since.
On first single I Like It Small, Arm sings of the ambition that never saw them scale the heights "I've got big enough balls to admit I like it small" but is probably the reason they are still together and making music. Chardonnay is a 90 second love/hate song to "The crate that launched a thousand strippers" and I Don't Remember You is a fuck you to faces from back in the day. A day that Mudhoney, unlike most of their peers, survived. That they did so without changing their attitude or sound along the way is a small victory for those of us that don't feel that different from how we did 25 years ago either.
Killer Track: The Only Son of the Widow From Nain.Read more 3 star reviews
Freaky animated video up for J Mascis' new track Not Enough. Directed by Sub Pop alumni Chad VanGaalen
ever since I spent three days thinking I'd finally blown my hearing after standing a bit too near the speakers at a Dinosaur Jr gig, I've kind of preferred it when J Mascis keeps things quiet... so I'm looking forward to this acoustic-ish album he's got coming out, with loads of guests (Kurt Vile, A Silver Mount Zion’s Sophie Trudeau, Kevin Drew, Ben Bridwell, Black Heart Procession’s Pall Jenkins, Matt Valentine etc). great primer track over at PFork and if you hand over your email Sub Pop will give you another
That's How We Burn
Sub Pop's newest signings are really lightening my mood of late with this debut album of effortless indie rollers. With lead singer Vincent Kircher's grasp of melody and the ease of which this band deliver their message, That's How We Burn emerges as a record beyond its years. This could be due to the band's stint in relative musical obscurity - a stint that saw them develop their style and form a sense of unity that, well, unites this sound.
Nothing's being rewritten here; there are few stand-out moments and the album works more as a whole as it runs on a pretty even tempo for its entirety. But it's in this simplicity and familiarity that my enjoyment has found its foothold. With songs like Everyone's Hip Jaill inject a certain degree of muscle into the archetypal indie jangle and a good dose of the surf rock vibe presides throughout. Falling neatly alongside bands like The Soft Pack, Jaill have stuck to what they know and done themselves proud.Read more 3 star reviews
It seems like there's finally a decent YouTube-for-audio in the form of soundcloud.com, with it's success measured by the number of labels that have started using it to distribute their MPFrees.
Sub Pop are using it to giveaway/stream a total of 4 tracks from the new Wolf Parade LP, and if you head over to their soundcloud page they also have a few mix-tapes to listen/download - featuring the likes of Avi Buffalo, No Age and Vetiver.
Male Bonding are trio from London and after an early spell of pretty abrasive noise-pop they've evolved into a more well rounded band and have been scooped up by Sub Pop the lucky little beggars. Their early noise excursions still remain in the mix here but have been filled out with a delicious serving of mangy punk-rock packed full of hooks, fierce guitars, crashing cymbals, basically everything you'd want from this label. Very much in the neighborhood of bands like No Age or Abe Vigoda these guys marry perfectly the lo-fi scuzz with the garage-rock sensibility and always keeping a sideways glance in the direction of melody and structure. Nothing Hurts doesn't quite match the reckless abandon of Japandroids but it's brimming over with excitement and raw passion. Killer tracks are More Things This Way and Franklin.Read more 3.5 star reviews
Wolf Parade have a new album out in June, entitled Expo 86. Sub Pop have the details, including where you can download two of the new tracks - the killer synths of Ghost Pressure (which could possibly lead to a gig writing the next Shakira single) and the slower-burner What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had to Go This Way).
Looking forward to this one.
More info has emerged on the forthcoming third LP from Band of Horses, Infinite Arms, due to arrive on May 18th. The satisfyingly familiar cover is by Christopher Wilson, who's portfolio looks like a peek inside my iPod. Buy the image from The Funeral single here.
Looks like old favourite Sub Pop have got the heave-ho however, with the release coming via Brown Records/Fat Possum/Columbia/TopSpin.
In no particular order:
Animal Collective – Feels or Strawberry Jam
I remember getting very scared, when I was a kid, that, mathematically, there was only a limited number of songs possible - limited number of notes and limited number of combinations. When would they run out? ARRGGH!!!! Then I heard Animal Collective and I realised it was all going to be alright. Feels probably gets the nod from me. Saw them live – bit disappointed. But YOU won’t be if you pipe them in through your headphones.
The Strokes – Is This It
Neither before nor since have I experienced such excitement about a new band and a new album. Debut single “Last Nite” blew my socks off. Seeing them live twice – in Barcelona (buying tickets from an old woman the afternoon of the gig – unimaginable in the UK) and Brixton confirmed their greatness. Shame they’ve got bloated and tired since.
My Morning Jacket – Z
Shit. Seriously. Don’t mess about. This album is fuqing brilliant. From the “burrm burrm” opening through to the long rock out bit of Lay Low and right through to the end, this album is a vortex of mind blowing ness. (Ok - apart from “Into The Woods”, but I read the lyrics for that the other day, realised it was about crackin on off in the shower and changed my mind). I saw these dudes on the Okonokos tour at the Astoria – One of the best gigs I’ve been to.
Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
I’d heard of them before I heard them, and this was a most unexpected treat of an album. This surprising sub pop fare is up there as my most played album ever ever and is still on rotation now. Beautiful. And good live too (saw them at the roundhouse)
Lamchop – Nixon
Having never heard of them before, I have no idea what compelled me to by this album (ok it was £3 in the Virgin Megastore sales). Very pleased I did mind. Ok, so I skip a few of the later songs, but this is a special album. It still holds a special place in my heart. I saw them at the Barbican (mwah) when they performed a soundtrack to a silent Russian film... or something. Yawn.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – CYHSY
Apart from the first weird track (sign of things to come with their 2nd album), every song on this record is super. Easy to play on the guitar, but hard to sound as good. I drunkenly saw them at ULU with Chimpovich and his sensei bro. They were alright, but the support act - Hockey Night - were better.
M.Ward – Post-War
Ok – I’m not sure which is my favourite M. Ward album of the last 10 years, so this one’ll do. Cripes - this chap can write and sing a song. Not seen him live yet.
Yo La Tengo – Prisoners of Love (Compilation)
Not an album album, but rather a low price gem of a comp. This 25 odd track bad boy introduced me to Yo La Tengo and I’ve never looked back. These elder statesmen can seemingly do the lot – short pop numbers to 16 minute thought pieces and everything in between. Magic. Seen them about 4 times since (USA / Spain / UK) and they never disappoint.
Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
KA-BOOOOOM! – this album is nothing short of mega. It came along just as I was getting into Jim O’Rourkes solo stuff and his production really elevates this album above all others ever. Some beautiful and funny lyrics blended with amazing riffs and loops – the soundtrack to many a long walk. I saw them at the Hammersmith Apollo, but I was too far away up in the gods to really dig it.
Flaming Lips – Soft Bulletin
Yeah Yeah. I know. It was released in 1999, but tough tits. It’s on my list. Seen these chaps live lots of times (highlight was seeing your man Wayne in a big zorb in Royal Albert hall). So influential, I even model my hair / beard combo on him.
Track worth a notable mention:
The Truth – Handsome Boy Modelling School
Oh my me. This song is so sweet. Staple song on nearly every mixrtape I made in the (early part of the) noughties. Before Minidiscs came along and ruined everything!
Awesome film. Brilliant Font. Cracking soundtrack. Wes Anderson is preternaturally gifted. I bet he stands up in meetings.
If you care to, you can listen to a selected track from each album (where available) on this Spotify playlist: - Locochimpo: 2000-2009Read more 5 star reviews
A Chorus of Storytellers
The Album Leaf’s new record ‘A Chorus of Storytellers’ is a very nice album. They’ve been recording for the last ten years and are signed to Sub Pop records, which should tell you something, although I’ve never heard of them before. Possibly because they’re so nice. You know like one of those people that you get introduced to when you meet a friend, say, outside the cinema. Who’s that with Alex, you think. You say hello, shake hands – even if it’s a girl. It feels a bit odd shaking hands with a girl but then kissing someone you don’t know is a bit odd too. They seem very nice. They don’t say much but look friendly enough and while you end up chatting to your friend they smile and laugh along with the jokes. You’ve got to go in, your film’s about to start. Plus you still need to get popcorn (mix salt/sweet of course) so you say “Nice to meet you!” and never think of that person again.
So, uh, yeah that’s this album. Warm and electronica-tinged, some vocals but mainly instrumentals. Definitely not unpleasant to listen to. Not really saying anything though. Like if you’re at a party in one of those bars where you have to shout everything although you haven’t drunk enough for the shouting to come naturally. Just as you’re thinking to yourself about how stupid it is that these places actually make you have to get pissed as a basic operating requirement. You’re about to head to the bar, or better still maybe just disappear entirely when someone says hello. You don’t even recognise them but they know your name. It’s bad enough forgetting someone’s name but forgetting their whole face is terrible. Eventually you piece it together, you ask if they’ve seen Alex, yes, he’s coming down later. Then that’s it, you’re just making excruciating small talk with someone, desperately scanning the room for one of your friends even though you hate people who scan the room, and so you’ve become something that you hate and all because this person is just nice.
Oh yeah, sorry, the album. That’s what happens. You start off listening to it – then four or five minutes later you come out of a train of thought and remember you were supposed to listening to it.
It would make good film soundtrack music. It’s melodic and courses with pleasant emotion and I can imagine Gael Garcia Bernal doing something cool up the side of sunbaked mountain with ‘A Chorus of Storytellers’ playing in the background. But I’d get someone else to write the main theme.
3/5 (Although if you’re building an Ikea wardrobe it gets 5/5)
Losing Feeling EP
Since No Age's exceptional second record Nouns the DIY punk scene has gone mental with a new band emerging every week and if these four songs are any kind of prediction as to Dean and Randy's musical gravitation it looks like their letting everyone else get on with what they started and embracing a more subtle sound with guitar loops and buried vocals being the general approach. Having said that this EP does manage to bring their sound full circle, falling more into line with much of Weirdo Rippers' abstract atmospherics. Losing Feeling displays a firmer grasp on their intentions and leans more heavily on melody than has previously been seen. However it sure is good to get to the final track You're A Target which punches out the heavier sound that we've become accustomed to of late.
What this EP manages to do is further confound this duo as one of diversity and movement. Their background may have been full of Black Flag and The Misfits but there's way more to them than the sum of their parts and Losing Feeling bodes very well for a future full-length release, whenever that may be. Please make it soon.Read more 3.5 star reviews
The Heads fuse a rhythmic, pounding and distorted barrage of psychedelia and garage rock into a calculated layering of sound-wave upon sound-wave. With shards of indie punk, a smattering of post-rock and a nod to British beat groups, The Heads are your archetypal British psych-noiseniks, destined to play to a handful of believers for the rest of their days. And you know what, they probably don't care whether they are playing in a garage or a medium sized theatre supporting Mudhoney. The Heads are rather clinical, precise, mathematical and perhaps anal about their delivery. But have they forgotten something? I dare say they have. The Heads look more like an assortment of grown up teenagers than a real band that means it, man. Remember the serious metal kids at school who practiced most evenings in the common room? We have the faceless one, with a mop of hair that curiously covers his whole face. How he hits the strings I don't know. The skinny nerd on the other side of the stage could be the bastard love child of John Denver and Thom Yorke. I kid you not. Standing almost as still as an RAF drill sergeant, the guitarist and occasional "singer" (the sound is largely instrumental bar a few mumblings here and there) is the antithesis of your typical rock n roll front man. Instead, the moves and shakes and left to the bass player, who they position in the middle. Probably to give some balance and take your mind of the other two. Gyrating to his bass and throwing looks of passion, this is the one who wants to "make it" and tries his best to make up for the rockstar shortcomings of the others. The Heads continue their rythmical drone which, with eyes closed, is a novel experience. Stage persona and attitude may seem academic, but if it's the whole theatrical package that turns you on, leave The Heads live experience to the nerdy-math rock faithful and listen to the record back home, reclining with some headphones and more than likely, you will enter the dream-space intended by these fuzzy warblers.
Mudhoney by contrast, bounce on stage and immediately slink into the low slung unpretentious hip-ness that only a Seattle band of the early 90's can. Once thrown into that whole scene that started with a "G" and shared with Nirvana, Tad and Soundgarden, Mudhoney had little in common - as did any - other than guitars, plaid shirts and the same home town. Oh and the Sub Pop Label. A dose of early Ramones simplicity and naivety together with Nuggets and Pebbles era pre-punk psych-fuzz garage-blues super fuzz and Mudhoney's genre defining sound became a blueprint which other built on, expanded and layered. But tonight we have the originals and singer and sometime guitarist Mark Arm is bouncing around the stage like a chicken possessed. All angular limbs and a flail of dirty soul vocals and the audience are already inching over to the barrier trying to touch the Seattle scene veteran. It's not long till the hits start rolling in - and not far into the set, they deliver their signature song, "Touch Me I'm Sick" at breakneck pace, with Arm on slide guitar adding a metallic zest to proceedings. Arm tells the 30-something grown up indie rock kids to mind how they go, as a bout of slamming and good natured volley of crowd surfers ensue. Mudhoney sound and look just as good as they ever did and move like a well oiled machine. Going through the motions ain't for this lot.
Photos: Al De PerezRead more 3.5 star reviews
Sub Pop Nikes. At least it can be argued that they're both from the Pacific North-West.
King Of Jeans
With the overflowing stream of DIY noise pop filling my in-tray this year I've grown accustomed to calamitous percussion and under-produced guitars drowning out distant vocals, and to be honest, I've loved nearly every minute of it. Having said that it feels pretty good to break out the third album from Pennsylvania scuzz-punks Pissed Jeans having not heard a peep from them since 2007's Hope For Men. Compared to much of the punk-de-jour we hear today this stuff has muscle. Since 2007 they've been bench pressing. Gone are the extended noise passages that gave Hope For Men the fear factor - but ultimately turned it into an abstract nightmare, and in their place are riffs so heavy they'll wrench your gut from its very foundations.
Opener False Jesli Part 2 displays this might to full effect with guitars that rumble with booming terror. It's awesome to hear a punk riff that clearly spends its down time in the gym with Metallica's front line. Matt Korvette's wrenched vocals smash this rumble with unadulterated power. The sound is a lot more focused here and as a result Korvette's irony oozing writing is way more audible. The thing that sets these guys apart from a lot in the genre is their mastery of the banal. They play with such power and Korvette's screaming can't help to make you pay attention. But as soon as you do, you realise he's singing about getting his car back from the shop only to find "there's a new noise this time," or the growled demands we get on Request For A Masseuse such as "take both thumbs and dig them in / stop my flesh from tightening." Instead of being totally throwaway the result is a piece of work that expertly and frighteningly describes the trials of the mundane human existence. The last song is called Goodbye (Hair) and sums up the M.O. of these guys. They're punks who are growing old and this is their story. They're not singing about smashing the system, but hair loss.
Request For A Masseuse and Spent are the two reprieves from the lightning pummeling the rest of the record offers, but the word reprieve is highly misleading. These two take a different path, that of slow, grinding sludge, but the result is the same: total and welcome destruction of the listener. Spent is over seven minutes long and never gets above a crawl. The guitars are drawn out and heavy as fuck. Randy Huth's bass comes into full effect here as it tunnels its way into your soul. Korvette is slow and methodical, painfully drawing out his agony for us all to experience. Displaying both boredom, sloth and general hair ripping frustration it slowly erupts into screams and guttural howls as his breakdown is made visible and he is finally "spent." It carries the weight of the album on its shoulders alone and nothing is the same after it.
It's easy to view this kind of head smashing as only that, but King Of Jeans is a focused piece of social commentary that hammers its point home without you even noticing. With the social observations heavily buried, it ends up proving it's point more cohesively than some records with more obvious direction ever manage. They might be punks who are trying to come to terms with the passage of time, but they still pose the same threat to the system by taking it down and thrusting a mirror image in its face in all its banality.Read more 3.5 star reviews
This is the second album from Seatle's Throw Me The Statue, an outfit that originally began as the one-man project of the multifaceted Scott Reitherman then evolved into the charmingly fresh sound that makes up Creaturesque. Its predecessor Moonbeams pricked up the ears of many a music critic with its ample helping of lo-fi bliss and while Creaturesque retains much of this element it's the production work from Phil Ek (The Shins, Built To Spill, Band Of Horses) that elevates this sound to maximalist indie-pop heights.
The transition to these heights is an interesting one and it's what's left in its trail that make this record intriguing. TMTS can drop in some of the most well formed pop hooks that it sometimes borders on cliche. The glittery glockenspiel that erupts on the hand-clap chorus of opener Waving At The Shore runs dangerously close to the sugary drivel that made the Magic Numbers so hard to swallow. But I think it's the fact that Reitherman has come from such lo-fi roots that this sweetness stays palatable due to an everpresent DIY presence that runs through it. I don't mean DIY in the No Age sense but in the Grandaddy sense I guess. Sub Pop's Chad Vangaalen is probably a better point of reference, with the occasional decrepit synthesiser being employed to churn out a vulnerable drum beat on which is built this impressive structure. But the intriguing thing is the contrast between the times when very little is built on this structure and a song like Tag plays out with its bare bones on full display, leading into its antithesis Ancestors. As the lead single Ancestors is a slice of indie-pop perfection. With an endlessly marketable and surprisingly anthemic guitar riff to base things on this can hardly fail and the way, mid way through the track, it pairs down to a simple acoustic strum as if he's just walked into a different room is magnificent. The drumming on all of these tracks is what really propels them. Cannibal Rays is a perfect example with its infectiously rolling pace providing a bubbling and flowing support for Reitherman's soft vocals.
And this voice is also very adaptable and further encourages the Vangaalen comparisons. Reitherman is as comfortable at the dizzy heights of the grand indie riffs of Hi-Fi Goon or the lowly folk acoustics of Shade For A Shadow. His delivery can be as gruff as old boots or so soft he could be singing his kids to sleep. So I guess what I'm saying is that this is an album of subtle contrasts. Nothing is abrasive or challenging and things may occasionally veer towards perilous lands of sugar but as The Outer Folds brings the record to a gentle close with its lounge-act melodies and softly brushed rhythms it's pretty hard not to sit back and smile at what you've just heard. This is infectious for all the right reasons, it's anthemic and intimate, it's polished and yet threads hang unapologetically from its edges. But somewhere in amongst all that is something that keeps me coming back for more and I will continue to do that until I hear any of these on a T-Mobile ad. Reitherman, you have been warned.
Read more 3 star reviews
Track listing and details up at Sub Pop for the Flight of the Conchords' second album - I Told You I Was Freaky.
Sugalumps, You Don't Have To Be A Prostitute, Demon Woman, Too Many Dicks on the Dancefloor - they're all in there.
The bad news is it won't be arriving until October 20th...
Bad news from Sub Pop: Oxford Collapse are calling it quits.
Sub Pop have a new sampler up for free download, but rather than link directly to it, I insist you visit the page - which is decked out like a 1996 web disaster.
Vetiver – Strictly Rule
Handsome Furs – I’m Confused
Mark Sultan – Hold On
Red Red Meat – Gauze
Obits – Pine On
The Vaselines – Son of a Gun
Fleet Foxes – Mykonos
Iron and Wine – Belated Promise Ring
Tiny Vipers - Dreamer
Zak Sally – Why We Hide
Fruit Bats – My Unusual Friend
Pissed Jeans – False Jesii Part 2
Grand Archives – Silver Among the Gold
Flight of the Conchords – Hurt Feelings
Enter The Vaselines
Talking to a friend about cover versions, he said that his pal always preferred the first version of the song he heard rather than the first one recorded. Anguished, he told how his chum maintained that Jamie Cullum did a better version of High and Dry than Radiohead. With the ‘first past the lughole’ preference in mind, I was intrigued to listen to this aggregate collection of the Vaselines – ‘Enter The Vaselines’. Would the original versions of the late 80’s Scot indie band be better than the versions I knew by Messer’s Cobain, Novoselic and Grohl?
Kurt Cobain (from Aberdeen, USA) was a big fan of the Vaselines (from Glasgow, Scotland). So much so, that he is alleged to have described founder members Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee as his "most favourite songwriters in the whole world”. Which might explain why Nirvana released three Vaseline songs: "Molly's Lips” and "Son of a Gun" on 1992’s Incesticide and the more widely known "Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam" on the MTV Unplugged album.
Of course it’s unfair to talk about The Vaselines only in terms of being the band wot Kurt liked (which, I’ll confess, I seem to do in this review). However, it seems clear that the loud applause from the Grungemeister has been central in widening their fan base and in encouraging Sub Pop to re-release all their stuff…again (In 1992 Sub Pop packaged up just the two EP’s and the album).
This time the Seattle label has gone the whole way with this deluxe remastered album as it once again contains all the music ever released by the band, but is rounded off with some demos and two live sets recorded in Bristol and London. The two EP’s ‘Son of Gun’ and ‘Dying For It’ were originally on sale in 1987 and 1988, while their only album - ‘Dum-Dum’ - was originally released the week the band broke up in 1989. (Though they did reform - for the first time - to open the bill when Nirvana played Scotland in 1990).
So. A word to the wise: listening to the 36 songs in one sitting is hard work. Hearing three versions of “Son of a Gun” and “The Day I Was A Horse” is tough going (though I was happily humming the former for the rest of the day). The whole thing is much more agreeable when broken down into it's composite bits - with the looseness and humour of the live shows making them the most enjoyable slices.
With strong hints of a Velvet Underground drone, at their best the raw sound delivers catchy pieces of punk pop. However, it does feel a bit one-dimensional and, while it might simply be due to familiarity, I think Cobain picked out the best tunes (with the exception of the horse song). As for the battle of versions: It’s a close run thing, but I think Nirvana just edge it. The songs on Incesticide have more power and pedals, while the Vaselines lose vital points for the squeaky toy that needlessly appears on the EP version of ‘Mollys Lips’.
Here’s an editable spotify playlist of some covers and the originals. See if you can last more than the 40 seconds I managed of Jamie Cullum.
Bunny Gets Paid
Being that I'm neither of a superstitious persuasion or a 9 year old boy I do not have a favourite number. If I was to do so however it would be 45. Being a history geek it resonates with 1945. It constitutes one half of the beautiful game. But really it is a happy conjunction of the fact that classic albums were moulded for the 45 minutes of space on vinyl and that 45 is the number of minutes it takes for me to walk home work. 45 minutes of blissful private head space and immersion music.
Working as a music reviewer can reap rich rewards and found gems have always rendered the before mentioned 45 minute walk a pleasure. Red Red Meat made it tortuous and tedious in equal measure. Bunny Gets Paid was the third of a trilogy of albums from the Chicago 'post grunge' band, first released in 1995. The omens are good as Sub Pop proclaims it as 'easily one of the high points of the entire Sub Pop catalog'. With stiff competition that is quite some accolade and prompted some excited anticipation.
To my mind it seems there's a perfectly adequate reason as to why Bunny Gets Paid failed to sell first time round. Because it's not that good. The necessary ingredients are all present, with fuzzy guitars and outsider ethos, but it fails to inspire. At the time it would have sounded much like everything else and sadly it stills does. There's no sense of kicking oneself and cursing 'damn how did I miss out on this first time round?'. By some accounts Red Red Meat have turned out to be quite influential but I doubt they will acquire Velvet Underground status as a band feted after the event. To be remembered as significant requires more credentials than that the band were present at the grunge banquet with the obligatory slacker attitudes and a penchant for flannel shirts.
Apparently what makes Bunny Gets Paid stand out is that the band decided to play around with form to create a more loose sound. They succeeded with this, whilst also jettisoning melody and coherence. It sounds like a sound check from when Beck had a devil haircut; a sound check at which he couldn't be arsed to boot. The mid nineties obsession with rejecting over-production means that there is almost no quality control. Main man Tim Rutili recalls of the record "when I bring in a song it's usually not that good until other people fuck around with it, and there was a lot of fucking around this time". Somebody should have pointed out that broths that are stirred by too many cooks get spoiled. Red Red Meat lyrics are oblique, something to normally be encouraged, but instead of prompting intrigue, reflection and personal interpretation just lead to bemusement and a shrug of the shoulders.
Die hard fans will be pleased to know that this release of Bunny Gets Paid is also accompanied by extras- B-sides and out-takes - but passing trade may find it all utterly tedious. I dare say a handful of listeners may love this cult offering but, much as it would pain my 1995 persona to have to hear me say so, I think Sub Pop is wrong. This is not a Sub Pop high point.
With Season 2 finished in the US and about to start on BBC4 - the Flight of the Conchords were scheduled to have a second album out last week, possible entitled I Told You i Was Freaky. There's now no mention of an exact release date on the Sub Pop website, although the weekly tracks from the show are available in the US iTunes store.
While we're waiting, head over to HBO.com and watch some funny video clips - notably Dave's starring role in the "Mohumbhai & Sons" TV spot.
Despite a minor security scare, Spotify is continuing to gather a major following after their UK launch - with a load more labels now getting on board (most notably Sub Pop). Still a few big names missing (The Smiths anyone?), but it's fast become a totally viable storage-free alternative to iTunes.
The obvious drawback remains not having the files on your iPod, making listening on the move a problem - but the big news hitting the nets is a possible mobile client, and as shown in the video an iPhone client (More info: Wired / Techcrunch). The best feature? The app is designed to cache music you have lined up, meaning there's music available when you drop out of signal range.
Of course, Apple may not allow the app onto the iTunes store, but they do allow Last FM on there - and even highlight it in their iPhone adverts on TV. Apple could, of course, launch a similar service themselves - and have recently begun offering season pass-type subscriptions, similar to Top Spin's business model. They'd probably need another round of negotiations with the labels, but with many indies now working as a fifth pseudo-major label that shouldn't be all that complicated (p.s. note, Merlin have our inside-man Matthew Herbert as their poster boy).
Some bands are even taking the matter into their own hands, with No Doubt giving away their entire catalog when you buy a tour ticket and The Presidents of the United States offering four of their albums in a handy app for $3. Ex-President Dave Dederer has even gone so far as to become involved in a company offering such apps, as well as the Nutsie service - which promises to deliver your iTunes music to your phone, other PCs and even Facebook.
That social networking aspect is integral to all these services - and sites are springing up all over the place allowing you to share your playlists and so on (1,2), but none can beat this old-school front end for actual browsing.
Having lit a fire in my heart in 2006 with his self released gem Sologne and then left me feeling slightly flat with his debut release for Sub Pop Loney, Noir, Emil Svanangen had some work to do with his latest offering Dear John. It's not that I didn't like Loney, Noir, it was just that it did the same as Sologne and at the end of my review for the Sub Pop debut I was looking for improvement. Well I am pleased to say that though Dear John follows much the same path as all the rest it is a very different affair in maturity and all-round scale.
The charm of Sologne was in its DIY simplicity. Simple, underproduced songs delivering perfect morsels of hope and warmth to a barren world. Well Svanangen's sound has grown up somewhat since we last heard him and Dear John emerges from the first moment as a mightier more determined and self aware composition. Airport Surroundings gleams with this new maturity as it breathes first life into the record. From the outset it's clear that Svanangen has no need for his DIY equipment anymore as a highly produced and simmering techno beat form the basis of this first song. It ticks along uneasily while all the time swelling to a gently crescendo. Layers of instruments join the march and Svanangen's own vocals are multi-tracked to great effect as the feeling of amassing detail pile on top of each other for the grand finale. And this is just track one.
As is often the case in life, with added maturity comes added pressure and consequently added tension. Much of this record relies on this brooding tension. Svanangen's warmth and hopeful slant are very much present but everything simmers none the less. The way he conjures up this feeling is the use of the gentle build. Many of the songs follow the same pattern of a tip-toe start followed by a huge rise in sound. It works very well throughout the first 4 tracks with this pattern being followed in varying degrees of intensity. I Was Only Going Out has the same effect but with a more subtle approach, and Harsh Words to even subtler ends. However it does start to get slightly predictable. It's not until we get to Under A Silent Sea that the pattern changes, and it needs to. The song floats on a gentle guitar pick to a point where a near euphoric House beat threatens to take off, but Svanangen resists the temptation to rocket off and instead takes it all down again and replaces it with a stark programmed beat that sees out the rest of the song. It's a masterful piece of construction and pace and actually opens up the rest of the album. It leaves room for the backbone song Summers which will remind any fan of why they fell in love with this music. It bucks the trend of the slow build and just skips along on a blissful beat for 4 perfect minutes. Like all his music this song sees Svanangen whispering sweet tales of loss and regret with great swathes of melancholia and yet your heart dances along all the time. It's the song to see us through this pesky recession. In fact if the credit crunch were a movie this song would be the closing song titles when everything turned out ok.
Svanangen had a more than sturdy foundation on which to build and with Dear John he has really used it to it's full potential. He's got numerous instruments each adding texture and richness to his sound, he's got choral accompaniment, driving production and a voice dripping with sweetness. It's the perfect blend and works a treat here. You need this record if you want to make it out the other side of this cold winter. It's a triumphant marching band of hope that knows the pitfalls ahead and feels the pain of the past but marches on nonetheless.Read more 3.5 star reviews
If you're not on board already, head over and register for a free account at Spotify and download their player now. Building on Nokia's badly presented, but solid concept of 'comes with music', the program works like iTunes, or a totally unlocked Last FM - but stores no music on your hard drive. Music is all delivered legally over the www as and when you play it, at a bitrate comparable to decent mp3 compression. A basic account is free, with the only concession being the occasional advert. And currently that is occasional - with only about 3 ads playing over 8 hours of continuos use at the moment, and most of them were for Spotify's own premium service. For that premium service you can pay 99p a day, or £9.99 a month for advert-free listening - which is hardly extortion.
The concept has come a long way since I last checked in, with the selection now being pretty thorough. Some of the usual cautious big-hitters (Beatles, Led Zep, Pink Floyd, Metallica) are absent, and a few labels are obviously not quite there yet (e.g. Sub Pop, Jagjaguwar) but on the whole the catalogue is on a simlar footing to iTunes - and they even have a few exclusives, like a one week heads-up on U2's new album.
Search for an album, press play and you're off. So easy it's ridiculous.
We're already using it heavily at Chimp HQ - particularly thanks to the built in support for Last FM, which lets us keep our charts up-to-date with minimum hassle - and I dare say this app (or at least the concept) will undoubtedly define the future of music, just as Napster, iPods and iTunes all have. You have been warned.
Sub Pop honcho and former chimpomatic interviewee (read it here) Megan Jasper is doing a couple of Triathalons to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
With season two of Flight of the Conchords kicking off on HBO this Sunday, Billboard is reporting that the band will be releasing the song from each episode the day after the episode airs. That will be followed by a 15 track album once the season has concluded (10 episodes + 5 bonus tracks).
If that isn't good enough, our favourite label Sub Pop has a buy now / pay later deal -where you can pay up front, get the downloads as they are released and then the album will be delivered in April. Top marks all round.
Caught In The Trees
Just like this review, the 9th album by Seattle native (and former Sub Pop alumni) Damien Jurado, took a long time coming. Along with best friends and bandmates Eric Fisher and Jenna Conrad, Jurado took over a year to make ‘Caught In The Trees’ and it is a record that has clearly benefited from this considered maturing process.
Each of the 13 tracks feels like they had Jurado’s love, attention and perspiration shared equally amongst them, lightly embellishing each one with extra touches to ensure ‘Caught In The Trees’ did not simply become another record by another singer/songwriter with a guitar. Sure, it’s his delicate voice and acoustic guitar that lies at the core, but it’s the subtle piano rolls, Conrad’s backing vocals, the under-produced drums and de-tuned solo parts, added to the ambiguous lyrics, that draws you into the enigmatic world of ‘Caught In The Trees’; a world that is at the same time intense and fragile – introspective in its vision and confident in its sound.
As Alan Partridge once said: ‘Lovely Stuff”.Read more 3.5 star reviews
Since Wild Mountain Nation, this Portland band's 2007 critically acclaimed album, there has been much talk about the brazen diversity of the lo-fi gems that littered that record, the way it lurched from avant-guard guitar noise to dreamy country heartbreakers. So it's surprising and refreshing to get this follow-up which seems to turn its back on much of that praise and is a crystal clear exploration of everything from 70's rock legends like The Grateful Dead and The Byrds to all the roots country melody that preceded that. They still embody the Beck sense of experiment but have made a decisive choice as to which elemnt of the previous record they wish to develope.
Furr is way more consistant than Wild Mountain Nation and though it lacks the debuts experimental flare it makes up for it in its ability to roll out songs that range from the wilderness-wandering soul of Stolen Shoes & A Rifle and the psych-rock skyrockets of Fire And Fast Bullets. The charm of Blitzen Trapper is that they are so heavily embedded in a rootsy/country sound but are, at the end of the day, an indie rock group who have grown up with the DIY mentality of bands like Pavement. Put all this together and the result is a sound that wears its influences proudly on its sleeve but at the same time manages to disguise them beautifully.
Much of Wild Mountain Nation seemed to filter Eric Earley's vocals through effects that kept it distant, yet here it is brought to the forefront and is gleamingly clear and intimate. Furr excells because the lo-fi elemnt is kept at a minimum and the intention here is to make complete songs that ooze atmosphere with their embracing of Dylan style narrative as in the story of muder and revenge in Black River Killer. Dusty landscapes roll out infront of songs like these, landscapes that hold in refuge all sorts of fugatives and runnaways. Slide guitar tumbles along, accompanied by the gentle acoustic strum, but the two can just as easily be interupted by swirling, narcottic guitar and playful yet decrepit keyboards. This musical mix and Earley's sometimes soulful and sometimes shrieking vocal delivery seem to ask more questions than they answer and yet it's in these questions that Furr's ultimate success lies. In lesser hands an album such as this would be of no use to the world but amongst its solid songs loiters an unruly side that will keep you coming back for more.Read more 3 star reviews
The Canadian one-man-band returns from the success of Skelliconnection with his 3rd album and one that consolidates all his learnings so far into the best example of his creativity so far. Soft Airplane maintains the DIY aesthetic that Vangaalen has mad his own but manages to inject just enough new-found sophistication to make this record a welcome departure from the previous 2 but familiar enough to keep them relevant.
Using various analogue recording devices Vangaalen lays down a wonderful mixture of dainty folk (Willow Tree), grimy indie-rock (Inside The Molecules) and glitch heavy electronica (TMNT Mask). Using all sorts of instruments from synthesizers, guitars, to any number of home made things that make make noise each song bristles with a creativity and open-mindedness that has always been more than obvious but here seems to sit more comfortably in its skin. The records may swing between genres at an alarming rate but the unifying thread in all his work is the voice. Throughout each tale of death, nightmares and love lost and found Vangaalen's voice quivers with the vulnerability of a flickering flame and yet can rise to a cavernous scale like on the riff heavy Bare Feet On Wet Griptape.
With his mixture of traditional song craft and homemade electronics, Soft Airplane oozes melancholic nostalgia but shines forth with the hope of a contemporary outlook. It's an album so full of ideas it's hard to imagine all this emanated from just one man. It plays out like the work of an artist entirely dedicated to his craft and one who's influences are never denied but instead used as a launching pad for a journey that is all together his own.Read more 3 star reviews
It's a bit late for our Sub Pop celebration, but rumor has it Soundgarden have been back together.
When Nirvana went global and 'Grunge' became a household word, Jonathan Poneman and Bruce Pavitt's fledgling record label hit the big time. Geffen Records bought out their contract with Nirvana in a tidy deal that gave the Seattle label percentage points on future Nirvana releases - as well as reviving sales of Bleach to make it the label's biggest seller to this day. With interest in S... read article
26th Aug 2008 - Add Comment
Just because the Sub Pop 20 marathon is over, doesn't mean the label has stopped putting out quality records and with a squeal of burning rubber (literally) Brooklyn's Oxford Collapse kick off their fourth LP. It's an exciting start, as the twins vocals of Michael Pace and Adam Rizer battle over the clatter of drums on Electric Arc, comparing their memory skills - "I can remember things" / "I can't remember things". The almost balled-like sound of the downtempo Vernon Jackson finds the band in a reflective mood, taking their foot of the accelerator for once .....for a moment at least, before they sing "88 Miles Per Hour!" on Young Love Delivers, while orchestrated strings add a more subtle dimension to A Wedding.
While the record is certainly ambitious - building on the college radio sound of the band's previous efforts - the ideas just don't seem as well honed, making for a less successful result. The band seem to be overflowing with ideas and excitement, yet unable to quite get that all shoe-horned into focused song-writing. Bubbling guitars permeate nearly every song, while the disjointed drumming fails to lift itself up as it has previously. The charming quirkiness just doesn't gel together in many places, giving some of the songs a disjointed feel that makes them hard to grow into.
The band have scored a keg and moved into party-hard mode for Men & Their Ideas, but it's too little too late. While Remember The Night Parties was a little slow to get going, the half dozen tracks that closed out the album bumped it into my mainstaream, setting expectations high for this release. While all the ingredients from that previous recipe are here, for some reason the album just doesn't quite take off. The problems here are similar to those noted in my review of their recent Hann - Byrd EP - but where a five track EP may distract you away from the cracks, they become more evident in this longer form. While this is still a good record, rather than build on the promise of their last LP and move up to the next level the band stay put for now. I'm maintaining Oxford Collapse's status at "one to watch".Read more 3 star reviews
The Hann - Byrd - EP
In anticipation of their recent LP Bits, Brooklyn rockers Oxford Collapse put out this 5 track EP as a quick appetiser. Sub Pop take a back seat on this one, with small label Comedy Minus One running up the 500 copy vinyl-only release. Not to worry if you're not a vinyl junkie however, as thanks to the digital revolution it's also available at your local download store.
The trade mark dual vocals of Micheal Pace and Adam Rizer are in full effect from the very start, as Internet Cafes in Micronesia are amongst the subjects covered in Bikini Atoll, before the vocals slip away and the song moves into a pounding instrumental jam. The call and response of Among Friends (mp3) doesn't quite take off, before bassist Adam Rizer takes a more central vocal role on The Pilgrim.
Things pick up with the almost line-dancing style of Genetic Engineering, peddling an amusingly sarcastic positive message. This more thought-out approach makes for a more engaging song - and once you are past the bizarre hip-hop intro, Bikini As Hole continues the approach, bookending the album with a beefed up re-working of the opening track.
While finding the band in their most familiar form - counterpoint John Hughes-esque stories of guys at parties over frenetic jangling guitars and pounding drum tracks - there's a more adventurous approach to the later music here, building on the success of Remember The Night Parties with a more considered sound. The songs don't quite have the same punch just yet, but for a mid-season EP it's a worthwhile effort. Let's hope things have beefed up for Bits, which I'll be reviewing tomorrow.Read more 3 star reviews
NOW: With Sub Pop hitting their 20th year in many ways not much has changed. Superb albums from Fleet Foxes, Flight Of The Conchords or Band of Horses could be described as influenced by the past, but No Age perhaps sums up both where the label is at now and where it has come from. Taking their name from a 1987 instrumental compilation on SST Records, 'No Age' provides a nod to one of Sub Pop's major influences, while the band's sound and style recall the zine aesthetics of the label itself. The DIY sound of this LA two-piece hides some ambitious ideas - and just as Sonic Youth took inspiration from The Stooges and Steve Reich in equal measure, these guys seem to pull ideas from Sonic Youth or My Bloody Valentine, in both punk and experimental terms.
From the super-8 fuzz of Eraser to the thundering cymbals of Ripped Knees, this is a confident, retro, futuristic and inspiring second album. While it might not contain 'hits', Nouns shows signs of a promising future for the band,.
SUB POP SAYS: "Spiritual heirs to both Thurston Moore’s wide-eyed experimentalism and the all-encompassing, stark DIY art-is-life aesthetic of the Crass collective"
KILLER TRACK: Eraser (mp3)Read more 4 star reviews
Down Below It's Chaos
THEN: Like a hit-man's shot to the head, silenced through a pillow, Kinski's third album hits the target with muffled ferocity. Deep, wooly guitars rumble and thunder their way through this album sometimes accompanied by minimal vocals or simple melody but often just push forward with pounding drums as their only guide. (Read our original review here)
NOW: While a year is long time in rock music, I'm happy to report that Agent Kinski still takes no prisoners.
SUB POP SAYS: "Down Below It’s Chaos sums up Kinski’s past and propels them into the ozone."
KILLER TRACK: Plan, Steal, Drive (mp3)
NEXT: 2008 - No Age - NounsRead more 3.5 star reviews
Everything All Of The Time
THEN: Let's suppose that My Morning Jacket had a younger brother, who hung around the practice sessions and was witness to their particular brand of genius. He's maybe thinking to himself, yeah that's pretty good - but those extended, distorted solos are a bit distracting, at times they get in the way of a nice, clean, imaginative pop song. I like the reverb on the vocals, I'll have that (It's possible that a couple of tracks were actually lifted straight from the outtakes of a MMJ session - Part One and I Go To The Barn Because I Like The could well be from At Dawn). The result is a charming, dreamy album with enough emotional weight to demand full attention. (Read our original review here)
NOW: WIth their popularity buoyed by a total market saturation of the radio friendly / soundtrack friendly / ad friendly awesomness of killer track The Funeral, Band of Horses have exploded - at least in Sub Pop terms. Strengthened by a series of blistering live shows, the band's identity has also matured - lifting them out of the My Morning Jacket sound-a-likes category into a place of their own. Packed full of great tracks - The First Song, Wicked Gill, Our Swords, The Great Salt Lake, Weed Party - rather than fading away, this album his matured and improved, contributing to their top five spot in the Chimpomatic "most-played" chart.
SUB POP SAYS: "Achieving musical transcendence is a tricky feat, almost definitively"
KILLER TRACK: The Funeral (mp3)Read more 5 star reviews
The Great Destroyer
THEN: After a long career spattered with promise, potential and occasional excellence it all came together for slowcore heroes Low with this, their first album for Sub Pop. From the pounding opening of Monkey, through California, Just Stand Back and more ...it's all killer and no filler.
NOW: While this album still rocks hard, the utter dissapointment of follow-up Drums & Guns has put the band back in the dark ages. Personal bias aside however, The Great Destroyer retains it's majesty - and maintains it's position as a fall-back favourite.
SUB POP SAYS: "The beautiful harmonies of Sparhawk and Parker ...stood in stark contrast to the era’s fascination with 'grunge'."
KILLER TRACKS: CaliforniaRead more 4 star reviews
THEN: Released in the not too distant past of 2004, you could have been forgiven for thinking that Comets On Fire had been banging out this bruising musical onslaught for many moons. With two low-key releases they had gained a credible reputation which perhaps was due to their youthful energy and driving riffs, rather than the lack of tight leather trousers.
Rock music at this early point of the 21st century had also gained a resurgence and was appealing to a more mainstream audience, not that this had an effect on San Francisco-based band. With a traditional backbone of 60/70s rock music, their sound was enhanced in my opinion by an urgency and aggression that pushed them into a grey area and did limit them from a larger audience.
NOW: After numerous listens throughout the years I still find the songs only vaguely familiar; this is both a blessing and a curse. The freshness, not necessarily originality, makes each song stand up and be heard, but yet I can never recognise a track instantly nor mange to hum along. Maybe this is due to the looseness of structure or the lack of a basic repetitive beat which allows you to simply lock in and rock out! The stand-out track is Wild Whiskey, which is an instrumental that allows the instruments some breathing space; this does not mean I that I would prefer an instrumental album because the passionate cry of Ethan Miller generally gives the sound added impact. Still, the impression I was left with from this my first introduction to the band is that I want to witness them live, where I believe they would be in their element.
SUB POP SAYS: "Flag-bearers of modern psychedelia"
KILLER TRACK: Wild WhiskeyRead more 3 star reviews
Strangely enough, it's a comedy two-piece from New Zealand who scored Sub Pop's first Grammy award - and they have turned out to be a canny signing for the label.
Headlining the recent Sub Pop 20 festival, the crowd shouted out for an appearance from Flight of the Conchords manager Murray - to which Jermaine replied "The TV show's not real ...Murray couldn't organize this gig!".
For non-related amusement only, here's their Ladies of the World promo.
THEN: Letting of steam from his day job as front man for Death Cab For Cutie, Seattlite Ben Gibbard struck up a long-distance recording relationship with Los Angeles-based Jimmy Tamborello from Dntel. The results were an ecstatic blend of electro-pop, toning down the seriousness of Gibbard's day job and creating some great singles and EP's -boosted by left-filed covers from label mates The Shins and Iron & Wine.
NOW: With no real evidence of a follow up and Death Cab just releasing a new album, Ben Gibbard stated that it was unlikely there will be another Postal Service album "before the end of the decade". Strange that Sub Pop's all-time number three hitter should still be another man's side project, but what can you do.
SUB POP SAYS: "Instead of hiring someone to lay Gibbard down for the dirt nap, he (Jimmy Tamborello) asked DCFC’s leader to lay down vocals on a track for his upcoming album."
KILLER TRACK: Such Great Heights (MP3)Read more 3.5 star reviews
The Creek Drank The Cradle
THEN: Not to doubt their ability to unearth a great band, but at first glance Iron and Wine might appear a very un-Sub Pop signing. A mellow fellow, hushed vocals, an acoustic guitar and a tape deck do not normally make up the type of act the label is renowned for. However, it quickly becomes clear that their judgement on Sam Beam's talents was spot on.
NOW: It still sounds like some lost tapes of a folk genius from the 60s or 70s. Sparse guitar, haunting vocals whispering evocative stories on the memories of loves found and lost. While I prefer his 2nd full album (Our Endless Numbered Days), this is still a great record - easily recommended as a soundtrack to staring out the window on a long train journey.
SUB POP SAYS: “An ode to an older … part of America defined by “traditional values,” pastoral imagery and arcane manners.”
KILLER TRACK: Upward Over The Mountain - although ‘Killer’ so isn’t the right wordRead more 3.5 star reviews
Oh, Inverted World!
THEN: In 2001 Sub Pop took a gamble with The Shins and rolled the dice on a run of 4000 copies of their debut album. Sales went well and then and the band's second album Chutes Too Narrow came out to positive reviews, before the band had two tracks from Oh, Inverted World on the soundtrack to Zach Braff's Garden State in 2004, as well as a name-check in the film from Natalie Portman. The publicity has since pushed sales of this album past 500,000+
NOW: Still a pretty good debut, but for me this was just a warm up for the band they have developed into. Chutes Too Narrow took things a bit darker, while Wincing The Night Away added some considerable beef to their sound.
SUB POP SAYS: "The little album that could"
KILLER TRACK: According to Natalie Portman, New Slang will "change your life".Read more 3.5 star reviews
Damon and Naomi With Ghost
THEN: Following them demise of Galaxie 500, this was the fourth album from Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang - and to beef things up a bit they enlisted the help of psychedelic Japanese band Ghost, who added an even more dense layer of atmospherics to the album's sound.
NOW: Still the definitive Damon & Naomi record, providing everything you need to know about these guys. Cerebral, medative and moving - put this on and set your afternoon to 'snooze'. Beautiful.
SUB POP SAYS: “We never thought we would perform because there’s no rhythm section, and us being a former rhythm section, we thought there’s nothing worse than a band without a rhythm section.”
KILLER TRACK: Judah & The MaccabeesRead more 5 star reviews