Friday, July 28, 2006

Half-Handed Cloud - Earth Outside of Ghost Will Only Be Quicksand

Everyone who is familiar with John Ringhofer's work seems to have the same reaction to his music. While he is able to create amazingly catchy, poppy Christian songs, almost all his songs feel too short, or sound all-too-familiar. While his new album still finds him writing mostly short songs (19 songs in 30 minutes!), I'm ecstatic to see him changing up his sound quite a bit. His new album, Halos & Lassos finds Ringhofer playing with 80s synthesizers, marimbas, flutes, everything he can get his hands on to accent his trademark quirky lyrics. Considering that most of his songs are under two minutes, his songs are unbelievably complex (and catchy!). Of course, saying his songs are too short is a great compliment to any musician, but I really mean it. Stop teasing us!

Bonus Track - Tongues that Possess the Earth Instead

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Tranzmitors - Bigger Houses, Broken Homes

The Tranzmitors are another one of those so-called Vancouver "supergroups" (seems like everyone over there is sleeping with everyone else's band members) featuring members of The Smugglers, The Strike and the New Town Animals. They take their cue from late 70's pop-punk along the lines of The Buzzcocks, Stiff Little Fingers and The Pointed Sticks... you know, back before pop-punk became a dirty word. As far as I can tell they've only released a few 7"s so far, the most recent of which is available on Deranged Records. It's genuinely addictive stuff with that crisp old-school production sound I can't get enough of. If you enjoyed the last couple of Randy albums then this will be right up your alley.

» Bonus Track: Dancing In The Front Row

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Georgie James - Cheap Champagne

After the break up of Q And Not U, each of the band members went off in their separate directions, still itching to write music but this time with a more personal, introspective touch. Chris Richards went on to record music and tour under the moniker Ris Paul Ric; John Davis on the other hand turned to his singer-songwriter friend, Laura Burhenn, to form a duo called Georgie James. The stripped-down male/female dynamic might remind some of another D.C. musical couple: Ian Mackaye and Amy Farina aka The Evens. However, Georgie James are a little more upbeat and dare I say more rockin', particularly this song "Cheap Champagne". Both of these songs are from a 7-disc demo EP they've been selling at shows called Demos at Dance Place. It's no Q And Not U, but it does contain some familiar elements, and I am looking forward to hearing an official release from them in the near future.

» Bonus Track: Need Your Needs

Hatebeak - Beak of Putrefaction

I first read about these guys over at Gorilla vs Bear, and all I can say is it totally blew my mind man. This is clearly the future of music. Human singers are so overrated... animals have much smaller egos and more resilient vocal chords. Which brings me to Hatebeak: a hardcore band fronted by an African grey parrot. I kid you not. Now on the one hand this is probably the most unlistenable mess of noise I've ever heard in my life, but on the other hand I'd still totally go check these guys out live. Unfortunately, from the sounds of it they don't tour because the noise would be way too loud for the parrot (what about the audience?). Still, you've gotta give them props for dreaming up one of the best band gimmicks ever. At the very least it's the most creative use of pets in music I've heard since Jingle Cats.

Monday, July 24, 2006

His Name is Alive - Get Your Curse On

For a band that has been around for close to twenty years, His Name is Alive is still primarily unknown. I think this largely lies in the band's inability to remain consistent to one genre over the course of an album, let alone over the course of their career. The band's most recent album Detrola has the odd difficulty of including eerie electronica and chamber ballads before moving onto straight up pop music. HNIA is many things but one thing they are not is consistent. While it doesn't make for a solidly listenable album, each song more than stands on its own. Main man Warren Defever is notorious for his perfectionist production practices, and Detrola is not in short supply of hits. "Get Your Curse On" sounds more like a leftover hit from the Motown era with its smooth beats and horns that'll have you doing the twist before it hits the chorus, whereas "Here Forever Always" wouldn't have sounded out of place on the most recent Hot Chip album.

Bonus Track - Here Forever Always

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Peter Gabriel - Book of Love (Magnetic Fields cover)

As we all know, no romance film soundtrack is complete without a strong Peter Gabriel song a la ...Say Anything (Lloyd Dobler!) or The Last Temptation of Christ (Willem Dafoe as Jesus!). If you've seen the American remake of Shall We Dance you'll know what I'm talking about. The film's final scene plays this song on repeat for close to 10 heartwrenching minutes (Susan Sarandon!). You've got to hand it to a guy who mixes pop music with world, electronica and ambient and is still popular with punk rockers.

I once read an interview with Magnetic Fields' frontman Stephin Merritt where he said that he hated hearing fans say that they found his music touching or affirming. He has always meant his lyrics and music to be ironic, if not bitter takes on romance. Indeed "Book of Love" remains one of Merritt's most ironic views on love. Yet, what makes Peter Gabriel's cover so amazing, is how straight he takes the song. Gabriel completely removes any irony or bitterness and it is completely simple, yet oh so heartbreaking, and it's all the better for its earnestness.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Starflyer 59 - I Win

Starflyer 59 has always been one of those bands that don't quite receive the attention they deserve despite consistently putting out so many great albums. Twelve years, eight albums and six EPs later SF59 still have the same fanbase they've always had. I think this largely has to do with their longtime partnership with Tooth and Nail Records that has limited their audience. But recently, the man behind SF59, Jason Martin has taken to making several smaller-run CDs and vinyls for the band's small, but dedicated audience. "I Win" comes from a small EP released only through the band's MySpace account, that features one song from their upcoming album My Island (released September 12) as well as three unreleased tracks. As usual, Martin and Co. show no signs of writer's block, still putting out at least phenomenally written and produced album each year. On top of that, Martin will be releasing an album with his brother Ronnie Martin (of Joy Electric) later this year under the name The Bros. Martin.

If you have never heard SF59 you need to hear "No New Kinda Story" below.

Bonus Track - No New Kinda Story

Thursday, July 20, 2006

the Mountain Goats - Cobra Tattoo

Everyone who has heard John Darnielle's early work as the Mountain Goats knows that the man has a profound ability for writing pop songs. And anyone who has read his blog knows he also has a profound love for death metal. But who knew he also had a penchant for writing sad songs. His new album Get Lonely is chock full of them. Sure, we've seen signs of it before this, but never of this magnitude or power. Yes, the same man who wrote paeans to the Anglo-Saxons, is also the same man who now sings about his tattered relationship with his father. While part of me still bemoans Darnielle's transformation from prolific, geeky four-tracker to full-fledged band leader, deep down I know that this is the type of album he's always wanted to make which he never would have been able to record in his basement apartment.

Get Lonely is released August 22 on 4AD records.

Bonus Track - Woke Up New

The Dears - Hate Then Love

When Montreal's The Dears released their first 2 EPs I remember being really impressed and excited about them, but then somewhere along the way they lost me. It might have something to do with the fact that the only Dears album I ever actually bought happened to be Nor The Dahlias, their mediocre collection of b-sides and early recordings that was released mainly as a contractual obligation to Grenadine Records. I know they dabbled around on a major label after that but for some reason I never went out of my way to keep up with them.

Now they are back on a label that seems much more fitting: Arts & Crafts, home to such critically acclaimed Canadian bands as Broken Social Scene, Stars and The Most Serene Republic. This October The Dears will release Gang of Losers, and it is this album that has me hooked once again and could very well launch them to stardom (finally). Murray Lightburn is still the original black Morrissey in my mind (even if Bloc Party's Kele Okereke has now given him a run for his money) and there are a lot of gorgeous songs on this disc. Their brit-pop sound has not changed all that much, and although there are definitely more than a few Radiohead-isms present that is not necessarily a bad thing.

As the A&C write-up so eloquently states: "We need these songs: if only to counter the world’s indifference, and soothe the inner loser that thrives on all our worst fears." No, seriously.

» Bonus Track: Death Or Life We Want You
» Pre-order it on Amazon

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Supersystem - White Light/White Light

I can remember seeing Supersystem open for Q And Not U a few years ago, back when they were still known as El Guapo. At the time, they didn't leave much of an impression on me. There were some cool bits and pieces within their songs but I thought they seemed a little schizophrenic and needed to refine their sound a bit more. Lo and behold, after relaunching under the new name Supersystem they put together a stunning album called Always Never Again, mixing danceable beats with layers of synth, guitars, and punk rock energy. Next month Supersystem return with their latest release A Million Microphones, recorded with engineer Jonathan Kreinik (Trans Am, Make Up, Out Hud, !!!). At the moment, the Touch & Go website has the song "White Light/White Light" posted for your listening pleasure. Not bad, but I'm looking forward to hearing more from this disc real soon.

» Pre-order it on Amazon
» Bonus Track: El Guapo - Just Don't Know

Monday, July 17, 2006

Muzak For Cybernetics Mixtape #1

Allow us to present the first ever Muzak For Cybernetics Mixtape podcast! This inaugural edition was hosted by myself and Zak, and runs about an hour in length. We're hoping to do more in the future as a fun way to give people some cool music mixes to listen to on their iPod or media player of choice. Hopefully our uber-hipster banter didn't turn anyone off. Please let us know what you think of the sound quality/file size.

Here's the playlist for the show:

CSS - Let's Make Love... (Diplo remix)
Of Montreal - Disconnect The Dots (Mixel Pixel remix)
Band of Horses - Weed Party
The Figurines - Wrong Way All The Way
Thunderbirds Are Now - The Veil Comes Down
Leopulde - Sphere
The Mae Shi - The Potential
Xiu Xiu - Don't Cha (Pussycat Dolls cover)
The Rentals w/ Blur - We Have A Technical (Gary Numan cover)
Jayprideparade - I Will Outrubber You
Architecture in Helsinki - Do The Whirlwind (Hot Chip remix)

Here's the podcast RSS Feed: http://feeds.feedburner.com/muzakmixtape

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Greg Graffin - Cold as the Clay

I didn't really think I would have much interest in a new solo album from Bad Religion frontman Greg Graffin, especially after the downward progression that BR have taken in recent years, not to mention my own fading attachment to punk rock. I knew he had released one solo album already called American Lesion, but I didn't know much about it except that it was a lot of piano ballads written about his divorce. Although he is a pretty intelligent guy, he's also a bit of a pretentious bastard and I could see his solo work getting more than a little self-indulgent. One thing I will say though, even after all these years, I still love that distinctive gravelly voice of his, and when I heard his new album Cold As The Clay was a folk/bluegrass record I could kind of see it working. Throw in The Weakerthans as his backing band, Mr. Brett producing, and some other old-time collaborators sitting in, and it makes for something unexpectedly refreshing and well worth checking out. You can listen to a couple more tracks on the Epitaph site.

» Bonus Track: Little Sadie
» Buy it on Amazon

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Mars Volta - Tetragrammaton

A lot of people seemed to think that Frances The Mute was the most mind-blowing album they'd heard in a long time, but if you ask me, it was a bit of a mess. I saw the direction that The Mars Volta were heading in and I wasn't overly enthused; they had already peaked with De-loused in the Comatorium and were now diving off into the great abyss of heady prog rock masturbation. That said, I was still curious to see where they might take things with their next album... it could be worth sifting through the smoke and mirrors to find a few moments of brilliance.

On Amputechture, the band continues to muck around with weird vocal effects, long ass guitar solos and Spanish lyrics, turning out what is basically another hit and miss record. Unique? Somewhat. Listenable? Not really. Most songs still have some cool moments, but they all shift and change constantly, and I guess to be fair that is what prog rock is all about. Cedric's voice gets higher and higher with each new record too -- pretty soon he's going to be singing exclusively to dogs and cats (come to think of it, that would make a great concept album).

"Tetragrammaton" is the song that seemed to me to have the most "cool" parts in it. It also happens to be 16 minutes long so it probably has more "uncool" parts than the rest of the album as well. Amputechture is out on August 10th, you can also check out the song "Viscera Eyes" (in 2 parts) over on their MySpace page.

» Pre-order it on Amazon

Monday, July 10, 2006

YMCK - Panic Racer 005

If you have yet to hear the wonderful 8-bit synth-pop of Japan's YMCK, you're missing out on what might be the most upbeat and happy band ever. Their debut album Family Music, was released on Records of the Damned in the U.S., and served as my first introduction to their sound. They use sound chips from old video game consoles (the NES especially) to compose electronic music influenced by old ragtime jazz with cute female vocals. Listening to this stuff for too long will drive you crazy, but when taken in just the right amount it is fun and carefree music, equally as nostalgic as it is fresh and unique. Family Racing is the newest EP from YMCK, released late last year in Japan. It also comes with a bonus disc featuring some nifty remixes. While you're at it, check out some of their videos over on YouTube.

» Bonus Track: Sakanano Mabataki
» Bonus Track: Panic Racer 005 (Excite Bicycle Mix - Revolution) Remixed by Aprils
» Buy it on Amazon

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Weird Al - You're Pitiful (James Blunt parody)

Yeah, I hate musical parodies and spoofs as much as the next guy, but I have to admit, Weird Al is the man. Here's a guy who has made an entire career out of sending up popular music, who has managed to stay relevant throughout a number of different eras, and shows no signs of stopping. But how does he keep selling records? I do think he's a funny guy, but let's face it -- most of his songs aren't particularly clever. If you ask me the real secret to his success is simply the fact that there are certain songs and certain musicians that deserve to be skewered without mercy, and the public wants it... nay, DEMANDS it.

James Blunt's "You're Beautiful" is without a doubt one of those songs. It's been so overplayed that EVERYONE is sick of it. It's gotten so bad that a British radio station even decided to ban James Blunt from the airwaves. So clearly Al has chosen the perfect song to pick on here, but the interesting part of the story is the fact that Blunt's label Atlantic Records is now trying to get the song barred from release. After all these years, this is the first time such a thing has happened to Mr. Yankovic, and now he's using the internet to fight back. So hey, even though this song's not very funny... pass it on! Fight for your right to Yankovic.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Sleater-Kinney - Everything

Last week Sleater-Kinney announced they would be going on an indefinite hiatus (what most other bands refer to as "breaking up") following a handful of final tour dates this summer. It will be sad to see them go, although I seem to be one of the few people who wasn't all that stoked about the balls-out rawk n roll style they adopted on their last album. Not that I didn't appreciate the irony of three women laying down some loud and macho riffs... it just didn't seem like they were being themselves. But I digress. Here are a couple cool b-sides to remember them by. "Everything" is from the Entertain single, while "By The Time You're 25" appears on the Get Up CD-single and 7". Great band, they will be missed.

» Bonus Track: By The Time You're 25
» Buy The Woods on Amazon