Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Singles Club: Corto Maltese

Sometimes it's good to listen to that little voice in your head. Example: I had been aimlessly shuffling around my iPod, not really feeling like listening to anything, when a little voice came to me and whispered two little words; "Corto Maltese." And damned if that little voice wasn't a genius.

There are many ways to win my heart; among them flowers, mix cds, and breakfast in bed. If you're a band, it can be a little harder to secure my affections. However, it took Austin's Corto Maltese approximately two seconds into the first song of their three-song demo. Why am I in such deep smit with this Texan fivesome, you might wonder? "Man Alive" features a "Sound and Vision" era Bowie vocal thing, along with the ever-present (and oft-commented on) Arcade Fire-alikeness that pervades the Corto Maltese sound. "Never a Waver" is full of all things loud and wonderful, and at times reminds me the Pixies' "No. 13 Baby" (seriously, listen to both of them and you'll hear what I mean). "Providence" might be my favorite, but it's a tough call. It sounds like summer, shimmery and exciting.

Corto Maltese makes the kind of music you can't help falling in love with. It's intoxicating, sophisticated, and hot damn is it ever catchy. If these are demos, I can only imagine how unbearably good an LP is going to be.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Video Vixens: Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip - Thou Shalt Always Kill

A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Happily, our newest Video Vixens, Dan le Sac and Scroobius Pip, haven't let their gray matter go to waste. Backed by lots of bleeps and an 80s-esque video game beat, "Thou Shalt Always Kill" is full of dry witticisms and bon mots about music, romance, and just plain old good living. The video takes you on a stroll around London with pasty rapper Scroobius Pip as he spreads his commandments all over the city. Some choice words of wisdom include, "Thou shalt not judge 'Lethal Weapon' by Danny Glover," "Thou shalt not fall in love so easily," and "Thou shalt not read the NME." In a Dylan-esque moment featuring the tossing of many albums, Pip reminds us that the Beatles (and many others) were but mere bands. Words to live by, and also to have a chuckle at. But enough talk. Go have a look for yourself.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Album Review: Super Furry Animals – Hey Venus!

I’ve been a Super Furry Animals devotee for 12 years. Over the course of those 12 years, from Fuzzy Logic to newest release Hey Venus!, this band of merry psychedelic spacemen from the wilds of Wales has never ceased to amaze, befuddle, confuse, delight, and entertain me more than just about any other band out there. I’d go as far as to say that they’re the only band who could successfully write songs about bats (“Chupacabras”), chewing gum (“Chewing Chewing Gum”), and guacamole (“Guacamole”) without sounding certifiable. Constantly evolving, SFA has created their own signature sound of confusion, so that even when you listen to albums that were released ten years apart, you still know exactly what band you’re listening to. Mysterious and spooky, it’s the Furry family.

Hey Venus! has been out for months upon months in the rest of the world (and digitally), but for various reasons was only recently released on American soil. Unlike SFA’s previous album Love Kraft, which took quite a while to grow on me, I was immediately smitten. I fell further in love with the transcendent “Run-Away,” which begins with singer Gruff Rhys’ intro, “This song is based on a true story/which would be fine/if it wasn’t autobiographical,” and also appeals to my love of a good, fluffy pop song masking lyrics which are anything but. “Neo Consumer” begins with lots of yelling Super Furries and much electrobleeping, somewhere along the lines of early SFA (think a slightly toned-down “God! Show Me Magic!”). “Into the Night” has a little sauce to the bassline, and some 70s-inspired keyboard effects to boot. In my head, the Furries perform this song against a backdrop of oriental rugs in a room heavily scented with incense and peppermints. And are those bongos I hear? “Suckers” is a blissfully barbed track, sharp as brass tacks but with instrumentation that’s warm and fuzzy with feedback. Hey Venus! is a spot-on LP, sure to make the long-standing SFA fans grin with glee and make believers out of the doubters.

Sure, they’ve grown up (a wee bit) since Fuzzy Logic hit the scene in 1995, but they’re probably younger at heart than most. I submit to you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that no one does far-outness like SFA, none can match their quirky prowess, and they are untouchable in the fields of spacecakery, ridiculousness, and fascinating oddities. And with that, I rest my case.

Singles Club: Army Navy

There are times when I listen to a song with absolutely no expectations, preconceived notions, or any other sort of predetermined bias. More often than not, I’ll be indifferent about the song. But sometimes, on rare instances, this track un-sullied with surmises will stop me dead in my tracks and make me immediately hit “repeat.” Again and again and again…

Ladies and gents, I present to you such a song. Take a gander at “Saints,” the latest single by Left Coast rising stars Army Navy.

Jaunty and playful, "Saints” sounds like the best of Teenage Fanclub filtered through the glorious sunrays of a Southern California summer afternoon, replete with the appropriate amounts of jangling guitars and cheeky lyrics (“believe me when I call and I say/the next girl that I love won’t be a saint/now go away”) masked by sunny vocals. It’s an early 1990s Britpop beach party, and who doesn’t love that? Army Navy does, and so do I.

You can proceed immediately here to purchase the Saints EP. Run, don’t walk.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Video Vixens: Calvin Harris - The Girls

We here as Les Enfants Terribles are old enough to remember the days when reality tv didn't exist, and MTV thereby had no choice but to actually show music videos. I don't know about you, but I kinda miss those days. It used to be so nice, popping on the tv after school and watching hours of nothing but music videos. I won't launch into a diatribe about the importance of making videos, but I will say that we know they're out there. And so, I'd like to present to you the first in a new series celebrating those brave artists still making music videos: Video Vixens.

Our lead-off vixen is the adorable Calvin Harris and his video for "The Girls." I only recently became acquainted with Calvin courtesy of my roommate, who downloaded his album I Created Disco on a whim. "The Girls" is on said album, and is quite possibly the most ridiculously entertaining, catchiest, most fun song I've heard in at least a year. It combines unbearable bravado with impossible beats that render you powerless against the need to shake your tail feathers until you can shake no more. It's hypnotic. The video itself features Calvin, a bevy of dancing ladies, and a wig selection colorful enough to rival that of Jennifer Garner's Alias character, "Sydney." And don't you just want to pinch Calvin's cheeks when he stands there, pouting at the camera and doing his little white boy lean? Ok, maybe that's just me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Decision 2008: To Coachella or Not to Coachella?

That, my friends, is the question. Seeing as the lineup is fresh out of the oven, I thought I’d take a few moments to go over some of the bands with you, and discuss some talking points as to why you (and I) ought to seriously consider going to the desert this year.

I’ve never been to a proper festival before (HFStivals from the 90s don’t count, as they were a) one day, b) at RFK Stadium, and c) not usually all that good). The idea of spending time in a dusty, desert-ish polo field in some small town really hadn’t appealed to me before, at least not enough to make me consider going with any amount of certainty. Throw in a few dozen good bands and some booze, however, and I’m bound to be on various internet travel sites researching flights faster than you can say “Verve Reunion.” But let’s talk about who’s going to be there, day by day, and why you should care.

FRIDAY, APRIL 25

Not being a fan of his, I’m going to ignore the fact that Day 1 is being headlined by Jack Johnson. The rest of the day is choc-full of hot to trot music, of which the Verve is of the most import. It’s been an unfathomable ten years since they broke up, and I swoon at the idea of seeing Richard Ashcroft and Nick McCabe playing nice (onstage, at least) again. If you’ve never seen them live, you needn’t even finish reading this post, but should instead be buying your ticket to LA. Day 1 also features bigger names in the Raconteurs, Madness, and the National. Hipster favorites Animal Collective, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, Stars, Minus the Bear, Rogue Wave, and Jens Lekman are also scheduled. And buzzed bands Vampire Weekend and the Black Lips will also be in attendance. All told, Day 1 has the potential to be pretty exciting.

SATURDAY, APRIL 26

Not to be outdone by Day 1, Day 2 has some tricks up its sleeve. Headlining duties fall with Portishead, whose miserable beauty I have wanted to see live for years. Also pulling rank on Day 2 are Kraftwerk and Death Cab for Cutie, who are both sure to get the great scenester hordes worked up to a lather. Other causes for enthusiasm include Rilo Kiley, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, M.I.A., Hot Chip, DeVotchKa, Mark Ronson, Islands, VHS or Beta, Bonde do Role, St. Vincent, Akron/Family, the Bird & the Bee, and New Young Pony Club. Some bands I’ve seen before and would love to see again (M.I.A., Hot Chip, Islands), and the others I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing for the first time. Plus, Mark Ronson is not only talented but also nice to look at, so bonus points for Day 2 for his appearance on the schedule.

SUNDAY, APRIL 27

The festival wraps up with another day full of good bands. Headlined by Roger Waters Dark Side of the Moon, the day features some pretty impressive talent. Love and Rockets and My Morning Jacket are a couple of the biggies, but for me the Biggest Deal of the day is Spiritualized. Perennial spacecake Jason Pierce was really ill a few years ago, and it’s nice to see him well enough to perform again (though there have been Spiritualized shows before this one). I’ve seen Jason and his revolving door of other band members several times now, and for the most part I haven’t been disappointed. Come for Spiritualized, but stick around for Justice, the Streets, Metric, Simian Mobile Disco, Dimitri from Paris, Autolux, Les Savy Fav, Sons & Daughters, Holy Fuck, Sia, Black Mountain, Man Man, and my favorite Swedes, the Shout Out Louds.

While it’s not quite a dynamite lineup across the board, the folks at Coachella have done a good job putting together a pretty diverse group of artists that should make the 2008 festival pretty enjoyable. Some bands are kind of predictable, but getting some Big Brits like the Verve, Portishead, and Spiritualized might get a bunch of folks (including me) thinking about getting out the suncreen and flying to the warm climes of Southern California. Head over to the Coachella site for the full lineup, and helpful hints about all things Coachella.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Album Review: The Longcut – Idiot Check/You Got the Love

A couple years ago I was listening to one of those cds given out with British music magazines, when I happened upon a band called the Longcut. The song I heard was called “Dead Man,” and it was a knockout. Tons of synthy noise and austere vocals, the song would end up on their 2006 debut LP, A Call and Response. The album was a perfect blend of electro and post-punk; a palpably cool, stark reality that few bands are able to do properly. In a way, it seems fitting for them to be from Manchester, which is the birthplace of so many great, if not a touch morose, bands. And so, I waited and waited for new material to be released, given how killer the LP had been.

My wait has been duly rewarded with the new single, Idiot Check/You Got the Love. “Idiot Check” is instantly recognizable as being a Longcut song, thanks to Stuart Ogilvie’s piercing monotone and the instrumental racket backing it up. It’s perfect for thrashing around your bedroom to while listening to at ear-splitting volume. The guitar crescendo about four minutes in is one of many reasons to love the track. “You Got the Love” is three furious minutes featuring a throbbing opening bass line and some wickedly jagged guitars, as well as some typical bleeps and knob-twiddling. A Longcut love song couldn’t be anything but as deliciously raging as this.

In addition to the two new tracks, two remixes are included. The James Rutledge remix of “Idiot Check” takes a little mud out of the vocals without compromising any of the song’s original intensity. The Shadow Dancer remix of “You Got the Love” sounds a bit like Richard X, dark and sinister, yet geared towards crowded dancefloors. All together, it’s a great set of songs, and it’s cause for celebration that the band is picking up right where they left off.

The Longcut is truly a special band, and I look forward to hearing much more from them. While their debut was released by Deltasonic, the two parties have since parted ways. Here’s hoping some other label will prove themselves smarter than the average bear by snapping these lads up, and soon.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Album Review: Deadbeat Descendant - The Clear Tear EP

I’ve been a fan of Deadbeat Descendant’s infectiously jangly, retro-inspired racket for some time now. They’re one of those bands that wouldn’t be out of place decades ago (something that applies to them sartorially, in some cases, as well, but that’s neither here nor there), but sound pretty fresh in the Naughties. So when a hot-off-the-press copy of their latest endeavor, the Clear Tear EP, found its way to my mailbox, it goes without saying that I was pleased as punch.

The Clear Tear marks a noticeable shift in the Deadbeat sound. Whereas once upon a time their clever lyrics and bouncy riffs were verging on menacing (not that there’s anything wrong with that), these four songs present at times an even more sinister, distinctly grittier sound without losing any of the saucy danceability. Think of it as more substance to go along with the style. Deadbeat Descendant: now with 60% more bite!

“Journeys Around My Room” starts things off with a bang, highlighted by Jez Norton’s feisty guitars and a Dean Marchant bassline that hearkens back to the best of the Swinging 1960s. “Death is a Painter” is at once morbid and ridiculously catchy, and features a terrific parting shot: “Death is a Painter/and God is a critic”. “East European Lighter” is probably the most addictive of the four, which believe you me is saying something. The song features further fine guitar playing courtesy of Mr. Norton, along with singer Raal Harris indulging in some noisemaking that sounds a bit akin to Arrested Development’s Gob Bluth’s hilarious chicken noises, which is just all sorts of fantastic. Oh, and his voice when he’s not clucking is not bad, either. “Midweek Rebellion” serves as the EP’s cool-down moment, after the three intense, uproarious songs before it. Through it all Raal croons, Jez shreds, Dean resonates, and Rosco pummels, each with swaggering panache.

All in all, Deadbeat Descendant continue to hold a special place in my heart for their wry wit, tight pants, and proclivity for making killer music. To check out their stuff for yourself, head over to their official site or their Myspace page.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Album Review: Radiohead – In Rainbows

I’m the kind of girl who’s usually fashionably late to a wide variety of social functions. However, and I have to hold my head in shame, I’m embarrassingly late to the Radiohead party this go round. I have only this week heard the wonder that is In Rainbows, after procuring a hard copy for myself on New Year’s Day. Call me crazy, but I had this wacky, old-fashioned notion about needing to keep my Radiohead album collection tangible, and thusly defied my urges to download the album months ago (like the rest of world’s general populace did). And after listening I have but one question: is it too late to change my mind about my number one album of 2007? Because as much as I loved the National’s latest effort, it (and everything else) falls well short.

I would hope you’re already familiar with Radiohead, so we’ll skip right over the bio and background information. For those of you that don’t yet know, there are ten tracks on this album. They’re all unfathomably awesome, ridiculously remarkable, and majestically stunning. There are so many sounds and textures on this album it almost overwhelms, but being that Radiohead know how to make a record it never quite becomes too much. It’s the kind of album that makes you shut your eyes, turn the volume up as loud as your eardrums can stand, and wish you could drown in the music. In Rainbows will take you to a haunting yet ultimately beautiful place. Already it has sent shivers down my spine, given me goosebumps, and made my heart ache with joy. That’s not me blowing smoke up anyone’s ass, them’s just the facts, folks.


Sure, Radiohead have become one of the World’s Biggest Bands, and it’s probably even trendy to scoff at them. If it was any other band, I might just be among the scoffers. But let’s not kid ourselves, Radiohead has been a steady source of heart-breakingly magnificent music for over ten years now, and In Rainbows is no exception. While The Bends remains my personal favorite album, I will always passionately love Mister Yorke and co. for continuing to twist and mutate their sound, shape-shifting and metamorphosizing all the while managing to remain unmistakably Radiohead. If you don’t already own In Rainbows, please take whatever steps necessary to immediately rectify the situation. You owe it to yourself, your eardrums, and your soul.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Album Review: Mississippi Witch - Black Gamble


2008: Year of the Witch? Quite possibly.

Continuing on with our love of bands with American transplants, I’d like you to meet Oli Walker and Dan Danby, otherwise known as Mississippi Witch. I’ve already fallen head over heels for them, and now it’s your turn. The duo’s long and winding road brought them from Mississippi (Walker) and New Mexico (Danby) many thousands of miles to London, and thence to Bristol. Mississippi Witch has proven a reasonably apt moniker, as there is something spellbinding in the music. Formed in 2005, there’s a distinct 1970s vintage to their sound; heavy, heady swoons of unadulterated bluesy Southern rock with a dash of desert mysticism filtered through the misty rain and refined antiquity of London Town. Walker’s vocals and guitar bombast wouldn’t sound out of place on the mid-70s albums of many a great Southern rock band, and Danby bangs the drums with such abandon that it could be considered a minor miracle he doesn’t destroy his kit each time he plays.

Black Gamble is a monster of a debut album, and will most certainly get the blood pumping. It begins with the towering inferno otherwise known as “Just for Roosevelt,” all grit and grime resplendent with some of the dirtiest guitar riffage you’re likely to hear all year. “Alligator Mechanics” showcase some nasty banjo playing, with Walker’s voice taking an exaggerated, molasses-like tone. The title track, “Black Gamble,” shows where some English punk has seeped in to the Witch sound, with ferociously fraught guitars and a break-neck pace to oblivion. The dozen tracks are all so glutted and teeming with noise that at times it’s hard to imagine that there are only two people making such a racket.

The bottom line? This album is staggeringly good, and 2008 could be annus mirabilis for these wandering, transplanted souls of Mississippi Witch. After a few listens to Black Gamble, you’ll join me in expecting big things from Misters Walker and Danby. Head over to their website to listen to some album tracks (and then purchase it, naturally).