Pelican – March Into The Sea (Hydra Head)
When it seems like most albums coming out today are packing in thirty or so minutes of music across ten to twelve tracks, Pelican comes in with a single, March Into The Sea, that has thirty-four minutes of music across only two tracks. Two earth shattering tracks of non-stop glorious metal.
The title track takes us on an odyssey that builds furiously across the first twelve minutes and then subsides for the remaining eight. The dichotomy between hard and soft evokes emotions once fueled with fury eventually settling into a quiet resolution, with the tension of anger always remaining just beneath the surface. “Angel Tears” is remixed by JK Broadrick (Godflesh, Jesu), bringing together the worlds of ambient and metal into one magnificent unyielding composition.
Bel Auburn – Cathedrals (Damselfly)
Emo’s not dead! At least that’s what Bel Auburn would like us to believe. At first spin Cathedrals is textbook emo all the way, bringing to mind Sunny Day Real Estate, Fire Theft, Dashboard Confessional and Jimmy Eat World. What differentiates this album are its religious-themed lyrics adding up to a concept album devoted to glorifying houses of worship.
It even comes with a textbook of sorts – “Ten songs and ten vignettes written and performed by Bel Auburn” – sprawling across 24 pages. It’s an impressive concept from theme to packaging, and it’s exactly the sort of thing to fuel the dreams of good little Catholic girls and get their white cotton panties all in a wet bunch. Unfortunately, if you’re not a blissed out teenybopper who’s into emo, this album won’t do much for you.
Remember kids, keep music evil. Hail Satan!
Downloads available at their MySpace site.
Twin Wrecks the Memory – Royal Drug Lodge (Self-Released)
Straight ahead drugged-out, alcohol-fueled vitriol. A blast of fuzz guitar that will leave you begging for more from the moment it starts coming out of your speakers. The cover art’s a mess, the music is a mess, and if the album is any indication I can only guess that the band is a mess. And man do I love a mess.
Royal Drug Lodge is some of the best straight ahead rock and roll that I’ve heard in a while. Let’s see what we’ve got in there… yeah, some Stooges, maybe some Motorhead, some harder Royal Trux, Spacemen 3 with out all the psychedelic swirl, fucked up early Sebadoh, fuzzed out Sonic Youth… yup, eight tracks of non-stop rock. No filler. This is the sort of stuff you put on your stereo when you’re pissed off at the world. Gimme more!
MP3 downloads are available at their MySpace site.
Simon Joyner – Lost With The Lights On (Jagjaguwar)
File this one under it’s never too late to give an album a fair shake if you really believe is worth spreading the word about it’s worth. Simon Joyner’s Lost With The Lights On came out in the middle of 2004 but didn’t register on my radar. And judging by the fact that songs from the album haven’t left my ears since I picked it up over two weeks ago, I suppose I’m trying to make up for lost time.
Joyner belongs to the same school that claims Townes Van Zandt, Leonard Cohen, Will Oldham and Smog’s Bill Callahan. He’s a brooding troubadour with down beat songs from the quiet fringes of society. Snapshots of love surrendered and a yearning for redemption play out over subdued arrangements with pensive lyrics. Joyner croons on “Happy Woman” (mp3), “The archway is broad enough for two / But it holds one with plenty of breathing room / The highway is narrow, but never ending / You can’t get comfortable, but it’s forgiving.”
Moments of rebirth and resolve are found in the chorus of “Birds Of Spring”: “Hallelujah to the heart that burns / That breaks and heals and never learns.” The most telling insight of Joyner struggling with his own demons can be found in “Blue” (mp3): “It’s not so easy said the rain / You want the wound without the pain / To be forgiven but not betrayed / To stand naked and unashamed.”
It’s one of those albums that you turn to in moments of quiet reflection. Not for answers, but for a sense of camaraderie. Just to take solace that you’re not alone and that there is meaning with every wound endured.
Chris Tsefalas – I’m All Right? (In Music We Trust)
Tsefalas gets a little help from his friends – Larry Crane (engineer of Elliott Smith, Quasi, Richard Buckner, Pavement, Stephen Malkmus) and John Moen (Jicks, Maroons, Dharma Bums) – to turn in slightly skewed power pop that is at times reminiscent of Paul Westerberg, Rex Daisy, Ben Folds and Willy Wisely. I’m All Right? is filled with enough plucky piano, organ fills and sprawling power pop arrangements to keep you curious from track to track. Fans of piano driven indie pop may want to take notice and give Chris Tsefalas a shot. Overall a promising debut that should serve as a hallmark for interesting things to come.
MP3s via In Music We Trust: I’m All Right It’s OK, Sam I Am, and A Wonderful Ride.
Early Man – Self-Titled EP (Monitor)
Metal. Straight-ahead metal. No self-aware ironic posturing. This isn’t the Darkness paying tribute to Slade (which I love). This isn’t Andrew WK howling another party anthem (which I also love). That stuff is all tongue-in-cheek glam compared to this. This is stoner metal. This is the music of choice of all the forgotten kids. The ones who were wear jean jackets with leather sleeves and reek of pot at the bus stop. This is good shit. They get across more in three songs than a lot of bands get across in three albums. The early-Metallica meets Iron Maiden fueled “Fight!” (excerpt) kicks things off with a call to arms (“All right, so you wanna fight / My fist are sticks of dynamite / Fuck you if you’re talking to me / My fuse blows straight like TNT”). “Death Is The Answer To My Prayers” (excerpt) evokes early Black Sabbath with heavy riffs, lyrics peppered with demonic references, and high end warbling vocals of a young Ozzy. And with “The Undertaker Is Calling You” (excerpt), the two minute guitar riff intro is metal guitar wanking at it’s best, giving way to a song that kicks everyone’s’ ass that’s in earshot.
What’s this? It was produced by Matt Sweeney? The same guy that did the Superwolf album with Will Oldham? The guy who used to lead Chavez and was in Zwan with Billy Corgan? Yeah, that’s right. And the rumor is that David Pajo (Aerial M, Slint, Tortoise, Zwan) is going to be joining the band on bass when they record their full-length record for Matador…
What the hell is it with all the alt/indie rockers getting into metal? First the Fucking Champs held the torch a light for all things metal with their instrumental homage to the new wave of British metal. Then Pelican started getting some notice. Can you feel the ground swell of an indie metal revolution coming on? It may be too early to tell, but if this EP is a precursor or things to come, we’re all going to be in pretty good shape come the moment metal becomes hipster fodder.
Six Organs Of Admittance – School Of The Flower (Drag City)
School Of The Flower kicks off with a cacophony that brings to mind the noodlings of free jazz impresarios the Chicago Art Ensemble. After a minute and a half it subsides to gentle folk reflections played out over hushed vocals and acoustic guitars with electric drones and muted feedback.
“St. Cloud” sounds like Thurston Moore ingesting a bathtub full of qualudes and deciding to bliss out for while, while other cuts like “Home” play like a Galaxy 500 7″ at 33 1/3. The rest comes off as a subdued collection of Nick Drake outtakes (what acoustic folk albums don’t these days?). Thing is, I mean all this in the best possible way. It’s a fantastic album with clever arrangements and a resolute approach that evokes placidity.
Magnolia Electric Co. – What Comes After the Blues (Secretly Canadian)
Yeah, yeah, yeah… I know. He sounds like Neil Young. And what’s with all the hub-bub about the name changes? What’s the difference between Songs:Ohia, Pyramid Electric Co. and Magnolia Electric Co.? Why didn’t he just use his own name anyway? Who is this Jason Molina trying to fool?
Honestly, I could care less about all the tertiary items that surround this band. At the core, it’s the music that matters. And what we’ve got on our hands here is a damn fine album, with quality songs, earnestly performed by a great band. At times What Comes After the Blues seems a little self conscious, as if Molina and friends carry the weight of their fans’ expectations with them into the studio.
And while it might be easy to dismiss them as derivative of their influences and of themselves, what’s the point in that? There are elements within this album that signal Molina’s growth both artistically and personally – his comfort with relinquishing the control of a solo artist by stepping away from faux band moniker he hid behind for so long and fully embracing this group, tackling issues of loss and resolution, exposing himself to his demons: “No one should forgive me / I knew what I stood to lose / Am I better off now just forgetting / how I came to earn the North Star blues?”
What Comes After the Blues is a truly sad and beautiful album that serves as a downbeat musical wake for Molina’s past personas. It takes you to some uncomfortable places, but always reassures you’re never alone and that things will work out if you just give it a chance.
You can download “The Dark Don’t Hide It” and “Leave the City” courtesy of Secretly Canadian.
Eluvium – Talk Amongst The Trees (Temporary Residence)
I’ve never been much of one for ambient music. To me it’s falls into three categoiries, – film scores, mood music for pretentious art installations, and Brian Eno. But credible sources pointed me in the direction of the latest Elivium album, Talk Amongst The Trees. Once I picked up the cd and saw the sticker adhered to the packaging (“An epic record that makes the jaw drop” – Punk Planet, “Sad, freezing, alluring, playful, heart wrenchingly beautiful and not a little frightening all at once” – Malestrom, “Elivium knows more than one way to move you to tears.” – Portland Mercury), I was won over with curiosity, plus it’s on Temporary Residence (Anomoanon, Cex, and 90 Day Men). Could it really live up to those quotes? It did, and then some.
After a few listens I was pulled in by the grandeur accomplished within the compositions and the effect it had on me in total: new age music for the indie rock set. I found it’s not for everyone after I threw it into the car stereo for my shared commute to work. My coworker’s reaction was priceless – “Oh my god this music makes me want to kill myself. Is there anything more depressing?” An overreaction? Sure. Granted the music is moody and dark, but at the same time it evokes possibilities and allows one’s thoughts to wander.
The music on Talk Amongst The Trees is reason alone to look into this album, but what I found truly impressive was accompanying booklet – filled with the poems and interesting photography that compliment the music, with similarly ethereal and thought provoking effects. In a way, it could be your very own portable pretentious art installation. So, I suppose it still can fall into one of three categories categories of ambient music that I’m comfortable with. Only this time, I’m a little less pessimistic and cynical about it all.
Download “New Animals from the Air (edit)”.
The Ponys at the Double Door
Chicago, April 29, 2005
The Ponys emerged from the whirlwind of the past year with a new lineup, a new album, and a new direction (sort of) to headline the Double Door for their record release show for their latest, Celebration Castle (In The Red). This time around The Ponys were a leaner and meaner group than in the past. While supporting their first long player, Laced With Romance, which was all over the map in styles and genres but still centered with energy and possibilities, their live shows were an experience to behold with swerving garage rock chords balanced out with Farfisa swirls accompanied by a rhythm section with echoes of new wave and a punch of Bowery punk along with an Anglo element to round off the rough edges.
Continue reading The Ponys: Too Much Too Soon