All posts by Jake Brown

New ME REX video: Heart of Garbage

Video: ME REX – “Heart of Garbage”

ME REX - Heart of Garbage (Radio Edit)

From the Triceratops/Stegosaurus EP, out now on Big Scary Monsters.

This is what we used to call “college rock” and it’s great. The lead guitar tone reminds me of my beloved Sinatras and the clever lyrics are delivered by Myles McCabe in a delightful South London accent.

And if you feel like I do maybe I can help you through this
Don’t be afraid, don’t be ashamed of what you need to keep you sane
Tell your head I said I hate the weight it gives to the mistakes we made.

How can you not love that? Come on.

Via fortherabbits.

New Kings Of Convenience: Rocky Trail

Video: Kings Of Convenience – “Rocky Trail”

Kings Of Convenience - Rocky Trail (Official Video)

From Peace Or Love, out June 18 on EMI.

Back in the Great Sellout Wars of the early 2000s, the Kings of Convenience were one of the bands I would bring up to demonstrate that a television commercial could indeed turn someone on to good music. Their song “Toxic Girl” was used in an ad for something or other where a young person was on a bus, longing for someone. That’s all I remember now. I just spent about five minutes trying to find the spot online but failed.

The way it worked back then was we would hear a cool song, search the internet for who it was, and then download a 128mbps MP3 via Napster or Audiogalaxy. Later, when we stumbled across the cd in the used bin, we’d buy it for six bucks, and if we really liked the whole thing, we’d be sure to pick up their next album on release day. If the band ever toured we’d go see them, and if they had cool merch we might even get a shirt.

It seems naïve now, but at the time we believed that filesharing would ultimately lead to more revenue for musicians. And maybe it did for a while there when people (like us) still bought physical media. Streaming obliterated this system. But that’s another story.

Back when Kings Of Convenience released their last album, 2009’s Declaration of Dependence, there was no streaming. “Album downloads” were still a big thing that was on the rise. It’s a different world now, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to their new single. It’s got that same breezy grooviness that first caught my ear when I saw the ad with the kid on the bus. It’s not really bossa nova but you can imagine a Getz/Gilberto cover of any of their songs, including this new one.

The video features a single, continuous shot of the duo and some friends hanging out in an extremely Scandinavian apartment. Totally on brand and wonderful. Made me realize how much I’ve missed these guys. Let’s say we give them one more time, one last chance to speak again…

Kings Of Convenience: web, insta, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Liz Phair: Spanish Doors

Video: Liz Phair – “Spanish Doors”

Liz Phair - Spanish Doors (Official Music Video)

From Soberish, due June 4 on Chrysalis.

It’s great that Liz Phair has reconnected with Brad Wood, who produced Exile, Whip-Smart, and a most of the best songs on whitechocolatespaceegg. In the liner notes for Girly Sound to Guyville, Phair talks about how unlike previous producers she had tried to work with, Wood “wanted to make a record the way I wanted to make a record. [Wood and engineer Casey Rice] didn’t want to tell me what to do.” Which is why the music they recorded together is so distinctive; the guys didn’t try to tell “the girl” that what she wanted to do was wrong.

I remember hearing that the reason her early songs sound so weird is that she didn’t know how to play guitar when she wrote them and was just making up chords on her own by putting her fingers wherever they sounded cool. If that’s true, it’s awesome.

The quirkiness of youthful experimentation doesn’t last forever, especially when you have major label honchos breathing down your neck, but that’s why after finally being “released” from Capitol Records, 2010’s Funstyle was such a welcome change of pace (even if half the songs were ridiculous).

But now she’s teamed back up with Brad Wood and the three songs we’ve heard so far from their collaboration are giving us a picture of what this new phase is like. It’s mature but not boring. There’s still a playfulness in the production. There are familiar “classic Liz Phair” guitar tones, but nobody’s trying to recreate Wicker Park in the 90s.

The best song on Exile, “Divorce Song” was written at least five years before Phair got married and this new song, dealing with a similar subject, is coming out twenty years after she got divorced.

Phair says, “I drew inspiration from a friend who was going through a divorce, but the actions in the lyrics are my own. I relate to hiding out in the bathroom when everyone around you is having a good time but your life just fell apart. You look at yourself in the mirror and wonder who you are now, shadows of doubt creeping into your eyes. Just a few moments ago you were a whole, confident person and now you wonder how you’ll ever get the magic back.”

I don’t know if it’s ever really possible to fully get the magic back. But if you can manage to keep on keeping on, and every once in a while grasp a little bit of the magic you once possessed, maybe that’s good enough.

We’re all grownups now. It’s probably greedy and unrealistic to expect to be able to rekindle whatever it was that seemed to come so easily when we were young. But it can be fun to try.

New Lou Barlow video: Over You

Video: Lou Barlow – “Over You”

Lou Barlow - Over You (Official Video)

Video by Lou & Adelle. From Reason to Live, out May 28 on Joyful Noise.

Sure, there’s a new Dinosaur Jr album out today, and everything we’ve heard from it so far is awesome, but hey, Lou Barlow’s got a new solo album on the way as well, so check out the new song. (And they called us the slacker generation!)

Barlow says the leadoff single “came from the general longing of my teenage years” and it’s “based on one melody and lyric fragment I captured on cassette back in 1982 or so. In 2019, I decided to resurrect and expand this nugget for my ‘Artist Enabler Series’ for Joyful Noise. I used some of the original lyrics: ‘I knew everything about you. I knew nothing about you’ and built on that feeling, the phrase ‘over you’ became the chorus. I recorded the basic tracks for the new version onto cassette in an attempt to mimic the atmosphere of the original.”

It’s Lou’s specialty to pack a lifetime of emotion into a two-minute pop song. The longing, the regret, that feeling of being haunted by memories. People tell you to “get over it” but there are things it’s impossible to get over; some memories are just an intrinsic part of your being.

“When considering the video I talked to my wife, Adelle, about things in our lives that we’ve never been ‘over.’ We moved from California six years ago, a place that we both loved. We started compiling home videos from our times living there (17 years in my case) and scenes from some 80’s movies that were filmed in LA. When we combined the footage it seemed to work with the song.”

It works!

New Lucy Dacus: Hot and Heavy

Video: Lucy Dacus – “Hot & Heavy”

Lucy Dacus - "Hot & Heavy" (Official Music Video)

Directed by Lucy Dacus and Marin Leong. From Home Video, out June 25 on Matador.

A powerful new song by the great Lucy Dacus with a video featuring adorable old home movies. Home Video, not coincidentally, is the title of her upcoming album.

“I thought I was writing ‘Hot & Heavy’ about an old friend, but I realized along the way that it was just about me outgrowing past versions of myself,” explains Dacus. “So much of life is submitting to change and saying goodbye even if you don’t want to. Now whenever I go to places that used to be significant to me, it feels like trespassing the past. I know that the teen version of me wouldn’t approve of me now, and that’s embarrassing and a little bit heartbreaking, even if I know intellectually that I like my life and who I am.”

“I knew I wanted to include some of the home video footage that my dad took of me while I was growing up. I wanted to visualize the moment when you first reflect on your childhood, which I think can also be the moment that childhood is over. For me, I feel like there was a hard switch when I started releasing music, when my identity went from being a personal project to something publicly observed and reflected. I asked my family (shoutout to my grandma) and some of my closest friends to be extras because they’re the people that knew me before that switch. I may have dropped out of film school, but I still love making movies and had a really fun time directing this one.”

Continue reading New Lucy Dacus: Hot and Heavy

New Bill Callahan video: Cowboy

Video: Bill Callahan – “Cowboy”

Bill Callahan "Cowboy" (Official Music Video)

Directed by Anthony Gasparro and Mikey Kampmann. From Gold Record, out now on Drag City.

Callahan is one of those artists where I’ve liked every song I’ve heard by them but I don’t own any of their albums because their discography is so large and I don’t know where to start. You’d think that the ease of streaming would solve this conundrum but for dingdongs like me, having immediate access to everything only compounds the issue.

Back in the day, I would stumble across a CD in the used bin for $6 and just pick it up and start there. Allow synchronicity and kismet to set the path.

But it’s been a while since I’ve been to the record store, and besides, the knowledge that I could just go home and stream anything puts up a mental barrier that stops me from pulling the trigger. So instead I just end up buying another copy of one of those Rolling Stones ABKCO SACDs that I pick up whenever I see them. It’s a problem.

So here’s another great song from another Bill Callahan album I don’t own. Maybe I’ll start with this one and work backwards. That’s a good idea. That’s a plan!

Callahan told Apple Music that “Cowboy” is “kind of nostalgic for the way TV used to be. There would be a later movie, and then later there was a late, late movie. If you were staying up to watch that, it would usually be after The Tonight Show. That meant something. It meant you’re up pretty late, for whatever reason. You might be being irresponsible, or you might just be indulging yourself. Now that TV is on demand, I don’t think anyone really watches late-night shows at night anymore—they just watch the highlights the next day. So on one level, it’s about that loss of sense of place that TV used to give you, because it was a much more fixed thing. And that kind of correlates to watching a Western, because that’s about a time that is also gone. I was just thinking about that, the time of your life when you can just watch a movie at two in the morning.”

Trying to fit it all in
Before the test pattern and the anthem
And off to bed you go, and off to sleep
And off to dream that trail you ride.

Ride along, little doggies. Ride along.

Bill Callahan: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New St. Vincent: The Melting Of The Sun

Video: St. Vincent – “The Melting Of The Sun”

St. Vincent - The Melting Of The Sun (Official Video)

Animation by Chris McD. From Daddy’s Home, out May 14 on Loma Vista.

The latest St. Vincent videos aren’t doing the songs any favors. Do we need to be bashed over the head with the pastiche gimmick? No, we do not.

The songs are cool and they sound great. Those tones and instrument choices are timeless. The drum sound on this new single is huge and moving. The Wurlitzer electric piano will never go out of style. The electric sitar, on the other hand, is a little goofy, but it’s a lot worse when you hear it while you’re watching this corny video. We get it. Seventies. Fine. Got it. Whatever.

Seeing this song performed on Saturday Night Live was a revelation about how this material can be presented without the cheese. Yes, Annie Clark is still wearing that terrible wig and is dressed like a prostitute in an exploitation film, but this time she looks cool. Not silly. Cool. She proves she can still pull off an interesting visual theme without merely relying on hackneyed cliches about the 70s. She’s immersing herself in those accoutrements in order to mess with us, like when David Bowie dressed up like a clown forty years ago and scared the shit out of America.

So yeah. More art, hold the cheese, please.

Especially since “The Melting Of The Sun” is such a cool song. Clark described it to Rolling Stone as “a love letter to strong, brilliant female artists. Each of them survived in an environment that was in a lot of ways hostile to them.” The lyrics specifically namecheck Joni Mitchell, Tori Amos, and Nina Simone. I just don’t get why you’d want to blunt the message with a dopey video that looks like a combination of Schoolhouse Rock and the Teletubbies.

Continue reading New St. Vincent: The Melting Of The Sun

New Monnone Alone: Feel It Disappearing

Video: Monnone Alone – “Feel It Disappearing”

Monnone Alone – Feel It Disappearing

Directed by Simon Fazio. From Stay Foggy, out July 16 on Lost And Lonesome. Single out now.

I’m sure the Lucksmiths cast a long shadow over the former members of the beloved group. Luckies bassist Mark Monnone has ventured out on his own, as Monnone Alone, as well as with briefly hooking up with a couple former bandmates in 2017’s Last Leaves project.

Do you feel that feeling when it’s starting to rain?
Feel the pressure building inside your brain?
Feeling that feeling that’s so hard to contain?
Don’t know when it’ll end or begin again?

Monnone is clearly not opposed to feeling his feelings. Is this “anxiety-peppered bubblegum pop singalong for the Zoom-generation” a belated sequel to “T-Shirt Weather”, which he wrote for the Lucksmiths 20+ years ago? “I’m starting to feel a lot better” is a similar sentiment to feeling your sadness disappearing after all.

Who knows? Monnone wrote, played, sang, and recorded Stay Foggy on his cassette 8-track all by himself during Melbourne’s 2020 lockdown. He says the album “touches on themes of dread, loneliness and the losing of one’s marbles.” But the sound of the lead single is as chipper as ever. So wake up, wake up…

Monnone Alone: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Monnone Alone: Feel It Disappearing

New John Grant: Boy from Michigan

Video: John Grant – “Boy from Michigan”

John Grant - Boy from Michigan

Directed by Casey & Ewan. From Boy From Michigan, due June 25 on Bella Union and Partisan.

As a boy from Michigan myself, John Grant’s latest single rings true. Coincidentally, I have recently started watching “Freaks and Geeks” for the first time, which is set in a Michigan high school in 1980. I went to high school in the 1980s and the show is spot on. My only issue so far is with Kim Kelly’s parents. Is it ever explained where they are supposed to be from? Because they do not talk like they’re from Michigan. The mom says calls it “soda” for one thing. And what’s up with that accent? Is that the “generic poor people” Hollywood accent? Real poor people in Michigan sound more like they’re from Arkansas than south Boston or the Bronx or whatever that is. One more thing: “Up in Benton Harbor”?!? If this takes place outside of Detroit, what suburb would that be: Indiana? Come on.

But if you’ve seen “Freaks and Geeks,” that’s the setting for John Grant’s “Boy from Michigan.”

We walk through the cemetery looking at all the graves
To Thompsons’s Market for candy and pop
We did it almost every day
We used to look to see if we could find a patch of green
As the winter came to a close
And spring was blossoming
The ground was coming alive and it smelled so clean.

The ground smells like that outside right now.

Grant says, “The song sprang from a moment I experienced when I was about 11 and we were about to move to Colorado from Michigan; my best buddy took me aside and warned me about ‘the world out there’ – so the song is about the transition from childhood to adulthood, the simplicity and innocence of childhood and the oftentimes rude awakening that occurs when one crosses over into adulthood. It’s also about romanticizing the past, which can be dangerous.”

It can be dangerous. That’s true. It can also be annoying and obnoxious. But this song isn’t any of those things. It’s good.

New Sincere Engineer: Out Of Reach

Video: Sincere Engineer – “Out Of Reach”

Sincere Engineer - Out Of Reach (Official Music Video)

Directed by Brandon Hoeg. Single out now on Hopeless Records.

Another new song but still no album announcement. Come on! What’s the hold up?

Deanna Belos told Under the Radar she “wrote this song when Chicago was in the middle of a ~polar vortex~. It was particularly influenced by the time I got up at 4 AM, went to grab a drive-thru coffee, only to realize my window wouldn’t roll back up because the mechanism was frozen. It was -60 degrees and I drove 45 miles to work with a blanket closed in my car door.”

The video, Belos says, displays “the struggle between cold isolation and FOMO, while being constantly bombarded by screens and relentless media.”

Sitting out on the back porch.
We talked for hours, you don’t smoke no more.
And then I never felt closer to anyone before.
Now I know, I know, I know that was many years ago.
We were so young then; now we’re old.

It’s a typical old man thing to do to scoff at young people who claim to feel old. It’s easy to dismiss it as melodrama. But I remember that feeling clearly back when I was what I now consider young. It was as real then as it is now.

Sincere Engineer: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.