Monday, December 5, 2011

tUnE-yArDs: Tiny Desk Concert


Three red hot songs from one of the best albums of the year, w h o k i l l. Merrill Garbus, fierce, tender, wild yet controlled, sings about love and pain, mostly from a political stand point. “You, Yes You,” a love song, is the quietest song of the set, but with terrific drumming, and Garbus’s sizzling electric ukulele playing. The band literally jumps in place at the end, adding to the fun, and the bounciness of the rhythms.

“Doorstep” examines love as viewed in an act of police brutality. Her boyfriend is killed by the cops for doing nothing but standing on her doorstep. Powerful, both musically and lyrically, by the end of the song it’s plain that Garbus will resort to violence if she feels it’s needed in a political situation.

“My Country” is along those same lines. It is a song of rage and sorrow about the U.S. While all three songs are danceable, this is the most so, with the drums, saxes, and the trademark loops Garbus employs, all flowing along to the beat. This concert is not to be missed, and neither is the album. It is a tour de force and this concert is a good intro to it. I reviewed w h o k I l l for this blog on 4/18/11.[]


Andrea Weiss

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Strange Boys on Face Time


This 20-minute video interview with the band is full of amusing, and great insights on the band, by the band, and the role of the piano in the band. The video to the single, “Me and You,” from Live Music, (rhymes with give) their terrific new album on Rough Trade, is hilarious: all the ways to play the piano, in many different situations. I reviewed the album on 10/24/11 for this blog, and the video can be found here:[]


Andrea Weiss

Monday, November 28, 2011


Nothing EP

4AD Records

Nothing is both a follow-up to Zomby’s album Dedication and a bridge to whatever he does next. Dedication was a tribute to a family member who had passed away, a very stark, grief stricken, downcast album. Nothing, by contrast, brims with life, love, and happiness. Even when the music seems sad, what it’s really expressing is love. Yes, dance to it, or use as a tool to spark creativity. And like Dedication, it has great rhythms, melodies and sounds, It’s another triumph from Zomby. []

Andrea Weiss

Monday, November 14, 2011

Keys and Krates

Blackout EP


This Toronto band’s debut EP is seven songs of indie rock/electronica that steps very lively, rocks and rolls. The vocals are processed, no lyrics per se, just voices getting the party started. They are somewhat reminiscent of Fat Boy Slim, but more rocking and danceable than Slim ever got up to. By replacing 70s funk with hip-hop and modern R&B, and replacing classic rock with indie rock, their music puts them in a 2011 context. That’s a reason to rejoice. Maybe the 70s and 80s revival is finally over with, and music that sounds like today is here and that Keys and Krates and bands like them can lead the way. []

Andrea Weiss

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Today's guest reviewer is Jen Grover, author of Second Choices and The Rooks Parliament, and editor of the former Tone and Groove magazine.

Jon Anderson


Open Music, 2011

"Open" begins and ends with a delicate chime, like a formal meditation. What falls between those small tones is exuberant, joyful, and wide. This 20+ minute "single" was released on October 25, 2011, Jon's 67th birthday, as a download only, currently available on both iTunes and

Though structurally and lyrically it resembles long-form, 1970s Yes songs, it's not a rock song, nor would I call it New Age. It's a fully orchestrated sweeping epic, composed on Jon's 19th century guitar with orchestration added by Stefan Podell. The introduction functions as an overture, stating the variety of musical themes that will follow. Dawn-like at the outset, it grows from quiet to bright and sprightly, dominated by horns, until electric guitar and piano come in. Then it falls into quiet melancholy just before the vocals begin, reminiscent of the soundtrack to a grand Hollywood film (think Ben Hur) married with a bit of Ralph Vaughan Williams, accompanied by strummed acoustic guitar.

The lyrics and music suit each other artfully, building, quieting, full and grand in parts, sparser in others, always reflecting the emotions of seeking and encountering the divine and learning to express that in one's life. The themes are typical Jon Anderson: musical segments flow one into another, despite their diversity and dynamic changes. Panentheistic lyrics center on the sun as a symbol and manifestation of God, with messages of affirmation, hope, peace, love, care of the earth, and music as a reflection and celebration of life and wisdom received. A primal, danceable rhythm recurs. I defy you to not sway to it.

Jon is a gentle, persuasive preacher, as webmistress Andrea and I witnessed recently at the Jon Anderson/Rick Wakeman performance in Philadelphia. He is able to make us feel good about who we are, while admonishing us to grow and improve the lives of others as well as our own, through love, peace, respect, recognizing the same light that shines in all of us. As this song states, "Open doors will open hearts/Open hearts will always open doors." In these trying times, a song like this is an oasis of hope and joy, and a motivator for the listener to do his or her part to make things better.

Play it loud. Immerse yourself in it. Recommended listening outdoors on a sunny day. Back-to-backs rather well with Keith Emerson's "Piano Concerto No. 1".


Jen Grover []

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Kathryn Calder

Bright and Vivid

File Under: Music

Sometimes dark and/or sad lyrics can be the best lyrics of all, if sung this sweetly, soothingly, and with a steely resolve, determination, and calmness. These types of lyrics can also be a source of comfort. Life will go on, it has to go on, and that whatever pain or loss you are feeling now, will bring you understanding and relief down the line, even if the loss or pain never truly goes away.

Bright and Vivid was recorded after Calder’s mom had passed away from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). The lyrics deal with her learning to cope with the loss. And most of these lyrics aren’t downers. “New Frame of Mind” the album’s best track, points to a better future, even as the line, “how many throats will I cut til I see, what is beyond the breech,” means she is going to have that release and happiness any way she can get it.

The rough folk rock of Calder’s debut Are You My Mother soared in a way very few albums did in 2010, as for example Vampire Weekend’s Contra, and the New Pornographers Together, of which Calder is a member. Bright and Vivid couldn’t be more different musically than her debut, with its very lovely melodic synth and guitar-based rock. And it soars just as high. There are very few albums that come up to its level this year, like St. Vincent’s Strange Mersey and Tune Yard’s Whokill. There are also many wonderful found sounds on it, like water being poured from a pitcher into a glass in ”Five More Years.” In the end, one of the best albums of the year. []

Andrea Weiss

Monday, November 7, 2011


The Vision

4 AD Records

Joker’s roots are in the Bass and Dubstep techno genres, but The Vision is more than beholden to either scene. It includes old-fashioned pop and beats, both good and strong melodies and rhythms, singing that is soulful, lyrics, and raps that are left wing political. “Back in the Days” is a boastful rap. The Vision is a much an album for deep listening on headphones as it is for dancing. All of which make it a wonderful and fun album, and a big reason to cheer on an album so multi dimensional.


Andrea Weiss

Monday, October 24, 2011

Strange Boys

Live Music

Rough Trade

The title implies a live recording, but it actually is a studio project. And what an excellent, fun record this is. Imagine if the Velvet Underground, at the time they made Loaded, were a blues band. And what if Pavement had played the blues on Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain? And were more mellow than either of those bands. That’s the Strange Boys musically.

As for lyrics, they are wry humored along the lines of “ah yes, that’s life.” This is good-time music for a small gathering of friends, as it’s a little too laid back to be played at a big party. The Strange Boys put a smile on my face with their easy going, rolling blues, and gentle lyrics. I hope they do the same for you. [

Andrea Weiss

Monday, September 12, 2011

St Vincent

Strange Mercy

4 AD Records

This is an excellent follow-up to Actor, and as good as Actor was, and Annie Clark’s debut Marry Me was, Strange Mercy tops both of them. Clark has found her voice as never before. These strong, confident, songs are a wonder to hear, and delight in.

Her lyrics, while having echoes of Sam Phillip’s The Indescribable Wow, and Hounds of Love-era Kate Bush, are in the end all Clark. While those two albums dealt with having pain, Strange Mercy is about relief from pain. Not that these songs are pain free. They are pretty dark, but the straightforward release she gets from that relief, also make this album her most buoyant. There are also snatches of political commentary here, like on “Cheerleader” which may be about realizing that America is not all it’s cracked up to be, or the line, “America, can I owe you one?” on “Year of the Tiger.” The commentary works because she realizes that there are other things to write about than relationships. It’s very smart.

This is Clark’s most guitar oriented album. She had wanted to be able to play all the songs on guitar, and the guitar playing here attests to that success. She is a fantastic guitarist, and as there still aren’t many woman lead guitarists, it is always wonderful when a woman steps to the front and slams down a bracing solo or riff. Taken together, this is a complete package, and a great one at that. []

Andrea Weiss


CoCo Beware

Magic Man! Records/ORG Music

This NYC band’s wonderful debut sounds like a little like a faster paced, louder Winterpills. Since Winterpills is a fine band in its own right, that Caveman should come up to their level, and in some cases top them with songs that aren’t as dark lyrically, means that Caveman is a band to watch, and who deserves every bit of their buzz.

They also sound a bit like the Dodos’ No Color album, but Stefan Marolachakis’ drums roll smoothly, not clatter around. Matthew Iwanusa’s lead vocals sound natural, and not oh-so-clever. His guitar and Jimmy “Cobra” Carbonetti’s blend together nicely, and the whole band’s harmonies are thrilling to hear. In the end, a joy, and one of the best debuts of the year. []

Andrea Weiss

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks

Mirror Traffic

Matador Records

He’s never sounded so mellow, gentle, and wiser, with the wisdom of age in his singing and lyrics. He still thinks everything is an ironic joke, but the irony has receded a bit, replaced by warmth, and even comfort. And fondness for bygone good times, like when he and little Micky smoked some pot in his van.

Now that he’s gotten his jam band impulses out with Real Emotional Trash, he prunes his guitar playing back somewhat, and what emerges is a cross between Pavement, Jorma Kaukonen and 90s Liz Phair. He is still a tremendous guitar player, one of the best of the last 30 years, and now that he’s older, he allows his playing to have sincere emotion. He cares, and it’s reflected in his playing.

Mirror traffic is his best solo album yet, but could it have been made if Pavement had continued its reunion? Did Pavement have to die for good so that he could make this great album? Perhaps answers the first question; a sad yes to the second. His new one ranks with Pavement’s best work, and with Pavement toast, this album is what replaces that band wonderfully. []

Andrea Weiss

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Horrors


XL Recordings

The Horrors combine the pretty, somewhat gloomy atmosphere of 80s era Church with the drive, and the drolly romantic languor of early Psychedelic Furs. It's a wonderful updating of both bands, and a worthy follow-up to their 2009 Mercury Prize nominated Primary Colours. []

Andrea Weiss

Monday, July 25, 2011



4 AD Records

Inc (formally Teen Inc) are brothers Andrew and Daniel Aged, who have toured with the likes of Cee-Lo, Elton John, 50 Cent, Beck, and Raphael Saadiq. They are a synth-pop duo from L.A. whose three song EP is perfect for the dance floor, with a sound reminiscent of “Little Red Corvette” era Prince. A worthy and great debut. [] []

Andrea Weiss

Monday, July 11, 2011



4 AD Records

If Keith Emerson were to make a mellow techno album, and did not draw on classical or jazz for the music, he might make the kind of album Zomby has made: a little bit grand, but also quieter, and contemplative. “Digital Rain,’ a highlight of Dedication is an example of this, sparse, moody, but also a somewhat majestic peice..

The tone if this album is somber, befitting what Zomby calls a tribute to a much loved and missed friend. Zomby is one of the greats of mellow techno, with this very fine album. []

Andrea Weiss

Monday, June 27, 2011



Young Turks

On the surface-this album Massive Attack lite. Listen closer and lite turns into light. But not lightweight, rather a light touch. There is no doom and gloom here a’ la Massive Attack, just good music for just about anything , everything from dancing, chilling out, walking, thinking, and working out.

SBTRKT (pronounced Subtract) lets other people, like his collaborators Little Dragon, Roses Gabor, Sampha and Jessie Ware carry the load. He just provides them with a solid foundation. But they’re top notch, and blend their parts into a very satisfying whole. And this album has a well-deserved buzz. Drake remixed and rapped on the song “Wildfire” along with Little Dragon. Both the original and remix are great, and are very good introductions to a fine album. []

Drakes remix:

Original version

Andrea Weiss

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Omega La La

Sin Duda Records.

On first listen, this band sounds like the Dirty Projectors. But they are cold, cocky, calculating fish, and Rubblebiucket has too much heart, soul, fun, love, joy, and modesty to be like them. Instead this album is a really mellow version of the B’52’s. Not the B’52’s of the late 70s and early 80s with classics like “Rock Lobster,” and “My Own Private Idaho,” but the mature band who wrote classics like “Love Shack” “Song for a Future Generation,” “Roam” and the album Funplex.

When lead singer Kalmia Traver sings a line like “you came out of a lady, oh!” it’s pure happy fun, B’52’s style. On “Silly Fathers,” the band argues they’re not sane, secure, mysterious, just a “chromed up, lubed up image of ourselves” they simply means that don’t take themselves too seriously. And even when their songs are sad like “Triangular Daises” the sweetness of the band shines through anyway, making the songs bittersweet.

This is a blast of a full-length debut. Dancing and thinking, it’s all the same to Rubblebucket, just like the B’52’s do. It’s delightful, and loads of good natured fun to listen to. May they dance and think like this forever. []

Andrea Weiss

Monday, June 6, 2011

Fucked Up

David Comes to Life

Matador Records

The structure of these 18 songs are formally pop: verse, chorus verse, and very melodic. But the huge amount of noise in this pop is more like Husker Du’s brand of barrage, especially like the Du’s classic album Zen Arcade than hardcore. The vocals may be bellowed like Bob Mould’s, but there is also an element of un-Mould like screaming.

Another way David Comes to Life resembles Husker Du is lyrically: Zen Arcade was about a young man leaving home to face a hostile world, and on both albums the lyrics are surreal. Another album with rather surreal lyrics, but also experiential power pop, was Game Theory’s Lolita Nation. There the theme was a young man coming of age in an increasingly plastic world. So yes, Fucked Up’s new album is something of a concept album. The concept here is love, death, and starting over. A young man named David has a dead end job in a light bulb factory in a small British town, and he falls in love with a woman who is a rabble rousing communist. The woman dies in an explosion or terrorist attack, and David is devastated. He plots revenge, but also meets another woman who he falls in love with. This puts an end to his plan of revenge, and he also realizes that things are okay now. He can still love, so everything is fine, and life goes on. The narrative is very loose, the band doesn’t even know how the story ends, but it works very well. As does the music, the wonderfully sprawling, life- and love-infused music which never quits being positive, just like the lyrics. David Comes to Life indeed. He leaps out of the songs, and tells his bracing story, grins when he gets to the end, confident he’ll leave listeners smiling, happy, and cheering him on. []

And here is a mini documentary about the band. []

Andrea Weiss

Monday, May 23, 2011

Thurston Moore

Demolished Thoughts

Matador Records

Moore’s new solo album is quieter, softer, and gentler than his last solo outing Trees Outside the Academy. With acoustic guitars, violins, and many other muted instruments, the form is simple. Moore’s lyrics are clearly about relationships, including “Circulation” which may be about how much he loves Kim Gordon.

The mood could be described with adjectives that are rarely used about Thurston’s albums or indeed Sonic Youth: soothing and comforting. It’s like having a deeply felt, long conversation with a good friend, who is also a good listener. And it is that which turns Thoughts from sounding like a great follow up to Trees, to something more stunning. His last solo album was great. too. The understated emotions here are sweet and wonderful, usually that wouldn’t be associated with Moore or Sonic Youth. If the album sounds melancholy in places, that just adds to its meaning….kind, loving, caring and even a bit cheery. It’s lovely. []

Andrea Weiss

Friendly Fires


XL Recordings

Pala is an excellent updating of the new romantic movement. Duran Duran seems to be the source the band draws on the most. However, Duran Duran wrote better lyrics, whereas Friendly Fires dosen’t cut any deeper than, say ,Naked Eyes. This makes Pala wonderful as light entertainment, and great for the dance floor. So put this on, do the twirl, and just feel good all over. []

Andrea Weiss

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Shivers


Silence breaks Records

If Rufus Wainwright had been influenced by indie and garage rock, rather than opera and his parents’ folk music, he would have been the Shivers, the duo Keith Zarritllo (vocals and guitar) and Jo Schornikow (keyboards) from Queens NYC.

They have released four albums, More being their latest, since they formed in 2001. Using their savings to record in an analog studio in Manchester, England, they serve up ten tasty songs steeped in garage and indie rock, with a bit of Leonard Cohen-style writing for extra lyrical content. A really good album, with a lot of charm, smarts, and musical action. Solid all the way around, and a lot of fun to listen to. []

Andrea Weiss

Pantha Du Prince

XL Versions of Black Noise

Rough Trade Records

This album reworks 2010's Black Noise into straightforward amibient techno, ready for the dance floor. It's a relief from the original's clattering rhythms and clunky melodies.

The best remakes on this collection are Four Tet’s version of “Stick to My Side,” and Animal Collective’s version of “Welt Am Draht .” They are the best ones for dancing and "Welt Am Draht" is also good meditation music. It's the best composition here.[]

Andrea Weiss

Micachu and The Shapes

Chopped and Screwed

Rough Trade Records

The band's off-kilter melodies are the saving grace of this collaboration between Micachu and The Shapes and the London Sinfonietta. These are melodies that keep the music from going off the rails. There is more dissonance than usual for modern classical music, and it brings the music to a screeching halt.

These melodies are a tribute to the woozy, codeine-infused music of a Houston DJ named Screw, who died of a codeine overdose 11 years ago. They are also the curse here. Classical music, even modern music, hip-hop, and the art pop of the Shapes don’t mesh. They are apples and oranges. Since this is a recording of a concert, perhaps seeing the performance live would have helped. The recording as it stands works best as a great way to end an annoying party. This music will clear a room in one minute flat. For that matter, the most important lyric here is: “Even if I turn my back/twist my head until I snap.”


Andrea Weiss

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Unthanks


Rough Trade

On their new album, Rachel and Becky Unthank (their real name) add a bit of prog to their musical mixture of contemporary and indie folk. Prog not in the sense of Jethro Tull, but more early Strawbs, the quieter side of Elbow, and a dash of “Carpet of the Sun” era Renaissance, of that band wrote gloomy, not happy, songs. . It is very gentle, but with much sadness, like walking on a cloudy day, but with no rain forecast. It is also magical, and even oddly pretty.

Their lyrics have the same gentle sadness, whether they are talking about star-crossed lovers, or lords and ladies. For all of that , there is a sense of hope. Wait until things get better, move on to a better place, and never give up. And the magic that is in the music, is also in the lyrics, making this album breathtaking,, and a very worthy follow up to their last album Here’s the Tender Coming. []

Andrea Weiss

Tune Yards


4AD Records

Merrill Garbus is Tune Yards, and her great debut, combined found sounds like the foghorn on the Martha’s Vineyard ferry, with the ukulele and her voice, using a cheap vocal recorder and shareware recording software. On her new album, the found sounds and the ukulele are still there, but she recorded in a studio with a producer, who polished up the basic sound. Together they, and people she brought into the recording process, fashioned an album that is just as good as the debut.

While the core of the sound is still folk/rock you can dance to, this album is even better. The beats zing all over the place, but also you can sit and contemplate the lyrics just as on the debut.

While the debut was mostly love songs, the left-wing political undercurrent was muted. Not so on this album. Garbus’ feminist, warm, kind, smart, common sensible, tough left wing politics are reminiscent of Ani DiFranco’s 90’s work, before it curdled into a smug, obnoxious, cynical, self-righteous act. Garbus is a breath of fresh air. Here are politics and music that are fun, cool, witty, and just right for dancing, or thinking. A great album. []

Andrea Weiss

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cold Cave

Cherish the Light Years

Matador Records

This is a brilliant fusion of Siouxie and the Cure, with a bit of New Order and Joy Division mixed in for detail, coloring and shading. Bandleader Wesley Elsold even sounds a bit like a deeper voiced Robert Smith. Cold Cave has the same musical drive, flow, and fullness as the best Siouxie/Cure tracks, but not as goth lyrically. It is also very poetic, since Elsold has published his poetry with Heartworm Press.

Lyrically the album looks back on where Elsold has been, and where he’s going, it is inspired by his move to New York, and the nighttime walks he took soon after moving to the city. The urban feel of these songs shines in “Underworld USA,” “Icons of Summer,” and the album’s best track “Catacombs.”

The album isn’t perfect. The last three tracks’ energy level flags, and there is a whiff of cheese on “Confetti,” which sounds as if it could have come from the first Till Tuesday album. Nevertheless, this is very good album, one that looks both fondly back on the 80s musically, and forward lyrically, which is a great combination. []

Andrea Weiss

Alela Diane and Wild Divine


Rough Trade

Musically, this is a wonderful fusion of Neko Case’s more recent work, and what Katrina and Nerissa Nields were doing on their album Sister Holler. It’s rich, and full bodied, quiet, and understated, that can be a bit surreal at times, and in the end, succeeds nicely.

Lyrically Diane combines poetic imagery that is a bit off kilter, very moving, full of love and life, death and dreams. But her writing is never dark, never mournful, just a message that life goes on, maybe not as expected. Live it as best as you can.

This album is a big improvement over Diane’s debut, To Be Still, where she sketched the rough outlines of what was to come, and not much beyond that. On her new one she comes into her own. It’s wonderful, it’s thrilling, and all great. []

Andrea Weiss


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