July 26, 2005

World Leader Pretend "Punches"

Listening to Punches, the second album by New Orleans’ World Leader Pretend, is like listening to a lesser Coldplay. While Coldplay is a generally good band, the same can’t be said by those who are aping their sound for cash and other prizes, and it’s instantly apparent that World Leader Pretend wishes to be aligned with such bands. Though named after an REM song, they might have been better suited to have given themselves a name like “Fake Plastic Yellow” or “Karma Police Clocks.” So thoroughly awash in the styles and sounds of late-90s Britpop is World Leader Pretend, it’s hard to hear anything approaching originality from this band.

Of course, when you’re copping your form from bands that make pretty music, it’s pretty much understood that your record is going to be pretty, and you certainly can’t fault World Leader Pretend for not making pretty music. Songs like “Dreamdaddy” and “Into Thin Air” are nice and pretty, and lead single “Bang Theory” sounds really nice, but it’s hard to reconcile the fact that they sound so…generic. Keith Ferguson sings with a nice enough voice, but it’s hard to get past the Ian McCulloch-isms and the overt Thom Yorke mannerisms that pop up throughout the record. To give the band credit, their use of piano throughout Punches is a nice touch, but for the most part, it doesn't hide the fact that World Leader Pretend is simply derivitave. Maybe in the future, they could try to escape the atmospherics that are clearly not their own; when they do so on “A Grammarian Stuck In A Medical Drama,” they do cause the ears to perk up, though the problems of before do tend to pop up almost instantly.

One would like to think that the music industry would start looking for the new sound and stop milking the whole Coldplay sound. I mean, at this point I'm sure even Coldplay have tired of their sound. But hey, if the record label thinks that rehashing a dated sound is what the people want, then I guess it’s what the people will be given. Seriously; I mean, we’ve got Aqualung, so who really needs World Leader Pretend?

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.wlpband.com
Label Website: http://www.warnerbrosrecords.com

July 25, 2005

Interview: Allen Clapp of The Orange Peels

The first time I heard Allen Clapp’s music, it was a wonderful experience. It was a song entitled “Whenever We’re Together,” and it was a lovely slice of pop music that reminded me of the early 1980s. It wasn’t cutesy, gimmicky twee-pop, it was straightforward pop music, not unlike something you’d hear on the radio back then—think Christopher Cross or Hall and Oates. It was really good, and it sent me into an Allen Clapp fixation, which led to discovering his band, The Orange Peels. Listening to Square was like a blast from the past.

Though their previous records placed them next to bands like the Posies and artists like Matthew Sweet, their first new record in four years,
Circling the Sun, propels them beyond such easy comparison, and helps them to define a sound all their own. You can’t deny Clapp’s songwriting skills at all, and this new record shows that the man once referred to as the “lo-fi Lutheran” is an artist whose skills only improve, even though he hasn’t released a new record in years. Here, Clapp discusses the recording of the new record and how he feels about it.

Describe the recording process for Circling the Sun.

What started off as being an interesting home-made album became a huge, multi-studio production. We originally set out to record this album at home, much like we did with So Far. I would usually record the band playing the arrangement live, then go back in and fix parts and overdub extras. That's how we started making Circling the Sun.

Then that line-up of the band fell apart. It was heartbreaking, actually. I thought we had the beginnings of another great home-made album underway, but we had to rethink the album at that point. If we had continued making the record at home, it would have taken too much out of me, and the thought was just depressing after losing half the band.

When our friend Oed Ronne accepted our invitation to join the band on lead guitar, we decided to go all-out and book some time at the Terrarium in Minneapolis and just bang a record out. We spent 10 days there, recording with producer Bryan Hanna, in which we tracked and mixed six songs and got the basics down for another couple. The live room there is just amazing, and we were getting the most amazing sounds.

What we didn't finish, we took home and overdubbed at the home studio in Sunnyvale. Then we actually ended up writing a couple new songs later that year and recorded them at the house that summer: drums in the living room, guitar amps isolated in the back bedrooms, overdubs done later. Then we brought everything back to the Terrarium for Bryan to mix.

What song on the record do you feel you put the most work into, and why?

Recording-wise, I think we put the most thought and energy into the first song, Something in You. The basic arrangement just sort of suggested a huge production with strings, glockenspiels, many many tracks of guitars and huge drums. Of the 10 days we were at the
Terrarium, I think we probably spent a good 2 days working on this one.

Writing-wise, I worked on the title track for about a year. When it first surfaced, it was a piano lullaby I wrote for Jill when she was having a really stressful time at work. I used to play it for her at night before we went to bed to help her relax. It was a lot slower, and kind of meditative and Virginia Astley-esque...basically the complete opposite of what it sounds like now. Slowly, over the course of a year, I started singing words to it and eventually brought it to the band to learn. Although my first few attempts at showing them didn't go so well. I kept changing it, though, until it sounded like a rock song.

If someone asked you what song from Circling best represents the band, what song would it be, and why?

“California Blue.” I think on that song, we somehow evoke an atmosphere that is almost tangible. It's as if the microphones at the session were able to capture not just the sounds of the band playing in the room, but the actual weather conditions present on the day we tracked it. I can feel the fog coming in off the Pacific Ocean when I hear that song -- sand in my shoes. I'm not completely sure that microphones can't pick up this kind of thing, but I'm just saying that sometimes when I hear that song, it's like the air in the room is different somehow. Fresher. Like California mountain air.

In comparison to your previous two albums, are there any changes or musical ideas on Circling that you're proudest of?

Huge changes. . . On a sad note, we said goodbye to original Orange Peels guitarist Larry Winther and our second drummer, John Moremen. But we welcomed new guitarist Oed Ronne and had three amazing drummers contribute tracks to the album: Bryan Hanna, Peter Anderson, and original Orange Peels drummer Bob Vickers.

I think the personnel change freed us up to be more adventurous, and I think any notions of us being a cute little indie-pop band are completely shattered...finally. There's nothing precious or twee or tongue-in-cheek here. This is our big, sweeping statement as a band: a huge, elegant rock album that isn't afraid of sounding like a huge, elegant rock album. The only thing “indie” about it is the fact that it is on an independent label.

To you, which song on Circling is the most meaningful?

It's either “So Right,” California Blue or “Tonight Changes Everything.” I go back and forth. Obviously they all mean something special, or they would never have made it onto the album. The end of “Boy in Space” is another favorite; it’s kind of my take on Charles Ives' 1906 song “The Unanswered Question,” but with slightly atonal vocal harmonies instead of woodwinds.

What's next for Allen Clapp?

I'm working on a compilation of my early singles that have been out of print for years and years. I've tracked down all the original masters and finally have everything rounded up. Maybe this year...

Also, I'm producing a Bob Vickers album at the house right now, which will hopefully be completed this summer. We've had all sorts of guest musicians marching in and out of the house for more than a year now -- string sections, ukulele players, mandolins ... It's a very eclectic record. I'm also working on a soundtrack for some filmmaker friends of mine and writing songs for the next Orange Peels album. Hopefully we can break this four-years-between-albums streak we've always been on. There may be another solo album, too. It's too early to tell, though.

Thanks, Allen!

The Orange Peels "Circling The Sun"

With the heat of summer raging without abating, it's no wonder that the world seeks solace in cool, sunny music. Really, if you think about it, bands like The Beach Boys and Weezer served that purpose, and they served it quite well. Listen to any of their hit records, and you're instantly taken to a place where the kids are hip, the girls are cute and the warmth of the sun is tempered with cool, cool water. Maturity? You don't care about what they say about that, anyway--for the moment, you just want an endless summer filled with good things, good food, fast cars and beautiful boys/girls to keep you company.

Such sunny pop allusions are quite fitting for California's The Orange Peels. Led by the weekend pop genius of Allen Clapp, they've infrequently released records for nearly a decade, but one thing's quite clear: their limited output is inversely proportional to the quality of their music, and Circling the Sun is a can't-go-wrong blast of warm and friendly pop music that's perfectly attuned to the joys of a summer at the beach. The imagery hits your mind the instant you hear lead track "There's Something in You," a cool-sounding upbeat pop number sung in Clapp's delicious pop falsetto and it's clear that the length between album releases did nothing to quell the man's overall genius. It's reminiscent of another great pop band, The Ocean Blue--which isn't surprising, considering The Ocean Blue's Oed Ronne is now a member of The Orange Peels.

Luckily, the brilliance doesn't abate from such an excellent beginning, as Clapp and company explore all kinds of sounds. Whether it's the harmonica and harmony-laden "I Don't Wanna Shine," the chiming guitars and mellow 70s-styled So-Cal rock of "Long Cold Summer," the bouncy power-pop punk of "What's It Like Mary Jo" or the sad, tender sounds of "California Blue," Circling the Sun expertly navigate the pop-music waters, and we, the listeners, are the lucky recipients of Clapp's brilliance. But all of these songs are nothing compared to the excellent title track: a fast-paced, synth driven rocker that recalls The Cars and The Rentals. Instantly hypnotic and overwhelmingly wonderful, it's a song that redefines the word "catchy" for a new generation, and if any song deserves to be a summertime hit record, it's that one.

Circling the Sun is nothing short of pop genius. If it takes Clapp several years to complete a record that's as brilliant as this, then so be it, because it is certainly worth the wait. If you, dear listener, need to know what summertime is all about, or simply want a record to help you recapture your youth, there's no perfect balm for your soul than this album. Simply brilliant.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.theorangepeels.com
Label Website: http://www.parasol.com

Tullycraft "Disenchanted Hearts Unite"

If you're already familiar with Tullycraft, you'll love this record. I'm just going to tell you now that if you like Tullycraft at all, you should go buy this record. It's the best they've ever done. Even though Tullycraft has already had a tribute album dedicated to them, and a career full of hit singles, everything they've done seems to have been leading up to this moment. (Unless the next album is even better.) Then I'll say that their career was leading up to that moment. But for now...

Tullycraft is one of the most well-known bands in all of twee pop. They've gained much notoriety because of the special and unique place they hold in the twee subgenre. Let me ask you something. How many twee bands can you think of in which the band members come off as geeky? Well, correct me if I'm wrong, but I can only think of one. Everyone in the world of twee comes off as one of the beautiful people (and you wonder how they came to be involved in underground music), or they just look like average people (i.e. Apples In Stereo). Not Tullycraft. Tullycraft radiates an aura of dorkiness. Just listen to frontman Sean Tollefson's voice. That's got to be one of the nerdiest voices this side of They Might Be Giants. And yes, I mean all this as a compliment.

I'm glad they're geeky. Those who know me personally know that I think that geeks rule. Therefore, Tullycraft rules. Tullycraft's geekiness gives them that paradoxically hip insight that comes from being on the outside looking in. It's this sort of insight that allows them to write songs like "Twee" from their last album, Beat Surf Fun, peppered with references to Sarah Records and other indie -pop institutions. Or how about "Pop Songs Your New Boyfriend's Too Stupid to Know About"? It seems like the members of all the big twee bands don't listen to other twee bands that much, but when you hear Sean trying to lure back an ex-girlfriend with sessions of listening to Neutral Milk Hotel, Lois, and the Crabs, there's a hipness factor that other twee bands don't have. The hipness continues on Disenchanted Hearts Unite (I love the line, "Ricky says that my band's just a Sebadoh rip-off, and I can't say I disagree," from "Secretly Minnesotan").

Besides that, Tullycraft is just plain cute. The geeky voice, their songs, and the female vocals they sometimes add into the mix all add up to extreme cuteness.

It’s a cuteness that shines through, despite a somewhat negative vibe that permeates this new album. Disenchanted Hearts Unite, pulled from a lyric in the song, "Our Days in Kansas", is a perfectly apt title. The majority of the album seems to have a strange fatalistic vibe concerning failed love, about relationships that should have been but just didn't work out for whatever reason. And while the blow is softened by that upbeat twee sound, I can't help but feel a sense of regret when "Polaroids From Mars" comes on and they sing, "There was that night on the phone, you said, 'Let's kill the mod revival,' to some applause. And then you paused as if almost to say, 'I love you,' but the words, they failed, and the frigate sailed. And in another couple years, we woke up next to different people, and the distance found us here." Don't you just hate seeing shyness end a happy relationship before it started? Damn it, if only you'd say something that to that friend you have a crush on before you lose your chance!

So, why is Disenchanted Hearts Unite better than all their other works so far? Certainly, their songwriting seems to have improved, as evidence by the above lyrical excerpt. Disenchanted Hearts Unite sounds a lot like a better version of Beat Surf Fun, already a great album in its own right, but Tullycraft has managed to make their sounds even more catchy and their lyrics even more clever.

But there's one important aspect of this album to which I can point and say, "This put them over the top!" It's so simple, yet it seems like they've broken through one wall that was keeping them from reaching their full potential. And that earth-shattering, yet simple change in the method is...

They have female vocals on every song.

Remember how I said that they "sometimes" add female vocals into the mix before? Well, on this album, whether it be backing vocals or a duet, there is a woman (usually Jenny Mears, but Jen Abercrombie of Rizzo sings great duets with Sean on "Fall 4 U" and "Building the Robot") singing. While I like Sean's voice, there's just something about adding female vocals to a song that improves it significantly, even if it's background harmonizing. Boy-girl vocals are just plain cute. Jenny Mears, you have no idea how much you're helping the band by becoming a full-time member. Or maybe you do. Either way, thank you so much!

I'd also like to give Tullycraft props for their awesome songwriting on "Every Little Thing". Not really for the topical content of the song, so much as for the nonsense syllables. Yes! It's unbelievable how much mileage they get out of the catchy "Uh, uh, uh, oh" vocals on that song. You have to actually hear this song to understand how catchy and addictive that vocal line is. I've had that song on repeat for days just because of those vocals!

Another thing is that indiepop fans will appreciate the Helen Love cover, "Girl About Town", and the BMX Bandits semi-cover, "Molly's Got a Crush On Us", the latter being a semi-cover because the original was called "Kylie's Got a Crush On Us". To be honest, I've never heard the original version of either song (although I've heard a lot of Helen Love) and if I didn't know they were covers, I'd swear they were Tullycraft originals. And knowing what Helen Love sounds like, I bet their cover of "Girl About Town" sounds drastically different from the original, making the song their own like Ash did when they covered "Punk Boy".

Finally, I'd like to call attention to the clever art direction on the liner notes. The inside cover is laid out in the form of a classified ads section, like the kind one would find in the back of comic books and old kids' magazines. The band credits and thank yous are juxtaposed with ads for products like sheet music for songs like "This Is Fake D.I.Y." and "Jenny Not Any Dots", giving Tullycraft yet another outlet for their indie hipness (and that particular ad is a very funny inside joke for avid twee fans).

I could write a novel about this album (or a series of short stories about blissful relationships that could have been, but never developed thanks to stupid quirks of fate), but I trust that you get the point that this is an incredible album, and definitely in the running for best twee album of the year (which, in my eyes, would make it the best album of the year). This is how twee-pop should be done, and I hope that lots of people buy this album and rip off its ideas. Especially the part about bringing a girl into the band and just letting her sing so the boy doesn't bogart all the vocal presence on the album.

And I swear that the "Uh, uh, uh, oh" part on "Every Little Thing" is worth the price of the CD alone!

--Eric Wolf

Band website: http://www.tullycraftnation.com
Label website: http://www.magicmarkerrecords.com

July 20, 2005

Cut City "Cut City"

Normally, I'd be sickened and bored by Cut City's self-titled debut EP. Dance-punk with a twist of new wave? Oh, please--that's sooooo 2002. But here's the odd twist--there's something undeniably thrilling about Cut City. This Swedish group's sound is really, really compelling, even if it's not particularly original. To the cynical listener and lazy music journalist, Max Hansson might sound like Ian Curtis, but such a comparison doesn't give Hansson the credit he deserves, because he can write some really catchy pop music. Hansson sounds more like Marc Almond than he does Ian Curtis, and songs like "The Postcard" and "This Exile Reads Me" are thrilling because they not only have a catchy beat, but they show that Hansson possesses actual singing ability.

It's easy to be cynical about Cut City's sound. Suspend such cynicism for a few minutes and you'll discover that Cut City is a thrilling little record. Get past the post-punk comparisons and you'll discover that Cut City's a lovely little gem. Let's hope they can do just that for their upcoming full length.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.deletedart.org/cutcity
Label Website: http://www.goldstandardlabs.com

Various Artists "Six Feet Under: Everything Ends"

Another day, another television show with a uber-hip soundtrack. Since when did these things all of a sudden become the buffet for cool credibility? Okay, okay, so maybe that's not necessarily a bad thing, but still, it's a bit annoying, as it seems soundtracks are used for no reason than to cash in on a show's popularity. As far as soundtracks go, the producers tapped the well of some of today's bigger indie-rock and alternative bands, and the resulting Six Feet Under: Everything Ends isn't that bad. As many of these songs are previously released, there's not a commonality running through their material, but the overall bleakness of their music really fits the show's undertaker theme. What makes the soundtrack problematic is that the offerings from Radiohead, Coldplay, Nina Simone, Phoenix and Death Cab For Cutie are from records that the listeners probably own.

Ah, but there are a few goodies on this soundtrack collection, and for those of you who are fans of these bands, they're quite wonderful. Jem's breathy, sexy trip-hop "Amazing Life" is really, really nice, and makes me want to hear more. Interpol offer up a new track, and it's as miserable and morbid as you'd expect from a Joy Division-aping band. It's a morose song, with a bit of a funereal beat and vocals so muffled and faint, you'll initially think the song's instrumental. The Arcade Fire (who fit with the whole death thing because songs about death is their gimmick) offer up "Cold Wind," which is a new track, and their first new song since their debut album's release, and it's not bad. But the best one here is a killer cover of "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" by The Caesears, whose greatness has yet to be fully appreciated. Their cover is crunchy and raw in their garage-rock way, and though it's not as ominous as the original, it's still a fun and fitting song.

All in all, Six Feet Under is a pretty dark and darkly pretty soundtrack. It's enjoyable, it's hip, it's cool and it's a bit depressing--which, of course, also describes the television show. Six Feet Under: Everything Ends is a good soundtrack and a good sampler for those rare souls who might not be familiar with some of today's better alternative bands.

--Joseph Kyle

Label Website: http://www.astralwerks.com

July 13, 2005

Gogol Bordello "East Infection"

When it comes to live performance intensity, the New York-based Gogol Bordello has no competition. These guys are simply frantic onstage; they've been banned from numerous clubs in New York, simply because of their habit of breaking everything in sight. A friend of mine saw them at a festival last year, and said that they made The Polyphonic Spree seem stoic and boring. Such things are a matter of opinion, of course, but it only goes to show what many have been saying for years: don't miss Gogol Bordello.

Be that as it may, Gogol Bordello's recorded work actually captures their live intensity quite well. The six songs on East Infection burn with a raging passion that's missing in today's independent music scene. Led by the enigmatic and charismatic Russian-born Eugene Hutz, Gogol Bordello's mixture of punk and traditional Gypsy music is a refreshing change of pace. As weird of a combination as the two may be, their ability to mix both styles together in a masterful way doesn't sound forced, and their skill at mixing the two is a large part of their appeal. Whether it's the driving, raunchy thrash-rock of "East Infection" and the accordian-driven "Strange Uncles from Abroad" or the masterful updating of centuries-old traditional styles on "Madagascar-Romania (Tu jesty fata)" and "Ave. B," East Infection always proves to be an entertaining, energetic listen. Try listening to Gogol Bordello in your car--but just be prepared to catch yourself speeding!

Gogol Bordello is a band on the verge of greatness--and it's a greatness well-deserved. East Infection is a great introduction to this fascinating group, and if the musical scraps found on East Infection are any indication, their forthcoming album is probably going to be one of this year's best releases.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.gogolbordello.com
Label Website: http://www.rubricrecords.com

Feathers "Absolute Noon"

If one were to combine all of Stereolab's inspirations, the studio ideas behind the Beach Boys' studio work between 1968 and 1972, and every record that is somehow Tortoise-related, you'd have Feathers. As awkward and as dismissive as such a comparison might sound, there's perhaps no better way to describe this duo, because their debut EP, Absolute Noon is very much the product of a lot of studio work. It's instantly apparent that Feathers is a band full of people who know how to make music, know how to use the studio as an instrument and simply know how to make lovely, peaceful music.

Though Feathers is normally the duo of Eddie Alonso and Matt Crum, for Absolute Noon--the first in a series of EP releases--the band is augmented by three additional players, including Wilco's Mike Jorgensen and Tortoise's own John McEntire. This fact explains much, because Absolute Noon is very much indebted to the Chicago post-rock scene. Were it not for knowing about the involvement of McEntire and Jorgensen, one might be tempted to dismiss Feathers as simply latecoming imitators of a now-cliched musical genre. Instead, it shows that Feathers have the abiliity to create beautiful music with some of today's modern music innovators.

Even though the sounds on Absolute Noon might sound familiar, it's hard not to enjoy Absolute Noon. The gentle piano and marimba combination on "My Apple Has Four Legs" sounds not unlike a modernized take on Vince Guaraldi's famous Peanuts soundtrack. "Coral Rise" has a soft, soothing synthesized beat that's quite relaxing, and it's hard not to smile when "Old Cutler" comes on the radio. And let's not overlook "The Rise," either; the English horn instantly recalls the Beach Boys, and the overall song feels like a cool sea breeze on a hot California day.

Records hardly sound as lovely and as pleasant as Absolute Noon, and this is as fine a debut record as one could expect. Though a brief affair, it does illuminate Feathers as a talented band capable of creating beautiful, relaxing music.

--Joseph Kyle

Label Website: http://www.home-tapes.com

July 11, 2005

Chemical Brothers "The Boxer"

Building upon Push the Button, their excellent return to form, The Chemical Brothers' new single The Boxer is an excellent companion to their latest work. In addition to the album version of the title track, The Boxer also features four remixes and two previously unreleased numbers. The two remixes of "Believe" are interesting, but ultimately don't really challenge the energy of the album version, while the remix of "Galvanize" rearranges the pulse of the original while retaining the excellent vocals of Q-Tip. The two unreleased tracks, "Giant" and "Spring" are beautiful little electronica pieces, but they seem out of place among the more high-energy dance material offered here.

Don't think that there's nothing worthwhile on The Boxer, though. It's the DFA remix of "The Boxer" that makes this single worthy of your attention. In an Old School meets New School showdown, DFA radically remixes the song, blending all the elements of The Chemical Brothers' older, more psychedelic moments with their own new-wave disco beat. By slowing down the beat and adding all kinds of new ideas to it, DFA turns the song into a mini symphony, and the end result is a sexy slow-jam for the ecstacy generation, and it's enough to make you wish the two groups would collaborate further.

If you want to hear The Chemical Brothers at their finest, start with Push The Button. If you want to affirm the greatness of that record, pick up The Boxer--especially if you want to hear one of the best remixes of all time.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.thechemicalbrothers.com
Label Website: http://www.astralwerks.com

Dan Melchior "Hello, I'm Dan Melchior, aka 'Singer-Songranter'"

Dan Melchior is an associate of wildman Billy Childish, and it's quite obvious, too; his racious garage-rock style is quite similar, and though he's not nearly as prolific as Childish, he's still quite prolific. Melchior also possesses a keen sense of humor that's not unlike Childish as well. You should automatically prepare to smile when a record starts off with the dead-serious line "I once did mushrooms with Bjork/So you can listen to me when I talk." The eighteen songs on Hello, I'm Dan Melchior, aka 'Singer-Songranter' are just that: garage-rock rants that are both funny and profoundly straight-faced. His music is standard garage-rock--his band is simply him and his wife, Letha--Melchior is a highly literate songwriter, and his lyrics are wordy narratives that are quite captivating. Melchior takes on subjects as varied as growing up in the 1970s ("(The) 1970s"), American consumer culture ("American Strip Mall Rag"), being heartbroken ("She Knows Me Well," "Looking for Sally"), the hypocritical nature of music writers and editors ("Ed-it-or!") and the effect memories of a difficult childhood have on adults ("Dreams Can Be So Painful"). Even though I don't consider myself to be a big fan of Melchior's style, it's easy to recognize a truly talented songwriter, and this singer-songranter is definitely gifted.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.brokerevue.com
Label Website: http://www.shakeitrecords.com

Kash "Open"

Maybe there’s something in the water, but it feels to me like Italian post-rock bands make their music sound sleazier and more sinister than that of their American counterparts. For instance, Three Second Kiss is what Shellac would sound like if Steve Albini were the kind of guy who pinched the behinds of random girls he passed on the street. If Godspeed You Black Emperor composed background music for a séance, it would probably sound like Larsen. Starfuckers barely touch their instruments, but every sound they make is imbued with the presence of evil. With their debut full-length Open, Turin-based band Kash positions itself as another item to add to the list of post-rock bands from their home country that are possessed by forces that just…ain’t…right.

Most of the credit for the menace in Kash’s music can go to vocalist Stefano Abba, whose delivery can switch from the asthmatic wheezing of US Maple’s Al Johnson to the satanic caterwauling of Old Time Relijun’s Arrington de Dionyso at the drop of a dime. When he whispers the words “sexual secret” into the microphone on “Porno Space,” the average listener will shudder at the thought of just what that secret might be. On “America,” he barks out the words “together forever” not with the warmth of a lover, but instead with the desperation of a stalker. Stefano’s most harrowing vocal performance comes on Open‘s final song, “Cactus Heaven.” In it, he shrieks for an unnamed antagonist to “please save me one more time! Don’t forget me! Tell me what to do! Please help me!” The intensity of Stefano’s voice coupled with his position in the back of the mix makes him sound like a mental patient hollering from the other side of a really long hallway.

The other members of Kash do a good job of backing Stefano up with equally unhinged music. Many of the best songs on Open find the band augmented by guitarist Mitch Cheney and saxophonist Steve Sostak, formerly of Chicago jazz/punk giants Sweep the Leg Johnny. Together, Cheney and Kash guitarist Paride Lanciani kick up a wonderful ruckus on “Toys,” trading queasy pitch-modulated single-note riffs with moody arpeggios. On “Eyes,” Sostak’s sax imitates Abba’s wailing perfectly, and the result can clear a room of unsuspecting listeners within seconds. However, Kash rarely allows its music to scale the heights of Sweep, as they frequently undercut their own momentum with random stops, starts and dynamic changes. Songs like “Too Bad” and “Cheese Cake” don’t develop an actual meter until they’re almost over.

Kash’s insistence on screwing with the pace of their music can be just as much of a curse as it is a blessing. Open is sequenced so that the two quietest songs are right in the middle; listeners may already be well into their slumber by the time the minute-long blast of “Radio Cherokee” comes along. Likewise, “Cheese Cake” wastes five-and-a-half minutes on little more than a lazy slide guitar and catatonic mumbling; the 30-second racket that closes the song is a scant payoff. Too much tension and not enough release can lead to boredom. If Kash learns this lesson before making their next record, their music will be the perfect tonic for horny men on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

--Sean Padilla

Artist Website: http://www.kash.it
Label Website: http://www.sickroomrecords.com

Entre Rios "Onda"

When it comes to musical recognition, Argentina doesn't have much of a reputation. Other than inspiring the lovely musical Evita, the South American country doesn't get recognized for much. That's a shame, too, because Buenos Aires is a modern city. Why, then, isn't it giving rise to a host of really great bands that will appeal to a large international audience? Aren't there any good bands from Argentina?

Yes, there are.

Entre Rios is a three piece dance-pop trio from Buenos Aires, and they eagerly and skillfully mine the cool and sexy reputation of their hometown and their native land. Fronted by the drop-dead gorgeous and mysterious Isol, the trio's music will instantly remind the listener of a dark, glamorous European night club full of beautiful, intelligent people. Their sound is quite European in nature, too; Entre Rios sound like a South American answer to Saint Etienne. Of course, Sarah Cracknell doesn't sing in a breathy, sultry Spanish tongue, and in this case, Entre Rios triumphs over their inspiration. (At times, they also sound like a Japanese group, specifically Pizzicato 5, but let's not confuse the issue, shall we?)

Onda is the band's third album since their formation five years ago, but the quality of the songwriting and compostion would lead you to think them a band with a decade's worth of hits. Musical masterminds Sebastian Carreras and Gabriel Lucena have the ability to write strikingly modern pop music that's both gorgeous and innovative. From the sad, melancholy ambient beats of "Cerca & Extrano" to the joyously upbeat "Claro Que Si" and
the candy-sweet "Odisea"--which is reminiscent of William Orbit's collaboration with Madonna, Ray of Light--it's obvious that Carreras & Lucena's pop creations were already perfect well before Isol opened her mouth. Over Onda's eleven songs, she sings with an innocent yet wise voice that is instantly seductive and charming. They never fall victim to the traps of repetition, and it's clear there's nothing superficial about their music, either. It's obviously that they simply want to make gorgeous pop, and once agian, they've succeeded.

There's no reason the rest of the world shouldn't be fawning over Onda; in a perfect world, their music would be ubiquitous. But, sadly, the reason that's not going to happen is also the reason this record is so damn gorgeous. Personally, I'm glad they've damned themselves by singing in their native language; Entre Rios' music is already perfect. You might not understand a single word, but when you're listening to a record as beautiful and as passionate as this, you don't need to understand. Onda is pure summertime pop perfection, a pleasant listen from start to finish.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.elefant.com/en/grupos_bio.php?id=8
Label Website: http://www.darla.com

July 09, 2005

Interview: Okay's Marty Anderson

Marty Anderson had been involved with two Bay Area bands, Dilute and Howard Hello, before being diagnosed with a serious form of Crohn's Disease. The disease, for those who don't know, is a seriously intense and incurable intestinal disorder that is an excruciatingly painful disorder that causes a lot of misery and discomfort. It has been an intense illness for Marty Anderson, a young man struck with this disorder and forced to rearrange his life. His life for a time involved much speculation as to whether he would be alive or dead by the next day. It's a tough way to live; very intense, and most of us cannot begin to imagine what his life must have been like. Thus, his life now conists of living to an IV machine, difficulty eating and a lot of pain.

Where it would be understandable for even the toughest person to give in to their pain and suffering, in the face of his illness, he decided to do what he does best: make music. He wrote songs to describe his pain. When he finished them, he formed a new project, entitled Okay. Earlier this year, he simultaneously released his debut albums
High Road and Low Road, two sonically similar but entirely different records. They're quite beautiful, and could easily be some of this year's best releases. It wouldn't be a surprise if they were. These records defy simple description, and simply overcome the listener with emotions, tears, and, ultimately, a newfound respect for this thing we call LIFE.

Wise beyond his 27 years, Anderson spoke to us a few months ago, and it was a pleasure. Seek out his records. You won't be disappointed.

Why the decision to make two albums and release them simultaneously? I know that there was some discussion that this was going to be a concept album, or that both albums were concept albums tenuously, but would you care to discuss the concept behind each one?

Well, at first, it wasn't going to be a "concept." It was just, I just kept recording songs and they eventually, I noticed that they were very, they came from two different places as I was writing them up with different mindsets, so basically it's just a different mindset behind each album, I have a different approach lyrically to the same subject.

Or, more specifically, each album is different thematically is different; though the theme might be same, there is a difference between the two, except on a much more levels.

They are the same sonically and dynamically, and that was on purpose. Low Road is more of a...I don't..I don't want to say "pessimistic," but it kind of became a more negative approach, or not a life-affirming approach whether it's a focus on the world or yourself. I wrote it more trying to face the punches and trying to make it about the attempts to overcome giving up.

So High Road is optimistic and Low Road is realistic?

Yeah. As I said, I have said that to my friends, who have difficulty with it not being optimistic, I say, "Well, it's not pessimistic, it's just truthful." I went through a lot of things, and I was kinda going back and forth like that, and when I was in one state I'd write a song one way, and when I was in another state I'd write it in another, and I just divided it up, I compiled them, all the "good" songs and all the "negative" ones. We were going to do a double album at first, and then we just decided to release them individually.

To me, I wouldn't necessarily say they're optimistic or pessimistic, I would say matter-of-fact. They're very honest, because when you're dealing with a serious health issue, you have to be realistic about it, but at the same time you don't want to be pessimistic, either.

Yeah, it's kind of like deciding, are you going to take steps to get better, or are you just going to say, "okay this is my life, and that's it?" I'm definitely taking a step forward with this. I feel a million miles away from those records, though, those were done years ago.

So, Okay is a major part of your therapy?

It is completely necessary, which has become apparent just in the last few months. The last time I went into the hospital a few months ago, it really, really bad, and I was in really bad shape. When I got out, I had this new idea, I told myself I was going to get a band together and I had this energy. Within a month, we played four shows, and then all of these people came out, all of these articles were written. Before that, I was bedridden for, like, a year. It's been a strange event, the last couple of months. The ten milligrams extra of whatever medication I'm taking, there's not enough to explain what has happened. What I think it is, is having all my friends around me. I have a nine piece band, and every single person in it is like one of my best friends, so I think having that in my life has kept me going.

The albums themseves, were they all you?

The albums themselves, everything was me. I used to be in a band called Dilute, so I've been playing with those guys for about twelve years, maybe longer, maybe shorter, somewhere around there. It's bascially them at the core of this band. I basically took a break from Dilute, and the band kind of broke up, but it's just a break, and that's when my health was not great, and that's when I started to do the Okay songs by myself, because I couldn't do the band. Now that I can, I'm trying to recreate that sound, and I realize it misses something.

The albums it's beautifully complex, but they're downright simple in their approach, and that's what struck me. I guess when you're dealing with such a complex matter, it's the only way to approach it. When you wrote these songs, were you consciously writing about your health, or is it something that when you look back now, you say, "wow, the subject matter really came out and I wasn't even thinking about it when i wrote it?"

Oh no, never. I'm always very conscious about what I'm writing about...and..well, no, that's actually not true. It's more like I have a very specific critera before I call a song a song. It has to resonate with my truth, which is usually, like when I wrote those, it was about me being bad, sick and isolated--but it also has to resonate universally, with everybody. Everybody can't relate to being sick in a small apartment and not being able to go out, but they can relate to being in this country. To be honest, I think they're really similar; it's really easy, you just change "body" to "country," it's very easy. But for me, it has to be personal, and it has to be my truth for me to actually be able to play it live, for me to actually be able to do it for real.

They're definitely a very real set of records. Before you released them, were you concerned that maybe what you were releasing was too personal?

Yeah. Oh, yeah! I released a double record a few years ago and gave it to my friends, and that was more personal then, and that was just kinda to tell them where I was at. This, I took it a lot more seriously, I took it a lot farther, the way everybody reacted to it, they really thought I should put it out, I kinda thought I should put it out, but I hedged for a long time, because it was...it was...me out there. So I knew that if I put out a press release, it's gonna have to say I'm sick, or else I'll just have to lie to every interviewer. The other articles that have come out, we had a write-up the SF Weekly, it was so descriptive, about how I have to go and change my IV. That is a little bit hard for sixty thousand people to read, walking around the East Bay, but I'm getting used to it. It's easy for me, because if I don't tell the truth, I get anxious, and I feel like I don't know who I told what, so I just tell everybody.

It's that honesty that makes the records a lot more real and resonate with a lot more people.

It's been getting more press, and that was somewhat deliberate, too; I did try to make something much more accessable than anything I've done. The responses...have been crazy. People have really connected to it, but for me, it was just a lifeline, it was what I had to do to stay around.

Seeing all of this positive reaction is somewhat surreal.

It's very surreal. In just six months, it's all been happening really fast. I mean, I'm not complaining--it's different, different than laying in bed all week.

It's probably helped your health in ways you really can't appreciate just yet.

Yeah. I'm trying to appreciate it all that I can, because it's amazing..

It's one of those things where you can't feel the love, but when you look back later, you'll think, 'wow, all of these people around the world, they responded positively to my records and wished me well, even if I couldn't be around them to hear them say it directly." That would have a healing affect.

Yeah, it's a full circle with these records. When we played our CD release show, I never really thought I'd be able to sit, and I did that and I felt good. I told everybody, if I was to put them out, I wanted to get somebody to say that it changed their life and I wanted to get somebody angry. Really get angry. Like, "who the fuck does this guy think he is, this is the worst shit I've ever heard in my life!" And I got both! (Laughs) It was a great sensation. It was exactly what I wanted. It surpased what I thought it would be completely.

I did notice both spectrums, and the interesting thing about the negative reviews was that absolutely none of the reviews mentioned your illness and it's possible the reviewers didn't even know you were sick, or that what Okay was doing is autobiographical.

I think negative reviews are fine and completly necessary. I can't remember a Kubrick movie that didn't split the critics down the middle. The idea of press, I think it's a natural thing for any truth to be criticized. I mean, if it's true, it has to be criticized. But I wanted to prove it to myself, and that's what I got.

(At this point, the recording becomes difficult to understand, and static garbles a conversation about Howard Hello, Dilute and his previous bands)

How is your health right now? Has there been any improvement?

My health is confusing, as usual. I'm still on the IV, but I'm working to get off of it. I'm trying to eat more. My basic problem is..it's much more painful to eat...I'm working hard to get to the point where I'm eating enough so they can say, "Okay, you can get off of it." So that's what I'm working on, I'm trying to find the right food, trying to lower my stress level. Like, another thing, I'll have an argument with somebody, and then, in like three hours, I'll throw up. That's not normal. That's not how normal people handle things. And yeah, that makes me sensitive in every way and that's a drag, but I've been getting a lot better, I've been meditiating every day.

Do you think Okay has played a large part in your health getting better?

Definitely. Absolutely! If I didn't have this support and this love in this tangible way, I don't know what would have happened for me.

Are you currently working on new Okay material?

Oh, we've got a whole record ready! (Laughs) It didn't take long.

Was this more of a collaborative effort, or you by yourself again?

I pretty much wrote of the songs. We changed a few of them up, some friends had different ideas and we changed them up, but I pretty much wrote them. I got excited just to play a G Chord when Jay (Pelucci) was in the same room and he hit the drums and I started laughing! (giggles) I was so excited. But I brought up the whole record and everybody learned it.

How different is it from Low Road/High Road, or is it the same thematically and sonically?

Thematically, I think it's...I've been a lot more positive lately. The last ones were, to play the devil's advocate, like "ohhhh my god, it's all over, it's all shit, blah blah blah," but I just want to have a balance with a record. For this, I'm hitting for a non-duel philosophy on life and that's what I'm talking about now. I'm not interested in the duality of illness. I mean, how could I not be, with all the positivity around me?

One thing I realized from Low Road & High Road, even though they are depressing at times and very bleak, there's also a glimmer of humanity and of hope; you've got this moment NOW to record the song NOW, so let's appreciate the time that you have NOW.

Exactly. The new songs are exactly talking about that: "You're going to die, but how? You're still alive right now, you're still alive right NOW." I mean, enjoy it, because this show might be our last show, because you don't know. I don't know. I'm just happy that people are coming over to play music with me for twenty minutes, then being able to go out in the sunshine.

Looking back now to you at seventeen, when you started making music, do you think your illness has changed your appreciation for life?

Oh, absolutely. I can't imagine my life without it. It affects your relationships, it affects your activities, it affects my family life and career, it affects everything. It's who I am. But I was writing music then, and I don't know...(puzzled) I don't know where I would be, if I'd be playing music, because I wouldn't know of the places it's taken me and to help me see it as more thanfun ...I don't even know if I'd be alive without music.

If it's the thing that saved your life, you can't turn your back on it.

I tried, I tried therapy and didn't have music and I wasn't getting healthy, and I realized I needed it to get healthy.

Your muse wouldn't let you go down that easily.


I tell people about your records, about how they moved me beyond...I just can't put into words how I've been moved by them. I mean, it's sad, because it's very pessimistic, and yet it's optimistic, and it's a reaffirmation of life in the face of death and disease and illness and tragedy.

Yeah, but I look at it like this. I wasn't trying to find an answer. You're at a crossroads. You can go forward or move backwards or stay where you are. It's not about saying "this is the answer." Like on High Road. It's not like I'm trying to say this is the journey, because I'm still going there.

Noticing that there was a time when you didn't know if there was going to be tomorrow, and to me that's what comes through, about being at that point, that peak, and wondering if this is it and you are looking back, or hoping that you have another chance. It just seems like, "am I gonna die tomorrow and, if I do, what was life about?" It's about the realization of the beauty of life in the face of death.

It's like, all of a sudden, so many of the things that bother you, they don't. And forgiveness, it's not difficult, it doesn't have the the hardness to do as it did before. And you look back and you say, "wow, that's what life is about. Kindness is what life is about. Forgiveness is what life is about. It's so obvious!" And when you make decisions based on that, that is what love is, and it's the most miraculous thing.

July 07, 2005

Black Dice "Broken Ear Record"

Contrary to what you might have heard, Broken Ear Record isn't a pop record and it isn't a dance record--it's a Black Dice record. Though the band experiments more with beats than in the past doesn't change the band's dynamic in any way. Does it work? That depends on your opinion towards Black Dice and your understanding that Black Dice is an inherently challenging band. The shock of the new that came with Beaches & Canyons and Creature Comforts certainly challenged fans of their previous grindcore leanings, and Broken Ear Record sets out to challenge those comfortable with the band's newfound ambient bent.

"Snarly Yow," the lead track on Broken Ear Record, is perhaps the album's definitive track. It starts off with some cut-and-paste static noise manipulations, which are then enhanced by a most definite beat. Gone are the long ambient drones, the peaceful, tranquil moments that came from the band's previous albums; they've been replaced by the moments of previous records' occasional tribal elements and buried beats and vocal manipulations. Such a formula can easily be applied to the not-that-bad "Smiling Off" and the too-brief "Twins." "Street Dude" presents a hard dance rhythm with noise, but it's really awkward and ultimately not impressive. "Heavy Manners" and "Aba" are the only times the record comes close to replicating Black Dice's past, but that's quite okay; they are a nice respite in Broken Ear Record's sea of noise.

Album closer "Motorcycle," though, merits special attention. It is here that Black Dice break the outer shell of their reputation and succeed quite impressively. Though Broken Ear Record is not a dance record (the DFA affiliation came well before the group merged with Astralwerks/EMI), "Motorcycle" shows that such an insinuation might not be too far-fetched. Unlike the questionable success of the previous songs on the album, this track starts with a heavy drum beat, and as the beat plays, vocal manipulations are added, moments of noise are added, a lovely Carribean-style guitar lick comes in, and a screeching yelp is added in the bass drum's down beat. It's an odd song, but in a weird way it's a blend of Reggae, Calypso and noise, and this big mess of sound actually works. Even more impressive, "Motorcycle" is actually, factually grooving.

So Black Dice, they've done it again. They've made an interesting record, they've totally laid waste to everything that's come before, and with Broken Ear Record they've reinvented themselves once again. Alienation? Nah, it's more like making music for themselves and hoping the audience will dig it. And, as always, one's left wondering "what will they think of next?"

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.blackdice.net
Label Website: http://www.astralwerks.com

July 06, 2005

Drums & Tuba "El Tubador"

For the past decade, the Chicago-via-Texas trio of Drums & Tuba have wowed a small but loyal following of music fans who appreciate the simple formula of drums, tuba and guitar. Thanks to signing to Ani DiFranco's label Righteous Babe, Drums & Tuba found a new life as a regular attraction in the 'jam band' community. Don't let the association frighten you; if anything, Drums & Tuba's live performances are very heady experiences, and they're easily one of America's better live bands. (I once saw them perform for two hours to a coffee house audience of five people, and the nonexistant audience never stopped them from performing an excellent set.)

Currently finishing their third album for Righteous Babe, this seven inch single serves as a nice stopgap release. Both songs are standard Drums & Tuba fare; "El Tubador" contains the more upbeat and experimental elements of Drum & Tuba's music, while the b-side, "The Peleton," represents Drums & Tuba's mellower side. For those who aren't familiar with Drums & Tuba, this is a great place to start, and for longtime fans, this is mere confirmation that Drums & Tuba is still a great band.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.drumsandtuba.com
Label Website: http://www.sickroomrecords.com

Birchville Cat Motel "WIth Maples Ablaze"

Ever since Chris Jeely of Accelera Deck released his new album Pop Polling, I’ve been keeping tabs on his Scarcelight label, especially since it has transcended the “vanity label” ghetto and started releasing albums by like-minded artists from around the world. Let’s face it…you can’t get much more “around the world” than New Zealand, where Campbell Kneale (the auteur behind Birchville Cat Motel) resides. Kneale is an experimental composer who asks his compatriots to send him field recordings, which he then manipulates to create tracks that would better be described as “ambient sound” than as actual music. The liner notes to Birchville Cat Motel’s latest Scarcelight release With Maples Ablaze read almost like a who’s who of the worldwide noise scene: Bruce Russell of the Dead C contributes “fire,” Argentina’s Reynols contribute “Reynols” (hah), and Englishman Simon Wickham-Smith adds singing and electronics. You should have guessed by now that Maples isn’t a CD you’ll be able to dance or sing along to. However, the arrangements of sound contained within its 70 minutes are guaranteed to unnerve you and put odd images in your head.

Take, for instance, the first track (none of the songs have titles). It begins with faint whiffs of white noise ricocheting across the stereo spectrum. A slide guitar ekes out a few notes. A host of scraping and grinding noises enter halfway through, and slowly obliterate every other element of the track. It gives me an image of an old man playing guitar on his front porch during a dust storm, while someone else tries in vain to operate rusty machinery in the back of the house. Well, it’s not like I could compare Birchville Cat Motel to another BAND… With Maples Ablaze peaks on the sixth track, in which a tape of children singing along to percussion is run backwards, forwards, at various speeds and through endless forms of distortion. Every once in a while, a sliver of high-pitched feedback cuts through. Over the course of nearly 11 minutes, the track begins to sound like a drum circle being invaded by aliens.

Otherwise, most of the other tracks can be summed up as drones augmented by incidental noises. Track three consists of high-pitched keyboard noises and the sound of papers burning (presumably Russell’s contribution to the album). Track five is a field recording of a train, atop which a hi-hat cymbal is opened and closed at random intervals. Track eight is a single-note drone juxtaposed with running water and a man mumbling wordlessly to himself. Track seven seems to be the one that makes the greatest use of traditional instruments. It coasts on layers of slowly swooping guitars that bring to mind Lovesliescrushing.

None of this may sound promising on paper to people who aren‘t noise aficionados, but Kneale arranges the various sounds he receives in such a way that they come alive when transmitted through your speakers. With Maples Ablaze was released in 2004, and from the minimal research I’ve done, I know that there have been at least two more albums released since. The guy works quickly, but if this record is any indication, he doesn’t half-step either!

--Sean Padilla

Artist Website: http://www.cpsip.co.nz
Label Website: http://www.scarcelight.org

Despistado "The People Of and Their Verses"

Here's the story: four young guys growing up in a small Canadian town decide to start a band. They play some shows, get a little bit of media attention, and they self-release an EP. Their little record makes it into the hands of a well-respected American indie-rock label, who quickly reissues the record. The band makes its way into America, embark on a major American tour, and in the process, receive a lot of positive, supportive press. They return home and record their debut album. Despistado's future looked quite promising.

No one expected that the band would implode.

As a debut album, The People Of and Their Verses shows that their demise was indeed premature. Poppy melodies mix with driving, powerful rhythms, producing some extremely catchy songs. The rhythm section was tight, and for a young band, their abilities never betray their youth. Their sound occasionally veers into At the Drive-In territory, but the resemblence never distracted from their own songwriting abilities. The immediacy of "Victim" and "Burning House" will make you think you're experiencing this band live; the songs are catchy and appealing, the vocals are screaming and Despistado simply rock. On "If Relationships A Construct, Then I'm A Construction Worker" and "This Neighborhood," the tempo is less frantic and the band is humbly restrained; these mellower moments show that Despistado had an eye on creating music that was much more varied and complex than simple power chords and shouting. Not every musical idea was golden; songs like "Broken" and "Magnetic Streetlights" feel unfinished, and compared to the album's more stellar moments, such moments do weigh down the rest of the record. Considering the circumstances around this record--after all, it is a debut record, and the band did break up during its recording--such weaker moments are somewhat forgiveable.

All in all, The People Of and Their Verses is very much a debut album, with some great songs tempered with some songs with good ideas and lesser songs that do betray the band's relative youth. The People Of and Their Verses is a bittersweet reminder of what Despistado might have been; it's evidence that this young Canadian band certainly had some great music in them. While it's somewhat misguided to speculate what might have been based upon one record, it's not a stretch to say that their breakup robbed the world of a promising young band. Here's hoping that their indivdual projects harness the energy and the promise of The People Of and Their Verses.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.despistadomusic.com
Label Website: http://www.jadetree.com

July 01, 2005

Mates of State "All Day"

The quaint and cute indiepop duo of Mates of State have certainly made a name for themselves over the past two years. They've grown a lot since the days of their cute Our Solo Project days and they still retain their sense of catchy pop fun, as witnessed by their latest record, the All Day EP. The four songs on All Day are surprisingly mature and well-written; they are, as usual, sugar-coated by both Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel's charmingly innocent singing voices. Opening song "Good (All In Your Hands)" is classic Mates of State; Gardner accompanies Hammel's singing with 'da-da-da's' and a quite catchy organ lick. The same is also true of "Along For the Ride," which finds the duo taking turns with the vocal duties; Hammel accentuates the song with some great Beach Boys-meet-The Shins style harmonizing. The final two songs are much mellower; "Drop and Anchor" tempers a beautiful piano melody with some painfully earnest singing from the duo. It's beautiful and touching in a way only hinted at on previous records. This form of balladry isn't that common for Mates of State, but this song proves they're capable of making non-hyperactive pop. The final cover is an interesting cover of David Bowie's "Starman," and it's a mellow affair that's quite faithful to the original as well.

Though All Day is a bit of a stopgap release, it's still quite an excellent stopgap release, one that highlights the band's current strengths and promises of more great pop songs. A nice treat for longtime fans and a great introduction for those who might not yet be the States' mates.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.matesofstate.com
Label Website: http://www.polyvinylrecords.com