Category Archives: indie rock

God bless the Queen of Split Ends

Comic courtesy of Natalie Dee.

The Times Magazine, usually the highlight of my Sundays (especially when paired with coffee and/or the occasional Bloody Mary), has been sorta eh in terms of it’s music coverage lately. Last week’s profile of the freak folky sister duo Coco Rosie was fairly well-written (a tad breathless at the sisters’ involvement in Paris’s fashion community, perhaps), but seriously confusing, timing-wise. Nothing against Coco Rosie – I was a fan of the emotional weirdness of their last record (as I noted last year), and they’re artists and fashion icons, I get it, I get it, but so’s everyone else making music in Paris and Brooklyn. Why write about them now? The whole “freak folk” trend is years-old news, Coco Rosie’s latest record came out over a year ago, and I wouldn’t say there’s been any sort of Coco Rosie craze lately – not even a music blog or Pitchfork-propelled one. It looks like Fernanda Eberstadt just reaaaallly likes them, and somehow convinced an editor at the Times mag that that was enough to warrant a story. And that’s what blogs are for!

Then again, not more than a month ago they also printed Emily Gould’s entirely-too-long, rambling, self-obsessed, shoulda-been-a-LiveJournal-entry piece, so maybe they’re still coming to terms with the whole “difference between blogs and a respected news publication” thing.

Anyway, this week they’ve gone and totally redeemed themselves! First off, Deborah Solomon’s interview with Patti Smith is hilarious and totally intriguing. An excerpt:

You seem to cultivate a kind of wild-child mystique, even in your appearance. For instance, why don’t you use hair conditioner? I do use conditioner!

I’m surprised. You’re the queen of split ends. That’s very funny because I’ve just cut about eight inches off my hair because it was just too ratty-looking.”

The Queen of Split Ends? Damn Deborah! Way to just straight-up insult Patti Smith’s hair. Not everyone can have your shiny, bouncy, 100 percent split-end free locks. Elsewhere, Virginia Heffernan, the all-knowing voice of “adventures in digital culture” behind the Medium column – a weekly fav of ours – writes about enduring band presence on MySpace, despite the fact that most college kids have fled to the more stylish, application-filled Facebookland, with the main focus on Coldplay’s MySpace page:

“Mine is the 21,120,387th visit to Coldplay’s MySpace page. I am not greeted warmly. The British band — which is known for giant pop hits, a sheen of fakery and the marriage of its lead singer to Gwyneth Paltrow — does not exactly rush out to greet me. The page is rudimentary and indifferently decorated, like the apartment of four couchbound soccer addicts who barely look up when a girlfriend comes in.”

I love everything about that paragraph. Heffernan continues her dissection of “the world’s most insufferable band’s” MySpace page, with reference to Times music critic Jon Pareles’ infamous 2005 article, of course. Read the rest here.

Oh, and PS – I wrote a piece about drag kings. Maybe you saw me, dressed as a man, on the cover of the Phoenix this week. If not, check it out here.

Daniel Johnston’s art sale

Via OTD:

Dirty Pilot, an art gallery based in Cochituate, is hosting an exhibit of Captain America drawings by the indie cult-favorite singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston. The artwork’s entirely online – the gallery used to have a physical space, but now has retired to the Interwebs, according to their website. From the inbox:

“Over the course of Daniel Johnston’s career as well documented through this survey of drawings from the mid 1970’s thru 2005, Daniel has continuously wrestled artistically with his signature character Captain America. This super hero has not only been equated by Daniel with a symbol of Divine Glory and the American Dream, but also with the worship of his father Bill a decorated war veteran.

This overview explores a range of work from Daniel’s early College notebook drawings through his later finished color and B&W drawings.

Recent accomplishments include the award-winning documentary “The Devil and Daniel Johnston”, a property of Sony Pictures Classics, opened to rave reviews on March 31st 2006, in both NY and LA, and the long-awaited DVD release of the film was released on September 19th, ‘06. Running concurrently with the opening of the film was a major show of Daniel’s artwork at a prominent NY gallery and a collection of Daniel’s work at the Whitney Museum’s Biennial exhibit!”

We’ll admit it – we loved The Devil and Daniel Johnston. It was a fascinating documentary of a musician whose influence is evident in today’s indie rock, yet he’s still not particularly well-known (outside of ’80’s and ’90’s indie rock fans, and the aforementioned cult followers). We feel it should be required viewing for any music fan today, along with Stop Making Sense and Runnin’ Down a Dream. Kurt Cobain liked Johnston’s music enough to rock a “Hi How Are You” t-shirt at televised Nirvana gigs:

And Johnston’s artwork was a common thread in the movie (a reflection of the role it’s played in his life), lending an air of levity to a story that’s somewhat heartbreaking, though Johnston’s still around, still playing the occasional gig. Below, a sampling of works in Johnston’s Dirty Pilot show. Purchase if you’ve got the funds – looks like pieces are selling for about $75 – $1,800, and a few have already been sold.

See more here.

Mental Detox week

Via the Phlog:

Happy Mental Detox week! Yeah, so Mental Detox week began on Monday and I have yet to actually turn anything off – or at least the things that AdBusters, who launched the original TV Turn-Off week (now renamed Mental Detox Week) back in 1994, want me to. AdBusters has changed the guidelines to be both more forgiving and more inclusive. Sign of the times: I actually (unintentionally) haven’t turned on my TV at all this week, which means if it was still plain-old TV Turn-Off Week, I’d be all “Hey, no problem! I can go without TV easily,” but the Internet?! Here’s the thing, a job that requires staring at Snap Judgments and bus stop street art on the Internets all day + IFFB + newly downloaded episodes of My So-Called Life, which I can’t believe I’m still obsessing over, via Miro + Does seeing live music count? Because I’ve already done that twice this week = Too Many Complications for Mental Detoxification. FAIL.

Here’s what AdBusters wants me to do:

“Today you’re not going to listen to your iPod. You aren’t going to stare at a computer screen any more than you absolutely have to. Today you won’t worry about unanswered email, and you’re not going to login to Facebook. You’ll cut the time you spend on digital devices right down to the bone.

In the evening maybe you will watch your favorite TV show for an hour, but after that you switch off, have a conversation, wash the dishes, read for a bit, and just relax. You do that for five days, and then on Friday night you make a decision to unplug completely for the whole weekend.

For a couple of days you might feel like an addict in withdrawal: peevish, agitated, and distracted. But then something will happen. Your over-stimulated brain will cleanse itself. You’ll relax. You’ll feel calmer, more grounded.”

The fact that all of this is posted on a website (and now I’m reposting it on a blog) is sort of cloaked in irony – how are we supposed to spread the word about Mental Detox Week and actually detox at the same time? Smoke signals? Snail-mail chain letters? Don’t get me wrong, Mental Detox week would be great if I could take the week off and go camping at Yosemite, gather a group of friends and a cooler of cold beverages (but no road-tripping tunes, of course!!), but I can’t. I guess this is just my way of saying “Hi, My name is Caitlin, and I’m addicted to glorious, musical, visually-stimulating technology, AKA mental toxins.”

Songs like stories.

In January, Scituate native Casey Dienel blogged: “For the present and foreseeable future, there won’t be any more Casey Dienel.” It wasn’t an Internet suicide note but news of a musical departure of sorts. Critics adored the homegrown folk quirk of her 2006 solo debut Wind-Up Canary (Hush), which was recorded on a farm in Leominster. Yet as she noted in a recent NPR interview, Dienel’s a collaborator. So she formed a quartet, reinvented herself as White Hinterland, and schlepped to Portland (no cows or silos in sight) to record her first post-Dienel album, Phylactery Factory.”

Read the rest here.

MySpace: White Hinterland

Caribou talks math and Zombies

Via OTD:

The Ontario-born, London-dwelling, math-whiz musician Dan Snaith has been kicking around the electronic music world since 2000, when he released an EP called People Eating Fruit, under the moniker Manitoba. Originally, music was a part-time gig, pursued on the side while Snaith taught and pursued a PhD in math. Just before earning that degree, he was forced to abandon his musical claim on Manitoba, when former Dictators frontman Richard “Handsome Dick” Manitoba decided to sue… even though, you know, Manitoba is the name of a Canadian province, and not just Handsome Dick’s. Luckily, Snaith got over it, and switched to Caribou after a meaningful LSD trip, then ditched math to make music his full-time job. His excellent, multi-instrumental 2007 album, Andorra (Merge), saw Snaith confidently wading into the world of 60s-referencing psych-pop music, and not in a bad way. He’ll play the Paradise with Fuck Buttons tonight, and he chatted with us last weekend, from the snowy roads of Canada (I meant to post this earlier, but I was held back by technical snafus – bummer!).

When asked about his political preferences in a recent interview with XXL magazine, DMX admitted he didn’t know who Barack Obama was. Do you consider yourself well-informed, in terms of world news?

That’s definitely shocking to me. I’m not the most informed, but I definitely can confirm I’ve heard of Barack Obama. If he hasn’t heard of Barack Obama he probably hasn’t heard of previous political leaders in the past decade or so.

You may be sick of this question, but there’s an obvious transition from psych-electronica to psych-pop on your latest album, Andorra. How did this come about?

It was one conscious decision to switch styles. In the past my music has been made by building loops on top of one another. I wanted to make pop songs with big melodies and not just a hypnotic kind of music. The last 3 of the 4 albums have been psych influenced. I like the ambition and the scope, big headspace music, rather than the stripped down post punky kind of sound. Im kind of a record nerd, so I’ve got piles of obscure psych rock bands that I might only like one or two tracks from. This last record, the Zombies were a big influence – they do this baroque psych pop – and they embodied a lot of what I wanted to do. That’s probably something that won’t continue. I’ve done what I wanted to do with that.

You studied and taught math for several years, but now you’re a full-time musician. Have you always juggled the two? Now that music is your full-time gig, do you ever miss math?

I‘m a nerd, and I just love learning about things so I ended up learning about both music and math. But there came a time when I had to make a decision. I’ve always wanted to be a musician. I don’t really miss math – I never do mathematics at all since I got my PhD. I grew up in such a mathematic environment – almost everyone in my family has a math degree – so I don’t feel entirely away from it.

Technically Caribou is your solo project; music created while you were holed up in your bedroom. But for live shows, you perform with other musicians. Why?

There’s four of us on stage. I do everything on the records myself. Doing it all day everyday is sort of something that makes more sense on my own, but the live thing is different – it’s better when it’s very much a collaboration.

Your albums are amalgams of instruments and sounds. How many instruments do you play personally?

I’d probably only say that I play piano well, but that’s an open ended question. Other instruments [on the album], I learn enough to get what I want out of them.

When did you start writing music?

I started playing piano when I was 5 but it didn’t really consume me till I switched teachers at 13 or 14, and they started to emphasize improvisation, and understanding how music fits together. It was a weird little town that I grew up in. The kids were into Rush and Yes, or the Grateful Dead so I was into that. But I was also into Aphex Twin, so my high school band was this terrible car crash of the two things. It sounded like a teenage misindulgence in music. But it was a good starting point in learning how to make music.

LISTEN: Caribou on MySpace

My most enjoyed songs for the week.

Someone turn this into a mix tape or something.

“out of reaches” by stephen malkmus – real emotional trash

“recent bedroom” by atlas sound – let the blind lead those who can see but cannot feel

“so happy (bored remix)” by hooray for earth – b-sides disc from the cellphone ep listening party

“4 minute warning” by radiohead – in rainbows, disc 2

“kids” by mgmt- oracular spectacular

“tears in the typing pool” by broadcast – tender buttons

“all in it” by british sea power – do you like rock music?

“lost women” by yardbirds – roger the engineer

“sisters of the moon” by fleetwood mac – tusk

“rose parade” by elliott smith – either/or

World premiere: Hooray For Earth’s “Warm Out” video

I can’t decide which part of this Hooray For Earth video I like best  – Noel Heroux in a sleep mask, the canoeing on Lake Winnipesauke scene (a reference to the classic film What About Bob?, which was also filmed there), the abundance of lamps, or the “happy springtime retreat ruined by axe-wielding creepy guy” theme. Or maybe it’s just that “Warm Out,” from Hooray For Earth’s upcoming Cellphone EP, is an effing fantastic song; one that follows HFE’s trademark amalgam of rumbling, snarling guitar, sweet blips of synth, and “goosebump melodies,” as one Phoenix scribe so adequately put it. Both the song and the video debuted at HFE’s Cellphone listening party at Middlesex last night, along with a hilarious film montage of Jagermeister-fueled “failed interviews” with the band (which is sadly not on YouTube). No word on whether there’ll be a re-screening at the EP release show at the Middle East Downstairs on February 29, with Caspian, Age Rings, and Zambri (a grungy NYC glam pop band who need to be seen live “because they’re animals, and if you capture any of them and return them to the zoo, you get 50 grand,” according to their MySpace), but if hearing “Warm Out” live is a guarantee, I’ll be there.

Also, February 29 is the single release show for Age Rings, and they’ve got a spiffy new website up, where you can listen to their songs, “Big Black Hole” and “Vanessa’s Neck,” from the upcoming double album Black Honey. Go! Do it!