Steevn Foster is a frequent sight around the music scene of downtown Toronto and the drummer of jazz-rockers Donlands and Mortimer. Last night he out a nice little solo EP of solid indie-pop with wonderful, sparkling guitar work called Omhouse. Here are some tracks from it, should you want to hear them.
Novosibirsk, Russia (!) synth-gaze band Heatherwood is made up of just two 17-year-olds, but their music speaks worlds of emotion…
Pitchfork gave Ugly, the new album by grunge-y New Jersey heroes Screaming Females an 8.0 and compared them to SST bands – so I knew I had to check them out. The acclaim is well deserved. They play kick-ass, hugely enjoyable old school college rock.
I’m a big fan of Fiona Apple‘s work, especially the Jon Brion version of Extraordinary Machine, which I’d consider a little masterpiece. The official version of that album though, not so much. Apple and Brion were a perfect team: she provided him with great songs to wrap his intricate, fantastical sounds around, and he gave her music just the bump it needed to reach great art, without which it sounded like a weird semi-mainstream singer/songwriter chick inspiring to art. Why they abandoned their version to the internet I cannot fathom, unless it was a clash of personalities kind of thing. But then they were back to performing together and he apparently produced a song for her that was released in 2010, though it’s not clear if it was a new song or just an old unreleased track on Wikipedia.
So now Apple’s back with album number four, The Idler Wheel… which is set to drop June 19th. It does not appear as though it was produced by Jon Brion and that kind of sums up my feelings on it. First track “Every Single Night” is ok at best. It’s minimal, indulges in her more overtly jazz-vocal tendencies and it’s best moments are the weird ones where she’s like, “heyyy ey ey ey…” It fully lacks the momentum and grandiosity of her best work (with Brion).
As an indicator of what to expect off The Idler Wheel… I gotta say it’s not getting me excited. I think it’s going to be a lot like the official version of Extraordinary Machine – boring, and just in need of that vital push that Brion always provided.
I was in Poland and Italy last week for a couple days and found out about some cool bands there that I’m going to be writing about in the next little bit. One was this country-friendly garage-rock duo from Venice, Italy called The Mojomatics. I bought their album You Are The Reason For My Troubles and it is most enjoyable. Above is the title-track.
So finally, the inevitable Jack White solo album arrives. But even though I’m like the number one Jack White fan on earth, I’m not celebrating this album, but actually, kind of mourning. Because Jack White’s just not cool anymore. I said it.
Back in the early 2000s when The White Stripes bust out on the scene, they were cutting edge. Two people. Guitar and drums. Mutant-blues garage rock. There were actual debates about The White Stripes. Some people could not get over the fact that they didn’t have a bassist. It was almost like some kind of heresy to these people, while others felt that way about Meg White‘s drumming. You don’t hear people saying stuff like this anymore. But Jack won the debate. He was and still is the rock star of my generation and he’s still doing what he’s always done: playing the music he loves and doing it well. But indie or alternative rock has changed. It’s divided even more, with, on one hand, rock bands that have moved towards accessibility, while others have moved towards experimental sounds and arrangements.
By accessible, I’m not talking about Nickelback, which was “accessible” or mainstream five, ten years ago (and really still is), I’m talking about Gotye and Foster The People. While on the other hand you’ve got the Animal Collectives, the Dirty Projectors, and many, many more who are the experimental rockers. In this current musical landscape, The White Stripes would still be to the left of ‘accessible’, but only because of the off-kilter-ing effect of Meg White‘s drumming. She was the key to The White Stripes‘s genius and Jack knew it. But without her, Jack’s songs and general ‘rocker’ persona slides into the field of ‘accessible’, and thus boring.
Blunderbuss as an album is everything about Jack White that is in the right context endearing and enjoyable, but is otherwise annoying and kitsch-y. I’m talking about his folk-yness, his love of old school blues and country music, his showmanship, etc. Blunderbuss is all these things let free, unbalanced by other personalities and restraining influences. And it’s just not very interesting. Even the album’s most badass song, “Sixteen Saltines” – which features some awesome pedal effects that figure prominently in the song’s composition – lacks the chutzpa it would otherwise have gained from less technical sanding. That’s not to say that White’s gifts are not on display throughout, though. His jovially bombastic guitar theatrics are wonderful as usual and take various forms on the album in songs like “I’m Shaking” and the aforementioned, while his producer and arranger skills lend the perfect touch to songs like “Love Interruption” in the form of a well-placed organ or slide guitar in “On And On And On”. But ultimately the whole thing is too cozy, too comfortable, and White hasn’t yet found a way to balance the honesty of the old time genres he loves with his natural showmanship.