Roky Erickson w/ Okkervil River – True Love Cast Out All Evil

Rating: ★★★★ ·

The troubled history of Roky Erickson has been well-documented in the past, especially in the touching You’re Going to Miss Me documentary. However, the last few years have seen a resurgence for the famed singer, and he returns now accompanied by another local act, Okkervil River.  But, you can put all that business aside right now, and turn your focus to what a phenomenal listening experience you will have listeninig to True Love Cast Out All Evil.

We get a brief glimpse into the history of Roky as the album opens with “Devotional Number One,” which is a field recording from his time spent at Rusk State Hospital.  There’s an eeriness to the recording, but his voice is so warm, yet so fragile that you can’t help yourself from falling into this song.

Listening to this record over and over again, the first track that really hits you is “Goodbye Sweet Dreams.”  There are flourishes of orchestral work in the background, which you can leave at the foot of Will Sheff who manned production.  But, when Roky says “don’t leave me now/my love does not too bright burn” you get a hint at the soul of a man who no longer wants to be left on his own.  You can’t look away from him now, or I suppose turn a deaf ear.

As the record progresses you’ll notice that no longer is this a man delving into psychadelic rock; he’s gone completely country, and it’s so heart-felt that he’s bound to receive accolades left and right.  “Be and Bring Me Home” has that countryfied warble to it, and light touches of piano only emphasize the voice that much more.  “Please, Judge” is a wonderfully soft-spoken ballad that relies more upon the imagery of Erikson, and while the lyrics aren’t first person, you can’t help but feel a litlte bit of the singer inside.  You can even hear a few squalls of noise throughout, making it all more than just a mere country ballad.

What’s great about this record is that even though it stays in one place (the country) you still get some rockers out of True Love Cast Out All Evil. “Bring Back the Past” is a pretty upbeat number, even when supplied with a bit of a Nashville stomp.  It fits perfectly with “John Lawman,” though the latter has a much more devilish undertone.  Feedback lies beneath the lyrics “I kill people all day long,” chasing the lyrics throughout the entirety of the song.  It’s one of the most spectacluar live numbers too, as you can hear the scratchiness and emotion of Roky behind the mic.

Closing the record, we return to the intimate setting of Mr. Erickson.  “Birds’d Crash” is a slow burner using vocals and a ringing guitar line to really flesh out the song.  For me, I just love his approach to writing lyrics, and the clarity of his voice is incredible throughout the whole of the album.  To bookend it all, we find ourselves with another field recording.  Listen closely to this one, as its an awful bit quieter than the album’s opener, but in putting your ear close to the speaker, you get to end the album in Roky’s world.

As an album, it’s remarkable how seamlessly True Love Cast Out All Evil really is.  You have to credit Will Sheff for not really putting his stamp on the album, instead choosing to let Roky Erickson do all the work on his own, with just a little help from his friends.  It all points to one thing: Roky is back, and with a record like this, we’re all entirely grateful to have him here again.


Download: Roky Erickson & Okkervil River – Goodbye Sweet Dreams [MP3]

Contest: Local Natives 7″ and Secrets!

This should be a show post about the killer evening of tunes over at Antones Friday featuring Local Natives and Suckers (2 of our favorites this year).  But, instead, we’ve got something for you.  We’re running a little contest to win a free Local Natives “Sun Hands” 7″.  All you have to do is leave us a comment telling us what your favorite album of the year is, besides Local Natives (as that should be near the top), and don’t forget to leave a valid email address in the email portion of your comment.  We’ll pick the winner by tomorrow morning and take care of the rest.

Oh, and our top secret spies tell us that the first person to buy Gorilla Manor starting today at Waterloo Records wins two free tickets.  Get over their now.  And be sure to show up early as you’ll love the Suckers too!


Download: Local Natives – Airplanes [MP3]

Inlets – Inter Arbiter

Rating: ★★★ · ·

Sebastian Krueger has a lot of creative friends, but it’s his own talents as the creator for the Inlets project that really make the listening experience completely worthwhile.  Inter Arbiter is the newest album from the group, the first since the Vestibule EP.  While it has many traces of the last outing, it’s clear that the whole construction has only gotten more detailed, building layer upon layer of instrumentation to craft an ornately beautiful album.

“Canteen” is the first real track to demonstrate the process of Inlets, with that odd time signature guitar playing, and minimal percussive accompaniment.  While many people see the minimalism as a nod to Steve Reich, there is a much more pop-oriented structure to the writing of this record, as evidenced on “In Which, I, Robert.”  This track is by far the most accessible of the ten, with the hook being brought into play by the vocal performance, and the call-and-response vocals that jump out in the background.  It’s probably one of the shortest numbers, but it’s the one many people will go back to as their favorite.

“Bright Orange Air” was the band’s first single off Inter Arbiter, and while it carefully walks you along the cusp of Krueger’s falsetto, the musicianship is what will stick with you long afterwards.  As much as you don’t want to draw comparisons to Grizzly Bear, you can definitely sense the relationship between the two bands here, from the rim shots on the drum that keep pace to the vocal melody, all accompanied by what is surely a clarinet (or another woodwind).   It’s this interesting approach that perhaps draws people to make the Reich comparison, but really just needs to simply go in the books as superb craftsmanship.  Interestingly, it’s often the vocal performances on the most diverse songs that really grabs at the listener.  This is precisely the case on “Bells and Whistles,” which does have all that the title suggests, but I found myself holding onto the vocals, and the way they seem to rise and fall in the middle of notes.  Just beautiful.

Near the end of the album, “Famous Looks” offers more of the same, though with a bit of a faster pace. It leaves room for the next album to show continued progression, as one can’t stand in place for too long in this genre without appearing too redundant.  Perhaps it is the much more pronounced percussion breaking through, but this song is one of the more exciting, if you can even call it that.  Oddly, that’s not what Inter Arbiter is about at all.

The new album from Inlets delves into extreme craftsmanship that remains soft and gentle throughout, despite the ebbs and flows in the mood of Inter Arbiter.  For those looking for a more experimental approach to modern pop construction, this is a brilliant place to land, while others can simply bask in the warmth created by Sebastian Krueger and friends.


Download: Inlets – In Which I, Robert [MP3]

New Tunes from Pernice Brothers

I’ve been following Joe Pernice for a long time.  His voice always seems to fit into my life at some point or another, so I’m glad to welcome a new tune from Pernice Brothers.  This tune comes from their upcoming record Goodbye, Killer, which will be out June 15th via Ashmont.  First listen sees the band a bit more upbeat than their last go round, but I know old Joe will fill this album with pitch-perfect pop ditties to keep me humming along for some time to come.


Download: Pernice Brothers – Jacqueline Susann [MP3]

The Radio Dept. – Clinging to a Scheme

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Sweden’s The Radio Dept. have had a rough go of things.  They’ve lost a few members in their history as a band, taken a hiatus and barely gotten enough press to generate mass interest.  However, with the backing of Labrador Records, the group are finally releasing their third album, Clinging to a Scheme; this will be the record that should solidify the band as a mainstay across the globe.

When you get the album, you should definitely listen to opening track “Domestic Scene,” as it does serve to affect the entire listening experience, if you intend to listen end to end (as you should!). Other than that, it’s just atmospheric noise, which has its point, but isn’t necessary on repeat listens.

After that, you can’t really skip a single track on this album. “Heaven’s on Fire,” the second single, opens the real depth of the album with a slow and steady beat, as guitars strum along.  There’s sort of a coat of noise lurking in the background here, as there is in much of the album, which might throw the group into a dream-pop genre; it washes over the song as waves would wash upon the shores.  “This Time Around” uses more of a coating of noise, like a second coat of paint, while the rest of the tune is draped in synthesized beats, but it’s the distant vocals that extract every emotion from you as you listen.

Don’t be fooled by two minutes of ambient noise on “Never Follow Suit.” There’s a gem of a song lying at the end filled with such beauty and simplicity that you can’t turn it off when the lyrics cease.  And this appears to be the beautiful part of the album, not that it all isn’t so, but the intricate picking of guitars accompanied by piano on “A Token of Gratitude” is absolutely magnificent; the additional vocals, though sparse, sound as if they’re recorded on an old answering machine, making the listening experience all the more intimate.  But just as it things go pretty, they amp it up a bit.  The one-two punch of “The Video Dept.” and “Memory Loss” show that The Radio Dept aren’t intent on just letting you sleep your afternoon away.  These two tracks offer a more uplifting experience, yet they still fit snuggly into Clinging to a Scheme as a whole.

Eventually you come to the holy grail that is “David.”  Its been playing in my player for months, and while it has a resemblance to current groups like The Big Pink, the hooks here are caught in the crosshairs between pop and soft atmospheric touches.  You won’t find many songs much more perfect than this one this year, that I can promise. All this leads us to the ending “You Stopped Making Sense.”  Here you’ll find the band at their most accessible, almost coming off like Robert Pollard in a dream state.  It ends so gloriously, and goes by so quickly that you have to go back to track 2 immediately.  That’s just one of the great things that makes listening to Clinging to a Scheme so incredible; you just can’t seem to get enough, nor would you want to because The Radio Dept. is currently on a splendid roll.


Download: The Radio Dept – David [MP3]

New Tunes from Blur

Remember these kids?  Yeah, it’s been awhile since you heard from Blur, but now it seems that the band have patched things up with Graham Coxon.  They released a UK 7″ for Record Store Day (damn you UK!), but the band made the track available to US fans.  It’s a pretty chilled out little track, and one that resembles Albarn’s works with Gorillaz as opposed to Parklife, but who really cares?  I mean, come one, this is Blur, and they were one of the best (2nd best in my opinion) Brit pop groups ever. Love this new track.


Download: Blur – Fool’s Day [MP3]

FT5: Things to Do While Listening to Music

If you find yourself here, odds are that you’re probably a huge music fan, which means that music is going to play a predominant role in your life.  I surveyed many friends, and mostly talked to myself, trying to figure out what the majority of people are doing when they decide to jam out.  Of course, seeing as I’m the writer, I had to put my own personal touch on this, and thus the ranking of said practices while listening to music.

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New Tunes from Ty Segall

Everyone needs a little bit of garage rock in their life right?  And now that I’ve (we’ve) lost Jay Reatard (RIP), I’m hoping that Ty Segall can keep me pumped.  It looks like he’s on the right track with his latest 7″, which will also include a song from his upcoming album, Melted (hits stores on May 25th).  You’ve gotta love the simplicity of this song, and in that, its need to rock you.  Keep your eyes on this one kids.


Download: Ty Segall – Caesar [MP3]

FTC: Braid

Vinyl reissues are always a great reason to go and revist the classics, or at least those albums you regard as classics.  Luckily, Polyvinyl Records agrees, as they are re-releasing four of the albums by emo band Braid.  They’re one of my favorites for the genre, mostly because they brought on just a little bit more punk and experimentation than some of the other groups.  Their tunes always had that bounce that got me into the scene as a teenager, yet they also had more agression than a lot of the other groups around at that time.  Singer Bob Nanna’s voice has always been one of those I really enjoyed, especially in the live setting.  Unfortunately, the band didn’t last forever, eventually parting ways, though 3/4 of the band went on to form Hey Mercedes.  HM always seemed a bit softer to me, but I still got into it.  Go back and revisit Braid, you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor. The track we bring you is from Movie Music Vol. 2.


Download: Braid – Grand Theft Autumn [MP3]

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