Archive for the 'Alternative' Category

Radiohead – Lost Treasures

Everybody loves B sides and Rarities. Everybody (or least they should) loves Radiohead. How about we combine the two?

The resultant offspring is Lost Treasures, and what a beautiful child it is. An excellent double disk album, Lost Treasures offers probably the most comprehensive listing of non-LP work from Radiohead between 1993 and 1997. And while I would hesitate to call some of the tracks “treasures” and the album is annoyingly scatterbrained in composition, Lost Treasures is nonetheless an invaluable source for some real radiohead gems. It also does a brilliant job of chronicling change in the band’s sound from Pablo Honey –> The bends –> OK Computer.

Be sure no one else is around when you take a look at the track listing because contained within the confines of this treasure chest is enough rare material to make any RH fan pop a chubby…Sorry, I recently heard that expression from an Aussie friend and really wanted to use it. ANYWAY, lets look at what this the album has to offer:

1. Yes I Am  
2. Inside My Head
3. Pop Is Dead
4. Thinking About You
5. Killer Cars
6. Creep (acoustic)
7. Trickster
8. Lewis (mistreated)
9. Punchdrunk Lovesick Singalong
10. Permanent Daylight
11. Lozenge of Love
12. You Never Wash Up
13. Maquiladora
14. Planet Telex (Hexidecimal Mix)
15. India Rubber
16. How Can You Be Sure?
17. Subterranean Homesick Alien
18. My Iron Lung

1. Street Spirit (acoustic)
2. Killer Cars (acoustic)
3. Wonderwall
4. Blow Out
5. Pearly
6. Melatonin
7. Meeting In The Aisle
8. Bishop’s Robes
9. A Reminder
10. Polyethylene (Parts I&II)
11. Lull
12. Climbing Up The Walls (Zero 7 Mix)
13. Climbing Up The Walls (Filia Brazilia Mix)
14. Palo Alto
15. How I Made My Millions
16. Wish You Were Here
17. Talk Show Host

As you can see, the album has a bunch of acoustic takes, live cuts, remixes, covers, and Studio tracks. The acoustic takes of “Blow out,” “Subterranean Homesick Alien,” and “Street Spirit” are all fantastic. I also really dig the Zero 7 remix of “climbing up the walls.” But by far the most interesting inclusions are the rare studio tracks. Many of these are from the Iron Lung EP but Lost Treasures also has some sick tracks that are hard to find elsewhere. Definitely check out the Iron Lung songs, but I also highly recommend: “Lull,” “Pearly,” “Bishop’s Robes,” “India Rubber” and “Talk show host” (written for the 1996 Romeo + Juliet movie). On second thought, please just listen to everything – this is some great stuff.



Circulatory System

Alright, time to rep some psychedelic rock!

Its not the 60’s anymore.  Psychedelic rock just ain’t what it used to be.  Bands like The Flaming Lips and Animal Collective are really the only main bands still going with that style.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re awesome awesome bands, but they are in the mainstream, and sometimes they lose the psychedelic drive behind the pop.  There’s also a lot of stoner rock out there, which is at many times good, but isn’t really psychedelic roots based.  Alright enough babbling, my point is, you sometimes have to dig deep to find psychedelic roots bands, and one of my favorite discoveries in my excavations is Circulatory System.

Circulatory System

The band formed after the collapse of the Elephant Six Recording Company.  This company featured artists such as Of Montreal, Neutral Milk Hotel, and The Olivia Tremor Control, which were all premier psychedelic bands at the time.  Members from The Olivia Tremor Control left to form Circulatory System once the company ended.  Circulatory System is an eight piece band, with a whole range of instruments such as guitar, bass, clarinet, cello, organ, keyboards, and drums.  The band is led by singer Will Cullen Hart.

They just released a new album, which I haven’t given a listen to, but they’re real treasure is their self-titled album from 2001.  This album has 22 tracks, which seems long, but they are all very short, usually ranging from 2-3 minutes each.  The album has a great flow, and when listening through, almost seems like one long song.  This does not mean it gets tedious, it makes for a great listen.  Hart is the main vocalist, but they employ a choral style of singing with several vocalist.  This along with the variety of instruments creates for a very dense sound, which I love for psychedelic bands.  Their entire style seems to be an homage to the psychedelic bands of the 60’s.  Today, psych rock is usually fairly intense, but this harkens back to the upbeat melodies, dense texture, and a general calming and spacey air that bands such as The Byrds or Jefferson Airplane had.  This is definitely an album that HAS to be listened to straight through.  There are a few songs that can be played on their own, but you won’t get the full effect.  This is one of my favorite albums ever, and definitely needs to be checked out.


Try this if you like bands such as Of Montreal, Neutral Milk Hotel, Menomena, Destroyer, The Olivia Tremor Control

Circulatory System - Circulatory System

Check out the self-titled album

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – Hearts of Oak

Ted Leo

Ted Leo may be one of the best accidental secrets to hit the rock scene in the past decade or so. While he has successfully evaded much mainstream attention (with the possible exception of single “Me and Mia”), Leo continues to pump out album after album of great, catchy, pop-driven rock sing-alongs. Having dabbled in dub reggae, alternative rock, folk, and other genres, Leo has mastered the art of constructing well-written melodies into undeniable anthems.

This is largely evident on Hearts of Oak, the band’s third proper album (although their first release [tej leo(?), Rx / pharmacists] was largely a solo effort). Here, we get to see Leo’s potential as a songwriter and a one-man music machine, proving the power of a singer’s voice paired with a jangly guitar. With one listen to “Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone?”, you’ll be hard-pressed not to get your toes tapping. Go ahead, try it out.

“Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone?” by Ted Leo & The Pharmacists

With a constantly-growing number of fans, it’ll be a miracle if they’re not playing to massive crowds in a couple of years. Until then, Ted Leo and crew will keep rocking the basements and smaller club shows for those lucky enough to experience it.


If you’re interested, I’d recommend checking them out on tour in the coming months (dates posted below), and don’t forget to keep an eye out for the new album, The Brutalist Bricks, due out March 9th.

3/11/2010 Cleveland OH Grog Shop
3/12/2010 Pontiac MI The Crofoot
3/13/2010 Chicago IL Bottom Lounge
3/14/2010 Madison WI High Noon Saloon
3/15/2010 Minneapolis MN First Avenue
3/19/2010 Seattle WA Neumo’s
3/20/2010 Portland OR Doug Fir Lounge (21+)
3/21/2010 Portland OR Doug Fir Lounge (all ages matinee)
3/23/2010 San Francisco CA Great American Music Hall
3/27/2010 Los Angeles CA Troubadour
4/4/2010 Atlanta GA The Masquerade
4/5/2010 Carrboro NC Cat’s Cradle
4/7/2010 Philadelphia PA First Unitarian Church
4/8/2010 Washington DC 930 Club
4/9/2010 New York NY Irving Plaza
4/10/2010 Boston MA Paradise


Regina Spektor

As my first post to this Blog, and as the first post from a girl, I figured it would be appropriate to post a female artist. Girl Power. (p.s. I’m not a feminist) So therefore I introduce you to, or reacquaint you with, Regina Spektor. She is not incredibly unknown, but not always seen in the public eye. This unique singer/songwriter grew up in Moscow and eventually made her way to America’s east coast. Her striking features combined with her pure and endearing voice make her incredibly charming. (I read she once worked on a butterfly farm…adorable right?) From what I know she speaks, Russian, Hebrew and some Latin and often times incorporates these languages into her music. It is hard to classify her music in one genre, but some of the styles she incorporates in her songs are Alternative, Folk, Jazz, Russian, Jewish, and Classical. Occasionally she alludes to literary works or figures like Fitzgerald (“Poor little Rich boy”) or Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”. (You can thank Wikipedia and my geeky English major side for that) Her piano playing is always innovative, sometimes sounding like the simple tune of a music box (like in her song “music box”) or even a sort of Russian Dance song (Like 2 minutes into her song “The Flowers”) Besides her outstanding piano skills, the true unique and engaging element of her music is the inventive and broad use of her voice. From beat-boxing to the buzzing of her lips, she utilizes all sorts of unorthodox vocal techniques to add the subtle nuances that make her songs so great. While all her albums are great, her three latest albums, “Soviet Kitsch” (2004) “Begin to Hope” (2006) and “Far” (2009) are my personal favorites. I posted the album Soviet Kitsch. I recommend the songs “Ode to Divorce”, “Us” and “Chemo Limo”.  Enjoy.



Jeff Buckley – “Live at Sin-é”

Jeff Buckley. I honestly have no idea where to start – there’s so much you could say about his music, but it would be like describing food: you can tell someone in great detail how something tastes, but it doesn’t come close to capturing the experience of eating a perfectly seared filet mignon. Jeff Buckley is that filet mignon.

This is a genius who died young. He only released one studio album before his untimely death in 1997, at the age of 30 (he drowned while going for a swim in the Wolf River in Memphis, TN). Beyond a shadow of a doubt, 1994’s “Grace” is my pick for best album of that decade; it’s absolutely flawless. His distinct and incredible vocals soar on each track, his guitar work and composition is insanely original yet familiar, and he manages to go everywhere from a 1504 Middle English hymn to crushing grunge. His recording of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is one of the most iconic and emotional recordings of all time; you’ve heard it before, trust me. All in all, “Grace” is a perfect studio album in every single way.

This is not that album. I’ll write about that album some other time, but this is Jeff Buckley, the man, captured on two discs.

“Live at Sin-é” is a recording of a gig he played on July 19, 1993 at a café in New York’s East Village called Sin-é (Irish for “That’s It”). The most endearing thing about Jeff is the rawness and conviction of his voice, and there’s no better setting for it or recording of it than this album. No band here; just Jeff strumming a borrowed Telecaster in a small café. Most of the tracks from “Grace” are performed here in their early states, along with covers of everyone you’d never think of: Van Morrison, Nina Simone, Billie Holliday, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and Led Zeppelin. His guitar playing is simple, emotional, and controlled, while his vocals will send shivers down your spine. He sings a traditional Pakistani Qawwali devotional, in Urdu, for God’s sakeI feel that Jeff Buckley was always at the peak of his short-lived career. This recording, then, captures him at the very top of that peak.

If this doesn’t give you goosebumps, I give up.




Battles – Mirrored

To wrap up math rock I give you the best of the best: Battles.  They’ve been around since something like 2004, with their first full length in 2007, and have been suspiciously (and frustratingly) silent since 2008.  Like, no tours, no announcements, no nothing.  Usually any group that pulled that kind of stunt would fall off the face of the planet and get dropped, but Battles is no ordinary band.

Frontman and composer Tyondai Braxton is the son of composer Anthony Braxton, and avant-garde is something that runs in the family.  Battles songs are composed layer by layer, piece by piece and do NOT sound like anything you have heard before.  Guitars are used sparingly, focusing instead on a heavy application of loops, samples, and an eclectic array of bleeps and bloops, as well as Tyondai’s several-octaves-shifted vocals, which are essentially atmoshperic gibberish.  All of this is held down by one of my favorite drummers, Helmet’s John Stanier.  The man is absolutely robotic and a beast on his kit, which is minimalistic and known for it’s mile high crash cymbal.  Battles is a textbook example of the first “flavor” of math rock.  The time signature during the build up of the sprawling epic “Rainbows” is measured in 19/8…whatever that may mean to you.

As a whole, Mirrored is dark; it’s a real soundtrack for spelunking.  That said it is far from sparse, and happens to have some of the heaviest locked-in grooves I can think of.  It is a journey that ends where it began, coming full circle with a conclusion (aptly titled Race: Out) that leaves the album pleading for subsequent listens. You’ve heard them in commercials. Now hear them for real.


Atlas Music Video (way cool)


Tera Melos – untitled

A few days ago Chris suggested an album by Foals, a math rock band.  This got me pretty excited, because it’s been a while since I have heard anything worthwhile come out of math rock.  But it got me thinking – math rock is really an umbrella term used to describe two genres.  The first “flavor” of math rock includes bands like Foals and the Brooklyn-based Battles, who incorporate weird time signatures and syncopation into their music, while in the second “flavor” bands are less strict with their playing.  You know, start-stop bullshit.

Start-stop bullshit can mean one of two things. Generally it tends to mean “suck”.  Bands like Giraffes? Giraffes! come to mind (what kind of a band name is that?).  But, on occasion, start-stop music CAN be pulled off, and with amazing results.  One band that does it especially well is Sacramento’s Tera Melos.

Citing influences like Fugazi, Minor Threat, Pixies, and Weezer, it’s hard to imagine where Tera Melos got their signature instrumental sound.  They were the pioneers of start-stop math rock, which is characterized by build-ups, break downs, and off beat riffage.  That sounds like a recipe for disaster, and typically it is, but Tera Melos does something that I have heard no other math rock band do – incorporate soundscapes.  Beautiful, melodious soundscapes.

The album is comprised of seven purely instrumental songs, each called “Melody (#)”, and the album is officially untitled (a la Led Zeppelin’s fourth album).  That means there are no words or titles to worry about, creating an album that is a 100% musical experience. At 32 minutes it is the perfect length, concise, but not short.

The band paints a Mona Lisa, pulls out some Sharpies, and scribbles all over their masterpiece.  Does it ruin what was once a work of art? Or is the deconstruction of beauty in and of itself…beautiful?  That’s up to you to decide.

– Jack

Watch them get down (19 second clip)

Download the album

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