• The Go-Betweens

    The Go-Betweens are the ultimate cult favorite among critics and indie rock misanthropes: they've been releasing records since the early '80s, and yet they've managed to skirt the surface of public recognition through eight full-length albums. Perhaps Oceans Apart will launch the pair of boys from Brisbane, Australia, into the limelight and out of the depths of a few critics' top ten lists. The Go-Betweens dueling singer-songwriters, Robert Foster and Grant McLennan, have been making music since 1978. Their collaboration is as kismet as Lou Barlow and J.Mascis, and has produced the Go-Betweens signature sound; a combination of first-wave British Invasion rock and acoustic folk with erudite lyrics. It's no wonder bands as diverse as Belle and Sebastian to R.E.M. have sung their praises. Foster and McLennan parted ways at the end of the '80s only to reunite at the end of the '90s.

  • zZz

    On first listen, zZz sounds like Jim Morrison reincarnated as a Dutch club rat who took too much E and spent time recuperating in church. There's a lot of grunting and Morrison-styled sensuous vocals, and then there's that omnipresent organ. zZz is certainly heavily influenced by the Doors: lead singer Bjorn Ottenheim sounds so much like Jim Morrison it's possible that the notoriously free-loving icon spread his seed all the way to Amsterdam. But the electronic basis of most of the songs off zZz's debut album, Sound of zZz is impossible to deny. Daan Schinkel plays the organ on Sound of zZz. His keyboard work is nothing short of pure psych-out bliss. Bjorn and Daan met in Amsterdam's underground music scene, eventually forming zZz in 2003. With songs titles like "Sweet Sex," "House of Sin," and "Ecstasy," zZz could pass as the male version of Peaches, or a slightly tamer Electric 6.

  • Strokes on Skates

    Albert Hammond Jr. has more in common with Tutti from The Facts of Life than one might assume. The two share a love for roller skating that knows no bounds. Apparently his formative years, the ubiquitous Strokes' guitarist was a star before Is This It? burned up the charts. According to NME.com, Hammond was a championship skater who performed for as many as 5,000 people at a time. Hammond told Britain's The Guardian that "I used to skate in front of, like, 5,000 people and I was never nervous, but the first time I got on stage, there were four people there and I vomited." It's a good thing Hammond learned to hold his cookies in front of a crowd. The Strokes are currently at work on their third album, a follow-up to 2003's Room on Fire.

  • This Psychiatric Hospital is Your Land, My Land

    For all you Mermaid Avenue fans, a concert in honor of the late great folkie Woody Guthrie is tentatively scheduled for August 14th. What distinguishes this festival from the slew of other folk festivals to have honored Guthrie since his death in 1967 is that this event is on the grounds of Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital, the very same hospital that Guthrie checked himself into to in the '50s. According to Billboard.com, the festival is also to celebrate the acquisition of 300 acres of former hospital territory as Morris County, New Jersey, parkland. For the last fifteen years of his life, Guthrie was in and out of psychiatric hospitals in the vicinity of his home on Coney Island. For more information on the man and his legend, check out: woodyguthrie.org

  • The Vacation

    By: Jessica Grose The Vacation is Mtley Cre with a conscience. This is disappointing, because the best part about Mtley Cre is that they had no conscience, and best of all, no self-awareness. The glam cock-rock of the '80s was thrilling because it encapsulated hedonism, pure and simple. The Vacation seems to be approaching '80s hair topics with 2005's combination of social awareness and irony -- a combination that occasionally falls hilariously flat. Los Angeles denizens, the Vacation play modern metal a la the Darkness, with loud guitars, insistent drums, and coarse vocals.

  • The National

    On their fourth release, Alligator, the National's lead singer and head lyricist Matt Beringer sounds like he's relating some kind of schizo bedtime story. Beringer's baritone lulls you into a sense of calm, with a conversational delivery reminiscent of Tindersticks' Stuart Staples or the Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt. The lyrics are simple and often haunting; Beringer writes songs about looking for astronauts and wearing argyle sweaters that are upon further inspection, quite plaintive and confessional: "Break my arms around the one I love / Be forgiven by the time my lover comes." The music backing Beringer's lush storytelling is rooted in introspective British acts like Joy Division, though they inspire the same sort of eeriness of bands like the Fall.

  • Long Live the Digital Revolution

    For all you college students who live in constant fear that downloading the new Bloc Party will land you in the slammer, for once the man has got your back. According to the Associated Press, a federal judge ruled that two North Carolina Universities do not have to disclose the names of alleged file-swappers on their colleges' computer systems. Back in September 2003, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) subpoenaed the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University to get the real identities of two known file swappers whose internet handles were "Cadillac Man" and "Hulk." While the universities in question do not publicly condone music piracy, they do champion their students' right to privacy.

  • Coldplay Sets Tentative Tour Plans

    Now that baby Apple is more than a year old, Chris Martin and company are ready to leave the UK to tour to support of their new album, X&Y. According to Billboard.com, Coldplay plans to kick off their American tour August 8th at the Tweeter Center. Rilo Kiley and Franz Ferdinand are rumored to be on the list of opening acts. Before the actual tour kicks off, Coldplay is playing a number of North American club dates this spring, including shows in Toronto, Chicago, and a taping of VH1's "Storytellers" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on May 16th. X&Y hits stores June 7th.

  • Return to Guyville

    For those of you embittered by Liz Phair's foray into mainstream pop with her latest self-titled release, there is a glimmer of hope. According to Billboard.com, Phair is prepping a new album with a tentative September 27th release date. Phair-philes will be able to see Miss Liz before the fall: she's in the line-up for this summer's Lollapalooza weekend in Chicago, and is planning an acoustic tour for August. Perhaps this time around, Liz will get through an album without a reference to semen. One can only dream.

  • Benzos

    New York five-piece Benzos probably own a half dozen copies of Radiohead's Kid A between them. From the sound of their debut LP, Morning Stanzas , one can picture the band huddled around a hookah, listening to "Idioteque" and having a generative musical experience. The propulsive layers of synthesizer-based electronics, complex guitar work, and esoteric lyrics such as, "We are glass souls...we are glass houses," scream marijuana-induced paranoia and Thom Yorke worship. That being said, Benzos are no mere Brit-band knock-offs. Morning Stanzas boasts a number of truly touching and accomplished tracks. "Amiable" is a soaring, melodic gem, while the theme of glass and an accompanying emptiness ("You're Forever an Hourglass," "Glass Souls," etc.) crop up repeatedly.

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