Music Archives




The Thermals / Now We Can See (Kill Rock Stars)
The Thermals' prior record -- their third -- got all kinds of acclaim, but it sounded to me just like the first two. It was good, but it was sparse, the production was thin in a way that seemed affected and the songs lacked variation. Here they sound full and organic, with a rave-up tone from the moment the rhythm section kicks in on "When I Died." The tunes are still a little same-y, but the album demands repeated listening nonetheless and makes it hard to sit still while it's on.

Superdrag / Industry Giants (Superdrag Sound Laboratories)
I've recently come to realize that Superdrag is probably my favorite band of the past 15 years, even though they didn't release anything between 2002 and 2009, and I've never seen them live. Based on my iTunes ratings, their debut is my favorite album of all time, and their third record is pretty high as well. This one follows in the footsteps of those two, putting forth more terrifically catchy and aggressive power-pop, with a fuzzy sheen laid on top. I was concerned that John Davis' alcohol-fueled evangelical turn would make a Superdrag reunion impossible or intolerable, but the God stuff is sparing and reasonable here.

Kid, You'll Move Mountains / Loomings (self-released)
Even though for some reason it's taken almost a year, I'm glad to see that this record is finally getting a little recognition. This hardworking group from northeastern Illinois/southeastern Wisconsin has created an emotionally driven and atmospheric indie rock album that rewards repeated listens. It is not surprisingly reminiscent of the last Troubled Hubble album (KYMM contains two former Hubbles), but it's more strident and gets a lot of mileage out of the addition of keys and boy/girl harmonies. The Chicago rock press is finally waking up to these guys and hopefully everybody else will soon.

The Prodigy / Invaders Must Die (Cooking Vinyl)
Wait, what? Who saw this coming? The Prodigy all but disappeared after helping spur the brief late-90s wave of electronica break over America, with just one middling album between then and this one. But the break helped, I guess, and they've put together an incredible succession of catchy rave-ups on this record. The opening/title track in particular is a superb, driving anthem, and even the seemingly mediocre cuts stick with you after a couple plays. I suppose if this is what one good album every 12 years sounds like I can't really complain.

Office / Mecca (self-released)
I'm not sure if it says more about me or the industry that two of my top five records this year are self-released efforts from Chicago-area bands, but there you go. This one is a giveaway in the digital format (with a for-cash LP also available), and the KYMM album was available for free for a while as well. Where that one is a beginning, this one may be an end, as the members of Office are now scattered all over the place. The sad result is that hearing these lush pop tunes live is not in the offing for the near future, or maybe ever. These songs are catchy as swine flu, though, and you can't beat the price.

Death Cab For Cutie / The Open Door EP (Atlantic)
As hectic as my 2009 was, I never got around to writing up my top albums of 2008. If I had, Death Cab's Narrow Stairs would've been in at #4 and I would've had all kinds of things to say about how it was their best album ever and a surprise after their dull major-label debut. This EP is maybe even more of a surprise -- enough so that it's the first EP to ever make my year-end list -- in that it's not just tossed-off junk. These songs fit the tone and quality of Narrow Stairs quite well, but don't necessarily fit into the album's cycle; they all would make great singles. The only questionable bit is the inclusion of an unnecessary acoustic take on "Talking Bird," which is not a terribly memorable song to begin with.

Fastball / Little White Lies (Megaforce)
The Prodigy, Superdrag, now Fastball -- it's like 1998 all over again in this list, and it's going to get even sillier a couple spots down. I guess as a result of major-label drama these guys have been pretty much AWOL all decade, but while in hibernation they streamlined their sound and came out with one of the best simple power-pop records in recent years. I remember thinking that All the Pain Money Can Buy contained a lot of great songwriting way back when, and that some of it was maybe obscured by the radio-friendly production. This album strongly supports that notion, slotting nicely into the guitar-pop axis that runs through the Beatles and Cheap Trick.

The Bird and the Bee / Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future (Blue Note)
As so often happens when I love a debut album, this follow-up disappointed me at first, then grew on me, then quickly stopped growing on me, bringing me to the conclusion that I like it but that it's not that great. Sometimes, as here, one song has a lot to do with it -- "Diamond Dave" is incredibly stupid, but too catchy to give up on. Much of the rest is solidly enjoyable, but nothing hits the beautiful heights of the self-titled debut. Terrific musicianship and Inara George's incredible voice go a long way, though.

311 / Uplifter (Volcano)
So yes, this. Having this record here is a lot like having the last Foo Fighters record in my 2007 list -- it's a solid batch of unspectacular rock radio tunes, enjoyable but not life-changing. The main difference is that I've been a big Foo fan since the first album (hell, since the first "Dave Grohl has a new project" story on MTV News, more accurately) and have never really cared about 311 one way or the other. But there's a lot of great, stupid party rock on display here, none of which I'll remember in six months.

Passion Pit / Manners (Frenchkiss)
What a weird record this is for me. Amid a cresting wave of blog bands that combine elements of electronica, folk, psychedelia and children's choirs -- all others of which I've detested -- comes this bunch of bleep-bloopers with a sickeningly catchy debut full-length. There's not a lot of middle ground here, either. The songs that hit, hit hard; the ones that don't just kind of mark time. The first two tracks, in particular, make a great, high-energy couplet to kick the album off.

Karmella's Game / You'll Be Sorry (Insubordination)
The debut EP from Karmella's Game is the highest-rated record on my iPod. It's a bracing burst of snotty synth-pop that they can probably never live up to on a full-length record. Their debut LP didn't do it, and neither does this one. In fact, on first listen I was kind of disappointed, despite liking most of these songs when I heard them live in 2008. But it says a lot for how good the band's style is that the album continually grew on me throughout the year and eventually got some pretty heavy rotation. It's the mark of a band with a lot of long-term potential, I think, and hopefully they'll get enough recognition soon for that to be the case.

White Rabbits / It's Frightening (TBD)
I didn't see Fort Nightly coming a couple years ago, and I didn't see the changes on this album coming either. This is a band with six guys in it -- six! -- and you'd never know by listening to this Britt Daniel-ized record. Even on stage, the thinning out of the band's sound is clear when they switch from older to newer songs. It actually works fairly well (though not as well as their debut), especially on Spoon-y songs like "They Done Wrong / We Done Wrong," but it's hard not to feel like something's being lost when the big noise isn't being brought. On the other hand, all that space gives Stephen Patterson's yelps a lot more room to set the mood.

Pearl Jam / Backspacer (Monkeywrench)
It's kind of a sad commentary that this is Pearl Jam's best work in over ten years. After three mediocre and meandering releases, they seem to have taken a page out of the R.E.M. book and trimmed a lot of musical fat. This is a streamlined rock record that doesn't fixate too much on flourishes or hooks, or give any attention to history. While the band's self-titled 2006 release seemed to try to reconcile everything the band had done over the past 15 years without regard to the moment, this is an album that works right now. It's not their best by quite a ways, but it's solid and enjoyable, and it sets the band back on the right track.

Jail / There's No Sky (Oh My My) (Decorated)
The last Jail (er, Jaill) release before their upcoming Sub Pop debut is their best on every measure -- songwriting, musicianship, production. It also hit at the perfect time, as their local fan base was cresting and the market for punchy guitar-pop was on the way up. It's hard to judge this record the same way I'd do for most others, because I've heard these songs live a zillion times and in nascent forms with various instrumentations, but maybe because of that it's easier to see how they benefited from a process of refinement. Without being overly slick, the songs are clean and catchy, and sound like they're starting to outgrow Milwaukee.

Anya Marina / Slow & Steady Seduction: Phase II (Chop Shop)
It seems like maybe once a year or so I look into an unknown opening act from a show that's coming up, enjoy their material, enjoy their set, and walk away feeling like I've got some new, obscure thing to keep an eye on. Several weeks later, usually in comments posted on my YouTube uploads, I discover that this obscure act has a song on TV and is suddenly caught by the hype machine. This year it was Anya Marina, whose sweet and sultry basement-pop made an ill-fitting but very charming start to the Virgins show we saw last February. She got a song onto How I Met Your Mother, so hopefully she'll be able to ride that to bigger and better things in the near future.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Music ... Permalink




Pictures from Testa Rosa's Summerfest set. Archie Powell and Spoon videos to come!

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Music ... Permalink




  1. The Spinto Band, Brown Boxes
  2. Karmella's Game, The End
  3. Northern Room, Black Light
  4. The Virgins, Rich Girls
  5. White Rabbits, Fox Hunting
  6. Bob Mould, See a Little Light
  7. The German Art Students, Damn the Digital
  8. Toadies, Tyler
  9. Vampire Weekend, A-Punk
  10. The Dials, Joe Lies
  11. National Beekeepers Society, Amputee
  12. Whatfor, I'm a Bummer
  13. Vancougar, Obvious
  14. The Heligoats, Been a Drill
  15. Testa Rosa, My Sin
  16. R.E.M., Electrolite
  17. 8889, It Takes All Kinds
  18. Jail, Always Wrong
  19. Evangelicals, Another Day
  20. Ra Ra Riot, Dying Is Fine
  21. Headlights, Towers
  22. The Bird and the Bee, I'm a Broken Heart
  23. Frightened Rabbit, The Modern Leper
  24. Margot & the Nuclear So and So's, Paper Kitten Nightmare
  25. The Dan Andreas Fault, Murder (Or a Heart Attack)
  26. The Whigs, Right Hand on My Heart
  27. The Bravery, This Is Not the End
  28. The Box Social, Having an Average Weekend
  29. The Gutter Twins, Circle the Fringes
  30. The Hold Steady, Slapped Actress

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Music ... Permalink




This may be the last year I do any of this year-end stuff. We're moving to Carbondale, IL, in August, and who knows what the music scene will be like down there. The podcast and DVD may be done as a result, and if so I imagine I'll just find something else to do with my time. Enjoy!

Disc One:
  1. The Hold Steady, "Constructive Summer"
  2. The Presidents of the United States of America, "Sharpen Up Those Fangs"
  3. Tokyo Police Club, "Tessellate"
  4. My Morning Jacket, "I'm Amazed"
  5. The Gutter Twins, "Idle Hands"
  6. Firewater, "Some Kind of Kindness"
  7. Black Mountain, "Evil Ways"
  8. The Audition, "Basbhat"
  9. The Hush Sound, "The Boys Are Too Refined"
  10. The Mountain Goats, "Lovecraft in Brooklyn"
  11. R.E.M., "Man-Sized Wreath"
  12. Young Knives, "Up All Night"
  13. The Jealous Sound, "Got Friends (John McGinnis Remix)"
  14. Gnarls Barkley, "Surprise"
  15. The Dials, "18"
  16. Be Your Own Pet, "Heart Throb"
  17. Foals, "Cassius"
  18. Cruiserweight, "Balboa"
  19. Chris Walla, "The Score"
  20. Whatfor, "Call That Girl"
  21. Frightened Rabbit, "Keep Yourself Warm"
  22. The Heligoats, "Are You Saying Yes?"
  23. The Bird and the Bee, "Tonight You Belong to Me"

Disc Two:

  1. Sleeping in the Aviary, "Write On"
  2. Nine Inch Nails, "1,000,000"
  3. La Scala, "Parallel Lives"
  4. Mason Proper, "Bone Men"
  5. Mystery Jets, "Veiled in Grey"
  6. The Whigs, "1000 Wives"
  7. The Black Keys, "Things Ain't Like They Used to Be"
  8. Pale Young Gentlemen, "The Crook of My Good Arm"
  9. Does It Offend You, Yeah?, "We Are Rockstars"
  10. We Are Scientists, "Let's See It"
  11. Mates of State, "Now"
  12. Juliana Hatfield, "Just Lust"
  13. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, "Think I Wanna Die"
  14. Vampire Weekend, "Walcott"
  15. The Spinto Band, "The Black Flag"
  16. The German Art Students, "Pompeii"
  17. Ludo, "Go-Getter Greg"
  18. Zox, "Another Attack"
  19. Nada Surf, "I Like What You Say"
  20. Death Cab For Cutie, "Long Division"
  21. Vancougar, "Philadelphia"
  22. Feist, "Please Be Patient"
  23. Headlights, "Get Your Head Around It"

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Music ... Permalink




With the podcast in a lull and needing an occasional distraction from job applications and interviewing, I've decided to jump from a recent discussion at the Isthmus forum and figure out what my favorite song is. Naturally, I'm doing so in a series of head-to-head competitions that I will blog about. You can follow it (and read the longer explanation) here.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Administration ... Music ... Permalink




All right, so Muxtape is fixed, and here it is. This first one has got some of my favorites from 2008 releases. I'll probably not update it that frequently, certainly not more than once a month, but I'll be sure to post when I do.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Music ... Permalink




A couple weeks ago I posted a set of some of my favorite tracks from the year to the growing-in-popularity Muxtape, then promptly forgot about it and never posted it here. And in the meantime, their site blew up, causing the stuff I'd uploaded to disappear. Oh well; I'll be putting a new one up this week and hopefully will remember to post it afterwards.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Music ... Permalink




New album from the Hold Steady, Stay Positive, has leaked about two months in advance of its release date. I'm only two-thirds of the way through, but it sounds big and I can't wait to see them this summer.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Music ... Permalink




One of the dudes from Awesome Car Funmaker dropped off a copy of their new record, E For Everyone, for me last week and I've been listening to it on and off since then. It's a step forward for them -- I'd have to go check the notes for their last record to see, but this one sounds like maybe a step up in how it was recorded and produced.

It's also more focused musically. There's still a fair amount of the wild energy of their previous records on their live shows here -- how could there not be with a song called "Awesome Car Funmaker Safari"? -- but there are also some milder, more thoughtful numbers. Despite the increased variety, everything flows pretty well and it's a record with a lot to offer.

If you want to check out the new material, the big CD release show is Thursday night at the High Noon. I'll be in New Orleans for a conference most of this week so I have to miss it, but everyone else should go and support the local scene -- along with ACF, Madison favorites the Selfish Gene will be playing.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Music ... Permalink




I assume we ought to be seeing some sort of genre-focused Rock Band off-shoot at some point, in the spirit of Guitar Hero: Rock the 80's and the upcoming Aerosmith version of GH. I would like to suggest an indie rock set. Imagine rocking through these with two or three of your hipster friends:

  • The Hold Steady, "Stuck Between Stations"
  • Motion City Soundtrack, "The Future Freaks Me Out"
  • Liz Phair, "Supernova"
  • The White Stripes, "Fell in Love With a Girl"
  • The Violent Femmes, "Blister in the Sun"


  • Broken Social Scene, "7/4 (Shoreline)"
  • Death From Above 1979, "Romantic Rights"
  • Hot Hot Heat, "Bandages"
  • The Arcade Fire, "Keep the Car Running"
  • Tokyo Police Club, "Your English Is Good"

Washington, DC:

  • The Dismemberment Plan, "The Ice of Boston"
  • Ted Leo/Pharmacists, "Tell Balgeary, Balgury Is Dead"
  • Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, "The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth"
  • Interpol, "Evil"
  • We Are Scientists, "Nobody Move Nobody Get Hurt"


  • Spoon, "Sister Jack"
  • Cake, "Short Skirt/Long Jacket"
  • Death Cab For Cutie, "The New Year"
  • The Get Up Kids, "Action and Action"
  • Rilo Kiley, "Portions For Foxes"

It would be the awesomest thing ever, I suspect.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Music ... Technophunk ... Permalink




For the first couple years of the podcast, I got maybe three requests from publicity people to do this or that, and I think only one of them involved going to a live show. The others were essentially cold e-mail requests to review or talk about some record I'd never heard of, interview some band I'd never heard of, etc. This is not what I do, clearly; I post videos from live shows and, to a lesser extent, talk about local music. In addition to that, my interests fit into a pretty identifiable set of genres -- in other words, I am not interested in interviewing the Fresno bluegrass band that you represent.

Somehow, these requests have suddenly spiked in the last few months. Perhaps somebody's compiled a new list of "music bloggers" to seek out and they've got me on it; whatever it is, most of the requests are the same old thing and I've ignored them. But I've also gotten some requests from people who seemed to have paid attention to my format and my interests, and those I've taken up. The upshot of this is that some bands are now keeping me up to date about their Madison-related tour plans, and others are sending me free stuff. Indeed, I got put on the list for the German Art Students/Wrong Ways show I'm posting about this week (thanks, Kirk!). I say all this by way of getting to Northern Room, a Milwaukee band who sent me a copy of their album, Last Embrace.

First of all, it doesn't sound like Milwaukee. The scene there is kind of dirty and ramshackle, living in basements and divey venues like the Cactus Club; these guys are shiny, which might explain why they're on a Japanese label. This was the route taken by their fellow non-dirty Milwaukeeans in Maritime with their second record, so they're in good company to be sure. Nonetheless, the only simple way for Americans to get the album is to get it from the band themselves.

It's got a strongly anthemic sound and it's worth checking out, or at least checking the band out live. They remind me more of Mute Math than anybody else, but there's also a clear mid-period Coldplay or Joshua Tree vibe in there. Opener "We're on Fire" and "Dutch Radio" probably embody this amalgamation most clearly, though the influences are clear throughout the tapestry of bright tones that makes up the album. It's not life-changing and I don't think I'd travel just to see them, but I'll probably give them a look the next time they play Madison. I think they could fit well here given the recent local development of bands like Paris, Texas and System and Station, and the tendency for the Madison scene to go for melodic pop. I'd love to see more Madison-Milwaukee crossover anyway, so hopefully they'll be stopping over soon.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Administration ... Music ... Permalink




White Rabbits / Fort Nightly
Say Hey

We saw White Rabbits play an early-evening show this summer and I couldn't believe I wasn't seeing a band that had been at the top of their game for a decade. Not only is their songwriting strong, but their tight musicianship and ability to play as a group belie their beginnings just a few years ago at the University of Missouri. For once, this is a Pitchfork-hyped band that I really want to see succeed, and I never thought I'd say that about an act that seems to derive from the impulse to write indie rock sea shanties.

From the beginning, the band uses the bass end of the piano and a set of sing-along choruses to draw you in. Having multiple vocalists and multiple drummers allows the opening double-shot of "Kid on My Shoulders" and "The Plot" to get things off to a raging start. With the melody being driven by two guitars and a piano, it's a thicker sound than you would expect, almost Spector-like at times. The next few tracks introduce a rhythmic swagger to the album, leading up to the pounding drums that open "I Used to Complain Now I Don't." Everything is brought to a head on the tropical, bouncy closer, "Tourist Trap," which sounds transitional as much as anything else. They've got more to say, clearly; their Daytrotter session features two unreleased originals and a cover, and their current live set has more new material in it. As good as they sound and as green as they are, I expect this is a band we'll be paying a lot of attention to over the next few years.

Watch "I Used to Complain Now I Don't," live in Madison, WI

Click to read more

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Music ... Permalink




Instead of actually producing CD's this year, I did my best-of mix as a set of MP3's included on my year-end DVD. But despite the fact that this could have allowed me to just include as many tracks as I wanted, for whatever reason I still restricted it to two CD's worth of time, mixed it out, etc. In a nice show of what's happened to the music industry in the past few years, all but one of these 44 tracks are available via the iTunes store -- the missing one is from a now-defunct local band, though the other now-defunct local band managed to get their stuff online. When compiling the links for the songs, I was surprised to find how many of them also had videos available at the store -- this year's version may, be sheer coincidence, have more actual singles on it than any other edition.

Disc One:
  1. White Rabbits, "The Plot"
  2. Modest Mouse, "Dashboard"
  3. The Noisettes, "Scratch Your Name"
  4. The Box Social, "kcmo"
  5. Rooney, "I Should Have Been After You"
  6. Kaiser Chiefs, "Ruby"
  7. Robbers on High Street, "Across Your Knee"
  8. Eisley, "Taking Control"
  9. Motion City Soundtrack, "It Had to Be You"
  10. Idlewild, "No Emotion"
  11. Immaculate Machine, "Nothing Ever Happens"
  12. Locksley, "Don't Make Me Wait"
  13. Testa Rosa, "Ollie & Delilah"
  14. The Bird and the Bee, "La La La"
  15. The Icicles, "Chasing Fireflies"
  16. The Apples in Stereo, "Sunndal Song"
  17. The Super Eights, "If You're From Illinois"
  18. Pale Young Gentlemen, "Clap Your Hands"
  19. Dinosaur Jr., "This Is All I Came to Do"
  20. Maritime, "Pearl"
  21. Bloc Party, "Song For Clay (Disappear Here)"
  22. Nine Inch Nails, "The Great Destroyer"

Disc Two:

  1. Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer, "I'm a Rock and Roll Mess"
  2. Dethklok, "Better Metal Snake"
  3. Yourcodenameis:Milo, "Understand"
  4. Foo Fighters, "Long Road to Ruin"
  5. Baby Teeth, "Taste the Wine"
  6. The New Pornographers, "Mutiny, I Promise You"
  7. The Rentals, "Little Bit of You in Everything"
  8. The Brunettes, "If You Were Alien"
  9. Bishop Allen, "Corazon"
  10. The National, "Slow Show"
  11. Minipop, "Ask Me a Question"
  12. The Eames Era, "Dear Gabby"
  13. Of Montreal, "Gronlandic Edit"
  14. Dolores O'Riordan, "In the Garden"
  15. 1997, "Garden of Evil"
  16. The Cacti Hi-Fi, "Texas"
  17. Arctic Monkeys, "Fluorescent Adolescent"
  18. Spoon, "You Got Yr Cherry Bomb"
  19. Sleeping in the Aviary, "Pop Song"
  20. Kristin Hersh, "In Shock"
  21. Kaddisfly, "Campfire"
  22. Piebald, "We Cannot Read Poetry"

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Music ... Permalink




  1. Cake, Rock 'n' Roll Lifestyle
  2. Baby Teeth, Intolerable
  3. The Hush Sound, Lions Roar
  4. The Brunettes, Brunettes Against Bubblegum Youth
  5. Matt and Kim, Yea Yeah
  6. Sleeping in the Aviary, No Socks
  7. Kid, You'll Move Mountains, Old Trust in Young Youth
  8. The Apples in Stereo, 7 Stars
  9. The Villains of Verona, Debut
  10. Pale Young Gentlemen, Me & Nikolai
  11. Eisley, Go Away
  12. Minipop, Like I Do
  13. Heligoats, Movieguns
  14. Stars of Track and Field, Exit the Recital
  15. Testa Rosa, Weather Underground
  16. The Long Winters, The Commander Thinks Aloud
  17. The German Art Students, Civil War Reenactor
  18. OK Go, Don't Bring Me Down
  19. System and Station, Honesty
  20. Bound Stems, Refuse the Refuse
  21. The Box Social, Pay Attention
  22. The Hold Steady, Chillout Tent
  23. White Rabbits, Sea of Rum
  24. Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer, Can't Stand It
  25. Apparently Nothing, Reason For Leaving
  26. Maritime, Hours That You Keep
  27. Locksley, Why Not Me
  28. Jail, New Noise
  29. Robbers on High Street, Love Underground
  30. The Flaming Lips, Ta Da / Race For the Prize

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Music ... Permalink




A couple of friends' new band, the Dan Andreas Fault, will play their first show next Tuesday at the King Club. They're opening for the Attack Ponies, showtime is at 10:00. They're supposedly kind of Wilco-ish, though obviously I haven't heard them yet. Still, I'll be there and you should too.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Around Madison ... Music ... Permalink




At Muzzle of Bees, Ryan is talking about R.E.M.'s New Adventures in Hi-Fi, and it's got me thinking about the sudden and precipitous crash of "alternative rock" wave in 1996. It's one of many releases from that year to portend doom and disappearance for major bands of the era and the sounds they represented. Hi-Fi was the last R.E.M. record with Bill Berry, and by 1998 they'd moved onto the lusher, more mature, extra-boring sound of their current style. Weezer released Pinkerton, the critical reaction to which put Rivers Cuomo off being in a band for years. Soundgarden put out their most accessible pop record, and promptly broke up. Alice in Chains and Nirvana put out their (so far) last non-compilation releases, both live records. Presidents of the United States of America released a too-polished follow-up to their quirky debut and found themselves thinking being a full-time band was no longer worth it. Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots both, for the first time, released records that got ignored. I absolutely didn't see it at the time, but the upheaval that went on in my musical world that year was astonishing.

Also, I'd like to note that OK Go's cover of "Gigantic" on the latest Pixies tribute album is oddly fascinating. It's not "good," per se, but there is a quality to it. Maybe I just can't not love that song. Please, come back to us, Kim Deal.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Music ... Permalink




So we went to see what was billed as a live Dethklok show on Wednesday, but didn't really have any idea what it would actually be -- the promotion was unclear, and various claims found online all differed on key points. Still, the show was free, ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead were opening, so what's not to like?

Well, the Majestic Theatre, for one thing. This was my first show there -- I'd been there for a dance club night years ago -- and I was really unimpressed. The acoustics are horrible. The only place in the balcony where you can see the stage is right on the railing. The fucking house lights were on throughout the Trail of Dead set and partially during the Dethklok set, despite the stunning lack of stage lights. From my perspective it's the worst venue in Madison, and it's not even close.

The show itself was much different than the other sponsored free shows we've gone to lately. There wasn't much brand-pushing from the stage -- just a Guitar Hero III contest-winner thing at the intermission -- but there was a screen hanging down at the front of the stage with ads playing on it. This was fine, I thought -- totally ignorable, not a big deal, except they kept the screen in place during the Trail of Dead set, obscuring most of what little view we had from the balcony. It wasn't running ads, just cycling through Trail of Dead album art. That, plus the awful lighting, plus the muddy acoustics, plus the huge security presence, meant it made little sense to try to record anything. However, Trail of Dead were really great. I saw them two years ago on a frigid Party in the Park afternoon and they were really bad; it must have just been the weather, because they put on a tight, fun set and reminded me of why I liked Worlds Apart so much.

So then, Dethklok. The music was played by Brendon Small and a live band, with an ongoing story -- essentially a new episode interspersed with music videos -- playing on the screen above them. It was pretty good stuff, and I'd expect it will get released on DVD at some point (there was a notice indicating as much when we walked in the door). The bit for "Murmaider" was probably the best of what we saw -- three gorey, hand-to-hand murderfests between mermaids and some other undersea creatures -- but we left probably halfway through because it was a touch repetitious and we were a touch tired. As much fun as the show is, even in DVD marathon form, it doesn't have the kind of stories that hold up for more than 10 minutes or so.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Around Madison ... Music ... Permalink




Since I'm still not going to have any videos to post for another week, and I can't quite get my brain around the boneheaded moves happening in the Obama campaign, I thought I'd finally get around to posting some Vancouver trip round-up.

Instead of flying into Vancouver, we were able to save some money by flying to Seattle and renting a car to drive up. Neither of us had ever been to Washington before, so we spent the afternoon of our arrival poking around the campus area and visiting an indie craft store that Emily wanted to check out. The thing that really struck me about Seattle was how much more foreign it seemed than every other big city visited recently. To a certain extent, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, New York, Boston, San Francisco, etc., all have a very similar feel to me, where the only variable is magnitude. The woody and mountainous geography around Puget Sound really made me feel like we'd gone somewhere new, as did the kind of odd traffic idiosyncrasies.

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posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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We just got back from seeing Karmella's Game at the Annex, and I unfortunately won't have any footage of it to post next week. Despite the fact that I seemed to have fully charged my camera this afternoon, it wouldn't turn on when we got there, but was fine when I put it back on the charger at home; it now claims to be charging again, but we'll see. I hope it will be fine for the SoCo™ Music™ Experience™ next weekend.

The last time I saw Karmella's Game I also couldn't record them, coincidentally, because it was in the darkened Corral Room and my old camera couldn't handle the low light. At that show the room was packed, which was not quite the case tonight. As far as I could tell, Emily and I were the only civilians there. Del Monte Carlo of Mad Trucker Gone Mad was there with his ladyfriend, and during the set a few other people went in and out, but I think they may also have been from other bands on the bill. Supposedly the word had gone out that the show started at 10:00, not 9:30, although 9:30 was all I'd heard. When we walked in at about ten after 9:00, all the house lights were on and there was nobody at the door. For about fifteen minutes, we sat in the fully lit main room of the Annex wondering if we were secretly an hour early.

Their set was pretty hot, especially considering they were playing for four people and I was the only one who knew their material. Most of what they played was new, apart from one of my favorites from their debut LP and maybe one of the tracks I skip on the album. The new stuff sounded excellent, and I hope they're on track to release it soon.

In other tech trouble news, some crazy shenanigans happened while recording the German Art Students last week, and I only have complete audio for one of the three songs I recorded. These are the hazards of shooting without a monitor, extra batteries and the other comforts of legitimate recording, I guess.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Around Madison ... Music ... Permalink




Well, Rilo Kiley fuckin' grew up. Under the Blacklight is mature, progressive and boring. Alas. If the new Zolof record is also lacking in juvenilia I shall be in quite a mood, let me tell you.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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Friday of next week, a Boston band called The Campaign For Real-Time will be playing a show at the Middle East, which I would like to go to (I may be otherwise engaged, but for the purposes of this quandry, let's assume I'm going). A while back, I downloaded one of their songs from the Boston Phoenix website, and subsequently downloaded their whole album via BitTorrent. It was good, but not great -- enough so that I'd want to see them, but probably not enough so that I'd want to buy it, particularly in a world where I check out tons and tons of new records.

However, I saw a copy of the album in a used record shop yesterday for $3 and thought about buying it. While I didn't like it enough to pay, say, $12 or whatever the retail price might be, I did like it a quarter of that much. But if I pay $3 to this used record store, the band gets nothing, which sort of defeats the moral purpose of upgrading my unauthorized download to a "legitimate" CD. So would it make more sense to go to the show and pay (probably) $10 directly to the band for a new copy of the CD, thereby fulfilling the moral aspect of supporting the band (which I care about) as well as the legal aspect of owning the CD (which I don't), even though I'm apparently paying three times what I think the album is worth to me? I suspect the better choice on the merits is buying it from the band.


This leads me to actually feel generally supported in my usual method of downloading records and going to a lot of live shows, the reason being that if supporting the band is really the point, going to shows is a better, more direct way of doing it than buying records in most cases (with the exceptions being sometimes that buying records from merch tables gets more money into the band's hands, and that self-released albums don't involve shady record industry people). But in the case of records that are just good -- the band's worth seeing live, but the record's not worth paying $10-15 for -- there's more moral worth in paying a cover than in giving them maybe 10-15% of the cost of the CD.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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The Long Winters
Putting the Days to Bed

The Hold Steady
Boys and Girls in America

I'm a compulsive list-maker by nature, and a strict one when it comes to these end of the year lists. So deciding to name co-#1's took a lot of going back and forth between these two albums. Ultimately it was realizing their surprising similarities and one big difference that led me to list them this way.

The Long Winters made my favorite power-pop record of a crowded 2003 with When I Pretend to Fall, and they take it a step further on this one. I was a little worried when I heard the stop-gap Ultimatum EP because it was all acoustic and slowed-down, but the title track appears on this album as one of several rollicking barnstormers late in the set. "Ultimatum," "Rich Wife" and "(It's a) Departure" all push farther into the territory of straight-up guitar rock than any of their previous material has.

Earlier in the album, they run over a wide swath of the power-pop genre, with tracks such as "Pushover," the opener; "Honest," a paean to the attractiveness of the fake connection between a singer and an audience; and particularly "Sky Is Open," a bright piece of key and guitar pop that rivals any of the upbeat material produced by the likes of former labelmates Death Cab For Cutie.

I noted recently the crazy money I'd be willing to pay to see these guys live, and the reality of it turned out to be at least $13. But for as great as this record is, I'm skeptical about what kind of staying power it's going to have. It is a pop record, first and foremost, and pop is nothing if not disposable. The reason I ultimately had to give the Hold Steady the #1A slot instead of #2 is that I think Boys and Girls in America is going to be around for a while.

This is not to say that it's not also a pop record -- in some ways its tunnelvisionary's focus on parties, drugs, girls and adolescent loss make it even more pop than Putting the Days to Bed. But along with its essential pop nature, this is a genre watershed album. The Hold Steady's last album was an unlikely success -- Springsteenian and Mellencampy bar rock seems an odd appeal for the 2005 indie scene that feted Andrew Bird, Sufjan Stevens and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah -- that could have set them up to crash this time out. They moved to a big name indie label with a major label distribution deal, they started playing more theaters and fewer clubs and they played on network TV before midnight on the east coast. And the material was not just enough to support those changes, it demanded them.

There are a million reasons why this comparison is not strictly apt, but it's an album that reminds me a lot of Nirvana's Nevermind -- a much-loved indie band takes the next step up and manages to deliver an amazingly catchy record with mainstream appeal, but without toning themselves down at all. As I said previously, the first three tracks of this album could sell a million records if only the general public got to hear them. Anyone who ever grew up switching between Springsteen and the Replacements, all the kids that grew up in Chicago and Detroit and the Twin Cities in the last 20 years, and scores of others who just know what it's like. Everybody who's ever walked through a winter day with a headful of static, waiting for the massive night to come. Everybody who's ever stuck with a dirty scene to make him like you. Everybody who's ever partied and settled and run away and wanted a fake kiss to be real. We'll all be feeling this one for a long time to come.

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posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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The first segment of my documentary of the Box Social's first LP recording process is now up on YouTube:

Three more parts to come. The whole thing can be seen throughout May on WYOU (cable channel 4 in Madison) at 10:30pm on Saturdays and 3:30am on Mondays.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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I'll have video of last night's Long Winters show going up next week, but I just want to note in the immediate aftermath of it that it was the most awesome show we've seen in ages, and I imagine it'll wind up being the highlight of the year. Could I have an undisputed favorite band for the first time since Everclear went to shit? Maybe.

In other news, I'm shocked to find that the solo debut from Dolores O'Riordan of the Cranberries seems to be really good. The last two Cranberries albums were awful, but give her a few decent songs and her amazing voice does the rest of the work.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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We went to see a free OK Go event at the High Noon last night, put on by Jack Daniel's. This is the second or third such event they've put on in Madison -- they did one with the New Pornographers last year, and there was a Spoon show in 2005 that might've been them too. It was a good show, but I'll have more to say on that when the videos go up next week.

What really intrigues me is this: How can this possibly be a profitable marketing strategy for Jack Daniel's? Allow me to describe the extravagance of the evening. The High Noon holds 400 people -- including staff and roughly 100 VIPs, Jack Daniel's and Isthmus, the local sponsor, had 250 tickets to give away by random drawing. We won two sets of two, but that's probably not a good indicator of how many people's contact info they got for future spamming. We also opted out of future spam, as I imagine most entrants would have.

In exchange for gathering these e-mail addresses, Jack Daniel's paid (in whole or in part) for: rental of the High Noon with full staff and with only Jack drinks available at the bar (and only Jack bottles on display), two free drink tickets for everybody in the building, OK Go to play a show with no gate and only a tiny merch area, local act Cats Not Dogs to open, a Peavey guitar as a door prize, an assload of t-shirts with all the dates on the Jack Daniel's tour on the back (about 30, with ours listed as "Madison, IN"), a smaller pile of t-shirts with "Madison" and "March 13" specifically on them, a huge pile of hors d'oeurves, tons of Jack-branded 1" buttons (some with "Madison" on), tons of Jack-branded guitar picks, many sets of Jack-branded drumsticks, Jack-branded regular pens, Jack-branded light-up pens, a searchlight and air-compressor-powered inflatable Jack bottle outside, and the loathsome "Jack Daniel's girls." Probably also some other giveaway trinkets that I'm forgetting. Also, custom Polaroid film, such as that seen above, which I imagine is the only way Polaroid can sell film anymore.

The Jack Daniel's marketing team I'm sure has a good explanation for all of this: They're trying to cement brand loyalty among young consumers and become the liquor of choice among, if not hipsters, than at least yupsters. They also have a couple new malt beverages to push (which, FYI, are horrible), so putting some freebies in the hands of the cool kids might be a good idea, assuming they have confidence in their product. Looking around the room, though, you'd be hard pressed to find the kind of people they wanted. If there's a market out there looking to get hooked on the PBR of whiskeys, it's not going to show up at an OK Go show at the High Noon Saloon.

More likely, the real reason this event happened (and why it will happen again, presumably) is that the marketing industry is a house of cards, which everyone's actions dependent on nothing so much as their perceptions of their competitor's actions. They may not actually gain anything in terms of sales or market share following this spending spree, but sweet Christ, think of what might've happened if they hadn't done this! Maker's Mark would be eating them alive!

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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MUSIC IN 2006: 45 POPS.

Dig it:

Disc 1:

  1. The M's, "Plan of the Man" (from Future Women)
  2. Rainer Maria, "Life of Leisure" (from Catastrophe Keeps Us Together)
  3. Molitor, "Photogenic" (from Sometimes I Get Like This)
  4. Centro-matic, "Monument Sails" (from Fort Recovery)
  5. The Apparitions, "Arrhythmia" (from As This Is Futuristic)
  6. The Raconteurs, "Level" (from Broken Boy Soldiers)
  7. Arctic Monkeys, "The View From the Afternoon" (from Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not)
  8. The Black Keys, "Just Got to Be" (from Magic Potion)
  9. The Plastic Constellations, "Sancho Panza" (from Crusades)
  10. New London Fire, "Different" (from I Sing the Body Holographic)
  11. Scanners, "Raw" (from Violence Is Golden)
  12. Awesome Car Funmaker, "Soil" (from Of Lovers and Monsters)
  13. New Grenada, "Borderline Cougar" (from Modern Problems)
  14. Jill Sobule, "Put Him in the Hall of Fame" (from
  15. Nellie McKay, "Long & Lazy River" (from Pretty Little Head)
  16. Head Automatica, "Oxy Contin" (from Popaganda)
  17. Starlight Mints, "Rosemarie" (from Drowaton)
  18. The Long Winters, "(It's A) Departure" (from Putting the Days to Bed)
  19. The Hold Steady, "You Can Make Him Like You" (from Boys and Girls in America)
  20. The Hush Sound, "Sweet Tangerine" (from Like Vines)
  21. Some Girls, "He's on Drugs Again" (from Crushing Love)
  22. Angels & Airwaves, "Valkyrie Missile" (from We Don't Need to Whisper)
  23. Margot & the Nuclear So and So's, "Paper Kitten Nightmare" (from The Dust of Retreat)

Disc 2:

  1. Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders, "Louise" (from Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders)
  2. Portastatic, "You Blanks" (from Be Still Please)
  3. The New Kentucky Quarter, "Carry It Around" (from Carry It Around)
  4. We Are Scientists, "The Great Escape" (from With Love and Squalor)
  5. The Willis, "Jimmy Fallon: The Plan" (from Bathtub, Lightbulb, Heartattack)
  6. Thunderbirds Are Now!, "Sound Issues/Smart Ideas" (from Make History)
  7. Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins, "You Are What You Love" (from Rabbit Fur Coat)
  8. The Essex Green, "Don't Know Why (You Stay)" (from Cannibal Sea)
  9. Persephone's Bees, "Way to Your Heart" (from Notes From the Underworld)
  10. Karmella's Game, "A Lullabye" (from The Art of Distraction)
  11. Mates of State, "So Many Ways" (from Bring It Back)
  12. Channels, "To the New Mandarins" (from Waiting For the Next End of the World)
  13. NOFX, "Seeing Double at the Triple Rock" (from Wolves in Wolves' Clothing)
  14. The Gossip, "Standing in the Way of Control" (from Standing in the Way of Control)
  15. The Killers, "Bones" (from Sam's Town)
  16. The Life and Times, "Ave Maria" (from The Magician)
  17. System and Station, "When You're the Witness" (from Here Is Now)
  18. The Appleseed Cast, "Here We Are (Family in the Hallways)" (from Peregrine)
  19. Men Women & Children, "Lightning Strikes Twice in New York" (from Men Women & Children)
  20. Incubus, "Rogues" (from Light Grenades)
  21. Neil Young, "Let's Impeach the President" (from Living With War)
  22. 1090 Club, "Business End" (from Shipwrecked on Shores)

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Music ... Permalink




I can't stop listening to the Hold Steady's Boys and Girls in America. I don't know if it's going to wind up at the top of my best of 2006 list (though it's certainly a contender) but goddamn if it's not all over the top of my best of November 2006 list. They've played the lead single -- "Chips Ahoy!" -- on TV already and they are riding high in the world of the indie rock blogosphere, but I fear there is simply no longer a major market for an album like this, which is the artistic equal to Born in the USA, among others. This is a record that could sell to huge segments of the under-50 population, if only they had a way to hear the fucker. Vagrant Records could make a million dollars by sending CD-R's with the first three tracks to every house in America.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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I don't know if the Long Winters have ever played Madison or if they ever will in the future, but I don't want to imagine how much I'd pay to see them if they came tomorrow. With their last two records -- the new Putting the Days to Bed and 2003's When I Pretend to Fall -- they have made perhaps a perfect power-pop couplet and gone where Death Cab really should have a couple records ago. To be honest, I think the only reason they're not getting the kind of attention lavished upon the New Pornographers is that they don't have a Neko Case. Their cheery songs -- even when the lyrics are downbeat -- are both energizing and day-brightening, and singer/songwriter John Roderick's approach to writing about nostalgia and music has a wicked sneer that belies his Jerry Garcia-like visage. Probably my favorite song on the new album is "(It's A) Departure" (though "Rich Wife" and "The Sky Is Open" are close), which contains these lines:

I like the old days
But not all the old days
Only the good! old! days!

It's a nice acknowledgment of Roderick's own awareness of where the style comes from and where he's placed himself in the cultural continuum. Like the last couple Portastatic records, it's the sound of a middle-aged guy's young man's reaction to whatever happened to us all since the young folks took over again in the early 1990s.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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So, the podcast is on a hiatus. I haven't been to any shows lately, and I've been working on the DVD and another project that's not quite ready to talk about yet. I figure I've been doing this every week for a little over a year now, I might as well go on break. I'll be posting clips from the Madison Pop Fest next month, but that'll probably be it until the new year.

Meanwhile, one of the shows I ended up not seeing recently was Portastatic while we were in Chicago last weekend, owing mainly to sleep and fatigue. The new album, Be Still Please, is growing on me the same gradual way the last one did, except for the one song that's just lodged itself in my head. "You Blanks" choruses on an amazing encapsulation of what the last six years have meant for at least half the country:

All my songs used to end the same way
"Everything's gonna be OK"
You fuckers made that impossible to say

It's not enough that we've lost 7,000+ people and something like half a trillion dollars, our moral standing and our national character. We've had hope taken from us. We are desperate and gasping, hoarse from screams that never end. In six years (or maybe a little over eight or twelve) the lights of a thousand new dreams have died, and it's horrible. Some of us have learned to close our eyes and wait until daddy says it's OK. The rest of us have stood and gotten punched in the gut by the machine that killed John Henry, and there's no end in sight.

Mac McCaughan's last band's last album came out on September 18, 2001, and on a song called "Phone Sex" contained these lyrics: "Plane crash footage on TV/I know, I know that could be me." It's ironic that on Be Still Please McCaughan writes in less literal terms about the event that "Phone Sex" only coincidentally references. What he's writing isn't really protest music, but what he and the rest of us are doing isn't really protesting. We're all becoming, and it's up to the next few years to tell us what.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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Sad news:

The end of 2006 will also bring the end of Rainer Maria, as the long-running band announced today that they will call it quits after two final shows, taking place December 15 and December 16 at Philadelphia's First Unitarian Church and New York City's Bowery Ballroom. Singer/bassist Caithlin De Marrais, guitarist Kyle Fischer, and drummer William Kuehn released the following statement:

"We are grateful to our new listeners and especially our longtime fans for their endless support and attention. We feel incredibly fortunate to have come up during a unique time in rock music, in a community that grew with us from the Midwest to Brooklyn and beyond. Making records has always been a revelation, and walking onto stage together we found a vision we could share.

"For us, this transition can be nothing short of heartbreaking. But for reasons both musical and personal, the three of us have chosen this time to move on."

Is Maritime now America's best band? Possibly.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Music ... Permalink




A couple weeks ago, Isthmus put on a live showcase for its Madison Music Project, featuring four local acts at the High Noon Saloon, and hired me to produce some online videos of the show. The first, featuring Sean Michael Dargan and his band, is up today at and the others will be rolled out on Wednesdays to come.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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The Gomers with Aaron Veenstra

"Let's Stay Together" (21.8 MB)

Live at
High Noon Saloon
Madison, WI
June 20, 2006

It's my birthday today, so I've put the last We Are Scientists clip on hold in order to bring you this potentially embarassing bonus feature. Last week my dad was in town, and we all went to the High Noon Saloon's weekly "Gomeroke" night. Every Tuesday night, this band called the Gomers plays a live karaoke show with a catalog of about 1200 songs. You head up to the stage, tell them your song, they play, you sing. The one hang-up for a person like myself is that their catalog has a steep drop-off after 1990. There are maybe half a dozen songs I'd be comfortable enough with to sing on stage, and most of those don't strike me as very interesting performance songs -- e.g., old Pearl Jam singles.

Owing to Pulp Fiction, "Let's Stay Together" was by far and away the best choice for me to sing. I also brought with me the lyrics to "Black Hole Sun" and "Alison," but those were distant second and third choices. This was the first time we've done Gomeroke, and I think this song went pretty well. Later on in the evening, after quite a number of drinks, I went up to sing "Baba O'Riley" with my dad doing the Pete Townshend bit, and we destroyed it -- as it turns out, I actually don't really know how it goes after the first verse. So, this piece of advice for any would-be Gomerokers: Knowing one verse or the chorus does not mean you know the song. In fact, if you're not sure you know the song, you don't, and you shouldn't try to sing it in front of an audience.

(BTW, this clip isn't in the actual podcast feed, so you'll have to use the download link to get it.)

[technorati tags: madison live music gomers karaoke]

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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I try to avoid posts about random things that happen to annoy me, but I've simply gotten to critical mass with descriptions of indie bands that go out of their way to not describe the bands. To wit, this blurb about Spain Colored Orange:

Grant me this disclaimer: no review (written or oral) can adequately describe the explosion of energy and passion on the latest EP by Spain Colored Orange. Hopelessly Incapable of Standing in the Way is a phenomenal collection of magnetic, multi-instrumental, majestically mashed-up Latin jazz, bar pop, and psychedelic bedroom balladry. Over its 33 minutes, the EP stimulates the feet, fingers, and feelings of listeners with remarkable shifts in style and tone that never sound overdone.

Or this, about Trace Bundy:

Trace Bundy is an innovative instrumental acoustic guitar player who lives and performs in Boulder, CO. He has been playing for over 15 years, and has developed an amazing and complex style. He is constantly coming up with new innovative ways to stretch the limits of the acoustic guitar. You must watch him play to understand what this means. "

That doesn't really describe it very well.

How about Time in Malta?

How the fuck can Time In Malta create all these things at once? I asked myself. And I know the reviewer credo. Try to throw out something to explain what the hell it is we are listening to. It happens all the time, as bands baffle our musical experiences, and leave us awkward for words. So upon hearing the variety of descriptive summations with regard to ‘Construct and Demolish’, I was sure that it was the personal tastes of individual reviewers attempting to shape the band to fit a personal comfort zone. By no means could this band baffle the literary press with some deeply personal connection to the music. Well, did I fucking choke on that idea. Slap another layer in that mistake sandwich I’ve been whipping up for a while now. Because in the most abstract of ways, the reviewing forefathers were all correct. Time In Malta are perfection in musical bridging that defies the ability for straight classification.

Dude, no. It sounds like somebody or something, even if it doesn't sound exactly like anything else. Figure it out or don't write about it, fools.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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Let's take a quick look at the music of the year thus far, shall we?

Nothing has leapt out at me as a great record yet in 2006, but four good ones have gotten more frequent play than the rest. The closest thing to a breakout band of the year is We Are Scientists, whose debut LP, With Love and Squalor, sounds at times like a tongue-in-cheek appropriation of Interpol. They've produced a really cohesive record with a number of good-to-great songs that are interspersed with the bad songs in the worst possible way. The tone of the record is smooth throughout, but the shifts in general quality can be kind of rough.

I also discovered Centro-matic this spring, about ten years late. Their new record, Fort Recovery, is a heartfelt rocker that really shines on tunes such as "Patience For the Ride" and "Monument Sails," but tends to plod when its not shining. This may be just more of the same for their existing fans, but what I've managed to hear of their catalog doesn't sound as good as this record. When it works right, it stands as a nice kind of adult college rock.

On the other hand, there's Rainer Maria's Catastrophe Keeps Us Together, which I think distinctly suffers by comparison to their last two albums. It's got a couple of really great songs and is pretty good for the most part, but not as good as A Better Version of Me and not as consistent as Long Knives Drawn. They spent a couple years trying to figure out where to take their sound and it seems like they never settled on an answer.

And then there's the solo debut from Jenny Lewis, Rabbit Fur Coat, which features one great new song that should be on a Rilo Kiley album ("You Are What You Love") and a handful of others whose reach exceeds their grasp. It's good, it's fun to listen to and see live, but it so clearly wants to be doing more than it actually is.

Oddly, the best record of the year so far might actually be a 2005 release. Maritime's We, the Vehicles was released in Japan last fall but only recently got worldwide distribution. It took a while to grow on me, but I like its smooth, smoky pop sound a little more every time I listen to it. I think it's unquestionably the best record Davey von Bohlen's ever made.

Meanwhile, a number of other records have disappointed. Mates of State's Bring It Back is extremely uneven, drawing on disparate influences to come up with mostly uninspired tunes. Head Automatica's Popaganda, due in June, reveals quite clearly how important Dan the Automator was to Decadance by being one of the most boring records of the year. And Nellie McKay's Pretty Little Head, leaked to the Internet but officially unreleased pending a dispute with Sony, features little of the clever melody and lyricism of Get Away From Me. There are a few records yet to come this year that I'm looking forward to (Karmella's Game, Anna Waronker, I think a new one from Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer), but at this point I'm hoping some new band comes out of nowhere to blow me away this summer.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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I finally got to the end of my podcast stockpile (and skipped going to a couple shows I'd thought about attending last weekend), so while you wait for Mike Doughty clips to arrive next week, how about I finally finish my best of 2005 write-up?

I got an iPod last year, which means that almost all my music consumption was done using one form or another of the iTunes interface. This was a pretty big change from my previous primitive MP3 player, and it allowed me to start actually using the iTunes rating function. So for this year's list, I came up with a formula* based on the song-by-song ratings to see how well the quantitative results matched up with what I thought my favorite records were. It actually tracked pretty well, as you can see from the ratings below.

* The final scores are out of 10, but it would be basically impossible to score that high -- every song on the album would have to get five stars.

Motion City Soundtrack / Commit This to Memory

You can call Motion City Soundtrack pop-punk or whatever you like, but what they're doing is so far beyond their peers that labelling them is kind of pointless. They went in a different direction than I expected with this album, creating a much more mature sounding extension of their first album, I Am the Movie, tops on my 2003 list.

With the Get Up Kids breaking up recently, MCS sounds poised to take over their position as the kings of sweet, energetic, melodic indie rock. They deserve that kind of success and exposure for this album -- I just wish it didn't mean they had to stop playing club shows in Madison. They're on all kinds of crazy "punk" festival tours these days but, you know, I can't really bring myself to drive all the way to Milwaukee to pay $30 to see one great band and half a dozen Atreyus.

Top tracks: Everything Is Alright, When "You're" Around, Time Turn Fragile

Click to read more

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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I've been missing shows left and right lately. I missed both the Gossip and Smoking Popes last week so that I could get two papers submitted to the AEJMC conference (deadline April 1 at 11:00 PM) and missed the Appleseed Cast on Thursday so I could go to Wisconsin's national semifinal in the college hockey tournament.

But they wound up winning the championship on Saturday, and getting into AEJ means a free trip to San Francisco in August, so I suppose it's not all bad. And anyway, in the next two weeks I'm seeing Centro-metic, Metric and the Elected, and possibly the Crystal Skulls and Shiny Toy Guns, which I guess is enough.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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You know how sometimes a record will come out from an established band in an established genre, a member of the mainstream not attempting to avoid the mainstream, just to dominate it, and it will be as amazing and life-changing as anything a new or avant-garde or "alternative" act could've thrown at you? R.E.M.'s Green. Who's Next. The Joshua Tree. Led Zeppelin IV. Rubber Soul. Kind of Blue.

Total crap is not unique to the mainstream, but highly visible total crap is, and that's why I think it's important to recognize when mainstream culture produces a truly worthy and transcendent piece of art. And right now, I think we ought to be talking about David E. Kelley's Boston Legal in those terms.

Kelley and the lawyer show genre are manifestly of the mainstream, both alone and together, and have been paired for years -- if L.A. Law hadn't gone off the air it would be in its 20th season. But if BL's mundane title -- much worse than the working title, Fleet Street -- hints at its foundation in common practices of episodic TV drama, it masks a tendency to ignore boundaries and deconstruct at will the Dick Wolfian notions that prop up much of the lawyer show genre.

That this is being done by such a veteran assemblage is what's so amazing. TV drama of late has been ruled by relative newcomers -- Joss Whedon, Alan Ball, Aaron Sorkin, Rob Thomas. But here we have Kelley producing the show and writing, co-writing or polishing every script, while William Shatner and Candice Bergen prowl the soundstage in what should be a sleep-through victory lap. Instead they spring to life in what is surely their best material in years, an opportunity to create rather than manufacture a screen presence, and to bring their skills to bear in a holistic way.

That BL is half farce, half liberal polemic (a welcome notion during these last few Sorkinless years) may make the show seem like an ironic, cult-directed affair, but it is, in fact, the 15th most subscribed show by TiVo users, beating out every flavor of Law & Order and the Sorkin-free version of The West Wing. While it subverts -- like Green, like Kind of Blue -- it assimilates as well. It can act as a kind of tour guide to those mired in Medium and NCIS and Las Vegas, and because of that it may be the most important show on television.

[technorati tags: mainstream culture boston legal]

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Music ... TV ... Permalink




I got my first solicitation for promotion on this site the other day. A young singer-songwriter's rep e-mailed me about an upcoming show in Madison, gave me links to a couple of MP3's that I could "share with [my] readers," etc. I passed, primarily because I can't go to the show myself, but also because this is not an MP3 blog. If I'd been interested, and if I didn't have other commitments the night of her show, I might have gone and shot a clip or two for the podcast.

Then I saw that her rep had also spammed, posting her entire tour without a self-promotion flag. I take social software seriously, and people who use it without being on the up and up break it. Trust is our only currency here, and truth has no price.

In other news, 1990's college rock mainstays Cracker have a greatest hits album coming out soon. Virgin has compiled hits from throughout their catalog for the record, and has done so without the band's blessing.* In fact, the band has gone so far as to re-record each and every song on Virgin's compilation to release their own version, Greatest Hits Redux, on the very same day, via indie label Cooking Vinyl. I think that's kind of hilarious.

* I don't know why they need to do this, since 2000's Garage d'Or is a perfectly good compendium, but whatever.

[technorati tags: music corporatism]

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Music ... Permalink




This year's best-o'-the-year mix is ready to go:

Disc 1:

  1. Bloc Party, "Like Eating Glass" (from Silent Alarm)
  2. The Mustn'ts, "Opening Night" (from The Mustn'ts)
  3. Portastatic, "I Wanna Know Girls" (from Bright Ideas)
  4. Minus the Bear, "The Fix" (from Menos el Oso)
  5. System of a Down, "Violent Pornography" (from Mezmerize)
  6. Gatsby's American Dream, "Theatre" (from Volcano)
  7. Of Montreal, "The Party's Crashing Us" (from The Sunlandic Twins)
  8. The German Art Students, "Triumph of the Human Spirit" (from Name-Droppers)
  9. Sufjan Stevens, "Chicago (To String Remix By Jongalloway)" (from Illinois)
  10. The Hold Steady, "Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night" (from Separation Sunday)
  11. Mike Doughty, "Madeline and Nine" (from Haughty Melodic)
  12. The Dilettantes, "Bullets in the Gun" (from Hearts and Flowers)
  13. Jail, "First to Pinch" (from Kept Me Spitting)
  14. Thunderbirds Are Now!, "From: Skulls" (from Justamustache)
  15. Kaiser Chiefs, "Na Na Na Na Naa" (from Employment)
  16. Cruiserweight, "This Ain't No Beach Party" (from Sweet Weaponry)
  17. Garbage, "Honeybee" (from Run Baby Run)
  18. Juliana Hatfield, "What Do I Care" (from Made in China)
  19. The Like, "Mrs. Actually" (from Are You Thinking What I'm Thinking?)
  20. Petra Haden and Bill Frisell, "Floaty" (from Petra Haden and Bill Frisell)

Disc 2:

  1. Armor For Sleep, "Awkward Last Words" (from What to Do When You Are Dead)
  2. Troubled Hubble, "Bees" (from Making Beds in a Burning House)
  3. OK Go, "A Good Idea at the Time" (from Oh No)
  4. Metric, "Monster Hospital" (from Live It Out)
  5. The Bravery, "Fearless" (from The Bravery)
  6. The Chemical Brothers ft. Kele Okereke, "Believe" (from Push the Button)
  7. Nine Inch Nails, "You Know What You Are?" (from With Teeth)
  8. Hail Social, "Feeling Is Wrong" (from Hail Social)
  9. Motion City Soundtrack, "Everything Is Alright" (from Commit This to Memory)
  10. The Aquabats, "Hot Summer Nights (Won't Last Forever)!" (from Charge!!)
  11. Fall Out Boy, "Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner" (from From Under the Cork Tree)
  12. ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, "Caterwaul" (from Worlds Apart)
  13. Robbers on High Street, "Spanish Teeth" (from Tree City)
  14. Erin McKeown, "Air" (from We Will Become Like Birds)
  15. Hey Mercedes, "Warm Chords" (from Unorchestrated)
  16. Franz Ferdinand, "The Fallen" (from You Could Have It So Much Better)
  17. Hot Hot Heat, "Dirty Mouth" (from Elevator)
  18. Maritime, "Tearing Up the Oxygen" (from We, the Vehicles)
  19. The Legendary K.O., "George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People" (download)
  20. Eisley, "I Wasn't Prepared" (from Room Noises)
  21. Harvey Danger, "Little Round Mirrors" (from Little By Little...)

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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The podcast finally made it through to the big directory at the iTunes Music Store (click here to see it in action) but it's not quite... whole anymore. You see, the iTMS doesn't like dick. Specifically, it doesn't like the name of the German Art Students track I posted last week, "Dick Clark." "Dick" is now "D**k."

Presumably you also can't do podcasts about Dick Cheney, George Bush, cockfighting, pussywillows, titmice or the North Pole.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Music ... Permalink




Today I'm launching the "No, THIS is what I call music" video podcast. I'll be releasing videos a couple times a week of live performances I've recorded with my fancy digital camera. The videos are encoded with MPEG-4 video and AAC audio, so they will play in Quicktime Player and iTunes and on the new video-enabled iPod. This is the first time I've taken the NO! brand into the world of video, but previous audio releases can be found here. If you or your band are featured in this podcast, please don't sue me!

This week I'll be posted a couple of local bands; next week I've got new songs from both Thunderbirds Are Now! and the Hold Steady. I have a pretty good backlog of material to post, so be sure you subscribe to get the fresh stuff automatically downloaded. To subscribe, simply add to your favorite podcast reader.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Music ... Permalink




I saw the Hold Steady last weekend, and they put on a pretty good show, but what really impressed me was the set by Thunderbirds Are Now!, who opened the show. (The Constantines, who played in-between, were largely forgettable, and I continue to hold the opinion that they are extremely overrated.) They were musically tight and energetic without coming across as phony, plus they had the songs to back it up. So why wasn't anybody going crazy for it except for me? This was probably the best indie rock bill Madison has seen all year -- three prominent, national touring acts, the opening two of which have each recently played headlining shows in town -- and nobody could get up for the loud, beat-heavy movement of TAN! because they were the first band up. Weird.

Relatedly, I saw Murder By Death at a surprisingly packed show last night, and openers the Life and Times made MBD look like a ten-year-old's birthday party. I hadn't heard anything by them before, but they have some connection to Shiner, and it shows -- also a bit of the Hum and Cave In sound in there, too.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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Last night's New Pornographers show at the Barrymore Theatre got "postponed" right at the last minute.

I am very sorry to report but after last nights show in Chicago for the New Pornographers, John Collins, the bass player, suffered from an appendix attack. He ended up having to have it taken out and the band will be canceling their last two shows in Madison tonight and Minneapolis tomorrow.

The band has been racking their brain to figure out a way that they can play without him but they have exhausted all possibilities.

This is a postponement. The date will be replayed as soon as possible. Ticket holders should hold on to their tickets. Tickets can not be refunded until a rescheduled date has been announced. Check our website ( over the next few days for more information and updates as they become available. We apologize for any inconvenience, and hope to see you at the rescheduled show.

Along with last summer's Head Automatica "postponement," due to an attack of Crohn's, that's two shows I really wanted to see that are probably lost to the ages; presumably there's a third coming.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Around Madison ... Music ... Permalink




posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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We bought tickets for Mike Doughty -- formerly of Soul Coughing, currently of Mike Doughty's Band -- today, for next Friday's show at the High Noon Saloon. Only later did I remember that Doughty is a friend of one of the personalities from the old Warren Ellis Forum at Delphi, and an occasional poster at her now-defunct WEF satellite forum.


posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Music ... The World at Large ... Permalink




We saw Mates of State last night at the Annex; it's our fourth time seeing them, including the show at which we first met. Before their set, Emily went up to the stage to tell Kori, the keyboardist/singer, how we'd met and ask if they would dedicate a song to us -- and she did! Emily picked "Whiner's Bio", and it was the fourth or so song of their set.

When they talked about us, they asked us to point ourselves out, and then had us come up on stage and dance during the song. This was OK, except I kind of wanted to digicam that song, and I couldn't really do it while dancing. I did get her intro, though -- 10MB MPEG video here. Later on, everybody kept asking us if we were the two that met at the show, and some guy wanted to buy us beers. So now we're famous.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
Around Madison ... Music ... Permalink ...
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for reasons, both physical and personal, the band has decided to make next thursday, september 29th at Schuba's the final Troubled Hubble show. it's been an amazing journey for all of us over the last six years, and we're so thankful to all of our friends and family for supporting us along the way, not to mention all the amazing friends and fans we've met all over the country. you have no idea how much we'll miss seeing you!

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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"I bet it makes you laugh/watching me work so hard to reach you."

Halfway through Somebody's Miracle, the second album of the glossy, radio pop reinvention of Liz Phair's career, the first single opens with that couplet and kicks off the most telling, depressing series of three songs I've heard in years.

I've written about Liz Phair's tranformation from an honest-to-god indie rock artiste to a top 40 commodity before, but the character of Somebody's Miracle (due out in October, but on the P2P networks already) is something different than the work-for-hire party girl mania of 2003's self-titled paradigm shift. It was clear before that Phair was forcibly wedging her own songwriting style into line with what the people from the Matrix (Avril Lavigne, Lillix, um... Pink, I think) were trying to do; the results were awkward, for the most part. But on Somebody's Miracle, she appears to have jettisonned the fake-y obvious approach of the Matrix for the genuine obvious approach of Sheryl Crow. Her songs are generally more melancholy than those of Liz Phair, but no more interesting; if anything, they're blander.

Click to read more

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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Emily's brother's band played a show on Friday night, and we used our Cybershot DSC-P73, in low-quality video mode, to record it. It came out surprisingly well, and I highly recommend it to any aspiring bootleggers. Hopefully I'll find a way to make the audio available for download -- I'd link to the band's site so you could check out their record, etc., but, um, they don't have one.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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I saw Karmella's Game in what looked like a converted basement rec room in the very early hours of Wednesday morning. Their set was great, despite the crap venue. Their singer is probably less than five feet tall, but even without an actual stage to perform on, she put on a high-energy show and got the whole crowd going. I wish I'd been able to get some video, but there were too many conspicuous hipsters in front of me, and not enough light to get anything worthwhile. I highly recommend this band to fans of indie girls with big synth stacks, but that's not really the point of this post.

Before things got started, the frontwoman of the second band on the bill (Hello, Trauma, whose very first show it was) came up to me and asked if I was on their myspace page. I was not, but I told her I'd just seen this coincidental shirt. Turns out I look like someone on their myspace page.

In between the first two sets I got to talking to one of the guys from a band called Dormlife, of Chicago, as well as a couple guys from a not-really-doing-anything Madison band, and one of those guys' girlfriend. Madison band guy, 23, was impressed with the success of Dormlife guy, 22. "How do you make a living on tour?" inquired Madison band guy. "You don't," sez Dormlife guy, tellin' it like it is. "How do you even set up a tour?" Madison band guy wonders, undeterred. "Are you on myspace?"

Long story short, Dormlife and Karmella's Game became tourmates, briefly, after becoming myspace friends. Karmella's Game was in Madison -- their first Wisconsin show -- because Hello, Trauma's Mikelanne had hooked shit up via myspace. It appears that, in the span of about two years, myspace has come to own The Scene.

As of very recently, News Corp. (aka Rupert Murdoch, aka Fox, aka The Evil That Men Do) owns myspace.

Click to read more

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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Comments (2)




The second quarter was a little slower than the first for new music, but the good stuff that did arrive was very good indeed. I expect at least three of these to wind up on my best of 2005 list, and right now Motion City Soundtrack is at the top.

Commit This to Memory took two listens to establish itself atop the year's list; the first time, "Everything Is Alright" -- the year's best single -- was all that stuck out, and then the rest followed. Standing a degree of magnitude above the quite good 2005 crop, this is both a magnificent Moog-rock album and an amazing collection of singles. It drives forward even more headstrong than I Am the Movie did and barely has a weak spot in 12 tracks. I just wish they weren't spending so goddamn much time on festival tours and would come back to town for a club show.
I've been listening to an unmastered advance of Making Beds in a Burning House since last fall and it took a while to grow on me. I listened to it a lot before they played a show here in March, and got the sense of a modernized version of early R.E.M. -- an indie guitar rock extravaganza with melodies too catchy and lyrics too clever to resist. "Bees" and "Jackpot Stampede Deluxe" are great, and I hope the band's arrival on Lookout! will be enough to break them into real success. (Unfortunately, I'm not seeing them tonight because their Madison show was hijacked by a major label AAA act called Blue Merle, raising the ticket price and lowering the TH content.)
A couple years ago, I found myself reflexively hating Hot Hot Heat, primarily because I didn't like most of the bands that they were being linked with -- the Strokes on one end, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on the other. But really, I never gave Make Up the Breakdown a chance, and when Elevator came out, I figured I ought to give it a good faith try. I'm glad I did, because it's loaded with poppy jangle-dance material that, unfortunately, is great for Verizon Wireless ads.
Mezmerize is the most important metal album since probably ...And Justice For All. It also works with a mainstream political edge that real metal has never quite done this successfully (I don't see Rage as really being all that metalish). I'm honestly surprised that the explicitly political, and just plain explicit "B.Y.O.B." made it onto Saturday Night Live. The whole album is hard but radio-friendly; I'm thinking this fall's follow-up, Hypnotize, will be... harder.
Indie rock as a whole has stagnated over the last few years. Trend chasers have produced the same kinds of mall-punk, screamo and "dance" rock over and over and over lately. For my money it's the post-hardcore bands like Minus the Bear, Piebald or Cave In that are doing the most interesting stuff these days, and Volcano fits that bill perfectly. The first two tracks, "Theatre" and "Pompeii," kind of point to where Jawbox might have been heading if they hadn't turned into Burning Airlines. I've heard they're a little sloppy live, but I hope I have the chance to find out for myself this year.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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I've sat on my ass for months and months, and at this point I don't really feel like writing anything about these records. 2004 had a few terrific records, some more pretty good ones and a lot that flopped on impact. This year's looking a lot better so far.

Incubus / A Crow Left of the Murder

Click to read more

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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More bullshit from All Music Guide:

Through traffic monitoring of our websites we have identified your IP address accessing at a rate and speed inconsistent with the noncommercial and personal use permitted by our site's Terms of Service. As a result, further access to has been denied. Because IP addresses can be shared by numerous users, your access may be being denied based on the aggregate use of your IP address rather than your own individual use. To ensure that this is not the case, simply create your own individual user account by becoming a Registered Member of allmusic. [Click on the "Register" button in the upper right hand corner of the home page.] Once you've become a Registered Member and are logged in, you will once again have full access to allmusic, and will continue to have access, as long as your usage remains consistent with our Terms of Service. If you are already a Registered Member of allmusic, simply ensure that you are logged in when you use the site. Thank you.

This is the new message that AMG delivers to you if you try to access information about four different albums in less than two minutes, without being registered and logged in. (One reason you may not be logged in is that AMG's new site is complete shit for handling cookies, and thus refuses to automatically recognize you whenever you access the site.) It's examples like this, where there is obvious demand and absolutely no competent supply, which cause me to distrust the free market system.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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Dear the Shins and Interpol,

You're still indie bands, so quit charging $25 for t-shirts and $15 for records that I can get for less at Best Buy, Amazon or your own labels' websites.

Not quite enough fans for a gold record

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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The first three months of 2005 have gone by, so let's assess where the year's new music market is at.

First of all, my two favorite albums of 2005 won't even be released for another month and a half or more. Troubled Hubble's Making Beds in a Burning House is out on May 17, and Motion City Soundtrack's Commit This to Memory follows on June 7. Beyond that, the new LP's from Hot Hot Heat and Gatsby's American Dream are still not officially out until later this month. Those are all great, and I'm sure I'll discuss them at greater length in the coming months.

Bloc Party's debut LP is probably the best thing to hit stores so far this year, and is one of the rare instances of the British rock press getting their hype right. Their singles have been absolutely stellar, but I don't know if they'll be able to make it in America. They're too far away from both Franz Ferdinand and the Killers to ride either's coattails, and their singer doesn't mask his accent, which the colonies tend to look down upon. However, if Hot Hot Heat starts tearing up the rock radio charts, look for these guys to follow.
Speaking of the Killers, apparently they're starting a feud with the Bravery over the latter's supposedly copping of the former's style. I don't know; the Bravery have never struck me as being all that similar to a lounge act, while the Killers, well, they are from Vegas. The Bravery's Smiths + Postal Service + Interpol act may not be the most original thing in the world, but they put a good package together and they write better pop music than the bulk of their competitors, which is all you can really ask.
Just when you find yourself thinking, "Whatever happened to the Chemical Brothers?" they put out a new album, and with this one they correct the mistakes of Come With Us. These guys are the best in the world at creating big-beat rave-ups, and they seem to have finally realized that and quit screwing around with ambient soundscapes and noise. (Illegal remix album, Flip the Switch, also available.)
I seem to be the rare specimen that likes Worlds Apart better than Source Tags & Codes. I find it a lot more listenable and a lot less deliberately obtuse; keep in mind, I'm not much of a Sonic Youth fan, either. This isn't a perfect record by any means, but I found ST&C to be mostly a pile of mush apart from "Relative Ways;" as a listener, I can understand the component parts of Worlds Apart much more readily, and it's a lot more catchy as a result. "Caterwaul," especially, brings together a number of different early and mid-90's styles that I don't recall being joined in such a way in the past.
My primary weakness as a music consumer is for breathy, plaintive, soprano vocals. In order for me to dislike a band with such a vocalist, that band must be at least as crap, on the whole, as Sixpence None the Richer. Eisley, despite apparently being another "Christian band," are not that crap. Room Noises merges the best bits of the Cardigans, the Delgados and Rilo Kiley for a bright but sadly optimistic explosion of bittersweet pop. As with most such "Christian" acts, there doesn't appear to be anything in the music to indicate any particular Christian-ness, which leads me to believe it's probably an attempt by Warner Brothers to sell records to Christians who are afraid of modern popular culture.
Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer came out of nowhere to grab my attention last year, and now that attention has been shifted to Cruiserweight's Sweet Weaponry. Sounding a bit like a post-Blink 182 edition of Dance Hall Crashers, they turn in a solid batch of pop-punk tunes that make terrific use of the voice as a melodic instrument to supplement the guitars. Great stuff in a genre where pretty good is an accomplishment these days.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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I had something of a revelation last night while watching the terrific Troubled Hubble show at High Noon Saloon (also featuring the pretty good El Oso and the unremarkable Echo-static). As a broad-minded music lover, I sometimes find myself disappointed with genre tributaries that don't go where I want them to go, or just don't provide anything that I can connect with in anything more than a passing way. But listening to the high-minded crunch-pop of The Next Great Chicago Rock Band, I started to see the slot that I had been looking for.

It's an axis that runs through the Dismemberment Plan, Piebald and Motion City Soundtrack, all the way over to more radio-friendly folks like OK Go. These are bands whose success was made possible by the alt./indie explosion of the early 1990's, but who owe more musically to Hüsker Dü, the Who and Pavement than they do to Nirvana and Pearl Jam (ironically, in those three bands' catalogs, there's only a sliver of material that I particularly like).

Troubled Hubble's fourth full-length album (and first for big-time indie label Lookout!), Making Beds in a Burning House, is out on May 17, but a probably unfinished version leaked to the Internets about five months ago. Many of the people at the show (myself included) knew the new material, which comprised most of the band's set. It was my first real exposure to them, and it drew me quickly into their back-catalog. I can only hope that Lookout! does for them what it did for Ted Leo, who's now in every important Rolodex under "Indie Rock Ambassador."

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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The Get Up Kids break up:

Ladies and gentlemen, the rumors are true. After ten years, close to a hundred recorded songs and several trips around the world, The Get Up Kids will be playing their last shows this summer. We're celebrating the release of our as-of-yet-untitled live record and we're coming around one final time. We'll be playing gigs in the west, in the east and in the middle of the US. Our very last show will be in Kansas City, MO (our hometown) Fourth of July weekend 2005.

For what it's worth, they'll be placing at #7 on my best albums of 2004 list, whenever I finish writing it.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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We just bought tickets for the Shins in Milwaukee on April 13 (the service charges were about a third of the total cost -- thanks a bunch, Ticketfucker!) and what happens today? Death From Above 1979 announces upcoming tour with free show in Madison... on April 13.

It's a very crowded concert season for the next couple months anyway -- The Reputation, They Might Be Giants, Interpol, Troubled Hubble, the Shins, Garbage and Green Day, in that order, at the very least, not counting the Decemberists show that I've already struck -- but that would've been a cool one to see.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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I don't know how this slipped under my radar three years ago, but Skunk Baxter, of the Doobie Brothers, is on the Dept. of Defense payroll as a missile defense analyst.

"To most of the world, Skunk Baxter is one of the great rock and roll guitar players. Inside the Beltway, he's one of the leading experts on military defense, and we listen to his advice all the time," said Republican California congressman Dana Rohrabacher. "He knows all about weapons technology and has a better understanding of the strategic game going on than I do, and I'm on the International Relations Committee."

Along with a roster of high-power politicians and military men, Baxter � who learned everything he knows about military defense from reading war history books, technical weapons texts and defense manuals � is now playing a key role in determining how the U.S. can best protect itself against a major nuclear, chemical or biological attack. And while he may be a big fan of the music of John Lennon, he doesn't believe in giving peace a chance, insisting that the mere threat of American military might isn't enough to sway the behavior of radical fundamentalists.

"I don't buy this idea of deterrence being the ultimate be all and end all, so missile defense is a very necessary concept," he said last week, adding that the U.S. needs to act defensively as well as offensively. "We need to protect our ports and our borders. We need to protect our water and food supplies. Agricultural terrorism is something we've been talking about for the past few years. The Russians at one time had placed warheads on their missiles that were designed to kill crops and livestock. In fact, they had smallpox on some of their offensive nuclear warheads at one point. So this is not a pretty game."

You might recall Skunk as the guy who did the PSA for not listening to your music so goddamn loud.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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We saw OK Go at the Annex last night (last seen at Summerfest 2004) and they were amazing again. These guys might be the best showmen working in guitar rock today. About half their set was material from their upcoming second album (due out in "fuckin' July"), and they were debuting a new guitar/keyboard player (who found himself getting writhed on by an overzealous fan toward the end of the set). The crowd was energetic but not uncomfortably so, and I got some good footage for this year's NO! DVD.

Opening was a TBA called the Fisticuffs UK who were pretty impressive themselves; we bought their $3 EP, which I will report on in the near future.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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It blows.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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I never thought I'd say this, but the Chemical Brothers' Push the Button is the early front-runner for 2005's album of the year.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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Interesting development -- Juliana Hatfield is now offering free, new songs for download from her website as unrestricted MP3's.

The concept is this: there's a furor raging over the legal and ethical position on free music download and sharing. On the one hand there are huge multinational corporations suing children and grandparents for copying digital files that let them listen to songs so ubiquitous as Paranoid and Happy Birthday. On the other side of the line drawn in the silica is the rest of the world whose sense of entitlement makes them think that the work of artists belongs somehow, inaliebly, to the people. Copy and share, copy and share, this part of the world somehow believes that acquiring the product of artists' labor is somehow helping the artists, just by listening. Maybe it is. At their most honest, the file-sharers admit that the artists' livelihood is really not their issue and the downloading proceeds apace.


When a song is downloaded, you will have an option. You can decide that ownership of this song is your right and freely distribute the files to your friends and to the people who also think it's their right, without payment. Or, you can support the artist who wrote and recorded this song and click the PAYPAL button to the right of the download link and send Juliana a contribution. The iTunes standard of $.99 may seem too high for you, in which case you can send $.50 - though there is virtually nothing else you can buy legally for $.50. Alternatively, you can think of the number of people with whom you might share this file and give a multiple of $.99.

There are four songs posted so far, and they just started a couple weeks ago. I've only listened to them once each, but at least one is quite a bit better than what was on her latest album, so hopefully there's more good stuff to come, maybe even some tracks from her lost album, God's Foot.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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Just got back from seeing the Beauty Pill and the Travis Morrison Band play a free show on campus.

The Beauty Pill had kind of fallen off my radar since their 2001 debut EP, The Cigarette Girl From the Future, but their record, The Unsustainable Lifestyle, is pretty good. Unlike a lot of their contemporaries, they use rhythm the way a lot of the original post-punk bands did (e.g. Gang of Four) and it made for a particularly energetic set. At one point the band's new female lead vocalist/keyboardist Jean Cook began playing a rhythm line on the bottom of a frying pan, which everybody seemed to like. I would've liked to hear more from them, but you've got to know when to get out of the big dog's way.

The Travis Morrison Band (apparently Morrison's career as a purely "solo" artist didn't last long) took the stage and TravMo himself was promptly given a small stuffed frog by somebody at the front of the crowd.

His new solo debut, Travistan, was a disappointment to me, but the live version is pretty exciting, especially in a small venue. They played two new songs, "As We Proceed" and "I'm Not Supposed to Like You (But I Do)," and many of the poor decisions of the album were rethought on stage, with the end result a much fuller and more interesting sound. Morrison's stage presence is still weird, full of squinty faux smiles, but whatcha gonna do?

Their encore was Morrison's unfairly and very overly derided cover of Ludacris's "What's Your Fantasy?," complete with Morrison briefly necking with some guy near the stage. Somehow this song, out of all of them, balanced the ironic and sincere in the way I thought they'd been trying for and missing most of the set.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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I've completed the third in my series of year-end mixes:

Disc 1:

  1. The Reputation, "Bone-Tired" (from To Force a Fate)
  2. The Get Up Kids, "The One You Want" (from Guilt Show)
  3. Ash, "Evil Eye" (from Meltdown)
  4. My Chemical Romance, "Thanks For the Venom" (from Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge)
  5. Piebald, "Present Tense" (from All Ears, All Eyes, All the Time)
  6. N.E.R.D., "Don't Worry About It" (from Fly or Die)
  7. John Frusciante, "Omission" (from Shadows Collide With People)
  8. Gomez, "Sweet Virginia" (from Split the Difference)
  9. Rilo Kiley, "Portions For Foxes" (from More Adventurous)
  10. Andy Partridge, "I Wonder Why the Wonderfalls" (theme song from Wonderfalls)
  11. Washington Social Club, "Simple Sound" (from Catching Looks)
  12. The Box Social, "Hot Damn!" (from Golly Gee Whiz)
  13. Head Automatica, "Beating Heart Baby" (from Decadence)
  14. Breaking Benjamin, "Breakdown" (from We Are Not Alone)
  15. Trey Parker, "America, Fuck Yeah" (from "Team America: World Police")
  16. Descendents, "Nothing With You" (from Cool to Be You)
  17. TV on the Radio, "Staring at the Sun" (from Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes)
  18. A.C. Newman, "The Town Halo" (from The Slow Wonder)
  19. The Delgados, "Come Undone" (from Universal Audio)
  20. Interpol, "Evil" (from Antics)
  21. Pixies, "Bam Thwok" (available exclusively through iTunes)
  22. Mr. T Experience, "Sorry For Freaking Out on the Phone Last Night" (from Yesterday Rules)

Disc 2:

  1. Sugarcult, "She's the Blade" (from Palm Trees and Power Lines)
  2. Avril Lavigne, "Together" (from Under My Skin)
  3. Alkaline Trio, "Fine Without You" (from BYO Split Series Vol. 5)
  4. The Presidents of the United States of America, "Some Postman" (from Love Everybody)
  5. Incubus, "Pistola" (from A Crow Left of the Murder)
  6. Secret Machines, "Nowhere Again" (from Now Here Is Nowhere)
  7. Modest Mouse, "Bury Me With It" (from Good News For People Who Love Bad News)
  8. Channels, "Disconnection Day" (from Open)
  9. Rachael Yamagata, "Letter Read" (from Happenstance)
  10. Of Montreal, "Your Magic Is Working" (from Satanic Panic in the Attic)
  11. Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer, "Crazy = Cute" (from Popsicle)
  12. They Might Be Giants, "Experimental Film" (from The Spine)
  13. Lit, "Needle & Thread" (from Lit)
  14. Mates of State, "Along For the Ride" (from All Day)
  15. Marcy Playground, "Death of a Cheerleader" (from MP3)
  16. The Bens, "XFire" (from The Bens)
  17. Eagles of Death Metal, "So Easy" (from Peace Love Death Metal)
  18. Jimmy Eat World, "Work" (from Futures)
  19. Bad Religion, "God's Love" (from The Empire Strikes First)
  20. Green Day, "Wake Me Up When September Ends" (from American Idiot)
  21. The Delays, "Hey Girl" (from Faded Seaside Glamour)
  22. Franz Ferdinand, "40 Ft." (from Franz Ferdinand)

Click to read more

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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Saw the Pixies on Saturday, will be posting pictures later. Great show, even if the crowd was a little too old to really get into the singalongs.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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The new Eminem video, for "Mosh" (streaming Quicktime link), is maybe the best anti-Bush and GOTV statement I've seen all year, and I say that as somebody who loathed most of the anti-war music that was quickly released online last year. This video is something else, and I suspect the high-point in animation production with Flash. The song's a little long, but if this gets significant play on MTV, expect Bush's already low support among 18-25 year olds to plummet. [Via Daily Kos.]

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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It appears that Everclear has very quietly broken up:

Craig and Greg have officially departed the band. Both, however, have given their full blessing to Art continuing to perform and record as Everclear.

Craig has formed a new band with Scotty Heard (formerly of Sweaty Nipples) and one-time Everclear touring percussionist Brian Lehfeldt (also formerly of Sweaty Nipples). After months of debates, the band has finally settled on the name Tri-Polar, and have a preliminary website at

Art Alexakis will continue to tour under the Everclear name with new bandmates, but won't record any new material. Ah, well.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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According to's access page, Dave Grohl is drumming on the new Nine Inch Nails record:

there is a much less refined approach to most of this record and i wrote a lot of the tracks envisioning powerful live drumming: enter dave grohl. working with him has been one of the most inspiring and exciting experiences i've had in the studio. the tracks he's played on (all fifteen), have come alive in a "better-than-i'd-even-hoped-for" type way.

The bad news is that the record is now targeted for an early 2005 release, rather than this fall.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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The cycle never peaked. Last year I was expecting the theory of pop music's 12-year swing to pan out and bring a 2003 full of glorious new masterpieces. I listened to a lot of music this year, and while much was good and some was great, none broke the sort of ground that 1991, 1979, 1967 and 1955 dug up.

In fact, as much as I like this music, I find it to be overall uninspiring. It took me half a year to realize that I was never going to finish writing about all of them, because I just didn't have that much to say. They're fun to listen to. Listen to them.

Motion City Soundtrack / I Am the Movie

I Am the Movie is 2003's best record of 2002. Motion City Soundtrack self-released the original version of the record last year, hand-packaging each CD in an old, hollowed-out 5" floppy diskette. Thanks to constant touring and a network of indie rock websites, the band developed a dedicated following and landed a surprise deal with hardcore punk label Epitaph. What doesn't fit is that Motion City Soundtrack is one of the poppiest bands you're likely to hear on the indie circuit. If the Get Up Kids (circa 1999) and Ozma (circa 2000) collaborated on a side-project, etc. This is not your typical SoCal ska-punk-speed act.

The opener, "Cambridge," is a little weak but it leads into a serious of rave-ups that have to be heard -- preferably live -- to be believed. "Shiver" and "The Future Freaks Me Out" are each among the best tracks of the year, lead single "My Favorite Accident" and "The Red Dress" give vocalist Joshua Cain a chance to stretch a little (and again, will get any crowd going), while "Capital H" puts to shame every use of keyboards in indie pop since the first Rentals album.

I've been listening to this album for over a year and it's still as compelling as it was the time I played it. I saw the band live twice this year, and both shows were home runs, despite the terrible sound engineering the first time around. If they continue turning out top pop like I Am the Movie and touring as hard as they have been, this band still has a long rise ahead of them.

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posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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Craziness done, back to regular updates.

We went to see Spoon at the Annex on Wednesday night -- their "Believing Is Art" is "our" song. The show sold out, which kind of surprised me, since Cave In and Piebald couldn't put 50 people in the place last time I was there. Spoon don't tour as often as you'd think a band still trying to shake off majorlabelitis would, so I was really glad for the opportunity to see them.

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posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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There's a meme that says that suburbanites, specifically white suburbanites, specifically upper class, vapid, pop-head, white suburbanites, cannot like quality hip-hop. If they come to like any instance of hip-hop, it is a priori crap. Ironically, this attitude is most often expressed by white, affluent, indie rock snobs.

Apparently there is an exception made for the Streets, as the bulk of Mike Skinner's fans are British vapid, pop-head, white suburbanites, which are the very best kind. Somehow, "lad culture" has become the pinnacle of what we're all supposed to aspire to. I don't get it. But that aside, can people not hear the lack of skill on these records? A Grand Don't Come For Free is an improvement on Original Pirate Material, but it would just about have to be. The first Streets record featured such hollow-sounding production that, at times, I wondered if it was recorded live to two-track. Skinner's ability to rap is non-existent, and not in an amusing, Biz Markie-ish kind of way. When he breaks out of rap cadence and into spoken word, things get a little better, but a gimmick can't last the whole album.

Look, I don't follow hip-hop very closely these days, but even I know there's much better stuff than this out there, and it's not especially hidden. So when will the American indie community's collective NME genflect end?

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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Guided By Voices will break up at year's end:

Beloved indie rock act Guided By Voices will split at the end of the year, frontman Robert Pollard announced on stage last night (April 24) at New York's Bowery Ballroom. The group's final album, "Half Smiles of the Decomposed," will be released Aug. 24 via Matador. A full announcement is expected from the label on Monday.

I guess Bob Pollard will be down to just a dozen releases a year after this.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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We got another parakeet yesterday, a little female we're calling Lassie. The total is now three parakeets, one cockatiel and one cat who's not especially skilled at being a predator. Lassie's job will be to mate with Dinner, who we got last summer as a test for the cat. We should be in the new house by the time they get to it, and then we'll be able to enjoy the never-ending fun of baby parakeets all over the place.

[Motion City Soundtrack] When my best of '03 post gets done, Motion City Soundtrack's I Am the Movie will be at the top of it. I vascillate on what my favorite track is, but lately it's been "The Red Dress" (3.6MB), one of many MCS songs that puts to shame most of the last decade's Moog-based pop. Plus, they're absolutely crazy live.

[Burning Airlines] Two years ago, Burning Airlines was at the top of the list. Their second (and ultimately ultimate) record, Identikit, was unlike anything I ever would've expected from J. Robbins, formerly the main guy in Jawbox. The opener, "Outside the Aviary" (2.0MB), sets a blistering pace that describes angularity in a way nobody outside of math rock has done since. It's a shame almost nobody paid attention and they broke up in 2002.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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We just bought 12 tickets to the Pixies show in Chicago on November 13. They included over $80 in "convenience charges." Fuck you, Ticketmaster!

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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Emily and I went to some rummage sales yesterday. At the first one, which was really this big community center benefit thing, I bought a game that apparently failed to replace Scrabble several decades ago, called Option, and a kitchen device that doesn't make much sense to me but only cost $0.10. I think it may be a grapefruit puller-outer, or at least that's what I'm using it for.

[Mark Lanegan] Tomorrow it's ten years since Kurt Cobain killed himself. I was 14 at the time, and a huge Nirvana fan. The event had as much impact on me as any cultural event probably could, and it still informs most of my thinking about death, depression, rock and roll and the mass media. I posted something a couple years ago about Bruce McCulloch's "Vigil," a spoken word track full of flip brusqueness and desperate curiosity, to the effect that I doubted I would ever be able understand what Kurt didn't see in the world and whether I couldn't see it either.

I don't know if Mark Lanegan has ever spoken publically about any of this. Lanegan, then the frontman for Screaming Trees, and Cobain were friends in the Seattle scene, and they collaborated on a couple tracks for Lanegan's solo debut, The Winding Sheet. "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" (3.6MB), the Leadbelly song with which Nirvana closed their Unplugged set, features Cobain on guitar and Krist Novoselic on bass and has a much more driving, gothic feel than does the Nirvana version. Lanegan and Screaming Trees were always the closest thing there was to a "grunge" prototype, I think, even more so than Soundgarden. I saw him perform with Queens of the Stone Age last summer and couldn't believe that the Trees never became huge arena-fillers. Their early work (and much of The Winding Sheet, to be honest) is a little inaccessible, but by the time "Nearly Lost You" got them their 15 minutes in 1992, their material was ready for prime-time.

Like everybody but Pearl Jam, Screaming Trees are gone now. After the suicide, one of Cobain's songs was given to Lanegan, but I can't find anything to indicate whether or not he's recorded it. Courtney Love has become a sad punchline, for the most part, Dave Grohl is now his own rock star and Novoselic is helping tend to the pigs on Bill Berry's farm. Ten years have elapsed in all our lives, unless you got here after Kurt left. If there are lessons in this that haven't already been summed up in 20-word greeting card poems, I don't know what they are.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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I became a TA at the beginning of this semester and already I'm about to go on strike. Basically, the state is offering us a new contract that includes no cost of living raise, and introduces a payment into our currently free health insurance. Also, no domestic partner benefits. We're still operating under the old, expired contract, which is better than anything we can hope for in the new one. I have no idea why we're talking about striking, given that we can't possibly gain anything from a new contract.

In an effort to get the word out to the undergrads -- who, frankly, don't care and have no influence -- the TAA has been leafletting trees and putting up "informational pickets" all over campus. We'll see what happens. I tend to think we should just ride out the old contract as long as we can, because the state isn't going to want to lock us out.

[+/-] My girlfriend, Emily, and I went to see Death Cab For Cutie in Milwaukee on Friday. It was "Free Ticket Friday" at the Rave, which meant you got two free drink tickets when you bought your ticket to the show. It turns out that since the last time I was at the Rave, drinks have gone from $6 to $9. Also, parking has gone from $12 to $20, so we parked eight blocks away in a Marquette University ramp.

The Rave actually contains three separate venues, and unbeknownst to us, another show was going on in the big ballroom while our show was in the medium-sized, theatre-style room. It appears that parking was all fucked up because ironic hair-metal flash-in-the-pan the Darkness was upstairs. Because of the resulting time spent walking from the car, we missed opening act +/-. I was only sort of nonplussed by this; I like their latest album, You Are Here, but I wasn't interested in paying that much extra to park next to the building. When Death Cab came out, frontman Ben Gibbard chastized us for missed their "amazing" set. And then, on the way home, "Trapped Under Ice Floes (Redux)" was stuck in my head for the entire drive.

[Benjamin Gibbard] Death Cab's tour is actually a co-headlining affair with Ben Kweller, whom I'm neither familiar with nor terribly interested in. As it happened, Death Cab played first, but didn't quite announce themselves clearly. When they got to "Photobooth," Emily said they shouldn't be playing Death Cab covers when they're on a Death Cab bill. Then I corrected her and we laughed. I tend to be of the opinion that their most recent album, Transatlanticism, is their best, and my favorites from that record, "The New Year" and "The Sound of Settling," were the highlights of the set.

When it became clear that the Darkness had taken the stage upstairs, due to the slight sound leak through the ceiling, Gibbard challenged them to a riff-off, which they appear not to have accepted. Score one victory by default for indie rock.

[MP3 links removed as of 2004.04.12.]

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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I saw a four-hour, five-band rock concert last night at the Barrymore Theatre. Thursday was the headliner, but despite recently coming around to them a bit, I initially decided to give the show a pass. It was a school night, after all, and their primary supporting act was the reprehensible Andrew WK. Then at some point he dropped off the tour and one of my favorite indie rock acts, Piebald, replaced him. So, okay, for $15, now I'm in.

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posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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"No Smoking" signs are a rare sight in Wisconsin nightclubs. Before Friday night, every time I'd been to Milwaukee's Cactus Club, the small stage area had been filled to capacity with smoke. This time there were signs all over the place -- turns out Kori Gardner, the Mates of State vocalist/organist barely seen here, is about halfway pregnant. As far as I could tell, all but one person stuck to the rules.

[Mates of State] This was the third time I've seen Mates of State live and they always deliver. If I ever get my best of 2003 post finished, it'll have their latest, Team Boo, at #9. The whole thing is terrifically catchy, but I key on "Whiner's Bio" for some reason.

[Crime & Judy] I'd never seen Crime & Judy before, but one of my students said they rocked. I kind of liked them. They've got dual lead female vocalists and a violinist, both of which are pluses in my book. It's kind of like that dog. if Anna Waronker's voice had a more strident sound. They had some problems keeping in tune while singing in unison, but pretty good other than that. "Kill Me Goodnight" is from their recent live EP, Vendetta Chants.

[Jail] Jail opened the show, and is my girlfriend's brother's band. We almost missed part of their set, because we were waiting for the extremely slow food service at Palomino and the Cactus Club was closer than ever to starting on time -- Jail's set started at about 10:30, scheduled for 10:00. "Bullets Flying" is my favorite song from their debut, Décor, but they didn't play it on Friday, so here's one they did -- "Annex the Doubt."

[MP3 links removed as of 2004.04.03.]

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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I found this at Megan Thomas Bradner's blog, but I don't know if it originated there. The idea is to randomize everything on your MP3 player and then list the first 20 selections. Mine came out like this:

  • "It's Been Eight Years" by The Radio Dept. from Lesser Matters
  • "Aurora" by Veruca Salt from the "Tank Girl" soundtrack
  • "The Man Who Sold the World" by Nirvana from MTV Unplugged in New York
  • "Dope Nose" by Weezer from Maladroit
  • "Let's Play Guitar in a Five-Guitar Band" by Minus the Bear from Highly Refined Pirates
  • "She'll Come Back to Me" by Cake from Fashion Nugget
  • "...Dust" by Elvis Costello from When I Was Cruel
  • "Charming" by No Knife from Fire in the City of Automatons
  • "Never Be Alone" by the Get Up Kids from Guilt Show
  • "User Friendly" by Marilyn Manson from Mechanical Animals
  • "Bubbles" by System of a Down from Steal This Album!
  • "Losing the Streak" by Jail from Décor
  • "Lip Service" by Elvis Costello from This Year's Model
  • "Normal" by Foo Fighters from Times Like These
  • "Coma White" by Marilyn Manson from Mechanical Animals
  • "Sheets" by Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks from Pig Lib
  • "Ambulance Driver" by Superdrag from In the Valley of Dying Stars
  • "Pervert" by Nerf Herder from How to Meet Girls
  • "i do not want this" by nine inch nails from the downward spiral
  • "Disappear" by Letters to Cleo from Go!

I've got a total of 3455 tracks on the player at the moment.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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Given The Onion's occasional hiatuses, the site I've consistently visited on a weekly basis for the longest is Glenn McDonald's The War Against Silence, a column-qua-record review that rarely fails to fascinate me. McDonald is a superb writer, a master of modifiers who would likely vex Elmore Leonard to no end.

He puts a new column up every Thursday, and this week's strikes me as really significant. It's a review of electro-avant garde duo Trans Am's new Liberation, a blatantly political record, though largely devoid of audible lyrics. The idea that Trans Am wants to get across allows McDonald the opportunity to discuss not just the current political environment vis-à-vis vocal dissent, it allows him to wonder about the very nature of political and civic thought in art. The column itself provides a terrific companion piece for the one dated September 20, 2001, the first to be written after the attacks. Then, McDonald seemed shaken, nervous and angry in a way he was uncharacteristically muddled about. Now, the nerves have settled and the anger has crystallized. Like many of us on the left, he understands how the past two and a half years have pushed out-groups further out and allowed in-groups to go so far in that they have superceded the structures they once occupied.

McDonald's taste in music is often superficially similar to mine, though I will never understand his love of Tori Amos and Alanis Morissette, but the way he writes about music is far more enthralling than the music he writes about. I only wish there were somebody doing such a terrific job of dancing about architecture.

posted by Aaron S. Veenstra
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