Monday, March 31, 2008

Excepter - Debt Dept. (***1/2)

The Brooklyn-based electronic improv/noise troupe Excepter continue to slowly (slooowly) pull themselves out of the sonic murk with their 5th and most accessible record to date. In addition to the more structured templates the group employs here, Debt Dept. also happens to be their most concise statement to date, with 8 songs clocking in at 40 minutes. Vocals - or at the very least, mumbled, disorienting moans - make appearances on each track as well. Still, let's make something perfectly clear: it would be impossible to mistake Excepter for any other band currently working. And while I still slightly prefer the more experimental noise wanderings of their first two records, KA and Throne, their recent forays in fractured house have been nothing if not thrillingly odd, like electro-pop music being forced through a meat grinder. (Note: many versions of the record include a bonus track, entitled "'Burgers", which the band has also made a video for. See below.)

Highlights: "Entrance", "Kill People", "Greenhouse/Stretch", "Sunrise"

RIYL: Black Dice, Gang Gang Dance, Growing, Sightings

Video - "Kill People"

Video - "'Burgers" (Medium Rare Edit)

Stream: Liars - Army of Me (Björk cover)

Stereogum's newest addition to their now-yearly series of cover records, in which a number of contemporary artists attempt to rework a nearly flawless album, continues in '08 with Björk's 1995 classic Post. Liars, authors of my #1 album of 2006 and #19 album of 2007 respectively, have chimed in with a typically raucous take on Post opener "Army of Me". And while Liars may be the show-stoppers here, there are some other good covers as well, including tracks by No Age, Atlas Sound and Xiu Xiu. You can stream the whole record over at Stereogum, or listen to the Liars song straightaway by clicking below. (via Forkcast)

Stream: Liars - "Army of Me" (Björk Cover)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Yellow Swans - At All Ends (***1/2)

Newest release of free-form droning guitar noise from this unremittingly experimental Portland duo. These 5 lengthy compositions (clocking in at around 45 minutes) move between the extreme noise of the group's early records and into a dreamy netherworld of hypnotic guitar textures, culminating in two of their most beautiful pieces to date. At All Ends is one of the best and most rewarding avant-garde records of the year so far.

Highlights - "At All Ends", "Mass Mirage", "Endlessly Making An End of Things"

RIYL: Wolf Eyes, Glenn Branca, Mouthus, Sonic Youth's SYR Series, Rhys Chatham, John Weise

MP3: Yellow Swans - Our Oases

Video - Yellow Swans Live @ Upset the Rhythm

Video - Yellow Swans Live in Antwerp

Friday, March 28, 2008

DVD Review - Lost Highway

Directed by David Lynch

Film (****1/2)
DVD (**)

David Lynch's Lost Highway has been one of the most eagerly anticipated DVD releases for years now. It's lingered in U.S. legal limbo ever since it's theatrical release back in 1997, having only received the DVD treatment overseas. So it should go without saying that I'd very much like to report that the wait was worth it (like I could for Lynch's Wild at Heart DVD and that recent Twin Peaks box set). Yet here we are, finally with a North American release for the best film Lynch released all decade, and it's more-or-less a slap in the face to those of us who have suffered through those horrendous German imports and faded VHS copies of the movie for the past decade.

It's pointless to try and write a plot synopsis for Lost Highway, seeing as how it's arguably nothing more than a feature length, mobius strip deconstruction of a faltering marriage, the porn industry and two men (or is it one?) knee deep in sexual confusion over an unfaithful woman (or is it women?). Like most of Lynch's work, Lost Highway is ripe for self-interpretation, and while interpretation can be seen as a chore to some, it is amply rewarded here both viscerally and cerebrally. Lynch has since re-visited similar thematic territory - and to even greater success - in both Mulholland Dr. and Inland Empire, yet Lost Highway retains a certain charm as being, really, the first out-and-out head trip film Lynch made since his groundbreaking 1977 debut Eraserhead. Plus, it features the best cast Lynch ever had the opportunity to work with: Patricia Arquette, Bill Pullman, Robert Blake (!), Balthazar Getty, Richard Pryor, Jack Nace, Henry Rollins, Giovanni Ribisi, Gary Busey and Robert Loggia all make appearances.

So you can see how this bare bones DVD (and I do mean bare bones, there's not even a trailer) would arrive as a disappointment. Thankfully the picture and sound quality presented here is greatly improved over previous versions, bringing into focus the deep hues and vibrant colors that Lynch is known for, as well as upping the decibel levels to floor-shaking volumes. Yes, I couldn't be happier that Lost Highway is finally on DVD, but a little more care could have been put into it's long awaited debut.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Be Your Own Pet - Get Awkward (***)

Sophomore statement from the frighteningly young punk band Be Your Own Pet. Their 2006 self-titled debut was a face-melting introduction to their brand of youthful rebellion and carefree abandonment, and while Get Awkward is basically more of the same, there is still no denying their tunnel-vision intensity (or the awesomeness of the Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and Heathers references in the song titles alone). Thankfully, singer Jemina Pearl hasn't toned down her act at all either, evidenced by Universal Music Group axing 3 of the album's best songs from the U.S. release (apparently the label deemed them "too violent"). I'd recommend sticking it to the label and ordering an import copy, one that includes all 15 tracks like the band intended.

Highlights: "Supersoaked", "Black Hole", The Kelley Affair", "Blow Yr Mind", "Zombie Graveyard Party!"

RIYL: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Slits

Video - "The Kelley Affair"

Video - "Food Fight!"

"The Kelley Affair"

"Heart Throb"


Dodos - Visiter (****)

Visiter, the frequently amazing debut record from the horribly-named San Francisco duo the Dodos, will almost certainly make you re-think the possibilities of the two-person musical outfit. On paper, the drums and acoustic guitar setup would seem rather tame, yet Dodos strike with an unbelievable force, recalling the less abstract moments of Sung Tongs-era Animal Collective. The never-ending lyrical spew and out-of-nowhere vocal whoops link them pretty close with AC as well, yet Dodos still manage to graft simple melodies onto intriguingly complex song structures utilizing the most basic set-up imaginable. The secret seems to be in the duo's propensity for playing each instrument as if it were a percussion instrument - even the acoustic guitar becomes a weapon in the hands of singer Meric Long (not to mention the drums, which pummel with the machine gun ferocity of a metal band). With 14 songs, many of which cross the 6 minute mark, Visiter runs the risk of losing focus, yet the record manages to never once hit a dry spot during it's entire 1 hour runtime.

Highlights: "Fools", "Joe's Waltz", "Jodi", "Ashley", "God?"

RIYL: Animal Collective, Mountain Goats, Neutral Milk Hotel, Nina Nastasia

Video - "Fools"

Video - "Joe's Waltz" (live at the Mercury Lounge, NYC)

"Red and Purple"


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

New 1 Minute Panda Bear Song!

The new Visionaire 53: Sound, which is a limited edition collection of five 12-inch picture discs, features newly crafted pieces by lots of interesting artists (Sonic Youth, The Knife, The Streets, Yoko Ono etc), including Animal Collective pop wunderkind Panda Bear. His contribution has happened to make it's way online, and it's more or less a 60 second ambient pop tune in which Noah Lennox drapes his otherworldly falsetto over static hum. Nothing too exciting sure, but c'mon, it's new Panda Bear! (via Gorilla vs Bear)

MP3: Panda Bear - Untitled (Visionaire 53: Sound)

Oh, and check out this XXXChange Remix of "Comfy in Nautica" over at the Paw Tracks website.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Destroyer - Trouble In Dreams (***1/2)

I can't name another working artist who inspires such divergent opinions as Dan Bejar. Each album he has released under his Destroyer moniker over the last 10 years is met with the same equal measure of heavenly praise and utter bewilderment. He's one of the those artists whose fan's each have a different opinion on his best work, and of course, someone to always tell you how much that particular record is horrible. However, I prefer to think of the Destroyer discography of one long, extended record which Bejar adds to every couple of years with more of his head-spinning wordplay and fractured pop arrangements.

Trouble In Dreams, Destroyer's ninth record, continues this ongoing story with 11 more densely detailed narratives that can stand alone well enough on their own, yet still continue to connect the dots between all sorts of older Destroyer songs, albums and even projects ("Shooting Rockets" showed up in drastically altered form on that Swan Lake album from a couple years back). Measured against his most recent work, Trouble In Dreams doesn't quite equal the surrealistic heights of Your Blues or his widely received 2006 record Destroyer's Rubies (which made my top ten list that particular year), but as an entry in Bejar's continuing saga of existential angst and anguish, it is a more than worthy follow-up.

Highlights: "Blue Flower/Blue Flame", "Foam Hands", "Introducing Angels", "Rivers"

RIYL: Frog Eyes, Swan Lake

Video - "Rivers" (live)

"Blue Flower/Blue Flame"

"Foam Hands"

"Dark Leaves Form a Thread"

"Shooting Rockets (from the Desk of Night's Ape)"

There Will Be Pokemon

I swear i don't even look for these, they just come to me....

There Will Be Vader

Seriously, who comes up with this stuff? I wish I had a quarter of the creativity required to think of something like this. The entire 10 minute parody here is fabulous, but the Chewbacca part at the 6:50 mark literally made me laugh out loud. No Country got all the awards and praise, but I really do believe There Will Be Blood will ultimately be exalted to an even higher plateau in the coming decades. I mean c'mon, I seriously can't remember a time when a movie, or a performance for that matter, caused such out-and-out devotion. And rightfully so.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Neon Neon - Stainless Style (***)

You gotta admit, the entire conceit of this project - a collaboration between Super Furry Animals madman Gruff Rhys and electronic producer Boom Bip - is pretty ridiculous. It's one thing to focus on a specific theme or inspiration over the course of a musical endeavor, but to craft an entire album length tribute to the life and times of 80s playboy John DeLorean; well, it could potentially extenuate everything bad about the notion of the concept record. Except that Neon Neon succeed, not only in the re-telling of DeLorean's various hedonistic exploits (that album cover should give you a pretty good idea of what to expect), but also in recreating the era's most wincingly cheesy dance music. Each song dedicated solely to the talents of Rhys and Boom Bip, save the brilliant Cate LeBon-guesting "I Lust U", is pure John Hughes teen comedy gold. Where the record falters is in it's other collaborations, or more specifically, it's party-rap songs. It's not even that these three tracks are bad (I actually quite enjoy the Spank Rock song), it's just that they stick out like sore thumbs, disrupting the flow of an otherwise sleek record. It's ultimately holds the record back from being completely essential, yet there is still too much praise worthy material here to not recommend.

Highlights: ""Dream Girls", "I Lust U", "Raquel", "Michael Douglas"

RIYL: Gorillaz, Pretty In Pink

Video - "I Lust U"


"Dream Girls"

"I Told Her On Alderaan"

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fuck Buttons - Street Horrrsing (****1/2)

When I first heard Fuck Buttons' "Sweet Love for Planet Earth" early last year, I had no frame of reference for the band, and I certainly wasn't prepared for it's utter excellence, yet I instantly knew it was something special and immediately described it as "frighteningly beautiful". Almost a year has now passed since my first exposure, and I can't really say my opinion of the piece has changed very much - it just left me salivating for more, and it' still one of the most jaw dropping songs I've heard in a long while.

But now the Bristol-based noise duo has officially arrived with the release of their debut record, Street Horrrsing, which unsurprisingly (but wisely) leads off with "Sweet Love", but also leaves 5 other brilliant compositions in it's wake that straddle the same line between serene beauty and brain-scraping noise that "Sweet Love" promised all those many months ago. I can't think of another band, noise or otherwise, that has been able to toe this line as expertly as Fuck Buttons do here since Black Dice did something similar circa-Beaches and Canyons (2002).

It's true, the elements at play here are employed minimally, but they are utilized for maximum impact, as the washes of digital noise are supported by a near-constant use tribal percussion, bringing to mind vintage This Heat and, more recently, Liars, particularly their 2006 masterpiece Drum's Not Dead (my #1 record of that year; sense a pattern?) . And to top it all off, Street Horrrsing is a perfectly paced record, with each track cross-faded and edited together seamlessly, creating a continuous 50 minutes of aural hypnosis, alternately lulling and explosive. Fuck Buttons are swinging for the fences here, and have succeeded in crafting what is sure to be one of 2008s defining musical statements.

Highlights: "Sweet Love for Planet Earth", "Ribs Out", "Okay, Let's Talk About Magic", "Bright Tomorrow"

RIYL: Black Dice, Prurient, Wolf Eyes, Ministry, Drum's Not Dead, This Heat

Video - "Bright Tomorrow"

"Sweet Love for Planet Earth"

"Ribs Out"

"Colours Move"

R.I.P. Anthony Minghella

54 year old Anthony Minghella didn't direct a whole heck of a lot of movies in his short career, yet he left a indelible mark, especially on quote-unquote epic film making, having crafted two of the best, 1996s Oscar-winning The English Patient and 2003s Cold Mountain. Minghella's films were uneven to say the least - and I wouldn't consider that a criticism as much as a fact - yet he still managed to direct 6 actors to Oscar nominations (two of which took home the gold). He could craft smaller, more direct films just as well, if not better, than his higher profile films however, with The Talented Mr. Ripley and 2006s sadly-underrated Breaking and Entering displaying another dimension to his style.

Minghella had begun production on New York, I Love You at the time of his death, a quasi-sequel to indie-darling Paris, Je T'aime from 2007.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Ruby Suns - Sea Lion (***1/2)

Relocating from California to the wilds of Africa and eventually settling in New Zealand has apparently influenced the Ruby Suns' Ryan McPhun to take all his world music influences and stitch them together with his Brian Wilson-sized arrangements until they form an intricate psych-pop pattern that is as exotic as it is familiar. The poly-rhythms and communal vocals aren't the only elements that have noticeably bled into the band's sound, as McPhun even goes so far as to adopt the native language of New Zealand's Maori people for the rousing "Tane Mahuta". This is a record packed with tiny details that reveal themselves more and more with each subsequent listen, and as such, that 3 1/2 star rating may seem like an understatement as the year progresses.

Highlights: "Tane Mahuta", "Remember", "Ole Rinka", "Adventure Tour"

RIYL: Olivia Tremor Control/Circulatory System, the Elephant 6 collective, The Beach Boys, Panda Bear

Video - "Tane Mahuta"

Video - "Oh, Mojave" (Live on "Take Away Show")

Video - "Ole Rinka" (live)

"Kenya Dig It?"

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Hercules and Love Affair - Hercules and Love Affair (***1/2)

Debut record from Andrew Butler, New York City's next great figure in dance music. Released by the DFA and featuring pristine production and drum programming by Tim Goldsworthy, this self-titled introduction to Hercules and Love Affair hearkens back to late 70s/early 80s post-disco (you can practically get high off the cocaine-synths), but filtered through a modern technological lens. This unashamedly flamboyant sound may be too much for more conservative listeners, yet those jonesing for some high-gloss electro-pop will have a difficult time finding a better alternative. The record features a handful of vocalists, most notably the heavenly pipes of one Antony Hegarty (of Antony & the Johnsons), which keeps the record from growing stale during it's laid back middle section. And I know I'm not the first, and I certainly won't be the last, but yeah, "Blind" is probably the song of the year.

Highlights: "Hercules Theme", "You Belong", "Blind", "Raise Me Up"

RIYL: LCD Soundsystem, Fischerspooner, !!!, Goldfrapp, the DFA

Video - "Blind"

"Hercules Theme"

"You Belong"

"Raise Me Up"

Thursday, March 13, 2008

El Guincho - Alegranza! (****)

Pablo Díaz-Reixa, the one-man band behind the El Guincho moniker, debuts here with an enveloping 9-track record bursting with Tropicalia and Afrobeat rhythms, which in turn lay the foundation for numerous layers of odd-ball samples, looped vocals and whooping mouth ululations. Writing this off as the Spanish language version of Person Pitch however would be doing a disservice to Díaz-Reixa (no matter how good that album was) and the disorienting world he has created with Alegranza!, one of the year's most ridiculously addictive records. It's not often that an album comes along and can beg the question, "How did they do that?", yet Alegranza! continually raises such quandaries.

Highlights: "Fata Morgana", "Kalise", "Buenos Matrimonios Ahi Fuera", "Costa Paraiso"

RIYL: Os Mutantes, Panda Bear, Konono No.1, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts

"Fata Morgana"


"Cuando Maravilla Fui"

"Palmitos Park"

Why? - Alopecia (***1/2)

It is becoming increasingly difficult with every passing moment to classify the Yoni Wolf-led experimentalists in Why? as a hip-hop group. And you know what? They're all the better for it. Guitars and other "rock" oriented instruments are all over their new record Alopecia, yet Wolf still rides the beats with that patented monotone sing-speak which is obviously rooted in rap music. How to explain "The Hollows" and "Fatalist Palmistry" then, two of the best indie-rock songs of the year so far? Me personally, I quit trying since Why? do it all with an authority and disregard for genre that is refreshing in this day and age. Add to that the fact that Alopecia may be the group's strongest collection of music to date, and there is no reason to even look for answers, because, well, there are none. They are called Why? for a reason, right?.

Highlights: "These Few Presidents", "The Hollows", "Fatalist Palmistry", "Simeon's Dilemma"

RIYL: Subtle, early-Beck, Odd Nosdam, the Anticon label

Video - "The Vowels, Pt. 2" (live)

Video - "The Hollows" (live)

"These Few Presidents"

"Good Friday"

"Fatalist Palmistry"

Wall-E Trailer

I don't get too excited for animated films (to wit, I've haven't seen Ratatouille nor The Incredibles. I know, for shame!), yet this new Wall-E trailer has certainly peaked my interest. Pixar's track record alone will put this near the top of 2008s box office charts. Have a look.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Kelley Polar - I Need You To Hold On While The Sky Is Falling (***1/2)

I Need You To Hold On While The Sky Is Falling, the follow-up to 2005s sleeper gem Love Songs of the Hanging Garden, is Kelley Polar's second full-length release, and it's a more confident - and as a result more grandiose - statement from this purveyor of delicate electro-pop. It holds up rather nicely as an album, yet there are multiple stand alone tracks that leave indelible impressions - in fact, the 4 song run from "Entropy Reigns (In the Celestial City)" through "Satellites" is among the most impressive of '08 so far.

Highlights: "A Feeling of the All-Thing", "Entropy Reigns (In the Celestial City)", "Chrysanthemum", "Rosenband"

RIYL: Metro Area, Arthur Rusell, The Human League, Junior Boys, 80s synth-pop

Video - "Chrysanthemum"

"Entropy Reigns (In the Celestial City)"


"Thurston and Grisha"

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks - Real Emotional Trash (**1/2)

After reaching the zenith of his post-Pavement career with 2005s splendid Face the Truth, the legendary Stephen Malkmus reformats his backing band the Jicks (most notably adding ex-Sleater Kinney drummer Janet Weiss) and celebrates by dropping an exhausting study in guitar wankery, with a majority of his new album's 10 tracks overstaying there welcome after about 3 minutes. The title track is the most offensive, jamming away for over 10 minutes, while Malkmus' usually compelling, seemingly free associated wordplay, often feels forced here. I doubt anyone would put up with some of these lyrics' inanity if the name Malkmus wasn't attached. Most of the song titles kind of make me cringe as well. But as the first real misstep of this man's entire 17 year career, I can at least stomach some indulgence.

Highlights: "Cold Son"

RIYL: Pavement, guitar solos, dinosaur rock

"Cold Son"

"Dragonfly Pie"

"Hopscotch Willie"

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Autechre - Quaristice (****)

First album in 3 years from the pioneering avant-electro titans Autechre is a hyper-kinetic 20 track opus which unapologetically shifts between lonely ambient passages, chopped & screwed techno and fractured, disorienting house beats. This a highly detailed, mind-numbing 75 minutes of "difficult" music ("difficult" only in the sense that undivided attention is required for full enjoyment), just like every Autechre album released in the last 15 years, yet at the same time Quaristice feels oddly listenable while still managing to stay unpredictable and downright thrilling for the entirety of it's lengthy runtime.

Highlights: "The Plc", "plyPhon", "Simmm", "Tankakern", "90101-5l-l", "Notwo"

RIYL: Mouse on Mars, Oval, Squarepusher, Aphex Twin, The Orb, Boards of Canada

"The Plc"



"paralel Suns"


Fleet Foxes - Sun Giant EP (****1/2)

The debut EP from the Seattle-based, gospel-inspired psych-pop quintet Fleet Foxes is a masterful study in restraint and subdued beauty, in which lead Fox Robin Pecknold floats harmoniously above a sea of southern rock and classic folk signifiers. From the near-acapella opening title track on through to the majestic "Innocent Son", this frighteningly talented young band shows a respect for genre and a desire to transcend that is well beyond their cumulative years. Sun Giant marks the momentous arrival of a new, exciting musical force. When the year is written, it may very well turn out to be of Young Liars-sized importance. (stream the entire EP below while you still can)

Highlights: "Sun Giant", "Drops in the River", "Mykonos"

RIYL: My Morning Jacket, Band of Horses, Cowboy Junkies, Califone

"Sun Giant"

"Drops in the River"

"English House"


"Innocent Son"

Myspace - Fleet Foxes

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Re-Up Gang (Clipse) - We Got It For Cheap, Vol. 3 (***1/2)

Third entry in the Virginia posse's ongoing mixtape series, Vol. 3 stands as yet another lengthy deconstruction of coke hustling, record label politics and life on the streets from the world's foremost rap lyricists, Pusha-T and Malice aka Clipse. Disregard the final quarter of the mixtape, which features two extraneous solo cuts from Ab-Liva & Sandman, and you have a more than worthy follow-up to Vol. 2, the decade's most celebrated mixtape.

Highlights: "Re-Up Gang Intro", "Show You How to Hustle", "20k Money Making Brothers on the Corner", "Dey Know Yeyo", "Cry Now"

"Roc Boys"

"20k Money Making Brothers on the Corner"

"Rainy Dayz"

Valet - Naked Acid (***1/2)

Sophomore album from psychedelic drone goddess Valet ties together the furthest reaching features of her wide-ranging spectrum of sounds, melding them into a disorienting seven piece song cycle built on glacial guitar effects and electronically manipulated vocals. Despite it's shape shifting stylistic approach, nothing here feels the slightest bit over-extended or self consciously disparate.

Highlights: "Keehar", "Babylon 4 Eva", "Streets"

RIYL: Mouthus, Labradford, Fursaxa, Brian Eno, Charalambides

Video - "Keehar" (live)


Monday, March 3, 2008

Beach House - Devotion (****)

This enchanting follow-up to Beach House's out-of-left-field 2006 debut is yet another hypnotic convergence of humming organ/keyboard drones and snail-paced guitar slides. The initial shock of hearing the floating ethereality of this bands sound is obviously lost here, but song for song this may be a stronger record than the self-titled. Features 10 beautiful originals among a reverent reading of Daniel Johnston's "Some Things Last a Long Time".

Highlights: "Gila", "Turtle Island", "All of the Years", "Heart of Chambers"

RIYL: Galaxie 500, Cocteau Twins, Mazzy Star, The Clientele, Slowdive, Spiritualized

Video - "Heart of Chambers'

Video - "You Came to Me"

Myspace - Beach House

Various Artists - Living Bridge (***1/2)

25 track compilation of bands recorded exclusively at Rare Book Room studio, kicking off a record label of the same name with this 2 hour set of oft-entrancing music. The first disc is almost uniformly excellent, with tracks from experimental luminaries such as Avey Tare, Black Dice and Samara Lubelski, not to mention a show-stopping inclusion from the Silver Jews. Disc 2 is all over the map however, with a number of the set's later songs falling flat, yet it still features it's fair share of standouts from the likes of Rings, Deerhunter, Enon and La Lus. So yeah, it's not No New York or anything, but holding any compilation to that standard would be a little unfair, right?

Highlights: Avey Tare - "I'm Your Eagle Kisser", Telepathe - "I Can't Stand It", Black Dice - "Pig Pen", Tara Jane O'Neil - "Sunday Song", Silver Jews - "Self Ignition", Rings - "RIPeace", Deerhunter - "After Class"

Avey Tare - "I'm Your Eagle Kisser"

Samara Lubeski - "Ego Blossoms"

Blood on the Wall - "Lightning Song"

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Mountain Goats - Heretic Pride (***1/2)

A swift 180 degree turn away from the isolated misery of 2006s Get Lonely, Heretic Pride, the umpteenth record by America's greatest songwriter John Darnielle, is a interwoven tapestry of odd character sketches, awkward encounters and human folly. In this way, it is most in line with the classic, pre-4AD Mountain Goats records such as The Coroner's Gambit or All Hail West Texas. The fact that this man can release such a steady stream of great material is testament not only to the power of Darnielle's lyrical voice, but also to his unmatched perspective of the human existence.

Highlights: "Sax Rohmer #1," "Heretic Pride", "How to Embrace a Swamp Creature", "Marduk T-Shirt Men's Room Incident"

RIYL: Acoustic Troubadours: Bob Dylan, Neutral Milk Hotel, Elliott Smith, Bright Eyes, Nick Drake

Video - "Sax Rohmer #1"

"Heretic Pride"

"How to Embrace a Swamp Creature"

"San Bernardino"