Friday, October 31, 2008

Band of the Week: The Van Allen Belt

I figure that if you're reading a blog about music, you are probably also interested in keeping ahead of the curve to impress all of your friends with the "next" band ahead of the indie curve. So, to make your life that much easier, there's a new regular feature round these parts - first there was "Songs of the Week", now there's the "Band of the Week".

Enjoy, check back next Friday, and Happy Halloween!

band of the week #1: the van allen belt (myspace)

If you have a MySpace profile, and ever venture to explore the "Music" section of the massive social networking blackhole, then you've doubtlessly experienced the joy of random friend adds from obscure bands that you've never heard of. And, of course, 99% of the time they're bands that you never want to have heard of. Let's face it, most of the music out there is utter crap. The other day, a little group called The Van Allen Belt gave me one of these adds, and for some strange reason, I decided to actually listen to the music on their profile - and am I glad that I did!

Sporting sultry vocals, jangly instrumentation, and an overall lounge-y atmosphere to boot, the Van Allen Belt is certainly more than a torus of energetically charged particles held in place by the Earth's magnetic field. This Pittsburgh outfit is nothing short of a throwback to a lost age, singing about our bleak future in the most upbeat manner imaginable. Think the Beach Boys, but less optimistic and with a girl singing. Fuck it, I don't even know, I really can't do them justice with words. You'll just have to hear for yourself.

Check out their MySpace, I implore you. It'll be the most fun you've had all week!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Manchester Orchestra - Let My Pride Be What's Left Behind

Canvasback Music
Buy (


Don't stop calling, you're the reason I love losing sleep.
-"Colly Strings", I'm Like A Virgin Losing A Child

Fetal and sweating inside the closet bedroom of Amagansett, insomnia takes hold. You can't help but call at three in the morning, and I can't help but stay up for the possibility.

Don't go. Just go.
-"Please Don't Go", Nobody Sings Anymore

Nothing and everything have changed. I'm in love with your face and yet I can't stand the sight of you. This music will never sound the same.

I realized that, then, you were perfect.
-"I Can Feel A Hot One", Let My Pride Be What's Left Behind

Sprawled and gray on a dry bed for a dreary Albany afternoon, it's all so clear. You were perfect. You are perfect.

You are perfect and I left.


Another song, another album that will forever be tied up in messy awkward subjectives and overdrawn memories - with Let My Pride Be What's Left Behind, Manchester Orchestra have further cemented their place as an act that I just can't get enough of. The new cuts are more akin to those from the unreleased Nobody Sings Anymore - they're narratives. The words sketch vignettes of car wrecks and crises of faith, the first two songs ("I Can Feel A Hot One" and "I Was A Lid") sharing the concept of an endangered pregnancy amidst torrid love. Andy Hull has been slowly staking a claim for inclusion with the likes of Stuart Murdoch, Isaac Brock and Aaron Weiss as one of our generation's gifted lyricists. He scribbles down one-offs like "Badges and Badges" (which is vaguely reminiscent of "Don't Let Them See You Cry") as if they were throwaways, packing depth and poignancy rarely achieved during entire careers.

"I Can Feel A Hot One" is superlative; it stirs up memories of 2007's "Colly Strings", possessing all of the sober melancholy and none of the explosive catharsis, and emerging the better for it. The other notable track is an acoustic version of "Wolves At Night". Identical to the one made freely available for download last year (albeit without the annoying "WBRU Podcast" bumpers as bookends), it possesses an understated tone which bears no resemblance to that of Virgin's original.

In early 2009, Manchester Orchestra is slated to release their next LP, Mean Everything To Nothing. Until then, you'll have to excuse me - it's time to go entangle another twenty minutes of music in a knot of shitty memories.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Songs of the week: 10/28/08

Sorry for the not-so-brief intermission between installments of Songs of the Week, but I think the free full lengths were worth it.

A bunch of record reviews are in the pipes, so stick around, and have a nice week.

songs of the week #8

1. I Can Feel A Hot One - Manchester Orchestra (Off of Manchester Orchestra's recently released EP, this is easily one of their strongest songs to date)
2. '98 Freestyle - Big L (Might be one of the best flows I've ever heard...I mean, if you're into that whole rap thing)
3. Comfortable - Lil Wayne (Overlooked track with a sick beat from this summer's Carter III)
4. Women's Studies Victims - Of Montreal (One of the more interesting tracks from the mixed bag that was Skeletal Lamping)
5. My Moon, My Man (Boys Noize remix) - Feist (Fun bass to end all fun bass)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping

Polyvinyl Records
Buy (


When did Of Montreal get so raunchy?

I know that Kevin Barnes & Co have always done their thing with a certain sexual flair. Songs about cunnilingus, Barnes performing a set in the nude, I guess Skeletal Lamping was just the next logical step. Naughtier than cheesy French electrohouse, Skeletal Lamping is an hour of pop-but-not contradiction. The tunes are catchy and infectious, par for the course on any release by these Athenians, but you're not going to hear "For Our Elegant Caste" on an Outback commercial anytime soon. It's still a lot of fun though, at least for the most part.

The music works for the same reasons that it doesn't. It's just so god damn over-the-top. Sometimes it's charming: the whimsical harpsichord of opener "Nonpareil of Favor" and its insistent four on the floor and sudden tempo shifts sound like the most fun Of Montreal have ever had in their long, storied indie career. Sometimes it's a bit disappointing: "Death Is Not A Parallel Move" is listless and lethargic, never really going anywhere. And in the case of "Plastis Wafers", it's a bit of both. The ambient, jungle funkiness of its extended coda conjures up illusions of Animal Collective covering the intro to "Sympathy For The Devil", and I'm still not quite sure where I stand on that.

A little heavy-handed on the "guilty" and a bit skimpy on the "pleasure", Of Montreal are not playing their "A" game here. But whenever you tire of the Gay Parade, need a break from those incessant Sunlandic Twins, or get scared of the dark and mysterious Hissing Fauna, Skeletal Lamping has just enough to shimmer to warrant a listen, or maybe seven.

Key Tracks:
Women's Studies Victims
Nonpareil of Favor
Triphallus, to Punctuate!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

3 Month Anniversary Download Extravaganza!!! (part 2 of 2)

To carry over from last week's feature, I will now make available albums 10-1 from the Best 20 Albums Released Since 1970 list. Hope you all had a good weekend, and look out for the return of Songs of the Week on Tuesday.

20 best albums of the last 40 years (10-1)

10. Kid A - Radiohead (Pound for pound, the only Radiohead album worth its weight in whatever precious metal you choose.)
9. IV - Led Zeppelin (Need I say more?)
8. The Lonesome, Crowded West - Modest Mouse (The first Mouse album I fell in love with - keep reading, it wasn't the last one either.)
7. Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd (Take your pick, but this is the cream of the 70s crop.)
6. London Calling - The Clash (I listened to this album, almost to the point of exclusion, for about 3 years. It was essential in 79, it was essential in 9th grade, and it will continue to be essential, well into the future.)
5. Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven - Godspeed You! Black Emperor (Oh, Godspeed, how I miss thee...)
4. In The Aeroplane Over the Sea - Neutral Milk Hotel (As Beyonce might say, irreplaceable.)
3. If You're Feeling Sinister - Belle and Sebastian
2. The Moon & Antarctica - Modest Mouse (When I wanted to get away, I just went for a 2 am drive and pretended like I owned the city. Isaac Brock & Co. took it one step further and owned both a continent and a celestial body!)
1. The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place - Explosions In The Sky (My favorite album of all time - but you already knew that.)

I hope you all enjoy the albums, and please feel free to take Adam Lazarra's advice and tell all your friends! Oh, and go Rays.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Jonathan Davis - Got Money?

So, there's this band that I do not particularly like called Korn. Perhaps you've heard of them? Well, apparently Jonathan Davis (their frontman) wasn't content with just ruining rock for the rest of us - he had to ruin American Apparel's favorite rapper for all of us too with an atrocious cover of Lil Wayne's "Got Money".

No, that is not a joke. I only have one question: why was I not informed sooner?

This has got to be the most fucking ridiculous thing I have heard or even conceived of in my life. It even sounds like Davis tries to distort his voice to sound like his 20-something black Adonis idol - hey, he's got the dreads already, all's he needs is one of them reverse-Michael Jackson surgeries! The only redeeming quality of this song is hearing Davis wheeze (and I don't mean to endear him with one of Wayne's nicknames) Young J.D. on them hoes / aka mister make it rain on them hoes with what I can only conclude is a straight face.

New low? New low. (Just in case you really want to hear this abomination and the Flash app below doesn't work, you can download it the old fashion way here.)


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hunz - When Victims Fight

Apegenine Records



The very name brings to mind "Heinz" and "Hunts", and this might be more than simple coincidence. Hunz is really a lot like ketchup, if you think about it. That is to say, a little bit goes a long way. Ooh, demoscene! Wow, tracker music! Yay, ketchup! The novelty quickly wears off...(Read more at The Silent Ballet)

Friday, October 17, 2008

3 Month Anniversary Download Extravaganza!!!

[We interrupt your regularly scheduled broadcasting...]

As of last Sunday (the 12th), this blog has been running for three months…hooray. I’d like to sincerely thank everybody who has commented or sent me e-mails – your feedback is invaluable. To celebrate this rather unremarkable occasion, I will make available full copies of my top 20 albums of the last 40 years (just don’t tell the RIAA!) Today, numbers 20-11 (taken from here).

20 best albums of the last 40 years (20-11)

20. This Station Is Non-Operational - At The Drive-In (Posthumous best-of collection for what was the prototypical post-hardcore band.)
19. Domestica - Cursive
18. Set Yourself On Fire - Stars (Best of 2004? Best of 2004.)
17. As The Roots Undo - Circle Takes The Square (One of the last true screamo bands left, at the top of their game.)
16. The Four Trees - Caspian(One of the defining releases in contemporary post-rock; Caspian’s peers have names like Godspeed! and Explosions.)
15. Translating the Name EP - Saosin (The only worthwhile Saosin record. Boo Cove Reber. Hooray Anthony Green/Beer!)
14. Hotel California - The Eagles
13. Brother, Sister - mewithoutYou (“I do not exist…”)
12. Lifted or The Story Is In The Soil, Keep Your Ear To The Ground - Bright Eyes
11. Between The Heart And The Synapse - The Receiving End of Sirens (Brilliant!, like Guinness.)
(You can find albums 10-1 here.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Do you like cool electronica?

Do you like cool electronica with weird Youtube videos and songs about chopping somebody up with an axe?

Really? Because I do! Allies, for lack of a better descriptor, is bad ass shit. Check him out on his Myspace, and be sure to listen to "The Last Supper" and "The Things That Kids Do" - I don't think you'll be disappointed. (Under the radar alert!)

Sunday, October 12, 2008


She is on a train. A man is dead. She needs to be in Rensselaer by five to be home by half past to be dressed and ready by six. She will be late to Albany, and so will his duffel. He won’t be.

Better never than late. He won’t get to explain to a short, hot beau why he broke standing dinner plans, again. He isn’t going to wear concealer and long sleeves. He doesn’t have to phone home. Instead, that privilege will be soon bestowed upon one of Albany’s (Boston’s? Amtrak’s?) finest. Death is the superlative excuse, the most airtight alibi, truly, the greatest reward. What to do when you’re dead: nothing. Cradle and grave, there is the homogeny of someone cleaning up your messes while you lie and then lay idly by, and one day she will agreeably be you.

Until then, she can only pray for such contentment. Maybe somebody will notice? Just not him. For the love of God, not him.

The little hand is on the five.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Stars - Sad Robots EP

Arts & Crafts


For me there often comes a moment, usually a few hours before dawn, when I just want to die. Melodramatic, yes, but hear me out: the night is interminable, the morning will never come, the world is devoid of hope, and I've squandered another day. Like the idea of a "sad robot", this is a time of contradiction, as it is only at four in the morning that the day really feels twenty four hours long, twenty four hours short. There is so much to do that must be put on hold until sunrise that, sitting idle, waiting for release, I feel a waste. Errands, classes, social engagements, shitty breakfasts at the dining hall: all of these must wait three more hours - I must wait three more hours - for the rest of the world to catch up. And sometimes it's just too much; sometimes I feel like dying.

I would posit that the members of Stars understand this feeling all too well, and the Sad Robots EP only strengthens such an argument. Indeed, the opening track is an instrumental called "Maintenance Hall 4am", and its brooding piano and mechanized drones live up to the title quite well. Poignant, nostalgic, resigned, Stars makes me happy and sad and bitter and in love all at the same time, and I get the feeling that there's not a god damned thing I can do about it.

Forgive me for the Sputnikmusic track-by-track breakdown, but the songs themselves are varied and brilliant. Standout "A Thread Cut With A Carving Knife" stays true to its name, a grandiose exercise in excess, a six minute mini-epic that feels like a more mature and less embarrassing "In Our Bedroom After The War". Torquil Campbell reflects upon freshman year through rose-colored lenses on "14 Forever", and Amy Millan dominates "Undertow", which has the poppy, upbeat sound of a single. The title track (and closer) comes across unsure as it wades through a haze of strings and electronics, mulling over repeated French stanzas, never quite finding its footing or its self. Also included is a live version of "Going, Going, Gone" that, more fleshed out and wholly orchestrated, handily surpasses the original Nightsongs cut.

Part of me gets the feeling that this was a summer soundtrack released one month too late. And it is precisely because of this fact that I think Sad Robots was released at the perfect time: the leaves are changing, the mercury is falling, and another summer's promises have expired, been proven empty. Stars successfully captured this half-smiled regret on their seminal Set Yourself On Fire, and they've done it again here.

Wistful, sad, beautiful, this is the music of autumn, these are the anthems for 4 AM.

Key Tracks (Click to download):
Going Going Gone [Live]
A Thread Cut With A Carving Knife

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Songs of the week: 10/7/08

It's already starting to get cold - this is all happening so soon! But winter means a new wardrobe, so I guess there's a plus to everything. Not a ton of new music, but whatevs, I can deal.

songs of the week #7
1. A Thread Cut With A Carving Knife - Stars (A standout track from Stars' new EP)
2. Distant Street Lights - Codes In The Clouds (Electronica #1)
3. Kitsch - Rival Consoles (Electronica #2)
4. Me And You - This Is My Suitcase (Questionable grammar aside, you just might O.D. on cuteness from this little ditty)
5. Where Have You Been? - Annuals (A quirky cover of a superlative Manchester Orchestra song)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Moonlit Sailor - A Footprint Of Feelings



This is music that makes me feel. This music will hopefully make you feel too. There's not too much else to tell you about Moonlit Sailor's aptly titled A Footprint Of Feelings: their music has no concept, story, or gimmick to draw in unwitting listeners. Instead of cheap tricks, they've simply utilized bombastic drumwork and the prettiest guitars this side of The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place to craft one of 2008's most captivating, engaging releases...(Read more at The Silent Ballet)

Key Tracks:
Once We Were Children

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Bloc Party - Intimacy

Vice Records
Buy (


So, you know that band Bloc Party? Yeah, they're back.

Many fans, myself included, were hesitant upon hearing the Mercury single, which further showcased Kele Okereke's electronic fetish. I mean, yeah, I'm into electronica as much as the next guy, but Bloc Party was a rock band when I fell in love with them. I don't know if I would have found this new sound as interesting as the quirky electro-rock of Silent Alarm. Luckily, my fear has not yet been realized.

In many ways, this album picks up where their debut left off. It starts with "Ares", full of chanted call-and-response, wild guitar, and loud, enthusiastic drums (things with which Silent Alarm brimmed). More on the tail-end of the album, the softer slow-burn of "Signs" falls somewhere between "So Here We Are" and "This Modern Love", and closer "Ion Square" could be described as breathtaking. After the massive disappointment of A Weekend In The City, it would seem that Bloc Party have found themselves again.

Sure, the band still has some work to do: the repetitive nature of "Mercury" borders on obnoxious, and the long-winded, sparse atmospherics of "Biko" left me less than enthused. But Bloc Party have made considerable strides, most notably in their crafting of an album that flows from start to finish. Even Silent Alarm felt bloated at times, stalling and losing momentum in its midsection; Intimacy has no such problem.

This is a captivating record that successfully blends sampled beats, lush orchestration, a baroque sensibility, and straight-up rock, to form a concoction that is a radical departure from their too-weird-for-its-own-good A Weekend In The City. As such, Intimacy is more of a return to form than anything, really.

There is no doubt in my mind. Bloc Party is back.

Key Tracks (click to download):
Trojan Horse