Monthly Archives: September 2009

Citizen Radio On BTR!!

Starting in October, Citizen Radio will broadcast special WEEKEND EDITIONS! It’s the same show – just more of it – and really, what more could you wish for? More politics! More comedy! More snark than you can shake a stick at! MORE!!  LISTEN HERE ON BTR!

Thanks to all the fans who have listened to and supported the show since day one, and who make it their business to spread the good word about Citizen Radio to all of their apathetic hipster douche bag friends. You did it, kids!

If the special shows are received well on October 10 and 24, then Citizen Radio’s weekend editions will become – brace yourselves – a permanent thing! So spread the word about Citizen Radio’s October Weekend Bonanza!


Tattoos: They’re not just for murdering bikers anymore!

Now, back to this week’s Citizen Radio….

Jamie fights the swine flu! Or he gets a little dizzy from getting a major tattoo. It’s one of the two. Tune in to find out which it is! (Hint: he doesn’t have swine flu.)

Allison and Jamie talk all about tattoo culture, and how it’s not just for murdering biker gangs anymore. Jamie took his latest tattoo like a champ (other than briefly fainting in a vegan restaurant.)

Next, Citizen Radio addresses the smear campaign against ACORN, the organization that helps people with low and moderate incomes find affordable housing, and registers poor people to vote.

Citizen Radio brings you the latest gossip from the amazing Values Voter conference where D.C.’s finest crazies gather to rant incoherently about gay people. Tom Coburn’s chief of staff, Michael Schwartz, does not disappoint with a breathy explanation of why all pornography is homosexual. Seriously.

A US Census worker was hung in Kentucky, and the word “Fed” was scrawled across his body. Read about the story on Allison’s blog: Citizen Radio explains how right-wing fear mongering leads to a culture of violence where Census workers get lynched.

Last, but certainly not least, Glenn Beck boils a frog to death on live television. Allison and Jamie talk about it.

Daily Show Mocks Protestors Who Dare To Turn Off TV

Like most self-respecting liberals, I enjoy The Daily Show. In my opinion, the show was at its best during the eight torturous (literally) years of the Bush administration when Jon Stewart and his writers had a very clear enemy to rip apart on a weekly basis. And while the show still has some wonderful moments (thanks in large part to the hilarious “correspondents,”) The Daily Show has definitely had a hard time finding its comedic voice ever since the election of Barack Obama.

The show has always mocked Democrats as well as Republicans, which is only fair considering the abysmal state of the Democratic Party, but in their haste to balance the funny, the writers are demoralizing their own base.

In 2006, Jody Baumgartner and Jonathan S. Morris, two East Carolina University assistant professors, compared student reaction to coverage of the 2004 presidential race by CBS News and by The Daily Show. They concluded that Stewart show watchers are more cynical about candidates, campaigns, the electoral system and the news media than are network news viewers. The Washington Post declared that this was very bad news. Columnist Richard Morin mused if Stewart was the “enemy of democracy.”

“This is not funny: Jon Stewart and his hit Comedy Central cable show may be poisoning democracy…. Young people who watch Stewart’s faux news program “The Daily Show” develop cynical views about politics and politicians that could lead them to just say no to voting.”

I think cynicism is actually a good thing. The world is fucked up. Capitalism is broken. There needs to be radical change. If young people are depressed, that means they’re paying attention to the injustices in societies. However, The Daily Show simultaneously injects a certain degree of cynicism about politics and then does the same thing with the world of activism and protest. In its quest to be comically balanced i.e. mock the right and the left, it leaves its audience thinking, “Well, then what’s the point in doing anything?” Young liberals don’t want to be Neo-cons, but they also don’t want to be the protester Jon Stewart calls a “jackass.”

Take this recent example from The Daily Show’s coverage of the G20 protests:

Stewart always makes me smile even when he’s making bad cum jokes, but I found myself cringing at the rest of the G20 coverage. Sorry, Jon, plugging one’s ears doesn’t block the damage from a sound cannon. The BBC has reported that a long range acoustic device (LRAD) cranked to 150 decibels “is the aural equivalent to standing 30m away from a roaring jet engine and can cause major hearing damage if misused.”

So why does any of this matter? In July, an online poll conducted by Time magazine revealed Jon Stewart beat out Katie Couric, Brian Williams, and Charlie Gibson for the title of “America’s most trusted newscaster.” Quite simply: young people look to Stewart to tell them what to feel, and not necessarily what to think. They already know the news. That’s how they get the jokes, but they need to know the cool way to feel.

Stewart is the awesome, funny guy at the party. I can’t tell you how many times people have quoted Daily Show jokes to me, trying to pass them off as their original thoughts. That’s an indication of how prevalent The Daily Show’s bits are in liberal vernacular. Whether he likes it or not, Stewart is a role model, and in every show he teaches valuable lessons to his audience.

Those lessons matter now more than ever. America is experiencing a dangerous combination of an oppressive police state and culture of apathy where kids are more concerned with looking cool than achieving social justice. As a result, most people are too scared or lazy to exercise their freedom of speech, and so only the truly brave, young, foolish, and crazy are willing to face off with, say, the entire Pittsburgh police department. So yes, there is the occasional protester dressed as a cow. There are overeager anarchists hurling bricks at pet stores.

But is there any wonder why these things lack organization? Few people want to risk the time and energy just to lose the battle and be called a jackass on television. That’s the opposite of what a cool American is supposed to do. A cool American acts detached, nonchalant, and bored. It’s not cool to protest in America. It’s not cool to be overwhelmed by anger and passion, so much so that you’re willing to risk humiliation at the hands of police officers. It’s a pain in the ass to get arrested and go to jail, and spend hours and hours waiting to get released. Above all, it’s scary. That’s why I think all activists (from all political parties) should be applauded even if they wear dumb costumes.

Humor is the tool of the oppressed. Comedy only works if it’s the serfs making fun of the king. Otherwise, the king just looks like an asshole making fun of poor people. This is the secondary reason FOX’s “The 1/2 Hour News Hour” never lasted. In addition to having truly terrible writing, the show premiered during the Bush years. Republicans were in control of the country back then. Therefore, it was the king mocking the serfs, and it just looked juvenile and mean. It was like someone set up a tripod and camera in some frat boy’s living room and said, “Let her rip, fellas.”

The Daily Show has been criticized in the past for royally botching its coverage of stories. There was the famous Stewart interview with Blackwater’s Jeremy Scahill, during which it became painfully clear Stewart and his writers had either not read Scahill’s book, or failed to understand its significance. (To his credit, Stewart later apologized for dropping the ball.)

Then there’s ACORN. Rather than thoughtfully examining the right-wing smear machine behind the recent ACORN attacks, The Daily Show hopped on the easy mainstream bandwagon and repeated much of the talking points highlighted on FOX News. The writers and Stewart failed to examine the motives of John O’Keefe, the creator of the ACORN videos, or the Republican Party, including Karl Rove, which has been working to destroy ACORN for years.

The Daily Show didn’t mention that those ACORN employees were promptly fired, and that the paper work was red-flagged immediately because it was obviously highly suspicious. Stewart never mentioned that O’Keefe was tossed out of many ACORN offices (in some cases the cops were called on him) before he found the unscrupulous employees. Rather, Stewart argues ACORN hasn’t been investigated enough, a truly laughable (not in the good way) claim considering the obsessive FOX coverage combined with underreporting of bigger scandal-ridden companies like Blackwater, Goldman Sachs, DynCorp, Lockheed Martin, etc. (Watch the ACORN coverage below).

The Daily Show and Jon Stewart have repeatedly dismissed claims that young people watch the comedy program to learn the news, and I’m inclined to agree with them. The show isn’t really enjoyable unless you follow the news, and know what’s been going on. Otherwise, the jokes border on the esoteric. In fact, The Daily Show audience is already extremely well-informed. A survey conducted by the Pew Center in 2007 revealed that respondents who seemed to know the most about what’s going on in the political world — who were able to identify major public figures, for example — were likely to be viewers of fake news programs like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Those who knew the least watched network morning news programs, FOX News, or local television news.

What worries me is not the politics The Daily Show teaches, but the lessons in cynicism. An audience member may know about Blackwater, and the ACORN witch-hunt, and the ideologies behind the G-20 protests, but the lesson they learn from The Daily Show is that private mercenaries aren’t a big deal, ACORN is the result of a bunch of shady black people doing illegal things, and all protesters are little scatterbrained wieners who are more bored than morally outraged.

Stewart and The Daily Show were wonderful when the enemy was obvious. The writing was great, the jokes cutting, and the show seemed to have a lot more heart back then. Now, in making fun of everyone, the show fails to stand for anything. It’s still funny, but comedy works at a higher level when it’s based on conviction.

Link to this article:

– Allison Kilkenny

BTR Live Studio: Essex Channel

Check out this in studio performance and interview with Chicago’s Essex Chanel! Their new album Love Is Proximity is released today!

Check out their CD Release Show in Chicago, Illinois on 10/1 at The Subterranean!  Listen to the show right here on BTR.

00:00 Essex Chanel
01:00 Interview
06:03 I Yie Yie
08:29 Already In Heaven
11:08 Speaking with Eyes
14:02 Say Something
17:09 Interview
22:44 LA Law
25:09 Skinny Dippin’
29:17 American Dream
32:28 Was it Sex, Love, or Just Plain Fucking
36:12 Get Up And Dance
38:30 Don’t Waste Tonight
40:46 Thanks

BTR Artists On Tour: Generationals, Sharon Van Etten, and WHY?

October is a prime time for touring bands. After the summer break of August and before the family-centered time between Thanksgiving and the New Year, bands get their fall tour in during October and November. There are hundreds of amazing BTR bands coming to a town near you, but here are three nation-wide tours that we particularly recommend checking out.

Sharon Van Etten is Brooklyn’s latest break-through star. Last year at CMJ I caught her giving a performance in the upstairs part of Pianos. Her guitar and sorrowful voice captured the audience, and her humble attitude drew them in even more. “I can’t believe I’m here,” she gushed.  She must be gushing all over the place these days, because she’s now embarking on an enormous fall tour with Great Lake Swimmers and Rain Machine. Definitely no longer just a Brooklyn singer-songwriter, she’s bringing her gorgeous tunes to the South and Midwest, and will even head up to Canada before heading back home. Check out one of these dates!


9/29 – Johnny Brenda’s – Philadelphia, PA
10/1 – The Black Cat – Washington DC
10/2 – The ArtsCenter – Carrboro, NC
10/3 – The Southern – Charlottesville, VA
10/9 – Bottle Tree – Birmingham, AL
10/10 – One Eyed Jacks – New Orleans, LA
10/12 – 40 Watt Club – Athens, GA
10/13 – The Earl – Atlanta, GA
10/15 – The Annex – Madison, WI
10/16 – 7th Street Entry – Minneapolis, MN
10/17 – Double Door – Chicago, IL
10/18 – Magic Stick – Detroit, MI
10/19 – Lee’s Palace – Toronto, Ontario
10/20 – Il Motore – Montreal, Quebec
10/22 – Middle East Upstairs – Cambridge, MA
10/23 – Johnny Brenda’s – Philadelphia, PA
10/24 – Bowery Ballroom – New York, NY
10/25 – Black Cat Backstage – Washington DC

are going on an absolutely massive tour in support of their fourth studio album, Eskimo Snow. It’s definitely a departure for the band. They’re part of the Oakland collective/label, Anticon, which is home to many hip-hop acts. WHY? often veers towards the hip-hop side of things, but this latest album is 100% indie rock. Not only are they traveling America from coast to coast, but they’re hitting up Australia and New Zealand in support of the album, as well. In addition to the tour, they’ve put together a funny series of fictional comedic videos about their “new manager” to promote the album. They’re pretty funny, and include an appearance by Dennis from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. You can check those out on the band’s myspace page, and you should check out the band at a town near you.


9/26 – Le Poisson Rouge – New York, NY
9/27 -The Grind – Worcester, MA
9/30 – Daniel Street – Milford, CT
10/1 – The Middle East – Cambridge, MA
10/2 – First Unitarian Church – Philadelphia, PA
10/3 – William Pitt Union – Pittsburgh, PA
10/4 – The Blind Pig – Ann Arbor, MI
10/5 – Bottom Lounge – Chicago, IL
10/6 – UW Madison Terrace – Madison, WI
10/7 – Triple Rock – Minneapolis, MN
10/9 – Bluebird – Denver, CO
10/10 – In The Venue – Salt Lake City, UT
10/13 – Department Of Safety – Anacortes, WA
10/14 – The Vera Project – Seattle, WA
10/15 – Wonder Ballroom – Portland, OR
10/17 – Great American Music Hal – San Francisco, CA
10/18 – Velvet Jones – Santa Barbara, CA
10/20 – Echoplex – Los Angeles, CA
10/22 – The Loft – La Jolla, CA
10/23 – Modified Arts – Phoenix, AZ
10/24 – Club Congress – Tucson, AZ
10/26 – Hailey’s – Denton, TX
10/28 – Bottletree – Birmingham, AL
10/29 – Grey Eagle – Asheville, NC
10/30 – Cat’s Cradle – Carrborro, NC
10/31 – Lenny’s – Atlanta, GA
11/2 – The Social – Orlando, FL
11/3 – Common Grounds – Gainesville, FL
11/4 – Club Downunder – Tallahassee, FL
11/6 – Spanish Moon – Baton Rouge, LA
11/7 – Walter’s on Washington – Houston, TX
11/8 – Fun Fun Fun Fest – Austin, TX
11/10 – Jackpot Music Hall – Lawrence, KS
11/11 – Firebird – St. Louis, MO
11/12 – Gardner Lounge – Grinnell, IA
11/13 – Rhino’s Youth Center – Bloomington, IN
12/12 – Meredith Music Festival – Meredith, Australia
12/13 – The Troubadour – Brisbane, Australia
12/15 – East Brunswick Club – Melbourne, Australia
12/16 – The Annandale – Sydney, Australia
12/17 – Montecristo Room – Auckland, New Zealand
12/18 – San Francisco Bath House – Wellington, New Zealand

The Generationals are bringing their brand of two-man indie rock to the East Coast and the Mid West this fall. Their delightfully inconsistent (in style, not in quality) debut album is a favorite here at BTR, so much so that we asked the band to play our CMJ showcase at Trash Bar. Lucky for us, they agreed to stop by on their October and November tour. They’ll be playing at Trash Bar on Friday along with Jumbling Towers, Holiday Shores, and The Loom.  If you can’t make it to the BTR showcase (which you should!) then you can see them on one of their many other dates across the country this fall.


9/30 – Howlin Wolf – New Orleans, LA
10/20 – The Summit – Columbus, OH
10/21 – Johnny Brenda’s – Philadelphia, PA
10/22 – TT The Bears – Cambridge, MA
10/23 – Trash Bar – Brooklyn, NY
1023 – Union Hall – Brooklyn, NY
10/24 – Rock n Roll Hotel – Washington DC
10/25 – Local 506 – Chapel Hill, NC
10/26 – Boone Saloon – Boone, NC
10/27 – Grey Eagle – Tavern – Asheville, NC
10/28 – The Earl – Atlanta, GA
10/30 – Voodoo – New Orleans, LA
11/1 – Bottletree Cafe – Birmingham, AL
11/2 – The Basement – Nashville, TN
11/3 – The Bishop – Bloomington, IN
11/4 – Schuba’s – Chicago, IL
11/5 – Illini Union Courtyard Cafe – Urbana, IL
11/6 – The Pike Room at Crofoot – Pontiac, MI
11/7 – Garfield Artworks – Pittsburgh, PA
11/11 – Club Vegas – Salt Lake City, UT
11/27 – Republic – New Orleans, LA

Link to this article:

– Madalyn Baldanzi

Brand New Wiretap Music on BTR!

This month we’re featuring some of our favorite tracks from the Dragon Slayers Vol. III compilation, put out by Thread Productions, which was founded by local heroes Tartufi. Enjoy!  You can tune in here!

00:00 WTM on BTR! Featuring our fav tracks from the Dragon Slayers Vol. III comp
00:56 Better Angels – Low Red Land
04:09 Drunken Boat – Silian Rail
08:12 Dot Dash – Tartufi
13:03 the [re]adjust – Built for the Sea
17:04 All Aboard…and Bring Your Costumes – Them Hills
22:30 WTM on BTR! Featuring our fav tracks from the Dragon Slayers Vol. III comp
23:20 Ocarina – Birds & Batteries
26:25 Downstream – Dame Satan
32:34 Rats in the Baby Grand – The Actionists
36:18 Wayfairing Widow – The Caves
40:15 Can’t You Wait – Geographer
44:36 WTM on BTR! Featuring our fav tracks from the Dragon Slayers Vol. III comp
45:20 Saturnism – Tussle
46:16 Transparent C – Tussle
53:18 Deux Drumbaclots – Casy and Brian
56:25 WTM on BTR! Featuring our fav tracks from the Dragon Slayers Vol. III comp

Low Red Land
Sep 30 2009 @ The Backroom @ The Mink     Houston, TX
Oct 1 2009 @ Beerland      Austin, TX
Oct 2 2009 @ Lola’s Sixth      Ft. Worth, TX
Oct 3 2009 @ Downtown Music      Little Rock, AK
Oct 5 2009 @ The Soundpony     Tulsa, OK
Oct 6 2009 @ The 806     Amarillo, TX
Oct 7 2009 @ Atomic Cantina      Albuquerque, NM
Oct 8 2009 @ The Casbah      San Diego, CA
Oct 10 2009 @ The Partisan     Merced, CA
Oct 30 2009 @ The FEST 8!!!     Gainesville, FL
Oct 31 2009 @ The FEST 8!!!     Gainesville, FL
Nov 1 2009 @ The FEST 8!!!     Gainesville, FL

Silian Rail
Oct 31 2009 @ Gingerbread House     San Jose, CA
Nov 5 2009 @ Cafe Coda     Chico, CA
Nov 6 2009 @ Holland     Reno, NV
Nov 7 2009 @ Guayaki Mate Bar     Sebastopol, CA

Them Hills

Sep 30 2009 @ The Blank Club     San Jose, CA
Oct 15 2009 @ Chief Crazy Horse Inn     Nevada City, CA
Oct 24 2009 @ Old Ironsides     Sacramento, CA
Nov 22 2009 @ Valentine’s     Portland, OR
Nov 23 2009 @ Club Pow @ The Press Club     Sacramento, CA
Nov 24 2009 @ The Basement     Nevada City, CA

Artist of the Week: Jumbling Towers

(How fantastic is this picture?)

Listen to “The Kanetown City Rips,” by Jumbling Towers

Words like “insulation,” “sniped,” “villainy” and “evolution” come to mind when discussing the music of Jumbling Towers.

Comprised of Joe DeBoer (vocals, keys, guitar), Nate Drexler (bass, vocals), Kyle McConaghy (keys, guitar) and Demetrius Sledge (drums), the quartet lives, breathes, balls and makes music in the sporting city of St. Louis, Missouri.

It’s a location most music-minded folks wouldn’t think of when talking about towns known for having a thriving, independent music scene.

“St. Louis is a bizarre city – it’s very spread out,” says DeBoer. “The city itself has a few venues, but you can’t really live there, because of the horrible crime rate. There’s a few spots that are nice, but it’s basically all abandoned, nice architecture that no one can really use. It’s kind of a shame, actually. Downtown is good, but unless there is a sporting event of some kind, it’s pretty barren. The biggest venues are in the outlying areas. It’s a very urban sprawl-type city. Everybody’s got cars, but there is no public transportation of any kind.”

In spite of these obstacles, however, a music scene does exist. It may be somewhat insulated from the rest of the underground music-loving world, but it’s there alright, lurking in the shadows of all those giant stadiums.

For example, at BTR, we play plenty of music that hails from the fabled Gateway To The West. Bands such as Exercise, Bo & The Locomotive, Thankful Tree, Gentlemen Auction House, Jumbling Towers, The Pubes, Say Panther – all have found homes on BTR playlists. DJ Lottie (host of Thursdays on BTR) even did a Spotlight On The City specialty show on The ‘Lou  back in August of 2008, and, as God once noted, “it was good.”

As far as national exposure, however, the music scene (underground or otherwise) in St. Louis doesn’t seem to get much. Just try to name a band or artist from there (besides Nelly and Uncle Tupelo). This might help to explain why Jumbling Towers (a learned group boasting an LP and EP that would have caused a bloody ruckus in a more musically-inclined location) is a relative mystery to all the major music blogs and Pitchforks of the world.

Ironically, it might be a good thing

Yes, it sure sucks for the band trying to make it – not getting any national publicity or buzz – but as a result, that same band has the opportunity to evolve and mature naturally. It’s kind of like how the Galapagos Islands were when Darwin arrived (though obviously not that isolated). There is no fear of becoming a “blog band” that blows up for a day, gets saddled with ridiculous expectations, and then can’t focus on making music without insane pressure and subconscious influence from the fickle, charging bull of Internet media.

And this brings us to our first word!

“Insulated” by the Arch, Jumbling Towers have quietly developed an utterly unique sound, unlike anything I have ever heard in my life. Soon they will drop their second full-length LP, Kanetown, and then, I believe, their Reckoning will begin. In fact, there is no doubt in my mind (similar to the knowing that sushi rice will stick to the wall should I choose to lob a handful across the room) that, if the “right” people had heard about Jumbling Towers a few years ago, they would now be a known capacity in the tight-knit galaxy of independent music. Chisel it on the marble stone of my funeral pyre. (But would they have evolved in the same way? Hmmmm.)

Chew on that for a bit, let it digest, and in the meantime we’ll saddle up the Flux Capacitor and jaunt back to 2008, when the Classy Entertainment EP arrived in BTR’s inbox.

(Classy Entertainment EP)

Fans (aka ‘nerds’) of the Halo video game franchise know extremely well what it feels like to be “sniped” in a multiplayer game. All of a sudden, the game stops for about 10 seconds, because you have been “killed” by some other nerd (probably an eight-year-old, and probably shouting racial slurs and things like “suck on deeeze nuts bitch” with real, childish glee) toting a sniper rifle. All you can do is wait it out, until you “respawn” from the coded ether. (Oddly enough, deep thoughts and moments of hilarious clarity can come in that 10 seconds, like, why am I wasting my life playing a video game?).

It is fun though.

Hearing the Classy Entertainment EP for the first time, I felt as if I had been sniped, but without all of the negative aspects. Everything stopped, and the only thing I was capable of was an awed, stupid sense of wonder. Then I actually laughed with happiness.

First, I heard the keys of both McConaghy (who can also shred like the dickens) and DeBoer, which were uncannily sinister in sound. In fact, the beginning to “Apartments,” when the organ comes in, well, I just have no words. However, I do have images, and that is of vampires waltzing in an ornate ballroom, animated in black and white. Their eyes are shut (these cats are so rhythm-centric and conscious of their surroundings they need no sight), and the floors undulate in step with their feet. Remember how beautifully the animation paired with the music in Daft Punk’s video for “One More Time?” It would be as seamless as that.

“We like the dark sounds, I guess,” says DeBoer. “I don’t know why that is. That’s a big attribute to Kyle, our other keys guy. He’s just great at settings in general, and I’ve actually learned from him more, in that regard. He does a great job in getting that sound we like, which is generally a darker sound. No idea why, but I guess it feels more unique.”

Second (and speaking of unique) came the voice of Mr. DeBoer, which, for real, sounded exactly as if Gargamel had grabbed a microphone and started ranting about his endless frustration with the Smurfs.

Of course, DeBoer is not singing about The Smurfs, but his voice and inflection perfectly captures Gargamel’s bottomless rage. Actually, it could just as easily be Snidely Whiplash’s voice from Dudley Do-Right, or Cobra Commander from G.I. Joe, or Skeletor from He-Man. DeBoer’s voice has all the characteristics of the classic cartoon villain, you know, that sneering and conniving delivery, dripping with sarcasm, ready to suddenly pitch high whenever frustration runs red into rage.

And we love our cartoon villains, do we not? Who doesn’t want to  jeer at an unwelcome telemarketer’s phone call in such a voice?

I was baffled with joy at this voice sneering out of the speakers. Singing along, I vicariously lived through DeBoer’s delivery, pretending to be the smarmy villain. On the Classy Entertainment EP, and the band’s self-titled, debut LP (which sounds like a more daring Interpol, hosted by a larger-than-life carnival barker fighting for the people) DeBoer sings with this villainous wit and, as Patton Oswalt might say, sarcasm “so thick you could drizzle it over pancakes.” With McConaghy contributing on lyrics, DeBoer tackles all kinds of nerve-wracking topics, silly and serious, whether it’s the inane stash of smut in your apartment, the Asian car he can’t afford, the kid who still lives at home at the age of 27, or the utter stupidity of racism.

All in the key of a benevolent Gargamel.

“It’s almost like a character, actually,” says DeBoer, of his voice. “What happened there was, I couldn’t actually sing – and I’m sure a lot of musicians have this problem – but you start a band, you’re eighteen, you’re like ‘man we rock! I got a 4 chord song here,’ and then no one can sing at all.”

“At that time I was really into Talking Heads, Pixies – a lot of music that didn’t require a good vocal, and so, it’s just kind of what happened,” continues DeBoer. “At first I started shouting, and I was like ‘that sounds terrible man, you got to do something else with that,’ and then it turned into kind of this – yeah, I guess like a faux-British yelp of some sort. I really had no desire to do it, but it seemed like the only thing that worked.”

Worked? Hell yes it worked! No voice comes to mind that sounds even remotely like DeBoer’s “faux-British yelp.” Combined with the mean Rhodes piano, this is one fierce frontman.

(Jumbling Towers debut LP)

Third, and with more focused listening, I realized that the rhythm section of Jumbling Towers was just as solid as McConaghy’s keys/guitar and DeBoer’s unique voice/foreboding piano.

Bassist Nate Drexler’s style reminds me a lot of early Carlos Dengler, esp. the way in which he welds the bass so tightly to the beat. In fact, it’s hard for me to differentiate the drums and bass into two separate sounds. In Jumbling Towers, unlike Peter Pan’s shadow, the rhythm section pulls and draws together as the sun tracks its course across the sky, never separating. Elongating maybe, and Drexler breaks out some funky flairs (“Classy Entertainment” comes to mind), but the flow never yields. The drums hit hard like nail guns, packing exclamation-point-punctuation, and it all crackles with the perfect blend of lo-fi production.

Of course, Jumbling Towers and the Classy Entertainment EP are old news. But I wanted to document the band’s evolution, because then we can really appreciate the next chapter in the band’s sound, which represents a quantum leap in style, approach, and production. Also, unlike the first two Jumbling Towers releases, the band wants  to drop Kanetown on a proper label.

“We’ve been a band that hasn’t got a lot of notoriety, which is totally cool, but we wanted to make a pop album, do something new, and maybe get on the map a little bit,” says DeBoer of the new Jumbling Towers album. “It’s (Kanetown) basically a concept-pop album, and it’s turning out way poppier than expected, so, I’m sure we’ll regret it in ten years, but that’s OK. It was just the progression that came naturally, and I felt that we were still keeping our artistic integrity.”

(“Kanetown City Rips” b/w “Gilberta” 7″)

As a precursor to the new full-length, the band recently released “The Kanetown City Rips” single via the UK-based Half Machine Records, with the B-side being a game-changing song called “Gilberta.” Before we get into all that (and the bass, oh THE BASS), the question is obvious – how did a band from St. Louis come to be on a British label?

“Nate, our bassist, is very active online, and he wrote an email to one of their guys, saying, ‘hey, listen to this,’ and they did,” says DeBoer. “And it’s funny because we’ve had label talks for years that just never materialized. You know, they would say ‘what are you guys doing? This is what we’re doing. We really like it,’ and we’d say, ‘OK,’ and then write them back, give them a little nudge, saying ‘we would be totally down with releasing this – would love to hear details!’ and then it never goes anywhere. It was odd, just sending a blind email and getting a deal. I mean, we’ve been having contacts with people for 3 years, nothing materialized, and then we take a shot in the dark. But, that’s how it worked out.”

There must be some clever cats at Half-Machine Records. Though we only have two transmissions from the fictitious land of Jumbling Towers’ Kanetown to decipher at press time, it’s hard to imagine any independent label passing up the chance to release this new devilry.

First off, gone is the lo-fi production. It’s as if Jumbling Towers added a fog light kit to their front of their ride, cutting through the haze and swirling mist with ridiculous clarity, revealing waves of jocular bass. The drumming is now a deft mix of both man and machine, though its marriage to Drexler’s basslines remains as magnificent as ever. And speaking of Drexler, holy mackerel! His off-the-wall funky basslines are the secret weapon in Jumbling Towers. They are so good it’s unfair, like Robocop’s ability to holster a high-powered gun within the synthetic cyborg flesh of his own thigh.

Both “The Kanetown City Rips” and “Gilberta” boast beats more contagious than Swine Flu – your neck can’t help but obey and nod, just like your fingers can’t stop popping blisters of air when confronted with a sheet of bubble wrap. “Gilberta” is especially so, and it shant be long before someone choreographs a joyous group dance routine to it, with the apex coming on the line “Why don’t you borrow my leather coat?” Of course, DeBoer’s inflection whilst saying this odd query is simply classic, sporting the perfect blend of sass and authority. It’s absurd, but I can imagine a dance troupe clad in matching leather coats, you know? At the predestined moment, they rip the coats off their chests in unison and hurl them at the audience, all the while clapping confrontationally  to “Gilberta’s” infectious beat.

“We got a new drummer, about a year ago, and we have been doing all the recording at his house,” says DeBoer of newest member Demetrius Sledge. “He’s brought amazing stuff to the table. The rock drumming is going to be kind of gone on the new record, and there’s going to be a lot more sampling.”

“The whole concept to Kanetown, it sounds really childish on paper, but it served as an exciting, fresh approach to what we’re doing,” continues DeBoer, “is about this group of kids that have been exiled from a major city, in the early eighties. That’s where most of our instruments come from anyway, and so the kids create this little pop-land, this very dark world, and that’s where a lot of the percussion comes from. He’s (Sledge) got a 1981 808 machine, and all sorts of other stuff, so we just let him do his thing. I think it’s very unique-sounding, and, again, the lyrics and pop music are all based upon this little world of Kanetown.”

It should be noted that, the core members of the band have known each other since they themselves were little kids. In fact, that’s where “Jumbling Towers” comes from.

“We all were friends when we were very young, long before music started, and Jumbling Towers was a game we liked to play, back in the era of carefree, high school life,” says DeBoer. “It worked, and no one really second-guessed it.”

Then again, that’s the thing with this band. It works, and based on what we’ve heard thus far from Kanetown, it’s safe to say that some of that carefree feeling has returned to the Towers. DeBoer’s voice still has that unprecedented, villainous mood to it, but  he sings as if there are less things weighing heavily on his mind, and the songs themselves are far more cheery. You can dance to “Gilberta” and “The Kanetown City Rips,” but what really smacks of something Special K is the inspired evolution of the band’s musical mechanics. Just listen to McConaghy’s minimalist guitar solo in “Gilberta.”

I reckon DeBoer was right when he said the poppier Kanetown seemed like a natural progression for Jumbling Towers. He kind of sums it up himself in “The Kanetown City Rips,” right before dropping into a series of  Rosemary’s Baby-esque “la-da-dun-da-da-de-dums.”

“We’ll fall back on higher ground/ We won’t give up our outcast sound/ ‘Cause there’s no higher ground to find here.”

What else can I say? Insulated in St. Louis, left to evolve naturally in sound and gifted with a villainous voice to lead them, Jumbling Towers hath arrived, and it won’t be long before heads start snapping to attention.

Here’s to ‘The Lou.


Oct 4 2009 at Mojos with The Walkmen in Columbia, MO
Oct 23 2009 at BTR’s CMJ Party @ Trash Bar w/ Generationals, The Loom and  Holiday Shores in Brooklyn, NY
Oct 24 2009 at Matchless (CMJ MARATHON) in Brooklyn, NY

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– Matt Lehtola

BTR Live Studio: Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk

Check out this in studio performance from Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk

00:00 Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk
01:06 Sodacop
03:16 Interview
06:59 I’m Not a Nintendo
11:36 Yellow Pillow Paint
25:48 Our Girls

Upcoming Shows:
9/25 @ CFBG – Greensboro, NC
9/26 @ The Charles Pad – Carrollton, GA
9/28 @ Go Bar – Athens, GA

Review: The Duppies in Gainsville, FL

My roommates are not big music people, so when they told me they had gone out to a local show and checked out a band they really enjoyed, I was pretty shocked and surprised. The group they had gone to see was the ska group, The Duppies. The 7-piece has been a  Gainesville, Florida staple since 2004 but I (a person who is very involved in the local music scene) had somehow managed to not see this band perform.
With the revelation that my roommates had experienced something musically that I had not, I made it a priority to see The Duppies live. I was afforded the opportunity Wednesday night as the group took the stage at Common Grounds in Gainesville, Florida. When I walked through the door, I was immediately impressed with the turnout. It was apparent that the band is doing something right because they had quite a following. The majority of the fans in attendance had dark black X’s on their hands, signifying their youth. This meant shorter lines at the bar, which I was cool with.

The youngins’ in attendance all packed in toward the stage, many were dancing but most were just in sheer awe of the tight perfection that The Duppies displayed. Their 3-piece horn section belted out smooth rhythms, while the lead singer provided clear and soulful vocals reminiscent of the Jamaican sounds of the 60s and 70s. Though the members of the band appear to be quite young themselves, there was a style and sophistication about them that was very seasoned and mature.

There was also an energy exuding from the band members that poured out into the crowd. Along with the sounds of the horns, very positive vibes were resonating throughout the bar. Their rocksteady tunes will not soon be forgotten. You could even say their sound will stick with you or haunt you, just as their band name somewhat alludes. A Duppy is a West African term for a ghost or a spirit. A term quite often used in reggae music and popularized by the likes of Bob Marley and Lee “Scratch” Perry.

The Duppies are under the radar now but with their tight sounds and charisma on stage their success should have no boundaries. Catch the band live in a city near you!


Oct 01  –  Orange & Brew (UF) – Gainesville, FL
Oct 04  –  1982 –  Gainesville, FL
Oct 08  –  Mohawk Place w/ the SLACKERS – Buffalo, NY
Oct 09  –  Bushwick Music Studios –  Brooklyn, NY
Oct 10 –  Middle East – Cambridge/Boston, MA
Oct 12 –  Trash Bar  –  Brooklyn, NY
Oct 13  –  Castaways – Ithaca, NY


– Emily Smith

Brand New BTR Bay Area Live!

This month we’re featuring one of Olivia’s newest band crushes, Agent Ribbons. Also the unique folky stylings of Garrett Pierce, Foxtails Brigade, and Devotionals — all of whom performed at Cafe du Nord right here in San Francisco for the Wiretap Music Presents show on August 9, 2009.  Listen to the show right here on BTR!

00:00 Bay Area Live featuring tracks from the most recent Wiretap Music Presents show!
00:32 The World is a Cigarette – Agent Ribbons
02:00 Your Hands, My Hands – Agent Ribbons
05:15 Gray Gardens – Agent Ribbons
08:51 Birds and Bees – Agent Ribbons
13:05 That’s Not Edgar’s Heart – Agent Ribbons
17:03 I’m All Right – Agent Ribbons
20:30 Adam – Garrett Pierce
23:30 Ghosts – Garrett Pierce
27:50 Bay Area Live featuring tracks from the most recent Wiretap Music Presents show!
28:35 Pan Asian Delight – Foxtails Brigade
31:58 Creeping Ophelia – Foxtails Brigade
34:42 The Ghost – Foxtails Brigade
38:21 The Hours – Foxtails Brigade
40:42 The Bread and the Bait – Foxtails Brigade
42:46 Last of a Dying Breed – Foxtails Brigade
46:21 Foxtails Brigade – Foxtails Brigade
49:56 Misericordia – Devotionals
54:38 Your Confused Beauty Upon My Cheek – Devotionals
59:38 Bay Area Live featuring tracks from the most recent Wiretap Music Presents show!


Sep 26, 2009 – The Old City Cemetery – Sacramento, CA
Oct 2, 2009 – L’Espace – Paris, France
Oct 3, 2009 – Le Coup de Monocle – Paris, France
Oct 4, 2009 – Grnnnnd Zero – Lyon, France
Oct 6, 2009 – L’embobineuse – Marseille, France
Oct 8, 2009 – Ibu – Vitoria, Spain
Oct 9, 2009 – Plaza Munoa (aire libre) – Zaraoutz, Spain
Oct 10, 2009 – Sidecar – Barcelona, Spain
Oct 11, 2009 – Teatre Municipal – San Feliu, Spain
Oct 13, 2009 – FNAC Callao – Madrid, Spain
Oct 14, 2009 – FNAC Asturias – Asturias, Spain
Oct 19, 2009 – FNAC Plaza Norte – Madrid, Spain
Oct 20, 2009 – La Buena Vida – Madrid, Spain
Oct 25, 2009 – Nasti – Madrid, Spain
Nov 6, 2009 – Echo Curio – Los Angeles, CA
Nov 7, 2009 – The Church of Fashion – Los Angeles, CA
Nov 14, 2009 – The Starship – Arcata, CA
Nov 15, 2009 – Ground Kontrol – Portland, OR


Oct 3, 2009 – Luigis Fungarden – Sacramento, CA

Sep 24, 2009 – Bottom of the Hill – San Francisco, CA
Oct 7, 2009 – 840 B. St. House Show – Davis, CA
Oct 8, 2009 – Luigi’s Fungarden – Sacramento, CA

Hello My Name Is: Golden Isles, Surf City, Actors and Actresses

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me. Actually, names might hurt me, especially if I share a name with someone on the Terrorist Watch List (Osama Bin Diamond?). The truth is that names are powerful things, and that’s why bands have to pick them carefully. You don’t want to be the guy from that band whose name consists of twelve unpronounceable characters, followed by a high-pitched squealing sound. Then again, !!! has been doing pretty well, so who am I to judge?

This week, we’ve got (pronounceable!) band name stories from Actors & Actresses, Surf City, and Golden Isles!

Actors & Actresses

Post-rock, post-punk, post office… I really only listen to bands that are post-something. Which is why it’s great to find a band like Actors & Actresses, a trio from Kansas City that boasts influences like Godspeed You Black Emperor and features a guy on drums and “media samples.” Does that make them post-post-rock… or just post-everything?

Either way (Post cereal?), they’ve got my attention. But what’s with the band name? Are these guys actually rogue Hollywood celebs?

Nay. According to guitarist Andrew Schiller: “For 3 solid years, Scott and Dave auditioned different women musicians from the area, and without fail, there was always something completely constructed about them. It was as if some board meeting of middle-aged, dubious white men with hidden pasts had compiled 8 or 9 physical traits they found pleasing or ‘sponge-worthy in young women. They would play these sort of faux-angry lyrical odes to slumping and swelling ex-boyfriends from unpleasant pasts… Nothing very interesting came out of it, despite all the planning and aesthetic details these singer/songwriter types would labor over.”

After three years with no success, the group was getting desperate. “Then this guy answered the ad,” says Schiller, “and they figured, ‘What the hell?’ Maybe local alternative DJ’s will like and promote us despite not having a mediocre female rock persona in the band. It was a gamble. They needed a different strategy for getting noticed, so they picked a name that would appear near the top of alphabetized lists, thus emulating some sort of implied importance, maybe.”


Surf City

Any band that names a song “Dickshakers Union” basically earns a Get Out of Jail Free card from me. Thankfully, I don’t think Surf City is gonna have to cash that in any time soon; the New Zealand quartet has been pushing all the right buttons with their blend of dark lo-fi pop and strangely uplifting sounds. Jonesing for a fresh mix of Animal Collective, Sonic Youth, and the Zombies? Look no further.

Now we come to the part where I ask what’s up with the band name. Hey, what’s up with the band name? Band member Davin explains:

“Our name used to be Kill Surf City, which is a Jesus and Mary Chain song. When we signed to an overseas record label we had to change our name ‘cause a couple other bands were named that. [It] was kinda lame having to change it, but I guess we’re used to it by now. Not very exciting, I know, but that’s pretty much the whole story.”

Golden Isles

I’m not gonna lie: I’m a sucker for Canadians. So much good stuff has come out of Canada, including Broken Social Scene, Destroyer, Michael J. Fox… the trend is undeniable. So Montreal sextet Golden Isles had an advantage from the start. The group started out as a bunch of friends who would jam with each other sporadically, but eventually things started to coalesce. Band member Richard Wenger explains:

“Eventually I got a gig for my solo electronic project called DataBeta. I didn’t wanna do it, so I got a bunch of my friends whom I jammed with and we played it as DataBeta.” This name worked for a while, but eventually the reality of a growing fan base forced these shoegazers to reconsider.

“We changed our name to Crystal Moustache,” Wenger explains, “after our singer Adam’s girlfriend at the time, who once held a necklace to her face and said ‘Look, crystal moustache.’ All of a sudden there was a surge of bands with the word crystal in their name (Crystal Stilts, Crystal Antlers, etc.) so we thought that it was time for a less ridiculous name.”

After a tumultuous year of trying to come up with something new, the band finally had a stroke of luck. Says Wenger: “I saw a sign when I was in Florida that said ‘Golden Isles Tennis Club’ on it and thought Golden Isles was an OK name, so we sort of just settled on it. It’s funny because now there are a bunch of ‘Golden’ bands around.”

Canadian trendsetters? Go figure.

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– Matt Diamond