1. New Monsters Collective- Spaceland
2. The ACB’s – Stona Rosa
3. Nerves Junior-As Bright As Your Neon Light
4. Double Wedding
5. The North Decade- What You’d Give Up Tomorrow You’ll Pay For Today
6. Telekinesis- 12 Desperate Straight Lines
7. Lonely Forest- Arrows
8. Ha HA Tonka- Death of a Decade
9. Yellow Ostrich- The Mistress 
10. Dolfish- Your Love is Bumming Me Out

(#4 is a song I recorded with some 3rd graders at an elementary school songwriting camp)

Best thing that happened to you in 2011:
I went to the dentist for the first time since 9/11/2001 and the Pujols trade.

What you’re looking forward to in 2012:
Free Energy
Dragon Inn 3 (my nu thang)
Ghoul School (a new movie by Brook Linder)
Truth and Justice for the 3 missing women
When Vitamin Water buys out Pitchfork and Yeltsin headlines VitaminWaterFest

Best Holiday memory from when you were a kid:
I got a dope David and Goliath action figure set one year.


Music We Liked From This Year:

Mike Quinn – Magico
Key Losers – California Lite
Generationals – Actor Castor
Langor – Ladyblade
They Might Be Giants – Spoiler Alert

Music we liked this year that came out in another year:

Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Penguin Cafe Orchestra
Al Green – Tired of Being Alone
Sybylle Baier – Tonight
Raymond Scott – Soothing Sounds for Baby
John Prine – In Spite of Ourselves
The Would-Be-Goods –  The Camera Loves Me
Nina Simone – Little Girl Blue
Pic-Nic – Callate Niña
Konono Nº1 – Congotronics
Billy Meshel – I Blew It

Best thing that happened to you in 2011:

I lived through 11/11/11 the last fully binary day of our lifetime (when you write out the date). also, I found out that every year 11/11 is national corduroy appreciation day. – nick

What you’re looking forward to in 2012:

Releasing our new album, Shy Pursuit and all the fun stuff that comes with that.

Best Holiday memory from when you were a kid:

Eating cookies my mom makes, some are little meringue things, others are balls that have powder sugar on em, and some are just sugar cookies. now she has started making springerle cookies…which are the best holiday cookie ever created. i’m learning how to make em this year…so that will be nice. – nick

Aaron Pfenning (Rewards, ex-Chairlift)

Top 10 songs

1. Phantogram – “Don’t Move”
2. YACHT – “I Walked Alone”
3. Blood Orange – “Champagne Coast”
4. Class Actress – “Weekend”
5. Discodeine – “Synchronized”
6. Grimes – “Oblivion”
7. Holy Ghost! – “Hold My Breath”
8. Drake – “HYFR”
9. Slowdance – “Les Reines”
10. Beyoncé – “Party”


#1 has to be “Rolling In The Deep.” Though thanks to modern American
radio playlists, I’ve heard it so many times in the last year, I’ve
developed a strong hatred for it. But there is no denying it’s one of the
best songs in the past few years. Great production, great songwriting,
great execution….and of course, a tremendous vocal.

Bon Iver – “Holocene”
The Strokes – “Gratisfaction”
Foo Fighters – “Rope”
Tally Hall – “A Hymn For A Scarecrow”
Young The Giant – “My Body”
Noel Gallagher – “The Death Of You And Me”
Foster The People – “Pumped Up Kicks”
Beyonce – “Love On Top”
Britney Spears – “Till The World Ends”

Best thing that happened to you in 2011: Only having a few chipped teeth
as a result of diving into shallow water.

What you’re looking forward to in 2012: More touring…stateside and abroad!

Best Holiday memory from when you were a kid: In 1989, it snowed in
Florida a couple of days before Christmas. It was the first and only
white Christmas I’ve had in Florida to this day.
ARMS (Todd Goldstein)

1. Wild Beasts – Smother

I was initially suspicious of Wild Beasts’ new album – too much space, too few “songs”, the weirdness of their past albums somehow lost… but somewhere in there I fell in love. Smother is sexy and strange and immaculately produced and arranged – it’s also ineffably sad, and it’s that just-out-of-reach tone that kept me searching the sound, coming back to this album over and over again this year.

2. Nicolas Jaar – Space is Only Noise

3. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

4. Richard Buckner – Our Blood

5. Kate Bush – 50 Words for Snow

6. Sandro Perri – Impossible Spaces

7. Robag Wruhme – Thora Vukk

8. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

9. Liturgy – Aesthethica

10. James Blake – James Blake

Best thing that happened to you in 2011: After months of work and struggle, we self-released our new album, Summer Skills. I just got a new tattoo to celebrate!

What you’re looking forward to in 2012: Touring, and writing more songs.

Best Holiday memory from when you were a kid: The absolute, all-encompassing joy I felt upon receiving Mario Bros 3 for Chanukah. I had just seen “The Wizard” with Fred Savage, and this was pretty much the best present a 10-year-old could ask for. I think I cried with joy, which is retrospect is kind of weird.

WOODEN BIRDS (Leslie Sisson)

Josh T Pearson – Last of the Country Gentlemen
Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Wye Oak – Civillian
Real Estate – Days
Telekinesis – Desperate Straight Lines
Little Light – The Winter EP
Dan Mangan – Oh Fortune
King Creosote & Jon Hopkins – Diamond Mine
Explosions in the Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
St Vincent – Strange Mercy

I’ve known Josh T Pearson since I was a teenager.  He’s always been an inspiration to me in music and life.  The man lives and breathes every note he plays, every word he sings, every soul he swoons.  I’m in awe of his talents and spirit.  Instead of breaking rules, he makes new ones.  Texas is the reason and Last of the Country Gentlemen is the way home.


Note: These aren’t really in any particular order (because music isn’t a competition, duh).

Deerhoof – “Deerhoof vs. Evil”….Like 2007’s ‘Friend Opportunity’, this album is tied for being Deerhoof’s most ‘produced’ sounding record, but still has its moments of chaos.  If Deerhoof isn’t your favorite band on the planet yet, check out their free live record, “99% Upset Feeling” that was released as a companion piece this year (and then buy everything they’ve put out from ‘Reveille’ onward).  My personal favorite band of the new millennium, and while not my favorite of theirs, “Deerhoof vs. Evil” is a stellar addition to their discography with some totally banging singles.

Delicate Steve – “Wondervisions”….An album of spastic, world-influenced guitar-led instrumentals that breathe and climax in ways that have been largely forgotten by indie rock.  Some of my favorite background music ever.  Wonderful ‘vibes’ (pardon the phrase) all around.

Yellowbirds – “The Color”….Sam Cohen’s debut ‘solo’ record (guitarist of Apollo Sunshine), and the results are brilliant.  Great songs, wonderful guitar playing, and a sound and mood that nobody else is occupying at the moment.  This album is total musical poetry to me.

TV on the Radio – “Nine Types of Light”….Great songs, great album, great band.  Future music worthy of the hype.

They Might Be Giants – “Join Us”….As silly and scatterbrained as any of their early records, ‘Join Us’ managed to worm its way into my brain in ways I wasn’t expecting.  “When Will You Die?” belongs on a list of top 10 songs John Linnell has ever written.

Jay Z/Kanye West – “Watch the Throne”….No explanation really necessary here.

Grateful Dead – “Europe 72, Vol. 2″….I love the Grateful Dead.  Accept this as something you can’t change and move on (I know you’re angry).  This album was released as a companion to “Europe ’72”, an album I’ve worn out from spinning over and over again.  The hour-long Dark Star/Drums/The Other One that makes up the bulk of the second disc is hypnotic and otherworldly.  And the ‘Playing’ that closes the first disc totally shreds.

Ahleuchatistas – “Location, Location”…Reduced to a duo for this record, they’ve trimmed away a lot of their old math-rock tendencies (which I also loved) and emerged with something resembling an instrumental political/noise/punk/free-jazz record.  A great (and totally overlooked) record that belongs in anyone’s collection who likes adventurous and ugly guitar playing.

Fleet Foxes – “Helplessness Blues”….I didn’t love self-titled, but this album is gorgeous and imaginative.  In spite of being the type of band that you could claim was heavily and directly influenced by other bands (CSNY, Simon and Garfunkel, etc etc), they’ve really created their own world on this album and I love hanging out in it.

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – “Mirror Traffic”….To put it bluntly, this album sounds like Pavement.  So therefore, it’s really, really great.  “Senator” is one of the funniest and best songs I’ve heard all year….And though I’d like to say only Stephen Malkmus can get away with singing a chorus with the lyric “I know what the senator wants: what the senator wants is a blowjob”, I think I’m just mad that he thought of it first.

White Denim – “D”….Between Yellowbirds, Deerhoof, Delicate Steve, and White Denim, it’s really good to hear aggressive and tasteful guitar playing.  With all of the shoegazey/dreamy stuff going on, it’s incredibly refreshing to hear a band that kinda sounds like…well…Yes.  Proggy and loopy, with some great guitar playing and solid songwriting.  I’m a new convert to White Denim.

St. Vincent – “Strange Mercy”….I didn’t fall for it quite like ‘Actor’, but this record is still great.  St. Vincent is going to be making great records for decades to come (I have a hunch), so you might as well jump on the bandwagon now.

Deleted Scenes – “Young People’s Church of the Air”….One of my friends said it best when he described the sound of this album as ‘one of the best albums you’ve ever heard playing in another room’.  While their live performances are totally in-your-face indie rock a la other DC icons the Dismemberment Plan, this album is really subdued and beautiful.  ‘Bedbedbedbedbed’ is such an amazing song.  This album should be vastly more popular and you should buy it immediately.

Tereu Tereu – “NW EP”….’Savage Love’ is one of the sickest rock songs I’ve heard all year (in every sense of the word SICK), and the EP is great from top-to-bottom.  Heavily DC-influnced, with delicious little bits of Medications, Fugazi, and D-Plan.  Totally stoked for their next full-length….And NOT just because they’re my friends.  I swear.

Norwegian Arms – “Trimming of Hides EP”/”Sibir EP”….Once again, another friend….But I happen to know a lot of people making great music, OK??  Analog-made freak folk with unusual percussion and tastes of what I would describe as a more spastic Neutral Milk Hotel.  I WANT A FULL LENGTH ALBUM FROM YOU, BRENDAN…OK?  But in the meantime, get these EPs because they’re sick.

Trawler – “Northern Star EP”….Dear friend of mine, recorded in Nashville.  Old school folk music with some 60s rock influence thrown in.  ‘Kill Olympia’ is unreal.  I’ll wait and bestow more praise when the full-length comes out.

 Honorable mentions….

The Psychic Paramount – “II”

Hella – “Tripper”

Tuneyards – “Whokill”

Cave – “Neverendless”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – “It’s a Corporate World”

Traffique – “Endless Weekend Mixtape”

Kate Bush – “50 Words for Snow”

Trouble Books and Mark McGuire – “s/t”

Radiohead – “The King of Limbs”

Marissa Nadler – “s/t”

Joe Lally – “Why Should I Get Used to It”

Joan of Arc – “Life Like”

THE DEMON BEAT (Tucker Riggleman)

10) Time New Viking – Dancer Equired
9) Pujol – Nasty, Brutish, and Short
8) Yuck – Yuck
7) Stephen Malkmus & The Jick – Mirror Traffic
6) Fucked Up – David Comes To Life
5) OFF! – First Four EPs
4) Tyler, The Creator – Goblin
3) The Black Keys – El Camino
2) Bon Iver – Bon Iver
1) JEFF the Brotherhood – We Are The Champions

JEFF the Brotherhood are so fucking loud, it’s awesome. We got to play with them back in August and it ruled. One of the best live shows around.

WYLDLIFE (Spencer Alexander)

10. The Rotten Jazz Quartet “Sing Damnit”
These guys have such a unique sound and draw from so many different influences. Its like a real rockabilly Tom Waits on acid.

9. Fleet Foxes “Helplessness Blues”
Good stuff to relax to.

Some good mash-ups for when you’re in the mood to party.

7. The Downtown Struts “Sail the Seas Dry”
These dudes take the punk rock road that bands like Social D, Rancid, and NoFX, paved and take it step further.

6. The Rolling Stones “Some Girls Reissue”  I guess this doesn’t really count but I’m so into the tune “No spare parts” which TECHNICALLY  is new.
5.Porches “Scrap and Love Songs Revisted”
My buddy Aaron is one of the most talented people I know.

4.Biters “All Chewed Up”
This band is one of the tightest I have ever seen. See them live.

3.Social Distortion “Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes”
This is my all time favorite band, so they are automatically guaranteed a spot in the top three. I’ve been waiting for this album for so long.

2.Liquor Store “Yeah Buddy”
These guys fuckin’ rule. Really epic punk songs.

1.The Booze “At Maximum Volume”
I’m sorry to say that these guys have recently disbanded. This was my album of the summer, I wore this thing out.

Best thing that happened to me in 2011:
 The best thing that happened to me in 2011 was releasing our first full length album. We are all so proud of that sucker, and its been getting a good response which is all we can ask for. Also, opening for CJ Ramone at Webster Hall was so cool. I can remember listening to the album “Mondo Bizarro” on cassette,which he played and sang on when I was 12, so to be able to share the stage with him was surreal.

In 2012 I’m looking forward to finally getting on the road again. We haven’t toured in a dog’s age.


1. The Low Anthem – Smart Flesh
2. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
3. The Felice Brothers – Celebration, Florida
4. Bright Eyes – The People’s Key
5. Blind Pilot – We Are the Tide
6. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
7. Sam Roberts – Collider
8. Chris Bathgate – Salt Year
9. Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire
10. Jessica Lea Mayfield – Tell Me

Best thing that happened to me in 2011: My first UK tour was undoubtedly a major highlight of the year. The crowds were amazing, and I couldn’t have asked for better traveling companions than Jesse Malin & the St. Marks Social.

What I’m Looking Forward to in 2012: Releasing my new album! Recording’s almost done and I’m so excited about sharing it. Definitely a different feel than ‘Down Wires.’

Best Holiday Memory from When I was a Kid: Eating myself into a homemade ravioli coma at my grandparents’ house annually. I plan to keep the streak alive this year.

ERIC DAVIDSON (freelance writer; singer for New Bomb Turks and LIVIDS; author of We Never Learn: The Gunk Punk Undergut, 1988-2001 (Backbeat Books))

The ubiquitous caveat – Of course I have not heard every record, seen every movie, read every book, etc. released in 2011. I haven’t had a TV for months, and haven’t even heard the new Atomic Suplex album on Crypt or The Men’s LP, for pete’s sake! But for now, here are my year-end ra-ras ‘bout the junk I dug… in no particular order.

Black Lips – Arabia Mountain (Vice) – While longtime fans keep expecting a drop-off, and new converts still yell for on-stage peeing (annoying said longtime fans), the Black Lips continue to traverse the globe for inspiration while always holding a stash of huge yankee garage-pop hooks in their ass-pocket. So much so this time, that this is probably the most fully enjoyable Lips album to date, after 10+ years in the game!

Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for My Halo (Matador)
After dishing up some of the cooler scruffy garage-art of the last couple years with his Violators around him, Vile dishes up this beautiful, subtly brazen solo salvo, fogged-up with 12:45am ruminating folk, best left to your weakest mood points on the rainiest nights. Though it all retains enough scruff, snarl, and thrift store demeanor to be enjoyed on a 6pm ride home. So sink into this stuff before the inevitable focus-destroying Kanye photo opp and DJ of the Week remix.

Acid Baby Jesus – S/T (Slovenly)
A more scarred, psych-pep take on all that fuzzy, echoey, melancholy early-60s melody garage-plop churning through the indie underbelly (I call it “Hardly Artcore”), and unwittingly suffused with the oddly inspiring empty pockets of the Grecian economy nosedive. Layers of frightened bellowing and otherwordly distortion, with sticky, oily hooks outta nowhere, make it the most intriguing debut of the year.

OBN IIIs – The One and Only (Tic Tact Totally)
Tykes from down Texas-way, with probably too many side projects (all of them good!), slingin’ killer slash’n’burn, with structure smarts, way more-than-required sweat, and that elusive, effortless ability to make you think R’nR has a pulse.

Last Laugh Records
Label head honcho and sole employee, Harry Howes, really went cuckoo with the reissues of ultra-obscure, first-era punk rock that are truly cracked and a genuine hoot, as opposed to just, y’know, ultra-obscure. He spread his Red Bull wings out into early-70s glam, power pop, and even some new shit – like the house party punk of Liquor Store’s debut, Yeah Buddy! – with his Almost Ready and Mighty Mouth imprints too. But Last Laugh has resurrected the whole “Killed by Death” pinhead impetus for yet another generation of louts.

Othermen – Just Pallin’ Around With (Killer Diller)
Calling it crazed shockabilly brings to mind lame flame-skull tattoos and leopard print creepers, etc. But it ain’t that exactly. Aside from singer Max Frechette’s pompadour recalling the torn innards of a post-hunt leopard, and his hot licks hollow-body guitar having been taped and stapled back together like Michael Yonkers taught him the Eddie Cochran catalog, the band drunkenly dissects-then-discards any mid-century nods, making a fast racket that wears you out quick. And the 15-minute chat with a very sauced Rico (bassist) at the end is the perfect respite. Who needs more songs anyway?!

Human Eye – They Came from the Sky (Sacred Bones)
(and some Timmy’s Organism singles…)
Timmy Vulgar, Detroit’s alien heart of now-times punk, continues to produce on the level of Ford in the ‘50s, while his sounds – via his Human Eye and Timmy’s Organism projects – evolve into the noise of those dead ol’ axel factories being torn to bits by the drunken arrested adolescents of that new planet they discovered this year. The Human Eye live shows were as consistently id-invigorating of any band this year.

Flesh Lights
The hopped-up hopes of the year, this Austin trio frisbeed out a few singles, but it’s the surprisingly searing sounds of their debut LP on Twistworthy, Muscle Pop, that can really electrify the ears of someone who thinks OBN IIIs could save R’n’R.

Death of Samantha reunion show, Dec. 23, Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland, OH
The first, and probably last, reunion of the original lineup of my favorite local Cleveland band (one of my fave bands period) from my formative years. So yeah, kind of a personal pick here, but DoS remain one of the more underrated indie acts of the late-80s, a monster mash of glam gloop, punk pissed, and leader John Petkovic’s lounge lizard leering that put them in the pantheon of great Ohio bands that just didn’t fit into prescribed rock world peg/hole prescripts. On this Xmas Eve eve, the band had a ball and masterfully blasted out tunes from all their releases, and generally lifted the packed faithful up and into 1986 and back again, like maybe they should consider erasing that “and probably last” line from the first sentence here.

Guilty Pleasures – Summer Strange (Dusty Medical)
L.A. Times – s/t 7” EP (Smash It Up)

Long never-unleashed recordings from two of the most savage and sorely under-known bands of the whole late-90s lo-fi garage-punk undie-explosion. Having crawled from somewhere around Bloomington, IL, around 2000, the Guilty Pleasures put out one insanely screechy 7” single, a few brain-gutting gigs, and sometime inbetween recorded this album that sat around for some damn reason, until now. Same goes for L.A. Times, a Devil Dogs-worshipping bunch from, ahem, L.A., who were too young to be told that 60 beers in one night is in fact a lot to drink for one band. Finally quit waiting for someone to dig up their AOL email address and ask ‘em, so they finally just released this sick 4-song slab this year, 300 copies only, so get hunting!

Ed Wood’s Sleaze Paperbacks show at the Boo-Hooray gallery, NYC
An amazing amassing of not just the paperbacks of Ed Wood’s end-of-existence career of porn-pulp writing – featuring astonishingly eye-burning cover art – but loads of personal family/friend photos, magazine articles with more wild cover graphics, and a short film, readings, and recollections from fans at the closing party that revealed that “sleaze” is in the mind’s eye of the beholder

The general proliferation of fun, fuzzed-out R’n’R combos splattering the less pretentious edges of the, well I wanna say “indie underground,” but I probably have to start getting used to saying shit like “blogosphere” and “Twitteratti” and other childish words that sound dated the second they leave your lips. Anyway, there are loads of new/ish bands who kept huffing Black Lips and King Khan & BBQ fumes that were let go circa mid-2000s; and exhaled grimey swirls of early-60s girl group and doo-wop dredged melodies, Goner/In the Red/Crypt-rooted garage-punk spasms, some spooky, echoey undertones, and a deep, ceaseless love of the Ramones – all with a cheap-ass trash production style that has as much to do with accidentally mirroring our broke, on-your-own freelance times as Scion or Sailor Jerry blowing cash for cred. Most of it still kicks nasty, though shit is edging a little too cutesy (Jacuzzi Boys, maybe switch to 60-minute IPAs or something). And the shark has been flossing his chops waiting to be jumped (is a Hunx & His Punk song on Two Broke Girls inevitable…?) But for now, it’s a pretty fun party.
So keep it up, The Hussy, Davila 666, Mean Jeans, White Mystery, Strange Hands, Mouthbreathers, No Bunny, The Eeries, Bare Wires, Mark Sultan, Dum Dum Girls, Tandoori Knights, K-Holes, Shannon & the Clams, FIDLAR, Peach Kelli Pop, Jail Weddings, Los Vigilantes, Radar Eyes, Wax Museums, Ty Segall, Useless Eaters, Thee Oh Sees, Royal Headache, and more, etc…


The Wooden Birds Premiere Tour Diary And Hit The Road

Tour diaries generally only interest die hard fans; the casual listener doesn’t necessarily care about what kind of pranks band members pull on each other or what their favorite food is. The Wooden Birds just released one of their own tour diaries to celebrate the beginning of the summer tour they kicked off in Phoenix, AZ on June 16th, but everyone can find something in it for themselves. Directed and narrated by front Andrew Kenny, this tour diary isn’t just a quick montage of random and silly video; it’s a story. And it’s told so well that Crawdaddy called Kenny “the indie rock Ira Glass.” Watch the video below:

But even better than just hearing about what tour life is like for The Wooden Birds would be to just catch them live supporting their album Two Matchsticks! Check the dates below to see if they’re coming near you in their summer-long trip around North America.

Here are their upcoming tour dates:

7/8 – Chicago, IL @ The Hideout (21+)
7/9 – Grand Rapids, MI @ Founders Brewery (21+)
7/10 – Toronto, ON @ The Drake (all ages)
7/11 – Montreal, QC @ Casa Del Popolo  (all ages)
7/12 – Boston, MA @ Great Scott (18+)
7/14 – New York, NY @ Mercury (21+)
7/15 – Brooklyn, NY @ Rock Shop (21+)
7/16 – Washington, DC @ DC9 (all ages)
7/17 – Atlanta, GA @ The Earl (21+)
7/20 – Austin, TX @ The Mohawk (all ages)

NYC’s Weekly Show Roundup!

Sufjan Stevens @ Beacon Theatre

DJ Shadow @ Irving Plaza

Fiction Plane, The Globes @ Mercury Lounge (Early Show)

Oh Land @ Mercury Lounge (Late Show)

Mumford & Sons, Cadillac Sky, King Charles @ Terminal 5

Jonsi (and Kjartan of Sigur Ros), Alex Somers (of Riceboy Sleeps), Hilliard Ensemble, Latvian National Choir, Wordless Music Orchestra
@ The Church of  St. Paul the Apostle

The Joy Formidable, Group Love, The Dig @ Bowery  Ballroom

Oceanographer, Minor Stars, Leslie Sisson (of Wooden Birds) @ Bruar Falls

Spindrift, Dinowalrus, Runaway Sons @ The Knitting Factory

Kings of Leon @ Madison Square Garden

Glasser, ARP @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

Mumford & Sons, Cadillac Sky, King Charles @ Terminal 5

The Big Sleep, Chappo, ArpLine, Red Wire Black Wire @ Glasslands

Ben Kweller @ Maxwell’s

Darwin Deez, BELL, King Charles, Friends @ Mercury Lounge

Electric Tickle Machine, Mirror Mirror, Hooray for Earth, Mon Khmer, Autre Ne Veut @ Pianos

La Roux @ Terminal 5

Thao Nguyen @ The Bell House

Deleted Scenes, Modern Skirts @ The Rock Shop

Tame Impala, Stardeath And White Dwarfs, Kuroma @ Bowery Ballroom

I’m Turning Into, Whale Belly, The House Floor, Mala Strana @ Bruar Falls

Electric Tickle Machine, Web Dating, Pet Ghost Project @ Death By Audio

CFCF, Teebs, Hercules and Love Affair (DJ Set) @ Glasslands

Buffalo Tom, Dinosaur Feathers @ Mercury Lounge

Simian Mobile Disco (DJ Set), JDH & Dave P @ Santos Party House

Ben Folds, Lady Danville @ The Wellmont Theatre

Hess Is More, Sky White Tiger, Jessica 6 @ Union Pool

The Morning Benders, Twin Sister, Cults @ Webster Hall

The Beets, Total Slacker, The Babies, Eternal Summers, Night Manager @ 285 Kent Avenue

Tame Impala, Stardeath And White Dwarfs, Kuroma @ Bowery Ballroom

Light Pollution, Acrylics, Blood Orange, Unsolved Mysteries @ Glasslands

Cornershop @ Irving Plaza

Bear in Heaven, Twin Shadow, Sun Airway @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

Kate Nash, Peggy Sue @ Terminal 5

ArpLine, Motive, Machu Pichu, Little Racer @ The Studio at Webster Hall



Matt Pond PA “Starting”

Tonight I am going to see one of my favorite bands, Matt Pond PA. Here’s my little secret. For some reason I have NEVER seen MPPA live. This is beyond wierd isn’t it? I’m not exactly sure how this has happened, being I live in New York, as does the band, but we have unfortunate incidents, that every time for the past 5 years, when MPPA took the stage I either already had tickets to another show or I was on vacation. It seemed to be working against me. Good grief Charlie Brown.

I still remember the first time I discovered Matt Pond PA. It was 2005 and I was interning at big record label in Manhattan. Someone got fired, and as the intern I was, I got to clean out their cd collection, and keep what I wanted to, and put the rest in the trash. Nothing caught my eye but this mix someone had made the person oddly titled “Sunsetting.” Looking at the tracklist, I saw the good Matt Pond PA name on there, noticed it being familar, and took it. The song that was on there was “The Butcher,” and in my ever mess of a room, I didn’t listen to the mix for almost two weeks. It wasn’t until Sunday night two weeks later when I was watching Subteranean on MTV2, that they showed the MPPA video for “Closest (Look Out).” I’ve been hooked ever since.

Well tonight is the night that I get to experience first hand, MPPA at the Bowery Ballroom. With the recent release of The Dark Leaves (Polyvinyl), and some of the strongest songs Pond has ever written, it is sure to be an amazing night. Plus I am going to experience it with someone who I love dearly. I think it was all meant to happen at once.

Recently MPPA released the first video for the record, “Starting,” which features the new-ish lineup featuring the lovely Miss Leslie Sisson of the Wooden Birds (which she plays with Pond and Andrew Kenny formerly of American Analog Set), running away from a slow swerving car with glowing orbs. It MPPA fashion, it’s beautiful.

Matt Pond PA “Starting”

Getting Scientific with Andrew Kenny from The Wooden Birds


Andrew Kenny has to be one of the most interesting figure in music today. Formerly of the American Analog Set, Kenny is currently on the road with his new band, The Wooden Birds. There’s quite a difference between the two bands,  and there is a bit of reasoning behind that. Recently we sat down with Kenny to talk about the past, present and his very scientific future. This is one interview you don’t want to miss!

Modern Mystery: What made you decide to start The Wooden Birds after American Analog Set who were pretty successful?

Andrew Kenny: Well, they were kind of separate decisions first of all. American Analog Set didn’t want to tour any longer, and it’s not a very responsible thing to do to try put out your records or find somebody to put out your records and not follow through and support them. So that kind of was a door that was closing. In the meantime, I had been putting songs aside for slightly more up tempo, maybe a little more poppy, a lot more vocal project. I said since this can’t tour anymore we’ll have fun and record every once in a while, still record songs, stuff like that. But this is a really good time to start this other thing that was always going to take time away from American Analog Set, but not any longer. The timing is just right.

How did you get involved with the musicians you wanted to make up The Wooden Birds, like Matt Pond?

Well I had to stumble through making the record on my own. I wanted it to be very small and I had a good idea of what I wanted it to sound like so I just kind of did it. And then when it came time to put a band together, I found people. I played them the record and then I said, not even asking “What do you want to play?”, it’s more like “Do you like the record? Could you see yourself being something in this band?” and then I got those people together and said “Alright, somebody’s got to play the guitar, somebody’s got to play the bass.” And there’s no drums on the record, but you got to have drummers these days. Kids like the drummers. But seriously, unless you want to play in cafés and Barnes and Nobles, you got to have a drummer. So Sean plays drums, he was my drummer when I did solo shows in Austin. Leslie sang on the record and I asked her if she wanted to join up and have your pick of guitar, other guitar, bass, whatever you want…she picked guitar. Originally the guy who helped me produce the record, Chris Michaels, played steel guitar and he wasn’t able to come on this tour, and I was literally just like the day he told me, I was on the phone with Matt Pond and we were talking about he has a record coming out in the fall and I said “You got nothing to do, you should join the band!” and he said “I can’t believe I’m about to say ‘Yes’ to this but I am.” So yea, that’s Matt Pond. But really it was always made, the music is especially made for friends to play, right? It’s not a showcase of anyone’s musicianship, it’s more like, very short vocal heavy songs. I knew that putting a band together after the fact, I’m not going to get it right the first time, I’m not going to get it right the second time. I’d rather have people coming and going and having a good time, then I would be trying to find the exact lineup forever and forever and forever. Music is made to have fun with.

Do you find that a lot of American Analog Set fans are receptive of The Wooden Birds?

Well, yes, but in my experience, and my experience isn’t endless. I’m only so old and I’ve only been at this so long…in my experience people don’t usually come up to you and tell you how disappointed they were by a show. It’s usually them saying “I really enjoyed that” or “I’ve enjoyed your music for a long time, thanks for coming.” That don’t say “Really? What was that?” Something about your voice and an organ, nobody says that. So yes , people have said “Wow” I feel like I waited almost ten years to hear you play “Aaron & Maria” and now you’re not going to play it. This band is made to play “Aaron & Maria”. It’s always thumbs up in every way. Not so much on this tour because we’re supporting another band, but when we did the tour to support the record and we would play an Analog Set song it was obvious there was obviously a portion of the audience there to see what we are up to now. Speaking about the Analog Set as a really popular band, I mean we only played The Bowery opening for other bands. We were kind of a small band, we were just around for a long time.

 How has your songwriting evolved over the years?

 I’d like to think that it has a lot, but truthfully it really hasn’t that much at all. There’s a song on the record called “Hometown Fantasy” that sounds like The Wooden Birds, and it was the first song I wrote over twenty years ago. I found it on a demo tape I made, literally right after high school and I put it on the record and it fits perfectly. So really I guess I haven’t grown that much. I’d like to think that my lyrics are better than they were on the first Analog Set record but then again, I think by the time I hit maybe Know By Heart I think I was taking my lyrics a lot more seriously and doing a better job. So really I’m happy with every comment and everything on the record. Really songwriting wise, my songs are my songs. If I made them sound different it wouldn’t sound like me anymore.

 How long did it take you to record Magnolia?

 I guess when it finally came down to it, maybe a couple of months. Like maybe just under three months. You know on the record how there is the hammered out percussion on the guitar, the bass always sounds the same and fits in that little palm muted pocket, the rhythm guitar always sounds the same, so I recorded the songs many times over the previous year until I figured out okay, this is how the pieces fit together. And once I enjoyed how they were put together the rest of the dominos just fell, and like okay now, I think it took me about three months to get it right. When it probably came down to it, the reason that it took longer than it really even should have is because we recorded it all on a piece of tape. We pieced it together as a demo and then when it came down to it, let’s get all of these performances. We stripped everything down and built the songs up again, so all of Leslie’s performances are a vocal performance. So it took a little bit longer than normal, like a Frankstein job. But some bands take years to make a record.


Was having Leslie’s voice very prominent on the record something you had planned or did it just happen?

 I wrote…. As I was writing these songs and picking the songs that I wanted on the record, I wanted every song to have a female and a male part. It’s not always call and response, although it does happen, but I wanted two voices to be there, and the backup vocal I wanted just as strong as the lead vocal. I didn’t want to double myself at all, I wanted it to be something I hadn’t done before, I wanted another human voice. I loved Leslie’s voice for a long, long time and I have recorded her over the years in her projects. I played the demos for her and got her involved really early, and she just kind of hung in there with me recording. The first half of the demos were written with her in mind, and she sang them so beautifully that the second half of the songs were written with her exact voice. I know where your range sounds good and I’m writing this part for you to sing. If she hadn’t it wouldn’t have come out the same way. She’s awesome.

 What inspires you to write a song? Is it always personal or is it sometimes a story?

 It’s a house card, I don’t want to think about it too much. I don’t know where it’s from, and I’m just glad that I get to write songs and I really have a lot of fun doing it. But some of the time I think that’s a good idea for a song, sometimes it’s a melody, sometimes it’s a guitar part, I have no repeatable method at all. The fact that they actually do come out so much specifically is always a huge surprise to me. But as far as lyrically they’re all heartbreak and heartache and lost love, love….this is my bread and butter.

 You lived in Brooklyn for a while, what made you decide to move back to Austin?

Well, I love Brooklyn. The rest of the band still lives in Brooklyn, obviously I have roots here, as so many do as well. But it was a small apartment and my wife and I decided it would be nice to have a window and a dog, trees and a garden and stuff like that, it’s all stuff you can have here, but it takes a lot of work to pull it off and we’re closer to family down in Texas, so it wasn’t like “Brooklyn?!” it was more like “Brooklyn is awesome and we should come back and visit,” but we’re getting on in years, and we’re not going to be pushing a stroller down 7th Avenue and Park Slope.

Down Park Slope doesn’t sound like a good idea!

 Maybe not down Park Slope, maybe just the sidewalk down 3rd Street (laughs).

 What is your favorite thing about being in the recording studio, or recording in general?

 My favorite thing about recording is, it’s making something from nothing. Like before you begin, there really is nothing, nothing exists, but when you’re done, a song exists, and it’s almost like magic. You’re like “I like this a lot” and a few minutes ago, the music didn’t exist and now it exists and I like it. It’s so valuable to me it should have a raw material, it should have a coal turned into a diamond. It costs time, that’s the raw material, but I just like the magic.

 What’s your least favorite and favorite part about being on tour?

 Wait my least favorite, or favorite?


I think my favorite part is getting to kind of experience the culture of music in a way that makes me feel comfortable. Like if I don’t have a reason to be in the club I am the most uncomfortable person there. I’m always against the wall or I’m too tall and I’m in somebody’s way and I want to leave. Unless I absolutely love a band, I will never go out and see one. I always feel that I’m in somebody’s way and I’m dealing with loud people and drunks. For some reason when I go on tour I get to see bands every night and for some reason being contractually obligated to be at the venue makes me comfortable to be there. You can all think I’m not cool enough to be here, and you’re right, but the fact is, on September 26th, or 27th, A.K. can be at this location and it’s going to be okay. That’s the way I think about it, is that I have a reason to be somewhere. My least favorite thing is that I miss my wife a lot and we’ve only been married for three years so I feel like I’m missing a lot, well what I think is a lot, like 3 or 4 months out of the year, I feel like I’m missing out.

 Who are your influences, or artists that inspired you to play music yourself?

 Probably the ones that you would think…

 Like Black Sabbath? (laughs)

 (Laughs)  A little Sabbath, a lot of Angular Maps, no I think it’s not always music. I think Chris Leo, Ted Leo’s younger brother. He’s the first Leo brother that I met. I think Chris Leo is the most inspiring person I’ve ever met in my life. He’s basically a cartoon character of himself, he’s just so creative and so out there that everything he touches just turns beautiful, it’s great. He’s probably my number one inspiration even though I never played guitar with him, he’s number one.

 Do you ever find it hard to bring what you did in the recording studio onto the stage?

 Well, yes, but not anymore because when I made this record I thought how it was going to be on the record, but really when it comes time to I also knew what the guitar was going to be, what the bass was going to be. I kind of made these songs with a separate live version in mind. It’s just experience. I don’t really get on and go I put the kitchen sink into this record and now how am I going to do this with 3 people, 4 people. I chose songs that I thought I could bring out live. Back in the Analog Set we would just plow them out in the studio, and whatever we came up with was what the songs were and when it came time to play them live that was kind of a holy shit moment. So we could maybe play like 50% of the record, and the other 50%, sometimes my favorite 50% got canned. So this project was live and learn.

What was the first instrument that you learned how to play?

The first instrument that I played was violin and that was in grade school, and I was made to play it and I haven’t picked it up since grade school. I really didn’t enjoy it at all. I hated it. I remember I was in 5th grade, and you might be too young to remember, but there was this show called “Real People,” and there was a show called “That’s Incredible.” One was on ABC and one was on NBC. “Real People” was just like poor country reporters like “We’re going to go to Waco, Texas and meet a little lady that can sing like the dickens!” and they would find a girl who sings in a church choir. Then they’d meet a guy that was like turned license plates into bird houses, he’s a real person! You know the program I’m talking about. This was a nationwide program. My Dad loved it. He also watched “That’s Incredible” from time to time, but less often. So one night I was practicing in my room and he was like “Hey Andy get in here, get in here,” so I walked in there and he’s like “I’m just watching TV, I’m watching “Real People,” and there’s this little girl playing the violin. Now she’s 2 years younger than you, and she plays like she’s a songbird. Listen to this, she’s a virtuoso! And if you just practice a little harder, you can be on “Real People” you can be a real person if you just practice a little more.” Then it was like “We’ll be back with more musical savants on “That’s Incredible”” and it was like “Okay Dad, you want me to be on “Real People” but that was “That’s Incredible”, this incredible, gifted, savant child and all she could do was play violin and she couldn’t like use a fork and a knife. Then he never made me practice again. He realized the absurdity of his perspective and he was like “You can go and play soccer.” I also sucked at soccer by the way. I found it upsetting. But I played violin first and I didn’t even buy a guitar until I was out of High School.


What is the weirdest thing that has ever happened to you on tour?

I don’t know. Weird is sort of a broad thing. I get really weird around guns. I grew up around guns and a lot of my major Birthdays were “Gun Birthdays” like I got my first shotgun. But there was a long period of time when I never touched a gun, and at some point guns started to freak me out. If there’s a gun in the room, then I my eyes is always on it, do you know what I mean? So you can have a gun in the back of your pickup truck, you can have a license to have a gun in your house, you can have a license to carry a concealed weapon, you just have to let the powers to be know that it’s happening. You can do that, it’s not a crime. At some point I got weirded out by them, a couple of times if there’s been trouble at club with payment or parking, they’ll pull a gun as a sort of leverage, and that’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to me. Whenever guns are produced to make an argument more, I don’t know, I kind of turn into a person who wants to get the gun, because I’m not going to fire the gun. My reaction is to get the gun away from the person that might fire the gun, and not shoot it. That’s probably a weird feeling, I’m not myself.

At what point did you think that music was something you wanted to pursue as a career?

Well that never happened before, but the closest it ever came, was I moved to New York to go to graduate school for biochemistry, and even though I like making music, science is the only thing I’ve ever done in my entire life that I ever felt good at. Like I can do this, “I’m doing science!” I can run my bench, I can execute whatever calls, I can help my lab manager see a project through. From beginning to end I feel very accomplished, I’m a published author when it comes to science anyway. I feel good about it. I left my graduate program to make the last American Analog Set record, because I thought I really, really wanted to…I couldn’t see myself not making that record, so I think that was the moment when I put my boat in the dock and just sent it down the river. I don’t have any regrets exactly but that was probably a hard moment. I was 32 then, so it wasn’t like I was 16.

Do you ever think you’ll go back to finish graduate school?

I don’t know. If you’re invited into an Ivy League graduate program and then you bail to make a record, I don’t think they’re going to let you go back to them. I will go back to science definitely. What I gave up was a Ph.D. and a really good job, and what I got on the flipside was some time to make music and still work in a laboratory and be a good employee. I’ll probably never do my own science, and that’s fine, but I traded one for the other, but I’ll still do science one day, as long as people are catching cancer, they’ll be people like me to look after them.

What’s next for The Wooden Birds after the tour?

Well after the tour ends, I’ll just drive home, and I’ll be tracking our second. This is the first tour I’ve taken a guitar along in the van, and I’m just making sure I have all of my ducks in a row for the new songs I want to do. So when I get home I want to just start banging on the guitar again, working on songs and rhythms and start writing and recording. That’s definitely the next step unless we get offered another tour, I don’t know if we’ll play it, but they’ll be more recording.

Where do you see yourself musically in 10 years?

In 10 years I really don’t see myself making music in 10 years, and the reason being is I know people that do it at that age for that long and they’re way more talented than I am. I’m not saying I’ll be weeded out by that time but I think at some point I’ll need to…I’ll say okay “I’ll make songs, but I’ll just play them at home for my wife and that will be fine.” Right now I really enjoy this project and being in a band and I’ll see it through to a logical conclusion musically, maybe three more records or something, and then I think I’ll find something better for me. I can’t be in my forties without health insurance, it’s just not right. It’s not right for my wife. She deserves better than a gypsy husband, so in 10 years I will definitely not be making music continuously, but not in a bad way just because I’m looking at myself when I was 20 like “Would I trust a later 40 something writing songs about boys and girls being in love, who’s like 30 years removed?” I wouldn’t trust that person, I wouldn’t trust person that now!  So once I run out of stories and songs that will be it.

The Wooden Birds * Bowery Ballroom, NYC * September 27, 2009

Sunday night we had the amazing chance to experience The Wooden Birds open for Great Lake Swimmers at the Bowery Ballroom. Okay, as soon as we found out that the band had both Andrew Kenny from American Analog Set and Matt Pond in it, we were intrigued.

The band, which is the brain child of Kenny, released Magnolia (Barsuk) back in May and have been supporting the album ever since. This is one of the greatest records I have heard all year, hands down. At their live show, the band gives even more life into the songs. Listening to the record, the first thing you notice that there are no drums on any of the tracks. A careful decision made by Kenny.

Onstage the band brings on drummer Sean Haskins to liven up the live show.  Guitarist and sometimes vocalists Leslie Sisson has one of the most beautiful voices you’ll ever hear, especially on stage. Matt Pond makes a nice addition to the live lineup, playing the new songs like an old pro. Kenny takes on the part of lead vocalist and bass player, with the most infectious bass lines you’ll ever hear. The Great Lake Swimmers had a hard act to follow that’s for sure.

Check out MORE LIVE Pictures of The Wooden Birds @ The Bowery After the JUMP

Check back later on in the week for our exclusive interview with Andrew Kenny!