Friday, June 26, 2009

Review: Metric - Fantasies

I have a review of the new Metric album, Fantasies, in the new issue of the Tucson Weekly:

The cover image of a single light bulb is stark and effective, a wordless introduction to the electrifying dance music on Fantasies, the fourth album from Canada's Metric.

Amid the surging guitars, keyboards, heavy bass and relentless dance beats is frontwoman Emily Haines, whose vocals rise clean and clear above the mix, stamping the record with vitality and an irresistible charm.

Built around guitar and keyboard riffs, Fantasies is densely layered, at times frantic and moody, but always with a bright, new-wave sheen. Released four years after Metric's last record, Fantasies grew out of a songwriting retreat Haines took in Buenos Aires.

The band—Haines on guitar and synthesizer, guitarist James Shaw, bassist Josh Winstead and drummer Joules Scott-Key—is skillful at cranking up each song, holding back and then cutting loose as they unleash the chorus.

Album opener "Help I'm Alive"—also the first single—is a thumping, urgent song, with Haines' vocals drifting from soft and seductive to the sing-along chorus.

With a high-wire guitar riff that's destined to get stuck in the listener's head, "Gold Guns Girls" takes aim at excesses, desire and greed. "More and more, more and more. ... Is it ever gonna be enough?" Haines sings over and over.

The album's centerpiece is "Gimme Sympathy," which takes its title from two Rolling Stones songs and asks one of life's most fundamental questions: "Who would you rather be—the Beatles or the Rolling Stones?" Without putting forth an answer, Fantasies seems to revel in the question.

Metric - Live NPR broadcast (76 mb)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Frightened Rabbit coming to Tucson

Stateside Presents just announced a Sept. 22 show by Scottish indie rockers Frightened Rabbit at Plush. Putting it onto my iCal, however, I noticed a dilemma: The Pains of Being Pure At Heart are booked at Club Congress for the same night.

That's right, three months out, and what could be two of the best shows all fall happen to be booked on the same night. Damn. What's an indie rock fan to do?

I thought that maybe everyone could combine forces and maybe the Rialto could pick up the show... but they have Sugar Ray (bleh!) booked for the same night.

I haven't listened to Frightened Rabbit much, but Kevin at SoMuchSilence has it as his top album of 2008.

I haven't seen any indication yet whether either band have another Arizona show booked...

Frightened Rabbit - I Feel Better

Sunday, June 21, 2009

8Tracks mix

I was a big fan of Muxtape when it was alive and well, and these days it looks like 8Tracks is where it's at for online mixes. It bring in some social networking elements too - for example, you can "follow" people.

My good friend Mr. Chair was so thrilled about his new shower curtain that he was inspired to make a mix. And it's pretty damn good:

I'm also thrilled about Mr. Chair's new shower curtain, so much so that I was inspired to make a mix as well. And it's damn good:

New Calexico

Calexico's new tour-only CD will be a live one, from the band's Carried to Dust tour last fall.

Always excellent live, Calexico just wrapped up a very well-received tour with Andrew Bird. (And recorded an album with Tom Russell.)

Ancienne Belgique - Live In Brussels 2008
features 14 songs and is only available on Calexico's Web site or at shows.

But the band did post four of the songs to YouTube as a bonus preview.

Here's "Fractured Air":

Check out the rest of the videos here.

Calexico - Inspiracion (live 2006-12-02)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Townes covering Bob - Bob covering Townes

I just recently came across this fantastic 1985 recording of Townes Van Zandt on a Tennessee NPR station and I nearly flipped when I heard him start playing Dylan's "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" right in the middle of his "Colorado Girl."

It's stunning - a perfect recording and just an absolutely flawless performance. And it's extra huge to my ears, because this is the first prime Dylan song I've ever heard Townes sing.

Before this, I've only known two Dylan songs that Townes has covered, both obscure tunes to even the biggest Dylan fans: "Man Gave Names To All The Animals" (from Slow Train) and "Rambling, Gambling Willie" (unreleased before the 1991 Bootleg Series, which Townes played as "Little Willie The Gambler"). Both covers are on Townes' Roadsongs disc.

Dylan, of course, is a fan of Townes' classic "Pancho & Lefty."

Townes Van Zandt - Colorado Girl -> Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues
Bob Dylan - Pancho & Lefty (live 2004 Bonnaroo)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pains of Being Pure At Heart coming to Tucson

I haven't heard the album yet, but the Pains of Being Pure at Heart have been generating a ton of buzz this year, with comparisons including Joy Division, My Bloody Valentine, The Smiths and Jesus & Mary Chain. (A quick perusal of some reviews shows As, 8s, 9s and even 10s from various publications... not too bad at all.)

Both Stateside Presents and Club Congress have just tweeted (nearly simultaneously) that the band will be playing a Sept. 22 stop at Congress. I'm guessing that this one will sell out...

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - Everything With You

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Somewhere near the crossroads of the sun, the sea, the dust and a fiercely guarded isolation is the essence of this tiny Seri village on the Sonoran coast of Mexico.

Desemboque is a wild study in contradictions, both rich and subtle, starting with its thudding juxtapositon of desert and sea. As well as I know and love the Sonoran Desert, it seemed inconcievable to stand on the edge of a low-tide beach, staring at waves in one direction and saguaro in the other.

My visit was unexpected, a short-notice invitation from a linguist friend who studys the one-of-a-kind Seri language and how these indigenous people describe the landscape and the spatial relationships between its objects.

We left Tucson early Monday morning, speeding away in a Chevy Blazer before the day's heat could catch up with us. The road there, which was new teritory for me from the moment we crossed the border into Mexico, took us through Hermosillo before heading west. The final hour or so of dirt road was spent trying to sit tight despite the relentless washboard bumps.

We stayed in a decades old brick house that emphasized shelter over comfort. The electricity had been cut the week before we arrived, and an outhouse served for nature's business. We cooked with a camping stove - and actually ate very well.

The people of the village speak Seri - or cmiique iitom as they call it - and most speak Spanish as well. My friend and our hosts - a Mexican anthropologist and his wife - were the only people there who spoke any English. I speak - or rather, I understand - very little Spanish. So I just took it all in, making sense of some things along the way, but generally feeling a bit removed.

I took this picture late on Tuesday, the first of two full days in Desemboque. The setting sun created a tremendous bright orange glow in between the ocotillo branches that made the fence around the house. The landscape is absolutely beautiful and the sea breezes were a great respite during the day's peak.

I spent most of my time sitting in the shade outside the house, watching the coming and going of Seri visitors and the rhythm of the interactions. It was mostly women who came, dressed in colorful long skirts and usually bringing shell necklaces to sell. They talked with my linguist friend and the anthropologist, spreading news of the village and the upcoming Año Nuevo celebration.

I didn't have an agenda or expecations other than to see Desemboque, to tag along out of curiosity and just mainly for the experience. And it was like nothing else I'd seen or experienced before - and likely won't again.

Roger Clyne - Mexico (acoustic)
moe. - Mexico (live)

An update, of sorts

So, I've hit a big skid of the Blogging Blahs lately... (pretty obvious, I know, but it's good to say such things outright)

I think it's a mix of a number of factors: I was a little burned out on blogging so much, I've been reading so many other blogs that I got to feeling that sometimes it all just sort of gets lost in the ether of the Internet, I've been more scattered than usual in my music-listening habits and I've been writing more in other areas, both on my own and for pay - including freelance music writing for the Tucson Weekly, as well as other work. Plus, I've been dabbling in the attention-span massacring Twitter universe a bit too.

The Blogging Blahs are undoubtedly common for everyone who takes up the practice. I've certainly hit them before. And they always bring up the central question of whether it's actually worth it to take the time to write in this realm. And the answer is ever-shifting. There are no rules or obligations for blogging, just best practices: write frequently and make it interesting. But writing frequently is often at odds with making things interesting. And so bloggers lapse into hiatus every now and then.

I always miss the updates and insights from my favorite bloggers - whether close friends or random music aficionados - when their writing turns sparse, and it's happened to everyone I follow closely. It's no secret that the best blogging is regular blogging, but it's draining to keep up with daily (or close to it) blogging, even if some of the entries are just a few sentences. And I've always wanted to give my posts more heft than just a few sentences, to make them worth reading in full.

I have no intention to stop blogging, but I'm thinking about whether I need to make any changes in my approach. Who knows - I may keep things the same after this little recharging break. Or bring in some big changes. I like blogging, so there's no reason to stop, but I want to feel like it's worthwhile instead of bothersome.

There's plenty of music to keep writing about - I've been playing the new Metric album a lot lately, and the new Mos Def is awesome. The Provocative Whites new album has been in heavy rotation as well. I'm sure I'll have plenty to say about the Wilco show on Thursday (and the new album!). And I'll have some great vacations to write about, plus some good films I've seen lately. And the SwedeFest audio will make for some great downloads... So stick with me, but be a bit patient. There will be plenty to read, though I may just keep a bit of a slower pace.