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Baltimore's Wye Oak Sign to Merge, Issue Debut
Wye Oak? Why the heck not!

Baltimore-dwelling, noise-drenched folk duo Wye Oak have become indie juggernaut Merge Records' latest signees, and the venerable label will release the band's debut, If Children, April 8.

Fellow Marylanders may already know a little bit about the folk from Wye Oak, as they're named after the honorary tree of the Old Line State, and both Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack used to perform under the moniker Monarch. The pair also previously self-released an edition of If Children under that former name.

Wye Oak will cover quite a wide swath of the U.S. on a tour currently underway. [MORE...]
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Hold Steady Work on LP4, Line up UK Tour
Keyboardist Franz Nicolay plays solo shows

Front page photo by Michael Alan Goldberg. Above: Photo of John Agnello and Bobby Drake by Tad Kubler

The Hold Steady note in an update on sessions for their fourth LP: "From the band's beginning, this is the longest we've been without being in the studio." And though it seems like all Craig and the boys do is tour, tour, tour, it's true: 2007 was the first year since 2003 without a new Hold Steady record.

The adoptive Brooklynites recently checked in on their webpage as they returned to the booth to lay down their follow up to 2006's glorious Boys and Girls in America. The band plans to keep the record button on for most of January and February, with Boys and Girls producer John Agnello in tow. Agnello got a word in on his own website to gloat: "the songs are great," he writes, "everyone is playing and/or singing their asses off and we are having a blast." Well, yeah, dude... it's the Hold Steady.

There's no title or release dates for the disc as yet, but one can probably expect it to include songs like "Lord, I'm Discouraged", "Magazines", and "Joke About 'D'yer Mak'er'", UPDATE: THE ACTUAL TITLE IS "Joke About Jamaica" all of which recently debuted on the band's joint tour with Art Brut. And no word yet on the live album and/or DVD, part of which was taped at their Halloween show in Chicago. But any and all Pitchfork staffers in attendance that night agree the show was pretty great. What we remember of it, anyhow.

The band will presumably be wrapping things up by the last week of February, as they've got a few UK dates to attend to before the shortest month comes to a close. That's not the gents' only UK plan for '08, what with their appearance among the rest of music's finest at the ATP vs. Pitchfork festival in May.

They'll also take a brief winter break trip to Florida next Sunday, January 19, to play the Skate Park of Tampa 15th Anniversary Party. It takes place at the Czar Bar in, yes, Ybor City.

In other Hold Steady news, dapper keyboardist Franz Nicolay will perform by his lonesome a couple times over the next few days in the general vicinity of New York City. And Craig Finn shows up in the recent All Over But the Shouting book to give props to fellow Minnesotans the Replacements. [MORE...]

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Black Heart Procession Head Out on Short Tour

It's been a spell since The Spell, the last album offering from California's the Black Heart Procession, but the Procession will proceed to play four home-state dates soon in order to warm them up for a busier 2008.

The shows begin tomorrow, January 9, in San Francisco. Expect the Procession to work through some of the new material they're planning to release in LP form later this year on Touch and Go. A new record from the reconvened Three Mile Pilot, which includes the BHP's Pall Jenkins and Pinback's Zach Smith, is expected in 2008 as well. [MORE...]
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The Black Keys Reveal Danger Mouse-Produced Album
I remember when, I remember I remember when this news seemed weird

Photo by James Carney

It seems like just yesterday when we were WTF-ing at rumors of a collaboration between the Black Keys, Danger Mouse, and the now late Ike Turner... until Keys drummer Patrick Carney confirmed it in an interview last year. Turner's passing seemingly put a damper on the project, but it turns out the songs the Keys were writing for him gave them the foundation for their own record, the follow-up to 2006's Magic Potion.

The result is the Danger Mouse-produced Attack & Release, the duo's fifth album-- but their first recorded in a proper studio. Alas, no Cee-Lo guest spot, but it does feature contributions from experimental guitarist Marc Ribot and multi-instrumentalist Ralph Carney (Patrick's uncle), both of whom have played in Tom Waits' band. There's also a pretty killer slow-burn duet between guitarist/singer Dan Auerbach and 18-year-old bluegrass/country singer Jessica Lea Mayfield on the closing track.

And while in theory, the thought of a Danger Mouse-produced Black Keys record brings to mind a bunch of electronic beats and sound pastiches slapped on stripped-down garage rawk, it's a credit to Danger Mouse as a producer that he manages mostly to stay out of the way of the jams, except for a few little flourishes here and there.

Nonesuch will release Release on April 1, no foolin', and the Black Keys will head out on tour in the spring in support of the album, starting with their appearance at South by Southwest. [MORE...]

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Kenyan Extra Golden Members Need Your Help

While Barack Obama's recent successes are well known, the plight of Extra Golden, the Thrill Jockey band he once helped secure travel visas, has stayed low-profile until the arrival of a recent MySpace bulletin and website post.

The bulletin/post is a letter from American Extra Golden members Alex Minoff and Ian Eagleson asking for financial help for their Kenyan counterparts, Opiyo Bilongo, Onyango Wuod Omari, and Onyango Jagwasi.

Since these men are Nairobi residents, they need assistance because of the volatile political situation that has emerged in Kenya since the country's general election on December 27.

As Minoff and Eagleson write, "Violence has spread throughout the country, with hundreds already murdered. Businesses that haven't been destroyed are shut." The livelihoods of Bilongo, Omari, and Jagwasi and their "large extended families"-- which depend upon the musicians playing out nightly-- are now in jeopardy because of the "dusk-to-dawn curfews in place."

Thus, Minoff and Eagleson have set up a PayPal account to help their bandmates, giving the following instructions to those who wish to donate:

"We are asking for donations of $5. Of course we will accept any amount you can muster, but we believe that with enough contributions of $5 we can make a huge difference in our friends' lives.

"To make a donation, please go to www.paypal.com and choose 'send money'. When asked for the email address of the recipient, enter 'service(at)kanyokanyo.com'. Please feel free to forward this message. We thank you in advance for your compassion and we hope that your help will enable us to compose a song of thanks for our next album."
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Silver Mt. Zion Lend Tune to "Lost" Ad

Hey, remember when a bunch of folks from the Godspeed You! Black Emperor/A Silver Mt. Zion axis locked themselves up in a dilapidated Montreal apartment for five days straight without sleep and made the first Set Fire to Flames record? Cut off from the world, left only to their own devices? Forced to thrive under trying conditions? Sounds just a wee bit like trials faced by the beloved characters of television's "Lost", trapped as they've been on a creepy tropical island for three seasons now.

But that's hardly the only thing these parties have in common now. Not since A Silver Mt. Zion-- excuse me, Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band-- went ahead and approved the use of one of their treasured tunes in a commercial for the forthcoming fourth season of the hit ABC series (premieres January 31! OMG!).

The advert includes a bit of "Tho You Are Gone I Still Often Walk W/You" (Guess "Long March Rocket or Doomed Airliner" would have been too obvious?) off 2001's Born Into Trouble as the Sparks Fly Upward, along with the promise that the people of "Lost" will, in fact, be found this season... or will they? Fans who caught it flocked to message boards to huff and puff-- Silver Mt. Zion's Constellation Records has, after all, maintained an ardent anti-corporate ethos over the years.

But why the ire? A publicist has confirmed that the song was used with the band's permission, and the ad will likely be off the air soon enough. This is an age, after all, where Of Montreal shill steaks and Ian MacKaye has OK'd a Minor Threat hot sauce.

And hey, here's what folks ought to be getting all in a tizzy about: their favorite Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band has a new album out March 25, as previously reported. 13 Blues for Thirteen Moons descends via Constellation, and who knows, perhaps they'll funnel some of those "Lost" dollarz into a super-sweet extensive tour?
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Blitzen Trapper Announce Giant North American Tour

Photo by Jade Harris

The much-ballyhooed boys of Blitzen Trapper won't make it too difficult to catch up with them on their upcoming North American tour. It begins in Seattle in February, lands in Portland in mid-April, and draws doodles across a map of the continent in between. They'll hit pretty much every major city (and quite a few non-major ones) north of Mexico, highlighted by a set at the Langerado Festival and a stop or several at South by Southwest. Along the way, they'll be joined at times by Beach House, Papercuts, Menomena, Grand Archives, as well as woodland friends and tourmates Fleet Foxes.

While they work on their Sub Pop debut, Blitzen Trapper will leave fans wanting more with a tour-only EP containing six brand new songs. [MORE...]

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R.E.M., MMJ, Robyn, Jens Lekman, Bun B Do SXSW
So do the Black Keys, Blitzen Trapper, Vampire Weekend, My Brightest Diamond, Lindstrom

It won't be long now 'til South by Southwest, the annual culture festival/spring break for gangly people in black jeans. In fact, it's just a couple months away, with the musical portion spreading roughly a billion bands over the five glorious sun-soaked, Shiner-swilling days of March 12-16.

We've already mentioned a few well-prepared folks who'll make their way to Austin for this year's festivities, including the Breeders, Man Man, and A Place to Bury Strangers, while White Williams, the Kills, Lightspeed Champion, Sons & Daughters and These New Puritans will hit up the Domino Records showcase. Not to mention talks given by Thurston Moore, Lou Reed, Daryl Hall, Steve Reich, Seymour Stein, and a bunch of other wisdom-imparting elder statespeople.

To that end, then, the newest crop of South by Southwest additions is highlighted by a group who could just as easily drop some worldly knowledge and run down the template for post-punk: R.E.M. will be there to preview tracks off their new one, Accelerate. Bun B will perform, though sans his longtime partner, the late, great Pimp C. My Morning Jacket will be pleased they're keeping those manes of theirs a little trimmer of late as they strut around in the heat. Vampire Weekend will show the folks of Austin just what all that buzz is about. Jens Lekman will appear to melt his Swedish hind in the hot Texas sun. And his countrywoman Robyn will be there, bringing her awesomeness to North American on a rare U.S. stop.

As is always the case with SXSW, there's plenty more where that came from, with Blitzen Trapper, My Brightest Diamond, the Black Keys, Frightened Rabbit, Bowerbirds, Foreign Born, the Raveonettes, Ralph "Soul" Jackson, Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong, Ra Ra Riot, the Von Bondies, Hanne Hukkelberg, the Heavy, Daniel Lanois, DeVotchKa, Sia, Uffie, MGMT and Tech N9ne all making themselves known throughout the long weekend. There'll also be a Smalltown Supersound showcase with Kim Hiorthøy, Lindstrom, Tussle, Bjorn Torske, Arp and KXP.

Just when and where each band will appear remains to be seen on most counts. But gorging one's self on barbecue, stumbling into a dimly-lit club and running into Mike Mills is at least half the fun of SXSW, innit?

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Spiritualized's Spaceman Scores Harmony Korine Film
Soundtrack due on Drag City

Photo by William Kirk

Mister Lonely tells the tale of a young drifter who gets his kicks impersonating Michael Jackson. This ersatz King of Pop stumbles into a community of like-minded mimics-- everyone from Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin, Shirley Temple, Madonna, and the Three Stooges to Abe Lincoln, the Pope, and the Queen of England. Sounds like a total trip, so who better to soundtrack it than a guy who's made a 25+ year career out of otherworldly audio excursions?

Enter J. Spaceman (aka Jason Pierce) of Spiritualized and Spacemen 3 fame, whose compositions from the cosmos make up a fair part of the score to the film, the latest from controversial director Harmony Korine (Kids, Gummo, Julien Donkey-Boy).

Mister Lonely made the festival rounds last year, while a soundtrack release is on the way via Drag City, according to the Spiritualized website. Sun City Girls feature on it as well, according to Drag City.

The film itself, boasting a cast that includes Samantha Morton, revered director Werner Herzog, and magic guy David Blaine, should see wider release this year.

And that new Spiritualized album we were supposed to see last year? J. Spaceman explains all in his latest website dispatch: "We've been sittin' on a finished (and mastered) record here for months now while Universal try to sort out their shit[.] so with luck it should be resolved early this year and you can have it."

J. also alludes to a couple final Acoustic Mainlines gigs in the coming months (nothing confirmed as of yet), and "after that we're going electric." (!) The shows just might take place in "Vancouver down to Palm Springs in a few months." Hmm... Palm Springs in a few months... Coachella anyone?

Finally, Mr. Pierce has collaborated with free jazz guy Matthew Shipp on an upcoming release, titled, yes, Spaceshipp, on the UK's Treader imprint.
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Justice Announce World Tour, Dates With Diplo
Justice mix allegedly rejected by Fabric

Photo by Natalie Kardos

Nothing quite does French Touch duo Justice justice like the live setting. And come this March, Justice will be served to adoring audiences across North America, as the dance giants behind Pitchfork's 15th favorite album () and 8th favorite track (the ubiquitous "D.A.N.C.E.") of 2007 hold court on a month-long tour.

The jaunt-- billed as the spring MySpace Music Tour-- will pair Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Augé with quite a few like-minded practitioners of Music You Can't Help But Dance To, including the mighty Diplo, Ed Banger bros DJ Mehdi and Busy P, NYC's Chromeo, and fellow countryfolk Fancy. It all begins March 3 in Austin, and for another lovingly foot-noted guide to just who is playing when, peek on past the jump.

But wait! Long before they reach the shores of North America, Justice will show kids from Osaka to Hamburg just what they're made of. Those gigs kick off January 23.

Apparently not everyone is hip to Justice's dance-doing ways, however. Over the holidays the pair sat down for an interview with Norwegian newspaper Dagsavisen, wherein they revealed that a mix they had put together for the famed Fabriclive series had been rejected by the Fabric folk themselves.

According to a translation from interviewer Bernt Erik Pedersen, de Rosnay told Dagsavisen, "We didn't want to do just another boring mix, so we put together a selection of tunes we absolutely love, mainly weird disco tracks and French novelty acts. But Fabric turned it down. They weren't ready for something like this. Maybe we'll put the mix out ourselves. People should really hear it, they'd be surprised."

Judge for yourself: An unconfirmed tracklist for the Justice Fabriclive mix has been making the interweb rounds, and we've reprinted it below for your convenience.

Fabric, meanwhile, have not yet responded to requests for comment. [MORE...]
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Son Lux Signs to Anticon
Works with Beirut, My Brightest Diamond, Castanets

Photo by Sarah Cass

Ryan Lott is just shy of the three-decade mark in years, but in that time, he has lived in a handful of locations (Denver, Cleveland, Atlanta, California, Connecticut, NYC), trained in composition and piano, and organized several multimedia art shows. So, naturally, he joined the Anticon roster to release his full-length debut under the name Son Lux.

At War With Walls and Mazes is an Anticonesque beat-and-hook-filled mish-mash of genres, and the label will release it on February 26. Son Lux will follow the album's release with spring dates supporting Why?

In the meantime, Lott is keeping himself busy by starting work on the next Son Lux album and a slew of other projects. He's remixing Beirut and Castanets, collaborating with My Brightest Diamond, and working on a large-scale piece with the Gina Gibney Dance company for a third time. [MORE...]
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Sub Pop Responds to Arrest of Shins' Crandall

Detail from photo by Brian Tamborello

As reported yesterday, Shins keyboardist/utility man Marty Crandall and his now former girlfriend, model Elyse Sewell, both found themselves in a Sacramento County jail this weekend facing domestic abuse charges following a scuffle in a hotel Friday night.

Sewell was released Saturday on bail; Crandall followed suit yesterday. A post on Sewell's blog explaining the incident and cited in our previous story, meanwhile, has since been removed. "I've decided to heed the advice of many commenters (lawyerly types) and friends," wrote Sewell yesterday, "[and] lock my last entry about the legal foibles between me and my ex-boyfriend."

Today the Shins' label Sub Pop came forward with a statement regarding the arrests. It reads as follows:
Marty Crandall and his ex-girlfriend Elyse Sewell were both arrested over the weekend following an argument at a Sacramento hotel which resulted in hotel staff calling the police.

They were both taken into police custody and released over the weekend.

There will be no further comment at this time and we would appreciate their privacy being respected.
The Crandall case goes before a judge tomorrow, January 8.
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Do you have a news tip for us? Anything crazy happen at a show you attended recently? Do you have inside info on the bands we cover? Is one of your favorite artists (that's not somebody you know personally) releasing a new record you'd like to see covered? You will remain completely anonymous, unless we are given your express permission to reveal your identity. (Please note that publicists, managers, booking agents, and other artist representatives are generally exempt from this rule, but will also be granted anonymity if requested.)

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