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

Live Review: Dengue Fever, San Francisco, CA, May 5, 2009

dengue-fever400Dengue Fever wowed a crowd of 1,400 at San Francisco’s Castro Theatre on Tuesday night with its sublime original soundtrack for Harry O. Hoyt’s 1925 silent-film classic The Lost World. The six-piece, L.A.-based combo, which specializes in the exotic sounds of ’60s psychedelic-era Cambodian pop/rock (as heartwrenchingly chirped in her native Khmer dialect by vocalist Chhom Simol), accompanied the film as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival.

It was an offer too good to turn down, said sweat-drenched guitarist Zac Holtzman, giddy with triumph after the live performance. “He and I convinced our bandmates to go for it,” said Holtzman, pointing at Dengue bassist Senon Williams. “The rest of them were saying, ‘Oh, we’ve gotta record our next album.'”

“It took about a month, getting all the cues just right, but once we loosened up a little, it all fell into place,” added Williams of the band’s striking, one-off performance.

Viewed as a forerunner to 1933’s King Kong, The Lost World is based on a story by Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle and features amazing, early clay-animation special effects of dinosaurs encountered in the Amazon jungle. Dengue Fever re-created a ’20s Duke Ellington vibe for the opening scenes, set in London. Once the exploration party—Bessie Love as Paula, Lloyd Hughes as Malone and Wallace Beery as Prof. Challenger—reached the Amazon, the band’s trademark exotica was a perfect fit. Like all successful soundtrack music, Dengue Fever—which also features keyboardist Ethan Holtzman, saxophonist David Ralicke and drummer Paul Smith—always complemented the film, never calling attention to itself. At times, you even forgot it was there.

—Jud Cost

“Sober Driver” from 2008’s Venus On Earth (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/SoberDriver.mp3

TiVo Party Tonight: The National, Van Morrison, Ben Harper

tivonational2Ever 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 Jimmy Fallon (NBC): The National
A worthwhile pursuit is the National’s pairing with St. Vincent on the recent Merge Records covers album Score!. The National’s Matt Berninger and St. Vincent’s Annie Clark co-vocalize on Crooked Fingers’ “Sleep All Summer.” Oh, what the hell—stream it below.

Late Show With David Letterman (CBS): Ben Harper And Relentless7
The Tonight Show With Jay Leno (NBC): Van Morrison

The National And St. Vincent’s “Sleep All Summer”:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/SleepAllSummer.mp3

From The Desk Of David Lowery: The Glands’ Ross Shapiro

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.

glands-2390Lowery: Ross Shapiro of the Glands is one of my favorite songwriters of the last two decades, but he is also my local CD-shop manager. This makes my relationship with him somewhat complex. I try not to be the adoring fan, because he really genuinely does not care. And for his part, he never misses the opportunity to play one of the record-store clerks from High Fidelity.

Example one: The last time I was in Schoolkids Records, I noticed they were playing some pop-rock record from my youth. A record for which I still have a lot of fondness. I asked, “Are you guys listening to the Eagles?” “Yes,” Ross answered. “On purpose?” I asked. “Not ironically?” “Don’t be an ass,” he said. Ross told me not to be an ass! Do you know how hilarious that is to anyone from Athens, Ga., who regulary shops at Schoolkids Records? See, I know what I said sounded kind of bitchy, but I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t being set up, because I was gonna confess my fondness for this particular record.

Example two: My girlfriend is the talent buyer for the 40 Watt Club. One day, we stopped by Schoolkids to check on ticket sales for a show that wasn’t doing well. After doing so with Ross, she became concerned she was gonna lose a lot of money. “I may be looking for a job soon,” she said. “Are you hiring, Ross?” “That depends,” he said. “What are your skills?” “I am a people person,” she replied. “We don’t hire people persons,” he said. Of course, this is why we all like Ross, and this is why we continue to shop at Schoolkids Records. He’s written so many great songs. It’s a shame that he has never enjoyed the success that many of his like-minded brethren (i.e., the Shins) have enjoyed.

The Glands, “Swim”:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/Swim.mp3

MP3 At 3PM: John Vanderslice

johnvanderslice2395OK, so Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown edged out the competition in our poll for this month’s most anticipated album, but John Vanderslice‘s Romanian Names finished respectably in the middle of the pack. And there was that one guy in the comments section who didn’t write, “GREEN DAAAYYY!!!” He stood up for Vanderslice. We know that guy—we usually are that guy. So this second mp3 from Romanian Names is for him. “Too Much Time” might be Vanderslice’s best vocal performance, a toe in the icy-cool waters of New Romantic balladeering. (Cass McCombs has been a pool member for years.) Pre-order Romanian Names from Dead Oceans and you get an immediate download; U.S. tour begins this month.

“Too Much Time” (download):

Q&A With The Green Pajamas

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I’ve known Jeff Kelly (the creative dynamo who’s stoked the fires of the Green Pajamas for the past quarter-century), his vivacious wife Susanne and their daughters Jane and Tess for about 12 years now. It was one of those relationships that just instantly clicked the first time Kelly and I spoke on the phone, then finally met in person at the Terrastock II festival in San Francisco in 1998. We got on so well, I flew with the Green Pajamas (whose new album, Poison In The Russian Room, has just been released by Hidden Agenda) from their Seattle home to London for the third Terrastock in 1999. I have two favorite Jeff Kelly moments, both from that voyage to England. The first was our side-trip to north London’s Highgate Cemetery to visit the grave of Elizabeth Siddal, a pre-Raphaelite heroine of Kelly’s. The second occurred at Victoria Station soon after our arrival. As I hurried off to buy a two-week voucher for the London Underground, I waved at Jeff across the mezzanine to come on down and buy a tube pass. As Susanne industriously fed pound coins into a ticket machine for the train stop nearest our hotel, Jeff looked at me benignly, his arms extended with palms turned upward, and shrugged his shoulders in Homeric resignation.

When MAGNET phoned Kelly at his U-district Seattle home in the early afternoon, he had just returned from a staff meeting at the group health office where he’s employed part-time.

“Any Way The Wind Blows” (download):

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