Monday, April 30, 2007

The Postmarks are Fair Game

There are sad songs, complete with such defense mechanisms as sarcasm, wit, and sometimes even humor, and then there are songs that leave the extras out, that get straight to the essence of sadness, clearly born of a broken heart - songs meant to be listened to in a parking lot while staring at rivulets of rain streaming down the windshield. The Postmarks make the latter variety, which is naturally the more beautiful of the two. Their lyrics are rare in that they can stand alone, with shoulders slouched and eyes toward the ground, of course.

The Postmarks played four songs on PRI's Fair Game last week.

The Postmarks - Live on Fair Game, 4-26-2007 (mp3):

Winter Spring Summer Fall
Let Go

Own The Postmarks.

By the way, everybody wish The Keoki good luck...he'll be travelling very soon, and I'm going to miss him. I'll do my best to be there close to the time he comes back, though.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


Do you still have Echo & The Bunnymen's Crocodiles and their self titled album in your rotation? Do you still listen to Interpol's Turn on the Bright Lights, and are you still religious about The Church's Starfish and Seance? Can you name more than one Mission U.K. song? If you answered yes to any of the above, then mark your calendars for the 10th and the 15th of May. On the 15th, Washington, D.C.'s City-State will release their dark and bewitching debut album, Monument. On the 10th, the band will play at the Black Cat.

I'll be writing more on City-State soon. Until then, listen to the band cast its spell with beautifully disquieting parallel piano and guitar melodies in Great Lakes, and the searing guitar at the end of the entrancing Mary.

City-State - Great Lakes (mp3)
City-State - Mary (mp3)

Atrophy is another fantastic song, from their "Wolves +4" EP.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Mavis amazes.

This is the sound of passion, soul, and rebellion. It's the sound of unbreakable spirit. It's more than a revisitation of civil rights-era classics; it's a reawakening of convictions. Listen, and be stirred.

Mavis Staples - Turn Me Around (mp3)
Mavis Staples - On My Way (mp3)

Own We'll Never Turn Back.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Eleni Mandell, Live on KCRW, 4-18-2007

Girls, girls.......girls.

Eleni Mandell's singing stops me cold. It's the things she does with her voice - the way she drags out the word "moon" for just a moment longer than it should be in "Moonglow." It's the pause between "you" and "sleep" in the song "Girls," and a twin pause between the second and third "girls." Her style falls somewhere between country languor and smoky jazz, with hints of k.d. lang, Norah Jones, and Hope Sandoval. Her album has been over there on the right, under "The Smudge Recommends," for most of the year already, but I think I like this live KCRW performance even more. She just seems so much closer.

Eleni Mandell - Live on KCRW (4-18-2007) (mp3s)

Salt Truck
My Twin
The Makeout King
Front Door
Miss Me (alt.)

Watch the performance here, including the interview in which Eleni Mandell says "I fell in love, and he loved me back, for a change," and where Nic Harcourt asks "Do you use your songs to work stuff out?"

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, Live on KEXP, 4-19-2007

This might be my favorite in-studio performance of the year so far. Ted Leo declared that he & the Pharmacists would try to fit as much into 45 minutes as they could. They served up ten stellar songs and a side order of kickass.

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, Live on KEXP, 4-19-2007 (mp3):

The Sons of Cain
Me & Mia/Army Bound
Old Souls Know
A Bottle of Buckie
Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone?
The Unwanted Things
La Costa Brava

Own Living with the Living.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Klaxons, live on The Current.

Can't get enough of The Klaxons? I can relate. Lucky for us, The Klaxons played three songs for Minnesota Public Radio's The Current, and MPR aired the stripped-down performance yesterday.

The Klaxons - Live on MPR, aired 4-18-2007 (mp3s):

It's Not Over Yet
Golden Skans
As Above, So Below

Own Myths of the Near Future.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pete P.

There's something about this song. This is a song about something there.
- Black Francis, in the Pixies' Subbacultcha

I'm not sure whether this Islaya song is about something there, or nothing there, or neither of the above. There's something about this song that makes me feel like it's a song about something there. Something in the way it starts as an assured pop song, supported by a repeating guitar chord, Merja Kerkkonen's warm, unwavering voice, and a throbbing bass. Then, without warning, it unravels, transformed into a mess of tension, a place for nothing, but everything's still in there, lost. And then, as quickly as the deconstruction, the recovery.

Islaja - Pete P. (mp3)

Own Ulual Yyy.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


If you haven't been floored, literally, with the Klaxons' Myths of the Near Future, if you're not singing along with it daily, it's because you haven't heard it yet. And if you haven't heard them yet, it's because you've been living in a hole with no access to the Hype Machine. Because the Klaxons are everywhere, and so am I, every time I listen to them. If the band is about anything at all, they're about motion. Take this track, Atlantis to Interzone. The title implies a journey, and the opening alarm sounds and call for "DJ!" bring perked ears and a reflex to get up and bug out. It sounds like a mashup of the Chemical Brothers and every early Dischord band at once. An adrenalin kickstart with a hard dance beat and propelling bass and guitar lines.

Don't plan on taking your seat for the rest of the album, either. An ominous drumbeat like an approaching dark cavalry introduces the first track, Two Receivers, while simple arpeggiated piano chords add a touch of fragility - an anticipation of something about to break. Totem On The Timeline is a guitar assault that you go with because it feels great to be pummeled like that. And Gravity's Rainbow is an invitation to travel with them to infinity, and however beautiful or sinister that may be, there will be riffs and beats, and nobody will be sitting in their chairs, because they will all have been smashed.

The Klaxons - Atlantis To Interzone (mp3)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Heimdalsgate on Conan

Of Montreal made millions of Conan O'Brien viewers ask, "What the hell is that??" last Thursday, like they did here at my house. My answer? "Derr. It's Of Montreal's Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse, from Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer. Obviously." The video and the album track are here at Shameless Complacency. The mp3 of the performance is here:

Of Montreal - Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse (Live on Conan, 4-12-2007)(mp3)

Get the Hissing Fauna warped carnival ride of an album over there on the right, under "The Smudge Recommends."

Friday, April 13, 2007

Bright Eyes - Live, KCRW, Broadcast 4-10-2007

Bright Eyes recently taped a live in-studio set for KCRW, which was broadcast on Tuesday afternoon. If you missed it, you not only missed Conor Oberst, you also missed the other members of this installment of the Bright Eyes collective:

Mike Mogis: Guitar / Mandolin/ Pedal Steel / Dobro
Nate Walcott: Trumpet / Nord / Piano
Jake Bellows: Guitar / Bass / Vocals
Rayche Bloomberg: Drums / Ukelelaele/ Vocals
M. Ward: Guitar / Acoustic / Harp / Vocals
Anton Patzner: Fiddle

Listen to M. Ward's soothing, melancholy timbre blend with the southern guitar twang on Smoke Without Fire. As expected, Conor and all vocalists ooze confidence and sincerity as they sing their stories.

Bright Eyes - Live, KCRW, Broadcast 4-10-2007 (mp3s):

Soul Singer
Smoke Without Fire
Yellow Datsun
Tourist Trap
Lullaby in Exile
June on the West Coast

Own Cassadaga at a criminally low price.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Let's just all fail together.

On May 8th, the British band Fields will release Everything Last Winter, the full-length follow up to their well-received EP, 7 from The Village. This track, If You Fail, We All Fail, is a lush guitar rush, begun with rich dissonance, spaces filled with sweet feedback, voices in perfect harmony, each part a snug fit with the whole. A composition beautifully planned and executed.

Fields - If You Fail, We All Fail (mp3)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Can You Feel It?

Do you feel it?

Yes, I feel it. I feel my beloved barrio. My ghetto.

We didn't need any ocean breeze. To the left we had the Hudson River. To the right, the East River. When we wanted to refresh ourselves, who needed the ocean? We had the pump. Ha!

- Joe Cuba, in Tu Lo Sientes? (mp3), an organ and rhythm-based barrio reminiscence.

There are those who swear it's true that brother are we all
But there are still so very few who'll answer a brother's call

- Ralfi Pagan, in the sweetly voiced Brother, Where Are You? (mp3)

Both from Salsa Explosion: The Sound of Fania Records. If you like these, most of the CD is even better.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Go ahead and laugh. He's everybody's clown.

The Smudge has Len Wade's Everybody's Clown (mp3), from Soul Resurrection Volume One: From Deep Inside the Playground Vault, ready to play at a whim, and the whims for this slow, patient burn come hard and often. Lord, how the brass hits that spot deep down inside in this one. So nice.

Fresh on the heels of Birmingham Sound: The Soul of Neal Hemphill Vol 1 [which The Smudge recently highly recommended], Rabbit Factory, Inc is preparing to release their second studio-based soul compilation. Soul Resurrection Volume One: From Deep Inside the Playground Vault collects material from Valparaiso, Florida’s Playground Studios, a stomping ground for numerous soul and funk artists associated with some of the top names in the genre (Minaret’s Big John Hamilton and Doris Allen, members of Roy Orbison’s band The Candymen, and more).

In 2005, Playground Studios and the masters produced there were purchased by Memphis producer Jim Lancaster (also known for his production on The Replacements’ Pleased to Meet Me) with plans to renovate the studio and again produce records in the spirit of former owner Finley Duncan, who built the studio in 1969. Lancaster was the impetus behind Soul Resurrection and plans to re-open the studio later this spring. In the meantime, the record, which collects 20 tracks recorded at Playground studios, will be available beginning April 24th. [It's available now at Dusty Groove.]

Dusty Groove says:
There's an approach here that's wonderfully sensitive, and free from cliche -- a way of adapting to each new talent with a level of sophistication that was still a bit rare for southern soul at the time. Some of the best known Playground work was issued on the Minaret and SSS International labels -- some of which has been compiled recently by Sundazed -- but this collection here is all unreissued work, with no crossover with other compilations -- a wonderfully fresh look at this under-recognized force in southern soul, presented with some really great liner notes and photos!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Dean & Britta, Live on KCRW, 4-6-2007



The talented Luna founders Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips recently visited the KCRW studio to play seven songs for Morning Becomes Eclectic. Maybe it's just me, but they look a lot younger in the MBE video than they do on the album cover and in their press photos. In the video, you'll also see the well-travelled keyboardist Lara Meyerattken, a.k.a. El May, whose talented fingers also harmonized with Luna, Ben Lee, and Crooked Fingers, among others.

Dean & Britta - Live on KCRW, 4-6-2007 (mp3s)

The Sun Is Still Sunny
Singer Sing
Words You Used To Say
You Turn My Head Around (Lee Hazelwood)
Night Nurse
Ginger Snaps
Our Love Will Still Be There (Troggs)

Experience the sweet harmonies of Dean & Britta's Back Numbers.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Bad Veins

Benjamin Davis and Sebastien Schultz are the new Cincinnati-based band, The Bad Veins. Their new song, Gold and Warm, is immediately arresting. Gothamist described their sound as "a little bit Sparklehorse, a little bit Postal Service. A raw, almost 'old-fashioned' sound with a new twist..." I'm thinking a little bit Strokes, a little bit Jesus & Mary Chain, and a whole lot of plays on the iPod.

Bad Veins - Gold & Warm (mp3)

Down Home Gospel Classics

It's Good Friday, made better with great gospel from the dirt cheap 15 Down Home Gospel Classics.

The Paramount Singers - There's A Leak In This Old Building (mp3)
Robert Pete Williams - Sinner, Don't You Know (mp3)
Black Ace - Farther Along (mp3)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Je Connais Les Prototypes.

Here's a Prototypes performance from SXSW, broadcast by Minnesota Public Radio. It's pure spark and drive. Wish I were there to feel the buzz.

Prototypes - Live @SXSW on The Current, 3-15-2007 (mp3s):

Je Ne Te Connais Pas
Who's Gonna Sing?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Her self-titled album has been out elsewhere for a couple of years now, and yesterday, CéU hit stores in the U.S. In keeping with the electro-jazz trend that artists such as Bebel Gilberto and Cibelle successfully imported, CéU and her band fuse jazz, electronic music, and diverse rhythms to create unique grooves. Not that any of that is necessary; her voice alone is enough to hold an audience. The impossibly sexy songstress is supporting the release with live dates, including one this coming Saturday at the National Geographic Society Headquarters. According to the NG website,

CéU's unique sound combines Afro-beat, soul, and electro-jazz with a voice of unforgettable beauty. Born into a musical family in the artistically diverse city of São Paulo, she decided to become a singer at the age of 15, pursued music studies in lieu of a college education, and developed into a composer of great complexity as well as popular appeal. A sensation in both Brazil and France, she was nominated for a 2006 Latin Grammy Award as the Best New Artist.

CéU - Lenda (mp3)
CéU - Concrete Jungle (mp3)

Let CéU delight you.

Treat yourself to a drink and watch this:

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Bloc Party, The Prayer, Live on Letterman

Bloc Party played The Prayer, my favorite song from A Weekend in the City, on Letterman last week. Unsurprisingly, it sounds much better live, in its raw form. The boys know how to bear down on their Fenders. And, of course, the drums. Damn. The skills, the talent. The plain white t-shirt. I still need to get my tickets.

Bloc Party - The Prayer (Live on Letterman, 4-30-2007) (mp3)

Here's the vid:

Monday, April 02, 2007

Low, Live on MPR 3-30-2007

Low's outstanding new album, Drums and Guns, deservedly scored a whopping 8.1 on Pitchfork. It's resignation rock at its best, music in no hurry to get anywhere, each track a perfect closing requiem for CBS' Cold Case.

Last week, they played four songs for Minnesota Public Radio's The Current. It took a while to play them, but the best things are worth slowing down for.

Low, Live on MPR 3-30-2007 (mp3s):

Violent Past