The return of Steve Bartolomei (Mal Madrigal); Saddle Creek Records news; Black Friday O’Leaver’s revealed…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 2:07 pm November 12, 2013

boccalupologo

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

You remember Steve Bartolomei, right? The guy behind Mal Madrigal?

Well, ol’ Steve’s got a new album coming out under the moniker Steve Bartolomei and his Comrades called All the Ghosts. Steve’s “comrades” on this collection are pretty much the same ones I remember from his Mal Madrigal days: Ben Brodin, Ryan Fox, Dan McCarthy, John Kotchian and Mike Saklar.

But get this: “We recorded and mixed the album at Chicago’s Electrical Audio with the mighty Steve Albini at the helm.” Whoa!

Bartolomei said the album was recorded in three days. “With the completion of each ‘tight rope take’ the six of us claimed a small victory, one song at a time,” he said in an email. “As such, All the Ghosts is a performance album with all the nuance, spontaneity, and spirit of a live show. Recording All the Ghosts was something special, and I hope you’ll hear it there in the grooves of this vinyl record.”

Yeah, vinyl record. In fact, he’s already taking pre-orders for the vinyl record (Who needs Kickstarter?). Those who pre-order will reserve a hand numbered LP with silk-screened jacket (Shipping ASAP in December), a download copy, plus bonus video downloads and access to demos, alternate versions and live recordings in the weeks leading up to the album’s official release.

You can pre-order your copy right here for $18. Or pick one up at the official album release show, Dec. 28 at The Slowdown, but who can wait that long?

Here’s a taste from the new album via Vimeo:

Faces Made Of Clay by Stephen Bartolomei with His Comrades from Stephen Bartolomei on Vimeo.

* * *

Saddle Creek Records issued its monthly newsletter today. The highlights:

– Bright Eyes’ A Christmas Album is now available in stores for the first time ever.

— The Rural Alberta Advantage as the three-piece enters the final stages of writing before hitting the studio to record their forthcoming third LP – due out in 2014.

— The new 7″ from Omaha’s own Twinsmith. Honestly, comes out next Tuesday.

In additional Saddle Creek news, Tim Kasher was the guest for the latest installment AV Club’ “hatesong” column, where he lambasts the song “Some Nights” by Fun.  Though after reading it I’m not entirely sure Kasher actually hates the song. I guess you can talk Tim into anything…

* * *

The Black Friday show at O’Leaver’s was revealed yesterday. It is, in fact, Talking Mountain, Video Ranger and M34n Str33t, Nov 29. Did you figure it out on your own?

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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 © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Tim Kasher’s Adult Film drops, vinyl delayed, first reviews; Yuppies score 7.4 Pitchfork; Killer Blow tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:59 pm October 8, 2013
Peach Kelli Pop

Peach Kelli Pop

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

It’s drop day for Tim Kasher’s Adult Film LP.

But it sounds like (based on Kasher’s comments at his tour kick-off show last Saturday) our friends at Saddle Creek Records are having a tough time getting the vinyl. Kasher told the crowd the manufacturer hadn’t come through, and was offering download keys and a spot on the album’s wait-list. Creek’s Jeff Tafolla confirmed the delay saying the label’s supposed to get new test pressings this week, and if approved, they could get their vinyl in a week, if they rush it.

Interestingly, Creek announced yesterday that it finally got the vinyl in for Jake Bellows latest, New Ocean, and is shipping pre-orders. That one had a drop date of Aug. 6. I’m guessing the national vinyl craze is hitting the handful of vinyl producers hard, and they’re having a tough time keeping up with orders. Oh what a strange time for the music industry…

Meanwhile, here’s a handful of early reviews of Adult Film:

Absolute Punk gave the record a 9/10. Conclusion: “Wherever you place Adult Film in the Kasher canon, it’s hard to deny that it’s one of the best albums of the year, and arguably his most versatile yet. If I needed convincing before, all doubt is erased – this man can only put out good music.” (review here)

Racket Magazine gave the album 7/10. Conclusion: “‘Where’s Your Heart Lie’ is kind of the epitome of Kasher for me: a beautiful piano melody behind him being simultaneously terrified of and bored in monogamy. Dude, we all freak out, I hope you can get over the terror of the unknown.” (review here)

Colorado Daily didn’t give Adult Film a rating, but they sure did like it.  The conclusion: “The feelings and their intensity are all over the place — so fantastically manic, it must be real. And if it’s not, all that organ is enough to keep things exciting.” (review here)

American Songwriter gave the LP 2.5 stars out of 5. The conclusion: “Even the most ardent Kasher followers can cop to the relatively one-dimensional nature of his songwriting, yet during Cursive’s brief, restless reign, his internal struggle made for an intriguing and sometimes thrilling listen. Adult Film, unfortunately, isn’t.” Yikes. (review here)

Earbuddy.com was even harsher, giving the album 2.3 out of 10. Conclusion: “The only people who might get something out of Adult Film are those who receive an endorphin rush from hearing Kasher’s voice, and even if that describes you, I’ve got to hope that there is a better way to get that high.” Oof. (review here)

Of course none of those matter after the Pitchfork review comes out…

* * *

Speaking of Pitchfork, Yuppies debut album just got the Pitchfork treatment. The so-called arbiter of indie taste gave the album a respectable 7.4 rating. The conclusion: “If you are accustomed to listening to Wire albums as one long, glowering run-on sentence, never bothering to confirm the title of the minute-long scrap you’re currently hearing, than you’ll probably settle into the rhythm of Yuppies quickly.” Read (and try to decipher) the full review here.

* * *

Tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s it’s the return of Killer Blow. Joining them is Burger Records band Peach Kelli Pop and Sean Pratt and the Sweats. This one should indeed be killer. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Also, I was informed by the folks at Eyeball Productions that Crystal Stilts has cancelled their appearance at O’Leaver’s Friday night, but the show will still go on with Pleasure Adapter and TBD.

* * *

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 © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

 

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Lots o’ local Thermals coverage; printed comic books = vinyl albums (in the column); Maps & Atlases, Paperhaus, Gordon tonight…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , — @ 12:41 pm May 9, 2013

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

With the excitement building like a firebomb for next Monday’s Thermals show at Slowdown Jr., the local media is dropping new interviews left and right.

The Thermals' Kathy Foster.

The Thermals’ Kathy Foster.

The Reader‘s Chris Aponick has an interview with Thermals’ bassist Kathy Foster that recaps the band’s relationship with Saddle Creek and why they decided to go with Creek to put out their latest LP, Desperate Ground. Foster also talks about the genesis of the album’s creation, etc. You can read it online here.

OWH‘s Kevin Coffey also has an interview Foster that also talks about the band’s Saddle Creek history. You can read that one here.

I would have loved to find out why the band severed ties with Sub Pop and walked away from Kill Rock Stars — two labels that have similar reps as Saddle Creek (though Sub Pop is more established). Is there an advantage of being on one label vs. another? At this point in their career, do labels even matter? And why not try to self release? But maybe that’s too much “inside baseball.”

I’d also like to know what’s driving the band’s current direction. For that, go here to vulture.com, where you’ll find an interview with frontman/lyricist Hutch Harris, where he talks about Porlandia (“Portland’s had a lot of attention for a while but it hasn’t grown to the point where it sucks.“), love (“We’re not running from everyone, we are destroying the whole world. And to me that was really romantic.”) and, of course, war (“What people have to be most afraid of are other people, more than the weather, nature, animals. Men are the most violent, scariest things on the planet.”).

That’s the advantage of getting an interview with the person who actually wrote the lyrics — you get to find out what the record’s about. But as a long-time band interviewer, I know you generally don’t have a choice who you’re going to get to talk to, and if you’re in a small market like Omaha, you’re bound to get stuck with the bass player.

I miss doing band interviews. Unfortunately, I don’t have anyone to write them for anymore. Maybe I should just do them for Lazy-i?

* * *

In this week’s column, why I skipped Comic Book Day (even though I love comics) and why the future of printed comics may be going the way of vinyl records. You can read it in this week’s issue of The Reader or online right here.

* * *

Two hot shows are on the docket for tonight that I talked about Monday:

Over at The Waiting Room it’s the return of Maps & Atlases. Opening is St. Paul band Young Man (Frenchkiss Records). $12, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, at fabulous O’leaver’s, Gordon plays with D.C. band Paperhaus. $5, 9:30 p.m.

I’m torn.

* * *

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 © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Big Harp talks about music biz struggles on NPR’s Weekend Edition; no shows ’til Friday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 1:54 pm January 14, 2013

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Big Harp, Chain Letters (Saddle Creek, 2013)

Big Harp, Chain Letters (Saddle Creek, 2013)

Clay Masters, who covers the Midwest for NPR, filed a story for Weekend Edition Sunday that features Saddle Creek band Big Harp, and uses the duo as an example of how indie bands face an uphill battle in the post-apocalyptic music industry. Listen to it here. The story also talks about the added pressure on Chris Senseney and Stef Drootin-Senseney who are trying to make a living from music while raising a family — an endeavor that means bringing the kids along on the road.

Of note in the story is the fact that Big Harp’s Saddle Creek debut, White Hat, sold fewer than 2,000 copies. In the old days (’round the turn of the century) that would have been considered a ginormous flop, but today, when no one’s buying music anymore, 2,000 ain’t half-bad, and probably better than a lot of 2012 indie releases. Still, do the math and that’s not a lot of cash. There’s tour income, but it’s not like the old days, Stef says in the report, when they could crash on someone’s floor while on the road. Not with the kids along.

Saddle Creek Grand Poobah Robb Nansel kinda/sorta acknowledges that poor sales are starting to hurt, but that Big Harp’s low numbers don’t concern him, that the label is helped by back-catalog sales and that the reason it exists primarily is to promote “art that we feel is important” and supporting friendships. Gone are the days of pressing 10,000 CDs and spending gobs on print advertising. Lower budgets mean doing more with less.

Clay implied in the piece that unless Big Harp’s new record sells better than the last one that it will be difficult for Saddle Creek to “stay with them.” But it’s hard to imagine Saddle Creek ever turning its back on any of their previous artists. Have they ever refused to release an alumnus’ record before?

Clay also implied that commercial pressures could be the reason for Big Harp’s shift to a heavier sound. Their debut is almost serene compared to Chain Letters, which comes out a week from Tuesday. To me, the new record doesn’t sound heavier as much as more cluttered than the debut. If there’s a criticism to be leveled it’s that added elements can get in the way, something that wasn’t a problem on the debut.

Or maybe I just prefer the kinder, gentler (and simpler) Big Harp. Their best features have always  been Chris’ insane guitar playing, his unique, croaking baritone, and Stef’s clean, simple accompaniment. I can’t imagine (as someone suggested to me over the weekend) that they actively changed their sound to attract a Black Keys audience. I hope they haven’t. To me it’s not so much a question of Big Harp actively reaching out to a larger audience as much as that audience finding Big Harp’s music, which by itself is irresistible.

* * *

Ain’t no shows tonight. In fact, there ain’t no shows until Friday. At least none that I know of. We are indeed in the depths of the winter lulls show-wise, and maybe that’s a good thing considering that everyone seems to be sick these days. While I didn’t have the flu, my allergies knocked me to my knees this past weekend, which is why I stayed away from the clubs.

* * *

Speaking of weekend shows, I said last Friday that Sun Settings’ show at House of Loom that night was their swan song (based on their Facebook page). Then yesterday I got an invitation via Facebook to a Sun Settings show Feb. 8 at O’Leaver’s. I’m told the band will change its name by then. We shall see.

* * *

Lazy-i Best of 2012

Lazy-i Best of 2012

It’s coming down to the final days to enter enter to win a copy of the Lazy-i Best of 2012 compilation CD. The collection includes songs by The Intelligence, Simon Joyner, Ladyfinger, Twin Shadow, Ember Schrag, Tame Impala, Paul Banks, Cat Power and a ton more.  The full track listing is here (scroll to the bottom). To enter the drawing send an email with your name and mailing address to tim.mcmahan@gmail.comHurry! Deadline is tomorrow, Jan. 15.

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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 © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Icky Blossoms signs to Saddle Creek with Sitek at the knobs; Simon Joyner goes Kickstarter; last day for the drawing; Lydia Loveless tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 2:18 pm January 17, 2012

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Yesterday’s announcement that Saddle Creek Records will be releasing the debut by Icky Blossoms came as a very pleasant surprise. IB was among the triad of bands who emerged last year that everyone thought Creek would — or should — give close consideration. The other two were So-So Sailors and Conduits. S-S S is still without a deal (I’m not sure they even want one as much as a tour agent). Conduits, of course, ended up on Team Love. After the Conduits announcement last week I asked TL exec Matt Maginn if his label was considering releasing records from both Tilly and the Wall and Icky Blossoms. He said “yes” to Tilly (though there’s no release date yet), and that IB would be “releasing with someone else I believe.” Coy, Mr. Maginn, very coy.

Anyway, when Creek passed on those two acts whose lineage traces back to other Saddle Creek bands (So-So to Ladyfinger, Conduits to Good Life), I figured they’d also give the cold shoulder to IB. Thankfully, I was wrong (again).

The other big news was that TV on the Radio’s David Sitek will be recording Icky Blossom’s debut, presumably in LA according to their Facebook page (apparently they’ve already headed West). That’s a sizable coup, and a change of pace from the usual ARC Studio approach (though few of Creek’s recent signings record at ARC). What will Sitek bring to IB’s already-trippy sound? We’ll find out eventually, but probably not until late 2012 (I’m guessing). We’ll all be able to track their progress at the new Icky Blossoms website, conveniently located at ickyblossoms.com (What, that url wasn’t already taken?).

Now who else in Omaha still needs a record deal?

* * *
Speaking of new records, Simon Joyner launched a Kickstarter campaign today to generate money for an upcoming double album. “I’m nearing completion but I’m looking for backers to help fund the final recording, mixing and manufacturing expenses for my 13th proper full-length album. The new album is being recorded all-analog in my south Omaha warehouse ad hoc studio on a borrowed 16 track, 1” reel to reel machine and will be mixed at ARC Studio soon,” Joyner said on his Kickstarter page.

His plan is to self-release the vinyl album, making it available directly from him via mail order as well as distribute it through traditional channels via Ba-Da-Bing Records. Team Love, who put out Joyner’s last album, Out Into the Snow, will also help out.

Joyner’s pledge target is $6,000, and donors will receive a number of incentives based on level of support, ranging from a good-hearted thank you to a personal performance. Check it out today, campaign ends Feb. 19.

* * *
Speaking of limited-time offers, today is the last day to enter the drawing to win a copy of the Lazy-i Best of 2011 comp CD. You know the routine. Just email me (at tim@lazy-i.com) your mailing address, and your name will be dropped into the hat. Tracks include songs by tUnE-yArDs, St. Vincent, Icky Blossoms, Decemberists, Gus & Call, It’s True, Eleanor Friedberger, Peace of Shit, Digital Leather and a bunch more (check out the track list at the bottom of this blog entry). I’ll announce the winner(s) right tomorrow!

* * *
Last but not least, Bloodshot Recording artist Lydia Loveless is playing tonight at The Waiting Room with Gerald Lee Jr. (You know him from the Filter Kings). Among Loveless’ accolades: #4 on SPIN’s Top 20 Country/Americana Albums of the Year, included in Paste Magazine’s Best of What’s Next 2011 feature, an 8 / 10 album rating in SPIN Magazine, features with AOL/Spinner, Daytrotter, and The Chicago Tribune. Show starts at 9, $7.

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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 © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Saddle Creek redesigns website; Mason Jennings tonight, New Lungs Saturday, Maria Taylor Sunday…

Category: Blog — Tags: — @ 1:08 pm October 28, 2011

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Saddle Creek logo

After god only knows how many years, Saddle Creek Records has redesigned its website. It’s worth noting if only for how well the site combines news, music, reviews and touring info for all of its acts, along with merch. There are a few hidden gems, like the staff playlist section, where the Creekers tell you what’s in heavy rotation on their turntables/iPods; and the FAQ, which answers such burning questions as “Why is vinyl so pricey?” Designed by Saddle Creek’s Jadon Ulrich and tooled by local web wizards What Cheer, it’s definitely worth a peek at www.saddle-creek.com. Now, if I could only figure out where they’ve hidden the “weekly movies” section…

* * *

I guess you could call this Halloween weekend, even though Halloween isn’t until Monday night. As a result, most of the clubs are hosting costume parties with DJs or cover bands rather than live music. I prefer St. Patrick’s Day for my “amateur night” activities, but then again, I’ve never liked dressing up in costumes.

That said, I don’t think you’re going to see many costumes tonight at The Slowdown when folk journeyman Mason Jennings takes the stage for a solo set. Jennings records for Jack Johnson’s Bushfire Records label. Opening is The Pines (Red House Records). $17, 9 p.m.

Tomorrow night (Saturday) Millions of Boys reinvents itself as Millions of Ramones for a Halloween party at The Sandbox, 2406 Leavenworth, that also features Omaha giants New Lungs (D-Max from Little Brazil, Craig Fort and Corey Broman). Lansing band The Plurals and Clash Howl (Scratch Howl covering The Clash) also are on the bill. This is a costume thing, so be prepared. $7, 9 p.m.

Finally, Sunday night, it’s another homecoming show for Maria Taylor at The Slowdown with Big Harp and Dead Fingers. $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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Column 347: Maria Taylor talks about being in a family way, critics and her new album; Drive By Truckers tonight…

Category: Blog,Column,Interviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:45 pm October 26, 2011

Maria Taylor
Column 347: Baby on Board: Maria Taylor’s Family Plan

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Singer/songwriter Maria Taylor is having a baby.

She dropped that bomb during an interview last week with the Arizona State University student newspaper, The State Press. And although the Saddle Creek Records chanteuse, who is also half of the duo of Azure Ray, is on a tour with a new solo album, I couldn’t think of a more important topic of discussion.

“Well, I can tell you that I met my boyfriend at a show in Washington, D.C.,” Taylor said while lying down in the tour van before her show Monday night in Portland. “He’s the first non-musician I’ve ever dated. He’s a Chief of Staff for a politician — I’m not going to tell you who.”

The reason for keeping his anonymity: “I haven’t asked him if he wants me to talk about it,” Taylor said. “He’s a really wonderful person. If I’m going to move to Washington, D.C., he must be a wonderful person. I remember driving into (Washington) before I met him, I was sitting in back-to-back traffic as always and I said, ‘Watch me meet someone from here and have to move to this f***ing town.'”

She went on to say Washington isn’t that bad. In fact, the more she experiences its history, museums and parks, the more she likes it. So the plan is to move to Washington, have the baby and then start touring again with baby in tow. “And my mom will be tour nanny,” Taylor said. “She just retired and wants to see the country. I plan on working on an Azure Ray record before having the baby to get as much done as we can. So the Azure Ray tour will be the first baby tour.”

They say having a baby changes everything, but does that include the way you write music? “I feel like it will,” Taylor said. “I draw from what’s happening in my life when I write. I imagine my disposition will be different, and it will even affect the sound as well as the lyrics.”

Taylor, both as a solo artist and in Azure Ray, has defined her music with deeply personal love songs, a style that seems almost passé as she’s about to enter a different stage in life, but she’s still not sure if she’ll leave love songs behind. “I haven’t written a song since I found out I was pregnant,” she said. “I might feel like focusing on different aspects of life, but what if I’m not good at that? I need to start writing again, but right now I’m real sick and on tour, and I don’t write when I’m on tour. I’ve been throwing up a lot. I haven’t felt creative.”

She said she didn’t think she would be sick just three months into the pregnancy — her due date is April 30 (“A Taurus,” she adds), and she won’t find out if it’s a boy or girl until after the tour.

“I was told I would feel amazing, but my body just shuts down at 9 p.m. and I get shaky and go to bed and get sick again” she said. “I can’t drink and I have social anxiety. It’s not the same experience to tour pregnant, but I feel like I’m conquering my fears. I’m talking to people every night and battling sickness.

“The cool thing is that I feel like the baby has all of its organs and just grows and gets bigger,” she added. “I can’t help thinking that I’m teaching it rhythms. It feels the vibrations. We really rock out, so I think it’s going to be a drummer or bass player.”

Maria Taylor, Overlook (Saddle Creek Records, 2011)

Maria Taylor, Overlook (Saddle Creek Records, 2011)

With songs like guitar-driven grinder “Matador” and strobing, soaring album opener “Masterplan,” Overlook, Taylor’s new album released this past August, may be her most diverse collection to date. The album balances the rock with Taylor’s usual delicate, reflective material, like the dreamy “Happenstance,” and somber “This Could Take a Lifetime.” Critical response also has been rather diverse — reviewers either love it or say the record sounds too rushed.

“I feel like I shot myself in the foot in the press release,” Taylor said, laughing. “I said I locked myself in a room and wrote it in two weeks. I feel like (critics) think I didn’t spend enough time and that it was thrown together. I could have written all my records that way. If I said I’d spent two years on it, they would say it was my best record yet. People who loved it probably didn’t read the press release.”

Overlook marks a return to Saddle Creek after Taylor strayed to Nettwerk to release 2009’s Ladyluck. She said the label switch was merely testing different waters. “There are pros and cons about each label,” she said. “Nettwerk put a lot of money into it, but we didn’t make it back, so I didn’t make money. With Saddle Creek, you can recoup and make money, and that’s hard to do these days. I don’t want to have to wait tables or go back to school.”

For now the biggest question is how Taylor will balance her career and motherhood. While her life is about to change forever, she said her new arrival won’t keep her from making music.

“When I’m on stage that one hour, I’m 100 percent happy,” she said. “I have social anxiety, but I feel like I’m connecting with people, and singing is my favorite thing to do in the world, especially on stage with my friends and family. I can’t imagine going through the rest of my life not doing that. I need that.”

Maria Taylor plays with Big Harp and Dead Fingers Sunday, Oct. 30, at Slowdown, 729 No. 14th St.. Showtime is 9 p.m. Admission is $10. For more information, call 402.345.7569 or visit theshowdown.com.

* * *’

I admit to not being terribly familiar with Drive By Truckers, though last weekend I was walking around Homer’s and heard part of their latest album, Go-Go Boots, over the store’s sound system and liked what I heard. The band is playing tonight at Slowdown with Those Darlins. $25, 9 p.m.

Also tonight Kyle Harvey opens a show at The Waiting Room for Boulder-based folk rocker Gregory Alan Isakov. South of Lincoln also is on the bill. $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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Bright Eyes ain’t over (again); Oberst ‘out of the music business'; Kasher’s new vid; Lazy-i Vault, Aug. 2000: The Music Box lifts smoking ban…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:01 pm August 24, 2011

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

A couple interesting new Conor Oberst interviews have surfaced in the past couple days. Both restate what Oberst has been saying for months — Bright Eyes will not be deep-sixed, sun-setted, placed in mothballs and/or permanently unplugged after support tours for The People’s Key conclude.

In a brief Q&A at Canada’s MetroNews site, Oberst again tried to clarify an earlier statement regarding Bright Eyes reported demise: “No, not definitively. We don’t really have any plans for the future at this point, but as far as that whole thing, that was something where someone took a quote that I said [out of context] and that was something that other people decided. We never made an official announcement. Even if it were our last record, we wouldn’t say it was our last record. As the rumour mill works, that’s kind of the way it goes. You can definitely quote me, this is not the last Bright Eyes for sure.”

Oberst reiterated the statement again in this story at hitfix.com. In addition to the breakup denial, the story states that Oberst has no definite plans for any project, including Monsters of Folk or a solo effort. The article also says that Oberst is now living in New York City, though let’s be honest, these days he’s living on the road.

And then there’s this from the article:

Oberst has “gotten out of the music business” in regards to his former label ventures, with Saddle Creek and Team Love. Were he to release an album next year, he’s not even positive what label it’d be on. “Will there even be records in a couple years?” he asked. When it comes to digital channels and pay models like newly launched Spotify, “It’s still sort of the Wild West.”

Though Saddle Creek doesn’t sign multi-release agreements with its artists, I’ve always assumed that any future Bright Eyes LPs would be released on the label, and I still do…

* * *

Speaking of Saddle Creek artists, Tim Kasher has a new video, produced by the crazy kids at Love Drunk, for “Opening Night,” a track off his just-released EP Bigamy, More Songs from the Monogamy Sessions. Try as I might, I can’t get the video to imbed into my WordPress files, so here’s a link. Check it out. It was shot at Saddle Creek’s Ink Tank screen printing plant.

* * *

From the Lazy-i Vault, Aug. 24, 2000: The Music Box had a surprise in store last week. Walking up the venue’s ramp to the front door, you knew something was definitely up. Where was the huddled mass of smokers who usually crowded the deck, sharing ashtrays along with their addiction? Once inside, an old familiar odor answered the question. 

I asked a bartender when they had lifted the prohibition on smoking, a feature that the owners staunchly stood behind when the venue opened a year ago.

“Last Wednesday,” he hollered over the racket.

“Why’d they change their policy?” I yelled.

“To make money.”

Well, it wasn’t all about the Benjamins, Manager J. Rankin said. “This is what the people wanted,” he said. “In all honesty, I would like to see the nonsmoking thing still work, but it’s tough to pull off in the Midwest.”

The idea must have been in the works for a few weeks, judging by the cool little black-and-silver matchboxes embossed with The Music Box logo scattered around the tables. Smoking is limited to the upper-tier bar, as no-smoking signs are everywhere in the lower section. Despite the fact that nary a puff can be smelt in the lower bar, Rankin said further precautions are being taken to keep the smoke out of your eyes. “We’re in the process of adding an additional 15 tons of ventilation,” he said. “The units have 12-inch-thick charcoal filters that take everything out of the air.”

Chances are the fancy air conditioners won’t be up and running for this Saturday’s American Diabetes Association benefit featuring eight bands, including Spiral Locomotive, Project Wet, 8th Wave, The Fonzarellies, Jimmy Skaffa and Chesire Grin. A $10 donation gets you in to the festival-like party that runs from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.

 Other upcoming acts of note include legendary harmonica player and bluesman Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers, along with the Shufflecats and Lincoln’s Baby Jason and the Spankers Aug. 30; and the reigning father of British Blues John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Sept. 18.

Rankin insists the bar isn’t turning into a blues club. “We’re adding about one blues event a month, which is about the maximum for us on a regular basis,” he said, pointing to an upcoming show featuring former Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Zakk Wylde Oct. 7.

But what about the local acts? “There’s a multitude of great bands out there we haven’t had in yet, but there’s only so many days in a week,” he said.

Business is good at the Music Box, Rankin said, but there’s still a lot of work to do. “Once summer is over, all the alternative things going on will disappear. We’ll come to our own this fall and winter because of lack of options in town.”

Back to the Present: After lifting its smoking ban, the Music Box stayed open only three more years, closing its doors in October 2003 after an “impasse” with the landlord (or so they said at the time). With what many believed was among the area’s best sound and lighting systems at the time, the club booked a number of interesting national and local bands, including Pinetop Seven, Richard Thompson and locals like Oil and The Good Life. They catered toward more of a mainstream clientele, only occasionally booking indie bands. Strangely, its biggest criticism came from those who thought the club was too sterile, too clean, “too nice.” A few years after it closed, the building that housed The Music Box — and Sharky’s and Firmatures before that — was demolished to make way for a new 24-Hour Fitness.

As for their original non-smoking policy, The Music Box proved to be way ahead of its time, being the only music club that banned the habit back then. Four years after it closed, The Slowdown would adopt the same policy when it opened in June 2007. A year later, a local ordinance banned smoking  altogether in Omaha bars, in June 2008.

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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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

From the Lazy-i Vault, August 2001: The Faint prepares to release Danse Macabre; Bloodcow tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:46 pm August 18, 2011
The Faint circa August 2001, from left, Jacob Thiele, Joel Petersen, Todd Fink (then Baechle), Dapose and Clark Baechle.

The Faint circa August 2001, from left, Jacob Thiele, Joel Petersen, Todd Fink (then Baechle), Dapose and Clark Baechle. Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

From the Lazy-i Vault, Aug. 15, 2001:

There is nothing in Omaha or elsewhere quite like The Faint, and they know it.

Their ultra-stylized live shows have enough panache to transform even the bleak, wood-paneled, linoleum-floored confines of Sokol Underground into a be-seen-style glossy, New York City dance club. It’s not done with smoke and mirrors. More like smoke and light and heat, and a digital-pulsed rhythm that throbs in syncopation with the black-clad lads’ every twitch, their bodies bent in strobe-lit silhouette behind racks of keyboards, wires and gear.

Their stage show is a flawless marriage of tune and technology, driven by a style of music that is at once familiar to anyone who listened during the bad-hair days of New Wave electronic pop to bands like Human League, Berlin, Thomas Dolby, Front 242; a style that carried on into the ’90s with dance-house acts like Depeche Mode, New Order and The Cure. But though comparisons can be made — and always are — nothing from the Reagan-era on or since has really sounded like The Faint’s brand of dark, sleek, digitally driven rock.

It is high-style anywhere, but especially in a state that takes pride in comparing itself to choice cuts of meat cooked “rare, well done.” The Faint is an oddball outfit, too sleek to recognize how sleek it is, denying fashion while at the same time setting it.

So began a story that tried to describe what would become one of the hottest bands to emerge from the Omaha music scene. It was written to support the release of Danse Macabre, the follow-up to The Faint’s break-out 1999 album, Blank-Wave Arcade. Released by Saddle Creek Records Aug. 21, 2001, Danse Macabre is my favorite Faint album, and judging by the reaction that almost every one of its songs received during live shows, it was their fans’ favorite, too. More from the vault:

The Faint, Danse Macabre (Saddle Creek, August 2001)

The Faint, Danse Macabre (Saddle Creek, August 2001)

The difference (from Blank-Wave Arcade) both in sound and musical style is a slap in the face right from the opening track, “Agenda Suicide,” which sports the darkest, bleakest sing-along chorus laid over the band’s patented minor-key voice-of-doom-in-a-jumpsuit synth counter-melodies. And, of course, an irresistible house-dance rhythm track. The hyper-kinetic whirl of “Glass Dance” comes on like a video-game-colored rave soundtrack, but with irresistible, undeniable hooks. “Let the Poison Spill from Your Throat” and “Your Retro Career Melted” carry a distinct Some Great Reward-era Depeche Mode punch.

The fireworks, however, don’t reach maximum height until midway through the CD. The streamlined “Poised to Death,” is a sassy head-shaker, while “The Conductor,” a song the band has opened its set with since they began touring this summer, is a regal, minor-key dance anthem, complete with vocoder-distorted vocals (just like Neil Young’s Trans, for you old-timers) and orchestral-quality piano tones. Next, Todd’s portrait of life on the edge, “Violent,” marries stark, grim images of violence and murder with Sputnik-tinged synth pings and an ever-throbbing thump-thump-thump house beat that’ll keep anyone shaking it. CD closer “Ballad of a Paralyzed Citizen” takes advantage of a gorgeous cello line played by Cursive’s Gretta Cohn to set the stage for one last dark fable, with the opening lines: “I’m paralyzed and things could change for you as well / You’re not so bad off now, you can move anything you need.”

Said Todd during the interview: ”Rather than analyzing different things about sex, this one sort of does that with death. Neither album is all about sex or death, but there is sort of a death theme this time.”

The record would go on to sell 147,000 copies, making it the band’s all-time best seller and among the best selling Saddle Creek releases. It came at the dawn of Saddle Creek’s (and some would say, Omaha music’s) Golden Age, with The Faint, Bright Eyes and Cursive jockeying back and forth as the most popular bands on the roster (a battle that Bright Eyes would eventually win).

“We’re not trying to get popular,” Todd said. “I think radio sucks and I’m not going to jump through hoops to get on it.” He yawned and put a CD in the stereo. “We don’t want to be millionaires. I don’t know what we’d do with the money.”

Back to the Present: Today, as far as anyone knows, The Faint are no more, though there hasn’t been an “official announcement” saying the band has permanently split. Last I heard, Joel Petersen was living somewhere in Los Angeles and was releasing music as Broken Spindles. Mike Dapose, whereabouts unknown to me, created death metal/electronic/experimental project Vvwerevvolf Grehv. Todd, Clark and Jacob — all now living in Omaha — started a new electronic dance project called Depressed Buttons, which will begin a monthly residency at the all-new House of Loom, 1012 South 10 Street, on Sept. 9. DP already has released music on Mad Decent, an LA-based label owned by Thomas Wesley Pentz, a.k.a. Diplo, the Grammy-nominated producer of  M.I.A’s “Paper Planes.” You can check out some Depressed Buttons music at their Sound Cloud page: http://soundcloud.com/depressedbuttons.

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Tonight at The Waiting Room, it’s the illustrious return of punk-metal madmen Bloodcow with Lo-Pan and Anestatic. Bloodcow never fails to put on a fantastic show. Do not miss. $5, 9 p.m.

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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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Column 334: Saddle Creek talks Spotify and its possible impact; So-So Sailors, Digital Leather tonight…

Category: Blog,Column,Interviews — Tags: , , — @ 11:39 am July 28, 2011

Column 334: Every new record at your fingertips? Meet Spotify

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

SpotifyAs I write this I’m sitting in a lodge in Breckenridge, Colorado, with no Internet access and I’m listening to the latest by Death Cab for Cutie using red-hot music streaming service Spotify.

Spotify is the latest import from the Sweden that is promising to revolutionize how we listen to new music. It became available in the United States a couple weeks ago after thriving in Europe since 2008. Now with 10 million “subscribers,” the service lets you stream music via the web from a selection of 15 million songs, including most new indie releases, all for free (20-hour limit per month with advertising). For a mere $4.99 a month you can get unlimited access with no ads; and for $9.99 per month you get all the above plus access on your cell phone and “off line” (how I’m listening to Death Cab right now).

Sure, there have always been other on-demand music services that offer similar content — Grooveshark, Rdio, Slacker, good ol’ Rhapsody — but none offer as many songs along with an iPhone app. Spotify’s promise of being able to listen to any song at any time was too enticing to pass up, so I bought a premium subscriptions, downloaded the app and got started.

My first Spotify selection: The new one by Low, C’Mon, on Sub Pop. I’ve been itching to hear it. Unfortunately, when I tried to play it, the only thing I got was a “licensing not available” message. Strike one, Spotify. Instead, I tried the new one by YACHT, and The Antlers, and Cults, Ride’s Nowhere, Jesus & Mary Chain’s Stoned & Dethroned and KISS Alive. All were there. All sounded fantastic. But later, when I tried to listen to Led Zeppelin I or anything by Zeppelin or Pink Floyd, I came up empty. Strike 2, sort of (I already have everything by Zeppelin and Floyd, on vinyl).

There has yet to be a Strike 3. For someone who thrives on new music, Spotify is a dream come true. And for just $9.99 a month, imagine how many bad record purchases I will now avoid. Which brings up the next question: If I don’t need to buy records anymore, won’t labels and artist hate this service?

“Well, I think it’s pretty sweet,” said Robb Nansel, one of the guys who runs Saddle Creek Records. He’s had a trial version of Spotify for a few months.  “I like it. I think there can be some improvements, like how you find music. You have to know exactly what you’re looking for, there aren’t a lot of discovery tools built into it. But just having access to anything whenever you want is pretty great from a user point of view.”

Nansel said Saddle Creek worked its deal with Spotify though Merlin, a trade organization that represents a lot of indie labels around the world. Think of it as a collective bargaining organization that levels the playing field between majors and indies. “They’ve been working with Spotify overseas the last few years,” Nansel said. “They brought a deal with the states that we could take.”

He said Saddle Creek and its artists get a cut of Spotify’s ad revenue based on the number of their songs listened to by service subscribers each month. “At this point, the amount is minimal within the United States,” Nansel said. “But it’s starting to be something worth considering in the U.K., because they’re subscriber base is getting so big. It starts to make even more sense when it has 50 million subscribers.”

While ad revenue is fine, Nansel said the big money comes from paid subscribers. “Spotify wants to take this to a cable television analogy,” he said. “If you can get that mass population to subscribe to this model, than the dollars for labels and artists are superior to what they were in the heyday of CD sales. At least that’s the pitch they give to labels.”

But could Spotify ever get that big? Nansel’s not so sure. “Most people in the U.S. don’t spend $9.99 a month on music,” he said. But who remembers when television was free? “Cable TV has succeeded in that people pay for cable. If you can get those sorts of numbers, the music industry looks a whole lot better, but I don’t know if you can.”

Nansel said Spotify also tries to sell itself as a “discovery tool,” not a replacement for music sales. “I definitely use it that way,” he said. “I’ll check stuff out that I wouldn’t check out otherwise, and if I like something I buy it on vinyl. But I’m older, so maybe it’s not the same logic for someone who’s younger.”

Nansel also wasn’t sure how Spotify could impact Saddle Creek’s future. “We’ll have to wait and see,” he said. “If ad and subscriber revenues are bad, we won’t be talking about Spotify in two years.”

So what does Spotify mean for the future of the ailing compact disc? “I don’t think it’s a huge nail in the coffin, but another baby step along the way,” he said. “I can’t see the compact disc being around in how many years. Vinyl will have a place, a niche. Most people consume (music) digitally and a smaller subset consume physically. More elaborate packaging fits vinyl nicely. The convenience of the CD is what made it attractive.”

Mike Fratt, who runs Homer’s Records, called the idea of CDs going away “more tech hype bullshit. A relentless drum pounding of ‘CDs are going away’ for the last 11 years has resulted in what? CDs still representing half the business.”

On the other hand, Fratt said services like Spotify could be a threat to terrestrial radio, but that’s another story…

* * *

Two more things. First, that Low album did become available about a week after I tried to find it on Spotify. Second, I initially thought I could find a ton of local artists on Spotify, artists that you’d never expect to find on a service like this. Until I realized that Spotify looks into your computer’s music library for search results. Once I figured this out, I realized that local acts were extremely limited in Spotify, if non-existent.

* * *

Tonight is the MAHA Music Festival Showcase at The Slowdown curated by So-So Sailors. The line-up: Digital Leather, Fortnight and Millions Of Boys. The show starts at 9 p.m. and is absolutely free.

* * *

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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i