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  • We Predicted It, We Take Credit for it!
    Saturday, March 29, 2008


    In October of 2006, I had a delightful conversation with The World's Funnyman, Neil Hamburger! In this, the following was stated:

    Have you ever thought about releasing albums of just comedy songs?

    You know, I have thought about that quite a bit, and we've had some groups, some musical groups, asking about it, but I just haven't gotten it together yet. In the future, I'd like to get something going, but even with the lack of popularity of those songs, maybe the next one would be the one that really took off. Weird Al Yankovic has been ill lately, so maybe we could pick up and carry on in his fallen shoes.

    I see you as being the next Allan Sherman, perhaps.

    Why not? Those men had some sort of success, and I'd like to be the next one of those.

    And you deserve it.

    Why, thank you! This is exhausting work. I can't tell you all of the physical and mental ailments and emotional pain I have been through to make people laugh. It's too bad one has to make a sacrifice for the good of the many, but that's the way it is.

    Well, to my surprise, mr. hamburger has done just that! It's with great pride that I say he has an all-music album coming out soon, entitled Neil Hamburger Performs Country Winners. And from one of the songs I've heard, it's going to be an Ace Record release, with those in the know suggesting it will be a Very Important Record, up there with Bob Newhart's The Button-down Mind. A grammy, perhaps? let's not rule it out!111l1!!111!11!!!!!!

    Listen To:"At Least I Was Paid"

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 3:54 PM   0 comments
    Rameses III Basilica


    British instrumental trio Rameses III has created a new approach to the 'live album' thing. Their newest release, Basilica, is a two-CD affair, and it's a very satisfying, unique release. The first disc, Basilica, is four remixes and reinterpretations of live recordings from a Rameses III performance in May 2006. The second disc is similar to Honey Rose, and is five songs entitled "Origins," all of which are compiled from live performances over the past two years. Listening to the songs, it's not necessarily clear where Rameses III begins and the remixer ends, but that's not the point; in this case, the 'remixer' becomes 'collaborator' in expanding Rameses III's sound, but these folk don't really change anything. So, well, the concept is interesting, but on listen, it's really hard to distinguish or appreciate. But that's a moot point; the two discs contain some utterly beautiful, quiet, and pensive instrumental compositions. I'm personally fond of our fave Gregg Kowalsky's "Rose Blood" remix--a wonderful fifteen minute epic of gentle proportions--but I like the rest of the record as well.

    Listen To: "Origins V"

    Basilica is available now on Important

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 9:37 AM   0 comments
    School of Language Sea From Shore
    Wednesday, March 26, 2008

    Field Music's Tones of Town was a wonderful blast of XTC-styled pop, and it established the British band as a young, hip group. Sadly, not long after the album's release, the band went on hiatus. I can't tell you if the band is dormant or if the "hiatus" is just the typical euphemism for "broken up," but I do know that leader David Brewis' solo project, School of Language, is a worthy endeavor. To be honest, the music on Sea From Shore is not radically different from Field Music, save for a sound that is rougher and rawer; it's also practically a one-man project, though it never suffers for it.

    The songs range from the familiar herky-jerky Field Music style, as heard on the wonderful "Disappointment '99" and "Poor Boy." Brewis does get mellow, though, on "This is No Fun" and "Keep Your Water." As I think about it, at times those songs remind me of the vintage work of his label-mate Bobby Conn. What I'm most fond of the four-part "Rockist." It's hard to call it four different songs; instead, it sounds more like a demonstration on how a song is made. Parts one through three contain different elements, and are different lengths. "Rockist Part Four" is the finished product, and though some might find this annoying--initially I wondered about where he was going with this, until I heard the final track, and I realized that the song merely combines elements of the previous three parts, while offering a variation of a theme. It sounds really good, too. Hell, the whole record is a pleasure.

    Can't tell you if there will be a new Field Music record, but I do know that the legacy and the talent of the band will live on. Sea From Shore is a quiet, unassuming little jewel of a record, and worth checking out.

    Listen To: Disappointment '99

    Sea From Shore is available now on Thrill Jockey
    posted by joseph kyle @ 1:22 PM   1 comments
    Japancakes The Sleepy Strange
    Monday, March 24, 2008

    The Sleepy Strange, Japancakes' sophomore album (and last record in Darla Records' reissue campaign) found the band honing in on the sound that makes them oh-so special. For the first time, the pedal steel takes a lead role in the band, propelling the band's overall sound into a dreamy space wonderland. The album title is 100% correct; it is "the" record, the record is very "sleepy," and it is, in its way, quite "strange." It's strange in the sense that the music is practically 'new age,' definitely 'ambient,' rather 'country,' yet it cannot be truly called those things. I can only think of one artist to compare this record to, and that is the painfully obscure Transparent Music, the debut album by pedal steel maestro, BJ Cole. To make it stranger, the songs on that record sound like Japancakes outtakes, yet those songs are all classical compositions!

    See how appropriate this album title is?

    Ultimately, The Sleepy Strange is where Japancakes became the band we know and love today. The album's sole flaw--and it's more a personal taste thing than a true flaw--is that the songs, while gorgeous, seem to ramble on a bit too long. Then again, that's not a criticism of the actual music, so maybe I shouldn't have brought it up. "The Waiting" is eight minutes of pure heavenly bliss, a gentle, relaxing ride up the stairway to an aural paradise. So is the next song, "Disconnect the Cable." Same thing for the next song, "This Year's Beat." What of the next song, "Vanishing Point?" I'm sure you can see where I'm going here.

    The Sleepy Strange is a lovely little record from a highly talented band. It's a record any band should be proud to release, and saving it from the dustbin of obscurity was a wise decision.

    Listen To: "Vanishing Point"

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 12:33 PM   0 comments
    Japancakes Down the Elements
    Thursday, March 20, 2008


    Down The Elements, a four-song EP, appeared next, and was a bit of a departure from If I Could See Dallas. It's succinct; it's darker, and it's a bit more captivating. The band's maturity is obvious. The EP doesn't contain what has become their patented gentle, country-flavored space rock; instead, its four tracks are deep, heavy explorations of straightforward "rock," and it's quite satisfying. By "deep, heavy" I mean "long," as two of the four songs break the ten minute mark; the title track is over fifteen minutes. Down the Elements was a bit of a clearing-house for this big rock sound, and served a purpose as a one-off experiment. What appeared next, however, would be a definitive statement.

    Listen to: "Sputnik"

    Down the Elements is available now on Darla Records

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 5:17 PM   0 comments
    Japancakes If I Could See Dallas
    Wednesday, March 19, 2008

    If I Could See Dallas, Japancakes' formidable debut album, is very much a record of its time. Though there are hints and traces of the wonderful country-space rock that would become their trademark, the band obviously displays the rather common trademark sounds of independent rock, circa 1998. I bought this album when it first came out, and thought it was a bit too derivative of other bands I liked at the time--Tortoise, primarily, but also other bands, many of which are more obscure than Japancakes!

    To be fair, though, If I Could See Dallas is Japancake's debut, and it suffers from the malady common to most debut albums: lack of focus. As a basic rule, a debut album should never be nearly eighty minutes long, especially an album that contains soft, gentle instrumental music. If two or three songs had been omitted, Dallas would have been a stronger, more cohesive album. It's hard to stay focused (and, well, awake) with so much content.

    Faults aside, it's hard to criticize Dallas for its musical content. The band's trademark sound had yet to be fully realized; it's interesting to hear them take on more traditional post-rock, such as "Westworld" and "Elevator Headphone." And their country space-rock style can be heard on "A Short Mile" and the gorgeous twelve-minute "Elephants." But I have a special love of the final song, "Allah Rahka," an eight minute rock jam, full of sitars, drums, violins, and a swirling psychedelic melody.

    If I Could See Dallas is an enjoyable record, though perhaps too long. Its length does not negate its quality, and the record definitely set the marker high for the band's future.

    Listen To: A Short Mile"

    If I Could See Dallas is available now on Darla Records

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 5:11 PM   0 comments
    Televise Sometimes Splendid Confusion
    Monday, March 17, 2008

    Simon Scott, former member of Slowdive, formed Televise a few years ago and then released a really amazing Britpop-minded record, Songs to Sing in A&E. Since then, Televise's records have been solo affairs, and those records have been slow, tranquil, and instrumental, not unlike Pygmalion. Sometimes Splendid Confusion is no different. The six songs found on this EP are similar; though they might seem nondescript, together they flow nicely in a half-hour's worth of bliss-out. A tranquil acoustic moment like "Praveen (Remix)" sits gently beside the quiet drone of "Tropical Mix." All in all, a half-hour's worth of gentle electronic music, a lovely humming for your head.

    Listen To: Tropical Mix

    Sometimes Sweet Confusion is available now on Drifting, Falling

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 12:13 PM   1 comments
    The Sharp Things A Moveable Feast
    Saturday, March 8, 2008

    I must confess, for the record, that I neglected a really good band, New York's jazz-pop orchestra The Sharp Things. Okay, so they're not really jazz, they're definitely pop, and they're certainly an orchestra-sized collection of sharply dressed musicians. Their third album, A Moveable Feast, came out last fall, and I had a very lovely and insightful conversation with the well-respected Jim Santo. Unfortunately, due to the realities of cancer treatments and surgeries and recoveries, a lovely Sunday afternoon interview with The Sharp Things' Jim Santo hasn't seen the light of day. It's a good interview, too, and I have the tape player at my desk to guiltily remind me of my neglected duties.

    Enough about that--how does the record sound? Amazing. Their previous record, The Fox & Hound didn't do anything for me, which was a disappointment given their excellent debut. But it took exactly two seconds of the second track, "Through With Love," for me to realize that this new record was an amazing leap forward. This song is one of the best angry-at-love love songs I heard all year, and it's helped by a grand orchestra accompaniment. It doesn't hurt that lead singer Perry Serpa channels the spirit of vintage Richard Butler, either; this is the sort of song an aging Psychedelic Furs should be releasing. Sadly, they're not. But someone is, so that's all that matters, right?

    Other highlights for me include the wonderful Motown-style arrangement on "Cruel Thing," with Serpa becoming the blue-eyed soul singer some of us always expected him of being. Then there's "Don't Hold Out Hope," a touching piano ballad that is made even more powerful by Serpa's plaintive singing. "Driving In Manhattan In My Car" is another slow one, but it's a very romantic song, and though I've never been, I can't help but feel it captures the essence of Manhattan. The chorus of "I am home" makes it even sweeter.

    The rest of the record has this beautiful, sitting-in-a-cafe-on-a-rainy-Sunday-afternoon vibe I like. In other words, we're talking about a mellow, melancholy, but hopeful and relaxing style that makes me hate most other music not as good as this. If I were David Dye, I'd be euphoric and obsessive about promoting A Moveable Feast, because this is David Dye's kind of music. And what I like about this record is it's so...so...adult. This isn't meant for "the kids" out there; as someone who is disillusioned about most "pop" music and "indie rock" in specific, it's nice to hear a record that doesn't pander to styles or genres or movements or those damn hipsters out there.

    Listen To: "Through With Love"

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 10:15 AM   0 comments
    Frank Black and Teenage Fanclub's Peel Session
    Tuesday, March 4, 2008

    File it in the "Regret They Didn't Follow It Up Pile": In 1994, Mr. Frank Black was in England, and was offered a Peel Session. He didn't have a band, so he called up the excellent Scottish power-poppers Teenage Fanclub and asked them to accompany him. They agreed, and four wonderful songs were recorded: Black's then-newly written "The Man Who Was Too Loud" and "The Jacques Tati." Also included were two covers: Del Shannon's "Sister Isabel," and Otis Blackwell's "Handyman." As befits the thrown-together arrangements for the session, the four songs sounded rough and raw, and the Fannies were in fine form. The two originals are a bit shaky, but they have a definite charm; "Sister Isabel" is creepy and weird, but it's not all Frank Black weirdness; Del Shannon's lyrics often possessed a creepy and weird tone. "Handyman" is the hands-down best song of the set, and, honestly, I think it's one of my favorite Frank Black solo recordings. It could pass as an Elvis Costello & The Attractions outtake; Frank is simply insane in his singing, and Norman Blake's motley crew do a damn good job of pounding the melody out. It's an amazing piece of music, my friends. When this limited-edition EP for this session was released, I spent a little too much money for it--but "Handyman" has reaped dividends, even if I did not keep up with Black's solo career. I do wish they had followed up this session with an EP or an album, because these songs certainly indicate that these two artistic bodies fit well together.

    Listen To: "Handyman"

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 12:40 PM   0 comments
    subtractiveLAD Decay as a Lifestyle
    Monday, March 3, 2008


    Downloaded this one as I'd heard a subtractiveLAD song a while back, and I'm glad I spent the two and a half for this one. Decay as a Lifestyle is a three song digital EP that serves the purpose of whetting the palate for the forthcoming subtractiveLAD LP; two of these songs (well, "Mayfly" is a remix, but that's splitting hairs) appear on the album, and after hearing these songs, I think it's safe to say that album must be a mindblower. The title track reminds me of Ulrich Schnauss, but with a harder edge; it's electronica and it's ambient, but it's also heavy on the "rock" side. "Ashes" removes all vestiges of rock, and is a glacially-paced ambient track not unlike Roger Eno or Harold Budd. "Mayfly" is a bit like the title track, but with a funky Japanese influence I like. It sort of has a TV soundtrack feel--specifically a detective show. You just have to hear it to understand, I guess. And by the way, why don't you hear it? The single is available for super-cheap at n5md! Can't wait to check out that album, though.

    Listen To: "Decay as a Lifetyle"

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 12:32 PM   0 comments
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