Friday, June 05, 2009

Blase Splee (+ some extra typing)

Oh, hai! Has it really been 6 weeks since I posted last?  More about what I've been doing in a minute, but first I have to tell you what made me show up to the blog today.  I actually got a press release from a band that doesn't suck.  And they're local.  And they're playing a free show at the Lager House June 16.  I know!  What are the odds!

Blase Splee has an accent mark on the e in Blase, but I'm not going to figure out how to make the internets do that.  They're not French, they're from Ferndale.  There's something about the sound of Michigan bands that makes me feel so comfortable and happy, like my mom just made me a grilled cheese.  They have some keyboard parts in there that sound like an organ from the 70s, the ones with the multicolored tabs that you flip up and down.  My grandpa had one, and as a kid I probably thought that Fisher Price had made us matching pianos.  

"She's Wanting Me More" definitely has a throwback feel to it.  It reminds me of this 45 that my sister and I used to play when we were kids. Every time we put it on we'd run around the house in circles.  The song is off of Et Cetera, their new record that they're officially releasing this Saturday at Small's.  You can download the new record and their debut EP for free from their website.

Where have I been? 
I stopped listening to music a lot when I became kind of obsessed with This American Life.  That show made me think seriously about what unique story I had to tell about music.  How is this blog any different than the rest?  Being part of the churn of disposable blog posts is not my purpose.  I will never post enough mediocre crap fast enough to get free promos, tickets or any of that press stuff.  

I thought about what I really found valuable from other music blogs.  The answer is things that are permanent and have a story tied to them.  I still listen to the mix that You Ain't No Picasso posted when he turned 21.  I love the mixtapes that Tsuru's readers make together.  The Post-Rockist recently wrote about a long forgotten mix that they found in their car and it was just great writing.

I thought about totally changing Let's Trade Mix Tapes, making it more of a creative writing or podcast based project.  I may add some of those ideas still.  But in the end, I realized my sole motivation for blogging about music is simple: when I find a band I love, I have to tell people about it. doesn't want me because I don't vomit often enough into their feed, and I think that's a good thing.  I don't want to be part of an aggregate.  The blog will be here when something really good comes along to talk about.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hot Box

The guy up there eating a meatball is my friend Eric, a former Michigan kid who is currently the drummer for Boston band Hot Box. His band is just about to release their first full length, Four Eyes.

I found out from this article that the band consists of Eric plus three...neuroscientists. This doesn't surprise me because he's the kind of guy that can get along with anyone, but he moved to Boston to work for an ad agency. I can't help but wonder how their paths crossed. How did that first conversation go? "You guys are brain scientists? Dude, that's awesome!! Stick these electrodes on my head while I play drums!"

Eric's everyday enthusiasm can totally be heard on the drums in this album. It's a good contrast between the two girls' dreamy and relaxed vocals. They kindly let me share the first song with you, which is called "Busy, Busy, Busy". Their record comes out on vinyl (with a digital download) on April 29th. You can pre-order Four Eyes here for $10.

MP3: Hot Box - Busy, Busy, Busy

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Rural Alberta Advantage

Arms of Alberta would also be a great name for a band

Have you listened to The Rural Alberta Advantage yet? I'm writing about them for two reasons. One reason is the NHL playoffs, which start today. It's a long standing tradition for Detroit sportswriters to pick on the Lions quarterback and the Red Wings goalie, and around this time of year Chris Osgood gets put under a ton of pressure. So in Ozzie's honor, here's a band from a place somewhat close to his hometown of Medicine Hat, Alberta. Maybe those naysayers won't have a newspaper to write for anymore by the time he retires?

The second reason is that I have a feeling some people listened to the first song on their album Hometowns and dismissed them. They write really great rhythm driven songs, but their one weakness is the singer's schizophrenic vocals. It seems like he hasn't found his style yet, wavering from whiny on the first song to an angry punk, then on to an apathetic frontman's facade and finally into a gentler crooning. For me personally, this doesn't bother me at all. The female backing vocals remind me a little of The Anniversary, and I will always take a xylophone solo any time I can get one. The two songs I have for you below are super catchy.

MP3: The Rural Alberta Advantage - The Deadroads
MP3: The Rural Alberta Advantage - Frank AB

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Album Review - Jimmy Eat World: Clarity Live

Let’s just get this out of the way now. I don’t think Clarity is Jimmy Eat World’s best work. Do I think that Clarity contains some of JEW’s best work? Absolutely. In fact, there is not one song off the album that I don’t thoroughly enjoy. The simple fact is they have become one of those bands that have gotten progressively better with each subsequent release. A lot of their newer work blows songs off Clarity out of the water.

I think Clarity suffers from the “I liked their old stuff better” syndrome. It’s become the thing to throw in someone’s face to prove you listened to band X for so many years longer than somebody else. But alas, this is not why I’ve come out of blog hibernation fellow bloggers. I come to you with a tale of excitement, adventure, epic fight scenes and big explosions. Would you settle for one of pure nostalgia? I did not have the good fortune to catch JEW on their Clarity X 10 Anniversary, as it appears all good bands hate Michigan nowadays. Although it saddened me, I was enthralled to hear that they were recording the last show of the tour for a digital only release to be sold through their website.

On top of giving you something like 5 available formats to purchase the album, you get to hear clarity from front to back including two bonus songs (b-sides What I Would Say To You Now and No Sensitivity), a digital booklet with photos from the tour and two hi-res press photos of the band. Not a bad package right? And for only $8.99, nothing should stop you from picking this up.

If you’re a fan of the band, you will love this. If you’re a fan of Clarity, you will absolutely love this. And for those that signed the petition, you’ll be happy to know the rendition of Goodbye Sky Harbor pushes eight minutes with plenty of harmonies, looped vocal tracks, xylophone. It sounds…PERFECT. Like the goosebumps on my arms kind of perfect. The album as a whole is flawless. It’s exactly what I would expect a live recording of the band to sound like. The raw emotion put into songs like “Blister”, “For Me This Is Heaven”, and “Crush”, just for example, go above and beyond what I expected.

On top of releasing this through their website and not through iTunes so the fans could get high quality lossless formats of the recordings, the band also performed a 6-song Clarity set on their website last night. You just don’t see this from bands nowadays.

From the moment I first heard “For Me This Is Heaven” as a freshman in high school, I knew this band would be one of those that I looked back on with great pride, one that shaped me as a person both musically and emotionally. The Clarity Live album brings back every single memory I had ever attached to the songs. Here’s to ten more years.

For more information, check out the band's website

You can also stream a song (A Sunday) from the album: here!

The Rentals - The Story of a Thousand Seasons Past

April 2nd's Photograph About Days

Before reading this, you have to understand the context in which I listened to the first of three EPs to be released this year by The Rentals.  I had just heard that Blink 182 and Weezer might tour together this summer, which got the 16 year old in me very excited indeed.  Twitters and tweetings from Mark Hoppus has me thinking that Blink isn't going to try and reinvent itself, and that they're just going to play the simple punk rock that they started out with.  (Case in point: he was not feeling "I'm Feeling This" but excited to practice "Don't Leave Me".)  I hope they still use masking tape to spell dirty words on their amps, too.  Let's not pretend we're all above this, ten years later.

Weezer's music, on the other hand, has become like honey to a beehive full of douchebags.  I'd have a hard time swallowing the high ticket prices for this tour knowing it's going to put gas in Rivarz's party bus.

March 27th's Photograph About Days

And here we arrive at this morning, when I heard Mr. Matthew Sharp's voice and thought: Thank you, sir, for creating music that doesn't require the word "kids" to be sung as "kee-yaaads". The Story of a Thousand Seasons Past is a cute little four-song EP that The Rentals are streaming on the Songs About Time website.  The word "cute" describes exactly how I feel about it, in the same way that you'd say someone is cute instead of hot.  The 90's Rentals were hot.  There was a sultriness back then, an energy, that's lacking now.  But what it's been replaced with isn't bad by any means.  My head was just stuck in the past, and I was hoping for the growling of a certain Moog keyboard.

The whole Songs About Time project (music, photos, and film) is pervaded by wonderment and curiosity about the world around them. It's like I'm a voyeur of the fresh start that they're experiencing.  If I look at the non-musical elements of the project, I find myself getting sucked in. Through the lens of their camera, I'm seeing the world through someone else's eyes.  There's an escapist element to Songs About Time that reminds me of their past songs set in exotic places (Must Be Wrong, Overlee).  Unfortunately, you need to take in the photos and films in order to get there, because the music so far doesn't do it on its own.

You can stream or purchase The Story of a Thousand Seasons Past in The Rentals online store.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

A Proper Review: The Chairs - Laugh, It's a Fright

Faithful readers may recall that when I ordered the new album from The Chairs, I made sure to note that they promised me my very own haiku. And I got one!! Did you? I invite anyone who ordered Laugh, It's a Fright to post theirs here for all to see.

So, favorite blogger? What? To roughly quote Tsuru, I am not a type of Fork, Pitch or otherwise; I am not Gorillas, nor am I Bears; I'm Not Floating, or sinking, or Drinking Aquariums. Maybe The Chairs should have laminated their haiku and strung it on a lanyard so that I would have the credentials to be on their press page, where they so kindly keep quoting me.

Favorite Blogger Status put some pressure on me, because I didn't love the song they sent me as a preview ("If You Were a Murderer"). What if I hated the record? I decided right away that I just wouldn't write about it. Thankfully, I didn't hate it at all. Quite the opposite. It made me smile knowing that this amazing sleeper cell of a band was out there making good music in their dorm room.

The album starts off with my favorite track as of right now, "This Isn't a Fire Fortress". Smart, crisp lyrics are set to a driving beat and adorned with little surprises like neat synth effects, trumpet phrases and nice harmonies. The first three songs are a perfect introduction to their sound. Then "No Fingers" started to play and I stopped everything I was doing to listen. It was only 1:38 long. I played it again.

"No Fingers" is an achingly beautiful song. It's one of those songs that you will play over and over again, using the length as an excuse every time you hit the play button. It's nothing but their signature vocal harmonies and a piano, and it just kills me how pretty it is. Bands like The Arcade Fire and The Decemberists make gorgeous music like this all the time partly because they have dramatic instrumentation to help. But The Chairs are making my jaw drop without any superfluous stuff, and now that I think about it, very few bands have done this in the last decade. "Magic" by Ben Folds Five and Radiohead's "Exit Music (For A Film)" are two songs that come to mind in comparison.

This record isn't perfect by any means; they screw around with a T-Pain-esque auto tune effect and misuse the word "concubine". But on their other hand, it can't be denied that the lyrics and melody in "Until We Stand Together" are flawless. The excellent songwriting can't be ignored regardless of whatever experimentation they try that works or fails. I look forward to the day when they are in a car commercial or on NPR or marry Zooey Deschanel so I can fall on my sword and die.

MP3: The Chairs - This Isn't a Fire Fortress

Buy Laugh, It's a Fright

Monday, March 30, 2009

Show Review: Ra Ra Riot @ The Blind Pig, 3.26.09

all photos stolen from

It is an extremely rare occurrence that a band will come to Detroit at the same time that I'm falling in love with their music. I first heard of Ra Ra Riot on design blogs because The Silent Giants did their album art. (Those guys screenprint some pretty amazing concert posters, too. It's pretty cool to see them putting Detroit on the map in the design world.) Then I started to see their 2008 record The Rhumb Line mentioned every which way to Sunday within a ton of best of 08 music lists. No doubt, that album was one of the best to come out last year.

The band is a six-piece, consisting of your usual rock staples plus a cello and a violin. The string players were classically trained prior to the band forming during their college years. The result is a band that's technically flawless and non-pretentious in their stage presence, relying entirely on their sound to blow you away. Unlike the overhyped, overgroomed opening act, these guys clearly spent more time making music together than combing thrift stores for their clothes. They happily played us the whole record, and their live set was tighter than the studio recording. Although I'm sure they're used to the crowd reacting to "Ghost Under Rocks" they played it jubilantly, like it was their favorite song too.

The best part of the show was the violin and cello soaring back and forth between each other during the string solo in "Dying Is Fine". The violinist has MAYBE replaced Petra Haden on my list of rock stars I want to be. And the cello should really see her for yourself. She's quite attractive and somehow plays her instrument kind of erotically. I thought I was going to have to turn the hose on my guy friends after this show.

Afterwards, I escaped the "scene" as fast as I could, clutching my orange vinyl and rare debut EP with a big nerdy smile on my face. The EP has older versions of some of the songs on The Rhumb Line, my favorite being "Can You Tell". The lyrics are a little different on this recording, leaving out the "I'm standing by your sister fair" part.

Ra Ra Riot will be also opening for Death Cab + The Gibber at MSU on 4/18.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Alaska in Winter

I kept seeing Alaska in Winter come up in SXSW recaps. Either I'm the last one to hear about this guy, or he really broke free from the pack this year in Austin. Brandon Bethancourt, the guy behind the guy behind the guy Alaska in Winter, released the electronica album "Holiday" late last year after a stay in Berlin. They say Berlin is the Detroit of Europe, so maybe that's why I'm liking this.

I'm very tired; I can only tell you that I still made the effort to post about Alaska in Winter despite two disparaging things:
1) The color palette and typography on their cover art and t-shirts are horrible in that they look like my Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper from 1991.
2) The top 4 friends on his MySpace page are fake accounts made solely to create the look of a chopped up "banner" type graphic along his top row of friends. Unnecessary.

The following song is the last track on the album and features Zach Condon of Beirut. His yodel-y sort of singing oddly fits well among the synthesizers and drum machines.

MP3: Alaska in Winter - Close Your Eyes (Remix)

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