Re-Joyce for Diversity

Inspiration can come from just about anywhere, and in the case of Brit producer James Nichols, that “anywhere” happened to be a bookstore. Chamber Music is a collection of poems by Irish poet James Joyce, inspiring to the point of a media-crossing piece of work in Nichols’ eyes. He has put all 36 verses of Joyce’s work to music, in one handy-dandy compilation!

The album bears the same name as the book, and, naturally, there are a matching number of artists to “cover” those 36 verses, including Mercury Rev, Mike Watt, Virgin Passages, Flying Saucer Attack, and Sweet Trip, to name a few. The knockout punch comes from Peter Buck of R.E.M. and Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth, who add their expertise to the album, which definitely delivers in that vintage, 1907 Irish kind of way. Just ask Wired or NPR what they think about it, they’ll tell you.

Following in Joyce’s own wishes–he actually believed his poems were better suited for music–Nichols grants a gift that no other has attempted in full. Listen for a fusion of modern music and “songwriter” (never expected that title, did he?) Joyce’s lyrics and feel the steam it produces! Electronica versus folk versus pop/rock and whatever else you can imagine allows for a diversion from the norm that only a collision of literature and music can produce.

MP3: Virgin Passages – vi

Go! Get! Verbs!

Portland’s experimental avant-folk collective Au (pronounced ay-yoo) released Verbs this week, the declarative follow-up to their debut self-titled album which came out last year. The band is the brainchild of Luke Wyland, a multi-instrumentalist who released his own solo album PeaoftheSea under the simple moniker luc in 2005, and has since been expanding his musical landscapes with the addition of a full band and numerous guest artists.

Verbs features vocal appearances by Sarah Winchester (A Weather) and Becky Dawson (Ah Holly Fam’ly, Saw Whet), and over twenty more Northwestern musicians drop in to lend a hand, including members of Paranthetical Girls and Yellow Swans. The album was tracked at Portland’s Type Foundry Studios over three days, and Wyland did further recording at his home attic studio over the next two months. Brooklyn’s own Aagoo Records is releasing it.


“Sorry, I Thought I Was Gonna Puke…”

In the intimate surroundings of the Old Queen’s Head pub in London, UK, Brendan Campbell announced to the crowd with his soft Glaswegian tones that he wasn’t feeling too great. Seconds earlier, he’d stopped singing a few seconds into his fourth song of the evening, “Venice”.

Watching a musician concentrate on stage is far from a new phenomenon. However, seeing someone focused on forcing back the contents of their stomach back down their throat can be classed as pretty damn rock ‘n’ roll.

Stomach ulcers aside, Brendan battled on through the pain barrier and still achieved the stunning vocal harmonies that he is becoming much feted for. His lyrical talent leads to inevitable yet enviable comparisons with the likes of Bob Dylan and Elliott Smith.

The lyrics of his dreamy first single, Burgers and Murders, highlight not just his ability but also his sense of humour – ‘Speak to the pigeons/maybe they speak Turkish too’. His guitar strumming also mirrors his vocal ability – it’s of exceptional quality with an impressive pace.

Fittingly, Campbell closes his set with “Mr. Robinson” – the final song on his recent debut release, the Twilight Bird EP, which is available now from digital retailers. It’s a beautiful record that uses the lack of post-production as an asset rather than a flaw.

Many singer/songwriters before him have attempted to create a marriage of convincing lyrics and catchy harmonies, yet Campbell appears to be well on his way to mastering the art – he just might need some painkillers.

MP3: Brendan Campbell – Burgers and Murders

It’s Hard To Ignore Pas/Cal

With a new album waiting in the wings, Detroit indie-pop princes and princesses Pas/Cal have unveiled yet another track from I Was Raised On Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Laura. “Glorious Ballad Of The Ignored” serves as a friendly reminder of the July 22nd release on Le Grande Magistery!

The folks at Stereogum had the chance to catch up with frontman Casimer Pascal about the newly released track. Responding to questions about being a nerd and the tune’s fantastic fake-out intro, Caz grants us a peek into his introspective style. Check out exactly what he had to say here, and while you’re at it, don’t be afraid to listen to the new track below.

MP3: Pas/Cal – Glorious Ballad Of The Ignored

The Minor Key: Kid Rock, Hip-High Hip Hop, And Underage Awesomeness

When I was 9, I took some pretty miserable piano lessons. They didn’t last long, partly because I couldn’t pay attention to anything for a full hour back then (let alone “Mary Had a Little Lamb”), and partly because I was scared shitless of my teacher. She was 70 years old, smelled like tartar sauce, and I swear the skin on her hands was almost clear. Like, spooky vein sushi. Bear in mind, though, this is a 15-year-old memory of Mrs. I Can Tell You Didn’t Practice Like I Told You To, so I can’t vouch completely for the accuracy. But I’d prefer to blame my early-exit on her spindly fingers, rather than, say, me wanting to play Duck Hunt every Tuesday and Thursday after school. Either way, I didn’t stick with it, didn’t pick much up, and, to this day, can only play “Chopsticks” and the Adams Family theme song on the keys. For shame. But when I fire up the Tube and see things like this, I realize it’s no big deal. I was already way past my prime. Washed up at 9. A never-was. A total loser.

Meanwhile, at 3 Years Old, Romanian pop sensation Cleopatra Stratan is the youngest tot to ever chart. Anywhere. In the world. Stratan’s dad is a musician, whose fingers probably don’t look like spooky vein sushi, and don’t scare her away from lessons. So her debut album, La Varsta De 3 Ani (At The Age Of Three), a surprisingly mature collection of auto-tune-adoring kiddie pop, birthed an international smash in the form of “Ghita,” a track about — I think — Stratan’s confusing ex boyfriend [reminder: she’s 3 Years Old]. The charm of the song is captured best by its video, which features an adorable Stratan lugging around a massive Suitcase For Grown Ups through city streets, and waiting on a train that never seems to come. You remember Jordy, the French baby who sang “Dur dur d’être bébé” (“It’s Tough to Be a Baby”)? Yeah, he was 4 and a half when that song broke. Geeeeeeezer!

Then there’s the middle schooler resting under the wing of B’more club maestro DJ Rod Lee. The 14-year-old DJ Lil Jay follows in an illustrius Lil queue of underage whipersnappers — Romeo, Bow Wow, et. al. But Jay is a different monster all together, eschewing the pregnant ego of mainstream hip hop for grooves dusted in Charm City dirt. About his album Operation Playtime, Seattle Weekly rightly rattles: “jackhammer beats, Eamon homages, dusty breaks, block politics, and synth-horn stabs played in the key of dance your ass off.” Saucy language to describe a kid’s record. But, uh, not one with a song called “F*** That,” right?

And what about every indie rocker’s favorite set of sororal 90’s babies? Smoosh — known to Mom and Dad as Asya and Chloe — have been writing keyboard and drum-led pop music since they were 6 and 8, respectively. Here’s the skinny: the fam was in line at a music shop, waiting to re-string a violin, when the girls wandered into the drum section and made friends with Death Cab For Cutie‘s kitman Jason McGerr. He offered to help out, and they did what any self-respecting 6/8 year olds would do. “Uh, sorry mister, death what for who?” But they stuck with McGerr and, as a result, have churned out some quality stuff — namely 2006’s Free to Stay — over the past 8 years. Nowadays, they’re practically dinosaurs — one of them can drive(!). A car(!). But, man, when they were in their prime…

So, the moral of the story? Strike while the iron is hot, people. You’ve got — max — eight years to make an impact. So get your kids in lessons. Ignore them if they complain about the tartar sauce smell. It’s for their own good.