MP3 At 3PM: Southeast Engine

see_388Fresh off a convincing performance at this year’s SXSW, Southeast Engine is ready to hit the road in support of its February release, From The Forest To The Sea. Adam Remnant’s groovy rock quartet had some help from the Wrens in getting signed to Misra Records in 2007. Three records later, the Athens, Ohio, crew continues to deliver a gypsy-friendly rock sound. From The Forest track “Black Gold” creeps with hints of dark political and religious references disguised in a feel-good, ’60s-inspired chorus shout-along.

“Black Gold” (download):

Q&A With Grand Duchy

grandduchy535b1Once you’ve been around the block with him a few times, you just call him Charles. You can still call him Frank Black or Black Francis (the latter seems to be in favor these days), but Charles Thompson has made it clear that he’s going to wear whatever nametag he likes and clock in whenever he feels comfortable. (Fortunately, he shows up for work a lot, both as a solo artist and with the Pixies, with whom he’ll play live dates this summer.) Grand Duchy is his latest venture, a duo with his wife Violet Clark that explores relatively off-road terrain for Thompson: high-gloss new wave and vampish synth pop. Debut album Petits Four (out April 14 on Cooking Vinyl) is playful and slightly Euro-affected, from the Dandy Warholesque “Lovesick Season” to the Clark-sung “Long Song,” which brings Kim Deal’s Pixies vocal turns rushing back to mind.

MAGNET reached Thompson and Clark at their home office in Eugene, Ore., where the couple seemed as relaxed and content in their kingdom as nobility will allow. Grand Duchy will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com this week; check in daily for posts by Violet and Charles.

“Black Suit”:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/BlackSuit.mp3

Continue reading “Q&A With Grand Duchy”

Wrens Watch, April 6, 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 Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.) 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—11 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 six 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 pagesThree weeks ago, Bissell informed us he was “too busy” to respond to our questions, but he did promise us some exclusive Wrens mp3s in the near future. Two weeks ago, he didn’t even bother responding to our emails, prompting us to call him an unprolific Ryan Adams. That got Bissell’s attention, who last week apologized (profanely), told us the band is playing a show on April 10 and promised us an exclusive Wrens mp3 for today. Well, guess not. But there’s always tomorrow.

Lost Classics: Home “13: Netherregions”

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.

:: HOME
13: Netherregions // Jetset, 1997

home360b Using a primitive version of ProTools—OK, a four-track and some Radio Shack cassettes—the members of Home spent the first half of the ’90s in Tampa, Fla., issuing volumes I through IX of their lunatic stoner folk. By the time of opus number 13, Home had relocated to New York and become darlings of the (mostly media-constructed) lo-fi bedroom-recording movement. Home’s bedroom, apparently, didn’t have walls: Netherregions embraces everything from disembodied boombox jams to sprawling piano nocturnes to acoustic hippie warblings from singer/keyboardist Eric Morrison.

Catching Up: Founding drummer Sean Martin rejoined the fold for 2006’s Sexteen, issued on Oneida’s Brah label. Morrison operates a studio and oversees Screw Music Forever, a label and recording collective.

“Our Blue Navy”:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/OurBlueNavy.mp3

Ken Stringfellow’s Foreign Correspondence: Norwegian Design

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.

norwegein-design390Norwegian design is alive and well. Employing the good kind of distortion, bright colors. (You’ll understand why when you go there; the eyes need relief from evergreen trees, blue sky and white snow.) These are some of my favorite graphic-design studios in Norway

1-Up: I worked with Joakim on the design for the DiSCiPLiNES album cover. I love his use of melting forms, colors, and best of all, he’s a horse thief; he slapped a photo of horse by Richard Kern right on our album cover. Had I not been been quickly vetted by Lydia Lunch, we would have been in lawsuit city. Mediocre artists borrow. Graphic designers cut, paste and make you figure out how to deal with it.

Yokoland: They are experts at incorporating childlike handwriting, found objects (scanned, photo’d and arranged to make letters) and, again, bright children’s-book colors for their work. They’re too expensive for me to use, but that’s because they are so damn fine.

Amp Design: These guys fed me some T-shirt designs that were so fucked up, they would have scared away anyone under 15 and over 50. In other words, perfect. They can get credit in the straight world, too, but let ’em loose, and they unleash all kinds of rave/Bosch nightmares. Excellent.

MP3 At 3PM: From Monument To Masses

fmtm2420Politically charged, electronic alt-rock outfit From Monument To Masses recently embarked on a national campaign with Dredg and Torche to promote its new album, On Little Known Frequencies (which came out last month on Dim Mak Records). FMTM mixes buoyant, Polyphonic Spree-esque synthesizer with pretty guitar melodies, rolling drums and a sprinkle of sampled dialogue. The San Francisco-based trio’s single, “Beyond God And Elvis,” is reminiscent of Broken Social Scene in the meandering path it takes through intense, instrumental lows and energetic, poppy highs—not unlike a candidate’s poll numbers during election season.

“Beyond God And Elvis” (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/BeyondGodAndElvis.mp3

In The News: Green Day, Jason Lytle, Ben Lee, The Hold Steady, Arctic Monkeys And Free MP3s

greenday555bRock ‘n’ roll hoops fans, rejoice: 90 seconds of Green Day’s “Know Your Enemy,” the first single from the gazillion-selling trio’s upcoming 21st Century Breakdown (Reprise, May 15), will be featured in the opening tease of the NCAA men’s basketball championship game broadcast (Monday night on CBS). At halftime, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong will play CBS analyst Clark Kellogg in H-O-R-S-E, with the winner donating his jockstrap to charity … In other Green Day news that is best categorized as interesting, a stage production of the band’s trillion-selling American Idiot debuts September 4 at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Songs from 21st Century Breakdown are included in the show, along with every Idiot tune. Warning: Choreography is involved … Recent MAGNET guest editor Tommy Keene kicks off a 10-date tour April 20 in Austin, supporting his fine LP In The Late Bright (Second Motion). Of special note is the April 25 date in St. Louis, which not only features Sally Crewe And The Sudden Moves but also a rare gig by the excellent Finn’s Motel. Download “A Secret Life Of Stories” … Speaking of a different Tommy, the Smithereens are releasing The Smithereens Play Tommy (E1 Music), a tribute to the Who’s landmark rock opera, on May 5. “This is punk rock opera meets the godfathers of pop,” says frontman Pat DiNizio. “Plain and simple.” What’s not so clear cut is whether the idea is sound … In other MAGNET guest-editor doings, Jason Lytle is digitally releasing “Yours Truly, The Commuter” April 7. The track is a single from his same-titled solo debut LP, due May 19 on Anti-. On June 3, Lytle begins a West Coast tour supporting Neko Case. Download “Brand New Sun”Ben Lee, another MAGNET guest editor, kicks off a tour April 29, co-headlining with Low Vs Diamond. While performing their own set, Low Vs Diamond will also serve as Lee’s backing band, barely visible behind Lee’s considerable cranium … Heavy drinkers the Hold Steady are on the road pimping A Positive Rage (Vagrant), a two-disc package featuring a DVD documentary and the band’s first-ever live album, out April 7. The boys play Coachella this month before heading off to Europe for shows with the Counting Crows, continuing their questionable choice of tourmates. (Dave Matthews? Counting Crows? Who’s next, the Jonas Brothers?) Download “Chips Ahoy” … Overhyped Brits Arctic Monkeys check in with Arctic Monkeys At The Apollo (Warp Films Productions), a DVD/CD available May 5. The DVD is a 76-minute film documenting the band’s final 2007 world-tour performance (at a theater in Manchester, England, not the Harlem one); the CD, available only in the U.S., is from an Austin gig … Alt-country singer/songwriter Lucinda Williams is offering fans her version of an economic bailout. Anyone who attends a Williams show this year will receive a credit on merchandise sold at gigs. The discount, $7 on clothing and $5 on CDs, is also available at her online store until July 31 … Windy City avant-pop combo Chin Up Chin Up is playing its farewell show May 15 at Chicago’s Empty Bottle. The club is tiny, so plan ahead if you want to go. Download “Virginia, Don’t Drown” … Interested in playing drums for Smashing Pumpkins? If you can stand to be in the same room as Billy Corgan, head out to L.A. April 10, where the lone remaining Pumpkin is holding auditions for someone to man the kit. Send background info, photos and web links to your kick-ass drum solos to pumpkinsdrummer@gmail.com.

Ken Stringfellow’s Foreign Correspondence: Human Heat

kstringfellow1110f1You 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.

humanheat360cStringfellow: A good representative of the gentle, dreamy kind of indie pop that Norway specializes in. Norwegians really love Americana (like Wilco’s earlier, funnier films) and Britpop. And black metal. And catchy synth pop with astoundingly high chorus hooks. Put that together, and you get many bands who like organic sounds (Wilco) and reverb (Doves-style U.K. pop) and can really play (the metal discipline) and know their way around a melody. (Try not to think of “Take On Me” for the rest of today, now that I’ve mentioned it.) I would say Human Heat are the best of the new crowd, but you have their ragged cousin Hiawata!, their uncle Kenneth Ishak (who produces many of these bands and is a great songwriter himself) and his band Beezewax (I produced one of their albums) and their upstart siblings I Was A King. All worth getting records by.

“Boy Says/Girl Says” (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/boysaysgirlsays.mp3

Lost Classics: Deltron 3030 “Deltron 3030”

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.

deltron3030
:: DELTRON 3030
Deltron 3030 // 75 Ark, 2000

Hip hop’s own version of Ziggy Stardust, Deltron 3030 was brought to life by producer Dan “The Automator” Nakamura, rapper Del The Funky Homosapien (pictured) and turntablist Kid Koala. Deltron 3030 may have had a sci-fi storyline—in which our hero saved humankind from Orwellian oppression by using his superior rhyming skills—but its execution was strictly down-to-earth. The album was leavened with a healthy dose of comic-geek humor (such as between-song skits advertising futuristic “rap battles”) and Del’s sing-song cadences. It was also Nakamura’s most consistent creation as beatmaker and puppet master. A cast of more than two-dozen characters—played by Prince Paul, Sean Lennon, Damon Albarn and others—made Deltron endlessly entertaining. High concept? These guys were absolutely stoned.

Catching Up: Albarn and Nakamura took the Deltron concept to cartoonish and commercial ends as Gorillaz, with Del rapping on the group’s 2001 hit “Clint Eastwood.” Kid Koala issued Your Mom’s Favorite DJ in 2006. Del recently issued his seventh solo album, Funk Man, as a free download as part of his “stimulus package.”

“Upgrade (A Brymar College Course)”:

Ken Stringfellow’s Foreign Correspondence: Tim Wendelboe

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.

coffeebar5545Stringfellow: Let it be said that I spent two decades living in Seattle and, essentially, saw the rise of McEspresso culture, which was paralleled in Seattle by its counterweight, the pursuit of espresso excellence. Meanwhile, in Europe, the Italian machines have been increasingly set aside for nasty pushbutton models, and here the creep toward One Company, One Coffee is personified by Nespresso, which has been keeping Nestlé afloat during the crisis. It seems that Europeans prefer to self-medicate with the little multicolored foil packets rather than, say, a shot of Cuervo with an MGD chaser. Oddly, France, the epicenter of gastronomic elitism, is home to some of the most unpleasant, burnt, soapy, slapped-down-with-no-love café on the planet. I think the French enjoy suffering and wingeing, and the acrid tang of a Gauloise (now smoked outdoors) and a horribly mangled espresso are their daily tithe to compensate for the largesse they enjoy, living in what they are sure to tell you is the greatest worst country on earth. Now, stepping back from this view, and zooming out far enough to refocus on Norway, we discover a different mindset altogether. Tim Wendelboe trained at Stockfleth’s, which is a fairly decent place to get your morning started, but then took it up several hundred notches by opening his own roastery and espresso counter in Grünerløkka, Oslo’s hipster neighborhood. Nothing but coffee and maybe one or two bakery items. No flavored syrups, no tea, no donuts. It’s just ridiculously perfect espresso, sourced from the best possible growers in Ethiopia, Guatemala, India, etc., roasted to the absolute highest standards; the boutique also serves as a school for roasters and baristas, with people coming from around the world to train with Tim. What I love about TW is that every imaginable detail of the environment—the look, the music selection (and its groovy ’60s Tandberg playback system), the utensils, etc.—has been overseen and is consistent with Tim’s commitment to his craft. Being a frequent traveler, eating in restaurants with Michelin’s highest accolades, staying in top hotels on tour—nowhere in Europe have I found better espresso than Tim Wendelboe’s, and only a few of the most fanatical places in Seattle can rival it.