Sound it Out # 69: The War on Drugs - “Red Eyes” (free MP3)
It’s a rare rainy day here in LA, and I can’t imagine any song sounding better right now than “Red Eyes”, the new song from The War on Drugs.
Adam Granduciel is the creative force behind The War on Drugs, and he’s been joined by an ever-changing group of collaborators throughout the band’s 11-year history. The current line-up has been stable through two years of touring and the recording of the new album Lost in the Dream. The result is a cohesive group of beautiful and atmospheric pop songs that are perfect for inclement weather.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford declared yesterday to be "Bob Marley Day." It's hard to read the tea-leaves on this one: is it a wink-wink reach-out to the stoner vote from a mayor who admitted to smoking crack and who has been accused by his staff in sworn affidavits of both smoking weed at work and offering weed as a ransom in exchange for the return of his lost mobile phone? Is it a charm offensive aimed at Toronto's large Jamaican/West Indian population, many of whom were offended by the mayor's drunken impression of an angry, ranting patois-speaker? Is it a totally non-ironic celebration of a great musician and great political thinker (albeit one whose politics ran totally contrary to the mayor's own)?
Last night, The Flaming Lips and Sean Lennon performed "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" on the Late Show With David Letterman. I found it quite wonderful. It's part of the show's musical series this week celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' first performance on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Sound it Out # 68: Drowners - "Luv, Hold Me Down" (free MP3)
New wave music ruled my teenage world. The swirly guitars and romantic vocals of bands like Echo and the Bunnymen, The Cure and The Smiths gave me great joy back in the 80s and still do today. It’s no wonder then that the Drowners debut album totally pushes my buttons. It has that perfect blend of punchy pop backdrops and moody lyrics that would satisfy any petulant teen, even the one you still carry around inside you.
“Luv, Hold Me Down” is the epitome of this. Grab it now and see if you feel the same way.
Sound it Out # 67: Off! - “Void You Out” (free MP3)
The men of OFF! have some harcore credentials...literally. Even though members Keith Morris (singer for Circle Jerks and Black Flag), Steven MacDonald (bassist for Redd Kross), Dmitri Coats (singer for Burning Brides) and Mario Rubalcaba (drummer for Rocket from the Crypt and Hot Snakes) have lives and children and responsibilities now, they obviously haven’t left behind their joy of stripped down thrash rock.
OFF! has a new album of old-school punk rock gems called Wasted Years coming out on April 8, and all 16 songs on it were recorded and written live in the studio. It’s kind of funny to think about, but OFF! are professionals. They’re the punk equivalent of studio musicians and it’s easy to imagine them spitballing songs and getting right down to the business of punching you in the face with their music.
“Void You Out” clocks in at a little over a minute, but packs in all the fury and melody one could want. Get it below.
My friend Terry Ashkinos is a veteran of San Francisco's underground rock scene, having performed for years in bands like Elephone and, most recently, Fake Your Own Death. Terry, who by day molds the minds of our youth as a middle school social studies teacher, spent last summer in Berlin on a teaching fellowship. Alone and inspired, he wrote a handful of tunes that would become the foundation of El Terrible, his new group that now includes Scott Eberhardt on drums and vocals, and Adrian McCullough on bass, synth, and backing vocals. Tomorrow, El Terrible releases its first EP, on Breakup Records. Recorded by Rogue Wave's Rob Easson, it's an excellent self-titled collection of four dark, spare, and beautiful post-punk tracks. The album is available as a digital download for $4. Add $1 more and you get a limited-edition yellow cassette. Yes, cassette. Stream the whole thing above and purchase it over at El Terrible's Bandcamp page.
Sound it Out # 66: Tokyo Police Club - “Hot Tonight” (free MP3)
I must apologize in advance. This song is going to stick in your head, and it’s not going to leave you alone for a long time. It has wormed its way into my brain and literally kept me awake at night.
Toronto indie band Tokyo Police Clubhas always shown a strong a pop sensibility, but they’ve written a hit song of boy-band proportions with “Hot Tonight.” It’s the first single from their upcoming album Forcefield, most of which is rougher around the edges than this glossy ditty. You can pre-order the record at their Pledge Music page along with a bunch of fan-pleasing bundles.
We have a free download of “Hot Tonight” for two days only. Listen at your own risk.
Sound it Out # 65: Total Slacker - "Sometimes You Gotta Die" (free MP3)
It’s hard to take Total Slacker seriously. Get past their name and you still have four people in their twenties wearing 90’s “fashion”. We’re talking high-waisted, acid-washed Guess jeans, oversized jackets and bowl cuts. Singer/frontman Tucker Rountree met bassist Emily Oppenheimer at a laundromat and professes an unironic love for The Olive Garden.
But listen to their new record Slip Away (out on February 11) and you’ll realize that there’s something more going on here. The music is raw, unpolished, and passionate.
Total Slacker’s original drummer Terence Connor was killed in a hit-and-run accident in 2012 which propelled them into a grief-induced flurry of songwriting and recording. The most obvious result is “Sometimes You Gotta Die”, a song that I think is about how sometimes the only way to appreciate life is to experience terrible pain. Hear and download below.
In each episode of Gweek, I invite a guest or two to join me in a discussion about recommended media, apps, and gadgets. This time my guests were Joshua Glenn, a Boston-based author and semiotician, and co-author of Unbored, a bestselling collection of family activities; and Rob Reid, and entrepreneur and author of the science fiction novel Year Zero.
This episode of Gweek is brought to you by ProFlowers. Get a special Gweek listener discount by clicking this link.
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Sound it Out # 64: Chaos of Birds - “Rank and Ruin” (free MP3)
Nicole Thomas and Meghan Adkins are two friends with a supernatural musical connection. They formed the legendary Seattle band Mavis Piggott in the mid-90’s, then reunited in Oakland years later to form Chaos of Birds. Meghan is a ferocious singer and songwriter, unafraid to show vulnerability yet possessed of a voice that summons astonishing depths of rage and passion. Nicole plays drums with a effortless zeal that belies her technical skill. With Chaos of Birds, they’ve added great guitar and bass in the way of Will Morton and Matt Ray, and the result is well-crafted bluesy sludge.
Having just returned from a UK tour, Chaos of Birds are planning their next steps (take note managers, booking agents and A&R humans!), including some shows on the west coast. They recorded a couple of songs recently and I’m honored to share the first with you. It’s called “Rank and Ruin” and Meghan’s yowl never sounded better.
Sound it Out # 63: Barzin - "All The While" (free MP3)
It doesn’t surprise me at all that Barzin has a book of poetry out in the world in addition to his records. His songs are melancholy and ultra-verbal, avoiding easy turns of phrase or cheap rhymes. Barzin’s fourth record To Live Alone in that Long Summer (out February 25) finds him in the familiar territory of misunderstood overthinkers, frustrated with humans and craving connections. It’s odd that his songs of alienation are so comforting, but the themes are universal and Barzin just expresses them better than most of us could.
“All the While” is an especially lovely introduction to Barzin. Grab it below.
I find this comparison of Mozart's ear with that of an "ordinary ear" to be interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it's apparently the work of Mozart, himself. You can see "mein" crossed out and Mozart's name written in by somebody else. Second, I would love to know who got to represent all the other ears in humanity for the purposes of this comparison. That made me smile a little. Finally, is that an earring, Amadeus?
You may know Sabina’s voice from her former band Brazilian Girls, though this German-Italian artist is apparently not Brazilian at all. Sabina delivers fanciful stories of talking animals and anthropomorphized objects in a sultry and matter-of-fact tone, while the music spans styles and often defies description. There’s a tone of batshit-crazy genius suffusing it all, making her debut album Toujours a whole lot of fun. It’s out on February 18. Check out the title track below.
In 1969, French avant-garde chanteuse Brigitte Fontaine played a beautifully eccentric set at the Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier in Paris with the radically experimental Art Ensemble of Chicago. The show, titled Comme à la radio, features Fontaine weaving her free-verse poetry through the AEOC's far out bass-driven percussive grooves and trance-inducing woodwind phrasing. Actor/musician Areski Belkacem, Fontaine's longtime collaborator, guests on hand drums. Check out the title track above! The fine folks at the excellent Superior Viaduct archival label have now reissued Comme à la radio on vinyl and CD, following up on their reissue of Fontaine's amazing 1968 debut Brigitte Fontaine Est…Folle.