MP3 At 3PM: Royal City

royal-city344bRoyal City’s 2001 sophomore album Alone At The Microphone has been deemed a Lost Classic (by us; read all about it), and for good reason. This overlooked Canadian four-piece managed to release three solid albums of wistful, Biblical indie folk in just a few short years. Though the band might have broken up in 2004, the Asthmatic Kitty label is putting out an eponymous, career-spanning b-sides/ rarities retrospective this summer. “Fill Your Belly Up With Wine” is just a taste of Royal City’s melancholy charms, and it will make you miss a band you’ve only just discovered.

“A Belly Was Made For Wine” (download):

Normal History Vol. 2: The Art Of David Lester

david-lesterill2Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 25-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Smith: In the ’90s, at the height of grunge, we got a call that Sonic Youth wanted us to open for them in Seattle. The theater, the Paramount, was big—balconies and all that. When it came time in our set to do “I Walk Alone,” I left the microphone and ran to the side of the stage. I edged past the main speakers, singing, and down the steps. I ran up the aisle to sing directly into people’s rather shocked faces. I dashed back toward the stage, but there was a bouncer standing at the top of the steps and I guess he hadn’t seen me leave the stage. I must have appeared to be a rabid fan trying to accost Dave, who was playing the simple riff over and over wondering if I’d ever return. The guitar was blasting out of the mains right beside the bouncer, so I couldn’t get him to hear what I was saying. Eventually I pushed past him and returned to the mic totally exhausted with Dave looking at me like I’d lost my mind for being gone for so long.

Ken Stringfellow’s Foreign Correspondence: Tristan Egolf

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.

tristonv340Stringfellow: Here we encounter an exception to the list (Tristan Egolf being an American author), but he did live, write and was discovered and first published here in Paris. I was in a bookstore in Berlin a couple of years ago, looking through the small quantity of English-language books. One title stood out. In fact, made me laugh just to see it: Kornwolf. I bought it on the spot and found inside a wit comparable to other favorites of mine, George Saunders and Thomas Pynchon. I soon picked up Egolf’s first novel, Lord Of The Barnyard, which depicts an alternate universe that places a thinly disguised Long Winters singer John Roderick (OK, not really, but the comparisons were striking) in the midst of “Pennsyltucky” and imagines the ensuing chaos. Egolf was, like me, a musician (he had a band called Kitschchao, which released one seven-inch) and a Paris resident, and he has a daughter about the same age as mine. I would have truly loved to have known him, as it seems we had much in common. But Egolf killed himself in 2005, just after the completion of Kornwolf. I have yet to run in to anyone who knew him, and there isn’t a ton of info on him on the web, so, if anyone reading this did know him and could reminisce a bit, please contact me: ken@kenstringfellow.com. I can’t recommend the two books above highly enough. I have his second book, Skirt And Fiddle, on order at The Red Wheelbarrow bookstore in Paris.

Lost Classics: Ganger “Hammock Style”

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.

ganger555:: GANGER
Hammock Style // Merge, 1998

Instrumental rock fiends who thought Tortoise’s patented double-bass thump was played out by the late ‘90s found salvation in Glasgow quartet Ganger. Hammock Style turbocharged the increasingly imitated Chicago sound with expansive, major-key melodies and stream-of-consciousness narratives from bassist Natasha Noramly. “I feel lost in a city of sound,” she whispered on “Capo (South Of Caspian),” a nine-minute tour de force that subtly tweaked a simple riff made from mandolin and Sonic Youth-style electric-guitar eruptions until it tumbled toward a blissful climax. This style of music has aged poorly (where art thou, Paul Newman, Pele and Billie Mahonie?), but the jams on Hammock Style still have the power to mesmerize.

Catching Up: Ganger split following 1999’s Canopy EP. Guitarist Craig B played in Aereogramme, while Noramly formed Fuck-Off Machete.

“Cats Dogs And Babies Jaws”:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/CatsDogsAndBabiesJaws.mp3

TiVo Party Tonight: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Cold War Kids

tivopainEver 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:

Last Call With Carson Daly (NBC): The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
We know our near-weekly harping on Brooklyn’s Pains is at or near the overkill level, but the band makes its TV debut tonight. Unless you’ve already caught them live (like, say, in Austin, where they played 10 SXSW shows and most likely did a few impromptu performances in Whataburger restrooms), this is your first chance to see how the re-tweeing of America sounds live.

Late Night With Jimmy Fallon (NBC): Cold War Kids

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart’s “Young Adult Friction” (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/YoungAdultFriction.mp3

Ken Stringfellow’s Foreign Correspondence: Kulte

kstringfellow1110eYou 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.

kluteb370Stringfellow: This clothing brand kicked up from Marseille at some point in the late ’90s. Inspired by cool thrift items, Kulte decided to make its own: satin jackets, worker-guy shirts, MJ-style leathers and so on. Each year, they screenprint/embroider a different set of strong graphic motifs—yakuza, circus, biker, porn—on their goods. A lot of French fashion is either too preppy or just wearable for your MGMT video cameo appearance; Kulte’s well-chosen, colorful take on the classics includes just enough neon to work in a Nu-Rave setting, but it can look vintage enough to retain your cred. It’s hellaciously cheap for Paris, too; during the sales, you can get well-made items for $20. I mean, it’s hard to find a shoe horn in Paris for under $20.

MP3 At 3PM: Clues

clues425The self-titled debut album from Clues (out May 19th on Constellation Records) drops not-so-subtle hints about its origins: the clanging guitars, bizarre hooks, Nintendo-style jingling and distinctly shrill vocals of Alden Penner hearken back to the singer’s days with the Unicorns. But the media-shy Clues (which also counts Arcade Fire’s Brendan Reed as a member) has distinguished itself on its own idiosyncratic frequency, building a following in the Montreal underground scene. The experimental indie-pop group’s instrumental dexterity is on display on lead single “Remember Severed Head,” lacing multiple drums with careening bass and lyrics that seem to be lifted from a Lord Of The Rings itinerary. It’s certainly worth investigating.

“Remember Severed Head” (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/RememberSeveredHead.mp3

“Perfect Fit” (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/PerfectFit.mp3

It’s A Cappella April: Ben Folds, Sonos Get All Vocal

benfolds540The tiniest of trends emerges this month, as two a cappella records are slated for release in April. Ben Folds Presents: University A Cappella! (due April 28 on Epic) is a 16-track album of college a cappella groups performing Ben Folds songs. So you get the Leading Tones (from Ohio University) doing “Brick,” Mosaic Whispers (Washington University in St. Louis) doing “Still Fighting It” and the like. Folds produced the album over the course of two months, traveling the country to record the vocal groups. A documentary film of the project could be in the works.

Ben Folds’ “Not The Same” performed by the Spartones from Greensboro, N.C. (download):

Full-time a cappella group Sonos will issue Live@KCRW via iTunes on April 7. The L.A. outfit has covered Fleet Foxes, Bjork, Rufus Wainwright and Radiohead (follow the link above to their MySpace if you want to hear their version of “Everything In Its Right Place”) and has a full-length release planned for May.

And just because, here’s a German version of the scene from The Break-Up in which brother Richard explains to his family about his a cappella group, the Tone Rangers:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Efr0justpSI

Ken Stringfellow’s Foreign Correspondence: The Yolks

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.

yoketrip2550Stringfellow: Another Parisian band that defies the usual logic(?) of the French music scene. The Yolks are humble, talented and, apparently, from a middle-class suburb; thus, completely uncool if you go by the local rules. Yet they are building up a huge following of well-dressed teens and barely twentysomethings. Funky, fresh (but not from Hollis, Queens, albeit a similar place) and super fun in concert. I went to see them at a party for Keith magazine, in a basement club that had recently opened, and despite the fact their music is quite slinky and feminine (I hear a striking blend of Speaking In Tongues-era Talking Heads and “Cruel Summer”-era Bananarama), kids actually formed a mosh pit. Remember, this was an audience of rich kids (the only ones who can afford to go out in the city) dressed to the nines. It was glorious. Most French audiences don’t let themselves go (even Slayer’s crowd at their recent Paris show was more or less standing with arms crossed), so this illustrates the infectious nature of the Yolks’ funked-up brand of indie rock. They have yet to release anything but are working on some recordings now.

Lost Classics: Chisel “Set You Free”

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.

chise555:: CHISEL
Set You Free // Gern Blandsten, 1997

“Get ready for the invasion, self-satisfied smug-rock nation,” proclaimed Chisel frontman Ted Leo at the beginning of this sprawling power-pop masterpiece. That was as nice as it got in terms of Set You Free’s lyrical content, although Leo’s spot-on, acidic commentary was frequently overshadowed by Chisel’s arsenal of mod-pop hooks. Set You Free was the D.C. band’s sophomore effort and also its swan song, resulting in a criminal lack of recognition at the time of its release. The Jam may have pioneered the mod-revival movement in 1977, but 20 years later, Chisel perfected it.

Catching Up: After a short stint in the Sin Eaters with brother Danny, Leo launched his solo career in 1998.

“Do Go On”:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/DoGoOn.mp3