Friday, July 29, 2011

Jam of the Day | Youth Lagoon - July

As I write this post, I'm sitting on a patio overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Surfers are lined up just on the other side of the breakers, talking about what surfers talk about, and the sun is just starting to make everything in its presence electric pink. I have on headphones, and I have listened to this song five times in a row.  It's become one of those semi-religious musical moments, where the perfect combination of all senses blend to create something truly extraordinary.  If you can, recreate this moment. If not, give this song a few spins early one morning, or late one night.

It's called "July," and it's another amazing new track from the Boise-based bedroom one man band pop project of multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and vocalist Trevor Powers. The new track is featured on Youth Lagoon's debut album, The Year of Hibernation, which is out September 27th, but the song was released earlier this month, and appropriately so given the title

He'll also be at this year's Hopscotch Music Festival, so we will send you a review of the live show just as soon as it happens!


Thursday, July 28, 2011

10 to Spin | Union Tree Review + Bo and the Locomotive

Union Tree Review

If you've got a big toe halfway dipped into the pool of Saint Louis music, you know that Saturday is one heck of a big night. Yes, folks, it's the double album release party for both Union Tree Review and Bo and the Locomotive, two fantastic bands 'round these parts that tend to get a whole lotta love. In honor of the joint festivities, the bands have been collaborating quite a bit on promotion for their own - and each other's new records - and we've got some real special for you today in the way of a 10 to Spin.

Union Tree Review picked five songs that remind them of Bo and the Locomotive, and Bo...yeah, you get it. Vice versa.

Bo and the Locomotive

But, before we get to the handcrafted, ten-song playlist, let's talk party. Saturday. The Firebird. Oil Boom and Pretty Little Empire will also play. $10 gets you in the door, but you can get BOTH albums (UTR's Death and Other Forms of Relaxation and Bo's On My Way) for the price of $FREE.99 by getting a ticket ahead of time.

And, if you can't make it on Saturday night, have no fear. You can get the new Bo and the Locomotive on August 2nd at all the usual online joints (Amazon, CDBaby, iTunes) and also in town at Vintage Vinyl, Euclid Records, and Apop Records. You can get the new Union Tree Review at the end of August at all their shows and those aforementioned online music shopping sites.

And now, here we go: Songs That Remind Me of You

Bo and The Locomotive's 5:

1 The Decemberists - California One/Youth and Beauty Brigade

2 Local Natives - Warning Sign

3 Sigur Ros - Glósóli

4 Sea Wolf - Wicked Blood

5 Spiritualized - Soul On Fire

Union Tree Review's 5:

6 Lotus Plaza - Different Mirrors

7 Crystal Stilts - Verdant Gaze

8 Guided By Voices - I Am A Scientist

9 Cotton Jones - Somehow To Keep It Going

10 The Good Life - A Little Bit More [listen]

Jam of the Day | Wolf Gang - The King and All of His Men

I don’t know why 23-year-old Max McElligott goes by Wolf Gang. I do know that I usually pass on artists like him. But, there is something different about this cat. Something about today’s JOTD makes me wanna, I don’t know, build something up and tear it right down. And then react to the mess I’ve made.  

I haven’t had the chance to listen to his new album, Suego Faults. But, that’s next on my list. Have a listen to today's JOTD.

Wolf Gang - The King and All of His Men

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Jam of the Day | Colorfeels - Pretty Walk

"Where did I fail you, my love?"

That's the central question in our Jam of the Day, brought to you by Nashville's Colorfeels. Basically, it's a pretty way of asking, "Just how did I eff this up?" "Pretty Walk" leisurely tries to sort out the confusion (Was it me? Was it you?) with a cadence that draws just a titch bit from '50s rock 'n' roll. Think: Ritchie Valens' "Donna," mixed with the kind of 2011 complacency that keeps relationships nowadays from getting lift off. It's indie-pop that truly reflects these modern times.

A little after the three minute mark, the track downshifts via lilting harmonies (we're guessing that's where those Fleet Foxes and/or Local Natives comparisons come from), and the once strolling "Pretty Walk" ends with brass and self-blame.

Colorfeels - Pretty Walk

SYZYGY is out now. Incase you were curious (and we were), the definition of that funky word is "the nearly straight-line configuration of three celestial bodies (as the sun, moon, and earth during a solar or lunar eclipse) in a gravitational system." The eleven-song debut features a guest appearance from My Morning Jacket guitarist, Carl Broemel.

Stream the whole darn thing on the band's website. Prepare to be hypnotized by the dancing dot screen saver deal. You'll see what we mean.

Hometowns | Air Review [Dallas, TX]

Back in April, we first espoused the musical virtues of Air Review when the engaging, rustic, and immeasurably listenable, "America's Son" was our Pajammy Jam of the Day. Since then, these Texans have been quite busy, as they have been recording, rationing, and releasing the America's Son EP, one track at a time. Check out Air Review's most recent single "Low Wishes" below and watch the fresh new video for "My Automatic" over at Air Review's Facebook Page.

We were recently able to catch up with Air Review's Doug Hale, who was kind enough to answer some questions about the band's home-base Dallas, Texas. Air Review stalkers...pencils ready?

1. Tell us something unique about Dallas that we can't find on Wikipedia.

We only really have two seasons. Summer and Winter. So, if visiting, expect to need to wear shorts from March through mid-November. Then, coats from mid-November through end of February. That’s it. We’ve heard of “sweater-weather,” but it’s an ever-elusive enigma to us.

2. What's your favorite song about Dallas?

"Won’t Let Go" by David Bazan. Really he just mentions our airport...but damned if we’re not claiming the whole song. It has so much space and refrain. It’s really a gorgeous tune. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Grandmaster Flash’s "The Message." Again - not sure it’s specifically about Dallas but he mentions it, and it’s such an iconic song. There's an urban legend that it was played for the first time on the airwaves here in Dallas on one of our underground stations, but I’m sure all cities say that.

3. If you could take us out for a drink in Dallas, where we would we go?

The Londoner is a pub we frequent. It’s clean and free of corporate sexed-up 30-somethings. Best Steak & Mushroom Pie in town.

4. If you could take us out for a meal in Dallas, where we would we go and what would we eat?

Addis Ababa. Ethiopian cuisine. It’s the best Ethiopian in town. And honestly, better than much of the food I had in Ethiopia. I’d make you wash your hands as it’s family style, and there are no utensils provided.

5. What is the easiest way to get in trouble in Dallas?

Drive around with expired registration or inspection stickers. I swear our cops have the best eyesight in the US. Freakishly good eyesight. They’ll get you every time.

6. Tell us about the first time you played at home as Air Review. How did it go?

We played our debut for a packed house at the historic Curtain Club. The sound is always brilliant, the lights were stunning. We...were okay. We had released a few songs a couple of months prior and there was a decent buzz around town. So there was a pretty good amount of expectation surrounding the show. So really we just tried to keep up with our songs and do the best we could. Of course we thought we were amazing because of the crowd response, but looking back it was a pretty rough set.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

10 to Spin | Abigail Washburn

Earlier this year, Abigail Washburn hit us hard with her second solo album called City of Refuge; it’s been called a “a sublime marriage of old-time and indie-pop,” and rightfully so – it was recorded with a new cast of characters, including My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel  and The Decemberists’ Chris Funk. It certainly takes a different path, one where Washburn doesn’t sing to us in Chinese (she’s fluent) as she did earlier last month in St. Louis, when she opened for The Head and The Heart. It’s a beautiful piece of work – here’s evidence:

We’re lucky that Washburn agreed to take part in our 10 to Spin series at Speakers in Code, where she checked in with ten of her favorites. Enjoy!

Zhou Xuan - Plucking Adeca
Imagine the first years of Jazz from the West hitting Shangai when chinese opera and folk music reigned. Killer sonsgstress/crooner Zhou Xuan appeared with her revolutionary band of ragtime piano, jazz percussion, traditional Chinese whistles, flutes & gongs. Mind-blower for sure.

Juana Molina - Un Dia

Can't get enough of this woman's art.

Blind Willie Johnson - Dark Was the Night

No words needed, literally.

Nina Simone - Strange Fruit

There is no more soulful a singer or poignant a song.

Bruce Springsteen - Nebraska [listen]
Bring it, Bruce. Can't stop thinking about that girl standing on her porch twirling her baton.

Buell Kazee - The Dying Soldier

Banjo player from 1930s Kentucky. Knew I wanted to sing and play banjo when I heard this.

Sidney Carter - Pharaoh

This field recording from the '30s is pure magic.

Oumou Sangare - Djorolen

Glorious lady with the most glorious voice on the face of the planet. She wrote this song for the kids at the orphanage she runs in Mali.

Arcade Fire - Wake Up

Makes me want to wake up and really do shit.

Paul Simon - American Tune

Wish I wrote this one.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Jam of the Day | The Horrors - Still Life

English quintet The Horrors have morphed quite a bit musically since their hard rocking debut, 2007's Strange House. 2009's Primary Colours dialed back the horror and channeled a softer (but still somewhat grim) new wavey 80's sound with elements of synth-driven dance music. The Horrors' new LP Skying, the band's third record, is already out in the UK but will be released on August 9 here in the U.S. (XL Recordings). If Skying's first single "Still Life" is any indication, these Brits are still living, and thriving, in the lush world of synthy 80's inspired pop. While singer Faris Badwan's voice remains deep and dark, there is something buoyant now in the music and lyrics that simply was not there when the young band got kicking years ago. Badwan croons; "The moment that you want is coming if you give it time. When you wake up, when you wake up, you will find me." We can't wait for that moment on 8/9/11 when we can all go Skying with Badwan and his bandmates.

Watch and listen to "Still Life," and stream the entire new record below.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Concert Review | Josh Ritter and The Royal City Band at Off Broadway in Saint Louis

Photo by Jason Gonulsen
UPDATE: Download a recording of the show in FLAC or MP3! Links are at the end of the review.

If God’s up there he’s in a cold dark room 
The heavenly host are just the cold dark moons 
He bent down and made the world in seven days 
And ever since he’s been a’walking away 
Mixing with nitrogen in lonely holes 
Where neither seraphim or raindrops go 
I see an old man wandering the halls alone 
Only a full house gonna make a home

There's a lot I want to write about what happened at Off Broadway last night. In a sense, you really had to be there to feel everything -- you had to be singing with us, sweating with us, admiring the way that even an oven of a room wasn't able to take the smile away from Josh Ritter's face. The singer-songwriter from Idaho has no idea not to have a great time, drenched shirt and all.

I'm not sure live music gets much better than on a night like the one where Ritter and The Royal City Band stormed through 17 songs, unfazed by the steamy conditions, not once acting like they weren't having the time of their lives and careers as musicians.

When I look back on my favorite concerts of 2011, I'll be sure to remember more than a few moments from Ritter's performance. Early on, he treated us with "Wolves," "Right Moves," and "Lillian, Egypt," played consecutively, and each done with grace and passion. Case in point, when Ritter slightly moved away from his microphone to deliver the final verse during "Wolves," he gave it that extra special touch to draw us in closer to the words and beauty of the song: "At times in the frozen nights I go roaming, in the bed she used to share with me." This is why Ritter is regarded as one of the best living songwriters -- he's able to bring you into his world where everything seems so real, where the past beckons and becomes something that haunts your sleep.

Later, during "Rattling Locks," which featured three different band members smacking around drumsticks, his voice took on a more sinister tone. "Ain’t nothing new about the world that I ain’t learned from just watching you go by," he sang with a certain fire in his belly. We all joined in later during the chorus to help him create a darker mood -- "Black hole, black hole," we shouted. It wouldn't be the last time we sang along.

Ritter instructed that the lights be turned off during The Animal Years' "In The Dark," a song he performed sans amplification. I'm not sure what was more beautiful -- the fact that we were all singing in the darkness in one of my favorite venues, or that it was so damn quiet while Ritter strummed his guitar and whispered lyrics like, "Every heart is much the same/ We tell ourselves down here/ The same chambers fed by veins/ The same maze of love and fear."

During "Harrisburg," Ritter cleverly told a story of a Super 8 motel room, and envisioning a crack in the ceiling, slowly and maddeningly broadening. This led into a snippet of The Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime," which was perfectly and surprisingly executed -- slowly, the crowd realized what was going on: Ritter set us all up, and we were loving every second of the moment that was eventually delivered.

His artistry didn't end there, as he danced with his guitar midway through "The Curse," a song about a developing romance between a mummy and an archeologist (yes, it's as weird as it seems, but also undeniably touching). Then, his words once again took the lead, overpowering us with imagery during "Thin Blue Flame," my favorite Ritter tune. "At night I make plans for a city laid down/ Like the hips of a girl on the spring covered ground/ Spirals and capitals like the twist of a script/ Streets named for heroes that could almost exist/ The fruit trees of Eden and the gardens that seem/ To float like the smoke from a lithium dream," he sang.

Soon, the calls for "Kathleen" were heard, and Ritter delivered the sing-a-long as the final song of the main set. He had us all slow dance in the thick heat, swaying back and forth before delivering the final two verses. Again, we knew what to do: we sang. This time, loud enough for Kathleen, or for the girl of our dreams, to hear our call: please let us drive you home.

Ritter returned to the stage for two encores, the first being a solo acoustic "Change of Time," one of the best songs off 2010's So Run the World Away. Our voices returned to help him close out the song with soft chants of "Rough seas, they carry me wherever I go." It was another dreamlike moment, one that was followed with a blistering "To the Dogs or Whoever," which finally closed out the night. We collected our breath and whatever was left of our dehydrated bodies, and headed for the door, where the slightly cooler air outside met our faces. A full house of people with memories of a perfect summer night of live music. A full house that no doubt made us all a lasting home: one in our minds and in our souls.

Download a recording of the show:




Friday, July 22, 2011

Jam of the Day | Das Racist - Caffeinated Consciousness (Remix)

HOLY LOUFEST RE-MIX! Brooklyn hip-hop prankstas Das Racist have always had an affinity for mixing badass beats with obscure pop culture references, nods to rap's old school elite, and jokes upon jokes.

Now, they've taken a former Jam of the Day, "Caffeinated Consciousness," by TV on the Radio and added in their own funky elements to keep you freakin' 'till the weekend's done. Hell, they even worked in Dolph Lundgren somehow, so it's worth a listen just for that.

Das Racist also has a new LP entitled Relax, dropping September 13th. You can pre-order that shiz right here.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Jam of the Day | Lex Land - Havana

But you always knew my plans
were larger
Than the biggest back yard
we could ever have had

Austin-based singer-songwriter Lex Land seems like a “let’s leave the door open” kind of gal.  I mean, the relationship she’s describing in today’s JOTD must have ended poorly, if I had to guess. Still, Land is forward-thinking; she misses something about the person she’s let go – “maybe we could still meet in a dream some time in Havana,” she sings. I guess that’s the place where any relationship could mend itself, right?

Musically, Land can sound a bit like Regina Spektor. She’s quirky enough, and she’s got that hint of mystery in her voice. It’s like confidence masked with cockiness. Always hopeful and daring, never quite ready to give in.

Her new album, Were My Sweetheart To Go, drops on August 16th.

Lex Land - Havana

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Concert Review | Fleet Foxes at The Pageant in Saint Louis

I am not a musician, but I cannot begin to imagine how frustrating it must be to hear a music fan or critic say these words: It all sounds the same. Of course, there are many other damning words that can be said to describe music that doesn't leave a favorable impression, but when it comes to Fleet Foxes, even with all the praise that is delivered to them, I hear this particular line thrown out all the time. And while I can understand what it might mean, I'm not sure it's even close to fair.

In fact, after seeing this wonderful band the other night, I'm not sure if it's even possible to have an opinion of their music if you haven't seen them live. Tuesday evening was my first time, and from early on in their set, one thing was clear: their latest album, Helplessness Blues, was made to be played before an audience.

Helplessness Blues is a slow-churning album, one that takes multiple listens before its magic really sinks in. And as with most of their music, it leans heavily on perfectly-executed harmonies and the pristine vocals of lead singer Robin Pecknold (who was suffering from allergies on this night, and even asked the audience if there was any Claritin in the house). But, that's easy to point out. What's not so easy to perhaps understand just by listening to the album is the fact that this is a band that also leans heavily on instrumentation besides vocal delivery. In short, these dudes are versatile musicians -- they used 12-string guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and saxophone, among other traditional instruments.

For example, the show began with a delicate instrumental, "The Cascades," which set the tone for the evening. It was a sweet moment, making the next two songs, "Grown Ocean" and "Drops in the River," feel like they were a beautiful extension of a landscape that was just created, one that grips you with precision and just enough space to deliver those chilling harmonies.

Perhaps the best moment of the show, besides the two-song encore, was the back-to-back-to-back performances of "Tiger Mountain Pleasant Song," "Winter White Hymnal," and "Ragged Wood," all songs from their 2008 self-titled album. What made it even more special were the two tunes from Helplessness Blues that immediately followed, "Lorelai" and "Montezuma." It was as if nothing was being taken for granted on stage; the magic just kept flowing and flowing until the main-set closer, "Blue Ridge Mountains."

The encore, which consisted of the solo-acoustic "Oliver James" and "Helplessness Blues," was just an extension of this magic. "I was raised up believing I was somehow unique," Pecknold sang to an audience who hung on every word. Oh, you are, sir. You most definitely are.

Hometowns | Priory [Portland, OR]

Photo courtesy of Expunged Records

Back in June, we were first introduced to Portland's Priory, and we instantly made the single, "Lady of Late" our Jam of the Day. The band's self-titled debut album is spending a lot of time in our speakers, and so we were very excited to talk with Greg Harpel, lead guitarist for Priory, about the band's hometown of Portland for our new(ish) feature on the blog, Hometowns. This feature was designed to focus on the relationship between the band's cultural roots and its current sound and let the band members pay homage to the place from which they come! Cool? Cool.

First of all, what a fantastic place to call your hometown. I've not yet had the pleasure of visiting, but all of my friends tell me how incredible Portland is. What do you miss most about the city when you're on tour?

What we miss most I suppose is our community of family of friends. It's unreal how many people are involved in making Priory what it is. We've been lucky as a band to have such quality support, be it through those we work with professionally or our loved ones who wholeheartedly support this initiative. Portland isn't what it is as a city without this, and we feel this mad love from the people who come to our shows as well as those we come home to at the end of the day.

If you had 24 hours to go back to Portland tomorrow, what would you do? Talk me through the the spots that you'd visit and why. 

We always seem to converge on the Montavilla neighborhood in Portland, partially for the reason that a few of us live there. There's a place there called the Observatory that we always seem to go back to. Great food/drinks/ environment. Happy hour there often becomes our boardroom. Also in Montavilla is Bipartisan Cafe and the Academy Theater, just two places that are examples of Portland's extremely walkable amenities.

What are some of your favorite Portland venues to play? Any plans for a homecoming show in the future?

Two of our favorite places to play in Portland are Mississippi Studios and the Doug Fir. Great sound, great rooms, great hospitality. We actually just got back from our summer tour [two weeks ago] to play the Mississippi Avenue Street Fair, this annual event where they close down the street for live music and local vendors. Thousands of people come out. A great time every year. Had a lot of fun playing.

So many Northwestern bands of late have become known for a sort of "folk revival" sound. Does Priory take any cues from this trend? It seems like the beauty of that part of the country would be hard to deny when it comes to finding inspiration and writing music.

You know, there may be elements in the music that draw influence from folk classics, but in general we would not consider ourselves of the folk revival category. We do our best to fill a dynamic sonic space, both with instrumentation and arrangement. We have a rich environment, variety of backgrounds, and community of musicians from which to draw influence.

Have you ever written a song about your hometown, or paid homage to some aspect of Portland in your lyrics?

I can't say that we've ever written a song overtly about Portland, but so much of our lives have been involved with the community here that is uniquely Portland. So in a lot of ways, the music cannot help but pay homage to the city.

Three cheers for Portland in the form of Priory's new video for "Lady of Late." 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Jam of the Day | Megafaun - These Words

Go see Megafaun live, and you will immediately understand what the entire Triangle has been...yeah I'm going to do it..."fawning" over in increasing fashion over the last few years. The boys, Phil & Brad Cook, and percussionist Joe Westerlund, have become local celebrities, immediately getting tables at the most popular restaurants, and roaming around with a posse of thugs that will eff you up if you approach or try to speak to them. There is even rumor that a hipster's knee was broken in a savage beating after he went to King's wearing a Love Language shirt.

And while most-to-all of that previous paragraph was not true, the fact remains that Megafaun is indeed one of the best damn bands around. And with this, the first track off the new album, their process, song craft, and raw energy come together in a wonderful electro-grass (just coined a new genre!) jam of goodness.

This is the sound that encapsulates the band, and hopefully the new record, Megafaun. It's out September 20th on Hometapes

Monday, July 18, 2011

Concert Review | U2 at Busch Stadium in Saint Louis

Photo by Chris Lay

Growing up with my older brother had its highs and lows. He would bully me, whip me in basketball; he even hit me in the face once. I remember the days when he would wake up early in the morning and blast his cassette tapes while we all got ready for school. He played Springsteen, Billy Joel, The Doors. And yes, he really liked U2.

I distinctively recall a time when I was listening to "With or Without You" in our basement, right after our parents had separated. I was with my brother, sister, and cousins -- we had just bought our first stereo system with a CD player, and my brother was elated that he had made his first purchase, a copy of The Joshua Tree. We all sat there not saying a word, just listening to a song that made perfect sense to all of us. It was a strange time, but I really believe that was when I first figured out my true love in life: listening to music with loved ones.

I also remember watching the video for "One" on MTV with my brother. We thought it was the best thing we had ever heard -- I even swore that it had to be a cover, because it sounded so classic. It wasn't, of course; it was just one of those songs that had the ability to speak loud and clear, to define a generation.

But then, something happened. I started listening to Pink Floyd, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Smashing Pumpkins, and Pearl Jam, and by the time U2's Zooropa was released, I had moved on. Looking back, I probably didn't give Zooropa much time because it sounded nothing like the U2 that had left a mark on my life. A few years later, when they released Pop, I simply gave up. They were no longer a band I could identify with; their records sounded too calculated and fake.

But, as they say, great music can always take you back to a time in your life you remember so vividly. And that happened last night.

In many ways, it's a shame that I couldn't enjoy my first U2 concert with my brother. When the first notes of "Where the Streets Have No Name" hit the air inside Busch Stadium, I'd be lying to say that I didn't long for my youth just a bit. I looked around me, and here's what I saw: A man, probably in his 50s, sporting a soaked towel around his neck, eyes closed, arms in the air; a middle aged woman, mouth agape, practically hugging herself; a young couple jumping up and down, holding each other. I want to believe this had everything to do with the sound of The Edge's guitar, and nothing to do with the overzealous stage called "The Claw."

Let's talk about "The Claw" for a bit. Sure, when you walk in, it's a sight to see -- it's huge, it's cool, whatever. And when it operates, it's a well-oiled machine, providing lights, amazing video, and rotating bridges where The Edge and Bono make appearances closer to different parts of the audience. But, it's just a spectacle, a grand gimmick. I did not once find myself thinking, "Wow, "The Claw" really kicked ass on that song." Perhaps during "Elevation," "Zooropa," or "Vertigo," the night was more enjoyable, only because those songs, to me, lack substance. So, at its best, "The Claw" was a nice distraction to cover up weaker songs in U2's catalog. God, I sound old.

Photo by Katie Guymon

What I'll mostly take away from the show are two simple things: The Edge is truly a once-in-a-lifetime guitarist (Bono called him "the best guitarist of his generation" when introducing him), and whether you like him or not, Bono is a rock star who definitely still has it, even if he gives us too much bravado at times.

The Edge, in my opinion, was the star of the show, providing lift-off for songs like the opening "Even Better Than the Real Thing," "Mysterious Ways," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," and the dramatic "Sunday Bloody Sunday." Is it just me, or is there not a more definable guitar sound out there? It's so clean, yet piercing and powerful. There is no grunge effect in The Edge's guitar work, and it's a wonder how such a cool and collected character on stage can produce such energy with an instrument.

Bono, on the other hand, is a much different personality, and was a mixed bag throughout the night. He cleverly produced U2's setlist from their first show in St. Louis, an appearance at the Graham Chapel at Washington University in 1981, digging it out of his pocket, admitting that they played a couple of the same songs twice due to lack of material. His talk about Gabby Giffords before "Beautiful Day" and shout out to the Joplin tornado victims was also a nice touch. But during the second encore, during "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me," he completely lost me with his antics that included swinging from some type of steering-wheel microphone, and sporting a God-awful jacket that lit up like the 4th of July.

This pretentious rock star moment came during the beginning of the three-song second encore, which was the only real disappointment of the evening. To me, it didn't feel like the same show -- even "With or Without You" felt rushed and uninspired. And the show's closer, "Moment of Surrender," was a real head-scratching thud, even if it was dedicated to the good people of Joplin. It surely didn't hold up against the first brilliant encore, which featured "One," a snippet of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," and "Where the Streets Have No Name." The show should have ended there, with 50,000-plus buzzing, feeling great about life.

Still, though, U2 proved more than relevant, even if their best moments were during songs that didn't need lights, lasers, or guest appearances by people in space. I guess that's the beauty of a huge production, though -- we'll all take the parts we loved best and live with them forever.

Jam of the Day | Toro y Moi - Saturday Love

Monday morning after a steamy and successful Pitchfork Music Fest... I'm sun kissed and tired, feeling the burn of three days of dancing and moseying around the fields of Union Park in Chicago. What better way to inject a little energy into the morning than a new track from Toro y Moi (Chaz Bundick was great during Sunday's penultimate Blue Stage set). An upbeat disco/dance/R&B cover (original by Alexander O'Neal & Cherelle in 1985), "Saturday Love" is the first offering from the Freaking Out EP, which will be released on September 17th (Carpark).

Listen to the track below and pony up your e-mail address to get some free "Saturday Love" on a Monday.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Jam of the Day | Blitzen Trapper - American Goldwing

Blitzen Trapper is back! The Portland quintet just recently confirmed that its sixth studio album, American Goldwing, will be released on September 12th - the third release for the ever-brilliant Sub Pop Records. Full of the introspective and striking storytelling that countless critics have fallen in love with, Blitzen Trapper considers subjects ranging from falling in love, to drug running good old boys, to the final high school dance.

"American Goldwing," the track, is a freewheeling ditty that balances the roughness of rock ‘n’ roll with country picking and grinning. Throw in some dirty keys, and a little slide, and this jam is ripe 'n' ready to blast out of your truck window.

Get your own copy below and ready that left arm tan.

Album Review | Old Lights - Like Strangers

Photo by Nate Burrell

Speakers Rating: 90/100

It doesn't take long to gather from the album art of the latest Old Lights EP, Like Strangers, that we're treading into some disturbing territory here. Oh yes, love is a many splendored/splintered thing, and the six-song collection from the Saint Louis foursome isn't afraid to delve into the - to put it delicately - intricacies of the oft-fucked up nature of matters of the heart. And, thankfully, it makes absolutely no apologies in doing so.

Each song tells another chapter in the story of two lovers trying to pump life into a faltering relationship, a perfect theme for Old Lights' signature "pop music with a dark side." So, with the intention of explicating this unsettling saga in the order in which it was meant, let's go track by track, shall we?

"It Was You" - Here begins the fizzle. And the hand claps. With a freakishly catchy chorus ("I ain't singin' Hallelujah any more..."), "It Was You" points a brazen finger at who's to blame for this relationship's demise, but it's easy to question the narrator's reliability on this opening shiner.  

"Cryin Eyes" - Track number two reveals the transgressions that get those eyes a-cryin'. Yet, the repeated line, "still I can't love you more than I do now," hints at a high tolerance for pain; sins make lovers feel like strangers, but love can obscure the most grievous of offenses. At the 1:53 mark, the track glows with a gospel halo. This take-'em-to-church moment concludes with the spoken lyrics: "We are not evil/ we are just people." Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us?

"Wilder Honey" - The vocals in "Wilder Honey" (perhaps a slight nod to The Beach Boys' Wilder Honey, a frequently cited touchstone for Old Lights) are performed by the band's lead singer David Beeman and guest vocalist, Kristin Dennis. The two trade verses and perspectives against rollicking piano, defending their intentions ("I wasn't looking for wilder honey...") and reminding us of the damning injuries we knowingly inflict on those we love. The song ends with an ambiguously hopeful question: "After so much damage done, can our two hearts still find love?"

"All Noise" - Fuzzed out from the get go, "All Noise" sounds like the tug-of-war of goodbyes. It references injuries, shivers, wasted time, and it all comes to a close with a gorgeous racket of distortion, an alien invasion, the musical equivalent of the brain's fogginess when attempting to control passions with logic.

"Loud Song" - An otherworldly tribute to infinite love, "Loud Song" sounds like the sequel to "All Noise," as it transitions seamlessly from the previous track's electro outro. The artful noise is still present, but here Beeman's vocals morph into chanting echoes, pledging devotion through space and time. You know, there's this saying about absence and the heart growing fonder...

"Death Came" - The finale is an acoustic dirge that faintly recalls the "Juliet's Dead But Not Really Dead" bedroom scene from Shakespeare's tale of ill-fated lovers. Lyrically, "Death Came" is just beautiful, replete with vividly charged couplets such as "I had epileptic seizures running through my tongue and mouth/ So she never understood what I was talking about..." Guitars from beyond the grave take us to the ending promise: "I'm gonna love you/ hope you love me 'til the end..."

Like Strangers ends with the most romantic notion of all: true love has no stops and starts. The continuity sure makes for complications, but it's a cautious reminder that hearts don't just turn off simply because we want them to.

Be sure to tell Old Lights you'll love them 'til the end TONIGHT at Off Broadway when the band celebrates the release of Like Strangers. Supporting the band is friends (and SIC faves) The Blind Eyes and Nathan Kalish and the Wildfire. Get your tickets here!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hometowns | Buxter Hoot'n [Mishawaka, IN]

Although Buxter Hoot'n is now based in San Francisco, I don't think of sunny California when I listen to their music. It's much too grounded, too declarative in nature; when they sing "We're miles and miles outside the line, traveling outside our minds," I think of open-all-night truck stops and lonesome, cracked highways, the kind that don't promise views of the ocean in a few hundred miles. I think of the Midwest.

The term Americana is often overused to describe a sound that is perhaps blue collar. Frankly, I have no idea what it means; perhaps it's supposed to convey something that isn't bigger than what it's trying to be. I would like to think that Americana music prefers blood and sweat to bells and whistles. It might not always be hip, but it's real.

So, I'll stick with what makes sense to me: Buxter Hoot'n makes music that is real. Their sound is precise and unpretentious; it's not calling for anything in particular, or better yet, trying to hide its warts. Here, watch the video for "Blue Night," my favorite song off their new self-titled album (and get a load of Jeremy Shanok back there on drums -- dude is smooth and has style).

We're proud to bring you our second installment of Hometowns, a new feature here at Speakers in Code. In many ways, Hometowns was created especially for bands like Buxter Hoot'n; read on, and we think you'll see why.

1. How does your hometown or home state influence your music?

We grew up in Mishawaka, Indiana. It's a medium-sized, blue collar city, but one small enough that you felt like you knew everybody. We grew up near the St. Joseph river and the imagery of living in riverside America is a something that appears in our songwriting. I've always felt like the Midwest is America at its best and America at its worst and growing up seeing the stories of the people living there is a central theme in all of our work.

2. If you could take me out for a drink in your hometown, where we would we go?

Martha's Midway Tavern.

Back when we grew up, there were and still are a lot of places to get a drink. But the landscape on what type of places available has changed considerably from when I was young. Most of my time there was spent underage, because I left when I was 20, so in order to get a drink I would have to go to some pretty gritty places, where the welders and factory workers would go. But, these places would serve you.

I don't know if it's still like that today, I doubt it. A lot of those places don't even exist anymore. But those experiences are really what has given me such an appreciation for dive bars. They are still my favorite places to hang out. So, if we are getting a drink in my hometown we will definitely be going somewhere with that type of aesthetic.

But, in recent times Mishawaka has fallen in to that trap of wanting to have everything that you see on TV and much of the mom and pop shops and the overall landscape was sold to developers. There used to be miles and miles of flat stretching corn fields. Nowadays, much of that has been taken over by franchises. Chances are, if you were to go to Mishawaka -- and not know where to go -- you would be sent to Main Street. Miles long of fast food, strip malls, chain restaurants, and bars.

But, if you were with me I'd take you to the hidden gems. One of my favorites is a place called Martha's Midway Tavern. It's just a few minutes walk from my childhood home, where my parents still live. It was a speakeasy during prohibition, it was Al Capone's home away from home, and it is one of the great blues clubs in the country. It's called the Midway because it was the midway point in the train ride from Detroit to Chicago. So all the great blues men would stop at Martha's in between the two cities. In recent years it has been known as the home of the legendary Pinetop Perkins, an area native. And, we  have had the joy of selling it out the past two years. It's a tremendous place.

3. Have you ever wished you were from someplace different than your hometown? Explain.

No, there is a lot we learned from the people and the way of life. There is something very real about being raised in a place where factory workers and menial 9 to 5 jobs is a way of life. Where it's not about being on the cusp of hipness or fashion, it's about doing what you have to do to get a roof over your head and after work and on the weekends going out and having fun. There's a simplicity in it. We got immersed in music and had to get out, but most don't. Also, there's something about the Midwest, where you are stuck between the two coasts that are setting the trends. It offers you a perspective on the whole thing.

4. What's your favorite song about your hometown or home state?

"Back Home Again in Indiana," one of the great all time songs, period. Miles Davis reworked it into a Charlie Parker masterpiece, "Donna Lee." And, growing up we used to have a commercial that ran constantly all summer long for the water park, Indiana Beach. I've never even been there, but I can still sing the song..."there's more than corn in Indiana at the supersensational...Indiana Beach" -- all to the tune of "Back Home Again in Indiana." And, I'm sure everyone who grew up with me remembers that song as well. It's that catchy.

5. Tell us about the first time you played your hometown or home state as part of Buxter Hoot'n. How did it go?

It was a little overwhelming, we had more people there than I expected. It almost felt more like a reunion than a show. It was like that Kinks song from The Village Green Preservation Society, "All of My Friends Were There."  We ended up playing until around 3am.  It was quite a party.

Pajammy Jam of the Day | Nerina Pallot - This Will Be Our Year

In a year where a certain British singer-songwriter has basically taken over the charts with her beautiful songs, artists like Nerina Pallot (born in London, raised in the Bailiwick of Jersey) can certainly get lost in the shuffle. Oh, but not on Speakers in Code. We're listening.

Pallot's new album, Year of the Wolf, recently won our hearts with its strong songwriting and subtle glow. Today's PJOTD, "This Will Be Our Year," while churned out at a slow pace, couldn't be more positive with its message: let's not let the past predict our future. It's really a great way to live your life.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Jam of the Day | Real Estate - It's Real

Photo by Shawn Brackbrill

As the glossiness of summer's novel sheen becomes dirtied with the oppressive heat that only the Midwest can offer, we need pop songs that reflect the melancholy of being trapped inside all day with only artificial cooling to keep us from melting into little puddles on the sidewalks.

Don't worry, Real Estate is back with a single perfect for a slow moving mid-July. If you take "It's Real" to the pool, the track sounds as if it's floating joyously on top of turquoise waves. If you listen to the song indoors while staring out the window (like me), it instantly takes on a more somber, wistful vibe, raising two defiant middle fingers to all those bastards out there with cement ponds in their backyards.

Either way, it works.

Real Estate's new album, Days, comes out October 18th on Domino. 

Listen to "It's Real" below, and click the little green button to get your free download. For the exchange of your e-mail address, of course. 

Contest | Admiral Fallow Signed CD Giveaway

Scottish band Admiral Fallow came to Fullsteam Brewery in North Carolina this March, played a little show promoted by yours truly, broke everyone's hearts, and flew out of town in fewer than 24 hours, leaving a void in the lives of more than a handful that saw them that night.

We're now offering up a chance to fill the hole they left with a signed copy of they stellar debut Boots Met My Face, which was just release stateside a few weeks back.

Stipulation: you must reside in the U.S., Canada, or the U.K. to enter the giveaway. Luckily, if you do, entering is easy. All you have to do is one of the following:

Here's what you do:

1. Simply copy and paste this into a tweet: I entered to win a signed @admiralfallow album @speakersincode!

2. Comment on this blog post below.

3. Leave us a comment on our Facebook page.

The contest will run through July 22nd at midnight, and we'll randomly pick and DM/e-mail the winner on July 23rd. Good luck!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Jam of the Day | Handsome Furs - Repatriated

Over the past decade, Dan Boeckner has been able to do something that many around him have not: produce amazing music consistently, while fronting more than one band. True, his "main band," the on-indefinite-hiatus Wolf Parade got the most the fanfare and accolades, but in this blog's opinion, the three Handsome Furs albums he's created (with his wife Alexei, of course) are just as strong.

Sound Kapital, their new album, was written exclusively on keyboards, though guitars are still heavily prominent in the recording. This was a conscious decision, forcing them both to find fresh avenues of expression. Check out the first single from the record, "Repatriated," below. You should very quickly pick out the new direction in songwriting.

Handsome Furs - Repatriated

Synths. Glorious, glorious snyths.

(Anyone else noticed the abundance of naked chicks in album artwork recently?)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Contest | Win Tickets to see Josh Ritter at Off Broadway on July 22nd

In what should be a can't-miss show, Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band will be making their return to Off Broadway in Saint Louis on Friday, July 22nd. This will be Ritter's first appearance in Saint Louis since his last sold-out show at Off Broadway on July 28, 2009, and Speakers in Code + KDHX are hosting.

The show has been sold out for some time now, but we've got a pair of tickets to give away to one lucky winner!

Let's have some fun with this contest, shall we?

To enter, please let us know your favorite Josh Ritter lyric. You can post this lyric in one of two ways:

1. Leave it as a comment on this post.

2. Leave it as a comment on our Facebook page.

The contest will run through July 17th, and we'll pick our favorite lyric and e-mail the winner on July 18th. Good luck!

Jam of the Day | Twin Sister - Bad Street

Disco-pop quintet Twin Sister has been on the musical map since late 2008 when they released the first of their two notable EPs, Vampires With Dreaming Kids. The group dropped the Color Your Life EP in 2010, to rave reviews, and many began to wonder when the Long Island based crew would muster up more glittery pop in the form of a full length LP. Well, that wait will soon be over as Twin Sister will release its debut LP, In Heaven, on September 27th (Domino Records). The record's lead single, "Bad Street," serves as an apropos audio introduction to the shimmery, groovy sounds of Twin Sister. An uber-chic, electro-pop tune that fills the mind with bright colors and disco balls, "Bad Street" is all kinds of good. Yeah, baby.

Listen to and download "Bad Street" below. Pick up In Heaven on September 27th.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Jam of the Day | AM & Shawn Lee - Dark Into Light

L.A.'s indie pop artist AM and London's cinematic tunesmith Shawn Lee have gone all Postal Service on our asses, forging a fortuitous long distance relationship that is bearing some pretty sexy fruit! The concept here is the same, with Lee sending AM drum and percussion beats from London. Then, in Los Angeles, AM wrote and recorded songs over the grooves, adding guitars. Then Lee added bass, repeat ad nauseum, and voila! An album is born!

From what we've heard thus far, it's bright and freaking infectious, combining elements from both artists' typical genres. We challenge you to listen only once.

Play via the widget below and get the song for your very own by giving up some contact info. It's well worth it.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Pajammy Jam of the Day | Josh Oliver - Red Rocking Chair

The first time I saw Josh Oliver play live, he was a multi-instrumentalist for the everybodyfields, the now-defunct group from Tennessee that featured Jill Andrews and Sam Quinn. I remember him picking up his electric guitar and blasting my ears during "Aeroplane," adding that extra amount of energy that makes that particular song fly. These days, Oliver still plays with Andrews and Quinn as a key part of their solo projects. But, that's not why I'm writing about him today.

Oliver has just released his own album called Troubles, a solid debut from the guitarist/keyboardist/singer-songwriter. The project does feature some original material, but today's PJOTD is an amazing take on the traditional "Red Rocking Chair." Play it at twilight, and you just might get the chills.

Josh Oliver - Red Rocking Chair

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Jam of the Day | Jailbox - I Hate It

Coming off 2010's well-received debut, One For Each of Us, the Saint Louis-ish based foursome, Jailbox, boasts a new collection of songs. Today's Jam of the Day is "I Hate It," one of the tracks on the recent Empty Rooms EP.

Despite the uptempo beat and the slightly antipathetic title, "I Hate It" manages to finish still sounding like the acoustic lullaby it started as. Hushed and beautifully harmonized, the song's biggest achievement is its restraint, its ability to resist the temptation to become something bigger than it really is. "I Hate It" grows and expands through its entirety, careful not to trespass across self-inflicted sonic borders.

Jailbox - I Hate It

The Empty Rooms EP is available now. Pick it up HERE.

Jailbox has been on a summer long acoustic tour, but the band will celebrate its (albeit, brief) homecoming with a show at The Gramophone with My Molly and One Lone Car on July 28th. Welcome the boys home, won't you?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Our 25 Most Anticipated Albums of 2011 (Quarter 3)

Album art credit: Nate Burrell and Kristin Dennis

1 The Cool Kids | When Fish Ride Bicycles (Green Label Sound)
Release Date: July 12th
Listen: "Bundle Up"

2 Sleepy Kitty | Infinity City (Euclid)
Release Date: July 12th
Listen: "Gimme a Chantz!"

3 William Elliott Whitmore | Field Songs (ANTI-)
Release Date: July 12th
Listen: "Everything Gets Gone"

4 Washed Out | Within and Without (Sub Pop)
Release Date: July 12th
Listen: "Eyes Be Closed"

5 Old Lights | Like Strangers (self-released)
Release Date: July 15th

6 Theophilus London | Timez Are Weird These Days (Green Label Sound)
Release Date: July 19th
Listen: "Last Name London"

7 The Features | Wilderness (Serpents & Snakes)
Release Date: July 26th

8 The Horrors | Skying (XL)
Release Date: July 26th
Listen: "Still Life"

9 Matthew Ryan | I Recall Standing As Though Nothing Would Fall (Dear Future Collective)
Release Date: July 26th
Listen: "Summer in the South"

10 Union Tree Review | Death and Other Forms of Relaxation (self-released)
Release Date: July 30th
Listen: "44"

11 The New Mastersounds | Breaks From the Border (Blow It Hard)
Release Date: August 9th
Listen: "Can You Get It" (courtesy of WXPN)

12 Active Child | You Are All I See (Vagrant)
Release Date: August 23rd
Listen: "How to Dress Well"

13 Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks | Mirror Traffic (Matador)
Release Date: August 23rd
Listen: "Senator"

14 Lil Wayne - Tha Carter IV (Young Money/Cash Money)
Release Date: August 29th
Listen: "John (If I Die Today)"

15 Beirut | The Rip Tide (Pompeii)
Release Date: August 30th
Listen: "East Harlem"

16 Male Bonding | Endless Now (Sub Pop)
Release Date: August 30th
Listen: "Bones"

17 Peter Wolf Crier | Garden of Arms (Jagjaguwar)
Release Date: September 5th
Listen: "Right Away"

18 A.A. Bondy | Believers (Fat Possum)
Release Date: September 13th

19 Blind Pilot | We Are The Tide (Expunged)
Release Date: September 13th

20 Grouplove | Never Trust a Happy Song (Canvasback)
Release Date: September 13th
Listen: "Naked Kids"

21 Wilco | The Whole Love (dPbm)
Release Date: September 13th
Listen: "I Might"

22 Clap Your Hands Say Yeah | HYSTERICAL (Wichita)
Release Date: September 20th
Listen: "Same Mistake"

23 The Jayhawks | Mockingbird Time (Rounder)
Release Date: September 20th
Listen: "She Walks In So Many Ways"

24 Megafaun | Megafaun (Hometapes)
Release Date: September 20th

25 WATERS | Out in the Light (TBD)
Release Date: September 20th
Listen: "For the One"

Jam of the Day | Iceage - White Rune

The members of Copenhagen's Iceage are but mere teenagers, presently between 18 or 19 years of age (and in most cases, that would be the big story for a band who just released its debut LP to a music scene already eagerly awaiting its arrival.)  However, the story we should be telling is how the punk scene REALLY NEEDS a band like Iceage to come and deliver it from evil, a post-punk Jesus if you will, just without the robes and strappy sandals, of course.

With our Jam of the Day, "White Rune," Iceage mixes punk, post-punk, goth and hardcore together to create something that sounds like a new sub-genre of music and does such an excellent job of blending these tropes with the pent-up frustration of the just-post-pubescent years of young men's lives that they damn well may have. 

New Brigade, their debut album, is 26 minutes of tension, undiluted by worldly wisdom or amassed experience. It's out now (pick it up here) but go ahead and get your fix by downloading "White Rune" below.

Iceage - White Rune

Friday, July 1, 2011

Halfway There | Best of 2011

We know, we know. 2011 is only half empty. Or, half full, as we optimistic bloggers at Speakers in Code like to think. But the midway point of the year is always a good point to pause, gather our thoughts, make some lists, revisit early favorites, and tell you about all the songs and albums we've given metaphoric high fives to over the past six months.

So, without further ado, and only in the non-threatening, non-cemented order of alphabetical, here are our fifty favorite songs from 2011. Stream, stream away...

Check out the full list after the JUMP!