Bradley's Almanac

[Area Premiere] Elliott Smith documentary “Heaven Adores You” to screen at 2015 Independent Film Festival Boston (April 22nd-29th)

Posted on March 31, 2015 at 4:49 pm | No Comments

When this year’s lineup for the annual Independent Film Festival Boston is officially announced tomorrow, there will undoubtedly be a couple dozen movies I’ll add to my personal viewing list. Seeing as many as I can between opening night on April 22nd and the closing film on the 29th becomes a lesson in impossible time management and tough choices.

One choice has been made easy, since nothing could possibly trump the screening that was confirmed today: The New England Premiere of “Heaven Adores You: A Documentary Film About The Life & Music Of Elliott Smith” on Friday, April 24th.

The fan-funded film, which was successfully Kickstarted in late 2011, made its debut last May at the San Francisco International Film Festival before hitting more than two dozen fests worldwide… but never Boston. When the news that the film would be released globally to theaters this coming May 7th, I quickly checked the online list and… nope, no Massachusetts. While I still held out hope that the film would come around, I started to accept that I’d have to wait until a digital or DVD release to get a look. Fortunately, thanks to the all-volunteer crew at IFFBoston, the long wait has been made much shorter.

Directed by Nickolas Dylan Rossi, the film includes appearances and interviews with some familiar names and faces, including Larry Crane (Tape Op, Vomit Launch, Jackpot! Recording), photographer Autumn de Wilde, Jon Brion, Heatmiser drummer Tony Lash, Sean Croghan (Crackerbash, Jr. High), Pete Krebs (Hazel), Joanna Bolme (the Jicks, Quasi, Jr. High, etc), and many more. Bandmates, friends, & collaborators all, the film is sure to be a moving and insightful look into Elliott’s life and musical career.

Expressing my love and appreciation for the songwriting of Elliott Smith, and the pain of losing him in 2003, would take more time than I have to write it or you have to read it. And I still wouldn’t get it right. If you’re a fan, you get it, and you won’t need any convincing to join me at the “Heaven Adores You” screening in a less than a month…

Keep an eye out tomorrow for the full IFFBoston lineup, which will include a few more music-related documentaries that I’ll be covering in my annual fest preview post in a couple weeks.

In other ES-related news, Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield‘s full-length tribute to Elliott arrived last week, and while I’m generally skeptical of other artists interpreting his work, these two pretty much nail it. Their versions are gorgeous, understated, and sincere, and their admiration shines through clearly. Here’s a KEXP-recorded live version of one of the most beautiful songs ever written, the heartbreaking “Pitseleh“…

[Nac Faves Followup & Giveaway] My Favorite EPs, 7-inches, Reissues, & Live Shows of 2014

Posted on February 20, 2015 at 9:57 am | 2 Comments

As a post-script to my list of favorite full-lengths of 2014, I thought I’d (yes, belatedly) share a catch-all collection of everything else: The short-players, 7-inches, reissues, and digital releases that spent the most time in my ears, along with a run-down of the stand-out live sets I caught during the calendar year. Narrowing down that last list was… not easy. That was a bountiful dozen months of shows.

Seems a good time to dole out some free stuff, too: A couple of my favorite vinyl releases of ’14 along with a t-shirt from a (reunited) band who put on one of last year’s most welcome performances. Scroll to the bottom for the giveaway details.

Rather than write a bit about each release (and delay this post another month), some quick commentary…

  • David Bazan (Pedro the Lion/Headphones) is putting out some of the best songs of his varied career, but since they’re released monthly and 2 tracks at a time, they may be getting unjustly overlooked. Do yourself a favor and check out the now-finished 10-song “Volume 1″ and the in-progress “Volume 2″. Hard not to imagine that if these were released in full-length form they’d get more attention, which is just silly. Same with Tanya Donelly’s wonderful “Swan Song” series, which finished up in March last year, and Kristin Hersh’s works-in-progress series with her band 50 Foot Wave.

  • Numero Group‘s stunning box sets continue to enrich my collection (and brutalize my bank account). The continued release of the comprehensive Unwound output was bolstered by their incredible Bedhead box set. Two of my all-time favorite bands, treated with absolute loving care.

  • Speaking of Unwound, Survival Knife‘s mere existence was enough to heal some old wounds. The fact that they’re so damn good is a major bonus. Getting to see them play live at Great Scott was a long-held wish fulfilled.

  • Another wish fulfilled: The Replacements in Boston. OK, not entirely fulfilled, as that wish included a venue with a roof over it, but the Mats overcame the festival venue handicap and rocked an appreciative audience of mostly-oldsters at Boston Calling. My memories of seeing them in their hayday (sorry) were dusty at best, so this refresher the perfect follow-up to catching them at last year’s Toronto Riot Fest. Hopefully this year brings them back to town for a headlining set at an indoor space, but I’m planning on heading to Philly either way.

  • There was sonic justice in the world thanks to a couple long-awaited Scruffy the Cat reissues. Thank you Eric, Pete, and everyone else involved in seeing that through. Setting those suckers on my shelf was satisfying indeed.

    Read on, and scroll way down if you want to try and snag some free vinyl from David Bazan, Survival Knife, or a Replacements t-shirt…


    (the star of The Daily Tater)


    My favorite EPs, 7-inches, & digital releases…


    David Bazan“Volume 1″ monthly 7-inch/digital series

    [ Stream at Soundcloud / Buy at Undertow ]


    Kim Deal – “Solo Series” self-released 7-inches

    [ Sample songs & buy singles at her site / “Biker Gone” video ]


    Tanya Donelly“Swan Song” Series Vol. 5 (digital EP release)

    [ Stream & buy songs at Bandcamp ]


    50 Foot Wave“Night Blooming” digital works-in-progress series

    [ Download the tracks / Become a supportive ‘Strange Angel’ ]


    Girlpoolself-titled EP

    [ Buy from Wichita / “Jane” video on YouTube ]


    Heathers“I Know” (Wedding Present covers – Cassette EP)

    [ Buy & stream at Bandcamp ]


    Krill“Steve Hears Pile In Malden and Bursts Into Tears” EP

    [ Buy & stream at Bandcamp ]


    Krill / Lvl Up / Ovlov / Radiator HospitalSplit 7-inch

    [ Stream & buy at Bandcamp ]


    “Or Thousands of Prizes” – Merge Records 25th anniversary 7-inch series


    Palehound“Kitchen” 7-inch

    [ Buy & stream at Exploding In Sound’s Bandcamp ]


    Pile“Special Snowflakes” 7-inch

    [ Stream & buy at their Bandcamp ]


    Polyvinyl“4-Track Single Series” Vol. 1


    Survival Knife“Survivalized” EP

    [ Stream & buy at Chunklet’s Bandcamp / or try and win it below ]


    My favorite reissues & live LPs…


    American Analog Set“Know By Heart” vinyl reissue

    [ Buy from Barsuk ]


    Bedhead“1992-1998” vinyl box set

    [ Buy from Numero Group ]


    Camper Van Beethoven“Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart” vinyl reissue

    [ Buy from Omnivore ]


    The House of Love“Live at the Lexington 13.11.13″

    [ Buy from Cherry Red Records / Limited Vinyl ]


    Scruffy the Cat
    “Time Never Forgets: The Anthology (’86-’88)”
    and
    “The Good Goodbye: Unreleased Recordings 1984-1990″

    [ Buy the Anthology via Amazon / Buy the Unreleased Recordings from Omnivore ]


    Silkworm“Libertine” vinyl reissue

    [ Stream at Bandcamp / Buy from Comedy Minus One ]


    Slint“Spiderland” Remastered Box Set

    [ Buy from Touch & Go Records ]


    Songs: Ohia“Journey On: Collected Singles” 7-inch box set (RSD release)

    [ Buy digital version from Secretly Canadian ]


    Unwound“Rat Conspiracy” & “No Energy” vinyl box sets


    Yo La Tengo“Extra Painful” LP reissue

    [ Buy from Matador Records ]


    Reissue/box set I wish I’d been able to afford before it sold out…

    The Go-Betweens“G Stands For Go-Betweens Volume One” box set


    My favorite live shows of 2014…

    … along with links to photos from each.

    (my goal of trimming this down to 10 faves failed miserably)


    Throwing Muses and Tanya Donelly at The Sinclair in
    Cambridge, MA on Friday & Monday, March 7th & 10th, 2014
    [ Photos from March 7th / Photos from March 10th ]


    The first night of Chickfactor 22 at The Bell House in
    Brooklyn, NYC on Thursday, March 20th, 2014
    with Amor de Días, Lilys, King Creosote, Jim Ruiz Set, and Withered Hand


    The second night of Chickfactor 22 at The Bell House
    in Brooklyn, NYC on Friday, March 21st, 2014
    with Saturday People, Barbara Manning, Versus NYC, & The Clientele


    Rocket From The Crypt and openers Ex Hex at Brighton Music Hall
    in Allston, MA on Tuesday, April 1st, 2014


    Barbara Manning, Dump, and The Bevis Frond
    at WMBR DJ Jon Bernhardt’s “Midlife Crisis of Champions”
    at TT the Bears on Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014


    Tim Rutili of Califone – live solo in an
    Allston living room on Monday, April 21st, 2014


    Hallelujah The Hills’ album release party with openers Tallahassee
    at Great Scott in Allston, MA on Friday, May 30th, 2014


    Gold-Bears, Soccer Mom, Bent Shapes, & Rye Pines at the
    Middlesex Lounge in Cambridge, MA on Monday, June 2nd, 2014


    Dean Wareham & his band with openers Quilt
    at the ICA Boston on Friday, July 11th, 2014


    Guided By Voices at the Paradise in
    Boston, MA on Saturday, July 12th, 2014


    Merge 25th Anniversary Fest
    Wednesday, July 23rd through Saturday, July 27th, 2014 in North Carolina.
    [ Photos Set 1 / Photo set 2 / Photo set 3 / Photo set 4 ]


    The Lemonheads and Parks at RadioBDC’s “Island In The Sun” event
    on Thompson Island in Boston Harbor on Saturday, August 23rd, 2014


    The Replacements live at the Boston Calling Music Fest
    in City Hall Plaza on September 7th, 2014


    The Afghan Whigs at the Royale in Boston, MA
    on Tuesday, September 30th, 2014


    Green Magnet School, Orbit, The Red Telephone, & Hullabaloo
    on Friday, October 10th, 2014 at the Pipeline anniversary show
    at Cuisine en Locale in Somerville, MA



    Caspian’s 10th Anniversary show at the Larcom Theatre in Beverly, MA
    on Saturday, October 18th, 2014 with openers Derek & Jay of Defeater


    Wheat performs two sets at Atwood’s Tavern in
    Cambridge, MA on Saturday, October 11th, 2014


    Low live at the Columbus Theatre in Providence, RI
    on Friday, October 24th, 2014


    Slowdive with openers Asobi Seksu at the Royale
    in Boston, MA on Sunday, October 26th, 2014


    David Bazan & the Passenger String Quartet at the Regent Theatre
    in Arlington, MA on Thursday, October 30th, 2014 with opener David Dondero


    Robyn Hitchcock with special guest Tanya Donelly at Arts at the Armory
    in Somerville, MA on Wednesday, November 12th, 2014


    Girlpool, Slutever, Saralee, & Ursula at the Blaq Lodge
    in Allston MA on Tuesday, October 21st, 2014


    Survival Knife, Pink Avalanche, & Hungry Ghost at
    Great Scott in Allston MA on Thursday, November 20th, 2014


    Best shows that I should probably exclude because I played in one of the bands,
    but were great independent of our inclusion…

    Sleepyhead, Heathers, The Spook School, & Let’s Whisper
    at the Skinny Pancake in Burlington, VT on Saturday, June 7th, 2014

    Allo Darlin, Swale, & Let’s Whisper at the Monkey House
    in Winooski, VT on Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

    Allo Darlin & Let’s Whisper at the Middle East Upstairs
    in Cambridge, MA on Thursday, November 6th, 2014

    I’ll finish up this long-overdue post with some free stuff: A vinyl copy of David Bazan’s gorgeous team-up with the Passenger String Quartet, Survival Knife’s killer “Survivalized” EP on wax, and an XL-sized Replacements t-shirt (the “Hate Us On Facebook” edition). Each will go to a different (North American) reader, so drop me a note at giveaways [at] bradleysalmanac [dot] com, and choose one of these three email subjects: “BAZAN”, “SURVIVAL KNIFE”, or “REPLACEMENTS”. Make sure it hits my inbox by next Friday, 2/27 at 10am, when I’ll pick one winner for each and get in touch for your mailing address.

    Up next, and hopefully soon (yeah, yeah), my big ol’ annual list of records I’m looking forward to hearing this year. Some of which are already out and are fast favorites. Yeah, I’m lookin’ at you, Krill.

    [Nac Faves] My Favorite LPs of 2014

    Posted on December 31, 2014 at 9:09 pm | 3 Comments

    Close the book on another year, an unsettling one that won’t be missed by too many people I know. Myself included. Burn the old calendar, hang up the new one, shoot for some fresh starts and better perspectives. Hope may have been in short supply in 2014, but new-music-as-antidote sure wasn’t, so here are the long-players that made me feel better over the past 12 months.

    As in previous years, it’s 20-ish favorite full-lengths in alphabetical order, along with some honorable mentions. I’ve never been a fan of relative ranking, nor whittling down to an arbitrary number, so don’t go arguing with me – I’m not saying these are the best, I’m saying they’re my favorites. Can’t argue with that. I’ll hopefully follow this up in a few days with a run down of some EPs, 7-inches, reissues, and live shows that stood out above the rest.


    (the star of The Daily Tater)

    Remarkably, I believe this was the first time in 14 years of keeping track that every single album I adored was available on vinyl. Makes me very happy, that does. What didn’t change was my predictable label-loyalty: Merge, Slumberland, Polyvinyl, Teen-Beat, Captured Tracks, all represented. As they probably will be next year. If we’re lucky.


    My Favorite Music of 2014


    Allo Darlin’“We Come From The Same Place”
    [ on Slumberland Records ]

    Another shining indie pop gem from these Londoners, and the soundtrack to a couple of very special nights this year, when the band I’m in got to open the final two dates of their month-long North American tour. To hear their new songs live in two very different venues was a real treat, and something I won’t soon forget.

    Stream at Bandcamp / Buy at Slumberland


    Alvvaysself-titled debut LP
    [ on Polyvinyl Records ]

    Okay, I’m going to try real hard not to gush here, but hyperbole is hard to resist: Toronto quintet Alvvays has crafted an absolutely stunning debut, one that captures everything I love about indie pop-rock: Infectious, uplifting guitar lines intertwined with gorgeous, often melancholy vocals that hit me straight in the heart. Molly Rankin’s melodies get lodged in your brain and linger for days, and even as I write this the songs are bouncing ’round my head. Perfect production and song arrangement, a remarkable attention to sonic detail, and dynamics that never feel forced. I love everything about this record, I could go on and on and on, but I’ll pick out one moment: There’s a spot near the end of “Party Police“, the album’s 5th track, where the band drops out and Rankin slightly alters the delivery of a repeated vocal line, hitting a higher note on the word ‘could’ just before the band comes back in. With that one choice, my band-crush was sealed. I’m a fan, forever.

    Archie, Marry Me” = song-of-the-year candidate.

    Stream at Soundcloud / Buy at Polyvinyl


    David Bazan & Passenger String Quartet“Volume 1″
    [ on Undertow ]

    I’ve said it many times, might as well say it again here: I’m such a sucker for strings. So it’s no surprise that stripping down some of David Bazan’s best songs and rebuilding them with beautiful arrangements from the Passenger String Quartet resulted in a record I loved. Two opportunities to see them played live (first at Barsuk’s 2013 anniversary bash in Seattle, again a few months back in Arlington, MA) only deepened that love, so here’s hoping the “Volume 1″ designation means we’ll be seeing a 2nd one.


    (live version from July 27, 2012 at Cathedrals: Tacoma)

    Stream and purchase at Undertow


    Centro-matic“Take Pride In Your Long Odds”
    [ on Undertow ]

    A bittersweet release, marking the end of recorded output from one of my favorite bands. These Texas gents decided to pack it in this year, recently finishing up a cross-country farewell tour with some undoubtedly emotional hometown shows. Lucky for us, one of those goodbye stops was here at Great Scott in Allston, and it was glorious. They played a few songs from this record, and they stood solidly alongside their best. Leaving the stage on the highest of high notes, they’ll be much-missed, but hey, we’ll always have the records. For that, be grateful, and keep an eye on their individual musical endeavors.

    Stream at Soundcloud / Buy at Undertow


    Cheatahsself-titled debut LP
    [ on Wichita Recordings ]

    Calling them the ‘second coming of Swervedriver’ feels reductive, especially when Swervedriver themselves are readying a resurgence in 2015, but there’s no denying that they strike many of the same distorted chords. Cheatahs hit the harder side of the shoegaze wheelhouse, more rock than reverie, and I figure there’s not a lot of gazing at their shoes on stage. I missed my chance to see them live in 2014, not gonna let that happen again in the new year.

    Stream at Purevolume / Buy at Wichita Recordings


    Craft Spells“Nausea”
    [ on Captured Tracks ]

    A perfectly-placed next step for Justin Paul Vallesteros and his band, retaining the layered dreaminess that makes them so entrancing while widening their sonic palette just enough to surprise. Their songs transport, especially in a live setting, and I’m so glad it’s happening again very soon: In mid-March at Great Scott.

    Stream more at Soundcloud / Buy at Captured Tracks


    Ex Hex“Rips”
    [ on Merge Records ]

    Oh, Mary Timony, please never stop. From Autoclave, to Helium, through her solo work (just her on piano, guitar, then as a duo), she’s kept on keepin’ on for a couple decades now. Her full-band, rock-n-roll return with Wild Flag kicked off an exciting chapter in her career that ended (?) all too soon, and I was worried she’d retreat and regroup. She squashed those fears quickly with a couple of exciting Soundcloud shares as newly-christened trio Ex Hex – songs that got ‘em signed to Merge and on the way to this energy-infused full-length. Retro and right-now all at once, their success bodes well for a nice long run. Fingers crossed this riff-filled record is just the first salvo.

    Stream another track at Soundcloud / Buy at Merge Records


    Exit/Verseself-titled debut
    [ on Ernest Jenning Record Co. ]

    The welcome return of former Karate/Secret Stars singer/songwriter Geoff Farina to a full-band scenario, bringing along a couple of ringers on rhythm (Pete Croke of Brokeback on bass, John Dugan of Chisel on drums) to make these new songs shine. There’s a raw, undeniable classic rock feel that just clicks, resulting in a timeless set that even your dad could love (yes, my actual Dad loves it). That ain’t an insult, my Dad’s got some damn good taste.

    Stream full LP at Soundcloud / Buy at Ernest Jenning Record Co.


    Gold-Bears“Dalliance”
    [ on Slumberland Records ]

    Yet another ace Slumberland release. Exuberant, energetic jangle-pop out of Atlanta – an American answer to the Wedding Present (the album is called “Dalliance” after all) that exceeds mere homage. Had the distinct pleasure of catching these guys at the Middlesex Lounge (RIP live shows at the Middlesex, btw) over the summer, hoping I get another shot soon.

    Stream at Bandcamp / Buy at Slumberland


    Hallelujah the Hills“Have You Ever Done Something Evil?”
    [ on Discrete Pageantry Records ]

    Oh, Hallelujah the Hills, how shall I praise thee? Two years after releasing what I called “their best album to date”, these local gents went ahead and upped the ante, by a major margin. “HYEDSE?” is easily their strongest, most confident collection of songs, and given how much I’ve loved the rest, that’s saying something. Just over a year ago I drove solo down to Plymouth, MA to see ‘em play an AGP charity show with Krill and Guillermo Sexo, hearing many of the songs that would end up on “HYEDSE” for the first time. It was “Pick Up An Old Phone” that stood out, making me hanker for a recorded version ASAP. In May, they damn well delivered.

    [MP3] Hallelujah the Hills – “Pick Up An Old Phone
    (live in Plymouth, MA 12/7/2013)

    Stream at Bandcamp / Buy at Discrete Pageantry


    The Luxembourg Signalself-titled debut
    [ on Shelflife Records ]

    Sporting an impressive pedigree (with members of Aberdeen and Trembling Blue Stars), this LA-based sextet debuted with a stellar set of Sarah-Records-inspired dreampop, hitting a wealth of right notes in the shimmer-spectrum while weaving in a welcome variety of other influences. A record that took me by surprise in the best way. Another candidate for “song of the year”: “She Love To Feel The Sun“.

    Buy at Shelflife Records


    The New Pornographers“Brill Bruisers”
    [ on Matador Records ]

    Calling this a ‘return to form’ seems silly, given I’ve found something to love about every New Pornos record, but it sure feels like a distillation of everything that makes them great. But there is definitely an abundance of energy in “Brill Bruisers” that almost begs a reevaluation of the couple LPs prior. It sounds like they’re just having fun on this album, and it’s infectious.

    Buy at Matador Records


    +/- {Plus/Minus}“Jumping The Tracks”
    [ on Teenbeat Records ]

    Released in January, and criminally overlooked in the best-of-year posts I’ve seen so far, the long-in-the-making album hooked me straight away, immediately setting a high bar for 2014 out of the gate. It stayed in my headphones for weeks, revealing its depths while waiting for another LP to dislodge it. A melding of darkness and light, both beautiful and unsettling at once, buoyed by hook-laden guitar playing and absolutely meticulous production. And, oh, that drumming. I bow down to you, Chris Deaner. If there was one record that defined the year for me, this is it, and I hope the turn of the calendar sees them playing a few more live shows.

    Stream the LP (with bonus tracks) at Soundcloud / Purchase from Teenbeat Records


    Real Estate“Atlas”
    [ on the Domino Record Co. ]

    Real Estate’s third record took more time than expected to get under my skin, certainly longer than 2011’s “Days” did. While it wasn’t immediate as its predecessor, the extra listening effort paid off, and their show at the Sinclair in March had the new songs standing solidly among the rest.

    Stream songs at Soundcloud / Buy from Domino


    Shellac“Dude Incredible”
    [ on the Touch & Go Records ]

    Another abrasive, body-rattling smack upside the skull from the Chicago’s no-bullshit trio. There’s no band on Earth like the mighty Shellac, and there’s no point in anyone else even trying. They strip away the artifice of the record-producing machine – their albums appear as if by magic, with little fanfare and less promotion, kick everyone in the ass, and that’s just it. It’s all we need. Truths are revealed, conventions are challenged, heads are banged. Try driving under the speed limit while this album shakes your car windows. It ain’t easy.

    Buy from Touch & Go


    Survival Knife“Loose Power”
    [ on the Sub Pop Records ]

    Yes, I bow down at the altar of Unwound. Have for ages. I’ve long held that their swan-song, “Leaves Turn Inside You”, is one of the greatest collections of recorded music ever released. I still feel physical pain when I look at my unused ticket for my final chance to see them: September 11th, 2001 at the Middle East, a show that was called off just after they soundchecked, as I stood outside lost and looking for something to cling to.

    Survival Knife’s arrival, studio output, and recent first-ever cross-country tour has gone a long way towards healing that open wound. No, they’re not Unwound, but with two ex-members and a sonic recipe that includes tension, restraint, and glorious release, there is undeniably some common DNA. They scratch a lot of the same itches, telling their songs as sonic stories as they eschew traditional structures while throwing in some metal for good measure. You’re not going to hear a lot of verse-chorus-verse, and you’re not going to miss it. Last month I got to see them live here in Boston, and I felt whole.

    Stream another track at Soundcloud / Buy from Sub Pop


    Withered Hand“New Gods”
    [ on the Slumberland Records ]

    I’ll take Dan Willson, aka Mr. Withered Hand, however he wants to present himself: Solo or with his full band, backed by a crack collection of ace players or just him, his guitar, and his singularly unique voice. My first thought on hearing he’d teamed up with beloved Slumberland Records was “perfect”, and so it was. My long-standing wish to see him perform finally came true this year when he played with his band at Chickfactor 22 last March, though a Withered Hand solo gig remains high on my live show bucket list. 2015, perhaps?

    Stream more WH songs at Soundcloud / Buy from Slumberland


    Wussy“Attica”
    [ on the Shake It Records ]

    Cincinnati’s Wussy, a band with a wealth of great records already under their belt, could easily rest on those laurels and put out just another solid collection of songs. Instead, they released an absolute stunner. “Attica” has some of the finest work they’ve ever done, including the album opener (“Teenage Wasteland“) and the closer (“Beautiful“), each of them candidates for personal song-of-the-year. How this band continues to plug along relatively unheralded is beyond me (though the efforts of CBS Saturday Morning to help remedy that was much appreciated).

    Stream/buy at Bandcamp / Buy from Shake It


    Wye Oak“Shriek”
    [ on the Merge Records ]

    I’ll admit it, I was scared. When I first heard that Wye Oak had ditched guitars in favor of bass and keyboards for their upcoming record, I had major doubts. As a longtime fanboy, I hadn’t met a Wye Oak release I hadn’t loved, and Jenn Wasner’s guitar played no small part in that. I’m generally averse to the bleep-bloop, so the prospect of its overuse had me prepared for disappointment.

    Well, whaddya know, it turns out my fears were unfounded, and I should have trusted Andy & Jenn all along. Yes, the guitar may be gone, but the songs are still there – evocative, interesting, and just plain catchy, with Jenn’s vocals sounding better than ever, and Andy astonishing with his ever-inventive drum parts and rhythmic multi-tasking. They were able to somehow embrace a whole new sonic palette, nearly reinvent themselves, and succeed in ways I didn’t expect. I don’t just love this record, I love that I love this record. Proved that even my guitar-centric mind can be rewired at my advancing age.

    Stream another song at Soundcloud / Buy from Merge Records


    The honorable mentions…
    (aka “albums I listened to a ton and could easily
    have made the above list depending on my mood”)

    The Afghan Whigs – “Do To The Beast”, Hiss Golden Messenger – “Lateness of Dancers, Mogwai - “Rave Tapes”, Anders Parker – “There’s A Blue Bird In My Heart”, Soccer Mom – self-titled debut, Sharon Van Etten – “Are We There”, Sleepyhead – “Wild Sometimes”, Pink Avalanche – “The Luminous Heart of Nowhere”


    Favorite records that I played on…

    Colin Clary – “Twee Blues Vol.1″, Let’s Whisper – “As Close As We Are” 10-inch

    If you’re bored and looking to surf some history, have a look at my previous year-end fave lists: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, and 2001.

    Stop back in a few days, when I’ll hopefully have a follow-up post with a few EPs, 7-inches, reissues, and live shows that I loved in 2014. If I’m not already too deep into 2015, that is.

    Best to you and yours in the new year. May it bring you all you desire, or at least none of the things you don’t.

    [Tonight in Allston] Exit/Verse, Thalia Zedek Band, & Andrew Sadoway at Great Scott

    Posted on December 8, 2014 at 12:43 pm | No Comments

    A rare non-Facebook/non-Twitter heads up for a special show worthy of getting your arse out to Allston on a chilly Monday night (no small task, I know):

    Exit/VerseExit/Verse plays Great Scott tonight. It’s their first-ever Boston show, and they’ve got special ties to this place, what with Mr. Geoff Farina on guitar & vocals. If you’re unfamiliar with the man, he fronted area trio Karate, and perhaps less famously (though, for me, more importantly) was one half of the beloved Secret Stars. His subsequent discography includes a wealth of solo recordings, a stint with his band Glorytellers, and collaborations with fellow guitar-song-genius Chris Brokaw, also a former-Boston-guy. So this isn’t just a show, it’s a homecoming of sorts that will be full of friends and familiar faces. Holiday-season-style.

    A track from Exit/Verse’s recently released self-titled debut

    Stream the full Exit/Verse LP here, buy it from the Ernest Jenning Record Co., or better yet, pick one up at the show tonight.

    (An aside: When I first moved down to Boston from Vermont in 1998, my then-girlfriend lived in a 2nd-floor Union Square apartment on Prospect Hill in Somerville. The occasional guitar noise from below got me curious about her downstairs tenant, because the sounds were the opposite of annoying: They were beautiful, and eerily familiar. When I saw the name “Geoff Farina” written on the mailbox, as a fan of the Secret Stars and Karate, I had one of those “welcome to Boston” moments that helped me fall in love with this place. Those small-town coincidences have never stopped. As I write this, I’m sitting less than a block from Karate’s longtime practice space in Allston.)

    Tonight’s show also gives two good reasons to show up early: Openers Andrew Sadoway and the Thalia Zedek Band. Thalia & her band should need no explanation, they’ve been on fire lately, and the last time I saw them was the best they’ve ever been on stage. And that’s saying a lot. They’ve set themselves a high bar for this evening.


    (from last year’s “SIX” EP on Thrill Jockey)

    For Andy Sadoway, however, a little introduction may be in order: He’s the drummer for personal-local-faves Bent Shapes, and occasionally takes the vocal lead for that band from behind the kit. He’s been sharing his own material for a few years, but this is a relatively rare solo appearance. Looking forward to seeing what form his eponymous project takes when he hits the Great Scott stage around 9pm tonight.


    (The title track from May’s “Str8 Sh00ter” EP)

    Advance tickets can be acquired right here. Consider yourself fully informed. See you there, I hope.

    [Words & Music] The Boston Book Festival Is Here (& MP3s from 2010 Book Revue)

    Posted on October 24, 2014 at 3:43 pm | No Comments

    BBF

    With last night’s Herbie Hancock Keynote kickoff, the annual Boston Book Festival is officially underway in and around Copley Square. As much as I appreciate (and mutilate) the written word, my favorite parts of the fest always end up being those that throw music in the mix. The BBF never fails to incorporate at least one music-related event into their programming, and this year is no different: Saturday evening’s grand finale is “Words and Music: A Literary Jam Session” at the Old South Church. The details, from their website:

    In this one-of-a-kind session we’ll hear from three authors who’ve infused their recent novels with music, from classical to rock ‘n’ roll. The heroine of Stacey d’Erasmo’s “Wonderland” is a middle-aged rocker embarking on what she hopes will be her comeback tour. The young characters in Kate Racculia’s “Bellweather Rhapsody” find more there’s more than just music to discover (hint: corpse) at an orchestra camp in upstate New York. “Wonderkid” by Wesley Stace tells the story of the tumultuous rise and fall of a rock band whose audience is still in diapers. Musical interludes will be provided by Stace (aka John Wesley Harding), the appropriately named indie ensemble-pop group The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library, and by our host, Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Harding, who’s also no slouch at the drums. Dancing in the aisles is encouraged! Sponsored by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.”

    Between now and then we’ve got tonight’s second keynote speech by Susan Minot and a ton of interesting sessions on Saturday, so be sure to check the full schedule.

    This year’s fest gives me an opportunity to flashback to my favorite-ever BBF event, “The Book Revue: Words & Music”, which capped off the 2010 edition. It was an ideal marriage of words & music, with a killer lineup and one hell of a host in Steve Almond (“Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life“, “Against Football”, etc).

    After Almond’s introduction, author/songwriter Joe Pernice (Pernice Bros., Scud Mountain Boys) read from his novel “It Feels So Good When I Stop” and performed the Pernice Bros. songs “The Loving Kind” and “Amazing Glow“. Dean Wareham (Galaxie 500, Luna, Dean & Britta) read “Letter From A Concerned Luna Fan” from his novel “Black Postcards” and played G500’s “Blue Thunder” along with the Dean & Britta track “The Sun Is Still Sunny“. Author Nick Flynn delivered his intoxicating mediation on drinking, “Same Again” before an excerpt from his novel “The Ticking Is The Bomb”. Kristin Hersh (Throwing Muses, 50 Foot Wave) followed with a couple excerts from her resurrected teenage diary “Rat Girl” and performed both “Flooding” and “Your Dirty Answer“. Lastly, Nick Zinner (of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) joined Zachary Lipez and Stacy Wakefield to present pieces of their collaboration “Please Take Me Off The Guest List“. The centerpiece of the whole thing was Almond’s hilarious lyrical dissection of Toto’s “Africa“. That bit is worth the price of admission alone.

    The BBF shared, and still archives, the entire event in (one giant) MP3 form, so I’ve excised a few bits below alongside the original file. Enjoy…


    Steve Almond vs. Toto. For more photos, click here.

    [MP3] Boston Book Festival 2010 – “The Book Revue: Words & Music”

    [MP3] Joe Pernice – “Amazing Glow” (live)

    [MP3] Dean Wareham – “Letter From A Concerned Luna Fan” (reading)

    [MP3] Dean Wareham – “Blue Thunder” (live)

    [MP3] Kristin Hersh – “Flooding” (live)

    Much gratitude to Mr. Tom Johnston for pulling that lineup together, and to the Boston Book Festival’s continued inclusion of music-related programming every year. Have a look at Saturday’s complete BBF 2014 lineup, and hit up the Dig for some recommendations

    keep looking »
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