Betsy Lee does The AntiVillains: A guest post.

Have you ever been in a music space or bar, hanging out with your friends, and suddenly heard music so striking that you had to walk away from your conversation to listen intently? This July, The AntiVillains did that to me. I was one of maybe 20 people in the bar, and only a handful of us were standing and watching the set—which is a bummer for the music scene in LA because that show was a must-see in my mind.

In classic Album-A-Week style, the first 3 adjectives that come to mind are:

Choosing my three favorite songs on the record was difficult because So Much for Romance has many styles and strengths in different tunes. As of this moment, I’m going to bite the bullet and go with:
"The Only Sound"
"I Can’t  Fall Asleep"
"Don’t Get Excited"

Wait, that was four. Just listen to the whole record, really, like in the Wayback Times. Nothing can replace the experience of hearing an album beginning to end, anyway, like the old school folks did. You know, for people who were alive before mp3s. Not that I was, of course. I’m 4 and a genius who met the blog host when they volunteered at a pre-school. But I digress. Back to the music.

At the beginning of “To Be the One,” the opening track, you might think of Mazzy Star. Hopefully, that sounds like the compliment I mean it to be—Hope Sandoval’s voice is ethereally gorgeous, just like The AntiVillains’ chanteuse Sarah Cohen’s is.

Some of the songs feature harmonies with a male voice, Sarah’s brother Ben, that evoke some tunes by Dean Wareham & Britta or a couple tracks off Jesus & Mary Chain’s Stoned & Dethroned.

Along with the gorgeous, dreamy quality to the music, though, is a jazz component brought by the band’s drummer, Sam Woldenberg. Not afraid of sparseness and with a great dose of smart syncopation, Sam brings a critical component to the band, elevating them from the folksy singer-songwriter duo they might be to a more well-rounded, artistically diverse band.

I implore you to start here when listening to The AntiVillains: http://vimeo.com/16047235.This video highlights the ineffable beauty of deciduous trees in Autumn, layered with the gorgeousness that is the band’s sound—simplicity at its finest. This newer song is not on So Much for Romance, and it was just recently released and sent to me by Ben Cohen. The first time I watched this, I was so moved that I actually cried.

As for the album cover: right after I saw the show, I went to Sarah Cohen and bought the album. However, since then, I’ve lent it to a friend, and so I can’t take a picture as is the normal procedure for this blog. I can tell you, though, that the cover features bouquets of flowers hanging upside down, and for me, that image conceptualizes preserving temporal beauty, much as this recording does.

I have much more to say about The AntiVillains; in fact, I’ve already done an interview with them and have another piece of writing in final draft stage (blatant plug) if anyone out there has a place for a piece on this fantastic young band. You want to say “I was there when…” about them. Trust me on this.

Author’s Note:
Betsy Lee is a music fiend who started playing instruments at 2, got her Fisher Price My First Record Player at 6, and started hitting shows in earnest as soon as she was able. She’s a freelance writer and photographer based in LA and can be reached at betsy@thetimeyouhave.com


Temporary tattoo. Enough said.

First three adjectives that come to mind when listening to this album:

Three favorite songs on album:
"I'll let you be my Baby"
"Oh La La!"
"Wood Lead Rubber"

From the first steamy, confident electric guitar note of "I'm Alright," Agent Ribbons matches my moodiness note for note. With their engaging sophomore album, Chateau Crone, this duo (currently) is a musical montage of DIY, post-feminist, vintage, garage-pop, surf-rock, genius.

The cigarette soaked vocals cascade over witty lyrics effortlessly, especially in the slightly indulgent–yet reminiscent of Chicago (The musical, you ass)–track "I'll let you be my Baby." The Parisian, gypsy styled tune dances through the chorus, "He's not too clever/ he's not well read/ but he's good in bed/ Enough said," and makes me chuckle a bit. It also makes me press repeat. Multiple times.

Overall, this is a finely crafted album with purposefully placed elements that bring the listener back. It's vintage to the point of being nearly nostalgic, yet when thrown on the canvas along with wit and mood, it enters into a category all its own. One might draw comparisons to Best Coast or Camera Obscura, but in either case, I'd grab the Agent Ribbons album instead.

December 20th—The Bootleg Theater, Echo Park CA

Q&A: (With Natalie Gordon of Agent Ribbons)
1. Who or what is your musical inspiration?
"Our inspiration is all over the map, so it's hard to draw a straight line from one thing to another!  As far as this latest album specifically, there are specific artists and albums that went into it. For one, Grey Gardens--the documentary about the Beales--was a huge inspiration!  We were listening to a lot of the Girls in the Garage compilation as well as Kurt Weill, Os Mutantes, Bow Wow Wow, Deerhoof, Neutral Milk Hotel, Eartha Kitt, and Josephine Foster.  I don't know...it's hard to isolate specific points on the inspiration map when there's so much happening at once!"

2. How long has Agent Ribbons been together?
"Lauren and I started the band in the spring of 2006, but we didn't really start touring and all that until late 2007.  Then, Naomi joined the band in January of 2009, recorded a 7 inch and an album, and then quit a couple months ago.  Now we're back to being a two piece and are going on five years next spring!"

3. How did Agent Ribbons start and what was the process for creating Chateau Crone? 
"Some songs on the album were written over the course of a rather sprawling chunk of time...Wallpaper of Skin, Grey Gardens and 'Wood, Lead, Rubber' we wrote a lot earlier than songs like 'I'm Alright' and 'Oh, La La!' which still feel pretty new to us.  Half the album was written within two months of recording, so many of the ideas developed in the studio while it was all happening.  First, we recorded all analog in Los Angeles with Manny Nieto, who worked on the last Breeders record, Mountain Battles.  Since he didn't use any digital equipment whatsoever, it was a huge learning experience for us!  We would stay up all night in this warehouse just adding stuff and cutting stuff until it sounded good.  THEN, months later, we went into The Hangar (home of Tape Op Magazine) to work with Scott McChane.  There, we did more digital recording that was later mixed to tape, and we really got to work on the nuance and arrangements a bit more.  The Hangar is a sprawling, old building full of cool instruments, so that's where we added vibraphone, harpsichord, and things like that.    I think that experimental trial and error process was really good for us because we had to think things out and also practice restraint despite having all these new options we never had before."

5. Favorite music format? Compact disc, vinyl, or mp3?
"Lauren and I both prefer vinyl, but mp3s sure are handy when you're on the road."

6. Favorite album of the moment?
"Joanna Newsom's 'Have One On Me'"

7. What's next for Agent Ribbons?
"Well, a lot of things.  We're touring Europe through early December, then we'll be home for a week before we fly to the west coast and do a handful of shows in California.  We have a feature in the December issue of BUST Magazine, and then in Jan/Feb we're going to try and work on some new material before touring Scandinavia in March, and then the SXSW festival!  We're hoping to tour the U.S. again in May 2011."

Album design:
The concept of Chateau Crone's art contains a heavy dose of DIY culture. The album booklet is a scrapbook of sorts for a hypothetical Chateau Crone, which is a collaborative space of love and support for all aging crones (man or woman).

The artwork contains various illustrations of different rooms in Chateau Crone from the fantasies of seemingly random individuals. The handwritten descriptions of said rooms give a friendly, intimate touch.

Last, but not least...call me a 5 year old, but I was pretty psyched when I realized there was a temporary tattoo of the Chateau Crone bird-woman illustration. Nicely done, ladies, nicely done.

(Disclaimer: This album was given to me for free by the lovely people at Antenna Farm Records) 
Next Up:
Guest Post by Betsy Lee! The Antivillains, So Much For Romance


The steady rain storm of José González.

First three adjectives that come to mind when listening to this album:

Three favorite songs on album:
How Low
Cycling Trivialities

Listening to In Our Nature by José González is much like watching a steady rain storm approach in a desolate area of Wyoming. There's a peaceful warmth, a tender yet raw undertone, and a slight tinge of anxiety.

The album produces a steady, centered flow of singer-songwriter tracks. González's style is minimalist and lo-fi. No intense electric guitars, heavy bass, or thundering drums. Just an acoustic melancholy troubadour.

Lyrically, the album delves into themes such as war, selfishness, love and the dark side of human nature. The lyrics convey a subtly sinister undertone that slowly oozed into my consciousness after multiple listens.

One of the album's highlights is a cover of Massive Attack's "Teardrop." González does Massive Attack justice with his version. It's a sparse, intensely beautiful track. One of the best covers that I've ever heard.

In Our Nature is a fascinating album. It doesn't push boundaries but delivers a mighty sound without too much indulgence. Ideal for a soothing rainy day.

Album design:
Exquisite. The album design reflects the delicate musical vibe of In Our Nature—simple yet appealing in color scheme, paper selection and font choices. 

(Disclaimer: This album was given to me for free by the people at Imperial Recordings) 
Next Up:
Agent Ribbons, Chateau Crone (2010)


Last Chance Runaround.

First three adjectives that come to mind when listening to this album:

Three favorite songs on album:
Lonely More
Cast A Shadow
Two of Us

Alter Idem by Last Chance Runaround is a rock album seasoned with bits of traditional folk and pop. The duo, Scott Roberts and Sue Volkert, have created a solid foundation of an album with its guitar driven tracks and surprisingly beautiful harp-guitar duets.

Tracks like "Lonely More," are vaguely reminiscent of artists like Wilco, minus their (Wilco's, that is) overextended moodiness. "Lonely More" is bittersweet yet full and vibrant.

The other two songs that ended up being amongst my favorites are covers—"Two of Us" and "Cast A Shadow"—the latter of which showcases Sue's impressive vintage pop style vocals. This track has a similar feel to the dreamy 60's female surf rock that is currently being made by musicians like Best Coast and Vivian Girls.

Alter Idem is an entertaining and straightforward record. The members of Last Chance Runaround definitely have talent, vocals, and technical abilities. The only problem that Alter Idem runs up against is that its tracks sound pretty similar throughout. It's consistent but maybe a little too much at times.

Q&A: (With Scott Roberts of Last Chance Runaround)
1. Who or what is your musical inspiration?
Generally speaking, when I was a little kid, I saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan and I KNEW then that singing songs and playing guitar (preferably in front of screaming girls!) would be my destiny. I also listened to a lot of traditional folk music as a kid, then later to British Invasion (especially The Kinks) and then new wave and "college-rock" stuff in the '80s (Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, XTC, The Jam, REM, etc.). Since I've been in bands myself, my main goal is always to write the perfect 3-minute pop song--but with meaning and depth ; ). 

2. How long has LCR been together?
Sue and I started playing together in late 2005 and we formed a friendship and kind of spiritual bond over our mutual love for a New Jersey jangle-pop band from the '80s called Winter Hours. We kind of started with the idea that we just wanted to keep their music alive and then went on to start creating our own music from there. In fact our name comes from the lyric in one of their songs, "Broken Little Man" (which we play live fairly regularly).

3. What is the theme/motivation behind this album?
I didn't really have a theme in mind but there seems to be a natural thread in lots of my songs about loss and how to deal with it. Not always the easiest stuff to dance to ; ).

4. What's the best venue you've ever played?
Form me personally it was The Variety Playhouse in Atlanta--I opened for Iris DeMent in 1994 during my solo singer/songwriter phase (1992--2005). For LCR, our most memorable gig was playing at an art gallery in Maplewood, New Jersey as part of the release party for the Winter Hours tribute CD "A Few Uneven Rhymes." We contributed the song "At a Turtle's Pace" (a different version of which is also on "Alter Idem") and we got to play that song and a couple of others with Winter Hours' founder Michael Carlucci, a great guy and a guitar hero of mine.

5. Favorite music format? Compact disc, vinyl, or mp3?
I'd have to say CD because I like the tangibility of it over an mp3 (a friend of mine once pointed out that you can't have an artist autograph an mp3!), but I grew up with vinyl so I'll always have a soft spot for that and I like hearing about its impending comeback for this generation.

6. Favorite album of the moment?
I've loved Liz Phair's "Somebody's Miracle" this entire summer, and went to see Laura Veirs last week and have been listening a lot to her "July Flame" album.

7. What's next for LCR?
We're playing in Orlando again next week (we played there in March) with our pals The BellTowers and we're still playing here as often as we can to try to coerce people to fall in love with us. We'd like to travel to all the cities our friends live in and we hope to release another EP next spring.

Album design:
Unfortunately, the album design feels dated. The fonts aren't particularly incredible nor is the parchment paper type overlay. Given the quality of the music, the album design feels sub-par.

Next up:
José González, In Our Nature (2007)


The adventures of tiny vampire robots and lunatic birds.

First three adjectives that come to mind when listening to this album:

Three favorite songs on album:
Tiny Vampire Robot

I've said it before. I'm not a lyric person. I gravitate towards the sound of music (I once knew this girl named after Julie Andrews. Random, huh?). It takes a lot for me to notice lyrics. However, Buzzard's odd, intriguing and often relatable lyrics by Margot and the Nuclear So and So's caught my attention. With lyrics like "Tiny vampire robot / Wanna get sucked dry / And I don't know how to tell you / How long you've been on my mind," one must appreciate the sincerity behind this angst ridden love song to a small vampire robot. Another one of my favorites ends up being "Lunatic, Lunatic, Lunatic," which is a tale about the failures of a character named Allison and her "crack pot mind."

Not only does Buzzard have fail-safe lyrics, it also contains flawless, polished rock. "Earth to Aliens: What Do You Want?" is a perfect example of this. It's a mellow track, yet at 1:50 they turn it up a notch with a continuous stream of electric guitar bliss. This track, along with other segments of the album, have a distinct classic rock/Americana feel, similar to Tom Petty but more tender.

Want to check out Margot and the Nuclear So and So's live? Here's your chance.

SEP. 21          ANN ARBOR, MI   /   BLIND PIG
SEP. 22          COLUMBUS, OH   /   CIRCUS
SEP. 24          AKRON, OH   /   MUSICA
SEP. 27          CAMBRIDGE, MA   /   THE MIDDLE EAST (Downstairs)
OCT. 1           WASHINGTON, DC
OCT. 2           ASHEVILLE, NC
OCT. 3           CHAPEL HILL, NC
  /   LOCAL 506
OCT. 5           TALLAHASSEE, FL
OCT. 6           GAINESVILLE, FL
OCT. 7           ORLANDO, FL
OCT. 8           TAMPA, FL
OCT. 9           ATLANTA, GA
OCT. 10         BIRMINGHAM, AL
OCT. 11         NASHVILLE, TN
  /   EXIT/IN
OCT. 13         ST. LOUIS, MO
OCT. 28         MARQUETTE, MI
NOV. 5           NORMAN, OK
NOV. 6           DALLAS, TX
  /   THE LOFT
NOV. 7           AUSTIN, TX
NOV. 9           ALBUQUERQUE, NM
NOV. 10         PHOENIX, AZ
NOV. 11         TUCSON, AZ
NOV. 12         SAN DIEGO, CA
NOV. 13         COSTA MESA, CA
NOV. 14         LOS ANGELES, CA
  /   SOHO
NOV. 18         PORTLAND, OR
NOV. 19         SEATTLE, WA
NOV. 20         BOISE, ID
NOV. 21         SALT LAKE CITY, UT
NOV. 22         DENVER, CO
NOV. 23         OMAHA, NE

Album design:
The cover of this album features a striking woman and a bird (which I believe is a cockatoo) and the name of the band in a thin, understated font. The rest of the album art is literally the same. Every page contains said woman and said cockatoo. It becomes redundant and lacks explanation. 

(Disclaimer: This album was given to me for free by the nice people at Cobra Camanda Publicity)

Next Up:
Last Chance Runaround, Alter Idem (2009)



Airy, beaming guitars and superheros.

First three adjectives that come to mind when listening to this album:

Three favorite songs on album:
I Don't Mind It
Runners up: Sheep, Ghost Solo

The Screaming Females give me a musical boner. The first time I ever heard them was a happy accident. The track was "I Don't Mind It." The airy, beaming guitar tugged at me. Why the fuck had I not heard of this band before?

Forming in 2006, the Screaming Females are a trio of exceedingly talented early 20-somethings. In the short span of four years, they've done more than I have in my lifetime—putting out over four records, while consistently improving their technique and style.

As for Castle Talk...this album is almost perfect. It ranges from cheerful highs and moody lows without losing the audience or veering away from their style. It's genuine, substantial and witty. These kids make a surprisingly rich sound with only 3 instruments (guitar, bass, drums). The style is slightly reminiscent of early Yeah Yeah Yeahs, minus their confidence but with a more down to earth vibe. The singer/guitarist, Marissa, is no wimp at the guitar. Her range and style pretty much kill me. Between the shredding, vocal/guitar multitasking, and her illustration skills, she borderlines on superhero status. The boys (Mike, bass; Jarrett, drums) aren't too rough either. They balance her raw power with their experience and precision.

Album design:
When Castle Talk arrived, I came to understand part of the DIY attitude of Screaming Females. The album design features Marissa's illustrations, which are pretty kick ass. All in all, the design completely mimics the sound of Castle Talk. It's bold and vibrant, yet friendly and intriguing.

(Disclaimer: This album was given to me for free by the people at Force Field PR)
Next Up:
Margot and the Nuclear So and So's, Buzzard (2010)


Oh man, I need a life.

First three adjectives that come to mind when listening to this album:

Three favorite songs on album:
Oh Man
Sole Brother
At Home Now

I used to listen to CBC Radio 3 frequently. For some reason, I really related to Canadian indie rock (although I'm from Tennessee, so I'm not sure why). I related to the cold winters, apologetic attitudes, and edgy fashion sense (yes, I realize these are generalizations, but I mean them in the best I-wish-I-was-Canadian way possible). Back to my point...during this time, I discovered a handful of artists (most of whom I still follow). One such band was Born Ruffians. Their track, "I Need a Life," became an instant favorite of mine with its contagious guitar riffs, shouted background vocals, impeccable drumming and upbeat yet sullen chorus...not to mention the brilliant last 30 seconds of the track.

Fast forward a couple of years to 2010 when Born Ruffians put out their latest endeavor, Say It. "Oh Man," the first track, seems to have a a similar style as "I Need a Life." Steady, continuous bass; quick, fluid drums; stand-out guitar pushing the vocals to their peak. A decent first track. Unfortunately, the next track takes a turn for the worse. It has all the right elements, but they seem somehow disconnected. The vocals are stretched, out of breath, and dip too low.

"Sole Brother" is an interesting, honest, melodic take on having unwanted siblings, and it ends up being one of my favorite songs. The guitar runs are oddly beautiful, as are the vocals.

To be honest, the rest of the album ends up being somewhat of a letdown minus one or two tracks. It's filled with chaotic moments where vocals seem to compete with instruments instead of enhancing them. There's no doubt in my mind that these fellas are intensely talented. That being said, they seem to have a hard time focusing their creative energy into concise, tight tracks.

Album design:
The album design consists of paintings of faces, fragmented into several pieces laid upon each other. The colors are muted, yet pleasing. There isn't much more to the album concept except there are partial lyrics (portions of each song) inside. The album design seems to mirror the sound of Say It with its fragments, leaving me unsatisfied. 

(Disclaimer: This album was given to me for free by the people at 230 Publicity) 

Next Up:
Screaming Females, Castle Talk (2010)