to eleven


The Mountain Goats-Cemetery Gates by jason
January 13, 2010, 8:35 am
Filed under: Mountain Goats

by jason

This is over at Pitchfork…they posted a three song set by the Mountain Goats. Now, To Eleven is by no means the Mountain Goats Fan Blog, but as John Darnielle is my personal lord and savior, I feel that it is my duty, nay, my calling, to bring his music to you.

Anyway, the first song is “Psalms 40.2,” which seems to be the “single” off of Life of the World to Come. Good song from what is my least favorite Mountain Goats album. If you listened to NPR’s Tiny Desk concert or watched them on The Colbert Report, you’ve heard this one. Unlike the Tiny Desk concert, though, this one is with Peter Hughes on guitar and Jon Wurster on drums.

The second song, “Romans 10.19,” is also from the new album. Not not one of my favorites, to tell you the truth. I don’t hate it, but it’s just…meh. It’s a decent performance of an OK song.

The third song, “Love Love Love,” is actually the reason to watch this set. It’s one of my favorite songs off of The Sunset Tree, and it’s one of those songs that’s evolved over the years and become much more emotionally charged. I love this song, and it’s a great performance.

I can’t get the video to embed, so here’s the link.

EDIT: They’ve added a fourth song, “Deuteronomy 2.10,” to the set today.



The Feeling of Being in Motion Again by jason
January 10, 2010, 1:25 pm
Filed under: Interwebs, Mountain Goats, NPR

by jason

Ok…I’ve been mostly away from the internet for the last few weeks, but luckily, Jayson had a lot to say this week, so there was no dead air. Ironically, this week, my only source of music news has been this blog. Because I’ve been away, I’m just now catching up with the things that went on outside of To Eleven, and one of those things is The Mountain Goats’ Tiny Desk Concert on NPR.

I was glad to see that Darnielle decided to play a couple songs that were not from his last album. I realize the dude’s gotta promote the new shit, but his last album is my least favorite (Or, at least, it hasn’t grown on me yet).

Anyway, he starts with “Color in Your Cheeks,” which is off of one of my favorite tMG albums, All Hail West Texas. It’s great on the album, but the thing about the Mountain Goats is that Darnielle puts so much into the live performances that they are almost always better, and the older songs tend to evolve as he plays them. This version, for instance, is much quieter and thoughtful than the album version.

Next is “Hebrews 11:40,” along with some of JD’s trademark stage banter. This song is one of my favorites off of the aforementioned latest album, The Life of the World tp Come. This one hasn’t had much time to evolve, and it pretty much sounds like the studio version, albeit with fewer instruments. It’s a decent song.

The third song is “Psalms 40:2,” which, if you saw tMG on The Colbert Report, you’ve already heard. This one looks like it’s going to destroy him. That’s what I like about the live show…even if the song isn’t one of my favorites, I still love watching him do it. Dude looks like his head’s going to pop.

The final song is “Going to Georgia.” I love this song. One day, I went all over YouTube looking for live performances of this. It is one of those songs that brings tears to my eyes for no discernable reason, and it did it this time, too, even though he screws it up in the middle. Frickin’ rad.

Anyway, if you’re a tMG fan, watch this, and if you’ve never heard of them before, you haven’t been reading my posts. Either way, watch this short concert, then go buy some of his albums. you know you want to!



The Best Albums of the Decade by jason
December 24, 2009, 8:07 pm
Filed under: Local Music, Mountain Goats, Year End List

by jason

Well, it looks like it’s the end of the first decade of the 21st century (If you are starting at years divisible by 10). A lot of music came out, and a lot of it was great, but I was too poor to afford most of it. Keep that in mind when you start arguing with me about this list of the 10 (or 11) best albums of the decade; these are the best ones that I listened to. Feel free to suggest other music; I’m always open to suggestions. These are not numbered, but I tried to keep the absolute best at the end…

In Boca al Lupo-Murder by Death.
This is a great album by a band who had just figured themselves out. The previous album, Who Will Survive and What Will Be Left of Them was a great concept album that had just begun to explore the Spaghetti Western feel that this band has since mastered, but In Boca was the first album where they nailed it. And it’s a concept album. I love concept albums.

Boxer-The National
I didn’t even start listening to this one until just recently, but it stayed on my rotation for a good month, and I still put it on. It’s just a solid album that works well as background music, but also holds up to a close listening. I reviewed it HERE.

The Glow Pt. 2-The Microphones
This album is one of those where you can’t really listen to individual tracks; the album is an album, not a collection of songs. It’s strange in that it feels both warm and distant, like landmarks in a desert. It is very easy to become lost in The Glow; I have actually lost my sense of time while listening to it.

The United Colors of Trouble Books-Trouble Books
If The Glow is a desert, then United Colors is an empty street in the middle of winter. This is an album by a band from Akron, and I have no idea how many times I’ve listened to it. If the LP had not come with a CDr of the album, I would have burned out the vinyl already. I reviewed it HERE.

Let’s Get Out of This Country-Camera Obscura
With Let’s Get Out, Camera Obscura managed to out-Belle-&-Sebastian Belle & Sebastian. The resuly is a beautiful album that doesn’t seem to fit any particular time period.

The Lyre Of Orpheus/Abittior Blues-Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Nick Cave is really hit or miss. Sometimes, like in the case of Murder Ballads, he seems like he’s trying to hard to be dark and brooding. That’s not the case with this double album, which is probably the best thing Nick Cave has done this decade (besides, debatedly, the screenplay to The Proposition). it’s dark, but not too dark, and he manages to write a few love songs that don’t involve smashing a woman’s head with a rock.

Andrew Bird and the Mysterious Production of Eggs-Andrew Bird
This entire album is solid. The lyrics tend to be a little surreal (Bird admits that sometimes he strings words together because they sound good, phonetically), and his instrumentation is different (distorted violins? Yes, please!), but the two word together to make a great album. “Fake Palindromes” and “Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left” are two of my favorite songs of the decade.

Rabbit Fur Coat-Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins
I got this album without knowing anything about it; it just thought the cover art was striking. I was surprised to find that a) this was a country album (kind of), and b) I loved it. “Rise Up With Fists!!!” and “Born Secular” are brilliant. unfortunately, Lewis’s Acid Tongue was nowhere near as good as this album.

Your Big Plans, Our Little Town-Balthrop, Alabama
Full disclosure: I’m friends with one of this bands members. However, even if I weren’t, this album would make my list. It’s a wonderful album about some small town dreamers waiting to get out into the world or for that world to end, whichever comes first. I missed these guys when they came to Ohio (at the Nelsonville Festival), and I stil regret it.

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots-The Flaming Lips
I’ve talked bad about the Flaming Lips on this blog several times, but they have released a few solid albums, and this is one. It’s part concept album (about a karate-fighting girl who must save the world from pink robots) and part collection of songs, but the songs are great. Even more than on The Soft Bulletin, it really sounds like The Flaming Lips are maturing into a non-novelty band.

All Hail West Texas and Tallahassee-The Mountain Goats
I decided to include these as one entry. Both albums were released in 2002, and they mark the end of Darnielle’s low-fi period (All Hail) and the beginning of his proper studio albums (Tallahassee). Again, these are both concept albums, though most of the songs on West Texas work as singles, and Tallahassee features “No Children,” the song that has made more Mountain Goats fans than any other. These two, and perhaps The Sunset Tree, are the albums that I would give to someone as their first exposure to the Mountain Goats. John Darnielle is my personal lord and savior.

And there you have it. These are the best albums of the decade. If you haven’t heard them, you need to fix this immediately, before the next decade begins. So use that Christmas money (or Chanukah, or Solstice, etc., etc., etc.) and go to your local independent music store NOW.



Music Saves/Square Records Holiday Get Down by jason
December 22, 2009, 12:25 am
Filed under: Local Music, Mountain Goats, Shows

by jason

This Saturday, I got my friend, Mr. James Worthan, to drive me up to the Beachland Tavern in Cleveland to see the Music Saves/Square Records Holiday Get Down. I had been looking forward to seeing it for a while, mainly because one of my favorite bands, Talons’ was playing.

We got there a little early, so I stopped by Music Saves to look around. I hadn’t planned on spending any money before the show, but I stumbled on Full Force Galesburg, the only Mountain Goats album that I didn’t have. So now I have it. Collection complete, bitches.*

Anyway, we got to the show, and I think that almost everyone who was there was a member of one of teh bands. The turnout was unfortunately low until the last band played. In the meantime, while we waited for the first band, James and I drank beer and ate. (I had the BBQ Tofu sandwhich, which was pretty awesome.)

Finally, Talon’s got on stage. If you’ve ever heard a Talons’ album, they sound the same on stage. It translates really well to a live show.

Talons'.

If you have never heard them, do so. If you go to the Talons’ page, I think they have most of their stuff online. I would describe them as sounding like rippling water, but that would sound pretentious, so I wont. They played songs off their upcoming album Songs for Boats, which I will be ordering as soon as it goes up on their site.

The second band was Shiny Penny. They are kind of a twee/indie powerpop band from Cleveland.

Shiny Penny.

They suffered from some bad sound mixing at first, but by the end of their set, I was liking them a lot. They started off their first song announcing, “This is a song about Teenage Lesbians.” When that’s the start of your set, you know it’s going to be a good one.

The third band was The Walkies. They were an alt-country/bluegrass band out of Akron.

The Walkies.

To be honest, these guys were probably the mos impressive group that played. That drummer? He played Banjo and drums, and he did vocals, AT THE SAME FRICKIN’ TIME. It was awesome. James started calling them 2 = 5, because they made enough noice for 5 people. I’ll be watching for these guys to play another show.

The final band that played was The Casual Encounters.

The Casual Encounters.

They were really good emo-rock band from Cleveland with a lot of energy. They looked like they were having a lot of fun, and they sounded great, too!

I wanted to buy music from all the bands, but the only band at the merch table was Talons’, and I have most of their stuff. i did manage to get the Falls’ Chagrin/Talons’ in HD ep cassette, as well as their book, Lost Time, which collects all their lyrics, as well as pictures and whatnot.

The Merch. (Ignore my notebook.)

All in all, it was a great show, and a great time. I got to hear some awesome local music, I managed to track down the last Mountain Goats album I needed, and I caught up with an old friend.

*I don’t have any of the EPs unless they were released post Get Lonely, and I don’t have any of the 45s or cassettes, but the main album collection, all 18 of them, are mine.



My…um…list for 2009 by jason
December 11, 2009, 5:27 pm
Filed under: Mountain Goats, Review, Year End List

by jason

OK. Jayson posted his top 10 list for the year, and I was going to do the same, except that this year was the year of the back catalogue for me. Therefore, I haven’t heard 10 albums that were made this year. Instead of a top 10 list, then, I’ll talk about what I have heard this year.

EXCEEDS EXPECTATIONS

The Mountain Goats and John Vanderslice-Moon Colony Bloodbath epThis was the tour ep for the Gone Primitive Tour. It’s a concept ep about people who work at the secret body harvesting colony on the moon, and what happens to a person when they experience the kind of isolation you can only find while watching over bodies in suspended animation on the moon. There’s a song about canibalism! Canibalism! Great stuff if you can find it. I managed to get the limited edition green vinyl copy. Not that I’m bragging.

The Flaming Lips-Embryonic
I know I’ve talked shit about The Flaming Lips before, but this album is very good. It’s much darker than their previous albums. It’s still strange…I’m sure there were many, many illicit chemicals involved in the making of this album. MGMT and Karen O make guest appearances (Karen O is particularly charming on “I Can Be A Frog”). This was a staple of my NaNoWriMo diet.

The Lonely Island-Incredibad
I almost didn’t buy this one. I wasn’t sure I could afford to buy a novelty album, but this is funny shit. You’ve seen videos for many of these songs on SNL (“Like a Boss,” “I’m On A Boat,” “Jizz in My Pants”), but some of the other tracks are great, too. My favorites might be “Boombox”, which features Julian Casablancas, and “Dream Girl” featuring Nora Jones. This was a two disc set, and the second disc has about 20 minutes of videos.

The Pains of Being Pure of Heart-The Pains of Being Pure of HeartThis was one that I have only gotten a chance to listen to a few times, but I was really impressed with it. They kind of sound like Belle and Sebastian if B & S used distortion and played everything twice as fast. “Young Adult Friction” is a great song about losing one’s virginity in a library.

The Duke & the King-Nothing Gold Can Stay
Pretty awesome AM ’70s style pop from Simone Felice, formerly of the Felice Brothers. I found out about these guys from Daytrotter. I’ve reviewed this already HERE.

MEETS EXPECTATIONS
Morrissey-Years of RefusalIt’s Morrissey. He’s mopey, and he sings about ambiguously gendered love interests. On this album, he’s pretty angry. Not much else to say…it’s worth buying.

DOES NOT MEET EXPECTATIONS
Silversun Pickups-SwoonA lot of my friends love these guys, so I bought their album. It’s not bad…it’s just kind of bland. The lead singer’s voice is overproduces and sounds like the guy’s been sucking helium. It reminds me of Smashing Pumpkins. But really, do we need another Smashing Pumpkins?

The Mountain Goats-The Life of the World to Come
You can’t spin gold all the time, and out of, what? 17 albums? this is the only Mountain Goats album that I am not in love with. It might have been in the “Meets expectations” category if it had been from anyone other than tMG. I dunno. Maybe it will grow on me. I didn’t like Get Lonely when it came out, but now, I love that album. I gave it a full review HERE.

So…this year’s closing thoughts:

It was a strange year. I met John Darnielle and John Vanderslice, I fell out of love, I sang a LOT of freaking karaoke. In the last two months, I met a nice girl to share music and laughter with. All in all, I think that despite the bad shit that’s happened, I’ve got a lot of reasons to be happy. Even if the latest Mountain Goats album wasn’t very good.



Review: The Mountain Goats-The Life of the World to Come by jason
October 14, 2009, 11:58 am
Filed under: Mountain Goats, Review

by jason

TMG-The-Life-of-the-World-to-Come

In discussing The Mountain Goats’ biblically-themed album The Life of the World to Come, appropriately enough, I feel I should confess a few things. First of all, I am a hard-core, take-no-prisoners fan of the Goats. When I got to meet John Darnielle, Praised Be His Name, I was so star struck that I cut the conversation short rather than make an ass out of myself. Secondly, I am not a Christian, and Christian Contemporary Music, or actually, any contemporary religious music, annoys the piss out of me.

These two facts should, I think, cancel each other out and allow me a relatively unbiased review. I hope.

So…the album. I remember reading the review that Under the Radar gave the album, and I thought to myself, “those pretentious pricks gave the album 5 out of ten ‘blips’ because it’s a religiously-themed album.” Then, I received the album on vinyl through the mail, and I listened to it eagerly the first chance I got. And, unfortunately, I have to agree with those “pricks.”

It’s not a bad album. Really, it’s not. It’s just…bland. On the first few listens, I really hoped that it was not the themes of the album that bugged me, and I hoped that, taking into account my disappointment in 2007’s Heretic Pride that has been slowly growing since I got over the initial hype, I wasn’t becoming That Guy. You know…the one who says “Yeah, they’re good, but their early stuff, from before you heard of them, was better.”

Neither is the case. I’ve put my finger on what bothers me the most. The Goats have in the past made their reputation with their edgy, sarcastic lyrics, sometimes set to music that contradicts the meaning. That’s what is missing from this album…the edge.

I mean, Darnielle seems, for the most part, happy on this album. Don’t get me wrong; I won’t begrudge someone for being happy. I’m not That Guy either. But there’s a point where this optimism ceases to be uplifting and just becomes boring.

It’s not all disappointing. I am a sucker for a concept album, and the concept here is that these are things Darnielle has learned from the Bible. Interesting concept? Check. Also, this album feels like an album, rather than a collection of songs, like the aforementioned Heretic Pride (and I know that was also technically a concept album, but it didn’t feel like one…). So as a whole, it has those things going for it.

Also, some of these songs are beautiful. “1 Samuel 15:23” is great, and would have also sounded at home on the Black Pear Tree EP (An awesome EP, btw). “Psalms 40:2,” which they performed on The Colbert Report, is as edgy as the group gets on this album. “Genesis 30:3” is probably my favorite track, is almost heartbreakingly beautiful, as is the final track, “Ezikiel 7 and the Permanent Efficacy of Grace.”

The main problem is that the other songs, for the most part, seem like bland, adult contemporary stuff. Especially the not-so-blatantly-religious “Genesis 3:23,” which just rubs me entirely the wrong way, from the repeated “I used to live here” chorus to that annoying keyboard riff. It might be my least favorite Mountain Goats song.

So, my recommendation? If you are a fan of The Mountain Goats, give it a listen. If you like Christian Contemporary, try this album. If you have never heard the Mountain Goats, pick up Tallahassee, The Sunset Tree, or, if you are lucky enough to find a copy, All Hail West Texas. But don’t let The Life of the World to Come be your first exposure to the Mountain Goats, unless this album really sounds like it’s your thing.

5.5 out of ten stars.



Out of College, Money Spent by jason
September 25, 2009, 2:45 pm
Filed under: Interwebs, Local Music, Money, Mountain Goats

by jason

I hate the internet. See, before I became so cyber that I make William Gibson, author of Neuromancer look like William Gibson, author of The Miracle Worker, money was much harder to spend. If I wanted to buy music, I had to drive (or hitch a ride…I didn’t have a car pre-internet) out to the local music store (It was Quonset Hut, back then…those were the days!), and buy from what they had in stock. This meant that there was a lot of music I didn’t get a chance to hear, or if I did, I could only get ahold of select recordings.

Now, with the Inturwebz, I can blow my entire paycheck the day I get it, all while sitting at my computer at work! And that’s what I started working on today.

I headed over to Beggars Group to preorder my copy of The Mountain Goats-The Life of the World to Come on vinyl. Unfortunately, I missed out on the limited edition purple vinyl version, but whatever. With the discount I got from them, but also with Shipping and Handling, I paid about $20. That’s not too bad for a double vinyl album, but I dropped the money today and now I have to wait almost 2 weeks to get that piece.

After that, I headed over to Bark and Hiss records to look around. These guys are a musical collective out of Akron who produce (and who basically ARE) one of my favorite bands, Trouble Books. Anyway, I noticed that they have re-released Talons’ album Rustic Bullshit on CD-R with a hand-stamped brown envelope. Six dollars later, and it’s heading to my mailbox in a few days.

I thought I was done shopping when I noticed the limiited-to-13-copies split cassette tape Stray Dogs #1, by Moustache Mountian and Constant Comment (Basically, the solo projects of Talons’ and Trouble Books’ lead singers, respectively), with hand-stamped packaging. Another six dollars gone.

I wish I could say I’m done buying music for this paycheck, but the Interwebz haven’t stopped me from heading to the local music store. If I’m not bankrupt by the end of the weekend, it’ll be a miracle.

UPDATE: After posting this, I was reminded by Jayson that Murder By Death had this limited edition project they did. So I dropped another $13. Jayson, you bastard!