Thursday, June 30, 2011

Saying Thanks

Seeing as this is my 500th post on this blog and since I recently received the type set pages for my next novel Life is But a Dream, I thought it would be a nice gesture to share the Acknowledgments page of the book.

Though in many ways a book is written in the vacuum of one's own head, there's a lot of outside contributers that may or may not even realize they are contributing to those thoughts which string themselves together in the author's head. Often times it's something that seems insignificant at first and then gradually builds. So I just wanted to take this chance and say thank you to all the ideas big and small that spark my imagination.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Swear Reflex

As anyone who has read my novels could have guessed, I'm a bit of swearer. But I'm not one of those crude people who use swear words in a casual manner. I'm from the old school and swear particularly for emphasis. A writer never likes to waste words.

This past weekend, I had a moment of proper use for an expletive. I was slicing up a particularly difficult tomato for lunch when the extremely sharp knife slipped, stabbing me in the palm between my thumb and forefinger. It went deep, hitting a nerve that left my finger numb and tingly for nearly ten minutes. At the moment of impact, in my howl of pain, I let loose a drawn out, full volume, well articulated F*#K that sent the cats scrambling for cover.

Once everything was tended to and the feeling returned to my finger, I laughed at how my reaction in such situations is to swear. It's the same for many people. I started thinking how strange it is that a release of obscenity is the body's reaction to pain, and even stranger, how it helps to ease it. Another testament to the power of words...and the dangers of sharp knives.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Weekend Music Roundup (Better Late Than Never Edition)

I have no excuse for missing the Roundup yesterday...well, I do have one but that would spoil tomorrow's post and it really is kind of a lame excuse, so I'll keep it to myself for now. I've been so engaged in the book I've been writing that I haven't had much mental energy to commit to listening of new music. But I'm on the mend. The last couple of days have seen me swim away from old CD stacks and into the bottomless abyss of sounds. So this week is once again a bit of revisited albums and a few new ones just to keep it fun. I promise next weekend to have a wealth of new stuff and perhaps a handful of insightful thoughts. Or perhaps not. Enjoy.

Dead Confederate - Wrecking Ball: This was one of my favorite albums of 2008. It's definitely in that 'descendants of Neil Young' vibe the same way Nirvana was by the end of their recording career. Their second album, Sugar, which came out last year was one of the biggest disappointments for me and I worried about the band's future. Then last week I got a sampler from their label in the mail and it included a cover of Neil Young's "On the Beach" which totally blew me away. I've since been listening to this album all over again and loving it just as much as before. Truly great stuff. Below is a link to watch them playing "On the Beach" on a beach.

Yeasayer - End Blood: Released on Record Store Day, these two songs feel like the logical conclusion to last year's Odd Blood. That album was a reinvention of '80s new wave. Just like the bands from that era moved on to heavier synth, so do these two new songs. In the same way, they also feel closer to the band's 2007 album All Hour Cymbals. So far, one of the best Record Store originals I've heard for this year.

Beady Eye - Four Letter Word: The second single from Beady Eye was released way back in January and has been in steady rotation ever since. In honor of their first gig in NYC this week, figured it was a good time to review it. Though not the best A-Side from the album (That goes to The Roller), this has the best B-Side of the singles so far. "The World Outside My Room" is great revival song who's mod vibe got to me for one reason or other. Just a great tune.

The Vines - Future Primitive: It's been almost ten years since this Australian band's debut Highly Evolved came out. Three albums and a lot of strangeness later, not much has changed. Future Primitive sounds very much like it was made by the band that made their other albums. That's not to say they are stale or that they always sound the same. They a few different sounds, but those sounds never change and they use all of them on each album. The structure of the album feels the same and therefore it's very hard to tell any of them apart. And like the others, when I cut it down to around six songs, it makes a pretty great EP. Some good songs. Some not. "Autumn Shade 4" is great as usual, always the best track on the album. (There's an Autumn Shade on every album...illustrating my point exactly.)

The Rural Alberta Advantage - Departing: Released in March, this the Toronto indie band's second album, following 2008's wonderful Hometowns. I really like the way this band captures the howl of the plains in an unexpected way. It isn't haunting the way in which that feeling is usually captured, instead it kind of kicks and fights against it. This reminds me a bit of a modern Eleventh Dream Day's Praire School Freakout.

Iron & Wine - Kiss Each Other Clean: I reviewed this album a few months ago after it came out and gave it quite a mixed review. I immediately knew there were some songs on here that were brilliant and among his best (Rabbits Will Run, Your Fake Name...) but I wasn't feeling the others. After months of listening to my three favorite songs that made it onto iPod and loving them, I dug the album back out and have been listening to the whole thing pretty much every day this past week. The songs I wasn't sure about still aren't as good as the ones I was, but they are certainly better than I first gave them credit for. If this keeps up, this might end up on my year end list. Another lesson in why albums need more than one chance.

Timber Timbre - Timber Timbre: Contemporary folk from Toronto, Timber Timbre is a singer songwriter that reminds me of lot of things (Sea Wolf, A.A. Bondy, Elvis Perkins, etc), but he is also distinct in many ways. It's a very spiritual sort of album, but preaching what I want to hear. There's an eerie Leonard Cohen feel to his lyrics with a folky Nick Cave soundtrack. If that sounds like a good mix, it's because it is.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Old Habits Are Hard to Make

I mentioned before how with this new project I'm working on, I decided to write a little more freely, allowing the characters and story to dictate where it was going. So far, it's been working out great. The opening fifty pages or so really blossomed into a world far more interesting than I ever could have planned. Many small details emerged just in passing that have become key elements to the story. This isn't exactly new for me. The same thing happened quite a bit when writing Life is But a Dream (out in just several months now). But with that book, they were within a more rigid plan that I had to begin with. I had only a basic plan here.

Of course, after writing sixty pages and having all of these elements beginning to take shape, I couldn't resist falling into old habits. I needed to spend a day figuring out what all of these elements meant. I knew they were all working together, but it was important for me to figure how before I messed it all up. I'm glad to say I did. And the story--it goes on.

(ARTWORK by Chen Ke: an amazing Chinese artist whose work I saw on exhibit in Switzerland)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Dreams We Have As Children

I've written on this blog many times before about how I'm drawn to coming of age stories, be it in novels or film or in my own writing. So when I first read about Super 8, that was the element that really drew me to the film. Sure, I love aliens and conspiracy plots and anything with a Fanning in it, but it was the prospect of seeing a good coming of age film that really peeked my interest. Having seen the film yesterday, I'm glad to say that was the aspect of the film that truly shined in my opinion.

The group of middle school kids in Super 8 are spending their summer making a zombie flick and using the experience as a way to escape a host of coming of age problems. When the friends are together, these problems seem to fade, only coming to the surface in a couple of excellent emotional scenes. In this way, it felt very genuine to me. During our adolescence, we hide amongst our friends within the joking around and the silly things we do to occupy our time. But there are moments when alone with a close friend where the problems of growing are too much to bear and come spilling out. The kids in this movie captured that as well as the kids in The Goonies and Stand By Me, two of the best to ever do it in my opinion. When so many representations of youth in film today are such obviously manufactured inventions of marketing, it's refreshing to see these characters come alive.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Weekend Music Roundup (Flashback Edition)

For some reason, this week was a bit of a nostalgia week for me. About mid-week, I got the jones to listen Death From Above 1979 and that set off a chain reaction of listening to other favorites from summers past. Since they've all been in my possession for much longer than I've been keeping this blog, I figured it was a good time to give them some due. Likewise, some of the new things on here are old in a sense...simply different versions of sounds I've known intimately for years and years. So enjoy this bit of nourishment, a taste of what makes me tick.

Neil Young - Live in San Francisco: This 180 gram double vinyl was released in Denmark a couple of years back and I was lucky enough to pick it up on my recent trip across the pond. It's from the Live Rust concert tour (one of my favorite albums) and the track list mirrors that to an extent, but also includes some of the gems from Rust Never Sleeps as well. It's nice to hear it all in one concert, flaws and all. The pressing is amazing and the sound is incredible. I'd been wanting to get Live Rust on vinyl even though I have it on CD, but this turned out even better as it's something new. Great stuff.

The Verve - Northern Soul Demos: When I came across this bootleg recently, I was super excited. I'm a big sucker for demo versions of songs, being a fan of raw lo-fi. Combine that with one of my ten favorite albums of all time and needless to say there was a bit of drool involved. However, this is one of the rare times when I actually feel like the studio album captures the band even better. The sessions for this album were notoriously unhealthy. That's not the issue here though. The songs are just as emotionally raw as ever. The problem is simply with the poor, pitchy recording quality that gets in the way of the eternal howl that Mad Richard sends forth on the album. Interesting listen for other super fans of the album however.

Kaiser Chiefs - The Future is Medieval: The lone new album from this week's bunch is the Leeds' bands first album in three years. I've never been a huge fan of this band, always considering them to be rather second tier when it came to the current crop of Brit-rock. This album does little to change my opinion, though as with their others, it's a decent crop of indie rock. There are actually a few tracks here that stand out and show a nice progression into a new sound, something that has been lacking on all their previous albums. There is also an interesting Duran Duran vibe to a bunch of the songs that I like. That said, the album is long and a bit all over the place. There's bound to be a song or two for everyone. I suppose that's what they're going for.

The Horrors - Strange House: The 2007 debut album from London garage goth rockers made a bit of splash when it came out and I was all over the horrorshow sound. This is one of the albums that I revisited this week and if anything, I admired it more having not heard it in almost two years. If The Cure had done a horror punk album, it would sound a bit like this, or perhaps if the Misfits had done a slower synth type album. Either way, it's fantastic and original and there's not much like it if you're in the mood.

Death from Above 1979 - You're a Woman, I'm a Machine: This album pretty much dominated the summer of 2005 for me and it's done the same again this week. Recently reformed, this garage rock duo plays some of the most furious rock you'll ever hear. It's a very NYC sound, or at least it is to my ears, capturing the feel of that town's sweltering summers, even though the band is from Toronto. Perhaps that just me projecting, but they're more reminiscent of early Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Rapture than the Toronto scene. Super album. Can't wait for new material.

Pleasure Forever - Pleasure Forever: The debut album from this San Fran trio, released in 2001, was also a favorite of mine from the summer of 2005. Again, I hadn't listened to it for some time and pulled it out this week (all of these albums are on the same shelf in my collection, in case you were wondering). This is a fantastic rock album that takes a good influence from Nirvana (unlike bad influences in such bands as Bush), adds in some Nick Cave piano, and a bit of Black Sabbath rhythm into complicated song structures. It's shame they only released two albums. This band deserves more recognition.

A.R.E. Weapons - A.R.E. Weapons: This album ruled my headphones in 2004, blasting this on the hellish subway commute and feeling the burnout metal vibe of this stellar album. Fair warning, there are lot of people that absolutely despise this album. I'm not one of them. This truly captures that being trapped in NYC vibe and spitting it out at the world with A.ttitude E.nergy. There's an incredible mix of influences on here from punk to hip-hop to heavy metal. "Headbanger Face" is pure heavy delight.

Mötley Crüe - Hotter Than Hell: Going way back, Shout at the Devil has been a staple of mine since I was about 10 years old. I still own it on cassette (as well an upgrade to CD) and it still rocks. Every song on that album is a glam rock classic. This bootleg is of a concert from that tour and it's great to hear these songs live. However, I would certainly stick to the studio album. The band often played under the influence of many substances and it shows. There's some sloppy moments and again the album suffers from poor recording quality, which is problematic for songs like these that you want to crank at full volume.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Feeling Grimm

(grim painting by Egon Schiele)

The other day I wrote about staying focused in on your story as you write or risk hitting a dead end. It's important to know what your story is trying to do before you write it. Otherwise it's very easy to end up with a rambling bit of mess that isn't fit even for self-publishing. (Sorry, couldn't resist). I just finished reading a pretty good book that sort illustrates my point in a way. I thought it was a good time to share my review.

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman

One important aspect to writing a good book is knowing your story's limitations. If a writer lets the subject get away from them in hopes of writing a more epic book, one that the story can't hold, then the results are typically less than rewarding. Polly Shulman is careful not to make this critical mistake. Saying the story is limited may seem like a strange way to praise The Grimm Legacy, but the truth is that the containment of an idea that could easily have run wild is exactly what makes this a well-written book. The idea is HUGE. A young girl takes a job at a library that lends out magical objects that were featured in many of the Grimm Fairy Tales. It's an incredibly intriguing concept that could easily get out of control, but the story sticks to a well structured mystery story surrounding what happens when some of the objects start to go missing. With an effective mild blend of magic and excellent group dynamic between the characters, the story succeeds in being not only a fun mystery but also a decent, if not too in depth, story about adolescence. However, I'd been hoping for more elements of a Grimm Fairy tale in the narrative structure and mood. But that's my own issue. A really solid book for Middle School kids or anyone who has ever worked in a library archive, such as myself.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Center Must Hold

I got an email today from a young writer dealing with a common problem among all writers, but especially young ones---great ideas that don't go anywhere once you start working on them. This is something that happened to me all of the time when I first started writing. I'd come up with an idea that near blew my mind and then I'd dive right in. Sometimes I'd write up to one hundred pages before I realized I had no idea what I was trying to say with it.

I don't dive in so much as wade the waters these days. I still have those dynamite ideas, but I take my time to make sure it has a center that's going to hold before I commit to writing it. A good story, like a sturdy house, needs a foundation of solid building blocks. Always make sure the material you're working with is going to withstand the big bad wolf when he comes to huff and puff and blow your whole story to shit.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Strange Places That I Visit

I've been writing about an interesting world in the new project I'm working on. It takes place in an limbo-like afterlife, giving me a lot of space for invention. When I first starting taking notes on this project last month, a lot of the pre-work was making sure I figured out this place and all its oddity. One of the things that influenced my vision of this world was an exhibit I saw in Switzerland of Chinese artists. The work of Yang Yongliang in particular caught my attention. It was so in line with the idea I was trying to formulate. It's been a big influence in the shape the project has taken.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Weekend Music Roundup

It was full-on summer in my neck of the woods for a good part of this week. I had to bunker down in the basement for a day to avoid the swelter. As a result, my musical tastes took a drastic switch this week. As I've mentioned many times before, the weather greatly affects the music I listen to. Summer for me is a time of guitars played angrily and that's pretty well represented on this week's list. Some old and some new, but together they got me through the heat wave. Then the weather broke and I spent yesterday listening the Natural Snow Buildings seven-hour masterpiece Daughter of Darkness. But that's another story completely. Enjoy.

Black Lips - Arabia Mountain: For nearly a decade, the Atlanta group has been putting out album after album of their lo-fi garage rock. There's always been a bit of unevenness with this band, but that's to be expected given their seemingly carefree attitude toward the process. That said, I feel that with this album and 2009's 200 Million Thousand, the releases have grown more solid. There's no surprises on this one. It's the same brand of fuzzed out little numbers, but it's good. "You Keep On Running" is one of their best songs yet.

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues: It's been three years since this Seattle indie folk band's debut brought mainstream attention to the growing folk movement. But the thing Fleet Foxes added to the genre was this choral-like spiritual sound. That continues on this album. In fact, this album deviates very little from the debut. In a way it's odd that three years hasn't changed anything. On the other hand, songs this carefully constructed take time. A very good album, even if it doesn't feel all that fresh.

Joshua - Opens Your Mind: The only album of early '70s Heavy Psych band is a decent addition to the genre. It's pretty standard duel guitar hard rock, but there are definite moments of freak out joy. The song "The Fist" is pretty fantastic. Worth checking out if you played all your early heavy rock to death and are looking for some new sounds to fill the air.

Goblin Cock - Come With Me if you Want to Live: Given the name and the band's ridiculous album covers, it would be easy to assume Goblin Cock were some awful joke. However, the truth is, this is a side project from some members of Pinback and actually quite good. It takes the Pinback sound and adds a level of stoner metal to it. It falls somewhere between heavy metal and indie rock, which probably won't please fans of either. But if you're a fan of both, the combination is kind of nice.

The Lollipop Shoppe - Just Colour: A few weeks ago I was listening The Seeds (a late '60s garage rock band from California) and in the CD were pictures of their old concert posters with The Lollipop Shoppe as an opening band. A day later, I came across this, the band's only album from 1968. Like The Seeds, this album is pretty groundbreaking. It's easy to see the influence this band had on the development of heavier psych and early punk. The songs are fiery and fantastic. This is rare gem that deserves more recognition.

Angelica - The End of a Beautiful Career: Despite the title, this 2000 album is the debut from the UK girl rock band and was the start of a promising career that ended soon afterward. I had been searching for this album for a few years after reading great things. I finally got a copy for Christmas and was slightly disappointed. It's not bad, but it's basically a riot grrl album, several years past the genre's prime. It's a solid okay.

Electric Wizard - Come My Fanatics: Regular readers of the Roundup are familiar with my seemingly endless praise of this dynamic UK stoner metal band. This 1997 album (the band's second) was released three years prior to their masterpiece Dopethrone. Like that album, this one is heavy with a capital H. "Son of Nothing" and "Return to the Son of Nothingness" are epic.
America - America: The 1971 debut album from the UK folk rock band features the band's best known song "Horse with No Name" which despite having heard it sixteen million times in my life, still pleases. But there is more to the album than that. Certainly the band is doing their best Neil Young impression on the songs, but they do it well. There are a handful of sub par tracks, but there are also a handful of stand outs. All in all, a nice '70s folk rock album.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Last Exile (Episodes 10-12)

(Catch up on previous episodes here)

This week I was able to make my way back on board the rebellious airship Silvana to visit in with Claus and Lavie on their continued adventures in what is turning out to be one of my favorite anime series of all time. When I last left off, the young vanship pilot Claus, along with navigator Lavie, was engaged in a marathon vanship race and leading, while the mysterious Alex Row was planning to get his hands on the last exile, a cube shaped object believed to have powers as of yet unknown to the viewer. It's the unknown to the viewer part that is making this series so fantastic for me.

So often television force feeds the viewer its plot in large, easily digestible portions. Like any great quest novel, Last Exile is content with revealing one little clue at a time and trusting the viewer to piece together the information over the course of the show. In these three episodes, the viewer is gradually getting a better understanding of the larger political intrigue that has only been hinted at up to this point.

It turns out there has been some recent turmoil with the Guild, which we now know is made up of several different houses or families that seem to behave much the way that royal families operated centuries ago. The little girl Alvis is apparently the last of the Hamilton House and the true heir. She also has some great power related to some, as of yet unknown, prophecy as evidenced when one of the members of another Guild house is able to put her into a trance that causes intense energy surges simply by reciting her a few lines of a poem. It's been clear from her entrance into the show that Alvis is important and I like that we are only now finding out the real nature of her role.

Nearly half-way through the series, the characters are beginning to change and take on what will most likely be their missions for the rest of the show. Each of the main characters seems to have their own quest to pursue, sometimes bringing them together and sometimes leading them apart. I've been very impressed with how well constructed this aspect of the show has been. But of course, like any good story, when things are getting to deep on the revelations, the storyteller needs to step back and mix in the action.

The last of these three episodes ends with an epic air battle that sees the Silvana taking on five of the Emperor's war ships and apparently being sunk at the end. What will happen next? I can't wait to find out.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


The world outside my window is melting. The world inside my walls is set to broil once that blazing ball of fire finds its way to the front windows. It's hard writing in this kind of weather. My brain tends to overheat. I have to fight through the slush to get a handful of pages. Like Hunter S., I've never been able to properly explain myself in this climate.

-this communication sent from the heart of the sun-

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

We Are Always Being Watched by the Watchers

(street art Zurich)

We are all spies and we are spied upon in the world today. Everything is being watched by someone. And though some may complain and cry for privacy, they are taking part in the storm as well. Whether it's for some false sense of security or a simple narcissistic need to broadcast yourself to the world, we all watchers watching each other.

There's a sense of anxiety that comes with living in a world like ours and its something I've tried to tap into with my novel Life is But a Dream (coming out this winter). In that book, I dealt with the invasive nature of being watched and turned it into a element of horror for the main character as she struggles with reality.

In the book I started writing last week, this idea of ever present watchers has crept in again. This time it's even more of an outright horror element. After all, it's the stuff of horror--from the dystopian world of 1984 (mistakenly dated 20 years too soon) to Nazi school text books that encouraged spying on your neighbor. But we've chosen this for ourselves. It's funny how mankind tends to indulge in its own nightmares.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Joke Goes On...And On...And On

I'm one of those people who is continuously cracking myself up simply by thinking about things that have made me laugh before. Homer Simpson quotes are pretty notorious for that. Once I get started playing his antics in my head, I can sit and laugh for a good ten minutes. Because the thing is, in my opinion a good joke gets funnier with repetition.

When used properly, repetition is a good tool for creating many different effects. In a good horror story, it can be used to create suspense and ultimately surprise. Repetition of actions or dialogue between characters can strengthen the bond in their relationship. And repetition in the sense of a running joke can create some great comedy. Think of Michael Scott's hatred of Toby on The Office or the broken step in Modern Family, or every character except George Michael's reaction to Ann on Arrested Development. It's the same joke over and over, but somehow it's funnier each time.

So let me repeat, when used properly, repetition is a good. (Don't look for me to repeat this post tomorrow.)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Weekend Music Roundup

It was back to work this week and back to my regularly scheduled listening. It's also that time of year when a slew of albums comes out ahead of the summer touring season, which means it was a week of listening to mostly 2011 releases. This year has a been a little slow to start musically, but that seemed to change over night as I listened to the albums on this week's list. These are all new albums by bands that I own and enjoy previous albums by, so it was an exciting time for the audio inputs. Viva 2011...Enjoy!

Arctic Monkeys - Suck It and See: The lads from Sheffield are back with their first album since 2009 and their best album since their debut in my opinion. Though I enjoyed the heavier sound of 2009's Humbug, I felt Josh Homme's hand was too involved and steered the band away from the originality they've always shown. This album shows a progression to more intimate songs and is more mature musically. Easily one of my favorite albums of the year so far. "Piledriver Waltz" is amazing and "Don't Sit Down..." is one of the more distinct songs they've made in years.

Handsome Furs - Sound Kapital: The Montreal duo's first album since 2009 could also be their best. Dan Boeckner (half of Wolf Parade) is at the top of his game here, as he was on last year's Wolf Parade album. Gone is the overly Bruce Springsteen-y influence of the last album, replaced with a more frantic tempo that makes for a great indie rock album, a refreshing change from all the folk trends of late, which I love, but sometimes you need a little rock and this is supplies it.
Bon Iver - Bon Iver: The second full-length album from the Wisconsin art-folk band doesn't deviate much from 2007's For Emma, Forever Ago. That wouldn't be such a bad thing...if it were 2008. My love affair with this band has faded drastically during the years between. I loved the debut album, and listed it as my favorite of the year back in 2007. But then came a terrible EP and some not-so-great side-projects, and then recently I listened to For Emma and honestly wasn't that into it. My problem is that the songs all tend to sound alike and there's this level of pretentiousness that completely multiplies on this album. That said, it's a solid listen with a handful of decent tracks. But over all, it's kind of forgettable in my opinion. I'm sure thousands of rabid fans will disagree and launch into the many reasons why I'm won't change my mind.

The Antlers - Burst Apart: Though this is the Brooklyn indie folk band's fourth album, but it's the first one I've acquired, though I'm familiar with them through their Daytrotter Sessions. I've been intrigued by them for quite awhile, finding some amazing songs while finding other tunes to be a little too far on the chamber folk scale for my taste. This album continues that trend. There are a few songs I could do without, but the songs that grabbed me are nearly perfect. "Putting the Dog to Sleep" and "Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out" are real stand-outs for me. A solid album.

Alamo Race Track - Unicorn Loves Deer: This Amsterdam's last album, 2006's Black Cat Tom Brown, is one of my favorites from the last decade. So obviously, I was excited to hear their first album in five years. The band's sound has changed a lot since then. Instead of the darker fairy tale tone of the previous album, these songs take a more upbeat approach. It reminds a little of a great French band called Cocoon, but doesn't pull off the sound quite as well as they do. I prefer the darker sound, but that said, I'm sure others will much prefer this album.

My Morning Jacket - Circuitical: Having been on the forefront of the indie folk/ y'alternative movement for a decade, it would seem that My Morning Jacket would begin to lose it's thunder, but it appears to be just the opposite. With each album, this band grows on me and this is easily my favorite of theirs, just topping Evil Urges (their previous album). They've perfected their Wilco meets The Jayhawks sound into a wonderful folk album that beckons to the '70s but without feeling stale. I've been listening to this one a lot.

White Denim - D: This Austin trio has been releasing an album a year since 2008 with their earlier albums being a frantic blend of garage rock and classic rock influence, spun around on its head and played faster. Though I've enjoyed their previous work, it felt a little messy at times. I'm happy to say that this album shows a great maturity and a more defined groove. It's amazing with a touch of folk will do. Their trajectory reminds me a pit of Dr. Dog, which can't be a bad thing.

Man Man - Life Fantastic: One of the more interesting bands of the last decade, this Philly's band's previous three albums are chaotic blend of Captain Beefheart meets the current world of experimental indie rock. Sounding a bit like a roving band of gypsies is what has always given Man Man their original appeal and this album is no different. Starting with 2006's Six Demon Bag (a masterpiece) to 2008's Rabbit Habits (an album I loved and have recently been listening to a ton) to this album, the band has mellowed a bit. Though anyone who knows these albums knows that 'mellow' is a relative term. There's something of a Burrough's surreal nature to these albums, like a Tom Waits album on a dust. Life Fantastic is fantastic indeed.