Once is not enough to know.
"I know it's not cool to like your hometown, but..." Santah singer/guitarist Stan McConnell offered last night at Vaudeville Mews, then asked people to cheer for Des Moines. Ladd, Devin and I wooed. Santah are a uniquely monikered five-piece band-- "Stan ... likes to say he was trying to challenge the creative conventions and concepts for the name Santa," keyboard player Tommy Trafton tells Paste-- formed at the University of Illinois. McConnell has a "soaring" voice, as Ladd pointed out during the set, and he does some nice harmonies with sister Vivian. The basic sound is arty, folk-tinged rock, with pealing organ sounds from the keyboard and dramatic, almost wrenching guitar stabs, where those pretty vocals are at the center of things but not necessarily always comprehensible, though it's all highly proficient, carefully constructed stuff. I guess this puts them somewhere along a continuum from, like, Brooklyn chamber-pop heavyweights Grizzly Bear to L.A.'s Cold War Kids-- you can decide where, but I thought they were pretty solid and I'll be curious to hear how Santah sound after more time on the road. The band recorded self-released debut White Noise Bed at late Wilco member Jay Bennett's Pieholden Studios, just weeks after Bennett's death, which sounds like it was a sad, weird experience, and also suggests that if you're a Wilco fan you might like these dudes. My favorite song of Santah's, "Neighbors & Cousins (Are We Lovers)," has more of a rickety garage-rock quality to it, and chord changes that might put you in mind of David Bowie's "Heroes" or LCD Soundsystem's "All I Want," plus a bit of a "Moulty"-ish spoken-word interlude: "Is anybody out there confused? Oh, me too." Though it's been said, many times, by many bloggers: Happy holidays, Santah.

The future isn't far away.
The big thrill for me was seeing local high school dudes the Seed of Something again last night. They've been playing around town a bunch now, but the last time I saw them was months and months ago, even before the Poison Control Center's show with them at Des Moines Social Club in August. I had gone to, like, three shows in a row before that, so I figured I would sit back for a while and let them progress, and man, it's not that I was surprised last night or anything, but it was just great to see how much they really have come into their own since then. One of the singers, Stone, is Ladd's brother, so I've always been rooting for these guys, but they put on a super rocking set this time, above and beyond what I remember, starting with a raucous like two-chord wonder that could hold its own against a lot of the current garage-rock/lo-fi scene, probably-- it was really loud, too! Also there was a PCC cover and a Guided By Voices cover. It was fun watching a bunch of teenagers freaking out to that stuff. I guess the '90s really are back? Oh and I heard the Chatty Cathys and new band Pocket Aristotle were good earlier in the night. Nice to hear some local talent coming up. The Seed of Something had a new demo CD to give away, but I got to the merch table too late to score one-- next time.

Speaking of what's coming up, I'm not gonna do a whole concert listing right now, though there's an interesting-sounding covers show later this week and CD release party for local band Parlours next month, but here's one event I won't be missing: Asklandaganza, at Vaudeville Mews, January 15, featuring Wolves in the Attic, Canyons, the Seed of Something, the Poison Control Center, Land Of Blood And Sunshine, Derek Lambert & the Prairie Fires.



Do you love her? / Do you wonder / Why the starship shines above?
As I was passing one of the guitar players from Free Energy on the way out last night at Vaudeville Mews, I thanked him for a good show, and he thanked Des Moines for everybody freaking out so much. I said something about how that's how I knew going in that it couldn't possibly be a bad night: They're a fun band, and a pretty significant chunk of the people I know in town were gonna be there going wild and dancing and jumping up and down and shouting and hyping up the guys on stage. I guess from their record I expected them to be glamorous like the Strokes. It turns out they're lovable schlubs like Pavement. Give or take a little creative facial hair and exactly one (1) bandana in the style of the E Street Band's Little Steven. The rockstar thing, the larger-than-life talk, it's all part of living out this semi-obsolete fantasy, of a guitar band being absolutely huge, and trying to make the fantasy into reality.



We are young and still alive / And now the time is on our side.

My friends Andy and Ryan over at We Hate Music have been counting down to Free Energy's inaugural show in Des Moines for, what, weeks now? Months? And with good reason. When Minnesota native son Paul Sprangers and the rest of his now-Philly-based band-- who kick off a set of dates with Weezer later this month-- descend on Vaudeville Mews this Wednesday night, I don't see how it could fail to be an awesome time. Some people around here may have caught Sprangers when he was fronting Hockey Night, a band that recorded for late, sadly missed Bay Area punk label Lookout!. These days Free Energy have teamed up with another much-loved label, New York's DFA, where they worked with label co-founder and LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy to help craft 2010 debut album Stuck on Nothing: a classic-rock-tinged pop record in that fun, summer barbecue kind of way. It looks like we might not be barbecuing around here for a while, so until Wednesday night, here are five answers (plus an extra one, just in case) Sprangers was kind enough to share with me via e-mail. Also please definitely listen to his interview with the We Hate Music dudes.

1. You're from Red Wing, Minnesota, and when you were with your old band, Hockey Night, I know you played Des Moines at least once. Any standout memories of our fair city? It's OK to be brutally honest.

PS: yes. i love des moines. being brutally honest.

hockey night played the vaudeville mews a couple times. always good.

there was a weird frat/dance bar down the street that had psychedelic stuff on the tvs. that was cool.

2. Any advice for musicians in a smaller city trying to get fans and get noticed?

PS: i would say to all musicians in smaller cities and towns: you are at a huge advantage right now.

you can pay less rent than the kool-aid drinking hipsters in the big cities. your cost of living is lower.

practice your ass off, write tons of songs, and MAYBE, eventually, put some music online. that's only if you're getting SOME Kind of positive feedback. even if it's from your best friend or your mom or whatever. do nothing but write, record, and play live. get some shitty job and don't buy useless shit. get your furniture off the streets and wear the same jeans for years.

this is what i did/do.

i am going to die making art. nothing else is important to me.

actually, girls are a very close second.

3. Along the same lines, I know you've said you guys still consider yourselves as being a Minnesota band. And I think that's pretty significant. I don't know about Minneapolis, but I feel like I've picked up a different vibe when it comes to being a music fan in Des Moines than in NYC, or even a bigger Midwestern city like Chicago. And not just that people come out for different shows than they might on the Lower East Side, either. What do you think is different about being into music and going to shows here in the Midwest versus on the East Coast? Or am I just imagining things?

PS: i don't know. a fan is a fan. i lived in nyc and went to as many shows as i could and loved every second. always.

maybe midwest kids are a bit more desperate for live shows? whereas on the east coast you can throw a rock in any direction and hit a live show.

4. For us music geeks, it's year-end list time. I've seen you raving about Rihanna's "Rude Boy," which is awesome. Any other favorite 2010 albums or tracks we should check out? 

PS: titus andronicus, hollerado, miniature tigers, drink up buttercup, kurt vile, war on drugs, gang, gayngs, sun airway, bear in heaven, kanye, robyn, beach house, EASTBOUND AND DOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

also, LOUIE! check this show out. louis c.k. writes and directs.

brilliant. silly. funny. sad.

5. My buddy Travis says if and when he and his better half, Missy, get married, you guys once said you might play their wedding. Uh, no pressure! But I'm curious: What do you imagine a hypothetical Free Energy wedding gig would be like?

PS: kegs. loud p.a. system. confetti explosions. zip line into hot tub filled with champagne.

chutes and ladders (LIFE SIZE!!).

bridesmaids orgy. 

6. People used to compare Hockey Night to Pavement; I saw an interview where you said you didn't listen to Pavement anymore. In the same interview, you (justifiably!) raved about Thin Lizzy; Stuck on Nothing is an album with a lot of classic rock reference points, including, if I'm not mistaken, some Thin Lizzy-style guitar harmonies. So, should we expect another big shift on the next Free Energy album?

PS: yes.

what connects "born in the u.s.a" to inxs' "kick?" synths? clinical production? wet snares and slapback on vocals?

all of these are correct.

the new free energy is gonna be huge, bombastic, clean, gnarly, melodic, dancey, live, and more like the late stones than it probably should.

thank you!



I'm a fool now that it's over.
"I wish somebody would do a Pazz & Jop-style list made up of only people's #1 albums and songs," I tweeted Nov. 10. "Feel like #10s (and #50s!) are irrelevant." This led me into a really fun and enlightening e-mail back and forth with my friend and the person who used to hand me wines I'd love but then immediately forget how to describe intelligently (I'm telling you I must just have a terrible sense of smell, which would also explain why I dislike bland foods such as mayonnaise or American cheese but will gladly quaff a red wine recommended to me-- accurately-- as tasting like "fried ice cream and green peppercorn"), Cole Chilton. Now, Cole started with the premise that, as previously niche interests have become more popular, a narrow top 10 list tends to miss a lot, which seems inarguably true. In our conversation, he also (it seems to me correctly) noted that top 50s and other long lists constitute a form of "signaling"; a longer list signals that a critic has taken the time to listen to so much and with such critical attention that you should take this person's top pick very seriously. And then we started talking about how he approaches rating the wines he tastes, which was super interesting but really none of my business to start sharing here.

I guess it's Cole's second point that starts to nag at me. Readers of this blog and its Tumblr are probably bored by now with my constant crusade for the idea that there's always at least a slight potential gap between a sign and what it signifies. (I just finished reading this great book called The Gift by Lewis Hyde, and I found out that Albert Einstein, of all people, made sort of a similar argument in a different context: "As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.") By the same token, I start to wonder if all the effort that gets expended signaling expertise risks taking away some of a list's communication of any actual expertise. It might be the journalist in me talking, too: If we're signaling our own expertise, are we really serving the readers' interests first? Or our own? (Like, when you're a reporter, sometimes you want to quote a source in an article, because the source took the time to speak with you and you want them to speak with you again, but it only muddles up the account for the reader, whose interests come first, so you cut the quote and apologize to the source.)

But mostly, I worry about the effect that lists of a gazillion albums can have when they're assembled into a poll. For all the greater potential for diversity that has come with the internet, you ultimately seem to have more critics working for less money and listening to the same basic universe of albums. I have plenty of disagreements with Chuck Eddy's essay for the Village Voice at the beginning of the year, "The Year of Too Much Consensus," but I, um, agree that there's an awful lot of consensus. When everybody is filing a list of 10 or 50 or 100 "top" albums of the year or whatever, does this basically mean that the medium-profile, critically safe stuff that ends up in people's 8th spots or 35th spots is going to rise to the top, just because it's going to be on everybody's list somewhere, given a long enough list? Someone with access to the actual data could correct me on this, and I wouldn't be surprised at all if year-end lists end up being more in accord with critics' #1 albums than with their #12s. If my worries are at all well-founded, though, here's where I again think about the reader: As a music fan, how much do I care about an album that some critic ranks at #10 but not a single critic in the country ranks as #1? (Might such choices sometimes be as much about "signaling"-- ooh, a token [insert niche] pick!-- as about how much, if we really thought about it, we'd expect ourselves to enjoy the record if we were in our readers' shoes?) Could the cumulative effect of year after year of longer and longer lists be not to give readers more choices, as the numerical growth might indicate, but rather, to constrict them by providing an unnatural consensus based on what looks good on a list more than on what makes us passionate?

As with all of these debates I constantly find myself stumbling into on the internet, there are of course shades of gray, and I recognize there's probably never a clearcut situation where one choice is purely "signaling" and another is purely based on how passionate we are about a record. And I mean, really, here's the worst part: While it's easy for me to come up with my top album, or even my top 3 albums, once we get past that, I keep coming up with more and more records I enjoy and want to share with you in case you might like them, too (or is it partly, as with my example earlier of quoting a source in a news article, because I want to show the artists and other critics who like them that I'm not a hater? Who knows!). So here are a whole bunch of records that while I'm listening to them make me feel stuff and think stuff and maybe occasionally wanna move around and shout stuff and I hope if nothing else I can pass some of those feelings along to you.

So here's my 2010 year-end wrap-up post. For the albums list, I used an expansive definition of what constitutes one album, which I think is appropriate considering artists are experimenting with new ways of releasing music now that the album is in decline; for the tracks list, I tried to limit choices in the top 50 to two per artist, although The-Dream kinda sneaks through because I wasn't counting guest appearances (or songwriters, for that matter).



Why you gonna pray and pray? You're gonna go to hell anyway!
Just got back from taking the dog for a walk. His name is Chuck. I'm pretty sure I've told you before about our friend Chuck, aka Chet, aka Chet Boom. Well, his girlfriend, who I told you about because she sort of randomly ended up working merch for Black Mountain, already has the same first name as Mrs. Des Noise. So confusion reigns.

We got the dog about three weeks ago now, and he's the first dog I've ever had, because I'm allergic, but he's a labradoodle (unfortunate name for a poodle-labrador mix), so he doesn't bother me. Contrary to popular belief, it's not that he doesn't shed-- oh man, he does-- but I guess it's true what they say about the dander or whatever, because so far I've been feeling fine. Mrs. Des Noise used to work at a kennel, and she had a co-worker who is now a dog trainer, and the dog trainer knew Chuck, and it turned out Chuck needed a home, which was a special case because it's hard to find hypoallergenic dogs in shelters or whatever, so we met Chuck's previous owners, they were looking for the right people to come along, we were waiting for the right dog to come along, and it just so happened Chuck was the right dog for us. I know this is supposed to be a music blog, so I'm sorry to go on and on about a dog, but that's really the main thing that I've been talking about/obsessing over lately.



"Some people travel, some people are pretty,
we have a scraggly dog."
It's been a while since my fall concert preview, so here's a by-no-means-comprehensive (or binding!) list of other shows I might see this season. Please let me know what I'm missing.

Also, download Spoon's set from this summer's 80/35 Music Festival here (via Joe Lawler).


Hank Williams III. People's Court (with tbd). Oct. 26. All Ages $20/$22

Joan of Arc. Vaudeville Mews (with Love Songs for Lonely Monsters and Noremac McCarthy). Oct. 28. 21+ $10

Willie Nelson. 7 Flags Event Center. Oct. 28. All Ages $40-$50

Bear in Heaven. Grinnell College (with Lower Dens and Sun Airway). Oct. 30. All Ages & Free

The Misfits Karaoke Halloween Ball. Live-band Misfits karaoke at Vaudeville Mews. Oct. 30. $21 & Free

The Books. Grinnell College (with the Blackheart Procession). Oct. 31. All Ages & Free


Electric Six. Vaudeville Mews (with the Constellations and the Jitz; Kinky Kyro will spin records). Nov. 2. 21+ $15

Oh No Oh My. Vaudeville Mews (with the Pomegranates, Parlours). Nov. 3 All ages $7

Candy Claws. Vaudeville Mews (with the Chain Gang of 1974, the Autumn Project, Love Songs for Lonely Monsters). Nov. 6. 21+ $7

The Coathangers. The Underground (with Coyote Slingshot, Deep Sleep Waltzing). Nov. 6. 21+ $5

David Vandervelde. Vaudeville Mews (with Brass Bed, the New Bodies, the Seed of Something). Nov. 9. All Ages $7

Gold Motel. Vaudeville Mews (with Mother Culture, Pink Kodiak). Nov. 20. All Ages $7

Rhonda Is a Dead Bitch. Record release party at Vaudeville Mews (with Golden Veins, Distant Trains). Nov. 20. 21+ $5

J-FLo. Vaudeville Mews. Nov. 26. All Ages $8

PrettyGirlHateMachine. Vaudeville Mews (with Touchnice of Maxilla Blue, Neon Current with Richie Daggers, MC Genetics, the Renegades of Sound). Nov. 27. 21+ $5

George Jones. 7 Flags Event Center. Nov. 28. All Ages $50


Free Energy. Vaudeville Mews. Dec. 8. 21+ $10



Ain't that some shit?
Tiger Trap: "Supercrush"

Long-overdue quarterly report for stuff from, like, July 1 to September 30, but I don't promise I didn't make some exceptions. I never like doing these:

Deerhunter: Halcyon Digest (review)
Big Boi: Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
Best Coast: Crazy for You
Das Racist: Sit Down, Man
Robyn: Body Talk Pt. 2
Tennis: Tennis (cassette)
Tamaryn: The Waves
Darren Hanlon: I Will Love You at All
Rick Ross: Teflon Don
How to Dress Well: Love Remains (review)

Apologies to Wavves, No Age, Working for a Nuclear Free City, Glasser, Superchunk, the Walkmen,  Los Campesinos! (EP), Junip, Andrew Cedermark, Washed Out (CD-R), Kingdom (EP), Salem, El Guincho, Gold Panda

Special extra apologies to Das Racist for not spending enough time with Shut Up, Dude before my 2Q list

Stuff I thought I'd really like and never quite warmed to but still might end up loving: Matthew Dear, Jamey Johnson, John Legend and the Roots, Oneohtrix Point Never

Stuff I thought I'd really like and never warmed to and don't expect to listen to again: Cee-Lo's Stray Bullets mixtape

Cee-Lo: "Fuck You"
Deerhunter: "He Would Have Laughed"
Das Racist: "hahahahaha jk?"
Deerhunter: "Helicopter (Diplo & Lunice Mix)" (I like to think of this song as my cat's theme song right now... she's been moping in the corner ever since we brought home a dog yesterday. Sad!)
Tennis: "Marathon"
Jens Lekman: "The End of the World Is Bigger Than Love"
Robyn: "Hang With Me"
Warpaint: "Undertow"
Duck Sauce: "Barbra Streisand"
Les Savy Fav: "Let's Get Out of Here"

Apologies to Cheryl Cole: "Parachute (Ill Blu Remix)", Das Racist: "You Oughta Know" (technically 2Q but needs to be reiterated ahead of year-end consideration, besides, it's my list), Deerhunter: "Revival", Digital Dubstar [ft. Miss Fire]: "Can't Say No", Dream Cop: "Daily Mirage"the Fives (ft. Vanya Taylor): "It's What You Do (Hottest by Far)", Frankie Rose and the Outs: "Little Brown Haired Girl" (should've been on my 2Q list), Gold Panda: "Same Dream China", Kisses: "People Can Do the Most Amazing Things", Maximum Balloon [ft. Little Dragon]: "If You Return"NDF: "Since We Last Met", Nicki Minaj: "Your Love", No Age: "Fever Dreaming", R. Kelly: "Fireworks", Robyn: "Criminal Intent", Still Corners: "Endless Summer", Superchunk: "Everything at Once", Teen Daze: "Wet Hair"Teengirl Fantasy: "Cheaters", the Walkmen: "Stranded", among many others

The track you should pick from The-Dream's Love King, a 2Q album: "Make Up Bag", if only for the title pun (can you believe this hasn't been done before? Or has it?) and T.I.'s persuasively remorseless verse ("All that I do for you is just a part of me doing me").

- Pitchfork Music Festival (LCD Soundsystem, Robyn, Titus Andronicus, Major Lazer, Pavement, Big Boi, Beach House, Neon Indian, Surfer Blood, Freddie Gibbs, Best Coast, Sleigh Bells, Modest Mouse, more). July 16-18, Union Park (Chicago).
- 80/35 Music Festival (Spoon, Modest Mouse, Yo La Tengo, the Walkmen, the Cool Kids, Zola Jesus, Califone, Evangelicals, the Poison Control Center, more). July 3-4, downtown Des Moines.
- Pavement, with the Poison Control Center. Sept. 11, the Uptown Theater (Kansas City).
- Best Coast, with Male Bonding. Sept. 17, Grinnell College.
- Tennis, with Maid Marian, the Land of Blood and Sunshine, the Seed of Something. Sept. 17, Vaudeville Mews.
- Devo. July 24, Walnut Street Bridge.
- The Poison Control Center, with Christopher the Conquered, Why Make Clocks, the Atudes. Aug. 29, Des Moines Social Club
- Darren Hanlon, opening for David Dondero, with Derek Lambert. Sept. 28, Vaudeville Mews.
- Black Mountain, with Mondo Drag. July 26, Vaudeville Mews.
- Toro Y Moi, opening for Phoenix. Aug. 10, People's Court.
- Tim Kasher, with Cashes Rivers, Parlours. Sept. 27, Vaudeville Mews.
- Retribution Gospel Choir, with Why Make Clocks, Wolves in the Attic. Sept. 30, Vaudeville Mews.
- YellowFever, with Coyote Slingshot, the Seed of Something. July 19, Vaudeville Mews.
- Abstract Rude, with Musab, Gadema, Young Tripp. July 11, Vaudeville Mews.

The Strokes: "Under Control"

The Softies: "Goodbye"



Operator, get me the president of the world!
When Tokyo Police Club first started getting what kids used to call "blog love," longevity was a non-issue. They were "Tokyo Police Club," after all. And the concise, energetic Canadian band's first few releases were EPs and singles-- short-lived, but satisfying, pleasures. Then another much-blogged band known for their EPs, Austin's Voxtrot, put out a full-length and the thing flopped. In 2008, Tokyo Police Club issued debut album Elephant Shell, making the jump to Omaha's Saddle Creek label (Bright Eyes, Cursive, Rilo Kiley), and what do you know? It turned out to be pretty good. I saw them open for Art Brut at the Warsaw in Brooklyn. They were awesome. I saw them play in front of like 2,000 people at Denmark's Roskilde Festival. Also awesome.

Response to this year's follow-up, Champ, has been more mixed. A lot of the discussion has focused on the songs being longer, the band stretching out a little bit, but I think it's telling that most reviewers seem to have trouble finding something distinctive about the music to use as a hook. Here's Spencer Kornhaber, writing in SPIN: "How can a band with so many ideas make so many songs that leave you feeling the exact same way?" Champ still sounds like Tokyo Police Club, so it's never bad, at all, but as far as I've been able to tell there's not much reason to listen to it rather than the first album or early EPs.



I agree with you-- who needs stuff?
On Friday we drove to the small town of Fairfield in southeastern Iowa. I drove, actually. It was probably the longest I've ever driven-- two-plus hours!-- and I promised Mrs. Des Noise I would do it, sort of as a sweetener for making the trip to see bands on a Friday night instead of, I dunno, going to Fong's Pizza or something. I guess you could say my efforts at re-learning driving are going well.

There wasn't much traffic. To get to Fairfield, you take a four-lane state highway that turns into a U.S. highway, or a U.S. highway that turns into a state highway, I forget. Once you're past Des Moines and its suburbs, you go through miles and miles of farmland. The "American Gothic" house is off from one exit. Roseanne & Tom's Big Food Diner used to be around that area somewhere, too.

And then there's Fairfield. Once home to Parsons College, remembered by my Midwestern mom as a "party school," this town of 10,000-ish now holds the Maharishi School of Management, which bought Parsons after it went bankrupt in 1974. Yes, we're talking about the same Maharishi the Beatles studied under during their time in India. In fact, Fairfield is a huge hub for practitioners of Transcendental Meditation. David Lynch is a regular, among many others-- the town likes to respect its Hollywood visitors' privacy. (I can say that Paul McCartney's son James made his U.S. performing debut less than a year ago at the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center.)  Jammy psychedelic guitar was emanating from the town square when we arrived-- my wife was behind the wheel at this point, because we had to stop to check the directions and I didn't want to parallel park-- and the overall feeling of the charming downtown reminded us of sort of a cross between Madison, Georgia, where my parents live, and the Northern California coastal town of Sebastopol. Way more food options than you'd expect from a place like this: Thai, Indian, Turkish, and on and on. We met our gracious hosts at a delicious cafe/bookstore called Revelations, which has a menu with more vegan-friendly options than just about any place I've seen in Iowa. Locals were walking around in white, flowing pants. They were some of the healthiest, happiest-looking people I have ever seen. All that organic food will do that for you, I guess. Not to mention living someplace where you can see the stars and the Milky Way actually looks milky. Or might there be something to that meditation stuff, after all?



It's my job to write songs/ Allow me to do whatever I want.
Last night after the usual Friday stop at Fong's Pizza we headed over to the Des Moines Art Center for the Manhattan Short Film Festival, a free event with 10 short films from all around the world. Apparently other people were also watching screenings in other cities on various continents. At the end we all voted on our favorites. The place was packed when we got there-- tried to sit on the floor up front, tucked away in a corner, but as we half-suspected that space was in violation of the fire codes, so we headed back up to the ledges in back we had passed by on our way in, where we ran into Ben Godar and Nathan Wright and then found a couple of spaces we could occupy. It was dark in the theater by the time we were finally seated, so I didn't get a chance to look at the ballot where we would vote for our favorite short films-- as Mrs. Des Noise points out, that's "short movies" to us laypeople--and I was sort of imagining and frankly dreading the possibility that we would be asked to rank them all in order, Pitchfork-style. The UK entry, The Watchers, was up first and was engaging with a neat twist ending but it's hard to know how something is going to compare when it's first, you know? There was a cool short from Croatia where these kids go off to some ruins and party and commit all the sins so I was sort of hoping for some sort of horror-movie ending but it turned out to be more of a sad commentary on the effects of the civil war there in the 1990s. One of the most visually beautiful films was the French entry but it was almost like they were doing a school report on Madagascar and decided to ask their parents to help them make the most lavish, expensive, tasteful diorama ever, like the Avatar of reports on what you did over your summer vacation, like they were trying so hard to impress you that they forgot it's more important to move you. The entry from Quebec, A Little Convenience, was definitely a contender for my vote, with its delightful, sumptuously realized, magical-realist depiction of a man who sort of starts floating, but it kind of made me think of that Calvin & Hobbes storyline where Calvin thinks his gravity has reversed its polarity, except this one didn't really fit into any sort of story and kind of trailed off at the end (don't get me wrong, I liked it, too, I just was having to rank these films against each other). The entry from Germany, 12 Years, was the shortest and depicted a pair of animated, human-like dogs talking to each other at a restaurant, with an elegant female dog and a smaller male dog who kind of reminded me of a canine Woody Allen, and I dunno, I don't want to reveal too much about it and it's hard to say if I liked it because the dogs were a gimmick (other movies had "gimmicks" though, too, in that case, like cute children or sex or politics or whatever) or because I had already seen a still of one of of the dogs so I was primed to like it, but of all the shorts we saw it was the one that I enjoyed most and also the one that had the most singular, distinctive story, communicated most memorably, so that I know I will always remember this one even though I might not  be able to distinguish the murder-investigation short from Poland from other crime stories a decade from now because although it was interesting it just wasn't as much of a unique work of art (and I know there can't be degrees of "unique" but something can't be more "immaculate" than something else either-- it's like being pregnant-- not trying to start beef with anybody on that one, though; it's a general observation, I could've singled out anyone-- including myself-- it's just, I feel like the internet has displaced the professionals but instead of filling their shoes professionally we're all amateurs now... we all expect everything for free and you get what you pay for... like we're all willing to do stuff now that doesn't have much heart or soul in it but we obviously don't do it for the money, so we're like that Huffington Post journalist who got the Obama "bitter" quote, and where is she now, and if we really care about youth culture shouldn't we care that we're gradually extracting all its heart and soul?).



An electric guitar/ Nobody plays like you.
So a couple of months ago now I joined Netflix for the third time. The first was in like 2003 or 2004, when I was living in my first post-college apartment in Evanston, Illinois, and it's lame but I remember we felt pretty much almost futuristic signing up, especially because my first year in town there wasn't even a movie theater within walking distance, and the closest video rental store was still way too far away for any night wintry and miserable enough that you'd just want to stay in and watch a video. The second time I joined Netflix was in New York, and I can't remember if we started the subscription in Queens or in Brooklyn, but I gave it as a gift to Mrs. Des Noise, so I didn't personally have easy access to picking out movies, which was unfortunate because I'm the one who obsesses more about stuff like that and spends more time on a computer, and we were both working so much that in our time off we wanted to talk or hang out with friends or rest, so Netflix probably made a bigger profit off us than just about anyone else, and then when we moved to Des Moines we decided we'd skip the expense and just pick out movies from the library, which was great because it meant we ended up seeing all kinds of hilarious screwball comedies I'd never seen before, classic stuff like Bringing Up Baby or The Awful Truth or His Girl Friday or The Philadelphia Story, fast-talking metropolitan movies that reminded me that the Boomer generation's narrative of the pre-rock'n'roll 1950s as some kind of Edenic time we either must return to or rebel against is just a gross over-simplification of actual history, because I mean, it's 1938 and Cary Grant is saying he's "gone gay!" or it's 1940 and Katherine Hepburn is asking, "You haven't switched from liquor to dope by any chance, have you Dexter?"



I know you're tryin' to disarm me/ Well, you and whose army?
So I'm sure there are probably bigger Lucksmiths fans than I am, but there probably aren't very many, or at least not many as well-documented. I remember when I was finishing up college and I was interning every once in a while at a little free then-monthly called UR Chicago and my now-wife who I had only known for a few months was away for three in Kansas City on an internship, I heard "Camera Shy" on a KEXP stream my editor Christine Hsieh or somebody else was playing, and I dunno, it was just one of those songs where everything immediately snapped into place for me. I'm sure it's largely responsible for me listening a lot more to KEXP.org when I started a job that summer at what was then known as AOL Digital City, which then had an office in Chicago, where they then paid you through a temp agency so you could stay for a year but then you had to leave for three months but then you could come back, so I had lots of great and creative co-workers and it was kind of like a revolving-door extended form of grad school, a great way of delaying the inevitable drift toward adulthood (somebody in New York wrote about the experience here). And I put the Lucksmiths' Naturaliste album in the #1 spot on my oldest extant published albums-of-the-year list, for PopMatters, even though Pitchfork's Scott Plagenhoef rated it only a relatively dismissive 6.2, because I loved it (still do). And I saw them play in Chicago at Schubas and I saw them play in New York at I think Bowery Ballroom with my friend and journalism professor extraordinaire Marcel Pacatte and I reviewed their albums as they added textures and their songs got more subtle, like Warmer Corners and First Frost, and I interviewed guitarist/songwriter Marty Donald by phone from New York and I don't remember how much it cost, and when they put out a compilation album called Spring a Leak I reviewed that, too, and when singing stand-up drummer Tali White put out a side project as the Guild League with at least a couple of songs I played all the time I gave that an over-zealously harsh review that belies its 6.6 score, and when they broke up I was sad. And when I discovered that bass player Mark Monnone was here last year with this other band Still Flyin', I bought him a drink. And I've been listening to the new Lucksmiths farewell single, both A-side and B-, on an iPhone playlist where it sounds really out of place leading into Lil Wayne's "Gonorrhea" in the morning while you're making coffee and your wife is leaving for work.



I'm a grown man.
"I don't know why we don't hang out more," Tim Kasher said early last night at Vaudeville Mews, reiterating comments he made when his band Cursive played here last fall. After all, he said, Omaha and Des Moines are like "neighbors." Last time the metaphor of choice was "cousins," but if that's so, then he's the family member suddenly going through a mid-life crisis. The Omaha indie-rock stalwart's new solo album, The Game of Monogamy, is filled with disarmingly frank, delicately arranged folk-pop that confronts his fears of growing old, dead, or-- at least, here's the subtext-- boring. And that last one sounds like it probably scares him most of all.



If I hadn't cheated and I hadn't lied I'd be the one walking by his side.

It was somehow appropriate that no one seemed to know what time Best Coast would be taking the stage Friday night in the basement of a dorm at Grinnell College. The band's own MySpace said 1:30 p.m.; a few months ago, our friend Ben had pointed that out, and although an afternoon start time definitely seemed strange, I remember thinking, hey, it's a college campus, you never know, right, and immediately trying to convince Ben and Grant and Chet Boom to take off work early that day and give me a ride. The MySpace for UK openers Male Bonding said 7 p.m., though, so there was that. And an article in Grinnell student newspaper the Scarlet & Black listed a 9 p.m. start, but left it somewhat unclear whether that applied to Best Coast or Male Bonding. So I texted Chet Boom saying 9. Then Mrs. Des Noise pointed out that last time we went up to Grinnell, to see British duo Fuck Buttons, we missed the opening act. So she, Shane, our good-natured designated driver Chet Boom and I all rolled into Grinnell's Gardner Lounge a little after 8 p.m., while the bands were still setting up. Turned out we had a couple of hours to kill with the weird experience of openly consuming beer on a college campus. (You're allowed to do that there, apparently. When a guy nearby pulled out a cigarette, though, I noticed that one of the students working security told him no smoking.) It might have felt a little bit weirder because we were sort of creepily lurking in a stairwell.

So yeah, point is, that "what, me know what time I play?" indifference I think is sort of key to what makes Best Coast work. Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno write and perform these fuzzy, super melodic guitar-pop songs with really simple themes about loving someone or missing someone or not being able to communicate truthfully with someone because sometimes that's just the way it is you know? The sound is partly rooted in catchy 1990s indie-pop groups like Tiger Trap, say-- groups with maybe a 60s girl-group element to them, anyway-- and also partly in confessional 90s indie rockers like Liz Phair. Cosentino's voice, though, has an almost counterintuitively dignified, poised aspect to it that connects her to country-ish singers like Neko Case, and there's a traditional, almost retrogressive quality to her lyrics when it comes to gender roles-- does she have to always be sighing over that boy?-- that for some reason makes me want to really stretch and compare her to, like, Patsy Cline, whose records I should put on the turntable while I type the rest of this post. Hang on a sec.



The Eagles are set to play Wells Fargo Arena.
So last weekend after we got home from Kansas City, there on the doormat was our Sunday issue of The New York Times, which I tried canceling a little while ago because we read it mostly online anyway and I was thinking about cutting costs, but you have to call (you can't do it on the website) and the telephone operator was really persuasive, so-- well, now you know how you can get a discount on your Times subscription.

Anyway, the Arts & Leisure section this week was like a million pages, and I noticed there was a New York fall music preview. Which reminded me, along with college football starting again and Mrs. Des Noise going back to school, that it was almost fall. And that, hey-- I usually try to write seasonal music previews! Now, I realize I already missed Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. and local indie celebs the Envy Corps at Vaudeville Mews earlier this week, and the farewell roast to bartending legend Dirty Dan at the Mews on Sunday before he moves to Hawaii. Also: Hot Hot Heat got canceled, huh?

But there's a whole bunch of interesting stuff coming up the next few months. Probable highlights include, in approximate order of likeliness you might've heard of 'em: Band of Horses, Passion Pit, Tokyo Police Club, Best Coast with Male Bonding, The Books, Electric Six, Atmosphere, Candy Claws, Bear in Heaven, Scout Niblett, David Dondero, Retribution Gospel Choir, Tim Kasher (Cursive), Deakin (Animal Collective), Maps & Atlases, Strange Boys and, for the name alone, maybe +Blissed Out+.

As always, please don't hesitate to let me know what I'm forgetting. Thank you for reading!



Maybe we can dance / Maybe we can dance / Maybe we can dance together?
Hey so we saw Pavement again on Saturday, Sept. 11. Last time was the Pitchfork festival over the summer, this time was at the Uptown Theater in Kansas City, Mo., a 1,700-capacity theater built in the 1920s, with seats in the back half of the main floor and in the ample balcony. Josh and Jessie of another central Iowa-based blog, Nothing Gets Crossed Out, kindly gave us a ride and booked the hotel rooms-- it's like a two-and-a-half or three-hour drive, but the traffic got really bad-- and Chet Boom came along, too*. There's something about Pavement that Mark Richardson touched on nicely in his three paragraphs hailing "Gold Soundz"-- sort of an underdog single, from the band's 1994 album Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, which also featured the more-often-shown-on-MTV "Cut Your Hair"-- as No. 1 song of the 90s. "Pavement went around like regular schlubs and played messy shows with songs that took strange turns and didn't quite sound like guitar rock songs are supposed to sound," Mark writes. Their bemused, down-to-earth shrugginess was exceptional at the time, but it's not the type of thing that necessarily translates well to non-believers when set up on a reunion-gig pedestal at a festival of younger bands. I was trying my best not to look silly in front of a few other writers by singing along too much during the band's Pitchfork set, but next to the theatrics of Major Lazer or the fiery declamations of Titus Andronicus, I could understand if somebody unfamiliar might've been wondering to themselves: What's the big deal?

"Hey, you're not in Poison Control Center."
Not so Saturday night. Dudes opened with "Gold Soundz", another shrug maybe, but one with a triumphant undertone: We do remember, in September, the August sun. As a group, we're not as empty as we (they) protest. And yeah, consider the past un-quarantined. There was sadly no "Summer Babe"-- as Kansas City Pitch points out-- and no "Two States", but there were plenty of favorites, including songs from my own Pavement entry point, 1997's Brighten the Corners (I found out about them by being a huge fan of Britpop group Blur, who were saying in interviews back then they were huge American indie rock fans): "Here", "Shady Lane", "Stereo", "Unfair", "Cut Your Hair", "Date With Ikea", "Rattled by the Rush", "Conduit for Sale", "Debris Slide". Sorry to name so many songs; these guys just play hit after hit. I never saw Pavement live before their latest tour, but what struck me most both times was not the frontman or the guitarist but Bob Nastanovich-- a familiar smiling face around Des Moines (and supposedly the guy who inspired Blur's "Song 2")-- stalking the stage screaming gleefully like a teenager. Or banging on a tambourine. Or blowing into a harmonica, or some kind of pull-whistle, I didn't get a good look at either. Stephen Malkmus was decked out in a Kansas City Chiefs jersey, which he explained at one point, but I didn't quite hear. I guess this was Pavement's first non-Lollapalooza show in K.C., which is crazy. Anyway, I don't know if the band did much out of the ordinary, but it was the kind of crowd where you can just tell a lot of people actually know the songs and are super happy to be singing along with them or else just watching fondly. As someone who mostly grew up near Sacramento, it was fun to finally be able to shout along to lyrics arguing for the supremacy of Northern over Southern California. For "We Dance", Bob and his wife Whitney, another Des Moines fixture, well, danced. Devin Frank from Ames, Iowa-based opening band the Poison Control Center-- more on them in a sec-- ended up onstage singing along for encore finale "Range Life", which segued into a goofy "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da". How'd he do that?



No, this isn't high-igh-igh-igh-igh.
So the Poison Control Center, 71 shows and 80-some days into their "Neverending Tour," made a triumphant return to central Iowa last night with a gig at the Des Moines Social Club. I've already said so much about how great I think they are that I didn't really know what I could add about last night's show, but Aaron Z. said he'd be looking forward to my Des Noise post, so here I am. Aaron was catching PCC and fellow locals-made-good Christopher the Conquered for the first time, and he said he had a blast. As you can (hopefully) see from the blurry iPhone photo above, he wasn't the only one. Social Club rented this big ol' PA setup, and they hired security guards and everything-- I guess they thought PCC fans are more dangerous than we actually are?-- so at first I wasn't really sure how everything would pan out. But Patrick, David, Devin, and Joe have really gotten tighter in their time on the road, and longtime drummer Donald-- he "writes the hits," as Patrick said at one point, and that includes first Sad Sour Future video selection "Being Gone"-- was no slouch on guitar and vocals, either. PCC were on friendly territory here, so they could play new songs and also some older stuff with their usual boundless energy and know there'd be plenty of people to shout along. "Friends in the Band" is the latest to get the DIY video treatment, and that made it an even sweeter moment live; "Magic Circle Symphony" got the usual fists-pumping crowd participation going. The highlight without a doubt had to be when they launched into "When the World Sleeps", the flip side of recent-ish non-album single "Give It a Try", as a finale, and the crowd-- having been to PCC shows before, apparently-- bumrushed the stage (security, thankfully, stayed out of the way) and proceeded to lift each member of the band on their collective shoulders, including the drums but not drummer David (apparently me and Ladd should've gone up there, too). I gotta admit I was a little nervous for Joe, though, who was crowd-surfing with a broken collarbone. Christopher the Conquered put on their usual really fun live set, though I suspect Chris saves his really big spectacles and surprises for special occasions so there was no monk-ish robe like at GDP or hidden microphone by the sound guy like at 80/35-- the band member with the suspenders and amazing dance moves, though, whose name I'm really embarrassed I don't know, did offer one little surprise: He used to be recognizable by his long hair, beard, and glasses but last night was all buzz-cut and clean-shaven (you ARE still the same guy, right? Nobody else can dance like that!). Oh and CTC did a new one, too, a slower song about "The Greatest Pop Record Ever Made" (did I get that right?), which suggests we can hope for another album from these guys before too long, maybe. Got there while the Atudes were playing, and they sounded good from what I heard, and Patrick had high praise for earlier openers Why Make Clocks (their "Revolver" is one of the best songs he's ever heard out of Iowa, he said! and it's a good un, a waltzing, organ-streaked slow burner) and the Seed of Something, too (speaking of the Seed of Something, another reason this show was special was because it was all-ages, which PCC shows at Vaudeville Mews generally aren't, so the Seed of Something guys and their friends were there dancing, too, and generally being livelier than we boring twenty- and thirtysomethings tend to be, which was great). Oh yeah and Patrick turned 30 today-- golden birthday. Hope it was a happy one, sir, and we'll see ya in Kansas City next month with Pavement.



High tide, high tide.
For a couple of bars during the early show last night at Vaudeville Mews by Colorado blog and The New York Times Style Mag darlings Tennis, singer Alaina Moore stepped away from her keyboards and did a kind of ecstatic, high-stepping dance. It happened faster than you could pull your iPhone out of your pocket, slide to unlock it, and wait for the artificial aperture on the camera feature to open (hypothetically). It was a pretty great little understated encapsulation of a pretty great little understated set. Tennis play sweetly aching fuzz-pop songs with Moore's lilting, powerful vocals and lyrics about travel by sea; husband Patrick Riley picks out prickly, trebly guitar bits way up on the neck, and they have a live drummer, though I haven't been able to find dude's full name anywhere (sorry, dude). It's a little like Baltimore dream-pop seducers Beach House-- hey, Tennis even have a great 7" A-side called "Baltimore", which closed their set-- but also a little like other things that are a bit more upbeat and extroverted, including Headlights' "Cherry Tulips", maybe, or Best Coast without the anti-"California Gurls" 'tude.

As far as I can tell, Tennis don't really tour much, and their set last night was part of a brief stint that will take them to New York in a week, so it was gratifying to see that they've got it together a lot more than you might expect from a band at this stage (though there were still the occasional kinks of feedback to work out). They seem to have a realistic view of internet hype-- "Even though everyone wants us to take it really seriously, at the end of the day this started as a hobby for us," Riley told The A.V. Club-- and that carried over to a set that was modest and sort of innocently earnest in a way that really appealed to me. "Did that sound OK?" asked Riley after an early song, when Moore stepped away from the mic; at the end, when the (surprisingly big, both for a Tuesday night and for such a relatively new band-- I wonder if Joe Lawler's Juice coverage helped?) crowd kept asking for more, Moore apologized, saying they'd only been a band for a few months and don't have any more songs. Fair! I've been listening a lot lately to DirecTV's "College Rock" music channel, which has this weird selection of songs-- both super-current, like that new Washed Out thing with Caroline Polachek, or a few years old and not exactly what I'd expect, like the Dandy Warhols' "Smoke It"-- and Tennis' hugely catchy "Marathon" airs at least daily, somehow. Sounded great live; they couldn't do the female backing harmonies with this lineup, obviously, but it didn't matter. Before another song, Moore asked us to slow dance, like in high school; Mrs. Des Noise did, with our friend Shane, who I like too much to beat up (as if I would/could anyway). I bought a tape.

Hallelujah, by and by.
Maid Marian and the Seed of Something opened. Maid Marian plays echoey, loop-driven songs alone with her Yamaha keyboard and snatches of tambourine or harmonica; it was a mesmerizing, fragile set and ended, like last time, with "I'll Fly Away", sung eyes closed, just right. So there's another tape I still gotta get. The Seed of Something are friends through Mews booker Ladd and they keep improving their rough-hewn garage rock sound, despite what I discovered was a change in drummers. "Too many cops are on the streets"-- Freddie Gibbs would empathize.



Somewhere up there is a band called Phoenix.
If you've ever heard a song by Phoenix in a TV commercial or on your iPod boombox, you don't need to shell out the money to see them live. It's basically the same thing. Except without the entertainment value of watching Cadillacs cruise around winding highways (professional drivers on a closed course-- do not attempt!) or being able to skim your RSS reader while you listen without looking like a jackass. 

That's based on the French pop group's show here last night. Phoenix's rise to TV soundtrack and commercial-break ubiquity has been another tale of triumph for internet indie-music geeks, and getting a band with their level of cachet to Des Moines was a pretty huge deal, one more sign of a small Midwestern city's ongoing revitalization. The 1990s alternative rockers you might hear alongside these guys on Ames-based 105.1 FM (The New Rock Revolution) definitely weren't coming to town in their own day, you know? When organizers switched the venue from 7 Flags Event Center in Clive to the smaller People's Court downtown, I was ready for another sad, Devo-esque lack of ticket sales. Turns out I shouldn't have worried: The band was the only real disappointment.



Happy summertime.

Long-overdue quarterly report for stuff that came out (or, in the case of tracks, hit the internet) from April 1 to June 30. I'm never on top of these kinds of posts like Tom Breihan, and I'm not even gonna pretend to be ready to write blurbs about all of these, but we do what we can, right? I promise my third-quarter report will be more prompt. Potentially.

Robyn: Body Talk Pt. 1 (review) (interview)
Sleigh Bells: Treats
ceo: White Magic (interview)
LCD Soundsystem: This Is Happening 
The Poison Control Center: Sad Sour Future
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti: Before Today
The-Dream: Love King (review)
Caribou: Swim
Allo Darlin': Allo Darlin' (review)
The Drums: The Drums

(Apologies to Tracey Thorn, Tame Impala, the Radio Dept., Delorean, Crystal Castles, Drake, Flying Lotus, Chemical Brothers, Janelle Monae, Julian Lynch, Wild Nothing, James Blake, Josh Ritter, Beach Fossils, Big KRIT, Emeralds, Race Horses, Wiz Khalifa, Foals, etc. etc.)

Robyn: "Dancing on My Own"
Robyn: "Cry When You Get Older"
Katy Perry [ft. Snoop Dogg]: "California Gurls"
Josh Ritter: "The Curse"   
Ciara: "I Run It"  
Big Boi: "Shutterbug"
Best Coast: "Boyfriend"  
LCD Soundsystem: "I Can Change" 
Salem: "King Night"
Gauntlet Hair: "I Was Thinking..."

(A haphazard, incomplete, probably embarrassing-in-six-months assemblage of other 2Q tracks for your consideration: Aeroplane: "We Can't Fly", Allo Darlin: "Kiss Your Lips", James Blake: "CMYK", ceo: "Come With Me", the Chemical Brothers: "Escape Velocity", Crystal Castles: "Baptism", Crystal Castles: "Celestica", The-Dream: "Florida University", The-Dream: "Love King", The-Dream [ft. T.I.]: "Make Up Bag",  Flying Lotus: "MmmHmm", Japandroids: "Younger Us", Kendal Johansson: "Blue Moon", JTJ [ft. Sophia & Sanchila]: "It's You", Alicia Keys [ft. Drake]: "Unthinkable (Remix)",  LCD Soundsystem: "Dance Yrself Clean", LCD Soundsystem: "Drunk Girls", M.I.A.: "Born Free", MNDR: "I Go Away", Kate Nash: "Don't You Want to Share the Guilt", Sleigh Bells: "Tell Em", Sweater Girls: "Do the Sweater")

Love Is All, with Tyvek. April 8, Vaudeville Mews.
- The Poison Control Center, with Christopher the Conquered, Mynabirds, Wolves in the Attic, Derek Lambert. April 30, Vaudeville Mews.
- Coyote Slingshot, with Wheels on Fire. June 9, Vaudeville Mews.
- Damien Jurado. June 6, Vaudeville Mews.
- Julian Casablancas. April 23, People's.
- The Twilight Sad, with Mono. May 18, Vaudeville Mews.
- Woodsman, with the Autumn Project, Statocyst. June 30, Vaudeville Mews.
- The Beets. June 10, Vaudeville Mews/April 23, Beechwood Lounge.
- Harlem, with the Jitz. May 5, Vaudeville Mews.  (Ben and Travis will not agree on this placement.)
- Canby, with Golden Veins, Skypiper. May 1, Vaudeville Mews.
- The Love of Everything. June 24, Vaudeville Mews.
Pearly Gate Music, with Love Songs for Lonely Monsters, Land of Blood and Sunshine, Seed of Something. June 9, Vaudeville Mews.

I woulda posted the 9/19/71 Stonybrook version but it's not on YouTube.



If you're lookin' for me, you can find me in the Guinness book.
So our friend Angela worked merch for the first time ever Monday night, and Vancouver retro psych-rockers Black Mountain played Vaudeville Mews. A lot of the usual Fong's Pizza crew was hanging out by the merch table, and I got a better look than I usually would've at the band's wares. They were out of their own T-shirts and vinyl records, though they still had CDs for sale and records by side projects Pink Mountaintops and Blood Meridian. I guess this shows two things: (1) Black Mountain's members have too many sludgy grooves for one band and (2) People have been buying Black Mountain T-shirts and LPs.

I don't listen to Black Mountain's albums that often, but they put on a strong live show: "incendiary" guitar solos, banshee vocals, bass player who takes his job seriously and doesn't overplay, drummer who should challenge Zach Hill to a duel on Rock Band (which reminds me, is it OK if I post this? I hope so, because the Vaude's own Clint Curtis is really awesome in it). I always thought of them as super Zeppelin-influenced dudes, but a neighbor I ran into at the show reminded me their more recent work is a lot more varied and atmospheric (this person was enticed to come because he heard an album at the bar next door, the Lift, and couldn't believe it was all the same band-- Bradie, I think this means Ladd owes you $12). Anyway it took a little while to get into their set, and they maybe didn't bring out enough of their layered, textured approach until an airy keyboard section toward the end, but overall I was really feeling how their rumbling riffs and jolting tempo changes played out in a live setting, wreathed by fog machine fog. The place was surprisingly packed, and the cries for an encore were enthusiastic and genuine. "Des Moines is polite," I heard a voice behind me say.

Black Mountain played at least a couple of brand-new songs, about which I unfortunately don't remember much, except that one may have included the lyric, "Your family values have ruined this place," but I didn't write it down so I wasn't confident enough it was right to put it in the subject heading (and besides, it would really be out of place there, anyway, huh?). I've seen the openers, Davenport-based Mondo Drag, a time or two before, and I'm told they opened for the Black Keys in Iowa City, too. Whether Black Mountain or Black Keys, Mondo Drag fit the bill, with some primordial 1970s-rock ooze of their own. I put in earplugs midway during Black Mountain, because I remembered I might need my hearing, but then I took them out again, as I always do, because I remembered I like being able to shout in my friends' ears without worrying the entire bar can hear me. I guess main Black Mountain man Stephen McBean has been playing at Vaudeville Mews since like 2002, before there was a Black Mountain, which is a long time ago, my friends.

I was e-mailed this link to download "The Hair Song," from Black Mountain's upcoming Wilderness Heart. Jagjaguwar. Sept. 14.

Upcoming shows after the jump:



Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeahyeahyeahyeahyeahyeah!
The first time I consciously remember hearing Devo was in Nashville, Tennessee, in the mid-1990s. I was a freshman in high school, and I was getting a ride to basketball practice or something like that with a senior, Garrett Beasley, who listened to all kinds of weird music (everybody on the basketball team had a nickname; his was Fu-Schnickens). I wish I could remember some kind of deep emotional connection to the music, but I just kind of know I noticed that it was kitschy-- not that I probably knew that word then-- and offbeat and catchy and fun, particularly the song "Whip It," which I bet I had heard before without realizing it. Garrett went off to Baylor the next year and is probably long married with lots of beautiful children-- I would love to know how he's doing.

Devo age well. They were never about acting young and rebellious. They were already old when they broke out in the early 1980s-- as recounted by Chris Willman in the current issue of SPIN, band co-founder Jerry Casale was at Kent State when the shootings went down there in 1970, which makes him, like, my mom's age. If you don't know much about Devo, they're from Akron, Ohio, and along with groups like the B-52s and the Talking Heads, they helped pioneer what would eventually conquer MTV and be known as new wave: a quirky, brainy, leftfield sensibility, with twangy rock'n'roll guitars (one of the local DJ's pre-show selections was Bobby Fuller Four's "I Fought the Law and the Law Won," which I thought was just about perfectly apt), synths, and clipped, deadpan, occasionally yelpy vocals. Lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh has since gone on to a wildly successful career working on movie and TV scores, most notably for the films of Wes Anderson (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, etc.). Devo have been playing off and on at venues like Lollapalooza or Central Park Summerstage over the years, but their new album, Something for Everybody, is their first since 1990. Having them in Des Moines on the tour for their new album was a pretty big deal.

Devo's main shtick this time, as I learned from watching them on The Colbert Report and reading their interview with Joe Lawler in Juice, is that they focus-grouped their album, which when I told my dad made him say "sell-out," but see, that's the thing-- when your theory is that humanity is devolving, rather than evolving (think of the electrolyte-worshiping simpletons of Mike Judge flick Idiocracy), you can get away with engaging in a little conspicuous capitalism, because there's an inherent critique built in... I mean, have you seen the "Whip It" video? And when you've been the nerds making fun of the jocks all along, then when you're onstage at age 60 and a little pudgier, it's not the same as if Mick Jagger, whose entire image is built on youth and virility, were to lose his girlish figure-- it kind of doesn't matter. Ladd tells me David Byrne in Omaha was better, and I don't doubt it, as the former Talking Heads frontman is definitely dignified and old, and his last album with Brian Eno was totally great. But there was something really appealing about how Devo can go over your head without trying to intimidate you intellectually by going over your head (if that makes sense)-- they're simply working to entertain, and their cultural theories are built into that, not an unnecessarily pretentious addition, like Byrne's new agey dancers (again, I'm only going by Colbert Report appearances here). They did new songs like "Fresh" and old songs like "Uncontrollable Urge" or "Freedom of Choice" or (ahem) "Mongoloid," and it was all still wiry and tight and energetic, with hilarious visuals (was that a French fry going into that donut, or was it a stick of butter?) and focus group-tested costume changes and free junk thrown into the audience. Mothersbaugh returned for the encore as the band's old Booji Boy character, weaving a high-pitched tale about Michael Jackson and singing "Beautiful World." Turnout was pretty disappointing-- well, tickets were $50-- and the show had to be on the Walnut Street Bridge instead of the Simon Estes Amphitheater due to flooding, but it was without a doubt one of the best performances I've seen recently. And I've seen a lot of performances recently. This was a $50 concert, for sure.

Upcoming shows after the jump, with the additon of an August 28 Christopher the Conquered/Poison Control Center show at Des Moines Social Club:



School's out, what did you expect?
I wasn't going to go to any shows Monday night. Sure, Austin up-and-comers YellowFever were playing. And recent Des Noise live favorite Coyote Slingshot. And young locals the Seed of Something. Plus, there was a late show featuring recent Pitchfork "Rising" honorees Candy Claws, whose glo-fi primer "Catamaran" I positively reviewed, like, nine months ago. But Mrs. Des Noise and I had just made the six-hour drive back from Chicago after what felt like the biggest Pitchfork Music Festival yet, only a couple of weeks after spending Fourth of July Weekend on our feet for the 80/35 Music Festival here in Des Moines. Yeah, I wanted to see those bands. But not Monday night. Not like Japandroids a year ago. We just wanted to go home and crash. Does that mean I'm getting too old for this?



I think I can/ I know I can/ And if at first you don't succeed...

A fun night with decent if unexceptional out-of-town hip-hop Sunday at the Mews. I came for local rappers Gadema and Young Tripp, whose MySpace pages have intrigued me with their sweeping Southern-gothic beats and relentless grit, making me hope I'll eventually find something here like what Diplo dug up on his Hunts Vegas comp of Alabama rappers a while back. I got there around 9, which as it turned out meant I missed both of those guys-- bummer, but I'll catch 'em next time. The visitors on the bill brought the kind of relatively standard-fare backpacker rap that probably wouldn't bowl me over on record, but made for interesting viewing, at least. Musab, joined by his sister (in an eye-catching red dress) and a Weird Al-looking DJ (on a laptop), was unremittingly pleasant, grinning bigger than any twee indie-popper on songs featuring canny samples from Pitchfork/Jay-Z faves Grizzly Bear as well as the old PBS children's TV show "Reading Rainbow"; while the lyrics were fairly prosaic, it was easy to get caught up in the enthusiastic vibe, and I wouldn't even complain if they cut out the one or two weed/alcohol references and got a big break through Disney or whatever. Headliner Abstract Rude's beats were dustier and more classically hip-hop, with an affable, red-gloved hype man providing a lot of the entertainment; still, as the DJ played Michael Jackson and Prince songs to follow the set, I had to wonder why anyone who loves those bona fide stars would settle for hooks like "Life goes on," "Life's not like a TV show" (TV is baaad, kids-- but the shows mentioned suggest this MC hasn't watched any since the mid-1990s), or "Y'all should dance" (unlike with Musab, whose deep voice came through loud and clear, most of Abstract's impassioned verses were indecipherable to these ears, except for occasional forced-rhyme fragments like "To the top we soar"). Whatever, as I noted last year, I'm a guy who got bored at a Company Flow reunion, so this particular strain of independent hip-hop just often isn't my thing, I guess.

Gotta grind nonstop 'cause ain't no one recession-proof.