New Wheat Album Coming Soon – MP3

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Wheat, “H.O.T.T

I like Wheat.  I wonder if their name was inspired by the 70s rock band Bread.  Or if they would have named their band Wheat had they formed during the low carb craze.  Decidedly lo-fi and low key, this indie band has been rocking for more than 10 years running.  Their newest effort, “White Ink, Black Ink” is due out July 21 on The Rebel Group.

Here’s a new track off the album, “H.O.T.T”. Ain’t these lyrics the truth…

“Half of the time I feel broke, cracked, peeled and weathered/ Half of the time I feel shiney and new. Half of the time I feel I’m clever/ half of the time I just haven’t a clue.”

Hot and Bothered by the Handsome Furs

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Evangeline“:

The Handsome Furs finally made their way to San Francisco this week and, well…this was pretty much what the show was like – HOT! Their energy, connection, passion and performance on stage was raw and magnetic. The husband and wife duo bared it all for the audience (figuratively speaking), pouring their souls into their music and each other, feeding one another into a frenzy and into heaps on the floor several times throughout the night.

There were moments when I thought Alexi Perry was going to dive through her drum machine back into the Matrix, only to be brought back from the edge by the dashing Dan Boeckner’s embrace and kiss. For real, people! It was truly amazing and inspiring to watch two people so connected and effusive. If it wasn’t rock and roll it might have even been a little sappy. 

Oh, and I haven’t even talk about the music yet.  I love these guys and have been remiss for not featuring their new album, Face Control, on this site yet.  It’s sure to be on my top album list of 2009.  Just like their sleeper debut Plague Park was in 2007.  Face Control is definitely more upbeat and dancey, likely inspired by their romp through the clubs of Eastern Europe.  Boeckner’s straightforward rock and songwriting shine in this album. as it does in his work with Wolf Parade. I’ll take him over Spencer Krug any day.

Like Deerhunter? Meet Circulatory System

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Circulatory System, “The Spinning Continuous“:

More than likely you’ve heard of Deerhunter.  Their last album, Microcastle, topped many ‘Best Of’ lists last year, including mine. But what about Circulatory System?  Yeah, me neither but you soon will – trust me.  I got tipped on their forthcoming album, Signal Morning, recently, took a listen and have been smiling ever since.  It was like listening to Deerhunter on a Beatles Magical Mystery Tour. Holy head trip! This is fan-fucking-tastic, who are these guys?

As it turns out, Circulatory System has been around a while and share much in common with Deerhunter.  Both were formed in 2001 in Georgia, have received critical acclaim and have front men tormented by disease. Circulatory System was founded by Will Cullen Hart after Olivia Tremor Control fell dormant in 2000.  He and most of the other Olivias now comprise much of the band.  Their eponymous debut album was released that same year to much critical acclaim and their long awaited sophomore release, Signal Morning, is finally due out September 8.

Seven and a half years in the making, Signal Morning has been sculpted from countless hours of recordings.  The end product is a heady, complex and orchestral sonic journey.  The songs, composed by Hart, explore his battle with Mutliple Sclerosis – much in the same way as Bradford Cox explores his plight with Marfan Syndrome in his work with Deerhunter and Atlas Sound.  And like Deerhunter’s trajectory with Microcastle, I expect this album will explode and take them to a higher level.

P.S. Rumor has it that Olivia Tremor Control is together and recording again too!

Thanks Adam for the tip!

June Gloom

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Sigh. It’s June 1, and like clockwork, the cold, damp fog has taken hold of San Francisco.  Time to pull out the winter clothes.  I always lament this time of year just a little.  Ten months out of the year I have no complaints about this town with it’s eternal sunny skies.  But June and July in San Francisco are just the worst in terms of weather.  I live in the sunniest part of town too, with some of the best views of the city. So when it’s foggy in my hood, you know it’s bad.

Here’s the view of the city from my hill this morning. I felt like renaming this Say Hi...track to “June Was White, July Was Grey”.  I will definitely feel better when the winter’s gone.

Say Hi….“November Was White, December Was Grey”:

Postcards from the Edge

No island in Greece has wowed me more than Falengandros. A tiny, remote and foreboding outpost, Falengadros was once known as the Alcatraz of the Agean. A place where exiles were sent to eek out an existance.  Now no more than 600 people call the island home and landing here was a welcome respite to the tourist atrocities of Santorini. Sheer cliffs, white washed walls and a stark yet colorful landscape make it a photographers paradise. The subtle shades of red, orange, yellow and green shrubs that dot the hillside looks like a giant bowl of Trix to me.  And the sunsets…amazing!

All throughout our stay here I’ve had this song from Here We Go Magic stuck in my head.  The song is ‘Fangela‘, but it sounds so perfect when I sing it ‘Falengandros’.

Here We Go Magic, “Fangela

Album of the Week: Jeremy Jay – “Slow Dance”

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Artist: Jeremy Jay
Album: Slow Dance
File Under: Indie Pop
Recommended if You Like: Early Bowie meets Jonathon Richman
Featured Tracks: “In This Lonely Town”

While on holiday in Greece, nothing has bridged the gap for me musically better than Jeremy Jay.  It’s just the right mix of down tempo electro pop fitting for the sunny Mediterranean climes I’m inhabiting at the moment, and the perfect transition from the Euro electro madness I’m assaulted with on a daily basis.

Described by Pitchfork as “the type of guy who tours with Deerhunter but covers Madonna,” Jay’s latest album, Slow Dance, is disco done right.  With just the right touch of that 80s synth, early Bowie sound, it really is the perfect album for my European vacation – cool and sexy. Listening to it is comfortably familiar and, just like the soundtrack of  a John Hughes film, it nails my ethos perfectly.

Which Way to the Record Store, Brother?

In this essay, guest blogger Adam presents his opinion on the present state of the music industry, how it got here and where it’s going.

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Listen to: Beck covering Sonic Youth’s, “Green Light”

Which Way to the Record Store, Brother?

Saturday, April 18, 2009 marked the third annual Record Store Day (RSD) where independent record shops hold promotions all day to encourage patronage.  Among the events that took place that day were in store performances and special releases formatted exclusively on vinyl. I frequent record stores many times a year but I was extra excited about this particular day because I was hoping to score limited 7” pressings from Sonic Youth, Beck and The Flaming Lips. A good friend and I fought long lines, vinyl sniffing-uber-nerds and small confines at three different wax factories in New York, coming away with the last copies of everything we wanted. 

Why is there a record store day?

Many small indie labels will be left standing, and unless their current out of date (and out of touch) paradigms and business models are revamped,   major labels will disappear. RSD promotes INDEPENDENT record stores and labels.  Labels pressed vinyl records just for this day and sold them exclusively at indie shops.  Artists on independent labels performed for free in the actual stores.  It’s this kind of fresh thinking that will keep small, independent institutions afloat and will drive interest in purchasing music.

The Death of the CD 

It is still the status quo for bands to press their albums on compact disc, but unlike just 10, or even 5 years ago, many new albums are also pressed on vinyl or even pressed EXCLUSIVELY on vinyl.  The major draw for the CD was its ‘superior’ sound quality and track seeking capability (as compared to the tape).  With the onset of digital music, both purchased and pirated, the CD doesn’t continue to serve much of a purpose. I have read (and fully agree) that the end of the compact disc era could be marked as September 09, 2009 when Capitol/EMI re-issues the Beatles’ entire catalogue re-mastered on CD for the first time.  9/9/9.  Revolution #9, #9?!  This release will mark one of the last epic releases on CD as labels will find that the interest will be slim to purchase music on a CD that will scratch and skip, in a jewel case that will crack and stain.  The last CD that I purchased was Idlewild’s Best Of collection in 2008…this will probably be the last CD I ever purchase. 

The Vinyl Re-Emergence 

A few years back, owning a turntable and browsing the vinyl section of your local record store might have been reserved mostly for record store geeks and your dad.  If this indeed was true in recent years past it is becoming less so now.  My girlfriend has informed me that the mainstream ‘hip’ clothing and knickknack repository Urban Outfitters now sells vinyl records.  Your dad does not shop at Urban Outfitters.  As the mp3 completes its campaign to overtake the CD, vinyl record sales are increasing.  Believe it or not, people enjoy spending money and receiving something tangible in return.  People want to own something physical.  The vinyl record has a much larger presentation area than the CD and people find the large format artwork more enjoyable.  More importantly the record produces a warmer, more dynamic sound than both CD and mp3 are capable of.  Indie bands, labels and stores recognize this (see Record Store Day) and are heavily promoting music on vinyl and usually include a coupon for a complete digital album download with the record at no extra cost.   

How Does the Current Music Industry Landscape Affect the Band and Label? 

As I have mentioned before, the internet has all but killed record sales, which has taken a critical toll on large music retailers and the major record labels that rely so much on those record sales.  Major labels have for long been known to put record sales in front of artistic freedom and integrity.  If this wasn’t enough reason for a band to sign with an indie, the dire shape the majors are currently in should be.

Large, established bands are moving to independent labels.  Sonic Youth recently left Geffen after nearly 19 years to join Matador. This will continue to happen.  What smaller labels lack in money for promotion they make up for with being in touch with what people want.  It will be wise for labels to use the internet, the same force that killed record sales, to promote bands by giving away music.  GIVING AWAY MUSIC!  Many less established bands rely on an album leak (some are even leaked intentionally by the band) to create buzz and blog coverage.  Where major labels are paying high court fees to prosecute bit torrent site masters (see Pirate Bay’s recent conviction in a Swedish court), smarter, band friendly labels would see a leak as a cheap promotional tool.

Although album sales in general are way down, bands themselves never made their living from pressing albums…the label takes most of that.  Bands make a living from touring.  The bands and labels that are able to adapt to the age we live in will use album leaks and blog buzz to generate show attendance.

Licensing.  Bands might not be selling records like they did 10 years ago, but there will always be a need for music licensing- especially with the omnipresence of the internet.  Major corporations like Apple are buying songs from indie bands and so it is such that the term “sell out” will change meaning.  I was upset when Wilco licensed tracks from their last record (Sky Blue Sky) to Volkswagen because “Impossible Germany” made me think about 20-somethings with smart haircuts stuffed into small cars in transit to their desk jobs…but this is not selling out- this is making a living.  One might argue that Wilco doesn’t need help from Volkswagen to sell concert tickets (and I fully agree), but lesser known bands might.  The term “sell out” will be applied to bands that don’t choose who they license to well (I’m looking at you Billy Corgan) and sell their music to the first uninspired bidder.  

No one ever said being in a band was easy.

Pete and The Pirates

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“Bright Lights” 

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Another UK band making lots of noise at SXSW this year was Pete and The Pirates. They sound kind of like a stripped down, raw version of Arcade Fire.  Their first full length album, Little Death, was released last year followed up by the release of a couple of new tracks in January of this year. And if you ask my opinion, I think you’ll be seeing a lot more of this band.