Thursday, January 29, 2009

Heard These Guys Yet? - Jan 09

We're mixing things up a bit with our recommendations this month. While we love raising the profile of newer bands that we've come to dig and think you would appreciate, because it's the start of a new year, we are going to take things in a new direction this month and highlight some older bands that you should have been checking out all along. So permit us our nostalgia and, as Dan Quayle would say, go past to the back.

Recommender: Biz
Band: Margo Guryan
Blurb: This is some really cool 60s psychedelic pop. Guryan's one full-length album, Take a Picture, was released without much promotion or distribution and got very little attention at the time, but it is now beginning to be recognized as a classic 60s album. Apparently Margo Guryan was more of a songwriter than a performer, and she didn't like being in front of an audience. Her singing style actually sounds more like a precursor to later "indie" singers, like Elliott Smith. A was a classical and Jazz musician, she got inspired by the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, and the result was the 1968 release, Take a Picture. This album has great melodies over jazz-inspired arrangements, and the recordings sound great. In recent decades Margo has kept a low profile, mostly teaching music, although there has been new interest in her songs. Her album, along with a collection of demos, has been reissued on CD and itunes. She did resurface in 2007 to express some political dissent, or at least dark satire. "16 Words" quotes one of Dubya's most impeachable statements, and the song is catchy enough that is hard to forget what those 16 words are. The video is also surprisingly well done. If you're willing to take a trip down that rabbit hole, you can check it out here.
Reminds me of: Belle and Sebastian meet the sixties and lose the "twee"
File Under: I should really have tried to be clever and write the whole blurb in sixteen words.
But don't take my word for it: Margo Guryan at Myspace

Recommender: PMaz

Band: You Am I
Blurb:I came very close to passing over Australia's You Am I back around 2000. I had just picked up 25 CDs at the Mammoth Music Mart in Skokie, IL. Added to the pile on a friend's recommendation was You Am I's "Hi Fi Way." I didn't expect much from any of the CDs since they didn't cost but $2 a piece. I probably listened to one or two songs on most of them and quit. But I found myself returning over and over to a song called "Purple Sneakers" and being intrigued by the participation of The Posies' Jon Auer on another song. I figured if Auer was lending a hand, they must be good. Eight studio albums later, You Am I are still going strong with the recent release of a great new album called "Dilettantes". More subdued than their previous release "Convicts", the new album still has that loose, grungey sound most of time. From Wikipedia: They were the first Australian band to have three albums successively debut at #1 on the ARIA Charts, and are renowned for their live performances. Now if only they would make more more appearances in the U.S., we could all get out there and witness this spectacle. I am sure you would agree with me that You Am I deliver the goods.
Reminds me of: The Replacements, The Rolling Stones, Supergrass.
File Under: Keeping Cool Down Under
But don't take my word for it: You Am I at Myspace

Recommender: Jonas
Band: Say Hi (Formerly Say Hi To Your Mom)
Blurb: First off, not until researching recently did I find that the band I’m recommending, Say Hi To Your Mom renamed themselves last year to simply Say Hi. I’m not really sure what caused the change, but I like the old name better because it matched their lyrical style, which is verbose and quirky. Although quirky, the lyrics never cross over to silly, and are more often on the serious side. The music however, is always serious. On many songs there’s a very full sound of drowning guitars with keyboards and other instruments sprinkled in here and there, like Sugar. Other times they can really rock, but without taking themselves too seriously. I think much in the same way that Nada Surf can rock, but then catch you off guard with a leisurely heartfelt tune. Because each album does have some sincere tracks, it makes for a good and fulfilling mix. The vocals mix perfectly with the music. The singer’s voice is very distinctive, a little off key here and there, low and sounding like he just woke up. This, mixed with many of the minor keys of their songs give them a distant and mysterious feel, but never dark. This is definitely a band that deserves more exposure, press and a larger following. As for albums I would recommend starting out with Ferocious Mopes, then moving onto Impeccable Blahs and then Numbers & Mumbles. I’ve not heard The Wishes and the Glitch, the most recent album, but I will be looking out for a new CD in March, Oohs & Aahs on Barsuk Records.
Reminds me of: Take the wall of guitars from Sugar, mix with the indie-rocking of Nada Surf, then throw in a little bit of an Elliot Smith vibe.
File Under: Shaking Off the Shoegaze
But don't take my word for it: Say Hi at Myspace

Recommender: Reed
Band: 12 Rods
Blurb: I promise not to mention Elliot Smith in this synopsis. Ah, crap I just did! Anyway, my selection this month has nothing in common with him. I first heard about 12 Rods when a coworker put their song, "Part of 2", on a group compilation. From that point on, I couldn't get enough of this Minneapolis quartet. Though often labeled prog rock (and they were a bit mathy to be sure), they had a fire and dissonance normally reserved for crazier alternative acts. After becoming the first band signed to Virgin Records' V2 label, they put out Split Personalities, a record that just keeps coming at you. Critial fawning followed, but scant radio play. When they split with their frenetic drummer, they managed to replace him with an even better one (Dave King of The Bad Plus).
Their second album was a bit of a disaster, but its failing can be blamed on the careless production of Todd Rundgren (yeah, picking on him twice in one week). At that point, they were dropped from V2 and put out their third album themselves. A masterpiece that's alternately heavy and agile, the band was back to doing what they do best. Sadly, it wasn't meant to be and they called it quits soon after. Their albums may be impossible to track down at this point, but I highly recommend the search as #s 1 and 3 simply never tire for me. (Note, their website is down and kicks you over to their facebook page, but there are allusions to the future selling of records in that location. Rejoice!)
Reminds me of: Mr. Bungle crossed with the (electro) Magnetic Fields
File Under: Too Hot to Prog
But don't take my word for it: 12 Rods at Myspace (fan site)

1 comment:

PMaz said...

Nice choice, Andrew! I'll have to explore more by them as all I have is "Split Personalities".