Wednesday, January 29, 2014

First Listen: New Releases for January 28

A pretty significant new release week this week, so let's get right to it:

Eleni Mandell - Let's Fly a Kite: Eleni Mandell is a throwback in a lot of respects. Much of her music feels like old orchestrated folk music, and it's a nice change that not a ton of people are doing her way. I was a fan of I Can See The Future, and I might argue that Let's Fly a Kite is even better. It trades standout tracks for a consistent, high-quality listen throughout, and that works well for someone who makes music that has a specific sound and atmosphere. Definitely a highlight of this week for me, worth a listen for sure.

The Hidden Cameras - AGE: I confess to not really understanding The Hidden Cameras. Their breakout (as it were), Mississauga Goddam, had a few solid songs on it for me, but it ultimately didn't grab me on a whole. The new album, an 8 song full length, is along those lines of having a number of decent songs but lacking any sort of real staying power for me. Fans of the band will probably find quite a bit to love here, but as for me, it didn't really do it.

Peggy Sue - Choir of Echoes: A friend of mine turned me onto Peggy Sue a while back. They may have opened for either Wild Flag or Sleater-Kinney at the time, but regardless, Acrobats was an album that ended up in rotation for a bit. The new album that came out this week feels... well, orchestral isn't the right word, but maybe more choral? It's definitely got a feeling of being in some sort of hollow chamber or large room, and the entire sound of things is really impressive and different. It's unlike anything else I'm listening to currently, and if you're interested in expansive, challenging indie rock, this might be your thing.

The Autumn Defense - Fifth: I can't say I've been impressed with Wilco's output over the last decade or so, but I did trip up on The Autumn Defense sometime around when I was into Wilco, and I've kept up with them better than Wilco, for sure. Fifth is the new album, and it's more of what you'd expect from a Wilco-associated act - strong, bright, country-flavored indie rock songs with excellent songwriting and melodies. It's probably not going to blow your mind away, but it actually reminds me a lot of early Josh Rouse in a lot of ways. If this sounds at all interesting, you're going to love this album. I'm really into it on first listen, and I'm wondering if this one might leave a lasting impression.

Hospitality - Trouble: I originally got into Hospitality because their album sounded a lot like classic Belle & Sebastian. On their second effort, they don't really sound like Belle & Sebastian anymore, but what they do sound like is an indie band that's spreading their wings a bit and doing something different. It doesn't always work (some songs in particular feel like a chore, but it's made up for by some other really good songs like "Last Words"), but there's enough here to like that it's still worth a listen if you were into it to begin with.

Tara Jane O'Neil - Where Shine New Lights: I don't know what prompted me to flag this for a listen this week, but this is more of the sort of atmospheric electric folk that's become somewhat popular in some circles. O'Neil, who hasn't released an album in five years, does a solid job with this one. This isn't something I normally reach for, but there's often a time where this is exactly what I need, and this is very good. Quiet, ethereal, definitely a solid release.

Laura Cantrell - No Way There From Here: You'd never know it from the terrible, terrible album cover or the fact that we haven't gotten new original music from her in a long time, but, for my money, you can't really do better with modern alt-country/folk music than Laura Cantrell. I've loved everything she's ever put out, and that she had a new album out this week was a pleasant surprise for me. Is it her best? No. This is definitely a slower piece on a whole, but that doesn't mean it's bad at all. It's really high quality Americana from an underrated singer-songwriter. Definitely add this to your list.

Dum Dum Girls - Too True: I've been a fan of the Dum Dum Girls for a while, but this throwback album is not among my favorite stuff of theirs at this point. Their sound continues to evoke a lot of 1980s-style soundscapes, but it misses the mark a lot more than their previous releases did. While I'm impressed that they're still building on something, I just have to wonder whether it's that I'm too married to what they started doing or just don't love the direction right now. Still a good listen, but I can't help but feel like it's a step backwards on a whole.

DVD Review: The Stone Roses: Made of Stone

The reunion we never thought would happen is chronicled in The Stone Roses: Made of Stone. Director Shane Meadows (This is England) follows the band throughout the European leg of their tour, with backstage access, rehearsal footage, and more.

One thing this film is not is a career spanning look at the history of the Stone Roses. It starts out that way, and seems like it is going to keep bouncing from the past to the present and back. That ends very quickly after a lengthy interview with the band three weeks before their debut album was released. Aside from a brief five minute opening sequence at the very beginning of the film, that's really all the history you get. Meadows then focuses on the rehearsals and reunion shows. Another interesting way this film diverges from the traditional rock doc is by avoiding the "talking head" interview footage that virtually every other one uses. Pretty much the only interview footage is with fans and is shot on location outside of shows.

That's one thing that really wins me over with this documentary: The fans. You really get to see the fan excitement as the shows get closer, and the agony of not getting into one of the shows. Even if you've never gotten the Stone Roses, you can feel how much people absolutely love this band. Meadows just doesn't sit fans down in a studio and have them say how much they love the Stone Roses in a prepared statement. Instead he gets them just as they get tickets for the show, or don't get tickets.

And then there's the live footage. Made of Stone might have the best live concert footage I've ever seen. It's shot so brilliantly and beautifully, I'd be almost afraid to see them in person. (Almost). The crowd shots are some of my favorite, as you can feel the ecstasy their fans are experiencing seeing a band they never thought they'd see again, or would never get to see.

The Stone Roses: Made of Stone might not be the best introduction to the band, but for die hards, it's a must see. For more information, check out the film's official website. You can also purchase it on Amazon.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Cheap Music Alert!

With the Grammys over and done with, Google Play's music store has discounted a ton of stuff. Some free songs and cheap albums are available here, and there are highlights:

* Lorde - Pure Heroine ($1.99)
* Kacey Musgraves - Same Trailer, Different Park ($1.99)
* O Brother, Where Art Thou ($1.99)
* Kanye West - The College Dropout ($1.99)
* Jay-Z - Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life ($1.99)
* Bon Iver - Bon Iver ($1.99)

The True Jacqueline - Like Way Out EP

The True Jacqueline are the latest band coming out of the unbelievably fertile Northampton, MA music scene. Formed back in 2007 by Noah Cerveny (and taking their name from a documentary about Jackie O.), the band was joined by bassist and co-lead singer Kate Niemczyk in 2008 and drummer Brian DiPippo in 2010.

Their latest release, Like Way Out EP, combines the quirky side of the Breeders with the pop sensibilities and melody of Belly, with some of the crunch of Dinosaur Jr. They also list Eric's Trip as an influence, and when was the last time you saw that? The lead song, "Knock Knees," starts off sweet before coming in with an explosion of sound and Malkmus style vocals. My personal favorite, "Cloud Metal," is a bouncing romp that is about as danceable as indie noise pop gets. Just for good measure, "Cookie Dog" displays their My Bloody Valentine side.

For some more information, head over to The True Jacqueline's website. If you're in Beth Page, NY, you can see them at Mr. Beery's on February 15. They're promising a New England tour this summer, so watch out for that.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Download Built to Spill Covering Bob Dylan for Free

I consider myself a Bob Dylan fan, but I'm by no means one of those obsessive, all collecting fans of Dylan. Because of this, I know literally nothing about what he was putting out in the 80s, but I've heard it isn't exactly up to his normal level. So, of course a bunch of indie bands have decided to cover nothing but songs he released in the 80s for a new tribute album, Bob Dylan in the 80s: Volume One. The album will feature the likes of Deer Tick, Reggie Watts, Lucius, Blitzen Trapper, and more. Most importantly, it features Built to Spill covering "Jokerman" off Infidels. Like any Built to Spill cover, it stays completely true to the original while somehow making it completely their own.

You can download a free copy of "Jokerman" over at Rolling Stone's website. For more information on Bob Dylan in the 80s: Volume One, click here.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

First Listen: New Releases for January 21

The good thing about doing this weekly new release update is that it has forced me to expand my musical horizons somewhat. My first two highlights for this week are bands I would likely have never taken a real look at otherwise, and the rest of this week's releases aren't bad, either. Let's get right to it.

Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues: It's impossible to really talk about the newest release from Against Me! without talking about the circumstances surrounding lead singer Laura Jane Grace, who transitioned/is transitioning from male to female after coming out as transgender in 2012. The album's title, as well as many of the song titles if not most of the songs themselves, deal with this new reality for Grace, and as someone who a) was not an Against Me! listener previously and b) probably wouldn't have given this album a second look were it not for the circumstances surrounding the album (chances are if you read any music press, you're aware of the album and Grace's life changes), the album is pretty great. It's a pretty rocking album from start to finish, and it's got me curious enough to look back a bit into their catalog and see what else there is. A pretty great release for the beginning of the year.

Mogwai - Rave Tapes: Mogwai is a band I've been aware of for a long time, but never really bothered with. I think I've always put them in the Godspeed You! Black Emperor camp even though I'm pretty sure they don't belong there. Regardless, I'm not always into instrumental rock, but Mogwai works fairly well for me in terms of what they do. This is a truly interesting record with a lot of good things going on in it that make me want to not only go back and listen again sooner rather than later, but to check out their back catalog that I'm now woefully, woefully behind on. Definitely worth a shot if post-rock instrumentals are your thing.

Young the Giant - Mind Over Matter: This is really their second album? That's it? I enjoyed their first album enough, and the second feels like more of the same for me, and that's not a bad thing. You may not find a ton of solid individual songs on first listen, but you will find a pretty good experience overall in terms of an interesting sounding indie rock band. Definitely worth a listen.

Sweet Soubrette - Burning City: Sweet Soubrette is the first of a few female singer-songwriter albums out this week, this is the one I heard and that I enjoyed. This is a little darker than you might think, but it's also still pretty solid. I honestly don't have a ton to say about it except that it feels very familiar, if that makes any sense.

Damien Jurado - Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son: A friend turned me on to Damien Jurado for his last album, Mariquopa. I expected a sort of singer-songwriter folk thing, but he's a lot more than that. He knows how to add just enough of a rock thing to go along with the folk sensibility that listening to his albums feel like less of an experience and more of an adventure. The new album is no different in that regard, with a lot of interesting soundscapes and some memorable songs to boot. This is one I'm pretty sure will be in rotation for a while, if not an end-of-year favorite if this ends up sticking with me.

Also out this week:

* Silver Mt. Zion - Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything
* Elizabeth and the Catapult - Like It Never Happened

Friday, January 17, 2014

Thurston Moore's Metal Supergroup Releases 1st Song, Announces Album, Breaks Up

Out of all the projects rising from the ashes of Sonic Youth, the one I was most intrigued by was Thurston Moore joining the black metal supergroup, Twilight. It feels like the news Thurston would finally be indulging his metal side came out forever ago, to the point where I just assumed I had imagined it. This week came the news that Twilight finally had a song you could listen to ("Lungs"), an album coming out (III: Beneath Trident's Tomb), and was promptly breaking up. The whole thing almost feels like some kind of put on, except that holy shit is this song good. As you can tell by what we normally write about, neither Jeff or I are big metal guys. We're much more likely to go to a revamped Lilith Fair than Ozzfest. But Twilight? This sounds like Helmet and Quicksand had formed in Norway. And murdered people.

If that sounds like your thing, III: Beneath Trident's Tomb comes out on 3/18. You can listen to "Lungs" below.

Live Shows: David Wax Museum, The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA 12-28-13

David Wax Museum might be my favorite current band to see live. Before this show, I had seen them play live five times, everywhere from the Newport Folk Festival, a dimly lit basement show, a church, and a sparsely attended outdoor show in New Hampshire. Like no other band I've ever seen, they truly fit their setting, making every show completely unique.

The Sinclair (my favorite venue right now) might be the most traditional place I've seen them play so far. It was also the band's return to the stage after multi-instrumentalist Suz Slezak gave birth six weeks prior. Let that sink in for a second... one of the two main members of the band gave birth to a child six weeks before, and they had a mini tour. That speaks volumes about what playing live means to these guys. I don't think any band matches David Wax Museum's sheer love of playing music. It wouldn't matter to them if only ten people showed up. They'd still go all out and have a blast just for themselves.

David Wax Museum just keeps getting better every time I see them. The chemistry between David Wax and Suz Slezak is amazing. They're pretty much the Fred and Ginger of the indie folk world. Songs get slightly tweaked for each show, making even the sixth time you see them completely different. At the Sinclair, "Night Was a Car" took an almost religious zest, although I don't know how many preachers would openly sing a song about wanting to see a lady's dress fall. "Unfruitful" is always a highlight of their set, reaching purely epic proportions. "Carpenter Bird" might have been the most memorable part of the night, with each member of the band wandering the venue and playing their own parts, until they reconvened in the center of the floor to play all together. It worked out a bit better when they did the same at the more spacious Arlington Street Church, where they could spread out more and truly get lost by the crowd.

Once again, an amazing show by one of the most memorable bands out there. My only complaint: Not enough donkey jawbone.

Head on over to David Wax Museum's website for some more information, including their current tour dates. Please do yourself a favor and check them out when they come by you.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Current Obsessions: Leyla McCalla

I don't know if I can truly call Leyla McCalla a current obsession. I first discovered her playing the FreshGrass Festival in 2012. She was still with the Carolina Chocolate Drops then and played her own set earlier in the day. I think it's pretty safe to say no one had ever heard of her before that day, but everyone who was there for her set shares my obsession. She even had a true encore, which is incredibly rare for a slot early in the day at a festival.

As soon as I saw her, I wanted to own everything she had out, which, unfortunately, was nothing. Her debut album, Vari-Colored Songs, A Tribute to Langston Hughes, comes out February 4. It's by far my most anticipated release of 2014. How does a debut album from a little known artist best known for being a short time member of Carolina Chocolate Drops become my most anticipated release in a year that promises albums from Drive-By Truckers, Beck, and Wu-Tang Clan? By being one of the most original voices folk has seen in years.

As much as I love the current folk revival, a lot of it is rehashed. For someone to be truly original, all they have to do is put on a flowery shirt and be "freaky." Leyla McCalla plays traditional folk in a style and voice that I've never heard before. Most of that sound comes from her strumming her cello, but she also combines creole and traditional Haitian music. What comes out is haunting yet eerily accessible. 

To learn more about Leyla McCalla, check out her website. She has some upcoming tour dates to support Vari-Colored Songs, A Tribute to Langston Hughes. You can also watch a video for "Heart of Gold" below.

Newport Folk Festival Early Bird Tickets On Sale Today!

Even though there hasn't been a single artist announced, early bird tickets go on sale today at 10:00 am for the 2014 Newport Folk Festival. They did this last year, and tickets sold out before an artist was even announced. I'm guessing these will be gone by 10:30 am, tops, so if you know you want to go (and you do, trust me) you better buy these now. Early bird tickets are 10% cheaper than regular tickets, which are already a bargain for what you get. I've been personally going for 7 years now, and this is always the highlight of my summer.

The Newport Folk Festival runs July 25-27 in Newport, RI. You can buy tickets starting at 10 am Wednesday the 15th here. For more info head on over to To get a taste of the Fest, check out a video featuring Hurray for the Riff Raff with Spirit Family Reunion from last year's fest below.

First Listen: New Releases for January 14

Another somewhat busy week. Let's dive right in:

The Crystal Method - The Crystal Method: To think they've been doing this for 20 years now... I loved Vegas in high school, but I can't say I've been a huge fan of theirs since. With the whole dubstep thing, the sort of music they've made feels a little more out of place, but their new self-titled album is probably my favorite release this week. It sounds like a Crystal Method album while still remaining relevant to the electronic music that's currently what people are listening to. And it has a LeAnn Rimes song on it. Go figure. Worth a listen, in any regard.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings - Give the People What They Want: If there's a group that is more consistently solid from album to album than Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, I don't know who they are. Give the People What They Want is exactly what they do, with a quick hit of an album that's got the same sort of retro revivalist feel that we've come to expect. It's fun, she's great, and nothing will surprise you with this album, which is ultimately what you're looking for.

Railroad Earth - Last of the Outlaws: If you like your Americana to have more of a jam band flavor to it, you'd be smart to check out Railroad Earth. Their latest is perhaps one of their better albums on first listen. It doesn't overstay its welcome, it has a number of solid songs from start to finish, and it's got a lot to appeal to a number of different tastes. I'm somewhat surprised they're not more popular than they are, but perhaps the genre lines they straddle are not as defined as some others. Definitely worth a look.

Supersuckers - Get the Hell: Believe it or not, this is my first experience with the Supersuckers. I know they've been around forever, but this is the first time I've consciously heard them. Get the Hell is a solid album in a lot of regards - if you like rockabilly, or punk, or mid-1990s-style rock, there's something to like here. People who are fans of their older stuff may come into this with some trepidation, so I can't recommend this with their older stuff in line, but if you're looking for a group that's been around for a while and can still bring the rock, this is a good choice.

Also out this week:

* Lucinda Williams - Lucinda Williams (a reissue of her debut)
* Bruce Springsteen - High Hopes
* Blackie and the Rodeo Kings - South

Monday, January 13, 2014

Lady Lamb the Beekeeper - "All I Really Want To Do"

We love covers here at If It's Too Loud..., and we also love Lady Lamb the Beekeeper. This works out fantastic since she has just released a free song on her Bandcamp, which is a cover of Bob Dylan's "All I Really Want To Do." This version of the song isn't Bob Dylan's version, but Cher's cover of the song which is either hipper or less hip, I'm not really sure. Aly Sparrow's version is unflinchingly faithful to Cher's version and might be this year's folk/disco anthem. Plus, it's free, which we also love here at If It's Too Loud...

Head on over to Lady Lamb the Beekeeper's Bandcamp page to download the song for free. While you're there, you can also check out some of her earlier, self-produced work.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

First Listen: New Releases for January 7

And we're back! We got a few good new releases to start out the new year, so let's dive right in.

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Wig Out at Jagbags: I was never really a fan of Pavement, which I understand is indie rock heresy, but there it is. His first solo album, however, really did it for me. Loved a lot of the songs on there, and it remains a favorite to this day. I haven't loved much more of his solo output, so this new album wasn't something I was expecting to enjoy. Thankfully, if you want to call it a "return to form," or just a solid release, you could do any of that. Wig Out at Jagbags is a solid effort from start to finish, offering a lot to like in songs like "Lariat" and "Cinnamon and Lesbians" while not sticking around so long that you want to give up. Definitely worth a listen, especially if you've been away from the Malkmus stuff for a while.

John Newman - Tribute: John Newman hit the scene recently with electronic act Rudimental, getting a #1 song in the UK with "Feel the Love," a killer song. Newman put out an EP last year with four songs, and his first full-length, Tribute, finally gets a United States release this week. Unfortunately, the four songs on the EP are the standout tracks on what ends up being a bit of a downer of an album. Feels like a lot more filler than really anything, which is especially disappointing given that every song he's released up to this point has been stellar. The British 1960s revival singers keep on coming, and it will be interesting to see if Newman has staying power, but for the moment...

Self Defense Family - Try Me: Self Defense Family, formerly End of a Year, puts out an album that has a lot going for it from time to time, doing the sort of spoken word rock music that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't, but then the album is dragged down by 20 minute monologues, turning the album into less of a musical experience and more of an art project. You might be into this sort of thing, you might not, but it's an album that works in some ways and not in others.

Also out this week:

* Peter Gabriel - Scratch My Back and I'll Scratch Yours

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

This is a Thing That Exists: The First Video for Macauley Culkin's Pizza Themed Velvet Underground Tribute Band

Fresh off Macauley Culkin's residual check for all the Christmas viewings of Home Alone comes the first video for The Pizza Underground, his pizza themed Velvet Underground tribute band. Basically, they take classic Velvet Underground and Lou Reed songs and change the lyrics much like "Weird Al" Yanlkovic so they are about pizza instead of heroin. It's obviously not meant to be taken seriously, but it just makes me wonder how this whole thing got started. They've already played an actual live show, which means they have to be somewhat serious even if it's a novelty act. Plus, where on earth do you get that pizza wallpaper?

Friday, January 3, 2014

Ken's Best Albums of 2013: #1: Lady Lamb the Beekeeper - Ripely Pine

Not only is this the best album of 2013, it might be the best album released in the past 15-20 years. The fact that Jeff only listed Ripely Pine at #9 has made me stop speaking to him. It's by far the most unique and wonderfully unexpected album of this century. I had high expectations based on Aly Sparrow's previous, self-released work (which you can check out on her Bandcamp page). While some songs on Ripely Pine were previously released, this album completely reimagines and rearranges them into fully realized, brilliant offerings. It's like if someone handed you acoustic demos, and then a year later they became Pet Sounds. Yes, that may seem like absurdly high praise, but it's truly warranted. I've been making a joke that this album inspired Neutral Milk Hotel to reform. My favorite part is how every song just shocks you with complete tempo and stylistic changes, and usually multiple times. Just as you get used to a song and start to categorize it, it will just take a bizarre twist into another direction. Even the few songs that stay the same throughout surprise you since you stop expecting the ordinary. 

My only complaint about this album is that she's only 23.

For more information, including tour dates which you absolutely must attend, head on over to Lady Lamb the Beekeeper's website. You can also stream Ripely Pine below.

Ken's Best Albums of 2013: #2: Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside - "Untamed Beast"

This site is on the verge of becoming an unofficial Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside fanpage, with my live review, Jeff's review of their latest EP, and both Jeff and I picking Untamed Beast as our pick for #2 album of 2013. Unfortunately, this appears to be their swan song as they announced their break up on their Facebook page. 

Sallie Ford has already announced and played her first show with her new all-female band under the name Sallie Ford. As excited as I am to hear her new band, I'm also a bit hesitant because I love this album so much. I never got into the white girl soul thing of Adele and Amy Winehouse. Sallie Ford adds a new indie rock twist to it. Pair that with her lyrics just dripping with unabashed sex and you get a concoction that has a little more originality. There is also a strong rockabilly touch to the songs, and I can't tell if that's Sallie Ford or guitarist Jeff Munger. "Paris" has one of my favorite lyrics in years, comparing thinking of a lover while being in Paris with a parasite. I'll keep listening to Untamed Beast while I excitedly but hesitantly wait for Sallie Ford's next move.

Head over to Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside's website for more information, and most likely some updates on their next steps. You can also stream "Untamed Beast" below.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Ken's Best Albums of 2013: #3: Lee Ranaldo & The Dust - Lecce, Leaving

What I find most interesting about each member of Sonic Youth's post Sonic Youth output is how diverse, yet still within the Sonic Youth universe it all is. Thurston's Chelsea Light Moving is the heavier, more punk side. Kim Gordon's Body/Head is more experiemental element, much more like their SYR series. Lee Ranaldo's first album with The Dust (which features SY's Steve Shelley on drums) takes and expands on the more psychedelic output SY had been playing with. There is still some of the noise and aggression, but he adds a melody little seen before. Given my own personal taste, I'm surprised I like this more than the other two Sonic Youth releases this year. Maybe since Lee always had kind of a third songwriter role in Sonic Youth that he feels less obligated by or bound to a previous style. 

Head on over to Lee Ranaldo's website to get some more information, including current tour dates. You can also listen to the full album Lecce, Leaving below.