Calm down—that headline really means “to own a tote bag with a design by Laura Ballance.” Merge Records is selling the bags, featuring the label’s logo and a penguin drawing by artist/saucy Superchunk bassist/Merge co-mogul Ballance, on its website at the bargain price of $9.99. Get yours here. Next up from the label: Jim Wilbur hair-care products.
…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead returns with more of its easily relatable, Joe Sixpack rock on The Century Of Self, out February 17 on the band’s Richter Scale imprint. The LP, the Austin/New York City group’s first since 2006’s kind of forgettable So Divided, includes two tracks, “Bells Of Creation” and “Inland Sea,” that appeared on the recent Festival Thyme EP. Frontman Conrad Keely told Billboard that his move to NYC and subsequent immersion in the city’s rock scene influenced his sense of Self: “Suddenly I was almost overloaded with all this new music and wondering how we could come close to matching it. That inspiration came into a lot of the writing.” Confirmed tour dates after the jump.
Indie rocker Ben Kweller realizes a lifelong dream with fourth LP Changing Horses (ATO), due February 3. The dream? Make a straight-up country record. “Country music was the soundtrack to my life,” Kweller says. “It’s still a big part of who I am. When Garth Brooks or Alan Jackson come on the radio, something happens inside.” (Something happens to us, too, but it’s more of a fingers-turning-the-knob reaction.) Kweller, who produced Horses in Austin, where he recently relocated (he grew up near Dallas), has 15 hoedowns scheduled (dates below the jump), with West Coast and international dates to come. Yee-haw!
Following up May’s damn fine El Rey LP, the Wedding Present has issued “Holly Jolly Hollywood,” a download-only, three-song Christmas single available from iTunes. The title track is a song frontman David Gedge and bassist Terry de Castro wrote while living in Los Angeles, and it features duet vocals from Cali sing/songwriter Simone White. A cover of “White Christmas” and an acoustic version of “Holly Jolly Hollywood” (with de Castro doing White’s vocal part) round out the single. The Wedding Present also contributed a cover of “High” to Just Like Heaven, the upcoming Cure tribute album.
For a detailed history of Gedge’s long-running band, check out the career overview MAGNET did of the Wedding Present in 2005 by clicking here.
Though David Bazan was always the main force behind Pedro The Lion, the singer/guitarist retired the moniker in 2006. Curse Your Branches (Barsuk), his full-length debut under his own name, will arrive in late summer. “Part of the reason for ‘breaking up the band’ was that I was struggling to grow out of a lot of the personal immaturity that seemed to define Pedro The Lion for me,” says Bazan. “[The new songs] are far more personal and less fictional or hypothetical like Pedro songs tended to be.” Recorded at Bazan’s home, Curse Your Branches includes guest appearances by the Long Winters’ John Roderick, former Pedro multi-instrumentalist T.W. Walsh and members of Fleet Foxes and Crystal Skulls. Though it doesn’t have a narrative concept in the vein of Pedro’s 2002 album Control, Bazan says Branches deals in themes of “agnosticism, booze and family.”
Neko Case’s self-produced fifth studio album, Middle Cyclone (Anti-), is due March 3. Recorded mostly in Tucson and Brooklyn, Cyclone has a long list of guests (M. Ward, Howe Gelb, the Lilys’ Kurt Heasley, members of the New Pornographers, Los Lobos, Calexico and the Sadies) and includes a cover of Sparks’ “Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth.”
Former Sub Pop act the Thermals will release fourth album Now We Can See on Kill Rock Stars April 7. Silversun Pickups’ sophomore album, Swoon (Dangerbird), is also due in the spring.
A press release from Asthmatic Kitty Records (home to Sufjan Stevens and Castanets) announces the label will be employing a “critic-based pricing structure” for its latest release, Grampall Jookabox’s Ropechain. Starting today at 9 a.m., consumers can purchase Ropechain for $5.40, a figure that correlates to the album’s 5.4 review rating on Pitchfork.
“I know that it has been a long and difficult road for music critics everywhere,” says Grampall Jookabox frontman Moose. “It’s 2008, but until now their point systems had absolutely no effect on the value of music. Today, they rightly take their place as determiners of the value of music.”
Outrageous! What’s next, free cans of Mr. Pibb for every American if Neutral Milk Hotel ever releases another album?
But seriously, we don’t know what’s worse:
a) An ironic protest gesture by a band displeased with a review of its music.
b) The fact that the lead singer of Grampall Jookabox goes by the name of Moose.
c) Pondering anything to do with Pitchfork and/or a band called Grampall Jookabox.
Camper Van Beethoven is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a string of East Coast performances. We can’t give you a bite-sized new-media recap of the greatness of the Santa Cruz, Calif., band and all that it meant in the predawn of the alternative-rock era (this is in or around the ’80s). We’re not even interested in explaining this post’s headline. Maybe some other, longer day. Maybe over a pitcher of Tom Collinses with frontman David Lowery, who went on to some commercial success with Cracker.
But we can point you in the right direction: Camper Van Beethoven issued a greatest-hits record in June, the 18-track Popular Songs Of Great Enduring Strength And Beauty (Cooking Vinyl). After the jump, a quick assessment of the compilation and dates for the anniversary mini-tour.
According to the Sundance Channel, Jenny Lewis and Jakob Dylan have left Rilo Kiley and the Wallflowers, respectively. In a stunning act of bilateral passive-aggressive behavior, the news appears in an online episode recap for the Elvis Costello-hosted talk show Spectacle.
Rilo Kiley’s Blake Sennett and representatives of the Wallflowers expect to be notified when their bands’ Wikipedia pages become updated.
The Pretenders—what’s left of them, anyway—hit the road at the end of January for a 32-date North American tour, the band’s first extensive headlining jaunt since 2003. Chrissie Hynde, Martin Chambers and some other guys will be supporting Break Up The Concrete (Shangri-La Music), which Rolling Stone called “the best Pretenders album in years.” Given that, a) it’s Rolling Stone, and b) Concrete came out 24 years after Learning To Crawl, take that with a big block of rock salt. But go see the show to hear the single “Boots Of Chinese Plastic (Make For Fine McDonald’s Attire).”
The Pretenders will also be part of the iTunes Originals series. Like previous entries in the series, the nine-track digital release, available starting December 23, will comprise new recordings of songs from the group’s career as well as interviews with Hynde.
Tour dates after the jump.
Upon the release of Radiohead’s celebrated album, esteemed correspondent Corey duBrowa asked:
Can 1.2 million freeloaders and downloaders be wrong?
Continue reading “Rainbow Connection”