Download Like a Pirate

September 19, 2010

Today is the  insufferably self-amused Talk Like a Pirate Day.  What better way to avoid criminally not funny imitations of Johnny Depp than by downloading a free EP by Pete and the Pirates.

One of my favorite labels, UK’s Stolen Recordings is offering a free EP of Pete and the Pirates demos called Precious Tones.  The short-player is full of angular, super-catchy audience sing-a-longs like “Selina.”  The band also steps down to smoother compositions like “My Sun Hat” that resemble PATP side project Tap Tap.

It’s been more than two years since Little Death, one of 2008’s best records.  Until the band finishes its new CD, treat yourself to Pete and the Pirates’ free download for the cost of your e-mail address.  We can also hope they tour more broadly, having only stopped ashore for brief appearances in New York and Austin.


What I Did on my Summer Vacation

September 5, 2010

The highlight of August was our 3 week trip to Bali, an Indonesian paradise off the coast of Australia.  A sly observer snapped this moment when Alexandra and I were perched over a lovely sunset at dusk.  Ah, it was a winsome time those precious days on the other side of the planet. 

Actually none of that is true I spent August like most of you, grinding away at work.  The photograph is obviously photoshopped.  Seriously, who does that?  Characters in Avatar, that’s who. 

While I haven’t posted for several weeks, I did keep up on new music and I hope that you did, too.  And Labor Day was a good reminder to update you on what will undoubtedly be the finest collection of live shows in Salt Lake since I moved here.  The highlights which I personally suggest you begin saving for now:

Sept 25 School of Seven Bells.  Really liked Disconnect from Desire in a way that I didn’t SoSB debut.
Sept 28 Erik  Blood.  Swooning, shoegazing, homoerotic songs from Seattle.  Never thought I would string those 3 descriptors together in one sentence.
Oct 8 Surfer Blood and The Drums.  Don’t let the blog buzz scare you.  Both bands are worth your hard-earned rock dollar playing alone, certainly together.
Oct 18 Phantogram.  One of this year’s many great dance records is Phantogram’s Eyelid Movies.
Oct 19 LCD Soundsytem and Hot Chip.  Strictly commercially speaking, this is the hottest tour in the country.  And for good reason…don’t miss it.
Oct 22 Sleigh Bells.  Friend of mine saw Sleigh Bells in Jacksonville and was sold on their song “Infinity Guitars.”
Nov 2 Best Coast.  Singer Bethany Cosentino croons Best Coast’s surf-garage pop somewhere between Patsy Cline and Kim Deal.
Nov 6 P.O.S.  I’ve missed I bet five P.O.S. appearances in Salt lake the last two years, so I won’t miss November’s punk rap performance.

See the complete list in the right column of the home page, which is finally updated after recovering from the jetlag from Bali.

UPDATE:  The LCD Soundsystem show at The Complex, a venue I am still not sure actually exists, has been cancelled.  Sucks for everyone else but good for me because I was going to miss the show of the year because of a trip to DC.  Also the September 23 Phoenix show has been moved to In the Venue from the equally mysterious Rail Center.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE:  Crushing defeat.  Kilby’s Sept 28 booking is apparently not with Erik Blood of Seattle but Eric Blood of Orem.  A nice guy, I’m sure, but Orem’s EB quotes as his influences Phish, Dave Matthews, and Jack Johnson.  And that’s enough said about that.

Wavves and Woods

July 24, 2010

Look who’s releasing pop albums this summer!

Noisy, stoned, bored Nathan Williams’ 3rd record as Wavves, King of the Beach, is a veritable family sing-a-long of  garage  bedroom rockers compared to his previous two releases.  Where Wavves and Wavvves were exercises in amp-distorting, face-melting sonics, King of the Beach not only benefits from a more deft touch in production, it also boasts more dynamic arrangements.  At certain moments (“Super Soaker’s” STUPID! refrain), King of the Beach edges a wee too close to Green Day, but for the most part this is still the soundtrack of a disaffected and self-deprecating young man who can still bust out a pretty charming Brian Wilson hook. 

And, hey, he avoided what would have been the insufferably-titled Wavvvves.

One of my favorite albums so far this year, At Echo Lake, is a devastating leap forward for Woods.  Eccentric and feminine where the Dutchess and the Duke are ill-tempered and unshaven, Woods brings several complimentary pieces to the whole.  Southern gothic tones, some freedom-rocking David Crosby, and doses of 60’s Syd Barrett psychedelia, all bound together with a way-cool AM lo-fidelity better hummed than sung.  At Echo Lake is sure to end up on my Top 10 list this year, and I can only hope the band strays far enough west to see live.

Birth of a Record Label: Slowtrain Records

July 13, 2010

Thousands of middle-aged music lovers tonight relived their (parents’) youth watching a nearly 70-year-old Beatle rerack his antiquated discography for Utah.  Five words:  The Who Superbowl Halftime Show.  Weren’t you just a little embarrassed to be watching?  At least you didn’t pay $160/ticket.  Better to have saved those 16,000 pennies to support a new era of local music that begins Sunday night.

Chris  and  Anna  Brozek
opened Slowtrain records in 2006 and have spent the last four years growing an exemplary local business built with one-on-one customer relationships, a passion for new music, and, increasingly, live performances hosted from aisles of the record store at 221 East Broadway and in its basement performance space the Subterranean.  What more natural extension, then, to birth the Slowtrain Records Label which is commemorated Sunday July 18.  (Photo:  Russ Isabella)

Most any emo singer-songwriter with a 4-track recorder, ProTools, and Photoshop can burn his own CDs with homemade sleeves and sell them out of the back of his van.  Pressing vinyl is a more complicated and esoteric process.  Getting a gig with the Slowtrain label means you have the opportunity for CD and vinyl release, plus bands will enjoy in-store marketing and the Brozek’s regional music relationships in Portland, Phoenix, and probably some other cool town I’ve never visited like Stockholm or some such place.

So leave the Paul McCartney concert to your socially awkward uncle and instead join Slowtrain’s pre-release show for premier label release The Devil Whale.  A $20 ticket gets you a pre-order copy of the vinyl, a CDEP,  the band’s private performance, complimentary adult beverages while they last, and assorted raffle fun.  And it guarantees your participation in authentic musical democracy.  Vote with your financial support: Today’s Devils Whale is tomorrow’s  Soft Pack, Lightspeed Champion, and Ty Segall.

Ritter’s Curse: The Puppet Show

June 19, 2010

Honestly, I’m not much of a Josh Ritter fan.  If for no other reason than the Adult Alternative focus-grouped title So Runs the World Away, there’s little chance I’ll buy his new album.  But just about any video in claymation or puppeteering is candidate for my instant seal of approval.  Ritter’s elegant, waltzing “The Curse” is the touching memoir of a mummy who falls in love with the paleontologist who discovers him. 

The lyrics alone are precious enough to reanimate the dead: 

What beautiful lines
Heart full of life
After thousands of years, what a face to wake up to

Add to that the lovingly-produced video and you have yourself a heartwarming classic.  Last month, National Public Radio profiled how Ritter’s drummer Liam Hurley created the video.

Dance Fight

June 10, 2010

Mitchell:  “Remember when I told you everything I needed to know about fighting I learned from West Side Story?”
Jay:  “Yea, so how’d that work out for you?
Mitchell:  “Ah, I’ll let you know the next time I’m in a dance fight.”

I’ve stolen that great line from Modern Family at least two other times, so I figured I’d make it the subject of a quick post.  Some great, danceable music has been part of 2010 and I thought I’d share with you a few highlights.  Click to listen!

Goldfrapp – “Rocket” from Head First.  If Olivia Newton-John recoved from a decade of plastic surgery to record a 1981 self-caricature it would be the first single from Head First.  Maybe I just assumed based on Alison’s sensual 80’s hair on the airbrushed album cover that “Rocket” was some kind of phallic metaphor.  Even more appropriate to the era of the space shuttle, it’s about shooting an ex-lover into space.  Admittedly the chorus, “Oo oo oo I’ve got a rocket,” is so bubblegum my 5-year-old daughter requests it in the car.  But the ELO swooshes in the background are irresistable.

Solid Gold – “One in a Million” from Synchronize EP.  Maybe you’ve heard?  Soft 70’s is the new black.  There’s just not a lot Midlake has done that has ever gotten me on board, but I have been loving the restrained cheese from Minneapolis moodsters Solid Gold.  Synchronize is smooth and soulful glam but “One in a Million” begs for a weary 3AM dance at some dimly-remembered after-hours bar.  The EP includes a much-written about cover of Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone.”  One reviewer called it “possibly homoerotic” which I can’t say I disagree with and has started to creep me out a bit.

Hot Chip – “Hand Me Down Your Love” from One Life Stand.  Hot Chip mix a subtler groove, not all of them made to shuffle your feet to, but “Hand Me Down” certainly is.  Coming right out of the chute at the beginning of 2010, there’s hardly a stinker on the entire album.  OK, “Alley Cats” kind of sucks but this is a record that I just got deeper and deeper with all year long.  Especially impressive are the Up With People-inspired “Brothers” and the gorgeous ballads, “Slush” and “Take It In.”  Alex Taylor’s voice has never sounded more dynamic and controlled.

LCD Soundsystem – “Drunk Girls” from This is Happening.  LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip swap a lot of spit but really live in two different spaces.  Both are critical darlings, but James Murphy breathes pretty rarified air in his pop trajectory.  Seriously, he could release an album of fax noise and wouldn’t most of us buy it?  “Drunk Girls” is destined to be a house party classic.  The Spike Jonze video is hilarious and disturbing.

Sambassadeur – “I Can Try” from European.  Maybe I have Olivia Newton-John on the brain but at certain moments Sweden’s Sambassadeur sound like ABBA covering Xanadu.  Adding even more to the coctail, Anna Persson sings like a resurrected Kirsty MacColl.  “I Can Try,” available for free download, is pure 80’s joy, although the equally entertaining “Stranded” which opens European is most evocative of ABBA.    European is a great improvement over 2007’s Migration and is on my summer “must buy” list.  It should be on yours, too!

See there, I threw out several without even touching Phantogram, this year’s Phoenix.  Eyelid Movies is endlessly danceable, probably a Top 5 album for me this year, and deserves a separate treatment.

The Tallest Man on Earth at Kilby Court

May 24, 2010

The ubiquitous and appropriate comparisons to Bob Dylan notwithstanding, Kristian Matsson has recorded a pair of truly fine albums under the name The Tallest Man on Earth.  The Swedish singer-guitarist played the greater parts of Shallow Grave from 2008 and this year’s The Wild Hunt for a sold out audience last Monday at Kilby Court.  Although you might not guess from his songwriting, Matsson is quite the presence on stage.  Particularly as he would open and close songs, the TMOE prowls the stage, sits and stands melodramatically, climbs sound equipment, and pumps his guitar to elongate a closing flourish.

Matsson is a songwriter first, a (really extraordinary) guitarist second, and a singer third.  Certainly it is the first two qualities that set him apart, and they were both on fine display amid mischievous banter with the crowd.  The performance possessed biting urgency but seemed at the same time effortless, making the Freewheelin’ comparisons apt.  Mattson rolled (sorry) through “I Won’t Be Found,” “Pistol Dreams,” “The Gardener” and most of the rest of Shallow Grave and from The Wild Hunt:  “Burden of Tomorrow,”Troubles Will Be Gone,” “King of Spain,” and the title track.  He spared us from what I personally found Wild Hunt’s ill-conceived Tom Petty tribute, “Kids on the Run.”

As though the stage antics and a guarded allusion to “the prettiest girl in the world” who flew into Salt Lake to meet him that day weren’t charming enough, Matsson performed the last song of his encore in absolute silence.  Shutting down Kilby’s fans, the hum from the sound system, and climbing on a stage speaker one last time, the TMOE played a raptuous version of “Like the Wheel” so close to me I could smell the cigarettes on his breath.  Kilby was achingly quiet and the song and its lyrics were enough to make you teary-eyed.


The Wild Hunt is easy to find, Shallow Grave less so, but find yourself a copy of both for a real lesson in the American folk tradition from the farthest reaches of Sweden!

Dolorean and Delorean

April 6, 2010

I was pretty excited to hear that Portland, Oregon’s Dolorean would be playing Salt Lake City’s Urban Lounge April 10.  My friend Rachel turned me on to 2003’s Not Exotic several years ago and I was hooked.  It is maudlin, elegiac, and beautiful.  Singer Al James opens Not Exotic with a trio of  excruciating, mournful ballads and concludes with the macabre love tale “Hannibal, MO” near the album’s end.  

James is why
God invented
lonely white guys.

Still, I was a bit skeptical.  I found 2007’s You Can’t Win a bit unremarkable and their 2010 effort Unfazed was promoted as a Dolorean collaborative as recently as this fall but is now being marketed as an Al James solo work.  Money woes might be splintering Dolorean, if amicably.

I was not surprised, then, after a little sleuthing to learn that the Urban Lounge show would not star Dolorean but instead Dolorean’s antithesis, Delorean.  That’s Delorean with an “e” and from nowhere near Portland.  Specifically from Barcelona, Spain.  The eternally winsome and infectious Delorean with an “e” released last year’s  spry Aryton Senna EP.

Delorean performs the EP’s flanged “Seasun” here in 2009.

Falling somewhere between the dreamy pop of Air France and Primal Scream’s 90’s dub, I have a hard time classifying Delorean with an “e” as dance or even dance-pop.  They build the house keyboards with restraint and layer the climactic vocals with great effect.  But look, they rock.  It just so happens you can dance to it. 

I’m downloading the summer release Subiza from Delorean with an “e” as I write this.  That may be the subject of another post.  But anyone planning to to sip red wine and mope about lost love with Dolorean with an “o” will quickly find themselves celebrating the onset of spring and maybe, just maybe, wandering onto the dance floor to celebrate.

Prodigal Son Lux

April 3, 2010

I wrote of 2008’s Son Lux disc that “Ryan Lott was THIS CLOSE to producing a game-changer with Walls & Mazes but for a paucity of musical ideas.”  This seemed to have been a consistent criticism with At War With Walls and Mazes, that Lott had created a vulnerable little symphonic album with the emphasis on “little.”  Too few melodies compiled into several arrangements that were a tad redundant.

Strange, then, after falling off the grid for 2 years that Lott would whet listeners’ appetite with the Weapons EP.  “Weapons” is the most memorable track from Walls and Mazes and here Lott interprets the song six times, most successfully on the lively “Weapons V.”  Other versions are successively ethereal, rhythmic, and even include a painfully white remix with rapper Alias.

Exactly how many more ideas does Ryan Lott have for the next release that Anticon Records says he is working on?  And between composing for the Gina Gibney dance company and similar high brow pursuits, will Son Lux morph into something more avante garde and outside popular taste?

Let’s hope Lott is warehousing some great new songs that continue and expand on the creativity promised two years ago.

The Dutchess & The Duke at The State Room

March 29, 2010

Jesse Lortz and Kimberly Morrison remarked they had driven to Salt Lake City from Denver Wednesday, which may have helped to explain their first two songs.  The Dutchess and the Duke looked like they were about to fall asleep on their royal beds before perking up for “Scorpio,” “Let it Die,” and (particularly) “Never Had a Chance.”  Each of the succeeding performances from Sunrise/Sunset, followed by choreographed swills from their beer bottles, seemed to give the duo more energy.

The 2009 record, full of dirty and rough-hewn 60’s folk and blues, is much my favorite to their debut She’s the Dutchess, He’s the Duke.  Where the 2008 album is all grit and grimace, Sunrise/Sunset brings a little more sunlight to the melodies.  Lortz and Morrison did ramble through “Strangers” and “Back to Me” from their prior release.

The Dutchess and the Duke are likeable enough on stage, if they tend to banter with each other off mic more than with the audience.  Morrison seemed genuinely worn out, though she follows her partner’s cues and I think would have played longer had he insisted.  But after a little more than an hour The Duke had had enough and politely refused an encore.  After 7 shows in three days at SXSW, then Denver and finally Salt Lake before heading home to Seattle, I think they were spent.  Now for some family time for Lortz before he and his bandmate hit the road in June with the New Pornographers.

This is the third time or so The Dutchess and the Duke have played here in the last year and I was glad to get a peek at them.  Either of their two records come highly recommended.