Balkan Beat Box Tour America, American Rock Group Tours Balkans

If you are not from the Balkans and have not heard Balkan Beat Box, I recommend you check them out. The duo, which consists of Ori Kaplan (formerly of Gogol Bordello) and Tamir Muskat (Firewater), incorporates traditional Balkan, Jewish, and Mediterranean sounds into modern styles like electronica and dancehall pop. Unfortunately, whenever I play their music for my friends who are actually from the Balkans, the conversation invariably goes something like this:

Nat Towsen: Balkan Beat Box is great!

Marjan Stojnev: Nat, this may be new to you, but I’ve been hearing these sounds my whole life.

Nat Towsen: Then perhaps you should try my new band, American Rock Group.

American Rock Group is a duo consisting of Jeff Tweedy (formerly of Wilco) and myself that incorporates traditional blues, country, and folk sounds into modern styles like rock ‘n’ roll. We are steadily gaining popularity in Eastern Europe, where American music has never been heard before.

Balkan Beat Box Tourdates:

Also, in case any of our American readers were curious, this is where the Balkans are:

Darling, That Handsome Furs Tour Looks Perfectly Divine with Those Diamond Earrings!

I say, is that really you? I would never have expected to find you here at the Imperial Hotel so very late in the season! Ah, but I’m sure the Ambassador keeps very busy working on that simply delightful collection of motorcars you have! When was it I last saw you? That’s right, of course, how could I have forgotten? It was at the Countess d’Orgel’s Christmas ball in Vienna! Such an absolutely charming woman, the Countess, don’t you agree?

Well, I must say you are looking splendid. Do stop by our chateau this Friday! We’ve assembled the most exquisite collection of people; the Duke has really outdone himself this time! You know how we pride ourselves on being patrons of the arts, and we’ve acquired some simply sublime people from America — jazz musicians they’re called. They’re just wild! What’s that you say? You’re already engaged to attend a performance by Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade’s side project, The Handsome Furs? Well, I do enjoy a handsome fur myself, but I’m afraid I don’t quite understand. An indie rock band, you say? On tour? Alright, dear, well, you enjoy yourself with your new motorcar and indie rock band, and don’t hesitate to look up the Duke and myself next time you’re in Carlsbad. Kisses!

New Mountain Album!!! Oh, new Mountain Goats Album? Well, that’s good too.

“Gliddy glub gloopy/ Nibby nabby noopy/ La la la lo lo/ Sabba sibby sabba/ Nooby abba nabba/ Le le lo lo/ tooby ooby walla/ Nooby abba naba/ Early morning singing song.”

Needless to say, to someone accustomed to the bookish, transcendental lyrics like these lovingly displayed above, the generic, low-brow, and downright lifeless words of chief Mountain Goat John Darnielle don’t really rocketh my world with the same poetic intensity of say, Avril or Sir Jon Bon Jovi. You would think with 27 albums to his credit that he would eventually hit some sort of stride and start to produce a few bon mots of quality. But noooooooo.

Nah, I can’t keep up this charade any longer. It is a given that Darnielle has a gift of lyrical gab matched by very few (and peerless songwriting finesse to boot), so whenever word spreads that a new Mountain Goats album is coming down the pike, we get unusually giddy. Assisted by Franklin Bruno, Annie Clark, Erik Friedlander, Peter Hughes, Jon Wurster, and The Bright Mountain Choir, Heretic Pride will be released through 4AD on February 19, just in time to give your postal carrier [Editor's note: awwww yeah!!!] his or her belated Valentine’s Day gift. The album was produced by Scott Solter and John Vanderslice, features art by the godlike Vaughan Oliver, and contains 13 songs, none of which will match the nadir of expressive wizardry, Coldplay’s “Yellow” (“for you I’d bleed myself dry”... [oh no you wouldn’t, you whinging ass-bag!]).

1. Sax Rohmer #1
2. San Bernardino
3. Heretic Pride
4. Autoclave
5. New Zion
6. So Desperate
7. In the Craters on the Moon
8. Lovecraft in Brooklyn
9. Tianchi Lake
10. How to Embrace a Swamp Creature
11. Marduk T-Shirt Men’s Room Incident
12. Sept 15 1983
13. Michael Myers Resplendent

No, no, you're wrong, George Bernard Shaw... a heretic is always better live!
12.08.07 - London, England - Union Chapel
12.09.07 - Manchester, England - Moho Live
12.10.07 - Glasgow, Scotland - Oran Mor

It’s Never Too Late to Show Some Support; Locust Relief Fund Not Meant to Relieve Anyone from Locust

As the story goes, November 25 was playing out like another shitty-as-usual Sunday evening in St. Louis. The Locust were touring in support of their third full-length release (if you can call a 23-minute release a full-length), New Erections, when their van was broken into and things were stolen. Note my use of the un-accusingly passive voice, employed to reserve judgment on the sort of low-life, hell-bound trash who break into tour vans and steal meager amounts of worldly belongings that include but are not limited to: three computers and, as reported by the Three One G: Locust Relief Fund, "phone chargers, money, and anything else you can think of."

"Three One G is all about family, and we consider The Locust nothing less. We are doing what we can to help these guys out, but we are reaching out to you the fans to help bring some resolve to this situation."

So, I wonder what exactly was stolen from The Locust? Four nylon body suits with mesh eye pieces? Perhaps an embarrassingly extensive collection of Detroit-based disco albums circa 1972, thus their failure to be explicitly reported as missing? Maybe the October issue of Musikkpraksis magazine and a Norwegian-to-English dictionary (I have a feeling Justin Pearson is just that sort of hip)?

Monetary donations and literary condolences are being accepted at, so, fans, hop to it. And haters, sit tight.

New Art Brut Tour Dates, Top of the Pops!

There's a bar in NYC's Alphabet City that boasts the best jukebox of them all, by far. If they've got an artist, they've got their entire discography. Be nice and I'll tell you which. The point is, I was sitting on a barstool watching Art Brut's Eddie Argos struggle with the ball mouse on the jukebox (note: having a ball mouse on a jukebox in a bar seems kind of cruel, but I guess that's the price you pay), and I genuinely can't tell you if I helped him or not. That chunk of the memory is gone. But just know that I really, really wanted to.

Coming off a tour of the States with The Hold Steady, Art Brut are picking up some dates seemingly everywhere but the U.S., in continued support of their latest, It's A Bit Complicated. Someone, anyone, please buy me a plane ticket immediately. Nag nag nag.

What's wrong? Scared to commit?:

Who Knew Sunn O))) and Boris Liked Applebee’s That Much

I won a Good Housekeeping Magazine contest earlier this year, in which the winner, randomly chosen, had a chance to hang out with Sunn O))) and Boris for any Saturday of their choosing. Last Saturday was finally the day that worked best for all of us, so I had Sunn O))) and Boris fly over to my apartment in Madison, WI. I was extremely excited.

Too bad Sunn O))) and Boris are extremely boring in person. Most of the time was spent "chillaxing," per Stephen O'Malley's request. We seriously spent most of the day just sitting there watching TV, barely even talking. Sadly enough, the highlight was when we had dinner at Applebee's (almost went to Perkins), if only for the dollar beers. Sunn O))) and Boris kept talking about how the day was "just what they needed" and that "these lazy Saturdays are the best." All I could think about was going home early. And I did, as they wanted to hang out there and "watch the game."

Anyway, Sunn O))) are playing the Portishead-curated All Tomorrow's Parties and will perform the album Altar (TMT Review) with Boris the next day, followed by scattered dates around Europe. I can assure you Sunn O))) and Boris aren't boring live.

$ Earth

* with Boris Presenting Altar

Meanwhile, Boris are releasing a new album on Southern Lord next April with help from Michio Kurihara and boring-ass Stephen O' Malley. They've titled it Smile. But, I ask you Boris, how can you smile when you're not happy? When everything in your life has turned to shit in just three months? When all the people you've ever loved have now turned their backs on you? You'll never experience the pain that I have, Boris. Never.

[Photo: Jenny Mcgee]

Facts: Bears Beets Battlestar Galactica & the RIAA Hates College Students

When is it going to stop? Answer: probably never. The RIAA, in yet another fabulous attempt to sue already debt-ridden college students off their asses, has sent out its tenth wave of litigation letters to places of higher education across the country. The letters ask schools to specifically identify students whose IP addresses the RIAA already has and to forward pre-litigation letters to those students. Wondering if you should be erasing your existence from the internets? Don't hit "delete account" so quickly, unless you go to...

But of course, the fun doesn't stop there, no! The government is against you, too. Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) recently introduced his College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007 to Congress. Buried in the act are provisions which:

- encourage colleges to provide information to students and employees about illegal downloading and its legal consequences;
- require colleges to create alternatives to illegal downloading for students and explore illegal downloading deterrents; and
- authorize the Secretary of Education to donate funds to schools that make advances in discouraging and stopping illegal downloads.

Spokespeople from both the RIAA and the MPAA are hailing the legislation as an important step forward in the war against illegal downloads. What they really mean is that the bill will make it easier for them to invade students' privacy and force colleges to bend to the organizations' wills. Hey, I hear there's a sale on telescreens over at Best Buy this week.

The Kinks’ Ray Davies Sick of Wes Anderson Paying His Bills, To Release Solo LP in February

"Did you check the post today, darling?" former Kinks singer/songwriting Ray Davies asked between sips of his early afternoon latte.

"Oh, it's just a bunch of AARP pamphlets, as usual," replied an aging blonde, whose twinkling eyes were the last vestige of the 1960s knockout she once was.

"Wait, here you go. It's another one of those royalties checks from that Anderson chap. I guess he made another one of his quirky motion pictures this year," the woman chirped.

"Ah, fuck!" said Davies, grabbing the check begrudgingly. "Have I no shame?" he muttered under his breath. "Have I no shame..."


Former Kinks frontman Ray Davies, the force behind such classic albums as Arthur and The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, will finally see his new solo record arrive Stateside February 19. Working Man's Cafe, Davies' supposed "American record," was initially released October 22 in the UK, appearing for free a day earlier in the Sunday Times newspaper in a strategy also employed by Prince with the release of this year's Planet Earth.

The LP is only Davies' second official solo release after 2006's Other People's Lives, in addition to the 1985 film-and-album combo featuring Return to Waterloo and the partly spoken-word autobiographical live album, The Storyteller. Unfortunately, Working Man's Cafe is not a concept album about Davies getting shot in the leg while chasing down muggers in New Orleans. It does, however, include these tracks:

Noise Pop 2008

By going to the Noise Pop Festival official website, you're setting yourself up for disappointment. I know this because, if you're anything like me (which you are), you'll go straight to the schedule link and shit your pants over the slated acts, before realizing that you've messed yourself in public over what in fact is last year's lineup. Spare yourself the humiliation and read on.

A select few acts of 2008 have been disclosed to the media, and I'm telling you now, they are indeed shit-worthy: our lord, Stephin Merritt's very own Magnetic Fields will headline two shows at The Herbst Theatre in support of their justly anticipated album, Distortions. The Mountain Goats will play three separate shows at three separate venues soon to be announced. Then there's Gutter Twins, the collaboration between Greg Dulli of Afghan Whigs and Mark Lanegan, performing in support of their debut album Saturnalia, which is set for an early 2008 release through Sub Pop.

Want more? How about Cursive, Kelly Stoltz, Tilly & The Wall, Capgun Coup, and Blitzen Trapper -- and that's just the start of a soon-to-be-fully-unveiled roster of 100+ bands to appear from February 26 - March 2 at a dozen or so close-to-our-heart San Francisco venues, like The Great American Music Hall, The Independent, Mezzanine, 12 Galaxies, and Bottom of The Hill.

As you can see, it's shaping up to be a damn good hoopla, with 2008 marking the sweet 16 of a festival that's been bringing bay area rockers the dope-est (I've heard a lot of people saying that again, "doooooope") in indie, punk, and electronic music since its establishment in 1993. At its advent, Noise Pop was a one-night hoo-ha, but that hoo-ha has evolved into the week long, hip-hop-happenin hoodang it is today, shooting above and beyond your average West Coast gala. Some would go as far to call it a veritable cultural shin-dig, its sticky fingers now involving gallery art shows, a music-themed film festival, a discussion panel led by musicians and minimally sordid music industry professionals, and a number of planned and spontaneous events, of which there's nothing more exciting.

Unlike the overwhelming nature of CMJ or SXSW, Noise Pop has forever been unique in its dedication to bridging the gap between fans and bands, keeping the venues intimate and ticket prices low. Year after year, show-goers revel in performances by the not-unknown-for-long, who add themselves to a roster that's showcased acts the likes of Modest Mouse, The White Stripes, Devendra Banhart, Bright Eyes, The Decemberists, Frank Black, Jeff Tweedy, and Spoon.


Belle and Sebastian Release Calendar; Me to Use a Non-Digressive Headline for the First Time

NOTE: The following is too funny to riddle with absurd metaphor, irony, or funny hahaha details. The biz of news is direct, sparse, and... manly. True to form, so is this update. Just call me your stone-cold-cigarette-fanning Ed Murrow. Do not call me Al. Unless I ask you to be my bodyguard, or if I happen to be your long-lost pal.

NEWS: Belle and Sebastian recently announced plans to release a calendar, titled “Toast to Glasgow 2008,” in tribute of their hometown.

Photos were taken by Marisa Privitera and band-man Stuart Murdoch.

For updated information on appearances, DJ sets, and the like, visit their site.

While we join as an indie-pendent-minded nation in noting the absurdity of HUAC and Joseph McCarthy, Belle and Sebastian continue to plug and chug away on “God Help the Girl,” an opportunity for competition-winners Brittany Stallings and Dina Bankole to send some vocal cha-cha Glasgow’s way.

Girls will not be in the calendar.

Good night, and good luck.