Tonight in CLE

Tonight in Cleveland, Cloud Nothings will be celebrating the release of their new album with an in-store performance at Music Saves at 8pm. The in-store will be followed by an album release show at the Beachland Tavern. Doors open at 9pm and tickets are $2. Total Babes and Library Time are also on the bill.

You can stream the entire Cloud Nothings album on the Fader (it's just under half an hour of lo-fi hooky pop bliss) and you can check on their new video for "Should Have" on Pitchfork. Pitchfork also has a nice review of the album up for your reading pleasure ("Cloud Nothings' pop has become deceptively dense-- there is literally (and paradoxically) so much hook to be found here from corner to corner that, unlike similarly, ostensibly simple records, multiple listens are required to appreciate the taste of all its herks and jerks.")

I'll definitely write more after the show tonight (I've been listening to the album non-stop lately), but just wanted to get this out there for now!

Yesterday afternoon* (while hard at work at my day job), I was browsing the Burger Records website and I saw, at the very bottom of the page, a banner that said "COOL BAND!" with a little photo and text that said, "Summer Twins, cassette coming soon!" The photo used to promote Summer Twins on the Burger Records site struck me as so different from the imagery that I'm accustomed to seeing from them that I felt like I had to learn more!

Summer Twins is a four-piece pop rock outfit formed in Riverside, CA by sisters Chelsea and Justine. Their 6 song EP, The Good Things, is available for free download on their Bandcamp site (you can also send them $5 for a physical copy of the release on CD.) In a time when winter seems determined to cast the entire Cleveland landscape in an impenetrable shroud of gray slush, I'm struck by how fresh and clear the songs on The Good Things sound. It's cheesy as all get out, but this EP really is like a little ray of sunshine streaming out of my speakers.

Again, you can stream The Good Things (and if you like it, download it!) for free here. Physical copies of the EP are available for $5 (ordering instructions are on the Bandcamp.) If you like what you hear, keep your eye on the Burger site for info on their forthcoming release with Burger Records.

* I started drafting this over a week ago, so clearly things have picked up at the office.

Small Factory, "What to Want" (DOWNLOAD)
Radon, "Kibbles and Bits" (DOWNLOAD)
Kicking Giant, "Satellite" (DOWNLOAD)

I get a lot of e-mails from people about things they want me to write about and think I would like, and it's really cool that people do that & I am really very appreciative (even though I don't write about everything that I'm e-mailed about, I do my best to listen to all of it), but usually the things I enjoy listening to the most are things that I find out about completely incidentally, with no "please write about this" attached to it.

On Monday afternoon I came home to a stack of packages -- some 7"s and CDs from Jigsaw (really, really, I cannot say enough good things about what Chris is doing with his corner of the internet -- he has an amazing selection of indie rock and pop, the prices are good, and the shipping is expedient. It's everything you could ever want (and more!) from mail order), some Jordan Crane comics, and a mysterious package wrapped in plain brown paper.

The mystery package turned out to be a very generous and surprising piece of mail from Tae Won Yu. I'm quite a fan of Tae's art and music, and was nothing short of blown away to find this on my doorstep. One of the things in the package was a copy of Tiny Idols: Transmissions from the Indie Underground 1991-1995, vol. III. I took a quick look at the track listing & realized that I didn't recognize any of the bands (other than Tae's band, Kicking Giant), which made me even more excited to listen to the collection. So, I raced through lunch & then walked back to work, sat down at my desk, & plugged in my headphones.

& you know what? It's really, truly stunning. Mark from Snowglobe Records has curated a truly beautiful comp. There are 22 tracks and each of them brings something unique to the overall collection. It's hard to pick out favorites when each of the tracks are so strong (and so new to me!), but Small Factory, The Hazeltones, Witch Hazel, and Radon are definitely bands that I'll be looking to dig up some more on. The Tiny Idols series functions almost as an indie rock and pop Nuggets, collecting tracks from "lesser-known and underappreciated artists from the era who deserve reappraisal."

What I really love about Tiny Idols, aside from the music, is the care and attention that went into the compilation. The CD is accompanied by a beautiful, twenty page booklet that includes a bio of each of the 22 featured bands. A lot of information is packed into the bios, including a brief history of the band, major/notable recordings, band members, related projects, etc. It's not often that I come across a compilation so purposefully thought out & thoughtfully put together.

So often, independent music exists in tiny pieces of ephemera. It's easy to forget bands as old concert bills get crumpled and cassette tapes disintegrate. Scenes are packed away in boxes in closets and emerge later to be resold on eBay. Last month, Patton Oswalt had an article about geek culture on Wired where he said that the internet has changed the act of collecting knowledge -- that as we move towards an increasingly digital culture, we get closer and closer to "everything that ever was, available forever," and with it, instant, downloadable expertise. It's clear that the internet has changed the way that music is not only shared, but preserved, especially with regard to music that has been produced independently. It may not be possible to find a physical copy of a 7" limited to 200 copies or a tape limited to 75, but technology allows people to digitally transfer & instantly share these releases with each other (I won't lie, though, I'll always prefer a physical product to a download.) I like Tiny Idols because it's a compilation that seems to speak both to and against the concept of "everything that ever was, available forever." Tiny Idols gives you fragments of a scene, letting you peek into the windows to hear bits and pieces, but gently reminding you that the Big Picture, the experience of being there, is something that cannot be recreated. As our cultural products become increasingly digital (and everlasting), I think it's important to be reminded of the ephemeral and to recognize the importance of something that can't be perfectly preserved or recreated.

Volumes 1-3 of the Tiny Idols series are $10 each from Snowglobe Records, you can order online here. If the third compilation in the Tiny Idols series is this strong, I can't imagine how good 1 & 2 must be. Mike also has a Tiny Idols blog, though it's light on content and hasn't been updated for awhile.

Complete Track Listing
  1. "I'll Be Around" - Sardina
  2. "What to Want" - Small Factory
  3. "Sugar Juice" - Vacation Bible School
  4. Delirious" - The Hazeltones
  5. "2,000" - Coctails
  6. "Send" - It Thing
  7. "Loon" - Poole
  8. "Too Close" - The Christines
  9. "Endure Me" - Honeybunch
  10. "Just Don't Try" - Witch Hazel
  11. "Today is a Fine Day to Die" - Apollonia Heck
  12. "Kibbles and Bits" - Radon
  13. "No Surprise" - Glue
  14. "Bruce Jenner" - Honda
  15. "Balboa's Canyon" - Zoom
  16. "Crazy Steven" - Zen Frisbee
  17. "The Girl with 10,000 Holes" - Baldo Rec
  18. "Satellite" - Kicking Giant
  19. "Pedal" - Crayon
  20. "Ultra Crush" - Her Tears
  21. "Girlwish" - Fudge
  22. "Senile Felines" - Aleka's Attic

Dear Tumblr, there's a lot I have to thank you for -- getting my through seemingly endless workdays, aggregating photos of cats and scans from vintage comic books, occasionally thought provoking political writing and cultural criticism, but one of the better things that's come out of my relationship with Tumblr (at least, in the past few weeks) are these six songs by Bedroom Problems.

Bedroom Problems is the home-recording project of Maria, whose Tumblr indicates a spot-on taste in music & a discerning sense of style. The six songs that Maria has recorded and made available for free download have a great range -- I initially thought that Bedroom Problems would be a garage-y band (the first track, "You're Boring," has a relentless buzzsaw guitar coupled with howling vocals), but it's striking how much some of these songs (especially "At Least Counting is Easy" and "See You Next Wednesday?") remind me of Young Marble Giants in their catchy minimalism (also worth noting: the way she sings the word "you" in "See You Next Wednesday?" sort of reminds me of Sue Tompkins from Life Without Buildings.)

Lately I've been thinking a lot about taste-making, wondering how I develop a personal canon of what's I like (Mirah, Guided By Voices, Hüsker Dü, Kaia) and what I don't like/straight up don't care about (Radiohead, Girl Talk, uh, most stuff, actually, now that I think about it.) As I've gotten older & as my taste has expanded, I've realized that what I actually appreciate is music that reminds me of the possibilities of the individual/the "amateur." Maria's songs are very clearly the product of someone who loves to make and listen to music & I love that.

You can stream Maria's songs on her bandcamp and download them for free (you just need to provide an e-mail address.) If you're on Tumblr, Maria blogs as theoreticalgirl, and she also hosts a radio program, Her Jazz, on WPRB in Princeton, NJ. Maria is also in a Go-Go's cover band, Lust 2 Love. You can stream their version of "Vacation" here.