Live Review: Land of Talk, Suuns; Little Brazil tonight; Serena-Maneesh Sunday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 3:16 pm September 24, 2010
Land of Talk at Slowdown Jr., Sept. 23, 2010.

Land of Talk at Slowdown Jr., Sept. 23, 2010.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

There was a modest, loving and patient crowd at Slowdown Jr. last night for Land of Talk. Modest, as in fewer than 100 people. Loving, as in the response to every one of their songs. Patient, as in putting up with long delays. Actually, not everyone was patient…

I showed up in time to catch the very tail-end of Conduits, just long enough to snap a picture and hear Jenna Morrison stretch out one final heart-breaking note over a closing crescendo. Along with So-So Sailors, this is the newest local band to keep an eye on.

Suuns were amazing. The Montreal combo killed on a set of very modern, very well-crafted rock songs that cleverly used electronic noises along with the usual guitar/bass/drums set-up to create a sound with an entirely new sense of urgency. Both edgy and trippy, the highlight was closer “Sweet Nothing,” an odyssey that grew from synth noise, sirens and a simple drum beat to a shredding conclusion before receding to nothing.

Suuns would eventually come back as the backing band for Land of Talk. I say “eventually,” because the set was delayed for more than a half-hour while frontwoman Lizzie Powell searched for a missing bag (or so she said from stage). And while the wait was worth it, this was my third night in a row of shows, each of which was followed the next morning by a 6 a.m. wake-up call. In other words, I was running out of gas, and no amount of Powell sweetness was going to keep me awake much longer.

Once she got the ball rolling, Powell cranked out a set of the best from her latest album. On recordings, Land of Talk is a great pop band with catchy songs reminiscent of bands like The Sundays, Cranberries, even Fleetwood Mac. But with Suuns added, everything got a little darker, a little grittier, a little more on edge. It’s territory that I’d love to hear Powell and Co. continue to explore. Unfortunately, about a half-hour into their set, Powell began fiddling with her Gibson SG between songs, tuning and retuning, then snapping on a capo than retuning again. This went on for about five minutes, and then she asked the audience if someone would give her a new guitar. Silence. “I take that as a ‘no,'” she said, while she continued fiddling with the tuning knobs. Finally she gave up, and grabbed another SG from a rack of guitars, strapped it on, and began the whole process again. I looked at my watch, noticed it was past 12:30, and headed to the door with my eyes half closed…

* * *

It’s been a helluva week for shows, and I have to tell ya, I’m exhausted. But the fun ain’t over yet. Tonight at Slowdown Jr. it’s the return of Little Brazil. A re-energized, recently relocated (back to Omaha from San D.) and just-married Landon Hedges is back tonight with the rest of the miscreants and a slew of new songs. Opening is the red-hot So-So Sailors and Honey & Darling. $6, 9 p.m. It could be a madhouse.

Tomorrow night, David Dondero returns to The Waiting Room with Darren Hanlon. $8 adv./$10 DOS. Show starts at 9.

And, of course, Sunday is Wovenhand (ex-16 Horsepower) with amazing opening band  Serena-Maneesh.  $12, 9 p.m.

When am I going to get some  sleep?

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Lazy-i Interview: Serena-Maneesh; Live Review: Suckers, Menomena; Land of Talk tonight…

Category: Blog,Interviews,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:55 pm September 23, 2010

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Serena-Maneesh

Serena-Maneesh

Serena-Maneesh: From the Abyss

Serena-Maneesh uncovers layers of sound.

Norwegian noise-pop band Serena-Maneesh dug deep for its latest album, literally.

For Serena-Maneesh 2: Abyss in B Minor, released this past March on 4AD Records, mastermind Emil Nikolaisen recorded tracks in a cave located outside of Oslo, Norway.

“It was an interesting journey, at times rough, at times inspiring,” said Nikolaisen via cell during a sound check at a concert hall in Harleem, The Netherlands, where the band performed last Sunday night. “I wanted to put myself and my collaborators in an interesting new spot with new sounds and find new universes where there were no preconceptions of any kind, like a little kid trying to find new spaces in the world to discover.”

But don’t go listening to the album expecting echoing, cavernous noises. Instead, Serena-Maneesh music is an odyssey of beats and dense, layered noise that covers — and then slowly uncovers — melody upon melody. There are moments on the nearly 8-minute opening track, “Ayisha Abyss,” where the intensity of sound is so overwhelming that you’ll feel like you’re stumbling through utter darkness, finding your way by touching the wall with your fingertips, lost in a maze of noise and whispers.

Even the album’s poppier moments, like the soaring “I Just Want to See Your Face,” glisten through layers of guitar sheen, snare drum and cacophony. What you’ll hear the first time through isn’t necessary what you’re going to hear the next time you listen, and that’s just the way Nikolaisen wants it.

“It’s like when you hear a band next door in the basement or behind walls — when you open the door and enter the room, the music reveals itself in a more… boring way,” he said. “You thought it was more mystical or intriguing when you didn’t hear it so clearly. I try to apply that principal to what I’m doing — so that the more you zoom in, the more the mysteries of the chords and the overtones and the new harmonies appear.”

Serena-Maneesh, Serena-Maneesh 2: Abyss in B Minor (4AD Records)

Serena-Maneesh, Serena-Maneesh 2: Abyss in B Minor (4AD Records)

The band’s style of revealing melody beneath countless layers of noise often brings comparisons to shoe-gaze masters My Bloody Valentine. Nikolaisen acknowledged that he loves MBV frontman Kevin Shields’ pop songs. “I grew up on a lot of stuff that’s clearly in the music that I’ve been pushing,” Nikolaisen said. “There was a time when no one was talking about My Bloody Valentine and these bands, and we were doing it. And suddenly, there’s a lot of these types of bands popping up here and there.”

But there’s more to Serena-Maneesh’s music than MBV comparisons. Nikolaisen said that through his music, he’s trying to find a place where “symphony and Stooges meet.”

“On one side, I love rock, and on the other side, I love symphonies,” he said. “If you can integrate the mysterious, subconscious sounds of strings into something that’s more immediate, that’s a really valuable thing. The idea is that the 10th time you hear it, you still feel like you’re on an interesting journey, you’re still hearing new sounds and (discovering) things that are not exposed right away. That’s the journey that I’ve spent many years of my life trying to refine.”

Joining him on that journey has been a number of collaborators, including American indie icon Sufjan Stevens, who played vibraphone, flute and piano on the new album. “I get sick of myself and my own ideas,” Nikolaisen said about his collaborations. “You might be able to play everything yourself, but I’m depending on other people for perspective — different souls gathering on many different levels.”

And while Serena-Maneesh has toured Europe and Australia with bands that include Oasis, Nine Inch Nails and The Dandy Warhols, Nikolaisen said Nebraska has an exotic quality of its own. “To us, Nebraska is extremely exotic,” he said. “I have these portraits in my mind of Nebraska that I’ve seen from childhood. I wonder if it’s translatable to the people there. Are they really any different from iconic New York or European minds, or are they fully redneck or fully California sunshine?”

He’ll find out next Sunday when his five-piece band rolls into The Waiting Room to open for Wovenhand. Nikolaisen said fans should expect them to “push the melodic perspective in a really loud context.”

“(The concert) is almost a physical experience with pristine melodies carved through,” he said. “Our songs need to be translated slightly different than on the recording, so we’re not just repeating or imitating it. It’s really important to give listeners a new perspective on the songs and the story. We keep it elastic in a way that’s really meant for the moment, and try to portray something different every night.”

Serena-Maneesh plays with Wovenhand Sunday, Sept. 26, at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St. Showtime is 9 p.m. Admission is $12. For more information, call 402.884.5353 or visit waitingroomlounge.com.

* * *

Menomena at The Waiting Room, 09/22/10.

Menomena at The Waiting Room, 09/22/10.

Suckers last night at The Waiting Room: There’s just something about Frenchkiss bands. They’re always entertaining. And they all seem to have a head spazz that anchors the onstage antics, provides the energy and gives the audience something to look at while quietly pondering such things as “What’s wrong with that man?” “Are those jerky movements a side-effect to whatever drug he’s taking?” “Is he dangerous?” And so on. The spazz in The Suckers was a headband-wearing beardo on lead guitar and primary vocals who switched between a pained howl and a classic Prince falsetto throughout these hazy, hash-fueled art-damaged tunes that owed a lot to Talking Heads — both early noisy and later dancey Heads. In fact, countering the grinning headband was a stand-up-straight second guitarist whose rigid stance and lilting voice reminded me of David Byrne. The band was filled out by a bass player/percussionist/trumpet player and a drummer/keyboardist (like Box Elder’s Goldberg, there were moments when he played both at the same time), and everyone provided harmonies, which was sweet. And when headband guy just plain sung, he was dynamite — he had an earthy growl that felt good to hear, especially on their last song. I will be searching out their music in the very near future.

Suckers at The Waiting Room, 9/22/10.

Suckers at The Waiting Room, 9/22/10.

Menomena had a fourth member with them last night, apparently a guy from the opening band that I missed. They sounded more mainstream — more smoothed out and fluid — then I remembered them from a couple years ago. The entire set seemed less arty, or maybe I was still buzzing from Suckers, who were just flat-out more entertaining (and had better songs). There was nothing wrong with Menomena, they were just kind of boring. That said, they broke through to me every time their lead guy picked up that Bari sax and crushed out a melody. Otherwise, the music was dominated by their rhythm section (quite a contrast from the previous night, when neither band even had a bass player). The bass and drum were huge, which is enough to carry you through the first 10 minutes, but becomes one-dimensional thereafter.

Last night’s crowd was twice the size of the crowd there Tuesday for School of Seven Bells. Maybe 200? The draw might have had something to do with Menomena having the No. 8 album on the college charts, according to the latest issue of Rolling Stone. More likely it might have something to do with being around for so many years. Still, I was told that last night’s Menomena show drew a few less people then when the band came through two years ago — when they didn’t even have a charting album. Add the fact that ground breakers School of Seven Bells drew less than 100 and you have to wonder what’s going on. Maybe it’s the lack of radio. Or maybe Omaha isn’t as hip as it thinks it is.

* * *

Tonight at Slowdown Jr. it’s Saddle Creek Records band Land of Talk with Montreal band Suuns (formerly Zeroes). Sayeth Chicagoist: “Much like ‘70s bands Can and Suicide, the heartbeat of the Suuns’ music thumps out in pulses of electro-synth that rolled in the dirt with a few Fenders.” Having listened to their new album, I concur. Get there early for Omaha’s own drone adventurists Conduits (Jenna Morrison, Roger Lewis members of Eagle Seagull). $10, 9 p.m.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Column 289: Land of Talk; Live Review: School of Seven Bells; CVS wins; Menomena, Suckers tonight…

Category: Blog,Column,Interviews,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:02 pm September 22, 2010

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Land of Talk It's Okay

A capture from Land of Talk's video for "It's Okay."

Column 289: Government Issue

Paying for Land of Talk’s work of art.

It was at least six months ago, maybe longer, that I stumbled across the video for Land of Talk’s song “It’s Okay.” It was being hyped on Saddle Creek Records’ website, the band’s label.

I grew up watching videos. I remember when MTV was fresh and new and actually played music videos. And though the videos being produced in the late ’80s weren’t exactly masterpieces of cinematic art, they were entertaining and fun and a good way to kill time between classes or hangovers. Well, time, as it’s been known to do, marched on, and videos became passé, especially when the MTVs and VH1s of the world set them aside for plague-like reality-TV programming.

So I’d long ago given up on music videos as being anything more than expensive, dopey commercials. And then along came that Land of Talk video. It opens with a close-up of a masked warrior whose long black hair — more of a mane — is floating overhead as if underwater while the song’s opening notes pulse forward on a cushion of beats. From there, the mini film is a pastiche of slow-motion black-and-white images of gravity-defying science-fiction landscapes, crows soaring above floating mountaintops, flaming wolves darting through misty forests, and always at the center, the masked, horse-mounted warrior with hair flowing for miles overhead, creating a star-specked sky cutting through the daylight. Finally, horse and rider come to the edge of the earth and leap slowly into space before igniting into flames. This wasn’t your typical five-guys-and-a-camera-doing-goofy-shit video; it was a visualization of a nature myth set to a modern beat. View it on YouTube here.

The video blew my mind and made me reconsider not only the song but the album and the band. Sure, I knew about Land of Talk; I’d listened to Some Are Lakes, and thought it was a pleasant, soft-pop indie-rock effort, nothing more. But after watching the video, I dug through my iTunes to find the album and listen to it again with fresh ears. And isn’t that what videos are supposed to do? It turns out I wasn’t alone in my admiration. The 5-minute masterpiece was nominated for “Video of the Year” at the 2010 Juno Awards — sort of the Canadian version of The Grammy’s — and was chosen as one of the five best music videos of 2009 by Time Magazine.

So how did a little label like Saddle Creek, and an under-the-radar band like Land of Talk, afford to make such a video? Its combination of live action and special-effects animation must have cost a fortune.

“Going in, I was very disenchanted with the whole idea of making a video,” said Land of Talk frontwoman Lizzie Powell Monday night while driving to Chicago on a tour that will bring them to The Slowdown this Thursday, Sept. 23. She said videos had become “fast-edited, sexy, nonsensical shit. And I was protective of that song and never wanted anyone to interpret it in video form.”

But when “It’s Okay” was chosen by production company WeWereMonkeys for the video treatment, Powell had little choice but to relinquish control to director Davide Di Saro. “It turned out to be one of the best creative relationships I’ve ever had,” she said, adding that when she saw the final product, “We were floored, we were speechless, it brought tears to my eyes. I was so proud to be a part of it.”

So who fronted the cash to make it happen? None other than the Canadian government through the Department of Canadian Heritage and a program called FACTOR, The Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Recordings. Powell said FACTOR and other government-sponsored arts organizations are vital to every independent Canadian band’s’ survival.

“All of these organizations are there to support independent artists,” she said. “Land of Talk would not exist without the government. It’s at the core of our band and most of the Canadian bands touring out there to the states and abroad, from Broken Social Scene to Arcade Fire — any bands that have not signed away their masters abroad.”

Without that government grant money, we probably wouldn’t be seeing Land of Talk Thursday night. “We wouldn’t be able to tour in a 15-passenger van and go out for three weeks,” Powell said, adding that the financial support goes beyond what a record label can provide. “Record labels are screwed now with the transition to the digital age.”

In fact, she doesn’t know how independent bands in the U.S. do it. “What you have in the States is not sustainable,” Powell said. “I feel horrible for bands with talent and skill that can’t get off the ground and get on the road. It’s heartbreaking, and at the same time, it makes me proud that we can afford this, but I’m not completely waxing Canada’s car right now.”

That’s because arts funding has been cut back under Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Powell said. “Harper’s government is spending more money on military than arts and eduction,” she said. “It’s something we’re trying to save and protect; it’s a wonderful thing to defend. Cutting funding for arts and culture is very short-sighted.”

Are you listening State Senator Gwen Howard? Howard plans to introduce a bill in the Unicameral that will suspend Nebraska’s “1% for Art” program. Talk about short-sighted.

Powell said if Land of Talk doesn’t win any more grants, we probably won’t be seeing videos like “It’s Okay” for songs off the band’s new album,Cloak and Cipher. But if it programs like FACTOR are eliminated, we may not see any more bands like Land of Talk.

* * *

School of Seven Bells at The Waiting Room, Sept. 22, 2010.

School of Seven Bells at The Waiting Room, Sept. 22, 2010.

Last night at The Waiting Room felt inspired by The Cure. In fact, the opening band, Active Child, sounded so Cure-like that I thought Robert Smith was in the house. I only caught their last two songs (I missed out on the harp solo): the first song was a pure Cure rip; but the last one featured falsetto vocals a la The Temper Trap and was… pretty. Still, just keyboards and guitar. No drums, no bass, and they could have used that bottom end.

School of Seven Bells was a four-piece — a guitarist, two women vocalists (one on keys/synth, the other sometimes adding a second guitar), and real live drums supported by electronic beats/handclaps. The music was dreamy dance stuff, with both girls adding angelic harmonies. Their slower numbers again owed a lot to the Cure’s later lush music. By now Disintegration has become a sort of benchmark album for so many bands. Just a few years ago, it seemed everyone sounded like Pavement. Before that, it was the Pixies. But a certain cadre of today’s bands seem enamored with Smiths, The Cure and MBV (see tomorrow’s interview). And there’s nothing wrong with that.

The best moments came when guitarist Benjamin Curtis was allowed to run wild run free. His tone was amazing; it reminded me of every great soaring guitar solo of ’80s post-New Wave/dream rock era. The Deheza sisters sounded like what you’d imagine Azure Ray would sound like fronting a dance band. Unfortunately, too often the vocals were buried in the mix and sounded limp, like an afterthought. As with the opener, the sound would have benefited from more bottom end (no bass again). The 70 or 80 people on hand spent the night huddled by the stage, but few if any danced, except for one girl who spent the evening with her arms in the air. Maybe that’s why they didn’t come out for an encore after their 45 minute set concluded. A pity. I could have listened to them for another hour.

* * *

So the City Council approved the CVS pharmacy. Goodbye, 49r. Here’s the WOWT coverage.

One last thought on CVS… I can say as a resident of the Memorial Park neighborhood, which abuts Dundee, that other than the cursory walk-through upon its grand opening, I will never step foot in that CVS store. Never. And judging from neighbors and other Dundee residents, I won’t be alone. A hollow threat? You don’t know Dundee very well. Very clannish; very grudgeful; some might say angry. This isn’t like when Wal Mart moved in at the expense of The Ranch Bowl, where people vowed to never shop there. I knew that wouldn’t make a stitch of difference. Wal Mart attracts every bit of human trash in every city it inhabits, people who wouldn’t care if Wal Mart ran a white slavery ring out of its appliance department, as long as they could still buy their 10 cubic foot bricks of toilet paper. CVS, well, that’s another matter. It has zero competitive advantage over Walgreens. It won’t even be convenient to access. And now they’ve pissed off the neighborhood in which it resides, a neighborhood that has a long, long memory. I do not wish them luck.

* * *

Tonight at The Waiting Room, Portland experimental rockers Menomena returns supporting a new album on Barsuk Records. This is what I said about them when they came through way back in June 2007:

Though not nearly as crowded as the prior evening, there was a large draw to see Menomena (pronounced Men-Naw-Men-Naw — like phenomena — not as I stupidly pronounced it, Men-Oh-Meen-uh). The trio featured a drummer/vocalist, keyboard/guitarist/vocalist, and frontman/vocalist/guitarist/saxophone player. Huge sound for a trio. Everything seemed keyed off the drums, which were big and brawny, the kit set up at the front of the stage so all three members could watch each other throughout the set. Trying to think of what they sounded like, the guy next to me said, “Man, it’s like early Peter Gabriel.” Bingo. Especially when the drummer sang the leads, the keyboards were in loop and the frontman added harmonies or played an odd line on baritone sax, it was 1980 Melt-era Gabriel all the way. Other times, when the keyboardist held the vocal spot, Menomena resembled early Death Cab or a more conventional indie band. They were at their best when being unconventional, however, which was most of the evening

Opening the show tonight is Williamsburg band Suckers (Frenchkiss Records) and Tu Fawning. $12, 9 p.m.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Column 287: CD Reviews of Tim Kasher, A.H. Stephens, Azure Ray, Land of Talk…

Category: Column,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:11 pm September 8, 2010

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Column 287: Five Above Earl

Reviews of Arcade Fire, new Saddle Creek releases…

I write this crammed into a window seat flying straight into the heart of a hurricane named Earl, but I’m not worried. NYC will protect me. It always has. So if there’s a sense of impending dread throughout these five reviews — a look at the hottest indie release of the year, along with four new, strong albums from our friends at Saddle Creek Records — I blame the weather and anticipation of my long-deserved vacation (or demise). See you on the other side of the storm.

Tim Kasher, The Game of Monogamy (Saddle Creek). Out 10/5/10.

Tim KasherThe Game of Monogamy (Saddle Creek). Like most of Kasher’s confessional catalog, it’s an examination of his ongoing struggles with guilt. Guilt about his inability to commit, guilt for taking the easy way out, guilt over his unwillingness to accept contentment (“I’m Afraid I’m Gonna Die Here”) and guilt over his unwillingness to change in the face of that dreaded contentment (“Cold Love”). Lucky for him, with that guilt comes numbness as a symptom of middle age. There’s a certain sense of inevitable desperation that underlies this entire album, but don’t feel sorry for poor Kasher. He knows (as we all do) that whatever misery he suffers, he brought on himself. Musically, it veers closer to The Good Life than Cursive. Fine. The differentiator is the baroque strings, the upbeat brass that reminds me of Madness, and the cool electronic claps on “Gonna Die Here,” which would be a radio hit in any other universe. His tendency to occasionally throw too many words into a phrase makes for some clumsy moments, but those are few and far between. In the overall Kasher oeuvre, this is a minor, simple, but ultimately satisfying guilt trip.

Azure Ray, Drawing Down the Moon (Saddle Creek). Out 9/14/10.

Azure Ray, Drawing Down the Moon (Saddle Creek). Out 9/14/10.

Azure RayDrawing Down the Moon (Saddle Creek) — The question: Is the sum better than its parts? When Azure Ray split up all those years ago, we thought we’d get twice as much goodness as when they were together. Instead, we were treated to some hit-and-miss releases that allowed the girls to experiment with some things they wouldn’t have tried together. Now they’re back, and they’ve brought the best of their separate experiences along with some interesting electronics. Both dabbled with beats (none moreso than Fink’s O+S), and those clicks and pops have given us one of the more upbeat AR albums in their catalog. Even more noticeable is Eric Bachmann’s production and arrangements, especially on those rollicking guitar-picking numbers (“Shouldn’t Have Loved,” “Make Your Heart.”). But in the end, it still comes down to the same soothing, whispering harmonies that defined them from the beginning. The underlying theme: Just getting by, with or without someone else’s heart alongside theirs (Though they’d surely prefer the former. And who, other than Kasher, wouldn’t?). And if you know their personal back stories, it’s fun to try to connect the dots, whether they’re singing about familiar old (and current) boyfriends or not.

Adam Haworth Stephens, We Live on Cliffs (Saddle Creek). Out 9/28/10.

Adam Haworth Stephens, We Live on Cliffs (Saddle Creek). Out 9/28/10.

Adam Haworth StephensWe Live on Cliffs (Saddle Creek) — AHS is half of Two Gallants, the singing/guitar playing half. We love 2G songs for their reckless drunken sea-shanty style mixed with wry story telling – sort of like an American version of Pogues meets Gordon Lightfoot. Well, the sea balladeering is long gone on this album. Instead, AHS has opted for a more streamlined, straightforward, AOR approach both in the songwriting and arrangements. In fact, the second track, “Second Mind,” creeps dangerously close to Jack Johnson territory. My take: This solo effort was an opportunity for Stephens to turn things down, smooth them out and try for a more peaceful, easy, mainstream feeling. When he does turn it up, like on driver “Elderwoods,” he can’t help but hold the leash a bit too tightly. The result is a pleasant record that will makes 2G fans yearn for a return to that drunken, piss-soaked pub by the sea.

Land of Talk, Cloak and Cipher (Saddle Creek). Released 8/24/10.

Land of Talk, Cloak and Cipher (Saddle Creek). Released 8/24/10.

Land of TalkCloak and Cipher (Saddle Creek) — Saddle Creek has its first dream-pop act with these wily Montreal-eans led by dreamy front woman Elizabeth Powell. Their first Creek release, 2007’s Some Are Lakes, was a sneaky comer that required repeated listens before locking in. Not so this follow-up, which leaps out of the gate with its dense, bouncy title track where Powell croons in her husky, sexy voice the indecipherable code: “I won’t redeem another / Lose that.” What’s it mean? Who knows? Just like on the pulsing “Quarry Hymns,” where she coos “Leaving on the hottest day / To sink this quarry under,” you never know what she’s singing about, and you won’t care because you’ll be lost in the layers of the trio’s beautiful pop. There will be the inevitable comparisons to the usual suspects: The Sundays, The Cranberries, Fleetwood Mac, but Land of Talk brings its own mystery to your headphones, its own intensity that none of the others can match.

Arcade Fire, The Suburbs (Merge). Released 8/3/2010.

Arcade Fire, The Suburbs (Merge). Released 8/3/2010.

Arcade FireThe Suburbs (Merge) — Mewing frontman Win Butler may be too smart for his own good — a sad, tortured realist, he’s stuck in a rut, dwelling on the past, on the future and on our current state of affairs. And yet, his music on this, his third album, is as inventive as anything on 2004’s Funeral, certainly moreso than the disappointing Neon Bible. The album is so radio-friendly (in an ’80s sort of way) that it almost slips out of an indie classification into the mainstream. But it’s the songs’ consistently bleak lyrics that will keep any of them from becoming household anthems. The themes: Boredom, lost opportunities, futility, modernism, isolationism, instant nostalgia, and some unforeseen looming apocalypse. All that desolation wrapped in such a pretty package. So yeah, it’s an endearing bummer that’s appropriate for these bummer times we live in, a perfect snapshot of an uncertain world, and dead accurate, but that doesn’t make it any more fun to listen to. My advice: Hang on for the ride and pay attention to the lyrics at your own peril — you may never want to get out of bed in the morning.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Saddle Creek update; Another recipe for success in the music biz…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:00 pm July 15, 2010

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

There’s not much going on news-wise.

Saddle Creek today announced that Land of Talk’s sophomore record, Cloak and Cipher, will be released Aug. 28 (They’re playing at Slowdown Sept. 23). Azure Ray’s first new album in seven years, Drawing Down the Moon, will be coming out Sept. 14 on Creek, and Maria and Orenda are headed out on tour, including a gig at Slowdown Nov. 3.

* * *

There’s a longish interview at Wired this week with Tommy Boy founder Tom Silverman (online here), where he talks about the continued downward spiral of the music industry, how the “long-tail” model is bunk, how social media is useless for selling CDs, and his vision for how artists and labels can make money in harmony. His vision:

“The model that looks most promising is to set up an LLC, just like a movie company — they set up an LLC for each movie. Every artist is a business, and has its own corporation under this model, and all of that artist’s creative equity goes into that — not just music, but everything they do. Whether it’s live, or merch, or whatever, their brand goes in there. And the investors who are investing and trying to promote on the other side — they own half. So it’s more like a business. An equity partnership.”

How is that different than the 360-degree record deal, where the label controls publishing, merch, the record, and touring? “The 360 deal is a traditional adversarial record deal of the old fashion,” Silverman said in the interview. “You get 12 points, or 14 points, and we recoup everything. ‘Here’s your check at the beginning — you’re not going to get paid again.’ Everything I said that was wrong with the business is still included with the 360 deal. Plus, they take a grab of 20 to 30 percent of touring and merch.”

Add to that some depressing numbers: “In 2008 there were 17,000 releases that sold one copy,” Silverman said. “Last year, there were 18,000 (that sold one copy), and something like 79,000 releases that sold under 100 copies. Under 100 copies is not a real release — it’s noise, an aberration. In any kind of scientific study, it would be filtered out. It’s like a rounding error. That 79,000 number represents almost 80 percent of all the records released that year.”

Yikes. Read the entire interview here.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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