29 February 2008

EAR FARM checks in with the Elbo.ws top 10

Tell you what, it's been a long, LONG, time since EAR FARM has checked in with the Elbo.ws top 10 'hot' artists. We used to enjoy doing so every now and then to get a better idea of what the rest of the music blog world is talking about. But then the top artists weren't changing often enough to make a weekly visit to the Elbo.ws Top 10 a worthwhile effort. And THEN we got lazy.

But hey, checking in with the Elbo.ws top 10 gives EAR FARM a chance to feature artists that everyone else is talking about who might not exactly be our "thing". Doesn't mean they can't be your thing though, right? Hey, maybe as a result of adventures like these we'll together find much joy and entertainment and a few new bands we used to laugh at but now love. Let's face it, sometimes this can be fun. Yeah?

Well fire up those colortinis; this joint 'bout to blow up. Click through for the goods.

Elbo.ws top 10 'hot' artists - 29 February 2008 @ 9:18am EST

Beach House - EAR FARM's Band of the Week is getting lots of attention, and for good reason - their new album Devotion is at least as good as everyone is saying. Hey, did you catch that interview Mike did with them? I'm just saying... better 'n what I've seen elsewhere. Biased? Yep. Calmer 'n you are.

Hot Chip - Though this track kind of sounds like a recording of a drunken late night "twee" lounge act, I like it. Which, I suppose, means I must "kind of" like Hot Chip. That's news to me.Foals - From GoEnglish.com: "A dime a dozen - cheap and easy to get... if a thing is very common and easy to get, we say it is a dime a dozen." Example: music that arouses no interest or curiosity in the listener, such as Foals, has been a dime a dozen for as long as I can remember. Their songs touch listeners in such a fleeting manner that I challenge you to listen to the song below and remember it 10 seconds later. Do people spend money on this stuff?Bon Iver - Do you know what I used to think about Bon Iver? Well, it's embarrassing, but I'll tell you. Bon Iver made me think of James Taylor and Dave Matthews and the music listening public's obvious desire to have an artist that's "delicate" but "interesting" yet thoroughly undemanding to listen to and call "great". As each generation ages and their taste erodes, their collective listening palate becomes extremely predictable. This is how Jack Johnson suddenly became a multi-festival headliner. ANYway, my point in all of this is that I was wrong about Bon Iver. There's much quiet power in his music, it reminds me of home in a way... and what a voice. I'll admit when I'm wrong: Bon Iver's album For Emma, Forever Ago is pretty great.Daft Punk - Amazing live show or not, do people actually listen to Daft Punk often? Like, is this someone's "go to" music? I can't imagine. I mean, as foot-tapping music, I enjoy what they do and all, but I think that's because I hear Daft Punk sparingly. Does anybody else feel hornswoggled by this band?LCD Soundsystem - I'll give James Murphy credit: ripping off more-or-less all the Kosmische Musik there ever was, plus the Beatles, AND Prince, all within the one song "Big Ideas" is a fairly guaranteed way to attract listeners. It is not, however, ANY kind of "big idea"; no, in fact, it's rather simple-minded and completely bored me the first time around when it was called Beck.Vampire Weekend - In regards to their debut album, I couldn't agree more with Nitsuh Abebe's Pitchfork review: "Bring any baggage you want to this record, and it still returns nothing but warm, airy, low-gimmick pop, peppy, clever, and yes, unpretentious--four guys who listened to some Afro-pop records, picked up a few nice ideas, and then set about making one of the most refreshing and replayable indie records in recent years."The Diggs - :) that's what this song posted below makes me do. Why? 'Cos it sounds like high school. Like The Breeders meets Ned's Atomic Dustbin meets teenage naivete. Glorious.Feist - What else to say about Feist? Interesting fact: her father, Harold Feist, is an abstract expressionist painter.Radiohead - All Points West? Gross. Since Radiohead is so "innovative" with how they approach the world of music, how about they get interesting with their live shows too... eh? I'm thinking that they should do a year-long residency in NYC wherein they play each of their albums in their entirety at increasingly larger venues: Pablo Honey @ Mercury Lounge, The Bends @ Bowery Ballroom, OK Computer @ Carnegie Hall, Kid A/Amnesiac @ the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, Hail to the Thief @ Radio City Music Hall, and then In Rainbows @ Madison Square Garden. At the very least this would mean they'd have an entire year of concerts that people could take public transportation to, right?

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EAR FARM Rock History Lesson: Leap Day AND March 1st

Following up on our first Rock History Lesson a few months back, we thought it would be interesting to crack open the cadaver of yet another day of the calendar year and see what rock goodies lie within. In doing so, we've decided to up the ante as well, featuring TWO days in music history this time around. Why two? For starters, Leap Day is at a distinct disadvantage to the other 365 days; there's like 25% as much of a chance that anything rocking happened on it. I think it deserves our sympathies. Also, you just know a day is worth noting when McDonalds gives away free breakfast burritos to commemorate it.

Okay, so why March 1st too? Well, there are broader considerations to keep in mind here, namely the fact that tomorrow is my birthday and I like to know what kind of company I'm keeping in the grand scheme of things. So, (once again) without further ado, here's a very loose guide to today, Leap Day, and tomorrow, March 1st, in ROCK:

February 29th - The Rarest Day in Rock?

1792 - Composer Gioacchino Antonio Rossini was born. Little did he know that 215 years later, his grave would be the setting for a Chuck Klosterman and Frosty the Snowman-themed 8+.

1972 - John Lennon's US immigration visa expires, starting a three-and-a-half year battle to remain in the country. A battle waged mostly naked. And in bed.

1972 - Saul Williams is born

1976 - Ja Rule is born. His physical stature and views on homosexuality would make sense if Leap Days actually made people mature 4 times as slowly.

1980 - Police discover a file containing Buddy Holly's glasses and a watch owned by The Big Bopper that were found in the wreckage of their plane crash in 1959.

That's it? Kind of a letdown, Leap Day. Is it possible free McSkillet Burritos are the most notable thing going on here? No need to dwell further, on to the next day in history, which just happens to be....

March 1st - I'm Completely Biased

1927 - Harry Belafonte is born.

1944 - Roger Daltrey is born. Despite his many assurances, he's been fooled many times since.

1958 - Buddy Holly begins his only British tour. To ensure stereotypes of bad dental health in the UK would persevere stateside, his front teeth would get knocked out before a British television appearance. Ouch.

1964 - The Beatles start working on A Hard Day's Night, their very first film, while also holding the top two spots on Billboard's Hot 100 with "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "She Loves You".

1968 - Johnny Cash and June Carter get married. Their honeymoon plans involve a stop in Reno with vague talk of renting firearms and befriending a drifter.

1969 - Jim Morrison is arrested for exposing himself during a Doors concert in Miami.

1982 - Pete Townshend, Stevie Nicks, Mick Jagger, Adam Ant, Pat Benatar, the Police and David Bowie kick off the “I Want My MTV” advertising campaign. A two-year old Mike asks for cable for his birthday and nudges closer to the TV set.

1991 - Oliver Stone's The Doors premieres. Jeez, Frank Whaley just represents in these EF History Lessons, doesn't he?

1994 - Aretha Franklin receives a Lifetime Achievement Grammy award. Beyonce watches on with a cold stare, carefully enunciating the words "Queen of Soul" and "Tina Turner" together in the same sentence.

Ta da, that's just about all folks. To those history buffs and steel-trap minded brethren, anything else? Happy Leap Day....

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OPP

New Animal Collective EP is on the way

RIP, Dave Clark Five lead singer Mike Smith

Finally, we have a name to the new Grizzly Bear tune: "While You Wait For The Others", now watch and listen to their KCRW show and see it for yourself

The A.V. Club interviews Daniel Johnston

Bret Michaels to pen autobiography, awesome

Bumpershine: presale for the April 8th Ray Davies show at the Beacon Theatre starts TODAY at 10am

Elliot Smith memorial wall defaced and then restored, proper monument on its way

Vampire Weekend drummer to leave hospital today after hit and run

Drowned in Sound: 764 bands compiled onto free SXSW torrent

NY Post: Labels not sharing their RIAA settlement money with artists

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28 February 2008

8+

"The Telephone Call" by Kraftwerk which clocks in at 8:03

From Wikipedia: "Chinese whispers or Telephone is a game in which each successive participant secretly whispers to the next a phrase or sentence whispered to them by the preceding participant. Cumulative errors from mishearing often result in the sentence heard by the last player differing greatly and amusingly from the one uttered by the first. It is most often played by children as a party game or in the playground."
--
What I've done here is to play with the traditional game of telephone, or Chinese whispers, in two separate ways that involve the song "The Telephone Call" by Kraftwerk. Taken on its own the song is a fairly average Kraftwerk song from one of their less important albums. Viewed in the following two contexts the song will (hopefully) take on new life.

Our two versions of telephone are as follows. First you'll find a Babelfish version of telephone that involves multiple translations translating with, through, and against each other; beginning in German, passing through English, and ending again in German. Secondly, there's a quickie music video I've created using found YouTube footage of some business people playing a physical/breakdance version of telephone at some kind of team building conference. Click through and enjoy.

Babelfish Telephone

Below: A variation on the traditional game of telephone done using Alta Vista's Babelfish language translator. I first started with the title of the song as it is listed on the German release of Electric Cafe: "Der Telefon-Anruf". This title was then translated through a variety of languages in the manner listed above to end up with the results you see here. Notice the difference in both the German and English versions of the phrase from number 1 to number 7.

1) beginning phrase: Der Telefon-Anruf (in English: The Telephone Call)
2) German to French: L'appel téléphonique
3) French to Dutch: Het telefonische verzoek
4) Dutch to English: The telephone request
5) English to Italian: La richiesta del telefono
6) Italian to French: La demande de je téléphone
7) French to German: Der Antrag von telephoniere ich (in English: The request of I telephone)
--
Music Video Telephone

Below: A music video created (by me) using this footage found on YouTube (by searching for "Chinese whispers") coupled with a portion of the song "The Telephone Call" by Kraftwerk. Watch the dance evolve as it's passed from one person to the next.



*above photo of Thai girls playing game of Chinese whispers from HERE.

Buy Electric Cafe on Amazon.

EAR FARM's 8+ is a weekly feature that showcases songs longer than 8 minutes. In the recent past these songs were featured on EF's 8+:
Neutral Milk Hotel - "Oh Comely"
George Gershwin - “Rhaphsody in Blue"
Múm - "Smell Memory"
Tool - "Lateralus"
Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks - "Real Emotional Trash"
Iron Maiden - "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son"
Mandy Reid - "Tornado"
Genesis - "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight"

To see a full list of every song featured in EAR FARM's 8+ click HERE.

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The Secret Life Of Sofia @ The Delancey - 26 February 2008

The Secret Life Of Sofia (above) performed at The Delancey this past Tuesday night. They played a set consisting mostly (entirely?) of songs from their upcoming soon-to-be-released album Seven Summits which they've just finished mastering. The show found the band joined at times by some guest musicians: Leah Paul on flute (pictured above, from the band The Bridesmaids) and Nadim Issa on keys (from the band Mancino*, who also played a set after Secret Life - watch live video of a new song from this performance over on EARF).

As usual, The Secret Life Of Sofia delivered a very strong performance that showed off their full range of abilities from middle-of-the-woods haunting delicacy to full-bore pop rock. This is a band that's equally well matched for an intimate set at a venue like the Living Room as well as a support slot at a place like Bowery Ballroom for a band like Grizzly Bear. Not that I'm telling the powers that book what to do; but yeah, I guess I am. In fact, if I were playing matchmaker, I'd say that a label like Dead Oceans might want to consider looking their way in regards to putting out this Seven Summits album of theirs. One thing's for sure, The Secret Life Of Sofia is one of Brooklyn's top unsigned gems. More pictures, as well as live video of a few songs, after the jump.





Watch:
"Weathering" by The Secret Life Of Sofia live (from this show) on YouTube | download QT
"Seven Summits" by The Secret Life Of Sofia live (from this show featuring Nadim Issa) on YouTube | download QT

See more pictures EF from this show (and others): The Secret Life Of Sofia | Mancino

*full disclaimer - Mancino is the band of EAR FARM Mike - head over to EARF to watch a brand new Mancino song called "Crossing Guards".

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OPP

Radiohead passed on Glastonbury because of the lack of public transportation options

RIP Buddy Miles, Jimi Hendrix's drummer and former claymation California Raisin

Eminem to release his memoirs this fall

Disney enters Guitar Hero and Rock Band fray with Ultimate Band

John Mellencamp and Stephen King team up to create a musical

PASTE and Stereogum host a 3-day SXSW event

Sony trying to lure Jay Leno into signing new deal with music incentives?

The Verve schedule some additional U.S. dates (including WaMu Theater) and prep a new album

NME reports that Britney Spears is pregnant again

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27 February 2008

Band of the Week: Beach House (Exclusive EF Interview)

Band: Beach House
From: Baltimore, MD
Sound: dreamy, shimmery ballads; think melancholy but hold the depression
Similar Artists: Mazzy Star, Cat Power, Galaxie 500, Nico
Listen Now: "Heart of Chambers"

Let's begin with a simple plea: go get Beach House's new album Devotion right now. Go ahead, we'll wait for you. Wait, where are you going? You don't have to leave the comfort of your computer/cubicle/sofa, just click above on the album title or troll the digital store of your preference.

Okay, time to regroup; everyone back here and all ready to go? Good. Hit play on track one and let's do this...

Beach House is the Baltimore-based duo of Victoria Legrand (vocals, keyboards) and Alex Scully (guitar, keyboards), but perhaps you already knew that. After all, their self-titled debut album was released to near-universal praise in 2006 while Devotion has been on store shelves for a mere two days and yet has already amassed a thesaurus's worth of glowing superlatives (I'm doing my best to add to the mass, just wait for the next sentence).

Purveyors of ethereal, delicate, and deeply affecting compositions, sorcerers of instant atmospheric immersion, and also very nice folks to gab with, Legrand and Scully took some time out from preparing for their upcoming headlining tour to talk with EAR FARM about the joys of life on the road, the inspiration behind Devotion, covering (and then meeting) Daniel Johnston and how to answer the phone with your ass....

Cue Scene: I call Alex's cell phone and awkwardly repeat "Hello? Hello? Hellloooooo?" while listening to about a minute of rustling and muffled conversation before he explains

Alex: That’s hilarious. Sorry, my butt answers it, I don’t even hear anyone call and my butt just answers it. We were talking about women’s fashion. We were just at the mall buying white pants. We’re just kind of doing all the last minute stuff before going on tour.

EF: How are you guys feeling about heading back on the road starting on the 28th for yet another long tour?

Alex: We’re both really excited. Personally, I haven’t really been doing anything creative for a while and even though it’s playing songs we’ve already written it feels good to be intensely musical again.

EF: Have you been playing these new songs from Devotion live a lot lately?

Alex: Well we haven’t really played since November and we didn’t play all these new songs so we’re definitely excited to play a bunch of them, and also Jason Quever from Papercuts is going to be joining us on percussion so I feel like the songs are going to feel very exciting and feel really alive. I’m excited.

EF: When did you finish recording and mastering for Devotion? Was it not until after you wrapped up playing live shows in November?

Alex: No no no, they make you finish records so early now…I think it was totally mastered by late September and we had started recording in early August. There’s such a delay with things. It’s like whenever you see a band on tour with a new record you know that that was due for them at the earliest 6 months ago.

EF: Right, well that’s why I was wondering whether maybe you guys were already sick of the material from Devotion but it's great that that’s not the case.

Alex: It is great. When we toured after our first record it was tough because we’d already been playing those songs for a year, so it’s definitely going to feel a lot more alive this time around.

EF: Well, you’re basically veterans of the road at this point. Is it possible to have any sense of normalcy or schedule on the road or does that all just go out the window?

Alex: I think schedule and normality go out the window on tour, you’re sort of suspended in mid-air in a sense.

EF: Is that an environment that you find to be at all beneficial?

Alex: When we’ve had really good tours – certain parts of tours have been good and other parts not so great – the good times were really amazing because I think you get a lot of energy from people enjoying what you made and that feels really great, and of course I think that sustains you. But then you have a lot of bad shows, like when we went to Europe the record had been out for so long that things didn’t feel special. So, the worst is when things don’t feel special and then I think the best is when everything does feel special and every show is unique and exciting.

EF: It sounds like you feed off the vibe you get from the audience then and that dictates a lot?

Alex: Yeah definitely. And then it also goes into the day you’re having before the show. When that good stuff is happening, you start feeling good about everything and having more fun and taking things less seriously and you’re able to stay excited.

EF: Yet because your music is very lulling and gentle, I was curious if at times playing shows there was ever a barrier in reaching people who may either be standing there with their arms folded or wanting something heavier?

Alex: Not that I’ve noticed. Generally, the people who probably come out for us know what they’re getting.

EF: Well, it’s just that I could see the potential for you being mismatched with other performers on a bill. It could be a barrier to cross because your music is so delicate.

Alex: Yeah actually, we went on a tour in Europe with a really great band Arbouretum and they’re really heavy, they’re loud and they can play really hard and at some of those shows when we opened for their fans it was a little hard to be exciting, but I still think it went okay. I think a live drummer too will help whatever amount of that still exists. But also, this is our headlining show and I think most people coming will know what to expect. Plus its a lot more abrasive, the sounds are louder and more intense too than on the record.

EF: Are the arrangements any different than the record if that’s the case?

Alex: The arrangements are the same but it sounds a lot different as you’d expect.

EF: I was wondering if we could talk about Devotion now while on the subject. It feels like such a cohesive album and cohesive statement, obviously I don’t want to set you up and say “concept album” but it seems like there are some common themes running throughout?

Alex: I’ll start the answer and then I’ll pass it over to Victoria because she writes all the lyrics. I think we’ve always described both our albums as families – like each album is a family of songs – and I don’t think it’s a concept album, but it is a family seeing as they were all written in a similar phase and with similar energy. I’m going to pass you over to Victoria…

Victoria: yeah I mean they’re all birthed from different places but I think there’s a lot of connections with love, absence and the unknown and small things like that. In the end, if you were to do one of those drawings with a list of words on the left and then some categories on the right they would all connect, and you’d be able to draw many different lines across. I mean it’s not that thought out, but I did do a whole lot more crafting this time on the lyrics because I guess there was a lot more that I wanted to come out.

EF: It definitely does all seem to have sprung from a similar mindset. Now what about the song cycle and sequencing? Is that something that you guys really deliberately sat down and mapped out?

Victoria: Yeah. We did figure out where each song fit best and the natural build of the record, putting “Some Things Last a Long Time” kind of in the middle there as a little moment of rest or moment of clarity or some other insight or something like that. So we did really focus on it, it wasn’t random.

EF: Right, and I actually wanted to touch on that song briefly too. The lyrics and everything fit in perfectly with the rest of the album, which is funny because you guys didn’t write that one. How did you come across it and know it would fit well with the album?

Victoria: Well with that song, it just feels like a Beach House song. Something in it is haunting and obsessive but really gentle and delicate. Actually, we saw Daniel Johnston play last night in Baltimore and I got to meet him. I got to shake his hand and tell him that I was in a band that covered his song. It was just really crazy timing because our record’s coming out tomorrow and then he performed “Some Things Last a Long Time” with a piano player from Baltimore playing these chords that I know so well and just singing by himself and shaking and holding the microphone with this small fragile voice. It was just the essence of that song, and we didn’t want to damage or beat that essence or try to think we could do it better. That’s not the point. When you cover music, it’s because you have an instantaneous attraction or connection to that song as an artist. Words can’t often describe it. So for that song, it was very emotional immediately, and our record is a very emotional record, I think. We just wanted to capture a little bit of its essence, not take it too much further than it is, and it ended up that that was one of the last songs that came together. It’s not that long, and we don’t do the whole song,

EF: I was going to say, it’s almost as though you hint at it, play the first verse and then gently fade out and go on to the next song…

Victoria: Which in the original version there is that essence, something going away and something being there on the wall and lasting. The chords are so simple and that’s also what attracted us. We being two people and not having a lot of other members and having two instruments, we’re trying to work from a pretty minimal level and trying to create things out of nothing, creating something more than would be imaginable from two people.

EF: Just in general, how do vocal melodies work when writing? Do you have the actual songs in place and the melody and lyrics is the last thing that comes or do you toy with the vocal melody first and build the song around it?

Victoria: It changes often. Sometimes I’ll have chords and then a melody that comes instantaneously and the words emerge from that but usually it’s some feeling, it’s just something that clutches me and it’s like I’m grasping it from the air. Not that you’re just plucking whatever but it’s like the way you can sense harmonies when you’re singing and you know what other voices work with it. I think the same thing applies when writing music, it’s like you’re writing words and suddenly this entire thing manifests itself. The good ones, they appear out of nowhere all of a sudden.

EF: Any examples of a song off the new album that just came together seemingly effortlessly like that?

Victoria: “Turtle Island”

EF: And is that actually about the place Turtle Island?

Victoria: Turtle Island is a name of a place from my childhood where I used to hang out. But the story isn’t necessarily about that, and it’s not necessarily a story either. It’s more about a moment, an opening, and a sense of blossoming.

EF: I know you’re more in favor of other people interpreting lyrics more so than you laying out concrete definitions of everything but that being said, is there an actual “Gila”? Where did that come from?

Victoria: (laughs) “Gila”, well, that just started out as a great word as we were traveling throughout the Southwest. I don’t know, words tend to do that; they don’t go away, they build levels of subtext, they become characters themselves. “Gila” is definitely a feeling, it’s indescribable, it’s not necessarily a gila monster. It can be something that’s actual or something that’s untouchable.

EF: I alluded to this with Alex already but what is it you’re looking forward to most about touring?

Victoria: Performing. To challenge myself and to get into the groove (laughs). We’ve really been hacking it out with all the business stuff, and the thing that’s fun is playing music. It’s cathartic, it’s a release and very intense too when you have those shows when there are a few people that you’re making intense contact with and then you’ll never see them again, that’s what I’m looking forward to.

EF: So you also feel a connection with the crowd when things are going well?

Victoria: Definitely, those are the shows that are good. If there’s not a connection it’s not a big deal, but the best shows are the ones where the people are there because they’re curious or want to hear a story and feel intimate. Even a large space can feel intimate, it’s just really a gamble.

EF: Well, you’re going to be coming to Bowery Ballroom again (on April 2nd). You had played there with Grizzly Bear on your last tour, do you like playing there?

Victoria: Yeah we played there with the Clientele too. Headlining it is nuts for me. We really like playing there, it’s a good-sized place it doesn’t feel intensely huge. We’ve played bigger places and obviously not filled them up but, we’ll see what happens. I’m expecting like 60 people (laughs).

EF: I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the turnout.

Victoria: I just hope there’s not like 40 people there or something...

EF: I don’t want to take up too much of your time and I’m sure this is going to be one of the go-to questions you’ll have to answer for the next month or so but I too am a Rock of Love fan and I want to know: who do you have winning this season? Who’s going to make it?

Victoria: Awesome. I think it’s a toss up between Kristy Jo and Daisy. I think that Kristy Jo – he said himself he likes crazy girls – and for TV they’ll keep whoever makes the most drama. I think Ambre might be there also.

EF: She’s kind of the dark horse.

Victoria: She is, but I’m thinking Kristy Jo. What about you?

EF: I don’t know, I just felt like last season there were more people to root for and this season I don’t root for anybody. It’s more just the thrill of watching a train wreck.

Victoria: Ambre’s really solid though, she could be there for a while, she’s a really good kisser. They should really be paying us for talking about this stuff!

Listen: "Heart of Chambers"

Watch: "You Came To Me"



See Beach House Live:
28 Feb - Baltimore, MD @ G-Spot w/ Papercuts
29 Feb - Chapel Hill, NC @ Local 506 w/ The Papercuts
01 Mar - Atlanta, GA @ The Earl w/ The Papercuts
02 Mar - Birmingham, AL @ The Bottle Tree Cafe w/ The Papercuts
03 Mar - Memphis, TN @ Hi-Tone Cafe w/ The Papercuts
04 Mar - Hattiesburg, MS @ The Thirsty Hippo w/ The Papercuts
05 Mar - Baton Rouge, LA @ Spanish Moon w/ The Papercuts
06 Mar - Houston, TX @ Walters on Washington w/ Papercuts
07 Mar - Austin, TX @ Emos w/ The Papercuts
08 Mar - Denton, TX @ Haileys w/ The Papercuts
10 Mar - Tucson, AZ @ Solar Culture w/ The Papercuts
11 Mar - Phoenix, AZ @ Modified w/ The Papercuts
12 Mar - San Diego, CA @ The Casbah w/ The Papercuts
13 Mar - Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo w/ The Papercuts
14 Mar - San Luis Obispo, CA @ Steynberg Gallery w/ The Papercuts
15 Mar - San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill w/ The Papercuts
17 Mar - Portland, OR @ Holocene w/ The Papercuts
18 Mar - Seattle, WA @ Chop Suey w/ The Papercuts
19 Mar - Vancouver, BC @ The Media Club w/ The Papercuts
21 Mar - Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court w/ The Papercuts
22 Mar - Denver, CO @ Hi-Dive w/ The Papercuts
24 Mar - Omaha, NE @ The Slowdown w/ The Papercuts
25 Mar - Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry w/ The Papercuts
26 Mar - Chicago, IL @ Schubas w/ The Papercuts
27 Mar - Cleveland, OH @ The Grog Shop w/ The Papercuts
28 Mar - Toronto, ON @ El Mocambo w/ The Papercuts
29 Mar - Montreal, QUE @ Casa del Popolo w/ The Papercuts
30 Mar - Burlington, VT @ The Monkey House Burlington
31 Mar - Cambridge, MA @ Middle East Upstairs w/ The Papercuts
1 Apr - Middleton, CT @ Wesleyan University w/ The Papercuts
2 Apr - New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom w/ The Papercuts
3 Apr - Philadelphia, PA @ The Barbery w/ The Papercuts
4 Apr - Washington, DC @ Rock and Roll Hotel w/ The Papercuts

Visit Beach House on MySpace
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In the recent past, the following bands have been featured as EAR FARM's Band of the Week:
Computer Perfection
Goes Cube
Magic Arm
Drink Up Buttercup
The Big Sleep
Pete and the Pirates
Dead Confederate
Throw Me The Statue

See the entire list of bands featured as EAR FARM's Band of the Week HERE.

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Super Furry Animals @ Bowery Ballroom - 25 February 2008

The premise itself was immensely appealing: Super Furry Animals trade in their stadium-sized visual feast of a live show for a scaled-back club tour of America. In the process, they throw this widget up on their site and ask fans in each city to vote on that night's set list. The results? A tightened focus on the band's actual music over the bells and whistles of tours past and the day-late dollar-short realization that you're watching one of the best live bands in the world do their thing about 6 feet from where your jaw hits the floor. And to think you could have seen it three other times this past month....

Well better late than never, because Monday was the final show of their US tour and who knows when the next time Gruff, Huw, Guto, Cian, and Dafydd decide to go the way of those dueling piano guys at the corner Irish bar and take requests for the entirety of a show (or the entirety of a tour for that matter).

Taking the stage to the robotic pre-recorded intro of Phantom Power's "Slow Life", the band (minus Gruff) seamlessly blended live instrumentation with the synthetic blurps and beeps before Rhys emerged with his trademark super-sized Power Ranger helmet to officially begin the evening.

What followed was a 90-minute career-spanning set....

And perhaps the biggest payoff in being treated to such a smattering of material was - for the first time - a FULL appreciation of what amazing songwriters the Super Furries are. Seriously, all these guys do is craft top-notch, impeccable rock and roll that flirts with everything from Phil Spector-esque doo-wop (see recent single "Run-Away") to vocoder-laden slow jams (the slithery "Juxtaposed With U").

As a result, every song cast its own formidable vibe over Bowery, transforming it from a Lothario's love den during "The Gift That Keeps Giving"....

...to an anarchist's rally for the rousing "The Man Don't Give a Fuck" (picture not included).

Other highlights for me included the Beach Boys-with-balls crunch of "Rings Around the World", the always amazing "Receptacle for the Respectable" (complete with carrot-eating solo as usual), and - much to my surprise as the version on Hey Venus doesn't do much for me - "Baby Ate My Eightball", the live version of which showcased one of the slinkier rhythm guitar parts I've heard in a loooong time. It's somewhat of a shame that SFA's many and varied quirks - Power Rangers helmets, Yeti suits, pun-heavy song titles, carrot solos, funny videos, etc. - at times can overshadow their sheer mastery of the rock genre, but therein also lies the appeal. They make everything look so effortless and like some sort of improv gag that you forget how consummately professional and ridiculously talented these guys are. Monday was a powerful reminder.







Listen: "Run-Away"

Visit Super Furry Animals on MySpace

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OPP

The New York Times profiles former Joe's Pub (and current Lincoln Center) booker Bill Bragin

Michael Jackson faces sale of Neverland

Slate: What happened to Jeff Mangum?

SPIN listens to 600 mp3s of SXSW bands to separate the wheat from the chaff

Wired editor Chris Anderson explains the move from the Long Tail to Free

Knitting Factory on 14th Street?

Brian Wilson plans a series of Greatest Hits shows in the UK this summer

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26 February 2008

I Want My MTV - Madonna & JT

Justin Timberlake is going to justify his love of Madonna by inducting her at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ceremony?? Gosh, I've never wanted my MTV so badly in my entire lifetime!

Below are nine of EAR FARM's favorite Madonna/JT videos. Dig.


"Express Yourself" by Madonna (above)


"Let Me Talk To You / My Love" by Justin Timberlake featuring T.I. (above)


"Into the Groove" by Madonna (above)


"LoveStoned / I Think She Knows Interlude" by Justin Timberlake (above)


"Open Your Heart" by Madonna (above)


"Rock Your Body" by Justin Timberlake (above)


"Justify My Love" by Madonna (above - NSFW!)


"SexyBack" by Justin Timberlake (above)


"Sorry" by Madonna (above)

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Three for Free - The Mountain Goats

EAR FARM's Three for Free: three EF approved, free and legal MP3s posted each week. This week - three from The Mountain Goats.

Listen:
"Sax Rohmer #1"
"New Monster Avenue"
"Lions Teeth"

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The National @ BAM Howard Gilman Opera House - 23 February 2008

Having the opportunity to see a rock concert in a venue as special as the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Howard Gilman Opera House is a rare treat. Generally, modern rock bands are relegated to the confines of various banged up ballrooms (at best) and/or basement bars (or worse) in this city. While abundant in character and rock and roll charm, these standard kinds of venues lack quite a bit in terms of mood-setting ambiance and happy acoustics. However, these characteristics are precisely where opera houses excel. Given that Boxer was perhaps my favorite album released last year, it should come as no surprise that I headed into Saturday night's performance by The National with great hopes, expectations, and anticipation. Just what, exactly, would such a glorious venue do for one of my favorite current American rock bands, and how would The National treat the opera house in return?

My Brightest Diamond (led by/aka Shana Worden) opened the show with her unique blend of cabaret, chamber music, rock, and opera influence. Though she's no stranger to the NY music scene (honing her chops over the past few years on stages throughout the city, and previously finding work as a backup vocalist for Sufjan Stevens) this was my first time seeing her in person. During the opening songs she had me thinking of Edith Piaf (vocals), Antony Hegarty (vocals), Lindsey Buckingham (guitar), PJ Harvey (guitar), and Roy Orbison (hair/vocals); but by the end of her set all I could think of was of how much I needed to see this woman/band perform again. The contrast of the string quartet arrangements, soaring vocals, and delicate-rocking-diving-detuned guitar work was quite the perfect way to set the scene at the BAM Opera House for The National to take the stage. And thank goodness for that, because as good as My Brightest Diamond was on that night, all we all really wanted was The National. Badly.

Against a shiny Vegasesque backdrop, and to the tune of Bon Iver's excellent song "Flume", the band took to the stage with a small orchestra in tow. I expected the accompaniment, but still found myself supremely pleased when I saw the trumpet, bassoon, flute, violin, cello, saxophone, piano, and two trombones. For this meant that The National meant business. And that they did.

The show began with "Start a War", a perfectly building opener, and continued through song after song from the band's two most recent (most outstanding) albums, Boxer and Alligator. In fact, the entire set list was comprised of songs from these two records, save two cuts from Cherry Tree and one brand new song. As I listen to 19 of the 20 songs right now, in the order they played them that night, it strikes me how well thought out this set list was. Like anything worth enjoying, the songs put together in this order create a mood that slowly builds up, gloriously falls apart, and then rebuilds itself again and again multiple times. It was a magnificent concert.

In person there were two very distinct moments that stood out: the series of songs from "Secret Meeting" to "Mistaken for Strangers" to "Squalor Victoria" to "Abel" (a sequence which had me smiling the rarest of concert smiles - my "I'm seeing Morrissey" smile), and the first encore which saw lead singer Matt Berninger venture out into the middle of the audience for the chorus of "Mr. November". It's not an exaggeration to say that the show gave me chills once or twice. And the sound? Oh the sound! The whole thing felt like all of those times I've found myself watching a concert film and wishing that I was fortunate enough to be one of the lucky few who got to see the recorded show live, in person. The magnitude of excellence was not lost on me.

The audience was the only thing that marred the show at all, sometimes with their sceneyness (including some girls behind me critiquing female audience members' fashion during the show), sometimes because of their collective body odor, sometimes because of "witty" repartee ("Freebird!" and "Brooklyn!" among the standout shout-outs), but mostly because of all of the clapping along to the songs. I'll save you my extended and annoyed ranting on the subject, save for a single question. Question: do you ever feel like a rhythmically challenged deaf monkey when you clap along to songs at a concert? Because you look and sound like precisely that. Regardless, no amount of annoying audience behavior could do anything to ruin this show. And after all, most of what I found annoying from other people was a result of fandom. A fanatical response to the greatness of the musicians on stage. Can't really knock that. On this night the band had people moving, singing, shouting, and clapping along - the old man across the aisle seemingly moved to tears even (though I think that was because he twisted his knee "dancing") - doing whatever we could to somehow reflect our adoration for the performance. To let the band know how much we approved. Something about the look on each of their faces tells me that they knew.

The National is one of those rare bands with the power to both touch you with their words and move you with their playing. They can floor you with gentle beauty at one moment and rouse you out of your seat with anthemic emoting the next. For all of you people across the US wondering if you should consider seeing The National open up for R.E.M., don't make the mistake of missing out when they come to your part of the world. This past Saturday night the band was given the rare opportunity to grace the stage at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, and in return they gave each of us in attendance a glimpse at The National at their very best. They had us all up, out of our seats, and in the palm of their collective hand. We'd have taken ten encores if they would've given them.

Set list:
Start a War
Brainy
Baby, We’ll Be Fine
Slow Show
Secret Meeting
Mistaken for Strangers
Squalor Victoria
Abel
Wasp Nest
Racing like a Pro
Ada (feat. Sufjan Stevens)
Apartment Story
unknown NEW song
Green Gloves
Fake Empire
--
City Middle
Mr. November
Daughters of the Soho Riots
--
Gospel
About Today

Listen:
"Something Of An End" by My Brightest Diamond
"Wasp Nest" by The National

See The National live - tour dates HERE.

Visit The National on MySpace.

Download The National's performance at BAM on the 22nd of February over on NYCTaper.

*above image from HERE.

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Today's NEW Releases

It's all about Beach House this week:

What am I missing? What else is good?


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OPP

Impressive lineup for this year's Sasquatch Festival unveiled yesterday

New York Philharmonic performs in North Korea

The AV Club and Pitchfork both like the new Beach House album as much as we do

World's greatest record collection gets fraudulent bid

Perez Hilton could land a cushy A&R job at Warner Brothers Records

Stereogum was also at Friday's Black Mountain show

Customize your car horn with any mp3

Why are Van Halen canceling some of their shows?!

Blur's Dave Rowntree to run for Parliament seat in next election

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25 February 2008

Hit-or-miss: "I Would Work If I Could" by Brian Michael Roff And The Deer

Listen:
"I Would Work If I Could" by Brian Michael Roff And The Deer from Inventory

View:
Image search results for I Would Work If I Could - above image is from the eleventh page of results (and was originally from HERE).
--
In the recent past these songs were featured in Hit-or-miss posts:
"My Last Kiss" by The Durutti Column
"Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone" by The Walkmen
"Cosmic Dancer" by T. Rex
"I Just Called to Say I Love You" by Stevie Wonder
"Stay On Your Toes" by Del Tha Funkee Homosapien
"The Queen Of Outer Space" by The Wedding Present
"Powder Blue" by Ween
"Good Morning, Captain" by Slint

To see a full list of every song featured in EAR FARM's Hit-or-miss (and to find out just what this Hit-or-miss is) click HERE.

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Black Mountain @ Bowery Ballroom - 22 February 2008

The first time I saw Black Mountain was in 2005, and I'm pretty sure the number of folks crammed onstage alone would have constituted a fire code violation.

Such is the benefit of sharing members with opening bands (as was the case then with Blood Meridian and Ladyhawk); when a given tune simply must have four additional people playing cowbells and maracas, you get to have four extra people playing cowbells and maracas. That night, the Mercury Lounge stage looked more like a hippie commune than a setting for a proper rock show.

And let's face it, if you're into Black Mountain it's because you want a big ole' thick-cut slice of ROCK. And while it wasn't as though they failed to deliver the ROCK then, it was just a bit difficult at times to discern the ROCKING through the mass of unwashed bodies onstage.

Nearly three years later, Black Mountain traded in the cramped digs of Mercury (cramped when you have a dozen folks onstage) for the more spacious environs of Bowery Ballroom. In the process, they also shed their superfluous entourage and rocked a sold-out crowd with the devastatingly effective lineup of their five core members.

Let's cut to the chase: if the 2005 version of Black Mountain was a traveling band of noodling gypsies, the 2008 version is a revved-up Mystery Machine, with singer/guitarist/mastermind Stephen McBean at the wheel (he's Shaggy of course) and vocalist Amber Webber riding shotgun (as Daphne). Up to you to figure out who's Velma, Scooby, and Fred...(more pics and exclusive audio and video after the jump)




Done? Good. The band blazed through a set that at first leaned heavily - and sequentially - on tracks from In The Future, lulling the crowd into thinking they'd be playing the entire album in sequential order before shifting gears into "Druganaut" - a standout from their self-titled debut - following an epic version of "Tyrants". The remainder of the set seamlessly mixed old and new into a steaming cauldron of fuzzy, bottom-heavy, organ-drenched psych-rock bliss. Apologies, but I just can't help evoking witch/goblin/medieval imagery when talking about these guys (it's either that or Scooby-Doo again so you tell me what's better).

It was also nice to hear the stellar sound at Bowery used to its full potential once again; every sustained guitar note, organ vamp, and throaty vocal howl cut through with impeccable precision and immediacy while still managing to coalesce and surge into a unified wall of ROCK.




Watch:
"Evil Ways" (live from this show) on YouTube|download QT

Listen:
"Evil Ways" (live from this show)

See more EF pictures from this show HERE

See Black Mountain Live:
25 February - Portland, ME @ The Space Gallery
26 February - Moncton, New Brunswick @ The Manhattan
27 February - Halifax, Nova Scotia @ The Marquee Club
29 February - Montreal, Quebec @ La Sala Rosa
05 March - Toronto, Ontario @ Lee's Palace
06 March - Cleveland Heights, OH @ Grog Shop
07 March - Louisville, KY @ Headliners
08 March - Newport, KY @ Southgate House
09 March - Knoxville, TN @ The Pilot Light
10 March - Nashville, TN @ Exit/In
11 March - Little Rock, AR @ Sticky Fingerz Chicken Shack
12-16 March - Austin, TX @ SXSW
16 March - Houston, TX @ Meridian
19 March - Norman, OK @ The Opolis
20 March - Kansas City, MO @ Record Bar
21 March - St. Louis, MO @ Bluebird
22 March - Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle
23 March - Madison, WI @ High Noon Saloon
24 March - Minneapolis, MN @ 7th St. Entry
25 March - Fargo, ND @ Aquarium
27 March - Winnipeg, Manitoba @ Pyramid Cabaret
28 March - Regina, Saskatchewan @ The Distrikt
29 March - Saskatoon, Saskatchewan @ Amigo's
31 March - Edmonton, Alberta @ Starlite Room
01 April - Calgary, Alberta @ The Warehouse
02 April - Kelowna, British Columbia @ Habitat
05 April - Vancouver, British Columbia @ Commodore Ballroom
25 April - Indio, CA @ Coachella
09-11 May - Rye, England @ Camber Sands Holiday Centre (ATP vs. Pitchfork)
05-15-17 Brighton, England - Great Escape Festival

Visit Black Mountain on MySpace

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OPP

Atonement and Once triumph in music Oscars

Marion Cotillard: A note-perfect Edith Piaf

The Daily Swarm has an Oscars weekend music roundup

Maxim reviews the new Black Crowes album without having listened to it!

The Los Angeles Times reviews a Liars show at El Rey

NY Times: A show business fortune at risk in the drama of Britney Spears

Tragic past follows Great White on tour

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22 February 2008

Earfcyclopedia (Oscars Edition): Musicians as Actors

Is there any argument that music and film are perhaps the two most celebrated, recognized and lucrative forms of artistic expression in our popular culture?

Is there any argument that they also generate more arguments than all other popular artistic mediums combined?

So why then, despite our obsessive dissecting, debating, analyzing and chronicling of the two, doesn't there exist a comprehensive list detailing the intersection of music and film? Somewhat related, are you sick of us asking rhetorical questions? Fair enough, we get it.

Less questions, more solutions! In this, our first installment of the Earfcyclopedia - just in time for the Oscars - this glaring omission within the annals of pop culture will stand no longer. We present you with a comprehensive as hell list of musicians who have crossed the line and tried their hands at acting. Sure, other reputable sources such as MTV and Rolling Stone have lamely attempted to chronicle this merging of artistic mediums, but frankly most of those lists suck.

Where's the love for the Kristoffersons, Kowalczyks, and Kiedises of the world (and that's just the K's)?

After the jump, peruse our list of 110+ alphabetized names of musician actors and please feel free to add any we might've overlooked. As well, before the jump you'll find lists of each of our own personal top 5 favorite musician actors. But first, some rules...

The rules are simple. First and foremost, chronology matters. In the arc of said artist's career, first singles, albums or musical performances must come before first pilots, sitcoms, movies or plays (bye bye Brigitte Bardot, Rick Springfield and Jennifer Lopez). And on that note, the musician must have been accomplished enough BEFORE trying acting that it's not laughable to imagine them performing onstage. For this reason, we've struck Bruce Willis from the list even though he was in a band before gaining recognition on Moonlighting. Also, documentaries obviously don't count, it's gotta be fiction or else.

Now - with some accompanying music selections - our own wholly-biased top 5's (with the full realization that as former Oscar winners Cher and Babs deserve to be at the top of an objective list but hey, we like playing arbitrary favorites). Ready?

Matt's Biased Top 5 Favorite Musician Actors

5. Kris Kristofferson - Who is the more manly man, Sam Elliot or Kris Kristofferson? Unless they arm wrestle in public the world may never know. However, I submit Kristofferson's work in Convoy, Blade, and The Jacket as evidence supporting his claim to the title. Something about seeing him on screen is like a big warm blanket of masculinity. And I like it. What??

4. Olivia Newton-John - With Olivia's appearances in Grease and Xanadu it's pretty safe to say that she's forever etched into the hearts and minds of people my age everywhere. Plus, I think there was a brief time in 1982 when I was certain she'd one day be my wife. Or workout partner. Blame the video for "Physical" I suppose.3. Dolly Parton - Her appearances in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and Steel Magnolias were pretty great; however, Nine to Five is where Dolly really shines. It's easily one of my favorite comedies ever. And Dolly is pure magic in it: "Look, I've got a gun out there in my purse. Up until now I've been forgivin' and forgettin' because of the way I was brought up, but I'll tell you one thing. If you ever say another word about me or make another indecent proposal, I'm gonna get that gun of mine, and I'm gonna change you from a rooster to a hen with one shot!"2. David Bowie - Um, he's Jareth the Goblin King. 'Nuff said.1. Madonna - Number of movies she's in that I own? Nine: Desperately Seeking Susan, Who's That Girl, Dick Tracy, A League of Their Own, Body of Evidence, Four Rooms, Evita, The Next Best Thing, and Swept Away. Number of times I've seen the first two films in that list? Uncountable. Tell me she can't act, go ahead. I'll fight you.
Mike's Biased Top 5 Favorite Musician Actors

5. Reba McEntire - With her work in Tremors, she did what Meredith Baxter (Birney) never could: make being married to Michael Gross appear natural and believable.4. Justin Timberlake - Some may point to his nascent work on the Mickey Mouse Club and cry foul but I disagree. We all loved his dominance over SNL but equally impressive was his ability to shed the boy-band past and play a somewhat convincing thug in Alpha Dog.

3. Ice Cube - More Boyz in the Hood, Friday, and Three Kings, less Anaconda please. Bonus: Cube is also rumored to be playing B.A. Baracus in an upcoming adaptation of The A-Team. Sold.2. Mark Wahlberg - Watching Boogie Nights for the first time was a revelation; it was Wahlberg's confession to having played a long, drawn-out joke on everyone while hamming it up as Marky Mark.

1. Dwight Yoakam - His music isn't really my thing and he may look like Sloth, but goddammit he can act. See: Panic Room, Wedding Crashers.Now, on to the Master List!


Earfcyclopedia: Musicians as Actors

50 Cent
Andre 3000 (Andre Benjamin)
Marc Anthony
Harry Belafonte
Big Boi
Bjork
Jon Bon Jovi
Bow Wow
David Bowie
James Brown
David Byrne
Mariah Carey
Johnny Cash
Cher
Phil Collins
Sean 'P. Diddy' Combs
Common
Harry Connick Jr.
Alice Cooper
Elvis Costello
Bing Crosby
Billy Ray Cyrus
Roger Daltrey
Sammy Davis Jr.
John Denver
DMX
Eminem
Gloria Estefan
Fat Joe
Joey Fatone
Stacy Ferguson (aka Fergie)
Flea
Aretha Franklin
Kim Gordon
Omarion Grandberry
Dave Grohl
George Harrison
Isaac Hayes
Jeff Healey
Levon Helm
Robyn Hitchcock
Susanna Hoffs
Jennifer Hudson
Michael Hutchence
Ice Cube
Ice T
Iggy Pop
Chris Isaak
Janet Jackson
Michael Jackson
Mick Jagger
Ja Rule
Seu Jorge
Alicia Keys
Anthony Kiedis
Jewel Kilcher
Beyonce Knowles
Ed Kowalczyk
Kris Kristofferson
Cyndi Lauper
Avril Lavigne
John Lennon
Huey Lewis
Courtney Love
Lyle Lovett
Ludacris
John Lurie
Madonna
Marilyn Manson
Chan Marshall (Cat Power)
Dean Martin
Dave Matthews
Paul McCartney
Reba McEntire
Meat Loaf
Bret Michaels
Mandy Moore
Alanis Morissette
Tom Morello
Mos Def
Ricky Nelson
Olivia Newton-John
Dolly Parton
Pink
Elvis Presley
Prince
Queen Latifah
Lou Reed
Justin Rice
Keith Richards
Jonathan Richman
Henry Rollins
Diana Ross
Gavin Rossdale
Erik "Everlast" Schrody
Tupac Shakur
Paul Simon
Jessica Simpson
Frank Sinatra
Will Smith
Snoop Dogg
Britney Spears
Ringo Starr
Gwen Stefani
Sting
Barbra Streisand
Justin Timberlake
Tina Turner
Eddie Vedder
Tom Waits
Donnie Wahlberg
Mark Wahlberg
Jack White
Will.I.Am
Andy Williams
Dwight Yoakam

Tell Wikipedia that EAR FARM's a-knockin'...

*above photo found HERE

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New Evangelicals Video: "Midnight Vignette"

This little doozy of a video fits in perfectly with our forced attempts all week at providing film-related music content in celebration of Sunday's Oscars.

It's inspiration is pretty clearly derived from the song's title (and the whole vibe of The Evening Descends for that matter): a spooky, grainy, midnight B-movie. Directed by Matt Leach. Enjoy!



Also, don't forget to catch Evangelicals this Sunday (2/24) at Mercury Lounge and next Friday at Union Hall (2/29), both of which are with Headlights

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OPP

Atlantic Avenue's Magnetic Fields closing its doors for good on March 31st

Throw Me The Statue does a Take Away Show on a Seattle ferry

Gridskipper: Songs That Drop New York Addresses

Gothamist chats with Matt Berninger of the National

And across the pond, Drowned in Sound has a chat with Pete and the Pirates

Friday Night Lights may live to see another season!

Tumblr's founder reveals his revenue plan for the site = make money off of EARF

All Points West Festival unveils its full lineup

The Breeders announce the first single from upcoming album Mountain

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21 February 2008

8+

"Oh Comely" by Neutral Milk Hotel which clocks in at 8:18

Or, The Assassination of Jeff Mangum by the Coward Colin Meloy.

No, I do not think Colin Meloy is a coward; I actually like him as well as the Decemberists. The above is simply a strained haymaker aimed at timeliness, a one-two punch if you will. Punch one, right in the gut: Neutral Milk Hotel's seminal album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea turned ten this month, what ideal fodder for this week's 8+....except that last week was it's actual anniversary, so perhaps then would have proven more ideal. Alas.

Punch two, a stiff uppercut: the Oscars are Sunday and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford garnered two nominations, a best supporting nod for Casey Affleck (the likable Affleck) and best cinematography for Roger Deakins (also nominated for No Country For Old Men).

Okay, so at least one of these references comes at a perfect time. And, in watching this film this past weekend, it seems I unwittingly constructed a parallel between its narrative and last week's timely item du jour: Jeff Mangum and the anniversary of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea....

Now, Pitchfork and other outlets did more than an admirable job of lionizing this album through a good ten years of beer goggles, so I'll spare you from attempting to do the same. Fact is, I'm a casual NMH fan at best; yes, I enjoy In the Aeroplane just fine thanks, but couldn't Robert Schneider have coaxed some less "pitchy" vocal takes from Mangum throughout the sessions? "Blasphemy!" you and everyone you know say - and you're probably right - which is why I'm declining to speak of the greatness of this album; I'll pass on that Kool-Aid for now.

Instead, I want to set our sights on the most eager (or at least the most visible...err, audible?) graduate of the Jeff Mangum School of Hard Vox, Colin Meloy.

As Mike McGonigal wrote last week in the intro to Pitchfork's tribute to In the Aeroplane, "I've always joked that David Karsten Daniels and Colin Meloy would each do well to send partial royalty checks to Mangum."

Absolutely right. And don't you ever get the feeling that Meloy's studied take on the literate nasal delivery resulted from hours upon hours spent locked in his dorm room absorbing Mangum's warbly vocals? I know I do.

Back to the film...I won't spoil anything but just paint the broad strokes and emphasize that among other things, The Assassination of Jesse James is a study in obsession. In the film, Robert Ford grows up worshiping the figure of Jesse James that has been immortalized in countless penny comic books and crackerjack novels. The Academy probably felt Affleck deserved a nomination if nothing but for the convincing "holy shit I'm chilling with my hero!" look he masterfully wears throughout his scenes with Brad Pitt (as James). I don't need to tell you how it ends, but in one scene Ford is coaxed by his older brother into telling James about his childhood obsession with him and all the similarities he had once catalogued between himself and his hero. The list is frighteningly comprehensive and includes such trivial observations as the fact that their names contain the same number of letters, they have the same number of siblings, their fathers were both ministers, etc etc etc.

It got me thinking: what if Colin Meloy is off somewhere constructing a similar list between he and Mangum? Is this so hard to believe?

He would actually discover quite a few (if at times strained) similarities. Riffing off Ford's list, most obviously there's the same number of letters in each name, coincidentally the same number that Ford and James shared as well.

C-O-L-I-N-M-E-L-O-Y = 10 letters

J-E-F-F-M-A-N-G-U-M = 10 letters

Oooooooooh spooky. Next are the overlapping background details: both grew up in somewhat rural and remote locations (Meloy in Helena, MT and Mangum in Ruston, LA) before moving to more progressive urban areas (Meloy to Portland, OR and Mangum to Athens, GA).

Both also fronted at least two other bands before settling in with the groups from which they're most well-known - Meloy in Happy Cactus and Tarkio prior to the Decemberists and Mangum in the Olivia Tremor Control and Synthetic Flying Machine leading up to Neutral Milk Hotel.

Not surprisingly, their actual songs and albums also bear similarities beyond just that of nearly identical vocals. Both have evoked WWII imagery on numerous occasions, Meloy most directly doing so on "When The War Came" - a rumination on the Siege of Leningrad - and of course Mangum throughout In the Aeroplane, itself a concept album about Anne Frank.

Not to be outdone, Meloy has also been accused of catering to the C-word (that's concept okay?) on The Crane Wife, as many whispered that it was actually a concept album about a Japanese folk tale. Regardless of the validity of such claims, this album is at least guilty of demonstrating another Meloy/Mangum parallel, that of their penchant for multi-part songs. There's "The Crane Wife 1 & 2" and "The Crane Wife 3" just as In the Aeroplane features "The King of Carrot Flowers, Pt. 1" and "Pt. 2" as well as "Two-Headed Boy" and "Two-Headed Boy, Pt. 2". Hmmm.

Finally, there's the whole meta-similarity of the "one-take" urban legends that has arisen around two of their best-known songs. It has been said that Meloy and the rest of the Decemberists recorded "The Mariner's Revenge Song" from Picaresque (and previous 8+) in a single take while all huddled around one microphone. Similar claims surround the recording of this week's 8+, "Oh Comely". According to Wikipedia (and take it for what it's worth):

The song is one of a few on the album (notably, "Two-Headed Boy") to be recorded with mostly just Mangum's vocals and acoustic guitar present. The take for "Oh Comely" used on the final album actually started as a test; producer Robert Schneider, the three other members of Neutral Milk Hotel and various Elephant 6 performers were listening to Mangum play the song in the Pet Sounds Studio control room, assumming he was just checking how the microphone sounded. The crowd was surprised when Mangum ended up playing the entire eight-minute song in one go, and the room erupted in cheers and applause when he finished. At the very end of the song, an almost inaudible exclamation of "holy shit" can be heard, believed to be Scott Spillane. Mangum's track remains a sparse production on the final album, with only a few overdubs near the end (including Spillane's horn part).
To borrow a phrase from Bret Michaels, whassa goin' on? Did Meloy himself start the rumor about "The Mariner's Revenge Song" as the ultimate act of fan-boy emulation? Are these similarities merely superficial coincidences that, like most conspiracy theories, are only tenuously cobbled together? Beats me, but as the title of the film may suggest, Jeff Mangum may want to watch his back whenever Colin Meloy's in town.

*above photo from HERE

Buy In the Aeroplane Over the Sea on Amazon

EAR FARM's 8+ is a weekly feature that showcases songs longer than 8 minutes. In the recent past these songs were featured on EF's 8+:
George Gershwin - "Rhapsody in Blue"
Múm - "Smell Memory"
Tool - "Lateralus"
Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks - "Real Emotional Trash"
Iron Maiden - "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son"
Mandy Reid - "Tornado"
Genesis - "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight"
Metallica - "Master of Puppets"

To see a full list of every song featured in EAR FARM's 8+ click HERE.

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