The Lemurs :: "Blackspot"

Nothing is quite as foreboding as the term "black spot." If there's a black spot on your lung, you might only have a few years (weeks) to live. Were all the Marlboro Reds worth it? If you're a black spot on your major metropolitan area, it's probably because you've committed a series of felonies or have tried to sprint down Fifth Ave. with a life-size cardboard stand-up of Joba Chamberlain. Was the police line-up worth it? If you have a black spot on your face, it's probably because someone pulled the old, "hey, can you look through this telescope" when secretly they'd already rubbed charcoal all over the eye-piece. Pranks. God, we're funny.

The Lemurs aren't pulling anything on anyone. They're just a dance-rock band out of Austin, Texas with two small EPs to their name. Maybe unimpressive. But, "Blackspot" proves to be less of a death sentence, less of a case of misdemeanor larceny, and less of a prank than anything described above. It's simply a frantic dance-rock anthem that deserves to be played in the left-hand lane of most American highways at 85 miles-per-hour. Something to add a little urgency to your laconic, overly thoughtful Friday morning. Leave the Marlboros and Joba out of this. No one is laughing even thought it's hilarious.

Listen :: The Lemurs - "Blackspot"


The Secret Machines :: "Atomic Heels"

The Secret Machines are down one member, done with a double-digit number of shows at the Annex (to figure themselves out or something), and back with new material. It's been about three years since they hit us with "Alone, Jealous, and Stoned," the inexplicable first single ("Lightning Blue Eyes" was twice the song in half the running time) off their second LP Ten Silver Drops.

"Atomic Heels" has a hint of hidden explosivity in its title. If there was something vaguely nuclear in your footsteps, you couldn't help but get in your spaceship and blast off. Or, in a different mood, you couldn't help but stomp down Ludlow St. laying waste to hipsters and poorly-lit bars with the split-fusion force of an heavy eye-linered wink.

The sound is just as big as always - albeit a little less transformative. There's no gigantic second movement. There is no shifting into a higher gear. There's just a churning drum beat and a muddled pysch-rock arrangement that might make you think of Ambulance LTD's most fuzzed out moments. There's some missed potential here. But, I guess that's the point. Until you lift them up and see what's beneath your atomic heels, you'll just. never. know.

Listen :: The Secret Machines - "Atomic Heels"


Heartsrevolution :: "Ultraviolence"

What could be cooler than lumping two words together into one word? Notmuch? Heartsrevolution are from the furthest parts of downtown New York and by that I don't mean the financialdistrict. I mean that dark, synth-heavy place where people dance like no one's looking and they love like it's never going to mean snorting pills. You know? The place where bars don't have names and everyone is borderline hostile and borderline attractive. If everyone had angular hair cuts to match the synth-stabs, you find yourself at the corner of "Ultraviolence." The electro movement has officially gotten out of hand. Don't act like you care and don't act like you don't. I don't like this air. That doesn't mean I'll stop breathingit.

Listen :: Heartsrevolution - "Ultraviolence"


Nothing new but that doesn't mean it's not important

Today, we are at the center of the universe. Today, everything we say matters. Today, our exhale causes hurricanes and our footfalls earthquakes. We spit gravity and speak in tornadoes. Today, we are almost divine.

We are in between days for two close friends turning 26 and tonight they'll feel the power of our unnatural disaster. So think good thoughts for two great kids turning their personal calendar. And listen to the one song with lyrics that might capture what's about to happen:

We're all right where we're supposed to be.


[Elevator] Matt & Kim :: "Daylight" [Video]

I'll cop to not really liking Matt & Kim. They always seemed like a roughed-around version of Mates of State and, frankly, Mates of State were (until the last album) just rough enough. I remember kind of liking "Yeah Yeah" but mostly thinking how one-dimensional it sounded. Just how far can you go with being cloying and super-elastically bouncy? Welcome to the limit of your own explosiveness.

On the heels of last month's "Good Ol' Fashioned Nightmare," which offered shades of bombast while still wrapping us in the cloak of cheeky piano-plinks and chant-along vocals, Matt and Kim are back with "Daylight." If "Good Ol' Fashioned Nightmare" was indie-rock's toe-dip into the pool of hip-hop beat and head-nodding dub-step, "Daylight" is a good ol' fashioned swan-dive. Same piano-plinks in instantly-memorable repeat, and then, smack, an almost go-go hip-hop drum beat. Maybe you saw it coming and maybe you didn't. Either way.

Shut your mouth and listen. This is going to bang along until it's done. There won't be a question and answer session. There won't be a negotiation. You won't consider your own existence. You won't feel sorry for yourself. Just shut your mouths and listen. It might be the best you've felt all day.


Pains Of Being Pure At Heart :: "Everything With You"

Pains Of Being Pure At Heart are equal parts expected and experimental and have a habit of playing only at Cake Shop. Other than that, they sound a little bit like shoegazing Smiths cover band. I mean, face it, if there was one band in the world that you would trust to play a rocked-out "Girlfriend In A Coma," it might be POBPAH. And maybe that's a way of writing them off - comparisons have a way of doing that - but I mean it in a good way. Isn't that how the old saying goes: 'tis better to be a Smiths cover band than to have totally sucked and never played Cake Shop at all?

Admit it: you can't listen to these verses and not want to sing, "shyness is nice and shyness can keep you from doing all the things you like to." It's almost the same melody. But, there's an edge here: fuzzy guitars and shiny synths. A little bit darker and not quite as cheeky. Maybe even a little experimental. So if there's something you want to try, ask me. I won't say no. How could I?

Listen :: Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - "Everything With You"


Sebastian Grainger :: "Love Can Be So Mean"

Sebastian Grainger used to hit the drums for Death From Above 1979. Let's just get that out of the way early. Now no one has to waste a whole paragraph talking about the historiography of dance-rock and how this solo effort shows that he hasn't lost a step, and oh yeah, by the way, he's signed to Saddle Creek and shouldn't we all fall over in our sleep at how amazing all of this is? Can we just deal with this as an individual.? I'd hate to waste the space.

"Love Can Be So Mean" is the song The Killers should have released as the third single off Hot Fuss. It doesn't matter that they didn't write it (or that it would be four years before it was written) or that "All These Things I've Done" is a far better song. It just sounds like it should have been one of the featured songs off the album. It's tight and fuzzy and it explodes into a chorus that will push the limits of your personal BPMs. Maybe more simply, it is glam as hell and I mean that as a compliment. So set your cruise control on a million and let the neon lights of your major American city blur. You'd hate to miss a minute.

Listen :: Sebastian Grainger - "Love Can Be So Mean" (via Sixeyes)


On The List :: Dead Confederate @ Mercury Lounge [10.9.08]

For five minutes at a time, Dead Confederate are the best band in the world ever. And in their second song of the evening, they prove it. Opening with something unbelievably languid (which, it's worth noting, all good bands can get away with), the band opens the door on "All The Angels," maybe their best and most transcendent moment. It churns with the neo-grunge sound this band is getting (somewhat) famous for and ends up with a chorus that chants, "this is not a white flag for you." If the theme is no surrender, I guess I can get behind that.

This starts earlier - maybe 10-months ago in the Mercury Lounge. Somewhere between four and six A&Rs are in attendance to see "the last show ever" for The Head Set. This is an unfiltered piece of industry charity. No one cares about The Head Set. Surprise, they're not the best band on the bill. In fact, they couldn't even stick with their unknown opener from Athens, Georgia: Dead Confederate. I look left and I look right and I ask the obvious: is no one interested in this band? They might be the best band I've seen in 2007. An A&R from Sony looks at his counter-part from Columbia and says, "....Yeah, I mean, we could never sell that." If the theme of night is unrequited excellence, I guess I can get behind that.

You and I both know they're only going to play six or seven songs tonight. When they play consensus album single, "The Rat" in the four spot, it doesn't seem too early. It's the most digestible song they have and if you put it in the middle of a mixtape of other rock songs from the last 12-months, someone would have to be brain-dead not to stop and say, "what the hell was that?" If the theme of the night is grunge is back, I guess I can get behind that.

The stage seems a little too clean and a little too put together. It takes away from the darker atmospheric quality of the band. They don't use stage lights but light from below. It supposed to make everything look edgy. It works and it doesn't. The crowd is a little too obedient and a little too polite for evil. If the theme of the night is contradictions, I guess I can get behind that.

Dead Confederate, in total, aren't the best rock band in the world tonight. But, in doses, they can be. The theme of the night can be segmented. And I can get behind that.

Listen :: Dead Confederate - "The Rat"


[Elevator] Pretty & Nice :: "Tora Tora Tora"

Pretty & Nice aren't just a band. They're the two platitudes most people end up dating. What's she like? Well, she's pretty and nice. You don't necessarily date hot and dangerous. You might not have a chance with super-attractive and brilliant. You've maybe been down the road with mercurial and batshit crazy. Be honest: You probably settle down with pretty and nice.

The funny thing is, girls and pop songs are never that straight forward. Pretty & Nice have a razor edge you wouldn't expect from a band with a name that connotes sharing feelings and dinner dates at mid-level American chain restaurants. You might not introduce this band to your mother. This song might not feel very comfortable sitting at a dinner table and smiling at the small-talk. This song might say something inappropriate.

"Tora Tora Tora" grabs you by the wrist and tugs you exactly where you want to go. It's garage-pop, if there is such a thing. It sounds like Locksley playing Bikini Kill songs. That is, oddly, meant as a compliment. Rip right along.

Listen :: Pretty & Nice - "Tora Tora Tora"


Welcome Wagon :: "Sold! To The Nice Rich Man"

It's hard to believe it's been almost three-and-a-half years since Sufjan Stevens released a record. Go back and listen to Illinois and more importantly, "Chicago" with fresh ears. It might be the song that ended the Garden State "indie revolution." You just can't write a better song than that. There's nowhere to go but down. For everyone. So what do you do?

Nothing. You don't release a record of new material. You sit tight. And then you produce someone else's album. Welcome Wagon has all the Sufjan touches - the preciousness, the withering perfection, the hushed pop-sensability. It's almost frustrating. "Sold! To The Nice Rich Man" could easily have slid in on any of Sufjan's recorded material, blending in with almost no suspicion. Which, one can suppose, brings us back to the summer of 2005 and a record that shook us and left us wanting more. And here it is. Almost.

Listen :: Welcome Wagon - "Sold! To The Nice Rich Man" (link fixed)


TV On The Radio :: "Dancing Choose" [Live on Letterman]

TV On The Radio's new record, Dear Science, is an absolute monster. And that's coming directly from the mouth of someone who both knows the band's career (bought their first EP), and didn't particularly like it (didn't particularly like ...Cookie Mountain).

Not the best song but maybe the most satisfying is "Dancing Choose." Ignore the easy wordplay and get to the fact that last Friday they played it on Letterman and sounded as big and bad as they do on recording. If you can't get up on lyrics like "now I ain't a mad man/but that's insanity" and "I guess you had. to. be. there," then I'm not sure you have a pulse. Watch the crowd go from, "who the hell is this band?" to "I'm losing my mind" in three-minutes flat.