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The new Art Brut album, Brilliant! Tragic! , due out on the 23rd of May, proves to be a fun little romp through the world of flat out power pop with a good dash of punk rock and some post-modern irony mixed in to keep things interesting. Art Brut doesn't take themselves as seriously or self-importantly as the title of their album, or indeed their band name, might suggest. Brilliant! Tragic!, far from being a heavy album of outsider weirdness, is a fun ten-song set of light-hearted, guitar driven pop with songs about turning off the cellphones for a hot weekend, lost nights of inebriation, and the occasional social media reference. Taking a sideways glance at Jarvis Cocker, singer Eddie Argos lays on the sarcasm, but without the hidden social commentary or bitterness that can make Mr. Cocker so exciting and infuriating at the same time. Brilliant! Tragic! stays out of such deep waters, keeps things in the pleasant end, and turns out an album that is upbeat without being twee, rocks without ever losing track of song structure or it's pop music base, and keeps fun and keeps them moving. This album is certainly not going to save the world, but then again what album is? Recommended for driving around and feeling like a bad-ass without actually having to be dangerous about it. Smells Like: [rating=7] ...

Sure, you can spend dozens of dollars on national acts. The imported stuff might be worth it, but there is arguably just as much quality in the home-grown right now. And with so many local Portland bands playing for cheap (or even free), what’s your excuse for not going out to catch a show? What, the kids? Just leave the baby monitor with a neighbor...

With the recent announcement of preproduction plans for a Shaggs biopic starring the Fanning sisters, it is high time to start relistening, or, for most, listening, to their milestone LP Philosophy of the World. Released in 1969, this record stands alone in the world of pop music. There is nothing, seriously, nothing, quite like it. The Shaggs were a trio (and sometimes quartet) of sisters from a small New England town who, soon after forming their band, were ushered into a studio by their father and, despite the incredulity of the recording engineer, recorded this accidental masterpiece. Released on a micro-label, it received virtually no attention for over a decade. Frank Zappa made mention of it early on in an interview as being one of his favorite records; Lester Bangs wrote a short piece on it in the early 80s. Eventually, the smarties in NRBQ reissued it to some fanfare and even cobbled together a second LP out of outtakes and live performances.

...the Shaggs were a great band. They were incompetent, wincingly awful, and probably talentless. And pretty damned brilliant.

That’s as much of the facts as I am going to give you. In the case of the Shaggs, facts are beside the point. Sure, go ahead and look them up on the web. Find out who they were, where they went, who their father was. Doesn’t matter. What matters is that record. And here’s why. Philosophy of the World has oft been regarded as the World’s Worst Record, much in the way that Plan Nine From Outer Space has been dubbed the World’s Worst Movie, and Ed Wood the World’s Worst Filmmaker. Wood is not the world’s worst filmmaker, of course. Michael Bay is. Plan Nine is endlessly entertaining, charming and full of joy that makes you glad you’ve seen it...every time you see it. Wood was, in fact, an auteur. And a savant. But he was, in the end, a great filmmaker. Similarly, the Shaggs were a great band. They were incompetent, wincingly awful, and probably talentless. And pretty damned brilliant. Again, what I am about to impart is not the truth. It is not fact. It is merely true.

Here are some sneak peaks of new songs by your favorite Pop artists from the many portals and outposts of the interwebs. Check these out now (before they're taken down). TV On the Radio – “Will Do” the first Single from new album is streaming at Rolling Stone. Meanwhile, over at SPIN you can download an actual MP3 of another new song, "Caffeinated Consciousness." UNKLE featuring Nick Cave – “Money and Run” from forthcoming UNKLE ep. For maximum enjoyment, play very LOUD. The Decemberists – “Cuyahoga” an REM cover performed live on KCRW. Yuck – “The Wall” is streaming at Pitchfork. Haven't bought the hype yet? Give a listen...

Just over a year ago, I learned about Vic Chesnutt’s suicide on the radio:  “Those of us who work on Fresh Air were upset and shocked…” The usually unflappable Terry Gross sounded shaken by the news, having interviewed the enigmatic singer just a month prior. He had told her the story of his southern childhood and its sudden about-face when he was partially paralyzed in a one-car accident. He had played “Flirted With You All My Life,” explaining that the intensely personal and bittersweet tune was a “break-up song with death.” He had even told her about his past attempts at suicide, joking, “it didn’t take.” Vic’s ability to craft stories with quirky wordsmithing and self-deprecating humor came through just as much in his interview as in his song-writing, and Terry Gross, like so many fans he left behind, was clearly charmed. I first came across Vic Chesnutt in 1993’s Drunk, a carousing album that showcases Vic’s style in full-blown fury. An acquired taste for some listeners, for me his strained vocals over minimalist guitar chording (both aspects were due to the physical consequences of his accident) created a mesmerizing effect. This album swings from eccentric musings to raucous outbursts, and it brought to mind what would happen if David Sedaris were locked in a room too long with Tom Waits and Shane McGowan of The Pogues. Witness the fucked-up glorious spectacle in “Gluefoot”:  “Cross my heart/ Cross my eyes/ Stick a needle in my thigh/ Drop kicked my unscrewed lid and fiddled fiddled fiddled with what’s inside/ A rusty mass of mechinations….” The title track that follows is what might result if that same crew crashed an AA meeting. Denial it ain’t. I was lucky to see Vic in concert several years later, sharing the stage with his friend Kristen Hersh (of Throwing Muses and 50foot Wave). They took turns playing acoustic songs, one building on a theme from the other.  Both were remarkable, but even Hersh would acknowledge that her poetic mania seemed dim alongside Vic’s scintillating wit, as he joked with the audience and sketched stark images with his lyrics. It is perhaps this latter quality that has attracted the most attention over the years—some have likened his songs to classic southern novels. Whether this is apt or not, he certainly was able to evoke a sense of time and place as so few of his contemporaries can (my favorite example is 2009’s “Sewing Machine,” recalling a childhood in a simpler time).  His songs are sometimes melancholy testaments to decay (as in “Degenerate”), at other times veering toward the downright goofy (“…we were laughing at Dapper Dan/ We were happy as giant clams…We were bumping our birth-marks/ we were happy as lilting larks” –“Society Sue”). As Michael Stipe pointed out, it is the unusual turns of phrase at the core of his songs that make them so oddly compelling.

Fuse, Fuse Music TV, or Fusic TV as I like to call it, has a quick 4+ minute overview of the Portland music scene. Yes, they only talk to some of the bigger names in town like The Thermals, Menomena, and Colin Meloy of the Decemberists, but it's not as cringe-worthy as the first episode of Portlandia. Are you an indie band in need of a town? C'mon down (or up) ...

PJ Harvey – Let England Shake Vagrant Records | February 2011 Polly Jean Harvey has never been an artist cautious in her approach, or particularly concerned of what her listeners might think of her sound. She's been making her own path in the music world since her debut album, Dry for which Rolling Stone called the then-22-year-old Harvey the year's Best Songwriter and Best New Female Singer. Raw, emotionally-bare, experimental, shocking, but always beautiful, even when the guitars are shredding and the drums are blasting like cannons. Her follow-up, Rid of Me took the back-and-forth of sober beauty and rock bombast to new heights – loud-soft-loud-soft was the sound of the 90s. Since 1993, PJ Harvey has been recording as a solo artist (without her original trio) but often with songwriting partner, John Parrish and producer Flood. Her latest album is no exception, but instead of a recording in a studio, it was recorded live in a medieval church in Dorset, England. The location adds a haunting spaciousness to the album. The other addition to the mix is multi-instrumentalist, Mick Harvey (no relation) a founding member of The Birthday Party, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Crime and the City Solution and his own solo band. He has an incredible ability to play just the right sounds in just the right spots, loud or quiet. When I look through my album collection, seeing his name in the credits is almost always a guarantee of quality music. Of course, I can say the same thing about PJ Harvey, and I sometimes think of her as the female Nick Cave, another artist who can straddle genres and make timeless works that often explores the dark side of the human soul. Of course, PJ Harvey has worked with both Nick Cave and Mick Harvey numerous times before. There's been much spoken in the media about the themes of this album being war, inhumanity and murder, and the way they are sung about in a sometimes girlish sing-song voice with melodies and instrumentation to match. Harvey herself has said that she had done a great deal of research into war, particularly the campaign in Galipoli, but not all of the lyrics are strictly about England's participation in global conflicts. At times the album sounds like an elegy for the entire modern world. On "The Last Living Rose," her high, restrained voice seems to rise above the now and become timeless, almost like someone looking back at our society from a bleak and burned-out future. Many of the songs unfurl with a fiery impassioned wail from Harvey that speaks of pain and loss, and maybe thoughts of what could have been. While many of the songs seem simple at first, they slowly reveal a depth and clarity that can only have been brought forth from an artist in complete control of her craft, having perfected it over the last 20 years. When PJ Harvey and John Parish sing the call-and-response of, “What is the glorious fruit of our land? The fruit is England's...

Want to take a listen to the new Radio album, King of Limbs before it’s released later in March? Head on over to the KROQ website and start streaming! The album is at times chaotic, soothing, groovy and perplexing-- it sounds like Radiohead. Here's the first video for the new album, Lotus Flower: ...

There's news in the music world happening this week--here's a quick rundown (assume Kurt Loder voice): UPDATE: LCD Soundsystem have announced a final 3-hour show at Madison Square Garden on April 22nd, and then the band will call it quits. Band leader, James Murphy has previously said that he'd like to do other things like produce and collaborate. The White Stripes have officially called it quits -- This is from the No-Surprise-Here department as Jack White's been doing 23 other projects and Meg has been ...