Feb 10 2013

Cougar Microbes Writer Picks 2012: Emily


Cougar writer Emily offers her top ten albums for our Top albums of 2012 feature.


Andrew Bird – ‘Break It Yourself’

Included in the Cougar Microbes albums of 2012 here.

Biffy Clyro - 'Blackened Sky B-sides'

Biffy Clyro – ‘Blackened Sky B-sides

To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the band’s first album, a huge deluxe vinyl edition of ‘Blackened Sky’ was released earlier this year. The second disc (also available for download) is all rare B-sides, most previously unreleased and all expectedly amazing.

Mumford & Sons - 'Babel'

Mumford & Sons – ‘Babel

The band didn’t break particularly new ground with this release, but when the previously broken ground is so great, maybe it’s not necessary. ‘Babel‘ is tried and true folk songwriting genius, and I love it.

Guster - 'On the Ocean' EP.

Guster – ‘On the Ocean‘ EP

This is only 6 songs, but I love Guster so much that it still makes the top 10. Guster was once a little indie jam band from Massachusetts, who I discovered circa my 17th birthday by stumbling across an unmarked mix CD in a McDonalds parking lot. They are pretty famous now – especially if you’re into granola and eco-friendly tour buses.

Fleetwood Mac - 'Preaching the Blues'

Fleetwood Mac – ‘Preaching the Blues’

I made this little discovery (thanks Spotify) and haven’t stopped listening since. The album is a live recording of a Fleetwood Mac concert in February 1971 (post- Peter Green, pre- Stevie Nicks), but it’s all straight blues. The sound quality is amazing, but I think Best in Show goes to Christine McVie on the keys.

Fun - 'Some Nights'

Fun – ‘Some Nights’

My pop music guilty pleasure of the year. The album is full of exuberant harmonies and over-enthusiastic percussion, even if the lyrics might be a little on the melancholy side. It feels a little like a modern day, ultra-light version of Queen (minus the searing guitar solos).


Paul Simon – ‘Graceland

While this amazing album probably makes my lifetime top 10, it makes this year’s list because a special 25th anniversary extended edition was released earlier in 2012. With a few previously unreleased demos and bonus tracks, as well as a short audio clip about the making of the title track, the new release is most likely worth the hype.

The Dandy Warhols - 'This Machine'

The Dandy Warhols – ‘This Machine

I fall in and out of love with the Dandy Warhols, but this album is pure awesome. It varies from track to track, with elements of glam-era Bowie and grunged up Marcy Playground – and always that token Dandy Warhols weirdness. My personal favourite is their cover of “16 Tons,” a 1940’s Americana ‘mountain song’ about the life of a coal miner.

Led Zeppelin - 'Celebration Day'

Led Zeppelin – ‘Celebration Day’

This album is the audio recording from Zeppelin’s 2007 reunion show at London’s O2 Arena. Since I tried desperately and failed miserably to get tickets to that show, it was a given that I’d go for this when it was finally released in 2012. The track listing is pure greatest hits (my favourite “Good Times Bad Times” as the opening track), and John Bonham’s son Jason did all the drumming.

Tallest Man on Earth - 'There’s No Leaving Now'

Tallest Man on Earth – ‘There’s No Leaving Now

This album is simply unmissable; singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson is a Sweden-based mountain of talent. If you listen to one song, make it the title track – it best showcases his unique voice, stellar songwriting, and penchant for recording everything live, as opposed to on isolated tracks. I loved the live sound of the vocals and guitar on the album, but it also means just a little bit more (to me) that each astounding vocal is one continuous take, and not spliced to perfection like most modern tracks. I hesitantly name this my MVP of the year, if only in the hopes that you will all go listen to it right now.

topalbums2012 Cougar Microbes Writer Picks 2012: Sam

doublecougar Cougar Microbes Writer Picks 2012: Sam

Jun 11 2012

Paul Simon’s 25th Anniversary ‘Graceland’ edition

The year I was born, Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland‘ sold 14 million copies worldwide. The next year it won a Grammy for Album of the Year, and then Record of the Year in 1988 for the title track. After that I heard “You Can Call Me Al” a lot growing up, and, because of its spectacular synth intro, filed it away as 80’s pop they still play on the radio. It wasn’t till high school, when I discovered the simple, folky songwriting masterpiece that is “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes,” that I began to go back and investigate the sometimes bizarre, sometimes perfect, but always inspired tracks on this album.

Now there’s a word that I find myself using again and again to describe them—magic. It’s not a particularly good word because it evokes absolutely nothing in the reader’s mind; but if you’ve heard an album with perfect chemistry, energy, a balance struck between modern and old-timey sounds, then you probably know what I mean by the word.

It is a rare album that combines African chanting and drumming with Sun Records-era strumming and funk-flavoured bass plucking. Simon’s choice to work with South African musicians, despite the world’s anti-apartheid cultural boycott, raised some controversy, but in the end the album introduced these musicians (some of whom would gain independent success, like Ladysmith Black Mambazo) to a global audience.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Graceland’s release, Legacy Recordings have issued various box sets, vinyl goodies, and bonus features. The completely remastered original album now includes 5 bonus tracks, including a keyboard demo for “You Can Call Me Al,” a quieter, funkier, bass-centric “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes,” and an early draft of “All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints.

The real gem is an audio narrative by Simon, discussing the writing process for “Graceland” (the song, not the album). He talks about the difficulties of working with non-western musicians (a problematic lack of minor chords), but also the invaluable perspective of hearing American country music as perceived by outsiders. Eventually the process lead to the classic ‘southern travelling music’ sound that flavours the title song, and suffuses the entire album as a result. Whether to Graceland or under African skies, the songs tell tales of wanderers and travellers, and the music mirrors this nomadic spirit.

The crowning jewel of the rerelease is a feature-length documentary making the film festival rounds now: “Under African Skies,” by Emmy award-winning filmmaker Joe Berlinger. It chronicles the process, controversy, and success of Graceland, and follows Simon back to post-apartheid South Africa, 25 years after he first recorded there under international censure.

Even though the album was written about a very specific, turbulent time in world affairs, much of the subject matter remains (depressingly) relevant today. In terms of sound, ‘Graceland‘ manages an impressive feat: it recollects perfectly the decade in which it was recorded, with sly references to early 50’s country music, and at the same time doesn’t sound at all dated or unlikely now. Not something you can say about a lot of 25 year old albums.


Post by Emily / Twitter: @public_emily



Paul Simon “Graceland” by Legacy Recordings

Paul Simon “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes” by Legacy Recordings

Boyoyo Boys “Pulukwani Centre” by Legacy Recordings

Mtabhane Ndima “Thandabantu” by Legacy Recordings

Graceland (25th Anniversary Edition) - Paul Simon

Feb 1 2012

Cougar Microbes Writer Picks 2011: Emily’s Top 10

1) Gotye – Making Mirrors

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

2. Adele – 21

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

3. The Decemberists – The King is Dead

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

4. Rufus Wainwright – House of Rufus

A massive 19-disc box set of all the magic of Rufus—live performances, albums, singles and b-sides. Even though I could never afford this, it makes the list for best releases. And my Christmas wish list.

5. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here.

6. Paul Simon – So Beautiful or So What

I have always surrendered to anything written by Paul Simon, but this album has charm and wit in spades. He even managed to hold back on that penchant for African drumming.

7. Florence and the Machine – Ceremonials

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here.

8. City & Colour – Little Hell

Although I’m the first to admit this album doesn’t top City & Colour’s previous efforts, it says a lot that it still crushes most other releases of the year.

9. Cake – Showroom of Compassion

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here.

10. J Mascis – Several Shades of Why

I’m not usually brave enough to name a favourite album, but this year it was easy. Mascis brings the power of Dinosaur Jr, the simplicity of bare and honest lyrics, and then his godlike guitar virtuosity, to bear in this true 2011 masterpiece.


Eyes Wide Open by Gotye

Adele – Rolling In The Deep

The Decemberists – This Is Why We Fight

Calgary by boniver

The Afterlife by Paul Simon

Florence & The Machine – What the Water Gave Me (DhARMA Edit)

City and Colour – We Found Each Other In The Dark

J Mascis – Not Enough

Aug 9 2011

Reviewing Tieranniesaur self-titled album

Ah summer time! Debating whether to get out of the sun for a few minutes to go get an ice cold beer because your just too ruddy comfortable. Your friends are all together in a summer oak meadow with a pair of speakers, a swimming lake and a sniff in the air that you might just get laid tonight.

Tieranniesaur fit those summer speakers perfectly. Some of the best booty-shaking, bowel movement assisting bass lines and the sweetest melodies from one of the most exciting acts of this year.

A duo who made a home made, self titled album that spiralled into a neat ten song album that could be played in a dirty club or a dance tent. It’s dirty and it’s disco, it’s slightly kitsch but it’s angular.

The opener, ‘Rockblocker’ is as catchy as it is grimy, a fantastic opener to this creative album. It’s a curious mix a low-fi Hot Chip with a duet between CocoRosie and Lykke Li.

Sketch!’ is an awesome little pop hit, playfully bouncing along to sweet vocal lilts and playful instrumentation.

Many of these tracks feature an almost African pop sense of melody, weaving it’s way in and out like Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’, as if you could hear most of these chorus’ being sang in a African choir and they would still be cool.

This is probably the best thing about this album, it’s almost child-like in its creativity but with an actually very complex engine of rhythms and sounds.

I Don’t Stop’ has a bass line that I wish I’d have written. It’s punk and it’s dance. It is ‘The Sex Bassline‘. It is probably that song that if you are sitting in that summer meadow with all your mates with the speakers and the lake and the sniff of getting laid, that you would make your move. The sun is going down and they’re all dancing and youre eyeing out the bird- Sort of like the beginning of Jaws, without Jaws obviously.

Here Be Monsters’ could be a remix by Jamie XX. Its subtle electronic twinkles are hypnotic against a strong simple beat, whilst ‘Remember My Name’ belongs on the soundtrack to ‘Little Big Planet’, it’s psychedelic vocals against a sunset backdrop and euro pop beat.

This is my favourite record this year and I’m not just saying that as it will help me get laid tonight. I do love summer.


Post by T.R Wicks




Jul 25 2011

‘Wakestock Festival Live’ Review

A festival is all about music and the people that you meet along the way – both travelling to and from the venue and upon arrival. The ingredients are relatively straightforward; great people, music that turns your bangers to mash and – in this particular case – blindingly beautiful sun and sea.

Wakestock 2011, Europe’s largest Wakeboarding Music Festival, set nestled on the magical Cardigan Bay in North Wales was my home for the weekend. Arriving at the Marina I felt compelled to follow the energetic, uplifting beats of Dash, the boardwalk DJ whose tunes inspired the boarders to fly high and the crowd to let loose.

Not to mention the fearless individuals, who – attached to a board half their size – were being dragged alongside the bay by a high-powered motorboat, each eager to outdo the previous. These riders engaged in somersaults that made onlookers want to grab a stranger’s hand just to convince themselves of the fact that gravity still exists.

Mexican waves, gasps and the occasional applause followed as the riders, all muscle and brawn, carved a path out of the wake just metres from the pier. The crowd, intermittently silenced by the searing sun and acrobatic tricks on display, consisted of people of all ages – it seemed that everyone in this sleepy part of the world had come out to play.

Armed with an ice cold coffee and a big smile following a conversation with a friendly elderly lady at the coffee stand, I decided to venture up the hill to where the music was happening.

Every festival is guaranteed to have that special moment when the tunes flood the tent, the feet beat the earth, the mantle is thrown down and the weekend vindicated. That special moment happened on the West Stage, one of three vast tents that proved to provide more entertainment than The Moscow Circus.

Little Comets impressed me from the start with their percussive instruments hanging from a washing line across the stage, all calm before the storm ahead in what lead singer Robert described as a “disproportionately sized tent” (it wouldn’t last!). Playing songs from their album – ‘In Search of Elusive Little Comets‘ – the moment they powered into their Cure-esque opener, these guys made me feel like a teenager again.

Blasting through their set and bursting off the stage, this was a band who were there for the same reason as their fans: having fun and living the music. No fillers or contrived stage banter for the Comets; oh no, this band let the strength of their songs and their passionate, energetic delivery do all the talking.

By their second song, the wake of their banging riffs washed over the crowd, out of the tent and drew in a hundred-fold more, until we were a sea of arms, jumping and dancing. Little Comets had the same energy in their set as a thousand bottles of Lucozade and I’ve never seen a band have so much fun on stage.

certainly contenders to fill the gap that Razorlight left behind with their intelligent, well-structured Paul Simon/Passion Pit-esque rock songs, but without the annoying frontman. The gig capped off much as it had begun, with the self-fulfilling, self-explanatory and electric “This is the dancing song”. Thank you Little Comets for lighting up my universe.

An impossible act to follow, or so I thought. Then came the Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs (TEED for short, but why ruin such an incredible name!) Big, big bass-driven tones that hit you in the face and forced the dance out of you like a popped cork; even the most nervous of dancers felt compelled to try out their dinosaur dance moves.

This one man and his eccentric stage presence, topped by his fantastic Native American head dress, totally restored my faith in my dance moves. In the mesh of my own energy and that of my newly acquired festival friends I could only think it ironic that the only thing to kill the Dinosaurs was Comets. Either way,  TEED’s throbbing, quick and relentless sound had us dancing about as if we’d trekked all the way to the end of Wales just for him.

The next few hours stood testament to the uniqueness of this festival – we danced ’til we dropped to drum ‘n’ bass band Sub Focus, awakening to the sonic boom of an RAF jet plane looping and diving above our tent and subsequently spending the night flattening the North Wales earth to the echoed anthems of Biffy Clyro.

Congregating by the tents with our neighbours often felt like an eternal game of cat-and-mouse; a constantly evolving clan drifting from stage to stage, dancing till we had nothing left, then starting all over again. And then when the music finally sounded off for the night, we’d return to our tents, form circles and sit around bantering ’til the sun came up over the ocean.

As far as music went, this festival had it down – varied, energetic and always enjoyable. But that’s not all this place had to offer – whether it be hanging at the pier watching the wake-boarding, those seconds between sets under the stage lights, or chilling out back at the tents, the people not on the stage were the real stars of this festival.

Turning up at Wakefest all on my lonesome, I left with enough facebook details to launch a small (dancing) army.  There was only one way to summarize this festival – “this one’s for dancing”.

Cougar Microbes attended Beach Break Live 2011 as part of Lucozade‘s Play Festivals campaign. Make sure to check back as we joinLucozade in bringing you more events through the summer.

The Elusive Sancho


Little Comets

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs

May 24 2011

Interview with Little Tybee

Cougar Microbes caught up with Little Tybee‘s vocalist Brock Scott to discuss the “nuclear” family, viral hysteria, bringing back the mullet and LA rich little white girls. Here is how it went:

Cougar Microbes: What time did you wake up today? Was it out of choice or necessity?

Little Tybee: I woke up at 8 this morning. I’m usually the early riser. a.m.is usually between 12- 3 pm for the rest of the band (we all live together).

Nirvana and I went to go see a nuclear power plant outside of Cartersville, GA this morning so we were up earlier than usual today. There is a small Edward Scissorhands neighborhood directly outside the gates of the power plant. Kids are playing in the streets, wives are pruning their questionable perennials and an overwhelming Niagara of ignorance floods the whole scene.

CM: How do you kill time on the road, hobbies?

LT: Josh is often our entertainment on long drives. He usually reaches that state of delirium hours before the rest of us… Throw a smart phone with Internet access in the mix and you’ve got enough viral hysteria to last from New York to Dallas.

CM: What has been your favorite venues on your latest tour? Any Venues you hated?

LT: We played a house show in Marion, VA on our way up to NYC. We have an old friend who lives there on a beautiful farm in the mountains. She has a baby grand in her living room that faces a breathtaking view. She invites a bunch of people to hear us play and then cooks the most delicious food for everyone. Paradise is a word that is flawed in its description of this place… I wouldn’t say we “hated” any venues on this last tour. Some were more fun than others but it was a pretty solid tour overall.

CM: Any plans to visit the UK any time soon?

LT: We would leave on the next flight out if travel weren’t so dang expensive… We are hoping to be over the pond by years end. You can donate to our travel fund at paypal (account). We are well past the point of subtle fundraising. heh

CM: Are you able to write on the road or do you do this in your off time?

LT: Our touring experience is much different than that of bands with higher budgets and buses. Our first two tours were done with 5 people in one Subaru Forester, without a trailer, driving for 7 hours a day.

When all you are thinking about is how uncomfortable and hungry you are; songwriting is one of the farthest things from your mind.

CM: Favourite track off the album and why?

LT: We each have different songs on the album that appeal to us for different reasons. My favorite bounces between “Passion Seekers” and “Revolutionary”. I really enjoyed singing with Adron on ‘Passion Seekers‘. I think our voices flow together nicely.

Usually the rule of thumb for me is that our newest song is going to be my favorite.

CM: If you could record any cover what would it be?

LT: We are working on a cover of the Family Matters theme song and also Paul Simon’s ‘St. Judy’s Comet‘.

CM: Do your songs go through many revisions via demo recordings?

LT: We do most of the recording at our house in Atlanta. Since we aren’t restricted to a studio clock of any kind, we are a lot more open to trial and error with our compositions. If we find we don’t like something in a song a couple of months down the line, we just go back and re-record it. Our songs change so much the more and more we play them.

We look at our recordings as almost a time capsule of the song. Buried in shallow shallow soil; They are ever evolving in intricacy. We do make demos of the songs but they are never heard by anyone except for the band and are used mainly as a writing tool.

Its always interesting going back and listening to those early demos after the song has been fully recorded. It’s like looking back at a picture of your 80’s hairstyle. We are bringing back the mullet!

CM: What is more important, the lyrics or the melody?

LT: I approach each song differently. Some songs almost write themselves lyrically. These songs more often then not have a narrative progression that tends to follow a more repetitive chord structure. For the songs that are more musically complex; I will usually wait to see what the rest of the guys come up with and then figure out how and where to throw vocals into the mix. I think lyrics and melody are both very important in songwriting but I wouldn’t put one over the other as every song we write has a different voice and story to tell.

CM: What are your views on auto tune?

LT: I find the dehumanizing qualities of auto-tune intriguing as a commentary on the accessibility of simulated talent. However, in our pursuit for the bionic man, there are still those who can see the marvel in our natural abilities. Charles Spearin is a multi-instrumentalist who is most known as a member of Broken Social Scene and Do Make Say Think. A few years back he released an album that featured conversations he had with his neighbors on the subject of happiness.

Spearin then took the recordings and, based on the cadences and inflections of the conversation, composed arrangements around the musical qualities of the human voice. In his case, the conversations paved the route for the melody of each song (see here). I wanted to note Spearin’s process because he works in the opposite direction of auto tune. Instead of approaching the voice as a flawed attempt at perfection, he uses his talents to glorify the inherent beauty every voice possesses.

On our last stint in NYC we became friends with The Gregory Brothers. They have made a name for themselves for “auto tuningthe news. Unlike Spearin, they use auto tune as a tool in which to almost violently force melody and pitch upon random lines of speech. They usually have a comedic approach and are obviously not trying to fool anyone. It really works for them and I would consider The Gregory Brothers as artists utilizing technology.

Auto tune is a tool like a pen to paper. Some still prefer to use quill and ink and their craft is revered for it, but I’m not one to shun the progression of tools in the arts. As auto tune technology becomes more and more refined I’m sure we will see a sort of Vonnegut-esque vocal utopian society where we all have processed voices that allow every father to read bedtime stories to his son wielding the voice of Patrick Stewart.

CM: Any other band/bands from your local scene we really should know about?

LT: I couldn’t begin to name all of the bands worth checking our in Atlanta because there are so many amazing musicians filling the woodwork here. A few of my favorites: Adron (Which has 4 of the members of Little Tybee in it), Book of Colors, Noot d’Noot, REPTAR, Cousin Dan, Sealions, Venice is Sinking, Jeffrey Butzer, Oryx and Crake, Tealights, Hello Ocho, etc…

CM: Most flattering thing you’ve read about yourselves?

LT: It’s seems like I only remember the insults we get about our music…heh. Our Youtube channel gets some pretty awesome zingers. Here are a few gems: “they do a really good job of sounding like a Dave Matthews cover band” and “The motherfucker on the 8-string has more talent in his fingers than the rest of the band” We are accepting more insightful reviews on our facebook.

CM: What was the first record/tape/cd you ever bought?

LT: I have a pretty random and late blooming music history. I listened to a lot of classical music growing up as my parents were avid NPR listeners. When my brother finally drew me into rock music the first CD I remember buying was Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik‘. I loved their sound was so new to me and I would dream about what it would be like to be in a band like that.

CM: What was the last song that got stuck in your head?

LT: That “Friday” song by Rebecca Black. God bless LA and rich little white girls.

CM: What was the last show you paid and queued up for?

LT: I remember growing up in Savannah, GA and not really have much of a music scene. So whenever a good musical act came through town I was sure not to miss it. But in Atlanta, there is great music every night of the week and after a while you start to get numb to it. I try to keep the feeling in me.

We go to a bunch of local shows throughout the week but those shows seem almost like visiting the family after a while (Love you Grandma). I’ve got Paul Simon and Fleet Foxes coming up in May. I’m Excited for those.

CM: If you had to bring an artist back from the dead in exchange for sending a living artist down, which artists would it be and why??

LT: I’d really love to see Ray Charles play live and living. Georgia has the most beautiful state song because of him. Django Reinhardt and Wesley Willis would be cool as well. Maybe they could all form a super group! I’d pay for that.

I don’t know if I could send anyone to the afterlife in exchange though… Life is to short as it is…


Little Tybee