January 30, 2009

Patrick Elkins//Oh Rad Art House, What a Rad Art House Thou Art

Friday Friday Friday means it's
[Local! Music! Friday!]

Tell me...what is this Local Music Fridays?

Patrick Elkins: how do I start? I believe I met the man in the early days of Dumb and Ugly Club. Michael and I played a show in his attic. He was really awesome and very supportive. We got to play some other shows with him in Ypsi at the Elbow Room, which is where we scored one of his albums. So. Weird. So. Cool . From there, Pat just became a staple in the A2/Ypsi scene. I’d see him at Shaman Drum, he started an a-capella band with Aleise Barnett, he put on puppet shows at the dreamland and he played songs about suicide muffins. There is no one greater.

I wanted to post this song, a live recording of an ode to a house I once lived in, because it really gets back to a certain period of time in Ann Arbor. House shows and Co.op shows were ruling the school (Totally Awesome House, Rad Art, Lester and Black Elk were all putting on shows) and it was fun to be right in the middle of all that.

Rad Art house was started by the UofM Radical Art group (hilariously, their manifesto is still online here). While there was some movement in the house, year to year, a core group of kids stuck around for continuity’s sake, while a core amount of their furniture built up to massive proportions in the house’s dank mold-filled basement. I lived there for a year, with my boyfriend (and my recent ex-girlfriend, and my recent ex-girlfriend’s dog—AWKWARD) and rotating cast of seven other of our closest (or not closest) friends. For part of my tenure, two of my best friends (dating at the time) lived in the house. One of them (will go unnamed) attempted (with some success) to secretly grow magic mushrooms in our bathroom. Yes, it was that kind of house.

I believe that this recording is from Pat performing at the other best A2 houseshow venue, Totally Awesome House (which we sometimes called the Totally Awkward House, for the Awkward drunken conversations that could sometimes occur there). I believe I was at this show. I believe you can hear Aleise and Jason Voss singing in the crowd! In fact, of these last two tidbits, I am certain.

Oh Rad Art House, What a Rad Art House Thou Art.mp3

More about Patrick here.

There’s a lot of people in this world,
But not all of them are smart.
And here’s a lot of houses in the world,
But only one of them is The Rad Art.

January 29, 2009

Animal Collective//Brothersport

I’m not one of those people who thinks that everything Animal Collective does is amazing. Not that I have anything against such people. Some of those people are some of my best friends. Am I starting to sound like someone whose “best friend is totally a minority!”? I don’t mean it like that, I’m just trying to provide some context in light of the entire internet going gaga over Merriweather Post Pavilion. I think the album is very good. I thought Strawberry Jam was very good too. That said, it’s got some miss tracks, like every Animal Collective album that I’ve heard.

So anyway, enough pseudo-naysaying. This song unquestionably kicks ass. I love how joyful it sounds. I’ve never had the distinct pleasure of seeing these guys live, but I have to imagine that this song would be a sight to behold in a show context.


You got to
Open up your,
Open up your
Throat a little!
Until fully grown,
You got a real good shot--
Won't help to hold inside.
Keep it real, keep it real, shout out!

January 28, 2009

Blur//Clover Over Dover

Blur can get a little cutesy for my tastes, from time to time, but I genuinely really like Parklife…and a lot of their other stuff as well. Damon Albarn’s voice is very distinctive and I seem to enjoy it, wherever it shows up (even in Gorillaz, whose songs conjure up memories of a particular drunken night I’d rather not remember—A DIFFERENT STORY!).

Blur is definitely Brit Pop, in the vein of their obvious forefathers, The Beatles or the Kinks or Pulp. Even their lyrics have a distinctly English feel. I’m American. If I was going to fantasize about offing myself, I’d probably be involving the Brooklyn Bridge—certainly not the white cliffs of Dover. Brilliant!

This song is ridiculously catchy and is probably my favorite on the album, despite the obvious choice of intro track, “Girls &Boys,” a fabulous and very danceable song in its own right. What’s cool about “Clover” is that amazing harpsichord thing that kicks it off, and then keeps on throughout the whole thing. Downright charming, guys.

Clover Over Dover.mp3

I'm on the white cliffs of Dover,
Thinking it over and over,
But if I jump its all over;
A cautionary tale for you.

January 27, 2009

Betty Harris//There's a Break in the Road

A-MEN to Said the Gramophone who sagaciously noted:
A Bloggie Award is a stupid, silly popularity contest, and relatively speaking we are not very popular, but whenever I get to use the word "Bloggie" it sure tickles my grandparents.
I don’t think my grandparents even know how to use email, let alone know what winning a “Bloggie” might mean, but I echo the sentiment. Besides, against such stiff competition as aforementioned StG, The Rest is Noise, Idolator and Stereogum, I’m definitely rocking underdog status over here. It’s no thing, because really, I just want to write about cool songs.

P’arry Drew first introduced me to this song, although I don’t think I knew it was P’arry who introduced me at the time. I was driving my Silver Hyundai Accent (RIP, terrible car, RIP) around A2, listening to WCBN (of course), when this song came on. I turned it up, because I loved it instantly. The vocals were so raw, the rhythm so syncopated, the guitar so funky and the bassline so…how do I say this?...bumpin’?

Later, I was talking it up to all my friends, trying to figure out what it was: “I heard…best song! Must learn origin!”
After some careful description and a clumsy hummed-out rehashing of the bassline, Emily told me it was “Break in the Road” by Betty Harris. She told me that, in fact, P’arry had recently introduced her to this song and she was also obsessed. A quick check on CBN’s site revealed the truth: P’arry had been dj’ing and had indeed played this marvelous song the morning in question. This little story makes me nostalgic for that time. The spread of information in Ann Arbor is a much quainter home-grown community affair than it is here in New York.

Anyway, the message of this song is a new spin on the age-old/time-tested “what goes around comes around” idea. The only difference is that you can hear in Harris’s voice that she’s waiting for it to come back around on somebody else. It's more along the lines of a "you can’t treat Betty Harris like that and then expect that everything’s gonna be cool--Uhn Uh--No, you can’t!" song than a "the universe is centered in its ying and yang" song. All this makes me wonder what’s about to come back around on me. Fingers seriously crossed that I didn’t do anything to wrong Betty Harris, in this life or any previous one.

Although 1969’s “Break” wasn’t a big hit for soul legend Harris, I challenge you to find something that hits your tuesday harder.

There’s a Break in the Road.mp3

There’s a break in the road.
There’s a break in every road.
I got mine;
You’ll get yours.
There’s a break in every road.

January 26, 2009

The Rural Alberta Advantage//The Deadroads

My friend Brandon turned me on to this band (I think he was turned on by eMusic Selects). Their new debut album is indeed pretty awesome.

Anyone who has love for Neutral Milk Hotel will be able to find some love for this band, which in certain sections might even get a little too close for comfort to those weird trumpety-filled builds and the nasally singing. While the lyrics don’t come anywhere near the warped brilliance of a Jeff Mangum verse, there is a simple..well…rural-ness about them that’s easy to find endearing. They also tip-toe into electronics and straight pop sensibility a good deal more than their Elephant Six forefathers.

The Deadroads.mp3

The RAA plays tomorrow at Pianos in LES. See you there!

I never tried.
I hope you died until you left me.

January 23, 2009

Simonnewcomb//Sweet Afton

OSS got nice shout-outs on girlfriend is a homo and The Rest is Noise yesterday. Both excellent blogs worth checking out—the former being an essential guide to modern queer, the latter being some of the stiffest Bloggie competition.

Now let’s local local local local
[Local! Music! Friday!]

Tell me...what is this Local Music Fridays?

Simonnewcomb is the solo project of my dear, dear friend Travis Bursik, who was mentioned a few posts earlier, takes gorgeous photographs (I’ve got one framed on my wall!), has been very involved in iamjanet! and Hall of Owls, recently became a celebrity on sleeveface, lives and djs in the fair city of St. Louis.

Travis, in addition to having great taste in music (even if it veers a little farther to the left on the noise spectrum of things than my own does), has great writing, performing and recording chops. I’ve played with him so I can vouch: this man can handle a pedal board.

This is my favorite Simonnewcomb song. It’s got the shouty big chorus and guitar licks of a Modest Mouse masterpiece, with the contemplative lyrics and vocal tone in the verse of a quiet Pedro the Lion track. Of course, for someone as well-versed in contemporary music as Bursik, there are bound to be plenty of influences, but this doesn’t keep the originality of his voice and arrangement from shining through.

Sweet Afton.mp3

You can learn more about Simonnewcomb here . If you live in the St. Louis area, be sure to catch his next dj set here.

January 22, 2009

Joe Jackson//It's Different for Girls

If you read and love it (or hell, if you even just like it), please take a second to vote now under the music category!
Also, worth noting that OSS wouldn't have even been nominated if not for these fine friends. Thanks, Emma!

Now, back to the business of songs:
I spent most of my day yesterday in Tiny Cup. Even though I was working, no complaints. I love Tiny Cup! Various friends stopped by! They played a series of awesome songs, including gems from Leonard Cohen, PJ Harvey and The Band.

This song, one that I’ve been thinking about here for a while, also got played.

I don’t know much about Joe Jackson, besides that he was a British new wave-ish artist. Wikipedia tells me he now lives in Berlin. My stepmom tells me that he came off as an asshole when she saw him on tour in the 80s. What I can tell you is that this song is awesome.

It’s Different for Girls.mp3

Don’t you know that it’s different for girls?
(Yes, yes I do.)

January 21, 2009

William Onyeabor//Better Change Your Mind

Alright, after all that optimism, it's time to get our feet back on the ground.

My friend Travis put this AMAZING song on a recent mix. I'm totally obsessed.

I did a little research on Onyeabor, and this was about all I could find:

William Onyeabor studied cinematography in Russia for many years, returning to Nigeria in the mid-70s to start his own Wilfilms music label and to set up a music and film production studio. He recorded a number of hit songs in Nigeria during the 70s, the biggest of which was “Atomic Bomb” in 1978. William has now been crowned a High Chief in Enugu, where he lives today as a successful businessman working on government contracts and running his own flour mill.

Sounds like a pretty interesting guy, right?

A LastFM user commented:

I have wet dreams about william onyeabor's music. I've read somewhere that this guy wound up selling out and becoming a banker somewhere in nigeria, and he still lives there as a big man. That is kind of saddening, because the message of better change your mind was some intensely anti-imperialist stuff, and he was right on. I guess he wound up changing his own mind. Sad times.

Hear, hear. If yesterday was about unbridled hope for the future, then today should be a reality check. Onyeabor reminds us that no one's on top forever, and that arrogance will always lead to demise.

Better Change Your Mind.mp3

Leaders, you ever think this world is yours?
If you're thinking so,
better change your mind.

January 20, 2009

Nina Simone//Feelin' Good

Well, I for one am so, so happy that this day has finally come. Goodbye, Bush. Hello, Obama. We welcome you with open arms and a sincere desire for positive change.

I started thinking about which song would go well with this day a few weeks ago, and, after much deliberation, found what I believe is the perfect track: The High Priestess of Soul singing “Feelin’ Good.”

I think the lyrics and the musical tone of this song speaks for itself.

Feelin’ Good.mp3

Fish in the sea, you know how I feel.
River running free, you know how I feel.
Blossom in the tree, you know how I feel.
Its a new dawn.
Its a new day.
Its a new life
For me,
And I’m feelin’ good.
And this old world is a new world
And a bold world
For me.

January 19, 2009

Death Cab for Cutie//We Laugh Indoors

Ok. Enough with the extended music inside jokes. Back to business…and the current business is the business of winter.

It’s been cold this year. The northeast has been blanketed with a fair amount of snow, especially compared to recent years past. All this pretty white frosting puts me in the mood for (in addition to ridiculous spontaneous snowball fights in Fort Greene) Death Cab for Cutie.

The Photo Album is one of my favorite winter albums and most certainly one I return to perennially, despite the fact that I am clearly opening myself up to the classic “Hey Emo Kid, how’s your girlfriend?” put-downs. Emo’s generally not my thing, but I do make certain exceptions…and the catchy hooks and biting wordplay of Ben Gibbard counts as an exception.

My first exposure to Death Cab was through Jill. She put this song on the February mix (February ’02, mind you) and also made me a copy of this album. I’ve never really liked any Death Cab stuff as much as I liked this album, which I listened to on repeat through what I can conclusively say was the most depressing winter I’ve ever survived. The music fit perfectly with the mood, which was grey, dreary, desperate, overdramatic and a little pretty, in its own sad way.

We Laugh Indoors.mp3

The days get darker and we wait for the direness to pass.

January 16, 2009

Family Fodder//Debbie Harry

Ok. Nobody hazarded a guess. That’s cool, just means I get to keep picking the songs. Sorry, Charlies.

The last installment in this madcap string of strange references is the original ode to one of my favorite punk femme fatales, Debbie Harry. Now, take a listen to the previous Unrest track again. Remember how Winona had that shoplifting problem? Well, I think we might consider this a song-lifting problem.

Family Fodder is a mysterious post-punk collective, based around Alig Pearce. This song was featured on Rough Trade’s Post Punk 2 Disc collection, which is how I came to hear it.

Debbie Harry.mp3

Deborah Harry, I’m having your baby.

Unrelated: if you’re around NYC tonight, you should come on out to this. Music starts at 8.

January 15, 2009

Unrest//Winona Ryder

Double Unrest, Double Heathers? Mark Robinson…do you have a Winona Ryder obsession?!?!

If you can guess what Friday’s song will be and why, you can pick Monday's OSS. You have to play to win! No cheating!

Winona Ryder (Xx Version).mp3

Did you have a brain tumor for breakfast?

January 14, 2009

Unrest//Teenage Suicide

My desire to spotlight some genuine 90s indie led me to a little musical puniness as I was planning the next few OSS posts. Granted, this also might be due to the inherent musical puniness that I witnessed last night at GBM. Reader, bear with me as I kickoff the first post in an elaborate three part series of clever indie quirk.

Heathers may very well be one of my favorite movies. In a prominent subplot to the dark late 80s classic, American teens everywhere are doing themselves in in an effort to be cool. A fictional band, Big Fun, has a hit song out called Teenage Suicide, which gets played on the radio at one point in the movie.

Fast forward a few years to the early 90s and we find Mark Robinson’s 4AD/TeenBeat-signed Unrest with their own extremely amazing version of the song.

For what it’s worth, it was hard to decide which Unrest song to feature, as they’re all so good (close losers were “Makeout Club”—which may be the namesake for the early 00s proto-social networking site, yes I had a profile thank you very much—and “Isabelle”). As for the next installation of this classic early 90s indie puzzle, you’ll just have to wait until tomorrow.

Teenage Suicide (Peel Session).mp3

Teenage suicide, don’t do it!
Teenage suicide, YES I CAN!

January 13, 2009

John Vanderslice//Amitriptyline

Honestly, I can’t believe I’ve never written a John Vanderslice post here. Vanderslice is one of my favorites; an artist I keep coming back to over and over again for his incredible lyric/song-writing skills, super strength studio prowess (or uhm…his studio?) and general awesomeness. I’ve yet to hear a bad album from this man, and I think his latest, Emerald City, is one of the best. Not to mention the fact that his live shows never disappoint (I once somewhat wastedly sang “Letter to the East Coast” with him as part of his audience participation tour at his Maxwell’s stop. Good times).

The drug amitriptyline is approved most commonly for the treatment of depression. The song on the other hand, a memoir-like composition narrated by a sad schizophrenic, doesn’t shy away from tugging at the heartstrings.


I was a quiet, lunch box lonely little boy,
Reading sci-fi, broken treehouse on the shore.
Nineteen, talking in my head got harder to understand:
No work, no school, drifting; a failing satellite.
Don't feel sorry for me. I've been happy too,
Manic, kindly, blinding, high-res euphoria.

January 12, 2009

Jenny Wilson//A Hesitating Cloud of Despair

Monday, Monday, Monday. What better way to start the week than with weird dark Swedish pop stuff? No better way, that I can think of, anyway.

I think Jenny Wilson was an Angelina find. If you know Ange, this makes a whole lotta sense. Wilson is sort of poppy, sort of sardonic, sometimes danceable and extra weird. This is Ange’s favorite combo: weird and fun. Wilson also has a pretty serious The Knife connection (she’s signed to their label and turns up on tracks from time to time).

This song is about the moment between childhood and adulthood where you notice how everything sucks. The end of youth; the beginning of decay—or at least, the beginning of this perception. Of course, the fact is that the depressing decay was always there and in a way, this revelation is perhaps even more depressing.
Obviously, Wilson finds a more eloquent, narrative and poetic way to say this than I just did.

A Hesitating Cloud of Despair.mp3

Wilson's second solo album, Hardships, is due out in February 2009.

Let's steal some wine, mom won't notice anything.
And while the music melted down,
We heard her steps, she was staggering.
We were bored, but you know,
You're not supposed to play at that age.

January 9, 2009

Glad Hearts//The Afternoon Passed Like A Summer Cloud

What's your resolution? Mine's to keep giving you
[Local! Music! Friday!]

Tell me...what is this Local Music Fridays?

Mr. Avello introduced me to his friends from New Brunswick, Glad Hearts. Next thing you know, we’re playing a show with them at Goodbye Blue Monday. Next thing you know after that, they’re playing a show in my basement!!!

That’s right, Glad Hearts will be up next at The 50/50! And judging by the last one, you’ll definitely want to be there, because they put on one hell of a show...and so does the fifty!!!

The Afternoon Passed Like A Summer Cloud.mp3

Everything Glad Hearts here.

We’ll sing along with the radio on.

January 8, 2009

Common//The Corner

This morning, on the way to work, there was a joint Common/Kanye track ("Punch Drunk Love") on Sirius. I said, “I think Common’s flow is kinda lazy, but I really like when he does stuff with Kanye West.” James said, “Yeah. It’s too lazy. But they balance each other out.” And you know what? That’s true. They balance each other out.

This conversation reminded me of the song that got me to check out Common in the first place, which was also a West collab (and a Last Poets, the group my dad loves to refer to as THE FIRST RAP BAND, collab).

This track has that classic West production—looped old, pitch modified soul sample, bass and beat snaking around and through it. Mr. West delivers the choral hook, Last Poets deliver the sermon-like proclamations and Common keeps to his relaxed flow, which is just a few steps away from being TOO relaxed here. Perfection.

The Corner.mp3

Now I roll in a Olds with windows that don't roll,
Down the roads where cars get broke in and stole.

January 7, 2009

Uilab//St. Elmo's Fire

You know what’s great about having my late 90s “boombox” set up in my kitchen? Here’s what:
When I’m cooking I can listen to all my favorite classic mixtapes and CDs!

Last night, I was listening to this mix that Ali and I made the summer after Sophomore year. That was the summer that we (Ali, Ange and I) lived in Debs Coop and spent every evening drinking Milwaukee’s Best purchased for us by Colin and Joanne, the only other bitter and jaded people in the house, who also happened to be over-21. We’d hang out on the porch and drink cheap crappy beer and make fun of all the fratty types who lived in the student ghetto with us. We’d walk down to Sergeant Pepper’s and get disgusting $1 pizza and get leered at by all the creeps in there. This was the summer when Jen and I were dating and I spent every day riding my bike to Black Elk to hang out there, on that porch, doing similar things. We took frequent trips to Pickerel Lake and Dairy Queen. On big nights, we’d go hang out at The 555—THE OLD 555, by the Y…the one that got burned to the ground. I worked at East Quad’s front desk, checking in orientation students, and a horse barn, doing menial tasks, part time. These two strange and slacktastic jobs more than covered my under-$300/month rent. Honestly, except for a few minor hiccups, life was pretty beautiful and uncomplicated.

The mix I was listening to included some serious jams of that time that really managed to capture the carefree, pretty mood: “Michigan State” by Devendra Banheart, “Work It” by Missy Elliot, Yo La Tengo’s cover of Sun Ra’s “Nuclear War.” We taped a lot of records that we eagerly purchased at Encore and Underground and Wazoo. Oh, summer in Ann Arbor, you can’t be beat!

Also on the mix: Uilab’s (collaboration between Stereolab and Ui) cover of Brian Eno’s “St. Elmo’s Fire,” which might be the best embodiment of the feeling of that time. The soundscapes are so deep, rich and warm; the builds subtle and floating, but still present; the lyrics coated with heavy summer nostalgia.

On a day like today, gray and cold and wet, I could use a mental trip back to the lovely and golden summer of 2003. Yesterday, I sat in my kitchen, heard these sounds, and felt myself falling in love with warm, easy times all over again. How beautiful.

St. Elmo’s Fire.mp3

Brown eyes and I was tired--
We had walked and we had scrambled
Through the moors and through the briars,
Through the endless blue meanders,

In the blue August Moon,
In the cool August Moon.

January 6, 2009

Gilberto Gil//Domingo No Parque

I had a little party on Saturday night and Bat Macumba by Os Mutantes made it onto the dancey playlist. My, how I love Tropicalia. This reminded me of the long discussions we had in my South American Politics and Culture (undoubtedly one of my favorites) on the clever wordplay in the lyrics of many songs that came out of this movement. BAT MAN!

Speaking of that class, this was one of the professor’s favorite songs of all times. In fact, one day, he eagerly proclaimed that Domingo No Parque was “the best pop song ever written.” Kinda going out on a limb there, buddy—considering the basis of the track is berimbau. Still, turns out, the guy’s kinda right. Shortly after I was introduced, I put the song on a car-bound mixtape and annoyed my friends for hours, insisting on playing it over and over again, especially on one particular trip to Chicago.

If I’m remembering correctly, the plot line revolves around an urban Capoeira-match-turned-knife-fight between José and João, the game going bad in the park over a girl (of course), Juliana. The Tropicalists, famous for their sense of post-modernism, pastiche and playfulness, live up to their ideals by inserting an upbeat carnival montage at the end. Sure, things can get bloody right outside the merry-go-round—this is Brazil in the late 60s after all.

Domingo No Parque.mp3

Oh, José!
Oh, João!

January 5, 2009

Deerhunter//Never Stops

It’s a new year and OSS is back in business.

I’d like to kick off the first regular post of ’09 with a track off the album that I’ve been obsessed with for the last few weeks, Microcastle, by Deerhunter.

I will admit, I never really wanted to give Deerhunter a chance, because of their name.
“Oh, another animal band,” I thought. Panda Bear. Grizzly Bear. Wolf Eyes. Wolf Parade. Fleet Foxes. Owls. The Bird and The Bee. This is really getting old, guys.
I thought some more. “Not just another animal band…another DEE/AR band!” Deerhoof (who, for the record, I really love). Deertick. Lonely, Dear. COME ON, INDIE ROCKERS, COME UP WITH SOMETHING NEW!

Anyway, once I got over my case of Acute Band Stigma To Animal Incorporated Names (ABSTAIN), thanks in large part to the urging of "dear" (haha-get it?!?!) friend Angelina, I learned that I loved Deerhunter. Their weird/distressed soundscapes, depressing-ass lyrics and very catchy choruses cannot be beat. Thanks, Atlanta. Thanks, Angelina. Thanks, animal names. This OSS post is brought to you by The Letter A and The Animal Deer.

Never Stops.mp3

I had dreams
That frightened me awake.

January 1, 2009

The Walkmen//In The New Year

From OSS and The Walkmen, Happy New Year, everyone.

In The New Year.mp3

I know that it’s true--
It’s gonna be a good year.
Out of the darkness
And into the fire,
I’ll tell you I love you.
And my hearts in the strangest place,
That’s how it started
And that’s how it ends.