Elizabeth & the Catapult: The Other Side of Zero

RIYL: Aimee Mann, KT Tunstall, Diane Birch

Elizabeth Ziman spent a few years demo-ing and ultimately recording and releasing her debut under Elizabeth & the Catapult, Taller Children. But the follow-up took practically no time at all, and apparently flowed out of Ziman the way great writers often have waves of new material emanating from themselves. So here was Ziman, influenced all at once by Leonard Cohen’s Book of Longing, and letting the music that would become her new album, The Other Side of Zero flow from her. Ziman’s a dead ringer for Aimee Mann vocally, but musically her stuff is darker and deeper. And oh yeah, it’s really, really good.

The Other Side of Zero begins with the piano romp, “We All Fall Down” and has other quirky yet instantly catchy tracks like “You & Me” and “The Horse & the Missing Cart.” There are songs that will remind you of Taller Children – witness the alternative love song “Julian, Darling” or the electronica-driven “Dreamcatcher.” But while Ziman and drummer Danny Molad make awesome music together, the one track on here that uses drums sparsely but may not need to is “Open Book.” This is one of those songs that is rife with simple beauty, one you hear and want to keep hitting “repeat,” and that has movie soundtrack written all over it. Best of all, as with all of Ziman’s work, there are elements of alternative, jazz, and pop – all with a rainy day feel running throughout, just the way she likes it. (Verve Forecast 2010)

Elizabeth & the Catapult website


Yet another reason to like Beck

Record Club: Songs Of Leonard Cohen “Suzanne” from Beck Hansen on Vimeo.

I don’t know how I missed out on this character. In retrospect, it’s understandable. Growing up in the 90s, my first memorable experiences with music were from the albums my dad played around the house, the pop rock radio stations my mom listened to, and bands my friends and I got wind of that we thought were cool. Thus, my tape cassette collection from that period includes everything from the Offspring, Green Day, Weird Al Yankovic, 311, Bush, Boyz II Men, and Mariah Carey. I was all over the place. I could bob my head to the majestic sounds of the Beatles, rock out to Green Day, geek out to Weird Al, and privately sing Boyz II Men with outright embarrassment. Needless to say, I didn’t have an older brother to show me the way. On that note, one musician I’m sure said brother would have introduced me to was Beck. I’ve listened to his late-90s album Mutations all week, simply happy that my own musical instincts gradually led me to his catalogue.

Well, it’s 2009, and Beck has now been on the scene for quite a while. Rather than rest on his laurels, he’s decided to take on any odd or challenging project he sees fit. We previously announced that he’s writing Charlotte Gainsbourg’s new album which will keep his musical ambitions in check. However, Beck has also managed to create one of the coolest web pages I’ve seen for any musician or band. One section, called Irrelevant Topics, has Beck chatting it up with Tom Waits and Will Ferrell about various topics. Recently, Beck’s added a feature called the Record Club where he gathers a group of musicians to cover a classic album in one day. Previously, Beck’s cohorts tackled The Velvet Underground & Nico. Now, he’s recruited Devendra Banhart, MGMT, Binki Shapiro from Little Joy, and Brian Lebarton and Bram Inscore from his touring band to channel Songs of Leonard Cohen. The first track, “Suzanne,” has just been posted.

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I’m Gonna Make You Love Me: 15 Great Bands We Used to Hate

They say that you never get a second chance to make a first impression…unless you’re a musician, of course. In what other world can you hate something with the white-hot fire of a thousand suns, only to discover one day that a switch involuntarily flipped in your head that makes you think, “You know what, I really like these guys!”? Truth be told, it happens to us nearly every day, and most of the time it’s with a band or artist that we as music reviewers are supposed to love unconditionally but, for whatever reason, we just don’t. Or at least didn’t up until recently.

Call this the companion piece to our list earlier this year of bands that we just don’t get – which was almost universally misinterpreted as a staff-wide condemnation, rather than each writer speaking for himself – only with a much more positive vibe. The Bullz-Eye writers bare their souls and confess to previous biases that have since turned to heartfelt crushes (or at the very least, tolerance of a band’s existence). The list of acquired tastes is a who’s who of Hall of Famers, critical darlings, and…Cobra Starship? Who let that guy in here?

Flaming Lips
My first exposure to the Flaming Lips was seeing the video for “She Don’t Use Jelly” on MTV’s “Beavis and Butthead” show, which immediately pegged the Lips as a novelty in my mind (and not one that I even enjoyed all that much). How could one not see novelty in a song with a character who spreads Vaseline on her toast? This was kid stuff, and yes, I could be a silly kid, but where I drew my lines of tolerance for silliness were admittedly very arbitrary (example: I unironically enjoyed Mister Ed). As such, I completely shut out the Lips.

Fast forward five years later: I was just about finished with college, working at a record store, yet still very skeptical when a respected friend and coworker slipped me an advance copy of The Soft Bulletin in 1999 (10 years ago already?). His taste was generally pretty spot on, so I gave it a shot. From the first song, I heard a completely different band, one that was drawing inspiration from one of my all-time favorites – Brian Wilson. I came around almost instantaneously upon hearing “Race for the Prize,” and even grew to dig “She Don’t Use Jelly” too. How stupid could I have been all that time? Blame it on my youth. – Michael Fortes

Guided by Voices
The buzz was loud and clear on Bee Thousand, the lo-fi masterpiece by Dayton alt-rockers Guided by Voices. This was the record that everyone positively had to own, so I borrowed it from a friend of mine…and totally didn’t get it. The songs aren’t finished! Are these demos? When lead singer Robert Pollard – whose last name should be a synonym for ‘prolific’ – saw a song to its completion, as he did on “Tractor Rape Chain,” I was definitely into it, but too many of the songs felt like piss takes to me, so I politely stayed off the bandwagon. Five years later, he made “Teenage FBI” with Ric Ocasek, which I loved, but still didn’t buy any of their records. Then they dropped Human Amusements at Hourly Rates, a compilation of Pollard’s more, ahem, finished songs, and I finally bit, and the disc scarcely left my CD player for months afterward. And then, of course, the band broke up just when I was beginning to appreciate them. Luckily, they recorded 16 albums in 17 years before calling it quits. The only question now is: which one do I start with? – David Medsker

To read the rest of “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me: 15 Great Bands We Used to Hate,” click here.


Nickel Eye: The Time of the Assassins

Solo sojourns are sometimes iffy propositions, the product of second-string musicians either eager for attention or frustrated because their creative efforts are stymied or put to limited use. Whether or not the Strokes’ Nickolai Fraiture relates to these sentiments is anyone’s guess, but by veering away from his day job and adapting the nom de plume Nickel Eye, he shows his interest in seizing the spotlight. Truth be told, The Time of the Assassins is mostly a one-dimensional proposition, dominated by sturdy techno-type rhythms – not surprising, since he’s a bassist – and droning vocals that sound like he’s phoning it in from the other side of the street. Even so, Fraiture achieves some intriguing results, shuffling between a stroll and a strut on “This Is the End” in a most unassuming sort of way, spouting defiance on “Back from Exile,” and opting for an uncharacteristically upturned approach on “Another Sunny Afternoon,” a sequel of sorts to “Sunny Afternoon” which affirms his affection for the Kinks. Homage is also offered Leonard Cohen via a redo of Cohen’s barbed ballad “Hey That’s No Way to Say Goodbye,” Faiture’s monotone singing bequeathing the song with an icy indifference that causes its original author to sound positively giddy by comparison. (Ryko)

Nickel Eye MySpace page