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Album Picks: Fiona Apple, King Tuff, Grass Widow, Liars

Posted by Billy Gil, June 19, 2012 07:27pm | Post a Comment
fiona apple the idler wheelToday Fiona Apple’s The Idler Wheel … was released. The first time I spun the album my jaw dropped. I grew up listening to Fiona Apple. She was one of my favorite artists in high school, and I’d followed her since the Tidal days, through her more “mature” albums When the Pawn … and Extraordinary Machine. I’d always still liked her, but my fervor had subsided a bit since those awkward teen years when her brand of super-confessional experimental pop really hit home. Well, this is something wholly different. As great as her previous three albums were, The Idler Wheel is the gutsiest thing she’s put out yet. Even more so than on Extraordinary Machine, Apple sounds uninterested in storming the radio with The Idler Wheel. She’s after something bigger here. Lyrically, she exposes her greatest wounds and digs at them with extraordinary candor and self-directed venom. “I root for you, I love you, you you you you” she sings on one of her lovelier tunes, “Valentine,” but even then, that devotion has a desperate tone that makes it hard to take at face value. Similarly, on “Jonathan,” lines like “I like watching you live” are accompanied by a fairly dissonant arrangement, deranged drumwork by collaborator Charlie Drayton and musique concrète that makes the whole thing sound like a ship coming apart. Vocally, Apple has never sounded stronger, scarier and more assured, frequently unleashing shiver-inducing cries, growling and singing with unchained vibrato within the same breaths, on songs like the searing “Left Alone.” And just when things get too grim, she closes the album with a jazzy, sexy ode to a guy who cuts through her like a “hot knife.” From start to finish, across its jagged edges and soaring heights, Idler Wheel is an exhilarating, simply astonishing listen.
 
king tuffI’m a big fan of garage rock but not necessarily of its sometimes limiting factors — guitars and vocals have to have just enough care balanced with slop, that sort of thing. So it’s nice to hear a couple of great up-and-coming albums from bands who subscribe to garage rock aesthetics but not “surf rock fun times” generic modes. King Tuff’s self-titled album is a real riot, from its opening track “Anthem,” which delivers perfectly delivered riffery the likes of which is pretty rare these days. Along with like-minded peers Ty Segall and the late Jay Reatard, King Tuff write songs first and foremost, and the ground covered here becomes more apparent upon repeat listens, which isn’t hard to do with an album that’s this much fun to listen to. “Alone & Stoned” has terrific ascendant vocal lines and a cool ’80s vibe under its garage veneer. “Unusual World” is a touching garage ballad that doesn’t shy away from varying its instrumentation, with synths and vibes adding nice touches to Tuff’s Marc Bolan-esque delivery. What I’m most taken with on King Tuff is that it delivers catchy garage pop tunes while refusing to adhere to one tempo and one sound like so many albums of a similar ilk. My personal favorite: the Vaselines-ish “Stupid Superstar.”
 
Grass Widow Internal LogicAlong those same lines, I really can’t get enough of Grass Widow’s Internal Logic. Starting off with its lo-fi sci-fi opener “Goldilocks Zone,” Internal Logic is a perfect example of a band perfectly executing a much-missed particular sound while adding its own peculiar flair of cool nerdy girl chic. Not to be limiting, but the album in some ways plays like a master class in post-punk girl bands: the multiple harmonic voices of Stereolab; the out-of-step tempos of Kleenex and ESG and their progeny, like Erase Errata and Electrelane; and off-kilter charm of bands like The Breeders. Fun and clever without biting off more than it can chew, Internal Logic pretty much leaves me with a smile on my face from start to finish.
 
liars wixiwLast but not least, I hope the new Liars album doesn’t get lost in the shuffle ‘cause WIXIW is every bit as good as their previous few releases, in my mind. Thought it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Drum’s Not Dead, I’m digging this new, quieter yet just as paranoid edition of Liars. WIXIW is pop in the way the Silver Apples or Portishead’s Third are pop, equal parts sinister and beautiful, with a throbbing heart underneath its digital beats. “Octagon” is disturbing, atonal at parts, yet its whole is instantly memorable, sticking mean hooks into you that feel better than they should. “No. 1 Against the Rush” sends goth down the autobahn, playing out like a krautrock variation on The Cure’s “A Forest.” WIXIW has been compared to Radiohead’s Kid A, and, listening to the title track — which disintegrates eerily under waves of oscillators and comes pulsing back for a haunting chanted chorus — it’s not hard to see why.

Local Bits: Best Coast, Ty Segall & White Fence, Derde Verde

Posted by Billy Gil, April 27, 2012 12:09pm | Post a Comment
Best Coast The Only PlaceBest Coast Covers Fleetwood Mac’s “Storms”
 
From Pitchfork, dad-rock loving duo Best Coast has covered a song by their beloved Fleetwood Mac, “Storms,” from their underrated 1979 album Tusk. For now, you have to track to about 58:10 in this edition of BBC Radio 6’s Radcliffe & Maconie show
 
Here’s the cool part: You can get the cover on a 7” that comes with The Only Place at independent record stores. Preorder your copy of The Only Place here at Amoeba and you’ll get a copy of the 7” with the moody and beautiful “Storms,” which shows off Bethany Cosentino’s growing confidence as a singer of uncommon power.
 
Ty Segall & White Fence – “Time”
 
I interviewed Ty Segall a while back about his collaboration with White Fence, called Hair, a match made in garage-pop heaven that was released this week — pick it up here. Here’s a fun psychedelic video of their song “Time” recorded for Room 205.

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Local Bits: Haim Free Download, White Arrows, Pangea Live Session

Posted by Billy Gil, March 2, 2012 12:45pm | Post a Comment
Haim offers Forever EP free.haim

This trio of sisters spins out serious pop (not pop-inflected goth or whatever) with the kind of easy, a capella style harmonies that come easy to siblings. I like to picture Este, Danielle, and Alana Haim, all in their early 20s, singing along to Hanson in their parents’ car together as kids. Then, like, they grew up and moved to L.A. and started making music that references ’80s pop curios like Kate Bush and Stevie Nicks. I don’t actually know their real story — I’ll have to investigate this further. For now, I can’t stop listening to their three-song EP, particularly the dancey “Forever.” Get it free here.

 

White Arrows – “Fireworks of the Sea” white arrows

White Arrows have been making it happen for a while now with superb live shows and a handful of released recordings hinting at the cool things they’d be doing down the line — I once called them “Paul Simon in space,” and I can’t really think of anything better than that at the moment to describe their sound, so we’ll just go with that. Their new song, “Fireworks of the Sea,” certainly fits that mold, with swirling synths intimating some digital acid trip over Mickey Schiff’s snaking vocal. Their debut EP hits April 3 from Votiv Music. They’ll be at the Roxy March 27. Listen over at Spin

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Ty Segall's Flying Circus to Blow Through L.A.

Posted by Billy Gil, March 1, 2012 02:30pm | Post a Comment
Ty SegallIn a short amount of time, Ty Segall has provided us with so much musical goodness in the recorded form that it’s hard to believe he’ll be releasing two (well, two-and-a-half-ish) albums this year. He’ll release a mini album on In the Red in June under Ty Segall Band, recorded with his touring band, which includes Charlie Moothart guitar (“He’s a complete shredder and dominator, he taught me everything I know about playing guitar,” Segall says), Mikal Cronin on bass and Emily Epstein on drums. The record will be mixed in Berkeley’s Fantasy Studios — where Creedence Clearwater Revival recorded, Segall points out — and recorded with Eric Bauer, who has recorded with Segall several times, including his most recent studio album, 2011’s Goodbye Bread.

A regular full-length also is due on Drag City under his own name in the fall. On top of all that, he’s releasing a collaboration LP with White Fence on Drag City in April, which he’s currently touring behind. Ty Segall and White Fence appear together March 3 at the Troubador.

I took some time to speak to Ty, who’s S.F.-based but was born in Laguna Beach, about his upcoming tours, release schedule, and how many songs he’s recorded.


PST: Last year, around the time Goodbye Bread was released, you said you wanted the next album to sound like Satan in Space, Hawkwind meets Sabbath and that sorta thing. Is that the direction the new material has ended up taking?

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Get Yer Pre-Halloween On With Tijuana Panthers

Posted by Billy Gil, October 27, 2011 06:03pm | Post a Comment
Lots of very cool shows happening this weekend for Halloween. On Halloween, Zola Jesus is playing at the Echoplex and Abe Vigoda is playing Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock, with DJ sets from Air France and The Field. The day before, on Oct. 30, Tijuana Panthers take the stage at the Ukrainian Cultural Center with fellow garage rockers The Soft Pack, Thee Oh Sees and Total Control. Three-piece Tijuana Panthers, with drummer Phil Shaheen, guitarist Chad Wachtel and bassist Daniel Michicoff, play a kind of punk-influenced surf rock that shows the line from The Ventures to The Buzzcocks to Jay Reatard is a short one indeed, seamlessly combinging straightforward, clean-but-not-clean-cut guitars, alternatingly bratty and crooning vocals and old school rock-combo rhythms — check out their gorgeously bummed out "Summer Fun" below for a fine example of what they do. I took a minute to talk to Shaheen about their sound.

PST: Are you guys working on new songs yet? If so, how is the sound shaping up?
 
Shaheen: Yeah, we have steadily been coming up with new ones, playing them live at shows and then recording them. They shape up well this way, playing them live then recording has always helped us to tight'n them up. Just need to record a few more next week and we should be on our way.
 
PST: Are you guys surprised at all by the recent resurgence of bands playing garage rock and surf rock?
 
Shaheen: No, not really. It seems to come in waves, this one seems a lot larger. 
 
PST: Do you guys mind at all getting lumped in with other bands that play that kind of music? I could see it being frustrating, but also there seems to be a camaraderie among bands like you guys, Audacity and Ty Segall.
 
Shaheen: Yeah there's not a perfect fit for us there but, we get along pretty well with all those bands. Joe Walters from the Redwood Bar use to call us “Barbershop Surfpop,” I always liked that.
 
PST: One thing I feel like sets you guys apart is your vocals. They’re really great, I love that they're spread out among the members and that they’re often nice and croony, rather than full on garage all the time. Is that something you guys consciously tried to do, make sure the vocals actually sounded like real singing?
 
Shaheen: Yes. We have always kept it pretty clean for the most part. Chad croons, I whine, Daniel croons and whines.
 
PST: I lived in Long Beach for years, and I love that you guys represent it so well. It definitely captures the place somehow, although I can’t quite put my finger on how. If there’s a sound to Long Beach that you guys help embody, what do you think that is?
 
Shaheen: Long Beach has always had a pretty steady stew of counter culture, it's a port city. Maybe we rep a little piece of that.
 
PST: Do you have any favorite venues to play?
 
Shaheen: Shows that FYF put on are always rad, where ever they may be. It’s great getting to play these halls like the old timers use to.  
 
PST: What's the craziest thing you’ve seen at one of your shows?
 
Shaheen: We got to play with The Dead Milkmen at Alex's Bar in Long Beach. Seeing those guys in person was really crazy and the fact that we got to play with them blew my mind. I still can't believe that went down.
 
PST: Stock question, but what bands did you guys bond over, and who are some artists people might not expect you guys to be into?
 
Shaheen: The Dead Milkmen, Suburban Lawns, X, Circle Jerks, Link Wray, The Cramps, TSOL, Dead Kennedys, The Pyramids, Sade, Prince Buster, Desmond Dekker, Ian Dury.

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