Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Mike's Year In Review

As the year comes to a close, it's time for the year in review. I won't bore you with a top ten list or any profound insights, just a very brief overview of what caught my ears and eyes during the past twelve months.

BEST ALBUMS (Regional and National)

Do You Like Rock Music? - British Sea Power

This album is exactly why I love Brit-Pop. Packed with stadium ready anthems ("Waving Flags") as well as the down tempo shoegaze much like their genres predecessors ("No Need to Cry)". Garnering rave reviews from just about everyone (Pitchfork and Pop Matters, are you actually listening to the same album?), it was also nominated for the coveted Mercury Music Award. Even for those unfamiliar with their previous work, this is a good introduction to the band.

mp3: Waving Flags

Rook - Shearwater

My love of Austin music is no secret. Couple that with my penchant for overly sad, almost mournful sounding songs, and Shearwater's June release was bound to make my favorites. As usual, Jonathan Meiburg uses the natural world, particularly birds (guess that happens when you are an ornithologist), as recurring themes. The vocals are soulful, yet slightly emotionally pained, while the instrumentation blends beautifully underneath. Again, almost universally acclaimed by the critics (got it right this time Pitchfork and Pop Matters) and picked by many as a 'must have'. I concur.

mp3: The Snow Leopard

We Belong to the Sea - Aderbat

Philly has been producing notable music since the '50s soul scene. Now as the '00s come to a close, the city is seeing a sort of revival. Not to say the music hasn't always been here, but bands are breaking from the local scene and garnering national acclaim. For pure indie, I give the nod to Aderbat. I only recently became acquainted with their music midway through this year and within the last month received their latest release. I am completely enamored with them since. Not much on the typical rock & roll stylings and ego driven individual contributions, Aderbat fuses everything into a tight package of subtle musical wonder.

mp3: Make You Run

On The Ground - Peasant

The Philly folk scene has always been a mainstay, with the annual folk festival camp out every summer, just outside the city limits. One man band Peasant (Damien DeRose) is the brightest light out of the many beacons the city claims. Well crafted lyrics sung with timid, muted vocals over simple yet complimentary instrumentation, this is the album to spend a rainy day with or as a cool down from a frantic week. The album is going through another release, this time with wider distribution, just after the new year.

mp3: We're Good


I got to see quite a few shows this year. Some I have seen before, others I caught for the first time. Most were locals, with some big names sprinkled in. Of course, the biggest show for me was seeing Robert Smith do his thing. But that's the obvious choice. I'm here to give love to the locals that deserve it.

Papertrigger is the must-see band in Philadelphia. I said it last year, and this year I double my emphasis. SEE THIS BAND! Whether it is the belled ankle coverings that are constantly jingling from the stomping feet of their owners, the upright bass getting bowed and rocked back and forth, or the stand alone bass drum with "Papertrigger" in electrical tape stuck to it being pounded, something will catch your attention and make you listen. It is an experience that must be had. With a new album coming out next year, this band is only going to get bigger. Now is the time to jump aboard.

mp3: Fox Hunting

And speaking of experiences, this time of the almost religious, you will be screaming 'Hallelujah' after seeing the gospel/folk/bluegrass blend of Hoots & Hellmouth. After seeing both of these bands within a week of each other, it was so hard to chose my favorite, so I suggest you take my word for it and see them both.

mp3: Want On Nothing

And I wouldn't be an IA writer if I didn't give a shout to These United States. Their two shows at IOTA for our anniversary were absolutely stellar. Never one to mail it in, they gave it their all both nights and we thank them whole-heartedly. A repeat showing next year? God, I hope so.

mp3: If You Gotta Go, Go Now (live)

Now I am sure my co-writers will have different opinions (if they put something together), but that's why we have so many. If you just listened to me, you would only be getting part of the picture. I hope that you enjoy what we bring to you here at IA. Let 2009 be just as musically relevant as this year was. Happy New Year!


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ringing In The New Year

Don't settle for some champagne toast at some dress-up ball or some crappy cover band at your local dive bar. Bring in 2009 at a show this year. Quite a few good one's to choose from.

Two shows are in Philly this year, both a little quirky and a bit geeky, but worth seeing. The Grand Poobahs of geek rock are coming to the TLA. John and John of They Might Be Giants will be performing all of your old favorites and some new songs from their latest in two different shows. Of course, the late show (11:00) is the place to be for the celebration, but those not able to stay out past midnight or just have stuffy parents can catch the early show (7:30). Opening the first show is .357 Lover. Basically take late show opener Corn Mo and put a band around him. Ben Folds and Andrew W.K. have good words for them and you will to.

Up in Fishtown at Johnny Brenda's is local band made good, Pattern Is Movement. Opening is The Mural and The Mint. While celebrating the new year, take time to bid farewell to Philly Weekly writer Doug Wallen, as he moves on to Australia. Here's a snippet of his writing about Pattern Is Movement.
The combination of Thiboldeaux’s swooning, near-operatic singing style and Ward’s fierce yet deconstructive drumming, surrounded by flurries of shimmering keys and sometimes strings, makes Pattern Is Movement more unusual than ever.
The single ‘Builders’ is precisely that—a breezy standout that brings us into the album while making the most of Jones’ backing vocals. Like the rest of Private Pockets, it twinkles gently but burns with sincerity, romantic and critical at once.
mp3: Pattern Is Movement - Bird
mp3: The Mural & The Mint - Private Pockets (entire album for free on website)

For the big night in the District, Rock & Roll Hotel is also getting in the party mood with local favorites. Catch US Royalty along with Pash, Lode Runner and a ton of DJs for a festive night.

mp3: US Royalty - Every Summer
mp3: Pash - Four Straight Days
mp3: Lode Runner - Dirigibles

The big ticket in Baltimore is Wu-Tang at Sonar. This place is going to be a mad house. After a night like that, you want more Wu? 9:30 Club is hosting a New Year's Day show.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Post-Christmas Weekend

Slim pickins for lifting those post-holiday blues. Friday is almost a complete wash and Philly is completely barren the entire weekend. At least DC is giving us something to look forward to.

New Rock Church of Fire
photo by Susan Pleiman

Local acts are coming out to play Saturday night and a belated gift is the CD release party for New Rock Church of Fire's latest effort Of The Wild at the 9:30 Club. Throw in favorites The Dance Party and you got yourself one hell of a show. Think of it like a post Xmas gift and an early NYE party rolled into one. I highly recommend being there.

Olivia Mancini is making an appearance with the Terrible Two (according to the show poster) at Black Cat. Along for the ride is another District band Revival and Fredericksburg's popsters Tereu Tereu.

New York's The Spring Standards are making a couple of local stops. Roots rock with a a large splash of country. The three part harmonies put them in the league of CSN. Catch them in Arden, Delaware (just north of Wilmington) at the Arden Club Friday, then down at DC9 Saturday with Brooklynites Elizabeth & The Catapult.

And of course, making a stop in Lancaster at the Chameleon Club, Wu-Tang Clan livens up central Pennsylvania.

Only one show to mention for Sunday. From the tiny confines of Rhode Island, Makeupbrakeup is finishing off the year with a mini-tour that brings them through the area. The Velvet Lounge has the pleasure of hosting. Philly, check out Bar Noir Monday night for the show.

mp3: The Dance Party - Lipstick
mp3: New Rock Church of Fire - Europa
mp3: Olivia Mancini - My Old Ways (stream)
mp3: Tereu Tereu - Dont Be Sore Farmer John
mp3: Revival - Fog Rolling In
mp3: The Spring Standards - Your Lie
mp3: Makeupbreakup - Jungle City

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Regional Holiday: Vandaveer

The final segment in our week long look at regional holiday offerings features our old friends from DC, Vandaveer. Unlike the other artists in our series, they choose to go the traditional cover route and they even want as far as to offer a 3 track EP. If you've ever seen them live, you'll instantly recognize the heartbreakingly beautiful harmonizing between Mark and Rose. If you haven't, this is a great introduction. Have a wonderful holiday.

mp3: The Little Drummer Boy
mp3: Silent Night
mp3: Auld Lang Syne

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Is That a Frog in Your Throat or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

I keep reading from a lot of bloggers about this new Auto Tune vocal effect phenomena. First off, I would like to point out that vocal effects are nothing new. If you don't know Newcleus' "Jam On It," well, you don't know what hip hop is all about, my friend. Further, Prince and Ween have damn near made side careers out of utilizing the vox technology of the day. Most recently, it's been Kayne's bag, but now everybody's favorite half pint rapper, Lady Sovereign, has dipped her toe into the stream, too.

Now, I was fairly impressed with her debut album, but I'll be honest, most of that CD already has been wiped from ye olde iPod. Her new track, "I Got You Dancing," however, has me addicted. I'm not sure what it is, exactly, but that vocal chicanery just does something for me. She has offered the track from her upcoming Jigsaw, as a free download on her website and MySpace.

The last time Lady Sov hit the 9:30 Club, I understand that much expectoration and rudeness ensued. Sadly, I was not there in person for that one, but if the rest of the album sounds as good as this, I believe that I will catch round 2 in person.

mp3: I Got You Dancing


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Regional Holiday: The Swimmers

Photo By Lisa Schaffer

Next up in our Holiday series is Philadelphia's The Swimmers. Their track, "The Christmas Sound," was recorded in 2007. Much like We Were Pirates and Middle Distance Runner before them, their offering is an indie pop original.

mp3: The Christmas Sound

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Cinema of the Mind

While listening to Dance of the Crazy Man, by Los Angeles brother duo Chapman & Brocker, I felt as if a melancholy movie was unveiling itself to me. The album literally plays like a soundtrack to an obscure indie flick that is taking place in your mind. I guess that makes sense, coming from a duo that got their start by scoring a documentary.

What is surprising, is how they were able to take their background and make the concept work within the confines of a basic song structure, while adding intelligent and compelling lyrics to the proceedings. This is definitely one of the most intriguing listens of the year and it will be interesting to see what they do for the sequel.

mp3: Chimes


Monday, December 22, 2008

Year of the Whale

San Francisco's Or, The Whale are gearing up for a wide release of their debut album via Seany Records in January 2009. The DIYers deliver a sincere alt-country presentation mixing in a little indie rock with a mess of resolute back porch blues. Much like the similarly named Noah and the Whale, this group is quickly and impressively making their way to the very top of my list. Their debut album, Light Poles and Pines, combines croaky lead vocals and a whining pedal steel pulled together by stirring harmonies. The west-coasters are staying to their own side of the map for now, but a new album will hopefully change that.

mp3: Call And Response


A Regional Holiday: Le Loup

Photo By Hatnim Lee

DC/Baltimore band Le Loup provide the next selection for our spotlight on regional holiday music, "Shenandoah." This track was their offering to the recently released compilation I'll Stay 'Til After Christmas.

mp3: Shenandoah

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A Different Kind of Bond Girl

Are you into that whole James Bond theme song sound? You know, big and bombastic, typically full of sweeping strings, power chords and blaring horns, that kind of thing.

Anjulie's new track, "Boom," isn't quite like that, yet there's something about it that definitely falls into that genre for me. Maybe this isn't quite appropriate for the opening theme credits, but it would do damn fine in that scene where Bond is chasing a villainous female wearing an eye-patch through a crowded Euro bar. Maybe it's the heavily reverbed guitar licks or the stuttering horns here. Perhaps Anjulie's vocals just sound like they belong in that kind of scene. Or maybe I just can't get over the fact that Quantum of Solace wasn't better than it was. Fortunately, this song goes a long way towards healing that hurt for me.

So far, Ms. Anjulie has only released a three-song EP, but her debut LP is expected to drop in Spring '09.

mp3: Boom


Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Regional Holiday: Hoots & Hellmouth

Today is Winter Solstice. Fittingly, the next selection in our regional holiday music series comes from Philly's Hoots & Hellmouth. They have a track called "A Song For Solstice," that was a part of XPN's 12 Days of XPN Local Music.

mp3: A Song For Solstice

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Regional Holiday: Deleted Scenes

Photo By Peter Wadsworth

Next in our regional holiday series is DC/Brookyln band Deleted Scenes, who have gone the very non-traditional route. Their selection is "Get Your Shit Together For The Holidays," the closing track off of their forthcoming CD, Birdseed Shirt.

mp3: Get Your Shit Together For The Holidays

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Friday, December 19, 2008

The Friday Rant: It's the Holiday Season, With The Whoop De Do...

Editor's Note: Vince wrote weekly rants for the site in 2006 and 2007. After a 20 month absence, he felt a need to burn on the holiday season.

Photo Credit

Has the spirit of anything in the history of human existence been bastardized more than that of Christmas? While this is a music site and my rant will focus mostly on the theme of Christmas music, it is impossible for me to ignore the complete and utter commercialization and secularization of Christmas, and in turn – the music that helps define the season.

In listening to a Christmas (nee “Holiday”) music station, it became apparent that pop culture has left Jesus so far behind in the rear-view mirror that “Christ” may as well be removed from the equation altogether. What’s left is “Mas”, Spanish for “more”. Christmas has stopped being about religion for many Americans as nativity scenes have been replaced with giant blow-up Tigger snow globes and the baby Jesus has been replaced by secular pop culture holiday icons such as Frosty the Snowman, Yukon Cornelius and the Heat Miser. Now don’t get me wrong, I am the same guy who will roll through my neighborhood with the windows down blasting "The Miser Song" from A Year Without a Santa Claus, but still. This will not be a “Jesus Is the Reason for the Season” rant, but can Jesus get some props?

Photo Credit

Christmas has been over-commercialized to the point that the holiday has been reduced to a scorecard for the economy. Industries use the holiday buying season as a barometer for their success each year. The fact that “Christmas shopping season” has become such an oft-used phrase in our lexicon is indictment enough. The country is in trouble. How do we know this? Holiday spending is down!!! Oh, the humanity.

It would be too easy to rant about the claptrap posing as Christmas music flooding the airwaves this time of year. Instead I will start with the airwaves themselves. In the Philadelphia market alone, no fewer than three FM radio stations have been running non-stop holiday music since November 1st. Three! I enjoy Christmas music during the holidays. I do not consider November 1 a part of the holiday season. Has Philly radio expanded the holiday season to include Halloween? If so, why aren’t we hearing any Halloween songs? On November 1 I am cursing myself for dipping into my son’s trick-or-treat candy and I sure as hell am not ready for “Holly Jolly Christmas”. Burl Ives has grown on me over the years, but there are such things as too early and too much of a good thing. These stations, who shall remain unnamed here, will run Christmas music non-stop for two solid months. If something is available to you one sixth of the year, is it special anymore? I have long thought it excessive that shopping malls are decorated for the holiday shopping season the day after Halloween, but I never expected radio stations to follow suit.

And damn it if there isn’t one song in particular that drives me absolutely to the brink of the lunatic fringe every time I hear it. No, it’s not Paul McCartney’s abysmal “Wonderful Christmastime” or the Elmo and Patsy garish tack-fest “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer”.The song I hate more than any other Christmas song is "Happy Holiday/The Holiday Season” by Andy Williams. There are a ton of Christmas songs that should never have been made, but this song is on a completely different plane of suckdom. If there are seven circles of music hell, Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, Tomas de Torquemada, Idi Amin, Vlad Tepes and Dick Cheney will be slam-dancing to this little ditty nonstop until the end of time in cozy circle number seven. Pop music history is littered with mailed-in half-assed recordings from pop acts looking to cash in on their version of a holiday retread. I can not speak to the career of Andy Williams and what might be a vast catalog, but I can tell when a recording artist is going through the motions, even if they were going through them in the 1950s.

To be honest, I have a tough time putting into words what exactly makes me hate this song so much. What I can tell you is that every time I hear it I am filled with total infuriation. Some songs make me sad, others get me fired up. This song makes me twitch every time. Two parts of the song are particularly irritating to me. The first is the lyric “It's the holiday season/With the whoop-de-do and hickory dock”. What does that mean? It sounds like Williams is singing this line while rolling his eyes and twirling his index finger in the air in a la-di-da I can barely be bothered motion. The second is the “He'll be coming down the chimney, down/Coming down the chimney, down” stanza. I don't get the repeating of "down" twice after chimney. Did the songwriter really want to emphasize the direction Santa was traveling through the chimney? Is it necessary to explain gravity thusly and repeatedly? Whatever it is, it bothers me.

I pray every year that this song does not come on the radio while someone cuts me off in traffic with a “W” sticker on their bumper while I am hurrying to do eleventh hour Christmas shopping. The combination of this perfect storm of fury would undoubtedly lead me to spend the rest of my days in prison. It’s not Williams’ voice that gets to me. In fact, I happen to love his version of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”. I believe what bothers me most about the song is that despite how much I loathe it, once I hear it, I can’t for the life of me get it out of my head. I find myself humming or singing it and I can’t bring myself to stop. The only cure is to blast some good anthemic punk rock, which is a tough thing to find when you work in an office building. I don’t know. Some things just set me off like this - evil dictators, corrupt politicians and business leaders, unskilled aggressive drivers, right-wing zealots and this Andy Williams song. I know, I have issues.

My Top 10 Christmas Songs
1. Nat King Cole – The Christmas Song
2. Burl Ives – Holly Jolly Christmas
3. Nat King Cole – Do You Hear What I Hear?
4. Bing Crosby – Little Drummer Boy
5. Andy Williams – It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (see? I am fair!)
6. The Waitresses – Christmas Wrapping
7. Johnny Mathis – O Holy Night
8. Perry Como – It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
9. Bing Crosby – White Christmas
10. Elvis Presley – Blue Christmas
Honorable Mention: "The Miser Song" (from The Year Without a Santa Claus), "O Holy Night" (South Park version sung by Cartman), Olivia Olson’s "All I Want For Christmas Is You" (from Love Actually)

Merry ‘Mas, everybody! I'm off to finish my Christmas shopping.


A Regional Holiday: We Were Pirates

Photo By Lisa Boggs

Recently, we were sent a hot off the presses holiday track from DC's one man band, We Were Pirates (Mike Boggs does just about everything). I'm not much on Christmas music, but this will make the playlist every December from now on. It sounds like what a Death Cab holiday tune would be if they made one. If this were in the hands of some 'tween queen or boy band, this would be the smash of the holidays.

Merry Christmas

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Weekend Shows

Evan Dando (Credit: Artist's Myspace)

Gifts are coming to the IA area a few days early. A great lineup of shows this weekend. Quite a few big names are rolling through the area to make your holidays bright.

The fighting Gallagher brothers have somehow not killed each other yet and put out a new album, Dig Out Your Soul, in October. Now Oasis is touring the states, hitting the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden Friday and the Patriot Center at GMU Saturday. Will it be a great show or a fist fight on stage? Always a toss-up when they take the stage. If it couldn't get anymore interesting, Ryan Adams is also on the bill, also supporting his own October release, Cardinology. Since Ryan is known to have his own issues, this could be a really interesting scene. Who has bets on the first to implode?

Come On Feel Evan Dando. Lemonheads front man is out solo hitting the area hard with shows all over the place. Starting his whirlwind pre-Christmas tour at the Tin Angel Saturday, he then heads to Annapolis for a Sunday afternoon show at Rams Head Tavern. Sunday night, Evan can be found in Baltimore at the Ottobar. Then on Monday, local favorite Vandaveer joins him in Arlington at IOTA.

mp3: Lemonheads - No Backbone

If you want to get out and dance, electro-pop mavens CSS are at the TLA in Philly Friday night, then down at 9:30 in the District Saturday.

mp3: CSS - Alala

And I just have to mention this show. Friday night, the Shaolin stylings of Wu-Tang Clan will descend upon Philly and The Troc. For those of you who can't make it to Philly, Lancaster, Baltimore and DC shows are next week.


Along with the big boys above, lots of locals are heading out to perform this weekend. Baltimore's Lake Trout is having a party, celebrating the release of their new live album. The shindig is at the Ottobar with Jason Dove opening.

It's Feet Night for the Baltimore Round Robin show at Sonar. That means Dan Deacon and Future Islands, along with many others, will play one song then pass along to the next. Confused? Me too.

Old 97s frontman Rhett Miller is solo and performing at the World Cafe. Show is at 7:30, so get there early and have a bite while you are there.

Philly's Blood Feathers and The Oranges Band are swapping cities and swapping performing order. Johnny Brendas is the site for what is a great show of local bands. Also on the bill is another Philly band The Homophones.

The Velvet Lounge is hosting DC's Imperial China along with PRV Trio, The Convocation and Snack Truck, while the Millcreek Tavern (I used to frequent under a different name) has Karate Coyote. Check out the recent post on them.

mp3: Lake Trout - Street Fighting Man
mp3: Jason Dove - End of the Year
mp3: Dan Deacon - The Crystal Cat
mp3: Future Islands - Old Friend
mp3: Imperial China - There Is No Translation
mp3: Blood Feathers (album stream)
mp3: The Oranges Band - ArtStar
mp3: Karate Coyote - Move Yourself


A Little bit lighter on Saturday, but still plenty to chose. Pick of the night goes to Seth Kallen and Sean Hoots (of Hoots & Hellmouth) at Milkboy Coffee. It'll be a laid back, acoustic coffehouse type of night. A nice way to relax from the holiday hustle.

Dance and Hip-Hop come out to play at Johnny Brenda's with locals Prowler and Reef the Lost Cauze.

The Abbey @ ABC has Central PA workhorses The April Skies and Kheris, while The Fire hosts La Strada.

mp3: Seth Kallen - Shiver
mp3: Hoots & Hellmouth - Want On Nothing
mp3: The April Skies - X
mp3: La Strada - The Sun Song


Give the gift of a donation at IOTA Sunday to support the Virginia Hosptial Center Foundation and get great music in return. The lineup include Middle Distance Runner, Greenland and Revival.

Relatively new on the Philly bar scene, Kung-Fu Necktie is already grabbing some great bands to play. Check out Aderbat, who has put out one of the best albums of the year, not just locally but overall. Joining them is another stellar local Drink Up Buttercup and The Circadian Rhythms.

mp3: Middle Distance Runner - Top of the Stairs
mp3: Greenland - Sorrow in the Snow
mp3: Revival - Fog Rolling In
mp3: Aderbat - Make You Run
mp3: Drink Up Buttercup - Young Ladies


This One's For The Klezmaniacs

If I'm going to be honest, I'm going to have to admit that I would have put in a good word for Geoff Berner's latest, Klezmer Mongrels, just to mention the cover art. I KNOW I recognize that artist, but even if I didn't, c'mon. A topless dog in people clothes breast feeding a puppy whilst some kind of Beetlejuice tentacles sway in the background? Um, yes, please, I'll have some.

Fortunately, I'm also a fan of Mr. Berner's unique brand of klezmer music. This is the third in his "Whiskey Rabbi" trilogy. The first two dealt with women and whiskey respectively. This one, according to him, is about "the natural consequences of combining the two."

Teaming up again with Diona Davies (violin) and Wayne Adams (percussion), Berner creates an update of sorts on the otherwise traditional music form, throwing in ample amounts of "Turkish music, sacred Jewish music, tango, jazz, and the music of whatever country the Jews were living in at the time." The bitches brew produced is good stuff, indeed.

mp3: Luck In Exile
mp3: King of the Gangsters


Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Regional Holiday: MDR

Not sure what it is about the music of the season. Some of it is horrid, some cheesy, and some classic (Bing & Bowie doing "Little Drummer Boy" is my personal fav). Over the next few days, I will post some of what our favorite IA regional artists have recorded. Some are remakes of the usual Christmas fare and some have gone out on a limb and created their own attempt at a holiday classic.

Photo By Susan Pleiman

DC's Middle Distance Runner has always been one of our regional favorites. Back in 2006, they dropped their own original Christmas song. Yeah, we've used this song before, but it is a great way to kick off the series. Trumpets and tambourines, what could be better?

XMAS Party

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Karate Coyote

Photo By Zach Inscho

We've had a lot of luck with Coyote bands this year. First, Denver's Young Coyotes sent us their demos over the summer and quickly became one of our favorites. Now, we stumbled upon Karate Coyote.

Karate Coyote formed last year and call Columbus, OH home. Trying to describe them can be a bit difficult, as they can pretty much morph into any genre with ease. Imagine mixing together elements of chaotic indie dance, post-hardcore and melancholy moments that build into a wall of sound like Radiohead is famous for. All with (mostly) female lead vocals. If you can get your head around that, you may come close to touching upon their sound. If not, it's cool. They will be gracing the mid-Atlantic region with their presence this weekend and you can figure it out for yourself.

12/18/08: The Red and The Black, Washington, DC
12/19/08: Millcreek Tavern, Philadelphia, PA

mp3: Move Yourself


Is Faux French?

Did I mention that I recently returned from Brussels? An ability to produce '80s/'90s kickboxing stars notwithstanding, I have to admit, I wasn't too blown away by the country. The weather was crappy and once you've seen the Mannequin Piss and the old square, you've pretty much seen everything of interest. The trip, did, however, let me dust off my French speaking abilities, which prepped me all the more for the latest from NYC's Nous Non Plus, Ménagerie, which comes out in February. The album includes "Fantôme Dur," a French cover of the Unicorns' "Tuff Ghost".

Lest your anti-Franco sensibilities get the best of you, the band is comprised of five Yankees plus one Swiss-German, lead singer Céline Dijon. (Best name of the year? Quite probably.) Let's be honest, you needed something to listen to whilst quaffing fries and beer anyway, so why not this?

mp3: Fantôme Dur


With Our Forces Combined….

Admittedly, Hooray For Earth’s style is a little heavier than what I usually go for. However, their name is also, a little more awesome than I usually go for. So, I’ve made a compromise and I’m writing about them. Hooray For Earth releases their self-titled LP on Dopamine Records on January 13, 2009. I can’t think of a better way to start off the New Year than by celebrating a band that’s bringing both a touch of class and a fistful of rock to the party.

mp3: Take Care
mp3: Want Want Want


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Have You Had Your Spazz Out Today?

If you're anything like me, you've probably spent untold hours wondering what if Broken Social Scene were Scottish and really into uppers. Well, wonder no longer because The Spolkestra has the answers to all of those questions and more. The group is comprised of an art-pop collective known as the Transgressive North, "the most vitalic new artistic community in Scotland, uniting musicians, poets, fine artists and film-makers across the UK and beyond." Plus, they put together one freakish mess of musical genius when they put their minds to it.

The following track, "SOIL," is from their debut CD, Open Arms. It's a frantic mess, but in the best possible way. Each individual seemingly is playing in a room by his or herself, but the combined anarchy just seems to fit perfectly.

The Spolkestra are currently working on a new album, Everything is New, with Dalit children in southeast India. The album will feature guest appearances from Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu), Owen Pallett (Final Fantasy), Bradford Cox (Atlas Sound/Deerhunter), and Jarvis Cocker, with a scheduled release for sometime in 2009.

mp3: SOIL


But Where's the Frog?

Perhaps it stems from my love of all things Kermit the Frog, but I do love me some banjo. With that in mind, it's probably no surprise that I dig Nathan Bell's @2640 EP. It's being distributed by West Main Development, a Baltimore label specializing in live recordings and one-time collaborations, with a penchant for tapping Lungfish members (a previous release features Dan Higgs). The label's latest, four tracks clocking in at under 13 minutes, was culled from a solo set at 2640 Space earlier this year.

Bell's take on the instrument is a bit different than most. His style on "Runaway Horse" is slowed, not frantic. There's a deliberate air, though, that makes it all the more engaging.

mp3: Runaway Horse


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Weather Appropriate Music

Some songs simply seem superb for certain seasonal segments. Alliterations aside, The Piano Creeps have created some compelling tunes that scream "music for a bitter winter day" to me on their latest, Future Blues (for you and me). The collaborative effort of Billy Coté, Mary Lorson and Kathy Ziegler, the band creates an intimate sound that demands snuggling under the covers during the cold nights ahead.

The lead single, "Hey Love," starts sparsely with just some keys and a lone and seemingly lonely voice, but the "bop bop bops" that enter into the fray seem to create an "it's all gonna be OK" vibe. Think of this track as your favorite sweater that you've had forever, whose main job is to make you feel better in spite of whatever the world feels like throwing at your head on any given day. Sure, your significant other has been trying to get you to throw it away forever, but what do they know? Not much if they're dating you, but that's a topic for another day. All of that said, the trusty sweater has never let you down before, and it's doubtful the Piano Creeps will, either.

mp3: Hey Love



Photo By Hannah Bergqvist

Xylos is a 5-piece based out of Brooklyn. They are the latest in a long line of indie/pop/folk collectives out of that city that seem to throw everything at you, but the kitchen sink. Fittingly, members of Yeasayer contributed additional vocals to their debut EP.

If you are into this sort of textured, multi-instrumental music with a touch of a laid back tropical groove, you might enjoy this band. If you do, you can download the entire EP for free here. Look for a lot more from them in 2009.

mp3: In The Bedroom


The Theater Fire

Photo Credit: Trevor Paulhus

The Theater Fire, a seven-piece, roots, indie-pop band from Texas is releasing its third LP, Matter and Light, tomorrow. The band, complete with lyrics about devils, dirt and coyotes, totes around every instrument worth toting around: horns, pedal steel, fiddles, an accordion, a banjo, and a saw.

mp3: Uncle Wayne


Monday, December 15, 2008

Weekday Music

The year is soon coming to an end, the college students are done the first semester and heading home and looking for something to do. Quite a few shows during the week for those looking for something to fill the time usually spent working or studying.

Photo from artist myspace

Playing back-to-back nights at the Birchmere, Aimee Mann is having a sort of homecoming (born in Midlothian, VA). Out on tour promoting @#%&*! Smilers, these shows Monday and Tuesday are sure to be a good time.


The guys at R5productions call this possibly the best show they saw all year. See what the words are all about when Bon Iver comes to the Troc in Philly. Opening is Scandanavian folksinger Kristian Matsson aka The Tallest Man On Earth, who happens to be the latest to receive the title 'the next Dylan'. Some say it's true. Get there early to find out.

For something a little more local, Galaxy Hut is hosting Rose and Brandon Butler.

mp3: Bon Iver - Skinny Love
mp3: The Tallest Man on Earth - I Wont Be Found
mp3: Rose - Another Sad Song
mp3: Brandon Butler - Sparks


Great show at the Ottobar in Baltimore with Ra Ra Riot. Also on the bill are So Many Dynamos from the St. Louis area, who are set to release their new album The Loud Wars on Vagrant Records in the spring. Californians Princeton round out the lineup.

Staying in Baltimore, the Metro Gallery gets a little sleazy with Sleazetone artist Ssion. A little bit of disco with some electro-punk under some thinly veiled smutty lyrics, it will get you dancing.

mp3: Ra Ra Riot - Dying Is Fine
mp3: Princeton - The Waves
mp3: Ssion - Clown


Not much to say about Wednesday other than Messiah College is having a great free show with Philly's Pattern Is Movement. It's a great venue and you usually can get up nice and close.

Thursday is much more lively. Johnny Brenda's is hosting a great local lineup with Secretly Canadian locals The War On Drugs. Philly's premiere banjo folk artist Joshua Marcus is set to open with Comoros.

Deleted Scenes is having a CD release party for the new disc Birdseed Shirt at the Black Cat. Exit Clov, who puts on a great show, will also be on the bill as well as La Strada from NYC.

The Oranges Band are back in their hometown, still living it up after their release of The Oranges Band Are Invisible. Catch them at Talking Head with Sal Bando, featuring former members of Two If By Sea, and Philly band Blood Feathers

Eyes Night of the Baltimore Round Robin happens Thursday at Sonar. The big name band on the bill is Beach House, but so many more will be playing in the round for you. And down at The Red & The Black, catch Karate Coyote from Columbus.

mp3: Pattern is Movement - Bird
mp3: The War On Drugs - Taking The Farm
mp3: Joshua Marcus - Coal or Smoke
mp3: Deleted Scenes - Get Your Shit Together for the Holidays
mp3: Exit Clov - Violent Berries
mp3: La Strada - The Sun Song
mp3: Beach House - Master of None
mp3: The Oranges Band - ArtStar
mp3: Blood Feathers (album stream)

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La Strada

I used to spend a lot of time checking out bands playing the region that I have never heard of before. There is something special about finding a band through nothing but your own curiosity and that was really the backbone that this site was founded on. So I guess that one of my resolutions for the new year is to get back to doing that. Fortunately, I have decided to start early.

La Strada is 7-piece Brooklyn band that is ending the year with a little tour that includes a couple of stops in our fair region. Like many of the larger bands that seem to be permeating the scene as of late, they use vocal layering and a lot of instrumentation, including strings and accordion. Unlike many of those bands, I actually find their music to be accessible and endearing. While they may be throwing a lot at the listener, they have a great knack for never losing a sense of melody.

Their music makes me feel like I am being transported to a simpler, more romantic place and with the world that we live in today, those feelings become rarer and more special by the day.

In January, they will be releasing their self-titled debut EP and will undoubtedly be doing more touring. So this is just the beginning for this band and that is a great thing.

12/18/08: Black Cat, Washington, DC
12/20/08: The Fire, Philadelphia, PA

mp3: The Sun Song


Swede Heart

OK, I GET IT. Anything Americans can jam, Scandanavians can rock harder. Seriously, enough is enough already. From sex toy fights at national hockey games to IA's beloved Lykke Li, those cold winter buggers have gotten under my skin in a way that hasn't happened since I decided I need to be more Canadian. And now Bluesong Records is hitting us up with a couple of singles from Doctors & Dealers and Southside Stalkers. Both bands are releasing their sophomore albums early in '09, and they wanted us to know all about it.

I've mentioned D&D before, and not just when I'm talking about 8-sided die and saving throws. Their newest is a bit more dance floor oriented than their last outing, which is pretty much summed up in the title, "On The Dancefloor."

The Southside Stalkers, however, are new to my ears and me likey. It should be noted that they both share a member, Sparrow. While D&D is her mostly solo project, this is her collaborative project with male musician/vocalist Indy and as you would expect, this band's sound is more expansive. In "Not Able," they've got an early rock/kinda bluesy vibe going. They start out almost softly before laying more rock goodness with each verse. What begins with a simple voice, guitar and basic drum quickly morphs into a damn near spazz fest in the best possible meaning of the phrase.

So I leave it to you, good readers, to tell me how hard it is to get an overseas residency permit. I'm there because I dig it the most, baby.

mp3: Southside Stalkers - Not Able
mp3: Doctors & Dealers - On The Dancefloor

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Samuel Markus

Photo By Carla Cummings

We’ve mentioned the Rosewood Thieves before, but I’m pretty excited about introducing the band’s very own Samuel Markus, who left the band and has been working on his solo career for the past few years. In the healthy Rosewood vein, Markus expands upon his smoky vocals, throughout his full-length album New Dawn. Any 22 year old who can reach towards a Peter Case mystic, combining folk and a small pinch of pop into a storybook of an album, is just fine by me. Check him out immediately.

mp3: New Dawn


Fugitive Kind

Oh where have all of the good old-fashioned "rocker chicks" gone? Freely admitting the somewhat sexist terminology (and the fact that Ash will probably have my head for that comment), but you know who we're talking about here - Janis, Chrissie, the Deal sisters, yes... even Courtney.

No offense to the wonderful new crop of ladies rocking the stage, but few can truly be said to bring the rawk. So imagine my unadorned glee at unearthing Fugitive Kind and getting an earful of lead singer Lydia Marsala's tuneful howl.

Unabashed love for classic hard-rock riffage: check. A tightly wound rhythm-section a la QOTSA, Foo Fighters and Muse: double check. Don't forget Marsala's rock-blues wail that varies from the Kills' Allison Mosshart to Jack White (Marsala admits to being a potential J.White stalker-in-the making).

The debut album You're Being Watched drops January 13th and the band rolls through DC's The Red and The Black on January 29th. In the meantime, here's the first single to keep those devil horns limber...

mp3: Break Now


Quirky Is As Quirky Does

If you've ever wondered what Liz Phair would sound like had she gone the twee route, California's own, Chop Chop, quite probably are the band for you. But really, what would you expect from a band whose poster was featured prominently in a promo piece for CBS' "How I Met Your Mother?"

Confused? Well, the band's latest, Screens, probably isn't going to make things any clearer, but that doesn't detract from the engaging quirkiness the band displays by the bushel. Lead singer Catherine Cavanagh has something hypnotic in her voice, kind of like your favorite flavor of cough syrup. Some people might decry it as bad for you, but we both know better, don't we? It's that kind of indie-goodness that you really need to get out of bed on a rainy day. With each additional sip, you're going to find yourself just a bit more addicted, but seriously, what's a little addiction between friends? Chop Chop want to be your friends. I say indulge them.

mp3: Northern Armies


The Weekend Shows

The holidays are closing in. After all the shopping and company parties, treat yourself to one of the fine shows coming to the IA area this weekend.

Photo By Ellisa Keller

Ted Leo is making the rounds this weekend with three shows. Playing his solo work and all the favorites as leader of the Pharmacists, two of the shows are already sold out and the other is sure to follow. In the opening slot is Aloha percussionist/pianist and White Williams member Cale Parks. He recently released a new album Sparklace and is set to drop another one on the new label Normative Music.

12/12: Baltimore @ The G-Spot
12/13: DC @ Black Cat *SOLD OUT*
12/14: Philly @ The Barbary *SOLD OUT*

mp3: Ted Leo - Sons of Cain
mp3: Cale Parks - Graveyard Barrier

Another multi-stop band this weekend is Wilmington locals The Spinto Band. They are kicking off the weekend up in Philly at the World Cafe as the XPN Free at Noon show. If you aren't able to make it out for lunch Friday, then head to the Talking Head Saturday evening for another great Spinto show, this time joined by Oxford Collapse and Baltimore natives Impossible Hair.

mp3: The Spinto Band - Summer Grof
mp3: Oxford Collapse - Lady Lawyers
mp3: Impossible Hair - My Little Brother

Wilco is bookending the weekend with shows in Philly and Baltimore. They are playing Friday at the Spectrum with the all-time great Neil Young. Opening the show is Everest. Sunday, The Lyric Opera House hosts with local songwriter Benjy Ferree opening.

mp3: Benjy Ferree - In The Countryside


My Brightest Diamond is heading up to the First Unitarian in Philly after a night in DC. Along for the ride is Clare & The Reserves.

Radar Brothers leave Philly for the Talking Head in Baltimore for a show with locals The Payola Reserve and E. Joseph and the Phantom Heart.

Jukebox the Ghost is hitting the District as they close out their December tour. Head over to the Rock & Roll Hotel for what is sure to be a great show. Also on the bill is The Postelles and Pretty & Nice.

Keep up with the Jones' at the Fire in Philly with the local indie-folk of Hezekiah Jones and IA anniversary artist Cotton Jones.

The Federal Reserve is having their Holiday Showing at IOTA, a benefit for Community Lodgings. Get out, enjoy great local music and support a good cause.

The Metro Gallery in Baltimore has quite the showcase with Parachute Musical, Pianowire, Eureka Birds and Bella Noir.

mp3: My Brightest Diamond - Inside A Boy
mp3: Clare & The Reasons - Pluton
mp3: The Payola Reserve - Music is Not Music
mp3: E Joseph & The Phantom Heart - Zero
mp3: Jukebox the Ghost - Hold It In
mp3: Pretty & Nice - Tora Tora Tora
mp3: Hezekiah Jones - Nothings Bound
mp3: Cotton Jones - Midnight Monday and a Telescope
mp3: Eureka Birds - Goodbye Space and Time


Quite a few big names coming to the area on Saturday night. Here's the details:

Surviving and still thriving as a solo act after her stint in the '80s band Til Tuesday, Aimee Mann is playing the historic Keswick Theater in Glenside, PA. And speaking of surviving the decade, Duran Duran is still making a comeback and hitting the House of Blues in Atlantic City.

Austin electro-rockers Ghostland Observatory are back in DC at the 9:30 Club for an assured raucous show, while Jeremy Enigk is playing a more intimate set at Jammin' Java.

Boston band Pretty & Nice are off on their own after a night in Baltimore, heading to The Fire in Philly Saturday.

Local bands abound elsewhere. In Baltimore, J Roddy Walston & The Business team up with Gringo Star at the Ottobar. Soft Complex is joined by Cedars and Jupiter One at the Rock & Roll Hotel. And an all Philly line-up at Johnny Brenda's with Photon Band, Audible and Brown Recluse Sings.

mp3: Duran Duran - Nite Runner (stream)
mp3: Ghostland Observatory - Heavy Heart
mp3: J Roddy Walston & The Business - Used to Did
mp3: Photon Band - Cry Cry Cry Cry
mp3: Audible - Sunday Bell
mp3: Brown Recluse Sings - Western Meadowlark
mp3: Soft Complex - Barcelona
mp3: Cedars - Black Book


Thursday, December 11, 2008

But Is There Room in There for Bears?

Photo By Charles Kang

A friend of mine turned me onto the Devics a few years ago when I was lamenting the loss of Mark Sandman and that wonderful Morphine sound. Since that time, we've had Orchestra Morphine, Twinemen and A.K.A.C.O.D., but I never forgot about the Devics. I found their sound a bit more mournful than Mark's, but captivating nonetheless.

Devics lead singer Sara Lov has her new solo EP out now. Entitled The Young Eyes, it's much closer to Tori Amos than Morphine, but who said that was a bad thing? More importantly still, she has a couple of kick ass covers here, including Arcade Fire's "My Body Is A Cage." Yes, that's the track currently being pimped in conjunction with the new Brad Pitt movie. While it would be hard indeed to outdo the original, Lov creates a faithful cover yet still puts her own wearied, sultry stamp on things.

mp3: My Body Is a Cage (Arcade Fire Cover)


Wild Fire

Photo By Susan Pleiman

With their raucous live shows, DC's New Rock Church of Fire have been making quite a name for themselves locally over the past year or so. Now they are ready to expand their fan base further by releasing their debut, Of the Wild.

Never ones to forget about the fans that have gotten them to this point, they are going all out for their hometown release show. It will be on the big stage of 9:30 Club on December 27. To make it even cooler and as a holiday present to their fans, they will be giving the album away to those who make it out to the show. While you wait for that, enjoy a taste below.

mp3: Fig Tree


More Goodtimes

Photo By Kate Chapple

We mentioned London’s Goodtimes Goodtimes earlier this year and they were kind enough to personally send us some brand new music from the record that they’re currently working on.

In 2009 they’re set to tour the west coast of our fair country and maybe that means they’ll very soon make it over to the east coast as well. Until then, enjoy a tune on us.

mp3: For All My Kingdom


Finally, A Song for Female Pedophiles

Photo By Justin Wahle

Do you ever get tired of cats constantly singing about the same old crap? Love, death, war, money--these big ticket items are simple targets for musicians, creating an easy resonance for listeners to say, "yeah, been there, done that, got the tee shirt." But when was the last time you heard about the tribulations of a young teacher considering sex with a twelve-year-old student? Or what it's like to find love as a TV weather girl? These are issues that get swept under the carpet far too quickly these days. Luckily for us, San Francisco's My First Earthquake is here to rescue us all from the mundane on their debut, Tremors.

Seriously, this is an indie pop band that knows how to have fun. Other topics of interest on the album include cannibalism and rainbow parties, all sung in a cheery demeanor. If that isn't enough to get you lining up for tickets to see them when they hit your town, well, you must be dead inside.

mp3: Teleprompt


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

That IS Genius

Photo By Jen McManus

Since mp3s and other digital forms of music have become the preferred way for cats to dig their tunes, there's been much debate over whether or not the traditional album format is "dead." This is not another one of those debates. Instead, today we're going to focus on Brooklyn's Team Genius and their latest genius move. Rather than deal with the potential death album concept, they simply decided to change what the concept of an album means.

In band leader Drew Hermiller's own words:
“Basically it’s a reaction to the modern way music is consumed and listened to. The idea of an album with a focused sound and a complete statement kind of gets lost now-a-days. Everyone shuffles around, so I thought ‘why not write an album that does the same thing?’ Luckily, the band did an awesome job of keeping up with it.”
What the listener gets is a bunch of tracks that stand on their own merits and can be enjoyed (or not) despite what the rest of the CD does for you. And if the first single, "Take Me Home," is any indication, it's all good. There's nothing like some Prince-like falsetto to keep a track jamming.

mp3: Take Me Home


Florence and the Machine

A little bit of a warble here, a hint of off-kilter strumming there, and it quickly becomes clear that Florence Welch and her small band of merry pranksters from the U.K. are not looking for traditional pop success. Ms. Welch is clearly far more interested in following down the mad path of the likes of Kate Bush, Bjork and PJ Harvey.

Full disclosure - I'm typically highly skeptical of the self-conscious art-school pop that sets hearts atwitter over at Pitchfork. With that said, I immediately was digging on the slightly wiggy dramatics of Florence and the Machine and their latest releases, an oddly sweet acoustic cover of a Beirut tune and their second official single, the clickety-clacking "Dog Days are Over."

They'll be busy touring the UK for the winter, but hope to hit the Northeast U.S. come spring-time, so stay tuned!

mp3: Postcards from Italy (Beirut cover)


This One Is For the Nerds

Photo By Charles Figel

I couldn't tell you what it is, but nerdcore does something for me. Maybe it's the fact that I'm in my 30s, spend a couple of hundred bucks a month on comic books, have a TiVo full of anime and play way more Play Station than possibly is necessary for a guy my age. Regardless, when done correctly, the musical genre, as evidenced by the likes of MC Chris, just tickles my nerdly funny bone like nobody's business.

Luckily for me, MC Frontalot, the self-proclaimed Godfather of Nerdcore Rap, is back with his latest, Final Boss. Seriously, even the guy's CD titles make me want to bust out my old Super Nintendo.

For those of you with similar tastes, we're lucky enough to have Frontalot make a couple of stops to the area this week.

12/10: Baltimore, MD @ Ottobar
12/12: Philadelphia, PA @ Khyber

mp3: Wallflowers


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Swedes doublePark

Stockholm’s doublePark is as sweet and melodic as Swedish pop comes. With an appealing '70s pop vibe, the band has released four albums to date and does not look to be slowing down anytime soon. Rumor has it they’re all over the European podcasting and radio worlds, which means it’s just about time for them to start leaking their way into America via blog.

mp3: I Don't Want To Party


Vacation Time

Photo By Ninelle Efremova

We all have that one friend, the master of the mix tape, who has introduced us to a variety of tunes that might have otherwise escaped our notice. I certainly do, and if not for the incomparable Manny, I quite probably never would have stumbled upon California's Her Space Holiday.

Since such is the issue, I jumped at the opportunity to check out their latest single, "Sleepy Tigers", from XOXO, Panda and the New Kid Revival. Apparently, Marc Bianchi, the man behind the band, has written this one under a new, "more carefree" persona. So, it's got that going for it.

Regardless, he's given us a breezy, little track that bounces along like a campfire sing-a-long. Think the White Stripes' "We're Going to Be Friends", but the slightest bit more fun. The hand claps and tambourine just give it that something extra, you know?

mp3: Sleepy Tigers