The members of Vertical Scratchers don't have to pretend: They are free spirits, making music that is at once tightly composed, whimsical and anarchic.
The vocals on a Vertical Scratchers song tend to be high-pitched and yearning. John Schmersal creates harmonies from his vocal tracks that have a keening romanticism. His guitar lines are a series of slashed chords — vertical scratching, and thus the band's name. At the same time, there's a compressed intensity to the tunes, which uncoil with a snap, again and again.
It wasn't an easy road to the Tiny Desk for the four guys from Louisiana who make up Brass Bed. Their tour, for the band's debut album The Secret Will Keep You, was plagued from the start: Singer Christiaan Mader had the flu, there was a death in the family and multiple dates had to be canceled. Their van was broken into and their instruments stolen. So when they heard that a big snowstorm was headed for D.C. at the same time they were to play the Tiny Desk, it felt like yet another bad omen.
Our Vintage Cafe this week is with Beck, whose new album, Morning Phase, will be released nationally on Feb. 25.
This interview from 2007 was conducted in the wake of the deluxe edition of his album The Information. The studio session contains some fine performances, including "I Think I'm In Love," and a wide-ranging discussion touching on the hip-hop and indie music scenes. Also, Beck looks back on dropping out of high school and traveling the world before ultimately settling in Southern California.
Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 7:26 am
It's a family affair for Seattle artist Noah Gundersen. Accompanied by his sister, brother and friends, the soft-spoken singer-songwriter performed a dynamic, yet delicate Morning Show session featuring tracks from his debut full-length, Ledges.
Diane Cluck has been under-appreciated for so long, it's hard not to try to make up for lost time. So, before you listen to Boneset for the first time, take a few minutes to listen to one of the best songs of the last 10 years: "All I Bring You Is Love," from Cluck's fourth album Oh Vanille / Ova Nil.
Originally published on Fri February 28, 2014 2:43 pm
We're just now starting to recognize early-aughts downloads with the same nostalgic air that we do a lucky score at a record store. Slow modems, improperly tagged files, Sharpie-scrawled CDRs — well, at least some of us think of those times fondly. It's an odd relationship, clicking on a not-so-legal rip of an all-too-rare LP only previously known to record-store clerks and collectors, knowing that it's only a poor facsimile. But there's still the thrill of discovery, however removed from the source.
The story of how singer and guitarist Domenic Palermo came to form the noise-rock band Nothing sounds like a Behind the Music episode gone bad. Growing up in the crime-infested neighborhood of Kensington in Philadelphia, Palermo hung with a tough crowd that, in his own words, drove around with large amounts of cocaine and guns while listening to My Bloody Valentine's Loveless.
In three albums as St. Vincent, plus the 2012 David Byrne collaboration Love This Giant, Annie Clark has proven adept at writing rock songs that flirt with the tense and uneasy. Her streak continues on St. Vincent, a new album replete with dissonances and distortions that make even its prettiest melodies read as disturbing.
A lot of obscure bands want to reach a national audience, and they send their records to NPR. Unfortunately, there's a lot of forgettable stuff in the mix, and recently the staff of All Things Considered received the kind of CD it would usually toss.
It's got a pair of singles by two bands — The Blue Jean Committee, which came out of the 1970s Massachusetts folk scene; and The Fingerlings, a British post-disco/synth band of art-school graduates. Both sound desperately tiresome.