Gauntlet Hair came out of nowhere like two years ago with a couple songs that were just really awesome and everyone was like, “OMG THEY’RE SO GOOD!” They didn’t release an EP, album or anything, but just rode that buzz-band wave. Hopefully the reason they took so long was cuz they were crafting an amazing album which they’ve just announced will be released on October 18th on Dead Oceans. The announcement came with a first single/song “Top Bunk”, which I wrote about below.
Marc: Gauntlet Hair is a pretty awesome band. Not only are their singles good, but live they’re pretty awesome also. The shirtless drummer is pretty key, as shirtless drummers tend to be. You shouldn’t be wearing a shirt if you’re a drummer unless you’re playing in the middle of a snowstorm or something. Anyways, the new song “Top Bunk” really isn’t radically different from what’s come before, but it is more of the same awesome Cocteau Twins-esque guitars meets beat-y drums and interesting melodies. I doubt the album will be a masterpiece but it will probably be a very solid effort full of solid songs: 8.1 on Pitchfork with Best New Music is my early prediction. Hopefully it won’t be a couple awesome singles with 6 tracks of filler (ahem, Tennis, ahem). Either way, I’m really looking forward to it.
Vancouver’s dreamy Collage Partyare pretty cool. Found them when I downloaded the new Brazilian Money EP and they were listed in the recommended mathinger. Bands, keep referring people to your friends’ bands. It’s a beautiful thing.
Man, I remember when I first heard The Strokes on SNL back in ’01. Maybe it was even ’02. It was a long fucking time ago and I really young. Somebody reading this knows when it was. Probably ’01 cuz that’s when Is This It came out. July 30th to be precise, so like three days from now and ten years ago. If I’d been in Toronto this month I would totally have done a big ten year anniversary show cuz that album was big to everyone I know. We were young when it came out but that made it even better – we grew up with The Strokes for real, they were our musical awakening, they our band, them and The White Stripes. It kind of feels like The Strokes betrayed us, eh? Psh – Angles? You call this a Strokes album? Come on guys. Those melodies, those guitars, Casablancas’ badass vocals – those were a revolution of sound back in the day. Anyways, Stereogum got some artists to cover the album. Here were my thoughts.
Marc: Nah, The Strokes are one of the easiest bands to cover and sound awesome with but the ambition of these acts gets the better of them and they often lose the heart and soul of these songs. Really, I think the main thing to remember when covering The Strokes is don’t forget the momentum of the songs – that’s the most important thing. Even if you play the song slower, it’s gotta have slow momentum. That momentum is what really brings those incredible melodies and arrangements to life. Peter, Bjorn and John do a serviceable job with the title track cuz they know that much; Frankie Rose doesn’t have to go crazy to bring a new life and vibe to “Soma” making it one of the most successful efforts of the set; Austra‘s go at “Alone, Together” works pretty well; Morning Benders can only go so wrong with “Last Night”, so it’s pretty solid; Owen Pallett‘s orchestral go at “Hard To Explain” is predictably kick-ass, as orchestral Strokes tends to be; Computer Magic does ok with “Take It Or Leave It”. On the other hand, Real Estate‘s “Barely Legal”, Chelsea Wolfe‘s “The Modern Age”, Wise Blood‘s “Someday” and Deradoorian‘s “Trying My Luck” all manage to make brilliance boring, and Heems kind of raps about New York City cops with a sped-up sample of the songs chorus in there somewhere. That’s a bit too many missed opportunities, but it’s an interesting effort nonetheless, and it’s free so whatever. Also I’m a tough customer cuz I’m [an asshole] a guy who takes his Strokes a little too seriously.
Our Toronto brethren in experimental-pop project Moon King have released a new, all-Simpsons footage video for their song “Big Dumb Blue Angel” which you can see above. I’ve heard it before, but upon a closer listen, Daniel Woodhead and Maddy Wilde‘s harmonies remind me considerably of Ecstacy and Wine-era My Bloody Valentine…no? Anyway, Moon King‘s playing a bunch of shows in Toronto and Brooklyn soon, you can check the dates here.
This week’s artist of the week isn’t really an artist we haven’t covered before in this section, though in some ways it is. More so perhaps than any other artist of the 20th century, he’s changed and morphed. In each manifestation he both alienated old fans and gained new ones. But regardless of what persona he was adopting at the time, he was always interesting. The artist of the week is…
80’S BOB DYLAN!!!
The 80’s are easily the most confusing years for fans of Dylan’s career. The 60’s obviously get the most attention because of the turbulence of the times and Bob Dylan‘s central importance to them, not too mention the mindblowing stream of masterpieces he put out in the decade and his infamous ‘electric conversion’. The 70’s started off weird for Dylan fans with the intentionally awful Self-Portrait and not-underrated Self-Portrait, but he was later redeemed and then some by Blood On The Tracks. The 1975 masterpiece single-handedly capped the decade as a success due to its superhuman amazingness, though Desire and – to a lesser extent – Street Legal also stood out as solid, notable entries in Dylan’s ever-growing discography. It’s too early to talk about Dylan in the 00’s but even Dylan’s 90’s comeback with Time Out Of Mind made it clear that the 90’s marked the return of the Dylan to his full powers.
The 80’s however, are a little weird. Everyone knows that he had a Christian period somewhere in there, then made some albums with hot-shot producers like Mark Knopfler and Daniel Lanois that were kind of cool, and then he also made some that nobody liked. Years later it was discovered that he married one of his backup singers and nobody even knew. But what people don’t talk about are the major accomplishments of Dylan from this period. And until recently I didn’t really recognize them, but now I think I have.
Dylan’s brief experiment with Christianity (he was born Jewish and considering he Bar Mitzvah’d one of his sons in Jerusalem, it would appear he’s Jewish again now – even more amazingly, he appeared on a Chabad telethon in ’89 to play harmonica on Hava Nagila) led to three albums of retrospectively embarrassing fundamentalist religiosity (“For all those who have eyes and all those who have ears/It is only He who can reduce me to tears” from “When He Returns”), but also, the spiritual awakening that led him to conversion opened up in him a kind of ‘spiritual awareness’. And that would last with him at least until the 90’s.
I’m not a ‘spiritual’ or religious person by any means, but there definitely are people in the world who are, and I wouldn’t imagine that all of them are totally crazy, there must be some kind of legitimacy to this extra-dimension they see in the world, no? Well, maybe they are all crazy or something, I really don’t know, but I find it really interesting nonetheless. And it music I feel it definitely adds something very interesting to the vibe of the music. For the best example of this, see George Harrison‘s All Things Must Pass.
Interestingly, the most interesting cases of spirituality in the songs of Bob Dylan appear after his Christian period ended, in 1981.
“Jokerman” off 1983’s Infidels is a great example of this. It’s ultimate meaning is as impenetrable and given to interpretation as anything Dylan’s ever written. For a better understanding of the various biblical references in the song check out its page on songmeanings.com. What is the song about, or better yet, who? Some say G-d, others the devil, Jesus, Reagan and even Dylan himself. My vote actually goes for Ronald Reagan, who appears in the video for the song. But that’s not important, the important thing is that here we see that Dylan is looking at the world through a Biblical lens: a paradigm that connects the past and the present, the heavens and the earth, myths and histories, the nations and leaders of the world past and present. Basically it just makes whatever Dylan’s singing about seem fucking epic. Some might think ripping off lines from the bible is a cheap way of getting that effect, but Dylan doesn’t do it much, and when he does I’d say he fucking nails it. I love it. Definitely like the live version from Letterman better than the studio version though.
My other favourite example of Dylan’s 80’s spirituality is the song “Ring Them Bells” off the album Oh Mercy that he made with Daniel Lanois in ’89. I actually didn’t know about it until I heard Sufjan Stevens‘ radically reimagined version of it on the I’m Not There soundtrack, then I went and found the original. It’s just a really beautiful, simple, sad song. Though the ringing of bells is something often associated with joy (weddings, church, etc.), here Dylan uses the image to suggest a means of waking people up, beginning with “the city that dreams.” Maybe Dylan is a little crazy, cuz the song seems to suggest that it’s the end of days (“it’s rush hour now”), but more importantly, he sings of ringing bells to call attention to very Earthly problems. He sings that “The shepherd is asleep/And the mountains are filled/With lost sheep,” suggesting that people need their leaders to wake-up and guide them (righteously?), as at the moment they’re lost. He sings about ringing bells to call attention to the tragedies of the world that we aren’t doing enough about: “Ring them bells/For the time that flies/For the child that cries/When innocence dies.” And lastly, he sings, “Ring them bells St. Catherine/From the top of the room…They’re breaking down the distance/Between right and wrong.”
Another great song is “Dark Eyes” from Empire Burlesque, but I’ve written about that one before somewhere, and it’s late now, I need to sleep. But anyways – clearly the 80’s was not Dylan’s greatest decade, and many of the albums he released then were indeed either just lame or mindboggingly missed opportunities as many contend based on the merit of numerous bootleg tracks left of albums. Still, Dylan’s spirituality of the period makes certain songs some of the most interesting of Dylans career, and reveal a side of Dylan’s character not often discussed at length.
Love this woozy, smeared track from New Hampshire musician Water Moccasins. There’s an EP up on his bandcamp that you might want to check out also. Apparently he was in a cool shoegaze band before, but I couldn’t find their tracks online to easy. If you read this, dude, hook me up. (Via No Fear Of Pop)
Every music fan knows that the record store is a special place. It’s a place where you might meet cool people, where you can talk to the store clerk about music (if he’s not too snobby, and sometimes even then), where you can go to cheer up even just browsing records. And every time you lose a beloved record stores, it’s a big deal. You form relationships with record stores, each has their own character, their own thing that makes them unique. Losing one is like losing a friend.
Today is the last day Toronto’s Criminal Records will be open. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a mourning party there to see it off, and I’d be part of it if I weren’t halfway across the world studying in Israel.
Criminal Records was my favourite record store in Toronto. Soundscapes is great and has that awesome local wall; Rotate Disc is badass; Sonic Boom is huge and amazing – may they all remain open forever – but Criminal was always the place with the cheapest records, the nicest store clerks, some of the best in-store performances, and that great T-Shirt selection of high quality stuff, not the cheap stuff you find in most other places. Most of the records I own I bought at Criminal. My three favourite shirts – my Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Ian Curtis shirts – were purchased at Criminal for $20 or $30 and have lasted a very long time, way longer than pretty much all my other shirts.
I always enjoyed talking to Josh about record sales. He was always really, really friendly and I always found it very interesting to hear what was selling and what wasn’t. Did you know that Fleet Foxes’ first album is their top selling album ever? I thought that was very interesting.
And when I bought a record player there and it didn’t work properly, I brought it back and Josh immediately gave me a replacement, no shlep or anything. That’s the kind of guy he is, and that’s the kind of store Criminal Records was.
A great, great store. It will be dearly missed.
I’d like to dedicate The Hold Steady‘s “We Can Get Together” to Criminal Records, those who worked there, and those who shopped there. It’s a song about people who love listening to records.
I was feeling perfectly fine for the last two days and then all of a sudden I wake up this morning with a throbbing headache and a wombly stomache. WTF? My body is being a total health-cocktease. KNOCK IT OFF!!! Uch. Suffice to say, the last thing I want to listen to with a throbbing headache is punk rock but I met these girls at Uganda bar last week and one is in a cool band called Ashkara Metim (definitely dead (plural)). I might not listen to much of it today, but you can, like I said, it’s pretty cool.
Oy, I haven’t updated in the last couple days cuz I’ve been recovering from Salmonella poisoning; blogging was the last thing I wanted to do, tied with just about everything else with the exception of sleeping. I’m still kind of in a mindframe of just wanting to sleep and watch stuff on YouTube all the time, so luckily Banter is making life easy by sending me good music to blog about. Here’s a new track from San Fran psych-pop wonderkind Tim Cohen‘s new band Magic Trick.
Curiously – as this is being written from Jerusalem, Israel – Cohen is a distinctly Jewish last name, while Tim is distinctly non-Jewish first name.