Magicistragic mix for May

http://www38.zippyshare.com/v/10611380/file.html

Sometimes life grows hectic and puttering around on the internet loses its luster for a bit. This is one of those times. I fully expect to find more time to aimlessly ramble about albums in the near future. In the meantime, here is another mix that captures the vibe of my evening. On an unrelated note, this humble blog is slowly approaching its fifth anniversary this summer. Would anyone out there like to design a graphic to commemorate our humble beginnings when the day finally rears its meager head? If not, I guess I’ll just create a portrait of a bawling wizard myself.

Steely Dan-Babylon Sisters

Connections-Finally

Tortoise-Magnet Pulls Through

Pere Ubu-Non Alignment Pact

Tamaryn-The Waves

The Clean-Getting Older

Glenn Jones-Across the Tappan Zee

Jimi Tenor and Kabukabu-Africa Kingdom

Swirlies-Bell

Marcos Valle-Ele E Ela

Bob Seger-Evil Edna

Django Django-Hail Bop

Lilacs and Champagne-Sour/Sweet

His Majesty’s Coachmen-I Don’t Want to See You

Thee In-Set-They Say

Damien Jurado-Birdcage

Girls Names-Drawing Lines

The Chills-After They Told Me She Was Gone

Gene Clark-Jimmy Christ

Thee Oh Sees-Putrifiers II

Television Personalities-Anxiety Block

Captain Beefheart-Twist Ah Luck

Pumice-Pebbles

January 7, 2012

Pumice

Pebbles (Soft Abuse 2007)

http://www.mediafire.com/?eiz3xsd4wj0

New Zealand is such an unlikely place to spawn such an eclectic assemblage of post-punk pioneers, guitar abusers and folks with an innate knack for melancholy, chiming indie-pop masterpieces. However, I guess that the age of the internet has taught us dullards that the musical universe never revolved around the United States and England and that every nation harbored a cabal of unheralded geniuses, eccentric weirdos and impeccable tunesmiths. Most of us were just ignorant to its existence due to a lack of distribution or a fixation upon the effortlessly familiar. New Zealand was an exception to this rule since many of its flagship acts like the Clean, Chills, the Bats, Cakekitchen and Tall Dwarfs signed distribution deals with North American labels during the 80s. Therefore, folks took notice and dug deeper into its furrows to find that there was more than rainy-day reveries up its collective sleeve.

Although I adore the aforementioned bands in a particularly unhealthy way, there was something about the more damaged sounds of 80s and 90s New Zealand that resonated with me in a way that still moves me in a kind of transcendent way. Folks like Peter Jefferies and  Alastair Galbraith and and bands like This Kind of Punishment, Dadamah, Dead C, Gate, Plagal Grind and the Terminals mined a dark, brooding space peppered with fragile ballads that literally seemed to walk on eggshells as they teetered between nihilism and a skewed sense of melody. Most of these bands found a safe haven on the Xpressway label and forged a totally idiosyncratic sound unlike anything else I’ve heard since its collapse. I had given up the ghost long ago and surrendered to the fact that no one would resuscitate its vibe until I heard Pumice, a one man operation led by Stefan Neville.

To be honest, I think this album is probably better than anything ever released on Xpressway and that folks will revisit it years from now and finally give it its due. By no means is it an easy listen. Its seams and flaws are  fully on display and it only grips the listener after many late night strolls with it as your sole companion.  Pebbles is a schizophrenic listen that teases you with ecstatic riffs and a joyous spirit in the first two minutes only to drag you down into “Bold/Old”, a fragile meditation on the woes of life set to a woozy background of hazy, psychedelic guitar meanderings, distant piano plunkings, and the buzz of gentle hiss. You can’t understand a lick of what he mumbles, but it somehow reminds you of moments when life felt like a perpetual string of potholes until he lets loose a triumphant warbling that reminds you that smoother sailing awaits even the most troubled souls. There is such beauty amidst the gentle feedback, drones and deceptively ramshackle arrangements. “Spike/Spear” goes on for eleven minutes, but its droning, moaning and surging peaks coalesce into a true centerpiece for the album. It’s like a palate cleanser that wipes the slate clean with a long pause where you can empty your mind and get lost in the swirl of sound before embarking on a second half that is much harsher than the first. We get a short respite before he tears into “The Only Doosh Worth Giving”which conjures the spectre of the Clean’s “Point That Thing Somewhere Else” with a more punky, nihilistic streak. It shreds in a way alien to this planet. The rest is either haunting, sparse and mood destroying or swells and peaks of noise that are best suited for headphones and a grand tolerance for volume. Pebbles ain’t for everyone, but it sure feels like it speaks to me each and every time it flops onto my turntable.

The Bats-Compiletely Bats

August 3, 2009

The Bats

Compileletely Bats(Flying Nun 1990)

http://www.mediafire.com/?yijyouzkdog

It may be sweltering here in Philadelphia, but I’m an organized soul who likes to get a head start on the next season, especially when it’s autumn, my favorite time of the year. Throughout the years, there are only a handful of bands who somehow capture my admittedly biased view of that time where life slows down and the leaves take their sweet old time on their way from the treetops to the concrete below them. Yes, summer is a time for exploration and adventure down country back roads and travels to farflung locales, but autumn is when you take your sweet time and patiently watch another year come to close and reassess your priorities for next year while taking inventory of the present one. It’s a time for meditation and speculation about what went right and what went terribly wrong before another year gets brutally latched upon your sum total. For some reason, the Bats, along with fellow Kiwis, the  Chills, Verlaines, Magick Heads and Peter Jefferies capture this sense of ennui so perfectly that I start listening to them in earnest a couple months before they are best suited to my mood. Then again, I am an impatient soul, so it is only fitting that I pay tribute to autumn in August.

On the surface, Compiletely Bats, a collection of their first three eps, is an odd choice to associate with autumn, but they are forever intertwined with it because their songs are so optimistic on the surface, but scratch a little deeper and you see swaths of melancholy, self-doubt and introspection. In short, these are the the qualities that I associate with a time where the party slowly comes to a close and you are left questioning and applauding the past while generating a plan for the murky future.

The best example of this can be found in the opener “Made Up in Blue” which may be the apex of New Zealand pop, but the lyrics paint such a contradictory image to the chipper strums and jangles. It’s an ode to indecision and worry as its protagonist questions his social circle, direction and the advice of others as he bemoans the dead weight that surrounds him. It sums up that moment when you doubt a big decision, ponder the consequences and benefits and take a leap into the new.

In between are tales of faded glory, grasping at straws and tragic nostalgia, all of which highlight their focus on the grey and beige in our lives, but its closing number provided a perfect bookend to it superficially sunny opener. “Offside” closes out the compilation on a pitch perfect note as it eloquently depicts the onset of winter and its resultant stagnation. It details a fight against depression when your friends are hibernating, trees are bare and optimism is a rare commodity as vocalist Robert Scott embraces the bottom of the barrel only to discover that there is nothing there but darkness. Instead of wallowing in woe, Scott decides that the best path is introspection and meditation and he ultimately he decides the best path is a long walk where he embraces the scenery and decides that innocence and new beginnings are just around the corner. Just like most Bats songs, it sums up the moment before you hit rock bottom when you realize things aren’t quite so bad as your neurotic mind makes them out to be.

That’s why the Bats embody autumn. Their songs are about scenes of darkness and despair where the storm clouds break and meager rays of sunlight break through the murk and provide hope in barren times.

Tall Dwarfs-3 EPs

October 28, 2008

Tall Dwarfs

3 EPs (Flying Nun 1994)

http://www.mediafire.com/?iiwj1ywjn5t

I cannot put my obsession with the New Zealand’s Flying Nun label into words. On the surface, the Clean, Bats, Verlaines, Tall Dwarfs, Chills and Magick Heads adhere to the same formula of many 80s and 90s indie rock veterans, but there is a rainy day at the heart of each band that never gives way to sun. Even at their most uplifting, I always perceive a dark cloud on the horizon of most songs. It doesn’t hurt that the aforementioned bands are some of the most eloquent of that era and make you wish Flying Nun hadn’t fallen into disrepair.

The Tall Dwarfs were always the most silly, adventurous and unhinged act on Flying Nun. The duo of Chris Knox and Alec Bathgate always displayed a fondness for four-track recordings, a DIY aesthetic and pure pop buried in tape hiss, but 3 EPs opened the door to new horizons.  The band invited fans to record backing tracks and fragments of instrumentation on cassette and send them for inclusion on these eps. They used these submissions as building blocks for each song, which is odd since it is their most solid and cohesive album despite the fact that it is a collection of eps.

The opener “For All the Walters in the World” surfs on a wave of la-la-las as Alec Bathgate does his best Donovan/George Harrison impression and embraces every ounce of sunshine that the star ever expelled. Although the song is all about submission to love and its power to transcend every humdrum detail of our ordinary lives. It seems like a call to all the Walters or average joes to give into their emotions and act on love instead of pondering it. It is a wonderful sentiment in my book.

“Starry Eyed and Wooly Brained” is another classic Tall Dwarfs song as it details the misadventures of a man dosed off his nut on some unknown hallucinogen as his mind races headlong into the sun that looms above him. It is a somewhat romantic ode to losing your shit and the childlike belief in the surreal visions that occupy your mind at such moments.

Overall, this is the best starting point for anyone unfamilar with the Tall Dwarfs as it features every facet of their vision. Drugged ballads, tape manipulations, catchy indie-rock and mellow meditations are take their moment on center stage and make you wish that the rest of their catalogue matched such heights.

The 6ths

Wasp’s Nest (London 1995)

http://www.mediafire.com/?eztmxiwxdnt

Stephin Merritt has always utilized the vocal talents of others to realize his artistic vision. His choices were sometimes a bit suspect on 69 Love Songs, but he usually has a great ear for who best coalesces for this tragic songwriting. His best collaborations can be found on Wasp’s Nest, the 6ths debut, but how can you go wrong with a roster of vocalists that includes Barbara Manning, Mary Timony(Helium), Dean Waeham (Galaxie 500), Amelia Fletcher (Heavenly), Rober Scott (The Clean/Bats), Mark Robinson (Unrest), Chris Knox (Tall dwarves), Georgia Hubley (Yo La Tengo) and Max MaCaughan (Superchunk)?

The music doesn’t differ from the baroque electronic indie-pop that marks his work in the Magnetic Fields. The lyrics doesn’t stray from his usual tales of unrequited love and romantic promises, but the roster of vocalists make this his best release. From Barbara Manning’s ode to the joys of the San Diego Zoo to Georgia Hubley’s rejection of a lover who can never compare to her own imagination, every element of each song is on point. The highlight is Dean Wareham’s take on “Falling Out of Love With You” which documents the dissolution of a relationship in a blase sort of way. I always loved the lyrics to this one although they sound better in performance than on your screen.

“In an old silverline
I was yours, you were mine
I was hoarse, you were mean
We designed drum machines

But every day in every way
Im falling out of love with you
Every kiss means less and less
Im falling out of love with you
Every hour kills a flower
Im falling out of love with you
You just bore me more and more
Im falling out of love with you

They made sounds much like drums
I was young you were dumb
Now youre older and im wiser
We design synthesizers

But every day in every way
Im falling out of love with you
Every kiss means less and less
Im falling out of love with you
Every hour kills a flower
Im falling out of love with you
You just bore me more and more
Im falling out of love with you”

It is playful, bitter, sarcastic and a downright mean rejection, but the music is so chirpy and bright that you find yourself humming along with each caustic word. Now that’s a pop song.