Sunday, May 11, 2008

Weekender : thinking it'll never last

- As much as we like to believe otherwise, the way to get ahead if you're a hip thrusting new American band is if you have a backstory, whether through origin, taste or anecdote. If there weren't documentary evidence you'd be tempted to wonder about the details that come with Bon Iver, reciting how he, by which we mean Justin Vernon, recorded For Emma, Forever Ago with a minimum of equipment while spending three months finding himself in a log cabin in Wisconsin mid-winter living off the land. While there's something of the sub-zero woodland about its atmosphere, its spectral sound, Vernon's falsetto not unlike Tunde Adebimpe of TV On The Radio's, and insertion of soul in the genuine sense puts it in the folk Americana lineage exhibited by the likes of Iron & Wine. It's not Jose Gonzalez, essentially, and is well worth a listen, if completely inappropriate for this heatwave.

- A quiet week all round, really. Mark Lanegan's keeping himself busy, the last two years seeing releases by his own Band, his Greg Dulli teamup The Gutter Twins and the Mercury-nominated Isobel Campbell duets of Ballad Of The Broken Seas. That's now followed up by Sunday At Devil Dirt, a more grittily countrified take on the Lee'n'Nancy redux diagnostic. Death Cab For Cutie, no longer bound to the OC demographic, use sixth album Narrow Stairs to stretch their wings, venturing into motorik and ambient areas while still mostly allowing Ben Gibbard to retain their yen for collegiate empathy. It'll be a grower. Hayman Watkins Trout And Lee (actually Hayman, Watkins, Mayfield and Tattersall) are Darren Hayman's kitchen bluegrass project, and although all four - Dave Tattersall fronts the Wave Pictures, Dan Mayfield and Dave Watkins are in Hayman's Secondary Modern - write it's still Hayman's Londonite bedroom melodramas that come to the lyrical fore in their new musical surroundings.

- Better late than never - and by the way, regarding that recent and spectacularly hesitant podcast, where exactly is Aleks' speaking accent planted? - Los Campesinos!, who've just announced they're headlining Indietracks (woo!), have another concept single for us. The lead track of the 7" is the 109 second jerky charge of My Year In Lists. As they (alright, probably Gareth) explain: "It's a celebration of brevity and transience in pop music: all the best pop songs are short, or short-lived. As are most pop bands' careers. Probably ours too. Damn this ever-hungry web 2.0 generation... Never mind, no-one really wants to waste time with longevity and patience; this is for those of short attention span that won't sit still." So the B-sides are three covers that together add up to roughly 1:49 - Deerhoof's The Eyebright Bugler, Casiotone For The Painfully Alone's Yr Boyfriend and, as previously touched upon on these very pages, Bikini Kill's In Accordance To Natural Law. If you feel its quality needs further elucidation, welcome to your first visit to this blog. Also out this week, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds almost literally halve the album version of More News From Nowhere, and Lightspeed Champion's Galaxy Of The Lost, for which see last week.

COMING SOON: With their quicker than most turnover of material, if only for compilations, it's easy to overlook that July's Chemical Chords is Stereolab's first proper album in four years. Three Women sees Gane, Sadier etc. continue to rejig the sunshine synths and awry chords fitting in with the groove they settled into around the turn of the decade.

MYSPACE INVADERS: Yeah, we're late to Eux Autres, who released their second album late last year. So sue us. This is the next in our occasional series STN Reccomends Bands So Shambling That They'd Make Simon Reynolds Eat His Own Head, a brother/sister duo originally from Omaha, now of Portland, who've been recorded by Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney, Quasi, now sidewoman to Bright Eyes and Stephen Malkmus) and occasionally sing their lovelorn barbs in French. Anyone who holds the Vaselines or early Delgados to their hearts should be here, and you can tell they've worked carefully through the Elephant 6 back catalogue too. Also: handclaps.

VISUAL AID: Actual history this week. The performance is fairly remark worthy as it is, being long forgotten post-Sam & Dave duo Buddy & Stacey performing the even less well known Shotgun on the Nashville WLAC-TV Channel 5 show Night Train in 1965. But get past the frontmen's all-action effort and and the great syncopated swaying of the backing band, and notice its guitarist on the left, swooping with the best of them. That'll be the then pick-up man for hire Jimi Hendrix, this the oldest known film footage of him.

* We like a "Personal Pop Odyssey" as much as the next man, so we fully recommend Young And Foolish by Alistair Fitchett, which is subtitled as such. Issued in 1998, it's a collection of fanzine articles and extended essays on the pop that shaped his formative years and how it and the people making it manage it, taking in a path from the Blue Aeroplanes and Felt via club culture and The Cult Of Richey to Belle & Sebastian (including an appendix purely for documenting posts to Sinister) and Arab Strap. The best detail is to celebrate its tenth anniversary Fitchett has stuck the whole thing on his blog as a downloadable PDF.

* Those My Bloody Valentine dates are getting ever closer with still no idea of how they'll approach it or even what they look like these days. This archive at least gives those going something to weigh it up against, being an archive of live and Peel recordings.

* We delved into film a couple of weeks ago with an overdubbed pubescent Johnny Flynn, and now we do so again with semi-surreal Brazilian short film Handmade. "The film TELLS a STORY of love, using symbols and images to translate abstract feelings" (capitalisation synopsis writer's own), and it also TELLS how good Lovefoxxx, for it is she as female lead and half the cast, is at multitasking.

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