Live in Columbus (Last Night)

"An Apple For An Apple," Miles Kurosky (DOWNLOAD)
"Dog In the Burning Building," Miles Kurosky (DOWNLOAD)
"Silver Lining," Beulah (DOWNLOAD)

Last night Drew and I drove down to Columbus to see Miles Kurosky, who you might likely remember from his work with Beulah. We don't go down to Columbus for shows very often because it's a two and a half hour drive and we're lucky to make it back home before two, but the Miles show was completely and totally worth it & was, I would venture to say, the best show we've seen in Columbus so far. So, I will refrain from crabbing about spending too much time in the car, missing Lost (for the second week in a row!), and continuously squandering my paychecks.

Anyway, we started off the night with dinner at Dirty Frank's with some of Drew's pals before heading to the Basement for the Miles show. As we got closer to the Basement we started to get a little apprehensive because there were people everywhere and signs for "Special Event Parking" all over the place. It turns out that there was a Tegan and Sara show happening at the venue next store, so there were what seemed like thousands of people (all with eerily similar haircuts) milling around... and maybe about 30 people at the Mile show. Miles addressed the disparity between the two shows during some in between songs chatting, saying that he was texting his wife about it & how he was feeling kind of down about the Columbus show apparently being the smallest show they've played yet, until his wife said, "You wouldn't want those kids and their haircuts at your show anyway," which I thought was both funny and sweet.

I know that sometimes it can feel like a downer for an artist to play to a small crowd, but coming from the perspective of someone out in the crowd, I love small shows. I think that part of it is just that I seem to have bad luck with crowds -- I always seem to be significantly shorter than whoever wants to stand in front of me, if people get rowdy I tend to catch an elbow in the chest or a foot in the head (which is what happened when we saw Modest Mouse in Columbus this past summer), or I get a significant amount of beer splashed on me. So, it was really, really awesome to be at a show where none of those things happened & I instead got to enjoy an awesome band playing an awesome set to a crowd that was obviously enjoying the experience of being there.

Miles was touring in promotion of his recent solo album, The Desert of Shallow Effects, a gorgeous ten song pop romp that I think pretty much anyone on the planet could enjoy. The songs on Shallow Effects seem to come from a story-telling sort of place & are both lyrically and musically rich. Every song has a distinct texture to it & when you listen to the album, you really feel like you're listening to something -- that probably seems like a weird, empty thing to say, so I hope you can figure out what I mean. The band played the bulk of Shallow Effects and closed the night with a number of Beulah covers, including "Emma Blowgun's Last Stand" from Beulah's album, "When Your Heartstrings Break." The band was wonderful with a really lush, full sound. Every song had beautiful vocals and great melodies, both things that made Shallow Effects and Miles' work with Beulah so appealing.

After the show, Miles stuck around to talk with fans, so Drew and I decided to say hello. Honestly, I can't imagine a friendlier, more courteous guy. We talked for easily 15 minutes or so -- which is a long conversation to have when you know you might have to have similar conversations with the rest of the audience & Miles was very funny, very gracious, and all around likable. He mentioned that he expected this to be his last tour, which made me extra glad that we had made the drive down.

Miles is midway through his US tour & you can see his remaining dates here. If he's coming anywhere near you, I highly recommend taking the time to see the show. I also recommend picking up a copy of The Desert of Shallow Effects. It's currently out on CD and the vinyl will be available in mid-April. (If you're able to catch Miles on tour, they're selling copies of the vinyl on the road.)

Not related so much to music, but still related to the general topic of Miles Kurosky: the shirts that Miles is selling on this tour are some of the best I've seen at shows recently. According to Miles' website, shirts should be available on the site in mid-April. If you are the kind of person who likes to buy band t-shirts, these ones will not disappoint.

If you like what you hear on The Desert of Shallow Effects, be sure to check out Beulah too. Miles still maintains a Beulah website where you can order Beulah albums and t-shirts. You should also check out the Beulah documentary A Good Band is Easy to Kill.

Lastly (not related to Miles, but still related to music), if you're in the Cleveland area & you don't have plans tonight, the Strange Boys are playing at Now That's Class with a bunch of local bands. Drew has just started playing with Prisoners, a local Cleveland group, & his first show with them is tonight. If you're a fan of garage rock, this is probably a good use of your $5.

"An Apple For An Apple," Miles Kurosky (DOWNLOAD)
"Dog In the Burning Building," Miles Kurosky (DOWNLOAD)
"Silver Lining," Beulah (DOWNLOAD)

Cloud Nothings

Cloud Nothings, "Can't Stay Awake" (DOWNLOAD)

There are certain types of music that I am just prone to liking, I guess. It's not hard to figure out that I have a preference for catchy low-fi stuff, the fuzzier sounding & the catchier, the better. This is a thread that you can see running through most of my musical interests -- from Guided By Voices to Liz Phair's Girly Sound tapes to more recent favorites, like Dum Dum Girls and Cloud Nothings.

Cloud Nothings are particularly exciting to me because they're local to Cleveland & who doesn't love being able to see a decent local band play every now and then? In addition to being local, Cloud Nothings are also scoring points for being part of that exciting resurgence of young kids making awesome, lo-fi pop music (see posts on the Fungi Girls & Smith Westerns for more of that.)

Turning On, the debut album from Cloud Nothings, is available on vinyl, cassette, and CD. Their MySpace page has ordering information. The album is short, just 9 songs, and clocks in at just over half an hour. And you know what? It's a really good 30 minutes and 42 seconds.

My favorite song on the album is the first track, "Can't Stay Awake." It's just 1 minute and 58 seconds long, but I can't get over how good it is. I want to listen to it forever. I want it to be full-on summer so that I can drive around listening to this song with the windows open (some songs are bike songs -- songs like "My Valuable Hunting Knife" by Guided by Voices and "Never Forget, Eve" by Defiance, OH -- other songs are definite car songs, this song is a car song.) I want my friends to learn the words to this so that we can sing along with it together on the way to some place great, some place we have always wanted to go.

If you live in Ohio, Cloud Nothings are playing a number of dates in Ohio and neighboring states. You can see their tour schedule on their MySpace page. If you live in Cleveland, you have two upcoming chances to see them! They're playing a show at the Grog Shop on April 4th and they're playing a free Record Store Day show at Music Saves on April 17th.

Cloud Nothings, "Can't Stay Awake" (DOWNLOAD)

New Allo, Darlin' video (and single)!

"Dreaming" by Allo, Darlin' feat. Monster Bobby

Allo, Darlin' had my favorite single of 2009 with "Henry Rollins Don't Dance" (which you can read about/download here) and since then I've played their few singles/demos/etc. steadily.

Their latest single, "Dreaming," is due out sometime soon on Fortuna Pop. The Allo, Darlin' website says it's due out in February... which has come and gone, so hopefully it will available in the next few weeks. They also have their first full-length due out on Fortuna Pop sometime this summer. They're already selling both the single & the album at shows, so if you're going to be at NYC Pop Fest this summer, you can pick both up there!

& while "Dreaming" is great, I absolutely can't get over how wonderful another recently released Allo, Darlin' track is. You can download "My Heart is a Drummer" from Sounds XP. I love basically everything about this song. It's the perfect "on the cusp of spring/summer" jam. I especially, especially like the bass line. This song has me basically salivating at the thought of the thought of the forthcoming Allo, Darlin' album. It can't come soon enough!

In other Allo, Darlin' news, you can read a very brief (but also very sweet) interview with them here.

First Impressions: Dum Dum Girls

So, I ordered two copies of the debut full-length LP from Dum Dum Girls -- one from HoZac and one from Sub Pop. My HoZac copy came in the mail this morning & I'm listening to it now! If you're not familiar with Dum Dum Girls, they have a really wonderful sound heavily influenced by sixties Phil Spector-style pop. Heavy on echoing vocals and layered guitars, they describe their sound as "blissed out buzzsaw" and I can't think of a better way to describe it. Some AllMusic keywords for Dum Dum Girls that make me happy: freewheeling, rowdy, swaggering, bright, ramshackle.

I Will Be is 11 tracks long, 10 originals and one Sonny & Cher cover ("Baby Don't Go.") HoZac put out two presses, 200 on an orangey-gold vinyl and 800 on black. I managed to snag a gold one, it looks lovely! The HoZac edition also sports a slightly different cover than the Sub Pop release. Both use the same photo of Dee Dee's mom, but the HoZac cover is black & white with no text & the Sub Pop cover is a color photo with the album title and band name in the upper right hand corner.

The album opener, "It Only Takes One Night" is great, but I really preferred the second track, "Bhang Bhang, I'm A Burnout" (this is something that I definitely foresee putting on a lot of mixes.) "Jail La La," the first single from the album is also on side A & holds up really well. I loved the "Jail La La" single when it came out earlier this year and listened to it so much that I was worried I might be sick of it by the time I heard the album. Fortunately, that's definitely not the case. The closing track on the A side, "Rest Of Our Lives," is a beautiful slow one. Generally speaking, I'm not crazy about slow songs, but this one is really nice & rounds out the first side perfectly.

"Yours Alone," the first track on the B side is a fantastic fast-paced song about playground love that made an appearance on a previously released 12". "Blank Girl," a slower duet with Brandon Welchez follows. Weirdly, the album's title track, "I Will Be," strikes me as being totally forgettable -- maybe I'll feel differently upon future listens? I'm similarly underwhelmed by the following number, "Lines Her Eyes" -- though that one's growing on me even as I write this sentence. I do like "Everybody's Out" quite a bit & the album's closing track, a cover of

To my knowledge, HoZac doesn't have any more copies of I Will Be on colored vinyl, but they still have some on black. You can order I Will Be from HoZac here.

You can also get I Will Be from Sub Pop, who is still accepting pre-orders. If you order before March 30th (this coming Tuesday), you'll get a CD-R with 5 previously released "rare" Dum Dum Girls tracks ("rare" is in quotes only because chances are you could easily find these tracks online.) To pre-order, go here

Dum Dum Girls are currently on tour with Girls! Drew and I are catching them next week & I'm pretty stoked. It will be our third time seeing Girls, but I've never seen Dum Dum Girls before & am pretty pumped about it.

You can sample some Dum Dum Girls tracks & peruse tour date on their MySpace page. Dum Dum Girls also have a sparsely updated blog here.

Some good news: If you missed out on Blissed Out, the Dum Dum Girls cassette collecting out of print recordings recently released by Art Fag, they've done a second run of tapes & you can get one here for $10.

Live in Cleveland (Last Week)

"Mind Meld," Kitten Forever (Download)
"Voodoo," Kitten Forever (Download)

So, last Friday I had the complete and total pleasure of seeing Kitten Forever play at the Blue Arrow on Waterloo. Kitten Forever is a 3 girl punk rock band from Minneapolis & I feel like it's sort of a cop-out to borrow from their MySpace page to describe their sound, but the description they have up there is so on, so who cares? I mean, it's not like I have any journalistic integrity to compromise or anything. So, Kitten Forever sounds like crabby baby cats, later Bratmobile, the Gossip without the southern twang, and Husker Du's "New Day Rising." How does that not sound like the best possible combination of things?!

Here are two semi-related (but maybe not really?) things that I really liked about Kitten Forever:

1. The only instruments they use are drums & bass -- In many ways, one of the big things that gets me hung up on doing something like "being in a band" or "playing music in public" or even "playing music with other people (or by myself) in the privacy of my own home" is that I get caught up in what I think you "need to have" in order to make music. Even though a lot of the music I enjoy listening to is way simplistic & stripped down when it comes to fancy gear, when I imagine the way I think things should be, I always think of things I don't have or don't know how to play. Seeing Kitten Forever play was like taking a crash course in, "Oh hey, real people make music and they make it all the time and they make it with what they've got and with who they like" and it was awesome to be reminded of that.

2. Their music simultaneously reminds me of stuff I lived for listening to in middle/high school, without seeming tired -- I've been seeing this whole whirlwind of "riot grrrl revival" talk on the internet (I am just going to use that blanket term "internet" because when I talk about things like "tumblr" and "the feminist blogosphere" Drew makes fun of me) & while I'm generally opposed to all of the "revolution grrrl style 2010" rhetoric for reasons I won't get into here, it was really awesome to hear new music that fit in with that canon without sounding played out and insincere.

Kitten Forever's most recent release is their Magical Realism EP on UF Records. They also have an album, a single, and a cassette that you can order directly through them (see their MySpace page for ordering info.)

Kitten Forever is just one of many out of town bands that the Blue Arrow is hosting. If you're in the area, I highly recommend coming out tomorrow to see Hop Along & Lithuania! The show should start around 7.

"Mind Meld," Kitten Forever (Download)
"Voodoo," Kitten Forever (Download)

"Dominoes," The Big Pink (Download)
"At War With the Sun," The Big Pink (Download)

Last night Drew and I went to the Grog Shop to see The Big Pink. I had to teach until 8 and Drew worked until 9, so by the time we got there we had entirely missed the local opener (Hotchacha) and the touring opener (A Place to Bury Strangers) was at the very end of their set. I wasn't super invested in seeing either group and was still secretly crabby about having to miss Lost, so it didn't impact me all that much, but Drew left vowing to never work on the same night he planned to go to a show.

I'll be honest -- I knew basically nothing about The Big Pink prior to last night. I had downloaded their album a few months ago because Drew said he liked it and it kept showing up on "Best of" lists for the year, but I listened to a few songs and then deleted it, filing it away as "boring music." In all fairness to The Big Pink, I was probably just not feeling it that day, because I really liked what I heard at their show last night & also, I have a tendency to write off almost anything as boring.

In some ways, it was nice to go out having basically no idea what to expect. I think I ended up enjoying the night much more that way. I definitely left the show wanting to give their album another (more attentive and, uh, complete) listen (and have listened to it twice today). Their music is very different from the sort of thing that I normally listen to (Mirah is basically "the thing I normally listen to"), so I also got to feel good about myself for going out & "expanding my horizons."

Here are two television related thoughts I had about The Big Pink while at last night's show:

1. "They probably would have played a killer set at the Bronze on Buffy the Vampire Slayer." This is something I occasionally think about bands from time to time*. Sometimes, on very rare occasions, I will think this about a band that has actually "played" at the Bronze (for example, Rasputina**)

2. "I bet the kids from Skins would listen to this band." There is a very large chance that I thought this because A) The Big Pink are from England, which is also where Skins takes place, B) A pivotal moment in Skins season two was scored to a Crystal Castles song and I like to lump all vaguely electronic bands together, and C) Drew and I spent most of the night uncomfortably close to a couple who basically made out for the entire set and unwarranted public make-outs in club environments always make me think of Skins.

One thought I had about The Big Pink while at last night's show that is unrelated to television:

1. "Some of these songs remind me of The Human League." I guess I just think that about everything now.

* Weirdly (?) this happens only with the Bronze and not any other fictional venues. For example, never in my life have I seen a band and thought, "I bet they would play a great set at the Bait Shop!" (from The OC.)

** Okay, Rasputina is probably the only band I have ever seen in real life that has also played a fictional set at the Bronze.

"Dominoes," The Big Pink (Download)
"At War With the Sun," The Big Pink (Download)

Ric Menck

Ric Menck, The Ballad of Ric Menck (Download)

Last night I drove to my parents' house to pick up old W-2's (tax season!) and to give my dad a copy of Big Star's In Space, because Drew and I had been listening to it in the car the other day and I couldn't get over how much it sounded like something my dad would like. Then I drove home, sat down in front of the computer, and saw that Alex Chilton had passed away just days before Big Star was slated to reunite for SXSW. I was planning on posting some songs from In Space yesterday, because they seemed like perfect underrated spring time jams -- good for driving around in tentative windows-down weather, but now it seems sort of weird to do that.

Instead, I'm posting Ric Menck's classic The Ballad of Ric Menck. Ric Menck was a member of the Velvet Crush & now plays with a power pop super group called Magic Christian. Ric Menck's work is one of the things that came to mind while Drew and I were listening to In Space. The Ballad of Ric Menck collects 11 of Menck's non-Velvet Crush singles, including the songs he released with the Springfields for Sarah Records.

If you download this & like it, I definitely suggest that you check out the Velvet Crush's album, Teenage Symphonies to God (which has one of my all-time favorite album titles & covers) as well as Menck's work with Magic Christian.

Ric Menck, The Ballad of Ric Menck (Download)


jj, "Are You Still in Vallda?" (DOWNLOAD)

A long time ago Drew was like, "So, have you listened to the xx? I think you would like them." When I asked why he thought I would like them he said, "they sound like that stupid girl music you like." So, excited to potentially here new stupid girl music, I listened to the xx and was pretty much disappointed. When I told Drew this, he said, "hm, maybe I was thinking about jj..." So, I listened to jj's album, jj no 2 and you know what? He probably was thinking about jj, because I really, really liked what I heard.

If you asked Drew to talk about jj he would probably say something bland and informative like, "jj is a Swedish band with shoegaze influences," and while that is technically accurate, it is lacking some VERY KEY INFORMATION. Key information like: jj actually sounds a little bit like the Human League.

About a zillion internet years ago, when I was in middle school, my mother drove me to school every day and for about six consecutive months she played the Human League's 1995 single "One Man in My Heart" in the car every single morning (since the internet is a place that allows everything to live forever, you can watch this YouTube video for "One Man in My Heart" & get a sense for what I'm talking about.)

I am 100% confident that Drew would object to me comparing jj to the Human League, but I really think I'm onto something -- it's not that they sound exactly like the Human League, but I think that something about the female vocals is suggestive of the Human League, but maybe a cooler Human League? (Personally, I always thought that the Human League are pretty cool, but I've come to acknowledge that some people consider them to be cheesy 80's music.)

Anyway, jj will be embarking on a US tour this month (along with the xx). They'll be in Columbus on April 5th at the Wexner Center (Drew & I will be there) & you can see a full tour schedule here. Their new album, jj no 3, will be out next week on Secretly Canadian. You can preorder direct from Secretly Canadian (CDs are $11, LPs are $12.50).

jj, "Are You Still in Vallda?" (DOWNLOAD)