Yuck!

Yuck Yuck Yuck. The last couple of weeks, everywhere I turn it seems I’m hearing about Yuck! Well, this is Ickmusic, so it’s only right that I give Yuck a chance…

I listened to their new record on my run a couple days ago, and enjoyed what I heard. Guitar-driven indie pop/rock…some good up tempo noise rockers (“The Wall”, “Holing Out”). And some nice melodic laid back tunes too.

I was most intrigued with “Suicide Policeman”. I like how the drums kick in…

Buy the MP3 of Suicide Policeman or the whole Yuck album. And visit Yuck’s web site.

By the way, I don’t recommend a Google image search of “yuck“. Let’s just say it’s everything but pictures of the band.

I Wish She Was My Girlfriend

I ♡ Bethany Cosentino. ♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡!!!!!!!

Alright, I know I sound like I just fell out of this month’s Tiger Beat, but Bethany is something that every woman should strive to be….hot and cool at the same time.

Bethany fronts a band called Best Coast and I had the distinct honor of seeing them last night at the Varsity Theater. The LA band’s first release, Crazy For You, is a magnificent record dripped in Phil Spector worship and estrogen powered angst. Their hit, Boyfriend, has been obsessively played on my iPod for the last few months and made my playlist of 2010. The whole record is fantastic, though, and it was great to hear it played live…which they played pretty much in its entirety along with some news songs and some covers.

Bethany, Bob, and Ali put on an excellent show last night and you should catch them on the remainder of their tour.

Here is the video for Boyfriend.

And the link to my photos from the night.

White Hinterland, “No Logic” (Alan Wilkis remix)

White Hinterland – “No Logic” (Alan Wilkis remix)

Remixing the ambient dream-pop of White Hinterland is not a task for the weak. Thankfully, electrofunketeer Alan Wilkis is no slouch in the remix chair. Taking the otherwise demure original “No Logic,” from the band’s new release Kairos, and spinning it on its end with a musical drumbeat and his signature sense of funk; Wilkis manages to breathe a gust of life into an otherwise lifeless track. Check it out:

White Hinterland – “No Logic” (Alan Wilkis remix)

New Music From The Guggenheim Grotto, “Wisdom”

The Guggenheim Grotto
Having seen the band a handful of times in the last month, I’ve heard the track “Wisdom” as many times in it’s raw form. The tune — which comes from the band’s forthcoming record, Master of the Universe — is partly inspired by the long hours the band has logged crossing the country in support of their brilliant Happy the Man. There is currently no date set for the release of the record, though I’d expect it would be sometime in June. Stay tuned!

You can purchase “Wisdom” here.

The band is also doing a residency every Wednesday in June at The Bowery Electric, NYC, and every Thursday at the Tin Angel in Philly.

You Just Do: The xx at the Varsity in Minneapolis

With the big acts of my summer concert series set (Simon and Garfunkel, Tom Petty and U2), I was lamenting not jumping immediately at the chance of buying tickets for a smaller show in the form of The xx at the Varsity. I should have guessed that this emo, shoegazy band would sell out in less than a day in my emo, shoegazy home town of Minneapolis.

So, I poked around online to see what tickets were going for….75 dollars for a 25 dollar ticket! Great Scott!!!! I had more or less given up on going but then a phone call came about a week before the show. My friends Jeremy and Rea had an extra ticket and it was mine if I so desired. Mega.

We met up at the Loring Pasta Bar for pre-show conversation and then headed over to the venue at about 10:30pm. The xx were scheduled to go on at 11pm. The Varsity was packed but there as still plenty of space in the middle of the floor.  As we watched the alarmingly sucky warm up band (a female performer named JJ who sang to pre-recorded tracks with a video of herself striking pretentious poses in the background), I thought about how different The xx are compared to the other bands I like.

They are very sparse..almost hollow. I usually like lush sounds and a chorus of vocals. The guitar work is quite simplistic and they mostly use programmed drums. Yet their music betrays both a haunting isolation and a tender caress of comfort which I always thoroughly enjoy in my music. Take the lyrics to “VCR”:

“Watch things on VCRs with me…And talk about big love…I think we are superstars…You say you think we are the best thing…But you, you just know…You just do…”

This is EXACTLY what I look for when I listen to music..an illustration of intimacy that stirs a commonality. How many of us out there have felt like this before? Knowing someone who just gets you…without even saying a word. It’s magnificent. These were the thoughts and feelings that were comforting me as the first song began.

They opened, not surprisingly, with “Intro” and as they did, the white curtain in front of the stage kept the band hidden from us. Flickering lights bounced their shadows all over the venue. At the conclusion of the song, the curtain dropped to reveal the band-all dressed in black.

It was interesting to watch the audience, clearly revved up with excitement, try to make sense of how to cheer for the methadone-like tunage. The xx’s songs just aren’t mosh pit ready. They are sewn from a different quilt – one of introspection and quiet solitude. The song “Shelter” is a perfect example of this and one of the two best tracks of the night. The other was, of course, was “Islands.”

The song “Islands” will always be my favorite xx song. It’s a metaphor for all the wonderful aspects of romance. Romy sings by herself first – then she sings with Oliver – then they sing together, all they while backed by a happy-skippy melody and beat. I fell into that Bogart-Bergman in Casablanca dream when they sang:

“I am yours now…so I now I don’t ever have to leave…I’ve been found out…so now I’ll never explore.”

The dim lights and the red velvet of the Varsity really made my mood sublimely sanguine in the most exquisite of ways and that dreamer in me that I love so much was transported to a million worlds, known and unknown, across all of time itself.

Check out The xx’s tour page for their latest shows.

The Silver Seas in Chateau Revenge!

Occasionally, a record will simply jump out of the speakers and demand that you just stop and listen. I had one of those moments late last year when my musical soul-brother Jason Hare introduced me to The Silver Seas. Since that time, the group’s release High Society has been on a nearly constant loop — so much so, I’m pretty sure I could recite the entire record a scant 3 months later. So you can imagine how much I’m anticipating the band’s new release Chateau Revenge!, due in April. The band delivered this little taste, featuring the track “Candy,” to introduce the concept of the record. Stay tuned to Ickmusic for a full review of the record in the coming weeks.

The Silver Seas promo from The Silver Seas on Vimeo.

I highly recommend picking up the band’s 2006 release High Society.

Jeff Tweedy at the Orpheum Theater in Phoenix

Seeing my favorite artists live in a full band setting is obviously one of life’s great thrills – Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Steve Earle & the Dukes, Los Lobos, Wilco… But just as thrilling for me is witnessing more intimate showcases: the solo acoustic show. To be able to sit down and study the architect of the songs you love, as they play for you in a small theater – just the artist, a guitar and a microphone – you’re able to get a deeper understanding of the artist and his work.

I’ve had the privilege to sit and watch my favorites in these intimate-type settings: Springsteen on the Tom Joad and Devils and Dust tours, Steve Earle on several occasions, David Hidalgo & Louis Perez at a small theater in Tucson – and last night, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy.

I’ve followed Jeff and his band since Mermaid Avenue bowled me over in 1998. From that point, I’ve devoured everything they’ve released. For me, it all comes back around to that one unique characteristic: the golden, sweet & raspy vocal chords of Jeff Tweedy.

Last night, in the ornate and acoustically divine Orpheum Theater in downtown Phoenix, the voice was in prime form, filling the small venue – from low whispers to tuneful wails. I don’t mean to get all dramatic and schmaltzy on you all, but it was such a special experience for me and the several hundred that filled the theater. Outside of a few entertaining exchanges between songs, the crowd was perfectly quiet – letting each song live and breathe – with only the sounds of Tweedy’s voice and acoustic guitar wafting perfectly in the air.

Tweedy’s set list dipped into the Wilco songbook (e.g. “Passenger Side”, “A Shot in the Arm”, “Sunken Treasure”, “How To Fight Loneliness”, “Hummingbird”, “Impossible Germany”, “You & I”), his own solo material (“Bob Dylan’s 49th Beard”), Uncle Tupelo (“”Acuff-Rose”), as well as his side project/”supergroup” Golden Smog (“Please Tell My Brother” was one of the most poignant moments).

One great spontaneous moment came when he veered from the set list for a cover of the Handsome Family’s “So Much Wine”, a dark Christmas tale of a broken relationship. I had never heard the original, and clearly I was missing out on some wonderful lyrics:  “Where the state highway starts I stopped my car / I got out and stared up at the stars / As meteors died and shot ‘cross the sky / I thought about your sad, shining eyes.”    Picture Tweedy singing this in a mournful country shuffle… it was magic.

Another special moment came with “Jesus, etc.”, as Jeff shared vocal duties with the crowd. It wasn’t the messy sing-a-long you’ve heard at some shows. Rather, it was a very clear and succinct, spot-on rendition, and it made the small venue feel even smaller and more intimate.

After wrapping up “I’m the Man Who Loves You” (dedicated to his wife Susie, who was in attendance with his family), Jeff  stepped away from the mic for the last couple of  songs, standing at the edge of the stage with no PA. “This is what it’ll be like when we lose power”, he joked, referring to a post-apocalyptic world.

This moment summed up the entire evening… here was one of the most gifted singer-songwriters of our generation, in a one-off performance – and it wasn’t about the glitz and glamor of a rock ‘n roll band. It wasn’t about effects. And hell, it wasn’t even about amplification.. It was a man and his guitar singing his songs, playing from the heart and soul, and connecting with each and every one of us lucky enough to be in attendance.

Photos: Photographer Holly Carlyle snapped some incredible photographs from the evening. Check them out here.

Set List (thanks to azcentral):

Sunken Treasure
Remember The Mountain Bed
Please Tell My Brother
Hummingbird
Country Disappeared
The Ruling Class
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
Bob Dylan’s 49th Beard
You and I
Muzzle of Bees
How To Fight Loneliness
Impossible Germany
In A Future Age
Passenger Side
So Much Wine
Spiders (Kidsmoke)
A Shot in the Arm

Encore:

Heavy Metal Drummer
Jesus, Etc.
I’m the Man Who Loves You
Someone Else’s Song
Acuff-Rose

Slayed by the Percussion Gun: White Rabbits in Minneapolis

My uncle Jamie is a vocational therapist out in Salem, Oregon. A while back, he related to me the concept of risk and how it relates to developmental wellness. If someone is regularly taking emotional, mental, physical and spiritual risks, generally speaking, they are healthier people on a number of levels.

This doesn’t mean necessarily that individuals should go jump off a cliff or rob a bank. It does mean that people should try to stretch themselves out in all four of these areas as frequently as they can. How far one stretches depends on the person. Saying “Red wine and clits go quite well together” to a group of people at a wine tasting is not much of a risk for me but it could be a huge one for someone else. Hell, in Minnesota simply saying “hi” to someone you don’t know is an emotional risk.

Lately, I’ve noticed myself dragging a bit in the risk department. I started running again in the last year and plan on doing a 5K or two in the next month so I guess that’s something in the physical realm. And I’m still  my outspoken and opinionated self in regards to the topics of politics, sex, and religion which, in the land of rock granite rigidity, is a monumental risk on a number of levels. But I ALWAYS do that. I could hear my uncle’s voice in the background…”find something…take a risk.” For my entire life, I have always thought he was the coolest mother fucker (along with my dad of course) since James Dean so I was more than curious when an opportunity to take an emotional, mental, and spiritual risk…a substantially huge one considering who I am…arose.

I was asked to see a band of whom I had never heard.

Many of you may chuckle at this but for my entire life I have always been the one to dig on the cool, new bands first. I’m the one who cheerleads people into loving (insert Brit Rock band here) and goads people into going to shows with me. Invariably, they love the bands I suggest and I feel quite proud of myself. I led them to the Holy Land….

So when my friend Paul asked me to see White Rabbits, I hesitated at first. “Where are they from?” I asked. “Well, they are based out of New York but I think they are originally from Chicago,” he answered. Hmph, I thought all grumbly, not from the UK.

But I thought of my uncle and something inside of me told me to get a ticket and go. It would be an excellent emotional and mental risk to let someone else drive the Magical Mystery Tour bus for a change. And, since I am convinced that I am Holy Knight of Music, a spiritual risk as well. Perhaps Paul was a Holy Knight and I didn’t know it. He does have a good first name after all:)

I decided to be really daring and not even bother to listen seriously to any of their music. I would not buy either of their CDs and go see the show completely cold. I found out it was at a venue to which I had never been: The Cedar Cultural Center, located in the West Bank area of Minneapolis. Ah yes, even more of a risk…an untested venue with potential sound issues. I did find out, though, much to my delight that the band got their start in Columbia, Missouri. My place of birth…cool! So New York by way of Chicago and Columbia…yeah, I could dig it.

I found out that some other friends were going and, at the last minute, asked my friend Wendy to join. Wendy is an unbelievably cool chick (and accomplished artist) who loves all the same music I do. She had heard some of their songs and was keen to go. After spending an hour and half of cocktails and conversation over at the Cafe formerly known as the Riverside, my friends and I went into the CCC.

I was struck immediately by how much the place looked like a junior high school gymnasium. Wendy remarked that was because of the piano. It had that 1950s school gym look.  We had timed it out just right so we arrived just before White Rabbits were about to go on. I have to admit I was nervous. What if they sucked? What if I got bored? Would I be just a total music snob around my friends if I didn’t like them? As the music started, all of my fears were washed away.

To begin with, White Rabbits have two drummers, which can sometimes morph into three or four drummers as other members of the band set their respective instruments down and hit the skins. The primal pounding coursed through my veins. It was magnificent. This was not a granola drum circle barf fest. These fucking guys knew how to hit the skins and were so tight that THEY could be a metronome for a drum machine.

They could also sing. Man, can these guys sing! I have three words for all of you: Four Part Harmony. And that’s with the relentless and cacophonous drumming going on! The blend of their voices reminded me a lot of the Beach Boys. As the set progressed and I watched the lead singer of the Spin Doctors look-alike (who may have been totally naked) make an asshat out of himself doing a pogo dance down in the pit, I realized that my risk had paid off. This band was fucking amazing. And my uncle, as he has mostly been his whole life, was right. Go through the looking glass, Alice, and there you will find…White Rabbits. Take risks and ye shall be rewarded.

Rewarded with hearing the lead singer of White Rabbits, Stephen Patterson, sing the word “know” in the chorus of “Percussion Gun” and sticking it with such a herculean force that I was slayed. And reminded of a James Brown “HA!”  Rewarded with getting to experience a band live whose music I had never heard. Rewarded with a night of hilarity with friends.

But most of all, being rewarded with letting myself go…not being the music know-it-all…not being the leader…not being in control.

And loving every minute of it.

White Rabbits – Percussion Gun (mp3)

White Rabbits Official Site

With eyes that burn so bright they make me pure

I’ve had a nice 3 day weekend: a hike near Canyon Lake in the Superstition Wilderness, an outing to the zoo with the family, BBQ and wine with the neighbors… but as all good things come to an end, it’s time to face the work week ahead (albeit a  shortened one).

Tonight, the music of Conor Oberst makes a damn fine accompaniment.

I didn’t hear about Bright Eyes until Conor released the great album I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning in 2005 and grabbed my attention. So I didn’t hear this great track until this past summer while I was in Telluride. It’s from their second album, Letting Off The Happiness, released in 1998.

Bright Eyes – June On The West Coast (mp3)

Conor’s most recent project and release is Outer South, by Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band. This is one of my favorites. You can see I like the more introspective tunes…which Conor’s music spilleth over with…

Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band – I Got The Reason (mp3)

Visit ConorOberst.com.

Review: Works Progress Administration, “WPA”

http://ickmusic.com/pics/WPALP.jpg

Glen Phillips’ brand of Southern California folk-rock has always flirted on the edge of its bluegrass and country and western roots. In the years since Toad the Wet Sprocket closed up shop, his songwriting has danced closer and closer to those roots, and with 2000’s Mutual Admiration Society – pairing Phillips with members of Nickel Creek – it seemed to come to the forefront. Taking that collaborative spirit to the next level, Works Progress Administration consists of Phillips and his MAS cohorts Sean and Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek, Fiction Family) with Luke Bulla (Jerry Douglas Band, Lyle Lovett), Benmont Tench (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), Greg Leisz (Joni Mitchell, Bill Frisell), Pete Thomas and Davey Faragher (Elvis Costello and the Imposters).

The group’s debut record, WPA, is a slice of modern Americana with strong pop sensibilities. Recorded over the course of five days, the recording itself feels very alive and immediate thanks to the production of Jim Scott (Wilco, Tom Petty). There is a dynamic that showcases the collective beautifully and shines a light on the real star of the show: the 12 well crafted songs that make up the album.

”Always Have My Love” is easily one of the strongest tunes that Phillips has written in the past 10 years. It’s followed by the equally stellar “Good as Ever”, with Sara Watkins providing her angelic voice to bolster Glen’s vocal. Sara takes the lead for the gut-wrenching cover of Ray Davies’ “I Go to Sleep”.  As strong as these songs are, “I Could End This Now” (mp3) is easily my favorite track of the bunch. It manages to take the bluegrass mélange and adds just a touch of soul resulting in a stormy mid-tempo ballad.

WPA is not without its faults. The rave-up of “Paralyzed” and the hoedown of “Wedding or a Wake” seem awkward by comparison to the rest of the material. The record’s lowest moments come at the plodding “Who’s Gonna Cry for You” and “Remember Well”. Despite these small missteps, this record is a must for fans of the group’s respective origins.

Buy WPA: Amazon

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