WNnG – Musings from the desk of chaz.

Listening Station Update.
May 7, 2009, 7:45 pm
Filed under: New Music

Changed out the Listening Station a couple days ago and thought I’d post up the key players this time around. I realize since it’s just me making the decisions, it becomes more of a ‘chaz’s picks’ listening station, so if you have anything you want to see up there, please let me know! Then again, what’s wrong with ‘chaz’s picks,’ it’s basically a store full of that crap anyway, right?!

I’m in a psych mood lately, if you haven’t been able to tell.

Thomas Function – Celebration (alive)

Yes, I know, this one has actually been up there for a long while. I just really like it, so I keep trying to push it on people. Sometimes successful, sometimes not. But everyone still needs to hear it. So there it will remain until the person it was meant for stumbles in, cranks it and finds his or her favorite album. This is Thomas Function’s debut full length. They had a couple 7″s slung out previous to this, but these recordings really nailed them into the list of best albums of 2008 for me. Being on Alive Records you’d maybe assume this was just another awesome garage/boogie record. And you’d actually be right in that assumption – oh but wait, it goes farther. These boys (none of whom are named Thomas Function actually, so you will find it in the ‘T’s of yer local indie store) crank out a marvelous racket that exists somewhere right smack in the center where garage, powerpop and twang meet as musical influences or genres. It’s hooky, loose, raw, brash, loud, melodic and a bit laid back at times. Just a solid record through and through. Writing this right now makes me realize I’ve probably already written about this record on this blog. Oops. Can’t expect me to remember everything.

Cymbals Eat Guitars – Why There Are Mountains (self release)

What?! I was blindsided by this release! It came outta nowhere! Well, I guess from the perspective of someone who sits behind a desk in Durham, NC, kinda removed by a few states from New York and their leagues of self-released CDs, it might seem like that. But obviously, it came from deep, deep somewhere. It’s chilling that this is just a self-release. I had some friends ask about it and then I read the review on Pitchfork, so I figured I might as well check it out. Just order a couple for the store and some friends. But then I talked to the guys on the phone, and they were super nice, then they sent them down just on consignment with a store copy. Then I figured I would toss it on the player. Then I actually listened to it. Then I became blown away and found myself happily in full, drooling agreement with Pitchfork. Did I mention they were also super nice? Anyway, this is a tough one to describe, it just deserves a listen. It can definitely be put into the ranks of the modern NY psych/shoegaze players, but it takes it a little farther in places – wandering off into jangly, driving, high powered Pixies space, manipulated and reverb-drenched sonic waves or epic Isaac Brock-patented howling crescendo moments. Just as you’re settling in behind a timid, melodic guitar line, you’re snapped back into the music with a crash or a wave of feedback and melodic noise. It’s eerily pretty, yet still massive and jarring. Man, top records of 2009 list for sure!

Crystal Antlers – Tentacles (tough & go)

Possibly Touch & Go’s final new release? Who knows. It’s all still sad and unclear. If it is, it’s a strong note to go out on in my opinion. Let’s hope it’s not the end though, not trying to cause any bad juju. This release just seemed to kinda putter out into the public, which is a shame, as I think it’s one of the stronger releases of the year so far. It sounds like an indie rock approach to 60s psych garage. To me this album carries the sound of a band that formed with the intention of becoming an indie rock band, but then accidentally fell into some 13th Floor Elevators stuff. Heavily. Maybe the majority of the band ended up in Indie Rock 101, and one or two of them got lost and stumbled into Psychedelic Garage 101. Then the in-fighting began. It’s a bizarre mashing of modern noisy indie rock and classic 60s pysch garage stuff. The Crystal Antlers are pulling inspiration from the era of them rock n roll kids who were pushing the boundaries of modern music, pulling in waves of sound and tortured screams maxing out the dancehall mics. Go to their myspace page and listen to “Andrew.” If you’re not sold on that seemingly-sloppy mess of controlled guitar noise, then I guess you’re just not ready for it. Yup, I’m calling you out. Check back in 5 years and listen to it again, you’ll hate the fact that you missed it.

Wooden Shjips – Dos (holy mountain)

Found it! When I’m not getting lost in the ramblings of the phenonmenal modern psych group, Woods, I’m happily lost in the Kraut-rock influenced grooves of the Wooden Shjips lately. Them’s the two I reach for when I need to bring it down a few notches. San Francisco psychedelic wunder kids. Just look at them mugs on the left there! Tell me you’re not ready to toss this sucker on the player! I see nothing but space in those eyes…or the black voids where they’re supposed to be! I think I first heard this on WXDU about a week before it was released unto the stores and the public – so I still had time to weasel it onto an order. There was a repetitive groove, a snakey guitar line and a dark almost chant-like vocal delivery that reminded me immediately of Chris D. of the Flesh Eaters! If you’ve been reading this blog from early on, you’d know that I have a little obsession with the Flesh Eaters and their album “Minute to Pray, Second to Die.” There are not a ton of tracks on this album, but don’t be fooled, it is indeed a full album. The guitar lines drift in and out over locked grooves and the music goes far out into space and back. I’m not talking hippy-dippy cosmic grooves, I’m talking thick, dirty Kraut-rock COSMIC grooves. The heavy stuff. There’s a bit of darkness lying just under the surface as well, that’s what makes the album so powerful; it’s not just wanky and playful, it’s thought out, meticulous, slightly loose and meandering but it’s locked in. You don’t hear too much Flesh Eaters influence in music today, and maybe it was unintentional here, but goddamn if it doesn’t make me happy. Thanks for this record!

Hammer No More the Fingers – Looking for Bruce (churchkey)


My ride’s almost here so I unfortunately have to keep this one brief, sorry! One of the best local releases slotted for this year. We’ve got some doozies coming out too! Produced by the J Robbins, Looking for Bruce is a thick and jumpy ode to 90s indie rock. This album was created by kids who watched the 90s Chapel Hill/Durham scene roll by from their history class windows. Taking every chop, hook and sign of aggression and flare into their empty-notebook-heads. Math equations wrapped around Archers of Loaf lyrics while the monotonous American History teacher’s voice was slacked out to Polvo rhythms. This is what these guys learned. Now, ten years removed, they’re bringing back the raw energy into what used to be a thriving, spirited scene. Remember when ‘indie rock’ referred more to melodic, geeky glasses-wearing punk? These guys never got out of that class and the spirit they breathe back into the genre is amazing. See the live show and it will start to click back into place. Some memories will creep back up. Just like Robbins’ own Jawbox, Hammer is fronted by the bassist and I’d be surprised if Robbins didn’t give this the old sentimental Jawbox treatment (conscious of it or not), as the bouncey, driving, fuzzed bass is a center piece in each song. The bass fills the lead position and churns the music out in a more gutsy manner (like Jawbox) as the guitar stabs and slices around it. There is not a local band currently that will make you want to move more.

Thanks for reading!
Swing by and give this stuff a listen!
We love records!!


New Stock! (and some Oh Sees chatter)
May 5, 2009, 4:10 pm
Filed under: New Music

Check it – http://www.bullcityrecords.com/newstock.html

Listening to the new Oh Sees LP on In the Red right now. Just got off the first side and I’m still itching with excitement over the fact that this record came in today. Even with the intense anticipation that I let build up around this record (one of my very favorite bands putting out an album on one of my very favorite labels), it’s just what I needed to hear right now.

I’m even catching a buzz just thinking about getting off my ass and flipping this thing over! Pink vinyl?? Yes!! If you have not heard their last LP on Tomlab, The Master’s Bedroom is Worth Spending a Night In, you should probably go out and pick that up right now. Once you’ve listened to it about 5 times today, which you will, return to the same record store and buy the new one, Help, right away. You will feel happier and lighter about your day and you will get a charge on hearing the return of good, new music. Thee Oh Sees blend a spiraling collage out of bouncy 60s garage, reverbed psych moments and a driving, playful rhythm. This album is proving to be a lot more fuzzy garage than the last more spacey garage folk record.

It was basically started as a one-man, lo-fi, basement psych/folk/garage sound project with many layers and freakouts on Narnack Records (OCS), but it has since morphed into a more collaborative effort by some very capable and experimental San Francisco folks (OCS becomes Thee Oh Sees). John Dwyer has been pushing and deconstructing his sounds since his early days on Load Records. Back in the heyday of noise duos (Hella, Lightning Bolt, etc), Dwyer was right on the same page and making noise along side them with his outfit, Pink & Brown. One of my old roommates turned me on to these guys and Dwyer quickly became one of my favorite guitar players. I like noise rock enough, but Pink & Brown had more going on than the usual crowd, I could get behind it a little more – maybe there was a little more structure or rhythm to the drive? a little more hook to the builds? less finger tapping? – I don’t know, but it got me.

From there he crashed into the Coachwhips. Oh man, this beast is one of the catalysts in hooking me on the more noisy, squawly side of garage rock. I was done for after this. This is right about where my sweet, sweet partner-in-crime started disliking my tastes in music. She was also done. Coachwhips combined the squawl, noise and dissonance of Pink & Brown, but crafted it into a maddeningly hooky and primal form of simple rock and roll. It was frill-less and powerful like the Hot Snakes, but artsy and out there enough to really hinge on the experimental wave. Feedback was like another member for the Coachwhips. Your own ears became an active member of the band too if you could hold on and ride the records out. It was amazing. But that didn’t last long.

Now comes Thee Oh Sees. The next public morphing of John Dwyer and his active genius for songwriting. Am I overselling this record? Probably. Some might just see it as another garage record. But like I said before, this album and all of his others have been just what I have needed to hear when I needed to hear it.

Settle back in your favorite chair tonight, get a beer or a cool glass of water and get ready for the waves and layers of warm fuzzy, hooky guitar lines, catchy vocal riffs and all the recording fire that too many bands are missing these days. This LP is psychedelic and weird in the right places and then charges on a riff right when you’ve locked in and are starting to get comfortable.

Sonic Youth Stream Hits the Airwaves!
May 1, 2009, 6:50 pm
Filed under: New Music

On April 28th, the new Sonic Youth album started streaming for those who have bought the pre-order of the album. Matador Records has been offering early incentive to pre-order at local indie shops (called BEGN – Buy Now, Get Early) in which case, if you buy it early – you get to listen to the album starting now, you get exclusive mp3s, an exclusive live LP from a couple years back and a rad poster. Pretty tempting, no? I love Matador for thinking something like this up. It’s early promotion for the label and the album and it highly supports brick-and-mortar indie shops.

I realized I forgot to mention it on here before, so I’m tossing it out there now. If you’re as psyched for this release as I am, swing by and grab one of these card things with your code on it! This is their first album back into the indie leagues in many, many prolific years. I’m really excited to see what this album will do! Could it convince tons of other solid, indie-minded bands to jump ship from majors back to their beloved indie labels? Who knows, but we’re gonna find out really soon. I’m excited to see the pros and/or cons of it. I haven’t read anything about the album yet, trying not to so I don’t spoil anything for myself, but I’m sure I’m gonna be a sucker for it no matter what it sounds like. Anything they do is gold to me and even though I know this could go in absolutely any direction, it’s guaranteed to be on a lot of our top ten lists. Let’s be honest. If anything, they deserve ridiculous amounts of respect just for making that leap back into our steadfast stomping grounds where we clutch indies and DIYs very close to our hearts.

Release Date: June 9th, 2009.
Get ready!

7 Tons of Fun.
April 24, 2009, 3:59 pm
Filed under: New Music

Vermillion Sands – In the Woods 7″ (fat possum)

There isn’t much I can really say about the Vermillion Sands that hasn’t already been said. Really. And literally. I went to link the myspace page here and noticed that the two reviews they have posted pretty much nail exactly what I was just sitting down to write. Rather than changing my direction, I guess I’ll just plow ahead and say what I gotta say. That’s not a bad thing, I think it just farther proves the weight and credibility of this band. I’m excited to follow these guys as they drift farther off in this direction.

As of late, Fat Possum Records seems to be back to picking up the slack in modern, offbeat renditions of traditional music. No, they’re not repackaging and reselling traditional music, they’re exploring and excavating the modern bands that are creating their own form of neo-traditional music. Artists that have a full respect for roots and raw, meaningful songs, yet also understand the importance of modernizing, not just replaying. It’s a new (or just another) wave of artists with one foot in roots music and the other stuck in the mud in which they grew up. Rewriting, reworking, recreating Traditional music how it sounds in their head post-Crypt Records, post-Sympathy for the Record Industry, post-Norton Records, post-mass pop music. There’s no weight to it if you’re not going to bring it into the modern world and make it pertinent to today.

Vermillion Sands find themselves poking around the old, dead campfires that Billy Childish once stoked and gloriously maintained in his heyday. Anna Barattin takes on a playful melody line, yet delivers in a dryly serious manner not too far off from Holly Golightly. For all I’m concerned she’s obviously a shoe-in for The Headcoatees. The vocals are just plain addictive and intriguing. There’s an almost merciless boredom in her voicing out of the lyrics, which yes, is an overdone method, but it’s extremely effective here. “I don’t need you to be proud of me,” she repeats and repeats and repeats as the song swirls to an end. In the background an organ slowly paces as the guitar bounces, shakes and drives ahead. Lethargic, Neo-Traditional Roots Garage? Man, I dunno, but I like it. There’s a weird, Dan Melchior patented awkwardness to the music as well. Something kind of out there and sort of playfully psychedelic that you can’t quite put your finger on. Anyway….

I’m hopelessly addicted to these vocals.

By now I’m sure this 7″ is probably outta print. Sorry about that! Keep an eye on Fat Possum. I really need a full length of this stuff. I think it would have a hard time leaving my record player.

Whatever Brains Apathetically Take the Triangle by Storm.
February 24, 2009, 4:55 pm
Filed under: Bull City Records, New Music

By now, despite my reluctance to post anything about it here, most of you know that Bull City Records released its first 7″ in January. The release has been doing very well on its own steam and I’ve been extremely excited to be a part of it. Actually, I was flattered to even be given the masters to send off to the pressing plant – I thought for sure that they’d realize the weight of what they had and move on quickly to bigger things. Before the release hit the streets, I awkwardly asked if I’d be able to do the next one. Much to my surprise they agreed yet again! Following the second 7″, which we should see in a couple months, I’m hoping they will have been snagged up by a larger label and on to the next tier where they belong.

If you have not taken a second to see the Whatever Brains in all their live glory, I suggest you do so. I’ve got a handful of live video shots that I need to upload to youtube. If you have not heard them, I suggest you march on over to their myspace page and give it a spin.

The point of this post is to announce that our beloved Brains have been given a shot at the bigger leagues. My rep at Matador asked the other week if I’d like for them to try and sell some. All I have to do now is fill out a W9 form and send ’em a batch of thirty! With this batch on the road, it means we’ve been able to move about 250 of the 7″s just in the first two months. It has been very exciting to watch the progress – we’ve been learning as we go along. Let’s not get too excited though, Matador is still able to return them if they don’t sell…so it’s best not to jinx their generous offer. But c’mon, this band is the biggest thing to come out of the Triangle in years.

Here’s Grayson’s write-up and Bryan Reed’s review.

The Scan blog has been revived and is back to doing a marvelous job of documenting the local happenings again.
Just thought I’d give another little update on the state of things around here!

February 19, 2009, 3:16 pm
Filed under: New Music

Last night I saw Antony & the Johnsons on Letterman. It was truly something amazing and as much as I find it strange to review a television appearance, you’re just gonna have to bare with me – I have yet to see them live. As soon as I received the new album in the mail a couple months ago, I became a convert and I finally was open to the absolute beauty of his songwriting. Really, I was a bit dumbfounded and embarrassed to have passed over such an artist in the past. I’d always just pushed his music off to the side as part of the new oddball-“avant”-indie-movement. A songwriter joining the ranks of the new phase of faux-eccentric artists looking to make a name through kitsch and gimmick.

Little did I know this man was the real thing. A twisted, shining moment that only comes through in the swing of music once every decade or so. Maybe it’s just because I’m in my 51st Velvets/proto-punk obsession phase and I’m more prone to being swept away by the avant, androgynous flirting with the music norms. Maybe it was seeing him on an established variety show like Letterman that excited me – an artist living on the edge of what is accepted, yet too pretty and relevant to hide. Perhaps his appearance has everything to do with Paul Shaffer still appreciating and realizing good music and pushing it on the Late Night crew. Maybe the writers are hip to it, or the interns, maybe even Letterman likes pushing his audience a little – which is actually why I like to watch him. Letterman toys with the audience and pokes them a bit, he brings an edge with a grin into his show, like he’s got a secret on you. But anyway, that’s beside the point. As I watched this enormous, other-worldly voice creep out of this androgynous, black-haired being hunkered behind a piano on a show catering towards conservative, TV-watching America, I was enamored. It was a scene from a smoke-filled bar room with a lost soul perched behind his one love, one comfort, his instrument, crooning out his soul and angle towards an audience unsure if they wanted to listen, unsure if they believed what they were seeing. It was this scene, but broadcast into everyone’s room in every state. I got this swell of pride that there’s room for a genuine edge in mainstream music again. Or at least edge and beauty are allowed to flirt, tangle and clash in front of a large audience that wants it.

The raw emotion and honesty of the performance is what really inspired me. That duality and juxtaposition of beauty and turmoil. Beauty existing in the dark. Pain put on a pedestal. It reminded me of the uneasiness of the perfect Lou Reed performance, when Bowie could chillingly deliver a bent ballad, Richard Hell and Patti Smith creating a jarring background for their biting poetry, Iggy baring himself and breaking down in his primal state to the audience – they all stir that similar, welcome feeling of inspiration deep enough to penetrate a jaded soul. It was beautiful to experience this and it makes his new album that much richer. He’s on to something special here and I intend to follow it. It’s too beautiful and heart-wrenching to ignore.

But then again. I am a jaded record store clerk and I am reading too much on Iggy, the Velvets and the proto-punk generation at the moment. Again. Maybe this is exactly what I’ve been looking for.

Chaz-fact#232: I was working the graveyard at a 24hr convenience store in CO and this memorable, hunkering, short-bleached-hair gentleman comes in. Lou Reed is playing literally 5 blocks away and I could not get off work – it was bad. I was not happy. I was listening to VU & Nico and and as he bought smokes he commented on how he’d have to tell Lou that some kid was playing his music in the local convenience store. I was thrilled. Years later after hearing that Antony had been a backup singer for Lou Reed, I saw a picture of him and realized he was that random, memorable dude. I became thrilled all over again. From Lou Reed backup to starlet of his own show pushing the same eccentric values. Perfect.

Quickie: New Pavement Reissue!!
October 12, 2008, 3:08 pm
Filed under: New Music, Revisiting the Old

Hey everyone, just writing a quick update today.
Matador is releasing the next installment in Pavement reissues on November 18th. Brighten the Corners. They’re running a pre-sale on it too which is actually pretty badass. This is their way of combating early downloads of albums and it’s a pretty cool way of doing it. Instead of complaining about people downloading advance copies, they’re giving incentive to avoid it, but you still get to hear it more than a month early. Another reason why Matador is leading the charge for indie labels in this day and age.

And this incentive involves limited vinyl, so…I thought it was highly worth mentioning here. Go to your local record shop and pre-order it, it’s completely worth it. Most local indie shops should be offering it. Bull City Records certainly is, so swing by if you’re in the area and interested in it!

The incentive for heading to your local shop and pre-ordering it:

Oct. 10th: entire double disc version up for stream
Oct. 15th: bonus track #1 released.
Nov. 4th: bonus track #2 released.
Nov. 18th: street date. pick up your double CD and a live Brighten the Corners-era show on vinyl!!

The price for the pre-order version should run around 26 or 27 bucks or so and the regular version will be around 17 bucks.

That’s it for now!