Bill Callahan (née Smog) is somehow able to craft music that sounds simultaneously compulsively arranged and don't-give-a-shit slapdash, complexly orchestrated and barebones, subtle and epic. As Callahan speak-sings thought-up-just-now lyrics like "America! What a Navy! What an Army! What an Air Force! What a Marines! America!" (exclamation points included on the lyric sheet), his backing band sounds like they're in a clinically sterile room crafting as precise and crisp a rhythm as possible. And as the album fades out with beautiful, praise-band piano, Callahan just sings the catalog number of the album (DC450). Granted, he makes it sound like country-gospel, but it's still just near-meaningless letters and numbers. I feel like this is the sound of a musician playing hard to get. Craft a beautiful album for your listeners, but give them just enough emotion to hook them, and then fill the rest with aloofness and inside jokes so they feel like if only they could work just a little harder, they'll be let into the album's magical little lyrical world. But this makes the album electrifying. Playing hard to get creates obsession, and this album definitely locked in a spot on my best-of-2011 list last year. And, in fact, is all I've really listened to for the last week. And I suspect it'll pop up fairly frequently in the future. Reveal your secrets, Bill Callahan. Love us like we love you.
This is going to be another one of those breaks from indie pop to listen to something much heavier and darker. In this case: black metal from France. We all love a catchy love song, but sometimes you need something brutal and atmospheric that, because the lyrics are largely buried/shrieked/in a language you may not understand, you have to let the band show, rather than tell. Blut Aus Nord fills that niche nicely.
The album this track comes off of is the first of BAN's "777" trilogy of albums. 777 being a number traditionally associated with God (if man is five, and the Devil is six...), and black metal traditionally not being the most religion-friendly genre in the world, you can probably see where these albums are going to go, lyrically. What IS refreshing, though, is where the album goes sonically. Unlike so much black metal which starts and ends with a pummeling blast-beat, this album has no problem slowing things down a bit and creating a mood. This track being a chief example of that. No one is about to accuse this track of being weak, but it measures out its heaviness with some Krautrock from France's germanic neighbors. This could be something of a gateway album for people not into metal's cookie monster vocals or never-ending brutality. It's still a heavy listen, but it isn't as exhausting as many of it's genre-mates.
So last night, we took a break from our regularly scheduled program of Pavement and awkward jokes to do a show featuring nothing but female vocalists. I think we all had a good time. Well...at least I had a good time. And I'm the only person I can be sure listened to the whole show, so I guess my opinion counts the most. Anyway, here's all the sweet lady-sung tunes we played:
(*) Grass Widow - Disappearing Industries - Internal Logic Kimya Dawson - I Like Giants - Remember that I Love You Nellie McKay - Mother of Pearl - Obligatory Villagers Amanda Palmer - Fake Plastic Trees - Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on Her Magical Ukulele
Mi Ami's Steal Your Face was one of those albums that immediately clicked for this listener. The sweaty, passionate junkyard danceparty they put down hit musical buttons on more levels than anything I'd heard in a while. That level of interest causes the listener to investigate the band more deeply. And since Mi Ami only had one other album, further exploration was needed. Turns out 2/3 of Mi Ami used to be in another band, Black Eyes. On Dischord. With an album produced by Ian MacKaye. Sold.
And you can hear the Mi Ami DNA in genetics of this band. While obviously punk-er (with the vitality of youth), Daniel Martin-McCormick's nasal keening and slashing guitar-scraping are present, as is the presence of bass-loving dub influence. It makes sense that such a combination would find a home on the Fugazi label. Granted, for this listener, Black Eyes is only a methadone to Mi Ami's heroin (and, sadly, Mi Ami's new electro stuff is like ditch-weed). But this is still a real strong album, and I regret not getting the opportunity to see it live where I know the energy almost-but-not-quite-captured on this album would have blown faces to the back of the room.
I picked up a Big Mama Thornton album because of my friend Kathlyn. Looking for some more blues albums after picking up Muddy Waters's classic live album, I knew one of Kathlyn's most-listened-to artists on last.fm was Big Mama Thornton. And you don't forget a name like that. That name alone draws your attention. And BMT had an album with Muddy Waters. Sold. And the album is as big as the name. These tracks are powerful. Big slabs of soulful blues delivered with a conviction and passion that categorizes the best music in the world.
And this album is always going to remind me of Kathlyn, who unfortunately passed away a couple years ago. She, too, was strong and passionate and I had a very big affection for her. I hope that somehow she knows that her nerdy friend Kyle is still having his life enriched by her, and that even though I understand why she did what she did, I really wish she was around to share these things with.
Last night was another lovely evening of radio, had an intern who brought plenty of good stuff, there was free pizza at the station, I found and wore the worst/best airbrushed reggae t-shirt in the world, and we all had a real good time. Get in on this action. We listen to songs like these:
Fucked Up - Anorak City - Year of the Pig ****Intern Daniel takes over**** (*) Screaming Females - It All Means Nothing - Ugly (*) OFF! - Feelings Are Meant To Hurt - OFF! Toys That Kill - Brave Kids Jump - Flys EP (*) Beach Fossils - Shallow - Shallow/Lessons EP (*) Beach Fossils - Lessons- Shallow/Lessons EP
Thanks to everyone who donated during the Fund Drive this year. If you still want to float us a couple bucks in order to keep a non-commercial, volunteer-run station going, call 949-824-5824 sometime before May 6th to donate. We'd appreciate it.
Here's the kind of music you'd be supporting:
Things that Are Square 5-3-12
(*) = New release
(*) Spiritualized - Get What You Deserve - Sweet Heart, Sweet Light