Life Under a Tree + giveaway!


Life Under a Tree is primarily a guy named Matt from Western Springs, Illinois. But when I saw him live, he was accompanied by a guy named Jon who whistles. It was pretty incredible. Matt writes good songs, but when he’s got Jon whistling a counter melody it’s something really special. His songs are very personal and specific, but with a sense of fun and the wordiness that is so common in the Midwestern folk-punk scene.

“My Dog” is my favorite song of his. It’s a bittersweet tune about his aging dog that the vet recommends be put down.
Life Under a Tree – My Dog (from Songs of Love and Friendship)
Life Under a Tree – Come Home (from Songs of Love and Friendship)
This one is from Folkilla, a split CD with Jenny is a Boy.
Life Under a Tree – Thank God for Scott (Mississippi) (from Folkilla)

If you want to get his releases, you should send him a Myspace message.

If you want a copy of Songs of Love and Friendship, I have an extra copy that I’m going to give to the first person who sends me an email with the subject “Life Under a Tree”. When I saw him live, I bought all three releases he had for sale. However, one of them had a bad CD. So I emailed Matt and he sent me another CD, but he also included a copy of Songs of Love and Friendship, which I already had. Anyway, if you want it, just email me.

Ólöf Arnalds

I hate to just say “go here and download this right now”, but go here and download this right now. Ólöf Arnalds is a member of Múm and Við Og Við is a solo album of absolutely stunningly gorgeous folk. Vashti Bunyan is an obvious reference point because they have similar voices, but the similarities run deeper than that. There’s the timelessness and classiness of the proceedings. And neither were afraid to just go ‘la la la’ for a bit. Also, she’s singing in Icelandic (presumably. She could be singing in Finnish for all I know. I’m a dumb American.)

Liars vs. Aa

Liars - Liars
Am I the only person who doesn’t love the new self-titled album from Liars? I loved their previous three albums to death, but Liars just leaves me cold. I want to like it. I can see what they’re trying to accomplish. But I just don’t find it a compelling listen. I’ll give it more listens, of course. But right now, my favorite Liars album of 2007 was done by Aa.

Many years ago, I had a friend who was a die-hard Weezer fan. Then The Green Album came out. He hated it. So he looked around and found Rock and Roll Part Three by a band called Ozma that sounded exactly like what you would expect the follow-up to Pinkerton to sound like.

Aa - gAame
Aa’s gAame is a lot closer to a logical next step following Liars’ Drum’s Not Dead than Liars is. Now, Ozma sounded exactly like Weezer. Aa is clearly influenced by Liars, but does a lot of things differently. For one, they’re also heavily influenced by Boredoms. They also use tons of synthesizers and their vocals are punk rock shouting that you’d hear at Soophie Nun Squad show rather than the weird crooning thing that Angus of Liars does. But it does have the key component of what made Drum’s Not Dead such a compelling listen: the interplay of droning ambience and earth crushing drum madness. It’s a fun lively listen that sounds like what it is: punk rock kids who done got real weird and started making art-rock. Also, it comes with a rad DVD. Drum’s Not Dead? Rad DVD. Liars? No rad DVD. You can see what I’m trying to say here.

Here’s two cuts from gAame that work well as stand alone tracks. Most of the tracks on the album are continuously mixed, as it’s a very album-y album. So if you dig these jams, I highly recommend seeking out the whole thing.
Aa – Manshake
Aa – Thirteen

If you want to hear anything of Liars, tracks are all over that internet.

Buy Liars
Buy gAame (CD/DVD)
Buy gAame (LP/DVD)

Lucky Soul

Lucky Soul - The Great Unwanted
Lucky Soul are an indie pop band from London with strong retro-60s pop tendencies. Yes, that sounds a lot like Belle & Sebastian or any number of their followers, but Lucky Soul are closer to fellow retro-poppers the Pipettes or Candie Payne. Lucky Soul’s arrangements are impeccable in both throwback credentials and overall enjoyability, but I have to admit that the quality of the songwriting on their album The Great Unwanted is somewhat inconsistent. I’m posting two tracks that don’t suffer from weak songwriting at all, though. “My Darling, Anything” is a rather straightforward pop song, but with a modern twist that you’ll know when you hear. “Baby I’m Broke” is my favorite song that they’ve done. It’s a country pop gem that sounds like one of Nancy Sinatra’s country songs or the under appreciated Canadian indie country pop band the Guthries.

Lucky Soul – My Darling, Anything
Lucky Soul – Baby I’m Broke

Real Live Tigers

One of my favorite scenes going on today is the loosely defined, but closely knit, mid-western folk-punk scene. There’s a ton of great songwriters and there is a pretty good variety in style among them. There’s a definite Plan-It-X Records influence in the extreme DIY nature of the scene, but it doesn’t have as much of the stereotypically punk signifiers. Most of the people in that scene don’t write political songs and they’re more likely to cover Cat Power or Will Oldham than This Bike is Not a Pipe Bomb.

But when most of the shows they play are at people’s houses and most of the releases are handmade CD-Rs, you can’t help but call it punk. For a scene that is important as this one, there is a shocking lack of internet presence. Music bloggers have largely passed it over. I guess it’s not a particularly trendy sounding style, and most of the musicians seem to avoid any promotion, so it’s not surprising that it has largely gone below the radar of the blogerati. Still, I think that these kids (and most of them are kids) are doing something important, both musically and culturally. They are reaching a growing number of people just by playing living rooms, puppet theaters and the occasional dive bar. And it is a very inclusive, positive and reinforcing scene which is a large part of why it’s growing so quickly.

So I’m going to try to regularly feature different musicians from this scene. I’ve already talked about Sam King, who got me into this whole thing. But the man I should probably have started with is Tony Presley aka Real Live Tigers. He’s from Texas, but he tours non-stop and has set up a lot of the touring connections that the other people follow. The biggest sign of how important he is to this growing scene is how often you’ll here people cover his songs at shows. Apparently somebody was even trying to put together a RLT tribute album.

Real Live Tigers, cochina festival, claremont, ca (john thill)

I’ve been told that Tony is related to Elvis Presley. I am going to believe that. Not because he sounds like Elvis, because he doesn’t. He has a chopped almost sing/speak voice that sounds like he’s gasping for breath. I am going to believe it because it is cool.

Real Live Tigers already has an extensive discography, most of which is handmade CD-R releases. He does a new proper album coming out. It’s called This is Sometimes a Riverbed and it’s on Sanitary Records. It’s excellent and will hopefully bring him his fair share of acclaim. I really like the songs “Beard of Bees” and “On Our Way”. I am also posting “Let the Things You Love Kill You”, which is from an EP. It’s number 1 in the Alphabet Soup Series, a series of EPs put out by MASA records.

Real Live Tigers – Beard of Bees (from This is Sometimes a Riverbed)
Real Live Tigers – On Our Way (from This is Sometimes a Riverbed)
Real Live Tigers – Let the Things You Love Kill You (from “Alphabet Soup Series #1 EP”)
If you want to get any of his releases, I’d try sending him a Myspace message.

A-State, Rep Your Shit: Kings of New England

For as long as I can remember, a quasi-joke running around the Fayetteville music scene has been the Curse. If you are a band in Fayetteville and you record and release an album, you will break up. And, tragically, the Curse comes true more often than not. It came true for Kings of New England whose last show was also their CD release party.

Kings of the New England were the first band that was made up of friends of mine and they were the first local band that I was passionate about. I’ve spilled a lot of ink on KONE over the years, as I wrote their press kits, blogged about their shows and even wrote the reviews of their releases for KXUA. So I’m not going to say a ton here.

They started off as a pretty standard 00s post-punk band, albeit one with more hardcore influence than normal. Les Savy Fav was a pretty clear influence. They recorded a demo pretty early on that shows what they sounded like pretty well. They started on an album, but it was aborted due to an unfortunate hard drive crash. I have been told that the original takes still exist, but all the mixing and editing work was lost.

By the time they final released an album (2005’s On the Cusp), their sound had changed considerably. Their new songs all had a more metal sound and they had started going in some pretty progressive directions. This later (and better) sound is exemplified by “The Golden Cove”, a 9 minute epic that is a lot closer to Mastodon or the Mars Volta than Les Savy Fav or Fugazi. Unfortunately, they broke up before they could fully step into this new sound. On the Cusp really did sound like a band on the cusp of a major transition, which made it a fairly difficult debut album. It had some of the first songs that they had written and those just didn’t sound like they should have been on the same disc as the newer material. While still a fun listen, it really did feel like an album and a half. If they had made the album a year earlier, it would have been a great post-punk debut album. If it had been made later and had none of the songs from the theoretical debut album, it would have been an incredible progressive punk album that would have make a lot of heads turn. As it is, it got some decent reviews, but non-fans didn’t really know what to make of it.

After they broke up, guitarist Tommy Atkinson shifted his focus to his other band Storm the Castle!, an incredible (and very non-prolific) metal band that are working on album that will hopefully come out late this year or early next year. Vocalist Roger Barrett & drummer Chris Byrne are now in a band called the Counterlife who sound like Henry Rollins fronting Hey Mercedes. Chris also does some solo singer/songwriter stuff. Bassist Paul Wardein was in a folk group called the Early Morning Bourbon Girls, but I don’t think they are still around. Guitarist Jonathan Haguewood is no longer involved in music.

I’ve posted “The Golden Cove” from On the Cusp, as that is the best thing the band ever did. I’ve also posted their 3 song demo. They never sold it at shows, so I don’t think too many people have a copy of it. I used to have a few live recordings, but those were lost in a hard drive crash. I have also been told that there is a recording of their live show, but that the sound quality is pretty bad. If I can ever get my hands on any other of the band’s recordings, I’ll be sure to post them here.

[audio: The Golden Cove.mp3]
Kings of New England – The Golden Cove (from On the Cusp)
Send them a Myspace message if you want to buy the album.

Kings of New England – Woodson Lateral (from their demo)
Kings of New England – Space is the New Seattle (from their demo)
Kings of New England – Dot the i (from their demo)

new Prefuse 73

My interest in Prefuse 73 peaked with his 2nd album One Word Extinguisher. Surrounded by Silence was sorta wack (except for the single “HideYaFace” with Ghostface & El-P) and I never even bothered to download Security Screenings. He’s got a new joint called Preparations coming out this year, but right now there’s a new single out in stores (and interwebs) called “Class of 73 Bells” which features NYC rock band School of Seven Bells. Does Prefuse 73 even do songs anymore that don’t feature somebody else? Anyway, the new single is pretty good. All 3 b-sides are pretty boring, though, which tempers my enthusiasm for his new album.

Prefuse 73

Prefuse 73 – The Class of 73 Bells (Feat School of Seven Bells) (radio edit) (expired)

Warp Records preorder

Fucked Up round up

Fucked Up frontman Father Damian (c. Pitchfork)
Fucked Up are a Toronto hardcore band with a strange history and a lot of 7 inches. I hate to admit this, but I first became aware of the band when the Fork posted some rather interesting pictures from a show they did with Pissed Jeans. It turns out Fucked Up had also released an album that garnered some accolades, but it was on the terminally lame Jade Tree, so if I was ever aware of it, I would have ignored it.

That all changed when I heard the badical “Year of the Pig” (A-side of the “Year of the Pig” 12″). It’s on middle-of-the-road indie rock label Where’s Your Rupture?, which is rather odd, as it’s an epic-as-fuck 19 minute progressive hardcore track. With its thick arrangements, heavy riffs, and extreme intensity, it doesn’t sound like anything else and blew my mind a little bit. So I holla’d at their album Hidden World. It’s not quite as audacious, but still excellent. My favorite track is the opener “Crusades” which is posted below.

Also of note is a cover Fucked Up did of the song “Stress” by Justice from the new album Cross. It was posted at the Vice Records blog, but is also reposted below.

Fucked Up – Year of the Pig (from “Year of the Pig” 12″) (expired)

Fucked Up – Crusades (from Hidden World album) (expired)

Fucked Up – Stress (Justice Cover)

Acquire “Year of the Pig” (vinyl)
Acquire “Year of the Pig” (mp3)
Acquire Hidden World(CD)