Olde English Spelling Bee mystery artist Autre Ne Veut has been churning out bizarro blue-eyed R&B for more than a minute now. For those of us less inclined to revel half-sentimentally/half-ironically in the memory of late ’80s/early ’90s stadium pop, the cheese factor may be a bit of a hard sell. But of all the “We Are The World”-generation Ipod crooners that have been cropping on indie rock bills recently, Autre Ne Veut’s vision is epic enough to remind me of some of my favorite outsider artists of all time — most notably New Jersey’s Kenneth Higney, who once penned some songs for Bruce Springsteen in the hope that The Boss would one day bring them to the world. Like Higney, this guy sings with enough soul-shredding emotion to invalidate kitsch as an aesthetic category.
If you, like me, were born in the year 1985, Luke Wyatt‘s digi-psychedelic visuals for “Soldier” will recreate the carnival of images that once flashed through your mind as you lay on the floor of your kindergarten classroom, trying to catch some shut-eye with a stomach full of apple juice and a heart heavy with prayer for the soldiers in Iraq. Princess Leia, GI Joe, and that fat kid we saw crying on Ricki Lake last week dance like Fly Girls across our crania; little do we know it, but we are formulating our first political thought. (more…)
Is Ridgewood, New Jersey beginning to take itself less seriously? Not Ridgewood the place, but Ridgewood the press construct, the suburban Never Never Land of slurpie-drinkin’, beach-combin’ Lost Boys who move home after college because trying to find a job right now really sucks? Monday’s new Ducktails video marked the descent of Jersey Shore indie rock aesthetics into smiling self-parody. With their new video for “Bite Yr Tongue,” dropped last night from the Olde English Spelling Bee dungeon, Matt Mondanile’s tour buddies (and 2010 backing band) suggests that the younger generation of Ridgewood artists is probably even more fed-up — and more in on the joke — than he is. Starring some of the finest fast-food establishments in Northern New Jersey, Spencer Davis‘ visuals make Ridgewood life seem pretty easy breezy until you blow too much of your parents’ money on rippers from Rutt’s Hut and you have to make a mad dash for the porto potty. Big Troubles indeed. (more…)
I woke up this morning to a vaguely gnawing toothache and a late-night email from out of sinister and ever-inscrutable shadows of the Olde English Spelling Bee labs, announcing the upcoming release of Julian Lynch‘s Mare l.p., the new Big Troubles “Drastic and Difficult” seven inch, and Pigeons’ Si Faustine l.p. on June 28th. Now I’m not even sure which molar is the culprit, but this new video by Nathalie Rodgers, which was included in the missive, is both dulling and exacerbating the pain by turns. If I weren’t so hopped-up on coffee, I’d want to dive into the warming mist of Wednesday Knudson’s voice and live there for a while, escape into the promise of cinematic sunsets and impossible happy endings that makes us hit the snooze button when it’s time to get up. But there’s something perpetually disappointing here, a kind of eternal return: the synchronized water skiers are drifting backward instead of forward, disturbed wide-eyed visages are stalking your beach proximity, and when the ache finally catches up to you you wake up to find that you’re wrapping your arms around nothing but dead air. Something is certainly fading here, and it relates to waking consciousness — though it’d hard to tell if we’re fading out or in.
Julian Lynch is a pretty busy fellow these days. There’s his upcoming summer tour, his second LP Mare — set to be released on Olde English Spelling Bee in the coming months — and now this new 7″, slated for June, 21st. “Droplet on a Hot Stone” and its B-Side, “Nen Vole,” are actually older songs from Lynch’s first LP, Born 2 Run. They are being re-issued on blue vinyl by Underwater Peoples, along with a CD-R of the entire album.
When you listen to “Droplet on a Hot Stone” and Lynch’s newer material from Mare side-by-side, you can clearly hear his growth as a songwriter. “Droplet on a Hot Stone” is covered in all the distant tape hiss and clicking that you would expect from a song recorded in an artist’s basement. Its overall sound is a good fit for a hazy and hot afternoon where — pardon me for a second — you really just want to “chill.” Julian’s singing is filled with a longing for something more, but also a hope for the future. Julian took the chorus’ melody from a 1939 recording of schoolchildren singing a song called “All Around the Green Apple Tree,” filled with the distant optimism of the tail-end of the Great Depression. Maybe we can all take a page from Lynch’s book and borrow some of that optimism for ourselves.
Julian Lynch, “Droplet on a Hot Stone” (Droplet on a Hot Stone 7″, Underwater Peoples)
A glass eye just popped out of your TV dinner. The tinfoil on top is rustling of its own accord — though stop-motion animation certainly isn’t out of the question — and the crab on the menu just reached out a leg and swiped it back in. Whatever is inside must be pretty hot and tasty, because a cockroach the size of a tennis ball just climbed out and walked over your hand, which is really the hand of a mannequin. Pretty fucking revolting, sure, but your hand didn’t even flinch because it was so busy resting lifelessly atop a remote control.
Uh oh. Now it is time for dinner so the foil is unfurling from the surface of the dish. Your rice and beans is glistening with the dew of a thousand freezer burns — revolting in the most secretly appetizing kind of way — but the only way you know how to consume is with your eyes. So you zoom in on the thing, closer and closer until you discover an intricate mosaic of spores, which upon closer inspection is actually a microscopic city in its own right — nay, a suburb. Through a series of Orson Welles-style dissolves, you find yourself hovering above the roof of a house — then inside the house, where a mother with one eye is carting in some peas and carrots to her potatohead of a husband in the living room, just in time for TGIF. Oh yeah, it’s the Monsters. Let’s watch TV with the Monsters.
But we are already watching TV with our hero, Jim Ferraro — that was established at the beginning of this ode to the city of Los Angeles. And I must admit that he already sort of looked like a cartoon, sitting there rocking out to the boobtube in his signature jean jacket — the same one I saw him wearing when he played at Issue Project room last week — and that I wasn’t quite sure whether he looked more or less real when he suddenly morphed into a skeleton and his eyeballs popped out, like a protagonist in a DARE commercial. DARE to keep kids off TV — as seen on TV.
The lifeless hand on the remote control flips us though a thousand real and second life scenarios, fastforwarded and rewound, sped and slowed: walking on top of the Bugs Bunny inscription on the Hollywood walk of fame; discovering the boots of a streetwalker just a few paces away, and wondering what the hell she is doing there in broad daylight. An electric guitar propped up against a TV screen looms larger in the frame than an iconic replica ten times its size, suspended in the middle of a city square — but not nearly as large as the wiccan symbol we discover spraypainted above a few garbage cans in a back alley.
No wonder the soundtrack sounds like a collage of all the half-remembered ’80s skate videos you never actually saw; hanging on Ferraro’s VHS camera, we olley and McTwist and Mongofoot our way through Los Angeles until we don’t even know where we are anymore — even if everything around us still looks as familiar as ever. The point is, Ferraro could just as easily be cruising past a Hollywood Video in Stamford Connecticut, and we would still recognize LA. “Demon Channels” starts feeling pretty cosmic when we realize that it doesn’t really make a difference. (more…)
One of the things I was really looking forward to at SXSW was sitting down for a chat with some of the artists I had been following for a long time but had only had the opportunity of corresponding with over the internet. Rangers‘ Joe Knight, who released a stunning record of “pop songs” on Olde English Spelling Bee earlier this year, was high on my list. Sadly, the interview I had planned to conduct out with him out there never came to be. It was such a hectic week for both of us that somehow we only managed to say a quick hello as he and the other members of the SXSW Rangers “band” — which had convened for the first time in Austin that week — were lugging their gear out of the backyard where the Micro-Pixel-Rites showcase was hosted. Fortunately, we were able to catch up on the information super highway when we both got home.
Last week was a big week for Rangers, marking not only your first appearance at SXSW, but also some of your first live appearances period. How would you describe the whole SXSW experience? Anything weird or unusual happen?
Dunno. It was a lot of fun. I guess it was random how it came about. I’m from Texas and have been to SXSW a bunch and I was tentativley planning to go just for fun and to catch up with some friends from back home. Then I started to get some offers to play shows, so I started to throw the idea around with my friend Peter and we were trying to think of the best way to swing it. We had some friends who were down to go and ready to practice; we practiced a bit and that was that. We had a great time. (more…)
I have to admit that my favorite way to see Big Troubles is inside a darkly lit interior with the sound turned up just shy of shattering your ear drums. That liminal space between discovering yourself at the foot of a wall of sound the size of Stonehedge (replete with a secondary racket of screaming overtones) and no longer being able to hear anything at all (simply because the whole thing is too damn LOUD) is one the band wears well — especially since they manage to combine this effect with songwriting that that would already be something to write home to mom about, amplified or not. When they performed “Slouch” at the Micro-Pixel-Rites SXSW backyard showcase last week, I managed to find an invisible fault line across the center of the lawn where the sound funneled in a straight shot out of the amplifiers and into my ears. Seeing them for the first time in the light of day definitely spritzed some Sun-In on the whole Big Troubles experience, though I have to say that the Elysian setting somehow made their music even more inexplicably melancholic. Sigh. (more…)
Like the supremely chill afternoon of live music and bbq that the Underwater Peoples hosted at a cattle ranch outside of Austin the day before, Micro–Pixel–Rites’ SXSW debut on Thursday, March 18 was a family affair — and not only because it united a host of musicians, label people, and “blogger types” who were already acquainted either online and off. Even if you rolled up to a sea of strange faces, the afternoon was so long and the summer camp vibe was so strong that you were pretty much bound to leave feeling like you had known everyone there since you braved your first canonball off the dock. I know we are adults now, but it was just that kind of day. (more…)
SXSW 2010 was as blissed-out an exercise in excess as an exercise in excess can be. All in all, the Visitation Rites mobile reporting team (videographer Samantha Cornwell and I) probably caught more sun, saw more live bands, walked more miles, ate more tacos, drank more beer, laughed more, bickered more, took more photos, tweeted more tweets, shot more video, and reunited with more old friends than in all of 2009 combined. After five consecutive days of non-stop partying and documenting, however, we couldn’t help feeling a bit crestfallen when we realized that SXSW wouldn’t last forever. (more…)
RANGERS “OUT PAST CURFEW” from OESB // FUTURE SOUND on Vimeo. Rangers rocks “walking pace” like a 32-year-old noise dude rocks his slightly protruding potbelly down Main Street, Northampton: upfront, proud, and center. Joe Knight’s new Surburban Tours l.p. is pretty much the perfect soundtrack for slowing to a snail pace in a sea full of power-walking lipstick execs — power-suit/white sneaker combos and all — and taking a moment to grin stupidly to yourself. It’s either pretty damn ironic or pretty damn appropriate that I rushed home last night to post this new video by Zahid Jiwah before all the other bloggers got to it, because this little masterpiece seems to be asking even Joe Knight himself to slow down. (more…)