Nov 30, 2007

Professor of Non-Static Forms

Shen Wei - Gary [from "Almost Naked"] (2006)

The works of both Shen Wei and T.D. Reisert are calmly honest in a way that helps push through discomfort and find human company. Ohio's TD clearly employs the "Will Oldham factor", carving a shadowy niche somewhere between Palace, Songs:Ohia, and Clem Snide. When he cracks his mouth with dry eyes cast down, barely spoken words stumble upstairs for the night from a hairy stomach of whiskey and pretzels. They wooze loosely assembled in the still as his guitar drips gently from faucet.

TD Reisert - Concordat (mp3) [buy the late night burn on CDR]

Nov 29, 2007


Kevin Miyazaki - Highway 94 Location [from "Fast Food"] (2006)

Applied Communications - Awesome Fantasies (mp3) This track plays with matches until the word "Beautiful" catches on fire and burns to dust. It's a physical degradation of an idea. And it's the next generation of children playing in the resultant sandbox. It's the romance of feeling things too hard. It's a Big Mac convincing you with its sauce until you vomit. [buy]

Nov 28, 2007

If A Song Could Be President

Over the Rhine transitioned in Madison last night from a 'world' tour to a 'Christmas' tour, marked preemptively like our storefronts with a single string of lights dressing the bass drum. Lackadaisical folk lyrics and free jazz instrumentation ornamented the Majestic like pine cones hot-glued to popsicle stick sleds, the mood dripping golden like the stage's Vaudeville frame.

Karen Berquist stood, perched in the center of an oriental living-room rug accented by a vase of pink roses for the occasion. A slight formality exuded from her red blazer, barely covering the accent, black leather boots, and frilly low-cut top of a rural Ohioan. But the night was all about her voice and how it cozied up warm next to her husband's piano. Subtle and expressive. Breathy but not whispered. Raspy but not broken . Feistesque on the upbeat, Faith Hillish on the belt. Slow and forcefully complex.

Watching the live creation of such amazing OtR classics as "Drunkyards Prayer" and "Ohio" was fascinating, much like touring a working factory where toys are conveyor-assembled, microchips are soldered to circuit boards, or beer bottled. Karen would stretch her neck, squint, birth a beautiful note out of a tight pucker, sustain it... sustain it... and PUNctuate it with a quick jolt of her head backwards. Snapping it off at its completion.

Over The Rhine - Ohio (mp3)

Unfortunately the immaculate moments of passion were few and far between, with pieces of the new "Trumpet Child" gleaming as over-performed as the album was over-produced. Bright orange lights would flash abrupty and wipe t
he clenched poignance off Karen's jaw in favor of a comfortable grin and an upbeat sway. Dipping his upright like a ballroom dancer, the bass player was as uncomfortably enthusiastic as his flared seventies collar. And at the risk of sounding like a grouch, the Christmas focus with goofy anecdotes about shepherds and peace on earth seemed a bit off topic, at least for the show I had planned to see.

As usual, the highlights of the set came in the encore. A characteristic Tom Waits celebration titled "Don't Wait For Tom" unfolded relaxed and struck brash with three smacks of a cookie sheet. It was obviously written to be performed. And the liberal musician fantasy "If A Song Could Be President" could've been written specifically for the Madison audience.

Overall, the night was full of subtle elegance - elevated by impressive sound engineering and a surprisingly cozy atmosphere for a crisp new venue. It may be a small detail, but the refreshingly thoughtful pre-show playlist set a strong mood and deepened the experience's authenticity to the core. The Majestic is beginning to flex its powerful perspective; not only because it presented Over the Rhine so aptly, but because it did the same with such a contrasting show as “Against Me” in the same week.

Over The Rhine - If A Song Could Be President (mp3) [buy]

Nov 26, 2007

Understanding Later That She's Shooting At You

Izima Kaoru - Tominaga Ai Wears Prada #402 (2003)

Had I been a stronger man, I would have whisked you off your feet. I'd have lavished you as demanded by reducing the need for your dramatic high heels to style alone. I'd have understood the disgust implicit in tucking your skirt tightly around your thighs while sitting on my secondhand couch, evidence that your presence was deliberate. Despite.

I would have taken you away if I had known what you wanted me to know, but didn't want to tell me. That he was alive, but you weren't. I would have echoed your painful glance with the same, plus a kiss. I'd have drank the callous words from your lips. I'd have been exactly what you were looking for and saw. Your haunting brown eyes wanted to grab my collar, especially because your lashes always batted them back. I wouldn't have accepted hesitations behind thin fingers on your lips or assertions of personal space. I'd have interpreted your rules each as an effort to try and tell me to break them.

In the formal discourse of your stare, the requests came between the typed lines. You wanted to be forced. Your statute wanted to be broken, your hair tossed. You wanted to be shaken. You wanted to be dislodged from your situation. You wanted to be fucked in the back of your car. You wanted to tell him. And then be whisked away. You told me this once, but the words said you could no longer speak to me.

The Inlets - See Her, Seer (mp3)

Christina Aguilera - Slow Down Baby (mp3)

Nov 24, 2007

Leaving You For the Inside of a Sweater

Sonja Thomsen - Gesture (2006)

Sam Amidon is more than just an opportunity to share love about Bedroom Community and its greenhouse gases that may just save the world. He's an opportunity to share handmade antidotes for all your late fall ailments. This track has love for your lonliness, tradition for your nostalgia, and warm violins for your shivers. Mostly, it has resolve for leaving beauty behind. The record "All is Well" comes out highly anticipated in the rapidly approaching winter of 2008.

Sam Amidon - Saro (mp3)

Nov 23, 2007

At The End of the Show, Can You Drive Me Home?

Matthew Jordan - Collection (2001)

Julian ventured out of her head tonight. She peeked out from inside via the corner of one retina and then the other. She was sensitive to dirtiness, especially the coat of it that she had imagined lining the dimly-lit alleys of reality. So she sprinted. From one controlled surrealism to another, landing in a packed club with a mildly clever, mildly bland name and similar decoration. Everything seemed to be roughly painted black to cover the residue of an old diner or shoe store. Julian noticed this especially in the sloppy corner behind the bar, needing to take interest in something after giving up waving a $5 bill at the bartender like it was worth $95 more.

As a microphone flipped on and a restrained voice asked for more keyboard in the monitor, she rolled up her jeans another time - to a height now as conspicuously enthusiastic as a raised eyebrow. Standing on her toes, she collected that the voice belonged to a bearded man with thick black glasses in a muted striped shirt, joined by four others that each looked carefully assembled in a way that wouldn't attract attention. They fumbled around on stage and then almost fell into a sound that was delightfully big band without the obnoxious enunciation and pizazz.

A scruffy man in front of Julian leaned down to whisper loudly to a shorter scruffy man that the singer sounded "exactly like Fever Marlene", which didn't mean anything to her. But she did notice that the brash cymbal use was a little feverish and she was satisfied with that explanation. Julian was bobbing more than she had expected to. She was surprised what the steady smack of a snare for four minutes can do to someone searching for predictability in her life.

May or May Not - Mt Hopeless (mp3)

May or May Not - Self-Charmed Man (mp3) [buy]

Nov 22, 2007

I Am The Hero Faucet

Robert Gober - Sink (1984)

Meg Baird and Greg Weeks (of Espers) join Will Oldham on a new album of covers called "Ask Forgiveness". The harmonies are quiet reinventions that stir the perfect consistency of balanced beauty, as you'd expect.

Bonnie Prince Billy - I've Seen It All [Bjork Cover] (mp3)

Bonnie Prince Billy - The World's Greatest [R. Kelly Cover] (mp3) [buy]

Nov 19, 2007

Art Is Real

Deer Tick - Art Isn't Real [City of Sin] (2006 live video)

Deer Tick - Art Isn't Real [City of Sin] (mp3): I met John McCauley (aka Deer Tick) for the first time last year, early in the morning and in a hotel bathroom courtesy of this YouTube video. The surprising clarity of his vocal enthralls while still sounding thrown-on like his undershirt and a bit crusty like morning eyes. True talent is at its best in bathrooms and basements, where strumming guitars fits as comfortably into lives as tooth brushing.

Nov 17, 2007

All The Things I Say, Yeah They're Just Lies

Roland Icking - The Same Woman (2006)

Sidi Ali - Saturday (mp3): Songs are effective apologies. Especially apologies for lies that were not actually lies. The poorer the grammar, the more vulnerable the banjo, the more repetitive the promise, the better. Sidi Ali has me, being an absolute sucker for a vocal sustain late in a song. When simply hanging on after the 4th beat drops sounds like pure genius.

Nov 16, 2007

We Don't Have The Time Not To Wonder Why

Marcin Lukasiewicz - Tomorrow (2007)

Time... Time... TIMe.
Be... Be. Be.
Grow... Groow. Grow Show.
Show. Show... SHOW.
No. No. NO.

Okay - Already (mp3)

Nov 15, 2007

Degenerate Art

Jennifer Nehrbass - Bridget (2006)

Degenerate Art Ensemble - Cuckoo Pie (mp3): The Degenerate Art Ensemble is one of this blog's house bands. Not of moderate quality and free-flowing like the house wine, but beloved like the battered kitchen table or inherent like the family genes. DAE's music embraces its own physical performance with an erratic style of freedom employed by collage artists and punk rockers. The mp3 is half empty without visuals, a refreshing dissatisfaction in a music environment where art is rarely missed. With Cirque du Soleil in town this weekend, let's celebrate the excitement of public ruckus, the potential challenge of performance art, and the beauty of colorful music (that doesn't have to cost $65 to experience).

Nov 13, 2007

Luscious Life, I Need You Today

Bari Ziperstein - Untitled (2007)
[from "Hand cut photographs - St. Vincent De Paul"]

Patrick Watson - Luscious Life (mp3): I honestly had no expectations when I picked this album "Close To Paradise" out of the mail, but it's as grand as any of the best albums released this year. Clean Chris Martin falsettos summersalt into Antony Hegarty unbridaled wailings. Piano chords pulse into frenzied tambourine quivers. And it's all wrapped in an unassuming orange bubble wrap envelope and sent for $1.24. [buy]

Nov 12, 2007

Your Expected Wait Time

Phillippe Kindelis - The TV Remote Control (2007) [from Order & Chaos]

Is it possible that the deliberate simplification of our technological interfaces is dumbing us down? That making products "easier to use" is dissociating ourselves with the very physics that makes our world fascinating? Like how pop music gets easier and easier to listen to as it gets farther and farther away from musicianship? Phillippe Kindelis offers a line of thought that empowers us to reject spending our conveniently empty time thinking about what new simple product to buy and more time living our lives in the processes of life itself.

The TV remote control uses the principle of water displacement and the conductive properties of water to connect different cables. It highlights principles and processes that the user can interact with. It is an exploration as to whether water and electricity can be put together to create a new narrative in the way we interact with technological products. See it in action.

Andy Ditzler - Shifting Alliances [Rock Against Fundamentalism II] (mp3): Shuffling in and overcompensating with openness, this song agrees. It extends its arm lanky like the title and spills its awkward inaccessibility with an immediate lack of a traditional melody. It hides its true musicianship after a comfortable barrier of quirky conversation and hollow pop culture references. The process of hiding its personality in a maze of intricate mannerisms misleadingly becomes its personality. Until the layers of defense are slowly removed to reveal a jubilant golden city at its core.

Nov 10, 2007

Invitation For Geese

Debora Solomon - Olive oil, grass powder, ume boshi vinegar [2004]

We've all experienced the culinary dilemma that ensues when a goose RSVPs to your dinner party: What to cook to satisfy everyone? Well, Debora Solomon postulates that a flexibility in the menu and the very way we look at "human" food can inspire more social contact between currently isolated species. The project works closely with Natalie Jeremijenko's "OOZ" which creates urban spaces where animals and people interact voluntarily. Instead of one species being caged and the other observing, these places build respectful inter-species relationships and reflect on the power of both wanting to come together and spend time.

Christine Fellows - To A Prize Bird (mp3): Christine's new songs are born preloaded with history, with residue memory from an old soul. Her freely classical instrumentation tells its stories with rich depth like the tympani, crisp songwriting like the xylophone, and harmonic intimacy like the strings. But the honest vocal establishes the perspective of the music in the reflection of the action, not the action itself. Buy her new album "Nevertheless" here, it is highly recommended.

Nov 9, 2007

How To Party Hard

Dan Witz - Big Mosh Pit (2007)

Tonight's Andrew WK lecture was good. Not good in the common definition "OK" or "mediocre", but in the deeper definition more akin to "right" or " the way things should be"... as in the "common good" or to "do good". Good like a good meal with the word good stressed, not like when someone asks you how your meal was and you say it was "good". Good in the way that changes your definitions.

To understand Andrew's content, it is first vital to clearly define and appreciate the term "party". A party and the act of partying is: unhesitating enjoyment, unforgiving fulfillment, celebratory breathing, extreme enlightenment, callous being, rock appreciation, reckless love. It is a state one can approximate with drunkenness and drug abuse, but doesn't really obtain until the acknowledgement that these vices are not truly necessary. Embracing the party doesn't perpetuate teenage behaviors, but makes sure never to lose the teenage excitement for life. The bottom line is to be conscious of yourself and what constitutes a "party" for you at any given moment, and then to define your perspective as embracing that sense of party with zest. And this is what elevates anthems like "Party Hard" out of frat playlists and into philosophical discourse.

Between the quirky format of inquisitive audience questions punctuated by dramatic stage dives, the night was incredibly grounded in place and time and essence. Andrew was thoughtfully self-conscious, poignantly reducing the experience to "room time" where a bunch of humans sit in a room and be together. His gratitude and focus on gut human-ness was deeply real in a way that is surprisingly absent given the number of moments we live in reality.

I doubt Andrew often gets described as subtle, but let me try. Andrew's message of thinking and being centered first, with the acknowledgement that this will have an unspoken impact on the world and other humans within it, was perfectly but ironically articulated by the lack of a lecture. He demonstrated this exact point just by showing up and writhing on stage as his true self, modeling with a subtlety that heightened the experience to visceral.

I didn't ask my question because Andrew was so clear that I already knew the answer. I was going to ask "We're all here in this room acting out and enjoying it in unprecedented philosophical agreement, but everything changes when we leave this room. How is this collective spirit maintained when we leave?" And then I realized that this is why we do what we do. This is why we forge opportunities to get together and celebrate life in art orgies like Madison Pop Fest.

Andrew WK - Party Hard (mp3)

Jon Sebastian - I Get Wet [Andrew WK Cover] (mp3)

Nov 5, 2007

MadPop Preview: Circuit-Bending Madness

In partnership with local bent-label Tiger Claw Records, is pleased to present Circuit-Bending Madness at the Madison Pop Fest this Saturday in the Memorial Union from 4-9PM. Beginners and addicts are invited to participate in free workshops and performances from the best benders in the Midwest.

Circuit-Bending is the creative DIY art of short-circuiting low voltage,
battery-powered electronic audio devices
(including synthesizers
and children's toys)
to create new musical instruments.

All knowledge, supplies, and plenty of toys will be provided for FREE. Come experiment and learn a new skill. The star-studded lineup is as follows:

[4:00] Basic Circuit-Bending Workshop (Beatrix*JAR)

[5:00] Advanced Circuit-Bending Workshop (

[7:00] Performance: Talking Computron (Iowa City, IA)
[7:30] Performance: Roth Mobot (Chicago, IL)
[8:00] Performance: Beatrix*JAR (Minneapolis, MN)
[8:30] Performance: Life As Number Five (Madison, WI)

Nov 4, 2007

MadPop Preview: Best Friends Forever

Tierney Gearon - The Mother Project

Since romantic songs about expressways are really trendy right now, I'm excited to announce the addition of Bri Smith (aka Brientering the Bratmosphere) of the Minneapolis duo "Best Friends Forever" to my Friday showcase at Madison Pop Fest. Bri's honest love wails are expressive in ways that would indeed make Abraham Lincoln very happy.

Best Friends Forever - Eisenhower Is The Father (mp3)

Nov 3, 2007

MadPop Preview: Billy Harvey

Billy Harvey - The World Is On Fire (2007)

Billy Harvey mixes the subtle songwriting of Elliott Smith with the sound and sense of humor of the Eels. His songs are simple offerings crafted of human hands about watching TV, doing karate, and meeting up at the bars later. He's heartfelt in the realistic sometimes-struggling, sometimes-quiet definition of the word - not its common overuse to promote puppy rescue. Like with all good friends, taking the time to enjoy his slow sensibility is rewarded with entertaining quirks, moments of poignant reflection, and citrus rainstorms.

Billy Harvey - Soft Blade (mp3)

*Check out his incredible, SXSW-award-winning website (seriously, it's a piece of art) and his performance at Music Hall for Madison Pop Fest on Friday evening.

Nov 2, 2007

JustSayin... Showcase at Madison Pop Fest is excited to present a *free* indie showcase at Madison Pop Fest next Friday, November 9th featuring...

7:00 Vid Libert [of Madison, WI]
MP3: No One Knows

7:45 Brientering the Bratmosphere [of Minneapolis, NY]
MP3: Eisenhower Is The Father

8:30 SoSo Glos [of New York, NY]
Myspace: SoSo Glos

9:15 Billy Harvey [of Austin, TX]
MP3: Soft Blade

10:15 Pale Young Gentlemen [of Madison, WI]
MP3: Saturday Night

11:15 Baby Teeth [of Chicago, IL]
MP3: The Simp

12:00 Daft Punk [of France]
Trailer: Electroma


Nov 1, 2007

Hey, Son

This, son, is how the world works. The analogies are weak. The days are a repetitious chorus, each important only in shape and in hindsight. The photographs are cold and distant. The prisons are temporary. Everyone comes from the same place, diverges, and dies. Less is more. You get to my age and are supposed to know what to say. Except this is exactly when you know there is nothing to say. There are only bible verses to recite, only notes to sing.

Nancy Elizabeth - Hey Son (mp3) [buy]