January 31, 2006

Spiral Joy Band "Lullabies for Jeff Dean"

Hi, boys and girls! Do you like long, deep, heavy-duty instrumental jams? I know I do. I know that after a long, hard day of doing whatever it is I do that makes my days long and hard, I like to turn down the lights, turn off all other forms of technology, and listen to some really, really heady, mind-bendingly beautiful music. That’s why, then, I am really fond of Lullabies for Jeff Dean, the proper debut by Spiral Joy Band. Though they’ve been around for years (as a side project for experimental band Pelt’s Mikel Dimmick and Mike Gangloff), this is their very first official release.

I love it when a band simply doesn’t bother to name their songs. Of course, who needs names when your music consists of grand, heady epic instrumental passages, much like the three found on this record. After all, what’s the point of naming songs when all you do is jam? This troupe of musical experimenters has a slight Eastern fetish, as you’ll find sitars and gongs and other sorts of odd musical things from Asian lands. No matter, though, they blend in well with pianos and guitars and other things that go bump in the night. Drones blended with melody and a definite dollop of dark atmosphere…what more could a boy want? Dig the forty-minute “Lullaby 2,” which starts off all nice and then just gets progressively mind-blowing, and the beauty of the piano-laden “Lullaby 3” cannot be denied, either.

The three long jams found here, they won’t overwhelm you, as much as they will overtake you. The music is slow, the music is pretty, and the music is something that must be experienced in just the right way. By “the right way,” we mean candles and darkness and a little bit of fear. Lullabies for Jeff Dean is deep, it’s dark, it’s scary—and it’s also damn near brilliant. I have no idea who Jeff Dean is, but I hope he enjoys these lullabies. I know I did.

--Joseph Kyle

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

Robert Pollard "From A Compound Eye"

I made a New Year’s resolution to write more succinct record reviews, so I won’t begin this one with a rant about what Guided by Voices meant to me. Look my reviews of their last two albums up in this site’s archives and you’ll get the point. I spent a lot of 2005 getting used to life without GBV. I didn’t even pay much attention to the steady stream of records that Pollard released on his low-profile Fading Captain Series imprint (a box set of unreleased GBV material, an album under one pseudonym, an EP under another pseudonym AND two EPs under his own name). All of them were merely appetizers for the main course: From a Compound Eye, the first post-GBV full-length to bear his own name. This 26-track behemoth has been gathering buzz since it was finished in the fall of 2004, and Merge is giving it the kind of distribution and promotion that would’ve normally been given to a GBV record.

I can’t help but speculate that Pollard felt a bit uneasy with the prospect of issuing such a major statement without a band to buffer him. Some of Compound Eye’s lyrics read like attempts to psych himself up. Consider the bridge of “U.S. Mustard Company,” during which he sings: “Contain yourself/Make yourself feel like it used to be/Throw away your charts of progress/Even though you might need them/Though they’ll not be there/You’ll think you need them.” I’m sure he’s asked himself the same questions that his fans have asked themselves. How will Pollard’s solo stuff stack up when compared to his work with GBV? How will he forge a life outside of the grinding album-after-tour-after-album-after-tour regime that GBV got stuck in? In the song’s coda, the phrase “contain yourself” is repeatedly sung by a soothing chorus of multi-tracked Pollards. Those voices are meant to reassure both Pollard and his fans, as if to say, “Calm down, everyone. From a Compound Eye is here, and everything’s going to be alright.”

In the grand scheme of things, this album won’t shock anyone who’s given GBV even a cursory listen. Pollard still does what he does best: write concise, catchy songs with surreal lyrics and good melodies, sing them in a husky faux-Brit accent and frame them within the context of four decades of freewheeling rock and roll. However, From a Compound Eye remains a pivotal entry in his discography in that it formally introduces the third major foil to enter his career after the elfin-voiced Tobin Sprout and the guitar-shredding Doug Gillard: producer and multi-instrumentalist Todd Tobias. Pollard’s worked with Tobias many times before - they’ve released four albums together under the name Circus Devils, Tobias played all the instruments on Pollard’s previous solo album Fiction Man, and he has also produced the last few GBV records. Compound Eye, though, is where the two finally achieve true synergy. Both Tobias’ playing and Pollard’s singing are stronger than they were on Fiction Man, and even the weirdest songs on Compound Eye are easier to listen to than their Circus Devils work. Tobias’ arrangements free Pollard’s songs from the occasionally overwhelming guitar crunch that permeated GBV’s last few records. There’s plenty of guitar to be found on these songs, but there’s also enough space in the mix for Todd to fill with keyboards (he’s especially fond of synthesized strings), odd percussion (dig the jew’s harp on “The Right Thing”) and untraceable sound effects.

From a Compound Eye is the rare double-album in which more than half of its songs are essential. I didn’t realize this until about a third of the way through, when the better songs started hitting me in groups, rather than one at a time. Throughout the album, Pollard’s command of what he calls “the four Ps” - pop, punk, prog and psych - remains firm. There are pop songs that out-Stroke the Strokes (“Dancing Girls and Dancing Men”), out-Car the Cars (“I’m a Widow”) and even out-GBV GBV (“I Surround You Naked,” “Blessed in an Open Head,” “I’m a Strong Lion”)! There are prog songs that make abrupt key and tempo changes sound totally natural (“Kick Me and Cancel,” “Hammer in Your Eyes,” “Conqueror of the Moon”). There are nightmarish acid trips disguised as songs (“Kensington Cradle,” “50 Year Old Baby,” “Denied”). Then, there’s “The Right Thing,” which manages to sum up Pollard’s creative process and artistic trajectory in four-and-a-half minutes. It starts out with a lo-fi sketch, in which Pollard clumsily strums his guitar and strains to make his voice heard above the cloud of tape hiss. It then mutates into a hi-fi twin of itself, with meaty guitars, flashy drumming and more confident singing. Pollard demonstrates his knack for enlivening even the simplest chord progressions with winding, snake-charmer vocal melodies. This song is bound to be a hit at live shows.

From a Compound Eye is appropriately named in that it prismatically surveys Pollard’s muse from all angles. No matter which side of his music you like the most, you’ll find a heaping helping of it here. Of course, the album could’ve been edited down to 15 or 16 songs, but deciding on which ones to purge would be difficult. Pollard has begun 2006 by soundly reasserting his dominance as my favorite rock songwriter...and, true to form, he has already finished his NEXT solo album! The more things change, the more they remain the same...including the length of my record reviews.

--Sean Padilla

Artist Website: http://www.robertpollard.net
Label Website: http://www.mergerecords.com

January 30, 2006

Town & Country "Up Above"

And now, for something completely different…a good record by Town & Country! Never thought the day would come when that would happen. Okay, okay, it’s time to be a little bit fair to this Chicago band, but to this writer, the band epitomized everything that was boring and unexciting about Chicago post-rock/jazz scene. Their records were, in a word, B.O.R.I.N.G. Just because you have the technical acumen doesn’t mean your music is going to be interesting. Town & Country, to me, was the band that was really good at what they did, but what they did was really, really dull and uninteresting.

Up Above, the band’s first record in three years, is a totally different story. Instead of
boring, technical instrumentals that are clinical and cold, the band has decided to experiment with more interesting rhythms and instrumentations, with a special focus on Eastern music. A sitar here, a mouth organ there, a gamelan thrown in for good measure—these things add up, baby! At times, it seems as if this band’s decided they want to be Vibracathedral Orchestra or Pelt, which is not a bad thing. (Of course, they’re not, but let’s be forgiving, shall we?)

One thing that makes Up Above interesting is the band’s decision to temper this newfound experimental nature with a bit of restraint. Gone are Town & Country’s boring Tortoise-isms; no longer are they making mind-numbingly dull post-rock-math-jazz-whatever passages. This is a good thing, as it keeps the record from becoming too clichéd in its approach; how many bands have ruined their music by not editing down their long-ass songs? Thus, at times the songs feel a bit too brief; when the band hits a groove in songs “Bee Call” and “Fields and Parks of Easy Access,” the song ends. But it’s hard not to deny that when the band gets inside the instruments on “King of Portugal” and “Sun Trolley,” the results are simply delightful. Even more interesting is how light and natural their newfound sensibility feels; the instrumentation doesn’t seem gimmicky, nor does the record feel like a “Look at me! I’ve got a gamelan!” type of record.

You’ve got to give these folks credit for being more than willing to shake up their foundation by taking a different direction with their muse. Up Above is a great record, a simple record, an enjoyable record, a non-boring record. Never thought “exciting” and “Town & Country” would ever belong in the same sentence. Thank goodness for being wrong!

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.thrilljockey.com/artists/?id=10049
Label Website: http://www.thrilljockey.com

January 27, 2006

Spoon "Sister Jack"

Spoon, Spoon, Spoon, Spoon, Spoon. Your last record bored me so. You felt like you were treading water. I couldn’t listen to it all the way through. It kind of saddened me. But I have to hand it to you guys for still having the ability to write a good song here and there, and I can’t begrudge you your success. “Sister Jack” is a pretty good song, even if it does smack of being ‘indie-friendly’ and a little too ‘hip’ for my taste. Can’t fault you for the mainstream success, and that’s a song that will do it, baby. “I Turn My Camera On” is masterfully remixed by John McEntire, and I have to give him credit for giving you some sexy-ass groove. “Sunday Morning Wednesday Night” is pretty good, too, even if it’s definitely B-side material. Of course, I instantly thought “Sunday Morning” and Velvet Underground and I can see you thought that too, because, hey, I guess it’s a tribute or something, because the similarities are there. Bet your core audience hasn’t heard the original, I mean, come on, these kids are young enough to be Lou Reed’s grandkids. There’s also a fancy video for “Sister Jack” on here, too.

Speaking of B-sides, when are you going to release a singles comp? I feel weird treating my copy of “Nefarious” like some kind of rare treasure, and I still regret never buying “Not Turning Off” at 33 Degrees back in the day. Plus, you got some killer songs lost out there, like “Anticipation.” The world needs to hear ‘em, and I bet that a killer singles comp would easily kick Gimme Fiction’s lame ass.

Just something to think about, Britt.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.spoontheband.com
Label Website: http://www.mergerecords.com

The Mendoza Line "Full of Light and Full of Fire'

The Mendoza Line has been around for a few years, but it’s not until now that the band has released a record that’s really, truly impressive. Call it my own lack of experience with this Austin-slash-New York band, but it’s really hard not to be taken in by the grooves and the ominous melodies found on Full of Light and Full of Fire. The duo of Timothy Bracy and Shannon McArdle is a creative relationship that allows them to play off of each other, and the results are simply breathtaking.

But what to make of this band’s creative blending of Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, and The Velvet Underground? Yes, that’s as unlikely a description as you could possibly expect, but damn it if it isn’t the case. Bracy, on songs like “Rats Alley” and “Catch a Collapsing Star,” sounds like he’s running down a dream and getting blood on the tracks in the process. His country-rock/Americana styling is not only quite obviously indebted to the masters—it’s also as good as you could possibly get. On “Morbid Cravings,” his twangy accent comes across as terribly affected, but other than that slip-up, he sounds like the real deal.

Then there’s McArdle. Her style is softer, a bit more psychedelic, and it’s accentuated by her singing voice; it’s sultry and it’s sexy and it’s hard to resist her charms. Don’t think she’s all soft, though; on “Golden Boy,” she plays the rocker, and she plays it quite well, and “Mysterious in Black” is a haunting yet grooving rock number that’s offset by a Cure-like melody. But when she’s turning down the tempo, such as on “The Lethal Temptress” and the drop-dead gorgeous opening “Water Surrounds,” she challenges Paula Frazier for the queen of the miserable country weeper. When the two come together for the final “Our Love Is like a Wire,” the results are simply wonderful, as their duet is heartbreaking and impressive. Pure sadness has never sounded so wonderful.

The Mendoza Line’s style may be simple, but they’re quite good at what they do. I’m definitely impressed—and regretful that I’ve missed out on this lovely band until now. Full of Light and Full of Fire is a great record—one that will stay beautiful and fresh with each successive listen.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.mendozaline.com
Label Website: http://www.misrarecords.com

January 26, 2006

Various Artists "Otis' Opuses"

You want proof that Kill Rock Stars has quickly become one of America’s premiere independent record labels? That’s not a very hard thing to prove; just take one listen to the label’s new sampler, Otis’ Opuses. Collecting songs from each of the label’s current roster (not including their experimental imprint 5 Rue Christine), this little sampler is jam-packed with some really impressive music. Even more impressive is the fact that this label no longer has an identifiable sound--always a very, very good thing.

You want a little bit of that classic Riot-Grrrl style? Well, check out The Gossip! You like folkier numbers? There’s plenty of folk to be found in the works of Jeff Hanson, Nedelle, and, of course, the indie-rock rock stars The Decemberists. You dig balls-out rock and roll? The Makers and Shoplifting will give you your fill, and check out the literary-minded intelligent new-wave stylings of former one-hit-wonders Harvey Danger. Deeper, introspective rock can be found in the works of Linda Perry, while experimentation can be found coming from the mouths and minds of Wrangler Brutes, Deerhoof, and the pAper chAse. Heck, the label even has some hip-hop courtesy of Gold Chains and euro-pop thanks to Stereo Total.

2005 was a banner year for Kill Rock Stars, and guess what? From the looks of it, 2006 is only going to be better. This little collection is not only proof that this little label is a force to be reckoned with, it’s just a straight-up great record, period.

--Joseph Kyle

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

Edith Frost "It's A Game"

I like Edith Frost. I’ve liked her music for a long time. Ever since hearing her debut EP and Calling over Time, I instantly became enraptured by this lovely, unassuming Texas girl. (Well, she’s been an expatriate for some time, but you never really leave Texas, do you?) Her later records have been interesting, but they’ve never quite captured the bleakness of her earlier work. 2004’s Demos internet-only release was quite wonderful, too, but it’s been four long years since her last proper release, Wonder Wonder.

Her music is getting happier-sounding, even though her lyrics don’t reflect any kind of life improvement. Love seems to be a vexing problem, and singing about heartbreak has always been Frost’s forte. But instead of making music that’s downbeat, for It’s a Game, she continues to explore the more upbeat elements found on her previous album. This means that her music is becoming more universal, while retaining the deeply personal elements that made her previous records quite enjoyable and thought-provoking. More universal themes might not make for a deeply moving, personal experience like Calling over Time, but that’s okay; better to move away from being mopey and sad and depressed than to make record after record that wallows in one’s misery.

But Edith Frost has always been a country girl, and that hasn’t changed. A pedal steel here, an acoustic guitar there, a twang in the voice coming through every so often—there’s a gentle, simple charm, and it’s hard not to enjoy songs like “If It Wasn’t For the Birds” and “Lucky Charm.” Breathy and coy, Frost and her backing band breeze through a baker’s dozen worth of songs that document break-ups, disappointments, and relationship difficulties, but they never delve into tear-in-your-beer pathos. As always, the music is simply, totally pretty, sounding like the soundtrack to a 1960s-era West Texas-based romance movie. Personally, I’m fond of “Lovin’ You Goodbye,” a happy-trails style farewell song that documents the end of a relationship and the end of the record.

Romance might suck, but at least Frost seems content with her life; instead of self-pity, the more universal aspect of her new songs seems to give her an expertise and wisdom that can only come from experience. It’s A Game is a lovely record from a lovely lady. It’s good to hear her music once again, and it’s also nice to listen to her music without worrying a little bit about her.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.edithfrost.com
Label Website: http://www.dragcity.com

January 25, 2006

National Trist "Kings and Queens"

You’ve got to be kidding me. There’s parody, there’s bad, and then there’s this. Highly evolved yet painfully unfunny ironic ‘dance’ music? Ugh. This joke isn’t funny any more, even though, of course, it probably never was funny. We’re living in a post-Har Mar Superstar/Chromeo world, and, man, this National Trust record is just…UGH.

But here’s the bigger conundrum—they can do better. They have done better. Their previous two releases were enigmatic, a weird blend of psychedelic rock, pop, and soul. It wasn’t perfect, but by no means was it bad. That the band released records so sporadically didn’t help matters, either. It’s been four years since they quietly released their last record, and that was three years after their debut single. Those records were interesting and enjoyable and fascinating.

The same cannot be said about this horrible record. Gone is the jazz. In its place are horrible synth-rock blips and bleeps, R&B production circa 1980 made by real musicians from that era, all accentuated by pseudo-Prince style crooning and horribly bad lyrical content that, to be generous, might be mistaken as parody. It’s hard to be more specific about it, because that would require having to listen to this again. Lyrics are supposed to be funny, but recall the phrase “it’s a fine line between clever and stupid.”

You decide where they belong, because my mind’s made up.

If they hadn’t opted for using the most clichéd R&B rhythms and hip-pop beats, Kings and Queens might have been good. But they didn’t do that; they opted to make a record that sounds like a parody of a parody record, and it’s just damn near awful. That they enlisted the help of nearly three dozen R&B and pop mavens* who have worked with Britney Spears, The Emotions, Teddy Pendergrass, and R. Kelly helps to explain the excellent, slick music.

That The National Trust is two Chicago-based indie-rock hipsters helps to explain why this record is utter crap. According to the press bio, the band nearly called it a day in 2002: “Either it was call it a day, hang our heads in defeat and live with the bad memories, or start over and work in the exact opposite frame of mind. So we started with frenzy and celebration as if there were no other option.” You should have broken up. Dekkagar was a great record. Kings and Queens isn’t.

Save your money. If you buy this record, you’re either part of the problem, or you’re stupid.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.thrilljockey.com/artists/?id=10046
Label Website: http://www.thrilljockey.com

*that’s a fancy word for ‘people who should know better’

Clearlake "Amber"

New year, new Clearlake record, it seems. This British threesome’s music keeps getting mellower and slightly more ‘mature’ with each passing record; not that that’s a bad thing, mind you, but it’s something that seems to be done to mixed results. Their last album, Cedars, was an impressive little record, full of both mellow numbers and some pulsating rockers, the clear highlight being “Almost the Same,” a record that definitely deserved to be a radio hit. The rest of the record was a late-in-the-day Britpop record that was easy on the ears.

Amber, unfortunately, doesn’t contain its predecessor’s magic. That’s not to say that the band isn’t trying their hardest, but the album just feels as if the band’s standing in place. Oh, they’ve got a keen pop sensibility, and Jason Pegg is still a good singer, but the record feels…safe. It doesn’t feel particularly groundbreaking or exciting, and it just feels as if the band’s on autopilot. While some bands can get away with releasing records that keep with the status quo, Clearlake isn’t one of them. The reason is twofold: one, their songs can sometimes fall trap to a sameness that can become quite boring, but mainly, it’s because deep down, you know Clearlake can do better.

Even though the band seems to be treading water, that doesn’t mean that the album is devoid of good songs. The band’s fast-paced numbers like “I Hate It That I Got What I Wanted” and “Finally Free” can’t touch “Almost the Same,” but they’re good in their own right. While these songs are great, they lack the snappy production of the past, and at times, they sound like a second-rate Dandy Warhols imitation. Mellower numbers like the title track and “Dreamed That You Died” are a welcome touch, and they highlight the sensitivity and lyrical emotion that made previous Clearlake records so rewarding.

Though Amber isn’t a bad record, they can do better. This is the second Clearlake release that earned the “this isn’t bad, but…” statement, and I’d hate to think that everything after Cedars is merely diminishing returns.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.clearlake.uk.com
Label Website: http://www.dominorecordco.com

January 24, 2006

The Twin Atlas "Sun Township"/"Pioneers Toasted: Rare & Unreleased 2000-2004"

It’s always nice to receive a Twin Atlas record. One of Philadelphia’s most enduring—and endearing—“psych-rock” bands, the group has released seven wonderful records over the past six years. Their sound is quite basic: mellow, slightly stoned country-rock, tempered with a hazy psychedelic glaze, resulting in head music that’s quite pretty and easily accessible. They’ve never really updated their sound, but what they do, they do quite well, so it’s hard to fault them for that.

Such is the case with Sun Township, the band’s seventh album. Sean Byrne, the head Atlas, has matured quite nicely as a songwriter; the ten songs found here are gorgeously written and produced, and it’s hard not to feel the warmth of the sun within the band’s melodies. At time, the record’s vibe is more country than rock, and that’s quite okay, too. Guitars are gently picked, harmonies are quietly sung, and the accentuations provided by keyboard, pedal steel, and percussion only intensify the mellowness. “Narcotic” would be the apt adjective to describe their songs, but that’s too heavy of an adjective.

Even though the songs on Sun Township follow such a very basic formula, it’s a rewarding formula, so why change it? Byrne’s chiming guitars and vocals, especially on songs like “Roll On” and “Lost Way Falling,” recall The Byrds, in spirit, if not in sound. Their lazy style of “Wrap the Days” and “Evergreen” recalls the final recordings of Opal and the first recordings of Mazzy Star. Were Byrne to add a female vocalist, making a distinction between him and Dave Roback’s bands might be quite difficult. Sun Township also finds a comfortable niche between your Wilco and Low records; they sound like neither, but their lush, mellow vibe certainly gives them the right to be there.

Sun Township is, simply put, a wonderful record by a great band. It’s pretty and it’s mellow and it’s lovely and it’s a record that will relax you after a hard day—or it will make you feel good when you need some quiet time.

Also available is Pioneers Toasted: Rare & Unreleased 2000-2004, a fourteen-song Cd-Rom collection of most of the bands compilation appearances, as well as a handful of outtakes. This odds-and-sods collection is a bit rougher and slightly less polished than Sun Township, but it does a great job of highlighting the more lo-fi psych-rock history of the band, and it’s a bit more heady and trippy than Sun Township.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.thetwinatlas.com

The Snowdrops "Sleepydust"

The Snowdrops are very much an indie-pop supergroup. Featuring members of such legendary bands as Beaumont and Arabesque, as well as the always wonderful Pam Berry, this little group occasionally makes wonderfully gray, melancholy pop. Sleepydust is only their second release in two and a half years, but it was certainly worth the wait. If you’re familiar with the works of Bob Wratten, then this little EP will certainly feel like a tribute to the long-lost and quite beloved band The Field Mice. Everything about this record is reminiscent of that beautiful group—from the cover art to the beautiful music.

And shall we talk about the wonderful, wonderful music? Let’s! The five songs on here are as sad and blue as you smart-dressing college kids could possibly want. The big song here is the title track; it’s got a gentle beat that’s slightly Chris Lowe, and lead singer Keith Girdler meets the beat with his best Neil Tennant impersonation. Throw in gorgeous backing vocals by Pam Berry, and you’ve got a wonderful combination. The EP is book-ended by two versions, a “regular” version and a “12-Inch” version; the only real difference between the two is that the latter version features a different vocal introduction by Ms. Berry.

Though the three songs in the middle aren’t quite as big and as grand as the title song, they’re still quite lovely. “Too Cold To Snow” is a cold, wintery instrumental; it’s stark and sad and makes you seek out the nearest jacket. “The Boy with the Hummingbird Eyes” features the vocals of Dick Preece and a guest appearance by Keris Howard, and though it might not contain the bright lyrical spark as the title song, it’s still a pretty, beat-ridden number, with detached singing that makes you want to gaze at your shoes in sorrow. “Teddy Dragons” is a brief, less-than-a-minute number that’s not really essential, though it does fit the general mood of the rest of the record quite nicely.

If you’ve ever wondered what The Field Mice might have released after their swan-song single “Missing the Moon,” Sleepydust answers that question quite nicely. It’s a lovely record that whets the appetite for the next Snowdrops record.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.indiepages.com/dontbuyanythingbythesnowdrops/
Label Website: http://www.indiepages.com/matinee
hello. blog coming soon!

January 19, 2006

Private Eleanor "No Straight Lines"

Making a great first impression is essential. A great case in point is this band Private Eleanor, from Baltimore. About this time last year, I received a Cd-R from some label in Maryland. It was a promotional copy of a 'limited edition' release, featuring two musicians. The theory of this record was simple: record a 'side' of a split LP release in one session. This is exactly what this disc was: two long tracks, both of which contained numerous songs. It was like a live recording session. It was...okay. Nothing special. In fact, at the time, I felt it to be a little less than special. It just sounded like a guy who liked Elliott Smith and who wanted to be Elliott Smith, except for the being dead part. It wasn't "bad," but it was rough-sounding. It didn't help that it was impossible to go back to songs and check them out again, without having to fast-forward. 'Definitely a reason it's on a Cd-R,' was my mindset, and I placed it in the pile, to be forgotten.

At some point in the past three or four months, a CD by a band called Private Eleanor found a comfortable place next to my computer. I never listened to it, partially because I am swamped, but its neglect is due in no small part to that disc from earlier this year. After all, I didn't like the first experience, so why would I like it now? Yes, that's prejudiced thinking, but that's my honest opinion, and I can guarantee you that such prejudices do motivate music writers. It’s really nothing personal; it's simply the reality of the situation.

Well, flash ahead to a few days ago. I was bored, strung out on pain medication, and I wanted to listen to something, and I decided that maybe I should give this Private Eleanor a listen-to.

Well, to best describe what happened next, I should try to put it into perspective.

Private Eleanor, circa that previous release, had only been a one-man band posing under a 'band' moniker. (That’s a major pet peeve of mine, to be honest. get a band, damn you. or at least some help that's not YOU. because nine times out of ten, you're not good enough to play all the instruments yourself.)

Private Eleanor, circa this new album, entitled No Straight Lines, is a sextet.

Let’s just say there's a big difference between the two! The main man behind the band is a fellow named Austin, and yes, he sounds like Elliott Smith, but with a full-band backing him, it's not quite as obvious (or noxious). But instead of the Private Eleanor I'd heard before, I'm hearing a full-sounding band, one that's much more confident in its compositional abilities, and it's a band that's much richer in tone than before. I hear traces of Wilco, Elliott Smith, and, just because it's fresh in my mind, Tarkio, Colin Meloy's pre-Decemberists alt-country band. Occasionally the songs sound tinny and lo-fi, but for the most part, this album is a full, rich affair, especially considering how he has a band now to give him a bigger sound. It’s a great little record for a Saturday evening. I really recommend them. The one-two-three punch of "Babe Ruth," "Bed of Nails” and “Estimated Distance" will win you over; I'm especially fond of "Bed of Nails," because it is, for lack of a better term, sexy. But most of all, Private Eleanor's a great sounding band that would sound good in a bar or a coffee house. (I'm sure their music is found in both environments in their hometown of Baltimore.)

First impressions. They’re important.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.privateeleanor.com
Label Website: http://www.thebeechfields.com

The Advantage "Elf-Titled"

Same song, second verse. Last year, the Advantage released their self-titled debut album…of Nintendo game covers. Yes, that’s right. They’re a tribute band to video game music. Sounds insane, doesn’t it? Well, maybe it is, but considering that this project includes madman Spencer Seim of Hella, maybe it’s not so surprising a concept. And, really, they proved something the first time around: that the band is actually good. Once you get past the silly nature of the concept of the record, you’ll quickly discover that these guys love what they do, and there’s no trace of irony to be found.

Music-wise, there’s very little difference between Elf-Titled and The Advantage. The songs are all faithful to the original versions, though the band is more than willing to give the songs a little bit of added spice. For instance, the songs are a bit funkier than the originals, but that’s mainly due to the fact that this is a real band, not some computer programming guy designing synthetic songs on a computer. That being the case, songs like “Mega Man II” and “Castlevania II” are more intense and powerful than before, and that, my friends, is a very good thing. Even more interesting is how groove-oriented the original melodies really were; lost beneath synthetic reproduction, it was hard to quite fully appreciate how rhythmic the “Double Dragon II” theme really was, but The Advantage do so quite wonderfully. That they’re excellent musicians is even better, because a concept like this could easily be ruined by poor musicianship. And, at the very least, you can’t deny the virtuosity found on Elf Titled; all of the songs have fast, smooth guitar playing, not unlike a weird amalgam of Vai, Satriani, and Malmsteen.

There could be a case made that Nintendo music inspired a generation of post-rockers, but I’m too lazy to do so. I have a feeling that the members of The Advantage were teenagers who mixed metal and Slint records with pot and video games. Such being the case, who knew that anti-social teen behavior of the 1990s could produce something so wonderful?

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.theadvantageband.com
Label Website: http://www.5rc.com

January 18, 2006

Bill Hicks "Salvation: Oxford, November 11, 1992"

Legendary comedian Bill Hicks only became "legendary" after passing away in 1994, 32 years too young. Though his death was indeed untimely, his legacy of thrusting raw, uncensored political and personal opinion into his audiences' faces lives on--for better or worse. It's probably not much of an understatement to say that Hicks' style has helped ruin modern comedy, as lesser comedians try to ape his style, with little understanding of the subtlety that made him special. Though he may be gone in body, he lives on through his archives, and those archives still find Hicks to be a powerful comedic force.

Salvation: Oxford, November 11, 1992, the latest foray into the archives, is a two-disc, two hour performance recorded at Oxford University in 1992. It's an electric atmosphere; Hicks' performance is a rapid-fire onslaught of everything he believes and hates, delivered to a rather receptive and enthusiastic audience. For Hicks--and America--the times, they were a-changin'. Just the day before, Hicks' arch-nemesis and regular subject for out-and-out attack, George Bush, had been voted out of office. This fact delights Hicks to no end, as throughout the first part of his set, he happily, gleefully sing-songs the phrase "Bush is dead! Bush is dead!" Of course, he quickly realizes that his target being elected out of office would soon mean Hicks would have to reformat his entire comedy career, he yells out, "Bring him back! Bring him back!" Hicks' ability to turn the sword on himself was part of his charm; it's this lack of concern about looking bad that made him so damn good.

As usual, Hicks expands upon, rants about, and unapologetically tackles every possible sensitive issue and sacred cows of modern American society. The truth about drugs? Hicks has the answer. The meaning of life? Hicks has the answer. The real story about what happened with the Kennedy assassination? Hicks has the answer. The importance of children to society? Yep, Hicks has the answer. He delivers these thoughts and opinions and fact with all the rage and the fire and the passion of a man fully convinced that his opinions are right. That Hicks was right is merely an afterthought. Even funnier are his off-the-cuff remarks about English phrases and linguistic styles, and this is perhaps the most rewarding aspect of Salvation.This section feels completely improvised, and it quickly makes you laugh, and it highlights just how damn quick and how fast and how sharp his comedic mind really was.

For Hicks fanatics, Salvation might not offer much new material; these routines and bits are classics, and have been heard in many different forms. No matter, though; they're still red-hot and powerful, regardless of how many times you've heard them. This is vintage Hicks, and it's perhaps one of the best representations of Hicks' live sets today. Because these are his more popular sketches, this is perhaps the best introduction to the world of Bill Hicks, as he never was funnier or better than he was here. A prime snapshot of a talent gone way too young.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.billhicks.comLabel Website: http://www.rykodisc.com

José González "Stay in the Shade"

José González had a pretty good year last year. His debut album was finally released in the United States, and the critical acclaim it received has helped propel the young singer-songwriter to new heights of recognition; two of his songs have appeared on The OC, and as of this writing, he has signed to Mute for his next album. Stay in the Shade was his second single from Veneer, and it’s a lovely extension of that album’s strong points.

Though the album had a tendency to be a bit non-descript, the brevity of Stay In The Shade ensures that there’s no monotony. For the most part, the five songs found here are beautiful, engaging folk numbers; the Nick Drake and Elliott Smith comparisons are still valid, especially on the title track; but unlike the debut, these elements aren’t quite as heavy as they were there. His style is breezy, jazz-like; it’s hard not to think of vintage Everything But The Girl, especially on “Down The Hillside” and “Sensing Owls.” His cover of Kylie Minogue’s “Hand On Your Heart,” much like his other pop covers, draws the listener into a world that might have been missed. The last number, a long instrumental entitled “Instr.” is the only weak number, not because it’s a bad song, but because it’s different from the breezy pop from before, and it’s slightly monotonous.

Stay in the Shade is a wonderful appetizer for those who are hungry for more, and it’s a good little introduction to José González. May 2006 be a bigger year for this young man!
--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.jose-gonzalez.com
Label Website: http://www.parasol.com

January 17, 2006

EBSK "Space:2003/

The sensibilites of an artist can be determined by the format with which they release their music. Any artist or label choosing to release music on miniCD's (or CD3) is obviously choosing to follow the road less traveled. Considering these discs only allow for twenty minutes' worth of music, this format requires an artist to be terribly succinct; a limited amount of time certainly kills any self-indulgent tendencies. The tiny format of the CD also helps to remove any possibility of 'casual listening.' It's a demanding format, and it's understandable why some artists would take a liking to such a medium. Then again, a band like EBSK, which combines the talents of a clarinet player with a keyboard wizard, won't soon be mistaken for a band following the primrose path to stardom.

That being the case, the CD3 format works perfectly for EBSK's music. The two songs on this release are quite engaging, but in a rather unhurried, unassuming way. Both songs are instrumental, and though they don't differ dramatically, they're both rather distinctive. "Space:2003" starts with a mellow spaced-out drone, but then picks up tempo and becomes rather jazzy and slightly funky, but not in a terribly overwhelming kind of way; though the bass and keyboards are rather soothing, there's a small rumbling growl underneath the mellow grooves that keeps the song slightly ominous. "Deep Red" is definitely a bit funkier; out comes the clarinet, and after two minutes of a hypnotic spaced-out clarinet groove, the band turns away from that, introducing a beat-box and a funky groove, which, after two more minutes, is reintroduced, leading the listener into space and into blissful waves of sonic love. The groove is comparable to Drums & Tuba's music pre-jam-band makeover.

Thanks to the brevity of the format, EBSK is allowed the ability to make a concise statement about their art--and they do it quite well, thank you. In the time since listening to this, I've really fallen for this band, and I recommend wholeheartedly a visit to their website, where you can experience some great mellow instrumental rock.
--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://ebsk.alkem.org
Label Website: http://www.scarcelight.org

John Cale "blackAcetate"

John Cale’s a difficult bastard to pin down. One minute, he’s releasing a crap record, the next minute, he’s releasing something brilliant. The man is totally, utterly unpredictable. But that’s not surprising; after all, he is John Cale, the man who is partially responsible for the Velvet Underground, the man who is responsible for producing some classic records, including works by Nico, Patti Smith, and Iggy & The Stooges. Artistically, the man doesn’t stand still, which is both a benefit and a liability. Considering he is a cult figure with a cult following, his record-buying public is aware of this tendency, which may or may not help matters.

Unsurprisingly, blackAcetate, his latest work, finds him exploring all sorts of styles, to a variety of success. It’s somewhat amusing to hear a retirement-age man throwing down funk and hip-hop beats and ‘rapping,’ but you’ll hear it on “Outta The Bag,” “Hush,” and “Brotherman.” (Try not to snicker-it’s impolite, even if the songs occasionally sound, well…silly.) Though our sensors have been trained to laugh at 63-year old men playing their interpretations of ‘modern rock,’ it’s hard to deny the power and the excellent craft on “Foraride” and “Turnthelightson.” Not surprisingly, his slower, mellower numbers like “Gravel Drive” and “Wasteland” will gain comparison to the Velvet Underground and his former collaborator, Lou Reed. When he pulls out his viola on these songs, he quickly demonstrates that Johnny Viola hasn’t lost his magical touch. Overall, though, blackAcetate is a funk-filled affair, and even though you aren’t going to mistake him for George Clinton anytime soon, songs like “Woman” and “Satisfied” really aren’t that different from records he’s made in the past.
If ever cynical listeners needed proof that Cale is more than a mere relic of the 1960s and 70s, he’s done so here. Of course, like most Cale records, this album will also likely flounder in obscurity, and that’s a shame, because it’s a good record. Cale could use his age as an excuse to release mediocre, unadventurous music, but he doesn’t. Being elderly and unafraid to fall on your face is, in its own way, something to be admired. Just don’t get too comfortable in thinking he’ll follow blackAcetate with something even better, because you might be terribly disappointed.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.john-cale.com/
Label Website: http://www.astralwerks.com/

January 12, 2006

Paul Duncan "Be Careful What You Call Home"

When last we heard from Paul Duncan, he had just released an excitingly good debut album, To An Ambient Hollywood. At the time, we stated that his music was pretty, slightly experimental, slightly jazzy folk-pop that was easy on the ears and warm to the spirit. Luckily, such is still the case with Be Careful What You Call Home, as Duncan has gainfully built upon his previous record’s strong points, while adding new depths and dimensions.

One should note, though, that Be Careful What You Call Home is a different affair from the previous record. The touches of traditional folk-rock have been replaced with a more jazz-minded approach; Duncan’s singing is even more relaxed and mellow, and in some instances, such as on “You Look Like an Animal,” and “This Old House,” his voice is almost nonexistent; it’s a fine wisp of a thing, adding to the utter mellowness of the record. While comparisons to Brian Eno’s records of the mid 1970s might be a bit too lazy, it’s a comparison that’s impossible to avoid. But considering that the record’s more about mood, it’s hard not to think that Duncan’s singing style isn’t really the point.

Also, it’s hard not to get entranced by the whole vibe that’s to be found. Vocals and instrumentals quietly and gently collide with one another, and much like his debut, this isn’t a record so much as it is one long, flowing mood piece. He’s experimented with “toy” instruments, composing several gentle pieces that simply highlight the instrument: “Toy Piano,” “Toy Bass,” “Toy Bell,” etc. Throughout the album, you’ll also find gorgeous tape manipulations, banjo, piano, and sound collages—all playing together in such a way that’s not only appealing, but rewarding for those who choose to listen to it quite intensely. (Put this record on headphones, and you’ll discover magic.)

Be Careful What You Call Home is a gorgeous record, even if it’s all a bit hazy and foggy and no one song stands out above another. Duncan’s a master of mood, and if his third record is as much of a transition from this record as this record was from his debut, then Duncan will have established himself as one of today’s better music innovators. A finer, lovelier record would be hard to find.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.home-tapes.com/duncan.html
Label Website: http://www.home-tapes.com

Simon Dawes "What No One Hears"

God, I knew I wasn’t going to like this, but I tried. On one hand, it’s extremely difficult to get terribly excited about a band that sounds so…generic. It’s also difficult to get excited about a band that seriously references Nick Drake and Black Flag in descriptions of their sound, especially when they really sound like neither. What can one say about a rock band that sounds exactly what one might think a ‘modern-rock’ band would sound like? You know the sort; they've got 'literate' lyrics and an 'indie' sound--which means they've more than likely spent a lot of money to make a record that sounds as if it was recorded in a garage. And what can one say about an ‘indie-rock’ band that’s appeared on TRL and opened for Maroon 5 months before anyone’s ever heard of them? (One can understand why, though; Simon Dawes is the sort of band booking agents hire as opening acts for their clients, simply because agents want an inferior opening band to make the headliners look better.) It is easy to play the elitist snob card on Simon Dawes, as they are quite an easy target, and it’s really hard not to instantly be cynical about a band like this.

But here’s the problem with quick classifications and the dismissals that follow: one misses an artist’s potential. That’s certainly true with What No One Hears, because surely, there must be some point to this record, right? Right? The band’s music is moody, mellow, and though it aspires to be something big, it never really reaches its aspirations. Yeah, at times, they have a ‘mellow’ sensibility, and at times they have tough “rock” guitars on “The Awful Things,” but when lead singer Taylor Goldsmith starts singing, the band’s sensitivity and toughness goes out the window. Maybe it’s a sign of the deep rot that's a result dumbed-down fandom and pandering to zero expectations, but I’m sorry, I just don’t equate “rock and roll badass” with “stone-cold tone deaf,” and you shouldn’t, either. Just one listen to “Cheap Rip-Off” will turn off even the most tolerant of musical weirdness. Everything-and I mean everything--is off, from the singing, to the drumming, to the keyboard, to the guitars. This song is totally, utterly horrid. On more lackadaisical numbers like “Got A Light” and “Stay Seventeen,” and the band sounds positively uninspired. “I feel stupid and contagious” was meant to reflect teen boredom, not a new standard for rock music, guys. It’s hard to stay interested in a band when they don’t seem interested in being a band.

Yeah, on certain levels I think it’s kind of cool that a band seemingly being spoon-fed all of the breaks can produce music that reflects middle-class boredom with success and wealth, but at the same time, give me a break. I’m trying to find something, anything, that makes Simon Dawes worthwhile of your time. So far, I haven’t found it, and, after listening to this little record a few times, I’m not sure I will. I want more than just poor imitations of the poor imitations, and it doesn’t seem as if Simon Dawes wants to be anything but. So I guess their success is guaranteed, then….

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.simondawes.com
Label Website: http://www.recordcollectionmusic.com

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy "Summer In the Southeast"

Ah, the live album! Often the bane of reviewers, a cash-in for labels, and a tossed-off contractual obligation for artists, there are plenty of quite justified reasons to be cynical about such a release, especially considering very few artists understand--or appreciate--the art of the show. Load in, tune up, sound check, smoke a little weed, crack a fart with the drummer, set up the T-shirts, call the wife, take a dump, get some cheap food paid for with the lazy promoter's food buyout, play 'the hits,' cash your drink tickets, get your pay, then get drunk while hipsters talk to you--it's enough to make an indie-rocker not want to try. Where's the love?

Will Oldham is--and has been, and will forever be--a very special guy. He's a guy who plays by his own rules, and even though the curmudgeon aspect of his personality is well-known about fans, unlike other indie-rock grumps, he never lets his personality override his performance. Though he doesn't tour as much as he used to, the dude's a much-loved live act, and his reputation for delivering powerful perfomances is well-deserved, and just because he doesn't want to hang out with you afterwards shouldn't--and doesn't--take anything away from his utterly moving and wonderful stage presence. Considering his hardcore fans swap recordings of his live shows in the same manner as Deadheads, one wonders why it's taken him so long to release a live album.

There's no real reason to apply the reasons to hate live albums to Oldham's latest offering. Oldham's studio recordings are often stark, barren wisps of things that change radically when performed live, and Summer in the Southeast not only captures Oldham in excellent form, it also wonderfully captures the power of his live performance. Instead of simply giving the listener a complete show, he has compiled highlights of his most recent tour. This particular set finds Oldham and his six-piece band revisiting highlights from his storied solo career, with a few highlights from his Palace era. The recording is good, the band is both tight and loose, the energy is electric, Oldham's singing is powerful, especially on "Master and Everyone," "May It Always Be,"and "Even If Love." The true winner is "O Let It Be," which finds the band running on full steam, creating one hell of a powerful rock number--only hinted at in the studio recording. That the recording is somewhat hazy and that Oldham occasionally falls away from the microphone on the high points is no matter; that's part of the magic.

And that's the great thing about Summer in the Southwest--it accurately captures Oldham at his best, and it shows that even his best studio recordings only hint at their total power. Live recordings may not always capture the "you are there" element very well, but that's certainly not the case here. A powerful document of an excellent musician. And you didn't have to deal with a roomful of annoying hipsters to enjoy it...thanks, Mr. Oldham!

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.bonnieprincebilly.com
Label Website: http://www.dragcity.com

January 10, 2006

hiSoft "Amateur"

Like Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Lilys has had a high turnover rate, with many of the band’s ex-members going on to make excellent music on their own. (What is it with psych-rock bands producing enigmatic perfectionist leaders who go through members as if they were guitar strings?) HiSoft is a great example of this continuum, as Gerhardt Koerner’s new project, HiSoft, sounds exactly like what you’d expect from an ex-Lilys member. Amateur is poorly-titled, as the five songs on this debut EP are most certainly not the work of an amateur.

Naturally, the psych-pop influence can be found in heavy doses; Koerner has a knack for writing a lovely, groovy melody, as demonstrated by the excellent opening track, “Soft Rock.” Full of gorgeous harmonies, wonderfully chiming guitars, and a wonderfully stoned melody, it’s instantly addictive. Thankfully, Koerner follows this great song with four even better songs. Blending Byrds-like melodies with hints of later-sounding bands like XTC and even My Bloody Valentine, Amateur blends the modern with the ancient, resulting in a gorgeous psych-pop mix. It’s hard to resist the charm of “Continental Luck” and “Kenzo,” and the closing “Country” is simply a wonderful mellow ballad. Dig those harmonies, though!

Amateur is a fun, enjoyable record, and it’s certainly evidence that HiSoft is a band to watch. Welcome to the world!

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.myspace.com/hisoft
Label Website: http://www.chocohearts.com

January 03, 2006

About Us

Joseph Kyle is the editor and mastermind behind Mundane Sounds. Over the past decade, he has performed many duties, many of which are music related: record store clerk, booking agent, driver, writer, editor, interviewer, and handyman. He graduated from Texas Tech University in 1996, with a degree in History and a minor in English. His writing has appeared in such publications as Too Broke to Rock, Lois Is My Queen, Under the Volcano, Dagger, Pitchfork Media, Tiny Mix Tapes, and other publications that he's forgotten about! (He also feels weird about referring to himself in third person!) He's an affable fellow, one whose passion extends not only to music, but also to literature--want to win him over? Talk to him about F. Scott Fitzgerald and Henry Rollins. If you have questions for him, he's happy to answer them! He is also available for freelance writing opportunities. If you wish to talk to him about it, send him an email with the words "Writing Opportunites" in the subject. (Writing inquiries only, please.)

January 01, 2006

Mundane Sounds FAQ

Why did you change?

We didn't. We just grew up. We got tired of being bloggeresque. We wanted to be something more substantial.

What are you?

I am a writer, and I am a historian. I am not a journalist; I am not a blogger. I am not a cultural critic. Those tags are meaningless, and they are associated directly with commerce. They're not connected with art, and they're not really connected with anything outside of the consumerist culture with which they exist. Those titles imply certain elements and connotations that I find repulsive, and I wish to distance myself from them at all cost.

Where are the record reviews?

I'm tired of them, but I still do them. Just not as much. Look at it like this: I spent five years of my life writing lots and lots of record reviews, while doing few interviews. So for the next five years, I'm reversing that trend.


Because record reviews are simply my opinions, my interpretation of an experience in listening that is unique. Ultimately, opinions do not matter outside in a concrete world. For instance, if I dislike Death Cab for Cutie, it does not mean that they are a bad band, or that they are not good at what they do, or that they do not have talent. It simply means I do not care for them. If you care for them and disagree, that's fine. But just because I dislike them shouldn't imply things about me, either. These are opinions, and they are tied into something I can no longer fathom. I know some amazing review writers; in fact, our boy Sean is one of the best. I personally am not as interested in that aspect of music writing. I am, however, more than interested in the artists themselves.

Please note, however, that this doesn't mean I'm totally turning my back on writing reviews, because I'm not. I'm simply going to devote my time to writing about things I actually *like*. Which would you rather do: would you rather devote your time writing about how you feel about a Picasso painting, or would you rather talk to Picasso about that painting? I know what I'd rather do. But at the same time, if something moves me to writing about it, I'm going to write about it.

May I send you a record for consideration?

You may, yes. I encourage it! Be advised, however, that sending a record doesn't ensure coverage. But here's how it will go down, just so you'll know: after listening to your record, if I like what I've heard, you'll receive an email from us saying we like your record, which will follow with the phrase, "I want to interview you." If you are cool, then we'll talk and hopefully it will go well and then something will appear in the near future afterwards. Also, please be advised that I do write for other outlets, and we also have a myspace accounts, and our bulletins often promote and talk about awesome music. Did I just say "awesome?" Ugh.

A note to publicists: if you want us to cover your records, then you need to be willing to respond to interview requests. Some of your clients are in demand, yes; some are on tour. But if you give us the runaround, it'll become obvious, and guess what? It causes problems. I am a patient person. I am a fair person. However, if your client or their label is paying you thousands of dollars to promote their record, do your job, and let those who are interested in your clients actually talk to them! That means that you should listen to publications that are interested in interviewing your client.

Also, I must say that this practice of "working" a record for a small moment in time is absurd. A record is a work of art, it's not food, and it doesn't have a shelf life. Yes, I understand that there are campaigns for a certain amount of time, and I can appreciate that. But please, spare me the "the publicity campaign ended yesterday/last week" line, especially after two or more weeks of no response to my email. Because you're lying . Think I'm stupid? I've been in this business for well over a decade. I don't buy it. Lies like that are so unoriginal. Same with the "I sent you the record" when you didn't send the record—I've done this long enough to know when someone hasn't. Get organized!

Bottom line: don't be weak.

With all of this talk of being more exclusive, I take it you've gone rather highbrow?

Why would you think that? We really love music here—all kinds of music. That's the only rule we have for our content. If it's good, we cover it. Surprisingly simple, no? We're not snobs. We have good taste. But mainly we just love music. We just hate all of the chaff around in this music world today, and, honestly, we're no longer interested in giving it any quarter.

But it boils down to what Duke Ellington once said. "There are only two kinds of music. Good, and the other." We're interested in the good, regardless of what handy-dandy stupid-ass label or pigeonhole this music business happens to give it.

So if you don't talk to us, you don't like us?

No, not necessarily. It might mean that I haven't heard your record yet. But if we don't cover your music, don't fret. Your music might grow on me. I might respond to it differently at a later date. Or I might not. But don't feel bad; mine is just one opinion, and it shouldn't be considered an invalidation of your talent that we don't care for your record.

What prompted all of this?

Many reasons exist, so I'll try to be as general as possible about it. Music writing and musical tastes have become so polarized, so divisive, so boring. When it comes to music, being erudite doesn’t really mean anything. It seems like people want their "indie" or their "punk" or their "rap" or their "experimental" or their "(insert meaningless musical genre title here)" and that's all they want and that's all they can fathom and that's all they can appreciate. You wouldn't spend your life saying "I'm only going to read poetry because poetry is the only thing I like, and anything that's not really poetry isn't very good," would you? That's a pretty stupid and narrow minded way to live, don't you think? So why would you want to be that way about music? It makes no sense to me. It really doesn't. So I decided it was time for us to simply remove all pretense and focus on what really matters most: the art. It is my hope that by allowing the artists to speak for themselves, it will prompt you, dear reader, into examining and discovering some truly talented and interesting artists, and it is our guarantee that we actually like the music we are covering. Period. That's all that matters to us, really.

So what can I expect from Mundane Sounds, then?