Mould's 20th anniversary solo release

Bob Mould

Life and Times

Anti CD

 Bob Mould

It’s hard to believe that Bob Mould is now fully twenty years into his solo career; it’s been thirty years since he founded Hüsker Dü! Some fans may prefer a specific style or period of Mould’s output over others; from his acoustic guitar-playing circa 1989′s Workbook to the electronica elements of 2002′s Modulate, his is indeed a varied corpus of work. But Life and Times doesn’t fit neatly at either stylistic extreme. Instead, it reminds us that Mould can still rock.

And boy, can he! Songs like “Wasted World,” with its visceral, shredding guitar solos, and the jaunty vocal snarls replete in the title track both serve as ample evidence. “City Lights (Days Go By)” features subtle layering of guitars and synths; but there’s still plenty of bite in the electric guitar solo breaks.

The whole album’s been in heavy rotation since it arrived, but one song in particular has been repeated the most. “I’m Sorry Baby, but You Can’t Stand in My Light Anymore” doesn’t pertain to my current, happy, domestic situation; but it’s a power pop ballad I’d have been glad to bring to bear during lousy adolescent dating situations. Simultaneously an expression of self-empowerment and a scathing indictment of an estranged lover, it’s easily one of the best hooks I’ve heard thus far in 2009. Anti is on a roll; in 2008, my favorite song was Billy Bragg’s “I Keep Faith!”

Cryptacize: Interview with Chris Cohen


Chris Cohen is a member of the band Cryptacize, an indie quartet whose recently released LP, Mythomania (Asthmatic Kitty), is a fascinating, oftentimes whimsical, affair. It traverses myriad musical genres: psych-rock, alt-folk, non-Western music, and echoes of Fifties-era pop balladry. The album’s artwork, drawn by Nat Russell, mirrors the band’s sense of inquisitive playfulness.

Cryptacize has been touring up a storm in support of Mythomania, driving from gig to gig in a tiny Toyota Corolla, necessitating a stage show employing miniature amps and a spare drum kit. The band’s turned this supposed limitation into a virtue, ramping up the performance energy level as they bring down the amplitude; providing their entertainment up close at intimate venues for enthusiastic audiences.  

Carey: What inspired the title Mythomania?    

Cohen: The filmmaker Raul Ruiz was talking about Hollywood movies or something – we just liked the word for some reason. Actually we had to look it up. But ‘mythomania’ is also good if you don’t know what it means – ‘myths’ and ‘mania;’ both pertinent to our album.   “Mythomania” really means compulsive lying, where you have to make up one story after another to justify previous lies.  

Our music is created by a process something like that – not that we’re lying – but one thing leads to another in a compulsive kind of way, and you end up with something in the end that’s really weird and isn’t what you’d expect originally.   I think that in general a person’s sense of reality goes something like that too – the narrative we feel like we’re living sort of self-generates and sends us on a very particular, self-determining path which seems somehow already decided.

Carey: I really enjoyed the CD’s artwork – how did you decide on images from the book This is the Smoke that is Inside You?

Cohen: Nat Russell is our friend from Oakland and we are fans of his work. We just came across the drawings and said ‘yes!’

Carey:  Cryptacize’s sound brings together a bunch of influences, including Non-Western rhythms and vocal inflections. Would you tell me a bit about some of your favorite reference points from outside the Western pop canon?

Cohen: We are interested in all genres.   If you check our blog, we post mixes there of stuff we’ve been listening to lately, so you could get more detail…   anyway I would say I like individual artists in every genre, but never every artist in any genre.   Lately I really like Selda Bacgan, Fairuz, the film composers Shankar-Jaikishan, Group Doueh, Etoile de Dakar, the Pearl Sisters… we’re pretty much open to whatever is unique/exceptional… a lot of that music is older stuff.   I like new stuff too, like Fiji music, but I don’t know about as much there.     It’s kind of like African highlife music mixed with rap, just drums and vocals, and they have really good videos on YouTube.

Carey: At the same time, pop styles from early rock ‘n roll to psych-rock are palpable. It’s great to hear you bring an intricate groove together with more straightforward rock signatures on a song like “Tall & Mane.” How did that arrangement come together?

Cohen: Thanks – I don’t know – Mike and I just started playing that rhythm pattern together on the cowbell and guitar.   It was trial and error like everything else. We wanted it to sound frantic so we brought in the sped-up guitars…

Carey: “Gotta Get Into that Feeling” and “I’ll take the Long Way” are examples of another kind of music-making at which Cryptacize excels: the ballad. Sometimes, it’s startling how earnestly presented your ballads are.   Given how cynical pop culture can be, is it difficult to allow a song to be earnest in its emotional appeal?

Cohen: No it’s not difficult. That’s just our natural personalities…   I guess I think a cynical ballad would be horrible.   Ballads should be sad!   They should make people cry! How are you going to do that and be cynical?

Carey: Are you still driving a Toyota Corolla to gigs?

Cohen: Yes, although not for too much longer… 4 people’s starting to kind of push it for space.

Carey: Using mini amps and a small drum kit certainly keeps things streamlined for touring. How have they affected your musical approach?

Cohen: The tiny equipment pretty much made it possible for us to go on tour. On the money we make, we can’t afford to pay for much gas.   We do like the sounds of our tiny equipment though! And it makes the sound-person’s job a lot easier, they like things pretty quiet on stage usually. I don’t know why, I love little amps. And my back loves me not carrying heavy ones anymore!



Merge Celebrates Twenty Years with a Compilation that Benefits Fourteen (!) Charities

ScoreIt’s hard to believe that Merge Records has been around for twenty years. In 1989, the imprint was started by Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan to release the band’s recordings and assorted side projects. Merge has since grown into one of the most successful indie concerns around.To celebrate twenty years in the record business, they’ve released Score, a compilation of songs by Merge artists covered by Non-Merge artists. A host of prominent participants include the Shins, Broken Social Scene, Death Cab for Cutie, and the New Pornographers. Proceeds benefit fourteen charities, chosen by the collection’s curators.

The comp is cause for philanthropists to rejoice; music fans too! St. Vincent joins forces with the National on an affecting rendition of Crooked Fingers’ “Sleep all Summer.” Apples in Stereo supply a peppy version of Neutral Milk Hotel’s “King of Carrot Flowers, Pt. 3.” Barbara Manning provides an ardent, rousing take of Portastatic’s “Through with People.” Magnetic Fields’ “Yeah! Oh Yeah!” receives a suitably spare bedroom pop reading, an eloquently lyrical duet from Tracey Thorn and Jens Lekman. Meanwhile, Death Cab for Cutie works a bit against type, trading their often ethereal arranging aesthetic for a bit more grit and darker hues on Superchunk’s “Kicked In.” Overall, an impeccably selected collection of cover songs, featuring a variety of (frequently interesting)approaches: what’s not to like?
CarouselSave a Carousel

Some of my happiest moments as a child were on the old carousel at Nunley’s Arcade on Long Island: riding the horses around the loop; gazing with a mixture of excitement, awe, and a bit of fear at the carved lions and tigers.    A close second was the tire swing:
I hope some readers will consider voting to help restore the Paragon Carousel, favorite haunt of Merge artists Neutral Milk Hotel! Details from the press release are below.
The Paragon Carousel  is a beautiful machine  that has been my dear neighbor for many moons.  Now  81 years old, it is in need of a little love and attention in order for it to survive.  
It is my  sincere wish for the Paragon Carousel to be a part of the magic of long seaside summer afternoons for many years to come.  But it might not get to.  Unfortunately, we live in a world where the great whirling contraptions of mechanical music and light are not as profitable to operate as other things, and carousels are worth much more taken apart and sold in pieces to museums, where one  must pay to look at them behind glass, rather  than having  them simply existing in the world that we now all share.    
I spoke with Jeff and Scott and Jeremy about this and they  agreed that I should, on behalf of  Neutral Milk Hotel,  make an appeal to the good people who might have enjoyed the music made over the years, because we think you’d understand especially, and want to help.    
We humbly ask you to  vote!

The Paragon Carousel is competing with 24 other historic Massachussettes buildings for a grant of   $100,000. The historic site with the most votes wins, and anyone anywhere can vote. We would love it if by our collective effort we could ensure the continuation of this grand place.  It only takes a moment and you can do so  here

You are allowed to vote once a day  until  May 17th . Your vote means a great deal to all of us at Elephant Six. Places like this are  so special. They deserve to exist in the same world that we do. So we can visit them with our bodies,  not just our memories and dreams.  

We’d like to thank you for your help and for spreading the word.

 ~Julian Koster  with Jeff Mangum on behalf of Neutral Milk Hotel



Pleasant Surprise

Tinted Windows


S-Curve Records

When I first heard about Tinted Windows, it seemed like a potentially disastrous conglomeration: a supergroup including former members of Smashing Pumpkins, Cheap Trick, Fountains of Wayne, and … Hanson.

Wait! Don’t click away just yet.  

Taylor Hanson’s not a kid anymore – and he’s grown a fair bit as a vocalist, matching his still-impressive flexibility with a bit more grit up top. Indeed, Hanson’s  post-pubescent pipes seem ideally suited to power pop hooks such as those found on songs “Kind of a Girl” and “We Got Something.”

Meanwhile, guitarist James Iha, bassist Adam Schlesinger, and drummer Bun E. Carlos have crafted punchy arrangements that strike a nice balance between power pop and mainstream rock. Iha’s chops  remain mighty impressive. He unleashes a torrent of riffs on “Can’t Get a Read on You.” The guitarist has also written a winsomely poppy “Cha Cha,” which suites Hanson’s singing quite well. While all of the non-percussionist band members contributed to the songwriting, one can hear Schlesinger’s influence quite palpably: Fountains of Wayne fans are apt to be most pleased.

 Those who can put aside their knee jerk reactions and jaded preconceptions are bound to be pleasantly surprised.

Tinted Windows

Explosions in the Sky celebrate 10th Anniversary with Summer Tour

 Explosions in the Sky


Hard to believe that Austin rockers Explosions in the Sky have been making music together for ten years. If you haven’t heard 2007′s All of a Sudden, I Miss Everyone, get thee to a record store! Better yet, get out and hear them this summer – tour dates below.



6/27 Los Angeles, CA @ Hollywood Palladium with No Age and Eluvium


6/30 New York, NY @ Central Park Summer Stage with Constantines


7/2 Chicago, IL @ Congress Theatre with Jason Lytle (of Grandaddy)


7/4 Austin, TX @ Stubb’s Waller Creek with The Octopus Project and The Wooden Birds


7/11 Toronto, ON @ Toronto Olympic Island with Broken Social Scene, Apostle of Hustle and Beach House, and more


9/9 Antwerp, Belgium @ Ampitheatre Riviernhof


9/11 Dorset, UK @ End of the Road Festival


For ticket information, visit these EITS links:  /

Better Than Ezra: New album in May; MP3 to Preview

BTW Photo1-120.jpg

Mainstream rockers Better than Ezra release a new album on 5/12. The band is giving listeners a taste of Paper Empire with a free download of the single “Absolutely Still.”

MP3: Absolutely Still (download)

BTE is also touring throughout the US this spring and summer; venues and dates below.


Apr 25 – TPC of Louisiana – Avondale, Louisiana
Apr 26 – Jazz &Heritage Festival – New Orleans, Louisiana
May 1 – The Windjammer – Isle of Palms, SC
May 2 – Rosewood Crawfish Festival – Columbia, SC
May 29 – House of Blues – New Orleans, Louisiana
May 30 – House of Blues – New Orleans, Louisiana
Jun 2 – Flytrap Music Hall – Tulsa, OK
Jun 3 – Harrah’s Whiskey Road House – Council Bluffs, IA
Jun 5 – Taste Of Fort Worth – Fort Worth, TX
Jun 6 – House Of Blues – Houston, TX
Jun 7 – House Of Blues – Dallas, TX
Jun 9 – Soul Kitchen – Mobile, AL
Jun 11 – City Limits – Delray Beach, FL
Jun 12 – Jannus – Tampa, FL
Jun 13 – HOB – Orlando, FL
Jun 14 – Variety Playhouse – Atlanta, GA
Jun 16 – 9:30 Club – Washington, DC
Jun 17 – Trocadero – Philadelphia, PA
Jun 18 – Alive At The Square – Buffalo, NY
Jun 19 – Irving Plaza – New York, NY
Jun 20 – Paradise – Boston, MA
Jun 23 – House Of Blues – Cleveland, OH
Jun 25 – Vogue Theater – Indianapolis, IN
Jun 26 – 4th Street Live – Louisville, KY
Jun 27 – House Of Blues – Chicago, IL
Jun 28 – Summerfest – Millwaukee, Wisconsin
Jul 24 – Kansas City Live – Kansas City, MI
Jul 25 – The Pageant – St. Louis, MI
Jul 30 – Alive @ 5 – Stamford, CT
Oct 7 – Walt Disney World Resort – Orlando, FL
Oct 8 – Walt Disney World Resort – Orlando, FL

Now in HD: Umphrey’s McGee

Now in HD: Umphrey’s McGee


While digital distribution is undeniably convenient, sonically speaking MP3s leave a lot to be desired. Several companies have been at work on audio formats that strive for the manageable size of MP3s while not compromising on sound quality. MP3HD files are currently four times the size of conventional MP3s, but are a lossless format that will be compatible with most MP3 players.

One of the first artists to embrace the upcoming MP3HD format is the jammy neo-prog outfit Umphrey’s McGeeUmphrey’s McGee. Umphrey’s made selections from their recent two-night run at the Murat Egyptian Room on March 13, 2009 available in the new format this past week at Additional recordings will be made available in the coming weeks.

“As one of the few artists who record and make available every show that is played, sound quality is paramount to the entire band.   The HDMP3 format is a welcome addition to our existing arsenal of lossless and lossy formats we make available for fans, explains Umphrey’s McGee’s audio engineer and producer Kevin Browning.” Offering a much richer sound spectrum combined with the convenience and familiarity of the MP3 format, we expect HDMP3 to be a hit with the band and fans alike.”

This past Thursday, I was in touch with Francois Thuiliere at Thompson Software about their MP3HD project. He said, “MP3HD is a lossless audio codec based on MP3. It makes a bit-exact copy of CD or wav, and its biggest advantage over similar codecs is its backward compatibility with mp3. So if you play an MP3HD file in a non-MP3HD player, it will simply play the standard mp3 file.”

“We just launched the format a couple of weeks ago and we are already seeing a lot of interest in the musician community. The fact that most of the labels have adopted mp3 (which was developed by Thomson) is very encouraging for the future adoption of mp3HD. We will have the software development toolkit (SDK) ready for our licensees in May, so you expect implementation in commercial products to start in the coming months.”

While it is far too soon to guess who will win the battle for prevailing hi-def digital audio format, the effort promises to bring better-sounding music to the ears of audiophiles in an era increasingly dominated by digital distribution.

More info: There’s a Win Amp plug-in for Windows and a demo software toolkit (available here).