Sunny Day for Sun Kil Moon; In Which Self-Referential Art is Dissected via Google

Yessss!  Is there not a more appropriate song for today in Chicago?

Sun Kil Moon’s, ponderous, nostalgic, strummy, but not especially happy track (duh, it’s Mark Kozelek), “Sunshine in Chicago” is a free download on Stereogum.  Mr Kozelek recollects a show in Chicago among millions of other shows he’s played over the years;  how his female fanbase has subsided, as well as possibly his V.D.

In the age of self-referential songs and google stalking, we can now pinpoint what day Mr Kozelek is talking about — walking down Lincoln Avenue after getting a manicure, this show was most likely July 8th, 2010 at Lincoln Hall, as Mark name-checks “Julie Holland” [sic] on the Marquee, as Lincoln Hall had booked Jolie Holland four days later, July 12th.  Creepy, right?

Oh, btw, it’s a free download.

Summer Mix from A Dead Kid

Hey Y’all.

You’ve been patient. You’re all swell.   You deserve some MP3’s amiright?  Well, here ya go.

What’s on it?  A buncha stuff.  A few albums that we’ve covered so far this year (Secret Cities, Acid House Kings, Radio Dept.) a few albums I still have to cover this year (Nobunny, Fleet Foxes, Cults), some old ones, some REAL old ones, and some cuts that Matt (@MattyDangerFox) and I (@Pantone292) were spinning on TurnTable.FM some time late last week.

So… what’s the criteria.  Meh.  The criteria was, “Can you play this during the summer?”  The answer?  A resounding “sure.”  Enjoy.


  1. “No Pressure,” Secret Cities
  2. “Heaven’s On Fire,” The Radio Dept.
  3. “Take Me Over,” Cut Copy
  4. “Oh My God,” Cults
  5. “Cybele’s Reverie,” Stereolab
  6. “Montezuma,” Fleet Foxes
  7. “Wicked Path Of Sin,” Old And In The Way
  8. “This Time Tomorrow,” The Kinks
  9. “World Love,” The Magnetic Fields
  10. “Strange Parade,” Atlas Sound
  11. “No Intention,” The Dirty Projectors
  12. “Dock Jacuzzi Boys
  13. “Blow Dumb,” Nobunny
  14. 14 “Gardenia,” Stephen Malkmus (& The Jicks)
  15. 15 “Are We Lovers or are We Friends?” Acid House Kings
  16. 16 “I Need all the Friends I Can Get,” Camera Obscura
  17. “Molly’s Got A Crush On Us,” Tullycraft
  18. “Marathon,” Tennis
  19. “Sloop John B,” The Beach Boys
  20. “This Will Be Our Year,” The Zombies

Mix (separated by track) is on MediaFire here.

1318 W. Cermak Rd.

MP3: Christian AIDS – “Young Luv”

Manchester’s mysterious Christian AIDS is definitely an act to keep an eye on, and their upcoming 7″ Stay + is bound to be a killer release, further cementing them into relevancy. Using a strange blend of distorted synths, echoed vocals, and fuzzed out bass, the band gives a strange nod to it’s dance foundations while paying homage to much darker influences. Listening to Christian AIDS’ is like being at a warehouse party while stuck in a K-Hole, and to say the songs are haunting is an absolute understatement.

The Fader recently posted the premier of the track “Young Luv,” and I literally cannot stop listening to it. In all honesty, it’s been quite some time since a song got me hooked to this degree. Incredible.

Check the post at The Fader’s site as well as download the mp3 here or just watch the video below.

Secret Cities’ Backward-Looking Forward-Thinking “Strange Hearts”

Deciphering when an album was made has everything to do with how the album is recorded.  Arguably, one should be able to pinpoint the era of recording based on what technology was available at the time of its creation.  The more technically proficient the album, the more modern the era it was recorded in — think of Les Paul’s multi-tracking, Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” and Pet Sounds’ cacophonic layers.  Think of the invention of cassette tapes and Tascams that allowed closet troubadours to pass out C86 opuses among their friends. A decade later, think of Cher’s foray into auto-tuning, and Girl Talk’s Abelton-enabled war on intellectual property law. Especially evident in Girl Talk’s mash-up experiments and Spector’s Motown fetishism, it’s clear that every recording step forward creates a reverence of an earlier era.

Modern technology continues to push forward towards beyond-pristine vocals and manipulations that make sounds shimmer in a perfection that can never truly exist in real time. Though this march of advancement begs the question —  is technology really a measuring stick of advancement in music (or even aesthetics in general)?  More so now than any previous time, there is an ache for authenticity and the response to this ache is to regress.  Distasteful for Science, yes, but wholly comforting to the audiophile.

Here sits Secret Cities.  Steeped firmly in the present, their new album Strange Hearts was recorded in a concentrated 3-month process sequestered in the basement of a boarded-up bank in their home-state of North Dakota; free from unsolicited A&R advice and superstar producers.

Secret Cities is happy to bathe in the echo and ghostly backup vocals reminiscent of an earlier time, though no era in particular.  In this modern era, where vocals can be pitched perfect, Secret Cities yearn for a time before the word “post production” meant anything.  It’s a rewarding aesthetic, and its’ recording process, purposely and endearingly blighted, makes Strange Hearts work so well  — a sharp record that politely declines to be polished with toggled studio effects.

It’s coming from a place that’s not overtly nostalgic, but consciously avoids refinement.  It’s the sort of nod to yesteryear that indie pop veterans like Saturday Looks Good To Me have always used to great effect.  Other reviews on Strange Hearts casually drop the Shangri-La’s or Brian Wilson but that name-checking only serves to describe their process, not their output.  Secret Cities is a thoroughly modern, self-aware chamber pop band that dodges such easy classification.  Organ, guitar jangle, tambourine, and hand-claps abound as they trade girl/boy songwriting duties to great effect — recalling innumerable other ensembles but mimicking none.

There are vocals on Strange Hearts so rich that they don’t need any artifice. The sound cuts through recoding space reverb so strongly that it easily pierces a mic that sits on the far side of a cavernous fiscal institution basement.  It’s reverse studio expertise — they know what could make their sound crisper and they’re not going to make it that easy on the listener.  It’s a process that makes repeated listening increasingly rewarding.  It’s a confidence in their own organic sensibilities that the hooks in closing ditties like “No Pressure” and “Portland” don’t need any polishing to shine.

Secret Cities — “Love Crime” MP3

Secret Cities play Chicago’s Subterranean on Tuesday, February 22.

Mix Album: Boys & Girls

Boys & Girls

I have a small obsession with male-female vocal harmonizing and the trading off of verses.  Though this mix is a bit dated now, I came across it while clearing out my mediafire drive, and I thought, as Matty Dangerfox supplied you some kick-ass durty beats last week, I should overcompensate with some sing-songy, wispy pussy shit that I really enjoy.  Maybe you will too.

  1. Intro – The Pixies
  2. Handle with Care – Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins
  3. Two Ways – The 1900s
  4. Honey Child What Can I Do? – Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan
  5. Who Were You Thinking Of? – Biirdie
  6. Secretly Minnesotan – Tullycraft
  7. Death to Los Campesinos! – Los Campesinos!
  8. Say Yes if You Love Me – Acid House Kings
  9. PS (interlude) – The Books
  10. Happy New Year – Camera Obscura
  11. Can’t Ever Sleep – Saturday Looks Good to Me
  12. Friday Night – Elephant Parade
  13. Jorge Regula – The Moldy Peaches
  14. Come Back from San Fransisco – The Magnetic Fields
  15. Souvenirs – Architecture in Helsinki
  16. You Really Got a Hold on Me – She & Him
  17. All You Need is Hate – The Delgados
  18. Know-how – Kings of Convenience
  19. Les Etoiles Secretes – Ida
  20. Ghosts are Good Company – Bishop Allen
  21. The Ice Storm, Big Gust, and You – Tilly & The Wall

Download the mix here

Album Review: Matthew Dear – Black City

It’s remarkable, and not coincidental, that both modern music’s most sincerely analog and most ruthless binary outputs escaped from of the same town. Motown’s multi-track walls of sound (and the soul therein) quickly relented to a deliberate, ruthless 4/4 404. Both sounds are now universally celebrated, while the town itself remains a gimmie punchline.

This is where Matthew Dear grew up. Matthew Dear; Ghostly International label upstarter, he of many monikers, and of remix royalty, has a new self-titled record called Black City.

It is dark. From the production, to the lyrics, to the album art, it is dark. Dark, in most circles, means bad. It connotes violence, gloom, the unknown, and moral decay. But also know that “dark”, as in dark bars, dark corners, and darkened windows, are just as likely to be agents of visceral (vice?) pleasure as they are menace.

This album shifts and seethes. It is unsettled, uneven, but a trip worth taking. It’s rife with warped and distended vocal cuts and samples — mostly Dear himself — double-tracking a low register and high register to haunting, disparate effect.

Despite applying his birth name to this LP as opposed to his many pseudonyms (False, Audion, Jabberjaw), the album does not seem to mine Dear’s personal experience for lyrical content — at least not directly. It has narrative qualities but, save for the beautiful sunrise closing track “Gem,” our Black City tour guide pretty much keeps the guise of a cold-blooded kraut rocker or a club posturer for most of the midnight ride.

It’s especially evident in “You Put a Smell on Me” going all Biggie Smalls on us, talking game about big black cars and little red nightgowns. Dear oozes lines backed by hiccuping blips and organ. This moody, funky, plodding swagger actually succeeds earlier in the album with mid-tempo standout, “Slowdance”. In what sounds like a club track whose vocals, rhythm, and kit are slowed to a sexy trudge, Dear’s lines are slack, rhythmic, and effortlessly laid over a thick slice of distended synth and drum snare fill.

The centerpiece of the album is the title-referencing “Little People (Black City)” which is not so much a song as three movements – all a nod to D-town techno past. It starts as a fairly typical, albeit catchy, club track — not anthemic enough to be a dance floor standout, but it wasn’t intended to be one. A sole, tinny cowbell settles in, echoing over atmospherics and synthetic strings as Dear deftly transitions (as DJ/Producers are prone) to looped vocal clatter as the track segues into a second song section. With a vaguely tribal vocal pattern refrain, Dear’s content here is, as with most disco/techno, embellishment. As the repetition of “Love me like a clown” falls into an abyss — a blackhole of noise swallowing the track — what appears on the other side is a ghostly disco vocal chorus with echo-canyon funk guitar that deftly slips into a hypnotic mix.

So what does it all mean? What prompts a musician with a wealth of A.K.A.’s to use his birth name when releasing a new album? It infers, accurately or not, that this album is a reflection themselves. Is that statement sincere? Ask Robert Allen Zimmerman. Is it affectation? Reggie Kenneth Dwight might know. Is it branding? Stefani Germanotta has a thought.

But what is here, if it’s not directly personal, are some motifs — acknowledgments of humanity — that sit obscured behind technology (in this case a drum sequencer). There’s monkeyness here, and tribalness … brooding and braggadocio … reality and drugs … bacchanalian nights and modern living. It’s a swath of murky content with a warm human core that rhythm always provides.

Black City drops on 8/17 and you can get some free MP3 at his site here.

Live Review: Drink Up Buttercup – Universal Healthcare Spokesband

Energetic, shambling, playful, endearingly sloppy; these are things that immediately hit you when listening to Philly’s Drink Up Buttercup. Their live show embodies these very same qualities, and seeing them (at eye level no-less) at the stageless Ronny’s was just grand.

A fuzzy fracas of keyboards, ghostly harmony, tempo-shifts, and Brit-invasion guitar immediately called to mind your typical archetypes of these qualities — namely Clinic, Grizzly Bear, Fiery Furnaces, some Liverpool mercybeat band, yada yada yada.

But unlike all the bands mentioned above, there are no self-serious tendencies to be found; they’re just too giddy to be so heavy (much less wear surgical masks). Even when they get their stompin’ march on it sounds closer to the clumsy grandeur of a K Records Modest Mouse than the doom & gloom of a Kurt Weill.

It was a stellar, loose, pop-inflected, bedraggled, harmonious cacophony of a show. If there was ever a band that exemplified the need for universal health care, it’s D.U.B.. They’re erratic, they’re thrashing, they self-affectedly fall all over each other, they dispose of their instruments by dropping them on the floor, and the quartet (who all quit their jobs to tour) will almost certainly injure each other eventually. Obama! We need a public option.

That said, listing possible influences is only fun for the one writing them, so it’s best to check them out live… ya know…

Mp3: Farewell Captain

Photos by Pegs.  Thanks Pegs!