Latest Blog Posts

by Henry Guyer

7 May 2010


Certain events in music history are powerful enough to change the course of the industry for good. Prominent events such as Bob Dylan going electric in 1965, Radiohead’s groundbreaking OK Computer, or, as far as my personal relationship with music is concerned, the emergence of the seminal independent K Records and Beat Happening in Olympia, Washington in 1982.

The man at the center of it all was Calvin Johnson, frontman of Beat Happening and K Records founder, bringing with him his fierce Do It Yourself ethic and lo-fi sensibilities to change the course of the American independent music scene.

Beat Happening was one of those bands that discarded any preconceived notions of what it takes to make music and get it out there. Call it a childlike naiveté or a disregard for professional musicianship, but Beat Happening’s playful and whimsical approach whisked in a new era of change within the industry, a sort-of middle fingered address to the major labels and their tendency to homogenize the playing-field. They weren’t masters of their instruments, they often strayed off-key and out of tune, yet they captured something primitive and organic with their sound that continues to speak to people. The ethos of the trio, Calvin, Heather, and Bret (they dropped their last names in order to strip away all pretense) was one of democracy and fearlessness, swapping instruments and singing duties from song to song.

by Jane Jansen Seymour

6 May 2010


The Whitsundays were formed three years ago by Canadian singer/songwriter Paul Arnusch (also a member of the dream pop band Faunts and the post punk group the Floor) in order to create classic pop songs using his collection of vintage keyboard and guitars. Arnusch took the name right off a favorite t-shirt, even the script lettering, not as a reference to islands in Australia or a religious holiday. He collected musical friends for the project, enlisting a few members of fellow Edmonton band Shout Out Out Out Out among others. The first self-titled release in January 2008 accomplished this goal and more. Its carefully crafted song “Falling Over” became one of my favorites of the year, introducing me to the band’s hip take on the sunshine rock of yesterday. Rolling Stone even named them “the next big Canadian indie supergroup”. Yet, Arnush has described this new collection, Saul, as decidedly “different” since the musical vocabulary ventures into psychedelic meanderings and away from tight knit vintage song structures.

Saul was recorded by Arnusch alone in his basement over a long snowy winter. It begins with the funky, murky groove of “There’s a Monkey on My Back” and muddy, mesmerizing vocals. The experimental vibe explains the list of new influences: Galaxie 500, Pavement, Grandaddy, along with those already on the list from before such as David Bowie and Ariel Pink. “I Can’t Get Off of My Cloud’s” trippy title is the first clue for the guitar heavy, tambourine shaking opening before it unleashes into a free form montage—screams and all—only to return to the final fade out of a buzzing guitar. “Silent in the Wind” uses a carnival vamp before dissipating into a layered vision, rhythmically chugging along within a disjointed landscape. The lilting keyboard and guitar introduction of the final track “You Know I Can’t Lie Dreaming” sweetly carries the tune to end the CD. 

There are still moments of harmonic bliss and classic pop, just within an expanded palette of modern electronics. Background voices of children, people handling instruments and playing together in a home studio give Saul a live feel, which will lend itself well in front of an audience whether recently at SXSW or at future gigs. It will be interesting to see whether the Whitsunday fans will be game for the ride.

by AJ Ramirez

4 May 2010


It’s now been 30 years since the British post-punk quartet Joy Division released its final (and best-known) single on the Manchester, England-based indie label Factory Records. Hitting record store shelves as a 7” vinyl release not long before the band’s singer Ian Curtis took his own life on May 18, 1980, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” became a totemic record in the aftermath of that tragedy, widely taken as the last will and testament of a riveting yet tormented frontman. It’s without a doubt the short-lived group’s signature song, and even to this day when the band’s name is mentioned, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” has a 99.99% likelihood of being the first tune to come to mind.

Despite a legend the song cultivated almost immediately, (the original June 1980 Melody Maker review of the single described it as “Evocative, interesting… a powerfully original piece of music”), “Love Will Tear Us Apart” is not Joy Division’s best or most ambitious composition. Lacking the propulsive drive of “Transmission”, the dread anxiety of “She’s Lost Control”, and the sepulchral majesty of “Atmosphere”, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” is thin and subdued, almost undeserving of its acclaim. Rendered coldly distant by Martin Hannett’s trademark production, Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook restrict themselves to repeating their personalized variations of the main melody riff on keyboard and bass, respectively, while Ian Curtis delivers half-hearted stabs of guitar throughout. Aside from Stephen Morris’ ever-frenetic drum rhythms, the band sounds sapped of strength on the final recording, as if it has succumbed to solemnly accepting its fated demise.

by PC Muñoz

3 May 2010


An earlier version of this post appeared on pcmunoz.com on August 16, 2005

“Home Again”—Carole King
Written by Carole King
From Tapestry (Sony, 1971)

Though “It’s Too Late” might be a little more famous, and “You’ve Got a Friend” certainly gets covered more often, I’ve always felt that the piano ballad “Home Again” is the emotional center of Carole King’s classic Tapestry album. It begins with a starkly direct confession:

Sometimes I wonder if I’m ever gonna make it home again
It’s so far and out of sight

by Sean McCarthy

30 Apr 2010


May is shaping up to be a huge month not only for summer movies, but for music. Four bands that have released Album of the Year-quality albums are set to release new albums in the coming weeks. As a music geek, you may have looked forward to these types of “Super Tuesday” events when two or even three big releases dropped on the same day. However, the advent of streaming releases ahead of the release date has taken much of the luster out of these musical “Super Tuesdays”.

Almost a month before its May 17th release date, LCD Soundsystem is streaming This is Happening on their website. NPR is streaming the new Hold Steady and Broken Social Scene albums. And last week, The New York Times streamed The National’s High Violet.

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