September 2004 I was on vacation in London.  I went to the enormous flea market on Portobello Road. I was looking for Roman coins and pocket-sized trinkets to take home.  Quickly growing weary of the crowds, I walked a block over to try to find lunch. Bang! There was the Rough Trade Record Shop.  Food waited for me.  It was the 25th Anniversary of The Clash’s London Calling, and they played it over and over.  Great ambiance, any decade!  Now a pilgrimage for me when I’m in town, Rough Trade is a really cool place.

I noted recently, for me, a spree of new music.  Actually new, not just new-to-me.  Some of this spree is the result of Rough Trade Records’ 40th anniversary this past October, in which, I trolled their website and YouTube pages to see what they’ve been up to.  More specifically, I wanted to buy some stuff to thank them for their great contributions to the cause.

Great stuff I find!

Let’s start with Goat Girl.  I haven’t been this excited for new music in a decade.  So far they’ve only released 2 songs, which I have on a beautiful 7” vinyl record.  There are a few videos on-line of them playing live shows, unlistenable recordings with dark, problematic camera angles.  Their music is a little dark, but properly recorded, they are sharp and completely listenable.  Here’s “Country Sleaze”:

Song is sultry, dirty, sexy, but more important, it has an aura.  There’s style and grace and mood.  Lyrics are lurid and kinda icky.   I fucking love this song.  With great anticipation, show us what’s next – please!!

Next Up, let’s see what The Prettiots has made available for us.  One lovely 7” vinyl record and one full-length, which I haven’t listened to yet.  They have several videos on-line, including a nifty set from the NPR Music Tiny Desk Concerts.  Here’s “Boys (I Dated In Highschool)”:

I have a personal ukulele story, as everyone must have, and mine goes like this.  Several years ago, I was in Seattle’s Belltown having a cocktail with a woman; we each were trying to figure out the other.  There was this hipster bloke, knit cap, beard, and thrift store-tidy, looked probably like he chopped his own wood for heat.  If you live in Seattle or Portland, you’ve seen the guy a thousand times.  Dude is rambling on and on about ukulele teaching and how there must be a huge shortage of ukulele instructors.  This was somehow going to be his ticket, man.  Meltem and I laughed.  Later on, I had this dream, where I walked into a huge ballroom at a downtown hotel and it was full of ukulele instructors, and this was a professional conference for them to co-mingle, workshop, and discuss the art of ukulele instructing.  It wasn’t clear how I got there.  I awoke with genuine snickering, though knowing my own sanity could be questioned.

Despite my personal ukulele story, it’s easy to take Kay Kasparhauser seriously.  With Lulu Prat, they write excellent songs with lyrics smart and cutting.  Cute, but firm.  Strong.  I like.  Generally listening to music, I am drawn into the instrumentation – the sounds, the playing, the structure, and the noises – but The Prettiots make us listen to what they have to say.  Still, with just a ukulele, bass, and drums, they’re interesting to listen to.

We’ll end today’s lesson with a shout out to Parquet Courts.  I have their 13-song CD, Human Performance.  This is much more traditional, and although that in itself is not complementary, I like this album.  I’ve listened to it now a few times through.  A few parts remind me of old Devo songs, like in “I Was Just Here”.  There’s a section in “One Man No City” that reminds of Velvet Underground drone.  (That was completely unexpected – nobody, nobody, reminds me of VU.)  That said, I wouldn’t say these guys are copy cats.  There is a lot going on.  It feels vibrant and loud and good.

Here’s “One Man, No City”

Check ‘em out.


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