Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Joy Formidable - "Austere" vs. "Austere"

If you've followed me for a bit, you'll know I've been on The Joy Formidable for some time. I'm still kind of kicking myself not making it to even one of the multitude of gigs they played at The Great Escape in 2009 (I really need to go back next year). Anyway, I put their debut A Balloon Called Moaning at #7 on my Top 20 last year so I'm just a little excited about hearing their upcoming The Big Roar, from which they've already released "I Don't Want To See You Like This" (TBB coverage).

The band's just released a video for their next single, a re-recorded version of "Austere", one of a handful of songs originally released on Moaning. Feel free to compare the old (below) to the new (above), both visually and sonically. What do you think?

Either way, the guitar burst over the last 45 seconds of the song sends chills up my spine. IMO, that's what's been missing (for me) in music the last few years: a good, hearty racket. The Big Roar will be released Jan. 24 (UK), Feb. 21 (EU), and finally on March 15 in the USA, just in time for their appearance(s) at SXSW. They're also releasing the record as part of a massively expanded box set, complete with two DVD's, bonus CD, plus promo clips and other goodies. Pretty audacious for a new band.

Elbow premieres new video, album info

I'm back from a low-profile holiday break. Hope you had a good one. A few blogworthy items crossed my radar in the last week, so let's get to catching up...


The band that tops my 'should be huge list', Elbow, has unveiled a video of "Lippy Kids", the song that provides the title of their forthcoming 5th album, Build A Rocket Boys!. The disc is scheduled for a March 7th release via Fiction/Polydor in the UK, while details for a US release have yet to be announced. The tracklisting:

01. Lippy Kids
02. The Birds
03. With Love
04. Neat Little Rows
05. Jesus Is A Rochdale Girl
06. The Night Will Always Win
07. High Ideals
08. The River
09. Open Arms
10. The Birds (Reprise)
11. Dear Friends

The Guy Garvey-led outfit, which scored The Mercury Prize for their last effort, The Seldom Seen Kid, are already huge in the UK but have had US success elude them so far. They're one of a handful of bands (Doves leaps to mind) that command large audiences at home yet remain relegated to cult status here. UK dates have already been announced:

Elbow 2011 Tour Dates (UK / Ireland):

March 15 Glasgow (SECC)
March 16 Newcastle (Metro Radio Arena)
March 17 Nottingham (Trent FM Arena)
March 19 Sheffield (Motorpoint Arena)
March 20 Liverpool (Echo Arena)
March 22 Birmingham (National Indoor Arena)
March 23 Cardiff (International Arena)
March 25 Manchester (MEN Arena)
March 27 Brighton (Centre)
March 28 London (The O2)
March 29 London (The O2)
March 31 Dublin, IE (O2 Arena)

Have a look + listen to "Lippy Kids" recorded live in the studio:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Download New Bright Eyes - "Shell Games"

Saddle Creek has released the first track by Conor Oberst under the Bright Eyes moniker in nearly 4 years. "Shell Games" is taken from The People's Key, out on February 15th. Oberst has kept busy recording as part of Monsters Of Folk and under his own name (with the Mystic Valley Band) since Cassadaga, the last Bright Eyes release, in 2007.

[DOWNLOAD] Bright Eyes - "Shell Games" (via ListenBeforeYouBuy)

Oberst recently told Billboard that "We're over the Americana, rootsy, whatever that sound is. People say country, but I never thought were very country at all. But whatever that element is or that aesthetic is, I guess it's worn a little thin for me these days. So we very much wanted it to be rocking and, for lack of a better term, contemporary, or modern."

A two week Bright Eyes tour kicks off in Miami in March (details).

Hat tip to Matt Heart Spade.

BBC Sound of 2011 - Jamie Woon


Earlier this month, the BBC unveiled their annual Sound Of.. shortlist, culled from a poll of music critics and industry figures to find the most promising new music talent. While eligibility isn't limited to UK artists, there are some nominal guidelines. Most notably that an act can't have scored a UK top 20 single or album by mid-November 2010.

Now, I like the concept of promoting new artists and the Brits treat pop music like a valuable export, so good on 'em. The Sound Of.. has only been around since 2003 and like the Mercury Prize, it's produced its share of WTF results, especially when viewed in retrospect. 50 Cent, Keane, and (ugh) The Bravery topped the poll the first few years, but female pop acts have dominated lately with Ellie Goulding ('10), Little Boots ('09), and Adele ('08) earning the nod.

So if you missed it, here's the Top 15, some of which have already been covered on TBB:

* Anna Calvi
* Clare Maguire
* Daley
* Esben and the Witch
* Jai Paul
* James Blake
* Jamie Woon
* Jessie J
* Mona
* Nero
* The Naked & Famous
* The Vaccines
* Warpaint
* Wretch 32
* Yuck

The top five will be ranked and revealed in reverse order until the winner is announced on January 7.

This list led me to Jamie Woon, who may ultimately be the one that delivers dubstep to a wider audience. While James Blake has been receiving an avalanche of praise in his own right, Woon's take on the genre is less glitchy, more soulful, chilled and seductive. It's a bit more Back To Mine and less like Burial who, ironically, co-produced the first single "Night Air". Have a listen:

[STREAM] "Spiral" by Jamie Woon

[STREAM] "Blue Truth" by Jamie Woon

Monday, December 20, 2010

Kathleen Hanna tells the story of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (NSFW)

This is pretty cool.

Brooklyn Vegan recently posted a clip from a benefit performance at Joe's Pub in New York last week that included Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill, Le Tigre).

New PJ Harvey Song/Video - "The Last Living Rose"

I'm encouraged by the advance promotion so far for the new PJ Harvey record, Let England Shake. My recollection is that her last solo, studio effort White Chalk received far less support prior to its release in 2007. As critically acclaimed as Harvey has always been, she's never scored a Top 20 album in the US (Uh Huh Huh peaked at #29 in 2004) and last sniffed the alt-radio Top 10 nearly a generation ago with "Down By The Water" in 1995. In short, I'm kinda surprised she's still on a major label (Island).

ETA - Let England Shake will be released by Vagrant in the USA, meaning that Harvey's on an indie label for the first time in her career. She remains on Island UK.

Nonetheless, photographer Seamus Murphy was commissioned to make videos for each of the disc's 12 songs, with the clip for "The Last Living Rose" slipping onto the 'net today. Have a look:

Let England Shake will be released February 15th. (UK: Feb. 14th)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

HINDSIGHT: The Big Beat's Best of 2006

Something came up earlier this year that took me a bit out of the loop musically.  Straight up: I feel I missed so much that I can't, in good conscience, put together any kind of a numerical Best Of.  It'd be like awarding the Oscar after seeing 5 films.

But I do like the end of year lists, having done them for the past few, so I thought I'd pull out my Top 20 lists of albums and in hindsight, have fun shooting holes in 'em.  Besides, doing a Best of 2010 is so, um, 2010 and after this year, who the hell needs more of that?  I'll review 2006-2009, starting with the oldest one first.

1. Bound Stems - Appreciation Night (Flameshovel)

Then: The multi-layered, literary debut full-length from this Chicago quintet demanded my repeated listening this year, revealing more and more each time through. I was won over by the disc's seamless and repeated gear shifting, each time leading me by the ears to a new vignette.

Now: The CD earned a 7.8 from Pitchfork and the band, which billed themselves as playing 'real complex music' (or something like that), seemed to garner more admirers than fans. Juggling career options with music was always tricky for them, and they split shortly after follow-up The Family Afloat was released two years later. Four-fifths of the band now performs as Like Pioneers, which released debut Piecemeal this past summer.

2. TV On The Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain (Interscope)

 3. The Long Blondes - Someone To Drive You Home (Rough Trade)

Then: Singer Kate Jackson is a star. Flat out. The Blondes brand of 'glamorous punk' recalls the best aspects of new wave: punk-inspired licks and witty, sing-along lyrics with an unabashed groove. The early singles that were re-recorded for their debut album lose a bit of the ragged exuberance of the originals and considering two of their best songs weren't even included on the full ("Appropriation [By Any Other Name]", "Fulwood Babylon"), this band gave me the most thrills in 3 minutes or less all year.

Now: My mid-decade pop thrill, the CD received a delayed US release in 2007 before huddling with producer Erol Alkan for the follow-up. Then, a series of unfortunate events permanently sidelined the band. Couples, written and recorded around the dissolution of two in-band relationships, was released to mixed notices and greater than anticipated Stateside indifference. Shortly thereafter, guitarist and main songwriter Dorian Cox suffered a stroke, forcing the band off the road and rendered the band unable to promote the record. Later in the year, the Blondes' announced their break up to coincide with a disc compiling their pre-Rough Trade singles. Kate Jackson is reportedly plotting a solo career under the name Madame Ray.

4. Yo La Tengo - I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass (Matador)

5. The Black Angels - Passover (Light In The Attic)

6. Thom Yorke - The Eraser (XL / Beggars)

7. Lily Allen - Alright, Still (Parlophone)

Then: The hipster-endorsed acid-tongued pop tart. Perhaps what will be more interesting than how she captured everyone's initial attention (that MySpace thingy on the internets) is how Capitol Records markets next month's US release of the record. I just found most of the songs irresistibly catchy with enough lyrical UK slang to satiate my inner Anglophile.

Now: On cue: a collective heaving, big sigh, right? Remember Pitchfork's 8.3? On paper, she stood a reasonable chance of crossing her indie 'it girl' status over to the mainstream, but neither "LDN" or a cleaned up "Smile" translated to the masses. Still, the record went Gold in the US, and It's Not Me, It's You debuted in the Top 5. Is she burned out at 25? Whenever she returns, she's a total creature of the pop charts now as her indie audience has long since moved on.

8. Viva Voce - Get Yr Blood Sucked Out (Barsuk)

Then: I'll admit being unfamiliar with their previous output, but now I'm a huge fan. Hypnotic and melodic with fuzzed out guitars = sold. Like Joy Zipper 'cept with a pair...

Now: 2009's Rose City failed to make much of an impact, and I know they played to a crowd numbering in single digits in Cincinnati, so I'm guessing that didn't bode well for elsewhere. I thought the record simply wasn't as good. Husband and wife team Kevin & Anita dedicated more time and effort to their country-rock side project Blue Giant which, based upon reception, may become their primary vehicle.

9. Serena-Maneesh - Serena-Maneesh (Playlouder / Beggars)

10. The Radio Dept. - Pet Grief (Labrador)

Then: Arriving to less fanfare than their Lesser Matters debut, the Swedes cast aside their guitars for this follow-up, preferring to fiddle with their keys and computers. What you get is an album of sweet indie pop with a C-86 heart on its sleeve. It should be everyone's go-to record for rainy days.

Now: Dear Critically Acclaimed European Band, we really want you to succeed in America, we really do! We lavish heaps of praise upon you, and your CD's are bought in all of the trendiest hipster locales. But, we need a little effort on your part. You wanna know how you succeed here? Act like you give a shit. In short, two dates in New York does not a 'US Tour' make. Get your ass over here, tour our land properly, play a few festivals and work it like you own it. You won't get rich but you'll recoup and the promo will be priceless. Or, you can just keep doing what you're doing and while you're twiddling about your next studio effort (which we won't hear for a few more years anyway), know you're letting shit bands like Miike Snow steal your thunder. And who, by the way, have been over here touring flyover country and playing festivals. Just thought you'd like to know.

P.S. Thanks for the February dates. It's a start.
Kisses, American indie fan.

11. The Knife - Silent Shout (Mute)

12. Comets On Fire - Avatar (Sub Pop)

Then: I didn't much care for their critically acclaimed, metal-tinged Blue Cathedral from 2004 but found the shift to a more subdued, 70's sound on this record more to my liking: more of a space age / jazz fusion inspired brand of psychedelia. Somewhere, someone is using the gatefold sleeve of vinyl version to remove the seeds from their bag of weed.

Now: Since then, lead singer Ethan Miller has focused exclusively on his work in Howlin Rain, whose next album will be produced by Rick Rubin. Ben Chasny resumed recording as Six Organs of Admittance, and Comets appears to be on an indefinite hiatus. Their web site hasn't been updated in two years.

13. Built To Spill - You In Reverse (WB)

14. Tom Waits - Orphans (Anti / Epitaph)

15. Annuals - Be He Me (Ace Fu)

16. Clearlake - Amber (Domino)

Then: I thought the 3rd CD from this UK band was a big step up in quality for them. Some reviewers felt that the wealth of radio friendly tracks equated a sellout. Nonsense. Yes, it's a slick, polished record but it contains a lot catchy tunes with big, sing-along choruses. If you're any kind of Britpop fan, Amber delivers the goods without any NME-endorsed posturing. Sometimes, that can be a very good thing.

Now: The band issued a few singles in '08 & '09 but nothing since. Singer Jason Pegg released a solo record last year and is reportedly working on another. They were scheduled to reunite for a benefit show in September, but the benefit was canceled.

17. Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan - Ballad of the Broken Seas (V2)

Then: A collaboration as unique as Little Red Riding Hood teaming with The Big Bad Wolf and appearing in a spaghetti Western. The orchestration found on a few tracks greatly enhances the two polar opposite vocalists, making this CD a real breath of fresh air. Count me as among those who thought such a record couldn't have come from the ex-Belle & Sebastian belle. Teaming with the former Screaming Trees vocalist - could there be two groups more dissimilar than Belle and Sebastian & the Screaming Trees? - was an inspired move.

Now: The pairing has worked so well, one could almost consider it each artist's primary vehicle. They've issued two follow-up discs, Sunday At Devil Dirt (2008) and this year's Hawk, and appeared at the Belle and Sebastian curated All Tomorrow's Parties set just this past weekend.

18. Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (Domino)

Then: Forget the hype. At the end of the day, British youth on the internets pushed this band forward to near ubiquity even before they had a record released. Was it chock full of catchy, Britpop anthems? I thought so. Considering that the CD was written and recorded by a front man who hadn't yet turned 20 and seemed to withstand both the hype and the backlash intact, I'd say that bodes well for the band's future.

Now: I'm afraid the band's going to be one of those who'll draw well on the coasts and play to niche devotees in-between but so far, they're the perfect example of a band who'll be unable to move beyond that. Radio hasn't helped much. "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" launched the band into the commerical alt-rock Top 10, but they haven't sniffed the Top 40 since. (And for any new British readers, this stuff has ZERO chance of denting America's pop charts. Less than zero, actually).

19. The Dears - Gang Of Losers (Arts & Crafts)

Then: Not quite the tour de force that their previous disc, No Cities Left, was, but still another strong effort from the Montreal outfit. "Hate Then Love", "Ticket To Immortality", "Whites Only Party", "Bandwagoneers", and "You And I Are A Gang Of Losers" are quality on any release I normally don't notice or take issue with production qualities too often but I thought the sound of the entire record was very muddy as if the treble was set too low, leaving a dull sheen throughout the entire disc.

Now: Read this.

20. Silversun Pickups - Carnavas (Dangerbird)

HINDSIGHT: I'm still a fan of most of the records on this list. Bound Stems should've been huge. Granted, Lily Allen held my gaze long enough until the next artist-of-a-similar-ilk came along but Alright, Still seems really dated to me. The only bands I've since grown indifferent to are Annuals, Built To Spill, and Silversun Pickups. All a bit too trad. indie for my current palate.

OK.  How about you?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Big Beat Partners with This Is Fake DIY


I'm extremely happy to announce that starting in January, The Big Beat - more specifically, The Big Beat 'cast - will become a regular feature on the most excellent music site This Is Fake DIY.

London based, This Is Fake DIY features news, reviews, features, videos, free music downloads and its own online television channel DIY TV. It sprouted forth as a bedroom-run set up back in the hazy, simple days of 2002, way before anyone would have even heard of a social network. DIY remains one of the most visited underground music sites in the UK, and still has a firm grip on its roots. Here's the announcement from their site.

In 2007, This Is Fake DIY started a record label, and have released records from Duels, Manda Rin (ex-Bis), Popular Workshop, The Victorian English Gentlemens Club, and We Are The Physics.

DIY recently launched its own iPhone app (US) (UK), and coming in Spring 2011, the arrival of DIY: a free monthly music and lifestyle magazine. It'll be available in the UK 'all over the bloody place'.

So, bookmark the site, follow 'em on Twitter @thisisfakediy, and please drop 'em a line. Tell 'em thanks, OK? I think they'll appreciate it.

Pretty damn cool, eh?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Still Corners - "Eyes" (Rogue Wave cover)


Still Corners just may rank at the top of my 2010 discoveries. Swoonworthy dream-pop that's simply gorgeous, the London quartet just dropped a new tune, a cover of Rogue Wave's "Eyes". The band has a deep love of film and 60's sound production, full of swirling organs, big drums and lush vocals. Broadcast doing Mazzy Star.

[DOWNLOAD] Still Corners - "Eyes" (via Neu Magazine)

Word is that in addition to this freebie, they'll be releasing a single via the mighty Sub Pop in the New Year, but I've yet to find confirmation on the information superhighway. Their Myspace page lists a date at Glasslands in Brooklyn on March 11, so swinging by Austin for SXSW is, like, yeah. Basically, I want me some of this:

Still Corners @ St. Giles In-The-Fields Church, London, November 17, 2010

Sample these New Tunes Tuesday selections from earlier this year:

[MP3] STILL CORNERS "Don't Fall In Love"
[MP3] STILL CORNERS "Endless Summer"

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Big Beat 'cast 04 - Lovingly Curated


Into the home stretch of 2010 and time for another Big Beat 'cast. This week, it's a hodgepodge of new and old with PJ Harvey, The Dears, and a brand new Still Corners tune in the mix. I've also dropped in a few of my repeat-worthy favorites of the year, and have excavated an old fave for this week's Anything Goes segment. Rock it.

Alas, the stream had to come down but here's what was played:

THE DEARS "Omega Dog"
PJ HARVEY "Written On The Forehead"
PJ HARVEY "Big Exit"
HYPERTEXT "Ivy League"
YUCK "Holing Out"
WAP WAP WOW "The Round" (**)
MINIMAL COMPACT "New Clear Twist" (12" mix)

**Wap Wap Wow is now known as Rhosyn



This exchange occurred Friday:

mike_taylor_atx Really think that Yuck (@Yuckband) should have titled their record "Ewwww"

Yuckband @mike_taylor_atx that would have been too easy...

If you haven't heard or read about Yuck in the last year, then you've adroitly seen your way clear of a huge portion of the music blogosphere. Even though the last two years have been dominated by gauzy chillwave bands, Yuck seems an honest to goodness throwback: two guitars, a bass and drums. Sonic Youth, Teenage Fanclub, and Dinosaur Jr. have been dropped as reference points and as if on cue to solidify the connection, guitarist Max Bloom tweeted a link to J. Mascis' new song over the weekend.

TBB blogged about the band as far back as July, when they offered up an EP of stripped down songs as their thinly disguised alter ego Yu(c)k. Now they're ready to unveil their proper full-length debut, and the first tracks released are impressive. Nonetheless, while UK hype often renders bands dead on arrival in the US, part of the band have been through the drill. Bloom and singer Danny Blumburg were members of another hotly tipped band circa 2007, Cajun Dance Party, that imploded after releasing one album.

"Holing Out" is the next single, out in February on the heels of "Rubber", released in October. The self-titled debut will be released February 21st on Fat Possum in the States and The Pharmacy Recording Co everywhere else. They're scheduled to play SXSW in March.

[STREAM] "Holing Out" by Yuck

[DOWNLOAD] "Rubber" by Yuck

"Rubber" video NSFW:

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Dears - Listen & Watch Two New Songs


I think it'd be a mistake to count The Dears out. While the three disc run of No Cities Left to Gang Of Losers to Missiles is undoubtedly strong, I'll admit to liking each one a bit less than the one that came before it. Much has been made of Murray Lightburn's temperament and the seemingly non-stop revolving door of a lineup that supports him and wife Natalia Yanchak. You'd probably be forgiven if you wagered that a total meltdown would be inevitable if not imminent.

Happy to report then that the first two tracks from the forthcoming Degeneration Street (via Dangerbird, February 15th) are indeed, first rate. Sample "Blood" and first single "Omega Dog" while watching performance videos of each. The band has already been announced to perform at SXSW in March. Can't wait!

The Dears - Blood by The Big Beat

The Dears - Omega Dog by The Big Beat

Friday, December 3, 2010

Those Dancing Days Return - New Song, Album

I've got some catching up to do, so let's get to it...

Swedish quintet Those Dancing Days released one of my favorite CD's of 2008, In Our Space Hero Suits (#18). It was, as the Guardian put it "so twee it made Belle and Sebastian sound like Slayer". Despite it being only two years since its release, it seems like a lifetime ago.

Well, the ladies are back and maybe they have been listening to some metal. Their new single "Fuckarias" dispenses with any leftover niceties on the first salvo from their forthcoming follow-up Daydreams & Nightmares, out March 7th on Wichita. They've already been announced for SXSW 2011, marking their first appearance in Austin. They were on an initial list to play SX in 2009, but dropped out early in the process. (They were tentative for a WOXY session but, oh well...)

Gotta admit, I actually do prefer the twee-ness of their debut, but the song is growing on me. Watch and listen for yourself:

Those Dancing Days - "Fuckarias" (via Listen Before You Buy)

Granted, Wichita will never be able to give Those Dancing Days the kind of push afforded to fellow Swedes Sahara Hotnights, who definitely tried to slipstream in The Donnas wake during the early 00's. But with "Fuckarias" moving the band towards more of a rawk sound, it certainly invites a comparison.