Saturday, July 28, 2007

Travis Morrison Makes Me Feel Like A Freak

Even bigger than the Baconator.

Last year, I saw Travis Morrison's new band, the Hellfighters, and they pulled something I would normally think is completely asshole, playing nothing but new, unreleased tunes. Except every damn one of those new tunes was excellent, and Morrison seemed just as amped for them as he did when I first saw him at the Plan's third to last show ever (now fifth to last I guess). I made a note that he sounded even more like the Talking Heads than ever, and didn't stop checking his website regularly for an update on the album even when he made like his beloved rappers and let the release date slide past 2007.

Today, I was overjoyed to find on not just an update on the damn thing's release date, but the record, All Y'All, available in full for streaming pleasure. Even when the fans let him down (by mostly heeding Pitchfork's demented advice to ignore Travistan), the man still gives and gives to them.

This was a big gift; the record's amazing, I can attest after three or four plays in a row. Travistan haters can relax. The closest thing to that bugged-out lab experiment is "Snacktime," an endearingly wacky kids' jam that he left off the record itself in favor of a free mp3 download, like some of his other wacky one-offs. Everyone I've played "Snacktime" for hated it, which sucks, but at least I can guarantee them All Y'All's a whole other ball game.

Three major detours differentiate All Y'All from the rest of Morrison's catalogue. First, production. Reunited with Plan guitarist Jason Cadell, who also co-helmed Get Him Eat Him's massive-sounding Arms Down earlier this year, they get a slamming thump out of the Hellfighters, producing a "band"-sounding record with striking heft. Just compare the way the drums and bass slam and thud on "East Side of the River" or "Churchgoer" to say, the more spry and flappy way his old band jellies around on Change. Even the keyboards here are used entirely for rhythm, not atmosphere. Thwocking fart bass and Casio blurps lock in without a hint of say, the airy midi backdrop of "Sentimental Man." The new unit's not an obvious racecar like old rhythm section Eric Axelson and Joe Easley, but they provide a crucial crunch that, as much as I really do love the playful Travistan, Death Cab For Cutie will never possess.

All Y'All's even better. Travistan has all the tunes and sound effects and wordplay, but the new one has a focus, a groove-oriented singlemindedness that makes the second surprise even more successful. This is Travis' attempt an R&B record. Even the Planniest song he's done in ages, "You Make Me Feel Like A Freak" waits on the riff-guitar until the verses are done vamping a jazz-lite Rhodes and a descending bass crinkle that sounds like Soundgarden's "The Day I Tried To Live." Undoubtedly the funkiest music he's ever made, most of the album is taken up by spare, simple synth parts, meaty bass and drum lines, even congas(!) and the strongest singing voice Morrison's managed since Emergency & I at least. Remember how squeaky he was starting to sound on those last two records? Well those stints in his community gospel choir have done wonders for the man. Watch him pull off a postively operatic finish to "Just Didn't Turn Me On," a feat he only pulled off at the coda of Travistan's "My Two Front Teeth Pts. 2-3" using the studio to multiply him into a Spectorian wall of Travises. Here he's so much more Ronnie than Phil, though. There's touches of modern funk, too. The stomping sex dare "Catch Up," features some rapping dude on the hook, and the song barely flinches. All the drum machines and cheesy bongo percussion are so well-integrated into the productions that they just sound like a natural extension of the g-b-d even though they were probably tacked on in ProTools just like Travistan.

And by now you've probably noticed the third thing. Look at those song titles: "I'm Not Supposed To Like You (But)," "Just Didn't Turn Me On," "You Make Me Feel Like A Freak," and the settling-down refrain of the gorgeous "Hawkins' Rock," "Let's build a house / let's build a home together / Up on Hawkins' rock / We can disappear forever." In the true spirit of the soul music he's emulating in his own way, Morrison doesn't try to dance around the new concern for sex and lust and relationships with witty detachment like he did with the Plan. He's over 30, and he's no longer frustrated. In fact, he sounds more satisfied with his life than ever, and the fortress-like stability of his new music proves it even more than Brandon Stousy's Stereogum interview did literally. The muscles of "Hawkins' Rock," or the aggressive "As We Proceed," simply pound where Travistan's best moments ("People Die," "Song for the Orca") diddled.

There's only a few artists who I've come to expect an Album of the Year candidate out of just about every time: Old 97's, PJ Harvey, Eric Bachmann's back on the track, but Travis is riding a better streak than any of them. Pacing himself, unpressured by the temptations of a full-time rock star life, he may outrun Sonic Youth yet, whether the Plan ever re-forms or not.

Travis Morrison Hellfighters - All Y'All (Barsuk): A

Download mp3: Travis Morrison Hellfighters - As We Proceed

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Four Day Weekend

I am doing nothing but listening to Primal Scream and eating couscous.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Revisiting My 2006 A-List

1. Ghostface Killah – Fishscale (still da man)
2. Wussy – Funeral Dress ('05)
3. The Roots – Game Theory (just a tad overenthusiastic...I'd stick Clipse here and Roots #5 now)
4. Be Your Own Pet (#2 since Wussy really doesn't belong)
5. The Replacements - Don't You Know Who I Think I Was? The Best Of The Replacements
6. Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere (still a remarkably consistent album, though I burned myself out on it, especially "Crazy." i'm still a big defender, but the Eric Bachmann, Format, Dolls and others are definitely better)
7. Eric Bachmann – To The Races
8. Eef Barzelay – Bitter Honey (not top 10 material)
9. Neil Young – Living With War (not top 10 material)
10. The Format - Dog Problems (move up a little)
11. The Rapture – Pieces Of The People We Love (move up a little)
12. Jens Lekman – Oh You’re So Silent Jens ('05)
13. Man Man – Six Demon Bag
14. Regina Spektor – Begin To Hope
15. R.E.M. - ...And I Feel Fine: The Best Of The I.R.S. Years
16. Yo La Tengo - I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass
17. New York Dolls - One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This (A low top-ten entry now)
18. Sonic Youth – Rather Ripped (To my surprise, slip this down a little. most sy albums grow on me, so i kind of preempted that. now i think this is their worst since Sister or Goo, and yes, those are worsts for some)
19. Pearl Jam (at the bottom if still on the A-list at all. those cheesy ballads near the end ensure that. too much credit for "Unemployable" and those early fast ones, quite a few of which i can't remember, cuz i haven't played the damn thing since I put it on here)
20. Bob Dylan - Modern Times (down a bit. still great background music, but not best Bob)
21. Thom Yorke – The Eraser (up! undettered by Christgau as usual with this guy, still think it beats Thief)
22. Rhymefest – Blue Collar
23. The Streets - The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living (better than Blue Collar and Modern Times, i know that)
24. Hamell On Trial – Songs For Parents Who Enjoy Drugs
25. The Coup - Pick A Bigger Weapon
26. The Decemberists - The Crane Wife (could use a good drop to the lower 30s or so)
27. The Handsome Family – Last Days Of Wonder
28. The Hold Steady – Boys And Girls In America (ok, ok. top 20.)
29. Todd Snider – The Devil You Know (little lower. why were the raucous singer-songwriters so much less effecting this year than the snoozies?)
30. Thunderbirds Are Now! - Make History (up, up, up. top 20. the D-Plan lives!)
31. The Rough Guide To Bhangra Dance
32. We Are Scientists – With Love And Squalor (a tad closer to the bottom. I still regard this like an old punk album...great collection of singles with filler that grows on you)
33. Justin Timberlake - FutureSex/LoveSounds (up a little)
34. Ghostface Killah – More Fish (up! who would've thought this would become my third favorite Ghost?)
35. Jesus H. Christ And The Four Hornsmen Of The Apocalypse
36. Tom Waits - Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards (i'd love to move this up but that length is much too imposing...I play it rarely)
37. Panic! At The Disco - A Fever You Can't Sweat Out ('05)
38. The Rakes – Capture/Release (near the end...almost forgotten)
39. The Rough Guide To Planet Rock
40. The Long Winters – Putting The Days To Bed (up! again, christgau won't bend me. still excellent jangle-rock, if anything, i've got a better handle on its twisty choruses than i did before, particularly "(It's a) Departure" and "Hindsight")
41. M. Ward - Post-War (down a tiny bit)
42. The Thermals - The Body, The Blood, The Machine (up a little!)
43. Ali Farka Touré - Savane (not an A-list album as the first four tracks fooled me into thinking. politely fades to a B+. i can't believe i fell for the death/overrate trick, but at least it was with this insane talent and not like, Jeff Buckley or Elliott Smith)
44. The Fever – In The City Of Sleep (again, B+. the fine moments remain astonishing--"Cry Wolf," "Redhead," but whether there is an A- album buried in here or not, there is an average one too. B+)
45. The National – Alligator ('05) (I suspect this would not be on my 2008 weeding of this list, but both this and the Cherry Tree EP hold up remarkably for music i find myself increasingly unable to defend as "not boring." Definitely one to cut-by-cut next time I play it, which won't be for a while.)
46. Scissor Sisters – Ta-Dah
47. Tropicalia: A Brazilian Revolution In Sound
48. Missy Elliott – Respect M.E. [IMPORT] (I don't know what to say about this one. It belongs on an A-list. I refuse to believe that Mystikal's best-of is more fun to listen to than Missy's best all in one place. But I NEVER EVER EVER play it. I didn't even then, it just felt like an event on paper, U.S. release or no U.S. release. Maybe she really only does work one summer at a time?)
49. Kimya Dawson – Remember That I Love You (Belongs in the bottom 3)
50. The Pipettes – We Are The Pipettes [IMPORT] (A mistake. Their singles wear awfully, and though better tracks now stand out that didn't before, like "I Love You," their twists got old fast. Chalk another one up to the Pitchfork noise machine.)
51. KRS-One – Life
52. The Game - The Doctor's Advocate (Another mistake. Feels obvious, right? Well, at the time I was so shocked to like any Game at all that I tacked this on after two listens. Still not a bad album, and he's one lucky fuck if I may say so, considering "One Blood" sucks and the content of "Wouldn't Get Far" truly ruins an excellent beat. But I will not be caught dead A-listing this.
53. Morningwood (Still great, fuck off)
54. Arctic Monkeys – Whatever You Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (I hate to say it, but B+. Some about this fresh, young, energetic band bores the hell out of me.)

Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury (#3. It took me forever to stop nitpicking about its disjointed sounds and the notes' avoidance of closure, but once I did, this was seriously the only 2006 album I was still listening to.)
Crunk Hits 2 (A Christgau concession, though giving it an A is truly twisted. a mid-low A- will do just fine for the batch of retarded singles and the batch of fun ones)
Ion Petre Stoican - Songs from a Bygone Age Vol. 1 (Excellent document of instrumental precision. Only falters on the one with vocals, operatic ones that aren't to my taste. A- smack in the middle all the way)
Beyonce - B'Day (Top 25. Insanely consistent. Just what I've been waiting for from this singles queen.)
Journey Into Paradise - The Larry Levan Story (near the bottom but deserving. practically endless string of pleasurable dabbler-obscure disco)
Beirut - Gulag Orkestar (middle-bottom. probably better than the Crane Wife because of all the great horn riffs. feels more important than it is, because da-dum, he's a mere boy of 20, but he'll mature well so let's not spoil him now. look how Rufus Wainwright turned out.)

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Bitch needs a goddamn ticket limit

I'm going back to aping Tom Breihan's blog style, with the picture at the top, and the italicized semi-punchline underneath. I can't quit you Tom! Even if you continue to reveal reason after reason why you shouldn't be allowed to own ears (Crazy Town, Tommy? Really? And Devin the Dude and Against Me! are two of the main reasons music criticism needs me bad). Anyway. I saw shows this week. I'm seeing another one tonight. But that's mainly what I did.

July 16 - The Decemberists - Central Park SummerStage

This band is tearing me and my girlfriend apart (well and me being an asshole). Colin. How many times have I told you. I don't care if you know the word palanquin. I will not sit down in the middle of yer big 40 minute seven-part epic just because the rest of Central Park does. That is fucking stupid. I did n--my girlfriend did not pay $33.75 or something so I could act like a sheep. I don't care who was behind me being a bitch several rows back. It's bad enough Central Park charges $4 extra to put chicken in the Caesar salad. I'm not giving up the best view I had all show to please you. Especially when the group won't even put in the effort for me. Where was the giant cardboard whale, Chris? Flapping your arms is no acceptable substitute for an EASILY PACKABLE PROP. Where was "Culling of the Fold," Colin, your best song in ages? I'm gonna have to challenge you to a duel or some shit...get your prissy white gloves. Yes, your musicianship is good ("The Island" especially), yes, your song selection was for the most part up to par ("The Engine Driver"), but no, I am not sitting down during that big finale and I don't give a shit how many dead infants from Russia it's about. B-

July 20 - Gogol Bordello - Irving Plaza

Just by wearing a Gogol shirt I didn't even purchase here, I got asked about this show more the next day than my girlfriend got hit on by Newark Penn Station FAs in the last month (that's a lot). If you live in NYC, this NJian concludes, you care about Gogol Bordello's live show. Not Battles, not Cursive, not Eric Bachmann & Neko Case, three very tasty shows I unfortunately hads to choose over. Fuck, even my dad AND mom were rock and roll savvy enough to hit the Philly show the night before. I've already made myself more than outspoken about the awesomeness that be the Gogol live show and this was no different. Eugene made up for not climbing onto the drum with the chick during the now-classic "Undestructible" finale by not just climbing the speaker tower to stage left (big deal, fucking Blake from Rilo Kiley did that) but leaping up to the balcony like fucking Spider-Man and smooching a lucky lady's neck loudly into the mic ("Mwwwwwahhh! Mwwwwaaah!" et al.). I finally got to see them do "Sally," and they picked every new song I needed to hear, which means not many ("Harem In Tuscany" finally converts!) and otherwise showed my baby how a real band plays a show. A

July 21 - Siren Music Festival - Coney Island

I have to keep reminding myself what a disappointment this wasn't. It was free, for one thing. The barely-alcoholic Pina Coladas were really good (they were out of Blue Hawaiians what the fuck), The Noisettes were excellent onstage, and someday they might write an album worth of their enthusiasm (What's the Time Mr. Wolf is hardly anything to sneeze at, and fuck Rolling Stone for agreeing), and the tail end of White Rabbits that we caught was fun. But this was a fucking trainwreck. Leave for five fucking seconds to eat and pee and you were out. The thing was disgustingly overcrowded. It was impossible to get anywhere close enough to see M.I.A. or We Are Scientists (of course Elvis Perkins in fucking Dreamland didn't have this problem), and to hear them at all you had the option of standing in front of the auxillary speaker placed strategically in front of the baking port-o-potties. I passed. Didn't help that some bands operated on a half hour delay that others didn't recognize (I know all summer festivals have this problem, but other fests don't have three blocks separating the two stages). We basically gave up trying to see music (and I am PISSED I have to find out when perpetually-deported M.I.A. and possibly one-time-only New York Dolls are coming again) and treating the thing as an excuse to meet some bands. Now I've still never seen Cursive, but I've offered them a watered-down Pina Colada. Nice fellows. Noisettes were too. I ran into several cool people (sup Carias), and some losers (drop dead Lauren) and got some sun. C

July 21 - Eric Bachmann - Maxwell's

Even if we ultimately got within hearing range of New York Dolls I doubt I would've loved it as much as I did our split decision to bolt and try to catch this little gem. I had such a great time watching an all-time hero do his soggy bar-crooner thing in a dimly lit room with two females adding haunting, excellent backing vocals, drum and violin, and an awesome cello/upright guy that I don't even care that I missed four of my favorite songs ever by arriving late (according to a jacked setlist). The vibe was just perfect. We mostly sat down against the wall, up front by the stage enjoyed whatever solo and Crooked Fingers tunes the man felt like doling out. Suprisingly, the balding outgrown indie rocker still had a big, fucked up sense of humor; he laughs at cars on fire in Pennsylvania, takes long pee breaks before the encore, and forgets the words to "Sweet Marie." Awesome. And what do you know, he did save one of my favorite songs of all time for the end: "White Trash Heroes!" Awesome guy. Really nice to take a pic with us afterwards too even though I was slobbering on him like a moron ("I even have your Barry Black CDs!!") and probably scaring him. Never will I choose a lame festival over a modest genius ever again. A-

Tonight: The Willowz and Detroit Cobras at Maxwell's! And then I stop blowing all my money on shows and look for a damn job again!

Friday, July 20, 2007

this is awesome

A talented fellow Stylus writer named Andrew Unterberger and two fellow geeks kicked the world's ass on VH1's World Series of Pop Culture. Congrats, Andrew, you rich bastard! Prepare to be name-dropped.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

kiss out the jam (lip glosstradamus rmx)

Update! I still blog b-blog blog blog. This is my life in July 2007.

1. I did not go to Pitchfork. I am going to Siren.

2. It is no easier trying to fit in with a community of music critics than it was in high school or college. They are not all awkward snobs, and this frightens me. Some of them have dated women who've had breast augmentations!

3. Staying at Jenny's house for a week at a time is awesome.

4. KOTJ need to get paid son. I am raking in $193/month from Go! Magazine because my dear old friend Tracy has the hookups. But I'm no good to Borders except on Harry Potter night. If you have a job and you know where I can find one, hook me up! I'm game to relocate anywhere well-populated in North Jersey or NYC for even a fucking wear-an-apron fix-you-a-latte gig.

5. I don't write about this in this space, but I don't feel like ever updating my MySpace blog or LiveJournal anymore. But I don't know if I'm retired from music or what. I *do* have about half of a Nausea album in the can. I *do* have sketches for a third Dan ex Machina record. I *don't* have an audience/reliable bandmates/money/any current personal satisfaction from making music. But I did drop my last $400 on a new amp and acoustic. So we'll see.

6. Maturity is no fun! Way to get into law school, Greg. Way to join a working band, Justin. Who am I supposed to make racist/homophobic/misogynistic EPs with now?

7. My ass may be broke, but I'm still keeping it indie. Sniff.

8. Who am I kidding...I can't wait to score tix to that Maroon 5/Hives gig.