From The Desk Of David Lowery: Joshua Tree And Pioneertown, Calif.

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: It’s been 40 years in the making: the Hollywoodization of the high desert surrounding Joshua Tree. Sure, the Rolling Stones spent some time out here in their heyday. And, of course, members of Gram Parsons’ crew purportedly took his body out here and attempted a funeral pyre. Joshua Tree and the nearby Pioneertown have finally made a niche for themselves as Southern California’s Woodstock. Two and a half hours from Los Angeles and still dirt cheap. You can still find an old jackrabbit homestead shack without plumbing for $25,000. That’s if you don’t mind being in one of the rougher fringe areas like Wonder Valley or Landers. Certain Angelenos have always known about the area’s natural beauty and curious locals. For years, painters, photographers and sculptors have quietly kept simple studios out here. But the area seems to have recently crossed some threshold. Perhaps it began when Robin Celia and Linda Krantz took over Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace. They quickly made the biker bar/honky tonk a home away from home for many of Southern California’s finer musical misfits. Much of my family still lives in this area. I went to high school just down the road. My uncle used to be the marshal of this part of the desert, and I still have a house out here. So why am I rooting for this hipster gentrification? Well, if you ever lived out here, you would understand. Anything that helps thin out the speed freaks, bikers, homeschooling Christian survivalists and grumpy retirees is fine by me. Who cares if occasionally I have to listen to a Silver Lake hipster go on about his screenplay? When you are sitting on the patio at the Pioneertown Palace and it’s a moonless night, it really does feel like you are in a bowl of stars.

TiVo Party Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, Jenny Lewis, Yusuf Islam, Lily Allen

tivofranzbEver 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): Franz Ferdinand
We’ve been admiring Franz Ferdinand’s current U.S. tour from a distance; mainly via drummer Paul Thomson’s excellent tour diary, which consists mainly of hamburger reviews. What a joy to see America’s finest burger stands through a Scotsman’s eyes: the vintage ’50s road signs, the pickles, the discovery. It’s like childhood all over again. Speaking of rediscovery, a dub version of Tonight: Franz Ferdinand (titled Blood) is arriving June 1.

Late Late Show (CBS): Jenny Lewis
Late Night With Jimmy Fallon (NBC): Yusuf Islam
Last Call With Carson Daly (ABC): Lily Allen

Franz Ferdinand’s “No You Girls (The Rogue Element Remix)” (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/NoYouGirlsTheRogueElementRemix.mp3

From The Desk Of David Lowery: Matt And Kim

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: It appears that Matt And Kim are also considered a Williamsburg, Brooklyn, ensemble. They fooled me because they don’t dress like homeless people, don’t have elaborate facial hair and just seem like genuinely nice and happy people. So happy, in fact, that when I first saw Matt And Kim at an Athens, Ga., house party, I immediately started scanning the crowd to see who was supplying the X. Kim plays drums like a drum machine—like she heard a song with drum machine, thought it was a real drummer, then taught herself to play that way. She didn’t know it wasn’t humanly possible. Did I mention how happy they are? Song: “Daylight.” I love this track.

“Daylight” (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/Daylight.mp3

MP3 At 3PM: Wand

wand390A man with more (or maybe just as many) nametags as Will Oldham, James Jackson Toth (a.k.a. Wooden Wand) is donning the simplified Wand moniker for Hard Knox, his collection of home recordings and demos due May 26 on the Ecstatic Peace! label. Lead track “Arriving” has a Leonard Cohen/’60s Britfolk/angry liberal-arts-dorm-room vibe. Speaking of arrivals, however, there is news that Toth has teamed up with Timothy Bracy (former frontman of the Mendoza Line) in a new outfit called the Jescos. A debut album is currently being mixed. If you haven’t already read our feature on the end of the Mendoza Line, live the drama here.

“Arriving” (download):

The Over/Under: The Clash

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Did the ‘70s punk movement produce a more important legacy than “The Only Band That Matters”? The Sex Pistols may have been the first, but the Clash was most certainly the best, blending amphetamine pacing with more esoteric musical forms (reggae, rockabilly, dub, ska) while taking on the establishment and its herd of sacred cows with a fierceness that would influence an entire generation of followers. That said, since Joe Strummer caught the elevator for that great gig in the sky back in 2002, his band has been granted the sort of revisionist sainthood the Clash would have no doubt despised in its younger, angrier days. In keeping with the band’s piss-and-vinegar spirit, we offer their most overrated and underrated screeds.

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From The Desk Of David Lowery: “Let The Right One In”

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.

rightone545dLowery: This quirky little Swedish vampire movie is the antithesis of the overblown, overdone, overproduced Twilight. Let The Right One In is a coming-of-age story disguised as a vampire movie, but it’s still a vampire movie. It’s got a subtle and mischievous sense of humor; check the scene where the young vampire is not invited into her boyfriend’s apartment. Director Tomas Alfredson could teach Hollywood a thing or two about developing and releasing tension through the use of simple audio and visual cues. Without the aid of expensive special effects, sound effects or an oppressive score, the climatic underwater scene ranks as one of the best suspense/horror scenes ever. This same scene also manages a touch of warmth and humor. Huh?! Yeah, that’s what I would have said. But without giving away the ending, I can’t explain it any better than that.

From The Desk Of David Lowery: Grizzly Bear

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: Like deep-sea volcanic vents, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is an exotic and highly specific ecosystem. The specialized evolution around the volcano vents on the ocean floor produce some pretty exotic creatures: fragile creatures that look both nightmarish and fanciful when pulled to the surface. Williamsburg produces highly specialized exotic bands: bands that evolutionarily don’t make any sense, bands that could not exist anywhere else on the planet save a few hyper pretentious places like Portland, Ore., or Pitchforkistan. In larger, more robust ecosystems, there tends to be an evolution away from things like autoharps, badly played theremins and clarinets, as those tend to get tangled in the undergrowth when one is fleeing into the woods from large predators or viking raiders. Grizzly Bear, on first glance, could be one of those bands. A studied teutonic atonality from the guitars and drums. Overtop this: high, soft-rock vocals. Less Beach Boys, more Bread. It’s as if half the band is dreaming of Blixa Bargeld at Die Loft Club, Berlin 1983, while the other half the band, oblivious, is running around mustachioed and shirtless in some North Marin County meadow. But Grizzly Bear harmonizes marvelously. The songs meander along pleasantly, never quite obvious where they are going (no small feat). I came across the track “Knife” on my iPod. It’s from two or three years ago. It still sounds good. They have a new album (Veckatimest) coming out this month, but I’m not a real journalist, so I don’t get sent advance copies. Perhaps MAGNET’s real editor would be so kind as to post a link to one of the new tracks below.

“Cheerleader” from Veckatimest (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/Cheerleader.mp3

MP3 At 3PM: Nite Jewel

nitejewel400Listening to Nite Jewel, the Los Angeles duo of Romona Gonzalez and Emily Jane, is like taking a narcotics-fueled back-to-the-future journey into the heart of electronica. Want proof? Download “Weak For Me,” from of Nite Jewel’s latest album, Good Evening (released in March on Human Ear). The track offers a deconstructed throwback to ’80s dance pop with a thick coating of Gonzalez’s at-times incomprehensible and trace-like vocals. Be sure to catch Nite Jewel this summer as it tours the U.S. with Telepathe and Abe Vigoda.

“Weak For Me” (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/WeakForMe.mp3

Q&A With David Lowery

crackerb550David Lowery has, for the past decade or so, 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. MAGNET chatted with Lowery about the new album, his advice for any wannabe musicians and his take on the state of the music industry. Lowery will add another line to his resume this week as he guest edits magnetmagazine.com.

“Tune In Turn On Drop Out”:

Continue reading “Q&A With David Lowery”

Wrens Watch, May 4, 2009

wrenswatch921111111We’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 Michael Dunn.) 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—15 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 12 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 pagesSeven 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. Six 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 five weeks ago apologized (profanely) and promised us an exclusive Wrens mp3 for the April 6 Wrens Watch. After not delivering, he said he’d come through the next week, but he didn’t. When Bissell ignored us again two weeks ago and last week, we speculated the Wrens were actually recording or preparing for upcoming shows in George, Wash. (May 24) and Chicago (July 24 and 25). Or maybe Bissell was just being a jerk. But then he finally emailed us, saying he’d have a new Wrens mp3 for us, possibly as soon as next week. We’ve heard that before.