tUnE-yArDs’ Merrill Garbus has always seemed outright phobic of sounding like anyone else, mangling her elastic voice, drums loops and kitchen-sink instrumentation into a cartoonish assembling of sounds that only slightly resembles other indie pop of its ilk. “On the one hand, there is what sounds good, on the other there is what’s true,” she sings on the relatively low-key “Look Around,” as if addressing any criticisms of her music head-on. However, Nikki Nack's strength comes from Garbus' ability to wrangle her wild ideas into instantly memorable pop songs that are still nonetheless really effing strange. Whether she’s inventing new hopscotch cheers with Busta Rhymes references on “Water Fountain,” skipping along cabaret-jazz vibes on “Real Thing” or creating alien freestyle jams like “Sink-O” and “Wait for a Minute,” Garbus remains definitely tuned to her own frequency. However, these songs are as rife with hooks as they are loaded with tangents and unstoppable energy. The songs that aren’t as concerned with rule-breaking on Nikki Nack are almost more striking in that they reveal the power of Garbus’ incredible voice and her ability to make even a seemingly straightforward song hauntingly unusual, as on songs like “Time of Dark,” which reveal themselves to be highlights upon repeated listens. tUnE-yArDs still isn’t for everyone—there’s a childlike reading called “Why Do We Dine on the Tots?” that’s a bit of groan-worthy performance art—but listeners who may have shied away from tUnE-yArDs bizzaro pop in the past will find lots to feast on here, as Nikki Nack is always more intriguing than off-putting in its otherness. Listening requires plenty of trust, but Garbus makes falling down the rabbit hole with her well worth it on Nikki Nack.
Courtney Love – “You Know My Name”
Courtney Love made news recently by announcing the mid-’90s lineup of Hole would reunite (along with Eric Erlandson, Melissa Auf Der Maur and Upset’s Patty Schemel), but that doesn’t seem to be happening for the time being. However, we do have a new double A-side due from Love, “Wedding Day” and this hardcore-inspired pop song. Her voice is sounding pretty cool again. It’s out May 4.
Trash Talk – “Cloudkicker”
Sacramento hardcore band Trash Talk have unveiled the first taste of their upcoming fifth album, No Peace (due May 27 on Odd Future), the follow-up to 2012’s excellent 119. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it tastes like bile, whiskey and Molotov. Delicious!
Trying to narrow down my favorite 2012 "What's In My Bag?" videos is a little bit like asking me to choose my favorite children. Each one is special and unique in its own way. But 'tis the season of "Best Of" lists, so here is my attempt at naming the top WIMBs from 2012, listed according to date posted because, really, picking 10 was hard enough.
Peanut Butter Wolf - January 3, 2012
We kicked off 2012 with a monster of a WIMB featuring DJ, producer, Stones Throw founder and Amoeba regular Peanut Butter Wolf, who had so many items he renamed the episode "What's In My Boxes." Missed some of his selections? Check out his full list here.
John Flansburgh - March 5, 2012
The guitarist and co-founder of They Might Be Giants, John Flansburgh, did a "show and tell" at Amoeba Hollywood, selecting reissues by The Zombies, Blossom Dearie, and The Hollies, plus California funk by Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Band. After posting the video, we found out that half of John's picks from this Amoeba trip, and other records he'd picked up while on tour, were unfortunately burned in a trailer fire. See John's full list of picks here.
Mariachi El Bronx started as post-hardcore band The Bronx before incorporating mariachi elements for this side project, which began when the band was asked to do an acoustic version of the song “Dirty Leaves” from The Bronx’s self-titled second album for a television show and they turned it into a mariachi dirge.
“We never wanted The Bronx to be a soft, quiet band,” says frontman Matt Caughthran, “but this freed up a whole new realm. Sometimes you don’t realize the barriers around yourself until you step outside them. It was a big moment in our career, breathing new life into the band.”
Band members Caughthran, Joby J. Ford (guitar), Jorma Vik (drums) Brad Magers (trumpet), Ken Horne (jarana/guitar), and Vincent Hidalgo (guitarrón) then studied up on YouTube, no less, while touring with The Bronx to make Mariachi El Bronx happen. Learning all the mariachi styles, such as norteno, jorocho, juasteka, bolero, and corridos was essential.
“Mariachi has rules,” Caughthran says. “We learned everything we could out of respect, especially as we’re a bunch of white guys — well, except for Ken, who’s Japanese.”
The San Francisco International Film Festival returns From April 19th – May 3rd for two weeks of cinematic discovery. The International assembles world-renowned talent—such as awardees Kenneth Branagh, Barbara Kopple, and Pierre Rissient—for Bay Area audiences.
This year's innovative events include Academy Award nominee Sam Green's latest live documentary project The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller with live music by Yo La Tengo (5/1 at SFMoma), Merrill Garbus (tUnE-yArDs) with Buster Keaton shorts (4/23 at Castro Theatre), and so much more!
For a complete guide to films, venues, and tickets, visit festival.sffs.org, but here are a few more that we are excited about!
Bernie (Richard Linklater, USA, 2011)
Explaining the proper methods to superglue eyelids closed and adjust a corpse’s smile, Bernie Tiede (Jack Black) warns, “You cannot have grief tragically becoming comedy.” But can it be funny when someone dies and no one cares? A former evangelist who arrives in Carthage, Texas to take a job as an assistant funeral director, Tiede uses his magnetic personality, seemingly never-ending skill set and Harold Hill–style of confidence to become the most popular man in town. Tiede even manages to charm Marjorie Nugent (a maniacally frenzied Shirley MacLaine), the local rich widow whom everyone else despises and fears. Eventually, though, Nugent’s abuses become too much for someone in Carthage to take. Director Richard Linklater returns to the East Texas of his youth to showcase the strange heart of small town life, where, as one character puts it, “people will always suspect the worst, but they’ll also suspect the best.” Saturday, April 21, Sundance Kabuki Cinemas.