Neutral Milk Hotel To Reunite For Merge Anniversary Party … We Hope

neutralmhMerge Records, the little indie that could, and did, will celebrate its 20th anniversary July 22-26 with XX Merge, five days of live music from bands spanning the label’s history. No location or venue(s) have been announced. A source close to Merge wouldn’t confirm what artists would be playing the festival, though we won’t give anything more than even-money odds against a Superchunk and/or Portastatic appearance. Looking at Merge’s roster of current and past acts, we’d love to see the following on the bill: the 3Ds, the Bats, the Broken West, the Magnetic Fields (jamming with Superchunk on “100,000 Fireflies,” perhaps), the Buzzcocks, Spoon, Robert Pollard, the Clean, Crooked Fingers, Versus, East River Pipe and, of course, Neutral Milk Hotel (pictured). We were going to be snarky and list bands we wouldn’t want to play, but really, the taste of co-founders Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance has been pretty solid. If Pipe, Erectus Monotone or Richard Buckner show up, maybe we’ll complain—just not vigorously.

Neutral Milk Hotel’s “Ghost” from 1998’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea:

15 In Philly: The Bigger Lovers’ “How I Learned To Stop Worrying”

Spend 15 years in Philadelphia and you’ll figure out that things in MAGNET’s native city aren’t always sunny or bursting with brotherly love. But underneath the tough exterior are some pretty sweet sounds. In honor of our anniversary, we pay tribute to our hometown scene.


Full disclosure: Two members of this now-defunct quartet currently write for MAGNET. Perhaps there’s some favoritism in citing the Bigger Lovers’ debut album as one of our city’s finest records of the last 15 years. Maybe we’re paying arrears for the unjust treatment of power-pop bands from every town, in every era. How I Learned To Stop Worrying appeared in 2001 like a red balloon, floated over the city by a tiny indie label (Black Dog) and lifting hopes that here, too, was a classic sighting: a basement-fi, reverb-heavy album that could pass for a thrift-store, ’60s-vinyl treasure. On Worrying, singer/guitarist Bret Tobias and Co. proved themselves scholars of Big Star and the Soft Boys, updating the usual influences with splashes of Superchunk-styled rockers and a pinch of the magic-dust melody found on Wilco’s Summerteeth. Balancing heady pop smarts with scrappy inspiration, on these 11 songs the students became the masters.

—Matthew Fritch

“Summer (Of Our First Hello)” from How I Learned To Stop Worrying:

Listening To “The Best Show”: 12/30/08 Episode


A weekly recap of The Best Show On WFMU, Tom Scharpling’s call-in/comedy/music show broadcast every Tuesday night from Jersey City. The three-hour program is available for free download at iTunes.

The beginning of the end of 2008 is commemorated with “Ding Dong,” George Harrison’s New Year’s song from 1974’s Dark Horse. Tom also plays a track from She’s A Heartbreaker, a compilation of U.K. soul from the ’60s put together by the Bevis Frond’s Nick Saloman. Not to belabor the point, but podcast listeners—who don’t hear the music portion of the broadcast—are missing out.

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Flight Of The Condo Fucks, Er, Yo La Tengo


If you are to believe the Matador blog, the Condo Fucks are a legendary New London, Conn., trio. But we know that’s not true, primarily because there’s never been a good band from Connecticut (well, OK, Miracle Legion), let alone a legendary one. We also know it’s not true because the Condo Fucks share the same three members as Hoboken, N.J.’s Yo La Tengo. On March 10, Matador is releasing Fuckbook, an 11-song album of covers of songs by the likes of the Kinks, Richard Hell, the Troggs, the Flamin’ Groovies and more. (YLT issued a mostly covers album in 1990 called Fakebook. So, Fakebook, Fuckbook—get it?) What’s most striking about Fuckbook is that it sounds like Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley and James McNew are having a blast playing these songs, which must be why they chose to release it under an alias, because everybody knows the first rule of Yo La Tengo is you do not have fun in Yo La Tengo. (We like to kid YLT.) Complete Fuckbook tracklisting after the jump. To read the interview Ira “Kid Condo” Kaplan did with the Kinks’ Ray Davies for us last year, click here. And we just got word that a new YLT album is due this fall.

“What’cha Gonna Do About It” from Fuckbook:

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15 In Philly: Spank Rock

Spend 15 years in Philadelphia and you’ll figure out that things in MAGNET’s native city aren’t always sunny or bursting with brotherly love. But underneath the tough exterior are some pretty sweet sounds. In honor of our anniversary, we pay tribute to our hometown scene.


“Rick Rubin,” the lead single from Spank Rock’s 2006 debut album YoYoYoYoYo, was only the first clue that the Philly-via-Baltimore outfit was interested in crossing boundaries. Like famed producer Rubin, Spank Rock combines raunchy, old-school rap with alternative rock. The perverse genius lies in the combination of the pulsing beats and tight rhythms courtesy of producer Armani XXXChange (a.k.a. Alex Epton) and pornographic lyrics by MC Naeem Juwan (“Hoochies want to get on the guest list/Eat a small dinner so you fit in your dresses … Big breast get treated like guest/I’m serving dick for breakfast”).

“Rick Rubin” from YoYoYoYoYo:

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Merle Haggard: No Pot For You!

merlehaggard280cThough he made fun of pot smokers on 1969 hit “Okie From Muskogee,” Merle Haggard is a big fan of the green stuff. (Then again, who isn’t?) In fact, he used to like to loosen up before shows with some serious pre-concert toking. (Then again, who doesn’t?) But now that the 71-year-old country giant is recovering from lung-cancer surgery in November, he’s facing the prospect of having to take the stage pot-free. (That means more marijuana for Willie Nelson.) But since Haggard—who made a nice little comeback several years ago with two records on the Anti- label (Nick Cave, Neko Case, Tom Waits)—is a professional, he was up to the task, playing shows in his hometown of Bakersfield, Calif., last Friday and Saturday, sans ganja. We’re really proud of him. Now, what do you think it would take for Robert Pollard to do a show without consuming beer?

“Wishin’ All These Old Things Were New” from 2000’s If I Could Only Fly:

Enlarge Your Johnsons (Album) With Bonus Antony

antony330While the new Antony And The Johnsons album isn’t out until January 20, you can get it now in digital form—plus a bonus track (“My Lord, My Love”)—if you order it from the band’s website. The Crying Light (Secretly Canadian) is Antony Hegarty and Co.’s third album and first since 2005’s Mercury Prize-winning I Am A Bird Now. Hegarty wrote all 10 of the LP’s tracks and collaborated on string arrangements with Nico Muhly (Björk, Philip Glass). Tour dates after the jump. To read the cover story we did on Hegarty back in 2005, click here.

“Another World” from The Crying Light:

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Wrens Watch Special Report, Jan. 9, 2009: New Wrens Single Out Now!

wrenswatch922We’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 Hervé Villechaize.) Each week, we check in with guitarist/vocalist Charles Bissell to find out just what exactly the quartet hasn’t been up to.

:: Wrens Watch, Jan. 9, 2009
We were duped. It’s now obvious that the man who said he was Bissell’s father in Monday’s Wrens Watch was actually Bissell himself using a fake, overtly homophobic voice. He knew that we were close to breaking the story about a new Wrens single, and he just couldn’t let that happen. Well, Tricky Bissell almost got away with it, but he wasn’t accounting for our mole at Apple, S. Paul Jobs, tipping us off at the last minute. (Job well done, Jobs.) Available now on iTunes is “Pulled Fences,” a great midtempo number sung by bassist/keyboardist Kevin Whelan. The Wrens recorded it last year at Abbey Road Studio in London for satellite radio’s Live At The WorldSpace Sessions At Abbey Road. When we contacted Bissell to let him know that we aware of “Pulled Fences” and planned to stream it on our site, he had guitarist Greg Whelan (a former judge) hit us with a temporary restraining order. When we told Bissell that we have photos of a certain incident that occurred in the bathroom at the Khyber in Philly back in 1995, he promised that he would be providing Wrens Watch with “plenty” of exclusive audio for the MAGNET site in the very near future. Bissell also said that fans might want to go to the band’s website later today, as he and webmaster William H. Gates are implementing some major changes. About freaking time.

15 In Philly: Dr. Dog

Spend 15 years in Philadelphia and you’ll figure out that things in MAGNET’s native city aren’t always sunny or bursting with brotherly love. But underneath the tough exterior are some pretty sweet sounds. In honor of our anniversary, we pay tribute to our hometown scene.


It’s tough to envision Dr. Dog recording an album in the middle of a Philadelphia winter. The sand-between-your-toes vocal harmonies, psychedelic sunshine, sudsy ’60s pop and string-popping live sets—even at the band’s darkest, it doesn’t make much sense. But when the West Philly-based five-piece took a break from touring to dive back into the studio in early 2008, the jams came anyway.

“The Breeze” from Fate:

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The Godfathers: Birth, School, Work, Reunion Tour, Then Death

godfathers370Late-‘80s British post-punkers the Godfathers, best-known for college-radio fave “Birth, School, Work, Death,” are reforming their original lineup for a February U.S. tour, the band’s first in nearly 20 years. The group previously reunited on Feb. 14, 2008, for one of its traditional St. Valentine’s Day Massacre shows; this year’s version appropriately takes place in Chicago, scene of the famous crime.

“Birth, School, Work, Death” from 1988’s Birth, School, Work, Death:

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