SEVEN THINGS I HOPE MUSIC BLOGS WILL CHANGE


As of a few seconds ago...Hank and I started this blog seven years ago.  We've been good and bad. We've had very few readers and at times a lot of them (that one time Hank posted about Lady Gaga). The world of music blogging has changed over these seven years, but I still remember why I started WLFY in the first place.  I admired and wanted to be like the music blogs I read for years. My Old Kentucky Blog, Aquarium Drunkard, You Ain't No Picasso, I Guess I'm Floating, Pitchfork, and others...these were the "celebrities" I looked up to.  They shaped my life and appeared to be the gatekeepers of undiscovered sounds. I wanted to know how they did it and more importantly, I wanted to do it. A lot has changed and to celebrate seven years I wanted to list the SEVEN THINGS I HOPE MUSIC BLOGS WILL CHANGE.

1.) More emphasis on helping bands/artists.  Instead of generating as much content as possible to pad the old page views, I would love to see music blogs (specifically the ones that aren't businesses...hits are irrelevant my friends) rally around bands/artists and go beyond just posting to help out the talents you believe in.  

2.) Stop the fake news...it's making it hard to focus on what's important.  An example of fake news would be "Drake lint rolls his pants at Raptor's game".  Let the gossip and individual big celebrity fan sites cover this junk.  Once again, this is for non-business music blogs...the big ones need these TMZ-esq posts to stay functional.  For those interested in curating a music blog, do it to highlight the art and not the gossip.

3.) Bring back the Twitter love.  Everybody talks about the epic "twitter fights" back in the day...but right when twitter was kicking off, music bloggers used to actively engage with each other about their writing.  We're too lazy these days...a "favorite star" will do just fine as a pat on the back.  I know all of our twitter feeds fly by second to second these days, but I do miss the long back and forth conversations and actual praise we used to pass on when a fellow writer really went above and beyond with their craft.

4.) Reading blogs.  I'm saying "back in the day" a lot to refer to 2004-2008...but back in the day all the music bloggers used to read each others' writing.  This was important because as a writer doing this for free, I felt like I was connected to something bigger than my own small site.  The community seems fractured and disinterested.  Maybe we should all pack it in...but I'm going the other way and trying to read more and more music blogs like I used to.

5.) Be less dependent on lists.  *I know...I know.

6.) Time doesn't matter.  Music news and reviews are moving so fast these days that posting first doesn't matter anymore.  Once again, if you're doing this for monetary purposes then rush, rush, rush...but if you're not...take your time.  Really let the album or song sit with you in life for a while. You'll never compete with the bigger sites when it comes to churning out content at lightening fast speeds...so why try?  You can gain ground by making sure your content is smarter than the rushed posting of others.

7.) Can we have fun again?  I'm not sure why music blogging has entered this current "down in the mouth" state.  Even the high scoring album reviews these days spend excessive amounts of time condemning the rest of the music industry or the current state of music in general.  This is coming from one of biggest sore sports of music blogging back in the 2007-2008 days...but I'm getting old and tired of us forgetting why we all do this time consuming endeavor in the first place...WE LOVE MUSIC. That music writer you hate LOVES MUSIC.  That blog you think sold out LOVES MUSIC. Let's continue to debate and criticize (that's how we all get better), but let's remember that other half that seems to becoming neglected: have fun and show how fun music is with our passionate writing.  

*NOTE:  Hank and I are not claiming to have mastered these seven changes...in fact (I'll leave Hank out of this) I've probably shot off at the mouth and made more mistakes than any music blogger from 2007-2014.  

We have to believe we can get better and the day I don't...this blog is over.

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If you live near or in Louisville...come celebrate seven years of WLFY with us:

Cate Le Bon - "Duke" (Music Video)


As I rolled out of bed after a long Labor Day weekend covering WARMfest in Indy, a new music video from Welsh songstress Cate Le Bon appeared in my timeline. The video sticks largely to the well-worn script of spliced-together tour footage - the stuff bandmates do between being a band. However, there are some mind-blowing magic tricks from Le Bon's Dylanesque guitarist in the latter half of the video. If nothing else, the video for "Duke" is a welcome reminder of how fantastic an album Mug Museum remains nearly a year after its release.


Jeff Tweedy's First Solo Album


In the mild hullabaloo around Tweedy, Jeff Tweedy's first official solo project which co-starts his 18 year old son Spencer and which I first heard attached to Richard Linklater's phenomenal Boyhood, I couldn't help but find myself reminiscing about one of my guilty pleasure movies and another project which linked Ethan Hawke and Mr. Tweedy, the 2001 film Chelsea Walls directed by Ethan Hawke and featuring original music from Mr. Wilco himself.

Before going on, I should make this caveat. Chelsea Walls is probably not a great movie. But, to be honest it's cinematic significance isn't what's propelling this post, either. The film is based on a play of the same name by Nicole Burdette, who also wrote the screenplay, and features some 30 odd characters including a whose who of your turn of the millennium crowd like Uma Thurman, Rosario Dawson, Steve Zahn, Paz de la Huerta, Vincent D'Onofrio, Kris Kristopherson, Tuesday Weld, Natasha Richardson, and Robert Sean Leonard. The later plays an aspiring musician who's also the lens through which the film is view. Leonard and Zahn have just arrived from Minnesota to start up music careers in New York and take refuge at the Chelsea Hotel, the famed NYC landmark made famous for housing some of the city's greatest arists. It's perhaps fitting, then that the elder Tweedy provides the music as Zahn and Leonard perform a spellbinding cover of Wilco's "The Lonely 1" in a bathtub. 


These days it seems like the film, and soundtrack, are all but forgotten even though in many ways this was Jeff Tweedy's first solo album. Chelsea Walls came at the apex of a difficult time for Tweedy and Wilco. Though the band has, in recent years, emerged into something like the greatest living rock band in the US, 2001 was the make or break year that saw the band sever ties with it's old label over Yankee Hotel Foxtrot a slew of band changes and the eventual solidification of the lineup to make way for what the band has become today (see I am Trying to Break Your Heart). Accompanying this was a kind of restlessness both among the band leader, Tweedy, and the group itself as it seemed like no one seemed content to just be in Wilco, but thad to be in everything else as well. For instance, the whole band teamed with the Minus 5 in 2003's Down with Wilco and a shortened paring of the YHF and Ghost is Born team (Kotche, Tweedy, and Wilco/Sonic Youth collaborator Jim O'Rourke) dubbed themselves Loose Fur and released a self-titled record in 2003 as well. It was an era of musical experimentation, to put it mildly, and for Tweedy the most experimental was probably his soundtrack for Hawke's Chelsea Walls

The album itself features 6 tracks form Tweedy backed, usually, by Wilco/Loose Fur member Glen Kotche. The other 5 tracks feature 2 from Wilco. "Promising," a vintage Being There sounding recording (of the "Someone Else's Song" variety) and "When the Roses Bloom Again" from the band's Mermaid Ave sessions with Billy Bragg. Other standouts are Leonard and Zahn's Wilco cover and Jimmy Scott's incendiary rendition of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy," which you can also catch in the film.

Still, it's Tweedy's music that dominates the soundtrack as it does the film acting as almost an absent character whose presence pervades like the haunted quality of Chelsea Hotel itself. Tweedy's composing here relies heavily on tricks that he seems to be picking up from Jim O'Rourke. "Red Elevator" sounds like it's main riff could have crawled out of the Sonic Youth's Sonic Nurse sessions which O'Rourke was a part of. The fuzzy melange of sounds on "Red Elevator" gets repeated over and over in Tweedy's score which moves as easily from an acoustic moment with piano as it does with overlapping squeals. For fans of the band's work on Ghost is Born, you can feel the building blocks in Tweedy's work on this score as he seems to throw a ton of sounds in and see which one sticks. Sometimes, as on "Frank's Dream" the result is an akimbo jazzy recording with Kotche's drums seemingly the only thing holding the track together. Others, as on "Finale," a single riff seems to turn the universe around it drawing in new sounds and expanding other lines. 

Pitchfork, in their trademarked snark, advised listeners that in the future only Wilco completeists would be interested in Tweedy's first recording under his own name and even then, they might regret what they had just gotten themselves into. 12 years after its release, I can't help but think that this record has been unjustly judged back then and remains unjustly out of the picture right now. First of all, there's the importance in terms of Wilco's transformation. But, beyond that, the soundtrack to Chelsea Walls is a thoroughly decent instrumental record with a couple great b-sides that you can't find anywhere else and two fantastic covers (Scott's and Leonard/Zahn's). It's probably fitting to end this post with the covers, as the version that Leonard and Zahn perform of Tweedy's music is one of the most revelatory moments of the film and the soundtrack. And as much as this is Leonard and Zahn's awkward portrayal of aspiring musicians (esp. Leonard's scene in the phonebook toward the end of the film) it's also based on the sheer strength of Tweedy's songwriting, which is somehow continually overlooked. This film made "The Lonely 1" into one of my favorite songs of all time and for me, at least for that, it's difficult to continually forget about Chelsea Walls.

Zach's Ten Favorite Tracks Of The Decade (So Far)



Q: Why make a half decade list this early?  Is it because everyone else is doing it?

A: It looks like fun and I love these tracks.

Here we go...

10
LAMBCHOP
"Gone Tomorrow"


A wheel turning guitar riff thumping away to Kurt Wagner's perfectly sharpened lyrics.  Hope, distain, and introspection smash together to compose this seven minute epic that finds itself slipping away to instrumental orchestral movements mid-song to end.  "Gone Tomorrow" also gives me one of my favorite lyrics of the decade: "The wine tasted like sunshine...in the basement".   


9
THE ANTLERS
"Parade"

The only track from 2014 on this list because great tracks need time to make a decade list. This is a testament to "Parade" which is an instant classic and will probably be higher in a few years as the brilliance of this track develops in my mind.  It's smooth and like the entire "Familiers" album, truthfully optimistic.  Nothing is smiles and cheers, rather, the music and lyrics are powerful in making the listener accept the beauty behind the inevitable despair, tragedy, and struggles with life.


8
MOUNTAIN GOATS
"High Hawk Season"

Listening to The Mountain Goats is like entering a different world. All the places have the same names and you recognize some of the people, but somehow everything is different. And you like it, but you may not be sure why. It takes a while for the thought to bubble up. You follow the interstates and escape routes, the foibles and festers, the birth of evil and the fall from grace like a winding path somehow near your own but distant. You stare into the face of your own evil twin only to realize that he's you and you're him. - HANK on All Eternals Deck


7
SHABAZZ PALACES
"swerve... the reeping of all that is worthwhile (Noir not withstanding)"

An all out assault on the current state of rap music, "Swerve" makes the proclamation: "If you talking about it...it's for show / if you move about it...it's a go." Heed Shabazz's advice Kanye, Tyler, and all other egotistical rappers: filling your entire record with self-imposed titles and compliments a great rap album does not make...letting the album speak for itself does. And it did for Shabazz Palaces.


6
GLEN CAMPBELL
"Ghost On A Canvas"
Glen Campbell turned to Paul Westerberg (yeah, The Replacements) to craft a nearly impossible song. The song tackles art and its relationship with immortality, what we leave behind, and the unknown next step. The power of this track and the whole album is that Campbell and his songwriters remain optimistic, much more concerned with showing off the beauty of life rather then dwelling in the future of Campbell's disease. It will be easy for a lot of indie music fans to shrug off this song and album, but if you enter this album with an open mind and care less about what is buzzing, you will find what Hank and I both strongly agree on: Ghost On The Canvas is one of most important albums from 2011.


5
JOANNA NEWSOM
"'81"
Pick any song on Have One On Me and place it in this spot.  More about this record tomorrow when I do the top ten albums of the decade (so far).  

4
ANGEL OLSEN
"Creator / Destroyer"
Like all great folk music, Olsen's voice is the focus as her electrifying crooning wraps around the spine of her softly strummed acoustic guitar. What's impressive is how Olsen is just as moving in her moments of whispering as she is when all out singing. Olsen has a deep understanding of who she is as a singer, songwriter, and artists. Her music, while drenched with emoting, is steady and cleared headed with a distinct vision.


3
LEONARD COHEN
"The Darkness"

Musically speaking, there are three Leonard Cohens. There is the 1967-1974 folk Cohen, the 1977-1992 jazz, synth, band Cohen, and the "he's a legend and he's doing his victory laps" 2000s Cohen. I'm in the minority being just as obsessed with the second Cohen albums like I'm Your Man and The Future as I am with the first Cohen releases like Songs From Leonard Cohen and Songs From a Room. The real problem for me was the third Cohen. Since 1992, maybe with the exception of "In My Secret Life," Cohen hadn't written a single song that felt like the artist I considered my #1 of all time since The Future

Then comes Old Ideas, and one of the best Cohen tracks ever written in "The Darkness." The first thirty seconds of this song are what separate casual and obsessed fans of Cohen's work. The first time I heard "The Darkness," my eyes started watering and a huge smile grew on my face. Cohen's playful wink in the opening is blending the two Cohens I mentioned before in the opening of the song. He starts with that iconic rolling plucked guitar (see "The Stranger Song") and then incorporates lower guitar plucks that simulate the bass heavy world of the second Cohen. It's a wonderful nod and just as nostalgia creeps in, the song stutters and launches into a brand new, fourth Cohen. He's embracing his age, and yet the "man with the golden voice" can still capture every ear that will lend him a listen.


2
VAN DYKE PARKS
"Wall Street"
Originally written in 2003 and made available for download for a short period, "Wall Street" was Park's examination of greed and brief moments from 9/11. In 2011, Parks re-tinkered with the song, adding lush orchestration and giving the entire song a musical show-tune feeling with Parks' lounge act vocal styling. This song is the ultimate juxtaposition as a casual listener can hear the beautiful arrangements if they want to, or if they dig in they discover the root of the song: greed, anger, the most violent moments from 9/11, and Parks' famous word play that made him one of the great songwriters of our time. 

The song slowly dissolves into the most heartbreaking moment of 2011 when Parks recounts a real life moment from 9/11 where a couple fall from a building, clutching each other until their death. Parks examines this moment with a poetic touch that marries itself to the music playing behind his vocals in such a way that my own notions of what is possible in music has changed. It will be easy for many to scoff at this choice because the melody is so sugary grandiose and Parks' approach as a singer isn't fashioned off the mainstream idea of a lead singer, but Parks achieves the highest levels of storytelling, composition, and thematic exploration in one song than many bands or artists can in their whole career.


1
SHARON VAN ETTEN
"DsharpG"
So much, so simply.  
This is not a song, it's life presented through sound and my favorite of the decade...so far.

Tracks To Make You Happy


It's been a terrible few weeks for the world and while music (art) can't change the state of current events, great music always makes me feel more connected with the world and will always be my greatest therapist. This is easily the best week in music in recent memory because...

LEONARD COHEN IS BACK...




DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979 IS BACK...



DEERHOOF IS BACK...


RUN THE JEWELS IS BACK...


AND...THE UNICORNS RELEASED A LOST TRACK...




WHAT A WEEK.  
For music.

REVIEW: Alex & Daniel - "Alex & Daniel"


Alex & Daniel - Alex & Daniel
Record Label - Nacional Records
Release Date - August 12, 2014

If you haven't heard of Alex & Daniel before, don't fret. You probably don't live in Chile. Alex Anwandter and Gepe (née Daniel Riveros) are two of the figureheads of a verdant Chilean pop scene (see my review of Dënver from last year). And their collaboration as Alex & Daniel is the Chilean equivalent of Divine Fits--a bonafide supergroup--bringing together two of the most adventurous Spanish-language musicians for a superb pop record accessible in any language.

Alex & Daniel actually hit stores (in Chile at least) last year, but it's been brought into this hemisphere by LA-based Nacional Records. For those of you unfamiliar with the Chilean pop sound, think heavy synths constructed around tight song structures with a strong melodic sensibility. "Baby," released as a single for the album, shows what Alex & Daniel are about in spades. With an electronic downbeat the tune uses breathy sounds and a crooning vocal line before launching into a heavenly chorus. It's a song that has one eye on the past as much as it does on the future. Alluding to the great tropicalia tune "Baby" recorded most famously by Os Mutantes as well as Gal Costa and Caetano Veloso, Alex & Daniel's spin is straight 80s gooey goodness which will make you pump the bass and the treble in your speakers. 

"

"Mundo Real" ("Real World") and second song, appropriately titled "Segunda" or "Second" are a mini-medley that kicks off the record and shows how Alex & Daniel differ from their other acts and forge a unified voice. While on their own, Antwandter and Gepe are complex and intriguing artists,  unified as Alex & Daniel, the musicians rely more on the structure of the songs, cutting back a bit on experimentation to focus on structure. Nowhere is this seen better than in the transition from "Mundo Reals" buoyant instrumentation than to the more subdued groove of "Segunda." Both tracks, like just about every minute on the record is hook-rich and catchy. While Alex & Daniel will garner comparisons to acts like Phoenix, on these first two songs, the duo shows more in common with El Guincho's Pop Negro--joyfully constructing songs based on most loved pop of their youth. 

Alex & Daniel is one of those perfect saliences of a pop album. Eight songs long and clocking in at under 35 min, the record seems to spin by before you've had a chance to put your hands around it. The gentle downer of "Mejor que yo," chamber pop of "Cada vez que invento algo sobre ti," and Air-inspired quality of "Japon." For all the different influences that this album seems to pick up, it never sounds out of sorts because the sounds are so lovingly culled by Antwandter and Gepe. Perhaps the best example, and best track, on the record is "Miña" a pulsing declaration of love whose earnestness is only enhanced by the synth-heavy composition as they sing -- "Puedo morir así, no sabiendo nada más / Quiero morir así, me llevó a ti" ("I could die here, knowing nothing more / I want to die like this, lead me to you"). "Miña" is one of those delightfully transcendent songs that never seems to get old with repeated listens. Like much of the rest of the album, it's exquisitely crafted, lyrically stunning, and musically intoxicating. 

Groups and records like this are more fodder for pushing forward a wider definition of and wider musical tastes for independent music in the United States. We have a problem here -- we're too white and, largely, too male -- and the more that we continue on and refuse to open up to musical forms and countries, the more intractable our position becomes. In a piece on Girls last month, I made a similar claim wondering where "world" music was, and in an insightful comment, an Anonymous reader wrote that most world music isn't in song structures that we're used to, thus we don't tend to get it. I can understand the language barrier being an issue with Alex & Daniel; however, as a non-Spanish speaker the difference of the language doesn't pose any issue for me here. Point of fact, this record is probably more accessible and more our format than some US bands that Alex & Daniel might compare to, like Bear in Heaven. Opening your range of music is only going to enrich it and trust me when I say this, Alex and Daniel are a great place to start.