cassette deck is a music blog by Rach. Rach is me. I co-host an indie rock radio show on KTCU, FM 88.7 in Fort Worth, Texas. Exposing myself to new music is both an obsessive hobby and a necessity. This blog is an outlet for me to share the music I discover with friends and passers-by. Enjoy!
The music found on this blog is intended for sampling purposes only. If you
dig what you hear, I encourage you to purchase the artist's music and generally support them in
a monetary way. If you own the copyright to an mp3 found on this blog and would like it
removed, please contact me and say "HEY! No
ma'am!" and I will remove it post-haste.
Monday, July 31, 2006
My Case for Case
I feel like I've been missing out on something beautiful and amazing for far too long. Her name is Neko Case.
I recall a trip to CD Source years ago with my friend Leslie--she was gushing about The New Pornographers, and accordingly purchased Mass Romantic. We listened to "Letters from and Occupant" several times on the car ride home. For all intents and purposes, it's the quintessential indie pop song--and who did that distinct voice belong to? Especially the part - "where've all sensations gone?" Woah, blown away by that powerhouse. I'd been told by several, "that's Neko Case, she does solo work" and blah, blah, blah.
For whatever reason, I let the recommendation fall to the wayside--perhaps because I was too busy satiating my ridiculous Brit-rock appetite with Ocean Colour Scene's greatest hits and spending far too long scouring the internet for any song I could find by The Boo Radleys. And for whatever reason, I was feeling especially prejudicial against "solo albums." Don't ask me why; I can't come up with an explanation or excuse other than that I was at a raw, blossoming music snob at 16 years old with no real basis in reason for most of my musical antipathies. This, coming from the girl who asked for the DVD of Xanadu for Hannukah. (I still have it, by the way.)
Despite my warped "opinions", (and thanks to a particularly fantastic solo album by New Pornographers' A.C. Newman), I eventually meandered back to Ms. Case. The first song I listened to was "Look For Me (I'll Be Around)"--very loungey, very alluring. But what really caught me was "Maybe Sparrow" from her most recent effort, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. Upon first listen, I really dug those lyrics--I am of the opinion that there are far too few songs written about the shortcomings of tiny birds. And her voice! That rich, sonorous cry was probably what killed the sparrow in the first place. She's got to be careful with that voice--it's a weapon of mass destruction. The best kind.
Next was "Hold On, Hold On." Though her lyrics are still rather cryptic and difficult to discern the real story, I got this distinct feeling of delicious disaffection and kind of a jaded betrayal. "That echo chorus lied to me with its 'hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on.'" What happened, Neko? I think we've all been there. Thanks for writing a song about it--it makes me feel better about my idealist pratfalls, and I can take comfort in the cynical twin living inside my head that occasionally emerges and causes procrastination, gluttony, and dining on too much Taco Bell. (Though I'm wary of calling that "dining.") "It's the devil I love, and it's as funny as real love." Not precisely what she really means, but I can make my guesses.
Another favorite? "Star Witness" -- also from Fox Confessor. She weaves together a strange, sad story with that brilliant voice of hers, hitting some sublime high notes while she's at it. Another one that boasts her vocal prowess, from Blacklisted, is "Deep Red Bells" -- she suddenly booms out this amazing chorus, knocking everything over. It almost comes unexpected.
Case was banned from the Grand Ole Opry for taking her shirt off mid-show. "She got hot" was her delightfully glib explanation. Wow. All I can say is that the Grand Ole Opry made one--well, perhaps two lamentable mistakes. (har har.)
At one particular show, she responded to fans shrieking out song requests with "Why don't you shut up, you hipster indie snobs!" Wow again. I'm not typically so keen on an artist who heckles her fans, but Neko isn't necessarily a pretentious or condescending type from what I've gathered. She's blunt, often wry, no-nonsense, and has quite the sense of humor. The travelogue on her website is a wonderful insight into her personality, in which she documents several stops along her tours and other amusing ramblings involving food, her greyhound, music, and even porn. And yes, I've read every entry.
Someone as self-posessed and musically gifted/vocally endowed as Neko Case is worthy of admiration/adoration, and she's certainly not lost on me. So there's that.
Full Anathallo Interview & Performance Now Available
Hey folks. Sorry I've slipped away for the past ten days or so; I've been doing a little writing for Texasgigs.com and getting clips together to write for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (one of these days.) We'll see! I've also been fairly obsessed with Neko Case as of late, so that's occupied most all of my usual rumination time. More on that later.
I wanted to post a link to the full Anathallo interview & performance at KTCU. It can be downloaded from the KTCU Blog that I made specifically for the purpose of housing the things we do in the studio with bands and such:
Many changes are underway at KTCU. We're actively working to better promote our station while scheduling bands to come to the studio for interviews and live performances. With a new Station Manager, Program Director, and two new Modern Rock Managers (I'm one of the latter), we're striving to fuse KTCU with great "indie" music (the overarching term!), both on the local and national level.
So today was one of the first steps in that direction. I had the pleasure of interviewing indie-marching band-handclap-folk-yay collective Anathallo, here in the studio at KTCU. They're touring with The Format and Rainer Maria, and kindly stopped by for a chat and played a few songs.
They were a bit sleepy when they first arrived--understandable for a nationally touring group of musicians awake and lugging instruments at 11:00 AM in 100 degree heat. The interview and songs certainly did not suffer, however--each one was pitch-perfect and sounded fantastic, allaying my fears that our studio equipment wouldn't do their music justice.
Of course, in my excitement I completely forgot to take pictures, just sat happily behind the window enjoying it all. However, I'll be at the show tonight (and you should, too! At the Gypsy Tea Room, 7:00!) and I'll be sure to snap some there.
I'll post the interview and the rest of the songs as soon as humanly possible after I polish them up in the studio (most likely tomorrow evening.) It will most likely be in podcast format.
Until then, here's a little promo/live rendition of "A Great Wind More Ash" that I threw together in my haste to promote their Gypsy gig on the air. More to come. Enjoy!
When it comes to band names, it is essential that one keeps an open mind and sloughs off any preconceived notions of the band's material--i.e., listen to the music before deciding whether or not you'll enjoy it. It may seem obvious, but judging bands by their names is a conceit that I am regrettably guilty of from time to time.
While it may be a widely held belief that a band called Take A Razor To My Heart Tomorrow Year Tuesday Forever !!!!! will put out indelibly shoddy music, one cannot assume! They may be the next Dinosaur Jr. or something. So, look out. (As far as I know, no such band by that name exists--yet--and if it does, well, pick a new name for your band, for the love of all that is holy, PLEASE!)
If prejudice against scary thrasher-metal had won out in all my shrewdness, I'd have never dug the rich sounds of Destroyer--certainly a far cry from the "scary" music I had expected to hear. Destroyer's Rubies has become one of my recent favorites, in fact--something I could easily have missed out on if it hadn't been for all the buzz surrounding Dan Bejar's wonderful project.
So before you let a band's name guide your decision on whether or not to give them a listen, I urge you to battle stereotypes and rash judgement. This may be more of a kind reminder to myself than anything, but it's helpful to make note of the next time you're rooting around the local scene/internet/record store for new music to obsess over.
Now, excuse me while I chase away this mosquito that's been pestering me for the past twenty minutes.
While I admit that Sufjan's persona is swaddled in pretension despite his "humble" demeanor, and his acclaim is perhaps overblown in the indie sphere, I find myself still very capable of enjoying his music. I'm no acolyte sending him fanletters every day expecting a sharpie-signed glossy headshot to hang above my bed, but his songs have a safe place nestled on my CD rack where they aren't collecting dust.
A point that Stephen Thomas Erlewine made in his article: his songs are professedly written as artifices devoid of an actual life experience to back it up.
Since when has degree of fiction versus non-fiction become the standard by which a good song is judged? Erlewine also states that Sufjan's music only serves to further compartmentalize indie music into its respective, tight niches. I have to say that it's not unusual for indie music to produce that effect, unless it's another "sounds like Death Cab meets The Strokes!" doppleganger.
It seems to be the case that when something as widely pawned off as "brilliant" by most respected publications and critics, award-givers, and mp3 bloggers, an album can be accused of closing off its own little indie corridor. While Sufjan's music isn't going to delight every listener, I don't think Sufjan's music intends to rope itself off. It's just the way his style of songwriting can be perceived after it becomes the talk of the town. They're just well-written collections of songs that's now being pandered to the average Amazon.com music customer after reaching such dizzying notoriety.
"A cold and calculated research project" is how Ryan at Goodhodgkins referred to Illinois (also drawn attention to in a recent Pitchfork review of The Avalanche.)
And well-researched, indeed--I actually envision Mr. Stevens hunched over a Mapsco (and I mean this in a non-facetious way), circling the names of towns that he deems fascinating enough to smatter across his sprawling song titles. Then, he looks them up on Wikipedia--or perhaps an actual hard-copy encyclopedia--depending mostly on if anybody is watching his efforts.
Cold and calculated as that may seem, I really don't find it a turnoff--and that's perhaps just where good old matter-of-opinion trumps reason. Hailing from the great state of Illinois myself, I spent a great deal of my childhood there, and simply the idea of a CD professedly "about" Illinois gives me warm fuzzies (some people call them "feelings.")
Yes, Sufjan names a song "Casimir Pulaski Day" to fit in with the whole Illinois concept, perhaps not caring a bit for Pulaski at all--but what I think of when I hear it? The first Monday of March each year--school cancelled, a denim and light pink spring jacket, refusing that dandelions were weeds, singing made-up medleys from the top of the wooden swing set ... never mind the whole "cancer of the bone" thing Sufjan's crooning about. I didn't know anything about cancer. I've got my own memories, and I've somehow infused them with Mr. Stevens's music swimmingly. I've fooled myself, or Sufjan fooled me.
Thankfully I don't have any fond memories of John Wayne Gacy Jr., as that was a bit before my time.
So technically, each song may in fact be completely unrelated to the youthful experiences and splendor of the state that I witnessed firsthand. But the music purportedly written "about" Illinois blends with my penchant for the state, to form this separate realm where my childhood can still be accessed simply by listening, or visiting. Sufjan didn't grow up in Illinois; he's a good faker. I take delight in transposing each of his baroque-drenched melodies to my own love for the state. I am of the mind that a great deal of art (including music) depends much on what the audience brings to the art--personal experiences, sufferings, desires, wishes--I suppose this is one case where I'm a relativist. And in this way, most music can be extremely isolated and compartmentalized, telescoped down to the way we perceive works of art through our own respective filters.
Self-aggrandizing as The Avalanche may be, I make no bones about paying $12 for Sufjan's table scraps. I'd probably be buggered off if the table scraps were of sub-par quality, which I find them on the whole to be rather good (though not quite Illinois quality, obviously.) Most of this defense might not exist were it not for the fact that I am fascinated by "Dear Mr. Supercomputer" Stevens and his deft mastery of artifice. I can certainly see how some may not be so easily convinced by him, though, and I certainly respect that.
All of Sufjan's precariousness, his pretentious fifty-state scheme, the way he probably sifts through books on each of the states to gather song titles is a pretty little contrivance to make art imitate life. And with my own personal biases considered and penchant for his style of folky harmony-rich pop, I can easily convince my life and past experiences to imitate his art.
I am back, wholly, completely, and relieved to be in one piece. The 13 hour drive to Chicago (and back again!) with several bodies and two dogs of varying size is daunting, but doable. It was nice to see family, despite the circumstances, and I was able to partake in some sinful deep dish stuffed pizza. Nothing can top Chicago-style pizza. NO THING.
For your listening pleasure, some fun upbeat guitar and synth-driven power pop crafted by The Channels. I will compare them to the Snow Patrol, Grandaddy, and The Velvet Teen. So, there.
"You make me so very happy" is the looping mantra of "Fluoxetine", whereas the lyrical content of "Frogs" is...
"I believe in God because I am really afraid of frogs Frogs have mean velocity, I don't want them raining down on me"
I can't help but imagine it as an obnoxiously obvious diegetic soundtrack to the final scenes of Magnolia. Har har.