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Don't Fence Me In

POSTED: Thursday, August 30, 2012, 11:32 AM
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Is the best band of 2009 still the best band of 2012? We investigate.

How strange it must be to be Animal Collective in 2012. In the past 3 1/2 years since the release of “breakthrough” record Merriweather Post Pavilion (actually their eighth, but the first taste for many fans), the Baltimore foursome transitioned—from strange dudes writing lush, trippy music to strange dudes writing lush, trippy music that every high school freshman was blaring from their Mom’s SUV on the way to soccer practice.

But MPP was more than just a crossover record—it was beloved by bloggers, ivory tower critics, and quote-on-quote “hipsters” alike, managing to score the #1 spot on Pitchfork’s yearly list of records AND songs. So where does that leave the band now, in 2012, as they prepare to release their ninth full-length, Centipede Hz?


POSTED: Thursday, August 16, 2012, 11:10 AM
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LA weirdos Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti release one of the strangest (and best) records of the year

There’s no doubt that Beverly Hills rocker Ariel Pink is one of the stranger figures in rock music today. Since rising to prominence 2 years back, the pink-haired, armpit-drumming, self-destructing, pseudo-band-firing madman has proven entirely inconsistent at pretty much everything… except for defying expectations and creating damn good music. His 2010 record, Before Today, was one of my favorites of the year—I still remember the first time I heard killer single “Round and Round” (rightfully named best track of the year by P'fork) and being blown away—by something so creative, yet so listenable. (My favorite part—still!—is the transition from the chorus to the bridge, where Pink literally chants “Breakdown…breakdown, breakdown…” Genius.)

Of course, writing one killer record does not mean you’ll write a second (see: The Strokes, Best Coast, Sleigh Bells), and knowing what to expect from a man who sometimes answers interview questions by claiming to love necrophiliacs is harder yet. Still, expectations are high for the band’s new LP, Mature Themes, out August 22 on 4AD, but streaming right now via NPR.


POSTED: Monday, July 30, 2012, 11:38 AM
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Believe the hype. This record rules.

In the past 18 months since the release of the very first Purity Ring song, “Ungirthed,” the Canadian duo has proven two things: first, that they’ve truly created a unique and recognizable sound (breathy, ghostly, and slightly ominous)—and second, that they’re complete masters of the media, releasing tunes slowly one by one as they prepped their debut record—and ensuring each was granted a headline in the press. “When you are releasing a constant stream of music, it can cheapen the work—we want each song to linger with people,” describes 1/2 the duo, Corin Roddick, to Pitchfork.

Of course, the problem with releasing tunes so slowly is that eventually, the public might become bored—and luckily for Purity Ring, debut record Shrines (out this week on 4AD) dazzles even the blasé with its splendor.


POSTED: Thursday, July 12, 2012, 10:42 AM

The Brooklyn band returns with their 6th LP, which might be their most accessible yet

Dirty Projectors are, in many ways, the ultimate critic’s band—their quirky, spastic melodies and cryptic lyrics the type of highbrow art rock that makes bloggers and journalists go crazy. (Is it any surprise that Pitchfork named their 2009 record Bitte Orca the year’s second-best?) For me though, I confess I’ve had a hard time getting into it—all those tempo changes and ululations seem like so much work, and I generally prefer music-listening to be fun. I even remember going to see the band live in 2010, and being alternately amazed at their raw talent, and annoyed by their decision to include several blinking lasers on the stage, which—when turned on—seemed to beam directly into the eyeballs of the crowd, practically searing retinas. Looking back, those lasers seem like a metaphor for everything I found distasteful about the band—those fervent moments of in-your-face pretension that were impossible to ignore.

Of course, Bitte Orca came out three years ago…and like any band worth its weight in buzz, since then, Dirty Projectors have evolved. Their new record, Swing Lo Magellan, is still a complex and quirky listen. But unlike Bitte—which favored creativity and form over all else—Swing Lo focuses more on song-craft and emotion, resulting in the most accessible and rewarding listen yet.


POSTED: Wednesday, August 10, 2011, 10:23 AM
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Ryan “Honus Honus” Kattner and Nick “Diamonds” Thorburn—two-thirds of vintage-inspired collab Mister Heavenly—are two of the most creative and spirited performers I’ve had the pleasure to see live—a superlative I feel comfortable making even excluding the former’s penchant for war paint and pants-lessness and the latter’s for fingerless gloves. Rather the Man Man and Islands front men both boast an undeniable sense of melody, showmanship, and above all—levity—which shines through on recorded as well as live material. Add to the mix drummer Joe Plummer—a scene vet who’s logged time with Modest Mouse, The Shins, The Black Heart Procession, and more—and you have yourself the recipe for an engaging (and dare I say: heavenly?) combo.

Enter Mister Heavenly, the bizarre and somewhat accidental meeting of the three, whose debut record Out of Love drops August 16 on Sub Pop. Originally conceived as a fun songwriting exercise between Kattner and Thorburn (who met half a decade ago in Philly and bonded over a love of “music, cough syrup,” and “Canadian tuxedos”), the band morphed into a serious project when, according to their label, they “realized they had something unique on their hands.” From there, they started playing shows (sometimes with Michael Cera), singed to Sub Pop, and recorded an album, which you can stream for free right here.

Listening to Out of Love, the distinct songwriting styles of its two composers are certainly apparent—the grit and oompah beat found on many Man Man records; the sweeping ‘80s flourishes and vintage synths that make Islands so sunny. And yet what’s here is also more than the sums of its parts: a record steeped in the past (particularly the R&B and doo-wop of the 1950’s) while imbued with a modern sense of songwriting. The band has even invented a new word for it: doom-wop. And why not?


POSTED: Monday, July 25, 2011, 11:34 AM
Filed Under: Don't Fence Me In | Indie | Reviews

Attending a music festival in 100+ degree heat takes commitment. It is not an activity for the weak of heart. If you are willing to venture outdoors and spend all day in the grass in such conditions, it is because you, my friend, are hardcore. And when ALL festival goers are of the hardcore variety, well, that’s when things get sweaty and inspired. And thus you have local radio station WXPN’s 2011 XPoNential Music Fest, which went down this past weekend at Wiggins Park on the Camden Waterfront.

More than 30 artists performed on 2 separate stages over the course of 3 days, from established legends like Emmylou Harris and Booker T to indie buzzbands like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Givers to local faves like Jukebox the Ghost and Nicos Gun. I checked out the fest Saturday afternoon along with hundreds of other sweaty music lovers.

POSTED: Wednesday, November 17, 2010, 11:05 AM
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Photo by Christos Schizas (detroitartist.org)

There’s a new Girl Talk album out, it’s true—and you can download it for free from Illegal Art. Its name is All Day and it’s the 5th full-length from pop culture mash-up guru Gregg Gillis. But since you already know this (and probably have been listening to nothing else since), allow me to ruminate briefly on the pleasure that is Girl Talk.

It takes “mash up” to a whole new level. Many will argue—and to some extent, they’re right—that mastering the mash-up does not a song writer make. Point conceded. Listening to Girl Talk will never be the same as discovering a new band for the first time—allowing the melodies and song structures to wash over you, and burrow deep within your skull. No, Gillis is not a hook writer. Gillis is a hook lover. Listening to Girl Talk is more like listening to your entire record collection (with heavy focus on those Jock Jams cds stashed in the back of your closet) thrown into a blender, with rap and pop and R&B all blending seamlessly (or not so seamlessly) together. It’s a reaction to pop culture, and a celebration, and no one does it better than Girl Talk.

It helps you “see” songs like never before…  I’ve always thought of Portishead as sexy music, but juxtaposing it with Big Boi makes the whole thing feel like some skulking crime drama (check: the opening to “Jump on stage.”) The Birdman/New Order pairing (“On and on”) is creative brilliance–to say nothing of the M.O.P. meets Miley Cyrus (“That’s right.”)

It occupies a schizophrenic brain…
Maybe it’s just me, but my thoughts tend to jump around a lot, and Girl Talk helps distract me. Like music you can really get lost in? Gillis is your man. The spastic nature DEMANDS your attention—forcing you to focus on each carefully chosen clip.


POSTED: Friday, June 11, 2010, 1:44 PM
Filed Under: Awesome | Don't Fence Me In

When one of my best friends called me from the road to Tennesee on Wednesday, I couldn't help but be jealous. Not just because of the road trip, but because of the destination. As he spends the weekend in the heat with a bunch of other sweaty, likely intoxicated people, I'll get to watch some of the highlights from the festival on YouTube. You still win Dougie, you still win.

The stream started earlier this afternoon with Julia Nunes, but over the weekend bands like The National, The Gaslight Anthem, Jimmy Cliff, Jay-Z, Weezer, Norah Jones and more will all be streaming live online. Some of the shows will be tape-delayed, including varios clips from last night's semi-preview night.

No, the video below isn't the webcast. But it IS from a past Bonnaroo and who doesn't want to see Sonic Youth?

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Discover great events, festivals, museums, parties, music, restaurants, movies, performances, and art happening in Philadelphia. Want to share an event? Email Leah Kauffman: Send Mail

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