Pitchfork Gets in on the National Arbor Day Action

on Apr 23, 2013
If you thought that Dear Jerks was the only music enthusiast site that was also giving big props to National Arbor Day (see our previous two posts), you have probably been right...until today. As of this morning, Pitchfork has also stepped up, reviewing not just one, but two albums with trees on the cover -- side by side, no less! Witness these tastefully artistic images of nature that grace the covers of the Appleseed Cast's Illumination Ritual (left) and Blackout Beach's Blues Trip (right):

Not only that, guess what? Both of these bands of bonafide tree aficianados came away with pretty darn decent reductive numerical appraisals of their life's artistic pursuits! The Appleseed Cast got a 6.9, which is pretty much the sexiest gymnastics score you can get, amiright? Blackout Beach got a slightly less sexy 6.1 (though maybe it is sexy, if you use your imagination?), but they are almost surely going to get a rave review, in the form of five or six paragraphs of excellent esoteric musings, from Cokemachineglow, so it's all good. 


Night Falls on Hoboken, Part 2: Yo La Tengo in Berlin, March 13th 2013

on Apr 21, 2013
Our two-week-long celebration of National Arbor Day continues with a photographic stroll down recent-memory lane. Last month we had the good fortune to be on vacation in Berlin at the same time as Yo La Tengo were swinging through the city on tour. What does that have to do with Arbor Day? Well, if the cover of the band's latest album isn't enough to convince you that Hoboken's finest are a tree-friendly bunch, then witness their stage props...

A different tree for each member of YLT.
The band played the Volksbuhne, an architecturally imposing theater in Mitte, the center of Berlin. Having never been, we assumed the Volksbuhne would be a space like Terminal 5 or Irving Plaza, not a century-old national treasure. We also assumed there would be an opening act, and so we hung around sipping German wine in our hotel room until the new Pope was announced live on television. Thus, we walked in to muted capacity crowd, and took a seat on the stairs just inside the theater door. Ira, Georgia, and James sat close to one another not too far from the lip of the stage, playing quiet renditions of some of their favorites, including a gorgeous rendition of "Tom Courtenay."  They took their leave for a break not long after, and we lamented missing such a significant chunk of their set. It turned out we had little to lament.

Kaplan making some serious squall; Hubley and McNew keeping it cool.
Yo La Tengo played for the better part of three hours that night. There was the first set, the "quiet" set, followed by a "loud" set, followed by a sizable encore, followed by a second encore. There were hits, classics, and favorites. There was one fifteen minute jam followed by another fifteen minute jam, giving guitarist Ira Kaplan all the room he could want to  do some improvisational sprawling out. There was their cover of the oldie "Who Loves the Sun" so bassist James McNew could take a turn on lead vocals. Kaplan and drummer Georgia Hubley -- one of the most endearing of the enduring indie rock royalty couples -- played a hushed and beautiful "Center of Gravity" (which is possibly in every YLT fan's 'Top 10'), allowing them a chance to sing together.

Killin' the keyboard freakout on "Moby Octopad"
If Yo La Tengo aren't planning to retire soon, you could be forgiven for thinking that some of the signs point to 'yes'. Beyond naming their new album Fade, a thorough and engaging biography of the group was published last year. (How much does the band love barbecue? Possibly more than you think.) More or less indicative, the setlist that frigid March night at the Volksbuhne (not to mention the length of the combined sets) seemed designed to provide as cohesive a retrospective as possible while still keeping the on-stage energy vital and inspired. In the rare times he did speak, Kaplan at times seemed almost wistful. Mentioning how much they always love to play Berlin, he noted that they'd been coming to the city for twenty years. The city and the venue's own history (the Volksbuhne is located in what was the former East Berlin) gave the anecdote a touching significance: twenty years is about as long as any foreign band could possibly claim to have been coming to this part of Berlin.

Night falls on Yo La Tengo's departing audience in Berlin.
Even if Yo La Tengo seemed to be playing the Volksbuhne like it was their last show there, we're holding out hope to catch them in town again the next time we're in the Berlin area. Which will probably be in no less than another twenty years...

Happy Arbor Day!

Some more shots from the very back of the theater (naturally) follow, or you can go here for far superior pics of the show.

Arbor Day, Y'all: Top 14 Albums with Trees on the Cover (that Rateyourmusic.com Doesn't Want You to Know About)

on Apr 12, 2013

Now that SXSW has come and gone, and an oddly Britpop-reunion-tastic Coachella is mere hours away, it can only mean one thing: Arbor Day is here! Well, technically, it depends. National Arbor Day is the last Friday in April, which is when New York, along with many others, observes it. However, every state is allowed to set its own Arbor Day, because yeeehaw states’ rights. In Washington State, for instance, Arbor Day already happened this past Wednesday. Therefore, we will be personally celebrating Mother Nature’s ladders-to-nowhere for the entire two weeks in between. In our hearts, at least.

What better way could there be for Dear Jerks to proclaim their love for our lanky-and-leafy friends than with a good old-fashioned list of albums with trees on the cover, you ask? You make an excellent point. In fact, Rateyourmusic.com already thought about your point, and subsequently scoured the last ten years of their unwanted promo copy bins for albums of that sort. What they found is irrefutable: indie bands have much love for the timber. Rateyourmusic's supposedly thorough survey may have even proved that, collectively, the indie music world's fondness for trees knows no canopy. In the process, though, Rateyourmusic inadvertently tipped their hand, showing how much they themselves hate them.

Confused? Good. So are we. If Rateyourmusic truly loved the baums, how in the world could they have made so many glaring omissions? Putting in the first Bon Iver album but not the second might have just been them taking a passive-aggressive stance against "Beth/Rest," but there's no excuse for not including all of the below. At this rate, they might consider changing their slogan to “Rate Your Music, Hate Your Trees”...

14:  Sonna  -  Smile and the World Smiles with You

The bulk of Rateyourmusic's list seems to come from 2006 and afterward, but let's look at 2003. They include some random compilation from that year called Heat & Birds, but not this album from Baltimore's finest instrumental post-rock quartet, Sonna (now long on hiatus) from the same year. Smile was recorded by Steve Albini in roughly three days. What did you do that weekend?...

13:  Edaline  -  I Wrote the Last Chapter for You

...Rateyourmusic probably spent that weekend brainstorming ways to attack trees. At some point, they must have decided that a good way to do so would be to drown them. Maybe they didn't put this album on their list because they thought people would catch on to their evil plan...

12:  Traindodge  -  On a Lake of Dead Trees

...Which would also explain why they omitted this one.

11:  Dodgy  -  Free Peace Sweet

This, on the other hand, must be Rateyourmusic's worst nightmare: a big, aggressive tree with a badass scarification piece getting right up in its face. Don't let the hippie message of the trunk-tat fool you, it's like when huge dudes are nicknamed "Tiny"...

10:  Yo La Tengo  -  Fade

...Speaking of, here comes Tiny now. He looks pissed that he didn't make Rateyourmusic's list, but he shouldn't be, because it seems to be an arboreal hit list of sorts.

9:  The Eagles  -  Hotel California

Did someone say "hit list"? Oh right, us. Hits don't come much hit-ier than this. So why no love from Rateyourmusic? Surely because they despise the palm tree above all others. Need more proof?...

8:  The Gun Club  -  Miami

...Even this pair of scrawny palm trees lurking behind this band is enough to raise Rateyourmusic's hateful hackles...

7:  The Cure  -  Boys Don't Cry

...Make that a drawing of some scrawny palm trees. Is there nothing worse to Rateyourmusic than a drawing of a palm tree? Why yes...

6:  The Silver Jews  -  Starlite Walker

...A drawing of many trees in their natural habitat. And what could be worse than that?...

5:  Chad VanGaalen  -  Skelliconnection/Diaper Island

...Two of them. VanGaalen is the undisputed champ of putting drawings of weird forests on album covers. In fact, there may only be one man out there who loves putting forests on his album covers more...

4:  Mount Eerie  -  Lost Wisdom/Mount Eerie Pts. 6 & 7/White Stag/Wind's Poem/Song Islands Vol. 2

...To Rateyourmusic's credit, they did remember that Mount Eerie's No Flashlight has trees on the cover (which is why it's not included here). However, they forgot the part where almost all of Mount Eerie's albums have trees on them. Phil Elverum's love of forests makes John Denver look like Joseph Aspdin.

3:  Eluvium  -  Talk Amongst the Trees

If there's one thing Rateyourmusic hates more than trees, it's metaphorical trees. Those are people, you say? Think on it. Seeing trees equated with humans must have driven Rateyourmusic bonkers. "What's next?!" They surely shrieked. "Trees getting married?!"... 

2.  Oneida  -  The Wedding

..."Well, now I've seen everything!" But even that isn't the worst offense to Rateyourmusic...

1:  U2  -  The Joshua Tree

...No, the worst offense is creating the impression of trees where there are none. Sure, the back cover does have a picture with an actual tree in it. But how many of you, when conjuring this album cover in your memory, remember that tree being on the front? Such is the persuasive, mind-effing power of Mr. Bono's vox and The Edge's hypnotic stereo-delayed arpeggios.

Dishonorable Mention:  Jurassic 5  -  Quality Control

Seeing this tree-atrocity exhibition must have made Rateyourmusic's day. For all of the J5's good vibes, their posi-core attitude apparently didn't extend to some stupid plant that just provides humans with oxygen. It's like Jarvis Cocker said: "Yeah, the trees, those useless trees/produce the air that I am breathing."