Sunday, December 31, 2006


...the two Grace Potter shows I attended at Higher Ground were amazing; it resurrected my respect for good ol' fashioned virtuoso rock skills. They made a fan out of me.

...GP's opening act tonight, Apollo Sunshine, was wacky & fun & I don't care what the booing 40 year old housewives think--they were great! Any band that can end a set with screaming & breaking every string on their double-neck guitar wins major props with me

...filming rock stars is turning me into a rock star--i slept until 4pm yesterday & I'm wide awake at 5am today.

...t-minus 17 hrs. to the New Year's bash on Clarke Street; looking forward to it!

Friday, December 29, 2006


Is anyone going to the Grace Potter & The Nocturnals show at Higher Ground? If so, I'll be one of the short, dark-haired guys running around with a video camera, getting in your way. Feel free to kick me or say hello, whichever strikes your fancy!

I've never heard GP & the N before (live or album) so I'm looking forward to seeing a couple shows. It's pretty sad that the only time I seem to go to local concerts is when I'm getting paid to. That's my New Year's Resolution--more local concerts.

It's better than lying & saying I'm going to cut back on my drinking....

Thursday, December 28, 2006


I got out of work a bit early & had some time to kill before picking up the girlfriend, so I figured I'd go give the fine folks at Pure Pop a bit more of my hard-earned cash.

I've been on a big experimental music kick lately, so I went and browsed the "Avant-Garde/Experimental" section. I happened upon the John Cale albums and seeing as I'm a big VU fan and I love the "New York in the 60's" box set I picked up earlier this year, I was surprised that I'd never heard his first official solo release, "Vintage Violence".

I bought the album & popped it in my car CD player, waiting for the bipolar mix of abrasive screeching and bassy drones that were Cale's calling card during his late 60's/early 70's work.

Only a few seconds into the first track, I had to eject the CD and make sure it was the right disc. Yup, John Cale. I popped it back in. The first song, "Hello There" sounded like a Welshman doing a cover of a White Album outtake. The second song threw me off even more--what the hell is this country slide guitar doing on here?

I was thoroughly confused. Everybody knows Lou Reed is the Velvet who secretely just wanted to be a pop star. Cale is the genius madman, the king of dissonance. Sure he did that great cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" but still..what is he doing making an album that sounds like the love child of "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour" and "Tumbleweed Connection" ?

But the more I listened, the more I could appreciate it. The lyrics were cryptic and strange; the vocals were oddly detached and restrained. And if you listened carefully, you can hear some of the trademark Cale experimentation on songs like "Ghost Story" and "Please".

Some of my favorites from the album are the slower and more intimate songs, especially the beautiful "Amsterdam", but the raucous "Rolling Stones-without-the-drunken-machismo" track "Bring It On Up" is pretty good too (I would have loved to have heard The Band do a cover of this song, complete with a little Levon Helm yoddling!)

"Vintage Violence" was certainly not was I was expecting, but it was by no means an unpleasant surprise.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


I hope everyone had a good holiday season; I certainly did. A couple days off from work, time with family & was bliss. The lack of snow was a bit of a letdown, but hey, that's the wonders of global warming for you.

I got some fun new presents as well. My parents got us a beautiful new dining room table; Jaime bought me a couple Lomography cameras (I'll post some pics after I develop my first reel) and some books, CDs and clothes.

So what did you get? Any cool new music or instruments or other assorted ephemera? Post a comment & a picture if you have one.

Sunday, December 24, 2006


Otherwise known as "Eau d'Fall Out Boy"....


I was doing a bit of cleaning around the apartment today & stumbled on the copy of my lost album I recorded in college called "*pomotion". It's a collection of experimental electronic songs that I composed over the course of a year between 1999-2000. I never completed it, but I thought I'd share the work-in-progress tracks with you. Who knows, someday I may even finish it....

robots like us
the future of waffle irons
uncle sam
pigs in the electromud
NyQuil & Geritol
come & play in the sunlight
dance floor hooha
the locust plague (size 69 bible belt)
the anger of seals
your mom thinks we're cooler than y'all


Thursday, December 21, 2006


Yet another reason why I shouldn't own a editing suite....


Having some YouTube upload issues...if the above embedded video doesn't work, right-click & save the linked file below--


Some Kenneth Anger films, straight from the wonderful YouTube.

Anger's first film, made in his parents' home when he was just a teenager.

Part 1:

Part 2:

A beautiful ode to early cinema & the Magick Lantern.

It looks like the clipped a minute or so off the start of the movie & censored the wangs, but it's still pretty much Anger's film. "Invocation" has always been my favorite Anger work.


Like a pre-Warhol Warhol film....

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:


Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

One of Ken's latest works, from 2004.

Monday, December 18, 2006


I graduated from film school in 2001 and immediately returned home to Vermont. My specialization in school was experimental/avant-garde film, and seeing as Burlington barely has a community for narrative & documentary filmmakers, I found very few people who wanted to work on experimental shorts.

However, I did find a few courageous souls (such as Burlington ex-patriate Jereme Mongeon) and was able to do a few local screenings of my work (an installation piece at "The Space" above the old Battery St. Jeans; a show at the former Waiting Room, etc.). But it was sporadic and always disappointing--there were always limitations at the venues. And most importantly, my work was always meant for solitary viewing, the cinematic equivalent of putting on a pair of headphones & listening to an avant-garde recording.

So, in a last act of desperation, I contacted a few old college film buddies & local friends and started the Solah collective in 2004. Every month we would collaborate on a short film: shooting, editing, compositing, composing soundtracks, etc. And when they were finished, my merry little band of film elves and myself would distribute VHS copies of the films (with just a simple label and wrapped in a Ziplock baggie for protection from the elements) to strategic locations around town.

Those of you working at Pure Pop, Seven Days, Waterfront Video, etc. at that time may have seen some of these films. For those of you who have not, here are the first four installments of the Solah series:






As promised, here is the soundtrack to Simon Tarr's feature-length experimental film "Rubicon", scored by my friend Edward Kurland. "Spitting Out Teeth" readers were first introduced to Ed from my video clip post of our "performance" at the Phyrst pub in State College, PA. While we had a blast getting on stage and making some nice, doped-out sounds together, this album is Mr. Kurland's masterpiece and it's where he worked best--alone, in his room, surrounded by dozens of effects pedals, barefoot, Nag Champa burning, being completely sober but hallucinating on the sound of his own music. He was a great friend and a great musician & I miss him dearly.

While I obviously can't get his permission to post it, I'm sure Ed would have no problem with me sharing the full album of his soundtrack to "Rubicon". The CD of the soundtrack is no longer available from Amazon, but Simon Tarr may still have copies available. So, here it is, Edward Kurland's "Rubicon" soundtrack--

l.e.d (overture)
transplanet momentum
ping pac
most codec
plastic lyceum
binary compositionism
modem comb
wave space displacement
user error

If you would like to purchase a copy of the film, they are available here.


I'd love to hear feedback on the music, so please leave comments. I was able to post these files for free using MediaMax. If it works, it's a blogger's dream--25GB of free online file hosting.

I did a Google search about a month ago for "spitting out teeth" and was surprised to find that this blog held the #2 spot. Today I searched again and found out that it now holds the #1 and #2 spots! Thanks to all of you have linked to this site and have now made it possible for any sicko wack-job who is searching for "spitting out teeth" to find my site! :)

All Christmas shopping done. Credit card balance has been paid off. As soon as I get my bonus this quarter, this lil' baby is mine.....***drool***

Ok, I'm sure 90% of the people reading this (which is probably about three of you) are already familiar with Ubuweb, but if not, I highly recommend clicking on the link & checking it out. Ubuweb is a wonderful resource for avant-garde & experimental audio recordings & writings by such artists as Burroughs, Cage, Brakhage, Debord & hundreds of others.

And recently, Ubu has managed to amasse a nice collection of experimental film and video works, available to download from the website here. I highly recommend checking out the Fluxus Films as well as this amazing interview with Stan Brakhage which is a work of art in itself--


The above interview is from a (supposedly) soon to be released DVD of interviews with the great "poet laureate of skid row", Charles "Hank" Bukowski. There has been a much deserved Buk revival of sorts lately, with the release of the wonderful documentary "Born Into This". Hopefully someday when the world can get beyond the "legend" of Charles Bukowski (drunk, womanizer, beast) there will finally be a true appreciation of his work as a poet & writer who tried to rip down the stuffy walls of academic formalism in the world of poetry and prose.

"As the spirit wanes, the form appears."--C. Bukowski

Saturday, December 16, 2006


I wonder what this guy tells people he does for a living?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

SPEAKING OF JEM COHEN.... looks like someone has posted his wonderful portrait of Elliot Smith called "Lucky Three"--

Also, here's "Glueman", a short collaboration with Fugazi that is included on the "Instrument" DVD--

The trailer for Benjamin Smoke. If you haven't seen this incredibly powerful film yet, go to Waterfront and rent it. Now.

And here's a clip of Jem accepting his Independent Spirit Award for "Chain". Aside from a few sporadic screenings in large cities, this clip is the only place you'll see any footage from his first narrative feature that I know of (until the DVD comes out in 2007)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I'm sure pretty much everybody who's reading this is familiar with the Criterion Collection, but just in case you're not, I'll explain. Criterion is an independent DVD distributer associated with Janus Films that releases exclusively some of the greatest works of cinematic art onto beautiful transferred DVDs with loads of extra features. Their collection has long contained some of the best works of filmmakers as diverse as Jean-Luc Godard, Michael Bay, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Richard Linklater. However, until the recent release of their wonderful 2-disc set of the works of the great Stan Brakhage, Criterion had unfortunatly never recognized great experimental film works.

It looks like that is slowly changing. Criterion just recently released William Greaves' classic experimental half-narrative/half-documentary "Symbiopsychotaxiplasm", which sits alongside such films as Fellini's "8 1/2", Jim McBride's "David Holzman's Diary" and Godard's "Contempt" as one of the greatest "films about the making of films" ever made. A truly postmodern filmic meditation, Greaves basically plays a game of the director sitting back and watching as his crew tries to figure out what exactly they're doing and what kind of film they're making. A highly-recommended film that is available for purchase at Borders and should be available for rent at Waterfront Video.

Now if only Criterion will get their shit together and release the Jem Cohen collected works set I've been bugging Jon Mulvaney about for the past three years...

My apologies for the lack of posts over the last few days but my life has been pretty boring this week. I have been buying and listening to a lot of music lately. Here's my current rotation--

Mice Parade, "Bem-Vinda Vontade" -- Upbeat & fantastical songs; great for putting on a pair of headphones & zoning out.

Mum, "Summer Make Good" -- Gorgeous; I have no idea why I didn't buy this album sooner. As much as I love "Finally We Are No One", I'm thinking "Summer Make Good" will be my favorite after a few more listens.

Boduf Songs, "Lion Devours The Sun" -- kind of reminds me of a Will Oldham/Calla lovechild. Dark and spooky, but not oppressively so. It's nice to see that Kranky is starting to expand their boundaries a bit. For awhile, I thought they were just going to ride the success of Godspeed You Black Emperor! and Low, but this album and the new Loscil album "Plume" have really changed my mind about them.

Jóhann Jóhannsson, "IBM 1401 - A User's Manual" -- A neat concept, but concepts don't interest me much. Too sappy & movie soundtrack-ish for my tastes; almost too pretty for its own good.

Panda Bear, "Young Prayer" -- Haunting and alienated; really makes me want to hear more solo stuff from Animal Collective's "quiet one". I think Panda's genius and contributions to AC are often overshadowed by Avey, but hopefully a couple more solo releases can cure that.

Wolf Eyes, "Human Animal" -- I always used to get Wolf Eyes mixed up with Wolf Parade. I never got into the latter, and since I always associated the former with them, I never bought a Wolf Eyes album. I decided to give them a shot during one of my latest spending sprees at Pure Pop (they're happening way too often lately), and I'm glad I did. Very industrial and weird; reminds me of some compositions I did for my Solah film series.

OOIOO, "Taiga" -- How many influences and genres can you stuff into a single album? Ask OOIOO. I can hear influences of Miles Davis, Tom Ze, John Zorn, tribal drumming, Tom Waits (listen to "UJA" and try to tell me it doesn't remind you of "Earth Died Screaming"), etc. Weird, wild stuff...

Black Dice, "Creature Comforts" --Nice, strange, sometimes goofy, sometimes angry noise compositions. Very abstract, but with an inherent cohesiveness. I've only had a single rush listening to their new album "Broken Ear Record", but from what I heard it sounds like they've evolved a bit in their sound.

Ok, these are admittedly half-assed reviews. But hopefully they might give some folks enough initiative to give one or two a listen. But if not, oh well--I'm not getting paid to do this thing so I can say whatever I want. Crap hell damn poop. Such overwhelming power....

**evil laughter ensues**

Sunday, December 10, 2006


I went to college at Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania. In town, there is a small basement Irish pub called "The Phyrst". It's famous for two things--the Phyrst Family Band (and the resulting drunken shenanigans) and its acoustic open-mike nights.

Every Monday night, the Phyrst would put up a sign-up sheet in the bar at 4:00 PM & the first ten people to sign up on the list had the stage for their 15 minutes of "fame". It was a popular venue for every Stevie Nicks or Dave Matthews wannabee in town, and a good place to have a relax pint & listen to some "nice" music. Or at least it was before "Limp Basquiat" came to town.

A little backstory--my sophmore year I met a young musician and filmmaker named Edward Kurland. We had an experimental film class together & realized that our interests were pretty in tune (Stan Brakhage, John Cage, Zappa, etc.) and we started working together on projects. Ed's lease had run out on his apartment and I had a vacancy in mind, so I asked Ed if he wanted to move in. He did.

Thus began one of the best friendships of my life & a the most unique creative partnership of my life. Ed & I created films together, got high together, stayed up until daybreak playing music & arguing philosophy. It was an amazing time in my life, the most free I've ever felt & as such, I felt particulary daring & adventurous. And every once in a while, I channeled that energy into something productive.

Ed and I had been to the Phyrst Open Mike Nights on a few occasions (mostly as a favor to some girl we knew who thought she was the next Jewel), and had always been disappointed. We talked about how sad it was that any person with a guitar willing to play covers could get a stage no problem but it was damn near impossible to get stage time to do something original. And then it clicked.

We had spent the past few weekends messing around with various chains of effect pedals & warping out my Dr. Sample and we'd come up with some pretty interesting noise compositions. We were getting pretty good (or at least pretty high & thinking we were good) so maybe it was time to play out...

Ed skipped his last class the following Monday & signed us up for a 15-minute set that evening at 9:00. We rushed home, gathered up all of our equipment, split a bottle of Robutussin DM & hopped on the bus downtown. We got to the Phyrst about an hour before we were scheduled to go on, so we had a few pints of Guinness for some liquid courage. It also helped to thin out the blood & thus excellerate the flow of the DXM through our veins. After a while, the girl playing the Paula Cole covers didn't sound that bad.

Finally, they called our names and Ed & I ambled up to the stage. While we had 15 minutes of stage time scheduled, it took us close to 40 minutes just to set up our equipment (and combination of complicated effects pedal chaining & chemical factors). Luckily the folks at the Phyrst were kind & understanding, and gave us plenty of technical help & allowed us to play our set.

The video you are about to see is what happened next. For your sake, I edited the setup down to a minute & just left the performance in all its wonderful, goofy glory. Enjoy!

After this performance, we figured we would never be let in the bar again; forget ever playing there for another set. But amazingly, the organizers loved it (or more appropriately, loved the large crowd of fellow film students/paying customers we brought with us for support, making it the most attended Phyrst open mike night ever) and invited us to come back for another show. We ended up playing several more sets, joined by Rob Cotton, under the name "Limp Basquiat". Future shows included flutophone, James Brown samples & more magic tricks.

Early this year, just days after my birthday, I received an e-mail from a former college film professor. He was writing to break the news to me that Edward had been shot and killed during a break-in at his apartment in the Logan Square district in Chicago. I was shocked--Ed was a zen buddhist, a vegetarian & one of the most gentle, non-violent people I had ever known. It was one of the worst moments of my life.

Since then, I've come to terms with Ed's death by listening to his music (Phyrst stuff aside, he was an amazing musician, creating work in a variety of genres from folk to hip-hop to experimental composition soundtracks) and watching the films we created together. Ed would have loved this blog, and I wish I were writing something that he could read tonight rather than a eulogy and a nostalgic tribute. But in a way, I may never have created this blog if he was still here. I always lived vicariously through his creativity & productive energy. Now that he's gone, it's almost as if there's a void to fill. And I'm glad to do it.

Miss you brother; rest.

Saturday, December 09, 2006


I remember reading about these a while back & just happened to find them on after searching for the Animal Collective stuff. It's the Conet Project, a four-disc collection of shortwave radio "numbers stations", rumored to be used for secret message transmission of spy message over the past few decades. Some of the transmissions are mixed with odd repeating music or just Yoko Ono-esque vocal repetitions of the same number over and over. Weird & intriguing stuff.

Here's the link to download all four discs:

Conet Project on

Or, if you want to purchase the full 4-CD set, complete with artwork & an 80-page booklet about the recordings for $55, go to the Conet Project Official Site. You even order the official t-shirt!

Friday, December 08, 2006


Courtesy of Animal Collective & French radio station Planet Claire, here is a three song EP of a live performance from August 2005:

The Purple Bottle (Track 1)
Flesh Canoe (Track 2)
I've Got Mine (Track 3)

Or if you're more of the "watching" type, here are videos of each song being performed (this are pretty large .wmv files, so be prepared for the download to take awhile if you're on dial-up):

The Purple Bottle (video)
Flesh Canoe (video)
I've Got Mine (video)

The nice folks at Planet Claire were even nice enough to provide a .zip file with album artwork that you can print out to make your own jewel case, slip case and CD label (in .pdf format). The design is pretty crappy, but hey, it's free:

EP Artwork (.zip)

And yours truly decided to do a quick Photoshop job to make an iTunes compatible cover art JPEG:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic


**UPDATE**-- Here's some more free Animal Collective live stuff from

Animal Collective @ Archive)

You can download three free full concerts in FLAC, OGG, or mp3 format.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


I'm a little bit hurt this evening...our wonderful local record shop, Pure Pop, denied my friend request on MySpace. I hope that my recent glowing reviews of Chicago's Reckless Records didn't have anything to do with it; while Reckless may be my mistress, Pure Pop will always be my wife. Or maybe my ex-wife with a good divorce lawyer, seeing as they get half my salary every month.

Tanner, can you help me out here? I've bought every Nest Material album released (LP & EP). I've apologized every time I've accidently set off the theft alarm. I've never hit on any of the female employees (not that I haven't wanted to). And I've never complained about not getting a discount if I forget to present my Pure Pop card after my purchase has been entered into the register.

Why don't you love me back Pure Pop? :(

Here's one I've been waiting for...the sophmore follow-up to "Clap Your Hands Say Yeah"'s wonderfully catchy self-titled debut album. The new album is called "Some Loud Thunder" and will be released on January 30th. If you're of the downloading persuasion, you can download the full album on January 16th at Insound.

In the meantime, here are a couple of tracks from the album that CYHSY is providing to whet your pallette--

"Love Song No.7"
"Underwater(You and Me)"

(Right click & "Save As" know the drill)

I kind of feel bad for CYHSY--they have some pretty high expectations to fulfill, seeing as their first album became ridiculously popular in a very short period of time. However, from the tracks above, they've earned my respect--they could have easily pulled a Coldplay and just made a guaranteed hit by emulating the style of the first album. However, "Some Loud Thunder" is a pretty radical departure, much more experimental & even melancholy and vaudevillian in places, reminding me a bit of the Beruit album I enjoyed so much this year. Looking forward to the full album!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

My Dinner With Avey (and Kria...and Greg...and come to think of it, there was no dinner. Just music)

So here's how I almost didn't get to see the Greg Davis/Avey Tare/Kria Brekkan show at Firehouse Gallery last night...

I raced out of work at 5:00 yesterday, drove my little Matrix at breakneck speeds (ok, 45 tops) and headed into downtown Burlington. I had to pick up my girlfriend Jaime-Lynn first, and then we headed to Firehouse to buy tickets for the concert. When we got there, no one was around. I waited for about ten minutes and finally a woman came downstairs and told me that tickets would not be sold until the gates opened at 7:30.

Ok, I thought, I was planning on getting the tickets & then getting dinner & a few drinks before the show; I'll just change the order a bit. So we went off to American Flatbread & got some 'za, salads and a bottle of Las Rocas. A nice, relaxing dinner and when we finished it was only 6:45.

So we headed off to Wine Works to get another glass of wine (hey, I don't get out much...) and they were having some weird speed dating thing going on and the only table available was right in the midst of it. It was kind of depressing to watch, so we opted for another bottle, of Borsao instead. Luckily we didn't have the fortitude to finish it, as we probably would have been quite sloppy for the show. We paid the bill at 7:35 and walked over to the Firehouse.

When I got in line, I was stunned--a queue of flesh (unfortunately nearly all caucasian, but that's for a different blog/rant) that went past the Firehouse toward RiRas. Crap. I saw someone that I knew from a previous job that now works for the Firehouse & I told him that I was on the reserved list. He was about to usher me in the side door when he realized I wasn't alone & told me that I'd unfortunately have to join the rest of the poor, huddled masses. Sigh.

So we got in line & I chatted a bit with the guy behind me about Andrew Bujalski (which I guess earns me official "hipster" status) and watched in horror as the seats fllled up. The one damn concert that I finally make it out for & I'm going to miss it because of delicious red wine. I was picturing myself leaning with my ear against the glass outside for an hour and a half, shivering.

But no--we managed to get in and take some side seats in the back. I got to say a quick hello to Casey Rea and we sat down as Greg Davis was doing the evening's intros and preparing to do his opening set.

I've only recently been introduced to Greg's work, and it has absolutely blown me away. His collaboration with Sebastien Roux,"Paquet Surprise", is one of the most beautiful and deceptively simple albums I've heard in a long time. I have great respect for music that you can either listen to pensively over a good set of headphones or fall asleep to because you feel so comfortable with it. "Paquet Surprise" achieves both for me. If you don't own this album, you should.

Greg began his set with a long, single note drone that sounded like warm amp feedback hum. It had an immediate comforting effect on the audience. My girlfriend put her head on my shoulder. The girl in front of us put her head on her boyfriend's shoulder. Greg has apparently found the aphrodisiac note. The room buzzed and purred like a huge electronic cat. Then slowly, almost imperceptibly, the tone began to shift in pitch and more instrumentation came in. An electric violin (or at least it sounded like it--I was too far back & there were too many heads to see the instruments), then chimes. The drones shifted to a simple yet multilayered melody, sounding like what I dream a church choir should sound like.

Then slowly, again almost imperceptibly, the layers faded back to reveal a recording of nature sounds that I never even noticed before in the mix. Then only the chimes were left. And then silence. What an amazingly beautiful piece; it makes me proud to know that we have a talent like Greg here in Burlington.

A few minutes after Greg's set, Avey Tare & Kria Brekkan made the stage. I probably wouldn't have been able to pick them out from the rest of the crowd, except for the fact that they looked slightly older & exuded the calm confidence that can only come from being a power-couple who belonged to two of the most critically-acclaimed indie bands of the past decade. That and Avey's sweater. Who the hell else would wear that? But I gotta admit--dude pulled it off.

Their set was incredible. The fact that a single piano, acoustic guitar & two voices could fill up the gallery like a symphony made me acutely aware of the power of good songwriting. The crowd was literally leaning forward, trying to catch the cryptic lyrics that Avey was putting forth, bent and twisted, loud and soft, baritone & falsetto. I hate to put forth such a comparison, but it reminds me of concert footage of the early 60s Dylan shows I've seen, where everyone is seated quietly, latched to every annunciation of phrase. It's quite a tag to put on someone, but if anyone is going to be the Dylan of our generation, I'd rather have it be Tare than some little emo twit like Connor Oberst. (Cue "Donna")

Kria was like some gentle woman-child, the slightly-twisted offspring of Erik Satie and Bjork. Her piano playing and pixie-like voice worked perfectly together, reminding me of why I had liked her former band, Mum, so much. Her style also melded perfectly with Avey's; whether it was genius or just the chemistry that happens when two young musicians in love work together, i don't know. Maybe a little of both.

The songs went from gentle & soft to harsh & tinny, but always beautiful as the sounds reverberated off of the ceramic vases, pitchers & plates that lined the side walls of the gallery. Avey and Kria finished their set and I left the gallery, a bit hungover from the wine & the beautiful music I had heard that night.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Because of my work schedule, I don't get to go to many local shows, but I've managed to put everything aside tonight to attend this show at Burlington's Firehouse Gallery & I'm sure it won't disappoint! I'll have a full write-up of my thoughts on the show by tomorrow night; hope to see you all there!

Sunday, December 03, 2006


For those of you who don't know me well, I graduated from college in 2001 with a degree in Film & Video. My specialization was in the highly lucrative career of avant-garde and experimental film. Obviously, I was unable to parlay my love of pixels and jump cuts into a career (though I did work as a Motion Graphics designer for nearly three years), but I still make films as a hobby.

I've long been a fan of experimental music videos and documentaries, and my images are often inspired by music. I've even made a few experimental works using music from some local Burlington bands that I thought I'd share.

NECROPHAGIA (The Cancer Conspiracy, "Conversation With A Wall")

This was actually a trailer for what was meant to be a longer experimental documentary on The Cancer Conspiracy, mixing some of the imagery shown here with live concert footage, interviews, etc. Alas, it was never meant to be, as TCC went their separate ways shortly after I completed this trailer.

GOSSIP OF FLAMES (The Interior, "Gossip of Flames")

This is probably the closest thing to a "music video" I've done, seeing as it incorporates the entire track. The footage that it contains is b-roll from my days as a wedding/events videographer, quite possibly the worst job in the world. If anyone out there is interested in the ghost-like effect used, I'll be glad to explain what I did. Let's just say it involves After Effects and many layers of video.

I have the worst luck with these things, because shortly after I made the video, The Interior broke up.

APPLE CORE (Nest Material, "Ghosts of Dead Kids")

For a short time, I was participating in an online film club called the "54-hrs. Film Project". You would get a cryptic sentence via e-mail on Friday night & have to create a short film inspired by that sentence, encode it & post it to the web within 54 hours. "Apple Core" was one of these submissions. I had just recently been turned on to Nest Material, and I really wanted to incorporate their music into one of my pieces, it is.

I'm sure most of you have probably seen this already, but it was a first for me. All I can say It's been argued back and forth whether Glover was on LSD or if this was just an early incantation of his "Hellion" put-ons (he's a pretty eccentric guy; very Kaufmann-esque) and I'm really torn as to which it is myself. Maybe a bit of both. Apparently Glover claims he is not a user of any type of drugs. Hmm.

For future proof of the weird genius of Crispin Hellion Glover, check out his new film "What Is It?", a very bizarre 16mm transgressive feature film starring Glover, a lot of nude women in masks, snails & a cast of mainly mentally challenged non-actors.

Oh yeah, and did I mention--he's a musician as well. Here's the music video for his "hit" single, "Clowny Clown Clown"

Thursday, November 30, 2006

So Who Has $17,000.00 To Loan Me?

And that's with eight days left to go...What an amazing piece of history though--a "one-of-a-kind acetate" of the Warhol-approved version of the Velvet Underground & Nico album for sale on eBay right now. I remember seeing this on a VU unauthorized documentary not too long ago. I'm sure the bidding will probably get substantial higher in the final day.

You know, it is the season of giving; maybe if you each pitched in a few measley grand you could make me a very happy boy this Xmas.... :)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Sorry I haven't posted anything in a few days (including the review of Aronofsky's "The Fountain" that I promised. I'm currently in Chicago prepping for a big work presentation on Friday, and I'm working around the clock to finish it in time. I'll try my best to get the Fountain review up by Saturday. Take care everybody!

Sunday, November 26, 2006


It could very well be that I am (yet again) drastically behind the times, but I accidently stumbled upon an album today that makes me wish I hadn't already completed my "Ten Best" list, because this should have definitely been on there.

The album is called "the electricity in your house wants to sing" by a group called "i am robot and proud". The "group" is actually one guy from Toronto named Shaw Han-Liem, and he makes some of the most interesting, delicate and original pop electronic music I've heard in a while. My first listen to the album reminded me of the first time I ever put on Boards of Canada's "Music Has The Right To Children"; though the style is quite different, it gives me the same warm and fuzzy feeling, like I'm a little kid walking home from school on a sunny day. It's been a pretty lousy weekend, and this was just the album I needed....

Here's a live performance clip from YouTube--

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Some live footage of one of my favorite bands of this year, Ponies In the Surf --

I'm about halfway through typing up my review of Darren Aronofsky's new film "The Fountain", which I saw Thanksgiving night. Hopefully should have it up this evening or early next week.

Friday, November 24, 2006


After years of rumors and delays, it looks like Fantoma will finally be releasing "The Films of Kenneth Anger: Volume One".

Kenneth Anger is one of the most influencial filmmakers of the New American Cinema movement, essentially the birth of experimental cinema in the United States. While a contemporary of Stan Brakhage, Anger chose to a style completely different than Brakhage's "supremacy of image" non-narrative silent works, instead making experimental narratives rich with occult mythology, popular music and vibrant colors.

Anger will probably be best known as an Occult filmmaker (he was closely associated with the Church of Satan and includes many references to Aleister Crowley in his work from the 60's), but he was also just as interested in exploring gay eroticism ("Fireworks") and American pop and consumerist culture ("Kustom Kar Kommandos", "Mouse Heaven"). He also made one of the most beautiful homages to the magic of cinema since Melies with his film "Rabbit Moon".

Music was always just as important as image to Anger, and as a result his films have some of the most impressive soundtracks in cinema history. His film Lucifer Rising features an epic soundtrack written by former Manson Family member Bobby Beausoleil (an alternate version was also scored by Led Zepplin's Jimmy Page), and films like "Puce Moment", "Scorpio Rising" and "Kustom Kar Kommandos" featured hip montages of 50's and 60's popular music, a technique that would influence filmmaker Martin Scorcese in films such as "Goodfellas'.

Time has not been kind to Anger. Despite remaining an active filmmaker, he has sadly become a victim of mental illness and poverty and in the past few years has been evicted from his LA apartment and was arrested for assault. But his great work still remains available. While the Fantoma DVD will not be out until late January, you can still rent some of his films on VHS at Waterfront Video as well as find them available on many p2p sites. Or if you want to experience them as they were truly meant to be experienced, get some friends together & split the cost of a 16mm print rental from Canyon Cinema and Inaugurate your Pleasure Dome!

(P.S.--Casey posted a link to the Jimmy Page version of the Lucifer Rising soundtrack here. )

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


I recently went to see Andrew Bujalski's new film "Mutual Appreciation" at the Music Box Theater on N. Southport in Chicago. I've been wanting to see this movie for a while, being a fan of Bujalski's first feature-length film "Funny Ha Ha" (which is currently available for rent at the wonderful Waterfront Video on Shelburne Road).

"Funny Ha Ha" was one of the most unique, yet familiar, films that I've seen in a while. And as much as I hate phrases like "it captured the zeitgeist of the generation" it, well, kinda did. The film is about a young woman named Marnie (played perfectly by non-actress Kate Dollenmayer) who is a few years out of college and is kind of meandering from temp job to temp job during the day and party to party at night. She's pretty, popular and confused, especially in her love life. She confesses to her friends that she's still in love with Alex (Bishop Allen band member Christian Rudder), whom she confessed her feelings to on a drunken night the past summer to only have him dismiss her....and then elope with his ex-girlfriend. Meanwhile, Marnie starts a new job with another temp company and meets Mitchell (director Bujalski) who quickly falls in love with her, but, similar to Marnie's position with Alex, the feelings aren't mutual.

Apparently this myth of "Mutual Appreciation" really appealed to Bujalski, as it became the title of his next film. "Mutual Appreciation" is an incredible sophmore work, with an direction and editing style that has matured greatly in a just a few years. Despite the seemingly improvised feel of both films, they are both carefully scripted with very little in the way of improvision. This approach has led to many (somewhat) justified and flattering John Cassavettes comparisons, which makes sense considering one of Bujalski's Boston University mentors was Cassavetes scholar Ray Carney.

"Mutual Appreciation" starts with a young man named Alan (star Justin Rice, another Bishop Allen member) and woman named Ellie (Rachel Clift) lying next to each other in bed, fully dressed, having a funny and flirty conversation about iron deficiency. It seems like they're about to consumate a successful first date when suddenly a second man (Bujalski) leaps into bed between them. Kinky three-way? No, this is Lawrence, Ellie's live-in boyfriend. Alan is an old high-school chum of Lawrence who just moved to Brooklyn from Boston after his band broke up, and we quickly see that his presence in NYC is going to cause some issues.

The next scene has Alan at a local college radio station, discussing his former band "The Bumblebees" and his upcoming solo show at a hip Williamsburg club. Two things become evident from the interview: 1) Alan is not at all prepared for this gig and has never played out without a backing band before and 2) the DJ, a cute girl named Sara (played by Seung-Min Lee) has an obvious crush on Alan. The second becomes a bit more obvious in the next scene, when Sara brings Alan back to her apartment, seducing him by pimping out her brother to play drums for Alan's gig & then jumping on an awkward and obviously not-to-infatuated Alan.

While Mitchell is busy working overtime as a professor for a local college, Alan and Ellie spend more time together, discussing Alan's plans and conspiring to start a tongue-in-cheek "cool, inclusive club", which they don't immediately invite Mitchell to join as the name was still "a work-in-progress". Their flirting and chemistry becomes increasingly evident as the days go on, with the sexual tension being very obvious, in an awkward Brooklyn hipster kind of way (a lot of "umms", trembling smiles and staring at shoes).

Soon Alan plays his gig with Sara's brother, including a dynamic performance of the Bishop Allen song "Quarter to Three". The crowd is very small, yet very receptive, including a record industry friend of Alan's father. The industry guy only attended the gig as a favor to Alan's dad, a business bed-fellow who calls his son in NY only to try to persuade him to get a real job. The industry guy invites Alan and his friends (Sara and her brother) to a "party" at his place.

From there, the night gets more and more interesting, but it's probably best not to give a full synopsis here. Go and see it yourself.

And why should you go see it? Well, for one, it's probably the best cinematic representation of the "current hip-oisie" since Richard Linklater's "Slacker", though utilizing a much more straightforward narrative & being more interested in following few characters than exploring vignettes and tangents. And for fans of cinema verite documentaries and the early films of John Cassavetes--you will not be disappointed. The same kind of energy and deceptive perceptions of "truth" are here, through authentic dialogue and grainy 16mm black & white (how heavy-grained, small format film stock ever became associated with autheticity is beyond me). And while you won't see the drunken male camraderie and spousal abuse that help defined Cassavettes' films as time capsules of the 50's, you will see the awkward confusion, post-modern irony and blue-collar debutantism that will someday define the youth of the 00's (scary thought, but you know it's true).

While "Mutual Appreciation" and "Funny Ha Ha" are far from perfect films (they tend to drag unintentionally, especially towards the end; the editing style is still fairly sophmoric), it's nice to see an original filmmaker who is finding his own voice & who is obviously just a few films away from really hitting his stride.

"Mutual Appreciation" is currently not playing at any Vermont theater (big surprise), but will be available on DVD February 23rd, 2006, jam-packed with lots of extras. I'm sure you'll be able to rent it at Waterfront Video, where "Funny Ha Ha" is currently available in their "Offbeat" section.

It begins...

After the quick death of my website, I think it's time for me to start contributing to the World Wide Webernet again. I realized that when Casey Rea over at SolidState did his shout outs to his regular contributers that I was one of the few without a Blogspot link. So, as usual, I'm a little bit late jumping on to the bandwagon, but I'm glad to be here!

I was going to call this blog "Kitchen Sink" because I wanted it to be a bit ecclectic, but luckily that name was already taken (because it was pretty lame). So instead I decided to try to little Dada trick and I turned on the TV and wrote down the first line I heard. Thankfully, it was trashy morning television, so my blog will henceforth be known as Spitting Out Teeth. It also works well with my recurring nightmare of losing teeth...but that's for another post.

I figured since I've been bugging Casey about creating a "Top Ten" list of his favorite albums of 2006, I guess I should get the ball rolling myself. So here are my favorite (new & old) albums of 2006:


#10: Sparklehorse, "Dreamt For Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain"

This one is kind of bittersweet. I'd been eagerly awaiting a new Sparklehorse release for nearly four years, since Mark Linkous' masterpiece "It's A Wonderful Life" was released. Yet, while "Dreamt..." is not a bad album by any stretch of the word (the songs are meticulously crafted and delicately beautiful), it wasn't what I was expecting. Or maybe it was exactly what I was expecting, which is even worse. IAWL took the band in a completely different direction than previous releases like "Good Morning Spider" and "Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot", with Mark opening the door of his little cave of introversion to let like-minded collaborators like Tom Waits and P.J. Harvey in (I'm still waiting for the inevitable Daniel Johnston duet). But "Dreamt..." just sounds to me like a pared-down version of IAWL at its' best and a mockery of itself at worst (the distorted mic vocals seeming a bit forced and unnecessary at times).

However, that said, it's still on my top ten for a reason. There are not too many musicians out there like Mark, with the ability to put a thrashy noise track and a gentle piano pop song back-to-back on an album and make it flow. His music is always so deeply textured, yet nothing ever seems superfluous and the melody always holds the forefront. The gentle electronica of "Getting It Wrong" is like a Thom Yorke wet dream; "Return To Me" has a Will Oldham meets Mick Jagger feel & "Knives of Summertime" is like the best Tom Petty song that Tom Petty never wrote or performed on. And if you need a nice 10-minute plus lullabye, the title track is perfect.

#9: Bishop Allen, "Charm School"

Ok, I'll admit it--I'm one of the many who are just getting into Bishop Allen this year due to Justin Rice's leading role in Andrew Bujalski's wonderful new film "Mutual Appreciation". But after seeing this movie in Chicago this past month, I couldn't get the song "Quarter to Three" out of my head and I had to buy this album.

While it's an imperfect album in many respects (whoever chose the tracklisting deserves to be shot), there are still a few very catchy jems on "Charm School" that you'll find yourself humming for weeks. "Quarter to Three" is definitely one of them, despite the version on the album unfortunately opting for twee artiness over the raw energy of the live version from the film.
"Little Black Ache" is a cute song with precious (in a good way) lyrical moments, such as " keys have found a way to lock me out again". It's also a great example of the masterful way this band can build a song, starting as simple indie drum/bass/vocals song, then morphing into a Byrds-style pop jangle, and then ending with Butterfield-esque guitar riffs that sound like a outtake from "Blonde on Blonde".

By far the standout track of the album is the very anthemic (again, in a good way) "Things Are What You Make Of Them", which had it been the title track probably would have gotten Bishop Allen some major radio airplay. Alas, it wasn't to be, but it's still a great song with an understated but perfectly appropriate slide guitar and an early Pavement-on-ecstacy kind of feel to it. I don't dance, but this song makes me want to shake my ass a little bit.

#8: Akron/Family, "Akron/Family"

I purchased this album on my first visit to the wonderful Reckless Records in Chicago this summer, and have since returned there many times. I absolutely adore this shop, and as much as I hate to criticize my beloved Pure Pop, they could learn a lot from Reckless. The staff is always incredibly helpful, friendly & never condescending and the owners of the store have the staff choose about 30-50 albums a month that they write reviews for, along with "if you're a fan of...." listings. The newest Akron/Family album, "Meek Warrior", was one of their monthly picks, but seeing as I wasn't acquainted with the band I decided to pick up the preceeding album, the self-titled "Akron/Family".

It's a brilliantly minimalistic and restrained album, reminding me a bit of Burlington's own "The Cancer Conspiracy" at times (at least in the instrumental sections). Then, at times, it gets into crazy little jam sessions that sound a little bit "Exile On Main Street" and a little bit Animal Collective. The track "Running, Returning" is a strange but engaging tune that combines a Radiohead-esque lead in, breaking out into a Joan of Arc style straining vocals over folksy guitars. "Shoes" sounds like a collaboration with The Books at the beginning and then takes multiple turns, such as vocal harmonies/clapping/stamping tangent that vaguely reminded me of "The White Album". Weird review, I know. It's a weird album. But a great "put-on-the-headphones-on-a-rainy-Sunday" listen.

#7: Pants Yell!, "Recent Drama"

2006 will forever go down in history (at least the history of my own mind) as "The Year Jay Learned To Love Twee". It was just one of the few musical styles that I could never really get into; it always just seemed so whiny and childish and pretentious. And I hate to say it, too effiminate for my tastes. I'm by no means into "cock rock", but I've always been more interested in strong, confident, defiant vocals backed up by adventurous instrumentals. Dylan, Yorke, Waits...these were my guys. Not some dork hipster in a cardigan vest playing jangle-pop.

Then I was introduced to Asaurus Records. Asaurus is a great independent twee label from Michigan (they distribute a lot of local-boy Colin Clary's stuff), and they have the truest representation of a D.I.Y. record company that I've ever seen. Most albums are about five bucks. The CD sleeve & artwork is all mediculously handmade. And to top it all off, they have gotten some of the most talented and innovative bands around to record with them.

Pants Yell! is one of these bands, and their latest release "Recent Drama" is one of my favorites. The songs are deceptively simple and well-crafted with very catchy melodies. They kind of remind me of a human version of Ben Folds Five, without the cockiness and lyrical self-importance. Just fun "bopping-your-head-around-with-a-cute-girl-in-dark-framed-glasses-and-a-thrift-store-dress" kind of music, but also enjoyable to have playing on a road trip.

The opening track, "Kids Are the Same" are a good example of the no-nonsense, get to business style of the band. It starts off like a shot & doesn't quit. "You Want Trouble" is a hilarious threat, coming from a band who, no matter who you are, you KNOW you could kick their ass. My favorite track on the album however is the second-to-last, "Your Feelings Don't Show" a Belle and Sebastian style ode to not being able to quit a girl (in a twee song? no way....). If you're looking for fun, goofy, nerdy music that will put a smile on your face, "Recent Drama" is a good pick.

#6: Bonnie Prince Billy, "The Letting Go"

I should have gotten into Will Oldham years ago, but as usual, it took me a while to catch on. I've been a long-time fan of independent filmmaker Caveh Zahedi and when he released a new film on his website, I had to pick it up. It was called "Tripping With Caveh" and was meant to be a series of short films (ala "Fishing With John") in which Caveh takes mushrooms with various celebrities. So far, the only person to take him up on the offer has been Oldham. It's a hillarious film, with Caveh in the depths of a bad trip, speaking in tongues and lying immobilized on the lawn while Oldham trips joyfully while jumping on a trampoline and riding around in go-carts.

Then out of nowhere, this crazy bald-headed hippie starts singing and playing the guitar and I was awestruck. I never imagined that such a voice could be attached to that body, that such wise lyrics could come from the mind of such a young goofball. But they did, and I've been listening to as much of Oldham's work as I can lately.

"The Letting Go" is the latest from one of Oldham's nom-de-plumes, Bonnie Prince Billy. The opening track, "Love Comes To Me", is spellbinding with its beautiful string-section playing off of Oldhams gentle acoustic strumming and the interminging vocals of Will and Dawn McCarthy (who reminds me a lot of Cat Power's Chan Marshall, and doesn't deserve the negative criticism she's been getting for her additions to this album). The beautiful and slightly off-kilter "Wai" is another standout, with the song seeming to fight Oldham's attempts to keep it simple and straightforward. And "Cursed Sleep" is one of the most perfect songs I've ever heard, with the best blending of strings & acousting guitar on the album and the evocative lyric "I dreamed of her inside of me". I really want to take this album on a camping trip; I can almost hear the music bouncing off the trees listening to it in my living room.

#5: Beirut, "Gulag Orkestar"

Do you ever have one of those albums that you've been waiting your entire life to hear, but you don't realize it until you actually hear it? Beirut's "Gulag Orkestar" was that album for me. A strange bastardization of Tom Waits' "The Black Rider", mixed with a bit of Kurt Weill & The White Stripes, it takes you back in time half a decade and then snaps you right back to present day in a matter of minutes.

Vaudeville music and culture are making a comeback recently, and I personally welcome it with open arms. I love the accordian and clarinet in popular music, whether it's a romantic French song, a Klesmer band or just strange German/Gypsy hybrids like this album. It's such a foreign, unbalanced sound and makes me feel like something magical and new is happening. The opening track, "The Gulag Orkestar", is a bold waltz that makes you feel like you're entering Calligari's cabinet. "Mount Wroclai" sounds like an outtake from the "Amelie" soundtrack that should have never been taken out.

By far, my favorite song on the album is the second track, "Prenzlauerberg", which is a strange oompa song that makes you feel like you should be holding hands and dancing in a circle in some beer hall in Romania, everything in black and white.

#4: Animal Collective, "Hollinndagain"

I've been a fan of Animal Collective for a while now, starting with their bizarre, sometimes painful noise compositions and learning to appreciate and love their forays into more "conventional" (as if AC could ever be conventional) popular music. Hollinndagain was one of the few albums by the band that I had never heard, mainly because the album was so rare and expensive.

However, the band decided it was time to finally release this popular live recording on CD this year and I'm glad they did. It took me back to the Animal Collective of old, the harsh and improvisational (but never chaotic or out-of-control) experiments with sound.

The opening track, "I See You Pan", is one of the most interesting ten minutes of music I've ever heard, evolving from what sounds like a cheap tape recorder white noise loop into a electric field of vocoded lightning zaps and distortion thunder. Suddenly, simple two note synthesizer comes across clearly and starts to grow into a simple, recognizable melody. Vocals build, and it begins to sound like a Radiohead b-side being played in between radio stations--a pretty song underneath layers of static. Then it deconstructs again into calm two note synth and a hissing back beat, while an intermittent mouth-clapping chant fades in and out. It's like the soundtrack that Stan Brakhage would never allow on one of his films.

#3: Tom Waits, "Orphans: Brawlers, Bawler & Bastards"

Tom Waits is the man. He's like some kind of relic from another time that we're blessed to have with us right now, a musical Bukowski of the 21st century. He has the voice of an eighty year old barfly with a trachiotomy, yet he uses it to portray rugged lyrical beauty in a way that no one since Louis Armstrong has been able to pull off. And to top it all off, he's the only musician I've ever known who has stuck a live Red Snapper down his pants for the purposes of cinematic art. Gotta love the guy.

While it would have been nice to have an album of new work, the "Orphans" box set was a very nice surprise. A collection of rowdy bar room songs (Brawlers), softer and more poetic ballads (Bawlers) and covers & everything in between (Bastards), this set goes through the Waits archives to make the most interesting collection of B-Sides since the release of the Bob Dylan "Bootleg Series Vol.1-3" set. And unlike most bootleg collections, I would have no problem recommending this set as a proper introduction to Waits' oeuvre.

Some highlights from the set--the raw, harmonica and banjo blues of "Ain't Goin' Down To The Well", the twisted Weimar circus ballad "Little Drop of Poison", and the most creative and re-invented cover from the recent "The Late Great Daniel Johnston" set, "King Kong".

#2: Thom Yorke, "The Eraser"

Radiohead is my favorite band. Hands down. I can remember the first time I ever listened to "OK Computer" on a set of headphones in my apartment freshman year. I was listening to nothing but Bob Dylan, Miles Davis and Schubert at the time and had no interest at all in what was going on in modern popular music. And then I saw this strange album cover, all white paint & esperanto & airplane safety card graphics and was intrigued. So I bought it, took it home & it said all the things I wanted to say and made all of the sounds that I wanted to make. It was one of the few times I've ever had a spirtual experience with music.

Since that day, I've went on to purchase everything that the band has put out, from the jumbled pop/grunge mess of "Pablo Honey" to the album that changed the face of popular music, "Kid A". It was always obvious that the songs were in large part driven by the moods, interests and tastes of frontman Thom Yorke, and I figured it was only a matter of time before he released a solo album.

It took longer than I figured it would, with Yorke finally releasing his first solitary effort, "The Eraser", this year. When I first heard it, I hated it. All of the things that I loved about Radiohead were gone--the complex layering of sound, the beautiful otherworldly wails of Yorke on songs like "Creep" or "Paranoid Android"...what the hell is this? It just sounded like Yorke recorded some demos for new Radiohead songs in Garage Band and when the band didn't dig them, he figured "Eh, bollocks, I'll release them myself".

It literally took me dozens of listens to really get this album. And even then, I wasn't fully convinced until I saw Yorke perform the songs live on the Henry Rollins show. This isn't an album of half-assed electronica with some lyrics thrown on it--it's a thought out concept piece with some incredibly complex melodies, meticulously pared down so that only the bare bones shine through. It's Yorke finally having the confidence to not hide behind a perfect vocal range and Johnny Greenwood's layers of analog synths. They're deeply personal songs, probably more so than anything he's ever done with "the band".

Some of my favorites are "The Clock" (though you really have to see the live Rollins' Show version to truly appreciate the manic Shamanistic energy), the speed-rush of "And It Rained All Night" and the heartbreaking "Harrowdown Hill", which is about the tragic controversial suicide of UN whistleblower Dr. David Clark.

#1: Ponies In the Surf, "Ponies on Fire"

This album took me by the jugular and hasn't let go. Another album purchased due to the recommendation of a staff member at Reckless Records, this was the album that single-handedly made me rethink Twee as a serious musical genre and also introduced me to the Asaurus Records label. It's the best five bucks that I've ever spent in my life.

A true brother-sister act (unlike those White Stripes phonies), Camille and Alex McGregor have managed to reimagine their simple "classical-guitar-and-cute-little-girl-vocals" in the recording studio into one of the most ethereal and beautiful albums I have ever heard, "Ponies On Fire".

"Joe" is probably the closest to the PITS (uggh....bad acronym) live sound, but brought to life through some simple organ overlays and a heavily reverbed vocal effect. It sounds like a little girls' hidden private love song brought to life.

"Part One/Little Boy Lost" is the answer to that love song. The distant, in-limbo vocals and phased organ track help to bring autheticity to the lyrics of a scared little man/boy set adrift. It sounds like a psychedelic Jack-in-the-box hymnal, or something that you would rock yourself to sleep with after a bad day.

Following up that angst is "Too Many Birds". I take back what I said about Joe being the closest song on the album to the band's live sound--this IS the sound. The McGregor's were born in Columbia and the influence of the music of that reason is evident throughout this album, especially in this song. Very pretty, but not a standout for me.

"Fairy In My House" is one of my favorites though. The creepy Dick Dale-style lead guitar and bass really define the song, along with the jazzy chorus of jazz cymbals and the lyric "bite the fingernails down to the bone". I don't think I've ever really heard a song like this before; not too many artists are making music like this.

"Slow Down Sugar" is nearly a throw-away song, except for the interesting John Cage kiddie piano & buzzing synth interlude about a minute in. I wish the whole song could have just played off of that.

"New Century Program" is a tainty little pop tune, maybe a bit too cutesy but with some of the most interesting lyrics on the album ("It's the newest filthy habit/It's the new childhood dream/It's the latest contraceptive/It's the new discography/And at the party it always stands apart").

The next track, appropriately titled "Piano Intermission" is the only all-instrumental song I've ever heard by the band and makes me hungry for more. It's too easy to label this a cute twee pop band and ignore the ecclectic musical influences and clever lyrics that make this band such a standout. This track sounds like it is being recorded from an old saloon player piano or, even more appropriately, the piano player warming up the crowd at a turn-of-the-century bijou movie theater. Does anyone remember how they used to have a piano player at the Bijou theater in Morrisville when it was just a one-screen theater (or am I terribly dating myself....)?

"Mimi Come Home" is a cute song about a lost dog that sounds a bit like a White Stripes b-side. Beyond that, there's not much.

"Gov't Brand #2" is one of the stand out tracks on the album. A brilliant re-working of a formerly acoustic-and-vocals only version of the song released on the bands' "A Demonstration" EP, this new imagining adds perfectly understanded percussion, lead guitars and organ to turn this into the song that I found myself humming in the shower EVERY FRIGGIN' DAY for the past THREE MONTHS. As you can probably tell, it's a true love/hate relationship...and apparently it's not just me--director Wes Anderson ("Rushmore", "The Royal Tennenbaums") is reported to be using the song in his next film. And if the opening lyrics don't evoke the joie-de-vivre of going to hear your first concert ("There is an echo outside/Down by the loading docks/The kids have gone clapping/And it bounces back here where we hide"), I don't know what does.

"Sing My Lord" is a lovely little fingerpicked acoustic hymn. If they actually played songs like this at church, I might actually be tempted to re-think my status as an agnostic.

The last two songs on the album sound like long-lost outtakes from two classic albums--"Casey" having a definite "White Album" feel, with Alex's vocals sounding very Lennon-esque and Camille sounding like what you wish Yoko would have sounded like. The final song "Aviary" should appeal to the Beach Boys fans out there, which instantly makes me think of "Pet Sounds" or, maybe more appropriately "Smiley Smile". Great way to end out a great album.

I realize there are a lot of big-name comparisons here, but this album lives up to them. I'm really hoping "Ponies on Fire" starts getting the recognition it deserves, because it's one of the greatest contributions to popular music that I've heard in quite a while. If you want to listen to it yourself, I highly recommend going to the Asaurus Records website & picking up a copy right now for $5. And support your local boy Colin Clary and pick up one of his albums at the same time!

That's it for now; next time I'll be writing up a review of Andrew Bujalski's "Mutual Appreciation". Thanks for visiting my blog!