At Latl: You Were a Destroyer and I Was a Pontoon Boat

It seems to happen so often that I have to ease into a band’s music, only having it click in after the 3rd or 4th spin, that I sometimes mistrust a band if I like them from the first listen. I enjoyed bands like the Black Keys and TV on the Radio for a couple of years before I decided they weren’t going to pull a fast one on me and finally bought their albums. I’m going to throw caution to the wind, though, and suggest you all listen to At Latl despite the fact that I liked their sound right away.

At Latl – currently a three-piece band consisting of D. Kent Watson, Dan Mahony and Kevin “KC” Christensen – hail from the impressive Milwaukee, Wisconsin, scene (that’s right: Milwaukee appears to have a scene – note Conrad Plymouth, Juniper Tar and the great blog Muzzle of Bees). What would you expect to hear from a band from Milwaukee? I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure At Latl’s sound is not it. Switching off songwriting duties between … Continue reading

Rock ‘n’ Roll Photog: Michael Runion

Jennifer the Rock ‘n’ Roll Photog is so excited about her featured artist today that she’s not even waiting until she has pictures to tell you all about him.

Michael Runion is an artist I discovered entirely due to Twitter. According to his MySpace, his genre is “Visual/Folk/Pop”. (Tangentially, I really do love MySpace genre descriptions; some of them are generic things like “rock/pop” and some of them are more interesting things like “2-step/experimental/country” and finding out who is accurate with their self-labeling is always a good time.) But getting back to the subject at hand: left to my own devices, I think I’d tell you that Runion specializes in beautiful, delicate melodies wrapped around razor-sharp lyrics. The result is songs that are good company for filing as well as long train rides to the beach. (I’ll let you know how they do with the car stereo test after this summer.) I’m particularly fond of Drunk as I’ve Ever Been and Don’t Let Her Hold You Down, the latter of which would be the perfect tune for dancing a barefoot two-step with a cowboy before sending him back out on the rodeo circuit. If that … Continue reading

The Helper T-Cells: I Live in an Unstable

You know it, I know it: Mondays are shit. We can’t even abolish them because then Tuesday would just become the new Monday. But you know what we can do? We can listen to the Helper T-Cells.

Who are the Helper T-Cells? Got me. All I know is I ended up with their EP More Odd-Toe Ungulates & Nose Rubbin’ Shrubs in my Record Store Day goodie bag from Music Saves and find it delightful. I’m not even certain this band is still together as their MySpace page has not been updated since August of last year, though I did discover that key band member Ray Scott is also a member of the very fine traditional string band One Dollar Hat (who, like the Helper T-Cells, have an extremely limited web presence).

Anyway, here, have some sunshine. Good for adults, good for children, and especially good for adult children.

The Helper T-Cells Music Video “Sprout Springer” from zak long on Vimeo.

The Helper T-Cells MySpace

Continue reading

Fight for Your Right: I Need That Record

Woohoo, rekkids!

Record Store Day was a great success for all involved, it seems. It certainly was for NTSIB, and the store where we celebrated, Music Saves in Cleveland, broke their record from last year. It really did feel like a Christmas for music geeks, and I was in high spirits all day as I spun my new vinyl.

For the curious, I picked up: the Black Keys “Tighten Up”/”Howlin’ for You” 12″ – which was obtained without bloodshed – the TV on the Radio Dear Science LP, the Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros “Global A Go-Go” LP and the I Need That Record! DVD. I almost didn’t pick up I Need That Record!, but after watching it, I was very glad that I did.

I Need That Record! is a documentary by Brendan Toller on, as the subtitle states, “the death (and possible survival) of the indpendent record store”. If you are a music geek, you know that record stores do still exist. If you’ve been reading NTSIB, you know they still exist. But some people don’t even … Continue reading

Royal Bangs: We don’t know shit about cars.

I bumped into Patrick Carney the other day, and we got to chatting about music, as we are wont to do.

Pat said, “April, you have wicked taste in music: you should be listening to this band on my label. They’re called Royal Bangs, and they’re amazing.”

“Well, Pat,” said I, “you have good taste, too, so I will give them a spin.”

Then we hugged, and I returned home to download some Royal Bangs.

This is all true except the part where Patrick Carney and I know each other and have ever carried on a conversation.

(I know I’ve been giving a lot of space to Dan lately, but I think you are way rad, too, Pat. And I usually think drummers are nutbags.)

Both Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach, the Black Keys, have great taste in music, and they use their knowledge and connections to get good music into your hands – Dan with his invitation-only studio Akron Analog and label Polymer Sounds, Pat with his label Audio Eagle.

When you listen to the player on the Audio Eagle MySpace page, Royal … Continue reading

Rock ‘n’ Roll Photog: A.A. Bondy, Brendon Urie/Pete Wentz

Now here’s DJ Jen to take you into the all-request hour…

Total Request (Not Quite Live)

For April, from Ohio: A.A. Bondy


I took this one last winter, during soundcheck at the Bowery Ballroom. (Also on the bill: Willy Mason, The Duke & The King.) It is probably the best picture I took all night, of anyone. It is certainly the best lit picture of Bondy that I have, because he seems to like to sing in the dark, or at least in extremely low light, and I don’t use a flash.

I had (slightly) better luck when I saw him again earlier this year at Union Hall, in Brooklyn. He still confined himself to four red stage lights, but I was closer to him, which made it easier to work with the low light. The shot below, a variation on the “tuning my guitar” pose, is my favorite from the evening. It is, again, a moment of stillness amid a flurry of activity. And there’s the totally incongruous picture of the colonial lady above his head, as if he’s in someone’s very fancy … Continue reading

Game Changer: Shudder to Think

It seems every music fanatic has at least one: a game changer. A band or album that slapped them upside the head, jarred them from complacency, shocked them into a different way of hearing or a different way of thinking. We’ve read the stories, about how, either through words that spoke to them in a way no one had spoken to them before or through an arrangement of sounds that were nothing like they had ever heard before, their internal worlds were forever changed.

My biggest game changer to date has been Shudder to Think. In 1994, I was heavily into Jeff Buckley and made a point of listening to the artists he covered and the artists he noted as favorites. Jeff had good, eclectic taste, and one of his well-documented favorites was Shudder to Think. S2T’s fifth studio album, Pony Express Record, was newly-released, and their video for “X-French Tee Shirt” was getting some play on MTV. It sounded weird to me. It was jagged and aggressive with frequent time changes and unconventional melodies. I had no idea what to make of it. I couldn’t even determine if … Continue reading

Conrad Plymouth: I could have been a preacher if I suffered fools

We’ve talked Conrad Plymouth up before, and we’ll continue to do so if they keep it up. If you don’t like music that moves you, that can fill you with yearning, a little melancholy and a strong sense of place – even if it’s a place you’ve never been – then stay away from these guys. If, however, you are a fan of beautiful music, heartfelt vocals and exceptional songwriting, go download Conrad Plymouth’s new EP and throw some bucks at them.

If you already took a listen to “Fergus Falls” when the band posted it previously, you already know you need this EP. If not, here’s your chance.

Conrad Plymouth – Fergus Falls

Continue reading

Late to the Party: BlakRoc

NTSIB could be all late-to-the-party all the time. Some music I am slow to warm up to (I’m just now starting to get on board with Local Natives). Some music I know I like, but I don’t really get into until years after I first hear it. Some music I don’t even know about until it’s old news.

BlakRoc falls into the third category for me, and I’m still mystified that I didn’t even know about this project this time last week. For others who may be as out of the loop as I have been on this: BlakRoc is a collaborative project between the Black Keys and Damon Dash of Roc-A-Fella Records. Dash helped bring a number of hip-hop luminaries in for the project, like Mos Def, Ludacris, Raekwon, Q-Tip and the RZA. The fucking RZA! Names even white people recognize! There’s even a from-the-grave appearance from Ol’ Dirty Bastard.

It’s no secret that the Black Keys have soul, and their groove-heavy music is a perfect, strong background for the rhymes laid down on this project. BlakRoc is fucking sweet, and NTSIB … Continue reading

Bob Wills: Talkin’ ‘Bout the King of Western Swing

The first time I heard the name Bob Wills was in the Brian Setzer/Joe Strummer-penned tune “Ghost Radio” from Setzer’s Guitar Slinger album. I learned a little more about Wills and his Texas Playboys from one of my many visits to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and decided to take the plunge and scrounge some of Wills’ western swing to actually listen to.

Confession: I hated it.

Wills constant, high-pitched interjections of “A-haaa!” and “Yes, yes…” got on my nerves in record time. I could appreciate the music, but I couldn’t get past Wills’ voice. So I set Wills aside, thinking it just wasn’t for me.

A few years later, I checked out the first volume (and the only volume that my library has…) of the PBS documentary series American Roots Music. Not only was Wills mentioned in the doc itself, but one of the extras on that first disc is a full performance of Bob and his boys playing “Sitting on Top of the World”.

I kinda fell in love.

It seems in the later years, Bob cut down on the high-pitched interjections and cranked up the funny asides. I decided it was time … Continue reading