Sunday, November 30, 2008

Orange Alert's Music Minute

One of my favorite new bands is The Deer Tracks and that is mainly for the lush and seductive vocals of Elin Lindfors. So, I was pleased to find out the Twiggy Frostbite also features Elin Lindfors singing lead. Their debut release, Through Fire, is still awhile off, but they have released an animated video for the wonderful song "Heroes". Check out the video here.

Listen to: Hereos (mp3)

Mike Monday is one of the funkiest members of the Om Family, and his latest release Songs Without Words Part 1 is a mysterious romp through chambers of sounds. He draws from space, video games, dimly lit clubs, and all that has come before. The latest single from the album, Stargirl, arrived in my box this week and I haven't stopped dancing. Check out the video for "Catnip" which also appears on the single.

An artist to watch in 2009 is Josiah Leming. Tennessee-born singer and songwriter Josiah Leming will release his eagerly anticipated debut album for Reprise Records in early 2009. The 19-year-old newcomer, who made a splash with his powerfully expressive voice and passionate performance style, recorded the songs, all of which he wrote himself, during several weeks over the summer with producer/musician David Kosten (Bat For Lashes, Faultline.) Just last month he released a 5 song digital sampler to give potential fans a preview of what lays ahead.

Listen to: Arctic Outcry Wind (mp3)

Flying White Dots is a top notch sample-based producer and this past week he released his third album for free through his website. The album is entitled 3D, and like his previous two albums it maintains a mellow tone through out. It's a chilled out journey through a warped memories of sounds and samples.

Listen to: Tears of Fire (mp3)

On Friday, I featured a Nashville with a soothing electronic sound, and now we are going to go back to Nashville for someone will a slightly different sound type of electronic sound. Jensen Sportag is an exciting young musician who is crafty beats and melodies using some classic '80's cheese and sweat. You throw is a greasy mustache and you have the formula for success. Actually a duo, Samuel Austin Wilkinson and Elvis Benjamin Craig are fast becoming friends with some of the biggest name in independent music, and they’re releasing a short-player on December 2nd called Sergio.

Listen to: 2x2 (mp3)

State Shirt (aka Ethan Tufts) takes an every tool in the box approach to his latest album This Is Old (Nov. 11th). From Southern California’s San Fernando Valley to the snowy back roads of Western Massachusetts and steeped in a cycle of inescapable, mind-numbing full-time jobs, State Shirt relies on hand-built loops, neglected instruments and riveting vocals to artfully describe captivity in a familiar never-ending cycle: work, drink, sleep, repeat. He sings the songs of life, but through it all leaves a small glimmer of hope.

Listen to: This Is Old (mp3)

The first time I saw The Black Keys live was in passing during Lollapalooza in 2005. Even though it was in passing I could still hear the roar of Auerrach's guitar from the next stage over. It was powerful and seemed to come from the gut. I regretted passing them by and at Lolla 2007 I finally was able to seem their performance. Even though there we only two men on stage the sound was enormous and buzzed across the crowd with fierce electricity. On Nov. 18th, The Black Keys released a live DVD of a performance they record on April 4th, 2008 at The Crystal Ballroom in Portland. The DVD is incredible and would make any indie freaks stocking a little fuller this year. It includes three original music videos, exclusive behind the scenes footage, and of course a full array of their impressive catalog.
You can watch the trailer here, and purchase the DVD at a special low price here.

Paint the Town Orange

Siberian Mouth - Bruised Orange Theater Company - The Side Project (1439 W. Jarvis) - A Play by Chris Bower

The latest play from Chicago's Chris Bower has been receiving a lot of positive buzz and recently received 4 stars from Time Out Chicago. Since my recent interview with Megan Mercier I have been more aware of the price and quality of Chicago theater, and at only $10 you really can't go wrong.

Here is the blurb, "A whimsical two-handed riff on Fyodor Dostoevsky's short story, White Nights. The Siberian tundra, a disappearing fiancé, the czar's bizarre taste for imperiled animal hybrids, and a shared ferocious independence hinder a would-be couple in their search to discover a cure for shared loneliness. Siberian Mouth marks BOTC's fourth Studio effort, and kicks off our International Cycle, dedicated to mining Dostoevsky's rich oeuvre in order to create equally rich and expansive live drama."

The play runs through Dec. 9th and you can catch the play this Sunday, Monday or Tuesday. Don't miss it! You can also revisit my interview with Chris.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Watch List

1. Conductive Alliance: This Chicago band reminds me a lot of a more organic version of The Books. It's creative instrumental folk that is as inventive as it is soothing.
2. Zelienople: Showing the ambient side of Chicago music, Zelienople has been perfecting their drone for several years. Their latest release is actually the soundtrack for a 25 minute video by Donald Prokop called Land of Smoke.
3. Bully in the Hallway: Just finishing their debut, Chicago's Bully in the Hallway have raw rock sound that can make some noise in 2009.

1. Self-Portrait by Jason Cook: Self portraits are always the hardest.
2. A Bundle of Nerves by Lois McShane: Conversations at work are always somehow more interesting.
3. Harvest Time by Michael Lee Johnson: Calliope Nerve is now on-line!
4. Gretchen by Karl Koweski: How does someone come to be called Wet Wet?
5. Serious Adverse Events: An Uncensored History of AIDS by Celia Faber by Tao Lin: Hamsters always have the most fun.
6. Worst by Mikael Covey: Power image of a Mother's concern.

1. Rar Rar Press : Some of the most creative items I've seen in a long time.
2. Tiny Run: Great limited run t-shirt designs.
3. Owly Shadow Puppets: This maybe the most original concept I've seen this year. It's custom shadow puppets!
4. Broken Cherry 25% off sale this weekend only!!
5. Scumbag Holiday Superstore: 50-75% off the best Formula Werks Gear

1. Juliet Cook "Projectile Vomit"
2. Silences Sumire free EP: This was released in 2007, but I just found it this week and it is really worth the download.

1. Jihae - Best Thing
2. Best Fwends - The Live Experience
3. Her Space Holiday - Feel Better Birdie
4. Venna - 12 Shades to the Wind (Demo Version)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Band of the Week

Paper Route

When someone talks about the artistic direction of a band they typically mean the cover art or concert posters, but with Nashville's Paper Route art takes on a whole new meaning. While on the tour the guys enjoy drawing and blogging. This allows them to share with their fans, and in a way allow fans to connect with them and the tour. It is a unique way to share the experience, and fans seem to be responding.

Musically, the band molds electronic music and pop lyrics to form familiar texture, but they push their sound to it's farthest reaches. Their latest EP, Are We All Forgotten, is filled the sounds that made the world fall in love with Postal Service, and it is only a matter of time before every one is craving the cound of Paper Route.

Recently, Paper Route was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): Let's start with your name. What you are doing seems much more substantial than just a Paper Route, where did the name Paper Route come from?
Paper Route (PR): When the band first started it was more of an experiment with found sounds and trying to incorporate those elements into songwriting. We never really set out to start a band, but the creative process was inspiring enough to keep us coming back to the studio (Chad's bedroom) again and again. Being that we all had paper route's as a kid we thought it would be a fitting name, reminding us of simpler times in our lives when daydreaming
coexisted with hard work. That's what I remember most about my paper route, having an excuse to walk around as a kid and just daydream. It was the dreaming that got me through the route, and it's that sense of wonder and innocence that we're trying to capture in our music.

OA: While you guys are on tour you keep a very cool art blog. Have you seen the new Bands on the Road Sketchbook? What are some other things you guys do on the road?
PR: Someone was actually telling me about this the other day, but I have yet to see it. I think it's a great idea though. The limitations of being trapped in a van can lead to some interesting creative moments. We've written many songs (about nothing), we film and photograph everything, and we read a lot.

OA: Speaking of touring, I've heard some bands talk about the feasibility of touring the country these days? Are you finding it increasingly challenging to carry out a successful tour?
PR: There definitely have been some challenging times, but I don't necessarily know if it's getting any worse. Gas is always too expensive, college kids rarely have money for concerts, and when one person gets a cold (in a van that you travel in sometimes 18 hours a day) everyone gets the cold. This is every day for us. We go on a stage and live these songs. Sometimes the
club is packed and singing along, other nights it could be a new city where you have to prove yourself to an audience that doesn't have to like you. What's most important to us is talking to the audience after the show. Hearing how they've connected with the art and music or just getting to know new people is what keeps us going the next day.

OA: Southern fried electronic music, I was surprised to find that you are from Nashville. Who are a few of your influences musically?
PR: We listen to Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine, Burial, ... artists that sound like they're from another world. You listen to it, and it takes you somewhere else.

OA: What is the Nashville music scene like?
PR: Nashville is a big little city, almost everyone knows everyone. At first we felt a bit odd, being an electronic band from Nashville (almost all of our friends are singer/songwriters) but now we love that juxtaposition. We've always been drawn to the tradition and mystique of the south. That's why we moved here in the first place.

OA: What was the last great book you have read?
PR: I just read back to back two brilliant books. So i'll mention them both... "The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand, and "Jayber Crow" by Wendell Berry. And I take a copy of "Alice In Wonderland" with me everywhere I go.

OA: What's next for Paper Route?
PR: Right now we're just getting off the road, heading back to Tennessee and sending off our songs to be mixed. We're really looking forward to wrapping up the album we've been working on (it's looking like a Spring release). We've got a lot of touring coming up with the UK in a couple of weeks followed by Canada and the States all throughout January and February. We're adding some new songs to our set, and I've got a lot of Paper Route visual art things to attend to. I should probably be doing some of those things right now.

Listen to: Empty House (mp3)

For more information on Paper Route please visit their website.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Reader Meet Author

Andrew Madigan

In order to write you have to experience, you have to travel, you have to move outside the structure of your life. Well, perhaps you don't have to, but through experiences and challenging situations the writer can easily find things to draw upon. A story and situation that I always find compelling is the American that finds himself in a new land and is forced to learn a new culture. The first story I had read by Brooklyn's Andrew Madigan was called "Buying Beer in Cairo", and it was a graphic account of his first day in Cairo. I really enjoyed it, and came to find out the Andrew was living with his family in a Hilton Hotel in Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates. I was fascinated by the possibilities of the situations and decided to ask Andrew a few questions.

Orange Alert (OA): You left Brooklyn to travel to Dubai to teach, and that is a life altering decision. What factors did you way in making that move?
Andrew Madigan (AM): I actually lived in Dubai from 2000-04; now I’m in Al Ain, about an hour away from Dubai. My wife, 2 daughters and I like to travel. Moving is an adventure game for us. We were about to settle down, after living in South Korea, Tokyo, Okinawa, Dubai and other places, but the thought of sinking every dollar we had into a grotesquely expensive NY home gave us pause, as did working the same job for years on end. The kids’ school was also quite bad. My new job pays for private education and housing. Now my kids are learning French and Arabic at an international school, instead of watching videos in the American public system. Of course, a housing crisis hit Al Ain, so we’re living at the Hilton Hotel until our home is ready, so things are not well on that front. But at least we don’t have a mortgage. Or a foreclosure. There’ also something about living abroad that makes every day a little bit more intriguing. You’re a foreigner in a strange place and the language is different and everything is just a little bit off. That’s got to be good for writing, if not for the soul. Though of course, my soul is irredeemable.

OA: How has living in Dubai impacted your writing (i.e. settings, plot, etc.)?
AM: I had stopped writing before moving to Dubai, but once I moved I had so much to write about I couldn’t put down the metaphorical pencil. Metaphorical because I use a quill pen and write with my toes. There’s so much stimuli when you move, especially if you move far away. The setting and characters are obviously new, but you also hear different types of stories, which can influence plot. I wrote a novel. Khawla’s Wall, based on what an American woman, who’d married and divorced an Emirati man, told me at work; we were waiting for a student to show up. I have no idea why we were in a room talking, waiting for a student to show up, but I do remember the woman’s story.

OA: I saw somewhere that you are shopping a novel. What can you tell us your novel?
AM: Khawla’s Wall is about all the dramatic changes in the Emirates. The socio-economic climate has changed so much that the country’s traditional values and beliefs are being vigorously challenged. Many would say they’re being destroyed. 40 years ago, the people of Dubai were living in barasti huts made of palm fronds; most of them had no electricity or running water. Now they live in the future, 100 years beyond Tokyo, with 7-star hotels and film festivals and loads and loads of money. Clearly, that comes at a price. My students aren’t allowed to be alone with men or boys not related to them by blood or marriage; they walked around cloaked from head to toe in black silk. But they carry around laptops and cell phones, so they’re not entirely cloistered.

I just wish the literal climate would change: it’s bloody hot here.

Wow, my summary sounds boring. It’s also a love story with mystery and intrigue and involves a local woman in a government office who must work inside a black tower. It contains multitudes.

Gretchen Stelter of Baker’s Mark is representing me. She’s also shopping my second book, Hollywood, South Korea, a serio-comic novel about an American professor teaching on US military bases in South Korea.

OA: You have been published both in print and on-line. Is one more legitimate then the other?
AM: I’ve also taught for both online and onground universities. The answer is the same. There is total crap in the three-dimensional world of print. Paper doesn’t make bad writing good, and electronic mediation doesn’t somehow alchemically compromise the intrinsic quality of good writing. The perception of online publications may be different, though this has changed quite a bit over the last few years. In any case, people tend to perceive things wrong so perception isn’t something that interests me. I’ve been very proud of some of my online publications, but I’ve also raised my eyebrows at the quality of some of the print journals I’ve been in.

OA: Do you find it easier to get published now that you have left New York?
AM: No. However, a few times, I submitted material with Arabic subject matter under Arabic pseudonyms. This material was absolutely published more easily. I attribute this to the reductive, superficial, oddly-biased whims of so many editors and journal referees. As an example, I once published something in a British online journal under the name of an Arabic woman. There was a chat area devoted to the story. Sentences like, “Only an Arabic woman could have told this story” were legion. Previously, the story had been rejected by a journal because “the voice wasn’t authentically Arabic/female.” Indeed! There’s a whole seamy and quite fallacious underbelly of literary analysis that thinks a woman has secret access to every thought of every other woman and a man cannot ever plumb the depths of the female psyche. The same is assumed for race, ethnicity, religion, etc. The truth is that we are all completely separate entities, each human being. No one, man or woman, knows what it is to be me. It’s impossible to see into another person’s mind. Therefore, it’s ridiculous—and, ironically, prejudicial—to assume that it’s any more impossible to see into another person’s mind if that person is from a different race, class, gender, etc. When we worry about trifling, parochial issues like this, we’re wasting our time and keeping our energies away from the real subject—quality. Who cares what gender the author is?

OA: What's next for Andrew Madigan?
AM: I’m writing a novel about a man who moves to Al Ain to teach for a local university and has to live at the Hilton Hotel. I obviously have little imagination.

I also play rugby for the Al Ain Amblers. So I plan to get hurt a lot, perhaps a nice debilitating but not life-threatening injury. Furthermore, I’m looking for another job in Al Ain—anyone interested?—because the people at my present place of employment can’t find me a place to live. I want a home for my children. Americans are so self-absorbed and demanding that way.

Bonus Questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes, where can you find the best cup in your area?
AM: I like these bonus questions even better. Keep ‘em coming. There aren’t many good things about my new job, but coffee is one of them. The university has a woman, the lovely Linda at the end of the corridor where I’m typing this email, to bring coffee and tea. She makes an outstanding Turkish coffee (no sugar). The traditional Bedu way to make coffee is to pound fresh cardamom into a powder and mix it with coffee (and sometimes ginger) in a big samovar. Of course, a Starbucks grande latte has replaced all that: see question 3. Nescafe—sadly, so sadly—is very popular here, as it is in many parts of the world. That’s what really keeps different cultures apart. We need a coffee ambassador to explain the evils of Nescafe, rather than of non-democratic government, to the developing world.

OA: What type of music do you enjoy and who are a few of your favorite's?
AM: If you need a special music correspondent for the website, all you have to do is ask.

I like: Italian opera, especially Giordano; jazz, primarily 40s-60s, especially Miles, Coltrane, Coleman, Rollins and Chet Baker; some crooners and jazz singers; some blues and reggae; country (Cash, Kris K., Willie, Hank, Patsy, George Jones, Bobby Bare); alternative country and Americana (Handsome Family, Ryan Adams, Bobby Bare, Jr., Waco Brothers, Old 97s); classic rock (Beach Boys, Kinks, Who, Stones, Dylan); singer-song-writers (Cohen, Waits, Lucinda Williams, Jesse Malin); and various shades of indie (I Am Kloot, Band of Horses, Destroyer, New Pornographers, Okkervill River); and just plain misc. (Replacements, Lemonheads, Clash, X, Buzzcocks, Thrills, Iggy, Bowie, Neko Case, Palace, Wilco, Beck, Syd Barret, Lambchop, Smog) . I’m getting tired of typing.

For more information on Andrew Madigan you can check out a few of his stories.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Artist of the Week

David Keel

When I asked Chicago artist David Keel to describe his work he replied by asking me how I would describe his work, and so I will. In a world filled with man-made structures that are solid and unmoving, nature is the only thing that is free to move. In fact, nature is constantly moving, bending and wrapping itself around homes and buildings. There are certain seasons when the leaves and trees and life moves at a faster pace, and these are the seasons that David seems to capture. He paints the wind, cold and calming, as it scraps the edges of physical structures that restrict its path. He captures the flowers as they bend to a near crumble, but released them before they break. His paintings move and sway, and recently he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): How would you describe your work?
David Keel (DK): If someone asked me "how would I describe my work?" I'd ask them "how would you describe my work?"

It doesn't really matter what I think. There's ways I want it to be and things I want to say through it but to try and control these things I've found a lost cause because it seems peoples' minds are made up.
OA: The pieces on your website seem to focus on nature, flowers and leaves. Where did your fascination with flowers and leaves come from?
DK: I wouldn't so much say I have a fascination with leaves but more so a minor obsession with the lines used to create them. Its just a line and its inverse repeated over and over again. I used the shape to teach myself how to draw and compose compositions in my own way. Its as good a shape as any as well as a fairly universal one in nature. Everything I draw is rooted in this shape- eventually i see it phasing its way out of my paintings completely, but it will still probably be there, underneath the surface.

As far as flowers, I started painting them because I recently learned how to garden and I've been surrounded by them in my day to day life. To understand the process by which things grow and the pace at which things happen was a very important thing to me. We are very much conditioned to think things happen quickly and all at once. To truly understand that a flower is created by something as mundane as putting a seed in the ground and that we, as nature, naturally move at this pace and function in this way was more or less a relief. So painting them was just a means by which to confirm and get closer to this concept.
OA: Do you utilize a set color pallet or does it depend on the painting? Do you feel you use color to evoke a specific emotion in the viewer?
DK: I try not to let my idea of how I want or think things should be or the color I want something to be bog me down. If a color i have my heart set on needs to change, Ill take a deep breathe and paint over it. I've found the more comfortable I get with abandoning things i have my heart set on, the more likely they are to come back to me. Of course you have to learn to recognize them when they come back because they almost never come back in the form you think they will.

As for color, I definitely use color to evoke emotion but sometimes painting an apple white is much more effective than painting it red.

OA: You just recently begin maintaining a website. Do you feel it is important for an artist to have and maintain a web portfolio?
DK: Important enough to take the time to do it.

OA: What is your opinion of the Chicago art scene? Is Chicago a good place to be an artist?
DK: I think nowadays any place is a good place to be an artist. There's enough of an art scene over the internet that if your serious about it you can find ideas and opinions to keep you stimulated and moving forward . Chicago is great because there are an endless amount of spaces to show art, people are fairly receptive, and there are a ton of artists. Chasing down the next new thing or getting too wrapped up in "the scene" I find to be unhealthy and completely exhausting. Turning your focus towards finding meaning and beauty in everyday, repetitive life is much more realistic and challenging, and what a viewer can relate to.

OA: What's next for David Keel?
DK: I'm moving my studio to Brussels for part of the winter as a way of dealing (or not dealing)with the Chicago winter. Then onto planning the next show, which should happen in may.

Bonus Questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes, where can you find the best cup?
DK: A coffee shop is opening up in my neighborhood on the corner of Milwaukee and Logan blvd. They're supposed to be serving metropolis coffee which I've heard nothing but good things about, so hopefully that will be the best cup in town.

OA: What type of music do you listen to and who are a few of your favorites? Do you listen to music while you paint?
DK: A friend of mine gave me a Lykke Li cd for my birthday which I've been listening to non stop for the last week.

For more information on David Keel please visit his website.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

New Release Tuesday

Evidence - The Layover EP
Kayne West - 808s & Heartbreaks Listen to: Street Lights (Max Justus Remix) (mp3)
Los Campensinos! - We Are Beautiful We Are Doomed! (cd/dvd)
Peanut Butter Wolf presents Badd Santa
River Cuomo - Alone 2
Heroes of the Dancefloor - Torch


Monday, November 24, 2008

The Orange Spotlight

Heather Bell Nothing Unrequited Here (Verve Bath Press, Nov. 15th)

When you sit down to write a poem, or pause in a hectic moment to scribble, who is your audience? As you record that voice, that internal line of thought, as you let your will and secrets and fear splash upon the page, are you thinking of me? Are you contemplating the hipster in the bar or the bookish soul in cafe? Are you thinking of the house wife and mother, the corporate soldier, the burnt flame? Well most will say they write for themselves. They write for a release, but as you share your skeletons and skin there has to be some level of awareness. Some level of understanding that these pages will be viewed if only by a hundred or so familiar eyes. It has to fill you with a mixture of comfort and a fear may strangely resemble a sense of terror and accomplishment.

The debut collection from New York poet Heather Bell is an intimate array of confessions and dreams and all of the sultry and unforgiving thoughts of a woman on the verge of discovery. She utilizes the excitement of a young relationship, the desires and insecurities of a woman, and slight taste of humor to deliver a wonderful collection of poems. What is surprising are the little lines that she slips in when least expected. For example,"The trees catch bird flu and develop wings" or "we laugh like wet beach balls". It is a series interesting word combinations that needed to be shared with someone.

Verve Bath Press is run by Amanda Oaks, and Nothing Unrequited Here is a beautiful handmade chapbook. Only 100 were made and I have copy #27.

Creaky Boards Brooklyn is Love (Self-Released, Nov. 11th)

Over the summer this young Brooklyn band took a major risk, and potentially lost some fans because of it. This risk also put a lot of pressure on their sophomore album, Brooklyn is Love. Over the summer Creaky Boards lead singer Andrew Hoepfner acused one of the biggest bands in the world, Coldplay, of stealing their song "The Songs I Didn't Write". The band believes that Chris Martin was in the audience at a CMJ gig where they played the song in question. Coldplay denied it and they confirm their whereabouts during the Boards performance. This move got them a lot of attention, but it left everyone wondering if they could deliver and follow-up the hype with a solid album.
Brooklyn is Love is the perfect album to put this confusion, this drama, to rest. It is a fine example of Beach Boy influence, raw and exciting, surf pop. It is a sound that has been done before (no, not by Coldplay), but Hoepfner and company (dan costinski, michael david campinski, eric wolfinski, darwin dinski) have managed to make an album filled with nostalgia but one that is completely original. Their sound is fresh, clean, and extremely enjoyable. There are moments of jazz, moments of harmony, moments of just plan fun.

The Songs I Didn't Write (mp3)/Now I'm in the City/Brooklyn/A Low Level of Trust/Oh Just Be Silent/Lie to Me/Before You Become My Muse/Secret Man/You Can't Turn Me Off/ Theme from Skeleton City/I'm So Serious (This Time)/I'm Touching the Electric Fence/SOS

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Orange Alert's Music Minute

Now, Now Every Children's full-length follow up to this spring's "Not One, But Two" and "In the City" EPs, is now available on iTunes and will be available in stores this December!
"Cars," tells the story of Now, Now Every Children's life on the highway. Rerecording 4 of the singles off their first two EPs, plus 7 brand new tracks, "Cars" is a series of poignant moments written by Cacie Dalager (vocals, guitar) and Brad Hale (drums,) over the last year.
For more information on Now, Now Every Children and "Cars," including their album artwork, a sneak peak at their first single, and pictures of the dynamic duo, visit

One of my favorite bands is now on one of my favorites labels, School of Seven Bells joins forces with Ghostly International. After early recordings popped up on Sonic Cathedral, Table of Elements, and Suicide Squeeze, the band landed at Ghostly International and released their highly acclaimed debut full length, Alpinisms. And now with their 7” single Half Asleep/Caldo, School of Seven Bells is stylishly splitting the difference between shoegazing introspection and stargazing dream pop. Both Alpinisms and the Half Asleep 7" single are available now via the Ghostly International store.

Listen to: My Cabal (Robin Guthrie) (mp3)

Army Navy has released the music video for their first single "My Thin Sides" off the self-titled debut album. The album of some of the sweetest power pop was produced by Adam Lasus (Yo La Tengo, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah). Two songs off the album are featured in the critically acclaimed film "Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist." The video directed by cult web-video director Jeremy Konner known for his hilarious Drunk History series, stars comedian Paul Scheer from MTV's "Human Giant" and "Best Week Ever." Watch Army Navy "My Thin Sides"

There is something fun and sexy about LA's Nico Vega. Their debut full length comes out in January on Myspace Records, but they currently have an EP out called No Child Left Behind. They are going to play a big role in pop music in 2009.

The Polyvinyl Record Co. recently announced the signing of Sweden's Loney Dear, who will release its new album, Dear John, on the label on Jan. 27, 2009. The band will be making two trips to the U.S. - first a brief trip in Dec. for a pair of New York shows, and then a full tour in Feb, where the shows will alternate between headlining gigs and shows in support of the always amazing Andrew Bird. Check out his new single, "Airport Surroundings".

Airport surroundings - Loney dear

The only thing better than having Daytrotter in Illinois is the quality of bands that they consistently having tour through. This past week the incredible instrumental Portland duo Talkdemonic stopped by and blew it away. Check out their session here. Also be sure to watch their new animated video for "Duality of Deathening".

Listen to: March Movement (mp3)

Desolation Town, is the debut EP from New York City’s The Secret History, released on November 12, 2008 by the Le Grand Magistery record label. The Secret History was formed in 2007 by songwriter Michael Grace Jr., best known for acclaimed cult indie pop band My Favorite. The other half of this duo is Lisa Ronson, daughter of Mick Ronson. This is the opening chapter of a mope rock opera concerning the fictional band “The Haunted Hearts,” which is based in part on the disintegration of Michael Grace’s 12-year relationship with My Favorite singer Andrea Vaughn, and the eventual Fleetwood Mac-ish disintegration of the band. The EP came with an interesting promo booklet that tells the fascinating story.

Listen to: It’s Not The End of The World, Jonah (mp3)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Watch List

1. Child Bite: This wild Detriot band is releasing their second album, Fantastic Gusts Of Blood. Listen to: Banana Gorgon (mp3)
2. The Argument: This is a young band Sweden who just released their first album for free this week. You can check it out here.
3. Blonde Acid Cult: Do you ever feel like you need a little New York party pop break? You can download the new single from Blonde Acid Cult, "Calypso", here.

1. Hoyt-Schermerhorn by Susana Mai: It's all about shifting perspective.
2. My Trick by Justin Hyde: Everything changes with age.
3. Homecoming by Kevin O'Cuinn: Home is still home no matter the condition.
4. I'm Done Playing, Red Rover, Red Rover, Send Paige Right Over by Paige Taggart: Everyone crumbles sometimes.
5. The Man with the House in the Sky by Jason Jordan: That must have been a really tall ladder. 6. Non-Medical Descriptions of an Object Floating in Glass by Matt Bell: "Boy as discovered and uncovered."
7. Smiley Tol Me by Townsend Walker: I had to read this one three times.

1. Another cool Christmas idea... Prints and manipulated pamphlets from Will Bryant.
2. Orange Alert Inspection Sticker: Oh this is extremely cool!

1. MAP stands for Music Art People and it is also great digital zine.
2. Tiger in The Mine by Julia Sonmi Heglund: This is a great 30 minute mix!

1. Plushgun "Just Impolite": Directed by Tyler Shields, the video features Juno Temple (“The Other Boleyn Girl,” “Atonement,” “Notes on a Scandal,” and upcoming “Mr. Nobody” and “The Year One”), Brittany Snow (“Hairspray,” “Prom Night,” and upcoming “Clock Tower” and “The Vicious Kind”) and Shiloh Fernandez (upcoming “Cadillac Records” and “The United States of Tara”).
2. Fight Bite "Swissex Lover"
3. Erran Baron Cohen "Dreidel"
4. Git Beats "America": featuring LadyBug from Digable Planets
5. Beach House "Used To Be"
6. The Hours "See The Light": This video features Sienna Miller. Here is the Calvin Harris Remix (mp3)
7. From "One Spring Away" - 41 commercials mashed up into a music video

Friday, November 21, 2008

Band of the Week

Jared Mees and The Grown Children

Even though Jared Mees and his wife started the Portland record label and storefront, Tender Loving Empire back in 2005, the first product that I actually held in my was the latest album from Jared himself, Caffeine, Alcohol, Sunshine, and Money. The album practically jumped out my stack, with it odd shape, and colorful screen printed case. It was a work of art. It was clearly made with care.

What was more impressive were sounds and stories inside the beautifully designed case. Jared has crafted a set of songs that are vibrant and honest, but also as the rainbow spitting shark on the cover. There is a mixture of sadness and victory, struggle and perseverance, but overall "patience pays off, finally".

Recently, Jared was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): The first thing that caught my eye with your new cd was the design elements. I know you have a background in screen printing, but I love the idea of a screen printed cd cover. Is this a more costly and labor intensive way to produce a product?
Jared Mees (JM): Screenprinting has been a huge part of my life during the past 3 years as everything released by Tender Loving Empire (the label/comics imprint my wife and I run in Portland OR) is hand screenprinted. While screenprinting is much more labor intensive we can produce each unit at less cost than getting it printed by someone else. Its also a lot more of an interesting process that you can control. I inevitably am unhappy with the work 95% of printers do, so its kind of a way to cater to my own OCD high standards nature. Plus it just looks and feels cooler.

OA: I also have the latest album from Super XX Man, it seems like there is an honest artistic effort put into the products of Tender Loving Empire. Is that what you are trying to covey? Do the musicians, yourself included, feel these artistic packages better represent your music?
JM: Tender Loving Empire began as a way to to name the unifying aesthetic momentum of our friends and family who were making music, drawing comics, writing books and just generally struggling to make art that was honest and mattered. The unifying look of our musical releases (screenprinted art on recycled cardboard covers) kind of just happened. We put my first album (If You Wanna Swim with the Sharks) out in that format and that had good response and we liked it and our friends liked it so we just continued doing things like it. However we have branched out recently. Our new comic compilation Shitbeems on the Loose has a really intricately colored offset cover with a screenprinted wrap and the new Boy Eats Drum Machine 12 inch vinyl is screenprinted directly over the art of other acts from the 70s and 80s...

OA: "Caffeine, Alcohol, Sunshine, and Money" is a complete journey through your life (or so it seems). It seems like there have been struggles, but you are finally beginning to find some peace and also prosperity. Is this the case? Has "patience paid off, finally"?
JM: Basically caffeine, alcohol, sunshine and money are the four things I realized that affect people's day positively or negatively depending on the amounts you intake. In a way they're like the modern day food, water, shelter, clothing. The album mostly focuses on events from the past few years (tallest building in hell, in the fall, excellent time, oh no oh my god,) but also has a few more abstract examinations of the subconscious imagery that plagued me during those times (bees, trampling daisies, 10:26) As far as patience paying off, it does in small ways daily, though I guess it remains to be seen if it actually will in the long run...what that means is kinda vague to be honest. All this is not to downplay the fact that yes there were a couple years of hellish times but things have improved in my life considerably as of late...

OA: You are currently on a national tour, but do you feel that we are going to begin to see a decline in the amount of bands who can actually afford tour the country?
JM: I don't think so. Bands will always tour. The independent "if we can't get over, we'll go around" attitude is alive and well in this country just as it always has been. We just did a 25 state 30 day tour and I can say with confidence that it will take something much more substancial than $4.00 gas (Which, interestingly enough, when we left on tour, gas in Portland was $3.50/gallon and now its $2.40) to keep bands in this country from touring.

That said I think there is a lot more competition now that the playing field has been leveled so much by technologies like myspace and garage band. 1 person with a macbook and a 50 dollar mike can do what it used to take tons of equipment and knowledge and manpower and money to do. However, technology can't help you write honest, heartfelt, kick in the teeth pieces of music, nor can it teach you how to communicate that music to an audience in an authentic manner. Thats always going to be the barometer, in my opinion, of true blue american music: the finely tuned ability to combine words and music into an emotionally compelling composition coupled with the steel guts of a performer. Fuck myspace plays and big advances and ageism and music-as-fashiony-commodity-to-sell-energy-drinks...that's not music.

OA: Here in Chicago we hear a great deal about the "Portland Scene". What is the music scene actually like out there?
JM: The music scene in Portland is amazing. I'm not going to downplay it. Thats why I moved there and other people like me move there every day. There are amazing acts, amazing venues, a vibrant house show scene and a true, do it together, independent spirit. The sheer # of bands in such a small city however can make for some pretty stiff competition when you're starting out, but still, its not that hard to get shows or get people to show up to your is however, pretty hard to impress people because half your audience is usually musicians. Even if you do impress them, its hard to tell if you have.

On that same note, there's tons of other resources for getting your music out there in Portland. Several stores around town (including Tender Loving Empire) take music on consignment. There's also several yearly compilations, PDX Pop NOW!, Failing Records Comp and TLE's own Friends and Friends of Friends that feature collectively over 100 different bands each year. There's also Pop Tomorrow, which is a promotion company that specializes in throwing showcases featuring largely new and unknown acts. Portland Poster Pole is a website that features the weeks best posters from around town. There's even a fledgling musicians union. However, I don't want to make Portland sound like a mecca. It is whatever people who live here make it. Right now it kicks ass and I know as long as people don't get apathetic or complacent about it it will continue to kick ass for many years to come.

OA: What's next for Jared Mees and The Grown Children?
JM: Touring Touring Touring. The west coast this winter, Texas during spring, and probably a western US tour during Summer....Chicago again in the Fall. ...James Brown (our van) has tons of miles left in him.... we got dreams...

Bonus Questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes, where have you found the best cup?
JM: Stumptown Coffee every time...there's 3 of them in Portland. Cafe D'italia next to Tender Loving Empire is my favorite coffee shop though.

OA: What was the last great book you have read?
JM: "Our Band Could be Your Life" by Michael Azzerrad
"A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" by David Foster Wallace

Listen to: Bees (mp3) and In The Fall (mp3)

For more on Jared Mees please visit his website and for more on Tender Loving Empire go here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Reader Meet Author

Pete Anderson

Promotion, self or otherwise, has been on my mind lately. How do you promote yourself, especially in times like these? First you will have to decide what you have to promote, and to whom this can be marketed. For a short story writer your stories, published or unpublished are your products. Through a blog you can gain a small audience and direct people to where you have been published. It's a resource, a tool, a method to communicate and inform. Yet more than just self-promotion, many writers are blogging about what their friends and fellow writers are doing. They are promoting others and in turn drawing more attention and traffic to their own blogs and ultimately their own work.

Joliet's Pete Anderson is the man behind Pete Lit, which he start back in May of 2003. He started it to share his thoughts and writing and all the randomness of his life. Over the years his blogging and writing has improved and he has gained a fine reputation in both areas.

Recently, Pete was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): As a writer and a prolific blogger, why do you feel it is important for writers to maintain blogs, be working, promotion, or anything else?
Pete Anderson (PA): With over 100,000 books published every year, writers have to promote their books on their own, in every conceivable manner, to even have the slightest chance at recognition. And with passionate but cash-strapped indie publishers which have minimal or non-existent marketing budgets, it's even more critical for the author to do so. As a writer it's simply not acceptable to expect your publisher to do all of that work for you.

OA: Your blog is not just about you, but you also promote the work of others. Do you feel an obligation to balance self-promotion with promoting others?
PA: I love promoting the work of others whom I genuinely admire, both because I think they totally deserve it and because they're probably not getting as much exposure as they should. For the most part great literature flies far below the radar of the general public, and if I can reach just half a dozen readers and put in a good word for a book I just read and loved, it's more than worth my time. And in a way, promoting others is in itself an act of self-promotion. Because every time I hype Ben Tanzer, the unspoken understanding is that he'll return the favor. However, though he's been very good about doing so thus far, if he keeps cranking out books at his current pace or gets too big for his britches, I might just have to get our unwritten agreement put in writing by a very shrewd attorney.

OA: The first time I saw you read you read this elaborate historical piece called 'Mercy Day'. How much research went into that piece, and how much time do you typical spent researching before you write?
PA: First off, thanks for recognizing that story, which I never really thought of as "elaborate", though I guess a 3,000-word story with four first-person narrators and a fifth third-person narrator would probably qualify as such. Second, this is the right time to give props to Nick Ostdick and RAGAD, not just because he published the story and hosted that reading, but also because I know he'll return the hype when I most need it. Lastly, the only research that went into the story was my reading of Anthony Hatch's book Tinder Box: The Iroquois Theatre Disaster 1903, which captivated me so much that I was all but compelled to write a story narrated by the disaster's survivors. I try to research as much as I can (although excessive research can easily interfere with the actual writing itself) not because I want to perfectly replicate the historic al record, but because I want it to be just accurate enough to not turn off a reader who may be better educated on a subject than me. As a reader, nothing irritates me more than a fictional story that gets some very basic facts flat-out wrong. A bit of research goes a long way toward avoiding that.

OA: Do you feel there is a difference between being published on-line and being published in print? Is one better or more valid than the other?
PA: The two are equally valid. At first I looked down on online publishing, but after a hundred rejections from print journals I realized that a) online journals publish more often and aren't bound as much by cost considerations, and thus accept a lot more stories; b) online journals have the potential to reach infinitely more readers than print journals, most of which have circulations at best in the low hundreds; and c) online journals accept submissions electronically, which is infinitely easier than schlepping manila envelopes down to the post office to submit to print journals, most of which only accept submissions by mail. For those reasons I've really come around to online journals. But there's still that certain something about seeing your story appear in good old-fashioned perfect-bound print, which is why I still submit to those old dinosaurs every now and then.

OA: How do you deal with rejection? We all know it's a part of writing, but what is your trick to coping with it all?
PA: Rejection really used to bother me (in fact, I was genuinely surprised that my very first story didn't win the Glimmer Train contest I entered it in, although looking back and re-reading the story today, I can totally see why - it's an embarrasing piece of crap) but I eventually realized what a numbers game getting published is, and what overwhelming meager odds are involved. So I cope by not worrying about it at all - when I send out a story I usually forget all about it and just assume it will be rejected. Then when the rare acceptance comes, it's a really pleasant surprise. And when a rejection comes, I file it with all the others and move on.

OA: What's next for Pete Anderson?
PA: I'm working on a new novel, The Night, based on the Morphine album of the same name; trying to find a home for my story chapbook This Land Was Made For You and Me, which I might end up self-publishing in a handmade limited edition; and contemplating the fourth draft of my novella Wheatyard. All that, plus remaining gainfully employed and being a good husband and father. Each is equally challenging.

Bonus Questions:
What is your favorite blog to visit?
PA: Why, What To Wear During an Orange Alert? of course! (There's that reciprocal hype thing again.) Some of my favorite litblogs are Bookninja, Bookslut, Ward Six, Edward Champion's Reluctant Habits and the various writer blogs - Tanzer, Ostdick, Tim Hall, etc. All of them are very worthy of the time your employer is paying you for.

OA: What type of music do you enjoy and who are a few of your favorites?
PA: Indie rock in all its various guises. Some of my faves past and present include Morphine (the fact that I'm writing a book about one of their albums only hints at my ardor for the band), Joel R.L. Phelps and the Downer Trio, Tom Waits, the Mountain Goats, Yo La Tengo, the Pogues, the Feelies...

And what, no coffee question? Though you didn't ask I'll answer it anyway - Chicago's very own and very phenomenal Intelligentsia Coffee. I regularly buy their beans and make an Americano at home every day, which is ten times better and ten times cheaper than a certain voracious chain that seems intent on having a location on every street corner in the civilized world.

For more information on Pete Anderson you can visit his blog Pete Lit.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Artist of the Week

Laurence Doyon-Thibeault

Once you have created something and step back and take a look at the results of your creativity and labor, what do you see? What do you call your creation? Each project is an extension the artists personality, their thoughts and their soul. In fact, a painting is essentially the center of the artists soul. A soul that is swimming with images and colors and small lives waiting to be born.

Laurence Doyon-Thibeault is a freelance designer from British Columbia. She has affectionately dubbed each of her creations "Organs of the Soul". These extensions of who she is are lively and whimsical, and the things of children's stories. They are detailed and mostly brightly colored. What sets her work apart is her interest in other cultures mixed with a beautiful innocence.

Recently, Laurence was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): How would you describe your work?
Laurence Doyon-Thibeault (LD): My work is an instant and vibrant emotion I have to put on a piece of paper. It is an extension of what I am. I simply draw what I feel at that moment. I try to capture the essence of a feeling or emotion such as joy, sadness, laughter, etc. But the main purpose of my work is simply to let myself be myself by being a drawer...It's something I feel I have to do somehow.

OA: I love the idea and sound of "organs of the soul". It's like these drawings are the internal workings of who you are. How would you explain that phrase and how did you come up with it?
LD: The organs in our body control or at the very least are essential for the functioning of these bodies. So, when I say that my art is the organs of my soul, I mean to say that my art is essential or a determinate of my spirit. As for how I came up with the phrase "organs of the soul": a couple years ago I was making some drawings (p. 12 on my website) and they somehow reminded me of human cells or blood cells or something. Given that art is the manifestation of one's self, I saw these blood vessels or "organs" as the organs of what I was trying to represent: my interior.

OA: I read that you enjoy children's books. Have you ever considered illustrating or writing your own children's book?
LD: Absolutely. I would love to illustrate children's book. My boyfriend is a writer and we plan to collaborate on a book in the near future. I was really attracted to books when I was a child and I remember spending hours looking at the details and letting my mind wonder. It is still one of the biggest inspirations for me today as an illustrator.

OA: You use such vivid color in your drawings. Why do you think you are drawn to brighter colors? What do you hope these colors will do for people viewing your work?
LD: I think brighter colours comfort me...I often feel safer looking at them and they usually make me more happy. Although the majority of my drawings are black and white, I think multi-coloured art can cover more emotions than black and white can. I hope my drawings, whether black, white, red, or yellow, have an emotional effect on the viewer.

OA: I see you are planning a trip to Thailand in the next two years. Why Thailand? It's hard to project, but do you feel that experience will add to your vision as an artist?
LD: I want to travel through a different country, a different culture, because, I want to in a sense feel lost, if that makes any sense. I want to experience a country whose language I cannot really speak. I feel this is going to push myself and my art in other directions I haven't been before. Moreover, I have chosen Thailand in particular for almost no reason other than something inside me, a thought or an impulse, has told me Thailand. I want to one day see India, Russia, Morocco, Nepal, and many other countries, but for now I feel I am attracted towards Thailand.

OA: What's next for Laurence Doyon-Thibeault?
LD: I am having my first exhibition in April in British Colombia so I am really excited about that. I am also starting to use bigger canvases as a medium. Through my recently established company "Jacky Ink" I want to begin selling cards, T-shirts, illustrations, and jewellery (i am setting up my studio). Finally, I want to in the near future make my art available to buy online through my website and Etsy.

Bonus Questions:
OA: What was the last great book you have read?
LD: Bernard Werber's ''The Empire of the Angel'' is the first book that comes to mind.

OA: What type of music do you enjoy, and who are a few of your favorites?
LD: The Ditty Bobs, Sigur Ros, Radiohead, Jolie Holland, Nellie Mckay, Tchaikovsky, Beirut,
Emily Haines, Fiona Apple, Portishead, Iron and Wine, Jesca Hoop, Po'Girl, Neil Young, The Beatles, and much more...

For more information on Laurence Doyon-Thibeault please visit her website.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

New Release Tuesday

Alaska in Winter - Holiday Listen to: Berlin (mp3)
Drew Andrews - Only Mirrors
Pelle Carlberg - Lilac Time Listen to: 1983 (Pelle & Sabastian) (mp3)
Chester French - She Loves Everybody EP
Femi Kuti - Day By Day
Isobel Campbell & Lanegan - Sunday At Devil Dirt
Ladyhawke - Ladyhawke
Scott Walker - Tilt
Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid - NYC


Monday, November 17, 2008

The Orange Spotlight

Andy Riverbed Damaged (Coatlism Press, Jan. 2009)

"My shadow is still against the wall where a child lies petrified brown, swallowed hard and short framed; his chest is popped and he no longer breathes." from "Lazer Crawls And"

These days there are a lot of words that have begun to take on a new meaning, and damaged is one of them. I once might have pictured a can or a box or maybe even a car, dents and scratches and the like, but today lives and company's, markets and families, "Damaged" is a perfect word. Of course, this probably not what Andy Riverbed had in mind when he dubbed his collection of poems Damaged, but that is inherent weight of words. Speaking of words, Riverbed does have a way with them, even though he does fall into a few "experimental" traps. Experimentation is vital in literature, but if it just for the sake of experimentation then that is wasteful.

Damaged touches on the themes of youth with a clouded clarity that paints a complex and confused reality. His poems possess a thin surface of protection that occasionally cracks to reveal the deep and damaged honesty below. An example of this would in the poem "Lately". It's preceded by a poem about the people he sees while working retail on a Sunday, but "Lately" appears to delve deeper into Riverbed's personal life the other poems in the collection. It is a refreshing moment in the collection. Overall, Damaged is a great set of poems that are only made more substantial by the artwork of William Joyner Jr. This collection will be released on January 1st, but it available for pre-order now. In fact, if you pre-order you will save $6 off the surprising cover price.

Graham Lindsey We Are All Alone in This Together (Spacebar Recording, Nov. 18th, 2008)

Speaking of damaged, Montana's Graham Lindsey, is alone and singing to the spirit of desperation. Two years ago Lindsey left woods of Wisconsin for the plains of Montana. The result of this change is a full-length album, We Are All Alone in This Together, and an EP The Mine, both of which will be released tomorrow. There is a high level of darkness staining Lindsey's organic folk sound. With songs like "Woe", "If I Ever Make It Home", and "Down The Wrecking Line", you can see where Lindsey is at in his life. Yet, these songs play more like a release, and to the listener they are story or journey through the trials of life.

Musically, Lindsey's voice is low and ominous, searching for breathe and release. Accompanied by multi-instrumentalist Greg Leisz, the sounds creep around hollow packets in Lindsey's grumble to create what I can only imagine is the feeling of a Montana sunset. It's all so epic, yet empty and beautiful for that very reason. Both the album and EP have original paintings by Milwaukee's Joseph Huber, and these only enhance the feel of the entire project. Both albums can be purchased here.

Listen to: Mud (mp3)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Orange Alert's Music Minute

Jon Ragel is the one man band from Portland known as Boy Eats Drum Machine. As a one-man musical act, he merges the worlds of turntablism and live rock performance as he spins breaks and surgically inserts sounds while juggling vocals, percussion, and saxophone. The results are absolutely mind blowing. His latest album, Booomboxxx, is a complex yet accessible collection sounds and songs that mash together several different musical forms.

Listen to: Plants and Stars (mp3)

Baltimore's Double Dagger signed to Chicago's Thrill Jockey this past week. They utilize only a drum kit, bass guitar, and vocal chords to create a colossal wall of sound. They are noisy wild anti-punks that scream and shake and most importantly entertain. The band has released a successful series of CDs, EPs, singles, and live recordings, including the critically acclaimed Ragged Rubble. Harnessing the band members' design and art backgrounds, Double Dagger is equally well known for their beautifully designed record packaging, hand-screen printed concert posters, and their must-have T-shirt designs.

Listen to: The Psychic (mp3)

On October 21st their was a ep released by Toronto's Lioness ( collabo between Vanessa Fischer of soul/punk quartet No Dynamics and Jeff Scheven & Ronnie Morris, the rhythm section behind controller.controller). This self-titled debut (New Romantic) combines powerful female vocals and inventive rythems and beats. It's a dark nu-electro that is has a force and a purpose.

Listen to: Haunted Magick (mp3)

On November 25th the world will be introduced to another electro-pop band that has moved from Wesleyan University to New York City. Red Wire Black Wire are releasing their debut ep called Compass. They're travelling in good company too; MGMT, Amazing Baby, Santogold, Boy Crisis and several other bands now heating up the blogosphere have all made this trek in the last few years. They have that break out band sound, whether you like or not. They are definetly worth a listen if for nothing else their cover art.

Listen to: Compass (mp3)

One of my favorite small labels is Michigan's Quite Scientific, and this past week the release the full-length debut by Frontier Ruckus, The Orion Songbook. Banjo, saw, horns, and harmonies round out the earnest songwriting and storytelling from Matt Millia. Matt's vocals, coupled with Anna Burch's bold, smile-as-sung harmonies, are the perfect mouthpiece for these songs. These songs allow you to picture the deepest forests of Michigan or some mythical woods filled with adventure and horror and magic.

Listen to: Orion Town 2 (mp3)

This past week Asthmatic Kitty Records announced the signing of Los Angeles band Fol Chen. The label will release the band's debut album, Part 1: John Shade, Your Fortune's Made on Feb. 03, 2009. The band will be touring in 2009, including a stop at SXSW. Yesterday, the band took part a very cool project. They contributed to Machine Project's takeover of LACMA with a sound piece inspired by a textile pattern from the design collective, Wiener Werkstatte. The band composed a piece of instrumental music in which the chords spell out the name of the Viennese design collective, which was active from 1903 until 1932. A limited run of 100 CDs containing the Untitled music will be for sale at the LACMA event, and each CD will include a watercolor replica of a section of the original hand-blocked design.

Listen to: Cable TV (mp3)

Ontario's Decomposure is giving away their latest album and including a 25 page booklet. Humidity Patient Guide plays like a how to manual for electro-pop. The first shot in the battle of Humidity Patient Guide rang out one brisk January evening in 2007. In the wake of that piercing primordial echo, an incubated path began to unfurl as a tongue over the lips of an untraced horizon, a journey through the soul's unknown that, over time, would come to dismantle and reshape Decomposure irrevocably. You can download the album here.

Listen to: Except 1 (mp3)

The Peel Back: Kit Clayton Latke Ep (Orthlorng Musork , 2001)

Joshua Kit Clayton was the founder of Orthlorng Musork and in 2001 released his first album on this label. He had been releasing music for a few years, and for his new label he saved his most inventive work to date. Consisting of mirco-found sounds pieced together to form abstract beats. Orthlorng continued to release quality and challenging albums until late in 2004. That is when they released this puzzling statement, "Why do we stop? The simple and honest truth is that we want to devote our time to other creative things. We still love music and we will still be active and supportive of the scene. We aren't in financial ruin, we don't think p2p networks have destroyed the music industry, we don't only want to listen to country western, we just want to take on other projects with as much love and intensity as we did this one."

Latke is only four songs long, but the statement these song make is much larger. Here is what Kit had to say back in 2001, "The pain in your ear makes difficult the distinction between senses, and as this confused sensation drips down your face, the aggression of scalding bathwater comforts you. It covers you, but does nothing to cleanse the infected surface of sound. Layer after layer falls away. Layer upon layer grows in place. The conflict between internal and external remains, but between the waves you sleep softly if not peacefully. Good night."

Impetigo/Tongue Under Lip/Jit's Blues/I Only Want Quiet (mp3)