I've seen bigger moons. Montevideo, Uruguay, January 2004.

But for Lil' Vegas, Columbus, OH -- this will do on a Saturday night. Gravitational Pull.

Beyond the Emerald Necklace

Slowly but surely the cloak of invisibility is being lifted from the truth at the heart of Emeralds. This wonderful short feature from Vice/VBS.tv tracks the bands from their inner synth-pimped lairs out to the inspirational valley which inspired the trio's name. It's a "heavy zone," indeed. Great to see Emerald's Teutonic ascension as something humbling to the band rather than an excuse to start purporting ego and lay claim to their deserved domination of new psychedelia. Instead they still sound hungry, reaching beyond through advanced compositions and less unhinged jam -- though in the live show it's "different every time." Emeralds probably wouldn't be as special were they a band who were never (somewhat) anonymous -- or always touring two-bits for mercy applause and free beer -- instead they still experiment endlessly, headphones intact, and prefer the festivals of Europe where they might actually learn something. That said, an expansive, multi-media, headlining tour is now in order.


Married Life Quarterly - The "Music" Edition

Married Life isn't as much one of the Midwest's most informative underground 'zines, as it is more a diary of Mark Van Fleet's (and his wife Jen's) frequent home improvements. At least that's how each issue starts. Maybe with some jokes, some illustrations, then it move onto the meat. Regular column's like Van Fleet's reviews after a visit to the Columbus Public Library's vast CD collection, or bands commenting on every member who has retired from said band (the Psychedelic Horsehit issue is a keeper) or commenting on said band's entire discography.

It's probably apt to mention that Mark twilights in Sword Heaven and Providien (among other musical endeavors). I highly recommend picking up a copy of Followed By a Wraith.

But back to Married Life -- it only gets better - this quarter's issue includes a recording direct from a tape Van Fleet found in a Washington Beach dumstper. It's been lovingly named Washington Beach Blues by those who have heard it. Compltely anonymous and brimming with the type of music you might consider from Jim Shepard's neighbors (two doors down/underground) -- it's a rarefied release you can only get with the actual 'zine. You can read all of the content here. but to get the physical disc, you'll probably have to beg to the address below:

Married Life Quarterly
607 Midgard Rd. Columbus, Ohio 43202.

The Rise and Fall of Lykke Li....?

Two years ago at SXSW, seeing Lykke Li plow the indie buzz circuit three times in three days, I was mesmerized. Not only by the diva-cum-wildly eccentric talent she displayed in those numerous, light of day (hangover), time-slots, but by the backline of equally talented Swedes who gave her support. For some reason, it doesn't appear they are anywhere on Wounded Rhymes, as there's no spontaneity in this recording. Maybe I'm being too harsh, because there are some moments I would revel in currently, were I to see her live. I'm sure. But, I suppose I wanted something more. Something that could rival Bjork's Post. Oh well. Here's my review, and I'm sticking to it.

Rlly Tho. Hipster Runoff sums it up best.

Is C.S. Yeh at SXSW? He Should Be...

C.S. Yeh, or C. Spencer Yeh, or Burning Star Core, or however you know him has never been heard like this. His latest 7” for De Stijl, modestly stamped with his mug in 3-D colors, and unassumingly released with the shortened moniker, contains two of the more enlightening pop songs you’ll hear all year. Rumor has it Yeh is much more a fan of radio gaga than he is the avant-garde, though it’s capable to love both with equal affinity – so this single makes complete sense. “In the Blink of an Eye” begins as a brittle, tempered take on Television (were they Verlaine’s secret demos) but soon begins to roll into a character that more resembles Bowie post-punk-(Tin Machine)-glam swagger (were he to actually make intriguing electronic music in the ‘90s). Yeh shows his sonic prowess here, putting most bedroom dancefloor “visionaries” to shame in one song. Bradford Cox beware. This isn’t Spector-Vision, yet “In the Blink of an Eye” contains all of the evolving elements of a Top 40 hit stranded in time.

Deeper, and much more telling is “Condo Stress,” Yeh’s downer dinner ballad. The grand piano loneliness immediately conjures Leon Russell or Randy Newman – though Yeh might be going for Lou Reed alone with his thoughts. Keep in mind, this is if Scott Walker decided to loan his shadow. Yet there is chintz to the way it plays on the turntable. It’s an instant standard. Something that could flip at a Waffle House or a Supper Club through infinity. Do you get where I’m getting at. Yeh’s brief and glorious mocking of his own secret fantasies to be a pop songwriter equate to one of the best singles I’ve heard in this young decade. I’m a Burning Star Core-nerd like anyone else, but let’s cheer that Yeh gives us an album of his fever dreams.

Go Buy One.


March Madness

Already. Basketball Tourney Overload. Evil Digger. #gobucks #teachmehowtosully Out of Memory.

Times New Viking - On the Road Again

Leave it to the kids to give another beautifully composed "film" to promote Dancer Equired's April release. It's nice in showing Times New Viking as hometown children, still nostalgic while pushing the envelope with their songcraft and artistic representation. The highlights include a trip to K's Hamburgers in the Square of Troy, a visit to Mr. Phillip's parents in New Lebanon (home of the Haunted Caves), and a final tipple in Musicol's Studio A. Well worth your viewing. Plus, new songs -- a batch the kids are already beyond. They've been reported recording even more songs for an Autumn release of some sort. Video comes courtesy of NPR's All Songs Considered, with a simple description and notes from the band.

Make sure to check them out if you're in Austin -- or gearing up to see Wild Flag (who they're supporting the next two weeks).

The Lazy Music Group

Little did I know, prior to researching the history of Cincinnati's long-lost Lazy, Steve Schmoll conceived his trio out of the ashes to Pink Lady a (Dayton?) band that included Braniac mastermind Tim Taylor (are there recordings of this?). It all makes sense now. I knew that Lazy bore resemblance to Brainiac -- I saw the band numerous times throughout my salad days -- and were borne in the wave that spread from the Miami Valley down to the Ohio River -- but I never knew there was direct lineage. Listening to The Lazy Music Group (I'm in need of their debut, Some Assembly Required) the band was more than just a branch of Brainiac or a heftier Miss May '66 (from which bassist Kari Murphy was plucked), Scmoll carved very unkempt pop songs out of a Sonic Youth/Pixies/Beat Happening axis, re-imagined as a Midwestern punk trio buzzing in girl/guy dynamics. Thanks to the Afghan Whigs ubiquity among Alternative Nation, Cincinnati had a reputable slew of bands showcased beyond Ohio's borders -- Ass Ponys, Throneberry, the Tigerlillies, and the Wolverton Bros. all were making great records at the time. Lazy made two albums for Roadrunner Records (the same label which now brings you Slipknot and Rob Zombie), but in clicking that link you'd never know the band ever existed on the label (even though they were initially signed up to do many records). Surely, in retrospect, it's probably reasonable to believe that dealings with Roadrunner were a bane on the band, and led to their eventual disappearance in the late '90s. Schmoll could probably tell a yarn about the horrors of major labels and how they devoured "alternative" groups from the Heartland only to abandon them 24 months later. I'd love to hear it.

I would care less if Lazy's brief spark was as flippant and unformed as I remember. In re-hearing those early singles and their sophomore record, the Lazy Music Group, I realized I hadn't heard enough. And even if Lazy were likely more tied to Dayton and Columbus than I remember, I always placed them on the perimeter of what I was loving as a teenager. Despite the album's cringe-worthy cover (emblematic of the cutesy "let your friends design your album cover" indie rock aesthetics of the time) the Lazy Music Group is a consistently engaging record during an age when, as Ron House is known to quote, "most of these bands should only be putting out singles." Much like the songwriting style of his peers (namely Tim Taylor and John Schmersal) Shmoll used more punk than art, more pop than dissonant crackle, a somewhat laconic slacker vibe wrapped in occasional barbed wire or grrlie attitude. At times, as on "Cut It," Lazy could be mistaken for Brainiac, were they demoing skeletons stripped of synth and Moog. Then again "What I Need" is Lazy's Cars-esque new-wave answer to Brainiac's "Radio Apeshot." What distinguishes Schmoll from the pack is a song like "Cheery Smash" -- a tender moment on the record, indolent and breathy, reminiscent of the best dream-pop of the era, but still warped in the middle when Scmoll's guitar shards blast through the haze. Murphy and drummer, Megan Haas, work in tandem with Schmoll, leading the Royal Trux funk of "Cinderella" and the spunky Runaways/Breeders "last dance" track.

Though they provided a variety, the trio was usually tethered at the ankles, finishing each other's phrases, living in their own little punk world. This gave the music an ambiguity in both the lyrics and the sonics which found them focused more on the energy and catharsis that came with their songs. Angsty and brittle? Sure. But Lazy was a colorful diversion, or simple accompaniment, to the massively disparate, yet wholly united, triangle of hope between Dayton, Columbus, and the river-rat dregs of Cincinnati.

If you can point me in the direction of other Lazy records -- whether digital or physical -- I'm interested.


Unfortunately more gratifying than the Akron/Family. #nationaltreasure


K-Holes -- Gearing for that Particular Moment...

Admittedly used to be a "surf" rock cover band - since that genre has gone to pasture, yet another time -- and now they are reverb heaven, earnestly primal, shaman-punk. I would love to glean more on the


W.O.W. Top Film of 2010

Given the flood of awful movies rushing into theaters during January and February, the 2010 Fim season doesn't really end until all of the Awards (not matter how punishing they may be -- for proof read our live blog of the Oscars) are handed out. In most cases those films clogging your multiplex today were slated for release in 2010, so I don't consider them contenders in the next phase of trophies and glamour and serious discourse. I feel it's cheating to compile a Top Ten list without seeing all the best picture nominees (check), the insightful array of documentaries (check), or those limited release sleepers (check, I think -- inspire me), before forming an informed opinion. After two months of tundra-esque winter, I can honestly say I'm caught up. Almost a week post Oscars no doubt. And with that, here is my belated (depending who you ask) list of the Top Ten Films of 2010. If you're unfamiliar with any of these, I highly suggest a rental (or at least go watch the trailer):

10. Piranha 3-D

I don't think I've ever had this much fun in the theater, and for that Piranha 3-D gets a spot. The schlock is never-ending once Richard Dreyfuss is sucked into a whirlpool of his own blood. There wasn't even a need for the three dimensions, but it added a certain cheapness to this carnival of exploitation.

9. How to Train Your Dragon

There's been lots of talk about Toy Story 3, and while I cried waterworks during that film, it didn't have the same sense of adventure and nostalgic mood provided by the character of Toothless. Vikings with Scottish accents, imaginative design and storytelling that never reduced to scatological humor (the dragons don't talk), and the 3-D is probably the best I've ever experienced. Here it's worth shelling out the extra money for the thrill. Comparisons to E.T. are apt, as this was extremely well-done among a year when the animated film gained even more cache.

8. The Fighter

Couple this with the also excellent The Town and Boston on celluloid becomes a caricature. But O'Russell and his amazing ensemble cast (the sisters make it) know how to underlie the Rocky ascension of the story with a thin layer of comedy -- from beginning to end. It does follow a lot of conventions familiar to these types of films, but knows full and well when it's following those conventions. If you've seen this, go beyond and YouTube as much of the "real" story as you can (the real fights, Dickey's harrowing crack documentary) and you'll soon understand, not only how accurate O'Russell is in portraying this family, but how intriguing it was for him to adapt to the screen.

7. Carlos, the Jackal

Probably the fastest 5 1/2 hours I've ever spent with a movie. Where Steven Soderberg made a beautiful mess out of his two-part Che epic last year, Olivier Assayas knows that in order to dissect these tragic, bigger-than-life, anti-heroes, you need to show the audience as much of the tall-tale as you can. Carlos is implicit in letting us know a lot of what happened was never confirmed, but regardless, Assayas takes us step by step through the Jackal's life -- never really allowing us to take a side either way until the third act when Carlos becomes a bloated, paranoid, version of the svelte, revolutionary we cheer for at the start.

6. Exit Through the Gift Shop

There are certain parts of me that wanted to include I'm Not Here - Joaquin Phoenix's faux-descent into career limbo -- but it was flawed, noticeably fake, and indulgent. Banksy's documented field-tape on his own discovery, and rise, and perpetually ingenious concealment, not only deserved best documentary this year, it deserved a nod for best picture in my opinion.

5. Winter's Bone

There's always a wonderfully beautiful and poignant aura around movies that capture life in our depressed heartland, even when the subject matter is downright grim. Winter's Bone never succumbs to exploitation of its characters -- there's no exaggerative performance from either of the leads, just a natural drift -- and it never caters to the audience as something hopeful. There are only glimpses of hope in Jennifer Laurence's lead. Neither too poetic nor voyeuristic, the movie strikes the exact nerve between the auteur and the harsh reality faced by the inhabitants of this microcosm of (rough) American lives.

4. Blue Valentine

Epic bummer -- exhibit 2. The title, Blue Valentine, should be taken literally. This is equal views of pure love constructed on a whim and what happens when that love comes crashing down, brick by brutal brick. You want to root for both Gosling and Williams, even though you know within minutes they survive in the definition of dysfunction. The "doomed marriage" motif has been used a million times over (and mostly equipped with some kind of happy ending, just watch the barely recognized Rabbit Hole from this year) but here it seems authentic, every ugly detail in place. This is not a date movie.

3. The Social Network

Yeah Yeah Yeah. It should'a won Best Picture. It should'a won Best Director. Regardless, all of the accolades and generational hyperbole thrown the way of The Social Network, won't stop it from being one of those perfect films you'll watch any time of day, no matter where you come into it, if only films like this were still rerun, edited, and played ad nausea on lazy Sunday basic cable. Regardless of your age, race, gender, or generally disposition as to whether or not Facebook is a "revolution" in human communication, the journey of Mark Zuckerberg is one filled with all the drama of a Shakespearian tragedy. Not a syllable of dialog is wasted, not an edit without purpose, each scene building to our current present. A present that I think will remain for an awful long while -- no matter the speed of technology. It may not be the Citizen Kane of the '00s, but it certainly is the zeitgeist and in the timeline of film history, there will be a marker forever noting this.

2. Black Swan

More proof that it was an amazing year for film (I could probably rattle off ten more films that narrowly missed this list). Black Swan, sans the Oscar for Natalie Portman, would have likely swept any lesser year. I'm beginning to think that Darren Aronofsky speaks a cinematic language that is much too profound and complex for Middle America. They'd much rather see Portman having casual sex with Ashton Kutcher, than Portman struggling through a harrowing psychosis usually reserved for a De Palma or Cronenberg flick. I saw glimpses of both Carrie and Dead Ringers throughout Black Swan. Yet, even as a double of the Black Swan's arc, Aronofsky's Black Swan breaks ground and melts faces using a considerably bourgeois and misunderstood art-form -- ballet -- as his template. Take into consideration that the Black Swan, despite the massive attention to detail and pomp Aronofsky put towards its creation, was a appetizer leading up to his epic undertaking trying to top The Dark Knight.

1. Dogtooth

Dogtooth is another film emblematic of the mass quality of 2010. With Dogtooth I'm not trying to be coy or elitist in my overall number one pick. It's truly that mesmerizing. It's that good. It has everything -- it will shock you, confuse you, make you cringe, make you laugh, and make you actually re-question those existential questions you've held onto since childhood. Giorgos Lanthimos' awkward suburban parable about a Greek couple who have sheltered their three teenage children from the outside world since birth is something I can legitimately recommend without any disclaimer. Yes, I previously lauded Dogtooth as "Herzog and Haneke bickering at the bottom of a cup of Fage yogurt," but please don't let that scare you off. At some point in your development as a youth, you experienced a moment from Dogtooth. I also said "absurd, but very believable," so there's that. There are plenty of absurd scenes (the children's vocabulary lessons spring to mind) and plenty too far out to mention in polite company, and still you are wrapped in the very real family drama being unwrapped here. Though completely foreign (both literally and metaphorically) to its Hollywood counterparts this year (and even among the Best Foreign Film nominees, except maybe Incendies) it stands alone. You will likely see an American remake and countless imitators looking for the right amount of kooky artistic elegance, but Dogtooth stands alone.