Sunday, December 02, 2007

Orange Alert's Music Minute

Chicago musician James Eric has accomplished quite a bit in recent years. Self-releasing four albums, as well as producing, editing, and composing the score for Meet The Monkeys a documentary directed by Collin Souter which focuses on the importance of arts education in elementary schools, and the positive effect that a non-for-profit theater company has on the Chicago community. In October he released a greatest hits album entitled, Tonight The Moon, and the album is a great introduction to James' music for those who have not heard his previous albums. James also has a cover album featuring songs from Smashing Pumpkins, Flaming Lips, Wilco, and more available for download on his site. Listen to: The One (mp3)

Champaign, IL trio Headlights will release its second album, Some Racing, Some Stopping on Feb. 19, 2008 on their hometown label, Polyvinyl Records. Tristan Wraight, Erin Fein, and Brett Sanderson playing keyboard infested rock with energy and certain level of wit. Their 2006 debut was nothing sort of spectacular, and follow-up should be just as impressive but in a new more mature way. The story of Headlights’ new album starts in an old, two-story farmhouse just outside of Champaign, IL. Nestled between corn and soybean fields, and within view of encroaching industry—a freight train line, a FedEx plant, and the local mall visible from the 2nd floor window—this farmhouse was the site where the band wrote and recorded its sophomore full length album. Working from home, without the pressures of studio time frames and a ticking hourly rate, the band was free to write and record as they saw fit. The songs were recorded as they were written, and many of the tracks that were used were first takes. Based around Wraight’s acoustic guitar and Fein’s keyboards, the songs on Some Racing, Some Stopping purposefully lack much of the spacey atmospherics that define the band’s earlier work. Instead, the album,which is self-produced with drummer Sanderson manning the boards, is steeped in a classic pop sensibility,reminiscent of the ’60s, Brill Building song craft, and Phil Spector production. Listen to: Lions (mp3) and TV (mp3) from 2006's Kill Them With Kindness

Europe already knows the electro-pop joy of Hey Willpower’s full-length debut, P.D.A. (Tomlab), which has gone unreleased in North America until now - it streets on Jan. 22, 2008. The US edition features a revamped sequence, all new artwork, and the addition of their sugar-high cover of Architecture in Helsinki’s underground hit “Heart it Races”. The band will be touring the US in the Spring of 08, including several appearances at SXSW in March.

Here’s the whole story straight from Will:

Hey Willpower was conceived one night in July on 3rd Street in San Francisco when Linton and I were at a Tussle show and I was still smoking. We were talking about our love for R&B Pop/Hip Hop and how she had lived in the same building in Harlem as Sean Paul the summer before and our favorite songs on KMEL. I gave her a ride home and the Busta/Mariah song "I Know What You Want" came on and we just listened in awe. As if she was reading my mind, she said we should get together and make a song using all the elements of pop that we've ever loved. A couple of days later we started working on a song in her basement. I came up with some vocal melodies and keyboard/guitar parts and left Linton overnight with them. The result was the backing track for "Uh – Uh - Uh". After exhaustively stalking Linton and trying to convince her to drop everything and work on this project, she told me she had to go on tour with her band The Aislers Set.

I was left despondent in SF with a new computer and this music in my head. I met Tomo through a friend and we hardly even asked each other on a music date before we were on a regular practice schedule furiously writing and recording music. Tomo loves blippy bleepy yet melodic landscapey music the most. I had to coerce him a bit into some ass-shaking, but he eventually caved in. Whether it's a hot beat or bass part or a strangely beautiful keyboard melody, he always brings something unique and inspiring to the music. We'll be hanging out and he'll be tapping out a beat with the keys in his pocket and we'll record that.

I grew up listening to Michael and Janet and L'Trimm and pop that my sisters would turn me on to. As soon as I heard Sonic Youth and the Velvet Underground my world turned inside out and I started voraciously ingesting anything other than what was played on the radio. I became immersed in the indie music world with my band Imperial Teen, all the while reveling in the latest greatest Pop/Hip Hop songs and records.

Hey Willpower feels like something new and exciting and postmodern without being smug or ironic. Although it's different from Imperial Teen, it makes perfect sense to me to be making the music we're making because it comes from what I love about music. When we're performing live and people are doin' their dances and making noise, we know it's right. Dance is becoming a big part of our live show. I'm good with the chin scratchers and musicologists and philosophers too, but sometimes you have to let the emotions take over. Let's dance now and we can talk about it later if you want.



Listen to: In The Basement (mp3)

2007 has been a busy year for Bracken. Firstly we had their debut LP We Know About The Need, a hyperactive exploration into skewed songwriting, avant drone and glitchy sample experiments presented, seemingly of the blue, to Anticon Records by Chris Adams, founder member of Leeds, UK’s heroes Hood. Following hot on it’s heels was a sketchbook of so-far-off-the-dial-they’ve-fallen-off-the-map ideas which ultimately made up the companion LP Eno About The Need. Issuing this deluxe double vinyl LP in an edition of one copy might be seen as commercial suicide but, hey, it’s art ain’t it?

And finally we come to the obligatory remix CD. Given that We Know About The Need was forged from an unsteady melting pot of cut-up sounds, decaying tape loops, found sounds and the often overlooked but classic “playing of instruments” tactic, it seemed wholly appropriate that a motley crew of associates/heroes of bracken should be given the opportunity to “get the bits from the songs and put them in a different order”. These “remixes” (if you will) were then sent back to the Bracken labs for fierce, tear inducing criticism.

The CD has been issued in two contrasting formats. Primarily it is available in digital format. However, more excitingly it is available in a limited run of 300 CD copies, all lovingly handmade by the band themselves. It is strongly suggested that one should “not sleep”, on obtaining these labours of love.

Bracken - Remixes track listing:
1.We Cut The Tapes and Scatter [Steinbeck Ultramagnetic remix by Buddy Peace] (mp3)
2.Fight or flight [James Rutledge Remix]
3.Safe Safe Safe [The Boats Remix]
4.Heathens [Bracken Instrumental]
5.We Cut The Tapes and Scatter with our Hands and Fingers [Hands and Fingers Remix]
6.Fight or Flight [Winter North Atlantic Remix]
7.Of Athroll Slains [Bracken’s ten pounds advance, more on the door Remix]
8.Heathens [Third Eye Foundation’s Step it out of Lebanon version]
9.We cut the tapes and scatter [Remote Viewer remix]

The Peel Back: Dag Nasty "Can I Say" (1986)

I started reading Jeff Parker's novel "Ovenman" today, and the epigraph is taken from a Dag Nasty song found on this 1986 album. The quote is from "Under Your Influence" and reads as follows, "Twelve onces of courage/Makes the world look better". This sets the stage for the wonderfully named When Thinfinger to awaken from a drunken night covered in post-its. Enough about Ovenman, I first heard Dag Nasty on the now semi-famous mixtape given to me back in 1993 by a most influential girlfriend. It featured two songs from this album, and really kicked off a long standing appreaciation for punk music.

Dag Nasty "Can I Say" 1986

Values Here (mp3)/One to Two/Circles/Thin Line/Justification/What Now?/I've Heard/Under Your Influence (mp3)/Can I Say (mp3)/Never Go Back

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