Liz Phair On Self-Titled Album – Interview

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The 46-year-old pop singer-songwriter-guitarist talks about the 10th anniversary of her self-titled album ‘Liz Phair’, the pros and cons of major label money, and finding a kindred spirit in Lil Wayne.


So, the self-titled album.
Eponymous. I love that word.

The eponymous album. What’s the biggest misconception about it?
Hmm…the biggest misconception is probably that it was recorded all at once. It was actually recorded in many different studio situations over the course of probably a year and a half.

How much of that was done before The Matrix was brought in as songwriters?
All of it! The Matrix was the last thing that happened. After touring with whitechocolatespaceegg I did some with my band from that record and then I did a few with Pete Yorn’s guy Walt Vincent when I first moved to Los Angeles. Then, when Andy Slater became president of Capitol, he hooked me up with Michael Penn. In the end, I think it was supposed to be all the Michael Penn sessions, but I didn’t really feel like that quite represented me, you know? I remember my A&R guy was Ron Laffitte and he was like, “Well, what would you do differently?” And I said I wanted to use these songs from these other sessions as well, like I just didn’t feel like they represented what I had musically inside me to give. He went back to Capitol and they were like, “Well, you can do that if you work with these sort of hitmakers and give us some hits to work with. Then we’ll sort of let this be some whole other animal.” And I had some trepidation going into that, but at the same time I embraced it pretty quickly. I said “sure!” I hadn’t really done any cowrites, and at that point, it wasn’t such a horrifying idea to work with someone else. When I went to meet them, I discovered that I actually knew them, I just didn’t know them as the Matrix. I knew them through friends and people. I remember Lauren [Christy] opened the door and said, “Yeah, I was waiting to see what your reaction would be when I opened the door.” And it was such a wonderful feeling because I just had loved them when I’d met them. It’s so funny, [adopts Elaine Benes-style mocking voice] “The Maaaaaaaatriiiix.” It has such a…I don’t know. A sort of branded name. “The Maaaaaaaaaaatriiiiiiix.” And the people involved I already knew and liked very much.

How familiar were you with their other work at the time?
I like Avril Lavigne! I loved “Complicated.” I thought that was a great pop song. I thought she was a cute little punky, quirky chick. When the label says, “We need some hits,” you know what it’s going to be like. Duh! It’s going to be like that. Some people expected me to have some sort of aversion to that, which I’ve never had. I’ve always loved hit songs my whole life, that has nothing to do with it, I just write differently than that. When I’m left in a room alone, I sound much more small and personal, and I think my older fans just expected me to have a political feeling about that, that I wouldn’t do something like that. Which is…just not true. I’m much more inclusive, musically, than that. It just was a different thing. Which is how I looked at it. But then of course, the shitstorm began.

Right, the shitstorm. Why do you think people reacted so strongly in this particular case?
Because it meant something more to them and I understand that now. A lot of people making that kind of indie music were doing it because they were against mainstream music. Talking to Steve Albini in the Guyville Redux documentary, he’s a perfect spokesman for them, he’s eloquent. He explains that it has its roots in a business decision, in an alternative economic model that’s based on good faith and sort of a…pure love of music. That makes sense to me now, but the misconception was—and anyone that knew me back when Guyville was first breaking would know this about me, when I was in the suburbs—the reason it sounds like that is because when you stick me in a room just by myself, that’s what’s gonna come out. I write these weird, introverted, conversational, confessional, angry songs. It wasn’t a political decision for me.

I always thought it was funny that the eponymous album is considered this fluffy pop thing but opens with the heaviest guitar you’ve ever put on a record.
But it’s produced! There’s no question you can smell money on it. As a person I’ve always lived this way and will continue until the day I die: there are times when you go to a local bar and hang out with your regular friends, and there are times you get dressed up and you go to a black tie dinner or some fundraising function. It’s still you, you’re just in a different context. I’ve always lived that way, and I think a lot of people do. I love hip-hop, I love jazz. If someone came to me with a budget and said “Let’s do a jazz record!” I’d be like, “Whoa, okay!” I guess that’s not a good example because jazz is cool. But my friend wants me to do this thing that he wants to become a dance hit—and that makes sense to me! This is me, I’m musical to my core. Why not explore? So I felt once we added the old tracks onto the Liz Phair [note: every time Phair says the title of this album aloud she says “Liz Phair Liz Phair,” it’s beyond endearing but too much to ask on the page—ed] disc I thought it was this nice bouquet. There’s some serious roses, but you have some wildflowers in there too.

What happened in the five years following whitechocolatespaceegg and what was going on with the label? That album wasn’t directed by Capitol in any way—
Oh no, it was, it was. Matador had signed with Capitol at that point. I was really pissed off about that, but they sort of paid me out so I was like, fine. It was really awkward promoting that record because they had two labels involved. They’d have these meetings with representatives from the indie label and then there’d representatives from the major label. They were trying to work together but ultimately looking back on it, all those major labels buying up all the indies in the Nirvana period…that was all economic, they just wanted to grab that wave for themselves. And then they had to figure out how to work with them, and that of course didn’t make any sense. They approached working totally differently, so after whitechocolatespaceegg, anything I did would either come from the indie or the major, and sometimes they fought. It was ridiculous, like having two masters.

Obviously that didn’t work out, Matador left Capitol but I got stuck staying on it. I think that was sort of part of the deal when they let Matador go. “Okay, but we’re keeping Liz,” because at that time I was sort of a big name. That felt really daunting; suddenly I was on this label I never intended to be on, never would’ve signed to. But I also had a young child, so that’s sort of the dark matter that’s not obvious. I’d just had my son and touring with a really small child…sometimes it was fun but very emotional, to get tired and cry a lot. I needed that time off in between to even get back to a place where I could function like a touring entity.

Do you remember any specific things Capitol and Matador people argued about?
Not so much, it was just…Matador was great about it and was always so fun. I was watching School of Rock the other day and I love when Jack Black’s like, “Stick it to the man!”—that’s what Matador was all about. Like, the larger the circulation of the publication we were being interviewed by, the more they expected us to kind of lie and bullshit, make up ridiculous answers and see if they would get printed. That kind of spirit was so much fun. Capitol was about servicing as large a venue as you possibly could, with like, please and thank yous. It just was a mess. You know? It was a mess.

It’s odd because Capitol put out OK Computer the year before spaceegg so you’d think they were looking for more weirdness.
Well Gary Gersh was a huge advocate of Radiohead and he probably personally…well, you never know if he became a spokesperson for someone else’s idea—but there was definitely a sense that Radiohead was a smart move, and that they felt smart for having them. But I think Radiohead had friction with them on and off their whole time there.

Do you think the bad reaction to Liz Phair was a gender thing too? Like you were still a really serious guitar player doing these complicated chord sequences and…
Are you saying I was rocking too hard and people couldn’t accept a woman doing it?

Oh no, I’m saying it wasn’t even accepted as a rock album.
The eponymous one was much more pop. It just was, in my catalog. And it was overtly about pop, it was a moment when pop was big. The thing that made the eponymous record what it was, were the Matrix songs. You cannot divorce anything that happened around that record. It also afforded me the ability to stretch my wings in terms of performance. I got places and did things I never would’ve gotten without the Matrix songs. I had my best touring experiences off the Liz Phair record. By far. I played “God Bless America” for the White Sox when they won the World Series that year, on an opening game. Or, I played this amazing Nike concert where this kid who had terminal cancer and couldn’t see anymore got up and played drums on “Why Can’t I?” in front of 5,000 people. There was just a lot of cool experiences…holding the main stage at Bumbershoot. Being big enough to turn a large audience in your favor that maybe weren’t as familiar. It was an amazing time for us. Crazy stuff. Insane amounts of radio. That whole world. I would’ve missed that! For the listener, all they’re hearing is what’s in their house, on their stereo. But for an artist, that was a ticket to ride to faraway places that I really enjoyed. And I grew from, my god! In a weird way, that was the making of me as a performer. Those Matrix songs—another thing important about Liz Phair—is vocally I stretched in ways I never had before. I don’t think anyone had ever heard me sing like that before, or even thought I could. The Guyville stuff is pretty low and it’s a totally different perception of me.

A lot of artists are not that great performers the way you’d think on American Idol or something, and a lot of people are just performers, who can do a great vocal delivery but don’t have much in the songwriting. I was an artist and just had never learned how to do the other thing. I learned to do both and it was a pure joy. Other than the pissed-off old fans in the audience who’d cross their arms and glare daggers at me from the stage, there was so much joy in being able to perform the Matrix songs purely for the vocal. It was like flying.

Were there really people in the audience you could see crossing their arms?
Oh fuck yeah. It was like…it was like an un-wished-for wedding, with one side of the aisle of old fans and one side of new fans and neither would speak to each other. It was challenging like, every night, ‘What can we play? Who’s out there? What would we be able to get away with? Should we play more of the old stuff or new stuff?’ And these poor new fans had no idea where I come from, they just heard one song on the radio. And some of them were like, 12! And that was really tough too, because my lyrics are clearly adult-oriented. I used to get upset like, why are you bringing your nine-year-old to my show? Did you do any research?

Speaking of which, I wanted to ask about your own family or your own kid’s reactions to your lyrics…
There’s only one part of my extended family, my godbrother, him and his family are hilarious and they love my music, which is awesome. But they like to torment me, they’ll just put it on during dinner and make me listen to it. Or they’ll like, only speak to me in my lyrics back, they did that one time. I’ll be like, “That’s funny guys…OK, that’s funny. OK, it’s not funny anymore…’

But most of my family life doesn’t really have anything to do with the music. Like my son, he knows what I do and he knows a little bit about my history but he doesn’t even come into it, it’s weird. I compartmentalize life in a lot of ways. Many sections. They don’t often intermingle. Like, when I go home I’m Elizabeth.

Which is funny because your audience is so compartmentalized, too.
You get what you give, right?

Did the Matrix or any label people object to any of your lyrics?
I think the only time we ever got into word fights was I didn’t want to say the word “underwear” in “Favorite.” It took a week of Lauren [Christy] like, wearing me down. I was like, ‘I can’t say it, I can’t say it.’ So it wasn’t like I was coming up with these tawdry lyrics they wouldn’t allow. That was the biggest word fight, and she won.

What word did you want to use?
I didn’t know! I couldn’t win the fight because I couldn’t come up with an alternative. Can’t say “panties!” I just couldn’t get around it. Every time I think about it I’m just like, I can’t say that word. It’s too corny. I still have trouble with that song, and it’s too bad because I like to sing it…melodically. [laughs] But it’s not my writing style.

And the label didn’t give you shit at all about putting—
Not at all. And we put “Hot White Cum” on that record! There was a definite moment where I was sitting in Ron Laffitte’s office after hours and I’m looking at him and I’m like, “Can we put whatever we want on the rest of the record?” And he’s like, “Now that we’ve got these songs? Yeah!” And I said, “Can we put ‘Hot White Cum’ on the record? And he got this twinkle in his eye and he was like, “Fuck yeah.” [laughs] I guess they’re thinking like, controversy, can’t hurt.

So, “Hot White Cum.” Did you just want to write a song about cum— [laughs hysterically]

—or did you want to write about something no one had done before…
No, there was none of that. That’s a me song, that’s all me. I was having really good sex and I wrote that song completely spontaneously. I knew it’s funny. There’s a lot of songs I’ve written—and I used to do it more—that were funnier and never saw the light of day, where people would be like, “Cute, Liz.” All the way back to Girlysound.

Like “White Babies.”
When I write a song I’m not thinking about marketing at all. There’s no marketing brain in me whatsoever. It just makes sense to me. It isn’t until later when it’s gonna go on a record that I start to get hives and freak out like, “Fuck!”

Does that happen?
That always happens. It’s what makes me different as an artist but it’s also what causes me great difficulty in life. I’m slow on the uptake, I don’t put two and two together. I can’t see far…I’m very in the moment. It’s always a later thing where I’m like, ‘Oh what have I done. Oh, oh my god.’

What causes the anxiety for you? Is it people learning the song’s about them or that people will be evaluating it…
That I’m saying such things in public! [laughs] It’s alwayslater that I realize that I’ve said such things in public. Always later. I never learn. I never ever learn. And there’s always a fevered night where I think like, ‘God, god, god, god.’ And the broader implications of everyone hearing it become crystal clear. It’s a bad night, it really isn’t funny! It’s a really bad night.

Was [‘Liz Phair’ follow-up] Somebody’s Miracle supposed to be more subdued in that way, or had you finally reached some pinnacle of…publicly embarrassing yourself, as you put it?
It’s mostly just the kind of songs I was writing. There may have been some of that because I’d just come off this arduous ordeal where I’d had to answer for the eponymous record and I had all these pissed-off fans that I didn’t want to lose, because I didn’t feel any different. Obviously I’d grown up and I’d done different things but I’m a very consistent person in that way. My personality’s always the same except I guess I did less drinking. You know what I mean? Like I’d grown up but I remember feeling a bit bruised and I didn’t want to do something controversial, I remember that. But I also was just writing those kinds of songs.

I feel like that record didn’t set out to piss anyone off and it still got the same cold shoulder.
Well maybe I’ll put this down to gender. Ready for this? People react to me anytime they react to my music, they can’t separate the two. They’re always judging me as a person. They can never just look at my music. And I’m not sure someone like Maroon 5 gets that. You know, “They’re a band, look what they did this time.” But women get judged for their personal decisions, like they can’t just take a record as the record, it’s like “Why did she decide to do this right now?” No one says of Paul Simon, “Why did he decide to make that? He politically said this earlier and now he’s going back on it…” There’s too much that people put on me as a woman,and they don’t separate the person from the music, and I do think that is kind of sexist. They think of me as a role model and I can’t think of a male solo artist who gets that kind of personal judgment like that.

If Adam Levine did a song called “Hot White Vagina” it might be an item for like, a week.
It wouldn’t be like smarmy, smug writing. It would be like “What’s up with that?” It’s a double standard.

I don’t think people would use terms like “career suicide.” I think to have a sex song without regret in it…

You mean like Lil Wayne’s “Pussy Monster” which I fucking love?

That song’s amazing.
But there’s no difference between that and “Hot White Cum!” Maybe his song’s better because he’s just awesome, but it’s the same spirit. Obviously I love it, too, it’s one of my favorite songs ever. But it’s the same thing. You better not write it that I think my song’s as good as his. But it’s the same exuberance, which is what rock and roll is about. Like, “I’m having awesome sex. Listen to this awesome, kind of funny songwriting but I mean it.”

When Guyville first came out, that was a shitstorm. Indie did not invite that right away. No sir. It was a brutal campaign, because half the people were like, “There’s so many worthy bands, she just came on the scene, nobody’s heard of her. She’s blonde, she’s white, she sells sex, she’s getting all the attention.” I was eviscerated multiple times in the indie world until it became…better than what I did later. [laughs]

After Pitchfork gave ‘Liz Phair’ a 0.0 out of 10, the Somebody’s Miracle review said they wasted the zero on the first one.
I’m all for funny hating, I don’t mind. But what I do mind is this fucking box that I can’t win. To be honest, to stick up for myself, you guys are idiots. A hundred years from now, it’s going to be cool that a woman like, said what she thought. It’s cool what I did, it just is, like as a large fact. Falling down, faceplanting, whatever I was doing, it was still rare. And the fact that they couldn’t see that, the fact that they were trying to…well I don’t know what they were trying to do. But they were missing the big picture. I wonder what would’ve happened if Girlysound, which had all these silly songs, if that had come after Guyville instead of before, would it be destroyed as well? Even though now it’s like all the rarities, I wonder what would’ve happened.

Now I’m making a much more, straight-ahead, the-way-I-ought-to kind of record, but not because I’m trying to garner any appreciation, it’s just because that’s what’s up in my creative world next.

Does it bug you that it will probably be regarded as some kind of “comeback” regardless of what the quality is?
No, I’m pretty much at peace. I’m pretty old now. I don’t see how I could be hated more and I don’t see how I could’ve been lauded more.

Do you know when it’s coming out?
No, much too early for that. We’re just kind of getting our sound for it.

What’s your favorite album of yours?
I don’t have one, I truly don’t. I’m not a favorite-picker, I’m not a hierarchical lister. I don’t have favorite records of all time, I’m an omnivore. I’m constantly chewing up new real estate. This winter I got super into jazz. I actually am against favorite-picking. Is that a word? Like a lateralist?

Do you have any regrets about ‘Liz Phair’?
No, not really. I like that record. I’ve always liked that record. When I listen back to it I usually think, “God that’s so good, what were they pissed about?” I don’t understand what it is to latch onto an artist and then expect them to…see I can’t even articulate it, you’ll have to do that. I wish I could’ve made them feel better; I don’t have a desire to upset people. I have a desire to free and to be provocative, but I came from a visual arts background and that’s what you’re supposed to do. Being challenging is what being an artist means to me. I wish something else could’ve been the focus, like people perceived it to be dumbed down, and I felt bad that’s what we ended up talking about all the time. But there’s more to that record: “Friend of Mine,” “Little Digger”…I thought “Firewalker” was a beautiful song. I’m sorry that’s what the conversation ended up being about all the time, but I don’t know that I could’ve controlled that. Except by not working with the Matrix, and I wouldn’t have given that up for anything in the world.

Uploaded on Feb 24, 2009

Music video by Liz Phair performing Why Can’t I?.

This interview was published two months ago by nousey.

The Best Albums Pitchfork Hated This Year

Dan Weiss - Village Voice

Dan Weiss – Village Voice / Sorry Lana.No BNM for you.

Since Purity Ring, Death Grips and Tame Impala didn’t exactly take off this year like Arcade Fire or Animal Collective, Pitchfork’s cultural influence might be cooling off, which is bittersweet since their writer stable is probably better now than it ever was (some of us don’t miss those novelty reviews), and their point-of-view has gotten less indie-elitist and more friendly to female artists, pop and r&b in particular in 2012. But the overarching editorial tastes still tend toward a certain narrative that so many artists do not follow, the whole “victory lap” adage, people ascending until their career crashes and burns, before a triumphant comeback. This sort of sensationalized trajectory really doesn’t happen with most artists, who sometimes make good albums and sometimes make disappointing ones. And many artists who’ve stagnated or are on their way “down” still make more essential music than whoever du jour is on the rise. So here’s a bunch of good records that Pitchfork missed the forest for the trees on. (Full disclosure: I’ve written there in the past. We didn’t agree a lot. Also a few fellow Sound of the City people write there too, don’t judge them based on my haterade.)

David Byrne/St. Vincent – Love This Giant
Pitchfork rating: 5.9
What they said: “With precious few exceptions, neither Clark nor Byrne seems willing to push the other into new musical territory that might contain revelations about either. The songs merely stand apart from life and dryly comment on its strangeness.”

Au Contraire: As someone lukewarm on St. Vincent and completely astringent towards Byrne’s post-Talking Heads career, I’ll definitely vouch for the falseness of that first part. The herky-jerky horn arrangements give Annie Clark an upright, marching urgency that her own albums lack (this year’s Big Black-channeling “Krokodil” single also helped show she can do more than boring art-prog indie), and somehow she must’ve edited Byrne’s songwriting into funky little nuggets again. The leadoff “Who” and oddly danceable “Lazarus” take rhythm ideas from tUnE-yArDs, while “The One Who Broke Your Heart” unabashedly recalls Buster Poindexter’s ’80s craze “Hot Hot Hot.” That’s not new musical territory? Giant is Byrne’s best venture since Music for the Knee Plays, which was also horn-based. As for the dry comments on life, they have their moments, like Clark’s gorgeous Occupy-inflected chorus for “Optimist”: “I’m the optimist of 30th street/ How it is is how it ought to be.”

s/s/s – Beak & Claw
Pitchfork rating: 4.8
What they said: “The downcast, emo-rap slam poetry he works in has a perilously high carnage margin, but he keeps from plummeting off a cliff here”

Au Contraire: As a huge Serengeti fan, I’ve gotta shut down that “emo-rap” claim right quick. Serengeti is a Chicago-based indie rapper who creates sitcom-like characters he raps as, most notably Kenny Dennis, a 40-ish suburban husband who loves non-alcoholic beer and the Bears. Maybe it’s “emo” or “slam poetry” to work completely outside of the rubric typically associated with rap (drugs, money, swag blah blah), but more likely the involvement of Sufjan Stevens on this experimental one-off is the reason the reviewer signed on. So yeah, of course he keeps from plummeting off a cliff, he’s goddamn Serengeti. This is one of four very good records he made this year.

Big K.R.I.T. – 4Eva N a Day
Pitchfork rating: 6.8
What they said: “The problem with K.R.I.T.’s rapping is not that he lacks a personality; it’s that he refuses to settle into the one he has.”

Au Contraire: So much of this review places the onus on K.R.I.T.’s personality and how he fails to live up to it on this mixtape. But he really doesn’t have much personality unless you’re really, really impressed by the wizened-old-pimp thing. His two best assets are in tandem: 1) he doesn’t distract from the beats 2) that he produced himself. 4Eva N a Day was very quietly the year’s best rap album on a purely musical level; if some young buck producer released it as his debut instrumentals tape a la Clams Casino he’d be drowning in year-end hype. And in hindsight, now that we know how much the Big Boi album sucked, maybe it’s time to revisit this perfect synthesis of down-home Aquemini spaciness and butt-simple bedroom production. And if you actually remember any of the words on this thing, they’re pretty winning and sweet: “You help me sleep,” he says to his girl. That’s enough of a personality for me.

A Place to Bury Strangers – Onwards to the Wall and Worship
Pitchfork rating: 5.8 and 6.5
What they said: “It amounts to a mostly homogenous, toothless EP that seems to be aiming for a greater appeal, but ends up appealing very little.” … “Perhaps the most problematic thing about Onward to the Wall is its timing.”
Au Contraire: The absolute worst tendency of Pitchfork is the assumption that the artist makes music for them and has to change their music according to current shifts in the landscape or risk being branded as “more of the same,” unless it’s a pet artist where all the reviewer wants is more of the same (see: M83, Real Estate, any rapper). A Place to Bury Strangers made a debut that excited everyone (8.4 Best New Music), then people were dismayed that they made the same record over and over (although they really didn’t), and that reviewer’s own boredom with covering the artist somehow becomes diminishing returns on the page. A Place to Bury Strangers do one thing and they do it well: stiff, macabre ’80s guitar noise with vampiric vocals buried in the momentum. Over four records they’ve subtly added a pop chorus here, a female voice there, but they are and will remain unfashionable until someone suddenly decides they’ve made a comeback. Their two records this year were as good as everything else they’ve done.

Lana Del Rey – Born to Die
Pitchfork rating: 5.5
What they said: “Del Rey’s gem-encrusted dreamworld, meanwhile, relies on clichés (“God you’re so handsome/ Take me to the Hamptons”) rather than specific evocations. It’s a fantasy world that makes you long for reality.”

Au Contraire: Lindsay Zoladz did a great job of explaining the Lana Del Rey conversation and major pitfalls by fellow critics about it, like the shots at her appearance and her perceived inauthenticity, but like most reviews of Born to Die, it doesn’t quite climb out from under the rock of that anti-hype itself. Yes, she’s sexually backwards–so’s Waka Flocka Flame, Rick Ross, Tyler, the Creator and Drake, all recipients of an 8.0 or higher last year. Yes, she rather joylessly crawls around looking for money and dominant males. But all that does is point to how truly harrowing the point of view is. These are expert pop songs slowed to a miserable crawl by a singer who doesn’t have it in her to rebel against her basest desires for validation. That’s more horrifying and vivid than any of Kendrick Lamar’s tales of being jumped. So many pop stars are strong women in 2012; the one who uncomfortably is not can be a compelling artist too. And Lana really is a true original weirdo: “She laughs like God/ Her mind’s like a diamond”–what the hell is that?

[Except Lana Del Rey’s album really is garbage. I don’t read Pitchfork and I think they missed the point on Big KRIT but the 5 point whatever they gave Lana’s magnum of piss is actually too high. Combining knock-off old movie soundtracks with meaningless lyrics isn’t art.]

Dan Weiss – Village Voice

UK Bat for Lashes’ New Album ‘The Haunted Man’

Bat For Lashes: “Marilyn”
Parlophone / Capitol / EMI
Via Pitchfork
September 13, 2012

The “Marilyn” in the title in the new song from the upcoming Bat for Lashes album, The Haunted Man, is the one you’re thinking of. The Marilyn, the one who lived like a candle in the wind and got Nicki Minaj thinking about insecurity. For Bat for Lashes’ Natasha Khan, Marilyn stands in for feeling special. “Holding you, I’m touching a star,” she sings on the chorus, “Turning into a Marilyn, leaning out of your big car.” It sounds a bit like a Lana Del Rey lyric, mapping a rush of emotions onto media icons, which can make for a clever song but isn’t for me especially relatable, since I’ve never for even the briefest moment felt like James Dean (or even Arthur Miller). But as usual with Bat for Lashes, the power of the song comes from the totality of thing, the way the sound and voice and lyrics fuse together into one breathless whole infused with drama.

As widescreen electronic pop goes, the song evokes the over-the-top glitter of Giorgio Moroder’s Top Gun-era production work from the mid-1980s, all crashing drums and sunburst synths and watching every motion in a foolish lover’s game. Sonically, you feel small standing next to it, and want to let it carry you up the clouds. And then, at around the three-minute mark, comes one of my favorite musical moments of the year, as Khan’s voice becomes a disembodied thing that haunts the rest of the song. “Put your star in me,” she sings at one point. At its best moments (especially that gorgeous bridge) “Marilyn” is like the star collapsing in on itself, shooting sparks and dark energy in every direction.

Published on Sep 13, 2012 by batforlashes

Download ‘Marilyn’ for free from

Taken from the new Bat For Lashes album ‘The Haunted Man’ released on September 15 2012.

American Indie Metal Band Gaza’s New Album

Gaza is an experimental metal indie band from Salt Lake City, Utah that incorporates elements of grindcore, mathcore, and sludge metal into their music. Formed in 2004, they are currently signed to Black Market Activities and have released one EP and three full-length albums. They are known for their complex and heavy sound, as well as their outspoken anti-religious and political views.

Via Pitchfork
No Absolutes in Human Suffering
Black Market Activities; 2012

Artists: Gaza
Find it at: Insound Vinyl eMusic Amazon MP3 & CD

Gaza’s last album was called He Is Never Coming Back. The “He” in the title refers to God. Around the time of the record’s release in 2009, vocalist Jon Parkin was quoted as saying “He Is Never Coming Back is a knife pushed slowly through the temple and into humanity’s primitive religiousness. It is a call to utilize the same logic and reason applied in every other aspect of our lives in the assessment of theology.” And when I spoke to him about the record shortly after it came out, he told me, “We wanted this record to pick you up and death shake you like a dog would snap a rabbit’s neck. And to once in a while stop to lick the blood running from your nose.” The frontman, who is 6’7″, and wears his hair close-cropped, clearly isn’t afraid to use colorful language when making a point. The music’s just as intense and amped on No Absolutes in Human Suffering, the Salt Lake City, Utah, grindcore band’s third album– and best to date.

It works so well because they find a balance between melody and cacaphony. The 11-song collection was produced by Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou, who gives Gaza’s warped blend of grind, hardcore, and crust a dense, sturdy feel. On their Facebook, the band calls what they do “progressive crust” and “math piss.” The first works, but I might change the latter to “math pissed off.” Like Gaza’s past work, the music here is a dense and intense, a twisting, churning spin on noisy grind with a tendency toward rock’n’roll. The songs, with their constant warping mutations, feel like they’re melting. Outside the more mid-tempo title track, and the closing dirge, it’s unrelenting. Even when songs are longer– the six-minute “Not With All the Hope in the World”, which moves from a blur to a beautiful sludge anthem, to that surprisingly plaintive, doom closer “Routine and Then Death”– the pieces never stop throwing unexpected shifts at you. “The Vipers” melds hyper grind, a mid-tempo breakdown, indelible melody, and a noise-rock pep talk. It’s a dexterous showing: math rock made up of violent equations.

In a self-penned bio, the group refers to themselves as “failed emo musicians.” A joke, maybe, but there is plenty of emotion and emoting here. Parkin reminds me of a short story writer in some ways, or Converge’s Jacob Bannon writing for Harvey Milk. His lyrics are sketches and observations that move from the economy (“I understand we have invented ourselves out of a job”), playful anti-religiousness (“It sure was nice of Jesus to take time away from ignoring/ Ethnic cleansing genocide and famine-bloated children/ Or regrowing limbs for landmine victims/ To help you score that touchdown”), the generally political (“Know your children will know more of this earth than you ever will/ You should be embarrassed/ I can hear them laughing at their history books”), to tracks that remind me of punk zine Cometbus, or the poetic manifestos of the anarchist collective Crimethinc. In “Routine and Then Death”, for example, the only words we get are “It’s the same noise every day/ We walk back and forth.” Parkin finds a way out of that cycle in “Skull Trophy” via “a deer carcass someone had cleanly taken the head off of” that he passes in his car. As he puts it, in a way that I find fairly romantic, “I thought of you/ I knew you’d find it full of wonder/ Someone had desecrated a corpse for a sportless opportunistic skull trophy/ That alone is some hillbilly shit/ But the bigger picture is that we’ve lost feeling in our left arm.” Best pickup line of the year.

For all the challenging complexity, this is music that sticks in your head. No Absolutes opens with the wobbling post-rocking drone of “Mostly Hair and Bones Now”– the track ushers in a huge grind explosion after 50 seconds– and moves through the AmRep muscularity of the title track to the proggy soloing/post-rock slipperiness of “When They Beg” to the jazz breakdowns at the start of “Skull Trophy”. You get the point. Amid all this chaos, though, there’s calm. Amid the anger and bile, a discernable beauty. Gaza are a rare band in this way– an uncompromising group that should appeal to folks who don’t usually stock grindcore in their music collection, all without trying, in the least, to win them over.

Published on Sep 11, 2012 by TeenyBop Syndrome
Off of No Absolutes In Human Suffering.

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Bear in Heaven: ‘I Love You, it’s Cool’ Review

Bear in Heaven band

The Brooklyn band’s third album grabs the listener from its first play.

If you’ve got a spare four months you might like to listen to the stream of I Love You, It’s Cool which Brooklyn’s Bear in Heaven have slowed down by 400,000%. The as-good-as interminable 2,700 hours of pure drone is a neat skit, and it allows reviewers to make the know-it-all point that, actually, you need to give this band time. Aren’t we writers just so perceptive?

Time isn’t necessarily what you need to give this album at all, though. The Reflection of You is an immediate winner that grabs you by the lapels and pulls you right in close. It’s a synth-driven pure pop gem that requires next to no time to take hold.

Sinful Nature is another effort that’s deliciously hooky from the first taste, and while Bear in Heaven’s card might’ve been marked as psychedelic prior to this third LP’s release, there are no outré elements purely for the sake of it, and nothing is ever overblown.

Almost everything is tight and controlled, returning time and again to the simple power of a pop song. Frontman Jon Philpot seems in thrall to John Travolta on The Reflection of You when he winks, “If you come dance with me / I think you will like my moves.” Elsewhere, with his big mouth and strut strapped on, he very nearly channels Ian Brown on the stomping Space Remains.

But if there’s a criticism to direct this trio’s way, it’s that they perhaps could get lost in the moment a bit more, as when they do it’s glorious. Three-minutes-fifty into World of Freakout and then again during Sinful Nature they stretch the song at hand further than it should go, upping the ante, volume and intensity into elongated crescendos that Hot Chip would be proud of. And maintaining these directions even longer wouldn’t have seemed self-indulgent – they could swell to mountainous proportions and please any listener.

The qualities that may have led to comment that this album needs time to sink in are found during slower, moodier moments: lugubrious grooves like Warm Water and Noon Moon, each a thoughtful slice of modern electronica. Longevity might ultimately be an issue, but if we’re living in the moment – as the superb title of this record seems to suggest we do – then who cares? Just dance.

Bear in Heaven – “Reflection of You” (Official Video by John Lee of PFFR)


1 Idle Heart
2 The Reflection of You
3 Noon Moon
4 Sinful Nature
5 Cool Light
6 Kiss Me Crazy
7 World of Freakout
8 Warm Water
9 Space Remains
10 Sweetness & Sickness

About the band:

Bear in Heaven is a Brooklyn-based rock band formed by Jon Philpot. The sound of the band incorporates influences from psychedelic music, electronic music, and krautrock.

Jon Philpot has previously released music as part of the duo Presocratics, in collaboration with guitarist and composer Need Thomas Windham. Presocratics released two albums on the record label Table of the Elements in 2001; both were produced by Philpot.

The first Bear in Heaven release (Tunes Nextdoor to Songs, Eastern Developments 2003) was an EP of solo recordings by Philpot, with guest musicians performing on various instruments. Shortly after the release of Tunes Nextdoor to Songs, Philpot joined with guitarist Adam Wills, keyboardist/guitarist Sadek Bazarra (a graphic designer with Brooklyn design collective GH avisualagency), guitarist David Daniell (of San Agustin), and bassist James Elliott (Ateleia, School of Seven Bells). Eventually drummer Joe Stickney (formerly of Perpetual Groove, drummer with Paul Duncan, Rhys Chatham’s Essentialist project, and current touring drummer with Panthers) was added to the lineup. Daniell left Bear in Heaven in 2005 to focus on his solo project.

In 2006 they did a Take-Away Show video session shot by Vincent Moon.

Red Bloom of the Boom, Bear in Heaven’s first full-length album with the full band, was released in 2007 by the Hometapes record label.

Elliott left the band after the completion of the recordings of Red Bloom of the Boom to focus on School of Seven Bells and his solo project, Ateleia. Bear in Heaven now performs as a four-piece with Philpot on vocals, guitar and keyboards; Wills on guitar and bass; Bazarra on bass and keyboards; and Stickney on drums.

Their 2010 album, Beast Rest Forth Mouth, received the “Best New Music” award from Pitchfork Media, with the reviewer stating: “Beast Rest Forth Mouth is as familiar-feeling as it is difficult to pinpoint. Mostly made up of textural, spacious three- to four-minute pop anthems with towering choruses, BRFM is a welcome reminder that an album doesn’t have to be bombastic to feel huge and important. Take out the earbuds and let it fill a space: This is music that’s bigger than your iPod—music you’ll want to feel all around you. Though not quite coming out of nowhere, BRFM seems like a surprise gift—a striking consolidation of the spiky psych-prog tendencies of their debut into a pop framework.”

Their most recent album I Love You, It’s Cool was previewed to fans on the band’s website in March 2012 – capturing the album and slowing it down to 2,700 hours of drone. It has so far received positive reviews and was previewed by the website NPR. The album was released on April 3rd.


Tunes Nextdoor to Songs – Eastern Developments CDEP, 2003
Red Bloom of the Boom – Hometapes CD, 2007
Beast Rest Forth Mouth – Hometapes CD, 2009
Beast Rest Forth Mouth UK release – Hometapes/Dreamboat Records CD, 2010[5]
I Love You, It’s Cool – Hometapes CD, 2012

Tame Impala Announce New Album ‘Lonerism’

Aussie band Tame Impala. Photo by Maciek Pozoga

As they heavily implied with a teaser trailer just over a week ago, Tame Impala will release an album called Lonerism this year. The follow-up to 2010’s Innerspeaker, due in October via Modular, was recorded entirely by frontman Kevin Parker and mixed by David Fridmann. The single “Elephant” is out in July, but the first taste from the album, the track “Apocalypse Dreams”, is available in the widget below. Below the track, watch a trailer for the album, along with’s 3D video for “Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?” from Innerspeaker. Update: Check out the band’s tour dates below, via Modular.

Coming Soon from Tame Impala

Directed by Snakes & Ladders.
Additional footage shot by Matthew Christopher Saville.

Tame Impala – Tour dates

07-27 – 07-29 Byron Bay, Australia – Belongil Fields
08-01 Council Bluffs, IA – Mid America Center *
08-03 – 08-05 Chicago, IL – Lollapalooza
08-08 – 08-06 Montreal, Quebec – Osheaga Music and Artst Festival
08-10 – 08-12 San Francisco, CA – Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival
09-29 Brisbane, Australia – Parklife Festival
09-30 Sydney, Australia – Parklife Festival
10-01 Perth, Australia – Parklife Festival
10-06 Melbourn, Australia – Parklife Festival
10-07 Adelaide, Australia – Parklife Festival
10-14 Cologne, Germany – Gebaude 9
10-14 Paris, France – Bataclan
10-16 Brussels, Belgium – Ancienne Belgique
10-17 Hamburg, Germany – Gruenspan
10-18 Oslo, Norway – Rockefeller
10-20 Stockholm, Sweden – Debaser
10-22 Copenhagen, Denmark – Vega
10-23 Berlin, Germany – Postbahnhof
10-25 Vienna, Austria – Fluc
10-26 Milan, Italy – Magazzini Generali
10-27 Lausanne, Switzerland – Les Docks
10-29 Amsterdam, Netherlands – Paradiso
10-30 London, England – O2 Academy Brixton
11-01 Manchester, England – HMV Ritz
11-02 Sheffield, England – The Leadmill
11-03 Glasgow, Scotland – O2 ABC

Reported by Pitchfork