Pop Levi – Never Never Love

Rating: ★★★½ ·

It’s hard not to be a fan of really good pop music, especially with the output of independent artists bringing great pop to our ear; Pop Levi is just another such character in a long line of pop musicians leaving good bands (Ladytron) to go it their own in the pop world.

Now on his second album, I’ve come to expect great things from this character, despite his tendency to look like a side-show Shakespearean actor.  However, the output here is too similar to the debut album to substantially increase his value in the pop lexicon of the music industry.

His voice is quite unique, which makes it hard to distinguish changes in pitch from song to song, as his falsetto reverberates in the caverns of my mind. Even here, it seems like more effects are being used to help shape is voice, although more of that is owed to the various samples and instrumentation that weighs this album down.

There are some exceptional tracks present throughout this record, and the spacing is appropriate so as to keep our interest from start to finish.  “Semi-babe” slows it down just enough to mimic an Albert Hammond Jr. ballad.  It’s a different spin on his tried and true formula, immediately creating one of the more memorable moments on Never Never Love. “Mai Space” also has a similar magic to it, even though I feel as if the samples here were directly rooted in Flaming Lips Yoshimi nostalgia.

There are some missteps here too, which keeps this album from rising to the surface of a pleasant breakthrough album in 2008. Pop Levi‘s desire to imitate such greats as Prince tend to show him at his weakest moments, and frankly, his most unoriginal.  Similarly, “Calling Me Down” represents a change in direction from traditional stylings, for this artist at least.  When he slows it down this slow, he loses ground with his audience, which is fair enough considering the album should probably stop before the closing song, “Fountain Of Lies;” the greatest mistake I noticed.

Throughout the record, I hoped and prayed, that he could hold onto the strength of the opening bit of this album.  I admire his efforts to go beyond his comfort level into new areas of pop where he was yet to traverse, but in doing so, he loses what grabbed me during his debut.  What I expected to be extremely experimental in the pop vein of things, ended up retracing the steps of his past glories; when he steps off this path, he falls too far off, leaving us waiting for him back on the trail to pop glory.

Free Ba Da Bing Records Sampler

We have been all about the free music this week so why stop now? Ba Da Bing Records has an entire sampler that you can download for free over on the emusic website. The sampler features such artists as Colossal Yes, Devon Williams, Beirut and a whole slew of other fine acts. Below is standout track “Elephant Gun” from Beirut.


Download: Beirut – Elephant Gun [MP3]

Final Fantasy Goes to “The Butcher”

Legendary, sort of, if you consider the Arcade Fire to be famous, orchestral genius. Owen Pallett has decided to give us a brand new song for our listening enjoyment. “The Butcher” seems a lot more like an old Disney musical score then his previous works, but I’ll let you decide.


Download: Final Fantasy – The Butcher [MP3]

Mariachi Revolución

This week we spotlight Austin band Mariachi Revolución as part of our Xemumba festival features. Mariachi is another Xemumba alum performing on both nights of the latin music festival. The band specializes in collaborations with acts like Grupo Fantasma and Ocote Soul Sounds. Have a listen to the song “Levantate” below featuring the sure to be crowd favorite Mariachi Revolución. Don’t forget to get those tickets before they sell out.


Download: Mariachi Revolución – Levantate [MP3]

31Knots – Worried Well

Rating: ★★★★ ·

The Bush years have done a number on the psyche of 31Knots songwriter and guitarist  Joe Haege and it shows in the nervous energy that permeates Worried Well, the latest long player from the Portland/San Francisco trio. Using complicated rhythms, off kilter time changes, and borrowing as much from CAN and Sonic Youth as they do Fugazi, 31Knots manages to maintain and build upon the unique sound first laid out on 2005’s Talk Like Blood.

The album kicks off with a 43 second A capella hand clap session and brief rumination about the corrupting power of your money before kicking into the album proper. On the first full track “Certificate” you get a sense of the angular guitar work of Haege, complex bass lines provided by Jay Winebrenner, and the amazing stop and start drumming style of Jay Pellici. You may also get the notion that Dick Cheney is tapping you phone calls.

Lyrically Haege touches on themes of evil corporate backrooms, a war obsessed oligarchy, and a nation under surviellence. It’s the use of intelligent allegories that keep this commentary from slipping into the pretentious. Much like how Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto can tell you about how Capitalism is killing you in a round about way without inducing an immediate eye roll, Haege possesses this magical power as well.

Describing 31Knots to another person can be a bit problematic and this is why they are often categorized in indie/prog/math rock category, which essentially means these guys have managed to create a truly distinctive sound. Musically the album is filled with irregular guitar pulses, noisy synthesizer elements that build up then collapse, a small tickling of the ivory here and there and even a little Latin drumming. Tracks such as “The Breaks,” “Strange Kicks,” and “Worried But Not Well” are the high points that find 31Knots at the top of their game. On the whole they seem to be refining and perfecting the sound laid out in their two previous albums.

While a few tracks stray from their previous sound, most notably the Duran Duran inspired “Upping the Mandate” most of the album finds them on familiar territory mixing and matching the better elements of their catalog. Unfortunately the album closer, “Between 1&2,” is a bit of a slow Eno influenced toss away, but the rest of the album is strong enough to forgive the filler.

The only problem with the uniqueness of 31Knots sound is that by default they end up aping themselves over the course of a few albums. If you created a Venn diagram of their last three releases the amount of overlap is what keeps this album out of the great category, and into the very good. Pick up a copy of Worried Well, if a band’s dilemma these days is that they have such a distinctive sound that it lends itself to a little repetition, it’s a fine problem to have.

Have a listen to a new track from the album entitled “Compass Commands” :


Download: 31Knots – Compass Commands [MP3]

New Led Zeppelin Album in the works?

On the heels of re-releasing a bunch of old records and reuniting for a one-off show last December, it sounds like the Zep might be heading back into the studio for a 10th album. Apparantley Page, Jones and John Bonham’s son Jason have been working on new material (sans Robert Plant). Could there really be a new record on the horizon, or are these just glorified jam sessions? You decide

Oxford Collapse @ Mohawk (8/27)

Oxford Collapse will see a return to Mohawk Austin on Wednesday evening after playing a free show at the venue earlier this summer.  Doors for the show are set to open at 7pm with opening act Love as Laughter kicking things off around 8pm.  Get a head start and buy tickets for only $10 from Front Gate Tickets.  Austin Town Hall will be on hand with for a show review, pictures and interview of the band. Also, preview the show by reading our highly praising review of the band’s new album Bits.

Free Music From The State Bird

One of the few bands I know from Ohio, The State Bird, have a brand new EP out creatively titled 4 New Songs.  You can download this entire new EP from The Record Machine website.  If your one of those people who values their internet download times, check out “The Bright July Night” here on our website.


Download: The State Bird – The Bright July Night [MP3]

New Clientele EP

The Clientele just released a new EP entitled That Night, a Forest Grew which is the third in a 3 part series of new EPs for the band. You can download the new tracks for a small fee over on the emusic website or you’ll have to wait a bit longer for your hard copy. We also have track number one from the new EP below called “Retiro Park”.


Download: The Clientele – Retiro Park [MP3]

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