Recommendation – Regina Spektor’s Soviet Kitsch Wednesday, Jan 13 2010 

I know I’m late to the party on this, but DAMN, is Regina Spektor amazing. I’ve recently been perusing her discography, and there’s nothing I seem to enjoy more than her 2004 album Soviet Kitsch. I don’t know what’s regularly considered her best album, or what I’m SUPPOSED to be falling head-over-heels for, but I’ve fallen completely in love with this.

From the tenderness of “Carbon Monoxide” to the fury of “Your Honor,” Spektor here shows so many sides of her piano-based anti-folk songwriting genius. She alludes to Fitzgerald and Hemingway in “Poor Little Rich Boy,” and it feels almost like an afterthought, it’s so casual. But it’s all delivered so deliberately. It’s brilliance in the same vein as Ben Folds (though Spektor has a very different style, if the comparison still makes sense).

She’s incredible, but in particular on Soviet Kitsch. The whole album is addictive. It’s beautiful, it’s nasty, it’s powerful, it’s light and fun. I’m honestly completely taken aback by this. Again, I know I’m late to the party, but get this now.

Recommendation – The Weakerthans Tuesday, Dec 22 2009 

At least in Pennsylvania, where I am, there is almost two feet of snow in the ground, which makes me want to curl up with a good book, a snifter of cognac, and, of course, some solid winter tunes. I’ve been listening to a few bands pretty consistently this holiday season, but one stands out among them as my favorite: The Weakerthans.

The Weakerthans

No wonder he hates Winnipeg so much--too many pine trees

The band, fronted by Winnipeg’s John K. Samson (who left leftist punk band Propagandhi to start a publishing company–which is the best way ever to leave any band), play a highly idiosyncratic and instantly identifiable brand of punk-pop that is both catchy and endearingly intimate. The intimacy in part comes from Samson’s impassioned, earnest vocal delivery and, perhaps even more so, from his excellent lyrics. There are some great writers to be found in contemporary music, but none that I have found so far has yet to touch Samson in terms of clarity of imagery, strength of voice, and overall cohesiveness. It seems imprudent to recommend a band on strength of their lyrics alone, but the genius of the Weakerthans is the union of rough-around-the-edges, folk-tinged punk music and highly literate lyrical insight. Songs like “Plea From A Cat Named Virtute” (pronounced “vir-toot”) showcase the mastery of both pop and poetry. The song is written from the perspective of Samson’s cat, and provides a shockingly vivid portrait of disaffection and loneliness. I could rave on and on about Samson’s lyrics, but I’ll spare you and end with this: check this band out, if you haven’t. The Weakerthans are in heavy rotation in my winter playlist, and though they haven’t released an album since 2007’s Reunion Tour, they are a band to watch in the future. Hopefully 2010 yields a new release from them.

Like what you hear? Craving more than these four albums? John Samson released the first in a series of 7″s, entitled City Route 85, on November 3, a song from which can be heard here. Be sure to give this band your attention and keep an ear to the cold, frosted Canadian ground as we move into a new year. Hopefully The Weakerthans will grace us with album #5 by this time next year.

Listen/watch: http://www.theweakerthans.org/audiovisual/ and http://www.myspace.com/theweakerthans

– David

Recommendation – Katie Tate Sunday, Dec 20 2009 

“I hope this song starts a craze / the kind of song that ignites the airwaves / the kind of song that makes people glad to be where they are with whoever they’re there with.”

Jesse Lacey

There’s something about music that defines our lives perfectly. We love singing loud and out of key with our closest friends in our cars and at our bonfires, and hearing these songs years later brings us back to that exact moment with amazing clarity.

Every day, songs like this happen to Katie Tate. So, she puts these songs to her voice and guitar (or piano) and records them. She then uploads these songs onto MySpace for our listening pleasure.

Yeah, that’s pretty much all I have to say. I’d go on and write some really profound, verbose plug, but that’d be lame. No need to practice for my future of Journalism with this entry. Her songs speak for themselves. If you want to hear totally rad songs about mewithoutYou, boys, and hair, listen and have a good time. If not, I take it you have a very boring, miserable life.

-Tim.

Recommendation – Jacquelyn Lee Thursday, Aug 13 2009 

Beautiful, but deadly?

Beautiful, but deadly?

A few days ago, my girlfriend broke up with me. I won’t ramble on about it too much, but it was quite unexpected and left me feeling all the sad things I’d been burying for months. Less than forty hours removed from the event, I found myself wondering the woods surrounding a local trailer park with my best friend, prattling on about some musical idea I have called post-pop. It seemed to be the kind of night legends have just before they do whatever they do to become legendary. Towards the end of his night, my buddy fired up his laptop and told me to Google “Jacquelyn Lee”. I don’t know what I was expecting, but what I got was so far beyond it, my expectations no longer really mattered.

Jacquelyn Lee reminds me of all the things I love about music. Her sound can best be described as folk-pop filtered through the disturbed mind of some jilted lover, all delivered through a deceptively sweet voice. If Annie Clark went back in time and had a baby with Bob Dylan, it may end up sounding something like Jacquelyn Lee’s music. Even as those two poorly constructed metaphors struggle to describe Lee’s sound, if you’re like me, you will find yourself almost inexplicably drawn to the sinister, almost hypnotic draw of Lee’s melodies as they dance over soft, finger-plucked guitar tones. I could throw out a plethora of artists who sound somewhat similar to Lee but, honestly, I have not heard anything quite like it before. Simply put, her sound is unique. Less simply put, her sound is beautiful. Although some would be quick to group Lee with other female acoustic-pop artists, to do so would be a waste of one’s breath, as Lee herself acknowledges:

Rock, folk and pop music has been forever dominated by men, so it is very easy to simplify a female artist when she comes along. It is easy to group them all together. Well, what is different about me is that I will not stand to be pigeon-holed as another female voice and a guitar. My style is different, more evil and self-aware. I do not listen to the radio, and I fashion myself with a range of experience, influences, intuition and dumb luck that somehow eludes a perfect definition. If nothing else, that is what I want to express through music and personality.

To top it off, Lee has a way with words that many artists twice her age cannot grasp (did I mention she’s only 21?). The descriptive word play of “Lorraine During the Rearing” is dazzling enough that one almost forgets how evil the song really is. The same sentiment goes for “The Landfill Lot”. Her lyrics also bare a certain self-awareness, as she sings, “And though I can be a beautiful girl/In front of you I would never try” on “A Game of Chess”. Never does she allow one ounce of pretense to drip into her music, while somehow simultaneously maintaining an obvious confidence and a fearlessness I only wish more musicians could have.

If you want Jacquelyn Lee in your life, feel free to visit her MySpace and check out her Last.fm, where she has a few free downloads available. She’s hoping to have an album out sometime in the future, a record which is currently very high on my “Most Highly Anticipated” list. She tells me she’s actively looking for shows, promotion, and to expand her base:

This is an age of rogue, independent, self-releasing artists, and that is a banner I have to bear.¬†After a year of heightened attention as an artist around Chapel Hill, mainly among the student body, I’m trying to organize an all-out promotional campaign with my friends to really attract more attention, secure more business and creative relationships and land more gigs. When I am optimistic, I think I am “about to happen,” but I have been held back by having really shitty recordings and a very scant knowledge of music engineering. That is what the upcoming album will remedy, because as a solo musician, you must either be extraordinary in your multiplicity of talents, or you must have a lot of talented friends.

I certainly hope Jacquelyn Lee is about to happen. Either way, I fancy her a friend of this blog, so it is with that I highly recommend you check out Lee’s music and look forward to attending her shows if you live in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro area.

Recommendation – The Never Friday, Aug 7 2009 

This is a new feature for this blog. I’ve yet to come up with a catchy, memorable title for it, so for now it will just be called “Recommendation”. This feature provides exactly what the title implies; I’ll recommend a band and then you’ll check them out. Then again, maybe you won’t, but the MySpace link is right there so why not click on it?

Today, it’s The Never, an indie rock band from Chapel Hill, NC. If I had to choose one word to describe The Never, it would be “theatric”. Lead by the ambitious Noah Smith, The Never play a sharp form of indie rock, weaving childlike bedtime stories into their songs. The arrangements are well thought out, as is evident on “Cavity”, which puts a more melodic spin on the classic soft-loud dynamic. To that, The Never add a groove more often found in modern R&B than indie rock. Check out the band’s MySpace and, if you’re in town, The Never will be playing at the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, NC on August 29th.