01 Apr

Album Review: Viet Cong – Viet Cong [Jagjaguwar / Flemish Eye]

vietcong
92Heat WaveDon’t listen to Viet Cong when you’re in a good mood. Happiness has no place within this band’s world. There’s plenty of existentialism, darkness, depression and punishment to go around though, if you’re interested. But that’s pretty much what you’ll get from any artists affixed with the genre label of post-punk. Just look at Joy Division, the go-to post-punk reference, who made it their mission to tell everyone that love will tear us apart. Actually Viet Cong and Joy Division share more than just some sonic similarities to one another. Their names both reference controversial armies/regiments from past wars responsible for plenty of death and destruction. That’s even resulted in at least one Viet Cong show being cancelled specifically because of their name. But they continue to soldier on, because what else are they going to do? What really matters in the end is the music itself, and at the very least in that aspect Viet Cong’s self-titled debut album is a real killer.

What makes Viet Cong such a great and worthwhile record can really be whittled down to a single word: passion. It’s a quality that echoes through every single track, as the band plays with such urgency and hunger that you can’t help but be sucked into their vortex. The creative and unique twist they put on the post-punk label is equally exciting, particularly since so many other artists are simply content to do their best modern interpretation of The Jesus & Mary Chain or Sonic Youth. You can hear Viet Cong hit those touchstones with dashes of bands like Guided By Voices (“Continental Shelf”) and Wolf Parade (“Silhouettes”) as well, but then quickly swerve in obtuse and unexpected directions to keep you on your toes. While such experimental shifts can effectively alienate most listeners who thrive on the safe and familiar, the songs do their part to actively engage rather than shut anyone out. It’s how they can turn an 11-minute song called “Death” into one of the heaviest and most white-knuckle rides of 2015 so far.

Actually, calling the entire album a ride is another great way to describe it. Though the lyrics tend to be less than upbeat and the melodies won’t make you recall a bright, sunny day, this is a really fun and darkly humorous (on occasion) collection of songs. In the middle of “March of Progress” for example, vocalist Matt Flegel brings a serious amount of veiled sarcasm and dry wit to lines like, “Your reputation is preceding you/ We’re all sufficiently impressed/ And this incessant march of progress/ Can guarantee our sure success.” It’s a sly eye roll, scoffing at the idea that artists need to go out of their way to kowtow to critics and crowds in order to get ahead. Such matters aren’t of concern to Viet Cong, and their refusal to compromise or adjust their art for the sake of acclaim and popularity seems to have yielded them healthy portions of both.

As breathlessly exhilarating as the seven tracks of Viet Cong can be, it’s also important to note they’re equally fraught with conflict and a severe lack of any real human emotion. Flegel sings in a commanding monotone best compared to Interpol’s Paul Banks, and when combined with the highly distorted guitars as well as Mike Wallace’s overtly mechanical yet punishing drumming, it can register as very cold and clinical in its approach. Of course such a glassy-eyed approach has roots in post-punk and industrial music in the first place, so it makes sense for Viet Cong to fall in line there. They also avoid any hot button topics such as love or politics in their songs, favoring obtuse and wordy metaphors over clarity and relatability. These are the prices paid to thrive on experimentation and unpredictability. The band places form and function above all else, and such tinkering pays off with perhaps the first truly original record this year.

MP3: “Continental Shelf
MP3: “Silhouettes

Buy Viet Cong from Jagjaguwar

31 Mar

Pick Your Poison: Tuesday 3-31-15

Happy Tuesday to you and yours. Today’s Pick Your Poison features delights from Fable, Feather Beds, LA Font, Mikaela Kahn, Scenic Void and Snowbride. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream songs from Cakes Da Killa, Du Blonde (ft. Future Islands’ Samuel T. Herring), Eiko Hara, Eskimeaux, Golden Vesel, Heaters, iLoveMakonnen, The Knocks, Jay-Jay Johanson (covering Bat for Lashes) and Uniform.

Bellehouse – Back to Life

Fable – Persuasion

Feather Beds – Airbrushed

LA Font – Whisperer

Loframes – Get Real (Can’t Touch Your Love) [Digitalfoxglove Remix]

Mikaela Kahn – I Want You

Nick Lutsko – ALL SHOOK UP

Scenic Void – Blue Lamp

Snowbride – Dockside Reading

w a y l o r – The Distance
Read more…

30 Mar

Pick Your Poison: Monday 3-30-15

Hope you had a great weekend. Let me help your Monday get off to a solid start with downloads from Chick Quest, Foster, Glass Candy, The Helmholtz Resonators, iiii and Verre. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream songs from Annabel, Banoffee (covering Frank Ocean), Cillie Barnes, Death and Vanilla, Fred Thomas, Marrow, Priest, Tourist and YØUTH.

Absofacto – Dissolve (Robert Lux Remix)

Chick Quest – Somebody Call A Doctor

Eaten By Television – Coming To A Stop

Evawolf – Lose You

Foster – Cruddy Jav

Glass Candy – Shell Game

The Helmholtz Resonators – Vermillion Hue

iiii – Looking Glass

Sky White Tiger – Don’t Matter Much

Verre – Taste the Sky
Read more…

27 Mar

This Week in Music: 3-27-15

Every Friday, instead of sharing downloads and Soundcloud streams, we take a quick look back at the many other music-related things that happened this week in a segment that’s appropriately called “This Week in Music.” If there was a great or noteworthy music video that was released, it’ll be featured here. If an artist gave a particularly noteworthy interview, that might pop up in the links below. The same goes for interesting articles related to music, documentaries about bands, and just generally whatever might strike my fancy. If you’ve got something fun or important related to an artist that you think should be mentioned here, shoot me an email! All the information you need is in the sidebar on the right. So here’s this week’s wrap-up. Click the links below, and you’ll be off!

Watch Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard perform a cover of Guided By Voices’ “Tractor Rape Chain”

Stream the song “Confusion” by Capital Punishment, Ben Stiller’s punk band from the 80’s

Music Video: Built to Spill – Living Zoo

YouTube AUdio Stream: Jamie xx – Loud Places (ft. Romy)

Music Video: Run the Jewels ft. Zack de la Rocha – Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)

Check out the Lollapalooza 2015 lineup

Music Video: QT – Hey QT

Mykki Blanco is quitting music to pursue investigative journalism

Music Video: Tink – Ratchet Commandments

Music Video: FKA twigs – Glass & Patron

26 Mar

Pick Your Poison: Thursday 3-26-15

There’s some good stuff in today’s Pick Your Poison, including tracks from Catherine Feeny & Chris Johnedis, The Fantastic Plastics, Round Eye, Royal Tongues (covering Alabama Shakes) and Rudy Zygadlo. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream songs from Beach Baby, Communions, Girls Names, Govt Mule (covering Radiohead), Mas Ysa, Pfarmers and TOKiMONSTA.

Catherine Feeny & Chris Johnedis – Carrier Pigeon

Eyes Behind the Veil – Folding Chair

The Fantastic Plastics – NoNoGoGo

Jalin Roze – KYGT$

Janice Prix – Rain

Rahim Quazi – Ghost Hunting

Round Eye – City Livin

Royal Tongues – Don’t Wanna Fight (Alabama Shakes cover)

Rudy Zygadlo – Slow Carz

Vinyette – Just to Get Away
Read more…

25 Mar

Pick Your Poison: Wednesday 3-25-15

Highlights you’ll find in today’s set include tracks from Arthur Nasson, Creature in the Woods, The Landing, Streetcare Love and White Like Fire. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream songs from Drug Cabin, Earl Sweatshirt & Action Bronson, How to Dress Well, Hudson Mohawke, Mavis Staples, MIYNT, Tei Shi, Toro y Moi and Torres.

Arthur Nasson – The Emperor’s New Sound

The Bandicoots – Mind Your Manors

Creature in the Woods – Beneath the Sun (ft. Elisa Coia)

Energy Slime – Star on the Ground

The Landing – Then Comes the Wonder

Meghann Wright – Diamonds Blaze

Montropo – Brother, Stay

Morning Harvey – Smith Street Swap Meet

Streetcar Love – White Eyes

White Like Fire – You Gave Up On Me
Read more…

25 Mar

Show Preview: Foxygen at Metro [4/9]


Let’s not sugar coat this: Foxygen aren’t for everyone. They’re the sort of band that thrives on doing their own thing and not apologizing for it, which can really rub some people the wrong way. If you want to listen to and enjoy music that’s safe and comfortable that’s fine, but if unsafe and uncomfortable music is more up your alley, then by all means give Foxygen a try. Their 2013 album We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic represented the band at the height of their powers, taking cues from classic artists like The Rolling Stones and The Kinks while at the same time blurring lines between psych-pop, soul, funk, gospel and straight-up rock. They took that smorgasbord of influences and doubled down both figuratively and literally with last year’s …And Star Power. Across two discs and 24 tracks, Foxygen had crafted something akin to a 70’s glam rock concept record along the lines of Pink Floyd’s The Wall and The Who’s Tommy. Of course both those albums are classics, while Foxygen’s latest effort was met with more of a collective sigh from many critics and fans. Much of the good will the band had amassed the year prior had been wiped away by that point anyways, thanks to band in-fighting, shows being cancelled and an overall sense of fatigue that came with spending too much time on the road. Some artists progress slowly and steadily, while others push themselves to extremes and flame out quickly and in spectacular fashion. For all practical purposes, Foxygen appear to be the latter.

Last week they let everyone know via Twitter that this will be their final tour. Now before you go crying tears of sadness or joy, depending on your opinion of the band, I think it’s important to remember the following: they may not be 100% serious about it. Allow me to offer up a reasonable explanation. Upon the release of …And Star Power last fall, Foxygen decided to go all-out spectacle with their tour in support of it. They put together a true production with a large crew, elaborate stage design and extra band members that included backup singers/dancers. Then they kind of but not really changed their name. I’m not sure if they settled on Foxygen and Star Power or simply just Star Power, but to avoid confusion everyone kept calling them just plain Foxygen anyways, so it doesn’t matter so much. Upon claiming that this is their “final tour,” that could have multiple meanings. Will this be the final tour in support of the …And Star Power record? Will they be breaking up “Star Power” only to reform again as Foxygen? Will they simply be ending their extravagant live show with extra band members and will scale back to normal? It could be any/all of those things, none of which truly spell the end of Foxygen. More than anything, I’m convinced they’ll disappear for a few years, then resurface with a new album.

Whatever they choose to do, it’s likely to be interesting if not a bit bothersome and annoying. But that shouldn’t stop you from going to see Foxygen play what could be their final show in Chicago on April 9th at Metro. At the very least it’ll be the last time they come through town for the foreseeable future with a whole big event-style performance. To give you at least a taste of what that might entail, check out their visit to Letterman from back in January where they blew him away with “How Can You Really”. Pretty great, right? Anyways, tickets to their show at Metro are $18 in advance and can be purchased here. It’s an 18+ show and starts at 9PM, just so you’ve got all the necessary details. I hope to see you there!

24 Mar

Pick Your Poison: Tuesday 3-24-15

For those who are into that sort of thing, Lollapalooza 3-day passes went on sale this morning. Sorry if you missed them, as they’re all sold out. The lineup will be announced tomorrow morning at 6am, followed by single-day tickets going on sale at 10am. Expect single days to sell out quickly as well. Just a friendly warning/reminder in case you needed one. Today’s Pick Your Poison has some good songs from some potential Lolla artists, and you probably shouldn’t miss downloads from Charlie Barnes, Jameson Burt, Loose Tooth, The Othermen and Tep No. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream tracks from Astronauts, etc., Cajsa Siik, Cuushe, EZTV, Fort Frances, Galcher Lustwerk, Jeff Zagers and more!

Charlie Barnes – Sing to God

Coquin Migale – Gold

Craig Martinson – Monster Man

Jameson Burt – Let It Pass

Loose Tooth – Pickwick Average

Max Vangeli & Flatdisk – Skin

The Othermen – (Do The) Stand Still

Tep No – Meant to Be

Thad Kopec – Every Drop

Those Goddamn Hippies – Drift
Read more…

23 Mar

Pick Your Poison: Monday 3-23-15

Happy Monday. It’s snowing in Chicago. In late March. Not cool. What is cool though is today’s Pick Your Poison, which has some great tracks from BMB Spacekid, Chimpshed A.D., Dimond Saints, Gypsy & the Cat and Moon Diagrams. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream songs from Frank Rabeyrolles, Girl Friend, GRiZ (ft. Talib Kweli), Janine and the Mixtape, Maribou State, Nadia, Temple Invisible, Turn to Crime and more.

Alesso ft. Tove Lo – Heroes (Basic Tape Remix)

BMB Spacekid – Demure

Chimpshed A.D. – Cabin Fever

Dimond Saints – What U Doing to Me

E Major – 2 Real

Emily Firing – Some Kind of Deity

Gypsy & the Cat – Lost Control

John Stratton – To the Desert

Les Limbes – Hypersonic

Moon Diagrams – Scratch the Snow
Read more…

20 Mar

This Week in Music: 3-20-15

Every Friday, instead of sharing downloads and Soundcloud streams, we take a quick look back at the many other music-related things that happened this week in a segment that’s appropriately called “This Week in Music.” If there was a great or noteworthy music video that was released, it’ll be featured here. If an artist gave a particularly noteworthy interview, that might pop up in the links below. The same goes for interesting articles related to music, documentaries about bands, and just generally whatever might strike my fancy. If you’ve got something fun or important related to an artist that you think should be mentioned here, shoot me an email! All the information you need is in the sidebar on the right. So here’s this week’s wrap-up. Click the links below, and you’ll be off!

Nick Cave has written a book using airplane sick bags

Music Video: Modest Mouse – Lampshades on Fire

Robyn has launched a festival promoting women in technology

YouTube Audio Stream: Blur – There Are Too Many of Us

Watch Chance the Rapper star in the short film Mr. Happy

Watch Tobias Jesso Jr. perform “Without You” on Conan

Check out Modest Mouse’s “Linguistic Remix Generator”

Music Video: Earl Sweatshirt – Grief

Watch the “moving album cover” for Bjork’s song “Family”

Stream/download Tinashe’s new mixtape Amethyst

19 Mar

Pick Your Poison: Thursday 3-19-15

Hope everyone at SXSW is having fun this week. I’m hoping to return to Austin in 2016. As far as today’s Pick Your Poison goes, you’ll want to check out tracks from Broken Boy, Bus Stop Dreams, The Traveling Suitcase, Tyord and Van Dale. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream songs from The Dunwells, FEMME, James Murphy, Kissey, Nero, Winters Island and more.

Broken Boy – She Said

Bus Stop Dreams – You Can Put Your Faith In Me

The Hard Ground – Pucker

Monty C. Benjamin – Clueless

Sweatson Klank – I’m A Fool

Shox – Mare St

The Traveling Suitcase – Off the Ground

Tyord – Funeral Wife

Van Dale – Speak Yellow

Weird Mob – Nu American Haircutz
Read more…

19 Mar

Show Review: Cursive [Lincoln Hall; Chicago; 3/18/15]


Multiple studies done over the last decade have pretty much all determined that our own personal tastes in music become established between the ages of 14 and 24. As these are the most formative years of our lives, from puberty to the completion of our education in high school and college to the friends and social groups we settle into, it makes sense that this would be a testing ground for the kinds of music we like. The reason I bring this up is because at the tender age of 19 I discovered the band Cursive. To be fair, I discovered a LOT of bands at that age and have continued to for a good decade since, but for one reason or another Cursive holds a special place in my heart. Their 2003 concept(ish) album The Ugly Organ very blessedly blurred the lines between alt-rock, indie, punk and emo so it provided a rather easy entry point for music fans of all stripes and colors. Working at a college radio station in the Midwest also brought the band to my attention, and few were the days when you couldn’t find me in the DJ booth jumping around to “Art Is Hard” as it blasted over the airwaves. ‘Twas a simpler time. But I digress. The point being, The Ugly Organ was a record I really got into and apparently a whole lot of others did as well. So much so the band decided to reissue it last fall with a bunch of bonus material, and follow it up this winter/spring with a two month U.S. tour in celebration. The band finally reached Chicago at the tail end of that for a sold out show at Lincoln Hall on Wednesday night. Here’s what happened. (cue Law & Order ::dun dun::)

One of the more noteworthy things about The Ugly Organ is that it’s Cursive’s only release that prominently features the cello. The band recruited cellist Gretta Cohn in 2001 to play on the record and tour in support of it, but in 2005 she left to pursue other interests and was never replaced. While Cohn did play a show or two with Cursive recently when they stopped in New York (where she now lives), she hasn’t rejoined the band or anything like that. The good news is that all of the other stops on this tour did have a cellist to help ensure that the album was properly brought to life, not to mention the bonus of adding cello parts to a bunch of other songs across the Cursive catalog.

Unlike a majority of bands who have adopted the trend of performing a classic album from front to back, Cursive decided to shake things up a bit because they didn’t want to be like everyone else. That was clear right from the beginning of their set, which kicked off with “Sink to the Beat” from 2001’s Burst and Bloom EP followed by “Big Bang” from 2006’s Happy Hollow. Those were but a couple of many interesting choices the band made across close to 90 minutes and 21 songs. Yes The Ugly Organ was technically played in full, but there were detours taken along the way to throw the crowd off and celebrate other records in bits and pieces. Of the non-Organ records, 2009’s Mama, I’m Swollen got the most love, but not by much. The biggest surprise of the night was probably “Excerpts From Various Notes Strewn Around the Bedroom of April Connolly, Feb. 24, 1997,” a song that appeared on a 2002 split EP called 8 Teeth to Eat You. That, or the song “Nonsense,” which was found on the Saddle Creek 50 compilation. Both of those tracks actually are included in the deluxe reissue of The Ugly Organ so it makes sense that they’d be played, but context aside they’re absolutely rarities and not the sort of songs you expect to be performed live pretty much ever.

As for The Ugly Organ itself, let’s just say it’s the sort of record that holds up really well. The 1-2-3 punch that is “Some Red Handed Sleight of Hand” into “Art Is Hard” into “The Recluse” still hits with the same force, only this time you’ve got a room full of people shouting along to every single word. “Art Is Hard” in particular is just a powder keg that set a lot of people off. Similar things could be said about the late set heroics from songs like “Bloody Murderer” and “Sierra,” the latter of which kicked off the encore. As great of a time as the crowd seemed to be having, the band looked like they were having a blast too. Frontman Tim Kasher seemed to suggest that the tour had been going on forever and they were all a little worse for wear, but there were no telltale signs outside of a couple small coughing fits that Kasher had between songs. Illnesses can be tough to recover from when you’re on the road and are unable to rest or take really good care of yourself. So long as it doesn’t degrade the performance though, such things are manageable. Turns out a night honoring The Ugly Organ was anything but ugly. It’s my sincere hope that Kasher and the rest of Cursive take inspiration from that record and this tour as they write and arrange material for their next effort. The world could use more albums like it.

Stream “Art Is Hard”

Stream “Am I Not Yours?”

Buy The Ugly Organ deluxe edition from Saddle Creek

18 Mar

Pick Your Poison: Wednesday 3-18-15

Your mid-week Pick Your Poison features some good tracks from Andy Shauf, Friend Roulette, Jeremy Bass, Kraak & Smaak, Montropo and Trans Van Santos. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream songs from Art Nikels, Geographer, Jimmy Whispers, Set Mo, Ultra Violent Rays, Years & Years and more!

American Opera – Sand & Seed

Andy Shauf – Hometown Hero

Anna Haas – Woman of the Wild

Charli XCX ft. Rita Ora – Doing It (TKDJS Remix)

Friend Roulette – Stoned Alone

Jeremy Bass – Lift Me Up

Kraak & Smaak – Drunken Master

Montropo – More Light

Moods – Lost Translation

Trans Van Santos – The Flight
Read more…

17 Mar

Pick Your Poison: Tuesday 3-17-15

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! If you’re “celebrating,” stay safe. Highlights of today’s Pick Your Poison come from AOTOA, Chynna, Nugget, Saxsyndrum (covering Lykke Li) and Tiger High. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream new songs from Death Cab for Cutie, Django Django, Future, Future Flocka, iLoveMakonnen, Lower Dens, Missy Mazzoli, Upset and Yukon Blonde.

Anna Lunoe ft. Jesse Boykins III – Heartbreak in Motion (Gladiator 4AM Remix)

AOTOA – Limbo

Chynna – Wax

Kate Copeland – Trouble

LC Mckenzie – I’ll Be There

Motin – Selva

Nugget – Cheese Meister

Saxsyndrum ft. Sea Oleena – Dance Dance Dance (Lykke Li cover)

Sterling Fox – Freak Caroline

Tiger High – Christine
Read more…

16 Mar

Pick Your Poison: Monday 3-16-15

Happy SXSW Week, if you’re headed to Austin this year. Please enjoy today’s Pick Your Poison, which features some quality tracks from Arrows of Love, Locke, Manwomanchild, Programm (covering Clinic) and Rubblebucket (covering Fugazi). In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream songs from Beat Connection, Mew, Okenyo, Peach Kelli Pop, Public Access T.V., Turn to Crime, Wax Stag, Wire and Zero 7.

Afternoons – Say Yes (Hands Remix)

Arrows of Love – Pretend Friends

CHAMPS. – Running (Creange Remix)

The Fleas – Free

HiRollers – Let Me Go

Josh Gilligan – Old and Tired Ground

Locke – Back & Forth

Manwomanchild – The Difficult Years

Programm – Walking With Thee (Clinic cover)

Rubblebucket – Waiting Room (Fugazi cover)
Read more…