Monday, October 29, 2007

Mountain Goats - The Highlights (In Preparation for the Upcoming Concert)

Since I will be attending the Mountain Goats concert in Omaha this Saturday, and since John Darnielle is my favorite lyricist, I thought I’d give a small rundown of my favorite songs of theirs:

Going to Georgia

Of course, this is an obvious one, hailing from their very first album, Zopilote Machine. It may be incredibly lo-fi, but it contains my favorite lyrics of all time, “The most remarkable thing about you standing in the doorway/is that it’s you/and that you’re standing in the doorway.” It is a simple statement, but remarkably beautiful in its simplicity. It is like what I’ve wanted to say so many times to so many people, I’m just happy that you’re here at all.

This Year

This is also an obvious choice. The first single from the cathartic album The Sunset Tree, it is a bleeding, joyous, explosion of childhood confession. It feels as if John Darnielle finally lets all of the things that happened during his childhood out in one terrifying gasp. Highlighted lyric: “I downshifted as I pulled into the driveway/The motor screaming out stuck in second gear/The scene ends badly as you might imagine/in a cavalcade of anger and fear/There will be feasting and dancing in Jerusalem next year/I am gonna make it through this year if it kills me.”

Attention All Pickpockets

This comes from the 3-song EP, Letter to Belgium. This song winds down to the old single-acoustic guitar and vocals motif. It is a touching driven song that with each chorus finds a multitude of voices singing. Highlighted lyric: “Black pumps/And a medium length black skirt/Eating a path through the dark, damp earth/I hope they’ve got plenty of money where you’re going.”

Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton

From their album, All Hail West Texas, this song tells the story of two teenagers trying to get a death metal band together to follow their favorite music acts. (Apparently John Darnielle is very influenced by death metal, although his music is usually acoustic-folk.) After they get their band together, they try to perform publicly, but the school tells them that because of their use of a pentagram (like a lot of death metal bands) they cannot continue to perform, therefore ruining their dreams. Highlighted lyric: “When you punish a person for dreaming his dream/Don’t expect him to thank or forgive you/The best ever death metal band out of Denton/Will in time both outpace and outlive you/Hail Satan!” (The last remark is obviously meant to be ironic… this band isn’t a cult.)

The Mess Inside

Also from All Hail West Texas, this song tells the story of a young couple who try to reignite their love by vacationing all over the world, but find that the world cannot solve their problems. It is close to one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard, and therefore I will post all of the lyrics from the song:

We took a weekend, drove to Provo/
the snow was white and fluffy/
but a weekend in Utah won't fix what's wrong with us/
the gray sky was vast and real cryptic above me/
I wanted you to love me like you used to do.
We took two weeks in the Bahamas/
went out dancing every night/
tried to fight the creeping sense of dread with temporal things/
most of the time I guess I felt alright/
but I wanted you to love me like you used to do.
But you cannot run/
and you cannot hide/
from the wreck we've made of our house/
and from the mess inside.
We went down to New Orleans/
one weekend in the spring/
looked hard for what we'd lost/
it was painful to admit it, but we couldn't find a thing/
I wanted you to love me like you used to do.
We went to New York City in September/
took the train out of Manhattan to the Grand Army Stop/
found that bench we'd sat together on a thousand years ago/
when I felt such love for you I thought my heart was gonna pop/
I wanted you to love me like you used to do.
But I cannot run/
and I can't hide/
from the wreck we've made of our house/
from the mess inside.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Sampler - Tracks of the Week (Week 5)

First of all, just want to put the word that there is a We All Have Hooks for Hands show at Nutty's North in Sioux Falls on Tuesday starting at 7 P.M. Be there. And now for the songs that I simply can’t stop listening to:

Ween – The Mollusk

Off of Ween’s nautical album (also titled The Mollusk), this may be one of the most addicting songs I’ve ever listened to. The song begins with a mix of acoustic picking and synthesized flute-like noises. A deep man’s voice enters, asking, “Hey, little boy/Whatcha got there?” And the boy answers, “Kind sir/It’s a Mollusk I found” The story then unfolds as to the magic of this mollusk, and the wonders of the ocean. Listening to the song, it does make one want to be near the ocean, or at least a large body of water. The best part of the song is, hands down, the trumpet solos, whether they’re synthesized or not. (Sometimes I think they are, other times I think it’s a real trumpet.) Either way, they kick major ass.

Band of Horses – Is There a Ghost

Band of Horses’ second album, Cease to Begin, isn’t as impressive as their first, but at least with the first song, it certainly makes a valiant attempt. Is There a Ghost opens with Ben Bridwell’s usual tenor glistening and dripping in reverb, and after the first few measures, the rest of the band drop the bomb, pulling in overtime with hard instrumentals. Regardless of how good the rest of the album is, Is There a Ghost was a step in a good direction, let’s hope they can keep trucking that way.

And those are this week’s tracks, hope you enjoy them.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Buffalo Kings/Welcome to the Cinema/We All Have Hooks for Hands at Nutty's North in Sioux Falls

So here’s the first of (probably) many times I’ll promote some local bands. Held at Nutty’s North in Sioux Falls on Tuesday, October 2nd, this was a fantastic show.

The first band to play was Buffalo Kings from Sioux Falls. I had never heard them before, but they put on a good show. Ranging from blues to folk to a little tinge of western, the band only consisted of two members: guitar/vocals, and drums. Still, they did not produce a small sound because of the small numbers. In fact, they were quite powerful and driving.

The second band to play was Welcome to the Cinema, from Brookings. (They are now located in Minneapolis.) The band was recently signed to Speakerphone Records out of Minneapolis, and two friends of mine play in the band. The five member band plays a sort of indie dance rock, and they always keep up a fast and fun show. Their music can be found at

The third band to take the stage was Vermillion/Sioux Falls locals We All Have Hooks for Hands. They are on Afternoon Records (also based in Minneapolis). They play folk/pop and are always enthusiastic on stage. There are nine members in the band (though there were only eight playing that night because the violinist couldn’t make it) including three guitars, a bass, two drummers, and two keyboard/trumpet players. They have one album out (which I highly recommend) that is available on,, and Ernie November in Sioux Falls. Some of their music can also be found at

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Sampler - Tracks of the Week (Week 4)

Here’s this week’s rundown of songs that I can’t stop listening to:

Peter Bjorn and John – Young Folks

Peter Bjorn and John have been around since 1999, and have released three albums. On their latest album, Writer’s Block, (which is about a perfect pop album) they have the song “Young Folks.” The song broke the top 40 in the UK, and for good reason. The song begins with infectious drums that go into a whistling lead and following bass. The song relates the same old story of falling in love, but for people in between being young and hip or old and senile. This is a song that is guaranteed to get stuck in your head.

Orba Squara – My Favorite Song

You may have heard Orba Squara on recent iPhone commercials (and you can hear it on the recent short, “iPhoolish” at, with the song, “Perfect Timing (This Morning).” This is an excellent song, but I think an even stronger one is “My Favorite Song.” The song glistens with bells over an acoustic guitar, and the vocals are unique: high, but not yelpy, they fit the song perfectly. They are slightly reminiscent of Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips.

Also, because I am an attention whore, I am going to put a plug in for my own music here. If you’d like a listen, just go to It’s admittedly not that great, but if you’d like a listen I’d encourage it. My new band here in Vermillion, Head 80 Foot Big, will also being playing one of the songs (60’s Doll) as soon as we can get a show put together.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Sampler - Tracks of the Week (Week 3)

Here’s this week’s rundown of songs that I can’t stop listening to:

Black Kids – I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance with You

Black Kids are a very new band on the rise. They have only released on EP (which is available for free download on their MySpace page), but it is an outstanding accomplishment. The standout of the EP is I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance with You, an upbeat dance number (duh). The song swings with fuzzy guitar, and bouncy bass, and laced with synth. The chorus finds both the boys and the girls singing an infectious countdown. This is definitely a band to expect good things from.

Of Montreal – Du Og Meg

From Icons, Abstract Thee, the companion EP to January’s Hissing Fauna, Are you the Destroyer?, Du Og Meg is Of Montreal showcasing their danciest, best qualities. Following a love story that spans across oceans and kingdoms, it is complete with insatiable horns and hopping bass. Kevin Barnes certainly knows how to turn a phrase, and his voice fits perfectly with fragments like, “Still his heart was so ambivalent and hopesick of her/ He wasn’t ever sure/But she gave in so sweetly/That the spirit said/Boy you better go run to her”.

Tarkio – Caroline Avenue

Before Colin Meloy had formed The Decemberists, he was the leader of Tarkio. Caroline Avenue sings sweetly with its perfect blend of the guitar, banjo, drums, and violin. Meloy’s voice croons about growing sick of a former lover. The song is filled with glorious pictures such as, “Reeling from the tension/It’s all ending here/And I’m chasing shots of whiskey with Everclear” and “And you’re trying so hard/But it takes more than just flipping of the traffic cops/To impress me/You underestimate me.”

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Shepherd's Dog

Iron & Wine are no strangers in the indie scene by now. They have now released three full albums, have been featured in films (i.e. Garden State), commercials (M&M’s), and are known by everyone who’s anyone. When Sam Beam announced he was releasing another album under the Iron & Wine moniker, one could have expected much of the same: lo-fi, sweet, acoustic songs that tug at the heart and are perfect material for a girlfriend’s mixtape. One would have expected wrong.

The Shepherd’s Dog is a sprawling, hi-fi, epic of an album. It is everything you didn’t expect from Iron & Wine, but subtly, everything that makes them wonderful musicians. On the first song, Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car, it opens with the same old Sam Beam charm, the lo-fi guitar, but quickly thereafter delves into hand drums with hand claps, ringing a southern guitar with drops of blues harmonica and sprinkled with piano. Another stand-out of the album is the first single, Boy with a Coin, which also opens with handclaps and hand drums (if you can’t tell, just put handclaps in a song and I’ll think it’s the shit). As always, Beam’s lyrics tell stories of southern legends, of animals, of warm days and warmer nights.

Even if The Shepherd’s Dog doesn’t sound like Iron & Wine’s previous albums, it’s still Sam Beam through and through, and he definitely has not lost any of his touch. If he continues in this direction, he should stay an indie king for a long, long while. I give this album an 8.5.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Actual Rating

I forgot to give the actualy rating of Let's Stay Friends. It's 9.2. Yes, I'm a sucker for post-punk art rock.

Let's Stay Friends

As the name of the album implies, the future of Les Savy Fav was unclear for a period of time. This is their first album since 2004’s Inches, which showed Les Savy Fav at the peak of their genius. After Inches, though, the band went on hiatus without a clear direction if there was ever to be another sound from the New York City art rockers. Earlier in 2007, however, without warning, Les Savy Fav started a massive tour across North America, seemingly uplifting the hiatus. Quickly after the start of the tour, the band announced that, indeed, there was to be another album.

By the second song of Let’s Stay Friends, you know that the band has not lost their touch. Moreover, it may be the best record the band has ever recorded. Throughout the entire album, the band blends their art rock perfectly with blossoming guitar and bass hooks. Lead singer Tim Harrington can’t seem to decide whether to keep shouting his cryptic lyrics, or to lean back on his falsetto swoons, but always seems to make the right choice, hitting the loud hits of the song with an even louder voice, and caressing the guitar hooks with light croons.

Harrington’s lyrics switch between oddly poetic and sexual, (Pattie Lee sloughed her skin and showed what was within/It’s hard to describe/She moved like smoke and sounded like ice) and tongue-in-cheek humor (Being the king was pretty cool/I’d have to say that ruling ruled).

With this album, Les Savy Fav prove that they are far from over, and are still one of the greatest visionaries in indie rock.