Q&A With Cursive

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Cursive frontman Tim Kasher continues his graphic storytelling on sixth album Mama, I’m Swollen, releasing this week on Saddle Creek. It’s the Omaha-based group’s follow-up to 2006’s Happy Hollow, an album that challenged Christianity and talked smack about The Wizard Of Oz‘s Dorothy for chasing unattainable dreams. Instead of singling out Dorothy (as if she hasn’t been through enough), Mama calls out the entire human race in the catchy, snare-driven shakedown “From The Hips.” Kasher keeps it blunt and lyrically entertaining on Cursive’s moodiest album yet, with song themes ranging from masturbation (“Mama I’m Satan”) to tales starring Pinocchio (“Donkeys”). Kasher spoke to MAGNET from Omaha and will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com this week.

“From The Hips” (download):

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Wrens Watch, March 9, 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 Tinnie Tyler.) 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—seven 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 four 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.

:: Wrens Watch, March 9, 2009
So you guys are playing the Bowery Ballroom on Friday. It’s your first NYC show in ages. It’s sold out. I’m guessing you guys haven’t been recording, since you’re so busy practicing for the show. Yes?
Yes, we haven’t been recording at all.
Because you have been practicing so much for the show.
We are getting together to practice before the show.
You haven’t yet? The show is on Friday.
That’s OK. We’ll just do a last-minute cram session to get prepared for it, maybe fake-up some new songs.
Jesus Christ. What the hell have you been doing?
Well, I’m on Facebook now. I have more than 100 friends, and I’ve been sending Super Cocktails and writing on peoples’ walls and commenting on photos. I’m even a fan of MAGNET. And coffee. Facebook is really a lot of work. And time consuming.
So you have been dicking around on Facebook instead of recording?
Uh, yeah. Isn’t that what people do when they should be working? Instead of doing it in some office somewhere, I do it at home. Or in Kevin’s basement.
You are incredible. I don’t know what to say.
That’s OK. I need to go anyway. I changed my kid’s diaper and want to tell all my Facebook friends about it.

Lost Classics: The Webb Brothers “Maroon Mews”

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.

:: THE WEBB BROTHERS
Maroon Mews // 5/Atlantic, 2000

web-brothers370Anyone familiar with the slightly eerie, almost symphonic late-’60s pop smashes written by Jimmy Webb (“Wichita Lineman,” “MacArthur Park”) would’ve expected nothing less than stardom for his talented sons, Christiaan and Justin, 30 years later. For a while, the Chicago-based brother act looked like it might pull it off. Combining production bits lifted from Abbey Road-era Beatles and the smart vocal flourishes of early Todd Rundgren with a dusting of mid-period Pink Floyd, the duo also kept an ear cocked to indie-rock landmarks such as Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea and Liz Phair’s Exile In Guyville. The Webb Brothers released Beyond The Biosphere, a right-cross to the heart, in 1998, then went for a knockout left-hook to the chin with the Stephen Street-produced Maroon. If they could’ve sold more records, there might have been another championship belt in the family trophy case.

Catching Up: The Webb Brothers are currently in Los Angeles, where for the past several years they’ve been working on The God Helmet, an animated concept album.

“Summer People”:

Free MP3 From Throw Me The Statue

tmts360bThrow Me The Statue’s 2008 debut, Moonbeams (Secretly Canadian), is the ultimate vacation album. Full of dreamy, woozy pop songs about Yucatán sand and romance in foreign countries, it plays like the soundtrack to a summer. Throw Me The Statue’s latest EP, Purpleface, is a bird of the same feather. With three new songs (“Ship,” “Honey Bee” and “That’s How You Win”) along with a reworking of a Moonbeams favorite (“Written In Heart Signs, Faintly”), Purpleface serves as a reminder that no one does fuzzy, lo-fi and lovelorn quite like Throw Me The Statue leader Scott Reitherman. Check out the Pedro The Lion-esque “Ship” below.

“Ship” from Purpleface (download):

From The Desk Of Dean & Britta: Ben Javens

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.

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Dean: Ben Javens is a U.K. artist who did the cover on the Cheval Sombre album. I have bought some of his very reasonably priced prints.

This concludes “Dean & Britta Week” here at magnetmagazine.com. Thanks to both of them for writing about some really cool stuff. Go to the store and buy all their records.

In The News: Bruce Springsteen, Crooked Fingers, Richard Thompson, The Dude And Free MP3s

jeffbridges380Proving they don’t call him the Boss for nothing, Bruce Springsteen is the subject of Hangin’ Out On E Street, a section of his website featuring musicians discussing his influence on their work and performing covers of his songs. Artists paying homage include Ted Leo, Against Me!, the Avett Brothers, Juliana Hatfield and Pete Yorn. Download Juliana Hatfield’s “I Don’t Belong Anywhere” … Eric Bachmann’s Crooked Fingers has released Your Control, a digital-only EP available on iTunes and the band’s website. The four-track effort includes the Neko Case duet “Your Control” from 2008’s Forfeit/Fortune and guest appearances from Lambchop and Spoon’s Britt Daniel. Download “Phony Revolutions” … If anyone’s worthy of a boxed set, it’s legendary British singer/songwriter Richard Thompson. It’s fitting, then, that Shout! Factory is releasing Walking On A Wire: Richard Thompson (1968-2009), a Herculean effort containing 71 songs and a 60-page booklet … In other singer/songwriter doings, Joshua Tree, Calif.’s (by way of Columbus, Ohio) Tim Easton will see his fifth album, Porcupine (New West), out on April 28. Expect the usual outstanding roots-twang-blues-rock thing from this overlooked dude. Download “The Weight Of Changing Everything” … Doves are embarking on their first North American tour in 18 months, in support of Kingdom Of Rust (Astralwerks/Heavenly), on shelves April 7. The 18-date jaunt kicks off May 14 in San Diego, which, of course, is German for “whale’s vagina” … Using that classic comedy quote as a springboard, we segue into news that Lebowski Fests—geek-filled conventions in honor of the Coen brothers’ classic The Big Lebowski—will be held in 16 cities this year. The big Lebowksi of the Lebowski Fests, the L.A. version, takes place May 7-8 with a viewing of the film at the Wiltern Theatre and a next-day bowling party … Brooklyn’s Grizzly Bear will release its sophomore LP, Veckatimest (Warp), on May 26. It’s the follow-up to 2006’s Yellow House. Download “He Hit Me”The Warlocks’ new platter, The Mirror Explodes (Tee Pee), crashes through on May 19. From the Is This Important? department, it was produced and recorded by Rod Cervera (Weezer, Rentals) … Music From The Motion Picture Watchmen (Warner Sunset/Reprise) is currently in stores. The soundtrack features songs by Nat King Cole, Leonard Cohen and Jimi Hendrix, plus My Chemical Romance doing Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row,” which doesn’t inspire any further comment … Finally, actress Juliette Lewis is releasing Terra Incognita (no label or firm release date yet), her third record, this spring, produced by the Mars Volta’s Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. Her band moniker this time out, replacing the Licks, is the New Romantiques. Would it be too facile to suggest the album will likely suque?

Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Lookin’ Out My Back Door”:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/LookinOutMyBackDoor.mp3

From The Desk Of Dean & Britta: Cheval Sombre

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.

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Dean: Delicate, druggy, slowcore folk. Everyone who has heard this band’s self-titled debut LP loves it. We are releasing it April 28 on our Double Feature label. Cheval Sombre hails from upstate New York, and the album is produced by Sonic Boom. I play some electric guitar; Britta plays on it, too.

“Little Bit Of Heaven” (download here):

Lost Classics: Bowery Electric “Beat”

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.

bowery545c:: BOWERY ELECTRIC
Beat // Kranky, 1996

Though U.K. critic Simon Reynolds pointed to New York City duo Bowery Electric as a prime example of American post-rock back in ’95, the long view is somewhat skewed. Bowery principals Martha Schwendener and Lawrence Chandler never noodled around with the jazz or dub accents that later defined post-rock paragons such as Tortoise and the Sea And Cake. Bowery Electric wrote long, lingering compositions with murky bass, keyboards and vocals; the beats resembled a metronome heard through a thick fog. The haunting ambience of Beat fit somewhat with the then-popular Massive Attack and Portishead, but the album’s subsonic drone made it more of a minimal mood piece than a collection of songs. Still, when the beat is isolated to its murmuring bass vibrations on “Without Stopping,” it’s as astonishing a trick as anything DJ Shadow ever pulled.

Catching Up: Chandler is a composer/visual artist; Schwendener is an art critic.

“Beat”:

Free MP3 From Greater California

greatercalif373Greater California‘s first album, 2002’s The Little Pacific, won the Long Beach quintet comparisons to Brian Wilson, the Zombies, Harry Nilsson and the Byrds. 2005’s The Somber Wurlitzer didn’t garner quite as much praise in spite of its clever concept (the entire album was recorded between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m.). In April, Greater California will release its third album, All The Colors (Subtitled Audio), which could be its golden ticket; the record is full of lush psychedelic pop and songs like “Disappearing,” which has a spooky, boardwalk-after-dark feel to it.

“Disappearing” from All The Colors (download):

From The Desk Of Dean & Britta: “Yoga For People Who Can’t Be Bothered To Do It”

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.

geoffdyer3202Dean: Geoff Dyer‘s book Yoga For People Who Can’t Be Bothered To Do It is not about yoga. It is a collection of personal essays, almost travel writing: funny dispatches from Amsterdam, Tripoli, Cambodia, New Orleans, Detroit and other places. Listen to an interview with Dyer here.