Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Paste Best of What's Next: Pyramiddd (Starfucker)

Here's my (albeit HEAVILY edited) Artist of the Day piece on Pyramiddd (formerly Starfucker) for the Paste website! Josh Hodges turned out to be much more philosophical than I had expected, having seen the band live once before. He was thoughtful and forthcoming on the phone, which, sadly, is more than you get from a lot of artists.

Artist of the Day:
Best of What's Next: Pyramiddd

As the dance-pop quartet recently re-dubbed Pyramidd knows, tossing the term “fucker” into your band name isn’t always the best idea. Until this fall, the foursome had called itself Starfucker, a name slapped on back when the band was just a drumming-only solo project for multi-instrumentalist Josh Hodges. By the time Hodges had unwittingly accumulated three bandmates and started touring, the name had stuck—but had started becoming a distraction, discouraging booking agents from Oregon to Japan. There was a certain amount of attachment to the name—it was what the band had been known as when it released its self-titled debut LP in 2008 and its follow-up EP, Jupiter, earlier this year—and he band didn’t want to betray itself or the people who had made its career possible so far.

But still. They were called Starfucker.

So in September the band invited invited fans to suggest new names, and in October finally settled on Pyramiddd as its new moniker. After playing the last Starfucker show on Halloween night, the band embarked on its first European tour in November, and plan to return to the U.S. to make a fresh start with its new name. Paste spoke to frontman Hodges about the Starfucker legacy, his plans for Pyramidd, and—unexpectedly—how Eastern philosophy makes for great dance music.

Paste: What have the last couple of years been like for you guys, going from not being known to being known on a national level?
Josh Hodges: I think people think we’re a lot bigger than we actually are. We still play for like ten people in Nashville and places like that, you know? I don’t feel that much different—it’s just that we tour a lot. We’ve done like three national tours in the last two years. We’ve done three or four West Coast runs. It’s really fun, and it’s really disruptive to any kind of normal life (Laughs) that I would have in Portland—that all of us used to have in Portland. But it’s worth it...[Read more]

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Flagpole Feature: The Antlers: Finding the Hope in Hospice

It's my first feature for Flagpole! And it's about a band whose record I really admire. I've written about them before; I did a review of Hospice for Atlanta Music Guide back in August. And tomorrow night, they'll be in Athens to play at the 40 Watt. Can't wait!

The Antlers
Finding the Hope in Hospice

Once in a great while, a true concept album gets made. It doesn’t preach or pander; its narrative serves not as a crutch, but as a framework through which its creators explore actual, fallible emotion and musically ambitious composition. Sometimes, even, the expression of its theme isn’t so abstract as to be unrecognizable to the uninitiated (we’re looking at you, In The Aeroplane over the Sea).

So it is with Hospice, the breakthrough album from Brooklyn, NY’s taxidermically named The Antlers, a trio that this year suddenly turned a lot of horn-free heads. The band—frontman Peter Silberman, multi-instrumentalist Darby Cicci and percussionist Michael Lerner—self-released Hospice this March in their impatience to have it heard and, subsequently, sold out of it. “We ended up kind of in the deep end, the good side of that, with people wanting to buy it,” Cicci says. “We didn’t really have distribution, so we didn’t have a way of getting it to the record stores in L.A. or Toronto or anything like that.” Unwilling to wait months for a label to put out the album, it was Frenchkiss Records (founded by Les Savy Fav’s Syd Butler) that ultimately secured the rights to Hospice’s August re-issue, promising speed instead of complex, lengthy production cycles.

Bolstered by this new exposure, The Antlers have finally gotten the opportunity to let Hospice speak—or rather, wail—for itself. The album comprises nine movements, all with one-word names, chronicling the death of a loved one and the emotional fallout thereafter. Silberman’s voice breaks from full-feeling tenor into strangled, wrenching falsetto as he sings of pain, verbal abuse, hallucinations, grief and the surreality of it all. The band creates a sonic spectacle composed alternately of simple folk, shimmering ambient tones and fleeting anthems, notes dazzling, wobbling and fading out like the smoke after fireworks...[Read more]

Record Review: Kurt Vile - Childish Prodigy

Two Kurt Vile posts back-to-back?! Geez, this guy must be good.

For Stomp and Stammer:

Kurt Vile
Childish Prodigy


With a dirty buzz and a watery echo on every vocal, Kurt Vile, Philly's self-proclaimed "Constant Hitmaker" has released his second LP of fuzzed-out noise pop, this time via Matador. It's the follow-up to his debut, uh, Constant Hitmaker, and it's the kind of music that's got both bile (that's "bile" with a B!) and beauty behind it even through the delayed stadium sound present on every track, from leadoff "Hunchback" onward. It's as if he sings from one second in the past and one second in the future, a startlingly effective way to lend an all-encompassing feel to what is ultimately a low-fi effort.

Despite the raunchy recording, Vile's songs are anything but gross. The record's brighter numbers, "Overnite Religion," "Blackberry Song" and the so-gorgeous-it's-not-fair "Heart Attack," are all punchy acoustic guitar and tambourine and pretty keys and unadulterated joy. Vile breaks into psychotic falsetto intermittently, sounding deliberately and charmingly insane through all the songs' washing layers. "Heart Attack," for me the album's standout, is a small song, if that makes sense; that is, it's only a surprising chord progression and a slurring vocal delivery away from being unremarkable, but that distance has suddenly become acres and it seems now impossible that it ever could've been ordinary...[Read more]

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Live Review: Kurt Vile and the Violators, Lovvers, Carnivores @ 529, November 3

This was an awesome show. I could've gone on for pages about how much I enjoyed Carnivores and Kurt Vile. Fortunately, I'm getting a chance to write more about the former, and I'm sure the latter will return soon, having recently signed to Matador. (My review of Childish Prodigy will appear in this month's Stomp and Stammer.) ATL folks, if you haven't checked out Carnivores yet, please do! You won't be sorry.

[Above: Carnivores. Below: Kurt Vile, photo by Sarah McKay]

For Atlanta Music Guide:

Live Review: Kurt Vile and the Violators, Lovvers, Carnivores @ 529, November 3

Carnivores are my new favorite local band. After rising from the ashes of the now-defunct Chainestereo, they’ve re-formed with renewed vigor and have plenty to show for it. Tuesday at 529, the group pulled about half the set from its surprisingly awesome debut LP, All Night Dead USA (released locally this July on Double Phantom Records), but the other half was newer material the band hasn’t yet recorded (or stuff I just didn’t recognize). Of the familiar numbers, “A Crime” of course stood out; it’s the quartet’s single, and it has the potential to endear them to anyone with an ear for retro pop and a heart for psych-punk.

Bassist Philip Frobos and guitarist Nathaniel Higgins alternate lead singing duties on most of the songs, but the real treat comes when keyboardist Caitlin Lang takes the mic, as she did for the set’s final selection. While the whole band exudes palpable charm (not to mention seemingly haphazardly executed skill), Lang’s unassuming attitude and blissfully violent delivery endear her the most. When mixed with Higgins’ echoed-out, ambient guitar tones, drummer Tauseef Anam’s grooving, manic drumming and Frobos’ kinetic, winning bass lines, Carnivores’ show becomes harder to pass up each time...[Read more]