From The Desk Of Dean & Britta: La Blogotheque – The Take Away Shows

deanbritta120f1Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips are New York City’s most effortless mod couple, a duo whose sleek, icily romantic pop can serve as both sophisticated art-gallery soundtrack and lovey-dovey fireplace music. In the four years since the breakup of former band Luna, Wareham and Phillips have pursued boutique careers in the best possible sense: in literature, film, fashion and the music business. Fittingly, their latest project, 13 Most Beautiful … Songs For Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests, sets a series of Warhol’s short films to music. The couple will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all this week. Read our Q&A with Dean & Britta.

Britta: Vincent Moon is the man behind La Blogotheque – The Take Away Shows. We did two videos with him a couple of years ago.

Vincent shot the first video on our apartment building’s rickety old staircase. We played “The Sun is Still Sunny” (originally written as instrumental score for The Squid And The Whale):


Then we performed “Knives From Bavaria” in the subway station with our vibes player. Security told us we couldn’t videotape, so Vincent dropped his arm with the camera in it and kept shooting. The view is mostly of my calves (I read somewhere that he loved Dean’s face and my legs):


I saw Vincent chasing a very old couple around last year’s All Tomorrow’s Parties festival, which was held at Kutsher’s Country Club in upstate New York. Kutsher’s is part of the Borscht Belt in the Catskills, and it’s also where Dirty Dancing was filmed. The old couple said they had read about the festival in the paper and were there “to look at all the beautiful people.”

Lost Classics: Quickspace “Precious Falling”

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.

:: QUICKSPACE
Precious Falling // Hidden Agenda/Parasol, 1998
quickspace362Quickspace was the second cult-classic band formed by London singer/guitarist Tom Cullinan; the first, Th Faith Healers, has gotten more press lately due to a 2006 U.S. reunion tour. But that’s all relative obscurity; the members of Quickspace were mere barbarians at Stereolab’s gate, hoping to crash that band’s posh assemblage of krautrock-fueled grooves. Precious Falling did cop some circular rhythms and add layers of guitar/keyboard fuzz, but in such a way that sounded ramshackle and under-rehearsed. Where Stereolab made music for cocktail parties and designer drugs, Quickspace’s Cullinan and singer Nina Pascale were loaded for mushrooms and cheap wine.

Catching Up: Matador issued the aptly titled The Death Of Quickspace in 2000. The band has released two seven-inch singles since, the last four years ago.

“Death + Annie”:


Free MP3 From The Veils

veils360It’s probably a good thing Veils frontman Finn Andrews kicked his former love of ’80s new-wave electronic. He’s now infatuated with artists such as Roy Orbison, Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits, whom we can thank for inspiring possibly the best Veils album yet. Sun Gangs, out April 7 on Rough Trade, is as dark as it is beaming with sunlight. The U.K. outfit found its sound with the help of producer and ex-Bark Psychosis guitarist Graham Sutton (Jarvis Cocker, British Sea Power). Sun Gangs opener “Sit Down By The Fire” unleashes a powerful chorus laced with female vocals that mimic the harmonies of an Arcade Fire number (except on key). If you can’t wait to hear the rest of the album, check out the murderous rants and snarling guitars of the LP’s first single, the Nick Cave-esque “Killed By The Boom.”

“Killed By The Boom” from Sun Gangs (download here):

Q&A With Dean & Britta

deanbritta550c

Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips are New York City’s most effortless mod couple, a duo whose sleek, icily romantic pop can serve as both sophisticated art-gallery soundtrack and lovey-dovey fireplace music. In the four years since the breakup of former band Luna, Wareham and Phillips have pursued boutique careers in the best possible sense: in literature (Black Postcards, Wareham’s 2008 memoir of life in Galaxie 500 and Luna), film (already known as an actress, Phillips now voices an animated Adult Swim character, while Wareham scored The Squid And The Whale and acts as well), fashion (the pair have been subjects of photo shoots in various magazines) and the music business (their Double Feature imprint debuted last year).

Fittingly, Dean & Britta‘s latest project sets a series of Andy Warhol’s short films to music. 13 Most Beautiful … Songs For Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests is both a DVD (set for release on Plexifilm in April) and a series of live performances, with Dean & Britta performing their music while Warhol’s silent films are projected behind them. MAGNET spoke to Wareham and Phillips between back-to-back Screen Test performances in Minneapolis on Sunday night. The couple will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all this week.

“Words You Used To Say” from 2007’s Back Numbers (download here):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/WordsYouUsedToSay.mp3

Continue reading “Q&A With Dean & Britta”

Wrens Watch, March 2, 2009

wrenswatch921We’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 Clarence Swensen.) 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—six 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 three 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.

:: Wrens Watch, March 2, 2009
You mentioned last week the other guys got together without you to practice. Did you at least call them while they were doing so?
Of course. I was at home, barking orders into the speaker phone: “More kick! Make the chorus come alive, you old women!”
I was kidding when I asked about you calling them, but I guess I should have suspected as much. Actually, I have a new theory: I think you guys are actually done with the album and this whole not-recording thing is a ruse.
That’s funny. That’s one of the reasons I made a big deal about “starting” recording. Because if we just started and then announced an album was done later this spring, no one would believe we hadn’t been working on it the whole time.
Let me get this straight: You want to make sure people realize that you guys haven’t spent six years on the record, but only a couple months, even though it’s been six years since the last one came out? Don’t you think people will think, “What the hell have these slackers been doing?”
Well, it doesn’t sound so good when you put it that way.
You realize that at the rate you’re going, there’s going to be more time between The Meadowlands and the new album than there was between (1996’s) Secaucus and The Meadowlands?
Again with the negativity. Anyway, I have to go. Kevin, Greg and I have been working on a song together, and we have a conference call set up to discuss the direction we want to take the third verse.

Lost Classics: Tripping Daisy “Tripping Daisy”

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.

trippingdaisy444

:: TRIPPING DAISY
Tripping Daisy // Sugar Fix/Good, 2000

One of the reasons why Polyphonic Spree leader Tim DeLaughter seems so relentlessly upbeat and annoyingly happy? He’s not in Tripping Daisy anymore. The Dallas band endured a long, hard slog through the ’90s due to major-label indifference (three albums for Island went nowhere), a hard-to-shake reputation as Flaming Lips lite and the 1999 death of guitarist Wes Berggren from a drug overdose. Featuring Berggren’s last recordings, Tripping Daisy’s self-titled swan song was a clear bridge to DeLaughter’s future (“Kids Are Calling,” with its “follow the sun” lyrics, is virtually indistinguishable from the Polyphonic Spree) but retained the punchy vibe of a free-spirited, guitar-rocking band that could tour in a regular-sized van.

Catching Up: A handful of Daisy members joined the ranks of the Polyphonic Spree. Guitarist Ben Curtis formed the Secret Machines with brother Brandon, while guitarist Philip E. Karnats issued a solo album in 2006.

“Kids Are Calling”:

Free MP3 From Fol Chen

folchen375After months of buzz and build-up, Fol Chen released its debut on February 17. And the L.A. electro/funk collective finally proved what we had suspected all along: The band knew how to dance. Even though Part 1: John Shade, Your Fortune’s Made (Asthmatic Kitty) is only two weeks old, Fol Chen has already followed up with a Liars-warped version of album standout “Cable TV.” Combining a funky sitar track and spacey vocals that descend into full-on freakout halfway through, “Cable TV” leads us to the following conclusion: Fol Chen + Liars = pure pop magic.

“Cable TV (Liars Remix)” (download here):

Handsome Family Values: The Blue Sky Boys

handsomelogo120eFor the Handsome Family, upcoming album Honey Moon—a collection of love songs due April 14—is a startling left turn. The husband/wife duo of Brett and Rennie Sparks still deals in spectral bluegrass and noirish folk forms on its ninth album, but gone are the ghosts and murder ballads that had painted them into a gothic-Americana corner. (Trust us, the album is still plenty weird. Love is weird.) The Handsome Family is guest editing magnetmagazine.com this week. Read our Q&A with Brett and Rennie about Honey Moon and a host of other topics.

blusky1bluesky2
Brett Sparks: The Blue Sky Boys are the saddest group in the world. Bar none. Once I saw a dog get run over by a truck while the song “Tramp On The Street” was playing. I was very hungover and rushing to the Dublin airport. I still can’t shake that feeling. The Blue Sky Boys consisted of the brothers Earl and Bill Bolick. There is something so plaintive abut their harmonies; they must go straight to the heart. After enormous success in the ’30s and ’40s, RCA asked them to play with an electric guitar. They refused and stopped recording. Frustrated with the changing musical climate, the Blue Sky Boys retired completely in 1951.

“Tramp On The Street:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/TrampOnTheStreet.mp3

This concludes “Handsome Family Week” here at magnetmagazine.com. Thanks to Brett and Rennie for writing about some really cool  stuff. Go to the store and buy all their records and Honey Moon when it comes out April 14.

In The News: Wilco, Pete Yorn, The Jesus Lizard, Moby Grape And Free MP3s

jesuslizard365Randall Bewley, founding guitarist of seminal Athens, Ga., band Pylon, passed away February 25. Bewley suffered a heart attack while driving two days earlier and lapsed into a coma. Download Pylon’s “Cool” hereWilco is promising a new LP in June; don’t ask for a title because it doesn’t have one yet. Jeff Tweedy and Co. are playing a few U.S. shows in April, their only stateside gigs this spring. Download Wilco and Fleet Foxes doing Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” herePete Yorn’s Back And Fourth (Columbia) is scheduled for June 23. We’re telling you this now because the LP (his fourth, get it?) is being hailed “a classic.” (After the last two, wouldn’t it have to be?) Download Yorn’s “American Blues Vol. 1” here … Former Jayhawks Gary Louris and Mark Olson have added tour dates in support of Ready For The Flood (New West), the pair’s first new music since 1995. The concerts begin April 6 in Seattle and include stops in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Austin … Another band, another celebration of Record Store Day (April 18): Chicago’s legendary Jesus Lizard (pictured), re-forming for shows this year, will release Inch (Touch And Go), a collection of out-of-print seven-inch singles. Enclosed in foldable clear plastic (you know you geeks care about that), the set includes “Puss,” a split single with some obscure act called Nirvana. Download the Jesus Lizard’s “Swing Set” hereThe Place And Time (Sundazed), a new release from another legendary band, ’60s psych-rockers Moby Grape, is out March 24. It contains rarities ranging from audition recordings and album outtakes to alternate versions and live material … Singer/songwriter Tara Jane O’Neil’s fifth platter, A Ways Away (K), hits stores May 5. O’Neil is currently in the middle of a 10-show tour. Download O’Neil’s “Drowning” here … Cincinnati’s stellar Wussy, led by former Ass Ponys frontman Chuck Cleaver, releases its third record, cleverly titled Wussy (Shake It), on April 20. The LP was produced by John Curley of the Afghan Whigs … ’80s hair farmers Spandau Ballet are re-forming. Details are forthcoming, we’re told, and presumably someone will answer the question, “Why?” … And in our continuing quest to keep you updated on everything Jane’s Addiction, be advised that on April 21, Rhino “celebrates” the band’s “legacy” with A Cabinet Of Curiosities, a three-CD, one-DVD boxed set of rarities, demos and live tracks. The cost of your participation in this celebration? $74.98 for a limited-edition package housed in a wooden cabinet. (A digital version will also be available.) Party on.

R.E.M. covers Pylon’s “Crazy”:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/Crazy.mp3