MP3 At 3PM: Blue Jeans

BlueJeans

Blue Jeans will release Songs Are Easy on June 3, but you can stream/download new song “Clean Break” right this second. “Clean Break” exposes a special kind of indie rock, mixing the messy, shambling, DIY pop of Beat Happening with vocals reminiscent of Rilo Kiley. Check it out below.

“Clean Break” (download):

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Car Seat Headrest: Holy Toledo

CarSeatHeadrest

Car Seat Headrest’s frontman is doing it his way

Will Toledo is a funny guy, quick to joke about his Bandcamp roots, fast to tease that his future projects include an “album of cover versions of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah.’”

Jokes and jibes aside, Toledo—the onetime one-man-band behind the fully fleshed-out Car Seat Headrest—is a serious, considerate scribe and complex thinker. He’s a concise, cutting writer whose wise, economical words and parenthetical thoughts give his crunching guitars, lo-fi synth skronk and laudable melodicism the textual, abstract feel of Michael Stipe meeting playwright Eugene O’Neill. The former even gets a shoutout on “Strangers,” a song that, like “Something Soon” (which namechecks short-story author Raymond Carver), appears on his mish-mash debut, 2015’s Teens Of Style, just months ahead of this spring’s next Headrest project, Teens Of Denial.

“I was attracted to the vague, the unexplained, the unlabeled side of art,” says Toledo of finding solace in the Carvers and Stipes of the world. “Overwrought, explicit symbolism was antithetical to me as a teenager, so I ran toward artists who shied from the explicit, who left more unsaid than said. In the end, Stipe maybe left a little too much unsaid. I have no idea what the fuck ‘idle hands all orient to her’— honestly a worse line—means, and that makes me feel a little jilted for having it exist in my head as a known lyric for almost a decade. Lyricists of the future, please think of the children.”

A Williamsburg, Va., native who majored in English in college, then left home for Seattle (“It’s creepy to stay in your college town after you graduate”), Toledo crammed the Bandcamp artist/fan site full with so many uniquely Car Seat Headrest witty tunes and wonky songcraft that Matador Records stood up and took notice. “I wouldn’t say nobody gets anywhere from Bandcamp,” he says. “Very few people get anywhere, but I think that’s true for any method of career-building as a musician. I was posting songs on Bandcamp for six years before the industry noticed, but all through that time individuals were coming to my page and finding something they liked, and that built up into its own thing after a while.”

Re-recording those Bandcamp tracks for Teens Of Style wasn’t a matter of hiding or even accentuating, but more like eliminating. “I felt that most of these songs were 80 percent great, and the other 20 percent was filler lyrics, bum vocal takes or just insufficient cover for lousy performances,” he says.

When it came to Teens Of Denial—more conceptual in message and tone than that first compilation—you can hear immediately that these were songs written for a single project rather than scattershot great tunes, an album that was self-contained but not necessarily self-referential. “I tasked myself with creating distinct, all-new songs that borrowed nothing from older, recognizable Car Seat Headrest songs,” he says. “I almost succeeded, but cheated a bit by stealing from some old material that actually predated CSH.”

For example, the ending of “Connect The Dots (The Saga Of Frank Sinatra)” came from a song he penned in 2009 that followed the Frank during his dead-end period in New York after he quit Tommy Dorsey’s band, but before doubling down and coming into his swinging Rat Pack success. Toledo felt very much the same as Old Blue Eyes. “After moving out to Seattle with no contacts and no friends and trying to make things work for myself, Sinatra’s story resonated with me,” he says. “The character is determined to go it alone, to do it ‘my way’ and forgo all comforts of human companionship as a result.” Another Denial tune, “Cosmic Hero,” is more fragmented and conversational, the most stream-of-consciousnessy song on the album, meant to capture the feeling of a semi-sleeping state where all chatter exists between crucial and goofy. “I try to combat the tendency of sounding authoritative by undermining myself whenever possible,” he says. “An aside or two is helpful in conveying that I don’t really know what I’m talking about.”

—A.D. Amorosi

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From The Desk Of Aloha: Band Names

BandName

Matthew Gengler: Band names are all stupid. Maybe not all. But kind of yes, all. More now than ever. With the overwhelming presence of internet search in everyday life, the pressure to create the perfect unique identifier for your band is immense. The most successful bands create perfectly findable band names. And the rest are named Aloha. Google Attic Abasement and you will only find information about the band. Good job, dudes. Google Diarrhea Planet and you will not only find information about the band, but you will probably also find out how to spell diarrhea. It’s hard to spell, two “r”s and then the “h.” Also, they have an album named Aloha. It’s troubling, but I digress.

There is math behind band naming. Somehow there’s always math. Something like, the amount of time spent naming a band is proportional, inversely or not, to the quality of the band name. Maybe even the quality of the band. Or perhaps the truth is that if you spend more than five minutes thinking about what to name your band, you will probably spend five weeks deciding on what to name your band. There is a Hard Times headline in there somewhere, I’m sure of it. “Band breaks up over the use of the article the in band name before first show.” It’s funny because I was in that band.

This is why the world is full of people who think it’s important or socially acceptable to call whatever accidental word salad they hear or see as a future band name. Dude that’s mine, band name: Dog Years. Nobody ever started a band like this. It’s a horrible idea. Please stop saying this. You are terrible people and you must be stopped. Also, there are probably already three or four bands named Dog Years. They likely all play roots rock and don’t know how to use the internet. Except for the one that’s a Rush cover band. I guarantee those guys work in IT. If they need a bass player, I’m available.

Tony and I started this band nearly 20 years ago. The conversation about what to name the band lasted no more than five minutes. I probably suggested something like Piñata. I don’t remember why I liked this idea. But I remember suggesting it. Fortunately, Tony said no. I then suggested Aloha. Tony said no again, so I wrote it in cursive and showed it to him. And then he said maybe. At this time, the bands we liked all had long ridiculous overly serious names. We liked these bands, but we didn’t want to be overly intense. We’d already had a couple rehearsals where songs ranged from clattering and intense to catchy and upbeat. We needed to strike the balance between overly serious long names and stupidly coy short names. Before we could find that, we became Aloha. It’s been long enough that I completely recognize that this is maybe not a great band name. But also, it only took like two seconds between suggesting it and accepting it. When people ask me the name of the band, it takes a second. I usually repeat myself, and then it’s over.

In the time since naming our band, we have come to accept that it isn’t the worst thing that ever happened. There is a metal band that appeared on a compilation with the name Aloha and recently a band in France that calls itself Aloha Orchestra. There was an Aloha Steamtrain, an Aloha from Hell and a woman named Aloha who had a smooth R&B record. For a while our Spotify page had what I think might have been a salsa band named Aloha. We aren’t easy to find, and so we’ve tried to name our records well enough to make that findable. Ultimately, I’m not disappointed that the band is called Aloha. We could’ve been called Piñata.

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MP3 At 3PM: 50 Foot Wave

50FootWave

50 Foot Wave is an L.A. act that twists the sound of ‘90s alternative into something new, fresh, and utterly California. Vocalist Kristin Hersh gets a lot of the credit for this, her performance recalling late-era Sunny Day Real Estate in it’s strange, enthralling passion. Get a taste of this below with the title track from 50 Foot Wave’s new EP Bath White, and read Hersh’s words about the track while you listen.

“Swimming in Laguna saltwater, coming clean, laughing with the kids, etc., I looked down and saw a pretty big (I wanna say enormous, but I’m not gonna) shark, between my toes and the sand. California will do this to you sometimes; catch your breath between spoiling you and inflicting unspoiled on you. It shrinks you to your appropriate size, an un-mattering. Sharks are the matter that matters in that sun-sparkled world. It’s their ocean, not yours.

Anyway, smart people already know that, but I paddled away, pale and embarrassed. And still, pale and embarrassed, I wander an ocean that isn’t mine. Not a lot of choice, really. Maybe something new is on the other side, but I guess none of us’ll know for sure until we finish piling up the new that keeps getting pitched our way here. Ducking or gathering, depending. New can
be hard, but together we move forward, backward and in circles, nudged by these suggestions:

1. Don’t hurt each other. If you can’t help, do nothing.

2. And try not to fall for impure when purity is waiting: a rotten apple can’t feed you, a shadow isn’t a person.

3. When the glare of fluorescent human-ness obscures the light of humanity, let it wake you up a little, help sort out your noisy addictions.

One Bath White butterfly is the oldest pinned entomological specimen, the others fly up and over the Himalayas. I’m not making a judgment call here, just saying. Cuz it doesn’t get any better than high on the ground, in my opinion. We don’t get any better than that. Clumsily, sweetly, we surf the sharks’ ocean, fly the butterflies’ sky, but grounded is pretty great. And it’s the only greatness that’s really asked of us.

Sometimes it really is so awfully brutal here, I know … and then sometimes? It’s brutally enchanting. Happy, happy, happy new year.”

“Bath White” (download):

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Essential New Music: Brian Eno’s “The Ship”

BrianEno

After several years of recording skronky space soul with Underworld’s Karl Hyde, Brian Eno returns to his first solo effort since 2012’s LUX and his most oceanic atmospheric tones since 2010’s Small Craft On A Milk Sea. As much an avid aficionado of vocals (he’s in a U.K. gospel choir) as he is wooly instrumental ambient mood music (synthetic or otherwise), Eno stated in his notes to The Ship that he didn’t wish to “rely on the normal underpinnings of rhythmic structure and chord progressions,” yet wanted to create a walled-in sound unit that “allowed voices to exist in their own space and time, like events in a landscape.”

That his series of land-soundscape events involves the sinking of the Titanic and the frightening awe of the sea, then, would seem somewhat contradictory. Considering Eno’s space-time continuum, the epic nature of the watery subject matter and the literally novel manner in which he manipulates all forms make that dichotomy plausible and pleasurable. Yes, pleasurable, for The Ship and its 46-minute reverie contain massive epiphanies of joy within its wails of pain. From a longform eponymously titled intro—an eerie, crepuscular vibe and its sea-chanting round—to the subtly sonorous “Fickle Sun” suite, The Ship holds mystery and memory in fluid check. It is, however, Eno’s chosen finale—the Velvet Underground’s “I’m Set Free”—that is The Ship’s most joyful blast, something deeply reminiscent, yet still modern in his quest to be unbound, for a “new illusion.” Few would say this about any previous Eno album, but The Ship is delightful in every fashion.

—A.D. Amorosi

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From The Desk Of Aloha: CDs

CDs

Tony Cavallario: I’m not aiming to be contrarian hipster guy when I herald the return of the compact disc. I’m not predicting a renaissance like vinyl has had. But just wait until millennials find out that CDs are like tiny little vinyls that can fit in the pocket of your parka. You can even put them in a Discman, then put that Discman in your parka pocket. You don’t need a subscription or data. Walk into any Record Exchange-type place and see how much digital damage you can do with that $20 grandma gave you. I recently bought five Depeche Mode discs with a 20 and had money for coffee to spare. You cannot get a single copy of the Black Celebration reissue for that price! With a CD, you get all the artwork. You get flawless audio. You get that long run time that made rap skits and bonus tracks possible. No need to make playlists for a makeout sesh, just put on that Maxwell and hit repeat. And many recordings, like my beloved Violator, were intended for the CD format, which counts for something. Look, grunge is picking up momentum on the streets of Brooklyn. Kids are flying the flannel and the girls are looking like Lindsay Weir. The trend-making art kids like artifacts. Those kids are pretty broke. They buy what’s in the thrift stores. Everybody else falls in line. It may end up a niche market, but I know I’ll soon be seeing CD players on some Instagrammed Expedit/Kallax shelves soon.

Video after the jump.

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MP3 At 3PM: Jeff Runnings

JeffRunnings

Jeff Runnings, known for his work with dream-pop band For Against, has a new record called Primitives And Smalls out right now on Saint Marie Records. To give you a taste, we’ve got a free stream/download of “Outside Oslo,” which takes the synth-loving soundscape of ‘80s pop and turns it into something modern and atmospheric. Check it out below.

“Outside Oslo” (download):

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LÉON: Whole Lotta Love

Leon

For Swedish chanteuse LÉON, it’s all in the family

Does Lotta Lindgren blame nature or nurture for her gradual transformation into soulful singer LÉON—as heard on debut EP Treasure and its flagship single, “Tired Of Talking”? A bit of both, swears the Swede. Growing up in Stockholm, her classical-composer father introduced her to Motown, David Bowie, the Beatles and the guitar. And since he anchored a rock band when he was a high schooler, he applauded his daughter when she formed her own Aretha-and-Etta-inspired R&B combo in her teens, as well. But it was her mother—a professional cellist in local symphonies—who proved most influential.

“Part of my mom really wanted me to become a cello player, too, so I started playing when I was five,” says LÉON, now 22. “And then I quit when I was 19. I thought it was really fun when you got to perform, but I was never a big fan of rehearsing. And I resisted learning to read notes for a long time—I don’t think I had that in me. I wanted to do other things more, like writing and singing instead.” Her turning point: a church recital alongside her cello instructor, wherein she forgot most of the notes. “It was very quiet, awkward and embarrassing,” she says.

But once LÉON entered a music academy and met her current co-writer and producer Agrin Rahmani, and arrived at pop/soul hybrid “For You” (included on her upcoming, as-yet-untitled first album), she discovered that bowing a cello was eerily similar to singing, dynamics-wise, and just as passionate. So it was natural for her to include said instrument on her debut.

“I’m really excited about that, but it’s not me playing,” she says. “It’s actually my mom and my uncle and a few others. When I mentioned to her that I wanted to have strings on my songs, she was like, ‘Wait a minute! So, uh, who are you recruiting?’”

—Tom Lanham

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From The Desk Of Aloha: Coast Guard Station, Whiskey Island

CoastGuard

Tony Cavallario: Before it gets turned into some sort of party spot for Clevelanders who just need a new place to drink a beer every weekend times infinity, I wanted to pen an appreciation for this architectural marvel that sits at the mouth of the Cuyahoga. Seemingly remote but easily accessible for those who can find Whiskey Island from Edgewater Park, the Coast Guard Station is the sort of apolitical ruin that I can celebrate. It doesn’t offer nostalgia or some grim tale of economic abandonment. It doesn’t signify much of anything. It just got left behind, in all its Art Deco glory. I actually have no idea what the plan is for the structure, and I will be happy to someday see it restored, for the public to be able to climb the lighthouse. It’s already got a new roof and looks pretty much in tact, despite being breached by vandals. But get there now, and take those stairs to nowhere.

Video after the jump.

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MP3 At 3PM: Bloody Knives

BloodyKnives

Bloody Knives take seclusion, anger and darkness and make them loud and impenetrable. On new song “Poison Halo,” a gothic, macabre weight pulses through a thick wall of sound, a combination of post-rock guitars and full synthesizers surrounding a deadpan vocal delivery. The song comes from Bloody Knives’ latest release, I Will Cut Your Heart Out For This, which is available now on Saint Marie Records. Check it out below, and turn it up loud.

“Poison Halo” (download):

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