Monday, September 27, 2010

Latest Listen: Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

This album is a no-brainer purchase. Much better than Neon Bible, haven't decided how it measures up to Funeral. Regardless, it's a fantastic album.

Best Songs: City with No Children, Ready to Start, We Used to Wait...the list goes on.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rogue Wave playing at Thacker Mountain Radio

Thursday, October 7th, 2010
Author: Dave Isay
Author: Antonya Nelson
Musical Guest: T-Model Ford
Musical Guest: Rouge Wave
Location: Off Square Books

New Belle and Sebastian

Belle and Sebastian's new album has a new album coming out: Belle and Sebastian Write About Love, due out October 12 via Matador. Listen to a track from it called "Come on Sister" at Some Kind of Awesome.

Alejandro Escovedo at Square Books in Oxford, MS Podcast

Photo courtesy of

Check out podcast

Pavement on Colbert

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Pavement - Gold Soundz
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionFox News

Saturday, June 26, 2010

John Prine Goodness

This week came the release of a John Prine tribute album: Broken Hearts and Dirty Windows, check out the allstar cast:

01 Justin Vernon: "Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)"
02 Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band: "Wedding Day in Funeralville"
03 My Morning Jacket: "All the Best"
04 Josh Ritter: "Mexican Home"
05 Lambchop: "Six O'Clock News"
06 Justin Townes Earle: "Far From Me"
07 The Avett Brothers: "Spanish Pipedream"
08 Old Crow Medicine Show: "Angel From Montgomery"
09 Sara Watkins: "The Late John Garfield Blues"
10 Drive-By Truckers: "Daddy's Little Pumpkin"
11 Deer Tick: "Unwed Fathers" [ft. Liz Isenberg]
12 Those Darlins: "Let's Talk Dirty in Hawaiian"

Also, Prine recently released a live album titled In Person and On Stage
1. Spanish Pipedream
2. She Is My Everything
3. In Spite Of Ourselves
4. Long Monday
5. The Late John Garfield Blues
6. The Bottomless Lake
7. Bear Creek Blues
8. Saddle In The Rain
9. Angel From Montgomery
10. Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore
11. Mexican Home
12. Unwed Fathers
13. Glory Of True Love
14. Paradise

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The National Post

From the Montreal Gazette, fantastic interview:

MONTREAL - The National's fifth full-length album, High Violet, has met with across-the-board praise since its release in May and has provided a springboard for a lengthy tour that brings the Brooklyn quintet to Montreal's Osheaga Music and Arts Festival on July 31. For full information on the festival (which continues Aug. 1), see

The Gazette's Jordan Zivitz spoke to National singer Matt Berninger shortly after High Violet's release. Here's a transcript of the interview.

Gazette: It seems like a lot of bands recording a follow-up to a successful album try hard not to repeat what they did the previous time. Did you have any of that going into High Violet from Boxer?

Matt Berninger: Well, we had some of that going into both Boxer and High Violet. The funny thing is, we thought we went pretty far away from Boxer with High Violet. But I think when you have the same five people making music, we didn't reinvent ourselves necessarily. But we were trying in some cases to avoid the sort of stately elegance of Boxer. We were trying to rough it up a little bit and make it a little uglier and a little more cathartic, and a little less distant and more direct. Whatever exactly that means. But yeah, we did try to do stuff like that.

Gazette: When you said "stately elegance," I couldn't tell if there was a note of distaste in your voice. Do you look at that side of Boxer as something you lost the taste for?

Berninger: No, not necessarily lost the taste for, but we just wanted to not repeat Boxer. Boxer has a very specific kind of personality. It wasn't designed necessarily that way from the beginning - it just turned out to have a kind of a vibe, a personality, that was really special, and we didn't want to try to recapture that. We were trying to go into some other dark corners, slightly new territory for us. And we didn't know what kind of territory that was going to be, but we did try doing things a little bit differently and we tried to avoid some of our habits, I guess, with High Violet and tried to discover some new things. I was saying I don't think we reinvented ourselves necessarily - we just stretched ourselves and went into some new places within the small world of The National, I guess. And it was really satisfying. A lot of that is the guitar tones, avoiding fingerpicking songs, even though Runaway does a lot of that. And then I was focusing a lot more on melody than I ever had in the past, trying to find these more active, moving melodies and less of my mumble-talk singing that I've done a lot of. That was just the way I would naturally sing the song, but this time I was trying to not worry about words so much and find more infectious, catchy melodies for the stuff before I even thought at all about any words or themes or ideas of what the songs would be about. I think that has made the record feel for us like a new thing. I think we were all happy with the discoveries and the development of the band, of ourselves, of whatever.

Gazette: That idea of focusing more on melodies ... not that it's you vs. the rest of the band, but did that align your songwriting more with the other members?

Berninger: Well, I've always been sort of in charge of the vocal melody; as far as musically, we all chime in. But this one, it was just my own desire to find new things, singing in high registers. I never thought that much about melody before High Violet. Mostly it was just getting the words and trying to get the ideas, and the feeling and the delivery. How you tell a story or how you sing a song or how you tell a joke is much more important than the words of the joke. And I would try a million different ways in the past. And a lot of the time I was never really worried about whether it was a quote-unquote "good" melody, you know? That never seemed that important to me. Just, does it sound real? Does it sound forced? I'm always trying to avoid something that sounds too forced. But this time I actually started thinking, well, maybe I should think more about melody. Just for something new. And I still sing the way I sing - I'm not exactly David Bowie on these songs - but I do think there are things in a lot of the songs that we might not have done before, because this time around I put the lyrics aside and didn't worry about those until I felt like the song was going to be good even without words. And the truth is, the harder part was getting words to work in a song that didn't ruin the melody. And that's a weird thing. Sometimes if the song lyrically is too written or over-thought or too detailed or too specific, or whatever, a great melody can sound terrible with the wrong words - and vice versa. So the lyrics ended up being in some cases more difficult than any of our other records, because often some of the stuff I was writing made the melody sound silly. When two things are kind of playing the same role, they conflict with each other. These things have to be dance partners; they can't both lead. And that's always the trick, I think, with songs: realizing that the song or the melody is doing a lot of the heavy lifting, and so sometimes the words need to stay out of the way. Or just give enough that it gives a bit of an image or a bit of an idea, but let the melody and the music fill in the rest of the colour. I think when it comes to the writing, the hard part is figuring out how to take away stuff and how to not overwrite the songs.

Gazette: So would you get no pleasure out of writing in a more florid style? I mean, I'm a huge Nick Cave fan, but he definitely draws attention to his own lyrics.

Berninger: Well, Nick Cave is one of my heroes, and you can hear that in my songwriting, the way he can be brutal and hilarious and fearful and vicious, all within the space of two lines. He can go everywhere. But sometimes his stuff does seem extremely written, and I think he writes a lot and he writes fast and he's a genius. Well ... I don't know how fast he writes. But it does seem like he just spills awesome ideas. It's never-ending. With me, it's a much slower gushing process. Some of my favourite lyricists do things that I love, but also do things that I want to avoid. I mean, Bob Pollard is one of my favourite lyricists, but there are certain things he does that I try to avoid doing. I don't want the songs to be abstract poetry or refrigerator magnet poetry. And that's what Bob Pollard does. He does more than that, but he'll put a street sign next to a Burger King slogan next to a Dylan Thomas quote. He'll stitch things together in wild ways to see what kind of tension he'll create by weaving those together. Sometimes what he's doing, I think you can hear the randomness in it. And I guess I'm trying to avoid a little bit of that. That is where the weird energy happens, with the juxtaposition of types of phrases, but I scrutinize them to the point of the minutiae of those connections, and it takes a long, long, long time. And I don't know necessarily what I'm looking for when I'm looking for it, but I do it until it feels right. It's not a quick, random stream-of-consciousness process by any means. The collecting of ideas is more like that. But the fine-tuning of the lyrics for a final song is a much more deliberate and calculated and slow process.

Gazette: So do you come across lines that you love but wonder if they really fit a song? That line "I was afraid I would eat your brains" leaped out at me in Conversation 16 ... it seems hilarious or out of place at first, but then if you look at it in another light it seems really poignant.

Berninger: Yeah, that's an example where that song needed a torque. It needed a weirdo torque for the rest of the song to work. The whole record, actually, needed that sort of bizarro absurdity. For me, a song can't just be a bunch of awesome phrases, awesome one-liners. I fill books with things that I put three stars next to - like "oh, that's so amazing, what a great line," but it'll never work in a song, because sometimes you have too much. It's too "all caps." There are lines that you can tell when it was written you gave yourself a high five. Those very rarely work in songs, because they sound overwritten. So it's a combination of the fragments that just hint at something, plus you've got to put a sincere heart on your sleeve - earnest things right next to the absurd jackass moments. You have to have them both for most of our songs to work. There are occasions when you can just go straight down the middle with a song - like Runaway, it's very direct. It's got a little abstract imagery, where I'm not even sure what the flood is or what the swallowing of the sun is, and all that kind of stuff. It's abstract, but it feels like it means something very, very important, and that's why it works with the rest of this simple song about devotion and about loyalty. So that one doesn't have any goofball moments, but in the context of the record that song plays a very important role. It's a big puzzle piece and a big part of getting the balance of stuff. The "eat your brains" line, when I first put that in the song, right towards the end, I think the other guys bristled at that a little bit, because they felt, "Well, that just sounds ridiculous." But now I think that's become one of their favourite lines because in the context of all the songs, it's both funny and sweet. There's something tender about it. It's obviously not about zombies or cannibalism - it's about how you're afraid that you're going to mess somebody up. You're afraid that you're going to somehow make someone screw up their inner beauty by being a boring asshole or something. You're afraid that you're going to bring them down with you. That's kind of what I hear in that moment of that song now. Anyways, so it's a slow process of getting just the right plates spinning on the right levels, and getting them all going for them to work with each other the right way. Create a balancing act.

Gazette: You're talking musically as well as lyrically, right?

Berninger: Yeah, definitely. Bloodbuzz (Ohio) is an example where if it weren't for the way Bryan (Devendorf) plays the drums, that song would be a completely different song. I sing it almost in a gentle croon, and the fact that he's just slamming it at 100 miles an hour with this force, it creates this tension. And what those guys are doing with the guitars and the horns and pulling it all in a different way ... a lot of our songs have that. I mean, I guess that's what any band does ... a bunch of people playing different instruments and putting stuff together, it's always trying to find that alchemy. It's like making the perfect meal, the perfect banquet, where you need just the right amount of salt and the right amount of wine and the right amount of meat. It takes a long, long time to find that balance. And with us, because nobody's in charge, nobody knows what we're trying to cook in the first place. So it's a slow process of us all pushing and pulling in different directions until we start to find those places where it starts to balance. It starts to work. I think that's why it takes us a year and a half to make a record. I mean, we weren't being lazy. I don't feel like we were working slowly at all. I felt like we were working non-stop for a year and a half, and it still just took that long. And we even felt like we didn't have enough time and we had to hurry it up at the end. But that's just the way it's always been with us.

Gazette: Do you sometimes fight against your instinct, or try to write counterintuitively? You mentioned Bloodbuzz Ohio, which seems like a song where you could have easily lapsed into your Abel or Mr. November scream.

Berninger: Right. Even if it feels like something that we've done before, if it feels right, we won't over-think it too much. We try not to be overly cerebral about it, and if something just feels good, we'll follow it, even if it might be footsteps we've walked in before. But if it feels like we've done it before, it's got to be really, really good for us to do it again. In Bloodbuzz, there was a moment after the choruses where the guitars are playing this hocketing rhythm - dun-dun dun-dun dun-dun da-da-da-da dun-da-dun - that used to be all done with horns and trombones, and it was this really powerful brass moment.

Gazette: Like the end of Fake Empire?

Berninger: Exactly. It was great. And it was a major part of the song, and it was in the very last days of making this record when Aaron (Dessner) and I were like, "You know what? It's awesome, but we've just got to get rid of it, because it's like Fake Empire 2.0 in that moment." And the truth is, what happens with the horns at the end of Fake Empire is better. And that was one of the biggest battles we had, because people had been listening to it with this really powerful horn part for months. And Peter Katis, who was mixing, and the other guys thought we were committing suicide with that song by taking those horns out. But that's an example where, yeah, it did sound great. It was really, really good. But that was definitely a shirt we had worn before, and we looked better in it last time. But we knew we could find a different way of creating a really powerful instrumental moment in that song, so I'm really glad that we went with the guitars, the way the guitars are playing that aggressive role. It's this dark, weird, floaty song, and then with the horns, all of a sudden it turned into this party moment. So the personality didn't feel right, either. Those are the type of things that I think happen in every single song over and over again, for the whole course of writing something. I think that's the main thing that makes us a pretty good band: we will throw away good things to try to find something a tiny bit better. We do that a lot. We also will not worry too much about the song being kooky or academically weird. Sometimes we'll embrace simplicity, or what you might think is simplistic. But there's a big difference between simple and simplistic, and we'll go ahead and pursue something very simple and develop it in a way without trying to be avant-garde or an indie-rock art-school project. I don't know ... we do both. At the same time, there's a side of us that will pursue complex orchestration along with the ugly garage-y moments. I think we value both of those perspectives on the song.

Gazette: And having a simple arrangement doesn't preclude having a lot of complexity woven into it. It took me a few listens to Runaway before I really got what the brass was doing.

Berninger: Right. And a good example is the song Afraid of Everyone, which if you strip away some of the vocal melodies and some of the things, the backing vocals that Sufjan (Stevens) did, and you take away everything except for the guitars and drums, it's kind of what we would refer to as a meatball song. Without those things, it's musically simplistic. But we know you can take some of those things and then bend that with those other elements to turn those things into a really good foundation. And it took a long time for that song to become not just a stupid meatball song. But now it's one of my favourite songs on the record. I think it's one of the most interesting, both musically and lyrically. But it started out from something that could easily be described as just stupid music. Aaron did describe it that way to me, in fact. He sent me a sketch that had three parts to it, and I took out the two parts he thought were interesting and looped the one part he thought was stupid, and that was the basis for that song. He was a little shocked and dismayed that that was one of the songs that we were going to work on, because Aaron sent me 60, 70 different sketches and that was probably his least favourite. And I devoted all this time to it and he was a little bummed that I was throwing away other songs to pursue Afraid of Everyone. But there was just something about it that I was attached to: the simple guitar progression and the vocal melody I was doing that I knew, with work, we could make into something great. And it took work. But I think we did. My point is that we trust each other. Even though at first he thought it was a waste of time, Aaron trusted me and the fact that if I'm hearing something in that song, there must be something there and we'll find it. And then I'll trust him. On the other side of it, the song Little Faith wasn't one of the ones I thought I would be able to write to, and I wasn't that attached to it, but it was a song that the other guys were really excited about, from the perspective of the music and just the basic sketch. So I trusted them and just kept working at that song. That's kind of how it works with us. There are arguments, but we'll also follow each other down these dark alleys. We're always willing to chase each other's whims.

Gazette: On Little Faith, the rhythm section sounds like the core of the song, but then there's a passage where it drops out and the mood completely changes. Is that the type of thing where the song can turn an unexpected corner for you?

Berninger: Yeah. That song wouldn't work without that moment where the bottom drops out and suddenly there's nothing but wide open space in something that a moment before was clattering forward with this frantic energy. That's one of those things where we knew we just needed to find those spots that would make the rest of the song work. One of the interesting things about Little Faith is, I think Bryce (Dessner) and Bryan just hit record and Bryce turned on his pedals, and that sound was already there from some old thing he was messing around with. It starts with just that loop, that guitar feedback loop, but that was a mistake. It wasn't something that he planned to do for the song. That was just happening, and then Bryan just started hitting the drums and Bryce on a beat started playing a rhythm, a different riff, and I think most of what you hear on the record was that very first moment of chaos, trying to figure out how to turn the buttons on to start working on a song, and those guys, without thinking, just recording something. And I know Bryan spent a lot of time trying to redo those drums, because I think maybe the fidelity of the recording wasn't great, but he never actually was able to replay those drums in a way that sounded as effortless and spontaneous. Because it was only spontaneous that one moment. And he was never able to top it, I think. That was one of the other things that was different about this record, is that since we had our own studio, we had the luxury to just press record every time we walked in and turned the lights on. We would just keep everything. And because of that, we were able to keep those sorts of moments like on Little Faith, or on Terrible Love - the guitar tone that starts out the whole record was kind of just from the demo.

Gazette: When that song came on, I wasn't sure what the album was going to be like. I thought, "They've gone really dirty and grungy." Was it a pointed decision to put that at the top of the album?

Berninger: No, we didn't think of it as a statement at all. It's just where it sounded best. We were trying to put together the sequence; it took us weeks and weeks trying to figure out the sequence. And putting that song first wasn't a moment of "let's freak people out and do something controversial or ugly at the beginning." We never thought of it that way. We thought the song sounded awesome there. And that song's weird, because when we started playing it live, it started to find a different sonic vibe. And then we played it live on television - it was the first song I think anybody heard at all, and it sounds very different to the recorded version, and people got really attached to it. And the truth is, it has become I think one of the best songs that we play live. And it sounds different than the record. And people would argue that live sounds better than the record. Live it has a tighter, less chaotic, less ugly low-fidelity vibe than the record version. But yeah, the record version, we never actually thought of it as being that bad. (Laughs) It wasn't until we played it better on TV that people, when they finally heard the version on the record, were kind of disappointed. At first. I think people have grown to like it both ways. But yeah, that was never a strategic play by any means. We had no idea how that song was going to turn out when we play it live. We just wait and see what the record is going to end up like, and we don't have much perspective on it until much, much later.

Gazette: I remember three of High Violet's songs being played at your last Montreal show, in May of last year - Runaway, Bloodbuzz Ohio and Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks. When you preview songs live, does it strengthen your impression of how they should be approached, or does it make you less certain?

Berninger: That's a good question. Bloodbuzz was a song we played live a lot before we figured out a recorded version, and that was one of those cases where we were playing it live with that horn fanfare stuff I mentioned, and that was how we thought the song should be. But when we cut it in the studio, I think the fact that we had been playing it like that for so long was one of the reasons why it was hard to let go of something that was an identifying part of its character, just from the live show. We've never been a band that wants to capture what we sound like live on the record, or vice versa, try to perform the way that the song sounds on the record. But it's often the case where the songs that we play live will sometimes blind us a little bit. When we play it live for so long, it will sometimes blind us to what's good about it, or the other possibilities of directions in which to take that song, because it gets ground into our head one way. And sometimes it isn't that great of a song yet. So sometimes we have to work backwards to forget about what kind of song we think it is. That was the case with a bunch of them that we had been playing together. But we don't know. I also think on another level that in some cases it really helps to find a new energy for a song by playing it live before you record it. We haven't settled on any one way of doing anything. We just know we'll keep exploring and keep trying different ideas until we have 11 or 12 songs that we think are great. That's the only strategy we've ever had.

Gazette: You played a considerably larger room each of the three times you came to Montreal after the release of Boxer. Do you miss the smaller venues, or are you happy to move on and upward?

Berninger: Well, there is something kind of amazing about being in a small room that's packed and hot, but to be perfectly honest, we played to really small rooms for a long, long, long, long time, and no, I don't miss it that much anymore. And we'll still do that. We just did three shows in Brooklyn before the record came out at this small place called Bell House, and a couple of shows also at this little store. We'll do some of that stuff. But no, we're happy we're playing at some of these bigger places. And some of the theatres and venues we're playing are just so beautiful. The BAM Opera House (in Brooklyn) or a lot of these places just feel really good. So no, I don't miss it that much. And Massey Hall (in Toronto) is one of those famous, iconic places we've been dying to someday get to a point where we can play. The small places have an awesome vibe about them, but am I bummed we're playing places like Massey Hall and Radio City and Royal Albert Hall? No. I love it. It's awesome. Scary, but awesome.

Go Here to Download live versions of Terrible Love and Runaway. I am particularly intrigued by this version of Terrible Love.

Go Here for to Download "I'm Afraid of Everyone" with Sufjan on Letterman

Go Here for a live version of Vanderlyle Crybaby Geek

Go Here for that Bloodbuzz horn ending he discussed, I like the album version better.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

New Release Tuesday

Deer Tick - The Black Dirt Sessions

Ratatat - LP4 stream

Blitzen Trapper - Destroyer of the Void stream

Also, check out these tunes I've been listening to lately:

Mumford and Sons - Roll Away the Stone
S. Carey - In the Dirt
Tallest Man on Earth - The Wild Hunt
Edwin Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero's - Home
The Hold Steady - The Weekenders
Ratatat - Bilar
The National - Lemonworld
Band of Horses - Factory
Drive By Truckers - Birthday Boy
Temper Trap - Down River
Frightened Rabbit - Yes, I Would

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Latest Listen

The Temper Trap - Conditions

h/t pepe'

Monday, May 17, 2010

The National - High Violet

Need I say more??

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Latest Listen

Jonsi - Go

Sigur Ros frontman goes solo and creates spine-chilling, chill bumping tunes. Amazing a pagan can make such moving religious-esque music. (H/T Jonathan S. for the thought).

Latest Listen

Drive By Truckers - The Big To-Do

Great record by DBT. "The Wig He Made Her Wear" is a fascinating account of the Mary Winkler debacle. Also, "Birthday Boy" might be one of Cooley's best yet. "Santa Fe" is gorgeous. "The Fourth Night of my Drinking" is a interesting account of a drunk binge.

Latest Listen

The Tallest Man on Earth - The Wild Hunt

Another fine release by unique-voiced TMOE. Check it out if you like Dylan, Mountain Goats, Clem Snide, or Langhorne Slim.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

New Albums


2: Rogue Wave - Permalight
9: Frightened Rabbit - The Winter of Mixed Drinks
9: Pavement - Quarantine: Best of Pavement
16: Drive By Truckers - The Big To-Do
16: The Whigs - In the Dark
23: She & Him - Volume Two

6 - Jonsi - Go (Sigur Ros singer's solo album, I streamed it and was impressed)
6 - Dr. Dog - Shame Shame
13 - Trampled By Turtles - Palomino
13 - MGMT - Congratulations
13 - The Tallest Man on Earth - The Wild Hunt
20 - Horse Feathers: Thistled Spring
20 - Plants and Animals: La La Land

4 - Broken Social Scene: Forgiveness Rock Record
4 - The Hold Steady - Heaven is Whenever
4 - New Pornographers - Together
4 - Josh Ritter - So Runs the World
11 - The National - High Violet
18 - Band of Horses - Infinite Arms
18 - The Black Keys: Brothers
18 - LCD Soundsystem: This Is Happening

8 - Blitzen Trapper: Destroyer of the Void
8 - Deer Tick - Black Dirt Sessions
22 - Stars: The Five Ghosts

Friday, April 02, 2010

Latest Listen

The Helio Sequence - Keep Your Eyes Ahead

This is fantastic stuff. Flew under my radar last year. I couldn't ever pull the trigger, but now it is on emusic so wa-la.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Latest Listen

Frightened Rabbit - Winter of Mixed Drinks

Almost as good as Midnight Organ Fight. The album is filled with more anthem type tunes similar to Midnight's "Heads Roll." I HIGHLY recommend this album!!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Great Interview from Pitchfork with National Singer Matt Berninger

From Pitchfork:

When he first wakes up in the morning, the National singer Matt Berninger sounds exactly the way you'd expect, his voice a craggy rumble deep enough to have seismic implications. That voice is a huge part of the reason his band's brooding anthems have become popular enough that they can headline festivals and show up in a Google commercial.

And now we're about to hear another set of those brooding anthems. As previously reported, the National will release an as-yet-untitled new album this May, via 4AD. And this spring, they'll hit the road, bringing the new songs to audiences in North America and Europe. Earlier this week, Berninger checked in with Pitchfork after rolling out of bed to talk about the new album, the intra-band battles surrounding it, and the Sufjan Stevens guest appearance that should make the final cut.

Pitchfork: Is the new album finished?

Matt Berninger: No, it's close. We're scheduled to master it in three weeks. I'd say it's 75 percent done. But with us, the songs often change drastically in the last couple of weeks, in the mixing. We know what songs we're trying to finish, but what exactly the songs are going to end up like is still a mystery. It's the most frustrating and exciting part of the process. So from a time perspective, we are almost done, but what the thing's going to end up like, it's hard to tell.

Pitchfork: What's the most frustrating aspect of this stage?

MB: At this point, everybody's getting attached to certain versions or arrangements or forms of songs, and everyone's getting attached to different versions. At this point, we'll be chopping songs apart, cutting them down, and then rearranging them, just to try to figure out the magic middle ground between everybody's ideas. So it's where everybody starts to just dig their feet in the sand, and it's where all the arguments happen because we know how drastically something can change at the last minute. It's easy for us to ruin a song in the last day or two of working on it.

Pitchfork: Do you think you've ruined songs before?

MB: I think we have, yeah. Well, not ruin, but there are versions of songs that we had that we maybe got cold feet about. We did something to them that we thought would put it over the edge, but it actually kind of ruined the original vibe. It ends up being a pretty good song, but the song "Guest Room", on our last record, had a sort of a different personality until the last week or so. It sort of became muffled up, and I think it hurt that song a lot.

But the other side of the coin is the song "Fake Empire". It wasn't 'til the very end of the process that we added the whole fanfare, the horns at the end, which turned a sleepy little simple song into something more exciting. That whole moment at the end of "Fake Empire" makes that song in many ways. It's an average song without that. We're right in the place where those kinds of things happen.

Pitchfork: Your songs are always pretty layered and complicated. I would imagine that figuring out the last little details when you're putting these things together would be a really tough process.

MB: Of the reasons that it's hard to figure out what the song's going to be like until the last minute is that, in the process of going from just a little sketch of an idea-- you know, a melody, and maybe a simple piano or guitar part-- we'll just start layering lots of different things on it with the idea that maybe we'll use 20 percent of this, but let's try everything. We'll also have three or four different drum parts that completely change the whole character of the song. So when we start picking the elements that complement each other and work well together, a song could be just this huge epic, or it could be a folky little scrappy ballad. It's not quite that extreme, but if you add strings or something, a song becomes a totally different song.

That's where the fighting happens between us. There's the one camp that's always like, "This song's better simple," and then there's another camp that's like, "It's boring simple." That switches around from song to song, and it gets heated, but it's how it's always been. Since our second record, we started to know this is the phase we always go through, and we usually will come out the other side still friends, and with a pretty good record.

When we were making Boxer, it got so tense between all of us that we worried whether we could even continue being friends and being a band toward the end. It was just so stressful on everybody. This time around, it's still as tense, but we're not worried. We realize that this is just what happens to us when we're near the end of making a record. A week after the record's done, we all laugh about the mean and horrible things we've said to each other. It's like a family at Christmas: Sometimes you say the worst things possible to each other, but you know you'll come back next Christmas.

Pitchfork: Do the band's sets of brothers [Aaron and Bryce Dessner, Scott and Bryan Devendorf] team up with each other?

MB: Yeah, sometimes [laughs]. The fact that we have two sets of brothers, it balances out. I'm sort of in between. It's hard to tell who's going to go one way with a song. It's never the same fights. You can never expect who's going to want something one way or the other way. Those guys will talk to each other a lot on the car rides home and resolve problems. [Laughs] I make this sound like all we do is fight, but that's not quite true. It's a very balanced warfare up here. Nobody's a favorite at any moment.

Pitchfork: Does the new album have a title yet?

MB: No, it doesn't. We've been kicking around ideas. Every time we have an idea for a title, it lasts a few days and then we realize how bad it is. Not long ago, we were calling it Summer Lovin' Torture Party. Thankfully, we realized that's just a stupid title. So right now, it's still untitled.

Pitchfork: Can you name any of the songs that will be on it?

MB: It's hard to tell because we're still going to chop some. One of the contenders is "Love Buzz, Ohio". There's one called "Romantic Comedy", there's one called "L.A. Cathedral", there's one called "Quiet Company", and there's one called "Runaway". There's a bunch that are untitled. There's a few that we've played live before. Most of those will make it, but I think we're still going to chop a couple of songs, and we don't really know which ones we're going to chop yet.

For a long time, we thought "Love Buzz, Ohio" was going to be a big, important song on this record, but just last week we were all thinking maybe it doesn't even belong on the record. It's so weird how quick we shift around the idea of what kind of record this is going to be. That song has had the potential to be good, but we just haven't found it yet. We haven't quite found its heart yet. But now we've jumped in and out of it and have done a few things, maybe stripped it way back.

Pitchfork: I was just watching a YouTube video of you doing that song last summer, and it sounded huge and epic.

MB: Yeah [laughs]. Well, that's the problem. If it becomes too epic, it sounds ridiculous. For a while, we've sort of pushed it too far, to where it sounds just like a bloated attempt, like we're trying to make an epic, and that can just sound bad. That happens with almost every song we work on; we push them too far. We make them too pumped up and overcooked, and you can hear that, I think. For us, the last phase of the process is always realizing that we ruined most of our songs, so let's go back, try to pull stuff out, and find its core. Maybe it should just be three instruments, not all these bassoons and horns and all this kind of stuff. Other ones, without that stuff, don't work. We went through this phase where everybody was just scratching their heads, and it sort of became an annoying song. I think it's back from the brink, but there's no telling.

Pitchfork: Boxer was a much more restrained album than Alligator. You had big choruses, but you weren't yelling them anymore; they didn't build up to these big cathartic endings. How does this one fit on the spectrum between those two records?

MB: I don't think it sounds anything like Alligator, but it's less restrained than Boxer, that's for sure. I don't quite scream my head off in the way I did with "Mr. November", but I do think it's cathartic. Boxer was all tension without a whole lot of release. This builds a lot of those same kinds of tensions, but I think there's at least a little bit of bloodletting in this one. I'm trying to sing out and higher a little more, and the melodies move around a little more. When we started this record, I worked on melodies before I worked on lyrics. A lot of my melodies are sort of in a limited chanting, murmuring range, which has always worked for me. But I was trying to work on melodies this time much harder than I ever have in the past, and I think that alone has made the songs feel like they release more.

I don't know; we're talking about abstract things. There's a lot of yelling on this record, but not quite the guttural, psychotic screams that were on songs like "Abel" and "Mr. November". I also think this record moves faster. I think it's going to be a longer record than Boxer, but hopefully it's going to feel shorter. The songs have much more momentum, somehow. It's less stately, a little more... Catchy is not quite the word, but I think this record will be fun to drive to. Hard to tell, though.

Pitchfork: Sufjan Stevens played on the last album. Do you have any guests on this one?

MB: We have a bunch of people who have come in and out of the studio, which is behind Aaron's house. It was sort of an open door policy; friends come over and do stuff. So a lot of people did do things. I don't know exactly how much of everything we're going to keep. I will say that Sufjan did something that we are going to keep on a song. He sang some weird little backing vocal melodies-- no words. It was on a song that had just the right sort of odd, creepy vibe. There are a few other people that have come in and out. I don't want to say who yet [laughs] because we still might be editing them out. But I'm pretty sure that the little Sufjan vocal thing is going to be in there. It really did something special with that song.

Pitchfork: You're playing, for the most part, much larger venues than you played when Boxer first came out. Does that change the way you write songs, imagining how they're going to be heard in these bigger venues?

MB: That's a good question. I don't think so. I don't know if I would even be able to have perspective on that. Maybe we do without even realizing it. Throughout the Boxer touring cycle, we played a range of venues. And then, by opening for R.E.M., there were some gigs we were playing arenas. But I don't think we actually did anything different. I think even when we were playing the little clubs, we were in many ways pretending we were playing in front of thousands of people. We've always been trying to put on these big, passionate, powerful live shows. So it didn't feel that weird, actually, when we opened for R.E.M. and as our crowds sort of got bigger and bigger.

But then again, a lot of songs did change-- like "Squalor Victoria", for example. Playing it live definitely changed the song into a much bigger, more anthemic song. I don't know if we would've done that if we were just playing Pete's Candy Store-- if the same thing would've happened to that song, or if it's because these rooms were bigger and we were reaching for the rafters more. That song completely evolved into a different kind of song live than it is on the record. That may just be the natural shift that happens to us when we're playing for bigger crowds. I don't know if we've been trying to make a big record with that in mind. I know we didn't want to make another Boxer. From the beginning, there was a conscious idea of making a faster and slightly less sensitive record. I don't know how you would describe Boxer, but, less of a moody... I guess this thing really is still very moody, but we wanted to make a meaner record. And maybe that has something to do with it. We know how it's going to be fun to play these things loud and big for shows. It could very much be in the backs of our heads.

Pitchfork: Is there any music that you were all listening to recently that might have influenced the record?

MB: I don't think there's anything that we were all listening to or talking about collectively. We all listen to very different kinds of things. In fact, I was hardly listening to anything this past year and a half, just because I had my headphones on so often, trying to write lyrics for this record. When I took the headphones off, the last thing I wanted to do was have other music in my head. I had been listening to these sketches for five hours a day, trying to think about them and write to them, so I missed an entire year of music in some ways. I listen to a song or two from people that I loved, just for inspiration here and there, but I don't know if it actually worked. I think it just frustrated me. You know, when you hear something you love so much and you feel like you're getting nowhere with a song, it often just makes it even harder to write to it.

Pitchfork: Are you looking forward to the whole touring cycle kicking up again after the record comes out?

MB: Yes. I don't love being on the road. I don't love living in a bus, even though touring has become so much nicer than it was a few years ago. We don't have to drive, pack into a little van, sleep on floors. But you're still away from home, and you're still just floating around. It does get to me after a couple of weeks. This time, we're trying to do slightly shorter tours. I mean, I am really looking forward to playing these songs live, and I always love the shows, but living in a bus or hotel rooms for weeks and months, I don't take well to that. I go a little crazy.

I also have a one-year-old baby at home. When you miss three weeks of a little one-year-old, you miss a lot. I'm a little freaked out about that, but my wife and the baby will come for some of it. The truth is I've been trying to not even think about touring right now, just trying to finish the record. But we're all excited about playing Royal Albert Hall and Radio City; these are dreams come true.

Pitchfork: You're playing Paris with Pavement.

MB: Yeah, if somebody told me I was playing in Paris with Pavement five years ago, I wouldn't know what I'd think. It boggles my mind that that's going to happen. Scott and I-- we're not alone in this-- but that was probably the band that made us want to be in a band. Or at least they gave us the confidence. Somehow, you realize you can kind of do anything in music. You don't have to be good at a certain thing; you can just do whatever you want.

Pitchfork: The band was just the focus of a commercial for Google. Was that weird for you?

MB: They just contacted us. Our manager said, "Hey, you guys have an offer for a Google ad." And at first, we saw dollar signs. We were like, "Google?" I have a kid and stuff, and we'll sell a song to a movie or a TV show or an ad if the money's good enough. And the Google thing, we were interested because we thought it would just be a ton of money. Turns out it was hardly any money, but then we saw the ad that they were talking about, it's basically just an ad for our band. So it seemed like a smart thing to do.

I'll be honest; I think we all debate that whole thing. Having your songs in movies or TV or commercials, does that hurt your band, or does that hurt the music? We debate that all the time. But the Google thing is an example where it's like, well, it supports us, and it's about us, so we were OK with it. And to be honest, we were excited about it. But yeah, we didn't get rich off it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

New Releases Recent and Coming Soon

Earlier this month:
Vampire Weekend - Contra
Spoon - Transference
Langhorne Slim - Be Set Free
Cold War Kids - Behave Yourself EP

Jan. 26
Beach House - Teen Dream
Fredrik - Trilogi
Los Campesinos - Romance is Boring

2: Midlake - The Courage of Others
9: Hot Chip - One Left Stand
9: Yeasayer - Odd Blood
23: Shout Out Louds - Work

2: Rogue Wave - Permalight
9: Frightened Rabbit - The Winter of Mixed Drinks
9: Pavement - Quarantine: Best of Pavement
16: Drive By Truckers - The Big To-Do
16: The Whigs - In the Dark
23: She & Him - Volume Two

13: The Tallest Man on Earth - Dead Oceans

4: The New Pornographers - Together
TBA: The National