Keith John Adams

The Keith John Adams [myspace] third full length Unclever is being released by Athens, GA-based super-indie label Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records. KJA's style is for the most part British power-pop, somewhat similar to Graham Coxon's (Blur) solo stuff, but more eccentric. I also hear a bit of Robyn Hitchcock, the jokey new-wave of Jilted John, and a bit of rockabilly. On tour he's been backed by both Casper & the Cookies and Tokyo's Elekibass. And KJA isn't afraid of some indie DIY experimenting with his songwriting - if you were one of the lucky people (and I was) who got one of the first 40 preorders of Unclever, you could submit a story of your own for KJA to write a song about. All 40 story-songs may be a bonus disk with Unclever, I'm not certain. There is some talk on the E6 board about putting out a vinyl edition of the 40 story-songs, possibly on People In A Position To Know Records. Mike from Olympia,WA-based (and soon to be Austin-based) PIAPTK was actually the impetus for the first song below, "Other Side of the Road", which features members of Casper and the Cookies as the backing band and which apparently KJA liked so much he's including it on Unclever. But originally this song appeared on a very limited 8" (along with a Casper & the Cookies original) which came out last year on PIAPTK, a clear lathe cut silkscreened vinyl with a hand-knitted album cover (pic & desc.), which I was lucky enough to grab. Mike wrote over at the E6 board: "Early one Sunday morning, Keith John Adams and Casper and the Cookies recorded a couple songs in my home studio in exchange for a place to sleep and some veggie pasta. One mic, in the middle of the room, no retakes/no overdubs."

And, I was one of the lucky 40 who got to have KJA write their story into a song. Like a sap, I just told him the story of me going to marry my wife, the only story that really matters to me. Luckily he didn't make it all sappy, he turned it into a proper Brit-pop song, and of all these story-songs I've heard so far, this is my favorite, although I don't think I can truly be objective. In the email with the song, Keith wrote: "It has a mad toy instrument solo I'm rather proud of!"

Matt from You Ain't No Picasso has posted his song, and Mike from Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records has mp3s of five more up at the brand new HHBTM blog, "Sloppy Loppy" may actually be the best one I've heard yet.

Order KJA's Unclever, straight from HHBTM for only ten bucks, and look out for a short U.S. tour sometime this year.

Thanks to flickr user chasingfun for the KJA picture, from Athens Popfest 2006.



Supergrass Take On Both New Identity and Michael Jackson

In September of last year, Supergrass [myspace] bassist Mick Quinn sleepwalked out of a first-story window and broke two vertebrae and a heel. This is as Supergrass are just finishing their sixth studio album, Diamond Hoo Haa, which will be released in March. The first single is "Diamond Hoo Ha Man", and until Mick recovers, the rest of the band (plus sometimes youngest Coombes brother Charlie on keyboard bass, which would make that a 3/4 Coombes-family band) are performing as the Diamond Hoo Ha Men, although the set below is presumably just Gaz and Danny. First, let me just gush like a fanboy about how long I've loved Supergrass, yada yada. But really, it's something that great bands like them and the Charlatans UK can barely make a dent commercially outside of the UK, suffer hardships and even deaths, but keep on churning out inventive music for well over a decade. That said, the new Supergrass that I've heard is a departure. Almost all of the quirkiness, at least musically in the three songs I've heard, is almost totally gone, replaced by a straight-ahead, fuzzed-up wall of soaring rock power. It seems the charming Brits with the mischievous grins who always seemed to have a bit of a chip on their shoulder finally want to really kick your ass. March's release will tell how much this is true for the whole album, but check out the tracks on the myspaces and these, recorded yesterday in London on XFM radio, part of their "Live in Leicester Square" series. While I lived in London, I loved XFM - always the best alternative station, bar a couple shows on the normally teen-pop oriented BBC Radio. And there's something else in this radio set that makes me smile, something that truly marks this as a broadcast on British radio (apart from the accents). It's the volume changes on the background music. Somebody audibly has their hand on the volume knob, but the changes often seem random, and exaggerated.This is even more true of pirate and low-frequency stations I'd come across, especially reggae and urban stations. Anyways, here's the Diamond Hoo Ha Men:

(just Gaz and Danny, AKA Duke Diamond and Randy
of the Diamond Hoo Ha Men)

Jan 11, 2008

XFM London

Diamond Hoo Ha Man
Beat It (Michael Jackson)

Head over to the official site, complete with very nice shop, and keep an eye out for the Diamond Hoo Ha Man single (7") this Monday, Jan. 14, and the new album in March.


The Best of 2007

The bad part about waiting to put this out is it gets lost in the sea of lists. The good part is that it's given me the time to look at a lot of lists and see a few things I hadn't heard, which to me is one of the real points of it all, to make sure you've heard the cream of the crop. I've listened to virtually everything on most best-of lists that I looked at, and have got to say, that at least to my ears - the National, M.I.A., and Arcade Fire couldn't match their previous efforts. I also just didn't feel Feist's or Burial's releases. And to head it off at the tracks, Writer's Block wasn't released in the US until this year, so... Also, if I listed live shows, it would be a 1-2 battle between my 1 and 2 album of the year artists, who both put on incredible shows with their new material. And if you like the artists you hear by all means head over to their sites and myspaces, and feel free to click on the album art to purchase the complete version of the audio goodness you are hearing, at the cheapest price I found at the time. So with no further ado, whether you agree or disagree with the choices or placement, here is what I think is the best of last year:

You can download all of the mp3s in this list HERE (next to red arrow, 245MB)

Hon. Mention: Black Kids Wizard of Ahhs (EP)

Florida band that broke out at this years Athens Popfest. Black Kids definately have a Modest Mouse vibe going on most of this EP, but it's their soulfulness, easy sophistication, and hooks that have me anticipating their debut LP. Don't forget to click on an album cover if you want to buy - in this case, this EP is available as a free download.

Black Kids "Hurricane Jane"

25. Akron/Family Love Is Simple

A hippy-ish collage of organic textures and sounds all humming along to the beat of love, without sounding like a hippy love album. I don't know much about Akron/Family [myspace], but I know they're growing on me. Love, love, love for everyone.

Akron/Family "Lake Song/New Ceremonial Music For Moms"

24. Parts And Labor Mapmaker

One of my surprise finds from reading year-end best-of lists. Brooklyn trio Parts And Labor [myspace] didn't get as much acclaim as Battles, but I really dig their own Built To Spill/GBV/Husker Du/contemporary-noise influenced take on modern prog rock.

Parts And Labor "New Crimes"

23. Oh No! Oh My! Between The Devil And The Sea (EP)

Clickety-clappity rolling balls of refreshing whimsy. Patiently awaiting the sophomore album from Oh No! Oh My! [myspace]

Oh No! Oh My! "Our Mouths Were Wet"

22. Patton Oswalt Werewolves And Lollipops

Since I've listened to this more than most of the music here, it's only fair to include it. Some people just have their finger on the pulse of the world. You know it's gold when you remember the jokes but the delivery is still funny every time. I met Patton Oswalt once and chatted for a few minutes, he's as cool as you would expect him to be. Purchase includes bonus DVD. Here's Jon Voight's ballsack...

Patton Oswalt "Alternate Earth"

Patton Oswalt "At Midnight I Will Kill George Lucas With A Shovel"

21. DJ Klock San

Japanese experimental turntablist who took his own life shortly after the US release of San in early 2007. Full of head-lulling kaleidoscopic beats and breaks - test out your new headphones with this. On sale now from Ropeadope, a very artist-friendly label [previous post]

DJ Klock "Dakota"

20. White Denim Let's Talk About It (EP)

Dirty, anthemic, stomp-on-the-floor electro-psych-rock jams from Austin's most-blogged about new band, White Denim... look out for them in 2008. Buy it straight from their myspace with Paypal.

White Denim "Darksided Computer Mouth"

19. Panda Bear Person Pitch

Angelic Animal Collective member does a solo album of optimistic, breezy, pastoral loops and chants. Around the top of several bets-of lists that I saw, and #1 on Pitchfork, Motel de Moka, and Tinymixtapes.

Panda Bear "Comfy In Nautica"

18. Battles Mirrored

Reviews centered on Battles' technological prowess and chops and the term "math rock" (and focused too much on just the song "Atlas"), without referring to it simply as what it is: the future of modern prog.

Battles "Rainbow"

17. of Montreal Icons, Abstract Thee (EP)

On top of one of the albums of the year, of Montreal dropped this gem of an EP. The songs (except maybe "No Conclusion") don't quite fit into Hissing Fauna's style, but were recorded during the same sessions.

of Montreal "Voltaic Crusher/Undrum To Muted Da"

16. Black Moth Super Rainbow Dandelion Gum

Black Moth Super Rainbow [myspace] lump vocoder, synths, whirring doo-dads and god-only-knows what else into their own peculiar blend of beat-laden psychedelic soup

Black Moth Super Rainbow "Melt Me"

15. Apples In Stereo New Magnetic Wonder

More anthemic bubblegum pop-rock from studio maestro Robert Schneider's Apples In Stereo [myspace], with a new musical scale thrown in for good measure.

Apples In Stereo "7 Stars"

14. Octopus Project Hello, Avalanche

On the surface, the Octopus Project can seem cold and detached, but stick with it and you'll hear the laid-back organic warmth spilling over.

Octopus Project "Vanishing Lessons"

13. Peter, Bjorn, and John Writer's Block

Look - it was released in the US in 2007. It's popular enough that I probably don't even have to say it's more than "Young Folks". And damn it, these are great songs and this is a great album. Period.

Peter, Bjorn, and John "The Chills"

12. Shugo Tokumaru Exit

After going through year-end lists and being disappointed time and time again when the music doesn't live up to the hype, finding Shugo Tokumaru feels like finding gold in the river. Exit shimmers and bounces, yet its acoustic guitars help keep it feel grounded. It sounds like Cornelius taking a vacation in the country. Out in the US in 2008.

Shugo Tokumaru "Parachute"

11. DJ Kicks - Hot Chip

Alright, so it's a compilation. And no, I don't have so much Hot Chip-love that I would include this just because it has their name on it. I'm including it because it is simply one of the most-played things in my household of everything released this year. A DJ set (and I usually don't like most dance music to be honest) that moves you and sounds effortless, including lots of lesser-known artists, drawing on everything from full-pumping techno to the more brainy side of 4/4 electronica to hiphop to Joe Jackson. This is a good sample below, it's tracks connected so you can hear the flow from one to the next.

Hot Chip - DJ Kicks sampler

10. Melt-Banana Bambi's Dilemma

There's a trend in this list of more established bands releasing albums which are the most focused of their careers, and this is a good example. The chaotic juggernaut of squealing squelching Japanese destruction known as Melt-Banana [myspace] have controlled their noise explosions just enough to almost qualify as rock, one song even almost as pop, but not by much. Expect to be thrilled and left on your head.

Melt-Banana "The Call of The Vague"

Melt-Banana "Lock The Head"

9. Tomahawk Anonymous

The concept album of the decade, and almost nobody noticed. So the story goes that guitarist Duane Denison, touring with Hank Williams III, visited American Indian reservations, and was nonplussed with the new-agey music he heard from the locals. He did the research, found authentic (anonymous) hundred year-old Native American songs, and he and (Battles drummer) John Stanier recorded their parts and sent the results cross-country to Mike Patton to add his vocals and weirdness. The result is not only admirable but listenable, and at times exhilarating, and definately a departure from the other Tomahawk releases.

Tomahawk "Antelope Ceremony"

Tomahawk "Mescal Rite I"

8. Vampire Weekend Blue CD-R

I guess this is what the Blue CD-R looks like. I, like virtually everyone, had to download it from a P2P after our ears were perked by the first couple shared tracks. There's more than the Afropop-style everyone talks about, I especially like the orchestral touches which don't sound forced at all, the plain-out Killer hooks and rhythms - everything just right - a bit of this, a bit of that, maybe a nice new haircut. The catchiest of catchy, a first half that is unstoppable, and this is just the demos, although I'm not sure the songs will change much on their debut, out in January. The proper album cover, an EP, and more tracks of course at their myspace.

Vampire Weekend "Mansard Roof"

Vampire Weekend "Boston"

7. Pedro You, Me, and Everyone

It was released early in 2007 on import, came out in November in the US, and I didn't hear it until I saw it on a single person's best-of list. But this is the kind of find that these lists are for. Before I searched for name and album on google, I came across half a dozen bands on Myspace with the exact same name of "Pedro". But this is one James Rutledge, working solo, apparently he's a "producer's producer" who's worked with some of the biggest names in alternative music, pioneered "folktronica", and this is his sophomore album. It's an off-kilter mix of electronica, free jazz, kitchen sink, etc. that in terms of pure excitement could be at the top of this list.

Pedro "I Am Keeping Up"

Pedro "Vitamins"

6. Caribou Andorra

I'll be honest, I don't have much to say about Caribou except for the obvious 60's comparisons and home-studio electronica talk. Maybe use the word "ethereal" or "psychedelic". Perhaps my biggest regret of any type over the whole of last year was missing Caribou in concert, seeing several people trying to play these songs live, but on this record it is one man alone. Dan Snaith is a wizard.

Caribou "Sandy"

Caribou "Eli"

5. Apostle of Hustle National Anthem of Nowhere

After seeing them at SXSW, Apostle of Hustle became an immediate favorite (I admittedly missed Folkloric Feel), and I was blown away by the sophistication of this album. Andrew Whiteman takes the best parts of Broken Social Scene with him and mixes it with waves of Cuban heat and killer riffs and comes up with something that sounds at once familiar yet fresh and exotic. "Chances Are" is by far the most poppy thing on this record, the smoldering Latin vibe is more predominate on the rest of the record. National Anthem of Nowhere is smoother and stronger than its predecessor, and I have a feeling it will be a bit like Shawshank Redemption - slow out of the gate, but slowly finding its way into a wider audience who will appreciate finding something very unique.

Apostle of Hustle "My Sword Hand's Anger"

Apostle of Hustle "Chances Are"

4. Deerhoof Friend Opportunity

If you put M.I.A. on your 2007 list and not this one, you didn't hear "Kidz Are So Small". Deerhoof [myspace] is one of the most distinctive bands in modern music: sprightly, fun, chaotic, challenging, and on this one they sound like they are incorporating more elements than ever before, even (like SFA) flirting with doo-wop on the intro to "Matchbook Seeks Maniac". Like the rest of this list, Deerhoof have managed to put out their poppiest record yet, but without losing their sense of musical exploration or identity.

Deerhoof "Kidz Are So Small"

Deerhoof "Matchbook Seeks Maniac"

3. Super Furry Animals Hey Venus!

Both album and band are criminally overlooked. This is SFA just having fun and creating indie standards in the process. A concise exercise in song writing and production from the masters.

Super Furry Animals "Into the Night"

Super Furry Animals "Carbon Dating"

Super Furry Animals "Aluminum Illuminati" ('Show Your Hand' B-side/Jap. bonus track)

2. of Montreal Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?

I've loved of Montreal for a while. Talented musicians who breeze life into one man's whimsical neo-psychedelia (though this and recent albums have been recorded solo). They've lost a few fans with this one, but not many, and the number they've gained faaaar outweighs that. If you look between the lines you'll see the quirky chord changes that mark Kevin Barne's style, only now he's fully replaced the Victorian parlor feel with modern electronics and a technicolor stage show, but without sacrificing song structure. And instead of love songs previous which brim with happiness and glee, the lyrics here document the chaotic and at times gloomy emotional journey of his recent family life.

of Montreal "A Sentence of Sorts In Kongsvinger"

of Montreal "Bunny (Ain't No Kind of Rider)"

1. Animal Collective Strawberry Jam

They just have it. Like all four veteran bands at the top this list, the inspired alchemy they've created over their careers has only become more focused and, well, catchy. Animal Collective mix primal (yet beautiful) vocalizations with sampled loops and effects and instead of sounding like meandering electro-hippies, what they create virtually always sparkles with unidentifiable magic. And on Strawberry Jam, it comes together as cohesively as it ever has.

Animal Collective "Fireworks"

Animal Collective "Derek"

If you like or already love any of these albums, please click on the album cover to purchase it. You will not only get the art, but let's face it: vinyl debates aside, CD always sounds better than mp3, otherwise you just won't get the full, rich sound these artists have created. Also, if I've given an Amazon link, note it was only because at least at the time of original review it was the cheapest. However, many artists have started selling their music straight from their websites - if this is available, it should always be the preferred option.

However you come about getting your hands on it, good luck to all of you on the search for new (and old) music in 2008.

btw, song on the year, from a solo radio session he did early in 2007: Panda Bear "Untitled"

I don't think that song will ever get old for me. It defies explanation how that looped beat of a guitar strumming two chords for eternity and plain lyrics about love and want can constantly provide the comforting warmth they do. It was so good, the rest of Animal Collective picked it up and turned it on it's head.

Looking forward to AC's 2008 release, and of course of Montreal's, and especially the new Joggers, as well debut LP's from Vampire Weekend and White Denim and new releases from Dressy Bessy, Avalanches, Supergrass, Blur(?), Tortoise, Dengue Fever, and the Breeders.