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Music Reviews

The Birdwatcher -- Afternoon Tales the Morning Never Knew
2001 Arena Rock 12 tracks  47 minutes
So I never heard the first Birdwatcher disc & the only Dan Matz stuff I'm familiar with is the legendary Windsor for the Derby, so I guess I'm a poseur fan.  So I'll tell you what my description of the sounds from this album are, take modern minimalist pop & mix it with 1930's country, which basically means it's really amazing.  My favorite song on here is called "Country Music" & the lyrics are "you're shutting down & you don't know why you think of her with every clear blue sky/it always tells the truth it always tells the truth country music it never lies."

The Black-Eyed Snakes -- It's The Black-Eyed Snakes
2001 Chairkicker's Union 10 tracks 41 minutes
So I guess it's pretty common knowledge that this is a side-project of Low.  Given that fact, you should know the music is loud aggressive blues-punk that you would expect to have come out of the heat of Texas rather than the cold of Duluth.  This is a great record, but to get the truth of what The Black-Eyed Snakes are about you need to get in your car & drive to wherever you have to so you can see them live.  Oh yeah, they cover the Moby song "Honey" & the Low song "Lordy."

Brassy -- Got It Made
2000 Wiiija, 17 tracks 41 minutes
This is just way too cool for me.  I can't deal with it.  I think it's mainly sequenced together & the hooks are really catchy, but in a way that I find annoying.  Something about this reminds me of that Swedish (or were they Swiss?) band Shampoo that did that song ("uh-oh we're in trouble") for the Power Ranger's soundtrack & then got nixed as a pre-teen pop explosion because of heavy substance abuse & sex with boys without relationships.  Also something about this reminds me of No Doubt & Luscious Jackson (who I don't have any cool sidetrack stories about).  So it's like an adult version of pre-teen pop, but I understand the songs are written in NYC by the artist instead of a crack team of song scientists in Stockholm.

The Dead Leaves Rising -- Waking Up on the Wrong Side of No One
2001 Plow City, 11 tracks 64 minutes
If you haven't followed the rise of Jon DeRosa over the past 6 years, you must not have been following QRD either.  He's a great musician & song writer who often seems cursed by labels without enough money to properly market a release or often even keep something in print; which i guess is kind of cool because it makes me feel special because I'm probably one of less than 50 people with all his stuff.  I don't know who to compare him to.  I guess this is what they call urban folk.  You know, that folk music that's got lyrics that could be in some emo band (actually "The Boy Who Ruined the World" is from the short lived Morning Color Division emo band that featured Jesse Skokos & Michael Lomack as well as Jon DeRosa).  Guitar & banjo picking patterns, string accompanyment, & deep male vocals.  I'm a little scared people are going to latch on to this as some really dark record of a depressed person, which maybe it is in a way, but then for me the message & anthem of this record is "I'll try real hard, maybe we can come out on top, nothing else works anyway, & I'll try real hard."  if you want a quotable blurb about it to pitch -- so heartachingly beautiful it makes my teeth hurt.

M Gira/D Matz -- What We Did
2002 Young God 12 tracks 50 minutes
What am I supoosed to say about this?  Two of my favorite guitar players got together to make a record.  Two of my favorite songwriters got together to make a record.  Stylistically somehow this comes off to me as more similar to the Windsor for the Derby record on Young God than either Gira's Angels of Light or Matz's Birdwatcher.  The music has an element of repetitive droning guitars that is amazing to me & really indicative of what I like in music, something hypnotic & easy to get overwhelmed by & maybe have a seizure to.  Anyone with an interest in singer/songwriter music or in drone music or well played acoustic guitars should own at least one copy of this & maybe an extra to loan to friends.

If Thousands -- Candice Recorder
2001 Sursumcorda, 11 tracks 68 minutes
Wow.  This is really good.  I really like this band.  Minimalist drone, aggressive ambient, electro-acoustic, organic, whatever you call it to describe it doesn't change this from being a great record.  These are all instrumentals & all great.  I want to listen to this album while driving through Nebraska.  Very soothing built from guitars & synthesizers with very little percussion.  Anyone who likes pieces better than songs should buy this.  Here's the timeline path where I think this record finds its place (1) Sonic Youth -- Confusion is Sex (2) My Bloody Valeintine -- Loveless (3) lovesliescrushing -- bloweyelashwish (4) If Thousands -- Candice Recorder.  I know it's shocking to hear me say this, but this band probably beats out The Bodylovers.

The Infant Cycle -- Remote
2000 EE Tapes, 3 tracks 47 minutes
Strong repetitive assembly line percussion & feedback swells.  Surreal & dreamlike.  Anyone who's ever fallen asleep at a factory might find this feeling familiar.  At times genuinely eerie, these guys might beat Coil if they fought for the next Hellraiser soundtrack.

rivulets -- rivulets
2002 Chairkickers' Union, 9 tracks 44 minutes
I'm one of the lucky few who has seen the Rivulets several times, but doesn't live in Minnesota.  So I was pretty eager to hear this album for nearly a year.  The engineer/producer on this record is Alan Sparhawk (Low) who also makes a few little guest performances on the record as do Mimi Parker (Low) & LD Beghtol (Flare/Mothwranglers).  So let me tell you a little something about Rivulets, Rivulets is Nathan Amundson.  No matter how much you may think this project is influenced by the other performers or producers or engineers, rest assured Nathan picked the people to work with, not the other way around.  The songs on this record could be transformed into some Dave Matthews-esque top of the pops record if it was put in the wrong hands, but instead we end up with something beautiful.  Simple acoustic guitar & story-telling vocals are the building point for the album.  When people ask me about Rivulets I usually talk about Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska & I'm beginning to think this record may end up just as timeless.  I think if Amundson gave up music just on what he's already done with this record & the underground circulated demos & live tracks the Rivulets name would still become as known Nick Drake & Rivulets would be featured on some car commercial (anyone else like that commercial with the guy trying to stop a wedding?).  This is easily one of the five best records of the year & probably the best debut I've heard since The Stooges first record.  If you're a music fan, maybe you should buy this.

Soul Whirling Somewhere -- Please Sennd Help
2001 Projekt, 13 tracks 73 minutes
I hope some of you are aware of Soul Whirling Somewhere.  The last album Hope Was is an amazing double disc filled with self-inflicted anger & obsession & trying to hold on to the girl you’ve built your life around.  This release isn’t quite as intense which makes it both less immediately intriguing & easier to listen to.  The song writing style in a way I can’t explain reminds me of Depeche Mode, but not of anything I’ve actually heard them do.  Really slow beats with piano & guitar & vocals on top.  In a way it reminds me of something Brian Eno & Harold Budd might do together.  So this is a good record & despite being “sad” as I’m sure a lot of people would describe it, there’s a lot of hope trapped inside too, especially if you’re someone sad that needs a little hope right now.

spyglass -- strategies for the stranded
2001 Pattern 25, 9 tracks 42 minutes
Lately it seems like all music I've heard is built on some kind of anger (albeit often internally directed) even with classical music & most pop music.  Maybe I'm not paying enough attention to the words on this record, but this feels pretty upbeat for the moody-pop/post-shoegaze/bliss-pop genre.  I hope this band (or at least a band like this) can replace the current top 40 & help the world masses to stop pitying themselves.  So anyway, this band has female vocals & a fairly standard band setup of bass, drums, guitar, & keyboards.  The guitars are fairly swirly & remind me of some eighties pop songs & (I don't mean this any derogatory way) some of Michael Jackson's use of guitars on Thriller.  Okay, so I have to admit I guess now that I heard almost half of Thriller six months ago & realized Jackson is a really good song arranger & it makes me feel retarded to say  it, so laugh at me.