On this rather historic U.S. election day, I can almost feel the crackle of excitement in the air around town. I am pleased with this. I am excited for people getting involved and for the sense of personal commitment and ability to make a difference. As the wise Italian hip-hop sage Jovanotti once said in his song “Dal Basso” with Michael Franti: “tutto nasce dal basso (e poi va su)” — all change is birthed from the bottom (and then rises up). Let’s go out and do it.
The music of the week for me includes:
As demonstrated at their scuzzy-loud, pop-layered, feedback-drenched show last night in Denver, there aren’t actually any women in this Canadian band. They are, however, engaged in a fierce battle for “Worst Band Name To Google, Ever.” Currently Air and Bread hold the title, but Cake and Spoon are close behind. Nice try, Women. Their self-titled debut album (out now on Flemish Eye) was recorded by labelmate Chad VanGaalen, and possesses a delightfully unclassifiable combo of ’50s reverb, Warhol’s art experimentation, and ’90s spaceyness. The night seemed abuzz with folks wondering who this band was.
Murder by Death
It is not possible to hear this song and deny that the spirit of the Man In Black is back walking among us in fresh new incarnations. The moniker Murder By Death sounds vaguely emo, but actually they take their name from the 1976 Neil Simon/Robert Moore movie. This four-piece from Indiana turns an inventive and melancholic ear to their craft to create a uniquely brooding blend of creatively dark Americana. Red Of Tooth And Claw is their fourth album, their first on Vagrant Records, and the excellent Eric caused me to take a closer look at them when he wrote that it’s “full of fatally-doomed antebellum romance and directly descended from the Southern gothic tradition.” Yes.
Currently on tour with Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus and his Jicks, Portland’s Blitzen Trapper comes through Denver later this week in support of their rad Sub Pop debut Furr. The title track is one of the loveliest songs to add to my playlist in recent months, and one creative friend wrote that it “makes me well up like I am watching that movie about sled dogs by disney,” a description that amused me greatly. This previously unreleased tune from BT carries on a bit of that wild playfulness, and can be found on the soundtrack to the movie adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s Choke, which also includes the 2004 Ben Kweller song “The Rules,” and a Doors cover by Nicole Atkins & The Sea.
The Sun Smells Too Loud
The sweeping cinematic grandeur of Scottish band Mogwai will take the willing off onto mental escapades, much like what Sigur Ros does for me. The last I heard from Mogwai they were weaving their atmospherically gorgeous contribution to the Zidane documentary, but the newest free Matador Records sampler highlights this cut off their sixth album The Hawk Is Howling. It is dizzying like a bright sun, elegant in the build and cascade.
Good Arms vs. Bad Arms (live)
As I’ll probably sum up in some sort of end-of-the-year retrospective, Scotland’s Frightened Rabbit put on one of my top 5 shows this year. Some might shy from the guttingly brutal lyrics in their introspective-but-ferocious songs chronicling the death of a relationship, but I’ll jump in. I’ll do the catharsis, and they do it so well. Frightened Rabbit have a new live album out now on FatCat UK called Liver! Lung! FR!, which is an unconventional but fitting title for a band that eviscerates me like this. This version of Good Arms vs Bad Arms is slower, sadder and somehow more beautiful than the album version. It sounds almost like a eulogy, and in a way I guess it is.