Sub Pop

Okay, enough of the folk-rock and alt-country coverage. Summertime is here and it’s time to bust out the Zinka, crack open canned beer and grill some meat. Go ahead and take your shirt off and dust off those jorts because it’s time to rock and roll. Oh, and make some room for King Tuff on your summertime playlists.

Vermont’s King Tuff (Kyle Thomas) has made a splash in the underground rock scene and he’s ready to cannonball into your pool party.  He spent some time playing with J. Masic’s band, Witch, before self-releasing an album back in ’08. He’s since been signed to Sub Pop Records and just released a self-titled garage rock album that’s certain to blow your hair back.

The album opens with “Anthem,” a big rock song with washed out vocals and big guitar. “Keep on Movin'” is a summertime jam mixing in surf-inspired electric guitar over acoustic rhythm guitar. It blends sounds of The Ramones and Stones with a dash of Brian Wilson. “Bad Thing” is another highlight of the album with it’s 60’s rock influence and “Loser’s Wall” displays some of Thomas’ influence from J. Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.).

King Tuff shines on the electric guitar, but “Baby Just Break” shows that he’s equally adept at jamming out an acoustic rock, foot-stomper powered by handclaps. He also takes a stab at sensitive ballads with “Stupid Superstar” and “Swamp of Love.” The songs work, but with so much rock goodness everywhere else in the album, it’s hard not to overlook them.

King Tuff is one of those albums that could go overlooked this year, but that would be criminal. It should gradually creep into those those “best of the year lists” as it sears into your brain. I’m headed to Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri this weekend for a guys weekend and I can assure you that King Tuff will be powering us through some lulls and fueling some good times. If you’re a fan of J. Roddy Walston and The Business, Futurebirds and The War On Drugs, I’d recommend getting into some King Tuff.

King Tuff – Keep On Movin’

King Tuff – Bad Thing


Vetiver’s albums are difficult to review and Errant Charm is no exception. In fact, I’m going to blame bandleader Andy Cabic for this latest writing slump I’ve found myself in. Vetiver isn’t about a hit single, although “Everyday” off of their previous release, Strictly Game, was a standout. No, Vetiver is more about creating a cohesive collected work that works from start to finish.

Errant Charm feels like a breezy day. You know that feeling when you try to nap on the beach? You can hear the ocean, the seagulls, the distant sounds of others enjoying the same summer day. You find contentment in the world behind your closed eyelids, still illuminated by bright sunlight. Your decision making is simplified to a) Do I roll over? b) Do I cool off with a quick submersion in the waves rolling in? c) Do I order a frozen drink at the tiki bar? That’s how Vetiver makes me feel.

The album is mostly slow moving, but picks up with a trifecta of lazy California rock tunes in “Right Away,” “Wonder Why,” and “Ride Ride Ride.” Errant Charm has been powering my back deck barbeques over the past few weeks. If you’re in need of a soothing summertime album, it’ll be released on June 14th via Sub Pop Records.

Vetiver – Can’t You Tell

From Tight Knit:

Vetiver – Everyday

Vetiver – Strictly Game


Over my years at SxSW, there have been exactly two bands that I’ve broken into a sprint to see. One of these bands was the Fleet Foxes in ’08 (the other was Local Natives at the San Jose in ’09).  As I entered Emo’s, panting and cramping, I grabbed a beer and water before sitting down in a near empty bar. I proceeded to see the greatness that is Fleet Foxes.

At the end of the set, I approached the stage to talk to Robyn Pecknold. Okay, I approached the stage to beg him to come in for a HearYa Live Session, which he was down with it at the time.  As we concluded our conversation, I told him “You guys are going to huge. Get ready for a crazy ride.” He softly chuckled and said “You think so?”

Releasing a sophomore album after an amazing debut is tricky. Are they going to change their musical direction? Alter their sound?  Experiment to a point where their identity is lost? Fleet Foxes posed no such worry for me.  They are a band comfortable in their skin with an ability to enjoy their rising popularity with good humor and grace.

The album’s title track is one of the best songs of the year. It’s broken into two parts and Robyn Pecknold’s vocals envelope you with warmth and comfort. They exit the bridge at 2:50 and Pecknold’s voice soars above a shimmering electric guitar, sending chills down my spine.

If I had an orchard, I’d work til I’m raw
If I had an orchard, I’d work til I’m sore
You would wait tables and soon run the store
Gold hair in the sunlight, my light in the dawn
If I had an orchard, I’d work til I’m sore
If I had an orchard, I’d work til I’m sore
Someday, I’ll be like the man on the screen

Upon hearing the second single, “Grown Ocean,” I was convinced I should be ready for greatness. And greatness is what I got. Pecknold lists “Into The Mystic” as a major influence for Helplessness Blues. While Helplessness Blues isn’t quite ready to be included in that same category, you can’t help but feel that they aren’t far off. The reflective opening lines on the first track, “Montezuma,” invite you into an album full lush harmonies, orchestration, and production. It’s amazing.

On the SubPop site, Pecknold talks of how the band got to to point of Helplessness Blues. I liked the way he wrapped it up.

It’s called Helplessness Blues for a number of reasons. One, it’s kind of a funny title. Secondly, one of the prevailing themes of the album is the struggle between who you are and who you want to be or who you want to end up, and how sometimes you are the only thing getting in the way of that. That idea shows up in a number of the songs.

I’m sure you didn’t need to read this review to convince you to buy the album or check out the Fleet Foxes. I was just so swept up in this album that I felt I needed to write something. Lucky for me, I’ve got me a blog. Now I just got to work on getting me an apple orchard.

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

Fleet Foxes – Grown Ocean

Video: Fleet Foxes – Grown Ocean



Obits, You Gotta Lose [new mp3]

by oz on January 17, 2011

Obits released a great debut album called I Blame You via Sub Pop Records back in 2009 and their song “Two Headed Coin” was one of my most played tracks of that year. The band is now poised to unleash their second album entitled Moody, Standard and Poor on March 29th and it promises to deliver the same garage/surf/punk sound. Obits recently released “You Gotta Lose” as a free download.

Obits – You Gotta Lose

Previously posted:

Obits – Two Headed Coin

Obits – Pine On

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The Head and the Heart Prepare for Liftoff [Album Review]

January 8, 2011

I first caught wind of The Head and The Heart on KEXP last summer. I made a mental note to buy the album, but promptly forgot about it and moved on with my life, seemingly happy without The Head and the Heart in my life. Alas, they appeared on NPR’s site recently and I decided […]

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Handsome Furs and Bon Iver release tracks [new mp3’s]

January 19, 2009

Bon Iver is releasing his Blood Bank EP tomorrow via Jagjaguwar and Handsome Furs are set to release their second album Face Control on March 10th via Sub Pop. Both of these tracks have been whoring around the internet and we’re no less slutty – just late to the game in posting them. Enjoy. Handsome […]

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Blitzen Trapper – Furr: The Best Album of 2008?

September 23, 2008

Are you wondering why the cover art for Blitzen Trapper’s latest release, Furr, is made of wood? Maybe it’s because that’s exactly what this album will give you. It should include a disclaimer to help you avoid any potentially awkward public situations. Blitzen Trapper are a potpourri of all things good in music. Furr is […]

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New mp3: Blitzen Trapper – Furr

August 20, 2008

Aw, snap. Sub Pop just posted the title track from Blitzen Trapper’s upcoming release, Furr. Take a listen below. I love it and I promise you will too. The album is set to drop on September 23, their first record on the Sub Pop label (which can only mean great things). Mark your calendars and […]

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