Archive for March, 2008

SXSW, via NPR….

Cheating again! All Songs Considered is a great NPR show (I don’t think it airs here in Boston; I go to the website) and the current epiode is a preview of the upcoming South by Southwest festival (the true March Madness for indie music fans). You can listen to the 41 minute show HERE, and it’s downloadable until the next episode airs. The highlights are here:

Oklahoma quartet Evangelicals are melodic and noisy at the same time. Weird sounds, not there just for their weirdness, it seems. Sleater-Kinney guitarist/blogger Carrie Brownstein kicks off the discussion with their “Skeleton Man”.



Fanfarlo, from London channel David Byrne, a la Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, or maybe they just channel CYHSY, minus a bit of the quirkiness. Their MySpace page has a free download of “Sand and Ice”, a demo they recorded “in the living room”. “Fire Escape” appears to be the single, but I like the flipside, “We Live By The Lake”.



Troubled Hubble gets a nice plug on the podcast, but they’ve been defunct for years. The SXSW story that earns them mention is endearing enough: they drove 18 hours from Elburn, IL to play 20 minutes at an out-of-the-way party, then turned around and drove home. It’s a bit of a shame they are no longer, as the tunes on their MySpace page (last updated in 2007) are quite catchy. Frontman Chris carries on as The Heligoats (skip that MySpace page altogether), and can be seen here in a YouTube clip playing solo at a coffehouse. I like how he takes longer to introduce and explain the song than he does to perform it.

She & Him, bad grammar aside, has an advantage: “She” is Zooey Deschanel (so really, who cares who “Him” is?). Evidently, she’s been secrectly recording demos for years and “hoarding them like acorns for winter”. There’s only one song on their MySpace page, but it’s worth hearing, and the NPR podcast has a snippet of another. Him, by the way is M. Ward, a successful one man band in his own right. Pretty neat website too, plus his MySpace.

She & Him

She & Him

Honeycut suffers the minor indignity of having their name and song title mixed up by host Bob Boilen, but they might be the best find on the podcast. The Bay area trio lists their duties as “beats”, “samples”, “voice”, and “keys”, and they make the kind of music I could be making here in my office, if I had any initiative or talent. Go to their MySpace page to check out “Shadows”, “Tough Kid”, and the one Bob Boilen liked, “Exodus Honey”.



No strangers to the blogosphere, Nada Surf will be in Austin in support of the new CD “Lucky”. Go to the MySpace page for a free download of “See These Bones”, but don’t rush off; stay for the cut I prefer (alas, not a free download), “Whose Authority”, and revisit 2005’s “Always Love”. Brooklyn is the coolest of the boroughs.

nada surf

Nada Surf – Lucky – 2008

There’s more on the podcast, which you should definitely check out when you have 41 minutes and 16 seconds, like Magic Arm (dreamy and vaguely Middle-Eastern sounding), Basia Bulat (like Tori Amos crossed with Dido), Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore (a hell of a lot prettier than you’d expect), and the de facto headliner, Vampire Weekend. I’m trying to be sick of them already but they’re far too much fun. Check this player on their website for a couple of tunes that aren’t being played everywhere, “Oxford Comma” and “M79” (remember, I used to work at M80!)

Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend

edit: I should have mentioned that VW was to be on SNL on 3/8, the date of this post. I doubt too many visitors might have seen my post before the show anyway. Alina emailed me after their second SNL song (she stays up WAY too late) to say how shocked she was at their preppy look, which I haven’t mentioned but I thought was well documented. In a wine-fueled discussion of the band with contributor Rick (see Scrod, #31, below), we agreed that it’s a kind of “reverse-Graceland” phenomenon. I don’t know if the Paul Simon reference fits our opinion but that’s another commonly ascribed VW reference, along with Peter Gabriel. What we’re saying is that most bands of white college boys that fall in love with ska, reggae, or another ethnic music tend to espose a false authenticity, singing about strife in Kingston or salvation through Rastafari. VW stays true to their preppy Columbia University origins, singing of Cape Cod, mansard roofs, and other real parts of their lives in Brooklyn, summering at the cape, etc. For me, that makes it more authentic. Granted, I was late to the VW party, but I plan to enjoy them at least through the summer.



Taken By Trees, White Hinterland at MFA

It’s my understanding that some people like being busy; I’m not one of those people. I’ve been so busy that this is my first opportunity to blog about the Taken By Trees/White Hinterland show I caught at the MFA an entire week ago!

The show was terrific, in an entirely adult and sophisticated setting: no pushing, shoving, screaming, standing, eating, cell-phoning, or any of the other annoying activities so common at live shows. This small, comfortable space (about 200 in attendance this night) has recently hosted Vampire Weekend as well – I can kick myself for missing that show.

White Hinterland opened; jazz-influenced indie folk/pop with (exquisite) violin in lieu of guitar, and a percussionist who featured a saw (!) among his instruments. Beautifully talented singer Casey Dienel seems shy and fragile, not unlike Aimee Mann seemed when I met her backstage at an Elvis Costello show in ’87 (you think THAT’s name-dropping—don’t get me started), but she certainly commands attention. A Jamaica Plain native,  she said she was happy to be home. Of course, the tour has just leaped from east coast (Montreal, last Monday) to west (West Hollywood last Thursday), with SXSW shows in Austin to follow, so it may be a while before we see her again. Check out their MySpace page, or click right here for “Dreaming Of The Plum Trees”:

casey dienel of White Hinterland 

Casey Dienel of White Hinterland

Victoria Bergsman began the Taken By Trees set by announcing she didn’t feel well, but it was hardly evident in her performance. From the opener “Julia” (pronounced yoo-lee-ya) to set-ender “Too Young” (I could be wrong about that being last), all songs came from their debut, Open Field, with one notable exception: GNR cover “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, which was L’s fave, and now must be included on my April St. Martin vacation CD. Check it out at their MySpace page, or click HERE to download/play.


Victoria Bergsman of Taken By Trees