TiVo Party Tonight: Marianne Faithfull, Gomez

tivomarianne22Ever 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 Show With David Letterman (CBS): Marianne Faithfull
It is not in our nature to be unkind toward music-biz survivors or friends of Jarvis Cocker. So we won’t dwell too much on the curious aesthetic twist that Faithfull’s rusted-out vocal cords bring to the material on her 22nd album, the recently released Easy Come Easy Go. Best we can hope for tonight is a co-vocalist (Cat Power, Nick Cave, Rufus Wainwright and Cocker all sing on the album) and a hometown connection (“Children Of Stone,” by Philly folkies Espers, is among the songs covered on Easy Come Easy Go).

Late Night With Jimmy Fallon (NBC): Gomez

MP3 At 3PM: Jason Lytle

jasonlytle1390You know Jason Lytle: the ex-Grandaddy songwriter/ frontman who keeps ELO-influenced bedroom-pop symphonies under his trucker’s hat. As detailed in our 2006 cover story and recent Q&A, Lytle decamped from Grandaddy and the West Coast for the wide-open spaces of Montana and even sweeter sonic vistas. His debut solo album, Yours Truly, The Commuter, arrives May 19 on Anti-, the haven for indie prestige artists. Download album track “Brand New Sun” below; Lytle is scheduled for a series of tour dates with labelmate Neko Case in June.

“Brand New Sun” from Yours Truly, The Commuter (download):

The Over/Under: Elliott Smith

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Corey duBrowa can clearly remember two pivot points in the career of Elliott Smith: the first solo show he attended (Sept. 17, 1994, at a long-forgotten Portland, Ore., all-ages venue called Umbra Penumbra, where Smith played a combination of acoustic Heatmiser material and some new songs that would later appear on solo debut Roman Candle) and Smith’s posthumous Portland memorial (Oct. 25, 2003; the event and everything leading up to it was first published by MAGNET as a free-form essay called “The Moon Is A Lightbulb Breaking”). Throughout his career, Smith recorded way more material than ever made it to the public’s ear, some of which comprises the “underrated” portion of this week’s The Over/Under. The rest of which, we eagerly await …

Continue reading “The Over/Under: Elliott Smith”

Ken Stringfellow’s Foreign Correspondence: Katzenjammer

kstringfellow1110fYou probably know Ken Stringfellow as the co-leader of Northwestern power-pop all-timers the Posies or as a sideman for R.E.M. or latter-day Big Star. He’s also a solo artist (we’re particularly fond of the soft-rock American beauty that is 2001’s Touched) and is currently preparing the debut by his Norwegian garage-rock band, the DiSCiPLiNES. Each day this week, magnetmagazine.com guest editor Stringfellow will be filing reports from his home on the European continent.

katzen520Stringfellow: Katzenjammer, a band like no other, are doing really well in Norway. A brightly colored, instrument-trading, swing/balkan/Texan/Norwegian music ensemble comprised of four women, great singers and players, and their trademark balalaika bass. The DiSCiPLiNES have had the pleasure of playing shows with them several times over the course of our Norwegian tours. They were too shy to speak to the first times, but gradually I got them to join us for dinner, and after a bit of Amarone, they were chatting away. Note: They are the only people I know who could solve the Don’t Break The Bottle puzzle, a sign of great intellect, dexterity and/or desperation for a drink.

“Hey Ho, On The Devil’s Back” (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/HeyHoOnTheDevil’sBack.mp3

Lost Classics: Drive Like Jehu “Yank Crime”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

drivelikejehu550:: DRIVE LIKE JEHU
Yank Crime // Interscope, 1994

In 1991, the self-titled debut from Drive Like Jehu was passed around the alt-rock cognoscenti like a talisman. The band’s principals—Rick Froberg and John Reis—hailed from San Diego semi-legends Pitchfork, and Jehu updated that band’s driving, post-Fugazi sound with a more complex approach. Drive Like Jehu struck a nerve and, for a minute or two at least, seemed like the most important band around. Until, of course, Reis’ other band (Rocket From The Crypt) erupted and prompted Interscope Records to offer ridiculous amounts of money to RFTC and Jehu for signing on the dotted line. Yank Crime was the band’s sophomore effort, major-label debut and swan song, an explosive tangle of careening tempo changes, hoarse-throat vocals, barely contained guitar histrionics and mindful aggression. Its appearance on a major label’s roster was as mind-boggling then as it is nostalgically naive now. Of course, Yank Crime, along with RFTC’s three major-label outings, proved to be money pits for Interscope.

Catching Up: Undeterred by label indifference and the demise of Jehu, Reis persevered with Rocket From The Crypt and, in 1999, re-teamed with Froberg in Hot Snakes (a.k.a. The Best Side Project Ever). Froberg moved to New York to work in visual arts; he’s now in Obits, which just released their debut on Sub Pop. Drummer Mark Trombino produces and engineers bands. Bassist Mike Kennedy played in Corrugated. In 2005, Reis disbanded RFTC in order to focus on his record label, Swami; he briefly fronted Sultans and now leads the Night Marchers.

“Luau”:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/Luau.mp3

Live Review: East Hundred, Philadelphia, PA, March 27, 2009

east-hundred-7450Three months ago, my editor introduced me to East Hundred’s first full-length, the charismatic breakup soundtrack Passenger, and since then I’ve looped it on repeat every time I’m in the office. At this point, he probably wants to lock me in the mailroom. [Actually, that’s because I want you to do the mail. —ed.] One of the better emerging Philly bands (read MAGNET’s recent profile of the group), East Hundred doesn’t quite square with a local indie-rock taxonomy that includes Dr. Dog, Man Man and the War On Drugs. The quintet branches off with its own brand of catchy, keyboard-laced alternative pop/rock. On Friday night, they played a gig with Seattle products Say Hi and Telekinesis at Philly hipster HQ Johnny Brenda’s.

Unfortunately, even the venue’s superior acoustics couldn’t save East Hundred when a guitar amp went kaput in the middle of the set. After a few minutes of confusion (the audience promptly used the unexpected intermission to grab beers and check iPhones), the group managed to punch out a few more songs before time ran out. What I saw, however, in East Hundred’s salvaged performance stirred my latent childhood dream of singing in a band; it’s similar to how I felt about Gwen Stefani in the late ’90s, before she tried to rap. Diminutive vocalist Beril Guceri exuded an outsized stage presence punctuated by her sweet, wistful vocals.

“It gets very hot up there when something like that happens,” said Guceri after the show, referring to the STD (Supreme Technical Difficulty). Considering the singer’s history of stage fright, she and her bandmates kept their cool as they ironed out the glitch.

—Maureen Coulter

“Slow Burning Crimes” (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/SlowBurningCrimes.mp3

Ken Stringfellow’s Foreign Correspondence: Le Motel

kstringfellow150dYou probably know Ken Stringfellow as the co-leader of Northwestern power-pop all-timers the Posies or as a sideman for R.E.M. or latter-day Big Star. He’s also a solo artist (we’re particularly fond of the soft-rock American beauty that is 2001’s Touched) and is currently preparing the debut by his Norwegian garage-rock band, the DiSCiPLiNES. Each day this week, magnetmagazine.com guest editor Stringfellow will be filing reports from his home on the European continent.

motel415Stringfellow: My neighbors happen to be Paris’ ultimate hipster bar. Not “hype,” the word Parisians use for exclusive (read: crap) discos. (As a compliment, oddly.) There’s no 6’2″ bouncer with a headset preventing you from entering Le Motel. There isn’t even a line out the door, proving that quality is something that only attracts quality and the masses will always be queuing for abuse at some shite turtleneck-wearing techno barn. The music is always good, usually DJs, but they have a tiny stage that manages occasionally to accommodate full bands. The bar is in the back, so you have two zones to choose from. It’s tiny, but except on those nights where it’s absolutely crammed with young, good-looking indie rockers (jeez, I feel like Karl Lagerfeld when I say something like that), you generally can find your spot, get served by very friendly, cool people—usually the owners. You can order a wooden cutting board with sliced saucisson, cheese and pickles for a snack. It’s a no-bullshit bar, and it has no seediness whatsoever, so it really doesn’t feel like being in a bar with a capital B. Go here and search through the bands; you can see an interview and live performance by the Posies, where we discuss the origin and meaning of each song we are about to play. This was filmed during daytime hours at Le Motel in 2007.

MP3 At 3PM: Pete Yorn

peteyorn500Our gut reaction to Pete Yorn‘s upcoming album, recorded by Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, Rilo Kiley) in Omaha, Neb., and featuring guests Nate Wolcott (Bright Eyes) and Orenda Fink (Azure Ray)? I’m Wide Awake, It’s Yorn-ing. At least a little bit: Yorn has dialed down the Vedder vocals and upped the wobbly horns and mandolins on the altogether prettier and janglier Back And Fourth, due June 23. You can hear some of the I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning-era Bright Eyes sound in Yorn’s achy-hearted lead single, “Don’t Wanna Cry.” Scheduled for release later this year: two more albums from Yorn, one with Scarlett Johansson and one with Frank Black/Black Francis.

“Don’t Wanna Cry” from Back And Fourth (download):

Ken Stringfellow: Foreign Correspondence

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You probably know Ken Stringfellow as the co-leader of Northwestern power-pop all-timers the Posies or as a sideman for R.E.M. or latter-day Big Star. He’s also a solo artist (we’re particularly fond of the soft-rock American beauty that is 2001’s Touched) and is currently preparing the debut by his Norwegian garage-rock band, the DiSCiPLiNES. Each day this week, magnetmagazine.com guest editor Stringfellow will be filing reports from his home on the European continent.

For six years now, I have been living in France; however, one could say my arrival was a fait accompli from both the time when I met my future wife, Dominique, there in 1993 (she worked for Geffen Records and managed to deliver my band, the Posies, a sizable hit record—how could I not love her?) and to a lesser degree from the increasingly Eurocentric nature of my planning. Once you’ve spent time in countries with subsidized music cultures, where Boone’s Farm is not considered a top winery, where people actually consider walking as a transportation option and find that your shows are packed and then discover the summer European festivals (and realize that the U.S., a country with 300 million people, has about as many large music festivals as Finland does), well, suddenly playing Cincinnati to eight people on a Wednesday no longer seems like fighting the good fight. And remember, my flight from the U.S. was undertaken just after we transformed into a land whose brand of statecraft seemed increasingly similar to the style of Genghis Khan. It was time to go.

Visiting a foreign country on tour—where you’re playing the hipster bar, given the key to the city and every bite of food is “the best ice cream/cheese/tomato/pig organ I’ve ever tasted”—is one thing. Living there opens up whole new avenues of slow, creeping, mundane frustration and confusion. And France, of course, is a nation of experts in making sure you feel excluded. France refers to itself as “The Exception.” You know that when entities start referring to themselves in the third person, they’ve lost it, but it’s true that France prides itself on its resistance to change, its cultural and linguistic uniqueness and the fact that it takes six to eight weeks to get a plumber to come look at the exploded pipe that’s pouring 20 gallons a minute on your downstairs neighbor. There are rules for the maintenance of such a culture and a bureaucracy to enforce/expand those rules, but you will never be properly informed on what these rules actually are. (This makes them easy to change on a moment’s notice; I hear that Scientology operates on the same principle.)

I’m still running aground almost daily on one social/bureaucratic reef or other, and I realize that most French people have similar experiences often enough that they comfort themselves almost constantly. Hence, the social acceptance of drinking, smoking and fucking. And eating. And taking (paid) vacations roughly every 20 days. So, as a kind of permanent visitor, I can pick and choose from the menu a bit. Fifty percent tax on wages? No thanks. A slice of (legal) foie gras? Well, why not?

So, for my MAGNET guest-editing stint, I am highlighting the pleasures in music, cinema, food, fashion, literature, design and more in the two places I spend the most time: France (my adopted home) and Norway (where I spend much of my working life, as a member of what is by majority standards a Norwegian band, the DiSCiPLiNES). I am buying carbon offsets for my Norwegian air shuttle flights between Orly and Gardermoen almost weekly, and I’ve played about 60 shows around Norway in the last 18 months or so. I hope you enjoy the short detour through my coups de coeur pour la France et pour la Norvége.

“Yours For The Taking” from the DiSCiPLiNES’ Smoking Kills (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/YoursForTheTaking.mp3

Wrens Watch, March 30, 2009

wrenswatch921111We’ve been fans of New Jersey’s finest since even before their first album came out back in 1994, so let’s just say we’re used to sitting around waiting for them to take their sweet-ass time putting out new music. (Three albums in more than 14 years makes the Wrens about as prolific as Boston, which is kind of like being as tall as Gul Mohammed.) As reported in a Wrens Watch Special Report, January 9 marked a huge milestone for the guys: guitarists Charles Bissell and Greg Whelan, bassist Kevin Whelan and drummer Jerry MacDonald. They issued “Pulled Fences,” their first new (well, sort of new) song since 2003’s The Meadowlands. Perhaps motivated by finally releasing something, the band convened—not in a real studio, but in Kevin’s basement—10 weeks ago to begin work on its new album. And not only that, the Wrens recorded an actual song (which you can download for free here). When we checked in with Bissell five weeks ago, he took exception with our good-natured sarcasm and quickly ended the interview. After ignoring us for a while, Bissell finally gave us a progress report; it seems that while other bands get together and record, the Wrens stay apart and talk to each other on the phone. Or they do nothing at all. Or they update their Facebook pagesTwo weeks ago, Bissell informed us he was “too busy” to respond to our questions about the Wrens’ recent show in New York City and their three SXSW gigs, but he did promise us some exclusive Wrens mp3s in the near future. Last week, he didn’t even bother responding to our emails, prompting us to call him an unprolific Ryan Adams. That got Bissell’s attention, who apologized (profanely), told us the band is playing a show on April 10 (its first in Brooklyn since Dubya’s first term) and promised us an exclusive Wrens mp3 next week. Do you really think he’ll come through?