Archive for the ‘Dromedary Records’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: cuppa joe-“Better in Your Head” (2012).

After an eternity (okay, 18 years), Cuppa Joe is back with another release on Dromedary Records.  Things have changed over the years in cuppa joe’s world.  Their previous release, nurture was a delightful twee pop confection.  This track (you can see the video here) adds an unexpected depth to their catalog.

The first change comes from the minor chord guitar strums; the second comes from the bass, which is following its own cool riff–although it melds nicely with the verse, it’s unexpected from cuppa joe.  The pace of the song is much slower than the frantic songs on nurture.  Even the vocals, while noticably cuppa joe, seem less so–call it a more mature version of the vocals. Indeed, the whole sounds seems to have relinquished their more childlike qualities  and embraced a more mature outlook.

This could be a death knell for a band, but not in this case.  All of their songwriting sensibilities remain intact.  Indeed, they have added a wonderful new component: terrific harmonies in the chorus (which may have been there before, but which really stand out here).

It would almost seem like an entirely new band (18 years will do that to you).  But rather than a new band it’s like an old band coming out of a coocoon like a butterfly.  (That’s too treacly, sorry guys–maybe we’ll just stick with them being older and wiser.  Welcome back guys.

The new cuppa joe album Tunnel Trees is available here.

[READ: September 8, 2010] “The Science of Flight”

I read this story in September of 2010.  I liked it but I wasn’t that impressed by it.  Well, it turns out I either skipped or missed an important section of the story.  So I’m trying again.  here’s the start of my original post

Yiyun Li’s is one of the 20 Under 40 from the New Yorker.  This story (which I assume is not an excerpt) is about Zichen.  Zichen (whose name is unpronounceable to Westerners) emigrated from China to live in America with her then new husband.

As the story opens, we see Zichen at work at an animal-care center.  She is talking with her coworkers about her upcoming visit to England (this will be her first-ever vacation that is not to China).  The men are teasing her about the trip (why would she want to go to the ocean in the winter, she doesn’t know anyone there, etc).  The teasing is friendly, because they are friendly, although Zichen is very reserved around them.  Of course, of all the people she has known, she has opened up to them the most–which still isn’t very much.

That much is accurate.  However, the rest of my post about this story is completely (and rather ineptly, I must admit) incorrect.  Recently, Carol Schoen commented on my original post and informed me that I was a bonehead (although she said it much more politely than that).  I had completely missed the point of this story the first time around.  And indeed, re-reading it this time, I can’t help but wonder what happened last time.

Zichen is a bastard, literally.  She was born our of wedlock to a man who ran away.  In China, this was like compounding one sin atop another one.  Her grandmother agreed to raise her (after a failed adoption) more or less to spite Zichen’s mother, provided Zichen’s mother had nothing to so with her.  And so, Zichen’s grandmother worked in her shop extra long hours to care for a child who was a visible symbol of the family’s disgrace.  (I seem to have gotten the point about her grandmother raising her, but seem to have missed the important part about her parents not being in her life at all). (more…)

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This is the first single from The Mommyheads’ new Dromedary release Finest Specimens.  The album (which is sort of a greatest hits, but not) comes out next month, but until then you can hear th is new track at a number of places, including the blog largehearted boy (which has all kinds of cool free listens on it).

This is a 7 minute (live) track.  It opens with some cool keyboards.  They feature what I’ve come to think of as Mommyheads style, in which the bass and guitars (or in this case keyboards) play different things that seem unrelated but which work together.  A great chorus pulls it all together.

This live song has about 3 minutes of instrumental jamminess at the end.  It doesn’t really help the memorableness of the song (as you’ve long forgotten the catchy “That’s right” hook by the end of it), but man they sound great jamming together like that: a tight, psychedelic freakout that just builds in coolness.  It’s almost like two songs in one.

[READ: September 11, 2010] “The Tuber”

This essay is about Wells Tower riding the rivers of Southern Florida in a tube.  It’s also about John Cheever’s “The Swimmer.”

One of the things that I like about Wells Tower is that even in his non-fiction, he ties things together with literary substance.  And so, he sets up this adventure as a twisted take on Cheever’s Neddy Merrill swimming the 8 miles of swimming pools in suburban New York: Tower wants to try to tube the rivers of Florida all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. (more…)

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This is the final bonus track on Dromedary‘s recently reissued Mommyheads album Flying Suit.

This is probably the most conventional Mommyheads song that I know of.  It reminds me a lot of the music from Late Night with David Letterman.  It swings, it’s jaunty, it’s kind of funny and it has some almost zany guitar work on it.

It is probably the ideal “bonus track” for a band that usually writes quirky, off -kilter songs as it doesn’t sound like it should be on the album, but it is still in the spirit of the rest of the songs.  The jazziness if reminiscent of their other work, but there’s something oddly rocking about this track.  It’s a real treat.

Check the songs out (and buy them) here.

[READ: September 10, 2010] “The Thing with Feathers”

Wells Tower week continues with this article about the thought to be extinct Ivory-Billed Woodpecker.  He mentions humorously in the article that NPR went crazy about the woodpecker when one was seen in Arkansas, and I remember that very well.  There were several pieces about the woodpecker and I was really excited about it.

Hairy Woodpecker

I’m not a serious birdwatcher, but ever since I saw my first hairy woodpecker at my apartment in Boston, I’ve been a huge fan of having birds around. The hairy woodpecker is tiny (and very cute).  Since we moved to a wooded area of New Jersey, I’ve been lucky enough to see a red-bellied woodpecker and, I believe, the even more elusive pileated woodpecker.  We’ve even had flickers in our yard.

So this article sees Wells Tower heading down to Arkansas to talk to the man who claims to have seen the first Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, Gene Sparling.  The man who caused all the fuss to begin with back in 2005.

And this is a great piece of non-fiction.  Tower brings his excellent storytelling skills and describes a trip into the Arkansas woods looking for this possibly extinct bird. (more…)

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Dromedary has recently reissued The Mommyheads’ Flying Suit CD.  And there are three bonus tracks available on it now.

I mentioned Flying Suitlittle while ago.  What I really liked about that disc was that it was all over the place and yet remained comfortably within its genre of jangle pop-rock.

This first of three new tracks is just under 2 minutes long.  It has a watery guitar and a propulsive bass, and yet it is still a sort of delicate song.  The vocals, as with the rest of the disc, are soft, with nice harmonies.  It’s hard to get overly excited about the song (as it’s not like a sonic blast of 2 minutes), but it’s nice to have even more Mommyheads.

Bonus track number 2 tomorrow.  Check the songs out (and buy them) here.

[READ: September 9, 2010] “Cannery Woe”

Since I recently read the Wells Tower story in the New Yorker, I remembered that I was going to read his other travel stories from Outside.  I started with this one because it is shortest (1 page).

Tower has a wonderful grasp of storytelling. So even a fairly simple story like this (where really nothing terrible happens) is made quite exciting. And the twist, such as it was, is totally unexpected. (more…)

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After the two minute bonus track of “Over” comes the lengthy (very lengthy for The Mommyheads) “Box”.

I’m not sure what the song is about, but it’s got some great licks within it.  It opens with a twisted guitar opening, one that never sems to settle.  In fact, the entire first verse seems like the song doesn’t quite know where it’s going (which is deliberate, of course).

Because by the end of the second verse we get a very lengthy instrumental break that is ferocious in its coolness.  It begins softly and then morphs into a psychedelic workout: harmonized guitar notes, funky drumming, and yet all within a mellow styling.  It’s very clever.

Its a strange song and it may be my favorite Mommyheads song of all.  It’s an excellent bonus track.  Check the songs out (and buy them) here.

[READ: September 9, 2008] “New Orleans, LA”

This is probably the most straightforward “reporting” piece that I’ve read by Tower.  As such, it doesn’t have a lot of flair to it.

It’s an interesting look at the rebuilding of New Orleans, into what appears to be a greener, stronger and better city than ever before.  It almost seems like you need a terrible catastrophe and the goodwill of citizens to make a place even better than it was before.

He mentions a few individuals who were (and maybe still are) doing extra work to rebuild the city, and they are quite inspirational.

It’s available here.

Because it was so brief, I’m pairing it with another brief but much more entertaining article: “Extract a Tick from Your Junk” from the “How to Do Everything (Well Almost)” piece from the July 2007 issue.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: STUYVESANT-Jihad Me at Hello (2010).

Stuyvesant (one of the hardest band names to spell) is an amalgam of the defunct New Jersey bands Footstone and Friends, Romans, Countrymen.  And so, as you might expect if you know these other bands, they play noisy rock with a healthy dose of pop.

The opener, “Bi-Polar Bears” is a great example of their punky pop (complete with an unexpected horn section).  The second track, “Tape Hiss” sounds like Footstone (Ralphie’s voice is very distinct here) although the “do-do-do” harmonies are something new to the sound.

There’s more surprise from a major break in “Ode to Bish” which features a “waka jawacka” guitar and a horn solo.  “Liars Poker” also features some cool bass vocal harmonies (something of a rare treat in rock music).

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the slow opening of “Broken Red Wing.”  I was pleasantly surprised that after the slow opening, it did not jump quickly into a song that sounded like the rest on the disc.  Guitars kick in but they are not the same crunchy style.  The track shows an unexpected diversity on the disc.

While I have enjoyed both the Footstone and FRC releases, I think this conflation of the two makes for the best overall package.  It’s a great EP, and I’m looking forward to the full length.  This EP is available for free.  That’s right, for free.  So even if you hate it, you can still download it for free.  In any format, and then you can burn it to a CD, in the format that music is meant to be enjoyed.

[READ: September 8, 2010] “The Landlord”

Wells Tower is another 20 Under 40.  I’ve enjoyed the few short stories(although I haven’t read his collection yet) and the non-fiction he’s written for Outside magazine.

This story feels like an excerpt from a longer piece because there are a lot of different characters who seem like there’s more to them.

The main character is the landlord, Mr Pruitt.  He owns a lot of properties, but in the current market he has had to sell a number of them.  And, of course, his tenants are paying him less and less frequently.  As the story opens we meet one of those tenants, Armando Colón, who is three months overdue.  Armando has a solution to his problem which he presents to Mr Pruitt.  When Armando leaves, Mr Pruitt’s worker, Todd Toole mocks him for letting people fuck him over. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: lions.chase.tigers: To Their Blood EP (2009).

I learned about lions.chase.tigers from the Dromedary compilation Make The Load Lighter.  When I looked them up online I found this site, where you can download their debut EP.  (Normally I’d encourage purchasing the CD to give the band some £, but it ships from the UK and would probably take weeks and cost a fortune in shipping.  So, download and spread the word).

lions.chase.tigers play a fascinating mix of noisy shoegazey guitar rock combined with very delicate quieter ballady bits.  There are only four guys in the band.  I was sure there were at least five maybe six.  They have  one guitar which plays beautiful picked guitar chords (high notes), and another which plays harmonized lower notes and sometimes big power chords.  The drums and bass complement perfectly.  And the vocals offer this great understated focus to these dramatic songs.  I imagine Sigur Rós jamming with Mogwai with vocals by Bob Mould.

All of their songs work to a dramatic climax; the tension builds like a mini epic.  The title track is the most dramatic (with that crazy screaming in the background!), and I think it’s the best track on the EP, but with each listen I hear more in the other songs to like, too.

I’m also delighted that one guy’s last name is the same as another guy’s first name: Fraser Sanaghan (guitar/vocals) and Seoridh Fraser (bass/vocals) [and no I can’t pronounce his first name but I love Gaelic names like that].  There’s also Iain Thomson (vocals/guitar), David Watson (drums).  There’s a live video on their myspace page, which shows that they sound amazing (possibly better?) live.

Scotland has been producing some amazing indie bands over the last few years, and lions.chase.tigers sis definitely a great one to add to that list.

[READ: February 5, 2010] “William Burns”

This was the first short story I’ve read since beginning 2666, (before I decided to find everything I could Bolaño).  I saved this story for last because it is the most recent release.  I initially noted: I’m in the midst of 2666, and lo, here’s a Bolaño story to read (and to hopefully not confuse matters).  It didn’t confuse matters, but I was a little concerned when I saw that it was set in the same town (Santa Theresa) as the bulk of the 2666 action.

One of the things I have grown to like about Bolaño is his multiple layers of removal from the action of the story.  So in this one, William Burns tells the story to a guy named Pancho Monge who tells the story to the narrator who tell it to us.

After that brief introduction, the rest of the story (in Burns’ own words, mind you) come in one long passage with no paragraph breaks.

Burns is living in Santa Theresa and is bored.  (Is there any other state of mind in Santa Theresa?).  He is living with two women and their dogs.  They asked him to stay with them for protection from a man who is coming to kill them.  (And, of course, they are each his lover as well). (more…)

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This was Dromedary Records’ first big release: a statement of purpose if you will.  This is a compilation of unsigned Jersey indie bands.  I listened to this all the time as it was being compiled and mastered.  It’s been a while since I listened to the disc start to front.

It’s funny to hear some of these tracks now 18 years later, to see what stands up.

Melting Hopefuls’s “Gondola” has always been a favorite of mine, a weird intertwining vocals/guitars mix.  I’ve no idea what it’s about, but it sounds great.  Oral Groove’s “She’s Still Here” is okay.  The opening riff is pretty great, but the rest of the song isn’t all that memorable.

Planet Dread’s “What We See” is all over the place but manages to be a reasonably cohesive metal song. The time changes are still unexpected and are quite interesting.  This was a band who liked to throw everything into a song, so when the trippy middle section comes in, it sounds almost like a different band until that same crazy riff brings it back to metal territory.  The triangle at the end is a nice touch too.

When this disc came out, Eternal Vision was this huge buzz band, Jersey’s (specifically my home town of Hawthorne’s) up and coming Dream Theater.  And you can hear the talent in this song.  I have to say I much prefer the instrumental section to the parts with vocals.   Bassist Frank LaPlaca (who yes I played little league with) is now in the prog rock band 4front. His bass work has always been amazing and no doubt still is.

Footstone’s “Forbidden Fruit” is one of the poppier/groovier numbers here.  It’s always made me smile, as it’s about office furniture: “That’s not your chair.”  The unexpected funk freak out in the middle is just a bonus.  And cuppa joe’s “Meanings” is one of their lighter songs with some of my favorite lyrics on the disc.  When the song starts I think it’s going to be a bit too twee, and yet it always redeems itself wonderfully.

Ya-Ne-Zniyoo’s “The Man in My Dream” is as peculiar as the band’s name.  Jangly guitars, tribal drums, and cool vocal twists (nice background vocals in particular).  And, like a lot of these songs, there’s a wild middle section, this one with heavy groove guitars.  Ya-Ne-Zniyoo have a disc available on Amazon (at least I assume it’s the same Ya-Ni-Zniyoo).

Godspeed have a really raw, heavy sound on “Child Bride.”  When I was younger I always laughed at the “So soft, it makes me hard” line (that’s mixed quite loudly), but now it seems a little too silly.  However, it’s a good set up for the weird and almost jokey mosh section that ends the track.  I also enjoy any song with a coda that has nothing to do with the rest of the song.

Rosary was my friend Garry’s band. They were a really interesting band out of Hasbrouck Heights.  “Asylum”  holds up quite well.  The guitars sound great and the vocals at the end sound fantastic.  There’s something about the overall mix that’s a little muddy, which I think hides how good this song is.  The disc ends with Grooveyard’s “Child Bright” (huh, two songs with almost the same title).  It’s probably the most metal song of the bunch, even though it has a very jam-band guitar opening.  But with the heavy guitars and strong vocals, (and the “time to die” lyrics), this is easily the heaviest song on the disc.

So, 18 years later, this is still a fun compilation.  I’m not even sure how many of thee bands are still around.  You can hear a few songs on Dromedary Radio.  He might even have a few CD compilations left over, if you ask nicely.

[READ: February 18, 2010] “The Insufferable Gaucho”

This is the longest Bolaño short story of this batch.  This is a slow paced story following a man in his steady decline (or is it?) from urban lawyer to small town rabbit hunter.

As the story opens, we meet Héctor Pereda an irreproachable lawyer and caring father who lives in the wonderful city of Buenos Aires.  His son Bebe and daughter Cuca later accused him of sheltering them from life’s harsh realities.  But when Pereda’s wife died (the kids were 5 and 7) he wanted to respect her memory, so he never remarried (and he didn’t want to burden his children with a stepmother).

Cuca eventually married and Bebe became a very successful writer. Both kids eventually moved away.  And Pereda seemed to age prematurely.  Then the Argentinian economy collapsed.  He couldn’t afford to pay his cook or maid, so he decided he would move to his country house where he could be more frugal.

When he gets out to the country, he find the place to be desoltae.  His house is in terrible disrepair.  He tries to fix it himself, but he finds that he needs to call on the help of some lazy gauchos (who do, in fact, play guitar all day). He buys a horse, meets with people and slowly, slowly starts building a small farm.

By the end of the story he is unrecognizable: unshaven, dirty and dressed like one of the gauchos.  But the real question is, is he happy?

There’s some (to me) unbelievable parts of this story: rabbits attacking people on horseback?  But it occurs to me that Pereda may be going slowly crazy.  Surely his son (and writer friends) think so.

It’s a long story where not very much happens, but I still enjoyed it.  Despite the apparent lunacy, it was a very engaging portrait.

For ease of searching I include: Bolano

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This is the debut CD put out by Footstone.  Dromedary has made it available for download on their site. This disc jibes nicely with the songs the band was releasing at this time: kinda heavy, but mostly melodic indie rock (emphasis on rock).

Unlike some of the other dromedary releases, there’s not a lot of diversity on the disc.  And that’s not a bad thing, it’s 12 (well, really 11 if you discount the silly first track) tracks of first rate 90s rock. There’s a few surprises, like the cool bass break in “Supwerworld”, or melodic expanses on other tracks there, but largely you get loud rock songs.  And there is something creepily irresistible about the track “Watermelon.” I’m not exactly sure what it’s about but I can’t stop listening to it.  It reminds me vaguely of Mother Love Bone, but I think more in spirit than anything tangible.

Ralph, the singer, has a really strong voice.  He can hit a note and hold it which works really well with most of these choruses.  And the music is consistently solid.  There’s even a cover of the Juicy Fruit jingle!

The downloadable tracks make this available for the first time in 15 years.  And you can listen at Dromedary Radio at any time.

[READ: February 18, 2010] “Álvaro Rousselot’s Journey”

This story, translated by Chris Andrews,  starts out with a delightful bit of Bolaño dark humor.  “Keen readers of mid-twentieth-century Argentine literature, who do exist…”  It follows the life of Álvaro Rousselot, who published his first book in 1950 at the age of thirty.  It sold poorly but was eventually, surprisingly, translated into French.

A few years later, a French film came out which was petty clearly an adaptation of Rousselot’s book, although Rousselot’s name was never mentioned in connection with the film. He never addressed the issue directly with anyone, but lawyers suggested he take action.  He never did, besides, by then, he had written a second book, quite different from the first.  This was later followed by a collection of short stories and then a third novel.

Shortly after this third book came out and before it was even translated into French, Morini made a film that was clearly based on this book (again, Rousselot was unacknowledged).  This time he was enraged, but he remained passive, preferring to get on with his life, but always preparing for another shock.

But that shock never came.  Morini’s next film was wholly unrelated to anything Rousselot has done.  In fact, Morini seemed to move in a new direction for the remainder of his films.

Some time later, Rousselot was invited to Frankfurt for a literary festival.  Being so close to Paris, he couldn’t resist trying to track down Morini, just to talk to him.  The rest of the story concerns Rousselot’s long and winding journey in trying to track down this mysterious filmmaker.  He receives numerous leads, all of which lead him closer to his man.

This was a peculiar story which I enjoyed quite  bit.  It had all of the trapping of a thriller, but it was written with such a slow meandering pace, with so little in the way of suspense, that it was more of a road trip.  The ending was very strange indeed, unsatisfying in some ways and yet inevitable in others.

I’m really starting to enjoy these meandering Bolaño stories.  It seems so unusual especially when compared to his fast paced poetry.

For ease of searching I include: Bolano  Alvaro

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The Mommyheads continue the Dromedary catalog’s streak of consistently poppy indie rock.  Throughout the disc, the The vocals are gentle and falsettoed, setting kind of a trend on the label thus far.

What sets this disc apart from a lot of comparable acts of jangly, light-on-the-bass 90s rock is the subtle complexity of the songs.  Even though most of the songs are fairly simple pop confections, there’s usually an unexpected moment that pops up, making things a little more than what they appear.

The opening chords of “Sandman” are, well, weird, angled and minor, but they somehow lead into a very poppy catchy verse about a sandman.

“Saints Preserve Us” opens with a crazy, no wave guitar lick that, somehow, is matched by a vocal line.  And yet, they can’t resist a smooth an catchy bridge, even if it is only two chords long.  Meanwhile, “Spiders” sounds like a long lost Moxy Fruvous track, kinda funny but kinda serious at the same time.

The only thing odd about “Bottom Out” is how normal it is…a fairly simple, undeniably catchy little pop song that would have fit in very nicely on the Juno soundtrack

“Annabell Ann” plays with the listener’s head by sounding for all the world like an orchestral pop song with a weird arrangement until the chorus pops in with poppy chords and harmonies.  And what of “Worm”?  An opening set of bizarre chords that sounds like it’s coming from next door, followed by a delightfully obscure jazzy bassline.  The song wanders around into interesting corners for a few minutes before ending just as suddenly.

The wonderfully titled “Henry Miller is Dead” shows the heavy side of the band, with noisy guitars and raucous lyrics until the very gentle bridge grounds the song back into familiar Mommyheads sound.  The disc ends with “Valentine’s Day” a gentle sorta jokey sounding song about, well, Valentine’s Day.  It sounds like an even indier version of something off of The Replacemnets’ Hootenanny disc.

The disc is less than half an hour long, making it close to an EP.  But it’s a wonderful half an hour.  You can hear the tracks on Dromedary Radio.

[READ: February 17, 2010] “Gómez Palacio”

This short story comes from Last Evenings and Other Stories, and was translated by Chris Andrews.

Bolaño is from Chile and Mexico City, and he seems to have a rather disparaging view of small Mexican cities.  Gómez Palacio is a small Mexican city where the narrator is assigned to teach a short term writing workshop.  The narrator is a poet himself.  His class is attended by only 5 people, none of who are very good.

The bulk of the story concerns his relationship with the director of the Arts Council where the class was held.  She has bulging eyes and is quite short.  Yet every day she picks him up from his seedy motel and drives him to school.  While driving one day she asks him to take the wheel but he doesn’t drive.  Regardless, he drives down the road until a car pulls over in front of them.  The director says that it’s her husband.  She then regales him with a story about her unhappy marriage. (more…)

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