Tag Archives: Sub Pop

Father John Misty does Honeybear live on Conan

Video: Father John Misty – “I Love You, Honeybear” (live on Conan, 07/15/15)

You know I love Father John Misty. Sure, I’ve poked a little fun at the TMI tendencies of his latest album, but I still really love it. His live show at this point is legendary, so it’s always great to see him perform on television. And as expected, he doesn’t phone it in for Conan.

This live version of the title track starts out sexy and gets progressively more intense until it’s downright scary by the end. I prefer it to the orchestrated album version.

I’m not so sure about Tillman’s appearance though. My man Phil calls it the “sexy hobo look.” He looks clammy and his bushy beard makes him seem bloated like a late-era Jim Morrison. Dude needs to visit a barber. Clean yourself up, man!

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Has Father John Misty become Roger Clarvin?

Father John Misty - I Love You, HonerybearJosh Tillman aka Father John Misty describes his new album, I Love You, Honeybear, as “a concept album about a guy named Josh Tillman” and his relationship with his wife. Being the kind of writer he is, he refuses to stoop to sentimental cliché; instead, he engages in mean-spirited honesty and sarcastic self-loathing. To call Father John Misty “sardonic” at this point is itself a cliché.

And yet this is an album of love songs.

“She and I have created a circumstance in which it’s safe to discuss everything, all this intense, deep-down shit,” Tillman told Pitchfork. “But there’s an anxiety because I don’t know if I trust the world with my intimacies. These songs were written about our experience, now it’s time to universalize them.”

This anxiety is not unjustified. At times I Love You, Honeybear veers close to the oversharing territory mined by Will Ferrell and Rachel Dratch as Roger and Virginia Clarvin. “At this point during the soak, my lover and I usually crave spiced meats.”

One’s bourgeoisie sense of propriety might be offended to hear about the “mascara, blood, ash and cum on the Rorschach sheets where we make love.” Then again, the reference to Rorschach tests is telling, since Tillman is clearly proud enough of this line to print it on tote bags. What do you see in that line? If you’re skeeved out by it, well maybe these aren’t the love songs for you. If you appreciate the image, there’s plenty like it to follow.

These twisted tales are set against instrumentation far more lush than what we heard on Fear Fun. Almost every song features strings. Whereas a lot of Fear Fun sounded like the White Album, Honeybear sounds more like Mind Games or Walls and Bridges. The heavy-handed arrangements work great on intense songs like “An Ideal Husband” where everything sounds overwhelming and evil. But “When You’re Smiling And Astride Me” sounds too much like terrible mid-70s puss-pop/soft rock; the slide guitar tone, the soul sister background vocals, the cloying strings, it’s just too much schmaltz.

“True Affection,” on the other hand, uses synth bloops and programmed beats and sounds out of place. Tillman wrote that song “on tour while trying to woo someone with text message and email and trying to make a connection that way and the frustration of that,” he told Grantland. “So that song had to be synthetic and inorganic.” Interesting concept, sure, but a little too clever for the song’s own good.

But these quibbles don’t diminish the impact of the album as a whole. High points such as “Chateau Lobby #4,” “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartment,” and “Nothing Good Ever Happens At The Goddamn Thirsty Crow” more than make up for the occasional misstep. Producer Jonathan Wilson knows how to get a good performance down on tape, and as Tillman says, he is “truly singing [his] ass off all over this motherfucker.” His voice is incredible throughout.

I like Father John Misty. I feel like I get Tillman’s sense of humor, and I appreciate the high bar he set for himself on this album. “My ambition, aside from making an indulgent, soulful, and epic sound worthy of the subject matter, was to address the sensuality of fear, the terrifying force of love, the unutterable pleasures of true intimacy, and the destruction of emotional and intellectual prisons in my own voice.” Honesty and earnestness obviously do not come easy for him, but he’s trying…in his own Misty way. He’s still a smartass, for sure, but isn’t that the best kind of person to spend your life with?

Continue reading Has Father John Misty become Roger Clarvin?

New Father John Misty Album in February

I am very excited by the idea of a new Father John Misty album. I spent most of 2012 and 2013 obsessing over Fear Fun after being turned on to him by my sister-in-law. She had heard the song he did with Phosphorescent on the Aquarium Drunkard satellite radio show. I got into the album and finally saw him live at Lollapalooza where he stole the show and blew my mind. It was only then that I dug hard into the FJM mythology, finally catching up on the major Magnet profile and picking up the record on vinyl so I could read his self-consciously ridiculous “novel” that was included in the liner notes.

So yeah, I’m a total fanboy. And now there’s a new song from I Love You, Honeybear, his new Jonathan Wilson-produced album due February 10, 2015 on Sub Pop. And with the announcement of the album and tour, there’s also a new 4,000-word bio/listening guide.

Video: Father John Misty – “Bored in the USA” on David Letterman

The performance makes me a little nervous that his sense of humor has gotten pissier and more darkly sarcastic. Gone are the swoon-worthy dance moves, dismissed last year as “the demonic clown thing that I’d been doing,” replaced with an uncomfortable laugh track. He’s still clearly “fucking with artifice” but now I’m afraid he might be going too negative. What the world does not need right now is another fucking bummer.

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Husky – Forever So

HuskyForever So (Sub Pop)

Our favorite Seattle label is now making its way down under to find the next big thing up here. Husky represents their first signing from Melbourne, with the moniker actually the first name of the band’s guitar and vocalist.

The only “Husky” I knew growing up was the name of a JC Penny clothing line for fat kids. It didn’t last; who wants a tag on your jeans that scream “Feel free to bully my fat ass.”

I don’t know Husky Gawenda’s waist size, but I do know the kind of music he creates because it’s the same kind of music that Sub Pop has been pushing ever since they banked on Fleet Foxes. Maybe Poneman related to such lines as “I went walking in the woods today/I found a path/It led me astray.” (“The Woods”), imagining the big continent of Australia resembled the redwoods of the Northwest.

It’s not that I don’t subscribe to this kind of music. In fact, I’ve got a soft spot for anything remotely beautiful and sensitive within the confines of a folk-rock structure. Which is exactly what Husky delivers on Forever So. And depending on how cold and hard your own heart is, the results of Gawenda’s breathy croon can be a hit or miss affair.

“Hey man, do you want to hear a story about me?” begins “Animals & Freaks,” and before you’re given a chance to respond with the affirmative, Gawenda has already declared “Fuck you, I’m telling you my story anyway.” He’s assumed the role of an old man, telling you the tale of a chance encounter with a woman who he’s spent “three weeks in a cheap motel” before watching her depart with an eagle to go catch snakes in Mexico.

I swear to God I’m not making this up.

Yes, it’s the endlessly romantic and utterly unbelievable lyrics that make Forever So such an acquired taste. If only there were more moments like the wonderful opening “Tidal Wave,” which paints an account of a relationship within the claustrophobic cityscapes while Gawenda dreams of the day when it will all come tumbling down, leaving only him and his beau to enjoy the serenity of their love within the uncluttered landscape of natural beauty.

Now that’s more like it!

Sure, it’s a dynamic that may work better with members of the fairer sex, but it also demonstrates that there’s still a large proportion of empathetic types in this world that can relate to the sticky-sweet feelings that love provides. Forever So also shows that we’re still struggling to come up with the words to adequately describe those feelings.

Video: Husky – “The Woods”

Husky – The Woods [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

MP3: Husky – “Tidal Wave”

MP3: Husky – “History’s Door”

Audio: Husky – Forever So [FULL ALBUM STREAM]

Husky – Forever So [FULL ALBUM STREAM]

Beachwood Sparks – The Tarnished Gold

Beachwood SparksThe Tarnished Gold (Sub Pop)

After a decade long hiatus between studio albums, Beachwood Sparks returns with The Tarnished Gold, their latest attempt at channeling the ghosts of Laurel Canyon. Their country rock is tightly packaged through campfire picked guitars and a slue of pedal steels, just the way it should be. The arrangements are stacked on a wide pallet of psychedelic parlor tricks to make everything sound like it’s passed through a lysergic filter. The Tarnished Gold also features Beachwood Sparks’ most endearing feature: highly articulate harmonies that are a welcome addition when they’re presented.

It’s intriguing enough to warrant another listen, but the longer I spent in the band’s high altitude, the more I kept wondering if there was anything more to Beachwood Sparks than feeling lightheaded.

Those aforementioned harmonies are plenty nifty, but with lines like “A honeybee in a field of flower/Came to me in my darkest hour” (“Talk About Lonesome”) you have to wonder, “It took a decade to come up with that?” The lazy songwriting gets to the point where there are moments of unintentional parody, and it’s at this point that I gave up on trying to piece together anything more than “talented musicians” to Beachwood Sparks’ redeeming values.

Beyond the musical chops, I can’t tell you many other reasons why we needed to wait ten years for this understated yawner or why this band’s reunion is anything beyond the kick of confidence that came from having one of their songs featured on the cult hit, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

“Forget the song/That I’ve been singing” they sing on the opening track, and before the end of The Tarnished Gold, you’ve done exactly that.

Video: Beachwood Sparks – “Forget The Song”

MP3: Beachwood Sparks – “Forget The Song”

MP3: Beachwood Sparks – “Sparks Fly Again”

King Tuff – King Tuff

King TuffKing Tuff (Sub Pop)

Surely, after Witch, Happy Birthday, and now King Tuff, one of Kyle Thomas’ projects will take hold and turn him into Sub Pop’s latest hot commodity. Lord knows they seem to release every single fart that this guy lets go of and they leave it to me to pin the tail on the moniker.

King Tuff may be the first Kyle Thomas project that actually contributes to his billing as a scuzz rock royalty, as his self-titled sophomore effort seems to suggest. Suddenly, all of the concerns of his white underbelly schtick get overlooked under a barrage of memorable power chords and the occasional Bolan Boogie.

He’s hinted at all of this before, but King Tuff actually overcomes all of the complaints that I had with Thomas’ Happy Birthday and with his catalog in general. With King Tuff, Thomas seems like he’s put in long hours working on nearly every aspect of the songs. From those aforementioned guitar highlights, to the intriguing lyrical perspective, and down to the scrapped together mix job which turned an abandoned school into what sounds like an inviting sonic Pepperland.

“Someone told me long ago/Baby, just break the rules” he declares on “Baby Just Break,” and the press release for King Tuff likes to refer to that freak flag quite often. But King Tuff shows us that Thomas cleans up nicely, making the story of how he’s been living out of his shoes a bit more palatable and, more importantly, believable. This record sounds as though he’s putting forth a greater effort in getting out of his squatter motif, heading to a point where his music actually may provide enough bread to devote all of his energy into making more songs as memorable as he has here.

“Hangin’ with my crew/At Loser’s Wall” tells the story of the social outcast’s turf, eerily mirroring my own reality growing up in a small Iowa river town.

Cruising Main Street was the norm on Saturday night, but there was a spot called “The Wall” where the carless, the rideless, and sometimes the friendless would congregate. It was a cement wall in front of a shuttered Buick dealership where the weekend crew would sit, and the outcasts would endure the shouts of passersby, safe in their Daddy’s cars with some of the more cruel passengers armed with water balloons for added emphasis.

Occasionally, a car would stop a pick someone up from the Wall, and they would suddenly be transformed from “losers” to people actually in motion.

King Tuff is where Thomas catches a lift, but it’s good enough that he actually steers the vehicle somewhere beyond the endless asphalt circle. He drags us down to the “Swamp of Love,” deeper to the “Unusual World” and even past the old drive-in where the creature-feature infection of “Bad Thing” blasts like a bit of transistor garage rock.

Ultimately, all of King Tuff represents some kind of sound from our past, but it maintains the optimism that most of us tend to lose by our early twenties. It is nice to be reminded of that forgotten optimism, and King Tuff provides it within its forty minutes, without irony, and without a hint of regret.

None of it may be life-changing, but it’s certainly life-affirming, prompting King Tuff to be the first itchy chigger bite of this summer that you’ll want to keep scratching all season long.

Video: King Tuff – “Bad Thing”

MP3: King Tuff – “Bad Thing”

MP3: King Tuff – “Keep On Movin'”

Full Album Stream: King Tuff – King Tuff

New Blitzen Trapper video: Might Find it Cheap

Video: Blitzen Trapper – “Might Find it Cheap”

I saw them on this tour co-headlining with Dawes, and it was a great show. American Goldwing was one of my favorite albums of 2011.

If you watch and you like the song, you can download the song for the price of your email address.

No Age – Everything In Between

No Age - Everything In BetweenNo AgeEverything In Between (Sub Pop)

Age and nostalgia have nothing to do with it: what No Age does pales in comparison to what has been handed down before. Moreover, it was more rebellious, more dangerous, and it didn’t have the luxury of working in the wake of a few dozen pioneers benefiting from clever genre titles.

Speaking of: No Age’s third record is better than its tightly wound predecessor Nouns because it’s taking some risks at widening their noise-rock roots and putting those bits of distortion, scratches, and squawks into neat little boxes of verse-chorus-verse.

It’s a blast, for sure, particularly with the rapid-fire “Fever Dream,” a three and a half minute blast of Sonic Youth expressway with a chorus consisting of nothing more than guitar sirens.

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Daniel Martin Moore – Dark Road

MP3: Daniel Martin Moore – “Dark Road” from In the Cool of the Day, due January 18 on Sub Pop.

I had never heard of this guy until earlt this year when Sub Pop sent me the MP3 of a song from his collaboration with cellist Ben Sollee. That song blew my mind and I really liked the rest of the album, Dear Companion, on which the two trade off vocals. Moore’s “Needn’t Say a Thing” was a highlight. Sub Pop describes In the Cool of the Day as “a ‘spiritual’ album of time-tested, family gospel favorites remembered from growing up and reinterpreted here, with a few new tunes of his own in the same vein.” Between the new Mavis Staples album and this one, we might be in store for a full-on spiritual revival!

Daniel Martin Moore: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, eMusic, MOG, wiki

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Photos: Happy Birthday Live in Newcastle

Happy Birthday Live in Newcastle

Happy Birthday at Head of Steam

Newcastle, England, November 3, 2010

I have read Todd’s scathing review of the album, but I enjoyed both their gigs: an in-store at RPM, a local independent record shop, and at Head of Steam, a pub that features live music in the basement. I give them credit for coming to Newcastle on a rainy Wednesday night and playing a venue that holds only 96 people maximum.

Continue reading Photos: Happy Birthday Live in Newcastle