From The Desk Of David Lowery: A.C. Newman

lowery110dDavid Lowery has maintained a healthy career as a split musical personality. When he isn’t playing laconic country-tinged pop with his band of 25 years, Camper Van Beethoven, he’s thrashing away at his guitar as the frontman for Cracker, the rock outfit that’s releasing its 10th studio album, Sunrise In The Land Of Milk And Honey, this week. Lowery adds another line to his resume as he guest edits magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Q&A with him.

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Lowery: A.C. Newman‘s songs exhibit a certain swagger I associate with English rockers and pub brawlers. I must disagree with many music journalists who say Newman solo records are indistinguishable from his work in the New Pornographers. In fact, it makes me wonder if these journalists are actually listening to the records they review. Newman’s solo songs are decidedly more raw, more rock and less pop than the New Pornographers. His songs seem more rooted in the past. I have a lot of non-musician friends who seem to be stuck on the music from the late ’70s and early ’80s. If I play them one of his songs, they invariably buy an album. My kids inexplicably dropped “On The Table” into one of their home videos. My mother immediately asked, “Who’s this on the soundtrack?” My older sister thought it was something from the Rushmore soundtrack. You get the picture, yet the kids still dig it. Check out “Like A Hitman, Like A Dancer” from Newman’s latest album, Get Guilty. The DUMBO Sessions video is after the jump.

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MP3 At 3PM: The Warlocks

warlocks390Los Angeles-based drone-rock group the Warlocks has a lineup that changes more often than a pickup basketball game run by Anton Newcombe, with as little as four members and as many as 10. (At last count it was seven.) What has been consistent over the years is the Warlocks’ buzzing guitar, ample bass thud and Bobby Hecksher’s mumbling vocals, which can be traced back to the same gene pool as ’90s psych-rock siblings Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and forebears Spacemen 3. The band’s fifth effort, The Mirror Explodes, is due May 19 on Tee Pee; rumbling and rattling single “Red Camera” hints at a subcutaneous sentiment, passion and rage that never quite explodes—it just festers.

“Red Camera” (download):

World Premiere Video: Loxsly

Later this month (May 26, to be exact), Loxsly will release Tomorrow’s Fossils, the Austin band’s third LP of gently twanging, subliminally electronic pop of Grandaddy-ish proportions. (Tomorrow’s Fossils even has a Sophtware Slump-like concept involving technology and humanity.) Far be it for us to make someone else’s guest list, but we’d recommend giving Loxsly—along with similar-minded Austinites the Octopus Project—a slot at Spoon‘s three-day mini-festival in July. Here’s the world premiere of the video for “As The Constellation’s Arms Uncurled,” directed by Loxsly frontman Cody Ground.

From The Desk Of David Lowery: Nassim Taleb’s “The Black Swan”

lowery110dDavid Lowery has maintained a healthy career as a split musical personality. When he isn’t playing laconic country-tinged pop with his band of 25 years, Camper Van Beethoven, he’s thrashing away at his guitar as the frontman for Cracker, the rock outfit that’s releasing its 10th studio album, Sunrise In The Land Of Milk And Honey, this week. Lowery adds another line to his resume as he guest edits magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Q&A with him.

taleb23501Lowery: Nassim Taleb is having his moment as the “it” guy of non-fiction. In 2007, he published The Black Swan: The Impact Of The Highly Improbable, just in time to see the world financial system collapse in a manner that he offhandedly predicted in his book. The Black Swan deals with unpredictable events that have huge impacts, the fragility of our society and how profoundly ignorant most of our academic, financial and political leaders are to the dangers. Most people think this book is about the financial system. Yes, Taleb talks about markets, stock options and credit default swaps. But these are just some of the specifics to his generalities. The guy is wickedly funny. The book is anecdotal and mostly easy to read. There are stories about playing Russian roulette while growing up in Lebanon, dreading visiting his in-laws, envy at his richer neighbors, career advice, musings on why the people in charge usually have that particular WASPy look and, finally, how artists/songwriters who perpetually live in “the antechamber of hope” are like a particular kind of options trader and consequently share the same mental illnesses. Watch a YouTube clip of Taleb discussing The Black Swan after the jump.

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Live Review: Franz Ferdinand, Philadelphia, PA, May 6, 2009

franz-ferdinandliveFranz Ferdinand lead crooner and guitarist Alex Kapranos told Rolling Stone last year he wanted to capture “that naive energy you have as a kid when you hear music and you can’t control your body’s reaction to it, you can’t help flinging yourself around the room and bouncing up and down.” The youthful throng that gathered at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia, powered by Red Bull and Franz, certainly exhibited that hormonal, jumping-on-the-furniture behavior.

Prior to the show, I contemplated hitting up a Starbucks, but the Scottish art-rock quartet’s performance was way better than downing a quad espresso. Armed with my photo pass, I slipped into the lane that divided the armpit-to-ear crowd and the stage. The only other photographer in the alley was wielding two professional cameras the size of AK-47s. When my screen blinked “Memory Full” after 25 shots, I turned around and saw the dude behind me staring at my handheld $49 Olympus. I shrugged.

Hot Topic drones with braces and Amy Winehouse eyeliner leaned over the barrier, probably inflicting some kidney damage as they tried to get as close as possible to the stage. Yes, I am a yard away from Alex Kapranos and his skinny jeans and you are not. The band’s set was comprehensive and dance-provoking, comprising “Take Me Out” as well as tunes off the more recent Tonight: Franz Ferdinand. Kapranos’ cascading, theatrical vocals punctuated vigorous synthesizers and drum machines as the group shimmied around onstage, at one point causing sensory overload when all four members started wailing on Paul Thomson’s drum set and the strobe lights went berserk. Franz Ferdinand was really big on audience participation. Kapranos directed his microphone to the crowd after just about every “La la la la” and “Ohhhh.” I kind of felt like I’d flown my ’88 DeLorean back in time to a Naughty By Nature concert. At the end of the night, I definitely took away some of that crazy naive energy Kapranos described, and I’m pretty sure that doesn’t come in a Venti.

—Maureen Coulter

“What She Came For” (live) (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/WhatSheCameFor.mp3

TiVo Party Tonight: Animal Collective, Black Kids

tivoanimalEver wonder what will happen during the last five minutes of late-night TV talk shows? They let musicians onstage! Here are tonight’s notable performers:

Late Night With David Letterman (CBS): Animal Collective
Wouldn’t most of you rather see an Animal Collective video in place of a live performance? They’ve got faces for iPod commercials. But seriously, bands like AC should find a post-MTV and broader-than-YouTube way of mainstreaming their visual smarts. Click the link above and you’ll get the video for “My Girls,” which looks (and sounds) like the inside of a lava lamp.

Last Call With Carson Daly (NBC): Black Kids

Animal Collective’s “My Girls (Dave Wrangler Remix)” (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/MyGirlsDaveWranglerRemix.mp3

From The Desk Of David Lowery: Metric

lowery110dDavid Lowery has maintained a healthy career as a split musical personality. When he isn’t playing laconic country-tinged pop with his band of 25 years, Camper Van Beethoven, he’s thrashing away at his guitar as the frontman for Cracker, the rock outfit that’s releasing its 10th studio album, Sunrise In The Land Of Milk And Honey, this week. Lowery adds another line to his resume as he guest edits magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Q&A with him.

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Lowery: For the last several years, Canada has had an outsized footprint in the world of indie rock. Maybe it’s nothing new—Canada has always had a bigger share of rock and pop sales than its relatively small popluation would suggest. But Rush, Loverboy, Alanis Morissette, Shania Twain and Avril Lavigne were hardly innovators. This new Pax Canada seems to change all that. I don’t want to get in an argument about who really started all this. But it is clear that a lot of the new energy has come out of the loose ensembles that are the New Pornographers and Broken Social Scene. Metric is led by Emily Haines and James Shaw. Both come from Broken Social Scene. Haines is the daughter of poet Paul Haines, who collaborated with jazz pianist Carla Bley. Emily was born in India and has said her early musical influences included Bley and Robert Wyatt. This is a somewhat typical curriculum vitae of the current crop of Canadian indie rockers. It’s what makes them good at this cerebral brand of rock and not so good at more visceral music like, say, traditional folk or the blues. (Note: I exempt the residents of Cape Breton Island and Newfoundland from this observation.) Metric would not be regarded as the most innovative of their ilk, but in a contest for who can bring the pop hooks, they win hands down. Check out “Help I’m Alive.”

“Help I’m Alive” (acoustic) (download):


MP3 At 3PM: The Kingsbury Manx

manxwitch390The Kingsbury Manx has been spinning mostly mellow gold since its 2000 self-titled debut, a back-porch classic with well-steeped vocal harmonies and plenty of acoustic-guitar strum. The North Carolina quartet has issued four albums in the interim, but not until last month’s release of Ascenseur Overt! (on the band’s Odessa label) has it recaptured the Wilco-trapped-in-amber pop aura of the debut. Enjoy the dulcet twang of album track “Well, Whatever” below; the Manx has some East Coast tour dates scheduled this month.

“Well, Whatever” (download):

Seen Your Video: Cursive

video3Your music video may have only played once or twice on MTV, but it’s on permanent rotation on YouTube. We watch videos and TV performances—the good, the bad, the hilariously dated and the brand new—with musicians to find out what they were thinking. MAGNET’s Robert Ham discusses Cursive‘s new video “From The Hips”—a sort of dating-meets-flash-mob plot starring members of L.A. comedy troupes—with frontman Tim Kasher.

Any band willing to name its album Mama, I’m Swollen indicates at least some sense of humor. Cursive amplifies that notion via this hilarious video that brings to visual life the health-class maxim: “When you sleep with someone, you’re sleeping with everyone they’ve slept with, too.” Kasher tells MAGNET how this ridiculous tale is the result of his band finally embracing the idea of making videos on its own terms.

Kasher:
In the past, we haven’t been as hands on when it came to our videos, so we wanted to make sure that we liked our videos more and wanted to play more of a role in them. Thankfully, we had the time to do it. It’s a pretty basic idea that when men and women go out on dates, they take their baggage with them from all their exes. So I set up a scenario where that was actually happening. Then it got a lot more absurd from there. Mostly, I had the idea of we even when you’re dating living in small town like Omaha, everyone kind of dates in the same dating pool. I was kind of commenting that we all end up having sex with each other, so maybe we should capture that on video somehow.

Michael Grodner, the director, had the idea to go to comedy troupes in L.A. to cast the video. It ended up working out really well. The main guy, David Neher is from the Honor Student comedy troupe and we also got people from the Groundlings and people from the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in L.A. It was fun to watch them try and lip synch along to my song. I was often right behind the camera helping them when they were having trouble remembering the words, helping sing along with them.

We pulled it together pretty quick, actually, around the beginning of February. We got the treatment to the director, and he was really responsive, so we were able to shoot it later that month. We did it over two days in Los Angeles. We had a great time. It was great to be hanging out with a lot of new people. And they’re all funny people, so we just got to hang out, have some drinks and have a lot of fun.

Making videos was more of a self-conscious thing for us in the past. We always wondered, “Why is a band at our level making videos, anyway?” So instead, we just embraced it, figuring we could do videos very affordably, write them ourselves and surround ourselves with people who could get them made. Mostly we convinced ourselves that we’ve got to open ourselves up to the benefits of the Internet. A band with just about any measure of success can do a video and it’ll end up being shown somewhere. At least on someone’s MySpace page or something.

From The Desk Of David Lowery: The “Foot Fist Way” Soundtrack

lowery110dDavid Lowery has maintained a healthy career as a split musical personality. When he isn’t playing laconic country-tinged pop with his band of 25 years, Camper Van Beethoven, he’s thrashing away at his guitar as the frontman for Cracker, the rock outfit that’s releasing its 10th studio album, Sunrise In The Land Of Milk And Honey, this week. Lowery adds another line to his resume as he guest edits magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Q&A with him.

footfirst12540Lowery: I revisited 2006 cult film The Foot Fist Way after the seeing Danny McBride in HBO’s Eastbound & Down. If you have not seen The Foot Fist Way or Eastbound & Down, you need to put them on your list. But this is not about Danny McBride; this is about his co-star Ben Best. In the film, Best plays a washed-up b-movie action star named Chuck “The Truck” Wallace. But he also contributes heavily to the soundtrack with his band Pyramid. (Shouldn’t that name have already been taken?) I don’t know what Pyramid normally sounds like, but it’s clear that on this soundtrack they are going for a sort of ’80s Karate Kid synth-driven, almost-hair-metal type of rock. Clearly they are having fun with it and have tongue firmly planted in cheek. The trouble? At times, it works far better than anticipated. “Put To The Test” is just a sketch of a song. Anthemic, ascending Satriani-like guitar line. Check. Vaguely heroic, obstacle-overcoming stanza. Check. ’80s bouncing bass and synth beat. Check. But I like this song better than anything from that era. Maybe all those songs should have been thrown together so haphazardly. Also on the soundtrack: “Dog Wild Heaven.” I don’t know what this song means, and considering “dog wild heaven” is pretty much the extent of the words, I doubt the authors have any idea, either. Still, it’s one of the best less-than-two-minutes songs ever.

Pyramid’s “Digging To China” from 2005’s The First American (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/DiggingToChina.mp3