Dungen – 4

If understanding Swedish were as easy as eating Swedish fish, I’m sure more people would know about indie folk rock group Dungen. However, while I didn’t even dare to translate their latest album, 4, it is clear from the instrumental arrangement and the sound of Gustav Ejstes voice that this band is just as sweet as the candy.

The language barrier isn’t too much of a problem as many of the songs are mostly instrumental like the flute-driven “Marleras Finest” and “Fredag.”

The instrumentation on this album makes use of strings, flutes, xylophones, piano and horns. The arrangement reminds me a lot of songs you’d expect to hear in the classic television program “Charlie’s Angels.”

My main criticism of this album is that for a record filled with such flowy songs, the transition between many of them is very abrupt like that from “Det Tar Tid” into the rockier “Samtidigt 1.” I don’t think it would have been too hard for the band to improve this movement. Also, perhaps it is the language barrier, but I found it difficult to pick up on the connection between “Samtidigt 1” and “Samtidigt 2.”

Broaden your knowledge of European artists and dare to listen to songs in another language. 4 is available now.

01. Satt Att Se
02. Marleras Finest
03. Det Tar Tid
04. Samtidigt 1
05. Ingenting Ar Sig Likt
06. Fredag
07. Finns Det Nagon Majilighet
08. Mina Damer Och Fasaner
09. Samtidigt 2
10. Bandhagen

Dungen: website | myspace

Written by: Bethany

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Broken Social Scene @ The Slowdown, Omaha

Legendary. That’s the only way to describe the last time Canadian collective Broken Social Scene‘s last show in Omaha, Nebraska. Last year the guys were just chilling at a local coffee shop without a booked show, when a native recognized the boys and insisted they play. Broken Social Scene agreed and quickly set up over at the Slowdown Jr. stage. There was no announcement or promotion, but word quickly spread and a decent sized crowd gathered in front of the stage for a free, intimate set by BSS. They closed down the bar and went on their merry way leaving those in attendance feeling blessed to have bragging rights that they were at this special show.

Cut to 2008 and the band’s current tour in support of Brendan Canning‘s solo album. Tickets cost a hefty $20 and the band had moved up onto Slowdown’s bigger stage. The ticket price, which the band joked about and said their agent made them charge to make up for last year’s free show, did not seem to hold back people from coming.

Not everybody was there for BSS. Many Omahaians (if that isn’t a word, I’m making it one) were curious to check out the band’s tour mates and Land of Talk who recently signed to Omaha label Saddle Creek Records. However, Land of Talk’s singer Lizzie Powell, was a little ill (I think bronchitis might be the culprit, but don’t quote me on that). To make up for their absence, Canning saved the day and played a special DJ set, borrowing vinyl from one of the venue’s bartenders. It wasn’t your usual oomp-oomp-oomp, let’s go clubbing, DJ mix. It was a more chill, oldies blend that allowed people the chance to just drink and talk, but they could still have danced if they had wanted.

After listening to Canning DJ for a good hour, he put on a final tune and jumped up on stage where he joined the rest of his BSS chums to seamlessly begin their set. They began with some mostly instrumental tracks, which sounded great, but didn’t immediately grab the audience’s attention. It wasn’t until about the third number that the crowd broke loose and started jumping and moving along.

Canning initially started off lead vocals, which isn’t that surprising considering his album was the focus of this tour. However, in true BSS fashion, frontman duties were constantly shuffled around and Kevin Drew was soon back at the helm.

The set list was a great mix of old and new BSS material. However, with Powell out of commission, many were curious what would happen to the band’s numbers that feature female vocals. These fortunately were not cut from the set and Omaha’s very own Orenda Fink stepped up and saved the day joining the group for numbers like “7/4 (Shoreline).” Never at a loss for guest musicians, in addition to Fink, BSS was also joined on trumpet by Nate Walcott, whom you may better know from one of Omaha’s biggest exports, Bright Eyes. Nothing like a brass section to make a show better.

About midway through the show, the kickdrum pedal gave out and as most of the band left to deal with the problem, Charles Spearin remained out on stage to entertain by presenting his “science experiment,” as Drew referred to it. Basically, he played a sample of his neighbor speaking about a subject such as love and then had a sax imitate the cadences of her voice. It was like the woman was right there on stage speaking back to us, the mimicry was that good. The audience was quite amused. The kickdrum problem not immediately resolved, Spearin started in on another voice sample, which the saxophonist tried to mimic by ear. He was shortly joined by Canning on cowbell and the rest of the band trickled back in.

It was kind of an intermission to the set and many more hits followed. My favorite number was when Drew had the audience scream their guts out on “Ibi Dreams of Pavement.” It was a nice catharsis after a long day.

An epic performance of “It’s All Gonna Break” seemed to end out the set, but Drew was not ready to quit. He looked around at the other guys and started talking to the crowd. As he talked, drummer Justin Peroff started to lay down a beat, which Canning quickly picked up on bass. The rest of the crew joined in and Drew sat down and let the boys just jam for a good 7 minutes.

Not being able to end on a freestyle, the band played another raucous tune that seemed to have  eight different endings. Seriously. It would start to end and Drew would get behind the mic where he’d say a rather circular speech that always ended, “And it goes/sounds like this” and the band would repeat the tune.

This seemed to complete the set, but Drew was still not done. Everybody walked off and the crowd started to leave. Drew and Peroff came back out to play a Guided By Voices cover before finally calling it a night.

Total set time: 2 hours, 45 minutes. It might not have been secret and free, but this show was legendary in its own right. BSS might arguably be Omaha’s favorite live band.

Broken Social Scene: website | myspace

Written by: Bethany
Photos by: Nick Davis

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Katy Mae – You May Already Be A Winner

“May” is the keyword and You May Already Be A Winner is not a winner of a release by country-rockers Katy Mae. There’s potential with this group that wants to bridge the gap between straight up rock and roll and country, but on their EP, this effort comes off as a little contrived. There are some positive messages in the lyrics about picking oneself up and knowing you’re not alone if you have a shitty day, but the delivery of these messages is presented in a way that is downright formulaic.

Philip Doucet does have some nice vocal moments. I really like when the vocal duty finally receives some variation on “Let Me Bring You Down.” This song brings me back to the 90s. However, these good vocals are often buried in the more noticeable, poor ones like when Doucet holds out “night” on “Dust of My Friends.”

Sometimes my dislike for the broken vocal pitches typical of country music tainted my view of some of the songs, but, setting that aside, “Two Dollars Late” is a rock song with a huge build-up. Instrumental build-up is something the band is quite skilled at and they do this again on many of the other songs. I also really like the variances in title track, “You May Already Be A Winner.”

You May Already Be A Winner is available now.

01. Two Dollars Late
02. Falls Down
03. Dust of My Friends
04. You May Already Be A Winner
05. Let Me Bring You Down

Katy Mae: website | myspace

Written by: Bethany

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Low vs. Diamond, Mates of State and Santogold: Liberty Hall in Lawrence, Kansas

I’ve waited endlessly for it to happen; the sifting of the music genres through each respective time period, past the bands influenced by the 70s and 80s, kicking the door wide open for drop D tuning and other signature sounds of the 90s. Honestly, I have never really gotten a clearer glimpse of this in a music venue, as I did this night listening to Low vs. Diamond piece through their set, which anyone outside on the street could have easily mistaken for Our Lady Peace.

Though poor sound qualitydue to an apathetic sound guy, not the band, seemed to hinder the quality of the band’s set, I was rather impressed by the hooks that managed to find their way out of the cloud of useless fuzz and bass distortion. The piano seemed to be the only instrument to really stand out and rising above a crowd who honestly couldn’t give a damn about this band’s opening set. This apathy seemed to carry over to the band as well. Their songs, seemingly angry and pointed, simply didn’t fluently display in the boys’ actions, who only seemed to half-heartedly want to be on stage.

Sadly, on this night, the energy of their album didn’t seem to make the trip to the stage. To be fair however, a number of the difficulties they had to overcome were placed in front of them by circumstances slightly out of their control. I honestly look forward to giving them another chance on another night.

Mates of State, the evening’s middle set, are no stranger to Lawrence, Kansas. Kori Gardner, lead vocalist of the group recalled to the crowd, “In case you didn’t know, this is where this band started. We went to school here, and we started the band here. It’s damn good to be back.”

And it was damn good to have them back. This husband and wife duo, packing great blended vocal patterns, progressive moog progressions and percussion big enough to fill the room, were at their best. Shooting smirks and flirtatious eye contact across the stage at one another, performing more of a love story than anything else.

Santogold, however, was something completely different, leaving the Lawrence hipsters slightly unsure of what the hell they were doing there. Though being compared to M.I.A. every time she turns around, Santogold actually brings a completely different, unique feel to her hip hop show. Joined on stage by a pair of matching dancers and a DJ, the four lit up the Liberty Hall stage, reflecting light from their gold jackets (or tights in Santogold’s case) and sporting 1980’s style fashion.

Unlike M.I.A., who played the same stage earlier that year, this show felt much more lighthearted, but just as dance friendly. Opening with “You’ll Find a Way,” a song that reminds me more of The Clash than NWA, Santogold stands tall in her punk rock roots as well as her hip hop desires.

My only complaint about her set falls with Santogold’s inability to include her audience in her art. Her relatively short set, consisting of about 40 minutes, was primarily used ignoring the half filled room. I’d go so far as to mention the lack of common hip hop show call-outs, like having the crowd lift their hands, or even make noise. It seemed that she was simply content to get through her set and go home.

But, then again, with sound problems muffling her voice, and the bass kicking me in the teeth, I must confess, I, too, wanted the same.

Low Vs. Diamond: website | myspace | Low vs. Diamond review | Interview
Mates of State: website | myspace | Re-Arrange Us review
Santogold: website | myspace

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Interview with: Rachael Yamagata

Rachel Yamagata

Rachel Yamagata

With her recent album drop and run on the “Hotel Cafe” tour, Rachael Yamagata is quite busy, our very own Joshua had a chance to catch up with her and find out first hand what Yamagata is all about. Check out his interview where they discuss kittens, albums and life:

Rachael Yamagata: Hello Joshua.
Joshua, Popwreckoning: Hey! How are you?
RY: Great! And You?
PW: Things are great here. I feel I need to preemptively apologize for the potential meowing you might hear in the background. I’m interviewing at home today, and I have locked the kittens out of the living room. They’re not pleased.
RY: Aw! I love kittens. Are you kidding?! I actually have to go get mine from my mom’s house tomorrow. I’m all for cats. Aw. How many do you have?
PW: I have two. Patchikins and a five week old kitten named Chubb-a-saurus.
RY: Oh my God. That’s totally cute.
PW: I think they are, yet I’m sure our readers don’t care as much as you and I do.
RY: (Laughs)

PW: So, I guess if it is okay, I’ll go ahead and start with the real questions.
RY: It’s a plan.
PW: Let’s start in chronological order. You wrote your first song at age 12. Do you remember the inspiration for said song?
RY: No. Um.. it was either about teeth or a boyfriend. I remember that I wrote one about losing my front teeth, but I was really young. It must have been a crush song. I don’t remember exactly who, but it must have been a little love song.

PW: That’s really cute. Your early life of teeth-inspired songwriting lead you to a band called Bumpus. How much of a role did Bumpus prepare you for your outing as a solo artist?
RY: Basically, we just played and played and played. We were a three person fronted band, so we had to be strategic about the way that we designed the set lists, to make it dynamic and interesting, and so it would flow. So I kind of credit them with a great education on how to play a live show, but musically we’re different in terms of what I am doing now but they introduced me to stuff that I think would later interest me like Nina Simone, Sarah Vaughn and John Coltrane. It’s kinda opened my world to different music.
PW: I could definitely see that. I can see how those artists would have influenced your sound.
RY: Definitely.

PW: Following that, you’ve recently released Elephant…Teeth Sinking Into Heart, which is your first album since you released Happenstance a very long time ago. How does it feel to have something on the shelves again after a four year wait?
RY: Oh, just a big kinda giant and quiet relief. It was a long, long road to try to get this record out so it’s very very welcome on my part. I’m really really pleased that it’s out and available because I’ve been living with the songs and the mixes and the recordings myself for so long that it’s been frustrating that no one else has gotten to hear them.

PW: How do you feel that your writing and musical abilities have changed from the age of 27 to 31? Like what themes and topics have surfaced in your music and which have softened or vanished?
RY: I think just a more, like a more enriched take on relationships. With writing I feel like I’ve stretched and have been more poetic; using characters to an integer that I haven’t before. I feel very, very fascinated with the dynamics of relationships as a theme. And I’ve certainly have kinda grown in the “It’s Hard Driven Rain”, touching on kinda Pulp Fiction first guitar rock element as well, which I hadn’t done before.

PW: OK. I did notice that in the new album there was more guitar than there had been before and I found that pretty intriguing. On the new album, you recently worked with Ray[LaMontagne] I will botch his last name if I even try….
Ha ha!
PW: …on the beautiful track, “Duet” and you’ve also worked with Rhett Miller, Ryan Adams, Jason Mraz and Conor Oberst in the past. However in the future if you could work with any person, just hand pick a handful of people to work with on your future albums, who would you choose and why?
RY: I think I’m going to, and this is a stretch, but Bruce Springsteen is an amazing writer and he’s got these quiet kinda intimate songs as well as these iconic rock anthems. I feel like in some way it would just be huge and magical to collaborate with him. You know there’s definitely a long list but he’s one of the top people.
PW: I can definitely see that meshing together well, too. I never would’ve thought of it until you mentioned it, but stepping back and looking at the two projects and putting them together, I can see where it would fit.
RY: Yeah, someone gave me his record Tom Goad a couple of years back and everything changed because I had only known him from his radio hit songs and it’s just very fabulous, very cool.
There’s an album that’s he’s released that I think a lot of people overlook, but it’s one of my favorite albums ever. It’s called Nebraska and it gets overshadowed by Born in the USA so much, but I think it’s one of the greatest albums released during that time period by far.
RY: That’s excellent.

PW: You were recently joined on tour by one of PopWreckoning‘s favorite artists, Kevin Devine, and how was it touring with him and having him as a member of your backing band?
RY: I love him! He’s just an amazing writer. He’s so electric when he performs. He can hush a room in any way, with a soft song or whatever.
He’s just an awesome guitar player so whether he’s rocking out or doing something real hushed, it’s just great watching a crowd respond to him. He was just so instinctively perfect for my stuff that whatever he would pick to play was just seamless when he would play with us so I loved it. We’re looking and figuring out more ways to get him playing with us.
PW: That would be amazing. We keep looking for him to just take over the world and it keeps getting pushed back and not happening. I mean, he keeps progressively getting bigger but we just think that there should be so many more people who love him, we just don’t understand.
RY: Absolutely.

PW: Very soon you are leaving for the “Hotel Cafe” tour. I recently spoke with Joshua Radin on the subject, just yesterday actually, regarding how tight knit you “Hotel Cafe” kids really are. So I guess what I’m going to ask is, what is it like traveling with such a family style environment and how does it differ from a simple regular tour?
RY: Well when you’re on tour you pretty much become a family with anyone you’re on the road with, you know, especially if you’re out for a while. But something that is so… I want to say sweet but that is such a lame word… haha… there’s something so familiar with a bunch of artists getting together because everyone’s bringing their own music to the table and kinda broadening the prospective.
The unique thing about it is that I’ve done them a couple of times, and there’s never any egos. There’s just these great great artists, in their own rights, completely jazzed about playing together. So you get these really rare moments where four or five artists you’re fans of individually and they’re all playing together on stage and singing with each other. It’s really a kind of magical experience.
These other artists have also gone through the same great highs or lows of road life of putting records out, so they understand you in a way that is perhaps different than musicians who are in your band. They kinda know where you’re coming from which is a really satisfying experience, being able to bond with someone on that level and share it. You just get close to them very quickly.

PW: That was a great answer. That was very in depth and I think it will highlight the heart of and idea behind the “Hotel Cafe” tour very well. We’ve been trying to promote it as much possible because we completely believe in what you guys are doing with that. We think that it’s great that you take it to other cities so it’s not just in that cafe. Like we look forward to it coming every year because Kansas City lacks everything that the “Hotel Cafe” is so it’s great to have it for one night.
RY: Excellent.

PW: Following that, I’m going to hit on a question that I ask a lot of people lately and I didn’t realize until yesterday how much I’d been asking this, but your songs have been featured on television shows; I have a whole big list that I won’t list for you because you already know them. In your opinion, how has visual media altered music and do you think that television is becoming like the new radio?
RY: It’s gone backwards, yeah I do think that television has become the new radio. You can see it happening with the amount of attention that artists get, unknown artists will get a song on a show and it can blow up overnight. And there’s definitely a huge response that can come from having your song mixed in on a show, I’ve seen it happen with friends of mine.
I guess in this world, there’s something beautiful about creating like an amazing visual scene and collaborating that with a lyric, you know, it makes it very cinematic. I mean finding the perfect piece of music to something that’s great writing on screen can be really, really special.You know it works the other way, too. Like sometimes, you know I’ve run into a problem where people seem to know me as the soundtrack for television shows which is like you want your own experiences and them listened to with headphones and like closed eyes and I think that can be really intense.
So I think it can go both ways. I think it can get you lots of attention, absolutely and that’s a positive thing. But for me, in particular on this record, if I had my wish of how I wanted people to listen to it as well, I’d certainly include something very unique to a very solo experience like listening to it in headphones, taking a walk or the first half is so sort of internal and intimate, I feel like getting lost in your own world, letting only the music and lyric really speak to you, I think that would be really intense.

PW: I totally agree with you. The first half of your new album, I feel is definitely way more intimate than anything I’ve heard released with the exception of maybe, “Wore Me Down”. But it was just, I was just impressed. When I reviewed it I went from the angle that the four years waiting for the album was rough but once you hear the opening set of lyrics to “Elephant” you understand why it took so long to be constructed.
RY: [giggles]
PW: It was being constructed as it should be. You were taking the time to put your emotion into an album rather than just putting something out.
RY: Exactly.
PW: And I had a lot of respect for that.
RY: Thank you.

PW: It’s no problem. Thank you for putting it out. I’ve got two questions left for you. This next one is semi personal, I don’t know if it crosses the line. If it does just don’t answer. Your songs sport lyrics on highly personal subjects, such as “Wore Me Down,” “Reason Why,” and “Elephants.” When first taking these songs on the road, are they ever hard to relive emotionally, due to the magnitude of the fingerprint that their content left on your life?
RY: It’s kinda simple because I feel like, I’m not so special that I’ve experienced something that others haven’t as well. So it’s almost like a shared… um what’s the word? Like expulsion, is that a word? Ha ha.
That’s not really the word I’m looking for. I’m like the grammar, not grammar, like vocabulary challenged. It’s kinda, well it can be, healing in a way to let them out in front of other people who are willing to go there with you. Does that make any sense?
PW: It does make sense.
RY: I’m not always thinking of the particular experience that I wrote it about because over time, things do change for me. I don’t weather it so harshly. But I always plug in my sort of present day view of the world into those songs and then when I can’t talk to a friend about it or make sense of it to myself then I kinda channel into a fitting song, that sort of lyrically embodies that same thing just in my present day. Because for me, it’s very kinda therapeutic.

I did not look at it in that way. That would make sense. You’re being able to get it out of your system in another way. Yeah that makes sense, that makes perfect sense. My last question is very very generic. What can we expect in the future of your career?
RY: Well for the immediate future, life wise, we’re going to do some more dates in the States before the end of the year and then we’re going to do some international stuff and then circle back around in the US.
I’m excited to get writing again, and to release another album, hopefully no later than by the end of next year, or at least get started on it. It’s interesting because I felt really stunted in a way just until this album came out and now that it’s out things are starting to flow again and I’m just kinda excited to get back to writing.

PW: Sounds great. I am actually highly disappointed because I’m not going to get to see you in Lawrence. This will be the third time that you’ve come through that I’ve missed you.
RY: Oh no!
PW: I’ve never gotten to see you live and it’s heartbreaking every time. I have to cover Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin the weekend that you’re here. I mean we’re going to have staff there, someone’s going to cover it but I’ve been really stingy. Like up till this point, I’ve been like, “No one can cover Yamagata! I’m covering it.”
RY: Ha ha. You’re so great.
PW: Yeah, and then I’m not even in town when you’re here.
RY: Aw, well I’ll come back next year.
PW: Seriously, if you would do that, I would be there and would bring everyone I know.
RY: Aw, thanks.
PW: No problem. But I’m going to let you get back to your life but I will send someone from our publication to say “Hey!” in Lawrence.
RY: Alright, thank you and kiss your kitties for me!
PW: I absolutely will. Have a great day!
RY: Thanks, you too!

Rachael Yamagata: website | myspace | Elephants…Teeth Sinking Into Heart review

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The (International) Noise Conspiracy – The Cross of My Calling

With 2008 being a big election year in the United States, punk rockers The (International) Noise Conspiracy, never ones to miss out on political fun, are releasing their latest album The Cross of My Calling this November.

Although from Sweden, these boys have plenty to say about American life and politics. If the title didn’t give it away, “Washington Bullets” is one such song. However, many other songs have the American focus, too. On “Storm the Gates of Beverly Hills,” singer Dennis Lyxzén repeats, “All this shit is making us ill,” to drive his point home.

The aspect that most impresses me about this album, is the band’s ability to mix religious and political imagery-there’s no separation of Church and State here. The title itself, The Cross of My Calling, bares the religious implications and leading up to the “Interlude,” the band talks about following God before the second half of the album shows them giving into Satan and society’s materialistic tendencies.

“Child of God” works with “Interlude” to transition into the second half of the album. The succumbing to Satan is quite clear after a long instrumental break and the vocals returning saying he’ll be the “sinner,” “snake” and “seducer.” This song is followed by the angrier second half of the album which references the devil more.

If you’re a fan of punk rock in the vein of Bad Religion be sure to grab yourself a copy of The (International) Noise Conspiracy’s The Cross of My Calling out November 25 on Vagrant Records.

01. Intro
02. Assassination of Myself
03. Dustbins of History
04. Arm Yourself
05. Hiroshima Mon Amor
06. Boredom of Safety
07. Child of God
08. Interlude
09. I Am the Dynamite
10. Washington Bullets
11. Satan Made the Deal
12. Storm the Gates of Beverly Hills
13. Black September
14. Cross of My Calling

The (International) Noise Conspiracy: website | myspace

Written by: Bethany

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Free Music Friday

So who doesn’t love the weekend and free music? We dig both and want to share the love. PopWreckoning is proud to present ‘Free Music Friday’ — we’ll give you a quick rundown on a band and have an mp3 streaming and available for download. We think it’s a solid idea and hope you do, too!

Juliette Commagére

Juliette Commagére of LA outfit Hello Stranger will be releasing her first solo effort, Queens Die Proudly, on October 24th through Aeronaut Records. Joining her are Ry and Joachim Cooder, as well as up-and-coming songwriter & brother, Robert Francis.

She’s already toured with the Foo Fighters and now she’s got residencies with the likes of Joachim and Petra Haden in LA and NYC. Listen to the title track from her forthcoming album.

“Queens Die Proudly” (download)


Whales and Cops

We just reviewed Whales and Cops’ EP, but it should be pretty obvious by now that we love anything with any sort of relation to Philadelphia’s Man Man, and since Whales and Cops boasts former members of the chaotic rock group as well as a similar sound , we’re enamored.

Today, we’re bringing you “Bosuns of the Yard,” a heavily electronic track with lots of beeps and boops layered under deep, raspy vocals reminiscent of their former act.

“Bosuns of the Yard” (download)


Emanuel and the Fear

Here we have a newly recorded track from Emanuel and the Fear’s debut album. The Brooklyn ten-piece lists influences from John Coltrane to The Shins to Daft Punk. This tune is a bit mellow but some electronic flourishes and a lovely violin and flute melody.

“Alright (We’re All)” (download)


Nicole Atkins & the Sea

Rock and roll chanteuse Nicole Atkins lent a previously unreleased track to the Choke soundtrack. PopWreckoning fell in love with Nicole at Austin City Limits and we’re pretty sure you’ll dig her, too. This song is pretty sultry, fitting for Choke, and shows off a bit of Nicole’s darker side.

“Crystal Ship” (download)

website | myspace

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