Monday, March 02, 2009

Top Ten Albums of 2008

{Yes, yes - I realize it's March, 2009 and I'm just now posting best albums of the year that ended three months ago. Cut me some slack already...}

Number Ten
Artist: Vampire Weekend
Album: Vampire Weekend
Label: Xl Recordings
Release Date: January 29, 2008

Once the hype died down and the buzzing dimmed, what remained was a truly enjoyable pop album with real staying power (despite the unfortunate genre title of "Yacht Rock" that accompanied its success). Few albums, let alone debut albums, are as consistently solid from song to song as this. Brief though it may be, clocking in at just around 35 minutes, Vampire Weekend is timeless and immediate, accessible to the masses for now and of high enough quality that the rock snobs will come back around later.

Number Nine
Artist: Portishead
Album: Third
Label: Mercury
Release Date: April 29, 2008

With a full decade's gap between releases, Portishead had all sorts of expectations to live up to. Third did not disappoint. Ultimately gratifying because the band simultaneously sounds like the Portishead we remember and what we hoped the progression of their sound would result in, Third presents a mature collection building on the acid jazz, cabaret vocals, and spy movie synesthesia that defined their sound. Beth Gibbons and company have weathered the same past eight years (and era-defining administration) as us, despite being across the pond, and the tracks here reflect the subsequent scars of that maturity the way Dummy perfectly contained all the angst of youth.

Number Eight
Artist: Cut Copy
Album: In Ghost Colours
Label: Modular Interscope
Release Date: April 8, 2008

Without question the best indie dance music album of 2008, In Ghost Colours just wouldn't go away all year. The upbeat jams ("Lights and Music", "Hearts on Fire") that made so much sense in Spring and Summer gave way to the bittersweet pop ("So Haunted", "Unforgettable Season") that perfectly scored a blustery Autumn and Winter. In Ghost Colours lifts Cut Copy to the next level where that capital-A Artist label is justified.

Number Seven

Artist: M83
Album: Saturdays = Youth
Label: Mute U.S.
Release Date: April 1, 2008

Somewhere between Air, My Bloody Valentine (or at least Kevin Shields, circa Lost in Translation) and a John Hughes soundtrack falls M83. Deftly framing pop rock sentimentality within sprawling, sonic layers of electronic compositions, Saturdays = Youth is well-crafted and remarkable. "Kim & Jessie" and "Graveyard Girl" quite literally made us check to make sure M83 wasn't around during the Sixteen Candles and License to Drive days. And yet many of the digital beats and rhythms could just as easily have been laid down on Kanye's 808's and Heartbreaks (see: "Couleurs", "Up!"). As impressive an album as we heard all year.

Number Six

Artist: Dr. Dog
Album: Fate
Label: Park the Van
Release Date: July 22, 2008

No one's going to accuse Dr. Dog of being the most original band on the planet. On almost every song the influence of Paul McCartney or John Lennon or Jerry Garcia or Levon Helm is quite blatantly obvious. Like finding a bunch of lost b-sides: "From" could easily have been a Lennon throw-away; "100 Years" wouldn't sound out of place on a Dead album; "The Ark" may actually be a McCartney cover. To be honest, it borders on imitation. To be brutally honest, I don't give a shit if it is imitation - these songs are great and this album is wholly enjoyable.

Number Five

Artist: Santogold (aka, Santigold)
Album: Santogold
Label: Downtown
Release Date: April 29, 2008

Santogold released a bunch of tracks on her full-length debut that were almost too good. Snatched up by advertisers, it would have been easy to make the mistake of overlooking these tracks as just catchy jingles or dance club singles. But with the aid of Diplo, Mark Ronson, and Spank Rock, Santogold is complex and shrewd, some culmination of what those producers had been working towards. Like a less jarring MIA, Santogold satisfies the teeny-bopper, the stoner, and the yuppie all at the same time. No easy feat.

Number Four
Artist: The Dutchess & The Duke
Album: She's the Dutchess, He's the Duke
Label: Hardly Art
Release Date: July 8, 2008

Sparse and simple, tragic and intimate, She's the Dutchess, He's the Duke could easily be Number One on this list. The
brief but potent 31 minutes of vintage bluesy folk/gypsy rock recalls Leonard Cohen, The Animals, or early Rolling Stones, tunes with despair-riddled lyrics over a production full of crackles and pops that transport the listener to a wholly different time and place. The stomp and swagger of "Reservoir Park" remains one of the best tracks of the year, while the intimate pleas and apologies of sincere experience are almost too much to bear on "I Am Just a Ghost". With one of the best live performances of the year as well, The Dutchess & The Duke are a most promising duo.

Number Three
Artist: TV on the Radio
Album: Dear Science
Label: Interscope
Release Date: September 23, 2008

It's getting to the point where it's almost not even fair. TVOTR has become one of the most consistent bands on the planet, and they're just getting started. Hard to believe, as the Brooklynites seem like such industry vets now, but Dear Science is just their third official full-length. They have most definitely honed their craft, having built upon the ambitious experiments of Cookie Mountain, and Science is their most cohesive and focused album to date. Losing none of their lavish orchestrations or complex harmonies, though, TVOTR has more specifically learned how to work their sonic arrangements into structured and polished pop songs.

Number Two
Artist: The Walkmen
Album: You & Me
Label: Gigantic
Release Date: August 19, 2008

With You & Me, The Walkmen established themselves as a premiere Indie Rock outfit with the same sort of woozy, whiskey-soaked jangle and thump that The National perfected with last year's Boxer. You & Me meanders through sandy beaches and foreign towns like postcards from Hemingway, stumbling out of jazz clubs at 3am with the locals, keeping upright solely by leaning on the shoulders of new friends who happen to be singing at the tops of their lungs. With a most distinct voice, Hamilton Leithauser has hit his stride with this organic, wandering sound, punctuated by drummer Matt Barrick's masterful percussion. Wistful and rousing, You & Me is quite simply beautiful.

Number One
Artist: Fleet Foxes
Album: Fleet Foxes/Sun Giant (EP)
Label: Sub Pop
Release Date: June 3, 2008

Fleet Foxes truly set themselves apart in 2008, and their eponymous full-length debut followed by the simply-too-good-for-just-an-EP, Sun Giant, combine for the most lush and gorgeous music of the year. By no means the only indie rockers exploring the folk side of rock, the Seattle quintet distinguished themselves quickly with their pitch-perfect harmonizing, led by Robin Pecknold. The warmth and richness in the vocals stands in stark contrast to a vast majority of indie bands that get by on earnesty and sincerity alone. The voice - and more specifically here, the remarkably pleasing combination of voices - emerges as the most gratifying instrument to the human ear. As the opening and title track to Sun Giant begins, what we hear is a capella, but it isn't affectation, it's an expression of freedom as they do what comes so naturally. Both albums present a sophistication well beyond their years that commands attention. Hello world, we're the Fleet Foxes.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Peter Bjorn & John - "Nothing to Worry About" (except crazy dancing Asians)

Their new album, Living Thing, still won't be released for another month, but Peter Bjorn & John have released their first single and subsequent music video for "Nothing to Worry About". And it is good:


Friday, January 02, 2009

A New Year, A New Coast

Apologies, dear mC reader(s), for the three-month hiatus, but The middleCoast has brand spanking new headquarters way out here in fair San Francisco. One might think that this move would damage the integrity of a site self-labeled "middleCoast", but we assure you that all things still come from the Middle even if the fingers and the keyboard are in the West. And no, the music content of the site will not turn to Grateful Dead cover bands and noodling jams of the 15-minute long variety. Make no mistake, the heart and soul of this site will always reside in the Middle.

And so this New Year's Resolution is to march on with The mC despite a new Coast and the petty distraction of what is apparently known as a "Day Job". Turns out that people all over the world maintain "Day Jobs" quite regularly, and that the rise in Unemployment numbers is actually a negative thing. So wish us luck as we venture out of the Home Office and into the Office Office.

Stay tuned: Best Music of 2008 still on its way...


Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Flashback: Cornershop "Brimful of Asha"

In 1997, MTV played this song to death and I still never got sick of it. Cornershop is still making music - and it happens to be pretty good - but they'll forever be remembered specifically for "Brimful of Asha". The psychedelically-sweet sugar-pop track was undeniably catchy, and featured one of the greatest lines in music history: "Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow." (There may or may not be something lost-in-translation going on with that line, and you can read an overwrought essay about the meaning of the song's lyrics here if you're into that sort of thing.)

The song got even more play when Fatboy Slim remixed it, but really that just sounded like every other Fatboy Slim song ever, so here's the original:

There's dancing
Behind movie scenes
Behind the movie scenes
Sadi Rani
She's the one that keeps the dream alive
from the morning
past the evening
to the end of the light
Brimful of Asha on the 45
Well it's a brimful of Asha on the 45
And dancing
Behind movie scenes
Behind those movie scenes
Asha Bhosle
She's the one that keeps the dream alive
from the morning
past the evening
to the end of the light
Brimful of Asha on the 45
Well it's a brimful of Asha on the 45
And singing
illuminate thee main streets
And the cinema aisles
We don't care bout no
Gov't warnings,
'bout their promotion of a simple life
And the dams they're building
Brimful of Asha on the 45
Well it's a brimful of Asha on the 45
Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow
Everybody needs a bosom
Mine's on the 45
Mohamed Rufhi-45
Lata Mangeshkar-45
Solid state radio-45
Fer-guh-son mono-45
Bonn publeek-45
Jacques Dutronc and the Bolan Boogie, the Heavy
Hitters and the Chichi music
All India Radio-45
Two in ones-45
Argo Records-45
Trojan Records-45
Brimful of Asha on the 45
Orchestra set
Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow
Mine's on the RPM


Music and Politics

It should go without saying that the middleCoast is strongly endorsing Barack Obama for President. Turns out that some of our favorite bands feel the same way.

On October 16th Cincinnati, Ohio will be the location for campaign rally "Vote Early Rock Late" featuring The National and The Breeders. The free concert is in support of the Obama/Biden camp, and will shuttle registered voters between Fountain Square (the site of the rocking part) and Hamilton County Election Headquarters (the voting part). In Ohio - which will again likely be a battleground state, as they say - early ballot voting begins September 30th.

Closer to home (but not exactly free) is another Obama benefit, this one featuring Jim James of My Morning Jacket. On October 8th at Schubas, James will play an all acoustic set for ticket-holders/Obama-supporters who pay $100 per. The proceeds go to the Obama Victory Fund. You can get more info and buy tickets here.

Now to the music...

Video: The National "Fake Empire" instrumental (ad for Obama campaign)

MP3: The Breeders "Cannonball"

MP3: Jim James "Goin' to Acapulco" (from I'm Not There)


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Calexico in Chicago for 10th Annual World Music Festival

I had the chance to interview Joey Burns of Calexico for UR Chicago Magazine. They perform tonight at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park at 6pm, and the best part is that it is FREE. Check out the interview here.

Watch: "Two Silver Trees" from Carried to Dust

Calexico, with Mariachi Luz de Luna and Salvador Duran
World Music Festival
Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park
Thursday, September 25th (6-8pm)

Go get the album.

Calexico Official Website | Myspace | Touch & Go Records


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Eddie Vedder Is Mr. October - "All the Way" Tribute to the Cubs

One-time Chicagoan Eddie Vedder has written and recorded a tribute to the 2008 National League Central Division Champion Chicago Cubs, and it just so happens to bring chills to this die-hard Cubbies fan. With the potential for such history in the making, here's hoping that "All the Way" becomes its soundtrack. Enjoy:

(It sure beats "Go Cubs Go" anyway.)


Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want

This'll seem totally random unless you've just re-watched Ferris Bueller's Day Off, but I have recently re-watched Ferris Bueller's Day Off and I can't get enough of this track. And strangely I don't even know which version I prefer. Anyway, figured I'd share....

"Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want" - The Smiths, original version

"Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want" - The Dream Academy, instrumental version from FBDO

"Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want" - The Dream Academy, cover version

Is it wrong to admit I actually prefer The Dream Academy version over The Smiths'?



Monday, September 22, 2008

The Killers: New Track "Human" Sounds Like Celine Dion

Maybe The Killers should get out of Las Vegas. Their latest single, "Human" sounds like Celine Dion. Or maybe Cher, to put it nicely. Add the cringe-worthy lyrics, "Are we human? / Or are we dancers? / My sign is vital / My hands are cold", and this is just plain awful. I never really understood the fascination with The Killers - partly out of shear rock-snobbery, and partly because of frontman Brandon Flowers' claim that Sam's Town is "one of the best albums of the past 20 years", adding, "There's nothing that touches this album." Just because a band tells you that they're great doesn't mean that they are great (unless your name is Kanye). And "Human" is far from great...

Then again, my mom would probably love it.

"Human" (from the upcoming Day & Age, due out in November)



My Bloody Valentine Get US Tour Underway

As we Chicagoans gear up for My Bloody Valentine's show at the Aragon next week, their first performance on American soil in 16 years took place over the weekend in New York during All Tomorrow's Parties festivities. Stereogum has the lowdown, including a few videos:

"I Only Said"

"Come In Alone"

Needless to say we're very excited for the set in Chicago, and despite the unemployment level in mC offices we're keeping the tickets and foregoing the potential profit to be made by selling them on Craigslist. See you there.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Brian Wilson on Black Cab Sessions

As detailed by the fellas at BCS:



Friday Flashback: Pixies

Everyone knows how great the Pixies are. No need to expound on this fact. They are quite possibly the progenitors of the genre Alternative, and their influence will likely never wane. Even their B-sides are masterpieces. Ever since the Christian Slater masterpiece, Pump Up the Volume (which likely had a far more profound impression upon my youth than I'd like to admit), and the film's surprisingly brilliant accompanying soundtrack, the Pixies' "Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf Mix)" has never ventured far from my top 25 most played list.

From the liner notes to Complete 'B' Sides, Frank Black says of the track:
"Recorded during a tour in Scotland, the slow version got even a bigger reaction from the audiences than the more rockin' version from Doolittle. I guess mellow can sometimes be much more rockin'."

Video from Pixies: Acoustic - Live in Newport (2006):

Cease to resist, giving my goodbye
Drive my car into the ocean
You'll think I'm dead, but I sail away
On a wave of mutilation
A wave

I've kissed mermaids, rode the El Nino
Walked the sand with the crustaceans
Could find my way to mariana
On a wave of mutilation,
Wave of mutilation
Wave of mutilation

Wave of mutilation
Pixies on Myspace | Official Website


Thursday, September 18, 2008

New TV on the Radio: Dear Science ("Golden Age" Video)

TV on the Radio is quickly becoming something greater than the sum of its parts. They have grown into an icon, or at least an entity, representing what happens when you make pop music that is also capital-A Art. Their latest effort, Dear Science, is further evidence that music doesn't need to be experimental in order to be artful.

The album will officially be released September 23rd (on Chicago's own Touch and Go Records), but the bonus track version is out now on iTunes. For those of you monetarily challenged in the wake of this economic nose-dive, is streaming the album with full tracks.

In order to fully prove just how impossible it is to categorize TVOTR, we present the video for "Golden Age". With graphics that play like original developments in green-screen technology and a "plot" that involves dancing police officers, Care Bear nostalgia, and spirit-animal totem action, we're simply at a loss for words. Here's one that my dad would use, though: weird.

Video: "Golden Age"

Don't forget that they'll be at The Riv in Chicago October 22nd.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Next Big Thing Alert: The Moondoggies

Sub Pop spin-off Hardly Art continues to do a fine job bringing Seattle talent to the forefront. Similar to label-mates (and mC faves), The Dutchess & The Duke, The Moondoggies take an old sound and make it new again. Their brand of bluesy folk rock has one foot on the altar at the tent revival and the other on stage at the Double Deuce. Their first full-length, Don't Be a Stranger, released last month is an impressive debut of pure Americana. Checking the rearviewmirror but always looking on down the road, The Moondoggies are on their way.

Listen: "Changing"

Listen: "I Want You to Know"

They don't appear to be venturing far from the Pacific any time soon, but we'll keep you posted if they make their way through the Middle.

Go get the album.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Concert Review: The Walkmen

Originally written for and published on

The Walkmen – Metro, 9/12/08
Getting Drunk With The Walkmen

I walked the seven blocks to the Metro in the drizzling rain, the kind of sprinkling rain too light to justify an umbrella but heavy enough to soak the tops of your shoulders and cuffs of your trousers. The lights of the city at night blurred and refracted through my rain-dropped eyeglass lenses, already struggling to do their job thanks to the Knob Creek and ginger ale cocktails that accompanied my dinner. As the fractured brilliance of the marquee read, The Walkmen were performing tonight, and it seemed only appropriate that I should be as soaked – in rain or in whiskey – as their booze-addled songs are.

I knew after ordering my first Jack and Coke that this seven-dollar single-shot would not do. By the time opening act – bohemian gypsy rockers, Golem – finished their raucous set, I had found my spot at the front of the balcony and was ordering a second drink. For three dollars more I received a cup twice as large but burned with what must’ve been three times as much whiskey. The house lights dimmed and the Walkmen took the stage, ready to prove (among other things) that they were undoubtedly the best band in the world to listen to while getting drunk on whiskey.

Single shafts of light backlit Paul Maroon, hunched over his vintage Gibson, and Hamilton Leithauser, standing stoically behind the mike stand, as the minimalism of “New Country” opened the evening slowly, simply and significantly. Drummer Matt Barrick, bassist Walter Martin, and keyboardist Peter Bauer joined in for the Ennio Morricone vibe of “Postcards from Tiny Islands” next, and the packed house came to life. The Walkmen really hit their stride with breakout hit from recent release You & Me, “In the New Year”. When Leithauser wails “I never hear the bad news/and I never will/we won by a landslide/our troubles are over”, I wonder if he’s ordering from the same bartender as me.

The initial hour of the set was filled primarily with tracks from You & Me, briefly disjoined by “Thinking of a Dream” and “Wake Up”. Something becomes self-evident during this stretch: Hamilton Leithauser would drive vocal coaches to the brink of insanity. His lilting, swinging delivery carries with it the dizzying ups and downs of the town drunk telling far-fetched tales too abstract to believe, too earnest to ignore. When he lets loose with his ululating howls he remains pitch-perfect, no different on stage than in the studio. At heart, though, he’s a crooner, some strange hybrid of Bob Dylan and Frank Sinatra. Leithauser holds no restraint on “The Rat”, but the sound is utterly natural, his vocal cords never seem strained, never a fear of polyps or injuries that plagued those progenitors.

I struggle mentally, listening to “What’s In It For Me”, wishing for more ice in my glass, trying to determine if there is, or has ever been, a better whiskey-drinking song. My fellow concert-goers have no answer for me aside from bemused glances on that front. “I Lost You” and “The Blue Route” showcase the unique percussive talents of Matt Barrick, utilizing maracas, guiros, and rim shots that make for world and jazz beats. The Mexicali blues of “Louisiana” have me wondering if I’ve been drinking tequila all along, rather than my whiskey.

When the Walkmen resume their places on stage for the three-song encore, I finish the remaining gulp like it’s the last spoonful of medicine before bed, and there’s no need for sugar to help it go down. This performance has been enough to do the trick. Leithauser and Co. have gotten me sufficiently intoxicated. As they finish the night with B-side “Fly Into the Mystery”, my head swims and my heart swells, eager to take on the unknown. I stepped back out into the rain-soaked night and started walking.

“New Country”
“Postcards from Tiny Islands”
“In the New Year”
“Canadian Girl”
“Thinking of a Dream”
“Wake Up”
“Long Time Ahead of Us”
“Donde Esta la Playa”
“On the Water”
“Red Moon”
“The Rat”
“What’s In It For Me”
“I Lost You”
“The Blue Route”
“Little House of Savages”
“Fly Into Mystery”

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Concert Review: The Dutchess & The Duke

Originally written for and published on

The Dutchess & The Duke – Schubas, 9/10/08
Folk Royalty Prove Benevolent

The Dutchess and the Duke certainly hold no pretenses about mingling with the peasant folk. With close to half of the audience seated on the floor around them, Dutchess (Kimberly Morrison) and Duke (Jesse Lortz) eluded the spotlight of the stage and instead chose to meander – unplugged – around the limbs and pint glasses of their guests under dim house-lights. Joined by a percussionist utilizing an upside-down plastic trashcan (with trashbag still lining the insides), an emptied cardboard box, tambourine, and bells wrapped around one ankle, this was truly a unique performance that carried with it some subtle, unexplained weight that what we were witnessing was important.

Though they’d worked on other projects in separate bands previously, Lortz and Morrison released their debut album together as The Dutchess and The Duke (She’s the Dutchess, He’s the Duke) on Hardly Art just two short months ago. Already the Seattle-based duo have rightly earned their share of blogosphere buzz, aided in part by opening several shows this summer for Internet darlings (and fellow Seattleites), Fleet Foxes. She’s the Dutchess, He’s the Duke is a brief but potent 31 minutes of vintage bluesy-folk – or maybe folksy-blues – recalling Leonard Cohen, The Animals or early Rolling Stones. In fact, Lortz’s vocals when heightened in pitch on “Strangers” are strikingly similar to a young Mic Jagger.

Though the album is electric folk at its modern best, the acoustic set at Schubas seemed appropriate nevertheless. Lyrically, the majority of tracks are heart-wrenching ballads of loves lost, loneliness and despair, pulled back from the brink by the company of Morrison’s harmonizing. The warm setting provided by a venue like Schubas is rather ideal, then, and the band seemed loose and spontaneous. Several of the tracks could have benefited from amplification, and it would be interesting to witness a rock ‘n’ roll version of the performance, but overall the intentions of this pared-down style were made clear in shear intimacy.

Halfway through the set they hit their stride performing back-to-back “Mary” and “Reservoir Park”, the tracks from the original EP that made people take notice in the first place. The real highlight came towards the end, though, with “I Am Just a Ghost”. Unfettered by the shackles of electronic chords and cables and microphone levels, the Duke set his vocal talents free, belting out the pleas and apologies of sincere experience.

What was strange throughout the night, however, was the between-song banter between bandmates. As raw as their art itself, discussions covered belching, farting, puking, and animals at the Lincoln Park Zoo. The strict contrast between this repartee and the sad beauty of each song was a jolting contradiction, suggesting perhaps a discomfort with their own talent. Or maybe the contraposition was intentional to keep the mood light and airy; supposing the conversations were as heavy as the songs themselves the gravity of the evening would have certainly been much more to bear.

What remained, though, was a solid performance from a pair of up-and-coming artists with immense talent. Even unplugged The Dutchess and The Duke have tapped into that current of electricity that once made rock music a life-changing experience. Hopefully they can keep it flowing.

“Back to Me”
“Out of Time”
“Ship Made of Stone”
“Reservoir Park”
“The Prisoner”
“You Can Tell the Truth, Now”
“I Am Just a Ghost”
“Armageddon Song”
Listen: "I Am Just a Ghost"

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Exclusive: mC Interview with The Silent Years

Back in July we told you about the latest effort from The Silent Years, The Globe. Without a doubt one of our favorite albums of the year, it is cohesive, concise, and complete. Awash in luxuriant sonic landscapes aided by producer Chris Coady (Grizzly Bear, TV on the Radio, Blonde Redhead), The Globe is the rare album that is simultaneously immediate and timeless. Hailing from Detroit, The Silent Years are no Rock City garage band, more likely honing their craft in the attic or on the roof. Their songs reach gloriously upward, and The Globe progresses in that direction with shades of a concept album. The dense compositions are themselves grand assertions, and Joshua Epstein’s lyrics and vocals follow suit. The album title is the metaphor at play, a symbol of scale in each direction, and the songs shift naturally from the microscopic to the universal.

Josh was kind enough to talk with the middleCoast about creativity, giving art away, and what it means to make a concept album.

The middleCoast
: It is always impressive when an album comes off as a really cohesive album, rather than just a collection of songs, and The Globe is definitely cohesive. Assuming that there is the element of a concept album here: When you have an idea or philosophy that you want to work with throughout an album, does that need to start with the lyrics, or do you trust the musical side to convey the same message?

Josh Epstein: It is my belief that music has it's own way of connecting itself. If you're writing a record, it most likely will have common musical themes and ideas since it's being conceptualized at the same time, and therefore with the same mindset and influences present. Lyrically, a "concept" album is difficult to approach because you risk sounding redundant and you really are bound. That's why the idea of a concept album being about universality was so appealing to me. It's almost as if you take away the burdens of a concept album when you say that it's about everything.

mC: I read that the film "The Powers of 10" was an inspiration. I remember seeing that in film school and being strangely moved by it - both its simplicity as well as its rather overwhelming premise. What all did you take from the film that lead to The Globe as a concept album? And is a unified theme or concept something a whole band must be willing to partake in, or does the vision of an individual take the helm?

JE: The Globe is unapologetically a concept album. That film really made me think, especially when you see the universe fully and then it goes down to the inner workings of an electron and they look exactly the same. It was really interesting to see that. That got me thinking about the fact that everything exists everywhere and it is all similar - just with different scale. Everyone was into the idea, and while I do most of the lyric writing, everyone contributes ideas constantly.

mC: I suppose the fact that I'd even ask these questions is evidence of some profound songwriting. Lyrically, there are a handful of lines that have been running through my head on repeat - some haunting, some comforting, but all that have now become personal to me as listener. What is your take on people interpreting your lyrics and assuming them as their own? Do you care that they may get it wrong? Or are you just pleased that they're getting something?

JE: That is really nice to hear, thank you. I have always been a fan of lyrics that strike you deeply right away, and then have the ability to hold many meanings as often as you can think of them. There is never a wrong meaning that can be inferred. Art - in this case, music - is everyone's. As soon as it leaves your lips as a singer it's everyone's. And I would never dream of taking it back.

mC: Musically the album soars. How was working with Chris Coady, and how much influence did he have on the album's sound? The fact that he's worked with some of the best bands out there right now - Blonde Redhead, TV on the Radio, Grizzly Bear - certainly leads one to assume that he knows what he's doing. But how did he alter your sound versus how you wanted to alter it yourselves from your self-titled album?

JE: Chris came into the picture after everything was recorded. We had the feeling that the collection of songs was good, but really busy and could end up a clusterfuck if we didn't get someone who had a bit more experience to mix it. Chris immediately made things sound clearer and more focused, which is why he is so talented and accomplished.

mC: Overall, the tone of the album brings to mind the word Bittersweet. There's this sense that, yeah things sure can get bleak, but isn't life on this planet amazing? I love the sing-along finale of "Open up our eyes wide, so we can see more!". Like a reaffirmation, or at least a reminder to keep an eye on the horizon and things will surely get better. Am I interpreting this on a personal level again, or is there some intention in the songwriting of a bittersweet notion throughout? Is it safe to assume that the overall tone of an album reflects the personal outlook(s) of the artist(s)?

JE: Life is difficult, and there is meaning in that. I had a conversation with my sister today about the idea that a utopian lifestyle would have the potential to suck the creativity out of the world. This is not to say that art has to come from suffering, but there is meaning to be found in that suffering and art can come from there.

The Globe is out now on Defend Music.

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Chicago Concert Calendar, Fall 2008

The next two months are quite simply ridiculous when it comes to live music options for fans in the City of Wind. Helped out by the fact that the 30-day post-Lollapalooza prohibition period has passed, every single week (practically every day) sees major artists and Next Big Things peddling their wares all over Chicago. Some highlights, with interesting links:

9/06: Sons and Daughters - Double Door
9/07: GZA (reprising his 2007 Pitchfork Music Festival performance of Liquid Swords) - House of Blues
9/08: Spiritualized - Metro
9/10: The Dutchess & The Duke - Schubas
9/11: Ra Ra Riot - Subterranean
9/12: The Walkmen - Metro
9/17: Cut Copy - Metro
9/19: French Kicks, The M's - Double Door
9/20: The Felice Brothers - Abbey Pub
9/20 & 9/21: The Hideout Block Party, featuring Neko Case (solo on 9/20), The New Pornographers (with Ms. Case on 9/21), Hercules and Love Affair, and Ratatat
9/23: High Places, Aleks & the Drummer - AV-aerie
9/24: Sigur Ros - Chicago Theatre
9/27: My Bloody Valentine - Aragon Ballroom
9/28 & 9/29: Hot Chip - Metro
9/28 & 9/29: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Riviera Theatre
10/1: Langhorne Slim - Abbey Pub
10/2 & 10/3: Beck, MGMT - Aragon Ballroom
10/8: The Dodos - Bottom Lounge
10/9: Broken Social Scene - Vic Theatre
10/9 & 10/10: My Morning Jacket - Chicago Theatre
10/10: Stereolab - Vic Theatre
10/12: Fleet Foxes - Metro
10/14: Okkervil River - Metro
10/17: Deerhoof - Metro
10/18: Man Man - Bottom Lounge
10/22: TV on the Radio - Riviera Theatre
10/25: Lykke Li - Empty Bottle
10/28: Yeasayer - Bottom Lounge
10/31: Kings of Leon - Aragon Ballroom

See. We told you: Quite simply ridiculous. So save some gas money by riding your bike and go see some shows. See you there.

Abbey Pub
Aragon Ballroom
Bottom Lounge
Chicago Theatre
Double Door
Empty Bottle
The Hideout
House of Blues
Riviera Theatre
Vic Theatre

Monday, September 01, 2008

Wilco & Fleet Foxes - "I Shall Be Released"

Bob Dylan wrote it. The Band, Joan Baez, and Nina Simone all performed it, made it what it is. And now Wilco bring Fleet Foxes up onto stage to revive it. They do just that.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

She's the Dutchess, He's the Duke

Garnering their deserved share of blogosphere buzz these days is Seattle band, The Dutchess & The Duke. Following up their acclaimed 2007 EP, they signed to Hardly Art and released She's the Dutchess, He's the Duke last month. Kimberly Morrison is the Dutchess and Jesse Lortz is the Duke, and together they craft folksy blues tunes with despair-riddled lyrics over a production full of crackles and pops that transport the listener to a wholly different time and place. Imagine a record store listening booth in late 1950s Paris, a restless teen getting his first taste of American rock music - when he drops the needle down on "Reservoir Park" his reality changes. Rock 'n' roll once had that power, and The Dutchess & The Duke have tapped into its current.

MP3: "Reservoir Park" (Stream)

Go get the album.

Be sure to check them out when they come through Chicago September 10th at Schubas.

Make friends and hear more @


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Vampire Weekend Cover Fleetwood Mac

As further evidence espousing our theory of the inexorable influence of Fleetwood Mac, we present Exhibit B: Vampire Weekend cover Fleetwood Mac's "Everywhere".
(via Pretty Much Amazing)

When will it end?


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Next Big Thing Alert! Hum.V

Representing the Middle by way of Indianapolis (aka, Naptown) is Next Big Thing, Hum.V. Dropping his sophomore album One Verse @ A Time this week on iTunes, Hum.V (né, Greg Humrichouser) proves himself to be one of the great unsigned artists in the business. Getting his start some years back as the anchor to party hip-hoppers, the Cleptoz, Hum.V released his solo debut, Simple Man, last year to much acclaim (enough, in fact, that it remains a mystery why he remains unsigned), and even got some help from Chicago's own Rhymefest on "If I Had a Dollar". That album established him in the Indy music scene with his share of local radio play and high-energy live shows. Now Hum.V is poised to spread his word elsewhere, and One Verse should be the album allowing him to do so.

Today's hip-hop scene is in disarray, to say the least. With the industry transforming so rapidly, record labels seem to be utterly clueless as to what to promote unless Lil Wayne is involved. What's most unfortunate about this is that good quality hip-hop artists stay marginalized as underground. In Seattle, for example, acts like The Saturday Knights, Blue Scholars, and Common Market are kings of that underground. But without some help from the majors they'll be unlikely to break into the mainstream and subsequent millions. Despite the 2,200 miles separating the two, Hum.V would fit nicely into the Seattle scene. Both share an organic sound most easily labeled as 'Old School' and lyrics that possess a complexity and significance beyond money, hoes and rims again.

At essence, though, One Verse is a pop album, and Hum.V is (or should be) a pop star. A majority of the tracks feature the talents of friends, and the vocals from both Lynda Sayyah and Stacia Demos shine brightly. The impossibly catchy hooks of "Look In Your Eyes" and "Choices (In My Head)" both highlight their abilities. But Hum.V is the star most on display here. There is an intimacy to the lyrics that is extremely rare in hip-hop, as Hum.V opens the window into Greg Humrichouser frequently. "Little Things" and "Take Ya Back" are practically journal entries, but they work
specifically because of how personal they are.

Don't get the wrong impression, though: Hum.V is no shoe-gazer. The rap star swagger never dissipates, and with the same ease that he rhymes his way through the slower jams he spits fire over the heavy beats. "U Can't See Me", "Get Back", and "Droppin' Knowledge" (featuring Sweet Eggz) are all filthy beats where Hum.V accelerates the lyrical content. On "Droppin' Knowledge":
I'm droppin' knowledge like a skydivin' Socrates
Take a listen get inside my philosophies
I'm not lucky so why try the lottery
Still this feelin' it's my time - it's gotta be
Check out a couple of tracks here, and go buy the album so this dude will get signed already.

"U Can't See Me" (feat. S.O.N.-One & Rusty)

"Droppin' Knowledge" (feat. Sweet Eggz)

Make friends @


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

And We're Back!

Sorry for the lengthy hiatus, you loyal mC readers. Sincerest apologies and continued thanks for checking in. Time to get right back at it now....

For the first time in almost 30 years, David Byrne and Brian Eno have collaborated on a project. It released a day or so ago, and it's called Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. Oh, and it's beautiful. You can purchase the album in a variety of formats, download a free track ("Strange Overtones"), and/or stream the entire album (which we've embedded below). It's yet another innovative move that established artists are able to make to sidestep the standard record label protocols.



Thursday, July 31, 2008

Chicago to London: Cool Kids on Black Cab Sessions

Chi-city hip hop duo, The Cool Kids, were in London recently promoting the full-of-flava Bake Sale. They had time to drop some freestyle rhymes in the back of a black cab for the 50th episode of Black Cab Sessions. Enjoy.

Don't forget to see Cool Kids at Lolla Friday night at the BMI Stage (7:00pm).

Make friends and hear more Cool Kids @


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Finally: The Flaming Lips' "Christmas On Mars"

It's been a long time coming, but Wayne and the boys have finally completed their epic film, Christmas On Mars. Originally aired at the Sasquatch! Festival in May, the film is now set to be released on DVD in time for Christmas 2008. We're not sure that the whole plot element is really the point, but here's the description:
"The long awaited feature film by the Flaming Lips is set in outer space on the surface of Mars. The double failures of a clunky old oxygen generator and an exotic but finicky gravity control pod have conspired to weaken the resolve and psychological judgment of the crew and the film's protagonist Major Syrtis. This means he has horrific hallucinations that are centered around the artificial birth of the Christmas baby. An alien super-being arrives and with his otherworldly powers fixes the oxygen generator but it's the station's genius mechanic who fixes the gravity problem."
Right. Anyway, there will also be a soundtrack accompaniment to the film which is sure to be just as bizarre and enjoyable. Here's the trailer:


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Next Big Thing Alert: The Minor White

Minor White was an American photographer whose work in the '50s and '60s remain as immaculate testaments of how the mundane - if tweaked just right - can elicit the strongest emotions. He is quoted as saying that a photograph could "...yield an image with specific suggestive powers that can direct the viewer into a specific and known feeling, state, or place within himself."

Without a doubt, music holds that same power, and Pennsylvania boys, The Minor White, are talented purveyors of its spirit. Self-described as "something of a noisy country jazz quintet, I guess" they have been compared by others to Elliott Smith, Wilco, and Dr. Dog. Their 2007 EP, Daily Vacation, was an eclectic mix of folk, waltzes, and guitars that adds up to all things Americana.

They've now completed their full-length debut, Old Theatrics, due out in October on Prairie Queen Records. Consisting of a pair of brothers - the Williams (frontman Roy and keyboardist Kevin) and the O'Haras (drummer Shane and bassist Ian) - and one guitarist/vocalist/co-lyricist in Kyle Wall, The Minor White have crafted ten tracks of American music that is timeless and universal. Again, tweaking the mundane to create that old familiar feeling that seems specific to everyone. At its core, Old Theatrics is immediate, accessible pop music that is quite simply beautiful. The same way a black and white photo of a barn captured in the right light never ceases to captivate.

mp3: "Old Fashioned Drinker (In a River of Glue)"

mp3: "I've Burned Down Every House"

Get the EP, Daily Vacation.

Make friends and keep an eye out for pre-order info @


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Girl Talk: The Video Mash-Up

Around one month ago, Greg Gillis (aka, Girl Talk) released his latest mash-up masterpiece, Feed the Animals, via the whole digital-name-your-price venture. Get your own copy at Illegal Art. Here at the middleCoast, we've been hooked to the GT ever since the gruff, sinus-filled voice of late great Notorious B.I.G. could be heard over "Tiny Dancer" . After naming our (undisclosed) price for Feed the Animals, realizing and appreciating its merits upon a few repeated listens, we also noticed a definite fatigue setting in. Fact of the matter is, it's kinda difficult to listen to a full album of Girl Talk mash-ups because of the very reason they are brilliant - each song is simply too dense, too schizophrenic, perhaps, to be able to absorb more than a few songs' worth at one time. Really we're just too slow to be able to keep up with so many samples.

Thankfully, someone with way too much time on his hands is here to help. Pairing the original video clips with the sampled tracks, the music video for "Still Here" is like a Cliff's Notes to the song. Now you can use your eyes and ears to pick out each of the obscure riffs and beats. And there really is nothing quite like seeing Thom Yorke at a microphone singing while hearing the hook from "No Diggity".

Apparently, the man with too much time on his hands is YouTuber Bunny Greenhouse, who has a few other GT video mash-ups posted if you enjoyed that one.

Be sure to catch Girl Talk in Chicago at Lollapalooza August 3rd.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Under the Radar: The Acorn

While we at The middleCoast pride ourselves on staying current with the best new music, we frequently miss remarkably talented acts, failing to bring you, the reader, necessary knowledge. Of course, if you really wanted to stay completely current with the best new music, you'd be reading Pitchfork right now instead of The middleCoast. Nevertheless, we present a new feature for the times artists slip through the cracks: Under the Radar.

The Acorn make music best described as: Of the Earth. Or, Earthy. Organic, if you will (but not in the annoying marketing-ploy version of the term). Their brand of Americana is admittedly eschew, as they hail from Ottawa, but like their Canuck compatriots - Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade - their sound is small-scale epic, focusing on the specific to signify the universal. Simple melodies over chants, stomps, and dense (but balanced) arrangements featuring instruments from various regions, as well as field recordings, give them an all-natural vibe. The Acorn likely fit into whatever box you'd also categorize Fleet Foxes or Firewater or Beirut, but in the end they just happen to be really great indie rock.

Glory Hope Mountain is the latest release, out through Paper Bag Records. At heart it is a concept album from singer/songwriter Rolf Klausener about his mother, Gloria Esperanza Montoya (hence the album title). In a stunningly intimate portrait, Klausener tells of how Gloria was orphaned in her native Honduras - her mother's death in childbirth and her father's abuse - and her subsequent journey to Montreal in the '70s. Klausener's rendering of her life, however, is a subtle weave, and there is no heavy-handedness in the dealing of the material.

Check out the beautifully crafted video by director Christopher Mills for "Flood Pt. 1":

Unfortunately, The Acorn made their way through Chicago earlier this year, so it may be a spell before we get another chance to see them live. And if these tracks on are any indication, they give a masterful performance.

Make friends @


Monday, July 14, 2008

Radiohead Are From The Future: "House of Cards" Music Video

In case you didn't know just how unconventional Radiohead are, now they've made a music video. Nothing shocking about that, you say? Well this particular video was created without using two minor elements somewhat important to most film-making: cameras and lighting. The not-even-remotely-satisfying explanation that "3D plotting technologies collected information about the shapes and relative distances of objects" doesn't begin to click with us. But it sure looks cool:

"House of Cards"

If you really want to know more about how they did that, Geometric Informatics and Velodyne LIDAR are the two companies at play, and you can watch the making-of video here.


Friday, July 11, 2008

Next Big Thing Alert: Onili

Out of Tel Aviv by way of Paris comes the multi-talented Onili. Citing seemingly random artists, she describes her influences to include Prince, Bjork, Outkast, and Henry Rollins. Imagine Lily Allen meets Brazilian Girls, produced by Justice. In addition to producing and deejaying, Onili also fronts her band of the same name, and actually opened some European gigs for Allen last year. Now they are finishing up work on the debut LP, First Kiss.

The first single, "Games", is instantly catchy funk-pop that begs you to dance along. It has been floating around awhile, and its EP includes three remixes from Israeli producers Sabbo, KUTIMAN, and NDV, as well as an a cappella version. You can listen to samples and purchase the mp3s here on CD Baby.

Here is live video as they perform the original (did we mention Onili also happens to be quite nice to look at?):

The song on repeat in mC offices today, though, is the sultry "Sentimental". Is it me, or does she vocally riff like Anthony Kiedis circa Blood Sugar Sex Magik for a bit in this:

So we're hooked. If you want to hear more, both the band's website and myspace page are streaming more tracks. But with no release date announced we'll have to wait a bit longer for our First Kiss.