my backyard

Because I pay oh-so-much attention to what's going on everywhere else, I sometimes forget that right-here ain't half bad. So let's take a look at the stuff happening in my backyard, the Triangle. Or for the uninformed: Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill. And here we all get down myspace-style, so you get some links.


These guys are young. So young that two of 'em used to be in a high school pop punk I heard when I first moved to town five years ago. They were called Timothy's Weekend -- some real technical, emotionally wrought stuff. It was good enough, but Annuals is just such a treat, such a stunning departure. While the band can occasionally lapse into an annoyingly "progressive" bent -- like those whirly Patton vocal melodies soaring a bit too close to the sun on "Chase You Off" -- more often than not they stick to a familiar sort of quirky folk or world steez. "Complete or Complete," with its close harmonies and junk-box accoutrements, and “Mama,” with its enchanted banjo/sitar and hall-of-vocals approach, calls to mind a slightly less ambitious Animal Collective, still trying to write easy-pop. And when the slide guitar zips up all sluggish and slow in "Fair," and a billion horns sounds, all supported by that stately drum cadence, it's hard to admit these guys were playing predictable barre chord ditties just a few years ago.

Ben Davis

Davis' own description is a "mix of melancholy rock and bright, textured pop," which pretty much nails if you're going for beautiful simplicity. With members of Engine Down, Milemarker, Denali, Zetamale, Des Ark, and Fin Fang Foom (Lovitt Records much?) helping him out on record, you couldn't expect much less. Sometimes Davis' songs call to mind his former bands Milemarker and Sleepytime Trio, but when he hits on all cylinders like on "Election Protection," Davis' work feels like that of a cranked Pinback with an even more sedated Elliot Smith on the mic. And now that I really look at his Myspace for the first time, I see that he lists both of those bands as an influence. Gee, wearin' 'em on his sleeve. Unfortunately, I can't locate a version of the song he sings with Des Ark singer Aimee Argote. But, really, that's the one to hear.


In all fairness, I've yet to see these guys play cause I was just introduced to them yesterday. But, hot damn, I like it. This is some straight-up indie rock of the not-too-sloppy variety. Forgive the comparison, but at times it calls to mind Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, with those wild, marble-mouthed vocals and straw-thin guitar parts. "An Ornamental Heart" plays like a windows screen saver with a repeating guitar figure that changes character vury vury slowly. It's all sort of claustrophobic, like a hallway that's about to cave in, until the subtle outro-bridge holds your hand and reassures you that everything'll be okay with a bit of amplified jangle. "A Savage Land" plods out of the gate on top of some Marquee Moon drums and then slaps you in the face with a wall of two slippery guitars -- reverbed all to hell. The off-kilter vocals make their return, dropping off the last bit of each word and, generally, shaking like crazy. But "Savage Land"'s selling point is the beautifully crunchy major-chord chorus: the part where the amps are oozing cautious optimism, and everything might just be ok.

Valient Thorr

These motherfuckers are from Venus and they shred. They spent some time on this year's Warped Tour, got picked up by the surprisingly whiskey-friendly Volcom Entertainment (yeah, the clothing company), and are now heading out on a fucking MAMMOTTHTHTHTHHHHHH tour. It's huge, just like those big slobberknocker riffs on "Man Behind the Curtain," which you can see a sorta disapointing performance-video for on their Myspace account. Thing is: there's plenty of boozy music like this around the Triangle, and unfortunately Thorr has caught some flack for their present situation. But really everyone else is just jealous cause they can't wail – drunk as hell – on top of bar tables right before they hang upside down from some stage-spanning scaffolding and spew "world domination" rhetoric, whilst sweating their fucking asses off. And finally getting PAID to do it.


then he killed someone

The Paris Sisters - I Love How You Love Me
Beth Orton - I Love How You Love Me
Neutral Milk Hotel - I Love How You Love Me (Live)

Sweet songs don't come sweeter than this. Phil Spector whipped up "I Love...", all L&S-style, in '61 for the Paris Sisters (pictured above with a pre-beat Spek). With a No. FIVE showing on the charts, that timeless, wait-wait-don't-tell-me progression, and a straight-syrup vocal melody, its near frightening earnestness has been covered quite a bit. Actually, I wanna say I even heard a Roxy Music cover at some point, which'd make perfect sense -- Ferry's voice all wrappin' around the melody something special; talking a huge sheet of silk, enormous industrial strength fans, and a naked body like in those womens' razor commercials. Maybe I'm making those up too. Either way, I've been trying to download as many versions of the song as I can find. For now, I'll award you with my favorite three of the lot. Surprisingly, the PS original, which boasts that proto-wall-o' production Spector got famous as a damn for, is actually the weakest one. Priscilla's lead vocal is weightless (a lil' uneventful too), but Beth Orton's shot has a bit more character. The spoken-word-ish part, which is done at full voice in the Mangum version, is a bit too cheese-ball. But with synths like the ones in the Orton version, cheese is expected. Without a doubt, the best take is Mangum's. That rich tone of his! So big and roomy! Honestly, this is a guy that just can't sing without seemingly impossible conviction! And, really, there's just something about an acoustic guitar...


make way

Lady Sovereign - A Little Bit of Shhh

When I saw Sov at Webster Hall in NYC last month it almost made me cry. She was a firecracker, all crotch-grabs and half-mooning and side pony-tails and cheeky snarl faces. A few songs I knew by heart, one twofer mash-up ("Wait" and "Hollaback Girl" underneath "The Broom") and what amounted to a set-closing, fire-setting punk song later, it made sense she was meeting with Jay Z and Usher earlier that month month. It made sense she was working with Missy and the Neptunes. Sure, the set was just a bit short, and about half the crowd seemed confused, but Sov made it abundantly clear: with those soft pop-culture-tempered edges and that undeniable charisma, she's the most viable mainstream star in grime, the biggest chance for some crossova action. The clumsy Ad Roc remix (BEASTIE BOY?? Whitey Hip Hoppers...) on the Vertically Challenged EP just doesn't do "A Little Bit of Shh" justice. So here it is au natural: sparse clap beat, buzzsaw bass and a delightfully rinky piano line.