They’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.
When Your Heartstrings Break // Sugar Free, 1999 Beulah never quite broke free from the shadows of the Elephant 6 collective, that loose aggregate of pop alchemists fond of Beach Boys harmonies, Beatlesque psychedelia and lo-fi orchestration. An E6 satellite band, Beulah hailed from San Francisco, and its bright melodies often got tagged as West Coast pop, although the group was no more or less sunny than most of its E6 compadres. When Your Heartstrings Break struck a perfect balance of bubbly hooks, often anchored by a parade-band trumpet and inventive textures (Beulah’s core quintet drafted 18 additional players for strings, horns, accordion and tabla), and its quirky titles (“Emma Blowgun’s Last Stand,” “If We Can Land A Man On The Moon, Surely I Can Win Your Heart”) belied frontman Miles Kurosky’s bittersweet, lovelorn lyrics. Aside from Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, When Your Heartstrings Break may be the best E6 album.
Catching Up: Beulah went on to record two decreasingly exuberant albums: 2001’s The Coast Is Never Clear and 2003’s Yoko, the latter of which foreshadowed the group’s decision to call it quits after a final tour (documented on 2005’s A Good Band Is Easy To Kill DVD). Kurosky has been working on a solo album featuring former Beulah members and more than a dozen Bay Area jazz musicians, though no release date is set.
2008 was a busy year for Boris Skalsky and his Dead Heart Bloom compatriots. Starting in the summer, the band began to issue what would ultimately form a three-part EP series. The first two chapters (Fall In and Oh Mercy) explore Dead Heart Bloom’s penchant for rough-hewn rock and bluesy vocals. The final EP, In Chains, is more introspective and trippy, a lushly soothing (if not consistent) conclusion to the band’s ambitious release cycle. Along with its latest efforts, all of Dead Heart Bloom’s material is up for free download on the group’s website
“Flash In A Bottle” (download): http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/FlashInABottle.mp3
Ever 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:
Tavis Smiley (PBS): Neko Case
Check your local listings on this one; some PBS stations are running the program tomorrow. Anyway, an interview-centric appearance on Tavis Smiley is a nice break for the Middle Cyclone-promoting Neko. A couple (admittedly softball) questions we’d like to see answered: Please explain the album’s cover art, a photo of Neko atop a sportscar wielding a broadsword. And much has been made of her barnful of pianos—why don’t we hear a symphony of battered pianos on Middle Cyclone?
Last Call With Carson Daly: M83
Despite a so-so review of M83’s Disney Hall performance with the L.A. Philharmonic over the weekend, Anthony Gonzalez’ group is getting excellent mileage out of last year’s Saturdays = Youth. M83 will perform “Kim And Jesse.”
Neko Case’s “People Got A Lotta Nerve” from Middle Cyclone: (download): http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/PeopleGotALottaNerve.mp3
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.
We’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.