Marking the beginning of his European dates tonight in Amsterdam, Steve Gunn has released an acoustic rendition of The Unseen In Between single “Vagabond.” The video, filmed by The Mitcham Submarine, was shot late last year at a London bookstore. Gunn’s full-band performances begin tonight in Amsterdam, see a full list of his upcoming dates below.
Ahead of the release of Groove Denied next Friday March 15th, Stephen Malkmus has premiered the track “Come Get Me” and its accompanying lyric video. The new song follows the recent release of “Viktor Borgia” and “Rushing The Acid Frat.” Malkmus’s Groove Denied performances are quickly selling out, see an updated list of dates both solo and with The Jicks below.
Late last year during their North American tour together, Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus (boygenius) performed in-studio at KEXP. That session is available today, showcasing three tracks from their s/t EP as well as a cover of “Cowboy Take Me Away” by The Dixie Chicks.
Julien Baker has announced her participation in Record Store Day 2019: “Red Door” b/w “Conversation Piece” will be released as a 7″ in a red vinyl edition limited to 4,000, available at your local independent record store on Saturday, April 13th. Find the closest participating record store here.
Both tracks found on this 7″ are previously unreleased. “Red Door” has only been heard in live performances, and “Conversation Piece” began recording during the Turn Out the Lights sessions.
Seemingly acting in defiance of a bone-crushing touring schedule (covering five different countries in five short days) Lindsey Jordan managed to find a spare six minutes during Snail Mail’s tour of Asia last October to record an epic version of ‘Pristine’ for MTV Asia’s ‘MTV Jammin’.
In other ‘The Tour That Never Ends Tour’ news, Lindsey and the gang will be visiting our friends in the Southern Hemisphere for shows across Australia and New Zealand early next month, details below.
Stephen Malkmus had a vision … or so begins the lyrics to “Rushing The Acid Frat,” the newly released single from his forthcoming ‘Groove Denied'(out March 15th). The song title, inspired by Stephen’s memories of a specific student fraternity (think less beer-pong-bros, more “Grateful Dead druggy tie-dye” vibe) at his UVA alma mater, is a “Louie Louie”-style shindig rumpus, which he imagines as the soundtrack to a “Star Wars bar scene in such a frat … it’s kinda 12-bar but gigged with psych lyrics.”
In the accompanying video (above), created by Robert Strange and James Papper, features an animated Stephen taking a romp through LA’s Koreatown and Hollywood Forever Cemetery, followed by a trip to the moon, and back to a field on Earth (fun fact – it’s Ben Kweller’s ranch in Texas), tinged with hallucinatory enhancements.
Along with this May’s solo dates, additional shows have been added at NYC’s The Kitchen and the Art Institute Of Chicago (ticket links below).
After the briefest of respites, Lucy Dacus’ seemingly endless global touring continues next month in Savannah, GA. In addition, 6 southern U.S. dates with support from Mothers were just announced, with tickets on sale this Friday at 10am local time (links below).
Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain is Pavement’s record-of-many transitions. From Louder Than You to Random Falls. From Gary Young to Steve West. From indier-than-thou (Matador) to FAKE INDIE (Matador/Atlantic). But most importantly, it’s the album where Pavement would flex the sort of musical and lyrical range that would later make some of you deeply resent everything else the band members ever did solidify their status as a once-in-a-generation phenomena. Except we’re still here talking about it.
Today marks the 25th anniversary of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain’s 1994 release, and I believe it was George Santayana who said “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Good thing we’ve got a goddamn photographic memory, because there’s some stuff we went thru trying to get radio stations to play “Cut Your Hair” that NO ONE SHOULD EVER BE FORCED TO RELIVE. So let’s focus on the good times and not get bogged down in gloomy stuff like the journalist last week who asked me (seriously) if Billy Corgan or Scott Weiland still bore a grudge over “Range Life”. I’m sure you think my job is super fucking easy but there’s no simple way of answering a question like that without getting the person on the other end of the phone very very angry, so if you’re ever in that situation, I suggest you handle it exactly the way I did (pretend you’re been stung by a wasp).
All orders received today through Thursday, February 21st from the U.S. Matador Webstore that include Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain will receive a free MATADOR REVISIONIST HISTORY slip mat and a reproduction of Pavement’s 1994 press photo (credit: Gail Butensky). Random orders will receive a press photo signed by Stephen Malkmus. UPDATE: press photos are now OUT OF STOCK, orders will still receive the slip mat.
With their massive global tour in support of ‘Bottle It In’ continuing this week in Burlington VT, Kurt Vile & The Violators reconvened in New York City last night for an appearance on NBC’s “Late Night With Seth Meyers”, performing “Yeah Bones”. Still photography courtesy NBC’s Lloyd Bishop.
Steve Gunn’s performance at KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic has just been archived on the stations website, including performances of two tracks, “Stonehurst Cowboy” and “New Familiar,” from Gunn’s newly released The Unseen In Between.
Steve Gunn continues to tour in support of the new album this week, performing in Seattle, Novato CA and San Francisco before kicking off European dates next month.
In addition to August’s hotly anticipated Boaty Weekender cruise with guests Yo La Tengo, Mogwai, Japanese Breakfest and many others, Belle and Sebastian have confirmed 8 summer appearances in the US and Canada. Tickets go on general sale this Friday at 10am local time.
Spoon spent nearly two years touring in support of ‘Hot Thoughts’ so what better way to commemorate the summer of 2019 than by visiting the continent’s finest ampitheatres and multi-purpose entertainment venues on a package tour alongside such show business titans as Beck and Cage The Elephant? If an answer to this question pops into your head, please don’t bother sharing it as the shows are already booked and tickets go on sale rather soon (Friday at 10am local time, in fact).
Though Car Seat Headrest’s current North American run recommences this Thursday in Boston, MA, the band have confirmed 9 additional summer show. Pre-sale begins Tuesday at 10am local time.. You can sign up for the presale (password TODAY ONLY) at https://carseatheadrest.com/tourdates. You’ll receive a text and email 10 minutes before tickets go on sale. General onsale begins Friday at 10am local time.
Early today, NPR released Kurt Vile’s new Tiny Desk Concert, containing performances of two Bottle It In tracks “Bassackwards” and “Loading Zones,” as well as “Peeping Tomboy,” from Smoke Ring for My Halo and covered by Courtney Barnett on their 2017 collaborative album Lotta Sea Lice.
Kurt Vile’s 2019 dates kick off on Monday, February 11 in Harrisburg PA before performing on Late Night with Seth Meyers on February 12th.
The morning after Friday’s sold-out Bowery Ballroom, Steve Gunn appeared on the Saturday, February 2 edition of “CBS This Morning” performing “Vagabond”, “New Familiar” and “New Moon” from one of 2019’s most critically acclaimed albums, ‘The Unseen In Between’
After completing sold-out dates on the West Coast last month, Snail Mail has announced today additional Spring and Summer touring plans in support of her debut LP, Lush. New European dates are on sale today, new American dates are on sale this Friday at 10am local time. Snail Mail performs for their first time at Madison Square Garden next weekend, February 16th, with Interpol and Car Seat Headrest.
2018 was a milestone year for Richmond, VA’s Lucy Dacus. Her widely celebrated sophomore record, ‘Historian’, was met by a chorus of critical acclaim, with NPR, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, NBC News, Slate, The Atlantic, Billboard, Paste, Stereogum, and others calling one of the best albums of the year. Her collaborative EP as 1/3 of boygenius (with Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers) landed on many of those same lists, plus Newsweek, The New Yorker, Esquire, and the New York Times. She played revelatory sold-out shows at clubs and festivals alike, and made network TV appearances on “CBS This Morning”, “Late Night with Seth Meyers”, and “Last Call With Carson Daly”.
A cursory glance at her worldwide touring schedule in 2019 (below) shows little sign that Dacus is slowing down, and in fact, she will release a EP titled ‘2019’ to celebrate. Recorded in here-and-there studio spurts over the last two years, ‘2019 ‘will be released later this year, and will be made up of originals and cover songs tied to specific holidays, each of which will drop around their respective date: Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day (and Taurus season!), Independence Day, Springsteen’s Birthday (not an official holiday, though we’re told Chris Christie often took that day off), Halloween, Christmas, and New Year’s.
Dacus uses her gift as a songwriter to help understand and cope with the world around her, including making sense of national holidays, often more geared towards social media boasts and manufactured consumerism than authentic celebration. “What is going on,” she asks herself on these days, retreating from the heightened expectations of holidays to figure out what to make of them and to find her own meaning. “I’ve collected some songs from trying to answer that question,” she says, and “this EP seems like the right place to put them next to each other. These songs are self-contained, not indicative of a new direction, just a willingness to do something different and sometimes even out of character.”
“Fine Mess” continues the invigorated creative spirit of 2018’s triumphant ‘Marauder’, presenting Interpol at their most urgent and essential – with Paul Banks’ feverish vocals and haunted lyrics telling of “a sanguine and starry pair, buoyed and dashed alike by their own dreams and appetites” interlocking with Daniel Kessler’s serpentine riffs and Sam Fogarino’s thundering rhythm section, distilled around the seditious refrain: “you and me / make a fine mess.”
Ahead of a busy worldwide tour and festival season with Primavera, NOS Primavera, and Best Kept Secret already announced, “Fine Mess” is further testament to a band at their peak, and the first chapter in what promises to be yet another eventful year for Interpol.
Kurt Vile premiered a new song earlier today, “Timing Is Everything (And I’m Falling Behind)” and it’s exclusively available from Amazon Music. If you’re lucky enough to share your living space with an Alexa-enabled device, simply utter the phrase, “Alexa, play the new Kurt Vile song,” and VOILA, your life with be enriched thru the miracle of A-L-E-X-A. Kurt calls the song, “a candid snapshot of KV & the Violators ‘at home’; where we like it: sparse and jangly and as live as possible. Ok, fine, with some additional accoutrements (including a sick b bender overdub by Rob!). Jesse swells and chimes beautiful guitar as well. KV fingerpicks and sings. The lyrics are country blues. “Open the flood gates of a down pouring rain… in my brain.” Masterfully recorded in Athens, GA by our drummer Kyle somewhere inside a cluster of hazy band rehearsals on the roundabout way to a festival in Denver. Mixed by Peter Katis. This jam was one of many contenders for the last album, but we gonna start peeling em off for ya now instead.”
For once, the rumors are true (some of ’em, anyway). The “rejected” electronic album that Stephen Malkmus has been alluding to over the past year will see the light of day on March 15th. That said, ‘Groove Denied’ is not a plunge into EDM or glitch-city. In fact, there aren’t any purely instrumental tracks on the album. Every song is precisely that: a song, featuring Malkmus staples like an artfully askew melody and an oblique lyric. ‘Groove Denied’ is Stephen playing hooky from his customary way of going about things, jolting himself out of a comfy routine. As Malkmus commented recently in a recent video interview, “It’s kind of funny to mess with stuff you’re not supposed to mess with.”
The first taste of Stephen’s new groove can be sampled today, with the release of single “Viktor Borgia,” and its accompanying video. The title playfully merges the name of the comedian-pianist and the ruthless dynasty of Italo-Spanish nobles. . “Yes, I was thinking things like Pete Shelley’s ‘Homosapien’, the Human League, and DIY synth music circa 1982,” says Stephen, adding “and also about how in the New Wave Eighties, these suburban 18-and-over dance clubs were where all the freaks would meet – a sanctuary.”
Stephen will embark on a brief solo tour, sans Jicks, in May. The newly announced run of dates can be found below. A full bio, composed by Simon Reynolds can be found as well.
When Stephen Malkmus first arrived on the scene in the early Nineties, as frontman and prime creative force in Pavement, the area of music with which he was associated couldn’t really have been further from the techno-rave sounds of the day. Electronic dance music, then as now, was about posthuman precision, inorganic textures, and hyper-digital clarity. Whereas the lo-fi movement in underground rock championed a messthetic of sloppiness, rough edges, and raw warmth – a hundred exquisitely subtle shades of distortion and abrasion. “Imperfect sound forever” was the rallying cry for a micro-generation of slacker-minded dreamers and misfits.
Fast forward to the present and here comes Malkmus with a surprising new project that embraces the very digital tools and procedures he’d have once gone out of his way to avoid. Groove Denied – Stephen’s first solo album without his cohorts the Jicks since 2001 – was made using Ableton’s Live, a software sequencer and “digital audio workstation” that is the preferred tool of discerning techno producers and deejays worldwide. Instead of a human-powered rhythm section of electric bass and drums, Malkmus’s arsenal further includes drum machines, along with a host of plug-in FX and “soft synths” (digital simulations of vintage electronic hardware that inhabit your computer rather than take over your entire living room).
For the first time on record, what you hear here is just Stephen and the Machine(s).
But Groove Denied is not a full-blown plunge into EDM or hiptronica, into the soundworlds of Deadmaus, Villalobos and Skee Mask. In fact, there aren’t any purely instrumental tracks on the album. Every song is precisely that: a song, featuring Malkmus staples like an artfully askew melody and an oblique lyric. But Groove Denied is Stephen playing hooky from his customary way of going about things, jolting himself out of a comfy routine. As Malkmus commented recently in a video interview, “It’s fun to mess with things that you’re not supposed to.”
This departure from the tried-and-tested stems back to earlier in this decade, when Malkmus spent a couple of years living in Berlin and was exposed to the city’s vibrant club scene Back in the Nineties, Stephen had given rave culture a wide berth, in part because of bad personal associations with the drug MDMA (he’d had “a really really bad trip” on Ecstasy in 1987, bizarrely on a visit to New York to see Miles Davis perform). But in Berlin, thanks to a younger deejay friend, Malkmus made forays into the city’s world-famous all-night party scene and became fascinated by techno. “The music can be great… you can zone out, dance, and focus on music – or just get wasted!”
It would not be entirely off-base, or an overly cute rock-historical reference, to describe Groove Denied as Stephen Malkmus’s Low. Although largely recorded in Oregon, the bulk of the album was written while he was living in Berlin. Updating his home studio with Ableton and teaching himself rudimentary Pro Tools, Malkmus “started fucking with effects and loops”. He compares the process of track-construction to the way his kids “used to make these girls on my iPhone – choosing hair colour, dresses, etc. That intuitive swipe and grab thing. Chop and move the waves. Apple computer scroll style of thinking.” It’s a very different way of making music to the feel-oriented way of coming up with chord progressions and rhythm grooves on a guitar alone or jamming with a band. And in fact, electric guitar – while it does feature on Groove Denied – is really “just color for the most part”.
Yet while the methodology behind Groove Denied is absolutely 21st Century, the reference points for the sound-palette hark back to the pre-digital era. “The electronic music side of the album, I wanted it to be sonically pre-Internet,” explains Stephen. “So the EQ-ing is a bit 1970’s, that sloppy DIY sequencing. And the influences are kinda 1981 post punk – actually quite British.” “A Bit Wilder”, one of the stand-out cuts, specifically recalls Cabaret Voltaire, its slack-stringed dank-with-reverb bass a dead ringer for the Stephen Mallinder sound. “Yes, I was thinking the Cabs – and Section 25, whose 1981 album Always Now I think is a serious underdog stoner album. That grey industrial Martin Hannett sound. But also all these cute DIY group that imitated The Cure back then – loners with 4-tracks tape recorders and dreams of “Killing An Arab”.” Malkmus says he was trying to conjure or reinhabit the “fan perspective” on things like Joy Division and the Cure – the sort of “getting it a bit wrong” that unintentionally brings something new into the world.
Groove Denied is frontloaded with this Cold Wave redux sound – a style we’ve never heard from Stephen Malkmus before. Opener “Belziger Faceplant”, for instance, features a most peculiar processed vocal that sounds withered and grotesque, like a deflated wrinkly balloon still lingering on in your house weeks after a party. “I envisioned ‘Belziger Faceplant’ as made by someone off their head after a night out in Friedrichshain,” says Malkmus, referring to a district of the former East Berlin now rife with techno clubs like the legendary Berghain. “Coming back at 5 AM, firing up the laptop in the morning light and trying to make a song, but the instruments are tripping over each other. You can’t even speak because of all the Ketamine or whatever!” Malkmus adds that he’s never tried K but “for some reason I imagine it like that”.
Then there’s “Viktor Borgia,” a title that playfully merges the name of the comedian-pianist and the ruthless dynasty of Italo-Spanish nobles. With its stately melody and the almost-English-accented vocal, the coordinates here are early Human League or even Men Without Hats. “Yes, I was thinking things like Pete Shelley’s ‘Homosapien’, the Human League, and DIY synth music circa 1982. And also about how in the New Wave Eighties, these suburban 18-and-over dance clubs were where all the freaks would meet – a sanctuary.”
“Forget Your Place” features another eerily wobbled vocal a la “Belziger Faceplant” plus dub-style detonations of submarine sonar and nagging bleeps. Frankly, it sounds pretty darn wasted. “Like ‘Belgizer’, this is a pretty solid Ableton-based track – moving waves around, finding a trippy loop and throwing an echo on it,” explains Stephen, adding that “at times it feels almost childish, working with Ableton – like finger painting. But ‘Forget Your Place’ also makes me think about death – don’t ask me why!”
Alongside the early Eighties “minimal synth” and industrial influences, the other main palette of tone-colors audible on Groove Denied is closer both to Stephen’s comfort zone and to what his fans would expect from him: “warped psych,” as he terms it, that avant-garage tradition of dirty guitars and ramshackle grooves, except that in this case, it’s “one person pretending to be a band.” That illusion is pulled off magnificently on loose ‘n’ swinging tunes like “Come Get Me” and “Love the Door,” although the electronic element manifests still with the crisp and prim pitter of drum machine beats and a spume of Moog frothing all over “Door”. Then there’s “Rushing the Acid Frat”, whose title came from Stephen’s memories of a student fraternity at the University of Virginia that, unlike the typical beery bro frathouse, had a “Grateful Dead druggy tie-dye” vibe. Malkmus imagined “Rushing” as a “Louie Louie”-style shindig rumpus to soundtrack a “Star Wars bar scene in such a frat… It’s kinda 12-bar, but gigged with psych lyrics”.
As the album enters the homestretch, it returns to more familiar Malkmusian terrain, with a warmer, grittier sound. “I did frontload Groove Denied with the stuff that signals “80’s/cold,” he says. “That stuff excited me the most – and it sounded braver. If I had another year, it could have been all in that style.” Still, with the second half offering gorgeous tunes like the hazy-lazy ramble “Bossviscerate” and the glittering “Ocean of Revenge” – both graced with his signature style of odd-angled melodic beauty – who’s complaining? Mellow closer “Grown Nothing” feels like Malkmus easing back towards the sound of his recent album with the Jicks, Sparkle Hard. In fact, although it has been released after Sparkle, 70% of Groove Denied was completed before work on the Jicks record. Indeed, Malkmus’s explorations with sound-processing influenced that album, most notably with the unexpected appearance of Auto-Tune on a couple of tracks.
Groove Denied will shake up settled notions of what Malkmus is about and what he’s capable of, repositioning him in the scheme of things. But looking at it from a different angle, his engagement with state-of-art digital tech actually makes perfect sense. After all, Nineties lo-fi – the sound in which he and Pavement were initially vaunted as leaders and pioneers – was nothing if not insistently sonic – it was all about the grain of guitar textures, about gratuitously over-done treatments and ear-grabbing effects. Noise for noise’s sake. It’s just that it was looking to older modes and antiquated technology. From the Big Muff and the Cry Baby Wah pedal through to today’s deliberately distorted deployment of pitch-correction, there’s really an unbroken continuity: the creative misuse of technology, the aestheticization of mistakes and flaws, wrongness-as-rightness.
As Stephen tweeted recently on the subject of Auto-Tune’s omnipresence in contemporary music-making: “We long 4 transformation….and we humans fucking luv tools.”
Simon Reynolds, Jan 2019
(Tour Dates, New Shows sans Jicks In Bold, On Sale Friday Jan 25, 10am Local Time)