Track of the Day: Caitlin Kraus Torres - "Waiting for the World"

Dear Discriminating 7" record purchaser,

Our new favorite label, Austin's Keeled Scales, dropped a 7" from Caitlin Kraus Torres this last June. "Waiting for the World" begins with a dark, shaking sound before the melody and instruments begin to creep in and Torres shows off her strong vocals. You'll hear traces of Angel Olsen and Sharon Van Etten mostly because of Torres' vocal strength. But, that's not the entire showpiece here.  There's a understated but sophisticated orchestration that creeps in during the track. While we begin with what seems to be solely noise, by the end, "Waiting for the World" becomes a lush almost chamber pop piece that ranks right up there with bands like The Castanets. 

Barcelona Gipsy balKan Orchestra - "Lule Lule" (Music Video)

Dear Balkan/Central European Folkloric Musical Renaissance,

At first I thought: I'm fine with having just Beirut and Hawk and a Hacksaw in my life. Just fine. But now I realize that I was wrong. Here in Barcelona (where I'm staying for a couple months. Come out, say hi), I came upon a flyer for the subject of this letter, BGKO (a reformed version, so it seems of, Barcelona Gipsy Klezmer Orchestra). I had expected the show to be a small affair, but when the line stretched literally around the block, I realized that I discounted the popularity of the group. In the Marsula Cafe, the group performed in the round. The audience was a veritable United Nations -- in ethnicity, nationality, and age -- and the band matched. Consisting of musicians from all over Europe, BGKO's sound was equally diverse swinging from klezmer to Italian folk music and everywhere in between. The musicianship was incredible, even while breaking in a new clarinet player, and it isn't a reach to call the singer, Sandra Sangiao, mesmerizing.  The group has 2 records with a third due out soon. But, perhaps the best way to get into the music is through watching the group live. So, I'm attaching a vid that I think you'll like. The tune is "Lule lule," an Italian folksong (and if it's not, blame my poor Spanish for hearing that), which, in concert becomes a riotous audience participation number. It's hard to interact with YouTube, but I think you'll get the drift until you can see them live.


Real Live Tigers - "Denatured" [Music Video]

Dear House Show Goers,

Odds are you've seen or heard of Real Live Tigers. I know I've been passing through more than one town and happened to have my travels coincide with the band. Hell, I've even let 'em crash on my couch and floor more than once. Hospitality isn't completely dead not matter what the pundits tell you. 

So, today we serve "Denatured," a track from Real Live Tigers' forthcoming LP of the same name, mastered by Paul Gold (Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, Jason Molina), the album is available on limited edition smokey-gray transparent vinyl from Keeled Scales.

You'll no doubt recognize certain trademarks of Real Live Tigers right off the bat from this: a pensive, melancholic tone, the desire for change, how emotional turmoil and urban decay seem to slip by each other with a knowing wink. Yeah, all those things that makes Real Live Tigers great are in this track. 

Enjoy, and I'm pretty sure that Tony'll be coming to a house near you pretty soon.


Track of the Day: Karl Blau - "How I Got to Memphis"

Here's a blast from the past. Some years ago, when I made the acquaintance of Real Live Tigers, crashing on the floor of a house in Arkansas, Tony presented me with "Lightning Bolts on Me Wanger," a mix of total jewels from the indie indie scene and with a title taken from the Flight of the Conchords brilliant tribute episode to David Bowie. One of the tracks was Karl Blau's "How I Got to Memphis," a cover of Kentucky's Tom T. Hall. (Remind me to tell you about his other tunes like "I Like Beer" or how the highway out of Morehead, Kentucky is named after Hall.) Blau's voice hints at the Western part of Country/Western while having what seems to be an ironic aching tone. This track is a total ear worm, and the chorus, I guarantee will pop up for you again sometime, just as it reemerged for me today, Good Friday, when the track seems to be reissued and found its way onto Spotify in anticipation of Blau's cover record out in May via Bella Union. Enjoy!

Where Have all the Producers Gone?

I think it was sometime in college when a friend handed me a copy of Pavement's Terror Twilight -- "have you heard this?," he asked. "It was produced by Nigel Godrich." Godrich, of course, had made his name as the man behind Radiohead's dials. Since then, he's worked with pop stars like Natalie Imbruglia, put out albums with Beck, scored Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and been fired by The Strokes. Godrich has that sainted quality that only a handful of indie rock producers have -- think Steve Albini, Brian Eno, or Dave Friedman -- they've got name recognition to the point where they not only have their own sound, but opportunities to work with just about any act they want, or in the case of Albini, anyone that can put up with them.

With the passing, last week, of The Beatles long time producer and collaborator George Martin, I couldn't help but think back of when I looked for what records based on producers as well as artists. And, I couldn't help but wonder, besides the handful of names that I could come up with (add Jim O'Rourke & Don Zimmer to that list as well), where have all the producers gone?

There's always been an inborn tension between indie and producers. The DIY roots of much of the music having to do with a lot of it. Bands want to control their own sound. And outside of a few groups (see Fugazi and Zimmer or Radiohead and the aforementioned Godrich) who have found a genuine collaborator in their producer, we hear more when people are pulled off projects in legendary spats like Albini vs. Nirvana on In Utero

Recently, figures like Guy Picciotto (from Fugazi), O'Rourke (former collab of Wilco, Sonic Youth, and others), John Vanderslice (solo artist), have made forays from being mostly musicians into producing. While producers have made their way into films. The diversification of how you can make a living means pulling attention off certain areas -- recording in studios with bands -- toward more lucrative ventures. Not only that, but the advent of streaming services, whose sound quality is less than most physical outputs, the knob turning has been rendered less important in our earbuds and even with the supposedly better quality of Beats.

As Martin's passing showed, it's perhaps only the extraordinary producers who seem able to coexist and get the best out of their groups. And, indeed, it's rarer to find one that helps determine the artistic progress of a group. In Martin's case, he didn't just help create a musical group, but a zeitgeist. It's hard to see, in our present time, many others being able to follow in such giant footsteps. Yet, we shouldn't discount or dismiss producers. Obviously, their role in hip-hop and pop is unquestionable and undergoing a major renaissance these days, but for indie rock, too, producers can be the center of attention. Perhaps this is a good time to not only remember but think about who can help create the next zeitgeist.

[WWTAWWTAM]: Amanda Petrusich on Music Criticism & the Age of the Insta-Release

With the insta-drop of Kanye, Rihanna, & Kendrick Lamar, in the past few weeks, everyone has jumped to the genius button and clicked, clicked, clicked. Recency biases aside -- it's hard not to think of a comparison between music & sports here, just because something just happened doesn't mean that it's the greatest ever -- Amanda Petrusich, writing in The New Yorker, wonders about what these insta-releases have done to music criticism:
No one wants to be a doddering relic, squawking about the glory of olden times, when we churned fresh butter and listened to new records for a couple of weeks before bestowing numerical scores upon them. But, for me, the idea that the culture is now not merely accepting but, in fact, demanding instantaneous critical evaluations of major works of art feels plainly insane. 
In fact, there's a sense in which the whole industry has gone insane. As if Kanye, Rihanna, & Lamar's releases are knee-jerk FUs to the traditional releasing system made out of ego (in the case of Kanye) or impulse. Both those things, are what most critics are against in making their judgments. Which, Petrusich rightly points out. Indeed, it's hard not to think of these tweetable records -- hitting social media to a flurry of tweets and retweets -- as eschewing something fundamental about the nature of art, that is it's permanence. As Petrusich wonders:
Who hasn’t lived with a record for weeks, only to wake up one morning and find that it has suddenly unlocked a whole new suite of rooms deep in one’s subconscious?
That deeper connection, where music creates spaces in your mind, doesn't just pop up one day when a message flashes across the screen. It's an experience that takes time and attention. Two things that we should be focusing more on as critics and listeners.

Read Amanda Petrusich's article at The New Yorker here.