Misc. Stuff Archive

Mark: Best of 2011



Top 10 Shows of 2011


Since I grow my music library by bouncing back and forth between decades and music styles, playing catch up on the music I’ve missed, I don’t really have a “Top 10 Albums of 2011″. I could do a list of “10 Albums That Were Released in 2011 That I Have” but that would make me look stupid since I’m pretty sure Duran Duran’s newest album is not one to the best 10 albums released this year. I could also do a “Top 10 Albums That I Discovered This Year” list, but then people would see how out of touch I am with what’s cool in music (see the LCD Soundsystem entry below). So here’s my “Top 10 Shows of 2011″ list:

1.OMD – Terminal 5 March 8
This was the culmination of years of anticipation. OMD has been one of my favorites for many years, and I had been following their tour plans closely since they announced their reunion. After seeing them announce one tour after another in Europe, they finally made the announcement that they were coming to the US. Originally booked at Webster Hall, the show sold out quickly and was moved to the much more spacious Terminal 5. I got to attend the soundcheck and meet the band before the show, the whole day was a trip, and possibly one of the best days of my life. It’s all been downhill since then.

2.The Cure – Beacon Theater Nov 27
I was fortunate to score a ticket to the final night of The Cure’sReflections” series of shows which came to the Beacon Theater for 3 nights. The set was simply mind blowing: The first three albums in their entirety followed by a series of encores which added up to 3+ hours of music and 48 songs, all of which dated from the early phase of the bands’ career. If I was a bigger Cure fan, I’m pretty sure my head would’ve exploded.

3.LCD Soundsystem – Terminal 5 March 28
I didn’t even like LCD Soundsystem until I went to this show. I just bought a ticket figuring I’d get into them at some point in the future and I’d be kicking myself for not seeing them during their original run when I had the chance. It turned out to be a wise decision. Much like my #2 show, this one clocked in at over 3 hours. It was an awesome show, though the crowd was a bit too rambunctious for my taste, perhaps because they really thought the band was breaking up forever (I still think they’ll be back in 2017).

4.Royksopp – Music Hall of Williamsburg March 21
I had a ticket for this sold-out show, but wasn’t really feeling up to going out the day of. I debated whether or not to sell my ticket but in the end sucked it up and went in with the expectation that it was going to be a crappy DJ type show with 2 guys standing behind gear the whole time. Holy shit I was wrong, the guys brought in band members to spice up their tracks and the visuals were really cool. I’d definitely recommend seeing them even if you’ve never heard them.

5.The Damned – Irving Plaza Oct 22
It sucks that the Damned are so freakin’ old. This show celebrated their 35th anniversary by playing their first album (::yawn::) and the Black Album (::boner::) in their entirety. The Damned is my favorite band of all time, and the show should be higher up on the list, but this was a stupid Live Nation show at Irving Plaza. There were a million different sections on the balcony, and I had “VIP” tickets but was escorted to the wrong section at first then got moved to this horrible area with this horrible shrieking banshee of a woman behind me, who absolutely wrecked my attempt at recording the show. The day after the show, I fired off an angry email to Live Nation about how they’re an evil corporation and their customer service is lacking and ended it with the phrase “OCCUPY LIVE NATION!”. I’m still waiting for a response.

6.Cold Cave – Knitting Factory July 12
I’m glad I caught these guys at the intimate Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. I was unsure how good the band was going to sound, and I had heard they intentionally played more obscure tracks in lieu of their more well known songs. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised how much fun this show was despite Cold Cave playing only 10 songs. I’m looking forward to seeing them again, hopefully in 2012.

7.Soundgarden – Prudential Center July 08
This one wins the award for the best show with the worst sound. Soundgarden played their first NYC area show in 15 years at the cavernous Prudential Center. The set was awesome, the song selection was great, and the sound was awful. But it was still a good show. Plus, it could have been a lot worse: the band played the alcohol-free Jones Beach Theater on Long Island the next night. It has really, really, REALLY bad sound…trust me. And there’s a serial killer on the loose who’s been killing prostitutes and dumping their bodies in the marshes up the road from the place. So that can’t be good.

8.Duran Duran – Madison Square Garden Oct 25
I finally popped my “Floor Tickets to an arena show” cherry with Duran Duran playing to a definitely not sold out Madison Square Garden. Seeing a show from the floor at the Garden is an awesome experience, as the sound is way better than my usual tickets in the upper reaches of the arena. The downside is that there’s only one bar and it’s occupied by the 1%, who choose to order mixed drink after mixed drink in their continued effort to stop the 99% from getting a beer in a reasonable amount of time.

9.Deicide – Gramercy Theater Feb 21 My first death metal show in a couple years was a good one. Deicide brought the brutality and Satan was definitely in the house this night. I naively stood in the middle of the floor when the band took the stage, completely forgetting that mosh pits happen at metal shows. I was gently reminded and immediately got pushed to the outskirts of the floor, where the long haired dude in front of me kept whipping his hair around blocking my view. It was stereotypically metal.

10.Penguin Prison – Music Hall of Williamsburg Dec 30
My last show of 2011 managed to sneak into my Top 10 at the last minute. Though this shows’ appearance on this list could be chalked up to the fact that I only recently started listening to the band, I decided that I really liked the show and it was worthy of being named. You’re welcome, Penguin Prison.

Bottom 3 Worst Shows of the Year
Chameleons Vox – Home Sweet Home Nov 23
Believe it or not, I went to a show this year that was actually worse than Guns N Roses. Chameleons Vox is two original members of The Chameleons and two other guys playing Chameleons songs. They were playing the classic Chameleons’ album “Script of the Bridge” in its entirety, so I was really looking forward to the show despite the fact that it wasn’t the original band. I figured at least they had the original singer/bassist in the band, so how bad can it be? The answer? Really bad. The show was held at a bar on the Lower East Side during a goth night, there was no bathroom, and it was super crowded around the stage so I couldn’t see anything. As far as the sound, the drums weren’t miked so it was basically like going to a local band showcase. And the guitars, which were miked, sounded like they were underwater. It was produced by some NYC – based post-punk record label. They are dumb and do not know how to put on concerts and should not be allowed to book bands that I like. I was chanting “refund! refund! refund!” during the set (I was pretty intoxicated) but no one else in the place shared my sentiment. If the show was held at a real venue, it probably would’ve kicked ass because the band sounded fairly competent.

Guns N Roses – Izod Center Nov 18
Yeah, I know, it’s not really Guns N Roses. I knew going into this show that it was going to be bad. I heard that Axl had gained a lot of weight and that his voice was shot and that he had fallen on stage a couple times during this tour, so I was kind of hoping for a train wreck. Unfortunately what I got was more like a train fender bender. Axl sucked, but not enough that it was funny. He managed to stay upright the whole time, despite the fact that he constantly dashed on and off stage, leaving his band to fend for themselves through countless guitar solos and boring classic rock covers. By the time they went on stage at 11PM, beer sales had stopped and the buzz from my tailgating was wearing off. Though I did make myself laugh several times that night by referring to the arena as the “Kneel Before Zod Center”.

Chris Isaak – Jones Beach June 18
The only reason I had the misfortune of seeing this douchebag was because he was the opening act for Hall and Oates (don’t judge!) at the aforementioned Jones Beach Theater. Don’t get the wrong idea, I know he sucks and would never pay money or travel to see him. I just got to the show way too early. He played nothing but obvious covers (Pretty Woman, Ring of Fire, etc.) while undergoing multiple costume changes in the process. He didn’t even play his one hit, Wicked Game, which is actually not awful. My girlfriend and I tried to wait out his set in the concession area by slowly eating overpriced chicken fingers for about 40 minutes, and still got stuck witnessing his last 2 songs because he would not get off the stage.

Dishonorable Mention:
Rammstein – Izod Center May 5
These guys’ December 11th Madison Square Garden appearance made my top 10 show list for 2010. Then they came back to the NYC area a couple months later in May and played the EXACT SAME SHOW. Fuck that shit.

Jbird: Best of 2011



Top 10 Releases of 2011

1.PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
Polly Jean Harvey has been my favorite artist for almost 20 years (!), but I haven’t felt this strongly about one of her albums in at least a decade — maybe even since 1995 and To Bring You My Love. Casting herself as an English patriot just to knock those ideals off their pedestal, Harvey uses discordant sounds, off-kilter rhythms, skewed stereotypes…and her tremendous vocal range to create a haunting, hypnotic record. Just a stunning achievement.

2.Peter Bjorn and John – Gimme Some
Probably the record that spent the most time in my car stereo this year, this is pop gold that resuscitates the reputation won by Writer’s Block back in 2006. I could have done without the album cover, one of the least appealing I’ve seen in a long time (it features a cartoon amputated hand with three thumbs up, viewed from the viscera end), and the pseudo-punk “Black Book,” which reeked of trying too hard, though.

3.The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Belong
POBPAH have moved into the big time, getting production on this album from the likes of Flood and Alan Moulder. You can still hear some of the Cure-influence left over from their debut, but the songs are considerably cleaned-up. Now they sound more like early-’90′s shoegaze, which certainly works for the themes of teenage love and loss that dominate Belong. Fun show, too, when we caught them in New Orleans in March.

4.TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light
On first listen, Nine Types of Light isn’t much of an evolution from 2008′s Dear Science. But the slowed-down tempos on many of the songs may signify that the band has reached a comfort zone. I would suggest that lyrics such as those in the first single, “Will Do” (which repeats cliches, co-opting them to create heartfelt meaning), imply a willingness to show a sense of humor, too.

5.Cults – Cults
I see Cults as producing a New York version of the vintage ’60′s instrumentation that Generationals has been perfecting over the last few years in Louisiana. (I have to admit, by the way, I have no excuse for not having heard the Generationals album Actor-Caster yet, except that it came out in the summer while I was abroad and then moving halfway across the country. Probably it’s insanely good and deserves to be on this list, too.) There’s more of the synth stuff with Cults, and of course the front-and-center female vocals that call back to Phil Spector.

6.The Feelies – Here Before
New Jersey’s Real Estate won all the plaudits from journalists this year for Days, but if you ask me, that album was small beer (boring, even) compared to Here Before, which was released by The Feelies, a legendary band from the same region (and one that obviously influenced Real Estate). The Feelies take up where they left off twenty-some-odd years ago, with sweet songs that are somehow both casual and precise at the same time. As with (now-departed?) Sonic Youth, I think the feeling of precision comes from the drumming; Stanley Demeski is rock-solid against the loose guitars. The slowed-down “Morning Comes” is a real stand-out.

7.Beirut – The Rip Tide
Like Nine Types of Light, The Rip Tide is not a radical change from what came before it. The traditional European instrumentation creates an appealing contrast to so much indie rock, and Beirut seals the deal by avoiding the too-clever literary lyrics of The Decemberists. There isn’t much that I listen to that really transports me to another place on the planet, but Beirut does it.

8.St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
Annie Clark is a weirdo — in the best way: madly creative and a virtuosic musician. It’s one thing to listen to tiresome weirdness like Animal Collective, Panda Bear, or The Fiery Furnaces and say, “OK, these guys are just being weird for weird’s sake, or because they’re high, or because they’re messing around with their equipment to no real end, or all-of-the-above, and it’s just annoying and I don’t care.” Annie Clark’s music is, in many ways, equally weird — to the extent that I usually spend half my time listening just trying to understand how she came up with these ideas — but it’s also beautiful and moving and challenging…and clearly not weird merely for the sake of being weird.

9.Yuck – Yuck
Dumb band name, great record. I said in my post on a show they opened in Baton Rouge for The Smith Westerns back in February that they reminded me of old Superchunk (especially on songs like “Operation”), and I still think that comment fits — brash, charming power-pop from young folks.

10.Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi
Anna Calvi is totally derivative — it just so happens that she’s derivative of probably my favorite album of all time, the aforementioned To Bring You My Love. The same twangy, Morricone reverb on the guitar; sultry, blues-style, low female vocals — this is a formula that never needs updating.

Honorable mention
Dum Dum Girls – Only in Dreams
It happens every year in the last spot: an album I listened to over and over, even if I can spot its deficiencies straight away. In the case of Only in Dreams, the real problem is a lack of imagination — phrases like “I need your bedroom eyes” or “I think I’m coming down” are repeated ad nauseam rather than livening them up with even minor variations. Otherwise, the songs are terrific, with a moody atmosphere like Mazzy Star and Wall-of-Sound-style production.

Avalanche: Best of 2011



Top 10 Releases of 2011

Once again, the great releases of this year are roundly ignored by other ‘best-of’ music compilers. I am again mystified how some of the releases included here got such short shrift, particularly, when there was not much by way of competition. 2011, overall, was largely dominated by folkie southern-rock sounding bands, which is a direction that is easy for me to ignore except for the insanely good The Wooden Birds record, which, against all reason has shown up on no best-of lists that I have seen. Low put out another great record, which, has long been expected out of Low. I am convinced that Low and The Wooden Birds are the two current active pillars of great American rock music, without which, the whole shaky edifice would crumble. Once again, these two great bands release another great record and because they are expected to do just that, they get passed-over by critics for the latest pan flash.

Otherwise, based on prominence of keyboard based bands last year, I figured we would get much more of the same in 2011. We did get a new Cut Copy release and similarly styled debut by Holy Ghost! but there wasn’t near the output of synth driven bands as I expected.

Anyway, the following are the top-ten very worthy cds that kept my laser occupied.

1.Acid House Kings – Music Sounds Better With You
AHK put out the best pure pop album of the year by a country mile. Music Sounds Better With You is pure and effortless and along with The Wooden Birds release nearly monopolized my cd laser for the whole year. The track “Windshields” is so good I can barely stand it – even after hundreds of listens.

2.The Wooden Birds – Two Matchsticks
As noted, 2011 is full of Southern-Rock and Folk-Rock tinged albums. The Wooden Birds, the post American Analog Set project of Andrew Kenney, mine some of the same influences but do it with subtle brilliance and without being retreads. The cool burn of Two Matchsticks and its delicate, yet assertive guitar and male/female vocal interplay make The Wooden Birds the best thing going right now. How this band has gotten so little attention is criminal. I just don’t get it. Pure. Simple. Brilliant.

3.Low – C’mon
Low have been quietly releasing the best catalog of the past 20 years, and this is another nice addition to their epic high standards of quality. Unlike their also great release of a few years ago, Drums and Guns, C’mon has pretty fuss-free production, which I think is how the religious experience that is a Low release is best served.

4.Cut Copy – Zonoscope
The Cutters self-produced 2011 release, Zonoscope, starts out with a face-melting gem in “Need You Now”. The rest of the album doesn’t reach that high again, but is a consistently good stream of interwoven synth excursions.

5.Anything Goes Original Cast Recording – Broadway Original Cast Recording
What can I say, I bought my first ‘show tunes’ album (I don’t think buying Laibach‘s Jesus Christ Superstar really counts). I would generally not be too proud of that fact, but this Sutten Foster led production of the Cole Porter classic was too irresistible to one who swore he was immune to the saccharine charms of musicals. This Cole Porter and P.G. Wodehouse collaboration has to be among the best examples of ‘all killer, no filler’ ever, like the Purple Rain of the 1930s!

6.The Pains of Being Pure of Heart – Belong
The Pains went big with this album as far as production goes, but their charms remain subtle. I hope they are hard at work on a follow up.

7.Holy Ghost! – Holy Ghost!
Based on a few tracks of Holy Ghost! 2010 ep, I was really hoping for a band that was going to re-inhabit Shriekback as a bit more sophisticated and bit more aggressively vocaled synth band, but that hope is dashed pretty much after the second track of this, their self-titled debut. Nonetheless, this is a great synth pop record.

8.Peter Murphy – Nine
This record pretty follows along the buzz guitar rock of Cascade, which is, in my opinion, Murphy’s best. Nine is a shockingly good and fresh record coming from a true unabashed living legend.

9.Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
Lykke Li has dropped some of her quirks that acted as a kind of hook for her in her debut and put out a little more straight forward release that digs more in ’50s girl group soul rather than in asymmetric indie affectations, which got her initial notice. I like.

10.Chain Gang of 1974 – Wayward Fire
This is the only new band, for me, to make the list. Chain Gang tread in the ’80s and ’90s New Wave New Romantics territory that several others are into these days. The vocals and other intangibles makes this effort by Chain Gang of 1974 my favorite of the lot.

Here is a list of releases that are honorable mentions but were eeked out of the top 10 slots.
Peter, Bjorn, and John – Gimme Some
Foster the People pretty much lifted the template that PBandJ set with “Writer’s Block” and I hope are paying PBandJ their due royalties. PBandJ, to their credit are moving on.
Jane’s Addiction – Great Escape Artist
This might not be a great Jane’s Addiction album, but god-knows, there is no where to get killer top-shelf hard rock vocals like Perry Ferrel’s anywhere else. I am glad they are providing me a new fix.
Handsome Furs – Sound Kapital
This probably would have made the list but I totally forgot about it. This was the best M/F with Synth record of the year.


Top 10 Concerts of 2011


As in 2009 and in 2010, the best of 2011 is once again filled with veteran bands. If you are a new band, for the love of god, go see some of the bands on this list and see how it is done. Actually, the top slot belongs to the sublime The Wooden Birds (see above for best album pick) for their 2011 performance, who also was my pick for tops performance for 2010 too!

1. The Wooden Birds – Rock Shop (see Sept 28, 2010 TSOI post)
2. Savoir Adore/French Horn Rebellion – Glasslands (see French Horn Rebellion Jan 4 2011 TSOI post and see Savoir Adore Dec 8 2010 TSOI post)
3. The Cure (first three albums) – Beacon Theater
I was not particularly looking forward to hearing The Cure perform three of their least accessible albums back-to-back, but wow, this was a great way to see why The Cure are so good and why they have been able to fill stadiums for decades. This short tour was a nice display of the gestation of the weird genius that is Robert Smith.
4. Bad Religion – 3 Decade Shows – Irving Plaza (’80s, ’90s and ’00s)
5. Controlled Bleeding – Death by Audio
6. Advance Base – Mercury Lounge
This is the first NY showing of Owen’s first Casiotone for the Painfully Alone project. I look forward seeing more of this bigger-and-badder enterprise.
7. OMD (Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark) – Terminal 5 (see March 29 TSOI post)
8. Universal Order of Armageddon – Death by Audio
9. D Generation – Irving Plaza
D Generation are to be praised for bringing Rock and Roll back to New York City, where it belongs. I am sure The Strokes tip them a hat when they cross.
10.Jane’s Addiction – Irving Plaza
Truth be told, the most notable part of this show was an enterprising gentleman that took it upon himself to raise his phone video recorder among the sea of other raised arms getting crappy YouTube fodder, but instead of recording footage, played porn on his screen. The affect was like he was recording something much more interesting than the rest of his neighbors. Super funny. I hope it catches on.

Burning Hearts – Into The Wilderness

Burning Hearts put out one of my favorite records in 2009 and they are finally back with a brand new EP out on Shelflife Records. The 4 song EP is a little more mellow than their previous record, but the Finnish duo manage to squeeze in one rocker at the end. The track Into The Wilderness picks up with the same catchy sound that I was so fond of on their debut album and is a great taste of what to expect from their upcoming sophomore album.

Download: Burning Hearts – Into The Wilderness

TSOI On 3 Week Hiatus*

The Sound Of Indie will be on a short 3 week hiatus*. Instead of giving you your fix of the best in live and rare indie music, 25% of the site will be traipsing around Eastern Europe trying to “Find Ourselves”. If any readers are in Vienna, Prague or Salzberg, hit us up in the comments with must see suggestions on concerts or museums. See you mid-May.

* There’s the off chance we may not be able to help ourselves and will have a couple of posts up in the meantime, but we’re covering our asses just in case.

Save WRVU


In the past couple of months there has been an outbreak of schools selling, or attempting to sell, their college radio broadcast license. In the wake of budget cuts and other effects from a downturned economy, the universities which oversee these stations have realized they are sitting on potentially millions of dollars. The University of San Francisco recently sold their KUSF broadcast license and Vanderbilt University’s WRVU is currently on the chopping block. It’s a continuing trend which absolutely must stop.

I will tell you upfront that a few of the writers for TSOI are Vanderbilt University and WRVU alumni, but I am not one of them. When visiting Nashville in the mid-90′s I remember tuning into WRVU and hearing tracks from the recently released Rocket From The Crypt album Scream, Dracula, Scream! before catching their sold out show later that evening. I can guarantee that no other Nashville station would have been playing RFTC that day and that’s what I love about college radio. Having a yearly operating budget that is often less than the cost of running a single ad on a commercial station gives you the freedom to feature a much more diverse range of artists than their commercial counterparts.

As a writer for a music site, I’m constantly bombarded with new music sent to my inbox so I no longer listen to the radio that often. But I am in the minority. Nearly 90% of the population still listens to radio on a daily basis. When I do find myself surfing the dial, I always end up at the local college station (KSPC 88.7) opposed to the other local indie “The Smiths on the hour, every hour” stations.

I can definitively say that this website would not exist without college radio. Not only did college radio mold my musical tastes and world view, it was also my first experience in volunteer coordination, event planning, budget writing, fundraising and dealing with an advisory board. I’ve found the skills I gained from working and volunteering for a college radio station much more useful than the ones I received from my completed Psychology degree. Adopting the less popular/more expensive “online-only” broadcast format would greatly diminish the quality of the volunteer experience and do an extreme disservice to the student bodies of these universities.

To find out more about the Save WRVU campaign, check out http://savewrvuradio.wordpress.com. Also, be sure to “Like” the Save WRVU page on Facebook.

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PJ Harvey: Sweeter Than Anything

In honor of the release of PJ Harvey’s latest genre-defying release, Let England Shake, I felt like it would be fun to post an obscure track that’s one of my all-time favorites: “Sweeter than Anything,” off the single A Perfect Day Elise. Please, Island Records, don’t be litigious jerks about this; I’m on your side.

Actually, there were two versions of this CD single, with two B-sides each, released to promote 1998′s Is This DesireHarvey has done this before: the Send His Love to Me single from 1995′s To Bring You My Love was also released in two versions. Oh…I’m sorry, did you not realize that Harvey has obsessive fans?

Back to the new album. I happened to catch her on TV while on a business trip to London last March. She played the title song, accompanying herself on the autoharp. A whole album of this may test even my patience, I have to admit, but since Harvey has never disappointed yet, it’s far too soon to be unhappy.

Let England Shake drops on 14 February in the UK and on 15 February in the US.

Download: PJ Harvey: Sweeter Than Anything

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Pussycat Trash: Doris

When talking about the UK riot grrrl scene, it was all about Huggy Bear, but for my money I always preferred Pussycat Trash. Although they never had the notoriety and fan base of Huggy Bear, their output between ’92-’95 was unmatched. I think what always appealed to me was that they took their influences not only from the same garage rock bands as everyone else, but also from the C86 scene which gave them a much more unique sound than some of their other contemporaries.

A note about this recording. The Pussycat Trash discography “The Brat Years” was released in 2001, but this track doesn’t come from that disc. Instead it’s a recording I made directly from my copy of “Some Hearts Paid To Lie”, a 2X7″ that features Pussycat Trash, Linus, Comet Gain and Skinned Teen. I swear it sounds better to me than the recording that was released on the discography. Not just because it’s a little louder, but the guitars have some extra “highs” which seem to be missing on the compressed cd recording.

Download: Pussycat Trash: Doris

The Rest: John Huston

The Rest - John HustonCanada’s best kept secret The Rest have a brand new record coming out in 2011 and have released this teaser track to the interwebs in advance. They seem to be ditching the Shins-esque sound for a more modern synth-laden layered approach which I’m really digging. I’ll certainly be keeping and ear out for their forthcoming SEESAW next year.

Download: The Rest – John Huston

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Interview: Ruby Isle – It’s So Easy (GnR Cover) TSOI Exclusive

TSOI pretty much only features bands that we really dig. Dan Geller is the mastermind behind the influential Athens, GA based label kindercore and a member of two bands that we absolutely revere: I Am The World Trade Center and his current band, Ruby Isle. Ruby Isle released “Night Shot” a massive bouncy slab of machined-guitar drum machine thump-driven pop perfection. Earlier this year, Ruby Isle released “Night Shot – The Remixes” which runs their 2008 debut record through the remix machine.

We were fortunate to “sit down” with Dan via e-mail and have him answer a few questions:

TSOI: I was introduced to I Am The World Trade Center at the kindercore CMJ Showcase in, I suppose 2003. I have been to nearly every CMJ Music Marathon since 1998 and the perhaps second to only seeing a surprise unannounced Halo Benders performance, the top highlight, and there have been many, of going to any CMJ was chancing upon I Am The World Trade Center at that CBGBs show in 2003.

Dan Geller: That kindercore show at CBGBs was one of the greatest moments of my life. I am glad you were there to share it.

TSOI: Rumors indicate that you have a project involving Guns n Roses ‘Appetite for Destruction’. Explanation please. Any tracks you’re willing to share with us?

DG:It is true! Ruby Isle did the whole record cover to cover we are really excited about it. We decided to pick an iconic record from our youth (Mark Mallman the singer for Ruby Isle and I went to middle school/high school together. We also wanted to pick something that would shock people and maybe even piss some people off (Axl Rose I am looking at you). We even lifted microsamples from the original material to make it happen. The whole thing is a spaced out, electronic version of the original. I think people are going to be surprised when they hear it.

TSOI: Pop Quiz!: What is the best song on Appetite? And yes, there is one – and only one – unassailable correct answer to that question. Answer carefully.

DG:My Michelle, absolutely. Can’t wait to hear your response.

Editors Note: Everyone knows “Rocket Queen” is the best GnR song by a country mile.

TSOI: A topic that TSOI has discussed a bit is what makes a good cover and how some bands are far more conducive to covers than others. Examples: Bob Dylan and Velvet Underground make for great cover opportunities. On the other hand Prince, The Fall, and Joy Division fall into territory that one best tread lightly if at all. To date, the only remotely decent cover of a GnR song is Luna’s take on “Sweet Child of Mine”. “Sweet Child of Mine” for some reason seems to be the song most conducive to being covered but I don’t see much of GnR’s work very ‘coverable’. Thoughts?

DG: It was really, really difficult. We are at heart a pop band and despite their popularity, the songs on Appetite are NOT pop songs. It was also really hard to turn a real rock record into an electronic pop record. Throw in the weird song arrangements and questionable lyrics and we had a real challenge on our hands.

TSOI: What did you think of Chinese Democracy? We here at TSOI have taken on quite a few pet causes over the years and if you go through our archives one successful campaign was applying pressure to the new Gunners to release that record after a decade of stalling. We are convinced that TSOI turned the tide and was largely responsible for its ultimate release.

DG: Wow, that is crazy, I am not sure if you did the world a favor or started the apocalypse we are looking forward to in 2012.

TSOI: Your bands have been often performed or recorded covers of The Cure, Human League, Blondie, The Jam, and others, which I can only assume were chosen since they were influential or otherwise songs you liked. Can the same be said for GnR?

DG: We love doing covers. If you look back at the Ruby Isle catalog over half of our songs are covers. From Sonic Youth to Peter Gabriel. We also took the number one song on elbo.ws for 12 weeks and covered those songs. That was really fun because we had no control over the songs we covered and we only gave ourselves two days to do each cover. The resulting tracks are covers of Decemberists, Bon Iver, Beach House, Animal Collective, it got kind of crazy.

GnR was a huge influence on Mark and I in Middle School. You couldn’t go anywhere in Milwaukee (where we grew up) without hearing that record. I had an older brother that was obsessed with it and it is totally programmed into our collective psyche.

TSOI: I suppose you would be as qualified as anyone on the subject of state of the music scene from a business perspective. As owner of kindercore, how have you navigated the transition to the new digital download era? Is it better or worse for an independent label like kindercore now? How about for a band like Ruby Isle? I, for one, am not so sure that this new ‘age’ is better. Your view?

DG: As a fan, I think the new era is great. I hate having stuff laying around my house and being able to put up some of my vinyl after dumping it down to mp3 is actually something I really appreciate. As a label owner it has been tough. Luckily we have a great catalog (Of Montreal, Dressy Bessy, Essex Green, IATWTC) which keeps cash flowing. If we were just promoting new acts it would be very expensive!!!

TSOI: What is the status of I Am The World Trade Center (IATWTC)? SXSW was blessed with a reunion show. How about the rest of us? How about a Ruby Isle/IATWTC double billing tour?

DG: We had another reunion at a festival in Athens last summer. Amy actually sat in with Ruby Isle and it was awesome. Ruby knows a bunch of World Trade songs so when Amy is around I think we might convince her to join us. She is pregnant right now so it isn’t going to happen any time soon…

TSOI: IATWTC was an oddity being a synth-pop duo in 2000. Like many of the bands featured on TSOI, IATWTC were on the order of a decade ahead of their time. These days, the template set by IATWTC way-back-when can be found through a slew of synth-based bands thumping around these days. Any thoughts on that? Are there any out there you like? Dislike?

DG: I am glad you said it and not me. I also DJ at clubs under the name Twin Powers, so I am always looking for new dance jams to play. Therefore I am really excited about all the new synth stuff out there. I am a huge fan of Washed Out and Neon Indian. Of course Of Montreal has always been a favorite and I like the 2.0 version even better than the 1.0 stuff we released on kindercore. However, aside from Of Montreal the one thing I always kind of feel that is missing with the new synthpop is a high energy live show. It seems like a lot of new bands hide behind the synths and the lights and don’t rock. I have always made it a point to be in bands that give a great show and go crazy live. Since you have seen us you know what I am talking about. If I am not about to pass out at the end of a show, I haven’t done my job. Don’t get me wrong, there are some charismatic bands out there doing synthpop, but few of them seem to bring the punk ethic to stage that we were raised on. If one thing can be said about Ruby Isle, we bring the rock to synthpop. Mallman is probably one of the craziest frontmen out there and we really try to kill ourselves on stage with fun.

TSOI: Athens, GA is, I presume (never been), a smallish town but has a pretty nuts musical history. Is it true that Michael Stipe and Peter Buck and The B-52s and the like are always tooling around? I was always fond of Love Tractor for that song “Crash”. Whatever the case, Athens had a lot going on. What were the bands that you saw that got you into recording music and playing in bands? Does Athens have a particularly good music infrastructure” that many other cities do not? If a town were to build that infrastructure, what would those plans look like?

DG: It is pretty true. I DJ at a bar called GOBAR that Michael Stipe owns. When he is town he comes and hangs out there quite a bit. I am also in another band called The Gold Party that sounds like Depeche Mode, Mike Mills played bass with the other guys in the band last Halloween when they did a Sex Pistols cover band, the Halloween before that he did a Siouxsie and the Banshees cover band with the guys Gold Party. I think that stuff is up on YouTube.

The nice thing about Athens is that it is small and cheap and has A LOT of places to play. It is a really supportive community as far as music goes and there are always new bands popping up. As many times as I have tried to leave here, I always keep coming back. Life is just easy here. Athens is like if you took 6th Street in Austin and made a city out of it.

TSOI: And finally, as much as I love the albums, seeing Ruby Isle live is where you absolutely kill. When are you touring next?

DG: Thank you for that, as I said earlier we like playing live best too. The recordings are really just an excuse to play shows for us. The other two guys Mark Mallman and Aaron Lemay both live in Minneapolis. I fly up there about once a month and we play shows around the midwest. We will be doing a full on tour supporting Appetite for Destruction early 2011. I can’t wait. Playing live is really my favorite thing in life.


Ruby Isle’s Appetite For Destruction is out on kindercore Records this month.

Download: Ruby Isle – It’s So Easy (GnR Cover)

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