Cate Le Bon - "Duke" (Music Video)

As I rolled out of bed after a long Labor Day weekend covering WARMfest in Indy, a new music video from Welsh songstress Cate Le Bon appeared in my timeline. The video sticks largely to the well-worn script of spliced-together tour footage - the stuff bandmates do between being a band. However, there are some mind-blowing magic tricks from Le Bon's Dylanesque guitarist in the latter half of the video. If nothing else, the video for "Duke" is a welcome reminder of how fantastic an album Mug Museum remains nearly a year after its release.

Jeff Tweedy's First Solo Album

In the mild hullabaloo around Tweedy, Jeff Tweedy's first official solo project which co-starts his 18 year old son Spencer and which I first heard attached to Richard Linklater's phenomenal Boyhood, I couldn't help but find myself reminiscing about one of my guilty pleasure movies and another project which linked Ethan Hawke and Mr. Tweedy, the 2001 film Chelsea Walls directed by Ethan Hawke and featuring original music from Mr. Wilco himself.

Before going on, I should make this caveat. Chelsea Walls is probably not a great movie. But, to be honest it's cinematic significance isn't what's propelling this post, either. The film is based on a play of the same name by Nicole Burdette, who also wrote the screenplay, and features some 30 odd characters including a whose who of your turn of the millennium crowd like Uma Thurman, Rosario Dawson, Steve Zahn, Paz de la Huerta, Vincent D'Onofrio, Kris Kristopherson, Tuesday Weld, Natasha Richardson, and Robert Sean Leonard. The later plays an aspiring musician who's also the lens through which the film is view. Leonard and Zahn have just arrived from Minnesota to start up music careers in New York and take refuge at the Chelsea Hotel, the famed NYC landmark made famous for housing some of the city's greatest arists. It's perhaps fitting, then that the elder Tweedy provides the music as Zahn and Leonard perform a spellbinding cover of Wilco's "The Lonely 1" in a bathtub. 

These days it seems like the film, and soundtrack, are all but forgotten even though in many ways this was Jeff Tweedy's first solo album. Chelsea Walls came at the apex of a difficult time for Tweedy and Wilco. Though the band has, in recent years, emerged into something like the greatest living rock band in the US, 2001 was the make or break year that saw the band sever ties with it's old label over Yankee Hotel Foxtrot a slew of band changes and the eventual solidification of the lineup to make way for what the band has become today (see I am Trying to Break Your Heart). Accompanying this was a kind of restlessness both among the band leader, Tweedy, and the group itself as it seemed like no one seemed content to just be in Wilco, but thad to be in everything else as well. For instance, the whole band teamed with the Minus 5 in 2003's Down with Wilco and a shortened paring of the YHF and Ghost is Born team (Kotche, Tweedy, and Wilco/Sonic Youth collaborator Jim O'Rourke) dubbed themselves Loose Fur and released a self-titled record in 2003 as well. It was an era of musical experimentation, to put it mildly, and for Tweedy the most experimental was probably his soundtrack for Hawke's Chelsea Walls

The album itself features 6 tracks form Tweedy backed, usually, by Wilco/Loose Fur member Glen Kotche. The other 5 tracks feature 2 from Wilco. "Promising," a vintage Being There sounding recording (of the "Someone Else's Song" variety) and "When the Roses Bloom Again" from the band's Mermaid Ave sessions with Billy Bragg. Other standouts are Leonard and Zahn's Wilco cover and Jimmy Scott's incendiary rendition of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy," which you can also catch in the film.

Still, it's Tweedy's music that dominates the soundtrack as it does the film acting as almost an absent character whose presence pervades like the haunted quality of Chelsea Hotel itself. Tweedy's composing here relies heavily on tricks that he seems to be picking up from Jim O'Rourke. "Red Elevator" sounds like it's main riff could have crawled out of the Sonic Youth's Sonic Nurse sessions which O'Rourke was a part of. The fuzzy melange of sounds on "Red Elevator" gets repeated over and over in Tweedy's score which moves as easily from an acoustic moment with piano as it does with overlapping squeals. For fans of the band's work on Ghost is Born, you can feel the building blocks in Tweedy's work on this score as he seems to throw a ton of sounds in and see which one sticks. Sometimes, as on "Frank's Dream" the result is an akimbo jazzy recording with Kotche's drums seemingly the only thing holding the track together. Others, as on "Finale," a single riff seems to turn the universe around it drawing in new sounds and expanding other lines. 

Pitchfork, in their trademarked snark, advised listeners that in the future only Wilco completeists would be interested in Tweedy's first recording under his own name and even then, they might regret what they had just gotten themselves into. 12 years after its release, I can't help but think that this record has been unjustly judged back then and remains unjustly out of the picture right now. First of all, there's the importance in terms of Wilco's transformation. But, beyond that, the soundtrack to Chelsea Walls is a thoroughly decent instrumental record with a couple great b-sides that you can't find anywhere else and two fantastic covers (Scott's and Leonard/Zahn's). It's probably fitting to end this post with the covers, as the version that Leonard and Zahn perform of Tweedy's music is one of the most revelatory moments of the film and the soundtrack. And as much as this is Leonard and Zahn's awkward portrayal of aspiring musicians (esp. Leonard's scene in the phonebook toward the end of the film) it's also based on the sheer strength of Tweedy's songwriting, which is somehow continually overlooked. This film made "The Lonely 1" into one of my favorite songs of all time and for me, at least for that, it's difficult to continually forget about Chelsea Walls.

Zach's Ten Favorite Tracks Of The Decade (So Far)

Q: Why make a half decade list this early?  Is it because everyone else is doing it?

A: It looks like fun and I love these tracks.

Here we go...

"Gone Tomorrow"

A wheel turning guitar riff thumping away to Kurt Wagner's perfectly sharpened lyrics.  Hope, distain, and introspection smash together to compose this seven minute epic that finds itself slipping away to instrumental orchestral movements mid-song to end.  "Gone Tomorrow" also gives me one of my favorite lyrics of the decade: "The wine tasted like the basement".   


The only track from 2014 on this list because great tracks need time to make a decade list. This is a testament to "Parade" which is an instant classic and will probably be higher in a few years as the brilliance of this track develops in my mind.  It's smooth and like the entire "Familiers" album, truthfully optimistic.  Nothing is smiles and cheers, rather, the music and lyrics are powerful in making the listener accept the beauty behind the inevitable despair, tragedy, and struggles with life.

"High Hawk Season"

Listening to The Mountain Goats is like entering a different world. All the places have the same names and you recognize some of the people, but somehow everything is different. And you like it, but you may not be sure why. It takes a while for the thought to bubble up. You follow the interstates and escape routes, the foibles and festers, the birth of evil and the fall from grace like a winding path somehow near your own but distant. You stare into the face of your own evil twin only to realize that he's you and you're him. - HANK on All Eternals Deck

"swerve... the reeping of all that is worthwhile (Noir not withstanding)"

An all out assault on the current state of rap music, "Swerve" makes the proclamation: "If you talking about's for show / if you move about's a go." Heed Shabazz's advice Kanye, Tyler, and all other egotistical rappers: filling your entire record with self-imposed titles and compliments a great rap album does not make...letting the album speak for itself does. And it did for Shabazz Palaces.

"Ghost On A Canvas"
Glen Campbell turned to Paul Westerberg (yeah, The Replacements) to craft a nearly impossible song. The song tackles art and its relationship with immortality, what we leave behind, and the unknown next step. The power of this track and the whole album is that Campbell and his songwriters remain optimistic, much more concerned with showing off the beauty of life rather then dwelling in the future of Campbell's disease. It will be easy for a lot of indie music fans to shrug off this song and album, but if you enter this album with an open mind and care less about what is buzzing, you will find what Hank and I both strongly agree on: Ghost On The Canvas is one of most important albums from 2011.

Pick any song on Have One On Me and place it in this spot.  More about this record tomorrow when I do the top ten albums of the decade (so far).  

"Creator / Destroyer"
Like all great folk music, Olsen's voice is the focus as her electrifying crooning wraps around the spine of her softly strummed acoustic guitar. What's impressive is how Olsen is just as moving in her moments of whispering as she is when all out singing. Olsen has a deep understanding of who she is as a singer, songwriter, and artists. Her music, while drenched with emoting, is steady and cleared headed with a distinct vision.

"The Darkness"

Musically speaking, there are three Leonard Cohens. There is the 1967-1974 folk Cohen, the 1977-1992 jazz, synth, band Cohen, and the "he's a legend and he's doing his victory laps" 2000s Cohen. I'm in the minority being just as obsessed with the second Cohen albums like I'm Your Man and The Future as I am with the first Cohen releases like Songs From Leonard Cohen and Songs From a Room. The real problem for me was the third Cohen. Since 1992, maybe with the exception of "In My Secret Life," Cohen hadn't written a single song that felt like the artist I considered my #1 of all time since The Future

Then comes Old Ideas, and one of the best Cohen tracks ever written in "The Darkness." The first thirty seconds of this song are what separate casual and obsessed fans of Cohen's work. The first time I heard "The Darkness," my eyes started watering and a huge smile grew on my face. Cohen's playful wink in the opening is blending the two Cohens I mentioned before in the opening of the song. He starts with that iconic rolling plucked guitar (see "The Stranger Song") and then incorporates lower guitar plucks that simulate the bass heavy world of the second Cohen. It's a wonderful nod and just as nostalgia creeps in, the song stutters and launches into a brand new, fourth Cohen. He's embracing his age, and yet the "man with the golden voice" can still capture every ear that will lend him a listen.

"Wall Street"
Originally written in 2003 and made available for download for a short period, "Wall Street" was Park's examination of greed and brief moments from 9/11. In 2011, Parks re-tinkered with the song, adding lush orchestration and giving the entire song a musical show-tune feeling with Parks' lounge act vocal styling. This song is the ultimate juxtaposition as a casual listener can hear the beautiful arrangements if they want to, or if they dig in they discover the root of the song: greed, anger, the most violent moments from 9/11, and Parks' famous word play that made him one of the great songwriters of our time. 

The song slowly dissolves into the most heartbreaking moment of 2011 when Parks recounts a real life moment from 9/11 where a couple fall from a building, clutching each other until their death. Parks examines this moment with a poetic touch that marries itself to the music playing behind his vocals in such a way that my own notions of what is possible in music has changed. It will be easy for many to scoff at this choice because the melody is so sugary grandiose and Parks' approach as a singer isn't fashioned off the mainstream idea of a lead singer, but Parks achieves the highest levels of storytelling, composition, and thematic exploration in one song than many bands or artists can in their whole career.

So much, so simply.  
This is not a song, it's life presented through sound and my favorite of the far.

Tracks To Make You Happy

It's been a terrible few weeks for the world and while music (art) can't change the state of current events, great music always makes me feel more connected with the world and will always be my greatest therapist. This is easily the best week in music in recent memory because...






For music.

REVIEW: Alex & Daniel - "Alex & Daniel"

Alex & Daniel - Alex & Daniel
Record Label - Nacional Records
Release Date - August 12, 2014

If you haven't heard of Alex & Daniel before, don't fret. You probably don't live in Chile. Alex Anwandter and Gepe (née Daniel Riveros) are two of the figureheads of a verdant Chilean pop scene (see my review of Dënver from last year). And their collaboration as Alex & Daniel is the Chilean equivalent of Divine Fits--a bonafide supergroup--bringing together two of the most adventurous Spanish-language musicians for a superb pop record accessible in any language.

Alex & Daniel actually hit stores (in Chile at least) last year, but it's been brought into this hemisphere by LA-based Nacional Records. For those of you unfamiliar with the Chilean pop sound, think heavy synths constructed around tight song structures with a strong melodic sensibility. "Baby," released as a single for the album, shows what Alex & Daniel are about in spades. With an electronic downbeat the tune uses breathy sounds and a crooning vocal line before launching into a heavenly chorus. It's a song that has one eye on the past as much as it does on the future. Alluding to the great tropicalia tune "Baby" recorded most famously by Os Mutantes as well as Gal Costa and Caetano Veloso, Alex & Daniel's spin is straight 80s gooey goodness which will make you pump the bass and the treble in your speakers. 


"Mundo Real" ("Real World") and second song, appropriately titled "Segunda" or "Second" are a mini-medley that kicks off the record and shows how Alex & Daniel differ from their other acts and forge a unified voice. While on their own, Antwandter and Gepe are complex and intriguing artists,  unified as Alex & Daniel, the musicians rely more on the structure of the songs, cutting back a bit on experimentation to focus on structure. Nowhere is this seen better than in the transition from "Mundo Reals" buoyant instrumentation than to the more subdued groove of "Segunda." Both tracks, like just about every minute on the record is hook-rich and catchy. While Alex & Daniel will garner comparisons to acts like Phoenix, on these first two songs, the duo shows more in common with El Guincho's Pop Negro--joyfully constructing songs based on most loved pop of their youth. 

Alex & Daniel is one of those perfect saliences of a pop album. Eight songs long and clocking in at under 35 min, the record seems to spin by before you've had a chance to put your hands around it. The gentle downer of "Mejor que yo," chamber pop of "Cada vez que invento algo sobre ti," and Air-inspired quality of "Japon." For all the different influences that this album seems to pick up, it never sounds out of sorts because the sounds are so lovingly culled by Antwandter and Gepe. Perhaps the best example, and best track, on the record is "Miña" a pulsing declaration of love whose earnestness is only enhanced by the synth-heavy composition as they sing -- "Puedo morir así, no sabiendo nada más / Quiero morir así, me llevó a ti" ("I could die here, knowing nothing more / I want to die like this, lead me to you"). "Miña" is one of those delightfully transcendent songs that never seems to get old with repeated listens. Like much of the rest of the album, it's exquisitely crafted, lyrically stunning, and musically intoxicating. 

Groups and records like this are more fodder for pushing forward a wider definition of and wider musical tastes for independent music in the United States. We have a problem here -- we're too white and, largely, too male -- and the more that we continue on and refuse to open up to musical forms and countries, the more intractable our position becomes. In a piece on Girls last month, I made a similar claim wondering where "world" music was, and in an insightful comment, an Anonymous reader wrote that most world music isn't in song structures that we're used to, thus we don't tend to get it. I can understand the language barrier being an issue with Alex & Daniel; however, as a non-Spanish speaker the difference of the language doesn't pose any issue for me here. Point of fact, this record is probably more accessible and more our format than some US bands that Alex & Daniel might compare to, like Bear in Heaven. Opening your range of music is only going to enrich it and trust me when I say this, Alex and Daniel are a great place to start.

Music Alliance Pact (August 2014)

Click the play button icon to listen to individual songs, right-click on the song title to download an mp3, or grab a zip file of the full 22-track compilation through Dropbox here.

 UNITED STATESWe Listen For You Alvvays - Archie, Marry Me Alvvays feels perched between the sincerity of Belle & Sebastian and the tongue-in-cheek of Kimya Dawson. Musically and lyrically astute, Alvvays sounds like what was great about indie-pop bands of the past and smart enough to make you hear an emotion anew.

ARGENTINA: Zonaindie Como Diamantes Telepáticos - Soñar Soñar The name of the band comes from an Allen Ginsberg quote about the writings of his friend Jack Kerouac ("Each book by Kerouac is unique, a telepathic diamond"). This song by Como Diamantes Telepáticos is the first single from Dorado, their second studio album, in which they explore a more experimental psychedelic pop sound and mysterious lyrics. The album is available in physical format and as a free download from Bandcamp.

AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They? Blonde Tongues - Seilu Seilu, the new single from Brisbane's Blonde Tongues, is a piece of dream-pop with serious emotional pull drawn from slow-build instrumentals and spacey flares of lead guitar. A track about contradictions, thought patterns and lines of friendship, Seilu is coy and seductive rather than brash. There's no doubt Blonde Tongues still have plenty more depths to reveal in their sound.

BRAZIL: Meio Desligado Banda do Mar - Hey Nana Banda do Mar is a project by Marcelo Camelo (former singer of Los Hermanos, one of the biggest Brazilian bands from the last decade), Mallu Magalhães (Brazil's biggest hype from the MySpace era) and Fred Pinto (Portuguese musician, member of Buraka Som Sistema and Orelha Negra). Hey Nana is their first single, bringing summer early with a catchy melody and some beachy vibes.

CANADA: Ride The Tempo Slight Birching - Currency Sean Travis Ramsay makes neo-folk tunes under the name Slight Birching. His latest single Currency reveals a slight eerieness created by a haunting pedal steel and unique guitar twangs as Ramsay ponders a larger meaning in life.

CHILE: Super 45 El Gato, La Virgen y El Diablo - Pilletu While the Chilean musical scene becomes saturated by predictable naive pop projects, designers Alfredo "Fello" Duarte and Vicente Espinoza recapture the taste for the experimental with a project that mixes visual arts, design and, of course, music. In their debut EP, El Gato, La Virgen y El Diablo (GVD) explore popular folk music (having Argentinian zamba and the Chilean nueva canción movement as their main influences), redefining it through synthesizers and samples. Thanks to this stylistic ambiguity, Beta EP is one of the most interesting releases this year.

DENMARK: All Scandinavian The DeSoto Caucus - Nail In The Wall When they're not in Howe Gelb's Giant Sand or backing the likes of Kurt Wagner, Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan, these five guys from Aarhus create music in a dusty American tradition as The DeSoto Caucus. They are three great albums in, and here's Nail In The Wall from their eponymous latest as a MAP exclusive download.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: La Casetera Perla Marola ft. Anthony Louis-Jeune - Bon Vibe Daughter of famed Dominican merengue performer Sergio Vargas, Perla Marola is taking a slightly different musical path. Experimenting with reggae and rap, her collaboration with Haitian singer Anthony "Aton" Louis-Jeune brings a necessary message of unity for both territories. Bon Vibe forms a small part of something bigger, a documentary that will reflect the various lifestyles of the people in these neighboring countries sharing the same island.

ECUADOR: Plan Arteria Alma Rasta - Sonido Del Ghetto When we talk about Alma Rasta, we talk about the essence of the reggae movement in Ecuador. With a career spanning more than 20 years, Alma Rasta released second album Sonidos Del Guetto in late 2013. This song, which shares its name with the album, features Chilean musician Cristian Aliaga aka Caliajah.

FRANCE: Your Own Radio Petit Biscuit - Brumes Petit Biscuit is a young boy (just 14 years old) who is trying to convey emotions with his music. Using guitar and synths, he delivers a cool instrumental track in Brumes. Petit Biscuit is produced by the French label Moose Records, who work with Andrea, Tyord and Julia Losfelt.

INDONESIA: Deathrockstar Merah Bercerita - Bunga Dan Tembok Bunga Dan Tembok ("Flowers And Walls") is a song about a massive building that has made the beautiful flowers disappear. Merah sings the poems of his father, Wiji Thukul, a famous poet who went missing during the New Order oppression. Bunga Dan Tembok is one of his most well-known works and Cholil (Efek Rumah Kaca) joins him on vocals. All of Merah Bercerita's songs are beautifully sung.

IRELAND: Hendicott Writing Revin Goff - Salthill This tripped-out, mellow take on hip-hop takes its stormy, percussion-heavy angles from the crashing of the Atlantic winter against the Salthill promenade in Ireland's gorgeous western outpost of Galway. Penned by inventive 23-year-old newcomer Revin Goff, it's a textured and nuanced release that dripfeeds fuzzy personal narratives, complex and jittery enough to require further listens and comfortably compelling enough to demand them.

JAPAN: Make Believe Melodies Qrion - Sink Sapporo producer Qrion has a knack for manipulating and fitting vocal samples into her songs. Her latest EP features tracks built around ample space and various warped vocals which, depending on how she chooses to deploy them, can sound unnerving or weirdly inviting. Sink touches on both sides, opening with growly voices before pivoting into a surprisingly sweet section.

MALTA: Stagedive Malta Plato's Dream Machine - Fik The latest project of Plato's Dream Machine ventures through relatively new terrain in the Maltese scene, culminating in their new full-length album Għera, released in April. The band, led by singer-songwriter Robert Farrugia Flores, has successfully reinvented Maltese music giving it a fresh, contemporary sound. Their semi-organic electronica mashed on top of drone riffs and beats is fused with poetical lyrics sung in their native language.

MEXICO: Red Bull Panamérika LAO - Equivalent (Merengueando Bootleg) Mexico City's art label NAAFI has always digged in the margins, seeking cultural clashes that emerge from the country's unequal social classes. As one of the heads of NAAFI, Lauro Robles aka LAO – Mexico's representative in this year's Red Bull Music Academy in Tokyo – summarizes on Equivalent some of his crew's aesthetic ideals: dark and urban first-world dubstep landscapes, juxtaposed with the distant cries of a decadent MC on board a tropical sound system.

PERU: SoTB Planeador - Escarcha De Ipanema Planeador is a rock band, based in Lima, who were influenced by grunge on their debut album. They are back with their second record, Ausente - available for free download via Bandcamp - and this time their sound is defined by space-rock, shoegaze and lo-fi. Escarcha De Ipanema is a celestial journey through their hypnotic voices.

PORTUGAL: Posso Ouvir Um Disco? Los Waves - Darling José Tornada and Jorge Da Fonseca started as League in 2010 but in the summer of 2013 changed their name to Los Waves. This change can be explained by their love of travelling and nature, especially the sea and surf. Some have mentioned MGMT to categorize their sound. They have had their tracks featured in MTV series Awkward as well as Made In Jersey and Criminal Minds on CBS. Darling is their newest single which will be on their album, This Is Los Waves So What?, due out in September. Their "no budget" video for Darling can be watched here.

PUERTO RICO: Puerto Rico Indie Former Astronauts - Tonto Corazón Former Astronauts is a pop-rock trio hailing from Aguadilla, a town that features many of Puerto Rico's most beautiful beaches along its west coast. That sunny, cheerful disposition is more than evident in Tonto Corazón, from the band's just-released debut EP, a song that combines the rhythmic dynamism of Vampire Weekend with Tokyo Police Club's sharp pop hooks. Even when the lyrics reference soured relations and broken hearts, its bouncy, carefree nature makes it a solid, catchy single, and the perfect song to say goodbye to this crazy summer season.

ROMANIA: Babylon Noise Exit Oz - Zurobara Spre Orient Exit Oz's music is difficult to pin down in one genre, with influences ranging from soothing ambient to noisy electronics and anguished free jazz. The project first came out of the improvisation sessions made in 2011 by Alexandru Iovan (tenor saxophone and vocals) and Ovidiu Zimcea (samples). In 2013, other musicians joined the project as collaborators and they had their first live shows as a trio, together with Lucian Naste on guitar and drum machine. In 2014, after Lucian left the project, the trio reformed with Dorothea Iordănescu playing synthesizer.

SCOTLAND: The Pop Cop Skinny Dipper - Hospital Bed Idyllic pop is the name of the game for Glasgow-based newcomers Skinny Dipper and their medley of members (eight girls and one guy), all of whom have noteworthy pedigrees in other bands in the Scottish music scene. We have the honour of bringing you an exclusive introduction to their first recorded material in the shape of the genteel Hospital Beds, taken from their debut EP Masks, which will be released through Olive Grove Records on September 8. It's an immersive listen, showcasing Skinny Dipper's flawless harmonies and soothing string work.

SOUTH KOREA: Indieful ROK Jun Bum Sun & The Yangbans - The Seven Year Itch For many centuries public servants - yangbans - were the aristocrats of what is now known as Korea. Jun Bum Sun & The Yangbans aspire to the same balance between the academic and artistic, noticeable particularly in the band's lyrics. First album Love Songs is a narrative of a relationship and was released this month. The Seven Year Itch is the album's final track and features Jun Bum Sun's strangely attractive vocals over a smooth, alluring pop melody.

SPAIN: Musikorner Skygaze - So Above Skygaze is the moniker of Jaime Tellado, from Gijón but currently living in Madrid. His music explores the vast and dreamy fields of IDM, similar to Four Tet or Rustie. Skygaze is ready to take off and his next stop is the world.