January 23, 2015

Death Cab for Cutie debut new song "Black Sun", first in concert, and now officially

You will probably see a lot of videos pop up between now and Kintsugi's release on March 31, but this one does have excellent audio and video, and is in HD. I have decided "Black Sun" is the only song I am going to listen to off the new Death Cab album before it comes out, and I believe it will be the first single.

Jan. 26 UPDATE: Official video has been posted.

January 18, 2015

The Best of Tooth & Nail Records, 1993-Present

This is my 3rd post of 2015 about this seminal label, as I obviously can't get them out of my head. I have been wanting to list my favorite Tooth and Nail albums for a few years, but wasn't completely inspired, and it wasn't until today that I finally got them all in one playlist. I own around 140 Tooth and Nail releases (which also includes Solid State and BEC).

I decided a top 20 list should be sufficient. As with all of my lists, I don't duplicate artists (if I had, half would probably be from Starflyer 59 and Stavesacre alone). Also going to list the top EP's, as I don't think there has ever been a better label at issuing essential "extended-plays".

What's missing? Most notably Roadside Monument, who I inexplicably missed out on in the 90's (just now exploring their discography). Also, at random: Zao, Mae, Copeland, Joe Christmas, and Aaron Sprinkle solo could have/should have made it.

Also, the Crucified is missing, but that is because all of Tooth and Nail's many Crucified releases are re-issues. It is crazy to think that Tooth & Nail is actually post-Crucified. Otherwise, The Pillars of Humanity definitely makes this list.

My top-20 all-time favorite Tooth and Nail Records full-length albums:
1. Luxury- Amazing And Thank You 1995
2. Stavesacre- Absolutes 1997
3. Poor Old Lu- The Waiting Room 2002
4. mewithoutYou- Brother, Sister 2006
5. Morella's Forest- Super Deluxe 1995
6. Blenderhead- Muchacho Vivo 1995
7. Velour 100- Of Color Bright 1997
8. Starflyer 59- Silver 1994
9. The Blamed- Frail 1995
10. Blindside- A Thought Crushed My Mind 2000
11. Focused- Bow 1993
12. MxPx- Teenage Politics 1995
13. The Juliana Theory- Emotion Is Dead 2000
14. Further Seems Forever- The Moon Is Down 2001
15. Fair- The Best Worst-Case Scenario 2006
16. Michael Knott- Strip Cycle 1995
17. Dead Poetic- Vices 2006
18. Demon Hunter- Demon Hunter 2002
19. Havalina Rail Co.- Havalina Rail Co. 1994
20. Stretch Arm Strong- Rituals Of Life 1999

My top-5 all-time favorite Tooth and Nail Records EP's:
1. Pedro the Lion- Whole EP 1997
2. Starflyer 59- Le Vainqueur EP 1995 and/or She's The Queen EP 1994 (Couldn't pick between the two)
3. Velour 100- Songs from the Rainwater EP 1997
4. P.O.D.- Warriors EP 1998
5. Joy Electric- Five Stars For Failure EP 1995

January 17, 2015

Early Tooth & Nail Records, the death of the iPod (& the birth of the FiiO?), and still burning CDs

Many things inspired this post:

1. I finally got my No New Kinda Story BluRay last week, which is a documentary on the first few years of Tooth and Nail Records. That inspired me to figure out the chronological/numerical order for all of the label's releases of the first few years. I created an iTunes playlist, and ended up stopping with TND1051, which for me was the turning point to the label's mediocrity (although they continue to put out great albums today, but it is less than 10% of their overall output). I own(ed) and love(d) 45 or so of the first 50 Tooth and Nail releases, but only 20 or so of the second 50.

Page from a 1994 Tooth and Nail Records Catalog

2. My iPod has been finicky. It is a 2008 80gb iPod Classic, but I love it. I would prefer to buy an 160gb Classic to replace it, but now that they have been discontinued by Apple they are insanely expensive. I recently began researching other MP3 players for the first time in over a decade, and discovered the best new option is apparently the FiiO, and when my iPod does die, I'll probably buy a an X1 with a 128gb SD card. (If you are reading this and own a FiiO--any model--I would love for you to comment about your experience with the  MP3 player.)

3. I read an article on Pitchfork a few days ago, Life After Death (Of Your iPod). I doubt many of you will click that link, so here are some important excerpts from the story written by Hazel Cills (but could have very easily been written by me, as I feel the same way on almost all aspects):

"My iPod is dying, a slow and painful digital death, having begun to fritz and refuse to sync early into this New Year. The device was condemned to death in September, when Apple quietly killed off the iPod Classic... What’s concerning about the discontinuation of the iPod Classic is that Apple is making a concerted effort to move into streaming services which signals a future without mp3 holding devices...

"I don’t use Spotify though I do use Soundcloud and Bandcamp (until I buy the actual album.) Downloading music to a device is how I’ve come to primarily own music. Whether it’s a file on my computer desktop or a 7'' in my bag, I like owning the music. I like burning files to mix CDs... 

"I like having my entire library in my pocket and not having to worry about roaming data charges or hooking my phone up to WiFi to hear my favorite songs... There is still a huge market for large mp3 players, with people snatching up new and old Classic models already for double the price online... Also, I think the Classic is a more distraction-free listening experience—I’m more likely to get through a full album on one."

There is more to that article than what I have quoted, but the main theme is what I feel so strongly about: I want ALL my music on my iPod (or maybe a FiiO in the future) and I want it ALL to be music I have intentionally purchased. I only stream music to preview it, and I use Soundcloud, Bandcamp, and Amazon to do that. After I like a few tracks well enough I hear through those methods, I will then commit and buy the album to support the artist (ideally through the artist or label website, but often from Amazon). I will not continue to stream it; I hate Spotify more than Taylor Swift does.

Another reason I like to own all my music, and have the actual MP3 files on my hard drive, is because I still burn CD's. I LOVE making mix CDs (and I still really miss making mix tapes). My ideal way to listen to music in a car is on my iPod with a direct connection to my car stereo. My car stereo for the last few years had an iPod-specific connection (even better than a traditional line-in aux port). But I moved across the Atlantic, and my new car has a cassette player and a 6-disc CD changer. Most of the time (almost daily) I listen to my iPod through a cassette-adapter. (Side note: I bought a cassette-adapter for my Sony Discman CD player in 1994, and it worked for 20 years! I only had to buy a replacement a couple months ago).

I also like to keep my six-disc changer loaded for when I don't have my iPod in the car, or charged. And when I travel and drive other people's cars, they usually only have CD players, so I like to bring some CD mixes along. And the last school I worked at I made mix CDs for the senior class every year as a graduation present.

Now, back to Tooth and Nail Records. I have been listening to nothing but music from this label from the years 1993-1996 in the new year (Except for Bandit!). Lots of things have me thinking about that era and that label; from the documentary, to the Old School Tooth and Nail Facebook group, and new podcasts from Bill Power and Mark Salomon. Watching the documentary is one way to learn about the history of Tooth and Nail, but a completely different way is to listen to 5+ hours worth of conversation between Power and Salomon. Anyway, I am not going to get into it here, but that record label literally changed my life.

Page from a 1994 Tooth and Nail Records Catalog

What is the next step? Make a mix. Part of me wanted to see how many of the early releases I had from the label. I had over 40 of the first 50 releases in my iTunes database, and it didn't take me long to fill in the gaps. Goal number one was just to figure out what the first 50 releases were, in chronological order. Tooth and Nail numbered their releases simply enough, that if you can find the number (one the spine of the CD, or on Wikipedia), that is one way of putting it all together. But all these albums weren't actually released in that order. But if you try to sort by release date, that doesn't work either, because so many of the release dates you find in online research are wrong. Starting with TND1001, which was definitively released in Nov. 1993, yet everything online says mid-1994 (I had even heard it before then).

So here you go, the first 51 Tooth and Nail Records releases in semi-chronological order. After I created the iTunes playlist, I noticed right away that is was close to the length of two 80-minute CDs. When selecting the songs, I intentionally picked a combination of my favorite and the shortest song on each album to get as many songs as possible. I replaced a few tracks to get the time right, and impressively it was possible to fit 51 songs on 2 CDs.

If someone wants a challenge, how about you create a 2 CD set for me of the next 50 or so Tooth and Nail releases?

Disc 1 (79:25)
TND1001 Wish For Eden "Ocean" Pet The Fish 1993
TND1002 Focused "Blinded" Bow 1993
TND1003 Starflyer 59 "2nd Space Song" Silver 1994
TND1004 The Crucified "A Guy In A Suit And The Pope" The Crucified 1989 (re-issued in 1994)
TND1005 PlankEye "Scared" Spill 1994
TND1006 Sometime Sunday "Crawl" Stone 1994
TND1007 Chatterbox "Epignosis" Despite 1994
TND1008 The Blamed "The Ballad of the Blamed" 21 1994
TND1009 The Crucified "Rebellion" Nailed/Take Up Your Cross 1986/1987 (re-issued in 1994)
TND1010 Blenderhead "Power Trip" Prime Candidate For Burnout 1994
TND1011 Unashamed "Blessed Redeemer" Silence 1994
TND1012 Mend "Token" Helpless Amongst Friends Vol. 1 1994
TND1013 Havalina Rail Co. "Ragtime" Havalina Rail Co. 1994
TND1014 MxPx "Want Ad" Pokinatcha 1994
TND1015 Starflyer 59 "She Was My Sweet Heart" She's The Queen EP 1994
TND1016 Luxury "Flaming Youth Flames On" Amazing And Thank You 1995
TND1017 Everdown "Degenerate" Sicken 1995
TND1018 Rose Blossom Punch "Sowing in the Sun" Artcore Vol. 1 1995
TND1019 The Blamed "Breeze" Frail 1995
TND1020 Joy Electric "The Girl From Rosewood Lane" Melody 1994
TND1021 Don't Know "Bad Cop, No Donut" Coodli P. Ramaswami Memorial Cheesecake EP 1995
TND1022 Strongarm "Stand Together" Atonement 1995
TND1023 PlankEye "Open House" The Spark 1995
TND1024 Focused "Red" The Hope That Lies Within 1995
TND1025 Mike Knott "Tattoo" Strip Cycle 1995

Disc 2 (79:23)
TND1026 Sometime Sunday "Blind" Drain 1995
TND1027 Rob Walker "Dream" Strobe 1996
TND1028 Bloodshed "Inside" Helpless Amongst Friends Vol. 2 1996
TND1029 Morella's Forest "Wonder Boy" Super Deluxe 1995
TND1030 Starflyer 59 "You're Mean" Gold 1995
TND1031 Blenderhead "Breaking Skin" Muchacho Vivo 1995
TND1032 MxPx "I'm The Bad Guy" Teenage Politics 1995
TND1033 Joe Christmas "Coupleskate" Upstairs, Overlooking 1995
TND1034 Starflyer 59 "Le Vainqueur" Le Vainqueur EP 1995
TND1035 Crux "New Morality" Failure to Yield 1995
TND1036 Bloodshed "Outside" Bloodshed EP 1995
TND1037 Danielson "Guilt Scout "A Prayer for Every Hour 1995
TND1038 Phantasmic (Tess Wiley) "Broken" Artcore Vol. 2 1996
TND1039 Morella's Forest "Art Of Love" Hang-Out EP 1995
TND1040 Upside Down Room "Milk Money" Upside Down Room EP 1995
TND1041 Overcome "Apathy" Blessed Are the Persecuted 1996
TND1042 Unashamed "Everlasting Father" Reflection 1996
TND1043 Joy Electric "Drum Machine Joy (The Woods are Haunted Mix)" Five Stars For Failure EP 1995
TND1044 MxPx "Drum Machine Joy" On The Cover EP 1995
TND1045 Everdown "Unleaded" Straining 1996
TND1046 Coolidge "Trapped" I'm You're Biggest Fan Vol. 1 1996
TND1047 Velour 100 "Flourish" Fall Sounds 1996
TND1048 Havalina Rail Co. "The Diamond In The Fish" The Diamond In The Fish 1996
TND1049 Roadside Monument "A Girl Named Actually" Beside This Brief Hexagonal 1996
TND1050 Stavesacre "Tranewreck" Friction 1996
TND1051 Driver Eight "Waiting For Godot" Watermelon 1996

January 12, 2015

Two albums with strange names to be released on March 31

One album we have known about for awhile, one we knew nothing of until about 4:00 EST today. Two terrific, prolific artists, two weird album titles. On March 31, Death Cab for Cutie will release Kintsugi, and Sufjan Stevens will release Carrie & Lowell. Both have the potential to be great.

Death Cab released much of the details about their new album last October when founding member Chris Walla left the band (thankfully after he contributed to the writing and recording of it). This Stereogum interview had a lot of revealing insight and got me very excited. But then the title and tracklisting weren't released until today through this Rolling Stone article, which also explains the Japanese title.

Death Cab for Cutie- Kintsugi
1. No Room in Frame
2. Black Sun
3. The Ghosts of Beverly Drive
4. Little Wanderer
5. You've Haunted Me All My Life
6. Hold No Guns
7. Everything's a Ceiling
8. Good Help (Is So Hard to Find)
9. El Dorado
10. Ingénue
11. Binary Sea

As far as Sufjan, I don't think anyone had a clue a new LP from him was on its' way, but that is the way he works. This email from Ashmatic Kitty record describes the album (at least to me) like a sequel to Seven Swans. And after the bombastic, electronic Age of Adz, this is exactly what I want to hear from him. The description from the email is perfect, and the 1 minute clip of one song is gorgeous:

These are aggressive times. Each morning we awaken to a psychic blitz of breaking news, social outrage, and millions of images and voices shrieking look at me and this onslaught does not cease until late at night when the last glowing screen fades to black. This world demands our attention with one hand and destroys it with the other. That such a noisy age can deliver an album as graceful and honest as Carrie & Lowell should reassure anyone losing faith these days. Let no one say philosophy is dead, for here is a 44-minute meditation on mortality, memory, and faith.

Each track in this collection of eleven songs begins with a fragile melody that gathers steam until it becomes nothing less than a modern hymn. Sufjan recounts the indignities of our world, of technological distraction and sad sex, of an age without either myth or miracle—and this time around, his voice carries the burden of wisdom. Si jeunesse savait, si vieillesse pouvait. If youth knew, if age could.

Sufjan Stevens- Carrie & Lowell
1. Death With Dignity (3:59)
2. Should Have Known Better (5:07)
3. All Of Me Wants All Of You (3:41)
4. Drawn to the Blood (3:18)
5. Eugene (2:26)
6. Fourth of July (4:39)
7. The Only Thing (4:44)
8. Carrie & Lowell (3:14)
9. John My Beloved (5:04)
10. No Shade in the Shadow of The Cross (2:40)
11. Blue Bucket of Gold (4:43)

January 6, 2015


So last fall I became aware of the band Bandit, fronted by Angela Plake. In 3-4 months time, they have become my newest favorite band. I cannot remember the last time I have been so excited about a DEBUT album. I am going to try to not fill this post with so many links that you could be overwhelmed, but I would also like to provide some history since it took me some time to piece it all together.

(Photo by michelvanlennonphoto.tumblr.com)

Chronologically, Angela Plake as a singer first popped up on the map providing guest vocals on a 2010 album from the hardcore band The Chariot. Track 3 on the heavy, chaotic album One Wing is primarily Plake singing, and it is far from heavy or chaotic. You can listen to The Chariot album and that song here, and it is is also free on Amazon Prime.

Then in January of 2013 (crazily two full years ago) a video came online which was a documentary of a The Chariot show in Nashville. The soundtrack for that video is a demo acoustic recording by Plake called "Dragon."

About a year after that in December of 2013, a YouTube video came online which I assume was most people's first chance to hear not Plake the solo acoustic artist, but the front-woman of a great rock band:

In March of 2014 Plake launched a Kickstarter to fund a new EP. 233 backers and a little more than $8,000 later she was on her way to what is going to Bandit's debut album, releasing on January 20. (Sad I missed out on that Kickstarter by the way, as I have stated previously I would have pledged in a heartbeat).

I first became aware of Bandit when Broken Circles Records signed them last September; they are one of my favorite indie vinyl labels. (This is how I became aware of Broken Circles a few years ago.) Bandit continued to debut new tracks over the past few months and I can't get enough.

Then today NPR debuted another new track, which is UNBELIEVABLE and definitely the best thing I have ever heard from Plake. I had bookmarked the Broken Circles pre-order page in December, and moments ago I ordered Of Life on "opaque blue in clear" vinyl.

If you aren't yet convinced, go to the pre-order page and listen to 4 songs from the record, including a haunting cover of the Pixies song "Where is my Mind?" (Interestingly, Nada Surf also has a fun cover of this track).


A couple weeks ago I posted about 8 "new" bands I had just discovered (and barely heard any of). Thankfully, all of those are on Bandcamp, and I was able to stream all of their albums in full--some many times. After all those listens there was one band that jumped out at me more than the others: Cateyana.

They are a 3-piece all-girl rock band from Philly, and awesome. They make me feel young. :)

Here is a cool video about them:

After streaming their new album a few times I ordered the vinyl and you can do the same here from Tiny Engines.

January 2, 2015

20 years of Blenderhead

I have said and written over and over again that 1995 is my favorite year in the history of music. I don't see that ever changing, because it is an ingrained part of my youth. If you aren't in my age range (38 as I write this), you probably won't understand. I write a lot more about 1995 here.

One band I loved in 1995 was Blenderhead. I have been thinking about them a lot lately because their lead singer/songwriter/bass player Bill(y) Power has a new podcast, and I follow him on Twitter.

In the first episode of his podcast (called Urban Achiever) he interviews Ethan Luck, who has played in dozens of bands including The Supertones, Project 86, The Dingees, Demon Hunter, Relient K, and most currently has been releasing solo acoustic folk songs. I learned a ton from the podcast, including that Ethan Luck is the cousin of Matt Wignall (photographer and Havalina Rail Co. band-leader). I am really looking forward to his next podcast with guest Mark Salomon.

I loved Blenderhead because they were the first "angry" band I ever listened to. But despite the angst, they spoke truth, and it filled a huge void in my music collection. I can remember specifically that whenever I had people ride with me in my car in 1994 and 1995, I would want to play Blenderhead. They weren't my favorite band, but I knew they would get a good reaction as they were so radically different than most of what I, or anyone I knew, listened to. Usually it was a negative reaction, because many of my friends were stiff and preppy and couldn't believe I listened to underground punk. I always included one of their songs when I mad mix tapes.

2015 is the 20th Anniversary of my favorite Blenderhead album, Muchacho Vivo. It is actually the least angry of the three Blenderhead albums; it is much more melodic and more similar to my favorite bands of the time. I saw Blenderhead on tour with MxPx in 1995 in Chattanooga, TN. I have written about that experience on this blog before, and would give anything to have photos or video of the experience (Power is intending to publish his journal from this tour soon, which I can't wait to read). This video of Blenderhead is from Cornerstone 1995 is the best I can do, and it is awesome. I have it starting with the song "Power Trip", which is my favorite song on Blenderhead's first album, Prime Candidate for Burnout.

(If you look in the background you can see tons of other Tooth & Nail musicians watching and singing along including Mike Herrera of MxPx and Tim Mann of Focused.)

Last night I found two great, informative, recent interviews with Bill Power that gave me a lot of insight to his background, all the bands he has been in, how he started Blenderhead, and what he has been up to since. Power and I have lived in lot of the same places, yet never at the same time (most notably Germany, where I am now and he served in the military in the late 80's; and Nashville).

I recommend reading both interviews in full if you ever listened to Blenderhead or any bands on Tooth & Nail. The first one is from the blog Welcome to Flavor Country in 2011. The second interview, from Indie Vision Music in  January of 2014, is the really informative one and goes into incredible detail. It outlines all the bands Power has ever been in, which is way more than I had been aware of.

I'll end with this: for years I had no idea where Blenderhead's name came from. I still don't have any official information, but I have to think it is based on the Bad Religion song of the same name. What is so interesting about the early 90's for me is that Blenderhead (and other bands) actually introduced me to the bands that influenced them: Fugazi, Jawbox, etc.

Ringing in the new year with a Rainer Maria Reunion show

I unfortunately wasn't at this show, but I was very aware that Rainer Maria played their first show in 8 years on New Year's Eve at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC. I have been scouring the web for video for the last two days, and finally found one. Here is my "Atlantic", my favorite song by them, which happened to be performed as 2014 went into 2015: