Carl Sandburg Visits Me In A Dream
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Carl Sandburg Visits Me In A Dream

Carl Sandburg Visits Me In A Dream will serve as a blog for me to share my thoughts and musings, with a special emphasis on music. The music that will appear in this blog is for evaluation/sampling purposes only, and is designed to promote up and coming bands. Remember, if you like the artist(s), buy the CD! If you are the owner of a sound file and would like it removed, please contact us and we will kindly take it down.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Grace Potter & The Nocturnals

Those of you that have been reading CSV for a while know of my fondness (note: shout out to Henry) for Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, and you might imagine my excitement when I first opened up the sophomore release This is Somewhere from the bluesy-folk-rock quartet. To be frank, I wasn't completely blown away by the first listen, which was quite a surprise to me. The album has everything that would give it that punch: Grace Potter's incredible vocals (!!!), a band that can rock it out but also tone it down, and and an awesome album cover. Okay, maybe the last one doesn't mean anything, but all these factors started to seep in on subsequent listens.

The album certainly begins strongly with "Ah Mary", a more Sunday-rock track that really illustrates the band at a level of comfortableness (not complacency!). Leading into "Stop The Bus", a piano-guitar-harmonica-heavy ditty that has Potter's voice fluctuating from high intensity to a soft gentleness. My personal favorites are the less-produced Kelly Clarkson-like "Mr. Columbus" and the horn-enhanced "Mastermind" that explodes into an incredibly delightful chorus.

Grab yourself a copy of This is Somewhere.
Listen to "Mr. Columbus" (4.7/5)
Listen to "Mastermind" (4.6/5)

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Old Ceremony

Out of North Carolina comes a funky-fresh septet The Old Ceremony--a collective bent on crafting some finely tuned tracks that skirt the hit-and-miss genre that is indie pop fusion (we'll say it's a genre for now). The Old Ceremony reminds me of Chicago's very own "Baby Teeth", about whom I blogged a few months back. Lead singer Django Haskins' vocals are clear and effusive, backed by a band that can break it down like it's nobody's business. Their sophomore release Our One Mistake was actually released in late 2006, and to be honest, I'm surprised that I hadn't heard anything about it.
Granted, this album does have a good number of misses, but to neglect the "hits" would be criminal. "Get To Love" is a high-charged, piano-pounding delight that will have you rocking out in no time. Or take "Papers in Order" (video above), which just may be one the best (ya heard me right) songs I've heard in quite a while.

Go and give some love to The Old Ceremony: Buy Our One Mistake.
Listen to "Papers in Order" (5/5) (see video above: 4.9/5)
Lisetn to "Get To Love" (4.8/5)

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Rilo Kiley Under the Spotlight

Coming back after a few years apart, Jenny Lewis and the gang have joined together to put together Under the Backlight. While the pitchforks and other critics engrossed in music snobbery (oh no, not here!) have been trashing the album as "too run-of-the-mill" or "too accessible", I would venture to say that this is the most delightful product to come from Rilo Kiley yet. Maybe I'm a sucker for those 70s-disco riffs, or those lazy guitars, or the sweet siren song of a one Jenny Lewis--but I have found Under the Backlight utterly enjoyable. There's nothing too complex about the formula used by RK--a lovely singer-songwriter, some indie spunk, and simple, catchy arrangements.

Some indie critics have and will label this album a "derivative", but in the end I'm not sure that's so bad. Sure, I've heard songs like "Silver Lining" before, but that's not to say I don't completely enjoy this summery, laid-back track. Tunes like "Dejalo" are clearly standouts, what with some Latino influences and Lewis' oddly sounding Spanish. Or take a listen to "Give A Little Love", which is just so sugary sweet that you're going to need some water nearby to wash it all down. Lyrically, Under the Backlight doesn't suffer either, which makes me wonder why this album hasn't received the accolades it deserves. Perhaps it's just that Rilo Kiley is creating songs that are simply less esoteric, or maybe (just maybe!) it's that their widening appeal is turning off the original fans. Well I've got a question for all the naysayers: how can can you listen to an album when your heads are stuck in the sand?

Take my word and get yourself a copy of Under The Backlight.
Not sure? Listen to "Give A Little Love" (4.6/5)
Listen to "Dejalo" (4.75/5)

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Rundown

Here's a look at what's been burning up the blogosphere over the past few days:

1. Devendra Banhart - Seahorse
Indie rock's oddest prodigy has released a single "Seahorse" that begins with Banhart's soft murmurings and then gradually develops into a fantastic piano driven track that is worth the 8 minutes in length.

2. Rogue Wave - Lake Michigan
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds meets Wilco's Jeff Tweedy.

3. Hard-Fi - Suburban Knights
Can the sophomore effort match the band's debut success? We'll see.

4. Imperial - Shim-Sham
Who says summer is over?

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter

It sounds monumental, and maybe even a little pretentious, for Idahoan Josh Ritter to title an album The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter. Who is he to claim such a rich past with his first major record label release? Well, in Ritter's defense, this is his fourth studio album, and he just may be one of the great songwriters of our time. Mixing one part Dylan, another part Springsteen, and throwing in a big dose of his own country-folk charm, Ritter has created a masterpiece with his latest release.

Some songwriters define themselves by their lyrical content, others by their musical accompaniment, and still others through an impeccably distinctive voice. The individual that can meld all three of these is a rare species, and I would venture to say that Ritter is one of them. He effortlessly moves from slow ballads about heartache to string and horn-infused rock arrangements about his own insecurities. All this he pulls off with a air of confidence and a folksy pomp that makes you think that he's that guy who's the baddest dude in town with a heart of gold.

On the opening track, "To the Dogs of Whoever", Ritter pays homage to an American icon, doig his best Springsteen impersonation. He then ventures into a piano-driven rock ditty "Mind's Eye" that can best be described as insanely catchy. He slides into "Right Moves" with violins blazing and horns ready to attack. As the album starts to catch, a darker jazzy rock "Rumors" comes on that also makes good use of some wind instrumentation. But on "Next to the Last Romantic", Ritter shows he can step back and laugh at himself as well. Ritter saves his best for next-to-last, though. On "Empty Hearts", he seems most comfortable. He opens with a beautiful stringed riff, and soon enters into a chorus of "Don't let me in to this year with an empty heart" that will have you singing along in no time.

It's really Ritter's ability to be but also appeal to the everyman that grants him such success in his songwriting. On The Historical Conquests.., Ritter ends up revering those who have come before him but also paving a way for new songwriters to join a rare collection of folks who have been blessed like him. As he polishes his own skills, he reveals his own influences from the past; in truth, his album title couldn't be more fitting.

GO AND BUY The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter.
Listen to "Empty Heart" (5/5)
Listen to "Rumors" (4.7/5)

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Architecture in Helsinki

It is becoming increasingly apparent to me that Australia is now becoming the new Sweden of the indie scene (no offense my fair Swedes), churning out one after another of intriguing, unique folk and rock acts (see Jet, Sia, New Buffalo, The John Butler Trio, Bernard Fanning, etc.). Well don't believe what your mother tells you (or the name of the band), because eclectic rockers Architecture in Helsinki are really from down under. Combining the strange creative energies of a Devendra Banhart, the instrumentation of a Sufjan Stevens, and the vocals of a falsettoed Queen (?), Architecture in Helsinki delivers oddly beautiful pop arrangements on their new album Places Like This that will have you tapping those feet of yours in a hurry. Admittedly, I find some of AIH's music a tad too esoteric to fully enjoy but I happen to enjoy them most when I just buy into their silliness. Songs like "Debbie" and "Red Turned White", infused with funky synths and intoxicating horns, are just straight up fun, while tracks like "The Same Old Innocence" present a more serious rock tone that explores into a chorus of "Way-ohs", ACDC style. The bottom line is that AIH can rock and have fun doing it, but they've got to be careful of not scaring off their listeners in the process. But as far as I'm concerned, bring it on.

You can purchase AIH's Places Like This here.
Listen to "Debbie" (5/5)
Listen to "The Same Old Innocence" (4.5/5) (courtesy to

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Vampire Weekend

Behind every budding indie rock band is an equally fresh tagline that gets borrowed and modified by bloggers, album reviewers, and concert promoters. Vampire Weekend's goes something like this: Ivy-league trio delivers lo-fi pop-rock tunes, tinged with African beats and summertime guitar hooks. However you mold the tagline, Vampire Weekend are pretty accessible to all but the snobbiest of music fans.

Going by the small amount of recorded material that's available, Vampire Weekend don't seem to have settled on "a sound"--something that is working in their favor. "Oxford Comma" is a light-hearted, breezy pop song with tasteful guitar playing and smooth vocals. "Walcott" sounds like a raw New England anthem, combined with some New York rockability and classical orchestrating.

Listen to "Oxford Comma" (4.2/5)
Listen to "Walcott" (4/5)

"Oxford Comma" appear on a three-song ep that can be purchased on itunes.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Jose Gonzalez Returns

If you thought the wait was eternal, well think again my friends! Everyone's favorite Argentinian-Swede is returning with his sophomore effort In Our Nature on September 25th. But if that is just too long (it is for me), here are two singles off the album that are sure to whet your appetite.

Go and pre-order In Our Nature.
Listen to "Killing for Love" (4.9/5)
Listen to "Down the Line" (4.5/5)

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Cribs, White Rabbits, Takka Takka @ the Black Cat: 8.11.07

Sandwiched between a burgeoning NYC band, takka takka, and mediocre English rockers, The Cribs, White Rabbits delivered the best block of live music I've seen all summer. Polished and percussive, the Rabbits opened with "Kid on my Shoulders" without a hint of timidness. The rest of the set unfolded with the same amount of New York urgency and style. Sounding like The Walkmen on crack, the rhythm section (including special guests) made their presence felt, delivering a clean, powerful calypso rock beat going for the entire set. The band was tight and the vocals were strong all around, as the White Rabbits played several songs off their debut album along with two new songs and a Bob Dylan cover.

Listen to an unreleased song: "Sea of Rum" -Live- (5/5)


New Young Pony Club Still Needs to Grow Up

It's not an impossible venture to create moving, booty shakin' indie power pop, but it is certainly no easy task. What The Rapture did with Pieces of the People We Love was an extraordinary accomplishment in some ways, in that they were able to put out a record that was both accessible to a large audience but was still edgy, interesting, and fun.

So how the hell does this relate to the New Young Pony Club? Well, in short, their debut release Fantastic Playroom (US release Aug. 28, UK release July 2) doesn't quite succeed in being accessible or edgy. Save for a few songs, much of the album is just humdrum new wave that lacks a punch, that lacks a real attitude. And isn't that what they're supposed to be all about? To be fair, there are one or two fantastic tracks that show great promise for this young quintet. "Grey" is a classic party anthem that will surely please its listeners with its simple but quirky lyrics. But perhaps the best single is "The Get Go", which features a great vocal set and also the best bassline on the album.

If you're interested in NYPC, go buy Fantastic Playroom.
Listen to "The Get Go" (4.75/5)
Listen to "Grey" (4.6/5)

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Friday, August 10, 2007

i predict a ra ra riot

When ra ra riot took the stage at Washington D.C.'s Rock 'N Roll Hotel Tuesday night opening for Tokyo Police Club, they didn't seem like they should be opening for anybody. While the youthful six-piece outfit includes electric cello and violin they have a powerful, edgy rock sound. On stage they seem like that family taking up the large booth at Ruby Tuesdays that gets along too well. They share (instruments), exchange smiles, and even tussle each other's hair (no joke). Yes, the stage at the RNR Hotel seemed a bit two small for any energetic 6-piece, but ra ra's sound seemed just too big for the venue. They out-played the headliners, who seemed tired and lacked variety, delivering an aggressive set with no filler. With just one official release, a six-track ep that will leave you wanting more, ra ra riot are a band you should be keeping tabs on starting now.

"Can you tell" is a bass-driven soliloquy, beautifully meshed with violin and keyboards. "A Manner to Act" showcases the band's ability to juxtapose heavy rock riffs with dancing string parts. Lead singer Wesley Miles, too, is subtle at times, holding nothing back by the end of the track.

Listen to "Can you tell" (4.9/5)
Listen to "A manner to act" (4.8/5)

Photos taken by Alex

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Martin Sexton

Folk crooner Martin Sexton's newest release Seeds shows Sexton's pop sensibilities haven't dulled a bit since his first record in '96. The musical arrangements are lush and voluminous but they avoid the over-production that often occurs when an experienced singer/songwriter steps into the studio. Not to mention the "mouthwash" vocals of Sexton that have made him so affable--that is, his smoothness lingers in your head long after the record has been played out. With the album title connoting a going-back-to-the-roots approach, Sexton really draws upon the experience and the musical prowess he's garnered throughout his somewhat illustrious career to bring forth a carefully constructed album that is sure to delight both the young and old.

Go and get yourself a copy of Seeds.
Listen to "Happy" (4.9/5)
Listen to "There Go I" (4.6/5)

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

2007 Virgin Festival Recap: Day 2


I was only able to catch a couple minutes of CSS – to my dismay. They were colorful and energetic playing to a crowd that featured dancing trees. I suppose I should be grateful that I at least was able to see some of CSS since all those at Lolla expecting to see them were disappointed – as a result of a canceled flight to Chicago.

As soon as Greg Gillis, aka Girl Talk, began to play in the dance tent, it seemed like every onlooker erupted out in dance. Mixing both rap and rock into his set, it was hard not to find something to like about his performance. Among highlights were snippets of fellow Virgin Festival artists such as The Police and Peter Bjorn and John. Word from Girl Talk concert veterans was that this show was PG compared to other ones – since by the end of the performance only his shirt was unbuttoned.


Entering the gates of Virgin Fest on Saturday morning, I was relatively unfamiliar with Regina Spektor. After checking out her highly polished set I definitely plan on picking up a few albums. Her lyrics are both funny and smart and she was impressive on piano and guitar. Among a personal highlight was her cover of John Lennon's "Real Love".


Another band I was very much looking forward to seeing was Spoon. Unfortunately, they experience some sound problems early into their set, which Brit Daniels complained openly about. In fact, Daniel noted that he couldn't play "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb" because he couldn't get his guitar in tune. The band still impressed the crowd with "The Beast and the Dragon, Adored" and their recent single "Don't Make Me a Target". Still, I was expecting better, but it seemed like the performance was out of Daniel's control. Anyway, they are about to launch a US tour, which I'm sure will feature more polished performances free of frustrating technical problems.


I caught the very end of Explosions in the Sky. It looked like a fine performance based on the crowd's reaction, but I only saw an extended finale guitar solo.

I rested up a bit by sitting down to watch Bad Brains. I fully realize this band is indeed legendary. After all, they are banned from D.C. They shaped the way for early 80's hardcore punk and bands like the Beastie Boys and Minor Threat. However, I wasn't expecting all that much since it has been a long time since their prime. However, Bad Brains was impressive – as seen in the enthusiasm expressed by the crowd. Moshing erupted in the pit as the band played hits like "Banned in D.C." and "Regulator". Lead singer H.R.'s vocals weren't as they used to be, but he put on an above average performance and actually seemed happy.


More than once I heard someone around me ask "What the hell is that woman on?" in reference to Karen Orzolek's on stage antics. Orzolek and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs galvanized the crowd with their energy and stage presence. Orzolek often let out a fury of high-pitched screams, while guitarist Nick Sinner accompanied her with stunning guitar riffs. I don't consider myself as much of a fan, but I was even a bit disappointed when their set was over. Among highlights was a beautiful performance of the band's single "Cheated Hearts".


Interpol's Virgin Festival set was truly magnificent. Once the rain started falling at Pimlico the band only increased their concentrated energy and the crowd's interest grew exponentially. "Evil", "The Heinrich Maneuver", "All Fired Up", and "NARC" are just a few songs the band powered through with finesse and charisma. Paul Banks and Daniel Kessler had smiles on their faces for most of the set and commented multiple times on the crowd's enthusiasm.


So I began making my way toward the South Stage in hopes of getting in prime position for 311. I arrived in time to catch Velvet Revolver. Though they were scheduled to end at 8:15, the band went 15 minutes longer. Good thing, too, because they were kicking ass. The crowd was the most energetic I had seen all weekend. 40-year-old men were crowd surfing to Slash's masterful work on guitar. The end of the set was mostly composed of new material from their most recent album – "She Built Quick Machines" and "The Last Fight".

Because of Velvet's extended set, 311 came on twenty minutes late – limiting their performance time to an hour. Nevertheless, the band came out blazing with "Beautiful Disaster" and the energy did not cease until the end. Even 311's version of "Love Song" was full of excitement as Matisyahu made a special guest appearance to sing the third verse. And just as you would expect from the Omaha natives, they played almost 20 minutes beyond their scheduled set – complete with an encore featuring "Who's Got the Herb". I heard mixed reviews regarding the Pumpkins set, but I heard not one complain about 311. They were truly a fun way to close out a fantastic weekend.

Thanks again, Alex, for your 2007 Virgin Festival writeups.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Josh Rouse

Usually I'm skeptical of artists putting fewer than 10 songs on album--can you even call it an album at that point? But as prolific and talented as Josh Rouse is, I only have praise for Rouse's newly released Country Mouse, City House (July 31st). The 9-track showcase has Rouse doing what he does best--playing understated pop tunes that will induce a whole lot of foot tapping and sing-along-ing (go with it). From the higher-charged "Nice to Fit In" to the organ-filled "Pilgrim" to the bass-trippy "Hollywood Bassplayer", Rouse exudes a form of confident vulnerability--that is, he isn't quite afraid to express his own insecurities in his songs. Even in concert, Rouse still retains a boyishness that makes him all the more affable, as he jumps from one song to the next in his now large catalogue of deliciuosly sweet, 70s-pop-rock tracks.

Listen to "Hollywood Bassplayer" (4.8/5)

Listen to "Sweetie" (4.6/5)

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Monday, August 06, 2007

2007 Virgin Festival Recap: Day 1


I decided to check out all three of the bands performing during this block. I started at Fountains of Wayne, who were nothing remarkable. Solely radio designed pop songs. While fun, they did nothing to keep me watching.

Shout Out Out Out Out
, featured in the Dance Tent, put on a highly energetic concert (especially for so early in the day). The entire tent was full of dance-crazy concertgoers enjoying the electronically enhanced music of the Canadian indie group.

I only caught one song of Fiction Plane, who is currently touring with The Police. Though it was short, it was awfully good – a nice performance of their song "Cold Water Symmetry".


Coming into the weekend, one of the band's I was most excited about seeing was Scottish natives The Fratellis. Though only having one full-length album and three EPs to work with, the band put on an energetic performance that left the crowd bopping their heads and yearning for more. Among highlights, was their performance of "Flathead" aka "The iPod song", and a rocking version "Chelsea Dagger" to finish off the set.


Deciding to bypass Amy Winehouse, I stuck around to see another fellow Scottish native, Paolo Nutini. At just 20 years of age, it quickly became obvious that Paolo has a lot of growing to do. Perhaps it was a problem with the vocals, but Nutini's voice wasn't all that strong during the performance. His performance of "New Shoes", however, was quite good.

Incubus generated an energetic crowd, but nothing about their performance was spectacular. It was essentially what you expected to hear – beefed up versions of hits like "Meglomaniac" and "Quicksand", along with some of the other familiar tunes mixed in.


Peter Bjorn and John gave what I thought was the best performance of the festival. The band was energetic, excited to be there, and in turn, the crowd reacted with unbelievable excitement. Their performances of "Young Folks", "Amsterdam", and "Paris 2004" left the crowd in a PB+J frenzy. An extended rendition of "Up Against the Wall", with an eloquent guitar solo, generated an even greater response. Though Peter complained about the heat – eventually resulting in him shedding his suit jacket – the band rocked out on "Detects on My Affection" as a finale.


Playing nearly half their set on instruments, The Beastie Boys pleased the crowd with the likes of "Sabrosa" and old hardcore punk favorites like "Egg Raid on Mojo". On the rap front, "Sure Shot", "Super Disco Breakin'" and "Brass Monkey" were all highlights. The encore showcased the remarkable spinning of Mix Master Mike and an all-instrumental version of "Sabatoge". The 'Boys also had the most enthusiastic crowd of the weekend. Bravo!


I chose to see Modest Mouse over The Police which, unfortunately, was a reminder to bank on experience and sex appeal when making the "who to watch" decision at festivals. Sound problems and a less than energetic Issac Brock left the paltry crowd with a weak performance. Seeing newcomer Johnny Marr was certainly a treat, as were the performances of "Tiny City Made of Ashes" and "Doin' the Cockroach". However, the band did come on late, leaving little more than a hour for them to play. It was an okay set but certainly not the best way to end the evening.

Thanks to Alex for the fantastic Virgin Festival recap


2007 Virgin Festival Recap

The festival at a glance...

This year's Virgin Festival, presented by Virgin Mobile (just so we're clear this wasn't a 50,000+ gathering of virgins...more like 49,000 virgins), has come and gone. Two days filled with hours of music, sweltering hot temperatures, and the stench of human sweat from Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore, Maryland.

Best Overall Performances

  1. Peter Bjorn and John
  2. Beastie Boys
  3. Interpol
  4. LCD Soundsystem
  5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs / Velvet Revolver
Most Disappointing Performances

  1. Modest Mouse
  2. Spoon
Most Energy on Stage

  1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  2. Peter Bjorn and John
  3. The Fratellis
  4. Beastie Boys
  5. Girl Talk

Exceeded Expectations

  1. Peter Bjorn and John
  2. Velvet Revolver
  3. Regina Spektor
  4. Shout Out Out Out Out

Best Crowds

  1. Interpol
  2. Velvet Revolver
  3. 311
  4. Beastie Boys
  5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Worst Crowds

  1. Paolo Nutini
  2. Panic! At the Disco
  3. TV on the Radio
  4. CSS
  5. Peter Bjorn and John

Best Set Lists

  1. Peter Bjorn and John
  2. Beastie Boys
  3. Interpol
  4. Spoon
  5. 311
Bands I Wish I Would Have Seen More Of

  1. CSS
  2. Velvet Revolver
  3. Explosions in the Sky
  4. TV on the Radio
  5. Paolo Nutini
What are your lists looking like? Stay tuned for day-by-day photos and recaps.

Virgin Festival coverage by Alex


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Air Traffic

For fans of Coldplay who want an edgier sound, Air Traffic comes to the surface with their full length debut Fractured Life. Loaded with catchy drum loops, infectiously delicious guitar hooks, and dripping with power chord piano, Fractured Life is a near first masterpiece. The production quality is at a high, emphasizing the band's impeccable timing and skill as musicians. Highlights on the album are "Shooting Star" which exudes a palpable energy that lasts throughout the album, along with the neat-rhythymed "No More Running Away".
Be sure to go out and get Fractured Life.

Listen to "Charlotte" (4.6/5)
Watch "Shooting Star" (4.8/5)

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