Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Phoenix - It's Never Been Like That 8.0

But through most of the record, Phoenix marks out their territory in the sparsely-attended arena of new soft-rock and demonstrating the genre's compatibility with indie tropes.

I can't really argue the rating Rob Mitchum gave this album, but what he points out as strengths I find to be weaknesses. This is a matter of personal taste and everyone is entitled to their own. However I have never "gotten" Phoenix. Everything they do is nice enough, but immediately forgettable. So in the spirit of being arbitrary I am going to voice my opinions by responding to lyrics from the new album. Enjoy

Don't you wanna stop complaining? Um, no. Make a record I will listen to more than twice and maybe we can talk. Alphabetical was a step in the right direction (Everything is Everything was pop gold), but I have listened to this new one three times and don't see the allure. In fact it has forsaken the momentum of the last album in favor of 10 songs that sound suspiciously like each other. Good albums don't make you think your cd player is stuck on repeat. Mitchum says the album is messier, but it still feels as if it was made by a giant Gallic computer that dispenses pleasant, non-descript French rock.

I'm gonna scream 100,000 words. No you're not. You haven't screamed anything before and you certainly aren't starting now. That's part of the problem. I am not saying Phoenix would work better with some yelps, but Mr. Mars vocals reached their apex about an album and a half ago. 'Carefully calibrated cool' is how Pitchfork describes the vocals. This is how I like my menthols, not my singers. Some people love Mars, but there never seems to be any variance in how he sounds. I still maintain my stance that Air should do a whole album with Mars on vocals. That I could look forward to. Their brand of electronic pop is more suited to his voice than the more traditional band set up. I am bored with it.

You know your French Well. I like to think so. If people like Phoenix, I would recommend they seek out any of the 'Le Pop' compliations, which is all French pop songs that were never released in the US in album form. Its uniquely French, not a French band trying to sound like an American one. I believe there are three in the series right now and they are all severely under appreciated.

Then it's hard to tell you kindly that isn't what I'm like. You're right. I am being too harsh on you. This is who Phoenix is, and that ain't gonna change. They have made their name with this sound and aren't likely to radically change it anytime soon. There is nothing here that really is 'bad' per se. In fact the title track is pretty good. Its just the rest of the album is pretty mundane. I hate that more than straight ahead bad. I wonder when that started? I may need a break from music.

Cut off you hair yeah that's it! How nice of you to notice my new do. It was time for the beard to go.

Guess I'd better find us a way out
. Me too. Lets make it simple. Did you like the previous Phoenix albums? Well then this is for you. If you didn't this will not change your mind. 5.0 sez me.

Part Three

And here is the Celtic Frost -v- Scott Walker wrap up.


It would be easy to blame the passing years which often softens an artist’s rage and hunger to perform something new and raw but enter Scott Walker, an ex top of the pops star circa 1965 who at age 63 has reinvented his image and recorded a scraping and screaming grim opera. Not even H.R.Giger’s worst nightmare scored by the Swans could equal this kind of gruesome cacophony.

Ten years after Walker’s last release, The Drift has done just that, it is the ultimate departure from music accepted in and by popular culture. It literally takes you away from the light and towards an unspeakable darkness. What could be more terrifying than a man who isn’t playing dress up in bondage gear and flying V guitars but rather looks like a demure aging uncle who dispenses discordant grief as if shards of splintered glass from a broken man?

His poetic monologues chanted from track to track cement a narrative into something I wouldn’t dare call a song- perhaps a sculpture? His lyrics, more often than not character studies, dabble in death, disease, and politics. These depraved and decadent wordy snapshots steel beam support the orchestrated yet airy audio structures which surround them. The Drift is a bleak game of chess where uncomfortable sounds and sentiments are carefully positioned to wipe the listener out piece by piece.

There is nothing to compare this kind of evil to, in fact it is so unlike anything else out there (out there being the key word), there is no preexisting genre style to file it under.
The Drift isn’t just uneasy listening; it is physically and emotionally taxing to take in all at once while Celtic Frost in comparison disturbs more like a Disney ride than a psychological journey into a place more fear provoking than hell itself.

Scott Walker wins.

Psychic Ills / Dins / Rating: 7.4

“Dins eschews conventional structure and blurs the line between song and improvisation-- there are eight tracks here but fewer tunes.”

If only I had a Psychic Ills' one sheet because look at how every review from both retailers and reviewers alike reads almost EXACTLY the same.

Let’s review:

PFM says “but rather just follows the tack of forebearers like My Bloody Valentine, Spacemen 3, and Hawkwind”

Stylus says:
"it’s hard to reconcile the distinct stamp of Spacemen 3’s skuzzy ether or even My Bloody Valentine with Sonic Youth’s cavern of heavy petting and narcotics circa Evol"

Spacelab says:
"in the vein of Spaceman 3's finer work"

Fakejazz says:
"Psychic Ills are a Brooklyn four piece who bring Spacemen 3's psych & space rock into the New York back alleys and dirty it up with some solid tribal, no-wave rhythms circa early Sonic Youth."

SF Weekly says:
"Psychic Ills is a relatively new quartet from New York developing an indie rock hybrid of Confusion Is Sex-era Sonic Youth (the shattered rhythms and screaming feedback), throbbing psychedelia à la Spacemen 3 and My Bloody Valentine, ghostly reverb-soaked post-punk (Joy Division, Section 25), and Eno's glassy synth-generated ambient textures."

Prefix says:
"It's swathed in Tres Warren's vocals, which are dreamy and breathy and reminiscent of Kevin Shields's."

CD Universe says:
"Psychic Ills take their musical cues from a variety of like-minded bands, including Spacemen Three, Sonic Youth, and the Jesus and Mary Chain."

Allmusic says:
They have obvious influences of course — who doesn't? — Spacemen 3, early Sonic Youth, La Monte Young, Terry Riley, the Velvet Underground, 13th Floor Elevators, Pere Ubu when they were dangerous; these are obvious ones, but so are bands like Section 25 and Joy Division.

I think we all get it now, this band hearts Sonic Boom and all his patriots but maybe PI should work a little harder to sound like themselves so we can be spared the same review written ten times over. If Interpol can do it, they can too.

For anybody who collects / knows 60’s acid-rock and the generations of band inspired by it, Psychic Ills are a decent band but keep in mind there are a ton of bands who do it better and did it first.

I loose patience for Din for one reason. It lacks focus. I need a band to spare me their improv explorations of the wonderful world of guitar pedals and get to the point already. (Animal Collective this goes for you live too!) Ooooh ahhhhh... another space jam and then another and then wait, is that an actual coherent climax featuring a brief vocal appearance only to enter into the bottomless pit of reverb once again? I am way to ADD to enjoy all of this groovy ride and while I really enjoy the more traditional psych rock moments (“January Rain”, Electric Life" and “Another Day Another Night” especially), the space travel guided by what sounds like bongos, tambourines, and a harmonica buried among 5 electric strings, I could live without. *

The delay is so ridiculous at points that it throws of the timing of certain guitar parts so for you beginner players let this be a lesson to you; take into consideration your delay when trying to keep up with the rest of the band. You vocalist with pedals heed that warning too. You don’t want to sound a wgole beat or two behind because it muddies up whatever clever acid wash you are trying to accomplish.

It's splitting hairs really but I feel funny giving a tribute band of sorts a decent rating. I could agree with PFM's 7.4 but I will feel better if I say 6.8 instead.

*Try listening to Din with headphones on and hear the galaxies collide, slipping from the right side and then to the left...this ping pong effect will actually get you dizzy!

Part Two

Here is a continuation of Celtic Frost - v- Scott Walker from yesterday. The third / final part will be posted tomorrow.


Formed in 1984 after the break up of Hellhammer (by key members Tom Gabriel and Steve Warrior), Celtic Frost practically founded a brand of metal that two decades later have helped hatch new genres like death, black, thrash, and extreme metal. They have built a beyond cult following (including Sonic Youth, Nirvana, and million metal band since) and lastly helped to solidify the now metal tradition of a spooky band logos and cover art that spells out exactly how terrifying it’s contents are going to be. In the world of music we call this band legendary.

Thirteen years after their last release Celtic Frost returns with Monotheist, a brand new studio album. CF may be credited as the founding fathers of aggressive music but by today’s standard, all 11 tracks sound disappointingly average. I respect this band’s role in the history of metal but these once upon a time leaders of a genre are now chasing their own devil tails. Trademark guitar parts, vocal growls (but not enough ARGHs if you ask me), and a love for Sisters of Mercy aside, you will mostly hear them covering the bands they influenced (in theory as they are not literally covers); the Emperors, Lair Of The Minotaurs, and Prongs …of the world mixed with something surprisingly rooted in Sabbath.

In fact the most menacing part of this entire record is a ringing and repeating singular tone which mimics a severe weather warning alert on TV. The ironic part is this: the nagging wail has nothing to do with the band and is in fact on the promo version to deter people from copying this record for others. Hell’s children are not only scared to break new ground but apparently fear file sharing equally

Oh true metal, I remember you well and in 2006 your “death to false metal” battle cry rings as real and as threatening as a fortune cookie proverb.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Shoplifting Gear Stolen : Please Help

Friends, I'm sorry to say that once again we have been the victim of theft. This time a window on our van was smashed while it was parked on 17th and Gurerro in San Francisco and the following items were stolen:

*Acoustic Control Corporation Model 150 Amp Head
*Acoustic Control Corporation Model 104 6X10" speaker cabinet
*Fender 75 Combo Amp with Celestion Vintage 30 1X12" speaker, green silkcreened grillcloth, fender logo covered with tape.
*Case with pedals: Electro Harmonix Micro Synthesizer in battered condition, Moogerfooger Ring Modulator, RAT distortion, Boss Stage Tuner, Danelectro Delay.
*Yamaha Portasound Keyboard with velcro on speakers.
*Bag with hi hat stand, cymbal stand, 2 snare stands, legs for floortom.
*Green, Brown and Silver ReLoad messenger bag with books, minidisc, cheap mics, personal efx.
*Tuperware bin with merch, est 100cd's including ep's, albums and a large quantity of the Zum Audio Volume 3 cd, 50 12"ep and lp, a few 7"s.
*personal Cd's in a large black CD book and a brown-grey cloth CD book
*A faux tweed suitcase with books.

Please repost this widely and wildly.
Thanks for all your support. love, Devin and Shoplifting

Boards of Canada / Trans Canada Highway EP / Rating: 6.0

"Sadly, Trans Canada Highway isn't just Boards' slightest effort yet, it's their flimsiest."

I can’t argue with the truth.

For those of you who are BOC fans till death and will buy this EP no matter, you might want to seek out the Japanese import which carries the video PFM mentions at the end of their review.
(found on their website.)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Limited Japanese Release of Trans Canada Highway

Right under our noses, Beat Records (WARP's Japanese distributor) has released a limited edition of Trans Canada Highway, Boards' newest EP (Due out 29 May in the UK, 30 May in the US/ROW) in both regular and limited edition formats on 20 May - Japan usually gets "extras" on their domestic releases of foreign artists as CDs are very expensive in Japan and doing so gives the Japanese the incentive to purchase the domestic version versus the import version.Contained on the CD is the "trailer" video from WARP Records' TCH mini site, and lists it as being called "invacation" (Invocation perhaps, that got mangled into Engrish?). Either way, a nice (but expensive) way to have the video if you're not clever as some people on the internets...

Part One

For a little change of pace I am going to post a double record review I have written for a magazine called The Drama. It will be broken down into three parts /spread over a span of three days, not because it is all that long but because the publication deserves first dibs at running the piece in full.

In case you have never seen this magazine, their record reviews feature a battle of the record and each writer chooses two albums to review against one another (one new release –v- an old or new release). For this particular round I have chosen two new records.

Celtic Frost's Monotheist –verse- Scott Walker's The Drift.

I hardly ever post non Pitchfork related writing these days (or ever come to think of it) so I hope this is a nice little switch up and don’t worry, our normal PFM re-reviews will be posted this week too. In fact one should be posted in a few hours.


Oh metal. Where did we lose you? When did you become a façade of evil, a contest of corpse paint and whose leather arm band carries the most nails? You were scary once, a kind of sonic blast never heard before and instilling a terror in people matched only by a cat’s fear of a running vacuum.

It is as if metal crumbled under the pressure of popularity and wide acceptance; losing its power to shock and awe along the way. With metal sections cropping up in chain stores across the world and features on MTV celebrating its head banging ways, metal in the modern world has become a comercial cartoon of itself, a fashion statement rather than a way of life for the macabre at heart.

The threat of unspeakable terror has vanished in this world of death, doom, and double kick drums but for those kill-seeking types a new horror has been unleashed by Scott Walker while Celtic Frost has opted to travel a path in metal so well traveled it would only be fair to now call it a highway.

Monday, May 29, 2006

A Day of Rest

In an attempt to prove I have a life outside of work and my blog (and three generations of vets in my family to honor) I am taking the day off.

Happy Memorial Day,

Your pal Pitch Perfect

Friday, May 26, 2006

Human Television / Look at Who You're Talking To / Rating: 7.0

PFM says: “In the wake of Human Television's frenetic, frankly awesome All Songs Written By EP, the shoegazy Look At Who You're Talking To comes across as a crawling letdown.”


“sounding eerily like Ian Curtis”


“Wearing influences plainly on sleeves, the moodiness of "I'm Moving On" resembles models like Black Tambourine and My Bloody Valentine.”


“Human Television do better when ripping off Sarah Records twee”


“The guitars are reminiscent of New Zealand pop-- the Clean or the Chills-- and there are traces of the Field Mice, Rocketship, and more obviously, R.E.M. and the Wedding Present.”

Phew! That brings us to a total of 9 band names dropped in one review. Allmusic lists many of the same bands as influences here and here.

The Gigantic Music website (the band's label) mentions the very same bands too. In fact if you read all the press clips listed (scroll down on the front page) back to back you basically could piece together your own version of this PFM review. The big difference is PFM manages to turn these comparisons into insults rather than compliments.

And I bet you wouldn’t be shocked if I told you many of these terms / references are also to be found on the band’s one sheet. Well, they are.

I don’t know how many times I can say this but I repeat, just because a press kit tells you what a band sound like or is influenced by doesn’t mean they ACTUALLY sound like that at all. Anybody who takes the time to actually listen to this HT record (tho I know it is easier to just re-word the publicity garbage) will hear right away there is no MY Bloody Valentine anything happening here. Maybe kinda sorta early MBV but there are a billion better bands to reference there. Enough of the MBV references for fuck sake. Move on writers, there is a world of music to talk about besides this one band and at the very least, use their name in the proper context please!

And Black Tambourine? Why bother going so obscure when there isn’t even a female vocalist to barely bridge the new school sweater pop to the old school cuddle core. My better half / the Black Tambourine expert of the house doesn’t hear BT either and we both say drop the review runaround and mention Jesus and Mary Chain already since they are who all these bands are …lets say…motivated by.

PFM says: "Which isn't to say that Human Television should stick only to pop as jangly and scuffed as custodians' key chains; most of the downtempo stuff surprisingly moves, too."

What is that sentence actually trying to say? What a mess of point and FYI: downtempo is not a word we usually use to describe rock music; electronic music practically owns the rights to it.

For fun I googled these key words from The Human Television PFM review: shoegaze, moody, twee, pop, wimp, sweet, jangle, familiar…and fittingly got this: the Parasol mail order catalog.

Ironically Parasol does not carry the new THT record.

The Human Television do fuzzy twee by the book and considering this particular grain of sand in the alternative music genre desert is a favorite of mine, Look at Who You're Talking to to has been one of the few cds this year I have played on a regular basis.

On those grey days where I don’t want to listen to another Red House Painters record, THT do nicely and if you are looking for a place to start, check out the tracks On & On, Untitled, or I’m Moving On. If I could divide a rating- those particular songs would earn at least an 8 and while I am grossly disappointed in this PFM review, the rating itself is not that far from correct. I may love this genre but I also know the difference between a good record and a great one. Look at Who is simply good.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Ian Copeland dead at 57

Read more about it here.

Tapes 'n Tapes / The Loon / Rating: 8.3

Tapes 'n Tapes kneel before Pavement, Wire, Beach Boys, and Pixies, bearing their influences more publicly than notebook logo sketches… (a few paragraphs later) Credit yourself if you can get down with a program offering up so many been-there-done-that indicators. Or better, credit the band for avoiding the toothless mush that typically results from this sort of populism, and arriving instead at a fresh vision through eloquent pastiche.”

Now keep in mind, the above was written back in February when PFM reviewed the original version of The Loon. I also corrected the spelling of the word publicly.

And I quote the back of the new promo cd for Tapes ‘n Tapes: “It seems the World is calling out for something that touches on our heroes, the basement indie of Pavement, the eclecticism of Talking Heads, and the frenzied power of the Pixies, but offers not some populist pastiche, but instead a vital, thrilling, and unique blast of energy and melody like nothing you have heard before.

I didn’t know PFM writer Sam Ubl also worked for XL Recordings.

Oh, he doesn’t? Well how strange that these same words appear on the new XL Recordings promo for The Loon. (the record was originally self released by the band and is being re-released by XL late July.) I can’t be certain who is copying whom here but somebody is being lazy or at the very least not giving the writing credit where credit is do.

Shame on somebody- but to continue.

I sincerely hope you age better than I do. I wish many things for my fellow music friends but most of all I pray your ears stay young. I hope you find a way to listen to all new music with fresh ears and an attitude that is free of thing I am told is called jaded. (or maybe burned out?)

There is no way for me to erase my past listening experiences. I have been an indie music junkie for nearly two decades and while I still follow it closely, enjoy many of new bands and records I hear, for the first time in my life I feel over everything. I like plenty of things but how many records in 2006 can I say love? My friends this list 6 months into 2006 is miniscule. (this list will be posted next week actually)

It would be naïve and wrong of me to say this new crop of bands are worse than the ones decades preceding them but the difference is I am different. I am older and have heard more to compare and contrast them to. In a perfect world I think we all would like to listen to a record and place it in a head space alone, allowing us to judge it strictly on its own performance but with each passing year this task becomes nearly impossible. These days I hear the recording industry version of the game of telephone.

One band sounds like A and then B who like A tries to sound like A creates a muddled combination of A + B and in turn builds C. Newly formed band D hears C, clueless to the original A and in turn D inspired by C created E. This cycle is endless and while sure some bands naturally and accidentally can sound like other bands, once you become a seasoned listener who has been exposed to thousands and thousands of artists, quite logically it becomes more difficult to hear something you have never heard before.

My kingdom for that first original record high…that holy fucking hell I have never heard anything like this in my whole life and I somehow feel born again, less alone in the world because I connect with this music kind of high again. I have many of these records in my collection, The Smiths Queen is Dead for instance was one of my first record purchases I can say truly changed my life, but my fear is: I will never know this feeling again. While I don’t pine to be the awkward teen who stumbled across The Smiths for the first time EVER again, the record addict in me still seeks a high that matches the feeling of awe that seemingly only music (and true love…okay and maybe a great meal and great sex) could offer me as a human being with feelings and 5 senses to satiate.

I’m glad PFM found a writer who could look past Tapes 'n Tapes Frankenstein stitched influences / borrowed riffs and review them with complete enthusiasm and thunderous applaud. I am happy to see XL Recordings is reissuing The Loon since up until now this self release (by the band) wasn’t widely available to stores outside of the indie cool community. Am I willing to dish out an 8.3 rating or sing Tapes ‘n Tapes praises? No and I seriously sighed while typing that no. I wish I could be excited about this whole record but truthfully I will cherry pick In "Houston" and "10 Gallons Ascots" for my i-Tunes library and then the collective you can look forward to me giving this cd away in the next batch of Tuning Fork freebies.

Eh, shame on me. I wish I could join the chorus of YAYS!!! for this band but I can’t. Call me a jaded jerk or worse but I will not be giving Tapes ‘n Tapes my stamp of approval; in fact my stamp looks something like a 6.0 rating.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Rahim / Ideal Lives / Rating: 7.5

“While retaining the EP's inchoate sound-- the clangorous mid-tempo guitars, incantatory vocals, and chiseled rhythms-- it's much poppier, more subtle, and subdued than its predecessor.”

People are going to think I am sweet on this Brian Howe guy. As PFM writers go he not only tends to review the records I know best but at least as of late we are appear to be riding on the same train of thought. He just uses bigger words and structures his reviews like one of those real writer types I don’t pretend to be.

Where our trains divide is here: I like this winning race horse of a band (Rahim) driven by mid tempo and cracked by a whip of minor notes but there is only so much trot-like pacing I can take. All 11 tracks act as if a template to the next, an oval track bringing the listener round to where the song started and the song before it and as the song after it will take it.

“Desire” builds Ideal Lives to nearly a gallop buy just when you think maybe Rahim is indeed picking up the pace, they stubbornly return to the same gait where the first 5 songs began.

PFM says: “It's as if J. Robbins had skipped directly from from Jawbox's early Dischord albums to the more restrained Burning Airlines, or maybe what Q and Not U would have done had they stuck around for a few more years.”


I wondered what it was like for J to work with Rahim because he basically recorded what could have just as easily been a modern day Jawbox record so I just HAD to ask J about this myself. Mister humble (you will NEVER meet a man with less of an ego than J) made some joke about not being able to sing as well and beyond telling me how much he loved the band's song writing, the men AKA the members of Rahim, the addition of a Baltimore local horn player, and Ideal Lives in its entirety, the mirror image topic was dropped.

These days most of the members of Jawbox have children and new careers so things like a reunion or touring are realistically unlikely but at least we have Rahim. A band who is happy to be compared to Q and Not U or Jawbox but according to interviews would be happier if you noticed their affection for Blonde Redhead and the Beatles too.

If I wasn’t such a lifelong fan of all that is Dischord and tense rhythms dotted with dark melodies and single guitar notes that won’t sit still, I might have been more tempted to fail this record rather than pass it. Much like Wildreness I think Rahim is onto something good but haven’t surpassed great…YET…but I can’t wait for when it eventually happens.

A 7.5 rating it is.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Tomorrow, I swear...

More reviews of reviews from me are coming tomorrow. I've been on a two day business trip that hasn't allowed me the free time to post but I will try my darndest to get something up in the next 24 hours.

Your pal.
Pitch Perfect

Monday, May 22, 2006

Tuning Fork Top Stories

Boy, 26, completes swim from Alcatraz

Monday, May 22, 2006; Posted: 2:20 p.m. EDT (18:20 GMT)

SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- A 26-year-old boy has become one of the youngest persons to swim from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco's Aquatic Park.

Conor Oberst is a musican from Nebraska, who has completed several short-scale youth triathlons.

Oberst was accompanied on the estimated 1.4-mile swim by his coach, two other swimmers, a Coast Guard boat, members of Desaparecidos and hundreds of teenaged female emo fans.

As he reached shore, Oberst was besieged by reporters. He told them "We have built this ship in a wine bottle. If we knew how it worked we would have to grow old."

Confused, the reporters continued to query. Asked what the hardest part was, he replied: "That these things take forever. I am especially slow."

Asked if the strong current was a problem, he said: "I'll send you all this message in code, under ground, over mountains,through forests, deserts and cities. All across the electric wire, it's a baited line."

At this point many of the reporters turned off their microphones and started to pack up.

One of the remaining asked about being a "brave little boy," Oberst responded: "I think I am."

"For a 26-year-old to be that motivated and stick with a goal that long is amazing," said Jenny Lewis who was hanging around.

Oberst got the idea when he saw a magazine story about a 9-year-old boy who made the swim. It was then that he realized he could "totally kick that kid's ass." He trained 10 hours a day in a back yard kiddie pool, submerging himself and pretending he was Godzilla as he knocked around a toy boat.

"He did great," said Britt Daniel. "He looked so strong. He did so awesome. I'm so proud of him. I can't wait to talk to him about it as we ride in my new Jaguar XKE."

Beirut/Gulag Orkestar/7.7

Are the songs really so incredible or do they simply mimic and mine musical traditions unfamiliar to the average indie rock fan?

With Eastern European relatives in Cleveland, I heard lots of polka music. Every wedding had a band with an accordion. Even the family reunion for the Irish side of my family had a two man polka band with the dad on accordion and the son on drums. At the time, I was a "cool" college radio DJ and polka was not my cup of tea. However, after watching them play, I was pretty taken with their musicianship. Since then, I've ventured outside of indie rock to listen to various traditional music and I've always found two things to be true of folk music from Galway to Galax to Ghana -
  • The songs have infectious melodies and beats. In order for a song to be passed down from musician to musician, it has to be memorable. Singers have to remember the melody and dancers have to instantly recognize the rhythm.
  • The musicianship can be phenomenal. Many folk musicians start playing as soon as they can wrap a hand around an instrument. Even players in informal sessions are technically skilled.
Listening to Beirut, I don't hear either of those elements. Most of the songs are humble and repetitive. In some cases, the songs are two-chord riffs with the same two or three bar long melody repeated. Instead of razor sharp playing, the tracks have a mish mash mix of instruments competing with doubled vocals. While the tracks suggests a certain mood, they never really gel as songs and after a while become a little monotonous. I've even tried comparing it to various reviews RIYL's - Andrew Bird, Bell Orchestre, Final Fantasy - and the record still doesn't stand up in comparison. Indie rock fans may be hearing something new, but you can just easily go to the Smithsonian's Globals Sounds store and hear much better examples of the same sounds.

Stosuy gives Condon some slack in his review saying " his themes ..are vague and sometimes less than effective. That makes sense: He doesn't have the lived experience for those situations." However, I expect any songwriter, regardless of his age, to work with subject matter that he knows. Maybe I should cut him some slack for his age, but I still expect a certain level of performance whether I'm listening to a 19-year old singer songwriter, a 19-year old fiddle player or a 19-year old heavy metal guitarist.

The one track that succeeds on Gulag Orkestar is the single "Postcards From Italy". While the instrumental parts are simple, they're added gradually, leading into an engaging bridge. I've actually caught myself whistling the main melody. There are promises of these elements in the other tracks, but "Postcards From Italy" put them together in a way that shows a tremendous amount of promise. If I could score Gulag Orkestar just on the basis of "Postcards From Italy", I'd give it an 8.0. However, I'd probably shave a full point off the PFM rating of the whole album.

If Gulag Orkestar was a plate of pierogies, they wouldn't be the best pierogies money can buy - they certainly wouldn't be like any made by someone's babushka. However, there are a couple of good morsels on the plate - good enough for Beirut to go back into the kitchen and take another stab at it.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Knife / Silent Shout / Rating: 8.6

“As menacing as it is hooky, this is some bracing stuff….(think Björk by way of Ari Up by way of Siouxsie Sioux by way of Mu's Mutsumi Kanamori)”

It’s not very often that a record strikes a gag reflex reaction almost immediately but The Knife’s Silent Shout has done just that. With rave reviews coming in from all directions (friends, the press, industry types…) I was certain I would at the very least enjoy this record but let me cut to the chase and tell you I don’t.

PFM says: "That said, only a handful of electronic full-lengths have navigated the vocal/textural divide as inventively as and refreshingly as Kid A. The latest is Silent Shout. "

That is one serious statement so imagine my shock and horror when I put on this new domestic version of Silent Shout (forthcoming on Mute) only to discover something that sounds more like lite-industrial dance wave, the kind of crap I steered clear of from labels like Wax Trax, Invisible, and Cleopatra years ago. (Sorry but no closet case batcave girl here)

Silent Shout doesn’t showcase “innovations piled hard on top of each other” as their press kit suggests, it screams goth-night for underage kiddies who aren’t old enough to know how bad most of this disco deathrock shit was the first time around.

Unless you happen to own black lipstick and a mesh top that looks like a spider web, I would tell you to buy the first Ministry record before I tell you to listen to one track on this thing no less buy the whole record. A PFM 8.6 rating is totally absurd. I’m not bothering with a rating at all and if you really need a spooky synth fix check out the band Zombi.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Adventures in Indie Rock: Issue 4

Space is the place


Bill rushed over to the flight controller, worried about the burly man’s response to his theory. The control room was a mass of confusion, people running around trying to figure out what had happened. Only Bill thought he knew the truth.

“Sir,” Bill started. The flight controller turned to face the younger man, annoyed at being distracted by a low level operator.

“What is it Sutherland?” The controller shot at him.

“Uh, well, I believe I know what happened to the vessel.”

The room went silent. All eyes were on Bill. He tugged at his tie, as he always did when he was nervous. Continuing he said, “Well, based on trajectory of the vessel at the time of communication loss and with the satellite photos we now have in our hands, and the analysis we have performed, uh-”

“-Sutherland. What are you saying?” The controller was staring at him intently.

Bill looked around and then said in a soft voice “Sir I believe the ship may have encountered a Lorentzian traversable wormhole.”

The controllers eyes narrowed. Bill thought for sure he would laugh at him. But the same serious look remained on his face.

“How sure are you about this?” The controller asked.

“Ninty percent sir,” he answered.

The flight controller rubbed his chin. Almost to himself he said, “If that were true…my god…if it could happen..that would mean…” he turned to face the floor,” … Ben Gibbard is lost in space!”


The C12 class orbital vessel drifted though space in no particular direction. It had been eight days since the encounter with the bright green lights while in orbit, the dizzying descent into the wormhole and the subsequent re-entry into normal space. The C12 was a small ship designed for orbital research. It was split into two compartments: the cramped flight control and the larger living quarters. At first Ben had spent all his time in the flight control, hoping to hear anything on the radio, instead hearing only static. Now he sat in the chair that faced the small desk in the living quarters, dictating into the ship’s log. His hair was unwashed and a small beard started to form on his pasty cheeks.

“Day eight,” he said into the microphone, “and still no sign of rescue. I begin to fear that I am beyond range of rescue. I have stuidied the star maps and have not been able to establish my location.”

He looked out the small window on the other side of the room. Stars drifted by.
“My food supply is good, and I must say that I am pleasantly surprised by the freeze dryed ravioli. I fill my days with writing songs, and as I have become more dispondant and isolated my writings have become marketly better. I hope to return to Earth one day, as these are some bonafide hits.”

Ben glanced over at the flight control, but the panel remained silent. He sighed and continued. “The cockpit electronics were uneffected by the the wormhole encounter, but the same cannot be said of the entertainment archives in the living quarters. Almost all the tapes have been erased. All that remain are some re-runs of Judging Amy and the pilot episode of Joey. I have decided against watching the television at all. The music archives are completely erased, and I have had to do by singing songs to myself. Unfortuntely all I know are my own songs and the hits of seventies soft rock act America. I guess ‘A Horse with No Name’ is a'propos right now.”

A small light flashed in his cabin and a small beep emerged. Ben got up, went to the sink and took out a protien pill. He swollowed it without any water. He went back to his chair.

“I miss simple human contact and long for the touch of others. Masturbation has already lost its appeal and I cannot bring myself to try anymore.”

Ben put down the microphone, closed his eyes and waited for something, anything to happen


It had been two months since Ben’s exile and the C12 still drifted through space. He now had a full beard and had packed on fifteen pounds. It wasn’t the freeze dryed food that was doing it but instead the locker full of fudge that he had begun pilfering. The chocolate was for an experiment on the effect of weightlessness on brownies, but Ben figured that science would have to wait to figure that one out. Ben needed sweets.

Sitting at the same chair, the room was now littered with trash and completely uncleaned. His shirt lay on the bed, covered in melted fudge. Ben rubbed his bare chest and then reached for the microphone.

“I wonder if anyone will ever hear my log of this journey to nowhere. I doubt it. I have become so very bored and have tired of writing traditional songs to fill my time. The last week has been spent writing a seven hour tone poem to glory of victorian bathtubs. I believe it to be my greatest work.”

Ben reached for his beard and picked out random bits of fudge.

“After much consultation with the star charts I believe I am located in NGC 2403, a spiral galaxy in the Camelopardalis constellation. Knowing that I am eleven million light years from Earth, I have gven up hope of returning home. I hope that in some distant future humans find this recording and release my tone poem to the public, who I truly believe will still know about Death Cab. Possibly Dntel’s descendents can remix it, or Chris Walla’s kin can smooth out some of the inconsistancies in the vocals. Hope springs eternal.”

He turned off the mic and turned back towards the fudge locker.


Ben was in the best shape of his life. He had lost twenty five pounds and his muscles were taut.

Of course spending all day spliting rock on a Zarpillion slave colony will do that for you.

Looking up at the twin moons of Carpatchia, most of the slaves longed for their own homes and species. But not Ben. He was just happy to be out of the C12. When the Zarpill mothership had tracor-beamed him into its hull he had cryed with joy. Sure he would have to endure back breaking labor at the hands of cruel alien overlords for the rest of his life, but at least he had fresh air to breath. He picked up his pickaxe and plunged it into the rock again.

He hummed to himself , “Do do do do, soul meets body…”.

“What have I told you about your vocal emititance of hu-man words?” Krultog the overseer yelled, his seven eyes bulging out.

“Oh calm down Krultog,” Ben said wiping sweat of his brow. “Maybe if you learned how to sing your she-mate Wetoig would give in to your advances.”

Kultorg did not look pleased.

“Ok, ok,” Ben said and continued splitting rocks.

Wilderness / Vessel States / Rating: 7.5

"States is even more reticent than the self-titled debut-- measured and serene, almost lackadaisical in its unhurried progression, its esoteric screeds against the late-capitalist regime mete out their frissons like time-released capsules."










Anybody else sick of reading about the fucked up shit Pete Doherty of Babyshambles keeps doing? How about making some records I actually care about first and then maybe, just maybe I would be interested in his passé junkie antics.

Heroin still makes for dull reading and F the UK press for putting it on the front page of every music publication- as if a drug user gone wild is actually news.

In an effort to divert attention away from this nobody here is a flashback to a fuck up that makes Pete’s needle antics seem like an episode of Leave it to Beaver. I give you Richey Edwards, the still missing guitar player (but considered legally dead now) of the Manic Street Preachers. I warn you that this picture is not for the squeamish.

Inspired by a conversation with Coolfer

Flin Flon / Dixie / Rating: 6.5

"Like a cartographer who leaves no location on a map unnamed, Flin Flon sticks to familiar territory on Dixie, never truly exploring its sound or venturing into the unknown"

PFM goes on to say: "To fulfill the experimental quota, the record is book-ended by two punishingly hyperactive drum solos, "Cavendish" and "Capstick", courtesy of drummer Matt Datesman."

Punishing? I call 99.9% of the Load Records catalog overflowing with truly punishing drum solos. These particular pieces, just over 1 minute long, sound more like a Duane Eddy surf song with all the instrument tracks turned down and the snare, kick, and tom turned up.

PFM says: “Flin Flon are always tight, but these songs are almost choked to death as the band seldom shifts tempo or uses silence or space to add depth to the compositions.”

But there is space! I think what PFM is confused by is how Flin Flon chooses to apply space to their compact song structures. Space when buried among mostly metronome rapid fire playing sounds more like a breath than genuine moments of silence. Flin FLon’s guitar is NOT omnipresent on Dixie and instead it plays whack-a-mole timing with the bass, drum, and vocals. What’s between the hide and go seek whacks? Space, that’s what.

Call Flin Flon a one trick pony but what can I say, I like their one trick.

*I love repetitive bass lines that sound like classic riot grrrl anthems that I as a not very good bass player, could maybe play along to in theory.

*I heart Robinson’s curious choice of wording, topics, ruler measured phrasing and limited yet not limiting melodies.

*I admire a drummer who often sounds more machine than man.

The difference to me, and this is after following the band for all 5 + years of their recording career, these guitar parts are more complex than ever. (Being the craptastic guitar player that I am, I definitely can’t play along with these) While they are still angular and often dissonant, don’t let the simplicity of its sound fool you; these piercing sneak attacks are sniper precise. The Flin Flon characteristic one note hits are still there but this time they are balanced out with glass chime chords and I suspect if you sped up a Fugazi lp to 45 RPMs you might get something that resembles Mark Robinson’s guitar playing in 2006.

Also after some careful note taking (nerd alert) the only difference I can spot between the two versions of “Cardigan” (besides the few seconds in length) which appears on the record is this: the ringing guitar tone on the “encore” version (all the other instruments duck out) comes in 10 seconds before the first version’s. I fake like I know a little something about this topsy turvy world of indie music but I can’t pretend I understand why a band would bother placing nearly identical versions of the same song on a release.

Flin Flon remains my favorite M. Robinson band to date (tho it should be stated this is not his band but rather the drummer and bass players’) and (you can keep Unrest) while this robotic dance soundtrack isn’t something I can promise will please all, Dixie is as good, if not better than their other records and earns a 7.5 rating by me.

Lastly for those familiar with Teenbeat's aesthetics, this record’s packaging falls nothing short of a graphic designer’s wet dream and for those of us who like easy to read liner notes, you will curse this glossy reading challenge. (4AD meets Factory with maybe a hint of Hydra Head)

PS: To continue with my love for all that relates to the Garden State, all three Flin Flon members lived in NJ as youngsters.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Jel / Soft Money / Rating: 6.0

“Like everyone in Anticon, Jel has been involved in many in-house collaborations (most notably Themselves, Subtle, and 13 & God), and his debut LP-- a murky palimpsest of disembodied samples and dirty beats, incantatory rhymes and live instrumentation, leftist rhetoric and absurdist non sequiturs, breathy female vocals and ephemeral melodies-- features the usual array of cameos from Anticon and like-minded artists. In other words, it's another archetypal Anticon record. “

Longest sentence found in a PFM review aside: if Pitchfork keeps posting so many accurate and well written reviews (as Grettir has joked) us Tuning Fork types might be out of a hobby…and to be honest that is just fine, we could all probably be doing something better with our spare time, ha!

There are bigger crimes in the world but what a fucking drag it is to keep replaying the same cd only to realize it has ended and you haven’t heard a thing. Not because you weren’t listing to it but because nothing found on the cd grabbed you enough to attract your attention towards it and keep it there. I’ve played this Jel record 4 times in a row and all I can think is A) Pitchfork really said it all and B) Why DOES the Anticon collective keep making the same record featuring the same people? (And yes I know an art collective does kinda work that way by nature but a good collective shouldn't have to repeat itself.)

You can shuffle up your guest appearance order as dramatically as you want but when it is the same old people doing the same old thing you can’t expect your fans to keep buying into it forever. We were bound grow tired of it eventually and well I draw the line here; enough is enough.

I will let the 6.0 rating go this time but Anticon associates... consider yourselves warned.


Dear labels,

If your catalog is all going to sound like chapters in a dollar bin book, maybe you should stop using artist names and start numbering them instead.

Your pal,
Pitch Perfect

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Grandaddy - Just Like the Fambly Cat 6.8

It's all vaguely familiar

And how.

A little blurb on the inside of my promo cd says its like a greatest hits album made up of all new songs. Well that's a cheesy way of putting it, but for once a label blurb is kinda dead on. Any one of these songs could be inserted into a previous Grandaddy release and seem perfectly at home. Nothing here breaks new ground, but it is a nice way to say goodbye to a band (or band name) with 13 of 15 songs being anywhere from good to damntacular. I omit 'What Happened' cause I would not want to listen to it more than once and '50%' which is 179% more annoying and out of place than 'Street Bunny', the most annoying Grandaddy song ever.

Pitchperfect tapped me for this review cause she knows I heart this band. My love of Grandaddy has many sources. First and foremost was my introduction to them. I won't drag on about it, but I was in a very unhappy, broken heart period in my life when a friend made me a tape comprised of the first Grandaddy album and various songs from EP's. Those songs helped me through a shitty time and Grandaddy had a fan for life. I think I even bought a Grandaddy beanie once, in that former life of mine when I wore beanies. And don't pretend you didn't wear beanies too. We all did and it's something we all have to deal with.

Add to that the fact Jason Lytle had an Amish beard just like the one I rocked for most of my early twenties. I have always felt that facial hair was much more important than musical ability. So when you can combine a healthy amount of talent and outstanding facial hair you get full membership in my personal pantheon of listening pleasure ( hello Jason, meet Bonnie, Akron Family and Tim from Les Savy Fav. Whoa ZZ Top, not so fast).

So yes I am very sad that there will be no more Grandaddy. Although that is certainly not a very acurate statement. Whenever Lytle releases a solo album it will be just as much a 'Grandaddy' album as this was, since from all accounts he did everything on this album himself. So what of this album? I have had a few people at my local record shop tell me that this is an angry album. I don't get that, but I do think its the most forlorn album Grandaddy has done, and that's saying a lot. This is a band that has always had a very special ability to tap into the Mellon collie vein of twentysomethings (and when I say vein I mean 80% of them), yet also be joyous and at times very cutesy. All Grandaddy albums follow the same game plan: slow build up at the start gives way to solid uplifting song craft in the middle, and then the long road to sweeping beauty land at the finish, all of it with a fair amount of well placed bleeps. 'Just Like the Fambly Cat' isn't much different, but the middle is a little bit of a downer, in a good way (make sense?).

Listen to 'Animal World', with its eerie plane landing backing and hear Jason sing the line 'joy to the world' with about as little joy as can be done. Its a great song, but Jason clearly needs a hug.

Highlight for me is 'Summer...It's gone' (which seriously apes Elliott Smith's 'Can't Make a Sound' by the way) with its familiar and soothing vocal. This sounds like the goodbyesong to me. He knows end of summer always sucked, captures it on disc and makes me glad for once that i don't get summers off, if only so i don't have to lament them ending.

Kudos on "Where I'm Anymore" for including that 'meow' chorus. Finally a song my cat can sing along to.

'Elevate Myself' is too cute by half. This song could have been on 'Sumday', the least of all Grandaddy albums. Every song on that album felt like a stretch for radio play and the album never achieved the escape velocity to repeat listening. I have struggled as to whether this one does either, but I keep listening to it and enjoying it so I think I will say it does. It is a step forward from Sumday, which was a step back, so I guess we are back were we started. Nothing new, but nothing lost. I would push that 6.8 to a 7, but that extra .2 is probably just my skewed objectivity.

PS: if you can find it, check out Grandaddy's cover of 10cc's 'I'm Not in Love'. Briiilliant.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Starlight Mints/Drowaton/7.1 and Calexico/Garden Ruin/8.1

I dig the Lips, too, but for this Oklahoma band to furnish its third album of sun-warped indie pop with such a referential cover is a conceit

Starting a CD review out with comments on its cover smacks of indie rock Cliff's notes - especially when the visual review is so far off. It took me a while to dig before I could see a resemblance between Drowatron and the Flaming Lip's Zareika. The resemblance is a stretch -Drowton's abstract geometric shapes have more similarity to a Stereolab cover. Besides, the cover wasn't designed by the band but by Oklahoma graphics designer David Hoffner who has done posters for the Starlight Mints - most likely done long after the record was finished. Hoffer's cover art doesn't tie the Mints' to the Flaming Lips anymore than the 18 point chipboard cover shows the Swans' influence on the Starlight Mints. Musical influences show up in music, not in album artwork.

The rest of the review seems more negative than its 7.1 rating would suggest. That disparity made me add Drowaton to my shopping list on my next trip to the record store. However, the reviewer's ears are pretty much correct; this is a more dense record for the Starlight Mints. When that density works in the favor of the Mints' charming and bizarre nostalgia, such as on "Pumpkin", "Pearls" and "The Bee", you get some solid tracks. However, several songs would use some slimming down. The end result is a CD with a few good tracks, some okay tracks, but no clunkers - a 7.1 might be a little generous, but the review as written maybe evens that out a few tenths of a point. But I still don't hear the Flaming Lips.

Garden Ruin is beautifully fleshed out and focused, retaining some of the duo's Southwestern elements but shifting the horn sound from Ciudad Juarez to Los Angeles.

I don't have much to add to Joe Tangari's review of Garden Ruin. It's a more song based record (check), the last track is great (check). In fact, if all Pitchfork reviews were this good (and they re-instituted their letters section), we'd probably be out of business. Garden Ruin is essential for Calexico fans and a good pick for fans of Americana influenced guitar rock.

The only thing I'd add to the review is a mention of Garden Ruin's artwork by illustrator James Jean. Not every CD begs you to own the cover art, but Jean's cover and insert illustrations add a huge amount to the package. On his blog, Jean shows the process that he used to work with the band and develop the illustrations. Now, you may be wondering if a mention of the cover art even belongs in a review. Since you can decide to buy music online without cover art. it's good to know what you're getting for your extra money. The package for Garden Ruin makes the physical copy of the CD worth it. And it has nothing to do with the Flaming Lips either.

Oh well.

I sorta thought there was a post ready to go for today but alas I awoke to none. I am out on a business trip (the kind that actually pays my bills) today so I just won't have a chance to get to a review myself.

Sorry folks.

I can however offer one lucky reader this. If you are the first to post in the comments section the names of the two main dudes who run the record label Hydra Head, you will win these three prizes:

Cavity- On the Lam - picture disc lp
Knut - Terraformer - lp (black)
Pelican - Australasia - lp (black)

And to the lucky person who posts first, please email me at your mailing address.

Again, sorry...

Pitch Perfect

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Avail / Dixie / 4AM Friday / Over The James / Rating: 7.8 / 8.3 / 7.7

If you look to the top left of the page you will see our PO Box is located in Richmond, Va. This doesn’t make me an instant Avail expert by any means but it does place me in their home town and its damn near impossible to live here and not know just how much they mean, have meant for more than decade to this city. Richmond (all confederate jokes aside) takes this band very seriously and as outsider, a late comer to this community, I can finally understand just how big of a voice they gave this small underground music scene and with the act of touring, how well they spread word of what life is like in this city and among these people. Hell... I have Avail ( singer Tim B more specifically) to thank for preparing me (the Yankee) for what life would be like living here when I seriously knew only what their records preached and that my friend Adam from Born Against moved to town and liked the place alright.

Growing up in NJ and NYC (late 80s – most of the 90s) I saw Avail at least 5 times and while I strayed from most hardcore shows by the time I reached my mid 20s, Avail offered one of the few girl friendly shows back then so I tried to catch them every time they played. I hate to correct Pitchfork here but Avail shows have always been a safe positive / environment for a girl to be a part of and in turn tend to have more girls at their shows (especially back in the day) than any band from the surrounding scene. (CBGBs Sunday matinees for instance in the early 90’s rarely had a women in the first 30 rows of people.)

It’s a shame Lookout lost these titles but in the wake of this reissue series comes as Pitchfork nails it, their three best records… cleaned up no less with great liner notes, pictures, and rare bonus material. It’s useless to try and argue which one is the best because they are all great and depending on which one you heard first, that one in particular, best or not, will hold the greatest sentiment. Personally speaking the Dixie reissue with the addition of the Attempt to Regress 7” (which I still love to DJ out) and the super-rare Live at the Kingshead Inn 10” may not get as much love as my original lp versions did but they will remain my all time favorites from Avail.

And sure these records even newly re-mastered may sound dated but in the timeline for working class hardcore bands, groups like Hot Water Music and Lucero owe their souls Avail for paving the way first.

Just about everybody I know in RVA has an Avail story or 10 but not all of them happen to be staying at my house when the PFM Avail review posted. Thank you Miss Anantomy for earning your keep by writing a little a something for us and while I know you aren’t a writer, you did just fine lady.


“You were 16, saw Avail, knew all the words to the CD before you bought the CD-- they were that catchy-- and they got you hooked on murder rates in Richmond, Virginia, and not fighting at shows, back when all you cared about was songs about girls. (Though there, of course, weren't any at Avail shows.)"

I sometimes wonder why so many guys thought there were never any girls at shows. I know that there wasn't a lot of us but every Avail show I or my friends went too-I remember there was always a plethora of women. I actually saw more girls jumping off those stages than any other show I can recall.

The fact that they let you know in every record they made what was going on in their city impressed me. It made me want to be in Richmond more than any other city on the east coast. It made me really proud to call this place my home. I think they wanted to make sure it was a city that was not forgotten including the people that lived here.

PFM says: "1990s rec-room hardcore"

This quote actually made me take a step back. I never at any time, or any of my friends that I know of, would have called there music rec-room hardcore. That seems to me like your calling it kiddy music. Yeah there were a lot of kids at the shows but so were all the guys up on stage playing that music. We were all kids and we were all learning how to cope with growing up. That I believe is in part why these records will always hold true to me and perhaps will sound timeless to the next generation of kids. Avail let all those pent up feelings of youth roll out in their southern no collar punk rock anthems.

PFM says: "Call these three snapshots: disposable, uncomplicated, a ton of fun when you were there."

How could they be disposable? How are they not uncomplicated? Yes, they were fun, but they were also real and reflected their/our lives. None of these albums were story book fiction. Tim Barry always had the truth to speak about his city and the people he knew here so to say they are disposable is really pushing it in relation to those of us who grew up here.

I guess I am biased; I lived in that city for 11 years. I can speak from a personal love/hate for that city and understand what exactly what they were talking about. These records are snapshots to a certain degree, but they are also reminders that you should always be aware of the city you are in. Even now, 12 years later.


PS: The picture is the Avail logo scratched into the cement in front of a the dance building on the VCU campus. I pass over this every day on my walk to get coffee. Speaking of coffee…

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Elected / Sun, Sun, Sun / Rating: 6.8

“By combining the penetrating wussiness and mincing prosody of Elliott Smith with the emo theatrics and big sappy choruses of Conor Oberst (check out the sculpted, harmony-drenched surges of "Not Going Home"), Sennett has turned out an album of sparkly country slow-dances that sound at once utterly artificial and genuinely beguiling.”

Let me set the stage for you; I am cranky. Very cranky. I have spent a straight week of dedicated listening in hopes of getting through my ever growing pile of promo cds (Pitchfork I know you feel our pain x100 on this subject) and out of some 60 or 70 discs there are less than 5 cds I ever want to listen to again. The Elected's Sun, Sun, Sun is not one of them. *

Oh, and I also want to strangle Converge for inspiring yet another new crop of bands to mix metal with hardcore.


What the hell is happening to indie rock? Sun, Sun, Sun, is EZ-emo; slick AM Gold pop country made by the kids (grown up kids) for the kids yet it sounds like something a doctor’s office waiting room might play for the over 50 set waiting for their first pair of dentures. It genuinely blows my mind that this kind of record would appeal to anyone under the age of serious Jimmy Buffet fan. The Elected make the New Pornographers’ music sound macho and aggresive by comparison and I am pretty sure in a bar brawl Carl Newman could take Blake Sennett out with one punch… but I digress.

I don’t care how many reviews name drop Elliott Smith or Bright Eyes (and how sick are you of reading those name tags for every hushed sad male artist with a guitar???), no parallel to greatness should be hinted at here and even though that’s coming from a person who doesn’t like Bright Eyes, I still appreciate and understand why people love that band. To be blunt The Elected would put the biggest Gram Parsons fan to sleep and while soft rock might be just the thing to put your date in the mood, I am pretty sure your make-out partner would laugh in your face for playing something so utterly cheesE-Z.

That reminds me; I brought Sun Sun Sun on a mini road trip to me a few days ago and it made me so damn sleepy that I had to spit it out of my stereo by track 7. I wouldn’t recommend this cd for any reason other than to pad your day with dispensable fluff and sax solos. I also wouldn’t dream of giving this a 6.8 but I suppose Rilo Kiley fans will think the rating isn’t high enough.

These kids today, I just don't understand them.

* Also allow me to further explain: I know some of the records we review have been out for a while but we aren’t a very big staff and there are only so many hours in the day. We all have full time jobs so this hobby of a blog suffers accordingly. We get to our promos when we can and in no particular order. It’s not ideal but we try our best.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Islands @ the El Rey - Los Angeles 5/5

It may well have been around the time the Fire Department showed up that I realized that this show was a little different from others. But lets back up for a moment.

As I had mentioned in my Islands cd review, I saw the Unicorns near the end of their last tour and its was so horrible that I walked out, something I never do. Obviously that band was imploding at the time and it showed in a very real way. But Islands are a new venture, with new members and supposed new harmony so I went into the show with high hopes. After three songs my lady put her head on my shoulder and said she was going to fall asleep. Not a good start for sure, but thankfully it was not at all the way things would end up

Dressed in matching white outfits, the seven members of Islands started off playing well, yet feeling like they were going through the motions. But about 1/3rd of the way in the show got a jolt and never let up. During the song 'Where There Is A Will There's a Whalebone' they were joined onstage by show opener Why? and local boy Busdriver for the rap interlude that some just love to hate. In this setting it worked tremendously, and yes I like the song in its album form as well. Nick hopped up on Busdrivers shoulders and played keyboard with is feet. Hooray for tiny Canadians and their feet!

From that point on the band and crowd were in perfect harmony. Where they had been under whelming at the start, now they jumped, flailed and sparked with energy. They pulled a child onto stage, he looked to be about 12, and wrapped his head in toilet paper and had him hit the crap out of a piñata (it was cinco de Mayo after all). He stayed on stage for two songs and even got his own shoulder-top ride.

Two fun audience participation moments: Someone yelled out at one point "are you gonna break up?". Nick laughed and said "if you keep it up." Later during a break in the music someone shouted "Unicorns!". Nick immediately put a pox on them. J'amie the drummer tried to admonish the fan but Nick wouldn't let him. "He has a pox on him, a curse, and he has to live with that for the rest of his life".

Rocking surprisingly hard when they wanted to they played the entire album plus a couple new songs. Like I said, If the first few songs were a let down, the rest of the set was tight and highly energetic. Employing at various times 2 guitars, a banjo, a flute, 2 violins, the keyboard and bass, the band managed to get quite the epic soundtrack going.

Come encore time they launched into an extended version of 'Swans', during which a sparkler was lit on the end of Nick's guitar. This was obviously both expected and looked down upon by the folks at the El Rey as someone rushed on stage and doused his guitar with a fire extinguisher. Covered in white spray and choking on the fumes, Nick finished his solo on his back and then got up and announced to the crowd that it was time to go outside. A path was cleared and nick and the banjo player made their way out of the theater onto Wilshire Blvd, followed by the whole audience who were clapping a beat in unison.

They set up shop in front of a Smart and Final, jumping up on a tree planter. As the banjo kept playing they lit roman candles and watched them stream into the sky. Everyone from the venue followed them out and a couple thousand indie kids blocked Wilshire. One bus managed to make its way through and the looks of the faces of the passengers was priceless. As soon as it seemed it was about to die down, more fireworks were produced and tossed into the crowd for them to light. Streams of sparks shot up and soon enough the fire department showed up. Their rig sat on the other side of the street and the firemen could clearly be seen laughing at the scene. As an added bonus you could see all the people who had left before the encore running back from whatever sidestreets they had parked on.

Spectacle is all well and good if the music is bad, but when the band just gave you a good hour of fine performance and then brought the spectacle, well then bravo.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Spank Rock / Yoyoyoyo / Rating : 6.5

Dear Sean of Pitchfork,

Damn you for being clever enough to include all the things I would have said about this review right at the front of your review. But I'm a bit confused... as far as I can tell you really dig the record, but you won't just let the good times take over (what was that about freeing a mind so the ass could follow...). I mean hell I don't even take exception to the majority of this review because you say lots of great things about the record but stumble at the point where ass & pussy get in the mix. But c'mon. None of the lyrics are hateful. We're not talking about The Mentors here, we're talking about a party... man just party. Overthinking Spank Rock is like overthinking Blowfly or something (okay maybe not that much, but you see what I'm saying). I mean hell Le Tigre are fans... just go with it, it's okay the ladies will still be cool with your choices. You don't need to hide it and put your Liz Phair CD up front when the girls are over.

Also I would like to point out that the site your repping is part of the what makes Diplo "suspiciously prominent", and as to your doubts as to whether Spank Rock have ever been to Texas... ummm yeah they have...and if memory serves me correctly...playing at a Pitchfork showcase...

In closing... damnit I love this record. I say 10 ratings all around for the record and their live show. Now excuse me while I tap an ass...

Jesu / Silver EP / Rating: 7.9

"If a formula could be written, it might be something akin to: sketch pop songs, restructure with Codeine dynamics, then drape in M83 minus the film dialogue and purple tendencies. "

I already gushed about this piece of awesome a few weeks backs so I will spare you all a repeat but please take note: since my original review I still play this cd at least once a day. Considering I have a back up of nearly 70 new releases I am suppose to check out for both work and Tuning Fork, that is truly saying something and if you don't mind I would like to bump up this rating to an 8.5.


About once a month we here at Tuning Fork try to share the wealth and offer up a few promo cds to our nice readers.

To win all you need to do is:
A) Check the comments section to see if anybody claimed the cd you want to win first.
B) If the cd you want has yet to be requested leave a comment saying your first name and the cd you want. This will let others know the cd has a new home.
C) Email us at your name / address / and cd you want.

You can only win one cd per contest and only if you haven't won a cd from us in the past two months. It is as easy as that. There is no creepy catch. I don't email spam in the future or mail you adult catalogs three months from now. You get a cd (sometimes more cds if I have some extra stuff sitting around) and a DIY fold / cut / and fill out tuningfork membership card that has zero meaning to about 99.9 % of the world but that .1 % who are record inter-web geeks too will totally be barely impressed. Awesome right?

The goods up for grabs:

Envelopes - Demon - Brille Records - WE HAVE A WINNER

Animal Collective - Grass CD single with DVD - WE HAVE A WINNER

Islands - Return to the Sea - Equator Records - WE HAVE A WINNER

Tunng - Mothers daughter and other songs - Ace Fu Records - WE HAVE A WINNER

Sparks - Hello Young Lover - In the Red Records - WE HAVE A WINNER

Good luck and yes I will mail cds to people living out of the USA. Non-American indie music fans deserve presents too!!! PS: Selling your prize to a local store makes you a bad bad person. If you don't like the music please pass it onto a friend who might.

A Nooner : East Coast Time

At noon today Tuning Fork will be giving away a few cds....stay tuned. Get it....tune-d? Sorry my best material doesn't come until after 9 AM.

your pals,
tuning fork

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Mudhoney / Under a Billion Suns / Rating: 6.1

“Here's one more thing folks can blame on the Dubya Administration: the political awakening of Mudhoney.”

This review is months late and I wasn’t sure why I was stalling on this piece until this morning.

For those of you who aren’t regular readers in 1989 I was a high school senior and my favorite band wasn’t Nirvana who would soon to grow to be America's favorite, it was Mudhoney. Based on live performances in addition to the music found on their records, Mudhoney was the best band out of all the grunge rock outfits Seattle had to offer at the time and maybe still to this day. I didn’t just love this band, I made the teenage train wreck fashion mistake of wanting to look like them by wearing Mardi Gras beads, striped shirts, army shorts in winter with long johns, and even cut my hair back to my shoulders to mimic Mark Arm's. I shit you not, I took my love for all that was Sub Pop very seriously.

From age 17 to 21 I continued to collect Mudhoney records from their U.S pressings to German versions on new and exciting colors to Australian re-releases with new art and different colored vinyl. I worshiped their MC5 / Stooges / Blue Cheer ways and ignored their consistently bad lyrics which carried titles like "Touch me I’m Sick", "Flat Out Fucked", and "Here Comes Sickness". Politics however were left out of their beer soaked anthems and no matter how many times I read in modern day Mudhoney interviews the band trying to convince us they were always political, they weren’t, at least …forgive the pun, not on record. To dumb down the band to the most primal of descriptions, they were a sloppy but sonic party band who when drunk on stage could put on one of the most aggressive, explosive, and incredible live shows ever. While I have heard them sing "Fuck the Police", I have never heard a word uttered about the Republican Party…until now.

By 1992 and their first release on Reprise I was over Mudhoney and onto post-hardcore (Sunny Day, Cap’n Jazz, anything on Gravity). Here I am faced with another new Mudhoney record, nearly 20 years later and nearly 20 years after I was over them already.

The reality is I have been dreading this walk down memory lane via the return of this band. I am not one of those people who wishes they were still in high school nor do I attend most reunion shows because bands rarely stay in their prime. (Hell I don’t even go to my high school reunions.) Pitchfork describes this new record perfectly “What makes these weak attempts at earnestness all the more disappointing is that the music is great.” The music is great, even minus their original bass player Matt Lukin and even with addition of non-traditional Mudhoney-esque instrumentation… like a horn section. Mudhoney sound more sober and play tighter than ever (at least on the recording) but what’s missing is that essential unbridled energy and angst they once had. In its place is a political message where I hate to say, there should be none. If you didn’t know the old Mudhoney maybe their political tone could be taken more seriously but for anyone familiar with the band, listening to Mark Arm preach any sort of weighty message is a joke. Oh...and imagine that, a rock band taking a stand against the president or the war or the Republican party, save it for a Fat Wreck comp dudes. Not to sound insensitive to today’s political climate but I take Mudhoney’s lyrics as seriously as I would take Jessica Simpson addressing the American people about bio chemistry. Sure I could and have ignored Mudhoney lyrics in the past but now that I am in my 30’s, it’s a lot harder to do and in turn ruins what is otherwise a great record.

David Raposa gives a much more detailed blow by blow account of Under a Billion Suns but ultimately the feelings for the record are mutual and with that the rating stays the same

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

An email to Tuning Fork posted with permission

Hey there gang,

Another Tuning Fork first! I am passing along an email we were sent today by a Tuning Fork reader we shall call Gripps. The issue at hand is not just Pitchfork specific but rather a music journalism dirty habit that isn't a new one but is an ongoing one. Lazy writers lift phrases or word jumble whole lines from artist press kits and new release one sheets all the time.

Like every day all the time.

The depressing part is that these uncreative / non-free thinking individuals (who should be be called puppet masters rather than writers) are the folks helping to make or break bands on sites like Pitchfork who claim to have nearly 150,000 plus readers a day. Depressing indeed.

Now onto our letter to the editor....


In the review of Matthew Dear's Fabric Mix today, paragraph 1:

"Audion tracks lack the micro-edit punchiness of his work as Jabberjaw, are beefier than his barely inflected percussion clinics under the False moniker, and are missing the glitch-pop hooks of the stuff he releases under the name his parents gave him."

From all music guide's review of Audion's Suckfish, also on emusic:

"With Suckfish, Dear abandons the glitch happiness found in his Jabberjaw alter ego, the percussion workouts of False, and the pop hooks of his eponymous works to deliver a whole new monster"

Not exactly that incriminating I guess, but when a site is making and breaking many bands a week, they should have someone write the review who is familiar with the most innovative guy in minimal techno and doesn't have to do lazy internet paraphrasing.

PS- A friend pointed out the possibility of these 2 quotes having a common source - a press release perhaps? A good theory, but I believe this is the press release and it doesn't appear similar.

Kudos to anyone who can find the common source.


Thank you Gripps for taking the time to drop us a line.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Röyksopp - Röyksopp's Night Out 6.2

Röyksopp's Night Out EP is pretty but largely inessential

I don't get it and I don't like it.

There are lots of people who love Royksopp. Here in LA they are a hipsters best friend, mostly due to KCRW's Nic Harcourt giving them a lot of air time. They really fit into Nic's playlist agenda, which is mainly about making me want to go back to bed everyday between 9am and noon. I think a lot of the traffic mess here in LA is caused by people drifting into the median after nodding off to Morning Becomes Narcoleptic. But that's another piece of grumping for another day. What were we talking about? Oh yeah, Royksopp.

I don't mind downtempo. Only when it sounds like it belongs on K-BIG or some other adult contemporary leaning radio do I start to get that uneasiness like when my dad takes off his shirt to work in the yard. There is a certain kind of vocal associated with downtempo that I despise. It is in full effect on 'Only This Moment'. I don't know, maybe I am a snob. Well yes I am certainly a snob. But I listened to the first Royksopp album and liked only one song (Eple) and liked nothing on the second album. So what was I doing listening to this live ep in the first place? I guess I will give anything a chance. I am totally missing the appeal. I think if I drank more iced coffee and owned more stuff from Crate and Barrel it might make sense. Hogan nailed it with the Crate and Barrel line. I can totally see people in Silver Lake putting this on while starting dinner on their 'cream' colored plates and laying out their wooden-handled silverware. I eat off plates that were my fiancées grandmother and use silverware I found in a box (yes I cleaned them first). Is that reverse snobbery?

Marc Hogan says it is pretty but inessential. Marc, beauty is always essential. This can't be both. Inessential beauty is an oxymoron to this (me) guy. Marc I will send you something beautiful if you'd like, something that will make this album seem like the waste of plastic and paper that it is. But you cant have my cat. I have a lovely collection of ceramic owls. I get far more enjoyment out of them than any Royksopp album. Let me share my joy with you.

Reverse that 6.2 and then we are in business.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Guest post : Dalek

Terrestrial Tones / Dead Drunk / Rating: 6.7

A conversation (sort of) among friends: Me (pitch perfect) Dalek (Will and Alap) and Mike (best roadie/merch/tour manager around/ therapist ever)

"they add layes of indecipherable, barbed lyrics that sound as though they're sung from an underground lair soaked in blood and brambles. "

Pssst, hey Pitchfork....typo alert. It is suppose to read layers, not "layes".

Pitch Perfect : So Dalek, let's talk about this Terrestrial Tones cd we have playing in my living room right now.

When my car starts to make sounds like the noises found on this record, I rush to my local mechanic to have my engine and brakes looked at. Instincts also tell me that if it weren't members of Black Dice and Animal Collective making this "prickly experimental soundscapes" as Pitchfork calls it, not only would nobody put out this record out but publications like Pitchfork wouldn't bother to review it. Considering Dead Drunk is on Animal Collective's own record label (Paw Tracks) maybe no other label would spend the $$$ to release it but then again Black Dice and Animal Collective have enough of a cult following that I am sure somebody would do it just to connect themselves to their favorite bands.

Alap: This is kind of like a not good version of Destructo Swarmbots. Go to and pick up anything you can find from this guy.

Will: I wasn't really listening, I was looking for that new Fat Joe single where he starts his verse with Special Ed's lyrics from "I got it made". If anyone knows the song I'm talking about drop us a line at

Me: Seriously after about three minutes...all of us.... ( Dalek + 2) stopped listening and 15 minutes later I was asked by the group to take the cd off. Note to all potential buyers of this cd, do not play it while trying to give a band directions to the venue of the day. The sound of a person shitting helium balloons can be distracting and difficult to talk over.

Dead Drunk was reportedly recorded in Paris so trust as, as a room full of kids from Jersey, the only place on this planet that gets even less respect than the Garden State is France so FYI to the band- you may want to lay off that press angle.

None of us could muster anything quite as scholarly as PFM had to say about TT so lines like " interesting compositional entity" or malleable rhythms budge, contract, and twist" make us giggle like 5th graders hearing a loud wet fart. That kind of meandering bong hit of an effects pedal orgy might be worthy of a 6.7 but not for it's "effervescent thicket of electronic bleating" Pitchfork gives it. Anything that fuels the kind of laughter and comedy this cd gave us is worthy a high rating. The downtime between waking up, coffee kicking in, the checking of emails, and sound check is rarely this amusing so I thank Terrestrial Tones for that, even if we didn't make it through their whole cd.