Cursive - "Big Bang"

How can horns be so goddamn heavy? Ask Cursive, who, on their latest record (out later this summer on Saddle Creek), add a wind section to their already incredible mix of instruments. They've got to be the most underrated band on the planet.

Hear what's working on becoming the song of my summer, "Big Bang", here. And make sure to pick up Happy Hollow when it hits stores on August 22nd or pre-order it from Insound below.

Cursive - Official Site
Pre-order Happy Hollow!

Early Eraser reviews: "Irritating, ticking bullshit"

Remember how I told you that Thom Yorke is about to release one of the most innovative records of the year on Tuesday? Well, pretty much every one else disagrees with me. Here are just a few of the snarling reviews I've been reading -- hot off the press -- in the last few days.

The Guardian: 60% "The Eraser is no more experimental than the average Radiohead album. In fact, it sounds exactly like you would expect a Thom Yorke solo album to sound: twitchy electronic beats, doomy washes of synthesizer, backing vocals that are invariably high, wordless and ghostly, except on Skip Divided, where they literally involve whimpering. The lyrics are one long defeated sigh, interrupted by the occasional tut and roll of the eyes. We are variously informed that there's no light in the dark, time's running out for us, things are fucked up, it gets you down and people get crushed like biscuit crumbs. Even the guitar on The Clock sounds like it's grumbling. At its worst, The Eraser brings to mind the unlikely image of Autechre fronted by Private Frazer off Dad's Army: thump, bleep, splonk, we're all doomed, I tell you."

The Scotsman: 40% "The album then pulses out on the anticlimactic Cymbals Rush, which is little more than computer bleeps - not just any computer bleeps, mind, but old school Amstrad computer bleeps, or the kind of supercomputer featured in 1970s conspiracy movies. Strangely, this is the track which has cropped in the Radiohead live set. Ultimately, The Eraser is little more than a collectable curiosity to tide us over until the main missive next year. But let's hope Thom had some fun for once."

And, my favorite:

Somethingawful.com: 0% "Here’s a little bit of history, just in case you’re twelve years old or something: There once was a band called Radiohead who made two pop-rock albums, followed by a gigantic nerd opus called OK Computer that set the world’s population of dweebic collegiate brow-furrowers on fire like so many lighters at a Bon Jovi encore. After that, Thom Yorke had a stroke and forgot how to make words with his mouth, and Jonny Greenwood decided that he was too smart for tunes. Since then, they’ve been periodically plopping out bewildering hunks of semi-musical garbage which nerds pretend to enjoy in order to seem smart.

While Radiohead’s release schedule isn’t too regular, they are certainly prolific in one regard: the albums they occasionally do release are so jam-packed with stupid ideas that even the most voracious consumer of failure will be tided over for a good many years. However, within the constraints of a band so meticulous and perfectionist about giving each and every bad idea the mucous-shine of overwrought humorlessness, Thom Yorke found himself cooking up more bad ideas than could be accommodated by their plodding schedule. Nerds rejoice: Yorke’s po-faced pretension has finally burst the Radiohead dam, and a muddy tide of bad ideas is now spilling toward you like a tidal wave.

Unfettered by the musicality of his bandmates, Thom Yorke is now free to develop his music in whatever direction he sees fit. Judging by the prevailing sonic trends on The Eraser, that direction is “clicking and moaning.” While the record is comprised of approximately 45% clicks and 35% moans, Yorke puts his sonic genius on display by bunging the cracks with liberal smattering of beeps, bonks, shuffles, grating monotone loops, and a whirring cavalcade of sundry electronic nuisances.

Basically, imagine a Radiohead album with all the music removed and replaced by irritating, ticking bullshit.

Oh, silly me, that’s what the last three and a half Radiohead albums have sounded like anyway. How about this: imagine that Radiohead had all their musical instruments stolen and yet were contractually obligated to deliver an album in one hour.

You know what? This is all too complicated for something so fundamentally simple. Just imagine that Thom Yorke made a really boring, dashed-off solo album cobbled together exclusively from the worst elements of Radiohead’s recent career and lacking entirely in redeeming features. Now imagine Pitchfork Media ejaculating out their fingertips and every nerd you know not shutting the fuck up about it, ever. This record is seriously terrible, and when I say “seriously,” don’t mean that I’m serious about the album being terrible, I mean that the album is serious about being terrible.

Addendum: 22% of the letters in Thom Yorke’s name are superfluous. Fuck him.

Of course, the big motivators/influencers have yet to weigh in -- Spin, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, could you really trash this good of a record?

Explosions in the Sky finish new album, aim for February release

Explosions in the Sky, better known as the country's premier guitar-oriented post-rock outfit, have just finished recording their third full-length and are planning for a February release, according to their website. Recorded by John Singleton in Minneapolis, the album features six songs "ranging in length from three to thirteen minutes each", and will be classic Explosions territory: soaring melodic guitar, war march snares. The name of this record is unknown at this time, though the band is planning to announce details before their September 16th performance at Austin City Limits.

If you want to get your Explosions in the Sky fill before the summer ends, head over to their official site where you can legally download all eight tracks from 2005's extremely rare Travels in Constants EP they did for the boys at Temporary Residence. If you're a fan of the band or the genre, I highly recommend checking it out.

2007: New albums from Bright Eyes, Massive Attack, and now Explosions in the Sky. Hot damn.

Explosions in the Sky - Official Site
Temporary Residence - Official Site

Six Organs of Admittance, Major Stars, more at the Middle East tonight

If you're not getting drunk and eating veggie dogs in a lawn chair in Somerville tonight like I'm planning to, you should head on over to the Middle East, which is hosting one of July's best shows. The lineup features Californian guitar lord Benjamin Chasny (a.k.a Six Organs of Admittance) doing his folk/jazz thing, as well as Important Records noisemakers Major Stars, and ex-Harvey Danger rockers Bound Sterns. For a $10 door charge, there's hardly anything more worth it.

So here are the details:
Wed., 07/07 (tonight)
Major Stars
Bound Sterns

@ the Middle East Upstairs
9PM, 18+, $10

If you're still not convinced, you can listen to a song from each of the bands below. Or, in the case of Six Organs of Admittance, you can watch a video. That's right -- visual stimulus! Wow!

Six Organs of Admittance - "All You've Left"
Major Stars - "Pocket"
Bound Sterns - "Crimes and Follies"

Sufjan Stevens announces fall tour

For the first time in over a year, multi-instrumentalist and American history buff Sufjan Stevens has announced an extensive set of tour dates, this time with labelmates My Brightest Diamond. According to an Asthmatic Kitty press release, this tour "will feature no cheerleading outfits...suit coats, neckties and corsages might be more appropriate." Interesting. Could we say that Sufjan has grown up? I loved the dancing as much as the next guy, but I think this is better.

Mr. Stevens will be premiering some new music on this tour, so make sure to bring your Talkboy. And go pretty much anywhere in the country that isn't New England. Dates below:

Mon. Sept. 11: Nashville, TN, Ryman
Tues Sept 12: Little Rock, AR TBA
Fri. Sept. 15: Austin, TX, Paramount Theater
Sat. Sept. 16: Austin, TX, Paramount Theater
Tue. Sept. 19: New Orleans, LA, House of Blues
Weds. Sept. 20: Atlanta, GA, Fox Theater (PASTE Fest)
Thu. Sept. 21: Chapel Hill, NC, Memorial Hall
Sat. Sept. 23: Indianapolis, IN, Egyptian Theater
Sun. Sept. 24: St. Louis, MO, The Pageant
Mon. Sept. 25: Milwaukee, WI, Pabst Theater
Tue. Sept. 26: Chicago, IL, The Riviera
Thu. Sept. 28: Philadelphia, PA, The Towers
Fri. Sept. 29: New York, NY, Town Hall
Sat. Sept. 30: New York, NY, Town Hall
Mon. Oct. 9: Los Angeles, CA, The Wiltern
Weds. Oct. 11: San Francisco, CA, Zellerbach Hall
Fri. Oct. 13: Portland, OR, Crystal Ballroom
Sat. Oct. 14: Vancouver, BC, St. Andrews Cathedral
Sun. Oct. 15: Seattle, WA, Paramount

Asthmatic Kitty - Sufjan, My Brightest Diamond to Tour
Sufjan Stevens - Part 3 of the Avalanche

The Flaming Lips trash Clapton, Dylan

Between writing songs about magic wands and sexual robots, the Flaming Lips apparently have time to shit-talk anybody who's not them. In a recent audio interview with Rolling Stone, Lips members Steven Drozd and Wayne Coyne went to town on some of rock's greatest legends, including Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan. And we're not talking about Thom Yorke calling the industry "a bunch of retards", this is some intense stuff.

On Clapton:
"Most recently, the first in a series of Cream reunion shows took place here, which prompts a joke from Lips multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd. The joke: "What do coffee and Eric Clapton have in common?"

But of course: Both suck without cream."

On Dylan:
"I mean, have you seen Dylan lately? You can't recognize a single song he plays anymore. It's like you order a pizza and Dylan brings you a pile of dog food, and you're like, 'What's this? I ordered pizza.' And Dylan says, 'This is my version of a pizza.' "

For you, Grand Wizard Coyne, I will post some homophobic kid's response to someone telling him he'd like your band if he liked Ween:

"the flaming lips suck my ass! their singer is a whinny fag, and while the music is pretty good with beck-ish sound effects and groovy melodies, they lack any creativeness that could ever put them into a fair comparison with the musical gods that are ween.

if i caught a ween show with the flaming lips, ween had better play their traditional 3-4 hours, or i'm going to get up on stage and beat the living shit out the flaming lips faggoty-assed singer."



Frank Black: "Pixies will never record again"

After years of speculation, an iTunes single, and having to waft through two Frank Black country records, a July 6th Uncut Magazine interview with the Pixies revealed that the band is never planning to re-enter the studio to record the follow-up to 1993's Trompe le Monde. This is what Frank Black had to say:

"I wish it could go a bit further again and we could make a record. Not all of the band-members are willing to do that. Rather than make a big deal out of it, we've agreed to just continue to play live...We definitely enjoy ourselves. There is a little camaraderie, a gang mentality that takes over when we're about to take the stage."

It's that girl in the band, isn't it? Jeez. Just write some more fun stuff, Black Francis!

Music saved my life: Wire - Chairs Missing (Harvest; 1978)

Without Chairs Missing, Wire would only be one of the most influential punk bands of all time. Instead, they opted to record a set of songs that reflected their evolving musical tastes and became something even more obscenely enormous. The ferocity of the incredible Pink Flag remains, but the band willflully stretches their sound, filling in spaces with Eno-like atmospherics, polyrhythmic synth noises, and the trademark Colin Newman shout. "Mercy" is the album's crowning apex, guitars breathing fire to a colossal climax while the drums break for a beautifully planned closed hi-hat hit that invites the listener to see if their heart is still beating...but doesn't leave them enough time to do so. It sounds crazy, but it's one of those musical moments that can't be explained, but only felt.

The record's studio magic is especially apparent in "Heartbeat", as the band fades in and out like the man behind the boards is playing with the levels. It's a classic moment of postmodernism, but something that very few musicians -- maybe only Kraftwerk and Steve Reich -- were doing at the time. Even someone like David Byrne or Malcolm Mooney, who played with sonic texture like no one else, must have been inspired by how the band used studio sounds to craft an atmosphere on "Used to Know", where literally the whole song sounds like it's slightly off-time and bubbling on the turntable.

But, of course, a Wire record wouldn't be complete without a series of straight-up rockers, and there are plenty of those to boot. "I Am the Fly" and "Outdoor Miner" are art-punk before the term existed, and evidence that Wire were decades ahead of the game. "Too Late", the album's reflective closer, has Newman shouting "Is it too late to change my mind?" over something -- after a lot of very close listens, I still can't tell if it's a heavily mutated guitar sound or a synth. It doesn't matter -- the sonics are astounding, either for 1978 or now, and proof that a band like Wire will always be respected, recognized and enjoyed.

Wire - Official Site
Wire - "I Am the Fly"


Band of Horses coming to Boston

After spending two years opening for other, less rockin' Sub Pop bands (read: Iron & Wine), Seattle indie rock outfit Band of Horses have planned their first headlining East Coast tour for this fall, fresh on the heels of their debut, the magnificent Everything All the Time. They'll be making their New England stop at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston on September 8th, so saddle up and sauter your iron death shoes!

09/08 - Paradise Rock Club - Boston, MA

True, it's not the same as seeing Thom Yorke orgasm into a mic for three hours, but it will still be fun.

New Johnny Cash, Stephen Malkmus, more previewed

2006's second half is already shaping up to be a doozy. With releases from Bob Dylan, Radiohead and Beyonce expected, monies are sure to be flowing through Virgin Megastore's credit card system. Mmm.

Of course, I wouldn't bring this up if there wasn't a catch. Alas -- I have ways for you to hear some of the most highly anticipated of the yet-to-come, including a four new tracks from the straight-up fuckin' weird Matthew Friedberger and a full album stream from the Man in Black himself. And a new one from ex-Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus! Before the poodle ripped off his face, of course. See below.

Johnny Cash - American V: A Hundred Highways
Matthew Friedberger - Winter Woman/Holy Ghost Language School tracks
James Figurine - Mistake Mistake Mistake Mistake tracks
Stephen Malkmus - "Mets to Infinity"