New Camera Obscura: “Let’s Get Out Of This Country”

I’m mentally preparing a mix to serve as road music on my voyage down to Bonnaroo. I’m pretty much full of energetic driving songs (“Roadrunner” by The Modern Lovers, for example) and need some more beautiful, calm ones for the long stretches of country. But look what song fell into my lap today: the title track to Camera Obscura’s new album, Let’s Get Out Of This Country.

MP3: Camera Obscura – Let’s Get Out Of This Country
A lot of songs on Belle and Sebastian’s new album featured songs with guitar parts that were a bit more countrified than their usual fare. Take those songs and add a little dash of The Essex Green’s new album and you’ve got a good idea where Camera Obscura are headed. “Let’s Get Out Of This Country” combines gloriously uplifting instrumentals and heartbreakingly good vocals to tackle a topic that seems to pop up quite frequently lately: the urge to leave the city for the country.

Buy Let’s Get Out Of This Country

Joseph Arthur: “Can’t Exist”

After Wednesday’s Rufus Wainwright post, I decided I just had to find an excuse to post Joseph Arthur’s “Can’t Exist.” Then I remembered that I don’t need to find an excuse to post good music on my own web site. Strange how that works out.

MP3: Joseph Arthur – Can’t Exist
“Can’t Exist” sounds like the curious union of The Smashing Pumpkins and Oasis. Granted, it’s lacking Billy’s charming whine or any melodies “borrowed” from the Beatles, but let me explain. The first verse is part Siamese Dream-era Pumpkins that turns into Oasis when Arthur sings “Sister don’t be scared/a thousand times or more/I’ve walked away alive/on my feet again”–which is done perfectly; it’s my favorite part of the song. From there it alternates between the aforementioned combination and a chorus that recalls the Pumpkin’s Adore. But unlike this review might imply, it doesn’t suffer from any confusion of purpose. Sure, it pulls the listener in a couple different directions, but you’re right there with him through it all.

Buy Our Shadows Will Remain

BONUS MP3: Joseph Arthur – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (Smiths cover)

Anyone care to help me out? I’m looking for some nice instrumentals to go behind me when I read the song titles I just played while at WRFL. Right now I’m looking at using either some stuff by The Octopus Project (fantastic!) or Jason Forrest’s “War Photographer.” The problem is, both of those are way too good to waste as background music. Maybe something not so energetic?

New Sure Juror Demo: “The Once-Great Gender Debate”

Before I get too much into Sure Juror, let me announce the winners of the Guillemots contest for tickets to see them at the Bowery and their EP “From the Cliffs” on vinyl. Ellen Rhudy has won the tickets; so if you see anyone who looks really cool at their show on the 9th, it’s probably her. Kara Zoeller has won the EP…which is kinda funny because she and I attended school together. I swear it was random, folks. I had a third party pick random numbers and it’s how it worked out!

On with the music! I’ve you’ve been following YANP for some time, you’ll most likely remember Sure Juror as a band that I’ve been pushing for a little while now. They’re a delightful indie-pop/rock outfit from the bright and not-at-all-smelly state of New Jersey, who will be playing at the first WRFL show I’m putting on. It’s next Monday, May 9th at Underlying Themes in Lexington, KY! Until then, here’s a demo that they’re tinkering with for their sophomore album, Smut.

MP3: Sure Juror – The Once-Great Gender Debate
“The Once-Great Gender Debate” is proof of synergy. Everything about this song makes me believe that things can be more than the sum of their parts. For example, they’ve layered the verses so it sounds like at least three people singing; but it’s so close and so quiet at parts that they come together to form the sound of one beautiful voice. Similarly, the drums, guitar and violin are all good in their own capacity–I mean, the intro alone is enough to win me over–but when they three come together at around the 0:45 mark, it’s enough to make close your eyes and grin like the town drunk. Actually, scratch what I said earlier. “The Once-Great Gender Debate” isn’t just proof of synergy, it’s proof that good music still gets made.

If you enjoyed that, here’s two other songs of theirs that I must highly suggest:

BONUS MP3: Sure Juror – The Drive Will Do You Good
BONUS MP3: Sure Juror – Making Friends Has Never Been So Easy (another Smut demo)

Sure Juror on Myspace

Again, Sure Juror will be playing in Lexington on May 8th. Here’s some other fantastic bands they’ll be appearing with:

MP3: The Robot Ate Me – Bad Feelings
MP3: The Robot Ate Me – Oh No! Oh My!
MP3: Oh No! Oh My! – Walk in the Park
MP3: Oh No! Oh My! – I Have No Sister
MP3: The Elephants – Tart

It’s The Right Thing To Do

What is? Why, reading other blogs, of course! Here are some things which have been posted everywhere today, and that I highly suggest checking out:

  • The extended Jack White Coca Cola commercial – This thing won’t leave my brain.
  • Download the song from that ad at Thighs Wide Shut.
  • The new Sufjan track “Dear Mr. Supercomputer” is available for download over at Pitchfork
  • It’s Scott Stereogum’s birthday! Celebrate by ordering a nice Stereogum shirt
  • Stream the new Neil Young album
  • And if you live in Lexington, be sure to come out tonight to Underlying Themes and catch Masters of the Hemisphere, Je Suis France, and Bugs Eat Books. If you can find someone passing out fliers, it’s $1(!)–otherwise it’s the cheap price of $3.

    New Futureheads Video: “Skip To The End”

    The new Futureheads song “Skip to the End” just got videoized: watch it on Yahoo.

    MP3: The Futureheads – Skip To The End

    Vagrant Records and Startime International will be releasing the Futurehead’s sophomore album, News And Tributes, on June 13th. Here’s the track list as it stands:

    News and Tributes
    Skip To The End
    News And Tributes
    Return Of the Berserker
    Back To The Sea
    Worry About It Later
    Favours For Favours
    Help Us Out*
    We Cannot Lose*

    * Tracks 13-15 are taken from the previously released EP, Area, and are only available as a limited release on the first run of this LP.

    Other Matt has a new Sound Team song. Wanna know an embarrassing secret? I got a copy of the new album, listened to it, loved it, then mysteriously lost it. I’m going to cry.

    Neko Case: “Margaret vs. Pauline”

    Everyone in the world loves the new Neko Case album, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. That’s no exaggeration, either. I’ve heard that some couples out there got married solely based on a mutual appreciation of the album. It’s for this reason that I’m even more ashamed to have been so late to hear it. But now I have, and I’ve got to share my love for this song.

    MP3: Neko Case – Margaret vs. Pauline
    I can’t but be reminded of Dolly Parton’s song “Jolene.” Yeah, she just so happens to rhyme with “Pauline,” but they share so much more than that. Both tell the story of beautiful girls who could coast through life and get anything they want. In addition to great lyrics, “Margaret vs. Pauline” won me over through the excellent instrumentation. The piano? Seriously, could it have been any better put together? Neko Case is this generation’s Joan Baez.

    My new guilty pleasure: The Sandwich Club. Sean from Sure Juror pointed me to their hilarious write-up about Oh No! Oh My! (link).

    New Smoosh: “Find A Way”

    Recent Barsuk signees, Smoosh, have just released a song from their new album, Free To Stay. The album, which is due out June 30th, features Cloe (12) on drums and Asya (14) on keyboards. I hate to sound old, but between them and the Arctic Monkeys, suddenly I feel like I should be in an indie nursing home.

    MP3: Smoosh – Find A Way
    Seriously, these vocals came from a 14-year-old? Most girls my age don’t have this kind of vocal maturity. Unfortunately it seems like Smoosh have moved into a little more “general” sound, rather than the quirky quality of She Like Electric that I fell in love with (the music! the music!). This could have something to do with the fact that the song clocks in at over three minutes; not all of which maintains the song’s overall quality.

    Preorder Free To Stay

    Anyone who lives in Lexington and is over 21 has no excuse not to go see The Essex Green, High Water Marks and The Melody Function at The Dame. Don’t know if you saw my article or not, but I’m pretty fond of their new album.

    Don’t forget that today’s the last day to enter the Guillemots contest for the EP on vinyl or tickets to see them in NYC

    Starlight Mints

    MP3: Starlight Mints – Seventeen Devils

    When he was twenty years old and fronting his first band, Allan Vest of Starlight Mints was told that he was “vocally emulating Dinosaur Jr. too much.” Ordinarily this wouldn’t be of note, except that it happened to come from Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips.

    “It pissed me off at the time,” Allan said. “He was this semi-successful artist in his early to mid-thirties, ironically, just as I am now.”

    More than anything, this early interaction with Wayne and the Flaming Lips probably helped Allan by preparing him for the inevitable comparisons that his alt-rock project, Starlight Mints, would draw to their fellow Oklahomans. Ever since their debut album, critics have lobbed Lips comparisons at them like a blind William Tell who just can’t quite hit the mark. Thankfully, the band seems to be handling it well.

    “We distance ourselves from them–we always have,” Allan explained. “Anyone who has half a brain knows we sound nothing like them inclusively. So in the end, we just take it in stride.”

    Pointless Lips references aside, Starlight Mints have in Drowaton what could be the culmination of their pop expertise up to this point. In addition, Allan Vest (guitar/vocals), Andy Nunez (drums), Marian Nunez (keyboards), and Javier Gonzales (bass) prove that they’re not only expert songwriters, but border on masters of arrangement. Sure, they’re able to fuel songs like “The Bee” by playing off energetic riffs and drumbeats, but those aren’t where the album shines. The true winners are best seen by looking at the front half of the album. “Seventeen Devils,” for example, pulls its strength from a violin build-up and an acoustic and electric guitar that play off each other like rival siblings. And as any longtime Mints fan will tell you, they’ve always been grounded in this intricate level of arrangement.

    “My first instrument growing up was a cello,” Allan said. “I’m not that good now, because I never practice, but I started writing with it quite a bit when we started the band. Andy and I eventually agreed to bring in a cellist and violinist to practices and it sounded amazing when the written parts were played correctly instead of hearing my scratchy sounding four-tracks…. I have the most fun in writing the arrangements. It’s usually all written at once, so the pieces belong together in the end.”

    In a way, their layered approach to arrangements can be attributed to the combination of time and their diligent nature. It’s been three years since Starlight Mints released Built on Squares, and they’ve made great use of their time. When asked how much of that time had been devoted to writing and recording for Drowaton, Allan was more than happy to point out the differences in time spent on parts of the album.

    “It’s always an on-and-off process of working on music when you can,” he said. “A few of these songs–“Pearls” and “Inside of Me”–were written and mostly arranged over seven years ago and recorded and re-recorded over the years. Most of the other songs we have been working on since the last record was finished. We officially started recording last March (2005). It always feels like this long drawn out battle when we make a record. I think we had more time to finish Drowaton, and that made a big difference in the production.”

    Even more so than the production, Drowaton seems to shine for one reason: melody. Starlight Mints have built a reputation around crafting melodies so good that they won’t leave your brain for days. The songs on Drowaton range from nonsensical to meaningful, but with very few exceptions always seem to have the melodies to back them up. The sleeper hit “Eyes of the Night” provides a good look at their lyrical and melodical combinations. While Allan was quick to admit that he spent more time working on the melody than the actual words (“I don’t remember writing the lyrics so much”), it’s arguably one of the more interesting to delve into, lyrically.

    “With this song [“Eyes of the Night”] I was trying to convey the secret demons of a women and question why, or how they become,” Allan explained. “‘You keep the fire burning/I’ll keep the water running’ is the denial and pacifism of the man. I tend to only get personal once in a while with a song like ‘The Killer’ or ‘Rosemarie’. I get bored hearing the same old ‘woe is me’ or ‘maybe I can do it this time’ or whatever lyrical songs. Maybe that’s a curse.”

    Curse or no, Allan and the rest of the Mints seem to be on the right track to a long-lasting career as musicians who will be remembered more for the stellar albums that they produced rather than what alt-rock god they happened to share a state with. If that’s a curse, then I, for one, am hoping its one that never gets broken.

    Buy Drowaton
    Starlight Mints on Myspace

    Masters of the Hemisphere “Reunion”

    Apparently Masters of the Hemisphere are doing three reunion shows with Bugs Eat Books and Je Suis France. Thankfully, one of those takes place in good ol’ Lexington, Kentucky. If you’re in town Friday night, I highly suggest you check it out. They’re playing at Underlying Themes with Bugs Eat Books, Je Suis France and The Elephants.

    MP3: Masters of the Hemisphere – Everybody Knows Canada
    MP3: Masters of the Hemisphere – Meteor
    I think it’s funny to listen to bands that people say they “think I’ll love.” Sometimes I burst out laughing, other times I get bored; with this one, everybody was right on the money. Masters of the Hemisphere are catchy, witty and a credit to the Athens music scene.
    Masters of the Hemisphere on Myspace

    Check out some cool videos of Voxtrot performing live.

    The One Red Paperclip guy is up to an evening with Alice Cooper.