Just in case you thought I had lost that ability

I was pretty excited to see Slint on Friday night at Irving Plaza, especially considering I only knew six of their songs well. Part of it was certainly the circumstances - their three NYC gigs came in the midst of Slint's reunion tour, their first in 14 years - and it helps that those six songs are the entirety of Spiderland, an album that gets more mentions than spins but still sounds fantastic whenever I play it. Best line from the surprisingly reserved (enraptured?) crowd on Friday - "You guys sound like Slint!"

Friday's show started off just as unassumingly as my first listen to Spiderland, when it took some work to figure out which side of the CD was the top. The band came out in the dark, and the lights didn't even go up for a couple minutes. When they did, there was a lone microphone in the center of the stage - and no one behind it. The band was standing as far back as I've ever seen and the mic went unused all night, save for "Don, Aman" near the end.

Slint were pretty much what I'd expected live, but to an extreme - tight and understated, able to explode at any moment but only occasionally doing so. Tight? They glided through one twist after another while almost never looking at each other. Understated? They barely moved all night, instead just standing in place at the back and on the edges of the Chaturbate stage. And as for being explosive, drummer Britt Walford epitomizes the word. His drums were high in the mix and owned so many of the songs - crazy changes and lots of stops and starts, earning the math rock moniker and then some. "Nosferatu Man" is an amazing tune and it IS Britt - he even speaks the vocals.

Unfortunately, the softly spoken vocals were mostly hard to hear and the bass was sometimes loud to the point of distortion. Slint's music thrives on subtle precision and the tension it creates, and it's tougher to appreciate that if the sound isn't perfect. Accordingly, Spiderland's rockers were my favorite songs on Friday - "Breadcrumb Trail," "Nosferatu Man," and "Good Morning, Captain." The latter had ended all the reunion shows I'd read about, so they surprised me by starting with it on Friday. I'd often thought about how the screaming "I MISS YOU!" ending would be live and, yeah, it was pretty awesome. Overall though, I wasn't as wowed as I'd hoped - their quieter material works better on album, and I was actually a bit underwhelmed. But perhaps that was the point.

NYC locals PG Six opened up and their quirky countrified indie/folk is very much worth mentioning. Between the creative songwriting and inventive instrumentation (washboard!), I'd see them again anytime. They reminded me of Neil Young with the guitar solos, early R.E.M. with the vocals, and Pavement (sort of) with the general aesthetic. The net effect was something pretty unique. Their quieter songs got lost in the big room, so I'd love to see them in a smaller place.

A Rant About Album Leaks

Unsurprisingly, Face the Truth, the new Stephen Malkmus album some 10 weeks away from its release date, has found its way onto the Internet. Lacking scruples in this area, I sought it out and have it on my iPod this morning. I haven't listened to it yet, but it will certainly get some play today.

I also noticed that Scenestars has made one of the tracks, "Pencil Rot", available for download. Not to burn bridges, but this troubles me. Without going into the can of worms that is debating the legality of MP3 Blogs, I feel a line must be drawn. In my opinion, sites should try to respect the artist's wishes for the revealing and distribution of their art. I haven't always felt this way and even did something similar when the new Beck album leaked, but my opinion has since changed.

Certainly, leaking one song is not going to take money out of Stephen Malkmus's pocket. Matador Records won't go bankrupt because of it. My concern is not about financial damages. But leaking a track is a middle finger directed right at the artist. It's the equivalent of breaking into a painter's home, stealing his or her work (sometimes unfinished) and parading it around for your own gain.

I can't question Scenestars or any other sites love for Malkmus. I don't know their motives. But I would guess that a primary driver for any site to post pre-release tracks from well-known bands is self-promotion. Is it worth selling out your respect and loyalty to an artist for a few thousand extra unique visitors?

Though I can think of arguments to justify my own downloading of leaks, I know there's no real legitimate way to defend it. My own compunctions most likely won't stop me from seeking out pre-releases in the future. So you could say, "pot kettle black". Fair enough.

I do think there's a difference between downloading an album from a prominent artist like Stephen Malkmus for your own listening and leaking it all for a few hundred, a few thousand page hits. Post songs for unsigned bands. Do it for an artist needing the exposure. Stephen Malkmus doesn't need you to leak his album.

This week

- Kiss your cash goodbye: Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks @ Irving Plaza, June 7; The Shins @ Webster Hall, April 23-24; Blues Explosion @ CBGB's, April 10-12.

Daft Punk's Human After All sucks

John Zorn opens a new performance space, The Stone

A jazz cover of Pavement's "Summer B"

A massive Jasminlive collection of Italo Disco mixes, free for downloading

Sub Pop signs Chad VanGaalen, re-releases Inifiheart later this year

Decemberists singer Colin Meloy doesn't like Bright Eyes

Show review: Doves Bowery Ballroom

DFA has some enticing new releases coming up

Gone to Texas

While the cool kids are out in Austin enjoying the 2005 SXSW festivities, I'm stuck in New York with only a bad back and about 750 SXSW MP3s to keep me company. But thanks to the wonders of the Interweb, I can almost experience the Austin excellence for myself. So while I won't be able to see Stephen Malkmus performing at The Parish tonight along with Dead Meadow, Laura Cantrell, and Pretty Girls Make Graves, I know I can trust on one of the following resources to get me as close as possible:

More in the Monitor / Village Voice - As Rajeev pointed out, Amy Phillips (of MitM) is skipping sleep to keep us informed of all that's happening in Austin. Her night one recap covers Selfish C*nt, Smoosh and some band called Sleater-Kinney. I wonder if we'll ever hear from any of these acts again?

Dan has a blog dedicated to SXSW 2005. Their coverage, as always, is excellent.

Largehearted Boy is doing us a mighty favor by accumulating links to live recordings from SXSW. That he starts with Doves and Flaming Lips only deepens my appreciation for LHB.

liveDaily has a SXSW guide up, with show and CD reviews, artist features and schedules.

SXSW Mob Blog - Lots of photos of alcohol and people drinking it.

And of course is covering it all.

Other related sites:

The Austin Chronicle's Daily Coverage

Andy Budd - Blogography

BBC Music's SXSW Coverage

More DFA News

I mentioned below that a DFA Nine Inch Nails remix is in the works, but upon taking a closer look at the DFA site I noticed a few other nuggets:

The Juan Maclean's first full-length will be out in June, with the first single "Tito's Way" dropping in May. The song will feature Nancy Whang of LCD Soundsystem on vocals. She has also worked with Soulwax in the past.

Delia Gonzalez and Gavin Russom are finishing up their debut full-length, tentatively called Days of Mars.

Black Leotard Front, Delia and Gavin's project responsible for the brilliant "Casual Friday" single, will have a new single out in '05 called "Hey Coach."

Some of DFA's best singles have come from these guys, so it's nice to hear that their first full-lengths are on the way. And as for Black Leotard Front, one song will be just fine if "Hey Coach" is anything like "Casual Friday."

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Have one for Shane!

In celebration of St. Patrick's Day and Shane MacGowan's ugly mug, I'd like to offer two MP3 downloads, available for a limited time.

First, we have Thin Lizzy's excellent version of the Irish standard "Whiskey in a Jar". I was first introduced to this track via the In the Name of the Father soundtrack. Still a Thin Lizzy novice, I don't know the history behind this cover (if there is any), but I enjoy it nonetheless. I hope you do too.

Download Thin Lizzy's "Whiskey in a Jar" (MP3)

Next up is The Pogues' classic version of Ewan MacColl's "Dirty Old Town". Whenever I hear this one, I can't help but start singing along, no matter where I am.

Download The Pogues' "Dirty Old Town" (MP3)

Please remember, MP3s are for sampling purposes only. Buy the albums!

Yo La Tengo did their annual WFMU benefit on Tuesday, and Sunsquashed has the setlist. The band took on Outkast ("Hey Ya"), the Talking Heads ("Psycho Killer"), the Specials ("A Message to You, Rudy"), the Stooges ("Search and Destroy"), and much much more - 37 songs in total, most of which you'd recognize. I wish I could've listened.

Tickets are on sale now for the Blues Explosion's three-night run at CBGB's - April 10-12. Why do these shows have to be on the same nights as the Sonic Youth club gigs? Their shtick may be getting old, but I've seen the Blues Explosion live a few times and they never disappoint. My favorite Jon Spencer moment was during their July 4 Summerstage show with Luscious Jackson a few years ago, in 100 degree heat. Spencer, decked out in a shiny American flag shirt, put his guitar down during one of the last songs and, with the band going nuts behind him, started hosing down the crowd. It was great.

Amy from More in the Monitor is in Austin for SXSW and blogging it all for the Village Voice. Nothing much has happened yet beyond a Sleater-Kinney sighting, but I imagine she'll have good reviews of some of the many SXSW shows up soon.

This is just a rumor, but word is Annie might be making her NYC live debut on April 15, venue TBD. More to come as we hear it...

The DFA are remixing Nine Inch Nails - "The Hand That Feeds" specifically, according to the DFA site. Crazy. Definitely curious to hear it.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions happened on Monday but won't be broadcast until this Saturday on VH1. In the meantime, head over to Stereogum for a sneak preview of Bruce Springsteen's induction speech for U2. Billboard also has details on the festivities.

Doves

All day I've been asking myself, do Doves matter? That might sound inane out of context. Before you think I've lost my mind, let me explain. What I mean is this: what part does the band Doves play in the great cosmos of music? Are they pushing us forward towards a greater day or pulling us down into the sludge of competence?

I've been trying to gauge how "mattering" might be quantified. Is it commercial success? Certainly that is part of the formula. Doves have enjoyed a great deal of U.K. success and a fair amount of notice in the States. I'm sure they're popular on the continent as well. How about musical ingenuity? No one is going to pretend that Doves are groundbreaking, earth-shattering, genre-jumping or any of those other accolades often given to a band like Radiohead. Is importance measured in the message of the band, you know, the lyrics and what not? Personally I think lyrics are overrated and besides, I don't think lyrical genius is the point of Doves.

Speaking of point, maybe I should get to mine and it's this: no, Doves don't matter, but that doesn't matter. Is that succinct enough? Doves aren't innovative, commercial, trendy, hipster, or retro and frankly I don't care. Let me really simplify this: Doves write songs in a style that I really dig and they play them well live. I left last night's show feeling I got my money's worth and that's all that matters.

For more specifics about last night's gig and opinions I mostly agree with (except the praise for the drummer), head over to MMM for Phil's review.

From the Doves.net forum, here's the set list from last night. This might not be in perfect order:

Pounding / Words / Almost Forgot Myself / Sea Song / Black and White Town / Where We're Calling From / N.Y / Caught By the River / Last Broadcast / Sky Starts Falling / Snowden / One of These Days / Ambition / Cedar Room

ENCORE: Here It Comes / Satellites / There Goes the Fea

I don't have particularly strong feelings about Bright Eyes, but Decemberists lead singer Colin Meloy sure does. The Seattle Weekly just published this Jukebox Jury with Meloy, who went off on Conor Oberst's "indie autism" upon hearing the Bright Eyes song "Lua":

Meloy: Who is this?

SW: Bright Eyes.

Meloy: I have one record by him that I would have traded in years ago, but I started a new thing before I bought it that I wouldn't sell any more records back. So, I bought one of his records, Fevers & Mirrors. I listened to half of two songs and put it away immediately and haven't listened to it since. His voice and his writing are just so irritating.

SW: Why do you think he's so popular?

Meloy: Because he's really hot. I mean, I think there's definitely something in this that you can relate to, but it is so easy to swallow it and imagine yourself in poor Conor Oberst's shoes. You know, everybody wants to be in that bedroom. But it does seem a little shallow and emotionally and creatively corrupt.

SW: When he played in Portland last month, he came out in a 10-year-old's raincoat, and when he got excited, he clapped like a hand puppet.

Meloy: They call it indie autism, and he's the poster child for it. Seriously, can we stop this?

Damn! The rest of the article isn't quite as scandalous, but still worth a read - Meloy reacts to R.E.M.'s "Voice of Harold" (great song!), The Replacements, Neutral Milk Hotel, and more.

The Seattle Weekly also did a Jukebox Jury with Michael Mayer a couple weeks ago - a must-read for any Kompakt fans.