New Bishop Allen: “Vain”

For those of you just joining us, let me give you a little background before we go much further. This website is named after a song by the Brooklyn band, Bishop Allen. After releasing one of my favorite albums, 2003’s Charm School, the band got quiet for a little bit. Then, last month they announced that they’d be putting out an EP every month during 2006–leading up to the eventual release of their second album Clementines. Among other things, the January EP surprised many fans by including a piano into the mix. But as much as it surprised them, it must have pleased as well. After all, the band have almost sold out of their limited 1000-copy pressing. Now the band have upped both their pressing (2000 this time) and my expectations with the February EP.

MP3: Bishop Allen – Vain
Bishop Allen would have to try very hard to compose a better returning-to-form song than this. Kicking off with Christian Rudder’s signature treble-filled guitar, “Vain” will most likely find a happy home with new and old fans alike. Diehards might recognize most of the lyrics in this song as having once belonged to the BA tune “One By One.” And as they’ve altered the song, so too has the message changed.

“Vain” is packed with the very sort of vivid metaphors that make Bishop Allen songs worth hanging on to. With an angel “tethered to the tip of her finger,” the girl in the song ponders a few things about life. Luckily for her, her angel is there to serenade and suffer for her. But, as you might expect from a Bishop Allen song, good things can’t last forever. The end of the song prepares us for the inevitable: the angel’s escape, and her eventual breakdown. Sometimes it hurts to take an honest look at your life.

Musically, this song jumps back and forth between being one of their best, and and little bit of a let down. The verses are well-written and catchy; but the chorus feels like it could have been better. Each one gets three cries of ‘vain’ to drive the point home. However, I can’t help but feel that a band like Bishop Allen–one known for creating some of the most memorable choruses in recent memory–could have used a trick or two to enhance the refrain just a bit. Even so, the song’s still among the best I’ve heard all year. I hope these guys find a suitable label soon. I’d hate for all their work to have been in vain (ed note: sorry, couldn’t resist).

Buy February for only $5 (incl S/H)

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Man Man: New Album, Cover and Tour Dates (incl. KY)

If you hadn’t noticed, I updated my seldom-updated ‘In the Ipod’ section a couple weeks ago to include Six Demon Bag, the new album by Man Man. I haven’t been this taken over by an album since I got The Light Footwork’s One State, Two State. At the risk of turning this into an album review, let’s just say that Six Demon Bag is weird and passionate. It reminds me of Animal Collective and Wolf Parade writing drunken barroom ballads.

But as happy as I was about the new album, nothing compares to what happened next. Here’s a little story for you: I was at the Dame, watching Andrew Bird, when the manager of the Dame came up next to me. We started talking about bands we’d like to get to come to Lexington, and I told him that he should look into Man Man. Much to my surprise, he said that they had already requested a date and it looked like they would get it. Now, two or so weeks later, I can say for sure that Man Man have got a Lexington date at The Dame. The good news is that it’s only $5 to see the creators of one of the best albums of ’06. The bad news is that it’s still 21+

Other Man Man dates here

Man Man also recently released a cover of an old Etta James classic on Pitchfork. While it’s a well-done cover, I can’t help but think of what it would sound like if they would have been willing to venture a little further into uncharted territory with it. But they played it safe, and it still turned out pretty well.

MP3: Man Man – I’d Rather Be Blind (Etta James)

But if you still haven’t picked up Six Demon Bag, then I invite you to download this next track. “Engwish Bwudd” is one of the wildest, most raucous works that I’ve heard in a long while. While a lot of people might classify this as part of the “freak folk” movement, my general distaste for others of that genre are going to make me invent a new way to classify them: freak pop.

MP3: Man Man – Engwish Bwudd

Buy Six Demon Bag

Nonsense Syllables

To me, one of the most fun parts about music is noticing trends in your own listening habits. For instance, I’ve often found that I’m willing to make lyrical concessions if the melody is particularly good. I can think of no better examples of this than the mix I’m about to present to you. The following songs all contain great uses of nonsense syllables, ranging from la las to uh ohs. Some might be a bit silly, but I can promise you that you’ll find at least one to sing along to. Special thanks to my good buddy Austin for helping me put this together.

You Aint No Picasso Mix: Nonsense Syllables

MP3: Elf Power – Hot Love (la la)
The last two minutes and thirty-six seconds of this song consist only of “la la” and the occasional “ooh.” Let that sink in for a second. You know you’ve written a great melody when over half the song can be nothing but nonsense. Crank up the volume and force this cover of a T Rex classic upon your neighbors. Trust me, they’ll thank you for it.

MP3: Talking Heads – Pulled Up (oh oh)
It was a toss up between this song and “Psycho Killer” for the best use of oh ohs by David Byrne.

MP3: Thunderbirds Are Now – Make History (ba da)
The main portion of this song is among the best that TAN! have ever written. But where it separates itself from the rest of their songs is the outro. The last minute contains one of the most catchy nonsense melodies that I’ve ever heard.

MP3: Suburban Kids With Biblical Names – Rent a Wreck (ba ba)
Is this not the cutest intro ever? The “ba da ba” melody perfectly kicks this song off and sets the tone quite nicely. Also, there’s a great contrast between the opening, quiet ba das and then the explosive second time through.

MP3: Oh No! Oh My! – Walk in the Park (bap da bop)
While they serve more as a nice transition between verses, the ba da bops in this song couldn’t be left off the list.

MP3: The 5 6 7 8s – Woo Hoo (woo hoo)
While I originally heard and fell in love with this song through Kill Bill, I can’t hear it now without thinking Vonage. Even so, it has literally no words in it, giving it the highest nonsense rating of all these songs.

MP3: XTC – Too Many Cooks (ba ba ba)
I’m not sure that there’s a better way to start off a song than to kick it off with with some great nonsense lyrics. Thanks to XTC for practically writing the book on melody and nonsense.

MP3: Parlour Boys – Lovers (uh oh)
Much like TAN!’s “Make History,” this song really won me over with the outro. Hearing the ‘uh oh’ bit done live is always a blast as well.

MP3: Belle and Sebastian – We Are The Sleepyheads (ba ta da)
While the rest of this song might be fairly lame by B&S standards, the use of ba ta das keep it from being a complete let down.

MP3: Pavement – Cut Your Hair (ooh ooh ooh)
If you know me in real life, there’s a startlingly good chance that you’ve heard me do an off-key rendition of the intro to this song. I haven’t got the range of Malkmus, but it’s okay. No one can write ’em like he does anyway.

So now that you’ve read it, feel free to tell me what songs you think should have been included on the list.

Ted Leo Releases Two New Demos

(found via

Indie rocker, Ted Leo, has released two new demos on his band’s official website. “Army Bound” and “Some Beginner’s Mind” will most likely see rotation on the band’s upcoming tour–dates for which can be found here–and be featured on their upcoming album.

MP3: Ted Leo – Army Bound (demo)
While the lyrics are great in this song, it really doesn’t get going until the bass gets a lead role at a little before the minute mark. It’s been a while since Ted used his bassist to the band’s advantage, and I think it pays off well for them here. Granted, it’s not exactly the song’s focus; but it definetely spices things up a bit.

MP3: Ted Leo – Some Beginner’s Mind (demo)
I can’t make up my mind about this song. It doesn’t immediately grab me; but at the same time I feel like it has the potential to surpass “Army Bound” when all’s finished. I can’t really make out Ted’s lyrics very clearly, and they’ve always been one of his strongest skills. Once they even out the levels so his vocals are more clear, I think this could be a nice little song.

Dodge has photos from a Voxtrot show. That reminds me that I kinda forgot to point you to this wonderful song. Thankfully, every other blog in the world covered it, so no big deal.

MP3: Voxtrot – Mothers, Sisters, Daughters and Wives

Q & A With Eef Barzelay of Clem Snide

Eef Barzelay, Clem Snide’s frontman, is currently touring America in support of his solo album, Bitter Honey. After doing a long set at Lexington’s CD Central, Eef had time to sit down with me at my favorite local restaurant: Tolly Ho. I was already in a good mood because Eef had just covered everyone from Black Sabbath to Daniel Johnson, but this interview made it even better.

YANP: So what kind of music have you been listening to lately?

EB: I’ve only recently developed an appreciated for rhythm and groove. I just got a cd called Cold Heat that’s rare funk from the 70s…And Art Blakey, the jazz drummer.

I’m not really familiar with him.

I’d say pick up A Night in Tunisia if you can…My relationship to music has gotten strange. I don’t like any of the new indie rock. Something happened to indie rock, and I don’t know when or why. I get it…but I don’t get it.

Yeah, the independent music scene is a weird situation right now. Of course, I’m pretty new to it. It’s got to be weird for someone who’s been a part of it as long as you have

Well, the price you pay when you make music for a living is that you don’t get to enjoy the music that other people are making. But the problem with indie rock today is that it’s too fussy.


I mean, there are too many people. Every band has to have 18 people on stage. Marcel Duchamp said that a work of art lives as long as a person. After 70 or 80 years, it should just die. I thought about it the other day–indie rock started in the 80’s with Sonic Youth and a bunch of others, and it was really emotional and young.

And now it’s going through its confusing twenty-somethings?

Right. Everything’s all weird…There’s a friction that’s created when you rub two things together like irony and earnestness. I think that’s in life as well.

Would you say most of the ironic contrast in your writing is intentional?

It’s more the relationship that you have with the listener. It’s like the Larry Sanders Show.

The Larry Sanders Show? I must be a bit too young for that one.

Probably. It was on during the early 90s. Garry Shandling was on it. But it’s like how he broke the “4th wall” and addressed the camera. It’s like you’re on stage, addressing the fact that you’re performing.

Editor’s note–after digressing onto something none of you would be interested in hearing, we got back on point with Eef’s stance on publicity

It’s a strange process. It’s like trying to seduce an invisible force. And you’re like…maybe I should have taken her to a different restaurant or said something different–where “she” is the press.

It’s got to be weird to have to please people you’ll never meet

Well, if you want to eat, you’ve got to at least try…I would gladly sell any of my songs to a commercial. Right now, Rhode Island’s using “Forever Now and Then” for their tourism thing. They only paid us a little bit, but I guess it’s all the entire state of Rhode Island had. *laughs*

I read an interesting article the other day about how all these indie bands were refusing to let Hummer use their songs in commercials. Is there anyone you wouldn’t do business with?

Uh…tobacco…NAMBLA *laughs* But it’s so weird because in the early 90s, everyone would have been outraged at the idea of using an indie song in a commercial. I remember when Nirvana came out and all these majors started signing indie bands. Everyone in college radio and the indie circles was up in arms over it. But now, the corporations sort of won. And they’ll always win because they have all the money.

Wow, that’s sort of a downer

That’s not even the worst part. The worst is that young people don’t even care; and the music reflects that.

Well, let’s talk about music that we both enjoy: Eef Barzelay. My question for you is ‘why a solo album, why now?’

It’s hard to keep a band going–logistically. Also, two of the guys [in Clem Snide] live in Brooklyn…But I had a bad year in ’05, financially. I had to pay off a lot of people that I fired. But the reason for the solo album was mostly artistic. I wouldn’t have done it if I felt like I didn’t have something good to say.

How long was the album in the making?

I whipped that sucker together so fast that it’s embarrassing *laughs*

Oh, wow. See, I would have thought the exact opposite. It seemed like it was stuff that you might have been keeping for years

It was building up for a long time. Some of the songs were ones that didn’t make it onto our second record.

Was there any fear about the solo album? I mean, going from a band that draws a lot of its strength from a full, multi-member sound to just one man, one guitar–that’s got to be rough

Of course. It’s a lot to ask of an audience to listen to one guy singing. I think the breakthrough was when I figured out a way to play guitar by myself and make it sound interesting. Then the next step was actually writing the songs.

Let’s talk about those songs for just a second. Is most of your writing personal or fictional?

I don’t distinguish between fact and fiction. I’m not James Frey–I don’t need to get the facts straight. I take things that did happen, would have happened and should have happened, and put them together.

But as far as personal songs…The one record that we did, Soft Spot, was right after I’d gotten married and had a baby, so it was naturally more gentle. But people seemed to take special pride in tearing that one apart. I was like…why us? Tear into Coldplay or someone who can afford it.

*laughs* Actually, my roommate is at a Coldplay concert right now.

*laughs* Oh nice!

So I’ve noticed that a lot of your songs seem to be written from the perspective of someone who is lost or confused about the world. Is this closely aligned with your own world view?

That’s just my perception of the world. It’s just how it looks to me. I envy people who don’t see it that way. But I can’t imagine someone lives that way. Maybe they just ignore those feelings. I don’t know. I can’t live that way. Anyone who does this [writes music] is conflicted or confused. If you’re in a band because you like the idea of it or think it’s cool…those are the people who come and go quickly. But for most of us, it’s an itch that we have to scratch.

I often fantasize about not doing this, but I can’t. I’m always portrayed as an artsy grad student, but I never even went to college.

It must be the glasses

*laughs* That’s it. And the sweaters. I wear sweaters sometimes. Articles always say that I’m this nerdy guy, but I’m really not. Put that in your article.

*laughs* Will do

Continue reading this post

MP3: Eef Barzelay – Ballad of Bitter Honey
MP3: Eef Barzelay – Thanksgiving Waves

New Stephin Merritt Song From Showtunes

Before I start this, I’d like to make something known: the first music I really obsessed over was that of the 19th century opera-writers Gilbert and Sullivan. I loved the H.M.S. Pinafore and the Pirates of Penzance with all my heart. Since then, my tastes have…matured a bit; but I still appreciate a bit of theatrics in my music. In fact, I even have a playlist of indie songs that I could see being featured in an opera.

Now, let’s get to Stephin Merritt.

Showtunes features songs written by Stephin and Chen Shi-Zheng. They were all pulled from three plays: The Orphan of Zhao, My Life as a Fairy Tale, and Peach Blossom Fan. It’s great to see the man behind the Magnetic Fields get to play up his tin pan alley strength. While some of the songs might make you smile at the sheer silliness of them (“What a F*cking Lovely Day”), they’re each very good in their own way.

MP3: Stephin Merritt – Sounds Expensive
Having not seen the place from which this song originates, I can only picture the stage in my mind. The main voice of the song, a man peddling a ring with an blood-drenched past, would come from a man standing on a slightly raised platform in front of a crowd of mixed genders. As each portion of the story gets spoken, the crowd gets more compact and focused on the man with the ring. At each death in the story, the peddler might mime something sarcastic. Can’t you just see him dragging his finger across his throat to punctuate the line, “he paid with his life”?

MP3: Stephin Merritt – At Madam Plum’s
I picked this because its song type is important to any good musical. The introduction song sets the stage (pardon the pun), without boring the audience to tears. As is typical with a lot of plays, this one introduces the setting, rather than the actual players. In this case, it’s a place called “Madam Plum’s” which seems a refuge in time of war. But rather than being a physical safe haven against death, it’s more of a shelter for the mind. Those in this song seem more concerned with forgetting that people die right outside their door.

Preorder Showtunes

So the article about me ran in the Kernel today. Here are some corrections I’d like to state: I am not a freshman–I’m a Sophomore. Also, the name of my site (as you can see) is You Aint No Picasso–not It Aint No Picasso. There are a couple other little errors, but nothing that I’d like to harp on. Well, maybe one more–there’s no link to my site. How annoying is that? But hey, it makes for a funny story.

Thao Nguyen: “Tallymarks”

I’d like to wish a special hello to anyone who might be reading my website for the first time today. The Kernel, one of the papers on UK’s campus, should be running a story about my website today. I tried to pick a particularly good song to feature, so as not to scare off any new faces.

MP3: Thao Nguyen – Tallymarks
Mix a little bit of Ani DiFranco’s spunk and guitar ability with the softness of Sufjan and you’ll have a good idea where Thao is coming from. “Tallymarks” is miles above your standard singer/songwriter fare. Great lyrical wordplay is complimented by some beautiful, fingerpicked guitar and a voice from heaven. I don’t know if any of you keep “sleep” mixes on your media player of choice; but this one’s so beautiful and relaxing that you can’t help but include it.

Visit Thao’s website

For those of you in Lexington, don’t forget that Eef Barzelay is playing a free show at CD Central tonight at 6pm. If you need to, now’s your chance to stream songs from his new album.

According to this article on Better Than Fudge, Arrested Development has been picked up by Showtime for 12 episodes. Other sources are saying that it’s still a 50/50 chance. I think the fact that I’m wary of this is because of Family Guy. I loved the pre-cancelation seasons, but now it’s just terrible. But if AD can keep up their level of quality, then I’m all for it. For now, just make do with this animation.

Stereogum has a new Fiery Furnaces song. I turned down a chance to get the album yesterday after the let-down that was RMC.

“New” Mogwai: “Folk Death 95”

While not technically new, “Folk Death 95” is the first song that we bloggers have been allowed to post. Mogwai’s new album, Mr. Beast, is pretty interesting. It’s a lot more strung-out than what little of their older work I’m familiar with.

MP3: Mogwai – Folk Death 95
I’m not a huge fan of instrumentals. The last time I got excited about one was when I posted that Jason Forrest song “War Photographer.” That one got me all hot and bothered. This new one from Mogwai? Not so much. This one’s up basically because I want you all to let me know if there’s some big Mogwai secret that I’m missing out on.

Test Icicles break up

I’m the new Clever Titles guest poster. Bethanne had an entire day of Matts!

For the Lexingtonians among you: I got interviewed by The Kernel today. I have no idea when it’ll run, but just know to look out for it. Also, don’t forget about that Eef Barzelay instore performance tomorrow at CD Central. It should be good.

Paper Airplanes: “Curious Phantasm”

Other Matt from Skatterbrain has been promoting this song to everyone he knows–and for good reason. You can read his post here. He goes a bit more in depth than I do (Sorry. It’s late).

MP3: Paper Airplanes – Curious Phantasm
This song has just a hint of what’s popular right now. You know what I mean. That Interpol swagger coupled with the Franz Ferdinand sound. Paper Airplanes aren’t even close enough to but considered in the same vein as the Futureheads or We Are Scientists, but the point is that they’ve got the same spirit. Much like YANP-favorites We Are Scientists, they don’t really seem to care how they’re labeled so long as the music’s good. Maybe that’s why they weren’t afraid to experiment within this song. The bridge is one of the most rocking musical selections I’ve heard all year. Tell me you didn’t get a little swing in your step when you heard them hit the line “when lightning strikes the house, we’ll be in it.”

According to a press release I just got, The Apples in stereo hope to have their next album out in the fall. Not only that, but they are planning on releasing a children’s album in 2007. Was today awesome? Yes it was.

Just a reminder that Page France will be playing an 18+ show in Lexington, KY on March 5th. They’ll be supported at The Dame by local favorites Petticoat, Petticoat. While I can’t comment on it yet, there might also be another great band in the lineup. The point is, you can’t beat this for the price ($6).