HESO Magazine

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Category: Music (Page 3 of 12)

Speedy Ortiz - Foil Deer

Speedy Ortiz – Foil Deer

The Beard – EP 121 – Speedy Ortiz by Beard Radio on Mixcloud

Speedy Ortiz – Foil Deer

Speedy Ortiz - Foil Deer

Speedy Ortiz – Foil Deer

When checking out Speedy Ortiz’s site, Google asks if you want it translated from Spanish. Racist or ironic? Neither. Judging a book by its cover (or in this case a band by their name) is dangerous, because frontwoman Sadie Dupuis seems to have a knife. Regardless Speedy Ortiz is getting closer. Closer to what? The elusive goal of more than just sounding like a band foraging on the edge of multiple genres of music–almost being too heavy, almost being out of tune, almost being too flippant toward creating worlds of sound bigger than all of us, themselves included, to listen in awe to.

The site also says that they are a band who “plays music and eats stuff.” The sense of straightforward anti-posturing comes through cleanly on “Raising the Skate,” where Dupuis sings, “I’m not bossy, I’m the boss.” Straightforward does not mean simple and Dupuis’ lyrics feel like a mixture of writing meant to mean something mixed with words meant to evoke feeling through their sound. She has a writer’s knack for turns of phrase that pair words together which sound good and have a larger meaning, often on multiple levels. Literary allusions to the complexities of Thomas Pynchon and Roberto Bolaño novels are not out of place when talking about 2013’s notable Major Arcana, the release that got them on the musical map which fans and critics alike seem to like for more than just the guitar riffs.

The group, made up of Dupuis–the band’s songwriter, guitarist, and frontwoman–Mike Falcone on drums, Darl Ferm on bass, and new addition Devin McKnight of Grass is Green on guitar, has spent the last year on tour in support of The Breeders, Ex Hex, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, and Thurston Moore. Touring can be gruesome and tiring and Dupuis imposed exile and physical cleansing of sorts, in order to write songs for Foil Deer. “I gave up wasting mental energy on people who didn’t have my back,” she says. “Listening to our old records, I get the sense I was putting myself in horrible situations just to write sad songs. This music isn’t coming from a dark place, and without slipping into self-empowerment jargon, it feels stronger.”

Stronger indeed. They seem to revel in straddling the lines and the music shows that, bending and blending musical styles and genres multiple times each song, going from a growl to a purr on “The Graduates” and back to the melodic rollercoaster of “Dot X”. They pull off the awkward tremolo of roving from quaver to thrash, mostly. Where they fail seem to be interesting experiments building up and tearing apart songs, guiding blocks for the next album, to be worked out on the road. But the overarching beauty of guitar plus voice in harmonious chorus on songs like “My Dead Girl”, “Ginger” and “Mister Difficult” create a melodic string connecting the cresting “Good Neck” beginning to the album’s end on the pretending-to-be-lighthearted “Dvrk Wrld”.

Speedy Ortiz - Foil Deer Recorded and mixed at Brooklyn’s Rare Book Room with Nicolas Vernhes (Silver Jews, Enon, Deerhunter), mastered by Emily Lazar (Sia, Haim, Beauty Pill), Speedy Ortiz spent a month in the studio on Foil Deer. Falcone’s drums and Ferm’s bass range chaotic to classic inline groove and all points between in support of the gallivanting guitar riffs. The addition of McKnight even-keel playing lend lucidity Dupuis’ light, melodic guitaring. Whereas Major Arcana came across as an early Silver Jews home bootleg recording, Foil Deer feels more polished in terms of depth of sound and production value.

“The demos for our songs have always had tons of small details and production experimentation, but we never had any money to pay for more than a couple days in the studio, so the songs came out very live-sounding and guitar heavy,” Dupuis says.

Speedy Ortiz seem to have the best of both big rock festival attitude and punk’s gritty spirit in a way that makes playing the summer festivals like Primavera Sound and Pitchfork Music Festival akin to thrashing around Boston’s small clubs. No chance to see them live? Why not treat yourself to the special limited LP on gold vinyl – it comes with sticker. All vinyl comes with band-designed chapbook and digital download card in gatefold jacket.

Hop Along - Painted Shut

Hop Along – Painted Shut

I’ve never made music alone. I’ve written a lot of songs in my room by myself. Somehow there always end up being a lot of people, a lot of experience involved and that’s what makes them important.
— Frances Quinlan

The Beard – EP 120 – Hop Along by Beard Radio on Mixcloud

Hop Along – Painted Shut

Hop Along - Painted Shut

Hop Along – Painted Shut – Saddle Creek Records

What began as a young Frances Quinlan acoustic project for school–Hop Along, Queen Ansleis–has blossomed into the fully formed quartet heard on the new album Painted Shut. Shortened to Hop Along, the band has been Indie rock’s worst kept secret the past few years since the release of the then trio’s debut album, Get Disowned. Quinlan, joined by her brother Mark Quinlan on drums and Tyler Long on bass, pushed out into the world one of the most surprising and aggressively listenable albums of the past years. By turns visceral and touching, naked and poignant, there was something instantly likable about the music on multiple levels. What might be an otherwise overly barebones collection of soundscapes is fleshed out by Quinlan’s dynamic voice singing over a rough mix of off-kilter acoustic and electric guitars–with the slightest use of keys providing lush sustenance–and begs the the listener to question, “What kind of album will this be: Joanna Newsom or Yeah Yeah Yeahs?” It’s both, and much more.

Where the overwhelming gist of Get Disowned felt like a correspondence of thunderous backbeat cannonades overtop guitar-rimmed and beautifully voiced stories of hunger (“No Good Al Joad”), laden with raspy-throated calls prefacing poignant string-laden segments, Painted Shut is more even and delivers on the feeling of promise to come. There is the same peppery brand of urgency and tension, especially in the talented young Quinlan’s vocal display, the hints of desperation tinging the songs with an asymmetry that elevates the band to next echelon levels. Now a quartet with Joe Reinhart, who arranged and co-produced Get Disowned, the band is more grounded and controlled. Facts which do not dissuade Hop Along’s continued dash toward vibrant artistry and melodic depiction of some of the unfortunately lower sides of life in modern society in a way that cries out to sing along and shimmy. On “Waitress” she soulfully croons:

And I’ll share a very
Common poverty
It’s a very common kind
Common kind, common kind
It’s a very common kind
It’s not that I am worried
I just wish you and your friends would leave

Hop Along - Painted Shut

Frances Quinlan sings during the recording of “Sister Cities” on ‘Painted Shut’

Quinlan’s best when she writes about others. On “Buddy in the Parade” the band pays homage to the oft-depicted legendary Ragtime cornetist Buddy “King” Bolden, known for his very loud sound, constant improvisation, until incapacitated by an episode of acute alcoholic psychosis in 1907 at the age of 30, and then schizophrenia. Follow up “Horseshoe Crabs” focuses on Jackson C. Frank, the unknown folk hero whose sole album was produced by Paul Simon, plagued with mental illness till death. The album is jubilant in a muted way and on successive listenings you can hear Quinlan’s broader brushstrokes begin to clarify into accounts of poverty, abuse, and greed, things that we can all relate to. Much like on the standout Get Disowned, “Tibetan Pop Stars” a rollocking love story balanced by the succinct andante composure of the rhythm section, laid down as framework for her power-chord guitar riffs, the off-the-cuff songwriting style has advanced quickly in just three albums from talented young band to become a full-fledged powerhouse of emotive efficacy, but it’s not so much a quantifiable process as it’s a rendering of a feeling:

A song always starts out to me like a poem. I know people that write phrases for their sound–how it sounds–but I write it just for the words, I mean I have to figure out how it’s going to sound. If I’m reading it and it’s not reading well, then it’s not really worth singing.

Recorded and mixed by John Agnello (Kurt Vile, Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth) in Philadelphia and Brooklyn, Hop Along, equal parts Sonic Youth dissonance and Built To Spill power pop with vocal dashes of Kim Deal and Kurt Cobain, is at its core the avant-garde Freak Folk guitar band with rhythmic pop sensibilities Frances started all those years ago. Along with musicians A Sunny Day in Glasgow, Kurt Vile, The War on Drugs, Waxahatchee and others, Hop Along is leading the way for Philadelphia as the new center of the rock world. The Non-Profit Weathervane Music, whose Shake Along Project features the process of songwriting going on in the band’s song “Sister Cities” states its mission is to support independent music and the community that surrounds it, calling Philadelphia home as well:

“It’s one of the best places in America to be an artist – it’s inexpensive, well situated and gives you the freedom to live how you want… You should come visit.”

Especially if there’s a chance to see Hop Along play live.

Tour Dates

Hop Along - Get Disowned

Hop Along – Get Disowned

Fri, May 22 Tucson, AZ US The Flycatcher
Sat, May 23 Los Angeles, CA US The Echo
Tue, May 26 San Francisco, CA US Rickshaw Stop
Thu, May 28 Portland, OR US Doug Fir Lounge
Fri, May 29 Seattle, WA US Chop Suey
Sat, May 30 Vancouver, BC, CA The Cobalt
Mon, Jun 01 Boise, ID US Neurolux
Tue, Jun 02 Salt Lake City, UT US Kilby Court
Wed, Jun 03 Denver, CO US Lost Lake Lounge
Thu, Jun 04 Omaha, NE US Slowdown
Fri, Jun 05 Chicago, IL US Subterranean
Sat, Jun 06 Pittsburgh, PA US Cattivo
Sun, Jun 07 Toronto, ON, CA Lee’s Palace
Sat, Jun 13 Rehoboth Beach, DE Dogfish Head Brewery
Sat, Jul 25 Philadelphia, PA US XPoNential Music Festival
Sun, Aug 23 Los Angeles, CA US FYF Fest



Mac McCaughan - Non-Believers

Mac McCaughan – Non-Believers

What appeals to me is songs that deal with the messiness and ambiguity that come with any transitional period.

— Mac McCaughan

The Beard – EP 119 – Mac McCaughan by Beard Radio on Mixcloud

Mac McCaughan – Non-Believers

Mac McCaughan - Non-Believers

Guitarist Mac McCaughan sings at Superchunk’s live show in Osaka

Who is Mac McCaughan(Read the HESO Interview)? If you listen to rock music these days it’s pretty certain you have heard something that he has had his hands on. Onetime frontman of the North Carolina Indie-Rock Superband Superchunk, Mac is also co-founder of Merge Records, the highly successful smalltime record label that puts out albums by Spoon, Mikal Cronin, Destroyer, Eleanor Friedberger, The Magnetic Fields, Arcade Fire and many more. When not working at Merge or touring with Superchunk (or any other band he may be playing with), he has recorded his solo work under the moniker of Portastatic and produced more than a decade of work ranging from solo bedroom 4-track recordings to full band recordings at Tiny Telephone. Often lo-fi and intimate, Portastatic’s explorative sound was even more popular than Superchunk’s upfront guitar rock with niche college crowds across North America. But beyond being the face of a long-running and influential alternative band and a powerful albeit low-key record exec, Mac is a pretty regular guy who just makes music he wants to hear. Over the years he has had the opportunity to do soundtrack work on various projects: Looking For Leonard (Merge, 2001), Who Loves the Sun (Merge, 2006), as well as live scores at film festivals: 1927 Tod Browning silent film The Unknown at the Seattle Film Festival, as well as 1927 Japanese film director Teinosuke Kinugasa’s silent film Page of Madness at the SF Film Festival.

Mac McCaughan - Non-Believers

Mac McCaughan – Non-Believers

If not on the tip of pop music’s tongue, in his own way McCaughan is prolific. Recorded at Glendale Drive by McCaughan, mixed by Beau Sorenson, Brian Paulson, and himself, he played all parts on Non-Believers except drums on “Our Way Free” (Michael Benjamin Lerner), additional vocals on the ethereally and snaking “Real Darkness” (Jenn Wasner), and additional vocals on “Wet Leaves” (Annie Hayden). These tracks are a collection of unused work he had written for various movie soundtracks that screamed new solo album, but needed something. It seems that his early experiments with synthesizers, as on 1995’s Slow Note From a Sinking Ship, and the follow up, The Nature of Sap, paid off. Because in order to take songs he had composed for other projects they had to be reworked and rewritten. Exploring his fascination with ’80s Punk when it evolved into New Wave and became introspective, when bands were, as he puts it, “using keyboards and drum machines to relate through their music a disaffection or alienation” from what had come before, McCaughan delved into his own work and came up with something that sounds new yet references those old sounds.

To be sure, despite the emphasis on keys, this is still a guitar-driven album. “Box Batteries” is a throwback rocker that eschews bass altogether in the manner of his clean sounding yet still hollow lo-fi Portastatic days when he recorded with a whomever he could find–a random clarinetist and his brother on drums. “Only Do” is classic stripped down indie Superchunk guitar and keys call-and-response propelling a cosmic rollercoaster toward some kind of zen realization, “There is no try/ There is only do”. Much as in the first single “Lost Again” the overriding flat drone of “Real Darkness” is easily overlooked by McCaughan’s memorable melodies and knack for using the highs and scratchy lows of his voice as an extra instrument, as well as the Destroyer-esque background guitar solo so faint the effort to pick it up makes you appreciate the song all the more, The realization that not all songs are hits, but can regardless fit in to the flow of an album in a way that creates a sum greater than the parts of a Best of ever could. Ending with the upbeat “Come Upstairs” is a hither yon nod to the good times past and yet to come.

Throughout his solo recordings he has emerged, so to speak, from the comfort and cover that a pseudonym provides to requiring more. Hence the shedding of “Portastatic” for his own name (he stopped writing on the Portastatic blog a few years ago). When he asks, “I’m constantly discovering and consuming new music, so why does an old New Order song trigger the kind of emotional response that it does?” it’s not only a trick to get you to do more than listen to the atmospheric opening keys on “Your Hologram”, but to put you in a dusty old Honda with a tapedeck and roll down windows full of energy and nothing to do with it but drive, really to nowhere in particular. It’s about “the irony that comes with being 16 and having a car but not knowing where to go in it, or having a keyboard or a guitar and not knowing how to play it.” A more lighthearted musical reconnaissance into the shared alienation and isolation spawned by OMD, New Order, Depeche Mode and like synthpop bands, Non-Believers is a musical homage to the oeuvre of The Breakfast Club, that has grown up through the grungy ’90s and pushed through the adolescence of the 00s, into a full-grown celebration of the artisinal, home-brewed art of the self.

Between the Grateful Dead loving Boomers who are now part Tea-party Neo-cons, part Neo-Lib Wall Street investors and Ben Stiller’s Gen Xers who are gainfully employed and raising families in faux-American Dream suburban glee, there is a gap. McCaughan’s mid-’60s non-believer generation were a bit too late for punk and didn’t take to MTV’s bullshit Cult of Pop, so where do they fit? Merge Records writes that, “McCaughan had a duo of fictional teen goths in mind and followed them on their journey of growing into adulthood and transitioning into a world they weren’t sure they’d accept.” Acceptance is finding out where you fit in. McCaughan fits in where he always has–unassumingly belting out straightforward lyrics behind the mic and pumping out tight little riffs from his home studio.

Portastatic LP Discography

  • I Hope Your Heart Is Not Brittle (Merge, 1994)
  • Slow Note From a Sinking Ship (Merge, 1995)
  • The Nature of Sap (Merge, 1997)
  • Summer of the Shark (Merge, 2003)
  • Bright Ideas (Merge, 2005)
  • Be Still Please (Merge, 2006)
  • Some Small History (Merge, 2008)

Tour Dates

  • 05/15/15 Philadelphia, PA Underground Arts
  • 05/16/15 New York, NY Baby’s All Right
  • 05/21/15 Atlanta, GA 529 Bar
  • 05/22/15 Asheville, NC The Mothlight
  • 05/23/15 Carrboro, NC Cat’s Cradle Back Room
  • 05/24/15 Wilmington, NC Bourgie Nights
  • 05/28/15 Birmingham, AL Saturn
  • 05/29/15 Nashville, TN The Stone Fox
  • 05/30/15 Chicago, IL 26 Comedy Festival
  • 06/07/15 Durham, NC Motorco Music Hall
  • 07/23/15 Denver, CO The Underground Music Showcase
  • 07/23/15 Chicago, IL Schubas

w/ Flesh Wounds

Mikal Cronin - MKIII

Mikal Cronin – MKIII

The Beard – EP 118 – Mikal Cronin by Beard Radio on Mixcloud

Mikal Cronin - MKIII

Mikal Cronin – MKIII

Mikal Cronin – MKIII

Don’t let the cover to Mikal Cronin’s odd yet aptly titled album fool you–he cut his hair. No! you scream, not the only other well-maned indie rock god (a million split ends thank you J Mascis)! Don’t panic, becuse Cronin has moved on in other ways as well, having shorn himself of all the jangly clutter his previous albums seemed so fond of. Which is not to say that his eponymous debut nor MCII were at all bad or didn’t display the talent that the California Arts Graduate so obviously emotes on each and every track. The albums were messy in the way that a 24-year-old hastily throws together a picnic basket when he first learns that young women like that kind of thing–no real idea about wine, cheese, or how to look away when the lady’s skirt flips up in the wind, but still a pretty cool experience for all.

This time, MCIII (one wonders how far he will take the Roman Numerals…perhaps dropping them at L (50), much like the NFL will do next year), is so many breezy musical picnics and yet plays determinedly within a well-organized lyrical and instrumental framework. The wunderkind Cronin arranged and played nearly all of the record himself, including vocals, guitars, bass, drums, percussion, piano, organs, saxophone, and the tzouras, a traditional Greek string instrument he heard while on tour in Athens. It feels as if Cronin is finally going big, even doing his own arrangements. Not satisfied with the sad and lonely violin of the earlier output Cronin arranged parts for a full string quartet.

“It’s a continuation of what I’ve been trying to do up until now, but I’m finding a better way to do it,” he says. “I’m finding a more successful way of working those unexpected elements and textures and instruments into a rock record, of exploring that wormhole and mushing everything together harmoniously. I like riding the line between the two,” he adds. “I like finding new ways to bring different musical worlds together.” He, much like multi-instrumentalist Jacco Gardner, seems to excel at riding that line that fuses established musical genres, thus infusing new life into a tired and repetitive musical industry.

As if Cronin was once afraid to take a breath, knowing that it all might've collapsed if he paused to take stock of the situation around him. Click To Tweet

Recorded by Eric Bauer (worked with Ty Seagal) and mixed by Jesse Nichols at Fantasy Studios, the album pays homage to the LP record, in that it is split into “sides”, with the first five songs being of the straightforward variety perfected by power pop masters New Pornographers or Superchunk. Whereas Side B takes a much more dramatic symphonic-rock approach to telling some very personal story of breaking out of isolation and jumping into the dangers and beauties of being vulnerable in the outside world.

Serious as he can be, yet above all, Cronin maintains a sense of playfulness, evident on the new video for “Turn Around”, produced with comedians Kurt Braunohler and Kristen Schaal who teamed up to recreate a shot-by-shot reenactment of Natalie Imbruglia’s music video “Torn”, throwing in some unexpected cameos, even eating a banana. This collaboration is part of JASH’s $5K Video Series where, JASH, the comedy network made up of Sarah Silverman, Michael Cera, Tim and Eric, and Reggie Watts, pairs a musical act with a comedian, gives them $5000, and tells them to spend the money however they want, as long as they spend it all and come back with a video.

There is a duality to the album, in more than just the Side A / Side B aspect. The perfectionist sense of wanting to do it all himself is playfully pushed to the limits of balance by a fools rush in mentality that belied his previous albums and tempts him here again on tracks “Say”, “ii) Gold”, and “iv) Ready. As if Cronin was once afraid to take a breath, knowing that it all might’ve collapsed if he paused to take stock of the situation around him. But that is exactly what makes “Turn Around” a nearly perfect ode to taking the piss out of pop, expanding and contracting like a horse’s lungs on a quick sprint down the beach at sunrise — relax, breathe, we’ve got all goddamn beautiful day to enjoy. It becomes clear by “vi) Circle” “This is what I’ve got / This is what I’m looking for / Please be all around” that he is at least as self-aware as needs be to continue progressing towards a more succinct sound on each successive album.

Mikal Cronin - MKIII

See Mikal Cronin on tour:

May 1 Los Angeles, CA — Eagle Rock Center for the Arts
May 5 New York, NY — Bowery Ballroom
May 28 Barcelona, Spain — Primavera Sound
May 29 Nimes, France — Maroquinerie
Jun 1 London, UK — 100 Club
Jun 2 Brussels, Belgium — Botanique
Jun 5 Ravenna, Italy — Beaches Brew Festival
Jun 6 Athens, Greece — Plissken Festival
Jun 8 Berlin, Germany — Lido
Jun 9 Cologne, Germany — Gebaude 9
Jun 10 Amsterdam, Netherlands — Bitterzoet
Jun 20 Chicago, IL — Subterranean
Jul 12 Los Angeles, CA — Hollywood Bowl (w/ Death Cab for Cutie, Tune Yards)
Sep 5-7 Seattle, WA — Bumbershoot

UPDATE- New Video from Mikal Cronin – Say

Jacco Gardner - Hypnophobia

Jacco Gardner – Hypnophobia

The Beard – EP 117 – Jacco Gardner by Beard Radio on Mixcloud

Hypnophobia comes from a place where fears, darkness and creativity collide, like a slightly scary lucid dream. Click To Tweet
Jacco Gardner - Hypnophobia

Jacco Gardner’s new album Hypnophobia is kaleidoscopic in musical scope

If bands could have babies, and the Kinks and the Beach Boys were seriously dating, thinking about moving in with each other, thinking about the future, if they were committed to a purity of baroque pop, and were out to dinner with Syd Barrett and Serge Gainsbourg, the result — their love child might be Jacco Gardner. The Dutch multi-instrumentalist’s latest album, Hypnophobia, released by Polyvinyl, is a study of clarity in the midst of a dream. It recalls the sounds of the past without being being derivative, and builds on the history of esoteric classical tinged pop with a keen ear for melody honed by cutting edge production.

I came up with the title “Hypnophobia” while falling asleep and part of my brain just didn’t turn off,” explains Gardner. “I often have trouble letting go of reality, even though I prefer the world in my dreams… Hypnophobia comes from a place where fears, darkness and creativity collide, like a slightly scary lucid dream. Fearing a loss of control definitely plays a big part of it.”

Part Lewis Carroll part Harry Nilson, Gardner’s first album Cabinet of Curiosities (Trouble In Mind, 2013), provided a taste of his kaleidoscopic fairytale kingdom to come. He began playing as member of band The Skywalkers, occasionally joined the Allah Las on keyboards, and jammed with Frank Maston. “Touring all over the world has completely changed me,” he says. “I’ve seen places I’d never seen before or didn’t even know existed. I think Hypnophobia has got some of its adventurous character from all those amazing experiences.”

Jacco Gardner – Hypnophobia

One of the more refreshing things about Gardner, and Hypnophobia in general, is its fearlessness. It brashly, and meticulously explores the vast playland of pop’s rules, and declares that lush baroque instrumental tracks do in fact have a central place on the musical rainbow. He is not just playing any old instruments–the record features a Wurlitzer electric piano, mellotrons, harpsichords, an Optigan, and an antique Steinway upright piano. Comparisons to John Maus, and Tame Impala, stand up next to seemingly incompatible artists such as Syd Barrett and Curt Boettcher, and the air of Stereolab is never far off. Yet despite his addiction to vintage instruments, he seems to be an unapologetic tech-wunderkind, “Hypnophobia is the next step into an alternate reality influenced by the present. I’m so inspired by today’s technology that many things I do were not possible in the past.”

Recorded entirely at Gardner’s Shadow Shoppe Studio located in the heart of an industrial estate in the peaceful and pastoral village of Zwaag, 30 miles north of Amsterdam, Gardner played all instruments except for drums (provided by live band member Jos van Tol and latest addition Nic Niggebrugge). Artist Julian House – who has created album art for Stereolab and Broadcast, did the throwback imagery for the album. It seems as if Jacco Gardner’s visions for his music are as vivid as the lucid dream he had presaging the album itself. If so, we are in for some excellent albums–and hopefully film scores, symphonies, Spacestation concertos, et al–to come.

Tour Dates

Jacco Gardner - Hypnophobia

Jacco Gardner – Cabinet of Curiosities

05/06 – Tourcoing, France @ Grand Mix
05/07 – Luxembourg, Luxembourg @ Floor
05/08 – Lyon, France @ Epicerie Moderne
05/10 – Brussels, Belgium @ Les Nuits Botanique
05/11 – Bordeaux, France @ Barbey Rock School Club
05/13 – Barcelona, Spain @ Le 2 De Apolo
05/14 – Valencia, Spain @ El Loco
05/15 – Madrid, Spain @ El Sol
05/16 – Lisboa, Portugal @ Music Box
05/17 – Porto, Portugal @ Hard Club
05/18 – Orense, Spain @ Auditorio de Orense
05/19 – San Sebastian, Spain @ Intxaurrondo
05/21 – Capri, Italy @ Mattatoio
05/22 – Ravenna, Italy @ Hana Bi
05/23 – Padova, Italy @ Mame
05/24 – Vienna, Austria @ Arena
05/26 – Munich, Germany @ Kranhalie – Feierwerk
05/27 – Berlin, Germany @ Private Club
05/28 – Hamburg, Germany @ Molotow Club
05/29 – Copenhagen, Denmark @ Loppen
05/30 – Oslo, Norway @ Revolver
05/31 – Stockholm, Sweden @ Strand
06/04 – Rotterdam, Netherlands @ Rotown
06/05 – Eindhoven, Netherlands @ Psych Lab – Effenaar
06/06 – Maastricht, Netherlands @ Muziekgieterj
06/10 – Philadelphia, PA @ Milkboy
06/11 – Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade [Northside Festival]
06/12 – Brooklyn, NY @ Northside Festival
06/14 – Cambridge, MA @ Middle East Upstairs
06/16 – Montreal, QC @ Bar Le “Ritz” P.D.B.
06/17 – Toronto, ON @ NXNE
06/18 – Toronto, ON @ NXNE
06/19 – Cleveland, OH @ Happy Dog
06/20 – Chicago, IL @ Beat Kitchen
06/21 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
06/23 – Missoula, MT @ Stage 112
06/24 – Seattle, WA @ The Sunset Tavern
06/25 – Vancouver, BC @ The Fox Cabaret
06/26 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge
07/02 – Tucson, AZ @ The Flycatcher
07/03 – El Paso, TX @ Lowbrow Palace
07/06 – New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jack’s
07/07 – Atlanta, GA @ The Earl
07/09 – Asheville, NC @ New Mountain Theatre
07/10 – Indianapolis, IN @ Joyful Noise Records
07/11 – Columbus, OH @ Community Music Fest at Seventh Son Brewing Co.
07/17 – Leeuwarden, Netherlands @ Welcome To The Village
09/04 – Gardenstown, UK @ End of the Road Festival
^ w/ Ultimate Painting
# w/ White Fence
? w/ Roky Erickson
& w/ Twerps
$ w/ Happyness
@ w/ Broncho
! w/ Eerie Wanda

Blur - The Magic Whip

Blur – The Magic Whip

The Beard – EP 116 – Blur by Beard Radio on Mixcloud

Blur - The Magic Whip

Blur – The Magic Whip (Parlophone)

Blur is back. Maybe. The only thing anyone knows is that the album, The Magic Whip is out and will likely be supported with one of their patented world tours. Despite not having released an album in more than a decade, Blur played a handful of UK dates in 2009 and added another handful plus a few European dates in 2012. They went on a world tour of untypical concert sites in 2013, hitting the big cities in South America, but also Jakarta, Istanbul, Mexico City as well as playing in out of the way spots in France and Poland in between two dates in Sapulpa and Edmond, Oklahoma, their only two U.S. summer shows, adding a Sacramento show in the fall. Blur have always been successfully iconoclastic, celebrating change and evolving at the right time. Take for example the success of their eponymous 1997 album, when they had had Cool Brittanica by the bollocks, they thumb their nose at the music establishment’s expectations and produce an album (13) of a darker, less-poppy songs that focus more on experimental elements of electronica while still being accessible and well-received both critically and commercially. Personal issues and evolving ideas of what Blur was brought about Coxon’s extended sabbatical, eventually the album Think Tank and the beginning of Albarn’s Gorillaz project.

With the waning of that glammy guitar-driven Britpop sound around 1997, the boys from Blur began to get that 7-year itch and began individually exploring the world for musical inspiration. While drummer Dave Rowntree got into local politics and bassist Alex James regularly writing for The Sun as well as Esquire (and is apparently an accomplished cheesemaker), Albarn delved into a more tribal sound, mixing it up with elements of dub and hip-hop, began foreshadowing his move to Gorillaz. Ever the consummate restless artist it seemed that Coxon’s frustrations began spilling over into the band and life and he had to wander his own way. Amicable or not, the band split up and Albarn co-produced Think Tank with the perrennial rhythm section of James and Rowntree, plus a host of featured musicians. Perhaps the absence of Coxon allowed the trio the confidence to explore areas previously deemed to outre, and it culminated in arguably their finest collection of songs. What began with 13 and took off with Think Tank has come round full circle with The Magic Whip.

...result is a cosmic electro-rock hybrid that feels organic and down to earth. If only everyone had five days in Hong Kong to get their shit together. Click To Tweet

Blur – The Magic Whip

Released April 27th, The Magic Whip will be the band’s first studio album since Think Tank (2003), although the first since 13 that will see the equal influence of guitarist Graham Coxon. The cover features the Chinese pictograms 模糊 魔鞭 (lit. Blur Magic-whip) in neon, meant in part to convey Art director Tony Hung’s impressions of Albarn’s photos and ideas from the Hong Kong recording session. “An ice cream in the UK, a firework in China and a ‘whip’ in a political sense. These extremes would reflect the different textures, breadth and depth of the album.” Having recorded the majority of the music in 2013 at Avon Studios over a five-day stint while stranded in the city due to a canceled Tokyo concert, the artwork seems to feed into that harried, raw feel of the the time and place that the recording came together.

Blur - The Magic Whip

The Magic Whip Tour in July

It was not all kismet and divine planning however, as the 15 songs that came out of the session had no lyrics, as Albarn didn’t have the necessary time to to get the anything down. Hence why it took two years to produce an album that took five days to record. Albarn commented that “sometimes, if you can’t do it all at once, it dissipates really and I don’t know what I’d sing about now with that record. There’s some great tunes on there, but it may just be one of those records that never comes out.” So passed 2013 and most of 2014, with Albarn recording and supporting his first true solo album, Everyday Robots. Having stopped off in Hong Kong again to get a feel for the city that created the songs that yet had no words, the longtime frontman searched for inspiration while Coxon worked on the songs with producer Stephen Street, well known from his work with The Smiths as well as pre-13 Blur albums. Once set in motion, vocals were quickly recorded in January 2015 and the album was mastered in February 2015.

It takes approximately ten seconds to feel that the best of Blur is back–the thrumming, advancing syncopation of the best rhythm section Brit-pop ever produced with Coxon’s distinctively strange and wonderful approach to punk guitar riffs–with new ideas that feel like a proper progression. Floating apart and self-experimentation instigated growth that is at once more evident on “New World Towers” than the traditional feeling opener “Lonesome Street” has helped the boys be able to mix and mingle contrasting styles of play in a provocative style. Early single “Go Out” feels like a fun and slippery guitar ride down a neon-lit rain-soaked sidestreet while “Ice Cream Man” starts out with synthesized Gorillaz feel that is able to meld the acoustic guitar and drums into a tune with a catchy yet forlorn refrain. “Thought I Was A Spaceman” dives deeper into the dark heart of a tale of unknown lives while “There Are Too Many of Us” feels like symphony cramped in a Kowloon elevator. The overall feel is that the band is making music rather than playing instruments, something they’ve always excelled at, but now with the addition of a wider variation of styles and experiences, the result is a cosmic electro-rock hybrid that feels organic and down to earth. If only everyone had five days in Hong Kong to get their shit together.


Built To Spill – Untethered Moon

The Beard – EP 115 – Built To Spill by Beard Radio on Mixcloud

Built To Spill - Untethered Moon

Built To Spill – Untethered Moon

Ex-Indie Rock giants Built To Spill have their first new album out in more than six years. It has probably been longer than that since I have heard anything from them. Long off my radio radar due to ODing on them in the second adolescence of my 20s. The late 90s were heady university days of cross-country summer roadtrips following bands and ladies, camping in national park rest stops and avoiding (or attracting) whichever state highway patrol we were trying not to look overly guilty in the eyes of. But we were. Guilty of being young and immature and full of ourselves and probably various pharmacological combinations made all the better by exorbitant amounts of booze. And Built To Spill provided much of the soundtrack for those broke-down romps through the Pacific Northwest.

Despite the age difference, I often felt like I grew up with Built To Spill. And maybe they have grown up as well. Which is not to say that the fine bearded gentlemen you are no doubt grooving to right now are not, nor ever were not, complete musicians in many aspects. How difficult it is to make any kind of scratch on the thick veneer of the music industry, especially out of Boise, ID, these guys are for real. But there was a frivolity to their tunes, maybe to frontman Doug Martsch’s demeanor, which translated to making the music into a more lighthearted affair, at least with Ultimate Alternative Wavers, The Normal Years, There Is Nothing Wrong With Love, Keep It Like A Secret, and Ancient Melodies of the Future. Perfect From Now On is from another planet and I haven’t heard a tune from There Is No Enemy while You In Reverse is fuzzy…

Anyway, Untethered Moon is the first BTS album recorded with new band members Steve Gere (drums) and Jason Albertini (bass), who join vocalist/guitarist Doug Martsch. Untethered Moon was produced by Martsch and Sam Coomes (from the band Quasi). Coomes is a great addition as producer and the promotion of former roadies to rhythm section is a novel and very sound move, which might have signaled a new time in Martsch’s recording life and therefore a breakthrough. Each progressive listen does sound better and better, if not a bit more down to earth.

BTS is touring in support of their eighth studio album, Untethered Moon, which will be released on April 18th exclusively for Record Store Day at all good independent record stores. A very limited-edition quantity of Untethered Moon will be pressed on transparent blue vinyl and will be randomly distributed into the initial run of pressings. The CD and digital editions will be released on April 21st. BTS will continue to tour as the three-guitar army that they have always been with Jim Roth and Brent Netson filling out the line-up.

Built to Spill’s upcoming tour dates:

04/19    Indio, CA                                  Coachella Festival
04/20    Las Vegas, NV                          The Bunkhouse 
05/09    Atlanta, GA                               Shaky Knees Music Fest

NEW Headlining dates:

05/10    Carrboro, NC                             Cat’s Cradle
05/11    Charleston, SC                          Music Farm
05/12    Jacksonville, FL                         Jack Rabbits
05/13    Ft. Lauderdale, FL                     Culture Room
05/14    St. Petersburg, FL                     The State Theatre
05/15    Orlando, FL                               The Social
05/16    Tallahassee, FL                         Sidebar Theater
05/17    New Orleans, LA                        Howlin’ Wolf
05/18    Houston, TX                              Warehouse Live
05/19    Austin, TX                                 Stubbs BBQ
05/20    Dallas, TX                                 Granada Theater
05/21    Oklahoma City, OK                    ACM Performance Lab @ UCO
05/22    St. Louis, MO                            The Ready Room
05/23    Omaha, NE                               Slowdown
05/24    Minneapolis, MN                       Varsity Theater
05/26    Madison, WI                              High Noon Saloon
05/27    Indianapolis, IN                         The Vogue
05/28    Detroit, MI                                 St. Andrews Hall
05/30    Chicago, IL                               Metro
05/31    Grand Rapids, MI                      Founders Brewing Co.

Supporting Death Cab For Cutie:
07/08    Troutdale, OR                            Edgefield Amphitheater
07/09    Bend, OR                                  Les Schwab Amphitheatre
07/11    Berkeley, CA                             Greek Theatre Berkeley

Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell Live Forever

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell Live Forever

In a matter of speaking I am dead

Sufjan Stevens - Carrie and Lowell Live Forever

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

Beard Radio listens to Sufjan Stevens’ new album Carrie & Lowell (Released 31 March 2015) and a few classic songs from earlier albums.

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell Live Forever

Performed by: Sufjan Stevens, Casey Foubert, Laura Veirs, Nedelle Torrisi, Sean Carey, Ben Lester, and Thomas Bartlett, this album is both soft and hard. Soft in tone and hard to grasp. Brittle and vulnerable as Stevens’ voice comes across, there is an austere strength in the clarity of his quiescence. The album is balanced by a musical low-key and reserved presentation in contrast to its potentially heavy themes–death, family, mistakes of the past. Yet a deeper listen hears the overwhelming tension which lay in the quiet moments where strings vibrate like whispered voices in the dark. There are many of them. The musicianship is exquisite, Billy Corgan in its perfection, yet not pompous and ego-driven at all, as if the tremolo quaver in the keys refer to, and even invite in, some kind of cosmically shared experience. Perhaps it is the melding of voices adept at delving into and out of the common bond of revealing human emotion through song, and hopefully dance and celebration, if only in some eventual future. While there is progression and a kind of climaxing forward, or perhaps upward like a straining head toward some kind of difference in the light, there is stasis as one turns to reconnoiter the past as well. More bluntly sad and coldly beautiful than wistful and sentimental, this album takes intention on the part of the music makers and requires it from the listener. Which in the end is rewarding enough to push play yet again.

More bluntly sad and coldly beautiful than wistful and sentimental, this album takes intention on the part of the music makers and requires it from the listener. Click To Tweet

When I am dead
Come visit my bed
My fossil is bright in the sun

Recorded variously at:

Flora, Portland, Oregon (engineered by Tucker Martine)
Black Watch, Norman, Oklahoma (engineered by Chad Copelin and Jarod Evans)
April Base, Eau Claire, Wisconsin (engineered by Brian Joseph)
Pat Dillet’s studio somewhere midtown Manhattan
And at Sufjan’s office in Dumbo, Brooklyn
Some tracks were also recorded on an iPhone in a hotel room in Klamath Falls, Oregon

Mixed by Sufjan Stevens, Thomas Bartlett, and Pat Dillet

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